Bell Creek Community Church

A non-denominational church in Livonia, Michigan with Biblical teaching, worship, and kid's ministries.

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Being Satisfied Is Believing

Wed, 01/03/2018 - 2:00am

Every true Christian not only has faith and trust in Jesus, but also an everlasting satisfaction that can only be found in God.

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When Is My Child Mature Enough to Leave Home?

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 8:03pm

My wife, Julie, and I had the delightfully challenging task of raising six children, all of whom are now adults.

As one of our sons entered his teen years, he began to question everything we had taught him. We became his enemies, deceit became his friend, and our home became a battleground. His common refrain became, “When I’m 18, I’m out of here!”

As I saw the direction he was headed in, I reconsidered our goals as parents. Before he left home, we wanted him to be able to think for himself, to need our counsel less and less, and to give him greater freedom to make his own choices. But that approach only reinforced his pride and rebellion.

Not surprisingly, that’s the message of our culture. We should raise our kids to be independent, self-thinkers, do-it-yourselfers. We celebrate the first time they notice their car is almost out of gas and fill it up. We’re stunned when they decide on their own not to venture out with a group of morally questionable friends. We look forward to the day when they learn how to open a checking account, pay a bill, and register for a class, all by themselves.

All of those can be evidences of maturity. But none of them is necessarily rooted in the fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). If independent thinking is the only thing we’re looking for in our kids, we may be missing one of the most important aspects of what it means to be mature: humility.

More Dependent, Not Less

It was around that time I began to consider the adults I respected. They didn’t do things on their own. They frequently asked others about their decisions, their actions, and their hearts. Instead of living secret lives, they freely volunteered temptations they were struggling with, areas they had fallen, and questions they were wrestling through.

Then it hit me. The most mature people in my life were not those who belittled the input and counsel of those around them, but those who welcomed and even pursued it. Their awareness of their weaknesses caused them to seek out other eyes and perspectives.

That realization shed new light on our parenting goals. If we want to prepare our kids to live on their own, we should prepare them to recognize they need help — from God and from those he places around them.

Maturity, Biblically Defined

Due to the deceptive nature of indwelling sin, we never get beyond needing others. And the more aware we are of that truth, the more mature we are. So we came to learn that mature teens (and adults) are marked by at least three characteristics.

1. They pursue self-disclosure.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. (Proverbs 18:1)

It might be cool for a teen’s parents not to know the password on his computer or the passcode for his phone, but it’s certainly not wise. That’s because, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” (Proverbs 28:26). So a mature teen shares his temptations, conversations, and viewpoints with his parents without having to be pried open. He doesn’t seek to isolate himself, but pursues the eyes and input of those who care about his soul. He regularly opens the door to his heart before his parents even ring the bell.

2. They welcome correction.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid. (Proverbs 12:1; see also Proverbs 15:32)

The Bible tells us only fools hate reproof. A mature young adult will listen when corrected, knowing there will always be sins to see more clearly, consequences they didn’t intend, and opportunities to be more like Christ. The more mature my teen is, the less he’ll justify, rationalize, and excuse his actions, or respond in anger or defensiveness when questioned or corrected.

3. They seek out input.

Yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:3–5)

Welcoming correction is one thing. Running after it is another. Our kids will always need help, and it’s humility to seek it — first from God’s word, but secondarily from parents, wise friends, pastors, and others they respect. That’s why, as our kids got older, we encouraged them to ask for wisdom, not permission. If they were going to live independently, we wanted to do more than give them “yes” or “no” answers. We wanted them to learn to process decisions through a biblical lens.

Gospel Fruit

These three characteristics of maturity are the natural effect of believing the gospel, which our son eventually did, by God’s grace. They enabled us to establish, in the words of Tedd Tripp, “well-worn paths to the cross.” Those who trust that Jesus died for their sins, enduring the wrath of God as their substitute, no longer have anything to boast in but the cross. They understand the danger, deceit, and destructive power of sin and their inability to fight it on their own. So they open themselves up to others, welcome feedback, and ask a lot of questions.

Defining maturity biblically for our kids made the transition to adulthood much smoother. When they left home it wasn’t an act of independence or breaking free. It was the fruit of finally understanding how untrustworthy their hearts were.

