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Two Months to Victorious Freedom: #1

This year, we have two months before Lent begins, and this blog will be simplified, with less homework, yet I pray, powerful for us. So often we make and break New Year’s Resolutions, because we concentrate on the symptom (eating too much, worrying too much, spending too much) and not the cause. We don’t know how to live the gospel, for the gospel is not just meant to deliver us from the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin. For the next two months, we are going to learn from saints who have experienced victory, many of whom have gone before, saints like Martin Luther, Oswald Chambers, and Charles Peterson. In these few days before New Year’s Day, we will contemplate our helplessness, and areas where we have tried to change and failed. We must first embrace the truth that we are helpless to help ourselves. And then we will dive into Luther’s famous preface to the Galatians, for Galatians is where we are headed, and Galatians helps us overcome the lies about God that cause us to stay in bondage. This year could actually be the year you see progress where you have in the past remained in chains.

Martin Luther had a famous argument with Erasmus, who likened the power of grace to a parent helping a toddler to walk.

Luther said, “NO!” Rather, Luther said, “We are like caterpillars in a ring of fire. Our only help of rescue is from above.”

 

We are wise to look at the lives of those who ran well, who found the power they needed to overcome the lies and the obstacles that cause so many to drop out or give up. Tim Keller put it like this:

Here is a song from Andrew Peterson that I’d love you to pray as you begin this adventure. Pray it for yourself and for the next generation.

Sunday:

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

2. What is one thing you are particularly thankful for from the Advent and/or Christmas of 2018 and why?

The Morning of New Year’s Eve: Reflecting

The insight the Lord has given me is that my New Year’s Resolution needs to deal, not with the symptom, but the real problem. I love the quote from Keller above, and this year my New Year’s Resolution is to continually ask the Lord a line from a song of Sara Groves: “How is it between us, Lord?” That will help keep me in the light, in the Word, and bearing fruit.

3. Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed? Where have you wanted to change and succeeded? Does reflecting on this give you any insight? 

4. Before we begin, do you have any understanding on how embracing the truth of the gospel can help deliver you from the power of sin? If so, share.

 

New Year’s Day, 2018: Beginning Luther’s Preface to the Galatians

This famous preface changed, indeed converted. men like John and Charles Wesley. Tim Keller has abridged and paraphrased it. Print off this pdf, if you have a printer. Then carefully read and underline the first page.

 

The Most Important Thing in the World

5. What is the rock that was shaken by Satan in paradise?

6. Why is Christian righteousness passive in contrast to other kinds of righteousness? 

The Need For Christian Righteousness

7. According to the first paragraph under this sub-head, why do we need to constantly teach this, repeat this, and work it out in practice?

8. According to the second paragraph, what do we tend to do when faced with danger or death itself? And what is the real evil?

9. Share a recent time when you fell into the trap of the real evil.

Wednesday: Law and Grace 

Read the section on law and grace, underlining.

10. How is the law to be used for non-Christians? And how is the law to be used for Christians? (1st and 2nd paragraph)

11. Why should you not despair when you sin?

 

My experience this fall in breaking my hand in pickleball comes to mind. I prayed for wisdom about a doctor, but as I was driving to my appointment, I was overwhelmed with fear that I had made a poor decision. I was living like an orphan, thinking of my failures, assuming God did not guide me. But He whispered to my spirit, “You are not an orphan, you are my child.” I did nothing to become His child so I can do nothing to lose that status. He did guide me, He was with me, and the doctor turned out to be not only a believer, but a good doctor. Whether or not my hand completely heals (but it is healing), God is with me, for me, and will do all things well.

Dee and her friend Lyle — trusting God’s love in adversity! (Our friendTwila posted this on facebook saying we were victims of pickleball but still setting up for Christmas tea.)

12. Can you identify with my story? Do you have a personal illustration?

Thursday: Living the Gospel

Read this last section, underlining.

13. If we do not build our confidence in the finished work of Christ, where will our confidence lie?

14. How does Luther tell us to put this truth into action?

15. Think about a common fear or temptation for you. Now, here, speak the gospel to yourself:

 

Friday: The Wesley Brothers Converted by Luther’s Prologue 

 

Prepare your heart for this article with this hymn by Charles Wesley — one of his most famous! Then read the following brief article.

The Conversion of the Wesley Brothers

16. Share your notes and comments on the above.

Saturday:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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200 comments

  1. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why? Not specifically stated but as I read that we are going to be looking at saints who lived well there is a clear reminder in my heart that each of these had hardships and challenges…our culture often attaches “well done” with ease and easy but loss and hardship are catalysts to drive us to “kiss the wave that drives me to the Rock.”

    I very much resonate with Keller’s prayer – my feelings draw me from true knowledge and dictate my choices too often.

    2. What is one thing you are particularly thankful for from the Advent and/or Christmas of 2018 and why? This Bible study, coming to His Word, Him drawing me to His Truth more small thing by small thing…His faithfulness in pursuing me…snow to calm my spirit and give time and space and quiet for Advent (live in the ‘south’ so snow in December is rare!).

      1. Job 38:22 Have you entered the place where tbe snow is stored, or seen thw storehouses of Hail. God’s response to Job

    1. Jill, there is such wisdom in this:

      “as I read that we are going to be looking at saints who lived well there is a clear reminder in my heart that each of these had hardships and challenges…our culture often attaches “well done” with ease and easy but loss and hardship are catalysts to drive us to “kiss the wave that drives me to the Rock”

      I needed this message this morning, thank you

  2. Sunday

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

    Such a great reminder that we haven’t just been delivered from the penalty of sin but also from the power of sin.  I read that and reread that and I thought, why don’t I live like that?  Then, reading what Martin Luther said about being like a caterpillar in a ring of fire…our only help of rescue comes from above… I realized that so many times,too many times I try to figure out “my own way” to get out of the fire, and the opportunity to really have victory, looking up to the Lord, is lost to sin.

    I will definitely pray the words of Andrew Peterson’s song, for me, my children and grandchildren!

    2.  What is one thing you are particularly thankful for from Advent and/or Christmas of 2018 and why?

    This has been a very trying Christmas for me…looking back I am thankful for my kids being there for Jim and I.  Hosting our Christmas traditions in their homes and trying to make it as normal for us as they could.  God is good and He is faithful.

