Laudable Linkage

Here’s another list of good online reads:

Biblical Literacy: Jen Wilkin on the Importance of Bible Study, HT to Knowable Word. “By her twenties, Wilkin understood it was possible to drown in waves of opinion. If she was going to learn to swim, she would have to learn to read the Bible for herself.”

On Basketball, Spiritual Disciplines, and Sanctification. “I had in mind a list of characteristics that I felt were necessary for me to sanctified—to be holy. Most of them had something to do with keeping a list of rules or living by a certain standard in my life.” I did, too. I appreciate this testimony of learning that “Sanctification comes through relationship.”

You Will Fail Sometimes. Don’t Quit. “I used to think that there is some point in the Christian life when you arrive, when you finally see that your heart and head and spirit align in some sort of beautiful sphere of sincerity and goodness and true devotion to Christ. But the older I get and the more I have begun to understand why the Bible teaches that we need armor.”

Does Your Prayer Life Need to Change? Sometimes we don’t know where to start–sometimes our routines have turned into ruts. There are helps here for either problem.

Moms and Dads: Show Your Need, HT to Challies. “I wish I would’ve shown my kids my need for Christ more. I worked so hard to show them my godliness that I didn’t show them my need. I should have been more transparent. I should have shown them just how much I needed Jesus.”

Far From Home, HT to Challies. “Some of us include in our spaces only those who support our biases or our preferences; or those who have been born into our circle or have earned membership there. But the Bible is filled with admonitions to welcome and care for the widow, the orphan and the foreigner. It doesn’t say anything about first determining whether or not they deserve it, or how well they live up to our cultural ideals.”

The Scenes They Leave Out, HT to Challies. “This steady diet of films and books and TV full of action, adventure, and high drama is stimulating. But are we inadvertently teaching ourselves that normal life is not? When the ordinary stuff of daily living is at best a quick montage to set up the real action, aren’t we in danger of losing sight of the fact that the ordinary stuff of daily living is actually most of the real action of real life?”

It‘s Not Martyrdom if You’re Being Obnoxious. “When Christians suffer, there are more possible reasons than just ‘suffering for Jesus.’ Christians, individually or corporately, might be suffering because they’ve said or done stupid things, placing themselves under the divinely designed cosmic order, whereby life is tougher if you’re stupid (as John Wayne allegedly said).”

It Is All a Snare to Me. I don’t always get a lot out of reading other people’s prayers. But this touched home in many areas, reminding me “my greatest snare is myself.”

Should Christians Cuss? HT to Challies. “It is true that Jesus often used sharp, confrontational words, but that is not the same thing as using obscenities.”

2021 Audubon Photography Awards, HT to Challies. Stunning photos of God’s creation.

This is a cute excerpt from a BBC special about “Snow Bears” (which I have not seen):

“But it’s the wrong hole.” Not for the seal! 🙂

Happy Saturday!

14 Reasons to Read the Old Testament

It’s safe to say most of us gravitate to the New Testament of the Bible. We enjoy the Old Testament stories, the practical wisdom of Proverbs, the emotional depth of the Psalms.

But Jesus fulfilled all the OT ceremonial law and the sacrificial requirements, so we’re not under obligation to practice those any more. And all that past history is . . .well. . . .past. The NT seems more practical.

So why bother to read the OT?

Well, there are several good reasons.

1. The whole Bible is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16). One of our former pastors used to say the Bible is divinely brief. Think of all the things an eternal God knows and could tell us. He chose the particular words in the Bible for specific reasons.

2. The whole Bible is beneficial. 2 Timothy goes on to say all Scripture is “beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work” (3:16b-17, NASB).

3. The OT provides examples for us. “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11, NASB). The context of these verses talks about various things OT Israel did wrong. Then the passage warns the reader, “Therefore let the one who thinks he stands watch out that he does not fall” (verse 12).

4. The OT helps us appreciate what we have in Christ. Our  church recently studied Leviticus.

The tabernacle and temple system emphasized the distance between us and God. Only the priests could enter and only with the right sacrifices conducted the right way. When Jesus died, the veil of the temple was supernaturally torn in two, indicating the way to God was now open.

