Good Reads 06.07.18 (on: life satisfaction, identity, and more!)

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

On being a father: When Your Son Needs Fatherly Approval by David McLemore

I know too few men who feel the approval of their fathers. They grow up wondering if they’re pleasing to him. For some, that uncertainty results in rebellion. For others, it results in man-pleasing. In either case, it’s a tragedy. Some sons do disappoint their fathers. But, by and large, I would guess that most sons by the fact that they’re sons have their father’s approval. They just don’t know it because their fathers never say it. They navigate childhood hoping the home-run will bring praise, the A-filled report card will elicit pride, or the diploma will ensure proof of pleasure. They go into adulthood wondering if their job is enough not only to provide for their future family but enough to please their father’s expectations. Are they man enough? Are they good enough? Are they a disappointment? (click here to read more)

On finding satisfaction in life: The When, Thens of Life by Molly Ann Hilbert

I believe I have value because of what I do, because of my productivity level, because of the amount of output my life produces.

I forget that I have value simply because I am His.

I come back to J. Campbell White’s quote: “Nothing can wholly satisfy the life of Christ within His followers except the adoption of Christ’s purpose toward the world He came to redeem… The men who are putting everything into Christ’s undertaking are getting out of life its sweetest and most priceless rewards.”

But what, exactly, is Christ’s undertaking? (click here to read more)

On identity: You Are Who God Says You Are by Greg Morse

If you have been reborn, if you are repenting of your sin and believing the gospel, you are a child of God. And this status comes with authority: “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave authority to become children of God, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12–13).

You may not feel particularly childlike, you may not be enjoying his word every morning, but do not let the Liar convince you that you are not a child of the King. The question can never be, “Who are you to go to God in prayer?” The question now is, “Who are you to stay away when the King has invited you?” (click here to read more)

On waiting on God: What To Do While You Wait on the Lord by Mike Leake

The second point that I’m making is that when the Lord places us in a season of waiting that doesn’t mean it is a season of passivity. Waiting on the Lord means doubling down on gathering with believers, prayer, and obeying the Scriptures. Being told by the Lord to “wait” doesn’t mean to be frozen. It means to faithfully dig in to the things that you do know. Be obedient in the disciplines and diligently dig into the Scriptures and apply them. That’s what you do while you wait. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 06.07.17 (on: fostering, identity, and more!)

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

On fostering and the church: Foster Children Need the Church by Brittany Lind

The need is enormous, but when you consider that there are roughly 348,067 evangelical churches in America, the 430,000 children-in-foster-care number doesn’t seem quite so daunting. Unfortunately, it’s not a problem that can be solved by simply doing the math and distributing children among churches. Many factors complicate the issue, but the numbers are still fascinating to consider.

The church really can do something to help. While not all may be called to open a home to foster children, there are numerous ways to get involved and be part of the solution. I’ve been incredibly blessed by a meal from a friend on a busy week of social worker visits, or by friends who took the time to get fingerprinted so they could be approved babysitters. Larger group homes may be in financial need to care for the children, or they may have a child in need of a tutor or a counselor. The needs are many and ongoing at every level of the foster care system. Who better to meet those needs than the church? (click here to read more)

On your identity and behavior: Always ‘Be’ Before You ‘Do’ by Jon Bloom

Jesus came with the true gospel and the gift of the new birth to set us free (John 8:32). We must not allow the old, corrupt virus to dictate our lives. We must refuse to “submit again to a yoke of slavery,” by living out of the old “Do. Have. Be.” ethic (Galatians 5:1). “For freedom Christ has set us free,” so let us “stand firm” by living out of the liberating gospel ethic of “Be. Do. Have.” (Galatians 5:1).

When it comes to the source of our identity, discerning and then choosing which operating system governs how we live, we must always “be” first. (click here to read more)

On life in Jesus: Jesus: Living Water by Jonathan Camac

That’s the beauty of the gospel. Jesus makes a way. 

