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LENT BEGINS: GOSPEL TRANSFORMATION

IT CAN BE SUCH A RICH TIME,

BRINGING LIFE FROM THE BARREN SOD

WINTER INTO SPRING

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

THE RICHEST TIMES ON THIS BLOG HAVE BEEN DURING LENT!

WHY?

IT’S THE UPSIDE DOWN THINKING OF GOD

FOR IN DYING, WE FIND LIFE

THE THING WE FEAR THE MOST

IS THE SECRET TO SETTING US FREE

WE ARE IN SLAVERY TO OURSELVES

TO OUR IDOLS

TO THE LIES OF THE ENEMY

BUT CHRIST LONGS TO SET US FREE

BUT MAKE NO MISTAKE

THERE WILL BE A BATTLE

AS JESUS BATTLED SATAN FOR FORTY DAYS

jesus-desert

WE WILL BATTLE HIS LIES FOR FORTY DAYS

BUT AS JESUS CLUNG TO THE WORD

SO WILL WE, AND WHEN WE FAIL, WE WILL LOOK TO THE CROSS

ALLOWING THE GOSPEL TO TRANSFORM US FOR

LENT IS NOT SO MUCH ABOUT FORFEITING BUT ABOUT FORMATION

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If you have never observed Lent, or if you observed it by giving up candy or meat on Fridays but never quite knew why, this will be a rich time for you. It begins on Ash Wednesday, which is Wednesday of this week, and continues to Easter. Not counting Sundays — that is forty days — paralleling the forty days Jesus was in the wilderness battling Satan. Often people do “give up” something for Lent, but the reason has often been lost. We turn away from something so that we will have the time to be with Jesus, or so that His life might bloom in us.  We die that we might have life.

For those of you who have been sojourning with us for a while, or for those of you who have read my book Idol Lies or have studied “gospel transformation,” in a study, you know that what gets in our way of intimacy with the Lord is our heart idols. Instead of running to the Lord for comfort, approval, and security, we run to one of his gifts and turn it into a god. We may say, for example, that God is our refuge and we know He loves us, but in reality, when we are longing for refuge we run to friends, Facebook, or food. We are enslaved, as Galatians says, to “nongods.” This is not the gospel way of life. It is the opposite.

So the big goal this Lent will be to replace our heart idols with the Lord. But a smaller goal to help us move in that direction, is to replace the time we’ve spent feeding our idols with being in His presence. For example, you may choose any of these or another plan:

  • Replace an hour or all of nightly television with this study and the supplemental reading
  • Replace three lunches with three walks listening to mp-3 sermons
  • Replace Facebook time with endeavoring to seek God’s face through worship music and praying the Word
  • Replace staying up late and sleeping in with getting up and being with Him before your day begins

 

WE WANT TO KNOW HIM AND THE POWER OF HIS RESURRECTION. WE WANT TO EXPERIENCE HIS BEAUTY AND HIS BEAUTY IN US THIS LENT. THE ONLY WAY THAT CAN HAPPEN IS GOSPEL TRANSFORMATION — BEING CHANGED FROM THE INSIDE OUT.

This year I am so excited about where God is leading — we are going to consider how the gospel is not just the ABC’s of Christianity (the way in) but the A to Z of Christianity — (the way to live in victorious intimacy with Christ every day). As we apply the gospel to all of life and begin to plumb its depths, it will affect how we mother, how we face suffering, how we overcome our besetting sins, and most of all, our intimacy with God. I have only come to truly begin to grasp this in the last ten years. Before that, if you would have asked me if I understood the gospel, I would have been miffed. Of course! But now I so understand what Tim Keller means when he says:

If you think you understand the gospel, that proves you don’t, and if you say, “Oh I hardly understand it,” that means you are getting it.[1]

For some of you, especially in the first few weeks, much will be review, but that is good, for as Martin Luther says, “We must beat this into our heads every day.” The default mode of the human heart is idolatry, either trusting in His gifts or in ourselves — because we don’t really trust His love enough to fall into it. We must keep resetting our hearts to the gospel.

Together we are going to seek His presence, turning from our idols and running toward Him. We will share, on this blog, what we are learning, what we are questioning, and how He is meeting us.

HOW DOES THIS LENTEN STUDY WORK?

This Sunday through Tuesday, we’ll get ready. Beginnings are always a bit messy, and we have an enemy, but I and others are praying you will not only start but stay with it! You don’t have to stay with the suggested time line — in fact this week especially, you’d be wise to work ahead.

I would like you to watch two short (under seven minutes) testimonies from women who found victory over a besetting sin, and also read a post from Ann VosKamp about Lent. Prayerfully consider what you will give up so that you have the time to do this study diligently. You might, as Rebecca did, give up television after supper. Or you might, as Rachael did, give up most of her internet activities for Lent. (But not this one!) You may decide to skip Starbucks or a weekly lunch so you can buy the MP3 sermons I am going to suggest (some are free, but some are 2.50) and have the time to listen to them. (The Keller sermon money goes to help the suffering, who are many, in New York City. )  Idols cannot be removed, only replaced. So our purpose is always intimacy with God in our sacrifices during Lent. In these next three days pray about how you can carve out the time (or the possible 2.50 a week) to better understand how to apply the gospel to your life. By Ash Wednesday, you should have a plan.

If you are new, on my homepage on the right click on the Getting Started and follow those directions. Identify yourself by more than just a first name. You may want to be April from Baltimore or, as some women from my Kansas City church might be joining us, you may want to be Melissa@GPC. (Gashland Presbyterian Church)  Some women don’t comment on the blog at all, but keep their answers in a notebook. There are wonderful women on this blog and you are free to have discussions with one another, pray for one another, or not. I am diligently trying to read all the comments, particularly when I see questions about the text or misunderstandings — and there are a few women who have been with us a long time, are grounded in the Word, who help me. And all of you are free to jump in and encourage one another. We see better together than we do alone. Together we find warmth, like many logs on a fire, instead of a lonely log dying. That is the beauty of Christian fellowship — and yes, it can happen on a blog. We are experiencing God here. Idols have been demolished,  sins overcome, and grief subdued. You are also free to disagree here. This is a very loving group.

Beginning this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we will start our study by looking at some basics on the gospel way of life. Then next Sunday, and every Sunday, there will be a new post that will help you peer into the gospel and see how it might be applied to every problem you face. Please pray for God’s quickening on us all!

Sunday: Icebreakers

1. Tell us a sentence about yourself and why you have come.

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

Monday: Testimonies from Rebecca and Rachael:

If you haven’t seen these testimonies (They are from the Idol Lies video curriculum) please watch them and comment on them. If you already have seen them, then you don’t need to watch, but answer the questions. (However, I think they are profound and worth re-watching.)

Rebecca’s story: (This is our Rebecca!)

3. How was Rebecca feeding her comfort idol? How is she replacing her comfort idol? What did God do in her life?

Rachael’s story (This Rachael has been a silent blogger, but will be joining us on the blog during Lent.)

4. How was Rachael feeding her control idol? How is she replacing her control idol? What did God do in her life?

Be praying about what you will “give up” and how you will be replacing it with God. Think about when and where you will do your study, come up with an occasional 2.50  to spend on sermons that are not free, and how you can get the most from this study. I’ll ask you to share your plan on Ash Wednesday.

Skip ahead to Tuesday if you have time.

Tuesday: What’s Lent All About?

Read Ann Voskamp’s discussion about Lent up to her “book list”: Link  

5. Ann said  Lent isn’t so much about forfeiting but about formation. One needs to be dispossessed of the possessions that possess — before one can be possessed of God. What possesses — obsesses you? Food? Facebook? Television? Texting?  (This will help you decide what to give up that you might replace it with God.)

6. Ann failed the very first night, showing her her depravity, and leading her to the cross.She said: A failing lent? It is a good Lent because this Lenten Lament of my sin — it is preparing me for the Easter Joy of my Savior. How will you respond when you fail?

7. What else stood out to you from Ann’s post?

 

Lenten Book List

I am suggesting you also read, during Lent, one of the following books which will give additional support to living a gospel-transformed life. If you act now, you can probably get them through inter-library loan within a few weeks. The first is basic — if you haven’t read it, then this is your book during Lent:

prodigalgod

THE PRODIGAL GOD by Tim Keller:

Watch this two minute trailer to whet your taste:

This is a small book, but a paradigm changing book on the gospel-centered life. You can also listen to eight free sermons on The Prodigal God by going to this link and finding the sermons on Luke 15.

