Finding Time to Read the Bible

A blog friend was once reading a book about Bible study. She lamented that, as good as the book was, it didn’t mentioned how to find the time to employ all that instruction.

I guess the authors feel that once we are assured of the importance of Bible reading and study, we’ll make it a priority and make time. And I think that’s pretty much what it comes down to. If we are waiting until time magically opens up with the solitude and inclination we need without a dozen other things crowding in…I just don’t think that’s going to happen, at least not regularly.

Years ago our assistant pastor spoke of struggling to make time for reading his Bible. He said to our senior pastor, an older, godly man, “I guess you don’t have trouble making time for Bible reading any more, do you?” The older man just laughed.

Finding the time is always going to be a struggle. There are always duties, distractions, and people clamoring for that time. The Enemy of our souls fights against our spending time in the Bible. Instead of getting discouraged about it, we can just accept that it is a common problem and  prayerfully seek ways to deal with it. Perhaps reminding ourselves of reasons to read the Bible will renew our motivation.

We need to remember, too, that making time to read the Bible isn’t just about ticking off another duty. Every relationship thrives on communication. If we went for days without talking with our husbands except in the briefest necessary exchanges, we’d feel the effects pretty soon and realize we need some time alone together. Though sometimes we need to set up routines to establish good habits, taking time to read the Bible shouldn’t be a matter of rigid schedules, but rather of taking time to meet with the One Who loves us best.

So with these things in mind, here are some suggestions for carving time out to meet with the Lord:

1. Get up earlier or stay up later. I can hear you groaning. But for many of us, that’s the only way to get some time alone.

2. Keep the Bible handy. One friend with three small children close in age kept her Bible out in her kitchen. She couldn’t set aside a longer period of solitude, but she could read in smaller snatches through the day.

3. Bible apps. There are a number of apps with Bible reading plans, reminders, etc. Since we usually have our phones nearby all day, we have easy access to the Scriptures all the time.

4. Listen. Some people like to listen to recorded versions of the Bible while driving, exercising, making dinner, etc.

5. Plan for it after a natural break in the day. It’s hard for to stop in the middle of a morning or afternoon and put everything aside to read. But a break in the routine, when we’re shifting gears anyway, can help us work in some time for reading, like after a meal, after taking the kids to school, etc.

6. Meal time, especially if you eat alone.

7. Waiting time. We usually check social media or open a book if we have to wait at a doctor’s office or in car line at school, but that can be a good time for some Bible reading.

9. Establish a routine. Once we get used to setting aside a certain time for Bible reading, it’s not such a scramble to look for that time every day.

9. Don’t wait for perfection. One problem with a routine is that we can’t always figure out how to function when the routine is disrupted, like when we’re traveling or someone is sick or we have small children at home. I wrote a post some time back called Encouragement for mothers of young children about trying to find time for devotions with little ones in the house. Though I normally like getting up early and having solitude and quietness for Bible reading, that just didn’t work with little ones. Yet God enabled me to read and profit from it while they kept me company or played near me, even though usually I couldn’t concentrate under those circumstances.

10. Anything is better than nothing. You may not have time on a given day to work out your full Bible reading routine. But you can usually read something. I’ve found that when I truly only had a few moments, God often gave me just what I needed in a verse or two.

11. Talk with your husband, roommates, siblings, whoever you live with. Years ago I caught part of a radio program where the preacher was scolding women who wanted to spend early morning time to have devotions. He said the husband as the leader should have that time, since the wife had “all day” in which she could have devotions. The man obviously had not spent a whole day at home alone with kids. That mentality is wrong on many levels. Not long after that a missionary speaking at our church mentioned protecting that time for his wife, a much better example of servant leadership and love. If the only way either parent can have devotions is for one of them to watch the children, then they can do that for each other. If a particular time of day is the best time for two people in a house, they can work out different locations if they get too distracted in the same room. Whatever conflict there might be about time and place preferences, talk with each other to work out the best solution for both and be willing to compromise.

