Good Reads 05.24.17 (on: battling depression, spiritual gifts, and more!)

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

On the Old Testament: Seven Ways the Old Testament Deepens Our Love for Jesus by David Murray

One of the ways that children sometimes try to deepen their relationship with their parents is to travel back to where their father or mother grew up. They might visit historical societies, read archives, and gather newspaper stories and artifacts from old friends. Doing so, they build a bigger and better picture of their father or mother and experience a deeper sense of connection with them and love for them.

In a similar way, Christians go back to the Old Testament to build a bigger and better picture of Jesus Christ. By connecting with his past, we connect better with him and deepen our love for him. The Old Testament connects us with Jesus’ past in the following ways: (click here to read more)

On dealing with personal darkness and depression: What Do You Do When You’re in the Pit? by Godwin Sathianathan

Well, that’s all very true.  But last I checked we are all still human!  The Bible never calls us to be anything other than human.  And in our humanity, we hurt. To express this hurt to God isn’t necessarily sinful communication; it can come from a very deep place of trust in our Father’s tender care.  Kids who scrape a knee and then bury their tearful faces in mamma’s lap communicate profound trust in mamma.  Likewise, God’s children run to their Father when they hurt too.  This is child-like trust, not godless defiance. (click here to read more)

On loving your church: Love the One You’re With by Jon Bloom

The earthly church has always been a motley crew. It’s never been ideal. The New Testament exists because churches, to differing degrees, have always been a mess — a glorious mess of saints still polluted by remaining sin, affected by defective genes, brains, and bodies, and influenced by life-shaping pasts.

This mess rarely looks glorious to us up close. It looks like a lot of sin and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears invested into a lot of futility. It often looks like something we’d rather escape than join.

But this is the way it’s supposed to be. Because the mess is what draws out the one thing that advances the church’s mission more than anything else. And this one thing is why we must not, for selfish reasons, leave the church. (click here to read more)

On Spiritual gifts: The Only Spiritual Gifts Test You’ll Ever Need by Stephen Altrogge

As I skimmed it, I thought, Is this spiritual gifts test really necessary? Is figuring out my God-given gifts really this complex? 

Thankfully, I don’t think things need to be so difficult. In fact, I think determining your spiritual gifts is incredibly simple.

God wants you to know your gifts. He’s not hiding them from you. You don’t have to embark on a lengthy, soul-searching journey culminating in transcendent mystical revelation.

Figuring out your spiritual gifts requires only two questions… (click here to read more)

Good Reads 05.17.17 (on Christian living, prayer, and more!)

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

On our dreams vs. our reality: Embrace the Life You Have by Vaneetha Rendall Risner

Finally, I am called to embrace the life I have. Embrace it as I would a beloved friend. Wholeheartedly. With joyful acceptance, not grudging obedience. Embracing means gladly receiving and even welcoming whatever the Lord gives me, even when it wasn’t in my plans. It means being fully present, living in the now, finding joy in the moment, and not longing for what’s past. (click here to read more)

On parenting: How Should Parents Respond to Their Children’s Sexual Sin by Russell Moore

It’s good for parents to feel burdened about their kids’ sin. There are far too many parents, including evangelical parents, who assume sexual sin is just part of growing up, particularly when it comes to boys. That’s not true. This is a sin against God, and a genuinely Christian response to such sin needs to begin with feeling the true weight of this sin.

Having said that, parents should also not be excessively shocked. We shouldn’t communicate to our children, “I can’t believe what you did,’ or even worse, “I can’t believe you did this to us.” Too many parents take their children’s sin personally, because they expect their child to always make the right moral decision in challenging moments. There is no sin except what is common to man, and while there are extreme sins, your child will not invent any sin. (click here to read more)

On men and prayer: Men, Lead Out in Prayer by Casey Lewis

Prayer is what the church and country need. It especially needs men who are willing to lead spiritually, and specifically, to lead in the area of prayer. Men, we can’t abdicate our responsibility any longer to the women in the church. We must lead as God has called us to lead.

I am sure other pastors in other times have said this but I am going to say it now in our time. Men, if we want our country and community to change, if we want to see people come to Jesus, we have to be spiritual leaders who are leading out in prayer. (click here to read more)

On living faithful to Jesus: Stop Being on Fire for Jesus by David Appelt

And that’s the rub. Yes, if I am living my life in obedience to Jesus, in worship of him, and striving to grow in His grace, then I will have the positivity that often comes along with it.

But by no means does the bible tell us to gauge our spiritual lives solely (or even primarily) based on our feelings. It’s a reality in the bible that we will go through seasons of pain, doubt, failure, feebleness, and loss. Not every second of our lives will be exhilarating, news-worthy, record-breaking happiness, and excitement. Most of the Christian life is radically ordinary. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 05.03.17 (on: the Holy Spirit, marriage, and more!)

