The Stark Reality of the Psalms

Philip Yancey said that when he was feeling sad or stressed, people told him to read the psalms, and he would come across one of the “wintriest” psalms and go away frostily depressed. But then he realized that the psalms were not like the other books in the Bible. Instead of God writing to us, it is if we are reading over the shoulder of the psalmist, peeking at his honest prayer journal. The psalms are the inspired prayer book of the Bible, and because life has both great highs and great lows, so do the psalms. “Rife with the pathos of praise and the ethos of agony, the book of Psalms captures better than any other corpus of Scripture, the bi-polar life of faith.” (William Brown) Indeed, ever since paradise was lost, this life is bi-polar, and we need to […]

read more

Be Still and Know in 2018

Tis a season for everything under heaven, and Advent and Christmas are lovely, but the decorations are looking a little sad, the sweets have made me a bit sluggish, the money spent a little too freely, and all the festivities may have crowded out time with Him. So it is time to turn. January is the season of new beginnings, the season of quiet, where we can renew (or establish) the habit of drawing near to the One who makes all things new.   They say it takes 21 days to establish a habit. Let’s meet together, daily, and see how God indeed, will renew us. If you are new, just click on the “blog” at the top, and then on the “Getting Started” door and follow the easy directions. We have a wonderful group of women here who will […]

read more

Oh Holy Night! The Angels Song!

He wooed me as a child, appealing to all my senses. My mittened hand in my dad’s big gloved hand as we walked toward the church on a snowy Christmas Eve. Luminaries lined the walk, bells chimed from the tower, and the fragrance of pine enveloped the sanctuary. An unusual hush was over the congregation as we waited for the service to begin, for this, my father whispered, was a holy night. Then, the service began when, from the back balcony, a lone soprano’s voice filled the air: T Though my church as a child did not hold to the Bible, the carols and the hymns we sang did, and stayed in my memory, playing a part in helping me to listen when, as an adult, the gospel was presented to me. Though today is Christmas Eve, and this week […]

read more

Zechariah’s Song

Nine months deaf Nine months mute Nine months of wonder as his withered wife blossoms. Nine months to ponder Nine months to repent And then, God unleashes Zechariah’s tongue. When Zechariah’s “tongue was loosed” a holy FEAR (the Greek word “phobos”) fell upon the neighbors, and then, throughout Judea. Why? Because Zechariah’s Prophetic Song showed the promised time had come. Don’t you think they each thought: Am I ready? Just as we know the 2nd Advent is promised, can you imagine how you would feel if God showed you Christ’s return was going to happen today? Would you not think? Am I ready? Let us delve together into the rich song of Zechariah, and in so doing, truly prepare our hearts for this Christmas.   Last Thursday R. C. Sproul died, a man that God used mightily to remind God’s people of […]

read more

Zechariah’s Preparation (Part 1)

Zechariah is a godly man, blameless in the sight of God. Unlike so many husbands in Scripture, he had not taken another wife when Elizabeth was barren. Only once a year did the high priest go into the Temple, and Zechariah did not expect to see an angel. But he did.   Philip Yancey says that angels never say, “Hi.” They always say, “FEAR NOT!” For even Gabriel, the angel of good news, brought fear with His appearing. He reassures Zechariah: How many years had it been since Elizabeth and Zechariah had given up praying for a child? This was too much. Unlike Mary, Zechariah doubts, asks for a sign. Gabriel’s answer is swift and severe. The consequences are high, as we will see. Last week we had a good discussion about the difference between punishment (to make you pay for […]

read more

Mindful of Us! Mary’s Magnificat!

When David looked up at the starry heavens, he marveled: What is man that thou art mindful of him? Mary quoted that psalm, echoing David’s amazement in her Magnificat.  My soul magnifies the Lord, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant. Her Magnificat also seems much inspired by Hannah’s prayer. Hannah was taunted by her husband’s second wife, Peninnah, whom he married because Hannah was barren.  Hannah went to the temple to pour out her heart to God, and she was so fervent the priest thought she was drunk. Before she knew if God was going to answer her prayer for a child, she went away and her face was no longer sad. Hannah, David, and Mary all knew the character of God, and you can see it in their prayers. We can learn from […]

read more

Advent 2017: The Prayers of Christmas

This year I got talked into letting my home be on the “Holiday Home Tour” to help a local children’s center. I protested, “But my home isn’t that grand, and I don’t go all out decorating at Christmas!” They persuaded me that was okay — they were interested in different philosophies about Christmas, and mine could be the value of simplicity. And so I agreed, explaining on the brochure that simplicity was okay, for after all, the King of kings was born in a manger. That may be just a very good excuse, but honestly, when you prayerfully consider what matters most, a lot can go so that He doesn’t get crowded out. This Advent we’re going to immerse ourselves in the prayers of Christmas: Elizabeth’s Spirit-led Prophecy over Mary; Mary’s Magnificat; Zechariah’s Song; Simeon’s Dedication and Prophecy; and on Christmas […]

read more

How To Respond To Thankless Thanksgiving Dinners!