If you have already read or listened to The Prodigal God, then choose one of these books as supplemental Lenten reading:

 

breadandwine

Bread and Wine Readings for Easter with selections from C. S. Lewis, Luther, Bonhoeffer, John Donne…

what'ssoamazingaboutgrace

WHAT’S SO AMAZING ABOUT GRACE? by Philip Yancey.

In Yancey’s classic he says, “Grace is amazing because it’s not natural.” Gospel-transformed living is not natural — it’s supernatural. The natural default of the human heart is idolatry. This is what keeps us from forgiving, from loving well, from the peace God longs for us to have. Grace is another way to describe the gospel – and the gospel is the only remedy to our heart idols.

coveridol lies copy

IDOL LIES by Dee Brestin

We are essentially going on from the concepts in Idol Lies, though we will review — but if you haven’t read it, you will find it helpful to do so. I am indebted to Tim Keller, Martin Luther, David Powlison, and so many others who have helped me understand idols of the heart.

Onethousandgifts

ONE THOUSAND GIFTS by Ann Voskamp

When God changes us, He moves us from guilt, to grace, to gratitude. A transformed heart is a grateful heart. A gospel transformed heart is no longer trying to earn God’s approval, for it is resting in His grace (another way to describe the gospel) and responding with gratitude. But since the default of the human heart is idolatry, then continually being aware of His presence through His blessings, or as Ann calls it, “living eucharisto” can help switch that default mode of idolatry back to gospel transformation.

 

If you have read all of the above, I also recommend these excellent books that are related to gospel transformation:

Soul Idolatry: What Keeps Men Out of Heaven (David Clarkson)

Spiritual Depression (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

Grace-Based Parenting (Elyse Fitzpatrick)

A Grace Disguised (Jerry Sittser)

The Gospel in Life (Tim Keller)

Go see the movie Les Miserables while it is still in the theatres!

And an easy reading extra:

Pearl in the Sand (Tessa Afshar — light historical fiction in which the author demonstrates an understanding of gospel transformation) Our own Nanci recommended it and I think you’ll like it. But this is not to be your main supplemental reading book!

8. What book will you get for your supplemental reading — and why?

 Skip ahead to Wednesday if you have time.

ASH WEDNESDAY — WE OFFICIALLY BEGIN!

Rememberthouartdust

Many churches will have a service tonight in which ashes are placed on the foreheads of believers to remind them that they are dust and to dust they will return. This life is so short and we tend to be so earthbound in our perspective. When we are earthbound, we become enslaved to our idols. During Lent we want to set our affections on things above with particular diligence.

9. How is the Lord leading you to approach Lent? Is there something that you tend to run to instead of to Him? How will you replace it? When, where, and how will you meet with Him?

 

Ann Voskamp said: “I can’t seem to follow through on giving up for Lent, which makes me want to just give up on Lent.”  Even this week, as God gives you a plan on what you might give up in order to have more of Him, you will face a battle. You may stumble and even fall, and you will consider giving up. But don’t let the enemy win so easily — for failing will lead you to the cross, and the cross will transform you. Lent is about Gospel formation, so keep repenting, and do not give up on Lent! You will find increasing strength. Prepare a  prayer for the times when you are tempted to not follow through. Use Scripture, the Sword of the Spirit.

For example, I tend to run to food when I’m stressed or bored. I am very disciplined at meals, but I can easily wander into the pantry in an almost hypnotic trance between meals to grab crackers or a handful of cheerios. Why do I do this? I am feeding my heart idol of comfort with something besides The God of All Comfort. One of my Lenten disciplines therefore is to fast for some meals, but also, cut out all in-between meal snacking and to replace it with running to Him. I will not buy tempting provisions and I will not grab things between meals, but when tempted, will say this prayer and then run to Him: Lord, only in Your presence are fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. [Psalm 16:11] Yet here I am tempted to find pleasure in snacking. Remove this desire and as I run to You now, meet me, O Lord, and help me wait upon You and trust You to be my comfort. Will I stumble?  Most likely. Will I give up on giving up? If I do, I am so deceived — for He is the only One who can rescue me. Lent is about Gospel Formation and learning to repent from my idols and run to Him.

10. What scriptural prayer can you prepare that fits your need for when you are tempted to retreat from your Lenten discipline?

THREE WAYS TO LIVE

In The Prodigal God, which is based on the parable Jesus tells of the two sons in Luke 15, Keller explains there are 3 ways to live:

  1. Irreligion: As when the younger son, in rebellion, ran away from the father and wasted his inheritance and life.
  2. Religion: As when the older son, in self-righteousness, thought he could be right before the father by keeping the rules.
  3. Gospel: As when the younger son returned, in true repentance, throwing himself on his father’s mercy and receive grace.

Too often we fall into the error as believers that if we are not “irreligious,” if we are not being bad, then we are right with God. We may be busy in church, even going to choir and Bible study, but we may not have a gospel-transformed heart. We tend to fall into th error, not of irreligion, but of religion. Instead of resting in the Father’s love, and responding to it in gratitude and service, we try to “earn” our own righteousness. The older son was not resting in the father’s love, and certainly not joyful or thankful, for he said, “I’ve slaved for you all these years…” He was showing, by the bad fruit emanating from his heart, that he had fallen into the other error, that of religion. (Christianity, by the way, is not a religion. Christianity is not earning favor with God, but believing, through the gospel, that we already have favor with God.)

As we will see, this week and next, we all have some “older brotherishness” in our hearts — even if we are not complete older brothers. We can be saved and yet still, on a day to day basis, not really be resting in God’s love. Our prayer lives, for example, may be filled with petition rather than praise, for we are not yet experiencing intimacy with God, not yet having a melted heart that is overwhelmed by His love.

Jesus tells three parables, the parable of the lost sons is the third. But it is important to see whom He was addressing.

11. According to Luke 15:1-2:

  • To whom was Jesus speaking?
  • About what were they murmuring?
  • Which of the three ways of life do you think was true of the Pharisees and why?

12. Read Luke 15:13-16 and find all you can about the “irreligious” way of life.

13. Have you tried the above way of life? What did it bring you?

Read Luke 15:17-24 for The Gospel Way of Life and meditate on Rembrandt’s painting.

 

Rembrandt: Return of the Prodigal Son
Rembrandt: Return of the Prodigal

 

14. Remember: If you think you understand the gospel, you probably don’t. So slow down, using both the Word and Rembrandt’s painting, and answer:

  • What did the son plan to say to the father, after he “came to himself?” (v. 18-19)
  • How did the father respond before he ever heard why the son returned or what he planned to say? (vs. 20-24)
  • In Rembrandt’s painting, how does he portray the destitute nature of the son and the love of the Father? Tell us all you see.
  • Ask the Lord, through the above, to help you begin to comprehend His gospel love for you. Write what He impresses on you.

15. Read Luke 15:25-30  The Way of Religion (Remember — this is the pit into which believers tend to slip)

A. What does he say to his father? How does he show a lack of love and gratitude?

B. How was the older son not seeing his depravity?

Lent will show us our depravity — and that is a good thing.

THURSDAY (IF YOU ARE FALLING BEHIND, SKIP TO FRIDAY) COME BACK IF POSSIBLE

Read the following from Richard Lovelace, Professor of Religious History:

Only a fraction of the present body of professing Christians are solidly appropriating the justifying work of Christ in their lives. Many…have a theoretical commitment to this doctrine, but in their day-to-day existence they are …drawing their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience. Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: You are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith in love and gratitude.

16. Contemplate the above:

A. What does Lovelace say most Christians rely upon for feeling accepted by God?

B. What does he say few know enough to do?

C. How does this speak to you?

17. How did the father offer grace to the son who was choosing the way of religion? (verse 31)

18. How did the father give grace to the son who chose the way of irreligion? (verse 32)

Friday

Listen to this free MP3 sermon. (You can just play it, but it will be less likely to skip and you will be able to stop and start it more easily if you download it. If this is new, please have a young person help you. It’s not hard to learn.): Link

19. Share your notes from this sermon.

Saturday:

20. What is your take-a-way from this week and why?

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858 comments

  1. The sermon like the parable is so very rich.
    What broke me this time was that the elder brother felt he owned what remained of the estate, the his brother had squandered his portion. Anything spent on the younger brother came at the expense of the older.

