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How to Read More Books

Jun 22, 2015 | Erik Raymond

reading“How can I read more books?” I’ve gotten this question a number of times since I’ve started posting more book reviews here on the blog. Here are some of my thoughts to this question.

This past year I have attempted to become more intentional with my reading. In previous years I have read a lot but I would not say that I read well. My reading lacked a detailed attack plan. As a result, sometimes reading happened and other times it did not. What’s more, I felt as though my reading was more chosen for me rather than me choosing it. I read what I thought I needed to read for my job. Over the last few years I have been slowly making adjustments and feel like I am in the best place that I’ve been since I first became a Christian. I am reading more and enjoying it much more. With summer here, and summer reading listing abounding, here are some personal discoveries that were helpful to me.

Pick out books for each month.

I created a simple excel spreadsheet that includes a bunch of books that I think I should read or want to read. Towards the end of each month I pick out books from the list and put them under the upcoming month. This process of assigning myself books has been very helpful for me. After ordering the list I put a (tentative) start date and due date in a column and then keep track during the month. It is important to remember that you have to be reasonable here. Since most people don’t read books as fast as Al Mohler it does not make sense to set yourself up for failure and say that you are going to read 100 books in July. Make a reasonable plan and chart the course.

Vary the book selection a bit.

This has been new for me. I used to read what I thought I needed to read to keep up with current trends or to do what I needed to do work-wise. Now I have tried to make each month have at least one biography and one fiction book to go along with the theological reading. In time I would like to add some books on history because I know this is not a particularly strong suite of mine. This variation has been surprising for me. Several years ago my wife bought me one of Marilyn Robinson’s books, Gilead. I never read it because I didn’t have time to read a book “like this”. But now with these changes I have read two books by Robinson this year (including Gilead) and have really enjoyed them. If I had not made myself read them then I would not have read them. And, if I’d not read them then I would never have found the pleasure that I found in reading them. The variation has been real good for me.

Read for pleasure.

I always thought something was wrong with me because I would hear others talk about how they loved to read. I didn’t love to read as much as I loved to get information. After reading a couple of books that pointed out how we tend to miss out on the pleasure of reading because we are hounds for information, I began to wonder if I could change this. I decided to treat the book like Jacob treated a wrestling match with the angel, “I won’t let you go until you bless me!” I’ve grabbed some books that people say are really good and, with trust in their recommendations, would read them through. Over time I’ve found that I really enjoyed the books. Reading became pleasurable. It actually worked. Now, I’m enjoying reading more and as a result, joyfully reading more books. (books on pleasure: Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, and The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our BrainsI also have found Tony Reinke’s book Lit! to be very helpful for cultivating an appetite and plan for reading.)

If you are competitive, then make it competitive.

If you are not competitive then feel free to skip this one. I am very competitive. When I set a schedule for reading it is like setting a goal for running, lifting or cycling. I set a goal for how many books I wanted to read this year. Once you figure out what you need to do per month it becomes a friendly competition with yourself. Like anything, this can be taken to extremes, but, if done right, this can be a nice way to get more reading in.

Be willing to put the book down.

I used to get discouraged when reading because I’d be in the middle of a book that was not very good but felt like I had to finish it. One day I just said, “this book stinks. I’m not reading this.” I put it away and moved on to another book. I ended that relationship quickly and painlessly. Moving on to the next book was really good for my reading.

Guard your reading time.

I schedule time for reading. Most of the time it is early in the morning and/or over the lunch hour. I rarely read in the evenings or on my days off when I am home with my kids. If you block out 45 minutes a day to read and you read 20 pages (this is an average reading speed) then you will read 600 pages a month! That’s about 3-4 books per month, and nearly 50 per year! Think about that. But, if you don’t guard this time and you do something else during that time (fill in the blank) then you will miss being shaped by these books. I try to guard my reading time with a tempered reasonableness. It’s not so important that it cannot be replaced but it cannot be replaced flippantly or easily.

Redeem time for reading.

