Laudable Linkage

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Here are some noteworthy reads found recently.

On Giving Criticism As a Christian, HT to Challies.

Personality Assessments and the Wondrous Knowledge of Being Known, HT to True Woman. While some personality tests are helpful, Lore Ferguson Wilbert says, they are limited. “I cannot worship at the altar of my personality, but I can look at it honestly and ask the creator God to make and remake me until Christ comes again.”

Biblical CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) vs. Worldly CBT in relation to depression, HT to Challies. Applying truth to our thoughts.

5 Better Ways to “Argue” About Social Injustice, HT to Challies. If you’re not aware of it, there’s a maelstrom all over the internet concerning just how social justice should be exercised and to what degree it should be under the purview of churches and governments. As with most online storms, there’s more conjecture, accusation, and misrepresentation than there is real conversation.

Lawnmower Parents Are the New Helicopter Parents, HT to Story Warren. “Lawnmower parents go to whatever lengths necessary to prevent their child from having to face adversity, struggle, or failure. Instead of preparing children for challenges, they mow obstacles down so kids won’t experience them in the first place…But in raising children who have experienced minimal struggle, we are not creating a happier generation of kids. We are creating a generation that has no what idea what to do when they actually encounter struggle. A generation who panics or shuts down at the mere idea of failure. A generation for whom failure is far too painful, leaving them with coping mechanisms like addiction, blame, and internalization.”

Hope When Hope Is Lost, HT to Out of the Ordinary. “While we commemorate the stories of freedom fighters, we tend to overlook the vast majority of regular people like my grandmother whose own hopes were sacrificed on the altar of someone else’s ideologies, ambitions, or societal norms. Their stories deserve to be heard as well.”

When Disability Makes Your World Feel Small.

A Writer’s Prayer, HT to Out of the Ordinary.

I’ve read biographies of Amy Carmichael, one of them a few times, and several of her own books. So seeing this tour of the Dohnavur compound that the Lord enabled her to build, where she lived and ministered most of her life and where she died and is buried, meant a lot to me. It was neat to see there are still people there who knew her personally.

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Laudable Linkage

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I don’t usually do these every Saturday, but I accumulated a lot of good reads this week.

10 Reasons Americans Go to Church – and 9 Reasons They Don’t, HT to Lisa. “But this study suggests that there is an under-served group of believers who seem like they’d actually like to go to religious services — if only someone could help get them there and welcome them when they arrive.”

God’s No Is a Yes, HT to True Woman.

Ask Someone Older Than You, HT to Lisa. Advice on how to get help in making an important decision.

How to Ruin Your Life in Your Twenties, HT to True Woman.

You Are Not Your Temptations, HT to True Woman.

What Is Encouragement? HT to Challies. Yes, yes, yes! I wrote recently about well-meant encouragement that is too self-focused and “puffs up.” This post describes what encouragement actually is and does. If I had a rating system for blog posts, this would garner the ultimate number of stars.

What Do People Mean by “Coming Into the Presence of God?” HT to Challies. This is something I have contemplated, too. I’ve seen many people say that we should “invite” God into situations (or worse yet, ask Him to “show up“). But He is always with us. I suspect the mindset might be something like that of people in the same room but all on their phones or doing something else, then a call to meet together has everyone putting everything else aside to pay attention to the other people. But God is always paying attention, never distracted from us. So it’s not that we need to invite Him in – we need to lay aside our distractions and focus on Him.

Cringing at Church: What It’s Like as an Autistic Person in Your Congregation, HT to Challies.

Was the Early Church Communist? HT to Challies. No, but some think so. Here’s why not.

The Boy Who’d Never Tasted an Apple, HT to Story Warren. A parable for kids about sex.

And, finally, I couldn’t help laughing along with this:

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Here’s my latest round-up of thought-provoking online reads:

Danger: Doing “Jesusy” Stuff Without Knowing Jesus, HT to True Woman.

7 Things You Should Know About the Formation of the New Testament, HT to Out of the Ordinary.

Russian Spies, Post-millennialism, and the National Prayer Breakfast.