    That Jesus is our TRUE older brother, paying the expense of our restoration to the family, so opposite the older brother in the parable, bearing sin and shame Jesus paid with His life to restore us to the Father.
    Amazing love
    How can it be

  2. Earlier this week I wrote, speaking of giving something up for Lent: I haven’t heard specifically but I half hope it’s something bigger than me so that I can prove His greatness again.

    Haha. Oh boy, I gotta admit I asked for it God. Yesterday while I was exercising I heard His familiar voice say one sentence and I knew exactly how He wanted me to die to myself this Lent… He said, “You’ve been able to do different things at different times in your eating, but never been able to put it all together for an extended time, and the time has come.” I nearly went into the fetal position (not really).
    And so I begin what I have never conquered but CAN do with His help: I will keep exercising, stay away from sugar, refuse to eat between meals AND the biggie (I hear drums rolling) I will eat half portions. I will have to cling to Him hard instead of fulness and sweets.

    I am so excited that He would choose to help me conquer this old foe of mine and challenge me so clearly.

    1. That is exciting and so very hard. Praying that you are successful

      1. I will need every prayer, Sarahsal! Thank you, sincerely.

    2. this is great, Kim–love how you listen to His voice

    3. Oh Kim – you are taking on quite a challenge! I’ll be praying, too – but you can do it in His strength!

    4. That’s hugh Kim, but nothing is impossible with our Father….I’ll be praying for you!

    5. Thank you, sisters for the love and support. The Lord took me to two prayers of adoration this morning after my time in the Word and they melted me to tears of adoration. Through these prayers (from a prayer book) He is showing me that He is all over this. I read this morning about Lot’s wife turning to a pillar of salt and thought how serious my commitment is to the Lord.

      1. Could you post that prayer of adoration, Kim? Thanks.

  3. Sermon highlight:
    The younger brother was actually saying: “I want your stuff, Father, but I don’t want you.”
    Until today I have seen myself overly much as the elder brother. I now realize I am the younger also and it is painful to admit. The good news is that I can come back, ask Him to take me on as a hired servant and He will throw me a party. Thanks be to God.

    1. Wow, Kim. “I want your stuff, Father, but I don’t want you.” That’s a powerful punch! I can relate. That is often me. Like Rebecca, we have taken a financial hit lately, for various reasons. I tend to panic. I want the security of depending on money to be there. But right now, I feel a strange freedom. My financial security net may be gone, but God is my net. I need nothing else. I want to want the Father more than the stuff.

      1. Me too, Diane! I will pray for your finances as well.

      2. Diane, Loved this: “But right now, I feel a strange freedom. My financial security net may be gone, but God is my net. I need nothing else..” you want Him..amazing how when you gaze at Him the things of this world get in their rightful place-not eternal-not as big..so encouraging to me.

  4. Another part from the sermon that keeps coming to my mind today (and did not strike me when I first heard this a yr ago)–is that an undercurrent of anger shows I think I deserve something better. I have noticed more anger in myself over the last few months than is my “norm”. It’s getter better recently, but it was still not my usual reaction. But when I look at what makes me angry, always, I see that it is because I thought I deserved better–either a better response from someone, a better circumstance…but the truth of the Gospel is that by because of God’s incredible grace, I DON’t get what I really deserve! I deserve death and He has given me life, with Him.

    The areas I have felt “stuck” in lately, relationally mostly, I remembered again today–“all of life is repentance”. The only way to freedom, is to repent of my thinking I “deserve better”–which only shows I have left Home, because how could I get better than Christ Himself? And after repentance to “relax” as Lovelace said in faith and trust.

    1. Love your humility, Elizabeth

  5. 5. … What possesses — obsesses you? Food? Facebook? Television? Texting? (This will help you decide what to give up that you might replace it with God.)

    I know Dee asked just for the “gold”, but I wanted you sisters to know that I am still trying to follow along and do this Bible study and make a commitment this Lent. I want to keep growing.

    This is a hard question for me to answer right now. What has been obsessing me right now is seeking justice for Krista and getting access to her boys. After such a disappointing meeting with Legal Aid, when we hoped to meet a lawyer and just got as far as the “paperwork” person, I practically RAN to the donut shop to get something sweet. Generally I am not a foodaholic, but I needed comforting in the worst way. Sometimes what I do under stress really surprises me. Usually I am a “chip” person, preferring the salt to sweets or chocolate. Hmm.

    I should share that we had already made inquires about another lawyer (we have to pay this one) if the Legal Aid did not seem to be going anywhere quickly, so my husband called on Tuesday afternoon, and she called back Wednesday and was able to see us THAT DAY! It seems one of her trials scheduled for the end of February had gotten bumped and she had a lot of time open up, and once she heard a bit about our situation felt action needed to be done urgently. This is an answer to prayer for us even if she does not believe in God.

    Anyway, what will I give up to replace with God? My TV plus wasting time on the computer. Aubrey and I have given our only TV to Krista and Joel. We may eventually get a second-hand one, but for now we are TVless. Watching TV in the evening can be a soother to me and certainly is a time waster. I want to spend more time reading “Spiritual Depression” by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I started it months ago and got distracted. I need to restart it and take brief notes. I will continue to get up early to have my Bible reading and prayer time.

    1. Diane, I am so glad for the hope of justice for Krista. I can understand your deep desire for it and for access to her children. I am praying for them, for Krista and for their father. Lord please bring justice and Your care for Your children.

    2. Diane, praying for the right lawyer and for Krista and the boys and for God to soften Jeff’s heart. We would all get more done if we didn’t have TV’s!!

  6. I listened to the sermon earlier, Chris was right, I did like it, but it made me wonder about the thought process of the wayward son even more. In the sermon, Keller said that when the son told his father to give him his inheritance, culturally the father should have had the son beaten and kicked out. Even though his father didn’t, realistically the son should have had zero expectation that he would even be permitted anywhere near the family, even as a servant, but he didn’t; he expected to be able to talk to his father, he expected that he would be permitted to at least be a hired servant and culturally, he should not have expected any of those things, but he did…why?

    There was a reason why Jesus included the things he said, and the things he omitted, he knew I would be wondering about this, there is something unspoken (or I am not seeing it) that I think I am missing…well at least for now anyway.

    After I listened to the sermon this morning, I had some errands to run and I was thinking about the sermon (the whole thing not just the son this time). I know he didn’t answer why the son thought he could go back but there were other things in the message and I will have to go back to it a few more times, but one thing that stood out to me is both sons, that neither was right, both were lost. Then I was thinking that Jesus was using the son’s as extreme opposites of each other to make his point and that somewhere in between is the right place, then I thought no that was wrong too, the answer is no where near either son or anywhere in between them. The right place is where the penny needs to drop, which isn’t even in the same stratosphere (so to speak) as either son.

    Still digesting and still pondering, but God gave me an absolutely spectacular sunset tonight, so He is smiling about something.

    1. Mary-Canada,

      “culturally, he should not have expected any of those things, but he did…why?” What a great question!

      You made me look deeper into that..here is what i found. Look at Luke 15:17-Just pondering here but maybe the younger son knew His Father’s character-that He was unlike the fathers of that culture in that He was generous and kind-He treated His servants well-surely he would treat His younger son well?? I don’t know, I could be totally wrong though..

      1. Rebecca, I wondered about that too, that having grown up in the home, that he knew his father’s compassion, but it didn’t seem to fit with what I thought I was trying to see. I think I got part of the answer, last night I was listening to the sermon again and something stuck out. Keller had said that in this story, Jesus used the father as an example for God, that he is unlike any father at that time and in that culture. I thought that if Jesus was using this parable as a gospel example, then the son would have not seen his father as he truly was, just like the tax collectors and sinners did not see God for who He is.

        If I follow what Keller said, Christ was saying that God was unlike any earthly father. That got me wondering if he did the same kind of thing with the son, to tell us that as sinners we are free to approach the father, expecting to be heard. I thought that was perhaps part of the answer, it did seem to make sense, but not all. Then this morning, I heard part of Insight for Living, Paws & Tales (it’s on Saturday mornings when I wake up) and I heard something that I felt was another part of the answer…that “it takes extraordinary courage to trust God with your future.” Then I put the son in that category, that it took extraordinary courage in his desperation to go to his father and trust that he would have some sort of future.

