The Heart of Maundy Thursday


The first time I was invited to attend a Maundy Thursday service over 20 years ago, I had no clue what it was. They tried valiantly to explain the significance.

But I had to experience it first-hand to understand the true meaning.

Maundy Thursday, also called Holy Thursday, recalls the events that took place the night Jesus was betrayed in the upper room.

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke reveal how Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper for the first time. That life-altering table of forgiveness laid out for us.

But the gospel of John focuses on something different.

John hones in on Jesus' final teachings to His disciples -- this band of men who had followed Him, served Him, and witnessed three years of His ministry.

John realized that those who know their remaining time is short choose words carefully to ensure only the essential gets conveyed.

So what were Jesus' instructions that night? "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." John 13:34

Serving Jesus requires love.

The word maundy is derived from the Latin phrase mandatum novum, meaning "new commandment." You and I have been commanded to love. To live in relationship with Him and each other.

But John doesn't simply end his account with men enjoying a meal and hearing Jesus speak. He tells how Jesus dramatically punctuated His words with action.

In a shocking turn of events that almost sent Peter over the edge, Jesus -- God in the flesh -- stooped to wash the disciples' feet.

Jesus "got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. ... 'Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.'" John 13:4, 13-16

Serving Jesus requires serving others.

We can opt to serve others from a safe distance by sending money or supplies, but serving to make a kingdom impact as His hands and feet requires us to get in close.

Get our hands dirty.

Do the lowliest job.

That's what foot washing represented in Biblical times. Only the lowest servant was relegated to the task of washing feet encased in sandals and thick desert dust. The job stunk. Literally.

That's where Jesus meets us on Maundy Thursday -- in the middle of our smelly lives.

He washes our feet in love and welcomes us to His table of forgiveness. And as we draw close, we hear Him remind us of His mandatum novum: "Love one another, just as I have loved you."

The heart of Maundy Thursday reflects the heart of God: love.

Love instituted in a meal of forgiveness and redemption.

Love demonstrated by a foot washing, life-giving love.

If you have the opportunity to attend a Maundy Thursday service, don't miss out. It provides a beautiful glimpse into God's everlasting love for us.

How does Jesus' act of love and servant leadership inspire you?

*This blog originally posted on March 26, 2013.
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Why We Need a Palm Sunday Reminder that Jesus Shows Up


CONGRATULATIONS TO CHRISTINE BACON!
You've won my latest DVD Bible study set!
Please email your contact information to: inquiry@artesianministries.org

_____________________________________________________________________
Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.
Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the
name of the Lord!" "Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!" "Hosanna in the highest heaven!" Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts.
Mark 11:8-11

The people lined the street waving palm branches to welcome Jesus.

They thought He was coming to replace an earthly king and give them what they wanted.

In reality, Jesus came to be their eternal king and give them what they needed.   

Perhaps difficulties and hardship had spun them around until they were dizzy.

Perhaps you can relate.

When life spins us around until we feel lost, we need to know one important thing:

Jesus always shows up.

He traveled into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding a lowly, borrowed donkey. He chose simplicity because the simple is often more profound than the complicated.

He will come to us in ways we don't expect. Sometimes in our loneliness we just need to know that we're not alone.

One thing is certain: Jesus always shows up. 

And with His presence, He reassures us: You don’t have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps — you only have to pull close to Him.

Blessings on your Palm Sunday celebrations this weekend!
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Celebrating {and a Bible Study Giveaway}



How could I possibly let the "200" milestone slip by uncelebrated?

Okay, a bit of a crowded schedule contributed to it, but it's time to kick up our heels and start praising God!

Today's blog post is number 208. My first post went live on January 29, 2010 to create a place to gather at Jesus' feet and talk about issues of faith and life. We've discussed everything from stories in Scripture, cultural issues, faith life, divorce, suicide, body image, family dynamics, and so much more.

I have learned so much from you, and I pray God has used this little corner of the blogosphere to teach you something new about Him and each other, as well.

Getting to know you as we chat in the comments has been my greatest joy! With over 144,000+ hits on this blog, you haven't been afraid to talk tough about important issues, always seasoned with grace and love. I appreciate so much the heart behind our interaction here that focuses on the impetus to improve, not tear down.

