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!

Don’t Forget the Hope

The church we attended when my sons were teens wanted to emphasize the need for modesty among the young women. Speakers shared that women displaying too much flesh or too-tight clothes could cause men to lust. Men are aroused visually, we were told, and therefore women and girls should take care how they present themselves visually.

I didn’t realize until years later that this information created a problem for one of my sons. If he was aroused visually, how was he supposed to respond when immodesty came into view through no fault of his own? It’s not that he had an extraordinary problem with lust, but he felt bombarded by what he saw constantly on billboards, in stores and public venues, and yes, even at church. He felt like he was at the mercy of temptation in a world that didn’t value modesty. The battle seemed impossible to win.

He spent his college summers volunteering at a Christian camp. One year the camp had a new director who had previously been an evangelist. At one meeting with the counselors and staff, the director happened to share about a time when his plane landed in a tropical country. Women surrounded the disembarking passengers and placed leis around their necks. To this man’s astonishment, the women were topless.

One of his listeners asked, “What did you do?”

The evangelist replied, “I looked in their eyes.”

That one statement was a watershed moment for my son. When faced with temptation, there was a way out—just as the Bible said. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Evidently previous youth leaders and pastors were so intensely concerned about modesty that they forgot to present the other side of the issue: that God can give men victory even when women are immodest.

It’s true that women should be modest. The Bible tells us so. The problem comes in defining exactly what that looks like. But women shouldn’t have the attitude, “I should be able to wear whatever I want, and men shouldn’t look.” If we had a friend we knew was trying to lose weight, we wouldn’t serve her doughnuts, would we? Or if a friend had credit card debt and spent money too easily, we probably shouldn’t invite them to a mall shopping spree. Yes, people are responsible for their own sin, but we don’t have to make it harder for them.

And there is a higher principle for women’s dress than not tempting others. We are daughters of the king. We should honor Him in how we dress. I’ve often thought that if our young people were encouraged more in their inner walk with the Lord, getting to know Him better in His Word, the outer standards would take care of themselves.

But this post isn’t primarily about modesty. It’s about remembering to share hope with our children, students, readers, those whom we’re discipling. Sometimes we’re so passionate about whatever we’re warning against that we forget to offer the hope that God extends to His people.

I attended church only sporadically until I was about sixteen. Then God led me to a Christian school and a good church where we were encouraged to read through the whole Bible.

I was not taught a works-based salvation or a performance-based Christian life or the eradication of our sin nature. But somehow I didn’t understand sanctification, though I’d heard the term. I was grieved to the core when I sinned. I knew I could confess my sin to God (1 John 1:9) and be forgiven. But then I’d sin again, either the same way or in a different way. I despaired of ever living a Christian life without “messing up.” I was almost afraid to step out and serve in some ways, because I knew I’d fail.

Maybe it just took a while before everything I was learning about the Christian life coalesced. But one year in college, a guest speaker preached a sermon on grace. Of course, I knew about grace: we were saved by grace and lived by grace. I don’t remember the details of the message, but I remember being so relieved. God knew I would “mess up.” He expected growth, but He knew I would continue to fall short until I reached heaven. “As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14).

Sometimes the very weight of God’s requirements is what drives us to His grace. We realize we can never live the Christian life on our own, and we need His help. Some years later, I was praying for forgiveness for something, and told the Lord I didn’t deserve His forgiveness and was asking for His grace. Then the light dawned—my Christian life was dependent on His grace all along.

Another pastor taught the truth that we’ll always have a sin nature because what the Bible calls the flesh or the “old man” is still with us and will be until we get to heaven. I remember feeling deflated. You mean I am going to have to battle this all my life? This was a godly, balanced preacher, so I am sure he went on to share how to have victory. But I think I missed it because I was stuck on this point.

Then some time later, I came across 2 Peter 1:3-4:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

All things that pertain to life and godliness. All things! It was then that I realized I could truly live for the Lord. Not a sinless life. But a victorious one.

