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In the last year, my new friends Ron and Debbie have been transformed by the gospel — indeed, born again! Each has been give new life, like the brand new beautiful life of a newborn baby. Just as a baby cannot give himself life, neither can we give ourselves life. It is all of God.


But oh, coming through the birth canal was a struggle for Debbie and Ron.


Debbie used to complain in Bible study that she had a headache and couldn’t sleep at night. Ron seemed confused and angry. When I had them both over for dinner, I remember how Ron leaned across the counter and said sternly to me: “What you have been teaching my wife is not what I have heard in church all my life!”

I knew we were on holy ground, and I cried out for the Spirit of God to help us. For if you have been taught religion all your life, it is confusing to hear the simplicity of the gospel. Ron said,

“You have told Debbie that all she needs to do is to trust what Christ did at the cross and she will have eternal life.”


Ron felt it was too easy. His hands were clasped together in tension on the counter. Moved with compassion, I covered his with mine and said: “That’s why they call it amazing grace.”

Torn between hope and incredulity, he asked, “So she doesn’t have to be good?”

I brought out the following sheet from Keller’s Gospel in Life and showed it to Ron. If the print is too small, you can go to this link:


Screenshot 2014-06-19 10.46.26That dear man read it over and said, “I guess I’m religious — so now what do I do?”

In time, God brought each of them out of the darkness of amniotic gloom and into the light. I’ll never forget the message I got from Debbie. She pulled her car over on the side of the road, for she was so overcome by God’s love, and then she texted me:

3:00 P. M.

South of Egg Harbor.

I get it!

I don’t have to do anything — do I?

Debbie’s conversion reminded me of Chuck Colsen’s, who had to pull his car to the side of the road as he wept to be overcome by God’s love. He went on to write his riveting story of Watergate and being born again, entitled: Born Again. 

At a Christmas tea we had this year, Debbie shared her testimony, and wept as she told how she felt so loved at that moment — and how God helped her to understand that it was all of grace. And at his mother’s funeral, Ron shared that Jesus was his Rock, his everything!

Tertullian, an early church father, used a helpful word picture. He said that the gospel is ever-crucified between two thieves: religion (or legalism) and irreligion (or anti-nominism, meaning against the law). Think of being very very good (religion) or very very bad (irreligion). Both are ways of trying to be our own Savior.


This last Thursday night I was in a men’s prison/hospital ward with my friend Linda Strom, praying with the men. We saw all three ways of life. One man was so angry, having been in a foster home where they were legalistic, religious, and abusive. Linda kept saying, “But that’s religion — not Jesus.” Others were determined to go their own way, the way of irreligion. And then, there were beautiful men transformed by the gospel. One black man, dying of cancer, prayed over Linda and me, bringing us to tears, for the Spirit of Christ, and the love of Christ, flowed out of him to us.

This week we are going to look at a Pharisee, Nicodemus, who was living the way of religion. We will also look at the Samaritan woman, who was living the way of irreligion. And Jesus presented the gospel to each — and each were transformed. Each were given the new life that only comes through the Gospel.


We can easily err on either side (religion or irreligion) both in resisting Christ initially, but also, on an every day basis in living the Christian life.

In my life, when I doubt God’s love for me, because of my repeated failures, I am reverting to religion — thinking He loves me because I’m good. And when I give into sin — thinking I cannot be happy unless I do what I want, then I am reverting to irreligion — thinking my idols will fulfil me better than the Lord.


It is also important to know, in sharing our faith, that unless we dismantle that we are not talking about morality (religion) people will think that we are. Watch this five minute video from Tim Keller:

Sunday: Icebreaker

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

2. When you read over the sheet on the way or religion versus the gospel, how often do you veer into the religious column — and where?

Monday-Tuesday: Nicodemus — the way of religion


nicodemusandjesus3. Read John 3:1-2. Who was Nicodemus, when did he come to Jesus, and who do you think he thought Jesus was, according to his words in verse 2?

4. I thought Nicodemus might have come earnestly seeking. Keller, in the free sermon this week, thought he came to try to get Jesus on the side of the Pharisees. What do you think, and why?

Whatever our motives, God can use them as part of His wooing. So many people have studied Christianity to try to disprove it, but instead, come to faith. I have a dear friend who went to a Billy Graham Crusade on a lark, to make fun of him with her friends — and was born again. The wind blows where it will.


5. Read John 3:3-8 and describe the discussion and Nicodemus’ confusion.


In verse 5, Jesus says we must be born of  “water and the spirit.” I used to be confused about the water part — some have said it was baptism, but that contradicts the rest of Scripture that we are saved by faith alone. D. A. Carson clarified this for me so beautifully. (A Commentary of New Testament Use of the Old Testament.) He said — Jesus’ words to Nicodemus about water and the spirit are right from Ezekiel where God promises he will take our heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh. Ezekiel is not referring to baptism, but to the power of God to wash us and make us clean — and then put His Spirit with us:

   I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your  idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a  new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

                                                                                         Ezekiel 36:25-27

heart.from stone to flesh.circumcised heart


6. Ezekiel is prophesying about gospel power. Find everything the gospel has the power to do according to the above.

7. This is a process – if you have put your trust in Christ, in what ways do you sense a new heart and a new spirit within you?

8. One of the ways do avail yourself of this gospel power to overcome sin is to consider the pictures of the water and the Spirit. Come daily to the Lord to be washed, asking Him to search your heart for any sin with you. Then ask Him, through His Spirit, to renew a right heart in you.

We don’t know when Nicodemus was born again, but later his life his evidences that he was. Not only did he stand up for Christ against the Pharisees, but he, along with Joseph of Arimethea, cared for Jesus’ crucified body.



During the time of the Puritans, when someone “prayed the prayer” and asked if he was born again, the Puritans wisely responded, “We’ll see.” As Alistair Begg says:

Alistair Begg quote46ca2aa4763612bda9d2d2bc32a248d3Religion says we do good to gain favor with God.

The gospel says we already have favor, so we do good out of humble gratitude.

Wednesday-Thursday: The Samaritan Woman. The Way of Irreligion.

The way of irreligion is not to turn to rules and rituals for salvation, but to think that our idols can rescue us. They could be good gifts like athletic ability or food or children. The Samaritan woman had hoped men could rescue her — and then, she meets Jesus and the birth process begins…


9. Read John 4:1-30 and summarize what happened in a few sentences.

10. How have you looked to people to fill up the emptiness in your life or to rescue you? What have you learned?

11.  What does the gospel promise, according to John 4:14, that religion and irreligion never can? What do you think this means? (John 7:37-39 will help.) How does this work in your everyday life?


12. I find the third point in the gospel versus religion chart relevant here. We obey in order to get God — to delight and resemble Him. I find when I obey, I experienced more of the living water because I am not quenching His Spirit. What do you think about this — agree or disagree?

13. What evidenced of a changed life do you see in the Samaritan woman?

Friday: Optional Free Keller Sermon

14. If you have time, listen and share your thoughts.



15. Give an example of how you have a tendency to revert to religion. What lie are you believing? Give an example of how you have a tendency to revert to irreligion. What lie are you believing?

