Laudable Linkage

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Here’s my latest round-up of noteworthy reads on the Web:

How to Shipwreck Your Theology. ““What is the most brilliant theology good for if it is to be shipwrecked in one’s own house?”

Maybe Women are Some of the Worst Offenders.

9 Things to Know About a Widow’s Grief.

Love Letter to a Lesbian, HT to True Woman, from a former lesbian.

“Let Me Know How I Can Help!” (This Will, Because They Won’t), HT to Linda. Practical ways to ask for or offer help in a time of need.

How Breastfeeding Changed My View of God, HT to True Woman. “God’s love for us is no Hallmark sentiment. This image is not primarily a celebration of our newborn cuteness…Rather, this verse reveals God’s hard-won, self-giving, dogged commitment to our good, a refusal to let us go—however frustrating we become, an insistence on seeing his image in us—and a painful provision for our most desperate need.”

C. S. Lewis’s Wonderful Letters to Children. I love his manner with them.

A Pathway to a Full Life.

This is cool and somewhat mesmerizing to watch: magnetism in slow motion, HT to The Story Warren:

Happy Saturday!

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Laudable Linkage

I usually only share these every couple of weeks, but I had a good list today, and some of them are timely, so here goes:

Freedom From the Tyranny of Hyperspirituality. Yes!

Love Your Neighbor Enough to Speak the Truth. Rosaria Butterfield, who was saved out of a leftist, homosexual lifestyle, responds to some of Jen Hatmaker’s comments re homosexuality.

6 Surprising Characteristics of Biblical Faith According to Hebrews 11. It’s not the “leap in the dark” that we tend to think.

Shame, Sanctification, Singleness, and Marriage. HT to Challies.

The Humbled Mother.

In the aftermath of the election:

No, You Aren’t Moving to Canada. (We knew this young man, now a missionary, when he was a boy, near the same age as my oldest.)

Trump, Victory, and Where Evangelicals Go From Here.

Mike Rowe on Trump’s Victory (and why people shouldn’t ascribe all of his attributes to those who voted for him)

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

I’m back with my periodic round-up of note-worthy reads discovered online in the last couple of weeks:

Called Out to Gather. Good discussion of the Biblical teaching about the church.

Spiritual Drafting and the Dangers of Christian Complacency. “We all benefit from observing other Christians and seeing how they live the Christian life. This is God’s grace to us, giving us men and women who are worthy of imitation, putting people in our lives who are stronger than we are spiritually. But having such strong believers in our lives is meant to drive us to imitate them, not to simply take advantage of their efforts. Their example is meant to spur us on to greater earnestness in our spiritual lives, greater discipline in our pursuit of holiness.”

When NOT Helping Hurts. A missionary wrestles with the dilemma of when help is actually needed and when it fosters dependency.

Three Things You Should Not Say to a Newlywed.

Lessons From Little People: Life at Child Speed. Some go forward at full-tilt, some like to stop and explore and ponder.

Evolution and a Universe as Young as Humanity.

Hermeneutical Fidelity – Key Bible Passages in the Same Sex Marriage Debate. Answers to revisionist interpretations concerning homosexuality.

Why N. D. Wilson Writes Scary Stories for Children. I’ve not read one of his books, but his philosophy here reminds me of C. S. Lewis’s quote that to withhold “the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil…would be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense. There is something ludicrous in the idea of so educating a generation which is born to the Ogpu and the atomic bomb. Since it is so likely they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”

And I thought this was cute, especially how much the dog’s tail was wagging all the way through!

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve shared some links that caught my eye. Here are the latest – hope you find something of interest:

As Somebody Somewhere Said. Good reasons to read the Bible as a whole rather than only parts of it.

Hoaxes and Hermeneutics. The need for learning how to interpret the Bible rightly.

How To Complain Without Grumbling. There’s a difference, and I am so glad to see someone finally say so.

Jesus Speaks Out For Marriage.

How the Gospel Ended My Same-Sex Relationship.

Do You Treat Your Husband Worse Than a Stranger?

5 Questions I Wish My Accountability Partner Would Ask Me. I am wary of accountability partner set-ups for several reasons, and while the author still recommends them, he advocates facets that are much more in line with Biblical accountability and relationships that what I usually see.

Twenty Years. A man’s reflection on twenty years of marriage.

Mama, Are You Thinking Ahead?

Teach Your Children to Have Devotions. Wish I’d had something like this to read when mine were small.

It’s OK For Kids to Be Bored During Church.

