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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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496 comments

  1. UPDATE on Joe, Becca’s son.
    Joe has moved to a rehab facility, the nurses were sad to see him go.
    His new room is private and they are thankful that the air conditioning works well. He is now closer to home than before & closer to Becca’s work.
    He is out of a hospital gown and wearing street clothes, which brought his mom to tears.
    She is praising God for the chance to spend time with him, opportunities to express her love, and the healing of his body.

    1. Thanks for the update, Chris…all good news and continuing to pray for Becca and Joe!

    2. Thanks much for keeping us updated, Chris…it sounds like Joe is making good progress.

    3. Wonderful news!

  2. Hi everyone!
    It’s been awhile since I’ve been on . I read the lessons but can’t always follow because of work and school.
    However, this lesson is so needed. I didn’t read the book ‘Silver linings Playbook’ but did see the movie. Bio polar and mental illness is a family trait !
    I am so battling within me.
    World, carnality, condemnation, legalism…

    I’m to liberal for my conservative friends and too conservative for liberal friends.
    Idols are exhausting.

    1. Hi Laura Marie – glad to ‘see’ you here again but sorry to hear about your struggles and praying for you now!

    2. Laura Marie, Wonderful to hear you again, so sorry to hear of your struggles. I can relate- idols are exhausting. Will pray for you.

    3. Missed you Laura Marie!

    4. Was just thinking about you a few days ago 🙂 glad you are back to visit!

      1. Thank you!
        It’s good to have healthy conversation for a weary mind 🙁
        I post these studies on my FB wall every so often , I hope it has inspired others to come into the study.
        It is good to be here!

  3. I would like to ask for prayer for my friend Lisa, she is a relatively new believer whose family thinks she has gone off the deep end. Her Joy in the Lord overflows and is so neat to be around. She has a daughter who is incarcerated, she struggles with a heroin addiction. The daughter has made a profession of faith and recently asked that her mom bring her bible to her. Lisa has started coming to my church and to bible study, she is also beginning a support group for moms whose children struggle with addiction.

    Also if you feel led, pray for Stony Glen Camp, Bill is ministering there this week. It is such a special place where so many kids have come to faith. If you would, pray for the Spirit to be mighty and irresistible in the lives of every person there.

    1. I will pray for your friend, Lisa. That’s hard…I know what it feels like to be told you’ve gone off the deep end. It sounds like God is wooing her daughter, too. Praying too for the camp where Bill is serving.

    2. Chris, you got it-so exciting to hear though!

      Lord thank you for how you have come to Lisa and rescued her! We ask that you would shield her from the evil one for she is tender-help her to stand up and persevere when her family doubts and attacks-thank you for giving her Chris to come along side and encourage her, Lord you are so faithful to provide and surround us like a shield-look what you have done! You have brought her daughter to you as well-may you be glorified! We praise your mighty name! Thank you for Stony Glen Camp. We ask that your presence would be sensed and that your wooing would be irresistible in the lives of everyone there. In Your name.

    3. Thanks for sharing and asking, Chris. I’ll add Lisa to my prayer list…hopefully her family won’t put a damper on Lisa’s exuberance or make her feel like an oddity. I will also add Lisa’s daughter to my prayers. God’s blessing to Bill as he serves at Stoney Glen Camp…may His light shine!

    4. Will pray for them, Chris

  4. 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?

    I like The Message translation: “Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this”. Or, in the NIV, Paul says he doesn’t consider himself yet to have taken hold of it. He is in process.

    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.

    Paul says what helps him to persevere is to forget what is behind and strain towards what is ahead. I always thought that was a reference to his past when he persecuted the church of Jesus, as in he is trying to forget the terrible things he did. But I looked up the parallel passage to verse 13 and it is Luke 9:62: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
    So… at what might Paul have been tempted to look back? Maybe the things mentioned in verses 4-6…his standing in the community, being recognized as a Pharisee known for his legalistic righteousness – he was a respected leader, a “who’s who” in society. He was worldly, living to bring glory to himself.

    In some ways, I think it is easier to renounce certain sins in my life – for example, I don’t look back on my college days of drinking, dancing, and being immoral with a longing to return, but it’s harder to not look back at living for self; there’s always a pull to live for myself and my own comfort, to think I can straddle the fence of having one foot on the side of living for God and the other foot on the side of living for worldly things.
    I can’t honestly say I live as if I am completely sold-out for Jesus. I think of that girl, Katie, who wrote Kisses from Katie and I think she gave up everything the world says we need to have-she is living for Jesus. She is forgetting what is behind and straining forward. Her life is an extreme example – she lives in a place in Africa where there are no worldly comforts. In America, it’s awfully hard to get away from the world-it’s everywhere.

    What helps me persevere is, honestly, this blog. Before I came on this blog over 3 years ago, I’d do the Fall/Spring Bible studies at church-but we had breaks, and no studies in the summer. This has been incredible the way we keep going, week after week, month after month. And not just the studies we do, but the ladies on here-the honest, real sharing of the daily struggles and really hard, hard things so many of you deal with every day…Joyce, Chris, Diane – just to name a few. I see the women here persevering in impossible circumstances, and it encourages me to not give up, because I often lack that maturity and just want to throw in the towel.

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

    I think I answered this in B. Paul may have, at times, looked back at his worst sins, like when he was persecuting the church, and been tempted to look at himself and wonder things like how could God really forgive me…who am I to think I can serve Him…or, as I said above, it may have been looking back at his list of accomplishments and when he was a ‘real somebody’ in the eyes of the people. I suppose now those same fellow-Pharisees hated him. Now he’s in prison, stripped of all material comforts. He must set his mind on the real prize-Jesus, and not look back at worldly things-they won’t last anyway.

    What must I forget? The guilt and shame of past sins. I have confessed them, asked for forgiveness, yet sometimes they come back to haunt me with regret, and the enemy loves to whisper, “Do you really think God has forgiven you for…you are an evil, terrible person-that’s the truth about you…no one who’s a real Christian would do those things…”
    When my ‘self-loving’, self-centered flesh is fighting for control, I must NOT FORGET that Jesus promised that I am a new creation and He has given me the power to say “No” to my flesh. I must NOT FORGET Who I belong to.

    1. Susan, YES! “I must NOT FORGET that Jesus promised that I am a new creation and He has given me the power to say “No” to my flesh. I must NOT FORGET Who I belong to.”

      1. Susan–I agree with Rebecca (started to copy the same part and then saw her reply!). I pray you will hang on to this truth and silence the enemy’s whispers against you. You are so beautiful, dearly loved.

  5. 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?

    He doesn’t consider himself yet to have taken hold of it-He is straining toward what lies ahead.

    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.

    SO glad for this question because I THINK I might be seeing something I didn’t before?? What helped Paul persevere through suffering was being focused on the Gospel-His identity, who He is in Christ-living up to what he already attained through Jesus Christ(Phil. 3:16).

    I heard a Keller sermon recently and he said something like when we sin or chase after idols we should say to ourselves-This isn’t me! This isn’t who I am! He is my identity-we need to live as who we are. This truth helps us to turn.

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

    I will say my sin of old and of yesterday-how I ran to idols, mistakes, failures-and that is true because I will lose hope and feel defeated and not desire to press on-I will take my eyes off of the truth of His power in me to help me press on! But I want to add that I must forget the old nature by daily soaking in the Gospel-walk in the truth of who I am in Him now and I am so encouraged to know He has given me His Holy Spirit to empower me to run the race!

