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TWO WAYS TO FLEE THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD

Why would one ever flee from the presence of the Lord?

Away from hope and into despair?

Away from light and into darkness?

Why did Jonah?

And why do we?

We do it when our deepest desire is for something other than God.

What did Jonah want more than God? You don’t really discover the answer until the end of the book, but there was something that was more important to him than serving God, than loving God, than experiencing the presence of God. Did Jonah love God? I can imagine him preparing a defense, saying, “For twenty-five years I’ve gone to Temple…for twenty-five years I’ve kept the rules — for twenty-five years I’ve prophesied your Word…”

But did he love Him? C. S. Lewis used to say of his dog — “He doesn’t really obey me, but sometimes he agrees with me.” That’s how we can be. Obeying God when we agree with Him…but fleeing when He asks us to do something that goes against what we really want. Our real god, our idol, whatever that is.

It is so easy to think we are loving God because we are doing “the Christian things.” Have you ever fixed a meal for your husband or children — but it wasn’t done with love? Anyone looking at you might not know — but you would know…

One of the most penetrating conversations in Scripture occurred between Jesus and Peter after Peter’s betrayal, after the resurrection, when three times Jesus asked him:

DO YOU LOVE ME?

This always reminds me of the three times that Tevya, in Fiddler on the Roof, asked Golde:

DO YOU LOVE ME?

Please watch the first two minutes of this song. After two minutes the parallel stops — for when they then sing ” “It doesn’t change a thing, but after twenty-five years, it’s nice to know…” it doesn’t work. The truth is,  if we really love Jesus and are not just serving Him to get something in return, then it changes EVERYTHING. Morality is serving to put God in your debt. Embracing the Gospel is to comprehend that He did it all, that there is nothing you can do to win His favor or put Him in your debt — in fact, you are completely in His debt. But the first two minutes work perfectly — so watch, for the picture will stay in your heart!

This week we are still laying the foundation for the book of Jonah — and I want you to go slowly, for the truths expressed are paradigm changers. Tim Keller explains that there are two ways to flee the presence of the Lord: one is by being very very bad (like the younger son in the story of the Prodigal sons) and the other is by being very very good (like the older son in that same story.) The “older brother” and Jonah felt God owed them something because they had served Him. Keller also explains, and I know this is true, that unless you explain that there are two ways to avoid God, that non-Christians will think you are inviting them into morality when you invite them into Christianity. Likewise, we ourselves can begin to think of the Christian life as obeying the rules instead of an intimate relationship in which we are experiencing the presence of God. When Jonah ran away from God it was not spatially (because you can’t — He’s everywhere) but relationally. He didn’t want to be intimate with God, to find His identity anymore as the servant of God — he wanted to be his own god. He didn’t like what God was asking and he was angry — like the older brother was angry. We all carry in our souls some of the older brother/Jonah syndrome.

After I spoke in Georgia last weekend, I took two extra days to be with my friend Sylvia who lives in NE Florida. Our mutual friend Ann joined us. I told them about my new insight into The Sermon on the Mount — and of how, Jesus is preaching about the older brother/Jonah syndrome, about how we find our identity in things other than God, about how we seem to love God, but really, love our own way. We may appear to be “good Christians,” but in reality, we are the house on the sand, the barren fruit tree…

At first they were skeptical, for they had never heard that — but then, as we sat down and looked at the four examples the sermon closes with, they saw it.  As Sylvia and I were changing my bed before I flew out, smoothing the sheets for the next guest, she said, “Dee — why have we walked with the Lord all these years and never seen this [meaning heart idols — and how we find our identity in things other than Christ] before? Why have we not heard this before?”

I said, “I don’t know. But once you see it, you see it all over the Bible”

“It is!” She said adamently. “EVERYWHERE! That’s why I cannot understand why I was so blind. But seeing it has changed my life.” Then she paused and said, “Do you think this awakening, which is definitely spreading in the body of Christ, is leading to revival?”

“I’ve wondered… it certainly has done that in my heart.”

“And mine.”

Seeing this changes so many things: our approach to evangelism, our own sense of being loved, our freedom, our desires — EVERYTHING. Our own Kim Taylor just wrote me the dearest note on how this has changed everything for her, and set her free. I’d like to quote one of her paragraphs:

How different I am than a year ago. My life is peaceful, no matter what storm comes my way. I feel full of Him and His love, no longer the elder brother looking down at others who are less righteous than me. I know my name is sealed on His great heart and so I no longer fear losing my salvation.

Go slowly. This is a life-changer. It may take some weeks for the penny to drop, but when it drops, you will never be the same.

For those who are new — I suggest doing certain things on certain days — but if you prefer to listen to the sermon first — do. His messages are so rich, you may want to listen more than once. I’ve listened to some of his messages ten times. My penny needs lots of jiggling to drop!

Sunday/Monday: Icebreaker

1. What comments do you have on the above and why?

 

2. Imagine you are married and asked your husband if he loved you, and he said, “I married you, didn’t I? I give you my paycheck, don’t I? I mow the lawn…”   How would you feel about that response and why?


3. What do you think God longs to see in your heart — and why?

 

Monday – Wednesday: Bible Study

There are two ways to avoid God: by rebelling and being immoral, or by being very good and trusting in your own righteousness — so you think you don’t need a Savior. Probably the easiest place to see it, and for many of you this will be review, is in the parable of the two sons — so let’s look at that first, if only for review. Neither son, initially, truly loved the father. As Keller says, “They only wanted the father’s stuff.”

4. Read Luke 15:11-18

A. How did the younger brother show that he didn’t love the father?

 

B. What do you think was his heart idol — the thing that he loved more than his

father?

C. How did he feel when he was away from the presence of the father? What does this illustrate?

 

5. Read Luke 15:25-30

A. How did the older brother show he didn’t love the father? Find evidences.

 

B. What do you think his heart idol was — what did he want more than the father?

 

C. Challenge question: What parallel do you see to Jonah?

 

D. How did the older brother feel “away from the presence of the Lord?”

 

Now — a less familiar and surprising place — The Sermon on the Mount. At the conclusion, Jesus keeps giving illustrations of “two ways.”

I want to anticipate a question: “Are you saying someone who has a heart idol is not saved?” I’m not. I’m saying he might not be saved, and think he is because he is “moral,” like the older brother or the Pharisee. But he might have a heart idol and be saved — for we all have them. The younger brother had one — but his struggle and his repentance showed he was like the good tree.

TWO HOUSES

TWO HOUSES: HOUSE ON THE SAND AND HOUSE ON THE ROCK

 

TWO TREES

TWO TREES: GOOD TREE BEARING FRUIT AND BAD TREE WITH NO FRUIT

TWO WAYS

THE NARROW GATE AND THE BROAD PATH TO DESTRUCTION
THE NARROW WAY TO LIFE AND THE BROAD PATH TO DESTRUCTION

 

Keller said he once preached on this as the way of the godly and the way of the ungodly — which is correct, but later he saw that the ungodly did not represent the person who is like the younger son (being very bad) as he had thought, but rather the older son (being very good — self-righteously moral.) This is sobering. This sermon is, in part, to awaken those who think they know Christ, who say “Lord, Lord,” but in fact, do not love Him, do not trust Him. They love themselves and are trusting in their own righteousness.

We’re going to study this from the conclusion up — looking first at the summary, and then seeing if we can see the truth throughout The Sermon on the Mount.

6. Read Matthew 7:24-27

A. According to verses 24 and 26, the wise man and the foolish man have something in common. Find what

they have in common. How would they appear the same in a church service or Bible study?

 

B. Now look at those two verses and find what differentiates them.

 

C. Thinking of the older brother and of Jonah — and of heart idols and answer this. Why is it that we can

know what God asks, and yet still refuse to do it?

7. Read Matthew 7:21-23

A. How are these two groups the same?

 

B. How are they different?

8. Read Matthew 7:15-20

A. In what season might these two trees appear to be the same?

 

B. In what season would the difference be apparent? What is the lesson, according to verse 20?

 

9.  Read Matthew 7:13-14

Two groups are on the path to destruction and one is not. Explain all three as succinctly and clearly as you

can.

