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DEAR FOOLISH CHILDREN: WHO HAS BEWITCHED YOU? (MOVING TOWARD THE CROSS)

christian-mom-t-shirt_35

 

I saw the radiance of Jesus in Mattie the first time we met. God intertwined our hearts and we’d met for coffee. Then she surprised me by turning up at my door, waving apologetically through the window as I ran to let her in.  She had Abby in one arm, sleepy-eyed and precious in a furry white hooded coat.

“Hey, Mattie! Oh, sweet Abby.” I held out my arms, itching to hold her.  “Come on in!”

“No, no — I don’t want to interrupt, and if I don’t get Abby home she’ll fall asleep and think that’s her nap!” I smiled, remembering. “I just wanted to give you this.” She handed me a book. I looked at its flowery cover — it was about being a great Christian wife and mom. I looked up at my young friend to see distress in her eyes.

“Mattie?”

We’re doing it at the women’s group at church — and…” she faltered, emotion rising.

I nodded. “I’ll look at it and we’ll have coffee.”

Tears welled up, a quick embrace, and a silent parting look of love. I watched her go, and then turned to her book. I suspected it would make me sad and mad and it did.

We met at the Panera on Englewood, seizing a corner booth. I started the conversation. “It’s so confusing — because I know, Mattie, you want to be the wife and mother God has called you to be. And this book is filled with examples of women who led sacrificial lives and seemed to experience so much satisfaction in their exemplary Christian families.”

“So what’s wrong with me? Am I rebelling? I can’t figure it out because I do — I want a strong Christian family — but when I’m in that group, I just want to run. Most of the women are SO enthusiastic, telling story after story of how they are loving and honoring their husbands.”

“Do you think there are any other women who are uncomfortable?”

“Maybe. A few are really quiet like me.”

“It’s so subtle,” I said, “just like the enemy. He mixes truth with lies, but his purpose is to get us off course, diverting us from the gospel. Let me tell you a story about when I was a young mom and a new Christian. The book I read was less dreary than yours, but the same drum-beat.  I didn’t have the discernment you have, Mattie, and I, and more than five million other women, were really excited about it. We thought we’d found the answer.

112516778_the-total-woman-marabel-morgan-amazoncom-books Total Woman burst on the scene as a Christian backlash to the budding feminist movement of the seventies. She even made the cover of Time Magazine. Marabel defined a “Total Woman,” as a woman who made her husband the center of her world and catered to his special quirks “whether in salads, sex, or sports.” She advised you to have the table set elegantly for dinner and then take a bubble bath at 4:00 P.M. ready to greet him when he arrived home. These methods had revived her own faltering marriage. The book was filled with strong scriptural admonitions about being a submissive wife, about not nagging, and about respecting your husband.  All true. My friend Lee and I  drove across the state to Mansfield, Ohio to see bubbly, beautiful, and sun-tanned Marabel in person. We wanted to be “Total Women.” We thought, This is it. This is God’s calling for our lives. This is our identity. And this is the secret the women in the world are missing. And to be fair to Marabel — the book had some great ideas about being unselfish and caring for your man in a time when women were being told to hate men. But the book also had hidden dangers. I didn’t see them — I just thought it was great — the way a lot of women will think this book you are doing is great.  I even recommended Total Woman to our book club, which was made up of other medical residents’ wives, many of whom were not Christians and were struggling with having their husbands gone so much and bearing all the load of raising the children alone.”

Mattie grimaced. “Fireworks?”

*

 

marabel
Marabel Morgan

“Huge fireworks. But I simply thought they didn’t get it. Blind, clueless. But I was the blind and clueless one, the Pharisee looking down in pity on those who didn’t have it all together like me.”

Mattie smiled. “So, what happened?”

“An older Christian woman whom I respected tried to talk to me. I still remember, though it has been decades, how gently she confronted me. She told me there were wonderful ideas for unselfishness in Marabel’s book — and there were! This is not an attack on Marabel or the authors of books like this — but on the focus that emphasizes “Do, do, do,” instead of continual repentance and faith. (And honestly, as a Christian author, this danger has only become clear to me in the last fifteen years.) Our only hope of power is not in ourselves but in the gospel. She tried to help me understand — but as Tim Keller says — it takes a while for “the penny to drop.” She told me I should not make my identity in being ‘a total woman’ but as a sinful woman who was loved and rescued daily by Christ.  She was basically talking to me about gospel transformation, but I didn’t get it. She also warned me of the danger of making my husband or anyone or anything other than Christ the center of my life, for he might not always be there for me. (I couldn’t imagine that!)  She managed to dampen my enthusiasm but not put it out. I still thought “Total Woman” was pretty great. It’s taken me years to see what she tried to tell me and I’m still figuring it out. I remember when I saw Fried Green Tomatoes. There’s a great scene parodying Total Woman. Kathy Bates plays a woman in a desperate marriage who is at a class designed to put “the spark back in your marriage.” She dreams of trying Marabel’s suggestion of fixing an elegant dinner and then greeting her husband clothed only in saran wrap.” Mattie smiled, shaking her head.

