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)

Good Reads 08.02.17 (on: serving, relationships, imagination, and more!)

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

On church and serving: When Serving the Local Church Isn’t Fun by Bethany Mathis

I tell this story to share with you a real life example of when service in the church isn’t glamorous or fun. Should I quit serving in the children’s ministry because I don’t like it very much? No. Should I continue to serve with a begrudging attitude? Absolutely not. God has had some work to do in this heart.

You see, I am part of a church congregation who needs people to step up and do things that don’t always feel awesome. That’s how we function. Sometimes we will serve in capacities that we love and in doing so it requires little emotional sacrifice. Other times we are asked to serve in ways that require more of us. Yet even when it’s hard and tiring and not the thing you love, we can allow God to use it to transform our hearts and make us more like Him in the process. (click here to read more)

On relationships and loneliness: Loneliness is Killing Us by David Murray

We need friends. We need confidants (Proverbs 17:17, 27:5-6), companions (Ecc. 4:9-10), comforters (Job 2:11, 16:20-21), encouragers (Proverbs 27:17, 1 Thess. 5:11). The Bible is full of verses like these exhorting us in our friendships, showing us who and who not to have as friends, and outlining the many, many reasons we need others in our lives. Jesus Himself during his time on earth developed deep, rich friendships with three of His disciples, and also calls us “friend” (John 15:15). How important, then, this kind of relationship must be! (click here to read more)

On the spiritual condition of one’s heart: Is the Heart Deceitful Above All Things? Well, Maybe… by Stephen Altrogge

When you read the Old Testament promises of a new covenant, it becomes beautifully, startlingly clear that God intended to replace his people’s dead, sick, deceitful, putrid, decaying hearts with something else entirely.

With new hearts that pulsed and hammered and thrummed with spiritual life. With hearts awash with the Holy Spirit and bent toward obedience rather than idolatry. (click here to read more)

On the riches of the imagination and future hope: Like Those Who Dream: An Imagination of the New Creation by Bryan Elliff

Thus we have a strange song of ascents. Since Mt. Zion and its temple have been destroyed, it’s clearly not a psalm about the Mt. Zion that is, but about the Mt. Zion that will be.

And his mind is full of imagination. “What is it like for the captives of Zion when they come home?” he asks. They are like those who dream. It is an experience so incredibly joyful that they can hardly believe it’s happening. You might know the surreal feeling of finally experiencing something that you’ve waited for a long time, like a wedding or the birth of a child. You can’t believe it. You feel almost dazed. (click here to read more)

The Worth of Friends (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. ~Proverbs 27:17

In Proverbs 27, Solomon has a lot to say about the need for friendship. These aren’t mere surface level, go grab a bite and a movie, acquaintances with whom you share some common interests. No, these are friendships that run deep to the core.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. ~Proverbs 27:6

We need friends not yes-men and yes-women. We need people who are willing to speak truth lovingly into our lives, people who are able to help us see our flaws. Such friends love us anyway, despite our flaws, but this love desires to help us be better people, more focused on Jesus. So they will speak honestly to us and rebuke us when we need it, even if they know their words will not sit well in the moment.

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. ~Proverbs 27:9

This is basically the positive side of 27:6. Not only will friends rebuke us when necessary, but they’ll offer sage advice when we need it. The best of friends have our best interests at heart, meaning they have our Christ-likeness at heart. So, they will help guide us on the way as we seek to help guide them on the way.

Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend… ~Proverbs 27:10

Relationships take cultivation. Deep friendships are no different. If you want friends who will be with you through the ups and the downs, through the joys and the days of trouble, then it will take effort today.

As iron sharpens iron…

The proverb to open this post reminds us again of the truth of accountability. The way we become sharper—more spiritually mature, more able to navigate life, and more useful to the disciplemaking call of Jesus—is through friends who will hold us accountable, help us grow, and help us become sharper. This means that sparks will fly, but since “faithful are the wounds of a friend”, this is a good thing.

Great friends are priceless. So, deepen those relationships and work on developing friendships that will sharpen you.

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Good Reads 01.25.17 (on: friendships, praying for leaders, and more!)

On friendship: Friends Your Age Are Not Enough by Jaquelle Crowe

Yet while having friends of the same age is normal and natural, we miss something special when we don’t have any friends who are of different ages than us, particularly in Christian community. Christians share a bond and identity that trumps everything else — job, race, and most definitely age. If there’s no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, there should be neither old nor young (Galatians 3:28).

Age should not build walls. Jesus should tear them down. When we put aside our preference for people just like us, we broadcast the beauty of our shared union with Christ. (click here to read more)

On aging gracefully: Greater Age Brings Greater Responsibility by Tim Challies

Then there is the responsibility of example, of setting an example of the character and conduct that God commends. We expect little from children when it comes to modeling such traits. But as they grow into their teens and then pass into their 20s and 30s, we rightly expect much more. With aging we gain the special responsibility of setting an example to those who are younger than we are. Titus 2:2-3 lays out specific ways that older people are to serve as an example to younger people. “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good…” Older men are to cultivate and display specific character traits—traits that are appropriate for their age and lacking in those who are younger. Older women, too, gain new responsibilities of character and conduct that serve as an example to younger women. (click here to read more)

On prayer for national leaders: You Should Pray for Donald Trump No Matter How You Voted by Russell Moore

After all, we live in a society in which politics has become a badge of tribal identity. Many see their political “side” as the force for good, and the other “side” as the total opposite. That’s why one can take poll questions on issues and get opposite opinions, from the same people polled, based on whether the issue is associated by the pollster with one president or another. Prayer can become that way.

