Good Reads 05.13.15 (on parenting, the future, bible reading, and more)

Here is a collection of good reads over this past week from different blogs:

On parenting: Parenting in the Valley of Dry Bones by Kim Ransleben (click here)

There are moments as a parent when you realize you’ve done a lot less clapping for your kids than you have disciplining them for sin. It can feel like all you do is battle them between errands and events, pick-ups and drop-offs, and much of what you battle lies where you cannot reach, inside hearts which you feel so helpless to change. How can we enjoy our children in those moments when we can’t even think of them without fear of what might come?

On needing to be reminded constantly of the gospel: The Ministry of Reminder by Nick Jones (click here)

If the gospel is an ocean, then a trip to the beach does not suffice. We must continually lead our people back to the water. Each time with different gear, but back to the same ocean. We lead them back with goggles. With glass-bottom boats. With scuba gear. With depth finders. With submarines. We keep leading them back to see what they’ve already seen, to experience what they’ve already experienced, in the hopes that each trip will renew and invigorate their love for their live-giving savior.

Another on parenting and not being able to get back lost time: The Tragedy of Time by Tim Challies (click here)

This is the tragedy of time. Time is one of the few resources in this world that is given in finite measure. I can always make more money—I just need to work harder or work longer or invest better, and more money will come. But there is not a single thing I can do to gain more time. It ticks by and is gone forever.

On the past not defining your future: A Grace-Defined Future by Adam McClendon (click here)

The future for God’s children is defined by the promises of God and not their past. Such a future is exponentially greater than the pain of their past. So, the people of God do not have to carry around their pain.

On Bible reading and spiritual growth: I Read By Bible… And You Won’t Believe What Happened Next by Stephen Altrogge (click here)

When Jesus returns, we will be sanctified in “the twinkling of an eye”. However, while we live on the earth, God works at a much slower pace. God causes us to grow in the same way a tree grows – slow and sure, almost imperceptible at times. God doesn’t change us spectacularly, but he does change us steadily. You can have confidence that he’ll continue to change you.

“How could God love and use me?” (a meditation on the regrets of the past and the joys of now)

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ~ 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Shame.

We all feel it at different times, either for a present failure or a past way of life. The past comes back to haunt you, some people say. We can fear who we were, what we did, and what we feel like doing. It’s these times that the enemy comes and whispers in our ears, “God could never use you. You’re worthless.”

When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, he wrote to a group of people with a lot of problems. He pulled no punches, either. He told them in no uncertain terms, “The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Our sin separates us from the goodness of God.

Paul listed several examples in which most of us could find a home. Maybe its sexual immorality where we have twisted God’s good gift. Maybe its greed and covetousness. Maybe its depending too much on a bottle or a can to drown sorrows and search for happiness. Maybe its…

Paul knew many in the Corinthian church had experienced the things he mentioned. And such were some of you. If that is where Paul stopped, these verses would not carry much hope and joy.

Yet he continued with but—a most powerful tiny contraction. This but changes things. This but pulls us out of shame and guilt and leads us into the joy of God’s grace. This but shows us a new person and a new identity.

In Jesus, we are washed. The sins of our lives once stained us like a child covered in dirt and grime after a day of romping through the mud. Yet God stripped those dirty clothes away, bathed us, and gave us fresh clothes unmarred by the filth. In Jesus we are sanctified. This is to be pure, holy, and righteous like Jesus. It’s a process throughout this life, but it’s also a guarantee. God will rid us fully of the presence and effects of sin, and it will be glorious. In Jesus we are justified. On our own there is shame and there is guilt. We have fallen well short of the righteousness God requires. Yet in giving us Jesus, the one who took our sin, God writes righteousness fulfilled throughout the story of our lives.

We are new. We are set free. We are forgiven. We are God’s beloved children.

underwaterLost and condemned in unrighteousness—such were some of you; but not anymore. This is a glorious breath of fresh air as we emerge from the pool in which we were drowning.

The enemy, Satan, wants to remind us of what was to take our minds off what is. He wants us to dwell on the thoughts of shame and guilt, to suffocate under the questions: “How could God love me? Look at all I’ve done. How could God use me? Look at how much I have failed.”

