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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The GOSPEL VERSUS RELIGION Part I. Lesson 1. (A Woman Transformed by the Gospel)

A NEW YEAR A NEW SERIES, FILLED WITH THE POWER OF THE GOSPEL TO TRANSFORM OUR LIVES Just as a caterpillar does not decide to take certain steps to become a butterfly, so the practice of religion has no power to transform us into women of beauty. Only God can do that — and He has one way of doing that, and that is through His gospel, the central theme of the Bible from Genesis through Revelation. The gospel is the “good news” that Christ came to be our Savior. He died to take   our sin on Himself and rescue us from the penalty of sin. That forgiveness happens the moment we truly believe. But the gospel doesn’t stop there. It can also deliver us from the daily power sin has over us. Many Christians see the gospel as […]

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A NEW YEAR CHALLENGE!

AND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH AND DWELT AMONG US CHRISTMAS 2014 IS PAST BUT THE WORD STILL TABERNACLES, STILL MAKES HIS HOME, AMONG US THROUGH THE MYSTERY OF HIS SPIRIT AND HIS LIVING WORD. We are completing our Advent challenge this week by memorizing the final verse. Print this out. (1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God.  (3) All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  (4) In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (5)The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (6) There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. (7) He came as a witness, to […]

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THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS: CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY (Advent: Week 4)

CHRISTMAS IS THIS WEEK! WHAT IS AT THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS? A SAVIOR WAS BORN TO NOT ONLY RESCUE US FROM GOD’S WRATH, BUT TO RESCUE US FROM OURSELVES. I have learned so much from the seekers and agnostics in our evangelistic Bible study. I have learned how unclear I can be, how important it is to really listen and understand what they are saying. They often stun me into silence. I remember the day when Debbie was so upset about a statement in the guide that said believers should not marry unbelievers. “Why, that’s so judgmental! That’s like saying you shouldn’t marry someone in a wheelchair!” Another adamantly agreed. “Yes — it is healthy for people of different religions to marry because it teaches them tolerance. My daughter is an agnostic and her husband is a Catholic — and […]

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