Laudable Linkage

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

Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims Worship the Same God? HT to Challies.

When You’re Tempted to Hate People, Part 10. Aspects of God’s forgiveness that we don’t often think about: He knows whether our repentance is sincere and He knows we’re going to fall again in the same way, yet still forgives.

For Childhood Fears, Bible Memory is Not Enough. “Did you notice how God doesn’t just speak to the mind, but also to the imagination?”

Exactly Where I Need to be When I Need to Be There. “Recently the Lord took a frustrating situation that tested my patience and reminded me my timing and priorities are different than His and that He often places me exactly where I need to be when I need to be there.”

The Importance Of Doing What Anyone Could Do, HT to Challies. “It’s a good thing for all of us that people have developed these skills. It’s also true that the world is always in need of the non-specialised abilities that all of us are capable of using: Love. Friendship. Shared time. A listening ear. A hard day’s work. Loyalty. Respect.”

Embodying Masculinity in a World that Rejects It.

A Writer’s Evening Prayer.

Getting Your Digital Accounts Ready in Case of Death, HT to Challies.

101 Fun Fall Activities for Kids, HT to the Story Warren.

Finally, someone posted this on Facebook. I couldn’t figure out who originally made it to give them credit, but it made me smile.

Happy Saturday!

Bruised Reeds Are We All

One of my children has a friend who, after graduating from a Christian college and working in Christian camps, went home, got involved with a guy who landed in prison, and ended up pregnant and unmarried. Her church was very supportive of her and helped her through her pregnancy and single motherhood. But within a couple of years, the same thing happened again, with the same guy. This time the church was kind to her children, but held themselves aloof from her. Their attitude seemed to be “To make one mistake is forgivable, but to repeat it — she must not have been very sincere in her repentance.”

Yet who among us hasn’t sinned at least twice in more than one category?

And while I’m tempted to quick judgment of these church people, I am convicted by by own tendency to hold grudges. I was thoroughly startled one day to realize that a grudge is just continual unforgiveness.

Jesus takes forgiveness seriously. He died to obtain it for us. The prayer He taught contains the line, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:9-13). As we forgive our debtors. He goes on to say, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (verses 14-15). That’s a scary thought.

I used to have trouble with forgiveness when I felt the other person didn’t “deserve” it. But what finally changed my heart was the parable Jesus told in Matthew 18:21-35. Jesus had just talked about lost sheep and the process of church discipline. Then Peter asked, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” He probably thought that was pretty generous. Jesus said it’s more like but seventy times seven. Then He told a story about a man who owed a massive debt that he could not pay to a king. When the king made plans to sell the man, his family, and all he had, the man fell to his knees and begged the king for patience, promising he would pay everything he owed. The king took pity on him and forgave the debt completely.

But when the forgiven man left, he ran into someone who owed him a much smaller amount and demanded repayment. This debtor made the same plea the forgiven man had made the king. But instead of responding in kind, the forgiven man refused to forgive and sent his debtor to prison.

Word got back to the king about this man’s behavior. The king summoned him, rebuked him, and threw him in prison til his debt should be paid. Jesus concluded, “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

I realized that I had been forgiven an immense debt when Jesus saved me. No one could sin against me to the extent I sinned against Him. So how could I hold a smaller transgression against anyone else when I had been forgiven so much? As C. S. Lewis said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.” Yet I still have to remind myself of this often.

The beginning of Matthew 18 (as well as many other places in Scripture) shows that Jesus does not take sin lightly. It’s serious business, and forgiveness doesn’t mean just blowing it off like it doesn’t matter. We acknowledge that there has been a debt, an infraction, which caused pain. But, by God’s grace, we forgive it. We may not feel very forgiving, but forgiveness is not a feeling: it is a decision.

