Is There an Eye Doctor in the House?

Guest post by Debbie Brown

Sitting in the chair that resembles a robotic octopus, I am told to look at the screen ahead of me.  A large bulky contraption that reminds me of some strange pair of glasses left over from an old sci-fi movie is placed in front of my eyes and posed on my nose. The technician asks what I see.

I have to be honest. “A large white glowing rectangle.”

As she begins to dial the knobs on the over-sized sci-fi spectacles, I begin to see more clearly.

“There is an ‘E’!” I finally exclaim.

Even though I’m tested every year, I’m always amazed at how I know there is supposed to be a big “E” on the chart, but I can never see it until the technician adjusts my focus.

Too often I walk around with my life in a blur—not because I left my glasses at home, but because I haven’t asked the Lord to set my focus.  I don’t want my vision dimmed and obscured by the world’s darkened view of life.  I want to see my Lord clearly; I want to see what He wants for my life.

So instead of climbing into the ophthalmologist’s massive straight-backed chair to gaze at a chart, I curl up in my over-sized comfy chair in the family room and open my Bible.  As I fix my eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word, He opens my eyes—and my heart—to His love, His truth, and all of who He is.  Having focused on Him, I can face the day and look out at the world  from His perspective.

When the world seeks to blur and even blind my vision with its lies and deception, I will go the “Eye Doctor”, the Great Physician Jesus Christ. He gives me just the right focus: Himself.

Dear Lord, I look forward to the day when I see You face to face clearly.  In the meantime, please forgive me for settling for the blurred vision of the world’s perspective.  Please focus my heart’s attention on You.  Thank You, Lord.  In Jesus’s name.  Amen.

Encourage others to focus on Christ. Click below and share this post with others.

A Simple Conversation Could Make a Difference

The following post was written by my good friend (and my manager), Ken Braddy. Ken has a well-read blog for Bible study leaders: He recently posted this story on his own site, and he graciously allowed me to share it with you.

You probably don’t know the name Vincenzo “Vinnie” Ricardo—but few other people did either. That explains why, when he died, no one knew it for over a year.

Vininie was a resident of Hampton Bays, New York. He was 70 years old and blind. He died while watching television at his home. He remained there for one year before anyone discovered his body. He might have remained there even longer had pipes at his home not burst.

City workers discovered his mummified body sitting on the couch with the TV still on. He hadn’t paid his electrical bill in a year, but for some inexplicable reason, the electricity was never turned off. Because of cold temperatures and dry conditions in the home, Vinnie’s body was well-preserved, leaving his facial features and hair intact. Medical examiners said they had never seen anyone dead this long.

So why didn’t anyone know he was dead? Vinnie was estranged from his family. Because he was blind, one neighbor dropped in to read him his mail and pay his bills, but she quit coming when he kept demanding more of her time. Other neighbors never noticed that he had quit walking the streets with his cane. One neighbor said, “I didn’t really know him that well, but apparently nobody did.”

This is a morbid but sad story that reinforces the need we all have for relationships.

  • How well do we know our neighbors?
  • Even in church, how well do we know the people who sit near us week in and week out?
  • Remember that guy who used to come to your Bible study group? You can’t remember his name, but over time you realize he stopped coming. Hmm. Do you wonder whatever happened to him?

People may visit and attend your church for awhile because they like the music or the preacher, but they stay because of relationships. I’ve accepted the truth that adults don’t come to my Bible study group because I am a phenomenal Bible study leader. They come because of the relationships they’ve formed.

Let me ask you to do something—just one thing. This week—today—build a relationship with someone you don’t know. Maybe you only know a first name because she sometimes comes to church or your Bible study group. Go to lunch after church. Don’t know what to say? Try this:

“Tell me your story.”

And let them talk.

 That one neighbor’s comment about Vinnie could be said about a lot of people:  “I didn’t really know him that well, but apparently nobody did.” We are surrounded by Vinnie Ricardos. These are people who may need a hand from time to time, and they certainly need a listening ear. Your Vinnie Ricardo could be a blind neighbor on your street or she could be that quiet individual who slips in and out of church without much contact.

A simple conversation can make all the difference in that person’s life. And it will make a difference in yours.

Why not share this with others? Really. Click below and pass this along.

For a printable version: click here.

This Screen-Shot-2013-06-24-at-1.41.38-PM (1)post supports the study “A Channel of Comfort” in Bible Studies for Life.


Life Lessons From an Arrow

Debbie Brown with her favorite brother.

This blog post is written by Debbie Brown. I love what she says, and I invited her to share it with you. Debbie is an active singer and speaker at women’s events, and in her spare time, she teaches elementary school music. Perhaps her greatest feat, though, is this: she is my sister. So there.

