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Rembrandt_Older brotherHarmensz._van_Rijn_-_The_Return_of_the_Prodigal_Son_-_Detail_Spectators






New sisters are adding a sweet richness to our fellowship — so varied, and yet, we are one!

  • A bored stay-at-home mom in a one bedroom Chicago apartment who longs for more intimacy with God
  • A Presbyterian pastor from Ontario who says “Lent always humbles me to the core”
  • A grandmother in a cabin in the woods who loves time with God
  • A group of women from my church (GPC) including my dear friend Rachael, and Rebecca’s mother Lila, & sister-in-law Angela!
  • And so many more

So much gold — here’s just a few nuggets:

Deanna from Ohio called us:

A support group for idolaters…  🙂

Lori from The Colony, Texas wrote:
 In one day I can be all three — religious, irreligious and gospel!
Natalie @ GPC has a different plan to be with the Lord morning, noon and night because:
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…
Laurie from South Jersey wrote:

Each day I am both brothers. I wake up, read God’s Word and encounter the Savior. then I get up from my chair, start my day. throughout the day, I’m wandering away from the Father to my idols…   Oh how grateful I am that the Father loves both sons...

And then she shared this great link — watch it when you have a free four minutes!

Mellany, grasping the gold of the gospel and awestruck:

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

I could quote you all — but I’m so thankful for each of you, and for willingness to share the gold so that we can read more comments.
A chilling picture of an “older brother” is in Les Miserables.  Javert is the “officer of the law” mercilessly pursuing Jean Valjean, the man who was imprisoned for stealing bread. You can hear his song “Stars” sung here, by Russell Crowe, or read the opening lyrics in the following picture. See how sure he is that he is right:



There, out in the darkness, a fugitive running
Fallen from God, Fallen from grace
God be my witness, I never shall yield
Till we come face to face
Till we come face to face

He knows his way in the dark
Mine is the way of the Lord
Those who follow the path of the righteous
Shall have their reward
And if they fall, as Lucifer fell
The flame, the sword!…

Likewise, a beautiful picture of “younger brother lostness” and the gospel melting his heart occurs in the scene where the bishop shows Jean Valjean grace. Jean Valjean, his heart hardened by injustice, has now become a real criminal, for he has stolen from the bishop, who was so kind to him.


Watch — and see in this, a portrait of the gospel of God: Link


After this occurs, Jean Valjean is melted, and sings this song of conversion. Take it in, and let it melt your heart.

What we must see is that the gospel is the solution to every problem. If we are rebels running from God, holding onto control, our life will be filled with pain — and our only hope is to return in repentance to the Father, who will welcome us with open arms.

If we are older brothers (or as Keller put, “older brotherishistic!”) also holding onto control, and are not experiencing intimacy with God, but rather, loneliness and pain, our only hope is to return to the Father in repentance, and He will welcome up with open arms.


But then I began to feel anxious. How could I welcome each warmly? How could I watch over them? And even my helpers, I knew, were sensing it. I felt like a shepherd with so many sheep that many were in danger.



My symptoms that reveal my control idol were back: the stiff neck, the butterflies, the trouble sleeping. I cried out to God, reminding Him that He told me the gospel was the solution to every problem. So I asked Him the question I have learned to ask:

How is the gospel the solution to this problem?

He was just waiting for me to ask. His Spirit whispered: I love them. I laid down my life for them. You are not their shepherd. I AM the good shepherd. I know my sheep and they know me.

And so I felt free to make a change. Instead of posting all our comments, we would do them for our Lord in our secret place. But we would mine the gold and the questions to share with one another! And then Cyndi suggested:  PUT URGENT PRAYER REQUESTS IN CAPS.

The knots in my neck began to loosen. I posted the SOS, and you responded. You were relieved too! We love each other, we want to care for each other, but we are not THE GOOD SHEPHERD. He’ll watch over us. That’s the good news of the gospel.

Please believe me how glad I and sisters who have been here are to have you. Please don’t interpret this as not wanting you. Please stay and share the gold, we’ll all be richer. If nothing else, please share the Icebreaker and Take-A-Way!

Sunday/Monday: Icebreakers (There’s always gold to be mined here.)

1. Comment particularly on the picture of God you see in the Bishop in the short movie clip above. What sacrifice did the Bishop make — and why? When you put this into the realm of the gospel and you, how does this melt you? What parallels do you see with the father of Luke 15?

2. One huge red flag of “older brotherishness” is a lack of intimacy with God. This is a primary goal of this study — did you sense any growing intimacy with God last week? If so, share.

3. Have you gotten or made steps to get one of the extra reading books suggested last week? What have you done?

4. Did anything else stand out to you from the above — if so, comment.

Monday-Wednesday: Bible Study




We may not be older brothers, but we all have “older brotherishness” in our hearts, for the default mode of the human heart is to go back to earning our own righteousness instead of trusting His grace. We are motivated to do good things often, not out of a response to God’s love, but in attempt to earn His love, feel good about ourselves, or to look good, or to get something from God. This runs deep within us and we must be alert to the red flags so we can repent and run toward the arms of God. He is there, like the father in this story, waiting to embrace us.


If we think by being good God owes us a comfortable life, we will always be angry — either at God for not giving us what we think He owes us, or we will be mad at ourselves for not holding to the standards.

5. Read Luke 15: 25-32

A. Describe the scene in verses 25-27. How does this scene represent the gospel?

B. Find everything you can about the older brother in verse 28.

C. How does he describe his service for the father? (J. B. Phillips says, “I have slaved for you.)

D. What did the younger brother offer to become when he came home? Comment?

The following is excerpted from Tim Keller’s Gospel in Life:

RELIGION: I obey, therefore I am accepted.

GOSPEL: I am accepted, therefore I obey.


RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.

GOSPEL: I obey God to get God — to delight in Him and to resemble Him.


RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself since I believe anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.

GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle, but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while God may allow this for my training, He will exercise His Fatherly love within my trial.


6. Read the above contrasts carefully. In what areas do you lean toward religion instead of the gospel?

7. Think about a time when trouble came into your life. Did your reaction show any older brotherishness?


The older brother sees his service to his father, not as a joy, but as “slaving” for him. Though his father is overjoyed to have his brother home, he does not share in the joy, for he does not love the father. There is no gospel transformation, no gospel joy, no gospel excitement, and no beautiful intimacy with God.

The following is excerpted from Tim Keller’s Gospel in Life:
My prayer life consists largely of petition, and it only heats up when I am in time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.
My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with God.
8. Are you beginning to find God beautiful? What thoughts do you have on the above?
Because he does not know he is broken and poor, he disdains those that are. Jesus loved the broken, the prisoner, the “outsider,” and so should we.
9. How do you see the older brother’s disdain toward his younger brother? (Look carefully at verse 30)
Until we are truly humbled by our own sin, and overwhelmed by His grace, we will not be able to forgive others.

I have older brotherishness in me. What is the solution? Neither guilt nor fear works for long. What works is beholding the beauty of Jesus, and of what He did. That melts my icy heart and transforms me. That is why I want you to listen to the sermon “The True Older Brother” by Keller. Be sure to listen to the end, when you will be drawn by the beauty of our Lord. For then, the gospel can set you free.



he set me free




Listen to the following sermon: Link

10. Share your notes here from the sermon. Particularly share anything new and share what you learned about Jesus from the close.

Saturday (Mine for the gold)

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

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  1. 10. Share your notes here from the sermon. Particularly share anything new and share what you learned about Jesus from the close.

    There is nothing I can do wrong and nothing I can do right to separate me from or bring me closer to Jesus.

    Radical vulnerability = LOVE. Luke 10:27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

    Love like you mean it, Jesus does!

    humiliation (intensely knowing I am unworthy) and affirmation (being offered His grace in spite of myself) ……

    1. So thankful you made it safely! Praying for the women’s hearts, safety, your words–and for the next post 🙂
      Now, go enjoy that jacuzzi!

    2. Praying Dee…have a wonderful retreat!

    3. Good to hear you made it safe and sound to your snowy destination, Dee…glad that you heeded the Lord leading in leaving early. Have a wonderful retreat…enjoy the jacuzzi!

    4. Glad you made it safely, will continue to pray for you and the ladies at the retreat.

      Curious about the upcoming controversial post, I guess that means I can expect to be doing more pondering. Actually when I read that, something in me jumped with anticipation, like it is something that I have been waiting or needing to hear. I think I will have to start praying about Him preparing my heart and mind for next week’s topic.

      I trust that the retreat will go well.

    5. Dee,
      Glad you are safe in this storm; definitely the Lord’s leading you to go early. Will pray for the retreat.

  2. I have just listened to the sermon by Keller – powerful, insightful. I love that as he points out the 3 ‘signs’ of elder brother lostness we are not to judge those we think possess these characteristics instead we are to look in the mirror.

  3. Has anyone mentioned that Jean Valjean had to receive the candlesticks from the Bishop…the younger brother had to receive the restoration to being a “son” and not a “slave”. I can remember thinking upon my conversion that “this is too good to be true!” Amazing grace…

  4. Sorry, I guess I just got excited. I have been following for awhile but never commented. It just struck me that pride could have keep both Jean ValJean and the younger brother from the gift being freely given.

    1. We welcome you Deb & your excitement!
      The Gospel is such good news…’too good to be true’!

    2. welcome Deb…glad you came on aboard!!

  5. I am in the eye of this story with my children. I have a son that was very rebellious, got into drugs, alcohol, gambling. We had him in and out of rehab 3 times then did toughlove and kicked him out at age 18. He continued down his chosen path until he was incarcerated. Our contact with him varied until he discontinued contact three years ago. A year ago he recontacted us. He, lives out of state, is married with children, working, building a new life. We were invited to visit which we did. His third child was born a week ago and I was invited to be present at delivery, so significant repair to our relationship has happened. He arrived the next day so missed that but plan a trip to vist in 10 days. Meanwhile our grandson lives with us during the week so he can attend the high school of his choice. His mother is very unforgiving of her brother and refuses any type of contact. She has been complaining to others to about our trip and her having responsibility for her son. Much of this is repeated by her 12 yr old daughter. I am very angry. I WOULD ASK FOR PRAYERS FOR SITUATION, ESPECIALLY THESE KIDS WHO ARE LISTENING TO HER COMPLAINING.

    1. Sarah, I know your daughter was in a abusive marriage…maybe that’s why she is a unforgiving. I will pray for her and her children. I’m happy your son has reconnected with you.

    2. I will pray, Sarahsal… Children can hurt a parent in the deepest places of their heart…amazing grace…

    3. Definitely will pray.

    4. Praying Sarah for Gods fingerprints to be all over the time you will be with your son and his family, for real healing, love and reconciliation.
      For peace for trust that God is in control to grow in you, for peace about your daughters complaints and her spreading that to the children. If God is for you who can be against you? You are doing the right thing, trust that He will work everything together for good even though the road is difficult.
      Praying too for your daughters heart to soften toward her brother and his family.

    5. This is a difficult thing…it is wonderful that you are rebuilding your relationship with your son; praying for your daughter’s heart to be softened.

  6. I have not been posting my bible study answers online; I’ve been writing them in my journal…no “gold” nuggets significant enough to share I suppose. I wanted to give you a few updates:

    My daughter was diagnosed with gestational diabetes…she is 34 weeks into her pregnancy today. Preparations for the baby’s arrival are under way…April 3 is the due date…coming quick!

