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Trending Reads | June

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Welcome to Trending Reads, a monthly post from Pastor Travis Walker that includes current articles on all things Christianity, as well as blog posts that will help you grow in your Christian walk. Without further adieu:


10 Ways to Grow Your Marriage While Having Young Kids

My wife, Esther, and I live in a small parsonage next to our church. So does Isaiah. So does Naomi.

With biblical names like these, you’d think Isaiah and Naomi would be the ideal roommates. But we’ve noticed that Isaiah (who just turned 3) can be pretty moody, and Naomi (who just turned 1) has a powerful set of vocal chords.  

I love being a parent, and we have awesome kids. They give me so much joy. But it’s not always easy. Having kids permanently changes marriage. You try to have a conversation, and you’re constantly interrupted; you plan time to connect and you’re completely exhausted; you try to plan a date night and then realize how expensive a babysitter is. You get the idea.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about something my mom once said: being a parent, for all the strains it can put on your marriage, also allows your marriage to grow deeper and richer. It’s like going into battle with someone, coming home, and then realizing what good friends you’ve become because you were in the trenches together. So I’m learning to see this challenging season as an opportunity for our marriage, not merely a phase to endure.

After my walk with Christ, nothing should take a higher priority in my life than cultivating intimacy and friendship with my wife—not even being a dad. In fact, I know I can’t be the dad God calls me to be unless my marriage is strong. Here are some strategies we’ve reflected on that might be helpful to other young parents in a similar season of life.

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Four Ways for Fathers to Engage at Home

The impact that engaged fathers have on significantly reducing at-risk-behavior in their children has been well documented. Additionally, fathers who are physically and emotionally engaged lead to increased cognitive development, emotional health, and positive peer-relationships in their children’s lives. This pattern points to God’s design for families to function with men as active participants, not passive observers.

As men who desire to follow Jesus, honor God, and lead our families, we are not simply called to be present but engaged fathers — and engaged husbands as well. Before we can begin to lead our children well, we must first pursue an actively growing marriage with our wives. Men are meant to be participant-leaders in the home.

Admittedly, it is often difficult to remain engaged at home. After a long day, it is easy to detach from our family and enter the worlds of media, technology, and sports. Our minds are occupied with the work we left behind or looking forward to the sleep that is to come, but God calls us to more as husbands and fathers. 

Here are four ways, among many, that men can be more engaged at home.

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The Gospel Was Given for a Time Like This

There are days when it is hard to read the news. I open my browser and see another set of headlines, I open my blog reader and see another collection of stories, and I despair. If it is not wars and rumors of war, it is other indicators that this world is sick and dying and in its death throes. I enjoy Al Mohler’s daily podcast and often listen to it while preparing and eating my breakfast, but a scan of recent headlines reminds me why I sometimes just want to climb straight back in bed: “Dolls for boys? Christians must recognize that even the toy aisle reflects a worldview.” “For celebrities, saving the elephants is the latest fad. Unborn babies? Not so much.” “When it comes to sexuality, what happens when a society’s only moral factor is consent?”  

I am not convinced that things are a whole lot worse now than they were tens or hundreds or thousands of years ago. Rather, we have learned to move information faster and farther while at the same time making the world grow smaller. This has left us trapped in what Neil Postman told us is as an endless cycle of cynicism and impotence where we learn all kinds of news and information but have no ability to do anything about it. We hear it all, we feel it all, but we can take no action. All that’s left to do is despair.

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Don't Waste Your Summer

It’s almost here. The weather is finally getting warmer (at least here in Michigan). Spirits are up. The days are long. The end of school is nigh. The unofficial beginning of season–Memorial Day weekend–is right around the corner.

Which means in a little over three months we’ll all be moaning, “Where did the summer go? I can’t believe it’s over.” So what can we do over the next hundred days or so to help alleviate that feeling of loss? Or to put it positively, what can we do to make the most of June, July, and August? Here are twenty suggestions.