Hebrews 10:19-20 tells us, “We have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, through His flesh.” Because He made a way for us and is our high priest, we’re encouraged to

  • approach God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith
  • hold firmly to the confession of our hope without wavering
  • consider how to encourage one another in love and good deeds (verses 21-25).

5. The OT emphasizes holiness. A seminary professor taught a class on Leviticus. He asked his students to try to keep the regulations in Leviticus for a week and journal about the experience. One replied that the assignment had him evaluating everything in his life related to holiness all the time. The NT requires holiness, too. But we don’t often examine every area of our lives to see whether we measure up to God’s holy standards as they were required to in the OT. We’re free from the strictures of the OT ceremonial law, but we still need to submit our conscience and practice to God’s Holy Spirit.

6. The NT quotes or alludes to the OT over 880 times. The NT would not make sense without the OT foundation. [1]

7. Jesus quoted and believed in the Old Testament. Jesus told the Jews who opposed Him, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39, ESV). The Scriptures He referred to were the Old Testament writings. Many times He said, “Have you not read…?” and quoted something from the Old Testament, meaning that He expected them to know what it taught.

After His resurrection, when He walked along with two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27, ESV).

8. The OT instructs us and gives us hope. Paul tells us in Romans 15:4: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” When we realize we are not that different from the complaining, disbelieving Israelites in the wilderness, we have hope that God will be faithful and longsuffering with us as He was with them. When we read of God helping His people through various trials and troubles in the Bible, we’re encouraged that He will take care of us as well.

9. The OT and NT tell us about the same God. Some have felt that the OT presents an angry, vengeful God while the NT shows us a merciful, loving God. But they are one and the same. God shows His grace and mercy and love to His people many times in the OT, even when they behaved the worst. And many places in the NT warn of God’s wrath against sin.

10. The Old Testament shows us our need and prepares us for the only One who can meet it. The laws and sacrificial system showed Israel the impossibility of keeping God’s law and the need for a Savior. The law was our “schoolmaster” to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24, KJV). The sinless lamb of the sacrifices points to the Lamb of God, the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. The OT sacrifices had to be repeated, but Jesus’s offering took care of our sins forever (Hebrews 10:14).

11. The Old Testament points to Christ, from the representation of the scapegoat, to the atonement, to Messianic prophecies. A former pastor, Dr. Mark Minnick, used to say that the Old Testament showed Israel’s need for a judge, a prophet, and a king. But even the best judges, prophets, and kings fell short. Jesus fulfills all those offices perfectly.

12. The Old Testament is part of our spiritual heritage. Romans 11:11-31 tells us we were grafted into the olive tree of the Jews.  The true Israel is by faith, not just lineage. Galatians 3:29 and Romans 9:6-8 say that those in Christ are children of Abraham:

Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham (Galatians 3:6-9, NKJV).

13. The Old and New Testaments form a whole, with each part of the same overarching story. L. E. Maxwell, cofounder and eventual president of the Prairie Bible Institute, said in his book Crowded to Christ, “The New Testament is enfolded in the Old, and the Old Testament is unfolded in the New.” [2]

14. There are treasures in the OT. If you skipped the OT, you’d miss some of the greatest treasures of the Bible, like these:

Zephaniah 3:17: The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Isaiah 30:15a: For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.”

If the OT seemed dry or hard to understand in the past, a good study Bible helps. You can find a variety of sizes and types of commentaries and other study aids. This past year I have used Warren Wiersbe’s “Be” commentaries on different books of the Bible. They often show up on Kindle sales. They’re detailed enough to give insights, yet simple enough to understand.

If you’ve been avoiding the OT, I encourage you to read and study  it. You’ll find rich, meaningful treasure there.


[1] “O.T. Quotations Found in the N.T. – Study Resources.” Blue Letter Bible. Web. 15 Jun, 2021. <https://www.blueletterbible.org/study/pnt/pnt08.cfm&gt;.

[2] L. E. Maxwell, Crowded to Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1950), p. 272.