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

On the Holy Spirit: Four Ways We Go Wrong in Thinking about the Holy Spirit by Michael Horton

Many of us still remember the “Holy Ghost” from the old King James Version. For most modern people, a ghost is associated more with All Hallows’ Eve (a.k.a. Halloween) than with Pentecost Sunday. Especially in our age, the Holy Spirit is regarded (when taken seriously at all) as the “spooky” member of the Trinity. If you’re into that sort of thing—the paranormal and sensational—then the Holy Spirit is for you.

Who exactly is the mysterious third person of the Trinity? Why does he seem to possess less reality than the Father and the Son? Perhaps we think of the Holy Spirit as a divine force or energy that we can “plug into” for spiritual power. Or as the kinder and gentler—more intimate—side of God. But a person—in fact, a distinct person of the Godhead?

I want to challenge this association of the Spirit merely with the extraordinary. (click here to read more)

On faith and God’s love: Playing in the Street of Unbelief by Mike Leake

I see this quite often with teenagers. They are in that awkward stage when they still want to be doted on by mom and dad (or whoever is playing that role) but also kind of not. And mom and dad have realized that junior is developing body odor and isn’t their cute little baby anymore. And so what you end up with is a teenager who knows his parents love him but only kind of. In the really bad cases of this I see teenagers do really dumb things just to see if they still have mom and dad’s eyes.

They’d deny it until they died, but what is the teenagers are trying to say is, “If you really love me you’ll stop me”. They are doing things they know they shouldn’t do, and going places they know the shouldn’t go, hoping that somebody will stop them. What’s really sad is when nobody cares enough to stops them. But many times teens are just being emotional and silly and playing a foolish game. Their only grounds for believing such nonsense are the raging hormones that feel like truth.

But adults can be just as silly. We go through difficult experiences. Dreams die. Plans break. Our spirits droop. We start to question God’s love for us. (click here to read more)

On dealing with pain, hurt, and forgiveness: You Know How Hurt People Hurt People? How To Stop the Cycle of Hurt by Ann Voskamp

And I’ve thought a lot about their reaction . . . and mine.

My first response was protective anger—natural for a mother, I suppose.

I was ripping those girls a new one in my head and hoping they caught my glares. But I know how girls are at that age because I was one once myself. A parent’s scolding would have only made them angry, and they would have walked away to continue their teasing in private—their words growing harsher as they made each other laugh.

But when Mareto simply introduced himself with kindness and a smile, the girls were baffled.

It was clearly not what they expected, and the element of surprise led to curiosity. Their mean laughter transformed into confused but genuine smiles of interest. (click here to read more)

On serving one another in marriage: A Marriage Checklist by David Murray

I’ve been taking our adult Sunday School through Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage. We’ve been camped out in chapter five for a few weeks, and yesterday we looked at Keller’s teaching on “Love Currencies” or “Love Languages.” His basic point was we must give the love-currency to our spouse that they value most and speak the love-language that best communicates love to them.

He then has a practical section on the three main currencies or languages—Affection, Friendship, Service—which I’ve arranged into a checklist. Keller recommends that husbands and wives regularly review a list such as this to identify the best way to give love to one another and then “concretely give love to each other in deliberate ways every week.” (click here to read more)

Good Reads 04.26.17 (on: parenting, hospitality, and more!)

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

On anger and parenting: When Anger Rears Its Ugly Head by Christina Fox

As I watch both of our children battle against the very same anger their parents both fight with, I feel afraid.  I hear stories of friends who as children crawled into bed with a sibling or locked themselves in another room when their parents argued, and I want to take action, because this cannot be the story my children are going to tell. So, I read blogs and vow to change.  I seek counsel from wise people who can give me a plan–something I can get started on today, something that will work.  And whatever I settle on works for a little while, until it doesn’t.  Failure. Shame. Condemnation. More resolutions.  I’m right back where I started, and the cycle continues.

It happened again, at the end of a very long day with our young children, when my husband called on his way home from work and asked me how I was.  I told him.  And it wasn’t pretty.  And when he got home I told him again.  It was loud, it was thoughtless, and our kids witnessed it all.  I almost believed the evil one again, but right on the verge of despair the Spirit was so gracious and reminded me of Romans 7-8, nudging me to read it out loud. (click here to read more)

On adoption: Adopted to Show Them the Image of God by Lisa Blanco

The children who have come to us are asking to be shown a God who will never forsake them. They need this, not just in words, but in our healthy touch, our immediate arrival upon their cries, our endless reminders of our love for them, and our willingness to start over no matter how many tantrums or how much time they take from us.

Whether their experience was fearful neglect, horrific abuse, or anything in between, the effects on these children are clear. Life for them had to be an “all about me” perspective. When you see your caregivers on auto-pilot most of the time, then yes, it had to be about “how to take care of me”.

Now they’re in our homes. We know they’ve been brought to safety, but they don’t know that yet. As we teach them to not take their anger out on our children, or break the T.V, we remember they’re in immense need of healing – a healing that’s beyond a few lectures or time-outs. (click here to read more)

On faith and contentment in the face of hardship: Contentment in Trials: How God Prepared Us for a Brain Tumor by Nancy Wilson

So, now what? Do I believe what I wrote about being content in our good God? Absolutely. He will never leave us or forsake us. He wants us to exercise our faith and lean on him, and this happens most when we are in the midst of trial. As God tests us, he wants us to test him, to see if he is as faithful as he promised. And he is. He wants us to have practice knowing that our lives are governed entirely by his wisdom and grace.

God knows what he is about, and he’s told us what to do: we are to cast our cares on him (1 Peter 5:7), set our minds on things above where Christ is (Colossians 3:1–2), and walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7). And on top of this, he wants us to rejoice in all things, giving thanks for everything (Philippians 4:4; 1 Thessalonians 5:18). This is not amazing, super-special Christian living. This is basic Christian living. (click here to read more)

On hospitality: Creating a Culture of Hospitality by Bryan Elliff

Church doesn’t just happen on Sunday morning and Wednesday nights. We all know that. In our busy and self-isolating culture, we have to make intentional, personal contact with each other if we want to be a real community. But how do we do it? Let me suggest one centuries-old method: invite people over.

There is something bonding about being in someone’s house. You enter their world. You see their interests and their style of life. You see their kids schedules and get a feel for some of the daily challenges they face. In other words, you step beyond the neutral-site church meetings and begin to understand them in context. That’s why a church whose members invite each other over can develop a stronger community. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 04.05.17 (on: our dreams, marriage, temptations, and more!)

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

On the greatness of Jesus: Jesus Is Better Than Our Dreams by Whitney Putnum

The pursuit of Him, the quiet moments with Abba, the breathing prayers throughout the day, the rest and peace bestowed by the Sustainer. The presence of God and the magnificence of slowing down to recognize God in every detail: every smile, laugh, tear, and hug. Every giggle from a tickle fight with a toddler to slight gaze between husband and wife. God with us.  God is better.

The pursuit of Him alone is better.

In my analysis, I believe what happens is many of us taste God and His goodness; His passion begins to burn and fuel the injustices we see around us, and we begin to dream, fight and be the change. We sense the call to go and make disciples. We gather the troops and we storm the Bastille knowing that justice is God’s heart and we will fight! We will fight to the death! Storm the gates! (click here to read more)

On God, faith, and struggles: Trust God Through Your Tears by Michael Goff

There are times in life when the shadows where Peter wept become the very same shadows where we weep. Those shadows are filled with denial, fear, anger, and the abandonment of desire to relate with God. Having received Luke’s diagnosis, I was devastated. Thoughts raced and anger raged, How could this be? God, do you care? I have always consulted you — always! We waited ten years before we had our first child. We did it right, and this is what we get?

And more than any other pain, I feared what Luke would endure. What kind of life will he have?

In the midst of my palpable anger, there was a real awareness of how we were supposed to feel and what we were supposed to say. We knew God promised to be with us always, yet in those days, that reality felt distant and remote. I experienced the throes of a battle inside of me between the gentle reminders of the Holy Spirit and the sinful nature of my heart toward God. (click here to read more)

On marriages and Easter: Why Easter Matters to Marriage by Barbara Rainey

Christian couples must remember: Christ died specifically for you. And Christ died specifically for your spouse. While you likely both believe this, understand that this means Christ has covered the sins in your marriage. Your sins. Your spouse’s sins.

If your sins are covered in Jesus’ forgiveness, the payment has been settled.

Christ has taken on the suffering for your sins. And it is finished. So let the resentful, unforgiving wife forgive. Let the angry, unforgiving husband relent. (click here to read more)

On temptation and youth: The Particular Temptations of Young Men by Tim Challies

I love to spend time with young men, to counsel them, and to assure them that this time in their lives has great significance. As we speak, I find a number of common temptations they face while passing through their teens and twenties.

Purposelessness. Purposelessness may be the foremost struggle for young men, the one that feeds so many other vices. I don’t think we, as older Christians, have done well in communicating the purpose of these years. I don’t think we have helped young men see their importance in laying a solid or shaky foundation for the years to come. In the years of youth it may be difficult for young men to know their purpose, to know how best to fill their time. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 03.29.17 (on: God’s bigness, simple joys, and more!)

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

On prayer: In a video presentation, Donald Whitney explains how to have a deeper and more meaningful prayer life–How Can I Improve My Prayer Life (click here to view)

On joy in everyday life: Taking Back Dinner Time by Katie Hughes

Anyhow, it occurred to me randomly one night that I was never truly in the moment. I think I was in the middle of bathing a kid and she was being cute and I was completely unaffected by it. Joy had left all of those things. I only had eyes for bedtime, my one true love. But really that means I only had eyes for my selfishness, because bedtime means me-time.

