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Replacing our Idols by Looking to Jesus (A Woman Transformed by the Gospel: Part I. Lesson 4.)

So many of you have written, saying,

“It is so helpful to see the sin beneath my sin.”

icebergEzekiel, whom Jesus quoted when talking to Nicodemus in John 3,

calls the sin beneath the sin, a “heart idol.”

You cannot see heart idols, but you can see the bad fruit they produce.

When anything bad comes out of your mouth or life, it is because

you are looking to a heart idol to rescue you.

Tim Keller has given three primary categories of heart idols which Leslie Vernick has diagrammed with this chart:

power-and-controlThe Lord promises to be in control, to be our security and comfort, and to love us.

But when we

do not look to Him,

do not run to Him,

we run to something else to meet that soul need.

When a good gift becomes a god in our heart, then we do not just desire it, but demand it. 

The rich fool in Luke looked to build bigger barns to feel secure.

BiggerBarns450

We may look to food to be our comfort.

woman_fridge

Or the praise of man for love and affirmation.

applause61

But these are all lies that may help momentarily but then will turn and cut us to pieces.

WE DON’T TRUST JESUS AND HIS LOVE.

I’ve been reading Abba’s Child and it’s giving me a heart wound.

Abbas_Child_large

How often I, as Brennan Manning puts it, play the imposter,

wanting people to think well of me, looking to the idol of approval,

instead of to Jesus.

The other day I  told a lie so quickly it astonished me,

wanting to cover that up about myself, to look better than I am.

A white lie, I told myself.

“Imposter,” His Spirit said.

“Don’t you know you are already loved just as you are?”


Manning asks: “Do you believe Jesus likes you — not just that He loves you because theologically He has to?”

Do I believe He is tender toward me, despite all my stuff?

That is key to being delivered from our idols.

brennanWhen Jesus talked to Nicodemus,

He referred to an incident in Israel’s history when God’s people were grumbling and God sent poisonous snakes. He told Moses to lift up a serpent in the wilderness. Those who looked at that serpent were rescued. 

Sebastien Bourdeon (1616-1671) Moses and the Brazen Serpent
Sebastien Bourdeon (1616-1671) Moses and the Brazen Serpent

In the same way, Jesus said, “so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:15) The Greek word for “believe,” (pisteuon) means “exercise faith in, trust in.” Let us learn what this means so we may be rescued not only from the penalty of sin, but also, from the power of sin.

Let your heart be prepared for this Sabbath day and this week with this:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PANiveIKVX0

 

 

Sunday: Icebreaker

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

Monday-Wednesday Bible Study

2. Read John 3:14-15. What illustration is given to Nicodemus?

3. Read Numbers 21:4-9.

A. According to verse 4, what was the first step toward temptation for the people?

B. Then how did they begin to voice their fears?

C. How might they have talked to their souls during this time when they were feeling impatient?

D.  What did God do that showed both His justice and His mercy (Truth and grace)

E.  What step of faith did they need to take to be rescued from the poison of the snakebite?

Watch this re-enactment of the Samaritan woman.

4. What do you think her heart idol or idols might have been?

5. How do you see her “looking to Jesus” to replace them, and how was she changed?

 

This is true not only in salvation, but each day:

 

                       And now just as you trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too,

                       for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him.

                                                                             Colossians 2:6 (TLB)

6. Share about the last time you were delivered from a heart idol by looking to Jesus.

 

The movie, Chariots of Fire, told the story of two men who had a gift for running. One man, Harold Abrahams, according to the movie, made it his idol, saying, “I have to win to justify my existence.” The other Eric Liddell, didn’t have to win. He didn’t even have to run — but when he ran, he felt God’s pleasure. When he began to feel God’s pleasure, he threw his head back. He was known for this for it was such a strange way to run, people wondered if he would trip. I see it as looking to Jesus, as drawing on the power within, Christ in Him, the hope of glory. Whether he won or not, he felt God’s pleasure. Therefore he was able to overcome the temptation of envy or discouragement which plagued Harold Abrahams. Christ was his life. This is a photo of the actual Eric Liddell running. And then, I have the clip from Chariots of Fire.

Eric-Liddell

 

http://ckuik.com/Chariots_of_Fire_movie

We often fail to understand and believe that the gospel has the power to deliver us from the power of sin as well as the penalty of sin. I have a dear friend whose prayer request for the year is that she would see the “risen-ness of Christ” as she trusts Him with various challenges in her life. (She got it from Abba’s Child) Instead of running to her idols, she wants to come to Jesus and find His risen life in her to be sufficient. She memorizes and can go back to the Word at those times, speaking to her soul. She also is keeping a “one thousand gifts” pad to keep herself thankful, instead of grumbling as the Israelites did before God sent snakes. I remember that our own Rebecca when faced with changing her eating habits, turned to reading edifying books that taught of intimacy with God.  They are replacing their idols by “looking” to Jesus. I often remember what Rebecca said, “It wasn’t a quick fix — but He came to me slowly.” The Israelites, in Numbers 21:4 “became impatient.” May God help us to wait upon Him that we may rise up on wings like eagles.

 

7. Read Colossians 3:1-4 and write down instructions that will help you look to Jesus instead of to your idols.

Thursday-Friday: Free sermon

I have a classic Keller sermon on overcoming idols of the heart. It is free. You may have heard it before, but because this is such a huge problem for everyman, listen again. Then share your comments.

http://www.gospelinlife.com/sermons/christ-our-life.html

Saturday

8. What’s your take-a-way and why? 

 

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194 comments

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

    Dee! You lied???? I had an incident in my class the other night where I got flustered and said something wrong. The whole night it bothered me that I said it. I couldn’t sleep because I wanted to look better than I really was. I contemplated re-visiting it with my class on the blackboard, but waited until I had a clear picture of what was really going on. I prayed and waited for Gods guidance.
     
     
     

      1. 🙂

      2. Dee I so appreciate your transparency. What a difference we would make in this world if we all would be tranparent. Confessing our sins to one another..The enemy loves it when we want to keep them hidden.  And it takes great power to not try and justify yourself. Power of the Lord in your life! Thank you!

      3. 😉

  2. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why? The title of the lesson had my heart immediately saying, “Yes!”
    The iceberg picture is so accurate, but He is faithful to keep chipping away at the ice, stone, to use His Son to melt it away.
    This phrase always sobers me, “…these are all lies that may help momentarily but then will turn and cut us to pieces.” I have felt those cuts…but I have also felt His healing.
     
    I like the diagram because the central triangle can represent how our idols can be intermingled. I’ve done the study with several women and some had a hard time pinpointing their root idol because so often our idols can manifest in ways that LOOK like a different idol. For instance: We may want to control a situation so that we look good – it looks like a control idol but really it is an approval idol. Or we may want to gain approval but really it is to avoid conflict to satiate our comfort idol. I think it is absolutely essential to identify the true root in order to repent and be renewed, otherwise we are still deceived.
     
    The Manning quote, “Do you believe Jesus likes you – not just that He loves you because theologically He has to?” My answer to this a year ago would have been a fearful no. But after He wooed me closer and showed me His love through Song of Songs and the Psalms and other reading apart from the study here I have truly come to know that He does love me, even though my heart forgets, He calls me back to the truth that He planted deep inside. I am amazed that it elluded me all these years and amazed at its reality now.

    1. Jill, this is a wonderful post – all of it. You so clearly state things and it helps me to learn from you. I am in the “fearful no” boat a lot of the time. Interesting that there is such a difference between liking and loving.

  3. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
     
     I think I messed up on my first post and it got taken in for approval….feel free to not post it Dee….sorry.

    Dee! You lied?! on Friday night at my college course I got flustered at one point in my lecture and I made a mistake. One of my students came back and corrected me but I had confused another student on a concept. I felt bad about it, and wanted to make it right, but I also had in the back of my mind that I didn’t want to look bad. I wrestled with it all night long in my sleep and thought I should address it again on Saturday in a blackboard discussion post. I waited, I prayed, and I finally decided not to do anything about it other than go through a few example problems to clear up the students’ misconception. I didn’t make myself look better than I was. I’m not sure how I really feel about that, but I know it was probably the right thing to do. God led me that way. Your statement about how Jesus loves me no matter how I look or what I do is powerful, Dee.
     
    The song “Come to Jesus,” always brings tears. What a lovely piece of music!
     
     
    i’m not sure I really understand the idols concept. I have to continually review and reflect. But maybe that’s not a bad thing? 
     

  4. 1.  What stands out?  The Chris Rice song stands out!  He is one of my favorite Christians singers and this song is one of my all-time favorite songs!  I actually posted it on this blog many months ago! =)  Also, I’ve read Abba’s Child and it is great! And…I’m thankful you shared your fall into sin, Dee.  We all have this common struggle in this life…sin in all those areas Keller mentions.  Praise God that even in the struggle He remains committed to loving us deeply.  His love is what makes it easier to loosen our grasp on those idols and reach for Him.