The Morning Before a Sexual Fall: How the Battle for Purity Is Lost. Though the context is sexual sin, the principles apply to any temptation.

Smells Like Teen Spirit, HT to Challies. “For many, ‘going to church’ is less about worshiping the infinitely holy God who was redeemed a people for Himself by giving up His Son to the bloody death on the cross, as it is about getting a shot of motivational vitamin-B for existential significance. Rather than being called by God into His presence by the mediating work of His Son, “Here we are now; entertain us” becomes the liturgical responsive call to worship. After all, the success of the church is dependent on your excitement, isn’t it?”

6 Warning Signs Of A Bad Pastor And Spiritual Abuse, HT to Challies.

Learn to Embrace Mess, HT to Challies. I didn’t think I was going to agree with this, based on the title, but it does make sense in context.

Confusing Christ-likeness with Christ: Seeking the soft-hearted in the search for a spouse, HT to True Woman.

No, Kids, You Can’t Be Anything You Want to Be.

9 Things Adult Daughters Want Their Moms to Know.

Shouldn’t We Share Our Concerns About a Book Directly with the Author Instead of in the Public Forum? HT to Challies.

How Many Cups in a Quart? A free printable chart.

Fake Views: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Soviet Photoshopping – before Photoshop was invented. HT to Challies.

And finally, a couple of thoughts for the day found on Pinterest:

Happy Saturday!

Psalms for the Sleepless

Most of us occasionally wake up in the middle of the night and then have a hard time getting back to sleep, but it seems to happen more as we get older. Sometimes I can get right back to sleep after a brief nocturnal trip to the bathroom, but other times I’m awake for a couple of hours. I don’t know what makes the difference. Generally I try keep things quiet, turn the lamp back off as soon as possible, avoid checking my phone, and do whatever else I can to make the atmosphere conducive to sleep. But still I find myself staring into the darkness.

I know some who read if they wake up during the night. Reading on the couch makes me doze off: reading in bed keeps me awake.

I’ve learned that stressing about it only makes it worse. Elisabeth Elliot once said that when she woke up in the night, she could luxuriate: she didn’t have to be up and doing anything else, so she could relax and rest, even if she didn’t get back to sleep. I’ve tried to take that tack, and it helps some.

But sometimes I find myself distressed, even in tears, over my sleeplessness. As it is I struggle with finding the best way to arrange my schedule and get everything done that I want to during the day. A nap sometimes gets me over feeling draggy, but it takes a chunk of time out of my prime work hours. I’d rather sleep when it’s time to sleep, not when I want to be busy doing other things.

Once I dealt with sleeplessness for several Saturday nights in a row…and had trouble staying awake in church the next day. I would plead with God in prayer: “Lord, You know I need sleep. You made me to need sleep. You know the things I need to do tomorrow. I’d really like to stay away in church, and I think You want me to as well. You’ve said you give to your beloved sleep. Why won’t You help me get back to sleep?” I try, instead, to rest in the fact that He does know when I need sleep. I ask Him in the morning to multiply the few hours of sleep like He did the loaves and fishes and make them sufficient for the day ahead. And He does.

Recently I looked up a couple of verses that refer to thinking or praying during the night, and that turned into a Bible study with much more than I bargained for! I primarily searched through Psalms but checked in Job and Proverbs a little, too.

Apparently many Bible people were up in the night. Job said, “When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing till the dawn” (Job 7:4). Here’s what some Biblical writers did during their sleepless hours (some of the verses could be used in multiple categories):

Attend to needs

Some got up or stayed awake to attend to urgent tasks.

David vowed, “I will not enter my house or get into my bed, I will not give sleep to my eyes or slumber to my eyelids, until I find a place for the Lord, a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob” (Psalm 132:3-5).

One who had gotten himself involved in an unwise pledge was urged to “Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler” (Proverbs 6:1-5).

“He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame” (Proverbs 10:5).

The Proverbs 31 woman got up “while it was yet night” to prepare food and worked late into the night (Proverbs 31:15, 18).