Forgiveness also doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t consequences. In the same passage, Jesus described how people should go about handling an unrepentant sin against them to the point of church discipline. In cases where abuse or other crimes have been committed, the perpetrator still needs to be arrested. There’s a difference between enabling and helping, and it’s not always easy to know the difference when someone is addicted to something. We can’t be naive, and we need to pray for wisdom. Forgiveness also may not mean that now you’re best buds with the other person. Some relationships are toxic. There may be any number of good reasons why the relationship should not be restored. However, that doesn’t mean that treat everyone that way for every infraction.

There are times to separate from someone who persists in wrong doctrine or wrongdoing, but that’s only if they professing Christians who are unrepentant and if everything else has been tried to bring them around. Even that extreme measure is done with the hope that they might return, like the man in 1 Corinthians 5 who repented by 2 Corinthians 2. First Paul had to admonish the Corinthians to deal with the sin in 1 Corinthians. But when the man did repent Paul had to encourage the Corinthians to “forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him” (2 Corinthians 2:7-8).

Sometimes someone with a besetting sin needs counsel rather than aloofness. In a book I recently read, a man kept falling into the same sin, even after he was saved. There was a difference afterward, in that now he loathed his sin, whereas before he didn’t care. But he still felt like he just had to try to “do better.” What he really needed was to learn how to depend on the Lord and not his own strength.

In another book I read this year, a fictional story based on a real one, the female protagonist also had trouble with with sexual relationships. Though she made steady progress in her faith, she had trouble overcoming in this one area. I wondered how many people would dislike the book or would have distanced themselves from her in real life instead of helping her. She reminded me very much of the woman at the well, who had five different husbands and a current live-in boyfriend. She came to draw water from the well alone, not at the time when all the other women in the village came. Was it because she felt ashamed? Or had she suffered their condescending looks and comments before and wanted to avoid them? Either way, Jesus made a special point to be there when she was and to tell her about the water of life available through the Messiah — Himself. A multitude believed through the testimony of one “fallen woman.”

We tend to look down on certain types of sin more than others. But what did Jesus say the greatest commandments are? To love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Doesn’t it follow that if these are the greatest commandments, disobeying them is the greatest sin? And don’t we fall short of them every day of our lives? How then can we look down on any other sinner?

I’ve wondered, in this social media era, about the widespread tendency towards Internet outrage at people. Careers, reputations, and even lives have been ruined because someone started a tangent on Twitter without knowing half what they were talking about, and it spread like wildfire. Or someone did do wrong, but instead of extending grace and hoping they learn from their mistake, we right them off forever. How is this treating others as we would want to be treated?

There is a beautiful passage in Isaiah foretelling the coming Savior. Isaiah had just foretold in Chapter 41 about Cyrus, a conqueror who “tramples kings underfoot; he makes them like dust with his sword, like driven stubble with his bow” and “shall trample on rulers as on mortar, as the potter treads clay (verses 2, 25). By contrast, the Savior:

Behold my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my Spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a faintly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice. (Isaiah 42:1-3, ESV)

This passage is quoted again of Jesus in Matthew 12:15-21, ending with the line, “and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” He’s like the man in the parable he told who stood up for a fruitless fig tree and gave it another chance, working with it to help it bear fruit.

Henry F. Lyte draws on several passages of Scripture to form this stanza in his 1834 hymn, “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven“:

Fatherlike He tends and spares us;
Well our feeble frame He knows.
In His hands He gently bears us,
Rescues us from all our foes.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Widely as His mercy flows!

Instead of an atmosphere of haughtiness or superiority, let’s show the same welcome,  mercy, gentleness, and grace we have received.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee,
Worth Beyond Rubies, Share a Link Wednesdays, Faith on Fire, Grace and Truth)


Laudable Linkage


Once again, here are some of the reads I found thought-provoking this week:

How to Read the Bible For Yourself.

Walking in the Spirit. Probably the most helpful explanation I have seen of this. I had long ago noticed the similarities between being filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18-33 and letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly in Colossians 3, and wondered how that worked together. This is the first time I have seen it explained.

