I’m grateful to Christian Focus for sponsoring the blog this week to tell you about their excellent Track series of books for young people.
Today’s Kindle deals include a number of classics.
(Yesterday on the blog: Retractions)
This article has some good things to say about offering help and comfort to someone who has lot an unbelieving loved one.
Alistair Begg: “The Christmas message ought to be hopeful. But if it is to be hopeful, it must be more than sentimental. Hope turns on the fulcrum of truth. If we would hold on to hope as we look into the darkness of the coming year, then our own purposes for our lives will do us little good. We can make nothing true by believing it, and we can make nothing right by wanting it.”
Denny Burk shares a letter he has written to help parents whose daughter has decided she may be transgender—a tragically common occurrence these days.
You’ll probably enjoy these zany photos from nature.
Jim Elliff: “This outline provides the diligent believer with some key principles preparing him/her for radical, other-worldly financial behavior. Alone, or if married, with your spouse, take some time for reading the Scripture texts and thinking through the obedient thing to do in each area. Then write out what you find. There is only one thing for you to do after this meditation … obey!”
This is good and wise counsel.
God does not zap away our sin, but gives us a new hatred for it and a new desire to do the hard work of battling it. He does not sovereignly remove it in a moment, but extends grace so we can battle it for a lifetime.
The struggle to shepherd willingly happens every time ministry becomes difficult. So we have to see people as Jesus sees them. —Jared Wilson
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By Tim Challies — 2 months ago
I suppose it is possible that I have witnessed a miracle in my lifetime, but if so, I’m not aware of it. If a miracle is a “supernatural, extraordinary event that diverges from observed natural processes,” then I can’t think of a time that I’ve seen a clear example of one. That’s not to say that God can’t work miracles today or that he doesn’t. That’s not to say he hasn’t worked around and about me in extraordinary ways. It’s simply to say that I can’t look at a particular event in my life and say, “That was a miracle.”
And if I’m honest, this doesn’t bother me in the least. It doesn’t bother me in the least because on many occasions I’ve witnessed something I count equally significant or perhaps even more so: I have witnessed the evidence and the intricacy and the perfect timing of God’s providence. I have witnessed how God has carefully arranged circumstances so that events unfolded in a way that proved his detailed involvement in the affairs of man. I have witnessed situations in which things “just so happened” in such a way that I could only conclude, “The Lord did this.”
I recount one of these in Seasons of Sorrow, in the chapter I title “Angels Unaware.” I tell of a day when Aileen and I were particularly sorrowful, particularly overcome with grief. We went to the cemetery to mark what would have been Nick’s wedding day. And as we stood there weeping together, a lovely Christian couple approached us and explained that they had been reading my updates. They showed us where their son was buried nearby and then they prayed for us—prayed down God’s comfort upon us.
This was no miracle. This was not a supernatural, extraordinary event that diverged from observed natural processes. God did not summon these people from heaven or fabricate them from thin air or instantly transport them from afar. Rather, he arranged that they would visit their son’s grave on this day and at this time (even though this was not their custom) and that Aileen and I would visit our son’s grave on this day and at this time (even though this was not our custom). Long prior to this he had arranged that our sons would be buried close to one another—close enough that this couple would spot us across just a few rows of graves. He had arranged that they would be familiar with my website and with our story and that they would recognize our faces. He arranged all this so that, when we most needed comfort, two of his people would be there to provide it.
Think of all the threads that needed to be woven together for this one circumstance to occur—the events that needed to take place, the decisions that needed to be made, the schedules that needed to be aligned. As we parted ways that day, Aileen and I both knew without the smallest shadow of a doubt: God did this. In fact, Aileen has often said that this was the very moment she really understood that God was caring for us in our loss. And it was not through a miracle, but through providence.
Though I don’t recount it in the book, a similar situation happened a short time later. I had another especially difficult day and once again needed to be near Nick. I went alone this time, parked on the little roadway at the cemetery, and got out of my car. And I “just so happened” to see one of our deacons and his wife sitting in their car, about to drive off. They “just so happened” to have visited Nick’s grave on that day and to be there at that moment. So I walked over to their car and said, “I’m having a hard day. Will you pray for me?” And they did, of course. And again, I knew that God had been present through his providence. I knew that he had arranged this for my benefit and as a display of his love.
I can look back on life and recount more stories—stories in which God worked providentially rather than miraculously. I could tell of the evening I visited a friend and “just so happened” to cross paths with one of his neighbors, a girl who was out playing a game with some of the local kids. A few months later I began twelfth grade at a new school and who should plunk herself down in the seat ahead of me in my very first class, but that very same girl. We became friends, I introduced her to Christ, and our next wedding anniversary will be our twenty-fifth. And it all began and unfolded not through miracles but through providence—through God’s deliberate and intricate coordinating of the circumstances of different people and different places and different times.
I once spent my lunch break on a walk in which I was agonizing over whether I should resign from my job to start my own business and dedicate more of my time to writing. When I got back to my desk my manager summoned me to his office, told me I was being laid off, and handed me a severance check. Providence. I once “randomly” clicked a link on my blog which led to a pastor who would become a dear friend and whose church my family would settle into and come to serve. Providence. I once had my car break down in an extremely dangerous spot on the highway and during a terrible rainstorm, only to see that a tow truck had been right behind me. Providence. Time and again my life has testified to the beauty of God’s providence.
The reason I share this is that I know of many Christians who crave miracles and who long to see one. They long to see a miracle because they are convinced it will buoy their faith and increase their confidence in God. And while the Bible does not forbid us from longing for miracles, neither does it instruct us to. It makes no promises that we will witness one and does not associate the presence or strength of our faith with them. (If anything, it does the opposite.) But wouldn’t it be tragic if we spent our lives searching for miracles while overlooking providence? Wouldn’t it be tragic if God was working wondrously in us, and for us, and through us, and around us—and we missed it because he chose not to work miraculously?
I am not saying we should not pray for miracles. That’s perhaps especially true when praying for those whose diagnosis is dire or whose situation is tragic and for whom nothing but a miracle can save. But I am saying that God’s power is displayed around us in ways that are equally significant and perhaps even more awe-inspiring if only we will look and observe and recount. For while God occasionally displays his glory through miracles, he far more commonly displays it through the beauty of providence. Look for it and you will see it; see it and you will praise him for it.
By Tim Challies — 8 months ago
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
By Tim Challies — 9 months ago
Today’s post is written by Christina Fox and sponsored by Christian Focus. Christina’s new book, God Hears Your Heart follows on from Tell God How You Feel (2021) and encourages children to bring all their feelings to God. Learn more and get both books here.
“Mommy, I’m scared!”
When he was young, my son would seek me out during every thunderstorm. He’d arrive at my side, a favorite blanket wrapped around his head, his body trembling in fear. It didn’t help that we lived in Florida where every summer afternoon the sky lit up and the windows shook so hard, you’d think they would break.
I prayed with him and taught him how the psalmist responded to his own fears by telling God how he felt, asking God to help him, and trusting in the character of God. In doing so, I began to teach him how to lament.
“In the day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me” (Psalm 86:7).
We were created as emotional beings; we all have feelings—our children included. While we rightly spend time teaching our children the truths of who God is and what he has done, we don’t often teach our children how to navigate their emotions. We might instruct them not to sin in their emotional responses but are less likely to help them learn what to do when they feel big things.
My children’s book series, Tell God How You Feel and God Hears Your Heart are discipleship tools for parents to use to help guide their children in learning what to do with the hard emotions of life. In these stories, brother and sister Josh and Mia face difficult emotions such as fear, sadness, anger, and failure, and learn to bring their emotions to God in prayer. They learn the art of lament.
In reading these stories to their children, parents are encouraged to have conversations with their children about their feelings and teach them the habit of crying out to God in prayer. Each story in the books covers a particular emotion and the end of each story includes questions for parents to discuss with their children.
Children learn at an early age how to respond to the hard emotions of life. For some, they might learn to distract themselves from those emotions. Others might develop habits of comforting themselves with a temporary pleasure. Still others might push those emotions down, only to have them erupt later. By teaching our children the way of lament—of bringing emotions to the Lord in prayer and seeking his help—our children are equipped to respond to their big feelings in a God honoring way. They learn to see God as their rock, their refuge, and their deliverer in all their troubles. They learn that God is a Father who hears their cries, collect their tears in a bottle, and is their only source of help and salvation.
“In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears” (Psalm 18:6).
Do you have children with big feelings? Consider reading the stories of Josh and Mia with them today.