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 06.22.17 (on: parenting and discipline, affirmation, and more!)

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

On parenting: 3 Reasons Why Discipline is Harder than Punishment by Michael Kelley

If you are strictly punishing your kids, then just put them in time out. Or spank them. Whatever it is you do in your house. You can do it quickly, and then it’s over and done with. The reason why punishment is quicker is because the goal of punishment is exclusively reactive; they did something bad, and you need to make sure they don’t do it again. But when you discipline, your goal isn’t just behavioral; it’s about the heart. Heart formation takes much longer than behavior modification. That leads us to the second reason why discipline is harder. (click here to read more)

On our need for affirmation: When a Father Wound Defines You by Scott Sauls

I once heard Tim Keller say that Jacob’s deceit was the first recorded case of identity theft. But what was Jacob’s motivation? Why, under false pretense and knowing that it would not be long before both Isaac and Esau would find him out, did Jacob deceive anyway? Ten out of ten therapists would say that it was because Jacob, like every other child in the world, craved a paternal blessing. More than anything, he longed to hear words of affirmation spoken over him by his father. And, if the blessing can only be gained under false pretenses, a child will resort to any measure to satisfy this primal craving. Simply put, Jacob wanted more than anything to hear from his father’s lips, “I see you. You matter. I love you. I like you. You matter to me.” (click here to read more)

On overcoming pornography: Victory Over Porn is Closer Than You Think by Jimmy Needham

Fighting sin feels like this, doesn’t it? When we’re in the midst of temptation, all we can see is the next big wave looming in front of us. Surrounded and hopeless, we give in and face defeat, never knowing that just over the water ridge is the calmer sea of victory in Christ. If we only had eyes to see over, what freedom would we experience in the midst of temptation? What fresh strength and resolve would we feel, with God’s help?

But so many of us can’t see over the ridge.

Here’s where God’s word offers an unfathomable gift to the tempted and addicted: a peek over into the calm ocean beyond our hour of temptation. Consider with me a handful of precious texts that serve to reassure us that God truly gives us the victory (Romans 7:24–25). May they serve you as they have me to walk in lasting freedom from this sin struggle. (click here to read more)

On revival: A Revival Without Christ at the Center is Not Revival by Jared Wilson

At the front end of Paul’s excursus to the Corinthians on the sign-gift charismata, he reminds us: “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says ‘Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3).

What we often see in false revivals is the exaltation of particular figures or the worship of a worship experience itself. You can turn on nearly any religious television programming and see this work in action. Christ is given lip service but exhilaration, personal revelation, warm fuzzies, and spectacular manifestations are the real objects of worship. Charlatans are at the helm, and they purport to wield the Holy Spirit as if he were pixie dust. In these cases and others, it is not the Spirit stirring, but the spirit of the antichrist. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 03.01.17 (on: life’s purpose, grace, and more!)

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

On our purpose in life: Bring Order from Chaos by Tim Challies

But the preaching and receiving of the gospel is not the whole commission. Those who believe must also be trained to obey. They enter the Christian life in a state of moral disorder, with deeply-embedded habits of unholiness. They are to apply law and gospel to their lives until they become renewed, re-ordered in their thoughts, their desires, their deeds.

All the while, they are to live ordinary lives, establish ordinary families, do ordinary jobs. They are to carry out the ordinary chaos-to-order tasks that are the stuff of life. Where they see chaos, and especially moral chaos, they see evidence of depravity. Where they see order, and especially moral order, they see evidence of grace. (click here to read more)

On God’s grace in our lives at the proper time: God’s Grace Has a Timing of His Own by Jared C. Wilson

But Noah was remembering God too. How could he not? All other supports were gone, literally wiped away and overwhelmed by the earth-consuming deluge from heaven. Noah and his family weren’t steering that boat, far as we know. And as big as it was, it was nevertheless compared to the sea-covered planet a mere speck in the vast expanse of the raging torrent, like a cork bobbing about in the Pacific Ocean. God certainly becomes the believer’s only hope precisely when he has become the believer’s only hope.

When the storms are rising in your life, aren’t you closest to God then? Or do you fail to remember God even then and give in to despair and hopelessness and joylessness? (click here to read more)

On marriage and intimacy: Marital Intimacy Is More Than Sex by Josh Squires

The second type of intimacy is recreational intimacy. Recreational intimacy is the bond that is created and strengthened by doing activities together. These activities can range vastly from the mild (doing a crossword together) to the extreme (hang-gliding), but it is the mutual enjoyment of them that fuels a couple’s connection. This sort of intimacy tends to be its highest early in the relationship when both partners are willing to do and try things outside of their comfort zone just to have the opportunity to be in each other’s presence.

