Laudable Linkage

Here are some great thought-provoking reads found recently:

Bored With Christianity? HT to Challies. “In a world that offers such multitudinous choices and options for life and happiness–why persist in this same old religion with the same old book?”

Christ’s Crucifixion Isn’t Child Sacrifice, HT to Challies. “Many professing Christians are uncomfortable with God killing his Son as the penalty for our crimes. They see this as child sacrifice. From their perspective, it’s impossible for such a doctrine to be consistent with God’s character when it’s so clear that God abhors the killing of innocent children.”

Unfathomable. “Give them a taste of this big, wild, wonderful world that was made by a bigger, wilder, more wonderful God. It won’t make any of your problems, or theirs, disappear. But I have a strong hunch that in the presence of something so large, they will be reminded of the One who is Unfathomable himself.”

Cosmic Significance Therapy. “For Moses, the aim of considering the brevity of life isn’t hopelessness, but a proper outlook—an eternal perspective. And this perspective shapes how we live and work today.”

When You’re Up to Your Neck in Mud—Sing! HT to Challies. “Singing in adversity gives hope and lifts spirits. If that’s true in general terms, how much truer wouldn’t that be if we were up to our necks in mud and singing songs that actually spoke of hope, songs like psalms and biblical hymns?”

I’m Not an “Angel Mommy,” and Here’s Why. “As a follower of Christ and a mother who suffered three miscarriages, I have a vastly different view of what my babies are experiencing. People who die don’t earn angel wings.”

The Delight and Distress of Preaching, HT to Challies. I’ve experienced what this writer discusses, even though I am not a preacher and have done little speaking. By the way, I would much rather hear a preacher or teacher who feels like this than one who is brash and overconfident.

Knowledge Is Not a Bank, HT to Challies. “Knowledge is not a bank. It’s more like a garden. Truths and skills that are planted in our minds can bear good fruit in our lives. But just as a neglected garden will run wild with useless weeds, so our minds can easily become a wilderness of distractions, anxieties, and trivialities that choke out the good and productive knowledge we’ve accumulated before it gets the chance to take root and grow into real applications in our real lives.”

Reject the Algorithm, HT to Challies. This isn’t written from a Christian perspective, but makes some good points for being genuine rather than trying to get the most clicks.

Song of Suffering: A Short Film Featuring Joni Eareckson Tada, HT to Challies. This video is well worth 13 minutes of your time.

Where I End

Katherine Clark was visiting her son’s school, playing tag with some children on the playground. One boy climbed up on the jungle gym and jumped off onto Kate’s head. They both fell to the ground. The boy’s arm was fractured, but Kate’s neck was broken, and she was instantly paralyzed from the neck down.

Kate tells her story in Where I End: A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope. She writes, “Strictly speaking, this is not an autobiography, nor is it a piece of journalism about a particular event. Rather, it is a series of reflections—broadly but not strictly chronological—in the wake of an event that has shaped my story as well as the stories of those who love me” (p. 10).

I appreciate that she says her story does not have a fairly-tale ending and she’s not a fairy-tale heroine. “It’s a tale penned in grief and sorrow. But is also a story abounding in hope, beauty, and the miraculous. It is at times humiliating” (p. 13).

Kate intersperses the details of what happened to her on that fateful day and the aftermath of surgery and physical therapy with reflections of the effects of her injury on her children, the inevitable “why” question, coming to terms with the label “quadriplegic,” wrestling with God’s will and His mysteries, and so on.

Her doctors had said she would never walk again. But as her healing surpassed what was expected, she felt almost guilty that she was progressing while so many others she had met in the hospital were not. When someone urges her to tell her story in a small group, often the next person will say something like, “Well, I don’t have anything to follow that,” as if testimonies were a contest. Kate writes, “I hate when the story severs discussion. I hate when the story culminates in a comparison of cross bearing, and as a result, a chasm between us” (p. 198). Kate didn’t want to draw attention to herself, yet her injury and partial recovery were part of her story, her life now. Her history was divided between before and after the accident. As one friend told Kate’s husband, “The only faithful response to living this story is to tell it’ (p. 9).