I just finished a book in which the author told of using late night hours to write because she had trouble falling asleep. My husband has said that he can often get much more work done when he wakes up in the night than when he is in a busy office.

Mourn and seek comfort

Painful or sad thoughts can be kept at bay while we’re busy through the day. But at night, there is nothing else to distract us. Asaph said: “In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted. When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak” (Psalm 77:2-4). David mourned over sin until he found forgiveness (Psalm 6, especially verse 6: “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears” and 32, especially verses 4-5: “For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.'”) It’s good to confess sin as soon as we’re aware of it, but it’s not a bad practice at the end of the day to ask God to search us and show us anything we overlooked.

The psalmist of Psalm 42 mourns because of an enemy (verse 9): “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, ‘Where is your God?'” (verse 3). He remembers past times of praising God in the house of God and admonishes himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (verses 5 and 11).

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:4-5).

Meditate

Biblical meditation is not an emptying of the mind but turning something over in your mind.

Psalm 1 says of the blessed man “his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:5-8).

“My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise” (Psalm 119:148).

“I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me“(Psalm 16:7).

“Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent” (Psalm 4:4).

One good example of the process of meditation is Psalm 77. There Asaph was so troubled he could not sleep. But then he reminded himself of God’s character, grace, faithfulness, love, past works and deeds.

Pray

Sometimes when I lament nighttime wakefulness, someone glibly advises me to “just pray.” That makes me feel they don’t understand or aren’t taking into account the problems with wakefulness I mentioned above. On the other hand, though the advice comes across as a little unsympathetic, those hours are a good time for undistracted, heartfelt prayer.

“O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol” (Psalm 88:1-3).

“I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words” (Psalm 119:147).

Of course, the mourning and seeking comfort above and singing and praising below are also parts of prayer.

Sing

“By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life” (Psalm 42:8).

“I said, ‘Let me remember my song in the night; let me meditate in my heart.’ Then my spirit made a diligent search” (Psalm 77:6).

One of my favorite posts discussed songs in the night.

Praise

“For the Lord takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation. Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds” (Psalm 149:4-5).

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night” (Psalm 92:1-2).

“Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord, who stand by night in the house of the Lord!” (Psalm 134:1).

Rest from fear

Like mourning, fear can plague at night. When we’re still and quiet, our thoughts can run rampant. But we can take our thoughts captive and turn them to God’s protection.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

“He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day” (Psalm 91:4-5).

“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night” (Psalm 121:3-6).

In the context of rejoicing in God’s presence with him everywhere (“Where shall I go from your presence?” verse 7), David says, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,'” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (Psalm 139:11-12).

Among the benefits of keeping “sound wisdom and discretion” is this: “If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught” (Proverbs 3:21-26).

Then there are people whose nighttime activities we don’t want to emulate. The adulteress of Proverbs 7 was active at night. “The wicked…plots trouble while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not reject evil” (Psalm 36:3-4) and “they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble” (Proverbs 4:16).

Some people dread night, but God “made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting. You make darkness, and it is night, when all the beasts of the forest creep about. The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God” (Psalm 104:19-21). “Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun” (Psalm 74:16).

It would be a profitable exercise to read some of these psalms in their entirety, maybe one a day, and see in context what the psalmist was troubled about and how he turned his thinking around. I love how so many of the psalmists begin with trouble and anguish, remind themselves and the reader of God’s truth and love, and end up in hope and peace.

Losing sleep in the middle of the night can be frustrating. But if we turn our thoughts to the Lord, those moments can become precious times of fellowship with Him.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Wise Woman, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Faith on Fire)

When the solution I want isn’t what I need

I saw a new point in an old story today.

A man had been an invalid for thirty-eight years waited for “a long time” by a pool of water which, in his day, would heal any who could get into the pool when the water was stirred. But because he could not move quickly, others got in before him, and he couldn’t make it into the water in time.