     

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

    Luther: “Our only help of rescue is from above.” And all of the quote from Keller. I worry because I forget His wisdom; I resent because I forget His mercy; I covet because I forget His beauty; I sin because I forget His holiness; and I fear because I forget His sovereignty.

    And I love Andrew Peterson.

    2. What is one thing you are particularly thankful for from the Advent and/or Christmas of 2018 and why?

    Two things come to mind. One, my husband has been working from home these 2 weeks of break and even though I try to not disturb him, I just like having him around. It’s given me peace.

    The other is seeing the Spirit in my 12 year old son. On his own, he saved up his allowance and spent it on a treasured toy for his younger brother, and the rest on toys for kids at the hospital we go to for his brother’s transfusions. His heart is so tender and his faith growing deeper before us, he is a mercy–an adventurous boy who still begs me to “snuggle” with him at night. I am so thankful for that gift.

     

  4. Thanks for doing this Dee.I am in a Precepts study also but will try to check this out.Heard you at New Hope Church in GB. Best wishes for 2019!

  5. Thank you for this new way to look at my need to trust the Lord for all things.

  6. 1.  What stood out? I completely agree. I don’t know how to live out the gospel in my areas of weakness. I’ve been searching for what it is in me that doesn’t believe that God is enough, or that He will provide for me, or that waiting is a positive instead of a negative. Tim Keller’s prayer is so good. And the song. To have my children and grandchildren follow hard after God is a passionate and persistent prayer of mine.

     

    2.  From advent or Christmas. I was absolutely enthralled with the studies here! I wasn’t able to participate last week, and missing it was like punishment. I did read along. Christmas was chaotic with extra people here fri thru tues. How do you ever do it, Diane? It took me til yesterday to recover. Even though I love to have them here, it is just a lot of work.

  7. 1. What stood out?

    Life here at our house has been incredibly busy, but we are having a few quiet hours, so here I am. I am aware that my Bible study time has been severely shortened and I am hoping to get back to serious study soon. I have been missing it so much. Our daughter and grandsons will be back tomorrow, then leaving on New Year’s Day and back again next weekend before school begins again. Life remains busy.

    This sounds like an interesting study on Christian saints, freedom in Christ and Galatians.  I really hope I can participate more.I love the Keller quote because it is so true.

    I read ahead to Luther’s Preface. Having recently been closely connected working with non-Christians, I can relate to Luther’s “Preface to Galatians” where he speaks of people seeking many ways to redeem themselves, defend themselves. The preface is worth several rereads and ponderings. We definitely spend a huge amount of energy justifying ourselves – both to ourselves internally and to others.

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

    a.     …simplified with less homework… J so glad since second semester is always SO busy for me at school
    b.    I don’t know how to live out the gospel
    c.     I must first embrace the truth that I am helpless to help myself. Re-reading Paul Millers’ book on prayer and he talks about this very same thing in a chapter he titled “Learning to be helpless”.  He quoted from John of Landsburg’s classic, A letter from Jesus Christ—“Your own strength will no more help you to stand upright than propping yourself on a broken reed. You must not despair of me. You may hope and trust in me absolutely. My mercy is infinite.”
    d.    Tim Keller’s prayer.
    e. Andrew Peterson’s song-it is the cry of my heart for my daughter, Ruth.

    2. What is one thing you are particularly thankful for from the Advent and/or Christmas of 2018 and why?

    The Advent season has “forced” me into looking into the condition of my heart. It seemed like too many trials came consecutively affecting my joy in the Lord. I have shared here about being in a funk for what seemed to be a long period. It took me by surprise and there were days I did not want to get out of bed and just felt like I was in a whirlpool being sucked lower and lower. I wrestled with God in prayer and even in that, my prayers seemed incoherent. Looking back now, I believe it was a season of temptation from the enemy. He was trying to get me off track and to make me focus on self. My trials are just as hard now but I am thankful that God was merciful not to leave me where I was. He is faithful, indeed and I thank you, Lord. Thank you also for letting me connect with my family in the Philippines through a video call and to pray with them. And for the opportunity for Richard and I to have a short getaway and just be together without any obligations and chores.

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

     

    We don’t know how to live the gospel….this is so true, in so many aspects. It is a mind-shift for me to have to remember that my faith is not compartmentalized and I can’t and shouldn’t separate what I do every day from my faith. But it is hard because daily life in my home with my husband is ‘god-less’….a life minus God with a husband who does not believe and other family members as well. I am interested to dive into Luther’s preface to Galatians. This year could actually be the year you see progress where you have in the past remained in chains. I hope so! I really like Tim Keller’s prayer, too.

     

    2. What is one thing you are particularly thankful for from the Advent and/or Christmas of 2018 and why?

     

    I am thankful for our Advent study of the women who are a part of Jesus’ human genealogy, especially enjoyed Ruth. I am really thankful for my family and the time we all got to spend together over the Christmas holiday. Being with family is the best gift I could ever get! Though our oldest son wasn’t able to come home, he called us a lot and face-timed, and it was nice to “see” him and his wife.

    1. It is difficult with a God fearing man, i pray for the Holy Spirit to work in him from your association.  Remember the young girl painter of Jesus, Akiane Kramarik; her parents weren’t beleivers, now see her story…blessed Jesus

  10.  
    1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
    “This year could actually be the year you see progress, where you have in the past, remained in chains.”
    This would be an immense answer to prayer for me. I’m so ready to be free from the chains.

    2. What is one thing you are particularly thankful for from the Advent and/or Christmas of 2018 and why?
    It’s sad to say, but I’m glad Christmas is over. The above chains chafed me sore and stole most of my attention. There was also a lot of deaths this year. Four church friends, and my dear friend’s daughter. So I am eager to say goodbye to 2018.

     

      1. Thank you for the prayers Dee, a very Happy New Year to you and yours.

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

    I get nervous when I read you are lightening the homework…I like the consistency of the blog and rely on it to help me stay on point in my life (thank You Dee!). However I like the statement you make about freeing myself from chains this year; I am SO struggling with a sin right now.