Why Little Kids Need Big Biblical Words.

Cherishing and Protecting Our Freedoms.

4 Tips For Dealing With Procrastination.

Navigating the Challenges of Real Life Online. “If you share everything, you’re an exhibitionist. If you share nothing, you’re closed-off and unapproachable. If you share too many good things, you’re fake. If you share too many bad things, you’re a whiner.” Jenn discusses some principles and guidelines for finding balance here.

10 Things Photographers Hate With a Passion. I had never seen the dinosaur wedding thing before. Bizarre! I don’t agree with every point – I think some trendy or “as seen on Pinterest” requests are inevitable – but otherwise some good things for us to think about.

And I saw this on the C. S. Lewis Facebook Page.

Lewis

Laudable Linkage

It has been a while since I’ve shared interesting reads I’ve come across online. Here are some from the last few weeks:

Moms With Hands Full Need the Church.

I’m Grateful That Lady Forced a Bible On Me, HT to Challies. “We have this idea that doing something significant for God requires huge planning, red letters in the sky, a parting of the sea, signs and wonders. But the truth is, He’s working through us in ways we could never arrange on our own.”

No Disappointment in Jesus? HT to Story Warren. “It’s in life, in the real world, down here where things do and do not pan out, that the just are supposed to live by faith. When we are honestly disappointed in the way the God we trusted has handled things, when what has happened was not at all what we wanted—then statements like “Not my will but thine be done” have powerful meaning. What a sinewy kind of trust old John the Baptist had as he lay in chains—captive, doomed, lonely, blessed, and not offended.”

Are You Letting Your Kids Walk All Over You?

I Don’t Know What to Say. What’s helpful and not helpful when someone is grieving.

What I Learned From Elisabeth Elliot in Her Last Years.

Elisabeth Elliot’s Writings. Ann gives a good overview.

Staring at Dementia, Fighting For Joy.

Where’ve You Been? Story behind a touching and beautiful song about a man’s grandparents, one with Alzheimer’s.

How Can I Have a Successful Blog While Raising Little Kids?

Father’s Days: A Cartoonist’s Journey Into First Time Fatherhood of a baby with a severe illness.

7 Things You Need to Know About Medicare But Probably Don’t.

A boy’s stuffed tiger goes on a grand adventure at Tampa International Airport. Thought this was so cute and sweet!

Of course, yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling is on many minds and hearts. I’m still processing the news and don’t know whether I’ll say any more about it, but the best posts I’ve read so far are But What Does the Bible Say? by Kevin DeYoung and CBMW’s Official Response to the SCOTUS Ruling, and then Nancy Leigh DeMoss has a video response here.

Melanie shared this recently – a real-life illustration of the sheep knowing their shepherd’s voice:

I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Ron Hamilton, aka “Patch the Pirate.” He’s fairly well known in the Southeast. I love this arrangement of his song. Ben Everson is a master at these mutli-harmony things:

Happy Saturday!

Book Review: Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope

Far CountryI’ve been wanting to read Out of a Far Country: A Gay Son’s Journey to God. A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope by Christopher and Angela Yuan ever since seeing it recommended by Tim Challies, and I am glad to have finally done so. I’m predicting it will be one of my top ten books of the year.

Christopher and Angela take turns with the chapters, describing events from their different points of view. They open the book with Chris’s coming out to his parents that he was gay. Angela did not object on Biblical grounds: she was an atheist who hated Christians. I don’t think the book ever explains just why she was against his homosexuality, except that they had hoped he would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a dentist, and patients would probably avoid a dentist who had the potential to be HIV positive. Maybe it just didn’t fit in with her idea of a perfect family, but it was devastating to her.

Angela had come from an unhappy home and had put great stock into having a good family. But over the years her husband grew cold and distant, her oldest son rebelled, and now Christopher was going in a direction completely unacceptable to her.  She gave him an ultimatum between his family and his homosexuality, and, believing he had no choice in his orientation, he left home to be with friends who would accept him as he was. Angela crumpled to the ground in despair, feeling she had nothing left to live for. She made plans to end her own life, but wanted to talk to a minister first. Though he was kind, nothing really changed in her heart. He gave her a booklet which she later read, and her eyes were opened to the truth that her lifelong desire for belonging could be fulfilled in belonging to God. It was even a relief to know and admit that she was a sinner, that though she was far from perfect, God still loved her. “I had not been seeking God, but I was found by him” (p. 19).