12. Pray. In the blog post I referred to earlier, I mentioned that sometimes I’d get to the end of the day and lament to the Lord that I had no idea when I could have read my Bible that day. I began instead to pray at the beginning of the day for wisdom and alertness for those moments when I could, and that made a profound difference.

13. Set something aside. If we have times to read other books, peruse Facebook, watch TV, or play games on our phones, we have time to read the Bible. I admit, if I sit down to relax for a few minutes with a book and realize I haven’t read my Bible yet that day, I don’t always have the best attitude about laying down my book and picking up my Bible. But when I confess that to the Lord and then go ahead, He graciously speaks to me through His Word. We do need time to relax as well, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of time in God’s Word. He knows our needs, and we can ask Him for both time to spend in His Word and for some down time.

What about you? What ways have you found to make time for Bible reading?

(Revised from the archives)

(Sharing with Hearth and Soul, Sunday Scripture Blessings, Selah, Scripture and a Snapshot, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Remember Me Monday, Tell His Story, Legacy Linkup, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Blogger Voices Network)

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Here are thought-provoking reads found recently.

Counseling for Those Struggling with Assurance.

Don’t Fall For It, HT to Challies. “Satan is clever. He’s happy to distract you with global disturbances while he chips away at the foundations of your devotion to Christ.”

Loving Difficult Neighbors Isn’t Optional, HT to Challies. “Imagine standing before God with this logic: ‘Yes Lord, they were made in your image and starved for gospel hope, but their dog’s barking always woke us up at 2 a.m., so we shut them out.'”

Taking on the Revolutionary Program of Ibram X. Kendi, HT to Challies. Several serious concerns about the book How To Be an Anti-Racist.

How to Lead and How to Follow. Applying the “Golden Rule” to both.

Catching Our Reflections in the Lives of Our Children, HT to The Story Warren. “What can we do when confronted with the sin of our children, sin that turns out to be ours as well? The discouragement can be crippling, preventing us from seeing any fruitful way forward. Even in the midst of this discouragement, God invites us to move forward in hope, pressing into the gospel of grace.”

Things to Do in November for Kids and Parents, HT to The Story Warren.

And finally, HT to Lisa:

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

On Fridays I like to pause for a few moments with Susanne and friends
to reflect on some of the blessings of the week.

The first week of November has flown by. I want to hold it in hand just a few moments before it vanishes completely by remembering the best parts.

1. Dressing up. Because my son and daughter-in-law couldn’t take my grandson trick-or-treating, they had a family get-together Halloween night and asked us all to dress up. Even though I tried to think of something with minimal work, it was fun.

Mittu potrays a tired stay-at-home mom with her coffee (love the shirt!). Jason is the Brawny paper towel guy. Jim is a wolf. I’m a fairy-tale Grandma. Jesse is Cyclops, an X-men character. Timothy is Marshmellow. (They don’t endorse all that the singer Marshmellow puts out, but they let Timothy watch a couple of his videos).

And here’s an encounter between Grandma and the Big Bad Wolf. 🙂

We enjoyed spaghetti and a wonderful chocolate swirl cake, and then played some games.

2. An extra hour. I sure hate to give that hour up in the spring for Daylight Savings Time, but I love getting it back in the fall.

3. The election. I was hoping and praying the results would be more definitive. At the time of this writing, we still don’t have a final result. But I am thankful we have the opportunity to make a choice.

4. At-home sleep study. That’s been on the horizon for six weeks now, and it was nice to get it over with. It will be 7-10 days before I hear the results.

5. Winning a book. I received notice that I won a book in a contest I had forgotten about entering! A nice surprise.

We’re having a cold snap this week, making us finally turn the central heat on. I think I say this every year, but I am so thankful we can heat the whole house with the push of a button. We had a fireplace in our last house that we used just for ambience sometimes or when the power was out. It was cozy, but a lot of work to keep adding wood and clearing ashes. I’m glad we don’t have to do that to keep warm.

The cold has made it seem like we had a short autumn and skipped ahead to winter. But it’s supposed to be a bit warmer next week. We hadn’t been out and around to see the fall color this year, but I drank in what was left on my way back from the sleep center.

