About Barbara Harper

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How to Read a Book

Why would an avid reader for decades pick up How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren?

I had three reasons:

  1. I’d like to retain more from my reading. Though I flag pages, underline or note important points, sometimes even outline chapters, I forget much of what I’ve read in a short while.
  2. Reading better in general should enhance one’s ability to read the Bible.
  3. I see so many people online talking past each other. I’ve wondered if that has anything to do with a lack of reading comprehension.

This book was originally written by Adler in 1940. Adler revised and updated it with Charles Van Doren in 1972. Even though 1972 doesn’t seem all that long ago to me, as far as literature is concerned, I found this book very tedious. I read a lot of old classics, so I don’t think older language is the problem here. I think it’s just Adler’s style.

It would take up too much time and space to go into Adler’s method here. But this Goodreads review goes into more detail.

Adler’s first step would be what we call pre-reading, and most of us do this to some degree, depending on the book, the author, and our familiarity with both. Many of us would look at the front cover, the back cover, look over the table of contents, read the first paragraph or two, maybe leaf through the whole thing briefly. But Adler’s method goes into much more detail and study. One of his first steps is to read the whole book once and then come back and apply these other steps.

Adler’s stages of reading are: elementary, inspectional, analytical, and syntopical. He discusses the first three in great detail and then applies his principles to various types of books. Then he has a chapter on syntopical reading, which goes beyond the reading of one book to reading several books on a given topic. He ends with a list of recommended reading and an appendix of exercises and tests for the various levels (I just glanced through the last appendix without trying any of the tests).

Honestly, I can’t see someone going through all Adler’s steps unless they’re incredibly academically minded or unless they need to know the book extremely well for a class.

Does that mean my time in the book was a waste?

No. Even though I have no desire to follow Adler’s advice for all my reading, I agreed with many points. I especially appreciated the urge to read actively, not passively. I gleaned numerous nuggets I liked. I can’t share them all here, but here are a few:

I think his evaluation of the average high school student is probably true even of many adults today:

He can follow a simple piece of fiction and enjoy it. But put him up against a closely written exposition, a carefully and economically stated argument, or a passage requiring critical consideration, and he is at a loss. It has been shown for instance, that the average high-school student is amazingly inept at indicating the central thought of a passage, or the levels of emphasis and subordination in an argument or exposition. To all intents and purposes he remains a sixth-grade reader till well along in college (p. xi.).

This was written before personal computers, much less iPhones and ebooks, but this is even more true now:

There is a sense in which we moderns are inundated with facts to the detriment of understanding. One of the reasons for this situation is that the very media we have mentioned are so designed as to make thinking seem unnecessary (though this is only an appearance). The packaging of intellectual positions and views is one of the most active enterprises of some of the best minds of our day. The viewer of television, the listener to radio, the reader of magazines, is presented with a whole complex of elements—all the way from ingenious rhetoric to carefully selected data and statistics—to make it easy for him to “make up his own mind” with the minimum of difficulty and effort. But the packaging is often done so effectively that the viewer, listener, or reader does not make up his own mind at all. Instead, he inserts a packaged opinion into his mind, somewhat like inserting a cassette into a cassette player. He then pushes a button and “plays back” the opinion whenever it seems appropriate to do so. He has performed acceptably without having had to think (p. 4).

Even though I don’t know many people who would read a whole book at an elementary level before coming back to read it analytically, I can see Adler’s point here:

We were told to consult footnotes, scholarly commentaries, or other secondary sources to get help. But when these things are done prematurely, they only impede our reading, instead of helping it.

The tremendous pleasure that can come from reading Shakespeare, for instance, was spoiled for generations of high school students who were forced to go through Julius Caesar, As You Like It, or Hamlet, scene by scene, looking up all the strange words in a glossary and studying all the scholarly footnotes. As a result, they never really read a Shakespearean play. By the time they reached the end, they had forgotten the beginning and lost sight of the whole. Instead of being forced to take this pedantic approach, they should have been encouraged to read the play at one sitting and discuss what they got out of that first quick reading. Only then would they have been ready to study the play carefully and closely, because then they would have understood enough of it to learn more (p. 37).

