Charles Stanley on Bearing Adversity

” Adversity is not simply a tool. It is God’s most effective tool for the advancement of our spiritual lives. The circumstances and events that we see as setbacks are oftentimes the very things that launch us into periods of intense spiritual growth. Once we begin to understand this, and accept it as a spiritual fact of life, adversity becomes easier to bear” Charles Stanley

For more quotes by Charles Stanley see:

:A Quote About Spiritual Gift

Free to the Max

Our High Priest

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin .”Hebrews 4:15

When we are challenged by the difficulties of life, it may help to meditate on the verse above. Jesus, although God, was also fully human and experienced many of the same situations that we do. For example:

  1. He was betrayed by a friend (Judas)
  2. He felt overwhelmed by His mission (in the Garden of Gethsemane)
  3. He grieved when His friend Lazarus died
  4. He was rejected in His home town
  5. He was tempted by the devil in the desert
  6. He became angry with the moneychangers in the Temple
  7. He allowed Himself to become weak and be arrested
  8. He suffered when he was beaten
  9. He was ridiculed by the guards
  10. He appeared to be a failure when he died on the cross

How did he manage to endure all this without sin? He prayed; He turned to the Scriptures; He trusted God; He kept His mind of His mission and His goal, instead of the esteem of the world.

We’re not perfect, like Jesus. We will sin. But we can follow His example, and be comforted.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

No One is Good Except God Alone

Once again it seems that Jesus is speaking directly to me when he interacts with the rich young ruler in Chapter 10 of Mark. I like to think I’m a good person. I haven’t broken any of the “big” commandments. I’ve never murdered anyone or committed adultery. (Of course, this omits the occaisional murderous thought or harmless flirtation). I don’t lie (unless you count lies of omission — why stir up conflict?). Coveting — well not usually material things, but maybe I do envy those who seem to have an easier life than I do. I try to put God first, although pressing matters get in the way sometime. I guess you’re getting the picture. Just like the young man in Mark, my “goodness” does not stand up to close examination. It’s laughable. I’m a sinner, like you, like everyone else. All of my good deeds are tainted with self-interest and egotism. Often when I sin, I’m not even aware of it. Other times, I know I’m making a wrong choice, but I excuse or justify it. I sin because it’s easier, it’s convenient and above all, it’s who I am. It comes naturally.

Then there’s the human race as a whole. We want to think we’re getting better and better, but it’s simply not so. The holocaust was not a one time event — instances of genocide happen over and over. Slavery was abolished with the Civil War — it’s going on in other ways in other places. Check into almost any history book and you’ll find that even organizations and programs intended to do good, often become corrupted and evil.

What are the implications of this? Well, we don’t just make mistakes, so even a great teacher won’t keep us from sinning. We can’t just chalk our sinning up to traumatic experiences, or the way we were raised so we need more than a therapist. A good friend can guide us and point out some of our sins, but she can’t be around 24/7 and isn’t privy to every sinful thought. There’s only one answer. We don’t need a teacher, or a counselor, or a good buddy in order to become a righteous person — we need a savior. Nothing else will work, nothing else will do.

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9

For more study on the book of Mark see:

Why Are You So Afraid?

We Never Saw Anything Like This!

Go Home

Recovering the Lost Art of Reading by Leland Ryken and Glenda Faye Mathes

This is a book that will warm the heart of avid readers, English majors and English teachers. Are you reading more but enjoying it less? Although it’s true people are reading more than ever, much of that reading is done on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and websites. This means the quality of what we read is lacking, and we are not reading deeply or closely. There is no time for analytical thought, and even practiced readers have difficulty staying focused. The authors believe that this trend can be reversed and they offer many suggestions about how to do that.

This book starts by asking, “what is literature”? (believe it or not, many scholars now claim that question cannot be answered). Here is the definition proposed by the authors:

“.(literature is)… a concrete, interpretive presentation of human experience in an artistic form.”

The next question considered is this: why does literature matter? Here are some of the thoughts presented:

  1. God revealed Himself to the human race in a book that is primarily literary in nature
  2. Literature helps us to see the world and human experience accurately
  3. It shapes us into thinking people through encountering ideas which can be applied to life
  4. It provides artistic beauty and pleasure
  5. Literature transports us –it takes our focus off ourselves so that we gain empathy for different people, cultures and other times
Recovering the Lost Art of Reading

The book goes on to give suggestions for reading different genres — poetry, fantasy, nonfiction and more. It provides tips for incorporating more reading into daily life (just like other spiritual disciplines). They discuss what makes a book “good” and affirm some of the things I have always felt intuitively — for example, many books labeled as “Christian” are formulaic, shallow and not at all edifying. In fact, books do not have to be overtly Christian to advance our spiritual life. Books of excellence teach us to examine the human condition and human experience. As Christians, we then apply a biblical world view to interpret that experience. In other words, good literature makes us think, and thinking helps us to grow spiritually.