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in Prayer

Praying According to God's Will

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Praying is the priceless privilege of the sons and daughters of God.

Yet, it’s not a “give me whatever I want” type of attitude that should characterize us when we pray, but rather an “according to your will” mindset. Just what is meant by this phrase “according to your will” and how do we practice this type of praying?

In my opinion, praying “according to your will” involves at least three things:

1. Praying in the Spirit. Since we don’t know how we should pray, at least in times of trial (Rom 8), the Spirit intercedes for us. Paul also encouraged this kind of praying in Eph 6. Who knows the will of God better than the Spirit of God?

So praying in the Spirit — allowing God the Holy Spirit to intercede for us — is part of praying according to his will.

2. Praying in Jesus’ name. This is where we get any and all authority to enter God’s presence so confidently and boldly, so praying according to his will must mean, to some degree, not approaching God on our own merit. So though we come boldly, we come dependently, and humbly.

We assume nothing, but only cling to Christ’s work as the basis for all our requests. If that attitude of dependence slips into an attitude of assumption, we’re not praying according to his will. It is precisely this attitude of dependence that, like Jesus, causes us to cry out in prayer, “Not my will but yours!” Anyone truly dependent upon Jesus in prayer will understand that God’s will is foremost, just as Jesus understood this in the garden.

Praying in his name is not only our way of clinging to his authority, but also of modeling his attitude.

3. Praying in line with the Word. This is probably where most of our requests go awry. The Bible is filled with specific ways to pray — for our enemies, unselfishly, forgivingly, unceasingly, to name a few.

Since God’s Word reveals God’s will, we can assert quite clearly that praying in a manner inconsistent with God’s Word isn’t praying according to his will. As Gary DeLashmutt, one of the teaching pastors at Xenos Christian Fellowship, says, “The more your perspective is soaked in God’s Word, the more you will pray according to its priorities, and the more you will see God answer your requests (Jn.15:7).”

My opinion? If these three are the first things we aim for in our prayer, whatever other mystery and complexity is involved in praying “according to his will” will not be a problem, for we will be so delighted by God and in God that we wouldn’t want anything other than God!

Posted by Todd Stiles with 0 Comments
Tags: bible, god, prayer, will

Christianity in South Korea

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Since I arrived in Seoul, South Korea in February 2015, I was in awe of the many steeples that dotted the mountainous skyline throughout the city.

According to The Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, South Korea sends out 1,014 missionaries per 1 million church members, putting them at number five on the list of missionary sending countries in the world.

How did this once predominantly Shamanistic (and later Buddhist) nation turn out to be one of the top missionary senders in the world in such a short amount of time? As a Christian history geek, I was eager to find out.  

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to tour Yanghwajin Foreign Missionary Cemetery in Seoul with a local English ministry I serve alongside. We set up an English tour guide to take us through the cemetery and accompanying museum. 

Overlooking the Han River, the cemetery is surrounded by large, modern buildings. The guide explained to us that when Catholic missionaries came to Korea in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, the king sentenced them to death along with thousands of newly converted Koreans. To sum it up, the main problem that Korea had with Christianity at the time was the fact that, under God, we are all equal. Traditional Korean society had (and still has) many cultural barriers due to age hierarchy, as well as economic status. 

Over the next few decades, a handful of missionaries tried to enter Korea, but most were killed almost immediately upon arrival. One soldier was even later converted after he killed a missionary, when he later discovered and read the missionary’s bible.

In 1863, things began to look up for missionaries to enter the Hermit Kingdom. King Gojong, the final king of the Joseon Dynasty, came into power wanting to establish diplomatic relations with western civilizations. Finally, the door was opened for missionaries to freely come to Korea. These missionaries were able to minister to the physical needs of the people by providing medical care, opening schools, and caring for orphans. 

I don’t have enough space to write about every single missionary buried in this cemetery, as there were so many, but I picked out a handful who caught my eye to give you a few highlights.