I thought this about propaganda was especially good:

The best protection against propaganda of any sort is the recognition of it for what it is. Only hidden and undetected oratory is really insidious. What reaches the heart without going through the mind is likely to bounce back and put the mind out of business. Propaganda taken in that way is like a drug you do not know you are swallowing. The effect is mysterious; you do not know afterwards why you feel or think the way you do (p. 198).

What about my three purposes for reading the book?

First, I did not get any information specifically about retaining more from reading, but that was not this book’s purpose. Probably one would retain more, at least for a time. Even if I did use Adler’s methods, I would still probably forget much without reviewing either the book or my notes from time to time. But I did get some ideas for improved note-taking.

Secondly, I did think that Adler’s methods would be good for Bible study. I’m an advocate of reading a book of the Bible at a time rather than cherry-picking random verses here and there.

As to my third purpose, I thought he brought up some very good points. One of his steps is ascertaining whether or not you agree with the author, and if not, why not. But you have to support your views from what the book actually said. So one can’t take things out of context, infer one’s own views, etc. Of course, our era of sound bytes and no context at all on Facebook and Twitter doesn’t really support good, meaningful communication.

Have you read Adler’s and Van Doren’s book? What do you think about any of his points mentioned here?

I counting this book for the Hobby category of the Nonfiction Reader Challenge since reading is my main hobby.

Be Counted (Numbers): Living a Life That Counts for God

The book of Numbers in the Bible covers the time that Israel headed to the promised land to the time just before they finally got there after a 40-year detour. As Warren Wiersbe said in his introduction to Be Counted (Numbers): Living a Life That Counts for God:

The book of Numbers opens with a count of all the fighting men in the camp. They were counted, but they couldn’t be counted on, because all but two of them died during Israel’s march through the wilderness. Then the new generation was counted, and they were people whom the Lord could “count on.” They trusted His Word, entered the Promised Land, and claimed it for their inheritance (pages 13-14, Kindle).

The book begins with getting ready to march to Canaan. Soldiers are numbered, the tribes are arranged in their places around the tabernacle, duties and procedures are assigned, the tabernacle is dedicated, and Passover is kept.

But the people complain about the manna God sent them. Aaron and Miriam, Moses’s own siblings, challenge his leadership. When the people send out spies to look over the land, the spies come back telling how many and how large the enemies are. Instead of trusting that God would give them the land as He promised, the people rebelled.

They looked at the people of the land and saw giants; they looked at the Canaanite cities and saw high walls and locked gates; and they looked at themselves and saw grasshoppers. If only they had looked by faith to God, they would have seen the One who was able to conquer every enemy and who sees the nations of the world as grasshoppers (Isa. 40: 22). “We are not able” is the cry of unbelief (Num. 13: 31 NKJV), but, “Our God is able” is the affirmation of faith (Dan. 3: 17; see Phil. 4: 13) (p. 74).

God pronounced that all those who refused to enter the land would die in the wilderness over the next forty years. Their children would inherit the land in their place along with Joshua and Caleb, the only two spies who urged to people to go forth and trust God.

And then: more rebellion, this time from Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. They challenged Moses and Aaron’s leadership, and God dealt with the rebels severely.

Then as the people complain once again about the need for water, Moses responds angrily. He calls them rebels. Instead of speaking to the rock as God instructed, Moses struck the rock twice.  “It was a sad demonstration of hostility by the meekest man on the earth (Numbers 12:3), showing that we can fail in our strengths as well as our weaknesses” (p. 105). God told Moses, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them” (Numbers 20:12). I’ve always felt bad for Moses, but one man in our church commented that he did eventually get to see the promised Savior in the promised land when he appeared with Elijah during Jesus’s transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8).

After a battle, more complaining, an encounter with Balaam and his talking donkey, falling into sin with the false gods of Moab, judgment, revenge against Midian, and another census, the people finally come to their second opportunity to go into the promised land. Eleazar has been appointed to take Aaron’s place and Joshua Moses’s place. Boundaries for the tribes are set. Interspersed in the narrative are some of God’s instructions for promised-land dwelling. These were encouraging reminders that they would eventually get there, that they were still God’s people, and that He would keep His promises. In fact, His faithfulness to His promise is probably the only reason the people did make it. The end of Numbers leaves Israel poised on the brink of Canaan, awaiting Moses’s last instructions to the tribes in Deuteronomy. “Though he wasn’t allowed to go in himself, Moses invested the closing weeks of his life in preparing the new generation to enter Canaan and claim the land God promised to give them” (p. 153).

