Good Reads 09.20.17 (on: encouragement, worship, and more!)

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

On church and worship: Sunday Morning Is Not About Me by Stephen Witmer

As one who longs for spiritual transformation in myself and others, I really want to know how God turns a call to worship (Psalm 33:1–3) into a response of genuine and joyful worship (Psalm 33:20–22). How does he form a people who will say, “Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name”?

The real treasure of this psalm is that it answers that question. It gives us reasons to worship — Psalm 33:4 begins with the word “because” — and these reasons are not about us; they’re about God. The psalmist feeds our minds and fires our hearts with the character of God:… (click here to read more)

On encouragement: The Necessity of Encouragement by Charles Spurgeon

Labour to help others, and especially strive to encourage them. Talk cheerily to the young and anxious enquirer, lovingly try to remove stumblingblocks out of his way. When you find a spark of grace in the heart, kneel down and blow it into a flame. Leave the young believer to discover the roughness of the road by degrees, but tell him of the strength which dwells in God, of the sureness of the promise, and of the charms of communion with Christ. Aim to comfort the sorrowful, and to animate the desponding. (click here to read more)

On sex: What’s the Purpose of Sex by Tim Challies

We do, indeed, have a natural appetite for sex. Yet this appetite is given by God and is to be used in ways that are consistent with his design. Paul’s reply to the Corinthian church tells why this view is so dangerous. He begins by quoting their words but then immediately counters them: “‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” (1 Corinthians 6:13). While it is true that God has made us sexual beings and given us a natural appetite for sex, we must remember that sex is God’s idea and God’s gift. As the creator of our bodies and the author of sex, it is God who determines how the gift must be expressed, and it is God to whom we will ultimately give an account for how we used it. God has made us for himself, and we have no right to use his gifts for purposes that dishonor him. (click here to read more)

On marriage and singleness: Your Letter to Your Future Spouse by Kelly Needham

Undoubtedly, marriage is a treasured gift many Christians will receive. Instituted by God before the fall, and intended to showcase the beauty of the gospel, marriage ought to be highly regarded by God’s people. But marriage is no savior. It cannot rescue, redeem, or ultimately fulfill us. It has no final power to save us from our loneliness, emptiness, or purposelessness. Believing marriage can do the work of God himself is to serve an idol.

So, in the interests of putting marriage in its proper place, here are four reasons to set your hope in a present Christ rather than a future husband or wife. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 09.14.17 (on friendship, singleness, and more!)

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

On Christian friendships: The Painful Paradox of Christian Friendships by Ronni Kurtz

Friendships between Christians are a bit of a peculiar thing. We know that eternally all we need is Christ, yet we feel temporally that we have a desperate need for each other. God shows off his kindness in fewer things more than allowing his children to walk through their days with one another. We are called to a laundry list of “one another” imperatives: love one another, rebuke one another, bear one another’s burdens, forgive one another, provide for one another, and so forth the glorious commands to live for the good of another go.

The relationships between believers is different because it’s not built around a small commonality of cultural taste or preference; it’s built around seeing to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God as we march hand and hand with our brothers and sisters towards the promise land. This eternal drum beat that our feet move to causes a bond that other friendships just can’t quite have. They are deep, they are meaningful, and they stir our affections for Jesus. (click here to read more)

On grief: How to Grieve Like a Christian by Tim Challies

Grieve hopefully. When Paul says, “you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” he is really saying something like, “we grieve, but not in the same way as all those other people who have no hope.” Or, “even though we do grieve, we grieve differently from those other hopeless people.” Again, we see there’s a distinctly Christian way to express grief. We must not grieve like unbelievers do. What is this Christian form of grieving? Christians experience grief but without despair, sorrow but without defeat, sadness but without hopelessness. It’s true sorrow and true hope. (click here to read more)

On marriage and hard times: When Marriage Is Filled with Worse, Poorer, and Sickness by Sarah Walton

If your marriage is struggling under the weight of trials and both you and your spouse have a desire to follow Christ, I would like to encourage you with a few ways that the suffering we endure throughout marriage can be a disguised blessing to bring about a richer, deeper, Christ-centered marriage. And if you are married to a spouse who is not following the Lord, I pray that God will use those trials to draw him/her to a saving relationship with Christ.

