Laudable Linkage

Here are some of the good reads found this week:

5 Effects of Expository Preaching, HT to Challies. “To publicly herald God’s Word is an act of worship (2 Tim. 2:15), and a stewardship for which we’ll give an account. Here are five ways expository preaching beautifies Christ’s bride.”

Growth: Potential vs. Actual. A tale of two fig trees, one flourishing and one not, and what we can learn from them.

3 Ways to Turn Against Your Pastor, HT to Challies. “How do otherwise good Christians turn against otherwise good pastors? Here are three very common ways it happens.”

Not as the World: Finding Peace in Motherhood, HT to The Story Warren. “The sun dips and light filters through the back window, washing my kitchen in a warm shade of orange. It would be peaceful, except for the teething baby screeching in his highchair. The sizzling of a half-cooked dinner on the stove. The drumming in my head from sleeplessness. Fading light reminds me that the day is closing, but my responsibilities are endless.”

Why We Must Teach Our Kids Safety Skills, HT to Challies. “Young people are growing up in an increasing godless world, while also in deep need for wisdom and discernment to navigate it. More than ever, they need to know how to traverse the dangers around them.”

Truth and Story, HT to The Story Warren. “‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein…’ Psalm 24:1 (ESV). This verse applies to books and readers, too. This is the foundation of why we read to the glory of God, because we have Him to thank for excellent literature.”

I’ve read parts of The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Poems and Devotions, but not the whole book. Hope’s review mentions an interesting article about who collected and edited the prayers in the book.

I heard a great message from Adrian Rogers on the radio yesterday while working in the kitchen. The overall message was about burdens, but the section on today’s broadcast was about restoration after one has fallen. The audio is here and an outline and transcript are here.

Passive or Pursuing?

I’ve read Daily Light on the Daily Path nearly every day for about 30 years now. But I saw something in the reading for September 1 that I don’t remember noticing before.

The topic for September 1 morning reading was meekness. The first verse portion came from Galatians 5:22, which lists meekness as a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Years ago I read of a mother teaching her children that because the fruit of the Spirit was something that He grew in us, they could sit back and relax since there was nothing they could do to produce this fruit.

While I agreed that only the Holy Spirit could produce His fruit in us, something bothered me about a totally passive response.

Then on this first September morning, another phrase stood out to me from the day’s reading in 1 Timothy 6:11: “Follow after meekness.” Other versions say “pursue” instead of “follow after” and translate “meekness” as “gentleness.”

Here was a verse telling us to pursue, to follow after, something that’s part of the fruit of the Spirit. Pursuing doesn’t indicate a passive approach.

In context in 1 Timothy 6, Paul has warned Timothy about wrong doctrine and false teachers. The motivation for some of these false teachers was monetary gain. Paul encourages contentment and warns that the pursuit of money brings a snare. He warns “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (verse 10).

Then the word “but” provides a pivot: “But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”

Some of these characteristics are also part of the fruit of the Spirit (“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control,” Galatians 5:22-23). They are given to us, yet we’re also told to pursue them.

I’m not generally good with plants. But I know only God can make something grow. Farming has been an act of faith for hundreds of years. Farmers till the ground, sow seed, water, fertilize, and weed. But they have no control over whether drought or storms or disease or insects affect their crops beyond their ability to care for them.

Many of us have had the experience of planting a new flower or vegetable according to instructions, eagerly awaiting the first green shoots, only to be disappointed when nothing happened.

But, though only God can make something grow, He doesn’t usually produce a bumper crop without requiring human input. He doesn’t need our input, but He requires it. Even in the garden of Eden, before sin brought weeds and thorns, man’s job was to “work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Sure, God places lovely wildflowers in overlooked corners and lush growth in uninhabited rain forests. But many things that seem to grow without effort are the wrong sorts of things–weeds and vines that choke out other growth.

We’re saved by grace through faith plus nothing (Ephesians 2:8-9). And our sanctification is from God as well.

But He wants our cooperation, our obedience.

Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on Timothy, Be Faithful, sheds some light. A little later in 1 Timothy 6, verse 19, Paul says, “Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (KJV). Wiersbe comments, “‘That they may lay hold on eternal life’ (1 Tim. 6: 19) does not suggest that these people are not saved. ‘That they may lay hold on the life that is real’ would express it perfectly.” The ESV translates it closer to that meaning: “thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”

So that’s probably similar to what we’re dealing with concerning the fruit of the Spirit. God gives it: we don’t work it up in our own efforts. But in love and obedience, we lay hold of and pursue and cooperate with the Spirit’s working in our lives.

How do we pursue the qualities God wants us to have?

Intentionality. We don’t drift into holiness. “Pursue” indicates planning and purpose.

Turn away from wrong things. The command to pursue certain things followed the command to flee other things.

Pray. We can’t be or do what God wants us to in our own strength. We need to ask Him to fill us with His Spirit.

Read God’s Word. God speaks to us through His Word, giving us wisdom and knowledge. If we’re having trouble in a particular area, maybe we need to study and memorize verses in that area.

Behold Him. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says we’re changed to be more like our Savior when we behold Him. The Bible is not just a self-help book or a manual for overcoming our faults. The Word of God is the means by which we behold Him: we need to seek Him, not just formulas.

Yield to Him. John 14:26 says that the Holy Spirit will remind us of what God has taught us. When we’re angry and about to give way to our temper, and the Holy Spirit brings to mind a verse warning about the dangers of anger, we need to yield to Him. When we’re about to indulge in a third dessert, and God brings to mind verses about gluttony and self-control, we need to yield to Him. “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Romans 6:13).

So is the fruit of the Spirit something we passively receive?

Yes.

But if we’re not in God’s Word, growing in grace and knowledge of Him, yielding to Him as He convicts us in our daily walk, that fruit is not going to ripen and mature. We can’t do even those things without His enabling and help. But He wants us to actively pursue His will.

At least, that’s how I understand it after this study. What do you think?

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

Our Responsibility to Discern False Teaching

A prophet of God sat under an oak, taking a rest from his long journey. He had come from Judah to Bethel to deliver to King Jeroboam a harsh but needed message.

God had told this prophet not to eat bread or drink water while on this mission, and to return by a different way than he had come. Perhaps the man of God thought these directives were to protect him from the possible diversion by the king, who offered him refreshment and a reward. Or they were to keep him from appearing to show any sign of compromise, as a meal together would indicate friendship and fellowship. Or he might have felt they were a form of fasting, symbolic of his dedication in doing God’s work.

Maybe he should have interpreted them as, “Don’t linger. Do your business and get back as soon as possible.”

As he rested, an older man rode up to him on a donkey, identifying himself as a prophet of God as well. Prophet 2 (let’s call him Henry to avoid confusing pronouns) invited Prophet 1 (George, let’s say) home for a meal. George repeated what he had told the king: he had been told not to eat bread or drink water in that place.

But Henry assured George it was all right. “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’”

George didn’t think he had a reason to distrust Henry: he was a fellow prophet after all. And George was probably tired, hungry, and thirsty. So he accompanied Henry back to his house.

But Henry had been lying.

“As they sat at the table, the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back. And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord and have not kept the command that the Lord your God commanded you, but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, ‘Eat no bread and drink no water,’ your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’”

There’s no record of George’s response. But on his way home, a lion killed him. George’s body was thrown from his donkey, but the lion didn’t eat either George or the donkey. The animals just waited with the body until townspeople passed by and brought word back to the city about what had happened. Henry heard the news and rode back to pick up George, then brought him home to bury in his own tomb.

This is one of the oddest stories in the Bible (1 Kings 13). One of the first questions that comes to mind is, “Why did the second prophet lie to the first?” What earthly reason could he have had? The Bible doesn’t tell us. He didn’t hate the first prophet: he mourned him, called him brother, and confirmed his prophecy to Jeroboam. He even asked to be buried next to him when he died.

We have to remember this is not an isolated story just thrown into the narrative of Israel’s kings. This incident took place within the bigger context of Jeroboam’s awful sins of making golden calves for Israel to worship and setting up a whole different system than what God had given Israel. Perhaps this story is an OT illustration of the NT verse in 1 Peter 4:17: “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” If God would discipline his own prophet who had disobeyed a simple directive, what would He do to the likes of Jeroboam? Perhaps this story was confirmation that God would deal with Jeroboam as the prophet had said.