As presence becomes more the norm than the exception, motivation to be engaged in activities that are uninteresting to one partner may dwindle. Furthermore, as life gets more complicated with jobs, kids, house, and much more, the opportunities to engage in recreational activity plummet and the cost can skyrocket. Nonetheless, God has made us to be those who enjoy life’s activities — especially with our spouses (Ecclesiastes 9:9) — and our marriages need the ability to laugh and play together if they are to endure the times of tears and toil. (click here to read more)

On small groups and accountability: The Dark Side of Small Groups by Greg Morse

(In the fashion of The Screwtape Letters)

This group consists of scarecrows for target practice — of which we want your man to become. They are delicious men of the “maybe tomorrow” and “most definitely next week.” Nephew, do not fear these men. Despite what they believe to be their good intentions, they unwittingly work for us.

They actually operate by an unspoken pact not to pursue the Enemy (in real time and space) nor to take up arms in any actual battle. This invisible pact reveals itself whenever they use one of our favorite words: legalist.

Notice your man — there he sits. One after another the others confess their falls — same-old-same-old. As Job’s friends counsel each other, notice how your man sits as if castrated. He hears resolves and advice — none of it necessarily false — but he can’t quite discern why all of it reeks of such weakness and frailty. (click here to read more)

Intoxicated in Love (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from each chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. ~Proverbs 5:18-19

Proverbs 5-7 provide several strong statements against adultery. But, Solomon does not simply say what we should avoid. He also reminds us what to honor and embrace: Sex within the covenant love between a husband and wife.

In the Christian worldview, marriage is a picture of the gospel story—a visible example of the love and faithfulness that exists between Jesus and his church (Ephesians 5). This is why anything that violates the sacredness of marriage, especially adultery and divorce, is spoken strongly against (even when divorce is allowed by God in certain cases).

Part of the sacredness is the physical intimacy shared between husband and wife. In the Old Testament, the word often ascribed to the sexual union is “to know.” Indeed, if a man and women commit only to share their bodies with one another, they come to know the other in a special way the rest of the world does not.

The physical side of marital love, then, helps to create intimate knowledge with another. Another part of this, in usual circumstances, is to create a new generation of human beings who will hopefully one day also follow Jesus.

Still, another part is as Solomon described to his son: shared joy and pleasure.

The bond of love between a husband and wife should be strong. Desires should be present for one another that are aimed at no one else. This is why Solomon told his son not to concern himself with or chase after other women. Instead, let joy and delight be found alone in his wife. Let love be so intense toward her that it truly is intoxicating.

This also is a gospel mirror. Jesus came to make his joy full in us (John 17:13). We are to be so moved by God’s love for us that we delight in him like we do no other. Such unending and full joy will be with us always in eternity with Jesus. The present gift of joy in the relationship of marriage is simply a small, yet powerful taste to point us to the Great Gift-Giver.

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Good Reads 09.21.16 (on: friendship, being ordinary, and more!)

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

On the needed wounds through faithful friends: Find a Friend to Wound You by Greg Morse

Praise God then for the faithful wounds of true friends who protect us from ultimate injury. They tell us plainly, “You’re flirting with destruction!” Or, “Spiritual sloth is unacceptable!” Friends who ask us hard questions, who crush the whispering lizard on our shoulder, who are for our eternal soul above our momentary feelings — these are true friends. (click here to read more)

On the goodness of “ordinary”: Stop the Revolution, Join the Plodders by Kevin DeYoung

Until we are content with being one of the million nameless, faceless church members and not the next globe-trotting rock star, we aren’t ready to be a part of the church. In the grand scheme of things, most of us are going to be more of an Ampliatus (Rom. 16:8) or Phlegon (v. 14) than an apostle Paul. And maybe that’s why so many Christians are getting tired of the church. We haven’t learned how to be part of the crowd. We haven’t learned to be ordinary. Our jobs are often mundane. Our devotional times often seem like a waste. Church services are often forgettable. That’s life. We drive to the same places, go through the same routines with the kids, buy the same groceries at the store, and share a bed with the same person every night. Church is often the same too—same doctrines, same basic order of worship, same preacher, same people. But in all the smallness and sameness, God works—like the smallest seed in the garden growing to unbelievable heights, like beloved Tychicus, that faithful minister, delivering the mail and apostolic greetings (Eph. 6:21). (click here to read more)

On sex and grace: Sex Under the Law, Sex Under Grace by Tim Challies

As a pastor—one who has performed weddings and counseled many couples—I know how many struggle mightily in the early days and months of marriage. So many couples quickly learn that sexual intimacy isn’t immediately as simple, pleasurable, successful, or fulfilling as they had expected, as they had wished, as they had seen modeled in a hundred Hollywood movies. For some this is the case for a short time and for some it is a lifelong struggle. (click here to read more)

On our big God drawing small people into his big mission: Why We All Want to Do Something Bigger by Zach Bradley

Wherever you land in the Scriptures, it’s hard to miss that people are small and God is big. Yet, it was not until I ventured out on mission that I began to own my tiny stature. Serving cross-culturally helped me realize that though God invites me to be part of his monstrous task, it doesn’t so sorely depend on me. In light of being a little one with a great big Father (1 John 2:14), I was invited afresh to “draw near to God with a sincere heart and full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). That, my friend, was a greater high than any summiteer has ever known. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 09.07.16 (on: marriage, God’s loving discipline, and more!)