Chris, for his part, was glad to get away from the “Chinese-mother guilt-trip drama” (p. 8). Coming out to one’s parents and the inevitable negative reaction was a rite of passage among his friends. He finally felt free to live as he wanted to. He “started going to gay clubs and began tending bar” (p. 23) at night while attending dental school during the day. Eventually the party scene took over his life. While feeling low after a broken relationship, he accepted someone’s offer of the drug Ecstasy, and within a very short time started selling drugs to support his own habit, then became a popular and leading seller in his area and even across the country. His schooling suffered to the point that he was eventually expelled, but it no longer mattered since he was making money hand over fist and enjoying life and popularity.

Until he was arrested.

During this time Angela had been growing in her own faith and her husband Leon had come to the Lord as well. At first she tried various things to get through to Chris but finally realized that she could not “fix” him. She could only fast, pray, show him love, and not shield him from the consequences of his actions. She and her husband did not intervene when Chris was threatened with expulsion from school and after he was arrested asked the judge to give him a sentence just long enough to bring him to God. Once after reading Psalm 46:1, “Be still, and know that I am God,” she knew “as hard as it was, I knew I had to quit striving and trying to make things work my way. But rather, I had to let God do things his way and in his timing” (p. 73). “It may have just been easier for us to give up on our son, but God said, Wait! He gave us faith to hope against all the evidence we saw and to trust he had a plan, Leon and I committed to focus not on hopelessness but on the promises of God” (p. 109). She “prayed specifically that God would do whatever it took to bring our son to him — not to us, not out of drugs, not out of homosexuality…but to the Father” (p. 159).

With Christopher’s arrest, his popularity vanished. None of his “friends” wanted any more to do with him. One day in prison, he saw a Gideon’s New Testament on top of some trash, and he took it back to his cell and began to read mainly just as a way to pass the time. Over time, both with reading the Bible on his own and studying it with others, Chris came to believe on Christ.

Being in prison had taken care of getting Chris off drugs and out of the party scene, and he came to admit they were both wrong and he needed to stay away from them once he got out. When he talked with a chaplain about his homosexuality, he was told that the Bible did not condemn homosexuality and gave Chris a book explaining that view. That sounded wonderful to Chris, but as he read the book and then studied the Bible, he felt the book did not line up with what the Bible taught. He did discover that in “Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 — passages normally used to condemns gays and lesbians…God didn’t call lesbians and gay men abominations. He called it an abomination. What God condemned was the act, not the person. For so long, I had gotten the message from the Christian protestors at gay-pride parades that the God of the Bible hated people like me, because we were abominations. But after reading these passages, I saw that God didn’t hate me; nor was he condemning me to an inescapable destiny of torment. But rather, it was the sex he condemned, and yet he still wanted an intimate relationship with me” (p. 186). Being gay had been a major part of his identity, but as he continued to study the Scriptures, he “began to ask myself a different question: Who am I apart from my sexuality?” (p. 187). He details his thought processes and conclusions in a chapter called “Holy Sexuality.” One conclusion was:

God’s faithfulness is proved not by the elimination of hardships but by carrying us through them. Change is not the absence of struggles; change is the freedom to choose holiness in the midst of our struggles. I realized that the ultimate issue has to be that I yearn after God in total surrender and complete obedience (pp. 168-169).

This book touched me on so many levels. What a joy to see the journey of how God brought both Christopher and his parents to Himself.

Christopher’s testimony from a documentary is here:

You can read more of Christopher’s life and ministry at his web site, www.christopheryuan.com.

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

 

 

Laudable Linkage

Here are a few interesting reads discovered in the last couple of weeks:

The Cheerleader. If something can be heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, it is this testimony of a mom injured in the tornadoes that took her home and children.

“God’s Not Dead” and the Angry Atheist Professor: That Was Not My Experience, HT to Challies. I’ve not seen the movie, but Ann has a review of it here. She says as well that the atheists in the movie tended to be typecast as stereotypical meanies, and the film has some issues, but overall it has a good message.

Before We Die and After, Too. Things we want to accomplish before we go may not be the typical “bucket list” experiences.

How Can Moms Deal With the Distractions of Social Media?

What to Do in Those “I Can’t Handle It” Moments.

The Church and the LGBT Community: Is There a Way Forward?

Happy Saturday!

Laudable Linkage

Here are some good reads from the last week:

On Homosexuality: It’s OK to Fight. Quote: “I had to believe either my feelings were lying to me or God was.”