Where joy is found lacking, Jesus provides (John 15:11). Where hope is left wanting, Jesus comes through (Hebrews 6:19). Where help seems absent, Jesus is always present (Matthew 28:20). Where life is cut mortally short, Jesus eternally extends (John 3:16).

Jesus offers us something that nothing in this world can ever offer. Where the world can only promise temporary life and joy, Jesus promises eternal life and joy. And get this. We know for sure that Jesus is not in the business of ripping people off.

Because he offers all this for free. (click here to read more)

On getting rest: Christian Restivisim by Stephen McAlpine

But the radical reality of the gospel is not that it enables us to be activists, but that it enables us to be restivists. It enables us to rest from all our labours (Hebrews4:10); enables us to be something that the secular culture won’t applaud; enables us to be something that our self-righteous, harried hearts feel nervous about, and therefore will shy away from.

Indeed our self-righteous, harried hearts DO shy away from rest, and our church culture seems to be doing everything within its grasp to help us shy away from rest and pursue its own form of evangelical activism.  The defining feature of evangelical churches in the West is not rest. Do I even need to tell you that?  It is not even merely well-considered activism.  It is ill-considered activism.  And it’s burning out church leaders and their flock at a rate of knots. (click here to read more)

Finally, words of wisdom from challies.com:

Challies_June-4-10-02

Good Reads 04.12.17 (on: pain, identity, resurrection, and more!)

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

On the church and our struggles in life: Brother, I Wish I Would Have Known by Russell Meek

I never told anyone about my addiction. I went to class, talked about Jesus, attended church—all the things seminary students are supposed to do. And no one was ever the wiser, at least not to my knowledge. I often wondered when God was going to kill me for making such a mockery of his name. But instead of that, he woke me up one morning with a life-changing thought. (click here to read more)

On our identity and our pain: You Are Not Your Pain by Kaitlin Miller

You may have had a friend desert you, but you are not deserted. You may have had a spouse abandon you, but you are not abandoned. You may have failed, but you are not a failure. You may have never known your father, but you are not fatherless. Life may be crushing, but you are not crushed.

The only way to take back our true, God-given identity, with unshakable confidence, is to look to the One who gives us our identity in the first place. (click here to read more)

And two about Easter and the resurrection:

Nine Glorious Things the Resurrection Means by Stephen Altrogge

The Resurrection Means The Penalty For Sin Has Been Paid

The wages of sin is death. Those who love wickedness must face the just consequences of their choice. Our rightly deserved punishment is both spiritual and physical death. When Jesus rose from the dead, it demonstrated that the penalty for sin – death – had been satisfied. Nothing else was needed, the price was paid, all had been accomplished. (click here to read more)

Radical Effects of the Resurrection by John Piper

I mean, be a Christian and you’ll get your act together. Be a Christian and life will come together. It will go better for you. That’s generally the way I think we talk, we evangelize. So what’s wrong with the Apostle Paul? What’s wrong with him? If there is no resurrection, in other words, if this is it, if this is it, we’re fools. What are we doing, living like we’re living? We are of all men most to be pitied. What is wrong with Paul? Why does he say things like that? It’s not a good sell for Christianity. His answer, I believe, is that, for Paul, for the Apostle following in the steps of his Master, the Christian life was a life of freely chosen risk and suffering in the cause of love for other people in great need. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 12.15.16 (on: God’s silence, identity, Christmas, and more!)

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

On God and silence: The Wisdom in what God Doesn’t Say by Jon Bloom

So much more could be said about what God doesn’t say. But what’s important to remember is this: God is very wise and intentional in what he makes clear to us and does not make clear to us.

Jesus understands the cry of “why?” that pours out of a heart in pain. He too made this cry in the hour of his greatest agony: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). And there was no thunderous answer. So in dark silence he endured the cross in faith for our salvation and our example (Hebrews 12:2).

