Grace and peace to you on this fine day.
(Yesterday on the blog: On the Changing of the Dictionaries)
“A new friendship is a wonderful beginning, fresh and exciting and full of potential, like the planting of a new tree. Don’t we all naturally long for relationship? To know and be truly known? To love and be truly loved, in spite of being truly known? Of course we do. But…”
Brianna has a sweet reflection on motherhood and worship.
Here’s a prayer you may do well to pray—and a prayer God may well be eager to answer.
Sylvia Schroeder: “This past Christmas might have confirmed what we knew all along. Many of the things we want most don’t come wrapped in beautiful packages. While holidays wind down and stores fill with red hearts, we realize, Christmas couldn’t give what we desired most. And we beg God for more.”
“When Adam and Eve rejected God’s goodness and authority by eating the forbidden fruit, their eyes were opened and they suddenly recognized that they were naked. This new, hyper-self-conscious reality set in motion a series of actions, each one a strategy to hide the shame that they felt over what they had done.”
Donna offers some ways to remain steadfast in hope during the most difficult seasons of life.
I was in sociology class when the teacher asked this: How many people here eat dinner as a family at least twice a week? Two of us put up hands—me and the only other Christian in the class.
Toil is the price of success. To loiter is to lose all; to falter is to fail. —J.R. Miller
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By Tim Challies — 1 year ago
It has been my observation that churches tend to invest a fair bit of effort in preparing couples to begin a healthy marriage, but perhaps a little less in helping couples sustain a healthy marriage. We offer pre-marriage seminars designed to deliberately help a couple better understand the challenges that will come their way in the years ahead, but don’t offer as many seminars deliberately designed to help couples through the middle and later years of marriage and, thus, through issues like sorrow, loss, declining sexuality, empty-nesting, unmet expectations, unresolved conflict, and so on.
I wanted to address this in my church (and in my own marriage, for that), so decided to lead a marriage seminar that would appeal specifically to couples who have been married for at least a decade and perhaps even several. I built it around Dave Harvey’s I Still Do: Growing Closer and Stronger through Life’s Defining Moments—a book that is meant to foster a marriage that is lasting and durable. With Dave doing the heavy lifting, I put a good deal of effort into creating questions that would prompt conversation and prayer between the couples and also lead to helpful group discussions.
Because I expect others may benefit from such a course, I thought I’d share the material and make it freely available for you to download for your own purposes, whether that’s to lead a course with others or just go through the material with your spouse. You are free to download it, use it, edit it, and so on. You need give no credit to me.
I would recommend having an experienced and credible individual or couple lead the course and would also recommend keeping the group size relatively small as a means of fostering openness and vulnerability in times of corporate discussion. The six sessions are structured in such a way that each couple will read two chapters together, answer a number of questions, then meet with the group for further learning and discussion. Group meetings should be scheduled for about 90 minutes. For each session there is a Question sheet which is sent to the couples in advance and a Discussion sheet which is for the leader to use at the seminar. Those who wish to extend the course to 12 weeks can easily split each session in half. Each couple will need to have a copy of I Still Do (Amazon, Westminster Books) and the leader should purchase a copy of the Study Guide (Amazon, Westminster Books) since a few of the questions are drawn from it.
Here are all the files in a variety of formats:
Introduction, Information, and Expectations: PDF, Pages, Word
Session 1 (Questions: PDF, Pages, Word | Discussion: PDF, Pages, Word)
Session 2 (Questions: PDF, Pages, Word | Discussion: PDF, Pages, Word)
Session 3 (Questions: PDF, Pages, Word | Discussion: PDF, Pages, Word)
Session 4 (Questions: PDF, Pages, Word | Discussion: PDF, Pages, Word)
Session 5 (Questions: PDF, Pages, Word | Discussion: PDF, Pages, Word)
Session 6 (Questions: PDF, Pages, Word | Discussion: PDF, Pages, Word)
Or: Download everything in one zip file
By Tim Challies — 7 months ago
Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canadians. 🇨🇦
At Westminster Books you’ll find a deal on a resource meant to help younger people engage with the great hymns of the Christian faith.
Today’s Kindle deals include a couple of books.
(Yesterday on the blog: Seasons of Sorrow: The Release Event (You’re Invited!))
The Triviality of Pro-Choice Memes
After SCOTUS handed down its decision, “there was much justified jubilation, as well as frustrated weeping, regret, sorrow, fear, and the full panoply of human emotion that such a movement towards costly justice could be expected to engender from advocates and foes. And, of course, in our culture that has displaced reasoned discourse with the image, the ad, and the infographic, there were many annoying memes.”
Is Church Growth Desirable or Dangerous? Yes.
There are lots of good thoughts in this one. “A lack of prayer is a mark of self-sufficiency, and it is simultaneously a cause of self-sufficiency. There could be few things more dangerous for the souls of church leaders than to lead prayerlessly and then to see growth. Woe to him who does not pray for what he needs, but a double-woe to him to whom God grants success apart from prayer.”
Valor Without Renown
Kristin reflects on valor without renown (and life without social media).
If You Find Listening to Sermons Boring, Try This
“During my lifetime I reckon I’ve heard about 4,000 sermons. Often I have been challenged, uplifted, provoked, transformed. Sadly, other times, I have been bored.” Here are some ways to gain more from the sermon.
Gospel Light in the Red Light District
Lauren Ray shares some of her efforts to represent Christ in Amsterdam’s infamous Red Light District.
Gen Z Mental Health Crisis: How Pastors Can Make a Difference
I’ve heard so much about the Gen Z mental health crisis—as have you, I expect. This article shares ways that pastors (and others) can make a difference.