One day a stranger came up to this man and asked him if he wanted to be healed. The man explained his dilemma, his inability to get to the pool in time. Perhaps the man thought this stranger would help him get to the pool. Instead, the stranger told him the oddest thing: “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” The invalid could have thought, “Weren’t you listening? That’s exactly what I cannot do.” But before the words even formed in his mind, he found that all of a sudden he could stand! Not only that, but he could walk and carry a load, all impossibilities just a few moments before.

This story, as I am sure many of you know, is from John 5:1-17 and occurred at the pool of Bethesda. Among other things, this incident shows us Jesus’ power. The invalid wasn’t a “plant” in the audience who had been engaged to respond to a healer. The invalid had been lame for a long time and was known to stay at this pool. Anyone who knew him, anyone who hung around that area, would have known the invalid and his condition. The fact that he could stand, walk, and carry his bedding instantly, when his muscles would have been atrophied, when he otherwise would have needed time regain his balance, all magnified the ability of Jesus to heal.

What I had always missed in the story, however, was this: the invalid was fixated on the one solution to his problem, and had been for a very long time. His one focus was to get into that pool, and he kept trying despite repeated failed attempts. He didn’t recognize that the stranger standing in front of him could provide another solution, much less be a better solution. And the invalid did not even realize that the healing of his body was not his primary need. When Jesus found the former invalid later, Jesus told the man to “Sin no more.”

We have a tendency to fixate on our own solutions, too, don’t we? If we can just marry that guy, land this job, get that loan, treatment, or whatever, life will be perfect. We’ve looked at the situation from every angle, and, yes, this is what we need. And we overlook Jesus in the process.

Too, while we’re so focused on that one area of desire, we can miss the greater need: the need of our hearts for forgiveness and a closer walk with Jesus.

There may be nothing at all wrong with what we want. It may, in fact, even be the Lord’s will to provide us with that very outcome. But it might be God’s will to bring that answer about in a different way than we had planned, or to provide a different (and better) outcome, or to withhold the answer we wanted while providing grace to deal with it.

One of my favorite prayers in the Bible is Jehoshaphat‘s in 2 Chronicles 20. When King Jehoshaphat learned that a great enemy was coming, “Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah” (verse 3). He reminded himself who his God was: “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you” (verse 6). He recounted times of God’s provision in the past and His promises. He laid out the problem. He asked for God’s help. And he confessed, “we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” How often I have prayed something like that. “Lord, this is what I think the solution might be. But I don’t know all the ramifications. You know the need. You know the best way to meet it. I don’t know what to do. But I love You, and I trust You. Your will be done.”

Let’s not overlook the Lord in our desperation to get our needs met. Let’s not overlook our spiritual needs while trying to meet our outward desires.

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:31-33, ESV

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(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

 

Laudable Linkage

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Here’s another round of notable reads found recently:

How to Avoid Becoming (Heavenly) Hangry on Vacation.

What Your Child Needs More Than Self-esteem, HT to Story Warren.

A Parent’s Guide to the 5 Skeptics Who Want to Shame Your Kids for Being Christian, HT to Challies.

When You Don’t Enjoy the Little Years. Even though you love your little ones dearly, some days are hard.

Can I Trust God With My Child’s Suffering? HT to True Woman.

How to Bring the (Whole) Bible to Life for Kids, HT to True Woman. Though I chafe at the phrasing of the title (the Bible IS living – John 6:63), I know what the author meant, and there are some great ideas here.

When the Content Police Came for the Babylon Bee, HT to Challies.

Hope for People With Food Allergies, HT to True Woman.

The Real Story of Christopher Robin, HT to Glynn. Sad, but I hope on some level the family retained some joy that the Pooh stories were such a dear part of many people’s childhoods.