I wish I had taught these things more to my children. I was still learning them myself. The big emphasis in Christian parenting books when I was a young mom was on teaching obedience. And that’s good and necessary. If children don’t learn obedience to their parents, they’ll never learn to obey God and other authorities. If they never learn to rein themselves in, they’ll be a slave to their own desires and will. But I wish I had talked more about God’s grace not only for forgiveness, but enabling. I know we taught them to ask God for forgiveness. I’m pretty sure we encouraged them to ask Jesus to help them. But I wish I had shared grace more.

Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “Choices will continually be necessary and — let us not forget — possible. Obedience to God is always possible. It is a deadly error to fall into the notion that when feelings are extremely strong we can do nothing but act on them” (from The Glad Surrender). Obedience is not always easy. But it’s possible, through His power and grace, by way of His Word and His Spirit.

The Bible is permeated with hope. Some of the sternest warnings of the OT prophets were accompanied by some of the tenderest expressions of God’s love and longsuffering and readiness to forgive. The New Testament is filled with encouragement to look to and depend on God’s promises to equip and supply us with everything we need to live for Him.

One of my college professors was known for encouraging a “positive faith attitude.” Not just a baseless positive thinking or a Pollyanna-ish optimism, but a positive trust in God’s presence, Word, grace, strength, and provision.

There’s every indication that life might get harder for Christians. The world is ebbing ever further away from a Judaeo-Christian ethic. Our flesh isn’t getting any weaker, and the enemy of our souls is ever persistent. But God is greater than them all.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).

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

Laudable Linkage

Here’s another list of good reads I cam across recently.

Gentle and Lowly Book Club. Linda is hosting weekly discussions of Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly: the Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers from September 12 through October 3. I haven’t read the book yet, but I have heard many good things about it. Reading with others always enhances the experience and brings out more than I gleaned on my own.

Afghan Pastors Ask for Prayer, HT to Challies. “As Taliban forces have swallowed up Afghanistan and even now the capital city of Kabul, pastors in the country have been emailing and messaging me over the last few days, even hours, anxious for prayer.” See also Pray for Afghanistan.

The Situation in Afghanistan, and Ways to Pray and Help, HT to Challies. “Jesus is literally all they have left.”

What Does It Mean to Be Filled with the Spirit? It’s interesting that this post came up just after reading about the same topic in the ESV Study Bible notes and Warren Wiersbe’s “Be” commentary on Acts and a Bible study discussion at church on the first five chapters of Acts—and they all agreed.

Perfect Courtesy Toward All in the Worst of Times, HT to Challies. “Paul tells Titus to remind his flocks of seven important Christian virtues. Their need to be reminded implies a tendency to forget. Apparently, top-to-bottom cultural corruption creates a need for repeated conscience re-calibration.”

How to Experience Peace in Spite of Unsafe People. “We think if we can escape their presence and any reminders of them, we’ll have peace. My experience in Switzerland reminded me peace doesn’t come from distance from them but from closeness with Jesus.”

5 Ways to Reflect Christ’s Character in Contentious Conversations. “God tells us that we are to seek peace, not contention. Peace isn’t simply the absence of conflict, and it isn’t a passive act. We have to pursue it with an active and committed determination, searching for ways to maintain peace with others.” 

Mom Guilt and the God Who Sees, HT to Challies. “Mom guilt. Moms today are well acquainted with the term. We use it as a kind of shorthand to express an all-too-common feeling we face in the everyday events of mothering.”

Dear Next Generation. Though this is addressed to young people, the advise is good for any age. “I didn’t really think about the gospel all that much. At a young age, I believed that Jesus died on the cross for my sin, but that’s where the story ended for me. I had never considered that the gospel should impact my everyday life. Why would I need to hear the gospel anymore?”

This is interesting: four cellists play Ravel’s “Bolero”—on one cello. I wonder how many practices it took to coordinate without bumping into each other. I like the first comment on YouTube: “When everyone except the cellist forgets their instruments: It’s ok guys, we can make it work.”

Laudable Linkage

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I’m way behind on my blog reading this week, but here are a few thought-provoking posts I came across:

Strength for the Weary, HT to Challies. “As I sat with the mid-week church group, the people around me had no idea how I felt. What they saw was a man dressed in business casual who had just come from a day of work, and he had a smile on his face. What they did not know was I was forcing that smile.”