When God washed our sins away, he washed away the shame and guilt as well. He gives us new life and makes us part of his Family through Jesus precisely because he loves us already (1 John 4:7-21). He gives us new life and makes us part of his Family precisely because he has determined already to use us for his glory (Ephesians 2:10).

When you feel the weight of shame and guilt, when you hear the voice echo in your head, “God can’t use you, you’re not good enough.” Say, “You’re right, Satan, but Jesus is. In him I rest and live. In him I have been washed, sanctified, and justified. In him, I am a child of God and will be used for his glory.” Let this joy of the now overwhelm the regrets of the past.

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

Good Reads (04.22.15) on life’s purpose, the love of Jesus, difficult days, and more…

Here are a collection of links over this past week that provide some good reads:

On life’s purpose: You Will Change the World by Jon Bloom http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/you-will-change-the-world (click here)

Your very existence has already unalterably changed the course of world history. All of us, from the child who does not survive the womb to the centenarian, leave indelible marks in the lives of those around us and those who come after us. Our purposeful or incidental interactions and intersections with other people affect the timing of events or ideas or decisions that direct the future trajectory of their lives, eventually affecting millions.

On humility and pride: Proudly Humble by Tim Challies http://www.challies.com/christian-living/proudly-humble (click here)

Sometimes pride looks an awful lot like humility. There are times that our pride convinces us to put on a great show of what looks to all the world like humility so that we will be seen and acknowledged by others. We swell with pride when we hear, “He is humble.” It is a tricky thing, the human heart—prone to deceive both ourselves and others.

On the question… Does Jesus Really Love Me? by J.A. Medders http://jamedders.com/does-jesus-really-love-me (click here)

Christianity is never impersonal. This is a real, vibrant, essential relationship with Jesus himself—he is alive for you. God and Savior. Lord and Friend.

On rejoicing in both good and bad days: This. Is. The. Day. by Michael Kelley http://michaelkelleyministries.com/2015/04/this-is-the-day-2 (click here)

Regardless of what this day holds, it is the day that the Lord has made. He is not some cosmic clockmaker who set the universe in motion and then stood apart, watching it tick away. He’s still in the business of making days, and He’s made this one for me. Although I know very little of the potential ups or downs or highs or lows that this day holds, it is nevertheless the one made by the Lord. Because it is made by the Lord, I know that along with making it He has also given me the resources I need for it. I have the grace I need. The patience I require. The perseverance necessary. The discipline to do and work. Along with this day He’s made He has also given me His limitless supply which I take hold of by faith.

Last but not least, on our need to hear about God’s grace: Can We Really Preach Too Much Grace? by Stephen Altrogge http://theblazingcenter.com/2015/04/can-we-really-preach-too-much-grace.html (click here)

The longer I’m a Christian, the more I’m convinced that a true understanding of grace always leads to deeper sanctification.

Good Reads 04.15.15 (on: fear, sexuality, children and church, and more)

Here is a collection of links to good reads gathered over this past week:

Help Me Face Today by Amanda Knoke http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/help-me-face-today

What did the temptation to fear look like for the One who identified with us in every way, yet was without sin? With the cross before him and complete separation from his Father, how was Jesus able to avoid sinful fear? He cried out to his Father.

On sexuality: The Dead End of Sexual Sin by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-dead-end-of-sexual-sin

Conversion brought with it a train wreck of contradictory feelings, ranging from liberty to shame. Conversion also left me confused. While it was clear that God forbade sex outside of biblical marriage, it was not clear to me what I should do with the complex matrix of desires and attractions, sensibilities and senses of self that churned within and still defined me.

On evangelism: Remembering Who You Were by Mike Leake http://www.mikeleake.net/2015/04/remembering-who-you-were.html

Rather than throwing stones at the world and distancing himself from the emptiness, Newton went back to where he once was. He put himself in the place of the lost person and allowed himself to feel the weight and burden of this lostness again. He did this so he could appeal to them to come to Christ and find rest.

