Bell Creek Community Church

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

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David Murray blogs on ministry, leadership, preaching, counseling, technology, and theology.
Updated: 1 hour 18 min ago

Real Men Repent

Thu, 02/21/2019 - 7:08am

Repentance is one of the most masculine exercises you can engage in. It requires courage, strength, resolution, perseverance, and honesty. Real men repent.  Enroll at christianmanacademy.com.

Don’t Believe in Yourself

Tue, 02/19/2019 - 2:00am

Here’s the third video in the Christian Man Academy. Click through for a transcript or to enroll for the weekly newsletter.

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Tue, 02/19/2019 - 1:00am
Blogs

The Four Horsemen of Divorce
The Four Horsemen are criticism, defensiveness, stonewalling and contempt.

Is God All You Need?
“In this article, Scott Hubbard shares some thoughts about the statement “All I need is God.” He writes, “Throughout Scripture, God’s people often need more than God alone—they need God through the things he has made.”

Is Boasting on Social Media a Sin?
“When we engage through a screen, something changes. Put an iPhone in people’s hands, and words they would not dare say in person they will eagerly tweet or post as a comment. Digitally mediated communication has led to digitally mindless communication. We don’t think before we speak online. We sit in front of a keyboard and deceive ourselves, suppressing the knowledge of God’s presence and assuming we are alone. But we are not alone on social media. God is there. And so is a potential audience of billions of people.”

How America (and the Church) Can Support Blue-Collar Workers
So good to see this at TGC.

Sleep and Body Composition
“The amount of good sleep a body gets is in direct relation to maintaining a healthy diet and muscle to body fat ratio.”

How to overcome your excuses for not prioritizing sleep
“There are a lot of obstacles to achieve a good night’s sleep–but there are also many ways you can choose to overcome them. Experiment with different tactics and tools to optimize your sleep, and make the most of your waking hours. Even one small change can make a big difference.”

Why you are still not sleeping well at night
“Some of the often ignored factors that contribute to sleeplessness, as well as some fixes that can help you get back into a solid sleep routine.”

Going to church is America’s key to long and happy lives
The General Social Survey finds that 50 percent of Americans who go to church more than once a week call themselves “very happy.” That number drops as church attendance drops, down to only 25 percent for those who go once a year or less.

Lessons Learned from a Leadership Nightmare
“I’ve been a local church pastor for more than thirty years, but I’ve never had a year like 2018. Honestly, it was brutal, far and away the most difficult season I’ve ever had in ministry. I experienced a church leader’s nightmare.​ Through a grueling five-month process, we ended up removing a vocational elder from our team due to repeated instances of inappropriate conduct. He ended up losing his job, his ministry, and his church. It was extremely difficult for everyone involved.​

This elder had been a friend of mine for forty years. We started the church together. We ministered alongside each other for decades. We teamed up to lead the church and staff together. ​But one evening, I had to tell him it was over. He was out. After thirty years, he was no longer a pastor here. We were done.​ The whole process was excruciating, and that final conversation with my unrepentant friend was weird, awkward, and painful. Many nights I just sat in my study and stared at the ceiling for hours, trying to pray and wondering how in the world our church was going to survive this. ​But, by God’s grace, we did survive. I survived too, somehow. God was good to us and we’re still here. But it was rough.​ As I’ve reflected on this experience several truths have emerged that help me to process the whole ordeal.”

Kindle Books

Alive in Him: How Being Embraced by the Love of Christ Changes Everything by Gloria Furman $1.59.

Putting Amazing Back into Grace: Embracing the Heart of the Gospel by Michael Horton $1.59.

Snapshots of Joy from our Son’s Wedding

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 2:00am

We had our first family wedding last Friday, with my eldest son Allan marrying a lovely Christian girl, Lynnae Doll. Hope these pictures share some of our joy.

Allan and Lynnae, our four other “kids”, my parents, Shona and I.

Shona and I with Allan and Lynnae.

Our five “children” with Lynnae.

Our oldest and youngest sons. Scot was the “Secret Service” Ring Bearer.

My parents all the way from Scotland, with Allan and Lynnae.

Our daughters, Joni and Amy, with our son, Angus.

