Laudable Linkage

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I found a lot of good reading this week, so I have a little longer list than usual. I hope you find something edifying here.

How to Fall . . . Again. HT to Challies. “You may have some obvious boundaries in place to keep you from the explicit routes back to your old sins. But there are some ways your new life might make you vulnerable to new sins. The devil is cunning and is perfectly willing to cut you in the left side while you protect your right. How might this happen? What are some ways you might fall again?”

What If the Worst Comes to Pass? Developing a What If Theology, HT to Challies.. Dealing with anxiety by facing the “what ifs” full on rather than hiding from them.

From Gay to Gospel: The Fascinating Story of Becket Cook, HT to Challies. Moving testimony.

6 Powerful Keys To Overcoming Anger, HT to Challies. “What is it that I want right now that I’m not getting? This question has changed my life. This question has helped me again and again to overcome the temptation to anger in my life. I try to ask myself this question when I’m tempted to be angry. What is it I want right now that I’m not getting?”

4 Ways to Grow in Self-Control, HT to Challies. “Self-control is one of the biggest indicators of Christian character. Without it, you’ll eventually ruin your life and legacy. With it, you can thrive and be a blessing to others around you. You’re probably convinced of the need for self-control. But how do you get it?”

Aspire to Live Quietly, HT to Challies.. “Be honest, do you love the conflict? Do you love the argument? If so, be insignificant on social media and preserve your soul. For what use is it to you if you gain all the world’s likes but lose your soul?”

Prime Prayer Attitude. Has Amazon prime affected our praying? Do we expect the answer at our front door in two days or free returns if we don’t like what we get?

Friend, What’s Your Name? Learning how to make friends from a child’s example.

No Pang Shall Be Mine? HT to Challies. Being a Christian doesn’t necessarily make for an easy death. Death is still the final enemy.

Was Jesus a Person of Color? An Immigrant? A Palestinian? HT to Challies. “Jesus should not be a political pawn whose identity shifts to match whatever the political cause is of the day. It is better for us to orient our lives around him than him around our politics.”

A Sad Tale of a Wealthy Millennial’s Moral Confusion, HT to Challies. I am coming across this idea more and more that wealth is immoral. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a post about it, but this says almost everything I would want to.

The Deepfake Artists Must be Stopped, HT to Challies. This is disturbing. People have found ways to copy a person’s voice to make fake recordings of them saying and doing whatever the creator wants.

Creating a Bible Study Notebook. The ladies at Do Not Depart have been discussing this topic all month and share some free printables.

Downton Abbey Cast Reverses Roles, HT to Laura. Fun!

Finally, I stumbled across this and really enjoyed it. Some of you may remember Jim Varney’s Ernie or Ernest character. I had no idea that Varney was a trained classical actor. It was also interesting seeing how Ernest got started. I think this must have aired before some of his later movies, since it doesn’t reference them.

Laudable Linkage

Here are a few good reads recently discovered:

Studying the Bible Is Not Supposed to Be Easy, HT to True Woman. “We need to go into it expecting, not that it will be easy – that the Holy Spirit is just going to dump truth on us just because we were faithful to sit down and flip open the covers – but rather, that if we obey just some simple reading tools that we would use with any book, that the Bible will begin to yield up treasure to us.”

Minimalism Is Not the Gospel, HT to Out of the Ordinary. “Christian finds freedom not in lifestyle changes or donations at the local charity shop but in Christ. He finds relief not in what he has done but in the One who has done everything for him; not in needing less but in acknowledging his complete dependence on his Savior; not in the arrival of the recycling truck but in the beauty of the cross.

Why an unwanted pregnancy is about the baby and the father, too. “We also need a generation of women who will encourage men to take responsibility and show the sacrificial love and empathy that ought to mark men, not push them out of the conversation about abortion.”

When a Cussing, Drug-addicted Mom Shows Up at Your Church, HT to True Woman. I don’t like that multiple links to the author’s book makes this seem like a big commercial, but if you can look past that, this is a beautiful story of how God used a nursery worker to redeem a situation and draw this mom toward God’s grace instead of banishing her in shame from it.

Joining a Mob, HT to Challies. “We can’t let our emotion run away with our discernment. Hot takes should be anathema to people charged to be slow to anger and slow to speak.”

What Is the Role of the Christian Writer? “The Christian writer is not to write just to make others think. That is not enough. Making people think is easy—just challenge their ideas or shock them with controversy. That’s just noise, and Lord knows we don’t need more noise. No, the Christian writer is to fetch treasure to share with readers.”

The Dangers of Self-care, HT to True Woman. A little relaxation, taking a break, even hobbies are fine, but “When we sate ourselves on the things of this world—pleasures and comforts of whatever kind—we become spiritually sluggish. Our prayer life, our Scripture reading, and all the delights of belonging to God seem distant and dull when we prioritize our time and activities around gratifying our appetites.”

