Type and press Enter.

New here? See how to Get Started

LOVE SONGS FOR RECOVERING IDOLATERS

photolibrary_rf_photo_of_sleepless_woman_in_bed

 

Our own Elizabeth wrote:

I have noticed lately how often I lay in bed at the end of the day and feel guilt. Over words said or left unsaid. Actions I could have taken but didn’t, others I regret taking. But the Gospel has washed away all guilt. Perfect love casts out all fear. I have not only been pardoned, but have been given the gift, a new identity. I am no longer a guilty child, but beloved, though broken, I am His beloved.

he_loves_me_not_by_roxanne_jasmineThis is gospel transformation happening. This is intimacy with God. This is God singing “love songs” to Elizabeth in the night.

Yet Elizabeth would be just as quick to tell you that it is elusive. The gospel is such amazing news that we believe it, and then we don’t. We are like a woman picking petals of a daisy, saying, “He loves me. He loves me not.”

At the end of one message we heard on Job this last Lent, Tim Keller astonishingly says: “My main problem is that I don’t really believe to the core that God loves me.” We look at our lives, our “failing Lents,” and see darkness and think, How could He love me? And when we doubt His love, we feel naked, and want to cover ourselves somehow, so we go back to works righteousness, finding our identity in our success in our ministry, mothering, or marriage. Or we go running to our idols, trying to take the pain away.

In a conversation I had with a good friend named Machelle this week, she said, “Rules are a quick fix — the gospel takes a lifetime.”

In another conversation with a woman who has just been through Idol Lies she said, “We see our idols now — but  we all want a formula to solve it!” Oh — so true — we want a formula, a quick fix. But the gospel takes a lifetime.

The one thing we can do is behold Christ and His great love, for beholding is becoming. Being in awe of Christ melts our hearts and helps us trust His love. This week we will behold some of the “love songs,” in Isaiah.

Sunday/Monday: Ice-breaker

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

2. What idol are you running to now most frequently? What is it that you doubt about Christ that keeps you running to this idol?

BIBLE STUDY: MONDAY-WEDNESDAY (Take two or three questions a day.)

He uses every earthly picture of intimacy that we know, and says that He loves us better. He is the Friend who is closer than a brother, He is the Husband who will never forsake us, He is the Father who stands with open arms, and He is the Mother who cannot forget her baby.

 

isaiah-49-15

 

            Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the 

child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!         

 Isaiah 49:14-16 (NIV)

When Johnny was two, he unlocked the door and got outside. We lived on a lake and it was early morning. I ran all over the neighborhood in my nightgown, pounding on doors, asking them to help me, crying, praying, scanning the lake, and falling in a thankful heap when a neighbor  brought him home on his shoulders. When Johnny was six and some older boys held him underwater at the pool, I became a lionness, charging them, tearing at them.

To think, God loves me more than that.

3. If you are a mother, or have a child in your life to whom you feel knit, share a time when you were ready to do anything to rescue him, no matter how embarrassing or how dangerous. Or when a parent did the same for you.

4. Read Isaiah 49:13-16

     A. In verse 13, what does the Lord tell all of creation to do and why?

     B. In verse 14, how are God’s people feeling?

     C. What word picture is painted in verse 15? What spiritual, physical, and emotional factors make it difficult for a mother to forget her nursing baby?

     D. In the end of verse 14, who may forget — and who will never forget? What does this mean to you.

Isaiah45-15-16


         E. Why, according to verse 16, will God not forget us? Can you see the gospel in this? Explain.

 

For your Maker is your husband

Isaiah 54:5

Many of our bloggers have been forsaken by a husband.  There is no greater earthly picture of intimacy than marriage, and therefore enormous pain (which God shows he understands in Malachi) than being forsaken by a spouse. But we have One who will never leave us or forsake us.

In the following picture, we have an earthly image of a young bride who felt the reproach of being abandoned. This echoes Hosea where God does have Hosea withdraw from Gomer for a period to bring her to her senses. God does discipline us for our good, but only for a season. He will always be waiting with open arms. For He is our husband, one who will never break his vows.

6. Read Isaiah 54:4-8

    A. What negative emotions is God going to wipe away, according to verse 4?

    B. How does He identify Himself in verse 5? (Was there ever a husband like this?)

    C. Describe his emotions toward us in verses 6 through 8?

    D. How do you see both the truth and mercy of the gospel in this passage?

    E. In what ways do you need to repent before Him? Write them here and let him have compassion on you.

bruised-reed-he-will-not-break

A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

Isaiah 42:3

I have told this story in The God of All Comfort, so I will summarize it. My eldest son, J. R. and his girlfriend, Diane, led my mother to Christ the Easter that she was 93. The following September she seemed to be close to death. I asked the Lord to allow me to be with her when it happened. Amazingly, I was. It was three in the morning when I arrived, taking the baton from my sister Sally, who had been at her side. Mother was suffering. Terribly. I couldn’t handle it. I was pacing, crying out to God. I told Him, “Steve was strong in the faith, he could take this, but my little mother is just four months old in the faith. You said, “a bruised reed you would not break.” At five in the morning, Fran, a Christian nurse came in. She was supposed in at six, but God woke her up and told her to come. I lamented to her and said, “I don’t understand why God is putting her through this.”

Fran assessed the situation and said, “Your mother is afraid to die.”

“No! She’s a Christian now. She knows she’s forgiven.”

“We all have our doubts — and she’s just a baby.”

Fran leaned down next to my mother and repeated the truth of the gospel to her. “Mrs Brown. Don’t be afraid. Your sin has been paid in full. Jesus is waiting for you with open arms.”

Suddenly my mother looked up, smiled, and was gone.

What solved her problem? The Gospel.

7. Read Isaiah 42:3

I’ve often wondered where the saying, “God will not give you more than you can bear” came from. I think this is it. He knows our frame, He know what we can take, and He is filled with compassion. How does this minister to you right now?

Isaiah 1-18

  Luci Shaw once told me of this verse, “It’s for the left-brained person (Come, let us reason together) and the right-brained (A word picture: Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”) We all need to drum the gospel into our hearts.

Steve and I sent this verse out our first Christmas as Christians. We offended people, for they didn’t think “their sins were as scarlet.”

Part of the solution to our problems is realizing how sinful and helpless we are. We are more depraved than we could imagine.

Yet — more loved than we dared hope.”

8. How might this aspect of the gospel help you today?

Thursday-Friday: Sermon: Link

9. What are your notes?

Saturday:

10. What’s your take-a-way and why?

Leave a Comment

Comment * If this is your first time here, please comment then fill out your name and email as stated at the bottom. Dee will approve you within 24 hours.

308 comments

  1. A. In verse 13, what does the Lord tell all of creation to do and why?
    Shout, rejoice, sing, praise, Because the Lord has compassion and comforts his people.

    B. In verse 14, how are God’s people feeling?
    Forsaken, forgotten, unloved

    C. What word picture is painted in verse 15?
    The feelings that a mother has for her nursing baby.

    What spiritual, physical, and emotional factors make it difficult for a mother to forget her nursing baby?
    You are bonded with them, you’ve carried them in your body for nine months, they are a part of your heart. Every little sound that they make perks your ears up. When nursing your body get extremely uncomfortable when it’s time for a feeding so it’s impossible to forget that you have a baby. You are distressed when they are in pain and crying.

    D. In the end of verse 14, who may forget — and who will never forget? What does this mean to you.
    A mother may forget (although I imagine it could only be through drugs or a brain injury). God will never forget.
    It shows me that I am continually on his mind, that we are knitted together in a unique way that can only be between the two of us.

    1. Dawn your answer to C started me thinking about nursing, how painful it is as a nursing mother when the time to feed your baby is overdue, it is painful! And when the baby cries, the milk begins to flow.
      It made me think of Job, how God would ‘long for the creature His hands had made’.
      How good God is.

      I read Frankenstein when it was the Midday Connection book club selection. I will never forget the contrast of how when Dr Frankenstein’s creature wasn’t pleasing to his creator he had no pity on the monster instead he hated and tried to destroy him, against God’s incredible efforts to restore relationship with us His disappointing creatures. This image has really stuck with me.

  2. 4. Read Isaiah 49:13-16

    A. In verse 13, what does the Lord tell all of creation to do and why? – He tells us to shout for joy, rejoice and burst into song because He comforts his people and comforts the afflicted ones. Oh how appropriate this verse is to all of us who are heart-broken and saddened after the bombings in Boston. Thank you Lord for being our comfort, our peace our protector.

    B. In verse 14, how are God’s people feeling? – They are feeling alone, forgotten, helpless.

    C. What word picture is painted in verse 15? What spiritual, physical, and emotional factors make it difficult for a mother to forget her nursing baby? – A mother being intimate with her baby and connecting as one while giving them the physical food they need to grow. The miracle of God’s creation that we carried for Him until delivery, the connection from joy of the first kick to the pain of child-birth and the happiness of seeing the tiny little child of God coming into this world are all things would not allow a Mother to forget her child. Just recently I witnessed this very miracle of God when Logan was born. Words cannot express the feelings that came over me when see this tiny little creation of God being born into this world. What an amazing gift from God his little children are.

    D. In the end of verse 14, who may forget — and who will never forget? What does this mean to you. – We as earthly parents may forget the miracle of a child being born to us but our Heavenly Father will forever remember His creation.

  3. E. Why, according to verse 16, will God not forget us? Can you see the gospel in this? Explain. – Jesus has engraved us on his palms. To me this brings the picture of the hole where the nails were driven into his hands hanging on the cross. How painful that must have been but yet, He did it to fulfill His Fathers plan for us and the world. Why do we still doubt is love and protection with the sacrifice he made in our name.