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Mon, 02/18/2019 - 1:00am
Blogs

Sex Abuse Among Southern Baptists
Some quality analysis of the systemic issues that lead churches and church leaders to make such bad decisions in handling such cases:

“Second, we’ve failed to understand the power dynamics of abuse and have often viewed these instances through the lens of sexual sin. This led to abusers being superficially reprimanded and penalized, while the survivors were simultaneously overlooked and/or treated as complicit. Such a reductionist understanding gave rise to unrighteous sympathy that sought to protect the future of the perpetrator at the expense of justice and protection of the victim. Then, when survivors would not let the injustice go, they were characterized as troublemakers—unwilling to “forgive” their abusers. ”

Addressing Abuse in the SBC: A Proposal
Here’s another.

“Calling a survivor of sexual assault into a minister’s office in order to be cross-examined by pastoral staff should never have been seen as acceptable, and now, we must make it clear that is complicit behavior. In order to protect vulnerable survivors, we need to appoint survivor advocates.

Statement from R. Albert Mohler Jr. on Sovereign Grace Churches
And here’s one beginning to put things right.

“As many are aware, I have recently apologized and asked forgiveness for serious errors I made in how I responded to concerns that were raised about Sovereign Grace Churches and CJ Mahaney.”

Pastor, Preach like Hurt Women Are Listening
“I’ve been blessed over the years to sit under the loving care of wise and compassionate pastors and elders. I’ve witnessed great humility in these men as they’ve listened to my story and grown in wisdom and understanding in their pastoral care for women. It hasn’t always been perfect, and we have hurt and misunderstood each other. But they did a few things that ministered to me and other women in our church.”

Is Email Making Professors Stupid?
Yep.

“When email first spread to campuses in the late 1970s, it simplified crucial tasks like communicating with distant collaborators, but as its ubiquity grew, it became a public portal through which the world beyond close colleagues could make increasing demands on a professor’s time and attention, making email into a kind of digital water torture for the scholar struggling to think without interruption.”

The Complete Guide to Memory
Perhaps part of the remedy to the above. What a phenomenal resource from Scott Young:

“How does your memory work? How can you remember more? Prevent forgetting? These questions lie at the heart of anything you’ll ever learn, do or experience. Your memory impacts everything you do, from how well you’ll do in school, your career, life and even your sense of self and happiness. This is a topic that has long fascinated me, and I’ve written a lot about memory previously on this blog. However, I wanted to create a guide that would combine and integrate everything we know scientifically about memory, and distill that knowledge into practical advice.”

Broken Pieces and the God Who Mends Them
Bill Boekestein’s excellent review of Simonetta Carr’s new book about her family’s painful struggle with mental illness. Here’s another from Redeemed Reader.

Books

Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age by Alan Noble $3.99.

Run to Win: The Lifelong Pursuits of a Godly Man by Tim Challies $5.99.

Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Edward T. Welch $2.39.

Video

Puritan Trailer

Expedition 38: The Darkest Trial

Sat, 02/16/2019 - 10:22pm

Here’s the video for Expedition 38 in Exploring the Bible. If you want to bookmark a page where all the videos are posted, you can find them on my blog, on YouTube, or the Facebook page for Exploring the Bible.

If you haven’t started your kids on the book yet, you can begin anytime and use it with any Bible version. Here are some sample pages.

You can get it at RHBWestminster BooksCrossway, or Amazon. If you’re in Canada use Reformed Book Services. Some of these retailers have good discounts for bulk purchases by churches and schools.

Real Men Have One Aim

Fri, 02/15/2019 - 1:00am

This is the second video in the Christian Man Academy Curriculum. For a transcript, click through to the Christian Man Academy website.

This video is all about finding our ultimate purpose in life. Why are we here and what will make us happy while we are here?

If we aim at God above all, and glorify God above all, we will enjoyGod above all else. We can only enjoy God if he is number one in our lives.

You can sign up for our weekly newsletter here or subscribe to the YouTube Channel to be notified of the latest videos.