16. What’s your take-a-way and why?



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  1. 10. How have you looked to people to fill up the emptiness in your life or to rescue you? What have you learned?
    I have often looked for people to fill the emptiness of feeling like I don’t measure up, like I’m not enough.  What I have learned is that human approval is fleeting and continually changing; human approval is less about “me” and more about the other.  I have learned that no matter how much human approval is achieved, it is never enough to be content.  I have learned when I seek others’ approval to build myself up, I find myself comparing, judging, etc.  It is fruitless and takes me deeper into the pit.  I have learned (and continue to learn/be reminded) that I should only have an audience of One…the Lord is my guide, He is my provision, He loves me with an everlasting, genuine, faithful, gospel love…He is the only audience I should concern myself with. I am not enough, but as Nila said, He. Is. Enough…and I’m with Him…:)

  2. 6. Ezekiel is prophesying about gospel power. Find everything the gospel has the power to do according to the above (Ez 36:25-27). The gospel has the power to cleanse me from all my unrighteousness, cleanse me from all my idols, give me a new heart, give me a new spirit, remove my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh. It has the power to allow God to BE within us (“I will put my Spirit within you”), it has the power to change my behavior (“cause you to walk in my statutes”), and to desire to do the will of God rather than the will of men (“…cause you to… be careful to obey my rules”).
    7. This is a process – if you have put your trust in Christ, in what ways do you sense a new heart and a new spirit within you? I have joy. I have awareness of sin. I experience His sweet aroma intimately, not as an observer. I am free when I lay my life down. I feel softer. I see a calmness in my heart in a lot of situations. I care much less about “the details.” I have more empathy. I do not experience oppression and fear in my core from the knowledge that I am not doing well enough to earn His pleasure. I feel loved by Him. (This is a process, though, I say these things as observations of processes, some the Lord has worked more fully than others and I struggle daily with some.)
    8. This wasn’t a question but I did want to say I appreciate the clear reminder of repentance and renewal. Of coming to the Lord and repenting and then asking for daily renewal … so important and I think key in staying in relationship with God, rather than diverting to religion. When I come to Him it keeps my heart focused on Him, my eyes on Him, instead of on me, it is what keeps my guard down and intimate with my Lord.

    1. Jill, you expressed what I am feeling/experiencing lately of the process of a new heart and new spirit #7. Thank you. Bing

    2. Jill’s answer about gospel power resonates with me. I love the picture of the stone heart with pieces broken away.
      The gospel power of repentance, forgiveness and a new spirit has come to me gradually, and I know the pieces have broken
      away bit by bit, and the cleansing power and renewal is wonderful and gives peace and joy and love as the Spirit continues to fill me.
      My journey of faith has taken me through many peaks and valleys. It is an ongoing process of coming before the Lord and allowing his direction. I know He is guiding me and I know He has allowed some difficult issues and taken me far from my comfort zone. He has shown my sin through my patterns of selfishness, desire to be in control, anxious thoughts and critical comments. It think this is the cleansing and my joy in being in his presence is my  new heart. I am experiencing his compassions that are new every morning (Lamentations 3: 25, 26) The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. He always shows up for me. I do trust in Him. Yes, I do have a new spirit within me.

  3. 10. How have you looked to people to fill up the emptiness in your life or to rescue you? What have you learned?
    I have always felt like my children could fill my needs. If they made me proud, then I had accomplished something good. If I raised them right, they would shine and then people would look at me and think what a great mother I was. I have come to learn that that is not so at all! In fact my kids tend to lean the other way, and I have been disappointed many, many times. Had I really put my focus where it should be, on Jesus, I would not have felt that disappointment at all. I do think I have learned though, after having four children now. My youngest is the most independent, because I let him be. I wasn’t always available for him, I didn’t always dote over him; I let him be who he was going to be. We have a really good relationship, and I’m not disappointed at all. I am definitely closer to Jesus in the past three or four years, more so than ever in my life. I look to Him to fulfill my emptiness.

    1. 10. How have you looked to people to fill up the emptiness in your life or to rescue you? What have you learned?
      I am like Laura-dancer in that I have always felt our daughter could fill my sense of self worth. She is an only child and for the longest time I have based my worth in my role as a mom. Although outwardly, I have not shown my disappointments, inside I struggled with feeling insignificant if she did not do well. And for the longest time, I have been blind to this idol of “others” and realized it is self-centered and prideful. The lesson here about religion and irreligion continues to peel off the layers of pride in me and it hurts. I am continually seeing the masks I have been wearing-I do not like what I am seeing but oh I so need it. And I am grateful for a loving and patient God who is working to complete His good work in me. (Philippians 1:6). I am a work in progress 🙂 Just like Nicodemus and the Samaritan Woman. 
      I am also a people-pleaser and this idol rears its ugly head every.day. I am beginning to see some progress in this area as I attempt to consciously rein it in through the grace of the Holy Spirit. This will be an ongoing battle for me and I need to remind myself often that the battle has already been won and I can live victoriously. And if I do mess up, I have a loving God who will take me back.
      Paul Tripp’s Wednesday devotional resonate with me today as I see my tendencies to sin on a daily basis, to confess it rightfully and to not stand on personal merits. ”  Thank you, Sovereign Father, for your unshakeable plan. Thank you, Sacrificial Son, for standing in our place. Thank you, Warrior Spirit, for your empowering presence. In you, Triune Lord, we really find help and hope for personal change.” Paul Tripp   http://www.paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/a-trinity-of-change

  4. Laura you make a very good point here about raising children. So good that you look to Jesus to fill you up. What joy in His abundance.
    i just came on to say that I have to jump off for a while. God is working deep in me and I am spending much time meditating. He has given me a new heart and I have placed Him as a seal over it. I miss those meetings so much! I have never experienced such fellowship in the Spirit. Oh pray for a move of the Spirit in your cities! I love you all and feel sure I’ll be back soon.

    1. Sorry to we you go, Anne. I was wondering if you ever got to Rosaria’s church? Just curious.

    2. God’s continued blessings, Anne…:) 

      1. Thank you so much! I so appreciate that freedom.
        Laura, I did not go yet. It was in checking to see if it was the church that my friend was telling me about that I ended up at her church. It was through that pastor that I discovered these meetings. I feel very sure this was the leading of the Lord and for now I am very drawn there For there is such love and genuine spiritual life. I will definitely update when I do go.

  5. 10. I have looked to my work and people I work for to fill me up. I work very hard and it is so important to me to do a good job. That in itself is not a bad thing but I know it gets to the point of if I am doing a good job it makes me feel good and if there is something that does not go as well as I think it should i feel bad. I have improved in this area and can see it happening so I am making progress. I praise God for that!

    1. Liz, I understand us this felling also! On e again, trying to do well on my own. 

      1. We are getting there Laura. Only with the Lords help:)

    11.  What does the gospel promise, according to John 4:14, that religion and irreligion never can? What do you think this means? (John 7:37-39 will help.) How does this work in your everyday life?

    The gospel gives us a quenching to our thirst that neither religion nor irreligious can give us.
    Jesus can fill our our needs; we only need Him. 
    I think it means we are flowing with the spirit always. I used to joke with a colleague that I put on my “face of Jesus” at tough times during the school day. I realized later, as I was kind of kidding around, that it was probably a good idea all the time to think of Jesus and try to be like Him!  I tell my own kids that when God is present within you, your life is “right.” Bad isn’t so bad, hard isn’t so hard, and good is really good!!