And at that point, we knew they were mature enough to send them out on their own — not because they were self-sufficient, but because they had embraced their need for the help of others and knew they had a Savior who would never fail them.

Deep Bible Reading Strategies for the Tired and Busy

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 7:00pm

Deep study of Scripture yields deep payoffs, but many of us can’t engage in rigorous study every day. So how do we strike a proper balance?

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2 Corinthians 9:6–11: Do You Trust God with Your Money?

Tue, 01/02/2018 - 8:24am

It is hard to say that we have trusted God with our lives when we do not trust him with our wallets.

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2 Corinthians 9:6–11: Do You Trust God with Your Money?

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 8:00pm

It is hard to say that we have trusted God with our lives when we do not trust him with our wallets.

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He Will Restore Your Soul

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 8:00pm

King David wrote Psalm 22 and Psalm 23, but if we weren’t told that, we might not believe it. These two ancient songs of the faith are about as different as they could be. The first few verses of each psalm capture its tone. Here are the first two verses of Psalm 22:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (Psalm 22:1–2)

Now, read the first three verses of Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psalm 23:1–3)

In Psalm 22, David feels forsaken by an unresponsive God. In Psalm 23, David feels shepherded by an ever-attentive God. In Psalm 22, David’s soul is in restless agony. In Psalm 23, David’s soul is restored to a trust-fueled rest in the Good Shepherd’s care.

Two Perspectives on Reality

It is a beautiful and merciful providence that these two starkly different psalms are placed right next to each other, authored by the same person. Because they illustrate the diverse ways we experience the strange reality that is the life of faith in our world. If we live long enough, we all experience the occasional agonizing phenomenon of God’s apparent silence. And we all will also experience God’s kind restoration, peace, and protection. In fact, we eventually come to realize that what felt like abandonment was a merciful nearness and shepherding of a kind we hadn’t previously understood or perceived. We discover that God’s promises are infinitely more substantial and reliable than our perceptions.

But there’s an even deeper beauty and mercy in this poetic and thematic juxtaposition. Both psalms are messianic — they foreshadow and prophesy of Jesus. And in this profound realization, we discover that the order in which these psalms appear is no accident.

Jesus Was Forsaken

We know Psalm 22:1. Its first sentence is among the most famous in the Bible. For Jesus screamed them out while in unfathomable agony on the cross: Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani? (Matthew 27:46).

Stop and think over this sentence. Delve into it as deep as you can. You will never get to the bottom of it.

There was a moment, at the crux of history, when God was God-forsaken. To we who are not God, and who are only able to experience a few dimensions of reality, this is mysterious. But it was not a mystery; it was horrifyingly real. God the Son, the eternal delight of the Father, the radiance of the Father’s glory, the exact imprint of the Father’s nature, and the Father’s earthly visible image (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15) became in that incomprehensively dark moment unholy sin — our unholy sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). And while that moment lasted, the holy Father and the Holy Spirit could not abide the holy Son made unholy. God became the object of God’s wrath. A terrible, once-for-all-time fissure rent open between the Father and Son.

For Jesus, it was a truly hellish moment, which is why, in the words of R.C. Sproul, Jesus’s Psalm 22:1 scream “was the scream of the damned. For us.” Out of a love for us we have hardly begun to fathom, he took upon himself our damnable curse, becoming the propitiation for our sins (Galatians 3:13; 1 John 4:10). And he did it for us so that our curse would be eternally removed and we might become the objects of God’s eternal mercy, clothed forever with the holiness and righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Psalm 22 does far more than give us words to pray during our seasons of spiritual desolation. It gives us words to grasp the desolation God the Son experienced to purchase our peace and restoration.

So That You Will Never Be Forsaken

This restoration, the great messianic restoration, is what made David sing for joy in Psalm 23. The Good Shepherd, having laid his life down for the sheep (John 10:11), gives his sheep eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will be able to snatch them out of his hand (John 10:28).

No one. Not “death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord,” the great Shepherd of the sheep — even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Romans 8:38–39; Hebrews 13:20; Psalm 23:4).