Henry Appenzeller came to Korea before it was legal to preach in public. He set up a missionary house and traveled on foot and bicycle around Korea preaching the Gospel. Even though he wasn’t a doctor, he was able to save many lives with only a little training in western medical care. At the time, all Bibles were written in Chinese, which was only studied by the royalty and upper-class citizens. Appenzeller opened a publishing company that provided the first Bibles to Koreans written in the common language. 

Sooda Gaichi was a drunkard who collasped and almost died, when a Korean Christian man saved his life and shared the Gospel with him. After this, Sooda and his wife dedicated their lives to raising Korean orphans. Due to Korea’s relations with Japan at the time, it is quite remarkable that a Japanese person wanted to serve even the lowliest of Koreans. I think this is great evidence of his changed heart. 

The last person I have to share with you is Horace Grant Underwood, who is oftentimes called the pioneer of missions in Korea. He helped found the first Presbyterian church in Korea, as well as establish Christian schools. Most importantly, he was able to assist in translating the Old and New Testaments into Hangul, the language of the Korean people. He passed away in 1916, but his family stayed in Korea until 2004! 

As I visited the gravesite museum for these missionaries, one thing stood out to me: none of these missionaries became very famous.

There aren’t any famous biographies written about them, and even the museum in their honor didn’t contain much information to tell.

Many of them died when they were only in their thirties.

Many of them lost spouses and children.

They all gave up the comforts of the Western world to come to a place where they were unsure of their safety.

The power of the Gospel drives us to do amazing things for the fame of Jesus.

in Books

Staff Reads

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Todd

Zeal without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Lifelong Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice by Christopher Ash
Christopher Ash's wisdom has been distilled into this short, accessible book, in which he reveals a neglected biblical truth and seven keys that flow from it. Understood properly, and built into our lives as Christians who are zealous to serve the Lord, they will serve to protect us from burnout, and keep us working for God's kingdom and glory.

The Legends Club: Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Valvano, and an Epic College Basketball Rivalry by John Feinstein
The riveting inside story of college basketball's fiercest rivalry among three coaching legends—University of North Carolina's Dean Smith, Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, and North Carolina State's Jim Valvano—by the king of college basketball writers, #1 New York Times bestseller John Feinstein.

Carlos

The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter of James by Douglas J. Moo
This highly original commentary seeks to make the Letter of James clear and applicable to Christian living today. Interacting with the latest views on James but keeping academic references to a minimum, Douglas Moo first introduces the Letter of James in its historical context and then provides verse-by-verse comments that explain the message of James both to its first readers and to today's church.

The New American Commentary: James by Kurt A. Richardson
THE NEW AMERICAN COMMENTARY is for the minister or Bible student who wants to understand and expound the Scriptures. Notable features include: * commentary based on THE NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION; * the NIV text printed in the body of the commentary; * sound scholarly methodology that reflects capable research in the original languages; * interpretation that emphasizes the theological unity of each book and of Scripture as a whole; * readable and applicable exposition.

Chris

1924: The Year That Made Hitler by Peter Ross Range
Until now, no one has fully examined this single and pivotal period of Hitler's life. In 1924, Peter Ross Range richly depicts the stories and scenes of a year vital to understanding the man and the brutality he wrought in a war that changed the world forever.

The Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth Through God’s Eyes by Robert McGee
Robert McGee's best-selling book has helped millions of readers learn how to be free to enjoy Christ's love while no longer basing their self-worth on their accomplishments or the opinions of others. In fact, Billy Graham said that it was a book that "should be read by every Christian."

Travis

Ordinary by Michael Horton
Radical. Crazy. Transformative and restless. Every word we read these days seems to suggest there’s a “next-best-thing,” if only we would change our comfortable, compromising lives. In fact, the greatest fear most Christians have is boredom—the sense that they are missing out on the radical life Jesus promised. One thing is certain. No one wants to be “ordinary.”

