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LENT 2015: EXPERIENCING THE RISENNESS OF CHRIST (GOSPEL TRANSFORMATION PART II.)

LENT 2015

JOIN US IN OUR ONGOING JOURNEY OF GOSPEL TRANSFORMATION!

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WE’VE SEEN SUCH GROWTH IN PAST LENTEN SEASONS

THAT WE CANNOT HELP BUT COME WITH ANTICIPATION AT WHAT GOD WILL DO.

FIRST, A COMMENT ABOUT “LENT.”

Lent

Beginning this Wednesday, and not counting Sundays, there are 40 days until Resurrection Sunday, paralleling the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness before His journey to the cross began.

Traditionally Christians, as they journey toward the cross, have “given something up” during Lent, but we must be careful here. In Abba’s Child Brennan Manning points out that we have a legalistic tendency to make secondary concerns primary. For example, the Pharisees focused on “not working” on the Sabbath, but that was secondary. The primary reason for the Sabbath was to press into God, and not working was a secondary reason to aid the primary reason. But the Pharisees reversed that and forgot the primary reason and were proud of their rule-keeping.

We have done the same for Lent. The purpose of Lent is to reflect on the death and resurrection of Christ and allow God to transform our lives. The reason Christians began to “give something up” (from preparing a meal to watching television) was to give themselves time to focus on Christ or to allow their hunger to make them hungry for God. But eventually the primary reason was lost and people were giving up things without knowing why and feeling proud they were doing so.

Here is what I would suggest — identify what you run to when you are sad, stressed, or bored and find a way to run instead to Jesus. In Idol Lies, Rebecca told of replacing her nightly eating/tv ritual with edifying books that dealt with intimacy with God. Rachael replaced her checking Facebook and coupon deal sites on the computer with God’s Word. For many of you, in order to do the Bible study on this blog, something will need to go or to wait so that you have the time to do it. Others of you may want to memorize, pray through the Word more, or read Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, One Thousand Gifts by Ann VosKamp, Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning, or another classic. Ask God and begin where He impresses you to begin.

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For Lent of 2015, we want to experience what Brennan Manning calls “the risenness of Christ.”  Manning tells of a newspaper reporter interviewing G. K. Chesterton, asking him: “If the risen Christ suddenly appeared at this very moment and stood behind you, what would you do?”

“Chesterton looked the reporter squarely in the eye and said, “He is.”

What I believe Chesterton and Manning were proclaiming is that Christ’s resurrection should not just be seen as a historic reality, but a present power in our lives. I would like you to be alert to where you see Him and His reality in your study of the Word, in your life, and in your world. I’m going to keep asking you where you see Him. It may be through an answer to prayer, through seeing Him at work in a friend or in your own heart, through a passage becoming radioactive, or through circumstances you know where engineered by Him.

Let us press in together through the 40 Days of Lent by doing this study and allowing it to transform our hearts, dying to where we might want to resist, so that the power of Christ might be evident in our lives.

 

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This week will be a review, for some began this journey 6 weeks ago, but we will catch everyone up. Also, on Ash Wednesday, this coming Wednesday, I’d like you to share your plan for pressing in and experiencing the risenness of Christ in your life, so be asking Him to show you.

Sunday Icebreaker:

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

2. Share one way you observed the “risenness of Christ” in your life last week.

Monday: Review and Overview of Where We Are Headed (Read carefully and be prepared to comment)

 

 

THE GOSPEL CAN DELIVER US FROM NOT JUST THE PENALTY OF SIN,

BUT THE POWER OF SIN IN OUR DAILY LIVES.

TOO OFTEN, AS BELIEVERS, WE HAVE SEEN THE GOSPEL

AS ONLY THE ABC’S OF CHRISTIANITY, WHEN IT IS TRULY THE A TO Z.

WE THINK OF IT, AS J. D. GREAR PUT IT,

AS THE DIVING BOARD INTO THE POOL OF CHRISTIANITY

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWHEN IT IS ACTUALLY THE WHOLE POOL!

Religion-vs.-Irreligion-580x326

One of the most important concepts to grasp is that the gospel of Christianity has the power to rescue us, whereas irreligion and religion do not. Irreligion, we understand, is like the rebellion of the Samaritan woman, moving from man to man, in hopes of rescue.

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Religion is personified by the Pharisees who were caught up in rules and rituals but did not have intimacy with God. They too were trying to rescue themselves.

pharisee

Though many would call Christianity a religion, the Bible doesn’t use that word except somewhat sarcastically when James addresses the hypocrisy of those who claim to be religious but are not controlling their tongues, taking care of widows and orphans, or staying unpolluted from the world. (James 1:26-27) You see pressing the will, as religion does, has little power, but the gospel has dynamite power, the power of the life of God in us. James puts it like this:

james_1_18_a_kind_of_first_fruits_powerpoint_church_sermon_Slide03The “word of truth” could also be translated gospel. It is organic — life — the very life of the risen Christ in us. That’s why Paul said in Romans:

not ashamed1280x800-notashamed

Salvation, we must realize is bigger than rescuing us from guilt, but also from the power of sin. And that’s what we are going to ponder and practice this Lent, all the way up to Resurrection Sunday, when we celebrate that risen LIFE!

3. Summarize:

A. What did J. D. Grear mean when he said “the gospel is the whole pool?”

B. There are three ways of life: Religion, Irreligion, and the Gospel. Explain each with an illustration.

C. Why does religion lack power? Why does the gospel have power?

D. What other comments do you have on the above?

Tuesday: “I AM ACCEPTED THEREFORE I OBEY”

Debbie is a life transformed by the power of the gospel. Though her story began before the foundation of the world, her husband Ron says, “This all started with pickle ball.” My friend Twila and I play pickle ball (sort of an indoor tennis that is less rigorous) and have been befriending people there. Debbie was one.

Debbie55040_1536689893007_3997754_n
My dear friend Debbie

Debbie came to one of my retreats and approached me afterwards: “Why can’t I stop crying when you talk?”

I smiled. “I think God must be wooing you, Debbie.”

“I think He is!”

Then she came to our Bible study. I could see that she was as close to the light of new life as a baby in a birth canal. But like that baby, she was feeling pressure! As we studied the first chapter of John she said, “My head hurts. How could Jesus have been born at Christmas and yet have always existed?”

A few weeks later I invited Debbie and her husband Ron over for dinner. At one point, Ron, a big man who works with FEMA in disaster relief, leaned over the kitchen counter and pointed a finger at me:

“What you have been teaching my wife is not what I have heard in church all my life.”

 “How is it different, Ron?”

 “You told her that if she trusts in what Jesus did for her at the cross that she will be forgiven and go to heaven.”

 “Yes, that’s true.”

 “So she doesn’t have to be good?”

 “Religion teaches us we need to be good to be accepted by God. But Christianity is different than the world religions. It says there is no way we can be good enough to gain favor with a holy God. Therefore Jesus paid the price for our sin at the cross.”

“That’s too easy.” Ron shook his head and gripped his hands together in frustration on the counter.

 Moved with compassion, I covered his hands with mine. “Ron – that’s why they call the gospel amazing grace.”