 

10 Share your contemplations on this study.

 

 

Thursday-Friday: Listen to this free Keller sermon given in London to pastors and share your notes.

http://thegospelcoalition.org/resources/a/Gospel-Communication

 

Notes and Thoughts on Message

 

Saturday

11. What’s your take-a-way and why?

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400 comments

  1. Laura I thought of our lessons recently in abiding when I read this. Rather than being preoccupied with our performance as a Christians, it is better to focused on staying close to Christ. When we begin to neglect dwelling on His love for us we begin to remove ourselves from the close dependant relationship that delivers power and true life to us. The little sins that start to creep in are evidence that we have broken our fellowship with Him. He wants to give us life and that in abundance, our job is to stay closely connected, drawing that life from Him.

    In mini ways we keep saying like Jonah or the brothers in the prodigal story that we want to be our own god. I don’t want to break fellowship and oneness with Christ, but I do it again and again, and I need to repent and have my feet washed. I don’t want to grieve Christ and be impeded in my fellowship with him because of my sin, it is so not worth it. It is reassuring to know that Paul felt the same tension.

    Romans
    “21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! “

    I thought of this too, “He longs jealously for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us”

    James 4
    4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? 6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
    “God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”
    7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

    1. This is so true, Chris S. A great reminder for me today. “When we begin to neglect dwelling on His love for us we begin to remove ourselves from the close dependant relationship that delivers A power and true life to us.”

  2. In ER w husband. Heart rate in 30’s b/b low. God has been very good. Please pray

    1. PRAYING NOW ANNE!

      1. me too Anne

        1. me too Anne

        2. Me, too, Anne. Amen to Dee’s prayer.

    2. Home to pick up Joey. Fred’s b/p is back to normal but he will go to CCU and may need a pacemaker. Also may have had a heart attack. Not sure. Prayers are bringing much peace. Medical care seems to be excellent.
      Thank you so much.

      1. Thanks for the update, Anne. Will continue praying for you in this storm.

        1. praying for you both!

      2. My computer is acting up, hope you get this Anne: I am praying for Fred and have been since you first posted. Love and hugs to you all.

      3. Will be praying for all of you.

    3. Anne, I’m praying now for him, please keep us posted

  3. had this song on my mind just now while working and thinking of our study this week.
    it moved me to tears because of the words, and hope it will Bless you as well;

    Come Thou Fount

    ” Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love,
    Here’s my heart , O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above!”

    Also keep thinking about what Jan Sivlious wrote about in “Fool Proofing Your Life”, that a fool trust’s their own heart.

    Praying not to be that fool.

    1. That song is one of my all-time favorites! I don’t want to be a fool either. :)

  4. What comments do you have on the above and why? I like Keller’s comparison of Jonah to the Prodigal Son story. Also your comment on what our “real gods” are…how we turn away from God when we are wanting something else to take his place. I know I’ve done this plenty of times.

    2. Imagine you are married and asked your husband if he loved you, and he said, “I married you, didn’t I? I give you my paycheck, don’t I? I mow the lawn…” How would you feel about that response and why?
    I think I would be hurt, definitely. As if it’s a works based love and he has to show his love by his good actions.

    3. What do you think God longs to see in your heart — and why? I’m sure it’s my loving others well, as He has loved me. I’m definitely a work in progress on that one. But I take comfort in knowing as I submit to Him, his Spirit has his way in me to make me the person He wants me to be.

  5. 4. Read Luke 15:11-18

    A. How did the younger brother show that he didn’t love the father?
    He demanded his inheritance with little thought to how it would effect his father.

    B. What do you think was his heart idol — the thing that he loved more than his

    father? Money

    C. How did he feel when he was away from the presence of the father? What does this illustrate?
    Empty, hungry, without love. It illustrates the darkness we feel when we are away from God’s presence. It may be fun at first, but quickly turns to heartache and destruction.

  6. 5. Read Luke 15:25-30

    A. How did the older brother show he didn’t love the father? Find evidences.

    He wouldn’t listen when the father tried to explain why he was throwing the feast. He was too jealous. He asks why the father has never thrown him a feast. He is full of resentment.

    B. What do you think his heart idol was — what did he want more than the father?
    Approval.

    C. Challenge question: What parallel do you see to Jonah? The resentment…Jonah did not want God to save Ninevah, they didn’t deserve it. He sulked about it like the older brother sulks about his younger brother.

    D. How did the older brother feel “away from the presence of the Lord?” Angry, grumpy, bitter.

  7. Hey friends, I wanted to give a brief update on Ron because I know a lot of you prayed for him. After he left the hospital, he started not acting like himself and they re-admitted him, and found that he had a rare infection attacking his brain. When I got the email I just broke down in tears. Since then he has been released and they believe the infection has gone, but not it’s effects. Ron and his wife Janine are headed to Houston from Singapore where he will be cared for by a medical team so he can recover. Our church hasn’t given details on what his symptoms are but I imagine it’s heartbreaking. They are going to stay with a good friend who is a doctor, and he is the one organizing the team to take care of him. I haven’t emailed Janine because I just haven’t had the words, just deep sorrow of all they’ve been through. Thanks for praying.

    1. oh I am so sorry to hear this anne meredith–praying for them now, just heart breaking–but thankful he will be in good medical care in houston

      1. Thank you Elizabeth. I realized I sounded a bit dramatic about it, it’s just so upsetting. I too am trusting God. I want to see him totally recovered so asking for that.

        1. Praying now for him, Anne Meredith.

        2. Thank you Kim! It means a lot to me.

        3. Still praying for him, Anne!

        4. Thank you Joyce!

      1. Thanks Aunt Dee. On a different note, just got our itineraries for the trip to Wisconsin. Can’t wait to be up there this summer! It’s been toooo long.

    2. Will be praying for your friends and for peace and comfort to you.

      1. Thank you Julie!

  8. 3. What do you think God longs to see in your heart — and why? A love for him and want to long for him to be closer to him

    O lord I pray that you would help me to draw closer to you and not shut my heart outto you . Amen

  9. 4. Read Luke 15:11-18
    A. How did the younger brother show that he didn’t love the father?

    He didn’t want to stay with him. He wanted to take what he felt his father owed him. It hit me that his father didn’t have to give him an inheritance to begin with—that was the father’s graciousness, but the son assumes he is “owed” it and asks for it in advance. When he gets what he wants, he leaves. And he shows no respect for the gift the father has given him by wasting it.

    B. What do you think was his heart idol — the thing that he loved more than his father?
    Control—he wanted to be his own god, to be in charge of himself, to follow his own rules, to be on the throne.

    C. How did he feel when he was away from the presence of the father? What does this illustrate?
    I think he was too ashamed to go back home at first—his pride gripped him.

    5. Read Luke 15:25-30
    A. How did the older brother show he didn’t love the father? Find evidences.

    He couldn’t see past his own jealousy to be happy for his father that his lost brother had returned. He was so self-centered that all he thought about was what he wasn’t getting—how his hard work should have earned him a better place…basically he was telling his father that he had assumed all these years his father had a works-based system of love.
    I remember once, I was about 8, and I had a fight with my mom because I was so frustrated inside that she didn’t treat me better than my rebellious sister. I can’t remember the context—but it stuck with me when I saw over the years how I didn’t get any special treatment for being “better”. My sister is now a strong believer and I know it must bring my mom extra joy after the years of turmoil, but thankfully now I can rejoice with her and for her!

    B. What do you think his heart idol was — what did he want more than the father?
    Approval—it was like he wanted his father’s love to be based on his good behavior—that would be easy to earn. But his father just wanted relationship—and that was harder for him to freely give.

    C. Challenge question: What parallel do you see to Jonah?

    I’m sure I’m being way too simplistic, but that’s my brain today! I think Jonah was caught in a mindset I relate to—I’ve always liked math, I think because it is “fair”—there is one right way and it always gives the desired result. Jonah and the older brother, believed in a system based on morality—that there is one way to act and if you act this way you get what you deserve; if not, you don’t. Good behavior=blessing; bad=punishment.

