Laudable Linkage

Here are some of the latest good reads discovered this week:

God Is Eager to Forgive You. “God promises to show favor at the faintest whisper of a cry. He promises to answer ‘as soon as He hears.’ No probation. Just the ear of God, listening to the cry of a penitent sinner’s heart. He doesn’t see you as ‘damaged goods,’ a ‘second-class citizen,’ or a blight on His church. The sinner who has turned to Christ in forgiveness has the righteousness of the Savior credited to his account. It’s this righteousness, not the black mark of sin, that the forgiving Father sees.”

Emphasizing What The Bible Emphasizes. “When our issue of the moment begins to dominate our thoughts and conversations—to the exclusion of other healthy, worthy topics—what is missing is balance and proportion.”

Are You Casual with the Holiness of God? HT to Challies. “Imagine that, after suffering a loss on the battlefield, an American army general decided to galvanize his troops by taking the Declaration of Independence into battle. Sounds a little farfetched, I know. What kind of general would play so fast and loose with one of the most precious artifacts in the nation’s history? Though it may not seem likely to happen with American soldiers, this scenario actually did play out in Israel as the era of judges came to a close.”

To Rejoice with Those Who Rejoice, HT to the Story Warren. “As we pondered what we’d both seen, we concluded that often the people of God are better at mourning than rejoicing. Leaning into support, lifting up in prayer, and bringing a meal are actually easier than being a champion for, celebrating, and truly finding joy in someone else’s experience of blessing.”

The Ministry of the Pew: Sunday Morning for Normal Christians. “May I introduce you to what others have called the ministry of the pew? Ministry that you — normal Christian — perform every Lord’s day. Such is the ministry of the Not-Up-Fronts, the army sitting facing the pulpit.”

Anything Worth Doing, Is Worth Doing Badly, HT to Challies. “As Christians we should be those who work most excellently, because we are serving a better, more worthy, Master. And yet, I’m afraid this ideal of excellence often causes well meaning Christians to stop ‘doing’ altogether. They turn the adage into, ‘If it can’t be done well, don’t do it at all.’ And that is unbiblical.”

Willing Spirit, Weak Flesh: The Real Meaning of Matthew 26:41, HT to Knowable Word. “If willingness alone can’t overcome the weakness of our flesh, what will?”

Tagless, HT to Challies. A modern day parable with a good lesson.

Laudable Linkage

Links of interest to Christians

Here’s my latest list if laudable links to good, thought-provoking, beneficial reading.

Staying on Your Feet is Really All About Grace. “God is not asking you to single-handedly plan a VBS, execute elaborate parties for your children, or maintain a spotless house.  He is not impressed by heroic efforts or long days or endless lists. He wants you to bend your knees.  He wants you to relax into the rhythm of his keeping.”

A Few Thoughts about Daily Devotions. “Taking time every day to draw near to God through His Word and prayer might be one of the most life-changing disciplines we can cultivate. Below are a few thoughts that I pray will help you develop the discipline of daily devotions.”

Read the Bible in Bigger Chunks, Too, HT to Challies. “Reading the Bible exclusively, or primarily, in small chunks is like that. When we do this, we’re spending our time focusing on the trees. And not only the trees, but the branches, and individual leaves of the trees. And we’re right to do this, of course. Those ‘small’ details matter. But when that’s all we focus on, if we don’t zoom out once in a while, we can miss the forest.”

7 Biblical Truths Countering the False Gospel of “Emotional Health and Wealth,” HT to Challies. We hear a lot about what’s wrong with the “prosperity gospel,” the false idea that God blesses those who obey Him with health and wealth. But sometimes we falsely believe that if we do everything “right,” God will take away any emotional distress as well.

Ten Diagnostic Questions for the Potential Ideologue, HT to Challies. “While boiling political positions and strategies down to binary choices may make for effective political campaigns, biblical faithfulness may not be so easily reduced.” Though this is mainly about handling differing political viewpoints with fairness and grace, the principles hold true for differences of opinion in any category.

