Laudable Linkage

Here are some good reads that ministered to me this week.

Submit Your Felt Reality to God, HT to Challies. “Reality is reality. It’s objective. It’s what’s actually happening. Felt reality is what’s happening from my vantage point. It’s reality framed by my own thoughts, assumptions, and emotions.” The author includes a look at David’s submitting his felt reality to God in the Psalms.

Talking to Our Souls. This goes along with the one above. “We don’t always have access to counselors and wise friends, of course. Sometimes, we have to counsel ourselves, using words we know to be true because they come from trusted sources. We can easily get into trouble, though, when we listen to ourselves instead of talking to ourselves.”

Loving Across the Ideological Fence, HT to Challies. “Society and the mainstream media tries so hard to pit everybody against one another. And they are successful for the most part. Christians must resist this. We must not cave into the cultural pressure of hating those who don’t see things the way we do. Again, we must love those on the other side.”

The Dead Seriousness of Careless Words. “Carelessness was on Jesus’ mind on a day when the religious authorities confronted him about his failure to keep their interpretation of the religious law. He remarked that their words were evil because their hearts were evil. ‘How can you speak good, when you are evil?’ he asked. ‘For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.’ And in that context he offered the most solemn of warnings. ‘I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.'”

It Rots the Bones, HT to Challies. “Many months ago, I received an email from a dear, faithful reader, asking for help. Her life was quickly unraveling, and in the midst of persistent heartache, she had fallen headlong into envy. Jealousy towards a woman in her church, whose life seemed quite perfect. This jealousy was destroying her, from the inside out. Envy is the thief of contentment, isn’t it? It reveals an idol tucked in the heart.”

Praying the Word: When You Feel Angry, HT to the Story Warren. “On the surface, prayer seems simple. It’s talking to God. But in practice, we may have a lot of questions. Am I doing this right? Is there a “right” way to do it? What am I supposed to say? Are there things I shouldn’t pray about? Or maybe we feel pretty comfortable with praying, but we struggle with getting bored or losing focus. Whatever our struggles with prayer, Scripture can be helpful.”

Is It Okay to Pray for a Husband? “For a long, long time, one thing that kept me back from praying specific prayers was wondering if I was asking for the wrong things. I wondered if what I was praying was really according to God’s will. I would pray generic prayers: ‘God, I have this decision coming up, and, uhhh . . . Your will be done.’ It was an uninvolved, nonpersonal prayer. In the pages of Scripture, when we look at Jesus’ prayers and the Psalms, we see that God invites us to come to Him with exactly what’s happening in our daily lives. He invites us to pray about the small things—to pray about the specifics.” I like her acronym for prayer.

When It Comes to Friendships, It’s OK to Be the Planner, HT to Linda. “When you like people, you extend invitations for specific times. If other people don’t do that, is it because they don’t like you as much? You might hold back, worried that you are misjudging things. But before you stop trying, understand this: It’s OK to be the planner. Your gift is logistics and coordination. Other people have different gifts. Appreciating that makes it possible to enjoy friendships more.”

VOX Outdoes Itself in Ignorance and Misogyny, HT to Challies. “Tragically, heretofore, society understood that babies coming into the world was so important that when women were going to have them, they really had to do that as the main thing for many years and couldn’t do anything else. Prevailing opinion thinks this was misogyny, that ‘staying home’ with babies and young children was a terrible thing to do, and not gracious and life giving, and also the glue that kept a lot of society together.”

Happy Saturday!

We Don’t Know What to Do

A few years ago, I compiled a list of prayers in the Bible that I sometimes use in my own prayers.

It’s perfectly fine to just speak to our Father from our hearts. We don’t have to use certain words like an incantation in order for Him to hear us.

But prayers in the Bible help give our prayers more guidance and depth. It’s great to pray for God to bless someone and give them a good day. However, praying that they “may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9) or “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17a) just goes so much further.

