Good Reads 02.15.17 (on: prayer, revival, love, and more!)

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

On prayer and revival: Prayer for Revival and Faithful Plodding by Mike Leake

I wonder if this is why we pray so much for revival. Because times of revival aren’t the times of slow plodding. That’s when the wheel is spinning at full speed and you’re just trying to keep up with its produce. What ministry leader wouldn’t want that?

But in my mind our view of revival is a bit like an empty water wheel that just starts spinning by an unseen hand. I wonder if sometimes my prayer for revival is little more than, “Lord, make my job a lot easier”. Am I praying that God would cause the wheel to spin apart from seasons of faithful plodding? Is my prayer for revival just laziness cloaked in spiritual jargon? (click here to read more)

On prayer and parenting: 10 Prayers for Great Parenting by Ron Edmondson

Dear Lord, Help me not to overwhelm my children with unrealistic expectations. Remind me discipline is for their good – and to always administer it in love – not in anger or purely emotion. Keep me from dumping my adult problems on them, while helping me be transparent enough for them to learn from my mistakes. Help me to remember my children’s current age – and respond to them accordingly. (click here to read more)

On love and marriage: The 5 Weightiest Words of Love by Trevin Wax

The cost of the average wedding in America now exceeds $30,000, with prices soaring 16 percent between 2011 and 2015. With all the glitz and glamour surrounding a couple’s special day, it’s easy to focus on the decorations and dresses, while overlooking the most valuable moment of the day—the costliest words spoken between a husband and wife.

“Till death do us part.” (click here to read more)

On discipleship: Seven Costs of Disciple-Making by David Mathis

In disciple-making, we need to remember our aim is to please Jesus, and this will cost us favor with certain persons, especially when we have to say no to our involvement in their program or event or even to discipling them personally, because we’re protecting the space to invest in others. (click here to read more)

The Better Choice

If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. ~Philippians 1:22-26

Paul knew that his ministry work was dangerous (2 Corinthians 11:23-33). He had been beaten, stoned, left for dead, lowered out of a city in a basket, and imprisoned. He knew the next day of his life was not guaranteed, nor the next breath.

Paul longed to be with Jesus, so he did not fear death. He even told the church at Philippi that death was better because then he could be face-to-face with his Savior. This was not some suicide wish. This was not Paul depressed. Rather, this was Paul grasping tight to the realities of faith. If given a choice, he would gladly receive the glories of eternity over the sufferings of this world.

But he also knew it wasn’t up to him. He would have known what David said in Psalm 139:16—it is God who numbers our days. So, Paul left life and death in the hands of the Father and decided on another course. As long as he had breath, his work on earth was not yet complete. He desired to be with Jesus, but he saw necessity in remaining on in the world.

Paul was a servant of Jesus and therefore a servant to Jesus’ churches, and his desire was for their “progress and joy in the faith.” When he made the statement in 1:21, “To live is Christ,” this was an other-focused statement. This was a declaration to love God supremely and love others deeply. Loving others deeply meant seeing them grow in Christ.

Our culture and context might look different, but our task is not removed from Paul’s. Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” applies to all of his disciples, everyone who follows him in faith. To make disciples is to love others enough to show them Jesus, call them to follow Jesus, and then work for the progress and joy in the faith for all who answer that call.

As we wait for that better day when we get to see Jesus face-to-face, the better choice is not to sit back in an unengaged-with-people longing to escape this world. Rather, the better choice is to give ourselves to help others progress as Paul did.

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

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Good Reads 01.11.17 (on: resolutions, social media, and more!)

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

On resolutions: One Thing Worth Everything by Jon Bloom

And since we are so finite, we are forced to choose only a few serious pursuits. That means a resolution is costly, because it demands a portion of our most valuable assets: love (devotion) and time. It requires us to say no to many other enjoyable things in order to say a tenacious yes to a joy and prize we consider superior to others.

The necessary, revealing, and costly nature of resolutions makes them dangerous. For not all strenuous, time-and-attention-demanding, and promising achievements are ultimately worth doing or having. Some promises turn out to be empty. Some impressive feats are a waste of life. (click here to read more)

On discipleship and relationships: How to Disciple New Believers in Marriage and Family Relationships by Todd Jamison

It was around this time I realized what disciple-making should encompass and how messy it can be. It’s natural for us to long for formulas. But implementing discipleship via fill-in-the-blank materials devoid of genuine relationships had proven ineffective. Those materials conveniently allowed me to complete statistical reports, but they didn’t move me in the direction of making disciples who obeyed everything Jesus commanded. As an old-timer, I’ve seen programs come and go, but certain things remain unchanged in the primary task to which we are called. (click here to read more)

On our need for community: Community Keeps You from Drifting by David McLemore

It should not surprise us, then, that it is the same when it comes to God. We understand God best when we are in community with other people. As we sit in a circle and talk about God from a text from the Bible, we begin to see the fullness of who he is. That aspect of him will stand out to one, another aspect to someone else. As we make our way around the circle we begin to lose our truncated view of God and begin to see him in his fullness. We need each other to see more of God. (click here to read more)