When Your Kids Make Poor Parenting Choices, Do You Feel Like a Failure? “We forget that fulfillment for our kids and grandkids will be found only in obedience to God and not elsewhere. This may require that we get out of God’s way and trust his perfect parenting of our adult children.”

Thankful God Is Not a Stranger

Thankful God Is not a Stranger

“I was so thankful, when this happened, that God was not a stranger to me.”

I don’t remember when or where or from whom I heard this. I don’t recall the context or what the “this” was that happened. But this statement has stayed with me for decades.

In my early Christian life, when something negative happened, I’d be shaken. I wonder if this was happening because I’d done something wrong. I’d feel that God was far away. I knew He loved me, but I didn’t feel so loved. I’d ponder all the “what ifs,” which would shake me up even more.

After a few decades of walking with the Lord, I can’t say I’m not still shaken in a crisis. But I’ve wrestled through reasons God allows suffering. I’ve experienced His grace through trials. I know He has reasons for what He allows and He’ll be with me through it all. I may not like certain circumstances, and I may pray to get out of them as soon as possible. But my confidence in God isn’t shaken.

So I can echo and “amen” the unknown author of my beginning statement. God sometimes uses crises to bring people to Himself, or bring them back to Himself if their hearts are wandering. But it’s so much easier to go through a crisis with the God you know and can place your full confidence in. We can be like the psalmist, “not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD” (Psalm 112:7).

However, we don’t just need God in crises, do we? We need Him for everything. “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). We need His wisdom to know how to handle situations that come up. We need His love to show to others. We need His strength in our weakness, His grace when we fail, His encouragement when we’re low.

He conveys these things to us through a couple of means: His Word and His Holy Spirit. But have you ever noticed that the passage about letting God’s Word dwell in you richly in Colossians 3 and being filled with the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 5 are parallel? The same “results” are listed for each one. The Holy Spirit inspired the Word of God, so of course that’s what He would use to equip us. “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” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Scripture meets our need for the day as well as fortifying us for the future.

Sometimes that “equipping” comes through other people as they share God’s Word with us. But we need to dig into God’s Word for ourselves as well. Someone has said that God gives birds their food, but He doesn’t throw it into their nests (I’ve heard that attributed to Luther, Spurgeon, and Josiah Gilbert Holland). Though the saying was probably meant to show the need to work for a living, I think it has an application to learning God’s Word as well. God has given us such treasure in Scripture, but we need to read it and mine for it.

Anyone who has been married for several years can tell you that they thought they knew and loved their spouse on their wedding day, but that was nothing compared to ten or twenty or thirty years later. That’s true of long-term friendships as well. Shared conversations, experiences, good times and trials, have deepened the relationship as they got to know each other more thoroughly over the years.

The same is true in our relationship with God. Eternal life starts with coming to know God in repentance and faith: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). But we get to know Him better as we read the Bible, pray, exercise faith, and depend on Him through various circumstances.

The better we know Him, the less likely we are to fall apart in a crisis, to be deceived or led astray, to walk away from our faith. We’ll never be perfect til we get to heaven, but we grow in grace and knowledge of him.

If you don’t know God, I invite you to learn more here. And if you do, keep getting to know Him better and better.

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

Laudable Linkage

It’s been a super-busy week, so I have just a few links for you. But I think they’re good ones.

Why We Follow Some Old Testament Laws But Not Others, HT to Challies. “Critics accuse Christians of conveniently picking and choosing from Old Testament laws. We’re quick to ‘clobber’ gay people with verses from Leviticus, they say, yet we don’t keep kosher ourselves. The complaint, though, is based on a misunderstanding about the Mosaic Covenant that even Christians fall prey to.”

Where Is Your Faith?” HT to Challies. “How do you cling to belief amidst such turmoil of the heart? How do you survive the death of a child? I can tell you, it is not what happens in that moment of complete darkness or even in the months and years that follow. Survival is forged in the pew every Sunday. It is built on the truths of Scripture that you fill your mind with day by day. It comes through knowing Who God is.”

