Reading the Bible: A Feast for the Soul

How would you describe the way you read the Bible?

Do you read devotionally? Maybe you read most mornings as a spiritual practice, reading for inspiration, encouragement, and to feel closer to God.

Do you read to study? Maybe you like finding commentaries written by popular Bible teachers or scholars, puzzling through questions the text presents, and finding joy in the intellectual stimulation.

Or maybe you lead a small group and you primarily read the Bible “homiletically,” or for the purpose of teaching or proclaiming Scripture and its relevance for a person’s life.

Each of these ways of reading Scripture are helpful, and we will likely read in all these ways at different times. But, the Bible asks us to go further in how we read.

Psalm 1:2, painting a picture of the model reader says, “Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of the scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on this they meditate day and night.” This entire chapter describes the model reader as one who meditates on the Bible for the purpose of living in obedience to God.

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of the scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on this they meditate day and night.

– Psalm 1:2

The Hebrew word our English Bibles translate as “meditate” is hagah. In Psalm 1:2 the use of this word conveys the idea of a wild animal, with intense focus, gnawing, chewing, tearing at, and eating its prey. This is not an emptying of one’s mind as some meditative techniques encourage, but instead a filling of one’s mind and heart with the words of God.

Eugene Peterson’s preferred metaphor for reading Scripture comes from Revelation 10:9, where an angel tells John, the writer of Revelation, to “eat this book.” Peterson writes that the phrase “eat this book” focuses attention on reading Scripture “in such a way that the Holy Spirit uses it to form Christ in us.” The focus of reading meditatively is not on knowing more, but becoming more. Reading meditatively is about seeking to live out and participate in the story the Bible is unfolding before us, to learn how to participate in the story of God through prayer, obedience, and love.

In his book, Eat This Book, Eugene Peterson offers an approach for reading Scripture meditatively. First, read the Bible. Read for devotion, study, or for teaching, but don’t stop there. Also meditate on the Bible. Choose a passage to sit with for at least a week, then ponder it, chew on it, wonder what it is saying about how God is asking you to live. Find Christ in the passage.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote that while reading meditatively we should, “not look for new thoughts and interconnections in the text as you would in a sermon. Do not ask how you should tell it to others, but ask what it tells you. Then ponder this word in your heart at length, until it is entirely within you and has taken possession of you.”

After reading and meditating comes prayer. Prayer should progress out of our meditation on Scripture. But this is not simply reciting the words of Scripture. This is spending time praying through and elaborating on each verse.

For example, if you were praying through the Lord’s Prayer from Matthew 6, beginning with the first line (“Our Father in Heaven”), you might focus on the good Fatherhood of God. A parent might pray that the parenting of their children reflects more closely the perfect parenting of God. Praying through the third line of the Lord’s Prayer (“Your Kingdom come”), one may pray for the full consummation of God’s Kingdom on earth, when all will be right with the world, where God will wipe away every tear, where death will be no more, where there will be no more mourning, or crying, or pain.

Praying through Scripture in this way focuses a person’s heart on how he or she should live. Which brings us to Peterson’s fourth step in reading Scripture meditatively: living Scripture.

After reading, meditating on, and praying through Scripture, we may put our Bible back on our desk or shelf, but it should still be held in our mind and heart. In this way, when we leave our homes to go out into the world, we bring Scripture with us and enact Scripture in the world, blessing those we meet and participating in God’s Story through our love of neighbor and our love of God.

In this way reading becomes a banquet for ourselves and others.

So, go and eat!


 

 

The Gift of Being Known

In 15 years of membership at Clear Creek Community Church, I have been part of so many small groups I had to check with my husband and a friend to count them all up. When I look back at my experience with small group, I can recall so many good things: deep friendships, laughter and tears, friends that became family, and a slow sharpening of my walk with God.

Other important things have come from these years too, primarily having to do with growth in my love for the Bible and my understanding of God. And how I have needed and still need those!

But the absolute best part of small group for me has always been the gift of being known.

For some reason I am that person who will dive in deep during the first meetings and tell everyone my greatest, heart-wrenching prayer requests. I love to share the story of how God saved me and how he’s been working in me the past few decades. And I always want to know everyone else’s story, too. That part of small group where we all share our stories is my jam.

But I wasn’t always like this. I grew up quite shy. But, during my college years, I distinctly remember telling a not-so-close friend about some burdens of my past. We swapped stories for hours, and afterward I felt such a great release. Here was one more person in the world who really knew me, and that was freeing.