  5. What stood out to me?
    The iceberg illustration. The sin beneath my sin. And the graphic for idols. I echo what Jill is saying “But after He wooed me closer and showed me His love through Song of Songs and the Psalms and other reading apart from the study here I have truly come to know that He does love me, even though my heart forgets, He calls me back to the truth that He planted deep inside. I am amazed that it elluded me all these years and amazed at its reality now.” I have been a Christian for a long time and idols have been part of it for a long time, too. I thank the Lord for opening my eyes through this blog and exposing the lies I have believed.
    Dee, thank you for being so honest that you lied. I have to confess that I have lied this week, too and tried to make light of it. How deceitful my heart can be.

  6. I also want to add that I feel that “approval” idol at work here (on this blog) so often.  I struggle with that.  I want your approval, Dee.  The teacher’s approval…but I don’t want it to be a bases of my security or feeling loved.  Jesus does call use to love each other…but the only love we need is His.  I think it is a life-long lesson for each of us and yet we are all on a somewhat different (unique) curriculum learning these same lessons.  Sometimes I have been tempted in the past to feel like my path (in life) is harder than others but I have come to realize that we all have the same basic heart-issue lessons to work through…just different curriculums.  

    1. Mary, thank you for sharing about the approval idol. I also struggle with wanting approval here. But what you said rings true! “the only love we need is His.” Amen!

    2. Mary, He has sooo blown on your garden..your fruit is beautiful. Song of Songs 4:16. Love to you.

    3. mary e–oh, not to feed an idol, but I do love when you post, I gain so much wisdom from you “but I have come to realize that we all have the same basic heart-issue lessons to work through…just different curriculums. “–that was good. 

    4. Thanks, Mary e., so true.

      Sometimes I have been tempted in the past to feel like my path (in life) is harder than others but I have come to realize that we all have the same basic heart-issue lessons to work through…just different curriculums.  

       

    5. Mary e yes the approval idol was happening to me here too. It was indeed part of my struggle and I know I did not articulate it very well when I was first realizing I was struggling with it. Not to say it does not still rear its ugly head. I think just being able to confess and talk about it bringing it to the light and confessing it when we see it in our time to the Lord and amongst each other is so freeing!

  7. Mary, I was thinking about you the other day..and what a great comment. “His Love is what makes it easier to loosen our grasp on those idols and reach for Him.” I am going to get Abba’s Child today-can’t wait to read it!

     

  8. I first heard about Brennon Manning watching the movie” Ragamuffin” the story of Rich Mullins.  One of his sermons had a huge impact on Rich MullinS and he became friends with Brennon. I was impacted by the movie and the raw and real story of Rich Mullins life and his ministry. I liked the quote and will be interested to read the book. The topic this week incorporating the idols of the heart has my heart racing! 

    1. Liz, me too..that movie made a huge impact on us and especially the version with Rich’s brother’s talk at the end. 🙂

      1. Rebecca My friend loaned me the movie and I still have it i do not remember that on the version I have but will go back and check. It really blessed me to watch it. This woman who let me borrow it has no church family right now, she went to Walmart and chose this movie not really knowing what it was about, just thought it looked interesting. I thought that was an appointment of the Lord for sure! We are supposed to get snowed in on Tuesday. I might watch it one more time before I return it. This was such a powerful and impacting true story.
         

        1. Liz–not to rabbit trail, but on the movie–the Walmart version does have the “extras” and they are SO worth watching (that’s where we bought ours)! There’s interviews about the making of it, with Rich’s brother, we really enjoyed watching it all. Very impacted by the movie too. 

  9. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
    The iceberg is incredible and sobering…what is above the water is huge enough, but what is hidden underneath the water is enormous!  The metaphor of this being our sin related to heart idols is sobering; “the sin” is just a snippet of what lies underneath.
    Leslie Vernick’s diagram is concise and helpful…”desires that become demands” clearly point to the three foundational idols.
    Abba’s Childis on my list of books to read.
    Oh Dee, I can relate to to times when I play the imposter, trying to appear differently than what I am in an effort to “look good” in the eyes of another…thank you for sharing your experience with this.

    1. Nanci Yes I do the imposter thing as well. I call it wearing my masks. Jesus wants us to come just as we are not who we are pretending to be.

        1. Dee slowly I am learning that:) so many have talked about your Song of Songs study it makes me want to go backI. I had shared that was the least read book in the Bible by myself. I realize it is probably the one I need most. 

      1. “Jesus wants us to come just as we are not who we are pretending to be.”…yes…as He created us to be 🙂
        I am increasingly becoming more aware of the comparisons I make in my mind of self and others, envy that rears it’s ugly head from time to time stealing my contentment… oh what a vicious battle it can be at times.  BUT…I am thankful that the Lord has tuned me into greater awareness and is helping/guiding me to change…and (thank you, Dee) His deep and abiding love for me.

  10. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
    Oh, can’t name just one this morning! The diagram–my first thought was how the triangle of idols is really like a trap On any given day I cycle between each of these, as if I keep running from one to the other and realize that one didn’t work, so let’s try this one…but then I picture the Cross, covering the triangle, and it fills every area at once. I am approved by Him, I am comforted by Him, and I rest in His perfect, sovereign power. 
     
    I’ve always loved Chariots of Fire and the Chris Rice song is one of my favorites too, love this line right now “And remember when you walk sometimes we fall–So fall on Jesus” Every line, points back to Him, always turn back to Him. 
     
    It feels lately He is calling me once again, deeper still. This calling of my name, this love, this “liking” me, enjoying how He made me, enjoying watching me grow and yes, fall, but turn to Him—the way I love to see not perfection in my kids—but truly, the most beautiful thing is to see a heart of repentance after a fall, and the turning back.  I’ve been reading “Extravagant Grace” ordered Abba’s Child last week, because I have been feeling Him from all angles whispering He wants me to “get this”. It is as if He opened my eyes to my idols—and then somewhere I got weary, of my “falling”. I did not doubt His love so much as I disliked my own place in this “race”. I sensed such discontent with myself, and this feeling of when will I “get better” at this and finally I realized—I just wanted to feel better about myself—and the Idol of Approval was just wearing a different cloak! Now, I am in a season with Him, where I feel He has taken my hand, and pulled me away from the race track, and out in the open lands. He wants me to feel His love, His acceptance, as I am, and with the promised hope that as I fall on Him, He is ever shaping me, molding me. But to wear His Robe, I must shed my own. I picture my old garment with patches—some are approval of others, praises given, accomplishments, others are favorite comforts, places I feel control…shed the coat. Put on His. Simple but so hard sometimes, yet such freedom. 
     

    1. Oh, Elizabeth, God is teaching you such precious truths. Your sharing here touches my idol tendencies too.

      It is as if He opened my eyes to my idols—and then somewhere I got weary, of my “falling”. I did not doubt His love so much as I disliked my own place in this “race”. I sensed such discontent with myself, and this feeling of when will I “get better” at this and finally I realized—I just wanted to feel better about myself—and the Idol of Approval was just wearing a different cloak!

    2. Elizabeth so pondering this right now. I have prayed many times to just come to the end of myself.
      “It is as if He opened my eyes to my idols—and then somewhere I got weary, of my “falling”. I did not doubt His love so much as I disliked my own place in this “race”. I sensed such discontent with myself, and this feeling of when will I “get better” at this and finally I realized—I just wanted to feel better about myself—and the Idol of Approval was just wearing a different cloak! Now, I am in a season with Him, where I feel He has taken my hand, and pulled me away from the race track, and out in the open lands. He wants me to feel His love, His acceptance, as I am, and with the promised hope that as I fall on Him, He is ever shaping me, molding me. But to wear His Robe, I must shed my own. I picture my old garment with patches—some are approval of others, praises given, accomplishments, others are favorite comforts, places I feel control…shed the coat. Put on His. Simple but so hard sometimes, yet such freedom”.

    3. I love this comment, Elizabeth: “Now, I am in a season with Him, where I feel He has taken my hand, and pulled me away from the race track, and out in the open lands. He wants me to feel His love, His acceptance, as I am, and with the promised hope that as I fall on Him, He is ever shaping me, molding me. But to wear His Robe, I must shed my own. I picture my old garment with patches—some are approval of others, praises given, accomplishments, others are favorite comforts, places I feel control…shed the coat. Put on His. Simple but so hard sometimes, yet such freedom. ”  YES!!!  And I love that each line of that song ends with the words “AND LIVE.”  =)  In all those phases of life, even the death phase, as Believers we LIVE!!!!  (Thanks to Jesus!)

    4. Loved this Elizabeth, I hate realizing so much of my weariness with sin stems from pride instead of a heart of true repentance and devotion to Christ.
      I read Extravagant Grace on the way to the CCEF conference this year where the focus was on loss, the timing couldn’t have been better.

  11. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?     Again impressed with Dee’s honesty.  Honesty about previously being dishonest.  That spoke to me.  I can be a Pharisee and think I tell the truth and keep the rules.  But my heart.  It’s what I say, do and don’t say that comes from my heart that makes me dishonest.  Made me pause, because I see Dee as being so honest and above reproach.  With her admittance, I see my own dishonest ways.   
     