        When I put the two together, that The Father is unlike any earthly father, that we can approach Him, unlike any earthly son should expect from an earthly father, and that it takes courage to trust your future to The Father. I am not sure that is the total answer, but I think it is at least part of it. I will also trust that if that is not what God was trying to get me to see, that He will bring someone forward with a difference answer for me to think about.

        1. Oh no..I think you are on the right track Mary-canada. That He is unlike any earthly father..and you are so right, it takes a step of faith to trust Him with our future and with even just today. I am learning and can’t help but think when I focus on Who He is and His unmerited love for me-that melts my heart and compels me to take that step of faith to trust-I am learning that trust isn’t something I pull myself up by my bootstraps to do-it is a response to His great, unconditional love. Yet, like you I am just discovering this-the penny is starting to drop but hasn’t totally dropped yet.

  7. I had a failing lent experience tonight. A man in a car behind me pulled up beside me and yelled at me for letting someone in line in front of me. I said words I have not said in years-to the rolled up window. I felt bad afterward not as much because of what I said as because of the blackness in my heart. It was the blackness of anger, self righteousness and grieving my Lord. It was the same blackness I saw in that man. I realized that this may be all he knows. Maybe he has never known the joy of The Lord. This experience has changed me just a little bit because I can pray for this man out of a heart of true sympathy and love. Ann wondered “Does the emptying come only when we know how empty we are?” She asks a good question.

    1. Anne, Oh my..I so understand! I am finding too that this Lent time is a time to see how empty I am..how much I need Him.

    2. I can relate Anne. There was a Valentines dinner at work last night, the girl who was helping me serve was helping another customer who was not a part of the dinner. People began arriving early and we were not ready for them. She had never helped me before and didn’t understand what needed to be happening. I walked up and did not take the time to realize she was waiting on a customer. I asked her to hand me something and the customer became indignant, that I had ‘interrupted’ her service to him. I promptly apologized, he however clearly enjoyed having something to be offended about and continued to declare how rudely I had treated him. Additional apologies just added fuel to his fire.
      At that moment, under a lot of pressure my internal response was not one of concern for him, I thought he was a consummate jerk. But later on when the day was done like you with your driver, I thought about his soul and how unhappy he must be to respond with such anger over so small a thing.
      So I feel like my first response was older brotherish, but after contemplation I can pray for my enemy, that is heart change!

    3. When we are empty, we react in unhealthy ways to fill that whole in our heart. We will react and get angry, sad, hurt, disappointed which leads to resentment and gives us a feeling of power and pride. When our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are behaving in self pity or anger they are drowning in front of us using every behavior they can think of to save themselves and feel better in the short term hoping you will be the one to throw them the rope leading them to safety. So what are we as Christians going to do……be like Jesus and respond by throwing them a rope…love, joy, peace or are we going to react and dunk them further in the depths of their sorrow by retaliation, yelling back or rolling our eyes. We can choose to be a wise man throwing a rope or a fool, mocker or Pharisee and react with hate which is retaliation acting just like them. We get to choose how to respond. Our response then leads us to the fruit of the spirit filling our bucket and theirs with love not hate. I see the elder brother drowning as well as the prodigal. They both were searching for something other than the love of their Father to fill their buckets just using different behaviors all leading them to the same place. Misery. The prodigal, however, came to the end of his rope finding Jesus’ office humbling himself that he found what he truly needed to fill the whole in his heart, The unconditional love of the Father. Pride and how good we are, keeps us from humbleness and keeps us from coming to the end of our rope. We look to blame others without ever searching within ourselves therefore we never have to change because we are not the problem. Jesus will sit and wait until we are ready to show up admitting that we are all lost and broken…..just like everyone else.

  8. Hi I’m new to this study. Do I get the study in my email? Not sure how it works. I will go on Dees website

    1. Welcome Julie from Crystal Lake! You are on the right track-your comment posted! 🙂 Just go to Dee’s front page on her website and look to the right side and click on the button that says getting started on the blog..There are wonderful, detailed instructions there.

  9. god is so amazing. just got home from a tenth avenue north concert and it was like hearing my sermon all over again. the lead singer, mike, quoted tim keller in his speaking about living the gospel. was hearing his sermon all over again. it is awesome what an alive God we have that brings everything together, no matter if im living life or having my devotions! AWESOME!!!!

    1. bjh, AMEN!! Isn’t it amazing when He does that?!?

  10. Read Luke 15:17-24 and meditate on Rembrandt’s painting.

    I’ve answered questions 12-14 on my own, but here is my “gold” from meditating on the Scripture and the painting. It seems every time I re-read it and look at the painting, I see something new.
    The Scripture account is full of action – the father running to the son, literally falling on his neck and kissing him over and over. The son trying to get his prepared speech out, but the father cutting him off, calling to the servants to bring a robe, ring, and sandals – prepare a feast.
    But Rembrandt chose to portray this by focusing on the embrace of the father and his son. The painting is utterly still, as if their embrace has been frozen in time for us to look at it deeply. I get the feeling that the son is finally home, finally at rest. I noticed the careful placement of the father’s hands; there is a hole in the son’s tunic where the bare skin shows through. Perhaps during the long walk home, his skin was sunburned and painful where it was exposed. The father’s hands seem to frame that patch of bare skin; so tenderly placed were the father’s hands, not wanting to bring pain to the wound but to comfort, to heal. The father’s hands are prominent; the left hand the strong hand of a father supporting with his strength; the right hand appears like the hand of a mother – mother’s hands want to caress,to comfort through touch.
    I’ve read some of Henri Nouwen’s book on Rembrandt’s painting, and know that he spent hours contemplating the real painting. Because Rembrandt chose to capture the eternal embrace of father and son, that final homecoming, it does draw me in to look deeply at all the details, like the way the father’s robe appears open like sheltering wings; his compassion as he looks down at his kneeling son; the son, a grown man, making himself like a small child-on his knees, head buried in his father’s chest. I think the son’s torn, ragged clothes and worn-out shoes suggest more than physical poverty and hunger. They show outwardly what our inner spiritual condition without God is. The father is our last shred of hope. Can I, as Nouwen put it, put myself on that platform and let God hold me like that? Do I truly believe in my heart that He wants to hold me like that? Is this how Rembrandt pictured his own spiritual homecoming? In contrast to the account in Scripture, I’m glad Rembrandt chose to paint this in stillness, helping us feel the rest we can find in the Father’s arms,the utter relief of coming home, the feeling of nestling in our Father’s arms.

    1. LIKE!! “I think the son’s torn, ragged clothes and worn-out shoes suggest more than physical poverty and hunger. They show outwardly what our inner spiritual condition without God is. The father is our last shred of hope.”

      Thanks, Susan.

    2. I love your description of the painting here. thank you so much for your insights!

    3. Susan, I loved your meditation on the painting. I loved what you brought out about the son’s torn clothing really portraying our inner mess.

  11. 15. Read Luke 15:25-30.

    What I see of the older son here is that he would never put himself on the platform and let his father embrace him. He serves, he obeys, but he has no joy. Interesting – the younger son was planning on becoming a hired servant-the father shows him in no uncertain terms that he is not a servant, but his son. The older son is actually living out the role of a hired servant and sees his father not as a father, but as a taskmaster. He is upset that his dad never gave him an animal to feast on with his friends, not realizing that if he had wanted one, he could’ve had one all along-it was his to enjoy. Consumed with rule keeping, the older son doesnt even know how to function in a family; he knows nothing of love, either for his father or his brother.

    16. Contemplate the above:

    A. What does Lovelace say most Christians rely upon for feeling accepted by God?

    Their feelings and emotions (which is a horrible way to live because my emotions are up and down and all over the place-reassuring me one day and condemning me the next); a past conversion experience, their current performance (church attendance, volunteering and serving, Bible reading, was I “nice” today?), or the fact that they haven’t sinned “big” too much lately.

    B. What does he say few know enough to do?

    Basically to stop looking at ourselves for assurance. Day by day we must rely wholly on what Christ has done for us – it is finished – He did everything for us. Instead of trying to patch ourselves up, cover up the holes in our tattered clothing, we go to our Father, like the younger son in the painting, rags, holes, and all, and let Him dress us in His robe of righteousness.