In her book The Life You Long For, singer-songwriter Christy Nockels writes, “I’ve found that you can’t live abundantly in your God-given capacity as the Beloved [of God] without first being in true community with others” (109). This is an amazing truth about our God: we see his love for us most vividly as we walk alongside others who love him.

There’s something special about a group of people with whom you know you share one singularly important commonality. You feel freer to speak God’s truth to one another. You feel more enabled to share your neighbor’s hurt. And you feel more at ease saying, “me too.”

In Philippians 2, Paul encourages the brothers and sisters of the faith to be of “one mind” and to “look not only to [their] own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Certainly there is an aspect of this that is meeting one another’s physical needs, but I believe this also means we should be interested in one another. We should be shouldering burdens and helping our siblings in Christ continue to follow him with perseverance.

Listen, small group is not a perfect community. Tensions happen. We’re all sinners, so you’ll likely be  hurt and hurt others as well. It’s possible you’re reading this right now thinking you’ve been hurt too much by other believers to ever truly be open in a small group.

I’ve found that you can’t live abundantly in your God-given capacity as the Beloved [of God] without first being in true community with others.

– Christy Nockels

From perceived slights to deep wounds, vulnerability can be difficult when we come to community hurting. But be encouraged that God can use this pain. He is the champion of using our human weaknesses to display his glory.

There is so much more beauty to be grasped when we allow ourselves to be known. Think for a moment on the wonderful truth that God shows himself to us in such a variety of ways, including through the love and acceptance of other people. I have found that when I open up to others, I open up to God much more readily. Community is the place where God primes the pump to show us more of his great love for us.

When I choose to share my burdens and pursue really knowing the people in my small group, I open up more avenues for God to speak to me. When I receive acceptance, guidance, and even correction from my brothers and sisters in Christ, I feel known. In turn, the reality of God’s acceptance of me in Christ rains down even more thunderously. The gift of being known by others turns into the gift of being known by God himself — a prize above all others.

As you set off to join a new small group this fall, or more deeply engage with the one you’re already part of, I encourage you to open up and be a bit more vulnerable with this family God has provided. Don’t miss the transformative power God offers us through community.


 

Finding True Rest and the Joy of Discipline

Well, it’s the end of the summer and my kids are insane. Yours too or just mine? They stay up until 10:30 p.m., they are constantly “bored,” always hungry (why are they so hungry?!), often bickering, and well, just done with the down time.

And guess what?

So am I.

Do you want cupcakes for breakfast? Should we start a movie at 10:30 p.m.?

I’m in that part of summer.

It’s time for school. It’s time for schedules. It’s time for discipline.

Summer is a much-needed break from the monotony of schedules and to do lists, and we love it! It gives us space to stop and rest and spend a lot more time together. It gives us time and space to explore God’s creation and be creative with our days.

But, after a few months of this respite, we all come to the realization that the daily disciplines of life are much needed as well. 

Our spiritual lives can feel the same way.

We get tired and need breaks, and so we stop doing some of those things in our schedule. And that’s not always a bad thing. Taking a needed break can help us to remember that even when we stop working, God still sustains and provides and stays in control. Rest can also help us to step away from our busy schedules and celebrate the beauty of this world and the people in it, and then worship God who gave it to us.

And in the same way he gave us all of the things that fill up our lives and our schedules, he also gifted us with rest. We were created to need it.

But here’s the thing: rest isn’t opposed to discipline — we need both.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30).

What Jesus offers here is not just a nap, a vacation, or a summer break. He’s offering an entirely new way of life. He invites us to take up his yoke — an agricultural image that is commonly used to describe following a teacher ­— and he means for us to learn from him, to travel by his side, and be under his instruction and care. Through this, he promises we will find rest.

But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill rest; this is deep, soul-level rest. This is true rest.

And true rest is more than luxury, comfort, and free time. It’s peace and security found through a relationship with the one who created, loves, and redeems us.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

— Matthew 11:28-30

But, in order to participate in this kind of rest Jesus offers, we need rhythms of discipline. These are rhythms that don’t stifle us, but that actually free us as we learn from Jesus, to know him deeply, and to become more like him.

And we are not alone in this journey; Jesus is with us. He promises to be yoked with us as we seek to learn and grow. And, when we inevitably stumble, he carries the load.

So, as we begin this new school year full of schedules, sports events, and work, I want to encourage you to take a next step toward this rest only Jesus can provide. Maybe you should take a class to learn how to read God’s word, join a small group to study and worship with community, or commit to spend time daily in prayer with God.