And that wraps up this week! How was your first week of November?

Book Review: The Number of Love

Margot De Wilde thinks in numbers. Numerals line up differently in her head when all is well or something is off. Her father developed a system of cryptography before WWI with young Margot as his main pupil. After his death, Margot and her mother were rescued from Belgium (in A Song Unheard) to be with her brother, famous violinist Lucas De Wilde, in London. Though a teenager, Margot is recruited to work in the admiralty’s secret Room 40 deciphering Germany’s coded messages.

Margot had one good friend back in Belgium, but she’s not interested in the silly things most girls are. She’s content to be alone, but when she notices Dot, another young woman at the admiralty seemingly on the outskirts of society, they strike up a satisfying friendship.

Dot thinks her brother, Drake, is in the Navy. Their grandfather in Spain thinks Drake is a student. Neither suspects Drake actually works undercover.

Drake finds Margot fascinating and loves her sarcastic sense of humor. But Margot has no time for or interest in romance.

Then Margot suffers a tragic loss that turns her well-ordered world upside-down. Not only do the numbers in her mind stop, but God seems silent.

And Drake returns from Spain wounded with an enemy who may pursue him all the way to London.

The Number of Love is the first in Roseanna M. White’s Codebreakers series, which follows the Shadows Over England series. A few of the characters carry over. This novel is every bit as captivating as the first three. It may be my favorite of Roseanna’s so far.

A couple of quotes from the book:

Faith isn’t just feeling. We have to know He’s still there, unchanged, even when we can’t feel Him. When the grief’s too loud to let us hear His voice.

There were never any guarantees. Even being sure God wanted him to do this didn’t mean he’d come home safely. Sometimes God’s will meant bullets searing flesh. Death coming too soon. Sometimes God’s will was to let man taste the consequences of his folly and his hatred and his supposed self-sufficiency. Sometimes God let people die. Let His children break. And then pieced them back together into something new. Something that He could use for His glory instead of theirs

I enjoyed the suspense provided by the intrigue and mystery concerning Drake’s pursuer and the historical detail. At the end of the book, Roseanna differentiates between the actual historical facts she used and the details she made up.There was an actual Room 40 of codebreakers during WWI that few knew about.

I love that Margot is an imperfect heroine. Even though she’s smart, she’s also young and a bit immature. And she can come across as a little arrogant sometimes. But her experiences help mature and humble her and teach her to rely not on her abilities or systems, but on God.

I’m so glad Roseanna continued this series. I look forward to the next book!

(See also: Why Read Christian Fiction)

(Sharing with Booknificent Thursday)

Things That Will Still Be True After Election Day

Things that will still be true after Election Day. God rules.

Vitriol and mud-slinging are not new to politics, but the last two presidential elections have been the worst in my memory. Emotions and tension are high on both sides.

But no matter what the outcome is on Tuesday, several things will still be true.

God reigns. “God reigns over the nations; God sits on his holy throne” (Psalm 47:8). Our church has read through large chunks of the Old Testament over the last year. No matter who was in charge of what earthly kingdom, God was always at work, sometimes overtly, sometimes “behind the scenes.” “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 103:19).

This doesn’t mean we don’t vote. God often uses means and circumstances, and voting is the means by which rulers are elected here

Authorities come from God, even when they are not godly, even when we don’t agree with everything they do.

For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. (Romans 13:1b-2)

He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. (Daniel 2:21)

The Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men. (Daniel 4:17b)

We’re responsible to pray. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

We’re to respect our leaders. Peter instructed, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” 1 Peter 2:17). He wrote that, inspired by the Holy Spirit, when one of the worst rulers ever was on the throne: Nero. That doesn’t mean he obeyed authorities who told him not to do what God told him to do. That doesn’t mean we never speak up when a ruler is in the wrong: John the Baptist did, as did Daniel and many of the OT prophets (though they also faced consequences for speaking out and disobeying). Paul said the same thing: “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7), echoing what Jesus said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17).