Don’t Feel Sorry for or Fear for Your Kids; Raise Them up to Walk in Faith, HT to Challies. “Don’t feel sorry for or fear for your kids because the world they are going to grow up in is not what it used to be. God created them and called them for the exact moment in time that they’re in. Their life wasn’t a coincidence or an accident.” This encourages me as a grandparent—I admit I have been concerned about the world my grandson is growing up in.

Ask the Forbidden Question in Bible Study, HT to Challies. On asking, “What does this verse mean to me?” “The reality is, there is an objective truth. Every biblical text was written with authorial intent—human author and the Spirit. . . . We must ask what it means to us, to our lives, to our personal discipleship.”

What Response Are You Going For? Though written from the standpoint of a Bible teacher, I think it’s good for writers as well.

Netflix’s “Pray Away” Seethes with Contempt for Christianity, HT to Challies. “As someone who worked in Hollywood for decades, I’ve seen firsthand the contempt the entertainment industry has for Christianity. But only after I left my gay identity—in exchange for a new identity in Christ—did I realize the special resentment Hollywood reserves for converts like me.”

I’ve seen a couple of videos about baby sea turtles hatching and making their way to the sea. One source said they hatch through the year, but mostly in summer. What fun to catch sight of them.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Here’s another list of good online reads:

To the Woman Who Is Deconstructing. “You’ve been raised with one understanding of who God is, what His Word means, and how you’re supposed to live, but lately the foundation of your faith feels a little . . . fractured. Something you’ve read or experienced or felt has changed you. It’s like you’re wearing a new pair of glasses. Everything you thought you knew about Jesus suddenly looks very different.” I don’t know that I’d equate deconstructing with questioning—though deconstruction probably begins with questions, it seems to indicate those who have gotten past the questions to actually dismantling their belief system. Nevertheless, this post has some good encouragement for when questions about faith come up.

Pastor, Your People Need the Hard Texts, HT to Knowable Word. Good for writers and teachers, too. “We love the highlights of Joseph and Genesis 39. But we also need the lowlights of Genesis 38. God meets us in the lowlights. It’s there in the wreckage of our lives that God shows us the way out.”

Who Gave You the Right? “The sanctified instinct of the Christian heart should not be to discourage but to encourage, not to further demoralize other people but to give them strength, to give them heart, to give them courage.”

Focusing on What I Can Measure, HT to Challies. “My physical health is more than the numbers I can measure. And my spiritual health is, too. It’s always tempting to focus on what I can measure in my relationship with God.”

Patience: More Than a Virtue for Motherhood, HT to The Story Warren. “The last thing I wanted to hear as I hurried the kids to get ready for church were the words I had spoken to them many times during the week, “Mom, remember patience is a virtue and a fruit of the Spirit.” They can’t remember to say thank you or where they last left their shoes, but they remember this?! I was beyond impatient. I was angry and aggravated—but also convicted. How easy it was to come up with such a memorable and catchy quotable to use on my kids, but how hard it was for me to receive it back from them!”

Identifying Stanzas in Lamentations. An interesting, different, and inspirational way to look at probably the most well-known passage in Lamentations—through the pronoun shifts.

How to Brainstorm a Nonfiction Writing Project. I think this would be good for brainstorming other things as well. I tend to just jot lists, but I can see value in this method.

How to Feel Comfortable in Front of a Camera. Often when trying to get a group photo, someone will protest that they hate having their picture taken. As people try to draw them in, they protest more. By trying not to call attention to themselves, they draw more attention. And I’ve often thought, “We all know what you look like anyway!” It’s not like no one else will see them because they’re not in a photo. But I have known of people who grieved because they had few photos of a departed loved one who always shied away from the camera. April‘s tips will help, whether you’re in a photo with a group or alone.

This video, HT to Steve Laube, reminds me of Psalm 8:3-4: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” The God who created the vastness of all the planets and stars and space cares about us and the details of our lives.

Don’t-ing or Doing?

In my early Christian life, a lot of teaching I heard seemed to emphasize what we as Christians don’t do. We don’t dress like that. We don’t listen to that kind of music. We don’t watch those programs. We don’t play those games. We don’t use that kind of language.

