Laudable Linkage

Here’s another collection of reads that especially caught my eye this week.

Meat From the Sky and the Resurrection’s Plausibility, HT to Challies. “No one knows for certain how a half-bushel of raw meat fell from the heavens. The very idea of a meat shower seems absurd. And yet there are good reasons to think it really happened. Two of them can also help us trust the veracity of Jesus’s resurrection.”

One of the Most Overlooked Arguments for the Resurrection, HT toChallies. “It is an often overlooked fact that provides the necessary context for the discussion. That fact is simply this: the earliest Christians came to believe, against all odds and against all expectations, that Jesus of Nazareth had been raised from the dead.”

More Than Doing: Categories for Applying God’s Word. “But how do we do Bible texts like those found in the book of Judges? How do we do narratives, historical accounts, chronologies, prophetic literature, or Old Testament laws written for the people of Israel? How do we apply God’s Word when there’s nothing in the passage for us to do?”

Was Jesus Punctual? HT to Challies. “The English phrase ‘don’t waste your time’ has an equivalent in Spanish: ‘no pierdas el tiempo’, which strictly translated means ‘don’t lose [the] time’. There is, nonetheless, a subtle difference between the English and the Spanish. Whereas a Westerner feels they can control time (by deciding whether to waste it or not), a Latin American feels they cannot control time (it gets lost).”

Seedlings Need the Weather, HT to Challies. “When we asked a gardener friend, he told us that the absence of difficulty was not the solution to their problem. It was the problem. The trouble for our seedlings—the trouble that made them weak—was that they had no trouble. Without at least some exposure to the elements, they would never grow strong.”

Who Will Speak Up for the Transgender Kid? HT to Challies. “This is the brutal reality of ‘gender affirming care.’ It’s not really gender affirming. It’s body destroying. And yet, our culture appears to be so under the spell of transgender propaganda that even some parents are going along with barbaric medical experiments performed on their own children. Some parents are manipulated into it against their better judgment after gender counselors put before them an ultimatum.”

Mother Yourself Out of a Job: Nurturing Children Toward Independence. “The journey from dependent child to independent adult is never without its pulling and stretching on both sides. As young adult children relinquish their need for hands-on parenting and take up responsibility for their own lives, there is a mirrored relinquishment for which we, as their loving parents, usually need plenty of grace.”

Finally, I don’t know who originally said this quote, but it’s one of my favorites this time of year:

Laudable Linkage

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Welcome to my almost weekly list of good reads found around the Web.

This Dying Young Woman Has a Message for Us, HT to Challies. “Brooklyn may face dark moments, but they are never so dark that the light of Christ does not breakthrough. Along with telling her story, she wants to speak directly to us, and even when she wants to tell us hard truths, her sense of humor steps in to help us swallow the medicine. ‘I’m sick. Soon to die. But so are you. I’m just doing it faster.'” Brooklyn did pass away March 1.

Truth in Small Bites Is Truth Nonetheless. “When life takes a turn, most of us tend to push Bible reading aside until our circumstances return to normal. If you’re not able to sit down at your kitchen table for a quiet hour of in-depth study, you don’t even crack open God’s Word. Somewhere along the way, you’ve told yourself that if you’re not able to feast, you shouldn’t eat at all, not realizing that a handful of almonds in the middle of the night is far better than allowing your soul to starve.

Sexual Sin Is Not Inevitable, HT to Challies. “God never commands us to do anything without providing the resources to obey by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Death, Miracles, and Tears from a missionary in Cameroon, HT to Challies. “About three years ago I took a girl in our village named Mami to get an ultrasound. At the clinic I met her boyfriend named Koo who was visibly concerned about her pregnancy. So much so that he made a deal with God: if his baby survived, he would dedicate his life to the Lord.”

The Friend Who Sharpens Me, HT to Challies. “While it’s great to have friends we agree with theologically and mentors who can teach us more about the historical faith we hold to, I’m learning that it’s important to make friends with those I disagree with. It’s important to learn from those with a different viewpoint than me.”