We’re to be subject to authorities. “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:13-15). The only exception is when the government tells us to do something wrong. The Hebrew midwives didn’t kill Jewish babies as instructed. The disciples still preached in the name of Jesus when told not to. People hid and helped Jews during WWII. People still printed Bibles behind the Iron Curtain.

Our responsibilities are not over. Very early in my first voting forays, some people seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and then sit back when their candidate was elected, as if to say, “Whew! That’s done. We’re okay for four more years.” But, we still need to be aware and use the voice we have, because . . .

No ruler is perfect. Some are better than others, but we can’t put our total hope in any of them. They may not see all sides of an issue or may be getting bad advice, so it’s important to be aware of issues and communicate our concerns and preferences.

We still have a voice. In this country, we have the right and responsibility to let our voice be heard, to vote, to write our representatives. No ruler has carte blanche.

Government can’t meet all our needs. It was never meant to. It has taken on responsibilities the church and others are supposed to bear. And while we need it to do what it’s designed for, ultimately our hope is in God. “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever” (Psalm 146:3-6).

God’s promises are still true. He has promised to supply our needs, answer prayer, never leave us or forsake us. God’s power and wisdom and love are not limited by earthly rulers.

I have preferences, hopes, and fears for this election. I know God doesn’t always answer prayer the way we think is best, but I am sure hoping He does this time. I’m praying, and I’ve voted. My responsibilities are the same: pray, trust, do His will moment by moment, love my neighbor, let my light shine. But ultimately, He is on the throne working out His perfect will. My hope is in Him.

This is my Father’s world:
O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world:
Why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King: let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let earth be glad!

Maltbie D. Babcock, This Is My Father’s World

The Most High rules

(Sharing with Sunday Scripture, Selah, Scripture and a Snapshot, Inspire Me Monday,
Hearth and Soul, Senior Salon, Remember Me Monday, Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement), Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)

Friday’s Fave Five

On Fridays I like to pause for a few moments with Susanne and friends
to reflect on some of the blessings of the week.

It’s hard to believe we’re on the last Friday of October. Soon holiday season will be here! Here’s what I am thankful for this week:

1. Pumpkin decorating. We had our annual pumpkin carving/decorating on Saturday. Always a fun time!

2. Caramel corn and apple cider, two treats I always make for this occasion! Making the caramel corn is labor-intensive, but the recipe makes a lot and is so good.

3. Productive days. I got a lot done around the house this week, plus some work on the blog, an article, and my book. Usually either physical work or computer time gets done, so it was nice to make strides in both.

4. A successful new recipe. I’m trying to find leaner main dishes. I tend to have a lot of starches in mine, with a fair amount of meat and a few vegetables. So I am trying to find healthier ratios. These Juicy Air Fryer Chicken Breasts were so good.

5. Intersections. It’s amazing how often the different sources I read all contain the same message on the same day. The Bible passage, devotional book, commentary, and a couple of blog posts I read this morning all spoke of waiting on the Lord.

Do you have any blessings to share from this last week in October? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

End-of-October Reflections

October tends to be a somewhat quiet month for us, with no birthdays or anniversaries in our immediate family (though there are a few in the extended family). I love our “birthday season,” but it’s nice to have a quiet spot between it and the holidays. My yearly physical in September usually sets off a couple of other appointments, but I am putting off some non-essential ones for now. I do have a sleep study scheduled for next week to test for sleep apnea, at home rather than the lab per insurance requirements. We’ll see what happens!

We had our annual pumpkin decorating last Saturday. We weren’t into that when our children were small, but our daughter-in-law requested it a few years ago. It has become a fun tradition. And since the places that would normally be open for safe trick-or-treating are closed due to COVID-19, we’re not only invited to a family get-together this weekend, but invited to dress up! I’m still contemplating what to do, but I have a couple of ideas.

Timothyisms

My little 6-year-old grandson is almost as tall as my shoulder now. I love how his mind works. He was making Lego creations, and had a flower on a lower level that was pushing over a column. His dad asked if he wanted to take the flower off so the column would fit better. Timothy said, “No, that’s the turbine,” and told him how the water flowed through his building.

