Alone with God

Community is a great gift. Many of us have come to appreciate it now more than ever, since gathering with others has been restricted for several months. There’s nothing like being with, singing with, exercising the “one anothers” of the Bible, encouraging and being encouraged by God’s people.

So many have fallen away from regular church attendance, leaders have stressed the importance and benefits of Christian community in the last several years. But as often happens, the pendulum sometimes swings too far the other way. Some admonishments have overstated the importance of community. In one tweet I saw, some advocated changing the pronouns in hymnbooks from singular to plural!

I believe strongly in Christian community, in gathering regularly together as believers. I wrote about it here and here and here and here.

But some of the most poignant moments of life occur between the individual and God alone.

Joseph spent years isolated from a believing community after he was sold into slavery before his family came. If he had not known how to walk with God alone, his story would have come out very differently.

Two of the major events in Jacob’s life occurred when God met with him alone. One was in a dream on his journey to his uncle’s house; the other occurred when he wrestled with the angel of the Lord on the way back home to face Esau.

Daniel had three friends, but he faced the lion’s den alone, received visions from God alone, and prayed for his nation alone.

David spent much time alone and used much of it to write psalms.

The psalmists speak of remembering God’s word, work, and character and communing with Him alone in the middle of the night.

Elijah met with God alone after the great victory over Jezebel’s priests.

Paul traveled and ministered with companions, at times he had to stand alone.

Jesus ministered to crowds, small groups, and individuals, but sought time with His Father alone.

One of the blessings of the Christian life is that we have access to God directly. “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). We don’t have to go through a priest or anyone else to get to Him. And, though sometimes we come with others, there are times we interact with Him alone.

God formed us individually. Psalm 139:13-16 tells about God forming us, knitting us together in our mother’s wombs, making us in secret.

We’re born again individually. Someone might be with us; someone might have explained what salvation meant and prayed with us. But we’re saved when we individually believe on Christ. No one can do that for us.

We’ll give account of ourselves. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

We have our own relationship with God. I wrote recently that the Christian life is a relationship with God, not a set of rules and rituals. We have a relationship all together as a family. But most families don’t relate to each other just as a group all the time. Each individual child has a relationship with the Father.

We meet with God individually. As vital as it is to meet together to hear God’s Word preached and explained, we need to partake of it on our own. Many verses compare God’s Word to food. We don’t eat just one or two times a week. We’d be pretty malnourished spiritually if we did. When I attended a Christian college, students were often reminded that it was an easy place to get away from the Lord. It was easy to coast on the atmosphere, to read the Bible for class assignments, to attend many Christian meetings, etc., without personally meeting with the Lord.

We walk with God individually. Just as we’re saved in a one-on-one exchange with God, so also our obedience, growth, and sanctification occur between us and God. Again, others help, teach, encourage. But they can’t obey and grow for us. They might help us resist temptation, but we need to apply the Word of God and yield to Him in our own hearts.

We encourage ourselves in the Lord. Other Christians are a great source of encouragement, and I have leaned on them many times. Yet sometimes we have to stand alone. David experienced one such instance when everyone was against him, even threatening to stone him. But David “encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Samuel 30:6). So many of his psalms were written when he was alone, or at least they were written about being alone. Yes, the psalms were sung congregationally. Some dealt with God’s people as a whole. But many of the situations written about were experienced individually, written down, and sung with the congregation so that they then could individually be encouraged and apply the truth of them.

We can pray individually. Yes, Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20). But He also said, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret (Matthew 6:6a). He’s not forbidding public prayer in the latter verse, but illustrating that it’s not something we do for “show” (compare with verses 1-5). I’ve often requested prayer from the whole church body or texted a Christian friend with an urgent prayer request. But have you ever noticed how many times in the Bible people prayed alone? Take as just one example Elijah, of whom James says “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit” (James 5:17-18). Kevin Schaal says in This Is No Time for Timid Prayers:

Sometimes we minimize the power of the prayer of a Christian individual. We tend to view prayers like votes—ours is only one among many millions and God somehow looks at the collection of prayers before Him instead of the heartfelt cry of an individual. The Bible never presents prayer like that. James 5 does not say “the effectual fervent prayers of a large group of righteous people accomplishes a lot.” The individual prayer of one righteous person can change the world.