We’re Missing It. “He wants time to love us that way and it can’t happen if He is a ‘to do’ list item, or in sound bites only throughout our day, or only while we grab coffee on our way out the door.”

Well-Worn Boots. Lessons from a pair of faithful old work boots.

Applying God’s Word

The Bible tells us to be doers of the Word, not just hearers (James 1:22, Matthew 7:21, Luke 6:46, Romans 2:13).

But sometimes it’s hard to know what we’re supposed to do with some parts of the Bible.

Some verses are easy to understand how to put into practice. For instance, Ephesians 4:28 says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” The thief needs to stop stealing, obviously. But the instruction doesn’t stop with a “don’t.” It continues with a “do” to replace the “don’t”: work hard and give to others who have a need.

But what do we do with passages that don’t explicitly contain instructions about what to do or not do?

I read somewhere about a man who, after reading the creation account in Genesis 1 and 2, felt that in response he needed to clean out his garage. Well, yes, God is orderly, and to some extent He wants us to be orderly as well. But I’m not sure that’s what the creation account is in the Bible to tell us.

Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful to understand how to apply Scripture.

Pray. We need God’s wisdom to know how to put His Word into practice.

Observe and interpret first. Observation, interpretation, and application are the three sides of Bible study. If we’re off on the first two, we’ll be off on the third.

Part of observation is seeing who said what to whom in the passage. Sometimes a command or promise is given to one person or group of people in the Bible, but they are not meant for all people or all time. However, God included those passages for a reason and there’s something He wants us to learn from them.

For instance, the Old Testament law in the first five books of the Bible was given partly to express God’s holiness and partly to show people that they could never earn righteousness by keeping it, because no one could keep it completely. New Testament writers take pains to explain that Jesus fulfilled all the law in our place and we’re not under it any more. But we learn about the cost and pervasiveness of sin in Leviticus and see symbols of Christ in the sacrifices (I wrote more about what we can get out of Leviticus in Where Bible Reading Plans Go to Die.)

Study the context. Mark 14 tells of a woman who broke open an expensive alabaster box and poured the costly perfume on Jesus. I read an article years ago where the writer compared the alabaster box to a girl’s virginity, something rare and precious that she could only give once. While I appreciated the parallel the author was trying to make, she completely missed the point of the passage. Instead, she made the passage mean something it didn’t mean. This demonstration was an outpouring of the woman’s love and a foreshadowing of Jesus’ death and burial. Jesus Himself said she had “done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial” (14:8). Imagine the girls who read that article associating it with virginity for the rest of their lives and missing the extravagant love of this woman as well as the reference to Jesus’ death.

Prescriptive or descriptive? Part of interpreting the Bible (which I wrote more about here) is determining whether the passage is describing something we should emulate. Just because the Bible records people doing things in Scripture doesn’t mean it’s approving what they do or saying we should follow their example. Some of the historical passages are descriptive: they just tell us what people did. We can still make observations, but the passage isn’t there to give us an example to follow.

A prescriptive passage, though, is one that “prescribes” a certain behavior. Much of Proverbs and the epistles are prescriptive, though prescriptive passages are throughout Scripture.

I’ve seen people use Abraham’s example of looking for a wife for his son, Isaac, to say that we should promote courtship rather than dating among young people. Some said that fathers should choose spouses for their adult children, or at least be heavily involved in the process. The courtship vs. dating debate has been a hot topic that I don’t want to get into any more here; I just wanted to say that this passage in particular doesn’t teach it. We can learn from it the necessity to be careful and prayerful in finding a spouse, to look for one of the same faith, to trust God and seek His direction. But nowhere in the Bible are we told to find spouses for our children in the same way Abraham did.

Find principles to draw on. A former pastor once read an OT passage about oxen to the congregation. Then he asked, “Do any of you own oxen?” No one did. He asked, “How many of you have ever even seen an ox?” A couple of people raised their hands. The pastor said, “So this doesn’t apply to us. We just turn the page and move on, right?” We didn’t think so, and he agreed. Then he brought out several principles from the passage. An ox who accidentally gored someone was handled one way. But if the ox was known to be cantankerous and try to gore people, and the owner didn’t take any means to keep the animal penned in, the owner was more liable if the animal hurt someone. We can see the parallel with dogs prone to bite. If someone saw their neighbor’s ox wandering far from home, he wasn’t supposed to ignore it. He was supposed to help his neighbor.

