Roger Marsh: Well, welcome everyone to Family Talk, the listener supported division of the James Dobson Family Institute. Thanks for making us a part of your day. I'm Roger Marsh. When Jesus walked the earth, he was full of surprises. Remember when he surprised Cleopas and his friend who were grieving his death on the road to Emmaus? In fact, they were so consumed with grief that they didn't even recognize their risen Lord walking right next to them.
Our guests today here on the broadcast is Dee Brestin, and she says that sometimes our troubles can blind us to the fact that Jesus is literally three feet away. Having lost her husband, Steve, to cancer, after 39 years of marriage, Dee has written a profound book entitled The Jesus Who Surprises: Opening Our Eyes to His Presence in All of Life and Scripture. Dee Brestin is a dear friend of Dr. Dobson, who has appeared on Focus on The Family and Family Talk many times over the past three decades, she's perhaps best known for her book entitled The Friendships of Women. Plus, in the midst of this crippling pandemic, Dee is hosting an interactive Bible study called "Love in a Time of COVID" via her website deebrestin.com. Let's listen now to the second part of her warm conversation with Dr. Dobson, as she shares the uplifting truths, which she's gleaned from scripture.
Dr. Dobson: Let's go back to Genesis. There's God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And you say in your book that they do a dance together. Now for a guy who grew up thinking dancing is evil, you have got to explain that one.
Dee Brestin: Okay, well, the early church fathers had a name for this. It was "para-choruses". You can hear the chorus, and the dance. And what Michael Reeves, who is a Oxford scholar and theologian says is that this is the dance of the Trinity. God the Father loves the Son. The Son is glorifying the Father. The Holy spirit is illumining them both. They are in a joyful dance. And because we are created in the image of a triune God, we too crave relationship and have the ability to love.
Dr. Dobson: You talked about that extensively in your book that as we know in Genesis 1:27, God created man in his own image. In the image of God, He created them, male and female, He created them. So, what is being said there is God's nature is actually implanted at the core of our being. That's why we're so relational with one another.
Dee Brestin: That's right. And that's why we need relationship. Yes. It's key to understanding who we are.
Dr. Dobson: Well, tell us about your own journey. When did you find the Lord, Dee?
Dee Brestin: Well, my older sister came to Steve and me when we were first-time parents, she had just received Christ and she told me she had something really important to tell me. And she came and she started following me around with a great big black Bible quoting me verses about Jesus. She used those verses you quoted Dr. Dobson: "In the beginning was the word. And the word was with God. And the word was God." And she said, "Do you understand why Jesus died on the cross?" And I said, "I'm not sure, but I imagine you're going to tell me." And she explained the gospel.
And even though we were a church going family, I'd never heard the gospel that Jesus died in my place and that he had paid the price for me. I was very uncomfortable. Steve and I were planning to build a really beautiful home, overlooking some body of water when he became a doctor. And I remember I asked her, "If I gave my life to Jesus, the way you're telling me He wants me to, would He ask us to give up this house we're planning to build?" [00:04:22] that I was just a baby Christian. I didn't know the answer.
Dr. Dobson: How old were you?
Dee Brestin: I was 21. And my sister finally, after being quiet for about two minutes looked up and said, "In your case, I think the house would have to go." I thought, "What?" She said, "Because our God doesn't want it any other gods before him. And you've been talking and talking about that house, I think it's a god in your life. So yeah, I think it would have to go." And I appreciate that. Sometimes, I think we're so eager to get people over the goal line that we don't tell them the truth. It is true that salvation is a free gift, but when you come to Him, you have to come to Him for who He is. And He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And He wants you to give Him your whole life. So, I really had to study because I didn't want to give my life to Him if He was a fairy tale. I studied and I read and I cried out and He showed me. And He showed my husband as well.
Dr. Dobson: Dee, does it break your heart that you were in church for all those years probably 16, 17 years, and never met the risen Christ? You didn't really know who He was. And does it break your heart that so many other people are attending church and they're thinking that they know Him, but they really don't?