Finally included a discussion of the vocation, calling and creativity of the writer. Writing is a gift given by God, a gift to bring truth and beauty into the world.

The conclusion: Read More Books! It’s good for you!

VERDICT: 5 Stars. Probably not for everyone, but I loved it.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

Recovering the Lost Art of Reading: A Quest for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful | Crossway

For more posts about reading see:

More About Books & Reading

The Art of Mindful Reading by Ella Berthoud– Book Review

The Lutheran Ladies received a free e-copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CPR 255.

Perplexing Times

The study series we’re doing in our Sunday School class right now is about the challenges of life and how they can cause us to grow and mature in our faith. One type of challenge is dealing with life events we just don’t understand. Why do some lives contain so much tragedy? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do seemingly evil people prosper? These are questions most of us struggle with, and through that struggle we learn to trust God. The Bible tells us:

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

There is an old Southern Gospel song that addresses this issue. It says there are many thing we just won’t know until “Farther Along.” It has been recorded by many well known artists including Johnny Cash, Glenn Campbell, Elvis Presley. The version I like was done by Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton. I hope it strengthens your faith, and you enjoy it as I do. Follow the link below:

Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris (Trio) – Farther Along – YouTube

For another Dolly Parton song see:

God’s Coloring Book

Be At Peace With One Another

I’m now up to chapter 9 in Mark, reading prayerfully. What stands out for me today is at the very end:

“…. be at peace with one another.” Mark 9: 49

How often this is lacking in our lives, even our lives as Christians in the church together. We become offended; we’re angry with others; they disappoint us; and so on. It can be challenging to get along. We all have different priorities, different skills, different backgrounds. We tend to think our way of doing things is the right way. We want to be noticed and appreciated. Earlier in the chapter, the disciples had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. Jesus called them together and read them the riot act. This was not the appropriate way to behave.

“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” Mark 9:35

So it’s clear. In order to live at peace with my brothers and sisters in Christ, I must put aside any feelings of entitlement. My part (everyone’s part) in the body is to serve, not to be a big shot. Not to get my way all the time. Not to boss others around. To do this, I must put others first. I must not dwell on my own feelings, but honor those around me. As Paul says in the book of Philippians:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves ,not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

This isn’t easy, but it’s necessary. It’s the only way to live in peace.

For more study on the book of Mark see:

The Commandment of God or the Tradition of Men? ]

Rest a While

Why Are You So Afraid?


Overwhelmed?

Often when we face life’s challenges we feel alone and overwhelmed. Psalm 142 is attributed to David, written when he was in hiding in a cave, fearing for his life. Some of his thoughts were:

“When my spirit faints within me, you know my way!

In the path where I walk, they have hidden a trap for me.

Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.” Psalm 142:3-4

This quote from my daily devotional points toward a solution for handling those feelings:

“Do not yield to the temptation of looking at everything at once, as if everything would happen at once, and all the events of the day be crowded into an hour. Do not thus forecast, but take each thing as it comes to you, and look upon it as the present expression of the will of God concerning you; then regard the next in the same way, and thus receive your day piece by piece from Him who will remember always when He gives you work to do, that you need strength to do it.

Often when you have almost fainted in spirit, the thought comes, ‘If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, what shalt thou do with the horsemen? ‘ Put it from you, it is a faithless thought; if you need more strength, you will have it, be sure of that; or the call to greater exertion may never come to you. Your business is with the present, leave the future in His hands who will be sure to do the best, the very best for you.”

Priscilla Maurice

For more quotes by Priscilla Maurice see:

Some Quotes on Giving Thanks

Learning to Give Thanks

Discernment by Henri Nouwen with Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird–Book Review

This book is the third and final volume of Nouwen’s posthumous spiritual trilogy. I have already reviewed the first two, Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwen with Michael J. Christensen & Rebecca J. Laird–Book Review and Spiritual Formation by Henri Nouwen–Book Review. It is concerned with reading the signs of God in everyday life through books, nature, people and events.

To Nouwen, discernment is both a spiritual gift, and a practice. He says:

Discernment is a spiritual understanding and an experiential knowledge of how God is active in daily life. Discernment is faithful living and listening to God’s love and direction so that we can fulfill our individual calling and shared mission.”

Nouwen does not give pat answers, but guides the reader through the process of discerning vocation, presence, identity and time. Throughout he uses both biblical texts and examples from his own life as illustrations. At the end of each chapter there are questions that could be used for journaling or group discussion.

Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life

At the end there are several appendices with essays by Nouwen that delve even deeper into the topics of discernment and spiritual friendship.

Nouwen is a Catholic, and I did have a few theological issues with this work. However, for the most part, I found it both engaging and helpful.

VERDICT: 4 STARS

For more about Henri Nouwen see:

Henri Nouwen on the Blessing of Poverty

Henri Nouwen on Traveling

And He Said This Plainly

I’m continuing my lectio divina study of Mark, and today I read how Jesus began to teach the disciples about His mission. They understood that He was the Christ, the Messiah. So He went on to tell them that he would be rejected, suffer, be killed, and after three days rise from the dead. Mark notes, He said this plainly. (Mark 8:32). In other words, He didn’t beat around the bush or use euphemisms, He told them right out — I’m going to die and rise again. We can tell from what happens later that in spite of this plain speaking, his followers didn’t get it. Peter tries to rescue Him when He’s arrested. They flee and hide while He’s being crucified. They’re doubtful and astounded when Mary Magdalene reports she’s seen Him. It seems incredible, that after being told exactly what to expect, they managed to ignore or forget them.

It makes me wonder how often I do the same thing. There are plenty of places in the Bible when Jesus tells me how to behave or what to do, and I find a way to weasel out or misunderstand. For example:

“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…. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:30-31

Of course I try to love God and my neighbor. Don’t all Christians? But do I love God with all my heart? Don’t I save a piece for my husband, my children, my home and my own comfort and security (in other words it’s at least partly about me). Then there’s the love for my neighbor. God couldn’t possibly mean that I would love my neighbor in the same way as I love myself, could He? That would mean helping him when it’s inconvenient, maybe even sacrificing for him. That would mean loving him when he’s been unfriendly and annoying, or refused to help me! That would mean not gossiping about him, and seeking his welfare. Even worse, if I read the parable of the Good Samaritan closely, it’s plain to see that my neighbor isn’t just the fellow who lives upstairs or down the street, but anyone who needs me.

I marvel at how dense the disciples were. Jesus told them plainly. And they’re not alone. He tells me plainly, too. I’m no different from those early followers; I hear the things I like, and ignore the ones I don’t. However, Jesus and the Bible speak plainly. You and I just need to hear.

For more on the Gospel of Mark see:

Take Heart; it is I

Rest a While

Go Home

Emergence by Temple Grandin and Margaret M. Scariano — Book Review

I didn’t expect to review this book for my blog. I read it for an entirely different reason — there are several young people in my family with autism, and I have been trying to learn more about it. Temple Grandin is about my age, and when she was a child, autism was not understood well at all. Temple faced many challenges, and with the help of family and compassionate teachers grew up to become a successful scientist. She has written and spoken extensively on the subject of autism, hoping to gain understanding herself, and impart what she knows to others. Surprisingly, there is a spiritual aspect to her book. God was definitely at work in Temple’s life. As a high school student, she describes a sermon in which the minister quoted John 10:9:

“I am the door: if any man enter in, he shall be saved.”

Temple was captivated by the idea of the door. As a highly visual person, it became a symbol of the obstacles she had to overcome and leave behind at each stage of life, as she walked through “the door” to become a more mature person. She actually found “the door” at her school — it was called the Crow’s Nest and was a small observation room that overlooked the mountains. This became a holy place to Temple, a place where she could be alone and ponder “Me My life. God.”

Later Temple explains that she believes God formed the gene structure that created her as a person with autism, and that there was a purpose behind her differences. She wonders:

“Maybe God or destiny willed it that way so that I would invent a method or device that would help other people.”


The device she is talking about is the “squeeze chute” she built for herself, modeled after the chutes animals were placed in to brand, castrate or vaccinate them. She found it calmed her and allowed her feel tactile stimulation that was difficult for her to accept in the form of hugs or caresses from loved ones. In her work with animals, she thought about death, and how although God gave us dominion over animals for our use, they were also His creation, and to be treated respectfully.

Temple’s account of her life is inspiring. She points out that some autistic characteristics (such as becoming fixated on an idea or project) can be strengths and should be channeled and guided appropriately, not simply eliminated. She is a living illustration of the way people with autism grow, change and learn to cope with the difficult parts of their personality, just as we all do.

VERDICT: 4 STARS. There were times when Temple tended tp perseverate about an idea too long, but overall this book was illuminating and helpful to anyone wanting to better understand the effects on autism.

For more about autism see these posts:

Autism and your church by Barbara J. Newman — Book Review

Uniquely Human by Barry M. Prizant, PHD — Book Review

Switched On


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