Romans 14 lists several principles involving meat offered to idols. Some of the early Christians felt that meat was okay to eat, because the idol is a false god and the sacrifice didn’t taint the meat. Others felt it was wrong to eat that kind of meat because of the association with idol worship. Even though we don’t deal with this issue in most of the world today, several issues apply to actions like this where the Bible doesn’t give any clear teaching: do whatever you do as unto the Lord; be fully convinced in your own mind; don’t judge the brother who handles the meat differently than you would; don’t do anything that would cause another to stumble.

Some responses are inward. One source I read years ago said that we should end every time of Bible reading with an action item, a plan to put into practice what we read.

To be sure, if we’re convicted from the passage we’re reading that we need to confess something to the Lord or apologize to someone, we need to act as soon as possible.

But some parts of Scripture are there to promote wonder, awe, and worship of God and faith in His ability and power and wisdom. Those passages will affect our actions, but they’re concerned with the condition of our hearts.

And some passages can’t be obeyed just by checking off an action item. Say, for instance, we read the passage about loving our neighbor. We think about our literal next-door-neighbor, an elderly widow living alone. We decide next time we have the mower out, we’ll cut her grass as well as ours. And maybe we’ll make some banana bread and take a loaf over to her. And we brush our hands and think, “There! I’ve loved my neighbor.”

But did God put that command in Scripture to inspire random acts of kindness to check off our to-do list? Yes, love will manifest itself in thoughtfulness and actions. But love is more than an action item. It’s an attitude of heart to carry with us all the time. Like when another neighbor’s backyard party is too loud and long. Or when he keeps borrowing your tools and returns them broken and dirty, if he returns them at all. Or when a neighbor child rings the doorbell just after you finally got the baby to sleep. Passages like the one about the Good Samaritan teach us that our neighbors are not just the friendly ones and that ministering to others can be inconvenient and costly. But what a picture of Christ, who sacrificed Himself for us while we were yet sinners.

Much more could be said about applying Scripture. But one last point I want to make is that the more we read the whole Bible, the more we’ll understand it and know how to apply it.

What tips have you found to help you put Bible teaching into practice?

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

Laudable Linkage

Some of the thought-provoking reads found this week:

So You Want to Be a Woman of the Word? “Women of the Word resist the world’s distractions and dedicate time to regular Bible study.”

Can Satan Put Thoughts into Our Heads? HT to Challies. “Yes, he can and he does. And of course, the urgent questions then are, How do we recognize them? And how do we resist them and not get controlled by them?”

Midlife, Christ Is. HT to Challies. This is very encouraging for those of us who are “middle-aged.”

The Wisdom of Avoiding Strife. “Sometimes Christians think God wants them to become punching bags. And at other times, perhaps in rejection of the punching-bag approach, Christians harden themselves to the point of arrogance and condescension toward their opponents. But what does it mean to fight like a Christian in situations of strife?”

I Just Need Something New! HT to Challies. “We know this right? It’s the gospel we have been told—perhaps for years. Yet we can so easily forget it. We get distracted by the shiny and new, and before we know it the false hope of man-centered change can push Christ to the background. We wonder if the novel is what we really need. This new Bible reading plan will get my act together. That new book will finally fix my parenting struggles. These new habits will refocus my heart through the day. Nehemiah 13 reminds us that mastery over outward disciplines just isn’t enough (Col. 2:23).”

Fear After Grief, HT to Challies. “Perhaps you’ve been walking through seasons of grief, as you mourn especially deep pain. The dark clouds have begun to shift, but you’re not sure if you can bear to greet the sun, lest you have to return to the dark.”

