Laudable Linkage

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I have just a few this week, but I wanted to go ahead and share them lest I end up with an overly-long list next time.

What Does It Mean to “Accept Jesus”? “Accepting Jesus is not just adding Jesus. It is also subtracting the idols.”

Is It “Unspiritual” To Be Discouraged? HT to Challies.

Don’t Leave Your Convictions Behind To Get Ahead, HT to Challies.

A Genealogy of Grace (Mothers of the King). “Accept the fact that every family line, including yours, is a trail of wreckage and debris due to sin. When you do, you will learn to see something better and brighter. You will see his grace and goodness, bringing life out of ashes, light out of darkness, and glory out of decay.”

Would Bath-sheba Have Joined the #MeToo Movement? People have been debating for centuries about whose fault it was that David and Bathsheba fell into sin. I am not posting this to get into that, but I thought the author made some good points that are not often discussed in Christian circles and should be.

A non-mom speaks about Mother’s Day, HT to Linda. Thoughts on honoring mothers without alienating others – principles good not just on Mother’s Day and not just in church. I especially liked “The Wide Spectrum of Mothering” under #2.

A different video I watched this morning made me think of this hymn, so I looked it up next.

Happy Saturday!

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Loving like Jesus

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Once a missionary was troubled because she didn’t love others the way she knew she should. For years she continually berated herself with the need to be more loving, but she continually failed, leaving her continually discouraged. Finally she started to meditate on God’s love for her, and without realizing it, her life was transformed so much that people asked her husband what had happened to her.

I’ve shared this story before. Though I’ve lost track of its source, it has always inspired me because I can identify with it so well. I’m frequently appalled at my selfishness and often tell myself “I need to be more loving,” but, like the missionary, I continually fail.  But when I meditate on His love for me, His love flows through me to others.

Since Jesus told us to “love one another just as I have loved you” (John 13:34; 15:12), I decided to look at some aspects of His love for us.

An initiating love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19, ESV). God loved us even before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-6), ESV).

A gracious love. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, ESV). He loved us when we were most unlovable and undeserving. He didn’t wait for us to “clean up” or get “good enough.”

A sacrificing love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV). God gave not just a pittance, not just a fraction, but rather what was most dear to Him. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).

A forgiving love. “This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” (1 John 4:10, NLT).

A kind love. “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Titus 3:3-6, ESV).

A longsuffering love. “The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Numbers 14:18a, ESV).

A correcting love. “My son, do not despise the Lord‘s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12, ESV). God’s love is not indulgent. Sometimes love involves doing the hard thing of bringing sin to the surface so it can be dealt with.

This just barely scratches the surface of God’s love for us.

In the parable of the unforgiving servant, a man was forgiven a massive debt. However, instead of extending that same grace that he had received to others, he withheld forgiveness of someone’s very small debt and exacted a penalty. That story opened up to me the realization that my forgiveness towards another isn’t based on whether or not they “deserve it.” I did not deserve forgiveness, either. My forgiveness of others should be based on the fact that God has forgiven me so much more than anything I have had to forgive.

It’s the same with God’s love. My love for others should be an overflow of God’s great love for me. He took the first step in loving me, so I should not wait on others to make the first move. His love came at a great sacrifice, so I should not be surprised when love costs me. He loved me at my most unworthy and forgave a multitude of my offenses, so how can I withhold love from others?

Let me hasten to say that exactly how this works out in individual lives will vary. I’m thinking particularly of people who came out of abusive situations. Though we’re still called to love and forgive, and we need God’s grace to do so, we also need His wisdom to know how to navigate all the factors in such a relationship.

I frequently pray for God to help me be more loving, and He graciously speaks to my heart from His Word. Just last week, one day I came across passages about God’s love from three different sources just in my regular devotional reading, without trying to coordinate a study on this topic at all (that’s part of what prompted this post).

So while I continue to pray that I might be “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:14-19), that “love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment” (Philippians 1:9-11), and that God would make me “increase and abound in love for one another and for all” (1 Thessalonians 3:11-12), I also pray and seek God’s Word to “have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that [I] may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19).

