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Tucking them in

Becky Wilson:

“Well, that’s not that weird,” you may think. No, for real. It’s weird. Because for some reason, I can’t just do it once and be done with it. First, I go and tuck them in as soon as they’re ready for bed. You know the drill: Make sure the doors and windows are locked. Make sure they have enough blankets. Turn the big lights off and the little lights on. Pray. Hugs. Smooches on all 4 cheeks and 2 foreheads. That sort of thing. And then as I’m walking out the bedroom door to close it behind me, we try to see who can be the last one to say “I Love You.” (Macy always yells it one last time after the door is closed, which I treasure more than she knows.) At this point, the girls are all set. They’re happy and cozy and likely to drift off to peaceful sleep in just a few minutes. I literally do this every single night we’re in the same house together. I can’t sleep if I don’t.

Why Shia’s faith may not look like yours

Preston Sprinkle:

When you try to cut out Christians with a religious cookie cutter, you not only tarnish diversity, but you trample on grace. It’s one thing for Christian subcultures to cultivate unique values. But it becomes destructive when those values are chiseled on Sinaitic tablets for all to obey.

How Different Cultures Understand Time

Richard Lewis:

Time is seen in a particularly different light by Eastern and Western cultures, and even within these groupings assumes quite dissimilar aspects from country to country. In the Western Hemisphere, the United States and Mexico employ time in such diametrically opposing manners that it causes intense friction between the two peoples. In Western Europe, the Swiss attitude to time bears little relation to that of neighboring Italy. Thais do not evaluate the passing of time in the same way that the Japanese do. In Britain the future stretches out in front of you. In Madagascar it flows into the back of your head from behind.

Are You Discontent?

Erik Raymond:

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.

Staring at Dementia, Fighting for Joy

Jeff Robinson:

She looks like my mother, but it couldn’t be her; this lady doesn’t even know my name. She thinks I have eleven brothers (I have two), including another named “Jeff” who lives next door. I reside 400 miles from my hometown in the Deep South, arguably in the lower Midwest if you want to make the case Louisville is not a Southern city. They don’t have sweet tea here. Not many grits are on the menu unless you count Cracker Barrel. Not exactly a Southern town. Formerly, mom would have agreed. Today, she doesn’t know I live in Louisville and cannot name the state in which it is located.

If I were celebrating Thanksgiving…

 

God's rescuing quote

Most of those who read my blog are probably getting ready to enjoy a lovely Thanksgiving meal, followed by a football game and, perhaps, a Star Wars trailer. Lord willing, you’re not preparing to camp out in front of a store because that’d be just wrong.

Today, I will not be eating turkey with all the trimmings, nor will I be enjoying some type of delicious pie. I will be eating normal food because I am Canadian. For us, it is not Thanksgiving (that happened back in October). It is merely Thursday.

There are times when I get envious of my friends in America. It’s not because I am not happy to be a Canadian (I’m just fine with that), or anything like that. But one of the things we don’t really do well here is celebrate. We don’t have a terribly strong national identity (at least among the current generation of Canadians), and we fail to take serious stock of our history. The thing we’re most confident of, it seems, is the fact that we have “free” healthcare (if by free you mean, paid for through your income taxes rather than an insurance policy).

So when I see how American friends seem to genuinely love their country, and celebrate their history (even if they sometimes creatively edit it), I get a twinge of jealousy. But that’s kind of silly, isn’t it?

But that’s the thing about envy. Paul Tripp writes,

Envy … assumes understanding that no one has. Envy not only assumes that you know more about that other person’s life than you could ever know, it assumes that you have a clearer understanding of what is best than God does. [It] causes you to forget God’s amazing rescuing, transforming, empowering, and delivering grace. You become so occupied with accounting for what you do not have that the enormous blessings of God’s grace—blessings that we could not have earned, achieved, or deserved—go unrecognized and uncelebrated. And because envy focuses more on what you want than it does on the life that God has called you to, it keeps you from paying attention to God’s commands and warnings, and therefore leaves you in moral danger. (New Morning Mercies, November 27)

This applies as much to our national identity as it does to our personal lives.

While some Canadians have developed a distinct identity of being not Americans, others look at America and say, “I want that.” They see a form of democracy that is unique in all the western world, and wonder what it would be like to live there (even if that democracy seems to exist more in theory than in practice these days). They look at our massive social safety net and laissez-faire attitude toward everything from politics to the value of a child’s life to the government’s ongoing attempts to warp children with pervy sex-ed curricula and wonder if it’s possible to get refugee status on account of crazy.

But when all we see is what’s wrong, or what we don’t have, and our focus is only on the greener grass on the other side, we’re looking at all the wrong things. While not turning a blind eye to the problems of our nation (and there are some seriously messed up things about it), running away or wishing we were somewhere else doesn’t change where God has placed us. We could go, but our problems would follow.