On children and the church experience: Helping Children Benefit from the Sermon by Erik Raymond http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/erikraymond/2015/03/31/helping-kids-to-benefit-from-the-sermon/

Read the Passage as a family before Sunday morning. This is easy and so very important. They hear the passage read by Dad or Mom and see your commitment to the Word of God. This goes further than you can imagine.

On the purpose of church buildings: Church Buildings Should Serve People, Not Vice Versa by Karl Vaters http://newsmallchurch.com/church-building-should-serve-people/

It’s because we have a mission to love God and serve the people in our community. That’s what using our building to fulfill our mission looks like for our church. It will look different for your church and your community. But maybe what we’ve done can inspire other churches to imagine what putting people ahead of their building might look like for them.

Links from the Week (4.03.15 ~ Easter, Parenting, and more)

Some good reads collected over the last week…

On Good Friday and Jesus’s resurrection (Easter):
A look at the claim that Jesus’ life and resurrection were based on older pre-Christian myths: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/brandondsmith/2015/03/do-pre-jesus-mythical-figures-debunk-Christianity/

Those who take time to research these supposed Jesus-like figures see how ridiculous the claims are, because they often simultaneously exaggerate and oversimplify the comparisons.

On why the resurrection matters and the difference it makes in our lives: http://www.aaronhouseholder.net/journal/2015/3/30/what-difference-does-the-resurrection-make

We serve a Risen Savior. As a living, risen Savior, Jesus has overcome both death and hell. Overcoming death and hell, Jesus offers the free gift of eternal salvation from our sin. In offering salvation to us, Jesus pursues a personal, love relationship with us.

On what’s good about “Good Friday”: http://www.knowingjesus.us/2015/04/whats-so-good-about-friday.html

I’ve heard the question asked more than once: “If Jesus died on Friday, why do we call it Good Friday?” It’s an important question. It’s a question that demands an answer. Here’s the truth: Jesus’ death is a good thing.

On living a life that matters: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-will-you-leave-behind

So what are you pouring your life into making? When it’s over, what will you leave behind that will really last? When you report to your master how you invested the talents he gave you, what will you show as a return?

On parenting: http://theblazingcenter.com/2015/03/parents-lets-be-honest-and-stop-acting-like-we-know-what-were-doing.html

As a parent, I’m free to admit that most of the time I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t have to look like I’ve got it all together. I don’t have to try to make other people think that I’m Super Parent, able to diagnose a sinful heart with a single word. On my best days, my parenting is a mixed bag of Bible, desperate prayer, confusion, anger, repentance, hugs, and ice cream.

Finally, on whether or not to leave your church:
Three bad reasons to leave a church: http://www.millennialevangelical.com/3-bad-reasons-to-leave-your-church/

The people of God, the Church around the world, is the bride of Christ, and the bride of Christ deserves the faithfulness of a bride, not the summer crush you bailed on when you were a jerk in college. Your church is broken because it’s made up of broken people, including yourself. Abandoning the local church is only acceptable under a few extreme circumstances.

Three good reasons to leave a church: http://www.millennialevangelical.com/3-good-reasons-to-leave-your-church/

If you’ve found yourself in a position that may lead you to leave your church, I encourage you to first pray. Pray that God would give you the grace and strength to work for change in the church so that it may be more faithful to the calling God has given it in the Great Commission. After you’ve prayed, worked graciously and humbly with church leaders to assess and examine possible areas for change, and prayed some more, if no change is happening, you may consider finding another group of believers with whom you can worship.

A ‘Culture of Grace’ (pastor’s blog)

I was reading an article recently detailing the fall of a megachurch pastor. In the midst of it, the author made the point not to ascribe one man’s sins to the group. In other words, big church doesn’t equal big ego. The author pointed out another megachurch pastored by a man of humility and grace. The author said, one of the reasons for the pastor’s success without egotism was that he worked to create a “culture of grace.” Then the article moved on.

The phrase struck me, though. After all, egos (inflated or wounded) are not found only in large churches, nor are they only found among pastors. Exalting ourselves above others and God is a deeply ingrained flaw in the human race post Genesis 3. Yet, a culture of grace is needed in all churches at all times.

