Tim Challies

Before You Pack Up and Leave…

Every one of us has become familiar with the pattern. Every one of us has seen church members becoming dissatisfied and then disgruntled, missing church occasionally and then consistently. Every one of us has seen the pattern and begun to dread the nearly-inevitable conclusion. This is especially discouraging when the reason for the departure is not an area of essential theological disagreement but something much more common and much less important—hurt feelings, petty squabbles, matters of preference.

This pattern is so common that we should all assume we ourselves may at some time fall into it. This being the case, what should you do when you begin feeling discontent at your church? What should you do when you feel that yearning to pick up and move on? What should you do when you find yourself eager to slip out of one church and into another? I’d like to offer just a few suggestions that I hope you’ll consider and put into practice.
Pray through the directory. Find yourself a copy of the church directory and commit to praying through the entire thing at least once. Pray for each person or each family by name. Pray what the Bible models and pray what the Spirit prompts. Prayer is one of our core responsibilities toward one another and has a way of stirring up our affections. As you pray for those people may it remind you that you’re not just walking away from a club or institution, but from a community—a family, even.
Commit to serving. The temptation when disgruntled is always to stop serving—to remove yourself from whatever ministries you’ve been involved with. Before you leave, recommit to serving others for a period of time—several months at least. Love tends to grow cold when we stop loving others and it tends to be rekindled when we start loving again. Plus, it’s as we serve that the Lord reminds us that he has gifted us specifically so we can use his gifts to bless our fellow Christians.
(Parenthetically, it is almost universally true that when people leave churches for reasons that are poor or inadequate, they have stopped praying for their fellow church members and have stopped serving them. Rarely do people leave when they are constant in prayer and diligent in service.)
Remember the good, not just the bad. In times when we are hurt or discouraged we usually find ourselves fixating on what others have done wrong, not what they have done right. So as you consider leaving, force yourself to remember not only the church’s failings, but also its blessings. Remember not only the bad times, but also the good, not only the times it fell short, but also the times it rallied to the cause. Remember all the times it blessed you, expressed kindness to you, and supported you. You may find this side of the scale by far outweighs the other.
Think it through. There may be many good reasons to leave one church for another, but there are certainly many bad ones. The worst reason of all is allowing unidentified or unrepentant sin to be the determining factor. Hence, before you leave any church, think carefully about whether sin or sanctification is leading the way—whether you feel the need to leave because you have grown in holiness or because you have diminished in holiness. Too many people allow sin, not the Spirit, to lead them out the door.
Pray it through. The only way to adequately think it through is to pray it through. You need to labor in prayer to become convinced that your departure is consistent with God’s will. Pray for God to expose your heart, to guide your feelings, to make your motives clear. Pray that your deepest desire would be to honor and glorify him, whether that means leaving or staying.
Talk it through. It is possible that the church is in error, but it’s also possible that you are in error. It is possible there is a sore problem with the church’s leadership, but it is also possible that there is a sore problem with your sanctification. Have the character and honesty to ask someone, “Am I making a wise decision?” And make sure that individual is the type who will challenge you if you need to be challenged. Don’t leave if trustworthy men and women are telling you to stay.
The fact is that in a consumeristic culture like this one—a culture in which the customer is always right—too many people leave too many churches too easily. It’s unlikely that any of us is above the temptation to depart for poor reasons and to leave behind us a trail of hurt and confusion. So before you make that decision, pray for the people of the church and diligently serve them. Ask God for wisdom and ask others for guidance. And then, only then, leave with confidence that your departure is God’s will. As you do so, you will have honored God, served others, and modeled how to leave a church well.

A La Carte (June 20)

Good morning and happy Monday!