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2, ESV)

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday), Coffee for Your Heart, Porch Stories, Wise Woman)

Laudable Linkage

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Here’s my latest roundup of noteworthy reads online:

These Bombs Led Me to Christ,” testimony of the “Napalm girl” from the famous picture. HT to Challies.

God Understands Hard, Thankless Parenting, HT to True Woman. “For those of us who feel undone by the various losses of motherhood, we take comfort in a God who grieves with us and for us. Scripture gives us vivid pictures of how God understands the brokenhearted parent.”

When Mommy Grows Up, HT to Challies.

Mom, I’m Such a Sinner!” HT to Challies. “God’s grace brings moments into our children’s lives, as He does in ours, when they feel just how bad sin is. It’s never pretty. A wise parent works with the Holy Spirit’s conviction without minimizing the sting of its pain. As we guide our children’s spiritual development, we agree with truth while bringing balance to emotion.”

50 Good Mental Health Habits, HT to Challies.

Jesus and Joysticks: What the Church Should Stop Making Fun of Video Gamers. HT to Challies.

The Oldest, Most Ignored Social Media Command, HT to Challies.

Have a Heart on Social Media. HT to True Woman. “When you log onto social media and see your favorite tribe picking up pitchforks over the latest cause for offense… pause before you join in. Consider that, as rewarding as it feels to be part of a mob, your goal should be to build up  — not one up — your brothers and sisters in the Lord.”

The Perennial Gen, a blog for mid-lifers, is focused on caregiving and the “sandwich generation” this month. They’ve had some great posts so far that I can solidly identify with.

I’ve seen a lot of online friends talk about opening their windows this time of year. I’ve thought, either they don’t have allergies or they don’t have much pollen where they live. A friend here opened her windows one night and then had to wipe yellow pollen dust off every surface in her home the next day. Someone posted this on Twitter, and it makes me sneezy just to watch it.

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

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I have just a short list this week, but decided to go ahead and share it lest I end up with an overly long list next time.

The Secret to Loving (Really) Difficult People. “As followers of Christ, we do not have the option of not loving them. Loving one another is not merely a biblical suggestion. Jesus tells us, ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you’ (John 15:12). The last five words are the challenge for me: ‘…as I have loved you.’

A Response to Andy Stanley on “Theological Correctness”, HT to Challies. “We should never put ‘theological correctness’ and unity at opposite ends of the spectrum…if we do not have the truth, we have no unity.”

Corporate Worship.

Motherhood Is Better Than the Media Claims, HT to Proclaim and Defend.

Be The Change You Want To See On The Internet, HT to Challies. Good stuff here.

And lastly, I found some things on Pinterest I could identify with. You? 🙂

(I couldn’t find the original sources for these pictures. Even though the last one has a web site listed on it, I couldn’t make it out.)

Happy Saturday!

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)

Trusting a Good, Kind, Wise Father Even When We Don’t Understand

For months during and after an election cycle, we see people in social media constantly framing their responses and opinions according to their like or dislike of a candidate.  If a rumor or negative news report is going around about my guy, then, of course, it’s false. People are just trying to smear him because they don’t like him. In fact, some nefarious enemy started or twisted this to cast aspersions on my guy. And if something negative is reported about the other guy,  well, then, of course it’s true and his supporters are blind/stupid/dishonest/just as bad as he is, etc. What’s especially frustrating to me about these keyboard commentators on both sides is that they are so far removed from the situation and the candidates, they can’t possibly know for sure what’s going on behind the scenes. They’re either acting out of blind loyalty or the needs of their party or agenda.

Did you know some people accuse Christians of this same blind loyalty or agenda-pushing? I’ve seen people say something like this: “You prayed for this outcome, and you didn’t get it. So then you changed your mind to say that this must be God’s will.” Or they accuse us of blindness or dishonesty if we maintain God’s goodness in the face of disaster.

It’s natural that people frame their interpretation of circumstances according to their point of view, personal philosophies, etc. But there is a major difference between defending a candidate because we’re on the same side and defending someone we know personally. If someone starts a rumor or twists the truth about someone famous, most of us hope it’s wrong and believe in giving the benefit of the doubt, though we have been disappointed at times. But if someone tries to smear my friend or family member, that’s a different story. I might be proved wrong even there, because people have sin natures and fail sometimes. But I have a better basis for my defense.  I know that person. I know their character, I’ve spent time with them, I’ve seen how they react in various situations. I know that this rumor about them is uncharacteristic of them and unlikely to be true.

