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The_cross_by_Paik666-e1348257514407BETTER THAN THE GODS OF WORLD RELIGIONS,







I first met Nam, as young mothers often do, through the friendship of our daughters: May and Sally. Seven-year-old May and her mother had flown all the way from Bang-Kok, Thailand to Kearney, Nebraska to make their home with Jerry, an older serviceman who’d proposed to lovely Nam while he was stationed in Bang-kok. When I invited Nam for tea, she told me repeatedly “so happy to have a friend now!”

I thought, Okay, I better be her friend! My heart went out to her for she had moved an ocean away from friends, family, culture and language. I was grateful when my dear friend Shell came alongside as well. About a month later, Jerry had emergency heart surgery and faced a long recuperation. Their bills began to mount and Nam came to us with Jerry’s “American” ideas for making money.

She sat down with Shell and me and said, “How bout we have American party where we sell lotta your church friend soap or lipstick?”

I squirmed. Shell shot me an uncomfortable glance. That was the last thing we wanted to do! I was glad I could simply and truthfully say: “Nam, you’d probably lose money getting into one of those networking groups, and most people never make much.” (Still true today — see Christianity Today’s Brand Evangelists article:12/15)

“Okay.” Nam quickly shifted to Plan B: “How bout American garage sale? Jerry has lotta stuff we no need.”

Shell said, “That’s a good idea, Nam, but we should wait until spring. That’s when people start looking in the paper for garage sales.”

“We no can wait…” Nam implored Shell and me with her deep brown eyes.

How could we say no? We enlisted a few more friends and threw ourselves into hosting a winter garage sale. We came to understand why Nam kept calling it an “American” garage sale. “We don’t have lotta stuff like this in Thailand – and no car, or if we lucky to have one, we no build house for it.”

On Monday we put an ad in the paper for the following Saturday, hauled in card tables, bags and boxes of Jerry’s and our excess stuff, set up heaters in Nam’s garage, and got to work marking things. By Thursday they were predicting snow for Saturday, so we huddled together and prayed while Nam watched us:

            Oh Lord, please hold back the snow!

            Lord, if it pleases you, please help people see that ad and want to come!

            How thankful we’d be if Nam could make enough to pay their bills.

            We ask all this in Jesus name.

When we looked up, Nam was wide-eyed with wonder. “Will your god hear you?”

Nam’s god, represented by a clay Buddha, sat in her foyer.



We felt like Elijah with the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel. With mustard seed faith, we said, “Yes!” And silently we implored: Please God!

In His mercy, that Saturday was like a day in spring and scores of people were eagerly buying our “lotta stuff.’ Nam made enough to pay their bills and get them by for a while. She smiled and said, “Your god heard you!”

It was the beginning of showing Nam what it was like to belong to a living God who heard, who cared, who provided, and who laid down His life for us.

The daughters of Jerusalem ask the bride who has persevered in looking for her Lover and asked for help from her friends:

What is your beloved more than another beloved,

O most beautiful among women.

What is your beloved more than another beloved,

That you charge us so?

Song of Songs 5:9


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

2. As you begin this Holy Week, share three reasons that Jesus is better than the gods of world religions. Share a doctrinal reason, a picture you love of Him from the Gospels, and a personal way He has met you. Be specific!

Monday: A Verbal Statue That Lives!

Prepare your heart with this from the Blue Rock Mennonite Youth:


As the bride begins to describe “why her beloved is better than others” to the daughters of Jerusalem, it is almost as if she is describing a statue, with a head of finest gold, arms like rods of gold, and legs like alabaster columns on bases of gold. E. F. Davis believes that this is “a daring move on the poet’s part…As is well known, biblical law prohibited the creation of “graven images” (Exodus 20:4) of God. ” Davis explains that a verbal statue would be as close as the poet could come to representing God with such physicality without transgressing that command. Her description has some similarities to the statues Israel’s pagan neighbors erected of their gods, statues made of gold, marble, and alabaster – but there are some critical differences. First, this statue is brimming with life – life reminiscent of the flowers, fragrance, and flowing streams of the Garden of Eden.

3. Read Song of Songs 5:10-13 and find ways that this “verbal statue” is brimming with life!

Tuesday-Wednesday: A Verbal Statue That Is Powerful but also Good!