    The story of the serpent of the wilderness has always stuck with me, though I am sure there is a deeper meaning that I have missed.   One December, when my kids were little, my oldest was playing with a plastic snake and somehow, it got left under the Christmas tree.  He went to pick it up and declared that snakes don’t have anything to do with Christmas!  And it triggered my mind to tell him about the serpent that Moses lifted up for the people to look on and be rescued and the Son of Man being lifted up to deliver us from sin. And also the serpent in the Garden of Eden, which has everything to do with Christmas!  I have always been intrigued by the medical logo that we see associated with ambulances, hospitals, doctors that shows a staff and a snake.  It always reminds me of this imagery from Moses.  Looking it up, I learned that it’s origins are in Greek mythology, the rod of Asclepius, who was a deity associated with healing and medicine (and it is often confused with other Greek and Roman symbols) but it has sometimes also been associated with the Numbers passage.  I’ve mused about this many times when I come across it.  I’m looking forward to learning and understanding more about heart idols and deliverance.  

  12. Thank you, ladies, for your transparency.   Somehow, it makes it easier to admit my own sin.    I too have struggled with approval here on the blog, of all places….. so that sometimes I question my motives in posting and sometimes that keeps me from posting.    I was talking to a wise and tender friend about this yesterday.  If He is enough, then why do I feel the need to be with and communicate with other people.    She wisely reminded me that it is through other believers that the Lord often directly and distinctly encourages, admonishes, teaches, comforts us.       And though motives may not always be pure, we can identify what part of a motive is pure and confess the rest…. So that the enemy doesn’t have the opportunity to isolate us from life-giving fellowship.    
    Remembering James 5:16 right now:  “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.”  
     

    1. Nila–so good. I have wondered before if it would be better if we couldn’t respond to one another’s comments, because then maybe it would be “easier” to not seek approval here–and yet, you remind me with this Scripture from James, the goal is not to “never mess up”, to never fall into our idols, –the goal is confession, repentance, faith–and WHEN I again trip from my idols, to “fall on Jesus”

      1. Elizabeth – wow, I’m envisioning what it would be like to have even one week where we ONLY responded to the study guide, etc., with no responses whatsoever to one another!  I’m picturing that the Lord would reveal so MUCH to each one of us in a week such as that!  But then again, these are the thoughts of one who is still taken with Dee’s mention of her son who only reads Scripture…..and still not entirely ruling out at least a season of such!  🙂  I was the little girl who checked out so many books from the library every week that I couldn’t carry them all…..and not much has changed!!  BUT, I do get distracted – EVEN BY BOOKS THAT ARE GOOD TEACHING – from the risen Christ Himself.  Much like we can read and study the “best” books on prayer – and then never actually pray!!  Oh, you’ve intrigued me now with this mention Elizabeth….!  

        1. Jackie I too go back to that thought for a season. On that note in my quiet time this morning I sensed this in my spirit. you talk about Me so often, You read My Word so diligently, You pray, but I sensed Him saying so gently again How much time are you just spending in my presence? I cannot put into words how this came across.

        2. Liz – Amen to your words.  I understand that.  

      2. and I need to be clear that I would only see this as a very temporary thing – much like fasting is only for a brief time.  For yes, Scripture is clear that we NEED to be encouragers, one to another!

    2. Nila I am so glad you post here:) 

    3. Nila, I can relate to your thoughts here and your friends wisdom. I thought of this:
      “If you wait until your motives are pure and unselfish before you do something, you will wait forever.”
      ― Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism
      I also remembered a dear lady who was here on the blog briefly, she had such wonderful insights, she commented about her approval idols and her intention to withdraw from posting because of this. I was sad, I felt as if we were losing her input and wondered if she was giving up the chance to grow, by facing her foe head on, remaining in community and struggling to be here for the glory of God.

  13. When I first read Brennan Manning’s books, they rocked my world. I am so glad that you are recommending them to us. Manning is so transparent that he draws us to Christ in a way that really changes us.

    1. What others would you recommend, Diane?

        1. Thanks, Dee…read that one when it was suggested last year…:)

      1. Sorry to be slow getting back to you regarding Manning book recommendations. I also loved “Ragamuffin Gospel” as well. and “Ruthless Trust”.
         

        1. Thanks, Diane…I agree, Dee and Diane, “Ragamuffin Gospel” is wonderful, well worth a re-read…I’ll be looking to purchase “Abba’s Child” and “Ruthless Trust” based upon your recommendations…many thanks.

  14. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
     
    I am always intrigued with the illustration of the iceberg — so little shows on the surface, but there is so much underneath.  We are all complicated characters like that, and the depth of our sins is not apparent to others.  However, God is very aware!       I think we all find transparency to be a difficult matter for us, but we all appreciate so much the transparency of a friend.   It is always such a relief to me — I think “Wonderful, I am not the only one who does that!”   It seems we all would rather die than be different. 🙂  I always know I should be transparent, but sometimes I choke at the last minute and hold back on my transparency. 
     
    I also loved the song “Come to Jesus,” by Chris Rice.  I have heard it before, but  nowI would like to memorize it.

    1. Deanna thank you for the transparency in what you just shared. i can sometimes feel so vulnerable after i have been transparent, and if I am not watchful the enemy has even used it to taunt me. He would love for me to remain hidden behind my mask.

  15. What stands out to me?
    Keller’s triangle of idols of the heart:I see myself as having an issue at times in each area…so that makes me aware that my sin comes out
    in so many ways.If there is a root idol, I am not sure about that. I look back and see that insecurity and fear of criticism were always a problem
    that I was trying to overcome. I am reassured that Jesus loves me and knows my heart. He is revealing his direction  to me daily and yet I mess
    up by looking for approval of others.   
    I am pondering the theory of love languages and how this differs from idols, since one language is words of affirmation. Other languages such as
    service and gifts and touch do not seem to affect as much as this one.
    Looking forward to getting more indepth with the sin beneath the sin and how these idols lead us away from the living water.
    Just wanted to share that my pastor this morning touched on the story of Nicodemus and the religiosity of the Pharisees and brought
    up the stone hearts we have that need to be softened! It was so relevant to last week’s study.

  16. I just listened to a sermon by Brennan Manning and he ended it with this blessing. “May all your experiences be frustrated. May all your plans be thwarted. May all your desires be withered into nothingness that you may experience the powerlessness and poverty of a child and sing and dance in the love of God who is Father Son and Spirit”

    1. Oh that Manning quote is good Liz!

    2. That quote actually comes from Manning’s retired spiritual director, Larry Hein, it is in the preface of Abba’s Child (New Edition). =)

      1. Jill thank you for that correction and he did mention that person’s  name prior to sharing it:) 

    3. Love this quote.  I always told my students that my goal was to frustrate them by forcing them to not rely on their crutches in my course, but to be open to learning new ways of thinking and doing.  I am glad to see the connection to my walk with Christ.  When I am frustrated with my walk it is the Spirit of God trying to get my attention.  When I am weak then I become strong as I rely on only God and His direction.

    4. Liz – several years ago I read through almost all of Brennan Manning’s books – and that little blessing was a takeaway for me!  I cannot think of a better prayer to pray for my kids – though it is very different than how I often WANT to pray for them!  When I look at my daughter’s life experiences over the past two years….well, I’m rocked to my core to wonder if the Lord is working out this very thing??  I do know that when my own hands are full of my own hopes and dreams, there is no room for the poverty of spirit that craves the Father, Son and Spirit.  

      1. Jackie I understand being rocked to the core. Yes that would be a good prayer. 

      2. ”  I do know that when my own hands are full of my own hopes and dreams, there is no room for the poverty of spirit that craves the Father, Son and Spirit. ”
        Amen to this

  17. 2. Read John 3:14-15. What illustration is given to Nicodemus?
     
    The illustration is of the snake that Moses held up for the Israelites to look upon and be rescued…..not sure I get the whole snake thing. I can’t stand them so I can’t imagine them being anything but an awful reminder of evil. I’m not really familiar with the scripture of Moses holding up the snake. I will need to review. I’m with Wanda’s son thinking what in the world does a snake have to do with Jesus? In the scripture, Jesus uses the analogy of the snake being lifted up to save the Israelites, to Him being lifted up for all to believe and be able to enter heaven.
     
    A. According to verse 4, what was the first step toward temptation for the people?
     
    The people were impatient, which led to whining.
     
    B. Then how did they begin to voice their fears?
     
    They began to talk bad about Moses and God. They complained about the lack of food and water. They complained about the desert too.
     
     
    C. How might they have talked to their souls during this time when they were feeling impatient?
     
     
    They might have said, “We are lucky to have someone leading us, this will only be temporary and we will be able to eat better when we reach our destination. The desert is dry and vast, so we are glad we have a leader and something to eat or we might die.”
     

    1. Laura,  hopefully, I was clear in that story of my young son,  that it was a great segue to say that the snake (or actually serpent) has everything to do with Jesus and Christmas because of the fall of man (Gen. 3)  and God’s immediate promise to send a Savior, who would crush the serpent’s head.   So true that the snake/serpent is the picture of evil in Genesis 3 so I find the Numbers passage intriguing because the snake is suddenly  used as a focal point of deliverance and then Jesus uses it to compare it to His own being lifted up.  Hopefully, after this study and discussion, we’ll understand it better.  