Several people have asked me if I’ve heard of the recent ruling to remove Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a literary award. I’m not surprised, especially in today’s climate. There were characterizations and incidents in the books that we cringe at today. But I hope this does not lead to a pulling of her books from shelves or reading lists. We encounter what we would consider wrong attitudes in a number of older books, even classics. If we tossed books that had anything in them we disagreed with – well, we wouldn’t have much left. It takes long years to change cultural thinking. The better way, I believe, is to realize that every person and every generation is a mixture of good and bad and to educate about both sides. A couple of good articles I’ve seen on this are Scrubbing Laura Ingalls Wilder is a Dangerous Step Toward Ignorance (HT to Melanie) and How to really Read Racist Books to Your Kids, (HT to 19th Century Classic Children’s Books You Might Have Overlooked, which I found through Story Warren). I wouldn’t agree with every point in the latter (mainly the evolutionary lens), but both articles make good points.

I usually like to close these posts with a funny or thoughtful picture or meme – but I don’t have one handy and need to get on to today’s tasks, so I’ll wish you a Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

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Here are noteworthy reads discovered this last week:

Reaching for the Light. A mom’s struggle to spend time with the Lord and four kids.

Why I Took My Six-year-old Son on an Overnight Trip. Thoughts on Scripture’s instruction, “Son, give me your heart.”

The Hardest Part of Mothering.

Youth Group or Frat House? HT to Out of the Ordinary. Wisdom about youth group activities that humiliate.

In Defense of Preachy Children’s Books. HT to Story Warren. “Kids want to be entertained and delighted. The first thing you can do is erase the words moral, teach, message, and lesson out of your vocabulary…keep authoritative figures, like parents, teachers, or older siblings, in the background. Lastly, never let the adults in the story tell what the main character should do. Remember, it is a sin to preach in fiction.” The author counters this advice with examples from beloved children’s classics, and I agree with her. There was something in me that rose up to meet and welcome moral instruction in stories. It can be overdone, of course. And there are times to let readers realize what the story is about rather than telling them directly. But, “Rather than detracting or distracting from the story, were these passages giving me the names of the lovely ideals I sensed in the characters I admired? Were they revealing to me an eternal, universal world of Courage, Sacrifice, Hope, Joy, Love that, unlike the long-ago and fairytale story-lands I longed to enter, was near at hand for me to dwell in? Could this be why didacticism, properly woven into story, does not ruin but elevates it?”

100 Summer Crafts and Activities for Kids, HT to Story Warren.

And a thought for the day, HT to Jody Hedlund re writing, but applicable to many areas:

Where Is God’s Compassion and Mercy in Job?

Image courtesy of Alex Bruda at freeimages.com

The first few times I read through Job as a young person, I was a little…dismayed,  or at least perplexed at how God responded to him near the end. I understood that God was displaying His wisdom, majesty, power, creativity, and other attributes. Job was humbled and repented and God restored him and blessed him, so the book had a happy ending. But I remember feeling that if I had been in Job’s sandals, I would have wanted an encounter with God that seemed more warm and comforting.

Then I discovered the passage in James 5 where James is encouraging Christians to be patient and stand fast in the face of suffering.

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

I believed that God was compassionate and merciful: I had seen that in many other places in the Bible. But where did one find that in Job?

Our church has been reading through the Job together the last few weeks, and I’ve been doing my reading from the ESV Study Bible. Their study notes brought out some points I had missed.

Of chapter 38, verse 1, they say:

God reveals himself to Job in a display of both majestic power and relational presence: “the LORD” (Hebrew YHWH), the name most used to signify God’s covenant character and promises (see. Ex. 3:14-15), was used in the prologue where God describes Job’s relationship to him (see Job 1:8; 2:3); the fact that the Lord “answered Job” contrasts with what the friends…indicated he should expect (see 35:9-13)…It is a covenantal gesture when the Lord reveals his power and his presence as he speaks to Job “out of the whirlwind.” While he does not come simply to justify Job, the Lord’s presence shows that his reproof comes in the context of steadfast love toward Job and not as judgment for what the friends assumed was Job’s repudiation of the path of righteousness (p. 926).

The fact that God came to Job personally indicates His care, and the use of His covenantal name shows He is speaking to Job out of a loving relationship.

