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FOCUS AHEAD! FORGET WHAT’S BEHIND! (Two Week Study)

I’ve been reading Silver Linings Playbook as my daughter Annie recommended it, saying it was “so much better than the movie.” I liked the movie, but like the book better. The protagonist, Pat, has a bipolar disorder and, as is so often sadly true, refuses his meds. Though Pat is not well, I see myself in him when I get out of touch with reality, pursuing my idol with passion. Pat’s passion, which all the somewhat healthier people in his life know is unrealistic, is getting his ex-wife Nikki back. (He doesn’t realize or cannot accept that she divorced him long ago and has remarried.)

silverliningsBecause Nikki likes fit men, Pat works out most of the day, running thirty miles with a trash bag on (so he’ll sweat more), working endlessly in his weight room, and drinking four gallons of water every day. He is also reading, because Nikki likes men who read, memorizing lines from the books to impress her when “apart” time is over. He thinks “apart” time has been a few months, but it has been over five years, most of which were spent in a mental institution. He doesn’t like people who tell him to forget about Nikki because they don’t believe in “silver lining” endings. He is focused, with a searing focus, on his idol. There are times when his focus shows beauty too, even though he is confused. He is steadfast about being faithful to Nikki, about being “kind instead of right,” about being so good that God will bring Nikki back. He is focused, forgetting what is behind, forging forward to his misguided goal.

 His family, in an attempt to distract him from this unrealistic goal, introduces him to Tiffany, who also has a  mental disorder and also refuses meds. (I’ll step on my soapbox for just a moment to address Christians who discourage their brothers and sisters who have illnesses, physical or mental, from taking meds. Jesus said “the sick need a physician,” and there are advances in medicine that truly counteract or mitigate the effects of the fall, whether it is a physical or a mental illness. I thank God for antibiotics, insulin, and anti-depressants! Okay — I’m stepping off my soapbox.)

Tiffany chases Pat during his long, long runs, as confused as he is.

 *
2SilverLinings-3
Tiffany and Pat

 

I saw myself in Pat. I lose touch with reality when I pursue an idol with a passion, thinking  somehow there will be a silver lining ending this time. Instead, my idol cuts me to pieces, and, as Jonah says, causes me to forfeit the grace that could be mine.

But there is a goal worth pursuing, the only one that is in touch with reality. The world thinks it is crazy, for it is an unseen reality. So the world “runs after earthly things, making their god their belly, being enemies of the cross of Christ,” and their end, Philippians tells us, is destruction.

But our citizenship is in heaven, so may we make this our searing focus: the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.Those who do stand out. Paul was able to say, “Imitate me.” There are those who have gone before who have made the Lord their searing focus.

E501234DConsider Eric Liddell, He became famous through Chariots of Fire, but went on N.T. Wrightto be a missionary in China, who even when captured in a prisoner of war camp, helped the children through it by organizing sports for them, and helped his fellow inmates by teaching them Scripture and the great hymns like Be Still My Soul. He was focused, with a searing focus, toward the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus. The world didn’t understand him, yet, in the end, admired him. N. T. Wright has a wonderful series of inexpensive commentaries on the whole New Testament that I recommend highly. In “Philippians for Everyman,” he illustrates the verse,”forgetting that which is behind,” and compares it to a famous incident in Liddell’s life when he fell during the race, and everyone thought he would be out. But he picked himself up, and with a searing focus, caught and passed the other runners. Watch the re-enactment of this in this You-tube clip from Chariots of Fire. We’ll discuss it this week.

Here is the clip:

This is a two week study because there is a lot of homework and the 2nd week includes the 4th of July weekend, when many of you will be traveling. So during Week 1 we’ll do the study, and during Week 2 you’ll listen to the corresponding Keller sermon — or pace yourself however it works best for you.

Week 1: Bible Study on Philippians 3:12-21

Sunday/Monday Icebreakers

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

2. Think about an idol you have chased. How has it caused your mind to be darkened, to lose touch with reality? How did you expect a “silver lining” end? What did you get instead?

Monday-Friday Bible Study (Philippians 3:12-21)

Read the whole passage: Philippians 3:12-21

The Window - Peter Pan - barriepeterpan - blogspot - Peter Crawford

THE NURSERY DOOR OPENS…

In the Keller sermon this week he says every great story, such as Peter Pan, shows something from the outside coming to change our lives. The nursery door opens…

Sara Groves puts it like this, “I don’t claim to have found the truth, but I know it has found me.”

The NIV translates verse 12 “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

3. What are some ways that you see that God wooed you, that the truth found you, rather than you first finding God, you initiating your rescue? What are some ways that you see that Christ initially took hold of you, rather than you taking hold of Him? (Think back and share — it will encourage us all.)

4. Read Philippians 3:13-16

    A. We are rescued from the penalty of sin the moment we respond to Christ’s wooing. But being rescued from the power of sin is a process. How does Paul articulate this in the opening of Philippians 3:13?

    B.  What helps you to persevere in the process? Share whatever you like, but also, what you see in this passage that could help you persevere.

    C. Paul says, “Forgetting what lies bhind and straining forward to what lies ahead…” What must he forget, do you think? What must you forget?

    D. Watch again the You-tube clip of Eric Liddell and comment on what you see.

N. T. Wright says: What would most of us have done has we fallen, like Eric? “I suspect we would have accepted from the moment we fell that we were out of the race, with no hope left.”  Do you realize, that there despite the sins, poor judgments, or tragedies in your past, that God can still enable you to “win the race of the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus?”

     E. Contemplate what this means for you right now and share.

     F. What is the upward call? (Colossians 3:1-4 is a parallel passage that may help.) It is not just “getting to heaven,” for we are already citizens of heaven. See if you can discern what this means.

5. Read Philippians 3:17-21

     A. What does Paul tell us to do in verse 17? What comments do you have on this?

     B. What do you learn about those who have their minds set on earthly things according to verses 18-19? How is this a warning to you?

      In verse 20, we are told our citizenship is in heaven, rather than will be in heaven. N. T. Wright says “We naturally suppose Paul means “and so we’re waiting until we can go and live in heaven where we belong.” If someone in Philippis said, “We are citizens of Rome,” they certainly wouldn’t mean “so we’re looking forward to going to live there.” …The church is at present a colony of heaven, with the responsibility (as we say in the Lord’s prayer) for bringing the life and rule of heaven to bear on earth.

      C. With Wright’s comment in mind, how are you fulfilling the prayer in the Lord’s prayer, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?”

      D. What things will happen when our Savior returns to the heaven and earth that will one day be made one?

Saturday

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

Week 2: Keller sermon

Sunday/Monday Icebreakers

7. How have you spied God in your life in that last week? (In The God Hunt, Karen and David Mains suggest considering:

     1) An answer to prayer

     2) Unusual timing or circumstances

     3) Unexpected grace

     4) God’s help to do His work in the world

8.  What are your plans for the 4th of July weekend? Is there any way you could apply what you learned last week to this holiday weekend?

Monday-Friday  Sermon (LINK)

9.  Listen to the Keller sermon and share your notes

Saturday

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

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  1. E. Contemplate what this means for you right now and share.

    The gut reaction is to give up when I have fallen or to at least move on in a discouraged state—but this only reveals that I am still relying on my own righteousness. If I am truly relying on Christ’s work alone, there should be NO lack of courage, hope, or perseverance. Instead, I should feel more hope-filled than ever—starting to “get” more of what Paul means about boasting in our weaknesses.