So… How might we go about creating such a culture? For the answer, I turn to Paul’s letter to Titus:

11For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, 13waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 14who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. ~Titus 2:11-14

First, for a culture of grace we must offer unconditional acceptance. One constant theme in the Bible is: reliance on our own efforts will fail us. Paul spoke of the grace of God bringing salvation. He offered no prerequisite to this. There is only one condition ever given in the Bible to receive God’s grace through Christ: faith—we believe what God says and we believe that his solution is THE solution. I am a hopeless sinner but in turning to Jesus alone I will have salvation and life.

reaching_outThis is good news of great joy for all the people (Luke 2:10). There is no pre-scrubbing, no wiping off the dirt, no self-changing needed before we come to Jesus. In fact, we can only come empty handed and receive.

Practically, this means that we are to love and welcome all: young, old, male, female, black, white, gay, straight, American, Iranian, etc. The message is the same: the treasures of the world are passing, death is coming, but we can have the greatest treasure and true life by turning from self and sin and turning to Jesus in order to receive his love. Which leads us to…

Second, for a culture of grace we must keep pointing to Jesus for life and transformation. Grace accepts us where we are at, but grace does not affirm us where we are at. Grace assumes that no matter the specific issues of the heart, we are all born into this world with the same problem. Our sin. We have hearts that long to walk their own ways and not the ways of God. We will accept the parts of his word we like but rationalize away the rest. We wear the badge of rebellion and the stench of death.

Yet, if we receive the grace of Jesus, he will transform us. Grace trains us to turn our backs to what is slowly killing us, and walk in the better of the Life Giver. His grace frees us to do this.

The phrase has grown trite and is now almost a bit campy, but I still hear some variation of it on occasion: the church is a hospital for the sinners not a showcase for the saints. There is truth here in that with a culture of grace we find no room for self-righteousness. But let’s not stop at this phrase and glorify the fact that we’re a bunch of messed up people.

After all, we don’t go to the doctor or the hospital in order to remain sick. The same is true with coming to the Great Physician. And in Jesus we are saints, we are sinners made perfect and righteous meant to display God’s glory to the world. But there’s the balance—we’re made perfect and righteous; we’re meant to display his glory to the world.

The church, then, is a place for sinners to come and find the cure and to showcase the life transforming healer who is Jesus. Grace does not leave us trapped in the midst of our sin. Grace is when God plucks us from the mire and darkness, and sets us in the kingdom of his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). And yes, the light exposes our crevices of darkness to ourselves and before others, but the light is also what allows the dirt to be cleansed and the darkness to be driven out (John 3:16-21).

This means… Third, for a culture of grace we must constantly seek one another’s good. Our passage starts with the short little word for. It is the foundation of what Paul wrote in 2:1-10. Within that he told Titus to be an example of godliness (aka grace applied to the sin-stained life). He also told the older men and older women to model godliness and train younger men and women to live godliness as well.

In a culture of grace, people take responsibility for one another and receive guidance from one another. We help each other learn and apply the truths of God’s word and grace. We help each other see Jesus exalted. And when a person stumbles back into the darkness, we chase after them with the light and help them see afresh the realities of the Cure.

Paul also spoke about being a people zealous for good works. Grace is healing. We are to be people who seek to bring the healing of Jesus everywhere brokenness exist. We pray for the hurting. We feed the hungry. We clothe the naked. We befriend the lonely. We bring medicine to the sick. And we do this with eagerness and joy. We are to be zealous. Grace realizes our hopelessness without Jesus and the greatness of life and love in Jesus, so we work with zeal wanting others to share our joy.

Finally (fourth), for a culture of grace we must keep looking forward to the greater. Grace is predominately forward looking. We long with hope for the return of Jesus, because that is when the greater—indeed the best comes. That is when all wrongs and harms are forever healed. That is when brokenness is no more.

This isn’t hoping in theories of what might be. This is longing for what will be. If we belong to Jesus, we are agents of his kingdom. His kingdom is one of perfect peace, joy, health, and righteousness all bound up with satisfaction in God. Though enemies of Jesus and his word will remain until he returns, we are to go boldly with his grace, bringing a taste of his kingdom everywhere we set foot.