Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are the best of the good reads found this week:

How Do We Process the Scariest Passage in All of Scripture? HT to Challies. The passage discussed is Matt. 7:21–23, where many who think they are going to heaven will hear Jesus say, “Depart, I never knew you.”

Why Does God Hide Himself from Christians? HT to Challies. “’So God never forsakes his people, but he sometimes withdraws from them the sweetness of communion with him. He hides his face, as the psalmist says in about a dozen places.’ His question is, Why would God do that to his own children?”

A Known Way. “The year stretches out before me like an uncharted sea. Some now-secret stories will bring me joy, I know. There will be tender beauty and many good gifts from my Father’s hand. But what if the churning darkness also contains a violent, unexpected storm? What if my ship is disabled? What if I am taken to an unwanted, difficult place?”

Yes, You Need to Talk to the Manager. HT to Challies. Some interesting, and I think accurate, considerations here. “The older generation acts as if the proper recipient of their frustration is the institution itself and that asking them to make it better is reasonable and right. The younger generation believes that their anger should be directed toward the audience, and that the goal of complaining in these spaces is not to get anything fixed by the institution but to see the institution punished by others.”

Song of Songs: The Intoxication of True Love in its Time. An overview of Song of Solomon.

What Does It Mean to be Pro-Life? Good thoughts for any time, but especially in light of Sanctity of Life Sunday tomorrow.

God Is With Us on the Long Walk Home. “The length of our days, as well as what the end looks like for each of us, falls under the purview of God’s sovereignty, just like everything else.”

Winter Crafts for Kids, HT to The Story Warren.

I enjoyed this flight attendant’s attempts to liven up the safety announcements to help people pay attention and perhaps relieve some travel stress.

Happy Saturday!

Books Shape Our Thinking

A couple of times in our lives, my husband and I attended churches where we didn’t quite agree with everything, but we felt these churches were the closest we could find to our own understanding of Scripture. The differences weren’t a matter of false teaching or heresy: they were areas where good people could differ and should be able to give each other grace. We felt as long as the Bible was preached and taught rather than a particular system, then everything would be okay.

In one church, over time, we began to notice that everyone from the pastor to Sunday School teachers to lay leaders began quoting the same authors. Then their vocabulary began changing to match the authors they revered. Concepts that used to be alluded to were now main points. Sermons and lessons changed emphasis to feature points from these authors, and Bible passages were viewed through their lens. When one man spoke about this belief system as being “in the club,” it almost seemed a little cultish.

In another church, the issue wasn’t a particular belief system. But every Christian bestseller that came along was eventually taught in our church. When we moved, I found sermon notes from our first year there which were rich and meaty and directly from the Bible. Later sermons were second- or third-hand thoughts from popular books.

One of my favorite writers reads and quotes authors that I am uncomfortable with because their view of Scriptural truth seems a little skewed to me. Instead of following standard hermeneutics, principles for interpreting Scripture, they twist things a little to get a different outcome more in line with popular culture. They are not quite heretical yet, but this subtle shift will lead that way if continued. This lovely author, with so much talent and potential, is getting more entrenched in this kind of thinking every year. It grieves me to see it.

We’ve seen a couple of young men we’ve known get caught up in belief systems that, again, I don’t think are heretical, but I don’t agree with. It wouldn’t be a problem except that these belief systems now dominate their conversation and online presence. They like to bait and argue over their points of belief. Even though they are not being heretical, their ministry and outreach has been hijacked into debating rather than gently persuading people of God’s truth.

We observed over the course of years a definite shift in thinking and beliefs in each of these cases. The speaker or writer didn’t come to their new views from their Bible reading, but from the books they read. Those books then colored their view of Scripture.

One of our former pastors used to frequently quote Charlie “Tremendous” Jones as saying, “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.

If that’s true, and I think it may be, we need to be watchful about what we read. Of course, these days many people read online articles and listen to podcasts as well.

Does this mean we should only read books where we know we’ll agree with everything? Not necessarily. It’s good to exercise discernment. Sometimes when we are entrenched in our own tenets and lingo, we can get a little myopic.

But we should filter everything we read through the Scriptures. The Bible tells us to “test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Early Christians were called noble because they checked everything even the apostle Paul said against the Scriptures.