There are several truths and applications that could be gleaned from this passage. But the one I want to hone in on is this: Know God’s Word. Obey it. Don’t let the surrounding culture turn you away from it. Don’t let even other professing believers distract you from it.

That’s not to say we never ask counsel or receive advice. The Bible tells us to do both. The fellowship of other believers, Bible study books, commentaries, and other aids can open our understanding and point out things we missed.

But we’re to know God’s Word for ourselves so we can discern when someone is telling us something different.

False prophets don’t always look or sound like false prophets at first. They are “deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). Paul said in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”

Much of the OT warns against false prophets. In one place, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD'” (Jeremiah 23:16).

The NT warns of false prophets and teachers as well. In her book Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity, Alisa Childers writes: “Much of the New Testament, including the entire book of Jude, is dedicated to helping Christians watch out for, recognize, and avoid these sheep-clothed wolves. In researching some of these passages, I discovered that the topic of false teachers and false teaching is addressed directly in twenty-two of twenty-seven New Testament books. Encouragement to keep the true faith and to practice discernment is mentioned in every single one.”

The Bible warns that false teachers will not only come in from the outside, but they’ll arise from within the congregation. In Paul’s farewell message to the elders at Ephesus, he warned, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert,” (Acts 20:29-31a). Peter warned about false teachers arising “among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them” (2 Peter 2:1-3). This was what happened to Alisa Childers, whose book I mentioned. Her own trusted pastor began undermining longstanding doctrines of the faith.

The Bible gives us the responsibility to watch out for false doctrine. I’ve already mentioned Paul’s admonition to “be alert” in Acts 20:31. Jesus began warnings about false teachers with the word “Beware.” Paul says elsewhere, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

I don’t think this means we need to become unduly suspicious of one another. But we study the Word of God and check whatever we’re taught against it. The Bereans in Acts were called noble because they did this with Paul’s teaching. Alisa followed their example and searched for the truth, nailing down why she believed what she did.

After Paul’s warning to the Ephesian elders, he said, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). When he wrote to the Ephesians later, he said God had given the church gifts in “the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers” in order “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:12-14).

So while we don’t need to get paranoid, we do need to be alert. And we remember that we don’t come to the Bible just for affirmation or comfort or warm fuzzies. We come to it to find truth about and from God. We study God’s Word for ourselves and with others, and as we grow in spiritual maturity, we won’t be deceived and tossed about.

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

Dormant Souls

One of my least favorite parts of winter is the barrenness of the landscape. Besides a few fir trees, nothing is growing and everything looks dead and gray.

The plants and trees aren’t dead, of course. They’re just dormant, suspending their usual growth process for their protection. Life is still inside the plants and their roots, ready to spring forth when conditions are ripe again.

I think our souls sometimes go through periods of dormancy, too. We all have ups and downs, times when we “feel” more fervent and spiritual than others. We know we don’t rely on feelings, but they can sure make things easier or harder.

Grief can look like dormancy. Just like a broken leg needs time to heal, a broken heart does as well. Much of a grieving person’s energy goes towards healing. They’re still very much alive, spiritually and otherwise. Some say that their deepest periods of growth have come during their most sorrowful times. But they may not look or act like their normal selves and may not appear to be as fruitful as they usually are.

King David’s life seems to me to display dormancy after his great sin with Bathsheba and his unthinkable plot to have her husband killed. The first part of his life had gone well as he followed God closely. He wasn’t perfect, but he was “a man after God’s own heart.”

But after these sins, David tried to cover his tracks for several months. Then God’s prophet confronted him, and David broke down. He confessed his sin and repented.

Yet even forgiven sin has consequences. David’s household was in turmoil for years afterward. One son raped his half-sister. Another son killed the first and tried to take over David’s kingdom.

And David said nothing to rebuke his sons. Did he feel he had no right in light of his failures? Did he feel the events in his family were part of his punishment? It would have been better to be honest with them about his sin, to warn them about the dangers of temptation and the necessity to nip it in the bud, to point out that he didn’t “get away with it,” as perhaps they hoped to do, but he was under God’s chastening hand.

In fact, David is pretty quiet from the time of his sin until his return to the kingdom after Absalom’s rebellion. But he doesn’t seem fully himself again until 1 Kings, as he helps Solomon get ready to build the temple.

