Laudable Linkage

It’s been another good week for online reading! Here are posts I have learned from lately – maybe some of them will interest you as well.

Routine Bible Reading Can Change Your Life, HT to Challies. “But the way the Bible does its work on our hearts is often not through the lightning bolt, but through the gentle and quiet rhythms of daily submission, of opening up our lives before this open Book and asking God to change us. Change doesn’t always happen overnight. Growth doesn’t happen in an instant. Instead, it happens over time, as we eat and drink and exercise. The same is true of Scripture reading.”

Advent Reading Plans. Several doable, workable plans for reading from the Christmas-related passages of Scripture during December.

Don’t Downplay Your Suffering, HT to Challies. “One of the biggest mistakes believers can make when facing a tragedy is to minimize it. I think so many of us do it because we are lacking a robust theology of suffering.

The Most Difficult Time of the Year: How to Love Grieving Parents at Christmas.

How Long Does It Takes to Read Each Book of the Bible? HT to Lisa.

Should We Stop Publicly Shaming People?  HT to Lisa. Yes, indeed. Sometimes a public outcry helps, like the reaction to the Dove commercial a while back. But often instead of letting people learn from their mistakes, they are run into the ground and ruined for the rest of their lives.

Beyond Truth and Fiction: Loving Our Neighbors With Dementia, HT to Out of the Ordinary. The Christian alternative to lying to someone with dementia so as not to upset them.

My Husband Was Hurt by an I.E.D. The Lasting Injury Was to Our Family, HT to Challies. Sometimes devastating injuries don’t “show” on the outside and affect the whole family.

Join Me on a Ride to Malvern, HT to Challies. A favorite childhood memory, a reminder that “all of these ‘small moments’ have the potential of eternal significance for your child.”

Stop Hand Washing Your Dishes, HT to Lisa. Nice to have my preferences justified. 🙂

And a smile for the day, found on Pinterest:

Happy Saturday!

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Laudable Linkage

Here is my periodic round-up of notable reads discovered the last week or so:

Ignore the Pundits and Keep Praying.

Divine Appointments. Neat account!

An Introduction to the Family Advent Art and Reading Guide. “I wanted us to think about Jesus and the nativity, but I had not provided a sense of his pending arrival. Meanwhile, everywhere we went, my kids were told Santa was on his way. Fortunately, I had a couple thousand years of church tradition to back me up, if only I knew how to draw on it. It was time to learn about Advent.”

9 Things You Should Be Doing to Support Your Pastor’s Wife.

12 Steps to Avoid Disappointment This Holiday Season.

28 Reasons Not To Hate Winter, HT to Lisa Notes. I come pretty close to hating it, especially in January, so this is a help.

Have a great weekend! I am behind visiting with blog friends – hope to catch up some time this weekend.

Book Review: Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

Let Every HeartForgive me for spending the first week of the year catching up with Christmas reviews. As I said yesterday, I don’t usually have the computer time when I finish these to talk about them, and when I do I feel it’s probably too far past Christmas. But Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room: Daily Family Devotions for Advent by Nancy Guthrie is another that I’ve read several times now and want to share more about with you.

This book is written in a much different style than her compilation of essays in Come Thou Long Expected Jesus that I discussed yesterday. It’s written for use as a family devotional, so the language is in a simper style that I think very young children could comprehend, but I enjoyed it even as an adult reading for myself. Each chapter ends with a prayer, some discussion questions, and a few more Scriptures on the topic of the chapter. There are 31 readings: I like that it doesn’t stop at Christmas but extends through the month. (I know I said I liked that Come Thou Long Expected Jesus only had 22 readings, but those in this book are short enough that I don’t think it would be a problem to keep up with all month). The sizing of the book, too, is small enough that I think children would be comfortable holding it and taking a turn at the family reading.

In addition, there are lined pages where you can jot down anything you want to remember about the discussions aroused from the readings and a few pages of Christmas songs with their history.

The readings cover several topics that you would expect, but also a few you might not have thought of, such as this quote:

When you look at something through a magnifying glass, it looks much bigger than it actually is. Is that what Mary meant when she said, “My soul magnifies the Lord”? Was she trying to make God look bigger than He actually is?

 We can never make God bigger or greater than He is. The truth is, we can never fully take in or understand God’s greatness. But we can magnify Him. We magnify God not by making Him bigger than He truly is, but by making Him greater in our thoughts, in our affections, in our memories, and in our expectations. We magnify Him by having higher, larger, and truer thoughts of Him. We magnify Him by praising Him and telling others about His greatness so they can have bigger thoughts about Him, too.

 Sometimes we wonder why we aren’t happy, why we make sinful choices, why we feel distant from God. Often it’s because we have small thoughts about God and magnified thoughts of ourselves, our wants, our rights, our accomplishments. Mary, the one God chose to be the mother of His Son, could have easily allowed thoughts of herself to become larger, even prideful. But instead of magnifying herself, she magnified the Lord (p. 29).