  7. 10. How have you looked to people to fill up the emptiness in your life or to rescue you? What have you learned?
    Like the woman at the well who ran to men to fill her up, it is so easy to run to someone or something other than Jesus even though I am His. I have learned it is temporary, always demands a sacrifice and ends up biting me back and making me fall deeper into the pit of depression. I have also learned it is spiritual adultery and grieves God deeply. 

  8. 12. I find the third point in the gospel versus religion chart relevant here. We obey in order to get God — to delight and resemble Him. I find when I obey, I experienced more of the living water because I am not quenching His Spirit. What do you think about this — agree or disagree?
    I agree. So I guess this is 11 and 12 together.  I am learning obeying Him is a second by second thing it seems and there are times when my desires clash. Him living in me giving me a strong desire to obey and my flesh-pride along with satan telling me i can’t obey because it will cost me too much-my pride, my comfort, etc..For example, to Love this mean person even though I have set boundaries and even though she may respond in a mean way.  I find the times I resist my flesh and obey Him I sense His comfort like never before. I sense His peace overwhelming-He strengthens me to walk in confident humility of the Gospel..I am growing to be more confident of His love for me, and rejoice even more in my ‘now’ and future with Him and He is bigger and more beautiful than whatever it was I gave myself to.  What I gave myself to becomes nothing but a worthless, dead stick. I guess you could say He helps me to soar with Him. :))) 

    1. Rebecca,
      I understand and can relate:   ….. obeying Him is a second by second thing it seems and there are times when my desires clash.
      And I’m so grateful that he is long-suffering with me.

  9. 11.  What does the gospel promise, according to John 4:14, that religion and irreligion never can? What do you think this means? (John 7:37-39 will help.) How does this work in your everyday life?
    John 4:14 promises “water” that will forever quench, that continually flows without end.
    The Lord provides His Holy Spirit who is with us always providing all that is needed (e.g., love, conscience, guidance, fellowship with the Lord).
    The Lord is with me every moment of every day…I am never alone.  When difficult times come, He is with me supporting, guiding, soothing my hurts, helping me to “see” objectively.  When joyful times come, He is with me rejoicing, sharing my joy.  He is with me in the day-in, day-out bringing to mind prayer needs, providing words of encouragement, guidance, and/or words to meditate upon.  He helps me to attend to the Lord’s beauty in nature, another person, words, etc.  He prompts gratitude and thanksgiving in opening my eyes to the many blessings that abound. He reminds me of truth and mercy, the incredible gift of grace that came at great cost…  I could go on and on.

  10. 10. How have you looked to people to fill up the emptiness in your life or to rescue you? What have you learned?
    It is sometimes unconscious it seems, this default of wanting to be well thought of. Recently a situation came up where because of someone else’s mistake, I missed a very important deadline, and because of the situation—all that mattered was that I didn’t follow through. I was frustrated. I felt my reputation at stake—in retrospect, it was mild, but so blown up in my mind. I hate messing up at my job—there are these voices that either sing praises ‘isn’t she great?’ or ‘yeah, she’s OK, somewhat sloppy’. I was reminded how easily I raise my own reputation, how others think of me, to an ultimate, annoyed with someone’s mistake that cost me a few “points”. Ick.  I will fail. And, (thankfully!) people will fail me. And when He shows me what I’m doing—trying to get water from a dingy well of self righteousness and expecting it to deeply satisfy, He reminds me first that I am thirsty. I wouldn’t be at that well if I wasn’t. I have a need. The kind of thirst He felt on the Cross. The thirst that comes from being separated from the Source. I need to go daily, to the Living Well, and be filled there. Once I am filled by Him, I can interact with others and instead of expecting them or circumstances to replenish me, I am already satisfied. I am free. Free to love. Free to forgive. 

  11. 9. Read John 4:1-30 and summarize what happened in a few sentences.
    Jesus traveled from Judea to Galilee by passing through Samaria.   There Jesus meets up with a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar.   He asks the woman for a drink from the well. She is amazed that He (a Jewish male ) would approach her (a Samaritan woman).  Jesus engages her in a conversation about living water, what true worship is, and Himself as the Christ.   Jesus was able to tell the woman all kinds of details about herself.  The woman believes that Jesus is the Messiah,  and she summons the men from the village, many of whom come to believe in Jesus as their Savior.   
    10. How have you looked to people to fill up the emptiness in your life or to rescue you? What have you learned?
    Yes,  I think I have looked to people to fill the emptiness.  I seek comfort.  I yearn for them to tell me that they have the same problems I have.  I join with them in playing games, and other forms of entertainment, etc., trying to drive out the emptiness.   I find that other people only bring temporary relief — may help me get over a small hurdle, but it doesn’t last.  Soon the emptiness can return again, unless I turn to the Lord.  If I turn to the Lord,  He will “lead me beside the still waters” and my emptiness will not feel empty anymore — it will seem more like peace than emptiness.  
    11.  What does the gospel promise, according to John 4:14, that religion and irreligion never can? What do you think this means? (John 7:37-39 will help.) How does this work in your everyday life?
    The promise is for “Rivers of living water.”   I think this is referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit.   It is the refreshment that is available to us in the midst of our daily tasks and struggles.   These things can suck the moisture out of us, if we try to do them on our own; but the Holy Spirit comes alongside us and leads us, allowing us to actually “have a life”!    

  12. Sorry this got so lengthy–I’ll make it my take-away 🙂
    God put it on my heart this week to re-read Idol Lies, again! I say He did it because the experience this time, was this perfectly timed balm to my soul. Even re-reading my own story—seeing again where He brought me, what He said to me then, what He says to me now. I so needed to hear His words to me again. What stuck my heart, and is echoed in our study this week, is repentance and faith—specifically the “faith” part. I am seeing more and more how because repentance brings me into a raw and vulnerable place—which is the very reason I hesitate—I must have faith that He will indeed, rescue me. 
    One of my children has a very strong willed, stubborn nature. The Lord will use it for good one day, I am trusting that! But in the strain of it today, the old Prodigal Son story breaks me again. True love, real love, does not have one ounce of performance attached to it. Because my child so stubbornly challenges our authority—I have the chance, the privilege even (!) , to give love before there is repentance. I used to think I would be the welcoming father once this child “returned”—but it is the now that matters. It wasn’t a switch that was flipped in the father’s heart once the son returned, the father was always loving the child. Obedience, my child’s, can become an idol. An ultimate thing that consumes and frustrates and frightens with ‘what if’s’. This is my chance to continue to prove that there is no performance required for love. Yes, obedience is important. But I can, through Christ, love before obedience occurs. While we were sinners, He died. 
    And so I told her this, just now. I told her how I fail to show it but that it is true, she is loved, just as she is. I pray for obedience because He commands it, because it is best for her, for all of us, but I told her she must know, she must never doubt, that she is fully loved whether she obeys or not. I told her we all follow something, someone. The enemy wants it to friends, our selves, our reputation—anything but God. But we are created only for Him, and only He will satisfy. I find it so easy to confess my sin and be vulnerable with my younger one, but this one is hard. She hopes to be a Supreme Court judge one day, and I feel it in her presence. So stepping out as I did just now, though she is young—required that faith. Faith that if she uses my confession against me someday, if she continues to do her own thing at school—He will carry me. And He did. She wrapped her arms tight around me. As I said how I had failed to model His love, her squeeze got tighter, and the enemy tempted me to feel judged and pull back, but I couldn’t , He’d taken me too far. I will stumble again, but to keep going back to repentance, and then trusting Him to catch me, it is the only way. Otherwise my pride, my fear, will keep me from every moving forward. I thank Him for this trial. The story isn’t over, as a wise friend told me once, and I have real hope of beautiful writing, but right now—I thank Him for how He is using this to mold me. To learn in micro-steps, how to love like He does. She smiled big and skipped away upstairs, and she was lighter–and I knew that she felt His love, through me, in that moment. What a gift that He will use one like me. Grace.