Unless otherwise stated, all Bible verses are from the ESV.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Be Confident: Live by Faith, Not by Sight

Our church’s Bible reading program alternates between Old and New Testament books. After we finished Leviticus, our next book was Hebrews.

That was fitting, because Hebrews explains how the OT sacrificial system pictured Christ.

My companions through this reading were my ESV Study Bible notes as well as Warren Wiersbe’s Be Confident (Hebrews): Living by Faith, Not by Sight.

Hebrews was written to Jewish believers in Christ in the first century. Mention is made of the temple as if it were still in operation, and it was destroyed in 70 AD. So we know Hebrews was written before that time.

Jewish believers were facing persecution for varying from what their community practiced. Some were tempted to go back. But the author of Hebrews urges them to keep persevering and reminds them that what they have in Christ is far superior to what they had before.

In fact, the word “better” occurs repeatedly in the book. Jesus is show to be better than angels, Moses, and the priesthood. His once-for-all sacrifice was better than the repeated ones the priests offered. His new covenant was better than the old.

It’s not that the old covenant and practices were wrong: God gave them to Israel. But they were always meant to be temporary, picturing and leading up to Christ’s revelation and ministry.

There are also five major warnings in Hebrews, a couple of which have created confusion. Wiersbe demonstrates that these warnings don’t indicate one can lose salvation, but they do emphasize the need to be sure we’re in the faith and growing in the Lord. “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Hebrews 11 is the “Hall of Faith,” sharing examples of those who walked with God through the centuries. Just as they “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly” (Hebrews 11:16), so readers are reminded that “here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). And in the meantime, the God of peace will “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever” (Hebrews 11:21).

As modern Gentiles, we might not be tempted to go back to Judaism. But we need this book as well to appreciate what we have in Christ and to heed its warnings and benefit from its encouragements.

Here are just a few of the quotes that stood out to me from this book:

More spiritual problems are caused by neglect than perhaps by any other failure on our part. We neglect God’s Word, prayer, worship with God’s people (see Heb. 10: 25), and other opportunities for spiritual growth, and as a result, we start to drift. The anchor does not move; we do (p. 35).

What does Canaan represent to us as Christians today? It represents our spiritual inheritance in Christ (Eph. 1: 3, 11, 15–23). It is unfortunate that some of our hymns and gospel songs use Canaan as a picture of heaven, and “crossing the Jordan” as a picture of death. Since Canaan was a place of battles, and even of defeats, it is not a good illustration of heaven! Israel had to cross the river by faith (a picture of the believer as he dies to self and the world, Rom. 6) and claim the inheritance by faith. They had to “step out by faith” (see Josh. 1:3) and claim the land for themselves, just as believers today must do (pp. 49-50).

The Canaan rest for Israel is a picture of the spiritual rest we find in Christ when we surrender to Him. When we come to Christ by faith, we find salvation rest (Matt. 11: 28). When we yield and learn of Him and obey Him by faith, we enjoy submission rest (Matt. 11: 29–30). The first is “peace with God” (Rom. 5: 1); the second is the “peace of God” (Phil. 4: 6–8). It is by believing that we enter into rest (Heb. 4: 3); it is by obeying God by faith and surrendering to His will that the rest enters into us (p. 54).

The second conclusion is this: There is no need to go back because we can come boldly into the presence of God and get the help we need (Heb. 4: 16). No trial is too great, no temptation is too strong, but that Jesus Christ can give us the mercy and grace that we need, when we need it (p. 61).

The believer who begins to drift from the Word (Heb. 2: 1–4) will soon start to doubt the Word (Heb. 3: 7—4: 13). Soon, he will become dull toward the Word (Heb. 5: 11—6: 20) and become “lazy” in his spiritual life. This will result in despising the Word, which is the theme of this exhortation (p. 136).

God wants our hearts to be “established with grace” (Heb. 13: 9). That word established is used, in one form or another, eight times in Hebrews. It means “to be solidly grounded, to stand firm on your feet.” It carries the idea of strength, reliability, confirmation, permanence. This, I think, is the key message of Hebrews: “You can be secure while everything around you is falling apart!” We have a “kingdom which cannot be moved” (Heb. 12: 28). God’s Word is steadfast (Heb. 2: 2) and so is the hope we have in Him (Heb. 6: 19) (p. 23).