    F. What is the upward call? (Colossians 3:1-4 is a parallel passage that may help.) It is not just “getting to heaven,” for we are already citizens of heaven. See if you can discern what this means.

    To have the mind of Christ, here and now—to care for what He cares about. To think eternally about all things. We are trying to get ready to move and having all these annoying set backs, buyers almost backed out on our trip, today the garage door broke and cost $400 to replace—that kind of thing! I am continually reminding myself—it is His money to do as He pleases, all we can do is try to be good stewards, but “hold loosely” has been my motto lately. This is not my real home—my “dream home” awaits with Christ, but that is not just something to look forward to, it should change how I view everything today. “Things above” includes hearts and souls, not carpet and appliances. It shifts my mind from my to-do list, to caring more for the relationships around me—how can I care, like Christ, for every heart I come in contact with.

    5. Read Philippians 3:17-21
    A. What does Paul tell us to do in verse 17? What comments do you have on this?

    Paul says “join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us”. He is calling us to seek fellowship from a body that is Christ-centered and preaches the one true Gospel. He is reminding us of the importance of being in a like-minded body of believers, under sound teaching, encouraging one another in faith.

    B. What do you learn about those who have their minds set on earthly things according to verses 18-19? How is this a warning to you?

    They are enemies of the Gospel. Their end is destruction. “…their god is their belly” tells me they have an insatiable appetite—one that has been fed with junk food, so it is never truly satisfied. Their cravings are ruled by their own belly—listening to the desires of the flesh, fueled by idols.

    D. With Wright’s comment in mind, how are you fulfilling the prayer in the Lord’s prayer, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?”

    Oh that is so rich! I really like Wright’s commentary. I don’t think I’m quite answering this, but what comes to mind, is when I release my desires to Him—and instead of pleading that it go my way, I am able to fully say that I only desire what He wants to do. It is again Jesus in Gethsemane. There is struggle, there is grieving—but after the cries, to be able to say—not my will, but Thine be done.

    1. Elizabeth, I think you really did answer it very well and very simply in relinquishing your will to His. Beautifully put!

    2. This is gold:
      “This is not my real home—my “dream home” awaits with Christ, but that is not just something to look forward to, it should change how I view everything today. “Things above” includes hearts and souls, not carpet and appliances. It shifts my mind from my to-do list, to caring more for the relationships around me—how can I care, like Christ, for every heart I come in contact with.”

      How injured are you from the bike crash, I don’t think you ever did say (if you did I missed it), I am wondering if you didn’t say because you didn’t want us to worry?
      You need to let us love on you like you love on us!

  2. E. What things will happen when our Savior returns to the heaven and earth that will one day be made one?
    Christ “will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body”—AMAZING! We will be whole, lacking nothing—face to face. Fully exposed, fully accepted. We will love others like Christ loves!

  3. 8.  What are your plans for the 4th of July weekend? Is there any way you could apply what you learned last week to this holiday weekend?

    We are celebrating a wedding on July 4th and then Sarah and I head to see my mom for 5-6 weeks. Prayers for safe travels if you have a chance.

    I will be focusing on my mom and her needs for the next month. I am sure there will be times when I get tired. I will remember Jesus, who never complained; never said a word in His most painful struggle. I will pray that my visit is comforting to mom and that He will keep me strong and running the race even when I don’t feel like it. I will pray to be a servant as Christ was to His disciples. I need to keep focused on Jesus and His loving kindness.

    1. I will pray for you and Sarah and your mom, during your visit…blessings with travel also!

      1. Thanks Joyce!

    2. I hope you’ll be able to keep us posted during your visit with your mom-even if only briefly…I’ll be praying for your time with her, Laura.

    3. Laura, I will pray too. I am so glad that Sarah is going with you.

    4. Me too Laura, may God richly bless this time with your Mom & Sarah.

    5. Me too..or 3 or 4. Anyway whatever the number, I will be praying for a safe journey and that the Lord will bless all of you during the time you are with your mom.

  4. 9.  Listen to the Keller sermon and share your notes

    Another great sermon from TK! I especially liked his bit about gathering all our “stuff” into one focused point; Jesus Christ. So, I have become less like a Pharisee in certain respects (more forgiving of others), I have learned to not worry about money, I have learned to stop controlling when it comes to my kids, etc. There are many other things I need to gather up yet, but I am definitely on the road to imitating what it is to be more Christ-like. I think this is what Paul means when he says he isn’t quite all “set” with his goal; he still presses on. I am pressing on like Paul. When all is gathered then my total focus will be Jesus, not earth.

  5. D. What things will happen when our Savior returns to the heaven and earth that will one day be made one?

    He will change our weak, mortal, frail bodies into one like His glorious resurrected body.

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

    I’ve reviewed this week several times already…all of it is so good. I want to remember that chasing after the wrong things – idols – leads to a darkened mind that loses touch with reality. For me, getting focused on an idol seems to lead especially to being ungrateful, to being unthankful, and that is certainly walking in darkness. I want to take with me Liddell’s example of determination to get back in the race. My default mode is to give up, to quit, or, like Elizabeth wrote in her post above, to move on but in a discouraged state. That is still behaving as if I’m defeated. I live a lot of my life behaving as if I’m defeated in one way or another. I want to hold onto this from N.T. Wright: “Do you realize, that there despite the sins, poor judgments, or tragedies in your past, that God can still enable you to “win the race of the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus?”

    1. This was a Facebook post from Paul David Tripp on Monday, it came to mind as I read your last paragraph Susan.

      “Today in some way you will measure your capability. Will you remember that, by grace, the God of incalculable power now lives inside of you?”

  6. As I read back over last week I realize that I didn’t really answer this question. When thinking about a question I can get carried away in my thinking and off of the question if I don’t go back and read it.

    C. With Wright’s comment in mind, how are you fulfilling the prayer in the Lord’s prayer, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?”
    I was still seeing heaven as a someday thing. But if we are present citizens the place it begins is in our own hearts and minds. If we are citizens of the US, nothing changes if we go to Europe unless we change it. So it doesn’t matter where we are presently. The cross and our resulting citizenship in heaven is the golden thread throughout everything we think and do. It works itself out from our thoughts into actions in our lives. It enables us to forget what is behind and look forward to what is before us, to getting home. We begin to see that, though we may not understand, His will is always bringing His kingdom to earth and to us. He is always bringing us home.

    1. I still missed the last part! Lol! I fulfill His prayer first of all in my thought life, in where my hope is. It doesn’t matter where I live or even where my children go to school as long as I am not in rebellion from Him. He is sovereign over ALL things. What really matters is if my children grow in Him, not whether they have a perfect school experience. So in this area I am trusting rather than striving and I experience peace. If I look back and see my own failure I can let it go and move forward because I can trust Him to use it somehow to bring His kingdom to earth.

      1. You’re so funny Anne 🙂 I enjoyed this post because I too can get distracted as I am trying to produce a thought! I can so relate…..

        1. 🙂 glad I am not the only one

      2. Anne,
        your comment about where your kids go to school really stood out to me. I had my son in a Christian School and in Grade 7 he was diagnosed with a disability and they said I had to find another school for him. I spent a long time crying to the Lord as I was sure that school was the best place for my son, I was wrong. The Lord opened only one door and one door only, to a school for kids with learning disabilities. My son graduated this year from high school and even though there was nothing “christian” about his education, I know without a doubt that this school was the absolutely best place for him. I feel so blessed to have been able to have him at that particular school. I do not know what path that God will have him on, but I do know that part of the foundation for whatever that will be comes from the school that he was in.

