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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THE TRUE LIGHT WHICH ENLIGHTENS EVERYONE (ADVENT WEEK 3)

A PROMISE WAS GIVEN BY THE PROPHETS:  ONE DAY THE PEOPLE WALKING IN DARKNESS WOULD SEE A GREAT LIGHT HERE THIS PASSAGE IS PUT TO MUSIC IN HANDEL’S MESSIAH: WHEN JOHN THE BAPTIST WAS BORN, HIS FATHER, WHO HAD BEEN STRUCK DUMB BECAUSE OF UNBELIEF, WROTE ON A SLATE THAT HIS NAME WAS JOHN. THEN ZECHARIAH’S TONGUE WAS UNLEASHED TO PROPHESY, TO TELL ALL THE PROMISE WAS FULFILLED, FOR HIS SON WOULD POINT TO THE TRUE LIGHT, “THE SUNRISE FROM ON HIGH.”  “Because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Zechariah’s Song in Luke 1:78-79) These prophecies from Isaiah and Zechariah inspired the carol, “O Come O Come Immanuel,” […]

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SENT TO BEAR WITNESS TO THE LIGHT (WEEK 2 OF ADVENT 2014)

THE TIME HAD COME FOR GOD’S UNFOLDING PLAN TO SAVE THE WORLD. FIRST, A BARREN WOMAN BECAME PREGNANT,  THEN, A VIRGIN CONCEIVED. N. T. WRIGHT WROTE: IT BEGAN WITH TWO WOMEN ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF SOCIETY ELIZABETH, THE MOTHER OF JOHN THE BAPTIST, AND MARY, THE MOTHER OF OUR LORD WERE THE BEGINNING OF VERY GOOD NEWS. We are memorizing John’s famous prologue this Advent, and this week we will add John 1:6-8. (In green) If you say, “DEE – I’M OVERWHELMED!” Then do the amount you can do and stay with us in the study. Just keep memorizing at the pace that you can. (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 […]

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THE BEST POSSIBLE ADVENT! (Week 1, 2014)

EVEN BEFORE I KNEW THE LORD, I LOVED CHRISTMAS. BUT WHAT I LOVED WAS THE GIFTS, RATHER THAN THE GIVER. GOOD GIFTS! Family. Beauty. Food, glorious food. And indeed, these are all given to us by a Father who loves to give good gifts to His children. But as good as these gifts are, they are, as C. S. Lewis said: “Only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have not visited.” Christmas, as beautiful as it can be, fills our hearts with a longing for something more. So this Advent, I want to do something that will help you sense His presence, for as good as His gifts can be, we must not, as Lewis said, turn them into “dumb idols that will […]

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BLESSED BE YOUR NAME (THANKSGIVING 2014)

 I AM BLESSED TO LIVE IN THIS IDYLLIC VILLAGE OF EPHRAIM. IT WAS FOUNDED BY BELIEVERS IN 1853, WHO IN MANY WAYS REMIND ME OF THE PILGRIMS WHO LANDED AT PLYMOUTH, TWO CENTURIES BEFORE. LIKE THEM THEY LOST SO MANY THEIR OWN IN THEIR EARLY YEARS. IN THE CEMETERY WHERE MY HUSBAND IS BURIED, I AM MOVED BY THESE THREE LITTLE MARKERS, OF THREE CHILDREN OF ANDREAS IVERSON, THE FIRST PASTOR OF THE FIRST CHURCH IN DOOR COUNTY. WHAT MUST IT BE LIKE TO BURY ONE CHILD AFTER ANOTHER? THAT’S HOW IT WAS, INDEED, FOR THE PILGRIMS. HERE IS A CHART OF THOSE WHO CAME OVER ON THE MAYFLOWER. THE ONES WHO SURVIVED THE FIRST WINTER ARE IN BLACK. YET THE REST, DESPITE BURYING SO MANY LOVED ONES, GATHERED TO GIVE THANKS TO GOD THAT FIRST THANKSGIVING. MAY WE DO […]

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FOR THE LORD GOD OMNIPOTENT REIGNS (Psalm 47)

I glimpsed the mysterious pieces of God’s Kingdom coming together last weekend at a women’s retreat near La Crosse, Wisconsin. Eight years before, to the day, Jen, the retreat coordinator, and I had experienced God’s power across the ocean in a way neither of us will ever forget. Each of us, as His children, are a part of the mysterious Kingdom to which Jesus often referred, to the Kingdom over which He reigns, to the Kingdom that will be forever and ever.  Every once in a while, we are privileged to catch a glimpse of the big picture and a thrill washes over us as we realize that we are not alone, and that we join hands with millions who have gone before, and with those from every tribe and nation, for there is a great grand scheme. Let me tell you […]