Part of what God is getting across to Job includes this:

Job had drawn conclusions about the about the nature of God’s rule from what was revealed on earth in his and others’ circumstances. However, [Job] did not account fully for what is hidden from him, and thus his words cast a shadow on the wisdom and righteousness of God’s rule. In his speech, God will question Job in order to remind him that, even in what is revealed of God’s powerful and majestic governance of the natural world and its inhabitants, much is still hidden. And if this is true for creation and its creatures, how much more is it true in relation to the wisdom and purpose of the Creator? (p. 926).

The notes point out later on that Job had experienced what it was like “to have what was hidden about him (e.g., the state of his heart before God) questioned and judged by those who had drawn wrong conclusions from what was visible in his circumstances. The Lord now questions Job for overextending his judgment of what his suffering meant about the Lord’s just governance of the world” (40:6-9) (pp. 929-30).

We don’t think of getting dressed down as a mercy, but it is if that’s what we need, isn’t it? A wise father corrects his child. He does not let his child continue in wrong thinking about God. Sometimes we need to feel our smallness contrasted with God’s immensity. When we’re questioning what God is doing in the world and our lives, we need to be reminded that He knows what he is doing, has everything under control, and has a reason for what He allows, even if we don’t know that reason.

All of those details God gives about the animals displays not only His wisdom, but His care of them. This reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 10:29-31: ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Layton Talbert says in Beyond Suffering: Discovering the Message of Job: “The Lord is powerful and majestic and wise beyond man’s comprehension, but He is also compassionate…even towards beasts. He talks as if He has intimate knowledge of their nature and needs because He does. That’s the point” (p. 206).

God displayed compassion and mercy in many ways throughout the book:

  • His limitation of what He allowed Satan to do
  • His unseen presence with Job through everything that happened
  • His physical manifestation to Job
  • His fatherly correction of Job.
  • His vindication of Job against his friends’ accusations
  • His wisdom and care of the animal kingdom highlighted His care of Job
  • All was done within the context of God’s relationship with Job.

That last point is in fact part of what the whole book was about: that Job wasn’t serving God just for God’s blessings, that he wasn’t being “pious for pay” as Dr. Talbert put it (Beyond Suffering , p. 40).

Sometimes I think I’ll feel better if I know what God is up to and why, and sometimes He graciously shares that. But other times, as in Job’s case, comfort does not come from full disclosure of what was going on behind the scenes and why God allowed it. Job did not get all the answers he wanted, but he got God’s presence, a fuller understanding of Him, and a manifestation of His care. And he was satisfied.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Coffee for your Heart, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Hearing Hard Things

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The new, popular doctor has a specific trademark: he never tells anyone bad news. He never makes patients uncomfortable with invasive tests or procedures, never makes them take unpalatable medicine, never advises them to change their ways. Any physical problem can be addressed with a cheery talk and a few pills that have no unpleasant side effects. Never mind that his patients are dropping like flies. He’s just so nice, and everyone leaves his office feeling uplifted and encouraged.

Most of us recognize that as a ridiculous scenario. Such a doctor would never have a successful practice. Over the long run, this physician’s patients would realize that avoiding bad physical news and treatment is not the way to a long and happy life, no matter how pleasant it seemed in the short run.

I’ve been reading through Jeremiah and then Lamentations in the last few weeks. God’s people had ignored His warnings and pleadings, and the time had come for judgment. Jeremiah told Israel that the only right response now was to surrender to the coming Babylonians. Such pronouncements sound like treason, though, and the people either ignored him or persecuted him. They preferred to listen to pleasant prophets with seemingly better news.

“Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading” (Lamentations 2:14, ESV).

We don’t like to hear about sin, but attempting to overlook or redefine it has the same results as ignoring the tumor bulging from someone’s body. The first step in dealing with either sin or cancer is acknowledging that they are present: then something can be done about them.

“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13, ESV).

We also don’t like to hear discipleship has a high cost or hard sayings. Jesus Himself lost followers when they didn’t like what He said. People loved Him as long as He healed and fed them and kept His message positive, but the crowds dwindled after hearing about sin, change, self-denial, and the like.

Preachers and writers who don’t expose sin gain a following, but they do their hearers harm in the long run. Ministers who highlight the benefits of Christianity while never teaching about its costs and mysteries make weak and even false disciples.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 2:3-4, ESV).