Faith is only as good as its object, and the object of our faith is God. Faith is not some “feeling” that we manufacture. It is our total response to what God has revealed in His Word (p. 144).

I enjoyed delving into Hebrews again, especially with the faithful, helpful companions I found in these aids.

(Sharing with InstaEncouragements, Grace and Truth, Senior Salon, Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent)

Laudable Linkage

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I’m way behind on blog reading, but here are some good ones I’ve come across the last couple of weeks:

So You Want to Be Relevant? “What does the Bible say about itself that will convince the reluctant and indifferent reader to dig in and spend time in the Word, to begin seeing biblical fidelity as the key to remaining relevant in every phase of life?”

Finding Repeated Words and Phrases in Bible reading. “Authors didn’t have bold and italics back then, so a common way to emphasize a point was to repeat it multiple times. It’s like saying, ‘Hey, don’t miss this!’”

Where’s the Lie, HT to Knowable Word. “Con artists don’t look shady. If a lie were obviously false, it wouldn’t be dangerous. Christians know that ‘the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick’ (Jeremiah 17:9), and yet we regularly overestimate our ability to spot error. We need a consistent standard by which to compare every suggestion we hear. Because of God’s gracious provision, we have such a standard. The words God has already spoken are completely and always reliable.”

When It’s Time to Leave a Church, HT to Challies.

Bucking the Trans Trend, HT to Challies. I’ve been astounded at how far this trend has gotten with so little known about the effects. Thankfully, at least in England, it’s being questioned.

How Forgiveness Displays the Gospel to Our Kids, HT to The Story Warren. “And then it hit me. Only minutes before, I’d shown such little grace to my own daughter, but here I was showing mercy to myself for the very same mistake.”

Finally, I came across this quote this morning. Many of us don’t like change, and not all change is good. But much is necessary.

Have a great weekend!

Book Review: Be Loyal

In Be Loyal (Matthew): Following the King of Kings, Warren Wiersbe notes that we don’t have any recorded words of the apostle Matthew in any of the gospels. Even in his own book, he didn’t write about himself: he wrote about “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).

Matthew was one of the twelve disciples of Jesus. He had been a tax collector when Jesus called him to follow. Wiersbe comments, “Being accustomed to keeping systematic records, Matthew gave us a beautifully organized account of our Lord’s life and ministry” (p. 18).

I don’t think I had considered before that “Matthew’s gospel is the bridge that leads us out of the Old Testament and into the New Testament” (p. 17), but I see it now.

The Old Testament is a book of promise, while the New Testament is a book of fulfillment. . . .“God promised a Redeemer; and Jesus Christ fulfilled that promise. Fulfilled is one of the key words in the gospel of Matthew, used about fifteen times.

One purpose of this gospel is to show that Jesus Christ fulfilled the Old Testament promises concerning the Messiah.

Matthew used at least 129 quotations or allusions to the Old Testament in this gospel (p. 18).

Matthew wrote topically rather than chronologically. He gave the history and heredity of Jesus in His birth and genealogy and then laid out His credentials. “He recorded at least twenty specific miracles and six major messages” (p. 19). He related Jesus’ character, principles, and power. He shared how Jesus taught and trained His disciples and how He was betrayed, suffered, died, and rose again in victory.

A few more quotes that stood out to me:

Jesus also fulfilled the law in His teaching. It was this that brought Him into conflict with the religious leaders. When He began His ministry, Jesus found the Living Word of God encrusted with man-made traditions and interpretations. He broke away this thick crust of “religion” and brought the people back to God’s Word. Then, He opened the Word to them in a new and living way—they were accustomed to the “letter” of the law and not the inner “kernel” of life” (p. 49).

In Matthew 6: 22–23, Jesus used the illustration of the eye to teach us how to have a spiritual outlook on life. We must not pass judgment on others’ motives. We should examine their actions and attitudes, but we cannot judge their motives—for only God can see their hearts. It is possible for a person to do a good work with a bad motive. It is also possible to fail in a task and yet be very sincerely motivated. When we stand before Christ at the judgment seat, He will examine the secrets of the heart and reward us accordingly (Rom. 2: 16; Col. 3: 22–25) (p. 66).

