Category Archives: Christian Growth

What Books Should Every Christian Read?

R.W. Glenn is the pastor of preaching and vision at Redeemer Bible Church in Minnetonka, MN where he has served since 1995.  I was just recently introduced to his ministry and have been amply blessed in what I have encountered.  Here’s his take on what books every Christian should read.  Check out his ministry website here for more info and resources.

 

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Star Wars, My Wife, and a Better Choice

When my wife was a kid, all the way up through college, in fact, she was a huge Star Wars nerd.  If you were to look at her today you would never guess it, but she frequented conventions, had a subscription to Star Wars Insider, and could quote to you the most obscure lines from each of the movies.  She was one of those people who lined up outside of Target the day the new action figures released and after purchasing them kept them in their packaging on a shelf so as to maintain their pristine condition.

As we’ve been married, Keri’s parents have been strategically transferring her collection to our home (it has taken multiple trips) so that at one time my eyes would be bombarded with Star Wars figures in my garage, our closet,  my boys’ closet, and my daughter’s closet.  Now, I do a pretty good Yoda impression, but I had to admit this was a little nuts.

You’re probably wondering what my wife thinks about me revealing her past of geeky revelry.  Let me assure you that I have her full permission to tell this story and you’ll see why in a moment.  See, my wife made a decision last year (without any coercion on my part) about the mountains of Star Wars stuff in our home that makes me love her more.  A family in our church is in the process of uprooting their lives to move to Uganda for full-time mission work and another of our member families held a garage sale to help them raise support.  Keri donated the majority of those action figures to that garage sale and the ones she kept she set aside for a special night of childhood wonderment when we let our boys sit on the living room floor and have at it.

Her collection held many special memories for her and it represented a sizable chunk of her own money, but my wife has found her true delight in the Lord (Psalm 37:4), she understands that a disciple of Christ denies oneself (Luke 9:23), and she believes that treasure is to be stored up in heaven and not on earth (Matthew 6:19-21).  My wife still smokes me when we play Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, but because of God’s sanctifying grace, it’s not near as important for her to win as it once was.

 

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Christian Radio You Can Trust

With the Christian radio stations in our town, it’s hit or miss when it comes to airing solid, biblical preaching.  Ligonier Ministries has taken that factor out of the equation to create RefNet: 24-hour Christian internet radio.  Throughout the day and night, RefNet will broadcast preaching from men you can trust like R.C. Sproul, John Piper, John MacArthur, and Alistair Begg, as well as great music and biblically-based audio dramas for families.  Here’s the website site and click here for more info, plus check out the video below.

 

 

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Another Benefit to Not Being Fake

I’m a faker… and to one degree or another, you are too.  There are times when we all act like we’ve got this Christian life figured out, when, in fact, we’re sinking on the inside.  We fake holiness and spiritual-life competence because we think it will bring us respect, approval, or at least the peace of having avoided telling  someone who we really are.

There are many reasons why this kind of cloak and dagger Christianity should not characterize us, but today let’s just consider one.  I think we understand that if we were to freely reveal our struggles to another believer, we would benefit on some level from the words of counsel and comfort they would speak to us in return, but have you ever considered the good you would do for them?

When a person doesn’t have to pry open the real you, but instead, you willingly open up for them, you are communicating something crucial.  You are saying, “I know there is grace for my sin.”  People who believe that “in [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses” (Ephesians 1:7) don’t hide their sin.  Hiding sin is for those who believe that there is more to gain in keeping sin a secret than in confessing it.  The reality is, however, that have already been given all there is to gain through the sacrifice of Jesus, who through his death removed our transgressions from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

The believer to whom you are confessing is struggling with some particular sin as well, and with your open confession, you are saying, “There’s grace for that… we don’t have to be afraid of sin anymore because sin has been dealt with in full.”

 

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And the Things of Self Will Grow Strangely Dim

Lately, I’ve been blessed in the remembrance of this old refrain:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

In addition to “the things of earth”, however, I might like to add “the things of self”: the things of self will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.  I add these words because of the devastating effects that can result from fixing your attention and concentration on yourself.  We become angry, depressed, anxious, and jealous because we spend so much time and energy thinking about how all of life connects back to what we want – our desires, dreams, and ambitions.  When our circumstances seem to be falling in line with those desires, dreams and ambitions, then we’re happy and calm, but when our circumstances don’t fall in line, then we very easily become upset and stressed.

It is true, we must look within ourselves if we’re going to be faithful to the Lord in this life (i.e. – identifying sinful motives, detecting the lies you believe in your heart, etc.), but so often the problem is that we remain looking within when we should be looking outside of ourselves to Christ.  As we’re looking within to evaluate our hearts, if we’re not careful, we can get stuck inside ourselves as we ruminate on missed opportunities, failures, and what we perceive will be a future of the same.  Before we know it, we’ve tanked hard and the after-effects of a downward spiral leave us gazing inward more than ever as self-pity begins to feel like home.