We need to be careful not to swallow everything an author says just because they use Scripture or religious talk. The devil does that. “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). With Eve, Satan questioned what God said and then skewed His meaning. He quoted and misapplied Scripture when tempting Jesus. Peter said of Paul’s writing:

There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.(2 Peter 3:16-18).

Some writers don’t go that far–they are not exactly heretical. But a subtle shift in emphasis can skew their teaching, and therefore our thinking. Then a particular facet of their understanding becomes a hobbyhorse. So we need to be discerning not just with writing we might be prepared to be on guard with, but also with popular writing.

We need to make sure we are spending more time with the Bible itself than even books about the Bible. If we’re spending thirty minutes a day in a theological book and ten minutes in the Bible, we’re off balance. One former pastor used to say that bank tellers were instructed in discerning counterfeit money not by studying counterfeits, but by studying the real thing. The more familiar they were with legal money, the more easily they could tell when something was a little off with money they were handling. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). As we read and study, we need to pray with the psalmist, “I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies!” (Psalm 119:125). Then our “powers of discernment” will be “trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

We need to ask God to search our hearts, show us our blind spots, and “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18).

I love good books. I’ve had my thinking shaped in good ways by authors who faithfully studied and represented God’s truth shared in His Word. I especially love writers and teachers who, like the Levites in Nehemiah’s time, “read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8).

But we need discernment to know when a teacher is giving the sense of the Word itself or twisting it a bit for their own purposes or from their own mistaken understanding.

And we need to be careful that our thoughts, understanding, and resulting actions are shaped by the Bible itself.

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

Laudable Linkage

Here’s my latest list of thought-provoking online reads:

Meditation. “We have an advantage over Joshua in that we have the completed Word of God. God’s inspired instruction to us goes far beyond the Law of Moses. Joshua had a record of the past works of God, His requirements of Israel, and His promises to them. As Warren Wiersbe once noted, ‘If Joshua was able to conquer Canaan having only the first five books of the Bible, how much more ought we to overcome now that we have a complete Bible!’”

Back to the Word, HT to Challies. “I’m just about ready to give up the rational conversational approach to social intercourse and to start quoting straight Bible to people. The further we go, the more reason isn’t working anymore. In these sputtering last gasps of the Enlightenment, language itself is deconstructing before our eyes.”

Sin Coddlers Are Not True Friends, HT to Challies. “The affirmation-only style of friendship looks good on the surface, and no wonder it’s become mainstream. But the result is a reduced understanding of friendship.”

Prayer for the Unconverted. I love this old prayer.

Social Media’s Anger Problem, HT to Challies. “Someone says something online that we find offensive, and we retaliate with a harsh word, a quick jab, or a joke at their expense. What we have done at that moment is allow them to steal our blessing of a quiet and gentle spirit to pay them back for their worthless words.”

I Can . . . Except I Can’t, HT to Proclaim and Defend. “If ‘I can’t’ paralyzes people, ‘I can do it all’ sends them off pursuing the wrong things and forever wondering if they missed their passion.”

How Does God Equip Us? “It’s said that God doesn’t call the equipped, but he equips the called, and, as we reflected earlier in this 31 Day series, everyone is called and everyone has a part to play. So, how does God equip us for what he is calling us to do? The New Testament highlights three main ways.”

An Unexpected Way to Teach Our Children to Pray, HT to The Story Warren. “After years of praying about whatever her eyes land on, she’s getting her first glimpse of the struggle to come to God in ‘the right way.’  And how do I teach her when it’s a lesson I’m still trying to learn myself? Teaching our kids to pray can seem so daunting when we don’t know what to say too. But the beauty of our gracious God is that he doesn’t need our perfectly crafted words. Growing in our own prayer lives has the ability to speak volumes to our kids.”

The Purpose of Christian Books. “Christian books have a distinct purpose in today’s world and throughout history. What some might call ‘preaching to the choir’ is really ‘reminding the disciples about who God is and what he has done.’ Certainly, the Bible is the greatest example of God reminding us. The choir is a forgetful group.”

This is pretty neat: a piano-like instrument made from Popsicle sticks.

(For some reason, the video won’t play here. But if you click where it says, “Watch on YouTube,” you can see it there.)