However, these words find you today, don’t miss this opportunity to respond to the invitation of Jesus. Because he is who he says he is the Creator, Savior, and King — the one who created all things, who died to rescue us from slavery to sin, and who will restore this world and reign eternally. He is the humble servant who offers to carry our burdens and teach us his ways. He can be trusted, and in him, we can find a way of life that leads to the true rest we all long for.


 

Blackout

If you’ve ever experienced a power outage at your house then you know one of the craziest things about losing power is the realization of how dependent we are on electricity for everything. Not the least of which is light. It’s not until the power goes out that you realize how dark the darkness is. The lights go out, and there you are standing in a dark room barely able to see in front of you until something — an iPhone flashlight, a candle, a fireplace — provides at least a small amount of light to bring vision and clarity to the darkness.

Back in March of 2020, just as the world was beginning to shut down due to the worldwide explosion of COVID-19, my wife and I received some news. Our 5-year-old son, Maverick, full of life, light, and imaginative creativity had been having some serious headaches. These headaches were hitting him up to three times per day and dampening his ability to live his life the way a kid should.

So, just to rule out any potential for something serious, we took him to get an MRI. Migraines run in my wife’s family, so we were certain he was having cluster headaches.

However, this phone call from the imaging department at Texas Children’s Hospital informed us of a massive cyst on our little boy’s brain. It was causing pressure and pain to his ventricles and it was the sources of his often debilitating headaches.

For my wife and I, the lights went out. It went dark. Our little boy would most likely need brain surgery.

I still remember getting that phone call. I dropped what I was doing and ran into my son’s room. I sprawled out face down on his bedroom floor and just began to cry out to God. There’s not much to say in those moments; just a desperate combination of “why’s?” and pleas.

How could this happen?

What would happen?

Why would God allow this?

What would God do next?

The next few weeks went by slowly as we anxiously awaited the course of action. Sure enough, the surgeon wanted to operate as soon as possible. We were terrified. Anxiety, fear, depression, and every other emotion of that kind flooded through us like a rising tide. Our two younger girls  both had majorly concerning health issues either in the womb or in the first few days of their lives, but Maverick was supposed to be our healthy kid. He was our easy kid, and he was the light of our lives.

We honestly didn’t know what to do, and we were paralyzed with the fear of what the future might hold.

We begged God for grace.

We confessed our fear to him, acknowledged our doubts, and cried out for his protection over our little boy.

Just when it seemed darkest, a prayer, an encouraging word, or a meal from a friend would shine a light in the darkness. Over the next few weeks our lives were flooded with the light of these gifts from our family and friends reaching out to us.

The blackout was being illuminated.

Don’t get me wrong, it was still dark. Our power had gone out of us. But we could see a few steps in front of us, we could see each other’s faces, and even though there was an isolating, global pandemic raging across our planet, we could see the faces of our family and friends through their acts of extreme sacrifice and generosity.

Eventually, my son underwent brain surgery and it was one of the scariest days of our lives. I don’t think anything could have prepared us for this kind of fear. It was a different kind of pain. In addition to visions and dreams of the future being stolen, it felt like we already missed him even though he was still with us. We begged God for grace.

When Maverick came home from the hospital, our front yard showcased the most elaborate “welcome home” sign display I had ever seen. There were balloons and gifts as far as the eye could see.

He had had a really hard night in the hospital, and a really confusing day, but those signs brought a smile to our little boy’s face.

For weeks people brought meals, gifts, cards, and toys to the point where Maverick began to think we had a magical door. Every time he opened it there was something else left on our front porch for him.

The darkness was lighting up.

It’s now been over a year since Maverick’s surgery. However, late in 2020 his headaches which had subsided considerably returned to almost the same degree of frequency and intensity. We feared the worst. The light started to flicker.

Would we have to go through all of this again?

We prayed. We cried. And we reached out for our flashlights. Our friends and family again covered us in prayer, brought us a meal on a hard day, and supported us through the unknown.

I think sometimes we can get angry with God for the way he answers prayer. When he doesn’t heal, when he doesn’t save, or when he doesn’t take the pain away, but my wife and I are slowly beginning to understand that these too are answers to our prayers.

Maybe the power isn’t coming back on just yet, but he’s giving us grace to see even in the darkness. He is giving us grace to see the purpose in the pain.

After the latest MRI, we discovered that Maverick’s cyst had completely decompressed, and his surgical team felt it wasn’t necessary to do any further operations at this time.