In today’s cancel culture, David’s career would be over and his esteem among his people would have been lost.

But God wasn’t done with David. David’s spiritual life wasn’t dead: just read Psalm 51, written after his repentance. According to this site, Psalms 32, 86, and 122 were also written after this time.

John Newton captured this idea of reviving in spring in a couple of poems. One, written in April of 1776, begins “Pleasing spring is here again” and goes on to capture evidences of spring. The next few stanzas say:

What a change has taken place!
Emblem of the spring of grace;
How the soul, in winter, mourns
Till the Lord, the Sun, returns;
Till the Spirit’s gentle rain,
Bids the heart revive again;
Then the stone is turned to flesh,
And each grace springs forth afresh.

Lord, afford a spring to me!
Let me feel like what I see;
Ah! my winter has been long,
Chilled my hopes, and stopped my song!
Winter threatened to destroy
Faith and love, and every joy;
If thy life was in the root,
Still I could not yield thee fruit.

Speak, and by thy gracious voice
Make my drooping soul rejoice;
O beloved Saviour, haste,
Tell me all the storms are past:
On thy garden deign to smile,
Raise the plants, enrich the soil;
Soon thy presence will restore
Life to what seemed dead before.

In the last stanza, Newton longs for his eternal home where winter will be no more.

In “Waiting for Spring,” written a couple of years later in March of 1778, Newton revisits this idea. In the first three stanzas, he talks about the change of seasons as part of God’s decree. Then he writes:

Such changes are for us decreed;
Believers have their winters too;
But spring shall certainly succeed,
And all their former life renew.

Winter and spring have each their use,
And each, in turn, his people know;
One kills the weeds their hearts produce,
The other makes their graces grow.

Though like dead trees awhile they seem,
Yet having life within their root,
The welcome spring’s reviving beam
Draws forth their blossoms, leaves, and fruit.

Then he prays in the last stanza:

Dear Lord, afford our souls a spring,
Thou know’st our winter has been long;
Shine forth, and warm our hearts to sing,
And thy rich grace shall be our song.

It’s one thing when circumstances or sorrows cause us to draw in and heal, or God’s chastening weighs us down for a while. It’s another thing if we’re dormant because we’ve neglected God’s means of growth.

Like plants, we need light.

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” (Psalm 4:6)

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).

The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple. (Psalm 119:130).

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

We need water.

Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word (Ephesians 5:25-26).

Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. (John 7:37).

And we need nourishment.

I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food (Job 23:12).

Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16).

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35).

Whether your soul is feeling sluggish and sleepy or in full bloom, or in-between, will you turn to His light and let it warm you? Will you take in His water and let it soak down deep in your soul? Will you partake of His nourishment to strengthen your roots and bring forth fruit in your life?

After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him.

Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth (Hosea 6:2-3).

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

Laudable Linkage

Here are some of the thought-provoking reads found this week:

Bible Contradictions? A Response to Bart Ehrman, HT to Challies. “So, I did read the text. And, what I found is that Bart Ehrman puts forward some difficult passages for believers. But what I also found is that a moment or two of thinking erased many of the contradictions.”

Three Prayer Requests for a Heart on Life Support (about prodigals, not end-of-life decisions). “In the letter to the church of Sardis (Rev. 3:1–6), Christ addressed a church that had a ‘reputation for being alive,’ but was full of ‘dead’ people, or as we might term them, prodigals. Christ then gives the church a series of commands, which will make helpful prayers as we intercede for the prodigals in our own lives.”

Instant Coffee, Instant Faith. “It is not the massive floods that cause a tree to grow; it’s the steady stream of water day after day, month after month, year after year. The Christian life does not consist only of great breakthroughs; it consists mainly in mundane, steady obedience. Like David prayed, it is the pursuit of ‘one thing . . . to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple’” (Psalm 27:4).”

Bible Study Is Hard Work (And That Is OK). HT to Challies. “So, are you struggling in your reading of God’s Word? That’s OK. You’re supposed to. The Bible is deep, rich, and ancient.” But there’s reward on the other side of it.