     
    2. What is one thing you are particularly thankful for from the Advent and/or Christmas of 2018 and why?
     

    Since Christmas fell on a Tuesday, our break is slightly longer than normal. I have enjoyed having the time to do things I want to do instead of what I have to do. I am feeling relaxed a bit.

    1. Laura–I’m not near as consistent as I was when I first started here years ago, but your faithfulness inspires me, and keeps me pressing on! Something about seeing you here, so diligently, every week, brings peace to my heart. So thankful for you friend.

      1. 😘

  12. 1. What stood out:

    Luther said, “We are like caterpillars in a ring of fire. Our only help of rescue is from above.” Oh so so SO true. Only when I do the opposite of Keller’s prayer do I feel the flames.

    2. What is one thing you are particularly thankful for from the Advent and/or Christmas of 2018 and why?

    There is something pretty spectacular that surprised me in the way God came to me during a struggle I was having but I am unable to mention it here. So the other thing I am thankful for is that our women’s group is going to study Dee’s, He Calls You Beautiful starting in January!

     

    1. I like the title, i feel more buoyant after this one Holy Spirit🔱

  13. 3.  Dealing with the real problem and not just the symptoms…YES! I want that! I have been failing at curbing my eating, as you have all heard before. As far as past experience with other issues, there was something from over 40 years ago that I repented of and confessed in a small group. The thought of having to go through that pain again really curbed my going back to that particular sin. And I think about anger. How God took it away from me in a prayer session about something totally unrelated. The man leading said, “God has heard your prayer and is going to give you what you asked for.”

    In each of these three instances, prayer has been, and continues to be central. I also see the high value of other people involved with you or me, in prayer and in life.

     

    4.  In the Truth Project, Del Tackett says that if we really believed in God hearing us through prayer, we’d never have to force ourselves to pray. We would have to force ourselves to stop. Like you’ve said, Dee, the expulsive power of a different love. That is what it takes, and what I need.

    In an aside, I think Del Tackett and Tim Keller could be brothers, they look so much alike!

  14. 3. Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed? Where have you wanted to change and succeeded? Does reflecting on this give you any insight?  
     

    I can’t seem to get conteol of my gluttony. It tends to spiral out of control when I am depressed with life. However, I have been a better follower/student of Christ, which has led to being more Christ-like in the past few years. I guess the insight is that when I really have a desire to change, I can.

     
    4. Before we begin, do you have any understanding on how embracing the truth of the gospel can help deliver you from the power of sin? If so, share.
     

    Oh indeed I do! I just can’t seem to get past this bump in my faith; to give myself  completely. For example, my studies of Jesus and the Bible has helped me to not be as judgmental as I used to be prior to learning about the light. Another place is with respect to serving those in my household; my perspective on the mundane chores of the home like cooking, laundry, and cleaning. I now have an outlook that I am serving my family as Christ served the apostles when I do these things.

     

  15. 3. Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed? Where have you wanted to change and succeeded? Does reflecting on this give you any insight? 

    Failed: reading all the way through the Bible, without missing a day’s reading.

    This year, I’m focusing on just the NT, and also giving myself grace. I’ve still been hand-writing out the books of the Bible, and that is something I will continue, it has blessed me.

    As for seeing some hopeful fruit, I do humbly think I see where God has worked in my heart this year, helping me to finally forgive, and to love, when love is not returned and apologies are not made. I have never been one to hide my emotions or “fake” anything, so this has been hard, but through some very humbling trials, I lost much of my defensive spirit, and He has been at work.

    4. Before we begin, do you have any understanding on how embracing the truth of the gospel can help deliver you from the power of sin? If so, share.

    I mentioned above, but we had a particularly humbling trial last Spring—I felt wrongfully accused yet unable to really defend myself, just left feeling exposed in a sea of slander and gossip. It shook me. But once I could stand again, He had brought me to a deeper realization of my sin of self-righteousness. The older brother in me still cries out at times, putting my value  in my good reputation, my kind deeds, my “nice-ness”. There is an Amy Grant song that says “don’t try so hard” and upon hearing that one day, I crumbled. And surrendered more. He has brought me to a deeper place of resting in His favor alone, His righteousness alone, and I feel less defensive, less needy of others approval. It’s still a struggle!, but becoming less. In my sin, I want glory—but the Gospel reminds me of my complete depravity, my desperate need of Him, and that He alone deserves all glory.

    This is from Pastor Scotty Smith’s prayer blog on Dec. 14, it really spoke to me on this: “We invest much of energy seeking favor—wanting to be noticed and longing to be needed, seeking to be valued and working to be celebrated. But behind all our relational restlessness and perpetual busyness lies the quest to find our rest and peace in you. We have vacuum inside us designed be filled with an intimate, robust, loving, satisfying relationship with you, Father. Wonder of wonders, we have it in Jesus! We have the intimacy and favor we crave through the gospel, right now. Free us from our unbelief, Father. Make the reality of your delight in us more satisfying than anything else in the cosmos. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ holy and loving name.”

     

    1. Oh, Lizzy. I wish at this moment we could sit down with a cup of tea and have a long chat. My soul has so many things I wish I could say. But I will say a few things. Your trials have made you beautiful as you have humbled yourself in His righteousness and not your own. I so can relate to your sin of self-righteousness and to Scotty Smith’s prayer. I have been feeling restless and unhappy but I realize that much of it is “wanting to be noticed and … needed … valued… celebrated”. For example, when I do so much for my family during the holidays and feel under-appreciated, I tend to pout and get critical. I also crave an “intimate, robust, loving, satisfying relationship” with others and get impatient with the flaws I see there. I know I need to learn that only Jesus can satisfy that longing, to really learn that and to rest in His delight in me. I see self-righteousness and impatience rearing its ugly head today.

      1. Diane–I can’t tell you how many times I have wished I could be closer proximity to you and so look forward to that day when there will be no distance between us! I am praying for you now as I so relate to all you shared too, love you dear friend~

        1. Ok you two….we could have a retreat somewhere middle ground to all. I am trying to get Nancy Demoss Wolgemuth’s “True Woman” planning team to let my group dance our John/Proverbs scripture dance. The conference is held in Indianapolis in September. We could get a discount with a large group. I have wanted to go for SO long now! I will keep you in the loop if I hear we get to dance. Wouldn’t that be so fun???