    1. Thanks, Joyce, it works like a charm!

    2. Thank you, Joyce!

  4. 6. Read Isaiah 54: 4-8
    A. What negative emotions is God going to wipe away? Shame, humiliation, reproach

    B. How does He identify Himself in verse 5? (Was there ever a husband like this?)
    our Maker, husband, redeemer. No, there never has been a husband who can love so
    unconditionally as God.

    C. Describe his emotions toward us in verses 6 – 8? “The Lord will call you back” makes me
    think of forgiving, reconcilling. He did abandon Israel for “a brief moment”. Sometimes,
    enough is enough. It is hard love to allow someone to go their own way. But then he had
    compassion for them. He was angry but then showed kindness.

    D. How do you see both the truth and mercy of the gospel in this passage? The truth is that
    I deserve to be separated from God. I’ve turned my back on Him. I’ve thought of Him as a
    hard God who must have everything right in order to love and forgive. But the mercy is
    that He never gave up on me. He woos me back to Himself and even though I do suffer the
    consequences of my disobedience, He does not let me suffer for long. He restores.

    E. In what ways do you need to repent before Him? For so often having a hard, critical
    spirit towards others. For doubting His goodness and His care. For doubting that He will
    keep His promises. For giving up on others when He never has given up on me.

    1. So good, Jill “For giving up on others when He never has given up on me.”

  5. 3. I had a son with cystic fibrosis, he was in and out of the hospital from the age of 1 when he was diagnosed. His life was pretty normal, he attended school, loved going to college basketball with his dad, we took family vacations. When he was 9 his health deteriated, he was hospitalized and we were told that he was near death. He rallied and he came home. We had 3 more good months before he became worse. We had daughters 5 & 11 who had to be watched by family and friends isolated from me. I would be at the hospital. One day the dietician came in and was harping about his eating. I think “this is so stupid”. He’s dying who cares if he eats a piece of candy. My mother bear took over and I decided I was going to take him home to die. I told his pediatrician that I wanted to take him home and so he discharged him. This was before hospice and home health. I just couldn’t stand any more…..nurses from the hospital would come by, family and friends helped, our girls got to see their brother. We had a wonderful peaceful week before Rod’s went to heaven. Our family was together which helped us grieve together. I think back now and wonder where that assertive demanding mom came from. I am thankful God gave me the courage.

    1. Wow, Sarah, how much courage that took!! I think I know where that assertive mother got her courage. I think it is possible that God wanted you to have that time together, and He gave you the nudge to speak up at just the right time. It should give you great peace today to look back on it all with the conviction that you did the right thing. Your post touched me deeply!

    2. Oh Sarah, what an incredible story of strength and motherly courage! I cannot imagine the emotion that you were feeling…thank you for sharing this story (so personal and so holy)! I believe that assertive stance was God infused! So sweet that you had that time and you protected it with everything in your power! Amazing and beautiful!

    3. Sarahsal,

      Your story brought me to tears-seeing your dedication and deep compassion as a mom leading you to do anything to rescue your son, and your love for him-how deeply painful this was and I am sure still is. Beautiful story.

    4. Oh Sarah thank you for sharing this with us. I am thankful God gave you the courage too, without hospice taking on his care must have been so frightening.
      What a gift to your son husband and daughters, to be together at such a time.
      I wonder if the loss of your sister in law, brings the pain of losing your son back to the surface?
      Hugs to you sister

      1. Actually my sister in law died on what would have been my son’s birthday. She had never meant him. He was named for my brother, who she married 4 yrs. after his death. It was one of those things that they would talk about…how much she wished she had known him. Then she arrived in heaven to dance at his birthday! What beauty in God’s providence we live.

    5. Sarah, that is so heartbreaking. I’m so sorry.
      Isn’t it incredible how our mother nature kicks in?

  6. Read Isaiah 42:3 – A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
    In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

    How does this minister to you right now?

    I just keep seeing the words “bruised and smoldering”…

    “Bruised” meaning injured

    “Smoldering” means to burn sluggishly, without flame and with much smoke

    As I think about these two words and their definitions…the verse becomes more personal to me. The injured He will not break…the one burning sluggishly He will not snuff out. What wondrous words for the struggles of life. I think so many of us can associate with these analogies, bruising and smoldering.

    It just helps me to see that God sympathizes with us in our brokenness. The connection to “justice” is also interesting to me. In reference to the bruising and smoldering He addresses the issue of justice. His message was about bringing justice to a world of injustice. While at the same time speaking to those who are “bruised” (as a result), His words are comforting, His touch is gentle and healing. He reminds us of His faithfulness (in the midst of injustice). I think that (as much as anything) depicts His comfort too…AGAIN (Just as Isa. 54 describes), He does not forget us!

  7. “We are more depraved than we could imagine.” “ Yet — more loved than we dared hope.”

    8. How might this aspect of the gospel help you today? I think it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that because we are not doing the “big” stuff (in regard to sin)….we have a less depraved nature! This couldn’t be farther from the truth. “We all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”…that means that (even though sometimes based on our conditions we have these “unspoken” categories) in actuality, we ALL (in the natural flesh) are depraved.

    However, the next line “Yet – more loved than we dared hope”…this makes my mind spin! If I sit and really think about this it throws a devastating blow to pride. Pride is pummeled with this thought (Initially, we bring nothing to the equation but a sin nature and yet- find ourselves loved more than we dared hope)…is there really any room for pride between those two statements? Wow, this is challenging and convicting….

    The connecting bridge between those two phrases is mercy and grace…not pride and self achievement….

    1. Rhonda I agree with your depravity thoughts. I have often wondered if God were to stop “leading us not into temptation” what our lives would look like. I am so grateful that He ‘orders my steps’.

      1. Me too….what a great point! I have never considered that before…

  8. 3. If you are a mother, or have a child in your life to whom you feel knit, share a time when you were ready to do anything to rescue him, no matter how embarrassing or how dangerous. Or when a parent did the same for you.

    When Eli didn’t come home from school. He always calls when he is going to stay after but this time he didn’t which is uncharacteristic of him. I was frantically looking all over for him for an hour. Flashes of him being abducted and suffering ran through my mind as I looked. When I drove home from his school after being told he wasn’t there and not knowing where else to look I was getting ready to call the police, but God calmed me reassuring me- He is okay, you will find him. So I went back to his school and looked in a different section of the school. I finally found him in the gym at play practice. He didn’t sign up but was asked to go and watch his friends practice. I wasn’t mad one iota-when I saw him it was a wave of happiness/thankfulness. I wanted to run to him and hug him and cry but I knew he would be embarrassed in front of his peers so I had to hold back. 😉 The principal was the one who went with me to look in the gym and I was a bit embarrassed because I was frantic-but I didn’t care what he thought I was so glad to see Eli!

  9. 6. Read Isaiah 54:4-8

    A. What negative emotions is God going to wipe away, according to verse 4?
    Fear, shame, disgrace and humiliation

    B. How does He identify Himself in verse 5? (Was there ever a husband like this?)

    He is my maker and my maker is my husband! (like a line from a song I love by Audrey Assad called “Known” http://youtu.be/ZB5ye2tGyHM..:) My husband is the Lord Almighty, Holy One, Redeemer, and God of all the Earth. WOW..

    C. Describe his emotions toward us in verses 6 through 8?

    He will redeem me when I feel rejected, lonely and distressed in the wilderness. For a MOMENT he might turn his face in anger from me when I have run to my idol but I am His and with EVERLASTING kindness He will rescue me with DEEP compassion.

    D. How do you see both the truth and mercy of the gospel in this passage?
    He is my savior, my redeemer, my husband and when I turn my face from Him and go after other lovers He is deeply offended and angry for a moment but His deep compassion is everlasting-and He comes to rescue me. This is the Gospel for it is His love and compassion for me that compelled Him to willingly give up his glory to become man-Holy God became sin for me so He could have me and keep me forever. And it is the same love and passion for me that compells him to faithfully shower unmerited mercy on me when I turn from Him.

    E. In what ways do you need to repent before Him? Write them here and let him have compassion on you.

    Father I am a worm, I have been selfish, and I have a wretched heart and the more I see you the more i crumble inside as the depth of my depravity is exposed- I hate my sin! but I confess to you that I haven’t hated it enough for I have clung to my selfishness demanding things go my way-demanding that my husband fills the places, and redeems me in places that only you can. I have been selfishly demanding that he rescues me from fear, doubt, shame and I criticize him deep inside when he doesn’t have answers or fails-I am not loving Him as you love. I have put him in your place God! How can you be so patient with me? How can you have a deep compassion for me? After so many years of being bound by my comfort and approval idols-after running like a camel in heat as if your sacrifice wasn’t enough! Yet you were only angry for a moment but began to rescue me in my feelings of abandonment and desperate lonliness-and then put your hands all over my frame and rescued me again from being bound by my approval idol..Oh God I am unworthy but you love me beyond the depths! I don’t deserve your favor-but you have made me One with you-like a baby in a mother’s womb, like consumation in marriage, like a kindred chord of friendship. Your love is melting me-your faithfulness is my strength and I have and am nothing without you my maker and my husband. Please forgive me for I am truly broken, and I know in my flesh I will bend away today-help me not to-help me to remember the cross, shine your light on my darkness today and melt me again with the Gospel to repentance. Thank you that you have wrapped me in your beauty and you call me in my mess ‘beloved’. I love you. In Jesus name.

    1. Rebecca, I love that song! It is chock full of scripture! Thank you for sharing that with us. The words being “known in the INWARD parts” (Psalms 139) is so powerful…and so vulnerable! I have often wondered what it would look like if we all had a zipper that ran straight (parallel) through our body…a zipper that would allow us to turn ourselves inside out! What would that look like (spiritually)? I think so much of our world is external based…in many ways it is a comforting thought (free from that external expectation)…in other ways it is a daunting thought! I think it is an interesting thought because the elements of our truest beauty could be seen first or (the other thought to consider) is to the contrary!