God wants us to live by faith, trusting his reliable promises more than our unreliable perceptions (2 Corinthians 5:7). But a thorough, careful reading of the Bible causes us to detect in God’s wise silence the dark matter of divine revelation: God’s trustworthy purposes in not telling us everything. (click here to read more)

On Jesus and your identity: The Identity Beneath Your Identities by Liz Wann

On the surface our identity is always changing, but we can find comfort in the fact that God rules and reigns over our shifting identities. And underneath the shifting sand of our identity he gives us the solid foundation of identity in Christ. It is ultimately our identity in Christ that grounds us. He will hold us fast. He doesn’t change. His identity doesn’t shift. He has no identity crisis. So, Christ is the perfect source for fixing our identity. (click here to read more)

On God’s commands and our exceptions: When God Goes Big and I Go Small by Tim Challies

What troubles me, though, and especially as I examine my own heart, is the speed with which I appeal to the exceptions. When I read Mark 11:25 (“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone…”) my first thought is not, “God forgive me for my lack of forgiveness!” or “Okay, so who do I need to forgive?” My first thought is “Yeah, but what about this situation or that situation?” When God goes big, my first tendency is to go small. When God speaks universally, my first thought is to look for exceptions, for the nuances that allow me to wiggle out from under his commands. (click here to read more)

On Christmas and sadness: It’s Okay to Feel Sorrow During Christmas by Matt Rogers

Without Jesus, our current reality would be a mere foreshadowing of the horror of our eternal reality. But, Christmas reminds us that we can have hope, even in the most dire circumstances.

God invaded our sin-drenched world because He knew we were broken. He lived and died because things weren’t the way they were supposed to be. And, because of Jesus’ work, we can have hope that there is a new world coming—one that will be different. One without pain, suffering, death, or sin. One that is the manifestation of the life we wish we had now.

For this reason, sorrow is actually a great gift this Christmas. It continually points our hearts to the tragedy of sin. It orients our affections away from fleeting hope in a temporary world. It reminds us of the futility of life in a fallen world. It points us to Jesus. (click here to read more)

 

 

Well Pleased (a meditation on identity)

And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” ~ Matthew 3:17

Other than a brief scene in Luke of Jesus at age 12, we really don’t know much about Jesus’ life between his birth and the start of his public ministry. It seems he worked with Joseph in the family business as a carpenter until he was near the age of thirty. Then at the height of John the Baptist’s ministry, Jesus came out to the Jordan River so that John would baptize him. John protested at first that it should be the other way around, yet Jesus insisted and John agreed.

When Jesus came out of the water, the Holy Spirit rested upon him and the voice of God the Father boomed, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

This was the first of two times the gospels tell us about such an announcement from the Father, the second being on the mount where Jesus was transfigured briefly into his glorious state. Immediately after this baptismal announcement, Jesus spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan yet proved fully obedient. Then for three years he taught, healed, traveled, shared, and spoke of the magnificent glory of God, all before being arrested, crucified, and resurrected.

Through it all, Jesus never lost the status of well pleased before the Father.

The great wonder of grace is that Jesus shares that status with us. Paul would later write to the church at Corinth: “God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to become sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Receiving this righteousness moves us from being an enemy to God in sin to being part of God’s Family—a brother or sister with Jesus. When we belong to Jesus, he shares freely what is his with us (Romans 8:12-17). The Father now sees us through Jesus. We are still the unique individuals he has designed us to be, but no longer carrying our sin and instead covered with Jesus’ righteousness we are perfected and greatly loved.

In fact, Jesus promised that on the day of his return, his faithful people will hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant… Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:23). We are those well-pleasing to God.