            One of the primary differences between religion and the gospel is this:

Religion The Gospel
I obey, therefore I’m accepted. I’m accepted, therefore I obey.

4. Perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16. What does it say and how does this express the amazing grace of the gospel?

Debbie and Ron were confused because they had had false teaching in their past. They began to search the Scriptures to see what it taught. This is so important, for just as there were false teachers in Jesus’ day, there are false teachers today. Jesus said to be careful of them, for they are blind leaders of the blind. “And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.” (Matthew 15:14) Usually these leaders think they are of God, but they are not. Today you’ll get a taste of a typical argument between Jesus and the Pharisees.

5. Read John 8:39-44

A. Why did the Pharisees think they were in?(39)

B. How does Jesus refute their claim in verses 40-41?

C. What is a crucial characteristic of children of God according to verse 42?

D. Why, according to verses 43 to 47, are the Pharisees resisting the truth? Find all you can.

 

ASH WEDNESDAY: MY IDENTITY IS AS A BELOVED CHILD OF GOD

6. What thoughts do you have on this Lent — on how you might begin to better press into Christ? (If you haven’t prayed about it, do so now, being still before Him. Some find it helpful to choose the same time and place each day to meet with Him. Some find it helpful to read an edifying book. Some find it helpful to give something up, and use that time or hunger to turn to Christ.) I suggest keeping it simple but following through.

 

Two other differences between religion and the gospel are:

Religion The Gospel
When I am criticized, I am furious When I am criticized, I struggle,
or devastated, because it is critical but it is not essential for me to
that I think of myself as a “good think of myself as a “good person.”
person. Threats to that self-image My identity is not built on my
must be destroyed at all costs. record or my performance, but
on God’s love for me in Christ.
Motivation is based on fear and Insecurity. Motivation is based on grateful joy.

7. In what ways can you see the above negative emotions in the Pharisees in John 8:39-47? Be specific.

8. How do you respond when you are criticized and why? What might this show you about where your identity?

Religion presses the will by “putting on morality.” C. S. Lewis said, in Mere Christianity:

“It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature.”

Winged_horse___Name__by_BaukjeSpirit

 

One day, before Debbie’s transformation began, she said, “I think if it happens for me, it will be gradual.”

“It might be,” I said. “Many cannot tell you exactly when they were found by Christ. It is as if they were driving from Nebraska to Colorado and they don’t know when they crossed the border, but there comes a time when they know they are not in Nebraska anymore. It may be like that, Debbie. Or it may be a dramatic moment. God knocked Paul off his horse.”

            A few weeks later I got a text from Debbie:

            3:00 P. M.

            South of Egg Harbor.

            I get it. I don’t have to do anything, do I?

           

Debbie told me later she had been driving and was so overwhelmed by His love that she had to pull the car to side of the road where she wept to grasp His love for her. The next time I saw her she said, “I don’t have a headache anymore!” She was out of the birth canal and into the light.

9. What comments do you have on Debbie’s story?

10. Read John 3:3 What does Jesus tell the Pharisee?

11. Though the phrase “born again” has been mocked and twisted to mean many things, what do you think Jesus was trying to communicate to this religious teacher?

12. How might this be different from the way Nicodemus might have thought a person changes?

 THURSDAY: THE GOSPEL CHANGES US FROM THE INSIDE, FOR HIS LIFE IS IN US

When a baby is born, it is an event! But following the event is the process of that child becoming mature in body and spirit. So it is with the gospel. The gospel produces a new life, and that is an event, but it is followed by a maturing process. As C. S. Lewis says, “Those who put themselves in His hands will become perfect, as He is perfect – perfect in love, wisdom, joy, beauty, and immortality. The change will not be completed in this life, for death is an important part of the treatment. How far the change will have gone before death in any particular Christian is uncertain.”

            Debbie’s husband texted me a few weeks after she received new life.

            How do I know if I am a Christian or not?

            That led to a discussion concerning believing the facts of the gospel, but then also seeing if there was fruit in Ron’s life. When those who had prayed a prayer of salvation asked the Puritans if they were now God’s children, the Puritans would say, “We’ll see.”

            Christianity is organic, meaning that if it is real growth will happen, just as a branch connected to a living tree will bear fruit.

            Indeed, we are seeing growth in both Debbie and Ron, fruit that indicates that indeed, the life of God is in them, and that inevitably produces joy, peace, and more.

Debbie and Ron41478_202126379822785_4675448_oI stopped by to see Debbie and Ron last week. Ron had Mere Christianity, the Bible, and a commentary on Luke by Michael Card open on the table. He said, “I have questions!” I see the power of God working in him because of his hunger.

I also see tremendous gratitude in Him. He is looking for ways to serve and thank God. One way, which certainly pleased me, was to build and hang a deer feeder for me in my yard, for he heard I wanted one. Last winter, which was so brutal, the deer were skin and bones by spring, and it broke my heart. Here is Ron, this week, in very cold weather, getting my deer feeder just right. I see the power AND love of God growing in Ron.

Ron spending two hours hanging a deer feeder that he spent a long time making for me!
Ron spending two hours hanging a deer feeder that he spent a long time making for me!

Then we prayed the deer would find it, which they did in a day! Seeing how hungry they are reminds me to ask God to make me hungry for Him. For indeed, the reason we do not spend time with Him is because we are not hungry for Him. So let us pray we will be hungry, that we will love Him more.

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

14. Read John 15:5.

15. What does Jesus say here?

16. If you have put your trust in Christ, share an area where you see evidence of God working in you. How are you seeing His risenness in you?

Friday: 5 minute Tim Keller video answering, “What is the Gospel?”

Watch and share your comments and insights.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0g-s4Qhtyk

Saturday:

17. What is your take-a-way (what you will remember) from this introductory lesson and why?

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320 comments

  1. I am being blessed by what people are sharing. Thank you for your honesty and transparency.

  2. 8. How do you respond when you are criticized and why? What might this show you about where your identity lies?
     
    When I am criticized, I feel hurt, attacked. I want to prove what they said is wrong, defend, explain it away. Yet most times I can see there is some truth to it—and while I don’t want it to be true, I have learned much from criticism. My reaction to criticism reminds me that I allow my identity to depend on my own merit and what others think of me. I read this today from Spurgeon, “Brother, if any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” I react to someone pointing out my sin, and yet, if they really saw me, they would see so much more worth criticizing. I put so much effort into trying to let others see the “presentable” me—the parts I think I have “cleaned up”, the “spiritual” side. But when someone gets a glimpse of my sin and draws it out, I act as though they have no right—and yet in truth, there is so much more darkness to uncover in me!  I can never have perfect standing as long as I am relying on my own performance. I will fail, my weaknesses will be found out, I will be criticized. The only thing that can change my response to it is my covering. Am I choosing my own robe, or His? If I choose His, then I can say ‘yes, I messed up. I do it a lot’. Thankfully grace comes through faith and not works. My armor comes from Him, “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Psalm 3:3. 
    And I am beginning to see, in baby steps, the more His love fills my cup to overflowing, the less I feel hungry for the approval of man. 
     
    9. What comments do you have on Debbie’s story?
     
    I love how Debbie’s story reveals God’s creative, joy-filled pursuit of His own. She thought it would be gradual, but He swooped in and surprised her, I imagine His delight in that. 
     