So how can the trials that we face in our marriage bring about a greater richness to our relationship with Christ and one another? (click here to read more)

On singleness: Are You ‘Not Yet Married’? by Marshall Segal

Being “not-yet-married” is not about dwelling on the negative. If you are in Christ, you are never again defined by what you are not. You have too much in him to be discouraged about not having anything else — even things as important in this life as a job, or a spouse, or children. The things that fill our lives and make us happy here are simple grains of sand compared to the endless beaches of knowing Christ.

It was, after all, an unmarried man who said, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him” (Philippians 3:8–9). (click here to read more)

Good Reads 09.06.17 (on: parenting, forgiveness, and doubt)

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

On sin and forgiveness: If All My Sins Are Forgiven, Why Must I Continue to Repent? by Stephen Wellum

As we live our lives and unfortunately sin, we need to return to God in repentance and faith and seek his forgiveness. Yet we do so on the basis of Christ’s work applied to us in our justification. Such an experience is not a new justification but a renewed application of our justification.

When we sin, we lose our consciousness of forgiveness and our sense of peace with God. So when we confess our sins, by the work of the Spirit, we are reawakened to what Christ has done for us, and God revives our security in him and assurance of our salvation. Believers, then, continue to pray daily for forgiveness—not with the despair of one who thinks he is lost, but in the confidence of justified and adopted children approaching a heavenly Father who has declared them just in Jesus Christ. (click here to read more)

On parenting and our need for God: The Glory of a Father: Parenting on Fumes and Grace by David Mathis

Parenting young kids means running regularly on emotional fumes. My wife and I had our fourth in April. We haven’t yet found that elusive “new normal” that feels sufficiently manageable, and I’m beginning to suspect we won’t for some time. But it seems this is right where God wants us: desperate, exhausted, dependent.

God does not call me as a daddy to have enough strength now for next year, next month, next week, or even tomorrow. Just for today. Be faithful today. Don’t check out today. Ask God to provide the energy needed to finish this day well as the head of this home. Sufficient for each day is trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34). His mercies will be new tomorrow (Lamentations 3:22–23). (click here to read more)

On doubt and insecurity: What To Do When You’re Stuck in Doubt by Michael Kelley

All of us know the feeling of kicking yourself for missing something. Sometimes it’s as simple as going to sleep before the 4th quarter of a football game; other times, it’s that you make the conscious choice to be one place instead of another. Maybe it’s staying at the office instead of being at the ball game or the dance recital – and then knowing immediately that you have missed something big. Something important. It’s that feeling of second guessing yourself, over and over again, knowing you could have made different scheduling choices to be where you ought to have been, but you didn’t.

But this was not missing the opening few minutes of a play or walking in a few minutes late to a party. Thomas missed Jesus. And just as we don’t know why he wasn’t there, we don’t really know what was going on in his mind. We only know what he said: “If I don’t see the mark of his nails in His hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will never believe!” (John 20:25) (click here to read more)

Good Reads 08.24.17 (on: parenting, prayer, Bible reading, and more!)

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

On parenting and discipleship: 8 Tips to Help You Disciple Your Kids by Dembowczyk

One of the main problems we have as parents is that we expect way too much of ourselves when it comes to discipling our kids, and when we can’t live up to them, we feel like failures and often quit. Family worship doesn’t have to look like worship with your church family with singing, prayer, and lengthy and in-depth Bible teaching. Gospel conversations don’t always have to end with some profound theological gem from you. We need to be realistic of what our family discipleship will look like. Perhaps that means talking about a Bible story for 15 minutes one night a week at dinner and trying to find one or two times each week to move conversations toward the gospel. Wherever you are, start there and develop rhythms and habits that work and then build on them to get to where you want to be. (click here to read more)

On Bible reading: 4 Bible Reading Strategies for Reading Plan Quitters by Scott Slayton

When you read large portions of Scripture, you will consistently see passages where you want to slow down and read more carefully. Keep a list of these passages and when reading large sections starts to feel tedious, spend some time reading only one chapter or less each day for a while.