    1. Oh Elizabeth this is beautiful. This sharing is a bit of confirmation for me. Very early this morning when it was still dark and laying in bed I felt ever so softly the Lord speak to me heart a bit of conviction came over me ( It was gentle and it was NOT condemnation) I was thinking of how I can look at things thru my eyes and not the Lords as to where my two grown daughters are and the Lord was impressing on my heart to Praise Him for right where they are at. After all He is not surprised at this one bit. I so love them and I want them to see that love. I pray they do. It was if He was saying to me do not look at them thru religious eyes, Your writing about your daughter skipping away makes me think of times I received AMAZING GRACE in my life and the times I still do. It does make one want to skip. Oh Lord keep teaching to be extenders of your Grace.
          For you created my inmost being;    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;    your works are wonderful,    I know that full well.15 My frame was not hidden from you    when I was made in the secret place,    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;    all the days ordained for me were written in your book    before one of them came to be.   Psalm 139:13-16

      1. oh Liz!! Your words here–tears–jolted me–so need to be reminded of this “He was saying to me do not look at them thru religious eyes,” that may just need to make it to a sticky note in my car for a reminder 🙂

      2. I was thinking of how I can look at things thru my eyes and not the Lords as to where my two grown daughters are and the Lord was impressing on my heart to Praise Him for right where they are at. After all He is not surprised at this one bit. 

        The above is such a good thing for me to hear right now, Liz.  That God is not surprised.  That looking through His eyes could be completely different than the way we look through our own eyes.  My husband is good at seeing things this way but I need lots of reminders!  Thank you!

        1. Wanda and Elizabeth. These are all testimonies in process! Praising Him for the journey:)

    2. Thank you for sharing, Elizabeth…so difficult.  It is scary to open one’s self to being vulnerable…it opens the heart to the potential for hurt, but also to joy and greater connection.  My youngest was our “strong willed” child…I remember purchasing Dr. Dobson’s book with great hope of conquering her strong will.  Dear, Elizabeth, your’s is a much better path…your recognition and trust that the Lord will use that strong will for His good purpose, that genuine love is not fleeting or based upon performance… so good, Elizabeth…keep on keeping on…micro-steps are still forward steps…:).  

      1. Nanci–watching, even from this distance, how you have so unconditionally loved your daughter has modeled more to me than you could know. Thank you for your encouragement dear sister~

      1. oh Dee–thank you for the encouragement. Idol Lies continues to be used so mightily! My husband said last night he wants a sequel–he says “Idol Talk” (he can be corny like that 😉 love you~

    3. Oh, Elizabeth, you so model grace for us with your strong-willed daughter. What a beautiful moment! What a beautiful testimony! Praying for you and your daughter that God will work mightily in your lives.

      1. Diane–thank you–she just came in from school and gave me a little bear figurine that says “I Love You”, she bought it at their class “store” today–for me. I never thought I’d love a figurine!–but this one–My Ebenezer  Thank you for prayers–you have mine as well~

        1. Oh, Elizabeth. Tears. God is definitely at work!

    4. Elizabeth…..Wanda, Nanci, Liz, Diane and Dee (hope I didn’t overlook anyone!) have all been so moved and blessed you with their words.  I just had to chime in and “amen” all that they shared!  Your shared story is incredible – indeed, so much so that, without the Holy Spirit, their would BE no story!!  I love, love, love how you set the table with repentance and faith.  And how TRUE that our children’s obedience can be an IDOL.  I laughed with delight when reading your sentence about your daughter:  “She hopes to be a Supreme Court judge one day, and I feel it in her presence.”  WHAT a picture of your daughter!  What a sacred opportunity Jesus has given you to raise this young one and love her unconditionally!  When you are humbling yourself before your daughter as you walk in faith, I want you to know that these are the memories of my own dear mom that I hold so close in my heart.  For indeed, I was that strong willed daughter.  And my mom, just like you Elizabeth, was that mom who poured Christ’s love into my life to overflowing.  Even when I was walking dark, embarrassing pathways.  So, driving from Wisconsin to Maryland after her funeral (I was 30) I cried out to God – I knew I could not LIVE without Christ in my life!  What transpired in that car is something I have no words for – indeed, what person does?  It was as though I could just SEE Him bending down to me…..wrapping me in His arms…..telling me that I was home….I was loved….I was not alone….He would never leave me.  Praise God, He reached down…..and His story continues in our family for another generation…..and my son Zack and my nephew Cliff (in prison) continue walking in His story in the NEXT generation!!  🙂  How amazing is His grace!  THANK YOU for sharing His grace in your life, dear Elizabeth.

      1. Jackie! I sincerely am having to enlarge your text because my eyes are so teary I can hardly se to type! This testimony of yours–pure gold. Copying & pasting, I need this! You are BEAUTIFUL Jackie–oh His light in you just humbles and inspires me. Thank you for sharing your heart dear sister~

      2. Jackie a beautiful testimony. Such an inspiration for our walk and ministry with our.children. What a reunion you will have one day!

      3. Jackie,
        I know this kind of moment too.   I recognize Him with you:    It was as though I could just SEE Him bending down to me…..wrapping me in His arms…..telling me that I was home….I was loved….I was not alone….He would never leave me. 

    5. Elizabeth, I, too, have a strong-willed child.  He is our youngest and was quite a handful.  Even in adulthood, he still can be.  Yet, he is also filled with an amazing heart for the socially oppressed.  I am now seeing that his nature enables him to persist through difficult situations that might cause another to crash and burn.  Interestingly enough, I now see that he takes after both his father and me.  We, too, have our areas of being exceedingly strong-willed.  If God can use us, then I have to trust that He will use him also.  I know he was created for a specific task God has planned.

