Good Reads 08.10.17 (on: Bible reading, friendships, giving, and more!)

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

On family Bible reading: Three Surprising Ways Bible Reading With My Kids Has Changed Me by Jon Nielson

I have found that since reading the Bible regularly with my children, I am finding deep delight in discipling them. I am loving the sweet conversations with them about the the things of God, as they form questions and wrestle through theological thoughts. I love watching them discover new and beautiful things about God, his grace, and his glorious redemption of sinners. There is a new dimension of friendship opening up, a spiritual friendship between my kids and I, and I pray this will continue to grow and flourish as they get older. (click here to read more)

On men and friendships: Guys Need Bros: Five Ways to Find Male Friendships by Bryan Stoudt

A few years after this uncomfortable conversation, a respected Christian author challenged us to form close male friendships in a men-only session at a marriage conference. At the time, I knew nothing about the risks isolation posed. Physically, I felt great. But then he drew a connection between our friendships with other men and our marriages.

Now he had my attention.

Letting our friendships with other men fade, he warned, turns our wives into unintentional idols where they become our only true confidante and friend. This is a role God never intended them to fill, and places a tremendous amount of stress on our marriages. (click here to read more)

On giving as a spiritual gift: Giving Might Be the Most Neglected Spiritual Gift by Rand Alcorn

It’s increasingly common for Christians in accountability groups to ask one another the tough questions: “Have you been spending time in the Word?” “Are you living in sexual purity?” or “Have you been sharing your faith?” But how often do we ask, “Are you winning the battle against materialism?” or “How are you doing with your giving?”

When it comes to giving, many churches operate under a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. We lack communication, accountability, and modeling. It’s as if we have an unspoken agreement: I won’t talk about it if you won’t, so we can continue living as we are.

Think about it. If a young person wants to learn how to teach, pray, or lead a group, the church provides many examples to learn from. But how does a young Christian learn to give? Where can he or she go to see what giving looks like in the life of a believer captivated by Christ? Why are we surprised when, seeing no alternative examples, our young people take their cues from a materialistic society? (click here to read more)

Finally… A video clip of John Piper talking about how through Jesus we have freedom from condemnation and from the wrath of God. (click here to view)

The Eternal Family

Jesus replied to them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” Looking at those sitting in a circle around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” ~ Mark 3:33-35

When we come to Jesus, we find that he redefines family. Jesus was told that his mother and brothers were looking for him and his response was to say that those who belonged to God, doing his will, were his brother, sister, and mother. Here we find several realities about family:

First, our eternal family is our spiritual family. This was Jesus’ main point—since the promise he made to Abraham in Genesis 12, God has been setting aside a people for himself. Through Jesus, God’s people come from every background and ethnicity. But God isn’t simply creating one eternal nation out of many, no he’s also creating one eternal family out of many. We pray and we hope that our physical family is among them, but it’s God’s people, other followers of Jesus, with whom we will spend eternity.

Second, God is the true Father. When Jesus listed out the family relationships, he left father off the list. This was not by mistake. Yes, Joseph served as his earthly father, the dad who raised him for a time. But, Jesus is the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father. No one else can take that place. God’s loving Fatherhood extends to us as well. Whether we had good earthly dads, bad earthly dads, or absent earthly dads, through Jesus we have the perfectly good, always present Eternal Father who loves us.

Third, Jesus wasn’t saying our earthly families aren’t important. God is the one who told us, “Honor your father and mother.” Over and over the Bible highlights the importance of an earthly family and our task to love them and care for them. As much as we are able, we should celebrate our earthly families, especially when there is mutual love present. Instead, Jesus was saying that our eternal family is even greater. We want our earthly families to be a part and to join us in celebrating Jesus. Some, however, have families who not only refuse to do this, but will even threaten and persecute a person for following Jesus. If that happens, we still have our eternal family—we still have a place to belong.

Family is important. Our spiritual family through Jesus is eternal.

New posts in this series will appear most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

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Image taken and modified from pixabay.com

Good Reads 02.08.17 (on: God in the mundane, community, and more!)

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

On embracing God in the mundane aspects of life: To Be a Diaper Changer by Nick Batzig

A friend once told me the story of a Christian garbage man whose hands were worn from his work. Someone once asked him about his callused and blackened hands. The man responded, “I’m thankful for these hands because they serve as a reminder to me that I believe that I have been called to do the work that I do and that I can pick up garbage to the glory of God.” This is what a “change the world” attitude misses. It fails to embrace Paul’s admonition, “Whatever we do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).