Tell Me a Story? “There are many nights when both Dan and I draw a complete blank. Four sets of eyes stare at us longingly as we frantically rake our minds for something to say, only to come up as empty as one of Pooh’s honey jars. Over the years we have developed a strategy for handling situations like this. It’s easy to implement, and it has never failed.”

This is a good reason to get those dust bunnies when they’re small and few. 🙂

Happy Saturday!

Books Shape Our Thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Christmas Reads

I thought I’d group together short reviews of three books I enjoyed this December.

Expecting Christmas is a 40-day devotional book by multiple authors. I didn’t know any of the author names except one (Jennifer Dukes Lee). It’s put out by New Hope Publishers.

The selections are short, which is appreciated in a month like December. Each began with a verse or two of Scripture, a page and a half to two pages (at least in the Kindle version) of text, then three questions for refection.

The readings cover a variety of Christmas topics, though several deal with light.

A couple of samples: Day 15 talks about how horses in past years were seen as “labor animals, forms of transportation, and even weapons of war” (p. 44). After describing war horses, the writer points out Zechariah 9:9-10: Jesus did not come as an overthrowing conqueror, at least as the kind of conqueror society expected. His second coming will be more like that. But this time, He came humbly on a donkey. The author concludes, “Take time now to thank the Lord for being both just and humble, for bringing salvation instead of condemnation, for riding peacefully on a colt rather than on a warhorse. Ask Him to help you trust Him, especially when you don’t understand His ways. When you find yourself confused by His methods, remember the salvation He brought and the joys of that great gift” (p. 46).

In mediating on Jesus being given “the tongue of the learned” (Isaiah 40:4-5), another writer says, “Jesus didn’t use His deep knowledge and gift for oratory to make a name for Himself or climb social ladders. Rather, as seen in the Gospel accounts of His ministry, Jesus used His words to unburden people, free minds from the lies they had learned from false religions, and draw weary hearts closer to the Living God” (p. 54).

Another points out that people responded differently in praise and worship of the Savior, and that’s okay. “Mary’s response was one of quiet introspection as she treasured the good news of the gospel in her heart. The shepherds, on the other hand, left young Jesus, glorifying God and praising Him with outward enthusiasm and passion. People celebrate the gospel in different ways” (p. 77).

I only wish this book was 25 or 31 days so it would fit within the month of December. I didn’t get started 40 days ahead, so I have a bit yet to finish up. But I wanted to mention it before the month was over. Overall, I enjoyed it.

The second book I mentioned in my top twelve post yesterday. I had never heard of Letters From Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien. I discovered it while looking for a short Christmas audiobook to finish out the year. This fit the bill nicely.

Tolkien sent letters and drawings as if from Father Christmas to his children from 1920 to 1943. He wrote with a shaky script because he was so old, he said (probably also to disguise his handwriting). The letters would comment on happenings in the children’s lives as well as at the North Pole. The North Polar Bear was Father Christmas’s helper and companion, a cheerful but bumbling fellow who unwittingly caused a lot of accidents. Polar Bear adds his own commentaries with a thick script because of his paws. Later an elf named Ilbereth acts as Father Christmas’s secretary. The last few letters mention “this horrible war” (WWII) and the people displaced, the shortage of supplies even at the North Pole, etc.

I got the audiobook superbly narrated by Derek Jacobi as Father Christmas and a couple of others for the infrequent voices of the bear and elf. But when I realized the book had photos of the letters and drawings, I had to get the Kindle version, too.

I thought in passing of Tolkien’s penchant for languages but figured that wouldn’t have a place in this book. But he did come up with a made-up language called Arktic that is spoken at the North Pole, and Polar Bear shares a few lines of it.

He also included some battles with goblins, who at times liked to raid Father Christmas’s supplies.

These letters are wonderfully imaginative. I especially loved the banter between Father Christmas, Polar Bear, and Ilbereth.

My last Christmas book this year is The Ornament Keeper, a contemporary fiction novella by Eva Marie Everson.

It’s Felicia Morgan’s custom to begin decorating the Christmas tree with the special, customized ornaments her husband has given her, one each year except for the last year. Each represented something special about their year: their first Christmas together, their children, her job advancement, etc.