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

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Here are some noteworthy reads found this week.

The Weight and Wound of the Word, HT to Challies. “Some—perhaps much—of the Bible was given not for our comfort but for our discomfort. The Scriptures are profitable for reproof and correction, after all; they provoke, unsettle, and rebuke us. Far from harsh, this is a sign of God’s love. It is damaging for our souls—indeed, for our humanity—to turn against God in rebellion. The fact that he steers us away from sin and back to himself is evidence of his care.”

Three Unthievable Treasures. “Almost anything we treasure—from people to possessions to abilities—can vanish in an instant. However, Scripture teaches us about a few precious treasures that no thief, con man, devil, or despot can ever take away.”

If Just One Person Returned. “Instead of having us base our confidence on the word of friends or family members, he has us base our confidence on his infallible words. And why would we believe the word of a man if we will not believe the word of God himself? Why would we long to base our confidence on a created being if we will not believe the one who created us?”

The Best Choice: Bringing Christ into Our Decision Making, HT to the Story Warren. “I don’t remember much about registering for baby gear, but I remember crying. What was intended to be an exciting afternoon with my husband turned into a near panic attack. As if carrying a child with an eternal soul in my womb was not weighty enough, I was assaulted with hundreds of secondary and tertiary questions. Disposable or cloth diapers? If disposable, which brand? Pacifier or no pacifier? If yes, which brand? Three hours later, we walked out of a giant superstore far less confident and far more overwhelmed as soon-to-be parents.”

Why I Quit Praying for God to “Use Me,” HT to Challies. “Deep down, for the majority of my Christian life, I have lived, prayed, and ‘served’ because I related to God as my employer, not my ‘Abba Father’ (Gal. 4.6; Rom. 8.15). With God as my divine employer, I could count and quantify my work for him and be the judge of whether I was ‘useful’ or not. Having God as my employer, love, intimacy, acceptance, and belonging were not the name of the game. No. Productivity and getting things done are what was important. Meditation, confession, and repentance were replaced with planning and strategizing.”

A Key Sign You Are Maturing as a Preacher, HT to Challies. I’m not a preacher, but I see a parallel with writing. I used to think I couldn’t write on a given concept in Scripture without studying all the verses about it, and then I felt I had to include all the verses. But people don’t usually read lists of verses. And the more verses or points that are included, the harder it is to process. One’s head starts swimming instead of focusing or discerning a main point. So, substituting writing for preaching, this is a good reminder for me : “God calls us to preach the word, to be sure. But he calls us to preach to people. Real, living people. People with a distinctive set of issues, needs, and problems.”

7 Traits of False Teachers, HT to Challies. “In the same way Peter says, ‘There will be false teachers among you.’ Notice the words “among you.’ Peter is writing to the church and says, ‘There will be false prophets among you.‘ So he is not talking about New Age people on television. He is talking about people in the local church, members of a local congregation.”

These kinds of videos always get me a little misty. A baby gts glasses and sees his mom clearly for the first time. Love how he’s looking all over, taking things in, then he sees her eyes.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are some of the most noteworthy reads discovered recently:

Be a Peacemaker, Not a Peacekeeper. “For a long time, I thought that working for peace meant staying quiet – withdrawing from conflict, brushing aside whatever was bothering me, ignoring my own feelings and opinions to appease someone else, doing anything to avoid rocking the boat. It seemed like the nice thing to do, even the Christian thing to do. But then I realised that it is not really peacemaking, but peacekeeping.”

Things Revealed, HT to Challies. I was pondering this very concept recently. “A lot of us spend our time trying to read that book called ‘The Secret Things’ while all the time the book called ‘The Things Revealed’ is sitting right in front of us. God has given it to us and it belongs to us and to our children so we won’t just read it but also obey it.”

9 Wrong Ways to Read the Bible (And One Better Way). “When we yawn over the Bible, that’s like a severe asthmatic yawning over the free offer of a ventilator while gasping for air. Read the Bible asking not mainly whom to imitate and how to live but what it shows us about a God who loves to save and about sinners who need saving.”