On life and social media: Life Is Not Lived Online by Barnabas Piper

The more we take our lives online the more we lose to a reality that is not ours. It is a sacrifice, a giving of ourselves to others who care little for us and are merely consumers. We become prisoners of comparison, constantly comparing our moments to others’ rather than simply appreciating them. We are bound by a weird sense of obligation to engage and respond to others’ moments or thoughts in just the right manner so that we are seen in the tight light – to express our sorrow at their grief or to like their photo quickly after it is posted. We strive for a persona, a “real” persona in an environment that is not reality. We are not being false (at least not most of us) and neither is social media fake – it simply lacks the multi-dimensional richness of life. (click here to read more)

 

Good Reads 06.07.16 (on: discipleship, parenting, changing the world, and more!)

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

On discipleship: 4 Ways to Make Disciples by Mark Dever

Jesus taught his disciples to live in view not of today or tomorrow, but eternity. We try to help others follow Jesus; we do deliberate spiritual good; we pray for gospel influence; we proclaim God’s words, and we do all this for the sake of the Last Day. Yes, we may see some fruit now. But the goal is always to present people mature in Christ then.

What is discipling in addition to helping others follow Jesus? It’s doing them spiritual good. Specifically, it’s initiating a relationship in which you teach, correct, model, and love. Needless to say, it takes great humility. (click here to read more)

On evangelism: Awkward Gospel Conversations by Jordan Standridge

Changing the message is not an option. God has made the Gospel very clear. We cannot alter it. There is no “polite” way to tell someone that if they were to die right now that they would be heading to hell. There is not a “non-awkward” manner to tell someone that Jesus is the only way to salvation. There is no “nice” way to let someone know that their sin is so bad that the God of the universe had to die on a cross because they couldn’t earn their way to Him on their own. It doesn’t matter if you’ve evangelized a thousand times or twice, those truths cannot be explained without offense. (click here to read more)

On parenting: Good Parents Connect, Not Just Correct by David Mathis

Far from squashing our children’s interests or suffocating the spirit in them, we’re charged as parents to cultivate their hearts, and direct them in ways that are true, beautiful, and good. Surely, this will include the pruning of discipline, but our first pursuit is not to hunt for the evil in them and attack it, but look for the good and instruct them. It is far too easy to fall into a kind of merely reactive “discipline” that tries to kill off the weeds of sin by chopping aggressively at the heart of the plant. But true discipline carefully identifies the bulb and gently pulls away at the weeds of sin, so as not to harm the heart of a fledging plant before it ever has the opportunity to blossom. (click here to read more)

On happiness and joy: Breathe in the Happiness of Heaven by Randy Alcorn

I grew up in an unbelieving home, and first heard about Christ as a teenager. Initially, Bible stories seemed no more true than the Greek mythology and comics I loved. Then I read the Gospels, and believed that Jesus was real, and then superheroes became mere shadows of him. When Jesus rescued me, I experienced a profound happiness I’d never known, and have never gotten over. My heartfelt gladness was the result of being born again, forgiven, and indwelt by God’s Spirit. “Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1, NRSV). (click here to read more)

On “changing the world”: There’s Only One Way to Change the World by Luke LeFevre

All of these fields, whether it be science, literature, history or art, have certainly played a part in affecting the way the world operates, but the people that inhabit this world have essentially remained the same. Discoveries in these fields may change the way people view a certain subject or change the way that people operate and go about their business, but that’s as far as it goes. The most important part of this world (humanity) goes unchanged. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 05.11.16 (on: depression, discipleship, and more!)

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

On sharing about Jesus and making disciples: 10 Great Commission Thoughts to Challenge You Today by Chuck Lawless

A single 30-minute sermon is more time in the Word than 3 billion+ people in the world have had engaging the Word in their entire lifetime. We who have access to the Word through preaching, study, books, the Internet, etc., have great reason not to take these gifts for granted. (click here to read more)

On discipleship: A Helpful Way to Think about Personal Discipleship by Mike Leake

What if we used my friends helpful principle to think about discipleship? First, I make a concentrated effort to spend time with people. Secondly, every time I spend time with them my goal is to leave them better than when we started—to help them take one step closer to Christ. That’s it. Every time I meet with you I want to love you and want to help you see Jesus a little better. (And quite likely you’ll help me see Jesus better too).  (click here to read more)

On politics and the Christian life: A Gentle Political Recalibration by Erik Raymond

Here in the United States our news is dominated by the Presidential election cycle and as a result, we are inundated with up to the minute analysis of debates, rallies, interviews, editorials, and tweets. Many have observed that this is a particularly important election. I happen to agree with them while also noting that the same thing is said every four years. It is always important.

