November 30-Day Thanksgiving Challenge

“It’s one thing to be grateful. It’s another to give thanks. Gratitude is what you feel. Thanksgiving is what you do.” Tim Keller

“I like to think of thankfulness as God’s ‘spiritual air freshener.’ It replaces the stale odor of resentment with clean, fresh-smelling air for the soul to breathe.” Gary Thomas

Gratitude is a bit like healthy eating. We all want it, and sometimes can do it for a few days, but our bad habits usually shoot us in the foot. Both take more than good intentions. They require replacing old habits with new ones.

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Confession of Sin

Can you recalling driving in a rainstorm, anxious as you follow a blurry trail of brake lights, only to have a semi-truck fly by and slosh a thick covering of water on your car? Come on. Anxiety shifts into panic or anger because you can no longer see the road lines or slow-moving vehicles ahead. One thing you can be thankful for in this moment is a good pair of windshield wipers. As you sing “Jesus Take the Wheel” with Carrie Underwood, the wipers clear everything out of the way. You can see again.

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Disciple Your Kids by Remembering with Them

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children.” (Deuteronomy 4:9)

“And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.” (Exodus 13:14)

“There is power in telling our story to our children. At the earliest age, our children can begin to hear parts of our story and to be eyewitnesses to how God is continuing to shape it. I love to tell my children aspects of my own faith story in the context of the age they are at that time.” Michelle Anthony in Spiritual Parenting

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Three Dangers of Spiritual Forgetfulness

The Bible is full of admonitions to remember God, what He’s taught us, and what He’s done for us. Through remembrance, we hold on to what we’ve learned in the past and live in light of it in the present. Throughout the Bible, God’s people face future fears by recalling God’s former faithfulness. Remembrance stirs up greater trust in God, it brings to mind what He’s done and said in the past, and it reminds us what we’ve learned from God.

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Bible Study Tip: Summarize Your Bible Reading

What did you read in the Bible yesterday or today? What did your pastor preach on last Sunday? I know, those are hard questions. It’s not that you weren’t paying attention but we all struggle to remember things we hear and even learn. We listen to sermons and read the Bible and often move on without doing something to help it “stick.”

My point in this post is straightforward. To improve how you reflect on (meditation) and respond to (application) the Bible, try writing out your own short summary of what you just read. Or on Sundays, do this with the sermon and text your pastor preached on.

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A Word on Self-Denial and Fasting

With the start of Lent this week, here are a few quick thoughts on self-denial and fasting.

Like almost any discipline, fasting and self-denial can be misused in various ways.[1]  They can be done without discernment or wisdom, such as fasting from food when you’re not physically healthy. They can be done merely out of ritual and without meaning. They can be viewed legalistically where we use our performance to get something we want from God. All good things are prone to misunderstanding and misuse. Our hope in this guide is that any self-denial through fasting is done meaningfully, purposely, wisely, and graciously.

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What is Lent?

“Each year the season of Lent asks us to embrace a spiritual gravity, a downward movement of soul, a turning from our soul-sufficiency and sinfulness. In such quiet turning, we are humbled and thus made ready to receive from God a fresh and joyous grace.” Bobby Gross[1]

Lent, not to be confused with lint (that fluffy stuff in your dryer vent or jean pockets), is a season within the Church calendar preparing our hearts for Easter. Similar to how Advent each December allows us to meditate on the incarnation leading up to Christmas Day, Lent gives us six weeks to consider Christ’s humility in the wilderness temptation and his human trials as we move towards Good Friday and Easter. During this season, the Christian follows Jesus by pursuing humility in our own life, believing he must come before us. As John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

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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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What Makes Going Deep in the Bible Hard for You?

“If the Word does not dwell with power in us, it will not pass with power from us.” John Owen

As believers, all of us desire to be in the Bible more often than we are and with greater depth and intimacy than we do. But we don’t all struggle with the same challenges with our Bible reading.

For one person, their biggest obstacle might be not knowing how to read, interpret, or understand the Bible. They’ve never been equipped to do so, which results in regular frustrations of putting the Bible back down without having a clue what they read. For others, it might be distractions from a phone blowing up with emails and text messages. Each of us have unique circumstances, varying levels of maturity, and our stages of life might differ. This is important because if we want to go deeper in God’s Word, we have to diagnose what’s personally keeping us back. We need to ask, “What are my biggest obstacles to more consistent and more meaningful times reading God’s Word?”

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QUESTIONS TO ASK WHEN STUDYING THE BIBLE

A key part of understanding what we read is to read the Bible reflectively. The questions below are not exhaustive, but they provide a framework of Look, Understand, Apply, and Pray to guide your reading. Find ways that help you study and apply God’s Word. Take notes; write down thoughts and prayers; ask questions; chew on or meditate on what you see; and ask a friend or use a good Study Bible or commentary if something doesn’t make sense.

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