It just makes sense to take a book with you. There are many times that we are waiting for someone or something and instead of reading headlines or social media, we could be reading a book. Throw a book in you car, purse, or backpack; you’ll be glad you did the next time you are waiting. I also have been blessed by the technological developments that allow us to read electronically. My Kindle has been a very valuable tool here. Of late I have been using my Kindle app on my iPhone to read books to me while I exercise, commute, or do menial tasks. In the video below you can get the gist of how to do this.

Read with others.

Maybe you are not competitive and have had trouble persevering in reading. I have seen people greatly increase their reading by being part of a group that reads books. Whether at church, work, family, or neighborhood, get some friends together to read and discuss the books. You will doubtless find yourself reading (and thinking) more in a group.

These are some random thoughts from the last year or so of trying to read more efficiently. What about you? Do you have any thoughts on what has worked well for you?

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The College World Series is Good for Baseball Fans

Jun 19, 2015 | Erik Raymond

Brett Pirtle Kyle Schwarber

This weekend I plan to take in one of the College World Series (CWS) games here in Omaha. Going to these games has been a summer highlight for our family in the last 20 years we’ve lived here. The reasons why the games are so enjoyable are not what you might think, or perhaps have come to expect with sports in 2015. Let me give you a few reasons.

The game is the show.

Growing up in the shadow of Fenway Park I have never not loved baseball. I would attend several games each year and either watch or listen to every other game on the TV or radio. I loved the game. Something seemed to happen in the late 90’s early 00’s though; the games seem to get replaced by the surrounding show. The names on the back of the jerseys began to eclipse the name of the team on the front. It seemed to me that some of the simple purity of the game was being changed. When you go to the CWS, the game is the show. And, for a few hours it’s nice to just watch baseball.

Nobody knows who these guys are.

Can anyone who is not from a city where these guys play even name 10 guys who are in the entire tournament? What about 5? Probably not. And, this is beautiful. The teams are made up of a bunch of guys that most people don’t know anything about. I love the experience of watching these guys for the first or second time and observing noteworthy things about their game.

They play refreshingly hard and passionate.

I remember watching one of my favorite players jog down the first base line after hitting a slow grounder to shortstop. The defensive player bobbled the ball, dropped it, and then after retrieving it, hurried to make a throw to first. The runner was out by about a quarter-mile. This lack of hustle is nauseating to a baseball fan. When you come to the CWS however, these guys are running around 100 mph and diving all over the place. Sometimes I just sit and watch and think, “These guys love the game. They love to play and they want to win.” I thoroughly enjoy watching guys play who haven’t gotten over their love for the game. They seem to still have that boyhood “twinkle” in their eye.

Omaha is the perfect place for it.

Omaha has been hosting the CWS for over 50 years. For most of that time it was in a quaint neighborhood ballpark in South Omaha. Now, it has moved to a stadium built for this event just north of downtown. It is truly a beautiful park in a developing area. The city embraces the series and the fans from their respective places. It has something of a “2 week tailgate” kind of feel to it. And Omaha just fits as its host. Like the CWS, Omaha is something of a gem that nobody knows about. It’s kind of a throwback town that makes you feel good by giving you what you want without you even knowing you wanted it. Like the CWS, Omaha wants to be noticed, but it doesn’t want to change. It is unapologetically what it is. And, that’s what makes them both pretty special and refreshing.

I’m looking forward to watching a bunch of guys that I don’t know, go hard, have fun, and compete on a beautiful stage. If you get a chance to catch any of the weekend games on ESPN you will not be disappointed. And, you may even be drawn in.

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Book Review – The Pastor and Counseling

Jun 18, 2015 | Erik Raymond

Here are some facts about pastoral ministry: pastors have a lot of work to do, there seems to not be enough time to do everything, sin causes big problems in the church, people need help, and most pastors have relatively little training in counseling. When you put all of this together you have a recipe for discouragement.