The same can be said of true Christians. Sure, there are some who’ve grown up in the culture and are just defending an ideology. But those who have truly believed on Christ as Savior are not acting in blind faith. We’re acting on a faith based on knowledge of God through His Word and through personal experience of walking with Him over the course of years. We may not understand everything He does. He’s God, after all, and we are not. He may not answer every request positively, but what good father does?  Every parent and every authority has to say “no” sometimes. There may be some reason on our end why He can’t say “yes.” So, if we pray for something and God doesn’t answer the way we wanted, we’re not putting a spin on the situation by saying our request was not His will. A young child in its immaturity might fuss, complain, cry, wheedle, or get angry when a request is denied. But as children grow, both in maturity and in experience with their father, they’ll realize that, though they may not understand why their father said no, they know he loves them and has their best interest at heart. So it is with God’s children. We’re continually growing spiritually, continually adjusting our thinking to His, continually evaluating our circumstances in light of His truth.

Also, catastrophes don’t disprove God’s existence or reflect negatively on His character. Awful things happen in this world that we don’t understand. Sometimes they’re just a result of fallen human nature. People sin. Sin affects the innocent. One day God will right all those wrongs, but that may not happen in our lifetime. (But before we get excited about the wrongs to us being dealt with, we need to remember that we’re answerable for our wrongs as well.) Sometimes disasters are a result of human error. Sometimes they’re caused by Satan (see Job 1 and 2, Luke 22:31). Sometimes in the Bible God sent disaster to judge or punish people or to try to bring them to repentance, but those who try to attribute every catastrophe to God’s judgment are wrong. There may be any number of reasons why God allows suffering. Though we don’t understand, we trust His character, His wisdom, goodness, and love. That’s not a blind, baseless, deluded faith: that’s faith based on the One we know and on His Word to us.

Thousands of years ago, three men were threatened with death in a fiery furnace if they didn’t bow down to the king’s idol. But they were believers in the one true God, and they couldn’t do that. They told the king, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). They were trusting in an ideology. They were trusting in their God, even if the circumstances didn’t turn out they way they hoped. And God blessed them with His presence and deliverance.

We can’t possibly understand why God does everything He does. But like Job, even though we don’t understand what’s going on, we know His character and we trust Him (Job 13:15; 19:25). And, like Job, even if we don’t get “answers” to explain our situation, God will bless us with His presence. That’s not “spin.” That’s truth.

See also:

Scriptural Reasons for Suffering
But If Not…
Our Trials Are Not Just For Us
Though Everything Go Wrong

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

Laudable Linkage

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I’ve rounded up some thought-provoking reading from the last couple of weeks:

Help Me to See Sin as You See It.

What Does It Mean to Find My Hope in Christ? HT to The Story Warren.

7 Mistakes We Make in Women’s Bible Study.

A Stranger’s Gift.

What I Learned About Marriage by Losing My Husband.

Three Steps to Better Doctrinal Disagreements, HT to Challies.

I Was a Disney Princess, I Had an Abortion, and It Almost Ruined My Life, HT to Challies.

Racial Reconciliation: What We (Mostly, Almost) All Agree On, and What We (Likely) Still Don’t Agree On, HT to Challies. Kevin DeYoung did a good job here of laying out the complexity of the issues. This is why one-sided, simplistic suggestions for solutions are not helpful.

Discernment muscles. This is so important to teach our children.

6 Graces…For When We Are Our Own Harshest Taskmasters.

4 Ways to Take Your Time Management to the Next Level. “Balancing the tyranny of tasks and the tenderness of meaningful relationships continues to be my walk on the razor’s edge. The prudent use of little minutes requires a few good practices that become habits over time.”

