Laudable Linkage

Our hearts go out to those in Uvalde, TX, with the recent mass shooting there. Our hearts are heavy with the sorrow and senselessness of it. I appreciated what Susanne had to say at the beginning of her Friday’s Fave Five this week. A couple of other posts that I found helpful:

Uvalde, HT to The Story Warren. “In these moments, everyone is searching for answers. Everyone wants to figure out something to do, something that will somehow stop the hurting. We try to find meaning in the unimaginable, try to make sense of an atrocious act. Can I offer some advice? If you know these families–or anyone facing grief–you don’t have to offer answers. You don’t have to come up with reasons. You don’t have to try to find the silver lining or the lesson to be learned. Don’t turn their tragedy into a talking point or something political. Instead, just sit with them in their grief.”

When Violence Touches a Child’s Life, HT to Challies. “Rather than react out of fear, we must help our kids by demonstrating an appropriate level of sobriety and sorrow by such events, while exhibiting that our hope is in Christ. The challenge is to find the right balance—teaching young people awareness and caution while equally encouraging trust in a sovereign God.

Here are some of the other good reads found online recently:

Abiding in Christ: A Practical Description. “The word abide is a simple term. It means to remain, stay, or dwell. To abide is to continue in the same place for some stretch of time. The meaning is uncomplicated, but how does a believer abide in a Person?”

Bend Me Toward the Light, HT to Challies. “Written into creation is God’s plan for growth. Sunlight is essential, as is water. When our plants die, it’s often because of lack of light or moisture. So, if one of those things is less accessible than it should be, a plant will lean toward what it needs. We humans, on the other hand, will bend toward whatever gives us the most pleasure, physical comfort, and approval, no matter how it affects our health and growth.”

The Psalms Know What You Feel, HT to The Story Warren. “The psalms, however, are not a simple chorus repeated over and over again, but a symphony, filled with as many experiences and emotions as humans endure and feel. The five books that make up Psalms really are a master class in human adversity.”

Loving With a Limp, HT to Challies. “But should that surprise us? That God would inflict hurt to bring healing? Many will not imagine, nor accept, a God who could act this way. But he does, and he remains good. Even as he wrenched Jacob’s hip, even as muscle and fibre tore in ways that would never recover, God was healing a heart that was hard and deceitful, crafting through the pain and discomfort that became Jacob’s constant companion, a man that would birth a nation, and even the Messiah.”

How to Spot a Wolf, HT to Challies. “The Bible commands Christians, ‘Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account’ (Heb. 13:17, NIV). But God’s Word also tells of times when we shouldn’t trust and submit to leaders. What are the circumstances when honoring God means disobeying, fleeing, or even calling out those who minister in his name?”

What’s the Best Bible for Me? “Are you about to head to the bookstore (or, more likely, your laptop) to buy a Bible? The process may overwhelm you if you’re not prepared because choosing one has never been more complicated. We have more options but fewer bookstores where we can hold a Bible and flip through its pages. I’d love to help you take out some of the guesswork so you can make your decision based on more than a pretty cover.”

A Call to Raise Daughters Who Are Wise to Domestic Abuse, HT to Challies. “Abuse is easy to discern when it looks like something everyone knows is bad—a close-fisted punch, a shove down a stairwell, a locked closet. Abuse is much harder to discern when it looks similar to something good—like assertive leadership, exclusive affection, or clear direction.”

Expectations, HT to The Story Warren. “I heard an excerpt from a Christian podcast a few days ago and it hit me wrong. Two women were talking and one said something along the lines of, ‘I wish I had lowered my expectations for my children.’ She went on to explain how that was the better, more loving thing to do–how we should make it a point to welcome people just as they are and reassure them that however they show up is good enough. I call bull (sorry if you think that’s too blunt).”

The Hidden Danger of Productivity Systems. “When we learn to depend on our ways to getting things done and accomplishing our goals, we cease to rely on God. We believe that our systems can make us successful, rather than God Himself. And if we happen to achieve success, we run the risk of becoming complacent.”

Art Fan: How to Cheer Kids On to Creative New Heights. “Performing arts like dance, music, and theater do provide athletic-like opportunities to fill theater seats and shout Bravo!, but recitals, concerts, and performances tend to come around far less often than sporting events. Then there are art forms like painting, photography, or poetry that don’t readily provide fans with stand-up-and-cheer type opportunities.” One family came up with ways to encourage their children’s artistic endeavors.

God’s Part, My Part

“Lord, change me.”

Do you ever pray that? And do you ever get frustrated with the slowness of change? Or even the lack of change?

I do. I pray for God to fill me with the fruit of His Holy Spirit, and not an hour later get impatient. I pray for victory over anger, and then lose my temper over something trivial. I pray for help with self-control, and then convince myself it really is okay to eat another cookie.

I can’t do anything without God’s help, so it’s good to ask for it. But sometimes He doesn’t want us to stop there. He wants us to take action—not by ourselves, but with Him.

Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4)

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:14)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. (Romans 12:2a)

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.

Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)

The Bible is full of action verbs. We don’t do any of these things to earn God’s love or favor, We’re saved by grace through faith. He loved us when we were His enemies. He already loves us abundantly—He’s not going to love us more if we get our act together.

Nor do we sanctify ourselves or make ourselves Christlike. He does that.

But He asks us to obey. To abide. To behold Him. To be transformed by renewing our mind with His truth. To participate. To respond. To cooperate.

1 Timothy 4:7 says to “train yourself for godliness.” Other translations use “discipline” or “exercise.” What happens when we exercise? We expend energy and effort to the point of aching and sweating. Paul goes on to say “For to this end we toil and strive,” not in order to earn God’s favor, but “because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10). He tells the Corinthians, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). According to a note here, the Greek word translated “discipline” means “pummel”: “I pummel my body.” Grace doesn’t mean passiveness or a lack of effort.