How Can I Forgive Myself, HT to Challies. “You do not need to supplement divine forgiveness with any self-forgiveness. Your forgiveness in Christ is complete. Receive it. Remember it. And rejoice in it. If your testimony is, ‘God has forgiven me,’ that is enough!”

For the mom who doesn’t have time to read her Bible. Love this. “Bible time is not only an hour at the crack of dawn, or an intense evening devotion, or a dedicated small group meeting.”

Michelangelo’s David and the Gift of Limitations, HT to The Story Warren.

Do Visitors From Your Church Really Feel Welcome? HT to Challies.

No Time For Widows, HT to Challies. The best part: “Every widow is an individual person. No one likes being lumped into a group and having assumptions made about them based on demographics. The only way to truly help a widow is to get to know her.”

Some questions I’m asking while off to my white evangelical church, HT to Challies.

An Open Letter to the Person Caring for a Loved One With Dementia, HT to True Woman. My own m-i-l was not one to “explode” in anger as is mentioned here, but I know some of you have dealt with that.

It’s Never a Good Time to Invite Kids In.

27 Things People Don’t Realize You’re Doing Because You’re a Highly Sensitive Person, HT to Lisa. I could easily identify with about half of these, and somewhat identify with more.

And a few words of wisdom from Pinterest:

Happy Saturday!


Laudable Linkage

I don’t usually do these three weeks in a row, but I have come across a lot of good reading lately!

An Army Without Supplies. The people on the “front lines” – of either military or spiritual endeavors – are needed, but so is the support system behind them.

Instant Coffee, Instant Faith. “It is not the massive floods that cause a tree to grow; it’s the steady stream of water day after day, month after month, year after year. The Christian life does not consist only of great breakthroughs; it consists mainly in mundane, steady obedience.”

A Blog on Worship, HT to Proclaim and Defend. “Worship God, not just with your voice, but with your obedience, your devotion, your service, your time, your resources, your priorities, your thoughts, and your actions. Jesus bought all of you, so worship with all of you. Worship: It’s more than you think.

What Does Forgiveness Look Like?

How We Misunderstand Strong Women, HT to True Woman.

When the Words of My Mouth Are Pleasing Mostly to Me, HT to True Woman.

I Had an Abortion, HT to True Woman. Counsel to someone who has lost hope of forgiveness.

If You Like Narnia….suggestions for other books in a similar vein.

And finally, I saw this on Pinterest but couldn’t get to where it originated from. But it hit home – I have a tendency to over think things.


Have a great weekend!

Come, Let Us Return to the Lord

I experienced an interesting and heart-warming intersection in my devotions this morning.

I always start out with the day’s reading from Daily Light on the Daily Path, and today’s passages were all about coming back to God in repentance and being lovingly welcomed and forgiven by Him.

Then in my Bible reading, I was in Genesis 44-45 today, a picture of that very thing in the life of Joseph forgiving his brothers who had sold him into slavery 22 years before.

Blessed truth, that He’s waiting and wooing us back to Himself! It reminded me of several songs that perfectly express it, the foremost that came to my mind being this one:


Book Review: Forever Christmas

forever ChristmasIn Forever Christmas by Robert Tate Miller, Andrew Farmer is quickly moving up the ladder as a literary agent. But his frequent travels and need to move away from their home town have been hard on his wife, Beth. She could endure it all, however, if they still had the closeness they used to, but Andrew has been busy, distracted, and distant. Andrew has to travel again just before Christmas, and when he gets back on Christmas Eve, they argue over a misunderstanding. When Beth goes for a walk to cool off and clear her head, Andrew goes after her. He sees a taxi speeding toward her, but is unable to reach or warn her in time.

In his grief, he is met by a mysterious stranger named Lionel, who offers him a gift: the opportunity to do the last three days over. Beth will still meet her fate, but Andrew has the opportunity to give her a different kind of send-off, to let her know that he truly does love her. Andrew accepts, but his attempts just seem to show up how out of touch with his wife he really is.