Without minimizing the importance of the election or impugning anyone who is a political junkie, I want to offer a gentile reminder for Christians who might be getting a little too wrapped up in the election. Call it a gentle calibration. (click here to read more)

On the Christian and depression: Jesus Died for Your Depression Too by Cody Barnhart

I first felt the effects of depression late in middle school. It led me into a short stint of melodrama freshman year, a longing for suicide in my sophomore and junior years, and, thankfully, a softening in my heart toward the gospel my senior year. Adolescence was tough. I felt like I would never be known. I remember thinking that nobody could ever truly love somebody who hated himself that much, so instead of being honest with those who loved me, I pushed my feelings deeper down until they consumed me altogether. (click here to read more)

On culture and grace: The Idea that Changed the World by Steve Bezner

In the desire to be holy, Christians often comfort themselves with the words of Jesus: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) Left unchecked, we will tend to believe that it is good for us to create division with our faithfulness. In fact, when we are drifting away from our theological mooring, we can default to a position of cultural antagonism without a redemptive goal. (Orthodox Christians would argue cultural antagonism with a redemptive goal is ultimately a unifying good.)

But have Christians oversold the position of “taking a stand”? (click here to read more)

Good Reads 08.05.15 (on: bible reading, prayer, seeking approval, and more!)

Here is a collection of links to good reads gathered over this past week. Be sure to check them out!

On men and body image: The Epidemic of Male Body Hatred by Paul Maxwell

A man who hates his body is really searching for love — a fundamentally relational search for intimacy with self in the form of confidence, intimacy with the opposite sex in being sexy, intimacy with the same sex in intimidation or acceptance, intimacy with authority in competency, and ultimately intimacy with God, in appearing worthy. The lie is that performance offers intimacy at all — it is, in fact, its foil. Yet this is the path we choose. (click here to read more)

On parenting: Pray for Your Children by Chad Ashby

God has placed us in the lives of our children so that we will intercede for them. God placed Moses over the children of Israel for the specific purpose of crying out for God’s mercy upon them (Exodus 32:11–14). In the same way, we ought to plead with God to relent of his wrath against our sinful children. Moreover, just as God foreordained to save Israel through the desperate prayer of Moses, we must trust that God plans to save our children in part through our desperate intercessory prayers. (click here to read more)

On our desires for applause, approval, and attractiveness: The Three Things We All Crave So Desperately by David Qaoud

I found myself (sometimes) in the same camp of my customers. I did diets I didn’t like, spent money I didn’t have, to impress people I didn’t know. It’s not so much an issue now, but I’m well aware of the temptation. Are these three things — applause, approval, and attractiveness — something you crave, something you desire? Well, I got good news for you: If you’re a Christian, you already have all three. (click here to read more)

On Bible reading and study: Your Bible Is a Mine not a Museum by Jon Bloom

Miners observe and gather with a different mindset than a museumgoer. To miners, the knowledge they acquire is not merely interesting; it’s vital. They aren’t merely enhancing their education; they are hunting for treasure. When they seek out expert knowledge, it is for a focused reason: Such knowledge leads to fortune. Miners are trying to unearth wealth. They dig. They probe. They poke around. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 07.30.15 (on parenting, being a church member, joy, and more!)

Here is a collection of links to good reads found across the internet this past week. Be sure to check them out:

On church membership: Why Join a Church? by David Mathis

In our flighty and noncommittal age, neither non-Christians nor Christians are naturally inclined to find a place to put down roots and make longstanding, objective commitments for the good of others. We want to keep our options open and, above all, preserve our own freedom of choice, rather than make a covenant for the long haul and embrace a framework for real life in all its ups and downs. But what if you went against the grain and became part of the solution to the modern problem of being so noncommittal? What if you joined the rebellion, and pledged your loyalty and engagement to a Bible-believing, gospel-cherishing local church? (click here to read more)

On seeing God at work in dark times: God Often Does His Best Work in the Darkness by Stephen Altrogge

Being in the valley of trials stinks. It’s painful, disorienting, and confusing. As we stagger and stumble along we often wonder, “Where is God? Why is he allowing me to go through this?” We feel stuck and broken, like we can’t move forward. We are perplexed, crushed, weighed down, and in the dark. We move ahead slowly, groping and grasping, hoping to find a handhold. The reality is, however, that God often does his best work in the darkness. (click here to read more)

On parenting: Raising Real Kids, Not Fakers by Nicholas McDonald

The #1 difference is this: ”real” students come from safe homes. Put simply, a safe home is a place where it’s okay to fail. In fact, it’s expected, and embraced. Rather than excusing their children’s sin or “fixing” it, these parents resolve to love their children through imperfection. And that’s the #1 way to keep our children real.  (click here to read more)

On spiritual growth: Three Ways to Grow in Faith by Mike Leake

Every believer has dry seasons. There are times when our faith is lively and vigorous. At other times we wonder if prayer is just talking to ourselves. Though our union with Christ is unbreakable our communion with him is variable…. So how do we grow in our faith? (click here to read more)

On what joy is: How Do You Define ‘Joy’? by John Piper

It is not just in the word that we see Christ. We see him in his gifts and in people. We see him in his gifts of nature. We see him in his gifts of food and in all of the good things that our Father in heaven gives to us. Every gift of Christ to us is intended to be a communication of something of himself. So we see Christ not only — we taste Christ not only — in his word, but also in his works. (click here to read more)