I love you so much! So to celebrate, we're talking a giveaway and Bible study, of course!!

Prize
A signed copy of my newest 6-lesson DVD Bible study with workbook, "Overflowing Abundance," based on Jesus' feeding the five thousand. 

To Enter:
Since I'm always interested in new ways to learn Scripture, just comment below to let me know what tool(s) you're using to dig into Scripture on a regular basis right now. (I can't wait to see the amazing list of resources from y'all!)

I am working through a daily read-through-the Bible plan with notepad handy (rabbit trails are inevitable), along with Christine Caine's excellent new "Living Life Undaunted" (365 day devotional).

For an Extra Chance to Win:
After this Spring speaking season (and since my second book's manuscript has been turned in), I'm itching to write a new, full-length Bible study. I love all kinds of writing, but writing Bible studies is my first love. What story, event, or person from Scripture would you love to study indepth?

I cannot tell you much I look forward to gathering on this blog with you twice every week. Thank you for linking arms with me here. I love your partnership in the Gospel. And I love you.

Don't forget to comment for a chance to win -- and share this post to give others a chance!! The winner will be announced on Thursday's post.
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Noah the Movie: A Few Thoughts from an Average Peep


After much anticipation, I finally headed to the theater to see "NOAH" last night.

I've read several reviews about the movie -- both positive and negative. Many articles included quotes from other reviewers, the film's director and producer, and, of course, Scripture. I'll let you dig into those sources on your own (though I did pull a few excellent thoughts from this review).

My goal is to provide a firsthand impression within hours of seeing the movie from an "average Joe" who has a pretty good grasp of the biblical account.

I went in with an open mind, realizing the movie would not be (and never claimed to be) an accurate interpretation of the Genesis account. I went with a dear friend, who happens to be an atheist. Her presence made me acutely aware of how those outside the church might react to the film's contents.

That being said, here goes:

What I liked about NOAH:

1) Noah's tenacity to follow the Creator

Although Noah never refers to God by name, only as "the Creator," it's abundantly clear that Noah and his family long to honor the Creator. They reverently view Him as just, sovereign, and completely in charge.

2) The movie's topography mirrors sin

The first half of the movie leading up to the flood occurs in a wasteland. The topography looks like a volcanic ash, post-nuclear-war setting. There is very little green, only big boulders, black dirt, and tree stumps as far as the eye can see. It's a powerful visual of the destruction that sin causes in our lives.

3) Noah isn't deemed perfect

Russell Crowe powerfully portrays Noah as a real man who struggles with his calling, family relationships, and facing sin (both his and others). Once the ark comes to rest on dry ground, Noah gets drunk (which Scripture confirms) as he tries to anesthetize his pain and struggles. He also fails to extend grace and mercy at critical junctures when he should -- much like we do today. Yet in the end, it's Noah reliance on the Creator's ultimate goal of redemption that offers hope.

4) The flood is appropriately devastating and unsettling

When the flood finally happened and annihilated everything, it proved to be one of the most disturbing and heartbreaking moments in the movie. At one point, Noah and his family can hear the screams of those unable to make it into the ark. That's something I've often pondered. This movie isn't the watered down Sunday School version, but a vivid depiction of a holy God's wrath poured out upon mankind.

5) The epic scale and cinematography

I must admit, seeing some of the scenes from Noah come to life on such an epic scale took my breath away. The scene where all of the animals converge on the ark is visually stunning. In that instant, I actually felt the weight of what Noah's burden must have been to care for and keep safe that multitude for the post-flood world. When the flood's tidal wave finally hit the ark and sent it bobbing to the top with no land in sight, I felt a fear of the unknown that Noah must have felt. Truly incredible.

What I Didn't Like About NOAH:

1) Some of the "magical" elements
  • Throughout the movie, "watchers" in the form of rock-encased fallen angels help Noah build the ark. 
  • Adam and Eve are portrayed as luminescent beings instead of flesh and blood. 
  • Noah and a few other characters use glowing crystals to start fires. Those same crystals are used to create a special smoke that causes all the animals to fall into a deep sleep during their ark voyage.
The writers and producers of Noah took artistic license with several elements in the movie, but are not condescending or mean-spirited. Theirs are simply interpretations designed to fill in the gaps of a relatively short account (4 chapters, around 2,500 words total) of a biblical character and event. 