Your heart’s desire is for a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving where you go around the table several times with various ways of thanking God. The fellowship is sweet, rich, laced with laughter, and glorifying to God.   But that may not happen. You may be at a home where the host is hostile to Christianity, or uncomfortable with the idea of sharing, or simply hasn’t thought beyond giving grace. There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. If there is hostility toward Christianity, you will likely be seen like this:   And instead of drawing them to Christ, it may actually be a stumbling block. On the other hand, if there an openness, a little encouragement from you might be what God is calling you to do, for it might be truly thought-provoking to some there. There […]

read more

THANKSGIVING 2017 (PART I)

God is near to the humble, to those who know their desperate need for Him, to those who know that without Him they can do nothing. As I told the women in prison last week: “Every time I come here, I feel the breath of God on the back of my neck, for He certainly shows up for you, and so I get to be a part of that. The most alive church I know is in the faith dorms of prison!”   My son J. R. came with me to do the filming for He Calls You Beautiful. On Sunday he went to death row, and came out shaken at the presence of God. He said, “Mom — they were in small cells, but I was overwhelmed by their joy!” When one woman looked up at him he was […]

read more

THOSE CHALLENGING STORIES (Abraham and Isaac)

This week we are going to look at one of the most challenging stories in Scripture: “The Sacrifice of Isaac.” We read it and think: What? God you abhor child sacrifice! But there is gold in this mine. What I see Abraham doing, and I think you will too, is talking to his soul about what he knows about God. Again and again I see how important it is when life is hard, when God isn’t making sense, when you are faced with losses, to talk to our souls instead of listening to them. Last week was a hard week for me — a child deeply struggling, some really bad financial news, and no easy answers. The scene outside my window matched the turmoil in my heart. But I did what the Lord has taught me to do — to talk […]

read more

Faith and Art (Part 1 of The Story of the Lamb)

Sitting by the fire on the anniversary of Steve’s death this month, my daughter Sally and I remembered one of the ways God ministered to us in our grief was through the story of the lamb, a story that runs throughout Scripture. I have often told of how God led Sally to paint Aslan, just a month before Steve’s fatal diagnosis, for God was preparing to uphold us when the earth gave way. As a little girl Sally had always loved Narnia, and the scene where the children first heard about Aslan, “the King of the whole wood,” came to mind:              “Is he a man?” asked Lucy.                         “Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not! I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-sea. Don’t you know […]

read more

THE TAPESTRY OF YOUR LIFE

We’ve seen Him do it here, on the blog: weaving our lives together so that we  feel His breath on the back of our necks. One incident I’ll never forget happened when I was trying to show that God has a plan for our lives that will make sense when we get to heaven. When He looks down, He says: “You are on track.” “You are right where I want you to be.” “You are here.” This is not the end of the story, however. It will make sense, one day. I posted a sign I just grabbed from google images: When our own dear Chris saw that sign, she froze. THAT WAS THE EXACT SIGN, THE VERY HOSPITAL SIGN, WHERE SHE AND HER HUSBAND SAT IN GRIEF AFTER GETTING BAD NEWS ABOUT THEIR SON DANIEL.  DANIEL HAD BEEN ACCOSTED […]

read more

WHERE IS YOUR IDENTITY, TRULY?

Years ago, I was ice skating with a new friend in Fargo. I had decided before we came it was time to find out where she really was with Jesus, for though I knew she was a church-goer, I had never heard her speak of the Lord in a personal way. As we skated around the rink, I braved what I hoped was a gentle question.  “Would you say that you are a Christian or that you are still on the way?”   Oh – how that backfired on me! She exploded in anger:   “Miss Dee, why would you think I am not a Christian? What is so bad about me?”   She was so angry she couldn’t hear me as I stuttered to explain that I was very bad — and I certainly wasn’t saying anything about her […]

read more

SET FREE OF RELIGION!

Martin Luther called it “the default mode of the human heart.” What is it? RELIGION   Tim Keller said that religion is just as dangerous as irreligion and the gospel calls us out of both. i Have you ever felt like God is punishing you because you failed Him? That’s religion.   Have you ever felt that if you would be better about Bible study and being pure, God would love you more? That’s religion.   Does your prayer life consist nearly exclusively of requests to control your environment? Religion again.   This summer we had a week where we saw how Galatians 4 used the story of Hagar and Sarah to illustrate the difference between the religion and the gospel. (If you missed it, you can review it here: The Enslavement of Non-Gods But in a nutshell, the birth […]

read more

The Gospel According to Noah

When Joni Eareckson Tada and Ken Estes wrote When God Weeps,  they made the controversial statement that it isn’t just that God allows sorrow, He appoints it. How I remember talking to our grief-struck daughter, Sally, after her dad’s death. We were swimming to our neighbor’s raft when Sally flipped on her back, looked up at the rose-colored clouds, and asked the really hard question. “Mom, I’ve been reading Ann VosKamp’s One Thousand Gifts and she says that even the hard things are planned by God. She quotes Amos, who said, ‘Does disaster come upon a city unless the Lord has done it?’ Did God plan for Dad to die?” I told her I knew God would bring good out of it, and she said, “That’s not what i’m asking. Did God plan Dad’s death?” Though it seems harsh to say, “Yes,” […]

read more