CHRISTMAS WEEK 2015!

Here we are, Christmas week, when we remember the most amazing miracle of all: God came to be with us in the flesh. Together we’ll help each other stay centered in the hustle and bustle of this busy week, to ponder, as Mary did, what it all means. I’ve mined treasures for each day, keeping it brief, and including the special video (thanks to Laura, Rebecca, and David!) from Laura-Dancer to John’s prologue. Today, we’ll contemplate that moment when Gabriel came to Mary. “Quite possibly,” Martin Luther wrote, “Mary was doing the housework when the angel Gabriel came to her. Angels prefer to come to people as they are fulfilling their calling and discharging their office.” Darrell Bock, who has an excellent two volume commentary on Luke (It received book of the year from Christianity Today the year it came […]

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MOVING WITH HIS SPIRIT (3)

My little village of Ephraim comes alive with light at Christmas. Homes, neighborhoods, and cities everywhere are aglow with light. Yet, in the hustle and bustle of the season, do people stop and ponder why all this light? Or is Christmas, in particularly irony, still the living out of this: The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. So, we still pray, “Come to set thy people free!” And then we must be alert to discover those whose hearts might be being drawn! A question or two might help discover if there is interest, if they might be hungering for this message: Unto you is born a Savior   OH, YES, OUR SAVIOR IS THE TRUE LIGHT […]

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SENT TO BEAR WITNESS (2)

There was a man sent from God to bear witness to the Light… And we too are sent from God to bear witness to the Light. And never are hearts more open than at Christmas. Let me tell you a story. I know how easily skeptics and seekers will say “Yes!” to a Christmas Tea, whereas they might run the other way if you invited them to a Good Friday Service. I’m speaking at one in Milwaukee tonight (pray!) and our little Bible study is hosting one Thursday (please pray) and we are only inviting skeptics and seekers. And they are coming — SO MANY we may even have to change venues. WE ARE SO EXCITED IN ANTICIPATING THAT GOD, IMMANUEL, WILL MEET US. At that tea, and we have told them, women will share how Bible study has impacted […]

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THE WORD WAS GOD (1)

WE’RE GOING TO EXPERIENCE THE WONDER OF ADVENT TOGETHER Last Advent I encouraged you to memorize John’s famous prologue. You may be surprised, but I am feeling led to go there again. Let me tell you a story. My friend Greg tells of being taught by Howard Hendricks at Dallas Theological Seminary. The first day of class Hendricks gave the students one passage of two verses and told them to find ten observations. They do. The next day he tells them to find ten more, and with much more effort they do. He repeats the assignment the third day and they are amazed — how can they possibly? Have they not exhausted its depth? No, they find they have not.  They look at every word, they look at cross references, they thoroughly examine the context. When he repeats the assignment […]

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A REAL THANKSGIVING

Norman Rockwell painted the above painting during World War II, when the world was in pain. We are in pain today as well, and how we must continue to help one another remember who God is, to let our requests be made known to Him, and to do it with thanksgiving. We will continue to practice prayer this week in our secret place, but to give thanks here on the blog, and hopefully, at our Thanksgiving tables. I KNOW IN YOUR HEART OF HEARTS, YOU WANT “A REAL THANKSGIVING.” ONE WHERE YOUR LOVED ONES GATHER AND THERE IS A TIME OF MEANINGFUL SHARING. It was 1998, and I was blessed that my parents were coming all the way from California. It is the only time I remember them coming to my home for Thanksgiving, and oh how I prayed. Neither […]

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PRACTICING PRAYER

 I’VE READ SO MANY EXCELLENT BOOKS ABOUT PRAYER: YANCEY, KELLER, MURRAY, BONHOEFFER… SO IT’S TIME FOR ME AND YOU TO: TOGETHER, WE WILL HELP ONE ANOTHER, THIS WEEK AND THEN AGAIN, THANKSGIVING WEEK TO PERSIST IN PRAYER  I’VE PONDERED HOW TO DO THIS ON A BLOG, SINCE JESUS SAYS TO DO THIS IN SECRET. SO HERE’S THE PLAN: GET INTO A PRIVATE PLACE EACH MORNING WITH YOUR NOTEBOOK OR HOWEVER YOU WANT TO RECORD. EACH TWO DAYS I’LL GIVE A REVIEW OF SOMETHING WE’VE LEARNED AND YOU CAN PUT THAT INTO PRACTICE — ALONG WITH ANY OTHER WAY THE LORD HAS LED YOU. IT WON’T BE PERFECT IT WON’T BE POLISHED BUT OH HOW GLAD HE WILL BE TO SEE YOU THERE IN YOUR SECRET PLACE, FOR HE SAYS: WHAT CAN YOU SHARE HERE, PUBLICLY, ON THE BLOG? THANKSGIVING THAT […]