    D. How did the older brother feel “away from the presence of the Lord?”

    I think he must have felt very alone, confused, angry, yes—but hurt—actually just really really empty. Everything he had built his self worth on, his attempts to earn his own righteousness had been shattered. There is a Keller sermon where he says something like—there is no “rest of the story” where the older brother repents…so I know I can’t say that he’s there…but as I imagine the times I have been in that place—my self-righteousness blinding me…I am so thankful that He allows me to break, to feel that away from Him, without Him, I am empty—my house is on sand…and the only way, the only way out of that darkness, is to humble myself, to go and ask forgiveness, to welcome my younger brother, to rejoice in what the Father is doing, and join Him in it.

      1. Yes, Dee–I think this is why I love where Keller said something like the gospel is “unfair in our favor”–I grew up with parents who tried VERY hard to divide everything down to the nickel, equally–but it doesn’t work–life just isn’t an easy to divide math problem…and that caused struggle for me for a lot of years–inwardly screaming “but it’s not FAIR!”..but the more He has shown me what isn’t FAIR is that I am, because of Him alone, called the Daughter of the King–oh my, how it has turned things upside down for me…in a good way ;)

        1. Oh my, elizabeth. This so touches me. I used to often scream inwardly, “This isn’t fair!!!” Thank you for the reminder that it isn’t fair in MY favor. ” the more He has shown me what isn’t FAIR is that I am, because of Him alone, called the Daughter of the King–oh my, how it has turned things upside down for me…in a good way ;)” I needed to hear this today!

  10. Chris S–just wondered if you and Bill went to your session last night and if so how it went? Praying for you

    1. Thank you Elizabeth, you are so faithful, I appreciate you so.
      It was distressing & unsatisfing. I think Bill put it well when he said, we hope for something to help us feel better – more resolved, and are dissappointed again to realize once more that nothing on earth ever really will make it better.
      I felt really angry. Even in doing the little homework sheet I felt angry to be asked questions, to be forced to think about it. I felt angry in the group and was sort of given permission. I continue to have a sort of low level undercurrent of anger in me.
      I am weak, but trusting that Christ will show himself strong somehow through this

      1. love you Chris…continuing prayers dear friend.

  11. 4. Read Luke 15:11-18

    A. How did the younger brother show that he didn’t love the father?

    ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’

    B. What do you think was his heart idol — the thing that he loved more than his

    father? Control.. I also see that he wasnt very good with his money he spent all he had.

    C. How did he feel when he was away from the presence of the father? What does this illustrate? I think he was afraid to go back home at first but then finally came to his senses. This illistrates us running away from God because of sin and then too ashamed to go back to him because we are afraid he is mad at us for committing that sin. BUt in reality he loves us so much and wants us to come back to him. Thats his hearts desire!

  12. 5. Read Luke 15:25-30

    A. How did the older brother show he didn’t love the father? Find evidences. He was jealous cause he wasnt getting the attention that his brother was getting.

    B. What do you think his heart idol was — what did he want more than the father? Approval he wanted his fathers love based on Good behavior.

    D. How did the older brother feel “away from the presence of the Lord?” Alone, Confused and angry.

  13. 2. Imagine you are married and asked your husband if he loved you, and he said, “I married you, didn’t I? I give you my paycheck, don’t I? I mow the lawn…” How would you feel about that response and why?

    I would be hurt. It would seem like he was just doing things out of a sense of duty and not because he wanted to show his love. I would think he didn’t love me.

    3. What do you think God longs to see in your heart — and why?

    He wants to see passionate love for Him. Why? Because he loves us and wants our love in return. Elizabeth put it so beautifully, “He wants ME—vulnerable, honest, humble…He wants the truth of what I’m feeling, He wants to be in it with me, He wants to be my best friend, my Love, my Savior—He wants relationship. Oh thank You Jesus, You want ME!”

  14. 4 A. How did the younger brother show that he didn’t love the father?

    He despised his position in life, wanted his inheritance immediately (something that was unheard of in that culture and the request would be a sign of extreme disrespect), and then took off to waste his life and his father’s money.

    B. What do you think was his heart idol — the thing that he loved more than his father?

    I think his heart idol was comfort. He didn’t like work. He wanted to party. Pleasure was his reason for living with no thought of family or to the future.

    C. How did he feel when he was away from the presence of the father? What does this illustrate?

    I don’t think he missed his father until his money ran out. Then he was too ashamed to run home until he was almost starving to death. Then his need finally overcame his pride and he realized his sin.

  15. 5. A. How did the older brother show he didn’t love the father? Find evidences.

    He thought the father forgave the younger brother far too easily—he called him “this son of yours” who has “devoured your property”. In light of the party for the younger brother especially, he felt his father had not treated him gratefully enough. In verse 29 he says, “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.”

    B. What do you think his heart idol was — what did he want more than the father?

    Self- righteousness. He thought he had earned the right to despise his brother AND his father because he had worked so hard.

    C. Challenge question: What parallel do you see to Jonah?

    Jonah thought he had earned the right to despise the Ninevites because he was so righteous and they were so wicked.

    D. How did the older brother feel “away from the presence of the Lord?”

    He had not physically left his father, but spiritually he was angry and distant, self-righteous. He didn’t want his father’s love.

  16. 6. Read Matthew 7:24-27
    A. According to verses 24 and 26, the wise man and the foolish man have something in common. Find what they have in common. How would they appear the same in a church service or Bible study?

    Both groups hear the words of Jesus

    B. Now look at those two verses and find what differentiates them.

    One group obeys the words of Jesus and one group does not.

    C. Thinking of the older brother and of Jonah — and of heart idols and answer this. Why is it that we can know what God asks, and yet still refuse to do it?

    We think we know better or we can earn it ourselves. We want to be in charge. This is a case of how we can seem to love God, but really, love our own way.

    1. so true diane “This is a case of how we can seem to love God, but really, love our own way.”

      how is your daughter doing?

      1. Thanks for asking about my daughter. It is so hard to know really. She seems OK but I worry that deep issues have not changed, and she might get really overwhelmed again so easily. She has some idols that need defeating,and the Enemy is working really hard to keep her down. I am discouraged right now, but it is really late at night for me and it has been a long day looking after grandkids and I have another busy day tomorrow. I would appreciate your continued prayers.

        1. praying for you today Diane–that you may be encouraged and strengthened

  17. 6. Read Matthew 7:24-27
    A. According to verses 24 and 26, the wise man and the foolish man have something in common. Find what they have in common. How would they appear the same in a church service or Bible study?
    They both hear the Word; they both build a house/foundation/belief system/way of living… in response.

    B. Now look at those two verses and find what differentiates them.
    One obeys what he has heard in the Word—he is solid, steadfast, has security amidst the storm; the other does not obey and he has no firm foundation—when the inevitable storms come, he has nothing to give him strength, security, safety.

    C. Thinking of the older brother and of Jonah — and of heart idols and answer this. Why is it that we can know what God asks, and yet still refuse to do it?
    “prone to wander, Lord I feel it…” ran through my mind as I typed this and then I saw Laura Marie had the same thoughts!
    I think for me, as much as I want to truly abandon myself to Him—I still cry—help my unbelief! Deep, deep down there is still the Eve in me who says, but can’t I just have this little part MY way? And it’s absurd because we know intellectually, even by experience, that His ways are best…
    I think the key for me is that it isn’t a one-time fix…there is a daily, multiple times daily, giving it over, laying it down, letting go of the control we want but never had anyway…releasing our hands. Oh so much easier to type than practice—but I can call upon past times when He has asked me to let something go…and when I finally do, I see the joy, the fruit, the peace…sheep must have really bad amnesia!

    1. Elizabeth, Amen! => “I think the key for me is that it isn’t a one-time fix…there is a daily, multiple times daily, giving it over, laying it down, letting go of the control we want but never had anyway…releasing our hands.”

  18. Sunday-Monday Ice Breaker
    1. What comments do you have on the above and why? – I have to go back and catch up from the previous 2 weeks, but from this week, I really like how when we think we are doing “godly” things that maybe we really aren’t. If our hearts are not in the right place or our attitudes are not checked, we can be out of the will of God, but think like the older brother in the prodigal story that we are owed something. God does not owe us anything more than His only son being put to death for us, sinners of this world, so we can have eternal life if we choose to grab it. 