What are some things we can learn from Numbers? According to Wiersbe:

We don’t have to fail as did that first generation; we can be “more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Rom. 8: 37) (p. 14).

The more comfortable we become, the less we welcome change, and yet there’s no growth without challenge and there’s no challenge without change. Comfort usually leads to complacency, and complacency is the enemy of character and spiritual growth. In each new experience of life, one of two things happens: Either we trust God and He brings out the best in us, or we disobey God and Satan brings out the worst in us (p. 58).

So sinful is the human heart that it’s prone to forget God’s blessings, ignore God’s promises, and find fault with God’s providence. “Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!” (Ps. 107: 8, 15, 21, 31) (p. 61).

Over these many years of ministry, I’ve learned that it isn’t enemies outside the local church who do the damage, but counterfeiters who get inside the church fellowship (Acts 20: 28–30; 3 John 9–11). These intruders might march with the church crowd and act like they are God’s people, but they don’t have an appetite for spiritual things, and eventually their true allegiance is revealed (1 John 2: 18–19) (p. 62).

The will of God is the expression of the love of God for His people, for His plans come from His heart (Ps. 33: 11). God’s will isn’t punishment, it’s nourishment (John 4: 31–34), not painful chains that shackle us (Ps. 2: 3), but loving cords that tie us to God’s heart so He can lead us in the right way (Hos. 11: 4) (p. 77).

God in His grace and mercy forgives sin, but in His divine government He allows that sin to have its sad effects in the lives of sinners (p. 78).

Be careful what you say to God when you complain, because He may take you up on it! After all, God’s greatest judgment is to let people have their own way (p. 79).

There is no substitute for faith in God’s promises and obedience to His commandments. Faith is simply obeying God in spite of how we feel, what we see, or what we think might happen. When God’s people trust and obey, the Lord delights in doing wonders for them, because they glorify His name (p. 81).

We have to be careful about judging Israel’s penchant for complaining and failure to trust God. Instead, we need to recognize those tendencies in ourselves and seek His grace to trust, obey, and follow.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Giving and Receiving God’s Word

I was surprised recently to read of someone offering their support and sympathy but promising not to share Bible verses.

My first thought was, “Isn’t the Bible our main source of comfort?” Human comfort helps, but it only goes so far.

I think I know what the person meant, though. Sometimes it’s easy to pat someone on the back, quote Romans 8:28, and go on our merry way. That’s like the spiritual version of what James says about physical needs: “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” (James 2:15-16). We’re instructed to be quick to hear and slow to speak, to weep with those who weep, to suffer with others in the body of Christ who suffer. We’re to “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body” (Hebrews 13:3). We need to enter in to someone else’s pain rather than just offer them a bandage.

We also need to discern whether others are ready to hear. God had Elijah eat and sleep before talking with him. Nathan told David a story before confronting him with his gross sin. Jesus once told the disciples, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

Once one of my coworkers suffered a miscarriage. This young woman was not a Christian. She told our manager that she didn’t want anyone to say anything about her situation when she returned to work. But one of the other ladies, a Christian, made it a point to speak to her about her miscarriage on her first day back. I don’t know what was said or how it was received. But it seemed unwise not to give this woman the time she asked for.

Someone has said that Job’s friends did more for him when they sat in silence than when they began to advise him. Sometimes a sorrow is so deep or so new, we should just express sympathy and share our presence and support. Pat answers and cliches don’t help.

Sometimes, too, when the person we want to comfort is a mature Christian, we can’t tell them anything they don’t already know. They know how to seek the Scriptures and lay their hearts bare before the Lord. That doesn’t mean we should never say anything comforting to them from the Word, but we just need to be led by the Spirit and not by our need to “say something” or “fix” the situation.

We need wisdom, grace, discernment, and the Holy Spirit’s leading when we share God’s Word with people. Job’s friends were sure that Job was suffering because he sinned. Since God said Job had not sinned, all his friends’ counsel was misapplied. In fact, Job called them miserable comforters.

But I have known what is it, as I am sure you have, to have someone share “a word spoken in due season.” When my mother passed away, someone shared in a card the verse that shaped my prayers for that time: “Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant” (Psalm 119:76, KJV). Often someone has shared a verse or sometimes just a thought or principle from the Bible at just the right time for whatever I was dealing with at the moment. That’s the kind of comforter and encourager I want to be. That can only come from walking closely with the Lord and spending time in God’s Word so the Holy Spirit can bring to mind what He wants us to share.

