Good Reads 12.06.17 (on: becoming a Christian, marriage and dementia, and more!)

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

On helping teenagers in church come to their own faith in Christ: How to Become a Christian by Bryan Elliff

The problem was that I couldn’t figure out how to become a Christian. Yes, I knew that you had to repent and believe, that the Holy Spirit had to work in you to give you new life, and that you couldn’t just pray a prayer to “get saved.” But when it came down to the actual logistics of the thing, I was in a bit of a fog. How could I get the Holy Spirit to come work in me? What would it look like for me to decisively repent? I mean, I wasn’t doing drugs or even disobeying my parents, at least not in big ways. And how could I know that I had “believed” with a genuine faith? (click here to read more)

On the temptation to compare ourselves to others while suffering: But Others Have It Worse by Tim Challies

This is our temptation in suffering, to compare it to what others have endured and to downplay our suffering in relation to theirs. “I can’t possibly complain when he has endured that much while I’ve only endured this much.” “Yes, it has been difficult, but then I think of what that other person has endured, and then who am I to complain…”

This isn’t entirely wrong, is it? Stubbing my toe doesn’t earn me the right to commiserate with someone who has lost a leg. Losing my dog doesn’t equate to losing a child. But that’s not the same as saying those things don’t matter or that they aren’t genuinely painful. That’s not the same as saying those things don’t comprise true suffering. And that’s certainly not the same as saying those things don’t matter to God. (click here to read more)

A testimony on being faithful to one’s spouse during the battle with dementia: One Man’s Story of Faithfully Loving His Wife through Early Onset Dementia by Randy Alcorn

“I love Debbie and know that she still loves and needs me, she just has lost the ability to say it most days. I have to remind myself it is not really her anymore and even though that placates my fear of the loss of our love, it deepens the fear and angst over losing her; the person. But through some mystical, spiritual, emotional bond that ties us, her rare moments of comfort and signs of affection are the purest form of medicine for my soul.” (click here to read more)

On the Christian response to those guilty of sexual assault: Sexual Assault and the Scandal of the Gospel by Trevin Wax

How then should we respond? As Christians, there should be no equivocation or excusing of inappropriate sexual advances or abuse. Lord forbid the world be clearer than the church in naming and shaming evil deeds!

The church must be unflinching in its naming of sin. And yet the church must also not shrink back from the call to repentance. Repentance is the hope-filled call of the gospel: anyone can repent and be restored. Yes, anyone can turn from sin and find forgiveness.

Herein lies the scandal of the gospel. Christians name evil for what it is. Yet we also believe that evil desires and deeds can be confessed and overcome, that sin can be forgiven, and that people can be redeemed. The church is the peculiar society that insists that certain acts the world finds praiseworthy are sinful, while certain sins the world finds unforgivable can be wiped away. (click here to read more)

Marriage and Divorce

“But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” ~ Jesus, Mark 10:6-9 (CSB)

Marriage was the first institution of society that God gave to humanity. When there were only two people, Adam and Eve, and no cities, neighborhoods, or governments, God gave us marriage.

God designed marriage to be a source of joy, intimacy, and fellowship between a husband and wife in a lifelong bond. Marriage is such an important aspect of the human story that Paul relates it to the relationship between Jesus and the church in Ephesians 5, and John sees eternity kickoff with the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation 19.

Yet, when Adam and Eve chose sin over God in Genesis 3, it impacted everything, including marriage.

Sin and the hardness of heart is why, Jesus said, Moses permitted divorce papers (Mark 10:5); but now that he had come to deal with sin, Jesus called his followers to a higher ideal—a return to what God designed in creation. We still do not live in a perfect world, so Jesus and Paul allow for a sinless divorce on behalf of the injured party in cases such as adultery or spousal abandonment (Matthew 19:9, 1 Corinthians 7:10-16).

Still, our aim is for the ideal. We should enter into marriage with the belief that it will be “until death do we part,” and work to resolve issues with grace and commitment. We should see divorce only as an option in extreme circumstances that we pray we will avoid.

If you’ve been divorced in your past, know that God’s grace is unlimited to those who receive it by faith in Jesus. If necessary, confess to God any sin on your part related to the failed relationship that you have not yet confessed to God. Then let your focus be on your current relationship and strengthening it to be that source of lifelong joy, intimacy, and fellowship that God designed for it.

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 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 04.19.17 (on: hope, marriage, and manhood)

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

On hope and the Christian life: What Christianity Offers by David McLemore

We understand this desire, though, don’t we? Don’t most people want to live a long time? But isn’t the kind of life you live more important that just living? Paul gives us insight into the kind of life we have available to us as Christians. We don’t have immortality as we typically understand it – with this present life in continuation forever. We have something far better. We have the power of the resurrection. The life Jesus lived – obedience to God, suffering, death on the cross, then resurrection – is reversed for us. We have the power of the resurrection – the great hope that all is not lost, that this life and the next really does matter. And in that power, we can obey, suffer, and die with a peace that comes only from God. (click here to read more)

On manhood: Stop Trying to Be a Man and Start Trying to Be a Good Man by Brad Williams

Our goal ought to be becoming Christ-like men. Being a Christ-like man means rejecting the notions that our culture, and sometimes even other Christian men, herald as the masculine ideal. Instead, we should focus our attention on loving peace, seeking justice, and sacrificing ourselves for others. In this way, Jesus Christ becomes our role model for what it means to be a good man. (click here to read more)

On marriage: Did I Marry the Right Person? by John Piper

Paul quotes it and says, “This is a great mystery. I’m speaking of Christ and the church.” In other words, what happens in marriage is that God acts. Believer or unbeliever — God acts and creates a bond that is not to be broken by man, because it is a portrait, a drama, of the covenant commitment between Christ and the church.

Who is the right person to be married to? Answer: the one to whom you said, “For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. ‘Til death do us part,” because that is the only person with whom you can demonstrate the covenant faithfulness of Christ to his church. (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)