I don’t want to be a Grumbler!

Have you ever stopped to think about why you grumble and what it says about your view of God?  OK, maybe you aren’t a grumbler, but I have been just lately. And I stand convicted that there is more to it than meets the ear.  God quite dislikes it as it demonstrates our distrust in His sovereign working in the affairs of our lives. 

Grumbling may be little more than a murmuring, like the subtle cooing of doves.  It’s defined as a secretive conferring together, a discontented complaining.  Despite its subtlety and seeming legitimacy at times it is a hazard to our faith.

Why do we grumble?

I grumble over things I cannot change.  Things that are ‘just not right’ but seem to be beyond my scope of influence.  When we’re  stuck in situations we don’t like we’re prone to grumble.  It doesn’t change anything (at least not for the good) but it lets us air our opinions and verbalize our protest.  It’s the least we can do!   But there’s a better alternative, one I’ve been reminded of this week.

No matter if your grumbling is a private murmuring in your ‘tent’ or a public outcry it’s a breeding grounds for discontent, doubt and rebellion. This was brought home to me through the reading of Psalm 78.  It’s a lyrically beautiful retelling of God’s dealings with Israel through the wilderness years. It will leave you in awe of God’s goodness and faithfulness in the face of people who were neither good nor faithful.  It’s a parable written with the next generation in mind—“so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God…and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation,…whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.”

That makes it a parable for us as well! This beautiful and heart-breaking narrative is ‘written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.’ (I Cor.10:11)

Something Different

Rather than me multiplying words here, I’d like to do something different today.  Can I encourage you to take just a few minutes to listen to Psalm 78 right now?  You’ll come away in awe of our faithful and good God, and I hope encouraged to trust Him with the things that seem amiss in your life today.   Go here and click the “Listen” play button.  Watch for the contrast between “He….” and “They…” as you listen; then come back here for a few thoughts I had from this psalm—and share your own in the comments.


What verse or idea stood out to you?

Well, what did you think? What verses stood out to you?  The contrast between God’s heart for his people, and their response was what struck me most.  It could all be summed up in this: “they did not believe in God and did not trust His saving power.”  They were so caught up in their cravings and desires for instant comfort and independence that they missed the very reason for their existence.  They were meant to be objects of God’s love and to trust Him implicitly with life itself,  so that all the nations around them could clearly see that their God was the One true God, worthy of their trust and worship.  Instead they bleated about like pathetic sheep in want of a shepherd.

Yet there was nothing they needed that God did not provide.  When they were thirsty He made water gush from rock!  For their hunger He rained down manna, ‘the bread of the angels’  baked fresh every morning.  But they outgrew the wonder of this provision and craved meat. They didn’t ask for it, mind you. They set their hearts on what they missed about Egypt and they cried in self-pity, nearly driving Moses crazy. And God sent them what they craved–meat, in the form of tender, juicy quail, delivered to their tent-steps. He sent meat, but it was not what they most needed. With it came a plague.

What they most needed was to trust in God’s saving power and to be thankful for His provision. It’s what I need too. They needed to ‘rejoice (in the Lord) always, to pray without ceasing and to give thanks in all circumstances.’  (I Thess.5:16-18) This was God’s will for them, and for me.

To give thanks instead of grumbling
in the wake of unchanging situations that rile me
is to give evidence that I trust in God’s saving power.

If He works in every circumstance for my growth into Christ-likeness then what is there to grumble about?  What if instead I were to pray? Perhaps this is part of the reason we’re instructed to pray without ceasing—because when we don’t we are apt to grumble or to worry or to get angry or to gossip or to do a host of other things that are not only counter-productive but uncomplimentary to the God we profess to believe in.

To pray without ceasing is to keep our hearts in a place of dependence on Him for everything, knowing He is in control and He is good. In praying we come to know God’s heart and to submit our desires to His.  This is the perfect accompaniment to rejoicing in the Lord and giving thanks in all circumstances.  Grumbling can’t co-exist with such bedfellows. When we’re grumbling we’re not praying.

