Good Reads 04.24.18 (on family)

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

On family worship: A video by Don Whitney on helping with the struggles of family worship–click here

On parenting: How to Parent Fearful Kids by William Smith

First, please don’t tell them that there’s nothing to be afraid of. They know better. They know that they might fail or get hurt. Telling them there’s nothing to fear will only convince them that they understand the world better than you do. If they think you see less than they do, you’ll only convince them that you have nothing to offer.

Instead, acknowledge that they’re scared and either ask or guess what frightens them. Then, to the extent that you can, tell them that you get it. Let them know you understand why that’s scary for them. At the same time, though, remind them they’re not alone. Tell them you’re there with them and they don’t have to fight their fear all by themselves. (click here to read more)

On siblings: How to End Sibling Rivalry Like a Christian by Jen Wilkin

Why do we discount the vision of our kids as each others’ dearest friends? Why do we settle for rivalry? Frankly, as a parent, it’s easier to be a referee than a reconciler. It’s easier to separate than to shepherd—at least in the short-term.

But as I witness the deep friendship that has grown between my kids, I affirm that the long-term benefit was worth the effort. A friend who sticks closer than a brother is a rare gem. A sibling who is a best friend is a treasure for a lifetime. And a Christian family filled with siblings who are friends bears compelling testimony to the gospel of peace. (click here to read more)

On the struggles of aging: Navigating Through Difficult Seasons of Life by Darrell Deer

Maybe you, too, are in a season of struggle. Perhaps your season, like mine, involves helping the people you love navigate the difficulties of aging. Or, maybe your struggles fall into a completely different category. Whatever the context of your life right now, I imagine the lessons above still have relevance for you. Learn to focus on the step in front of you. Be encouraged by the people around you. Dive deep into the pool of prayer and trust confidently in a sovereign God. May He help each of us manage the difficult seasons of our lives. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 01.25.18 (on: purpose, the Holy Spirit, and more!)

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

On hope, fear, and the future: Most of Life Is Waiting by Jani Ortlund

Hold your fears loosely. Bring them to God and offer them to him with open hands, asking him to replace your fears with hope. Let go of your fears and hold on to him. As we leave our fears with him, he will quiet us by his love (Zephaniah 3:17), helping us to ask ourselves, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (Psalm 43:5).

And what does that hope look like? It looks as satisfying and secure as God himself, because real hope is a person. Paul tells us in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” When we hold on to the God of hope, what we have then is not a psychological uplift, but God himself as our ally for every doubt and danger. (click here to read more)

On giving: How Much Money Am I Supposed to Give Away by Tim Challies

When I say we are to give enough that it matters, I mean that we should give enough that it makes a difference to our lives, to our lifestyles. Erwin Lutzer says it well: “Those who give much without sacrifice are reckoned as having given little.” We are meant to give enough that there are things we cannot do and cannot have because of our dedication to the Lord’s work. Let me be clear that I do not mean that we should do without food or we should do without paying our bills. The sacrifice is to be ours and not the bank’s or the landlord’s. Giving “as he may prosper” is not calling us to give beyond the ways the Lord has prospered us. There are theological traditions that insist that going into debt in order to “plant a seed” will ensure God’s provision in return. God may choose to do that, but wisdom dictates that we ensure that we are able to pay our bills and feed our children. We are to be generous, but we are to be wise as well. (click here to read more)

On the Holy Spirit: The Holy Spirit Is not an It by Jared Wilson

The Holy Spirit cannot be pumped and scooped. He cannot be slung around, gathered up, or dispensed. He’s not pixie dust. In this sense, there is no such thing as the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit is not a thing at all, but the very presence of the personal God himself—with us, in us, and around us.

Yes, the Holy Spirit’s power is something we really do experience, really do have access to, really can be more aware of or less—that is what this entire book is about, after all—but we never, in any sense whatsoever, can think of ourselves as controlling the Holy Spirit. You may as well try controlling ten thousand hurricanes at once. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). (click here to read more)

On purpose: The Surprising Truth About Finding Your Purpose by Mark Altrogge

You know what I love about this verse? It doesn’t talk about me finding MY purpose for my life. It talks about the Lord fulfilling HIS purpose for my life. This is great news. The Lord has a purpose for every single person who has believed in Jesus and called upon him to save them. God isn’t wondering what to do with me; he knows exactly what he is going to do. He has plans for the life of every one of his children. (click here to read more)

Even Molecules Obey

When they saw Jesus walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke with them and said, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” – Mark 6:49-50 (CSB)

After miraculously feeding thousands, Jesus told the apostles to board a boat and head to the opposite shore. He stayed behind for some time to pray alone. During the night, a storm formed that caused even the experienced fishermen to struggle.

In these conditions, Jesus stepped onto the water and began walking to the other side. When the disciples saw him and were frightened, Jesus spoke to calm them.