Yes, a Loved One Is Watching From Heaven, HT to Challies. “How has the Lord assured you he’s near in the deep grief that accompanies loss? The evidence of his presence is there if we look, but let’s not get confused about who’s watching over us. Look beyond your loved one to see and experience the love and kindness of our great God.”

Behind-the-Scenes: Endorsements. A look at why publishers require endorsements, what they mean, how to regard them.

We Need Time Alone with God

In a recent magazine article, a Christian college professor expressed concern that his students weren’t Biblically literate even though they read their Bibles every day and even had parts of it memorized. His solution was that people should shift away from private, personal time in the Bible to communal times.

I don’t want to dissect and discuss the article here. However, I wanted to focus on the concept of communal vs. private times in God’s Word.

Do we need time together in the Bible? Yes. Reading and studying the Bible with others helps us get more out of the passage, encourages us, and (hopefully) keeps us from going off on tangents due to misinterpretation.

But I’m concerned that, in the battle against individualism and people pulling away from church attendance, we might go too far the other way and de-emphasize our personal walk with God.

God is the heavenly Father of all those who believe in Him. But we don’t relate to Him only as a group. Wise human fathers spend time with the family all together but also with individual members one-on-one. Our Father in heaven is even wiser. Though He created us to interact with and encourage each other, He also has a personal relationship with each of His children. And relationships thrive on communication.

When I was in college, we were sometimes reminded a Christian university was one of the easiest places to grow cold in our walk with God. Even though we heard the Word of God regularly in classes, in chapel, and in prayer groups, we couldn’t just coast on the spiritual atmosphere. We shouldn’t let Bible classes take the place of our personal time in Scripture.

Our time with others informs our personal time with God. And our time alone in His Word informs our time all together.

The psalms were sung in the congregation. Yet they are full of personal singular pronouns.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears (Psalm 34:4).

He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. (Psalm 40:2).

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1).

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

As much as we need each other, sometimes we have to stand alone with God.

David “encouraged himself in the Lord” (1 Samuel 30:6) when the men of Israel were ready to stone him.

Joseph spent years as the only apparent believer in the one true God that he knew when he was a slave in Egypt. His witness did seem to spread to others. But he had to remind himself of God’s truth on his own.

Two turning-point meetings with God in Jacob’s life happened when he was alone.

Daniel had friends of the same faith, but he faced the lion’s den alone, received visions alone, and prayed alone.

Paul ministered with companions but sometimes was alone.

Jesus dealt with crowds of people yet sought His Father alone.

We’ll each give account of ourselves personally to God. “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).

If we’re reading the Bible regularly and still don’t know much about it, there are ways to improve. Jen Wilkin’s book, Women of the Word, was written for just that reason. I’m trying to write a book on the same topic. There are aids all over the Internet to improve our devotional time, or quiet time, or time in God’s Word. I’ve written about several aspects here.

But let’s keep things in balance. Meet with other believers to read and study God’s Word. But meet with Him alone as well.

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

Laudable Linkage

Here’s a list of some of the good reads found online this week:

The Scariest Thing Jesus Ever Said, HT to Challies. “Both Jesus and James are putting a spotlight on our inclination to replace Jesus’ call to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow him. We replace his call with a self-serving path in which we deny our neighbors, take up our comforts, and follow our dreams. When we do this, we exchange true faith for a counterfeit.”

Don’t Be a Fig Leaf, HT to Challies. “The inadequate fig leaves of ‘don’t beat yourself up,’ ‘you did your best,’ or ‘It’s okay’ pale in comparison to the robe that Christ puts on us.”

Hurt, Injustice, and Dealing with Reality, HT to Challies. “As much as I don’t want to diminish the reality of bad experiences, I also think there is some balance needed in how we think about these things. None of what I am about to say is meant to undercut real experience of hurtful things. None of what I am about to say is intended to say that when people have hurt us it isn’t real. But, nevertheless, I did want to make some broad observations.

Bible Engagement for Those Who Struggle to Read, HT to Challies. “When I first became a Christian, I was told that reading the Bible was like food and prayer was like breathing. That was great advice, but there was a problem. I’m not a good reader. I have gotten better over the years, but I wouldn’t say I’m a great reader even now. So how do I and others like me get the Bible into our minds, hearts and spirits?”