  3. 8. How do you respond when you are criticized and why?    It depends somewhat on who is doing the criticizing and the circumstances.     I feel defensive if I feel like someone is acting superior or accusing me of something I don’t feel I did.    I feel angry when someone criticizes without knowing the truth about the situation or about who I am or why I am who I am or why I did what I did.  I feel sad when I think I let someone down that I wanted to help or to please.  I feel depressed if I feel that the person had a good point and the criticism was fair or true.  When I know that I really was wrong, I can beat myself up and/or feel sorry for myself.    What might this show me about my identity?   Even though I am secure in my knowledge of being His child (100% guilty and 100% forgiven) my feelings and behaviors don’t always reflect that.  I let my feelings win a lot.  

    1. Wanda, I do too let my feelings win a lot. Sometimes for me it is not so much as being openly criticized but feeling left out. My female co-workers almost always sound like they are in the know of each other’s personal affairs and I only hear of it at the staff lunch area. To some degree I feel “criticized” because I must not be “cool” enough or “good” enough for their camaraderie? Oh, wow! I just let the enemy bring me down with the lie of comfort and acceptance. Anyway, these feelings are real to me and I am surrendering them to the One who loves me through and through. 🙂

  4. Marianne welcome to this transparent place:)

  5. 8. How do you respond when you are criticized and why? What might this show you about where your identity? I have to say sometimes it crushes me. Sometimes I fight back, sometimes I am just quiet. It can be different depending where I may be at inside on any given day. I know my identity has to be in Christ. I know there is some truth to what is being said at times and many times it can be down right hurtful coming from someone who is hurting themselves. In my work and in some relationships I ask for the critiquing no matter how it may hurt as I would rather hear it direct vs someone else possibly hearing it. I had one friend say she would really have to pray before she could ever say something to make sure her heart was right in her analysis. I so respected that. Honestly I want truth in my life and sometimes the truth hurts! But if we grow from the truth then the pain is all worth it. I think the important thing is to come to know who we are in Christ and what He says about us, and asking Him to change us into His image. Developing that as our core strength then when criticism comes that may be harsh or untrue we are not undone, and for that which is true we can listen and grow from it. I would love to be able to listen to it take it to the Lord and allow Him to show me. I somewhat had that happen to me last week when something was said to me that initially sounded so tough and uncaring! Angry at first although I did not show that and the Lord used it in a mighty way. That was huge!

  6. 6. What thoughts do you have on this Lent — on how you might begin to better press into Christ? Sorry I am answering out of order. I do the Bible Study much on my own and many answer similar to what I would so do not want to just repeat. I took this to prayer. I spend too much time working on my computer in the evening. Sometimes I can even feel the pull in the Spirit to break away and sit with Him. I am wanting to limit my time on the computer at night  and give  that time to more study and prayer and spending time with my husband even though that means just watching TV ( something I do not do much of ). I also have a ministry of writing and sending cards and want to write 2 cards a day during this lent and pray for those I am sending them to and journal as I go.

    1. Liz, thank you for your thoughts here. I, too spend a lot of time on the computer in the evening. And I smiled when I saw your ministry of writing and sending cards because I like to do that as well and have neglected the practice due to evening busyness. Appreciate you so much and the ladies in this blog.

      1. …and I smiled and related to the card sending ministry as well.  Something I often feel compelled to do and enjoy. 🙂

  7. 13. What stands out to you from the above and why?
     
    Your sweet heart, Dee, for the deer. I also know the “hunger” feeling….it is good!
     

  8. 15. What does Jesus say here?
     
     
    When you are “one” with Him, you will demonstrate who He really is with your actions and words.
     

  9. Watch and share your comments and insights.
     
    I am the person Keller describes who wants to believe, but still has doubts. This is because I really don’t see anything “good” coming from certain situations in my life. It is Job, and I don’t get it. Why? I ask. And silence is what I get. It is hard. I specifically refer to the situation with my daughter Sarah. She had, a few months ago, decided to come home, save money and rethink what she was going to do with her life. This weekend we have to move her out of her apartment her lease is up. She has decided to move in with another girl in a one room apartment in Harlem. She can’t take furniture, there is no room. Not only is it going to be a nasty weekend weatherwise, but it’s also expensive for us to bring her furniture back. I am sad about the situation, and don’t understand where she is going with her life. Is not what I would want for my daughter, but I am holding my tongue. That is different for me. He is changing me and my response to her. I suppose that is good. Please pray for safe travels for us, and for Sarah’s life. I pray she meets a Christian who can bring her back to Jesus in Harlem.

    1. Praying for safety for all of you, Laura!   Moving is always a adifficult task, but is especially hard in bad weather and when your heart tells you it isn’t a good move.  I will continue to pray for Sarah for a prolonged time, as I suspect two girls in a very small apartment (especially if Sarah can’t have much of her own things there), the situation won’t hold up long.  Sarah will probably be wanting to move again very soon.   

    2. Laura,  I  continue to pray for Sarah and now, this difficult weekend task you have.  I have also prayed that a loving Christian will come into her life and for her protection.  

    3. Oh, Laura, Sarah’s situation and decisions tear at my heart too. Your situation and ours are different, but I too have watched my daughter in tough situations. The urge to just want to control the situation and force our adult kids to do what we think is best is very strong. As for the doubts and not seeing anything ‘good’ coming out of the situation, I totally get it. Life is hard and sometimes God asks us to walk “blind” and learn to lean on Him. So hard! I was telling my husband about your situation and he says to tell you “we will be praying for you”. We also expect to have bad weather this weekend. Our prayers for your safety will go up as well. 

    4. Laura, I can empathize with you regarding your daughter, Sarah. I, too have a daughter who I pray would one day come back to her first love, Jesus. I miss her young vibrant faith and like you, I am trying to hold my tongue (or my fingertips, I guess) (smile here) since she is all the way in France and we communicate through E-mail and FB and texting. Sometimes I feel like I can take on anything IF my daughter just love the Lord fervently. It is a lesson on patient waiting for me. Harlem or France-God is there!

    5. Laura, I am touched by your honest sharing about the doubts you have and the trial of seeing your daughter in a setting that you do not approve of.
      I will pray for her and for your travels this weekend.
      As a young woman I chose to live in the East village of NYC. It was a tough time and it seemed like a big adventure to me. Not at all what my Mother
      would choose for me. I am grateful I came through it, though there are some emotional scars. But God is in control  and I often have doubts,too.
      Love to you.
       

    6. Laura–praying for you and Sarah. I smiled to read Shirley’s testimony to you below, made me think maybe the Lord is using her story to encourage you…Sarah’s story isn’t over yet, and He is still in control. But OH, it is so very hard to walk by faith and not what we see (or don’t see) in front of us. Praying~

    7. Laura I too will pray. May you rest in knowing God knows the whole story and sees what we cannot. He loves our children more than we could ever love them. I pray Sarah will be able to receive that love and see Christ reflected in You. He is there. 