When one suffers an injury such as Kate’s, the big question is whether the patient will walk again. If that milestone is reached, the patient is thought to be healed. But the patient can still experience life-altering symptoms. In one chapter, Kate details the symptoms she still experiences and the things she still can’t do. She had been in good shape before the accident, a runner, and could no longer count on the body she was once so sure of.

It wasn’t until this chapter that I realized some parallels between my situation and Kate’s. When I had transverse myelitis, I could walk again after a few months of physical therapy and a lot of prayer. But I still have balance issues and numbness in both lower legs and my left hand. I knew exactly what she was talking about when she mentioned her hands feel like she has gloves on all the time, making fine motor skill difficult (though in my case it’s just my left hand, which is not my dominant one, thankfully).

Kate writes also of the mix of feelings she experiences: joy for the amount of healing she has recovered, yet lament for the loss. “I live in the midst of this tension—gratitude and grief—every day” (p. 212).

Though grief remains a part of us, we should not need nor should we desire to be continually affirmed in our sadness. That doesn’t mean we won’t sometimes speak of our sorrow or that we won’t continue to grieve. Some wounds we bear until heaven. It merely means that grief takes its proper place in our stories, and its role is never that of the star, nor does it play the part of the savior.

We live in the shadow, dear reader, but the darkness cannot overcome the light (p. 127).

God shined His light through His Word and His people as they came alongside to help in various ways and to share truth.

I so appreciated Kate’s testimony of God’s grace in hard circumstances.

This book fits the Medical Memoir category of the Nonfiction Reader Challenge.

Laudable Linkage

Here’s another list of good reads found this week:

We Need More Holy Fools: How God Awakened Me to Eternity, HT to The Story Warren. “A man is trapped in a car, rushing down a hill toward a cliff. The doors are locked. The brakes are out. The steering barely works. Far ahead, he can see other cars hurtling into the abyss. How far they fall, he does not know. What they find at the bottom, he cannot imagine. But he does not seek to know; he does not try to imagine. Instead, he paints the windshield, climbs into the back seat, and puts in his headphones.”

God Will Turn You Every Which Way But Loose. HT to Challies. “Do not believe the lies that say God wants your life to be as smooth as possible. That he desires for you to have a problem-free existence if only you would have enough faith.”

Being Domineering as a Pastor Doesn’t Require Skill, HT to Challies. Though this is written to pastors, it’s good advice for anyone in any leadership role.

3 Myths of the Good Old Days. “I’m guessing every generation has uttered this phrase, which makes me question: If my good old days were the previous generation’s not-so-good days, and on and on backwards, then when were the real good old days?”

The Indispensable Ministry of Disability, HT to Challies. “Our more recent experiences with Ben have opened my eyes to the realization that people with disabilities in our congregations are not just objects of ministry. They are gifted just like the rest of us, though often in ways that we haven’t realized.”

Rolls and Circles in Women’s Ministry: Why You Need Both. “When you think of discipleship in your church, women’s ministry, or small group, how do you picture the chairs being arranged? Do you picture the chairs in rows, facing a teacher in the front? Do you picture the chairs in circles, where small groups of women gather? Or do you think of discipleship as a single chair, where a woman opens her Bible and hears from God directly?”

When You’ve Given Your Troubles to God—But Still Can’t Sleep. “Insomnia is horrible. It is a form of suffering that lays us utterly bare before the Lord. We completely depend on him to show up. Sometimes he shows up by letting us fall asleep; sometimes he shows up by stripping us of self-sufficiency, making us see that he takes weary people and sustains them even when all earthly things fail them.”

Take the Chance. “It seemed like the ideal opportunity. Crouching in the darkness of the cave, David saw his enemy alone and vulnerable. It looked like the chance he had been waiting for.”

Laudable Linkage

Here are some of the good reads found this week.

Four Compelling Reasons I Am Pro-Life, HT to Challies. I can echo just about all this. I’d add to the science section that the DNA of an embryo or fetus is separate from its mother’s. So an unborn baby is not just part of the mother’s body.

Life Is Precious, HT to Challies. “Are children a limit on personal autonomy? Yes. There’s no getting around it. They take resources. They need help, care, support, food, time, energy, and the list goes on and on. They need everything supplied to them for a long time. And is there a better way to use autonomy than this?”