    C. How does this speak to you?

    It is entirely convicting to me. I spend way too much time focused on myself, my performance, to judge my spiritual progress (or lack of progress). I suffer from chronic lack of assurance because I look at ME, not HIM! I can see how I am lacking in love and gratitude because I’m not operating from that “platform” of being utterly secure in the Father’s love. Self-effort must cancel out love and gratitude because of the “self” in there! How much love and gratitude was that younger son experiencing in the painting – he was drowning in it, I’m sure, because he was emptied of himself – he had no qualifications, no performance to rely upon, his past was too painful to look at, he had done a hateful thing to his father, and even his repentance is questionable-he was starving and he came home to escape death; yet here he is, completely enfolded in his father’s embrace, totally undeserving yet finding love, and he was grateful.

    1. Susan–always LOVE hearing your heart –” I suffer from chronic lack of assurance because I look at ME, not HIM!” you are so loved

    2. I’m sooo the older brother 🙁

      1. Laura-dancer, Oh i know..but I see more humility in you because of Him moving so in you..It can be painful to see those brothers in us..just think of the Father’s response to the older brother-He loved Him-He loves you too. 🙂

    3. Susan this really struck me and made me wonder…”the older son here is that he would never put himself on the platform and let his father embrace him. He serves, he obeys, but he has no joy”

      There are times I serve and/or obey and there is no joy and at times I have wondered why…maybe because my motive is not where it should be? Something for me to be mindful of((SIGH)).

      “I suffer from chronic lack of assurance because I look at ME, not HIM!” ME TOO! 🙁

    4. Susan, your thoughts in #15 are very insightful. Thanks for sharing! The irony of the older brother living like a servant and missing out on all the joy, while the younger brother longed to only be a servant and yet was treated with utmost love and honor—our Father’s wisdom and ways are so incomprehensible, and Kingdom values so totally different from our natural way of thinking!

      I have been thinking about this throughout the day….and I sense that God is showing me something important. It’s so obvious and basic, how could it be that after walking with The Lord for so many years, this is just coming clear?? I’ve had a strong tendency for years to really get down when I have failed either living up to the standard that I feel that I should, or failed someone else, or failed God. Really, there have been times that I would feel so terrible, I just wanted to escape. To hide. To not face anyone. The accuser of the brethren would just beat up on me for hours, or maybe at times for days. I didn’t realize that I was falling deeply into the “big brother” trap. God was trying to free me from the hole I would many times fall into, but I am just seeing now that freedom comes in just coming in brokenness and humility to my amazing Father. Now this is really embarrassing to admit, but sometimes I can subtly fall into feeling I have to punish myself for my sin and failures, when in reality, Jesus has already suffered once for all–for it all!! Instead of feeling unworthy to come before God because I “should have done better”—I can run immediately to Him because HE DELIGHTS IN HIS BROKEN CHILDREN RUNNING TO HIM. THAT is the only way to restoration and joy! I can be the younger brother every day!!! That’s what my Father WANTS.

      I’ve probably said this to other people many times in many ways, yet I never REALLY saw it like I do right now. When I’m hurting with the burden of my sin and failure, the Father is waiting and watching for me to run to His arms and receive His forgiveness and love in that moment!!

      Can anyone else identify with this? As an older woman who has been in ministry with her husband for many years, I began to subtly think that I should hold myself to a higher standard (a kind of legalism) because….well, shouldn’t a mature Christian who walks with Jesus be wise, obedient, and always strong??? Always a godly example to others?? Always helping others?? What a trap! What an example of the “older brother syndrome” that leads to condescension or condemnation!!!

      O God, please lead each of us into the freedom of Your Truth!

      I am truly excited for these days ahead 🙂

      1. Wow, FriscoJudy – you’ve touched on a lot of good points here. Yes, I can identify with what you wrote. Walking with the Lord can subtly turn into a bunch of “oughts” and “shoulds”.

  12. So Dee, I feel like I am missing out on good “Prodigal Son” discussion because I just answer the questions but don’t necessarily have “gems” to share. I’m a baby here; not sure what “gems” really are……I like when the questions are answered on the blog because I can find a number easily and know what question it is, so then I know the content pretty quickly. I LOVE reading all the answers because some ladies “think out loud” and that helps me process the content.

    Also, I don’t use my computer (I use my phone) to do the study, so I don’t have access to a word document. Now I’m just answering in my head and I quickly forget what i thought to be able to compare with others’ answers. I guess what I am saying is that I am frustrated 🙁 not trying to put a downer on anything, just trying to figure out the best way for me. I think others might use their phones as well. I know the first week was pretty crazy with all of us answering, but once we are all on shouldn’t it calm down? Could we go back to the “old” way?

    I think Cyndi’s idea of the all caps for prayer is also good.

    Thanks for considering 🙂

    1. But Laura – when you “just answer the questions” like you have been doing, there are “gems” in your answers! I think you have to do the study in the way that facilitates your spiritual growth; and since you don’t have access to a word document, then I think it’s okay to keep it the way you’ve been doing it. I always enjoy reading your answers, b/c you ask really honest questions.
      And thanks – you just encouraged me, b/c I often “think out loud” and as I’m thinking, I’m typing!

      1. Thanks Susan! You are always so encouraging 🙂

    2. Laura–your posts are FULL of “gems” in your thought-provoking questions. Your “scientists” eye gives you a unique perspective that often views from another angle–I appreciate you

      1. I think all of your answers are “Gems or Gold”!

    3. Laura-dancer, so good…I agree with the ladies-you do have gems in your posts! 🙂 I so appreciate your honesty, and I think it is good-I haven’t asked Dee but I do think she would rather have you post than not if your reason for not posting is because you can’t come up with any short and sweet gems. As you know, Dee is anything but legalistic anyway. I think she was just encouraging us to to do our best to make them shorter and cut through the extra words or thoughts in order to minister to others here as well, but that doesn’t mean you can’t post as you always have. 🙂

      1. Thank you Rebecca for clarifying for me 🙂 I will keep it short and sweet!

      1. And I miss your questions Laura!

  13. Notes from the Sermon.

    This is the second or third time I have heard this sermon and God always brings up something I heard before but didn’t REALLY hear before.

    This time it was two things-First, to not only repent of sins but repent for the reasons I do right. When I begin to see my fleshly or natural bend is to desire to be my own savior and Lord for the bad things I have done AS WELL AS THE GOOD-when I see my reasons for doing right and learn to start repenting of those self salvation strategies everything changes-the way I handle criticism-how I see others..

    Secondly-This REALLY moved me-What it costs to bring me home-Jesus gave us the elder brother in the parable to make us long for the real elder brother-the One who responded differently on the cross. The elder brother rejected his younger brother-didn’t want to give up his wealth but the true Elder Brother, Jesus, gave up His LIFE-He gave up EVERYTHING to bring me home.

    “Jesus was on the cross saying, “My God, My God” and wasn’t referring to Him as a Father because at that moment he wasn’t being treated as a son so that you and I could be.”

    Oh yes, this arrests my pride-which needs arresting daily, and melts my heart. Yet this also brings such freedom in love and gratitude too. Hard to explain.

    1. Rebecca, the expense of the older brother, the riches we have a Christ’s expense did me in this time, I heard it before when I listened, the penny dropped much farther this time, I felt it this time, the truth is sinking in.

      1. OH Chris, me too, me too..it is sinking in..

  14. Going back to a few I missed:
    11. According to Luke 15:1-2:
    •To whom was Jesus speaking?
    I think He was speaking to all—tax collectors and “sinners” were drawing near, Scribes and Pharisees grumbling nearby.
    •About what were they murmuring?
    They were angry that the lowliest ones in society had the right to be near Jesus, to receive His grace.

    •Which of the three ways of life do you think was true of the Pharisees and why?
    I think the Pharisees were the religious ones. They did everything “right”, followed all the religious rules, and in their self-righteousness they believed this was the basis for their salvation. They were trying to be their own saviors.

  15. 12. Read Luke 15:13-16 and find all you can about the “irreligious” way of life.
    The irreligious way is to journey far from home. To live recklessly, in adrenaline-addiction, trying to fill up the empty soul with anything money can buy. The hidden “blessing” can be that one may come to the end of themselves “quicker” this way. If he had been careful with his money, it would have lasted him longer…but because of the reckless searching for something more, because the desire for something more was alive in him—he spent it all, he was left bare, and the longing remained…ultimately leading him home.

    1. I agree with these irreligious sons often seeing their need sooner, the “tax collectors and sinners” often acknowledge that they are outside of a relationship with God, they know they cant rely on their behavior.