This year, though, Felicia is dragging her feet. She and Jackson have separated after twenty years of marriage. Her daughter convinces Felicia to put up decorations as usual, but the memories are painful.

As Felicia hangs each ornament, we see a flashback to the circumstances surrounding each of them. Felicia’s marriage began with a mistake which has haunted the couple’s twenty years. Though God has redeemed and worked together for good their indiscretion, seeds of resentment and unforgiveness threaten to destroy what they have. Can they find their way back to each other before it’s too late?

I enjoyed the story and the truths brought out. I appreciated that the book wasn’t superficial or treacly.

Have you read any of these? Did you read any Christmas books this year?

15 Favorite Posts from 15 Years of Blogging

I mentioned in my end-of-July post that I forgot my blogging anniversary until WordPress sent me a reminder. It’s been fifteen years!

Often in the past I’ve done something special to observe my blogiversary. Since it caught me off guard this year, I didn’t have anything prepared.

I had been pondering ways to bring some of old posts back to the forefront, since they were published before I knew some of you. Then, voila! The idea came to list fifteen of my favorite blog posts to commemorate my fifteenth year of blogging. There won’t be one from each year—that would have taken too much time to search out. But these were either fun to write or were special to me in some way.

So here we go, in no particular order:

  1. Coping when a husband is away. This is my top-viewed post of all time. I had no idea it would touch such a chord. My husband had to travel heavily for at least half, maybe as much as two-thirds of our 41-year marriage. Though I didn’t like it, I am thankful God used what He taught me to help others.

2. How Not to Become an Old Biddie. After seeing examples of different kinds of older ladies, I realized I needed to start working on what kind of older lady I want to be now. (Related: Why Older Women Don’t Serve and Ways Older Women Can Serve.)

3. With All Our Feebleness. Reflections on serving God with physical and other limitations.

4. My Ebenezers. In 1 Samuel 7:12: “Samuel took a stone . . . and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, ‘Till now the Lord has helped us.’” “Ebenezer” means “stone of help.” In this post, I listed some of my verbal “Ebenzers,” commemorations of the Lord’s special help in my life.

5. Having Devotions When You’re not Feeling Very Devoted. We’ve all been there, I’m sure. (Related: When There Is No Hunger for God’s Word.)

6. Strong Women. What feminine strength means and doesn’t mean, with literary and Biblical examples.

7. Encouragement for Mothers of Small Children in the area of trying to find quiet time with the Lord.

8. The Back Burner. The stuff on the back burner is all the more flavorful for its time sitting and simmering. So with the things in our lives we have to set on the back burner: they’ll be all the better for the wait.

9. Why Read? Why Read Fiction? Why Read Christian Fiction? Every reason I could think of for reading all of them.

10. Can Frugality Go Too Far? Even good traits can be carried too far.

11. It’s Not For Nothing. Caregiving can seem monotonous and futile when the patient sleeps most of the time, can’t speak, and isn’t interested in food, as was the case for my mother-in-law her last two years in our home. These were truths that encouraged me. (Related: Remembering the Loved One Who Has Forgotten You.)

12. Manufactured Spirituality. Routines and programs can help us spirituality, but sometimes we focus on them to the detriment of real spirituality.

13. The Quiet Person in the Small Group. How not to torture your introverts.

14 Going to a Church with Problems. They all have them, even the ones in the Bible. (Related: What You Miss When You Turn Your Back on Church.)

15. Myths and Maxims of Ministry gleaned over many years. Myth #1: “Since this is being done for the Lord, everything should go smoothly.” Nope!

These are the posts that floated to mind. If I had actually searched every year’s posts, I might have had a different list. But there’s probably a reason these are the ones that came to mind.

As you’ve noticed, I cheated stretched my numbers a bit. Sometimes I couldn’t decide between a couple of posts on a similar topic, so I included one as “related.”

I’ve noticed that I should probably go back and edit some of the older posts. One of the tendencies my first critiquer at a writer’s conference pointed out was “long, convoluted sentences” that should be broken into two sentences (or three or four). Hopefully some day I can correct those in my older posts.