      1. Rhonda, You made me think-loved the word picture of the zipper and turning ourselves inside out..In some ways it would be comforting for we would all see each other as is! Yikes! Any beauty revealed would be Him..Yet He sees the ugly-that just amazes me-He sees the mess yet loves me and wants to take the ugly and make it beautiful.

  10. Your repentance prayer is powerful Rebecca.

  11. Read Isaiah 42:3
    3 A bruised reed he will not break,and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
    I’ve often wondered where the saying, “God will not give you more than you can bear” came from. I think this is it. He knows our frame, He know what we can take, and He is filled with compassion. How does this minister to you right now?



    To one degree or another I imagine I will remain bruised and smoldering till I get home. I am reassured that my faith is not in me and my ability to perform or even to obey, but in Christ, I fail…His perfection and mercy are what I rely on and He can not fail.

    “The deeper we grow in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the poorer we become – the more we realize that everything in life is a gift. The tenor of our lives becomes one of humble and joyful thanksgiving. Awareness of our poverty and ineptitude causes us to rejoice in the gift of being called out of darkness into wondrous light and translated into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.”
    ― Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

  12. Notes from Keller’s sermon: As usual there was so much that was good in this sermon, but here are a few of the highlights:

    Zion/Israel did not feel loved by God. Keller says that is typical for most of us as well.
    Israel felt the temple was the assurance of God’s love, but now the temple had been destroyed, so they had no assurance of God’s love. They believed the promises of God but it didn’t seem to affect them.

    This line really stood out to me: “It is possible for the human heart to live in the presence of truth that you believe and not affect the way in which you feel or live at all.” Keller quoted Richard Lovelace: “It is an item of faith that we are children of God, but there is plenty of experience in us against that….” (We are painfully aware of our sins, and we have had prayers that were not answered immediately).

    If we don’t get over this (feeling forsaken by God and that God doesn’t love us), then we are likely to make all kinds of mistakes like choosing careers poorly or staying in relationships we shouldn’t be in, etc. He says we find ourselves having to “steal” love from all these other sources (He didn’t say “our idols,” but I think he meant that).

    He says God answers our questioning about His love by using the metaphor of the nursing mother who cannot forget her child. God of the universe is like a nursing mother. There are at least three different reasons that a nursing mother cannot forget her child: (1) Physical — she will become uncomfortable and painfully need to nurse the baby; (2) Emotionally — there are chemicals released by nursing which makes the mother feel delight and contentment; (3) unconditional love — there is give and take, the mother always gives and the infant always takes. Even so the mother “might” forget, but God will never forget us.

    He said that if we really felt in our hearts that we were loved by God, there would be a foutain of joy that no circumstances could put a cork in. What convinces us of love is not so much words as action.

    Keller answered my question about how to interpret verse 16. “I have carved you on the palm of my hand….” At the time of Isaiah, sometimes the master’s name would be tattooed on the hand of the servant, but never was the servant’s name tattooed on the hand of the master. He says the imagery is that of “engraving” being done with a hammer or chisel (or spike). It is easy to make the connection to the servant messiah, Jesus, who had spikes driven into the palms of His hands at crucifixion.

  13. I just finished reading your book “Idol Lies” and viewing the videos. I never realized that feelings of inadequacy, fear and rejection could be idols and could take over my life. The Sunday/Monday Ice Breaker questions made me realize that my idols are my safety net and have influenced so many of the decisions I have made in my life. It is hard to understand God’s love for me; sometimes I feel like such a failure. I now realize that my idols only reinforce those feelings of failure. I now see that God’s unconditional love for me is greater then anything, even my idols.

    1. Welcome JoAnn–so glad you are here with us on this journey

    2. Welcome JoAnn! Yes… “God’s unconditional love is greater than anything…even our idols” PTL

  14. 6. Read Isaiah 54:4-8
    A. What negative emotions is God going to wipe away, according to verse 4?
    Fear, shame, disgrace, reproach
    B. How does He identify Himself in verse 5? (Was there ever a husband like this?)
    He is my Maker, the Lord, the Holy One, my Redeemer, the God of the whole earth! WOW.
    C. Describe his emotions toward us in verses 6 through 8?
    He calls to me in my grief, as His wife. He has great compassion on me, He holds me. He has everlasting love for me, He redeems me.
    D. How do you see both the truth and mercy of the gospel in this passage?
    In His anger, He hid His face from me. On the Cross, Jesus was separated from God because of my sin. But by the atoning of my sin, He now has compassion and everlasting love for me. He calls me to Himself as my Redeemer.

  15. E. In what ways do you need to repent before Him? Write them here and let him have compassion on you.
    Oh Lord, I repent of my fear. I repent of my default mode that either runs to try to figure out how I can fix something, or sits in despair, ignoring the hope You have given. I repent of thinking my child’s good behavior is my own work, and thinking You are not powerful enough to overcome my many mistakes. I repent of criticism of those who think differently than I. I repent of wanting to hear ‘well done’ because of my own merit. Oh Lord, please forgive me. I know only You can do the work of the Spirit in my children. I know You are the True Healer and nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible for You. I know that You are good. I know You have a plan and You know what You are doing—and really, really—I don’t want to be in charge, but forgive me for thinking my way is what is best. Oh Lord, help my unbelief.
    I praise You that absolutely NOTHING can separate me from Your love for me. I praise You Lord with the words of Psalm 103: Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases, who redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion, who satisfies my desires with good things so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

  16. Friends, we are in deep waters again and ask for prayer. We cannot see the way forward and everything seems to be working against what we feel God has called us to do. Sorry, I cannot go into details. One specific request is for good jobs for Joel and Krista, two of my children. I do not know why God has not given them jobs yet, but major implications will ensue shortly if they do not get them.

    1. oh no–just got this Diane–will definitely cover you with prayer right now–love to you all~

    2. Diane, I am praying for Joel and Krista and you. I can tell this is tying you in knots. When my older daughter was laid off, we (and many of our friends) were all praying for her. She networked and freelanced, and did what she could to earn some money while looking for a permanent job. It took her about 9 months, but then she got a better job than the one she had originally! After that my next door neighbor called me, concerned that her son had been laid off (same field as my daughter). I mentioned it to my daughter, and she said “Get word to him that there are vacancies in our company, have him go to the company website and view the jobs posted there. It worked–he got a job with the same company! Sometimes people are ashamed and keep unemployment quiet, but that is counter-productive. They need to tell everyone! God uses unusual channels sometimes!

    3. Diane, So sorry you are gong into deep waters again..Lord meet Diane, Krista and Joel in this storm-Help them, comfort them. I will keep praying!

    4. Dear Diane, PLEASE Dear Heavenly Father…hear our prayer for Joel and Krista to get good jobs, soon. Thank you, Jesus

    5. Father, Diane is crying out from the deep! The waves are crashing against her and her family. I know that You know the terror and the helplessness of the situation. Please provide for their needs and calm the storm tossed waves! Remind them of who You are….

    6. Thanks for your prayers, elizabeth, Deanna, rebecca, Joyce, Rhonda and Dee. I forgot to CAPITALIZE MY PRAYER REQUEST but I know others are praying as well. God did comfort me so much last night and this morning. We still don’t have any solutions, but I know that the God who makes the butterflies and birds and each human so complex and special will not desert us in our time of need and is already working on the solution. I do so much appreciate the prayer support of God’s people, to know you and others are lifting us up before the Lord.

      1. just put a “d” on my hand–will continue to lift you up in prayer today Diane

        1. This brings tears, elizabeth. You are so sweet. Love your new picture too. God is our only HOPE!

      2. Diane,
        Praying for Joel and Krista, and for you…thankful for His coming to you with His comfort.

        1. Thanks, Susan. May God comfort you too.

  17. 7. Read Isaiah 42:3
    I’ve often wondered where the saying, “God will not give you more than you can bear” came from. I think this is it. He knows our frame, He know what we can take, and He is filled with compassion. How does this minister to you right now?
    I find great comfort in that thought. There have been times when I felt the Lord ‘talk’ to me—not audibly, but just speaking to me uniquely—or more often, showing me He has heard me. Those times remind me He really, truly knows me-far more than I will ever know myself, and at difficult times, when uncertainty about the next step arises–I know He will tell me what I need to hear in the way I need to hear it.
    I know there is suffering. He has told us there will be. But I trust He will only take me through what is necessary to become more like Him. And He will hold me every step, every step, of the way. How much do I really want to be holy? To be like Christ? How much am I willing to endure. It’s a hard question to ponder—but I’m learning (I pray!) not to entertain the worst. There is grace for today. Strength for today. His presence—always.

    1. “I trust He will only take me through what is necessary to become more like Him”…what a hopeful end result!

    2. Great reminders, Elizabeth. Nothing is wasted in the hands of our Redeemer.

      Nothing is wasted
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvnBhtbATag

  18. 4. Read Isaiah 49:13-16

    A. In verse 13, what does the Lord tell all of creation to do and why?
    Sing for joy…rejoice…burst into sing; because the Lord provides comfort and has compassion for those who suffer.

    B. In verse 14, how are God’s people feeling?
    deserted…forgotten

    C. What word picture is painted in verse 15? What spiritual, physical, and emotional factors make it difficult for a mother to forget her nursing baby?
    There is an indescribable connection of love between a mother and her baby…the mother provides sustenance for her child and the child is completely dependent upon its mother.

    D. In the end of verse 14, who may forget — and who will never forget? What does this mean to you.
    A mother may forget but the Lord will never forget.
    I know from personal experience the love a mother has for her child. It is the kind of love that wants only the best, one that is protective and self-sacrificing. It is incomprehensible to my mind the love of God; God’s love far surpasses one of the highest levels of human love achieved…incredible!!!

    E. Why, according to verse 16, will God not forget us? Can you see the gospel in this? Explain.
    God has pledged to love us…”I have engraved you on the palms of My hands”
    There are consequences of my sin and God’s discipline is called for in some circumstances to get me back on track, but regardless of my fallen nature, God pledges to love me with a love that far surpasses anything known to this world.