        1. Mary – Canada, I totally understand what you are talking about with trying to find the right place for your son. This happened to us as well with Sarah. The perfect school (also Christian) closed after her 10th grade year and we were devastated. I took control of the situation (bad idea) and struggled finding a place for her that was right. I didn’t think much of asking God (duh) what was best for her and we ended up struggling for the next 2.5 years to get her out of high school. So sad. If I could have a “do over,” I would ask God and then wait. So glad you were smarter than I! Congratulations on his graduation 🙂

        2. Laura, I have a sense of excitement about where The Lord is going with Sarah. I have had some sweet times of prayer for her. Also for Krista and Diane.

        3. Mary, that is so wonderful how The Lord led you and how He has been with your son through it all. Christian school is nice but I’m no longer sure it is always the answer for our children. Better that we should walk by faith than to rely on our own plan.

        4. LIKE

  7. Thanks everyone for your prayers…Adam arrived safely yesterday afternoon in Milwaukee!

  8. Please pray for me today as I have a very very hard meeting with my boss at work this afternoon. It has to do with some dishonesty on my part and I so hope that I am able to make amends and not jeopardize my job.

    1. Praying now Dawn.

    2. Dawn–praying now–please let us know when you can how it goes.
      Lord, we lift up Dawn’s meeting with her boss to You. Please soften her bosses heart to be receptive to what Dawn has to share, please prepare the way before her. Thank You that we know You are with her at every moment. Give her clear thoughts and words, please bless this Lord and use it for good. In Your Name~

    3. Dawn…pausing to pray for you right now.

      1. Me too Dawn. Please let us know.

    4. Dawn
      was praying and did see your later post and am glad it worked out for you.

  9. . Read Philippians 3:17-21

    A. What does Paul tell us to do in verse 17? What comments do you have on this? Imitate those who walk in God’s ways. It is intimidating to think this, how others should view us who are “godly” especially telling my children to do this of me. However, it is how we learn to walk and talk, etc. Children are often copies of their parents when they are young atleast. So imitating others further along in the faith is a good thing too. So important to imitate Christ

    B. What do you learn about those who have their minds set on earthly things according to verses 18-19? How is this a warning to you? they walk as enemies of the cross. It is so sad. It is a warning to keep our eyes on Jesus.

    In verse 20, we are told our citizenship is in heaven, rather than will be in heaven. N. T. Wright says “We naturally suppose Paul means “and so we’re waiting until we can go and live in heaven where we belong.” If someone in Philippis said, “We are citizens of Rome,” they certainly wouldn’t mean “so we’re looking forward to going to live there.” …The church is at present a colony of heaven, with the responsibility (as we say in the Lord’s prayer) for bringing the life and rule of heaven to bear on earth.

    C. With Wright’s comment in mind, how are you fulfilling the prayer in the Lord’s prayer, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven?” Love this quote! Need to ponder how I am fulfilling this prayer.

    D. What things will happen when our Savior returns to the heaven and earth that will one day be made one? transform our lowly bodies like His glorious body, to subject all things to Himself.

  10. Another I Spy. 🙂

    This transitional employment time this month is going to be very stressful-already is and I am finding myself easily running to my control idol instead of clinging to Him. Yesterday I felt like a madwoman with worry for I made an error in our short and long term budget. 🙁 I worried to the point of exhaustion yesterday. I was worried about what could happen if our plans didn’t work out. But I went to Him in Psalm 63 and spent some time in His presence-and David’s words turned me inside out. I am not clinging to Him and am letting the arrows of condemnation from the evil one stick. So last night while in anguish I had to let go of my control idol and poured out my heart and clung to Him-He let me know He has this and to trust Him and let Him carry my load. It came back up again this morning in a conversation with my husband-the planning and things- and I began to worry-but He wanted me to be still and trust. He will work things out. Yes we will have to work but I don’t think my husband will have to exhaust himself working so many hours-so just trusting Him for direction still.

    I am realizing I am still a child learning to cling-it is a long journey to learn- and these trials or valleys are painful but wonderful learning places.

    (I so want to share what He showed me in this Psalm, remembrance of our intimacy every day but also His rescue of me from the hold of my idols-so sweet-but it would take too long to tell you. 🙂 )

    1. I went to Psalm 63, it brought tears.
      If you want to share what He showed you, I would love to hear it.

      The examples you show of casting all your cares upon Him are sweet and give others who struggle with doing just that something to imitate.

      1. Chris, Then this is my I Spy this morning-He led you to Psalm 63. :):) (huge smile).

        v.1 and 2 spoke to me the other day-I want to meditate more on His beauty-His love for me and thirst after and long for him harder like David IN THE MIDDLE OF ANGUISH! A red flag that tells me I am not is when I see I am not loving others well. impatience with my husband and boys-not taking time to talk with the clerk in the grocery store who wants to talk.

        This morning it is v.3-5: “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” –

        So today I am meditating on: His love is better than life; I will be fully satisfied in Him as with the richest of foods!

  11. E. Contemplate what this means for you right now and share.
    When I fail, rather than beating myself up, wallowing in self-criticism and negative self-talk, I need to be gentle with myself and begin again. I need to accept that there will be “falls,” even expect them, but rather than fearing imperfection, resign myself to whatever happens (success or failure) I will…I CAN complete the task either successfully or learning lessons from less than successful completion. I need to be “fiercely determined” and not allow fear of imperfection to stalemate me into “staying down” or never even beginning “the race” at all. Some days this comes more easily than others; sometimes this is a tall order, but nonetheless the goal.

    F. What is the upward call?
    Although I live in this world, my true “home” is heaven. My focus should be heavenly, rather than worldly; living “in-tune”/with God’s perspective rather than self-interest or that of the world.

    5. A. What does Paul tell us to do in verse 17?
    Paul tells us to follow his and other similar examples of how to live.

    What comments do you have on this?
    Paul is intensely interested in making sure that believers don’t allow themselves to be manuevered into the ever-present “ditches” of life (legalism and hedonism). He understands how this might occur ever so subtly and he is bidding warning and advising to use him and followers similar as examples. Paul is pretty incredible…his love and sacrifices were great; his contentment in all circumstances incomprehensible–his example is one to hold as a focus/goal for my life.

    B. What do you learn about those who have their minds set on earthly things according to verses 18-19?
    “they are headed for destruction”

    How is this a warning to you?
    This is a warning to not focus on worldly things that are temporary…to not build one’s life on this material world being overly concerned with worldly things (e.g., prestige, materialism) that have no value in heaven/eternity and will cause harm and destruction.

    D. What things will happen when our Savior returns to the heaven and earth that will one day be made one?
    Jesus will transform all (i.e., our world, our bodies)…no disease, no physical or mental issues/challenges, no disasters, no evil, etc.

    7. How have you spied God in your life in that last week? (In The God Hunt, Karen and David Mains suggest considering:
    1) An answer to prayer
    My oldest daughter was offered/accepted new employment…it is a wonderful opportunity for her; a great step for her.

    2) Unusual timing or circumstances
    I ran unexpectedly into a teacher of my youngest daughter who I was always friendly with in a “teacher/parent” type way. We chatted for a bit; we have some interests in common and I anticipate that this may be the start of a nice friendship. She lives close proximity to my home and suggested that we walk together some mornings. (I was walking our dog and walked past her house.)

    3) Unexpected grace
    I ran into a gal from the church that my husband and I attended most recently. She asked me to have coffee with her, gave me her phone number to call. She asked me/us to please come back…she said that she missed us and was sure that others did too. She encouraged me to not allow “church politics” to interfere in our attending.