Along the way we learn some of their back story and Andrew discovers that old issues, like his hatred and unforgiveness of his father, who left his family when Andrew was young, are affecting his ability to love now. Will he be able to work out his issues, get past his ambitions and self-centeredness, and truly learn how to love before it is too late?

I wouldn’t say this is exactly a Christian story. In fact, there were a couple of statements I strongly disagreed with, like Andrew’s remembering his grandmother saying, “When all earthly endeavors have been exhausted, there’s always God” – as if we should only consult Him if we’ve tried everything first and can’t make it instead of asking for His guidance and help from the beginning. And “The universe is harmonic, Andrew. If your life isn’t harmonious, it’s because you’ve chosen disharmony.” I would disagree with that on more levels than I can go into at the moment.  But there is a subtle underpinning of faith, the need to pray, the need to forgive. It’s not a story I would send someone to for doctrine, but as a basic story of the need for self-sacrifice in love, it shines. Miller writes the gut-wrenching emotional scenes quite well, and keeps the story moving without dragging.  It’s not a long book – only 169 pages. I started and finished it in one evening, which is rare, but I was staying up late waiting for my son to come home, so that helped. 🙂

I thought this sounded a lot like a movie I had seen ads for, and after a bit of research I found that Miller had also written the script for one with the same characters and plot called Three Days. In this case it looks like the movie came before the book. I have not seen it but I might see if I can find it online some time. If you’ve seen it, let me know what you thought of it.

This is the kind of book I like to read during December – touching and heart-warming without being sappy.

(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)

31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot: Forgiveness

Elisabeth Elliot2

This is from from “As We Forgive Those….” from Elisabeth’s book Love Has a Price Tag:

To forgive is to die. It is to give up one’s right to self, which is precisely what Jesus requires of anyone who wants to be his disciple.

“If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, carry his cross every day and keep close behind me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it, but the man who loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Following Christ means walking the road he walked, and in order to forgive us he had to die. His follower may not refuse to relinquish his own right, his own territory, his own comfort, or anything that he regards as his. Forgiveness is relinquishment. It is a laying down. No one can take it from us, any more than anyone could take the life of Jesus if he had not laid it down of his own will. But we can do as he did. We can offer it up, writing off whatever loss it may entail, in the sure knowledge that the man who loses his life or his reputation or his “face” or anything else for the sake of Christ will save it.

Wow, not easy – but possible only by His grace.

See all the posts in this series here.

_____________________________________________________ is celebrating all of the amazing Write 31 Days readers who are supporting nearly 2,000 writers this October! To enter to win a $500 DaySpring shopping spree, just click on this link & follow the giveaway widget instructions by October 30. Best wishes, and thanks for reading!

Laudable Linkage

Here are some noteworthy reads that caught my eye this week:

How to Prevent Brotherly Love.

Forgiveness: What If He Isn’t Sorry? Excellent, well thought-out, thorough article on this subject. Too many people have a glib answer to this which overlooks some Scriptural principles, so I am very happy to see some of this articulated.

Wedded Bliss: 10 Years Married to a Sports Addict. Good article about dealing with a husband’s hobbies. I don’t think a wife necessarily has to jump in and experience it with him – I think it’s ok to have some different tastes – but there are great thoughts here about how to “honor his appropriate pursuit of” his hobby rather than attempting to “manipulate, belittle, or guilt him away from the thing he loves.” And of course this works with the husband in regard to the wife’s interests as well.

Introverts in the Dearest Place on Earth, HT to Challies.

On Writing Well (5 Big Tips)

You Can Avoid This Rookie Writing Error.

My cousin shared this helpful graphic for which holiday honors which service people:

Honoring those in service

Of course, it’s good to honor those who protect and defend our country at every opportunity.

Happy Saturday!

