Christian Living

Finding Happiness in Difficult Times

We’re a week or so into February, so today’s article has a bit of romance for Valentine’s Day and much application (finding happiness in life) for the other days of the year. I came across this true account from Reader’s Digest:

My cell phone quit as I tried to let my wife know that I was caught in freeway gridlock and would be late for our anniversary dinner. I wrote a message on my laptop asking other motorists to call her, printed it on a portable inkjet and taped it to my rear windshield.

When I finally arrived home, my wife gave me the longest kiss ever. “I really think you love me,” she said. “At least 70 people called and told me so.”

In Genesis 29, Jacob initiates what will be one of the great romances of all time; no cell phone message could compare to it. Although this romance had a happy ending (he did marry his beloved Rachel), Jacob’s life was complex, stressful, and messy. Despite great hardships, his life was rich and filled with happiness. How can this paradox be? The answer is no surprise: God.

Jacob had been scared, lonely, probably overcome with guilt, and walking into the unknown. He had stolen both the family birthright and Isaac’s blessing from his brother Esau; Esau was so angry with Jacob for his low-down scheming that he planned to kill him. To preserve his life, Jacob hurriedly exited Canaan and headed toward relatives in Haran (what we now call Iraq).

All alone and away from home, Jacob faced an uncertain-looking future. But then he experienced God at Bethel, and his mentality was transformed. Life might be unstable, but God was faithfully at his side—no matter what.

The lesson applies to us: If we are in the lowlands—but learn to be emboldened by experiencing God—we can find courage to pursue better times as we hold God’s hand.

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On Daily Devotions

devotionsRepublished with permission from Baptist Bulletin Nov/Dec 2011. All rights reserved.

My wife and I were talking about the spiritual hazards in the current culture when she asked, “How do believers make it these days without daily quiet time?” This is a subject I rarely hear mentioned anymore. Maybe that’s because the matter is too personal.

Years ago a Bible college student confided that as he walked to breakfast on his first day of class, his suite-mate asked, “Well, George, what did the Lord give you in quiet time this morning?”

George’s mind worked fast. After the initial shock at the intrusion, he quickly made up something to tell. The next morning it happened again, and again he made up something to make himself look good. The third morning George got up earlier and prayed for the Lord to give him something he could share. From then on he had an appointment with the Lord and didn’t need any further prompting.

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Toward Arguing Better, Part 1

Fundamentalism—and conservative Christianity in general—needs more people who argue well. It does not need more people who quarrel well!

Scripture opposes quarreling, along with the behaviors the KJV renders as “strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings” and “tumults” (2 Cor. 12:20). But arguing is something else. Scripture calls us to argue and to do it well. Every Christian is obligated to develop and exercise the skill of thinking and communicating clearly with the goal of persuasion.

With that as a working definition of argue, let’s consider a few basics for arguing better.

Argue for the right reasons.

Why do people argue? Unflattering reasons come quickly to mind. As sinners, we often argue to gain the esteem of others, to defeat someone we don’t like, or to try to win an imagined (or real) competition for loyal supporters. Sometimes people argue because they have a contrarian disposition and enjoy the challenge and repartee. (For these, the question is not “Why argue?” but “Why not argue?”)

But for Christians, the proper goal of argument is to establish the truth or rightness of ideas or actions.

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Book Review - Broken-Down House: Living Productively in a World Gone Bad

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It is often said that you cannot judge a book by its cover. The cover for Broken-Down House is one of the best looking covers I have ever seen. The creative team at Tobias’ Outerwear for Books has once again designed an eye-catcher. To have the inside of this book worthy of the outside, author Paul David Tripp had his work cut out for him.

Paul Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and is on the pastoral staff of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. Previously he was a counselor at the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (Glenside, PA) and is an Adjunct Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, PA). He is not to be confused with his brother Tedd Tripp, also an author of note.

It wasn’t only the cover that attracted me to this book. I had just read Tripp’s War of Words which I found particularly edifying. Soon, I will be using his What Did You Expect marriage curriculum in a Sunday School class. I appreciate his “down to earth” style—a style well suited for a book on a sin-cursed earth, or as he calls it a “broken-down house.” However, it is not just this world that is broken—we are too. This book encourages us to cooperate with what the Master Carpenter is doing to restore the brokenness.

Overview of the book

This book is divided into two parts. Part One is “Knowing” (chapters 1-10) and Part Two is “Doing” (chapters 11-16).