A couple of texts my daughter-in-law sent:

Jason was explaining what herbivores and carnivores eat.

T- Yeah, cows don’t eat meat because they ARE meat!!

__

M- Timothy who did we talk about in Bible yesterday?

T- Zebra! Zebra?

M- Close. Her name is Deborah.

T- That’s a weird name.

He must not know any Debbies yet. 🙂

He texted me this: I think he made it himself:

I didn’t make any cards this month, but I’ve gotten lots of housework done and figured out the new WordPress editor (at least the features I use. It does a whole lot more than I know what to do with at this point). Here’s what else I’ve been doing.

Watching

While riding my exercise bike, I enjoyed an old Cary Grant movie, The Amazing Quest of Ernest Bliss. Grant plays an idle rich guy suffering from malaise who goes to the doctor, who challenges him to work for his living for the next year. After that I started the Lark Rise to Candleford series. Like anything else based on books, there are similarities and differences from the original. But I am enjoying it. It will keep me occupied for a long while.

Jim and I also watched The Current War about the rivalry between Edison and Westinghouse. It was pretty interesting (warning: it includes a couple of instances of taking the Lord’s name in vain).

Reading

This month I finished:

  • A Name Unknown by Roseanna M. White (actually finished last month but had not reviewed in time for my monthly posts). LOVED this book and immediately sought out the sequels. A group of street kids formed themselves into a family in London just before WWI, and one is approached by a mysterious man seeking her help.
  • A Song Unheard by Roseanna M. White, sequel to A Name Unknown. Love this, too!
  • An Hour Unspent by Roseanna M. White, the third and last in this Shadows Over England series.
  • Termination Zone by Adam Blumer. A man with a brain implant eludes those trying to control. him. Very edge-of-your-seat reading!
  • Be Obedient (Genesis 12-25): Learning the Secret of Living by Faith by Warren Wiersbe.
  • True Strength: My Journey from Hercules to Mere Mortal—and How Nearly Dying Saved my Life, by Kevin Sorbo. The actor shares a bit of his background and how he came to star in Hercules, then suffered an aneurysm and three mini-strokes that changed his life.
  • The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White, first in the Codebreakers series, but a few characters from the previous series appear, too. Just finished last night but have not reviewed yet.

I’m currently reading:

  • In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin
  • The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion by Annette Whipple
  • Write Better by Andrew Le Peau
  • 1984 by George Orwell (audiobook)
  • Discovering Jesus and His Love by Scott Leone
  • Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque, recommended in a writing webinar by Steve Laube and Thomas Umstattd, Jr.

I started Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers, but just couldn’t get into it and laid it aside. I’d wanted to read something by her since seeing her mentioned in one of C. S. Lewis’s books, but will have to try another one. This book is in the middle of a bunch featuring detective Peter Wimsey.

Blogging

In addition to weekly Friday’s Fave Fives and occasional Laudable Linkages and book reviews, I’ve posted:

What Do You Look for When You Read the Bible? The Bible doesn’t just provide momentary fixes for the current need: it’s the means by which we get to know God better.

What Grace Does. Titus 2:11-13 about what grace teaches sparked a study of other activities of grace.

Alone with God. Community is an essential gift, “But some of the most poignant moments of life occur between the individual and God alone.”

A Christian Philosophy of Things. Finding the balance between being too careless or too possessive of our stuff.

Writing

I’ve had a few little sessions but need to dig in more.

And that pretty much wraps up October for us. Though we still have a few days, I wanted to post this before the weekend, as not many people come around then. I am looking forward to an extra hour of sleep this weekend when we turn our clocks back! And the rest of autumn, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas season!

How was your October?

(Sharing with Let’s Have Coffee, Grace and Truth, Senior Salon, Shannan’s What I’m Into, InstaEncouragement)

Book Review: An Hour Unspent

Barclay Pearce is the head of a makeshift family of orphans who found each other on the streets and put themselves together as a family. The only way the older kids knew to care for the younger was to become pickpockets. They became quite good at what they did, to the point that V., an enigmatic figure with some kind of ties to the British government during WWI, recruited some of them for some behind-the-scenes, off-record reconnaissance and information-gathering.

