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Trending Reads | July

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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:

How to read the Bible with Gospel eyes

One of the best practices for those who want to make sure that they are gospel-centered everyday—that they are looking into the grace of God in Christ—is to look for Christ in the Scriptures

Most Christians understand that they ought to be spending time in God’s Word everyday but a lot of times that can just look like a checklist of religious duty. No matter what biblical text you’re in, it is important to look for the gospel and Jesus within it. This can be a little harder in the Old Testament and even in some New Testament texts. However, the aim is rather simple: look first and foremost for what God has done, notwhat you are to do...

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Why Teenagers need theology

The world can be really confusing for teenagers. We’re coming of age in a shifting moral landscape, where the most pressing challenges and culture’s loudest critics are ever changing and perpetually conflicting. We see scandals and soundbytes, terrorism and Trump, new sexual ethics and harsh racial tensions, and we wonder, How am I supposed to think about all this?

Secular society throws its own answers our way, but they’re never compatible with a Christian worldview.

I see a better tool to meet the questions of Christ-following teenagers like me: theology...

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Why are we so busy?

Boredom used to be a regular feature in my life.

As a kid, I was bored all the time. This perpetual boredom led me to all sorts of shenanigans, like setting the soles of my shoes on fire or digging a 4-foot deep hole in my backyard, simply because I could (kind of like George Mallory summiting Everest simply because it was there). My discovery that grapevines could be smoked like cigarettes was a direct product of the high volume of boredom in my life.

Even as I got older, I still had long stints of unoccupation. Walking to classes in college. Waiting for a computer program to compile [adjusts glasses and fiddles with pocket protector]. Long drives, doctors offices, waiting 10 freaking minutes for the America Online portal to load (I think I still have several hundred free hours to redeem).

Now I’m literally never bored...

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Why we need to read the Bible like we read other books

As I set aside my Bible reading plan this year in favor of soaking in shorter passages, I realized that I didn’t need to choose between the two—nor did I want to! The benefits and joy of journeying the entire way through God’s salvation story are too good to miss, so I decided to do both.

Last year was the first time I had used a pre-made reading schedule (pdf courtesy of Ligonier Ministries), and it was helpful in numerous ways. I’d encourage you to go through the entire Bible for these 17 reasons:..

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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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New Year's Resolutions from an Old Dead Guy

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It's the second week of January; how are your New Year's resolutions going?

Is this year truly going to be the year you turn over that new leaf, or will 2016 be similar to last year? I hope and pray that 2016 will be one marked by growth and accomplishments for you. 

A website called statisticbrain.com predicts the following top 10 New Years resolutions for 2016:

10. Spend more time with family 
9. Fall in love
8. Help others in their dreams
7. Quit smoking 
6. Learn something exciting
5. Stay fit and healthy 
4. Enjoy life to the fullest
3. Spend less. Save more.
2. Get organized.
1. Lose weight.

Is your resolution for 2016 on this list? These resolutions are honorable, but I can’t help thinking that the majority of them are still pretty selfish and shortsighted, aren’t they?

Can I challenge you to compare this list to the Puritan preacher and reformed theologian, Jonathan Edwards? He created a list of 70 resolutions, beginning with this foreword: "Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake."

If you read through his 70 resolutions, you'll find that, in true Puritan practice, most of his statements beginning with the word "Resolved" have to do with reflecting on his spiritual life, refining his character, or readying himself for earthly death/meeting Christ.

It is as if Edwards was answering the question, “How can I please God more this year?”, instead of “How can I be happier?”

I find this amazing. 

Here are a few that strike me as good examples for us in 2016:

5. Not just to lose weight, but to never lose (or waste) one moment of time honoring his heavenly Father.

37. Not to go to bed earlier, but to go to bed every night and confess the sins of the day.

65. Edwards resolves to exercise more, not for physical gain, but to exercise himself in spiritual habits. E.g. Bible reading, prayer, memorization, etc. 

Please don’t hear this as guilt ridden or judgmental.

I'm realizing that the older I get and the more in love with the Gospel I become, the more I desire to please the One who saved my wretched soul. These thoughts are just encouragements to help you in this regard, and not steps to help you earn God’s favor.

Let’s not forget that 2000 years ago, Christ fully earned the favor of God and imputed that favor to us the day that we believed. 

Would you consider, right now, making a few “eternally focused” New Year’s resolutions?

Here are a few of mine. Please, sometime this year, ask me how I am doing on these:
- Read 1 book a month that is for my spiritual growth.
- Share the Gospel with those on my “white harvest” card.
- Read a book of the Bible for my quiet time often, instead of small chunks.

What would our church look like if all of us committed to honoring and pleasing God more with our lives in 2016?

Let’s commit to making resolutions this year that have eternal, rather than simply earthly, value. We have a choice whether we lay up treasures on earth or in heaven, for where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also!

 
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