Whose Choice? HT to Challies. “In 1973 I was 19 years old and a sophomore in college when the Supreme Court decided the Roe vs Wade case and legalized abortion. Honestly, however, I never expected the Court’s landmark decision to affect me personally.”

Tell God the Unvarnished Story. “Though we profess that God is all-seeing and all-knowing, that he understands not merely the actions of our hands and the thoughts of our minds but even the intentions of our hearts, still we sometimes feel as if we need to hold back from telling him all that we have thought, all that we have done, all that we have desired. Yet if we are to confess our sins before him, we need to confess them all, for he knows them anyway.”

Finding Family, HT to Challies. “God’s family is a precious thing, bound by wine and bread instead of blood and resemblance. Its members don’t dress alike, share a uniform culture or a common language. But whether it be in a building or a living room, whether through candles and liturgy or guitars and blue jeans, whenever believers gather, we belong to each other. And wherever two or more of us come together, Jesus is there.”

When the Mob Shows Up the Monday After Roe, HT to Challies. “Using umbrellas and masks to shield their identities from security cameras, they smashed almost every ground-floor window on the side of the building that hadn’t yet been boarded up and covered the building in vile graffiti aimed specifically at Christians.”

These posts are a few years old, but they were just shared on the Elisabeth Elliot Quotes Facebook page recently: Lar’s and Elisabeth’s Love Story and Elisabeth Elliot’s Final Days.

If You Find Listening to Sermons Boring, Try This, HT to Challies. “During my lifetime I reckon I’ve heard about 4,000 sermons. Often I have been challenged, uplifted, provoked, transformed. Sadly, other times, I have been bored.”

On the Supreme Court Decision to Overturn Roe v. Wade. A look at the legal arguments.

Happy 4th to my fellow Americans! It’s nice that it made for a long weekend this year.

Laudable Linkage

Here’s the latest thought-provoking reads seen around the Web lately.

Our Hope In the Ascension, HT to Challies. “Of all the aspects of Christ’s work in his state of exaltation, the Ascension is one of the most overlooked.”

God Matures Us Through Suffering, not Miracles, HT to Challies. “Suffering, not miraculous deliverance, is the primary way God matures his children. A supernatural event can encourage us, of course, but it doesn’t mature us. Maturity comes through trusting God when things are really hard, even seemingly unbearable. Will we trust God when the miracles don’t happen?”

A Letter to All the Marthas. “It struck me that Jesus hadn’t written Martha offHe saw her faith and hard work as well as her weaknesses. And he loved Martha just as much as Mary. I began to view Jesus’ words through a lens of love.”

Why You Should Stop Being Responsible and Start Being Faithful. “Losing my mother as a teenager accompanied by my father’s paralyzing grief amped my firstborn sense of responsibility. I equated being responsible with being dependable. But when being responsible means depending on myself and my resources instead of relying on God it’s unhealthy and ungodly.”

Are Cuss Words Sinful? HT to Challies. “You hear them in movies, television series, and in actual conversations. To some, these words sound cool, and they have made them part of their lives. Yet when you learn their meaning, cuss words will make you cringe.”

The Sugar Coating, HT to Challies. “I have some authority to say that self-pity doesn’t get you anywhere. Trust me, I’ve tried it. Even on those occasions when people who really ought to know better don’t recognise the sheer weight of the scars you bear, and you feel like you must delve into the pools of pity to shake them out of their repose—it still isn’t worth it.”

4 Guidelines for Dating Without Regrets. “Somewhere between my generation and the current one, dating became difficult—far more difficult than it had once been. I am sure the so-called “purity movement” bears at least some of the responsibility as does the modern-day hookup culture. So, too, do the ubiquity of pornography and the rise of social media and dating apps. What was once relatively straightforward seems to have become strangely complicated.”

Adventures in Aging. Melanie writes about a change of heart from being depressed about age to embracing new possibilities.

Dementia’s Drowning Caregiver. Lots of good tips.

How to Think Wisely About Becoming a Social Media Celebrity, HT to Challies. In these days when we’re told we have to have a big enough “platform” before an agent or publisher will even consider looking at our manuscripts, we need to keep grounded in God’s truth of who we are in Him.

From a Weight of Care to a Weight of Glory.