During part of this time I had a job in retail sales. I wanted to be a good testimony. I politely said no to invitations to places I didn’t feel comfortable going with my coworkers. I quietly absented myself from certain conversations. My style of dress was noticeably different from that of others. They knew I didn’t do a number of things. Some were even kindly protective of me, careful not to put me in situations where I might be uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, what these actions (or inactions) indicated to my coworkers and customers. They knew I was “religious.” But could they tell the difference between me and an adherent of any number of other religions? They saw my standards, but did they see my Jesus?

The Bible does have a lot to say about what we should not do. Freedom in Christ doesn’t mean we live any way we want to. God’s command for our holiness filters down into every part of our lives, and our love for Him does influence our choices of dress and entertainment. We need to understand what things are wrong. We need to realize we’re innately drawn towards wrong. Paul said, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7). It’s important to remember the Bible’s warnings against sin. Some people fall off-balance by minimizing or even overlooking the “don’ts” in the name of love and positivity or an effort to be inoffensive.


But the Bible doesn’t stop with a list of “don’ts.” “So flee youthful passions,” 2 Timothy 2:22 says. But it goes on to say, “and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Colossians 3:5-9 tells us to “ Put to death ” or “put away” “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry . . . anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another.”

But the passage doesn’t stop with “putting off.” “You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (verses 9-10). The next verses enumerate what that new self we put on looks like:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (verses 12-17).

Ephesians 4:17-32 has similar instructions to “to 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” (verses 22-24). We trade lying for truth (v. 25), stealing for honest work (v. 28), corrupt talk for edifying words (v. 29). We don’t let anger linger (v. 26), and we replace bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness “as God in Christ forgave you” (verses. 31-32).

We’re not aiming just for “positive thinking”: we’re seeking a balanced focus. “Putting on the new” not only keeps us balanced, but it actually helps us put off the old. We have known of preachers who have fallen into sexual sin after years of preaching against it. Surely a number of factors contributed to their fall, but one may have been an undue focus on the forbidden.

Erwin Lutzer shared a helpful illustration in How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit: if someone tells you not to think of the number eight—suddenly that’s all you can think about. The more you try not to think about it, the more it fills your mind. But if you start thinking of other numbers or working equations, you’re distracted from eight.

Likewise, if I try to diet by repeating to myself, “Don’t eat chocolate cake, Don’t eat chocolate cake, Don’t eat chocolate cake,” what is my mind filled with? Chocolate cake. I’m thinking about it so much, I am likely to give in and have some. But if I turn my thoughts toward other things I can eat, chocolate cake lessens it’s hold on me. Now I can focus on the positive, on what I can do rather than what I can’t.

Years ago I read in a forgotten older book about “chastity meetings.” The author didn’t elaborate, but evidently these meetings were held to help young people make a decision to pursue purity. His wise advice was, “Have your chastity meetings, but then go on to another subject.” If every single week these young people were warned about sexual sin and urged to avoid it, their thoughts would be filled with it just like mine would be with the chocolate cake I needed to avoid.

Concentrating on “doing” rather than just on “don’t-ing” not only helps us avoid sin and pursue good, but it presents a better testimony. If all we talk about is what we don’t do, we sound either curmudgeonly or self-righteous.

Pursuing the positive also creates joy in Christ rather than mourning what we can’t do.

But we don’t follow a list of impossible good works in order to gain favor or rack up points with God. We focus on these good traits not to become righteous but to demonstrate that God has changed us and made us righteous. The Ephesians passage mentioned above says the goal is to  “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (verse 13). It also says we effect these transformations by being “renewed in the spirit of [our] minds (v. 23) and because that’s the way we have learned Christ (verses. 20-21). Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Colossians 3:10 tells us our “new self…is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

How do we renew our minds in the knowledge of Him? By beholding Him in His Word: “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. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). As we see Him in His Word, we get to know Him better, and we become more like Him. As we pursue the pure and good and holy, the lesser things fall away.