On the other side of this coin, though, as one receiving comfort or instruction, aren’t there times we just don’t want to hear it? Sometimes that’s because it’s coming from someone who hasn’t taken the time to really listen and enter in to the situation. But sometimes it’s due to other causes.

Sometimes we don’t want to hear because of our flesh. When you’re reaching for your third donut, you don’t want to hear about self-control. When you want to lash out at someone, you don’t want to hear verses about forbearing and forgiving. I’ve often prayed that God would help me look for the way to escape temptation that He promised rather than looking for an excuse to indulge.

Sometimes we don’t want to give up our pain because we want the person who caused it to suffer. Sometimes we might even be mad at God for what He allowed.

Sometimes we might not want to hear truth because we’re feeling a little dull or distracted spiritually.

The times when we least want to hear God’s Word are the times we most need it. A verse I like to pray in those times is Psalm 119:36: “Incline my heart to your testimonies.”

The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to revive us.

  • Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63).
  • “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life” (Psalm 119:50).
  • “I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life.” (Psalm 119:93).

We’re still responsible for the truth we hear and read, even if the person sharing it isn’t doing so in the best way or time. Sometimes we just have to extend grace and ask God to minister to our hearts.

May God give us eager “ears to hear” His Word and make us gracious and sensitive encouragers.

. (I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge

Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge

Tarissa at In the Bookcase hosts the Louisa May Alcott Reading Challenge in June. You can read all the particulars here.

This year I’m reading The Orchard House by Heidi Chiavaroli. It’s a time slip novel with one story set in modern times and another in Louisa’s time, both connected to her. And isn’t that cover gorgeous!

I doubt I’ll read anything else connected with LMA this year–I have too many other things on my reading plate. But we’ll see. If this one goes quickly, I might try to work in another.

Friday’s Fave Five

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week
with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

It’s the first week of June! Here are some of the best parts of the week:

1. A productive Saturday. We had talked about going all together to a park on a lake with a roped-off area for swimming. But rain was in the forecast, so we moved those plans to Monday. Instead, Jim and I spent Saturday afternoon moving all the wall decorations and shelves from the old sewing room to the new one. Then he began to tape off the old room to ready it for painting, and I planted some new flowers in the front planters. We ended the day with Dominoes pizza.

2. A long weekend. Jason, Mittu, and Timothy came over Sunday night to camp out in the back yard. Jason and Mittu tried out the RV, and Timothy and Granddad were out in the tent–at least until about 2 a.m. 🙂 Jim made a big “camp breakfast” on the grill. Then Jesse met us at the park mentioned above for a cookout. Unfortunately, the park was so crowded, we couldn’t find a parking space. But Jason had noticed a sign for a picnic pavilion, so we backtracked there. We weren’t near the water, but we had the area mostly to ourselves until the last half hour or so.

3. A radio interview. I mentioned last week that I had an opportunity for a radio interview to discuss one of my blog posts. It went very well. God gave great grace, and the hosts were very gracious and easy to talk to. Unfortunately, my segment was not in the excerpt link on their web site. But thankfully a good friend thought to record it for me, and I was able to send it in an audio file to Jim and the kids, who were working during the time I was on live. That was so thoughtful of her!

4. Cracker Barrel take-out. I forgot to mention this one from the week before last. Jim had to go out of town one day and didn’t expect to be home until late. So I splurged and got Cracker Barrel take-out. That’s one of my favorite restaurants, but no one else in the family likes it much. Takeout meals often contain enough for dinner and leftovers for lunch the next day. But this had the biggest portions I had seen for takeout, and I got an additional lunch out of them. And the best was their double chocolate Coca-Cola cake.

5. Grocery store pick-up. Unfortunately, Jim has been sick since the weekend with a really bad cold. He went for a COVID test just to be sure, but it was negative. Then I woke up Thursday morning with a sore throat and sinus pressure. 😦 I spent much of Thursday sleeping, so I hope I’m heading off the worst of it. We needed some things at the store, but I really didn’t feel like going, and I didn’t think he would, either. The main store we use doesn’t have online ordering, but one near us does. I remembered it just in time to get an order in for that evening’s pick-up.