Thank you so much to all of you who read and comment. Without you, this would just be an online journal. Nothing makes me day like hearing that something here has blessed and helped someone.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

14 Reasons to Read the Old Testament

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

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

So why bother to read the OT?

Well, there are several good reasons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Do You Want a Fresh Word from the Lord?

I know what it’s like to wish I could look up and see God’s will sky written in the blue expanse. Or to wish I had I could hear from God personally and specifically. Or, I am sorry to say, to feel bored with a seemingly dry or familiar part of Scripture.

But we don’t need to long for something more or something different.

Peter tells us, “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” (2 Peter 1:3-4).

We have “all things that pertain to life and godliness” “through the knowledge of him who called us” by “his precious and very great promises.” As we get to know Him more and more through His Word, we have everything we need to live for Him.

One former pastor used to say that the Bible is “divinely brief.” Of the multitude of things God could have told us, the sixty-six books contained in the Bible are what He chose to convey to us.

What are we doing with that special, God-given book?

No, God won’t tell us which job to take, which city to live in, or which person to marry in the Bible. But the Bible will teach us principles of walking with God and developing wisdom, and God promises to guide us in the way we should go.

Some times in the Bible are intensely personal. I don’t know how many times my scheduled reading for the day directly answered something I had been praying about or pondering.

When I was in the hospital before being diagnosed with transverse myelitis, I was scheduled for an MRI. The night before, nearly every nurse or aide who came in asked me if I was claustrophobic. I wasn’t sure. I was told the MRI sometimes made people feel uncomfortable because they slide you into this close-fitting tube and you have to be very still. They said they could give me a sedative if I thought I would need it. I wanted to avoid unnecessary medication if I could, so I declined the sedative.

The next morning, the Daily Light on the Daily Path reading, which is made up of just Scripture verses with no commentary, was about being still, being quiet, or resting in the Lord:

  • “Sit still, my daughter” (Ruth 3:18)
  • “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)
  • “Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted” (Isaiah 7:4)
  • “In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15)
  • “Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still” (Psalm 4:4)
  • “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7)
  • “He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established” (Psalm 112:7-8)

Many of those verses were familiar to me, and throughout the MRI, I repeatedly went over them in my mind. They washed over my soul and quieted me.

Every meal we eat can’t be a Thanksgiving or an anniversary dinner at the steak house. But even the peanut butter sandwiches and tuna casseroles nourish us.

Every conversation with our spouse won’t be thrillingly romantic. The everyday “Can you pick up the dry cleaning?” and “Good dinner, thanks” weave together with the highlights to form the fabric of a strong relationship.

Every day isn’t fireworks and feasting. Most are quietly spent at home.

Every time in the Bible won’t be a mountaintop experience or warm and cozy.

But all our times in the Word help us get to know God better and strengthen us to live for Him.

We’ll never exhaust the Bible. There will always be something new to learn, no matter how many times we read it. But we also need the repetition of old truths so we don’t forget them.

If the Bible seems “old” or stale to us, maybe reading Psalm 119 will help the psalmist’s enthusiasm infuse our souls. Asking God to speak to us and give us understanding and a new appreciation for His Word helps as well. Aids like a good study Bible or commentary or study book can help open passages up to us.

Jesus said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (John 6:63). Psalm 119:24-25 says, “Your testimonies are indeed my delight; they are my counselors. My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!”

Do you need a fresh word from the Lord? Pick up the old faithful Bible. Let God’s Word revive you.

(Sharing with Sunday Scripture Blessings, Scripture and a Snapshot, Hearth and Soul, Senior Salon, Inspire Me Monday, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Heart Encouragement, Grace at Home, Grace and Truth, Faith on Fire, Blogger Voices Network).

Where Bible Reading Plans Go To Die

Our church uses a Bible reading plan that takes us through the whole Bible in about four and a half years. We discuss the week’s reading each Sunday morning. The man making the announcements last Sunday mentioned that we’d be starting Leviticus this week, “where Bible reading plans go to die.”

It’s true, isn’t it? How often have we begun January in Genesis with good intentions of reading the Bible, only to get bogged down by the time we get to Leviticus.