This dramatic incident [in 8:28-34] is most revealing. It shows what Satan does for a man: robs him of sanity and self-control; fills him with fears; robs him of the joys of home and friends; and (if possible) condemns him to an eternity of judgment. It also reveals what society does for a man in need: restrains him, isolates him, threatens him, but society is unable to change him. See, then, what Jesus Christ can do for a man whose whole life—within and without—is bondage and battle. What Jesus did for these two demoniacs, He will do for anyone else who needs Him. Christ came to them, and even braved a storm to do it. This is the grace of God! He delivered them by the power of His Word. He restored them to sanity, society, and service (p. 79).

Why compare God’s Word to seed? Because the Word is “living and powerful” (Heb. 4: 12 SCO). Unlike the words of men, the Word of God has life in it, and that life can be imparted to those who will believe. The truth of God must take root in the heart, be cultivated, and be permitted to bear fruit. It is shocking to realize that three-fourths of the seed did not bear fruit (p. 108).

“Why did Jesus walk on the water? To show His disciples that the very thing they feared (the sea) was only a staircase for Him to come to them. Often we fear the difficult experiences of life (such as surgery or bereavement), only to discover that these experiences bring Jesus Christ closer to us (p. 124).

Many Christians have the mistaken idea that obedience to God’s will produces “smooth sailing.” But this is not true. “In the world ye shall have tribulation,” Jesus promised (John 16: 33). When we find ourselves in the storm because we have obeyed the Lord, we must remember that He brought us here and He can care for us (p. 128).

As we look into the Word of God, we see the Son of God and are transfigured by the Spirit of God into the glory of God (p. 150).

“Come and see!” was followed by “Go and tell!” (p. 266).

As always, Dr. Wiersbe’s commentary was a great companion through Matthew.

(Sharing with Carol’s Books You Loved, Booknificent)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are some good reads discovered this week.

The Bored-with-Reading-the-Bible Antidote, HT to Challies. “As one who’s been at this awhile, I hope you’ll indulge me as I share some thoughts with every intention of encouraging your pursuit of God.”

The Onliest Way, HT to Challies. “What seals our lips shut when the voice of the Lord echoes in our minds while we talk of snow and coffee and the kids? Why do we press Him back to the corner when we know He is the only way for our friends and acquaintances to be saved?”

The Character of a Christian Writer. “We can’t offer what we don’t have. If we’re not allowing God to continually transform us, our writing cannot have that effect on others. The first person God should change through my writing is me.”

4 Pitfalls of Writing Bible Studies. This is good advice for blog posts and devotionals, too.

Faith Over Fear, HT to Challies. “‘Faith over fear.’ It’s one of those Christian slogans that is undeniably true, and, at the same time, less helpful than it may seem.”

5 Things About Family Devotions I Learned the Hard Way, HT to The Story Warren. They rarely look or feel inspirational, but they accomplish much.

Inside Planned Parenthood’s Gender Factory, HT to Challies. It’s alarming that powerful hormones are given to teens with little evaluation or explanation.

If your Apple Watch was a person. Funny, and not far from the truth. I turned off almost all my notifications on my watch and phone a long time ago because I couldn’t stand them.

Have a good Saturday, and Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here is a short but thought-provoking list of reads discovered this week.

Be Reasonable for the Sake of the Gospel. “Hyperbole seems to be the rhetorical strategy of the day in Christian circles. In comment boxes, imprecise language and thinking, haphazard arguments based on fallacy, and all kinds of claims about what Satan is doing often taint an otherwise helpful, measured post.” I’ve noticed this, too.

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Studying the Bible. “When we pick and choose verses from Scripture aimed merely at lifting our spirits when we’re feeling down, we run the risk of reducing the Bible to a self-help manual.”

Infographic: You Have More Time for Bible Reading Than You Think. Interesting graphics that show how much time it takes to read different parts of the Bible and how much time we spend in other pursuits.