Our great Shepherd has walked through this valley before us and for us. In this valley, he was stricken and afflicted, betrayed, beaten to a bloody pulp, and brutally crucified by evil. He was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5). He was smitten and forsaken by God (Isaiah 53:4; Psalm 22:1).

And he did this for us so that he might say to us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

He Will Restore Your Soul

In this world we will have tribulation (John 16:33). The Bible’s portrayal of tribulation is realistically horrible. Psalm 22 is a description of David’s tribulation, and it was severe. But it is also a description of Jesus’s tribulation, which was infinitely more severe than David’s — or ours.

Do you feel forsaken by God? Jesus understands. He truly understands more than you know. We can feel forsaken by God; Jesus was forsaken by God. We feel lonely; Jesus was, for a horrible moment, truly alone. As our Great High Priest, he is able to sympathize with us in all our weaknesses, since he was tempted in every way that we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

But Jesus does far more than sympathize with us. As our great sacrificial Lamb, he atoned for every sin we commit in all our weak, faithless stumbling, removing our curse forever by becoming our curse. And as our great Shepherd, he is leading us through every tribulation — no matter how severe — to eternal restoration.

That is the promise of Psalm 23, purchased by the price of Psalm 22: your Good Shepherd will restore your soul forever. He was forsaken by God, scorned and mocked by men, and his hands and feet were pierced (Psalm 22:1, 6–7, 16) for your sake. So that he could guide you through every evil valley, honor you before every evil enemy, pursue you with goodness and mercy every day of your earthly life, and bring you to live with him in his house forever (Psalm 23:4–6).

Psalm 22 may be your song for a brief night, but Psalm 23 will be your song for an eternal morning (Psalm 30:5).

Taste the Goodness of God

Mon, 01/01/2018 - 2:00am

God’s people should long to hear God’s voice in his word like newborn babies yearn for their mother’s milk.

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Watch Where You Walk in 2018

Sun, 12/31/2017 - 8:00pm

The Christian life is not a sprint. It is a journey of ten million steps.

Day after day, and year after year, we put one foot in front of the other as we flee the wreckage of our sin and follow Jesus on the path of life. We step away from self-protection toward love, away from darkness toward light, away from foolishness toward wisdom. Step after step after step — ten million times.

But unless we stop every so often, and take a careful look backward and forward, our feet will gradually drift from God’s paths and stumble onto others. Like a hiker who never checks his compass, we’ll set out in the right direction and end up miles off the mark. Slowly, subtly, and perhaps imperceptibly, we’ll exit the narrow and hard path that leads to life and merge onto the wide and easy way to destruction (Matthew 7:13–14).

The new year is a time for course correction — a time for taking out the map, consulting the compass, and heeding Paul’s command to “look carefully . . . how you walk” (Ephesians 5:15).

In Ephesians, Paul commands his readers five times to “walk” — in good works, in a manner worthy of their calling, in love, in light, and in wisdom. As we consider three of Paul’s “walk” commands, take a look backward and forward: Where have you drifted off the path? What steps might you take this year, with God’s help, to follow Jesus down these hard but happy roads?

Walk in Love

Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2)

For Jesus, love meant nails through his hands and feet and a spear through his side. Love meant climbing onto a cross and offering himself up as a sacrifice. Love meant inconvenience and sorrow and an excruciating death. This is the love that breathed life into our dead lungs (Ephesians 2:4–5); the love that is broader, longer, higher, and deeper than the galaxies (Ephesians 3:18–19); the love that is washing every stain of sin from our souls (Ephesians 5:25–27); the love that God commands us to imitate — even if our strongest love is a whisper compared to his symphony.

Therefore, walk in love — go low to lift others up. Spend your time with the lonely. Bend your body to bear burdens. Ransack your imagination to meet needs. Give your presence to the grieving. Fix your attention on the forgotten.

Such love will cost us, of course; we’ll have to relinquish handfuls of time and comfort and convenience. But in the end, Jesus knows how to repay everything you lose on the path of love, “Whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord” (Ephesians 6:8). Go low in love, and Christ himself will lift you up. Walk in love this year.

Walk in Light

At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)

When the light of Christ broke into your life and dispersed your constant midnight, he shone on you so that his light might make its home in you. The God of light made you a child of light — a little candle lit from the sun of Christ.