Have you noticed that everything these days seems to have an arrow on it?

The arrow has been showing up in all kinds of decorating over recent years.  Just check out Pinterest or walk through your favorite store.  I became intrigued, wondering if I had missed something on TV or a movie that had spurred this apparent love for the arrow.

Of course, the arrow has been around for millennia.  Hunters have used the bow and arrow to hunt for food.  Arrows have been used in battle.  So, my first thought was negative.  Why would I want to decorate with something used in killing?  Since inquiring minds want to know, I googled it.

We have arrows in advertising.




We have arrows in directions.

The Boy Scouts of America have arrows.




Arrows are even popular in tattoos.  (Don’t worry, Mom,.  I’m not getting a tattoo.) But it was a description of a tattoo that pointed to the positive side of arrows.

An arrow tattoo carries the message of always moving forward.

This reminded me of what Paul wrote:

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

Moving forward. We like that image, but moving forward is not always easy. In fact, sometimes it can wrapped in a challenge or two. But that’s OK. Consider this:

I’ve changed my mind about the arrow.  I now see it’s good point. (My brother inserted that bad pun.)

But then I noticed how many arrow messages were something like “Follow Your Dreams” or “Follow Your Heart. ” Those messages seem so self-centered.  Dreams are great.  And our hearts may intend to be good, but they are fickle. I don’t want to follow my dreams.  I want to follow the One who guides me as I pursue those dreams.  That’s why I like these arrow-infused messages better:

I prefer the arrow that points me to the Lord and to  following Him!  He always shoots straight as an arrow!

Maybe I will start decorating with arrows!  Just not with a tattoo.

Shoot an arrow to one of the links below and share this thought with others.

Surviving a Forced Termination

DeannaHarrison-1021-dlxDeanna Harrison has been my friend for over 20 years. She has written many a Bible study for me, and we even  once wrote a book together. But Deanna has just released a new book that tells a story and deals with an issue that plagues a lot of churches and hurts a lot of people.

But I want you to hear it from her.  

Imagine that you arrive at church one Sunday to discover that your minister is no longer there. The church leaders have the scoop but they’re not talking. They simply say that Minister X is no longer serving at your church. “Trust us,” they say, and you are left with an uneasy feeling that something’s not right.

What I’ve just described is the silent epidemic of forced termination among clergy. It’s been swept under the rug for decades. When a minister’s actions are immoral, illegal or unethical, a church has no option but to take action and termination may have to be part of that action. But the majority of times, forced termination is the result of disgruntled church members, personality conflicts, or a power play.

If you’ve ever wondered what happens when a minister disappears, I can tell you. After serving a church for many years, my husband and I were suddenly terminated. I was still married to the same godly man of integrity, but he was no longer a pastor. I was no longer a pastor’s wife. Our lives were shattered and I wondered if we would survive.

41A0yE-Cj6L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Moving On: Surviving the Grief of Forced Termination is the account of my journey through grief. I encourage you to read it, if for no other reason than to understand the ramifications of forcing a minister to resign. My prayer is that through telling my story, others who have experienced forced termination will find hope and healing. Here is an excerpt:

As I drove behind the truck that held all of our worldly possessions, I knew without any doubt we were walking by faith. We had no home, no jobs, and nothing on the horizon. All we could do was put one foot in front of the other, believing God would see us through.

A full moon shone brightly by the time we pulled up in front of my father-in-law’s home. Exhaustion consumed me but adrenaline surged through my body as a host of emotions began surfacing. An incongruous mixture of gratitude, anger, fear and relief spilled out of my pores as I began unloading the car. I could faintly hear the sound of my husband’s voice in the distance, pleading with me to slow down. But I knew if I slowed down I might stop, and if I stopped I would surely fall apart. So I forged ahead, determined to carry in every box, every suitcase and every armload of clothes until finally my car sat empty.

 Then I stopped.

 And then I fell apart.

 Through my tears I found myself standing in my father-in-law’s guest room. I couldn’t believe that in a blur of time I had gone from living in a beautiful multi-level home that was mine to living in one room that belonged to someone else.

Take time to read Moving On. Share it with someone who has endured a forced termination. And share with those who are part of a church reeling from the effects of a forced termination. Read more from Deanna Harrison at




Habits for Our Holiness

Philip5-200x300Philip Nation is the Director of Content Development with LifeWay Christian Resources and serves as Teaching Pastor for The Fellowship, a multi-campus church in Nashville. He has a new book that released this week – Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out. I asked Philip to stop by and share a bit about this new book. 