    6. Read Isaiah 54:4-8

    A. What negative emotions is God going to wipe away, according to verse 4?
    shame, sorrow

    B. How does He identify Himself in verse 5? (Was there ever a husband like this?)
    husband, redeemer

    C. Describe his emotions toward us in verses 6 through 8?
    compassion, anger, everlasting love

    D. How do you see both the truth and mercy of the gospel in this passage?
    The Lord sees our sin (“for a brief moment I abandoned you”…”in a burst of anger I turned my face away”)…He knows our sinfulness and the contrast to His creation before our sinful fall (truth)…but the Lord loves us with an everlasting love; with compassion that welcomes us back to Him. (mercy)

    E. In what ways do you need to repent before Him? Write them here and let him have compassion on you.
    Distractedness during prayers; inadequate time spent in the Word; latent aggression towards those not doing as I desire they would and deem out-of-line related to responsibilities and appropriate responses; judgmental thoughts.

  19. 7. Read Isaiah 42:3
    I’ve often wondered where the saying, “God will not give you more than you can bear” came from. I think this is it. He knows our frame, He know what we can take, and He is filled with compassion. How does this minister to you right now?

    I found it coincidental that this statement, “God will not give you more than you can bear”, is in this week’s bible study blog. Last week the statement “God will never give you more than you can handle” was the subject of my “Men of Integrity” devotions.
    Previously I had believed that God would not give me more than I could handle or bear, but have changed my mind somewhat. The following is a snippet of why…
    Apparently “God will never give you more than you can bear/handle” statement stems from 1 Cor. 10:13 “…He (God) will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand…” Last week’s devotions referenced 2 Cor. 1:8-10 (“We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure…we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God…”) as evidence that God DOES really give us more than we can handle as He did with Paul. [April 9, “Men of Integrity”] “The truth is, God can and will put more on us than we can handle. But He does so to remind us that it isn’t about who WE are and what WE can do but rather about who HE is and what HE can do.” [April 11] “Every time we face something we can’t control, it’s a reminder of how desperate we are for God. In other words, God is God, and He’s going to handle this.”[and April 12 is oh so good] “The reason we feel overwhelmed, defeated, and frustrated is that we’re only at the beginning of the story. God is bigger than our greatest fears, He’s more powerful than our greatest enemies, and He can outlast our greatest frustrations. And although we don’t know the end of our stories, He does.”

    What ministers to me is that God is in charge…He is in control…He has ultimate authority…I rest in His peace.

    1. Nanci, it is so hard to live in the middle of a story. I am glad He knows the ending…and that it is already planned (By His sovereignty)!

  20. I hope I will be forgiven for telling a joke when everyone is being so nice and serious. An elderly man was complaining about all of his problems, aches, and pains. A friend, trying to cheer him up, told him “God never gives you more trouble than you can bear.” Whereupon the old-timer replied, “In that case, I wish God didn’t have such a good opinion of me!” LOL

    1. Very cute Deanna!

    2. Laughter is a medicine Deanna…I love the humor! 🙂 This is cute!

  21. It stuck with me last night-God not giving us more than we can bear-not sure why..But I too have always wondered what that looked like and the thing is, I don’t think I can know-it is a mystery. If a mother loses a son or a wife a husband those are the deepest of deep waters-more than anyone can bear! Yet he knows our frame. So whatever each of our ‘more than can bear’ is I don’t know..but I do know He knows our hearts and has taken me out of my comfort zone a lot-well daily..but nothing as crushing as a death in my immediate family..YET.
    Regardless, he comes in with DEEP compassion and comforts and loves on us-He came for us and gave His life for us so that we wouldn’t walk through this alone-so we could know deeper His love. Like Elizabeth reminded us-Jesus said there will be pain and suffering here. Life is hard but He is everything and He is here.

    1. Love this post, Rebecca…yes, I don’t think we can know…but we can know Him and His compassion and comfort.

  22. Hey friends, I would like to request some prayer. I cannot really go into detail here and now but I have some big decisions to make in the upcoming days and months. I truly do not know how to proceed, I have a general (big picture) image but the in between space is really baffling me right now! I know in decision-making there is a balance between living responsibly and relying on God (in faith)…and I want to flow between those two concepts with grace, wisdom and insight. The balance is challenging for me. Any thoughts or insight you might have (concerning decision making and reliance and responsibility) would be welcome…thank you for the prayers!

    1. Heavenly Father, we lift up our dear sister Rhonda to You know–Lord, You know all the details of what she is facing, and feeling right now. You hold her close.Her heart desires Your wisdom Lord and we ask that You show her the next steps to take. We ask that You would take her by the hand and lead her–close doors You would not have her go through, open the ones You desire for her. We struggle to walk by faith without sight–but we trust You Lord to lead us. Thank You that You have this, You have a plan, You are sovereign. In Your Name I pray~

    2. Rhonda,
      I will gladly pray for you, asking God to guide and direct your steps – may He help you take your “big picture” and break it down into smaller steps so you can see the path to take more clearly.

    3. Elizabeth and Susan…Thank you for the prayers for guidance!!! I so appreciate it…

    4. Rhonda, I’ll be praying for your discernment in this decision-making…take good care…put up your shield of faith to deflect the evil one’s arrows that are sure to be flying at such a Godly woman as yourself.

      1. Praying for you too, Rhonda. You have been such a welcomed sister here….I’m so glad I can pray for you.

        1. Thank you sisters…prayer is so important! I’m learning more about that fact everyday. Thank you for offering prayers on my behalf!

  23. 2. What idol are you running to now most frequently? What is it that you doubt about Christ that keeps you running to this idol?

    Oh I’ve been wrestling with trying to identify this all week. Is it food for comfort? Sometimes…but not really. It’s not TV or the computer. It’s not shopping/material things for comfort. I suspect it’s wrapped up with some relational idolatry – depending upon people-family for comfort/security and perhaps some power/control-wanting to have my way.

    But honestly – can wanting to retreat into the past as in keeping everything the way it has always been and not wanting anything to change be an idol? What I tend to do most, at least in the evenings, is lie on the couch and close my eyes and just want to go to sleep, or lie there and think about the past and its memories. My comfort and especially my security is being very much threatened now with my parents swelling their home of almost 50 years and my mom changing so much due to dementia and just knowing that all this represents them nearing the end of their lives. Even the near future now seems to uncertain – how bad is my mom going to get…how will my dad’s health hold-up…is the move going to make her worse-I think yes.

    What do I doubt about Jesus? As I was walking this morning, this visual in my mind was impressed upon me – I imagined myself sitting on my parents’ front porch safe and secure and Jesus came walking down the sidewalk and He wanted me to get up and go with Him. I thought how can I leave all this behind? He held out His hand to me. This is all really weird and mixed-up but I see that it is a battle of what/who do I love most – who has my heart? The verse about whoever seeks to save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for Me will gain it came to mind. I thought about why Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt for looking back. What is the doubt about Jesus that keeps me clinging to the temporal things of this earth, to memories, to people-good gifts of family that I am looking to as “functional saviors”? To run to things that I feel are my security?

    Jesus says that I am to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto me…He doesn’t want me to try to hold onto things but to depend wholly upon Him and in Him I have all things. I guess the doubts are does He really love me…can I really trust Him for everything…am I going to end up all alone or is He always going to be here for me…will He really take care of my loved ones? Do I really have something to look forward to even in this life – I know heaven will be great but I don’t want to have the attitude of well I’m just marking the time here until I can leave this place behind – I don’t want to waste the life I’ve been given. I have memories to cherish and blessings to be thankful for and I need to move forward, I need to take His hand and let Him lead me.

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Susan. Such good honest sharing of struggles. I loved your visual of Jesus walking by your front porch asking you to go with him. “I thought how can I leave all this behind? He held out His hand to me.” Can we really trust him and leave our seemingly secure present surroundings?

      It is OK to grieve and that is what you are doing. Give yourself permission. Many times it is so hard to move forward in faith during a difficult time when the road ahead seems full of dangers and sadness. Praying with you about this difficult time for you.

      1. Thank you for your kind words, Diane. For saying it is OK to grieve and feel sad. I know you are grieving over the changes in your family, too…things you did not want to ever see happen.

    2. Diane is so wise..so loved her comforting words to you Susan and she is right, it is okay to grieve He is with you. Love you.

    3. Susan, Your doing some deep thinking…I do that alot too…especially remembering things as they once were. Praying you get it all sorted out and God gives you peace of mind. Prayers for you.

  24. 3. If you are a mother, or have a child in your life to whom you feel knit, share a time when you were ready to do anything to rescue him, no matter how embarrassing or how dangerous. Or when a parent did the same for you.

    I can remember incidents with all 3 of my kids when I didn’t know where they were and what an awful feeling that is – calling another mom, “Are they at your house?”…searching the neighborhood. My daughter did that once – she and her friends had gone into another girl’s house to play, so I and two other moms were looking everywhere and asking neighbors…we finally knocked on the right door and there they all were…”Oh, we didn’t know we were supposed to tell you…”

    There was the time my son Ryan was hospitalized at 7 weeks for a severe respiratory virus. He was having trouble breathing and I stayed with him and refused to leave him alone in his room. He was on the toddler floor because the infant floor was full and they kept the door shut. I had terrible visions that he would stop breathing and no one would know – he wasn’t on a monitor or anything. I was getting awfully hungry and a student nurse came in and volunteered to hold him – I made her swear she would not put him down or leave so I ran down to the cafeteria and brought back some food. He was there for 3 days and I stayed with him the whole time.

    4. Read Isaiah 49:13-16

    A. In verse 13, what does the Lord tell all of creation to do and why?

    All of creation is to shout for joy, rejoice, and burst into song because the Lord comforts His people and has compassion on those who are afflicted.