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PERSISTENCE IN PRAYER

THERE IS NO LIFE AS EXCITING AS THIS LIFE WE HAVE IN CHRIST. TO THINK THAT THE GOD WHO MADE THE UNIVERSE IS MINDFUL OF US. I EXPERIENCED IT AGAIN LAST WEEK. EVEN AS IT WAS HAPPENING, I KNEW IT WAS HIM. HE WAS GUIDING AND ILLUMINATING PRAYER FOR ME AND FOR YOU. My daughter-in-law, Dianne, wanted to celebrate her husband’s “Jubilee” birthday on Oct 30th. So she rented a cabin in beautiful Brown County, Indiana and invited me and two of J. R.’s dear friends to come. As we were driving to the cabin, she stopped at this cross that a Christian family had erected where people could stop and pray, nailing their requests to the cross. We prayed for J. R. and nailed our requests there. At the cabin, for the next two days, we shared the excitement […]

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THE PARADOX OF PRAYER

DURING THIS THANKSGIVING MONTH WE WILL CONCENTRATE ON PRAYER, WITH AN EMPHASIS ON GIVING THANKS. THIS WEEK WE WILL CONSIDER “THE PARADOX OF PRAYER.” DAVID CAUGHT ONE PARADOX WHEN HE SAID: WHEN I CONSIDER THE HEAVENS… WHAT IS MAN THAT THOU ART MINDFUL OF HIM? God is AWESOME and yet DESIRES INTIMACY WITH US This is one of the two paradoxes we will ponder and practice this week. Consider this short clip from Tim Keller: His Spirit seems to be leading us on this journey — is that not in itself an illustration of awesomeness and intimacy? I think of how He led us to consider the ten lepers,  how all were thankful, but only one was in awe. Let us continue our journey of thankfulness all month, but also let us allow the thanks to lead us to awe. […]

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RISE UP, O GOD!

STEVE PRAYED PSALM 10 IN THE NIGHT, AS HE WAS NEARING THE END OF HIS EARTHLY LIFE IT IS A PSALM OF LAMENT, EXPRESSING THE PSALMIST’S GENUINE FEARS IT IS A PSALM THAT SEES THE SORROW ON EARTH, AND THE CRUELTY OF MAN. I KNOW STEVE FEARED FOR HIS DAUGHTERS IF GOD WAS REMOVING HIM FROM THE EARTH. HE THOUGHT OFTEN ABOUT BETH, WHO HAD EXPERIENCED THE TERROR OF MAN IN THAILAND, A LAND KNOWN FOR THE SEX TRADE OF YOUNG GIRLS. THOUGH SHE HAD BEEN PROTECTED UNDER STEVE’S CARE, NOW, IT SEEMED, GOD WAS CALLING STEVE HOME. HE CRIED OUT, REMEMBERING THAT GOD IS “THE HELPER OF THE FATHERLESS.” PSALM 10 TEACHES US HOW TO PRAY FOR THE HELPLESS FOR GIRLS LIKE BETH IN THAILAND. FOR FAMILIES CRUELLY DEPRIVED OF THEIR HOMES IN SYRIA. FOR WIDOWS AND ORPHANS IN […]

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THE UPSIDE DOWN SECRET

WHY DO I SO OFTEN RESIST THE FIRST PROMPTING OF HIS SPIRIT? I HAVE BELIEVED THE ENEMY’S LIE THAT GOD IS  BENT ON DEPRIVING ME. YET HE SAYS HE LOVES ME WITH AN EVERLASTING LOVE I NEED NOT FEAR OBEYING HIM. ISAIAH SAYS THAT LOVING WHAT HE LOVES WILL  MAKE MY LIGHT RISE IN THE DARKNESS, WILL TURN MY GLOOM INTO NOONDAY, AND WILL SATISFY MY DEEPEST DESIRES! (ISAIAH 58:10-11) WE FEAR POURING OURSELVES OUT TO THE POOR, THE PRISONER, THE FATHERLESS… BUT IT’S HIS UPSIDE-DOWN SECRET. THE MORE WE FOLLOW HIS HEART THE MORE HIS HEART GROWS IN US SURROUNDING US WITH HIS PRESENCE.  When Steve took some extra training in Fargo for a year, we were blessed to have Greg Scharf, the back-up speaker for John Stott, as our pastor. (Our own Renee and Wanda were blessed by that […]

