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)

 

 

Joy Building Prayer

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:4-7 (ESV)

As Paul moved into the conclusion of his letter, he followed the pattern he often employed and launched into a series of commands. This set of commands show us how to keep a proper attitude of rejoicing.

Throughout the letter, Paul has called his readers to a world-surpassing, Christ-centered, God-exalting joy, and he did so again. This joy flows over into our relationship with others. By “reasonableness” Paul seemed to mean a sense of courtesy and deference toward others where we do not overly concern ourselves with our own will and rights.

Paul knew these things went hand in hand. If we have proper joy in Christ, then we will treat others like we should.

But, much in this world tries to rob us of our joy. When fear, anxiety, and worry come, then our tendency is to come under a cloud of depression and such a mood often leads to a poor treatment of others. So, Paul urges us to combat fear and anxiety by remembering the nearness of our God as we go to him in prayer.

Prayer is an act of worship in which we commune personally with our Father. Prayer is as a child approaching a king in his throne room and being able to lay out all our hopes and fears without reservation. Prayer is an act of faith in which we trust God to answer his promises to care for us. And, indeed, as Paul wrote: There is something about prayer that brings the peace of God over us.

Deepening prayer leads to stronger faith, greater peace, and fuller joy. So, let us seek our joy in Christ. Let us run to the Father in prayer.

New posts from this devotional series in Philippians will run most Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.

Philippians 4_6

Good Reads 03.08.17 (on: change, creativity, and more!)

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

On being creative: Are You Suffocating Your Creativity? by Erik Raymond

In recent years I’ve observed the drag upon my creativity, particularly in preparing my sermons, writing, and planning. I would schedule my days full with blocks of time after blocks of time. Building off of each, often with little margin, I would feel incredibly productive while at the same time miserably uncreative. I wondered why I got so many ideas when I was falling asleep at night, taking a shower, or riding my bicycle. The answer was clear: I had created a margin for my mind to wander and think. These seasons of free time have served to be something of a gust of fresh air into a stuffy room. (click here to read more)

On change: The Aseity of God and the Power to Change by Mike Leake

He alone can bring the change that is needed. He can create something out of nothing. He can take a stone cold heart and turn it into a fully alive heart of worship. And he can also take this negative and cynical man and stir up deep wells of hope. He truly can bring the change that I long for. I don’t have to worry about living in an unfamiliar world and being alone to navigate it’s waters. What I have to do is cling to Jesus and trust Him. (click here to read more)

On lies we tend to believe about ourselves: Three Lies We Might Easily Believe by Ray Ortlund

Lie #2: “You’re a loser. You’ve ruined your life. You’re too damaged by now. You’ll never amount to anything for the Lord. You might as well give up.”

Answer: “. . . the poor, . . . the brokenhearted, . . . the captives, . . . that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins, they shall raise up the former devastations” (Isaiah 61:1-4). (click here to read more)

On prayer: Prayer Isn’t Magic by Jared C. Wilson

When some Christians talk about the “power of prayer,” one gets the impression that there is some force inherent in our words, sourced in ourselves, that can make or break reality. The “name it and claim it” crowd operates as if the one praying is in control rather than the one prayed to.

Is prayer powerful? Yes, definitely, but specifically because the One being prayed to is powerful. The one doing the praying is in fact by his praying demonstrating that he has no power in and of himself. That is functionally what prayer is—an expression of helplessness. If we were powerful, we wouldn’t need to pray. (click here to read more)

 

Good Reads 02.15.17 (on: prayer, revival, love, and more!)

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

On prayer and revival: Prayer for Revival and Faithful Plodding by Mike Leake

I wonder if this is why we pray so much for revival. Because times of revival aren’t the times of slow plodding. That’s when the wheel is spinning at full speed and you’re just trying to keep up with its produce. What ministry leader wouldn’t want that?

But in my mind our view of revival is a bit like an empty water wheel that just starts spinning by an unseen hand. I wonder if sometimes my prayer for revival is little more than, “Lord, make my job a lot easier”. Am I praying that God would cause the wheel to spin apart from seasons of faithful plodding? Is my prayer for revival just laziness cloaked in spiritual jargon? (click here to read more)

On prayer and parenting: 10 Prayers for Great Parenting by Ron Edmondson

Dear Lord, Help me not to overwhelm my children with unrealistic expectations. Remind me discipline is for their good – and to always administer it in love – not in anger or purely emotion. Keep me from dumping my adult problems on them, while helping me be transparent enough for them to learn from my mistakes. Help me to remember my children’s current age – and respond to them accordingly. (click here to read more)

On love and marriage: The 5 Weightiest Words of Love by Trevin Wax

The cost of the average wedding in America now exceeds $30,000, with prices soaring 16 percent between 2011 and 2015. With all the glitz and glamour surrounding a couple’s special day, it’s easy to focus on the decorations and dresses, while overlooking the most valuable moment of the day—the costliest words spoken between a husband and wife.

“Till death do us part.” (click here to read more)

On discipleship: Seven Costs of Disciple-Making by David Mathis

In disciple-making, we need to remember our aim is to please Jesus, and this will cost us favor with certain persons, especially when we have to say no to our involvement in their program or event or even to discipling them personally, because we’re protecting the space to invest in others. (click here to read more)