    B. In verse 14, how are God’s people feeling?

    They are feeling like God has forsaken and forgotten them.

    C. What word picture is painted in verse 15? What spiritual, physical, and emotional factors make it difficult for a mother to forget her nursing baby?

    God’s people are feeling utterly forgotten, so God says wait a minute…can a mother forget her baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has given birth to?
    Though your earthly mother may forget you, I will not forget you. This is a beautiful picture of God having a side to Him that is tender and motherly and nurturing.

    One thing that makes it very hard to forget your nursing baby is when he is crying, wanting to be fed…it is literally piercing to the ears! I think it’s built into a mother’s emotional make-up to respond to her baby’s cry and try to soothe and comfort him. It would be inhuman to ignore your baby’s desperate cries. What tugs at your heart is that your baby needs you, and it is love that gets you up in the middle of the night when you are dead-tired.

    D. In the end of verse 14, who may forget – and who will never forget? What does this mean to you.

    It says a mother may forget her baby, but God will not forget you.
    I can identify with God’s people feeling like they’ve been forsaken and forgotten. Trials and suffering can make you feel that way. But God is reminding them and me that painful circumstances do not prove that He has turned away and forgotten me…He is listening to every prayer, keeping track of every tear.

    E. Why, according to verse 16, will God not forget us? Can you see the gospel in this? Explain.

    God cannot forget me because He has “engraved” me on the palms of His hands. Yes, I see the Gospel pictured here. The engraver’s tools that carved my name on His palms were the spikes driven through His hands. Jesus’ hands forever bear the marks of those nails as a testimony of His sacrifice for those who belong to Him. Every time I feel like He has forgotten me, I need to picture His hands, those wounds that represent His forever love for me. I like how this verse begins with “See” – it’s as if He invites us to look – see – remember – you can know for sure – this is proof!

    1. Susan–praying you hold on to this “Every time I feel like He has forgotten me, I need to picture His hands, those wounds that represent His forever love for me.”
      And I loved this too “a beautiful picture of God having a side to Him that is tender and motherly and nurturing.”

    2. I loved the things you did for you children, Susan…it shows what a wonderful mother you are.

  25. Sermon notes:

    In the beginning of the sermon he talks about eventual and ultimate deliverance. In discussions, I hear this concept often. Do we believe in ultimate deliverance or can we believe for deliverance in the here and now! I know the answer (in specifics to us) comes out of relationship with Him but I love to think of “seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”!

    As he addressed the painful question…Have we been forgotten, forsaken. I think it is interesting how Keller talks about this being a head and heart dilemma. Believing it (that we haven’t been forgotten, forsaken) as truth (in the head) is one thing but allowing it to affect the way we live is another (heart).

    I also appreciate the fact that he brought out that God doesn’t say, “suck it up”…based on conditionings that message can play repeatedly and loud in my mind. To think that God is compassionate even with our questioning and doubting is so comforting. “He takes the outburst seriously”, “He allows Himself to be interrupted”

    In Keller’s cure for the pain point, I see Jesus taking the blows (with hammer and chisel), as a constant reminder of His love for me. That moment in His life is not easily forgotten, He has the scars to prove it, a constant reminder of His love. He does not forget us!

    I love the final quote…

    “A good mother will move heaven and earth that you flourish…” God’s heart personified….

  26. 8. How might this aspect of the gospel help you today?
    We instinctively do not realize how sinful we really are. At different times my kids have asked ‘why did Jesus have to die?’ The Cross shows us the gravity, the weightiness of our sin. There was no other way. God’s own perfect Son, had to be tempted, tried in every way—and obey perfectly. Our sin so great that only Jesus in His perfection, could pay the price.
    I think sometimes I wish that with salvation came instantaneous sanctification. I do hate my sin-yet in my sinfulness, I hate it partly because it mars my ego. I pray to grow to hate it more and more for how it grieves my Father.
    When I do meditate on the cost of the Cross—what it cost Jesus—I am melted by how loved I am by my Father. He wanted relationship with me—THAT BAD. How can I turn anywhere else?

    1. Elizabeth, I love your HOPE street sign! I also love this…”I am melted by how loved I am by my Father. He wanted relationship with me—THAT BAD. How can I turn anywhere else”?

    2. “I do hate my sin-yet in my sinfulness, I hate it partly because it mars my ego. I pray to grow to hate it more and more for how it grieves my Father.”

      Yes me too sister.

  27. Notes on Keller’s sermon: “It is possible for the human heart to live in the presence of truth that you believe and it not affect the way you feel or live at all”. Then the quote from R. Lovelace, “It is an item of faith that we are children of God but there is plenty of experience in us against that. So the faith that surmounts this evidence and is able to warm itself at the fire of God’s love instead of stealing love and self acceptance from othere resources is actually the root of holiness”. This is powerful to me and I know I still have to ponder on this. We must get past evidence to the truth. Sounds crazy. Doesn’t evidence point to truth? Not in God’s world! Evidence can be misread, misunderstood. “For we live by faith, not by sight”.

  28. 8. How might this aspect of the gospel help you today?

    Lately, I am so very aware of my sin. I am aware, first, of my individual sins, but on a deeper level, I am aware of my heart’s too-often desire to be its own Lord and Savior. It’s hard for me to even write that because I fear the consequences of it. Am I saved? Then I turn to 2 Corinthians 13:5 (Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?). Christ IS in me; I know that this is true. Even more, I am aware that when I do good, oftentimes the motive is to earn God’s favor or to control Him in some very horrifying way. I get the first part of the gospel.

    It’s moving from the first part to the second that is so difficult for me. I far too often allow guilt and condemnation to sweep over me. “Lord, I’m dirty.” I stop there, when I need to continue, “Lord, I’m dirty, but Your love for me is not dependent on me. I have a High Priest who intercedes for me, whose righteousness is mine by grace. I am loved deeply and invited fully into the feast of the Father’s love. You promised to finish the work you started. You promised to conform me into the image of Christ. I can rest now.” It really is all grace. I have no place to boast because start to finish, Jesus does it all.

    I am struggling with how to live under grace. Titus 2:11-12 says, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.” How does grace teach me to say no to my idol lies?

    1. Laura I can really relate to your struggle to live under grace.
      One thing that has moved me to trust grace more, was a sermon I heard on Psalm 51, Davids Psalm after Nathan had come to him.

      What stood out to me particularly was verse 7

      7 “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
      wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

      David didn’t doubt that God could and would cleanse him.
      He didn’t feel that his sin was beyond Gods ability or willingness to forgive.

      I think for me, my bent to think myself too small, insignificant or too rotten to be in relationship with God was my way of keeping him at arms length, limiting how much I would allow Him to be my Lord.

      I am praying for you now Laura.

      1. Praying for you too, Laura

    2. Laura, I am blown away by this post-your insight, your authenticity, your heart, and your question!! “How does grace teach me to say no to my idol lies?” This really helped me:

      “It’s moving from the first part to the second that is so difficult for me. I far too often allow guilt and condemnation to sweep over me. “Lord, I’m dirty.” I stop there, when I need to continue, “Lord, I’m dirty, but Your love for me is not dependent on me. I have a High Priest who intercedes for me, whose righteousness is mine by grace. I am loved deeply and invited fully into the feast of the Father’s love. You promised to finish the work you started. You promised to conform me into the image of Christ. I can rest now.” It really is all grace. I have no place to boast because start to finish, Jesus does it all.”

      1. “How does grace teach me to say no to my idol lies?” That is a good question, Laura….When we are living in grace, the “rest” OF GOD determines the outcome of our lives rather than striving. So, in that thought, our well being, our joy, our contentedness, our provisions are all grace based. It isn’t about striving or manipulating or coercing…so, I do see that grace would be strategic in fighting the battle against idol lies; simply because, our hands are open, not clinging and grasping and clawing and punching! Great Thought!

    3. Laura–love your honest pondering.The Lord just brought to my mind Romans 6:14 “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Sin is no longer my master. Grace has freed me to be mastered instead by Love. Still thinking on this…but I know Keller often talks about our motive being transformed into being powered by love.

    4. Laura,
      I love every word you’ve written here; so powerful. In your first paragraph, I think we all can relate to our hearts’ wanting to rule, to be our own lords and saviors…I know there are days I can “feel” my rebellion and pride. Thank you for being so honest.
      And the second part…yes. When I feel dirty, I often stop right there and instead of going to God, I feel like I can’t. But what awesome truth you write in the part where you continue instead! I feel like I need to memorize it.

      1. Laura, what good advice they are giving you..hope you don’t mind mw using it too.

  29. 3. If you are a mother, or have a child in your life to whom you feel knit, share a time when you were ready to do anything to rescue her, no matter how embarrassing or how dangerous.

    Kendra was watching Mask, the movie with Cher and Sam Elliott in it. Cher’s son, Rocky’s face is deformed, but Cher, as his mother, only see’s love for him.

    After Kendra was born, she looked normal until she grew bigger and couldn’t sit up or walk or do the things other kids were doing. I had a hard time dealing with how people (mostly kids) would stare at Kendra, as she was growing up. I thought she was beautiful and couldn’t understand what people were looking at her like that for. So at first I was kinda childish and would stare back at them until they looked away. I once said..”Take a picture..it lasts longer.” I felt angry and ready to fight for her! But over the years I’ve learned to just smile at people and show them how proud I am of her. It doesn’t matter to me anymore, because she is beautiful to me.

    I blamed myself for many years…that I was the cause of her being this way, but now I just know that God made her exactly how she is and loves her more than I ever could. I’ve come to peace with it…with God and I think that’s where God wants me to be.

    1. Oh, Joyce, this is sooo beautiful. Love your heart. I love how you have always seen Kendra as beautiful, and I love how God has given you graciousness toward others who are rude to Kendra. You are able to do this because “now I just know that God made her exactly how she is and loves her more than I ever could. I’ve come to peace with it…with God and I think that’s where God wants me to be.”

