Good Reads 05.31.17 (on: grief, growing up, and more!)

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

On discipleship and real life: Discipleship for the Rest of Us by Jared C. Wilson

If the mast gets struck by lightning, so do we. When church people say “Discipleship means following Jesus,” I think they tend to picture a group of sun-tanned dudes in cantata-quality robe costumes peacefully strolling through green pastures, perhaps stopping here and there under the comfortable shade of a tree to watch Jesus smile at them and tousle the hair of precocious children scampering about at his Birkenstocked feet.

Or maybe I’m just cynical. When I ask “What do you think of when you hear the word discipleship?” I’d love to hear people answer more along these lines:

“Believing God has a plan for me even when I’m afraid he doesn’t.”
“Believing God loves me even when I feel like nobody else does.”
“Trusting that God is doing something for my good even though my life has always been terrible up till now.”
“Following Jesus even though my feelings speak more loudly.”
“Denying myself to do what’s right although I don’t really want to.”
“Imagining a time when I won’t hurt as much as I do now.”
“Imagining a time when my spouse or child won’t hurt as much as they do now.” (click here to read more)

On how every Christian is called to be a servant to others: Every Christian a Minister by Eric Davis

Biblically speaking, however, the Christian life is not like that. In keeping with the football metaphor, the local church leaders are more like the team’s coaches and trainers (minus the temper). As such, they are called to work hard, study, stay ahead of things, and prioritize the care of the players. But they are not the players. Instead, all Christians are more like the players. As they receive the care, training, and equipping from the coaches, they are the ones on the field enjoying the challenges and rewards of the game.

To maximize their joy and effectiveness, they are to regularly stay connected with the coaches and trainers. They give and receive input to the coaches. They communicate closely with them. Wounds are treated, successes celebrated, and mistakes nurtured. They may not know every coach or trainer, but they stay closely connected with at least one. That/those coach(es) then provide accountability, equipping, care, and a nurturing relationship for as long as the player is under their stewardship. God’s design for every Christian is more likened to players on a field than spectators in a grandstand. (click here to read more)

On dealing with the pain and grief we face in life: Six Words to Say Through Tears by Nancy Guthrie

But when we are the ones who are grieving, what is far more important than what other people say to us is what we say to ourselves — what we say to ourselves in between sobs, when we have more questions than answers, when the emptiness feels overwhelming, when anger is getting a foothold in our heart.

When the grief is fresh and intense, we might take some wild ideas for a test drive, but to move toward healing and return to joy requires that we press this one idea deeply into our souls until it begins to impact us at the level of our feelings: “I can trust God with this.” (click here to read more)

On looking to Jesus to guide us as we grow up: Like Us, Jesus Had to Grow Up Too by Alun Ebenezer

Growing up in today’s world is hard. It’s a time of big changes. Hormones kick in and there’s the strain of having to contend with social media, peer pressure, the need to be cool, exam stress, insecurity and society’s relentless demand to be successful. It can all seem a bit much and young people can feel that no one knows, as Amy McDonald sung, ‘a single thing about the youth of today’.

But there is someone who knows; knows exactly what is to grow up in this fallen, broken world. The Son of God who thought it not robbery to be equal with God (Phil. 2:6), 2000 years ago humbled himself, made himself of no reputation (Phil. 2:7, 8), became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). For 33 years he learned what it is like to be you and me; to be a baby, a toddler, a child and an adolescent. (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)

 

 

Pursue Growth

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. ~Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV)

Who is responsible for your spiritual growth? Who sees to your maturity? From what Paul told the Philippians church, the answer is you and God.

In 1:6, Paul wrote, “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” So, the first spark and the final product in our salvation and maturity comes from God. Bringing us to Christ through faith, God will finish the work he started. Those whom God called will be those whom God glorifies, it’s a guaranteed finish (Romans 8:30).

Yet, this does not make us passive participants in our spiritual growth. Paul wrote that God indeed works in us for his will and good pleasure, and this is the foundation for the command to work out our own salvation. However, if we come to the end of our life on earth and we have not grown spiritually, the problem is not God’s work but our failure to pursue growth.