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

    He was pushed over by a fellow runner, and he got up, didn’t look at the people but looked ahead at the race and with no hesitation, jumped back in. As he ran he was propelled forward with more power than before in order to win. He kept his eyes ahead to the finish line-not looking at the other runners and his head was lifted up-literally..It looked like he was worshiping God!

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

    That since He is living inside me-I have His power to propel me forward. I don’t have to walk in defeat no matter how often I fall-In the midst of suffering, I just need to get up and start to move forward, and he will empower me to persevere. He can take my falls, failures and any unexpected storm that comes my way and turn them all into beauty.

    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.

    The Upward call is setting my heart on Jesus Christ rather than Earthly things because I have been raised with Him-My life is hidden with Christ in God now and in the future and so I am to live it now. Like that Keller sermon-He is my identity-when I sin or struggle with idolatry I have to say to myself-hold it, this isn’t who I am!

    I think Jill made a great point at the end of her post on this question-“Life isn’t chopped up with living now, then death.” We are eternal beings from the day we are conceived. When we come to know Him we are transferred from the kingdom of eternal darkness to the kingdom of Light living eternally with Him communing with Him-yes right here on Earth too!

    1. “I heard a Keller sermon recently and he said something like when we sin or chase after idols we should say to ourselves-This isn’t me! This isn’t who I am! He is my identity-we need to live as who we are. This truth helps us to turn.”

      I heard him say something similar in the sermon I listened to yesterday, it was this one entitled God’s Law:
      http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/gods-law

      I am curious if that was the same one you listened to….we seem to me tracking with one another this week 🙂

      1. Chris,

        I think it was “The Marks of a Chrisian”. Yes, we do seem to be tracking with one another this week! 🙂

    2. Hi Rebecca,
      Just want to set the record straight: it was Deanna that made the point about life not being chopped up and you are right, it is a great point! I haven’t been on much this week because for some reason this has been a difficult topic for me. Hopefully, I will post a little later 🙂

  6. 4. How does Paul articulate this in the opening of Philippians 3:13?
    Paul acknowledges that he has not achieved perfection in Christ-likeness…Paul practices persistence; he continues moving forward regardless of past shortcomings and failures.

    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.
    Understanding that God isn’t finished with me yet…perfection is unattainable this side of heaven…persistence in making progress is the best I can do, the rest is God’s doing. Mistakes and missteps are pretty much guaranteed…I pray that I will maintain a pure heart and learn the lessons that the Lord teaches through failings and hardships. My Lord is gentle, kind, patient and loves more than I will EVER comprehend…my trust is in Him.

    C. Paul says, “Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…” What must he forget, do you think?
    I think that Paul must forget his reliance on worldly statuses, his past legalistic ways, and his past persecution of Christians.

    What must you forget?
    My youthful rebellion…the hurts, frustrations, disappointments caused by my poor and immature decision-making during those days.

    1. I like this Nanci “My Lord is gentle, kind, patient and loves more than I will EVER comprehend…my trust is in Him.”

  7. Chris, praying for Terri…please let us know how surgery goes today.

    1. You are so kind Nanci!
      Terri’s surgery has been postponed, I am pretty sure her new date is July 17.

      1. I’m curious, Chris, why the postponement?…encouraging or discouraging?

        1. Neither, it was a scheduling thing for the surgeon I think.

  8. Hi ladies,
    Just letting you know I’ve heard a bit from my mom today and they seem to be having a wonderful time camping. They had some rain, but not as much as expected, so that is good. They were hoping to do some canoeing today. I’m so grateful they have this vacation time, they truly deserve and need it! 🙂

    Krista

    1. Thanks Krista…I’m so thankful they have this time away too….how are you doing?

      1. I’m doing pretty good. 🙂 Jeff agreed just as of this morning to let me have the boys for 4 weeks this summer! I’m really looking forward to it! Plus I have them this weekend and having pictures done with them Monday afternoon which I’m really looking forward to. Here’s hoping it’s good weather, and no too hot, as I want the pictures done at a local park. 🙂

        1. Oh Krista….great answer to prayers – you get to have your boys for the 4 weeks! I’m so happy to hear this great news and I will keep praying!

        2. Thank you Susan! It truly is an answer to prayers. I am very happy about it! Though I admit, I’m worried something will happen and he will change his mind, again. Unfortunately that happens a lot. He gets upset about something and takes it out on me.

        3. Krista I am so thankful for this answer to prayer. Will continue to pray that he does not change his mind and for this time to be God’s soil for a great work in their hearts and in their relationship with you. So happy for you!

        4. Krista, I echo Anne’s comment…woo-hoo!!! I too will be praying that Jeff follows through on his commitment to you and the boys.

        5. Thanks ladies. And yes, there are dates set in place. I even have it in writing. Well, sort of. Email.

        6. That’s wonderful Krista!

  9. 5. Read Philippians 3:17-21

    A. What does Paul tell us to do in verse 17? What comments do you have on this?
    People did not have access to the Scriptures like we do today. We can refer people to passages in the Bible so they can learn to imitate Christ. Paul told his followers to imitate him, which meant Paul had to follow Christ very carefully in order to set the proper example for the new Christians in Philippi. Wow, is that ever an awesome responsibiity!!

    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 18, Paul refers to those who are “enemies of the cross.” He may have been referring to the Judaizers who insisted that the Old Testament rules and laws had to be adhered to. He may also have been referring to people who lived in a self-indulgent manner. Christ gives us freedom, but not freedom to be selfish or indulgent. We are supposed to take every opportunity to serve Christ (and I know I let a lot of those opportunities go right past me).

    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?”

    By trying to live in a way (in close relationship and complete service) that would make me welcome Jesus’ return with eagerness and joy. This is what I need to do. My problem is that I don’t always do this well!!

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

    Christ will be in control of everything, and we will get to swap out our bodies for a glorious one like Christ’s body. There will be no more sickness, no more pain, no more worry, no more death or grief. We will be in a constant state of love and joy when heaven and earth become one.

    1. Deanna, that last pharagraph of yours made me give a big sign of relief and Praise! How are you doing?

      1. Joyce, thanks for asking. You asked earlier also, and I didn’t catch it right away. So I answered it there today. So you don’t have to scroll back through and find it, I will copy my reply here:

        I am making progress, but it is slow! I have reduced my pain meds to less than half of what they were, but I can’t totally do without them yet. I am about 3 1/2 weeks through an estimated six weeks (until I can drive again!) Thanks for your concern, Joyce!

        1. Deanna, so glad you are making progress in healing. Take good care.

        2. So thankful things are going well for you!

    2. Deanna, I love your response to 5A. The early church didn’t have the Scriptures to refer to again and again like we do. The leaders had to be above reproach. What a awesome responsibility.

  10. C. Paul says, “Forgetting what lies bhind and straining forward to what lies ahead…” What must he forget, do you think?
    Both his previous credentials, the ‘righteousness of his own’ and his former sin against the church before he knew Christ.

    What must you forget?
    The approval of people, my intellect, my reliance on my own understanding and I must forget thinking I am disqualified by my mistakes and about trying to pick up again weight of my own sin and shame.