I’ve read in some missionary biographies of great victories that were followed a few weeks later by a note from some faithful supporter saying, “I felt strongly led to pray for you on this date. Was anything in particular going on?”

We worship God individually. Even when we’re worshiping with a congregation, we worship and praise in our own hearts. And we can and should worship and praise when we meet with God alone.

Meeting with God isn’t meant to happen either alone or with a group. We need both. Our time alone with God will inform and enrich our time with each other, and our time with each other should do the same for our individual walk with God.

I’ve appreciated the creative ways people have developed to keep in touch with each other through this pandemic. Let’s use all of those ways as much as possible. But be encouraged: you can pray, worship, serve, and walk with God in any circumstance, alone or with a group.

I could not do without Thee,
I cannot stand alone,
I have no strength or goodness,
No wisdom of my own;
But Thou, belovèd Savior,
Art all in all to me,
And perfect strength in weakness
Is theirs who lean on Thee.

I could not do without Thee!
No other friend can read
The spirit’s strange deep longings,
Interpreting its need;
No human heart could enter
Each dim recess of mine,
And soothe, and hush, and calm it,
O blessèd Lord, but Thine.

I could not do without Thee,
For years are fleeting fast,
And soon in solemn loneness
The river must be passed;
But Thou wilt never leave me,
And though the waves roll high,
I know Thou wilt be near me,
And whisper, It is I.

From “I Could Not Do Without Thee” by Frances Ridley Havergal

Psalm 62 God alone

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

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Thank you so much for your kind thoughts, comments, and prayers regarding my post yesterday about being in the hospital. We got home mid-afternoon yesterday, and I have follow-up appointments in the next couple of weeks.

Here are good reads collected through the week. I used to make a list of these as I found them, then would have to turn them into a blog post. Now I open a draft and list and format them as I come across them through the week, so by Saturday the post is almost completely ready to go.

“What Do You Want From Me, God?” Part 4: A Humble Walk. “Isn’t it remarkable that the God of the universe, the One who is perfectly satisfied in himself, to whom we cannot possibly be intellectually stimulating, comes to us every morning and asks, ‘Do you want to go for a walk?’”

Enjoying Imperfection, HT to Challies. “Only God does all things perfectly. In a world that has written God out of the story, we have written ourselves into the role of perfection-attainment. And it is killing us—our dusty little frames, our finite abilities can’t handle it.”

The Local Church Was Made To Serve The Christian, Not The Christian The Local Church. “If we judge our faith or our spiritual maturity or our commitment to the local church by the quantity of activities we participate in (or choose not to participate in), we are judging ourselves not by the freedom of the gospel but by the captivity of the law.”

When Your Mother Grows Old: Open Letter to Younger Believers, HT to Challies. “Being old is a topic that Scripture does not shy away from. Proverbs, for example — such a valuable book for young people — addresses it directly. As one who is both learning and observing a mother’s experience of growing older, I want to ask you to think in particular about old women, while you are young — in order to encourage clear vision now, and farsighted vision for the years ahead.”

In Support of Our Law Enforcement Officers. “That’s what police officers do. They keep the rest of us safe. They are the representatives of human government that enforce the law and protect citizens. Saved or not, believers or not, they put their lives on the line on a daily basis in order to provide for us a peaceful society in which we can live, work, worship, and pray.”

C. S. Lewis and His Stepsons, HT to Challies. “While the relationship between Lewis and Joy Davidman has been a matter of endless fascination to Lewis fans and academics alike, many have ignored the fact that the marriage made Lewis a stepfather.”

How to Run a Good Meeting–And Why it Matters More than You Think, also HT to Challies. Spirituality and efficiency are not mutually exclusive (though God’s idea of efficiency may differ from ours). I appreciate these evaluations of the best way to conduct necessary but numbing ministry meetings. I’d add a sub-note to his last point: don’t have a meeting if an email can take care of the meeting agenda.

Finally, I think I’ve seen all of these at a potluck (minus the alcohol).

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineHere’s my latest short collection of thought-provoking reads found online:

White Fragility and the Bible’s Big Story. “I want to turn to the Bible to suggest how it might help us understand issues of race and racism, for it also contains a narrative structure. It describes the world and the history of humanity as kind of unified story whose plot unfolds through a number of movements. We can title these movements Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.”