2) Strange plot twists

Right as the flood occurs, a violent leader of the people left behind actually makes it on board the ark as a stowaway. Injured, he hides his presence from Noah, convinces Noah's son Ham to nurse him back to health, and then solicits Ham's help in his unsuccessful plot to kill Noah and take over.

3) A caution to parents

I would not take younger children to see this movie as it is definitely dark. If you take your teenagers, be prepared to pull out your Bibles and follow up with a family night discussion after dinner in the near future to go over the Noah account in Genesis. Help them process which elements are or are not Scriptural and listen to how the story impacted them.

So What's the Bottom Line?

If you’ve seen the film and didn’t like it, that’s perfectly fine. We all have different tastes and you’re certainly free to express your opinion.

Although I won't see it a second time, I'm certainly glad I saw it. The movie raised many questions that drove me back into Scripture to research, study and read again. I'll be pondering it for a long time, which provides the perfect opening for dialogue with friends, co-workers and family.

After the movie, my atheist friend and I enjoyed dinner together. I respectfully asked questions and so did she. I discovered to a greater degree what she believes and found out the last time she actually read the Bible was about 15 years ago. Yes, she's read it from cover to cover. 

She even spotted the movie's liberal artistic interpretation in certain areas and didn't agree with them. I was able to relay what Scripture had to say about those issues in a very relaxed, non-threatening atmosphere. We were able to have a frank conversation sprinkled with laughter about issues that matter.

If you haven't seen the film, yet bad mouth it or put it down, you're missing the point. This movie is a conversation starter, but you can't converse intelligently if you haven't seen it. Read Scripture's account of Noah both before and after seeing the movie, then engage in meaningful discussions.

So...for what they're worth, those are my thoughts ...

Do you plan on seeing Noah? If so, what's your game plan?
If you've already seen it, what are your thoughts?


For further reading, here are a few helpful reviews/articles about the movie "Noah":
  1. "NOAH: A Few Thoughts from a Pretty Simple Pastor and Dad" 
  2. "Noah" - a review from Christianity Today

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An Anchor Verse for Those Broken Days

tsukuroi (keen-tsoo-koo-roy) is the Japanese art of repaired pottery.

But it's something more than that. An important something.

When a potter makes a bowl, he makes it by hand with malleable clay.  The bowl is formed to the potter's liking, then fired to a couple thousand degrees.  Afterwards, it is finished and presented as a true work of art.

Now, let's say the bowl broke.  Would you even consider repairing it, let alone consider it more beautiful for having been broken?  Of course not!  We (especially in the Western world) demote and dishonor it, throwing it out in the trash.

But others would not only repair it, but also elevate it to a whole new level of appreciation.

The Origin of the Repaired-Ceramics Artform 


We'll have to go back to mid-1500 Japan for that.  The story is told of a bowl that was much loved by a military ruler. One day during a gathering, a servant accidentally dropped the bowl, which broke into five pieces.  Everyone paused, fearing for the young man as the military leader was known to possess a quick,  harsh temper.  Then one of the guests improvised a comic poem about the incident, provoking laughter all around and restoring the leader to good spirits.

This story goes on to say that instead of the break "…diminishing [the bowl's] appeal, a new sense of its vitality and resilience raised appreciation to even greater heights."  The bowl had become more beautiful for having been broken.  The true life of the bowl "…began the moment it was dropped…"

From that day onward, mended bowls have been used and cherished for generations.  In Japan, cracks in precious bowls are often filled with gold.  The Japanese believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful (see here for more detail).

"Bruised, Broken, Torn for us..."


Almost 2,000 years ago, someone once was bruised, broken and torn...for you.  Shortly afterwards, His body was cast aside.  Even though He soon resurrected, the signs of His brokenness and His scars -- for you -- remain.