      2. Laura! Wow! getting your team to dance at her conference is amazing! will pray for that!  🙂

        1. I’m not sure if they will want us, but I am praying about it so we will see what happens 🤷‍♀️.

        2. Wow-that sounds wonderful, Laura and I hope you get to do the dance at Nancy W. True Woman conference. That will be really cool! I will write you in on my prayer list. Love it!

    2. Lizzy-convicted as well by the prayer of Pastor Scotty. I have such trouble with approval of others. This is my prayer-“Make the reality of your delight in us more satisfying than anything else in the cosmos. So very Amen we pray, in Jesus’ holy and loving name.”

  16. 3. Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed? Where have you wanted to change and succeeded? Does reflecting on this give you any insight? The biggest failure that comes to mind is fear… I so want to be that person who just walks up to people and invites them to church, sits down with strangers and asks about their souls, opens my home to any and all … but fear holds me back. What if I offend them? What if that gift was meant for someone in more need? What if they don’t use it well? What if they ask too much of me? What if I can’t fix the world?!

     

    Interestingly enough the success the Lord has had in my heart is compassion for others. Need for approval, wanting to be ‘the best,’ insatiable for the love of others would guide my selfish actions. Over the last 6 years, though I still struggle with approval, He has softened my heart to be aware of others to the point of being overwhelmed by the needs of this world -so many to help…where to start? Where would God have me serve?

     

    Reflection -even in the success I have fear…this is why the “little things” were such a sweet revelation for me during December…. many battles are not fought in their entirety but one small thing at a time! How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time….with each choice, each step, seek Christ, know He walks with me and just do the next right thing. I will not ever be FULLY ‘successful’ this side of heaven…I will always need to keep taking the next step…will always need His Grace, Mercy, and Power.

     

    4. …any understanding on how embracing the truth of the gospel can help deliver you from the power of sin? If so, share. I have a sermon from Mike Reeves that talks about the change in our behavior coming from the change in our hearts. His love draws us to Him and melts us to have affection for Him which manifests as changed behavior. So to dwell on Him in prayer and His Word will open our hearts to His work in our lives. A heart change is the only way to true change….

    1. Thanks for your post Jill. I especially liked this part:

       

      “…and just do the next right thing. “

       

      so true…

  17. 1.  Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed? Where have you wanted to change and succeeded? Does reflecting on this give you any insight? 
    Failed: Not consistent in finishing what I have started
    Succeeded: Writing for the local paper on dementia; ministry outreach to kids and women; not as judgmental as I used to be
     
    It seems like my failures and successes are based on “doing” rather than “being”. I love your NY resolution, Dee-“how is it between us, Lord?” For 2019, I am praying for a more God-focused life. To wake up each day and remember whose I am-a child of God. To acknowledge my helplessness to live life and to seek Him first. To love God more than self or anything or anyone else.
     
     
    2.  Before we begin, do you have any understanding on how embracing the truth of the gospel can help deliver you from the power of sin? If so, share.
     
    Knowing that Jesus has saved me from the penalty of sin by dying for my sins on the cross helps me trust Him to deliver me EACH time I am tempted to sin. He who rose from the grave has the power to provide the way of escape so I would not sin. Remembering that I am a child of God (you are my people) and I can say “you are my God” I can always call on Him to deliver me. Nothing is impossible with God. I want to live out the gospel.

  18. Seems perfect timing for me to study this with you all.

    Thank you.

    1. Hello, Paula! Welcome to the blog. I have learned so much here and I love the women who participates. God is so good to bring us together in cyberspace.

  19. What stands out?

    Loving Tim Keller’s prayer and have it on my new January daily planner. May I remember God’s wisdom, his mercy, his sovereignty, his beauty, and his holiness. May I remember, Father. Help me.

    I also love the song, God of my Fathers. I had not heard it before. This year I did a DNA test- though I knew much of what it proved, just not percentages. Yet it is humbling to realize that these people sought freedom. Then there was the dark blot of slavery on our country. My children bear the DNA of Europe and Africa. We seek freedom, yet slavery to sin is ever before us.

    Thank you, Father , for mercy.

  20. What I am thankful for during Advent?

    1. Getting more involved in the blog and the women’s stories

    2. Having a surprise announcement from our daughter on a formal engagement and commitment to her long time friend, joy after sorrow

    3. Spending Christmas with special friends from our church as we miss our children who are far away

    4. A small miracle for my elderly cousin in Rehab; family came together to make a plan for him to return home and to see his joy

    very grateful heart!

     

     

  21. 3. What have you wanted to change and failed?

    Consistency in my study of God’s Word is difficult for me, and I often fall back and lose track.

    Yet I do keep up with my readings and my womens’ Bible study. I have started a gratitude journal and a praise journal and have kept that up almost daily for 60 days and I am so more aware of all the blessings.

     

    1. I also find consistency in some areas difficult, you are not alone : ) 60 days, that’s fantastic, what a victory!

       

  22. 4. Embracing the truth of the gospel and how can it help deliver me from the power of sin.

    My daily speaking the gospel to my soul reminds me that I am a sinner saved by grace. Christ’s sacrifice for me is so humbling. I will ask daily for forgiveness and I know that sin will not have power over me.

    My inclination to worry, to control, to resent will not be all powerful, as I claim forgiveness and look to Jesus for strength and wisdom.

    There is freedom from the bondage of sin!

  23. What stood out to you from the above and why? “We don’t know how to live the gospel, for the gospel is not just meant to deliver us from the penalty of sin, but also the power of sin. We must first embrace the truth that we are helpless to help ourselves.”
    This stands out to me as a reminder that this lesson is a process…I have had seasons of living this out well but find myself once again in a season where the power of sin looms large! How I wish this was a lesson that could be learned once and for all instead of like peeling the layers back in what seems to be an endless cycle.

    What is one thing you are particularly thankful for this Christmas or Advent Season and why? I am most thankful that God sent Jesus to be our Immanuel…God with me.