  13. 6. Ezekiel is prophesying about gospel power. Find everything the gospel has the power to do according to the above.   God will do the sprinkling.  And we will be clean.  Clean from impurities (outward influences?  inward sin)  HOW?  He’ll give us new hearts.  AND a new spirit.  And He’ll do this by taking OUT the heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh.   This made me think right away of Dee’s teaching that we can’t just stop worshipping an idol.  It HAS to be replaced with God and finding our love and fulfillment in Him. The idols that Ezekiel talked about were carved of stone, wood, clay or metals.  Like a heart of stone.    The LIVING God is a God of flesh and HE will make our hearts flesh like HIS.  But not only that, He’ll give us His Spirit.  The Spirit of the LIVING GOD will live in us.  The Spirit of the Living God will move us.  (direct, guide and lead us to follow God’s commands.)  AND the Spirit will thwart us from following the false gods of our old ways.  
    7. This is a process – if you have put your trust in Christ, in what ways do you sense a new heart and a new spirit within you?      I’m recognizing sin in my life more.  I’m seeing deeper meanings in the Word than I have before.  I’m not ‘holding God hostage’ to my expectations as I did for awhile.  I’m truly excited to open the scriptures every day.  It’s not a drudgery or obligation.  It’s what I desire.  I’m thirsty for it.   Also, there’s a specific idol that I used to spend a lot of time with. Since I’ve had this increased desire for maintaining really regular study of God’s Word (thanks for the studies here) I hardly ever give my old idol a second thought. When I do spend time there, it’s no longer an idol really. It’s in balance and in it’s proper place.

    1. Isaiah 44 is such a fascinating that describes a carpenter cutting down a tree,  building a fire with part of it, to cook his meal and keep him warm and carving an idol out of what’s left of the wood.  And he bows down and worships the idol.  He prays to it.  WHAT?  It could have just as likely been ashes by now.  And this is his god???   How foolish is he?  I think of this story when I read this beautiful passage in Ezekiel.  I can be just as foolish if I choose to look for my fulfillment anywhere but in the Living God. Our idols will do us no good.  They are powerless to save us and only keep us from the God who came to redeem us.  

  14. 11.  What does the gospel promise, according to John 4:14, that religion and irreligion never can? What do you think this means? (John 7:37-39 will help.) How does this work in your everyday life?  
    The water that Jesus gives is a spring of water that ‘wells up’ within us.  It’s LIVING, ABUNDANT, FRESH, CONTINUOUS and  VIGOROUS!   John 7 confirms that this LIVING WATER lives within us because His Spirit lives in us.   I see this in my everyday life when I am able to look beyond the things that offend, annoy or deflate me in my relationships with others or in the daily news.  If I see daily life through the lens of His Spirit bringing a perennial newness and vitality, I don’t need to park in the doldrums of the mundane nor sink into the depths of despair, nor be imprisoned by taking offenses and harboring grudges.  It’s a little bit like letting the bad stuff go ‘like water rolling off a duck’s back’.  And then enjoying the reckless abandon and joy of an overflowing heart.   Can I do that on my own?  Not at all!  I’m good at nursing offenses and holding grudges.  I’m good at worry and fear and lately, I’ve been really good at feeling like my life is way too mundane and purposeless.  But none of the above is true if the Spirit of the Living God is flourishing and overflowing in my life!  

  15. 12. I find the third point in the gospel versus religion chart relevant here. We obey in order to get God — to delight and resemble Him. I find when I obey, I experienced more of the living water because I am not quenching His Spirit. What do you think about this — agree or disagree?
    Totally agree with you Dee! Jesus people are happy people 🙂

  16. 12. I find the third point in the gospel versus religion chart relevant here. … What do you think about this — agree or disagree?
    I agree…the Lord wants the best for us; His desire is relationship with us.  Despite how something might appear, obedience to His will provide what is best for us.  If not obedient to the Lord, we risk falling into the trenches of the evil one…idols come to mind here.  What can appear to us to be exactly what is needed, but not of the Lord, may be a ploy, a mirage that rips us to shreds.  As Dee has said many times (my words), idols appear to be our friends, but they are not and will prove such if one succumbs to their draw.  In my mind it comes down to trust…trust in the Lord and His desire for our well-being, or trust in self/idols.
    13. What evidence of a changed life do you see in the Samaritan woman?
    The Samaritan woman was no longer ashamed…shame no longer paralyzed her into isolation.  It was more important for her to share the good news of Jesus, the Messiah, who was in their midst than to remain hidden from the presence of people in shame.  She acknowledged her sin and need to repent (truth) receiving the provision of mercy and grace provided by the Lord, this freed her to be a witness to her people, to share the good news boldly.

    1. Nanci I loved and so agree with what you said on 13. She was no longer in the prison of her shame!

    2. Nanci, I loved your words on #13.  … shame no longer paralyzed her into isolation.

    3. Nanci–I agree with Liz and Nila, this is powerful insight “shame no longer paralyzed her into isolation.” Your words made me think of before the Fall, being naked and unashamed before Him, and then because of our sin, we want to hide in shame and isolation. But He has freed her!

  17. 10. How have you looked to people to fill up the emptiness in your life or to rescue you? I have sought friends to bring comfort and companionship. the emptiness in my life, however, is insatiable and so I drink and I drink of friendship and while it tastes sweet and is wet, it does not quench my thirst. I have also, ironically enough, looked to people to tell me I am “good enough.” I have been irreligious to try to satisfy my religious nature! What have you learned? I have learned that God is enough. Through the Song of Songs study I finally saw Who God is and How He indeed loves me. The study was Him bounding over the mountains to me, “See, Jill?! This is who I am, I am The One who calls you mine, I am The One who pursues and love you. I am The One who satisfies!” That study along with God allowing my friendship tower to topple solidified Him as my foundation. Friendship is still sweet, but it need not satiate me for my God does that. i long for His prescience, I miss Him when I am gone from His arms (though He never really lets me go).

    1. Jill, I love your post (I’m on this lesson today). The metaphor of friendship not really quenching your thirst, and looking to others to tell you that you are good enough. Love what Song of Songs showed you…”The study was Him bounding over the mountains to me…See, Jill?! This is who I am, I am the One who calls you mine, I am the One who pursues and loves you…who satisfies!” That study was also powerful for me.

  18. 11. What does the gospel promise, according to John 4:14, that religion and irreligion never can? What do you think this means? (John 7:37-39 will help). How does this work in your everyday life? I focus first on the “never thirst again.” Though I do thirst for HIS presence, it is different than the insatiable thirst for things of this world. Or perhaps this “never thirst again” refers to an eternal life of not being thirst (vs those who would be in hell)?? But my eyes are drawn to the next promise, “The water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” He promises eternal life, but is this also sanctification? This spring of water that wells up grabs my heart for in my life I have seen this. When I lay down myself and do what He calls me, to be selfless, to love others, to love Him, He wells up within me. Or perhaps it is the other way around?! When He wells up within me I am able to love others, to be selfless… While human logic would say I should be emptier, I am fuller! And His peace like a river attends my way. When I stop and focus on Him and His glory my life is flooded with His good things: peace, love, freedom.