It’s Monday which means there is a new batch of Kindle deals from Crossway; you’ll also find the complete Narnia series at a massive discount.
(Yesterday on the blog: A Lover of the Lord Lives There!)
Did Paul Ever See Jesus During Our Lord’s Earthly Ministry?
How interesting! “Although most New Testament scholars simply assume that Paul had never seen Jesus prior to Paul’s Damascus Road experience, Stanley Porter raises the fascinating possibility that Paul and Jesus had indeed crossed paths before Paul’s conversion.”
Come, He Needs Nothing From You
I really appreciate this reminder that God doesn’t need anything from us.
Productivity Without Burnout
How does a productive pastor keep himself from burning out? Here are some lessons from John Gill, most of which apply to more than just pastors.
Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship
It’s probably worth considering if any of these apply to your church.
How should a believer respond to false accusations?
“Recently, believers have made much of high profile Christian leaders falling into sin. Articles have been written, comments have been tweeted, sound-bytes have been reported upon. Most of these have rightfully focused on the devastating impact on the victims and the harm caused to the church at large. But at the same time we need to also remember that there is another type of victim as well.”
You can’t call your leaders to be accountable and side-step it yourself
“But for all the talk of leaders being unwilling to be held accountable – and certainly such leaders exist – this is hardly an issue unique to pastors and elders. An unwillingness to be held accountable seems to be a hallmark of many church members too.”
Flashback: Are You Content To Carry the Pins?
They had a lesser calling but still a noble calling. God expected they would embrace it wholeheartedly and carry it out skillfully.

We make a grave mistake when we let ourselves think that ill temper is merely a trifling weakness. It is a disfiguring blemish. —J.R. Miller

A La Carte (June 20)

Today’s Kindle deals include a whole collection of excellent Puritan works (and more).

(Yesterday on the blog: Why the Best Missions Sermon Is All About God’s Sovereignty)
What Makes a Translation Accurate?
Bill Mounce answers the question. And the answer isn’t as simple as you might think.
A Psalm-Singing Resurgence
This is a good development. “We are experiencing something of a Psalm-singing resurgence in our day. Resources abound online for people who would like to learn more about psalm singing. Churches are making strategic plans to train their members in singing the psalms. Blogs buzz with excitement over the Psalter. It is undeniable that the church is waking up to that which once marked it–the passionate singing of psalms.”
Specific Ways You Can Pray for Your Pastor
Here is a great list of specific ways you can pray for your pastor.
EARN THEOLOGY AND COUNSELING DEGREES ONLINE IN SMALL GROUPS. NOW FROM WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
Check out these reviews from current, online students:

“I am taking three online classes. They are fantastic.”
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“The small group experience is, for me, one of the highlights of this class.”

(Sponsored Link)
A Parent’s Guide to the 5 Skeptics Who Want to Shame Your Kids for Being Christian
This is helpful for parents. “To be clear, none of the non-believers I personally know would use shaming tactics in person. But when people are behind their screens, it brings down the ‘barrier’ of civility, and faith conversations often look very different. You can see it on social media (even with friends who wouldn’t say such things in person), comments on news articles, blog posts—everywhere.”
I Need a Woman Who Can Mulch
“What is fifteen minutes of pleasure compared to a lifetime of companionship, mutual care, and the dirty fingernails of a woman who gives her time and sweat (and back muscles!) to infuse beauty into our home? What kind of senseless fool would throw that away? What dope reduces their life to the fulfillment of sexual desire when there is so much more that only the lifelong, mutual commitment in the covenant of marriage could ever satisfy?”
The Challenges and Joys of a Young Pastor
I appreciate this view of the early years of ministry. “Nothing can prepare you for the emotional, mental, physical and psychological demands of shepherding people. From the highs of rejoicing with those who are rejoicing, to the lows of weeping with those who are weeping or being devastated by a member who falls into sin, to enduring attacks on you and your family.”
‘Happy Wife, Happy Life’: And Other Misleading Advice to Young Husbands
Yes, I received this advice as a young husband. “We see Adam’s passivity echoed in countless marriages today. The temptation to be emotionally and spiritually absent, when physically present, has merely changed hairstyles over time. The same unmanly repose still beckons men to recline in the passenger’s seat. God calls out to husbands today with the same question he asked in the garden: ‘Adam, where are you?’”
Flashback: I Forbid You To Say These Things at My Funeral
Here are a few things I sincerely hope no one will say about me at my funeral or any time thereafter. In fact, I hereby forbid it.

People prefer to ask God to make them powerful rather than tender; when tenderness is what best expresses God’s power. —Harold Segura

A Lover of the Lord Lives There!

History has bequeathed to us some precious prayers. I’m grateful that many of them have been collected for our use and benefit. Robert Elmer’s Piercing Heaven is among my favorites, and in its pages I found this sweet one from the pen of Robert Hawker.