We’d find new things to be envious of.

So we need a different solution. “The only solution to envy is God’s rescuing grace—grace that turns self-centered sinners into joyful and contented worshipers of God.”

Links I like

Kindle deals for Christian readers

A few to start off the week (note: this will be a big week for book deals given that Black Friday is nearly upon us):

The Tragedy of the American Dream

HT: Chris

5 Ways to Kill Anger

Jen Thorn:

The worst part about anger is that is does not bring about the righteousness of that we desire (James 1:19) Instead it hurts those who are at the receiving end of our anger, disfigures our character,  breeds hatred and distrusts,tears apart relationships, and worst of all dishonors God.

It ruins everything.

The language of grumbling

Kim Shay:

Why do we complain? We don’t like things the way they are. We feel that we deserve more. We are bitter. Bitterness is one of the worst contributors to complaining. Bitterness festers and grows so that we see everything in a haze of indignation, and we complain more. I know; I’ve been that person. I’m not proud of it, but seeing it in myself is very helpful. I don’t want to be one of those people whom others avoid because I complain so much.

Help to Increase Your Thanksgiving Appetite

Jon Bloom:

When it comes to cultivating gratitude, we need all the help we can get. As I wrote last week, thanksgiving does not come naturally to sinful people. Grumbling and disputing comes natural (Philippians 2:14). Gratitude is the heart’s response to seeing and experiencing grace. And we must intentionally look for grace. It’s all around us. But selfishness distorts the lenses of our heart-eyes. So we need Scriptural prescription lenses to see right.

But once we begin to see, oh how things change. It is then that the real meaning of Thanksgiving dawns on us. We discover that the real feast of Thanksgiving is feasting on thanksgiving. Thursday’s American food feast is not the focus but is a finger that points us to a feast for our souls: God’s abounding, all-sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 9:8).

Now, if we (Americans) rush into Thursday’s celebration having barely reflected on gratitude, we will fill our stomachs but leave our souls hungry. So here are some resources that will help increase your thanksgiving appetite.

In A Tight Place with Profanity

Mark Bauerlein:

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do, and sometimes it isn’t. The other night I had a flight to Atlanta and was lucky to get upgraded to business class. It was late, I was tired, and lights were low. People were reading, checking their phones, watching their tablets. I leaned back and drifted into half-slumber until a voice exclaimed, “Oh man, that’s f _ _ _ in’ awesome.”

A prayer for contentment

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Oh Lord, You are my shepherd and I should not be in want,
but so often I struggle to be content and do want;
forgetting that you have graciously provided me with every spiritual blessing in Christ
and everything I need for life and godliness.

Thank you for often not giving me what I want
because my desires would draw my heart from being satisfied in You.
Help me to be content in You with what You have given me
and to not be focused on what my flesh wants or the world tells me I should have.

Protect me from coveting possessions or people,
talent or influence, relationships or prestige.
Keep my heart from being anxious for what I don’t have
and make me thankful for the numerous gifts that You have already given.

According to Your Word and steadfast love,
fill me with the joy and satisfaction of contentment in Christ.
Help me learn to be content in any situation like Paul
and to quickly reject the idolatry that dwells beneath the surface of my coveting.

I ask you to continually bring to mind your faithful provision for all of my needs,
that Christ died for the sin of coveting,
that in Christ I am free to be content and live righteously,
and that godliness with contentment is greater gain than pleasing my flesh.

And may I be humbled and changed by the ultimate example of contentment;
of Christ becoming poor in order that I could become rich,
and being content to go to the cross to fulfill the Father’s will
to rescue a people for Himself who can be free from discontent and zealous for good works.


Kevin Halloran is a lover of Christ, drinker of coffee, and reader of books who has no real reason to continue being a Chicago Cubs fan (but is anyway). He serves with Leadership Resources International training pastors to preach God’s Word with God’s heart. Follow Kevin on Twitter or visit his blog.

Photo credit: Lel4nd via photopin cc

(Audio)Book Review: Worldliness by C.J. Mahaney

 

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:15-16)

Are those words in your Bible? While (I hope) we would all say yes, if we carefully examined our lives, we’d probably have to admit that we don’t live in light of them. Yet we can’t afford not to. Our lives are not to be characterized by the pursuit of “the things in the world,” lest we hinder our witness to the greatness of God.

And while we know this… again, if we had to be honest, what would we say our lives are marked by?

Concerns over the creeping influence of worldliness motivated C.J. Mahaney, along with Dave Harvey, Bob Kauflin, Jeff Purswell and Craig Cabaniss, to write Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World.