  18. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why? 
    All of it but especially this:“Do you believe Jesus likes you — not just that He loves you because theologically He has to? Do I believe He is tender toward me, despite all my stuff? That is key to being delivered from our idols. 
     
    I think the messages we grew up with shape us and the stones they create in our hearts are impossible to break without The Stonecutter.  With me I knew my parents would love me even if I failed, but there was always a hidden message underneath: performance = significance. I was always trying to gain approval by what I accomplished. I experienced tenderness from my parents whenever I was hurting, but there was a distance from one parent whenever I failed, and my older brother would constantly harp on my inadequacies. So walking in that my whole life shaped me and my approval idol was deep. So when Dee/Manning asked this question..Do I believe He loves me just as I am? Do I believe He likes me? Do I believe He is tender toward me despite all my stuff? I have to say the Stonecutter has been on the move in me and I am more and more able to say yes and He is helping me let go of the need for man’s approval. I am not totally ‘there’ yet..I, like Dee, can lie in a split second and whoa..it rears it’s ugly head, but I am getting better and changing SLOWLY and honestly that is painful but beautiful-my beautiful mess that He is walking with me in..He doesn’t ask for perfection but He does expect and desire for me to grow. :))
     
     

    1. “-my beautiful mess that He is walking with me in…” =)   Oh I’m glad He is not afraid to get messy with me too, Rebecca!! 

    2. Rebecca,
      Thank you for this reminder:     my beautiful mess that He is walking with me in
       
      I’m reminded of Elizabeth Elliot who would often say:   You are loved with an everlasting love.  And underneath are the everlasting arms.
      Sigh   ~

  19. 3A. According to verse 4, what was the first step toward temptation for the people?
    The people were impatient.  The amplified version adds additional explanation of  “impatient” as “depressed, much discouraged.”
     
    B. Then how did they begin to voice their fears?
    The people spoke against God and Moses…they complained.
     
    C. How might they have talked to their souls during this time when they were feeling impatient?
    They might have recalled the freedom from Egyptian bondage that the Lord secured for them; they might have recalled the power, might, strength that they Lord displayed on their behalf (e.g., crossing of the Red Sea, plagues); they might have expressed gratitude for the provision of the Lord (e.g., manna, leadership); they might have remembered the Lord’s past faithfulness thereby restoring their hope in His leading them to the promised land.
     
    D.  What did God do that showed both His justice and His mercy (Truth and grace)
    The Lord sent serpents that bit the people causing some to die.  This “woke them” out of their dissension, gave them awareness of their sin, and lead them to repentance. (truth) 
    The Lord provided a means to save the people; He instructed Moses to craft a bronze serpent to be set upon a pole.  When the people bitten, destined to die, looked upon the bronze serpent they lived. (grace)  “Looked upon” is further explained in the amplified version as “attentively, expectantly, with a steady and absorbing gaze”.
     
    E.  What step of faith did they need to take to be rescued from the poison of the snakebite?
    They needed to follow the Lord’s instruction and believe in Him and trust in His saving grace.

  20. Oh yes, Rebecca. the messages we grew up with shaped me, also. It was all about performance. I strived always to improve, working toward that goal of perfection. Ha. Now I am seeking to let go , to believe the Word, and rest in his perfect love.
     

  21. I think our world drives the performance thing very strongly. It is all around us. 

  22. The illustration is powerful.  The key is when these needs become demands.  I am an emotional person, so when I feel the need to be affirmed, I am just expressing an emotion.  When I demand that need to be met I have crossed the line.  The demand moves me into willfully placing myself first.  Thus, I have an idol, an addiction, that needs to be fed.  I am not sure I can reject the emotion, but I can certainly learn to reject the demand by looking to Christ, immersing myself in His scripture, in prayer, and in service to others.  Is this the war that Paul talks about?  The struggle between flesh (emotional responses) and the Spirit (seeking to recognize what is from God and what is not)?

    1. Sherryl – you have so beautifully “put feet” to that illustration!  Seeing the way you were able to articulate the steps and the progression were very helpful to me.  And I’m pretty sure that Paul WAS talking about this!  Maybe James is helpful on this too:  I’m thinking of James 1: 14&15.  It looks to me there that though we can be lured and enticed by our own desire, it is only when desire “has conceived” that it progresses to sin.  ??  So our recognition of being lured and enticed can be a place of bringing our desires to the Lord and being turned from full blown sin.  ??  Hopefully I didn’t just bring confusion to what you had so clearly expressed!  🙂

      1. Amen to the James passage and the idea.  You did not muddy the waters at all.  The real need, as you expressed, is to recognize what we allow to trigger a desire in us that is not godly and then to choose to deal with it then and there.

  23. Regarding the poisonous snake illustration – in reading the discussions about this I had a thought.  Could the fact that the poisonous snakebites represent the serpent and the evilness that entered the world via the Garden of Eden, and the turning to look at the bronze snake on a stick be a picture of how God is more powerful that the serpent and therefore more powerful than evil?

    1. Numbers 21 thoughts:  Yes, I think that is it, Sherryl.  The snake bites illustrate the insidious poison of our sin and that we are all infected with it.  Clearly, the ‘looking unto Jesus’ IS represented by looking at the bronze snake, since Jesus, Himself uses that as an illustration when He talks to Nicodemus.  It is God’s power.  And it is ‘the lifting up’ so that our eyes are not on the sin or the poison but on that which brings us deliverance.  In a way, it seems that it’s a GREAT REVERSAL in that the serpent was used to tempt Adam and Eve and Satan inhabited the serpent.    That the serpents/snakes bring poisonous venom fits the Satan motif but then suddenly, it is a bronze serpent that is used to re-focus the people’s eyes and hearts and bring them deliverance.  It still seems odd to me that it is the image of a serpent/snake, but it IS clear, that God’s power is in the bronze snake.  And that HE is bringing healing and deliverance. 

  24. Read Numbers 21:4-9
    3A.  According to verse 4, what was the first step toward temptation for the people?    they became impatient on the way.  the first three verses of this chapter show us that they were just coming off victories over cities in the Negeb.  v. 3 even says “the Lord heeded the voice of Israel and gave over the Canaanites….”so they appear to be nearly into the promised land – after so many years of wandering – when they evidently begin to head south, away from Canaan (around Edom) toward the Red Sea.  Clearly, this IS the long way around – and they became impatient!
    3B.  Then how did they begin to voice their fears?   “Why have you brought us out of Egypt….to die in the wilderness?”  Egypt, and slavery, is looking better than God and His promises.  They begin with an exaggeration  “there is no food and no water.”  They hadn’t died of starvation or thirst yet, so obviously they were going overboard.  But next come the heartbreaker:  “and we loathe this worthless food”.  God’s provision, “bread from heaven” (Ex 16:3).  They’ve been eating it a LONG time.  Still, I wonder how many times in my life I have said ” I loathe Your provision for my life, Lord”.  ?
    3C.  How might they have talked to their souls during this time when they were feeling impatient?   The first thing that popped into my mind was Habakkuk’s response to God’s alarming prophesy of judgement upon Judah.  “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, YET I will rejoice in the Lord, I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s he makes me tread on my high places.”  Habakkuk 3: 17-19.  Faith in God and praises to God just bubbled up – even though he was terrified!
    3D.  What did God do that showed both His justice and His mercy (truth and grace)?  the people’s sin was judged as the Lord sent fiery serpents into their midst. (truth)     The Lord provided salvation.  It appears they still could – and would – be bitten, but God provided a way of escape from certain death.  (grace)   It interests me here too that the people acknowledged their specific sin against the Lord and Moses prayed for the people before the provision was revealed.  ?
    3E.  What step of faith did they need to take to be rescued from the poison of the snakebite?  “look at the bronze serpent and live”.  It really is confusing to me as looking at the serpent is like looking at the judgement for their sin…..but I guess that looking at Jesus on the cross IS looking at the judgement for our sin.  ?    
     
    I think really good questions often generate even more questions – something you are very gifted at Dee!  🙂

    1. I think your wording of the last sentence makes the ‘why’ question about the use of the serpent clearer, Jackie.  It was roaming around in my head, but I couldn’t articulate it.  This makes sense to me now.  Thanks.
       

      ..but I guess that looking at Jesus on the cross IS looking at the judgement for our sin.  ?      

      1. That makes sense to me as well!

  25. 4.  What do you think her heart idol or idols might have been?    Well, probably NOT power and control.  I’m thinking approval, affirmation and appreciation.  With a strong possibility of comfort/security.  It occurs to me that we don’t really know her age or whether the 5 husbands were lost due to divorce or death – all of which could speak to her heart’s longings.  I’ve heard it taught for years that her coming alone to the well in the middle of the day strongly points to her outsider/outcast status with the other women.  I cannot imagine being cut off from the vital community of other women.  Losing 5 husbands, either to divorce or death, does not speak to her experience of “happily ever after”.  Loneliness upon loneliness.  
     