Precious Jesus, you have been a strength to my poor soul, and you will be my portion forever. Help me to see my daily need of you, and to feel my poverty and weakness.
From persecution to my guilty conscience, to the remains of sin in a body of death, to the accusations of Satan or even the just judgments of God—I am secure in you, Lord Jesus. And I continually cry out, as did your prophet, “In the Lord I have righteousness and strength, even to you do I come; and never will I be ashamed or confounded, world without end.”
You have given grace, glory, and honor to your Israel. I want your name, Lord, on the gates of my house, so that no one will walk by and miss the fact that a lover of the Lord lives there!
It is my highest honor to have it known whose I am, and whom I serve, in the gospel of his dear Son. How could I be ashamed of that name before which every knee bows in heaven and on earth?
And Lord Jesus, not only write your name upon the gates of my house, but engrave it at the center of my heart and my affections—on my first, and last, my earliest, and latest thoughts!
Let it be my joy to speak out of the abundance of my heart about you and your great salvation. In all I say, in all I do, let it be clear that I am in pursuit of the one my soul loves.
Let my every action point to your dear name. And whether at home or abroad, in my house or family, when lying down or rising up, let all creation witness for me, that the love, the service, the interest, the glory of my God in Christ is the only object of my soul’s desire.
Let every thing in my life say this: “Whom have I in heaven but you, and there is none upon earth I desire but you. Though my flesh and heart fail, yet you are the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” Amen.

Weekend A La Carte (June 18)

My gratitude goes to ONE Audiobooks who sponsored the blog this way by giving away three audiobooks to anyone who wanted them. It’s not to late to get them!

There’s a nice little collection of Kindle deals today.
(Yesterday on the blog: What Is A Woman?)
Don’t Miss Out On Majesty
I love this anecdote from the life of Queen Elizabeth II. “Of all the great stories told over the past few weeks during the 70th Jubilee celebrations of the Queen, the most memorable, and funniest, is told by the head of her security detail. He recounts that one time when the Queen was in her 80s, he and she were picnicking in the countryside near Balmoral, her Scottish residence.”
Are We Human, Or Are We Dancer?
I enjoy Sam Chan’s brief devotionals, including this one about the Song “Human” by The Killers.
Ministry after the Mayfield Tornado (Video)
This video shares one church’s experience during and after the devastating Mayfield tornado.
Christian Reformed Church Brings LGBT Stance Into Faith Statement
I found it encouraging to hear that the Christian Reformed Church decided to “codify its opposition to homosexual sex by elevating it to the status of confession, or declaration of faith.”
The Man Who Coined the TULIP Acrostic
Who coined the popular TULIP acrostic? It turns out it’s not the person many of us were led to believe.
2 Films Explore a Volatile Question: ‘What Is a Woman?’
Brett McCracken reviews a pair of films, including the one I reviewed yesterday, that cover some similar ground.
Flashback: Peril on Both Sides
Account for the cross-references, but don’t major on them. Stick to your text, preacher!

It is not a small work to break the pride and stoniness of your heart. It needs power from above. —Nicholas Byfield

What Is A Woman?

Who would have thought it? Who would have thought that a question so straightforward would prove so controversial? Who would have thought that providing the age-old answer to the simplest of questions would be enough to cast you out of polite society? Yet here we are.