Both this and the feeding show Jesus’ absolute control over nature as the Son of God. Even the molecules of water beneath his feet bend to his will. This also shows the calming effect of God upon his people.

Scripture often confronts our fearful hearts with the command “don’t be afraid.” Fear and faith are opposite poles. Fear comes when we look at a situation and find it overwhelming, sometimes being overwhelmed by the sense of the unknown. Fear creeps in at times when we think we have perfectly rational reasons while other fear is irrational from every angle that we can view it.

Faith, however, trusts that God is actually in control. Even if we don’t understand a situation, even if it does overwhelm our abilities, and even if it ultimately leaves us drowned in a sea. Faith looks to God and says, “I trust you no matter what, because you are good, you love me, and you are bigger than everything in the universe you created.”

Trust Jesus in faith. Trust him even with your deepest fears. After all, there is not a molecule in creation beyond his control.

Mark 6_50

Image taken and modified from pixabay.com.

Faith Conquers Fear

A great windstorm arose and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was a great calm. Then he said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” – Mark 4:37-40 (CSB)

People have many things to fear. Do a google search for the number of phobias and you will run into seemingly unending lists. Whatever our own individual fears might be, we find this truth in the gospel: Faith conquers fear.

One evening, Jesus wanted to cross the sea with his apostles and so they left the crowds behind and set sail in a boat. While on their way, a great windstorm arose that frightened even the seasoned fishermen. And where was Jesus? Asleep.

The disciples had been with Jesus long enough to know that he was someone special, though they hadn’t yet fully come to realize his nature as the God-Man, our Savior-King. So, they woke him and asked if he even cared that they were going to die?

Jesus responded first by rebuking the winds and second by rebuking their lack of faith. The first act reminded them that he was the Son of God, and therefore the Sovereign over the universe. Every molecule in the rushing air and crashing seas obeyed his voice. The second act reminded them that they were his followers and instead of fear they needed to trust.

Faith trusts that God is in charge and he will take care of his people. He will keep us safe on earth as he wills to keep us safe, and even when he wills that death should overtake us, he will keep us safe by bringing us home to him.

This is why, especially after Jesus’ death and resurrection, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit, the apostles learned to stare down danger and remain faithful to God’s leading on their life. In prison, knowing he was going to die at the hands of Roman officials, Paul said, “The Lord has kept me safe and he will keep me safe” (2 Timothy 4).

The world might give you many reasons to fear. Your own proclivities might lead you to fear. Your Father in heaven, however, says, “Have no fear, I will take care of you regardless of what you see happening.” So, entrust your life and your fears to him and let his word and Spirit strengthen you.

Faith conquers fear.

Mark 4_39

Image taken and modified from pixabay.com

Don’t Fear the Fiery Furnace (a meditation)

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” ~ Daniel 3:16-18

During Judah’s exile into Babylon, three Jewish friends served in the government of King Nebuchadnezzar. At one point the king decided to make a massive statue, overlaid with gold, and called all the leaders and authorities in the land to come to its dedication. When they heard the music play, they were commanded to fall down and worship the statue or face death in a fiery furnace.

Given to worship the One True God and not beholden to the gods of Babylon, though these friends respected and worked for the king, they refused to bow. The king had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego arrested and gave them one last opportunity to obey his command. Their response illustrates the heart of what it means to worship God and fear no one else.

They told the king that they would not bow, they expressed faith that God would deliver them from a fiery fate, but, they said, “Even if he does not, we will not worship your image.”

Though they lived hundreds of years before the life of Jesus, they lived out what Jesus taught: “Do not fear those who can only kill the body” (Matthew 10:28).

In the case of these friends, God did miraculously rescue them. The king had the fire burn as hot as he could and tossed them into the furnace, fully clothed and bound. Yet when he looked he saw the three of them and then a fourth man walking around quite alive and unbound. He called for them to come out and the three emerged without a scratch or singe.

Such could only happen by the protection of the One God who created and sustains all things.

So we who follow Jesus are to have the same attitude. Many things can happen in this world: persecutions, famine, disaster, terrorism, disease, accidents, and the list could go on. There are so many things that could threaten our lives and bring an end to our time on earth. Some we may see coming, others may take us by surprise. In neither case are we to be afraid.

The song “The Shadow of Death” by The Whistle and the Bells says, “But death can stare me in the eye but, oh, I will not blink. Oh, the shadow of death is not the end of my story, for the shadow of death is but my entrance to glory.”

This is the attitude of faith: No matter the situation, we trust in the hand of God to rescue us from danger and death; but even if he doesn’t, we will still trust in him because he will bring us into his glorious Kingdom through death. Don’t fear the fiery furnace.