    5.  How do you see her “looking to Jesus” to replace  them, and how was she changed?   When the woman says to Jesus “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”  At first glance, it kind of amazes me that this woman would take Jesus’ words at face value – this woman who had experienced great disillusionment from men in general!   Nonetheless, she seems to believe that Jesus can deliver what He promises – even though she has no idea how that can be so!  Obviously, her need to come to the well was a great burden to her…..was it because of her shame?  Was it because her daily trek to the well reminded her how terribly alone she was?  Jesus’ very next words cut to the heart of the matter:  “go, call your husband, and come here”.  Even when Jesus lays out her sin – “the one you have now is not your husband”, she does not retreat from Him, but stays engaged in the conversation.  This leads her to say eventually “I know that Messiah is coming…” and for Jesus to reply “I who speak to you am he.”  WOW!!!!!  The first time in Scripture that Jesus calls himself the Messiah is to this woman.  And we know that she left her water pot behind and went back into the town…..calling the people to “come and see” this man at the well!  As we mentioned earlier in the study, she’s not sneaking around in shame anymore – she’s shouting calling out to others to come and see Jesus!  She may have trudged to the well with a heavy, weary heart.  But she walked back into town (perhaps she ran??) with exuberance and amazement – could this really be???  The Messiah.  Here.  With Us.  Emmanuel.  The woman who walked alone became the town crier.  How sweet it is.  

    1. Jackie, I just love your contemplative nature…thank you for sharing all of the intricacies that you see, so helpful to me. 
       
      Wanda posted below concern for blog sisters in the northeast region…I concur.  Prayers are being offered (and will continue) for your well-being during this difficult bout of weather…blog sisters in the northeast region, please let us know how you are doing.

  26. 2. Read John 3:14-15. What illustration is given to Nicodemus?
     
    “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.”    Jesus was referring back to a well-known Old Testament story of Moses lifting up the bronze serpent, so that those Israelites who were bitten by the poisonous snakes could look upon the bronze serpent and not die.    He was comparing that to His own impending crucifixion.

    3. Read Numbers 21:4-9.
    A. According to verse 4, what was the first step toward temptation for the people?
     
    The people became impatient while they were on the road, going to the Promised Land.   They felt God wasn’t doing things fast enough — they were saying “Aren’t we there yet?”  (just like little children in the back of the car) 🙂 

    B. Then how did they begin to voice their fears?
     
    They began grumbling against Moses and God.   They were saying they were better off back in Egypt.   They also were not enamored with manna which they referred to as “miserable bread.”   

    C. How might they have talked to their souls during this time when they were feeling impatient?
     
    I think they would have been better off to remember the miracle of crossing the Red Sea.  However, this was the second generation, as the original crossing generation had nearly all died off.   However, they surely had heard their parents tell of the miracle crossing of the Red Sea.  They also knew of the promise God had made to Abraham to bring his descendants into the Promised Land.  They could have talked to their hearts, saying that God had fulfilled His promises in the past, and they should have confidence that He would continue to do so.   

    D.  What did God do that showed both His justice and His mercy (Truth and grace)
     
    First he sent the poisonous snakes, because of their grumbling; but when they began to die from the bites, He had a plan to save the ones who had faith enough to look at the bronze serpent and live.  

    E.  What step of faith did they need to take to be rescued from the poison of the snakebite?
     
    They needed to look upon the bronze serpent, and they needed to trust God’s promises and believe.  

  27. Thinking about those of you who live in the Northeastern states with the big storm.  Laura?  Jackie?  Shirley?  Stay safe.  Hope all is well.  Diane, are you having this storm too?  I’m sure I missed someone.    

    1. Wanda and Nanci – My part of Maryland only got “brushed” by this storm.  I agree with your concern about those on our blog who live in the northeast though.  Please tuck in safely and let the plows do their work!  🙂  

    2. Wanda I am in the blizzard zone  and i am actually enjoying a snow day. Many many businesses are closed but certainly not all. praying for those who do have to be out and those who are short staffed as many have called out in places that are open such as hospitals and nursing homes. It is very windy! Hoping we do not lose power. Upwards to 2 feet expected.

      1. Ahhh….Liz.   I was trying to remember who else lived there.  NH, right?   Glad you said something!   I love snow days.  But I know the hardships that they incur for so many.  Shirley also wrote on the facebook page, as she is in it. 
         
        Yes, I hope you don’t lose power! At least, not for long.  Prayers for safety.
         
        (Jackie….after I posted, I re-ran the geography in my head and thought you were likely south of the storm.   Thanks for clarifying!   I haven’t really looked at a map, just see the headlines here and there.) 

        1. Wanda Yes NH:) You are kind to be thinking of us. Seems like it is winding down somewhat. We have about a foot but I know my Mom has about 2 feet. No power outages that I am aware of yet.  One think I do not think of enough is our homeless population. 

    3. Yes, I am in the path of the big storm. It only started here about dawn. It is cold with steady snow and very strong winds. Krista’s ex had to get towed out of the ditch on his way home just a little while ago. Glad it was not anything too serious. He is still on the road, heading to pick up the boys from the sitter’s and go home. Pray that he gets home safely.
       
      We have a son living an hour away who is at work in this as well (home care support worker).  It is also affecting our other son and family in Nova Scotia. They are having a snow day as well. I was just talking to both of them and they are safe for now.
       
      We have hunkered down to wait it out. It is supposed to continue into tomorrow as well. We will be OK unless we lose power. That is our big worry in these storms. Our daughter and preschool son is with us as well this week. We do not have a generator so if we lose power there will be no water or lights, but we do have a wood stove to keep the house somewhat warm for a while. We have electric heat. I appreciate your prayers and concern. We may have to try to go to neighbours if we are without power for too long. 

      1. Oh, thanks for the update, Diane.   So much is effected by these big storms.  Stopping to pray right now.  

    4. Hi Wanda! Just seeing this… Sorry! We managed through with 31″ of the beautiful white stuff 🙂 I LOVE snow! Plus, had 2 snow days off of school and crocheted/prayed a TON! Also lesson planned for school which definitely needed to be done. one of my afternoons was just trying to move snow around so we could all get our cars out! Hysterical! 4-8 inches tonight/tomorrow. Excited for more! I know, I’m a crazy southern girl who grew up WAY too hot!

  28. Mary e., your brother has been on my mind…how is he doing?

    1. Nancy, he is doing great!  Thank you for asking!  I can’t recall if I shared that his cancer had not spread beyond the prostate (so far as they could tell) and he is back to work now and doing well.  Also, I should share that at my last oncology appointment (1.5 weeks ago) my tumor marker was the lowest it has ever been!  For two months after my hysterectomy it had shot up into the 180’s (was in the mid 200’s when first diagnosed) and last time it was 139!!! Praise  God!  (42 is the high end of “normal” for someone who does not have breast cancer)  

      1. Oh Mary – this is GOOD news!  So thankful you have been able to “take a breath” and have hope in the battle.  I’ve often wondered what place you have come to with work, or if that is something that has to continue to be on hold for awhile.  This might be the standout mountain for my little workaholic daughter right now:  that work is on hiatus for the time being!!  She HATES being sidelined!!  🙂  Thanks for giving us this encouraging update on both your brother and you!

        1. Oh Jackie, I pray God uses this downtime for your daughter to reveal to her the hunger in her soul for Him!!!  

      2. Mary – what good news! Thank you for sharing, my thoughts were turning to you often last week. Praise the Lord. =)

      3. Mary, this is great news of both your brother and you…so good to hear!!! 

    2. So glad to hear that your brother is doing well and that you are too, Mary!  I know it’s ‘always there’ but as Jackie said, hope it means you can breathe free for awhile.
      Thanks for sharing that bit more about Jes too, Jackie.  All of you who live with cancer in varying ways are on my heart.

  29. I was reading today that brass was a metal of Judgement. I never knew metals had these associations but it only makes  sense to  have the serpent  representing sin made of brass representing judgement on a pole a picture of Christ. And only those who looked to this would be saved

    1. Liz – I never knew that about the metals – how interesting!  I also was blown away by something I’d missed in the Scriptures all this time:  my study Bible alerted me to the fact that Hezekiah (very godly king) actually destroyed the very bronze serpent that Moses made – because the people had begun to worship it!!  2 Kings 18:4.  I’m a speed reader – and this often hinders me in the reading of the Word.  I love reading about King Hezekiah, and I’m sure I’ve breezed over the verse in 2 Kings MANY times – without really “seeing” it!  I’m sure the Lord has lessons in my seeing it now.  

      1. Liz and Jackie – thank you for sharing these tidbits – so very interesting to me. I always wonder at what details are “scattered” throughout the Bible to complete stories, this is one of those gems.

  30. 4. What do you think her heart idol or idols might have been?
     