Plus, when we pray Scriptural prayers, or turn a passage of Scripture into prayer, we can know we’re praying according to God’s will.

Often we have some idea how to pray.

When someone is sick, we pray for healing, if it is God’s will, and for grace and help for everyone involved. We pray for wisdom for the doctors, freedom from pain, good reports from medical tests.

When we’re burdened for loved ones who don’t know the Lord, we pray that “the eyes of [their] hearts” would be “enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18), that God would draw them to Himself as only He can (John 6:44), that God would send someone to talk to them and live before them a good testimony (Matthew 9:37-38), that their hearts would be “good ground” (Matthew 13:1-23), that the Holy Spirit would reveal truth to them (John 16:13).

If someone loses a job or has a specific need, we pray for God to supply, while asking Him if there is anything He would have us do (James 2:15-16).

Sometimes, however, we just don’t know how to pray, except “Your will be done.” And that’s fine. It’s not like God needs our ideas or suggestions.

In those times, Jehoshaphat’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 20 is one I lean on heavily.

Jehoshaphat was king of Judah when he was told a “great multitude” from several nations was coming against him. “Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord” (verses 3-4).

Jehoshaphat reminded himself who his God was (verse 6). He reminded himself of God’s promises to Israel about their land and the fact that they belonged to Him (verses 7-10). He told God the problem (verses 10-11). Then he confessed, in one of my favorite Bible verses, “we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you” (verse 12).

There are things in this world too big for me. In some national and world-wide issues, I have no idea the best course of action. Sometimes I don’t even know what’s true amid conflicting news reports. Sometimes I have a strong opinion about what should happen, but I am personally powerless to do anything about it.

Besides not being able to affect change on a large scale, I can’t change anyone’s heart. I can pray for them as mentioned above. I can speak or try to influence. But would that be useful or would I be “nagging?” Would I help or push them farther away?

Sometimes we have a major decision ahead of us. I can see pros and cons of each choice.

I don’t know what to do.

I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on Him.

I’m powerless, but He is not. He sees the big picture. He knows what’s best when. I can rejoice that He is big enough and wise enough to know what’s best and and powerful enough to accomplish it. I can trust Him to guide me and work through me. Or, like in Judah’s plight in 1 Chronicles 20, He may have me do nothing but watch Him work.

Corrie ten Boom once said, “The wonderful thing about praying is that you leave a world of not being able to do something, and enter God’s realm where everything is possible. He specializes in the impossible. Nothing is too great for His almighty power. Nothing is too small for His love.”

Prayer makes a difference—sometimes in us, sometimes in our circumstances, sometimes both. Even when we’re not sure how to pray, we can take our requests and burdens to the Lord.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

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

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

Welcome to my latest list of good online reads:

Every Need Is Not a Call. “As we try to discern the often blurry lines between good, better, and best, we should prayerfully consider our passions, priorities, and providential circumstances. When we walk in dependence upon Christ, we can learn to respond to needs faithfully rather than frantically.”

Losses of a Prayerless Christian, HT to Challies. “Though God is sovereign over all things, He ordains the means of prayer. There are some things He will not do unless we pray, though He always does all He purposes (Psalm 135:6). The mystery does not change this truth: You do not have because you do not ask (James 4:2).”

Never Underestimate the Value of Ordinary, Brief, Christian Conversations, HT to Challies. It’s so true that we minister to each other in small, brief conversations and not just in official sermons or lessons. I can still remember comments made in passing decades ago that directed my thinking in certain areas. it’s so important to be in God’s Word and filled with His Spirit so He can use us in those ways.

Is There Such a Thing as Bad Missions? HT to Challies. “Good motives do not overcome bad methodology. Make sure your missionaries know what they are speaking into before they speak.”

Defending Without Becoming Defensive, HT to Challies. “There is a difference between winning an argument and winning a person. Of course, it’s easy to forget this in the middle of a tense conversation. Emotions are powerful when the stakes are high.”