Therefore, walk in light — drive out the shadows from your soul. Train your tongue to heal others instead of cutting them up. Relish the deeper pleasure of purity instead of giving yourself over to sexual immorality. Grow in gratitude for all that God has given instead of stewing over all that he’s withheld. Ache for “all that is good and right and true” (Ephesians 5:9).

You can walk in these paths of light this year because you already are light in the Lord. The dark version of you died with Jesus at the cross, was laid with Jesus in the tomb — and will never rise again. Even if you feel like a smoldering wick right now, if you are in Christ, your destiny is to “shine like the sun in the kingdom of [your] Father” (Matthew 13:43). And that transformation will happen as you keep on stepping out of the shadows, repenting of the specific darkness that still grips you, confessing it to God and others, and shining the light of God’s word upon it. Walk in light this year.

Walk in Wisdom

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15–16)

Every path in this world cuts through our enemy’s backyard. We don’t yet walk in the safety of the new heavens and new earth; we walk in “the present evil age” (Galatians 1:4), an age where the devil stalks the earth with a quiver of burning arrows, his eyes keen for careless travelers (Ephesians 6:16). If we do not apply God’s wisdom to how we are walking in every area of life, the devil will be more than happy to chart the course for us.

Therefore, walk in wisdom — seize your days from the devil’s hand. Clutch onto every opportunity in your life, and turn it in a Godward direction. Make a plan for your marriage this year. Go to work on your parenting. Gauge the health of your friendships. In each of these areas of life (and every other), ask, In this part of my life, how can I live like Christ is precious, the gospel is powerful, the Spirit is inside me, and eternity is coming?

God has already broken the devil’s spell on you. He has already handed you a shield to extinguish his arrows and a sword to swing back (Ephesians 6:16–17). These days may be evil, but you don’t have to be — no part of your life has to be. With a lot of careful looking, and the Holy Spirit’s help, you can make the best use of these evil days. Walk in wisdom this year.

God’s City of Joy

One day soon, you will not need to look carefully to how you are walking. Perfect love will course through the veins of your resurrected body. The light of God’s righteousness will radiate from your every thought, word, and action. Unclouded wisdom will rest upon your immortal shoulders.

Until that day, 2018 is another year to “look carefully . . . how you walk” (Ephesians 5:15). Walk in love — go low to lift others up. Walk in light — drive the shadows from your soul. And walk in wisdom — seize your days from the devil’s hand. These are three roads that lead us to God’s city of joy, where our journey of ten million steps will finally end.

A New Year, A New Bible Reading Plan

Sun, 12/31/2017 - 7:00pm

We need to read large sections of Scripture and stop to meditate on short passages. Pastor John recommends a reading plan that allows you to do both.

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Ask God to Rebuild What Is Broken

Sat, 12/30/2017 - 8:03pm

The last year has been one of the most confusing, troubling, and heartbreaking for many Christians in America, especially for younger believers. It has felt at times like every new day has brought its own dark wave of reasons to be discouraged or to despair.

Does your heart break over the racial tensions in our nation?
Are you fearful about the threat of war?
Do you grieve over the behavior of our president?
Have you followed the devastation from the hurricanes or wildfires?

Have you lost a loved one in the last year?
Is your family facing even larger trials in 2018?
Are relatives more distant and estranged than ever before?
Do your children seem even further away from the Lord?

Are you not where you thought you would be by now?
Are you less content in your work, maybe even ready to quit?
Have you stopped praying?
Did you fall back into an old pattern of sin this year?

2017 has probably raised more questions and fears than most, leaving many of us asking over and over again, God, what are you doing?

The Rebuilding God

As I processed the trials and sorrows of the last year, personally and across the United States, I reread what the Lord said to Jeremiah when he called him into ministry:

“See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10)

God sent Jeremiah to pluck up, break down, destroy, and overthrow. That kind of judgment and destruction makes up most of the book of Jeremiah (and the rest of the Prophets for that matter). But the commission to Jeremiah doesn’t end with destruction. He also says, “I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms . . . to build and to plant.”

The same power with which God brought judgment against the brokenness of Israel is the power with which he promised to eventually rebuild what was broken. Again he says, “I will set my eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up, and not tear them down; I will plant them, and not pluck them up” (Jeremiah 24:6). One day, he would not pluck them up, not tear them down anymore. He even says, “I will rejoice in doing them good” (Jeremiah 32:41).