Pastors Jeremy Pierre and Deepak Reju want to help. They wrote the book The Pastor and Counseling in order to come alongside of pastors to encourage and equip them toward faithful counseling. They write:

“We want to help by giving you a basic framework to approach your people’s troubles. You may not have a lot of time. You may be fearful of messing someone up permanently. You may simply not want to deal with this stuff. So what you need is both a reminder that the gospel of Jesus Christ is powerful in these situations and some practical guidance for ministering in light of that power.” (15-16)

I think they hit the mark. The authors write a book that is helpful, compassionate, convicting, and efficient. Providing practical tips to shape the counseling sessions as well as the counselor, Pierre and Reju help pastors to stay on the course of faithful shepherding.

The book is structured in a helpful way. After establishing the concept of counseling from the Scriptures—and how the pastor must see himself here (no way out of this brothers), they move on to the process. This is where the authors are particularly helpful. They recommend 5 sessions for the ideal counseling scenario. They provide a number of thoughtful considerations for how the pastor may prepare for the first meeting. These items include everything from the arrangement of the room to a pre-counseling questionnaire to be completed by the one requesting counseling prior to the session. In the subsequent sessions readers are equipped to see how to lead the sessions in such a way that it is beneficial to those needing counseling. Most pastors feel like they won’t have all the answers, but the authors remind us that we can do our best work by listening well and asking good questions to get more relevant information. As I read the book I remember thinking, “Hey, the bottom line here is that I need to know my Bible, value the gospel, and love people. I can do this.” Shortly after I read:

“To be able to do this well, you simply have to know your Bible. And the more you experience both the comfort and discomfort found in its pages, the more you’ll be able to sense what is appropriate for another person.” (67)

In the final section the authors provide the context for the continued counseling needed: the local church. Pastors are encouraged to encourage further care by developing a culture of discipleship, equipping, and connecting. People are to be expected to speak the truth in love to one another, be equipped to do so, and take the initiative to connect with others for this purpose. This reinforces the centrality and priority of the gospel in the local church. I really appreciated this section that reminded the pastor of the importance of deputizing the rest of the congregation for the purpose of care through word-work.

If you are looking for an accessible book that answers the questions you have and even the ones you don’t have about how to faithfully do pastoral counseling, this is it. In 156 pages the authors provide a quick moving, efficient, gospel-dripping practicum on pastoral counseling. I intend to have this at arms length in my study to refer to throughout the counseling process. It’s a real blessing to the church.

Discounted copies of The Pastor and Counseling are available at Amazon (kindle available).

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Christians Need to Stop Cussing

Jun 17, 2015 | Erik Raymond

soap in mouth cussingWhen I first became a Christian I had a bad mouth. I am thankful that over time God worked to change my heart, and as a result, my mouth. I knew right away that talking in a particular way was offensive to God and others. It does not have a place among those professing faith in Christ because it does not give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29). This is pretty straightforward.

But, I’ve noticed that many Christians are still plagued by a foul mouth. They say things that are offensive to God and to others. I suspect that many don’t even realize it either. Like a new convert who remains fluent in the sailor’s tongue the Christian may not realize what they are saying or its theological impact.

So let me give you a couple of 4 letter words that Christians should mortify with quickness: “luck” and “fate”. These words and their concepts are unbiblical and atheistic. Luck communicates randomness while fate describes a inevitability of something happening without a purpose. Both are blind and impersonal.

Undermining & Obscuring who God is

I say they are Christian cuss words because they undermine the key biblical doctrine of God’s providence. This word providence may be a new word for you, but it is an important word. It is a word that we as Christians need to know and delight in. We are often so quick to simplify and redefine words, but in doing so we can be losing something of our identity as Christians. At one time this word was so prevalent that people named cities and churches after it! This is a very important word.

What does it mean? Providence is God’s infinite power that upholds and governs all things that come to pass.

As the Heidelberg Catechism says,

“God’s providence is his almighty and ever present power, whereby as with his hand, he still upholds heaven and earth and all creatures and so governs them so that: leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, indeed all things, come to us not by change but by his fatherly hand.”

The main things you need to know about this is that God is not disconnected from what is happening in the world today. There is no such thing as chance or luck or fate or karma. Rather, God is upholding, governing, and ordering all things as with his very hand.

“Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6)

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Hebrews 1:3)

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” (Ephesians 1:11)

“But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Matthew 10:30)

As Charles Spurgeon observed,

There is just this difference between fate and providence. Fate is blind; providence has eyes. Fate is blind, a thing that must be; it is just an arrow shot from a bow, that must fly onward, but hath no target. Not so, providence; providence is full of eyes. There is a design in everything, and an end to be answered; all things are working together, and working together for good. They are not done because they must be done, but they are done because there is some reason for it. It is not only that the thing is, because it must be; but the thing is, because it is right it should be. God hath not arbitrarily marked out the world’s history; he had an eye to the great architecture of perfection, when he marked all the aisles of history, and placed all the pillars of events in the building of time.

Am I Splitting Hairs?

Some might say, “Why are you nitpicking? Why squabble about these things?”

The answer is simple, we serve a precise God. He is to get glory in all that we do. And this includes how we think and speak about him. If we are saying things attack, undermine, blur or otherwise detract from a truth that God means to get glory from—shouldn’t we stop? Don’t you want to stop these things?

If you get a new job, is this God’s providence or a lucky break? Do you think the God who orders and upholds all things means to get glory from the new job? What about when someone’s disease clears up or is healed? Is this luck? No! It is God who smiled upon them.

God Actually Counts Hairs

God is involved in the details of life. He is the God who said that he numbers every hair on your head (Mt. 10:30). As Spurgeon noted, even the most committed of earthly moms can’t pull this off. He’s right. Go ahead and walk to the nursery this Sunday at church. Ask the Moms about how many teeth their children have. Ask them if they are crawling or trying to walk. They will give you a quick and clear answer. Then ask them how many hairs are on their heads. They will laugh. No one knows this. But friends, God does. Even the hairs on your head are numbered. He is the God who upholds and governs all things; he orders the cosmos and knows the number of hairs on your head. God is intricately involved with the affairs of your life.

We mustn’t dare to carelessly speak in terms of fate or luck. These are offensive and insulting terms that Christians should cast into the sea along with other inappropriate speech that characterizes our immaturity. And as we throw them overboard, remember to delight in the truth of God’s providence and the God who upholds and governs as with his very hand.

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Book Review- Honest Evangelism

Jun 16, 2015 | Erik Raymond

Have you ever wondered why evangelism seemed to come so naturally to you when you were first converted to Christ but then over time became increasingly difficult? This is the common experience of Christians. Rico Tice has some answers and help along this way. And Rico is apt to help us. He is a minister at All Souls Langham Place in London and the Founder of Christianity Explored Ministries. He has served as an evangelist who equips Christians for gospel ministry for decades.

In his book Honest Evangelism Rico intends to be honest with us. He shoots straight: we don’t like getting hit. He is saying “hit” metaphorically of course. His point is we don’t like the negative pinch that witnessing brings. It causes a strain on relationships, brings awkwardness with strangers, and it could even bring about more extreme unpleasant consequences. However, says Tice, most people don’t like the gospel. They don’t agree with what the Bible says. There are going to be strains on relationships. Therefore, if we are going to be faithful with the gospel we must be willing to cross, what Tice calls, “the painline”.

This sounds unpleasant, doesn’t it?

Exactly. Rico would say that now we are onto something.

“….whenever I tell someone the gospel message, and get hit (metaphorically speaking) there’s a temptation either stop saying anything, or to change what I’m saying. I know there’s a painline that needs to be crossed if I tell someone the gospel; but I want to stay the comfortable side of the mainline. Of course I do!” (15)

Once we experience this painline we get discouraged because either we think it (the gospel and our evangelism) is not working or it is not worth it. So we go silent.

To aid us in this problem Tice properly diagnoses the problem as loving and obeying someone or something other than God. Our lack of evangelism is actually idol worship (p. 43). Until we slay this idol of self we will not speak on behalf of our Savior.

Along these lines the author reminds us of who God is and what he has done for us in Christ. He shows us again the beauty and grace of God in Christ. This is attractive to the Christian; he wants to brag on or boast in Christ.

Further, Tice reminds us what our job really is. It is tremendously liberating and encouraging to remember that we do not do the converting!

