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Once again, here are some of the reads I found thought-provoking this week:

How to Read the Bible For Yourself.

Walking in the Spirit. Probably the most helpful explanation I have seen of this. I had long ago noticed the similarities between being filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5:18-33 and letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly in Colossians 3, and wondered how that worked together. This is the first time I have seen it explained.

How Can I Forgive Myself, HT to Challies. “You do not need to supplement divine forgiveness with any self-forgiveness. Your forgiveness in Christ is complete. Receive it. Remember it. And rejoice in it. If your testimony is, ‘God has forgiven me,’ that is enough!”

For the mom who doesn’t have time to read her Bible. Love this. “Bible time is not only an hour at the crack of dawn, or an intense evening devotion, or a dedicated small group meeting.”

Michelangelo’s David and the Gift of Limitations, HT to The Story Warren.

Do Visitors From Your Church Really Feel Welcome? HT to Challies.

No Time For Widows, HT to Challies. The best part: “Every widow is an individual person. No one likes being lumped into a group and having assumptions made about them based on demographics. The only way to truly help a widow is to get to know her.”

Some questions I’m asking while off to my white evangelical church, HT to Challies.

An Open Letter to the Person Caring for a Loved One With Dementia, HT to True Woman. My own m-i-l was not one to “explode” in anger as is mentioned here, but I know some of you have dealt with that.

It’s Never a Good Time to Invite Kids In.

27 Things People Don’t Realize You’re Doing Because You’re a Highly Sensitive Person, HT to Lisa. I could easily identify with about half of these, and somewhat identify with more.

And a few words of wisdom from Pinterest:

Happy Saturday!

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With All Our Minds

I admit I enjoy learning. I liked reading the encyclopedia when I was a child. When I was in college, I once remarked that I could be a professional student. I loved taking classes, and as graduation came, I lamented that I couldn’t get to all of them that I wanted to. But I had a huge college debt already and needed to actually get on with life beyond college.

However, I’ve known women whose eyes glaze over when a pastor or Bible teacher mentions verb tenses or Greek words, things I love because they help me understand the text better. I’ve known some women to fidget, sigh, squirm, and make funny comments during a more academic Sunday School lesson and then become thoroughly engaged listening to a speaker with more froth than substance.

Sometimes these women are gifted in other ways. Some are more outgoing, easily engage with people socially, and are great at making people feel welcome – all things that don’t come naturally to me and that I have to work at.

Just as those of us who are introverted and do not easily begin conversations have to go outside our comfort zones sometimes, so those who are not naturally academically inclined have to go beyond their natural grain sometimes. By “not academically inclined” I don’t mean not smart. There are different kinds of smart, “book smart” being just one of them.

And granted, there are some speakers and writers who overdo the academics with a plethora of multi-syllabled theological terms that only a seminary graduate would know. I’m not talking about that kind of academics. I’m talking about this:

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30, ESV.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  Romans 12:2, ESV.

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13, KJV. (The ESV renders “gird up the loins of your mind” as “preparing your minds for action.“)

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:11-14, ESV.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15, NASB.

God doesn’t want to touch just our hearts from His Word, He wants us to use our minds, to engage our brains.

I think one reason that so many spiritual books marketed to women are so shallow, as Aimee Byrd wrote, is that we tend to want to be spoon-fed processed “inspirational” food without having to think too much about it. And, as I wrote recently in regard to doctrine, sometimes we approach the Bible just wanting “something to get me through the day” or something uplifting rather than wanting to study it.

There are times, like when there are young children in the house, or during times of illness or exhaustion, when there is not as much time or our brains aren’t quite as up to exercise as usual.

And we have to be careful to keep things in balance and not become like the Pharisees, who were all academic knowledge and no heart and soul.

But next time we pick up our Bibles or listen to someone preach or teach, let’s seek to be taught, to think, to learn.

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. Psalm 86:11, ESV.

Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! Psalm 119:29, ESV.

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Psalm 119:33, ESV.

Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. Psalm 119:66, ESV.