To be a diaper changer to the glory of God is a glorious thing. Jesus said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). Among the many things that I regret in the early years of marriage is that I was far to eager too be out with people “doing ministry” and was not home enough helping my wife change diapers and put the kids to bed. I say this without any hesitation whatsoever: Any fruit I have in ministry is directly correlated to my wife’s faithfulness in doing what is least to the glory of God. (click here to read more)

On God’s kingdom and the home: How to Create a Kingdom Culture in Your Home by Steve Dewitt

Use The Deuteronomy Drip Principle. Most of us don’t feel qualified to carry on an hour-long conversation on justification or missions in Africa. What Deuteronomy encourages is the drip principle. Drip. Drip. Drip. Everywhere you go, whenever possible, drip spiritual content into your daily conversations. Pray. Make God and God-talk as easy and normal as Cubs fans talk about the Cubs, and even more. Regularly asking each other questions that get to spiritual conversation is important. Here are some examples: (click here to read more)

On Bible reading: Six Ways to Kickstart Your Devotional Life by Stephen Altrogge

All the practical tips in the world won’t make a lick of difference unless God moves mightily on your heart. God cannot be controlled. He is not a personal genie who can be summoned on command. He cannot be summarized or contained in a neat formula. He is God, and he moves where he wishes when he wishes.

But, he promises to respond to our humble requests. He is a good father who loves to give good gifts to his children. In Luke 11:13 Jesus said: If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

God loves to give the Holy Spirit to us, but we have to ask! I love to give my children good things, but I want them to ask, and God is the same way. He loves to pour out blessings on those who humbly come to him. He’s not a spiritual Scrooge, holding tight to the Spirit. (click here to read more)

On developing Christian community: Community Requires Vulnerability by Christine Hoover

What I didn’t yet realize was that community isn’t something that comes to us; it’s something that we go toward. We make choices that either invite community or hinder the very thing we long for. The reasons I struggled with friendship were many: I lacked initiative, I had very specific parameters placed around what type of friend I wanted and how they would relate to me, and I used time constraints as an excuse. But primary among them was that I chose not to take the risk and be vulnerable with other women. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 01.03.17 (on: Bible reading, praying for your children, and more!)

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

On Bible reading: 5 Ways Daily Bible Reading Impacts Your Life by Kelly Needham

Reading the Bible is like stepping into God’s house. Everything is there because He desires for it to be there. If it is in the Word of God, which lasts forever, then it must be important to Him. As I read Leviticus, I am confronted with the reality that there is a whole book dedicated to different types of sin and their corresponding offerings. If it was important to God for this to be in His Word, I must conclude that our sin really, really, really bothers Him and that all sin, no matter how small, must be paid for.

The passages in the Bible that are the most confusing and most surprising actually tell me a lot about God. Instead of skipping or avoiding things you don’t understand, ask God why that particular passage is important to Him. Ask what it tells you about His character. Grow to love Him for who He is, not who you want Him to be. (click here to read more)

On New Year’s goals: 23 Realistic Goals for 2017 by Jeremy Howard

13. Pray over your children.
Have you ever taken a moment to walk into your child’s room while she was sleeping and pray for her? If you have, you know how special that is. Do it more often. Pray that your child(ren) will be filled with wisdom from above. If your children are older — or even out of the house — they need your prayers even more. (click here to read more)

On church and the decisions you make in life: Do You Make Life Decisions with Your Church in Mind by Joshua Hedger

Do you consider the church in the decisions of your life? Do you ask yourself how your job change could affect your church? Do you consider how your moving would impact the work of God through your church in your community? Do you seek insight into how your decision to leave or stay at your local church would affect the advancement of the gospel?

Chances are, like so many of us so many times, you don’t think about the church very much in these decisions. “If decision A was better for me, then it must be the right decision.” I didn’t pay much attention to how that decision impacted the rest of the church. But what we see in Paul’s thought process here was a communal and missional mindset in his decision process. He thought about how his decision would affect the community of Christians (the church) and the mission (the advancement of the gospel). (click here to read more)

On “Amazing Grace” and the new year: God Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far by Tony Reinke

At the start of every year, Newton set aside a day to reflect on life. He was at one time a hardened sailor in the slave trade. He was broken and humbled and redeemed. And he was aware of the ongoing grace upholding his life. And his future was completely in the hands of God’s mercy, too. Like David, Newton saw grace in 3D — past, present, and future. (click here to read more)

 

Good Reads 12.28.16 (on: family devotions, infertility, and more)

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

On doing family devotions in 2017: 10 Ideas and 10 Tips for Family Devotions by Tim Challies