This wonderful grace frees us. As it is given to us by Jesus himself, the truly Well-pleasing One, we don’t have to try to earn God’s favor. Instead, what we do to serve God flows in response to his grace. He is well-pleased with us and our desire becomes to live out this reality and do that which we know is according to this declaration, that which pleases God. And when we do fail, those moments were are actions are not pleasing to God, we are able to rest and recover also in his grace, repenting from our sin and moving forward knowing that he will never take from us that label of well-pleased.

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

Good Reads 10.28.15 (on: controlling the tongue, a Christian’s identity, SSA, and more!)

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

On keeping control over what we say: Taming the Tongue by Jeremy Wilson

Words are powerful. Remember, the pen is mightier than the sword. And if you got to the bottom of every sword fight, you’d find most were fueled by words, too. Words remain. You can probably quote your favorite book, Bible verse, movie, and song. You can also probably quote the meanest and nicest things ever said to you… and maybe the meanest that you’ve ever said. Words can haunt. So, what is the Christian to do about the tongue? This tiny member of the body, packed with the power to lift up and lay low? Here are three keys from James 3 about taming the tongue. (click here to read more)

On the Christian’s identity in Jesus: You’re Not the Old You Anymore by Mark Altrogge

Many Christians, describe themselves this way: “I’m just a sinner saved by grace.” This is true, and good to remember. Some, genuinely seeking to be humble say, “I’m the worst of sinners,” referring to Paul’s statement in 1 TI 1:15 about being the foremost of sinners. When Paul said that he was referring to Christ’s mission to come into this world to save sinners, even someone like him who persecuted the church. But Paul didn’t mean that he continued to be the worst of sinners. That was in the past. It was good to remember in order to be grateful, but he didn’t continue to be the worst of sinners. After Christ saves us, though we still sin and must fight daily to put it to death, our PRIMARY IDENTITY is NOT sinners. (click here to read more)

On waiting for God to move in a situation: Five Things To Do When You’re Waiting on God by David Qaoud

Are you waiting? Not only are you not alone, but you’re also in good company. Maybe you’re married and waiting to have kids. Maybe you’re single and you desire a spouse. Or maybe you hate your job and you’re waiting to really start the career of your dreams. Whatever it is, you’re waiting. And you want to know what to do. Here’s at least 5 things. (click here to read more)

On hope for Christians struggling with same-sex attraction: Ten Empowering Truths for the Same-Sex Attracted Christian by Matt Moore

My drawings toward the same gender lingered after my conversion. However, the Holy Spirit has so softened my heart and enlightened my mind that I now believe what the Bible says – not what I say or a therapist says or what Oprah says – about my feelings. Homosexual desires . . . my homosexual desires . . . are not something God encourages me to embrace in the context of a monogamous relationship, but something he commands me to flee from no matter the context. Whether in drunken promiscuity or committed monogamy, homosexual behavior is a detestable evil – along with fornication, adultery, and every other form of sexual sin. (click here to read more)

On one lady’s journey to faith in Jesus: From the Baha’i Faith to Porn to Alpha to Jesus by Emily Armstrong

Even so, there’s so much in the Christian life that gives me joy. When our 5-year-old sees a piece of garbage in the street and declares, “I bet that person isn’t going to heaven” (true story), I remind her that access to heaven has nothing to do with being good and everything to do with God’s goodness. I know that when I pray, God hears me, because he responded to my prayer the night he saved me and has continued to provide for us through the years. I can see how much he loves me when I reflect on the experiences he has led me through, slowly, sometimes painfully shaping me into his image. And I no longer have to strive for perfection, because Christ is my perfection. Even though I don’t always like it, his grace is sufficient, and I would be foolish to disagree. (click here to read more)

Who are you? (a meditation on what it means to be in Christ)

This post was originally slated for this past Friday, I am putting it up today. ~ Pastor Mike

In him… ~Ephesians 1:11

Your English teacher may have despised run on sentences; Paul, on the other hand, gave us a beautiful picture of the gospel via a run on. Though our English translations of the Bible will tidy it up for our grammatical senses with periods and paragraph breaks, Ephesians 1:3-14 is one long sentence where Paul poured out the beauty and grace of what God has done for us through Jesus.