“Our job is not to convert people. It is to witness to Christ. Conversion isn’t the mark of successful witness—witnessing is…You have not failed if you explain the gospel and are rejected. You have failed if you don’t try.” (p. 56)

Rico pivots out of his persuasive encouragement to equip us to share this gospel with us. He helps us to (re)start in our mission of evangelism. Providing memorable hooks to hang the key gospel points on, Tice reminds us again that it is not hard to communicate the gospel. It is simple and beautiful. He provides encouragement for the task.

One big strength of the this book is how the author weaves in various illustrations and examples from decades of personal witnessing. His discouragements and encouragements serve the reader well. He reminds us that we can do this.

The best books on evangelism are the ones that encourage you to go and talk to people about Jesus. Not only does this book do that, but it tactfully and truthfully addresses the reasons why we do not. The beauty of this is not that he provides us with new content, but that he helps renew our commitment to evangelism. I’ve been blessed by reading it and look forward to passing it on to others.

Discounted copies of Honest Evangelismare available at Amazon (kindle version available)

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Let’s Be Honest: Reasons Why We Don’t Read Our Bibles

Jun 15, 2015 | Erik Raymond

Bible dust read me

If we were to survey Christians at evangelical churches in America most people would agree that they need to read their Bibles. They understand that it is both required and good for them. But the sad truth is, many do not. This lands us in that strange place of knowing, but yet still avoiding, what is good and beneficial for us.

Why do we do it?

Most people when asked about their Bible reading say: I have been really busy. This may be the truth; people are very busy. However, it is not the reason. I think we can distinguish between realities and reasons. Those same people who are really busy do have the time to eat food and sleep. I know people who have their entire day (and evening) mapped out for them. They are extremely busy; yet they still read their Bibles. There is time for even the busiest of us. However, others who claim busyness also are up to date on the news, watch movies, use social media, exercise, and a host of other things. In pursuit of a true diagnosis here, let’s be honest: none of us are truly too busy to read the Bible. We may be busy but we choose to put the Bible aside for one reason or another.

Let me give you a few reasons why many Christians do not regularly read their Bibles. (more…)

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He Knows Our Frame

Jun 12, 2015 | Erik Raymond

hand sand losing

As a parent there is a special privilege in watching your children learn and develop. We see them try new things and succeed; other times they fail. Sometimes there are those tense moments when you are standing there watching them and rooting for them to get something done, and then you notice that you have been unconsciously going through the motions with your own hands! We get so wrapped into their experiences even as we root them on with loving encouragement.

And what happens when they don’t get it done? What do we do when the 3 year-old cannot get the puzzle completed or ride his bike like his older siblings or pick up the grocery bag? We look them in the eye and tell them, “Good job. You’ll get this. Let me help you.” This level of understanding, affirmation, and assistance seems to go a long way to encourage our children to “keep trying” and not be discouraged.

When I was reading in the 103rd Psalm yesterday I was struck by the 13-14th verses:

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14)

How about that? In the context of forgiving our sin and showing us with grace, we are reminded that God is a Father who is understanding and compassionate towards his children.

This was particularly encouraging to me as it struck me that I often forget who I am. I tend to have a much higher, a more inflated opinion of myself than reality. I think I deserve to be treated better, think I’ve acted better, and believe that I will do better. I’m the 4 year-old kid who thinks he can pick up the 50 lb. air conditioner out of the trunk of the car. But God is under no such illusion. He knows my frame. He knows how I was formed. He remembers that I am but dust. He knows this because he is my Creator! He has infinite knowledge of me and my weaknesses.

I am sure you can see how this so richly blesses our souls. God is a God who knows us (and all of our shortcomings) intimately, but yet still loves us infinitely. There is full understanding and yet complete acceptance. These verses remind us that God’s compassion, care, love, and ultimately forgiveness —does not depend on our strength or ability. Just like a parent does not love their child because they can ride the bike, do the puzzle, or knock out some chores, so too God loves his children.