    1. This whole post was good Nancy, I especially relate to being frozen due to the fear of imperfection.

      Had you been considering changing churches, or have you been church hunting?

      1. We have had issues these past several years involving church politics predominantly resulting in some poor behavior…even at the synod/bishop level. We have not attended this most recent church in a while. Church looking?…kind of but not really. We (my husband and I) have been “burned” a few times and are leery in putting ourselves “out there” again. I do miss the corporate worship, fellowship, and communing. It’s a dilemma for me/us presently.

        1. You are such a blessing and a wonderful addition here on the bog, it is sad to me to think you are not connected with local believers too, you have so much to share, praying for wisdom and guidance for you in these things.

        2. Thank you for your kind words and prayers, Chris.

  12. Thanks for your continued prayers for Jay! Following is the most recent update from Bridget…

    “This week, the doctors took Jay off his anti-rejection meds that keep his body from fighting with the donor bone marrow. There is research that suggests that the process of the body fighting with the bone marrow donor is similar to the process of the body fighting cancer. The hope is that Jay’s body and the bone marrow will fight just a little, but that Jay will also fight the cancer through this process. They usually wait until much later to start this, but because Jay has had two very aggressive cancers before the age of two, his doctors feel strongly that we need to take every opportunity to try and beat the cancer….and we agree. Jay will be watched very closely to make sure the fight between his body and the donor marrow doesn’t get out of hand and cause him to get very sick. I should mention that the reason they are able to start this process early is because Jay is doing so well!!!”

    1. That’s wonderful news!!!

    2. Thank you for this update, praying right now for Jay’s little body to accept the new bone marrow and fight the cancer instead.

  13. Mom called last night and though Dad has gotten a bit of a cold, they are still having a wonderful time camping. They were hoping to get out canoeing more today. 🙂

    1. Thats great news Krista, except your dad’s cold!

  14. 7. How have you spied God in your life in that last week?

         2) Unusual timing or circumstances
    
My friend Lisa who I have known since middle school, she is the one who I requested prayer for last week, her coming back into my life as a sister in Christ is so unexpected and such a balm to me. She is truly overflowing with excitement about Christ. She remembered my mom as the only person she ever knew who read her bible. I am so thankful to God for rescuing both of us and reuniting us now.

         3) Unexpected grace

    My Brother and Sister in Law stayed with us over the weekend. My Sister in Law spoke such encouraging words to Bill and me, She affirmed Bill in his ministry and ability to connect with young people, she told me she see change in me, that I am different than I used to be. Her presence was so edifying, I needed it just then, and God brought her at just the right time.
      
    What are your plans for the 4th of July weekend? Is there any way you could apply what you learned last week to this holiday weekend?

    
Mike, Bills 1/2 brother who we are like parents to and his wife Haruka from Japan are staying with us until the 12th. Mike will be deployed to Africa next month. We are keeping his dog until he gets back, Haruka will return to Japan until he returns.
    
On Thursday we will spend the day with friends.
    I work Friday, Bill will be going to the Cleveland Indians game with some of the kids.
 Friday and Saturday Maggie (Mikes sister ho also lived with us) and her husband will also be our guests,
    Saturday I will host a baby shower in our home for Maggie.
    Sunday is a special service highlighting the NYC mission trip Bill was recently on with the students.
    
I hope that I apply what I have learned in not trying to pursue earthly perfection, but in seeing the value of the people who I am with, and loving them well.

    If I look to what a glorious future awaits me when all is redeemed, I can soldier on through what is less than perfect here with purpose and hope.

    1. Love all of your “I Spy’s”, Chris. And I almost missed this gem…that you want to not focus on earthly perfection but enjoying and loving well the people you are with!

    2. I confirm what your sisters law sees. From when I first met you here. You were lovely then but now all the more so!

  15. F. What is the upward call? (Colossians 3:1-4 is a parallel passage that may help.) It is not just “getting to heaven,” for we are already citizens of heaven. See if you can discern what this means

    I think those of us who are called and respond to Christ are to think about the ways things are in heaven and the desires of God for us on earth. His goal is that none should be lost so we should spend our days meditating on this and then behaving in a way that will help bring this goal to reality. We should think about God’s love for each of us and then turn around and give that love to others. We should remember God’s forgiveness of our sins and then remember to forgive others their sins against us. We should worship here on earth as the angels do in heaven – with abandon and joy. This is the whole pressing on for me. I’ll never be fully able to do this here on earth. But I pray that I will become more and more like Him.

    5. Read Philippians 3:17-21

    A. What does Paul tell us to do in verse 17? What comments do you have on this?

    To keep our focus on those who live out the Christian faith as Paul did. We all need models and mentors that act as examples for us.

    B. What do you learn about those who have their minds set on earthly things according to verses 18-19? How is this a warning to you?

    I learn that they satisfy their earthly appetites. They are not sorry for what they do and one day this will lead to their destruction, which I’m supposing is separation from God. They are putting their will and desires above what God wills and desires. It is a warning to me to set my mind on what God wants and trust Him with my will and desires.

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

    First, the need to persevere in my life. We all can get so distracted by things that don’t really matter. To keep my focus on Christ and what He would want me to do is going to be a challenge – but a good challenge! Next, I loved the reminder that we are citizens of heaven already and that we are a colony here on earth. That is a great word picture for me!

    1. I thought as I read this that perhaps we as Christ followers should celebrate an independence day from our sin!

  17. 7. How have you spied God in your life in the last week?

    1) An answer to prayer
    Prayers were said for my son Adam’s safe travel to Milwaukee-just over a 7 hour drive from our home. He arrived at his friend’s home safely on Monday. Tues. morning when he went to start his car in their driveway, it wouldn’t start – the battery was dead. His friend’s dad helped him jump it and got it to a garage where the battery was replaced. He just acquired this used car – not many miles on it but didn’t know the battery was 7 years old. I am thankful this didn’t happen on the way there!

    1. Yes I spy!

  18. 8. What are your plans for the 4th of July weekend?

    We are having our extended family over tomorrow on the 4th…it’s been our tradition the last several years to host our families on the 4th and to celebrate my daughter’s birthday (which was the 1st) and my niece’s birthday which is on the 9th. I will miss Adam being here this year as he is in Milwaukee and my other son who is a lifeguard has to work until 8pm.

    Is there any way you could apply what you learned last week to this holiday weekend?

    I really like what Chris said in her post above about not pursuing earthly perfection but rather seeing the value of the people you are with and loving them. As I anticipate family gatherings, I usually have in my mind a set of expectations as to how I want things to be…and more often than not I end up being disappointed in some way. I worry about if people are having a nice time…if everyone is getting along. I easily get discouraged because I like to have people over while my husband does not. There are times when things are tense here because of that and I feel anxious and uptight. I need to remember this is all just a part of the race I’m running and to rely on His help…not get sidetracked by idols of approval or control…keep my mind set on things above and that’s where people matter more than anything else.

    1. I can relate to your family gathering anxieties Susan. I once greeted some guests at the door with a panic stricken “I am not ready!” after they had drive 2 hours to get here. I do not think they felt very welcome.

      I have relaxed a great deal but that Martha feeling can rush upon me pretty quickly.
      Praying for Spirit led opportunities for you to shine your Light today with your family.

  19. For all of those who have been praying for me. My new boss has turned out to be more gracious and forgiving than I could have expected. She is working positively with me in my treatment plan.
    And the twins are girls! After having 4 sons this will be a wonderful new adventure.