A Little Poetry Improves Life: How Verse Awakens Wonder, HT to The Story Warren. “I ask the class, ‘How do you know that God intends for you to understand and enjoy poetry?’ . . . It is gratifying to see how quickly someone comes up with the correct answer. That answer is that approximately one-third of the Bible comes to us in poetic form.” Leland Ryken dispels misconceptions and shares tips for getting more out of poetry, especially Biblical poetry.

‘Redeeming Love’ Irredeemably Exploits Actors and Viewers. HT to Challies. “Debates among Christians about the presence of nudity and sex in media are certainly not new. But it’s an important topic to continually reengage and thoughtfully consider—especially as the boundaries of sexual content on screen continue to be pushed. The release of a ‘sexy’ faith-based film like Redeeming Love offers a chance to revisit this discussion, albeit from a new vantage point.”

What Happens When a Believer Dies? HT to Challies. “Every person reading this article is dying. Perhaps you have reason to believe that death will come very soon. You may be troubled, feeling uncertain, or unready to leave. Make sure of your relationship with Jesus Christ. Be certain that you’re trusting Him alone to save you—not anyone or anything else, and certainly not any good works you’ve done. And then allow yourself to get excited about what’s on the other side of death’s door.”

I don’t often read The Babylon Bee and I don’t know any of these people, but the caption about one-line summaries of classic novels caught my eye. This woman’s father had multiple sclerosis, and in the last years of his life couldn’t do much but read. He set out to read as many classic novels as he could and then wrote these summaries of them. Some are pretty funny, like Dracula by Bram Stoker: “Vampire advantage—immortality; disadvantage—limited liquid diet.” Commenters try their hand at one-line summaries, too.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

I am behind again in my blog reading, but here are posts that stood out to me this week:

Judging the Sins of Our Fathers, HT to Challies. “It should also make us less sanctimonious and more cautious when we judge the sins of our fathers and the systems in which they were participants. Our hands are not so clean.”

Give Me Nineteen Men“: Muslim Missions Twenty Years after 9/11, HT to Challies. “It could not have been a better time to go. Going when circumstances looked so dark made a statement to our new neighbors: we weren’t afraid because we knew Jesus went with us. It also bore testimony that we loved the people of the Arabian Peninsula, and that we had something important to share with them.”

The Americans Who Don’t Want to Leave Afghanistan, HT to Challies. “But there are indeed Americans who want to stay in Afghanistan. I don’t know how many and I don’t know the story of each one. But there are more who want to stay than you might think. Why? Because they love God and they love Afghans.”

Are Pro-Lifers Just “Pro-Forced Birth?” HT to Challies. “Abortion advocates are brilliant at playing word games. Using clever rhetorical moves, they are able to make protecting preborn children look bad and killing preborn children look good.”

Does This Really Matter? HT to Challies. “How we spend our days isn’t just how we spend our lives. It’s how we become who we are and who we will be. It’s not just about what we’re doing, but the heart behind how and why we’re doing it.”

All We Need. “Earlier this week a friend and I were talking about the difficulty of not casting blame when other people let us down.  We came up with a pretty simple prayer from the perspective of frail and fallible human beings who are walking side-by-side along life’s path with other frail and fallible human beings.”

Finalists of the 2021 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards, HT to Laura. These are always so fun.

And finally, I just happened across this video. Having a little fun with the William Tell Overture:

When the World Weighs Heavy

I don’t watch the evening news, but I’m still flooded with the sometimes unspeakable suffering across our globe.

Haiti is suffering the aftereffects of a major earthquake. Japan has experienced an earthquake, floods, landslides. Potentially devastating storms from tropical depressions and hurricanes hit our coasts. Horrible stories are coming out of Afghanistan, with more to come as the Taliban takes over.

And these are all on top of the long-term worldwide pandemic we’re still dealing with, made worse by the division over how to respond to it. Several friends have had COVID, some severely. A nurse friend tells of staff exhaustion and patient suffering in the COVID ward of her hospital.

