Dwelling on The Good News in A Year of Bad News: An August Reading Plan

2020 has given us plenty of challenges: the pandemic, quarantine and isolation, church closures and re-openings, racial tensions, riots, debates over masks and pretty much everything else tied to COVID-19, politics in an election year, and questions about government intrusion on the Church. Mix in that trying to figure out what families should do for school, and how that affects our jobs and income, as well as churches scrambling to do their best to gather together and care for those struggling with all that’s going on, and there’s plenty to leave us discouraged.

One temptation is to immerse ourself in the news–on TV, online, or through social-media–to stay up to speed and feel informed. The intense debates only fuel this as so many people read articles to defend their cause. It’s no wonder people feel stressed, anxious, and angry. To make matters worse, some statistics indicate Christians are spending even less time in the Bible than they did before the pandemic. We’re filling our minds with bad news and stressful news, meanwhile we’re neglecting to fill our minds and hearts with The Good News.

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Resources on Wisdom and Discernment

“Much in cultural engagement hangs on wisdom and virtue rather than a list of rules or universal plan that we might extract from the Bible.” Joshua D. Chatraw & Karen Swallow Prior, Cultural Engagement

“Of all its benefits, one of the drawbacks of the digital age is how easily we mistake information for knowledge….The goal of discernment is not to simply avoid evil in this life, it is to learn what is good so that we might embrace and enjoy it.” Hannah Anderson, All That’s Good

We have more information than ever, and yet it seems we’re less discerning than ever. Maybe those two go hand-in-hand, as the amount of information and the mediums we receive that information from (primarily online and through social-media) don’t prioritize wisdom.

In an age of fake news, alternative opinions, echo chambers, tribalism, information overload, cancel culture, and hot takes, taking the time to diligently study issues, consider various views, compare it with biblical teaching, and reflect on the nuances and complexities of those issues before arriving at an opinion–and sharing it–seems to rarely happen. It’s much easier to simply read one article that says what I like (or even just read the headline) and quickly share it with everyone. It feels good. But does it cultivate discernment and diligence? Does it over-simply issues or honestly reflect nuance? Wisdom is in short supply, but let’s do what we can to try and reclaim it.

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10 Quotes from *Gentle and Lowly* by Dane Ortlund

Every year there are a couple of Christian books published that fall into the “must buy” category. Dane Ortlund’s Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers is one of those books. We mature by marveling at Jesus (Col. 1:28). That means a good book must partially be judged by how much it compels us with the glory and goodness of Jesus. That’s what Ortlund’s book is all about. While it certainly unpacks the person and work of Christ, what’s unique is it’s angle of showing us the heart of Christ. How does he view and treat us as sinners and sufferers? We all want that question answered. If we’re bold enough to say it, we even wonder how he feels about us.

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New Book Available on Amazon

You can now purchase a copy of my new book Finding Satisfaction in Christ: A Devotional Study of Colossians in paperback or kindle formats. I wrote this over the course of a few years. What began as a small group study on Colossians in the home of our friends Dan and Emily later turned into a Group Discussion Guide for College Park Church that blossomed into a full-length book slowly written off-and-on over the course of a few years. As any writer or teacher struggles with, I hope my personal joy and benefit of studying Colossians leads to your joy and encouragement as you read through Colossians with me. Here’s a bit about the book.

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Bible Verses and other Recommended Resources

Below is a list I’ve compiled of Bible verses that might be encouraging during this season, as well as some additional resources. I’d like to add other good resources, so let me know in the comments if you’ve found other helpful things.

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Favorite Books Read in 2019

“I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” Jane Austen

“Reading is a gift, but only if the words are taken into the soul—eaten, chewed, gnawed, received in unhurried delight.” Eugene Peterson

I love books. Give me a good library or an hour at your used book store and I’m a happy man. There are a lot of things that make a book good, let alone enjoyable, so my list is admittedly subjective. But to add to the chorus of top books read in 2019, here’s my top-ten list. My criteria was reading them in 2019, not publication date, though most were printed in 2019. In no particular order…

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Wendell Berry and the Gift of Remembrance

“[Tol Proudfoot] had become an elder of the community, and had recognized his memories, the good ones anyhow, as gifts, to himself and to the rest of us.”[1]

Maybe it’s my small-town upbringing, but I feel at home when reading Wendell Berry’s fictional stories. His characters aren’t larger-than-life heroes or villains but they capture the ordinary, beautiful, flesh-and-blood people I’ve encountered in life. His plots aren’t moved along by intense action, but in their familiarity as true to life stories you might hear at your own family gathering.

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Favorite Quotes from On the Road with Augustine by James K.A. Smith

I’ve loved the last few books by James K.A. Smith (You Are What You Love, How (Not) to be Secular, and his trio of cultural liturgy books). He combines church history, movies, music, philosophy, theology, cultural references, apologetics, and the Christian life in a way that connects the disconnected. He pushes you to think and feel. In On the Road with Augustine, Smith uses Augustine’s writings (particularly The Confessions) and life to help us navigate 21st century life.

Both Augustine and Smith prove to be trustworthy travel partners. Together, they help us think through our longings and desires in a realm of issues (freedom, ambition, sex, friendship, mothers, fathers, friendship, enlightenment, justice, story, and death). It’s an apologetic offering rest to the restless in the same source Augustine found rest: Jesus. While some of Smith’s best material is too lengthy to put here, I’ve provide a few of my favorite quotes from the book.

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