The Theology and True-Life Tragedy behind Hallmark’s Hit Show, “When Calls the Heart”, HT to Challies. I have not seen this show, but years ago I read the series on which they were based, written by Janette Oke. She began my love for Christian fiction. “If you give your life to Jesus, Oke believed, you can know how much he loves you, and his love can comfort when life is hard. This is the theology Oke put in her romance novels…It was Augustinianism in a bonnet, in a made-up prairie patois. It was evangelicalism for the everyday lives of women who knew how life could be. It was a story for all those who are weary and burdened, who just wanted to give the weight of their lives over to Jesus.”

How to Save Your Privacy From the Internet’s Clutches, HT to Challies. Scary! And I admit I don’t understand a great deal of what’s discussed here.

And lastly, most of us are able to identify with this, especially this year! (Seen on Facebook – don’t know the original source.)

Happy Saturday!

(Links do not imply 100% endorsement.)

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!

Our trials are not just for us

Some sermons, the gist of them or a particular point or illustration, stay with us forever. One such message for me took place some 25-30 years ago. Our pastor at that time began describing some of the creatures Ezekiel saw in his vision, like the wheel within a wheel full of eyes, and went on to detail various other heavenly beings. Then he read from Ephesians 3:

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places (Eph. 3:8-10, ESV).

The pastor probably brought several things out of that passage, but the one that most struck and remained with me was verse 10: somehow God teaches and displays to “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (“principalities and powers” in the KJV) something about Himself through how He deals with us.

We’re going through Job in the church we’re visiting now, and we see an example of this in the first two chapters. Though the events in this book occurred before the church itself was born in Acts, the principle is the same. “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them” (Job 1:6; 2:1). God’s conversations with Satan about Job seems to be before the rest of the assemblage, though they could have been private. Either way, God displayed truth to a non-human being through an earthly one.

Hundreds of years later, Jesus told His disciples:

 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father (John 14:30-31, ESV).

In this case, one reason for Jesus’s obedience to the Father’s command was that the world might know that Jesus loved the Father.

Some years after the sermon I mentioned, I read this from Elisabeth Elliot in Keep a Quiet Heart:

The disciples’ worst fears were about to be realized, yet He commanded (yes, commanded) them to be at peace. All would be well, all manner of things would be well–in the end. In a short time, however, the Prince of this world, Satan himself, was to be permitted to have his way. Not that Satan had any rights over Jesus. Far from it. Nor has he “rights” over any of God’s children… But Satan is permitted to approach. He challenges God, we know from the Book of Job, as to the validity of His children’s faith.

God allows him to make a test case from time to time. It had to be proved to Satan, in Job’s case, that there is such a thing as obedient faith which does not depend on receiving only benefits. Jesus had to show the world that He loved the Father and would, no matter what happened, do exactly what He said. The servant is not greater than his Lord. When we cry “Why, Lord?” we should ask instead, “Why not, Lord? Shall I not follow my Master in suffering as in everything else?”

Does our faith depend on having every prayer answered as we think it should be answered, or does it rest rather on the character of a sovereign Lord? We can’t really tell, can we, until we’re in real trouble.

Any trial we have undergone has probably fallen far short of what happened to Job or to Jesus. Even still, our first thought, our consuming thought is usually for relief. We want it to end, we want things to go back to normal, we want to be out from under whatever the pressure is.

First we need to ask God to help us learn what He is trying to teach us – usually something of His grace, provision, strength, and love in contrast to our limitations and our need to rely on Him. But we need to remember the bigger picture. Maybe our trial isn’t just for us. Maybe creatures in the heavenlies are learning something about God through His dealings with us. Maybe the world, or at least our children, family and friends, acquaintances, need to be shown, to see in action, genuine faith and loving obedience even in difficult and mysterious circumstances.

Elisabeth Elliot went on in the piece above to write:

I never heard more from the young woman [mentioned earlier in the piece]… But I prayed for her, asking God to enable her to show the world what genuine faith is–the kind of faith that overcomes the world because it trusts and obeys, no matter what the circumstances. The world does not want to be told. The world must be shown. Isn’t that part of the answer to the great question of why Christians suffer?

May God enable us as well.

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(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Glimpses, Tell His Story), Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Wise Woman, Writer Wednesday, Coffee for Your Heart, Porch Stories)