Good morning. May the Lord be with you and bless you today.
Today’s Kindle deals include several books that will be on sale through the end of January.
(Yesterday on the blog: New Year, New Joys, New Sorrows)
“The pressure is growing for everyone quietly to conform. More than that, the pressure is growing to affirm openly and celebrate what we know to be false. Surely, it would be better to speak the truth now instead of growing our tendency to fit in and play it safe as the stakes mount.” With this in mind, Peter Mead decides to revisit some classic Solzhenitsyn.
How would you counsel someone who has been experiencing troubled dreams? This is sound advice from an old source.
“Dealing with naturalism can be daunting, until we realize we have a powerful ally working in our favor: Reality is actually on our side.” Greg Koukl explains.
Karen Hodge: “Thinking biblically about productivity includes remembering my identity is rooted in the finished work of Jesus Christ on my behalf rather than in finding my worth in how many things I have checked off my to-do list. In this tension, we may tend towards two extremes.”
“I do not know my father, or even if he is alive or dead. He beat and abused my mother for twelve years until we broke into our own home, packed a few bags, and drove away, never to return. So you can see why ‘Father’ was a loaded term for me when, as an adult, I investigated the God of the Bible. Every time I read this dreaded word – ‘Father’ – it rekindled feelings of fear and abandonment.”
Stephen Nichols shares a brief but important lesson from American church history.
Without a doubt, the most impactful book I read last year was A Book of Comfort for Those in Sickness…I’ve collected some of my favorite quotes from the book, hoping they comfort you and perhaps compel you to read the book yourself or hand it to someone who could benefit from it.
I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.
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By Tim Challies — 2 years agoNot every idea is worthy of an entire article. Hence, this one contain a long list of brief, random (and unsolicited) pieces of advice for living the Christian life, all of which I’ve gleaned from others over the course of the past 45 years. I hope there is something here that benefits you.
When offering counsel to others, always carefully distinguish between what the Bible says and what is simply your best attempt to apply wisdom to a particular situation. Get used to saying, “This is me, not the Bible.” There is a reason I have made this the first in a long list of pieces of advice.
Learn to appreciate the ways in which other people are different from you, not just the ways in which they are similar. Contrary to the way you tend to the think, the world would actually not be a better place if everyone was just a little bit more like you.
Learn to apologize. Learn to apologize first. Learn to apologize often. Learn that to apologize is a mark of strength of character, not weakness.
Remember that your children are sinners who are beset by the fierce enemies of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Be gentle with them and have pity for them. Don’t be yet another enemy to them.
Don’t let yourself slip into believing that growing older will magically confer you some gift of godliness. Who you are now—or who you are becoming now—is a pretty good predictor of who you will someday be. If you want to be godly then, you have to learn to be godly now. This is true of young men and women as they ponder marriage and parenting; this is true of middle-aged men and women as they ponder retirement and old age.
Understand that you don’t need to have an opinion about everyone and everything. In fact, it is a mark of maturity to deliberately not have opinions about things that don’t concern you and things you know nothing about.
Find a couple whose grown children you’d be proud to call your own. Ask that couple if you can spend some time with them to either ask them questions about parenting or to simply observe life in their home. This may prove more valuable than any book on parenting. (Make sure their children are old enough that the parents have proven they can do more than raise obedient toddlers or submissive tweens.)
Change churches as seldom as possible and only when necessary. Never change churches without seeking the counsel of the church you are considering leaving and the church you are considering joining. When you do leave, it is almost always best to leave in a quiet and dignified way that preserves the church’s unity.
You get no free pass from the sin of slander when it pertains to an enemy, a heretic, or a politician. Each of these people is made in the image of God and each of them deserves to be spoken of in a way that befits their humanity. Only ever speak of them what is demonstrably and provably true.
Try raising your hands in worship at least once. It’s okay to get used to the idea in private first. Perhaps you’ll find that a little bit of physical expression engages your heart in unexpected ways.
Don’t put your hope in a particular method or system of parenting. Put your hope in the gospel, then consistently teach it to your children and consistently model it for your children during the 18 or 20 years they are in your home. It is the gospel that is the power of God, not any method. But we are easily confused.
In any given situation, it’s always good to ask “What does the Bible tell me to do?” or “what does the Bible say about this?” A great follow-up question is “why am I not already doing it?”
When the church service ends, make it your goal to meet someone you don’t know or connect with someone you don’t know well before you spend time with friends. Make a beeline for anyone who is alone or who looks awkward.