In the midst of Job’s suffering, he remarked, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1).

We might sometimes lament, “Why does life have to be so hard?”

God didn’t originally create life to be so troublesome in Eden. But sin affected everything, from the people God created to the earth they lived in (Genesis 3). Humans had work to do before sin entered the world (Genesis 2:15). But it would have been something like working at your favorite hobby with nothing going wrong. However, after sin entered the world, part of God’s curse was that thorns and thistles would spring up and labor would cost sweat and pain (Genesis 3:16-19).

Besides daily work becoming hard, personal relationships would suffer because now everyone would have a sin nature. Misunderstandings, anger, selfishness, pride, and more would war in hearts and against others. The very first person born to Adam and Eve murdered his brother.

And human history went downhill from there.

Each of us has experienced the fallenness of the world.

From early childhood we fall and get scraped up, hear taunts, teasing, and put-downs from other children, get into trouble when we do wrong, feel misunderstood and mistreated.

As teenagers we either strive to get into the popular crowd and then not lose our place, or we lament that we’ll always be on the outside. Then there’s acne, puberty, hormones, questions about the future.

As adults we struggle to make a living against increasing prices. Workplace feuds and misunderstandings crowd out enjoyment in our jobs. Someone else gets the promotion we were due. Someone takes the credit for our idea.

We struggle against our own sin nature and lament the continual pull of selfishness.

As we get older, aches and pains take over our bodies. Sight dims, and we can’t do the things we used to.

Along the way, friends and loved ones get sick and die. Innocent little children get cancer. Car crashes maim or kill loved ones. Murders and wars increase.

We try to share our faith, but people mostly don’t want to hear it. Some will actively persecute us. There are countries where sharing Christianity and handing out Bibles is a crime and conversion is punishable by death.

We have needs. Our families have needs. Friends have needs. Our country has needs and opposite opinions about how to deal with them. Our church has needs. The world at large has needs. Orphans, widows, victims, medical research, so many needs that are more than we can even begin to manage.

When we feel the weight of a fallen world, we’re tempted to just crawl into a corner and wait for it to be over.

But thinking of that weight, Paul says, “ For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). In another place he says:

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).

Once when we came across this passage in a ladies’ Bible study, one of the women had been going through a terrible physical battle. She was a little hurt and angry that the Bible seemed to brush off her heavy affliction as light.

But Paul isn’t minimizing the affliction. He’s saying our glory will be greater than our affliction. Sin, tears, pain, mourning, loss, problems, as weighty as they are, will seem lightweight and short-lived compared to what we’ll experience when Jesus comes for His own. Speaking of that time, Paul tells the Thessalonians, “Therefore encourage [some translations say ‘comfort’] one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:8).

‘Well,” we might be thinking, “that will be great when we get to heaven. But is there no hope and help til then?”

There is.

Just before that section in 2 Corinthians, Paul says, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (4:16).

God gives grace and strength to meet every trial. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

God invites us to cast our care on Him (1 Peter 5:7).

God gives strength in our weakness. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Jesus sympathizes with our weakness and promises grace to help in time of need. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Okay, it’s a relief to know we have God’s help to get through this life. But what about joy? Do we just bear with life til it’s over?

No, God gives joy as well. He gives physical blessings: “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart” (Psalm 104:14-15).

He gives comfort in sorrow. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5b).

Joy is one aspect of the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit in believers (Galatians 5:22-23).

He gives us the joy of His presence: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God” (Psalm 43:4).

When the world is too much, we can’t hide our head in the sand. But neither can we solve the world’s problems. We’re not meant to. We only need to walk in fellowship with “God our exceeding joy,” take everything to Him in prayer, and do what He calls us to within our sphere of influence.

As the hymn says:

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide,
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine with ten thousand beside.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

From “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas Obediah Chisholm

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

Laudable Linkage

Here’s my latest collection of good reads found online.

A Better Love Song: Suffering and God’s Great Love For Us, HT to the Story Warren. “Do you pluck from the circumstances sent by our heavenly Father to determine whether he loves you? Some circumstances feel loving, others don’t. When he makes you lie down in green pastures and leads you beside still waters (Ps. 23:2), do you sing, ‘he loves me!’? When he calls you to walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23:4), does your heart whisper, ‘he loves me not’?”