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Thu, 02/14/2019 - 1:00am
Blogs

Sexual Abuse in SBC
Joe Carter summarizes this tragedy in an FAQ. IMportant articles to read by J D Greear, Russell Moore, Al Mohler. One of Mohler’s conclusions is:

In light of this report and the nature of sexual abuse, an independent, third-party investigation is the only credible avenue for any organizations that face the kind of sinful patterns unearthed in this article by the Houston Chronicle. No Christian body, church, or denomination can investigate itself on these terms because such an investigation requires a high level of thoroughness and trustworthiness. Only a third-party investigator can provide that kind of objective analysis.

Trillia Newbell offers 6 Ways Pastors Can Help Victims of Sexual Assault.

And here is some beauty among the ashes: How I found hope after my ex-husband was convicted of sexual abuse.

Our Digital Lives Don’t Need to Make Us Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unwise
“Now is the moment to pursue a three-pronged approach to all digital encounters: literacy, hygiene, and labeling. We have the opportunity of a lifetime to re-shape our still primitive and often unruly digital culture into a safer, healthier, more rewarding domain.”

Finally, a Biblical Marriage Counseling Primer!
“If you are a pastor, biblical counselor, or anyone who walks with couples, get Counsel for Couples. I am confident it will not stay on your bookshelf, but be a well-worn resource as you care for and counsel couples.”

Is My Boyfriend’s Porn a Marriage Deal-Breaker?
“I would say, “Yeah, that is a deal-breaker.” …And I would say, “Don’t lower the bar.” I think we have lowered the bar too much. We have treated men like dogs in heat rather than men who are created in the image of God and who have the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is love, joy, and self-control. That last one, self-control, is usually used in relation to sexuality. Men are not victims, and these women have a right to expect more from us.”

Don’t Put Your Hope in Date Night
“When we falsely believe a date night out is the only way to grow in marriage, enjoy one another, foster intimacy, and maintain a healthy commitment, we’re bound to continually feel defeated and disappointed. God is gracious to provide many ways for couples to connect and grow deeper in their love for one another beyond a night out. In fact, date-night dry seasons might be the times we best reveal the beauty of our covenant, as we steadfastly love and serve each other in difficult times.”

“Gospel of the Happy God”
“Real happiness is the blessedness of God. Real happiness, the gospel of freedom and salvation and liberation and transformation, is when humans in all their need come under the care of the happy God who has no needs whatsoever, and who undertakes to pay the price of bringing us into fellowship with his own blessedness.”

Why you should make your pastor take a sabbatical
Some great resources here for pastors, elders, and congregations.

Books

Manhood Restored by Eric Mason $1.99.

God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs by Timothy Keller $1.99.

Video

The Most Significant Lessons We’ve Learned as Parents

Christian Man Academy Open for Enrollment

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 7:29am

I’ve had a growing burden for young men growing up in a world that is not only confused about masculinity but even hostile to it. In recent weeks, the Gillette ad has sparked renewed debate about “toxic masculinity.” Young (and not-so-young) men are looking for clarity, direction, and practical help about what it means to be a man and, especially, how to be a Christian man in today’s culture.

Jordan Peterson has tapped into this with his videos, books, and speeches, inspiring men to step up, take responsibility, and be the best men they can be. But, while Jordan Peterson incorporates many Christian themes and truths, for which we are grateful, he is not operating from a distinctively Christian worldview.

That’s why I’m launching the Christian Man Academy. It’s a video-based website for Christian men that will provide clear, practical, biblical teaching about what it means to be a man of God in our culture. I’ll be posting two short videos each week (on Tuesday and Thursday), together with further reading suggestions. I’ve already got fifty scripts ready to film and I’m working on the next fifty.

We’ll be starting off with the basics of being a Christian man, but we’ll eventually cover relationships, marriage, parenting, study, work, finances, organization, health, sex, and lots more. This will be a comprehensive, holistic, practical course on Christian manhood.

If you sign up for our free weekly newsletter, each Saturday you’ll get an email containing not only what’s been posted on the website each week, but additional articles and resources for further study. So why not enroll in the Academy and send this invitation to all the men in your life. Did I mention it’s all free?

Have a look around the website and watch the Welcome video here.

Big thanks to Cameron Morgan and Jordan Replogle for all their work on getting the website ready.