IdentityElsewhere, Paul wrote about us being a new creation just as Jesus spoke of us being born again (2 Corinthians 5:17, John 3:1-16). These things are about our personhood and identity. In the beginning God created all of humanity, male and female, in his image. Though we have marred and corrupted that image through sin, we still possess it. Coming to Jesus by grace through faith restores that image. At once God has created us new, though over time he buffs out the stains and corrosion.

In Jesus we are new creations and new people, we have new lives and new purposes. It’s a new identity but fully and completely bound to Jesus for the glory of God.

At least twelve times (by my quick count), Paul wrote some variation of the phrase in him or through him—some preposition connected to Jesus. This defines us if we are God’s people. We are those in Jesus. Three times Paul wrote, “To the praise of his glory” or “To the praise of his glorious grace.” This is our purpose of being in him. We are made to praise him for his glory while basking in his grace.

Opening his sentence, Paul said, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” I’ve written previously about the difficulty of translating blessed into English. When it comes to us blessing God, it would have to do with giving God joy through our praise of him. When it comes to God blessing us, it would have to do with God bringing us into a joyful sense of being through showering us with his goodness and love.

And what does it mean to be blessed by God in Jesus for his glory, according to Paul?

It means that we are chosen to be holy and blameless. What a wonderful beauty. The picture of who we are in sin is not pretty (just read 2:1-3). We are dirty, corrupt, hopeless, and helpless. We are deserving death and God’s wrath. We are his enemies, allies with a great cosmic evil. Yet when it comes to our lives in Jesus, God does not choose us because we are good or because we have made ourselves good. He chooses us in order to make us holy and blameless. This is why it is grace through faith not of our works but all of his works. We are fundamentally, radically new persons. And when the world or Satan tries to tell us otherwise, we can say, “I’m in Christ.”

It means that God has adopted us into his family. In sin, we “were by nature children of wrath” (2:3). In Jesus we are adopted sons and daughters (1:5). Not only a new identity, but a new family with its rich inheritance (more on that in a moment).

It means that God has redeemed us and forgiven us. The blood of Jesus on the cross has purchased us out of our dismal estate of sin. It has paid back every debt we owed God all the times we rejected him and his goodness. It has absorbed judgment and wrath. It has wiped the slate clean and given us a fresh start that never again becomes clouded. No more do sin and failure define us. In moments of weakness we still stumble and fail, but by his grace God lifts us up and sets us back on our feet. He disciplines but he no longer punishes. We experience his love even when the discipline seems painful, and we are infinitely removed from his wrath.

It means that we have an inheritance. This comes from being a part of the family. There are many things of eternity that we only catch brief glimpses of through scripture. Whatever the mysteries, one part of this inheritance is clear: Jesus creates a new heaven and new earth, and we get to rule alongside Jesus as kings and queens over the new creation. In the beginning we were made rulers of creation, subject only to God. In sin, we subjected ourselves under sin and Satan. In Jesus, we are set free and subject again only to God. When Jesus restores, we get the fullness of a good creation once more with him.

Finally (at least for Paul’s run on sentence) it means that we have received the Holy Spirit within. What Jesus promised in John 14 and 16, he made a reality in Acts 2. Ever since, every follower of Jesus receives the fullness of the Holy Spirit when they turn from sin and turn to Jesus. The Spirit within us is a seal of promise and a guarantee. We indeed do belong to God and his family through Jesus, and he indeed will give us a great inheritance from his love.

All of these things now define us.

Who are you? If you are in Jesus, you are one infinitely loved by a God who has cleansed you, forgiven you, redeemed you, made you a part of his family, and given you great promises. And he has done all of this without any begrudging feelings. After all, he is the one who has lavished upon us the wonderful riches of his grace (1:7-8).

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