    Jay is being prepared for a bone marrow transplant using umbilical cord fluid. Tests are taking place to make sure that leukemia is not present in Jay’s bone marrow or spinal fluid; as soon as this is confirmed (hope and pray), the transplant will be underway. If there are leukemia cells present, this will present a huge obstacle; they will not be able to do any transplant procedure until Jay is in remission. Bridget and Travis opted to remain at Milwaukee’s Children’s Hospital for the procedure; there is familiarity with the medical staff which gives them comfort. When they were considering having the procedure done in MN, some of the Milwaukee doctors told them that they would continue to pray for Jay…how cool is that??

    I didn’t capitalize the updates as prayer requests; if you’d be willing to continue offering prayers, I would be most grateful.

    1. I will pray (your concern is capitalized through your words and that is enough):)

    2. I am thankful you updated us on Jay, how are Bridget and Travis holding up emotionally?

      Forgive me if you have shared this before, but is this your daughters first baby?

      Praying right now

      1. Praying along with Dee and everyone Nancy…some very tough things for you.

    3. Nanci–I wondered about Jay the other day. I will continue to pray and also for your daughter and the baby

    4. I will be praying for your daughter and the baby, and for little Jay! Thankful for good medical care.

    5. Thank you all for your continued prayers.

      This is our daughter’s first baby…she is unmarried, but still involved with the father. She is 20, he 18. For those of you unfamiliar with gestational diabetes, similar to diabetes only occurring during pregnancy, the body doesn’t process sugar properly. Gestational diabetes should end when the baby is born. She needs to be very conscious of her diet and exercise; she tests her blood four times a day to make sure she is staying within the levels desired. If left untreated, the baby could grow to an enormous size. Funny..I had gestational diabetes with her.

      When I last talked with Travis’ mom (last Saturday), she told me that Travis and Bridget were feeling really overwhelmed with all the decisions to be made. They were still uncertain last weekend whether they would go to MN or stay in Milwaukee for the transplant…we received a message Wednesday that they opted for Milwaukee and were in the midst of tests.

      For those of you interested in seeing a picture of Jay, check out:

      1. Oh Nanci…I just want to reach in to that photo and hug Jay! Thanks for sharing his sweet, sweet picture.

      2. Thanks nancy, it helps to put a face on my prayers and little Jay so so precious. How is his daddy’s cancer doing? They have really been hit with so much…praying for them.

  7. I forgot to mention, “The Prodigal God” is great…my book finally arrived!
    I’m thinking of family members to share copies of the book with…not in an accusatory way, but because they would relish the insight that Keller gives.
    From listening to the podcast sermons, much of what I have read thus far is familiar, but it is wonderful to have in written form for reference purposes.

  8. Dee, Thank you for letting us know you made it safely! Will continue to pray for good attendance despite the weather, and for ready hearts. You have my curiosity roused concerning the upcoming post.

    1. Dee-as you know that video stirred that passion in me..I almost wrote about it in my takeaway but didn’t want to give what was in the video away but I have been thinking about it since yesterday-I am awaiting this post with abated breath! I can’t help but remember that Jesus was always controversial-I think every word that came out of His mouth challenged the popular religious rules or teachings of the day. I will stop-enough said.. 🙂

        1. Dee,

          I thought it was okay either way really. Whether you took it off or kept it on-there were valid Grace reasons for both.

          You were full of Grace toward that teacher when you introduced the video-He is a godly man.(you have even mentioned often how you could go back and change some things you have written/taught for you have grown.) Every teacher experiences this growth as they cling to the cross. I am sure this teacher would welcome a differing view and perhaps a challenge to this.

          I know your heart and know your intention was to bring out a common ‘thought’ or expose a prevailing teaching in the church to get believers to examine the scriptures-the Gospel-Like Jesus did. Your desires line up with God’s-to keep us from being bound again by the law. I believe Paul had to address this with the church in Colossians.

    2. Dee, I guess I missed something…what post is controversial?

      1. Thanks for asking, Laura…I was wondering the same thing…

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

    That the Gospel is the solution to every problem-this is what stuck with me.

    I am asking God when issues arise, how can the Gospel be a solution to this?

    I can’t wait until Dee takes us deeper into this. I can’t wait for the controversial post next week. I know God will take me to another level of melting my heart and setting me free in areas I was once bound.

    1. Praying, Dee. God will provide. Maybe your need and weakness is precisely the thing that will touch someone’s heart.

    2. Will be praying, Dee!
      Father, please help Dee to rest in You…You have prepared her to speak and provided a restful stay at the hotel, safety from the storm. Please help this student be able to manage all the technical parts during this retreat. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    3. Oh Father, it comforts me to know this has not “caught You off guard” (just us!), so we surrender to Your plan, we trust You with this unexpected twist. We ask Father that Your peace would cover Dee, Your Truth flood out to these women and that Your Name be glorified in every detail. We look forward to hearing the report of Your work in this.In Your Name we pray~

    4. Dee, Will be praying-do you meet with this person at noon today? Will be covering you!

    5. Praying for wonderful technical proficiency of your student substitute…I wonder what your student substitute might be needing to hear from you or one of your retreat presentations, Dee…:)

  10. 6. Read the above contrasts carefully. In what areas do you lean toward religion instead of the gospel?

    I think I lean toward the thinking of “I obey, therefore I am accepted.” Now, I don’t believe that I’ve got to earn my salvation. Yet, on the flip side, when I do sin, either wilfully or without thinking, my default mode, immediate reaction is to feel unsure of my relationship with God. I will think things like “Is God mad at me now…unhappy with me…does He even like me…”
    It is so hard to FEEL loved and accepted by God when I’m covered with dirt-the dirt of my own sin-losing my temper, yelling, telling a lie, thinking mean thoughts about someone. So this proves that when I’m having a “pretty good” day in being a “good Christian”, I feel like God accepts me and approves of me, and when I have a “bad day”, I feel much less sure of His acceptance.
    Why, oh why, is it so HARD to get out of the performance based rut?