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

On growing your marriage: Your Marriage Is Either Growing or It Isn’t by Melissa Edgington

But, I think after seventeen years I have finally begun to learn that no marriage will grow deep and strong unless we are both firmly planted in God’s word, letting the words of life sustain us as individuals and as a couple. I am not a “good” wife. But, when I turn to Jesus and ask Him to make me the kind of wife He wants me to be, when I ask Him to give us a marriage that is a brilliant picture of His love, then I start seeing that our roots can grow deeper that I ever thought possible. Our little marriage sapling can grow as tall and as wide as God’s will allows, if only we rely on Him in our weakness and let Him be the good and faithful gardener that He has proven Himself to be. (click here to read more)

On Bible reading and devotional life: Simple Ways to Spark a Lukewarm Devotional Life by Tim Challies

The phenomenon of daily, private devotions is relatively new to church history and there is something to be said for reading the Bible in community, perhaps as a married couple or as a group of friends. If you are struggling to read the Bible, why not allow yourself to feed off the habits and self-discipline of someone else? Ask your husband or wife if you can join in their devotions or ask your friends if you can get together with them to read and to pray. The biblical mandate is not to have a daily, personal quiet time, but to be steadily, consistently taking in the Word. (click here to read more)

On encouragement (especially for men) to get help fighting against porn in their lives: Why Men Don’t Get Help in Their Battle with Pornography by Brian Liechty

You see, even though Jesus was the perfect man, He didn’t suffer like one. Instead He suffered as one who was unclean. He faced punishment as if He had rejected God. He died like an outsider. And He did these things to remove our shame! In other words, Jesus became as an unclean, unacceptable, outcast so that we could become clean and accepted and welcome before God!!!

When men start to realize and believe that God has removed their shame in Christ it changes the way they face their struggle with pornography.  It leads them out of the darkness and into the light. It moves them from concealing their sin to confessing their sin. It challenges them to get the help they need instead of being paralyzed by their fears. (click here to read more)

On God’s discipline of those he loves: When God Graciously Makes You Miserable by Matt Moore

God laid a heavy hand on David because of his sin, leaving him miserable and desperate for relief. Why? Was it because God is a short fused tyrant who delights in inflicting pain on his creatures, as many critics of the Christian faith suppose? No—it was because “the Lord disciplines the one he loves” (Hebrews 12:6). It was not God’s hatred that descended upon David; it was God’s love. Knowing the destructive nature of sin, God refused to allow David to continue down a path that would lead to either great temporal suffering (at best) or even eternal demise (at worst). When he saw his beloved child veering away from the Springs of Eternal Life and sipping the poison of broken cisterns (Jeremiah 2:13) instead, he unleashed his disciplinary love to jolt his slumbering son awake—and it worked. (click here to read more)

Good Reads 06.23.16 (on: work, fatherhood, and more!)

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

On fatherhood: The Two Words Fathers Should Say to Their Children by Joe Carter

There are few imperatives a father hears more often from his children than “watch me.” It’s a plea for us to recognize that whatever our son or daughter is doing—catching a ball, jumping off a diving board—is worthy of our full attention. They know we are often busy, often distracted, and they want, at least for a moment, for us to truly see them. By seeing them in action, they believe, we’ll appreciate them even more. We can learn a valuable lesson from their example: If we want our children to develop godly habits we need to imitate them by saying, “Watch me.” (click here to read more)

On work: 7 Reasons Why I Wish Everyone Had Experience Working in a Restaurant by Art Rainer

Restaurant work is hard.

During high school, I worked in a chain restaurant. My roles varied depending on the night. I showed people their seat, cleaned tables, and served food. And I am glad I did this. It helped develop a healthy work ethic in me before I plunged into the “real world.” It makes me wish that everyone had a similar experience. Here’s why… (click here to read more)

On Christians and funerals: I Forbid You to Say These Things at My Funeral by Tim Challies

We’re not having a funeral; we’re having a celebration. Why pit the two against one another as if only one can be true? We are having a funeral and it is a genuinely sad occasion. Yet we do not, can not, must not mourn as those who have no hope. A Christian funeral marks both a departure and an arrival; it provides an occasion for both grief and joy. (click here to read more)

On sex and marriage: Why Sex Isn’t the Best Thing Ever by Lore Ferguson Wilbert

One of the best blessings to me in my singleness were friends who did not make marriage an ultimate thing in my eyes by only telling me the beautiful parts of their marriage, but who told me the difficulties of it as well. They also prayed for me actively to someday have the gift of marriage. I hope I am doing the same for my still single friends who desire the gift. I want them to know its not all romance and intimacy and good feelings and great conversation. But I also want them to experience the gift themselves so they can both see it and minister out of it.

One thing it is very easy to believe during the long fast from sexual intimacy that is godward singleness, is the option to have sex will make things better. Most of us wouldn’t be so foolish to say having sex makes things better, but it’s darn easy to believe the option and permission to will make it better. But sex doesn’t make things better. Not in the way you think it will. (click here to read more)