    2. Imagine you are married and asked your husband if he loved you, and he said, “I married you, didn’t I? I give you my paycheck, don’t I? I mow the lawn…”   How would you feel about that response and why? – I would really think that by him saying that, it’s like a chore to be married. Those are all material things and yes, they are nice, but true love is not evident in those remarks from the husband. Simple things, like a comforting touch, or a gentle kiss just because, or even just sitting together watching something on TV that both people like is showing more love than the material things that can be given. I’ve had the material things in the past and they can be gone in an instant and than you are left with nothing.

    3. What do you think God longs to see in your heart — and why? – compassion, tenderness, acceptance, tolerance. I think these traits are areas in my life that I can definitely grow in.  To have these things evident in my life toward all people at all times, whether I’m tired, mad, busy is something that does not always shine thru. I need to learn to slow down, do what I can, and don’t worry if someone interrupts me while I’m reading, or doing whatever it is I may be doing at the time. Showing someone these things I think may help them see the love of God in me.

      1. Thanks Dee it was a weird couple of weeks, so glad to be back.

  19. Thank you all for praying. Fred did not go to CCU because he improved so much as the day wore on. Just got him settled in a monitored bed and he will most likely come home in the morning. He said this morning that he thinks he may have made a mistake with his blood pressure medicine. It appears that it was. It is so good that this happened on my day off and while Joey was at school. Alfred was off today too. God cared for every need. It was good for the boys too in that they can begin to realize that their parents will not be around forever. I wish I had had a better understanding while I was young.

    1. So happy to hear the news Anne, glad they were able to figure out what happened.

    2. Glad to hear he is doing so much better. I hope everything will be alright.

    3. Anne, I read this last night and prayed!! So glad for the update! :-)

    4. Dear Anne,
      I’m just reading your posts this am….so thankful it was a medication error and not a heart attack or a need for a pacer! And yes, God’s timing – it was your day off, and you were equipped to handle the situation.

      1. Amen!

    5. Anne, what a wonderful answer to our prayer’s!!!!

  20. 4. Read Luke 15:11-18

    A. How did the younger brother show that he didn’t love the father? – By not caring at all about anyone else but himself. He didn’t care that he would be leaving his father to do the work he was supposed to be doing. It was like he was wishing his father dead so he could get the money coming to him.
     
    B. What do you think was his heart idol — the thing that he loved more than his father? – Money, greed, himself.

    C. How did he feel when he was away from the presence of the father? What does this illustrate? – At first he was living it up, having a good time, than once he lost everything, he was hungry, upset, and jealous I think. This to me shows that what we have at the present time is where God wants us to be and is what God wants us to have. Living someone else’s life, is not in the plan God set before us so it will not work out to our advantage.

    1. Missed you, Julie:)

      1. Thanks Joyce, missed doing the study and seeing all the posts. Now I’ll have to try and catch up.

    1. Thank you for this Anne, it gave me chill bumps twice. What a wonderful way God has provided for her to bless others and honor her husband.

    2. Anne, that was so sad but so wonderful too! Wish that was out already to help people now. Thanks for sharing it!

  21. 6. Read Matthew 7:24-27

    A. According to verses 24 and 26, the wise man and the foolish man have something in common. Find what
    they have in common. How would they appear the same in a church service or Bible study?

    They both built the house. Both would appear to be going through all the motions in church; I’m here today, check, I am building the house, check.

    B. Now look at those two verses and find what differentiates them.

    One house is on rock, the other on sand.

    C. Thinking of the older brother and of Jonah — and of heart idols and answer this. Why is it that we can
    know what God asks, and yet still refuse to do it?

    We are in a constant battle between our earthly selves and our spiritual selves. We know what is right and good, yet we are pulled by the earthly sinful self every minute. To be near to God and know He is there means we have to work, and not be distracted by our immature, fleshly beings.
     

  22. 5. Read Luke 15:25-30

    A. How did the older brother show he didn’t love the father? Find evidences.

    He didn’t enter into his father’s joy with him. He could care less if his father’s heart was thrilled because of the love his younger son showed to him by repenting and coming back. He didn’t love his father because he refused to celebrate with him-this was a huge honor and beautiful moment for his father.

    B. What do you think his heart idol was — what did he want more than the father?

    At first I thought control, but now I am also seeing Approval. He wants the father to love him for his good deeds, for being a good boy, for doing all the wonderful service and tasks he has done and he wants to be above his brother as far as his father’s approval. So his position and works have become his ultimate-his love, and his father was less.

    C. Challenge question: What parallel do you see to Jonah?

    I think someone else mentioned this last week and I thought it was great, but Jonah was the good boy, the prophet, the one who did God’s work, and he became prideful because of it, just like the older son and he got lost in his position instead of getting lost in God. It brought forth horrible fruit-he hated the people of Ninevah, and became angry at God’s kindness and mercy toward them, just like The older brother hated the younger brother and was angry at the kindness and mercy God showed to him.

    D. How did the older brother feel “away from the presence of the Lord?”

    Angry, forgotten, forsaken, slighted. The thing is, the father was right there begging him to join them, so even though the older brother was feeling this way, the father was offering mercy toward him in that moment-just like he offered mercy toward the younger son! He wanted the older son to turn and come too! The older brother didn’t see the mercy being extended because he didn’t see he had a problem- he was still bound and blinded by his idol. I wonder how the story would have gone had he turned? Perhaps he would be celebrated along with the younger brother? :-)

      1. Dee, oh yes-so true..

      2. So sad too regading Rebeccas answer to B, he already had his Fathers approval, though he seems unable to realize or feel it.

    1. Yes, my, we have come so far. I can add to that list no bowling (hehe) no long hair on men and short hair on women, no gambling, no t.v. no pants on women, no jewelry…oh my list could go on and on! So glad the pressure is off of me to behave and I now rest in His ability instead of mine. I keep thinking of the arrogance of man, to believe we could ever stop sinning.
      Chris is so right about abiding and I find in abiding I stop looking at what others are doing and even what I am doing and simply live to Him. What freedom! Thank you, Jesus.

        1. Thank you, you had a great deal to do with that, my friend!

  23. 6. Read Matthew 7:24-27

    A. According to verses 24 and 26, the wise man and the foolish man have something in common. Find what

    they have in common. How would they appear the same in a church service or Bible study? They both hear the word/ build a house. This would appear the same in a church service or bible study cause we need to put into practice what we hear/Learn in the church service or bible study. O Lord this is me so often not putting into practice what I hear and learn help me to put into practice what i hear and learn In Jesus Name Amen

    B. Now look at those two verses and find what differentiates them. Therefore everyone who hears the words and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. / Therefore whoever hears the words and doesnt put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

    C. Thinking of the older brother and of Jonah — and of heart idols and answer this. Why is it that we can

    know what God asks, and yet still refuse to do it? Well for me it would be fear and control.. Fear of what the outcome might be and not like it and argue with God well this is the way I wanted it to go.

    1. Meg, great comments!

  24. 7. Read Matthew 7:21-23
    A. How are these two groups the same?
    They both go to Him and call Him Lord

    B. How are they different?
    One does the Father’s will—and I would say the Father’s will is that we have a trusting, loving relationship with Him.
    The other group does the duties, the works, the acts of obedience…but love is not the motivating foundation. He doesn’t want our acts, He wants US.

    8. Read Matthew 7:15-20

    A. In what season might these two trees appear to be the same?
    When it is not in fruit-bearing season.

    B. In what season would the difference be apparent? What is the lesson, according to verse 20?
    Harvest time—then you recognize one as healthy, the other as diseased.

    9. Read Matthew 7:13-14
    2 groups are on the path to destruction and one is not. Explain all three as succinctly and clearly as you can.

    Destruction Path #1: Those who think their morality, religiosity and good works will save them—that everyone can find God by being good; they are chained by their performance

    Destruction Path #2: The irreligious—who believe everyone can decide for themselves the moral code

    Path of Freedom: Those on the narrow way know the problem is us–I’m the sinner, saved by grace. I cannot try hard to be good enough-and then be saved—in Christianity I am saved by Him, because of Him, freeing me to go the way of Him.