I guess the question that comes to my heart through this psalm is:

Do I trust in God’s saving power, not merely to get me out of Egypt, though this is miracle enough, but to keep me as I walk the wilderness of this world?

Do I trust Him to keep me, provide for me, teach me His ways, and at last to bring me to my Inheritance?  All the things I grumble about are part of the sanctifying process He’s begun in my life.  The rejoicing, praying and giving thanks are His desired response. I don’t want to be a grumbler!


[If you’ve never tried leaving a comment, give it a try today. Let’s compare notes.  What stood out to you in this chapter?]

And if you have technical difficulties leaving a comment…drop me an email and let me know that too! –LS

“they shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness” Ps.145:7

“Oh, that my people would listen to me,
that Israel would walk in my ways!
I would soon subdue their enemies
and turn my hand against their foes.” Ps.81:13,14

“But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.” Ps.81:16

Of the Glorious Renovations underway in us

Where do I begin?  Momentous themes have been rolling around in my mind this week—SIN, Glory!, Desire, Faith.  The new nature. The ‘old man’.  And  the Holy Spirit’s role in all of these.

Let me start with sin, but don’t worry I won’t end here! I promise.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sin and what to do about it (likely due to the book I’m studying). The Bible clearly teaches that we have a practical role to play in sin’s demise in our lives.  It’s power has been broken by Jesus’ once-for-all-time death on the Cross.  And by faith in Christ’s death and resurrection on our behalf we are freed from its damning penalty.  We are made alive in our spirits, made to share the very life of Christ.  But while we inhabit these earth-bound bodies we are subject to sin’s temptation.  We no longer have to sin.  We aren’t its slaves.  We have a new Master. But we can still choose to sin.  Here’s where ‘our part’ comes in.

Desires rage within us.  Paul depicted it perfectly: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Rom.7:19) There’s clearly a draw to sin that didn’t move out when the New Man moved in. I’m reminded of the renovations that have been in the backdrop of my week.  We’re mostly done now.  Clearing, cleaning, painting, replacing, upgrading, and organizing anew is a little like the process of Sanctification.  There’s a new owner.  The rooms of my heart are being re-purposed to suit His desires.  Everything’s being made fresh and new to serve His purposes.  But there’s still a bunch of clutter that has to go, some scrubbing and sanding, some rearranging. It’s the ‘putting off of the old man with its practices, and the putting on of the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator’ Col.3:9,10

Seasons of renovation can be uncomfortable. They’re messy. We want the process to end.  But the ‘sin which clings so closely’ (Heb. 12:1) is not always easily discerned or dislodged.  After all, we’ve lived with it for a long time.  It feels like a part of us.  And all the decisions—this is the hardest part for me.  Envisioning what would be best is where I get stuck. It’s hard for me to know what I want until I’ve seen it in place. My desires are conflicted.  I’m not a designer. And I guess I don’t have a very good imagination. I get frustrated and tired of the project dragging on demanding more of me than I can give.

But here’s where the analogy inspires me!  The best part about the renovations going on in my Heart is that I’m not in charge!  I get to participate: ‘Haul that carpet out’.  ‘Paint that wall with this’.  ‘Throw out that box.’  ‘Stand back and have a look at this picture.’  But the One Masterminding the operation has an eye for design and He’s fitting me (us, His people) for a glory beyond our greatest imaginings. For we are His Inheritance.  He’s bound and determined to perfect this make-over.  This is wonderful to be the object of such care.  Why then is the process so uncomfortable?

Sometimes  I doubt that He knows best.  After all, I do have desires; there are things I’d like to keep, colors I’d like to try on the walls, ways of doing things I have in mind.  On the one hand I’m glad not to be in charge of this project.  On the other, I want some control!  This is the struggle of sin vs. faith, of flesh vs. Spirit.  It will be with us till we die.  But I have wearied this week of thinking about sin. As a friend said:

“Sin is overwhelming. Thinking about sin and the havoc it causes…makes me feel like falling on my face and giving up.”

