Laudable Linkage

Hope you’re having a fine weekend! Here are some thought-provoking reads discovered this week.

What We Need More Than the Mountaintop Experience with God. “The apostle Peter heard a voice from heaven during his mountaintop experience. And he concluded that the spiritual formation of Christ-followers relies not on repeating such an experience but on something even more certain.”

Can Cancer Be God’s Servant? What I Saw in My Wife’s Last Four Years by Randy Alcorn, HT to Challies. “By saying sickness comes only from Satan and the fall, not from God, we disconnect Him from our suffering and His deeper purposes. God is sovereign. He never permits or uses evil arbitrarily; everything He does flows from His wisdom and ultimately serves both His holiness and love.”

The Crushing Obligation to Keep Doing More and More, HT to Challies. This is so good. “I think most Christians hear these urgent calls to do more (or feel them internally already) and learn to live with a low-level guilt that comes from not doing enough. We know we can always pray more and give more and evangelize more, so we get used to living in a state of mild disappointment with ourselves. That’s not how the apostle Paul lived.”

When Praying Hurts: How to Go to God in Suffering, HT to Challies. “My desire to pray when I’m suffering can swing wildly in a single day — and sometimes within the hour. Through the severe trials in my life — losing a child, having a debilitating disease, losing my marriage — prayer has been both arduous and exhilarating. Exhausting work and energizing delight.”

Rethink Female Bravery, HT to Challies. “Why is physical dominance our measure for brave women? Why is heroism reserved for the person in charge—or the person with the weapon? Why aren’t there more stories that honor daring in the ordinary?”

An Anchor For Our Tongues, HT to Challies. “Preachers and authors do it all the time. They quote the English definition of a word or refer to its linguistic roots as a way to ground their argument, to establish the meaning of a term or concept. Then they move on, seemingly convinced that they have offered up enough evidence for their audience to trust that they are indeed communicating the true sense of that term. What is not often realized is that, for the Christian, this kind of appeal to the dictionary or history is actually an inadequate grounding.”

In Praise of Stuff, HT to Samuel James, resonates with me. It doesn’t advocate for materialism, but argues that “Experiences matter more than things” is not always right. “There are people whose long-finished lives are only dimly known to me, but whom I meet and cherish every year in the physical memorabilia they handed down: great grandmother’s silver, pottery made by my grandfather’s sister. Even ridiculous kitsch can gain a new dignity this way. Each Thanksgiving I greet a grinning plastic monkey that was my great Aunt Gertrude’s. I would miss him greatly if he were ever gone.”

Six Questions You Should Ask at the Beginning of 2023, HT to Challies. I don’t think we’re too far into the new year to consider these. “What I started doing a couple of years ago was to abandon the idea of New Year’s resolutions and instead start thinking about what I wanted to focus on for the next year in early December. Then I started implementing changes that would make progress on my goals before the new year begins. What this allowed me to do was to get out of the habit of thinking the new year would magically change me into a new person.”

Start the Year Small: Wisdom for Setting New Goals, HT to Challies. “Our flesh keeps us on the couch, waiting for opportunities that appear to promise instant and immense impact. Those who constantly dream of the big victory often overlook the small decisions required to get there.”

The Pro-Life Cause Nobody Marches For. “Ultimately, I had to reckon with what it meant to believe that all people have inherent, God-given worth when everything we give value to is stripped away. It has been a long and painful process, and a sanctifying one—the kind that teaches you to view others who are struggling to understand the size and significance of human dignity through the eyes of tender compassion.”

Laudable Linkage

Happy first Saturday of January! As might be expected, a lot of posts I found this week dealt with getting ready for a new year.

His Feet, HT to Challies. “I was fourteen and small for my age, a reserved shy shadow of the man I might one day grow into. Others struck me for an unknown reason, some imagined offence I had committed. Verbal assault soon became physical, yet it wasn’t the impact of fist on face that hurt most. I felt alone. I felt small. I felt undone. But then his feet were there.”

Say It, HT to Challies. A short account of Charles Spurgeon’s conversion, which is always delightful to read, but with a few good points added.

Grant Me One Muslim Friend, HT to Challies. “The most strategic thing we could do to reach the Muslim world is for every Muslim to simply have a believing friend.”

Three Faith-Focused Strategies to Welcome the New Year. “Some of us deliberate over annual goals or resolutions while others invite God to give us a word for the New Year. As we invest time in these pursuits, let’s walk through the following four steps as we consider how He led us through last year and as we seek His guidance in the New Year.

