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)

Sunday 10.01.17 (the journey of spiritual growth)

This Sunday we’ll finish our Spiritual Growth series by looking at Hebrews 12:1-2 and the journey of spiritual growth. Then on Sunday night, we’ll consider how God is truth in our attributes of God study. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Attributes of God Study in the church library
@7pm Business Meeting

Sermon Notes
Spiritual Growth: The Journey ~ Hebrews 12:1-2

The Journey: A follower of Jesus is committed to a life-long process of spiritual growth.

  • Our Journey: We run the race, seeking to faithfully finish, following hard after Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2)
    • We find encouragement on our journey as…
    • We hear the cheers of others (12:1)
    • We throw off the sins that hinder us (12:1)
    • We keep focused on Jesus (12:2)
  • Four main steps to take as you grow on your journey
    • Step 1: Follow Jesus
      • This is our foundational step of faith, turning to Jesus from our life of sin
    • Step 2: Live Truth
      • This concerns our love for God: We spend time in God’s word and in prayer, shaping our character to be more like Jesus
    • Step 3: Build Community
      • This concerns our love for other followers of Jesus: We are devoted as a family to each other’s good through fellowship, we keep each other on the godly path through accountability, and we worship God together by gathering to praise him
    • Step 4: Pursue Missions
      • This concerns our love for those who do not follow Jesus: we give of our time and resources to see the gospel spread, we serve to meet the needs of others and show the love of Jesus, and we share the gospel

Good Reads 09.28.17 (on Bible reading, depression, and hope)

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

On kids and Bible reading: How to Help Your Kids Get Excited about Reading the Bible by David Murray

It doesn’t need to be like that. Indeed, it shouldn’t be like that. While I welcome the beautiful graphics, videos, and other resources that we now have to us help teach the Bible to kids, there’s nothing more infectious than an enthusiastic teacher or parent. That’s contagious and will stick long in the memory after other images have faded.

We can communicate our delight in the Bible by the way we conduct family worship. Let our body language, our expressions, and our tone of voice all transmit vigor and vitality. Work at showing how even one part of the passage applies to our children’s lives. (click here to read more)

On battling the “dark seasons of the soul”: Truth I’m Trying to Hold Onto by Mike Leake

At times it’s just my depression talking and kind words are being filtered through a wickedly unhelpful lens. And at times it’s just that I’m enduring criticism on a daily basis for something or another. And I’m usually right there in the crowd yelling, “crucify him”. And so when my feelings are all jacked up I try my best to meditate upon things that I know to be true.

I don’t feel confident enough to write anything original today. But, I came up with this list a few years ago: (click here to read more)

On our future hope: Like a Dream Come True by Jared Wilson

To practice followship of Jesus is to believe the descriptions. It is to believe that around the corner where we cannot yet go is the most wonderful thing we could ever imagine—in fact, it is beyond imagination, beyond what we can conceive of. Even the descriptions cannot do this revelation justice. We hear the rumors of this place, read the travelogues of those precious few who trembled as though dead having spent mere seconds in that sacred space, and though we do not see it, we believe.

By God’s grace, we believe.

We believe that just around the corner is the end to all our searching, the satisfaction of all our yearnings, the desire of all our longings. We are not there. Not yet. But just around the corner, brothers and sisters, is the wildest dream come true. (click here to read more)

Sunday 09.24.17 (our focus for spiritual growth)

This Sunday we’ll take a look at 2 Corinthians 3:18, as well as Psalm 19, and see “our focus for spiritual growth” in part 3 of this 4 part series. Then on Sunday night, we’ll look at God’s faithfulness in our Attributes of God study. We hope to see you there!

Schedule
@945 Small Groups / Sunday School for all ages
@1045 Worship Gathering
@6pm Attributes of God study in church library

Sermon Notes
Spiritual Growth: The Focus ~ 2 Corinthians 3:18

The Focus: A follower of Jesus grows spiritually as he/she sets his/her heart and mind on the greatness of the Lord as revealed in Scripture.