Do we have all the answers?

No.

But we have a room full of light at this point, and a faithful God we know we can trust whatever we face.


 

Knowing the Big Story: An Intro to Biblical Theology

Let’s be honest, for many, simply opening a Bible can be an incredibly intimidating thing, especially if you find yourself in certain sections of the Old Testament. I can’t tell you how many would-be students charged up the hill of God’s Word ready to “learn the Bible” only to retreat in confusion and despair after getting stuck in places like Deuteronomy or Leviticus. Frankly, that’s why you find many Christians who have read the New Testament several times but haven’t made it through the Old Testament even once.

However, it should encourage us to know that the Old Testament was the Bible used by Jesus and the apostles. Both believed it to be perfectly adequate to teach others about Christ and the Kingdom he was bringing. Luke 24 records Jesus giving two disciples a lesson on how they should see the Old Testament. Walking with them to the town of Emmaus, Jesus pulled out his pocket Old Testament and “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” (Luke 24:27).

Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

– Luke 24:27

Think about this. “Moses and all the Prophets” is shorthand for the entirety of the Old Testament. Do you see the statement Jesus makes? He is saying from Genesis to Malachi, all the Old Testament ultimately points to him. Exodus points to him, Deuteronomy points to him, even Leviticus points to him! Far from being the part of the Bible you should skip, the Old Testament, in some form or fashion, progressively moves the reader down a road that leads to the Person and Work of Jesus.

The study of how every part of the Bible finds its plotline in Jesus is known as biblical theology. It’s an attempt to understand The Big Story of Scripture whereby God is progressively, organically, revealing his plan to redeem sinners through the gospel.

Biblical theology argues that to try to understand the Old Testament outside Jesus not only risks missing the point of the Bible but also that confusion and frustration will abound as you find yourself mired in passages you don’t know what to do with.

The Old Testament is just as much about Jesus as the New.

Graeme Goldsworthy, one of the foremost voices of biblical theology, addressed the essentialness of Jesus in the Old Testament when he wrote: Because the New Testament declares the Old Testament to be incomplete without Christ we must understand the Old Testament in light of its goal which is Christ. Jesus is indispensable to a true understanding of the Old Testament as well as the New (Gospel and Kingdom, 49). He later adds,For the New Testament, the interpretation of the Old Testament is not ‘literal’ but ‘Christological,’ (Gospel and Kingdom, 109).

Want to enjoy the entire bandwidth of Scripture in a way that blesses instead of confuses? Learn biblical theology and how each book of the Bible fits into The Big Story of redemption because we cannot properly interpret any part of Scripture unless, like Jesus, we relate it to his person and work.

Biblical theology…

1. Helps you avoid misapplying the Bible. For example, biblical theology will guard you from moralizing the stories of the Old Testament by seeing how those characters and stories find their place in The Big Story or are a shadow of Christ and his work. You’ll notice how the stories of the Bible serve the story of the Bible, and why trying to turn those stories into a kind of Aesop’s Fables for Christians is a great injustice.

2. Gives you the right questions to ask. You will have confidence that whether you find yourself in Leviticus or any other book of the Bible you know what answers you need to discover like, Where does this stand in God’s progressive plan of redemption? How does this section of Scripture tie to Jesus? What is God revealing to the characters about his plan?

3. Reveals themes, motifs, and concepts that can be traced and developed from Genesis to Revelation. You will learn to see all kinds of redemptive threads woven throughout the Bible that begin with the Old Adam and tie off at the New Adam. It will also convict you of the truth that the Bible is a unified book instead of wrongly pitting the two testaments against each other.

4. Let’s you read the Bible like Jesus read the Bible – a book that from cover to cover is all about him. Jesus reminds us in John 5:39 via a rebuke to the religious leaders of his day, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” The Old Testament and New are about Jesus.

5. Reminds you of the greatness and glory that can only be found in the One of whom the Bible is ultimately about: Jesus!

 


Recommended Resources

  • Gospel and Kingdom by Graeme Goldworthy
  • The Big Picture by Vaughn Roberts
  • The Big Story by Justin Buzzard

 

5 Tips for Parenting in the Digital Age

Technology is everywhere. Even our children are enamored by digital assistants, surrounded by personalized ads, and immersed in multiple devices. It’s changed the ways families live and interact.

There are wonderful graces that accompany these advances. Information is more portable and accessible. We are able to stay connected to family and friends hundreds of miles apart.