How Can We Have Peace and Confidence in the New Year? “With all the turmoil and instability over the last few years, most of us want more peace, more joy, and more confidence in the future. Are we at the mercy of the government or the economy or the culture around us if we’re to have those things? Or is it possible that the right goals and habits can play a big part? If so, what kind of goals and habits?”

5 Tips to Reinforce Your Bible Study and Prayer Routine, HT to Knowable Word. Although aimed at church leaders, these are good for anyone trying to develop a “sustainable habit for personal Bible study and prayer.”

7 Reasons Winter Reminds Us to Hold on to Hope, HT to Challies. “Many people suffer from seasonal depression or feel down in the winter. The trees seem lifeless, we spend a lot more time inside, and it gets darker earlier and for longer stretches of the day. It can also mean we spend more time pondering upon the difficult seasons in our own lives.”

Assign It a Day and Time. A great time management principle!

8 Tips to Have a More Productive Year, HT to Lisa. “I am all about To Do lists and planners! However, that doesn’t always make me as productive I could be. There has to be some follow-through to be productive. I am going to share 8 tips on how to have a more productive year in whatever area you are working.”

Gladys Hunt on Little Golden Books, HT to the Story Warren. I loved the little Golden books as a child and read many of them to my own children. It was interesting to read the story behind them.

Laudable Linkage

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

How to Hold Fast to Jesus in a World That’s Spinning Out of Control. “I could easily spiral into hopelessness and despair. But like my daughters, I learned at an early age to hold fast to Someone. I don’t get it right all the time, and I’ve spent time wandering and lost. But that urge to hold fast keeps me close to the only Solution I know.”

No One Knows My Pain, HT to Challies. “Rather than inviting others into my pain and grief, I’ve often pushed them away. I’ve felt a vague sense of self-righteousness, confident that no one could speak into my life except God himself. I’ve dismissed others’ experiences, even the comfort of friends, because they couldn’t fully relate to my suffering.”

Mentoring Our Next Generation. “Looking back, I am amazed to think that none of these people were a part of the youth staff at my church. They did not have a position that would have prompted their involvement in my life. What they did have was a heart that was burdened for me and a big enough concern to pursue me and challenge me to walk with God. They mentored me!”

Keep It Simple, HT to Challies. “What do you feel when someone asks you to disciple them? I imagine you’re excited because a hungry, likely younger Christian, wants to grow. I imagine there’s probably also stress because you don’t know where to begin. A wealth of good resources is at your fingertips, but that can make things more complicated. So where do you start?”

“I’m so sorry”—“Thank You,” HT to Challies. “When I sat down to write those obligatory notes of thanks, I never expected to receive so much in return. What I thought would be a tedious, hand-aching process instead was cathartic and healing.”

The Virtue of Argument, HT to Story Warren. “As I sat down to write this, my daughter asked me what I was writing about. Adequately explaining virtue to a 9-year-old seemed like it might take more time than I wanted to devote at the moment, so I simply said, ‘I’m writing about how argument can be good.’ She instantly responded vehemently with, ‘No, it can’t!? Arguing is a bad thing?!'” We’d probably all react that way to the writer’s premise. But she’s calling for “an exchange of ideas” in a virtuous way rather than “winning at any cost.” Since we constantly come across people with different ideas than we have, it’s good to think about how to talk about our ideas while still respecting the other person’s.

6 Lessons for Tending Your Time. “You ever feel like that? Like you can’t win with your schedule? Like you’re swinging between laziness and frenetic activity? Maybe you’re looking, like I was, for a better relationship with time.”

This was a funny video about the difference between mothering toddlers and teens:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Here’s another round of good reads:

Do Christians Still Have Evil Desires? HT to Challies. “So, is the ground of judgment the acting out of sins, beyond merely harboring the impulse within? Or is this very tendency in us, a diminished but still present earthly desire towards sin’s allure, also ground for eternal judgment? Or is putting to death sin the complete eradication of evil desires from in us? Or is it (by grace) tamping down those desires that will always be there, but not acting out consistently on those impulses? If so, how would that apply to not just the acted-out sins, but specifically to ‘evil desires’?” John Piper answers these in a very helpful way.

Are You an Addict? “Chemicals are one of the ways that people, even God’s people, unbiblically cope with life’s trials. Others might immerse themselves in gaming, sex, or fantasy entertainment. Others use exercise, current events, food, dieting, obsession with sports teams, and even sleeping to escape from life’s realities. Many of these are good things, but they are being used in the wrong way. I had to take a long look at myself, and I found some unpleasant things that I had not even considered a problem before. I had to ask myself some difficult questions.”