The Joy of Living a Grace-Paced Life in a World of Endless Demands

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 2:00am

Shona and I had the privilege of speaking at the recent Bethlehem Baptist Pastor’s Conference in Minneapolis. Shona told her story of depression, and then I shared the lessons we both learned through this time. Click here for video. The rest of the conference video and audio is here.

A Graphic Picture of Abortion

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 2:00am

Maybe I should have given a trigger warning. But sometimes we need to be triggered. Source.

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Mon, 02/11/2019 - 1:00am
Blogs

Four Words that Describe Today’s Pre-Teen Girls
They are insecure, anxious, confused, deceptive. How to change that? Have a look at Lies Girls Believe Online Bible Study.

5 Common Mental Errors That Sway Your Decision Making
Here are five common mental errors that sway you from making good decisions.

A Puritan Primer: The ABC’s of Counseling the Aged
“The following directions, taken from A Christian Directory by Richard Baxter,[1] provide a Puritan lens for counseling the special responsibilities of the aged. ”

Modern-Day Slavery by the Numbers
Worldwide, 40.3 million people were victims of modern-slavery in 2016.

Four years ago, I was a basket case
It’s vulnerability and transparency like this that’s smashing the stigma of mental and emotional disorders.

“That is one of the worst parts about anxiety: the anxiety that people will notice our anxiety. When one begins to have that feeling, she knows it is out of control. We shouldn’t feel so worried in the church, but unfortunately, that is the place I felt the least safe. The place where I felt the safest was with my husband, and to this day, I am so thankful for that.”

Sabbath Rest Is for Busy Moms, Too
“Over the course of several days, conversations, and prayer, I realized I needed a new definition of rest. I didn’t just need the kind of rest where I kick my feet up, I needed the deep soul rest that comes from dependence on Christ and is commanded by God: Sabbath rest. Out of his goodness and mercy, God rested from his work on the seventh day of creation (Gen. 2:15), setting a pattern for his creatures to follow.”

Kindle Books

Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church by Keith and Kristyn Getty $2.99.

Putting Amazing Back into Grace: Embracing the Heart of the Gospel by Michael Horton $1.59.

Called to Lead: 26 Leadership Lessons from the Life of the Apostle Paul by John F. MacArthur $2.99.

Expedition 37: The Darkest Night

Fri, 02/08/2019 - 7:19am

Here’s the video for Expedition 37 in Exploring the Bible. If you want to bookmark a page where all the videos are posted, you can find them on my blog, on YouTube, or the Facebook page for Exploring the Bible.

If you haven’t started your kids on the book yet, you can begin anytime and use it with any Bible version. Here are some sample pages.

You can get it at RHBWestminster BooksCrossway, or Amazon. If you’re in Canada use Reformed Book Services. Some of these retailers have good discounts for bulk purchases by churches and schools.

Finding Your Passion

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 2:00am

I agree with James Clear that “Habits are easier when they align with your natural abilities.” I disagree with his application, which is, “Choose the habits that best suit you.” As he puts it:

“One of the best ways to ensure your habits remain satisfying over the long-run is to pick behaviors that align with your personality and skills. Work hard on the things that come easy.”

I disagree because God often requires us to eliminate sinful habits that are extremely easy for us, and to cultivate habits that are extremely difficult for us. By God’s grace, that can be extremely satisfying.

However, while Clear’s advice is bad for sanctification, it can be good for choosing our vocation. I’m sure we’ve all heard Dave Ramsey and others respond to people’s questions about their callings with the advice, “Follow your passion….Find your passion and develop it.”

I’d therefore like to take Clear’s words about habits and apply them to finding your vocation. To find your passion, ask yourself these questions:

What feels like fun to me, but work to others?
The mark of whether you are made for a task is not whether you love it but whether you can handle the pain of the task easier than most people. When are you enjoying yourself while other people are complaining? The work that hurts you less than it hurts others is the work you were made to do.

What makes me lose track of time?
Flow is the mental state you enter when you are so focused on the task at hand that the rest of the world fades away. This blend of happiness and peak performance is what athletes and performers experience when they are “in the zone.” It is nearly impossible to experience a flow state and not find the task satisfying at least to some degree.