How Does God Rebuild?

The Lord uses the same language even later in Jeremiah: “It shall come to pass that as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring harm, so I will watch over them to build and to plant, declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:28).

What will it look like for God to build and to plant? Just a few verses later, the Lord says,

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31–34)

God promised to rebuild what had been destroyed and to replant what had been plucked up. He proved himself to be a righteous, powerful, and just Judge. And he promised to prove himself to be an equally patient, compassionate, and merciful Redeemer — a Rebuilder. And the rebuild began when he sent his Son.

God Was Broken Down

When God promised to build us up — to give us a new heart and a new covenant — he was promising to tear down his beloved Son.

Instead of plucking us up, like we deserved, he placed his own Son on the cross (John 3:16). Instead of breaking down our pitiful defenses and excuses, he sent his own Son to have his body broken in our place (1 Corinthians 11:23–26). Instead of destroying us, he crushed his own Son under his unbearable wrath (Isaiah 53:10). Instead of overthrowing our rebellion and tossing us into hell, he tossed his own Son to the wolves of evil where he was crucified (Acts 2:23).

God the Son was plucked up, broken down, overthrown, and destroyed so that he could make us new. And now that Son “has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). In the new covenant, through Jesus Christ of Nazareth, God finally redeems, rebuilds, and replants.

Ask God to Rebuild in 2018

If God can rebuild a relationship with us ripped apart by sin, and replant and revive souls like ours dead in sin, what new thing could he do in your life this year — in your family, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, in our nation, in you?

Ask God to rebuild what is broken in our nation — to reconcile deep and growing racial divisions, to bring peace to the international hostility, thwart the plans of evil rulers, and quiet the threats of war, to bring salvation and revival to our nation’s leaders, to draw near to those devastated by Hurricane Harvey or Maria or Irma, or by the fires in California.

Ask God to rebuild what is broken in your family — to comfort you and your loved ones after your loss, to strengthen you for overwhelming trials ahead (expected and unexpected), to bring harmony and healing to strained or estranged relationships, to finally save your son or daughter.

And ask God to rebuild what is still broken in you — to teach you the secret of contentment with which you can face any setback or disappointment, to give you wisdom and discernment, patience and joy in the work he has called you to, to meet you in prayer and the word every day in the new year, to once for all purify and refine away any sin that entangles you.

If you ask him, and trust him, “[You will be] like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7–8). You will be fearless, satisfied, and fruitful, even if 2018 brings more confusing, troubling, and heartbreaking days.

How (Not) to Read Next Year

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 8:00pm

Are you thinking through your reading goals for the new year? I don’t ask in order to compound your sense of guilt with one more thing you should do. I ask because you’re going to read lots and lots of things next year whether you plan to or not. And if you don’t decide to choose what you will read, others will choose for you.

The amount of information that will inundate you next year through an unmanageable number of communication channels is only going to increase. If you don’t give some strategic thought to what you will and will not read, large amounts of your life will be eaten up next year reading demanding, urgent-sounding, trivial, or peripheral things, and you’ll hardly notice how much time they consume. You’ll simply get to next December and wonder where all the time went and why you managed to read so little of what you wish you had read.

“Do Not Read” Principles for the New Year

If we don’t want that to be the case, we must make some sort of plan. But sometimes stating things negatively provides a different kind of clarity than stating things positively. So, I have compiled a list of “do not read” principles for 2018 in hopes that you might find it helpful.

Do not not read books.

Most of what will demand your reading attention next year will be articles, blogs, posts, tweets, bites, and ads. The vast majority of these will be ephemeral and a waste of precious time. Some will be very helpful, but short-form writing can never replace long-form writing in the form of books. Good books develop and exposit big ideas and lines of reasoning in enriching, informing, comprehension-expanding ways short-form is simply unable to do. Neglecting to read books is to allow your attention, deep thinking, and reflection capacities to atrophy.

Do not neglect to read The Book.