    1. Dawn–wonderful news!! You’ve got a lot of God-spies 😉

    2. Another similarity Dawn, I also have a granddaughter after giving birth to 4 boys, I have to say being a grandma is pretty wonderful stuff, and two at once, what a blessing!
      Praising God for the good news from your meeting.

    3. So glad things worked out at work…grace is an incredible experience. Twin girls…:) Thanks for the updates, Dawn.

    4. So relieved for you, Dawn!

    5. Dawn, so thankful for answered prayers-for graciousness and forgiveness and a good relationship with your boss! And how exciting for the twin girls!

    6. Dawn, thankful for answered prayers, for your boss being gracious and forgiving! And excited for you about the twins!

  20. 7. Joey drawing me near rather than pushing me away was my unexpected grace. He asked me if I would teach his friends to drive a manual transmission car and he thinks I should have a cooking show on TV. (Sometimes I have a hard time keeping a straight face when his enthusiasm breaks out.) He said I could teach just about anything. The truth is, I am a terrible teacher but The Lord is breaking through.

    With Joey it has been different from my first child raising. He isn’t as much a part of my spiritual résumé as the older one was. There have been quite a few things happen in which I could have responded in fear but I was able to keep my head and be a parent. God has enabled me to entrust this child with Him. It has really made a difference in our relationship. It definitely makes him feel more secure.

    Last Sunday in the toddler nursery God gave me just what I needed to teach the toddlers. All eight do them sat silent on the floor because they were seeing that Jesus loves them. It was beautiful.

    1. Oh Anne–this just made me smile so much. I think it was yesterday when you replied to my post–i wanted to ask for a Joey update, but prayed instead and knew you’d share when you felt led. This is precious. I read the 2nd paragraph and want to squeeze it dry–learn all I can, and apply it to my own parenting…”God has enabled me to entrust this child with Him.” And the toddlers. MY God-spy may be this post.

      1. Elizabeth you bless me so much.

      1. What I am thinking Dee is that the calmness has made the difference. The fact that my own identity is not so wrapped up in his performance.

    2. Wonderful to hear how God has enabled you to trust Him with Joey, and that it is bearing fruit.
      I am curious about what was given you to teach the toddlers that kept them silent.

      1. Chris, It was a certain book and I can’t remember the name of it right now. The director brought it in the first day I was there. It blessed me so because it is a book I read to both of my children. The next Sunday it was a little chaotic so they asked me to read the story. Normally I would shrink back, especially since I was so new there but I felt the Spirit rise up in me. I knew exactly which story I wanted and remembered it so well that I was able to read it upside down. I really sensed the Spirit touching them.
        I will find out the book and post it.

    3. I woke up today, somewhat panic stricken, that I would struggle teaching upperclassmen next year since I haven’t done so in several years. Sarah and I are driving to see mom (20 hours) and have stopped at relatives last night to break up the drive. Part of my summer is getting ready for next school year, and my anxiety has set in a tad. One course is completely new for me and is a difficult “sale” to high school students when they see how tough it can be (meteorology). It is actually “atmospheric physics,” and let me tell you, after studying this for my masters I have a new appreciation for the “weather man!”

      Anyway, your post about toddlers made me laugh! It’s not so far off from juniors and seniors in high school! Maybe I should use some of your tactics 🙂 I think that keeping focus on the student and off me is paramount. Remembering to teach about God’s beautiful planet with Him as my focus will help me. What does God want me to teach the students about the atmosphere? It is fascinating; some of the phenomenon we see in the weather. He has created an amazing earth that “heals” itself at times. One thing I really want to impress on students (this is definitely something God has out on my heart in the last few years) is actually studying for themselves global climate change, instead of listening to news reports that are biased and non-scientific for the most part. I can’t wait to help them understand science instead of reacting to politics!

      So, what was your magic with the toddlers?! How did you plan your lesson?

      1. Laura-dancer–this stopped me: “What does God want me to teach the students about the atmosphere?” THAT is a beautiful heart. WOW. That as a teacher, of your level, seeking what the Lord would have you teach them about the world He has made, I don’t know–that just grabbed me this morning. Praying now for you and his leading as your prepare, peace, and definitely for the time with your Mom.

      2. Laura, your thoughts about teaching this class next year are so exciting! You have some great ideas and I agree with Elizabeth, they come out of a beautiful Christ centered heart.

        The thing with the toddlers was exactly that there was no plan. God prepared my heart with thoughts about them and a story in that book. I was not the teacher but at the last minute she asked me to read the story. It was all God.

        1. Nice…….

  21. 8. My oldest son will be in tonight and stay until Sunday. I have planned a Christmas morning type breakfast then we will visit fiends for dinner. I don’t think we will be able to go out for fireworks because I have to work so early Friday.

    I am really hoping that he and I can have some good conversations. He would never say it to me but I think there are things he holds onto from the past. I am really praying that we will be able to talk. I would love a bit of unexpected grace from his heart.

    I had another I spy Monday. I could not find one of the car titles. In searching high and low I found some savings bonds that my mother had given to Alfred when he was very little. I had completely forgotten about them. It brings me to tears because it is a gift from her when she is no longer able to give. As if she was able to reach across the years and bless him. Very hard to explain. I hate to cry in front of my children but I see no way around it.

    1. Perhaps Anne those tears you’re avoiding might be a catalyst to the good conversation you long for with Alfred. Praying now for you and your boys.

      1. Oh Chris, you are so right! I did not even think of that. Thank you for prayer.

    1. Dee-oh, you bet-oh my, I understand how it is for you staying awake late! :~/ Lord thank you for this beautiful time you have given Dee and these four international students today-what a sweet gift! We ask that you would make their fellowship deep and that you would connect hearts. We especially ask you to help Dee to stay alert and awake tonight as she drives. Protect her and help her to arrive home safely! In your name, amen.

    2. “May God in His mercy bring a revival to America.”…Amen.

    3. Dee, How generous of you to do that! Praying that all goes smoothly.

    4. Dee, How did it go yesterday and last night?

        1. Sounds like it was a wonderful time-and thankful you returned okay! I can relate to your night blindness and weariness-i have that too. So glad He kept you awake.

    5. Your energy amazes me Dee–still that little girl on her bike on the hill! Love how He uses it for His glory–thankful it went so well!

  22. Amen to prayers for America! My heart has been so impressed today with God’s love for this country. My eyes see a road to ruin but my heart sees God’s leading us to revival. Amen. Come Lord Jesus.

  23. Chris, I had to scroll through over 650 results for Bible stories for toddlers. This is it but it is unavailable.

    http://www.amazon.com/Read-Aloud-Bible-Stories-Toddlers-Preschoolers/dp/B008E6PYRG/ref=sr_1_307?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372952719&sr=1-307&keywords=bible+stories+for+toddlers

    How amazing is it that this was the book that came into the nursery on my first morning there?

    1. oh Anne–had to jump in when I saw this-we have all of this series and I love these books! Step..step…step 🙂

    2. Thank you!
      If you look down below to the customers who bought this item also bought…. area the books are available individually, just not as a set. I am going to purchase them!
      So neat to hear this story of provision.

    3. Thanks for the recommendation, gals…Vol. 3 will be purchased in the very near future for my granddaughter for Christmas (it has the story of creation and Jesus’ birth).

  24. 9. My sermon notes: I know I have said this about some of his sermons in the past but this is by far his best!