Does this sound familiar to you?  It does to me, which is why I find so much encouragement in the refrain above.  Turn your eyes upon Jesus reminds me of 2 Corinthians 3:18: And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  As it has been said, we become what we behold, so as we behold self, we can only hope to become increasingly more selfish and self-centered.  But in beholding Jesus we can hope to become increasingly more like him as the things of self grow strangely dim.

 

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Things that Can Prevent You from Spending Time with God on Vacation

It’s summer time and vacations are in full swing.  For months we’ve been looking forward to getting away from the routine and the to-do lists so we could create memories… memories like taking a nap in an inner tube or buying a churro from the cart vendor at Sea World (yes, please!).  Vacations can be exciting, restful, and therapeutic, but vacations can also pose some dangers in regard to your personal time with God.  Here are some things to be aware of so that vacations from home and work don’t become vacations from the Lord as well.

  1. You’ll be out of your routine – Yes, we take vacations to escape the routine for a while, but the routine goes a long way in helping to keep us meeting with God in his Word.  So, don’t plan to abandon all routine on vacation or else you’ll likely find yourself spiritually dry by the time you get home.
  2. You’ll want to do all the reading you never get to do at home – When we’re on vacation, we see it as an opportunity to finally crack open that novel, biography, or magazine that we haven’t had the time for at home.  There’s no problem with that, but don’t be so consumed with entertainment reading that God’s word gets pushed aside.
  3. You’ll want to spend as much time with your family as possible – On vacation we want to spend concentrated, undistracted time with our spouse and kids because it’s rare to find that kind of time at home.  This is wonderful!  I hope this is your desire.  But we must remember that God is even more important than family.  So, do what you can to use the time when your family is sleeping, but if your kids are early risers, don’t feel bad about designating a block of time for you to spend with God.  You’ll need it in order to love them the way you should.
  4. You’ll be tempted to associate your time in God’s Word with work – Reading or studying God’s word is often not easy.  The Bible was written a long time ago in different cultures, so we have to mentally engage with it to discover its beauty and impact.   Because we want to rest on vacation, this activity can seem more daunting than usual.  Bur remember that the Word of God gives us something better than physical rest: spiritual rest.  For the work we do in reading/studying the Bible, we receive the truth and promises that dispel the spiritual turmoil and burdens that so often hinder our hearts.

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Is Your Time With God Unhurried?

In American church life, usually through small groups or accountability partners, there has been more discussion, I think, centered on the quantity of our time spent in God’s Word rather than the quality of our time spent in God’s Word. “Did you get your quiet times in this week?”  “How many times did you get into the Word this week?”  Questions like these tend to more prevalent in the spiritual check-ups we give each other, and usually we are quite content if the report comes back with solid numbers, so we feel as though we don’t have to ask any further.

In his little ebook, My Friend, My Hero, My Dad, Stephen Altrogge asks a question in light of his father’s faithfulness to meet with God in his Word: “What sort of example are we setting for our children?  Do they observe us spending unhurried time with the Lord?”

You don’t have to be a parent to benefit from what Altrogge is saying here.  He asking a question about the quality of our time spent with God in his Word.  Is it unhurried time?  Whether or not you have kids, is your time spent with God un-rushed?    This is a question I’ve never been asked, and I don’t think I’ve asked it either.  Do we treat our time with God like those homework assignments we forgot to do in high school that we quickly threw together in homeroom before first period?

To get some perspective, I asked myself if I would ever rush through a date with my wife to get to the things in my day that felt more urgent.  The answer quickly came.  It’s not likely.  Why?  Because I cherish my wife and I want to communicate that to her.  On a date with my wife, I intentionally try to slow things down.  Let’s stroll from the car to the restaurant as we talk.  We don’t have to leave right when the waiter brings the check.  Let’s wait till the movie credits are completely finished.  How about some dessert on the way home?

Dates are probably similar for many of you.  You savor the time with your spouse instead of swallow it whole.  And it’s not as if you’re chomping at the bit to get to the next thing because you deeply enjoy your spouse.  So, it’s not hard to stroll and sit and take rabbit trails.  When we hurry through our time with God in his Word, I think we have forgotten how enjoyable he truly is.  We often meet with him for the experience of being done with it, so we don’t have to feel guilty about going on to the next thing on the list.  We should meet with him to fellowship with him and draw near to him.    If you have forgotten how enjoyable God truly is, then purpose today to sit with him for a while and let him speak to you through the words of Scripture as you read them slowly, taking in every word, sentence, and paragraph.  Our holy God is  one worth savoring.

 

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