This reminds me again of the gospel. It was God’s forsaking of his own Son that made it at all possible for any Fatherly care for me (Mt. 27.46; Gal. 4:4-6). This compassionate, tender, knowledgeable, love would not be able to be experienced by any of us had Jesus not endured the intense, unrelenting, unmitigated, wrath of God that was due to us.

What encouragement indeed. It brings us back to the first verses of the Psalm:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,” (Psalm 103:1-2)

Father, thank you for loving me. I am humbled by this passage as I consider that you love such a weak person who seems at times to excel only at pride. Yet you are patient, compassionate, and gracious. Impress upon me the depths of your compassion. Make me to know your Fatherly care for me so that I can respond to you with the reflex of praise like I read of the Psalmist. Bless the Lord, O my soul, may I never forget your benefits. Amen.

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Book Review- The Hidden Life of Prayer

Jun 11, 2015 | Erik Raymond

Most books on prayer are convicting. The authors don’t have to work too hard to give us the Bible verses, make some helpful observations, and point us to simple application. On the other hand, I have found it somewhat rare to find books on prayer that also provide clear, practical instruction. Perhaps this is due to people being afraid of imposing standards or practices that are not mandated in the Scriptures. At any rate, I am very excited when I can find a book that does both: provide conviction and instruction.

The Hidden Life of Prayer by David McIntyre is one of those books. It is not a long book. It weighs in as a paperback at about 120 pages. However, whatever is lacked in volume it brings in substance. Think of it as a cup of espresso for the discipline of prayer.

McIntyre (1859-1938) was a minister in Scotland. His daily faithfulness precedes this volume. It is helpful to remember that this book was an outflow of a life that was bathed in prayer and the ministry of the word.

(more…)

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Are You Discontent?

Jun 10, 2015 | Erik Raymond

shutterstock_69444229

Christians are to be content. We see this modeled in Scripture in the life of the Apostle Paul (Phil. 4:9-11). We also see it commanded in Hebrews 13:5. In previous blog posts (here, here, and here) I’ve attempted to define what contentment is and why we must pursue it. Well, what is contentment? I’ve defined it the following way: Contentment is the inward, quiet spirit that joyfully submits to God’s providence.

How do you know if you are discontent?

1. Are You Grumbling about the Present?

If we are grumbling (complaining) about something that we are going through right now then we are arguing with God. We are saying that we should not be going through what we are going through. Our present experiences serve us like a magnet to draw out either our discontentment or our contentment. If we are grumbling then we can be sure that we are not content. We are essentially saying that God is getting it wrong.

We must see that such discontentment questions God’s wisdom, goodness, and power.

2. Are You Bitter about the Past?

Everyone has endured hard days. Some have endured harder than others, but all have felt the sting of sin and pain that our fallen world provides. Many people live under the cloud of their past experiences and become increasingly bitter. Over time we revisit and analyze the situations from the perspective of a  victim, only to feed our bitterness. We cannot be content in the present when we are nursing bitterness about the past. We are essentially saying that God is got it all wrong.

We must see that such discontentment questions God’s wisdom, goodness, and power.

3. Are You Worrying about the Future?

What is going to happen tomorrow? How do I know it is really going to be ok? Where will I work? Who will I marry? We can ask hundreds of other questions about the future, but the bottom line is, we don’t know. And, we can’t know. Sadly, many people sit in the bondage of worrying about the future and lose the joy of contentment in the present. Jesus says this is the trait of the unbeliever (Mt. 6:25-34) as opposed to the believer who knows and trust God. If we are worrying then we are essentially saying that God won’t get it right.

We must see that such discontentment questions God’s wisdom, goodness, and power.

How do we counsel ourselves?

1. Remember the doctrine of Providence.

Providence basically means that God is at work to bring about all things that come to pass. He is involved in the details; he upholds and governs all things as with by his Fatherly hand (as the catechism says). This means that whatever happened, is happening, or will happen comes with divine sanction. What’s more, Christians in particular should be encouraged to remember that God’s providence means that he is working all things together for his glory and our good (Rom. 8:28). When I am discontent about the past, present or the future then I am bucking against God’s rule, questioning his wisdom, and doubting his love. If we are discontent then we must remember the comforting doctrine of God’s providence.

