Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Here are some great reads found this week, the first few Christmas-related.

Christmas Is for Dark Times, HT to Challies. “For many, 2020 has been a dark year – physically, emotionally, mentally, financially. People have lost their loved ones, their jobs, their security and their health. Does this mean Christmas should be cancelled? No. The real Christmas happens in the darkness.”

3 Ways to Have Less Stress at Christmas. We can all use less stress, especially this time of year. I love Stacey’s tips.

An Advent Mindset: Mary’s Prayer. Sarah brought out some aspects of Mary’s prayer that I had not considered before.

A Simple Strategy for Meditating in God’s Word, HT to Challies. “God speaks to you directly through His Word. He directs your heart as you read it and meditate on it. Here is a simple strategy that can help you to feed on God’s Word directly.”

Can a Difficult Marriage Change? Sarah shares from 20 years of experience.

The Biggest Threat Faced by the Church, HT to Challies. “What is the biggest threat faced by the church today? Many in the U.S. seem to think the answer is government tyranny. Tyranny is always a danger, but tyranny is not the biggest threat faced by the church in the U.S. or any other nation.”

All Moms Need to Do Is Remain, HT to the Story Warren. “But moms already have so much work to do, and our relationship with God is often put on the backburner. Well-meaning friends, family, and podcast hosts may tell you that it’s okay, busy moms just don’t have time to meet with God. People think they are letting you off the hook, but it makes remaining with God seem impossible (or at least improbable).”

Are Masks a Conscience Issue? HT to Challies. “I’m not qualified to offer a defining medical word on masks, but I want to offer some thoughts on the implications for Christians who refuse to wear a mask because they say it violates their conscience.”

And finally, a fun look at different kinds of Christmas shoppers, HT to Steve Laube:

Happy Saturday!

Dwelling Richly

Letting God's Word dwell richlyHave you ever wondered what Colossians 3:16 meant when it said, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”?

A couple of translations and one commentary connected “rich” to the “Word of Christ,” indicating that God’s Word is rich, and we should let it dwell in us. It is, and we should.

However, most translations phrase the verse so that “richly” modifies “dwell.” In fact, according to the definitions at the bottom of this page, the Greek word translated “richly” is an adverb meaning “Richly, abundantly, copiously.”

So how do we let God’s Word dwell “richly, abundantly, copiously” in us?

One former pastor put it this way. When a guest of honor comes to your home, what do you do? You “roll out the red carpet” for them. You give them the best bed, the best room. You bring out the guest towels and dishes that you save for company. You make your best recipes. You generally set aside your normal pursuits to some degree to spend time with that person.

In these days of more casual entertaining, you might not have special dishes or towels for guests, and you might have everyone work together on the meal and the clean-up. Still, you make some accommodations for a guest. You don’t generally put them in a drafty back room with a lumpy mattress where the Wifi doesn’t reach. You don’t invite someone over and then ignore them. You don’t go about your business and then bump into them in the hallway and act surprised: “Oh! I didn’t know you were here. Carry on.” Well, you might if one of your children’s friends came over unexpectedly.

What do most who come to your home value? Time, the hardest thing to give. As lovely as special table settings, wonderful food, and a well-appointed guest room are, they all fall a little flat if the hostess is constantly flitting about taking care of details. As Martha learned, Jesus cared more about her time, attention, and open heart than what was on the menu.

So how do we let the Word of God dwell richly with us? First of all, notice the word “dwell.” The Bible isn’t just a special guest who comes to visit once a year. It stays, lives in, abides in, inhabits us. Jesus spoke of His words abiding in us. God often tells people in the Bible to meditate, think over, chew on, His Word. You can’t think on what you don’t know. That meant they had to have read or heard it enough to mull over a piece of it at a time.

So we don’t treat God’s Word as a once- or twice-a-year visitor. We let it abide, dwell with us. That involves spending time with it. As we’ve discussed before, that doesn’t necessarily mean spending hours a day reading and studying it. Some days and seasons of life allow for more time than others, but we try to give it some time most days. We try to give it the best time of our day when we can get the most out of it rather than the leftovers of our day. One of my mottoes regarding the Bible is any time spent with it is better than nothing. So there may be busy, weary days when we fit it in whatever spare moments we can find. But as much as we can, we make room and time for the Bible.

And then, throughout the day, we think about it. That might involve listening to Christian music, sermons, Christian radio or podcasts. Or it might involve just thinking. John O’Malley suggests in Overcoming Your Devotional Obstacles that we jot down on a 3 x 5 card something that stood out to us during our Bible reading, and then set the card where we can see it through the day and think over it.Some people have memory verse cards they’ll go over when their hands are busy but their minds are free.

Many mental health experts recommend getting away from the constant barrage of information available through our phones and computers, especially when so many agitated opinions are flung about. Instead of automatically checking our phones, we could spend those minutes reading the Bible or thinking about what we read earlier.

Psalm 1:1 says “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.”