Here’s that clip:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADMAw7UKLsg

http://www.youtube.com/embed/ADMAw7UKLsg

 

 Fried Green Tomatoes caught the truth that methods that promise results can lead to enormous disappointment. For you can be an amazing wife, missionary, or mother and still see things end badly. We have to be doing what we do for God — and not for results.  One of our own bloggers, whom I will quote during the study, said that these kind of books made her feel more broken than beloved — for it was so hard to live up to the standard. I appreciate how gospel-centered teaching is careful never to say “Be like David. Be like Ruth.” They know we cannot. As Keller says — that crushes us. What we need to see is the greater David — the ultimate Ruth — so that our hearts are melted. I see how many churches study book after book like this one on the woman’s role, but neglect gospel-centered teaching.

I pushed Mattie’s book across the table to her. “I actually liked Total Woman better than this one. Marabel was very humble in admitting what a nag she had been. This book reeks of pride, like wearing a t-shirt or a bumper sticker announcing our character. No wonder you are uncomfortable, Mattie.”

“What should I do?”

“I don’t know. They may not hear you any better than I heard my older friend. Their lives may need to fall apart before they see their faulty foundation. But you can pray and ask the Lord to help you be salt. Maybe you could suggest a study on gospel transformation for next time? Or maybe Keller’s Prodigal God?” Then I paused and shook my head. “You know, I must not tell you how to do it. But I think the Lord may have you there for a reason. We all need to get the gospel better than we do. This book is not without merit, but its methodology, not gospel transformation. And there’s definitely the kind of legalism that we see Paul warning about in Galatians. But I’d keep going, listening, loving, and praying.  Mattie, it may be that He brought you there for such a time as this.”

She sipped her coffee pensively, imagining how they might respond if she spoke up. Then a sigh. “And if I perish, I perish.”

We both laughed. (But please pray with me for her!)

This is so relevant to us. Our identity must be in Christ, and we must be wary of books that tell us to “Do, do, do,” instead of allowing the gospel to transform us into the people He longs for us to be.

SUNDAY: ICEBREAKER (Everyone share!)

1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

2. Do you agree or disagree that our identity should not be in being a good Christian wife/mom? Explain your stand.

MONDAY-WEDNESDAY: BIBLE STUDY

O FOOLISH GALATIANS! WHO HAS BEWITCHED YOU?

In his prologue to the Galatians in The Message, Eugene Peterson says: “When men and women get their hands on religion, one of the first things they often do it turn it into an instrument for controlling others.” Our hearts are bent toward moving away from gospel freedom.

Please hear me. There are true principles for women in the Scripture that we must embrace. Our own Elizabeth wrote that studies on a woman’s role made her feel “more broken than beloved.” I asked her to elaborate, and she said:

So many women’s books seem to focus on the outside. “Create a respite for your husband to come home to, greet him warmly…” and then they attach a Bible verse to strengthen the point.
All I ended up with is a list of things to do to better myself, my décor, my cooking, my sewing skills…all centered on my behavior, all about ME. The motivation seemed to be to please my husband, make him happy. My confidence would come not from the Lord, but in my success. Homemaking-righteousness! I never knew why those books irked me. But as I would read a book
specifically for women—whether homemaking, marriage, parenting—I just felt burdened with pressure to perform, fear that I would likely fail, and guilt for not really wanting to try.

(And for those who are interested — Elizabeth gave this link to a fascinating discussion: http://www.theologyforwomen.org/2009/07/problem-with-reformed-womens-ministries.html) I don’t think it just reformed women who are being led astray — but all kinds of evangelical women.

Do you see? Continually our default mode is works righteousness. We have the same problem the Galatians had. They thought they needed Jesus plus something else to feel accepted, beautiful, and cleansed. They actually thought they needed Jesus plus circumcision in order to be justified. We can’t identify with that — but we can identify with wanting Jesus plus our ministry to do well; Jesus plus our parents to love us; Jesus plus the people in our church to think we’re Proverbs 31 women. And this default mode makes us easy prey for teachers telling us that a real Christian woman does such and such.

When I was a young mother, I could so easily find my identity in the Christian character of my children. Today I can find it in how well my last book is doing. Or what I weigh. Or how affirmed I am on the blog.

Oh wretched woman that I am. Who can deliver me? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ my Lord.

SUGGESTED ACTION ASSIGNMENT: CHOOSE A HYMN OR SONG THAT EXALTS THE LOVE OR GRACE OF JESUS AND LEARN IT THIS WEEK. (I remember when I got teased after telling you to tape it up in your shower and ink was running everywhere — so I won’t tell you how to accomplish this!) Let us know if you do it and what you chose and how it is impacting you.

I recommend The Message as well as whatever your regular translation is for reading in Galatians. In his prologue Peterson talks about how legalistic and judgmental Paul was before Christ encountered him and set him free. He was overjoyed to see the Galatians set free. But now! False teachers have filtered in and told them what a real Christian should look like. He should love Jesus plus be circumcised!

3. Read Galatians 1:1-5

A. Paul is quickly going to confront the Galatians for departing from the gospel.  How does he clearly and immediately establish his credentials?

B. How is the gospel described in verse 4, and what is the fruit of the gospel according to verse 3?

4. Read Galatians 1:6-9

A. Describe his emotion and his tone. Support your answer from the text.

B. The Message says: “This is not a minor violation, you know, it is completely other…” Why?

C. Notice how he includes himself — if we or an angel from heaven…  What does this tell you about your responsibility on how you listen to sermons?

5. Read Galatians 1:10

A. What do you learn about the danger of trying to please men?

B.  As a Christian woman, do you feel you are set free from trying to please those who have a certain image of what a Christian woman should be? Do you feel you can simply ask the Lord to show you — or are you feeling in bondage?

