Good Reads 11.22.17 (on: thanksgiving, prayer, and more!)

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

On Thanksgiving:

The Scientific Connection Between Gratitude and Happiness by David Murray

Thanksgiving is much more than saying “Thank you” for a present or benefit we’ve received. The world’s most prominent researcher and writer about gratitude, Robert Emmons, said it is “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.”

We can boost gratitude in our lives by intensifying the feeling of it for each positive event, by increasing the frequency of it throughout the day, by expanding the number of things we’re grateful for, and by expressing gratitude to more people. But the most effective multiplier of gratitude, said Emmons, is humility: “At the cornerstone of gratitude is the notion of undeserved merit. The grateful person recognizes that he or she did nothing to deserve the gift or benefit; it was freely bestowed.” (click here to read more)

Blessed Even in the Worst by Nancy Guthrie

These words were not given for Israel’s priests to use to ask God for his blessing, leaving them to wonder whether or not God would give it. Rather, God took the initiative to assure his people of his settled intention to bless them. He seemed to want to make it clear that he intended to be personally involved in their lives as the source of all the goodness they would enjoy.

So the first thing we learn from this blessing is that God is the source of every blessing in our lives. He blesses us by keeping us secure, extending his grace, and flooding our lives with his healing and wholeness. He is fully engaged, fully determined, and fully able to fill our lives with the security, grace, and peace we all long for. (click here to read more)

On prayer and salvation: 18 Prayers to Pray for Unbelievers by Tim Challies

A friend asked the question: How do I pray for unbelievers? How do I pray effectively? I trust that every Christian regularly prays for family or friends or colleagues or neighbors who do not yet know the Lord. And while we can and must pray for matters related to their lives and circumstances, the emphasis of our prayers must always be for their salvation. Here are some ways the Bible can guide our prayers… (click here to read more)

On the cultural oddity of Christianity: The Early Christians Were Odd, Too by Michael Kruger

A fundamental aspect of early Christian worship was its exclusivity. Only Jesus was to be worshiped. Whatever other religious loyalties one possessed before coming to Christ, they had to be abandoned and full devotion given to Jesus the King.

One might think the Roman state wouldn’t care about private worship practices. They cared because the Roman government didn’t view religion as private.

To be a good citizen, your duty was to pay homage to the Roman gods who kept the empire prosperous and flourishing. To refuse to worship the gods wasn’t only socially rude (Christians were viewed as sanctimonious), but it risked invoking the gods’ displeasure.

Thus, Christians’ refusal to participate in the broader Roman worship caused them to be viewed as reckless and callous to the welfare of their fellow man. Indeed, they were called “haters of humanity” (Tacitus, Annals 15.44). As a result, they often suffered serious persecution. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 10.05.17 (on anxiety and prayer, evangelism, and more!)

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

On evangelism: Engaging Others with the Gospel by Adam McClendon

We are called to consistently engage our culture with the gospel in mind, within and outside our normal routines. We should go on mission trips. We should, on occasion, go door-to-door to people we don’t know to engage them in gospel conversation, but we don’t end our engagement there. We should engage others from a gospel perspective in our everyday and every-weekend moments like our school boards, club teams, Home Owners Associations, Parent / Teacher Associations, workplaces, classrooms, charities, neighbors, etc.

We should take others fishing, hunting, golfing, or whatever other recreation activity we might prefer, and we should do it with a gospel mindset and a love for others. Many of us are already engaging our world where we are through social media, neighborhood conversations, sitting at our kid’s practices, etc. We just need to ensure we shift in our mindset, keeping the gospel in view. In addition to just being friendly, we must engage with a gospel mindset that looks for opportunities (i.e. open doors) to point people to Christ and gauging their openness to the gospel. (click here to read more)

On prayer and anxiety: What if Prayer Makes Anxiety Worse? by Mike Leake

This is why I still pray…or try to pray…in the midst of darkness. Because eventually the gospel wins out and God breaks through. It happened with Bunyan and it happens with me.

Prayer is helpful even when our thoughts of God are jacked up simply because the gospel is true. When we cry out to God—even with hearts tinged with unbelief, depressive thoughts, and the whole lot—he answers. It may not make me feel better in the moment in which I pray. But God hears and God answers. (click here to read more)

On discipleship: Let’s Get Real About Women’s Discipleship by Rachelle Cox

Less than a year ago, I helped organize a women’s ministry event focused on discipleship. During this hour-long event, we offered women the chance to ask anonymous questions to a panel of female leaders in the church about the practice of discipleship. It went well. Frankly, a little too well. The five of us participating on the panel ran out of time long before those in attendance ran out of questions.

While I was encouraged by the interest women showed in the topic, I left the panel feeling somewhat burdened by the trend I saw in the questions women were asking us. Many women in my church seemed to struggle with the essential rhythm of discipleship, mostly because they had unrealistic ideas about what discipleship should look like in the first place. They were frustrated by their lack of theological prowess or their inability to squeeze a group Bible study into their schedules, and rather than doing discipleship “wrongly” they were just foregoing discipleship completely. (click here to read more)

On doing good to others: Enjoying God Fuels Doing Good by David Mathis

Titus also has something to say about “learning” to do others good. There’s a process — with practical steps to take ahead of time — to make space for the Spirit’s leading. That may include leaving enough margin in your schedule to be able to meet unexpected needs, or carrying paper money to give on the spot to someone in need, or setting aside funds for personal ministry in your monthly budget.

“Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14). Being ready to do good doesn’t necessarily come naturally. It’s something we learn. We learn to devote ourselves to the good of others. (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 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)

When Prayer Is Not the Answer

The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore, the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies.” ~ Joshua 7:10-12

After the unusual victory that God granted Israel in their battle against Jericho, Joshua led them to battle against Ai, which had a much smaller population and should have been easy to defeat. Yet, the army fled from the men of Ai because God was not with them in the fight.

In the face of this defeat, Joshua went before the ark of the covenant and cried out to God. God’s response was to tell Joshua to stop praying and go deal with the sin in the camp. You see, a man named Achan had disobeyed the command of God and taken items from Jericho for his own tent which God had told the people to destroy. Achan’s greed brought sin into the camp, and this sin in turn caused God to turn against the army in battle.

The solution was to deal with the sin and purify the camp.

This story also reminds us that sometimes prayer is not the answer. Yes, as God’s people through faith in Jesus, we are to be regularly devoted to prayer. Talking with God should be a daily part of our relationship with God. Yet, there are things in our lives that can hinder this relationship. Consider the following:

In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus taught that if you’re about to enter into an act of worship, such as offering a gift at the altar, but in the process remember that someone has been offended by you, then you are to leave your gift, go and seek reconciliation, and then come back and offer the gift. Paul warned in Ephesians 4:30, in a list of sins to avoid and of righteous behaviors to embrace, that we’re to be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit within us. Our sins, after we come to Jesus, may not again separate us from God but they can strain our relationship with God. Thus, we should be quick to confess and repent (1 John 1:9).

Then, in 1 Peter 3:7, Peter warned husbands to honor their wives and see them as fellow heirs of the grace of life “so that your prayers may not be hindered.” God cares deeply for his daughters and he has entrusted them to us who are their husbands. If I mistreat my wife, God’s precious daughter, then I shouldn’t expect that God would want to hear my prayers.

The answer in each of these situations isn’t to pray more, nor is the answer to ignore the situation. The answer is to deal with the sin present in our lives that hinders our relationship with God and others. Then, with renewed fellowship through the continued grace of God, we find restoration in our prayer life and in the tasks that God has called us to.

New posts in this devotional series will appear most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

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)