    I took notes for those of you who are unable to buy the sermon-so I hope the length is okay! There are too many important truths, and beauty in here from God to leave out:

    Paul uses the word “press”-I “press” on. Press means “to pound” “I beat”. He is gathering up himself and pounding it, pushing it toward a single point. He is after one thing now. What Christianity says:

    “The Christian life is caused by and results in a spiritual veracity-a spiritual laser beam and intensity of focus causes a christian to be a christian and then makes a Christian into the same thing. It causes our Christianity and a laser beam is what we become-a spiritual aggressiveness-a vehement, sweet humble velocity that is brought to bear on me and makes me a Christian and then that illicits the same response in me. a Laser beam that causes you and makes you into it’s own likeness. Paul said I “Press” because i have been “grasped”- pressed”.”

    My whole life is pushed into one thing. Colossians 1:29-Paul says he struggles by the energy which he mightily inspires within me.

    V12. Christianity didn’t start with me-it started upon me.

    In America, in different religions we are told it starts with us-if YOU take hold then these things will happen. Christianity says the opposite-You can’t be a Christian by making yourself one. Jesus says, no one can come to me lest the father draws them.

    A Christian is aware that a power outside her came to bear on her-that God is after her. Something from the outside invading them. You find when you try to break it off you can’t pull out-why? Something is after you-you aren’t taking it up-it is taking you up. I would have never become a Christian unless someone came after me-someone is dealing with my center-something is going on.

    How do I know He is coming after me. I am ‘trying’ to grasp that which grasped me. The way you know is that you become intense yourself. A laser beam. When you are being grasped you start to think “either/or”-you say either there is a God and my relationship matters or there isn’t and everything burns up and it means nothing. If God is-He is all that matters. My life is being gathered up to one point. Indifference is all gone.

    If you grasp after God, or yearn, or even have dissatisfaction in your spiritual condition, it is impossible unless God is already at work inside you-His love is always prior to your grasping. The prodigal son-the father ran to him and jumps on him and kisses him before he repented. If you even have a yearning for the things we are talking about in the sermon-you can only care unless he already cared for you.

    To worry if He would he accept me-worry is an insult to him and taking too much credit-your pride is making you worry-do you think you are capable of caring unless he wasn’t already caring? Paul says I grasp because I have been grasped, I take hold because I have been taken hold of-don’t you see the sweetness of that-GO WITHOUT FEAR AND SEE THE ADVENTURE OF THIS.

    Real Christianity is your maker making you again-the spirit of God moving across the deep making you again-you will know it if you are a Christian-you are being taken hold of.

    Jesus is the causal taking hold, and the next taking hold is us taking hold. A second take hold. The way you know Christ has taken hold of you is that you become a laser beam yourself.

    A Christian is someone whose entire life has been re-oriented toward a single point and is pushed out toward it. Your entire life is gathered up, your entire life is reoriented and pushed toward a simple spot or point.

    To become a Christian is not to add knowledge-to study doctrine and take a class, or some people say some day I will apply what I know-to love God and others. Paul says you aren’t a christian unless your entire life is new-you see everything different-everything about you and the world-unless you experience your whole life gathering up. Paul says he doesn’t have his own righteousness-when he was a pharisee he knew it was wrong to lie but he was honest about it to earn his favor with God-so he could have control over his life and be superior over others. No one can love God on their own-only because we have been saved by Grace. Now Paul is honest for a different reason-because he has already been saved by Grace.

    How does a Christian look at other people? If you aren’t a Christian you despise people. If you are a Christian and come across someone who is different than you, you can’t despise them.

    Gathering my life up-moving the whole thing in one direction-everything is pushed toward that one thing. That one thing in life-to know Him. It is not just believing in something. Sometimes you sense you are not alone in crisis-and you know it is Him. The truth shines on you and the guilt, the fear and the smugness falls off-not just knowing about him but sensing his presence upon you and the truth shines on you. Paul says I haven’t attained this yet-he wants more of it. (he is gathering his life and moving it in one direction.)

    The way you know you know God is that you have a consuming passion to know Him more. The heart in love never gets enough of the beloved. You want more of Him more than anything else. What is getting in the way? It doesn’t matter what it is, Christ says this is the ultimate-knowing God IS life, not just the goal of life.

    Jesus is a laser beam. Everything he did; his birth, death, torture, and suffering. There was only one thing he was after: that we might know God. How dare that we settle for anything less when Jesus Christ is living for one thing- that we might know Him.

    1. Oh my gosh, Rebecca…thanks for doing these excellent, thorough sermon notes…I am going to copy them and put them in my journal for future reference. I totally agree with “… this is by far his best!”

      1. Nanci, Wasn’t it wonderful?!? God so moves in this sermon!

        1. Yes…absolutely loved it! Only one small thing…okay, actually not a small thing, but something I need to be in prayer about for wisdom and discernment… My brother, who I dearly love, referred to someone he met recently as a “bible thumper” and said that he would not be interested in pursuing a friendship/relationship with her because of this. My brother professes to be a christian. As Keller said in his sermon, my brother likely isn’t a christian, but thinks he is. He allows only a small piece of his life to be “christian” and the rest, well is more pharisee, I suppose. I know that his worship attendance is sporadic at best. I think he prays, but more than likely only for his needs/wants…no adoration. I don’t think he has ever cracked the bible or any devotional or reference book…I can’t really fault him entirely for this; the church of my upbringing and his current affiliation didn’t encourage bible reading or study, the priest was the one who told us what we needed to know in that regard. He has a dear heart, is kind and loving…he wears a cross necklace (really, he does…but this was added more for levity 🙂 )…as I said, I will need to be in prayer about this.

        2. Nanci, Will be praying for you about this-that God would intervene in your brother’s heart. I smiled with your ‘levity’ comment. 🙂

        3. Nanci, I will be joining you in prayer for the truth to pierce your brother’s heart.

    2. I agree–wonderful notes, and yes it was one of my favorite sermons too. I can’t add much to your notes, but what has stuck with me ( I listened while at the beach–plan to re-listen so I can take notes)–was the power of intense focus. He said regular light goes in every direction at once, but a laser beam focuses in one direction…gathered up and forcefully pushed through a single point–oh the POWER! I take hold because HE first took hold of me. I was overwhelmed by the reference to the Lord’s power in this message. I love that. I find peace in it. I rest in it.

      1. Elizabeth, I can’t imagine listening to this on the Beach-wow such a great place to meditate on it. OH yes, I was overwhelmed too-and you just made me think more about the laser beam focused in one direction, gathered up and forcefully pushed through a single point-oh yes HIS power in us-amazing. I take hold because He first took hold of me-yes.

        I have also been focusing on your comment about in the future we will love like Christ. I was thinking wow-Him in us empowers us to love like Him now but it is really only in part compared to ‘in full’ in the future for we will be like Him.

    3. Thanks for your notes, Rebecca. I have been experiencing technical difficulties this week!

    4. Rebecca–I have to echo Nanci again. I just re-read your notes–and maybe it’s because it’s you, but I just feel the emotion so deep, deeper than looking at my own notes! Anyway, this paragraph, third from the bottom brought tears: “Gathering my life up-moving the whole thing in one direction-everything is pushed toward that one thing. That one thing in life-to know Him. It is not just believing in something. Sometimes you sense you are not alone in crisis-and you know it is Him. The truth shines on you and the guilt, the fear and the smugness falls off-not just knowing about him but sensing his presence upon you and the truth shines on you.”

      Thank you for taking the time to listen carefully, type and post this. It IS an I-spy, Nanci! 🙂

    5. Yes Rebecca, thank you for the notes. This week I wasn’t able to listen to the sermon, so your notes were very helpful.