    2. Joyce,
      I, too, love your mother’s heart, your tenderness and unconditional love for Kendra.
      You reflect Jesus in everything you do!

    3. Joyce, that is one of the most beautiful testimonies I have heard…the true heart of a mother! So lovely! Thank you for sharing!

  30. Part of the solution to our problems is realizing how sinful and helpless we are. We are more depraved than we could imagine. Yet — more loved than we dared hope.”

    8. How might this aspect of the gospel help you today?

    I think it is my depravity that is a block to me being able to deeply believe, without needing to pound the Gospel in deeper, that I am more loved than I dared hope.

    Another thing that comforts me is that I know GOD KNOWS THIS about me-that my depravity is still around even though I am covered in His Righteousness and yet He will never reject me BECAUSE I am covered in His righteousness-which I had nothing to do with-HE covered me with His righteousness. He deeply loves me despite me and is faithful to take my broken frame daily and shape me.

    So today this helps because I know He will be faithful via the Holy Spirit to light up whatever comes out of me that is depraved in His timing and I don’t have to feel guilty and beat myself up about it anymore because He loves me to the sky.

    It doesn’t shock me when my depravity comes to the surface yet it is starting to break my heart more, but not enough yet, when I remember the Gospel-for how I often offend the Holy One who is making me beautiful-Who loves me no matter what. It is also starting to melt me a little bit more when I see His Love-my Potter-convicting me and helping me see so I can turn and trust Him to wash me.

  31. 6. Read Isaiah 54:4-8

    A. What negative emotions is God going to wipe away, according to verse 4?

    Fear, shame, disgrace, humiliation, reproach. Wow – very painful emotions.

    B. How does He identify Himself in verse 5? (Was there ever a husband like this?)

    God says that He is my Maker and my Husband and His name is the Lord Almighty, the Holy One of Israel, my Redeemer, the God of all the earth.
    No earthly husband has these credentials!

    C. Describe His emotions toward us in verses 6 through 8?

    God did feel a surge of anger towards us and did abandon us and hid His face but He stresses that it was not forever but rather for a brief moment. Then He describes how He will restore us to Himself with deep compassion and kindness. He knows that when He disciplines us, we feel like a “wife deserted and distressed in spirit” and we feel rejection. He may bring His heavy hand of discipline down but it is not meant to destroy us or permanently cast us away from Him…He remains always a faithful Husband who keeps His covenant with us.

    D. How do you see both the truth and mercy of the gospel in this passage?

    The truth about sin – God is righteously angered by our sin and rebellion against Him.
    Because He is holy, He cannot look upon our sin or dwell with sinful man. Yet, In verse 4 He reassures us that “you will not suffer shame…you will not be humiliated…” which made me think but Someone did suffer shame and humiliation and reproach in my place – Jesus.
    I see a shadowy picture of what happened to Jesus on the Cross in verses 7-8: “For a brief moment I abandoned you…in a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment.” That is why Jesus screamed, “My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
    I see my own helplessness to save myself, just like the wife who is widowed or rejected by her husband is in dire circumstances…so the stain of my sin puts me in peril of death. I see how Jesus took my punishment that I deserved so God could extend compassion and everlasting kindness to me, making me one with Him – the metaphor of Him as my husband.

    E. In what ways do you need to repent before Him? Write them here and let Him have compassion on you.

    God, my Maker and my Husband, I see what You have done to pursue me, to love me, to make me your Own. You call Yourself my Husband, You offer me freedom from shame, fear, guilt, and reproach. You promise to stand by me in faithfulness and to never reject or abandon me. Yet my heart can be so cavalier and unfeeling towards You! Even indifferent…choosing and preferring instead to run my own life, have it my way, run to my idols to give me the things that You want to give me. You shower me with compassion, yet how quick I am with my tongue and in my spirit to be unforgiving and unkind, critical…withdrawing my affection and being cool towards my own family…not being a good listener and being understanding. I am selfish to the core, Lord, while You have given Yourself so selflessly. I struggle to understand and have patience with my pre-teen daughter with her emotions all over the place; how quick I am to react with impatience and in an unloving way, instead of trying to understand how she feels. But You so understand how we feel and the effects our sin has on us – how broken, fragmented, messed-up I am because of my sin and selfishness. Yet you want to make me whole, and You offer me marriage with You and a promise of your everlasting love and faithfulness. Please forgive me and cleanse me and give me a heart that is clean before You. I have a hard time understanding what true intimacy in marriage looks like – please teach me and show me what that’s like. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    1. Susan your testimony stirs me to the core..especially that last sentance…praying for you!

  32. I’m in a place of few words and soaking up all of His. I appreciate this week’s study and still processing much.

    We are adopting a precious 5 year old boy – hope to finalize it this summer. Adoption is not a natural process and yet it is also a part of His plan. Adoption is His heart. I did not get to carry him in my womb nor nurse him. As I persevere in being his forever mommy, I ask Him to fill me with a mother’s heart especially in those days and moments when he pushes away and does not receive the love I offer. In this new stage of our life, I am reminded again and again of my lack and His everything.

    We did not name him – he came already lovingly named by the momma who gave him life. However, I am quite certain that God was there when he was named. His name matches my husband’s middle name. This small thing is a point of connection and emotional bonding for our family.

    I appreciated Keller’s point this week that depressed people should do inductive Bible study – hammer the truth deep into your soul – and then the ground underneath will grow more solidly. This is encouragement to me to drink deep His word and hammer His truth into my soul.

    1. Blessings to you Cherie, I love the name story!
      Praying right now for the Lord to bond the child to you, and you to the child, in love.

    2. Cherie, this is wonderful news! I also pray for you and your family to bond and cement the relationship between him you.

    3. Cherie,

      This is beautiful, wonderful news how God orchestrated your adoption-and love how God spoke to you in Keller’s sermon. I can relate with you in regard to Keller’s point about depressed people doing inductive Bible Study-that encouraged me too.

  33. Part of the solution to our problems is realizing how sinful and helpless we are. We are more depraved than we could imagine.
    Yet — more loved than we dared hope.”
    How might this aspect of the gospel help you today?

    I thought as I read this about the people who were offended, and that TK saying the gospel is an offense.
    We don’t want to hear or believe that we are THAT bad, that we are desperately wicked and really do deserve hell.

    

Beginning to understand idolatry has helped me see my spiritual attention deficit disorder. How easily I am draw away from Christ and the unity He offers.
    
This is graphic but I had a visual of how I would feel if just after we finished making love I should find my husband looking at pornography. Ugh, yet I imagine that is an explicit, but real picture of my idolatry.

    
I really want to honor Christ to be satisfied in him alone. 
I am so glad of this verse:

    Psalm 103:14 
    “For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.”

    And this passage, my prayer for all of us often:

    Ephesians 3:14-21

    “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
     Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

    1. Chris..your back! I love that illustration…it will help me to remember what I’m doing to Jesus when I run to my idols. Your prayer is so beautiful and use it for myself…thank you.

  34. My takeaway from Tim Keller’s sermon was this:

    God’s Word uses metaphors to encourage us to meditate and reflect on His character. I am an English teacher and I just taught on the use of metaphors in speech as a means to help the audience grasp difficult, oftentimes abstract concepts. Metaphors take these distant concepts and compare them to more concrete images and emotions that are easier to grasp. Keller talks on the metaphor in Isaiah 49:15, where God compares His love for us to a nursing mother, because He wants us to be able to visualize His love (which sometimes feels distant or at least difficult to grasp) and meditate on it until it begins to change our emotions. Changing our thoughts will eventually lead to a change in our emotions. This is good news!

    I do have a question from the sermon. Keller talked a lot on motherhood and the endless sacrifice that comes with the responsibility. He is so right – I have a young son and, while I absolutely love being a mother, I really don’t know how to sacrifice all for him yet not let my identity as a mother consume me. Again, there is so much joy that comes out of being a mother, but I don’t know how to balance this joy all of the time with the greater joy of Christ. In other words, how do I not make motherhood an ultimate in my life?

    1. Laura, that’s a good question…hope we can all answer that one. All I know is to keep giving our children back to God, as they were not ours to begin with….just on loan.

  35. I’ve found a new blog I am enjoying, Luma Simms “Gospel Grace”. She has written several articles for Gospel Coalition as well. This is “A Definition of Christ-Centered Motherhood.” I found it timely, especially with Laura’s thoughts above: http://www.gospelgrace.net/2012/05/06/definition-of-christ-centered-motherhood/

  36. 6. Read Isaiah 54:4-8

        A. What negative emotions is God going to wipe away, according to verse 4?

    Shame and disgrace.

        B. How does He identify Himself in verse 5? (Was there ever a husband like this?)

    Husband, Redeemer, God.

        C. Describe his emotions toward us in verses 6 through 8?

    He tells us He will not leave us. I don’t quite understand why He says He left us briefly though? Does that mean bs left us here on Earth while He went to heaven? Also what is the anger he speaks of in the verse?

        D. How do you see both the truth and mercy of the gospel in this passage?

    I guess that He is always near us. He will never, ultimately leave us; He will return.

        E. In what ways do you need to repent before Him? Write them here and let him have compassion on you.

    Lord, help me to trust you more. Help me to believe you care about me; that you do love me. It is difficult to remember when times are tough, like now. You paid the ultimate price on the cross and I need to remember how important that is for us. You suffered so we can live. I know you have a plan for me and my family. Job never knew the whole story and we may not either. Let us have peace in that. Let us rest in you. Amen

  37. So need to get on with my life and forget I ever had kids. What a HUGE disappointment. Still suffering and can’t help but feel lonely, like God doesn’t care. So HARD.

