Archives for 2011

Video Blog: A Fresh Look at the Familiar

Got about 15 minutes? If so, join me in taking a fresh look at the familar story of a humble Jewish girl, a faithful carpenter, and a baby in a manger one silent, glorious night in Bethlehem . . .

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Click here to purchase a copy of Ken Gire’s Intimate Moments with the Savior.

Click here to purchase a copy of John MacArthur’s Twelve Extraordinary Women.

 

 

 

“I Can’t Find Jesus!”

“I can’t find Jesus!”

 

I’ll never forget the day my mom frantically turned the house upside-down looking for the baby Jesus that belongs to her glass nativity set. She searched every room, every drawer, and every box of Christmas decorations. She even drilled my sweet (will-do-anything-for-a-good-laugh) little brother to make sure he wasn’t playing some kind of sick joke. But after all the searching and the interrogation, Jesus was still missing. It was quite the mystery, an unexplainable phenomenon, and a real frustration for my mother who takes nativity sets at Christmas time very, very seriously. (I’m exaggerating a little, but only a little.)

 

Turns out, Jesus was never missing in the first place. As you can see in the picture above, in this particular nativity set, baby Jesus is attached to the manger. However, if the manger is turned upside-down, it appears to be empty. It looks like it needs a baby. And yes folks – that’s how she set it up. We spent hours looking for a baby Jesus that was never really lost. She turned the manger over and voila – baby Jesus magically appeared! (I was in my teens at the time, so you can only image the long, exaggerated eye roll she got from me when this discovery was made.)

 

I’ve got to be honest. In all the craziness of the Christmas season – the shopping, parties, cookies, programs, decorating, greeting cards, and family memory making – I often can’t find Jesus. It’s not because He isn’t there, of course. It’s because I have a way of turning things upside-down. I make a big deal out of meaningless things and give little attention to the things that really matter. My home gets a lot of attention this time of year, but my heart gets severely neglected. I put an enormous spotlight on the frivolous things that I personally LOVE about this season (hello peppermint mochas, Josh Groban’s Noel CD, Yankee Christmas candles, Williams-Sonoma’s peppermint bark, the all-important yearly viewing of Elf, and lots and lots of white twinkle lights!), but shine a dinky dollar store flashlight on my Savior.

 

I don’t mean to, of course. I love Jesus. Deeply.  I desperately want to honor Him. I want to really savor the sweetness of the reality that the eternal Word became flesh and dwelt among us. I want my son to know that Jesus is who this holiday is about. My intentions are always very good. But here’s the thing – intentions without actions don’t amount to anything. Who cares if I want to make Jesus the main focus of my life if I don’t do anything to daily renew my mind and re-order the desires of my heart?

 

So here it is girls.

 

Are you ready?

 

I’m about to repeat myself for the 1,678,589th time.

 

If we want Jesus to be the center of this Christmas, there’s really only one fail-proof way to do that. We have to spend time with Him. We have to refuse to hit that snooze button, drag our sleepy butts out of bed, get off Facebook, turn off the TV, put down that novel or newspaper, surrender the need to make that gazillionth batch of cookies . . . and sit at the feet of Jesus for little while.

 

We have to read, and ponder, and pray . . .we have to marinate in Jesus until He seasons our souls and flavors our affections. Not because we’ll get into some kind of trouble or disappoint God if we don’t, but because He’s worth the time.

 

Because He’s a delight to meet with.

 

Because we can’t do a single eternally significant thing apart from Him.

 

Because we are helplessly self-serving unless the Spirit is given free reign in our lives.

 

Because we are absolutely, completely, totally, and utterly dependent on Him for the ability to live by faith and not by sight.

 

Because we desperately need the wisdom that He alone can give.

 

And did I mention that He’s worth the time? And a delight to meet with?

 

So, to keep from “losing” Jesus this season, here’s the challenge for you and me: We have to marinate. We have to soak in God’s Word, commune with our Savior, and resolve to fix our eyes on the true, redemptive, world-changing meaning of Christmas.

 

Every day.

 

Or at least most days.

 

Even when there are cookies to bake and gifts to buy.

 

Even when there’s a party to host (and a house to clean!).

 

Even when the calendar is so full it starts to look like one big ink blob.

 

Even when there’s a deep sadness in our hearts and a longing for Christmas the way it used to be.

 

Spending time with Jesus is the only way to keep from turning the manger upside-down. It’s our only hope for really, truly “keeping Christ in Christmas.”

 

“I can’t find Jesus!”

 

He’s there, sweet sister. You just have to know where to look.

My Special Place

It’s just a chair. It was cheap. I don’t love the color. I can never get all of the dog hair off of the ottoman. And the blanket on top of the ottoman – well, let’s just say it hides a few things. Fabric, foam, stuffing, thread, staples and wood. That’s all it is. Maybe it would fetch $50 on Craigslist, but I doubt it.