  25. I need prayer, please…and I’m sorry I can’t go into the details as to why…but God knows.

    1. You’ve got it, Susan…
      Holy Father, You know Susan’s need, please help her to navigate through these waters…give her courage, comfort, wisdom, and discernment. In Jesus’ holy name, Amen.

    2. Praying for you right now, Susan!

    3. Oh Susan-my heart dropped just now..Oh Lord I agree with Nancy-come to Susan now.

    4. Oh Susan–going to Him NOW for you and will continue to–so sorry. We love you so~

    5. How are you doing Susan? Praying for you.

    6. Susan, I am seeing this late but I will pray now.

    7. Praying now Susan

    8. will be praying Susan.

  26. 10. What is your take-a-way and why?

    Jesus is breaking me and re-making me so that I can gather up my life and continue to push forward like a laser beam in one direction. How can I settle for anything less when Jesus Christ is living for one thing-that I might know Him.

    First of all this sermon caused me to reflect- memories flashed in my mind. I didn’t understand growing up why I had this longing for God-it was Him bearing down on me my whole life to draw me to Him. It wasn’t me. This is happening with my two oldest sons-the questions or concerns they have about God might not encourage most Christian parents-and concerned me, but my boys ponderings are indications His hand is on them! Dee encouraged me with this the other day and then I listened to Keller’s sermon a few times and wow, His timing-He came again to re-assure me. 🙂

    Some tender memories came to mind yesterday, as I listened to the sermon, of God wooing me and bearing down on me as a child. Really any thoughts I had about Him-any reverence or love for Him-any ‘seeking’ came from Him. That lifts my soul to the moon!!!!

    I remember a time when I was 9 or 10 carrying around the Bible I had that I couldn’t understand-I carried it around the neighborhood saying I loved Jesus-that came from him even though I wasn’t one with Him yet. When I went to church with my friend and was uncomfortable with how un-relational they made Him-I knew somehow that He was relational-THAT came from Him-no one told me that. The nagging feeling my whole life-the awareness that He is Holy and I couldn’t stand before Him in my sin, my pride. I knew that was what kept me from Him-that was HIM impressing that on my heart-He was pursuing me, wooing me, basically as Keller said-pressing down on me until in 1988 I relented and responded.

    Now that I know Him-I press on for I haven’t taken hold of it yet-there is a ‘knowing Him’ deeper-a life long process of gathering up my life continuing to push forward like a laser beam but I can only do this because Jesus is my laser beam pressing down on me breaking and remaking me.

    I can go without fear and enjoy the journey for He has taken hold of me and therefore I can take hold of Him. This is a painful, wondrous, and joyous journey with Him. Many painful losses yet to come but I can push forward without fear for He has taken hold of me-oh the joyous gain in Him!

    There is more, but this is more than long enough! I think the penny shook down a little further-praising Him.

      1. Dee-well, i am sure it won’t be long until I lose credibility-God will move again and I most likely will say another sermon is his best. ;-)lol!

  27. What graces I have been blessed with to spy this morning…such little things that have meant SO much…may I share?

    *I awoke to windows opened by my husband letting the scent of refreshing,fresh air into our home (my husband is an early riser).

    *The car that purposely edged over to the other side of the road to allow ample room for my puppy-girl, Kelli, to not get startled on her walk this morning.

    *My husband parking his car towards the end of the driveway to wait for me to return from walking Kelli to say “good bye” before leaving for work. These are the little things that he does, that are part of him, that I find so endearing…I may not routinely get bouquets of flowers, candy, and other gifts but these gifts from his heart far surpass anything material he could purchase.

    *Rebecca’s sermon notes…I listened to the sermon for the third time on my Kelli walk this morning and returned to Rebecca’s excellent, thorough notes.

    1. Nanci, again I love your heart-how you respond to God and to your sweet husband, and yes those things your husband does are such sweet waves of His love. Your thankfulness to God is a sweet conviction to me this morning. 🙂

  28. 10. What is your take-a-way and why?
    Initially listening to the beginning of the “Pressing Forward” sermon, I was fearful…had God really grasped me?…I was so relieved when Keller noted that the means/manner and temperament of God’s grasping varies (some happening instantly/violently and others more slowly, in a more deliberate manner…the latter is me). I pondered of how despite being “raised” Catholic and reciting the creeds of my beliefs by memory (truth be known, many times mindlessly), the understanding and “genuine,heart belief” didn’t occur until much later (beginning late 20’s-early 30’s). Similar to what Keller said in his sermon, I am one of those who look back and can see God’s hand upon me through the twists and turns, gently (and gracefully) guiding me, drawing me ever closer…yes, I can see the “sweetness”. I remember the day I decided that I would NEVER say a prayer mindlessly; I would either be engaged or the prayer wouldn’t be recited. I recall when I became enthralled in studying and learning more…being offended when hearing the Lord’s name taken in vain…feeling like my day was askew when I didn’t get my morning devotional/prayer time…feeling emotionally moved (to tears…very odd for me) when singing “The King of Love my Shepherd Is” during worship…I could go on and on… It is so comforting to know that all that has brought me and continues to bring me closer to the Lord is His doing.

    1. Nancy, I read your post the other day-and I was blown over by your honesty-I love that about you. I wanted to tell you that I thought that too! I was fearful when I first heard it and thought-“Had God really grasped me?” Especially when he started talking about those who said “I sought Him”.. I remember giving my testimony to a group in a friend’s house-I said something like “I sought Him”..and a friend said, “no, he sought you.” I agreed-he did- but I also had to respond to Him which is true too but I missed the crucial point-His wooing-His pursuit of me before I could say yes. Now what blows me away is His loving-kindness. I didn’t understand that back then-but He never gave up on me-He continued to pursue me-and it wasn’t until I went into that depression and came here that He took my hand and took me to this deeper place with Him.

      THIS is Him: Hosea 2: 14,15

      “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.
      There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
      There she will respond as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt.”

      1. Your post reminded me of something said to me years ago when I was in a “dark panic mode” when our son was very rebellious and I feared for him. This person reminded me that God loved and pursued him more than I ever could. It helped me release my idol of control remembering God’s pursuit of him which is greater and more powerful than I can even imagine. It is a truth I must keep reminding myself of….thanks for verbalizing it so well.

        1. Sarahsal–thank you for this:”release my idol of control remembering God’s pursuit of him which is greater and more powerful than I can even imagine…” It’s amazing how God uses this blog–your response to Rebecca, responding to Nanci…applied directly to something I am facing, thank you.

        2. Sarahsal,
          Isn’t that sweet?!? We can rest in His love-His pursuit of us AND our children. Our children can only take hold if He has taken hold of them first-Like Keller said in the sermon, it is sweet to be taken hold of by Him so go without fear and see the adventure of this! That is really sticking with me.

        3. Sarahsal, I as well thank you for the reminder…this also spoke to me where I am.

          I am so grateful that God uses this blog as gentle reminders to me at very specific times and places of where I am emotionally or physically even.

  29. Some of you may have read this already–but I just read the Keller quote of the day and it so met me where I am I wanted to share, in case it does the same for anyone else. I think it’s really fitting for this week’s study:
    “How do you get the power of grace? You can’t create this power; you can only reflect it to others if you have received it. If you see Jesus dying on the cross for others, forgiving the people who killed him, that can be a crushing example of forgiving love that you will never be able to live up to. But if instead you see Jesus dying on the cross for you, forgiving you, putting away your sin, that changes everything. He saw your heart to the bottom but loved you to the skies.”- Tim Keller

    1. Elizabeth- wow, loved this Keller quote-copying it!

    2. Elizabeth, I think I will be copying this quote as well. Thank you for posting it.

  30. This is the first time I have had a chance to look at this blog. Have been having a lovely time canoeing and tenting.