    So, this would be RELIGION: When I disobey, I lose God’s acceptance, and I’ve got to do something to get it back. GOSPEL: When I blow it, I am still accepted. I need to ask God for forgiveness, which He freely gives, and be grateful for His continual love.

    7. Think about a time when trouble came into your life. Did your reaction show any older brotherishness?

    Not in the sense that I thought that we deserved something better, but I was angry at God for allowing it to happen. I questioned His love for the person who died. I accused Him of not caring. But I think it is very hard to accept a tragic loss without working through the very tough questions that demand asking – is God good, does He love me even in this? I think there’s a difference between being an older brother and honestly lamenting – I’m thinking of Keller’s sermon on Heman’s Cry of Darkness, where the psalmist ends his psalm with the phrase “the darkness is my closest friend.”
    At least for me, coming to the place where I am able to meet God in the trial and to understand that the trial doesn’t mean He does not love me is a learning process. I learned a lot when walking through the grief, lessons I could not have learned otherwise.

  11. Holding the ladies of this blog up in prayer today. Wherever you are, Jesus goes before you,imagine him walking ahead of you in every step you take. He is also our rear guard, our protector. Keep asking, keep seeking. James says you have not because you ask not. ASK BIG- because our mountains are big, but our GOD is massive!!!

    11. Take-away this week
    Lord free me from the attitudes and selfish motivations of my heart, anything that doesn’t bring you honor and glory. Tenderize my heart (you may need a mallet) so I become a prodigal for you, devoted and committed, spent excessively, joining you wherever/whenever, no hesitation. Listening, watching as you lift the veil of my blindness. I remain at the foot of the cross, waiting. Amen

    1. Thanks for your prayer, Sherry. It reminds me of Psalm 23. He is my Shepherd and even when I walk through the valley of the shadow He is with me with his rod and staff to guide me. Therefore I will fear no evil.

    2. Thank you. I needed that prayer and reminder. You have a beautiful heart!

  12. 8. Are you beginning to find God beautiful? What thoughts do you have on the above?

    The mornings that I have spent contemplating Jesus through reading the book The Incomparable Christ have led me to praise Him and to admire Him in so many ways. One of the chapters examined His perfection in His character, and in summary, it concludes with “He is altogether lovely”. It helps me to have specific qualities about Him to reflect on and to praise. Scripture gives us a painting, in a way, of His character and qualities that come together in our minds, letting us “gaze” at Him and see His beauty.

    I think the connection with prayers of petition and attempting to control the environment is interesting. I have to think about this some more!

  13. 9. How do you see the older brother’s disdain toward his younger brother? (Look carefully at verse 30)

    He refers to his younger brother as “this son of yours”. Earlier in this passage, and as Keller pointed out in last week’s sermon, the older son doesn’t even address his father as his father, but says, “Look”, which Keller said was saying “Look, you…” His heart is so hard and closed that it’s like he has cut them off, disowned them. It makes it so much easier to be hard-hearted and unkind when we don’t use words like “my brother, my sister, my dad…” He was refusing to identify with them.

  14. Listening to older brother and he does all the right things but it is a grind there is no joy in it!!! Sometimes that is how I get when serving the Lord. It is a constant refocusing on Him and what He has done and how He loves me despite myself. That is why I have joy and I get to serve Him not have to serve Him. A shift of focus. This all pricked my heart.

    Obey to just get God. Gospel Believing. Contemplate His beauty.

    Praying Dee you will be quickened and strengthened for this retreat!!!

  15. It is a gross under-statement when I say there were a lot of good points in Keller’s sermon. However, the one that sort of inserted-the-knife for me was the one that, within our church, we don’t dare just “hobnob with those of our own ilk.” Ouch! Not that it is done consciously, but rather more subconsciously. It is so easy to do without thinking. I need that attitude adjustment! The next time I start saving seats at my table for a fellowship dinner, I had better ponder that again. Also Keller reinforced that the bad are lost, but so are the good. We are all lost, and Jesus came to save both –that puts us all on the same plane!

  16. 8. Are you beginning to find God beautiful? What thoughts do you have on the above?

    This is an area in which I really need to grow. If I was taught the importance of spending a lot of prayer time in worship, I definitely never “got it” or didn’t know how. Yes, I was taught to praise God and have tried. But mostly I was too conscious of what those around me were doing, and I was always guessing what they might think of me. Approval idol, pure and simple. How do I stop thinking about what others think and start focusing only on what God thinks? I do find it very refocusing to focus on His holiness and power. I find it very helpful to focus on God as Shepherd, Guide, Helper, and Counselor. This helps me get my eyes off of my problems and also my need to “fix” and “control” my circumstances.

    God has been answering my prayer to help me find Him beautiful. I awoke in the middle of the night a few nights ago and began praying through Psalm 23 – using first David’s word and then repraying them using my words. I had a blessed time of worship.

    Now today, I picked up a book that has been on my shelf waiting to be read. I do not even know where it came from. It is just right for Lent, about Jesus’s journey to the Cross. It is called “Contemplating the Cross” by Tricia McCary Rhodes. I have read the first part and it is praying through the Scriptures of Jesus’ last hours beginning at the Mount of Olives. She seems like a powerful writer. She suggests we journal prayers as we read. Thank you, Lord, for this book at this time. Thank you for letting me watch with you as you face your hours of agony.