  24. 3. Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed? Where have you wanted to change and succeeded? Does reflecting on this give you any insight?
    I want to be able to surrender fully to the Lord and trust Him for my future and that of my family. When times are easier it can seem like I have made headway in that area…but when times are difficult it reveals that I have not trusted Him but have still been relying on my own sense of self-control! In the past when struggling with infertility I was finally able to come to the place of fully surrendering that dream to Him. I’m not sure why I was able to surrender then and not now…for God has not changed! Maybe it’s a case of what Ann Voscamp describes as “the chronic soul amnesia”!  
    4. Before we begin, do you have any understanding on how embracing the truth of the gospel can help deliver you from the power of sin? If so, share.
    I believe it comes down to believing that either God is who He says He is or He is not…His death and resurrection were enough to atone for my sin or they weren’t! It is the height of arrogance to think that my sinful life is bigger than His sacrifice! 

  25. Hello Dee,

    I’m interested in joining this study in Galations. I’ve just finished reading your book Idol Lies. It was very impactful as I’m constantly thinking in terms of the root cause for my struggles with impatient, anxious and a critical nature as being idolatry.

    I also reached out to DU because I volunteer with a Prison Ministry and I’d like to show your studies inside.

    1. Welcome, Jane. So glad you are into prison ministry. I have reached out to a friend’s nephew who is in prison through letters. His faith is so impactful. In prison but free in spirit. We who are “free” can have our own prisons.

  26. Monday 

    3.  Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed?

    My prayer life…being consistent.

    Where have you wanted to change and succeeded?

    Having a thankful attitude.

    Does reflecting on this give you any insight?

    Its really a choice and it must be intentional.  It’s frustrating because I know how important prayer is…intentions are good but follow through just doesn’t happen!  Is this a symptom of a problem I’m not seeing??

    4.  Before we begin, do you have any understanding on how embracing the truth of the gospel can help deliver you from the power of sin?  If so, share.

    I think I understand.   Since Christ died for me I am no longer a slave to sin.  My old self died with Christ and set me free from the power of sin. Romans 6:7

    What an insightful question Dee …we are victors in Christ, a reminder I need daily!

     

     

     

  27. Sunday:
     
    1. What stands out to you from the above and why? – I loved the Tim Keller tweet. How easy it is to slide backwards because we forget all that God has to offer. I loved the song from Andrew Petersen. I can only pray that the God of my fathers will know and guide by children and grandchildren. I will need to add him to my list in Pandora.
     
    2. What is one thing you are particularly thankful for from the Advent and/or Christmas of 2018 and why? – I enjoyed studying the women of the bible. It helped me to see that God can use me, even though I may fail every day, He is there still, helping me to get back on track that will lead me to Him.
     

  28. 3. Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed? Where have you wanted to change and succeeded? Does reflecting on this give you any insight?  – I wanted to have a better and stronger prayer life, but was not consistent in that area. I feel that I have been more consistent in following this blog and finding books and reading them that will help me grow closer to God.
     
    4. Before we begin, do you have any understanding on how embracing the truth of the gospel can help deliver you from the power of sin? If so, share. – I feel that knowing the truth of the gospel and embracing it will help me find more peace. It will help me forgive my self for the mess ups that come along. And I will see people in a different light and have an open mind about them and the things they do.
     

  29. 3. Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed?
    Losing weight is a popular topic this time of year. A few years ago I hit the gym and hit it hard. I was very consistent and determined. I think I lost a pound.
    Where have you wanted to change and succeeded?
    Becoming frugal, eliminating any wasteful spending. It wasn’t easy and requires a lot of vigilance and discipline.
    Does reflecting on this give you any insight?
    Failure can be so overwhelming and painful, that it’s easy to lose sight of successes. If I can transfer the skills I use to stay within a budget to losing weight it should increase my chances of success in that area.
    4. Before we begin, do you have any understanding on how embracing the truth of the gospel can help deliver you from the power of sin? If so, share.
    In a nutshell, ” I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and do the word, walk by faith and not by sight. God’s word works. I find reminding myself that God is not limited by circumstances, and He is not limited by the very laws of nature. Therefore all things are truly possible with God.

  30. Happy New Year!

    Tuesday

    5.  What is the rock that was shaken by Satan in paradise?

    The doctrine of justification through faith.

    6.  Why is Christian righteousness passive in contrast to other kinds of righteousness?

    It’s passive in that God imputes it to us apart from works.  There is nothing we can to do to earn it…we just receive it.

    7.  According to the first paragraph under this subhead, why do we need to constantly teach this, repeat this,  and work it out in practice?

    Because passive righteousness is not fully understood by Christians, “thus do not take advantage of it when they are troubled and tempted.”  If it isn’t understood or “cherished in the heart and conscience” we will “continually be buffeted by fears and depression.”  It gives us peace.

    8.  According to the second paragraph, what do we tend to do when faced with danger or death itself?  And what is the real evil?

    We tend to look back over our lives and see every failure or imperfection, wanting to live a little longer so we can make it right.  The real evil is, in doing that, we look to ourselves, our own righteousness to try and fix it.

  31. Happy New Year everyone! I pray for a better year for my family and yours this year. I sure could use one 😬…

  32. 5. What is the rock that was shaken by Satan in paradise?

    Rock: The doctrine of justification through faith (alone).

    6. Why is Christian righteousness passive in contrast to other kinds of righteousness? 

    It is passive righteousness because “God imputes it to us apart from our works”. We can do nothing for it, only receive it.

    7. According to the first paragraph under this sub-head, why do we need to constantly teach this, repeat this, and work it out in practice?

    We can never completely understand this righteousness ourselves and so we often fail to rely on it when tempted. We must continually teach it, repeat it, and work it out in practice in our lives.

    8. According to the second paragraph, what do we tend to do when faced with danger or death itself? And what is the real evil?

    We tend to examine our own worthiness, defending ourselves with a list of our good deeds and moral efforts. But then we remember how sinful we are and fear overcomes us as we try to figure out how we can be righteous on our own merit.

    “the real evil is that we trust our own power to be righteous and will not lift up our eyes to see what Christ has done for us…So the troubled conscience has no cure for its desperation and feeling of unworthiness unless it takes hold of the forgiveness of sins by grace, offered free of charge in Jesus Christ”

    9. Share a recent time when you fell into the trap of the real evil.

    I think I spoke to this in one of my responses above, so I won’t repeat here!

     

  33. 3. Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed? Where have you wanted to change and succeeded? Does reflecting on this give you any insight? 
    1. So yep, I failed with my read through the Bible in 90 days. What was I thinking?! ;-/ The thing I dislike for me about yearly read through the Bible plans is how it inevitably becomes a mark to shoot for rather than the richness of being with Him. This is probably not how it is for others though. I tend to linger anyway so I never can get through those. I felt like I was missing so much. SO I found a THREE year Bible reading plan …yep, THREE years; 🙂 That will take me through the Bible with understanding via R.C. Sproul’s ministry site. I rebelled and started last week. 🙂

    2. The symptom above of feeling bad for failing in this and then beating myself up thinking I have failed God is a symptom of other areas in my heart that need to be changed for the bible reading plan isn’t the only area I do this in. More deeply – I need to change in that I embrace more His Love for me even when I am unfaithful to Him (when I sin) for I am covered in His righteousness-nothing I have done to attain it OR lose it. This has been enabling me to turn and repent and walk in faith a little bit faster than I have in the past. As Dee encouraged me with a quote from Luther yesterday that we are all simultaneously sinful and loved. 

     

  34. 5. What is the rock that was shaken by Satan in paradise? Faith in Christ, justification through faith… this is interesting to me because Luther (via Keller) is implying that the rock of justification through faith was intact (not shaken) *before* the fall of man. I had always assumed it did not exist before the fall. So does this mean that Adam and Eve, even before sin, were dependent on faith in the Trinity as they walked perfectly with Him? Yes. I suppose that really does make sense…

     

    6. Why is Christian righteousness passive in contrast to other kinds of righteousness? Because it is solely dependent upon what God has done, not what I have done/will do…what’s that song? “Not because of who I am, but because of what you’ve done. Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who you are! “

     

    7. …why do we need to constantly teach this, repeat this, and work it out in practice? Because we do not completely understand it and therefore do not, cannot, take advantage of it when we are tempted or troubled.

     

    8. According to the second paragraph, what do we tend to do when faced with danger or death itself? And what is the real evil? We examine self, defend self, despair of self, obssess with self, plead on behalf of self….The real evil (ironically) is that we “trust our own power to be righteous and will not lift our eyes to see what Christ has done for us.” All the while we are desperately seeking a way to be saved knowing it (our efforts) is not enough and yet feeling we must somehow make it enough…ironic because we crave the very thing given and yet cannot see past our self-obsession to grasp it!

     

    9. Share a recent time when you fell into the trap of the real evil. Every. Single. Day. Isn’t this what Keller’s prayer is depicting? Every time I worry, fuss, fret, lash out, reserve myself in fear, I am forgetting … and so, yes! I need to CONSTANTLY hear from Christ teaching me, repeating to me, and helping me work this out in my life – as His child with His purpose with HIS righteousness and power, not my own. My default is still to walk forward ‘in me.’ I automatically take steps in my day ‘in me’…it takes the Holy Spirit to draw me in, whisper His power and righteousness and guide my steps to ‘in Him.’

     

    1. NO. 9, so true

  35. 5. What is the rock that was shaken by Satan in paradise?
    The doctrine of Justification through faith when satan convinced Adam and Eve that by their own wisdom and power they can become like God.
    6. Why is Christian righteousness passive in contrast to other kinds of righteousness? 
    The other kinds of righteousness require works for redemption-redeeming ourselves basically, whereas Christian righteousness is passive for He imputes it to us apart from our works, so we do nothing for it.
    7. According to the first paragraph under this sub-head, why do we need to constantly teach this, repeat this, and work it out in practice?
    Passive Righteousness is a mystery that we can’t understand so we don’t take advantage of it when tempted. So we have to constantly teach it and work it out in practice. (for satan tempts daily and we are helpless on our own.) We need to be working it out in heart and conscience for when we don’t we will be continually plagued with fears and depression.

    8. According to the second paragraph, what do we tend to do when faced with danger or death itself? And what is the real evil?

    We will examine our own worthiness..we defend ourselves recounting our good deeds and efforts. But then remembrance of sin and flaws hit us and it tears us apart and we think please God how can I live so I can fix and amend them. We become obsessed with our active righteousness…The real evil: is that we trust our own power to be righteous and won’t lift our eyes up to see what Christ has done for us.
    9. Share a recent time when you fell into the trap of the real evil.
    Recently! As stated in the last question for satan tempted me and I forgot and started thinking of ways I could make things right before God.

  36. Tuesday

    9.  Share a recent time when you fell into the trap of the real evil?

    Can I just say, this is really hard!  My thoughts are my own worse enemy…beating myself up for not having a consistent prayer life or trusting God with our house.  How do I let God impute His righteousness and not do it on my own?  It becomes worse the more times I fail.  I know God forgives me but I hate it!!  Evidently, I need this study.

     

      1. AMEN

  37. 3. Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed? Where have you wanted to change and succeeded? Does reflecting on this give you any insight?

    I fail every day, as quickly as I take my eyes off of God and put them on myself. Some failures are obvious to myself and others, but many are subtle – resentment of others, focusing on my needs above others. In today’s culture which praises “self-care”, we as Christians need to be careful about when we truly need to look after ourselves and when we are sinning in taking care of ourselves. It is a fine line.

    4. Before we begin, do you have any understanding on how embracing the truth of the gospel can help deliver you from the power of sin? If so, share.

    I am aware that the year that looms before me is a year of transition. My husband turns 65 in November and will probably be retiring from pastoral ministry at the end of the year (leaving FT employment and likely transitioning to PT). That brings many changes including moving from a church-owned home to something else. I woke up this morning fearful. In His wisdom, God had me read Luke 5, Jesus’ miracle of 2 boats full of fish which preceded the calling of Peter, Andrew, James and John. He spoke to me clearly in the story about “putting out into the deep and letting down my nets” even though my fishing the previous night “caught nothing”. Jesus is the one who catches men. Our duty is to obey, to realize our sinfulness but to “not be afraid” and “leave everything and follow him”. It is interesting to me that God’s response to my fears is to reassure me to not be afraid but to keep working, keep obeying. I am not to lead but to follow.