As parents, though, we wonder how much technology consumption is just right for our children at every developmental stage. Every child and situation is unique, so it seems as if none of the answers we find online fit perfectly.

Even so, there are some guidelines which can inform family discussions and illuminate decision making for families seeking to navigate this brave new world.

Here are five principles to consider as you lead your children through their interactions with technology in today’s environment.

1. Connect with other parents.

Partner with parents who share your values and who are navigating this journey simultaneously. For us, this occurred in our small group. We had parents to bounce ideas off of, to share experiences, and help keep abreast of emerging trends.

2. Check the Content.

Scrutinize. Be a gatekeeper. Common Sense Media is a solid place to start. They have age-graded reviews and resources ranging from movies to video games to social media and other online platforms. In the beginning, movies and video games are the “content” most parents must monitor.

Over time, apps, websites, social media ought to be considered content as well. Think about what your child interacts with the most. Does every child in your family need the same restrictions? Why or why not?

3. Chaperone your Child.

The word chaperone conveys this idea of going with, or alongside, someone. It’s not an end destination, but it needs to be on the path toward autonomy and not a forgotten rest stop. Checking out the content and checking on your child are two different things. One monitors media, the other monitors behavior.

As parents, we like to threaten our kids with things like, “Well, who do you think is paying for that?” But honestly, does “Who is paying” matter? What happens if the young person gets a job and starts paying? What if they go behind your back to get a cheap throw away phone? For every guideline, for every rule you put in place, explain why. Because one day, you want them to be able to think through new problems with a solid rationale. One day, they will be paying. What do you want them to know? What skills do you want them to possess?

All of it begins with you being a role model and leader in your own home. Start by addressing your own sinful patterns with respect to technology—and walk alongside your child as you both strive to strike a healthy balance in your media consumption.

Children have a hard time processing why you can be on your phone, but they aren’t allowed to be on their device. If they see you tied to your own technology, and if that tie interferes with your interactions with them, be prepared for some dissonance. If devices must be powered down at night or charged in a central location, consider making it a house rule instead of a child-only rule.

4. Counsel with Conversations.

You must create open lines of communication and trust so your children will come to you when they have problems. Counsel doesn’t mean you just give your kids advice.

Young people want to know, “Why are you talking to me?” They have the ability to look up everything you are saying on the internet. They don’t need you to answer random trivia questions or to show them how to fix anything.

Was the internet around when you were a kid? So, why are you worthy of speaking counsel into their lives? Trust is the ultimate goal of your relationship with your child.

5. Create Healthy Habits.

There will be times when your child is not physically with you. They may be playing with friends, at a sleepover, or at school. You will not be able to control what they are exposed to via other children’s devices. However, you do have the opportunity to build healthy habits and to talk through possible scenarios.

  • What will you do when you see something inappropriate on someone else’s phone?
  • How do you react when the music being played is crude or vulgar?
  • What questions should you quickly ask before someone offers to share a picture or video?

Many of these situations happen organically and your child must respond quickly. Sometimes, they must choose what to say or do after the fact. Counseling them before and after incidents occur helps to build healthy habits and gives your children tools for proactively protecting themselves from inappropriate content or behavior from others.

 

There are things we have to address as parents that generations before us never did. But the goal remains the same as it always has. We want to raise our children to be thriving, contributing members of society, to look on others with compassion and kindness, and to love Jesus with everything they have.


 

Open Heart Surgery

The symptoms might be straight forward, subtle, or even hidden; there is a gradual decline or a sudden onset of excruciating pain. Either way, the pathways narrow, the heart becomes hardened, and the pain brings you to your knees.

Regardless of how it happens, when divorce hits, the heart aches. It is both physical and emotional, and it is imperative to find help.

The harm of divorce or separation is far-reaching and takes more than a six-hour surgery or a 13-week rehab program to repair. It is truly one of the most painful experiences in life, undermining our capacity — emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, and relationally — for months or even years.

Divorce places us under a microscope, magnifying our strengths and weaknesses. Through it we see how our personal history and the desires of our heart are critical risk factors. This can be overwhelming and leave us stuck in bondage to the past or paralyzed by fear of the future.

We must remember the wisdom of Proverbs 4:23:

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

There is hope even when our hearts are broken.

I found hope in recognizing the need for help and risking vulnerability. Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable can open our eyes to our own weaknesses and instill a longing for safety in something greater than ourselves.