How Do I Know I’m Really Repentant? HT to Challies. “What does a repentant heart look like? Does it just look sad? Timid? Is it simply agreeable? How would we discern the difference in ourselves between a heart turning from sin and one seeking simply to manage or alleviate the consequences of it?”

Bible Interpretation Is More Than Stacking Verses, HT to Knowable Word. “We cannot merely stack up Bible verses, making biblical claims based on a handful of verses that are isolated from their immediate and broader biblical contexts. We must interpret the Bible rightly. . . Satan shows us that quoting out-of-context phrases and sentences that seem handy in the moment can be a dangerous game.”

Context Matters: The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things. “This is no inspirational teaching, so you won’t spot it on posters or mugs. But I see this verse dashed into arguments like salt in soup. Are we using using this verse properly? When we learn to read the Bible like a book and not as isolated bullet points, we’ll see that some familiar phrases don’t mean all that we’ve always assumed.”

Your Suffering Is Valid Even When Others Have It Worse, HT to Maree. “I understand what we are trying to do when we play down our troubles because they are small in comparison to what others are experiencing. We’re trying to put things in perspective so we can be grateful, avoid feeling sorry for ourselves, and be compassionate to others. However, I think minimizing our troubles can sometimes be harmful. It leads us to ignore our feelings, which can increase our stress, cause feelings of self-doubt, harm our self-esteem, and heighten our anxiety.”

Did We Kiss Purity Good-Bye? HT to Challies. “Calls for sexual purity were (and are) biblical and needed. Even in the midst of the good that was done through lots of preaching and discipleship during those years, several lies seemed to spread in the renewed emphasis on purity — each laced with enough truth to be taken seriously and yet with enough deceit to lead some astray.”

4 Traits of an Emotionally Healthy Ministry Worker, HT to Challies. “If you’re serving in ministry, you have likely been encouraged to prioritize your spiritual health. You may have been exhorted to pay attention to spiritual disciplines that will shape you into the best possible leader, teacher, or minister. All of this is good. The Bible implores us to pay careful attention to ourselves (1 Tim. 4:12–16). But spiritual vitality is not the only area of health ministry workers need to pursue. Your emotional health is also essential.”

Can Christians “Do Business” With the World? HT to Challies. “People on both sides of this issue believe that we may not compromise the holy standards of God. We all agree that we must not capitulate to our culture’s definition of right and wrong, and that we must resist calls for Christians to redefine biblical ethics. However, it is one thing to stand strong on what God defines as sin, but it is another to say this requires us to boycott any business that is involved tangentially with sin.”

How to Avoid Misinformation and Disinformation Online, HT to Proclaim and Defend. “God’s ninth commandment—do not bear false witness—is being obliterated by social media (Ex. 20:16). Where untruth takes root, social trust declines. Friends begin doubting friends because we increasingly agree, ‘I can’t tell what’s true anymore.’”

The Surprising Value of Reading Fewer Books, HT to the Story Warren. “Reading more books doesn’t make us (or our kids) a more well-read person. You’re not more well-read than someone who read three books carefully and well if you speed-read ten in the same amount of time. You’re not getting more out of your books simply because you’ve read a taller stack of them. The number of books that our kids read and that we read matters a lot less than the quality of our reading.”

Finally, this adorable kitten reminds me that even though we might not reach a goal on the first effort, each try strengthens us, and one day we’ll get there.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

IMG_0195

Here are a few posts that especially caught my eye this week. Maybe some with catch yours, too.

What to Do When Your Resolutions Start Dissolving. “We’re officially two weeks into 2022. And two weeks also happens to be the average life span of a new year’s resolution. So, even if you’re finding your big plans for “new year, new me” are already floundering, I’d like to offer you a few notes of encouragement.”

Spiritual Covid and Losing Your Taste for God, HT to Challies. “Through the pain of suffering or the false promises of sin, we can come down with a case of Spiritual COVID. We’re fatigued and grumpy, and even worse, we can’t taste anything anymore. We eat to survive, not because the food has any taste. We become sluggish in our service, bored with the Bible, less committed to the church.”