The Tyranny of Tech and Trans, HT to Challies. Alarming on many levels.

I’ve heard a bit about the guarding of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but not as much as is shown here. I so appreciate the respect shown.

If a bear came where I was sitting, I don’t know if I could calmly sit still. But that’s probably the best thing to do.

Happy Saturday!

How to Get Out of a Bible Reading Rut

How to get out of a Bible reading rut

Routines can help us establish good habits. Half the battle in establishing a regular quiet time or devotional time is staking out a workable, regular time and place. Some days—and some seasons of life—upend our schedules, and all we can do is watch for any available minutes. But we usually do better when we plan to work Bible reading into our day.

But a routine can become—routine. A rut, even.

How can we keep our Bible reading from becoming routine—or dig it out of the rut if it’s already there?

Pray. Ask God to remind us of the treasure His Word is. Sometimes I pray Psalm 119:18 just before starting my Bible reading: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Or Psalm 119:25: “My soul clings to the dust; Revive me according to Your word” (NKJV).

Remember. Perhaps make a list of reasons to read the Bible or read Psalm 119 to renew our appreciation of it.

Don’t expect high excitement every time. A Thanksgiving feast is wonderful and memorable. But the monthly tuna casserole and everyday peanut butter sandwiches nourish us as well. Some devotional times leave us overflowing with joy or conviction or inspiration. Most quiet times don’t end that way, yet the Word feeds us every time we partake of it.

Remember the purpose of time in the Word: not just to get through a certain number of chapters or a certain amount of time, but to meet with the Lord and get to know Him better.

Change your plan. If you usually read the Bible through in a year, maybe switch to a two-year plan or a five-year plan—or a 90-day plan. Or a biographical plan or a chronological plan. Bible Gateway lists 18 different plans. Near the end of the year you’ll see a number of posts and articles about ways to read the Bible in the New Year (though you don’t have to wait til then to start).

Change your style. We benefit from both reading and studying the Bible, but most of us are inclined one way or the other. If you usually read large chunks for an overview, perhaps study a particular book in more detail. If you like to camp out in one passage for days, maybe get the bigger picture by reading several chapters or a whole book at one sitting.

Add aids. I’ve only had a study Bible the last few years. The background information and notes help so much in comprehending more of the passage. One year I used Warren Wiersbe’s With the Word as a companion. This year I am using his “Be” commentaries.

Have a Bible reading project. Once I read through the gospels looking particularly for claims Jesus made about Himself. I put a “C” in the margin beside every verse of Jesus’ claims and then put them all together. Doing so provided a valuable resource plus woke me up from falling into familiar patterns from familiar passages. I’d love to read through the Bible noting every reference to God as Creator and what the passage shares about Him (His greatness, His power, etc.) I’d love to do the same thing with every passage where God promises to be with someone. Mardi Collier started reading the Psalms, jotting down every truth about God that she came across. As she came to a new truth, she’d write it across the top of a notebook page, and then list verses underneath as she found them. Some of the page titles focused on what kind of Person God is: My God is holy, My God is good, etc. Others shared God’s actions: My God hears me, My God is in control, and so on. Her study ended up covering the whole Bible and eventually became a book, What Do I Know About My God?

Ask different questions. When I first started reading the Bible on my own, I was instructed to look for a command to follow, a warning to heed, a promise to claim. I underlined them in different colors as I found them. Later I heard of asking the old journalism questions of a passage: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Those are great questions, but If you’ve asked them several times, chances are you already know the answers. Maybe ask, instead or along with those, what does this passage show me about God? Or, how does this person change over the course of his story? For example, the first few times I read Genesis, I missed the transition of Judah from Genesis 37-50. Now, reading in Exodus, I am noticing Moses’ change from arguing with God that he couldn’t fulfill His calling in Exodus 3 and 4 to becoming a great leader over the rest of the book. The changes in people in the Bible come about as God works in them and enables them through the circumstances He puts them in. That can inspire us that He is doing th same in our lives.

