We Can Do It!

Never Give Up!
Here we go again.
I thought I would be finished,
But I’m still not done. 

This was a playful photo was taken when our Birthday Club visited the Michigan History Museum in Lansing. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but I have since! My petty personal problem (currently having a little finger still sporting external pins) pales in the light of the tribulations many people are enduring. Harder still are this world’s global concerns. I’ve recently finished Elie Weisel’s touching book, Open Heart . . . the reflections of an 82-year-old survivor of Auschwitz and a Nobel Laureate. He thought that after World War II, people would learn from the devastation, and that oppression would cease, but this has not happened. The fight for right over wrong, good over evil, and life over death will go on as long as man lives on earth. Our job is to keep fighting and never give up!

Whatever our challenges, God is there and wants to help us. We are encouraged in the New Testament: “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Some members of my family will be participating in an all-night prayer vigil at Moody in Chicago tonight. Come join in if you have time! God hears and responds to our earnest cries for help, and we citizens of earth need HELP!

Psalm 18, written by King David after he’d been delivered from his enemies, is (to me) the perfect example of how God wants us to approach Him for deliverance from troubles!

Psalm 18

I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.

The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.

In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.

Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.

There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.

He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.

10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.

11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.

12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.

13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.

14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.

15 Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

16 He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.

17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.

18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay.

19 He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

20 The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.

21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God.

22 For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.

23 I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.

24 Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.

25 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;

26 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.

27 For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.

28 For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.

29 For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.

30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

31 For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God?

32 It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.

33 He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places.

34 He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.

35 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.

36 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.

37 I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.

38 I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.

39 For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.

40 Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.

41 They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not.

42 Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.

43 Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.

44 As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.

45 The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.

46 The Lord liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.

47 It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.

48 He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.

49 Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.

50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.

Rise Up, My Love (286): Who’s Our Real Father?

Song of Solomon 8:10 …See how the Lord works! It is now May (written fourteen years ago, although it’s also May again in 2018), and I can imagine confusion of broods, because I’ve seen it! Our family just returned from a wonderful vacation to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where we spent a refreshing week at the beach soaking up the sun and sharing ideas at our “Vision 2004” conference (organized by one of our older sons, who’s working on his Ph.D. in theology).   It has rained twenty-one out of the last twenty-five days here in Michigan, causing the worst flooding in over twenty years. While out trying to walk with my kids along the Grand River, we discovered that the river park had become a flood plain in areas. Confused fish that had washed over the bank were frantically trying to find their way back to the main river. Park benches and picnic tables were almost totally submerged. The children’s playground had become a swimming pool for ducks and geese, as had the parking lots and soccer fields.  Perhaps the saddest thing to me was seeing a little group of six ducklings swimming together anxiously but aimlessly with no parents. Where were their parents? Had they drowned? Further down the river we saw a mother duck surrounded by no fewer than sixteen ducklings taking refuge under a willow tree that had become a little island. Surely all those ducklings couldn’t have been hers. She must have taken in a batch or two of orphans.   So, back to our main story. Suppose for a moment that a baby cygnet got separated from his parents in a flood and took refuge in a brood of adorable little yellow fluff ball ducklings or attached himself to a group of goslings with their charcoal gray markings, gangly legs, and clumsy gaits. I don’t really know what would happen if a cygnet got mixed into one of these families. I know geese are good parents! If you try to get close, the parents put their heads down low, wave their necks back and forth in their most menacing manner, and hiss loudly! “Don’t touch my babies!”   But, I suppose at some point the cygnet would be detected as being different and would be rejected. That’s also what happens to us after we are born again. We may appear a little different at first, but as we begin to mature, we become more and more obviously out of place. Our appetites are different; our walk is different; our needs and interests are different. We just don’t fit in anymore.  Somewhere along the line, those around us begin to notice, and for the most part, they tire of our obsession with Christ and our desire to become like him. Sooner or later, we are ostracized or persecuted “for righteousness’ sake.” What does Jesus say? “If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20). “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).   How do we become like beautiful swans? How do we grow up to become like the ideal bride in the spiritual mirror? “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, how do we become the most beautiful of all?” Not by killing Snow White, but by becoming snow white in the blood of the Lamb and day by day taking “milk baths” in the Word until we grow up to be strong and beautiful.