Dee Brestin: Right. We have so many false shepherds, Dr. Dobson, who are not teaching the gospel, not teaching the truth and they are going to be so accountable and it does break my heart. And I think we have a responsibility as believers to get the message out. And I think it's important that we help them also, believers to make sure it's not just in their head. It isn't just a matter of repeating a creed. It has to go to their heart. And one of the things we do in The Jesus Who Surprises is we tell about how to teach your children to go on a "God hunt." And this is something we learned from Karen and David Mains when we were young parents.
Dr. Dobson: I knew them well.
Dee Brestin: Yes, they had a wonderful program. And they said, "it's kind of like hide and seek. You're watching for God at work in your life. It might be an answer to prayer or unusual timing or circumstances, or it might be something as simple as a beautiful sunset or seeing a rabbit across the road. But each night at dinner, we would say to our children, "How did you spy God today?" And usually it was something simple, but if it was big, it would go up on the bulletin board, above our dining table.
I remember the first time our youngest, Annie, had a real answer to prayer that made her realize God was real. We adopted her, Dr. Dobson, from an orphanage in Korea when she was five. And she was very fearful of authority figures because she had not been treated well in the orphanage. And her second grade teacher, she said, was very angry with her because she couldn't find her library book. And we looked and looked for that Mr. Popper's Penguins everywhere, but we could not find it. And when I tucked her in bed that night, I was afraid she wasn't going to be able to sleep. She'd already told me she didn't want to go back to school. And I prayed that God would help her to fall asleep and that He would give her a good dream. Well, she had a great dream.
In that dream God showed her exactly where Mr. Popper's Penguins was. It had fallen behind her third shelf in her closet and was wedged behind the books. And she got up in the morning and she ran to her closet, opened the doors, spread the books right where they were in her dream, and there it was. And she came running down the stairs saying, "Jesus did it." And that's how you get it from their head to their heart. They have to experience Him. And we have to help them to see Him.
Dr. Dobson: That is a wonderful story, Dee. Let's suppose that we're talking to somebody right now, who is saying, "I've been in church all my life," or maybe they'll say, "I've never been in church, but in either case, I don't know the Jesus you're talking about. He's not personal to me. He's not alive to me. He is a historical figure. And I've heard all kinds of sermons, but not anything telling me that, tell them who this Jesus really is."
Dee Brestin: He is a personal God who wants a relationship with you. He wants intimacy with you. He compares himself to a bride groom who dances over you with singing. He wants to communicate with you. And one of the ways you can do that. And the most common way is by starting to get in the scripture. And one of the things I've learned, let's say you are reading a chapter in the gospel of Mark. First, you read a verse, but then you meditate on it, you contemplate it, and you say, "What do I learn about God here? What do I learn about myself? Is there a sin I need to repent of? Is there a word of comfort?"
And that's when the verse may catch fire and you may experience the presence of God. It's a simple thing that anybody can do. And the God who sees you will make the word come alive. It is living and active, and that's the most common way you experience His presence. But you also experience His presence by learning how to just be alert, to be amazed at the people He brings across your path, or the way, if you pray something specifically, He could just astonish you with an answer. And that's the way we need to live. And it's the most exciting way to live because we do belong to a God who is personal and who wants to have a relationship with us?
Dr. Dobson: You referred yesterday, you didn't use these words, but you referred to the struggle that continues after you come to know this Jesus. Satan will still try to get a toehold in your life. And you said something to the effect that we sugar coat the gospel. And we don't tell them the difficult times because you still have them. In fact, in your book, you dealt with Roman 7, where the apostle Paul lays out a paradox of Christians and the life that we live. There's still a battle for our souls. Satan doesn't give up on you. And verse 18, 19, and 20 are troubling to me.
I have worked through them, but it might be helpful to talk about them for the people who are listening. Paul wrote, "I know that nothing good lives in me." This is a man who is committed to Christ, "that is, my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out, for what I do is not the good I want to do. No, the evil I do not want to do this. I keep on doing now. If I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it." I'm sure that scripture has caused a lot of people to kind of bump their head. Give us your take on it.
