May the Lord be with you and bless you on this fine day.
Westminster Books is offering a deal on a book that is meant to help your mind be still and quiet.
This is a really good little article from Darryl. “I’ve stopped trying to recognize which moments matter. We’re tempted to think that we know, and we often try to capture and post them. But we’re really poor judges. We may know which images may get likes, but we don’t know what moments matter most, even though they’re humble and ordinary.”
This is a sweet new poem about finding hope in times of trial.
I appreciate this reflection on beauty. “How often do you look at the sky? I’m sure the answer is multiple times every day—even if you live in a major city like I do there’s still an awful lot of sky, but how often do you actually look at it?”
Here are some good and some not-so-good ways to number your days.
This is needed: A call to reserve the term pastor for, well, pastors. “I don’t think we should put Pastor on people just because they are on a church staff. A pastor isn’t someone who gets a paycheck from a church and is responsible for running events for certain age groups while holding a Bible.”
“‘Politics is a dirty business.’ So we hear constantly in some fashion in today’s discourse. Many degrade politics further by saying Christians should not participate in it, at least not consciously as Christians. It is base (not based) and low.” But is this as it should be?
We would all do well to remember that true wisdom is not only knowing your subject well, but also knowing the limitations of your knowledge. We aren’t wise until we know what we know and what we don’t know.
The Holy Spirit will not allow you to live satisfied on the rubbish heap; he will nurture a longing for the City of God to beat in your heart. —Gloria Furman
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By Tim Challies — 2 years ago
Not 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 — 2 years ago
An elderly man was once out for an evening stroll when his feet inadvertently sent a little acorn skittering across the forest floor. He came to the place where it had stopped rolling and, stooping slowly, picked it up. And then, strangely, he held that acorn to his ear. He held that acorn to his ear and, listening attentively, heard it speak.
“In time the birds will come and make their nests in my branches,” it said. “In time I will cast deep shade so that cattle can come and find respite from the midday sun. In time I will provide warmth for a home. In time I will be a shelter from the storm for those who gather beneath my timbers. In time I will form the ribs of a great ship and the storms will beat against me in vain as I carry passengers safely across the storm-swept seas.”
“You foolish little acorn,” said the old man. “Will you be all this? Can you be all this?”
“Yes,” replied the acorn. “Yes, God and I.”*
As Christians we are often discouraged by our scant accomplishments and slow progress. We find ourselves attuned more to our spiritual defeats than spiritual victories, more to the sin that remains than the holiness won. Though we may not be who and what we once were, we are still not nearly who and what we long to be.
The acorn in this parable models the kind of faith each of us can have, the kind of confidence we ought to have, for it reminds us that God has made many promises. God has said that since he is the one who began a good work in us, he is the one who will bring it to completion. God has said that he will sanctify us completely so that our whole spirit and soul and body will be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has said that he will fulfill his every purpose for us. (Phil 1:4, 1 Thes 5:24, Psalm 138:8)
And though we have been justified and will be glorified, we are being sanctified. Though God has in one moment saved our souls and will in one moment deliver them to his presence, he is in the meantime progressively conforming us to his image. And though he calls us to battle to put sin to death and come alive to righteousness, he does not call us to battle in our own strength or with our own power.
Thus even the most recent convert and even the youngest Christian can say, “In time I will abhor what is evil and hold fast to what is good. In time I will put to death all that is earthly in me and come alive to all that is heavenly. In time I will love my enemies and pray fervently for those who persecute me. In time I will be marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. In time I will come to be so much holier than I ever believed possible. In time.”
And in that moment of confident proclamation he ought to expect that the temper, the discourager, will whisper, “You foolish young Christian, will you be all this? Can you be all this?” And it then falls to him to answer back, “Yes, God and I.” For though it is He who demands, it is He who provides. It is He who works within, both to will and to work.
By Tim Challies — 10 months ago
Good morning. Grace and peace to you.
(Yesterday on the blog: A Prayer for Times of Controversy)
What Are Theologians For? The Case of Karl Barth’s Adultery
“‘It’s a shame he was an adulterous and unfaithful husband, but he sure was a great theologian and a gift to the church.’ Is this sentence intelligible? Might it be regarded as capturing the complex reality of indwelling and ongoing sin for theologians, or is it simply oxymoronic?”
The most precious and painful thing I will ever write
It is so encouraging and challenging to read an obituary of a very good life.
‘He Gets Us’ Super Bowl Ads Part of Billion-Dollar Campaign
What’s the “He Gets Us” campaign all about? And who’s funding it? CT explains.
An Open Letter to the Prayerless Church
Paul Miller: “In our prayer seminar, we ask several confidential questions about a participant’s prayer life. After doing hundreds of seminars, we have found that about 85% of Christians in a typical church do not have much of a prayer life. Praying communities are, perhaps, even more rare.”
What is Good (and Bad) about Transparency
“The rise of reality TV and then social media has radically increased transparency. Team Transparency has rallied around #nofilter selfies and sharing even the frustrating and discouraging parts of life. Team Self-Respect has rallied around calls for decency and the need for some last bastion of privacy.”
Scarcity and the Goodness of God
“Once we grab a taste of joy and pleasure we’re tempted to cram ourselves full– whether through TV binges or social media dopamine hits. We’re stuffed, yet completely dissatisfied, because deep down we still wonder when we’ll get it again. Yet those of us who belong to Christ don’t have to live in such a way. We can shift our minds to what’s true: Abundant goodness remains accessible at any time to us through our Lord.”
Flashback: As if God Had Ever Made an Atlantic Wide Enough…
In this short but sweet quote, Theodore Cuyler reflects on what we need most in our times of affliction.
We should not run aimlessly or halfheartedly, as though we signed up just to get a T-shirt, but as runners who look to receive the “well done” from our Lord and Master. —Alistair Begg