  17. Krista & Diane–praying especially for your family today–for healing and peace

    1. Thanks, elizabeth. I would appreciate it if you would pray that Krista (and all of us) would be given a spirit of peace and a spirit of forgiveness toward Jeff and the family, no matter what their reaction. We need great wisdom how to proceed step by step during the seige with flaming arrows of the evil one assaulting. Pray also for the boys, who are now being deprived of Krista altogether. Pray that this separation of boys from mom will not last long.

      1. Diane–thank you so much for details–I am writing these specifics down to keep with me today–just so sorry for how long and difficult this trial has been for all of you, but so thankful Krista has you

        1. I found this blog entry from Paul Tripp very comforting.


        2. This is incredible Diane! Really hit home for me–sending it on to my husband too–thanks for posting

    2. Thank you Elizabeth. <3

  18. 1. He sacrificed being right, his pride, his treasures etc. because he knows if he can make Jean understand he is “lost”, there is hope Jean can be “found”.

    When I saw this scene in the theatres, I was not expecting that response from the Bishop. His unconditional love and sacrifice reminds me that when there is sin, someone has to pay. The Lord paid for my sin, and when I have run off with “my stuff” (aka my idols), He is still waiting for me, just like the Bishop, just like the father in Luke 15.

    2. I know I am at the beginning of a journey to be more in tune and connected to the Lord. To help me, because I am such a visual person, I printed off a picture of Him and put it on my fridge. This is what I see when I walk into my kitchen. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-OCfIxgjxLro/T3j2kjyj-yI/AAAAAAAAAmc/7fKlLAXeMlU/s1600/Jesus+passion.jpg Even though I know He is always with me, I can actually see Him now which helps me become more intimate. Yesterday, I spent half the day mentally battling a spirit of control. After praying on and off all day I was still holding onto the idol and I finally said “Lord I am surrendering this over to you. Please set me free from this.” By the beginning of the evening I started to feel this huge weight being lifted off my head. I can’t tell you how incredible it felt to be released from my thoughts.

    3. I read Idol Lies this week and when I finished the last chapter I saw there was a study guide in the back. Sweet! Thanks Dee, I heart surprises. I am working my way through the study guide and hope to also finish reading One Thousand Gifts.

    4. Lord, help me to be mindful of Tim Keller’s words. “We are all lost. Only people who know they are lost have any hope of being found. People who don’t think they are, are lost, lost, lost, lost, lost.”

  19. The struggle that I continue to have for years now(even tho I hate to admit it)is trying to be a “good” daughter-in-law to my mother-in-law. She is 85 and very opinionated and I find myself not wanting to have a conversation with her or even be around her because mostly she talks and everyone else listens. Because my husband and I have a very good marriage I try to go along to get along. We live in the same condo building so I have occasion to see her often which does not help my attitude. I pray about my sin of not handling this better. I ask your prayers also because as you can guess I really can’t talk to anyone except my sister about this.

    1. Annette, that sounds like a very hard situation…I’m praying for you.

  20. Praying for your speaking tonite, Dee, and the techie student who will be helping you!

  21. 10. Share your notes here from the sermon. Particularly share anything new and share what you learned about Jesus from the close.

    So I learned I’m not a very good Christian…..TK says if I were then I wouldn’t look down on the poor and say “…you brought that on yourself…” I guess I need to work on that 🙁

  22. I read this tonight in the kids’ Sally Lloyd Jones “Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing”. It’s too good not to share:
    “Close to His Heart” (p.94)
    Even when the shepherd finds his lost sheep it goes rushing all about — and the only way he can round it up is to seize it, hurl it to the ground, bind its legs, and throw it over his shoulders and carry it home.
    The poor sheep doesn’t understand. It thinks it’s being captured — killed!
    But the shepherd is saving its life.
    And sometimes we don’t understand what God is doing in our lives either. It may even look like God is hurting you.
    But you can trust your Shepherd, who loves you. He carries you close to his heart.

    “He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart.” Isaiah 40:11 (NLT)

    1. I love that image – thanks.

    2. Wonderful, Elizabeth…thanks much for sharing.

  23. All of this thinking about what a sinful person I am – has made me very sad indeed!

    1. I know what you mean Annette 🙁

    2. What’s cool about it, though, is that God sees perfection when He looks at you. You are covered by the blood of Christ. when the father from the parable looked at his son, he didn’t see his filthy clothes or his physical condition. He didn’t turn him away because he had betrayed him. He saw his beautiful son come home to him. He covered his rags with a beautiful robe. He restored his position in the household and made him clean. So, be encouraged, because we’re all sinners but God is crazy about us anyway. 🙂 <3

      1. Gospel in a nutshell–LOVE this Liz, and love your heart

      2. Beautiful, Liz. I need to walk in this today – God’s beautiful child instead of a burdened, ashamed sinner in rags.

      3. Our sin should humble us and make us feel deep sorrow, but then our focus can move from us and our sin to God and his Amazing Grace!

        “When we won’t let ourselves be held in the midst of our messes by God who loves us and made us, we miss the unspeakable joy of knowing that we are truly His beloved. –“Deborah Newman

        “When old companions, old lusts, and sins crowd in upon you, and when you feel that you are ready to sink, what can save you, sinking sinner ? This alone — I have a high priest in heaven, and he can support in the hour of affliction. This alone can give you peace—I have a high priest in heaven. When you are dying — when friends can do you no good — when sins rise up like spectres around your bed — what can give you peace ? This — “I have a high priest in heaven” “–Robert Murray M’Cheyne

        “We must hide our unholiness in the wounds of Christ as Moses hid himself in the cleft of the rock while the glory of God passed by. We must take refuge from God in God. Above all we must believe that God sees us perfect in His Son while He disciplines and chastens and purges us that we may be partakers of His holiness” (The Knowledge of the Holy, 107) A. W. Tozer

        “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”
        Thomas Watson: (The Doctrine of Repentance)

        1. Thanks so much ladies, I really needed that.

  24. 10. Share your notes here from the sermon.