As Christians, we’re concerned that our country and world are ebbing ever further away from biblical truth. We wonder what kind of world our children and grandchildren will face.

Plus we have personal concerns. A friend is taking care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s alone. A dear older lady is in the hospital with severe pain from an old hip replacement. Others have varying issues to deal with.

All these things weigh heavily. How are we supposed to go about everyday life with so much suffering and wrong in the world?

Well, maybe we aren’t.

There are times in life to stop everything, pray, fast, mourn. The 9/11 attacks here were like that. Everything stopped as we watched the news coverage, grieved, and prayed for those affected and those helping.

But at some point, the needs of life intrude. Laundry must be done, the family must be fed, family members must go to work.

Perhaps our concerns can guide how we do our tasks and how we think while we do them.

The world’s news can:

Inform our perspective. Disappointment over an activity canceled due to weather pales when I learn that Afghani Christians are being killed if a Bible app is found on their cell phones.

Remind us how small we are and how much we need God.

Remind us to pray. We can’t save the world. The sheer magnitude of suffering and sorrow in the world is overwhelming to us, but not to God. Some years ago I received this prayer guide from Voice of the Martyrs:

Remind us to weep with those who weep. Particularly concerning those believers undergoing persecution, Hebrews 13:3 says, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.”

Remind us this life is not the end. The world isn’t getting better and better until we reach utopia. Jesus said there would be wars, earthquakes, famine, pestilence, persecution. Heaven will be a place of no tears, pain, or sorrows, but on earth we’ll have plenty of each.

Remind us God cares for our sorrows. He “doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:33, KJV). Jesus was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) and wept with those who grieved.

Remind us to cast our cares on Him. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). I love Octavius Winslow’s phrasing in his poem: “Nor fear to impose it on a shoulder which upholds the government of worlds.”

We need to remind ourselves as well that though it sometimes looks like the world is in chaos, God is still in control. As the old hymn says, “Though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.” Olympic runner Eric Liddell became a missionary in China. As the Japanese army committed atrocities leading up to WWII, Liddell wrote, “Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God’s plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins. God’s love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out His wonderful plan of love” (Eric Liddell, The Disciplines of the Christian Life [London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1985], 121–122).

Why does God allow these things then? That would be a question for another post. He has many reasons for allowing suffering, and we can trust that He has a purpose. As Joni Eareckson Tada has often said, “God permits what he hates to accomplish what He loves.” Sometimes God is not as concerned about removing calamity or persecution as He is about accomplishing His will in people’s hearts through them.

While we wait for His purposes, timing, and help, everyday life can be wonderfully grounding. Elisabeth Elliot wrote that in the aftermath of her husband’s death, she would sometimes feel overwhelmed not only with grief, but with new decisions and tasks she had to take on as a jungle missionary without her partner. She was helped by an old English poem which said, “Do the next thing.”

The poem says, “Do it immediately, do it with prayer, do it reliantly, casting all care. Do it with reverence, tracing His hand who placed it before thee with earnest command. Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing, leave all resultings, do the next thing.” That is a wonderfully saving truth. Just do the next thing.

There may be tangible ways we can help those suffering. James reminds us not to just wish people well, but to give what they need. (I would caution great care, however, about the charities that seem to spring up overnight to help the most recent calamity victims. Research organizations or ask for recommendations from people you trust.) Sometimes even our small everyday tasks help towards meeting someone’s need.

But sometimes there’s nothing we can physically do to help someone. We can pray along with Jehoshaphat, “We are powerless . . . We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Laudable Linkage

Here’s another list of good online reads:

Biblical Literacy: Jen Wilkin on the Importance of Bible Study, HT to Knowable Word. “By her twenties, Wilkin understood it was possible to drown in waves of opinion. If she was going to learn to swim, she would have to learn to read the Bible for herself.”