She Yelled and Called Me Names. Neat story of one woman’s reaction to such a scenario.

Serving in Church: When Your Spiritual Gift Isn’t Changing Diapers.

A Beautiful Mess. God can use us despite our imperfections.

Caring For the Caregiver. All of these will not be needed by every caregiver, and definitely ask before jumping in, but there are some good ideas here.

The Case For Good Taste in Children’s Books.

She Chose Grace when a potential daughter-in-law wasn’t what she was expecting.

Pharisees and Fundamentalists. Are they the same? No, and Layton Talbert, whose books I have reviewed here, and whose scholarship, tact, and balance I greatly respect, points out the differences and the main problems of Phariseeism.

And a few on writing:

Be You.

Nurture the Heart of Your Story.

Squelch the Naysayers.

This is a neat story about someone who did the right thing when he didn’t realize anyone was watching:

And, for a couple of “Awwww” moments:

From the aptly named Cute Overload site, a baby panda meets its mom for the first time. The photos below the video of the baby panda are adorable.

And I saw this at Susanne‘s: a fireman rescues a kitten.

A news clip about it is here.

Happy Saturday!

Book Review: The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

I don’t know when 148 pages of someone’s life story has impacted me more. There are sections where I have sticky tabs and markings on several pages in a row.

Unlikely ConvertThe Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey Into Christian Faith is Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s story of how she, as an atheist, leftist, feminist, lesbian professor specializing Critical Theory, or postmodernism, and whose specialty was Queer Theory, who hated Christians, encountered and embraced the truths of Christianity in what she calls a “train wreck” of a conversion.

After a few pages detailing how she came to her professorship and worldview, she describes a kind and inquiring letter from a pastor in response to an article she had written.

The Bible makes it clear that reason is not the front door of faith. It takes spiritual eyes to discern spiritual matters. But how do we develop spiritual eyes unless Christians engage the culture with those questions and paradigms of mindfulness out of which spiritual logic flows? That’s exactly what Ken’s letter did for me – invited me to think in ways I hadn’t before (pp. 8-9).

The letter had invited her to call him, and after a week, she did. He invited her to have dinner with him and his wife at their home, and she accepted. She was also at this time doing research for a book on the Religious Right and figured he could answer some of her questions. “Even though obviously these Christians and I were very different, they seemed to know that I wasn’t just a blank slate, that I had values and opinions too, and they talked with me in a way that didn’t make me feel erased” (p. 10). Thus began two years of regular meetings and studying Scripture before she ever set foot in a church, which Ken and his wife knew would probably be “too threatening, too weird, too much” (p. 11) for her. “Good teachers make it possible for people to change their positions without shame. Even as Ken prayed for my soul, he did it in a way that welcomed me into the church rather than made me a scapegoat of Christian fear or an example of what not to become,” (p. 14.)

Gradually she came to believe, but she knew it would cost her. “I clung to Matthew 16:24, remembering that every believer had to at some point in life take the step I was taking: giving up the right to myself, taking up his Cross (i.e., the historicity of the resurrection, not masochism endured to please others), and following Jesus.” “I learned that we must obey in faith before we feel better or different. At this time, though, obeying in faith, to me, felt like throwing myself off a cliff” (p. 22). “One doesn’t repent for a sin of identity in one session. Sins of identity have multiple dimensions, and throughout this journey, I have come to my pastor and his wife, friends in the Lord, and always the Lord himself with different facets of my sin” (p. 23).

She tells of a woman she knew and counseled who was in a Bible-believing church but was in a secret lesbian relationship. Her secret denied her the help and prayers of other believers and only resulted in shame and pretense. When Rosaria asked why she didn’t share her struggle with anyone in her church, she replied, “If people in my church really believed that gay people could be transformed by Christ, they wouldn’t talk about us or pray about us in the hateful way they do” (p. 25). Rosaria then asks readers, “Do your prayers rise no higher than your prejudice? I think that churches would be places of greater intimacy and growth in Christ if people stopped lying about what we need, what we fear, where we fail, and how we sin” (p. 25).

Rosaria was a tenured professor in subjects that would now radically change because of her conversion. When she let it be known that she was now a Christian, both she and her gay friends felt she had betrayed them and turned traitor. “I…was alert to the reality that God had ministry waiting for me. I prayed that I would be strong for the task at hand. Yes, I was still a laughing stock in the gay community. Yes, I was still a traitor and an example of what not to be. But so too was Paul the Apostle shamed among Pharisees, and I trusted that God would take my life and make a place for me” (p. 50).