The question, of course, is this: What is a woman? This question is at the core of a new documentary by Matt Walsh—a documentary that is meant to expose the danger and contradictory nature of contemporary gender ideology. This ideology does away with the male/female and man/woman binaries and replaces them with spectrums so that people are not simply men or women and not simply male or female, but can instead define themselves according to their feelings. At the same time it completely separates sex and gender so that a male body can belong to a woman as easily as a man. Everything we once took for granted has been deconstructed and reversed.
With this in the background, Walsh travels around the United States—and briefly to Africa—to interview people and to engage in some light trolling. He wishes mostly to get an answer to the big question: What is a woman?
He begins with an interview of a gender non-conforming gender affirming therapist who insists “some women have penises and some men have vaginas.” This individual, though female, says she cannot answer the question of “what is a woman?” because she herself (they themself?) is not a woman.
With no answer there, he turns next to the streets of New York City where he speaks to a group of women who range from young to middle-aged, yet are unable to answer the question except to say that it is bound up in an individual’s self-identification. They know they are women, but they don’t know why. Heading to San Francisco, he sits down with Dr. Marci Bowers, a male-to-female transgendered doctor who is considered among the preeminent sex-change surgeons in the world. The doctor says that a woman is a combination of your physical attributes and what you’re showing to the world through the clues that you give—still not a very helpful answer.
He speaks to Michelle Forcier, a pediatrician whose work involves “reproductive justice” and “gender affirmation care,” which is to say, helping children and teens dispute the gender they were assigned at birth and transition to another. She insists that telling a family of a newborn baby that the child’s genitals offer any substantial clue as to whether he is male or she is female, is simply not correct—it’s an outdated and harmful way to think about things. From there it’s off to Tennessee to speak to Dr. Patrick Grzanka who is a professor of women, gender, and sexuality studies but who, despite such lofty academic credentials, can do no better than “a person who identifies as a woman,” violating the rule that a word must not be defined by using that word. And so it goes, even to a women’s march in which, ironically, the people marching for women’s rights seem unable or unwilling to answer the question of what constitutes a woman in the first place.
As the documentary continues, Walsh begins to integrate the voices of those who are dissenting from this ideology. Miriam Grossman, an adolescent and adult psychiatrist, does much of the heavy lifting. She is outraged by the ease at which people—and especially young people—are being subjected to what is really no better than medical experimentation as they are injected with hormones and subjected to life-altering surgeries. A couple of young female athletes explain how they were forced to compete against—and lose to—biological males. Carl Trueman makes a couple of brief (too brief!) appearances to explain some of the history behind this gender ideology. Jordan Peterson brings his trademark outrage to a few clips. Perhaps strongest of all is an extended interview with Scott (Kellie) Newgent who medically transitioned from woman to man and is now filled with regrets, understanding that she is not a man and never can or will be, despite all the surgeries and hormones. Her body, and indeed her life, has been ruined by it.
The film is not without its missteps. I don’t understand the benefit of visiting the Masai and hearing how they view men and women, interesting though it may be. Then Walsh takes a few cheap shots, tosses out a few easy insults, and interviews a few soft targets (like the naked dude wandering the city streets and the person who identifies as a wolf). And it is here that I think we ought to consider this: When we have the truth on our side, we can engage with an opponent’s best arguments with every bit as much confidence as their worst. Hence some of the soft targets could as easily have been replaced by people making a much stronger argument. This, in turn, might better equip viewers to engage with those who hold to this gender ideology. There may be a place for satire or outright mockery, but there is also a place to take on and refute the absolute best arguments an opponent can offer. I would have liked to have seen Walsh do a little bit more of that.
As I watched the documentary I found myself wondering: What is the purpose of a production like this? Is it meant to persuade those who disagree with its premises? Is it meant to affirm the convictions of those who already agree with its premises? Or does it have a different purpose altogether? While I found What Is a Woman a surprisingly strong film, I suspect it will mostly serve the second purpose. I don’t expect it to convince those who are not already convinced—not least because, at least for now, the only way to watch it is to subscribe to The Daily Wire. I was willing to part with a month’s fee to watch it, but doubt many of those who buy into this gender ideology will be willing to do so. And so it will, I suspect, largely preach to the choir.
Parents will want to know there are a few images that are somewhat explicit and a few words they may not want their kids to hear, largely in the context of interviews. This isn’t a film to watch with the littlest ones. But I think it could be a good film to watch with teens since it reflects the world they will be growing up in and the world they will need to make their way through. Though Walsh’s treatment is not entirely serious and certainly not academic, and though he could have engaged with some stronger arguments, he does a good job of exposing the contradictory nature, moral confusion, and physical danger of modern day gender ideology. And that makes this a film worth watching.
(If you’d like to dive a little deeper into the subject, you might consider reading Affirming God’s Image, which is written from a Christian perspective, or Irreversible Damage which looks at how this ideology is particularly harming young women. Of course Carl Trueman’s Strange New World (the short book) and The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self (the longer one) are essential reading as well.)