  25. 1. What comments do you have on the above and why?

    I like the opening questions, and chose to personalize them, for I think they are important to ask myself when I find myself avoiding God, or turning to an idol:

    Susan, why do you want to flee from the presence of God? Away from His light into darkness, away from the only One who can give you hope and into despair?

    Answering this may reveal a lack of trust in the character of God, or that I have let my intimacy with Him grow cold, or that there is something right at the moment that I desire more than I desire God. Often, I think it is the desire to be my own god and to do what I want, just like Jonah. It is often desiring the comfort of some extra sleep instead of getting up early to meet with Him. In Nouwen’s book about the Prodigal Son, he points out that “going off to a distant country” is more than a change of location – there are infinite ways of “leaving home”, spiritually. Often it occurs in our thought-life.

    2. Imagine you are married and asked your husband if he loved you, and he said, “I married you, didn’t I? I give you my paycheck, don’t I? I mow the lawn…” How would you feel about that response and why?

    I thought the interchange between Tevya and Golde was interesting on many levels – “After 25 years why talk about love!”, Golde exclaims. Also, her body language. She kept turning away from him, and she had this look on her face like she was trying to determine if she did love him, or talk herself into the fact that she did, based on all the things she has done over the years. She looked uncertain at first, then there was a growing certainty.
    But, if this was how my husband answered me, it would leave me feeling flat.
    Actually, there have been times I’ve tried to communicate with my husband how I feel about our marriage, and if I’m feeling depressed about it because we don’t have a vital intimacy, or connection with each other, he can’t understand why I’m feeling down, because, he will say, “You don’t have to work full-time, you can do whatever you want, you have a pretty good life, etc….”

    I would want my husband to look at ME, and tell me that he loves me, not because of what I do for him or that he loves me because look what he does for me, but I would like to be deeply known and loved for who I am.

    1. Susan–your thoughtful answers are like a devotional for me at times–they draw me to look closer at my own “junk” and always point me back to Him–thank you for sharing so…”real”–i liked this esp “there are infinite ways of “leaving home”, spiritually. Often it occurs in our thought-life.”

      praying for your husband’s heart–and encouragement for you dear friend!

      1. I was praying for you too today!

  26. 3. What do you think God longs to see in your heart – and why?

    I thought this would be simple to answer, but it’s not. I can think of lots of things – love, trust, obedience. I want to pray and ask Him about this one.

  27. 5. Read Luke 15:25-30

    A. How did the older brother show he didn’t love the father? Find evidences. He threw a fit. He tried to put a guilt trip on his father, called out a list of the younger brothers’ sins, declared his own good deeds and refused to celebrate.

    B. What do you think his heart idol was — what did he want more than the father? His heart idols were power and control, with a bit of approval thrown in for good measure. He wanted all his father had also just in more subtle ways of going about it.

    C. Challenge question: What parallel do you see to Jonah?
    Jonah was prideful and hateful, he had been given much but was blind to see the goodness of God and fell away.

    D. How did the older brother feel “away from the presence of the Lord?”
    Mad, left out, abused, slighted.

  28. 6. Read Matthew 7:24-27

    A. According to verses 24 and 26, the wise man and the foolish man have something in common. Find what they have in common. How would they appear the same in a church service or Bible study? “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice” indicates they had the same information, choice. They were both building houses on something. They both had two options, Gods way or their own way.

    B. Now look at those two verses and find what differentiates them.
    One chooses wisely, the other takes a risk and chooses foolishly to build on sand.

    C. Thinking of the older brother and of Jonah — and of heart idols and answer this. Why is it that we can know what God asks, and yet still refuse to do it?
    We know that God asks hard things – give me everything, trust me, my way is best – but we can turn inward and do as we please, what we believe is easier and yet selfish and foolish. We are consumed with idolatry and blind like these two men.

  29. 6. Read Matthew 7:24-27
    A. According to verses 24 and 26, the wise man and the foolish man have something in common. Find what they have in common.

    They both built houses, which requires effort and results in something tangible.
    I thought building a foundation on rock probably requiring more work. Drilling down into rock would take time & effort whereas driving supports into the sand would be easier. Maybe the sand house guy would have had more time and money to invest in curb appeal, his home might have looked better on the surface. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.

    How would they appear the same in a church service or Bible study?
    They both appear to be following Christ, one truly relying on grace and the other relying on his own appearance of goodness.

    B. Now look at those two verses and find what differentiates them.

    The one who trusted in the Rock, really hearing His words and doing them was not destroyed when the storm came

    C. Thinking of the older brother and of Jonah — and of heart idols and answer this. Why is it that we can know what God asks, and yet still refuse to do it?

    In my pride and my confidence in myself, my own way seems better to me, I can’t believe God really wants me to submit to my husband, pray for my enemies, not worry about what I will eat or what I will wear, that I can ask the Father and he will supply. I don’t believe that I often fail to see that have a log in my own eye.
    At bottom I suppose the issue is what am I trusting in? Do I really beleive the Father is trust worthy. Reminds me of Anne’s recent conversation with her freind.

  30. Kendra get’s fitted for special shoes and braces today, she is scard they are going to hurt her. Please pray she will be calmed and peaceful and they are good with her and make the correct changes for her feet, that are needed. She won’t get them right away, but when they do get here, it will be very hard for her to get use to the new shoes and braces. They come up to her knees with a velcro strap at the top and light plastic with leather fronts that lace up and fit in her shoes.

    Then next monday I have a Dr. appt. with my back Dr. in Omaha. Please pray he will know how to help me and what to do next. The Dr’s in town here say they won’t touch my back, so I’m really counting on this Dr. that done surgery on me before (fusing my lower back), will have a plan of action, as I’m not able to stand or walk or sit any more than a few minutes at a time. Oh if only my favorite back Dr. was here (Dee’s husband), he would know what to do and pray with me. I know he is sitting beside Jesus and asking for blessings for all his family and patients.

    1. sweet joyce–wish i could type more but i am praying and will continue–and am writing down your appt mon. too–love you Joyce

  31. How did the older brother show he didn’t love the father? Find evidences. This, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property(W) with prostitutes(X) comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ He could not see past himself. He wasn’t serving the father for the joy of it because he loved him. Which just kind of convicted me. Sometimes I dont see raising my children as joyful work done unto HIM! I just do it out of duty expecting a fattened calf for it or something,

    B. What do you think his heart idol was — what did he want more than the father? control?

    C. Challenge question: What parallel do you see to Jonah? Same, he did not want to love and accept those who came to God. They were too bad and he did not want God’s mercy for them like this son and father.

    D. How did the older brother feel “away from the presence of the Lord?” angry

  32. Thank you..Praying for you too, sweet Elizabeth. You too, Angela! Love you:)

  33. 5. Read Luke 15:25-30

    A. How did the older brother show he didn’t love the father? Find evidences. -The way he would not go to the party for his brother and how he talked to his father seemed a little disrespectful to me. But that is still his father and the older son should still respect him I think and not be so self centered.

     B. What do you think his heart idol was — what did he want more than the father? – Approval, self centeredness, jealousy. I think that the older son, thought that because he never left the father should love him more for all that he did, but he was seeking approval from a human who sometimes can’t see the good people do, instead of seeking approval from the Father that matters, who has his life in his hands. As a parent of two boys, one that was a wayward child and one that is more of a toe the line kid I was at points so tired of dealing with the wayward child that you sometimes forget about the good child, but in the end I still love them the same and want the best for each of them. They may each think that they have been forgotten in some way, but hopefully they will come to see the love I have for them.

    C. Challenge question: What parallel do you see to Jonah? – will have to come back to this one if I can catch up with last weeks lesson.

    D. How did the older brother feel “away from the presence of the Lord?” – I’m not sure I’m answering this one correctly, but I think that when you drift away from the Lord you are looking for satisfaction in wordily approval instead of from our heavenly Father.