The rest of the book tells how God did just that, both in her career and ministry to others, leading her to marry a pastor, to eventually adopt four biracial children, and to become a homeschooling mom.

Along the way, she shares an eye-opening perspective of what Christianity looks like to others. For instance, when she moved to a community where there were Bible verses on bumper stickers and placards, instead of it looking like people were sharing a bit of light, it looked to her like the community was for “insiders” only. Christians seemed like “bad thinkers” or even anti-intellectual to her before this journey, using Scripture to shut down conversations rather than to shed light. Unfortunately, that is too often true: instead of truly discussing what the Bible has to say and being “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15b), some Christians take offense at being asked and use Scripture to bludgeon. One of my own family members has been turned off, not so much to all Christian truth, but to Christian community because of this experience.

One theme that comes out throughout the book is the willingness to engage people who are different from us in any way. Thank God the pastor and wife who first shared Christ with her looked past her butch haircut and gay and pro-choice bumper stickers to the need of her heart. But even after she became a Christian, she ran into this phenomenon in various churches. When her husband was the guest speaker at a church and she was getting out of the car holding one of her children while the other was asleep in the car seat, a man said to he, “So, is it chic for white women to adopt black kids these days?” After asking him if he was a Christian, she said, “So, did God save you because it was chic?” When her husband started pastoring a small church plant made up mostly of college students, families would come for a month or so and then leave because of a “lack of fellowship” with people just like themselves. I could step on a small soapbox here: I get so discouraged when people within the same church only want to fellowship with people just like themselves — same age bracket, some marital or parental status, same way of educating or disciplining children, etc., etc.

If I shared everything else I marked, I’d be nearly rewriting the book here, so I can’t do that. But here are just a few more things that grabbed me:

“Since all major U. S. universities had Christian roots, too many Christians thought that they could rest in Christian tradition, not Christian relevance” (p. 7).

“When we read in the book of Romans, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (8:28), we are not to be Pollyanna about this. Many of the ‘things’ we will face come with the razor edges of a fallen and broken world. You can’t play poker with God’s mercy – if you want the sweet mercy then you must also swallow the bitter mercy. And what is the difference between sweet and bitter? Only this: your critical perspective, your worldview. One of God’s greatest gifts is the ability to see and appreciate the world from points of view foreign to your own, points of view that exceed your personal experience”  (p. 125).

“Many people in our community protect themselves from inconvenience as though inconvenience is deadly. We have decided that we are not inconvenienced by inconvenience. The needs of children come up unexpectedly. We are sure that the Good Samaritan had other plans that fateful day. Our plans are not sacred” (p. 126).

When a teenage girl in foster care with mental illness heard a pastor speaking about God’s call, afterward she “approached Pastor Steve and said, ‘Steve, I hear voices all the time. How do I know the difference between hearing the voice of God and hearing the voices of my own sick mind?’ Pastor Steve said, ‘Dear one, we all have the check the voices of our own sick mind with the Bible. Daily. You are no different'” (p. 128).

One thought that came to mind while reading the book was, “Why don’t we see this happening more often?” If the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and it is, then why don’t we see such transformative conversions more often, and why are those raised in Christian culture often so anemic? Sometimes I long with the Psalmist “To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary” (Psalm 63:2). Is it because we don’t share the gospel in a kind and loving way enough? Or is it because not many people are truly willing to examine the claims of the Bible and bring themselves under its authority? Maybe both. I’ve seen online encounters where non-Christians have as much of a “smackdown” way of encountering Christians as Christians do encountering them. I know I would have been scared to death to engage someone like Rosaria before she was saved: I’d have been afraid that I wouldn’t be able to answer her questions and she’d be able to run rings around me with her reasoning ability. But I have to remind myself that those whom God brought across her path with just the right thing to say at the right time were operating under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, not their own wisdom and insight. Sometimes we look for a formula: we see articles or pamphlets about “How to witness to atheists” or whomever else, and those can have some helpful points, but we can’t memorize a script and then present it to people. We need to share a Person and show His love to others and trust Him for the right words to say and pray for His working in hearts.

Rosaria writes now from a Reformed Presbyterian perspective, and since I am not from that perspective, I’d disagree with a few minor points here and there, but I am not going to nitpick about them. I do believe Christians can agree on the big issues and agree to disagree about smaller ones.

There is a condensed version of her testimony here, but I do encourage you to read the book as well. I believe it’s going to go down as one of my top ten of the year.

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