This weekend, we’re planning to celebrate Timothy’s completing first grade. Hopefully we’ll both be over whatever we have by then. What are your plans for the weekend?

Two Short Fiction Reviews

In The Sign Painter by Davis Bunn, Amy Dowell has fallen on hard times. Her husband died and she lost her home. Now she travels in a camper with her young daughter. After charges of vagrancy and the threat of having her daughter taken away, she has a lead on a job painting signs for a car dealership. She comes across a church with an extensive ministry to the homeless, including temporary housing.

Just as things are looking up, she faces a dilemma. While working after closing hours one night, she discovers a salesman has left a significant amount of cash on his desk. If she leaves it, someone could steal it. But if she takes it to keep it safe, would she be accused of stealing? Would her record make her seem all the more guilty?

Meanwhile, ex-policeman Paul Travers has been hired to help the church find the best way to deal with a nearby house overtaken by drug dealers. Some of the church folks are already wary of the kinds of people the homeless ministry brings in. Having drug dealers in the neighborhood might push them into closing down the whole ministry.

I’m used to a more exotic locale in Bunn’s books, so it was interesting to read a novel of his set in the US. I appreciated what he said in a interview at the end of the book. The story was inspired by a news item he saw about homelessness in Orlando. He wanted to show the hardships, but not stop there. “I wanted to focus on the rebuilding. To my mind, too much attention is given to the falling down, and not enough to the getting back up again. So The Sign Painter aims toward hope and healing—a new future for homeless families, but also a reminder about the help our communities may be able to offer.”

The story took a little different turn from what I expected. I enjoyed getting to know Amy and Paul. I appreciated the glimpse into the challenges of those who are homeless and those who want to help.

In Saving Alice by David Lewis, Stephen Whittaker had been in love with Alice in high school. When a car accident takes Alice’s life, Stephen and Alice’s best friend, Donna, comfort each other and eventually marry. They have a daughter named after Alice, Alycia, with whom Stephen has a special bond. But all these years later, Stephen still has nightmares about Alice’s accident.

Stephen is a stockbroker who nearly drove his company bankrupt with a bad deal. They avoided bankruptcy and are slowly making their way back.

But when Alycia turns twelve she wants to know more about her parents’ friend, Alice. When her relentless questions finally bring out the truth that her father loved Alice first, Alycia loses respect for him.

Stephen’s bad decisions and cluelessness lead to Donna’s leaving him. But just as things begin to look up in his job and his relationship with Alycia, everything comes crashing down.

I enjoyed the father-daughter banter, and some of the scenes were very well-done and drew out my emotions. However, a plot device in the latter part of the book fell flat to me. I can’t go into it without spoiling the story. But it didn’t seem to mesh with the rest of the book and seemed too convenient. I liked the rest of David’s writing well enough that I’d try his other books.

David is the husband of Beverly Lewis, one of the first Amish fiction writers.

Though I reviewed these books together mainly because I read them one after the other, they do have similar themes getting back up and rebuilding after crises.

On the Radio

I’ve mentioned an invitation for a radio interview to discuss my blog post Faithful in Obscurity. I wanted to let you know how to listen to it if you’re interested.

The interview is scheduled for Wednesday, June 2, from 8:20-8:40 a.m.EDT, but it won’t cover all that time. They’ll break away for news, weather, a song, etc.

The radio program is Kurt and Kate Mornings on Moody Radio Florida. The top of their program page has a “Click to Listen Live” button.

They do have some of their past programs available to listen to. If the segment I’m on shows up in their recorded segments, I’ll post the link here afterward.

I’d appreciate your prayers that God would help me say what He wants me to, in the way He wants me to, that the program would minister to hearers, that I won’t blank out, that all the logistics and connections will work out, that I won’t have to go to the bathroom during that time. 🙂

Update: Everything went really well. God gave grace and calmed nerves. The hosts were very gracious and made it easy to converse. It looks like it takes them a couple of days to post their recordings on their site, but I’ll post the link here if they include the segment I was on. Thanks for praying!

Update: Unfortunately, my segment wasn’t on the link link for yesterday’s program. Out of a three-hour program, their link for the day is a fifteen-minute or so excerpt. Thankfully, a good friend recorded the interview for me, so I was able to listen to it and send it to family who had to work while it was on.

Is It Wrong to Be Right?