Now Barclay and his two oldest “sisters” have become Christians and turned the family from thieving. For now, V provides them with plenty of well-paid work. What they’ll do after the war, they don’t know—but they’ll trust God to lead.

Meanwhile, Barclay, the newest to become a believer, tries to learn how to walk by faith, find God’s guidance, and apply Christian principles to the work V asks of him.

His latest job is to get to know clock-maker Cecil Manning. Dr. Manning is something of a tinkerer, creating toys and other inventions. Rumor has it that he’s working on a synchronized gear that could help pilots in the war. If he is, the admiralty wants information: how close he is to completion, does he need anything to aid his efforts, would he be willing for the government to use the gear.

Evelina Manning Is the clock-maker’s only daughter. She’s close to her father and fondly tolerant of his eccentric habits. She’s less tolerant of her mother’s controlling ways. Evelina works with the suffragette movement, much to her mother’s dismay. Her childhood bout with polio left her with a leg that works most of the time.

But one time when her leg betrayed her, this Barclay fellow stepped in to help, unasked and unneeded. That set them off on the wrong foot. Finding out more about Barclay’s past and his unconventional but loving family doesn’t raise him in her eyes. But there’s something about him that piques her interest.

As the first zeppelins attack London and the Germans also learn of Manning’s gear, Barclay and Evelina will have to work together to escape the danger coming for them.

An Hour Unspent is the third and last in Roseanna M. White’s Shadows Over England series. As with the first two (A Name Unknown and A Song Unheard), I loved the story, the characters, and the realistic faith element. Thankfully, some of the characters from this series carry over into the next, The Codebreakers. I also love the covers of all three books. The fact that they were different from what I have seen before first drew me to them.

(Sharing with Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)

A Christian Philosophy of Things

My daughter-in-law recently shared a scenario I remember occurring with my own children. Her son, my grandson, accidentally broke something and was upset. In an effort to comfort him, his parents assured him it was all right, it was just a thing, it could be replaced.

Then the next time something broke, he nonchalantly said, “It’s okay, we can get another one.”

It’s been a couple of decades since my own were very young, and I can’t remember how I handled this with them. I think over time and experience, they learned that accidents are ok, but deliberate destruction is not; some things can be replaced easily, some things cannot.

I’m not prone to watch talk shows, but I caught part of one years ago in which a child said that when he got into trouble for jumping on the couch, it made him feel like his parents loved the couch more than him. I remember thinking, “It’s not unloving to teach a child to take care of property.” But perhaps the way the situation was handled added fuel to the fire. I remember a song my parents used to listen to told a story about a man getting after his daughter about not messing up the grass in the yard that he had worked so hard to maintain. Now he had a beautiful yard, but he was estranged from his daughter.

It’s possible to love our “stuff” more than we love people, or at least to give them the impression that we do. But teaching a child to take care of things in itself is not putting the things above the child. I’ve known adults with an “Oh, well” attitude towards things which they probably think is non-materialistic, but which seems careless.

How do we find that balance between not esteeming things too highly or too carelessly?

Here are some principles that help me.

Everything we have belongs to God. We don’t have anything that didn’t ultimately come from God. We’re just stewards of our possessions.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).

Who has first given to me, that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine. (Job 41:11)

“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Even if we grew, carved, crafted, or assembled something, the raw materials as well as the ability to do anything with them came from God.

We can’t take it with us. “As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand (Ecclesiastes 5:15). Ecclesiastes speaks often of the vanity of working for things and then leaving them behind to someone else.

We’re accountable for what we do with our things. “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” (Luke 16:10-12). “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Good stewardship includes careful use of things. This verse always convicts me, and I like the way the KJV puts it: “The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting: but the substance of a diligent man is precious (Proverbs 12:27). According to the Pulpit Commentary at the bottom of this page, this could refer to someone who caught game but was too lazy to roast it, so it went bad (that’s the part that convicts me when I clean rotted stuff out of the refrigerator), or someone who catches game but then doesn’t attend to it, so it escapes. Either way, the slothful, or lazy person, doesn’t attend to what he has, but “the substance of a diligent man is precious” (some translations say “prized.”)

