THAT THE NEXT GENERATION MAY KNOW (Series on Mothering & Mentoring)

We’re beginning a short series for mentors, mothers, aunts, and  grandmothers. We are all called to impact the next generation.   My friend Twila secretly made this Shutterfly book for her daughter,  last Christmas, to tell the story of her grandson, Henry. We are all called to remember ways God has worked in our lives, and in the lives of our forefathers, passing them on, “so that the next generation would know, even the children yet unborn.” (Psalm 78:6) THE STORY OF HENRY Mommy went to the doctor. The doctor said, “The little nest is breaking apart. There is no baby. We need to clean out the nest.” So Mommy went to a different doctor. She asked, “Now are you ready to let us clean out your nest?” Though the first doctor made a mistake (and sent his faulty records […]

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GREAT FAILURES CAN BE GREAT LEADERS IN GOD’S KINGDOM

How often God takes someone who has failed greatly, even repeatedly, and turns him or her around into an amazing leader. The prison ministry of Discipleship Unlimited has many ex-offenders, even those who have been repeat offenders, in leadership positions now where they are AMAZING. What turns a great failure into a great leader? I have been pondering this, and as I pondered and prayed, this is what happened. I received an e-mail from a new believer from our Alpha group. He wanted to know: “How many times will Jesus forgive me for the same sin? Doesn’t my repetition show that my repentance isn’t genuine?” Such a good question, and not an easy one to answer. I talked to my friend Twila in the locker-room of the Y. Twila has memorized the book of Hebrews this year and this verse […]

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HE IS RISEN, JUST AS HE SAID (EASTER, 2015)

WE KNOW IMPORTANT THINGS ARE SAID WHEN TIME IS RUNNING OUT. SO WHY IS THE LAST STORY JOHN TELLS CONCERNING RESURRECTION DAY THE STORY OF THOMAS? COULD IT BE THAT WE HAVE MISUNDERSTOOD THOMAS, CHARACTERIZING HIM AS “DOUBTING THOMAS?” COULD IT BE THAT THE STORY OF THOMAS TEACHES US THE MOST IMPORTANT THING? COULD IT BE, THAT THE STORY OF THOMAS SHOWS US THE SECRET WE DESPERATELY NEED? THOMAS, AFTER BEHOLDING JESUS. “MY LORD AND MY GOD.” This is the high and holy day for Christians, the day that makes Christianity different from world religions. OUR GOD LIVES! Many churches have disemboweled (the word Tim Keller uses in this week’s sermon) Christianity, denying the meaning of the crucifixion and denying the literal resurrection. They say the meaning of Christianity is to “love one another.” But as Keller says, hearing that […]

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HOLY GROUND: HE BECAME NAKED THAT WE MIGHT BE CLOTHED (HOLY WEEK, 2015)

IN COMMENTING ON OUR IDOLS OF THE HEART, JAMES NORIEGA SAID: WE WORSHIPED OUR WAY INTO THIS MESS AND BY GOD’S GRACE WE WILL WORSHIP OUR WAY OUT! EACH DAY OF THIS HOLIEST OF WEEKS WE WILL BE WORSHIPING: FOCUSING ON THE SAVIOR AND THE MYSTERIES THAT HAVE THE POWER TO TRANSFORM OUR HEARTS OF STONE INTO HEARTS OF FLESH. THERE IS ALWAYS THE DANGER, WHEN LOOKING AT FAMILIAR PASSAGES, TO ASSUME WE KNOW WHAT IS THERE WITHOUT REALLY LOOKING. SO ASK HIM TO OPEN THE EYES OF YOUR HEART THAT YOU MIGHT SEE THE DEPTH OF HIS LOVE FOR YOU.   SUNDAY: 1. Share any comments on the above. 2. What plan do you have to make this week as meaningful as possible? Jesus was on the cross on Good Friday from 9 to 3 — what might you […]

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THE MYSTERIUM TREMENDUM (GOSPEL TRANSFORMATION: LENT 2015)

WE ARE DRAWING NEAR TO THE HOLIEST WEEK AND IT GETS HARDER AND HARDER TO WATCH. YET, BEHOLDING JESUS IN HIS FINAL DAYS, TRANSFORMS US LIKE NOTHING ELSE. SO STAY! John Piper summarized it like this: “Beholding is becoming.” So let us behold Him. Some like to call themselves “spiritual,” imagining chicken soup for the soul: warm, comforting, and soothing. But the early church fathers had a different word: The mysterium tremendum. THE EARTH SHAKES. YOU LOSE YOUR FOOTING. YOU REALIZE HOW HOLY HE IS, AND HOW UNHOLY YOU ARE. WHEN ISAIAH BEHELD THE LORD HE SAID: WHEN JESUS PERFORMED A MIRACLE FOR THE FISHERMEN, PETER EXPERIENCED THE MYSTERIUM TREMENDUM: AND WHEN THE ARMY OF SOLDIERS CAME WITH THEIR TORCHES AND WEAPONS, SEEKING JESUS, HE SAID: THEY DREW BACK AND FELL TO THE GROUND “WHAT?” YES. THE MYSTERIUM TREMENDUM. HAVE […]

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SECRETS OF FRUIT-BEARING BELIEVERS (GOSPEL TRANSFORMATION: LENT 2015)

JESUS PROMISED: Whoever abides in me and I in him, it is he who bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5) Yet some just can’t seem to find time to be in the Word, and others, though they are in the Word, are complaining, grumpy, and difficult! Others are in three Bible studies a week, but have no time to be in the world with the lost the lonely the poor the prisoner or the least of these. Their grapes are not sweet, but sour! If this describes us, and if we are honest, it describes us all in part, let us discover the secrets of fruit-bearing in the vineyard. At a recent retreat in Omaha, I had some sharpening conversations with the women at my table that shed light on secrets of bearing […]

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TAKE UP THE BASIN AND TOWEL (GOSPEL TRANSFORMATION: LENT 2015)

Hilda was an aerobics instructor at the Y, known for how strict she was. We were all a little afraid of her! But Lori, a believer, has reached out to her, and now Hilda is coming to our study. A few weeks ago Hilda said, “Buddha and Allah and Jesus are all the same god.” I was so proud of the women in our group for they simply listened to her with hearing ears. (I don’t think it was because they were afraid of her, but because they wanted to see her again next week, knowing that if she keeps coming, it is likely she will discover the truth herself!) She was back the next week and the discussion turned to the main problem we have: selfishness. We talked about how all the world religions agree that selfishness is the […]

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THE WEIGHT OF GLORY (LENT 2015: GOSPEL TRANSFORMATION PART II)

WE TEND TO THINK OF SIN AS A MORAL ISSUE, WHEN INDEED, IT IS A GLORY ISSUE. WHEN WE CHOOSE WHAT WE WANT IN THE MOMENT, WITHOUT CONSIDERING GOD’S GLORY, WE ARE WEIGHING OUR GLORY AS HEAVIER THAN GOD’S GLORY. THIS IS WHAT ESAU DID WHEN HE CHOSE TO SELL HIS BIRTHRIGHT (HIS BLESSING FROM GOD) FOR A MESS OF POTTAGE. LATER, THE AUTHOR OF HEBREWS TELLS US: For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (Hebrews 12:17) This understanding of “the weight of glory” could be paradigm changing in your struggle with sin. For example, when I am tempted to shade the truth, overeat, or gossip I could look at it as “breaking a rule,” and decide that in […]

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LENT 2015: HE LOVES, HE WEEPS, HE OVERCOMES (GOSPEL TRANSFORMATION PART II.)

When sorrow comes pouring into your life, and it will, you may not know the reason why, but you can be sure the reason is not that God doesn’t love you. Only Christianity has a God who entered into our suffering, who went all the way to the cross for us, and who weeps when we weep. Beginning in John 11, a chapter filled with such sorrow and joy, Jesus makes a deliberate turn toward the cross, knowing that raising Lazarus from the dead will surely lead to His own death. This is such a familiar passage, but I saw new things this time, truths I need to speak to my soul, and I believe you will be so strengthened too. A key difference between religion and the gospel is shown in how we approach suffering. Religion The Gospel When […]

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

LENT 2015 JOIN US IN OUR ONGOING JOURNEY OF GOSPEL TRANSFORMATION! WE’VE SEEN SUCH GROWTH IN PAST LENTEN SEASONS THAT WE CANNOT HELP BUT COME WITH ANTICIPATION AT WHAT GOD WILL DO. FIRST, A COMMENT ABOUT “LENT.” Beginning this Wednesday, and not counting Sundays, there are 40 days until Resurrection Sunday, paralleling the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness before His journey to the cross began. Traditionally Christians, as they journey toward the cross, have “given something up” during Lent, but we must be careful here. In Abba’s Child Brennan Manning points out that we have a legalistic tendency to make secondary concerns primary. For example, the Pharisees focused on “not working” on the Sabbath, but that was secondary. The primary reason for the Sabbath was to press into God, and not working was a secondary reason to aid the primary […]