On Basketball, Spiritual Disciplines, and Sanctification. “I had in mind a list of characteristics that I felt were necessary for me to sanctified—to be holy. Most of them had something to do with keeping a list of rules or living by a certain standard in my life.” I did, too. I appreciate this testimony of learning that “Sanctification comes through relationship.”

You Will Fail Sometimes. Don’t Quit. “I used to think that there is some point in the Christian life when you arrive, when you finally see that your heart and head and spirit align in some sort of beautiful sphere of sincerity and goodness and true devotion to Christ. But the older I get and the more I have begun to understand why the Bible teaches that we need armor.”

Does Your Prayer Life Need to Change? Sometimes we don’t know where to start–sometimes our routines have turned into ruts. There are helps here for either problem.

Moms and Dads: Show Your Need, HT to Challies. “I wish I would’ve shown my kids my need for Christ more. I worked so hard to show them my godliness that I didn’t show them my need. I should have been more transparent. I should have shown them just how much I needed Jesus.”

Far From Home, HT to Challies. “Some of us include in our spaces only those who support our biases or our preferences; or those who have been born into our circle or have earned membership there. But the Bible is filled with admonitions to welcome and care for the widow, the orphan and the foreigner. It doesn’t say anything about first determining whether or not they deserve it, or how well they live up to our cultural ideals.”

The Scenes They Leave Out, HT to Challies. “This steady diet of films and books and TV full of action, adventure, and high drama is stimulating. But are we inadvertently teaching ourselves that normal life is not? When the ordinary stuff of daily living is at best a quick montage to set up the real action, aren’t we in danger of losing sight of the fact that the ordinary stuff of daily living is actually most of the real action of real life?”

It‘s Not Martyrdom if You’re Being Obnoxious. “When Christians suffer, there are more possible reasons than just ‘suffering for Jesus.’ Christians, individually or corporately, might be suffering because they’ve said or done stupid things, placing themselves under the divinely designed cosmic order, whereby life is tougher if you’re stupid (as John Wayne allegedly said).”

It Is All a Snare to Me. I don’t always get a lot out of reading other people’s prayers. But this touched home in many areas, reminding me “my greatest snare is myself.”

Should Christians Cuss? HT to Challies. “It is true that Jesus often used sharp, confrontational words, but that is not the same thing as using obscenities.”

2021 Audubon Photography Awards, HT to Challies. Stunning photos of God’s creation.

This is a cute excerpt from a BBC special about “Snow Bears” (which I have not seen):

“But it’s the wrong hole.” Not for the seal! 🙂

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading online

I wanted to let you know that I have a guest post appearing at Almost an Author: Sculpting a Masterpiece. What does Michelangelo’s David have to do with writing? I invite you to take a look and find out.

And now, here are some great reads discovered this week, the first few related to Mother’s Day:

Prayer Warrior Challenge: You Don’t Have to Dread Mother’s Day this Year! “I remember clearly the momentous day when, deep in the weeds of Toddler Parenting, I realized I could do everything ‘right’ and still end up with a wayward child.”

Great Is His Faithfulness, HT to Challies. “My guess is that in this messy life, many are experiencing a measure of both joy and grief tangled up together this Mother’s Day week.”

How to Pray for Your Teen When You’ve Run Out of Words. “Handing our children over to God when they were infants was relatively easy compared with the task of entrusting them to God’s care now that they are jingling car keys in their pockets and making their first financial decisions.”

Training Children to Honor Their Parents by Honoring Our Own, HT to The Story Warren. “As I think about training my own children to honor their parents, I’m realizing how much is caught more than taught. The way I treat my parents will likely have a direct impact on the way my kids treat my husband and me.”

Beautiful Mother’s Day Gift Ideas Handmade with Love, if you need any last-minute gift inspiration. The Skip to My Lou site is a treasure trove of neat ideas.