I am appreciating Tullian Tchividjian, Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. I listened to his sermon on this passage in Galatians (his sermons are available for free) and he humbly confessed that he, in the past, had taught verse 10 incorrectly. He said:

Let me tell you how I used to preach through this [Galatians 2:10] I went back and looked at my notes because I had the sneaking suspicion that I was an idiot …and my deepest fears were realized… I said, “You don’t need to do anything to get man’s approval – live to get God’s approval. I don’t care about man’s approval, all I care about is God’s approval.”

Terrible way to preach! Paul warns against living to gain the approval of others – but the deeper slavery – of living to gain the approval of God. This is the basis of this whole letter.

I loved that humility — and can you not identify? It is so hard to believe that we can do NOTHING to gain God’s approval. I loved how our poetic Mellany stood in awe of this when she wrote:

That I already have favor with God.
If God is for me who can be against me?
No one not even myself.

Thank you again precious Holy Spirit ( my Comforter and Counselor) unpaid I might add.
All these long years He has been with me.
He never leaves me nor forsakes me.
I am stunned, quiet and trying to absorb this revelation.

“The Gospel,” Keller says, “is the solution to every problem.” I’m beginning to see it. My real problem is that I don’t believe the gospel. I don’t really believe I’m loved the way the gospel proves I am. And so I bow my knee before the Father and pray that I — and you — would comprehend the  breadth and length and height and depth of God’s love for us.

6. Comment on verse 10, on Tullian, or on Mellany or on Keller. Are you grasping the gospel better?

A FAILING LENT

Many of you have used this phrase from Ann Voskamp. We fail, but it leads us to the cross. And many of us have discovered anew that the law incites temptation. Melissa, who is giving up internet during the day, said, “I want to go there more than ever!” And Cyndi got so frustrated that she finally fell before the Lord and He told her, “Just go fill yourself up on me.” We want to keep in mind that our purpose is intimacy and transformation — do what works. When you fail, go back to the cross and hear from Him.

7. What thoughts do you have on the above? What is the truth to which we must cling?

Thursday-Friday: Sermon:

Free overview sermon on Galatians by Keller: Link

I also heartily recommend: The Fellowship of the Gospel: (It is 2.50) Click here:
http://sermons.redeemer.com/store/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&product_ID=17857&ParentCat=6

8. What are you notes?

Saturday (Everyone!)

9. What is your take-a-way and why?

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371 comments

  1. Here are some of my own pondering about questions 1 and 2–
    I see how we all tend to “formulize” success—in our families, marriages, in our Christian lifestyle, even in our very walk with God. When I was a young pastor’s wife, oh how I longed for an older woman who could tell me what to do and how to do it! I wanted, out of sincere motives to bring glory to God, to be an example to the world around me of how following Jesus would transform one’s life to a joyful, uncomplicated pure existence. I wanted to be a good example to other women. I can’t say how sincere and earnest I was in this. It was much more subtle than I can put it here. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, and I truly thought that that was the way to be a good testimony to others. I remember getting a Border Collie once, a great dog in so many ways, and someone commented something like, “Mike and Judy get the perfect dog—but who’s surprised? They have a perfect marriage with perfect kids too.” I really don’t think I was prideful in this, but I did find security and identity in it. That was who I was, and I loved God, and I led the women, and I gave everything to the ministry. I felt that we had the “formula” to a happy life with God. But I look back, and I know we were young and zealous and idealistic, but not very mature, not very compassionate toward those who didn’t “have it together.” It was easy to be a little self-satisfied about “doing it right.” It took a long while but somewhere along the way, I began to get glimpses of one fact:
    Instead of inspiring others, sometimes women were intimidated by feeling the goal was to live “storybook, happily ever after” lives–intimidated because they knew they couldn’t fit the mold.

    And so rather than be inspired, they were sometimes left helpless to know how to change and without hope for anything better.

    Our focus had been too much on the outward things. Without understanding of the “unseen eternal” things, it all becomes a law that exposes our total inability to be good.

    My focus was too little on the Love and Compassion of our Father, on the mercies He extends new every morning. I wish I had taught about the freedom from conforming to any mold, no matter how spiritual it may look. The freedom of being just you in your uniqueness and beauty, of resting in the love of your Father, of walking with your Savior and brother, Jesus, who understands your weakness, but, by His love, raises you up to newness in every area of your life.

    1. This is much of what I have been pondering as well and you state it beautifully.

  2. Here are a few of my notes from Keller’s sermon.
    Regarding whether suffering is punishment for our sins:
    “If you were being punished for your sins, you wouldn’t even be here. If everyone was punished for their sins at 12:00, by 12:01 no one would be left. It might be a wake-up call, but not retribution.”

    “You don’t break the other commandments until you’ve already broken the first one.”

    “Only the gospel gives you the power to ADMIT what is wrong with you.
    The gospel gives you the power to UNDERSTAND what is wrong with you.
    The gospel gives you clean (not dirty) motivation to change.”

    My understanding of the above: If only one will believe the gospel to the fullest extent, it will change your heart, and therefore change everything else in one’s life.

  3. PLEASE PRAY!! I AM TEACHING A WORKSHOP ON SATURDAY AND AS ALWAYS PRIOR TO SPEAKING IT’S CRAZY AND THE ENEMY IS ON THE PROWL!