Whining vs. Biblical Complaint in Caregiving, HT to Challies. Though the context is caregiving, the principles can apply to distinguish whining vs. Biblical lament in any situation.

The Grandmother Who Helped a Child See. I’ve read and heard hymn writer Fanny Crosby’s biography, but don’t remember anything about her grandmother’s influence. I’m glad someone shared about her.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Handwritten Note, HT to Challies. “We live in a day and time where life is lived digitally more than ever before. We communicate primarily through apps, texts, and emails. Businesses increasingly send advertisements, bills, and communications via email than snail mail. Even birthday cards are now sent virtually. This means, a handwritten note is a rare gift.” Christina includes some tips for what to write in notes.

Tips for Getting Out of a Devotional Rut

Tips for getting out of a devotional rut

Do you ever chafe at the routine things you have to do?

Some days I am irked at having to take a shower. I know, I know, people didn’t always bathe every day, and I don’t have to. But if I don’t, I won’t be able to stand myself before the day is over.

Then we unload and reload the same dishes in the dishwasher, wash the same clothes, buy the same groceries only to have them disappear.

Sometimes that sense of sameness can creep into my time with the Lord as well. I’ve mentioned before that I like to start with what we call “the Lord’s prayer” and expand my prayer time from there. But when I see those same words every day, it’s easy to run through them without even thinking.

We know reading God’s Word and talking with Him in prayer are precious privileges. What can we do when they seem just part of the day’s routine?

Here are some ideas:

Pray. Ask God to help you treasure time with Him and give you wisdom to keep it fresh.

Change the order of what you do. If you normally pray and then read, reverse the order. Or pray as you read, letting the Scripture prompt your prayers.

Change your time or location. If you normally have your quiet time in a comfy living room chair, try the kitchen table or the patio or the park.

Listen to the passage instead of reading or while reading. Some Bible apps have the ability to hear the passage read.

Go back to basics. Journals, markers, commentaries, etc., can all aid in Bible study. But sometimes we get more caught up in the aids than the Word itself. Just pick up the Bible sometimes and ask God to speak to you through it rather than looking at your time with God as a homework assignment to get through.

Use a study Bible or commentary. I don’t mean to contradict what I just said. But if you are used to just reading through a passage, then a study Bible can shed new light or bring in insights with background information or connection to other passages.

Use a different aid. If you use the same aids all the time, ask a trusted friend for recommendations of others.

Vary how much you read. If you usually read a chapter or two a day, try slowing down and digging all you can out of a few verses. Or, if you like to go slowly, try reading through a whole chapter or book. We benefit from both the larger overview reading and camping out in one place for a time.

Start with a hymn or psalm. Some people like to sing during their devotional time. But even just reading through the words of a hymn can spur our hearts to worship. And the psalms remind us God is interested in our hearts.

Read from a different translation. I see things I didn’t notice before when I read from a translation I am not used to. Or a familiar verse won’t sound familiar and I’ll question, “Is that what it really says,” prompting further study.

Have a Bible reading project. Some years ago, I heard someone say that Jesus never claimed to be God. I knew that wasn’t true, but I also knew He didn’t stand on a mountaintop and proclaim His identity to the world in a public way. So as I read through the gospels, I put a “C” by every verse where Jesus claimed something about Himself. That was such a rich study. It woke me up in my reading since I was looking for particular things. You could also go through the gospels and put a “P” by every verse which fulfills a prophecy from the Old Testament. Someday I’d like to note every verse which speaks about creation and what we learn from it.

Take a break from the book you are in. I like to read through a book of the Bible rather than hopping around at random. You get the context of the overall message that way and see how the individual points fit together. But some books, like Leviticus and Chronicles, can be a little dry. Take a break one day and read a few psalms or a short epistle like Philippians.

