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A Few Nuggets to Ponder

I remember as a child that my mom encouraged me to write them notes since I seemed freer to say what was on my mind that way. That hasn’t really changed since I’ve reached adulthood, though in certain settings I’m learning how to say things in a listenable way. But I think writing about what’s bothering me will always be easier than talking about it.

Since I poured out a lot of what’s been weighing on me a few days ago, I thought I’d better share some of the nuggets I’ve either found on my own or received from friends recently.

Nugget One
Our church has been focusing on the topic of grace in the weekly sermons. So Scott and I have been talking and reading on the topic a lot lately. Today I found this comment on Tim Challies‘s blog about the Ligonier National Conference going on in Florida this week. The main theme is “The Holiness of God” but they are also honoring the life and influence of John Calvin, who was born 500 years ago.

So Tim summarized a question and answer session with the speakers on John Calvin from yesterday. In answer to the question, “Where should people start to learn about Calvinism?” Dr. Stephen Lawson, pastor of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church in Mobile, Alabama, replied,

“Read his sermons. The preaching of the word is the primary ordinary means of grace. Begin with his sermons on Galatians and Ephesians.”

This really caught my eye, as I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say that the preaching of the Bible is the primary ordinary means of grace. I’ve seen what happens when people don’t hear preaching that is solidly planted in the Bible. I’ve seen what happens when people sit under teaching that leads them away from truth or fails to take them deeper into it. At best, it leads to a weak, poorly functioning, and hypocritical faith; at worst, it not only destroys faith but builds actual animosity towards all things related to Jesus Christ.

But I’ve never really put two and two together in this way before.

Another great quotation from a later Q&A:

“If you don’t know the difference between teaching and preaching, you’ve probably never heard preaching.” – Sinclair Ferguson, quoting Alistair Begg

Nugget Two
I’ve recently been reading the book, “Keep Going: Overcoming Doubts About Your Faith” by Neil Armstrong. In it, he writes about how common it is for people of faith to have questions about what they believe.

In the introduction, he says,

“Historically, Christians haven’t been very good at dealing with [questions about faith]. In fact, like most religious organizations, it’s an unwritten rule in many churches that nobody questions the basics. And this is a shame, not only because the basics of Christian belief are actually extremely well supported, but also because unwritten rules like this cause considerable distress to strugglers. Our collective unwillingness to deal with basic questions about Christianity leaves us wondering whether intellectual struggles are really part of normal Christian living in the first place and unaware of the wealth of biblical resources that are available to help us fight back.”

Nugget Three
Sometimes the best encouragement is not an “everything is peachy” facade. Sometimes being honest about how difficult things are, how hard it is to cling to the rock, can really encourage another who is also facing tough days. One friend wrote, “It was almost like, in the middle of our own desert hike, I could feel you reach over and grab our hand for a moment.”

Another couple, serving the Lord in a very difficult country across the ocean, wrote this:

We count most precious the words of those who have entered the Savior’s sufferings. There is a strange sort of fellowship that we share not only with him–as in our own lives we learn what it means that he was the “Suffering Servant”–but also with others when God leads each of us, on each of his paths for us, through dark valleys.”

One friend mailed me a clear glass cup with a stand, along with this verse: “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.” (Psalm 56:8) And she reminded me that God knows about the sleepless nights and the tears. And one day it will all be put right.

Thank you to each of you who have reached out in the past months. Everything you had said and written has been a precious gift, and I appreciate each of you.

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