    THIS IS MY FIRST NON-SPIRITUAL WORKSHOP I WILL BE SHARING ON THE TOPIC OF HOW TO START A BLOG. GOD IS SO FUNNY…ME TEACHING THIS! BUT IT’S JUST A BASIC 101 AND I THINK I CAN HANDLE THE WHY AND HOW TO START. 🙂

    MANY, MANY DISTRACTIONS SO PRAY THAT I AM ABLE TO SPEAK THAT WHICH GOD GIVES ME AND THAT IT WOULD HONOR HIM. EVEN THOUGH I AM NOT TEACHING ABOUT HIM OR HIS WORD THIS TIME I STILL WANT TO HONOR HIM AND DESIRE THE WOMEN TO LEAVE REFRESHED AND EXCITED ABOUT A POSSIBILITY OF ANOTHER WAY TO MINISTER TO OTHERS.

    THANK YOU FOR YOUR PRAYERS AND FORGIVE ME FOR BEING SO BEHIND HERE THIS WEEK!!

    1. Oh Sharon, I will pray…so, your presentation isn’t Christian-based, even so you may just be leaving an impression on someone that you don’t even realize you’re making…oh I love how God has such a bigger plan for us, one that we can’t even comprehend (yes, I will admit that at times it is frustrating not to comprehend, but at this moment I am think gloriously for what may be unbeknownst for you on Saturday.) May you have a successful, blessed presentation!

    2. I walk into a secular world everyday as a public high school teacher. I have tried to show Jesus to my students without them even knowing what hit them! They just know I care about them, they don’t know why 🙂 it’s my little secret with God. Love it!

  4. Just listened to Dee on Midday Connection – moved to tears so many times….hearing Annie’s testimony at the retreat, hearing the emotion in Dee’s voice, hearing Anita and Melinda talk about their time at Dee’s cabin…I think this was one of the best programs yet…talking about suffering, how our idols cannot help us in times of trials, the reminder to not back away from God. It all really ministered to me and so many, I am sure.

    1. thanks for telling us about Midday with Dee today. It was sooo good. My idols of control and approval have not helped me at all through this trial but God has been in control and He approves of me when others do not. I often spend long periods of time with Jesus in prayer when I have woken agitated and desperately wanting to control and make things better when I cannot. Sometimes it is a moment by moment surrender to let Him lead, when I cannot. The Shepherd’s Psalm 23 has become one of my favourites during this difficult time. “Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” He loves us so deeply and unconditionally and wants to make us holy. Thank you, Jesus.

  5. Oh, Susan – how I agree with you….so much was said on Midday today that resonated with my soul and my experience. Thank you everyone for a memorable Midday!!!!! God used you all today….

  6. SUGGESTED ACTION ASSIGNMENT: CHOOSE A HYMN OR SONG THAT EXALTS THE LOVE OR GRACE OF JESUS AND LEARN IT THIS WEEK.

    The chorus from Laura Story’s “Grace” runs through my mind frequently thoroughout my days…it is really a lovely reminder…

    I ask you: “How many times will you pick me up, when I keep on letting you down?”
    And each time I will fall short of Your glory, how far will forgiveness abound?”
    And You answer: “My child, I love you. And as long as you’re seeking My face,
    You’ll walk in the pow’r of My daily sufficient grace.”

    7. What thoughts do you have on the above? What is the truth to which we must cling?
    I have been reminded countless times this week that God can’t love me less and He can’t love me more. I have had so many instances of God’s hand at work to bring something to my attention…a written word, a song, etc. clarifys thoughts, answers questions, misgivings…) and then to take it one step further, He reminded me that He feels this way about every one of His children…

  7. I caught part of the midday program today which is unusual. I clean a house on fridays and get to hear it then but not other days. I was so touched as I lost my husband suddenly almost 2 years ago.I could identify with the struggles and idol placing and had to come to the place where I had to trust God with what He allowed in my life for His glory even if I didn’t understand or like it.

    1. Shawnee, my heart goes out to you. Bless your heart! So glad to have you here. Welcome.

  8. I really liked Keller’s sermon “How the Gospel Changes Us”. He articulates so clearly what we are trying to learn here about gospel transformation. I hope everyone gets a chance to listen to it. We need to keep pounding it in and pounding it in, because it is not our natural way of thinking.

    Keller says,

    The key to understanding the gospel is to see the gospel is the third way between two mistaken opposites. “Just as Christ was crucified between two thieves so this gospel of justification is ever crucified between to opposite errors.” On the one hand, the error of legalism which is to save you obey God in order to be saved. On the other is antinomianism, you can do whatever you want.

  9. 5. Read Galatians 1:10
    10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
    A. What do you learn about the danger of trying to please men?

    This verse hits home with me for I have been a people pleaser most of my life. It is so very relevant to who I am becoming through this Lent experience. I have done well and terrible. The things I determined to give up have dragged me to the cross and weeping and turning. It has been awful and wonderful. I am finding I have to spend much time with Christ to even make it through a day. I am right where He wants me and it is the sweetest time. When I read the word “bondservant”, I recognized that is what He is doing in me.
    Lord make me your bondservant, I pray.

    1. I loved this Kim:

      “I am finding I have to spend much time with Christ to even make it through a day.”

      So true.

      1. Yes, so true.

  10. You know before I started this study I had never heard of Dr. Keller – at least not that I remember. But anyways, I have to say just from the couple sermons that I have listened to and from the first several chapters of The Progigal God that I have read, I really like his approach and he is really getting me thinking. Also, God works in such amazing ways, as just this past Sunday my pastor quoted Dr. Keller. I had so many notes from his sermon – How the Gospel changes us. I will just share a few that I don’t see that anyone else has pointed out yet.