It's because of Him -- Jesus Christ -- that we experience new vitality, new resilience and new life at greater heights.

Human Kintsukuroi


I have many friends who have been literally beaten, broken, torn up and kicked to the curb like trash.  Some, for years.

Yet they get up again, stand tall, and praise His name for His wonderful example of overcoming all things.

They have been healed with gold (the metal of the Celestial realms; D&C 137) and leave me with profound appreciation for their example, too.

Kintsukuroi (keen-tsoo-koo-roy).

It's the Japanese art of repaired pottery.

It's also a reminder that all those cracks, lines, chips and breaks in your life are what makes you beautiful and far more valuable to your Creator... - See more at: http://ldsperfectday.blogspot.com/2013/12/why-word-kintsukuroi-means-so-much-to.html#sthash.vIdeVj9B.dpuf
Kintsukuroi (keen-tsoo-koo-roy) is the Japanese art of repaired pottery.

But it's something more than that. An important something.

When a potter makes a bowl, he makes it by hand with malleable clay.  The bowl is formed to the potter's liking, then fired to a couple thousand degrees.  Afterwards, it is finished and presented as a true work of art.

Now, let's say the bowl broke.  Would you even consider repairing it, let alone consider it more beautiful for having been broken?  Of course not!  We (especially in the Western world) demote and dishonor it, throwing it out in the trash.

But others would not only repair it, but also elevate it to a whole new level of appreciation.

The Origin of the Repaired-Ceramics Artform 


We'll have to go back to mid-1500 Japan for that.  The story is told of a bowl that was much loved by a military ruler. One day during a gathering, a servant accidentally dropped the bowl, which broke into five pieces.  Everyone paused, fearing for the young man as the military leader was known to possess a quick,  harsh temper.  Then one of the guests improvised a comic poem about the incident, provoking laughter all around and restoring the leader to good spirits.

This story goes on to say that instead of the break "…diminishing [the bowl's] appeal, a new sense of its vitality and resilience raised appreciation to even greater heights."  The bowl had become more beautiful for having been broken.  The true life of the bowl "…began the moment it was dropped…"

From that day onward, mended bowls have been used and cherished for generations.  In Japan, cracks in precious bowls are often filled with gold.  The Japanese believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful (see here for more detail).

"Bruised, Broken, Torn for us..."


Almost 2,000 years ago, someone once was bruised, broken and torn...for you.  Shortly afterwards, His body was cast aside.  Even though He soon resurrected, the signs of His brokenness and His scars -- for you -- remain.

It's because of Him -- Jesus Christ -- that we experience new vitality, new resilience and new life at greater heights.

Human Kintsukuroi


I have many friends who have been literally beaten, broken, torn up and kicked to the curb like trash.  Some, for years.

Yet they get up again, stand tall, and praise His name for His wonderful example of overcoming all things.

They have been healed with gold (the metal of the Celestial realms; D&C 137) and leave me with profound appreciation for their example, too.

Kintsukuroi (keen-tsoo-koo-roy).

It's the Japanese art of repaired pottery.

It's also a reminder that all those cracks, lines, chips and breaks in your life are what makes you beautiful and far more valuable to your Creator... - See more at: http://ldsperfectday.blogspot.com/2013/12/why-word-kintsukuroi-means-so-much-to.html#sthash.vIdeVj9B.dpuf
Kintsukuroi (keen-tsoo-koo-roy) is the Japanese art of repaired pottery.

But it's something more than that. An important something.

When a potter makes a bowl, he makes it by hand with malleable clay.  The bowl is formed to the potter's liking, then fired to a couple thousand degrees.  Afterwards, it is finished and presented as a true work of art.

Now, let's say the bowl broke.  Would you even consider repairing it, let alone consider it more beautiful for having been broken?  Of course not!  We (especially in the Western world) demote and dishonor it, throwing it out in the trash.

But others would not only repair it, but also elevate it to a whole new level of appreciation. - See more at: http://ldsperfectday.blogspot.com/2013/12/why-word-kintsukuroi-means-so-much-to.html#sthash.vIdeVj9B.dpuf

Kintsukuroi (keen-tsoo-koo-roy) is the Japanese art of repaired pottery.