One memorable time, as I was making teriyaki, I browned the strips of beef and added all the spices and ingredients called for. The last step was adding cornstarch to thicken the sauce.

However, I accidentally grabbed baking soda instead of cornstarch. My sauce erupted like a science fair volcano.

I poured out the sauce, rinsed out the pan, and added new ingredients to the beef. But enough baking soda had seeped into the meat that the whole dish was too tainted to eat. We drank water for hours trying to wash the taste out of our mouths.

What’s worse, the memory of that sauce was so strong that my husband couldn’t eat teriyaki any more. Even if everything came out right, teriyaki triggered the bad taste of the ruined version.

***

Recently I’ve see a lot of memes or quotes about how much better it is be to nice than to be right.

I think I know what some mean by this. Some people are passionate about every little thing; others insist that everything be done exactly their way. But there are issues in life not worth arguing over: which way the toilet paper goes on the roll, how to squeeze the toothpaste tube, etc. It’s better to overlook some things than to constantly fuss about them. The relationship is more important than one or the other being “right.”

But in some cases, being right is essential. The wrong ingredient can ruin dinner but make for a funny story later. But some wrongs are more painful. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can severely damage a relationship. Playing the wrong note will jar rather than please one’s listeners.

And sometimes being wrong can be deadly: the wrong medicine, the wrong diagnosis, the wrong step.

No amount of being nice can make up for being wrong in some instances.

Lately I have even seen this sentiment in regard to the Bible. True, many Christians take Judes’ admonition to contend for the faith to mean being contentious about everything. We’ve seen awful displays this last year of assigning wrong motives and vitriolic name-calling over issues where Christians should have been forbearing and given each other grace over differing opinions. Some wield truth like a club and forget the admonition that “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26). It’s God who grants repentance through His Word and His Spirit, not our hammering.

Notice that Paul doesn’t tell Timothy to be nice instead of being right. He tells him to teach, be patient, correct, yes, but with gentleness. Both epistles from Paul to Timothy are full of instructions about right doctrine and conduct.

In fact, almost every book of the Bible warns against false doctrine or shows examples of people following the wrong way.

Yes, there are issues in the Bible good people can differ over. But there are other issues where we can seriously go astray and lead others with us if we’re wrong. If we don’t know God as He truly is, we create a false god in our image.

I saw an article recently where someone spoke of not worrying about getting everything right in their Bible reading, but instead looking for meaning for one’s personal life.

But how can we find meaning if we’re off on what we think the Bible says? Jesus said “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24, emphasis mine).

Isaiah spoke of those “who swear by the name of the Lord and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right” (48:1).

True, the Pharisees spent a lot of time studying the scriptures and dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s just right. But for all their study, they missed the truth. Their error wasn’t in studying the Scripture but in adding to the word of God and teaching their own doctrines rather than His.

We do have to be careful not to fall into a merely academic approach to the Bible. But we don’t have to set up a false dichotomy between right study and meaning and application. Or between being nice versus being right. Paul urges Timothy to be an unashamed worker “rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Sometimes the call for truth can be stern in the Bible. Sometimes you can’t warn people of danger in a quiet voice. When one of my sons was little and toddled toward a busy street, I didn’t say, “Honey, please come back. The street is too dangerous.” I yelled and ran and snatched him up just before he stepped onto the road. I probably scared him to death. I was pretty shaken, myself.

Paul told the Galatians, “If we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Did Paul say that because he was opinionated and intolerant in his religious views? No, he knew the truth and he knew the danger of a false gospel.

May God give us grace to know Him for who He is, to know His Word, to continue to study it depending on the Holy Spirit for guidance, to grow in knowing Him, to know where to draw lines and where to show forbearance, to speak boldly and truthfully but as kindly as possible.

. (I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Laudable Linkage

Here are a number of thought-provoking reads discovered the last few weeks. Perhaps one or two will be of interest to you.

On the Longing to Be Seen, Heard, and Known, HT to The Story Warren. “Wanting to be seen, heard, and known isn’t sinful in itself (it’s part of our human nature, given to us by God), but as with everything in life, sin has tainted it in a big way.”

Disturb us, Lord. Ouch.

The Ministry of Sorrow. “By facing trials in a distinctly Christian way, by ministering to others through their sorrows, by testifying to God’s light even in the deepest darkness, each of them has provided a testimony to God’s grace that has lifted many tired hands and strengthened many weakened knees.”

