Thistlebend Quiet eMoment

by Laurie Aker

Hello Again from My Reading Retreat

Today’s book is:
The Hole in Our Holiness
by Kevin DeYoung

Excerpt from Chapter One.
I absolutely, positively, LOVE, LOVE,
LOVE this book. I think it is one of
the most important books written in the past decade.
Kevin has spoken the truth in love to the church
with much grace, wisdom, and humor.

“I’ve never understood the attraction of camping.
Although I have plenty of friends and relatives who are avid campers, it’s
always seemed strange to me that someone would work hard
all year so they can go live outside for a week.
I get the togetherness stuff, but why do it in tents with
community toilet? As an adventure, I sort of understand camping.
You strap a pack on your back and go hike God’s creation. Cool. But
packing up the van like Noah’s ark and driving to a mosquito
infested campground where you reconstitute an inconvenient
version of you kitchen and you bedroom just doesn’t make sense. Who
decided that vacation should be like normal life, only harder?
Every year our church advertises “family camp.”
Every year my wife wants to go, and every year we surprising
end up in some other state during our churches allotted week.
As best I can tell, the appeal of family camp, is that the kids,
unbothered by parental involvement, run around free and dirty
sun up to sun down-a sort of Lord of the Flies for little
Michiganders. But as appealing as it sounds to have absentee
offspring and downtime with my friends, there must be a cleaner,
less humid way to export the children for a week (isn’t
that what VBS is for?). And even if the kids have a great time,
the weather holds up, no one needs stitches, and the seventeenth hot dog
tastes as good as the first, it will still be difficult to get all the
sand out of my books.

I know there are a lot of die hard campers in the world.
I don’t fault you for your hobby. It’s just not my thing. I didn’t grow
up camping. My family wasn’t what you’d call ‘outdoorsy.’
We weren’t against the outdoors or anything. We often saw it through
our windows and walked through it on our way to stores.
But we never once went camping. We don’t own a tent, an RV,
or Fifth Wheel. No one hunted. No one fished. Even our
grill was inside (seriously, a Jenn-Air; look it up).

I’ve been largely ignorant of camping my whole life.
And I’m ok with that. It’s one more thing I don’t need to worry
about in life. Camping may be great for other people, but I’m
content to never talk about it, never think about it, and never do it.
Knock yourself out with the cooler and collapsible chairs,
but camping is not required of me and I’m fine without it.

Is it possible you look at personal holiness like I look at camping?
It’s fine for other people. You sort of respect those who make
their lives harder than they have to be. But it’s not really
your thing. You didn’t grow up with a concern for holiness.
It wasn’t something you talked about. It wasn’t what your family
prayed about or your church emphasized. So, to this day,
it’s not your passion. The pursuit of holiness feels like one
more thing to worry about in your already impossible life.
Sure, it would be great to be a better person, and you do hope
to avoid the really big sins. But you figure, since we’re saved
by grace, holiness is not required of you, and frankly, your
life seems fine without it. The hole in our holiness is
that we don’t really care much about it. Passionate
exhortation to pursue gospel-driven holiness is barely
heard in most of our churches. It’s not that we don’t
talk about sin or encourage decent behavior. Too many
sermons are basically self-help seminars on becoming
a better you. That’s moralism, and it’s not helpful. Any
gospel which says only what you must do and never
announces what Christ has done is no gospel at all. So I’m
not talking about getting beat up every Sunday for
watching SportsCenter and driving an SUV. I’m talking
about the failure of Christians, especially younger generations
and especially those most disdainful of ‘religion’ and
‘legalism,’ to take seriously one of the great
aims of our redemption and one of the required evidences
for eternal life-our holiness. J. C. Ryle, a nineteenth-century
Bishop of Liverpool, was right: ‘We must be
holy, because this is one grand end and purpose for
which Christ came into the world. . . . Jesus is a complete
Saviour. He does not merely take away the guilt of a believer’s
sin, he does more-he breaks its power (1 Pet. 1:2; Rom. 8:29;
Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Heb. 12:10).'” 1


Heavenly Father,
We want to want be holy, because you are holy.
Help us be passionate about what you are passionate about.
Holiness is one of the great and grand purposes for
which Christ came into the world. Jesus has broken the power
of sin and has given us power over it.
Have mercy on us Lord.
Please forgive us for our apathy.
Fill us with your Spirit.
Lead us in the paths of righteousness for Your name’s sake.
May we live in such a way so as to proclaim
the gospel of Jesus Christ with our lips and our lives!

In His hands for His glory,

1 Kevin DeYoung. (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012).


—A Thistlebend Ministries eMoment devotion.
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by Susan Sampson

Are you tired? I get tired so easily. On Day 2 Laurie asked the question, “Do you think you might be trying to do things in your own strength?” Yes Lord! Yes! I have been doing things in my own strength!! Ephesians 6:10 tells us, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” I had to ask the Lord, “what does this mean? And, “how do I do that?” How do I turn from doing things in my own strength to being strong in the Lord?

In verse 11 he begins to show us how. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” He then describes for us in detail the pieces of our armor that we are to use by faith. And Paul concludes with an exhortation to be praying at all times in the Spirit.

He makes it very clear that we are fighting a war every day and we must be equipped in order to fight. The enemy is doing everything he can to keep us from fighting, to keep us from standing, and to keep us from the Lord.