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

    I see a man who continues on when others would have given up, who gives every ounce of energy and determination he has to he task at hand, those who looked on had to admire what they saw, they couldn’t help it.
    
I can see why you chose this clip, it does bring Paul to mind.

  11. I love all of the testimonies. I wonder if there is something about having walked that rebellion road that gives us this deep thirst for God. We all have it.

    1. I love the testimonies too. There is such power in recounting what God has done.

  12. 5. Read Philippians 3:17-21
    This passage really strikes me with a holy fear and reverence.

    A. Paul tells us to imitate him and others who live according to his example. This is impossible unless I study the scriptures.

    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? Those who have their minds set on earthly things are enemies of Christ and the gospel. They are idolaters, seeking their own glory and that very glory is their shame. Their end is destruction. This would have been me if God had not intervened and began to remove my idols from me, helping me to see them.
    I am so humbled by this passage and so frightened for others that may be in the danger described here.

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

    Each time I watch this, I get tears in my eyes. I watched his face closely this time and not once, not once was there even a flash of anguish or self-pity or despair. He had a look of fierce determination on his face as he got back up and started to run. As he neared the end of the race he had an expression of great joy. I noticed that even the man who crumpled his bet was moved and quietly urging him on. So I see that when we get knocked down by life yet continue on in faith, it will have an impact on those watching us.

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

    The clip, coupled with the quote from N.T. Wright, really gives me a mental picture to hang onto when I feel like a failure. Wright says, “I suspect we would have accepted from the moment we fell that we were out of the race, with no hope left”. That is exactly the lie the enemy hands me when I fail-whether it is sin, or failing to meet other’s expectations, or not meeting my own standards I place on myself-he says “Stay down-you’re done-what’s the use anymore of trying-you’re a failure, a colossal disappointment to God”.
    Or, it’s “You can’t do it”. Well, God, and Paul, and Eric’s example shout “Yes you can!”

    Interesting…just last Sunday a lady in my Sunday school class said that when she falls down, God picks her up, brushes her off, and sends her along. I suppose there are times when He has to be the one to pick us up. But there was a man in the movie clip who said, “Get up, lad”…perhaps God does that at times, too. We have His Spirit-He’s given us the power to do it (we’re not self-supportive) but maybe we need to be the ones to get up by faith while He quietly speaks to us, “Get up, Susan”.
    Eric’s example was so much more powerful that way, rather than if someone had rushed out there and helped him up.

    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.

    God is “calling me heavenward”…calling me to focus on Jesus and on the things that really matter for eternity. He doesn’t want me getting sidetracked and all-consumed with the things of this life. Perhaps that upward call is also to relinquish my idols, remembering that they are not my life-Christ is my life.

    1. Susan, I completely agree with your thoughts on God wanting us to get up. There are times when we can do nothing. We are completely knocked down by life and have no strength to get up and going again. That is when God, I believe, comes in and picks us up and puts us on our feet. But I also believe there are times when God stands at the side and whispers, “Get up”. We need to be strengthened by pushing up and pressing on.

  14. 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 wants me to follow his example, and to “note”, or observe, others who also live according to Paul’s teaching.
    This reminds me of the saying that more is “caught” rather than “taught”. Seeing someone who lives out their faith is more powerful than being quoted a Bible verse.

    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?

    It struck me that when thinking over these people who are lost, Paul is moved to tears-he doesn’t want anyone to perish. Paul calls those whose minds are set on earthly things “enemies of the cross of Christ”. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their stomach (worldly appetites?) and they glory in things that should bring them shame.
    It warns me that even I, as a believer, can live as an enemy of Jesus if I forget the gospel and respond to the pull of this world. I think at that point God will bring His loving discipline into the believer’s life to get their attention and turn them around.
    I can think of a specific time in my life when He disciplined me to turn me from the path I was going down.

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


    I vacillate between real confidence & feeling like the Holy Spirit is up to something in and through me, and panicked despair so quickly. I am far too swayed by approval and comfort still. I can so quickly quit looking at Christ, make my circumstances seem so much worse than they are, and begin to feel utterly lost and altogether useless.
    
I still want to place confidence in me, in my flesh. I want to do things well. When I feel panicked I feel like I have blown it, why can’t I focus on Christ more completely? I feel ashamed, like I have taken myself out of the game…again.
    The truth is that He will never leave me or forsake me, nothing can pluck me from His hand. He didn’t let Peter drown when He lost focus and He won’t abandon me either. My confidence is in His promises to me, He will complete the good work He has begun, I have Living Water to offer to people diying of thirst, I have the Holy Spirt in me allowing me to act according to His purposes, He has prepared good works for me to do.

    

I was thinking about the film clip being so powerful precisely because he fell and then overcame. The weakness of the fall makes the victory so much more stunning. Christ’s power is most on display when it is showcased in spite of & even through our weaknesses.

    1. Wow!!!!!!!

      1. I’ll secong that “Wow” Laura!

        1. SECOND that!!

    2. Fourth it! 🙂

    3. Chris, your heart–amazing. “I can so quickly quit looking at Christ, make my circumstances seem so much worse than they are, and begin to feel utterly lost and altogether useless…The truth is that He will never leave me or forsake me, nothing can pluck me from His hand.”
      Thank you for this–needed it today!

  16.       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?”

    This is hard but shouldn’t be. I try to be inclusive with all people. I try to help the poor. When I see someone in need, I try to assist them as much as possible. Believe it or not Dee, I am considering going to visit a former teacher who is in prison (!) for major theft. I know him because we began work at my present school district together. I read an article about him in the newspaper and he seemed so hopeless. He, admittedly, ruined his life. He believes (rightfully so) that everyone hates him. I thought I might have an old Bible to give him and some encouraging words; maybe leave him with the Redeemer website address and point him to Tim Keller. I haven’t seen him in a long time because he changed schools in the district. He will be surprised I am there. I just feel God telling me there is no room to leave anyone behind.

    I fail at times. I am sometimes nicer to people I don’t know compared to my own family members. This is sad. My family (husband) doesn’t get a break but a complete stranger does! What’s with THAT?! I get a hardened heart when I feel people are taking advantage of me (or my country). It is those times I need to remember what I said above about not leaving anyone behind. I need to think of good things about the person; the sweet way my husband makes me coffee nearly every morning, or the fact that those taking advantage of the country, whether it be by the welfare system or being here without permission, are only trying to make a better life for themselves and many are very Godly people. I try to smile more than I used to. I find that people wonder what is up with THAT?, and want to know you better to find out. That is when I can share the love of Christ with them.

    1. LAURA DANCER! OH! I am so encouraged by everything in this post..Where do I start? 🙂 I recall a few years back how you so struggled with this and now you are going to visit a former teacher in prison-truly His power in you. 🙂

      AND, I can relate to your second paragraph! – You made me smile for I struggle with that too.

      Wow, to see the shift in you and love it-I can also relate to how he is changing you in how you see others in a ‘political’ sense. 🙂 Just the other day I told a dear conservative friend that God has changed me in some areas. Now you just need to read Karla Faye Tucker’s book-God will get a hold of your heart in another area too as He did mine recently. ;~)

    2. Laura, I’m so proud of you!

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

    I think of the song “I Will Rise” here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlHUKY3jBv0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Yup, that’s it.