  34. Julie, I loved your answer to D.

    Kendra was so scard at the Orthotics today. He was wrapping her ankles/legs with casting material and holds it untill it hardens in the shape her foot is suppost to be, then cuts it off when it is hardened for a mold. She was panicking , because it hurt and had a siezure (grand mall) I gave her adivan right away (a pill that drugs her and stops the siezures). He got done and we had to use a wheelchair to get her out to the car and then she was so tired from the pill, we drove around town for two hours while she slept. We ate and got home and she has been sick to her stomach. She can’t take her siezure pills as long as she is sick, so she may have another siezure tonight. It’s not been a fun day:( Thank you for your prayers. I’ve fallen behind big time here. Love you all!

    1. I am praying for Kendra & for you and Maurice too. I suppose this was another of those gold threads in the tapestry days for you. Your finished life seen in heaven from the other side will be stunning I am thinking.
      Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
      Love you dear Joyce

      1. Thank you Chris, I needed that! Bless you!

  35. 7. Read Matthew 7:21-23

    A. How are these two groups the same?

    They are both worshiping the Lord in practice.
     

    B. How are they different?

    One group loves God and knows Him well. The other is performing “good deeds” to make sure they make it into heaven.

    8. Read Matthew 7:15-20

    A. In what season might these two trees appear to be the same?

    I guess in the spring when everything is blooming? You can’t see the thistles or thorns because they are hidden by their leaves. These are the kind of verses I have trouble with; when the writers start creating (I think) some sort of metaphor for the situation. I’m not an English teacher, so pardon me if I made a mistake there!
     

    B. In what season would the difference be apparent? What is the lesson, according to verse 20?

    Let’s see….during the winter when the leaves are gone and the true vine or trunk of the tree is revealed. Well, the verses begin with beware of false prophets. They show a good side on the outside and have evil within. Verse 20 says You will recognize them by their fruit because a good tree bears good fruit and vice versa.

    If you put this terms of people, how does that work? David Koresh, Jim Jones, the alien cult in California, and others all claimed to be the Messiah or the all knowing being. People believed them and were “snowed” by them. How would you recognize those people?

     

    1. Laura, I think we will recognize those people by their fruits (Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, etc) or no fruits. But what if they gave their hearts to Jesus and ask for forgivness, right before they died? Like the guy that just died Jack Kavorkian? (sp), that helped people to die when they wanted to. He was in prison for that, but may have come to Jesus before
      he died. This has always confussed me.

      (Kendra never had another siezure )

      1. I was glad to read that there were no additional seizures Joyce.

  36. Keller said he once preached on this as the way of the godly and the way of the ungodly — which is correct, but later he saw that the ungodly did not represent the person who is like the younger son (being very bad) as he had thought, but rather the older son (being very good — self-righteously moral.) This is sobering. This sermon is, in part, to awaken those who think they know Christ, who say “Lord, Lord,” but in fact, do not love Him, do not trust Him. They love themselves and are trusting in their own righteousness.

    We’re going to study this from the conclusion up — looking first at the summary, and then seeing if we can see the truth throughout The Sermon on the Mount.

    6. Read Matthew 7:24-27

    A. According to verses 24 and 26, the wise man and the foolish man have something in common. Find what

    they have in common. How would they appear the same in a church service or Bible study?

    They have both heard his words. They would both appear like they loved Jesus based on the things they did and said.

    B. Now look at those two verses and find what differentiates them.

    One rests in Jesus-his foundation is Jesus, the solid rock-the other’s foundation is himself-a self built righteousness which is like sand.

    C. Thinking of the older brother and of Jonah — and of heart idols and answer this. Why is it that we can

    know what God asks, and yet still refuse to do it?

    Elizabeth and Laura Marie already answered this well-but I agree-my natural bend is to turn from him or- prone to wander..I am finding that while I desire to abandon myself to him it is a daily thing because while I am here on Earth my flesh remains. Interesting, I am “prone” to bend away while He is “prone” to bend toward me. Amazing love, how can it be?

  37. 7. Read Matthew 7:21-23
    A. How are these two groups the same?

    They both call Jesus Lord

    B. How are they different?

    One claims to be doing the will of the Father, listing their accomplishments for Him to acknowledge, the other group was obeying in spirit and in truth

    I thought of these verses;

    Psalm 51:16-17 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
    The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

    Isaiah 57:15 For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.

    God desires our hearts to be repentant, belonging to Him alone, we cannot substitute for this by pride fully ‘doing things’ in His name.

  38. 7. Read Matthew 7:21-23

    A. How are these two groups the same?

    They both call on the name of Jesus.

    B. How are they different?

    One does works in order to gain righteousness, the other rests in the work of Jesus on the cross for his righteousness.

    8. Read Matthew 7:15-20

    A. In what season might these two trees appear to be the same?

    By Season, if you meant literal seasons and not seasons of growth-then it would be the Fall/Winter when they aren’t fruit bearing. In terms of growth-I was thinking they look the same in the beginning but through the years as time goes on you will be able to see the differences.

    B. In what season would the difference be apparent? What is the lesson, according to verse 20?

    In the Spring/Summer when fruit is brought forth-over time after the hard season of winter-the struggling, the trials, the suffering-if one truly abides in Jesus good fruit will come forth, if they don’t abide in Jesus and don’t really know him then bad fruit will come forth-the truth will be revealed.

    I hope Chris S. doesn’t mind if I use her as an example, but she is a perfect example-the floor drops out from under her-She experiences the biggest Earthquake imaginable. She has been in a winter season-sometimes when you grieve your winter season lasts a long time-but as you abide in Him, soon the Spring comes-I see buds of fruit and some ripe, beautiful fruit springing forth in her life as she clings to Jesus. The way she is responding to Him even while she is still struggling speaks volumes to me of His fruit blossoming in her.

    If you read “The God of All Comfort” by Dee, that too speaks volumes of fruit coming forth from a devastating winter in her life-the bottom dropped for her too and it is beautiful how she clings to Jesus.

    1. Rebecca, I don’t mind, in fact this was a great encouragment to me this morning.
      Thank you for it.

      1. Chris, you are a precious sister, and seeing your struggles and how you yield to Him in them through this harsh season has encouraged me.

  39. 8. Read Matthew 7:15-20

    A. In what season might these two trees appear to be the same?
    In the winter, when there is no growth to be seen

    B. In what season would the difference be apparent?

    At harvest time, when the fruit or lack of it would be evident

    What is the lesson, according to verse 20?

    That we can recognize false prophets by what they produce, are they reproducing Christ followers who are growing in peace, love, kindness, gentleness, and self control?

    I thought of the prosperity gospel messages that promise every earthly blessing if you just think properly and push the right divine buttons.

    Phillipans 3:18-19 “(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
    Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”

    Much false teaching is probably far more insidious, subtle, and harder to recognize than what they preach though. I am so greatful that we have the Holy Spirit, and the promise that God will give us wisdom when we ask for it

  40. 9. Read Matthew 7:13-14

    Two groups are on the path to destruction and one is not. Explain all three as succinctly and clearly as you

    can.

    For some reason I only see two groups, but I can see how the ‘broad group’ can fall into two categories.

    First ‘Destruction’ Group claims by following the rules, the ten commandments basically, that they can enter into God’s favor-be approved by God. They don’t really know Him.

    I liked what Elizabeth came up with for the second “Destruction Group”-the group who believes everyone can set their own moral compass and that is good enough to receive God’s favor in the end, and if they don’t believe in God, it is good enough to have good Karma happen??

    The third group that doesn’t lead to destruction is the group who sees they can’t earn God’s favor or His righteousness by their works, only by Jesus’ works on the cross. They see Jesus’ white robe of righteousness wrapped around them-by nothing they did or deserved, but by what He did for them. They see they are sinners and helpless and need Him to be saved from the penalty of sin, but also from the power of sin-they rest in His righteousness, not in their own for they see they are nothing without Him.

  41. 10 Share your contemplations on this study.