    There is an old poem that used to hang in a frame in my parents’ house.

    “And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,

    “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

    And he replied,

    “Go into the darkness, and put your hand into the hand of God.

    That shall be to you better than light, and safer than the known way.”

     

    1. Wow, im saving your poem

  38. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
    The caterpillars in the ring of fire, the need for rescue from above, who are we that He should be mindful of us…
    2. What is one thing you are particularly thankful for from the Advent and/or Christmas of 2018 and why?

    Our church family has been rocked this past year, my dearest friend who was an administrator has been ‘removed’ from her position, the senior pastor has resigned. There are hurts on every side. I am struggling really hard with decisions the elders have made and the ways that they have not been transparent or have misrepresented the facts. I am praying for wisdom, how to be angry about injustice yet not sin.
    I am thankful for the lyrics to We Will Feast in the House of Zion, this song has become dear to me because of loss, but now it reminds me that one day all would are in Christ will be one someday, none of us deserve that, the Lord is the one who is faithful.
    Here are the lyrics:

    Chorus 
    We will feast in the house of Zion 
    We will sing with our hearts restored 
    He has done great things, we will say together 
    We will feast and weep no more 

    We will not be burned by the fire 
    He is the LORD our God 
    We are not consumed, by the flood 
    Upheld, protected, gathered up (Chorus) 

    In the dark of night, before the dawn 
    My soul, be not afraid 
    For the promised morning, oh how long? 
    Oh God of Jacob, be my strength (Chorus) 

    Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed 
    You are the Faithful one 
    And from the garden to the grave 
    Bind us together, bring shalom. (Chorus) 
     

    1. So sorry that you have been hurt by your church family. Nothing hurts more than being betrayed by family or our Christian family! I haven’t heard that song before, but am so glad it brings you comfort. One day we will “weep no more”.

    2. I will pray for you and your  boys  Christina Swan

    3. Three churches now for me with lost pastors, we are gathered as spirit lead. Taking turns in his spirit living in his light for now and rejoicing

  39. The Most Important Thing in the World
    5. What is the rock that was shaken by Satan in paradise? 
     

    Faith in Christ.

     
    6. Why is Christian righteousness passive in contrast to other kinds of righteousness? 
     

    There is nothing you you can do about it. You can’t work for it at all. It is just there; available to all who believe. Grace, glorious grace!

     

     
    The Need For Christian Righteousness 
    7. According to the first paragraph under this sub-head, why do we need to constantly teach this, repeat this, and work it out in practice? 
     

    We forget! We have to be continually reminded because we think we can do it ourselves.

     
    8. According to the second paragraph, what do we tend to do when faced with danger or death itself? And what is the real evil? 
     

    We examine our own worthiness. We look at our good and moral deeds and then realize our sin. The evil is that we trust ourselves to be righteous and we don’t look to Christ to know what He has done for us. There is no cure for the desperation and feeling of unworthiness unless we understand the forgiveness of sins by grace.

     
    9. Share a recent time when you fell into the trap of the real evil.
     

    I guess I have relied on myself with respect to our daughter and her boyfriend. I might not have stepped in so often to help her out and gave it up to God each time. It is a hard choice though! You want to help your children, however I can look back and see that if I hadn’t allowed her to use our car, or pay for her phone, etc. she wouldn’t have been in the position she ended up in over time. I am at the point though, where I will no longer help her (my husband has been at this point for much longer than I). She nearly died this past year and still won’t understand what she is doing wrong. I guess she hasn’t hit “rock bottom” yet, but that surprises me, when you nearly die. I hope I am wrong, but I may watch my only daughter pass before I do. Unfortunately, she is far from God. I will pray that she finds her way back to Him this year. So sad.

  40. Diane, that saying was on a page a day calendar for Jan 1 the year my father died on that day. It has such a special place in my heart.

     

    6.  Interesting that Christian righteousness is not anything we can do, but just accepting that Jesus has done it for us. Yet once we are in this place of trusting Him for it all, we are to ‘work’ it out in practice. There is a tension there I have difficulty grasping, let alone attempt to explain it.

     

    7.  This Christian righteousness is a mystery, even for Christians. So we need to explore it, read it, discuss it, and try to live it.

     

    8.  We tend to defend ourselves, or excuse ourselves, or else blame ourselves. The real evil is trusting in self instead of looking to God.

  41. I just started and to catch up from 3 days. I took a lot of  notes. . .   1. Going out if my way to renovate my bathroom in an impossible financial trouble, feeling pent up at year end by accomplishment and worse mess I’m in, and higher debt, when trying to free debt when i began this project. I seek to learn from the saints for more of your peace Jesus to overcome lies and live in the perspective of what I have now and organize and clean what i have as i have time. Help me Lord to straighten my paths…. 2. I am thankful for spending time with my mother…when i was growing up I had to move away for safety. I have fully forgiven mom last year. Spending time with her, and giving her a,wonderful Christmas as I remember she made Christmas special for us as children. Spending time with het, the feelings if keeping things clean and orderly in the household, and her drive to move forward….then i helped her with some of her redundant communication skills, give her love, share in knitting/crochetting, love of old movies. Take her shopping, share my daughter and kitty, give her a reason to live, and share in Bible study, hoping she may catch a  new habit in it. Her husband died last year….i have received motherly wisdom from ither women over the years…and pray i am receiving motherly wisdom from my mothet now. Give and receive prayers in the Lord, Amen .   .    3. Last year i asked the,Lord what he wanted from me in study time and in him,, longi g to seek him more before making decisions  he wanted me to pray more for friends and family, and did so, nearly the entire year. Where i went wrong, was not praying before each move of my renovation or i wouldnt be in such a mess to finish, in his time, not mine. Remind me to seek you before maki g any decisions, large and small.. .      4. Psalm 16:11 You will show me the way of life, granting me the Joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever. ; Martin Luther’s Quote ….we are of worth because God loves us.Heb 7:24-25 But because Jesus lives forever,  his priesthood lasts forever.  Therefore he is able,  once and forever,  to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. .      5.belief that Christ lives to intercede for us and sin doesnt kill us if we beleive in Him.       6.Christian righteousness isnt passive, because we  don’t have to take action whike trusting that Christ intercedes FOR us. In the righteousness of faith, we do nothing; we receive. . . .    7.according to the first paragraph under the subhead~The Need For Christian righteousness; If we have faith through Christ, His works redeems us from Evil and Sins. . .    8.we tend to follow the laws that are free gifts of God. So we give the law power over sin, we may forget them as God’s  good gifts.  . .     9.when I’m feeling peace and forgiveness at church. I get home and yell at my husband for lazyness, then i am not being forgiving and patient. His unhelpfulness gets me down. I recent depression from not getting my bathroom renovations accomplished. I have been trying all year and a couple of times received God’s help  but moving forward, faster than God’s plan gas got me ib debt, and i have ended the year with an unfinished mess.