Fading Joy: Am I Seeking an Experience or a Relationship? “Too often we value a feeling over the reality that would produce that feeling. We want to feel close to God without actually drawing close to God. We want the benefits of a close walk with God without the heart change required to walk with God. Many times, we want the outward trappings without the inward transformation. Our need for an experience can become an idol that dethrones God in our lives.”

Teach What the Bible Says First, HT to Knowable Word. “Sometimes, people who are teaching the Bible try much too hard to be brilliant, giving us their own insights into life rather than letting the brilliance of the Bible speak for itself. Let the Bible speak! I would rather hear one halting, inexperienced speaker show me God in a text of the Bible than hear 1,000 polished pastors give me their three-point, alliterated instructions for life, which are often only loosely based on the actual text.”

The Sin of Provoking. “It’s one thing, as Proverbs cautions, to recognize an angry person and beware; it’s quite another thing to provoke to the point of an angry response an individual who is seeking to do right (and then condemning the person for their angry response).” Yes! I am glad to see this addressed.

Bitter Roots, HT to Challies. “At some time each of us is affected by unfairness and hurt. Each of our stories would be, could be, maybe even should be different had people or situations not altered our path. . . . We can choose to replay wrong and rewind hurt. But when I read God’s Word, I come back time and time again to this.”

A Diligent Wife, HT to Challies. “So, I began to pray. For my marriage, yes. But, more than my marriage, I began to pray for my heart. The kids weren’t going to stop needing me. Giving up my role as a Mom wasn’t an option. But neither was quitting on my marriage. How could I be a wife and a Mom? Was it possible to be both? What could this look like, and where was I to start? What needed to change in me in order to invest more fully in my marriage?” This is the first of a 31-day series that looks great so far.

Wanted: Spiritual Mothers. HT to Challies. “The truth is, you’re never too old to no longer want your mom—the mom you may or may not have ever had. One who not only cares for you physically, but also speaks into your life with spiritual wisdom and comfort, who prays for you and builds you up with words of experience and knowledge, who reminds you of how much God loves you and desires a relationship with you.”

Fall color video, HT to Story Warren. If you need a dose of fall color, these drone shots of gorgeous autumn trees will feed your spirit.

Finally, these ceramic masters are amazing, HT to Steve Laube. They make it look so easy. Some years ago, a man demonstrated to our church what was involved in throwing and shaping clay. He and his wife were going as artists to a country that did not welcome missionaries. As he worked, he pointed our various parallels between what he was doing and what God does for us. Though the whole demonstration was wonderful, the one thing that stood out to me was the intimacy of what he was doing. The wheel is almost in the potter’s lap. He’s bent over it, his arms around it. That picture of God as being over us, surrounding us, carefully watching and shaping us, has stayed with me for years.

Something secondary came to mind as I watched this video: creating art is messy before it is beautiful. The artists aren’t bothered by getting their hands dirty or brushing away shavings. They have the finished project in mind.

Hope you have a lovely weekend!

Laudable Linkage

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Here are some noteworthy reads found this week.

On Christians and Vaccines. “Writing about vaccines is going somewhere that angels fear to tread. Last year’s mask controversies pale in comparison to the vaccine discussions going on now.”

Sin Is Death? HT to Challies. “While sin isn’t a substance in itself, that doesn’t make it any less lethal. Sin isn’t just a series or errors or poor judgments with momentary consequences. Sin is taking you somewhere. It’s leading you down a path of decay, a path that ends in spiritual death.”

Relationships 101: One Young Mother’s Journey to Love. “Yet sometimes we find it hard to love anyone, even the most loveable. We may think that God’s greatest command, to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, is also His hardest command. But honestly, the second great command often feels even more impossible. How can we truly love others as we love ourselves (Matt. 22:37–40)?”

Peanut Butter and the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, HT to Story Warren. “The table is, for many on this broken Earth, a place of struggle. The gift of food itself, in all its savory, salty, sweet wonder, is for many a source of sin or brokenness or fear or lack. The good has become not good, and we suffer for it. The wrong meal in Eden has polluted every meal since, and though we look to redemption, the shadows still lurk.”

21 Things That Are Still True in 2021, HT to Story Warren. “1. God is still God. He is still on His throne, unshaken by what happens. Nothing takes Him by surprise and nothing is out of His control. 2. Right and wrong aren’t subjective.”