When you do this, make sure that you read with a pencil and a notebook. Write out what you are reading on your notebook. Skip a line so that you leave yourself room to write notes. Then, go through the passage slowly. Mark significant words. Look for words that the writer uses more than once. Take note of the connecting words like “for,” “therefore,” “but,” “so that,” or “in order that” and pay attention to how they connect one clause in the passage to another. (click here to read more)

On joy and prayer: Ask Him for Joy by Mike Phay

Jesus references a radical change in relationship between his followers and his Father that will happen through his mediating work; specifically, through his redemptive death, burial, resurrection and ascension. Jesus is assuring his gathered disciples that “that day” will come when direct access to the Father will take place. In that day, Jesus says that we will be able to ask directly, that is, we will be able to pray. We will be able to approach the Father directly in Jesus’ name and through his mediating work—and we will be the ones asking (“I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf”). In turn, the Father himself will be the one hearing, listening, and responding, “for the Father himself loves you.” (click here to read more)

On Bible interpretation: Are You REALLY Interpreting the Bible Literally by Stephen Altrogge

Understanding the original intent of the passage guards us from reading a modern meaning back into scripture. Does it take work and study and thinking to wrestle the original meaning from the text? You bet. But it’s valuable, necessary work.

Why do so many people end up twisting scripture? Because they infuse their modern, “enlightened” sensibilities into the text, taking it far away from what the author originally meant. (click here to read more)

 

Good Reads 08.17.17 (on: life and death, racism, and more)

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

On our union with Christ: A Beautiful Union for Broken Hearts by Allyson Todd

Doubts flood my mind when I feel pain. Will God ever relent? If He loved me, wouldn’t he end this? I can’t seem to move past my heartbreak, so does that mean I’m not a Christian?

If we belong to Christ’s blood-bought tribe of sojourners, we are fully His. Our faithfulness is dependent upon the One who dwells within us. This means that we can doubt our doubts. Even if we don’t feel like God hears us and struggle with doubt, we know that we belong to Jesus. (click here to read more)

On battling racism: Race, the Gospel, and the Moment by Tim Keller

First, Christians should look at the energized and emboldened white nationalism movement, and at its fascist slogans, and condemn it—full stop. No, “But on the other hand.” The main way most people are responding across the political spectrum is by saying, “See? This is what I have been saying all along! This just proves my point.” The conservatives are using the events to prove that liberal identity politics is wrong, and liberals are using it to prove that conservatism is inherently racist. We should not do that.

Second, this is a time to present the Bible’s strong and clear teachings about the sin of racism and of the idolatry of blood and country—again, full stop. In Acts 17:26, in the midst of an evangelistic lecture to secular, pagan philosophers, Paul makes the case that God created all the races “from one man.” Paul’s Greek listeners saw other races as barbarian, but against such views of racial superiority Paul makes the case that all races have the same Creator and are of one stock. (click here to read more)

On parenting: Loving Your Hard-to-Like Kids by Laura Booz

I wish I could say that I don’t relate to these questions, but I do. I have disliked each of our children at one time or another. For years, I have kept these occasional struggles to myself because I don’t like when I don’t like my own precious children.

My children are hurt by my broken affection; it permeates how I speak to them and how I treat them. I’ve worried about how it may affect them in the long run. Do you ever feel the same way?

God is leading me on a mission to understand and overcome this struggle. And I want to share the things He’s teaching me that are helping me to gain some perspective and victory. I hope they help you, too. (click here to read more)

On death and life: My Left Knee: A Heartwarming Story of Creeping Death by Jared C. Wilson

My left knee is a reminder that I am groaning for redemption. I am slowly wasting away, giving way to the real me, the one made in the likeness of my Redeemer, strong knees and all. And on that day I finally see his face, my knee won’t hurt any more. And I won’t care any more, or think about it to care. I’ll run tirelessly, leap fearlessly, even school you on the basketball court.

Until then, though, my left knee is a reminder that death is coming, but also that, charmingly enough, so is an eternal lease on life.

One day this knee will bow before its Maker. And all will be well. (click here to read more)

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)