    1. Welcome, Kelly!

  42. 9.  A recent time of being trapped by evil. Almost every time I think I’ve gotten it, understood it, and ready to live it, I blink and my grasp on it is gone. It is all so much deeper than I want it to be. The roots of my flesh go deep, deeper than I know. It happens all the time. When I think I’ve truly forgiven or am free of bigotry or have a handle on my eating.

     

     

    10.  The law for Christians is a helpful guide and a way to please the Lord, but no longer a rod threatening punishment. For non-Christians, it is to show them they can’t be righteous on their own. They need Jesus.

     

     

    11.  We needn’t despair when we sin, because even though we are sinners in this life, in His life we’ve been made clean. The One who cleansed me is my eternal righteousness and life.

     

    It it is so human to second guess every decision, every action. Just before Christmas, I damaged my cornea. Monday I called in because the pain was supposed to be getting better but was worse. On the way to the office I’m thinking to myself: I’m just a whiner. A hypochondriac. An attention seeker. Turned out that my eye drops needed to be changed. It is much better today, and I know looking back God was the One leading and caring for me.

     

  43. 3. Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed? Where have you wanted to change and succeeded? Does reflecting on this give you any insight?  I have had some success managing overeating by fully trusting God for comfort and in discomfort.  It takes tremendous focus on my part and I have gotten away from the freedom that the Lord has for me.  Food is an idol for me and I want to be free.
    4. Before we begin, do you have any understanding on how embracing the truth of the gospel can help deliver you from the power of sin? If so, share.  Just recently, I have started confessing the sin of pride and judgement. I have been recognizing it and I confess it immediately. I feel a new freedom rising up in me, invisible chains have been broken off of me. As I have agreed with God’s word about sin in my life, sin in my thinking, wounds of sin in my soul, the power of God has been made available to me. Humility is a powerful position!

    1. me too Tami!

       

  44. 10. How is the law to be used for non-Christians? And how is the law to be used for Christians? (1st and 2nd paragraph) 
     

    Non-Christians: to humble them and make them understand they are sinners.

     

    Christians: After we receive Christian righteousness we use the law for his honor and glory, and to lovingly show our gratitude.

     
    11. Why should you not despair when you sin? 
     

    I have another life, not here. Christ lives and is my righteousness and my eternal life.
     

  45. 10. How is the law to be used for non-Christians? And how is the law to be used for Christians? (1st and 2nd paragraph)
    For non-christians: The law is to be used to expose how sinful and condemned humanity is. The law needs to be expounded in all it’s force so that those who think they have power to be righteous before God will be humbled by the law and understand they are sinners.

    For Christians: In a sense the law, wrath and punishment don’t exist for the Christian but only total Grace and mercy, so the law for Christians is to be used as a guide for our life, not for salvation but for His honor and glory and to lovingly show gratitude.

    11. Why should you not despair when you sin?
    “Although I sin, I don’t despair because Christ lives who is both my righteousness and my eternal life. In that righteousness I have no sin, no fear, no guilty conscience, no fear of death. I am a sinner in this life of mine and especially in my own righteousness, but I have another life, another righteousness above this life, which is in Christ..” Boy can despairing zap us of our joy in Him.

    Despair is such a good word here. i looked it up and it means the complete loss of hope, or discouragement, distress, anguish, etc. Whereas contrite means a feeling or expression of remorse which is good-and God desires humble and contrite heart. Humble is having a low estimate of one’s own importance which to apply here means looking to His righteousness because I know I have none on my own.. I am not powerful enough to save myself!

    I think I can easily go from contrite to despair-and when I do it is obvious it is pride thinking I have the power to save myself..so i think before I let it get that far while I am contrite I need to repent, (trusting in His righteousness), turn (trusting in His righteousness), and then walk in faith (trusting in His righteous covering over me.) But I must remind myself of His righteousness covering me every day and that I shouldn’t despair but repent when I sin for He doesn’t see my sin-He sees Jesus’ beauty in me.

  46.  
    3. Where have you wanted to change in the past and failed? Where have you wanted to change and succeeded? Does reflecting on this give you any insight?

    After reading A Praying Life I wanted to make prayer cards and have never done so. :/

    I have wanted to exercise regularly and lose weight and have been successful in this. Dee’s study A Woman of Moderation gave me some different ways to think about my seeking comfort from food as being something that was an impediment to my relationship with the Lord. A low carb lifestyle has helped, and approaching exercise as a way to care for my body, which is on loan to me, instead of being motivated mostly by vanity, has been a good shift. I still start to be motivated by vanity, but I am quicker now to see those thoughts, recognize them as the enemy, and repent.

      1. Chris–Fellow prayer-card drop-out here. I even got cute cards like Dee! I did do better with an app actually that Tim Challies pointed me to, called Prayer Mate. I don’t like to use technology with my prayer time, but it’s good for those waiting in line moments, I can pull up a “card” and it also has feeds for Spurgeon and other devotions

    1. Dee & Lizzy…Thank you both so much for sharing this!
      I also bought pretty cards, they sit on the shelf looking pretty 🙂

      A Praying Life did impact me, I pray a lot more often, and with less ‘ceremony’

  47. 4. Before we begin, do you have any understanding on how embracing the truth of the gospel can help deliver you from the power of sin? If so, share.

    I still sin, but remembering the gospel means I don’t have to be a slave to it, I have the freedom to repent! 
     
    I don’t have to hid in shame, I can turn to my Father who is running to greet me in love every single time I return. It is such a privilege.