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

    I have been pondering again, so my answer to both is in one post. I have listened to the sermon 3 times, the first time I took notes, the second I just sat and listened and today I needed to decompress so I walked home from work (about an hour walk) and listened again while walking. There was something that I started to wonder about from the message (even though Keller doesn’t specifically say it) about resting. Perhaps it was something Cyndi said that tweaked something and then I read into the message, but I was pondering. The older brother appeared to be busy, busy working, Keller did refer to this when he commented on working for ones salvation, the younger son on the other hand came to his senses and while willing to work for his salvation, his father just wanted to celebrate.

    I started wondering about what I do or do not do, I do alot of working, when I am not doing something and just sitting I feel guilty that I shouldn’t be just sitting I should be doing something. I will admit to being weary these days (not because I was walking home) I wonder if I am doing too much, am I trying to work out my salvation rather than just resting in it? I get home and try to sit at my computer, do the questions, read my bible, contemplate and add my answers into my word document, read all the posts, perhaps answer a couple, sometimes I am so tired I having trouble doing that, but I committed so I push myself to doing at least something. After listening the first time, I started to wonder if my “doing” was really working out my salvation, but in a way that I saw it as honoring, so wasn’t seeing that it was working. I started to wonder about the duty vs beauty thing Keller mentioned and on my way home I was walking past trees, plants, a river, but all were not busy, the trees and plants are resting for the winter, the river was frozen over so not “active”, it too looked like it was resting. The clouds in the sky were just starting to get ready for sunset,so they were still white and grey, not the wonderful colors they would be within an hour. I felt like I was being told that rest was important, not just a good nights sleep but rest, rest in His presence, who He is. I felt I was being told that I didn’t have to work at getting closer to Him, if I rested I might find that He is right there to lean against. I am broken (so I see my need for my saviour), but I also can be prideful and self-important(when I work for my acceptance), I can be both on the same day. One thing I did pick up from Keller is that my salvation is my acceptance and I don’t need to earn any more of it.

    I guess my pondering went on a bit longer than I thought it would…sorry 🙂

    1. Mary,
      We did a week on Sabbath rest awhile back that fits so well with your pondering, the sermon was as usual, wonderful.
      Here is the link:

      and here is an article by Keller on the same topic:

    2. Mary, these are wonderful thoughts you have posted…about resting…about feeling guilty when not doing…I find that I can get rather dogmatic about getting every last question done on here, feeling anxious when I don’t.
      Love your tying-in what you observed in nature on your walk home.


    I am not sure why or how, but it seems as if Jesus is melting my daughters heart this past week. She has asked me to do several things with her; go to a movie, take her to the Newport mansion tours, and now she wants to go skiing on our vacation week. All very odd to say the least! She NEVER wants to do family things anymore. It is really nice. Thank you Lord.


    My son’s troubles with the court are all over. Of course we helped him with money that we didn’t have, however the actual 3 misdemeanor charges he was facing were dropped. Although I am happy for this, I wonder if he has learned a lesson or not? PRAYER REQUEST: please pray that my son John learned a lesson with this trouble and doesn’t go repeat the same actions again. Thank you Lord for being right there with him all along, helping us help him. Please Lord help your son John strive to be the best adult he can be with you in the core of his heart.

    1. Laura-Dancer, YEAH!!!!!!! Praise God! 🙂

    2. That’s great, Laura. Thank you, Lord, continue to work in her children’s lives.

    3. So glad for you Laura! Praying for the vacation to be a rich time together.

    4. These are good things to rejoice in, Laura! I hope and pray you and Sarah can build your relationship and be closer!

    5. That is wonderful, thank God!

    6. wonderful Laura-dancer!

    7. Praise the Lord, indeed…yippee! I will pray for John and future wisdom.

    8. Wonderful about Sarah!! Praying for John also.

  26. Krista…you have been on my mind and in my heart…I was going to mention this to you previously, but let it get away from me…Midday Connection has had Jennifer Degler on a couple times talking about emotional and verbal abuse…please take a listen…I think the podcasts might be helpful to you.

    1. Thank you. Feeling a bit overwhelmed today. I definitely need to rest in His Word.

    2. Thanks, Nanci. I have already heard these, but I need to listen to them again to remind myself that what Jeff is doing is wrong, even though it seems Jeff’s family are saying Krista is to blame.

  27. News received this morning…:)

    We could not be more delighted to be able to share some kernels of good news!
    Jay’s spinal fluid is clear of cancer. His PET scan also shows no cancer. Hip, Hip, Hooray! Now we are just waiting to hear back on the bone marrow. More details to follow next week.We thank you for kicking that love and hope into high gear for us! Keep up the good work! 🙂
    Yours in love and hope,
    Travis, Bridget and Jay

    1. Praise the Lord!

    2. Wonderful news!

    3. oh Nanci this is such a joy to hear! Will continue to pray for the bone marrow test results

    4. Hooray! Thanks for the good news!

      1. God is so good. 🙂

    5. Thank you Jesus 🙂

  28. 10. Share your notes here from the sermon. Particularly share anything new and share what you learned about Jesus from the close.

    This quote from Richard Loveless caught my attention:
    “People who are no longer sure that God loves and accepts them in Jesus Christ apart from their present spiritual achievements are subconsciously radically insecure persons.”
    The quote went on, but this first part helped me answer what I see in myself from an earlier question. I think I must have an insecure nature that keeps me forever questioning whether God really loves me, accepts me, or not. Now I have something specific I can go to God about in prayer.