Dee Brestin: We are in a battle. When we first come to the Lord, it's a complete gift, but sanctification is a battle. We have a seismic battle with the evil one. You may feel like you're really getting trampled upon, but he's after every believer, he is after crushing the church. And he is going to try to get you to back away from God. And when you get discouraged because you've failed, he's going to get right in there and say, you can't do it. Or he's going to tell you when things go wrong, "You see? God doesn't love you." I remember my daughter, Sally and I went to see Max McLean in Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis' novel about the devil and there was a scene in the play that was so important where there's the main devil, and he's sending letters up to Screwtape, his little apprentice on earth.
And there's a bank tube on the stage that goes up and down and a little demon would climb up and open this bank tube. And if the news was good, if the client was backing away from God because of suffering, she would laugh and leap to the floor and do cartwheels all across the stage. But if the news was bad, if the client was actually in the midst of his suffering and feeling of failure, pressing harder into God, she would scream and claw the air and fall - and I don't know how she didn't break her back - but she would fall to the ground. And I remember when we left that theater, I said to my daughter, Sally, who at that time was struggling with infertility. I said, "What did you learn from the play?" And she said, I learned that I have an enemy and that he wants me to despair. But if God never gives me a baby, I'm going to trust Him. And Satan is going to scream, clawing the air and falling to the ground."
And we do have an enemy and we have to remember that. God understands when we fail, and if we confess our sins, He's faithful and just to forgive us our sins. And so yes, we fail. Yes, we do not do what we want to do. Yes, we are in a battle, but He is for us. And Satan is against us and we need to move toward God or else Satan has won if he gets us to back up and give up.
Dr. Dobson: So, you have to draw close to Him and live in community with Him.
Dee Brestin: Exactly.
Dr. Dobson: You get too far away. You don't read the Word. You don't go to church. You don't talk about Him. You don't think about Him. Satan will flip you on your backside.
Dee Brestin: Exactly. And during this time of the pandemic, it's so important to find fellowship one way or another. I feel like Satan is trying so hard to keep us from each other. And we need to find ways to be together. Be it on Zoom or Facebook or small gatherings. We must not stop.
Dr. Dobson: Why is it important to see Jesus as the bridegroom, a concept that most men are uncomfortable with, I think.
Dee Brestin: I think so. That's true. I did ask Michael Card that question one time. I said, 'How do you relate to the metaphor of Jesus being a bridegroom, as a man?" And he said, "Oh, I love that question because I don't think God gives us any picture that is not appropriate for both genders." He said, "I think about how I love my wife and cherish her and would do anything for her. And that melts my heart with the love of Jesus." He said, "I don't want to become so sexualized that I cannot relate to this metaphor."
I wrote a book called He Calls you Beautiful on the song of songs, Dr. Dobson. And I think the Song of Songs is a beautiful picture of marriage, but we miss it if we don't see the main point that it points to Jesus and how He loves us and dances over us. And there are so many pictures of Christ in this. Jonathan Edwards, the Puritan, has such great intellect, said, this is no common love song. He compared it to Psalm 45, which Hebrew says it was about Jesus and Psalm 45 is the royal wedding song. He said "There are 30 similarities between that and the Song of Songs. The Song of Songs is about marriage, but don't stop there. It is about a God who loves you, who cherishes you, who dances over you, who is better than 10,000, the fairest, indeed."
Dr. Dobson: Well, he is certainly a masculine Jesus. There's nothing that would contradict that. And He wants us as men to keep our masculinity. You talked about Steve, your husband, right before he died, praying for your children's future spouses and grandchildren, that they might come to know him, and talk about God's faithful response to that person.
Dee Brestin: Yes. We would often pray the Psalms in bed during that time when he was so sick and we memorized Psalm 103, which is the one with "Bless the Lord, Oh my soul and forget not all His benefits." So, we'd begin and remind each other of different ways God had worked in our lives. And we kept going through that Psalm and there's a place in that Psalm where it talks about how we are like the grass of the field. And at that moment, I feel like God told both Steve and me that he was going to take Steve home. And that was very sobering. And Steve then, after that, started praying, he said, "All right, God, if you are taking me home, you've promised to be a husband to the widow and a father to the fatherless." And what he prayed at that moment was that, we had three daughters still in the nest who were unmarried.