    1. That was so beautiful Laura! I will rise with all of you here!!

      1. 🙂

  18. This is off topic but I am SO GLAD Nancy posted that last comment-it was from God for it stuck with me..She said something like our intimacy with Him is ‘persistence not perfection.’ I almost said it in our Bible Study last night but He held me back. 🙂 I might take that Jesus Calling quote to B.S. in a few weeks.

    1. 🙂

      1. Nanci, I can’t find your original post-what page or day was that quote on? I am going to take it to B.S. this week.

        Wait, I found your post..it is the one for June 23rd! Yay! 😉

  19. D. Watch again the You-tube clip of Eric Liddell and comment on what you see.
    Pure determination…when Eric falls he has a choice to get up or stay down…once the decision is made “to get back up; to get back in the race”, his focus and determination are on running the remainder of the race to the best of his ability. Eric runs with intensity; at the end you can tell that he has given it all he has…there is nothing “left in the tank”.

  20. 5. Read Philippians 3:17-21

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

    Join together in following Paul’s example as a model and for us to keep our eyes on those who live as they do.

    I loved what Susan said-it is more caught than taught. Observing someone who lives out their faith is more powerful.

    That verse in Philippians just popped in my head-I think it explains 3:17 well: Phil. 4: 8,9 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” -I could be mistaken but I don’t think this verse deals with thinking about things that go well in our lives-or pretty things we can admire, but observing, meditating on and modeling the real fruit of Paul, and other passion filled believers-because their affections are on Him and their fruit is His Character coming out of them.

  21. 5. 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?

    Not to follow their example for their end is destruction, their god is their stomach and their glory is in their shame. WOW..what a contrast-They will always be hungry for more-never being satisfied-and their life will amount to nothing but shame ultimately in the end-a bottomless pit-yet He satisfies and fills those whose affections are on Him. Our Glory is in Jesus Christ and we will be glorified with Him in our resurrected bodies.

  22. 5 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?”

    God has opened up some doors in many ways in the past and present for me to fulfill that, and is moving again in my heart in other ways through Dee and the mission here in our town. I firmly believe He rescued me from my wilderness experience four years ago so that my affections for Him would grow and as a result prepare my heart to line up with His for future opportunities.

  23. 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? he has not achieved it. focuses on moving toward it.

    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. Forgetting the past. THere is another Scripture in the OT That says “forget the former things, forget the past, see I am doing a new thing” Probably in Isaiah. If we focus on Christ and His taking away our sin we can press forward and forget it because He does.

    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? my sin. Knowing He took it. He forgets it I do not need to relive it or bring it back up.

    1. That’s one of my favorite verses Angela, Isaiah 43:18-19: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.See, I am doing a new thing!Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”

  24. 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. I think of this regarding health. I give up at times but I know this is a continual fight and when I fall I must get back up and fight! It is easy to give up and not try to help my body. I know it is His temple though so despite what has happened it is worth the fight!

    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.
    Our real life is in heaven. Focus on those realities not what is here. Hope in this our final destination with Christ.

  25. 5 D. What things will happen when our Savior returns to the heaven and earth that will one day be made one?

    He will make what was unjust, just. Sin will be gone. Believers will have perfect, whole, loving relationships centered on Him. There will be no strife and no church splits over music! 😉 HE WILL REIGN AND WE WILL REIGN WITH HIM! We will be HOME-we won’t have to persevere anymore, rather our falling and getting back up in the old Earth will be rewarded in the new earth. No temptations to run to idols-HE WILL REMOVE BAAL FROM OUR LIPS! The stream of intimacy we experience now will become a deep bottomless ocean-face to face sitting with Him on the throne.

    In Romans it says even Creation groans for that day. Everything will be made new and the sin of the past will be forgotten-no more death.

    This really encourages me for the truth is that whatever is going on in our personal sphere as well as in the world now doesn’t have to cause us to fear or be down because of this future! When I remember this truth my disgust for my own sin nature as well as my disgust for the injustices and blatant sin against God in this world will turn into a sadness and desire for rescue for those who are cold hearted and hold their fist up toward God. I mean the desire for rescue and redemption on all levels increases.

    1. Rebecca–this was all good. It’s interesting–I have been thinking this week myself on this too “even Creation groans for that day”. love that

  26. 5C. For me, my recent work experience is a metaphor for my preparation for heaven. The process of preparation of me, one small part of a very large organization to “go live” with a whole new computer system was incredible. We had months of classes with glimpses of how the system would work that just didn’t make sense. We could not envision this system working yet we would soon be immersed in it. There was a lot of fear and disbelief from every part of the organization. My point is that our preparation for heaven is on going. We can’t imagine what it will be like therefor much of what is happening here doesn’t make sense to us, but when we get there we will have every thing that we need.

    I fulfill this part of the Lord’s prayer by accepting His will for me here on earth with the faith that it will all make sense and be useful in that day. Another thing I can do is to let go of the earthly system and my ideas of how things should be.

  27. 5 D. What things will happen when our Savior returns to the heaven and earth that will one day be made one?
    We will be ready and we will be changed. Beyond that I know only that we will be with Him.

  28. 6. My take-a-way is the beautiful mystery of how God seals us to Himself in Christ by His Spirit. As I read the testimonies I saw the common thread of being saved as a child and then going through those prodigal years. Obviously we were His all along for here we are today following hard after Him and gaining freedom from the power of sin over us. I don’t understand why some are bound for destruction and some sealed to Christ but I suspect that it has to do with self righteousness.
    Lord I pray that You would purge from me every bit of my own righteousness. I ask this with fear and trembling, holding on to Your mercy and grace. Let me fall into the hands of the Living God, forever in Him.

    1. We love you right back Dee!

      1. Ditto!

  29. Just getting started here–but so looking forward to being back with you all!
    1. What stood out to you from the above and why?

    The power of our minds. What we set our minds upon—we begin to conform every aspect of our lives around. The object of our deepest affection transforms our every thought and action.

    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?

    When I was first married, just over 19 years ago—I determined to be “the” Proverbs 31 woman. I like to blame a book my women’s group at church was reading-but in truth, it was my own obsession, the book only fueled it. I wanted to be everything to my husband—his best friend, his caretaker, his cook, his activity director! Long story short, I exasperated not only myself but my poor husband, who could never be quite thankful/appreciative “enough” for all my hard work. Honestly, it took me many years after that to get over feeling bitter about Proverbs 31! Graciously, the Lord broke me—over and over—and has brought about a “golden” lining I never could have imagined. Sounds a bit cheesy–but it’s hard-earned–and true!

    1. Loved that Elizabeth:)

  30. 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.)

    A few memories…I was 5—and I asked God for something that my mom told me “I shouldn’t have”—she meant that I shouldn’t trouble God with things so insignificant. But I did ask Him and He gave it—and I remember then—there is a moment so vivid in my mind—when I felt He had shown me something of Himself, and I felt sad for my mom that she didn’t know that about Him.
    I remember about that same age, writing notes and drawing pictures for God and keeping them under my bed. At 7, reading the stations of the cross book I had received, and weeping in my bed over what He had done—for me. When I asked the priest why I had to confess to him—when I knew, somehow He had told me, I could go directly to Him myself. That was never taught to me from my school, or church, or parents—I look back at that and know it was the Lord—teaching me, leading me.
    I look back at my earliest memories, some heavy with pain—but I felt carried. I see His protective wing around me. In college, when He tenderly yet firmly showed me my sin of pride and self-righteousness, again—breaking and re-making me.