When People Say the Wrong Thing

In the last couple of years I have seen an abundance of articles about “What not to say to…” single people, a pregnant person, a childless couple, adoptive parents, a depressed person, the chronically ill etc. Some are actually quite helpful and enlightening. For the record, never ask a single person why they’re not married yet (they may be wondering the same thing themselves), or a couple when they’re going to start a family (it’s not our business, and if they’ve been trying without success such questions are extremely painful), or any lady when she’s due (unless you know she’s pregnant!) I remember when my husband and I were dating during college, whenever we’d come back from any kind of break, I”d hear remarks like, “Let me see that left hand!” or “Are you engaged yet?” I wanted to whimper, “We’re trying to figure it out. When we have news to share, you can be sure we’ll tell everyone we know.” We can easily make people feel hurt or pressured or frustrated by such questions. A friend shared on Facebook a chart of some of these common statements (or thoughts) to parents, and a lively discussion ensued of those on the receiving end of some of these comments:

how many kids

Sometimes it’s not so much hurtful speech as thoughtless speech.Years ago friends with the last name of Fox had their first child, and when I saw them at church I smilingly quipped the verse about “little foxes spoiling the vine.” The husband looked at me and said wearily, “Everyone says that.” I instantly realized what a thoughtless, inane statement that was, and later was convicted that it was a horrible misuse of Scripture.

Sometimes people can rival Job’s “miserable comforters,” who meant well, sympathized (at least at first), and said many true things, but misapplied much of the truth they shared. We need to be especially careful about telling people why we think God allowed something to happen in their lives. We don’t really know, but we can comfort and encourage them in many others ways.

Ephesians 4:29b reminds us make our speech “that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers,” and Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” We need to be careful, thoughtful, prayerful, and edifying in what we say.

Yet not everyone is going to get the memo or read these kinds of articles. Eventually we’re all going to have someone say or ask something that hits us wrong. What’s the best way to react?

Avoid sarcastic retorts. Most times they don’t realize they’ve said something hurtful. Sending back a zinger will only escalate the incident.

Educate if needed. If they’ve never been in our situation, of course they are not going to understand. A friend with a child with severe life-threatening allergies has often had to shed light on common misconceptions, as have many others in different situations.

Appreciate their interest. At least they are interested in your life and they’re not ignoring you.

Give the benefit of the doubt. Most people truly do mean well. If they are trying to say hurtful things on purpose – then we need to have a different kind of conversation with them.

Realize sometimes we’re the problem. Sometimes something is meant well but we take it the wrong way.

View the opposite end of the spectrum. Sometimes, particularly when a person is in a very difficult situation like marital problems or illness or a death in the family, people are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they say nothing and avoid them. We can foster that by too much complaining about the wrong things that have been said.

Give them grace, the same grace we would want people to extend to us if we said the wrong thing…because we likely will at some point. In fact, we probably have at some time without realizing it.

You may need to talk to them about why their comment hurt and try to resolve the issue. (Matthew 18:15: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”)

Or you may decide just to overlook it (I Peter 4:8: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins,” Proverbs 10:12: “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”)

But we need to deal with it one way or the other and let it go. Don’t hold it against them, don’t carry a grudge, don’t let it fester, don’t avoid them afterward.

We need to forgive:

Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

We need to forgive on the basis of the great wrongs we have been forgiven, not on the basis of whether or not they “deserve” it (See Matthew 18:20-35). We didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness, and He has forgiven us so much more than anything anyone has done or said to us.

We need to exercise patience and forbearance:

Colossians 3:12-13: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Ephesians 4:1-3: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

We need to be filled with and manifest the fruit of the Holy Spirit:

Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Whether we’re the speakers or the receivers, we need to walk closely with the Lord, seek His guidance, and manifest His grace.

(Update: I’m not saying there is anything at all wrong with those “What not to say” type posts. Sometimes they are very informative and enlightening and usually help dispel our notions of stereotypes. There is nothing wrong with telling someone that something they’ve said is off-base or hurtful. But I’ve known people to carry around a personal bitterness because of something another person has said in ignorance about their situation, and that’s not healthy.)