Build in a free day. The church we attended the last few years had a Bible reading plan that spanned five days of the week. We discussed the week’s reading on Sunday. Saturday was a catch-up day. Since I didn’t usually need to catch up, and I didn’t want to get ahead of where we were reading as a group, I used Saturdays to work through a different Bible study book or Christian nonfiction book. I benefit more from those kinds of books when I set aside time to dig in; I can’t just pick them up at random and read a few paragraphs like I can other books (at least I can’t get as much out of them that way). I’ve come to treasure my different routine on Saturdays. I read from Daily Light on the Daily Path every day, so I am getting something directly from God’s Word even if I don’t read a whole chapter.

Remind yourself of the benefits. It helps to get through routine tasks when I remind myself of their benefits. On occasional days I don’t make my bed, I am reminded that the room does look more neat when the largest item in it is neat. When the room is neat, I feel less cluttered mentally. I remind myself to be thankful that I can take a shower easily: in some eras and cultures, that wasn’t always possible. Though going to the grocery store is tiring, we’re blessed to have food readily available.

There are almost innumerable benefits to reading the Bible and praying. God’s Word sheds light, gives wisdom, peace, comfort, teaches us who and how great God is, and so much more.

Read and pray anyway, even if you don’t particularly feel like doing so. The worst thing we can do on those days is avoid the Bible and prayer or just give them short shrift. God’s Word revives us, so if we avoid it, we’re avoiding the very means God can use to enliven our hearts and renew our love for His Word. “Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction. I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me” (Psalm 119:92-93, KJV). One of our former pastors said that one of his best times of prayer happened when he had to start out confessing that he didn’t feel like praying.

Every meal is not a Thanksgiving feast, but every meal nourishes us. In the same way, some times with the Lord in His Word will be special and deeply meaningful. Other times may not feel that way, but they still nourish our souls and help us grow spiritually.

What have you found to help when your devotional time is in a rut?

Your testimonies are my delight and counselors. Psalm 119:24

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

Laudable Linkage

Here are some great reads found this week:

God’s Word and a Scalpel. “God’s word can be comforting. We often buy wall art and home decor plastered with passages about God’s love and care for us. We create or share memes for social media with verses about God’s good plans for us or encouragement to be strong and courageous. And I would never want to diminish these expressions of God’s great grace and mercy for us. But we can’t grasp on to the tender promises and ignore the instruction and conviction the Bible contains.”

Surviving the Winter of Suffering, HT to Challies. “During a blizzard of suffering, I drew the blinds down in my heart. I pulled inward so I could survive. I eked out a small corner for myself and gave the bare minimum to the world. I didn’t know any other way forward. I met the needs of my family, I checked off the homekeeping list, and then I crawled back into the darkness.”

Shepherds Feed the Sheep, HT to Challies. “This is something you hear over and over in certain kinds of churches and discipleship cultures—the notion of self-feeding. ‘You need to learn to self-feed.’ Do maturing Christians need to take responsibility for their personal growth? Do they need to take ownership (as it were) of their spiritual disciplines? Absolutely. You aren’t saved or sanctified by somebody else’s faith. But in the dim light of modern evangelicalism, I still find it glaringly clear in John 21 that Jesus does not say to Peter, ‘Teach my sheep to self-feed.’ He says, ‘Feed my sheep.'”

On What Are You Basing Your Value, Your Hope, Your Being? “What challenging circumstances are you navigating today that seem to have altered your life to the point where it’s unrecognizable? Do you ever question your value because your productivity is ‘unacceptable?’ (At least by your own standards…)”

Keep the Romance Alive in Your Relationship. “Knowing how to keep the romance alive in your relationship or marriage on a day to day basis can be hard. You know, when the washing machine is broken again, the kids are playing up and work hours are long and exhausting. Sometimes it can feel like we are ships that pass in the night, only coming together when both partners are tired and maybe feeling just a tad grumpy.”

The Resilient Mother: How We Bend Without Breaking. “When mothers are brittle and fragile, we snap, and the sharp edges of our breaking wound our families and leave us full of regret. Perseverance in strong habits of holiness keeps us connected with God’s word and rooted in what is true about God’s character.”