    1. I love your first story Elizabeth, I can so imagine God delighting in your little girl self!

    2. Oh I’m so glad you’re back!! I can just see you as this sweet little girl drawing pictures for God, writing Him notes, keeping them under your bed (He saw every one of them!) You still have that tender, soft heart – I see that in you!

    3. Glad you are back! Love this story Elizabeth-beautiful glimpses of His love.

    4. Your awesome Elizabeth. How is your pain from the bike wreck?

  31. 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.)

    This has been hard because it hasn’t been a matter so much of wooing me rather than rescuing me. I first publicly accepted Christ at a Billy Graham crusade at age 9. But at age 12, my family really fell apart due to my oldest brother’s mental breakdown. Long story for another time but he became quite angry and sexually aggressive towards me. At its worst, I had to sleep with my bedroom door locked and furniture pushed up against it to keep him out. Unfortunately, I turned to alcohol, drugs and sex to cover the pain and feel loved. But God kept me from so much trouble even at my worst. Years later, when I was in a depression so deep I was planning my own death, I did cry out to God, “Either save me or let me die”. And of course, He came and saved me in a powerful way at a retreat. Nothing I could ever do could rescue me from myself. It has always been God. For some reason, this week’s study has brought up a lot of regret and shame from the past. It is so important for me to “forget the past and press on” but it is a weak spot for me.

    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?

    “I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it”.

    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.

    From the passage, it seems so important that we forget what is in our past and look to what is ahead. Obviously, we can’t delete the memories. But we should not dwell on the past: past hurts, past mistakes. We need to put our thoughts into what Christ has done and will continue to do for us

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

    He needs to forget: his attitude as a Pharisee, his part in Stephen’s death, his persecution of Christians. I need to forget: my anger and bitterness, my critical spirit, my pride, my past life.

    1. Jill–I am so so sorry for the terrible trauma you endured. I am amazed at your faith “Nothing I could ever do could rescue me from myself. It has always been God.” He has brought such true beauty from ashes in you. So thankful you are here.

    2. Oh Jill, Tears-I am so sorry! So grateful for your rescue!

    3. Jill, the Lord has brought you a long ways…so thankful for what he has done in your life.

  32. 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.

    I have always struggled with the belief that I was out of the race. In my mind’s eye, I see myself falling down repeatedly as I go around that track of life. But I keep falling not because life is so difficult for me but because I have let the guilt, shame and fear of my past keep my ankles shackled (so to speak). I know why I do this. I’ll try not to be too long and forgive me if I’ve said any of this before :). My parents have always been involved in the church: attending, teaching Sunday School, serving on committees, etc. My brothers & I were at everything. We went to Christian school. Life when I was young was stable. Until I was 12. My oldest brother was born with a brain injury. He is what we used to call “retarded”. He needed special schools and help but was a quiet, nice kid. One day, my mom needed to do banking. Dave was with her. He was 16. They went to the drive through window but the shade was down. My mom decided to go into the bank because she needed to get the banking done. So she and Dave walked into the bank and into the middle of a bank robbery. Three young men were armed and decided to take a hostage when they heard the police sirens. They chose Dave. My mom begged them to take her instead. They took them both. They were involved in this terrible police chase and shoot out. The police shot out the tires and captured the robbers. My mom and Dave were completely untouched physically but emotionally, they are never the same, especially Dave. He went into a complete mental breakdown. Life became so chaotic and frightening. There was no help for us at the time. This was 1972. Treatment for mental illness was so primitive and for someone like Dave, nonexistent. That’s enough of the story for now. But for me and my faith, as a child, I could not get my mind around how this could happen to people who were so faithful to God. Who served and sacrificed for Him. And Satan turned it in my mind that if this bad thing happened to my parents who were so good, then I had better be really good or something bad was going to happen to me!!! And I could never be that good. And when I turned to other things for comfort, well then, I knew I was in real trouble. Enough for now, I’m getting too long here. But God is so good; He has saved me from so much and has blessed me beyond anything I deserve. And I’m still running. This study has helped me to see the need to daily keep the shackles off. Thanks for listening to me.

    1. Oh Jill
      I had chills as I read. I am go moved that you shared your story, there is such power in bringing things into the light. I suspect that this week is so hard for you because your enemy does want to keep you isolated and ashamed.
      Father I lift Jill up to you, please give her a sense of your love & goodness, a desire for you and for heaven that makes the things and the pain of earth fade. I ask that she see where and when the shackles start to control her, that she tastes abundantly of the freedom and love that is hers in You. Please also Father help us to support her well.
      Amen

      I wish I could hug you right now!

      1. Thanks Chris. You just did!

      2. I pray this prayer from Chris, for you also Jill. Thank you for sharing this. How traumatic that must have been:(
        How is Dave doing now and where is he?

    2. Jill, it was very brave of you to share and open your heart to us like this. I can only imagine how frightening this was to you at the age of 12 and it makes my heart sick that there was no help for Dave. You were all traumatized. I am thankful to see your words, “And I’m still running”. I will pray for Him to bring even more healing and release to you. Bless you, Jill.

    3. Jill I so agree with Chris’s prayer for you. Thank you for sharing so that we can pray. Oh how painful and frightening.

    4. Jill, I can’t believe I missed this-how frightening that must have been for Dave and your mom! And what a struggle afterward I am sure. I can see how this would effect you as you stated. Yet, wow-to see Him in you despite this and how He rescued you from so much and is rescuing you from these shackles now. I am sure you know so well-that He will take what Satan twisted and hammer Satan back on the head with it-I think God is doing that now! Keep clinging to Him as you are Jill. We will pray for you and be here on the blog to support you in this sister!

  33. 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.

    
Christ is calling us to look past the now, to see what is eternal. Anne said it well “there is nothing for us here accept people we can take with us”.

    5. Read Philippians 3:17-21
    What does Paul tell us to do in verse 17? To observe the example set by him and others who follow the same pattern of life he did.
    What comments do you have on this?
    Paul’s confidence in his own example used to strike me as arrogant, now I think he was just that confident in Christ, that He was the one who was ordering Paul’s life & steps, that was the source of his confidence.

    What do you learn about those who have their minds set on earthly things according to verses 18-19?
    
They are doomed to a fate of eternal misery.

    
How is this a warning to you?
    
How foolish it is to give up real love that will last forever and ever for a cheap quick thrill. 
I want ALL that God intends for me, I don’t want sell off any part of the Fathers wealth so that I can go seeking fulfillment apart from Him.

    1. Like Esau selling his birthright for a bowl of stew-something that would’ve been his forever for a quick meal…

  34.      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 am asking God to change me, to make me more mindful of others and less mindful of me. He is at work, I see baby steps in me….sometimes.
    
He is allowing me to be aware when my words, especially towards my husband, are critical and come from self interest.
    
I am seeing how when I am self focused I collapse, worrying what others think of me, convinced that I look and seem terrible. This goes back to childhood, I seem to always remember feeling like there was something about me that was unfit, something that excluded me. This has been a stronghold in my life.
    
I hope to move more and more, as God supplies, into the confidence of my identity in Christ, and I have work to do as His ambassador in this world.