    I have been memorizing this verse:

    Blessed is the one
    who does not walk in step with the wicked
    or stand in the way that sinners take
    or sit in the company of mockers,
    but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.
    That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
    and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.
    Not so the wicked!
    They are like chaff
    that the wind blows away.
    Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
    For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction. (Psalm 1:1-6 NIV)

    I wish I had someone else’s life right now. Mine is way too painful and sad. Lord please help me. I am drowning. Please take away the awful pain.

    1. Oh Father, meet Laura dancer, in her time of need, turn a light on in her head to remind her how much pain you bore for her because you love her so much.

      So sorry you are in such great pain, Laura dancer. I too am also in a situation of great pain. It may not feel like it, but God is with you and loves you so much and he loves your family too. Hold on to what you KNOW deep deep inside that God loves you!

      Keller’s sermon is great this week, even though it made me cry when he talked about a mother’s love for her children and God’s love being much, much greater than that.

      1. I just listened to Keller. It is one that I needed to hear for sure. I’m sorry for your troubles as well. I have been semi following this week and have read of your family’s pain. Thank you Diane, I will take your advice. I am holding on to Him.

    2. Father, You hear these words…”Lord please help me”…be this lifeline to Laura tonight. You are attentive to the cries of Your children…we are so grateful for that fact…bind up this brokenheart…allow Your Word to soothe the pain. We entrust Laura to Your safe keeping…be the lifter of her head!

    3. You know Laura, I started thinking about your post. And I just wanted to thank you for your honesty. It has sparked something inside of me and I just want to share. I too am in a lot pain right now…but that has been hard for me to admit…(an area of repentance). As I think about it, the reason that it has been hard for me to express is that I feel like there are people in the world who will revel over the fact that I am in pain. Maybe that is pride or an approval idol rising up in me…not sure but if so, I’m taking that idol off the shelf and shattering it in a million pieces. Your post has inspired me to tell the truth about my pain…I hesitate to do so because I do not want this to be perceived as me feeling sorry for myself or whining or acting like a victim, etc…(I have heard all of that). Also, pain makes people uncomfortable…and I really want to comfort others…so, I stuff it to keep things civil. I do take my pain to God and He has healed me in so many ways…but that doesn’t mean that on a daily basis I do not still feel pain and suffering. I do have lots of joy (my laughter isn’t conjured), but that doesn’t mean that I do not still suffer with daily pain. I can’t go into all the details here on a public blog (I wouldn’t do that) but I feel like God just wants me to say this, ALOUD…I have suffered over the course of the last few years (results of some of my own choices, and those imposed upon me)…thank you for helping me see this through your vulnerability (I am not diminishing your pain by talking about my own, I just felt like I needed to say this)…God really used your post! I am so grateful to you!

      1. Rhonda–I’m so glad you are with us. The depth you have brought is a testimony that you have suffered much. Those with wisdom and depth as yours seem to have always been through fires. I can hear in your words you have struggled deep-and I am so sorry for the pain you are still suffering. I do understand too the limits of sharing on this blog, I often struggle with that–but know that we pray for you–and He knows all the details, and He hears. Thank you for just being so vulnerable and real. I will pray especially for you today.

        1. Thank you Elizabeth…I so appreciate your encouraging words and prayers…

      2. I appreciate your vulnerability here, Rhonda. It is hard to admit that we are in pain. Yet God asks us to be honest with our fellow believers about our struggles; sometimes we must admit it without being too specific (like on this blog), although I hope you can be honest in detail about your flawedness at least to a few individuals. We need each other in the body of Christ. Your words remind me of the verse, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” One of the reasons God tells us to confess our faults is so that we will pray for each other. I will pray for you and your pain.

        I agree with Elizabeth. I see such Christian depth in you and that comes from your deep relationship with God, received from your experience of suffering that has led you to cling deeply to Christ as your only Hope. I so appreciate you being here – faults and all.

        1. Diane, Thank you for your sweet words of encouragement too! Yes, that is a great passage and thankfully I have done just that on numerous occasions (nothing withheld)! I have revealed the totality of my story in many appropriate places. That verse is true, in each instance God has healed a bit more of my heart. I would always encourage people to share but make sure you are sharing in safe places…I have suffered from some instances where inaccurate information was disseminated concerning my life and my story (maliciously) but I know I have to trust God with that! He knows the whole truth! Thank you for your prayers!

        2. Rhonda–when I read your response here to Diane, I couldn’t help but at least tell you, though I know our situations have to be different, I do know and understand the pain of having “inaccurate information” shared in a very painful, malicious manner–by those I trusted.It has made it very difficult for me to lay down my guard, to trust again. But I am thankful you are here, and there is never any pressure to share more than He leads you too–I’m thankful for that too myself. He knows all, He understands all, and He has it. Praying for you~

        3. Such graciousness, Elizabeth…thank you!

      3. Thank you Rhonda. I too hesitate to share, but God made me a very open individual for some reason! I am at the point in my life where I don’t care what anyone thinks; it’s between me and God. I have had a friend recently tell me of things my daughter has said on Facebook that I probably should be upset and embarrassed about, but my life is not about those who judge me, only what my Lord thinks. He knows my heart, that’s what is important. I am soooo glad I have Him. What do those who don’t do?

        I also don’t want to appear whiny or weak. Unfortunately, I have a lot of struggles with counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists over the last 10 years that I would never go back to one. I don’t trust them and don’t feel they have my best interests at heart. I count on prayer. I count on my family, my church, my friends, and you (bloggers) to pray for me. Sometimes I have to open my heart so those who pray know how to pray for me. I know God knows but I think it’s important for we (the prayer warriors) to know as well. I count on no judgement from those who pray, but I realize we are human also. I can’t worry about that.

        I also go back to the Psalms, where suffering is said/lamented aloud. It makes me realize I am not the first. I often wonder if there are others with troubles like mine? Does anyone have these problems? Am I alone in my pain? I’m never alone; I know this. God is always there. However, I am human and forget easily. Thanks for any and all prayers. It is comforting to me. The night is gone, a new day has dawned. Things are becoming brighter. He is near. I will also remember you in prayer 🙂

        1. Laura,

          Oh, please do not hear me (in any way) infering that your sharing is inappropriate at all (I think it is beautiful that you are so open, it really spoke to me)…I just feel like this isn’t the place I should share (my particular situation) at this point. I definitely understand every situation is different.

          You do make a very important point about opening our heart so others know how to pray. Prayer is so vital to our healing and just having those individuals who are willing to stop and take that time is such a blessing. The whole whiny or weak thing is a big issue because there is so much (insignificant) complaining in the world and I do not want to be one of those people. However, this is an appropriate to time to say, “that hurt” and it isn’t okay. I always think of high school baseball, where a pitcher throws a wild pitch and hits the batter…there is an obvious grimace on the batters face but there is an unspoken rule among all the players involved…”don’t rub it”…don’t let ’em see that it hurt! That is exactly how this feels to me. God doesn’t respond to me in that way…He allows me to say, “it hurts”…and to not do so is being untruthful. He wants me to worship Him in spirit and in TRUTH!

          I may not have the same circumstances that you are dealing with but you are NOT alone! Thank you again for your courage!

  38. A CO-WORKER WHO IS DEAR TO ME HAS BEEN DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER, she is a believer, but is terrified to think she might die.
    She was diagnosed today when she had a test and they admitted her right away. No prognosis yet of course.

    1. Such a shock! Praying for her and for you as you minister to her.

    2. oh Chris–praying now

    3. So sorry Chris…Father, step into this urgent situation. Bring clarity, comfort, peace and healing. In these initial steps guide the doctors and give Chris the strength to provide love and support…bring peace…

  39. Oh Father, so much pain and sadness here…my heart is aching. Please Lord, I lift up my sisters, Laura and her Sarah, Rhonda, Diane and Krista and Joel, Chris and her dear friend she works with and anyone else suffering in silence, and all their families. Please help us , bless us and sustain us and our country until that glorious day you come for us…when the lion will lie down with the lamb and there will be no more pain or sorrow and we will be with all our loved ones and you for all eternity. Until then protect us under your wings of righteousness in your refuge and fortress and help us to trust in you, my Lord. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

    1. What a lovely prayer, Joyce.

      Praying for all…may God’s love, strength, and wisdom envelop all those in need, their caregivers, and medical professionals.

      So sorry for this additional sorrow, Chris.

  40. 9. What are your notes?

    So, I know I have said this about man of Keller’s sermons in the past but this is the best one. I highlighted most all of my notes.

    It is possible to live in the truth that you believe but it doesn’t affect the way you live.

    Richard Lovelace: “It is an item of faith that we are children of God but there is plenty of experience in us against that. The faith that surmounts this evidence and is able to warm itself in the fire of Gods love instead of stealing love and self acceptance from other resources is the root of holiness.”
    We may say we are a child of God and God loves me, but there is evidence against that-sometimes you see stuff inside and say I don’t know how God would love me after what I have said or done. Or there is stuff outside-unanswered prayers or disappointments. We may believe in our head, but see all the unanswered prayers around me all the yuk inside me and therefore this love of God is not a reality in my heart-it doesn’t transform my affections in the way my heart operates. If you don’t’ find a way to get over it-a way to move beyond the mental subscription to doctrine, to heart affecting, life changing, transformation of your life by that doctrine, you are going to steal love and self acceptance from other sources. You are going to choose careers poorly, stay in relationships you shouldn’t be in..in reality you have to steal acceptance and love from other sources.

    How God deals with a despondent person. God doesn’t say, ‘just suck it up.’ God turns aside and lets himself be interrupted. He takes this seriously. He doesn’t just give emotional support but gives a challenging kind of truth-he appeals to the mind. What he gives him is a theological metaphor-on the one hand I want you to see how I am like a nursing mother and on the other hand not like a nursing mother. Hard thinking..He is saying I want you to think. On the other hand a nursing mother-it is theology designed to get at your affections. I want you to bring my theology into the affections of your heart.