But the things that happen each morning when I roll out of bed, stumble to the coffee pot, and then fall (still half asleep) into this chair are absolutely priceless . . .life changing . . . mind transforming.

You see, this chair is where I meet with Jesus. It’s where I boldly approach the throne of grace and find help for every need; where I open my Bible and hear the God of the universe speak to my heart; where I confess my sin and embrace forgiveness; where I cry out to my precious Lord and anticipate His provision; where I intercede – often with many tears – for those I love.

It’s where I regularly face the grim reality of who I’m not, but get to rejoice in all that my God is.  In that early morning hour, when the house is filled with silence, this is where God speaks to me and where I speak to Him. (The fact that such a thing is even possible never ceases to “wow” me!)

That is why it’s my special place – my little piece of holy ground.

Do you have a special place?

If not, I highly recommend it. It doesn’t have to be fancy or pretty or look like it came out of the latest Pottery Barn catalogue. It just has to be somewhere to sit, and read, and listen, and ponder, and pray, and cry, and sing, and laugh, and (if you’re like me) cry some more. A place where your Bible is always open and handy; where a pen and journal are always ready; and where you can retreat with a cup of coffee or tea before or after a long day to commune with the One – the ONLY One – who can satisfy your thristy soul.

It’s pretty crazy to think that the place where I have experienced the most change, gleaned the most wisdom, and had the most precious “God moments” is not a church sanctuary, a Bible study meeting place, a conference center, or a seminary classroom. It’s a humble, oversized, poorly upolstered green chair nestled in the corner of my living room. Eight years ago when Greg and I purchased that thing, who would have ever thought? Crazy indeed.

If you have a special place, I’d love to hear about it!

“In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there.” Mark 1:35

Bible Shopping 101

You walk into your local Christian bookstore on a mission: to find a new Bible. Sounds easy enough, right? Um, not quite.  Have you seen the ginormous Bible section lately? It makes choosing ONE pair of shoes at your local DSW (an incredibly agonizing experience for me) look like a cake walk! Turns out, choosing a Bible requires a litany of other choices as well:

  • What translation? NIV, TNIV, KJV, NKJV, NASB, ESV, GNT, HCS, NLT, RSV, TLB – one enormous bowl of alphabet soup!
  • What type of Bible? Study, Devotional, One-Year, Women’s, Chronological, Archeology, Couples, Student, Recovery, etc.? Shopping for a Bible these days is a lot like going to Baskin Robbins – whatever your “flavor,” some publisher somewhere has produced a Bible just for you. There are literally thousands of Bibles to choose from!
  • What kind of cover? Okay, so, we’re women, which means we certainly don’t mind sporting a super-cute Bible. And there are some really cute ones out there!  But do we want to sacrifice practicality and good content for the cute factor? Are we shopping for shoes or Bibles here? Oh yeah, Bibles. Yet another painful decision to make!
  • What kind of layout/graphics/size? Margins, red letter, cross references, maps, charts, graphs, notes, thin line, large print etc. [Sigh.] Now you’re ready to just walk out of the store.

But wait.

Don’t go.

I’m here to help you navigate through those 1,000 plus Bibles and find the one that is just right for you!

Of course, I will unashamedly promote my favorite. For an unbiased, totally neutral, not-in-the-slightest-bit-madly-in-love-with-a-particular-Bible opinion . . . well . . . I suppose you should Google it.

But I will do my best to educate you so that you can make a good choice that suits your needs. Again, we’re shopping for Bibles, not shoes. You MUST keep that in mind!

Translation

The Bible was not originally written in English, so in order for us to read it, we have to get a translation. What we want is a translation that is going to get us as close to the original language as possible. In a nutshell, there are three categories of Bible translations:

  • Literal translations, or what I like to call “word for word” translations. These attempt to keep the exact words and phrases of the ancient manuscripts. The KJV, NKJV, NASB, and ESV fall under this category. The only drawback is that sometimes the word-for-word translation of the Hebrew or Greek doesn’t flow really well in English. It’s just not how we talk. That is why a lot of people prefer . . .
  • Dynamic equivalent translations, or what I call “phrase for phrase” translations. These, too, closely reflect the original, but by translating phrase-by-phrase rather than word-for-word, the translators are able to make it sound a bit more modern, yet keep the historical accuracy. These kinds of translations can be a little easier to understand. The NIV is the most popular dynamic equivalent translation.
  • Free translations, or paraphrases. These translations express the ideas of the original text, but not the exact words or phrases. The point of the Bibles in this category is to close the historical gap between us and the original, making them the most modern translations available. Very readable, but not the most precise. Examples include The Message and The Living Bible (TLB)

For in-depth Bible study, you need a literal, word-for-word translation. (The NASB or ESV are my favorites.)