Thy Word is Like a Garden, Lord

Thy Word is like a garden, Lord, with flowers bright and fair;
And every one who seeks may pluck a lovely cluster there.
Thy Word is like a deep, deep mine; and jewels rich and rare
Are hidden in its mighty depths for every searcher there.

Thy Word is like a starry host: a thousand rays of light
Are seen to guide the traveler and make his pathway bright.
Thy Word is like an armory, where soldiers may repair;
And find, for life’s long battle day, all needful weapons there.

O may I love Thy precious Word, may I explore the mine,
May I its fragrant flowers glean, may light upon me shine!
O may I find my armor there! Thy Word my trusty sword,
I’ll learn to fight with every foe the battle of the Lord.

Words: Ed­win Hod­der, The New Sun­day School Hymn Book, 1863

(Sharing With Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Faith on Fire)

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Here are a few of the good reads discovered lately:

The Greatest Work You Can Do, aimed at college students but good for all of us.

Fictitious Forgiveness: Why We Cannot Forgive Ourselves, HT to Challies. “Feeling bad about ourselves over undealt with offenses is God’s objective expression of love, not a feeling to be drowned out by self-actualization and self-pampering.”

Implications or Applications: Biblical Narratives, HT to Proclaim and Defend. Written for preachers but good advice for reading and knowing how to apply Biblical narratives.

Altar of the Feels.

Act Your Age. This is aimed at young men needing to “grow up,” but has some good thoughts for all of us.

Go to Bed for the Glory of God.

6 Surprises Every Premarital Counselor Should Cover, HT to True Woman

Dashing Little Ones Against the Rock HT to Challies. Thoughts on one of the most difficult passages of Scripture.

A few about parenting:

What Your Kids Need Is Your Authentic Christian Life.

Spurgeon’s Secret for Raising Godly Children, HT to Challies. I’d disagree with #8, but otherwise agree with the list.

Teaching Our Children About Work.

And finally, this from Pinterest made me smile.

Happy Saturday!

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Why Study Doctrine?

Doctrine can seem like a cold, dry concept, something stuffy theologians fuss over when they should be trying to reach others. We’re more excited by a group study on relationships or parenting or womanhood or just about anything rather than a doctrinal study. We don’t usually approach our time in the Bible or church rubbing our hands eagerly anticipating what doctrine we’ll learn about today. We’re usually looking for help, encouragement, affirmation. We want to feel something. But feelings don’t last. If I get a warm fuzzy spiritual feeling in my devotions, that can dissipate in seconds when someone crosses me or something goes wrong. Winsome sermons and books may inspire me for a short while, but unless there is meat to them, that inspiration won’t last.

But doctrine is vital. You can hardly read a NT epistle without coming across a mention of doctrine and warning against false doctrine. If we think of sound doctrine as a manifestation of God’s truth and character, we can in turn worship Him by knowing and sharing the doctrines of His Word.

A.W. Tozer once wrote that “there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God.”

So what are some advantages to studying right doctrine in the Bible?

Doctrine leads us to true worship. When we don’t worship God for Who He truly is, then we are worshipping a god of our own making, and that is idolatry. Now, of course, all of us are imperfect in our knowledge of Him and are, or should be, ever growing in Him, and He’ll correct our understanding along the way. But that is different from not knowing Him for Who He is due to neglect or misapplication of the Word.

Doctrine increases our intimacy with God. We can’t know Him aright apart from what He has revealed of Himself in His Word. As we learn more of Him, we love Him and worship Him more, and what seemed like “dry doctrine” then does become something that warms and thrills our hearts as the Holy Spirit brings that truth to mind.

Doctrine protects against error and therefore the wrong path. For example, years ago when cult leader David Koresh was in the news, I watched an interview with someone from his compound. I was shocked to hear her say that she was impressed that he knew his Bible so well. Nearly everything he brought from the Bible, he twisted. Knowing doctrine would have kept this person and others from being deceived by him and others like him.

Doctrine bolsters our faith and confidence in God.  Recently I was troubled by a question I had no answer for that cast doubts on God’s character. I still don’t have an answer for it, but I rested on the previously studied truth that He is good, righteous, kind, and merciful.