Prepare Your Heart with This:


Next, this statue has similarities to the idol that frightened Nebuchadnezzar in a dream, but again, with crucial differences. Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, though it had a head of gold, had a body made up of increasingly inferior metals ending in the feet, made of iron and clay, which do not mix. Daniel interpreted the head as representing Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom but the rest of the body as representing the kingdoms that would, one by one, overtake the preceding kingdom. Matthew Henry writes that these inferior metals were “all of one and the same spirit was genius, and all more or less against the church.” Most commentators see the fulfillment of the silver chest, bronze thighs, and iron legs as the succeeding kingsdoms of the Persians, Grecians, and Romans. Commentators disagree on what the vulnerable and mixed feet represent, but today many see them as the continuing unrest in the Middle East. But in any case, they are all eventually broken by the stone cut “by no human hand” (Daniel 2:45) leading to “a kingdom that will never be destroyed.” (Daniel 2:44)

4. Read Daniel 2:31-45 and describe the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation.

Here is one interpretation that brings this dream to life.


5. What will follow the “stone” that will crush all these Kingdoms, and how will this Final Kingdom be better?

6. Read Song of Songs 5:14-16 and find the contrasts to the idol of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

Maundy Thursday: Better Than Our Heart Idols

I have received so many e-mails in response to the curriculum of Idol Lies. One was from Kristi who wrote that when she was studying Idol Lies she was also in the painful position of realizing the company, at which she thought she had landed her “dream job” as a speech pathologist was an unethical company. She said she had also “people-pleased” her way into working fifty hours a week, for twenty-five hours of pay. Members of her church encouraged her to resign. She decided to follow their advice but it meant breaking her (illegal) contract. She tells what happened:


As I sat in the meeting with my boss, he said cruel things about me personally and as a professional. 

Before “Idol Lies,” these words would have been devastating. Instead, I was face-to-face with my biggest fear and able to lean into God’s love, do the “right” thing instead of the “nice” thing, and worship God instead of my boss and career. It was liberating. The meeting that should have devastated me instead smashed an idol that had been on the throne of my heart for far too long.

God miraculously provided a new job. It is only 30 hours per week, but a new idol began to replace the idol of acceptance. I began to question my worth because my work week was shorter than that of so many others who seemed important in their busyness. But I realized…instead of finding my identity in a life of a busy career, I had to find my identity in Christ alone. It has been such a sweet season of rest in Him.


7. How did Kristi’s heart idols seem to be her friends but then bring her pain? How was Jesus, instead, “altogether lovely?”

8. Could you share a brief testimony about a heart idol that caused you pain? If you are growing in allowing Jesus to fill that void, how He has brought you peace?

9. Thinking of that holy week, what heart idols brought Judas pain, do you think? Peter? Which disciple experienced “the expulsive love of a new affection” and how did it affect him?  

Good Friday

Jesus was on the cross, our Lamb of God, from 9 to 3. This has always been a day of reflection for those who love Him. I would love you to listen to this message Michael Reeves brought in Dubai concerning Puritan Preacher Richard Sibbes. Sibbes is one who wrote this commentary on The Song of Songs. While this may seem an odd Good Friday message, I think it is perfect, for what does Good Friday show us except that our beloved is good, and loves us so. This is what motivated Sibbes in his preaching, and what we must allow to penetrate our hearts if indeed, we are to be transformed.




Deep Refreshment from the Past – Richard Sibbs

10. Please take good notes and ponder the above, sharing your thoughts.

On this Good Friday, ponder this. When Buddha died, his last words were “Keep striving.” When Jesus died, his last words were “It is finished.” This Lenten season we had an evangelistic study, and one of our seekers was visibly moved by the words “It is finished.” She asked, “It is finished?” There were nods. Again she asked, “It is finished?” Definite nods. Tears came to her eyes. “It is finished!”