Where do I get greater returns than the average person?
We are continually comparing ourselves to those around us, and a behavior is more likely to be satisfying when the comparison is in our favor. When I started writing at jamesclear.com, my email list grew very quickly. I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing well, but I knew that results seemed to be coming faster for me than for some of my colleagues, which motivated me to keep writing.

What comes naturally to me?
For just a moment, ignore what you have been taught. Ignore what society has told you. Ignore what others expect of you. Look inside yourself and ask, “What feels natural to me? When have I felt alive? When have I felt like the real me?” No internal judgments or people-pleasing. No second-guessing or self-criticism. Just feelings of engagement and enjoyment. Whenever you feel authentic and genuine, you are headed in the right direction. Our genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on. Once we realize our strengths, we know where to spend our time and energy.

Of course, we must also allow for the possibility that God’s calling may not be aligned with our passion, in which case we must follow God not our heart. However, if God has given us gifts and passion in one direction, we must seriously ask if that’s what God is calling us to.

See more Atomic Habits posts here.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Check out

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 1:00am
Blogs

You Might Need Marriage Counseling—Especially If You Think You Don’t
“As a Christian woman of color, I’ve noticed that marriage counseling can be taboo subject among both the Christian and the African American communities. I believe this stigma thrives for several reasons”

The Spiritual Dangers of Disconnecting from Creation
“I’ve spent my career working at the intersection of development and conservation in parks, recreation, and preserved open spaces. Over the last 30 years I’ve witnessed a deep and growing disconnect between people and nature. This disconnect is accelerating as the digital revolution means more people spend less time outdoors in creation, particularly in developed and urban contexts. I believe this disconnect can negatively affect our individual and corporate spiritual health.”

8 Real-Life Questions about Children and Discipline
“The Bible teaches that a loving parent is one that disciplines his or her child. But the how can often confound well-meaning parents. Below, Sam Crabtree, author of Parenting with Loving Correction: Practical Help for Raising Young Children shares some practical advice for how to navigate some specific situations in the home.”

Celebrities, Professors & Care-Givers: How We Lost Our Missional IQ
“Celebrity, professor, and care-giver; the preferable images for spiritual leadership in North America. Each of them has a cultural history. Each is an overcorrection. None represents the biblical pattern.”

Columns from Tabletalk Magazine, February 2019
This is an outstanding series of articles on a much neglected but important topic.

What happens when God suddenly sets a pastor aside from preaching?
“Pastor and Practical Shepherding President, Jim Savastio has preached God’s word faithfully for 35 years taking only a few weeks off at a time.  That all changed 3 months ago.  Jim unexpectedly experienced an onset of Bell’s Palsy in late November and has been unable to fill his pulpit for over two months. Listen as Brian talks with Jim and he reflects on God’s good providences and what he is learning during this time of being laid aside.”

A Jesus-Shaped Life Finished Well: Robert H. Mounce (1921–2019)
Click through for a beautiful video about Mounce’s care for his invalid wife.

Books

Embracing Obscurity by Anonymous $1.99.

Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken by David Powlison $2.99.

This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel by Trevin Wax $2.99

Two Helps to Delaying Gratification

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 2:00am

James Clear’s  first three laws of behavior change—make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy—increase the odds that a behavior will be performed this time. The fourth law of behavior change—make it satisfying—increases the odds that a behavior will be repeated next time. It completes the habit loop. Clear’s fourth law is, “What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.”

And here’s where we run into a major problem, because most good habits come with an immediate cost or loss, whereas most bad habits come with an immediate reward or gain. Bad habits have an immediate reward and long-term costs (e.g. eating lots of chocolate), whereas good habits have an immediate cost but long term reward (e.g. dieting).

Indeed, success in nearly every field requires is to ignore an immediate reward in favor of a delayed reward. That’s why, “People who are better at delaying gratification have higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, and superior social skills.”

So, what do we do? How do we use Clear’s fourth law? We can ignore it and simply push on through the immediate pain in hope of perseverance until we get the long-term gain. We can do this in the strength of God, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain, support, and strengthen us through the pain until repentance and obedience does pay off in the long-term. We can trust God’s promises of blessing upon obedience and tough it out by his grace. That’s certainly an option, and sometimes it’s the only option.