Learning to Read People’s Eyes. “So instead of shouting to the world on social media about all the horrible things that are happening, how about finding some people like Isaiah mentions here? Let’s find the poor, brokenhearted, captives, prisoners, and mourners. They are all around us. Look at those fearful and wearied eyes peeking out from behind all those masks.”

You Can’t Avoid Criticism, and responding in kind doesn’t help. But we can evaluate and learn from it.

Sex Offenders Can Find Hope in Christ But Not Necessarily a Place at Church, HT to Challies. It can be tricky to try to minister to sex offenders and help them change while also protecting the congregation, particularly children, from abuse.

Since we’ve recently roasted marshmallows for s’mores, this was timely from xkcd:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Here are some of the good reads found online recently.

Can You Do ALL Things? The meaning behind a commonly misapplied Bible verse.

Church, Don’t Let the Coronavirus Divide You. “For example, someone might find it personally difficult—even maddening—to have to wear a mask during church and stay six feet away from everyone at all times. You might think these precautions are a needless overreaction. But here’s the thing: even if it turns out you’re right, can you not sacrifice your ideal for a season, out of love for others who believe the precautions are necessary?. . . We could all use a bit more humility, and the church should lead the way.”

What will be left when the dust settles? “How will you have handled these weeks? The question is interesting because the Christian response goes in two directions at once. If you’re wise, you won’t be shaken by what has happened; but neither will you remain unchanged.”

Gathering Again Is a Serious Choice. “If churches meet and a second (maybe even more severe) wave of infections can be traced back to church services, we will not only have a PR problem but also face the potential of regulation and persecution. We do not want to be the church in the news for being the source of a major outbreak.”

Samaritan’s Purse Cleared Both Familiar and Unique Hurdles in New York, HT to Challies. “The head of the Central Park field hospital shares staff’s experience working amid protests and the peak of the coronavirus outbreak”

Imagination Is for Moms, Too, HT to Story Warren. “If I think of his behavior as a problem to be solved or a task to be completed and checked off my to-do list, then I’m just working towards behavior modification. But if I remember that somewhere in his struggle—no matter how much sin is concealing it—there is a glimpse of God, in whose image my son was created, then I begin to think of ways to draw out that dim reflection.”

Of Oceans, Thimbles, and Talking to Your Kids about Death, HT to Challies. “If it is the time God has chosen for you to die, you can drown in a thimble; if it’s not, then you can survive for days in the open ocean.”

Facing Writing Non-Productivity Without Guilt. This is applicable to all of life, not just writing. “Endless motion produces scattered thoughts and culminates in scattered dreams. Let this forced isolation become an inward pilgrimage of quiet introspection, where memories and life lived are reflected with a depth that comes from hearing God speak.”

Styrofoam Printing. HT to Story Warren. Looking for something new to do with the kids? This article about printing with Styrofoam was posted for Easter but could be adapted.

Finally, I have not one, but two videos today! I’ve seen many coronavirus song parodies, but I like this one to the tune of Nessun Dorma the best. Plus this guy has a gorgeous voice.

What I like most about this one is how pleased the dad is with how his plan worked out. And the mom’s face when she doubts it will.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Here’s my latest collection of thought-provoking reads:

Eleven Practices for Growing Love.

Could a Lack of Purpose Be Stealing Your Joy?

Anxious for Nothing: Addressing the Worry I Can’t Explain, HT to Challies. This is what I wish more people understood about certain types of anxiety and panic attacks: that they’re not a deliberate violation of Phil. 4:6-7 or worry about anything in particular. Some good thoughts about dealing with anxiety.

Intersectionality and the Church, HT to Challies. This post explains the term and demonstrates why it doesn’t work for the church.

Jesus, the Prostitutes, and Transgender Outreach, HT to Challies. “We must never assume that Jesus’ loving welcome of prostitutes indicates the slightest endorsement or toleration of their sin. Notice how Jesus explained his behavior: ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick’ (Mt. 9:12). Jesus said that he came to cure people of their sinful disorder – that is, to remove it and render them free from it – but not to promote or explore its experience. When he added, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Mt. 9:13), the mercy he offered was deliverance from sin to his righteousness.”

When Parents Feel Like We Are Mostly Failing Most of the Time, particularly in regard to  modern technology.

I Illustrated National Parks In America Based On Their Worst Review and I Hope They Will Make You Laugh, HT to Challies. One-star reviews are often ridiculous, but never more so than these. Loved how this artist turned them around.