11. What does this mean to you when you see your sin, your failures, your past?


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

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  1. 10. Please take good notes and ponder the above, sharing your thoughts.
    This is probably one of the best message I have ever heard of the love of Christ for us/me. I am thankful for the gift of words for Mike Reeves and Richard Sibbes. I inadvertently did not save my notes yesterday as I was listening (ugh) so I had to start all over again. Thanks to Lizzy and Susan for their good notes.
    I will just highlight a few of my ponderings here:
    Sibbes sought to get underneath the superficial, external behavior and deal with the heart, affections, desires that drive behavior. He didn’t want to control people’s actions, but as a Gospel minister, wanted to affect their heart, their desires. He saw beneath the behavior–our problem is our hearts have gone astray. We cannot simply control the behavior and bring a self-righteousness, we must go deeper, to the heart. Hearts must be turned and evil desires over taken by stronger love to Christ.
    Sin is all about a coldness, a hardness, a cold heart towards God. The work of the Gospel is to warm our hearts.
    The grace of God woos us away from our sin. Our love for God gives us the desire to turn away from sin. Those who are soft to the Lord, do not just desire salvation, but Him. Only then can we hate our sin truly. 
    The very beholding of Christ is transforming. If we look upon Him, we will be made like Him. Whatever we fix our desires on, our attentions on, we become like. 
    : “Often think with thyself, What am I? A poor sinful creature; but I have a righteousness in Christ that answers all. I am weak in myself, but Christ is strong, and I am strong in him. I am foolish in myself, but I am wise in him. What I want in myself I have in him. He is mine, and his righteousness is mine, which is the righteousness of God-man. Being clothed with this, I stand safe against conscience, hell, wrath, and whatsoever. Though I have daily experience of my sins, yet there is more righteousness in Christ, who is mine, and who is the chief of ten thousand, than there is sin in me.”   Our busyness and activism as Christians can easily degenerate into a hypocrisy—using Christ as a package to pass on to others, rather than enjoying Him ourselves…keeping up the appearances…trying to look good with controlled behavior, a superficial look of Christianity. True reformation begins in the heart, with love for Christ that can only come when the free grace of God in Christ Jesus is preached. 

    Take a listen to Keith Green: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8vsWO3-we-Y
    My eyes are dry, my faith is old
    My heart is hard,
    my prayers are cold
    And I know how I ought to be
    Alive to You and dead to me
    Oh what can be done for an old heart like mine
    Soften it up with oil and wine
    The oil is You, Your Spirit of love
    Please wash me anew in the wine of Your Blood

  2. On this Good Friday, ponder this. When Buddha died, his last words were “Keep striving.” When Jesus died, his last words were “It is finished.” This Lenten season we had an evangelistic study, and one of our seekers was visibly moved by the words “It is finished.” She asked, “It is finished?” There were nods. Again she asked, “It is finished?” Definite nods. Tears came to her eyes. “It is finished!”
    11. What does this mean to you when you see your sin, your failures, your past?
    It means there is no need for me to atone for my sins, my failures and my past. It means I am free to love Christ and others and not be weighed down by my past sins and worry for the future. It means there is One who loves me no matter what I have done and will do. It means for me to cease striving and put good works in its proper place-a result of faith born of the knowledge of Jesus unconditional love for me.

  3. I was reading with my daughter the account of Jesus’ Passion in Luke’s gospel, and I have a little book called “Reliving the Passion” (Meditations on the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus as Recorded in Mark) by Walter Wangerin Jr. Beautiful reading for Good Friday…here’s just a little of it…
    “There are two sounds in the dusk: the grinding of stone in stone – and once more the soft sigh, a low, compulsive, wordless sigh. Who is that? Then the door is closed. The deed is done. It is finished.
    The sigh was me, Lord. That weeper is me, the twentieth centure me, attending your burial. Your dying is never far away nor long ago, but always as close as my own.
    I cry for the sorrow of being at your death. But I cry also in gratitude that you will be at  my death, O my Savior – and that, though I can only cry for yours, you rescue me from mine. Amen.