Flashback: You Don’t Really Know Who Your Friends Are Until…
Jesus is unchanged and unchanging. He will not bow to the changing culture, he will not cede to the rising tide. Jesus will only ever be who he is and who he has always been. And each of us has a choice to make.
Don’t ever degenerate into giving advice unconnected to the good news of Jesus crucified, alive, present, at work and returning. —David Powlison
By Tim Challies — 3 months ago
I have said a lot about Nick over the past two years. I have written a lot articles and done quite a number of interviews and even published a book. And I have been aware all the while that I can only speak to a small part of our loss, for there were many people who loved Nick and many who lost him. Today is the second anniversary of his death and I asked Aileen if she felt ready to write something. She said she did, and so today I am turning things over to her.
When I was in Nashville for the Seasons of Sorrow book launch, Tim was asked several times “how are your wife and daughters doing?” It was asked often enough that, upon reflection, I think people understand that Tim has been nuancing the way he talks about my experience with grief as well as that of our girls. He has been very careful to only give voice to his experience of the last few years, and to word it in such a way that people don’t assume that the rest of the family’s experience necessarily matches his. I love him for this, and appreciate it very much. After all, Tim’s story is only part of the story. That’s because a dad’s grief is different from a mom’s grief. This makes sense. God has created each person to be unique which means each person’s experience of grief is unique. Each person’s relationship with the deceased is different as well, and this lends itself to differences in how each person grieves him. Adding another layer of complexity, each circumstance of loss is different as well. As we hear from people who have lost loved ones, I am continually struck by how different and unique each situation is, how grief shows differently in each person and each circumstance. This must be another example of how we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Tim recently asked if for the second anniversary of Nick’s death I would be willing to write something about it—something that may help answer the question of how I am doing.
I was told it would probably take about two years before I felt anything close to back to normal, and it very much feels like the end of year two is the beginning of a new season. Because of this, it feels appropriate to look back and ponder what I am thankful for.
I am thankful for God preparing me.
God has been kind. He gave us one of the hardest things and yet he also gave so much to help us survive. Looking back, I now see how he prepared me years ago to weather such a storm. He blessed me by giving me a bedrock of theology that in my weakest moment I had to simply deploy. I can see how he gave us what we needed moment by moment to continue to walk in faith through such suffering. When nothing felt true, when God didn’t feel kind, when he didn’t feel good, when he didn’t feel just, I had a choice: I could choose to believe what my heart and my emotions were telling me—that God was cruel, unkind and unjust—or I could choose to believe what my mind knew to be true of God’s character and trust that eventually my emotions would catch up to my brain. There are days when this is still a struggle, but I have learned not to trust my feelings. Emotions cannot inform truth. Rather, truth must inform emotions. God didn’t abandon us, he walked with us and prepared us. I had to choose to see his presence, but he was there. I am so thankful in his mercy he prepared me.
I am thankful for God’s sovereignty.
God’s sovereignty is both comforting and terrifying at the same time. I think in the abstract I knew the Lord could choose to do anything he wanted in our lives. But suddenly, on November 3, I learned dramatically that he actually will do anything. Even so, I am so thankful God is in control. This situation would be only worse if God had no control over it. God had every right to chose this for us. I may not much like it, but I know he has purpose in it. As humans we seem to have a driving need to understand why things are happening. It makes us feel better if we can attribute a specific purpose to the hardships we are experiencing. But the reality is that in our human weakness and frailty, God has not given us that ability. We can guess, we can suspect, but we cannot know. God instead gives us knowledge of his sovereignty, and asks us to trust, by faith, that all things work together for our good and his glory. How this is true in Nick’s death I do not know. I don’t expect to ever know, on this earth, the full purpose of this suffering in our lives. But, I do know one day it will all make sense. I can wait, patiently, trusting in God’s character. I am thankful he sees the big picture, that he is in control of all things, and that nothing happens outside his will. I am thankful that God is sovereign.
I am thankful this is temporary.
I also know that as hard as this is, it is all temporary. Initially we divided the days up by doing the next hard thing. That might have been the call to the coroner or the call to the funeral home. It might have been picking out clothing or packing up belongings. But for a long while our life was divided into segments, defined by the next hard thing we had to do. As time has gone on those hard things have grown further apart. Even so, the reality is we will always have the next hard thing we have to do. Life in this fallen world dictates it. But one day, there will no longer be the next hard thing. I am so thankful that this world is not our home. Until that day, when the Lord calls me home, my job on this earth is not yet done. So I will wait patiently, enduring what I need to until one day there will be no more mourning, no more crying or pain, and every tear will be wiped away and death shall be no more. I am so thankful this is temporary.
Lastly, I am thankful I got to be Nick’s mom.
I have wanted to tell you all about Nick, but as I began to write this out I found that I still can’t. Another time perhaps, when the pain is a little less raw, when my heart hurts just little bit less, I’ll be able to share a bit more about my firstborn, the one who first made me a mom. God in his mercy gave me a son who brought light and joy to my life for 20 years. Despite all the sadness, I am so very thankful I got to be a mom to my Nick.
A few days after Nick’s death I wrote to a friend of mine and I expressed my longing for the day joy would return. I knew logically that one day it would come, but looking forward all I could see was heartache and sorrow. These have been hard, hard days. But God in his kindness and mercy has sustained us. We have grieved and mourned and wept. But as the two-year mark draws to a close, I am seeing that joy return—joy that is less tainted by sorrow. I am thankful. God has been present. And I think I will end here as I have ended every note I have written in the last two years: God is still good.
This is a special photo as it captured the first moment Nick began to respond to Aileen and ‘talk’ back to her.