(Revised from the archives)

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Remembering How God Has Led

I don’t know what triggered my trip down memory lane. I sat with my Daily Light open but unread, and began to pray for God to open my understanding and speak to my heart from His Word.

I thought back with wonder of the many different paths my life could have taken. Several events led to my salvation. What if one of them hadn’t happened?

There were different temptations, some of which I regret failing. I could have been done in by any of them.

My life could have followed any number of paths, not just theoretically, but due to influences at the time. I could have become an alcoholic. I had planned to get married right out of high school, not realizing I would be marrying the wrong person. I not only would have missed meeting my wonderful husband, but I would not have experienced all I learned both intellectually and spiritually at a Christian college.

I could have fallen for a television evangelist’s false doctrine (I actually called the number on the screen once). People are so vulnerable just before and after salvation, when their interest in the Lord is aroused but they have no discernment yet.

In 8th or 9th grade, we moved to a new town. The school I attended was the most cliquish place I had ever been. Well-defined groups didn’t allow for new members. My mom had to plead and almost push me out of the car at school in the mornings. I spent many lunch breaks walking around the grounds by myself in tears. Finally I became friends with another girl who was also, for some unknown reason, outside the school’s social circles. I discovered years later that it was the Lord’s mercy that kept me from getting involved with the popular crowd, as they were into a lot of unhealthy activities. What if I had gotten in with them? I probably would have gotten into some kind of trouble and possibly would have become proud and condescending.

Between my sophomore and junior year, my mother left my father and took my siblings and me to Houston. The break had been coming for years, but it still hurt when it finally happened. We moved from a very small town of less than 200 to the teeming metropolis of Houston. The culture shock was very real. In those days before the Internet, I had little contact with my friends from school. I had no opportunity to make new friends since school wouldn’t start for months yet. It was the loneliest time in my life. I remember lying on my bed clinging desperately to Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Looking back, I didn’t know fully what that verse meant. But I knew that, to the degree I knew how, I loved God, and I trusted Him to work things out for good. Though that was one of the lowest points in my life, it was also pivotal. It was through this move that God provided miraculously for me to go to a Christian school for two years, led me to a good church, helped me make sure of my salvation, and let me know about a Christian college.

Somehow God led me all the way.

My heart was tender thinking back over God’s working in my life. As I opened my Bible reading for the day, I came to Deuteronomy 8:2: “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness.” It’s amazing how God prepares me for what I am going to encounter in His Word. I thought my mental wanderings about my past were just daydreams and rabbit trails, but here He had led me to do just what the Scripture said.

Several times in Deuteronomy 8, Moses urged the Israelites to remember the Lord and not forget Him. Peter wanted “to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Peter 1:13; 3:1). Jesus told the Ephesian church, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Revelation 2:4). As God called Israel, back to Himself, He said, “I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown” (Jeremiah 2:2).

This is what I most want my children, grandchildren, readers, and anyone with whom I have any influence to know, to remember: that Christianity is not just a culture, not just a set of doctrines, not just what we do and don’t do. It is the basis of all of those. But first of all it’s that personal relationship with the Lord.

Do you have that? Have there been times in your life you knew God was at work in you, drawing you to Himself? Do you have warm and tender moments where He met with you personally?

If you professed faith as a young child, you may not remember a definite “before” and “after” to your life of faith. But you can be grateful for God’s preventative work in your life and the scars and bad memories He kept you from. As you’ve walked with the Lord, I am sure you’ve found that the “big sins” are not always the dramatic ones that everyone sees. Inner wrestlings with pride and self-will are just as deadly. You’ve discovered that it takes as much of God’s grace to battle those as it does to defeat addiction. You’ve probably experienced times when God answered prayer or something in His Word met your need of the moment. It’s not the drama of one’s initial testimony that determines what kind of Christian life we have: it’s simple faith, not in our faith, but in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Nothing stirs up our love and gratitude towards the Lord like remembering how He saved us and led us. It’s a blessing to sometimes review the “Ebenezers,” those special times of help that we’ve experienced along the way. Then we can say along with the psalmist:

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
 when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
 for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
 My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
Psalm 63:5-8

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

I found lots of good online reading this week:

What’s Next? 8 Questions to Get You Ready to Roll. Evaluating and preparing for post-pandemic life.

I came across two good posts about praying for lost loved ones: A Prayer for When They Don’t Believe and A Parent’s Prayer for an Unbelieving Child.

Coping with Publishing Conflict. Though written in the context of publishing, the advice is good for any area of conflict.

10 Ways God Desires to Set Apart His People. “The purpose in being set apart is to be set to something else. Biblically speaking, something else is desiring what God desires for us. It means desiring someone else—God. And not desiring the things of this world more.”

Stretching Application Beyond the Big Three. “It is good to be reminded to read the Bible, pray, and talk to our friends about Jesus, but that doesn’t mean these are the only applications we should draw from Scriptural truths.” Ryan provides some helpful tips and a worksheet for getting to the heart of a passage’s applications.

Who Will Roll the Stone Away? Good take-aways from the women who went to anoint Christ’s body that first Resurrection morning.

What Does Binding and Loosing Mean in Matthew 16:19? HT to Knowable Word. Probably the clearest explanation of this verse I can recall reading.

With Independence Day last weekend, there were some good posts about patriotism. Since patriotism isn’t just for the 4th of July, though, I’m including them now:

Why Younger Evangelicals May Feel Uneasy in a Patriotic Church Service. A good, balanced article about some of the positives and some of the problems of a patriotic church service.

How Can an Ordinary Citizen Begin to Practice a Radical Patriotism? “Viewing a flawed nation led by deeply flawed individuals, G.K. Chesterton asked:  ‘Can we hate it enough to change it, and yet love it enough to think it worth changing?'”

If you need a dose of cuteness, try this:

Happy Saturday

The Incredible Privilege of Drawing Near to God

The privilege of drawing near to God

In Old Testament times, God’s people were aware of a great distance between themselves and God.

One of the first times God met with the Israelites after they came out of Egypt, the experience was scary: “a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.’ Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear’” (Hebrews 12:18-21).

Getting a glimpse of God’s holiness brought people to their knees and made their sin stand out all the more in contrast. Isaiah reacted by saying, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:1-7). Peter responded to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:1-11). John, called the beloved disciple, “fell at his feet as though dead” (Revelation 1:9-19).

The children of Israel had to go through detailed rituals to have their sin forgiven. In Exodus they were instructed to build a tabernacle with an inner Holy of Holies which only the high priest could enter once a year. Leviticus had instructions for the different kinds of sacrifices. The tabernacles, sacrifices, and priesthood all carried wonderful symbolism of what Jesus would come to be and do. But at the time, the clearest message was that the people could not draw near to God without sacrifces and mediators because God was holy and they were not.

But even with all those rituals, “since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 10:1).

But then Jesus came. The Savior, the Messiah promised ever since the first sin separated man from God. He fulfilled all the OT prophecies about Himself. His death was the reality pictured by the OT sacrifices for sin. At His death, the veil covering the Holy of Holies was torn open, signifying that the way was open to God.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

The OT sacrifices had to be offered continually because they were insufficient to take care of sin for ever.

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:12-14)

The OT priests died and had to be replaced.

But he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:24-25)

Though Jesus was God, He was also man. He was holy, but He faced temptation and weakness and dread.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect 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 4:15-16)

Jesus fulfilled the prophecies and symbolism given to the Jews. But what about the rest of us?

Remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

How do we draw near? The verses above mention faith and cleansing: faith Jesus is who He claimed to be, faith that His atonement took care of our sins. This privilege is open to anyone willing to repent of sin and believe on Jesus as Lord and Savior.

And 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. (Hebrew 11:6)

If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:6-9)

We have the incredible privilege to draw near to God—for salvation, for cleansing, for fellowship, for grace and help.

What a privilege to come into God’s presence,
Just to linger with the One who set me free.
As I lift m eyes and see His awesome glory,
I remember who He is and bow the knee.

-Ron Hamilton

For more information, see 4 Conditions to Draw Near to God.

(Sharing with Scripture and a Snapshot, Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Share a Link Wednesday, Heart Encouragement, Grace and Truth)

Laudable Linkage

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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!