    I’m not sure we are told enough about this Samaritan woman to say for sure which idols she was turning toward.   Perhaps approval — she wasn’t getting any from other Samaritan women.   I would imagine the Samaritan men she ran back to tell about Jesus were probably extended family.   I think she must have yearned for approval.   Security may have been another — it is why she apparently went swiftly through 5 husbands — each time acquiring another for economic security.  Women who didn’t have a man in their life to provide for them were in really tough straits back in those times.    There was a weariness in her voice as she requested that Jesus give her that “living water” so she would not have to come to the well anymore.   So comfort may have been another idol for her. At this point, she was not understanding what the “living water” really was.     
     
    5. How do you see her “looking to Jesus” to replace them, and how was she changed?
     
    She was very aware of the predictions about the Messiah.   She seemed to be yearning for the One who would tell them Everything.   Although it was a shock to her system, the fact that she had encountered the Christ seemed to be sinking in on her, and she was believing.  She was eager to share her discovery with others in her village, so her weariness and drudgery had changed to joy.   She left her water jar behind, symbolic of her ties and responsibilities to “the world.”    
     
     
     

  31. Watch this re-enactment of the Samaritan woman.
    4. What do you think her heart idol or idols might have been? Maybe approval/affirmation from men and security?
    5. How do you see her “looking to Jesus” to replace them, and how was she changed? She asks Jesus to give her the living water to drink and she begins to talk about the Messiah and worship.  It seems like she was beginning to be changed by believing/hoping in Him and wanting to bring others to meet Him.
     

  32. 6. Share about the last time you were delivered from a heart idol by looking to Jesus.  Well,  I have heart idols in all the of mentioned areas which rear their ugly heads at times but I guess recently has been that I have always been a saver (with money) for the purpose of security and wanting to buy a house one day.  (Now I do not have a tone of money but enough saved that I could get by for a while w/out an income if I needed to.)  Well, since my diagnosis I have been restricted in what I am allowed to do (no lifting more than 10 lbs and other restrictions on types of movement) and my fatigue limits me as well.  I have not worked in months so the security idol can pop up on a daily basis tempting me to worry or scheme how I’m going to work everything out so that I remain financially secure.  So for me it has been a daily choice (I’m making it today!) to remind myself that God has always taken care of me, His eye is always on me, and I have no reason to worry or scheme…He has not needed my help yet and never will! (and I’m doing just fine!)  He is faithful!  
    I was not able to watch the Eric Liddell clip (it just brought up several clips and when I clicked on the first one nothing happened) but it reminded me of a Twila Paris song called “He Is No Fool” (from the popular Jim Elliott quote “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”)  The first part of the song is about Jim Elliott (and the other missionaries with him) being killed by the Auca Indians and the second is about Eric Liddell and I found this incredible clip!!!  It shows real pics related to Jim Elliott and those who killed him and his co-missionaries being saved!!!  It also shows scenes from Chariots of Fire.  Here is the link :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fkeXbti90Y  

    1. oh MARY! my heart is too full! First, this clip–oh tear-overflow! I love Elisabeth Elliot (so much so that when I first read “Passion and Purity” in high school I wanted to change my “z” to an “s” 🙂 and Twila Paris–OH my 8th grade favorite and I still listen to her CDS but had never heard this–so so good–and all tying in to Chariots of Fire which we own and watch at least yearly–wow! This was a gift–thank you so much for posting. 
      Secondly–praising Him for these improved results of your tumor marker–whatever that is, it sounds good, and I am so thankful!!
      “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; YOU ARE MINE.” Isaiah 43:1

      1. Oh Elizabeth, I really need to rent Chariots of Fire and watch it again because I was in 7th or 8th grade when it came out in the theaters and that is the ONLY time I have seen it!  I will have to see it again soon!

  33. First, thanks for your concern about the blizzard in the northeast. Amazingly it turned out to be much less severe where I am in western Ma.
    All is calm for several hours and the snowfall was only 7-8 inches.
    I am enjoying being in my warm home. and have a meal in my crockpot.
    The video of the Samaritan woman coming to the well and encountering Jesus was very touching.
    His reaching out to her, an outcast and revealing to her his identity is precious.I suspect that security was an idol of hers and that she
    sought it through her relationships that all let her down. Finally she sees hope. The Messiah has touched her and she knows that she is loved with an everlasting love,(I always loved listening to Elisabeth Elliot and she always started her broadcast with those wonderful words.
    She also gave that quote from her late husband, Jim Elliot that you shared, Mary.
    The whole message of heart idols came to me strongly last evening. My daughter has been “struggling” for 5 years, she relates.
    Last week she heard a well-known t.v. preacher speak on the prosperity gospel, Your due season…Oh how she identified with the longing
    that he spoke to. She wants to have relief from the struggles. Sadly this is so untrue. I shared with her about idol lies and the study that
    helps us to identify these idols.
    As the Israelites complained in the passage in Numbers I see myself complain when anything takes me out of my comfort level and yet,
    I have so much to be grateful for. God has never let me down, only let me be down for a time and always blessed me with more than enough.
    He has drawn me to himself. He is all sufficient.
    The red flag of anxiety is my reminder of my weak areas. I see this waving frequently and I know I must turn from that place and seek refuge under the wings of his secure loving care.
    The discussions of the serpent on the brass pole and Christ’s being lifted on the cross have been interesting. God’s justice in allowing the snake bites and then his mercy in providing a solution for their misery is a great correlation to truth and grace.
     

  34. 6. Share about the last time you were delivered from a heart idol by looking to Jesus.
    I had spent a great deal of my child raising years looking to my kids and their accomplishments and obedience as my main source of comfort and acceptability and even control over my kids. I kept any of the negative things to myself for fear of looking bad or my kids looking bad. 
    God brought me a long way during their teen years and helped me to see that my acceptance wasn’t through whether I was labeled a good mother or not. or whether my kids were what I wanted them to be. That He is in control. And some of the things that my sons went through was for THEIR training and really had nothing to do with me (other than to teach me my role in the scheme of things).

    1. Dawn–great wisdom and perspective–thank you for sharing this

    2. Dawn that is an example I can relate to. I even had my daughter who was a teenager at the time ask me why I worried so much of what others thought of me. Ouch. Her comment made me think.

  35. 3. Read Numbers 21:4-9.
    A. According to verse 4, what was the first step toward temptation for the people? Impatience. They blamed God and Moses for the things they deemed ‘undesirable.’
     
    B. Then how did they begin to voice their fears? They “begin” to voice their fears with the very worst – “We are gonna die!” Instead of acknowledging feelings in a frustrating situation they jump straight to the worst and camp there blaming anyone but themselves. I do not know what exactly “spoke against God” means but it can’t be good and they turn around pretty quickly when they need something. I am feeling pretty harsh against them, but only because I so see myself in them. Sigh. How many times do I ask, “Why, God?” accusingly and then turn to ask, “Pretty please?” Job 1:21 “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
     
    C. How might they have talked to their souls during this time when they were feeling impatient? I s’pose the further application to this is how can I talk to my soul when I am impatient… which makes the question more difficult. When I am impatient of long-suffering I speak the Psalms. Psalm 11:3-4 “If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?” The LORD is in His holy temple; the LORD’S throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men.…” Soul speak: God doesn’t change, therefore God is to be trusted no matter the outlook. He is good no matter the circumstances. He is in control no matter my incapable hands. Also a reminder to speak of God’s miracles to buoy our faith. Psalm 66:5-6 “Come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for humankind. He turned the sea into dry land. Be glad, good hearted people! Make praise your habit.” (Just realized they didn’t have the Psalms yet… and I wonder if Psalm 66 was written in meditation of this time period?)
     
    D. What did God do that showed both His justice and His mercy (Truth and grace)? He sent a life-threatening trial. This showed his justice by giving consequences for their sins of discontent and speaking against God. But it was also mercy in that it was an effective call to His people to return to Him, to realize Him. There is mercy in the cure as well, but the real mercy is Him still desiring His people to draw close and bless them.
     
    E. What step of faith did they need to take to be rescued from the poison of the snakebite? Merely to look at the sculpted snake…though I think there had to be humility in this so it would be to look at the snake but in doing so there had to be a step of humility, to admit you were depraved and needed God and that He was, is, ALL.

  36. Bronze serpent. I am wondering if looking upon the bronze serpent had more to do with the Israelites repentance rather than their deliverance (in its symbolism that is)? The serpent represents evil and so perhaps to look upon it and be reminded of one’s own sin, and then of one’s need to repent, and come back to God… His deliverance is freely given but we must ask for forgiveness to receive? They perhaps were unaware of “following the serpent” in their grumbling and speaking against God ??… not fully forming this thought but its circling…

  37. 4. What do you think her heart idol or idols might have been? 
    I think comfort and approval.
     
    5. How do you see her “looking to Jesus” to replace them, and how was she changed?
    She had a soft heart and listened to Him and He became the ultimate-she put her idols down and communed with Him engaging with Him and letting Him have her heart-she was engaging about worshipping God so her heart was being changed. Another sign she turned from her idol and to Him is that she left her water cistern there and ran to tell others of Him. Had she not put her idol down and looked to Jesus she would have responded very differently. She would have justified having 5 husbands, and would have complained about her life and would have remembered to take her water jug with her but she didn’t. She was changed.