I agree.(Paul apparently did too: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom.7:24) Sin is not something we were made to dwell on,  but to acknowledge,  to agree with God about  and to turn from. We don’t overcome sin by focusing on it but by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb.12:2).  His designs for us go infinitely beyond the most dazzling designs of sin.

I’ve been reading C.S. Lewis’ essay “The Weight of Glory” this week. In it he talks about our desires and the glory God has prepared us for.  He suggests that our desires are not too strong, but too weak.  We haven’t got a clue what we really want.

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

We are creatures of earth invited to share the very glory of God which necessitates our being holy (Heb.12:14).  But we get side-tracked with such paltry desires. Among Jesus’ last expressed desires are: “I want them to be with me so they can see my glory”. Jn.17:24  Meanwhile, we  want Him  to be with us to enhance our own glory in the here and now.

Paul quotes from the prophets: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him…”  (I Cor.2:10)
And irrespective of the context, our imaginations roam to wedding feasts, mansions, streets of gold and all things material.

We are such earthlings were it not for the Spirit of God who lives in us to renew our hearts and minds to imagine the glory we are designed for. [ Have a look at the whole passage some time.  Paul has updated the Old Testament quote to include the revelation of God’s heart that we have in the Gospel, namely that His Spirit has come to live in us and reveal to us the very mind of God! This is beyond anything we could imagine]

The Spirit makes all the difference. He it is who conducts the renovations we must undergo—and gives joy in the process!  He empowers us to say ‘no’ to sin and ‘yes’ to God’s designs for us.  All His virtues parade through the verses of Romans eight dragging me away from my fixation on Sin and What to Do About It, and making me see this Power that works in me to enable me to ‘put to death the misdeeds of the body’ (Rom.8:13),  to lead me to cry ‘Daddy! to my heavenly Father, to reveal to me the inheritance that is mine as an heir of God! and to enable me to endure suffering by the power of hope in what is just beyond it.  Romans eight is replete with the glorious reality of what the Spirit is up to in us.  We are truly more than conquerors through Him who loved us and gave His Spirit as the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire full possession of it!

And so I’ve gone from thinking about sin to thinking about the glory that will be revealed in us through the energies of God’s Spirit at work in us to will and to work for His good pleasure.  Whew.

I’ll close with these thoughts on what glory will be, from C.S.Lewis’
The Weight of Glory:

In the end that Face which is the delight or the terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us either with one expression or with the other, either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be cured or disguised…

It is written that we shall “stand before” Him, shall appear, shall be
inspected. The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God…to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness…to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.

[Better yet, read the whole thing here!]

And as I wrap this up, the words of It is Well with my Soul echo in my mind:

“My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!”

and the preceding verse as well,

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul

And that seems a good note to end on!
Thanks for joining me here.


“…to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Rom.8:6

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places… Eph.1:17-20

(And if you’ve been just a little curious, here are some before and after pics from our entryway renovations…)









“For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”(Col.3:4)

Made for Something More

We’re forever wanting when we’re not worshiping.  Have you noticed?

We were made for something more than this world can afford. It offers a lot–pleasure, applause, glamour, always some form of what we crave. But it delivers nothing worth having, nothing that lasts. Nothing that actually satisfies the craving of our hearts. Oh there’s plenty that glitters, that holds promise of good things to come. Temptation always offers something we ‘need’. It may be stuff. It may be pleasure. Or it may be just the satisfaction of having asserted ourselves regardless of how or with what effect! But sin always seems appealing. Funny how that is. The very thing that tantalizes us with life as we’ve always wanted it to be, delivers death: “The mind of sinful man is death.” (Rom.8:5,6) Or as some more fluent than I have said:

“Imaginary evil is romantic and varied, full of charm;
imaginary good is tiresome and flat.
Real evil, however, is dreary, monotonous, barren.
Real good is always new, marvelous, intoxicating.”
— Simone Weil, Notebooks