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Responding to Suffering (A Woman Transformed by the Gospel: Part I. Lesson 6)

“WHO SINNED? THIS MAN OR HIS PARENTS, THAT HE WAS BORN BLIND?” (John 9:2) RELIGION, IN CONTRAST TO THE GOSPEL, ASSUMES SUFFERING IS DUE TO SIN BUT JESUS IS CLEAR THAT IS ERRONEOUS THINKING: “It is not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3) On a personal note, I was ready to start us on Lent this week, but Elizabeth alerted me I was a week early! I began to panic, having nothing prepared for you and very little time. Then I realized, once again, God was in control. Here we are, arriving at John 9, a passage dealing with suffering, and our own dear Nila had already sent me her story, a poignant story of their firstborn, Abby, born with a heart defect. I had told […]

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ARGUING WITH THE GREAT I AM (A WOMAN TRANSFORMED BY THE GOSPEL) PART I LESSON 5

Religion, self-salvation strategies, kill. The gospel, the GREAT I AM, gives life. This week is a golden chapter in John. Jesus does not mince words with the religious Pharisees. When we, like the Pharisees, revert to religion, to “works-righteousness,” it is because we are forgetting who Jesus is and what He is like. The chapter begins when a couple is caught in the act of adultery. Jesus saw the injustice of the Pharisees bringing the woman alone, as Hosea 4:14 prophesied He would. If He didn’t have her stoned, they thought, He would be disobeying the law of Moses. If He had her stoned, they thought, it would seem lacking in compassion. They thought they had Him. Our own Mary E. found this from Michael Card: https:// What the Pharisees didn’t know, didn’t accept, didn’t embrace is that HE IS […]

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Replacing our Idols by Looking to Jesus (A Woman Transformed by the Gospel: Part I. Lesson 4.)

So many of you have written, saying, “It is so helpful to see the sin beneath my sin.” Ezekiel, whom Jesus quoted when talking to Nicodemus in John 3, calls the sin beneath the sin, a “heart idol.” You cannot see heart idols, but you can see the bad fruit they produce. When anything bad comes out of your mouth or life, it is because you are looking to a heart idol to rescue you. Tim Keller has given three primary categories of heart idols which Leslie Vernick has diagrammed with this chart: The Lord promises to be in control, to be our security and comfort, and to love us. But when we do not look to Him, do not run to Him, we run to something else to meet that soul need. When a good gift becomes a god […]

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THREE WAYS OF LIFE (A WOMAN TRANSFORMED BY THE GOSPEL: PART I. LESSON 3)

In the last year, my new friends Ron and Debbie have been transformed by the gospel — indeed, born again! Each has been give new life, like the brand new beautiful life of a newborn baby. Just as a baby cannot give himself life, neither can we give ourselves life. It is all of God. But oh, coming through the birth canal was a struggle for Debbie and Ron. Debbie used to complain in Bible study that she had a headache and couldn’t sleep at night. Ron seemed confused and angry. When I had them both over for dinner, I remember how Ron leaned across the counter and said sternly to me: “What you have been teaching my wife is not what I have heard in church all my life!” I knew we were on holy ground, and I cried […]

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HE TURNED THE WATER INTO WINE (PART I. LESSON 2. A WOMAN TRANSFORMED BY THE GOSPEL)

One would think the first miracle would be raising the dead, or stopping a storm – but turning water into wine? Really, Lord? Were You just trying to keep a party going?  Oh No. So much more. All the miracles in John are called “signs.” There was a profound and wonderful meaning. Let’s consider the setting. A Jewish Wedding. Think Fiddler on the Roof. Think JOY. To get in the mood, watch this scene that happened at a Jewish wedding in 2010. This week we’ll learn: Why a wedding? Why water into wine? And why was the latter wine so much better than the first? To give you a clue, consider again the difference between   What Religion Brings: Death, Pride, Anger, & Bondage And what the Gospel Brings: Life, Humility, Joy, & Freedom   A secret I learned in […]

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