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HE WHO GOES OUT WEEPING

Last week, as we began this new journey, we considered times when God fills our life with such joy, that we feel like we are “dreaming.” In Psalm 126, the Israelites are looking back to those times, to that “reservoir” of remembrance, for now they are in the desert of suffering. This is a psalm we’ve studied before, and some of this will be review, but oh, a review we constantly need, for this life is full of trouble. We constantly need to remember, as the hymn we will hear this week says, “earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.” One day, “he who goes out weeping, bearing seed for sowing, will return with shouts of joy, bringing sheaves with him.” Notice it doesn’t just say “he who goes out weeping,” but rather, “he who goes out weeping, bearing […]

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HE FILLED OUR MOUTH WITH LAUGHTER

               A NEW JOURNEY! AS I TELL YOU OUR STORY, I KNOW YOU WILL SEE THREADS OF YOUR STORY, FOR WE BELONG TO THE SAME WEAVER, WHO WEAVES THE FABRIC OF OUR LIVES. AS I PONDER THE WAYS OF THIS WEAVER, I ASK YOU TO COME ALONG, AND PONDER WITH ME, THAT YOU MAY KNOW HIM AND LOVE HIM BETTER, AND BECOME MORE OF WHAT HE HAS CALLED YOU TO BE, NO MATTER YOUR CALLING IN LIFE. HE IS A WONDROUS GOD WHO HAS DONE GREAT THINGS, EVEN AT TIMES, FILLING OUR MOUTH WITH LAUGHTER! In the summer of 2010, all three of my daughters and my only daughter-in-law gave birth to baby girls. When the four mothers appeared together in public, each carrying a newborn snuggled in a sling, questions would fly from curious onlookers:             “Quadruplets?”             “No […]

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A WOMAN OF BEAUTY (PVBS. 31)

ARTISTS TELL YOU TO “DRAW WHAT YOU SEE,” NOT WHAT YOU “THINK YOU SEE.” AND BIBLE SCHOLARS WOULD TELL YOU TO READ WHAT IS THERE INSTEAD OF WHAT YOU THINK IS THERE WHEN YOU COME TO FAMILIAR PASSAGES. This week I want you to really look at the Proverbs 31 woman, for so many have come to this passage with a picture already in their mind of a mousy “Bill Gothard” kind of woman. Considering the patriarchal culture in which this was written, instead, she was a paradigm changer! She reminds me of the 7 women in the new book by Eric Metaxas: women like Susannah Wesley and Rosa Parks who cared intensely about their families, but also about a lost, hurting, and unjust world. What was their secret and the secret of the Proverbs 31 woman? She feared the […]

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AGUR! PAINTER OF PICTURES (#15)

PROVERBS 30 IS SOMETIMES KNOWN AS THE BOOK OF AGUR. HIS PROVERBS, FILLED WITH POETIC PICTURES, PENETRATE THE HEART, FOR IT IS TRUE, THAT A PICTURE CAN BE WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS, TAPPING INTO THE RIGHT BRAIN AND FALLING TO THE HEART. YOU MAY REMEMBER WHEN WE STUDIED THE SANCTITY OF SEX, LOOKING AT AGUR’S PICTURES: Three things are too wonderful for me; four I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky; the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a virgin. Do you see the hidden pearl in Agur’s pictures? In each case, two different but complimentary creations become one, moving in a beauty that would not be possible without the other. The fourth example is so profound Agur […]

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HEART IDOLS & PROVERBS (P & P # 14)

In our last study on the fool, one of you asked: “Since fools are so dangerous, why would we ignore the warning signs?” I thought about the young woman who saw the warning signs weeks before the wedding that she might, indeed, be marrying an abusive fool. All the preparations had been made for this destination wedding. It was too late to cancel: the airplane reservations, the dresses, the flowers, the banquet… Her idols of comfort and approval rose up. So she deceived herself, justifying his temper tantrums, his swearing, and his abuse. She kept silent and married him. TO HER GREAT REGRET. WHY DO WE IGNORE ANY OF THE WARNINGS OF PROVERBS? It’s always a heart idol. The sin beneath the sin that causes us to deceive ourselves and sail into disaster. This week, for example, we’ll study this […]

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