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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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:

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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!

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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!

What you miss when you turn your back on church

It happened again last week: I came across someone’s comment that they no longer attended church. This was not from an unbeliever or someone who had never been a churchgoer. This was from a professing Christian who had attended church regularly for years and then decided to forsake the practice. This commenter did not say why she no longer attended, but there seemed to be just a bit of vitriol in her response. Perhaps someone had offended her or something happened that she didn’t care for. People seem to be leaving the church in droves for such reasons.

I’m always grieved when I see this kind of thing. It’s necessary at times to leave a particular church, but you miss a lot if you give up church all together, such as:

1. God’s gifts to the church.And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God” (Ephesians 4:11-13a, ESV). Yes, you can gain from hearing a good radio or Internet sermon. But that’s not the same as being personally pastored or shepherded by the man God has raised up to lead your congregation. Hebrews 13:7-17 gives more instruction about our reaction to church leaders: remembering, imitating, obeying.

2. Getting equipped. The purpose God gave those gifts mentioned in the first point was “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”

3. Being fed. I Peter 3:1-4 instructs church leaders to “feed the flock.” Yes, we should feed ourselves in the Word during the week, but we shouldn’t neglect the “family dinner” available to us every week at church.

4. Being a part of what God is doing through the church. “So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). That’s an amazing thought, that God teaches things about Himself to “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” through His interactions with the church.

5. Your place in the body. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul goes to great lengths to explain that the church is like a body. We’re not all eyes, else how would we hear or smell (verse 17 and following)? We each have different gifts and functions, designed to work together and minister to each other. When we remove ourselves from the body, we leave an empty place and we miss the function of the others.

6. The care of a church family. “God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” Most church members could tell you stories about being ministered to and cared for my other members.

7. A place to use your gifts and be ministered to by others. This overlaps with #5 a bit. But the Bible lists several types of spiritual gifts that God distributes to His children, among them, teaching, administration, giving, mercy, helps, and others. We’re to use them to minister to each other. Sure, they’re not restricted to the four walls of the church: we use them at work, with neighbors, online, etc. But church is the primary outlet. You miss being ministered to by others and and you miss the people you’re to minister to. As our church read through the book of Acts over several weeks, I noted several times people strengthened people (14:22; 15:32, 41; 16:5; 18:23). And I thought, “Wait a minute: isn’t it Go who strengthens us?” Yes. But He often uses people to strengthen, to encourage (often paired with strengthen in Acts), to comfort.

8. Biblical one anothers. Again, these can be done outside the church, but the context of most of them is within the church.

Wash one another’s feet—John 13:14.
Love one another—John 13:3; 15:12, 17; Romans 13:8; I Peter 1:22; I John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11.
In honor preferring one another—Romans 12:10.
Don’t judge one another—Romans 14:13.
Receive one another—Romans 15:7.
Salute one another—Romans 16:16.*
Greet one another—I Cor. 16:20, II Cor. 13:12, I Peter 5:14.
Serve one another—Gal. 5:13.
Don’t provoke one another or envy one another—Gal. 5:26.
Bear one another’s burdens—Gal. 6:2.
Forbear one another in love—Eph. 4:2, Col. 3:13.
Forgive one another—Eph. 4:32, Col. 3:13.
Teach and admonish one another with song—Col. 3:16.
Comfort one another—I Thess. 4:18.
Edify one another—I Thess. 5:11.
Exhort one another— Heb. 3:13; 10:25.
Consider one another to provoke unto love and good works—Heb. 10:24.

9. Biblical conflict resolution. In Matthew 18, Jesus gave instructions about how to handle when other people sin against you. If you just leave the church without settling these manners, you do a disservice to yourself and the other person. Some people go from church to church to church with a trail of unresolved conflicts in their wake, until they finally stop going all together.

10. Exercise in forbearance. No church is going to be perfect. How could it be, when each is made up of sinners who are not yet perfect? We all still struggle with our flesh and will til we get to heaven. Sometimes our fleshly natures irritate each other. Sometimes we need to confront each other, as in #9. But sometimes we need to depend on God’s grace to forbear each other. If we leave due to others’ irritating us, we miss out on this (difficult) grace. “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3, KJV). “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Colossians 3:12-15, KJV).

11. Accountability. Jesus gave an illustration about the danger of judging by showing how ludicrous it was to try to help someone get a speck out of their eye if you’ve got a 2×4 in yours. Most people get the idea that we usually have bigger issues than the person we’re judging, and we need to take care of our own faults. But we overlook verse 5: “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” We’re supposed to help each other with the things that cloud our vision.