The Childless Man or Woman, wise words from Elisabeth Elliot. “Children, God tells us, are a heritage from Him. Is the man or woman to whom He gives no children therefore disinherited? Surely not. The Lord gave portions of land to each tribe of Israel except one. ‘The tribe of Levi… received no holding; the Lord God of Israel is their portion, as he promised them’ (Joshua 13:14, NEB). Withholding what He granted to the rest, He gave to Levi a higher privilege. May we not see childlessness in the same light? I believe there is a special gift for those to whom God does not give the gift of physical fatherhood or motherhood.”

What God has Made Crooked. “Sometimes God makes our way crooked to slow us down. He has something beautiful to show us. He wants to be seen along the way. He has designed even the crooked ways with beauty.”

Aging Doesn’t Make You Faithful. Jesus Does, HT to Challies. “It is folly to expect to wake up more faithful to Christ twenty years from now if we’re not feeding our faithfulness today with the means of grace God has ordained for our growth. God has invited us into the process of spiritual growth.”

What Is Anxiety? HT to Challies. “Most of our sinful anxieties are tied to proper concerns. It is proper to do your job well, to support your family, to care for your children, to fulfill the duties that God has called you to do. We should be concerned with all of them. The question is, When do these proper concerns turn into sinful ones? When does godly care become godless worry?”

The Dull Conversation, HT to Challies. I’m sorry to admit I chafe during seemingly meaningless conversation. I recognize that’s unloving toward the person I am listening to. Ed Welch has some good ideas to discern “What is that person saying in the litany of information?”

I have to say, though, I disagree with this part of the last post: “With those who are closer to you, each day deserves these two questions: What was the best part of the day? What was the hardest part of your day?” My difficulty with superlative questions (best, worst, favorite) is the way my mind works. To figure out the best part of the day, I’d have to look back over all the events of the day, line them up, compare them to each other, weigh the two or three that rise to the top. It’s exhausting. So, instead, I usually reply something like, “Well, one good thing from the day was…” You might think that whatever floated to my mind first was the best. But later, as I think back over the conversation, some other part of the day with come to mind, and I’ll think, “Oh, I should have said that instead.” Am I the only one who overthinks like this?

Forgive me for that rabbit trail. 🙂

Finally, this is a cute video about mom superpowers:

Happy Mother’s Day tomorrow to those who mother in any way.

Late Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineI‘m sorry I missed the Friday’s Fave Fives yesterday! I know some of you especially like those posts. I just had a lot of things that had to get done the last few days, so I haven’t been at the computer for very long at a time since Thursday morning.

I was going to save the “Laudable Linkage” for next week since it’s late in the day and I haven’t even finished reading every post in my Feedly account. But I decided to go ahead and pop in and say hello and share what I have so far.

Busy Day? Keep Quiet Time Simple (Bible Study Tips), HT to Lisa. Our other relationships vary with how much time we spend together on any given day. We forget sometimes that our quiet time is about our relationship with the Lord, not just our routines.

You Keep Using That Word, HT to Challies. “If you have heard, for example, that critical theory or some other -ism is making inroads into the church and you are concerned, do some homework before saying anything. When we do not do this, the possibility of our violating the ninth commandment goes up exponentially.”

How to Pray in Perilous Times. I love that the Bible teaches us how to pray both by instruction and example. This prayer of David’s has much to consider.

Is White Fragility a Helpful Resource for Christians? I know this is a delicate and sensitive topic right now, but that’s all the more reason to think Biblically about it. I have not read this book, but I’ve had some of these same concerns just from reading others’ comments on it.

When Homeschooling Wasn’t Your Plan: 10 Tips to Help. I wish I had read something like this during the few years we homeschooled, even without a pandemic.