Care. “The cares are valid cause for concern as the world is so rapidly changing,” but “The cares of this world will choke out the Word and cause our lives to become unfruitful.”

God, Don’t You Care? “If God cares, why does the storm continue? Why does he let it get so hard? Why doesn’t he do something?”

What If God Doesn’t Speak to Me? HT to Challies. “Rather than giving directions for receiving prophecy, hearing God speak, or discerning nudges and feelings, the New Testament writers beckon us to immerse ourselves in the writings of Scripture.”

The Hidden Harm of Gender Transition, HT to Challies. “Grace is one of many who have been fast-tracked down a pathway of ‘treatments’ for gender dysphoria, while underlying mental health issues have remained undiagnosed and unaddressed. They are victims of the false claims of gender ideology.”

The Secrets of the World’s Most Famous Symphony, HT to Challies. A video that shares “what makes Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony Number Five a musical masterpiece, and uncover[s] the story behind its inception.”

I’ve seen Victor Borge perform this before, but not with someone. It never gets old. HT to Steve Laube.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Once again I’m way behind in my blog reading, but here are a few that spoke to me this week:

Success Beyond What We Can Handle. “Their success outpaced their sanctification. The level of their accomplishments rose faster than the growth of their character. Their vocational achievements came at the cost of spiritual achievements. They gained more success than they could handle and it led to great harm.”

I Need You to Read Your Bible, HT to Challies. “I need what is true and biblical and dependable. Maybe it’s just me, but ‘God’s got this!’ doesn’t have the same effect on my heart as ‘Hezekiah prayed and turned his face to the wall.’ The first is a plucky, optimistic but neutral response that flies from the mouth with good intention but little thought to the weightiness of a person’s struggle. The latter laments the person’s struggle, points them to Scripture, and says, ‘This is hard and God hears your prayers.'”

A Church Only Explained by the Gospel, HT to Challies. “When outsiders look in, they should struggle a bit to explain what makes us gather together. If they can say, “Well, it makes sense that those people would share the same church — they look alike, think alike, etc.,” we do not give confront them with the stupefying power of the gospel. The grace of God unites like no other force. Not even our natural friendships work this way.”

Your Work Is Worthy, HT to Linda. “We’re word people, we know language matters! And yet writers have generally terrible habits when it comes to how they talk about their work.”

I was looking up a song recently and found these old recordings by Bill Pearce and Dick Anthony. Bill Pearce’s “Night Sounds” programs ministered to my heart in my early Christian life. I’m glad someone put these old recordings online.

Happy Saturday!

Strengthening Others

If someone had said to me personally, or before our church congregation, “I want to strengthen you today,” I would have thought, “Well, thanks, but only God can do that.”

But during my last trek through Acts, I noticed several times the Bible said someone strengthened others. That gave me pause. How did they strengthen others? Why did the Bible phrase it that way instead of saying God strengthened them? I made a note to come back and look at those occurrences some time, and did that last week.

According to BibleStudyTools.com, the Greek word for “strengthen” in these passages means “to establish besides, strengthen more; to render more firm, confirm.” The KJV and a few other translations use “confirmed,” but most use “strengthened.” There are synonyms to this word all through the Bible, but this particular Greek word seems to be only in Acts. So for now I confined my study there.

In the first passage, Acts 14:19-23, men came from Antioch and Iconium and stoned Paul and left him for dead. But Paul got up, traveled to another city, and preached there. Then he returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch—the very places that men had come from to stone him—and began “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (v. 22).

You can imagine how the disciples might have been shaken. If this could happen to Paul, it could happen to them. These guys had who stoned Paul had traveled to another city to do so—what would they do to Christians in their own towns? But Paul encouraged them: Yes, we’ll face persecution. It’s part of the Christian life. But this is the true faith.

Matthew Henry says in his Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume VI.—Acts to Revelation:

But is this the way to confirm the souls of the disciples and to engage them to continue in the faith? One would think it would rather shock them, and make them weary. No, as the matter is fairly stated and taken entire, it will help to confirm them, and fix them for Christ (p. 185).

Henry then goes on for several paragraphs bringing up other verses that talk about persecution being part of the Christian life and something even Christ experienced. 

The rest of the passage says they appointed elders in the churches, prayed, fasted, and “committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (v 23). No doubt these were an outworking of Paul’s encouragement.