    I could be wrong, but overall I see two kinds of people here-one is someone who thinks they know Jesus but are resting on their righteousness to save them-after Winter seasons and really over time the fruit they bear forth is bad. I was thinking of someone I know in church-I don’t mean to be critical at all, but I think her husband knows the Lord but I am not sure she does. She does all the ‘right’ things, but I don’t see His love in her. I see a legalistic, harsh spirit. I don’t know her heart so I need to be careful, but when we did cardboard testimonies at church-so many spoke of how Jesus redeemed them from the pit. Hers talked about how good she was.

    The other person is the believer who knows God, pursues Him and yields to Him-they see they are nothing without Him. Yes they have idol issues like the gal at my church, and go through rough seasons, but eventually I think fruit blooms. I believe God rescues us even if we have been consumed by our idol for years because He said he will finish the work he started in us. I believe He gives us a longing to be intimate with Him and when we are out of fellowship with Him, we know it and we long for Him.

  42. 9. Read Matthew 7:13-14
    I think the Message is helpful here

    Matthew 7:13-14 “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do.
    The way to life–to God!–is vigorous and requires total attention.
    Two groups are on the path to destruction and one is not. Explain all three as succinctly and clearly as you can.

    Twice in Proverbs this warning is delivered.
    Proverbs 16:25 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.
    Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

    I thought about the offence of the gospel, in our pride we do not want to hear that we are wretched sinners, without hope left to ourselves, that we need to be covered with the blood of Christ to be made clean. And then that our “deadly doing” as Keller put it, earns us nothing. All our righteousness is as filthy rags, that the way to life is to be ever mindful of our sin, repenting and resting in the finished work of the cross. Dying to self and being made alive by resting in Him.

    The wisdom of God is foolishness to those who are perishing.

    How much better and more palatable it seems to sort of tip your hat at the gospel and then set about to earn salvation, surely all the money given to the church, all the time I spent serving gritting my teeth the whole time must place me above these sinners.

    The other Group would be those who in anger or indifference turn their backs on God, believing Him to be cruel or nonexistent, their pride allows them to walk away because they can’t understand Gods ways, or because they do not want to be accountable to Him

  43. 7. Read Matthew 7:21-23

    A. How are these two groups the same? They both call on the name of Jesus

    B. How are they different?

    One of them does works to gain rightousness and the other one rests in Jesus to gain rightousness.

  44. 8. Read Matthew 7:15-20

    A. In what season might these two trees appear to be the same? In the winter time when there is no growth on trees

    B. In what season would the difference be apparent? What is the lesson, according to verse 20? In the spring and summer when growing is apparent.

    It says you will recognize them by their fruit

  45. If you all could pray, Isaac is going to give his presentation to the whole 6th grade during assembly this morning around 10:00 ish on what it is like to have Autism. My husband, my mom and I will be there and I am going to try to get it on video. It is his desire to be a voice for those who can’t speak, and also to help the other kids understand him better so they might befriend him. I am praying God will be glorified-Isaac would be quickened to share how he rests in God’s approval of him regardless.

    Also, I was asked by the special ed teacher to consider doing a presentation on Autism with Isaac to the whole staff-6th-8th grade at the beginning of the school year next year, and possibly the whole school-praying! :)

    1. Wow, Rebecca! I have goosebumps :-) (and tears) Praying for Isaac this morning for all of you as you consider presentation to staff.

    2. praying!!!

    3. Rebecca, What an honor for Isaaic and for both of you later! That could bless so many suffering from it, that can’t discibe it and also the ones that don’t understand it would be blessed too.

      1. It was wonderful-Isaac is such a precious boy-God has His hand on Isaac..God has been providing for and hiding Isaac under His wings for a long time! As he was giving his presentation memories flashed through my mind-he was almost 3 years old when first diagnosed-flapping hands, twisting his fingers, unable to speak-only had echolalic language (repeating phrases, or the ending of something you say), unable to play with toys, unable to say mama, unable to look in my eyes. Now look at him.. God has given Isaac so much care-with the ABA life changing therapy we were able to get for him at 3 years old. Without that therapy he would be severe right now, most likely not able to give a presentation.

        When I went to pick him up from school today, he motioned to me that he is walking home with two boys..The first time ever! I don’t know how long this will last-perhaps the children know now and will try to befriend him. :-)

        (It was cute toward the end of his presentation he said, “I want a voice for other kids who can’t.” He mixed up his words, but he meant he wanted to be a voice for the kids who don’t have friends because other kids don’t understand them or think they are weird.)

        1. That’s great, Rebecca. Praise the Lord! It was so great to hear how brave Isaac was. I hope there is good fruit from his testimony.

        2. oh this makes me SMILE-just precious. and for what it’s worth i fully understood what he meant at then end ;)
          do you have a youtube we can watch? i would LOVE to see him!

        3. Oh So Wonderful. Rebecca!!

        4. SO glad! Tears of joy that he was walking home with 2 boys…

        5. Thanks sweet sisters!! You all are so precious to me-I’m thankful for you!

        6. Rebecca, what a sweet day…..I’m am in tears, my children all have trouble with friends and I long for them to be in same shoes as Issac. Praise God for whom all blessing flow!

  46. 6. Read Matthew 7:24-27

    A. According to verses 24 and 26, the wise man and the foolish man have something in common. Find what

    they have in common. How would they appear the same in a church service or Bible study? one puts Christs words to practice and the other does not. they prob look similar til some heat is applied to life then you see how they come through.

    B. Now look at those two verses and find what differentiates them. foundations

    C. Thinking of the older brother and of Jonah — and of heart idols and answer this. Why is it that we can

    know what God asks, and yet still refuse to do it? we are 3 year olds and want our own stubborn way.

    7. Read Matthew 7:21-23

    A. How are these two groups the same? they did work for the Lord

    B. How are they different? some knew God, others did not.

    8. Read Matthew 7:15-20

    A. In what season might these two trees appear to be the same// winter

    B. In what season would the difference be apparent? What is the lesson, according to verse 20? harvest. watch for fruit

    9. Read Matthew 7:13-14

    Two groups are on the path to destruction and one is not. Explain all three as succinctly and clearly as you

    can.did not see 3…thinking sermon talks more about this. Will listen these verses have always been interesting to me.

    The study so far is breaking my heart and messing with me along with other things I am reading/doing. Little guys parents went homeless again, out of money again. Breaks my heart. A friend put them up for a week at another hotel til they get paid. The nasty drug hotel they were at before now has them on the no rent list so that is GREAT! Atleast they cannot be there and maybe it will push them to get real housing. Oh so sad. Little guy would have been homeless with them if he was still there. They were on the street for 5 days! Oh breaks my heart. Praying about what to do. I know my primary role is to love, nurture, and instruct this little guy in the Lord but the line with the parents is unclear. My friend is doing more to minister to them since she does not have a kid in her care. Praying for God’s intervention. They have to chose to do the right thing here still. Praying permanency for this little guy soon. with us or them. Just something less confusing. We will see her mother days weekend so preparing some pictures, a practical gift from him. It is so hard.

    1. Praying for you Angela, and for Issac and you Rebecca. You all have opportunities to glorify God in these things

    2. Angela, I will be praying for God’s will for all concerned. How hard this must be for you and your family; I am so sorry. But your little guy is so blessed to have you all in his life.

      1. Oh because I am a Jonah, an older brother toward them often. God started softening my heart toward them recently and I want to faithfully pray for them and do whatever God wants in the situation. Either way this will be an open adoption like situation unless we move or something. I want to have a clear conscious that I did all I should have or could in wisdom by His Spirit to help this struggling family. It is so sad and how can I just look at them like Jonah? If God gave them repentance I am afraid I would pout because of the outcome it means for our guy. Him going back, etc. Yet I want what is best. I want them to come to know Him and want to share Him with them. I am confronted with my wicked heart and motives in it all though it would greatly shatter my heart I want God’s will. I can say that but doing it is another big act of the will. We see them next mothers day weekend so I am putting together something for her from him. Yet I struggle greatly with this. sigh

    3. oh dear angela–just seeing this but have been praying for you today–will continue dear one

      1. Angela, after seeing this and also knowing you are having issues physically, my heart broke. You, Elizabeth and Joyce and Joyce’s Kendra-oh my! Will continue praying!!