I’ve spent a great deal of time wondering what’s God’s part and what’s my part in the Christian life. Someone once said, “Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.” I don’t know if that’s quite it. It helps me more to think of man with the withered hand or the paralyzed man whom Jesus told to rise, take up his bed, and walk. He told them to do exactly what they couldn’t do. But in taking Him at His Word and obeying, they were given grace and power to do what He said.

Maybe it doesn’t matter exactly where the lines are. Maybe it’s not a formula: God does those steps and then I do these. In many of those verses listed, God’s part and our part go hand in hand. We abide in Him, He abides in us, He produces fruit. We behold Him, He transforms us.

Do I abide in prayer, or do I race through a prayer list? Do I behold Him in His Word, or do I run my eyes down the day’s reading? Do I look for the promised escape from temptation or for an excuse to indulge?

So I pray. And by faith I abide, behold, renew. And I trust Him to transform. And I remember a walk is a series of steps to a destination. And I remember bearing fruit is a long process of growth.

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

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

I’m waaaay behind on my blog reading. But I wanted to go ahead and share the ones concerning Christmas before it was all over.

We Need a Little Christmas! I love both meanings of this post by Lesley.

This Is Not How I Thought My Story Would Go, HT to Diane Heeney. Good applications drawn from Mary’s life.

We Wait in Darkness: Some Thoughts for Advent. “In Advent, we wait in the darkness. But we do not, I am convinced, wait hopelessly. For while we wait, we can tend the flame. The stories each of our homes are telling can be ones that lend flesh to truth, goodness, and beauty, so that the waiting we do can tend the flame of the Gospel flickering inside our hearts.”

Goodnight Till Then. Those of you who know Tim Challies know that his college-age son died suddenly and unexpectedly a few weeks ago. Also from Tim: When All Seems to Be Gain, Plan for Loss.

Do You Ever Wonder? Lessons Learned from Rebecca. Both Rebekah and Sarah manipulated events instead of trusting God’s promises. We all leave a string of failures in our wake, but thank God He redeems them.

Looking for Joy? Abide. “In addressing His disciples hours before His arrest, Jesus tells them over and over to abide, to remain, to dwell in Him. He knows that they’re worried about what life will look like without Him, so He gives them these instructions for a specific reason: “that [their] joy may be full” (John 15:11).”

On Benedictions, Part 1: He Who Is Able. “This passage doesn’t promise that we’ll never stumble into sin. But it does promise that God’s grace can enable us to persevere to the end—to stand before his throne still blameless, still washed by the blood of Christ, still cleansed from the sin in which we all too readily engaged.”

Assurance in an Age of Cancel Culture, HT to Challies. These days of being so easily “cancelled” when the culture at large doesn’t like what we say can make us fearful of speaking out. “This article is an outpouring of my inner war with ‘cancel culture’ and fear of man. These Biblical truths are weapons of warfare for me in the middle of my fight with ‘cancel culture.’”

Meatloaf Ministry. If you’ve ever been part of a church food ministry or any behind-the-scenes ministry, this will bless you.

Social Justice in Our Divided Age. Not everyone means the same thing by that term, which causes confusion and even hard feelings at times. I thought this was a good explanation.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are some great reads found this week, the first few Christmas-related.

Christmas Is for Dark Times, HT to Challies. “For many, 2020 has been a dark year – physically, emotionally, mentally, financially. People have lost their loved ones, their jobs, their security and their health. Does this mean Christmas should be cancelled? No. The real Christmas happens in the darkness.”

3 Ways to Have Less Stress at Christmas. We can all use less stress, especially this time of year. I love Stacey’s tips.

An Advent Mindset: Mary’s Prayer. Sarah brought out some aspects of Mary’s prayer that I had not considered before.

A Simple Strategy for Meditating in God’s Word, HT to Challies. “God speaks to you directly through His Word. He directs your heart as you read it and meditate on it. Here is a simple strategy that can help you to feed on God’s Word directly.”

Can a Difficult Marriage Change? Sarah shares from 20 years of experience.

The Biggest Threat Faced by the Church, HT to Challies. “What is the biggest threat faced by the church today? Many in the U.S. seem to think the answer is government tyranny. Tyranny is always a danger, but tyranny is not the biggest threat faced by the church in the U.S. or any other nation.”

All Moms Need to Do Is Remain, HT to the Story Warren. “But moms already have so much work to do, and our relationship with God is often put on the backburner. Well-meaning friends, family, and podcast hosts may tell you that it’s okay, busy moms just don’t have time to meet with God. People think they are letting you off the hook, but it makes remaining with God seem impossible (or at least improbable).”

Are Masks a Conscience Issue? HT to Challies. “I’m not qualified to offer a defining medical word on masks, but I want to offer some thoughts on the implications for Christians who refuse to wear a mask because they say it violates their conscience.”

And finally, a fun look at different kinds of Christmas shoppers, HT to Steve Laube:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

I have just a short list today of good reads to share. Enjoy!

What Does It Mean to Abide in Christ? HT to Challies. Probably the best explanation of this I remember hearing.

Is Spoiling Your Grandkids Blessing Them?

How to Be a Helper Not a Meddler. HT to Linda. I especially like the side-by-side chart. Good for all relationships, not just marriage.

Receiving Well: Eleven Tips for Helping Expats Come Home, including missionaries. HT to my friend Lou Ann, a missionary in Spain. Hint: A big welcoming party at the airport might be great for some but misery for others.

A friend posted these on Facebook for when you need encouragement for adulting. 🙂 It was from a parenting thread based in Australia, so I don’t know if they have them here. I did just a bit of searching and found others, but not these.

Happy Saturday!