Cultivating Self-Control, HT to Challies.

The Demise of Book Collecting? No, not for avid book lovers. Good thoughts on the difference between collecting and hoarding.

And, finally:

Uncontrolled Reactions

Photo Courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Photo Courtesy of Photokanok at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve never been particularly interested in or good at science classes, though I could always pass them fairly easily. My college major of Home Economics Education required a few sciences, though: biology, chemistry, and zoology. I have never figured out the zoology requirement – all I remember from that class is a session about parasites in some countries that could get into a break in the skin if you’re wading and grow the length of your leg – inside your leg. (Yikes!)

The chemistry class was a very basic one that mostly Home Ec. and P. E. majors took. Some of my memories from it were the experiments where we had an unidentified solution and had to try to do different things to it to determine what it was. I enjoyed the puzzle-solving aspect of that. One other memory from that class comes from one of our first times doing lab work. Among the safety instructions was this: if you pick up a beaker or test tube that is excessively hot, don’t drop it. Whether it’s hot from a chemical reaction or from heating, dropping it would likely cause it to break, splash, or spill, causing more damage to one’s skin than a momentary burn. We were instructed to carefully and calmly put it down, and then see if our burned skin was anything more than minor discomfort. I’m sure there had to have been instructions on avoiding that problem in the first place (timed heating, tongs, gloves, etc.), but what stood out to me was the necessity of controlling a reaction in a situation where a natural but uncontrolled one would multiply any damage already done.

This came to mind recently when a reaction of mine could have been disastrous if the circumstances had been just a little different. I find I am in the most danger of an uncontrolled reaction when I’m angry, hungry, frustrated, over-tired, over-stimulated, wronged. But I don’t see any of those listed as excuses in Scripture for not being filled with the Spirit. Yes, there is grace and forgiveness. Yes, God remembers that we’re just dust, and we need to do the same. But He does want us to grow in grace and the knowledge of Him and to continually change us to act more and more like Him. Lashing back at hurtful words, yelling at a child who has done wrong, matching the speed of the car trying to cut us off, could all cause more damage than the original offense.

I’m not talking about stuffing or burying our feelings. Sometimes we need to clear the air, deal with an offense, make a change. But we do also need to be forbearing, loving, and kind, which does not characterize uncontrolled reactions.

Usually afterward I can put the situation in perspective, apply Scriptural truth, see what I should have done. But how to keep from those wrong reactions in the first place?

I read just recently that we have more self-control than we think we do, because there are certain people we wouldn’t react wrongly in front of (a boss, a pastor, etc.), and because we can shift gears if, for instance, we answer the phone or someone walks in. Perhaps pretending that someone I respect is with me or watching me would help – or, more likely, to remember that my Lord is with me and watching all the time.

Of course, the general means of Christian growth help as well: reading, remembering, and meditating on Scripture, prayer, etc. Perhaps specific study in problems areas or in yielding to God’s control would particularly help. The more we are in God’s Word, the more the Holy Spirit can bring it to our minds when needed. “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Here are some other steps that I find helpful:

  1. Stop. Just stop whatever the natural reaction is and take a moment to take a deep breath and think.
  2. Pray – for help, for the right reactions, for wisdom.
  3. If possible, get a few moments alone. That helps emotions to cool down and gives time to gain perspective. When my children needed to be disciplined, we always told them to go sit on our bed, wait for us, and think. While we did want them to think about the situation, we also needed that time to make sure our own emotions were under control, to pray, and to discuss the best course of action.
  4. Take care of whatever needs to be taken care of at the moment. (Wipe up the spill, slow down, feed the hungry child, etc.)
  5. Listen to that voice in your head telling you not to react the way you feel like reacting.
  6. Remember the damage that could be caused if you react the way you feel like reacting.
  7. Let it go. Not like the Disney song, but, as someone once said, you don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to. So what if another driver cuts me off, if every line I get in at the store slows to a stop, if interruptions invade my day. It’s not the end of the world. Who says I have any right to expect everything to go exactly my way all the time? (I need to preach this to myself often!)
  8. Don’t feed the flame. This is related to the above, but don’t keep rehearsing over and over whatever got you upset in the first place. That’s only going to keep your emotions stirred up.
  9. Die to self. “See in this which seems to stir up all you most wish were not stirred up — see in it a chance to die to self in every form. Accept it as just that – a chance to die” (Amy Carmichael).
  10. Afterward, consider ways the problem could be avoided next time (leave early enough so that I am not stressed driving, don’t over-schedule, get enough rest, make sure to listen to what the other person is saying and ask questions to avoid misunderstanding, etc.)
  11. Don’t give way in little things and then expect to be longsuffering in major areas.