Embrace the tension between knowing that you are called to steward the wealth God provides for you and the fact that life is insanely expensive. Budget your money, control your expenses, give generously to the church, set some aside for the future, and use some to occasionally treat yourself to something nice. But also get used to saying, “it’s only money” as you swipe your card when yet another big and unexpected expense has come along.
Spend lots of time considering how God relates to his children, then imitate that in your parenting. When asked who most influenced your parenting, “God” is a pretty good answer.
Read The Pilgrim’s Progress at least once. If you find you are struggling to read it, try listening to it instead. There is a reason that it is the best-selling fictional work of all-time. (I recommend the recording narrated by Nadia May.)
Think often about that well-worn definition of character: character is who you are when no one else is looking. Consider whether who you are when you are all alone is consistent with who you are when other Christians are present.
It is good and necessary to shelter your children from the world. It is also good and necessary to expose your children to the world while they are still under your care and you can help them interpret what they are seeing and experiencing. Do that with wisdom. Your task as a parent is to prepare your children to live and thrive in this world, not some other one.
Acknowledge that in most friendships one person will be the main pursuer and the main initiator. Don’t feel sorry for yourself if you are that person.
Listen carefully to believers who come from cultures other than your own. You may learn valuable critiques of your own culture with all its presuppositions and you may learn valuable insights from another.
Foster relationships between your children and other trustworthy adults. Confidently direct your children to those adults when they have questions or disagreements with you. Don’t be upset if your friends give them counsel that contradicts your own. It’s possible that you’re the one who’s wrong.
Be loyal—loyal to your family, loyal to your friends, loyal to your pastors, loyal to your church. Loyalty is a beautiful virtue; disloyalty is an ugly vice.
If you find that your children are rebellious, take the time to honestly assess if you are modeling rebellion or submission to the sources of authority in your own life—whether in government, workplace, church, or home. There’s no reason to expect submission in your children if all they see is rebellion in you.
Sing loud in church, especially if you are a man. Don’t be content with mumbling as if it’s somehow embarrassing to have a male voice.
Never disrespect your spouse, or speak disrespectfully to or about your spouse, in the presence of others. (Or outside of the presence of others, for that.) If you need counsel or advice about your spouse or marriage, speak to a friend in a way that respects your spouse’s dignity.
Imagine your children as some day being close friends. Relate to them today in such a way as to make that vision come true. This will look different when they are toddlers, teens, and young adults.
Open your home to other people often. Help foster a culture of hospitality within your local church by being the one who invites people over on a regular basis. The living room is one of the best contexts in the world for friendship, discipleship, and evangelism.
Be appropriately romantic and affectionate with your spouse in the presence of your children. It’s okay—good even—if they know the spark is still alive. It’s okay—good even—if they occasionally say “oh gross.” You can do that without ever crossing a line.
Embrace singleness rather than resenting it. Pursue joy and contentment knowing that the God who withholds no good thing from his children also dispenses to them no ultimately bad thing. This is his good and perfect plan for you and he means for you to embrace it, whether it is a temporary state or a permanent one, whether it is involuntary or chosen.
Find common interests with your spouse. Learn to enjoy what your spouse enjoys, even if it’s a sport you wouldn’t otherwise care for or an art form you aren’t naturally drawn to. (Do the same with your friends and children.)
It is good to read widely but also good to read deeply. Find at least one author whose writing particularly helps you and commit to reading as many of his or her books as possible.
Expect to be sinned against even by people who love you. Don’t over-react when it happens. You’ve probably sinned against them many times as well. Remember that is the glory of a man to overlook an offense and that love covers a multitude of sins.
Nobody wants to be part of a church that doesn’t pray, but also, (almost) nobody wants to attend the prayer meeting. Believe in the power of a praying church enough to attend and champion that meeting. Make prayer instrumental rather than supplemental to your church.
Don’t feel the need to finish a bad book, or a mediocre one, for that. There is no shame in tossing it aside and trying something else.
Pursue friendships with people who are different from you. The deepest compatibility is often not easily visible.
Make it your habit to find something positive in the sermon and tell the pastor how it benefitted you. He probably gets less encouragement than you think.
It’s almost never the wrong time to say, “Let’s pray.”
Believe in the big picture of family devotions even when it’s hard to believe in the day-by-day results. Trust that a time of reading the Bible and praying together, repeated on a near-daily basis, will leave a deep and positive impact in the family as a whole and in each of its members.
Don’t let the sun set on your anger. Bitterness grows in the dark and harms you more than it harms anyone else, so the proper time to stop it is before it starts.