    God has the audacity to say a mothers radiance in her face toward her child is nothing compared to my delight in you. Jerusalem had walls but he is saying to me my life is ever before Him-a mother is fixed on her child but I am more fixed on you. Of course unconditionally. You give me nothing-take, take, take..you add no value to my life at all but I love you unconditionally forever and ever..
    If you knew this love was really really yours-an abiding reality to your heart, moment by moment what kind of person would you be? Way different than the person you see now-a fountain of joy no circumstance could put a cork in. Yet, God is not done. This is a good answer to the question, and yet it is still just talk. We have to get to v.16 for a cure to the pain and just not an answer to the pain.

    V.16-We often think God doesn’t love us because of unanswered prayers-yet like a mother and child-the child doesn’t know the deeper sacrifices and the deed of the mom not giving him what he wants now is nothing compared to the deeper sacrifices she has done for him-God says the same things to us-he says “You have not seen the magnitude of my sacrifice for you and the most crucial deed of love that matters isn’t the one you are worried about now-it is in v.16..”See I have engraved you on the palm of my hands.” It isn’t a beautiful metaphor-but a horrible metaphor. I have engraved you on my hands..engraved means hammered with a chisel and a spike. Why in the world would you conjur up the image of someone out of love letting people take a hammer and drive a spike through the palms of your hands. It makes you cringe-it isn’t crazy. Centuries later a man named Thomas was filled with doubts like v.14. Jesus appears to him and says, Look at the palms of my hands, see my love for you-look at what is on the palms of my hands. This is not just talk but action. You are afraid I will forsake you-on the cross I was forsaken so that now no matter what you do, God will never forsake you like a mother never forsakes her infant.

    If right now my soul is filled with doubt-I am like a wrestles infant whining and crying until he gets ahold of the milk. And this is the milk. This is your choice now-Psalm 27:10. Though my mother and father forgets you I will hold you close. You can through meditation and contemplating the word of God and drilling it down toward your affections-you can be melted by spiritual understandings into blazing joy about God’s love for you. You have to live in holy consciousness of this because if you don’t, you have to accept people’s identity of you. You will be crushed when insulted, toss and turn in bed at night when slighted, be destroyed when you put on weight. You can be free from all of that-none of that has to darken your life. God is like a good mother-always after you but they will move heaven and earth that you flourish. This great mother has moved heaven and Earth and you will flourish.

    I need to comfort my heart with these words and others with these words. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the notes, Rebecca. I agree – great sermon, one of his best, (at least for where my heart and life are right now).

  41. 10. What’s your take-a-way and why?

    I love how Keller encourages us to dig into the word daily-I just love him period-a brother filled with Jesus who really exudes him in how he encourages us to meet with God-He brings out how God approaches us all the time-I don’t sense Keller but Jesus pounding my heart- to encourage me to meditate and drive in deeper His Word so that it goes past my intellect and into my affections. Usually we encourage one another to have ‘daily quiet times’ and that is about it, or ‘get into the word daily.’-I have done that a lot! But a relationship with God isn’t about intellectual duty-but a beautiful love struggle or wrestling with His Word and driving His love past my doubts and deeper into my heart. I think Dee and Keller have given ‘walking in the truth’ a new meaning for me. I am by nature a Thomas-a doubter-but I am His beloved and am loved more than my own mother loves me-I am delighted in more than I delight in my boys- I can’t imagine.

    When I see my yuk, I don’t want to live there. I want to make the choice as Keller said to get in the word and work it in deeper so that I rely more and more on the truth of His love for me-and then I am growing in freedom from being bound and defined by what others think of me.

    I don’t know the deep dark waters of my heart and I don’t know where I am at in my idol struggles. I do know that as I continue to bath myself in His truth-Keller is right-I am becoming less and less concerned about gaining approval from men because I am becoming more secure in His delight and love for me-yet I am not ‘there yet’. But I want to grow to the point where I am truly free IN HIM. To fly free-and I know while it won’t be perfect until He comes-I CAN GROW AND BE TRANSFORMED.

    The struggle is crucial though-it really is- because it shows me I need Him and it drives me into His Word and compels me to drive The Gospel in deeper into my heart.

  42. Notes from TK’s sermon: “If I know that a love of this magnitude by a person of this magnitude was really really mine; if the reality of this kind of love was an abiding reality to my heart, moment by moment, consciously; what kind of person would I be”? Well, a person who would throw off the “woulds” and “shoulds” and “need to” and “have to” and would simply do my best, knowing that God would fill in the areas where I am not so strong or capable. A person who gives myself a break because God gives me a break. Where accomplishments are not the end goal but the effort and the motivation are what count. Obviously, we should all strive for excellence. We should all work on areas where we are weak (just like physical exercise). But to accept God’s grace, extend it to ourselves and then extend it to others.

    My take away this week: This has been alot to think about for me this week. As I shared when I first came to this site, I have struggled with love. Loving God, myself and others. I can “sacrifice” and work like crazy but with the wrong motivation. A few years ago, I came to this horrifying realization and at that time asked God, “Teach me to love”. And He is doing so. But it is hard. Not because He isn’t doing His part! But because I am a fallen person, rubbing shoulders with fallen people!! We all, ourselves, our families, our co-workers, the folks at church, anyone we are in contact with, are all fallen. We are all up and down, hot and cold, filled with joy and filled with pain. It is so easy to think that this is how God loves as well. Maybe He is having a bad day. Maybe He has the start of a cold. Maybe He is scared of losing His job. (I know I’m being silly but that’s how I can think). My take away is that God’s love is the only love that is truly unconditional. He does not change! My mistakes and foolishness do not shock or discourage Him. He is so proud of me, especially when I struggle, fall and then get up again. Struggling is not failing. In rereading the verses from this week, the word pictures struck me. A nursing baby, a bruised reed, a smoldering wick, an abandoned wife. All are pictures of vulnerability and this is where God says He is at work. When we are weak, weary, discouraged and feel alone. He is always with us. He is filled with kindness, compassion and strength. For now, I can rest in Him.

    1. Jill, I love pictures…and because of that I love this part of your post…

      “A nursing baby, a bruised reed, a smoldering wick, an abandoned wife. All are pictures of vulnerability and this is where God says He is at work.”

      THIS (vulnerability) is where God says He is at work…crazy concept but oh so true of Him (in our weakness, He is strong)! You brought it all together in a concise summary! Thank you!

  43. My take-away this week…

    This whole image (of mother and child) just reminds me of God’s tenderness towards us. He invites us to see that! He invites us into a beautiful metaphor! In college, I was an art major and we were given an assignment to go to our local art museum, pick out a piece and recreate it for a showing that we would have at the museum at a later date. I walked through the museum not having any idea what I would choose and now (as I look back), I am shocked at my choice. I went for a very tender picture created by Mary Cassatt of a mother and child. At that time in my life that was an unusual selection. See link to the image below…

    http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/mary-cassatt/baby-bill-in-cap-and-shift-1890

    This project was assigned close to 20 years ago….this year at Christmas, I pulled that piece out from under my bed…and had it framed…it now hangs in my bedroom. A constant reminder that God is near and He is our loving Father/Mother personified. It also reminds me of the fact that God is always birthing things in and through our lives…I wake up to that image every single day! This study this week has been another reminder of the fact that He is a good, loving, protective, nurturing, comforting God…and He doesn’t forget His children. That isn’t even in His nature! I love Him dearly and I am confident of the fact that He loves me! There is no way I could have made it without Him (at times He was all I had)!

    1. Beautiful picture and beautiful description of what that picture means to you as you reflect on God’s Father/Mother love.

  44. I am not one to have really ever had a dream where I sensed God wanting to show me something about Him, but last night may have been an exception-not sure. It lasted all night-I awoke and went back to sleep and it continued. It stemmed from me not giving my oldest one something he wanted last night and he begged and begged and then this disgust with me went over his face-it broke my heart.

    After listening to Keller’s sermon this morning, regardless I can apply the my relationship with my son in this dream to God and me. I don’t think it is a huge awakening, but God is helping me to remember- and perhaps wake me up from a place of slumber in my heart.

    In my dream, my oldest son ran away to live with another family because they gave him what he wanted-and I wouldn’t. I was distraught, heartbroken, and angry all at the same time-yet I loved him so deeply. There was this passionate anger or jealousy when I found out he found refuge underneath another mom’s wings. I ran like a mad woman to her house to get him but the mother was acting as if I were horrible. She said my son only wanted to come home for his birthday and then go back. I felt like he wanted me for what I could give him, not for me-the pain was so deep-yet I loved him and if he were to come back I would forgive him and my love wouldn’t change. I felt like the Father who would run to both his sons. I was willing to do anything to get my son back.

    I don’t know if God wants me to look at this dream or not-but I do know this is how God feels when I daily try to find love elsewhere-because I have chosen not to gaze at His Love. Like Keller said in his sermon-I whine and wriggle around.

    Now I am putting the pieces together-I think.. When I am choosing other things as more important or crucial than spending time with Him-soaking His word in deeper and then carrying it with me throughout the day-then I am saying to Him, today I am leaving you and going elsewhere because you are not enough-I don’t want you today even though the truth is only YOU can satisfy my soul. YET, even though this brings Him pain-He loves me for I am inscribed on the Palms of His hands and He won’t forsake me. He will forgive me with open arms-He so wants me and wants to be everything to me, and though he might be angered when I turn from Him, He still delights in me and loves me and wants me-like the Father passionately forgave and welcomed in both sons.

    1. Wow, what a deep dream, Rebecca. Your interpretation is spot on, I think. Beautiful! Your pain of rejection by your son came out clearly in the dream. You show that a mother’s love can be unconditional in spite of great pain. Yet, as you point out, God loves us deeper even than that, even when we constantly turn our back on Him, seeking other sources of satisfaction, in essence saying, “God, you are not enough. You must not love me!”

    1. Congratulations once again, Grandma Dee…hope all are doing well!