      Religious sons think they are in relationship, that their good deeds and clean living means they love God. It is awful to think how many deceived older brothers sit in church every Sunday.
      I heard a John MacArthur sermon on this parable once where he imagined an ending where the older brother being so consumed with anger, kills the father as the did Pharisees with Christ.

  16. I too have listened to Tim’s teaching regarding the Prodigal parable many times. I have been both older and younger son and find that being a Christ follower is both profoundly satisfying and ellusive. I think often of the hymn that has “prone to wander, Lord I feel it” in the chorus. I am so dependent on spending time with Christ, in his Word, in my mind, in my prayers that if I don’t make that a priority I am easily lead astray. Recently I have been away and the pain of that choice is so evident in my daily living. I don’t know that sharing the details would be helpful to anyone, but I have so many idols that I can choose from. The results however, always seem the same, pain. Sometimes that pain comes quickly and other times I see that bondage has taken ahold of my heart again. I can let the older brother in my heart beat me up for wandering and require me to exact punishment, never helpful to myself or those in my life.

    When I can get back in touch with the Gospel, when I can know the love of the Father, I can simple walk back into His arms and rest and try again to run my race. I am excited about this study about the hope of walking in His love rather than my idols.

    1. Mary–OH how often I sing “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the One I love…”–thankful for His gracious arms, so ready to welcome us back and embrace

    2. Mary, I love your heart.. 🙂 Maybe if I come to visit GPC when my nephews and niece lead worship I will get to meet you. 🙂

      1. Rebecca, that would be great! Who are you nephews and niece, are you related to the Langfords?

        1. Mary@GPC, Yep..Jim is my brother-Angie is my sister in law. 🙂

  17. I am so excited at what God has showed me in week 1! I said in my introduction that I wanted this Lent to be more about gaining Christ than self-denial. My fast is to not eat in between meals. I’ve failed already. It’s amazing to me even in my faulty fasting, Jesus rushes in to reveal Himself to this hungry heart. Here is what I wrote in my journal:

    My take away for the week is the consideration of another Son who left His Father’s home. In contrast to the younger brother who took his riches and pursued the pleasures of this world, Jesus left His riches behind and pursued the lowly of this world. In contrast to the older brother who proudly demanded his rights as an obedient son, Jesus laid aside his rights and humbled Himself, obeying the Father even to the point of death on a cross. And in contrast to the younger brother experiencing the embrace of his father in his time of anguish, Jesus, suffering the wrath our sins deserved cried out, “Abba, Abba, why have you forsaken Me?” But there is a glorious return home. Not a Father forgiving a wayward son, but a Father rejoicing over the victorious Prince of Glory and seating Him at His right hand to rule and reign forever.

    Why is this?! Because the Father looked through time and saw groups of Pharisees and Sadducees; tax collectors and prostitutes; older and younger brothers; amazingly, He saw me…and in love, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, He made a way so that I could feel the arms of the Father around me, and hear His voice saying, “bring the best robes…”

    I weep. I weep for sorrow that I minimize this love. I grow comfortable with this love. I weep for joy that because of Jesus, I can run that well beaten path back to my Father any time, any day and He is running to meet me with outstretched arms. I weep for the staggering beauty of such love displayed, and I turn my eyes away from myself, and my “brotherliness” and I worship Him and love Him and experience new fervor to please Him.

    1. So so good, Laurie “I weep for sorrow that I minimize this love” and for joy that we can RUN HOME!

    2. I’m glad you journaled this, Laurie – I imagine you’ll want to revisit this again!

    3. Just beautiful! I just loved this….

      Because the Father looked through time and saw groups of Pharisees and Sadducees; tax collectors and prostitutes; older and younger brothers; amazingly, He saw me…and in love, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, He made a way so that I could feel the arms of the Father around me, and hear His voice saying, “bring the best robes…

    4. Thanks Laurie, so much <3

  18. Also, this video is so powerful portraying the prodigal. it’s a beautiful song with animation…and so powerful. I just want to pass it along because it goes so beautifully with the study this week. http://youtu.be/IbTK-mKxrAc

    1. wow– good one, Laurie. Thanks for sharing it.

    2. Laurie, that was a neat video…thanks for sharing!

  19. Are we going to continue to study the Prodigal Son during Lent? I have some unanswered questions, muddled ponderings, but I’d rather be less muddled and receive supplemental readings before I post them.

  20. Laurie, You did find a “gem” in that You-Tube video! However, I had to find my way back to Dee’s web site afterward (thought I should forewarn others). Today we are supposed to tell what we are taking away from the week. This is my first experience on any blog, much less a Bible Study blog. I think it is great we are forming into something like a support group (for idolators). I feel Dee was on-target to limit our responses to “sharing the gold.” I was not familiar with Dr. Timothy Keller or his sermon on Prodigal Sons. Although the whole week’s experience has been wonderful, I feel Dr. Keller’s sermon is what I will take away from it – it changed me!

    1. Deanna, if you just click your arrow back to the blog, it might take a minute, but it will return you right where you were at. It did for me…hope it will for you.

  21. 17. How did the father offer grace to the son who was choosing the way of religion? (v.31)

    I think the father was saying to this son that “I haven’t loved you because of your performance…”. He gave his son an invitation to lay down his arms (his pride, resentment, bitterness, hostility) and come into the party. He tries to get him to see that there is grace for him because of the relationship – he is his father’s son. HIs father requires nothing more of him, all that the father has is his already.

    18. How did the father give grace to the son who chose the way of irreligion? (v.32)

    Despite his sins, the father offers him a party with rejoicing. The son has nothing to contribute; the father provides everything for the feast. This son was able to walk into the tent, free and forgiven, b/c he had humbly accepted his father’s forgiveness and love; he held out his empty hands and allowed the father to fill them to overflowing.

  22. Lent update: So I thought God wanted me to read The Gospel in Life by Keller for lent-but I couldn’t buy it on my Nook…. So, He led me to get What’s So Amazing About Grace and He just moved to show me something.

    When I listened to Keller’s sermon this morning a question deep inside nagged at me..”God, show me where I am trying to earn your approval by doing right. Show me where I miss the Gospel and am lacking gratitude and Grace as a result.” I HONESTLY needed an example because I didn’t see where I was being a Pharisee. The Pharisee shows up in me when I am critical or judgmental of others-that is easy to see because I struggle with that every day. But what about this? My understanding is shallow still.

    Whenever I hold fast to something, a gray area, that I think is right at the expense of another it is an ‘ungrace’..it is not Grace-and I am being a Pharisee. I have missed the Gospel and insulted God.

    God brought something to mind-We refused to allow our son to play on a soccer field due to the way the field was acquired-by a man who had an anger issue and stomped all over his neighbor, our friends, in order to build it-he didn’t care that it would mess up their property value-he also threatened them verbally a few times. It was sad. They are believers and forgave him and now their kids play on the soccer field-yet we held strong to our conviction not to allow our kids to play on it or to be on the team he coached-just because it was wrong how it was done-we didn’t like him and wanted no part with anything this man does.

    The truth: I thought I hung on to that conviction out of loyalty to my friend, but if that were true then I would have relented knowing she forgave them. I hung on to that conviction because I thought it was right before God and God would approve of how strongly we held onto that-BUT HOLDING ONTO CONVICTIONS, OR DOING RIGHT DOESN’T CHANGE WHETHER HE APPROVES OF ME OR NOT. THAT IS GRACE-THE GOSPEL! We weren’t showing that man Grace-we were judging Him-I was being the older brother and the Pharisee. Who knows, God could have opened the door for us to get to know that family and extend His Grace and Love to them.

    Oh my do I have so much more to learn about Grace-have so much more pounding of the Gospel into my heart but isn’t that the best part? I mean..isn’t that our journey? I am so grateful God has opened my eyes-the discovery of the blackness of my soul is a gift from Him-I think I am just starting to get a glimpse of what Lovelace meant when he said: “You are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith in love and gratitude.”

    1. Rebecca–excited you’re reading Yancy, too. I have been blown away the 2nd time. SO thankful Dee “pushed” us to read this Lent, I wouldn’t be diligent without the accountability–and have already been so blessed by it each night.

      1. Elizabeth, me too..I am excited you are reading it as well..I am only on chapter three but oh my..The first page had me. When he brought the point out that the prostitutes and the down and outs in scripture would run to Jesus because they saw Him as a refuge..yet you would be hard pressed to find them running to our churches.