Don’t despair! We may not have the genes to be the world’s most physically beautiful bride, but we all have the spiritual genes to become gloriously perfected…like a wall with breasts like towers! Sound impossible? The Shulamite didn’t think so. So, let’s keep holding up our spiritual mirrors and asking God to conform us to the image of his perfect Son and his perfect bride! Then we too will be “in his eyes as one that found favour.”

One last treasure, and then we’ll move on to the next verse. The word for “favour” is shalom, which means “peace.” The name “Solomon” is built on the same root word. In Solomon’s eyes, the bride found favor…peace…and that peace was Solomon! As the bride of Christ, we become like Christ and find our favor and peace in his eyes…and he is our peace (Ephesians 2:14)!

As we become more like him, he is ever more pleased with us. I believe it was C.S. Lewis who said, “God is easy to please but hard to satisfy.” He is pleased with us the moment we come to him in repentance and faith and are born again, but his pleasure increases as we grow more into the beautiful “swan” of his likeness…more like the statuesque bride with the towering breasts.   Oh, heavenly Father, you are our true, eternal father! Please fashion us into masterpieces of your love and grace. May we grow into the beautiful bride that you have planned for us to become. May we find favor and peace in your sight…the favor and peace that is you and is only found by growing in the knowledge of you (2 Peter 1:2).

Praise God for The Zookeeper’s Wife

If you haven’t seen The Zookeeper’s Wife  and aren’t totally over traumatized by studying World War 2,
please consider watching it. It’s the true story of Antonina and Jan Żabiński,
who were keepers of the Warsaw Zoo  and lived lives of incredibly risky heroism
to save Jewish people during Hitler’s regime.  Alan and I first discovered The Zookeeper’s Wife when it came out
as an audio book (from our public library, about ten years ago),  but it’s come to life in 2017 in an even more profound way
as a PG-13 historical drama. Often if you’ve already read the book, the movie isn’t very compelling
because it’s too changed from its original content,  but I felt like the movie version of The Zookeeper’s Wife
retained the authentic story line.  In the Holocaust Museum in Poland, the Żabińskis are listed
as some of the “righteous among the nations”  because they protected hundreds of Jewish people, using their home
as a safe house until safer housing could be found.  The role of Antonina is played by Jessica Chastain,
who’s been nominated twice for an Academy Award.  In one interview, I heard her say that ultimately, the story is “about hope,
about family, and about love. Love will always be there and you can find it.”

I praise God for the incredible bravery of those who will protect the innocent                                          in the unending fight for good over evil.        “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

(Photo Credits: Images 1, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and 15 are from various internet sources [some of which are listed or inscribed on the images]. The rest are mine, taken while watching the movie. There is one scene with gratuitous nudity in the context of the couple’s marriage, but it can be fast-forwarded without losing any critical dialogue.)

Sampling Courageous Love: Many Shades of Light

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and I’ve been working on a lot of wonderful quotes to share about love tomorrow, but today I want to talk about what real love is, because I believe too many people have become confused and no longer understand the difference between love and lust. Case in point will be the contrast between two new releases that are coming out: Courageous Love, and Multiple Varieties of Blacker Evil…or something like that. If you’re wondering what genuine love looks like, here are a few examples from Courageous Love:

actress-addilyn-houk-with-actress-jessica-koloian-copyLove protects and is tenderhearted: “Love is patient and kind.”  courageous-love-protecting-sisterLove confronts possible evil and seeks truth…but for the right reasons:
“Love does not envy or boast.”  courageous-love-helping-serveLove serves humbly: “It is not arrogant or rude.”     courageous-love-administrative-assistantLove speaks wisdom but allows free choice: “It does not insist on its own way;” actress-jessica-koloian-playing-michelle-long-7 Love listens and cares: “It is not irritable or resentful;”  courageous_love-timkaiserLove demands integrity: “It does not rejoice at wrongdoing,” courageous-love-telling-the-truthLove sacrifices self-interest: “but [love] rejoices with the truth.” courageous-love-faithful-sisterLove is faithful: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,” courageous-love-keeps-working-hard Love keeps working no matter how tired: “[Love] endures all things.”  jaredwithrow-jessicakoloian True love is sincere…forever: “Love never ends…”  courageous-love-lawyer-helpsLove reaches out to help even when it doesn’t know all the answers:
“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.” courageous-love-solving-the-mysteryLove never stops trying to figure out the truth and learn more:
“Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
  courageous-love-sisterLove is undyingly loyal: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three;” courageous-love-shelby-engineeringLove leads to happy endings for all! “but the greatest of these is love.”courageous-love-cohort(Quotes above from 1 Corinthians 13)