In the great war now so many ages underway, one of the permanent advantages of evil is its imaginary glamour, but one of the permanent advantages of good is that it is better in reality. Isn’t being better in reality what it means to be good? Strange that it is so easy to forget.
–J. Budziszewski

But forget we do, at least until we are standing in the wake of our sin.  For example, earlier this week, I stepped out of my study first thing in the morning from quiet reflections on how we are made to reflect God’s glory (Rev.21). I had jotted down beautiful things: “My tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long.” (Ps.71) I had noted how Paul speaks of sharing of faith as making known ‘every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ’ (Philemon 6). I had read and paraphrased some wise Proverbs, “A fool only spouts off but doesn’t listen to understand another.” I had had a serene bit of quiet time.

We sat down to eat, my favorite man in the world and I, and within minutes every truth I’d read had gone out the window. Tension was mounting. Words of accusation were flying. And with my own tongue I was defending my righteousness, turning words into arrows and going for broke. The accusations were mine. I was sure I was right. I was desperate to be heard, as though my life depended on it.

And what was all this about? Surely something very significant? Yes, indeed. The laying of flooring in our entryway. The how, what, and when of this was suddenly worth destroying my mate over!

We are in the middle of renovating our entryway. The orange shag just had to go and the chaos to be calmed in this catch-all room. But at our house renovations are a relational nightmare. There are many complex reasons for this which we have endlessly analyzed. I will spare you the details. Being a man and a woman wired accordingly is surely a big part of it. Perhaps you know? He wants to ‘get it done’. I want to draw out the process. He’s practical; I’m dreaming of recreating Eden.

But there’s more to it than that. It’s my heart. Renovations waken in me a desire to ‘have it all’. Contentment that has endured for years crumbles in the face of desire for more and better. I want things I do not have. I want things done that I can’t do for myself. I want things done the way they ‘should’ be done. And worst of all, when pressed for details, I don’t know what I want, but I’m sure it’s out there–that perfect design for this imperfect space… And so begins the tempest.

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:1-3

Mine is an impossible standard, given our abilities and resources. Mine is an impossible quest–expecting to find happiness in a room makeover. And mine is an incorrigible sin nature, taking opportunity to raise its head and promise what it can’t deliver.

It must die. Again. When desires drive me to a desperation that damages relationship, they are not desirable. They are deadly.

On that note, I’ve been reading an old, old book this week with the wonderfully archaic title: Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers. It was published by John Owen in 1656. Overcoming Sin and Temptation is the name of the current version. Ironically, I began this read with some doubt as to its relevance for me. I was feeling pretty ‘on top’ of sin. Pretty immune to temptation. [Note: So often it’s other people, think:children, who bring our truly selfish natures to light. Mine are grown and all but gone…I can be selfish without seeing it.] Well, I had a load of reality coming. Not only are the words on the page convicting. But my opportunities to mortify my flesh have been pretty obvious this week too.

Owen urges that for the believer, sin is something that must be put to death on a daily basis. Consider his own words:

When sin lets us alone we may let sin alone; but as sin is never less quiet than when it seems to be most quiet, and its waters are for the most part deep when they are still, so ought our contrivances against it to be vigorous at all times and in all conditions, even where there is least suspicion.

There is not a day but sin foils or is foiled, prevails or is prevailed on; and it will be so while we live in this world.

Not to be daily employing the Spirit and new nature for the mortifying of sin is to neglect that excellent succor which God has given us against our greatest enemy.

He who finds not opposition from [sin], and who sets not himself in every particular to its mortification, is at peace with it, not dying to it.

There are two evils which certainly attend every unmortified professor [one who professes to be a Christian]— the first, in himself… Let him pretend what he will, he has slight thoughts of sin; at least, of sins of daily infirmity. The root of an unmortified course is the digestion of sin without bitterness in the heart.