Doctrine meets our deepest needs at the most basic level. If I am feeling lonely, what most helps except the truth that God is present everywhere, even with me? If I am afraid, what helps most but meditating on God’s power? When a trial comes and people feel forsaken, what most comforts but the precious truth that God will never forsake us? If I am feeling ashamed, sinful, and unworthy, my only help is turning to the only One who can wash away my sin and remind me that I am in Him and beloved by Him.

Doctrine is stabilizing. “So that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14, ESV). I’ve known women and read women who do just this, float around with whatever is popular with little discernment. 2 Timothy speaks of “silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” who are “lead captive” by a whole host of wrongdoers in the “perilous last days” (2 Timothy 3:1-7, KJV). By contrast, Titus 2 exhorts us to “speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (v. 1, KJV).

Doctrine determines deeds. Our beliefs affect our behavior. When a lie seems the only way out of a tough situation, what keeps us from it but the knowledge that it will displease a God whose essence is truth? Even the Titus 2 admonition to older men and women is couched in the context of sound doctrine.

Doctrine honors God. He is the one who determined what sound doctrine us. If we love Him we should want to know what He says and live accordingly. It’s so important to Him, He inspired John to write, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works” (1 John 1:10, ESV).

Doctrine is not an end in itself. If it is, then it does become dry and stale. The point of doctrine isn’t to line up our beliefs in neat, orderly systems and leave them there. The point is to know God better, serve Him in the ways He desires, and minister His truth to others.

People concerned about right doctrine can seem pesky and picky, and, true, it’s too easy to be that way. We shouldn’t be nitpicky just to be so. But we should “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, NASB), and as kindly and gently as possible bring His truth to bear in our conversations and interactions. We have to remember to let our speech be always “with grace” (Col. 4:6) and to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). We don’t need to “pounce” on every comment or reference another person might make, but graciously seek what the Lord might have us say. We also have to distinguish between clear doctrine and those areas where good people can differ or personal preferences.

II Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (KJV). We “behold Him” through His Word. And, the more we behold Him, the more we are changed into His likeness.

Learning doctrine doesn’t necessarily mean digging up systematic theology books, though some might like to do so. In our everyday reading and Bible study, it means looking for the truth about God when we read. The Bible is so much more than moralistic stories (“Be like Joseph and Daniel; don’t be like Jonah and Judas”). Look at what God is doing in the passage, what we see of His character and wisdom in what He is doing.

So, don’t be dismayed by that word “doctrine.” II Timothy 4: 3-4 says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” That is a warning to us not to turn away from sound doctrine, but also possibly an admission that sound doctrine needs to be “endured.” Learning doctrine may not always feel warm and fuzzy, but the Holy Spirit will use it in our lives in blessed ways.

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

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It’s time for another Roundup of Recommended Reading Researched from Remarkable Writers around cyberspace. 🙂

11 Questions to Ask of a Bible Passage, HT to Challies.

How to Be an Encouraging Friend in Times of Pain.

The Worst Consequence of Skipping Church.

Sister, You Can Do Hard Things.

Satan Wields Ignorance of the Word as a Weapon. “Most Christians I talk to have never read the entirety of the Bible. They may read it frequently but only parts of it. But daily reading parts of the Bible doesn’t mean you know it any more than daily reading the first chapter of Moby Dick makes you an expert on the famous novel. Ignorance of the whole of God’s Word makes us easy targets in the war Satan has waged against God. Lies can slip through undetected like poison gas because we’re just not that familiar with the truth.”

A Hill to Die On, HT to Challies. “When you’re fighting a war, there’s very rarely a compelling reason to die for the next yard of soil – but that’s how wars are won, and that is how the line is held – yard by yard.”

Beware of Broken Wolves, HT to Challies. “These are the false teachers who use their own authenticity, pain, and brokenness to attract believers who are also suffering and broken—and then using their “brokenness” to lead the sheep to turn away from God’s Word and embrace sin.”