  23. Although I was able to keep to my commitment of not turning on the TV (and I can probably be okay through Lent), I did have difficulty in the replacing that with a focus on God. I can come up with a few excuses, my brother is moving in (out of work for a while and needs a home) and I had to clean out a bunch of things to make room for him, so this week I have really felt more like Martha, Martha, Martha. The times I have tried to focus on the study, I was getting distracted, so I was really only able to get through about half of the study this week. I am hoping and trusting that as He changes my heart, that it will get easier to focus in the coming weeks.

    The time to spend with God is the hard part, which I think is really to purpose of Lent. In order to help me see during Lent, I did save the picture of Christ as my desktop (hope that is okay, if it’s not please let me know) and when I have a few moments I just sit and look at it. Interestingly when I made it my desktop picture, Christ sitting there is pretty clear, but the clouds, the ground, everything surrounding Christ is fuzzy and faded. He is clear, everything else is not. Some days I could see Christ just sitting there resting, other times it seems like He is sighing like He is thinking “oh, Mary, Mary, Mary” wondering if I will ever “get it”. Today I see Him praying, talking to The Father, about me.

    I thought that the sunset last night was pretty cool, and then this morning the sunrise was even more spectacular than the sunset last night. This morning, the refection was all over the sky. It didn’t matter what direction I looked I could see the sunrise colors reflecting everywhere. While I suspect that He has others in mind, or perhaps He is in a creative mood this morning, but when I see that kind of sky, God has done that just for me.

  24. I’ve posted my answers all out of order! But I am pondering again question 14, the returning prodigal’s response to his father. It was the Father who drew him home–his father’s ways, His heart. In his sincere humility he recognized his unworthiness, but wanted to be near his Father even if it was only as a hired hand. Maybe I’m stretching now, but I’m thinking the son knew enough of his Father to desire Him. I will fail, I will wander…but the more I know of the Father’s ways, of His heat, the more I will long for Him and be quicker to recognize the failure of my “counterfeit gods”, my idols. And the more readily I will RUN HOME.

    1. Elizabeth, Oh NO..you are not stretching..I am leaning toward the same thing…oooohhhh…so you made me just think of this as I am reading What’s so amazing about grace..Maybe the son saw the lack of Grace in the world vs. the Grace of his father..He knew His Father wouldn’t turn his back on him??? Not sure..now maybe I am stretching..I loved how you applied this in knowing you will fail, or wander-but the more you know of God’s ways, His heart, the more you will long for Him and be quicker to see the failure of your gods and the more readily you will run home…I think the more I gaze at Him-everything changes..how I see others-how I view life, finances, circumstances..they seem so small.

      1. Rebecca, you make my heart smile. True story–as I typed those thoughts above, I started to erase thinking they wouldn’t make sense, and then I thought ‘Rebecca will know what I’m trying to say’–honestly, so thankful for you sis 😉

        1. Thankful for you too Elizabeth-VERY thankful. 🙂

  25. Relevant:

    “As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to putting people and things in their “right” place.”
    ― Henri J.M. Nouwen

    1. SO good Renee, wow.

  26. My take away this week…even today I am distracted as the daily things of life are there as well. I originally thought I didn’t do too bad for the first week, even though was busy, I could take a few moments here and there. But I don’t think that’s what God is truly seeking. Is my heart in the place where, it doesn’t matter where I am or what I am doing, no matter what is going on around me, is my heart on Him. Sadly no. I have thought about the prodigal sons, the rebellious one and the compliant one, the more I think about it, I honestly don’t think I am either. I do have traits of both extremes but I really am somewhere between the two, and I have realized through the sermon that anywhere on the line of either extremes or in between is NOT where God desires us to be. I still have much to learn, but I know that this year, this Lenten study is important for something that God wants me to see/understand.

    I am missing all the new people this week (even though I have only been here for a few months myself). I really did feel overwhelmed by the number at first, but now I also feel like everybody ran away. I personally do not see any of my own comments as gold and am quite content to do the study off line and ask questions, but I do know that someone else can make a comment that they may not think as important, but really speak to me at the point of where I am at that moment. I know that has happened to me a few times. Could all the people come back…I know that it could potentially be overwhelming (maybe still capitalize the prayer requests etc that we don’t want to get lost in the crowd), but I really feel like I could miss something important if all the people don’t come back??? I hope I am not the only one feeling this way, if I am, then feel free to ignore my feelings on this.

    1. Mary-Canada, I’m really glad you’re here. I appreciate your heart, your thoughts, so much.

    2. Thanks Mary, I miss all our new sisters to…hope we didn’t scare them away! We miss you all!!

  27. We’re having our first real huge snowflake kind of snow in a few years here right now…I’m typically a (born and raised in TX) like my hot sunshine kind of girl, but watching from the window, I am thankful of this reminder:
    Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
    though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
    though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.
    Isaiah 1:18

    1. Elizabeth, it was lovely! At one point the air was thick with swirling cotton balls. I tried very hard to really see just one at a time as they fell. They were so beautiful. Each one intricate and unique. Kind of like us.

  28. Thanks, Joyce, for the navigating tip!

  29. After listening to the sermon yesterday I have struggled to put my thoughts into words. I have being chewing on them since, trying to understand, to see what God wanted me to see. I have read other’s comments and it’s been so very helpful.

    When I first listened to the sermon I thought “so is my obedience sin?” My obedience and/or goodness is only sin if my motivation is to get things from God instead of desiring God Himself. I needed to search my heart, allow God to search my heart…why is it that I obey and try to do good?

    Tonight I listened to the sermon again. This time slower, taking more notes and it is very clear that I have been and can be both brothers. Although I am clearly the elder more often than not.

    But deep in my heart all I want is Jesus. Truly. I want to know God in an ever deepening way. I don’t want to miss anything about Him. He is enough, I don’t need things, just Him. And yet…so often my attitude of self righteousness and judgmentalism (is that even a word or am I spelling it wrong? lol) rears it’s very sinful ugly head.

    My heart grieves…and yet what can I do but fling myself at the feet of my Father and beg for mercy, forgiveness and grace which He freely gives…

  30. My take away is the quote from Thursday, “Few know enough to start each day with a thoroughgoing stand upon Luther’s platform: You are accepted, looking outward in faith and claiming the wholly alien righteousness of Christ as the only ground for acceptance, relaxing in that quality of trust which will produce increasing sanctification as faith in love and gratitude.”
    I wake up each day with regrets about my failures the day before and anxiety about how I’ll probably fail again (I haven’t always been this way so it is quite unnerving). As I want to run to my comfort idols that help me face the day (or block out the thoughts) or I look to see who is “being nice” to me at work and getting my acceptance there, I need to remind myself that I am already and always accepted and that I can’t be any more loved by God than I already am.
    I hope that the new people will continue to post and that they don’t feel bad if they don’t read all of the comments. We all come from different backgrounds and something you post may be a life changer for someone else.

  31. Twice last night I got interrupted while writing my response to the video and twice lost what was written. Hopefully I will accomplish my task tonight. On Saturday afternoons I think “wonder what Dee will post tomorrow?” Thank you, Dee, for using your gifts to teach & encourage us. God always reveals something to help me grow through all of you. The sermon was wonderful. I see myself in both brothers….especially the older “good” one. I was convicted of a habit of tallying up my goodness. (Like heping others). I especially do this when I have been too busy to spend time with God.

    My big take away the week was recognizing my idol of control with my oldest daughter.

  32. Wednesday- I don’t want my time with the Lord each morning to be a “to do” that I check of my list. I find myself having my quiet time each morning and then going on with my day without much more connection. I want to be spending time with Him throughout the entire day so I’ve decided to supplement my quiet time and replace my morning surf the internet time with a prayer walk. During lunch time I’ll read a chapter from Idol Lies, and my evening TV time will be replaced with Ray Vander Laan informational videos. One of my soul idols is control. Being a newlywed, I have all these “plans” and “timelines” for my life. I want to let go of my plans and seek the Lord’s direction. Also, there are people in my life that I care deeply about who do not know the Lord. It occupies my thoughts and I have become consumed with fear for these loved ones. Maybe this is my control idol creeping in. I easily forget that I can only plant the seed and pray for them. I forget that it is the Lord that saves. For me, having someone I love so much pass away without becoming a believer is the most horrifying thing that can happen, and thinking about it makes me nauseated. Someone once told me they had a friend whose father passed away without knowing the Lord. This lady asked the Lord for peace and now she has complete peace about it. I won’t lie, that is hard for me to comprehend. Is it really possible to have peace about a loved one suffering for eternity? Maybe if I can let go of my control idol, the Lord will give me that peace.
    (Wed-Fri in my journal)
    Saturday- My takeaway is to keep digging deep into my heart to find all my soul idols and to start resting in the Father’s love.