Don’t forget to set your clocks back an hour tonight (bah, humbug).

And to end with a smile:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

I don’t usually do these on Sunday. But yesterday kicked off the Last Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge, and I didn’t want to save these for next week and end up with an overly long list then. So if you have some leisure, you might find some of these interesting.

The Almighty Bean. Our country’s addiction to coffee is used as an example of how something harmless and pleasurable can soon become too important to us.

The Spirit of Sabbath and One Woman’s Struggle With It, HT to Maree. I’ve always believed in a one-day-in-seven rest, but Jamie brings out some aspects I hadn’t considered before.

Dear Church—Don’t Overlook and Undervalue the Elderly, HT to HT to Challies. “Many young church leaders put a great deal of emphasis on attracting millennials and specific demographics that do not have gray hair or need assistance getting from their car into the building on the Lord’s Day without stumbling. When a church overlooks the elderly, it can cause several big problems within the church family.”

Modern Feminism’s Hated Enemy: Womanhood, HT to Challies. “Feminism can only survive if women continue to hate the very elements of their nature that differentiate them from men.”

The Extraordinary WW2 Sketchbook of Victor Lundy, HT to Challies.

And finally, a good song that came up in my listening this morning:

Happy Sunday!

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Here’s some noteworthy reads I’ve come across recently. Perhaps you’ll find something that speaks to you here.

With Thanksgiving coming up, naturally there are a lot of posts about being thankful and content. A few of the best:

Secret to a Contented Heart. “Satan doesn’t come at most of us with temptations to take drugs or rob banks. His main temptation is to rob our joy and rob God of glory by keeping a bunch of unhappy, complaining, whining women on the loose.” (Ouch—in a good way.)

Countless Blessings from a Generous God. “We’ve heard it said to count our blessings. But if we look at the shocking amount of blessings a generous God extends to us, they are hard to number.”

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving in the Chaos. “I am tempted to cancel Thanksgiving this year…I toyed with the idea for a whole 10 minutes, and then I remembered escaping from reality is never a healthy decision. Plus, the Holy Spirit also reminded me that I am called to let my little light shine in dark places. Sometimes those dark places are at the dinner table with stuffing and cranberry sauce.”

What if You Lost What You Weren’t Thankful For. “What people would you miss if you hadn’t taken time to thank God for them? Not just the ones in your family, but the ones who grow your food, repair your car, treat your illness, and serve your coffee.”

Some Counsel for Christians Leaving Toxic Church Environments, HT to Challies. Unfortunately, this is becoming all too common a problem.

There Are No Extraordinary Means, HT to Challies. “What we want are extraordinary fixes to ordinary problems. In this desire we miss the reality that there’s always something else to fix, there’s always something else to do, and there’s always something we’ll miss. Looking for extraordinary means is a roadmap to variously intense levels of personal frustration. Ordinary means of grace are sufficient because our problems are ordinary.”

Don’t Confuse Spirituality with Righteousness, HT to Challies. “I cannot achieve righteousness without spirituality. But it is possible to be ‘spiritual,’ at least on the surface, without attaining righteousness.”

“Worthy?” also HT to Challies. This deals with the idea that we tend to come to God when we feel worthy and avoid coming when we don’t feel worthy. “Are you worthy? No. But Jesus doesn’t require fitness from you. You only have to feel your need of him. You only have to see that his worthiness is sufficient for you.

And finally, this is me in cold weather:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Here are a number of noteworthy reads discovered recently:

How Christians Should Respond to Kanye’s Reported Conversion, or any celebrity profession of faith. HT to Challies.

Our Words as an Instrument of Gentleness. An example of a soft word turning away wrath in a volatile situation.

Living a Legacy Life. The older we get, the more we realize how little time we have left. Make it count.

Be Patient with Us as We Learn, HT to Challies. “Older saint, we need you to make the first move and keep pursuing us. We need you to seek, mentor, disciple, and love the younger Christians in our church. I’m asking you to be patient with younger Christians with a patience such as our Lord Jesus exemplified. When we act in pride, please patiently endure us.”

How to Help an Anxious Child.

3 Things to Keep in Mind When Hospitality is Hard, HT to Story Warren.

Announcements at Church: Why Do We Do Them? HT to Challies. I love this description: “It’s being like the family at Sunday lunch, sharing about what’s happened and what’s coming up. It’s about connecting, lining up, knowing what we are all up to. It’s about love.”