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BUT THOUGH THIS WORLD WITH DEVILS FILLED (Psalm 46)

I STILL REMEMBER STEVE’S CRY IN THE DELIVERY ROOM: “GOD GAVE US A GIRL — AND SHE LOOKS JUST LIKE ME!” INDEED, WE SENSED GOD’S KINDNESS TO US. I HAD ASKED GOD (UNLESS HE HAD A BETTER IDEA) FOR A DAUGHTER, WHO WOULD BE LIKE HER DAD. GOD KNEW, EVEN THEN, THAT HE WOULD CALL STEVE HOME EARLY, BUT HE WOULD LEAVE, IN KINDNESS, THE ONE SO LIKE HIM. WHEN THIS PICTURE WAS TAKEN NONE OF US HAD ANY IDEA OF THE STORM AHEAD. BUT THEN STEVE WAS DIAGNOSED. FOURTH STAGE CANCER. THERE COULD NOT HAVE BEEN A MORE FRIGHTENING DIAGNOSIS. GOD IS OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH A VERY PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE, THEREFORE WE WILL NOT FEAR THOUGH THE EARTH GIVES WAY, THOUGH THE MOUNTAINS BE MOVED INTO THE HEART OF THE SEA, THOUGH THE MOUNTAINS TREMBLE AT THE […]

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A WEDDING SONG FOR THE KING (PSALM 45)

WHAT IS IT ABOUT A WEDDING THAT MAKES US SO EMOTIONAL? LAST MONTH OUR FIRSTBORN SON, J. R., WAS MARRIED,  TAKING OUR BREATH AWAY WITH THE SURPRISE. IT SHOULDN’T HAVE BEEN A SURPRISE, BECAUSE HE TOLD US, THAT GOD HAD TOLD HIM ONE DAY HE AND DIANNE WOULD BE MARRIED. BUT THEY HAD BEEN LIKE BROTHER AND SISTER FOR SO LONG, AND THEN ENGAGED FOR SO LONG WITH NO WEDDING PLANS. I FINALLY RELEASED IT TO THE LORD. BUT IN TRUTH, WAS NO LONGER LOOKING FOR IT TO HAPPEN. ON THIS OCTOBER 14TH, AS I WAS LEAVING MY FAVORITE RESTAURANT, I SAW THAT J. R. HAD LEFT A MESSAGE ON MY PHONE. CALL ME MOM, IT’S IMPORTANT. STILL, I WAS NOT EXPECTING THIS. WHAT’S UP, HONEY? DIANNE AND I ARE GETTING MARRIED TONIGHT. WHAT? J. R. told me the story. […]

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WHEN GOD DOESN’T COME TO OUR RESCUE (PSALM 44)

SOMETIMES OUR MERCIFUL LORD IS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND GOD HAD CALLED JOHN THE BAPTIST FOR A GRAND PURPOSE.. WHEN HE WAS STILL IN HIS MOTHER’S WOMB HE LEAPED FOR JOY UPON RECOGNIZING JESUS IN MARY’S WOMB. HIS WHOLE LIFE WAS DEDICATED TO THE MESSIAH TO PREPARE THE WAY FOR HIM HE BAPTIZED AND PREACHED REPENTANCE WITHOUT FEAR OF THE POWERFUL PHARISEES .HE GLORIFIED HIS LORD, CRYING: BEHOLD, THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD, HE KNEW HIS PLACE, SAYING: HIS SANDALS I AM NOT WORTHY TO UNTIE I MUST DECREASE BUT HE MUST INCREASE. HE SAW WONDROUS THINGS: HEAVEN OPEN AND THE SPIRIT OF GOD DESCEND LIKE A DOVE. THEN HE HEARD GOD SAY OF THIS ONE: THIS IS MY BELOVED SON IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED.  JOHN KNEW JESUS WAS THE ONE. […]

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WHY ARE YOU DOWNCAST, O MY SOUL? (PSALMS 42-43)

How I love Psalm 42. It has brought me such strength when all His waves and billows are sweeping me over me. We have done this psalm before, and will do again, for it is ever needed and ever new. Recently, on this blog, we completed the first book in the Psalter, and now we will begin, until the time of Thanksgiving and Advent, the second book in the Psalter. It begins with “nine songs of the sons of Korah,” so we should expect some great music inspired by these psalms. My favorite psalm (at least right now!) is Psalm 42, and its heart cry and dialogue with the soul continues on into Psalm 43. This is a famous psalm — many great pieces of music, even a whole classical hour by Mendelssohn, have been inspired by it. Why does […]

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