    * Jesus suffered, so why do we expect not to suffer? But when we do, it’s not punishment.

    * If you are depressed/despondent, then there is something more important to you than God.

    * When you lie, you are lying to get approval of people and not God

    * Obeying out of fear and pride will only result in temporary change.

    * Only the Gospel gives you the Power to change. Melted by joy – every sin is lack of joy. Gospel repentence is repenting for lack of joy.

    * If the thing that most assures you that God will never reject you is what most convicts you. If the reason you are convicted is how can I treat the one who will never reject me. Convicted by Gospel draws you closer to Him.

    1. Excellent notes. I loved the lying bit he did 🙂

  11. I’m still here everyone…just trying to keep up with all the wonderful posts and prayer requests. Praying for you Sharon and Krista and Megan; Phyllis’s niece. Chemo is tomarrow for Megan…keeping her in my prayers…how heartbreaking.

    1. I wondered how you were doing Joyce…..life is hard. Thank you for being our prayer warrior! Thank you to moms, grandmas, sisters, friends, and aunts for being our strength in this mixed up world.

  12. 6. Comment on verse 10, on Tullian, or on Mellany or on Keller. Are you grasping the gospel better?
    7. What thoughts do you have on the above? What is the truth to which we must cling?

    I am answering questions 6 and 7 together. 🙂

    I said to a friend yesterday that “I think it’s finally sinking in, that the gospel is truly free. (At least free to me, the cost to God was great.) The problem is now I don’t know what to DO.” She looked at me and said very slowly, “N O T H I N G!!! Just rest in the knowledge that Christ did it all for you.” I laughed.

    I know this truth, I have known it and yet it’s so hard for me to truly believe I am loved and there is nothing I have to do. I can not gain anymore love or lose His love. All the love God gives is mine.

    What I am speaking of is unconditional love. A love that is freely given because the person chooses to give it, not because I’ve done anything to deserve it. It’s a hard concept for me to live out. Even in the moments I think I get it somewhere in the back of my mind I think “so what does this person want from me?”

    In the first 19 years of my life I knew very little of unconditional love, then God gave me an amazing husband, family (in law) and children who love unconditionally. It’s taken a long time to get to the point that I can just accept it. To rest in the knowledge that I am truly, and deeply loved. God has also given me some dear sisters in the Lord who choose to love me deeply. What I have found is that when you KNOW you are deeply loved you willingly serve them. You want to DO for them.

    This is where I need to be with God. Doing/serving out of the knowledge that I am loved, not doing in order to be loved. I do believe it, at least in my head and I will choose to walk in it whether I FEEL it or not knowing that in obedience the feelings will come. WAIT! is that me trying to DO something? Oh Father help this beloved daughter of Yours get it!!

    hmmm….don’t know if this was an “answer” or just processing…..

    1. This is all so beautiful, Sharon. Thanks for sharing.We need this so much.

      “Doing/serving out of the knowledge that I am loved, not doing in order to be loved.”

  13. Thank you ladies., for the encouragement. And Dee, with so many Laura’s/Lori’s/Lara’s I understand your oversight! My heart has been really hardened over the last few years and I am enjoying being back into the Word. What a source of Wisdom, and what a great group of ladies to share with each other.

    1. Welcome Laura!

  14. Hello ladies. I am around, reading your encouraging posts. I’ve come down with some kind of cold and not feeling the greatest.
    I listened to the podcast of when Dee spoke on Midday yesterday and was very encouraged, especially when on of the hosts (Melinda?) was talking about going through her divorce. I admit, in the past I felt a bit judging when I heard someone was going through or had a divorce. Oh, how very sinful I was! I had NO right to judge as I am going through it myself right now! I understand now how truly painful and hard it is! I didn’t know their stories, and the people judging me don’t know mine. It is not our place to judge. Only God should be the ultimate Judge.
    Also I finished reading Idol Lies. Dee, it was too short! 😉 I loved ever bit of it, and I am going through the videos that going along with the chapters. Just have a couple more to watch. Planning to start reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp again. Though I read it in the Fall I am sure I will get even more out of it now.
    And I have to say, I am excited that it is finally March! Spring/Easter is on its way! I’ve always loved Spring, it is my favourite season. 🙂 Everything in nature is made new, just make my Abba Father is making my heart new.

      1. Anita, okay. I was little confused who was who. I actually sent them an email about how encouraging that was to me, but got a reply back saying they were out of the office. I truly hope Anita gets that email, though! How sad and hard that time must have been for her!

  15. 8. What are you notes?
    My default mode is to think that because I obey and am generally “good, nice, dutiful…” I’m accepted. I wouldn’t say this out loud, I know this is false, but I do sense it in my sub-conscience, and how it underlies my actions. The beauty of the Gospel is the combination of truth and love. I am deeply loved exactly as I am, because God isn’t looking at me as I do. He sees Jesus, He sees Beauty. And when the love of the Gospel sinks in, and I feel the deep love of my Father, then I want to love others, I want to “do good”, not to earn anything, but because I already have what I could never earn. I already have all there is to have.

