MARY PONDERED ALL THESE THINGS IN HER HEART

HOW DOES A PERSON CHANGE? ONE IMPORTANT LINK BETWEEN PUTTING OFF THE OLD SELF AND PUTTING ON THE NEW IS “BEING RENEWED IN THE SPIRIT OF OUR MINDS”   MARY SERVES AS AN EXAMPLE REPEATEDLY WE ARE TOLD SHE PONDERED ALL THESE THINGS IN HER HEART LET’S NOT SAY GOOD-BYE TO CHRISTMAS WITHOUT PONDERING Many of you have a favorite Christmas movie. I love especially the scenes from Luke 1 and Luke 2 in Jesus of Nazareth, as pictured below. Olivia Hussey is a believer and has a radiance that seems befitting Mary. She shows awe, wonder, and amazement. We see her pondering, truly.   And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will […]

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INFINITY WALLED IN A WOMB

  I MEMORIZE LUCI SHAW’S POEMS OF THE INCARNATION BECAUSE THEY FEED MY SOUL EACH ADVENT WHEN MY SOUL IS HUNGRY FOR MORE THAN SENTIMENTALITY, SWEETS, SANTA, AND SAPPY CHRISTMAS MOVIES (NOT THAT I DO NOT ENJOY ALL OF THE ABOVE!) BUT I WANT MORE SO MUCH MORE LAST YEAR I MEMORIZED “MADE FLESH” TURNING OVER PHRASES THAT MADE ME WORSHIP THE GOD WHO WAS MADE FLESH THE GOD WHO WAS WILLING TO BE “INFINITY WALLED IN A WOMB”   If you are not familiar with Luci Shaw, you are in for a grand adventure. She is my favorite contemporary poet, a woman of great talent, wisdom, and integrity. I can hardly believe how merciful God was to me to let Luci be the woman who opened the door to the writing world for me, mentoring me, publishing my first […]

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GOD WITH US

IMAGINE THE TERROR OF THE OLD TESTAMENT SAINTS WHEN GOD CAME NEAR   THE SHEKINAH GLORY   WHENEVER HE CAME THEY WERE FILLED WITH FEAR   MOSES TOOK OFF HIS SHOES AT THE BURNING BUSH     ISAIAH CRIED WOE IS ME   JOB WAS FLATTENED WHEN GOD CAME IN A WHIRLWIND       AND AFTER FOUR HUNDRED YEARS OF SILENCE ON THAT HOLY NIGHT THE PRESENCE OF GOD AGAIN STRUCK FEAR   When I was young, long before most of you were born, I loved watching television Christmas specials: Perry Como, Andy Williams…and though there were plenty of songs about chestnuts and winter wonderlands, they always had sacred songs as well, often closing with the spine-tingling O Holy Night, where you were reminded of the holiness of Christmas. This year I watched a few and thought how different […]

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NO LONGER AT EASE IN THE OLD DISPENSATION

LIKE THE MAGI WE HAVE JOURNEYED THIS YEAR AND WE, LIKE THEM, ARE NOT THE SAME   THIS 2ND WEEK OF ADVENT WE WILL CONSIDER TWO PIECES OF ART   FIRST, T.S. ELIOT’S THE JOURNEY OF THE MAGI SECOND, TIM KELLER’S FREE SERMON: THE COSMIC KING At the close of each year, I consider what books impacted me the most. One of my top four this year was Surprised By Oxford. This is Carolyn Weber’s memoir of her first year at Oxford as a young agnostic who was thunderstruck by both the intellectual Christians she met and their enormous joy. In the world of C. S. Lewis, J. R. Tolkein, and Dorothy Sayers, the stimulating conversations seized her. It’s a love story as well, for one believer she met, whom she calls TDH (tall, dark, and handsome) is particularly persuasive. […]

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HOW THIS ADVENT CAN MELT YOUR IDOLS

MAY THIS BE AN ADVENT LIKE NO OTHER WHAT LOOSENS THE GRIP OF THE ICY FINGERS OF OUR IDOLS?   COMING INTO THE PRESENCE OF GOD EXPERIENCING HIS HOLINESS AND TRULY WORSHIPING     This Advent I will lead you through passages in Isaiah and the gospels that will help you behold His holiness, His beauty, and may we all pray that we will experience Him — as Isaiah did, as Mary did, as the shepherds did, as the wisemen did. For when you encounter God in His holiness, you are humbled, and if you start worshiping Him, you will stop worshiping your idol. We saw it happen to our own dear Elizabeth last week — a breach with a friend, a posture of humility, a plea to God, a step of faith, an experience with a holy God, and […]