Parables by John MacArthur
Master expositor and Bible commentator John MacArthur has spent a lifetime explaining the Word of God in clear and comprehensible terms. In Parables he helps Christians understand the essential lessons contained in the most famous and influential short stories the world has ever known.

Timur

Prayer by Tim Keller
With his trademark insights and energy, Keller offers biblical guidance as well as specific prayers for certain situations, such as dealing with grief, loss, love, and forgiveness. He discusses ways to make prayers more personal and powerful, and how to establish a practice of prayer that works for each reader.

When Sinners Say I Do by Dave Harvey
Dave's writing style embraces the reader as he speaks honestly, and sometimes humorously, about sin and the power of the gospel to overcome it. He opens the delightful truth of God s word and encourages the reader to see more clearly the glorious picture of what God does when sinners say "I do."

Tanner

Unashamed by Lecrae Moore
Two-time Grammy winning rap artist, Lecrae, learned this lesson through more than his share of adversity—childhood abuse, drugs and alcoholism, a stint in rehab, an abortion, and an unsuccessful suicide attempt. Along the way, Lecrae attained an unwavering faith in Jesus and began looking to God for affirmation. Now as a chart-topping industry anomaly, he has learned to ignore the haters and make peace with his craft. The rap artist holds nothing back as he divulges the most sensitive details of his life, answers his critics, shares intimate handwritten journal entries, and powerfully models how to be a Christian in a secular age.

Beat God to the Punch by Eric Mason
Jesus demands your entire life. In Beat God to the Punch: Because Jesus Demands Your Life, Author Eric Mason succinctly articulates God's call of discipleship on every person. In a winsome, persuasive tone, Mason calls people into a posture of submission to the gospel.

Posted by Web Admin with 0 Comments
Tags: books, picks, read

Theology Leads to Missions

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INTRO to THEOLOGY

Growing up not loving theology, I learned that it ruined my understanding of Global Missions. When I was a young Christian, I was never motivated to do missions because I had a poor understanding of who God is and what He has done for me through the cross of Christ. But God was so gracious to me, that He used my close friends who introduced to me a God-centered theology that leads not only to doxology (praise/worship) but also to missiology (study of missions). At that moment, I fell in love with it.

It changed my thinking and motives toward missions. I give thanks and glory to God for it!

THEOLOGY MATTERS

I've come to find out that many Christians believe that theology is only for seminary students or for pastors, but not for normal Christians who do not attend seminary or are not pastors at the local church. I believe that that is a wrong approach to and understanding of theology. I believe every true and genuine Christian must study theology for the sake of their growth in Christ and Christian discipline.

I believe that that is why so many Christians do not want to do missions, or they do poorly in the mission field, because of the way they approach theology.

They need to see why theology matters.

Theology matters because it helps us to see who God is and what He wants to accomplish through us for His glory and for our joy.

Theology matters because people are dying and going to hell.

Theology matters because God loves the nations.

Theology matters because God loves His own glory!

THEOLOGY DRIVES MISSIONS

By God's grace, I've learned and am continuing to learn more about theology, because I want to be effective in my mission work that Sovereign God has called me to do. God-centered theology showed me the need for missions and God's passion for the nations.

That is why I am doing missions.

I know that I cannot do missions well if I ignore theology. I know that I cannot preach the good news of Christ if I ignore theology. I know that I cannot love people well if I ignore theology. And I know that I cannot plant healthy churches if I ignore theology.

Dear friends, we need theology for the sake of missions, because God honors, loves, and blesses missions when it is driven by God-centered theology.

BOOKS on THEOLOGY

Theology books that helped me to understand theology:

1. Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem

2. Institutes of Christian Religion (2-Volumes), by John Calvin

3. A Theology Of Lordship (3-Volumes), by John Frame

4. Systematic Theology, by Louis Berkhof

5. Desiring God, by John Piper

ADVICE

Go read good theology books, and obey, because Theology leads to Missions!

 

Timur

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