The Virgin Islands offered a vacation both my wife (Melissa) and I were looking for. She likes relaxation on beautiful beaches, and I wanted adventures beyond the beach. She likes the water, and I like visiting national parks. The Virgin Islands, especially St. John and Virgin Islands National Park, fulfilled both of our desires and outdid our expectations.
I’m not a huge beach guy, both because my pale-skin is quickly burnt and my restless spirit gets easily bored after about an hour sitting in sand, but the beaches and water of the Virgin Islands were picturesque. Even I wanted to stay put and soak up the post-card worthy views of the white sandy beaches sliding under crystal clear waters moving from aqua to turquoise to teal. But thankfully, the calm beaches were complemented by awaiting adventures such as great spots for snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, hiking, and swimming, of course. A wide variety of animals were observable in the water (we saw green sea turtles, stingrays, a nursing shark, all kinds of fish) and on land (bright birds, large iguanas, deer, and small scattering geckos).
When we walk through spiritual droughts, we’re tempted to believe this time is an unusable, accidental derailment in our Christian journey. Maybe God was asleep at the wheel or took a wrong turn, but somehow, we’ve veered off the road and gotten lost in this desolate place. Read the rest here at For the Church.
Whether you call it a spiritual wilderness, drought, dry-season, or rut, the experience of distance from God and apathy in our Christian walk saps us of life. It confuses and frustrates us. Why doesn’t God feel near? Why can’t I get out? Why aren’t my passion or desires for the things of God increasing?
We each have a story that includes a past, present, and a future. The Bible also tells a story; a narrative of historical events full of significance for all of humanity.
As those united to Jesus, we are made participants in God’s story and cast as characters in the drama of redemptive history. The resurrection of Jesus is one of those climactic moments in both Jesus’ life and the Bible’s story of God redeeming a people and restoring His corrupted creation. When we think of Jesus’ resurrection we should consider the past accomplishment, the present effects, and the future realities dawning upon us. As participants of the story through union with Christ, we must see how the resurrection rewrites our past, remakes us in the present, and reshapes our future.
Jesus’ sacrificial death and triumphant resurrection stand at the center of the “good news” Christians stake their lives upon. The Bible joins the bloody cross and empty tomb as two distinct but inseparable events. And yet, many of our gospel presentations and theological conversations refer to the cross as the place where salvation was fully accomplished and the deal was sealed. Christ’s resurrection is either left out or tacked on as the cherry on top. I’m thankful evangelicals have been “cross-centered” but it’s unfortunate we’ve moved the resurrection to the periphery.
I love books, whether it’s reading them, talking about them, giving them as gifts, or even flipping through them at the library or bookstore. Books become a conversation partner stirring us to action or stretching our thinking. At any point, I’m reading (or researching) several books, so it’s easy for me to get excited about new books. But, having grown through Mark Vroegop’s preaching, serving under him as a staff member, and getting the chance to see this book develop, I’m especially excited to share with others what I think will be a very helpful gift to the Church. Here are my top 5 reasons (among others) to read Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament.
Last night at College Park Church Fishers, we hosted a short forum on prioritization. With all the choices and possible commitments before us every day, and with the pace of life and the constant presence of distractions, it’s an important topic (though very broad). Below are a few of the resources recommended by the panel members.
“The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.” Charles Spurgeon
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1)
The Problem: Life is Hard
Despite the way our culture values “authenticity,” most of us rarely feel comfortable enough to speak honestly and personally about the wounds and pains we carry, the weariness and weakness we feel, the dark thoughts we wrestle with, or the disappointment or frustration with life experienced. While it might be okay to admit generalities like “my life is a mess” or “I’m struggling along,” to say how and why we are fragile or broken, to confess our sins, or to share our burdens seems a bit too far. It can be an awkward moment of transparency in a world of surface-level dialogue.
God’s Creation is a gift, not merely a resource but a means of our refreshment. In John Piper’s sermon-biography of David Brainerd he briefly compares Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards. He does so in the context of discussing the sufferings Brainerd endured, including regular bouts with depression. While not suggesting a walk removes depression, Piper draws on Edwards and Charles Spurgeon to suggest Brainerd’s neglect of nature likely restricted him from one means of God’s grace to us in our weakness and darkness. Below is an extended quote. With Spring knocking on our doors and with today’s temptation to always reach for our smartphone or the remote, I hope this encourages us to take advantage of God’s Creation for our good and His glory.