However, at least in some cases, might we not incorporate Clear’s suggestion to help us wait for ultimate gratification: “Add a little bit of immediate pleasure to the habits that pay off in the long-run and a little bit of immediate pain to ones that don’t.”

“Heresy!” you charge. “Is the Holy Spirit not enough?” Do we need to add Habit science to the Holy Spirit?

Well, consider a couple of immediate pleasures and immediate pains that Clear has in mind (you can think up others I’m sure):

Immediate reward: A habit tracker that provides visible evidence of success and progress.

Immediate punishment: An accountability partner or a habit contract that adds a social cost to bad behavior.

Obviously, these means could be, and often are, used independently of the Holy Spirit. But acknowledging that some of us need all the help we can get, is it not possible that the Holy Spirit can use these immediate rewards and punishments to help us to change out habits for the better? can we not pray:

“Lord I’m weak. I wish I could do what’s right just because it’s right. But often I don’t. I wish I could do what’s right because the Bible says it will pay off at the end. But I confess, even that ideal doesn’t change me. I’m weak and my ideals don’t match my reality. So, please see my desire to change. But also see my weakness. And bless my habit tracking and accountability to provide immediate reward for good and immediate punishment for wrong, and so make long-term changes in my life and character. Glorify your name as I look to you to do what I cannot do. And all for Jesus sake. Amen.”

See more Atomic Habits posts here.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Check out

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 1:00am
Blogs

Raising Future Husbands and Wives
“There’s a myth out there that is ruining marriages and probably reducing the number of marriages as well. It’s the myth that we can spend our childhood and adolescence putting our personal success before our need of personal character development and the needs of our future families. A selfless habit of mind will not suddenly appear in marriage. There’s a myth that if we meet Mr. Right or Ms. Perfect and exchange vows at the altar, magic marriage dust will fall upon us both, and we will walk out of that service transformed into selfless people, ready for the real-life demands of marriage. There is no magic marriage dust. We walk out of the service with the same deeply entrenched habits and dispositions that were rooted in our heart when we walked in. Only now, we have so much more responsibility. As parents of future husbands and future wives, perhaps we should think less about training up gifted standouts and focus more on training up men and women who will be prepared to succeed where Tiger Woods fell short.”

Cancer and God’s Sovereignty
“Everything changed when I received a cancer diagnosis on the day before my thirty-fourth birthday. The biopsy revealed a rare and aggressive cancer called angiosarcoma, and the five-year survival rate was not encouraging. I knew I might not live long enough for my eighteen-month-old daughter to remember me. Over the months of treatment and years of survivorship since that day, I’ve wrestled with God’s sovereignty. I don’t question the truth of His rule and reign over all things. I’m grateful that He provided a solid biblical understanding of His character before the phone call came. But I’ve often struggled to find lasting comfort from God’s sovereignty as I look ahead at an uncertain future for my family and me.”

Man says emotional support alligator helps his depression
I
‘m not recommending this, but….

Joie Henney, 65, said his registered emotional support animal named Wally likes to snuggle and give hugs, despite being a 5-foot-long alligator. The York Haven man said he received approval from his doctor to use Wally as his emotional support animal after not wanting to go on medication for depression.

Come to me and rest
“Just rest, child of God. Just rest. One day in seven. Silence those voices that tell you that 6 days and 24 hours a day are not enough. He knows you are dust, and need a rest. Buy a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and take a day. No dishes. No cooking. No cleaning. And just rest. Stop. God gave this day to you, so that you would know that your Father loves you and knows that you are finite, weak, and human. Your bones need rest. You need rest. Just stop. One day. Not a work that you do to earn God’s favor, but just stop and rest in his love. He sanctifies you.”

Church Budget Matters That Matter
“As congregations look at their budget it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sum total. But every dollar that appears there, is a dollar that can glorify God. No wonder the Lord Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).”