But it's something more than that. An important something.

When a potter makes a bowl, he makes it by hand with malleable clay.  The bowl is formed to the potter's liking, then fired to a couple thousand degrees.  Afterwards, it is finished and presented as a true work of art.

Now, let's say the bowl broke.  Would you even consider repairing it, let alone consider it more beautiful for having been broken?  Of course not!  We (especially in the Western world) demote and dishonor it, throwing it out in the trash.

But others would not only repair it, but also elevate it to a whole new level of appreciation.

The Origin of the Repaired-Ceramics Artform 


We'll have to go back to mid-1500 Japan for that.  The story is told of a bowl that was much loved by a military ruler. One day during a gathering, a servant accidentally dropped the bowl, which broke into five pieces.  Everyone paused, fearing for the young man as the military leader was known to possess a quick,  harsh temper.  Then one of the guests improvised a comic poem about the incident, provoking laughter all around and restoring the leader to good spirits.

This story goes on to say that instead of the break "…diminishing [the bowl's] appeal, a new sense of its vitality and resilience raised appreciation to even greater heights."  The bowl had become more beautiful for having been broken.  The true life of the bowl "…began the moment it was dropped…"

From that day onward, mended bowls have been used and cherished for generations.  In Japan, cracks in precious bowls are often filled with gold.  The Japanese believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful (see here for more detail).

"Bruised, Broken, Torn for us..."


Almost 2,000 years ago, someone once was bruised, broken and torn...for you.  Shortly afterwards, His body was cast aside.  Even though He soon resurrected, the signs of His brokenness and His scars -- for you -- remain.

It's because of Him -- Jesus Christ -- that we experience new vitality, new resilience and new life at greater heights.

Human Kintsukuroi


I have many friends who have been literally beaten, broken, torn up and kicked to the curb like trash.  Some, for years.

Yet they get up again, stand tall, and praise His name for His wonderful example of overcoming all things.

They have been healed with gold (the metal of the Celestial realms; D&C 137) and leave me with profound appreciation for their example, too.

Kintsukuroi (keen-tsoo-koo-roy).

It's the Japanese art of repaired pottery.

It's also a reminder that all those cracks, lines, chips and breaks in your life are what makes you beautiful and far more valuable to your Creator... - See more at: http://ldsperfectday.blogspot.com/2013/12/why-word-kintsukuroi-means-so-much-to.html#sthash.vIdeVj9B.dpuf
Dating back to the mid-1500s, Kintsukuroi (keen-tsoo-koo-roy) is the Japanese art of repairing pottery.

The story is told of a bowl that was much loved by a military ruler. One day, a servant accidentally dropped the bowl, which broke into five pieces. Everyone paused, fearing for the servant as the military leader was known to possess a quick, harsh temper.

But instead of the break diminishing the bowl's appeal, the military ruler believed that a new sense of its vitality and resilience raised appreciation to even greater heights.

The bowl had become more beautiful for having been broken.

From that day onward, mended bowls have been used and cherished in Japan for generations because cracks in precious bowls are often filled with gold. They believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history, it becomes more beautiful.

In our Western culture, we tend to demote and dishonor broken things, throwing them out with trash.  I have known people who have been literally beaten, broken, torn up, and kicked to the curb like trash. Yet those who know Christ get up again, stand tall and praise His name for Jesus' example of overcoming all things.

Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus was broken, bruised and torn ... for us.

Jesus was placed in that tomb on Good Friday broken. But on that glorious, golden Easter morning, God resurrected Him to shine a powerful message of redemptive love and forgiveness.

You are not less valuable because you've been broken.

Speaking from the painful experience of divorce, God has used that most broken time in my life to provide hope and healing to countless others facing similar circumstances. If you're facing difficult circumstances, here is one of my favorite anchor verses:

"He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners
." Isaiah 61:1

You may not like all of those cracks, chips and breaks in your life, but God's glory reflects golden off of those repaired places to draw others to Him.

If you let Him, God will use your most painful experiences to mold and shape you into something far more beautiful than before.
Thoughts?
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How to Exit a Whale's Digestion


"Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." Jonah 1:15, 17

That's the self-help book Jonah never imagined he would need.

It's the advice his father never thought to impart: "Son, if you end up in the belly of a big fish, here's the best exit strategy."

And yet, there Jonah sat as undigested food in a lousy atmosphere wondering if he'd ever see sunlight again. God had instructed Jonah to head north and deliver a message of repentance to Nineveh. Jonah opted to run south.

He chose to run from God.

So out of love, God sent a raging storm to get Jonah's attention to perform an about-face.

I can easily relate to Jonah on so many levels. I spent my entire young adulthood running from God and relying on my own wisdom. I thought I had a pretty good bead on life.

Until God sent a raging storm.

Although I didn't end up in the belly of a big fish, I ended up in a scary place in the wee hours one Saturday morning in my early twenties that served as the biggest wake up call EVER. Only then did God allow me to realize that my storm was a direct result of my rebellion.

Although I wasn't a Christ-follower at the time, I remember making this deal with God: If you get me out of this mess, I'll change my path. 

He did.

And by His grace alone, I did.

After sitting in the belly of that big fish for three days thinking about what put him there, Jonah finally did what it takes to exit a whale's digestion -- he repented.

"But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows.
For my salvation comes from the Lord alone." Then the Lord ordered the fish
to spit Jonah out onto the beach.
(Jonah 2:9-10, NLT)

I bet Jonah never imagined in a thousand years that he would one day find himself sprawled on a beach covered in the contents of a big fish's stomach.

Yet his story provides a vivid reminder of where we land on those rebellious days when we choose to run from God and his calling on our life.

If you find yourself in one of those self-made storms today, Jonah's example offers the perfect exit strategy: repent and turn towards God.

And the wonderful, hope-filled truth?

We can never outrun His love or grace that He pours out on His wayward children!

God never tires of calming the storm. He faithfully reminds us how much He loves us and sets our feet on His right path once again.

Regardless of how fierce the storm, it's never too late.

Have you experienced a self-made storm in your life when you
realized God was trying to get your attention?
 
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 Image from here.

Why I Urge Christians to See the Movie "Noah"


This Friday, the movie "Noah" hits movie theaters nationwide.

Paramount Pictures employed the best of the best in Hollywood to create an epic-scale depiction of Noah's struggles, survival through the Flood, and its aftermath.  Noah also depicts the seriousness of our human condition at its very core.

At the request of Paramount Pictures, Phil Cooke (a fellow author and agency-mate of mine), created a short video feature with Christian leaders talking about the movie (watch to the end for quotes!):



You can read Phil's blog post about the movie with this excellent feature video here.

This movie provides Christians with a golden opportunity.

Not only will Noah drive Christians back into the book of Genesis (whether to learn or argue), it will serve as a powerful conversation-starter with the unchurched. 

Next Wednesday evening, I'm taking a dear friend to see the movie with me. Did I mention she's an atheist? She also LOVES Russell Crowe. BINGO. She did not accept my invitation based on the movie's main character. She accepted because I personally invited her, we will enjoy trying out a new restaurant for dinner, and, of course, because Russell Crowe is the lead actor. But she's incredibly smart. I fully expect her to question or comment on the movie's contents.

Don't you just love how God uses every available tool to open doors and reach people right where they are?

Some Christians will choose to attack or perhaps even boycott this movie over theological variables. And that makes me very, very sad. They'll spend so much time fighting within their Christian bubbles that they won't even notice the unchurched shaking their heads in disgust, vowing never to step foot in a church. (Trust me, I've been on both sides of that bubble.)

As a new Christian over 20 years ago, if a Christian would have stood over me as I read the Bible to make sure I understood proper theology before reading Scripture, I would have run. Seriously. That's tantamount to making a toddler who wants to ride a Big Wheel read a complicated motorcycle safety instruction manual first -- in Japanese.

God uses small steps (like this movie, trusted friendships with believers, sermons, etc.) to draw us into His bigger story. This movie is a conversation starter. I look forward to the post-movie conversations that God will open between me and my atheist friend. And I'll be praying for God to guide my words.

You and I have a CHOICE as to how we respond to this opportunity. Sure, we could sling mud at other Christians and hiss ugly over differing theology.

But what if we choose instead to round up friends from all walks of life to watch how our loving God breaks through sin's darkness to shine His light of redemption?

What would Jesus have chosen?

If you'd like to dig deep into the biblical account of Noah, my publisher Concordia Publishing House is offering a complimentary 18-page downloadable study here.

So the question is:
Are you planning to see the movie Noah and use it as an outreach tool?
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For When You Struggle: How Wolves Change Rivers



If you wrestle with any particular, longstanding struggle, then chances are you (like me) have asked yourself: "Why does God continue to let me struggle?"

Doesn't He love me? Does He just sit back and watch for entertainment value?

My entire adult life I have struggled with consistently following a healthy lifestyle. On occasion, amidst moments of extreme frustration and self-loathing, I've literally pounded my fist and shouted:

"WHY DON'T YOU TAKE THIS AWAY, GOD? I've asked, begged, and pleaded
only to have this painful thorn remain in my side. DON'T YOU CARE ABOUT ME?"

Earlier this week, I listened to a podcast that provided the clearest, between-the-eyes answer to my recurring question. Ben Stuart of Breakaway Ministries leads a weekly evening Bible study on the campus of Texas A&M University that draws thousands of college students each week 

In this teaching, Ben addressed painful, destructive struggles such as pornography, alcoholism, and insecurity. Even though he was speaking to the young college men, the message applies unilaterally. 

On Monday, I had been facing a particularly tough day in my area of struggle. AGAIN. God put this podcast on my radar in the very moment when I was at a crossroads -- Do I give up or try again? After listening to this podcast ... I'm not giving up.

God is so faithful to provide precisely the encouragement we need exactly when we need it. 

God used Ben's clear teaching from Hebrews 12 to change my mindset. A video clip that Ben included in his teaching provided a fresh perspective on how I view struggle in four minutes flat. It's called How Wolves Change Rivers. [Click "play" on the picture above.]

When it comes to building strength, character and perseverance, God permits hungry wolves into our sheltered lives, metaphorically speaking. My constant struggle with leading a healthy lifestyle defines my wolf. Some days it feels like a big, voracious pack of them.

These wolves will devour me whole unless I shrug off the false bravado, admit my weakness, and lean into God's perfect strength. And in the leaning He will open my jaded eyes and see the harvest of good He promises to bring forth from this pain.

The truth is, the pack can howl, stalk and circle, but the wolves will never take me down as long as I keep my eyes plastered on Jesus.  

If you are weary of fighting against a particular struggle in your life, you need to hear Ben's podcast. If you have a friend who struggles, they need to hear it. I've downloaded it onto my phone so that I can listen to it over and over and over and OVER.

YOU CAN LISTEN TO BEN'S PODCAST HERE.

My struggle will still rear its ugly head simply because the enemy intends it for my destruction. But in His infinite love, God uses my greatest struggle to forge an iron strong faith and tenderhearted compassion. And in doing so, enables me to effectively conquer it and reach out to others who struggle. Because He promises:

God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? … God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7, 10-11)

How do you handle your most painful, recurring struggles? 
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What I Learned at the Seminary


I've never enrolled as a student in a seminary.  But this past weekend, I was given an incredible sneak peek into that life.  

What I learned opened my eyes on many levels.

On Saturday, I was invited to speak at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis at their "Complete in Him: Reflections for ALL Christians on Singleness" conference, organized by their Life Team.

I was so surprised to receive such an invitation simply because: (1) I didn't grow up in the church; (2) I never attended college; (3) I'm divorced; and (4) I'm a woman (significant because women are not ordained in my denomination).

But those were PRECISELY some of the reasons I had been invited.

The conference's overarching goal was to hold a series of conversations about the "single" -- whether never married, widowed or divorced -- life in order to provide a sensitivity and real-time glimpse into that demographic that seminarians will face in their future congregations.

Confession time: I approached the event with a preconceived notion that I would face a room full of stoic men in clerical collars who were only there to fulfill some academic requirement. I realize that's a stereotype, but I'm just keeping it real. Part of my trepidation stemmed from my own insecurities (see reasons #1-4, above).

Instead, what I discovered was a friendly gathering of jeans-clad seminarians, along with knowledgeable and friendly seminary professors, with ready smiles who voluntarily sacrificed a Saturday to gain practical insight into effective ministry. A third of the attendees were women (a fact I never even considered) comprised of seminary wives, local lay people, and deaconesses studying for church ministry.

My purpose was not to conduct a Bible study about what Scripture says about divorce, or even provide a demographic study of the divorce rates or where the most concentrated clusters reside.

My job was to put a face to those just like me and lend experiential insight that cannot be learned from a book.

I talked about how it felt being divorced. How it felt to walk back into my church for the first time after my marriage blew up four years ago. How it felt being half of a statistic I never wanted. How my pastors reached out to me AND my ex-husband to attempt reconciliation. I shared with them the practical ways that my pastors walked our congregation through a high profile divorce without taking sides or allowing camps to form. I told them how my church and pastors best ministered to me in that time of brokenness.

In a nutshell, God allowed me to share how those future pastors and church workers can create a culture of grace instead of culture of judgmentalism in their future congregations.

Their questions during the panel discussion and Q&A time reflected their desire to effectively shepherd their flocks from a heart of compassion -- not just head knowledge. Their questions provided such a beautiful picture of Jesus' love for people.

Statistics prove that they will deal with 42%-50% of divorced people in their churches. So I left them with this thought:

One day they will be sitting in their church's office when a broken person walks in -- perhaps a personal friend from the congregation or even a staff member -- who reveals that the enemy just lobbed a grenade in the middle of their marriage. In that moment, it won't matter how well the pastor can translate Greek and Hebrew. What matters most in that moment is how they will be able to translate the love and grace of God into that brokenness.

I pray that God planted a seed in their hearts and minds this weekend. I pray that God will nurture and grow those seeds to benefit their future ministries for God's glory. I prayed for them individually and as a group over the rest of the weekend. 

I left the seminary on Saturday with a renewed sense of hope for the Church. 

I'm so thankful to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis for recognizing the importance of holding such conversations. And I'm so very thankful for those enthusiastic, bright, compassionate men who are the future leaders of our Church.

Thoughts?
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When Darkness is a Feeling



Then the Lord said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt." Exodus 10:21 (ESV)

You have probably seen Charlton Heston's portrayal of Moses in the movie classic, The Ten Commandments. The dramatic scenes unfold as God sends ten plagues over Egypt to convince Pharaoh to release His people from bondage. For the ninth plague, God sent darkness over the land.

Did you ever take note of the last word in the verse above?

The ninth plague didn't produce ordinary darkness. This darkness could be felt.

As we continue our journey through Lent, darkness is particularly relevant. Although darkness is the absence of light, it can also be a place.  

A feeling.

When darkness descends, eyesight becomes ineffective. Finding our bearings proves nearly impossible unless we've anchored deep in the bedrock of God Himself.

When the dark storms of life toss and turn our boat, we're at the mercy of the wind and waves. Anchoring deep in God and His Word prevents us from going adrift.

Anchoring to God means that light will return. Storms move through, but God remains constant.

It's interesting to note that darkness was the ninth plague. The severity of that plagues that God sent against the Egyptians increased incrementally. Each plague proved more harsh than the one before.

The tenth plague was death.

Darkness immediately preceded death.

It feels like that in our dark times, doesn't it? We don't think we'll survive. Darkness frightens us because we can't see anything familiar. No landmarks. Only flying debris. If we're not anchoring deep, we'll go down with the ship. Maybe not physically, but perhaps emotionally, and certainly spiritually.

If this Lenten season finds you walking through a particular season of darkness, anchor deep in the truth of His promises to bring good out of every situation. And hang onto that truth for dear life.

Darkness can be felt.

But so can God's amazing light, comfort, and peace within it. 

"He uncovers mysteries hidden in darkness; He brings light to the deepest gloom." Job 12:22 NLT

How do you handle dark seasons of life? What wisdom or experience can you share?
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