    What I learned about Jesus is he speaks plainly to His enemies, tells them what they are, yet He is tender with them, pleading with them to receive grace.
    Yet Keller reminds us that we all were His enemies at one time! The Cross tells us that “You are so messed-up, lost, and hopeless, nothing less than the death of the Son of God can save you.”
    But, at the same time, Jesus is saying, from the Cross, “I’m glad to do it.”

    Jesus, the “ultimate insider”, was thrown out as far as He could possibly go, so that we, who were outsiders, could be taken in.

    I am so thankful that Jesus is my True Older Brother – leaving His home to address the pain in His Father’s heart over me, to come and find me and bring me home. Like a True Older Brother, He looks out for me, protects me from myself and from those who would hurt me, is loyal and faithful and loves me no matter what.

  29. 11. What is your take-away and why?

    Last week Dee posted the full image of Rembrandt’s painting. The first thing I saw on this week’s post was the close-up of the younger son with his head resting against his father, and the father’s hands. That’s what I want to “take-away”.
    Last week I reflected on one of the things I fear the most – being known; a fear of being found-out, of not really belonging. I believe Satan fuels that fear.
    I want to be drawn ever closer into the embrace of the Father. Only those hands resting upon me will dispel the deep inner insecurity I have. I want to reflect on what Jesus says to me through His parable, especially what He says is the Father’s heart towards me.

  30. 11. What is your take-a-way and why?

    I remember hearing this story as a teenager and identifying my sister as the ‘younger brother’ and myself as the older—although I’m the youngest, it fit well, she was the rebel and I was the ‘rule-follower’. But for years I missed the sin in my older-brother status. By His grace, He has shown me my sin of self-righteousness, and it’s incredible to me that now I long to be more ‘younger-brotherish’. Not in rebelling, but in recognizing the rebellion was already there—to allow the truth to break me, to cause me to say “What Have I done, Sweet Jesus?” and run into His arms.
    This week we’ve all commented on how we see ourselves—but the beautiful truth impacting me today is that while we have been older brothers, younger brothers, who we are, are chosen brothers. We are, as John called himself, “the one Jesus loves”. That new identity not only melts me in this moment but makes me smile—it gives me an anchor of hope to cling to—we cannot forget who we are now, because of Christ.

  31. Can I get someone to help me find the eight Tim Keller sermons Dee suggested at the beginnng of lent? I’ve looked everywhere 🙁

    1. Laura-this is the link to the list of all his free sermons, then Dee said to look for the 8 that are on Luke 15 (The Scripture is listed by the title). Try this and let me know–otherwise I can give you direct links to each:

      1. Thanks Elizabeth!

    2. Laura-dancer–I did post all the individual links right after I gave you this one, but I see that post is still “awaiting moderation”–hopefully it will show up soon!

  32. My takeaway: From the sermon-not to look at older brother/younger brother characteristics in others to judge them, but to look for them in myself and in my relationship to God. Identifying them in others can help me to sympathize with them and come alongside them and walk the path to the Father with them.

    From the parable-The father used 2 different methods to reach his sons. One son he let go and waited for him to return. While he did run out to meet the son, it was only after the son decided to return. In the other son case, he went out to find him, spoke with him and tried to coax him back with love and reason.

    Sidenote: anyone who has ever lost a dearly loved one will have no trouble imagining the joy of the father when the child that he thought was dead returned.

    1. Dawn–your insights -not to judge, but go towards empathy, and the 2 different approaches of the father-met me right where I am today in regards to a particular situation–thank you

  33. I need to list two take-aways this week. The first one is that I learned some things about myself of which I am not proud. I have been familiar with the parable of the Prodigal Son for decades, and have always sort of identified more with the older brother. However it was for different reasons. Keller’s description of being “older brother-ishtic” was a shock, and left me feeling self-condemnation. Thankfully I can be freed from this guilt by the grace of our Lord Jesus, now that I am confronted by my sin and can repent. The problem was that I was not aware of many of my “older brother antics” until now.

    The second take-away was the result of so many prayers by participants in this blog. Several of our “sisters” have reported that their life-situations and/or relationships have improved during this past week. Praise the Lord! The power of prayer is always so refreshing! It is a joy to be on this journey with all of you.

  34. I just read the Scotty Smith prayer for today–it fits with my take-away thoughts above “A Prayer about Jesus’ Shameless, Irrepressible Love for Us”

    Here’s an excerpt:
    We freely cry, “Abba, Father,” because you first cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). You took all the guilt and all the shame of our sin on the cross. I really do believe this. I really want to experience it more fully.
    Because God has placed us in you, we are now “of the same family.” What more could we possibly want in this life and the life to come? And you’re the only one who can make us holy, for you are our wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, our holiness, and our redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). What peace, what transcendent and everlasting peace this brings to our hearts.

  35. My take-away…

    Keller says that the eldest brother has underlying anger; when things don’t go his way he gets angry…he judges and is critical of others…he wants the father not for love of the father, but for what the father can provide him.
    I have a bit of each of those traits…I’m ashamed to say. I don’t like it when things don’t go my way (I don’t think I have underlying anger though, just high expectations), I have a tendency to be critical and judge others without full knowledge of circumstances, and although I desire to love God for God and not for the blessings He bestows, I question if the love in my heart is truly pure and with no conditions? Praise God that He continues to work in transforming my heart…I am most definitely a work in progress.

    1. From “The Prodigal God” (page 75)…
      “How can you tell if He is working on you now? If you begin to sense your lostness and find yourself wanting to escape it, you should realize that that desire is not something you could have generated on your own. such a process requires Help, and if it is happening it is a good indication that He is even now at your side.”

  36. 10. Share your notes here from the sermon. Particularly share anything new and share what you learned about Jesus from the close.