About Those Sparrows, HT to Challies. “Five sparrows. Two pennies. Bought, crushed, ground into stew, discarded, their life snuffed out just like that. Not forgotten by God. If God ‘remembered the sparrow’…if his eye was on the sparrow wouldn’t they not be bought and sold like this?” I confess, I have wondered this. I like this perspective.

Fear of Being Labeled a “White Savior,” HT to Challies. “Whereas I cannot speak to the motives of every white person working in a third world environment, I can with confidence say that this mentality is not compatible with Christian missions. I propose that the Christian missionary is not a ‘white savior’ for the following reasons.”

Writing on The Dawn Treader. “Show, don’t tell” has been the primary instruction for writers of fiction and narrative nonfiction for years. This article explores how C. S. Lewis gave us a clear idea of the kind of boy Eustace Scrub was without a single adjective.

A Grandma Scams a Scammer. Loved this story.

I was looking for a “prayer for the middle-aged” that Elisabeth Elliot recently quoted on her radio program when I discovered this. It’s not the one I was looking for, but this lady’s delivery is so funny.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineHere’s my latest collection o good online reads:

The Song That Was Sharper Than Sting. This is a lovely piece of writing, referencing Tolkien and Lewis and the Bible about songs of Home that encourage us in the darkness.

Redemption May Be Closer Than You Think. “I have learned not to lose heart when everything around me crumbles. God is working. I can trust Him. It may be that what looks dead is about to spring to life.”

The Day I Scheduled God Out of My Life, HT to True Woman. “Your schedule will be different, and you’ll have a choice: to let your schedule dictate the depth of your relationship with Christ, or to let Christ dictate your schedule.”

Carrying a Knapsack, HT to Challies. Thoughts from Galatians 6 about what it means to bear burdens and carry our own load while relying on God’s grace to do so. “Problems arise when people act as if their ‘boulders’ are daily loads and refuse help, or as if their ‘daily loads’ are boulders they shouldn’t have to carry. The results of these two instances are either perpetual pain or irresponsibility.”

Be Quiet: Cultivating a Gentle Spirit in a World That Loves Noise. “Quiet, they claim, is weakness. Being still and speechless is no longer an acceptable option in a culture that values its own noise above all else.”

10 Awesome Art Appreciation Book Series for Your Homeschool (or to supplement whatever kind of schooling you do), HT to Story Warren. This is an area I wished we’d had more time for. These books would have helped.

Since we had two birthdays in our family this month, here’s Happy Birthday in 12 major keys and different styles:

Laudable Linkage

I have a very short list today, but a good one. I started to save them for next week, but by then I might have so many they’d get lost in the shuffle.

Redefining Balance So We Stop Thinking We’re Doing Life Wrong, HT to Edie Melson at the Blue Ridge Conference Writers Facebook Page. “Juggling is exhausting. It’s also not supposed to be a full-time gig. Professional jugglers don’t juggle every day, all the time. Which brings me to the whole idea of balance because juggling involves balance.”

Maintaining Confidence in the Process. “Too often we overestimate the growth we can gain in a week, but underestimate the growth we can gain in a year.”

The Casserole Rules. “As people of faith, we are very good at meeting people in times of death and illness. There are no judgments around these things, and we do not need discernment about who was in the wrong. We don’t have to wonder about whether one’s grief is deserving of a casserole. The rules about other human conditions are not so clear. Casseroles for the death of a marriage? For a mental breakdown? For rehab?”

My five-year-old grandson likes the “Dude Perfect” guys on YouTube and shared several of their videos with us. This was one of my favorites:

I don’t necessarily like the “Rage Monster,” who appears in all their “stereotypes” videos. Being so angry you’re out of control is scary rather than funny to me. I guess someone must have been looking to take up a gym floor here. 🙂

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

I have another short but noteworthy list today:

Don’t Trust in Your Christianity, HT to Challies. “I’m afraid many find themselves in a similar predicament of pretense after growing up ‘Christian,’ developing ‘Christian’ habits, and embracing ‘Christian’ ideals—all without any real knowledge of the truly narrow road that leads to eternal life.”