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

Against the Flow (a meditation)

The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear…” ~ Isaiah 8:11-13

How we view the world around us and the powers that control it determines much about how we live our lives. Fear and anger seem to be en vogue in the current season. On YouTube you can find rightwing and leftwing conspiracy theorists aplenty. In the news we are constantly shown images of murder, hatred, and war, as well as bombarded with threats of terror. In different wings of political discourse and debate we are told to fear those outside our country, those inside, those with different views, those who might threaten our comforts, and on and on.

The more things change the more they stay the same.

Isaiah wrote his prophecy to the people of Judah throughout the reign of four different kings. During Ahaz’s rule, the nation lacked strong character in government. King Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel conspired together to attack Judah. Yet even with God’s assurance these two nations would fall at the hands of Assyria, there was doubt among the people and especially among the king.

Because of this rejection of him, God warned that judgment would also come against Judah by the hands of Assyria (8:5-10). Yet this would be different than the fates that befell other nations. With Ahaz’s son Hezekiah on the throne, Assyria’s armies marched up to the gates and walls of Jerusalem but no further before turning back (Isaiah 36-37).

In the midst of this turmoil, rejection of God, and fear, God called Isaiah and others faithful to him to a different mindset. They were not to think like the rest in their country and culture. They were not to see conspiracies and fear the things that frightened others.

The only one to fear was the Lord himself, and fearing him would be their deliverance. Isaiah was told that the Lord “will keep you safe. But to Israel and Judah he will be a stone that makes people stumble…a trap and a snare” (8:14).

No matter what was happening around them, Isaiah and the faithful were to follow a different path. We who are followers of Jesus are called to the same.

Jesus said not to fear those who can kill the body, but rather the One who can cast both body and soul into hell (Matthew 10:28). Paul said not to conform to the ways of the world but to be transformed in thinking by God (Romans 12:2).

As Christians we know that Someone Else is in charge: the Creator of all things, the One who gave us Jesus to save us from sin, death, and hell. He is the One who works all things—the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly—to the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). The One who will guide us safely into his Kingdom and presence, even if our lives are cut short by those who can kill the body but can’t touch the soul (2 Timothy 4:6, 16-18).

Therefore, we don’t let ourselves be manipulated by messages of fear and dread. We don’t let others convince us to fear those who think and act differently than us. Instead, we swim against the stream of fear by trusting God, following his teachings, and sharing his love. After all, that is our great motive as those who belong to Jesus: love God supremely; love others deeply.

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

Isaiah 8_11-12

Good Reads 11.10.15 (on: prayers for marriage, battling sin, faith and fear, and more!)

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

On battling sin by imagining the greater joys: Imagine Your Way to Joy by Bryce Young

However, dismissing the imagination from the Christian life will neither save us from sin nor help us grow in righteousness. In fact, all hope of putting off the old man and putting on the new rests in a God-given, Christ-purchased, Spirit-empowered redemption of the imagination. What does “the new man” look like? We are given many details, but without the imagination, application is impossible. We know that the new man puts on kindness (Colossians 3:12), but one can only live out that kindness after the imagination has painted some concrete mental picture of the virtue. (click here to read more)

On things to pray for your marriage: Ten Great Prayers for Every Marriage by Ron Edmondson

Dear Lord, help us to love each other unconditionally. Dear Lord, allow us to respect one another in an empowering way. Dear Lord, teach us how to complete each other, building us into one unit You design. (click here to read more)

On the importance of taking part in a church gathering: Seven Reasons Not to Skip Church by Garrett Kell

The New Testament pattern of church life is that believers come together on the first day of the week to worship and serve the Lord, and that they regularly sit together at the Lord’s Table to remember His death on their behalf (1 Corinthians 11; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Hebrews 10:24-26). Consistent with that established pattern, church members ought to voluntarily commit to regularly attend services at the church. Faithful church attendance does not earn salvation, nor does it act as a measure to rate spiritual greatness over and against other people. It does, however, reflect a growing commitment to the gospel, the good of the church community, and spiritual health. (click here to read more)

On Starbucks cups and real persecution: You Are Not Being Persecuted by Jess Novello

I am especially bothered by these claims of persecution in light of what is happening to our Christian brothers and sisters all over the globe. Every month, three hundred and twenty-two Christians are killed for their faith and seven hundred and seventy-two acts of violence are committed against Christians because of their faith. These acts of violence can include physical abuse, rape, beatings, false imprisonment, etc. This is persecution. Starbucks having plain red (okay, ombre…) cups is not the same as being imprisoned for over three years in an Iranian prison for your religion like Saeed Abedini. Persecution is real. It’s happening all over the world. It’s happening right now. It is brutal, terrible, horrific, and devastating. But, it is not happening at the hand of Starbucks or their red cups. (click here to read more)

On fear and faith: Afraid of Faith by Paul Tripp

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: no matter how theologically trained my brain is, my heart is still prone to forget. So once more today, I will remind myself of the truths of the Bible, not because my brain needs to be taught a new concept, but because my wandering heart needs to be ushered back into the throne room of grace. (click here to read more)