12. Obedience. “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). I know some use these verses like a club, and they shouldn’t. But they are in the Bible.

Sure, there are times one can’t attend church: illness, exhaustion, travel, grief, etc. Some people can’t attend church due to long-term physical issues. We should still be the church to them and minister to them.

And, yes, some Biblical teaching about the church refers to what we call the church universal: everyone who has ever been and will be a believer. But most of the New Testament epistles were written to small local assemblies where these things were to be practiced.

And yes, attending church is not a guarantee that everything will go well with your life. But there are people there who can help when things do go wrong.

And going to church is not a substitute for a personal relationship with Christ. If we go to church all our lives and miss that, we’re in trouble. Not all churches teach the gospel or the Bible. It’s important to go to one that does. We don’t become righteous by attending church every time the doors are open: we need to repent of our sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. But a church made up of people who have done that can help each other along the way.

A few days ago I read in Seasons of the Heart:

How unhappy it is, my dear friend, that the little family of Christ should be so torn with internal animosities and feuds at a time when the state of the world seems to render it peculiarly necessary that all its members should be bound together in the unity of the Spirit an the bonds of peace. At no period in the history of the church can we discover so many and such powerful efforts of the prince of this world and his adherents to destroy its purity and its very existence as at the present time. (June 21 entry, Susan Huntington)

And that was in the early 1800s! Susan concludes:

But thanks be to God–He is showing us, by the effusions of His Spirit on various places, that He still remembers His church and will not suffer the gates of hell to prevail against it. And blessed be His name for the assurance that none shall be able to pluck His children out of the Savior’s hands or prevent His giving unto them eternal life! My friend, let us pray for each other. And may He, who is the believer’s hope, finally present us faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy!

The church has always been full of problems. Most of the NT epistles were written to correct some of those problems. We’ll always have differences with each other, some due to personality, culture, stages of growth and maturity. Perhaps some differences exist to encourage us to thoughtfulness, understanding, seeing things from another’s viewpoint, grace. But some are due to blind spots. We can help each other with those blind spots if we’re open and humble (Matthew 7:1-5).

I’ve never read Phil Yancey, but I saw this quote attributed to him and it affected me so much. I’m not sure where or when he said it: “I rejected the church for a time because I found so little grace there. I returned because I found grace nowhere else.” I’m also not very familiar with Jackie Hill Perry, (though I want to read her book) but she once Tweeted, “Do you know who God used to heal me of my church hurt? The church.”

The church means a great deal to Christ, so how can we dismiss or ignore it? “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27). If Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her, and we love Him, can we forsake the church He loves so much?

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday,
Kingdom Bloggers, Tell His Story,
Purposeful Faith, Let’s Have Coffee,
Share a Link Wednesdays, Grace and Truth)

 

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Here are some good reads I’ve discovered recently:

The Oh So Human Dad’s Club. A look at some biblical fathers commemorated in the “Hall of Faith” despite serious flaws – encouragement that God can use any of us who are “only human.”

Six Reasons We Love Faithful Fathers, HT to True Woman.

A Guide to Same Page Summer. This introduces a summer Bible reading plan, but it has some great principles for Bible reading in general.

Distinguishing Marks of a Quarrelsome Person, HT to Challies. “Of course, there are honest disagreements and agree-to-disagree propositions, but that’s not what the Bible means by quarreling. Quarrels, at least in Proverbs, are unnecessary arguments, the kind that honorable men stay away from (Prov. 17:14; 20:3). And elders too (1 Tim. 3). These fights aren’t the product of a loving rebuke or a principled conviction. These quarrels arise because people are quarrelsome.”

Why We Go to Church on Vacation.

When Old They’ll Still Bear Fruit, HT to Challies.

Losing a Foster Child. Some people don’t want to foster because of how painful it would be to let a child go after caring for it. But some children need just that kind of love and care during an unsettling time in their lives. This has some good help for the pain of giving back a foster child.

The True Woman blog, an arm of the Revive Our Hearts ministry, is holding a summer book club reading through Elisabeth Elliot’s just-published book, Suffering Is Never For Nothing. This book comes from a series of messages Elisabeth shared at a conference and is different from her earlier book, A Path Through Suffering (though I would guess they probably overlap). The book club starts this Tuesday, June 18, and continues for 6 weeks.

Someone set up a “bird photo booth” and caught some great close-up photos of birds.

Happy Saturday!