So we tell ourselves all those regulations don’t apply to us any more since the sacrificial system and feast days were fulfilled in Christ, and we move on to something more interesting. That is, if we haven’t given up our reading plan completely.

But there are several reasons New Testament Gentile Christians should still read Leviticus.

It’s inspired of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” God gave it to us and it’s profitable for us even though we don’t observe all the rituals in it.

It’s instructive. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

The New Testament quotes from Leviticus and refers to it over 100 times according to Warren Wiersbe in Be Holy (Leviticus): Becoming “Set Apart” for God.

Key biblical truths are better understood with Leviticus as a foundation. Imagine growing up repeatedly bringing sacrifices for sin to the tabernacle or temple. Then imagine being stunned by this news:

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 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 10:11-13)

Or imagine reading that the lamb for a burnt offering had to be perfect and without blemish and then finding that “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Or imagine having the whole burnt offering in Leviticus 1 in mind when reading Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Sure, we can get some of these concepts in the New Testament on their own, but we get a fuller picture and a deeper appreciation when we understand the background of them.

It emphasizes holiness. Dr. Wiersbe writes in Be Holy, “The word holy is used 93 times in Leviticus, and words connected with cleansing are used 71 times. References to uncleanness number 128. There’s no question what this book is all about.”

A seminary professor taught a class on Leviticus. One assignment was to try to keep the regulations in Leviticus for a week and journal about the experience. One student wrote:

Every day, I found myself focused on thinking about ritual purity and impurity. Partway through the week, I realized that I was thinking about these things all day long and in every aspect of my life, and that’s when it hit me: God cares a lot about our purity and holiness. Not just from a ritual perspective, but also from a moral perspective. All day long and in every aspect of life, the Lord wants me to pursue purity in my heart, in my life, in my actions. He wants me to reflect his holiness in all that I do. I have been treating holiness way too lightly! O Lord, help me to be holy!

It underscores the pervasiveness and seriousness of sin. We take sin too casually these days, maybe because we seem to be able to receive it easily. But we forget what it cost.

It encourages thankfulness and appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice. We not only appreciate all that He went through, but we’re thankful for His deliverance. Jay Sklar, the seminary professor mentioned earlier, said that after teaching Leviticus, he could hardly sing a hymn about Jesus’ sacrifice without tears of thankfulness.

Israel’s feasts helps us understand our Christian celebrations. The ESV Study Bible’s introductory notes to Leviticus say:

The festal calendar of Israel enumerated in Leviticus (Lev. 23:1-44) has strongly shaped the Christian church’s traditional calendar. The three main national pilgrim feasts of Israel are the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Harvest, and the Feast of Booths. For those churches that follow the traditional calendar, these celebrations find their climax in Good Friday,  Easter, and Pentecost. To fully understand the Christian celebrations, one must see their initial purpose in the OT (p. 213).

It teaches love for neighbors. Did you know that the first instance of the phrase “love your neighbor as yourself” occurs in Leviticus 19:18? We see justice tempered with mercy in the regulations in Leviticus. Justice and fair treatment at large begins with justice and fair treatment on a personal level to our neighbors and acquaintances.

In Mark 12, a scribe asked Jesus which was the most important commandment. Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” The scribe responded, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” “And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’” (Mark 12:28-34).

Many hymns refer back to concepts in Leviticus, like “Is Your All on the Altar?” and “Whiter Than Snow.”

Sure, there are some difficulties in Leviticus. Some of the regulations or restrictions that seem most odd to us are thought to have connections with the pagan worship in Egypt that the Israelites had lived with for 400 years. There are a few passages that are hard to understand.

But by and large, Leviticus sheds light on much gospel truth. OT Israel practices these things looking ahead to Christ’s sacrifice, seeing much of it in symbolic form. As the NT church, we look back on the symbols and object lessons to more fully understand.

I’m approaching Leviticus this time with eager anticipation.

(Sharing with Sunday Scripture Blessing, Selah, Scripture and a Snapshot,
Hearth and Soul, Inspire Me Monday, Senior Salon,
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Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are some good reads discovered this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Get Out of a Bible Reading Rut

How to get out of a Bible reading rut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I delight in God's Word

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