I hate to see people throw out perfectly good items just because they don’t need or want them anymore. Sometimes people will come by and take for themselves anything you have on the streets to be thrown out. Some people like to “dumpster dive” for treasures. So maybe people who take their unwanted stuff to dumps figure someone might find it there. But our local recycling and trash center doesn’t allow anything to be taken out, probably for safety purposes. I don’t like to mess with sales, but I like to take any unused items in good condition to the local thrift store.

Possessions are not wrong. I fear that some in the minimalist camp equate what they consider excess as sin. There’s nothing in the Bible that says we have to live as starkly as possible. We shouldn’t be covetous, and we have to understand that things cost money and take up space and time to maintain. But different people have different tolerance levels for “stuff.” I used to wonder whether it was wrong to want to wear pretty clothes or decorate my home. But I realized that God could have made the world just utilitarian, yet He didn’t. He created a wonderful variety of vibrant colors, animals, flora, etc. Edith Schaeffer made a strong case for this in a chapter on Interior Decorating in The Hidden Art of Homemaking. One of her quotes there:

If you have been afraid that your love of beautiful flowers and the flickering flame of the candle is somehow less spiritual than living in starkness and ugliness, remember that He who created you to be creative gave you the things with which to make beauty and the sensitivity to appreciate and respond to His creation (p. 109).

Possessions are temporary. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.(Matthew 6:19-21). 

Possessions can be idols. Jesus called one man who laid up many goods but did not prepare for eternity a “rich fool.” He reminded His listeners “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). The “rich young ruler” came to Jesus once to ask what he needed to do to get to heaven. Jesus told him to sell all he had and give it to the poor. Note: this is not something He says to everyone, but He knew that this man’s riches were an idol to him. The man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22). Jesus went onto say that it is “only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23). Paul writes to Timothy:

 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

Possessions can be a distraction. Amy Carmichael told of a woman she was trying to share the gospel with in Japan. The weather was cold and Amy suffered from neuralgia, so she wore some fur-lined gloves. The women listened and seemed to be just about to turn to God when she noticed Amy’s gloves and asked about them.

She was old and ill and easily distracted. I cannot remember whether or not we were able to recall her to what mattered so much more than gloves. But this I do remember. I went home, took off my English clothes, put on my Japanese kimono, and never again, I trust, risked so much for the sake of so little (Frank Houghton, Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur, p. 59).

Similarly, in Isobel Kuhn‘s early ministry in China, she was a newlywed taking joy in setting up housekeeping. When a couple of Chinese women came to visit, she was thrilled to receive them. They were among the poorest people, and their culture was very different. One of the women blew her nose in her hands and wiped them on Isobel’s rug. The other held her child apart from her while the child wet on the rug. The women had dirt floors in their homes, so they were unaware they had done anything “wrong.” Isobel “managed to remain courteous” while the women were there. But once they left, “Hot resentment rose in my heart, and then there followed my first battle over things.” She concluded:

If your finery hinders your testimony throw it out. In our Lord’s own words, if thine hand offend thee, cut it off; He was not against our possessing hands, but against our using
them to hold on to sinful or hindering things.

So I faced my choice. In our first home—what was to come first? An attractive sitting-room just for ourselves? Or a room suited to share with the local Chinese?

Our engagement motto hung silently on the wall—God first. Mentally I offered that pretty rattan furniture to the Lord to be wrecked by the country peasants if they chose (Isobel Kuhn, Whom God Has Joined, pp. 21-22).

When they moved to their next station, she sold these items and bought easily washable furnishings like the Chinese had.

We’re commanded to be generous. It’s easy to look at millionaires and think, “Yeah, those rich people need to be generous!” But the Macedonians were commended for giving “according to their means” out of “extreme poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). We’re all richer than someone. What’s considered poor these days would be considered quite rich by people in some other countries or by people from a hundred years ago.