When a man has confirmed his imagination to such an apprehension of grace and mercy as to be able, without bitterness, to swallow and digest daily sins,
that man is at the very brink of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness and being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

–John Owen,Overcoming Sin and Temptation, 1656

Wow. And I’m only through the second chapter. I may not have thought this book was for me. but it surely speaks loud and clear to a very present need.   I’ve started another blog page just to process and summarize what I’m reading.  Check it out if you like at: http://dictationbydawn.wordpress.com

And say,  if you care to join in, an informal bunch of blog-readers are reading a chapter a week and sharing thoughts in the “Comments” section at Challies.com on Thursdays. Feel free to join in!

But where was I? Yes, there are deadly desires to have what we sense is just beyond our reach. The sin nature and this new nature implanted in us who have believed in Christ, are forever (no, not forever) duking it out as we are being fitted for glory…All our days these two contend. It helps to realize what’s going on. It helps to realize we are made for greater things than we now possess. They’re ours; the ticket’s been paid for but the possession is still ahead. (Rom.8:23,24) Our inheritance awaits…

I’ll have more thoughts on this next time. But for now that renovation job needs to be finished–a gutted room restored to order and beauty to serve our mortal needs. The flooring was laid as I composed the above. The furnishings were moved back in between paragraphs. But the filling of shelves awaits my hands. And I’ll hang a picture or two for pleasing effect…

Our Firstborn

But I’ll not let my heart forge here a new Eden. This is merely an entryway to an earthly residence. My true home will be glorious–prepared for me by the Master of Make Overs–the One who has fashioned my heart and made it new. He is the only One this heart was made to worship, while I wait for all things to be restored and sin to be banished for good


I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession,(Cf. Matt.27:11) to keep the commandment (Cf. I Tim.1:5 , John 13:34 ) unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time–he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
I Tim. 6:13-17

Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. Jude 1:24,25

Accept no Substitutes

P1150968High above a rocky stream bed, father and son step precariously along a fallen tree trunk, crossing steadily, balancing.  We mothers look on holding our breaths, silencing our cautions (and anxious disapprovals) so they can concentrate  and arrive safely at the other side

Balance.  It’s crucial.

Walking this narrow walk of faith that culminates in a Kingdom beyond the tragedies and triumphs of this temporal world requires balance.

Meanwhile an endless stream of advice is arrayed around us urging us to look to the left and the right, to look up here or over there or to watch for the devil at our feet.

Just leafing through a Christian book catalog this morning I was reminded of all the good teaching we have at our fingertips, of the teachers God has placed in the body to strengthen and instruct us in our crossing. But more than that I was struck by how prone we are to collect to ourselves favorite teachers and preachers to follow, and when they err, to follow them.

We are followers by nature, some of us anyway.  And we no sooner find someone whose teaching dovetails with our ideas of what is right, then we pop them up on a pedestal.  These become the Bestselling authors.  Their books are the ones everybody is reading (with the assumption that you will too if you hope to be spiritually healthy).   Rarely is there just one book; one bestseller must lead to another. Publishers fuel this.  Audiences demand it.   And what may have started as a God-idea gets lost in successive attempts to retain an audience.

In the church, just as in the world, there is an endless pull of personalities and trends.  We all have our favorite authors, teachers, preachers and conference speakers.  And we’re quick to latch onto the latest idea. If you’re as old as I you’ll remember the self-esteem movement and the idea of affirmations. Then spiritual warfare explained everything and we just needed to know our identity in Christ.  Even that valid notion has now been hijacked to divert us to thinking about how great we are.

There are as many formulas for living the Christian life as there are books, or so it seems. What’s more we now have blogs, FB walls, and tweets—an endless array of possibilities.  You can be successful in every facet of life. Just find the right book, or get down some spiritual disciplines or pray more, or differently or… well, you get the idea.   Every book blurb promises this will be the one to change your life.  Or is it your marriage that needs a fix?  There’s a seminar to deliver you a break-through.  I saw the promo video this week.

The Christian media world seems to run parallel to the secular one. We are consumed consumers, besieged with sales pitches, promotional videos, and ads for the latest and best ways to improve our lives be good Christians.  Even testimonies can turn into sales pitches. How do we keep our balance as we navigate all the hype and consumerism to follow Christ across the log that is this life? 