Don’t Skim the “Minor” Bible Stories.

What We Gained When We Lost Our Hymnals. This was a follow-up to What We Lost When We Lost Our Hymnals. I have read online a lot of complaining about using screens vs. hymnals, but I like the advantages he brings out about using screens. There are pluses and minuses to each. Our church uses both. If a song is not in the hymnal, it is projected on the wall. If it is in the hymnal, the words are also projected but our songleader tells where it is in the hymnbook for those who prefer to use it.

Living Faithfully Instead of Fancifully in an HGTV World. HT to True Woman. “To revel in the beauty of an earthly home knowing it will never completely satisfy because there’s a heavenly one ahead”; “The pursuit of joy is good but can come dangerously close to hedonism and not the Christian kind.”

Giving Up or Giving Back. This was from the Lenten season but has some tips for “giving back” in various other settings as well.

4 Ways Satan Uses Christian Generosity for Evil, HT to Challies.

Manage profanity in writing, HT to Adam Blumer. Tips for making villainous characters realistic without filling your readers’ heads with foulness.

And, to end with a smile:

naps

mistakes

Happy Saturday!

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Book Review: A Place of Quiet Rest

Quiet RestThe subtitle of A Place of Quiet Rest by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (now Wolgemuth) is “Finding Intimacy With God Through a Daily Devotional Life,” and that sums up perfectly the aim and emphasis of the book.

“Devotions,” for those who might not be familiar with the term, is what we call spending time alone with God in the Bible and prayer. Some people use the terms “God and I time” or “quiet time” or other phrases as well.

In Nancy’s introduction she tells a bit of her own and her family’s history, especially her father’s example of making time to spend with God, her struggles, and finally her conclusion that:

I have come to believe with all my heart that this is something worth fighting for. I have come to understand that one of the reasons it is such a battle is that the Enemy of my soul knows if he can defeat me here, he will ultimately be able to defeat me in every other area of my spiritual life.

Satan hates God, and he works tirelessly to convince Christians that they can operate on their own, independently of God. If we concede the battle to him, he knows that we will end up defeated, frustrated, barren, and useless to God. Worse, we will end up doubting God, despairing of His goodness, in bondage to our flesh, resisting His will.

…I have come to see that “devotions” is not so much an obligation of the Christian life, as it is an incredible opportunity to know the God of the universe. He has issued to you and to me an invitation to draw near to Him, to walk right into the “Holy of Holies” to enter into an intimate love relationship with Him (p. 16).

She discusses the challenges of setting apart that time in a busy schedule, the examples from the Bible of those who drew near to God, the wrong motivations for having devotions, the inward and outward purposes of devotions, elements of a quiet time, preparing for it, the high value of the Word of God, different approaches to it, questions to ask of the text, journaling, resources, our responses to what we read, prayer, and the influence our time with the Lord will have on the rest of our lives. She quotes many Christians of past years and closes each chapter with tips for making the information personal as well as the testimony of another woman, some famous (Elisabeth Elliot, Joni Eareckson Tada), some not.

I have multitudes of places marked, but here are just a few quotes that especially stood out to me:

A carefully structured quiet time with the Lord is good, but a growing life of devotion to the Savior is more – much more – that “Do A, B, or C and you will know Him better” (p 9, forward by Joni Eareckson Tada).

Developing intimacy with the Lord Jesus requires a conscious, deliberate choice. It is a choice to spend time sitting at His feet and listening to His Word, even when there are other good things that are demanding our attention. It is a choice to put Him first, above all our other responsibilities and tasks (pp. 42-43).

“Your company means more to Me than your cooking. You are more important to me than anything you can do for me” (p. 43, from a paraphrase of what Jesus was trying to get across to Martha).

Setting aside time for devotional activity, in and of itself, does not necessarily make us any more spiritual. (The Pharisees were renowned for their “devotional habits,” but they were far from spiritual.) Neither is a quiet time some sort of good luck charm that gets God on our side, guarantees our day will go better, and keeps us from having problems. Daily devotions are not a way of bartering or negotiating with God (p. 52).

Keep in mind that it is not enough that we should just read the Word. The object is that the words that are printed on the page would become indelibly written on our hearts. God never intended that we should merely get onto His Word – His intent is that the Word should get into us.

I cannot set aside time for God sporadically, whenever I can squeeze Him into my schedule, and hope to enjoy a vital, growing friendship with Him. That isn’t possible in human relationships, and it is no more possible in our relationship with God (p. 92).

Don’t let yourself get hung up in the mechanics. The particular Bible reading and study methods that are most helpful to someone else may not be as useful to you. The important thing is to make sure that you are getting into the Word and that the Word is getting into you. Find out which methods work best for you, and use them (p. 185).

There was one teeny little area where I wasn’t sure I agreed with the author: when she discussed Jesus’ example of making time to spend alone with His Father, she used phrases like, “This is where He discovered the will of God for His life” (I would say He knew that before He came); “This is where He gained the resources to do battle against Satan”; “This is where He received grace to love the unloveable and power to do the impossible” (p. 29); “Jesus had compassion on the multitudes and gave of Himself sacrificially to minister to their needs. But He knew that He could not meet their needs if He did not draw upon His relationship with His Father” (p. 101). I believe that when Jesus was in a human body on earth, He was still fully God as well as fully man (which I know Nancy believes as well), and some of these things were inherent in His nature as God, so I am not sure that His spending time with His Father was as much of a filling up after being depleted like we would need. But I hadn’t quite considered it this way before, so I need to think about and study it more.

I especially appreciated the emphasis on seeking intimacy, a close relationship with God. Making our way through the Bible, learning truth, learning doctrine, memorizing verses, are all important, but need to be exercised under the overarching purpose of getting to know Him better and drawing closer to Him in our hearts, not as an end in themselves.

The book is highly readable and I think it would be good for both beginners who haven’t really established regular devotional habits yet as well as those who have been having time set apart with God for years.

Even though many of these truths and tips were familiar to me, and even though making time for Bible reading has, by God’s grace, been a settled thing for me for some time now, I still find books like this valuable. I do learn some new things, but they reinforce what I have come to believe over the years and inspire me to keep on.

(Sharing with Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books, Faith on Fire, Carole’s Books You Loved), and Literary Musing Monday)

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A lot of my blog friends and a family member or two are experiencing a lot of snow this week. A perfect time to get cozy and read some edifying material. 🙂 Here are a few thought-provoking reads that caught my eye the past week or two:

Are You Not Ready to Worship? HT to Challies. “A worship leader who’s aware that his/her congregation is most likely filled with people who aren’t exactly fired up and ready for…. epic worship…will present a congregation with the gloriously good news of a great and faithful God, a gracious Redeemer, and a generously outpoured Holy Spirit, instead of a guilt-inducing pressure to hype something up that isn’t there to begin with.” Yes. I hate to hear people being scolding for how they are singing or what they look like while singing – that’s not particularly worship-inducing.

Christian Life Beyond the Quiet Time.

Photobombing Jesus: Confessions of a Glory Thief, HT to Challies.

Five Tests of False Doctrine.

Theonomy, or “a movement that teaches the earthwide rule of God through the reinstitution of the Law of Moses for every nation.” Why people promote this and what’s wrong with the idea.

If Abortion Was About Women’s Rights, What Were Mine? From an abortion survivor.

9 Things Your Kids Need (But Won’t Tell You)

On love and marriage:

If You’re Looking for Romance, It’s Probably Right in Front of You.

One Hour in a Restaurant Doesn’t Make a Good Marriage.

On politics and social media:

7 Questions to Ask Before Posting About Politics on Social Media

7 Ways to Do Political Punditry Wrong in a Polarized World

And lastly, I debated about this one lest it sound like I thought yelling at God was ok. But if you think of it more like an anguished prayer, I think many could commiserate with this little boy:

Thankfully it’s not too cold where we are, and next week doesn’t look too bad except for some cool nights. But I am ready to see spring!

Have a great weekend!

 

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