We need to be careful that the preachers, writers, and churches we follow declare the whole counsel of God. We need to read it all for ourselves, not just for the parts that make us feel good. We need to believe in God as He presents Himself in the Bible, not in our own images we make of Him.

It’s true that the Christian life is more than just avoiding sin. My husband observed at one church we attended that the primary conclusion of any message was “Don’t sin.” We rarely if ever heard about the joy in following Jesus or pursuing our relationship with Him. A family member recently told us that conversation with a certain group of friends seemed to always center on what awful sinners we all are and lacked the joy of walking in grace and forgiveness. God doesn’t want us to grovel or wallow in our sinfulness. He wants us to acknowledge our sin and come to Him for forgiveness and cleansing, yes, but then we pursue our relationship with Him and grow in love for Him. Our earthly fathers wanted us to obey them, but that was not the whole focus of our relationship: they wanted their children to enjoy their love and the rest of their interaction as well.

When we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, the sins that came between us and God are forgiven. We’re born again. When we sin afterward, we’re not unborn, just as a child born into a family will always be a part of that family. But, just as a child’s disobedience mars the fellowship he has with his parents, so our fellowship with God is not what it should be when we sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV). A good parent disciplines his child for the child’s good and growth in maturity. Our heavenly Father does the same. So sin isn’t the entire focus of the relationship, but it does affect the relationship.

The focus in our relationships with both our heavenly Father and our earthly one is love. Love does not overlook sin. But love motivates us to avoid sin or confess and forsake it when we do yield to it.

And as for hard sayings and hard-to-understand concepts in the Bible, we have the same reply Peter did when Jesus asked the disciples, “Will ye also go away?

“Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68-69, KJV).

We won’t understand everything, but we know Him, and we can trust Him.

“Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away” (Luke 8:18, ESV).

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Tell His Story, Wise Woman, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Writer Wednesday, Porch Stories, Faith on Fire)

Laudable Linkage

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Here is another round of great reads online:

To Great Things That Never Came, HT to Challies. “Despair forgets that there are more pages. It gazes at the brief span of our lives and complains that all should be fulfilled before the page is turned. But hope loves the whole story. Hope breathes, laughs, and draws courage from gazing upon something grander than self.”

How Could God Ask That? A different take on Abraham’s being asked to sacrifice Isaac and other hard stories.

Ever Feel Punished and Passed Over? What We Can learn from Caleb. Some interesting points that hadn’t occurred to me before.

It Takes a Church to Raise a Child. “It takes a church to raise a child because it is in the church that our children find a whole community of adults who love them, who have a deep concern for them, and who are eager to see them come to faith and grow in godly character. This ‘village’ is not there just to keep them in line when they get unruly, but to experience the joy of seeing them grow up in God and grow up for God.”

Why Youth Stay in Church, HT to Story Warren. I personally did not have the advantage of #3, at least the spiritual advantage, though my parents did teach us right and wrong and held us accountable. So young people who are not from Christian homes, don’t despair: God can work abundantly through the first two.

To Be a Princess. “Her histories remind us that the life of a princess is not one to be envied. Those who made their mark on the world were the ones who refused the easy road.”

Telling a Better Story, HT to Challies. “The interviewer asked him how to keep young men from falling into racist and nationalist ideologies. [Jordan] Peterson responded, ‘Tell them a better story.’” The author points out the good of what Jordan said but presents the even better story.

How to Help – Not Hurt – the Singles in Your Church. The “lousy encouragement” especially stood out to me.

Practical Help for Those With Chronic Health Conditions. Good information not only for those with health issues, but for their loved ones and friends as well, to get a picture into their world behind the scenes.

Why Mr. Rogers Still Matters, HT to True Woman.

Compass Book Ratings, HT to Kim. I had often wished there was a rating system or “parental guidance” cautions for books like there is for movies. Now there is!

A cute story: a woman sees a porcupine stuck on its back and helps it out:

Happy Saturday!