We must engage ourselves in the Bible to hear God’s voice. We must go to God in prayer, entrusting him with our praises and requests. We must choose to gather with other Christians and edify one another as we sing songs of praise. We must feed ourselves on the word and pursue being fed by godly teachers in his church. But it is God who empowers and accomplishes the growth in our lives as we pursue these things.

Let us not grow complacent or lax in this pursuit, and let us also remember that spiritual growth is a weighty thing. Paul didn’t merely say to work out your own salvation, no, he included the phrase with fear and trembling. We make our pursuit with an attitude of awe and reverence for God, especially because, as Peter wrote, “…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-20).

It was no light task for Jesus to save us from our sins, nor is it a light task for us to grow to be more like him in love and character. See the glory, the love, and the beauty of God through Jesus. Fix your eyes firmly upon him. Then pursue spiritual growth, and know that all along God is empowering each step.

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

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Confident Spiritual Growth

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ~Philippians 1:6-11 (ESV)

Paul spoke confidently of the Philippians’ sanctification. His hope wasn’t in their own effort, however. Not that they weren’t to follow Jesus in obedience and strive to grow in faith, but the true source of growth in Christ was “he who began a good work in you.” This is the work of the Father through the Holy Spirit for all who trust in Jesus.

Paul’s great love for them showed through in this. He desired their spiritual growth because he loved them so deeply. This is what Paul described of love in 1 Corinthians 13—love seeks another’s best. The best the Philippians could have and the best we can have is Jesus. To have more of the best, then, is to know Jesus more, obey Jesus more, and shine more of the light of Jesus into the world.

So, Paul’s prayers abounded. He longed, deeply longed, for each member of the church to glorify God in all that they did (and thus the church as a whole would glorify God in all that it did). He desired that they be a discerning people, knowing right from wrong and choosing the right, and striving for blamelessness in all that they did.

And Paul was confident this would be the final result of their life. He was, after all, confident in God. This same confidence and call he puts another way in 2:12-13: “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling because God is at work in you.” So, let’s have the same confidence. Let us devote ourselves to knowing Jesus more through prayer and his word. And let us trust that God will grow us along the way and perfect us in the end.

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A time for milk and a time for meat (a meditation)

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. ~ Hebrews 5:12

“Act your age” is the admonition we sometimes give to older kids, teenagers, or young adults. In life, we expect kids to act one way and adults to act another. The process of moving from childhood to adulthood is maturity.

The same is true on a spiritual level. The Bible calls our coming to Jesus a “new birth” (John 3). We are born again and then enter into the stages of spiritual infancy, adolescence, young adulthood, and then mature adulthood. At least that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

The author of Hebrews wrote to a church he knew and loved dearly, yet for some reason had been separated from (Hebrews 13). He encourages them with many things, but he also rebukes them at points—we find one of these toward the end of chapter 5. Seeing the lives of many in the church, even from afar, he knows something is amiss. They came to know Jesus, started to grow in faith, and then stalled.

They should have been to the point where they could give instruction to others—like a parent teaching a child, but they were still like children themselves. Their teeth should have been cut and they should have been dining on meat, but he had to feed them milk instead.

The meat is the deeper teachings of God through his word; the milk is the basic teachings—“elementary doctrines”, or: the “foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God and of instruction about washings [possibly: baptism], the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2).

There is a proper place for milk. When people first come to follow Jesus, most (if any) are not ready for things like comparing Jesus to Melchizedek (which the author does throughout chapter 7). They need the basics. But if that is all they ever get and never grow into the meat, then something is awry—either in their willingness to learn or in the teaching of their church.

For we must go on to meat.

That doesn’t mean that we never again touch the milk. It can be a good drink to go with the bigger meal—a reminder of the foundations on which we build the rest. But we need to get most of our sustenance from the bigger meal in order to keep growing healthy and strong.

So push onto growth. Gain from the milk, but once your spiritual teeth are cut crave the meat. There is a time for both, but let us not be stuck on the basics. Rather, may we “go on to maturity” (6:1).

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.