    I loved the intro., Dee, about Eric Liddell and the video is very touching and encouraging. I will not have time to really do any of this study but I hope to have a chance to read the questions and some of the responses.

    Hope all is well with you here. Am praying for you, Laura dancer, as you spend time ministering with your mother.

    1. Diane, So glad you are back! 🙂 Missed you. Also glad you and your hubby had such a wonderful time canoeing and tenting. I am sure you all needed that.

    2. Oh Diane–this morning I was praying for you and hoping you’d be back soon. So thankful you are enjoying replenishment–so needed for you!

    3. Missed you Diane!

  31. 10. My take-a-way is the laser focus of my life. First of all, it gives me a response when some one tells me I am too intense, especially my youngest. There is only one thing that matters and so many things to distract us from it and lead us astray.

    In thinking about how light can be so focused, I think of pressure. How else can all of the rays be gathered into one direction? They must have no other choice. Paul talked about being pressed from every side. I think that is what I can expect.

    There was something else too, earlier this week but unfortunately I didn’t write it down. It was after listening to the sermon. Maybe if I listen again it will come back to me.

    1. Anne, Wow…..”In thinking about how light can be so focused, I think of pressure. How else can all of the rays be gathered into one direction? They must have no other choice. Paul talked about being pressed from every side. I think that is what I can expect.”

  32. I listened to an excellent sermon from RC Sproul today, called “Trusting God’s Providence”. He referred to Abraham and Sarah and their long wait for the fulfillment of God’s promise. Sproul doesn’t get to my heart quite like Keller, but when he talked about how Sarah and Abraham lost patience with God, took matters into their own hands and tried to force the outcome they longed for—my throat tightened and tears began. It tied in with my take-away for this study. I have had a laser-beam type focus—though not always centered on knowing Christ. Recently my focus, the subject of my intense effort, has been to fix, coerce, see things turn out the way I long for them to. When Anne, and then Sarahsal, talked about releasing our children to God, I was stirred. I know this is truth, I pray it every morning, but have I been I releasing lately, or clutching?
    I can look back at various times in my life—with my marriage, my struggles with infertility, my health, and of course my children—and I see how easily I can become obsessed, fixated on one thing. Determined to “make it happen”. I was convicted by the Sproul sermon, and of Keller’s words, too, a Christian “gathers himself, his whole life, and he pushes towards one focus…’ My WHOLE life—gathered up, that’s all of it, towards the one purpose of Christ.
    I’m a bit all over the place, I know—it’s only clear in my head! But I have been reminded this week of the other, lesser loves, that my eyes have lingered on too long. One focus, Christ alone—all else will fall in place behind Him. He will carry all of it. That expulsive power of a new affection—again!

    1. Elizabeth, I relate so much to what your are saying here. I feel responsible for making things go a certain way and if they don’t go that way, like I have failed The Lord. It helps me to see my own failures (to control) as opportunities for God to work in situations. I relinquish them to Him and wait to see what He will do.

      1. Anne, thanks for your thoughts here. I certainly understand them: “I feel responsible for making things go a certain way and if they don’t go that way;, like I have failed The Lord”. But I’m seeing now that this is a way of trying to control rather than allowing God to work in the way that is truly best.

    2. Elizabeth,
      this brought tears, “When Anne, and then Sarahsal, talked about releasing our children to God, I was stirred. I know this is truth, I pray it every morning, but have I been I releasing lately, or clutching?”

      I have to ask myself the same question and I wonder if I am clutching. I know that the best place for my children is in His hands and yet, I feel accountable for them. If I am accountable then do I not then need to “influence” their direction. I have a greater difficulty with this with my son, because of his disability I felt it necessary to apply for adult guardian and trusteeship for him. Although all the paperwork is in the hands of a judge right now, even though he will legally be an “adult” in a couple weeks, I am still responsible for him. Since in my son’s case, I will always be responsible, that balance of guiding vs controlling is so much harder for me to see, since part of him is an adult but part of him remains a child (and not just cause he is a boy). I try daily to leave him in God’s hands and yet am concerned about the outcome. If I am worrying about the outcome, then am I really trusting God for that outcome. If I am worrying then I must still be clutching and not releasing.

      I too know this truth and yet I think there are parts that I have released, but other parts I am still clutching. I need to release all and clutch nothing…so hard to do.

      1. Mary-Canada, I don’t mean to give the impression that I am not engaged in parenting my 17 year old. As they get older the relationship changes but as long as he lives here there will be rules. He knows that I am watching him, even that I pray for him to get caught if misbehaving (and he has). I am thinking more about what goes on in my own heart, between God and I. Am I trusting Him or am I losing the battle against fear?
        I hope that helps.

        1. Anne
          I am so sorry that my words came out in the way that they did. I never interpreted anything you said as not being engaged, actually quite the opposite. I have spent some time to try to come up with the right words to explain what was in my mind, however I don’t seem to be able to, so I will leave this as an apology. I am truly sorry that my post came out so wrong.

        2. Mary, you did not offend me at all. I have more concern about offending you for I did not read your comment carefully. I do that a lot. Sorry. I was concerned that I might have sounded a little careless in saying to release them to God. I think I often lose meaning when there is not face to face conversation.

      2. Mary-Canada,
        I think I understand your thoughts here–and your struggle is deep and real. You must balance between being a responsible parent, and yet, trusting them to the Lord. In the case of your son, I cannot imagine the struggle–very difficult. I was just talking with my daughter tonight, only 9 but fights us with a very strong will of her own–and I told her I cannot give up because the Lord has entrusted her to me, and I will answer to Him on how well I loved, tried to teach, and sought to turn her eyes back to Him. But as I left her room, I laid on the floor of my room and prayed for the Lord to be her parent, to cover my mistakes–He loves her more than I ever could, and I trust He has her. So you’re right–it is a balance–seeking His guidance in how we parent, but trusting that ultimately, He is more powerful. I find great peace in that–HIS love covers a multitude of (my) sin as a parent!
        Sorry for this spiel 🙂

  33. Elizabeth-“That expulsive power of a new affection—again!” -so beautiful- this post is a great example of gathering up your life in One direction.

  34. 10. My take-a-way is the prize of knowing Him. When I listened again I realized that all of life, of being focused, studying the word, loving others and all of the other great things and truths are not the prize. All of those things are excellent but He is the prize. Two hours by the well would be the high point of my entire life.

    1. LOVE this Anne–“Two hours by the well would be the high point of my entire life.”

  35. My poor mother had to hear my sermon today over the phone-She is SO long suffering with me but God helped me work this in deeper. I reflected on when I went through that depression- I really believed God had given up on me. This brought me to tears today as I reflected-I am so grateful for the cross-for Him opening my eyes to working the Gospel in deeper, His loving kindness toward me, for His patience and Faithfulness in never letting me go-His pursuit of me.. 🙂

    He has taken hold of me and He loves me to the sky despite me-THIS BLOWS ME AWAY. So I have been resting in that today-as thoughts come in and situations come in I am reminding myself of the truth of Who and what really matters, and I SO desire for that to grow. He has given me His peace today.

    It is amazing this journey he has had me on since I came here on the blog. Now that He is pressing in on me that I take hold because He has taken hold of me-a new sweet adventure of drawing closer to Him has emerged.

    It is getting late and I am taking too long to write this-which isn’t a good sign. 😉

  36. Wow…this is awesome 🙂