Try a different translation. I used the KJV for some 25 years. When I read the NASB and ESV, I saw passages with new eyes. I prefer to stay with the translations that are as close to word-for-word as possible rather than paraphrases. But sometimes I look up the paraphrases as commentaries.

Remove the references. Before we could cut and paste from the Internet, one of our former Sunday School teachers suggested that we type out some of the epistles as the actual letters they are without the verse numbers and headings. The chapter and verse numbers weren’t in the original text, but they do help us find and discuss passages. Sometimes, however, they are not well placed. One sentence can be broken up into several verses. So sometimes reading without the verse numbers can help us not to fragment the verse. Now you can buy Bibles printed without chapter and verse numbers.

Stop and think. Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” It’s easy to sail through a familiar passage. In the narrative portions, we see how everything turned out just a few pages later. Remember the people in those situations—David hiding in caves from Saul, Joseph in prison, Daniel facing the lion’s den, etc.—didn’t know how everything would turn out. If we put ourselves in their situations the passage opens up to us more.

Make notes. I stopped journaling during my quiet time when I found I was spending more time writing than reading. But recently I’ve gone back to just writing a few notes both to reinforce what I just read or to remind myself later. My notes are usually just a short summary, but thinking about how I’d describe the passage helps me not gloss over it. Some people like to draw charts and diagrams and arrows and circles to engage the Scriptures more.

Don’t compartmentalize. Often we read for so many chapters or minutes and then pray, or vice versa. But we don’t have to separate prayer and reading. If we’re in a section of praise, we can stop and praise God. If a passage convicts us about something we’re doing wrong, we can stop and confess it to God right then.

How about you? What ways have you found to avoid or get out of a Bible reading rut?

I delight in God's Word

(Sharing with Hearth and Soul, Sunday Scripture Blessings, Selah, Scripture and a Snapshot), Inspire Me Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire)

Book Review: Be Authentic

Be Authentic (Genesis 25-50): Exhibiting Real Faith in the Real World closes Warren Wiersbe’s trilogy of commentaries on the book of Genesis.

These chapters in Genesis focus primarily on Jacob and his sons, especially Joseph.

Jacob and his twin brother, Esau, were very different personalities. They struggled with each other even in the womb (Genesis 25:22-23), and their parents’ favoritism only fueled the fire.

God had chosen the younger Jacob to be in the line of the family He would use to bless the world rather than Esau, the older. But Jacob and his mother, Rebekah, used that information to manipulate circumstances rather than trusting God to accomplish what He had proclaimed. That brought Jacob’s conflict with Esau to a head, resulting in Jacob fleeing to his mother’s relatives.

There he fell in love and got a taste of his own scheming medicine. The next twenty years were hard, but they helped develop his character. “Little by little, Jacob was learning to submit to God’s loving hand of discipline and was growing in faith and character.”

He had twelve sons, but favored Joseph. Jacob seemed not to have learned about the dangers of parental favoritism from his own situation. “The man who had grown up in a divided an competitive home (25:28) would himself create a divided and competitive family.” Joseph’s brothers, in jealousy and hatred, sold him into slavery, took his special coat that his father had made for him, spread animal’s blood over it, then let Jacob conclude that Joseph was dead.

Though a slave, Joseph seemed to have a talent for administration. But even his master saw that “The LORD was with him, and the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands” (Genesis 39:3). Joseph rose to prominence until he became second only to his master. But then he was lied about and sent to prison. He rose to prominence there as well, and aided two of Pharaoh’s servants. But the one who was restored to his portion forgot Joseph—until Pharaoh had a dream that troubled him, and the servant remembered Joseph had helped him with his dream. So Joseph was called for, interpreted Pharaoh’s dream, gave him sound advice, and once again rose to prominence as the second in the land.

And then one day his brothers showed up in Egypt. But they didn’t recognize him. These chapters are some of the most dramatic in the Bible, keeping me in anticipation even though I have read them before and knew how the story would turn out.

Wiesrbe’s title for this commentary comes from his conclusion that, “In short, they were authentic, real, believable, down-to-earth people. Flawed? Of course! Occasionally bad examples? Certainly! Blessed of God? Abundantly.” These people are an encouragement that God works with and accomplishes His will through flawed individuals.