Is There an Easy and Transformational Way to Study the Bible? “My dad was a kind man, but he demanded respect and obedience. When he spoke, he didn’t mean, ‘Hear my words, but do whatever you want.’ He meant, ‘Hear my words, understand what I’m saying, and respond in proper obedience.’ Our kind heavenly Father calls us to the same, if not a greater, level of hearing.”

6 Wrong Ways to Approach Difficult Passages, HT to Knowable Word. “It doesn’t take long for a Christian who’s studying the Bible to come across challenging passages. When we do, we should always remember the basics of interpretation: looking for the author’s intended message, reading it in context and with the whole of Scripture in view, even considering how believers throughout history have interpreted it. But following those principles isn’t enough. There are still common mistakes we can make when we study—or seek to teach from—difficult texts in Scripture.”

The Mustard Seed Mum: Pressured to Be Perfect? HT to Challies. “It’s not a competition, even if it feels like it. So what if your child’s best friend’s mother bakes brownies better than you? You’re the best mama for your kids. God put you in a position to look after these precious children. You can trust Him to help you do it.”

Looking for Contentment? It’s Not What You Think. “The more I reflect upon Paul’s letters, the more the Lord continues to refine my incomplete notions of contentment. Paul is not carefree, unburdened, and surrounded by trouble-free relationships. In fact, considering the larger picture of Paul’s ministry gives me a fuller picture of what contentment is by gaining insight into what it is not.”

Is There Such Thing As Random? How God Orchestrates People In His Perfect Timing. HT to Challies. “We don’t choose our moments of suffering, or the times we are pressed into service; they usually come on suddenly and without warning.”

Touch This Tree and You’ll Want to Die, HT to Challies. An interesting and awful natural phenomenon and a good object lesson.

How to Turn a Clique Inside Out, HT to Challies. “Close friendships are a wonderful blessing. But who are they blessing? In a clique, the blessings of friendship stay locked inside a tight circle of friends. The friends themselves tend not to notice, because they are too busy enjoying their own close relationships with each other. But for the people looking in from the outside, the view is not as pretty. They see backs, not faces.”

A Time to Hustle and a Time to Stroll. We tend one way or the other, but there’s a time for each.

And to end with a smile, I had not seen this particular Geico commercial about living in a Victorian house until Karen Wittemeyer shared it.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Happy Saturday! Here are some good reads I have discovered online recently.

Don’t Waste Your Experience, HT to Story Warren. “In the forums of The Habit Membership, Carey Christian recently posted an essay she had written about her experience as a survivor of the Columbine High School shooting . . . She survived by hiding with classmates in a locked and darkened office for three hours. (You can read the whole essay here.) The heart of the essay, however, is not those three hours of immediate peril, but the fifteen years after.” “It takes time to know what things mean. Writing and reflecting greatly improves your chances of learning what there is to learn from your life.”

Bible Reading Blues? Study Your Stop. “One of the most important questions a Bible reader can ask is what made her stop and walk away midway through. Think back to the last time you abandoned your Bible reading plan—it may have been as recently as this morning. Find your Bible and open to the page where you stopped reading; let’s figure out what went wrong.”

Should Parents Talk to Their Kids About Scary World Events? HT to Story Warren. “Since this digital age has made it virtually impossible to shield our children from disturbing news, parents have no choice but to address the issues head-on. With God’s help, we can provide balance and truth that will empower kids to walk in freedom from fear. Here are some tips to use when talking to children about scary world events.”

The Indispensable, Enduring, and Intervening Work of the Spirit, also from the Story Warren. “Much like the disciples, our heartaches can readily consume our perspective, hijack our story, and overshadow the truth of who God is. When we’re in the midst of hard circumstances, relinquishing our expectations of how things ought be feels frightening and vulnerable. We choose instead, to numb pain, worry obsessively our way through uncertainty, and manipulate people and our environment for a desired outcome. However, what if our insistence on control and holding tightly to our misplaced securities—such as health, finances, work, successes, giftedness, and relationships—hinder us from hearing Jesus? And what if we miss his tender care and reassuring comfort for us?”

Back to the Hospital: A Story of God’s Faithfulness, HT to Challies. A wonderful story of a young woman finding a way to minister as a patient in a mental health hospital.

