Good Reads 11.30.16 (on: family, worship, prayer, and more!)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On prayer and family: Praying for Your Children by Gregory Harris

Part of my answer to those who asked me about raising our children would be that we repeatedly prayed for them and tried to raise them as God would have us do, especially as shown in Scripture. Even then, my wife and I knew we were not in full control; you cannot save your own children; you cannot live their lives for them.

We would stand on the sidelines and actively watch as our children walked with God, or, in one case, did not walk with Him for a prolonged period. I have been both the Prodigal Son and the father of a prodigal—and by the sheer grace of God—I have been the rejoicing father of a prodigal who has returned to the Lord.

As I talked to other parents about raising children, a similar question would repeatedly be raised, especially by younger parents: “What do you pray for your children when you pray for them?” (click here to read more)

On worship and family: Worship Interrupted by Kristin Tabb

Those who have attended worship with small children for a period of years, as I have, might begin to feel that the effort expended in the fight for focus isn’t worth the seemingly small return received during the service. Amid sibling squabbles, trips to the bathroom, feet on the back of the pew in front of you, and misplaced comments — “Mama. Mama! Mama! What kind of dog is your favorite?” — it is easy to surrender to weariness and give up, going through the motions instead of reaching for fresh grace.

In those moments of wondering if there is any real purpose to our being present in worship, we may benefit from reminding ourselves of God’s sufficiency, the nature of worship, and our calling to minister to our children. (click here to read more)

The story of the growth of a little church in a small, struggling town: We are open! The Story of Little Mill Church by Collin Berg

The church began to meet regularly on Saturday mornings for ‘Way Forward’ sessions. These were opportunities to explore how the church could engage with the local community and to pray. It was clear that few people were likely to come into the church and so the challenge was to find the equivalent of what Paul did at Athens: ‘So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there’ (Acts 17:17). The marketplace was the main expression of community in Athens, but the challenge was to find the modern equivalent of community in Little Mill. We identified three main types of community:

  1. Community of place – living together in the same place.
  2. Community of interest – people who relate across a wider geographical area because of shared interests.
  3. Virtual communities – people who share and relate mainly through social media.

Ideas began to form to produce an engagement plan for each form of community. Such a plan needs to relate to the opportunities and challenges of each community, and as such there is no template that can be taken up and used everywhere. (click here to read more)

On teenagers and reading: Ten Books Every Christian Teenager Should Read by Tim Challies

A reader recently asked the question: Do you have a suggested list of books for teenagers, something like a “Ten best books every Christian teenager should read?” It surprised me that I have never compiled such a list, especially since I’ve got two teenagers of my own. I decided I’d better remedy this oversight straight away. Here, then, is a list of ten great books every Christian teen ought to read—or at least consider reading. (click here to read more)

Sunday 11.27.16 (the Jesus-centered life)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at Psalm 127 and see how following Jesus impacts our work, rest, and family. Then Sunday night at 7pm, we’ll gather with other churches from town at Adrian Christian Church for the annual Ministerial Alliance Thanksgiving Community Worship Service. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@7pm Thanksgiving Service at Adrian Christian Church

Sermon Notes
The Jesus-Centered Life ~ Psalm 127

  • Jesus and work (127:1-2)
    • Work for God (in whatever you do, 127:1)
    • Work without worry (127:2)
  • Jesus and rest (127:2)
    • Work hard and rest well
    • God gave rest by design, decree, and example
  • Jesus and family (127:1, 3-5)
    • See family as a blessing from God (127:3-5)
    • Keep your family focused on God (127:1), by: fearing God, loving each other, teaching and training, and correcting and disciplining

Good Reads 11.23.16 (on thanksgiving, prayer, and church)

Here is a collection of good reads gathered from across the internet this past week. Enjoy!

On Thanksgiving: Look Through the Lens of Thanksgiving by Vaneetha Rendall Risner

Counting my blessings may be arduous at first, an act of taxing obedience rather than an overflow of joy, but in the end it opens up space in my heart. When I choose to focus on what I have been given, rather than linger over what I’m missing, I feel happier. More content. Less agitated.

And when I choose to face my miseries directly and find blessings in them, something miraculous happens. I view all of life differently. I see my circumstances through a lens of faith. And I am able to declare with confidence that, even in the worst of circumstances, God is still good and there is much to be thankful for. (click here to read more)

On the individual and the church: You Are Not the Church by Matt Moore

The communal aspect of the Christian life is, according to Jesus and his apostles, indispensable. We cannot grow and persevere without it. God could have infused into each one of us all the gifts and graces necessary to reach “mature manhood” in Christ (Ephesians 4: 13). But he didn’t. Instead, he chose to endow each of us with particular gifts and graces (Romans 12:4) so that our spiritual maturation would occur as we exercise them in a communal context. When we gather together for the purposes of worship, fellowship, and discipleship, our individual, God-given roles and functions merge and work together to build up the whole body in the love and knowledge of Jesus. (click here to read more)

Two articles on prayer:

Twelve Ways to Pray for Yourself Everyday by David Qaoud

What people see of me is the exterior. This is important — but it’s not enough. I can seem impressive in public, yet remain sinful in private. And when we talk about holiness, we often only talk about the “big things” like not killing people, and staying faithful to your spouse. But holiness is much more than that. It includes the thousand little, overlooked things of life that no one else knows about. I pray that I can honor the Lord in these things. (click here to read more)

The Challenge of Praying with Your Spouse by Melissa Edgington

It’s hard to be annoyed or upset with someone who is praying for you. It’s hard to hold grudges or unforgiveness in your heart when you are praying for someone.  Praying together has made me want to live up to the desires that we express with each other before God: Help us to love each other well. When we pray in these ways, the Holy Spirit really does show us where we can improve, where we can lose the attitude, and as a result, we find that we are going out of our way to help each other. We’re taking the time to say thank you. We’re stopping to recognize what a blessing our marriage is. (click here to read more)

What joy! (a meditation)

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. We always risk the danger of being distracted with football and Black Friday savings, but if we slow down and ponder the things we should be thankful for, then we will understand the true meaning and develop a great joy.