A La Carte (June 17)

I made the long drive back from Grand Rapids yesterday and had to scramble to get A La Carte done! But I did get it done, and here it is… (But first, I listened to Candice Millard’s The River of the Gods along the way and very much enjoyed it. Recommended!)

The book on marriage I recommended last week, Gospel Shaped Marriage, is now on sale at WTS.
Speaking Truth in Marital Conflict
“Here is a universal rule for marriage counselors: don’t allow couples to speak to each other in absolutes.” That’s good advice for couples who aren’t working with a counselor as well.
Is Rick Warren Right about Gift vs. Office?
Denny Burk: “An unexpected thing happened this week at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) when Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, rose to make a statement that began with, ‘It’s customary for a guy who’s about to be hung to let him say his dying words.’”
Free audiobook – Happily Ever After: Finding Grace in the Messes of Marriage from ONE Audiobooks
Happy Friday!  Here’s a 3rd FREE audiobook offer from ONE Audiobooks.  If you missed them, there were two previous offers this week from ONE – Why I Love the Apostle Paul by John Piper & The Possibilities of Prayer by E.M. Bounds.  We believe that God designed marriage not as a trial to be endured, but as a pointer to and catalyst for your greatest joy. God didn’t design marriage to be your storybook ending, but to be a fresh beginning, to help get you ready for the true “happily ever after” when together we see our great Bridegroom face to face.  Get on ONE’s list to find out about some huge sales we have coming up! (Sponsored Link)
What ‘Leah’s Eyes Were Weak’ Means—& What It Says about Bible Interpretation
“The book of Genesis does what preachers and Sunday school teachers would do well to avoid. Indeed, it violates the first rule they teach you at Bible-teaching school: Don’t comment on the physical appearance of particular women.” What does it mean that Leah’s eyes were weak? This article provides an interesting answer.
Advice for Pastors Young and Old
Here is some useful advice for pastors, whether they are young or old (or somewhere in between).
The Pervasive Problem of Loving Money
John Piper covers the pervasive problem of loving money.
Letter to a Wounded Pastor
Darryl writes a letter to wounded pastors (of whom there are many).
Flashback: Love Is Not Heavy-Handed
It’s inevitable that problems will arise, inevitable that there will be angry words, unfortunate misunderstandings, unintentional insults. While there will be many great blessings that come through the local church, there will also be real sorrows.

A culture of individual isolation and lone rangers is not a culture of the gospel. —Michael Reeves

A La Carte (June 16)

Today’s Kindle deals include a few interesting books.

(Yesterday on the blog: 40 More Random Pieces of Advice for the Christian Life)
Fathers, Lead the Way
Here’s a reflection for fathers in the lead-up to Father’s Day.
Let Your Sins Be Strong
“We all tend to minimize our sinfulness. We look at the wrongs we have done and do everything we can to try and justify our actions. Doing this, however, fails to take full ownership of our sins.”
A Christian Perspective on the Meaning of Life
It’s a question we all need to ask at some point, an issue we all need to consider: What are we here for?
What tree does the fruit grow on?
“Western Europe (and North America) is moving further and further from its moorings in a Christian view of life. Some are glad to see the back of what they might term ‘superstitious nonsense’. Others are deeply troubled that the religious foundations with which they grew up are being shaken.”
How Do I Forgive?
Sometimes forgiveness isn’t quite as easy as we think it will be…
9Marks Journal
For those interested in some slightly more academic reading, there is a new issue of the 9Marks Journal available to read for free.
Flashback: Consecutive Exposition Is Not the Only Way
His approach was not to simply pluck a text from the Bible, but to take a text from God through the Bible. He would not labor to exposit his text until he had labored to discover his text.

No one thing either deforms or weakens the Church more than division. —John Brinsley

40 More Random Pieces of Advice for the Christian Life

A number of weeks ago I shared an article titled 40 Random Pieces of Advice for the Christian Life. This isn’t something I intend to do often but did want to follow up at least once with a sequel of sorts. I hope there is something here you find helpful.

Be appropriately skeptical about new movements, new terminology, and new methods. If the church has gotten along pretty well without it for the past 2,000 years, it’s unlikely that it’s actually a key to success in the Christian life. This is as true of phenomena in the wider Christian context (e.g. The Prayer of Jabez, Purpose Driven) as in the narrower Reformed subculture (e.g. the terms “missional,” or “gospel-centered”).