    8. Laura, (smile here) yours was one that I replied to. So here is to the “sweet something”! HAhaha First of all thanks for laughing at my lines-you know I realized for the longest time, I seemed to feel like I need to screen my words when writing here because there again, the idol of acceptance. But today when I read your posting about my posting (hah) I felt this sudden release or shedding of pretense. The enemy has surely used it in me to question who I am in Christ. Thanks for making me feel (as all the rest on this blog) welcome and accepted. I empathize with you about Sarah. We, too have a daughter who has “left” her first love. Ruth Ann is in France right now- on the outside she is accomplished at many fronts but I know inside she struggles with anxiety and depression. She thinks Christianity is a crutch and not relevant. I miss her young vibrant faith.  I have seen SO many times the Lord has been gracious to her but I perceived she thinks she has  the wherewithal to accomplish things in her own strength. spirituality is a topic she does not want to talk about with me. Although she does ask for us to pray for her periodically. She told me she is disappointed with God and with Christians over certain circumstances. I will pray with you for Sarah. Oh, my! I have written a novel here. God is in Harlem and in France!
       
       

      1. God is in Harlem and in France and in the heart of Minneapolis.   I think we could all add to this list of places where we long for Him to meet our loved ones!  Thanks, Bing.

  10. 9. What comments do you have on Debbie’s story?
    Debbie sensing His Love so strong that she pulled over and wept. Be still my heart! 🙂

  11. 10. Read John 3:3 What does Jesus tell the Pharisee?
    That unless he is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.
    11. Though the phrase “born again” has been mocked and twisted to mean many things, what do you think Jesus was trying to communicate to this religious teacher?
    That he must be ‘born from above’. We can’t make ourselves, as dead men, ‘alive in Him’ by what we do-we can’t change ourselves into butterflies to gain His favor. We must be born again and have His Spirit living inside making us new. 
    12. How might this be different from the way Nicodemus might have thought a person changes?
    Nicodemus thought a person changes by effort. 
     

  12. Watch and share your comments and insights:
    “Self-righteousness is something the Gospel should expunge.” It sometimes grieves me that I still struggle. How I wish the Gospel would just immediately fill every crevice where sin and idols hide in my stoney heart and I would wake completely committed to Him and never stumble. But I am seeing/learning over and over again that it is the struggle that drives me to Him. It is the hard things, the stumbling, that makes me turn to Him, that humble me and open my hands to His will, not mine. It is the Gospel (I am more sinful than I ever thought, and yet more loved than I ever dared imagine [Keller]) that brings me to Him. Wanting to be rid of the struggle is partly just wanting the easy life, and this is selfish (speaking about my heart only here). This is wanting God for the things he could do for me (Make it easy, God!). But the stumble, the struggle, expunges this selfishness, and this tendency to think I am superior because I have been shown Christ, and in its place humble gratitude for Him and His love. I still see in my heart that I bend toward God’s good things rather than just God. When I realized I needed to daily repent weeks ago, is when I saw this. I am trying to slow down and embrace that which is given – To learn to kiss the wave that drives me to the Rock (Spurgeon). Not just use the Rock to get away from the wave.

    1. Jill, thanks- “To learn to kiss the wave that drives me to the Rock (Spurgeon). Not just use the Rock to get away from the wave.” So like me. I would like to lead an “easy” life here on earth.

    2. I hear your cry Jill. I remember one time going up for prayer and telling my Pastor. I just want to be at the end of myself! He kindly smiled and said me too:)

  13. 7. In what ways can you see the above negative emotions in the Pharisees in John 8:39-47? Be specific.
    The Pharisees are fearing their loss of identity, stature before men and perceived heritage. Pride has gotten in the way and there is refusal to acknowledge that they maybe wrong.  Afraid to lose face. Shown by their insistence to be the ones who are right. Their counter arguments were quick and there  were no signs of reflection or a humility to see Jesus’ point of view.
    8. How do you respond when you are criticized and why? What might this show you about where your identity?
    There is often a pulling away on my part when I am criticized although I have seen myself being more restrained in my inward pulling away. There is also a tendency to rationalize why I do things a certain way. This shows my identity is based on acceptance of other people. When they criticize me, I think they don’t like me.

  14. 9. What comments do you have on Debbie’s story?
    Transformation is a process. You can not push it. When it finally dawns and surface to awareness, it is a glorious experience. Unspeakable and so much the work of God alone.
    10. Read John 3:3 What does Jesus tell the Pharisee?
    One must be born again to inherit the kingdom of God.
    11. Though the phrase “born again” has been mocked and twisted to mean many things, what do you think Jesus was trying to communicate to this religious teacher?
    Be made new. II Cor 5:17
    12. How might this be different from the way Nicodemus might have thought a person changes?
    BE made better. Change through effort or human will.
     
     
    13. What stands out to you from the above and why?
    “Death is an important part of the treatment.” Wow! I am struggling with God’s work in the life of my sister as the obvious symptoms point to no possible earthly healing. This phrase comforted me that even if the Lord takes her home, she is being made perfect and earth is no place for that. But oh, it so hurts to think of my sister and her family.
    14. Read John 15:5.
    I am the vine; ye are the branches.
    15. What does Jesus say here?
    A fruitful life is dependent on staying connected to the vine, Jesus Christ.
    16. If you have put your trust in Christ, share an area where you see evidence of God working in you. How are you seeing His risenness in you?
    I am more at peace. Things that use to rattle me don’t as much nowadays. Even my blood pressure is lower and within the normal range! I am seeing His risenness in me in my ability to call on Him frequently and sense His presence and love.
    I couldn’t put a finger what to give up to press in closer to Christ until I read Liz’ post here. It was exactly what I needed-not to spend too much on the computer and spending more time with the Lord and with my husband. I bring home school work and it definitely eats up my time in the evening and sometimes my Saturday. Thanks, Liz! Now, I want to prayerfully consider the fleshing out of this commitment as I have tendencies to revert back to old patterns.
     

    1. Ernema Lets pray for each other to make it and not revert back. it is 3:19 AM I am up letting my 14 yr old dog out. It is a patient process:) I think overall I will be so much more peaceful having less time on this thing:) More time with the Lord is my desire

      1. Just want to clarify “this thing ” was my computer not the blog. I know the blog is on my computer but I do know I even with that need limits but this is such a special place and I am thankful for it. Thank you Dee.

  15. I too want to thank Liz for her post above, as Ernema also touched on this. When I answered the question about thinking about how to press into Christ more this Lent, I answered that I wanted to keep up with our study here, and I do! But, I remember when I used to meet with God first thing in the morning. I had a certain place in my family room, behind the couch and in front of a bay window, and it was “my spot” – it seemed kind of secluded right there! I had gotten in the habit, however, of getting up, and coming here first, to work on the study. That was often the only time I had before others started getting up, it was time to get ready for school or the day, and I have not been meeting with Him like I used to, for a very, very long time. So yesterday (and today), I went to my spot FIRST. I had thought I would begin yesterday with reading a bit in Song of Songs before I began to work through Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ Song of Song study. That was my plan. But as I began talking to Him yesterday morning, telling Him that I wanted to start over in my relationship with Him, something different was impressed upon me. I began to think of the book that Dee had referred to here a long time ago, Whiter Than Snow, by Paul Tripp. I began to feel that starting over, and even before focusing on God’s love for me, I needed to start with focusing on repentance. Keeping short accounts with God, daily repentance is something else I had let slide. So yesterday I began with Psalm 51, praying it back to the Lord.
     