2. Remember the goodness of God.

To be discontent is to question the goodness of God. Let’s remember that things are not “good” because we say they are good. Things are “good” because they are consistent with who God is and what he says is good. He is the arbitrator of goodness. “You are good and do good” (Ps. 119:68). While we as believers may struggle to embrace God’s label of what is good (Rom. 8:28) we can be assured that the struggle is not with God’s definition but with our perception of what is good. We can diagnose and counsel much of our personal issues if we would interpret our circumstances in light of God’s character rather than interpreting God’s character in light of our circumstances. He is good.

3. Remember the cross.

The ultimate medicine that we have for our souls is the cross. It is the Visine that removes the irritation from the eyes of our souls and focuses our sight with clarity upon the truth. The cross reminds us what we deserve. We do not deserve mercy but we get it. God intervened in our perennial party of selfishness and nailed our sin to the cross (Col. 2:14). We can never talk about what we deserve when we are standing in the shadow of the cross. The cross reminds us that Jesus got what we deserve and we get what Jesus deserved. It is hard to complain and grumble when you remember that you deserve hell.

But the cross also reminds us that God can be trusted. Isn’t this the central issue for us? Can you trust God? Well, stand again in the shadow of the cross and let the Apostle interpret it for you and apply it to our life’s experiences:

“He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32)

If you can trust God to take care of the biggest issues (sin/death) then you can trust him to take care of you in the secondary matters (everything else).

If we are to be learning contentment then we have to be able to spot discontentment. If we are grumbling, bitter, or worrying then we can be sure that we are discontent. We need to run back to the God of the Word and the Word of God to be reminded of the truth.

Image Credit: Shutterstock.

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Book Review- Who is Jesus?

Jun 09, 2015 | Erik Raymond

I am a big fan of the books in the 9Marks series. Each is so very helpful and accessible. I was happy to recently pick up the new release from Greg Gilbert entitled Who is Jesus?  It attempts to interact with one who is investigating the biblical claims of who Jesus is. However, I believe the potential impact of a book like this is much broader. The way Gilbert answers this question ensures that this book will be helpful for those familiar with Christianity but not committed to it, those who are new Christians, those who are mature Christians, and evangelists or teachers who can use sharpening/refreshment on this topic.

Let me give you a few ways in which this book broadly serves the church.

It is clear. Gilbert writes in a very accessible manner. It is a joy to read and fairly easy to understand.

It is theological. The clarity is not because he sacrifices content. He doesn’t. There are helpful definitions of theological terms such as the Trinity. What’s more, he passes my personal test on all books that purport to be evangelistic: Does the author make justification by faith alone clear? Yes.

It tells the story. In a book about Jesus the book is not limited to the New Testament. Thankfully, the book shows how Jesus is at the center of the Bible’s story from Genesis on. By demonstrating how Jesus is what and who the Old Testament was looking toward, it helps to put the Bible together.

It is interactive. The author talks to the reader like he is sitting in a coffee shop with him. There is plenty of back and forth. In addition to drawing you in as the reader it is ideal for evangelistic or discipleship meetings. Good questions help move the ball downfield.

It is clear about authority. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but aside from a couple of references by way of illustration I don’t think I saw a quote of anyone (not that footnotes are bad). Here is a book that just points to the biblical authority and clarity concerning Christ.

It is a testimonial. By this I mean it gives God the mic to talk about Jesus. The Bible has plenty to say about Christ, here we have Scriptural teaching about who Jesus said he is and why he came.

It honors Christ. This is my favorite. Jesus is the hero of this book. It puts him on display. His name is in lights. He is seen to be infinitely glorious in his incarnation and powerful in his sin-atoning, serpent-crushing, wrath-satisfying death!

The book is short (133 or so pages) but good. If you are looking for a book to read with someone that you want to be more impressed with Christ–this is a good one to pick up. As I said earlier, it needn’t be used exclusively for evangelism, it’ll do for revival as well.

Discounted copies of Who is Jesus? are available at Amazon.

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