    I have listened to the sermon twice and need to listen to it again. There are many older brother characteristic tendencies in me so I need to drill much of what Keller said deep into my heart. I especially appreciated what he said about compassion for the poor and broken, as well as how we should not look for older brotherishness in others but only in ourselves. Don’t we do that so readily? We say, “So and so really needs to hear this sermon”, while we do not see the plank in our own eye.

    Saturday (Mine for the gold)
    11. What is your take-a-way and why?

    There was so much good in my studies this week – in Dee’s study, in Keller’s sermon, in the book I am reading called “Spiritual Depression”, and my Lenten book called “Contemplating the Cross”. I really am getting the sense that God is walking with me in this painful path I am walking, because He knows all about it, and is and has walked the path of pain and grief as well. He feels my pain, as I am, in small part, feeling His this Lenten season.

    Man of Sorrows
    what a name, for the Son of God who came
    Ruined sinners to reclaim
    What a Savior!

    1. Diane, when I read the last of your post I thought you were referencing Laura Story’s song, “What a Savior” and had to check the lyrics…you weren’t, but they are lovely lyrics and similar…:)

      “Atoning Sacrifice, keeper of this life
      Hallelujah, You are Savior
      Beginning and the end, forgiver of my sin
      By Your mercy, You have saved us

      You are the shepherd King, You lead us by still waters
      Hallelujah, You are Savior
      You are our only hope, Your kindness is my friend
      In Your presence, You restore us

      You are the way, the truth and the life
      You are my joy and my salvation
      Stood in my place, taking my shame
      Upon Your shoulders

      Jesus, You are stronger,
      more than any other
      Hallelujah, what a Savior
      Jesus, You are higher, my soul’s deepest desire
      Hallelujah, You are Savior”

    1. Good to hear that all went well. Welcome home…

  37. I have loved this thought provoking post and I have left the painting up to meditate on all week. I have sensed The Lord speaking to me about my sons, reassuring me as I surrender them to Him.
    My take away is a glorious place in the gospel between these two sons. A place of wild abandon to a loving father, far from the liscencious son and the ridgid rule keeping son. I want to be the child who utterly adores her father and is completely dependent on him. If I stray to one side or the other I would rather it not be into older brotherishness and I am on the hunt for it in my life. The path of the younger son is the one I took and many more may take that leads to the Father, but who can abide the path of the older? It drives others away from God.

    1. “but who can abide the path of the older? It drives others away from God.”

      This will stick with me Anne, thank you for it.

      1. Me too Chris. This post has changed me.

        I like the end of posts where I feel a little freer to talk. Outside of my window there is a stand of tall and straight pines. Through them and far on the other side there is one tree with its bough going up but it’s trunk is crooked. I can see that it grew crooked and then straightened several times in its life. Often I think how like that tree my life is and now is one of those times.

  38. This has been a traveling and settling in week for us, so I have only just caught up with the posts and listened to Tim Keller’s sermon tonight. I am glad to hear Dee’s retreat went well, and to read the positive report about little Jay.

    So many good things have been said already about the Keller sermon. What stood out to me: the tie-in that was made between the tender patience of Christ towards those who would later crucify him, and the scripture that tells us that while we were still sinners (His enemies), Christ died for us. And to paraphrase – the cross says, “you are so messed up, this is the only way to save you…and I (Jesus) am glad to do it.”

    My take-away for this week: The clip of the Bishop has stayed with me – his over-the-top, “you forgot the candlesticks” grace, and how it reflects the heart of the Father. It isn’t based upon performance or merit. When I find myself unable to accept others (or myself) for lack of meeting certain standards, I have to get re-oriented to God’s heart. After this week, it’s easier to spot those tendencies and take them to Him.

  39. Krista, Nancy posted a couple good programs on emotional abuse…this is very good also. Praying for you. http://youtu.be/8DALomrGkHg

    1. This is a good video on emotional abuse, brief but pulls no punches. Thanks for giving us this, Joyce.

  40. My take away, I want to be seeking to examine my heart to see my sin the separation it brings and be quick to repent, not to indulge in it until I am in desperate need of rescue, or even more frightening to be like the older brother and be blind to it, proudly believing it is virtue even.
I want to love the Father, to listen to Him, to trust His love, to see that every good and perfect gift comes from Him, He gives them to me to be rightly enjoyed with thanksgiving, not as something for me to find the satisfaction and meaning in that can only come from Him.
    My discipline of getting up early, I forget to set the clock as I go to bed, but He has been waking me up sometimes at precisely 5:30, with thoughts of Him filling my head, so yes, I am sensing more intimacy with God.
    I think I tend to look for too big a thing when I am asked that question. I over look the intimacy I do have thinking that isn’t what is meant. When I dwell on God, on Christ, when I have a moment when I feel he has brought me to understand some truth, when I am filled with the beauty of creation, when thankful for warm showers, when I thank God for my husband as I pick up his socks left in the living room, isn’t that intimacy with Him?

  41. Oh my goodness, I am the older brother in my heart in so many ways.
    I am a little late starting this bible study but with the snow storm I took the gift of time and did the first two weeks Saturday afternoon. In the last day God has revealed my hidden sins that keep me as an older brother. I took some time to create a mental picture (I am extremely visual) of Jesus Christ begging me to give those sins to Him so He can give me the forgiveness I do not deserve. Tim Keller’s words. “We are all lost. Only people who know they are lost have any hope of being found.” Thank you Jesus for pointing out where I am lost. I pray my heart will melt in those areas and I can lose my older brotherishistic. This year I gave up sugar for Lent. I now plan to reflect on my mental picture of Jesus pleading with me to give up my stronghold of older brotherishistic each time I am tempted to turn to sugar and will turn to Him.