It’s not that all these things are bad or misguided.  God has gifted the church with teachers and preachers.  Books are one avenue for them to serve the Body, as are seminars and conferences, and yes, blogs.  But in our zeal to follow we can be led right off the balance beam.  When we hang onto the words of any book or teaching as though it were ‘gospel-truth’ we begin to lose our balance.  How many times have I discovered a writer I love and become a devotee of their books only to be disappointed sooner or later at some position they hold or some teaching they espouse that diverges from what I see in Scripture.  Do I then throw out all the good with the bad?  I’m tempted to.  Usually I come to my senses first and realize that no one is perfect.  No one has a perfect grasp of truth.  (Not even me?!)  We all have blind spots.

And at these moments I’m reminded again of the importance of the Word of God and how it has to be my staple diet.  It alone supplies all the nutrients I need for this walk through life. It restores balance. It restores my soul! Am I as devoted to it as I am to reading another’s ‘take’ on it?  Am I reading it for myself or merely reading digested forms? Do I spend at least as much time with the Words of God as I do the words of man?  Do I turn to it first or last when I need good counsel?

God may use a teacher, a blogger, a conference speaker or a preacher to guide my steps.  But my dependence must be first and foremost on His Word unseasoned by any human thought. It is like steak as compared to hotdogs.  They contain meat (hopefully), but The Bible is meat, without additives.  Accept no substitutes.

A couple practical ideas for infusing more of God’s Word into your days…

  • Print out a chapter you want to meditate on and tack it above you sink. I use Blue Letter Bible for this. Just pull up your chapter and press the print icon!  (Or you could photocopy a page from your Bible! Or write it out by hand…)
    Chew on a random verse while you do supper dishes, or start at the top and learn it by heart.

If you don’t do dishes…tack your verses someplace you’ll see them regularly…how ‘bout the bathroom mirror?!

  • Use an audio bible version you like and listen to a chapter while you do some mindless chore.  Smartphones are SOOO handy for this! My favorite site for the simplicity of it is ESV.org

Just click on the Bible icon.  Choose your chapter. And hit the play button!image

  • Copy a set of verses onto index cards to carry with you when you walk.  Or fashion them into into a little pocket book. Copy, clip and paste into an existing notepad or make your own…Walk and repeat bits till you know them by heart. [You don’t walk? Maybe it’s time to tuck a 20 minute walk into your daily routine for sanity and  health.]
  • When you sit down to read or watch TV or check out cyberspace, take time to read the Word first.  Have a plan so you’re not left wondering where to start.

It’s easy to slip into an unbalanced diet.  And it may take some intentionality to get out of old ruts.  But it’s so worth it!

May God give us all a hunger for His Word,  the manna He’s customized to grow us strong, and may we find His Spirit there to walk us through its pages.


‘…the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.’ II Tim.3:15-17

Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path. Ps.119:105

Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. I Pet.2:2


P.S.  This year I started reading the Bible differently than I ever had before.  I’m still at it and still very much enthusiastic about it.  You can read the details at my Bible Reading Plans page on the pop-out side menu.

I love this new way of reading!

It’s simple—no check-off charts or calendars to keep up with

It’s comprehensive—you’ll get through the whole Bible, but not predictably!

It’s full of variety—every day features reading from all the different genres of Scripture

It’s ready-to-go—no need to buy a new Bible or wait for the right day to begin

Wanted: Dead and Alive

–reflections on the stench of sin and the aroma of Christ–


We’ve been away enjoying a last piece of summer with family whom we don’t see often enough.  During these stretches of broken routine and the clamor of busy little people my mind seems to go into hibernation and ponderings freeze…thus the absence of a post last week. Sorry.  This morning I offer just a snatch of a pondering not yet completely digested, for your perusal…

The day after we had returned home and were once again on the tandem pedaling off Grandad’s cream puffs…my mind began pondering again.  This time an unlikely topic: Roadkill!