In Psalm 126, the psalmist looked back upon the return of God’s people from exile, and wrote:

When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem, it was like a dream! We were filled with laughter and we sang for joy. And the other nations said, “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.” Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! (126:1-3)

This rush of joy should be the same feeling we get when we think of our salvation in Jesus. Our sin had trapped us in a spiritual exile with little hope of escaping the darkness. Then, by giving us Jesus, God pulled us out of hopelessness. Like a wonderful dream, the Righteous King gave himself from sheer mercy and love and brought us into his people and his eternal land.

Our sins forgiven and our eternal hope secured—what laughter it should cause and what songs of joy should be sung!

When we ponder such salvation, our hearts should surge with thanksgiving. More than for food, more than for social freedoms, and more than for family, our minds should be overwhelmed with gratefulness for what God has done for us in Jesus.

As we let our hearts be thankful for salvation and we let joy fill our minds over what God has done, then we can be properly thankful for other good things, other evidences of God’s grace in our lives. Then, when the world sees our thankfulness and joy, they will see that God has indeed done great things for us.

Joy is a witness. Thankfulness points beyond ourselves. We acknowledge a greater Giver, a greater Rescuer, a greater King. This points others to the same source of hope and we can sing along as one voice: “Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy!”

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

What about him? (a meditation)

Imagine for a moment that you were the apostle Peter. After insisting that you would never deny Jesus, you vehemently declared that you were not Jesus’ follower and had never met the man, after Jesus was arrested to be crucified. But then after the resurrection, Jesus comes and takes you aside and for each time you denied him, he asks you, “Peter do you love me?”

John 21 gives us the account of this restoration of Peter by Jesus. Grace was extended and Peter found forgiveness, though the memory of everything pained him.

After restoring Peter, Jesus went on to tell Peter about the way he would one day die:

“When you were young you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” ~John 21:18

The tradition of church history tells us that Peter was arrested and crucified upside down under the reign of Nero. Whether all the exact details are so, Jesus’ words made it clear to Peter that his death would be costly and forced against his will. Yet, with this information, Jesus still said to Peter, “Follow me”—this the same call that Jesus gives to all of us when he tells us that we must daily take up our own cross (Luke 9:23).

In response, Peter turned and saw John (“the disciple whom Jesus loved”) nearby and following them. Peter then replied to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”

Jesus’ response?

“If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” (21:22)

In other words: “Mind your own business. I wasn’t talking to you about John, I was talking to you about you.”

A life of following Jesus does not come with sure promises of riches, fame, ease, or health this side of death. No doubt, some receive and do great things through their faith. Hebrews 11 lists several Old Testament people who were faithful to God and gained riches, power, and even life back from the dead. After this, however, Hebrews 11 also speaks about unnamed others who were forced to live in caves, on the run, arrested, beaten, and/or sawn in two.

Our experience of life will be no different. Some who follow Christ will see many good things in life, and live long and healthy. Others who follow Christ will see many hardships, and die young and poor. Most will experience something in between.

On our journey of faith, we might be tempted to point to others who we think are getting a better deal and say, “Lord, what about him? What about her?” Jesus’ answer to us is the same: “I’ll worry about them. You follow me!”

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

Let us go to the house of the Lord! (a meditation)

God gives his people a joyous desire to meet together. We see this expressed in David’s words from Psalm 122:

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” -Psalm 122:1

The words that follow in the psalm paint a picture of God’s people from across the different tribes of Israel coming to Jerusalem to go to the temple together. It was at the temple they could be united as one people, sharing one voice, and with one purpose: “To give thanks to the name of the Lord” (122:4). There was something sweet about such gathering that David looked forward to.

Old Testament and New, we see God dealing with individuals to create a people. Paul wrote about this in Titus 2:14 where he tells us that Jesus “gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

The redemption was of each individual turning from sin to Jesus. The result was a people zealous to do God’s will, namely: good works in this world.

A key factor of our encouragement in doing good works is our gathering together. In the Old Testament, the temple in Jerusalem was unique because it was where God’s glory and Spirit most fully manifested. After Jesus’ work on the cross, he made his people the new temple—we reflect God’s glory as we receive God’s Spirit. Peter described us as individual bricks being built together as a spiritual house (1 Peter 2). So, wherever Christians gather as a church, there is found a present “house of the Lord.”

The earliest Christians in Jerusalem would still go to the temple until it was destroyed but they also gathered daily “house to house”—smaller gatherings, yet each representing God’s glory. They gathered for time with God’s word, devotion to prayer, sharing of communion, and sharing of lives as they praised God together (Acts 2:42-47).

These were joyful occasions fueling them to do good in a world that didn’t always understand their religious devotion.

And so it is for us. Different things attempt to pull us away from gathering with other Christians: jobs, sports, family functions, desire for extra sleep, etc. Therefore, we must prioritize and persist. This just as the author of Hebrews wrote:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ~Hebrews 10:24-25

Let us, then, be glad to go to the house of the Lord. Let us meet together, praise God together, and find encouragement to live daily strong in our faith in Jesus, loving others and doing good in this world.

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

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