I saw some of this sweet story on “The Greatest #AtHome Videos” TV show on Friday night on CBS. A pregnant wife had to spend several weeks in the hospital when her water broke prematurely at 20 weeks. Her husband couldn’t be with her due to COVID restrictions. So he set up “date nights” where he would send food up to her room and have his outside her window so she could see him and they could sort-of be together. When they aired the show, she had had the baby and all was well. In their honor, the hospital was going to install a bench where this man used to set up his chair, so other patients could “visit” their loved ones that way.

Have a great rest of your weekend!

The Cares of This Life

Cares of life can choke God's wordThere’s a lot to be concerned about in this life, isn’t there? Making a living, maintaining a marriage, raising children, getting along with coworkers and neighbors, car and house repairs, health concerns, preparing for retirement, church ministries, political discord, the latest negative news. And that was before a global pandemic and rioting in the streets. We truly have a lot to occupy our thoughts and time. Sometimes we feel we can’t keep up with it all.

But the cares of this life can have a detrimental impact in unexpected ways.

In Mark 4:1-9, Jesus told a parable of a sower—a planter—planting seeds. Only a few of the seeds took root and grew. Some were eaten by birds, some landed on rocky ground, some were choked out.

The disciples asked Jesus the meaning of this parable in Mark 4:10-20. He said that the seed was the word of God. The seed being eaten by birds is a picture of Satan snatching the word away before it can germinate from people who don’t understand (Matthew 13:19). The rocky ground represents a stony heart that might have soil enough for a plant to sprout, but not enough to nourish the plant. Some people seem to believe, but then never progress because they never dealt with the bedrock in their hearts. Then some of the word is choked by “the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things” (verse 19). The ESV Study Bible notes say, on the account of this parable in Matthew 13, “Competing for nutrients from the soil, weeds choke out the good plants, which are then unable to reach maturity and bear fruit.”

Some say that this parable is about the gospel, not the whole word of God. Even if that’s the case, we can choke out the word of God in general when we’re distracted, can’t we? I’ve experienced not being able to take in or rest in God’s promises because my attention is on my cares.

In Luke 21, Jesus mentions the cares of this life again, along with “dissipation and drunkenness.” These distractions can preoccupy people from warnings to prepare for His coming, and then that day will “come upon you suddenly like a trap.”

How can we keep the cares of this life, this world, from distracting us from more important things?

“Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7, NKJV; other versions say “anxieties” or “worries”). The word for “care” is the same Greek word as “cares” in the two passages above:

But before we can cast our cares on Him, we have to back up to the verses that come before this:

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you (1 Peter 5:5b-7, ESV). 

We have to humble ourselves before God, acknowledge Him for who He is and ourselves for who we are. He’s our sovereign Lord. He made us. He redeemed us through Christ’s death on the cross. He is wise. He has the right to call the shots. But He is also love. He is kind. He is our provider. He cares for us.

Then we “cast our cares” on Him. The Greek word for cast means “to throw upon; to place upon.” In prayer and in faith, we place them on Him, knowing He loves us, knowing He can take care of the problems and meet our needs.

How do we know these things? From His word.

Psalm 1 tells us that the person whose “delight is in the law of the Lord” and who “meditates day and night” on it is “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”

Instead of our cares choking out the Word, we sink our roots deep into it. When concerns swirl in our minds, we take our thoughts captive and remind ourselves of God’s truth.

I don’t think it’s going too far to say that spending time with God is the most important thing we can do each day. Some seasons of life, we may have half an hour to an hour to spend with the Bible. Other seasons, we’re doing good to get five minutes. But I like what Sue Donaldson says here: “I figure if I can’t give God five minutes anytime on any given day, I’m not taking Him and our relationship seriously. ”

Psalm 1 speaks of not just reading, but delighting in and meditating in God’s word. We can write a verse out that spoke to us and keep it before our eyes through the day. We can listen to the Bible itself or to Christian music, sermons, podcasts while we’re driving, cooking, etc., setting our “minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

Some years ago, I attended a ladies retreat where, on the last day, the speaker had us write down a concern, burden, or prayer request on a small piece of paper. Then she asked us to fold the paper and turn it in. She collected all the papers and put them into a bag, then tied the bag onto a collection of helium-filled balloons. Then we all went outside. I think she prayed, giving all the concerns we had collected to the Lord. Then she released the balloons, symbolizing releasing these concerns to God.