We couldn’t see it but Peeuuw!  we cycled through the zone of something dead.  And the thought flashed across my mind.  What if we smelled this stench when the ‘works of the flesh’ were present? What if we were as repulsed by sin as God surely is—as repulsed as we are by the stench of  this dead flesh that rots by the roadway…

I set myself to memorize Romans 8 over a year ago so I’ve gone over and over those verses about the flesh…

‘to set the mind on the flesh is death…the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law, indeed, it cannot.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God…For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live’.

But still sometimes it seems a little nebulous what the ‘works of the flesh’ are.  Not so this roadkill. We know it’s dead.  We smell it!  Why are we not so clued into the works of the flesh?  I flip over to Galatians, (not while I was on the bike, mind you, but right now) and I read that the works of the flesh are evident—then commences a sampling: sexual immorality, impurity, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, and it gets more obvious suddenly culminating with drunkenness and orgies, readily visible things.  (Gal.5:19-21)

These are juxtaposed with the fruit of the Spirit—those sweet-smelling things in our lives that evidence God’s transforming presence in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Ahhh….a beautiful list.  No stench here! Who doesn’t want to be around someone bearing this fruit?

I’ve just finished preserving (and giving away) a bumper crop of Italian plums from our little tree.  Ten overflowing ice-cream buckets worth.  A fruitful tree is a great blessing.  This is what I want to be.  The alternative gives off quite a stench.

And now that I think of it, perhaps the works of the flesh are evident, to everyone but ourselves when we’re caught up in them.  There were moments this past week…where my aroma was not good.   Fits of anger. Hmm… Dissensions.  Hmm… heated words, sullenness, resentment…When I’m embroiled in these things I may not recognize the scent.  But everyone else does!  While I’m busy justifying my right to be angry, my need to vent, and the legitimacy of my brooding, others merely smell the stench of dead things.  None of these stem from faith. “Whatever is not of faith is sin”.  Sin stinks.  Can we smell it?

The works of the flesh reflect a self-defensive agenda rather than a willingness to die to self and live to Christ. Because they are not driven by God-confidence they are void of the good fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace…

So the week is past.  The stench has faded to a memory.    And I am thankful for the Spirit’s working through the Word to remind me what flesh smells like and what Spirit smells like, and calling me to fresh repentance and confident faith based on what God has done for the likes of me!

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Rom.7:25

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I have been set free from the law of sin and death by Jesus own sacrifice of Himself, ‘in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in [me]’. Rom.8:3-4NIV

Because Christ is living in this ‘body of death’ the Spirit grants me life by His indwelling.  His fruit becomes visible as the misdeeds of the body are put to death.  Theoretical realities these.  I lose sight some days and the stench rises, but realities they are, and by faith I am filled with hope that God is at work in me to fashion me into the image of His Son.  He gave Christ not only to die for me and save me from sin’s penalty, but also to live in me and so save me from myself!

I commend to you Romans 8 as a memorization project.  I find that committing a passage to memory gives endless opportunity for meditation and internalization of truth.  You just never know when the Spirit will use it to speak words to your heart that you most need to hear.


When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions. Ps.65:3

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Gal.5:24

Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Rom.6:11

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of Him everywhere.  For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” II Cor.2:14-16


P.S. Oh, and almost forgot—I’ve just started reading a Puritan Classic by John Owen, Overcoming Sin and Temptation—by invitation of a pastor blogger who hosts regular reading projects.  The idea is to read a chapter a week, then to join together in discussing it on Thursdays via the “Comments” section of his blog.

I’ve not done this before and the book is a hearty chunk to digest, but I’m up for the challenge.  Would you care to join me?  The details are here http://www.challies.com/reading-classics-together/will-you-read-a-christian-classic-with-me  The first post/discussion will be September 4, 2014.

And the book is available free online or as a download for your e-reader here: http://www.johnowen.org/media/OvercomingSinAndTemptation.pdf
Or in paperback from conventional sellers.

Grab your copy and drop by!