    In the Centrality of the Gospel, Keller says “Without a knowledge of our extreme sin, the payment of the cross seems trivial and does not electrify or transform. But without a knowledge of Christ’s completely satisfying life and death, the knowledge of sin would crush us or move us to deny and repress it. Take away either the knowledge of sin or the knowledge of grace and people’s lives not changed. They will be crushed by the moral law or run from it angrily. So the gospel is not that we go from being irreligious to being religious, but that we realize that our reasons for both our religiosity and our irreligiosity were essentially the same and essentially wrong. We were seeking to be our own Saviors and thereby keep control of our own life.”

    “therby keep control”. There it is—my enemy idol, control. Still many times a day I crave it like a drug. A drug that never satisfies. Things aren’t going the way I’d like right now—I find my body tense, I clench my teeth in my sleep. But when I rest in the Truth—this trial isn’t punishment, it is finished. My Father is right here with me in it and will be my Lord over every circumstance. He’s not going to let me mess up, He knows my heart and though I am incredibly imperfect—His grace is sufficient—His grace satisfies all the emptiness. Thank You Lord for Your deep, deep love. I AM changed by His love.

    1. So good, elizabeth. He does this because He loves us and is with us every second. If we really believe that, then we can rest in Him.

  16. Dee, I am so glad that you alerted us that Laura-Lost but Found had joined us. I also had missed her initial post. Of course, I am sometimes a bit technologically-challenged — but just in case there is someone else out there like me, I feel the need to share what I learned about finding the posts of Laura-Lost but Found.
    First of all, it can’t be done from where we are now in the blog. One must click on the “Older Comments” link (just above where we post at the bottom of the blog). Once inside the Older Comments, THEN it is time to press “Control F.” For me, it did not work just typing in “Laura” at that point. I had to type in “Laura-Lost but Found,” and then it took me to her post.

    For those of us who clicked on the Reply button under her initial post, our comments are then placed just after that post. So Laura-Lost but Found may want to return to her initial post (in the Older Comments) to see those replies.

    I apologize for all the “maintenance and signal-checking.” I just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page LITERALLY!

  17. 6. Comment on verse 10, on Tullian, or on Mellany or on Keller. Are you grasping the gospel better?

    You know I thought I was, but that perhaps was an arrogant thought as after listening to the message a few times, it would appear that I am far from grasping; I am still trying to grasp the message. I think once I do things will look a whole lot different. I liked that Keller said that the apostles used a lot of word pictures so I started thinking…the closest analogy that I can think of is my kids. My children are loved and acceptable to me for no other reason than they are my children. They didn’t do anything to earn my love, I give it freely to them. Would they be less acceptable to me for any reason…no, their actions may or may not hurt, but I do not love them less. I love them regardless of their actions, they will always be my children, no matter what they do or don’t do. Even if they turned their backs on me and went their own way and never talked to me again, the pain would be intense and overwhelming, but I would still love them,it would not diminish my love nor my hope that they would reconcile. Not quite a good analogy, but it’s the closest I can come up with right now.

    I still have to download and listen to the second message so perhaps something in it will turn the light bulb on. Have been reading posts throughout, know that I am praying…I am not a prayer warrior as some are, but I will still lift everyone up to our Lord for their specific needs.

    1. I love you analogy too Mary, I have thought about how we love our newborns so completely, they are nothing but greedy, needy, self centered little bundles, but we would lay down our lives for them. A small imperfect, but pretty moving picture of the love God has for us.

    2. The analogy is great…I often think how much I love my dog who has has no comprehension of how much she is truly loved and cared for…I liken this to my comprehension of how the Lord loves and cares for me.

  18. 8. What are you notes? These are the points that stood out to me most:

    1. The Book of Galatians is written to Christians. Luther’s insight is that even though we understand the Gospel enough to get converted-the way our heart works isn’t immediately changed and over the years every inch, every moment you have to beat the old principle out of your heart into the gospel principal.

    2. The Gospel leads us to repentance but not just setting our will against superficialities. Its without the gospel that superficialities will be addressed rather than the heart. The moralist will work on behavior the relativistic on emotions and the Gospel says what is your heart’s functional trust.

    3. Evangelism: The Gospel will lead you:

    A. You are compelled to share the gospel out of love not guilt. I gotta do it or God won’t let me into heaven.

    B. We are free from being afraid of being ridiculed by others because we have God’s favor.

    C. There is humility in our dealing with others because we have been saved by Grace alone-we aren’t better than anyone. We aren’t saved by our doctrine or behavior.

    D. We are hopeful even for the hard cases because we know it is a miracle we are Christians. We don’t have to push or coerce them because we know it is only God’s grace on open hearts.

    4. If I utterly believe the Gospel that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks I am okay because of what Jesus thinks there will be no incentive to ever lie. If I am ever tempted to lie there is sin beneath the sin-the sin is always unbelief in the Gospel. Superficiality-I have to change-don’t’ do that-we bully the heart out of fear and the consequences go away but it comes back around. When you go underneath and ask why is the heart doing this? I am failing to rejoice in Jesus, and I am only tempted to lie to the degree I am trusting in people to be my hope, my meaning, my functional trust.

    The Gospel gives you clean motivation to change, not dirty.

    1. Rebecca–great notes–and this “we bully the heart out of fear and the consequences go away but it comes back around.” So good

      1. Elizabeth, Isn’t that true? When I reflect back over the years that is what I did for so long and had no clue I was doing it.

    1. Oh yes..I didn’t miss it-this is golden, Dee!

    2. Laurie–this is BEAUTIFUL!

  19. I know this doesn’t completely track with the topic this week but my take away is the sinking in more deeply realization the God wants relationship with me. He want my heart to melt for Him, not just my mind to turn to Him, He wants me to trust that He loves me and is working all things together. I want to enter more fully into this relationship, to live in utter -every part of me-dependance, to put on Christ instead of trying to cover myself.
    As I have been pondering these things I have had a really, really difficult week internally. What Diane said last week about the enemy coming against us I think is true. He has been hassling me for sure, I have been pouring on truth and praying for a clean heart.
    I see my the weakness of love my love for anything but self, I so desperately want change here, to be self forgetful. I know that Christ changing my heart is the only hope, I hope it will please Him to do this in me.

    1. Oh, Chris Swan, my heart aches for you. You remind me that this life with Christ is “a long obedience in the same direction”. Krista and I too have had a difficult week. My heart aches to watch my daughter go through such a difficult trial. I pray that we all cling to Jesus. He alone truly loves us and will rescue us.

    2. Chris, this is wonderful-and i just love your heart-“He want my heart to melt for Him, not just my mind to turn to Him, He wants me to trust that He loves me and is working all things together. I want to enter more fully into this relationship, to live in utter -every part of me-dependance, to put on Christ instead of trying to cover myself.”

    3. I don’t know Chris, I think your comment does track quite well actually and I thought it was right on.

      I see a common theme in the past few weeks, it’s about relationships and the obstacles that can get in the way in our relationship with God. First week was the obvious, the younger son, last week not quite so obvious but still there, the older son, this week even less obvious and more hidden, partial relationship mixed with enough truth so as causing doubt as to whether one is on the right track or not. Next week will be…what ever Dee posts tomorrow 🙂 I think that the track so far has been exactly what you said, God wanting a deeper relationship. I think that God has been working in the area’s that each of us need to see to accomplish that goal, so while some comments may seem off track to the topic, they really are not as they are part of God’s track. Those are my thoughts anyway.

    4. Chris–it amazes me how you, in the midst of more pain and trial, run to His deep, deep, love for you. Oh the tender, child-like-ness of your soul so shines of Him

    5. Thank you sisters for your encouragement it was so timely, thank you!

  20. 9. What is your take-a-way and why?

    There is too much it seems..I will try to narrow it down.

    Speaking as a recovering Approval idol addict being replaced by pounding the Gospel in deeper-I can relate to Keller for I too am bent to lie for fear of disapproval.

    I can’t tell you how Grateful I am that He is freeing me from this bondage that satan tried to destroy me with-there are other areas he is working on but I am sensing this freedom I hadn’t had before and it is growing since I came on the blog three or so years ago.

    He has and still is deepening the beauty of Him being my identity! The penny is dropping praise God. Funny, but there is so much freedom and joy in peering into the Gospel deeper-asking myself where is my functional trust at this time? The lie is that it is freeing to seek comfort or approval elsewhere because you get out of it faster, and skip the pain part. I still am bent toward that-but HE is faithful to come and He comes when I do Dee’s studies and read others comments. He reminds me and reminds me and pounds it in deeper-I am so needy of that.

    Honestly I am hating more and more legalism and methodology teaching for that is satan’s most deceptive wrench in the church. It comes wrapped in truth. It effects our relationship with God and therefore loving others in the church as well as our children.

    There is more but I will spare you. 😉

  21. My take-aways for this week:

    The first one is Praise. Yes, Praise with a capital “P”! It has been so very helpful to memorize and live with the hymn I chose, “Blessed Assurance.” Especially when I get to the chorus, “This is my story, this is my song, Praising my savior all the day long!” Last week when we were talking about our prayers often consisting of an abundance of petitions with paltry praise, that really struck me. I have been guilty of that, and I see growth in praising this week. I hope it just keeps going!

    Secondly, I have really been touched by the posts of all of the rest of you. Some are carrying such a full plate of responsibility, grief, or emotional strain. I want to cover all of you with a canopy of prayer.

    Finally, I am taking away so much from Keller’s sermon “How the Gospel Changes Us.” The only way to change our hearts is by applying the gospel. We may try to tweak the symptoms, using fear and pride, but that only lasts short-term. It is not enough to “just try harder.” We need our hearts changed by the gospel — we need to be melted!

  22. 9. What is your take-a-way and why?

    I recently came across something from a book for women, that stated a woman who most displays the Gospel, is one who does…and gave a litany of ideals. It was interesting because the preceding paragraph mentioned the need of Gospel transformation in our hearts, but it seemed to me to say that if we have claimed the Gospel, we will be capable of displaying these characteristics to perfection. I do not believe that was the author’s intent, but I definitely felt confusion and failure. I do believe the Gospel, I depend on it and know that it applies to every area of my life. I have seen the Lord graciously break through my hardened heart and bring pliability, softness. And yet, I fail miserably every day to live up to the ideal Titus 2 woman. Maybe I am too simple-minded, but I believe what most portrays the Gospel is that I cannot live up to these ideals, and yet—I am loved as deeply as if I have done it all perfectly.

    Keller said that when we truly feel God’s love for us, our motivation to obey comes from love. I see this in my relationship with my kids, my husband. I do not “do” for them in order to gain their approval or love. I enjoy serving them, albeit imperfectly, because I feel incredibly loved—and because I love them. The Gospel does transform us, but perfection is not attainable here. Where I see the Gospel in relationship is acceptance that doesn’t require perfection—it is a love based on Christ’s perfection, not my own.

  23. 1. What stood out to you from the above and why? The story above makes me realize something false often times seems good at first, but when we don’t have the proper discernment, we can actually end up hurting ourselves more. Once I read this “Christian book” and the author kept fixating on the notion that all mothers should be stay at home moms. It was full of scripture but it didn’t take into consideration widows, women who never married, or those called to a ministry etc…
    2. Do you agree or disagree that our identity should not be in being a good Christian wife/mom? Explain your stand. Agreed. Paul mentions to be “In Christ” over 150 times. I think I would be terrified to have children if I knew my identity was in being a good wife/mom. I’ve been a nanny for a while, and when I’m in the mom role I find raising kids to be a very ambiguous job…. am I being too strict, am I not being strict enough, when should I come to their rescue, when should I let them struggle and learn to lean on the Lord? Whew! Father, please give me discernment in those areas as a wife and as a future mother. Thankful for the freedom we have in Christ.
    3. What is your take-a-way and why? “Am I free from trying to please those who have a certain image of what a Christian woman should be? Do you feel you can simply ask the Lord to show you — or are you feeling in bondage?” I do feel my actions are always being watched by both the Christians and Non-Christians in my life. When it comes to family, it is really hard for me not to want to please everyone. I don’t want to let them down. As I get older, I have been working on this. However, next weekend I am caught in the middle of three events. The old Natalie would pick the event that would cause the most pain if I wasn’t there never asking the Lord to show me what to do. This week, I will ask the Lord’s direction and which action to take, since I can’t be in three places at once. My other takeaway is I am responsible for my ignorance when it comes to false prophets. It is my job to ask the Lord for wisdom and discernment.

  24. 9. What is your take-a-way and why?

    I was typing away and then I hit a button, which I thought was return and then poof it was all gone. Perhaps there was too much in there, so I think I will summarize my take-a-way like this.

    I can do nothing, say nothing, be nothing, pray nothing that will ever make me “presentable” to God. I am loved and accepted for no other reason than Christ died on the cross for me…period. He scrubbed me clean with that action and nothing will ever change that.

    I am a filthy rag, even the best things I do are still dirt to Him. I am a mess…and that is probably right where He wants me because He does wonder’s with messes. I can’t do, I just need to be…and let Him do the rest,the way He wants.

    1. “He does wonder’s with messes”
      Loved this Mary

  25. Thanks to all who prayed for my workshop today. God is always so faithful. Everything worked out wonderfully. It was such a sweet time.

  26. As I ponder Lent and Peter’s betrayal, I see my own betrayal of Christ in my critical spirit and my lack of trust in God’s hand in my difficult circumstances. Yet God met me yesterday and this morning with words of compassion and gentle rebuke. Lord, lead me to the Cross. I lay myself down. I am yours.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnT8W-9Fm-g

  27. My take-a-way for the week is from Keller. As I mentioned, I don’t remember ever hearing about him before. And as I have been listening to his sermons (I’ve downloaded around 10 now and put them on my iPhone) and readiing The Prodigal God there has been so much that has stuck out for me. I’ve always known that God accepted me as is and that it is by grace alone not by works. I think most have known this. But why are so many of us trying to “do”. Jesus said we must obey the truth, not just know it. When Keller talked about lying and how we lie for other’s approval and not for God’s approval. I know I often justify my “white” lie because I don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. But this made me realize that I’m hurting God when I lie. Also, in Keller’s Fellowship of the Gospel sermon said that anyone whom God accepted freely plus nothing then we must accept freely plus nothing. I really try to be accepting and not to be judgmental. But I know that I struggle with this when it comes to people that have committed adultery, especially my ex-husband and the other woman who is now his wife. I think it was in The Prodigal God that Keller stated that the first sign you have an elder-brother spirit is that when your life doesn’t go as you want, you aren’t just sorrowful but deeply angry and bitter. As Keller also stated, we should remember that Jesus suffered, so why would we expect not to.
    Rick Warren said “Life isn’t about what you make, who you know, or what you do. Life is all about love — loving God and loving others.” This is so true.

  28. My take-a-way for the week is from Keller. As I mentioned, I don’t remember ever hearing about him before. And as I have been listening to his sermons (I’ve downloaded around 10 now and put them on my iPhone) and readiing The Prodigal God there has been so much that has stuck out for me. I’ve always known that God accepted me as is and that it is by grace alone not by works. I think most have known this. But why are so many of us trying to “do”. Jesus said we must obey the truth, not just know it. When Keller talked about lying and how we lie for other’s approval and not for God’s approval. I know I often justify my “white” lie because I don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. But this made me realize that I’m hurting God when I lie. Also, in Keller’s Fellowship of the Gospel sermon said that anyone whom God accepted freely plus nothing then we must accept freely plus nothing. I really try to be accepting and not to be judgmental. But I know that I struggle with this when it comes to people that have committed adultery, especially my ex-husband and the other woman who is now his wife. I think it was in The Prodigal God that Keller stated that the first sign you have an elder-brother spirit is that when your life doesn’t go as you want, you aren’t just sorrowful but deeply angry and bitter. As Keller also stated, we should remember that Jesus suffered, so why would we expect not to. Rick Warren said “Life isn’t about what you make, who you know, or what you do. Life is all about love — loving God and loving others.” This is so true.