Grace as Deep as the Sea. “I want to scold the dad with his back to the son, ‘You can replace the net—you can replace a thousand nets!‘ But I know, deep inside, this has nothing to do with a broken net and everything to do with a broken life, a broken dream, a broken son, and a broken heart.”

Headlines. “Do you see how your perspective or focus can change the headline? Which view will you take in your particular trial?”

How Not to Debate Ideas in the Public Square, HT to Challies. “There will always be people who disagree with each other. That’s not necessarily a problem. And there will always be people who make bad arguments. That’s inevitable. But if we are interested in debating ideas (not just destroying people) and interested in persuading (not just performing), we will try our imperfect best to speak and write in a way that aims to be clear, measured, and open to reason.”

What If I’m Not the Best at Anything? HT to Challies. I think many of us can identify with this. I love his conclusion.

A Lesson to Learn as we emerge from the restrictions of the past year. HT to Challies. “Who do you instantly dismiss as being too gung-ho or too cautious? That is the danger for us in church over the next few months. The danger is a loveless fracturing of church unity. A dismissal of one another, a failure to love and bear with one another.”

“Putdownable” Books. Though this post is a review of Dickens’ Great Expectations, I love what the author said after seeing ads for books “you won’t be able to put down”: “But I want to take a moment and consider the books that are so good we have to put them down. I don’t mean books we put down and lose interest in—no. I mean books so beautiful we must linger over them, savor them, pause from time to time to reflect on a beautiful passage or perhaps write it down somewhere. These are the books we read more and more slowly toward the end, because we do not want to finish the last page and be left outside the world of the story. We do not want these books to end.”

I just discovered from Ancient Mariners, Psalms, and Prayers this article telling about a project to have different people read The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge. I’ve always thought that was one of the most dramatic poems ever. I’ve only listened to a few minutes of it, but it’s good! Here’s the first section:

The whole thing is put together here. On this list of the readers here, you can click on each name to hear that section.

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week
with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

It’s been another good week. Here are some of the best parts:

1. Family dinner and games. With my youngest moved out now, sometimes it takes a little coordination to get everyone together. He asked to come over for dinner and a haircut (his dad has cut his hair all his life). We asked Jason and Mittu if they were available to come, too. We had spaghetti and flourless applesauce cake and played Jackbox games. Fun!

2. Monthly Ladies Bible study. We met in person, but seated at a distance from each other. Thankfully the place where we meet has a conference room that works nicely for this.

3. Retirement home ministry. Our church has just started a retirement home ministry one Sunday afternoon a month. Last month was the first one, and we chatted with a sweet lady from Germany named Esla. We hoped to see her again this time. But when we got there, only a few people were gathered. One of them said the folks at the home hadn’t announced that we’d be there. But as we got started, a few more people trickled in—and Esla was one of them. So we got to talk for a good while afterward. And as we left, she called to us from her balcony to say goodbye.

4. Hot dogs and s’mores at my son and daughter-in-law’s house. Jason and Mittu invited us over Sunday evening. They are blessed with both a deck upstairs and a patio downstairs under the deck. So we had hot dogs on the deck and roasted marshmallows for s’mores on the patio.

5. The Picture This app. My oldest son had told me about this once when he was here and I wondered what a certain flower in an arrangement was. Then, at Jason and Mittu’s, we used it to identify some of the trees and plants in their new back yard. It was helpful not just for identifying, but we found that one plant that seemed not to be doing anything was a plant that didn’t tolerate the heat we get here in TN. That helped them in the decision about whether to keep it.

Bonus: An unexpected opportunity. I mentioned this in my end-of-month post yesterday, but I know some of you are only here for the FFF post. So I wanted to mention here, as well, that I was asked to do a radio interview about my Faithful in Obscurity blog post. It’s set for Wednesday morning at 8:10 a.m. EDT. On Tuesday I’ll post a link to the radio program’s site. It has a “Listen Live” button if you’re interested. It also has some recordings of previous programs, but I don’t know if my segment will be recorded since it’s just a small portion of their program. I am excited but also nervous as I have not done anything like this before. I’d appreciate your prayers!

I hope you have a great weekend. Here in the US we have a long weekend to celebrate Memorial Day. I am so thankful for those who gave their lives for our freedom.