We only give back to God what is His. David and other leaders donated materials for Solomon to build the temple. David prayed before the assembly, acknowledging “all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours” (1 Chronicles 29:11-13)(See point 1). Then he said:

But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you . . . O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. (1 Chronicles 29:14, 16)

We hold possessions loosely. Rosalind and Jonathan Goforth’s lost nearly everything not once, but four times in their missionary experience: through fire, flood, the Boxer rebellion when they fled for their lives, and damage when they were on furlough and others moved their things to a leaky storage shed. Rosalind found this fourth loss “the hardest to bear,” possibly since it came about “because ‘someone had blundered'” (Rosalind Goforth, Goforth of China, p. 210).

When, in the privacy of their own room, the “weaker vessel” broke down and wept bitter, rebellious tears, Goforth sought to comfort her by saying, “My dear, after all, they’re only things and the Word say, ‘Take joyfully the spoiling of your goods!’ Cheer up, we’ll get along somehow” (p. 211).

Jonathan quotes there from Hebrews 10:32-35, where the writer recalls some of the sufferings the Hebrews had endured:

But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

We trust God for things we need. “Daily bread” is one of the things Jesus instructs us to pray for (Matthew 6:11). He also said, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). He pointed out the birds and flowers that our heavenly Father feeds and cares for. Then He reminded His listeners, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (verses 32b-33).

God often provides through honest work: Proverbs and Ecclesiastes say much about diligence, hard work, and reward. The New Testament condemns “idleness” (2 Thessalonians 3:6-10) and commends work:

If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)

We not only work for our needs, but to provide for our families. In the context of the church providing for destitute widows, Paul writes, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8).

So, though God usually meets our needs through providing opportunity and strength to work, when no work is available, or it’s not enough for the needs, we’re not to worry. We seek Him and trust Him to provide. I heard one preacher say that when his car had a problem and he didn’t have the money to fix it, remembering that all we have belongs to God, he prayed, “God, Your car needs work.”

It seems the more I search, the more I find in the Bible concerning how we should think about things. Other aspects include not stealing other people’s things, covetousness, and contentment.

But these prevailing truths help me. Everything we have comes from God and belongs to Him. Some day we’ll give an account of how we handled what He gave us. Therefore we take care of them, use them wisely, hold them loosely, give generously to others, and trust Him to provide. He “richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). It’s okay to enjoy the material blessings He provides. But we don’t set our hearts on them or esteem them more highly than we should. We understand that God, people, and eternal truths are more important.

(Sharing with Sunday Scripture Blessings, Selah, Scripture and a Snapshot, Hearth and Soul, Senior Salon, Inspire Me Monday, Tell His Story, Purposeful Faith, InstaEncouragement, Recharge Wednesday, Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Some good reads from this week:

Bible Study From the Outside In. How to work from the big picture to the smaller details.

The Wisdom in Restraining Our Lips, HT to Challies. When I respond in the heat of the moment, I usually regret it. “There is wisdom in letting our words slowly bake and simmer in our hearts and minds before making them known.”

Intellectual Disabilities and the Church, HT to Challies. I like the step beyond inclusion to integration.

Watching What I Invest in Evaporate, HT to Challies. So much of what we do is fleeting, needing to be repeated the next day or week. But “What you do—the conversations you have, the games you play, the emails you write, the projects you work on, the loads of laundry you do—are the strands of life that when woven together build into something larger than the fleeting moments they represent.”

A Wild Harvest, HT to Challies. Neat story of fruition during persecution in China and a daughter’s return to her roots.

The Word You Can Use Once a Year (and No More)

Two Truths and a Lie about Family Devotions, HT to Story Warren. In a recent radio program with Elisabeth Elliot, she said that when we feed children physically, it’s a messy process at first. And, she said, it’s the same spiritually. It’s not going to be perfect, but it is still useful.

I’ve seen a few of these videos with Olive and Mabel. Pretty cute.

Happy Saturday!