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GRATITUDE BRINGS JOY TO OUR GOD AND MAKES US WHOLE

THERE’S A SIMPLICITY IN THANKSGIVING LOVED ONES GATHERING TO SHARE THE BLESSINGS OF THE HARVEST AND TO GIVE THANKS   In our home, we would always go around the table with the same question: “What are you thankful for this year that you could not have been thankful for last year?” The answers could be simple, or deeper, delving into spiritual growth or insights. But it was always a rich sweet time, and as children grew into adults, it could last hours. Some of you will be in situations where giving thanks is not the custom. This Norman Rockwell painting always makes me smile. Norman Rockwell Giving Thanks But whether or not you are blessed to have a rich time of sharing on Thanksgiving Day, we can have one on this blog. We can help one other see! In Thornton […]

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STONECUTTER REVIEW (INCLUDING THE TREE OF LIFE)

WE HAVE BEGUN A JOURNEY WE WILL BE ON FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES BUT OH! STONES ARE BEING CHISELED HEARTS OF FLESH RELEASED TO LOVE, TO FEEL, AND TO EXPERIENCE THE POWER OF GOD   This week, before the beauty of concentrating on Thanksgiving and Advent, we will review where we’ve been, and as part of that review, discuss a movie that portrays some of the themes we’ve discussed. The Tree of Life grapples with what Romans 6, 7, 8 calls the old nature (simply called nature in the film) and the new nature (called grace in the film) and with the difficult question of suffering, drawing upon the close of Job. The story of this Texas family shows how “nature” and its natural bent of clinging to idols destroys, and how “grace” and its gift of trusting […]

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BEHOLD WHAT MANNER OF LOVE!

IT’S LOVE THAT CAUSES A PARENT TO GET UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT IT’S LOVE THAT LISTENS, TEACHES, DISCIPLINES IN ANGST LONGING TO TEACH THE CHILD TO TURN FROM THE DARKNESS TO THE LIGHT IT’S LOVE THAT READS “GOODNIGHT MOON” A THOUSAND TIMES TUCKS HIM IN AND PRAYS GOD WILL KEEP HIM SAFE IT’S LOVE THAT KEEPS ON, ALL THROUGH THE YEARS IT’S LOVE THAT DOES NOT TURN AWAY WHEN TAKEN FOR GRANTED OR TREATED WITH DISRESPECT BUT INSTEAD PRAYS FOR HIS SOUL AND WAITS LONGINGLY FOR HIS RETURN For the most part, children have no idea of the sacrificial love that their parents have bestowed upon them. When I was about ten, and my dad wouldn’t let me do something, I accused him of not loving me. That was quite brash of me for I had been […]

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THE FATHER OF LIES

WHEN HE LIES HE SPEAKS HIS NATIVE LANGUAGE FOR HE IS A LIAR AND THE FATHER OF LIES JOHN GIVES US REPEATED WARNINGS ABOUT OUR ENEMY ABOUT THE SPIRIT OF THE ANTI-CHRIST. WE MUST BE ALERT TO HIS LIES, AND THEN, AS REBECCA SAID “SMACK HIM OVER THE HEAD WITH THE TRUTH!”   We often fail to be alert, to realize that we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with powers, with principalities, with the prince of darkness. How clearly I remember a night when our boys were little and we had invited our new neighbors in Seattle over for dinner. J. R. was looking at our guests and piped up, as only a child would: “Do you guys love Jesus?” The silence was awkward. “Oh, oh — do you love the devil?” We laughed, thankful for the comic […]

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CONFIDENT AND UNASHAMED AT HIS COMING

THERE ARE RICH PARALLELS BETWEEN WEDDINGS IN BIBLICAL DAYS AND THAT GREAT DAY WHEN CHRIST COMES FOR US   THE FATHERS WOULD BARGAIN OVER THE BRIDE PRICE   THEN A BETROTHAL TOOK PLACE, A PERMANENT COMMITMENT BEFORE THE SON WOULD GO AWAY TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR HIS BRIDE       ADDING A ROOM TO HIS FATHER’S HOUSE WHEN THE FATHER SAID ALL WAS READY       THE SON WOULD COME IN A GLAD PROCESSIONAL AND A SHOFAR HORN WOULD BLOW AND HIS BRIDE WOULD KNOW MY BRIDEGROOM IS RETURNING FOR ME       EVERY BRIDE WANTS TO BE BEAUTIFUL FOR HER BRIDEGROOM TO DELIGHT HIM TO BE CONFIDENT AND UNASHAMED ON THAT GREAT DAY   Dee’s Mother   IT IS HARD FOR US TO IMAGINE HOW WE COULD EVER BE CONFIDENT AND UNASHAMED WHEN OUR HEAVENLY […]

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HOW IS A HEART OF STONE TURNED INTO A HEART OF FLESH?