I find it very difficult to be present in the mundane stuff. Are you with me, parents?? …

But an older, wiser friend of mine once told me that not everyone has to enjoy the same types of things, but God does intend for you to find joy in the life He’s given you. If that’s lacking, you should go looking for it. What do you enjoy, Katie? (click here to read more)

On the bigness of God even in the little things: Drowning in a Drop of Water by Jon Bloom

These realities should have us trembling when we remember how Jesus didn’t drown. The Incarnate Creator Word (John 1:3) was in such comprehensive command of the math and the molecules that they were literally “in subjection under his feet” as he walked upon a sea (John 1:14; Matthew 14:25; Hebrews 2:8; John 6:1) — a sea ironically renamed after the reigning Roman emperor. This molecular miracle was metaphorical, for the sea would never so acknowledge Tiberias’s lordship. And when Tiberias’s government executed Jesus, the imperially ordered death also prostrated itself under the feet of the Lord of glory (1 Corinthians 2:8; 15:20, 27). (click here to read more)

The story of how a jihadi fighter became a Christian: The Jihadi Who Turned to Jesus by Eiad Abdullatif

Exactly why he sought solace in Christianity, rather than a more mainstream version of Islam, no one can quite explain. Reading the Bible, Mr. Mohammad claimed, made him calmer than reading the Quran. The churches he attended, Mr. Mohammad said, made him feel more welcome than the neighborhood mosques. In his personal view, Christian prayers were more generous than Muslim ones. (click here to read more)

On the joy of Bible reading: Treat Yourself to the Voice of God by David Mathis

I’ve found it revolutionary over the years to recognize and own daily “time alone with God” as an opportunity to treat myself. God’s offer to us to hear his voice is not a call to austerity, but the invitation of Isaiah 55:1, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters.”

Consider what small supplemental steps you can take to cultivate eagerness and receptiveness to God’s word — to develop the mentality that a regular season of Bible intake and prayer is a joy to anticipate, a genuine chance to treat yourself in the best of senses. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 03.15.17 (on: #prayer #parenting #singleness and more!)

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

On parenting and prayer: Seven Things to Pray for Your Children by Jon Bloom

So, pray for your children. Jesus promises us that if we ask, seek, and knock, the Father will give us good in return (Luke 11:9–13), even if the good isn’t apparent for forty years. And because Jesus regularly asked those who came to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51), we know that he wants us to be specific with our requests. (click here to read more)

On parenting and discipleship: Don’t Farm Out Your Child’s Discipleship to the Youth Pastor by Clark Forbes

What I tell them isn’t usually the answer they’re looking for: the best practice and strategy for helping kids know the gospel, come to saving faith, and grow as a disciple, is a parent investing in the discipleship of their child. Nothing helps a teenager know the gospel like seeing it modeled in the home; not just taught or spoken to them, but modeled through their parents’ relationship to each other and to the kids. (click here to read more)

On singleness and God’s Mission: Single, Satisfied, and Sent by Marshall Segal

While it may seem like two categories at first, we soon discover in application that there are three: the single, the married, and the not-yet-married. After all, as any single person knows, a desire for marriage does not a marriage make. My hope in reflecting on Paul’s words is to restore hope and ambition in the hearts of the not-yet-married and set them solidly on mission in their singleness. (click here to read more)

On the God-centered focus of preaching: You Are Not the Story by H. B. Charles Jr.

After watching a few minutes of a news telecast, I find myself turning the channel in frustration, grumbling to the reporter on the screen, “You are not the story!”

Unfortunately, many of us who stand in the pulpit need this reminder just as much as those who sit at the news desk. Christian ministers are charged to preach the word (2 Timothy 4:1-2). The Lord commands it. The truth demands it. The hearers need it. Yet there is always the danger of inserting ourselves into the sermon – by our content or delivery – that the message is obscured.

People should not leave the sermon having learned more about the preacher than Christ. When we stand to preach the word, we should prayerfully whisper to ourselves, “You are not the story.” (click here to read more)

On the ups and downs of spiritual growth: Why Do Spiritual Highs Fade? by James Beevers

So, if there is to be any lasting effect from these events and experiences, it must have at the bottom seeing and savoring Jesus Christ — and this is often what camps, conferences, and events provide. Anything of true, durable worth from these experiences comes from seeing God clearly as he really is. This can come from sermons, or discussions, or singing in worship, or late night conversations, prayers, and devotions.

When we see the light of the glory of Christ most clearly, the things of this world seem dim and worthless by comparison. Why have sin, good as it may look, when we can have Christ? (click here to read more)