We can pray in a way that wants absolute success for officials we like, and total defeat for those we oppose. That’s not the way Christians pray.

Consistently, no matter who is in office, we are to pray for success. That doesn’t mean we pray for all of any leader’s ideas to be realized. But it means that we pray that he or she would succeed, would carry out an agenda that leads to the flourishing of the rest of society and, particularly, so that the church may “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (click here to read more)

On being a part of the church community: The Life-Changing Magic of Showing Up by Ricky Alcantar

We are obsessed with lifehacks and shortcuts today. Everywhere ads hit us with easy trick to grow our investments, to make dinner prep a breeze, to give us a toned body in seven minutes, to rack up credit card points. We’re tempted to believe that maybe, somehow, there’s a real shortcut there for Christian community and spiritual growth.

Certainly tips and tricks for daily life stuff have their place, but the writer of Hebrews gives us the opposite of a shortcut: “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.” (Heb 10:24-25)

That’s his charge: think about how to stir up other believers, don’t neglect just showing up week after week at church or in your small group or with your accountability partner and encourage them. No shortcuts. Just refusing to quit. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 09.21.16 (on: friendship, being ordinary, and more!)

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

On the needed wounds through faithful friends: Find a Friend to Wound You by Greg Morse

Praise God then for the faithful wounds of true friends who protect us from ultimate injury. They tell us plainly, “You’re flirting with destruction!” Or, “Spiritual sloth is unacceptable!” Friends who ask us hard questions, who crush the whispering lizard on our shoulder, who are for our eternal soul above our momentary feelings — these are true friends. (click here to read more)

On the goodness of “ordinary”: Stop the Revolution, Join the Plodders by Kevin DeYoung

Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul. And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with the kids, buy the same groceries at the store, and share a bed with the same person every night. Church is often the same too—same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people. But in all the smallness and sameness, God works—like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21). (click here to read more)

On sex and grace: Sex Under the Law, Sex Under Grace by Tim Challies

As a pastor—one who has performed weddings and counseled many couples—I know how many struggle mightily in the early days and months of marriage. So many couples quickly learn that sexual intimacy isn’t immediately as simple, pleasurable, successful, or fulfilling as they had expected, as they had wished, as they had seen modeled in a hundred Hollywood movies. For some this is the case for a short time and for some it is a lifelong struggle. (click here to read more)

On our big God drawing small people into his big mission: Why We All Want to Do Something Bigger by Zach Bradley

Wherever you land in the Scriptures, it’s hard to miss that people are small and God is big. Yet, it was not until I ventured out on mission that I began to own my tiny stature. Serving cross-culturally helped me realize that though God invites me to be part of his monstrous task, it doesn’t so sorely depend on me. In light of being a little one with a great big Father (1 John 2:14), I was invited afresh to “draw near to God with a sincere heart and full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). That, my friend, was a greater high than any summiteer has ever known. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 02.03.16 (on: parenting, friendships, and more!)

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

On the nature of faith and the Christian life: Faith Isn’t All Mountaintop Moments by Lucy Worley

The sign of an authentic relationship with God is that it allows itself to change over time. In any relationship, we have to adapt and fight to overcome new challenges. If we try to cling to how it was at the beginning, we will never grow in actual relationship. The truth of God’s unconditional love for us never changes, but we have to let that truth be expressed differently as needed in different seasons. (click here to read more)

On repentance and sexual history: You Are Not Damaged Goods by Paul Maxwell

You’re going to be okay. It hurts badly. But God walks us through things like this for our good. If he allowed us to be twisted without repercussions, we would all have spiritual nerve damage — getting burned and bruised because we can never feel the pain of dangerous choices. Against all the awful things we might feel about ourselves, God gives us three things when we are rejected because of sexual history. He gives us honor, healing, and hope. (click here to read more)

On parenting: The Importance of Enjoying Your Kids by Ray Ortlund

We all experience sincere enjoyment as love. The Westminster Catechism says that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” When we sincerely enjoy God as our greatest good—at the level of our heart and at the level of our mind—God feels loved. That same principle is true of all interpersonal relationships.

When our children sense that we sincerely enjoy them, they feel loved. Our children have not been sent into our lives as some sort of curse or burden, even though they require and deserve tremendous attention. (click here to read more)

Another on parenting: Patient Parenting by David Murray

If there’s one lesson I’ve learned in parenting five kids (now aged 2, 12, 14, 18, 19), it’s the need for patience. That has not come easily to the second most impatient man in the world, but parenting has certainly exercised and strengthened this spiritual muscle over the years. So much so, I now believe that patience is Christian parents’ greatest need. Here are six areas of parenting where I’ve learned (and am learning) to exercise patience… (click here to read more)

On friendship: Why Friendships Were so much Easier in College by Josh Howerton

Here’s the real reason a lot of people don’t develop meaningful friendships: it’s hard. But here’s the real reason why everyone wishes they had: it’s worth it. Remember, God is a Trinity who has been in the most intimate relationships in the universe for eternity. And because we’re created in God’s image, we were designed to need relationship. (click here to read more)

And finally… some wisdom from Alistair Begg’s instagram feed:

marveling at god (begg)