  A HEART OF FLESH IS AS GENTLE AS A SPRING RAIN AS FRAGRANT AND TENDER AS A ROSE AS PURE AS COMPASSIONATE AS OTHER-CENTERED AS CHRIST HIMSELF   HOW DOES IT HAPPEN? IS IT OF US? OR IS IT OF GOD? I am privileged to be able to go into prisons, to see firsthand hearts of stone transformed into hearts of flesh. So many women I meet in the faith dorms are women transformed. Many have committed horrendous crimes and came in with hearts as hard as flint, with souls as dark as caverns. If we met them when they came in, we would hold out little hope for transformation. It certainly wouldn’t do any good to preach to them about how they should behave, to tell them to “work on their character.” WE HAVE NO POWER IN OURSELVES […]

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INTIMACY WITH GOD: A TWO WEEK STUDY

  WHEN ANN VOSKAMP SAID SHE FLEW TO PARIS AND MADE LOVE TO GOD THE BLOGGERS AND THE CRITICS CRIED OUT TOO MUCH! I THOUGHT AGAIN WHY CAN WE NOT EMBRACE THIS METAPHOR? IS IT OUR WORLD? IS IT SPIRITUAL WARFARE? OR IS IT OUR HARD HEARTS? (THIS STUDY IS TWO WEEKS — SO DON’T BE OVERWHELMED WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE LENGTH. FOR I DO WANT YOU TO GO SLOWLY AND I HAVE DIVIDED IT INTO TWO WEEKS. I ALSO NEED TO DO THIS FOR MY SCHEDULE AS I’M TRAVELING AND MAY NOT BE ABLE TO CHECK IN SOME DAYS — PLEASE STAND IN THE GAP FOR ONE ANOTHER.) I WILL POST AGAIN ON OCTOBER 16TH. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT LESSON — SO GO SLOWLY, PLEASE! CHEW. CONTEMPLATE. OPEN YOUR HEART TO THE STONECUTTER.) WEEK 1 INTRODUCTION One reviewer […]

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EXPERIENCING THE LIVING GOD

  HOW DO WE KNOW IF WE TRULY KNOW HIM? HOW DO WE KNOW IF WE ARE  TRULY EXPERIENCING THE LIVING GOD OR JUST GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS OF RELIGION? IT’S VITAL TO KNOW FOR IT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DEATH AND LIFE In our study on The Stonecutter, we’ve seen God’s promise from Ezekiel to exchange our dead hearts of stone for living hearts of flesh. We’ve repeatedly talked about letting The Stonecutter remove the stone idols from our hearts — the things we often think we have to have to be beautiful, significant, or satisfied. But those idols lie — they have no life giving power at all, Instead, if we cling to them, we will go into a downward spiral, and we will shrivel up — like Rachel did. Though she was the wife who was loved, though […]

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IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT PRACTICING HOMOSEXUALITY

DO YOU REMEMBER THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL THAT PAUL DESCRIBES IN ROMANS 1?   IT BEGINS BY SUPPRESSING THE TRUTH ABOUT GOD THOUGH HIS GLORY IS CLEARLY SEEN EVERYWHERE SO THAT MEN ARE WITHOUT EXCUSE   WHY DO WE SUPPRESS THE TRUTH? WHY DO WE EXCHANGE THE TRUTH FOR A LIE? SO WE CAN RUN AFTER OUR IDOLS SO WE CAN WORSHIP THE CREATED THING INSTEAD OF THE CREATOR, WHO ALONE IS WORTHY OF WORSHIP   THE ILLUSTRATION GIVEN IN ROMANS 1 IS THE PRACTICE OF HOMOSEXUALITY   FOR SO LONG I ONLY APPLIED THIS PASSAGE TO THAT SIN BUT I HAD A LOG IN MY EYE EVERY TIME I EXCHANGE THE TRUTH OF GOD FOR A LIE TO CHASE MY IDOLS I TOO GO INTO A DOWNWARD SPIRAL I TOO LOSE THE LIGHT I TOO LOSE THE POWER I TOO […]

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THE STONECUTTER RETURNS

TODAY WE REMEMBER 9/11 WE THINK OF THE SORROW AND WE WONDER IF THE RETURN OF JESUS IS NEAR   WE KNOW HE TOLD US TO BE READY WE LONG TO BE THE KIND OF BRIDE THAT WILL NOT BE ASHAMED WHEN HE APPEARS AND SO WE ARE RETURNING TO A STUDY THAT HAS BEEN CHANGING OUR HEARTS AND TO THE PROMISE FROM EZEKIEL THAT GOD WILL REPLACE OUR HEARTS OF STONE WITH HEARTS OF FLESH TO REPLACE DEAD, UNRESPONSIVE HEARTS WITH PASSIONATE, REAL, AND POWERFUL HEARTS   Welcome to those of you who have done parts of “The Stonecutter” study before — I’m counting on you to be mentors! Welcome to those who are just joining us. We are so glad you are here. I don’t think it is coincidental that Leslie Vernick, author and counselor, is visiting me […]

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