Distinguish between what is mandated by God and what is simply a matter of wisdom or prudence. Much of what Christians advocate with such strong words falls under the latter category more than the former. The Bible says nothing about date nights, the Billy Graham Rule, sleep training, and so on. Don’t hold strongly to what the Bible holds loosely (or vice versa). And that includes pretty much everything I’ve included in this article…
By Tim Challies — 1 year agoMay you enjoy the Lord’s rich blessings as you serve and worship him this weekend.
My gratitude goes to Burke Care for sponsoring the blog this week to invite you to schedule a session with their certified biblical counselors.
Today’s Kindle deals include some newer books and some older ones.
(Yesterday on the blog: My Top Books of 2022)
Was Jesus Really Born of a Virgin?
“For many people, the question of whether or not a virgin can give birth is in the same category as questions about whether or not pigs can fly or time can be reversed or the sun can be stopped from shining. But in each of these circumstances, we must remember that all it takes for these ‘supernatural’ events to be possible is for a ‘supernatural’ God to exist.” Guy Richard explains.
2023 Reading Challenge
Visual Theology has its annual reading challenge ready to go. (Click here for the poster.)
Annual Reading Challenge for Kids and Teens
And while we’re on the subject of reading challenges, Redeemer Reader also has theirs ready to go. It is designed for kids.
“One December evening, while home alone eating dinner, I suddenly became aware of how quiet the house was. I hadn’t been by myself much for 25 years because I had four kids, a husband, and a dog to fill my home with noise and activity. But my kids were grown, my youngest was away at college, my husband was on a business trip, and our dog had recently passed away. And although I had experienced quiet moments before, this silence seemed different – louder and longer. It had a new quality I hadn’t sensed before – a permanence. It rattled me a little bit.”
The Church’s Ministries
If you’d like to do some good reading over the weekend, the new issue of the 9Marks Journal is available and it covers “The Church’s Ministries.”
Bell Curve of LifeThis article reflects on those well-known words of Job: “Naked I was born from my mother’s womb and naked I will return.”
The longer you wait to confess, the more likely it becomes that you never will… Sin is a cancer—it must be rooted out as quickly as possible before it spreads. —Garrett Kell
By Tim Challies — 7 months agoMay the Lord be with you and bless you on this fine day.
The highlight of today’s Kindle deals is Alistair Begg’s Brave By Faith.
(Yesterday on the blog: A Family Update for an Especially Noteworthy Week)
Baptisms in the Jordan River: A Pet Peeve
Clint may be a bit of a self-confessed curmudgeon when it comes to baptisms in the Jordan, but I very much agree with him.
We had a baptism: here’s what we were actually doing
Speaking of baptism, here’s what baptism is all about (from a baptistic perspective, at least).
Finance Professionals Make Great Missionaries
You may think that a career in missions means you would need to serve as a church planter or evangelist. This couldn’t be further from the truth. (Sponsored Link)
The Audacity of Disability
“You might have gotten the diagnosis beforehand, when the beautiful process of growth in the womb turned fearful. Or maybe it happened like it did for us, entering the hospital with excitement, only to discover something terribly wrong in the delivery room. Or perhaps it was a few years later, when you began to notice that something wasn’t quite right. However it happened, however you learned of it, disability entered your world, unexpected and unwelcome.”
Songs Are Discipleship
It’s important to consider the songs we sing. “How does this song build up the body of Christ? How does this song edify a seasoned saint? How does this jingle build up the newly-born believer? How does this worship leader understand his role and responsibility? We must take seriously the theological development of the individuals we call worship leaders because they are disciples too.”
Oneness not just faithfulness
What’s the goal of marriage? Is it procreation? Happiness? Or something else…?
The Godliness of a Good Night’s Sleep
“Sleep as healer, sleep as teacher, sleep as giver — these three give us abundant reason to actively seek a good night’s rest. In light of them, many of us may need to acknowledge how much sleep we really need and to consider some basic tips for falling asleep and staying asleep, especially in our caffeinated, sedentary, digital world.”
Flashback: If I Was the World’s Only Christian…
It’s beautifully and wonderfully true that our God is the God of all kinds of people and that he is building a kingdom of young and old, great and poor, black and white, wise and simple, famous and unknown.The Bible…wants to introduce dissonance into your thinking, to stretch your understanding. It wants to reveal a mosaic of the majesty of God one passage at a time, one day at a time, across a lifetime. —Jen Wilkin