One of the best ways to show love to your friends is to show love to your friends’ children. Take an interest in them, love them, and be a friend to them.

You can count on it as a general rule that what you gain from a church service will relate directly to your level of expectation and preparation. Expect little and you are likely to gain little. Prepare little and you are likely to benefit little.

Don’t put too much stock in parenting books written by parents who haven’t yet successfully launched their kids into independence. None of us really knows how we’ve done until our kids have moved beyond our oversight and authority.

Understand that if you will only follow those in positions of authority over you when they do the things you want them to do anyway, you’re not actually submitting to their leadership. Sometimes submission to our leaders means joyfully following their leadership even when we disagree with it. (Which is not the same as saying we should obey our leaders when they tell us to sin.)

In your personal devotions, try listening to the Bible if you typically read it, or try reading the Bible if you typically listen to it. Both are good and both are modeled in Scripture. Each engages the mind in different ways.

Remember that you may share the blame for your children’s sin. You may have exasperated them to such a degree that you bear at least part of the responsibility for their sinful response to your poor leadership. And because this is true of parenting, it’s true also of other positions of leadership. (See Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21)

Be aware of the natural human tendency to consider what a given Bible text does not say before focusing on what it actually does say. Your first consideration should be “how do I obey this?” rather than “what are the exceptions?” This happens most often when it comes to passages about honoring parents, submitting to the government, waging total war against sin, being constant in prayer, and so on.

Be sparing in criticisms of the local church or its leaders in the presence of your children. Your grumbling could teach them that they ought to relate to the church as critics more than participants. It could turn them against the local church as an institution.

Distinguish between reading the Bible for depth and reading it for breadth. In other words, invest some effort in going deep into particular books, chapters, and verses, and also some effort into gaining an overview of the entire book. Read fast sometimes and slow other times; read huge passages on some occasions and small ones on others.

It is a wise habit to pray for your children with your children. It is a blessing to children to hear your heart for them. (Also, pray for your spouse with your spouse, for your church with your church, and so on.)

Embrace diversity in the local church, acknowledging the tendency to eschew it. Also, understand that diversity comes in many forms—racial, cultural, political, ideological, theological, and so on.

Relational problem-solving is almost always best done face-to-face. When that’s not possible, FaceTime or a phone call is second best. Email and social media are usually about as bad as it gets. Fight the tendency to attempt to solve problems at a distance instead of close-up.

When you are at your best, plan for your worst. In those times when you are spiritually healthy, make plans for the times when you may be spiritually weak or despondent. In those times when you are zealous, make plans for the times when you may face fierce temptations to sin.

It is good to train children to work. However, they will spend the rest of their lives working hard, so it’s not a bad thing to go a bit easy on them and let them enjoy their childhood. Life is long and it will only get more difficult.

Learn to say “I love you” to more people than merely family members.

When someone suffers a sore loss, grieve with them and offer them your condolences in a way that is appropriate to your relationship. But then also put the anniversary of that loss on your calendar and get in touch with them a month and a year later to say that you remember them and are praying for them.

One of the rare virtues in the workaday world is the ability to take things to completion. It takes little skill to begin something, but often takes great skill and perseverance to complete it well. Be known for finishing what you start.

Try to learn a good number of hymns by heart. They will serve you well throughout your life.

Pray through your church’s directory. Make it one of your ministries to the local church that you pray for each person specifically and by name. The directory is the perfect guide for this.

If wives are to submit to their own husbands, husbands are to live and lead in such a way that they make such submission natural and easy. If husbands are to love their wives, wives are to do all they can to make themselves easy to love.

Occasionally ask yourself, “If I was Satan how would I tempt me?”

It’s almost impossible to ruin a child when they are young, so don’t despair if you aren’t perfectly consistent or sometimes have to veer away from your philosophy of parenting. The kids will be alright—they are nothing if not resilient.

Before you visit a country or culture that is not your own, ask someone what customs you should practice and what customs you should avoid in order to prevent offense. What is polite in your culture may be downright insulting in another (and what is insulting in your culture may be courteous in another).

At least occasionally, visit a church in which you are a clear visible minority. This may help you better understand the challenges and discomforts people may face when they visit your church. Even better, you may learn how other traditions worship in ways that are different but no-less-faithful.

Pray with your spouse before you go sleep at night, even if only very briefly.

When you vacation far from home, and especially in other countries, don’t neglect attending church, even if the service is in a language you don’t speak. You may be surprised at how much you gain even if you can’t understand much of what is being said or sung.

Read biographies written for children or young adults. They will give you an easy-to-read, compact, nothing-but-the-essentials overview of a life. If you are intrigued, you can advance to a grown-up, full-length biography.

Every Sunday, try to speak to at least one child at church who is not your own. It’s generally best to get down on their level to do this, so be prepared to hit the floor.

Terms like “introvert” and “extrovert” may be helpful descriptors of personality types, but they should never be used as an excuse to neglect opportunities to love and serve others. Whether introverted or extroverted, be dutiful in all God calls you to, even when it cuts against the grain.

In all the duties and responsibilities that comes with raising children, don’t neglect to just plain enjoy your children.

If you find yourself struggling to pray in your times of personal devotion, try praying out loud. The car is an ideal place for this, perhaps especially if you have a commute.

Have an awareness of those times when emotion tends to overwhelm reason and determine that you will not attempt to have hard conversations in those times. This may mean instituting something like a “10 PM rule” in which you set issues aside at that time and pick them up again the next day.

Commend parents who are parenting well but who may not have a lot confidence in themselves. Few parents really believe they are carrying out their task well.

Less important than complimenting a fellow Christian is identifying evidences of God’s grace in that person’s life. It is always encouraging to hear how others see God working in us and through us.

Don’t whine about the “greet one another” time at church and don’t be anxious about it. Rather, embrace it and make the most of it, whether you naturally love it or dread it.

Read catechisms and confessions. You may be surprised to learn how many issues they speak to with thoughtfulness, clarity, and deep biblical grounding.

Embrace your finitude—the fact that you are limited and weak and in so many ways insufficient and incapable. This is a feature of your humanity rather than a bug.

If you begin each day asking “What is my God-given duty today?” and then do your best to carry it out, you will not go far wrong in life.

And, to end this time where I did before, always be certain to distinguish between what the Bible mandates and what a mere human suggests. Apply human wisdom only when it complements and applies what the Bible demands.

A La Carte (June 15)

May the Lord be with you and bless you today.

I had been quite a slow week for Kindle deals, but I did find at least one good one for today.
If “Representation” is the Issue, Where Are Pixar’s Religious Characters?
Now that’s an interesting question, isn’t it?
Tasteless Graceless Gervais
This is an interesting take on comedians like Ricky Gervais who mock things we find appalling. We should think seriously about allying too closely with “the enemy of my enemy.”
Free audiobook –The Possibilities of Prayer by E.M. Bounds from ONE Audiobooks
ONE Audiobooks is giving away a 2nd free Audiobook download to Challies readers!  In The Possibilities of Prayer, E.M. Bounds encourages Christians to pray big and to pray often. Focusing on the unlimited power that comes from prayer, Bounds emphasizes the importance of continuous and sincere prayer.  ONE offers great everyday pricing on Christian audiobooks and access to a FREE audiobook each month. (Sponsored Link)
The Unforgivable Sin
I get more questions about the unforgivable sin than just about any other topic. Reformation21 has a helpful take on it.
When You’re Afraid to Take Communion
“I am embarrassed to admit this, but for many years I was hesitant and sometimes outright afraid to take communion. But I thought sharing my experience might help some who have wrestled with the same thing. If you’ve never had troubles with this issue yourself, you might know someone who does.” Barbara is not alone.
Fragments
“Fragments of divided hearts scatter. In the winds of social media. Bits and pieces of pride. Rebellion. Hate. Anger. And the very avenues that can draw people together, turn and twist. Break trust. Splinter relationships.”
Brands Taking Stands
Chris Martin writes about “The Current Thing” and all the companies rushing to take a stand on it.
Flashback: 10 Sure Marks of Humility
A sinful, arrogant person is too high to stoop down to take a reproof, but a godly person loves and honors the one who reproves him.

There is more grandeur in five minutes of self-renunciation than in a whole lifetime of self-interest and self-seeking. —J.R. Miller

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