      1. Thank you Dee, that gives me hope. I am so thankful for Pastor Ritchey and Melissa. Also, you had mentioned that you weren’t sure if this is the Natalie you had met before.I’m the Natalie that called you two summers ago to talk about the women’s conference. I’ll be sure to say hello the next time I see you at church.

    1. Natalie,
      I like your plan of keeping the connection with God during the whole day!

  33. I am meditating on the painting in light of the verses in Luke. I wonder how much Rembrandt was consciously conveying and how much surprised him in the end as the lamb in Sally’s Aslan painting surprised her.
    There is so much there and this time something particular stood out to me. That is the brightness of the focal points of light. I think this has something to say to us. The back of the father’s right hand seems to be the brightest point. This is the “mother’s” hand and it seems to cast quite a glow around it including the sleeve. The sleeve of the left arm is barely visible. The next brightest spot is the right side of the father’s forehead. As I looked I realized that I see curls on the right side of his forehead. I think this has great meaning but I really don’t know what. Could this father be acting more like a mother? He watched for him and ran out to him when he saw him coming on the road. That seems more like mother behavior than father to me. This may be relevant to the appearance of the son’s head. It looks more like the head of a baby not fully developed, not ready for birth, returned to the womb. I may be on the edge of over thinking this. Any thoughts?

    1. Keller said in the sermon that this Middle Eastern father in the parable was acting more like a mother would than a father!

    2. Honestly, to me it looks like the mother is the focal point of the painting. Maybe that is just to me. I do have a strong sense that God is speaking to me in this painting. He knows my pain. He wants me to release Joey to Him. If I keep pushing him toward God I may push him into older brotherishness. If he becomes a prodigal God still has him.

  34. My take away is my emptiness apart from Him. I pray that He will help me to see this and live in it. I realize that the answers to this prayer could be very painful but it is essential for me. I must grow up in Him so that I am ready for birth and I must also live in the fact that I have no righteousness of my own. Both the older and the younger brother in me, no surprise.

  35. Just wanted to let you know, you all didn’t scare me away. I’ve been doing my answers offline and didn’t really feel any of mine were “gold” so haven’t been posting anything. I will have to tell you it has been overwhelming receiving over 100 emails a day. I’ve been trying to keep up with all the comments but have had to skim some of them for lack of time.

    I will share with you my take away from the week though. First of all, I feel blessed to be doing this study with all of you amazing Christ followers and being able to read most of your comments. Second, please know that those of you that have asked for prayers specifically, I have prayed for you even if I didn’t reply/comment. Also, for those that maybe didn’t specifically ask for prayer, I have also prayed for you as well.

    As far as the study, Dr. Keller’s points are right on and what probably stood out the most to me. I feel that everyone can be a little bit of all three (younger brother/Irreligion; older brother/Religion; Gospel people/Gospel) depending on what is happening in their lives or what the situation/circumstances are. I know there have been days where I’ve been all three all in one day! Thankfully our God is a God of forgiveness, grace and mercy.

    1. “I know there have been days where I’ve been all the in in day!” – I agree!! I’m so glad our God is so good and loves us in spite of ourselves.

  36. My take away for this week is the aspect of formation. Not just giving something up but changing my life because of my growing intimacy with Jesus. Also, laying my “goodness” (along with all the anger and hurt) at the foot of the cross.

  37. 20. What is your take-a-way from this week and why?
    My take away is the Lord’s desire for my heart to be genuine, authentic, pure…I am encouraged to resist bending to pretense and/or obligation.

    Did anyone else listen to the sermon “He Came To Himself”…excellent sermon on repentance.

    I also listened to some of Tim Keller’s other Luke 15 sermons at some point in the week… I can’t hardly wait for my “Prodigal God” book to be delivered. The sermons provided excellent reminders that my sin was such that Jesus had to suffer the pain and humiliation of the cross in redeeming my sorry soul (truth), AND He loves me SO much that He willingly sacrificed Himself for my redemption (mercy). Jesus is the “good” elder brother…He is my elder brother who searches for lost/sinful brothers and sisters, of which I am one; at His own expense He brings me home.

      1. They are amazing… I have them on my mp3 player and listen to them whenever I get a chance. I find that, unfortunately, the continued reminders are needed…it’s surprising how I can hear something that makes such an impression on me, and then need to be reminded again in the future…I’m a work in process through and through 🙂

        You are probably feeling a fair bit of “overwhelmed-ness” with the many comments/success of the lent bible study blog…know that it is truly a testament to the good that you are doing…thank you for your obedience to the Lord’s guidance. Thank you for your work, commitment, and love…you are a blessing to each of us. WOO-HOO!…I see that “Idol Lies” is back being available on Amazon. So glad…I recommended the book and bible study blog to a friend yesterday; I’m hoping that she follows through on both recommendations.

  38. 19. Share your notes from the sermon.

    So many have already shared great notes…so I’ll just focus on one thing that stood out to me, though it was great from start to finish. The focus of our study is gospel transformation. Keller touched on this at the end of his sermon when he says, “The default mode of every human heart is self-justification. So how can we be saved?” (And if we are already saved, how can we change, I’ll add)

    Keller says we need three things, the last thing being “You need to be melted and moved by what it cost to bring you home.” I might think that this parable wraps up too neatly and indeed, when I’ve read it before, I’ve missed it. The younger son was restored, but there was an enormous cost, and b/c the father had divided his wealth between his 2 sons already, there was an enormous cost to the elder son. The hint of this is when the father says to the elder son, “Everything I have is yours”.

    It’s not simple to be saved – someone has to pay! This elder son has to pay and he is furious about it. Through this, Jesus is forcing the Pharisees to look in a mirror – that’s what they are like when they look down their noses at “sinners” – but it is what I am like when my heart is frozen and hard and unforgiving and judgmental.

    And so I am encouraged to see the contrast between the elder brother of the parable and the True Elder Brother, Jesus. Jesus saw the agony of His Father over His lost children, and at the expense of His very life, He came to get us and bring us home. To contemplate this wonderful truth of “my elder brother” sacrificing for me, protecting me, stepping in front of the oncoming car, as it were, this is what I need to be changed.

    20. What is your take-away from this week and why?

    This is hard b/c the whole week has been so rich! But I have to return to the beginning, where I saw that “The thing I fear the most is the secret to setting me free”. I have been living enslaved to myself, my idols, and lies of Satan. I wonder if the younger son in the parable was afraid to return home; he seemed to wait until he was in dire circumstances before he returned. When he first lost everything, he first turned to a citizen of that country for help (just like I can turn FIRST to an idol, or self-effort, or believe the lie that God doesn’t want me). But the son’s condition only got worse. We are not told his thoughts, but if he was afraid to show his face back home again, he battled through it and went to his father.
    Okay, I just changed my mind here. Keller said that we need the initiating love of the Father. So there had to be something that younger son knew in his heart about his father’s love that gave him the courage to go back home. He couldn’t have “battled through it” on his own. I have to, I need to, let the initiating love of my heavenly Father draw me to “the platform” (in Rembrandt’s painting) and take my place as the younger son letting his father hold him.

    That’s what I want to take-away – I dearly want to start each day, visualizing myself in that timeless embrace that Rembrandt painted. From there, I can look outward. I can overcome my fear of being known, the enemy’s lie that I don’t belong. As Nouwen wrote in his book, though, there is a struggle to get to the platform and let God hold me.

  39. My idol is control, making this speak directly to me, about me. I have been both brothers at different times, attempting to control God and my life. His will, my way. it leaves me with an acute awareness of my depravity and my deep need for Jesus. Then as I live in deliberate obedience, what is my motivation? How do we let go and relinquish each moment to Him? I love the reminder that it is not us, but Him. The Bible says HE relentlessly pursues us… initiating love. Repentence of the things I do right – this happened to me Friday night and I thank you Lord for forgiving me and melting my heart. I am STUNNED by what you have done for me, continually humbled and in awe of your Amazing Grace and love, so undeserved and unlimited. Thank you….