For Those Who Turn Up Their Noses at Christian Fiction.

To Infinity . . . “I’m thankful for stories that awaken our imaginations and, in so doing, encourage us to press on. I’m thankful for the adventures that happen in Narnia and Middle Earth and Aerwiar and Natalia. I’m thankful for the imaginary world and surprising wisdom of Andy’s toys. And I’m thankful for the Story that all good stories ultimately point to, whether the authors themselves realize it or not . . .”

Finally, this is amazing. A man with cerebral palsy creates art using just ten keys on a typewriter:

Laudable Linkage

Any link I share with you is a worthy read, but there have been some especially excellent ones this week:

A Tale of Two Teachers. “We elevate youth and beauty. We want funny more than we want wise. . . We want empowerment more than we want humility.

If You Want Your Kids to Own Their Faith, Teach Them to Think Critically about Their Faith, HT to Challies. “I think this is one of the reasons why many Christian kids grow up and abandon ‘their’ beliefs. For many of them, those beliefs were never theirs in the first place. They were their parent’s beliefs that the kids were taught to memorize and regurgitate, beliefs the kids were never challenged to think through for themselves.”

Make Me a Cake, HT to Challies. “Sometimes during the long dark nights, I wake. And I remember Autism, that dark cloud that settled over our lives years ago. And I think about how this is forever, at least on this Earth. How this is the rest of my life. And I wonder, how can I do this for the rest of my life?”

The Ministry of Presence. “The local church doesn’t need people of outsized talents or rare abilities as much as it needs normal people with full-out commitment.”

5 Tips for Conversations in Our Tense Cultural Moment, HT to Challies. “In years gone by, it seems you could just disagree with someone and everyone was fine with that. You could just shake hands and move on. But now, in our tense cultural situation, disagreement is regarded as a personal attack. To disagree with someone is to be hateful and unloving toward them.”

Confidence to Face the Challenge. “He doesn’t look to boost Solomon’s self-esteem, but to encourage his confidence in the God who has called him.”

Why I Find Decorating Important to the Soul, HT to Kim. “There was a time when I almost stopped doing any kind of seasonal decorating. Why bother when we no longer have children living at home and the days of spending hours preparing a meal for a crowd are long gone. Why decorate when it is just two of us and a cat most of the time?”

Finally, this showed up in my Facebook memories this morning: a text with my husband a few years ago that brought a smile.

It makes me wish there was a breakfast biscuit called Bacon Nation. 🙂

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

I’ve been debating with myself about whether to post these now or wait. It’s later in the day than I usually post, because we had an outing earlier today. But this is a nice-sized list: if I wait til next Saturday, it might be twice as long. So I think I’ll go ahead and share them. Hopefully you’ll find something that interests you among them.

Are You Pointing Your Suffering Friend to Earthly Things. “The ‘at least’ and ‘look on the bright side’ statements that jump from our mouths originate from a desire to fix a hard circumstance, but in saying them, we run from the reality that we simply can’t. We can’t take our fellow Christians’ suffering away. Unfortunately, in our efforts to help take their minds off their pain, we often point them to the wrong place.”

When Missionaries Return Broken, HT to Kim.

The Quiet Miracle of Roots and Leaves. Lots of good stuff in this one. “It turns out that a believing teen’s struggle with apathy and hypocrisy requires the same grace from the same Savior who longs to deliver less-catechized teens from drug addiction and immorality.” True for us adults, too.

The Opposite of a Bucket List. “Even if I did come up with the perfect list–challenging enough to be exciting, but not so challenging as to be impossible–and I managed to actually accomplish every item on it, what then of the end game? What would be left to life once everything on the list had been checked off?” I like her alternative much better.

Should Introverts Be Expected to Act Like Extroverts? HT to Challies. I’ve read many articles about introverts, usually by introverts. This one, written by an  extrovert, was refreshing.

These 5 Classic Books Are Getting Remade Into Movies, HT to Karen Swallow Prior. Some look promising. I hope they do them justice.

I came across this quote by Spurgeon on a friend’s Facebook page, reposted from the C. H. Spurgeon Quotes page. Thought it went well with my Monday post about church.

Have a great rest of the weekend!