He said, "If it is your will, for them to marry, I'm asking you to give them godly men with godly fathers-in-law, who could be fathers to the fatherless." And it was a very bold prayer. And after Steve died, each of our three daughters married pastor's sons, with very godly fathers who have been fathers to the fatherless. And one of our most fun surprises, as I shared, Sally struggled with infertility and we prayed and prayed for Sally. And I remember it was the fifth anniversary of Steve's death. And I was speaking at Moody and she came over to have breakfast with me.
And I expected her to be very sad because it was the anniversary of his death. And I opened the door. She was grinning. She came running in and she said, "I know it's a sad day, but it's a great day. I am pregnant." And then we found out just three weeks later that my daughter Ann was pregnant. And then two weeks later, my daughter Beth was pregnant. And then a month later, my daughter-in-law Julie was pregnant and they all gave birth to little girls in the summer of 2010.
Dr. Dobson: All four of them.
Dee Brestin: But Jesus certainly surprised us with these four little girls.
Dr. Dobson: You've got a fertile little family, don't you?
Dee Brestin: God gave us more beyond what we could have imagined. He surprised us.
Dr. Dobson: Well, I've really enjoyed this conversation with you. I want to end by talking about Isaiah. I think that's one of my favorite books of the Bible, I never tire of reading it. But show the connection between Jesus, who was still, what, a thousand years away in the flesh, and Isaiah. What's that linkage?
Dee Brestin: Well, Isaiah gives such a clear prophecy in Isaiah 53 of both Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. The details are amazing. And many people said, "Well, this must have been written after the crucifixion, because the details are so vivid." And they said that because the earliest documents we had were after, until the dead sea scrolls were discovered, and those were before Jesus was on earth. And it just gives you such credibility in the scriptures.
The other thing that just completely warmed my heart was Isaiah's pictures of heaven because when I thought about heaven, I thought about the pictures in revelation and they're so symbolic. And they're a little scary to me, Dr. Dobson. Streets of gold instead of wooded areas and no seas, and no night, and no stars. I thought, "I don't know, it'll be good to be with Jesus and Steve, but it sounds a little cold, this celestial city." But in Isaiah 65, it's the picture of families living in houses and making vineyards and working, and loving and laughing and no more tears and no more death.
It's a new heaven and a new earth joined together. I like to think that the best of this earth will be reformed and we will live in it. The very favorite place you love on earth I would like for you to think of it being completely perfect. I live in Wisconsin and it's beautiful here, but we have lots of mosquitoes and we have lots of dead fish coming up and that won't be happening anymore.
And there will be no more sin. We won't be hurting each other. This picture of family, with Jesus and the best of creation. And there will still be meaningful work, which I love. And it just takes my breath away. And I think if Isaiah was so right on about Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, will He not also be so right on in his picture of heaven and Jesus returning?
Dr. Dobson: The scripture says it will be more wonderful than anything that has ever entered the mind of man. We've never even contemplated it. And you know what, when He says that, I take Him at His word, I don't try to second guess what He's put in that new world, but it must be worth waiting for.
Dee Brestin: Oh my goodness. I can't even imagine, but it will be wonderful.
Dr. Dobson: Well, thank you, Dee, again, I don't know how many times we have been on the air together. You never disappoint. You've always got something new to say. And the title of this new book is The Jesus Who Surprises, Opening Our Eyes to His Presence in All of Life and Scripture. And that's written by Dee Brestin, who has been my guest again today. Dee, as you turn out these books, I want you to call me and let me know, because I always enjoy talking to you.
Dee Brestin: Thank you so much, Dr. Dobson. You are a treasure in my life.
Dr. Dobson: Keep up the good work in bringing people to Jesus.
Dee Brestin: Thank you.
Roger Marsh: You're listening to Family Talk. I'm Roger Marsh and our guest today has been author Dee Brestin. To learn more about Dee Brestin and her latest book, The Jesus Who Surprises: Opening Our Eyes to His Presence in All of Life and Scripture, visit our broadcast page at drjamesdobson.org. While you're there, remember if you missed any portion of the broadcast yesterday or today, you can hear each program in its entirety on our broadcast page. So go to drjamesdobson.org/broadcast.
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