  • Beholding the glory of the Lord through the Gospel transforms us so we are more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18)
    • We see with “unveiled faces,” meaning the spiritual clarity we gain in Christ
    • We “behold the glory of the Lord,” meaning that we dwell upon God’s goodness and greatness
    • We are “being transformed,” meaning we become more like God’s goodness with eternal greatness
  • We behold God’s glory through God’s self-revelation (Psalm 19)
    • Be in awe of God through his creation (19:1-6)
    • Be in awe of God through his Word (19:7-11)
      • Time in God’s Word, especially reading with reflection, is the #1 catalyst for spiritual growth (Move by Greg Hawkins and Cally Parkinson)
      • We see more of God’s glory in Scripture as we:
      • Spend time in it personally (Psalm 1)
      • Spend time in it with a small group of fellow Christians (Acts 2:42-47)
      • Spend time in it with the corporate worship gathering of our church (Hebrews 10:24-25, 1 Timothy 4:13)
      • Spend time sharing it with others through missions/evangelism (Romans 10:17)

Our Songs for Worship
In the Garden
Glorious is Thy Name
More About Jesus
This is My Father’s World
I Will Glory in My Redeemer

Help My Unbelief

In Mark 9, we encounter another healing at the hands of Jesus. In this case the father of a boy possessed by a demon came looking for help. He took the boy to Jesus’ disciples who attempted to cast the demon out but failed. Jesus had the boy brought to him and then asked the father: “How long has this been happening?” The father replied, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Hearing this man’s words, Jesus answered: “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” The man then cried out: “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:14-24, ESV)

Elsewhere Jesus said that if we had faith the size of a mustard seed, we could say to a mountain: “Get up and move,” and it would. In a world of so many distractions that pull us away from worship, prayer, and God’s word, our faith is often too small. Even if we don’t say the words, often our attitude in prayer is: “God, if you can…”

Jesus reminds us that we must see God as bigger. If a mountain moves, it’s not because we possess power but because the One who created it does. Jesus’ statement to the boy’s father tells us that God has no external limits. If he does big things like speak a universe into existence, then he can take care of our daily needs, spiritual and physical.

So, what do we do with our little faith? What do we do when we doubt? We entrust it to God.

Our prayer to the Father should be like the plea of this boy’s father: “I believe; help my unbelief.” Of our spiritual understanding, Paul wrote: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” (1 Corinthians 13:12). We don’t always see God as clearly as we should. In fact, we will not see God with perfect clarity until we see him face-to-face in eternal life to come.

Seeds of doubt will be sown into our hearts and minds. Sometimes these will grow large. In the face of them, we run to the One who can answer our doubts and give us greater faith. So, we cry out to our loving Father: “I believe; help my unbelief.”

Mark 9_24

Picture used and modified with permission from pixabay.com

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)

A Glimpse of Glory

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. – Mark 9:2-3 (ESV)

Among the Twelve, Jesus had a smaller group that, on occasion, was able to experience something with Jesus that the others did not. Mark 9 records one of these instances—a time where Peter and the two sons of Zebedee got to see a glimpse of Jesus’ glory.

Glory is a word that speaks to the greatness, goodness, and majesty of God, often represented with brightness and light. The Old Testament prophet, Daniel, once had a vision of Jesus as “a man clothed in linen, with a belt of fine gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches…” (Daniel 10:5-6), and John likewise had a similar vision in Revelation 1:13-15.

But while he lived as a man on earth, God the Son muted his glory. Humbly, he took on the life and appearance of a poor carpenter, with nothing particularly striking about his appearance. That is, except for a brief few moments in what we call the “transfiguration.”

There, on a mountain with three of his disciples, Jesus’ glory was on display. Before their eyes he spoke with Moses and Elijah, two of the central figures in the Old Testament. Peter, terrified, stumbled over his words before the Father’s voice echoed from heaven just as it had at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”

And then the moment passed, Jesus resumed his normal human form, Moses and Elijah no longer stood there, and the four men walked down the mountain to rejoin the rest.

This is a reminder and foretaste for us as well. It reminds us that the humble carpenter that we call Savior is also our King. He might have humbled himself even to the point of death on the cross for our rebellion against God, but he is also the all-glorious, eternal God who shares every attribute of perfect and eternal deity with the Father and Holy Spirit.

It also focuses our minds forward. It reminds us as Jesus said elsewhere: “God is not the God of the dead but the living.” As followers of Jesus, when we pass this life, we will join with Moses and Elijah in enjoying God’s glorious presence forever. And when Jesus comes back and raises our bodies, they will be glorified like his, perfect and without the corruption of sin.

No, we cannot see the full glory of God at this moment with these eyes. But the glimpse we get through God’s word and creation remind us of who we worship and what is to come. And it transforms us to be more like our Savior-King in character and desire (2 Corinthians 3:18).