  47. I’ve been hesitant to share this because it may not sound very hope-filled. These days there is a low level constant pain, but mostly bearable with ice, ect..and so I have been able to honestly say when people ask, God is using this in me, I’m really good “inside”. My 5 yr old talks about heaven–a lot–and I’ve had to let it stop making me fear, because he just does it–but yesterday he asked me if in heaven he will get everything he wants. I said “yes”. In my mind I thought, because everything he wants will be Jesus.

    Then my crashing waves came around 5 in the afternoon–maybe in response to p/t I had yesterday morning (it’s happened before like this), but I locked myself in my room in terrible pain–the kind where nothing helps. And I lay there and said “Lord, I want You to be all I want–but I want more–I want this pain to leave” I felt so done with all my attempts to “pull it together”.After a few hours, it passed enough and is present but bearable. I felt discouraged, and guilty? That I have sounded so “holy”–and I have meant it–He IS using this, but I just felt bad that I don’t just want Him–when it was that awful–I wanted OUT.

    But this morning, a few minutes ago–He came to me as my gracious Loving Father. He reminded me that when the prodigal left, the Father never said “if you leave, you can’t come back”, or “if you leave, I’ll stop loving you”–instead it’s like He understands that we still wander, and yes it breaks His heart, our pain breaks His heart, but He understands. He never leaves. He is here for me, He ran to greet me, and He is holding me.

    1. Elizabeth I am so glad you laid down you desire to seem hope filled when you are struggling.
      Being overwhelmed does not mean you have abandoned hope, it means you are human and real and going through a trial.

      It is okay to cry out in honesty that you want your trial to end. Trying anything else, when that is how you feel, is less than sincere, and true intimacy happens with complete honesty, so weep and wail and mourn, if that is how you are feeling. We want to share your burden dear girl!

      1. oh dear friend–i honestly just printed this out to keep with me today–this, coming from you, who knows a depth of trial i cannot begin to imagine how you breathe under–this means more than i can say

        1. I have tears in my eyes, I am praying for you.

        2. I thought as I was going to sleep last night of this exchange & how Christ prayed in the garden for His trial to end if there were another way. Ask & then trust & obey….I wish I could make one of those little hearts symbols here!

        3. oh tears–AGAIN! He brought me the same thought in the bath last night–the garden–but yes, trust and obey–thank you.

          OH–and read the entire Peggy Noonan article (I’ve always liked her) and it was so good. Dee–reminded me of you too, as she talked about accepting the “mystery” of God. So many things my little mind can’t grasp–but if I just hold on to Who He Is…

      2. Oh Elizabeth, how I pray the Lord would take your pain away. It’s not bad to ask this in his name, because he doesn’t want us to hurt. He just wants us to draw near to him through it. I always imagine myself in God’s arms, holding me, like a baby, comforting me, whispering how much he adores me…trusting him and focusing on him and not the pain. It’s like meditation with God as the center. I’m praying for you!

        1. sweet joyce–you reminded me of this “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” isaiah 26:3–thank you–always lifting you up too. Hope Kendra did OK yesterday with the fitting. And praying for your Monday appt–for wisdom, peace, healing

        2. Elizabeth, Thank you for the verse…your always helping me, when I try to help you!! Praying for you!

      3. Elizabeth and Chris, I so love this.

        Chris, how you counseled Elizabeth here is SO wise-the way God wants us to be with him-you reminded me of what I read in Philip Yancey’s book about prayer- I HAVE to share it with you both.

        At his church they have a time where people can stand up and voice aloud their prayers. Here is what he wrote-so powerful:

        “Over the years I have heard hundreds of these prayers and with very few exceptions the word ‘polite’ applies. One, However, stands out in my memory because of its raw emotion:

        In a clear but wavering voice a young woman began with the words, “God, I hated you after the rape! how could you let this happen to me?” The congregation abruptly fell silent. No more rustling of papers or shifting in the seats. “And I hated the people in this church who tried to comfort me. I didn’t want comfort. I wanted revenge. I wanted to hurt back. I thank you, God, that you didn’t give up on me, and neither did some of these people. You kept after me, and I come back to you now and ask that you heal the scars in my soul.”

        Then he said, “Of all the prayers I have heard in church, that one most resembles the style of prayers I find replete in the Bible, especially those from God’s favorites such as Abraham and Moses.

        1. I love this Rebecca, thank you for sharing it. I feel frustrated sometimes with the shallow level of public prayer in church. I long to hear people wrestle with real and important heart issues, confessing and pleading for mercy. I wonder sometimes if those who pray long prayers, who think they will be heard for their many words, would but be quiet for a minute, those who are really aching inside would have their tounges loosed.

    2. Your pain, your reaching out to God honestly in it, as well as Chris and Joyce’s responses, just bring tears, my friends. Hugs to you all!

      Reminds me of an old song. (I didn’t realize it was an Elvis Presley song until I searched it online.)

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xD14fzrxheI

      Elvis Presley Reach Out To Jesus Lyrics
      [Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/e/elvis+presley/reach+out+to+jesus_20048426.html ]

      Is your burden heavy as you bear it all alone?
      Does the road you travel, harbor dangers yet unknown?
      Are you growin’ weary in the struggle of it all?
      Jesus will help you with all his name you call

      He’s always there hearing every prayer, faithful and true
      Walking by our side, in his love we hide all the day through
      When you get discouraged just remember what to do
      Reach out to Jesus, he’s reaching out to you

      Is the life you’re living filled with sorrow and dispair?
      Does the future press you with its worry and its scare?
      Are you tired and jealous, have you almost your way?
      Jesus will help you, just talk to him today

      1. I think the last stanza of the song should say:

        Does the future press you with its worry and its care?
        Are you tired and friendless, have you almost lost your way?

        1. Thank you, Diane, you are an angel!

      2. you are such a gift Diane. And I have been praying for you and your daughter–I am so thankful she has a mom like you, that is a rare treasure–praying you will be encouraged and strengthened, wisdom for boundaries…

      3. Diane,
        Thanks so sharing this song…good reminder right now. I had no idea it was an Elvis song!

    3. Elizabeth, I loved this and am going to memorize what you were thinking, “he asked me if in heaven he will get everything he wants. I said “yes”. In my mind I thought, because everything he wants will be Jesus.”-soooooooo good. That is a really great way to answer my boys when they ask.

      Yes, I agree with Dee, He is grieving with you in your pain. I keep thinking of how He can identify with your pain as well..

    4. Oh Elizabeth, I just love you and your heart. I grieve with you over this because pain is hard to deal with constantly and stay in step with the Spirit. Praying for relief and healing and trusting God’s will be done according to His rich mercy and grace. If it tarries that it will only bring you closer to Him as you lean in and participate in His sufferings. HUGS!

  48. I referenced a Peggy Noonan quote thinking it had been in one of our Keller sermons, but I realized it was in the Joe Stowell sermon series I had been listening to in the car. I wanted to share it with you.

    “I think we have lost the old knowledge that happiness is overrated—that, in a way, life is overrated. We have lost, somehow, a sense of mystery—about us, our purpose, our meaning, our role. Our ancestors believed in two worlds, and understood this to be the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short one. We are the first generations of man that actually expected to find happiness here on earth, and our search for it has caused such-unhappiness. The reason: If you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe only in the flat material world around you, if you believe that this is your only chance at happiness—if that is what you believe, then you are not disappointed when the world does not give you a good measure of its riches, you are despairing.”

    1. Here is a link to the whole article

      http://peggynoonan.com/article.php?article=7

      1. Thank you, Chris, I’m saving this to read later…it looks so good!

    2. wow–printing this one too

    3. Wow, Chris S. Great quote! “Happiness is overrated”! I especially connect with the last sentence that says, “if you believe that this is your only chance at happiness—if that is what you believe, then you are not [just] DISAPPOINTED when the world does not give you a good measure of its riches, you are DESPAIRING”. (Capitals and word in brackets are added by ME.) That explains why so many people are angry and lashing out. This relates so well to why people scream “This is NOT FAIR”, like we were talking about earlier.

    4. Chris, Loved this quote from Peggy Noonan.