A word of explanation about that last one: I used to think that if I gave way to temper or frustration in little things when I was home alone, it wouldn’t be a problem: there was no one to see me and no one would be hurt by anything I said or did. But I was wrong, because it fosters the habit of giving way instead of reinforcing the exercise of self-control.

In our last couple of Sunday School classes, we’ve been talking about Moses, specifically the incident in Numbers 20 when the children of Israel needed water and got after Moses about it. Moses went to God, and God told him to speak to the rock, and water would come forth. But after chiding the people a bit, Moses struck the rock instead of speaking to it. Now, I confess I would have lost it with the people long before Moses did. In verse 12 God says Moses’ action reflected unbelief. I don’t know whether he was going by the formula that worked before (in Exodus 17, God did tell Moses to strike a rock to get water), trusting in his action or his rod rather than in the word of God, or what exactly. His words, “Must we fetch you water out of this rock” (verse 10) indicates he was trusting in his action rather than God’s word. But for that God barred him from entering into the promised land that he had been leading Israel to for almost 40 years (verse 12), one of the costliest consequences of an uncontrolled reaction recorded in Scripture. On the other hand, David, when slighted and repulsed by Nabal, was going to come and decimate Nabal and his men until Abigail intervened and talked him down with her calmness, reason, and gifts (1 Samuel 25). To David’s credit, he listened and stopped what he planned to do, and God took care of Nabal. Abigail prevented major bloodshed and became David’s wife.

Of course, our prime example of godly, controlled reactions is our Lord Jesus. His turning out the money changers in the temple was not a temper tantrum: it was a cleansing of His Father’s house. He “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Peter 2:22-24). The more we “with unveiled face, behold the glory of the Lord,” the more we”are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. James 1:19

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

________________

See also:

It’s the Little Things.
Irritants as God’s Messengers.
Beholding His Glory.

( Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Testimony Tuesday, Woman to Woman, Works For Me Wednesdays, Thought-provoking Thursday.)

Book Review: Feeding Your Appetites

AppetitesFeeding Your Appetites: Taking Control of What’s Controlling You by Stephen Arterburn and Debra Cherry is based on the premise that most of our out-of-control desires are based on God-given appetites that are not wrong in themselves (food, sex, work, rest), but they can wreak havoc when they get out of balance. Even appetites for things that are wrong in themselves (gambling, drugs) can have a basis in a desire that’s not wrong.

Stephen discusses the nature, good purposes, and value of appetites God created within us. But “when pleasure becomes what we are searching for, we will soon learn that there is never enough to satisfy” (p. 33). “Our poor choices are rooted in self-indulgence and obsession with self-entitlement. We indulge to seek pleasure and avoid pain because we think we are entitled to it. The fleshly pleasure we seek is self-serving” (p. 35).

He discusses how change begins (seek forgiveness, stop make excuses, stop blaming others, stop believing falsehoods, and others), the many factors that influence us (including biology, culture, and a host of others), the ways Satan uses our desires against us to tempt us, ways to deal with or redirect our desires, and ways to cultivate a “divine appetite.” The last chapter on “The Surrendered Life” ties it all together in emphasizing that the only way to keep our appetites in their proper places is to walk surrendered to God every day. An appendix and study guide in the back help apply the truth personally.

Sprinkled throughout the book are case studies which are very helpful in fleshing out the principles Stephen is discussing. My only minor quibble with them is that they came in the middle of rather than at the end of sections. I don’t like having to either interrupt the section I am reading to read the case study or read on to finish the section I am in and then turn back to the case study when it could have easily been placed between sections. But, again, that is a relatively minor irritation.

A few quotes I found helpful:

[In Eden] Eve couldn’t overeat because her appetite for food would have been under control and submissive to her primary appetite to obey God” (p. 18).

When we have an out-of-control appetite for food, it signals that we have put that appetite above its rightful place as a necessary and God-given function (p. 18).

The question of how to satisfy our appetites becomes instead a call to seek to obey God in all circumstances and through all appetites and desires. That means making the necessary choices to satisfy our appetites in a manner that honors Him. When we do, true fulfillment is our reward (p. 25).

There were a few little points where I disagreed with his teaching, but not enough to get into long explanations. I will say that I disagreed with his concept of meditation, which he seemed to define as listening to God as opposed to talking to Him in prayer. Meditation is more of a ruminating, thinking over what He has said in His Word, not listening for Him to speak apart from His Word (see next to last paragraph here.)

Overall it’s a very good book. It covers some of the same ground as Taste For Truth by Barb Raveling except it expands to cover about every appetite you could think of whereas Barb’s book focuses on food. Barb’s style is much more direct, which I tend to prefer. I felt Stephen tended to over-explain or use too many words, but that may have been because I had just read many of the same principles in Barb’s book. This book might be especially helpful for a non-Christian or new Christian or a Christian who had not been taught very well along the way. But really, it can benefit anyone. I gleaned much good from it.

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