Our spiritual lives should be full of joy—never overwhelmed by guilt. Habits for Our Holiness is designed to give us easy paths to walk on for our spiritual growth. Here is an excerpt:

41WQr4W89ML._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Seeking the Unchurched, De-churched, and Antichurched

Plenty of others in our cities need to encounter the Word as well. There are the unchurched, the de-churched, and the antichurched. Everyone who is intentionally or unintentionally disengaged from a church family has made a choice. They have decided that the revelation from God—the Bible—and being in church to hear it, are unimportant. We need to learn how to talk with them. It cannot be the thunderous preacher on the street corner. Rather, it is the chance to talk friend-to- friend about the most important issue of our lives. As people of faith, at our core we believe that God has revealed Himself to us in the Bible. To go for years without ever bringing that up is beyond silly. It is ridiculous. Even more so, it is cruel.

God has revealed Himself so that all of humanity would hear from Him. Not just the select few of us who attend worship services, own a Bible, and read it for personal gain. The Scriptures, God’s revealed Word, are for everyone. We must dig into it so we can grow up in it. Then as we grow up in it, we can reach out because of it. In the second to the last book of the Bible, Jude wrote to a troubled church about the need to fend off those who were twisting the truth of God’s revelation. He closed his one-chapter letter with these words:

But you, dear friends, as you build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. Have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; have mercy on others but with fear, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.

Now to Him who is able to protect you from stumbling and to make you stand in the presence of His glory, blame- less and with great joy to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority before all time, now and forever. Amen. (vv. 20–25)

The impact of the passage is so clear. Grow up so I can reach out. Reach out so I can grow up. These two activities are linked, never to be separated. When we live like this, then we can fully understand the beauty Jude describes in verses 24–25. Growth and mission are the twin crucibles that God brings us through to make us look like Jesus. He is totally able and willing to shape our lives so we can stand in the gospel’s power. And when we do, it brings great joy—to us, and more importantly, to Him, the only God our Savior.

Today, take great joy in the gift of God’s Word.


Let me encourage you to get a copy of Philip’s book and dig through his work on how the spiritual disciplines engage our personal faith into God’s public mission.

Jesus Was Born … Where?

Picture1Where was Jesus born? In a stable? In a cave? In a house? We know where Jesus was not born. He was not born in the inn—because it was already full.

The Greek word Luke used for “inn” is kataluma. Luke actually used this word twice in his Gospel. The first is in the story of Jesus’ birth. We might expect to find the second in the story of the good Samaritan, who “brought him [the injured man] to an inn, and took care of him” (Luke 10:34, HCSB, emphasis added). Luke, however, does not use kataluma in the story of the good Samaritan. Instead, he used the Greek word pandocheion, which also translates “inn.” Kataluma has as its root a word that means to loosen or untie, as in to open the satchel that would hold a traveler’s clothes. Pandocheion comes from two Greek words that mean to receive all. A pandocheion was always a stand-alone inn or caravansary (as in the good Samaritan story). Akataluma could be a stand-alone inn or lodging space—or, it could be connected to a house. This brings us to Luke’s second use of kataluma.

The second time Luke used the word kataluma was when Jesus instructed His disciples to go to the city to make preparation for the Last Supper: “Tell the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room [Greek, kataluma] where I can eat the Passover with My disciples?” ’” (22:11, HCSB).

manger-350x350In the first century, many people lived in one-room houses, typically with a separate area for the animals to stay overnight for their safety and protection. The feeding trough would have been in the family’s living quarters, either elevated or separated from the animals by a wall. If there were a wall, it would have had a hole through which the animals would stick their heads to eat (see artist’s rendering). Sometimes the houses were built at a cave, which the owners could also use to accommodate the animals over night.

Some of the more affluent families, however, lived in larger homes with an adjoining room they used for guests and entertaining. In such a room Jesus and His disciples celebrated their last Passover together. Unlike the family’s living quarters, guests could visit or sleep in this additional room (kataluma) and not be bothered with the sounds (and smells!) of the animals.

This possibility fits the nativity story. If this was indeed the case, Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem and planned to stay in the home of a well-to-do friend or relative, one whose house had a guest room. By the time they arrived, however, the guest room (the kataluma) was already full of guests. So, Mary and Joseph stayed in the family’s living quarters, adjacent to where the animals slept. When her baby was born, Mary laid Him in the feeding trough, right there in the family’s home.

So, was Jesus born in a stable? In a cave? In a house? Was the kataluma a stand-alone inn or the guest quarters of a large home? The reality is, we don’t know. Our lack of knowledge is a reminder that the real emphasis of the story is not where Jesus was born but the fact that He was born. “The Word became flesh and took up residence among us” (John 1:14). For that, we, like the angels, proclaim: “Glory to God in the highest heaven!” (Luke 2:14).

005075109This article originally appeared in Biblical Illustrator (Winter 2011-12). Let me give a shameless plug because I love this magazine.  Click here to learn more and see a sample.

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