There is also another enemy who fights against us, one who dwells within each one of us. The sin of pride. Charles Spurgeon’s Evening devotion from August 2 was very eye opening to me. It was on Ruth 2:17, “So she gleaned in the field until evening.” He writes, “Proud minds criticize and object, but humble minds glean and receive and benefit. A lowly heart is the key to profitably hearing the Gospel. The soul saving word is not received except with meekness. A stiff back makes for a bad gleaner. Pride is a vile robber and must not be tolerated for a moment.”

In so many ways it is my pride that keeps me doing things in my own strength, in my own way. I saw it again this morning. On Day 5 Laurie asked us “What adjustments do you need to make in your prayer life?” One of my adjustments was getting back to picking certain days to pray for others. This morning I began to pray for the ministry using Ephesians 3:14-21. It begins “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father….” Well, I was sitting in my chair when I began and was moved to kneel as I read these words. So I did. But then I heard my husband coming and could immediately feel my flesh tense up. I was embarrassed. I honestly wanted to hide. I wanted to get up. I didn’t want him to see me. When my family is home I must confess I don’t typically pray on my knees because I am embarrassed for them to see me. Again, this is all pride.

I continued to pray and he came in and asked me what I was doing. I looked up and explained I was praying for the ministry through Ephesians and showed him the verse. He left the room and I continued, still feeling so incredibly awkward & struggling even to concentrate. Within another minute he came back and leaned down closely to me and whispered sweetly and said, “by the grace and glory of God you are such a godly woman.” Tears flooded my eyes as I thanked the Lord. I thanked Him because my husband and I both know that apart from Christ I am an ungodly woman. Praise be to the Lord – “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6).

Because of Christ’s sacrificial death, we have been brought to life. His shed blood has paid the debt we owe. The old has gone and the new has come! Christ in us, the hope of glory!!!!

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:1-3).

“BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-6).

Later in the morning I was tempted to worry about some of the things I had prayed about earlier. But then I remembered that I had given it to the Lord. He is all powerful. He is the One who is strong. He is our burden bearer. He is fully trustworthy. He is faithful. Humbly placing my faith in Christ alone, I can “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might” (Eph. 6:10).

So we continue the WAR in His strength and by His grace through faith for His glory.

alking wisely in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding
dorning and arming ourselves with who we are in Christ
emembering His banner over us is LOVE, and so walking in that love

by Susan Sampson

Let’s see…right now my nail polish is severely chipping; my roots are at least an inch long; school supplies are scattered all over the dining room table; flowers continue to sit in the driveway unplanted; my bed isn’t made; my laundry is in a giant mound on the floor; suitcase still out; my dog still needs her check-up at the vet; printer not working; dust bunnies galore; school bus form is now late b/c I forgot to send it; and the list could go on and on!!! Oh no….what will people think?!!!!!!!

What does all this say about me? Perhaps to some these things seem petty and minor. I know they even do to me as I think about my dad and mother-in-law battling cancer, my brother-in-law who was laid off, a friend who just lost her sister, marriages in crisis, severe emotional pain everywhere. Yet, these are the thoughts that spiral through my head during the day. These are the thoughts that I dwell on. My to-do list.

I don’t necessarily consciously believe that if all these things were made right then I would be acceptable to the Lord, to my family, friends, church, bystanders. Yet I know that is what is down deep in my heart. Idolatry. This continues to be where I look to find my identity. Is my to-do list getting accomplished? No? Well then I’m no good. Yes? Well then all is well with the world. Then I’m good. Then I’m acceptable.

LIES!!! LIES!!! LIES!!! I’m not walking in the light of Christ’s love. I’m walking in lies. Listening to lies. Believing lies. Living lies.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal. 2:20-21).

“yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2:16a).

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh” (Gal. 3:1-3)?

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:24-25a).

The Gospel is our only hope. Christ in us, the hope of glory. The Gospel is the truth no matter what our feelings may tell us. There is no good in us. We are sinners from head to toe. Utterly depraved. Without hope apart from Christ. Our flesh cannot be redeemed. It is by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone that we are saved. Faith is a gift from the Lord. He opened our eyes. He removed our hearts of stone and gave us hearts of flesh. He brought us to life. He will bring us safely home. We are justified in Christ. He has given us His righteousness though we deserved His wrath.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

I want to walk by the Spirit. I don’t want to walk in the flesh. I want to be full of the Spirit, not full of self. I want a thankful heart, a submissive heart, not a prideful and arrogant heart. I want to believe God’s word and truly live by it.

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Gal. 5:16-17).

The Lord has provided us with such a great tool to help us in this battle. Our Taking the Truth to Heart and Bringing it to Life is truly a gift from the Lord. Through this tool, He is showing us how to walk in the light, walk in love, walk in the gospel.

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).

We are all weak. Let us join together as sisters in Christ and pray for one another asking for God’s grace to believe the truth of the Gospel and live in the grace of God’s love. Let us do all that we can to take our wrong thinking captive and replace those thoughts with the truths of God’s word. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

Lord help us make the best use of our time, by truly meditating on our Taking the Truth to Heart verses. By writing them out on cards and taking those with us. By putting our verses in our smart phones and setting reminders in our phones to review them and then really review them. By reciting them in the shower. Practicing them in the car. Telling them to our husbands and children. By praying during the day asking for your help to believe the Gospel and walk in the love of Christ. Jesus we need you!!! Thank you for providing all that we need, for blessing us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places!! In your name, we pray, Amen.

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Gal. 1:3-5).

I’m learning to trust.