  4. I have been reading comments here and doing some Good Friday reading.  And contemplating last evening, as our church had a service where we experienced walking through the ‘Stations of the Cross’.   In all of the Holy Weeks I have journeyed in my life, this was the first time I’ve gone through the stations.  It was very moving.  As we made a small wooden cross at the beginning of the journey, we added names of people, sorrows, hurts, worries, sins when prompted by the subsequent readings at each station.  We carried our crosses until one of the last stations where we left them at the foot of Jesus’ cross.  Most meaningful to me was going through this with my youngest daughter who has had some of her own big burdens this past week.  She participated so willingly.  And it gave us such an opening to talk about the Lord as we drove home.  She had seen ‘the Passion of the Christ’ this week at her college small group meeting.  She was so young when it came out, she didn’t see it then.  At the time it came out, it had a profound effect on my older daughter, who has since rejected that faith.  So many emotions as I write this.  But the overriding emotion is feeling the enormity of Jesus’ love.  Knowing that he has known us all from eternity.  And His love is everlasting.  Reading about burdens that others are carrying here, this week,   this song from Chuck Girard kept going through my mind and I needed to find it and share it.   Especially for you Susan, Laura and Liz as I have read of your burdens in your comments.    And for Bing too….you have encouraged us with several songs lately and they have taken me back to a place that feels right in my heart…and remembering listening to them when I was young and freshly in love with Jesus.  I always want that love to be growing and fresh.  And I know you carry some of the same burden as I do, for your daughter.  And so do many others here.  Many thanks again, to Dee for giving us these studies and this forum to learn, grow and share together.  I love Jackie’s frequent reminder;  ‘We are all just walking each other home’.      Love to you all.   The song:    Lay your Burden Down by Chuck Girard from  1974 
    ….Take your troubled soul, your tired mind and lay your burden down.  
    …take your worries to the foot of the cross and lay your burden down.

    1. Wanda, I love what you shared about your Stations of the Cross experience! When I belonged to the Catholic Church, I too participated in Stations of the Cross and I agree that it is very meaningful, but also what your church did, to have you make your own wooden cross and add to it your burdens, sins, etc…it really sounds like it was a meaningful time of reflection for you and for your daughter. Actually, I was having a “conversation” with the Lord while driving on errands today…I do miss going to a church that actually looks like a church, with beauty in it, and stained glass windows and art that serves to draw the eye and the heart upward in worship…I miss that beauty of feeling like I am in a sanctuary (my church calls it the auditorium).  Don’t mean to rabbit trail here, but I find the Stations helpful in meditating on the journey Jesus took that day. A nearby church where I live has a walking path on their property that has the stations. Thank you too, Wanda, for your prayers…praying for you and your children, too. I also know the pain of having children who are rejecting the Lord.

      1. Susan,  my closest friend here, grew up in the Catholic church and she has always talked about how meaningful the Stations of the Cross were to her.  I did some researching of the practice yesterday and learned that many more Protestant churches are incorporating them into their Lenten worship.   My church is Evangelical Covenant and some of the things they are doing are a reflection of the lead pastors’ appreciation for liturgical practices that he was introduced to in his seminary years.  One of the associate pastors also grew up in a liturgical church and it was a very good experience for her.   So for me, it’s really a good blend of worship practices, while being very gospel centered.    I know exactly what you mean about a yearning for ‘sanctuaray’ and art.  For those of us whose hearts are drawn toward worship in those ways, there can certainly be a feeling that something is missing.  

  5. 11. What does this mean to you when you see your sin, your failures, your past?
    He won’t condemn me for my past-it is forgiven..It is finished so I don’t need to go back there! It melts me to repentance of my ongoing sins and failures and keeps me pressing into Him instead of backing away-walking in faith.
    He has me but the price He paid to have me is melting me. He cried out to God on the cross and God didn’t answer!! how utterly hellish that was! But He was forsaken so that when I cry out to God He will hear me and come running to be my comfort!! This makes me want to stay so far away from the temptation to self condemnation, and instead run to Him! 
    My past doesn’t define me anymore. He is un-shaping how it shaped me and shaping me into His image.
    The sins I don’t even know that are deep in my cesspool of a heart. I don’t trust my heart at all but I can trust Him..His blood covers me- it is finished, we are One. In HIs time he will bring them out and is washing me..and when we are face to face-oh..His fragrance in me in full a pleasing aroma.

    1. Oh Rebecca – I love this! “My past doesn’t define me anymore. He is un-shaping how it shaped me and shaping me into His image.”
      Amen! How beautiful…

  6. 11. What does this mean to you when you see your sin, your failures, your past? It is finished. Rest. No more striving, this is freedom. My burden cannot be lifted by making it heavier. I do not understand it but in lifting my burden, freeing me, finishing it, He allows move toward Him. My burden paralyzes me or worse makes me slide down the mountain of this life, but He lifts that weight, makes my steps light, I no longer rely on ME to take a step toward Him but my lightness naturally draws me upward, “higher up and further in” (The Last Battle). I am using a lot of words to not really say what I am trying to portray…. Freedom I guess captures it. GRATITUDE.
    12. What is your take-a-way and why? He is alive. I have had several conversations this week about God active in our lives, such as in Nam’s story. How easy it is to slip into approval mode, especially when those around you are telling you you are a failure, and you know they are right! Because He paid the price, even though He speaks to sanctify and convict, He does NOT condemn. 
    Heaven is Him. It is so easy to desire Jesus because  He represents a relief from our suffering, or the power to get what I want… but is this really loving Him? If I only come to Him for the benefits then I will end up disappointed because it will not be enough. But if I come to Him because He has wooed me to love Him, then, yes, I find the cure, the peace, the refuge, oaradise, but these are secondary gifts. The real gift is Him.