God’s Purposes for Suffering in Ministry (Part 1)
“2 Corinthians 4:6-18 gives us ten redemptive purposes for suffering in ministry. Today we will consider five purposes for suffering in ministry addressed in verses 6-13 and Part 2 will discuss five additional purposes found in verses 14-18.” And here is Part 2

Different Mega-Church: Same Old Scandal
This is powerful writing about the nature of power, and it applies not just to megachurches. Be warned that there is one mis-use of the world “hell.” That usually rules out a link on Check out, but this subject is too important and this insight so vital that I’m making a rare exception:

“We can’t just speak fearlessly into “that culture out there”, we must be able to speak fearlessly into “this culture in here”.   But as long as the “that culture out there” is nameless and faceless, it’s fairly easy to fight with.  This culture in here that we know and whose champions we know by first name? Not quite so much.”

3 lessons about mental illness for the sufferer and caregiver
“Loving someone with mental illness has taught me to show grace, compassion, empathy, and patience, giving me the opportunity to be a reflection of the character of Christ in the midst of difficult life circumstances. ”

Kindle Books

The J. H. Bavinck Reader $3.99.

Revelation: The Lectio Continua: Expository Commentary on the New Testament by Joel Beeke $2.99.

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World  by Michael Horton $2.99.

Check out

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 1:00am
Blogs

3 lessons about mental illness for the sufferer and caregiver
“Loving someone with mental illness has taught me to show grace, compassion, empathy, and patience, giving me the opportunity to be a reflection of the character of Christ in the midst of difficult life circumstances.”

Theology for the Teen Years
“Despite the fact that my generation is the least religious generation in US history, God is at work among my peers. He is using faithful churches, pastors, and parents to give us clarity in the midst of a blindingly confusing culture. All throughout history, some of the biggest explosions of conversions and gospel work have happened among students. That could happen again today.”

Seven Questions to Ask Your Daughter’s Boyfriend
“I do not have a daughter, but I do have a sister. A sister who recently got engaged. Before she got engaged, her then-boyfriend and I had a conversation. My latent CIA interrogation skills, like my now-father-in-law’s almost two years ago, kicked into gear. I wanted to protect my sister, and to get to know and encourage the man who was already contemplating proposing. I wanted her best in the Lord, and his. By no means are the questions I came up with exhaustive. And some might be better suited at different times throughout the relationship (before the first date, or as the relationship becomes more serious, or before engagement, or after). I asked these questions before the proposal, and I pray they serve as a good starting place for other brothers (and even fathers) as they sit down to talk with a young man pursuing one of our treasured women.”

An Open Letter to the Parent of a Strong-Willed Child
“”I’ve heard parents say things like, “I feel like I’ve exhausted all my options. No approach seems to work. I’ve tried praying with him. I’ve tried appealing to his conscience. I’ve tried time-outs, and various consequences. . . and it just seems like things don’t get better, but worse. I’m very weary and discouraged. And weary. Did I mention weary?”"

Self-Control, the Leader’s Make-or-Break Virtue
“I’m convinced that the vast majority of leaders whose ministries implode because of a moral failing started on their path by neglecting their relationship with God. Estranged from God’s Spirit, the fruit of self-control eventually withered in their lives. One of the cruel ironies of ministry is that it’s easy to nurture other people’s souls while neglecting your own. If you’re not careful you can get to the place where you only talk to God when you’re praying in public and only open God’s Word to prepare to teach. Don’t be that leader. Make intimacy with the Father your number-one concern. Your life—and the lives of those you lead—depends on it.”

Preaching in a Mild State of Panic
“As one who has been teaching preaching to seminary students for over a decade I know that many (most?) approach using their preaching notes in a way that is detrimental to their preaching.”

Redemption Accomplished & Applied
PCRT conferences in Grand Rapids and Philadelphia.

Puritan Documentary

Books

I want to highly recommend Broken Pieces and the God who Mends Them: Schizophrenia Through the Eyes of a Mother which Westminster books has for sale at $9.00. My endorsement:

“The most honest and deeply moving Christian book I’ve read in a long time. Simonetta opens up her broken heart to show us the painful darkness and agonizing tragedy of serious mental illness. But she also opens the door of hope and help for other families by sharing the hard-won knowledge and resources she discovered both in the common grace of God and in the church of God. May this book transform her beloved son Jonathan’s death into life for many others.”

Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End  by David Gibson $2.99.

Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung

Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God by Joe Thorn $1.59.

The Two-Minute Rule

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 2:00am

When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do. You’ll find that nearly any habit can be scaled down into a two minute version.” James Clear, Atomic Habits, 161.