  19. Not sure where these thoughts fit, so just putting them here.    Partly, they are in response to Elizabeth’s stirring description of the experience she had with her child this week.  That was beautiful, Elizabeth and spoke to my heart.
    I also have a very close friend who tells me frequently,  ‘the story isn’t over’.   And my kids are in their late 20’s, early 30’s.  I remember a conversation I had with a much loved older woman/ grandmother who was grieving over the choices her grandson (same age as my youngest son) was making. And it dawned on me that this parenting and worrying over our children doesn’t really ever stop!  It was actually a discouraging discovery.   
    Elizabeth exemplified such a key component.  Loving them with absolutely no performance attached.  I had a perfectly lovely evening with my daughter this week and though I prayed on the drive to meet her, that we would be able to talk about ‘spiritual things’ and that I would be aware and sensitive as to how to do that, it just never happened.  And I felt God’s peace.  (It almost never happens, which makes me anxious in general).   I kept thinking of how Rosaria said that the reason she kept meeting with Pastor Ken was because he didn’t spell out the way of salvation and he didn’t invite her to church.  It’s really weird, though, when you need to apply that to your own children who used to share those values with you, to take a step back and begin again. And sometimes, it just doesn’t feel right.  When I read through Elizabeth’s post, I felt some sadness that I couldn’t speak directly to my adult child about God as she did with her younger child.  And some of the old fears jumped in.  
    Sometimes, the continual loving and acceptance without feeling commonality about what is most important to me (knowing God) gets hard.  I read the words, “the wind blows where it will’ and in the example Dee used about her friend, those words are so encouraging!  But, when I think of the years and years of waiting for loved ones to return to the Lord, those words are sorta scary.  And my fears of ‘what if the wind never does blow on them?’  come into focus.  But ‘the story isn’t over’ and God still calls me to rest and trust in Him.

    1. oh Wanda, this helps me SO much–and I am praying right now, again, for your children. And as openly as I did speak with my daughter about God’s love, the truth is, she has heard SO much of it, without seeing me model His grace. So for me, it was a stepping back from all the “preaching”, and stepping into new territory–more of what you are talking about–just being there, listening, loving. I have forgotten that part in these recent years of trials. I have been so focused on the disobedience, and forgetting to show love, acceptance…and frustrated that my husband could do both! But something struck me hard this week–about love having no ounce of performance attached to it. If I attach performance to it, it is not love, and I induce shame. I cannot do it. I have been praying for the switch to flip in HER, but oh now I just pray it has finally switched in me! This cloak of shame I have carried and have passed on–off! Sorry, spieled once again. Love you Wanda, and prayer~

      1. I so appreciate your words, Elizabeth.  And I gained so much from your sharing.  I love that about how God flipped on the switch in you.  I’ve been pondering too and Liz’ words above really helped me again too.  God sees our kids through different eyes than we see them.  It’s hard to be patient and faithful in the long haul, but none of it surprises Him!  Oh how I need to keep that in mind.  That needs to be a ‘sticky note’ for me too!  Thank you so much for all of your above comments, Elizabeth.  Love to you too!

      2. Oh How I could use an alarm to go off when I am heading in the wrong direction. I believe that is called the Holy Spirit:) May my sensitivity to His Spirit be ever active. And may my actions not be quenching His Spirit. May I be so ready to yield to His leading and not the way of my own, influenced by an idol.

    2. Oh Wanda – as happens to me so often when you share, I feel like we’re sharing the same brain at times!  🙂  I could have written so MUCH of what you wrote here – different mom/adult kids, but same scenarios…..praying for opportunities to share and then being at peace because it didn’t happen.  Then thinking about how rarely those precious moments come along and panicking about that!  Remembering that we used to seem to be lockstep in our hearts for the Lord…..and now….not.  I feel like the Lord has been teaching us a LOT about loving unconditionally…..but how not to worry??  For we know He wants us to walk in freedom from worry……hmmmm.  And yes, the story isn’t over yet!  And God is teaching me to trust Him EVEN WHEN the story IS over……as we experienced in our family two years ago with Abel’s death.  He was not my child, but the child of my heart, for sure.  I do not have any assurance that this beloved man ever came to faith in Christ.  In ways I could never have imagined two years ago, God has comforted me.  He has helped me to trust that the judge of all the earth will do right.  Always.  Oh boy.  That seems a pretty gloomy note to end on – but I don’t mean it that way.  I think it’s coming to that place of Habakkuk 3……though it seems like the whole world is coming undone and everything we love in our lives is slipping away…..still, He can teach our hearts to trust.  To love Him more……

      1. And Jackie…..you have gone where we haven’t, in the loss of Abel.  Oh the grieving.  I think of your family often.  I like the term Dee has stated, ‘the crucible of suffering’ and you have come forth with such grace, wisdom and have so much to give to others.   But, my heart breaks to think of how hard it was and is.  
        And thank you, Dee for the ‘same Spirit’ comment!  I like that thought 🙂

    3. Wanda,
      Tearful reading through your post here this morning.   I understand (having five adult children ages 22 -32).  I’m grateful for oasis of peace along the way, but it seems that there is a part of my mama-heart that will not rest until I know that my children are “safe”.      
      Lord, we come again, casting our cares on You who cares for us.

    4. Jackie, Nila and Liz,   Thank you for your responses.  I know when I come here, I am not alone in my struggle to accept (maybe never understand….but accept) and have peace in the midst of this difficult journey.  How I appreciate each of you…..and so many others here who have encouraged.
      Jackie, I am sorry that we carry this common burden,  but it is a comfort to me to feel like ‘we share the same brain’ in thinking about this.  It can feel lonely or I can second guess if I’m thinking correctly about it.  
      To each of you:   Peace.  Grace.  Mercy.  How HUGE each one of these realities is in the arms of our Lord.  

    5. Wanda, don’t know if you’ll even see this, but I’m “here” working through this lesson, and just read your post. You just put words to feelings I have too, “Sometimes, the continual loving and acceptance without feeling commonality about what is most important to me (knowing God) gets hard.” My 21 year old son will cut me off in a minute if I even begin to bring God into our conversation, and he used to help me teach my Sunday school class and was involved in small group Bible study when he was a young teenager. It is so hard. At some point in high school, his heart turned stony like a rock. I feel for your sadness, Wanda.

  20. Keller’s sermon:    It was so good.  Every time I listen to him, I am amazed at how clearly he can explain things.  Things I thought I really knew but the way he lays it out, it always becomes more clear.  Two sermon takeaways:  He emphasized that Nicodemus was the complete opposite of the people that we think need to be ‘born again.’   The world sees people who are broken, ‘the pimps and the prostitutes’ and can see how they need a change.  But Nicodemus was already all cleaned up. Jesus challenges his credentials with the admonition that he needs to be born again.   Nicodemus needs to change from seeing Jesus as teacher to seeing Jesus as Savior.  I also really liked the way he describes physical birth and compares it to spiritual birth.  The baby doesn’t do anything.  The mother carries the burden of the pregnancy, goes through the hard labor and she is the one who bleeds to birth her physical child.  It’s really a clear picture of our Savior doing the complete work of redemption and giving new life to us.

  21. Here follows my overly-long notes fron Keller’s sermon.   It was a wonderful sermon, but a very long one, and I had much difficulty keeping up with Keller.
    Dr. Timothy Keller’s sermon – The New Birth
    Jesus uses word images to engage the mind and heart.  He says “I am the light…the vine…the bread.”   Jesus says you must be born again.   
    If I say I go to the Church of the Living Water, people are okay with that; but if I say I go to the Church of the Born Again…. hmmm!
    What does Jesus say about the new birth? 
    1.  How important it is 
    2.  What is it? 
    3.  How do we receive it. 

    How important it is.
    The man Nicodemus contradicts the misconceptions of having to be born again.   In a survey, 70% – 80% would not like a new born again Christian as a neighbor.   Why?   To the average person, “born again” is a deep cathartic emotional experience and it is especially for people who need that–broken people like convicts or drug addicts, or people who temperament or culture comport with that kind of emotion.       And/or they will say that being born again means to adopt a very tight moral structure.   People for whom everything has to be black or white for them, who have an answer for everything, who really need that kind of moral security. Jesus gives the call to this man Nicodemus, and when we see who he is, that completely contradicts what people think.
    Nicodemus is a member of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin: (1) that means he is old (2) he is a man (3) he is rich, and (4) he is learned.    He is not spiritually seeking.  People ask why did he go to see Jesus?   Most commentators will tell you that he comes to see Jesus at night.  The key? – He does not say “Rabbi, I know you are a teacher, he says we know.  What is intriguing is that here you have a man who is representing a group of people, and he is in the establishment, and most of the establishment was against Jesus.   But here’s what he is doing – He is doing back room politicking.  He comes at night because he doesn’t want people to see.  He is saying “Now, young man, most of the establishment is against you, but there are some of us who want to play ball with you.   Some see you are a tremendous teacher, and some see that your miracles are genuine, and we would like to play ball with you.   Nicodemus was saying “We would like to get you involved.  We think you could help us and we could help you.”    Nicodemus was not saying, “I need to find new meaning in life.”   He is not an emotional type.  He is a dead white male.  He is an older man, intellectual, content, cognitive.   Jesus looks at him and says “You must be born again.”   
    Keller says that there is a growing concensus that the problems of the inner city have to be addressed by faith-based institutions and programs.   They are deciding that “for these people” it looks like this born-again stuff works.   We should stop scorning!  We all have to start again.   This is the reason Jesus does not come to Nicodemus and say “I’ve got living water, and to the Samaritan woman and say “ You must be born again.”  Jesus Christ, in the most great table-turning comes to the person who writes the op ed pages, the person in the think tank, the person with the Ph.D In other words, the cognitive person, the conten person.   He comes to the people who say “these people down here need this experience,” and he says, “You do too!”   
    Nicodemus was a Pharisee.   Pharisees had hundreds of rules they had to follow.  Nicodemus was a man who was as traditional as he could possibly be – as structured as he could possibly be.  You couldn’t possibly structure this man’s life any more, and Jesus comes to him and says “You must be born again.”   Jesus Christ’s call to the new birth is not a call to morality and religion.  It is a challenge to morality and religion.  Jesus Christ chose one person (Nicodemus) who doesn’t smoke, doesn’t drink, and doesn’t sleep around – an impeccably moral person, and He said “You have to be born again.”   Everything you have done counts for nothing.  There has never been a message more radically against morality and religion than the message of new birth.   
    Do you recognize what He is doing?   He is taking away your self-defense mechanism, which is to not consider this for yourself.   When you think of it as an option, that it is for a type of person.   When you think this is not for down-the-middle Christianity, but for some kind of fringe of Christianity – when you do that, you show you do not understand Biblical faith at all.  
    Once you get rid of the idea that it is this great emotional thing, and once you get rid of the idea it is the incredible moral structure, then what is it?    Jesus is saying, “You have to start over.”   Christianity is not something you add on to what you have already done.  It is a whole new thing.  
    This is why the new birth message has always appealed mostly to people who are moral and social outsiders, people who are in failure.   Whenever Christianity has become the cathedral religion of the insiders of a particular culture, in order for it to get there, it has always got to be twisted beyond recognition.   
    Keller tells an anecdote about his walking from Times Square to the Harvard Club to speak. He walks past all the pimps and prostitutes, etc. Then he enters the posh Harvard Club (the winners of society).  Jesus says bothgroups have to start at Day One.  He says, “Who is going to receive that message with joy and tears – not the people at the Harvard Club.   Jesus says to the religious leaders like Nicodemus “The pimps and prostitutes get into the Kingdom of Heaven before you.’  He is not saying it is because they are better people.  He is saying they get the message of the gospel, of the new birth.      
    So it is morally radical and it is psychologically radical.   You get a new power, but you also get a new consciousness.  You feel like you are a new person.   Your priorities are so changed.   The things that define you are so changed that you really do have a shift in identity. 
    The great philosopher Augustine, before he was converted, was pretty much a sex addict.   After he was converted, he traveled to a town he had not been in for many years.   And up comes a woman with whom he had a pretty sexually charged relationship with in his past.  He was warm; he was kind, he was nice, but he was different.  She didn’t know quite how to take it.   As he walked away from her, as they said their goodbyes, it suddenly occurred to her “O my word, maybe he mistook me for someone else.  Otherwise, why the change?”  She called to him and said “Augustine, it is I!”   And he said, “I know, but it is not I!”   That’s fair for a Christian to say. 
    It is organically radical.   Jesus is talking about a supernatural life put into you.   In verses 5-7, he is summarizing and quoting Ezekiel 36 & 37 in the Old Testament.   God says “I am going to give you a new heart.”   To be born again means at some point God puts His Spirit within you.  
    Keller compared it to tending an orchard.   If you decide that next year you want to harvest peaches instead of apples, it takes more than just increasing feeding, watering, and pruning. That would only bring on more and larger apples.  If you want peaches, you have to plant peach trees.  If you want new fruit, you have to have a new root.   He says it is the difference between Reformation and Transformation.   Reformation is when you try harder with what you have, with transformation you need a new life.  
    It is foundationally radical.    Jesus says to Nicodemus “You think I came to teach you – I came to save you.  You think you need more teaching – you need a whole new life.    A new life changes the way you see everything.   You have to break out of the teacher paradigm and into the savior paradigm.   
    How do we receive it?  
    We have to start to listen.  Nicodemus did, as it shows up later that he defends Jesus in the Sanhedrin, saying they should first listen to Him before they condemn Him.  Then he also helped Joseph of Arimethea take down Jesus’ body from the cross and bury him.  
    We need to look at the one through whose labor you were brought into the world, who is thrilled with delight when He sees you born, even though He was dying at the moment.   

    1. Deanna, Your notes are ALWAYS appreciated!! =) You are great at it and they are always very helpful. Thank you!

    2. Great notes, Deanna. Thanks for taking the time to do them. Idon’t think Ihave time to listen to the sermon with my grandkids here so I appreciate you detailed notes.

    3. Oh Deanna…you’ve done a wonderful job once again.  I just downloaded the sermon and will be listening momentarily.  Via your thorough, detailed notes I have been prepped and will follow along as I listen.  Thank you…your sermon notes are much appreciated!

    4. Deanna, Thank you for your notes. I tried taking down notes but I couldn’t keep up with Tim Keller! The Lord has so gifted him with clarity of thoughts and words. I thank the Lord for him and for all of you, ladies here in the blog.

  22. Deanna – I have not had the opportunity yet to listen to Keller’s sermon.  But please don’t feel your notes are “overly-long”!  I read them over and was delighted to have a window into what I will be hearing (hopefully later today!).  In fact, I’m thinking that in the future I may take a peek and see if you’ve done sermon notes BEFORE I listen!  Thanks for all of your labor over these notes!  VERY helpful.