  7. My heart idols of approval and control and performance: Just when I thought I am making progress in this area, these idols commanded my attention again. Just like you, Dee, in your book, Idol Lies, I need to confess, “My name is Bing and I am an idolater”. There is such relief in being able to say and acknowledge this.
    Case in point: I went out yesterday to find a top to go with a skirt I bought to wear to church for Easter (Ugh-I am vain). And I thought it was an easy peasy pick up. But Noooo! Went to 5 different stores (Ugh again) and found a light jacket but no top! Went home and ended up with the jacket to go with something else. I am like the person in proverbs who went out to buy what I thought would satisfy me and ended up saying worthless, worthless! Prov 20:14 I realized I am serving my idol of approval-people pleasing as I need to look good as a pastor’s wife (idol of identity). It pains me to look in the mirror and see my idolatry. Oh wretched me-thanks be to God who loves me and reveals these idols. Master Stonecutter, do spiritual surgery on my heart. Thank you that you are jealous for me and revealing my other loves and wooing me to yours, the one and only love that I truly need and be satisfied with.
    Mike Reeves message:
    There is more righteousness in Christ who is mine than there is sin in me.
    I can never outsin the wonderful free grace of God. Thank you, Lord for loving me.

    1. i love this whole post Bing, love your   soft, honest heart. And I rejoice with you that we can never outsin His grace!

  8. Dee, thank you so much for leading us this Holy Week. I have been comforted by the love of Christ for me as I read the song of songs and learn from all the wonderful friends here on the blog. I desire Christ and despite the ebb and flow of my feelings, He has remained faithful and has not given up on me. “Over the mountain, over the seas, Here you come runnin’, My Lover tome!”

  9. 9. Thinking of that holy week, what heart idols brought Judas pain, do you think? Peter? Which disciple experienced “the expulsive love of a new affection” and how did it affect him?   
    I think Judas had a comfort/security idol; he wanted the money. He may have also had an approval/affirmation idol; he needed the leaders to want him.
    Peter had an approval idol in that he didn’t want to admit that he knew Jesus. He didn’t want those around him to know because he knew that he might become condemned too. It meant he would be humiliated perhaps?
    It’s hard to pick one disciple who received the love….Peter because he ended up ashamed and knew he was wrong, Thomas because he couldn’t believe the events that happened and Jesus waited just to make sure he saw the wounds, Paul prior to the crucifixion on the road to Damascus, Judas because Jesus showed him mercy even prior to his “deal with the devil.” Am I missing someone? Judas hung himself of course, but the others went to spread the Word of God all over to anyone they could get to listen, especially Paul. Most of them died tragically because of their faith.

      1. I know, right?!

  10. Awesome sermon! Love that He has more grace than I have sin…..love that if I love him more than my sin I will reflect Him to others naturally.

  11. The sermon was AWESOME…several of you already posted thorough notes, so I’m not going to add mine…actually I started taking notes and realized I would be writing almost the entire sermon word for word because all of it was that good! It is one I would love to have on audio CD to listen to it in the car as I’m always driving somewhere! I always thought of Puritan preachers as stern, unsmiling people and to hear how Reeves described Sibbes…the honey-dropper, a man that just oozed the love of Christ…sinners avoided his church because they feared being converted. Wow. Now I am interested in reading his books, too.

  12. my take away is that He is a living God!

  13. I loved the sermon. Thank you, Lizzy and Rebecca and Bing, for taking notes and pointing out highlights. I followed your notes as I listened to the sermon, Lizzy. I didn’t have the energy to take notes myself, so I am so grateful for your thorough notes. Getting our eyes off of ourselves (which is where Satan wants them) and on to the warmth of our Bridegroom, Christ, that is what will transform us and make our faith winsome to others. 
    This is definitely a keeper sermon but when I try to download it, all I get is an error message. An suggestions???