In the second passage in Acts 15, some men were teaching newly-believing Gentiles that they had to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses (verses 1, 5). The apostles and elders met together to discuss the issue. “After there had been much debate,” Peter shared his experience of being taught by the Lord that God “made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” To put them under the OT law would be “placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear. But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” Paul and Barnabus followed with their experiences reaching Gentiles. The council confirmed that the Gentiles did not have to keep the OT ceremonial law and just asked them to observe a few things. They sent a letter with Paul, Barnabus, Judas, and Silas to the brethren in Antioch. “And when they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement. And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words” (verses 31-32).

Here the disciples were strengthened with truth and the rest that comes from grace. Instead of coming under a religion of works that they could never live up to, they could rejoice in the grace of God. One commentary here noted “Their work was the very reverse of those who had previously come from Judea ‘subverting the souls of the disciples (Acts 15:24).'”

The rest of the verses, Acts 15:40-41; 16:4-5; and 18:22-23, just mention that Paul, along with various companions, traveled place to place strengthening the disciples.

So from these passages, we can draw out these principles of how the apostles strengthened others:

Their presence. The elders in Jerusalem sent a letter, but they sent it with people to deliver personally, who then went on to strengthen them. Paul went back to several churches he started, watering the seed that was planted, encouraging them in person.

They shared truth and grace. God gives us strength through His Word. “Strengthen me according to your word” (Psalm 119:28b). The passage where Paul was persecuted presages Peter’s later epistle encouraging disciples not to be surprised at persecution, but to “entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” The truth encouraged them. Then the Acts 15 passage brought them back to the foundation of grace rather than the added-on works of tradition.

They showed loving concern. Paul was so concerned for the disciples that he went back to the city of those who stoned him to encourage them. Though he was the one who had suffered, he wanted to strengthen them. Matthew Henry says of Acts 16:4-5, “that spirit of tenderness and condescension which appeared in these letters plainly showed that the apostles and elders were herein under the guidance of him who is love itself” (p. 203). What a contrast to the Pharisees, who protested at people being healed on the Sabbath in violation, not of God’s law, but their own, and who were so full of hate that they sought to have Jesus killed.

They were empathic. I love Peter’s empathy when he asks why they would put a heavy yoke on the new disciples that they had not been able to bear themselves.

Paul didn’t lessen the truth that persecution would come, but he encouraged them to bear it for Christ.

There is a sympathy that weakens and a sympathy that strengthens. One thing that stood out to me in Walter and Trudy Fremont’s book from many years ago, Formula for Family Unity, was this thought:

Parents should not take the grit out of their children’s lives by protecting them from every hardship, blow, or disappointment. Remember, adversity strengthens character. . . .

Children are resilient; they can take a lot if Mother doesn’t make them feel abused and neglected by an overly sympathetic attitude. Such a statement as, “Oh, honey, it’s so cold out there; I’m afraid you’ll freeze on your paper route,” produces a negative attitude in the mind of the child. Mother ought to say, “When you finish your paper route, I’ll have a cup of hot chocolate waiting and a good breakfast” (pp. 103-104)(2).

The mother’s second statement acknowledges the child’s difficulty and her sympathy, but in a way that braces him for what he has to face rather than leaving him wallowing in self-pity.

We can do the same as we interact with others. Sometimes we slap truth on like a band-aid without taking time to enter into another’s situation. No wonder what we say hits them the wrong way instead of ministering to them. Instead, Jesus was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15, KJV). Since He “has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15b-16).

Why does Acts say the apostles strengthened others instead of saying God did or the Word of God did? Strength actually came from God and His Word, but He sent it through His messengers. God often works through people. How we need to be faithful messengers, loving, caring, personally interested, sharing truth and grace.

Matthew Henry sums it up perfectly:

[Paul] preached that to them which strengthened them, which confirmed their faith in Christ, their resolutions for Christ, their pious affections to him. Disciples need to be strengthened, for they are compassed about with infirmity; ministers must do what they can to strengthen them, to strengthen them all, by directing them to Christ, and bringing them to live upon him, whose strength is perfected in their weakness, and who is himself their strength and song (p. 240).

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

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.

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