I hope this inspires you to watch Courageous Love.
It would be a great way to celebrate genuine love this Valentine’s Day!  🙂

courageous-loveWoe unto them that call evil good, and good evil;
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20) courageous-love-knudsenSee that none render evil for evil unto any man;
but ever follow that which is good,
both among yourselves, and to all men” (1 Thessalonians 5:15).actress-kristina-kaylen-2Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

(The best photos were used by permission of Daniel Knudsen,
who directed the movie; the rest I took while watching the film.)


condorman-video-coverDo you ever want a feel-good movie that makes you laugh but doesn’t make you cry and has some suspense thrown in for good measure? barbara-carrerea-as-natalia-rambova-in-condormanRecently, Alan, Joel, and I decided to kick back and relax with an old family favorite, Disney’s Condorman. michael-crawfored-as-condorman“Condorman” is just a cartoon character, but the creator, “Woody Wilkins” (played by Michael Crawford, who later became famous as the Phantom of the Opera), decides he wants his superhero to be believable. condorman-jumping-off-eiffel-towerSo, Woody dons a Condorman costume and launches himself off the Eiffel Tower…straight into the Seine River in Paris, where he’s been visiting his friend…who happens to work for C.I.A. condorman-in-disguise-in-monte-carloThings only get zanier from there, as Woody becomes embroiled in a high-profile espionage defection with all the bravado of a James Bond and none of his skill. woody-wilkins-and-natalia-in-condormanHowever, Woody’s indomitable good nature, cow-eyed affection for the heroine, and happy-go-lucky ingenuity save the day…or not! explosions-abound-in-condorman                                It’s not a sure thing until the very last scene,escaping-their-fate-in-condorman but there is so much fun along the way that it’s one of those “cult classics” in our family, and we all know all the lines by heart!condorman-oliver-reedWould someone like Woody really be able to win against tough KGB spies? I don’t think so; at least, not without divine intervention. But, I love the underlying theory: the good guys win because they’re good, and the bad guys lose because they’re mean and nasty. And, I think there’s definitely biblical precedent for that!

condormanBe not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).

What Really Awakens the Force? Star Wars or War Room

WarRoomMoviePosterDid you see any great movies over the holidays that you can recommend for the rest of us? I know most of the world held its breath waiting for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but I was waiting with baited breath to see War Room. I’ve heard mixed reports on Star Wars: Everyone agrees that it’s fun and a rush for cult fans, but apparently Harrison Ford made everybody else’s acting seem shallow, and the plot writers failed to take the risks needed to develop fresh, exciting plot lines. I’d really love to hear your thoughts too, though, since I’m still waiting for it to come out on video. War Room Being Bold because of prayerHave you seen War Room? It’s the Kendrick brother’s fifth Christian drama film project, and although it didn’t get any rave reviews from the critics, it was actually a success in the box office too (not a Goliath, but a David) and has become a sleeper hit. To Win the Fight War RoomUnlike Star Wars, which is a movie meant to entertain, War Room is a movie meant to inspire us to seek  tactical advice and aid from God through prayer before going into combat against the dark force. War Room Beth Moore QuoteIf you’ve seen The Force Awakens, think about watching War Room, which models some sweet insights into how to awaken the Light Force (who is God Almighty, the greatest force in the universe) to help us be more than conquerors in our our personal battles against the dark forces without and within.

War Room Miss ClaraGod is the master of creativity, and he can write fresh, exciting plot lines
into our lives every day if we’re willing to take the risks! War Room Matthew 6.6Also, I don’t know if we can pull off acting like Harrison Ford,
but each of us can be a hero in our own story.  🙂War Room Shirer Quote“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).War Room. Keep Jesus In“In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Romans 8:37, but the whole passage of Romans 8:33-39 is great!)