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



    My heart leaps at the thought and at once turns to concern for those who refuse the gift and will not repent. 
I am comforted to know that He is not willing that any should perish, and the great lengths He went to to redeem us, He will be as merciful as He possibly can be. I can trust Him.

  35. 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?”

    Now I’m asking myself do I live each day as a citizen of heaven or a citizen of this world?
    It’s making me think of when I travelled in Europe in college, and occasionally witnessing the “ugly American” who wasn’t doing a very good job of representing himself in a foreign country, and it made me feel ashamed to be identified with them. Usually the person was belligerent, demanding things be done ‘their way’, complaining, arguing.

    At work this weekend, a female patient was telling me about her husband with whom she will soon celebrate their 50th anniversary. She told me how thoughtful, kind, etc…he was. Her eyes sparkled and her face lit up as she talked about him. I commented on that radiance I saw. I never did meet him, but through her, I got a good idea what he was like! In a way, she brought the essence of her marriage into that hospital room-yet she was only ‘half’ of the two.

    I dearly with I could reflect Jesus in that way to those closest to me! I seem to fail miserably, at least in my immediate family (husband, children). My one son told me recently that “I don’t want to be like you when I get older”. He went on to say “Oh-you’re a great person, but I don’t want God as a ‘crutch’ in my life like He is in yours”. And my husband is just as ‘turned-off’ as he always has been. I often feel sad and discouraged, and I’m afraid my personality tends to me more ‘serious’. I think I need to do what Laura-dancer said and try to smile more:)

    1. Susan please don’t blame yourself for their choices. To be seen as depending on God is not a bad thing. It seems to me that they are making excuses and you are a convenient scapegoat. This is so hard but I think you are doing the right thing by just seeking deeper relationship with The Lord. They will make noises but in the end it is the best thing for them too. I will pray more for them..

    2. Susan, Don’t feel bad…think of it as a compliment….to have God as a crutch in your life. It’s making you a stronger person. One day your son will see that your crutch helped you through life and perhaps will help him too…I pray.

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

    This week has been a quiet yet deeper contemplation inside. God is taking me into another level of His heart this week and I feel like a 6 year old again! I have been meditating on the new heavens and new earth and that reminded me again that this is His heart-Who He is-His intent when He designed us for Him back in Genesis. The Baals dripping from lips-that isn’t His intent for me. He wants me to live in the Hope of the future now and trust Him each day when I fail and run to an idol and He will empower me to push forward.

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

    I am soooo far behind…I feel like I have “lost touch with reality”. The past few months have been hard to deal with, my parents decided to sell their home and move into an assisted living facility. How and why they made that decision caused a deep division within our family, that is still simmering under the surface. The For Sale sign went up this week, which triggered tears, lot of tears in me. Yes they have been there for 55 years and it is where I grew up, but was there something else and I couldn’t really figure it out. There have been a number of things going on over the past few months, but this seems to be the one that is triggering the most amount of tears. I wonder why it has triggered the huge sense of loss that I feel. This week has been really hard, then yesterday I began to wonder if I had unconsciously placed an unrealistic level of importance to the four walls that I grew up in. I spent time asking the Lord yesterday why I was having such a hard time and the thought occurred to me that I saw that house as the place of security a safety net if everything fell apart and I needed someplace to stay (over the years I (with kids) have had to stay there a few times). That “safety net” is now gone. Then I figured if I saw that place as my safety net, was it therefore an idol as in reality my safety net should be the Lord. This past few months has in reality cut me to pieces as I have struggled with a great many things that have overwhelmed me and as much as I try to just focus on the Lord, it seems like there is a barrier that I needed to look around just to catch that glimpse. It has caused me to realize there are more “idols” in my heart than I have previously thought were there.

    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?

    Well I didn’t think I “chased” this idol, but since this has been such a struggle I will also acknowledge that there are things that I don’t see that could, in truth, been a chase. Seeing the divisions within my family has I suspect opened darkness in my mind. If I am working through this, then I am not perhaps seeing the reality that God really wants me to see. If I only see what is going on, then my reality is skewed as, like Peter I am looking at the storm, not the Lord. There have been moments that I have felt the Lord has a plan…and then something else happens to feel like a hammer. In all honesty, I actually don’t see a silver lining in anything going on around me. I do not see a way out of the mess I currently find myself in. It is a chore to do anything, I am so tired that I am not sleeping and have gotten sick because of that. I was losing touch with reality (my Lord). However today I see a different silver lining. The mess will probably not change, but today I see my Lord not the disaster around me. He is in control, not me. Regardless of everything going on, He will turn it into something else…I do need to remember that He will do this in His time, not mine. I have been seeing what I see, my narrow little world, not what He wants me to see, this has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him. I have been in the “woe is me” mentality of darkness. I haven’t seen the hand of God working through this, even though in reality I know He has been. Letting go has been hard and I really still don’t know the outcome of this mess of my life right now, but the one thing I need to remember, daily, moment by moment, is that my life is not supposed to be about me, but about Him. When I only see what is happening around me I can’t see that…I need to remember to put my Lord glasses on, not my world glasses. I need to remember that this is part of the past and the Lord has the future in front of me.

    I do find that for the most part, I am able to look at the past, acknowledge it, but not allow the power of its darkness to overshadow my life. I believed that I had let it go and I do know there are quite a number of things where this is true. But what I am beginning to realize is there there are parts of my heart that are really deeply buried and when they rise to the surface I need to remember that it is the Lord who is bringing them up so that the subtle and the power of them that I am not aware of can be brought to the surface and disposed of in the way He choses. I hope that the lesson I am learning about the events of the past few months will stay with me so that the next time He brings something to the surface, I won’t have such a hard time with it.

    Oh, belated happy birthday to Rebecca (I know it’s really late) and elizabeth (and anyone else that I missed), I hope your birthday’s were great. I am happy to know that Joey and Deanna are getting better and will continue to pray. I am not sure if I missed a recent update on young Jay, but I hope he is continuing to improve as well. I hope I didn’t miss anyone, if I did I do apologize, my brain has been distracted for a while.

    1. Mary, I can really relate to your tears when “the For Sale sign went up this week” and how it triggered a huge sense of loss in you. My parents also moved on 5/28 from their home of 49 years, and it’s where I grew up. I had one day where I really grieved, and grieved hard…couldn’t stop sobbing. I, too, wondered was I making an idol out of the four walls where I grew up…what was going on? Although it is different for me in that I don’t have the need to perhaps return home to stay for awhile, it always has made me feel a sense of security knowing mom and dad are there and that is “home”. My mom has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and their health is declining, too (both are 86), and I think I see the loss as also representing what lies ahead, which is the ending of their lives here on earth. It’s strange-even now when I talk to them on the phone, in my mind I’m picturing them in their old house – that’s where I “see” them as belonging. I’m sorry you’ve been having such a rough time, too.

      1. Susan
        Thanks for your comments, it means a lot. We moved my parents on Tuesday and it was really, really hot. We did get them settled enough that they didn’t have to unpack anything. My dad was having a super hard time with the move, more than my mom. We figure that my mom was having an easier time as she has spent most of the last 2 years in and out of hospital so she is more used to smaller spaces. I talked with my dad this morning and although he figures it will take months to properly adjust, but he is doing okay for now.

  38. 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.)

    Looking back, I think that God has never really let me go too far away. The one that stands out the most is the moment I felt truly rescued. Even though I grew up going to church, I too rebelled in my teens. In my 20’s, I was being influenced by a friend who was into the New Age stuff and in all honesty, had one foot into the movement. I was at a meeting where they were talking about God and how they were God and I thought, these guys are really out of it, God is God and although God may “live in us” we most certainly were not “God”. A little while later I was driving home and I was thinking about everything and I suddenly felt like there was a tug of war going on inside my little car, but I was the rope. It felt like Christ has one arm, satan had the other and they were both pulling me in their opposite directions both saying “no she is mine”. Although it seemed like hours and I was a basket case in the process cause I really did feel like I was literally being pulled in different directions, the reality was that it really was only a few moments and then just lots of tears. I belong to the Lord, He took hold of me and didn’t let go. The enemy has tried on a number of occasions to disrupt my life and at times he has been successful in distracting me from keeping my eyes on the Lord, but I do know that the Lord has not let me go, even in times when I have failed him, which really have been too many times. Yet even though I fail the author of Life, He has had such grace and mercy to me in ways I can’t even fathom at times. He has loved me in ways and at times when I feel that I don’t feel lovable, or even deserved. A lot of times, I feel like Christian in the Pilgrims Progress, getting distracted, taking the wrong path, getting caught up at times in places that are not good, but always some how, some way, getting back to the path to the Celestial City.

    Christ literally took hold of me that night on my way home in much the same way as He grabbed hold of Peter’s arm to prevent him from sinking in the storm…although the big difference was that Peter was looking at the Lord and took his eyes off Him, I wasn’t even looking at Him and yet He still grabbed hold of me to prevent me from sinking.

    1. This is a beautiful testimony Mary,
      I thought of these verses as I read:

      Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

      Hebrews 7. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermostthose who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

      1. Chris
        your post brought tears. When I read the scripture verses it was very emotional for me and I felt like God was using your post to remind me that even on my down days, He is still there for me. To know that He loves me that much, just to send a love note on occasion brings a big smile to my face, which you can’t see right now, but really it is there 🙂

  39. 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?

    I like the Message words a little better, it really helps drive it home. Paul says he doesn’t have it all together, but he is on his way. This helps me as I think perhaps I had always thought of Paul as having it all together, that “he got it” all the stuff that I struggle with, my hopes, my failures, every day where I am thinking this or that and wondering if I will ever “get it” the way Paul did. Although I am way behind Paul in that area, it helps to realize that he didn’t think he had arrived yet either, that he was still a work in progress. He doesn’t think he is perfect by any stretch of the imagination, then he still must have made mistakes that he had to work past, but he didn’t spend his time paying attention to the past, he acknowledges his past, but says that Christ has washed that all away therefore the penalty for his past has been taken care of. As he continues his journey, he acknowledges that even though the penalty of his sins are gone, the power that they held over him had to be peeled off in layers. As long as he keeps his eyes focused on the future and what Christ has in store for him, the less the power of the past has a hold on him.

  40. 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.

    Knowing that it is a process. I don’t have to be a perfect believer always, that when I do make mistakes or do something that I wish I hadn’t done and feel like I failed the Lord, that to know that it is a process. Paul admitted that he had to persevere sometimes. Somethings would have been easy for him to deal with, other things he just had to persevere through. In the times he had to persevere he was okay when he reached out to Christ. During those times, it was Christ who got him through. If I remember to reach out to Christ during the hard times, then He will get me through them, rather than me trying to get through them. The perseverance is leaning on the Lord.

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

    I think I must pretty much forget what lies in the past, not so much the events themselves but the power they held over my actions. The best analogy that I can come up with is Lot’s wife. In my case, after I was divorced (a long time ago) I was having trouble looking forward and when I would “hold onto” something that my ex had done, a quiet voice would say “remember Lot’s wife”. I don’t think that the Lord was turning me into a pillar of salt, but that he used it as an example of if I am looking back at what lies behind me, then I am as useless to move anywhere as a pillar of salt is. A pillar of salt cannot move anywhere, it is stuck where it is, nothing grows around it. It has no purpose. Anytime I got sucked into turning around, I would hear “remember Lot’s wife” nothing else, just those words. It took a while, but I was able to finally look forward and not “hold onto” what was in my past. I do at times still fail and not move forward, but the more I look forward, the less I am looking back. The pure joy of Christ is ahead, not behind.

    1. Mary- Canada, I was just thinking about you the other day and wondering how you were doing. I’m sorry it’s been so hard the last few months. You have so much wisdom to share… that your trials have brought you. I’ll be praying for you.

      I seen this somewhere and thought it was very true…..
      “If growing up in a house that your mother turned into a home, where she never let you forget that you were loved, where she did without so that you did not have to, where you felt safe, means that you were blessed, then I was blessed greatly”.

      1. Thanks Joyce, I have been having a hard time, but if I am being honest, I should have left it all in God’s hands rather than trying to work through any of it. I probably would have been okay if I didn’t get overwhelmed with the piling on of things. It just got to the point where I couldn’t handle much and I found myself caught in the middle, with both sides “talking” at me. The next time everything piles up, I am hoping I am smarter and leave it for God to handle rather than me trying to mediate.

        Thanks for praying, I feel so blessed to know that there are a group of people who pray for me, even with all my faults.

  41. PRAYER REQUEST – I would love prayers for my son Adam as he is driving alone to Milwaukee today. He’ll be leaving at 8 am (EST). It’s about a 7 1/2 hour drive from here. Please pray for his safety on the road and while he’s gone. He’s going to visit his friend from college who lives in Milwaukee. He’ll be returning Sunday. Thank you!

    1. Susan, you got it-will pray for Adam.

    2. Will be praying for Adam

    3. oh Susan–read this early but didn’t get to reply–have definitely been praying and will continue to–any word?

    4. Just now seeing this. I will pray for the visit and return trip.

      1. I’m kinda late Susan, but I pray he made it safely.

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

    Two things come to mind. We received an unexpected check from an overage in our escrow account-it came at the right time too!

    Then the email I received from Linda Strom regarding Discipleship Unlimited’s ministry update-how God so abundantly provided for them recently-and to hear the update on how God is moving mightily in this ministry, growing it by leaps and bounds and truly changing lives-oh it just made my week!

  43. 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

    I have spied God this past week in two ways. The first was when my older son and I had a disagreement about his life and plans of what he is doing right now. We argued and said some mean things. I decided to go running and downloaded a podcast from Nancy Leigh Demoss to listen to while I ran. She was in the middle of a series on meakness and I usually listen starting with the first date, but that day I decided to listen to the podcast for that day. Wow; was I brought to my knees! God spoke to ME about arguing my point in a gentle way 🙁 so poignant.

    The other way has been going on for a while now. It’s Sarah. She has been home for a long while now. She has been nice to us. She wanted to go on a family mini vacation to her grandma’s house (weird, huh?!) she took a picture of me and her a couple of months ago and made it her wallpaper on her phone! ME on HER phone! Wow. God has blessed me with her actions. She has actually made dinner for the family several times in the last week. I don’t know what is going on but I’M not going to question it either! We have really enjoyed each others’ company.

    Thank you Jesus 🙂

    1. Laura, this is wonderful! How joyful.

    2. Praise God Laura!

    3. Love this, Laura…”ME on HER phone! Wow.”

    4. Sounds wonderful, Laura-d…I’ll be praying for you and Sarah’s safe travel and continued prayers for your Mom. I’m sure that your presence will be a gift like no other…

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

    This world with all of its troubles will have passed away, there will be no conflict in us, we will be fully devoted to Christ with no waring passions, jealousy, or shame. We will be fully known and fully loved (this resonates so much with me)

    God will be with us, we shall be his, the effects of sin and the pain of this life will be wiped away, remembered no more, there will be perfect unity perfect peace.
Our Redeemer will make all things new.

  45. 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?”

    Part of me watched this with the view of what I think Dee had in mind, that when we fall (or are pushed down) that we need to stand up, brush ourselves off and continue going. The other part of me, watched the runners from the perspective of a former sprinter, which is not good as I was thinking about how their running styles and body usage would have had my former coach in a tizzy. I go back to even when I was training (a very long time ago) my coach would encourage us not to give up, he would tell us how to use our arms and entire body to maximize the speed, to get the most out of our bodies to do better. I remember one time that I messed up at an indoor track meet in another city, I could actually hear his voice above the thousands of spectators yelling at me what to do to fix the mistake. He didn’t tell me to give up, he was telling me how to do better and to continue. I lost that race, but later he did sit down with me and explain to me why the position of my body was a deterrent rather than a help, but he did that to help me to improve for the next meet.

    E. Contemplate what this means for you right now and share.
    I can say that one of my family traits is stubbornness, my father calls it being determined. While it is okay to be determined, there are times when that cross the line into being stubborn. There have been many times in my walk with the Lord where I have fallen or feel like I have been pushed down, but even when I have been close to wanting to give up, I do cry to the Lord that I want to give up that it is just too hard and then something happens to encourage me forward, even if it is only one step…and then I move forward that one step.

    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 our focus set on the Lord, things of heaven, not things of earth. I recently found an old bible of mine that had been tucked away for a while as I was reading a newer version. On the page of Philippians 3 I had a note at the top of the page that we need to constantly re-evaluate our focus. Although I can not remember why I made this note, it is interesting that the note stood out to me, that it is our focus that is important. When a person is running, whether they realize it or not, they will run in the direction they are looking. If we are not looking towards the Lord, then we will head in another direction, but when we realize it and look back in the direction the Lord wants us, then we also turn back towards the path we are supposed to be on.

    1. I appreciated your runners perspective Mary, especially that what we are focused on will determine our direction.

  46. 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 follow His example. I think he is saying that as he tries to model his life after that of Christ, we too are to follow his example. I don’t think he is saying to model our lives after Paul, but that he is saying that as much as he tries to model his life after Christ that he wants us to model our lives after Christ, just as he tries to.

    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?
    If our focus is on the things around us then our destiny is destruction, not heaven. If I am only looking at what is around me and failing to look at the Lord, then my god is not the Lord. This is the warning that if I keep my focus on the stuff of the world, not the stuff of God, then my destiny is not where I am hoping it is.

  47. 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

    I experienced several of the above. I am not usually stressed out about going to the dentist, but I figured circumstances were different this past week. I was scheduled to have a filling done on a back tooth, and it stressed me out thinking I might not be able to tolerate lying back in the dentist’s chair (with my fractured sternum). I prayed for the ability to do that, and that the appointment would be simple and quick. The dental assistant reassured me that they would only tilt me back as little as they could get by with. Then the dentist came in, all bouncy and cheerful, announcing: “Since that is a root canal tooth, I won’t have to numb you up!” I think he had that filling done in 5 minutes — I have never had such a short dental appointment — a direct answer to my prayers!!

    On Thursday my church held a neighborhood informational meeting to explain to those who lived near our church the details of our selling our building. We knew it might be a tense meeting, as a couple of our church neighbors had expressed disapproval of our selling to a charter school for autistic children. Those same people came to the meeting and expressed their viewpoint very forcefully. I was proud that all of our church members held their tempers and controled their tongues!! The meeting went on for about an hour and fifteen minutes, and thankfully the final remarks that were made were positive. Despite the positive ending, most of us were feeling kind of down that it had been necessary for us to verbally (and carefully) defend our church’s plans. During part of the meeting we could hear a rainstorm pounding on the roof, sometimes nearly drowning out the discussion. However, as we left the building and headed for our cars, we looked to the east and there was a most magnificent, huge rainbow! We felt like that rainbow was just for us!!

    On Friday, I called my next-door-neighbor, and when she answered she was audibly bawling! She said she couldn’t talk right then, as she was waiting for a call back from the doctor’s office. She promised that after she heard from the doctor she would call me. I had no idea what it was all about. I stood on one foot and then the other — part of me wanted to go over and wait with her and part of me was worried about intruding on her privacy. I shot off a prayer: “Lord, what should I do?” The answer seemed to be that I should err on the side of doing too much rather than too little. So I went over to her house to wait with her. She was relieved to see me. She thought she was going to get bad news from the doctor concerning some tests she had the previous day. It turned out that she was over-reacting, and I was glad I was available to comfort her.

    1. Having worked in dentistry for twenty years, I appreciate your dental answer to prayer, when I was training to be an assistant one day when I was particularly nervous I prayed that out work would be in an easier access area that day, we had almost all upper front teeth that day. It was clearly an answer to prayer!

      Love the rainbow story, and that the meeting ended on a positive note.

  48. 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

    On July 2, my husband and I will be observing our 47th wedding anniversary. Our daughters were cute –they had offered (since I can’t drive right now) to drop just the two of us off at a restaurant and come back to pick us up. However, we told them “Let’s make it a family dinner to celebrate our anniversary.” That will be nice, just the four of us. We don’t get to do that often enough!

    We have invited 18 friends from church to a fireworks party at our home on July 3rd (that is when our village has its fireworks display). We have done this for years, and all of the other years I have done all of the cooking; but this year I knew I was not physically able to do that, so I made it into a potluck picnic. My auto accident has taught me to accept help from others!! I look forward to having a fun time with my Christian brothers and sisters without having the work of the church upon our shoulders for a change! A little touch of heaven perhaps!

    1. Deanna, I loved you God Hunt things that happened!

    2. Deanna – Happy Anniversary! Have fun enjoying your family dinner together!

    3. Happy anniversary to you and your husband, Deanna.

    4. Happy anniversary, Deanna! Hope you enjoyed a lovely day and the family dinner is wonderful. Kudos on 47 years!

    5. Happy Belated Anniversary Deanna!
      I hope accepting help turned out to be a blessing for you and for those who helped you too.

    6. Deanna, this is a very belated, Happy Anniversary. I hope you felt blessed by all those around you.

  49. 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?

    Paul reminds us that he has not “arrived”. He is not done with the battle.

    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.

    When I fail and am reminded again of my own falleness—it can honestly be very hard to persevere. Dee has talked about reminding ourselves of the truth—speaking truth to our souls. I force myself to remember Who God is—His faithfulness to me in the past, and that it is all about His work and not dependent upon mine—thankfully! And then I sing, IT IS FINISHED!

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

    I wonder if for Paul he also means forgetting his past successes, his own righteousness-? For me, I hear that I must forget my past failures and not let them bring about a stagnant state of self pity. But also forget the wrongs done against me, and not let a root of bitterness grow. In order to take hold of the new affection, what lies ahead—I must make forget, let go of, the old affections.