How Heroes of the Bible Build Faith and Courage in Your Son. “A right understanding of biblical heroes provides a model for many desirable traits that we long for and pray for in our sons. But the Bible is a book about God, not a self-help manual. Scripture provides the faithful reader with a blueprint not just for good behavior, but for godliness.”

Are You Principled or Just a Contentious Jerk? HT to Challies. “The apostle Paul says ‘an overseer must be . . . not quarrelsome’ (1 Tim. 3:2–3). Yet in my experience, quarrelsome people often hide behind the excuse, ‘I’m just principled’ or ‘I’m standing up for the truth when no one else will.’”

When He Loves Someone Else. I don’t know if I have ever seen this topic addressed, but this is a good treatment of it. I don’t remember this incident from Corrie ten Boom’s life—it’s been way too long since I’ve read The Hiding Place.

Busyness . . . God’s Way. “In our hustle culture, the term ‘busy’ often gets a bad rap (and understandably so – sometimes we just flat out are too busy with misplaced priorities!). But just because we aren’t called to hustle and strive and be workaholics doesn’t mean it’s automatically wrong to ‘be busy’. It all comes down to what we are busy doing.”

Finally, this is a cute little film:

Do More Better

After several days of feeling like I was just spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere, I decided to pick up Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies. I’ve read his blog for years and saw this book on a Kindle sale a while back.

When we think productivity, we often think of life hacks. But before Tim gets to practical advice, he lays a biblical foundation with clarity about usefulness and purpose of productivity.

Productivity is not what will bring purpose to your life, but what will enable you to live out your existing purpose (p. 10).

We somehow assume that our value is connected to our busyness. But busyness cannot be confused with diligence. It cannot be confused with faithfulness or fruitfulness. . . .  Busyness may make you feel good about yourself and give the illusion of getting things done, but it probably just means that you are directing too little attention in too many directions, that you are prioritizing all the wrong things, and that your productivity is suffering (pp. 20-21).

No amount of organization and time management will compensate for a lack of Christian character, not when it comes to this great calling of glory through good—bringing glory to God by doing good to others . . .there is no great gain in being a productivity monster if the rest of your life is out of control (pp. 24-25).

After sifting through what productivity is and isn’t good for and what our purpose in life is as Christians, Tim shares this pithy definition: “Productivity is effectively stewarding my gifts, talents, time, energy, and enthusiasm for the good of others and the glory of God.” (p. 16).

He deals with enemies of productivity and the need to define our responsibilities and roles.

Then he discusses tools. Old-school equivalents would be a task-management tool, like a Daytimer or to-do list, a calendar, and a filing cabinet of vital information. But Tim brings us into the 21st century by sharing how to use apps that serve these purposes.

He shares his routines for managing his time and energy. We only have limited amounts of each, yet more opportunities to use them that we can handle, so we need to make decisions. “Motivation gets you started, but habit keeps you going. You need to use those times of high motivation to build habits and to embed those habits in a system. That way, when motivation wanes, the system will keep you going” (p. 79).

He reminds us that “Your primary pursuit in productivity is not doing more things, but doing more good” (p. 39). Sometimes that good is not a physical or practical thing one can check off a list. I had to learn this over and over while visiting with my mother-in-law when she was in assisted living. I “felt” like I was accomplishing more when there was something physical I could do, like tidy up her room. But she would get agitated if I puttered around, saying it made her feel like a bad housekeeper—even though she wasn’t supposed to be doing the housekeeping then. What she needed most was someone to sit down with her, look her in the eye, and talk and listen.

Interruptions are inevitable, and we need to view them from God’s sovereign hand.

Because your life is so prone to interruption and redirection, you have to hold to your plans loosely, trusting that God is both good and sovereign. At the same time, you cannot hold to your plans too loosely or you will be constantly sidetracked by less important matters. The solution is to approach each situation patiently and prayerfully and to trust that, in all things, God will be glorified so long as you flee from sin (p. 95).

Tim has some worksheets that tie into the material in the book on his site. One appendix shares a system for taming email; the second lists “20 Tips to Increase your Productivity.”

I read a lot of management books in early married years, but it was good to brush up on vital principles. Plus I don’t think any of them included some of the perspectives Tim shares here. I like that he repeats certain key principles.

This was a short book—128 pages—but it’s full of wisdom and good advice.

(Sharing with InstaEncouragements, Grace and Truth, Senior Salon,
Booknificent,Carole’s Books You Loved)