For new believers or those who are just starting to read the Bible, I always recommend a dynamic equivalent, phrase-for-phrase translation. (The NIV is the best. Stay away from the TNIV – it’s on a slippery slope toward gender neutral translations, which doesn’t sit too well with me.)

In my opinion, the only purpose a paraphrase should serve is to help us understand a passage a little better after we’ve read/studied it in a real, historically accurate translation. They are great “tools” to have in your Bible study tool box, but should NEVER, EVER be your main Bible. If you really want to know what Shakespeare wrote, you don’t just read the Cliff’s Notes! Same goes with the Scriptures. With that said, I refer to my copy of The Message quite often and find it very helpful.

You should feel really smart now. Most people don’t know why in the heck they use a particular translation. But not you. Not anymore.

Okay, moving on . . .

Style or Type

This is where it can get complicated. This is also where I am going to tell you that there is a certain Bible that I am head-over-heels in love with. Like, I will never own another kind. It’s my (non-human) pride and joy, love of my life, thrill of my heart, makes-me-smile-every-time- I-look-at-it, BEST . . . BIBLE . . . EVER.

Are you ready for it?

Your life is about to change . . .

It’s the unveiling of the century . . .

Drum roll please . . . .

And the title of “best Bible ever” goes to – the RYRIE STUDY BIBLE in the NASB or ESV translations (NIV is probably best for a newbie), published by Moody. Last time a checked, no cute cover available, but the AMAZING study notes and tools more than compensate for the lack of trendy, my-Bible-is-cooler-than-your-Bible style.

Remember, we’re not shopping for shoes.

What I love about this Bible is the layout and the fact that it has just the right amount of study notes. Charles Ryrie is a solid, revered theologian and scholar whose insights are right on the money. This Bible will NOT disappoint.

I think Moody should pay for this advertising. I would use the money for a new pair of shoes. Boots, actually. Or a really cute pair of red ballet flats.

But that’s beside the point.

Cover

When it comes to Bibles, cute isn’t always best. You may want to pick up a small Bible with a cool cover to keep in your purse or back pack. But for your heavy-duty Bible study, you need a heavy-duty Bible girlfriend!

I recommend splurging for the highest quality leather you can find, which the stores don’t usually keep in stock. The sales clerk should be able to help you order one though.

Layout/Graphics/Size

Whatever you choose, IT MUST HAVE ROOM TO WRITE NOTES IN THE MARGINS!!!!

Did you get that?

It’s VERY important!

A Bible with no room to write is like, well, I can’t think of an analogy right now. But it’s bad. Real bad.

So put down that cute Bible with no margins and step away slowly. It’s not for you sweetie. You have years and years of Spirit-led insights to record on those precious pages. You need space. Lots and lots of space.

So what if the best study Bible in the store [insert another shameless plug for the Ryrie Study Bible here] is a little bit, um, “big boned.” It’s okay – you can handle it. Girls with big Bibles rock! Hmmm, a new t-shirt idea???

The Bottom Line

Go buy a NASB or ESV Ryrie Study Bible.

To put it another way, go buy a NASB or ESV Ryrie Study Bible.

To make it even simpler – go buy a NASB or ESV Ryrie Study Bible.

And then go buy shoes.

Why I Love the Word “Marinate”

There are a lot of words to describe how we ought to interact with the Bible. We should read it, study it, meditate on it, memorize it, apply it, and on and on it goes. For me, all of those things are encompassed in the term “marinate.” Let me explain . . .

When my parents were newly married, they decided to splurge one night and grill a big, juicy steak at home. Before heading off to work, they stuck it in a marinade so that it would be nice and flavorful by the time they got home. Well, something came up that night and they didn’t get a chance to grill the meat. The same thing happened the next night, so by the time my parents actually got a chance to grill the steak it had been sitting in the marinade for 3 days! (If they had more money back then, they would have just thrown it out, but having steak for dinner was a luxury and they weren’t going to let it go to waste!)

My dad got the grill nice and hot, laid the steak down, heard that wonderful sizzling sound, and expected to take the first mouth-watering bite in a matter of minutes. Unfortunately, no matter how long that steak stayed on the hot grill, it didn’t lose its raw look. He cooked it longer and longer, and got the grill hotter and hotter, but the steak hardly changed. What my parents finally realized is that the vinegar-based marinade they used had basically pickled the meat! It had soaked so far down into the steak, that there was absolutely nothing my dad could do to make it edible.

You and I should be like that steak when it comes to God’s Word. We should seek to soak in it so long that we are completely changed by it, from the inside out (Romans 12:2!). We should be so saturated with it that no amount of “heat” this world throws our way can deter us from passionately seeking to bring glory to our Savior. Marinating is all about imparting flavor. Oh how I long for everything that I think, say, do and desire to be “flavored” with the truth that God has revealed in His Word!

And that, sweet sisters, is why I love the word “marinate!” (Oh, and did I mention I have a slight food obsession? Haha!)

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