    1. Thanks, Jill, Jackie, and Dee for your kind words!     Yes, Dee,  I am considering getting the gift card, but haven’t done anything about it yet.   I will check into it soon.   

      1. Deanna, your notes are marvelous. Even after listening to the sermon your notes made it all come so clear! I wish I could print up a copy of your notes to share with others!
        Once I heard a woman from my previous church comment about being born again in a negative light. She just missed such a tremendous teaching of Jesus. Sad to say I am sure others in many churches just do not get it.
        Keller has put it so clearly. Yes, the religious and moral people really need to be born again!

  23. 12. I find the third point in the gospel versus religion chart relevant here…What do you think about this – agree or disagree? At first read through (as Renee noted) you can take this for manipulation. So still in the “religion” column. But in the gospel we are not manipulating God but responding to the love He has fully given us. Nicodemus took care of Christ’s crucified body – either Nicodemus understood that He was coming back to life or Nicodemus loved Him…for Him, not for what Nicodemus expected Him to do. Same with the women that found the empty tomb… they did not abandon Jesus when He “didn’t deliver” on their expectations, no they sought out His dead body to care for Him because they loved Him. I agree. I think that obedience out of love and response is participation in His presence already there. Makes me think of the dancing clip we had a long while back – we dance with Christ, we let Him lead because we love Him, and by following His lead we experience the dance.
    I also think that when He changes us with the gospel we delight in obeying Him because we love His people and start to see joy and value in ministering to the ones He loves.
    13. What evidence of a changed life do you see in the Samaritan woman? I love this, “She leaves her water jar…” He tells her of the living water and she leaves the earthly water behind. She is satisfied with His water welling up in her and she dashes off to tell others. And the others believe.

    1. Jill – I love your answer to #13 – “she leaves her water jar”…..yes!!  The entire purpose of her trip to the well was forgotten after her encounter with Christ!  Also…..that she had come alone to the well in the heat of the day (perhaps because of her shame/status with the other women?)……after Christ speaks words of life over her, she certainly also seems to have forgotten about being ashamed or her need to be alone!  She rushes back to the city to tell everyone about this man, Jesus!  🙂  Freedom from SHAME!!!!!

      1. Jackie – yes! I had similar thoughts – she was so changed she forgot her shame and then that her change was so genuine that those that shamed her believed and came… lovely.

    2. Jill and Jackie ~  Loved your observations and comments on # 13.  That the Samaritan woman knew her shame had been removed, she didn’t need to hide and be alone, she wanted to be with others.    

    3. “He tells her of the living water and she leaves the earthly water behind”…I saw so clearly her becoming unashamed and missed this…thanks so much for sharing, Jill…I love it too…:)

  24. 14. Keller sermon: I really liked the depiction of physical birth, as did Wanda, being all about someone else’s sacrifice, some one else’s bleeding. The baby does nothing but is given life through the mother’s efforts. It also encouraged me because I thought, as I suffered for and then delighted in my children, so too He delights in our birth, our born again, despite His suffering.
    The other take-a-way I had from the sermon was the teacher mentality vs. the savior mentality. The teacher mentality toward Jesus is to morally bend ourselves, to manipulate our behavior to “be better.” The savior mentality is to be changed by the love He gives, the sacrifice He gave. It is humbly grateful.

  25. 15. Give an example of how you have a tendency to revert to religion. What lie are you believing? I still struggle with crying out to God, “make me better!” when I am in a frustrating or challenging situation. The lie is that I must be better to further gain God’s favor, or that I have lost His favor and must earn it back. These past couple/few weeks the Holy Spirit has convicted me to do what number 8 says – repent and ask for a renewed heart. Coming back to the truth that sin isn’t breaking a rule, it is breaking His heart. He continues to change my heart, not through merely studying what behaviors I should have, but in studying who He is and His love for me.
    Give an example of how you have a tendency to revert to irreiigion. What lie are you believing? I have a tendency to revert to a gateway of approval for my actions. When I am asked to do something by the Holy Spirit there is ‘someone’ watching and either disapproving or approving and both tend to stop me, since I do not want to gather disapproval nor do something for the approval of man. I can see this as a remnant of how I was raised and I pray for healing there. When I focus on pleasing Him it is not an issue but the Deceiver is sneaky to creep into my thoughts.

    1. Jill ~   I understand.  Me too.    When I am asked to do something by the Holy Spirit there is ‘someone’ watching and either disapproving or approving and both tend to stop me, since I do not want to gather disapproval nor do something for the approval of man. 

  26. What powerful lessons this week.  How I revert:  I am the oldest child, the first to complete college in my family, married to a pastor, and have just completed a 30 year career in education as a teacher.  I have discovered that all this compels me to have an obligatory nature.  I revert to doing because I am obliged to do something, not because God has called me to it.  As I retired this year, I knew that God wanted me to have time to re-establish quality time for exercise, spiritual practices, and relationships.  What I find I am fighting constantly is the need to fulfill perceived obligations.  I am literally having to give myself permission to say no to things, which is strange, because I have so much more time now.  What I know that God wants is for me to give Him time to redirect my life.  I know I mustn’t fill it up with things to do just because they need to be done.
    My take away – John 4:14 – the water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.  There is a process of growing and abiding in Christ.  That process resembles the discovery of a spring.  As you dig for water you test the volume of water you are getting.  You want to tap into the spring at just the right depth in order for the maximum volume of water to be available to you.  If you do not see God using you, you have not dug deep enough into Him to experience the gushing nature of His well.  It is time to spend more time digging more deeply into Him.  The goal of knowing Him is so the spring can produce the water for all to use.  If I want to see God’s impact on my family and friends, it is my job to dig deeper into Christ’s well.  As I get closer to Him, His love and forgiveness will spill over to those I love and touch.

    1. Sherryl,
      Thank you for this:    If I want to see God’s impact on my family and friends, it is my job to dig deeper into Christ’s well.  

    2. Sherryl,    Your perspective on obligation vs calling is said so clearly.  And I appreciate it so much.  I find myself in a somewhat similar spot.  It can be uncomfortable but I have to keep listening instead of doing things only out of habit.  Thanks for all you add to these discussions!

  27. Takeaway:
    Deanna!   I think this is the first sermon I’ve listened to and not taken notes.  But I was quite sure you would come through and you did!  YOU are a GIFT to us.  I knew there was one quote that was my takeaway for the week and I couldn’t remember it well enough, so didn’t try to quote from memory.  But thank you so much for being so detailed.  This is it:

     Jesus Christ’s call to the new birth is not a call to morality and religion.  It is a challenge to morality and religion. 


  28. I am amazed at how many of us struggle with approval. Is this a female thing? Just wondering.
    My take away:
    I have always thought of Nicodemus as a seeker rather than somebody who is doing backroom politicking. The latter does make sense after I listened to Keller. I also realized Jesus deals with us uniquely to bring us to the awareness of our need to being born again. Everyone is on common ground-WOW! The impeccable Nicodemus and the social outcast Samaritan woman-they were on level ground in their need for a Savior and to be born again. And so am I.

    1. Amen, Ernema!  You summarized the week so well!