And this:

Sometimes we are given a gift that we think is not really useful to us, and therefore we never take it out of the box. We stash it away in a closet or on a shelf somewhere in case we need it someday. Sadly, that’s what some people do in regard to Jesus. They want to keep him handy for when something comes along that they can’t handle on their own, but for now they have no interest in making him part of their day-to-day lives, and so they put him on the shelf. They simply don’t believe he is as good as the Bible says he is, and so they have no real or lasting joy in having received this great gift (p. 79).

Day 17’s reading on “Glory Revealed” is one that especially stood out to me.

I appreciate Nancy’s thoughtfulness and depth in these devotionals, even couched as they are in simple language.

I’ve used this book several times, once with Jesse when he was younger and then on my own. It’s one I am sure I will use again, and I am happy to recommend it to you.

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

 

Book Review: Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Long Expected JesusI’ve read Come Thou Long Expected Jesus:Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas, compiled by Nancy Guthrie, many times, but somehow I have never reviewed it. Probably because, like this year, I’ve finished it right in the busiest of the Christmas season, and by the time I had time to go over it, felt it was too far past Christmas to review. But I am not letting that happen this year. 🙂

In Nancy’s preface, she tells of Christmases where all the activities had been accomplished, but her heart wasn’t truly prepared. Then she tried to find a book of Christmas readings, but the ones she found did not minister to her. She wanted to find a “book with short readings on Advent themes from a number of different writers I trust and respect; that reflected a high view of Scripture; and that put the incarnation in the context of God’s unfolding plan of redemption” (p. 10). When she couldn’t find such a book, she set out to create one, reading and editing multitudes of sermons and writings from well-known theologians and Bible teachers.

There are 22 selections on various aspects of Advent, from Mary to conception by the Holy Ghost to Joseph to the shepherds to Jesus’s humility and others, from such teachers and preachers as Charles Spurgeon, Augustine, Martyn Lloyd-Jones to Tim Keller, John MacArthur, J. I. Packer, and Ray Ortland. I don’t know all of the authors, so I wouldn’t endorse everyone 100%, but I don’t think I read anything in this particular volume that I had a problem with, at least not that I noted or can recall.

In many ways it is hard to review a book like this, with so many authors and topics. But I’ll share just a few quotes that stood out to me:

Ligon Duncan III on Joseph: “God is calling Joseph to believe his word and to act in accordance with it. And Joseph does just that. He accepts God’s word and he trusts God’s word and he relies upon God’s word and he re-orients his life to conform to that word. What a tremendous act of faith on the part of Joseph and what an example of obedience to God’s word in spite of circumstance” (p. 53).

From “For Your Sakes He Became Poor” by J. I. Packer (originally from Knowing God): “We see now what it meant for the Son of God to empty himself and become poor. It meant a laying aside of glory; a voluntary restraint of power; an acceptance of hardship, isolation, ill-treatment, malice and misunderstanding; finally, a death that involved such agony–spiritual even more than physical–that his mind nearly broke under the prospect of it. It meant love to the uttermost for unlovely human beings, that they ‘through his poverty might become rich.’ The Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity–hope of pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory–because at the Father’s will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear.

We talk glibly of the ‘Christmas spirit,’ rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round.

…The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor — spending and being spent — to enrich their fellow men, giving time, trouble, care, and concern, to do good to others — and not just their own friends — in whatever way there seems need (pp. 70-72).

From “Good News of Great Joy” by Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr.: “God is terrifying to guilty sinners, even though he is in himself gloriously beauitful. But God is pursuing us, even though we avoid him. He himself has taken the initiative to break through our terror” (p. 99).

From the same chapter: “Our good intentions are not strong enough to control our evil impulses. We need a Savior to rescue us from ourselves” (p. 100).

From “The Lessons of the Wise Men” by J. C. Ryle: “Let us beware of resting satisfied with head knowledge. It is an excellent thing when rightly used. But a person may have much of it, and still perish everlastingly. What is the state of our hearts? This is the great question. A little grace is better than many gifts. Gifts alone save no one; but grace leads on to glory” (p. 111).

There are so many others I’d love to share. Packard’s and Ortlund’s chapters impacted me the most this time, I think. There was a lot that was deep and thought-provoking in both, especially Ortlund’s on God’s glory.

Our family doesn’t celebrate Advent liturgically or ceremonially, with different candles on different days and all that, but I do like to, as Nancy wrote at the beginning, spend some time preparing for Christmas with some kind of Advent reading. This book, so far, has been the best book I have found for that. I like that it is 22 essays rather than 24 or 25 or 31: it gives one some leeway to begin early in December but not fall behind if a day or two is missed. Though the chapters are longer than the average devotional booklet, they’re not too long to read in a sitting, and I have found I do better at this stage of life with sustained thought on topics like this rather than “grab and go” devotionals. But most of all I like the richness and the depth. I had used it for several years, laid it aside for a few years, and rejoiced to read it again this year. I’m sure I will read it again many times.

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