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Book Review - Trust, Hope, Pray: Encouragement for the Task of Waiting

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In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit to being a friend of Trisha Priebe; well, in so far as those relationships from college go. But we are Facebook friends, and I’ve been anticipating this book, Trust, Hope, Pray, since I first read her status update nearly two years ago about sleeping with a book contract under her pillow.

Co-authored with her husband Luke, Trust, Hope, Pray first took shape in their personal journals while they were waiting for an international adoption to be finalized. As they sought spiritual guidance for their long, often frustrating journey, they realized that not much Christian literature is devoted to the task of waiting on God. Trisha, who works in publishing, and Luke, who is finishing his M.Div. from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (and who together admittedly have a “book budget bigger than their grocery bill”), felt God leading them to contribute to the conversation through their own experience.

Trust, hope, pray, wait

The book is comprised of 365 page-length entries that explore what it is to trust, hope, pray, and wait. Each entry begins with a verse on one of those themes and includes the Priebe’s reflections and experiences, as well as quotes from notable Christian authors and hymn writers. In this sense, the book is designed as devotional literature and is not intended to be read in one continuous flow.

I began Trust, Hope, Pray nearly a year after my own family had been in a holding pattern of sorts and immediately recognized the wisdom of structuring the book in this way. When you are enduring a difficult season of waiting, your spirit very easily becomes worn out, overwhelmed, and exhausted. In such seasons, the last thing you are able to read is an extensive theological analysis of waiting. In these times, what you need most are daily, quiet, simple reminders of what you already know: God is in control, He loves you, and you must continue to trust Him.

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Tell Me What You Did

The following is taken from Hannah’s blog, Sometimes A Light. Reprinted with permission.

My father is not a violent or angry man; he is excruciatingly patient and self-possessed. Unlike many fathers, he never roared, strutted or flaunted his authority. He didn’t yell or belittle me. When I failed, he didn’t condemn.

It was terrifying.

In fact, my most uncomfortable childhood memories are of sitting across from him after he had caught me doing something I shouldn’t have. Silent, he would simply look at me. My conscience, on the other hand, would be screaming, Just punish me–-get it over with! But I dared not say anything either. One thing I had learned through these encounters was to keep my mouth shut. Talking only got me into trouble.

He would break the silence after several minutes by simply saying, “Tell me what you did.”

This was my cue. Predictably, I began with “I didn’t do anything.” Then I’d confidently rehearse my version of events and, more often than not, conclude with an out-right lie. He’d listen, sit silently for another few minutes and then simply repeat, “Tell me what you did.”

So for a second time, I’d tell my story, perhaps revise a few facts and add a detail of truth, hoping to convince him. But he was too smart for that. He’d listen and again merely say, “Tell me what you did.” Usually, by this point I’d begin to get frustrated. Was he deaf? I just told him twice what happened. What more can I say? This is getting us nowhere. But I had no choice, so I’d repeat my hopeless excuse for a third time.

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Cell Phones, Selfishness and Strangers

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I resisted as long as I could. I fairly despise myself for giving in. It is excruciating to even express the words, but with contrite heart I herewith confess that I recently bought a cellular telephone.

Something about the whole “you have to get one; everyone has one” argument never sat well with me. The idea that you invite a communications company to extort an unconscionable amount of money from your family every single month for the rest of your earthly lives is nauseating. And to think I have actually joined forces with all those distracted drivers who have nearly killed me countless times since all this insanity began is almost more than I can bear.

I was once a proud man stemming the tide of mass capitulation to the siren call of the cell phone. But here I sit, a shadow of the man I once was, wallowing in normalcy, a glassy-eyed conformist who has dutifully turned course to join the masses in their mesmerized march to the beat of this now standard mode of communication. Please just beam me up, Scottie, and put me out of my misery.

Younger generations will never share my angst in this matter. My children made this quite clear the moment they discovered their parents had purchased a cell phone. They broke into spontaneous dance on the living room floor, holding hands and singing in triumphant chorus: “We got a cell phone, we got a cell phone!” I wanted to puke.

The next morning they were up at dawn’s early light (a Saturday, no less!) programming the phone, discovering games, investigating options and doing whatever else they know how to do with the crazy thing despite having never done anything with it before. I must admit to benefiting from their intuitive capacities with all things digital, notwithstanding the son who miraculously converted my phone from English to Spanish with no clue how to reverse direction. When my Spanish vocabulary proved insufficient to remedy the situation I almost killed the kid. What I actually did was worse: he was forever banned from changing any settings without first obtaining my express written permission.

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