    The verse that I began to ponder was Psalm 51:9, where David says “Hide your face from my sins…” I looked up cross-ref. and these were about how everything is laid bare before His eyes. In modern terms, I think it’s saying “Don’t look at me like that!” David wasn’t asking God to ignore his sin, or look the other way. It’s got to be the uncomfortable feeling of being laid bare, naked, before Him. And that is what makes me feel ashamed before others when caught in sin. Yet…we want God to look at us, to “see” the expression in His eyes, so to speak, despite our sinfulness, being laid bare before Him. Then I began to think that He can look at us with love because He has provided a covering for us – Jesus. He can look at me with the same love that He has for His Son. So I am beginning today to work through Whiter Than Snow, and to deal with things that are in my heart that I have ignored or didn’t want to face.

    1. Susan – your entire post is pure gold, as we sometimes say!  Thanks for this.

      1. Thank you Jackie. I think it’s gold because it’s about Him. I sure want to recapture the anticipation I used to have when I was anxious to get to “my spot” and start talking to Him!

        1. I love that you have ‘a spot’ Susan.  My closest friend here, also sits in her bay window behind a chair.  I smiled at thinking of both of you dear friends soaking up God’s word each in your bay windows 🙂  

    2. Susan Thanks for sharing about your”Spot” I have for many years had mine locked away in my Bedroom sitting up in my bed against a sunny window. I LOVE that time and can honestly say when I am there sitting with him in any Spot, there is no other place that I would rather be this side of heaven.( Yet I still can get distracted from doing it more) We got a woodstove about 4 years ago and I love sitting next to that and my husband encourages me to come out to the living room where it is. He usually has the TV on in the AM and I told him I just cannot do that when it is on but I have made some exceptions at times as He seems to enjoy having me in the same room which is a huge step as for many years just seeing me reading my Bible made him very angry. He now shuts the TV off at times so I will come out. He is only in the same room for a period of time before he usually has to leave and go do his thing. I take it as an encouragement of the Lord drawing him. and being close to the fire as another illustration of that. I know I have had battles going on in the spiritual realm in my home I just see this as progress:) His light piercing the darkness.

      1. My husband and I have this same relationship! He likes tv on in the morning, and I don’t! I have trouble getting up and want to do it gradually, without noise. I enjoy reading the blog, bible, and doing other spiritual activities as I wake.  It is peaceful. He will put it on mute with closed caption though; He’s a good guy. My “spot” is my bed! Sometimes i end up falling asleep again though 🙁

  16. 8. How do you respond when you are criticized and why? What might this show you about where your identity is?
     
    This is a hard question. I remember a very vivid example of being criticized as a brand new nurse. My head nurse came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder, and pointed out that I was not doing what was expected of me, and a group of residents was sitting nearby, listening. I wanted to disappear. I was so embarrassed. Inwardly, I defended myself, and I was angry at her for chewing me out in front of others. It hits closer to home when the criticism is in my home and it comes from someone who I believe should accept me for who I am. Because it happens a lot, it kind of piles up and it wears me down emotionally. I can react with anger, defending myself. I can withdraw, remain silent…inside I may be feeling hateful, or dejected and defeated, or resigned to “this is the way it is”. So I’m all over the place in my response, but one thing I do know is that if I don’t take it to God, it makes my heart a little bit harder than it was already. It allows bitterness and resentment to creep in and take root. I know my identity is in Him and that He is my approval, but I confess I do want others to like me, too. I want to be loved and cherished, not cut down. Sometimes the criticism is just plain unfair, but other times there is the hint of truth in it. As I was reading today in Whiter Than Snow, the character of my life isn’t built on a few big, dramatic moments, but rather on an endless stream of little moments; each response is important. My biggest problem isn’t “the sinner over there”, it’s inside of me.

    1. Thanks, Susan. ” the character of my life isn’t built on a few big, dramatic moments, but rather on an endless stream of little moments; each response is important. My biggest problem isn’t “the sinner over there”, it’s inside of me.” For me today, it is the piles of paper work that I needed to sign at school for my students so I can get caught up. AS the pile got whittled down, all I could say was “thank you, Lord”. No humans were around to congratulate me (hah); only an audience of the One who has His eyes on the “endless stream of little moments”. Or as Kara Tippet so aptly calls her blog, “mundane thankfulness.” Boy, it did fell good to get caught up on one thing. And now I can say yes to my husband’s invite to go to the spaghetti might  and watch the boys basketball game tonight at school. Lord, you are so full of grace.

    2. the character of my life isn’t built on a few big, dramatic moments, but rather on an endless stream of little moments; each response is important. My biggest problem isn’t “the sinner over there”, it’s inside of me.
      Susan, yours was another post I replied to that did not take. Thank you for the above thoughts. To me an endless streams of little moments was like yesterday when I had to whittle down my pile of school related paper work. AS I see the pile getting smaller, I felt the smile of God as He was my audience of One and was encouraging me to be faithful in the most mundane of things. As Kara Tippet on her blog Mundane Thankfulness often alludes to, life is to be relished in its endless streams of little moments and not just in the big dramatic moments.

      1. I like this, Bing…”I felt the smile of God as He was my audience of One”. That’s a great thing to remember!

  17. I’m thinking more about being criticized. Using the words above, “When I am criticized by any of my children, when they point out what they find lacking in me, what I did wrong, how I failed them, I am devastated, because it is critical that I think of myself as a good mother. Threats to that image of being a good mom are hard to take, because my identity has been wrapped up in being a mom and what my children think of me is my security in life. If they don’t approve of me, that leaves me feeling like a failure, fearful, and insecure.
    The gospel: When my children criticize me, it does hurt, and I do struggle with it. But it’s not essential for me to think of myself as a great mom. I have made mistakes with my kids, but my identity isn’t built on my performance or having a perfect record. I am God’s dearly loved child first and foremost. My motivation to love and serve my family should be out of joy, not trying to earn their approval in order to feel secure.
     
    9. What comments do you have on Debbie’s story?
     
    It could only have been God! Made me think of “Thine eye diffused a quickening ray…my chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.”
     
    10. Read John 3:3. What does Jesus tell the Pharisee?
     
    “No one can SEE the kingdom of God unless he is born again”.  That’s why Debbie suddenly got it…she was able to see the truth because God made her alive.
     
    11. Though the phrase “born again” has been mocked and twisted to mean many things, what do you think Jesus was trying to communicate to this religious teacher?
     
    I think He was saying “Nicodemus, you need a whole new life! You need a whole new way to see things, and for that, you need new eyes, new ears, a new heart. You’re alive, walking and talking, but you’re not really alive to Me. You must come to Me to get this new life.”
     
    12. How might this be different from the way Nicodemus might have thought a person changes?
     
    Back then, I know there were different rabbis who had their own teachings. Perhaps Nicodemus thought he would check-out Jesus and His teachings, and maybe if He followed Jesus’ rules and teachings, he would be even more moral and religious.

    1. Susan,
       
      Thank you for posting these timely, vulnerable comments to number 8.   I too wrestle with criticism (just and unjust).   You are so right:  My biggest problem isn’t “the sinner over there”, it’s inside of me.