Everywhere Spoken Against, HT to Challies. “There may be a time to leave the local congregation but never a time to leave the church. I’ve compared her to an ugly bride, stumbling down the aisle toward glorification. That’s me, and that’s you.”

Our Escape Room, HT to Challies. “Finding out that you’re not the cream rising to the top is only traumatic if you thought you should be. And who are you to think you should be? A friend once told me, ‘Your problem is not that you think you’re not as good as other people; your problem is you want to be better than other people.’ Ouch.”

3 Simple Ways to Flatten Your Neighbor, HT to Challies. “Unfortunately, many in our society seem to be reverting to fourth-grade categorizations for just about everyone, and often doing so with the zeal of a crusader for a righteous cause.”

When Aslan Wept, HT to Challies. “While it is within God’s power to remove our suffering and make us feel better again, sometimes He does not. We can only trust that He’s grieving alongside us while working things out behind the scenes for our good and His glory.”

Whose Purpose Will Prevail in Your Suffering? HT to Challies. “Satan intends your suffering for evil; God intends it for good. Whose purpose in your suffering will prevail? Whose purpose are you furthering? Satan attempts to destroy your faith, while God invites you to draw near to Him and draw upon His sovereign grace to sustain you.”

Discipline: What If Scripture Isn’t Politically Correct? “Scripture has always been countercultural and while the world remains in its sinful state it always will be. This also means that faithfulness to the Biblical text will lead to cultural conflict. If some texts are ‘troubling to modern readers,’ we shouldn’t be surprised.” Beyond the subject of discipline, this article shows the problem with wrongly interpenetrating Scripture.

End of Year 2021 Book Lists. If you like adding to your ever-growing TBR list, Sherry looked through a lot of end-of-year book lists to get some great ideas.

Temperance and Play: The Weird and Wonderful Word of Wordle, HT to The Story Warren. If you’ve seen those tri-colored grids of cubes on social media and wondered what they were all about, this article explains.

And to end with a smile:

Happy Saturday!

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!

The Struggle Is Real

God's purpose in our strugglesDid you know that if you help a butterfly out of its chrysalis, it will probably not be able to fly and might die? There’s something in the process of breaking out of the chrysalis that exercises and strengthens wings and gets fluids where they need to be.

Similarly, a baby chick pecks its own way out of a shell. It can sometimes be aided if it’s stuck, but it’s risky. A baby joey climbs from its mother’s uterus to her pouch even though it can’t see yet.

Even a human baby’s struggle to crawl and then walk comes about with many fits and starts until he or she develops the strength to progress.

I’m not sure why so much of life involves struggle. Maybe struggle is one result of the fall of man into sin in Genesis 3. But God uses struggle in our lives for good.

Yet, we don’t like struggle. We do everything to escape it if we can. Labor-saving devices created more time but took the natural exercise out of our lives. I’m not ready to go back to toting my water from a creek or beating my laundry with rocks. But I’d probably be more fit if I did.

Trials act in the same way spiritually. We try to reduce them or get out of them as soon as possible. But if we don’t exercise our faith, it won’t grow strong.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

Just like any other struggle, our “faith muscles” may grow weary. But God has promised to be with us, strengthen us, and help us. And people see that the grace and strength to endure come not from us, but from God.

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)

Trials test the genuineness of our faith plus result in praise to God.

 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:6-7)

God watches over our trials in love. He won’t let them last any longer than necessary.

Though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not afflict from his heart or grieve the children of men. (Lamentations 3:32-33)

Meanwhile, just as Jesus, who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” so we keep our eyes on the future ahead of us.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

A man in one of our former churches had an awful disease called Von Hippel-Lindau Syndrome which caused multiple tumors to grow throughout his body. He said once that he could endure it if he knew God had a purpose in it.

He does.

Our suffering and trials may be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational, financial, or something else. It’s normal and acceptable to pray for quick relief. We may not know all the reasons why God allows our particular suffering. But we know He is using it in our lives and that of others. Ecclesiastes 7:2-4 says sorrow teaches our hearts things that could not be learned by feasting and laughter. God is producing something in us that wouldn’t come about any other way. Without those trials, we might end up as weak and helpless as a flightless butterfly.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Hearth and Soul, Senior Salon,
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