Skillet’s John Cooper on Apostasy Among Young Christian Leaders. I don’t know this person, but I was fascinated by this article a friend linked to on Facebook. I think he’s right. “It is time for the church to rediscover the preeminence of the Word. And to value the teaching of the Word. We need to value truth over feeling. Truth over emotion. And what we are seeing now is the result of the church raising up influencers who did not supremely value truth who have led a generation who also do not believe in the supremacy of truth. And now those disavowed leaders are proudly still leading and influencing boldly AWAY from the truth.”

Most Growth Will be Slow Growth, HT to Challies. “We are just plain tired. Tired of daily self-denial. Tired of taking two steps forward and one step back. Tired of walking on a road that feels endless, toward a city we cannot see. Disillusioned and exhausted, many sit down on the path, not sure if they will get back up again. Why does the slowness of our sanctification come as a surprise to so many of us?” This is something I have wrestled with and very much needed to hear.

How Not to Fall Away, HT to Challies. “[Paul] mentioned Hymenaeus and Alexander who had blasphemed and ‘concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck’ (1 Tim. 1:19-20). What a terrible image. But Paul wasn’t exaggerating. He had been shipwrecked (2 Cor. 11:25). He knew that apostasy was no less tragic than the sinking of a vessel on which people’s lives depended.”

Finally, this cracked me up at first, but then seemed poignant. A lot for a short video to convey! The comments on YouTube with different people’s interpretations was interesting, too.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

I’ve been debating with myself about whether to post these now or wait. It’s later in the day than I usually post, because we had an outing earlier today. But this is a nice-sized list: if I wait til next Saturday, it might be twice as long. So I think I’ll go ahead and share them. Hopefully you’ll find something that interests you among them.

Are You Pointing Your Suffering Friend to Earthly Things. “The ‘at least’ and ‘look on the bright side’ statements that jump from our mouths originate from a desire to fix a hard circumstance, but in saying them, we run from the reality that we simply can’t. We can’t take our fellow Christians’ suffering away. Unfortunately, in our efforts to help take their minds off their pain, we often point them to the wrong place.”

When Missionaries Return Broken, HT to Kim.

The Quiet Miracle of Roots and Leaves. Lots of good stuff in this one. “It turns out that a believing teen’s struggle with apathy and hypocrisy requires the same grace from the same Savior who longs to deliver less-catechized teens from drug addiction and immorality.” True for us adults, too.

The Opposite of a Bucket List. “Even if I did come up with the perfect list–challenging enough to be exciting, but not so challenging as to be impossible–and I managed to actually accomplish every item on it, what then of the end game? What would be left to life once everything on the list had been checked off?” I like her alternative much better.

Should Introverts Be Expected to Act Like Extroverts? HT to Challies. I’ve read many articles about introverts, usually by introverts. This one, written by an  extrovert, was refreshing.

These 5 Classic Books Are Getting Remade Into Movies, HT to Karen Swallow Prior. Some look promising. I hope they do them justice.

I came across this quote by Spurgeon on a friend’s Facebook page, reposted from the C. H. Spurgeon Quotes page. Thought it went well with my Monday post about church.

Have a great rest of the weekend!

Review and Giveaway: Journaling for the Soul

I kept journals in high school, but I became embarrassed by their content and threw them out. I wish I had kept them, embarrassing as they may have been, for a window into my teenage mind. I made notes from my devotional time for years, but stopped for two main reasons. My writing took up much more time than my reading, and I felt I needed to be listening to God in His Word more than writing my thoughts about His Word. Plus I had stacks of small spiral notebooks that I wasn’t sure what to do with. I rarely went back through them, so I figured they had served their purpose, and I threw them out, too. The closest thing I’ve had to a journal in recent years has been my blog.

But lately I’ve been reminded of the value of writing in connection with our time in God’s Word. Writing helps us process thoughts, and writing helps reinforce and make those thoughts permanent.

JournalingAbout this time, Michele’s review of Journaling for the Soul: A Handbook of Journaling Methods by Deborah Haddix caught my eye, so I asked for a copy for Christmas.

Deborah shares that journaling in the only way she knew it seemed like too much pressure and took up too much time. But as friends shared with her a variety of journaling methods, she hit on one that resonated with her and enhanced her time with the Lord.