Honestly, at the time I thought it was a little silly. And I wondered what the person who eventually found the little bag would think.

But a few days later, something I had written on my little paper came to mind. I don’t even remember what it was now. But as I turned it over in my thoughts, suddenly I remembered: “I gave this to the Lord. I don’t need to keep worrying about it.”

Perhaps some physical way of handing our cares over to Him might help cement the idea in our minds. I don’t think releasing more balloons would be good for the environment. One friend used to cup her hands and raise them up to the Lord while praying, physically reminding herself that she was giving her concerns to Him. Maybe a prayer journal would be a concrete way to note the concerns and requests we’ve given over to God.

Giving concerns to Him doesn’t mean we never pray about them any more. But when we do, we remind ourselves that He invites us to place on Him all our cares, and He’s the only one who can take care of them. Some prayer requests last a lifetime. But when God does answer others, we can record how and when. What an encouragement to faith to look back over that record.

What helps you to cast your cares on God?

1 Peter 5:7

(Sharing with Hearth and Home, Global Blogging, Senior Salon, Purposeful Faith,
Tell His Story, InstaEncouragement, Legacy Linkup, Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee), Share a Link Wednesday, Faith on Fire)

 

Laudable Linkage

Here my latest round-up of good reads online. Many are about the pandemic, but a few are not.

On Easter. I had never seen this poem by John Updike before, but I really like it.

Celebration of the Resurrection’s Not Canceled. “We may forfeit long-celebrated Easter activities and traditions. But if we miss celebrating the resurrection, we end up missing the greatest celebration of all time. He is risen!”

Corona Virus Could Kill Consumer Christianity. “Because coronavirus has rapidly taken away the excesses of church, all the bells and whistles, all the nice-to-haves we’ve come to see as must-haves. What remains are bare essentials: Jesus, the Word, community, prayer, singing. What remains is the reality that the church can never be vanquished: we are Christ’s body and will live eternally with him. Things are suddenly spartan in how we do church—but what we are remains as vibrant as ever.”

What Might God Be Doing With the Coronavirus? Lots of good possibilities listed.

Along the same lines, Do We Really Want to Go Back to Normal? HT to Challies. “But the truth is, whatever will become ‘normal’ on the other side of the coronavirus crisis will not be the old normal. It will be something new. We are not going back. So here’s the question I hope we will begin to ask instead: Do we really want to go back to normal? Was the old normal good?”

100 Days that Changed the World, HT to Challies. A timeline of how quickly the virus spread.

Hard Times Are Coming. “We can trust God and be completely convinced that what He does is good and right, yet still hope to avoid tragedy, pain, suffering, hard times. The real testing of our faith comes when those hard times hit.”

We’re All Children Now, HT to Challies. A recent tragedy reminded the writer how little control we have in life. But that helps us acknowledge our need, like the children Jesus said we should be like to come into His kingdom.

The Art of Remembering How Good You Really Have It.

A Strong Conscience or Immaturity? HT to Challies. It’s hard to tell sometimes. But the person who doesn’t do a questionable thing is not always the “weaker brother.”

The Record Keeper. I love this picture of Matthew using his gift of record-keeping to tell others about Christ. I don’t know why I never made the connection between his record-keeping as a former tax collector and his gospel account.

Remember the Wonders. A neat way God answered a young son’s prayer.

Covid-19: Anxious About Money? “‘Your heavenly father knows that you need them [life’s essentials].’ Since you are especially valuable to your Father, he knows and remembers what you need. Your needs are impressed on his heart.”

And along the same lines, HT to The Story Warren, this is a sweet song inspired by Matthew 6: