Laudable Linkage

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It’s been a little while since I have been able to share noteworthy reads found recently. Here’s my latest batch:

Oil and Dew: Two Reasons to Give Church Another Chance. “Sharing the way God’s Word is changing them, testifying to the evidence of His active presence in their circumstances, they are precious oil, for even during times when God seems silent in my own world, I am encouraged by His ‘very present help’ in their lives.”

Do I Deserve This Painful Journey?

Beware of Running Too Hard. Joni Eareckson Tada’s letter to her 30-year-old self.

There Is Nothing Trite About It! “News elicits from you a variety of opinions about which you can do nothing except to offer them as more news, about which you can do nothing.” “To say, ‘I’ll pray for you’ is to say, ‘I will speak with the Author and Creator of all things. He’s my Father and invites me to come to him any time. I will speak to him about those things. I will plead his promises. I will speak to the one Being in all the universe who has all knowledge and all power and who is perfectly good, and I will ask him to help, to intercede, to grant joy and peace and meaning.'”

Why Controversy Is Sometimes Necessary, HT to Challies. “There are times when believers are divided over serious and consequential questions, and controversy is an inevitable result. The only way to avoid all controversy would be to consider nothing we believe important enough to defend and no truth too costly to compromise.”

The Many Faces of Legalism, HT to Challies.

Seven Reason Prayer Meetings Fail, HT to Challies.

Young Christians: Set an Example. “Don’t give in to those low expectations. Elevate their expectations. ”

Parenting: What to Do When You Don’t Know the Answers.

Homeschool Will Not Save Them, HT to True Woman. “It will be Christ that moves upon the heart of a child if they are educated at home, and it will be Christ that moves upon the heart if they are not. Christ is the hero of Christian homeschool, not us parents.”

On Reading Numbers (The Book, Not the Digits)

8 Ways to Welcome People with Disabilities into Your Church, HT to Challies.

We Don’t Need To Go Back To The Early Church, HT to Challies.

What’s So Bad Abut the Passive Voice? HT to Challies. There are good times to use it.

Opening Up Christmas Shoeboxes: What Do They Look Like on the Other Side? HT to Challies. They might not be good for some countries.

And just for fun, The History of Popcorn, HT to Story Warren:

(If you can’t see the video, it is also on YouTube here.)

Happy Saturday!

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Laudable Linkage

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I don’t usually post these two weeks in a row, but I came across a number of good reads this week!

Answering Claims That the Bible Contains Errors, and Why It Matters That It Doesn’t, HT to Challies.

What Expository Preaching Is Not, HT to Challies.

God Has a Heart for the Vulnerable. Do you?

Feel the Love

Doing Church Away From Church Isn’t Church, HT to Challies.

Nine Questions to Ask Yourself to Prepare for 2018, HT to Challies.

100 Years. 100 Million Lives. Think Twice, HT to Challies. I’ve been quite alarmed in recent months to see young people lauding communism. “For many students, casually endorsing communism is a cool, edgy way to gripe about the world.” “Communism cannot be separated from oppression; in fact, it depends upon it. In the communist society, the collective is supreme. Personal autonomy is nonexistent. Human beings are simply cogs in a machine tasked with producing utopia; they have no value of their own.”

On Leaving Jerusalem. “While the media is great at capturing events, they are not so great (or so interested) at capturing context or proportion.”

Living Out Our Faith. Great ways to serve the Lord as a family.

Crying in Home Depot at Christmas.

Lastly, I don’t know anything about the speaker here or the film he talks about, so this is not an endorsement, but a friend shared this on Facebook and I found it interesting. I had never heard what he shared about the significance of Jesus being wrapped in swaddling clothes before.

Happy next to last Saturday before Christmas!

Book Review: My Emily

My EmilyMy Emily by Matt Patterson is a family’s story of a young daughter born with Down’s Syndrome who is then diagnosed with leukemia at the age of two.

After the joy of Emily’s birth, the Pattersons were shocked to learn that she had Down’s Syndrome. Once they had a chance to absorb that, though, they found it didn’t really change anything. Emily was a little behind other children in her development, but she was developing, and “she did possess two characteristics many Down’s children are blessed with – a never-ending smile and a heart so very full of love.”

But a late-night run to the ER for a fever when Emily was two, and a question about some dots on her leg, led to blood tests which revealed Emily had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Matt relates what Emily and the family went through as she underwent a 100-day course of chemotherapy with its attendant side effects, went into remission, relapsed, and had a bone marrow transplant.

A major part of a journey like this is wrestling with God about why He allowed it, especially for a little child, and Matt shares some of that as well.

Perhaps He sent this little, unassuming angel to instruct me and many others about what’s truly important in life. I believe she taught us not to take one single day for granted, showing a greater appreciation for family, faith, and friends and all that we have been given and blessed with.

…Some would look at Emily’s life and think that a child born with Down’s syndrome has little hope for a meaningful life. Throw in the diagnosis of leukemia and that little hope turns into no hope whatsoever.

I disagree.

Emily’s life, with all its imperfections, had great meaning. Because of how many people she touched, I realize that we are far more than what we can accomplish. We are the very thumbprints of God.

Matt goes on to say:

Incidents in our lives – big or small – develop our character. The Bible says, “We know these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character.”

Our lives, as short as they may be, are a test. And one of the biggest tests we can endure is how we respond to those moments when we don’t feel the presence of God in our lives. I believe deeply that one of God’s greatest gifts is to teach us there is a purpose behind every single one of our trials and problems.

Treat them as a gift, an opportunity to to move forward and draw closer to God. Problems often times compel us to look to God and count on Him rather than ourselves.

This is a very short book at 98 pages and at the moment is available for free for the Kindle app. I was touched at many points in the book and the quote about every life with its imperfections having meaning and purpose and that we “are more than what we can accomplish” particularly spoke to me.

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

Book Review: Better To Be Broken

Better_to_Be_BrokenBetter to Be Broken is the testimony of Rick Huntress. The book opens with a horrific accident: while on a training mission on an Air Reserve base in GA, the locking system for the two-ton cargo bay door of an airplane where Rick was supervising a cargo load failed, and the door came crashing onto his head, shattering three vertebrae which severed his spinal cord, leaving him a paraplegic.

The next chapter goes back to Rick’s previous life. He had accepted Christ as his Savior at a young age, but early on he loved “praise and accolades.” “Because I had no understanding at that age where my gifts came from, the deadly sin of pride thrived in fertile soil…It made me think I was something special, and that attitude only served later to alienate me from my peers.” He developed a drive to be on top, out front, well thought of, and so he hid his personal weaknesses and his real self. He served in the Air Force, married, attended college, and started a good job all with the same mentality. After a while things began to deteriorate, especially in his marriage.

The next chapter picks back up to the time right after the accident and the ensuing weeks in a hospital. Between pain, drugs, confusion, and fear, finally his walls started breaking down. He tells not only of the progress in his condition but also the progress in his soul as he began to face reality.

I wouldn’t say that God caused my accident to happen, but He did allow it to happen. During the weeks after my surgery, as my body was physically healing, God knew that what I needed most was spiritual healing. That could only be accomplished by His direct hand. He brought me to a place in which rescue was possible only by complete trust in Him. It had been so long since I had trusted in Him that I had forgotten how. But from the moment of the accident, the journey had begun.

Verse 17 of Psalm 51 says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou with not despise.” I, too, was broken, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. My broken back is a blessing from God. He used it to bring me back to Himself. I have heard it said, “God sometimes puts us flat on our back, so we can learn to look up at Him.” That certainly was true for me.

Rick continues to tell of physical and mental adjustments once he was well enough to go home, adjustments to the house, to life in a wheelchair, to not being able to do what he always did. It was hard to navigate the “new normal.” But eventually he came to peace with the differences and found new ways to serve, especially ministering to others in similar circumstances. He once even organized a memorable trip to Israel for several disabled people.

Rick concludes, “If it took a wheelchair for me to have a close relationship with my heavenly Father, then I would choose it all again” and “This is not a sob story about my broken body, it is my sincere attempt to give God the glory for breaking my stubborn will. It is the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Though I winced at several of the things Rick had to go through, I was greatly blessed and challenged by his story, and I highly recommend it to you.

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

31 Days of Inspirational Biography: Bill Maher, “Missionary to the Handicapped”

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Beyond My DreamsWhen Bill Maher was born in 1928, the midwife assisting his mother thought he was dead. He was laid in the crib while the midwife and doctor turned their attentions to his mother, who was having severe complications. Bill was not dead, however, he was diagnosed with severe cerebral palsy. His parents were advised to put him away in an institution and forget they had him. The shocked mother refused. His parents sought any help and advice they could find to help their son while trying to treat him as normally as possible. His neck muscles were too weak to hold up his head, his arm and leg and tongue muscles were contracted and had to be stretched out daily. The therapy had both mother and son in tears, but it worked.

When Bill was two, he developed mumps and measles at the same time and lost his hearing. Yet he somehow learned to lip read. By the age of five he still could not talk.

Other children and even adults would taunt and tease Bill if his family was not around. Sadly, some of those people were even Christians — who would then ask Bill if he wanted to become a Christian! Neither he nor his parents did. Bill writes later in his autobiography, Beyond My Dreams, “Apparently these people had never read Leviticus 19:14: ‘Thou shalt not curse the deaf, not put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the Lord.’ In other words, Christians should realize that God made the afflicted the way they are for a purpose and no one should take advantage of them because of their afflictions.”

One Christian lady knocked him down into the mud to get him out of her way and then told his mother he should not be allowed to walk where other civilized people did; he should instead be taken into the woods where the other animals were. Bill did not want to walk outside any more after that, but his mother told him, “Giving up is not in our vocabulary.”

Bill’s parents made him do chores and work hard. One time when he got out of a job his grandfather paid him to do by paying another child a lesser amount to do it, his mother was angry, but his grandfather realized he had to use his brains to figure that out. Bill had a wonderful sense of humor, manifested throughout his book.

Bill attended a regular school until fifth grade, when he failed because he could not keep up. The school felt they had taken him as far as they could, but the principal recommended a school for the deaf 30 miles away. His family made the daily commute, and Bill began to learn more.

When Bill was about 12, one family that was kind to him invited him to their church. There he saw many of the kids who picked on him, as well as the lady who had pushed him down. Yet he enjoyed the service and came back that evening. He misunderstood something the pastor said, and asked to speak to him afterward. Bill was ignorant of what the Bible said, and the pastor patiently explained Bill’s need for a Savior. Thankfully he did not let the failures of some of God’s people keep him from the one and only Savior who could meet his deepest needs. He accepted Christ and experienced immediate changes. He writes, “When I had walked into church that night, I had seen people I hated. When I left, I couldn’t hate them any more.”

When Bill completed the tenth grade at the school for the deaf, he was told he needed to face the “real world” and go to the public high school. He did passing work, got involved in extracurricular activities, held down part time jobs, got his driver’s license. But on graduation night, as he walked across the stage to receive his diploma, the man handing them out said, “It is amazing that you’ve graduated. You work hard, but you will still not amount to anything. If you can get a job, all you’ll ever be is maybe a janitor.” Bill was stunned, his mother was in tears, his dad was angry. Yet Bill was more determined that ever to prove this kind of thinking wrong.

Bill got a good job, but began getting into some of the activities of the unsaved coworkers and backslid. One day at work he had a heart attack, at the age of 22, and was told he only had a month to live. He asked his parents if he could stay with the pastor who had led him to the Lord at the camp where the pastor now ministered. They agreed, and over time Bill confessed his sins to the Lord and surrendered to do anything the Lord wanted him to do. The pastor felt Bill was called to preach. Bill didn’t think so because of his impediments. As he studied his Bible, he came across II Cor. 1:3-4 about comforting others with the comfort wherewith God comforted us, II Cor. 12 about God’s grace being sufficient, Phil. 4:13, and God’s answers to Moses’ objections. He surrendered to preach. His parents were upset and his dad told him not to come home.

Eventually his father did overcome his objections, Bill became a preacher, married, had two children, traveled all over the United States and then the world, preaching, ministering to the handicapped and afflicted, helped to start Christian schools for them, became a police chaplain, and received a honorary doctorate. He went home to be with the Lord in 2002.

In Dr. John Vaughn’s forward to Dr. Bill Maher’s book, he writes, “God is to be praised for the wonderful way he has worked in and through this man’s life. Bill Maher is to be commended for the wonderful way he has served the Lord under circumstances that would have discouraged most others from the start. As you read, you will probably ask yourself the question that comes to me so often when I am with this man who is like a father to me, ‘If he has done this with the Lord’s help, what could I do if I would really trust Him myself?’”

Luke 14: 13-14: But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

For the 31 Days writing challenge, I am sharing 31 Days of Inspirational Biography. You can find others in the series here.

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

“God permits what He hates to accomplish what He loves”

One thing I love about listening to Joni Eareckson Tada is that she’s genuine. She’s no armchair theologian philosophizing about pain and suffering: she has lived it, having broken her neck as a teenager and living in a wheelchair for 45 years. And through it all she acknowledges God’s purposes and perfect plan for her life. “I’d rather be in a wheelchair and know Him that be walking without Him.”

But in this video she pulls back the curtain a little bit to reveal the “low middle years” with her husband, his depression and feeling trapped, her own dissolving in tears over learning she had breast cancer and feeling, “I can’t do this.” I can remember hearing about her breast cancer diagnosis and thinking that that was too much on top of a broken neck and chronic pain (either of which would be “too much” for many people.) Sometimes when we have a major life crisis, we might think, “OK, I’ve had my trial and tribulation, so I’m done: the rest of life will be smooth sailing.” Probably not.

She shares ways God has used her disabilities and suffering, one of which was revealing her sin to her. When I am provoked, I tend to think, “I reacted wrongly because of the provocation,” and then I pray for its removal and think everything will be all right then, But she offers the thought that God allows provocation in order to reveal our sinful reactions to our own hearts, so that we can seek Him for forgiveness and grace to overcome. We can’t say, “That’s not me”…because it is. And we need to learn how to react as Christ did, which we can do only by His grace.

She calls suffering “a splash of hell” but maintains that a “splash of heaven” can be found through intimacy with Christ in the midst of it. And she can say so because she has found it to be true.

This is well worth 42 minutes of your time: