I love books. All kinds of books. Some books prove especially meaningful in specific seasons. Some books are timeless. There are books you read slowly, chipping away over time, and there are books you want to read in one sitting. Some books you never finish. Some books you read once. And some books you’ll read many times over a lifetime.
In every church I’ve been at, as I meet believers from other churches, and as I interact with people in my city (and sometimes overhear conversations), I often hear a similar line of thinking from people who feel like they aren’t growing in their church. They might be involved, but they express discouragement and disappointment because they walk away each week not feeling like real growth and life-change are taking place.
After rising earlier in the morning than we wanted, identity questions invade our mind as we look in the mirror, think about the upcoming day (or breakfast), and decide what to wear. Do I want my clothes to be the casual me, the dressed-up me, the outdoorsy-me, the stylish-me, or the “life beat me down so I didn’t care” me? We don’t realize we’re thinking in terms of identity, but the questions of “Who am I? Who do I want to be? How do others view me?” shape us all day long.
“Believers are never told to become one; we already are one and are expected to act like it.” Joni Eareckson Tada
Many churches talk a lot about the cross, and I’m thankful for that. A steady diet of the gospel and understanding how Jesus pays for our sin feeds and nourishes our hungry hearts. But we often ignore that Christ’s death unites believers as one. It’s a reconciling, peace-making act bringing people together. It creates a real, objective unity among Christ’s people (the Church) around the globe and across history.
If the cross not only saves us but it also shapes us, then it will propel us to pursue peace and resist division.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9
Paul puts together two seemingly opposed descriptions. The believers in Macedonia live in “extreme poverty” and yet have an abundance of joy. Their pockets and houses might be empty but their hearts are overflowing.
“It may be too easy to underestimate the power of a garden.” Wendell Berry
“To farm or garden is to become acquainted with amazement and bewilderment in the presence of the world.” Norman Wirzba
We have a small vegetable garden at our house, and for most of the summer and early fall, a favorite routine is walking out with my wife and daughter to see the garden. We might pick a few weeds, but we’re really there to see the progress. It’s exciting to see plants growing and fruit ripening every day. The best days arrive after several weeks when the hard work pays off and we get to pick something.
I know, repentance isn’t your favorite word. It’s not mine either. No doubt it conjures up something like an angry turn-or-burn “preacher” (either pounding the pulpit or screaming in the streets) letting people have it or an ultra-fundamentalist family member unhappy with your choices of what’s right or wrong. Despite the bad taste that might be lingering in your mouth for words like “repent” and “repentance”, let’s together seek to move past those barriers and rediscover what God actually says about repentance. It might never be for your favorite word or your favorite part of being a Christian, but as we look into God’s Word I think we’ll see that repentance is meant to be a life-giving, sin-replacing, gospel-rooted posture of the Christian life. Easy? No. Good? Yes.
Over at Gospel-Centered Discipleship, I have a blog up about why pentecost matters for mission. The days of Ascension or Pentecost are just as significant as Christmas and Easter, and yet Christians know very little about them. My hope is we can use this day to better remember and lean into God’s work for us, in us, and through us.
Paul lays out two paths we can walk in: gratitude or ingratitude. We will either be people who give thanks or grumble. They are not simply destinations, a place (or practice) we eventually arrive at, but they’re the paths directing our steps either towards God or away from Him. Yes, gratitude is that important. Giving thanks is no cherry on top of the Christian life we toss in on rare occasions. It is the meat and potatoes, the heart and soul of following God.
Yesterday, Part 1 introduced the temptation for many dads to cross the line from being firm to being harsh. As dads, this is an easy slope to slide down. But it’s not where we want to be. We want to love our kids well and reflect what God the Father looks like, and so we must intentionally be on guard. Here are two additional cautions building on the first.