Mahaney kicks off the book with a strong opening, dealing with what John means when he writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” It’s not that he’s saying “don’t love creation” or “don’t love the godless heathens with their MTV and Cinnabon.” Instead, he means that we are not to love “the organized system of human civilization that is actively hostile to God and alienated from God.” This is a critical (and biblical) distinction that Mahaney is wise to bring to address because when you talk about avoiding “worldliness,” it’s really easy to jump to all sorts of peculiar legalisms. Without this foundation, the remainder of the book could almost certainly come off as exactly that. [Read more…]

Book Review: The Greener Grass Conspiracy by Stephen Altrogge

Whether you know it or not, you’re a part of a conspiracy—one that isn’t driven by government agendas or secret clubs with special handshakes, passwords and rituals that aren’t that far off from hazing new recruits to the fraternity.

This conspiracy is much more insidious because it’s driven by our discontentment.

Discontentment is sneaky, taking often perfectly good desires and making them our gods. We can’t live without them, we sacrifice for them. The greener grass on the other side of the fence never satisfies.

That’s why Stephen Altrogge has written The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence. In this book, Altrogge offers readers a helpful and biblical look at how gaining contentment frees us from our idols to appreciate the blessings that God has already given us.

My wife, Emily, and I took a few minutes to discuss our thoughts on the book and share a few of our own struggles with the greener grass conspiracy:

Continuing with the theme of contentment, if it’s true that as Altrogge writes, “Contentment is a disposition of the heart that freely and joyfully submits to God’s will, whatever that will may be” (p. 28), I suspect we’re all in a lot of trouble because, if there is nothing that happens to us that falls outside of God’s will, then we have no grounds for complaining. And, Altrogge explains, “God takes complaining very seriously.”

It’s not a little sin in his eyes. In Bible times, people died because they complained against God. People who murmured against the Lord were playing with death. Complaining is serious business.

Complaining is like smoke. Smoke proves there’s a fire somewhere, and complaining proves that discontentment is nearby. Discontentment and complaining go hand in hand. If we’re going to kill discontentment, we need to kill complaining. And if we’re going to kill complaining, we need to get our minds around why complaining is so wicked. (pp 102-103)

Being confronted by The Greener Grass Conspiracy on this particular sin is something that I really needed. More often than not, I find myself complaining about really stupid things (which in turn feeds the “if only” game). Just the other day, it happened while we were driving to the walk-in medical clinic when we discovered our youngest had pink-eye. It took me a couple minutes before it even registered that I was doing it; but as soon as I did, if felt like I’d been hit with a hammer.

Moving (briefly) from content to style, Altrogge’s got a fast-paced writing style and an engaging sense of humor; these really help the reader get pulled into the content. Just as a rule of thumb, if a reference to Star Wars sheets and Star Trek flannel pajamas appear in the same book, you know you’re in for a good time.

Altrogge’s humor also sets you up for a few unexpected twists. Here’s one example:

Altrogge describes himself as a very needy person. He writes, “According to renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs,’ if I don’t receive food, shelter, love, sex, self-esteem, self-actualization, and the NFL Sunday Ticket from DIRECTV, I’ll be a very unhappy person who spends his days panhandling for change on street corners.”

He continues:

But Maslow was way off. I need much more than self-actualization. Let me tell you what I really need to be happy. I need to own a house that has a sprawling backyard surrounded by friendly neighbors who are fond of giving me monetary gifts and/or T-bone steaks and is located in a neighborhood that is drug-free, bully-free, and speed-walker free. And I would like that house right now, if you don’t mind.

I need a salary that gives me the freedom to buy whatever I want . . . . I need career success, which for me means having a church that is packed to the rafters every Sunday. . . . And I really need some rest…

If the apostle Paul and I happened to be best buds and were sitting in Starbucks sipping Venti cups of coffee and discussing my needs, I think he might lovingly and gently throw his coffee in my face. Not in a sinful way, but in a way that says, “I care.” (pp. 75-76)

When I read that, two things happened:

  1. I was glad I wasn’t drinking anything because it might have come out my nose
  2. The image of Paul throwing coffee in Stephen’s face really brought home the reality that life isn’t so bad, if you actually stop and pay attention to all the good things God has done with you, through you and for you.

True contentment—the kind that will actually last no matter what situation you find yourself in—doesn’t come from getting stuff, but it comes from a Person:

It’s not found in getting what we want or in having difficulty removed from our lives. Contentment isn’t the result of the absence of pain or the presence of material blessing. It’s found in Jesus Christ. Period. Without Christ we can never be truly content, regardless of the blessings that surround us. And with Christ we can be content in the midst of every circumstance. (p. 87)

We must not grow weary of hearing this message, not in a “convince ourselves it’s true” kind of way, but facing the truth that our hearts are prone to wander and we will pursue contentment and joy in anything and everything other than our Creator left to our own devices. I’m grateful that Stephen Altrogge decided to share this message in The Greener Grass Conspiracy. I trust you, likewise, will be grateful as you read it.


Title: The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence
Author: Stephen Altrogge
Publisher: Crossway (2011)

A complementary copy of this book was provided for review purposes by the publisher.