God wrote a book. In it are the words of eternal life (John 6:68). At the end of the day, this is the only must read you need to heed. This is “no empty word for you”; it is “your very life” (Deuteronomy 32:47). Keep looking at this book. If you look carefully, you will see more glory, and be infused with more hope, and ultimately feel more joy than any other thing you will read next year.

Do not read like the phenoms.

Theodore Roosevelt, while President of the United States, read a book every day before breakfast and often a couple more during the day. Charles Spurgeon often read 6 books a week, while pastoring a mega-church, overseeing dozens of organizations, writing 500 letters, and preaching up to ten times during that same week. And these men lived without most of the technological aids we consider essential for productivity.

View them with admiration and awe, but do not make them your reading models. They were to reading what Usain Bolt is to sprinting: genetic phenoms. Unless you too are in the top 1% of humanity, you will not be able to do what they did without letting other aspects of your life fall into criminal neglect. Know yourself and set reasonable reading goals.

Do not read too fast.

Remember how your mother told you to “slow down and chew your food”? Chewing well is important for good digestion. The same principle applies to reading. Information overload is conditioning us all to eat words too fast. Slow down and chew your food.

Do not read too much.

If eating too fast is a problem, so is eating too much. Now, statistically speaking, reading too many books is not a problem for most of us. But with all the articles, blogs, social media posts, emails, and texts competing for our reading attention, reading too much is a problem for most of us. If we eat too much junk food, we won’t have an appetite for nourishing food. And eating too much in general reduces our ability to enjoy what we do eat. Reading is not a quantity contest. It is an issue of soul nourishment.

Sometimes, do not read at all.

We all need to leave the world of written words and walk through the living library of the world around us. We must look and ponder, listen, and wonder. We must smell and, as Chesterton said, marvel at the God who thought up noses. Feel the texture-filled world and let sun, wind, and rain wash our faces. And engage in person with real persons and love them. Each person is a rich, complex living story that God has given us to study and know.

Do not read to impress others.

Don’t choose books or set reading goals to gain someone else’s approval, or posture and flex like a weight room show-off, or even just to appear within some respectable relative range. Reading for the sake of others’ perception will set you on the wrong course and suck the joy out of reading. This sort of reading isn’t of faith and therefore displeases God (Hebrews 11:6). Read to gain wisdom and understanding (Proverbs 16:16) and for the sake of joy (Psalm 119:111)! Read to make your heart burn with love and longing for God.

Do not read only in your narrow interests.

On the other hand, pay attention to what others are reading — not to impress them, but because you care about them. What is your spouse interested in? Your child? Your friend? Your pastor? Your co-worker? Read something about it. There is a world of glorious things outside the small circle of your familiarity. Explore! Read a book or thoughtful article that will help you see more than you do now. A humble mind knows how small and limited it is.

Do not read boring books — unless you’re required to.

While it’s good to try and broaden your interests, if you get a third or halfway into a book and just can’t engage either topically or because it’s poorly written, move on. We learn little when reading is drudgery.

But do not avoid reading difficult books.

“Boring” is not the same as “difficult.” Some books are mines of gold that require the hard work of digging. We learn little when reading is drudgery, but we can learn much when digging is required to discover gold. If credible sources tell you a mine has gold, put your back into it.

Do not read things that make you feel hopeless.

If the way you’re wired or your past experiences cause you to go into a spiritual tailspin when reading certain kinds of unnecessarily skeptical, cynical, or hope-draining fiction or nonfiction, don’t read them. Gifted believers such as Francis Schaeffer, Ravi Zacharias, R.C. Sproul, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Nancy Pearcey, William Lane Craig, and other gifted believers have been a despair guide for how I process skepticism. Perhaps you might push yourself, but you must know yourself. Read mainly to strengthen your faith in, boost your hope in, increase your love for God.

Grow in your not reading skills.

What you read will shape you. It will shape not only what you think, but how you think. Your life is short. You can only read a relatively small amount in the time you have. You will have to neglect reading far more than you will ever be able to read. So, resolve this year to increase your skill in how not to read.

Truth Alone Won’t Set You Free: The Necessity of Pursuing Joy in God

Fri, 12/29/2017 - 1:00am

We need to know truth about God, but even Satan himself knows facts about him. The difference for Christians is we abide in Jesus and find our highest joy in him.

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