Sometimes it’s best for mom and dad to do the reading from their own Bible, and especially so when children are young. But as children get older and more adept at reading, it may be best to get each child a Bible so they can follow along. When you do this, you can have each person take a turn reading aloud. It may be too clunky to read one verse per person, but perhaps each person can read a few verses at a time. Or perhaps you can have one person read each day’s entire passage. This gets children comfortable with reading (and perhaps praying) in front of others while also pushing for deeper engagement with the text. (click here to read more)

On facing infertility: Infertility in the Arms of the Church by Liz Wann

While barren women bearing children is a cause for rejoicing, long-term or permanent infertility is also a cause for grieving. These are the stories that we don’t like to tell. They bear the marks of hard truths about God. It is good to rejoice in answered prayer, but how do we rejoice when prayers go unanswered? We can trust the God who calms our storms, but can we trust the God who sends them to us?

Those struggling with infertility are like the saints of old who didn’t see the immediate earthly fruits of their faith, but who clung to the promises of God regardless of earthly circumstances (Hebrews 11:39). Our hope is not in the happy ending of a miracle baby, but in the eternal happy ending of all God’s children when they are fully and finally united as one with Christ. (click here to read more)

On family: Do Something Awesome and Build a Family by Owen Strachan

The common life-script among a good number of my peers (both Christian and non-Christian, surprisingly) is basically this:

Have fun now (20s and 30s).
Have as many relationships as you want; keep them as minimally defined as possible.
Make lots of money, pursue your career with super-intensity; alternately, goof off and avoid pursuing anything hard.
Eventually, in your late 30s and 40s, think about settling down. Then, maybe have a few children.

From my little pocket of the Internet, I would like to register a different opinion: Building a family is awesome. Besides the gift of a husband or wife, children are a great gift of God to humanity. Like Adam shouting for joy over the discovery of Eve, the Psalmist shouts praise to God for the blessing of little ones… (click here to read more)

On prayer: Does God Get Your Leftovers? by Bonnie McKernan

Does prayer require so little of us that we’re content to give God our careless leftovers, when there’s nothing particularly pressing at work or interesting on Facebook? If we want to revive our families, and our church, and our nation, then we must revive prayer — and it must begin with us. (click here to read more)

 

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)

Marriage is one plus one plus one (a meditation)

Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, was a call to God’s people to return to a life of spiritual holiness in anticipation of greater things to come. Part of this calling was God’s rebuke upon habitual sins that plagued the people. Included in this was rampant divorce.

Divorce is always a touchy subject because of how many people it has affected throughout the years. Most of us have someone we hold dear who has been through a divorce if we ourselves have not experienced it. The Bible does give some allowance for divorce in which the one who is hurt is not guilty of sin (such as in cases of adultery or abandonment); but this allowance is grace in a sin-corrupted world and not the way things are meant to be.

Divorce is never presented as a positive in the Bible. We see this in Malachi 2 as well as a reason to fight against it as much as possible (making gracious allowances, still, when necessary). Simply put, marriage is not just the joining of two people but three.

Malachi wrote:

Did God not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? (Malachi 2:15)

Genesis 2 speaks about how a man and woman, coming together as husband and wife, become one flesh—this a reference to sex as well as the spiritual, emotional, and physical union of being a new family unity. Malachi informs us that in addition to this, especially in context of his people, God gives his Spirit to the union. Malachi doesn’t go into details, and not every Bible translation states this the same way (it is a segment of scripture notoriously hard for scholars to translate), so we can’t push too many details here.

But whatever the specifics of the couple’s union with God’s Spirit through marriage, it is clear that God intends the family relationship to have a central place in worship and discipleship. Malachi further wrote: “And what as the one God seeking? Godly offspring.”

In Deuteronomy 6, God had commanded through the law for parents to teach their children about him using scripture and other stories of our faith history. With the provision of God’s Spirit, this is not simply a command but something God empowers his people to do.

A godly family, then, led by a husband and wife devoted to God and to one another, serve as a source of light in the dark world. After the time that Jesus spent on the earth, Paul went so far to write that marriage represents the relationship between Jesus and his people, the church (Ephesians 5:25-33). Marriage, God-focused and at its best, provides a picture of the gospel to our children and to the world around us. This is why Malachi called the people to remember their covenant union and the inclusion of God’s Spirit and to combat their own propensity to break their union.

So let us work to strengthen our marriages and show the world God’s love through them as we remember that God is in the union he designed. Marriage is one plus one plus one.

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

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