The idea here is to make  habits as easy as possible to start, with the hope that once we’ve started doing the right thing, it will be easier to continue doing it. Examples of creating a two-minute rule are:

  • “Read before bed each night” becomes “Read one page.”
  • “Study for class” becomes “Open my notes.”
  • “Run three miles” becomes “Tie my running shoes.”
  • “Write a book” becomes “Write one paragraph.”

However difficult the following steps and minutes, the first couple of steps and minutes should be made as easy as possible. We’re trying to find a gateway habit that naturally leads us down a more productive path (162).

The two-minute habit is a ritual that opens up a door to a harder and larger habit. You can’t improve a habit that doesn’t exist. Clear says:

“The more you ritualize the beginning of a process, the more likely it becomes that you can slip into the state of deep focus that is required to do great things” (163).

Instead of focusing on the end goal, we focus on the first two steps until that becomes easy, then the next two steps, and so on.

I appreciate the practical realism of Clear’s book. He recognizes how hard it is for people to change. Yet he doesn’t just give up. He issues a challenge: “Nearly every life goal can be transformed into a two minute behavior.” Whatever Everest you are facing, ask yourself, “What two-minute behavior would get me started?”

Surely pastors can learn from Clear’s “pastoral” heart. We must empathize with human weakness. But we must also challenge people to change, big change. However, we must also give them the practical guidance. What are the first two steps or the first two minutes, if they are ever to meet these challenges and make these changes?

I’ve found that Christians are often frustrated that pastors and teachers either do not issue big enough challenges to change, or demand change without giving any help how to get there. Although in a secular framework, Clear provides a template that balances both big challenges and small changes.

So, pastors and counselors, let’s welcome Clear’s challenge and provide for our hearers and counselees with the two-minute behavior or inner process that will help them towards biblical life-goals, especially that of conformity to Christ.

See more Atomic Habits posts here.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

The Four Most Important Decisions in Your Day

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 2:00am

The difference between a good day and a bad day is often 3-5 productive and healthy choices made at decisive moments.

We make hundreds of decisions every day but there are three or four that determine so many of the following ones. Have a look at this graphic from James Clear’s book, Atomic Habitsto illustrate the point:

We all start on the left side as soon as we get out of bed, and the decision we make there will have a huge influence whether our day will be a good one or a bad one. And there are a few other strategic decisions, that can have disproportionate impact on the rest of our day.

Clear compares these decisive moments to entrance ramps to a highway. Once we take that ramp, we are “locked in” for a number of miles before we can get off again. It may be a decision that only takes a few seconds to make, but it shapes the actions we  take for many minutes and even hours to come. Clear puts it like this:

“The difference between a good day and a bad day is often a few productive and healthy choices made at decisive moments…these choices stack up throughout the day and can ultimately lead to very different outcomes.” (161)

Another illustration is of walking into a restaurant; our options are constrained by what’s available in that restaurant.

This is why mastering these 3-5 decisive moments in our day is so important. These little habitual choices, often made without much thinking, “stack up, each one setting the trajectory for how you spend the next chunk of time” (161).

As I’ve reflected on this I’ve identified five decisive moments in my day. These are my on-ramps that determine the road I follow and whether I end up at a good day or a bad day:

1. When I wake up, do I look forward to the day with joy in God or do I look ahead with dread and fear?

2. Do I read my Bible and pray before checking email, the news, social media?

3. Do get to work as soon as I sit at my desk or do I allow myself to be distracted by the latest political news and opinions?

4. Do I shut off my mind and devices from work when I come home in the evening in order to give myself entirely to my family, or do I attempt to be half at home and half in cyberspace.

5. Do I get to bed no later than 10pm after a period of non-digital wind-down or do I just go to bed when I feel like it?

The more we can identify our on-ramps and make conscious decisions to take the right ones at the right time, the more likely we will end at the top of that graphic rather than the bottom.

And, of course, if we take wrong turn, we can ask God for forgiveness and grace to get back on track. He can turn the worst choices around and give us a good day even after the worst of choices. Where bad decisions abounded, there did good days much more abound. But we shouldn’t presume upon that two days in a row!

See more Atomic Habits posts here.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

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