There were many helpful and instructive things to observe in these chapters. I was blessed to see the changes in some people—Jacob over time, and his son, Judah, especially. But a few things in Joseph’s story particularly stood out to me this time. Because Joseph so often comes out on top even when he’s thrown into dire circumstances, I think we sometimes downplay his suffering. But when he named his sons in reference to his afflictions, it really spoke to my heart:

Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh. “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house.” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction” (Genesis 41:51-52).

Wiersbe pointed out that Joseph could have become bitter, but instead he maintained his faith in God and kept a tender heart, showing compassion towards others. “Joseph’s sensitive heart was a miracle of God’s grace. For years dead Egyptian idols and the futile worship given to them had surrounded Joseph, yet he had maintained his faith in God and a heart tender toward his own people. He could have hardened his heart by nursing grudges, but he preferred to forgive and leave the past with God (41: 50–52).”

Then, as often as I have pored over the Scriptures about suffering and reconciled myself to the fact that it’s a tool God uses in wisdom and love, I find myself still asking “Why?” sometimes. I wondered why Joseph had to go through all he did when he was one of the “good guys.” But Wiesrbe pointed out that if Joseph had remained at home as the favored son, he might have grown up into a very different kind of person.

A few more quotes from the book:

Being a victorious Christian doesn’t mean escaping the difficulties of life and enjoying only carefree days. Rather, it means walking with God by faith, knowing that He is with us and trusting Him to help us for our good and His glory no matter what difficulties He permits to come our way. The maturing Christian doesn’t pray, “How can I get out of this?” but “What can I get out of this?”

In the life of a trusting Christian, there are no accidents, only appointments.

When God wants to move us, He occasionally makes us uncomfortable and “stirs up the nest” (Deut. 32:11 NIV).

A good beginning doesn’t guarantee a good ending. That’s one of the repeated lessons taught in Scripture, and it’s tragically confirmed in the lives of people like Lot, Gideon, Samson, King Saul, King Solomon, Demas, and a host of others. Let’s add Isaac to that list.

If we obey the Lord only for what we get out of it, and not because He is worthy of our love and obedience, then our hearts and motives are wrong.

With all their weaknesses and faults, the sons of Jacob will carry on the work of God on earth and fulfill the covenant promises God made to Abraham.

Years later, Jacob would lament, “All these things are against me” (v. 36), when actually all these things were working for him (Rom. 8:28).

God’s delays are not God’s denials.

Too many Christian believers today think that God can use only His own people in places of authority, but He can work His will even through unbelieving leaders like Pharaoh, Cyrus (Ezra 1: 1ff.; Isa. 44: 28), Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 25: 9; 27: 6), and Augustus Caesar (Luke 2: 1ff.). 

The only people God can forgive are those who know they’re sinners, who admit it and confess that they can’t do anything to merit or earn God’s forgiveness. Whether it’s the woman at the well (John 4), the tax collector in the tree (Luke 19: 1–10), or the thief on the cross (23: 39–43), all sinners have to admit their guilt, abandon their proud efforts to earn salvation, and throw themselves on the mercy of the Lord.

According to Hebrews 11:13–16, the patriarchs confessed that they were “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” A vagabond has no home; a fugitive is running from home; a stranger is away from home; but a pilgrim is heading home. They had their eyes on the future, the glorious city that God was preparing for them, and they passed that heavenly vision along to their descendants.

One of the major differences between a church and a cult is that cults turn out cookie-cutter followers on an assembly line, while churches model a variety of individual saints on a potter’s wheel.

Martin Luther said it best: This life, therefore, is not righteousness but growth in righteousness; not health but healing; not being but becoming; not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it. The process is not yet finished, but it is going on. This is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified. (Edwald M. Plass, comp., What Luther Says, vol. 1 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), 234–35).

The book of Genesis provides for a rich study. I enjoyed Dr. Wiersbe’s aid on this trek through the book.

(Sharing with InstaEncouragment, Grace and Truth,
Faith and Worship Christian Weekend,
Carole’s Books You Loved, Booknificent Thursday)

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!