    2. Susan, Your sharing about criticism from your children is touching my heart. I love my children so much and don’t want to let them down. When I receive criticism from any of them, I feel hurt to the core. I cannot seem to take it at face value but feel a deep sense of failure. I am grateful that I can take it to Jesus and ask for His help.
      Growing up I had much difficulty with criticism and it has been a gradual acceptance. I see my own sin, but wanted to hide it to be thought of as “good.”
      The heart is deceitful.
      Since our transforming gospel study I am beginning to see these differences with the way religion views are opposed to gospel truths.
      The subject of criticism is a good example. I need to continually challenge my idols of control and acceptance. The visual of floating in the pool helps…
      To let Christ guide.

  18. 13. What stands out to you from the above and why?               ” Christianity is organic, meaning that if it is real growth will happen, just as a branch connected to a living tree will bear fruit.”      I love the distinction here that there will be fruit in a believer’s life.  To be honest, I generally react as the Puritans did with ‘we’ll see’ when I hear of new faith.  But here’s a beautiful illustration…. I just read the amazing story of a 91 year old woman who just passed away.  Her son goes to our church and I only know him slightly, but he sent a note about her passing to our Adult Fellowship group and recounted how she had come to really know the Lord 6 years ago as a nursing home resident.  He gave many evidences of her growing faith during those last years.   These are his words:  “ One of the chaplains explained to us    that after she was saved God gifted her with compassion and that she always knew who was struggling and that she reached out to those people and comforted and encouraged them. He said she really helped to change lives there.   Growing up we did not know a compassionate mother. These past 6 years we knew that she was a changed person, but had no idea how much. She was such a private person I just thought she had developed a very personal relationship with Jesus. I had no idea that she was on fire encouraging people to trust in God. I saw glimpses of it as she encouraged some of my family, but I never could have guessed the person she would become.  As Tuesday evening was winding down and she was becoming very tired we were telling her how wonderful it was that she could impact so many people positively, she looked at us very shyly and said, I just wish I could have done that for you kids. She did not know it then, but in her last conversation with us she did do it for us too.”
     
    What a God we have who finds us where we are, at whatever age we are, and changes us into His likeness!   And oh, that is stamped all over the story of Ron and Debbie too.  Theirs is such an encouraging story and I know there is so much more to come!
    14. Read John 15:5.
    15. What does Jesus say here?  To remain in HIM because a branch can’t keep living unless it is attached to the trunk or the vine.    A couple summers ago, we had to radically trim the maple tree in our front yard as my husband worried that in a storm, it could come down on the house.  It’s right outside my kitchen window and it’s where scores of birds delight me every day at the feeders.  So I have always resisted chopping it all down. A friend came with a lift and we hacked off 2 or the large trunks, leaving it looking a bit strange but it still gives shade to the porch and the birds still flock to it.  What’s amazing is how many small branches keep growing from the trunks that were lopped off.  The life is still in the trunk.  The new branches are absorbing the life giving sap and continue to grow and grow.  Great daily reminder for me not to think I can grow without continuing to press into and remain close to Jesus, my life giving Lord.  

    1. Wanda, what a sweet story of the 91 year old woman. I worked in a nursing home before and continue to visit the home as my students do their clinicals there. I have met some wonderful men and women there. Some have faith in Christ; others I wasn’t sure. Nevertheless, you story prompted me to go visit a soon to be 104 year old friend of mine who is struggling with the fact that she is still here on earth and mostly bedbound. Her mind is as sharp as could be. One time she asked me, “why am I still here?” in a bitter tone. I did not know what to say except the puny words of “you are here to help us learn how to grow old gracefully.” She smiled at that. I pray I will have another chance to see her and encourage her.

      1. Thanks, Ernema.   104….that is so amazing.  I also have worked in nursing homes.  I remember one lady who woke up every morning saying, ‘Oh….I’m still here” rather wistfully. 

  19. 13. What stands out to you from the above and why?
     
    Ron’s question, “How do I know that I am a Christian?”    I think it is common for people to ask that question (quieatly to themselves, if not aloud).    It takes me back to a time I was in a small Bible study, and  one of the participants asked the rest of us if we knew we were Christians and if we were going to spend eternal life with God.    One humble woman in the group could only bring herself to say, “Well, I certainly hope so!”    The questioner literally went right off of his seat, and exclaimed with great force, “You surely BETTER know!!.”   He went on to say he was sure that he was , and there was something awfully wrong if a person didn’t know.     I believe that was the last time that woman attended the group.  It could have been handled a lot better than it was!   I liked the way Dee talked with Ron and Debbie about “the fruits.”  

    14. Read John 15:5.  
    15. What does Jesus say here?        That if we remain in Him and He remains in us, we will have the power to produce much fruit.   He states that without Him we can do nothing.     Even though I agree with it so much and try to remember that,  I still will find myself trying to forge forward on my own steam — and it never works!    When I remain in Him,  things usually go so much more smoothly, and the events play out in amazing ways I would never have imagined.
      
    16. If you have put your trust in Christ, share an area where you see evidence of God working in you. How are you seeing His risenness in you?       
     
    He is working in me to accept that I don’t  always have to  be right, or to convince others of my way of thinking.    Particularly this is showing up in my behavior in church board meetings.    We are discussing where to relocate our congregation.  Many people have strong opinions.    When my thoughts are rejected by the group, I am learning not to push on more forcefully, but instead just  let it go.    Of course, to myself I am thinking I am “right” but I do not push to convince others.  Instead I think, if the Lord thinks I am correct on this issue, He will see that it goes through.    He has the power,  I don’t!   

    1. Deanna,  the story you shared of the woman in the small group Bible study hurts my heart.  I have been in somewhat similar situations.  So sad that the woman was turned away by the questioner’s response.  I surely hope that God has revealed His great mercy and grace to her in another way.  

  20. Friday:     I loved that little 5-minute clip of Keller!    I think it speaks directly to the issue I mentioned in my answer to #13.   I can say quite honestly (got my hand in the air here!) that I didn’t watch Keller’s clip until after I answered all of questions 13-16.      

  21. my take-away:
    The risenness of Christ and his present power in our lives. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”. Only if I could just remember this on a daily basis through the endless streams of little moments Susan) and not forging on my own steam (Deanna).

  22. Watch and share your comments and insights.      The University of Minnesota has the exact same ‘soap box’ screamers, and the fact that they will not allow you to even talk to them with any kind of reason (as the man in the video also experienced), was another step in the walking away from Christianity, for some that I know and love.    The hard part is that when I have told them, (my loved ones who told me of the screamers) “That isn’t Christianity”,  I think they have felt that it is dangerously close to teaching they got in their church youth group (minus the soap box and the yelling).  I think that the damage done (for some tender hearts) by this kind of wrongful exploitation and merciless yelling on campuses, has done far more to send students on a path away from God than it has ever done to draw someone toward Him.  How this must break God’s heart.  And how do I have love and mercy in my heart, for the merciless who abuse God’s word and drive the doubters away?   That’s the thing I struggle with.  I’m so glad Tim Keller quoted …”Be merciful to those who doubt”…. Jude 22… which caused me to read the one chapter book.  

  23. Oh, sweet something! I posted 2 replies and a take away and they did not come through. And just this one time where I did not save my entries before I submitted. 🙁

  24. First of all, THANK YOU LADIES! You are so good to pray and offer support for me…I treasure each and every one of you! Secondly, just when you think it can’t get worse, you know the saying….I texted Sarah tonight to tell her we will be there tomorrow and don’t you know she left town and is in another state! She says she thought we were coming on the 24th; she knew. What a brat! Oh well, my husband and I can bond, I guess? May go try to see the Brooklyn Tabernacle choir while we are there. I just can’t believe my life sometimes. A friend of mine always says, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Thank you again.
     
    My take away? How much I value this blog. It has taught me so much about what is truly important in my life. Thank you Dee!

    Oh yeah! Bing, you totally made me laugh on our post above when you said, “Oh sweet something…!”

    1. Oh Laura…you drove all the way there and then learned she wasn’t there? I do hope you and your husband enjoy your time together, but how frustrating!

    2. Laura I was going to suggest visiting Brooklyn Tabernacle. That is onmy list for sure someday. Have you ever read the book ” Fresh Wind Fresh Fire” ? Oh my one of my favorites for sure. I read it early in my “Born Again” walk and that book made. Huge impact on me! Impacting for my prayer life impacting for Gids power today!!!! Impacting on the story of Jim Cmbala’s daughter who was so lost. You would be so inspired by that book!!!!!!!!! I pray you and your husband have a special weekend! Safe drive home.

      1. Ok glasses were created to be used please forgive me I spelled GI’d when I meant God:(
         

    3. Hahaha, Laura. On a serious note, though. Yeah, I would think the same thing, too-what a brat. My daughter has been like that a few times. A t times I have felt like confronting her and being “historical”-bringing up everything she had done that broke our hearts. But then God has restrained me and whispered’ Bing, love her, just love her. I am at work in her life”. And I say, hurry, Lord and then He quiets my heart and I know He is faithful to His promises.

    4. Oh Laura.  How mysterious are His ways.  Here we all have been praying for your weekend with Sarah and it all changes; for no good reason it seems.  BUT the story isn’t over.  Maybe someday, you will look back and see the fruit of this weekend in your time with your husband or some other special touch for either you or Sarah.   I think of Joseph’s story and when he tells his brothers,  “You meant it for harm, but God meant it for good.”    praying for you…

  25. 13. What stands out to you from the above and why?
     
    The wisdom of the Puritans. I have heard, on Christian radio, many pastor/teachers whom I very much respect, at the end of their programs leading those who want to pray to receive Christ in a prayer, and then afterwards, saying something like, “If you just prayed that prayer and meant it, you are now a child of God.” The words of Jesus when He said that some will be told, “Depart from Me…I never knew you” frightened me terribly for many years as a new Christian. They still are disturbing. I remember agonizing to a dear Christian friend over this, because I knew that even my own heart could deceive me, and what if I really didn’t belong to Him?
     
    I love the photo of Ron and Debbie – he looks like such a kind man who would give great hugs! His heart to make the deer feeder and hang it because he wanted a way to serve.

  26. The Tim Keller video so reminded me of when i spoke at the State House in front of a committee on Pregnancy Care Centers being recognized for the work they do giving my testimony. Then there were some other speakers speaking with more angry tones opposing abortion but it made me cringe. It just was not to me displaying what the gospel was “For the wrath of Man does not produce the righteousness of Christ”  I loved how Keller answered the mans’s question here and gave such a good example. It really makes you think ( me think) I so want to be sharing with the gospel.  I know I fall short doing that Praise God His mercy is new each day! The story of Debbie and Ron was such a beautiful example. Thank you for sharing your story and I know the angels are rejoicing as are we! I pray as you both continue on this exciting journey you will just fall more in love with Christ every day.  It also inspires me to keep sharing. That is my take away:)

  27. My take-away:
    Too many to choose from but one that stood out to me is the risenness of Christ, His present power in our lives. I do not have to go through life in my own strength. I can because Jesus is working in me and through me.   The story of Ron and Deb is such a blessing-an encouragement for me as I see people I love and care about struggling in their faith or confused about the gospel. I will pray and let God work a transformation in their lives. And I pray God will use me to be part of His transforming grace in others as He also transforms me. 

  28. My take-away:
    This week both of my children came to me with questions about their adoption.With my oldest, it seems to be always in the background of her thoughts, but this was the first time in a long while my youngest brought it up. He was trying to understand how if he grew in another tummy (not mine) than why didn’t he have to stay there. It was his version of “why did she give me up?”, but without the feelings of rejection, I pray, that is common in this scenario. I focused on God’s leading and His plan before time, and His creative way of building families. And that while he was born out of another “tummy”, he was really born into our family, and all that we are belongs to him–he is fully “one of us”. He smiled and said, I get it now–it’s like when they talk about  being ‘born again’. I knew he was remembering hearing the phrase, and so we talked about all of our need for Spiritual re-birth, and that was the end of it. But since yesterday, I have been pondering how important it really is to see the depth of our re-birth. In my new birth, I am fully aligned with Christ. I no longer have anything to do with my original heritage. It is legally dissolved. My son is so much like my husband it is amazing. Mannerisms, things he says, and he wants to be just like him, he wants to model his character. 
    This verse John 8:44 hit me “When he lies, he speaks out of his own character,”. Am I truly speaking, acting, living out of the character of a child of God? So often I am not. I long for my character to reflect my heritage, and my heritage is Christ. 
    His risenness has come to me this week by continuing to feel the depth of His grace towards me. I really am fully known and fully loved by Christ, by my Father. I don’t have many profound thoughts or words to share. He is filling up some very very old wounds, some “holes” that I have tried to flll in earthly ways–in people, and have never been satisfied. But He knows those places of my heart, and He is pouring into them. My pride that has kept me from knowing this kind of love-that has made me lie in the bath at might and think how I have failed and must try harder, is it melting.I feel very humbled and at the same time, very loved. I think I’m rambling and I don’t have time to edit. But Dee–if you happen to read, I am so thankful (again) for your ministry here!

    1. Elizabeth, I don’t know if you’ll read this, but this take away is so precious. I love how you are able to live out the acceptance we receive from being adopted into the family of God through your family and your total acceptance of your children. No different than if they had come from you.
      Your statement, ” I don’t have many profound thoughts or words to share. He is filling up some very very old wounds, some “holes” that I have tried to flll in earthly ways–in people, and have never been satisfied.” is where I am at too. HUGE holes!!

      1. dawn–you have no idea how much you encouraged me just now. Thank you. So glad to know you are still alongside with us–praying for you this morning that He would fill your “HUGE hole” to overflowing! (I really do keep picturing my heart as a big hunk of swiss cheese, but He is making it complete…but soft…Brie, maybe? 🙂 

  29. Takeaway:    God is in Harlem.  And in France.  And in the heart of Minneapolis.  Last week, Laura asked  ‘Is God in Harlem’?  when she shared with frustration, that her daughter was moving there.  It made me remember that Bonhoeffer found that the church was more alive in Harlem than anywhere else he visited in the U.S.  And today, when I saw Ernema post that ‘God is in France’, knowing that her daughter is living there and the worry that can bring,  I have to add and ‘God is in the heart of Minneapolis’ where my two oldest kids, my son’s wife and daughters boyfriend  are all living.  And this week, my husband had an encouraging visit with our son there.  AND YES, I am so thankful that we can encourage one another here.  Shirley’s testimony that God was in the East village of NYC when she lived there as a young person, much to her mother’s chagrin.    And God is in the nursing home, as the story of the 91 year old woman’s new found faith declares.  God is in the hospital room at Mayo/ Rochester, MN where my husband is visiting a friend today, who is recovering from a huge surgery for esophageal cancer; the same cancer that took the life of my dear friend last summer.  We know Joe’s prognosis is grim, but God is there.  He is a sweet brother in the Lord, but his wife, as far as we know, has not come to faith in Jesus yet.  But God is there.  How can I be sure?   God was there; south of Egg Harbor in Door County, Wisconsin, and met Debbie just where she was and the change in her led Ron to begin his questioning. And God met him where he was.  And God put Dee right there to help them understand.  God was there all along.  Writing this brings tears.  I know that we all could add the places where our loved ones are, who struggle with the hard questions about Jesus. My takeaway is the assurance that God is there.  And the clear difference between religion and the gospel.  

    1. Wanda, tears for your posting. God is there. Thanks!
      My daughter mentioned this on her travel blog. I don’t know the singer but since she said it was a song in memory of her trip, I listened to it. It was a pick me upper. 🙂
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhUfVcLLvjo Joshua Radin “It’s a brand new day”

      1. That was a nice pick me up song!  Nice that Ruth Ann is keeping a journal online.  It helped me so much, when my daughter was in Italy, to be able to read her almost daily emails of her experiences. 🙂

  30. My take a way:  grace and mercy.  I know that sound’s like a canned answer, but when I think about the study this week that’s what comes to my mind.  This past week, actually more like the past few weeks, the Lord has been demonstrating over and over grace and mercy to me, not just here but all around me.  Perhaps it is because I know the evil that I am capable of in pride and selfishness that I had to go to Him again and ask that His love shine through me, cause mine is not what it should be.   To see through His heart and His eyes is to see the world very differently than through my own.  I really could relate to the example that Keller used about his neighbour.  The Hindu guy may be a better or more moral this or that than he is, however that is not what the gospel is about.  In my small group at church we are going through the book of James and again standing out was the grace and mercy.   When His grace and mercy is flowing through me, I will not show favouritism, my tongue will be tame, my doing will be through grace, not cause I have to.   I see that there is still some religion in me but there is more gospel that will cover that with His grace and mercy.   My fall back thought when I mess up is that I am a work in progress.  Although that may be true, that cannot be the focus.  It wouldn’t matter what I did, He would still love me and because of His grace and mercy, I want to do better, not because it is expected but because it would make Him smile.  It’s all about His love that His grace and mercy flow’s. The gospel, the risenness, my transformation, everything and that is what will stay with me.   Sorry I guess I got a little long winded to explain two words, but that was my thought. 

    1. Wonderful thoughts, Mary.  I find that the longer I live, the more those words mean to me.  Seems we will never plum their depths….there is always more.  But your words are so good! 

  31. 16. If you have put your trust in Christ, share an area where you see evidence of God working in you. How are you seeing His risenness in you?
     
    It is hard for me to share an evidence of God working in me because it seems like bragging. But I see that it is not; for it is of God, not my doing. He has given me a heart for women. I so want to see them grow in Christ. I want to help them when they are hurting. That is why I lead Bible studies and why I insure they focus on the Bible, not on human wisdom, because I believe only God can help us truly change and become God’s children – not just saved, but growing in Christlikeness. Of myself, I have nothing to give them or to help them, but God does and if He can use me in a small way, I am grateful and I want Him to have the glory.
     

  32. 17. What is your take-a-way (what you will remember) from this introductory lesson and why?
     
    “It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature.”
     
    Little by little, step by step, I am seeing more clearly that it is not me working hard to be moral, but God who has given me wings. I have to trust and use them. I am a sinner with wings from God, an amazing concept. 
     
    Secondly, “Christianity is organic, meaning that, if it is real, growth will happen, just as a branch connected to a living tree will bear fruit.”
     
    Jude says, “Be merciful to them with doubts.” Sometimes I get very frustrated with my own doubts and also with the doubts of others. We seem to grow and change so slowly, imperceptibly. As a person in ministry, I want to see if anything we are doing is actually helping, making a difference. But just as a plant grows slowly and you cannot usually see it grow if you sit watching it, God is the one who causes the growth. I have to trust Him that I am growing and that His children are changing, growing around me. 
     

  33. 16. Share an area where you see the risenness of Christ working in you.
    As I love God’s word and understand it more clearly and share the joy with another,
    he is working in me. A woman I am studying with who is recovering from alcoholism and depression,
    expressed her gratitude for my help with her Bible study homework. It’s all about his work  that he is doing in me!
    When I have moments of grace toward my husband when he is struggling and grumpy, it’s the risenness at work in me.
    Letting go of the negative tendencies is also his work in me. Praise for the risen Christ.

  34. My take away:
    Seeing the fruit of transformation of the gospel. I love the story of Debbie and Ron, of the woman in the nursing home, and the opportunities each of us have to
    live out the gospel.
    Yes, the video of the answer to What is the gospel? helps me to understand these basic differences that I always pondered about religious offenders and the subject of doubts. “You must show mercy to those whose faith is wavering.”Jude 22
    I am praying for Cameron, age 18, whose father died at 46. May he be brought back to God, though he has been heading away for awhile. I pray he will not be deterred by those who would judge him.

    1. What a tender prayer, Shirley….” I pray that he will not be deterred by those who would judge him”   Amen.  

  35. My take away: I was so touched by the responses of all of the dear women here this week (I don’t want to name names for fear of forgetting someone) my heart has been overwhelmed with the desire to seek him more. Not the “I know I should”, but the DESIRE!
    6. What thoughts do you have on this Lent — on how you might begin to better press into Christ I have been spending WAAAAY too much time on the computer or watching tv in the evening, I have not only this study, but my weekly study from my church as well as the book Pilgrim’s Theology that was recommended by my counselor that I am going to focus on during this Lenten season.  I’m only a few days into it and I have already felt a lightening of my overall sense of being.

    1. Dawn-I had not heard of that book before, but just looked it up on Westminster Bookstore–by Horton, right? Looks really good!

  36. My take-away is to remember to look for the reality of the risen Christ, in the Word, in my life, and in the world around me. Because I tend to think and live as if His resurrection is only a historical fact, not a present reality and power. I think this also ties into being alert to the things that I run to instead of to Jesus, because that is an attempt to escape the reality of what may be boring, depressing, or unhappy circumstances. Doing that keeps me from experiencing His risen-ness in my everyday life. Not allowing Him to be my comfort and security, my approval and my control prevents me from seeing Him at work in my life.

    1. Very beautifully put, Susan! I look at my running to things as an escape and a failure on my part, but I never though of the fact that I’m running away from what He is trying to do in me and my life through these unhappy circumstances.