What’s the result of this rich dwelling we give God’s Word? Colossians 3:16 continues: “ Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” When we fill up on God’s Word, we spill over into serving others and worshiping God. Psalm 1 goes on to say that the one who meditates on God’s Word day and night is “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.” When we’re filled with God’s Word, we have a continual source of nourishment.

If our service seems lifeless and forced, our worship barren, our inner spirit dry and withered, we probably need some time letting God’s Word dwell richly in us.

What are some ways you let God’s Word dwell richly with you?

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Biblical Self-Talk

I once heard a preacher say that sometimes he had to sit himself down and have a talk with himself. Have you ever felt that way?

For years after I had transverse myelitis, I struggled with panic attacks and extreme fears. I didn’t realize until fairly recently that, just as I had to recover from the physical effects of the disease, I also had to recover emotionally and mentally from the trauma of the disease itself.

We all know anything can happen any time. We’re not guaranteed our next breath. But then when something catastrophic does happen, it can throw us for a loop. Our foundations are shaken, our security is threatened. Looking back now, it’s no wonder I had panic attacks. Unfortunately, some of the things I feared were psychiatrists and psychiatric drugs, so I didn’t tell anyone what I was going through. I was given Xanax for a while in the hospital, but no one explained why. I heard it was addictive, so I didn’t take it when I got home. I even wondered if they thought my symptoms were in my head.

If I had it to do over again, I’d talk to my neurologist, who was primarily in charge of my care at the time. I’d ask why I was given Xanax, explain what was going on, see what he had to say, and evaluate the options. That’s what I would advise anyone else to do.

Instead, I read what I could about anxiety and panic attacks. I learned that breathing in slowly through my nose and out through my mouth had a calming effect. I would think through or sing through hymns to get my thoughts on another track. And I would remind myself of truth and common sense, which I later learned was self-talk.

For instance, on our way to the church we attended at the time, we almost always got caught at a red light on an overpass. This overpass was one that trembled when an 18-wheeler passed, which happened often. When a visiting speaker’s wife mentioned that this overpass scared her, my own fears escalated. We knew no other way to get to church than this route. So I would tell myself, “Seriously, how often do you hear of these things falling down? Not very often. It’s more likely not to happen than to happen. If it does happen, there’s nothing you can do about it. You’ll either go straight on to heaven, or God will help you through whatever happens just as He did with TM. Don’t ruin or waste your day by worrying about something that is not likely to happen.” Then I’d sing hymns to myself not only to guide my thoughts away from scary things, but also to remind myself of God’s care and promises.

That helped with things not likely to happen. But what about things that could very well happen? TM was a one-time occurrence with lasting ramifications. But one form of it did cause repeat occurrences. And sometimes what was thought was TM was actually found to be MS when repeated attacks occurred. My TM had started with one hand feeling a little funny, like I had slept on it wrong. Within three hours, my whole left arm and both legs were numb and I couldn’t walk on my own. So every time a limb fell sleep, every time I had a funny, not-quite-right feeling, every time symptoms flared up, so did the fears of a repeat attack. I had to remind myself that this probably was not another attack, but just a flare-up. If it was another attack, God would help me just as He did the first time. Eventually, after multitudes of flare-ups without another full-fledged attack, and after a significant amount of healing, I learned to just roll with the symptoms and eventually to hardly notice them.

Sometimes we have to talk to ourselves over spiritual issues, too, don’t we? A tragedy occurs, and we feel like maybe God doesn’t love us like we thought He did. We remind ourselves that God loves us “with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), that He loved us even when we were His enemies. Or we feel worthless and remind ourselves we are accepted in the Beloved.

We have several instances of Scriptural self-talk in the psalms. The psalmist asks himself three times, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:5, ESV). Then he answers himself, “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” David tells himself to “Bless the Lord, O my soul”  in Psalm 103 and then reminds himself why he could do so. He reminds himself about God’s character, what He had done for Israel in the past, what He had done for David himself.In Psalm 57, David is hiding in a cave from Saul. After pleading for God’s mercy and reminding himself of God’s power, love, and faithfulness, David tells himself to wake up and praise God:

My heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul!  Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. (Psalm 57:7-8, NIV).

Other psalms don’t employ that exact language, but they show the writer coming to God with a problem or an issue: Where are you? Why are you not acting? The wicked are faring better than Your people. I’m hurting here. People are persecuting me for no reason.

And then the writer reminds himself of truths about his God: He’s here. He loves us. He cares. The wicked will face their consequences some day if they don’t repent. God will strengthen me and help me.

I shared this quote before from David Martyn-Lloyd Jones in Spiritual Depression, but I love it:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says, “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.”

Instead of being at the mercy of our thoughts, we challenge them and correct them. We need to take our thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). We set aside wrong thoughts and actively pursue truth. We steady our souls with God’s truth. We fill our minds with God’s Word so the Holy Spirit can remind us of it.

Have you ever had to give yourself a good talking-to?

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