Deborah shares several benefits to journaling. In addition to the ones I mentioned above, journaling can help us engage with a text of Scripture more than a cursory reading would provide, “moving you from reading for information to reading for transformation” (p. 13). Journaling enables us to slow down and focus, “documents what God is currently teaching us” (p. 16), “provides a record of our spiritual growth, one that we can look back on as a reminder of God’s persistent work in our lives” (p. 16). And journaling can be a tool to speak to our loved ones and others. The Journals of Jim Elliot profoundly affected me when I discovered it as a young adult.

Deborah has amassed a multitude of journaling methods. Some are written; some are more artsy. Some focus on prayer, some of self-reflection, some on meditating on one particular text, some on on working through a particular passage, some on gratitude lists or prompts.

Deborah recommends that we “start small and keep it simple” (p. 21). First we need to decide the purpose for which we want to journal and then assess which method fits within our interests and talents. She also advises that we evaluate what we’re doing periodically and decide whether it’s working or whether we need to change. She emphasizes that journaling should not be a source of pressure or driven by perfectionism. One of the best pieces of advice, and new to me, was the recommendation of leaving space for an “insight line” at the bottom of the journaling page – when we read back through our journal entries, we can add a line or two about how we’re doing with whatever we wrote about, whether we’ve grown or are still struggling, ways the Lord answered prayer, etc.

I found, as Deborah predicted, that not all of the methods appealed to me. One that did was Inductive Study Journaling – reading through a passage and jotting down our observations (what it says), interpretations (what it means) and application (“How does God want me to live in light of the truth of His Word” [p. 52]). Another was the Spiritual Markers Journaling, taken from the memorial stones Joshua was instructed to gather and set up as a reminder to Israel of His working among them in Joshua 4:2-7, something like the Ebenezers I listed a while back.  She has a couple of pages on Truth Journaling developed by Barb Raveling. I’m more inclined towards journaling through a passage of Scripture than responding to seemingly random prompts, though the latter has its value as well. I’m considering a variation on the bullet method. I often read from more than one source, and it’s amazing how often they intersect. I’ve thought of just writing a sentence or two from each source each day.

Of course, some people’s minds work differently. A man in our former church was speaking on a particular topic, and in his presentation he shared some “doodles” he had made during a recent sermon. They weren’t art in the sense of being enhanced by frills and flourishes, but he had just arranged the words of a verse or quote from the sermon in a way that illustrated its meaning just by how it was arranged. I wish I had a sample to explain it. I could not have done it in a week’s worth of thought and effort, much less in a quick few strokes while listening to a sermon. His mind worked in such a way that his note-taking took that form. Some like to study a passage not by outlining and highlighting but by verse mapping (some examples here, here, and here). Some take it a step further with art journaling, like Robin Lee Hatcher’s examples here or Karla Dornacher‘s. I’ve seen some examples of art journaling where the illustration covers over the Scripture itself, which, in my opinion, seems to be exalting it over the words of the Bible. To me, some of these types of methods would work best with one verse, whether meditating on it and/or trying to memorize it.

I’d add a word of caution with some of the more artsy methods. There’s a difference between coloring a verse as a hobby, a method of relaxation, etc., and engaging mentally with the text while drawing and illustrating it. I wouldn’t use coloring a verse as my whole time with the Bible. It does take thought and effort to engage with a text to determine the meaning and the best way to apply it. If drawing and illustrating it does that for a person, that’s fine.

So there are any number of methods for engaging with the Bible text in a way that helps us understand and apply its meaning. Deborah has done a great job detailing the reasons for and benefits of journaling and finding examples for just about every personality and mindset.

When I asked for a copy of this book for Christmas, somehow I ended up with two. So I’d like to share one with one of you. If you’d like to be entered for a drawing to win this book, just leave a comment on this post. A week from today, Feb. 27, I’ll collect all the comments here and use random.org to draw a name. (I’ll take all the comments on this post as entries for the drawing unless you let me know that you don’t want your name entered.) In addition, I must have a way to contact you: if you would, leave your email not in the comments but in the form underneath where you place your name. If you are commenting from a WordPress account, your email fills in automatically with the email associated with your account. And, due to shipping costs, I am only able to ship to the US.

Do you journal? Do you use a particular method?

Update: The giveaway is now closed. The winner is Kathie!

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Carole’s Books You Loved)