  38. As I have been reading comments regarding the Samaritan woman, I had a thought:  Because she came to the well at noon, she was well aware of her flaws, her sins.  Perhaps the real picture here is her willingness to be truthful – in evaluating herself, in her conversation with Christ, and then in her conversations with her neighbors.  Pride/Acceptance/Security, etc. were missing from her conversation with Christ.  She, instead, was ready to step into that relationship with Christ.  This passage really gives us the process of preparing ourselves for salvation, and then sharing that same plan with others.  Who better than to share with another God’s forgiveness than one who has been forgiven.  Throughout the whole encounter she exhibits truthfulness, openness and vulnerability, all qualities needed to receive the grace of God. 
     

  39. Col 3:1-4   I am struck by the need to seek the things above, where Christ is.  Such a simple concept, but sometimes so difficult to follow.  Set your mind on the things above, not on things on earth for you have died and your life is hidden in Christ.  What is my driving passion?  It should be to please Him, to be what He needs me to be.  However, too often I am more concerned about me and what I want.  I must do a personal spirit check – If I find myself thinking about what I want, I need to stop right then and there and reverse the thinking – What do you want, Christ?  Not my will by your will.  This, I believe, was exhibited by Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.  I pray I remember to do this check more frequently.

  40. Sometimes I feel inadequate in my answers…..so many of you are much more knowledgeable than I am. I don’t know if I contribute anything substanstantial, but thank you for allowing me to participate Dee! I have learned SO much in the past three years 🙂 reading all the responses is so valuable.
     
     
    D.  What did God do that showed both His justice and His mercy (Truth and grace)
     
     
    He acknowledged their sin (whining, complaining, dissatisfaction, etc.) and punished them (death to some). However, when they prayed for mercy, He gave it by allowing some of theM to live if they looked upon Moses’ staff.
     
    E.  What step of faith did they need to take to be rescued from the poison of the snakebite?
     
    They had to trust Moses (and God).

  41. 4. What do you think her heart idol or idols might have been?
     
    She felt the need to have a man; back then, if you didn’t, you were not able to live easily. In her case she had many, that tells me she probably might have been a prostitute. She needed “money” to live, so she gave herself to men for material things. My first thought when she drew the water was how water is life. Back then, it must have been precious. You walked a country mile to get it and then had to slug it home also! use it sparingly or you have to do it again! Life might have revolved around water! I have had this feeling before, when we lose power in major snow storms. We can’t do anything. We are stuck. Jesus tells her she will never thirst again with His “living water.”
     
    5. How do you see her “looking to Jesus” to replace them, and how was she changed?
     
    I think she was open to anyone who had a solution to her awful life. It was kind of like when members of AA stand up and admit they are alcoholics; it is then they can be saved. They acknowledge their weakness and are ready to move on. That is the woman here. She has acknowledged her weakness and hears His offer. She is ready, the timing is right. She believes His words for she has heard of His coming. She does what He says. She is a new woman at this point. He gives mercy to her, so she is saved.

    1. Laura,  I like your thoughts about water being life and how vital it is to everything.  I feel that too, when we lose power as our well goes out with the electricity.  As soon as the power goes out, I draw up as much water as I can before the well stops delivering.   Thinking about it in this way, makes this passage more real to me!    Also think your comparison to AA and admitting one’s need there, is a good one.

      1. Yep, same for us and the well issue. It can be scary. But we should also remember about “living water” in those scary times right?

        1. Yes!  We should, Laura.  Always the challenge to set our mind on things above!

  42. 7. Read Colossians 3:1-4 and write down instructions that will help you look to Jesus instead of to your idols.
     
    I have taken back up the art of crochet. I have decided when I crochet I will pray. I have been struggling with eating too much since my injury in December. By praying while I crochet I’m looking to God instead of looking at food. This is what Colossians suggests we should do. Look up, like Liddell did when he was running.

    1. Laura – your answer to #7 is as good as it gets!  We would all be the poorer if you were not posting here.  What you have shared about praying while crocheting is on a par with Dee’s friend Twila using her dog walking time to memorize and review!  Rich, rich sharing.  Thanks.

      1. 🙂 

  43. OK.  I think I finally get it!  The serpent/snake on the pole was a symbol of the sin of the people.  Satan came to Adam and Eve as a serpent/snake in the Garden of Eden. The snakebites in the Numbers passage are a judgement for surely the people have sinned grievously by their bitter complaining when God had been delivering and providing for them all the way.  It confused me as to why the image of the snake/serpent made a 180 turn and became their deliverance, but I wasn’t seeing that this is exactly what Jesus did for us.  He took our sin upon Himself on the cross.  Looking to the cross for salvation IS to look at our sin.  Defeated and disabled now, because Jesus has purchased our victory with His own life blood.  The bronze serpent was a disabled serpent.  It was bronze, not real.  It couldn’t bite them.  It was an image of the sin but was now unable to hurt them.  BUT, by looking up to it, the people were admitting their failure and their sin because they would have to admit their inability to save themselves.  People had died and were dying from the poisonous bites. They were helpless against the snakes.   Sin and Satan had the power.  Until, God brought them deliverance.
    What an amazing illustration of the deliverance that was to come in Jesus death and resurrection.   God was unveiling His plan here to Moses and the Israelites. 
    Just as He inspired the prophet, Isaiah to write,   “….and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all……the punishment that brought us peace was upon him.”  
     
    “I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross.”
     
    How this obscure incident in the wilderness dessert melts my heart to see the price of my salvation.  “Here I am to worship.”
     

    1. This is really great, Wanda! You GET it! And you explain it so clearly for the rest of us!

    2. Oh my gosh! Wanda, I never would have gotten this without Jackie and your explanations! Thank you for helping me understand! I just watched “Unstoppable” with Kirk Cameron and has been thinking about the garden snakes in Eden and Gethsamane and was confused about this snake imagery. Thank you!!!

    3. Wow, Wanda!  I have NEVER understood why they would have to look to a snake to be saved from the effects of the snake bites!  This seems like a very good explanation!  Thank you for sharing your insights on this!

    4. Thank you so much, Wanda! That is so good. And the song, ” I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross.”

    5. I concur.  You have unwrapped the symbolism in a way that many can understand.  That is the mark of a disciple.  Thank you.

    6. Thank you all for your kind words.  It was really Jackie’s comment above that got me thinking in the right direction.  So grateful for the gift of all of you and the work of the Holy Spirit in this place.  

  44. Really good (readable) sermon from John Piper on John 3:14-15 and the snake-“The Son of Man Must Be Lifted Up—Like the Serpent“-http://www.desiringgod.org/sermons/the-son-of-man-must-be-lifted-up-like-the-serpent

  45. 6. Share about the last time you were delivered from a heart idol by looking to Jesus.
     
    When I had an incident last week, that threatened my “identity” as the ever helpful, “buttoned-up” one, I felt anger within me—I was tempted to justify myself and point blame so others would know it wasn’t my fault. I was shocked at how important it was to me to maintain that image. And I realized that even more important to me than doing a good job, was likely, being perceived as doing a good job. My stomach felt sick. Not only did I see my desire for approval, but also that I was resting on my own perceived “goodness” to gain the approval because when I was exposed as less than perfect, I felt like a failure. To imagine being truly evaluated on my own righteousness, humbles me to the floor. My motives, my thoughts—filled with selfish sinfulness. My coat is a patched mess. But somehow, even subconsciously, I still default to trying to prove my “goodness” in a works mentality. So much of the problem for me though, is still wanting man’s approval. In this incident, if all I was concerned with was God’s approval, which I have because He sees Christ’s robe on me, then I would have just accepted what happened and not given it any thought. If all I am concerned with is God’s eyes, then when I am criticized, I won’t try to defend. Or when my husband comes home to a still-messy kitchen and unfolded laundry, I won’t try to explain away all the things I did that kept me too busy. If I am only looking to Him, I know He says “come to me, weary child, I took care of it already–it is finished.”
     

    1. Elizabeth, me too! 🙂 I think God wanted me to hear something i found on Liberate’s F.B. page that said, “Everything doesn’t depend on you and the sooner each Christian learns that truth the better.”-Steve Brown…”Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matt. 6:34″ For some reason that really was liberating for me after I read it!  I tend to think the issues in my families life end up being my fault if I can’t fix it because I failed somewhere. For example, my oldest, ELi who has Aspergers is over-intensely studying personality types-Myers Briggs. He texted a girl who is a friend and examined her type and mentioned she was insecure and went into big words, psychological jargon that even I don’t understand-he went really deep. Well she was offended and exhausted with his text and he didn’t understand why. ;/ He struggles socially at school because of it. He is a walking talking encyclopedia with whatever his narrow interest is at the time and it turns people off. I try to help him but he still doesn’t see it..I blame myself often.  He is a straight A student-he tested almost at a genious IQ yet he is making two F’s and two D- for not turning in work on time, or having missing work. This is hard after all the hard work we put into encouraging him to get better grades. To hear “Everything doesn’t depend on me” brings me to looking at Jesus..Everything depends on Jesus, not me, so I can rest in Him. Jesus help Elizabeth and I to not bend toward sin and idolatry but to bend toward you today. Help us to gaze at you, when these issues come up at home and at work, instead of looking away. For we desire to be like you-to grow in you..we need your tender mercies on us and we need you to help us. In your name alone, amen.

    2. Elizabeth, I am so thankful for your willingness to share and be open.  I started a response to this question and deleted it because I felt like I had nothing to share; in a recent bout of comparison and envy, I hadn’t really overcome in that I found myself comparing and envying.  BUT now I am reminded from your comment that the awareness of my heart idol when it bears its ugly head is a step in the right direction in the process of transformation.  Years ago, I would have wallowed in discontent resulting from comparison/envy…today, I am aware and turn much quicker, often before discontent sets in, realizing that the Lord doesn’t want a pseudo (name), but the Nanci He created.  So, I guess that is my answer to number 6…:)
       
      Laura, I just wanted to say that I find your comments wonderful, thought provoking; the questions and clarifications asked are what many others are wanting to ask and know.  This sisterhood would not be the same without you…you are a blessing to all of us here.

      1. Nanci–OH I love this “today, I am aware and turn much quicker, often before discontent sets in, realizing that the Lord doesn’t want a pseudo (name), but the Nanci He created.”
        And I’m so thankful for the “Nanci He created”!

        1. You are so sweet, Elizabeth…thank you for your kindness.

  46. After studying and answering all the questions, two features really ministered to me:  8. Idols in our lives.  Like the iceberg that shows its ugly head on top, beneath are roots of sin (beneath the sin) that are huge and protected by the dark, secret watery grave!  How do we get to these sin roots without our being deceived, without believing the lies we tell ourselves, without revealing the heart’s sin idols we hide and protect, idols we misname while we blame others more acceptable to our minds??!  Self deception is the worst deception there is.  We want to believe our own lies because we are in cahoots with ourselves.  This lesson has made me aware and try to search deeper, be honest before the Lord to identify and ask Him to help eliminate my idols’ huge and deep roots.
    And then the Woman at the Well from John.  4.  Her idols were men’s provisions, erotic intimacy, acceptance, natural provisions, forefather’s religion.
    5. Against the backdrop of the desert in the barren, parched and weary land, there the pure Living Water sat quietly and reflectively beside the well waiting for her, for the right time, asking for something common, a drink of water, from an uncommon source for a Jew, a Samaritan woman.   “If you drink of the water I give, it will satisfy and you will never be thirsty again.”  Yet her mind was still on her physical needs.  He knew this woman would be here, her soul thirsting for more than water, willing to receive and believe upon Him, while drinking in Truth that quenched her need (she thought was a husband).  This woman, a broken vessel, had tried to fill her cistern herself, always feeling empty.  She finally heard with ears of faith, and believed this patient Prophet who spoke about details of her life without condemnation. This woman who drew, knew of a coming Messiah and drank in every word that proceeded from His mouth as she continued to pull up well water. Jesus entered into her natural world to quench her deepest longing with spiritual Truth. He offered more than provision for which she came, and she desired His everlasting, living water.  Something was different about this Man asking for and offering water, speaking so gently and forgiving, speaking Truth, offering grace, and accepting her no matter what her past had been. Laying aside religion of her forefathers, she had just tasted from a much deeper well, so quickly the woman left behind her pot of natural water to tell others that He had offered her living water unto eternal life.  This is the One upon Whom she could now worship in spirit and truth–and end her search for a place to worship whether upon a mountain or in Jerusalem.  Salvation had poured out from the Messiah, of the Jews, thus she began to share and witness, living water streaming out unto the Samaritans.
    And all this week, I couldn’t forget that video, my heart so torn as I kept reflecting upon which natural things I also rely on to come up empty (natural provisions or people) instead of just the One Who is Provider, Sustainer, Giver, Lover, Forgiver, Healer, Fountain of Living Waters!!  Wow, I needed this week’s lesson.  Thank you all.
     
     

    1. Marsha, I am blown away by your thoughts on the Woman at the Well. You put it so poetically, yet clearly. Jesus gently draws her and she responds. Beautiful!

  47. I just finished Week Two!! I will never look at Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine as “incidental”…kind of “ho-hum”, again. I admit I used to just kind of read it with that attitude like it wasn’t very exciting. I love the thought now, after working through the lesson, that He selected the very pots that were used for ceremonial washing. I imagine that they were empty because all the guests had followed the rules to wash before partaking in the feast. So those jugs were not intended to hold wine! I love how Keller said that Jesus is the True Lord of the Feast; that He cares about the smallest details of our lives; that He sees us like a groom sees his bride walking toward him as she comes down the aisle – we are radiant to Him. I struggle so much with having confidence – confidence that He really loves me like this. This lesson has helped me with that and I pray I can hold onto these truths. I am so anxious to get to this week’s study as I see that iceberg at the top. That image has helped me again and again to see “the sin beneath the sin”.
     
    For those who have been praying for my brother-in-law, he is being released today from the rehab facility to go home. He still needs to use a walker and will now wait about six weeks before beginning more therapy. They have a split-level home, so the stairs are a concern. Hopefully he can limit trips up and down for a while.

    1. Hey Susan…good to see your comment.  I agree, never will I read the wedding at Cana text in the same manner…last week provided such a richness.  The iceberg is sobering…I am thinking of printing it off because the image really tells it like it truly is; that portion on top that looks so large is really very tiny in comparison to what lies beneath.
       
      Glad that your b-i-l is being released today to go home.  Even though there are some limitations with the split-level design of their home, I have no doubt that it will be great for him to be “at home.”  thanks for the update…

    2. Susan – I’ve been blessed by your sharing these past couple of weeks!  The fact that you got behind and still labored through it all kind of flabbergasts me, to be honest.  You clearly have a level of discipline that I have yet to attain.  I also appreciate that it is a sweet review when you post from the previous weeks!  
      To both Susan and Nanci – I haven’t mentioned the  iceberg, but so many have.  Yes, an iceberg is a powerful and apt image of the “sin beneath the sin”.  I had relatives in the fishing industry in Alaska for many years.  When I was 16, I spent the summer there and icebergs were one of the many standout images and experiences for me.  I SO vividly remember being out in a little boat amidst several icebergs…..trust me, I WAS picturing how MUCH was under the waterline…..and fervently hoping these moments would not be the ones when the iceburg flipped over!  I kept telling myself that these people were “natives” and surely this was safe……still not so sure about that!  But, oh, the POWER of those iceburgs has stayed with me all the days of my life.  I can really relate to this image so much.

      1. Great memories and thoughts of what it’s like to be near an iceberg, Jackie.  It’s not everyone who gets to experience that!

      2. Interesting about your experiences – up close and personal – with icebergs!! And that’s what sank the Titanic…what’s underneath can sink us, too.

    3. So good to see you today, Susan!  Agree with Jackie, your perseverance is truly exemplary.  And what a blessing for you who kept working through the lesson as I resonate with never seeing the water to wine miracle in the same light again.  I was astonished by the depth of meaning.  
      Also glad to hear of your brother in law’s continued progress.  We also have a split entrance home and I was very concerned after my knee surgeries. I know his surgery was very complex, so it’s not apples to apples at all, but I did figure out ways to get up and down in the early days.  And yes, staying on one level as much as possible is a good thing!  Will pray today for this transition.  

  48. 5. How do you see her “looking to Jesus” to replace them, and how was she changed?
    She had come to the well at a time of day to avoid others, after her encounter with Jesus, she ran to tell others about him…she tasted the freedom that self forgetfulness brings 🙂
     
    6. Share about the last time you were delivered from a heart idol by looking to Jesus.
     
     
    I am being delivered from my need to have everyone approve of me…all of the time. I recently became an agent for a travel company. The email account set up through the agency is awkward, there are two email addresses per agent. I wasn’t anticipating anything of importance coming into one of these and failed to check it. There were important emails that I was unaware of, they went unanswered a couple of them were 2 weeks old by the time I saw them. I was rightfully disappointed with myself, but I know that I have progressed. This didn’t bring the waves of fear of being found wanting by those I work with, of shame and self recrimination it would have in the past. I know even if I fail abominably at this, my ultimate future is secure…no failure of mine can take that from me.
    I am leading a women study at church too, I am doing so much better about preparing well for the class and then praying that I will be about the glory of God and not the glory of Chris, and leaving what that looks like as far as results with him. I still struggle, like talking too much when participation lags, but I don’t spend lots of time beating myself up over that, I try and confess my self-focused sin and move on. I don’t want my walk to be characterized by fear and a crippling focus on my inadequacies, I do want to trust Christ and have him lead me in adventures for the kingdom I couldn’t have if held fast by my fears.   
     

    1. Chris–your whole #6 is such a balm to me–just soaking in it right now. I still have on my desk, this Jonathan Edwards quote you shared, oh how you are modeling it before us–“In all your course, walk with God and follow Christ as a little, poor, helpless child, taking hold of Christ’s hand, keeping your eye on the mark of the wounds on his hands and side, whence came the blood that cleanses you from sin and hiding your nakedness under the skirt of the white shining robe of his righteousness.”