I found hope in understanding the recovery process and listening to divorce care experts. Many of them are counselors, speakers, authors and licensed therapists who know firsthand the devastation of divorce having experienced it themselves and are now trained to equip and empower those who are hurting.

I found hope in a community with others who are suffering from the same kind of pain, even in different circumstances. Hebrews 10:24-25 reminds us of the importance of fellowship so that we can encourage one another through good times and hard times. Community moves us from a self-centered space to an interdependent space, and that is God’s design.

And I found hope in serving others in the midst of my misery. By reaching out to others in small, caring ways, meaningful connections were created. Serving someone else shifted my focus.

But ultimately, true hope is found in Jesus Christ.

When I was in the midst of my own divorce, I wish I had known where to look. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” But instead, I was searching for financial independence, purpose, and identity in my career.

Then, to manage the emotional fallout of divorce, I did what was comfortable for me, keeping everything personal and private. My community was wrapped tightly around peers in the workforce, and any downtime was spent with my two babies or reading the latest self-help books. My symptoms were apparent, but I tucked them away as I filled my days with busyness to shield myself from pain and disappointment.

I forged ahead alone, and, unbeknownst to me, I was exhausted.

One year later, a friend gifted me a book — a Life Application Study Bible — and for the first time, I began to dig deep for answers. It turns out that the Bible didn’t tell me to persevere and help myself; instead, it pointed to someone other than me: Jesus.

In my brokenness, I felt guilt, shame, and bitterness, but through God’s Word, I discovered grace, truth and love. I began to truly understand what Jesus did for me that no one else would, or could, do.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

— Romans 5:8

Recovery wasn’t immediate, but over the years, my broken heart was slowly healed and filled with gratitude. My community grew to include people who genuinely loved God and desired to serve others. At last, my confidence was rooted in the character of God and the truth that is in Jesus

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

— Ephesians 4:22-24.

Even still, recovery is long and hard. The pathways are narrow and there are unexpected barriers and immeasurable risks. Recovery, and even non-recovery life, requires community, communication, and accountability. Others who have been through divorce will attest that the road of recovery includes progress, but also plateaus and setbacks, much like healing after open heart surgery. But everything suddenly changes when we invite Jesus — the Great Physician — into the operating room.

Jehovah Rapha translates to “The Lord who heals.” Except this healer heals us from the inside out.

Jesus inspects every aspect of our life and then removes all barriers between us and him. He comforts, restores, and grafts new pathways that are full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Jesus understands that recovery is gradual and slow. In fact, he allows us to benefit from his work over a lifetime, discovering that there can be beauty in the pain and process of it all.

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

— Ezekiel 36:26

Lord, please draw near to those who are struggling with separation or divorce. Let them know they are not alone. Give them the confidence to ask for help and lead them to a community of people who point to you.

 

 

3 Vital Steps to Using Social Media for Good

When people talk about “the problem with the world today,” social media is usually near the top of the list.

The fact that you’re reading this probably means you’ve been thinking about how social media seems to have few, if any, redeeming qualities.

I don’t blame you for thinking that.

But social media, by itself, is actually neutral. It’s a created technology that can be used for bad, but more importantly, something that can be used for good.

So, here are three vital steps to using social media for good.

1. Evaluate the What

Evaluate? Really? I’m searching for answers about how to use social media for good and you’re essentially telling me to think about it?

Well, yes, I am.

If you want to be intentional about using social media for good, you need to evaluate what you are already doing with it.

Look at your timeline. What types of content do you find? Pictures, videos, or text?

Are you primarily creating this content or are you sharing stuff from other people?

How often are you posting? Every day? Every week? Or once every three months?

Who do you follow or friend? Are they people you know or complete strangers? How many organizations or businesses do you follow?

How often do you comment on other people’s posts? How often do you spend time in conversations through direct messages?

How much time are you spending on social media?

After this evaluation, you should be able see some trends, and be able to answer the most important question, which leads us to the next step.

2. Evaluate the Why

Okay, wait a second. Now you’re telling me to think about why I even have social media?! I just wanted advice on some stuff to post!

Trust me, answering this question will free you up to do the things that have the most kingdom impact online.

If you can answer “why do I have a social account?” then you can start strategizing how to individually use it for good.

Do you have Facebook to keep up with your extended family and old friends? Do you have it to exercise those creative muscles by creating videos or capturing engaging photos?

Do you use it as a source of news? Or do you use social media as a means of communication with your friends?

You could use social media to escape your everyday life. You could use it to converse with (read “argue with”) people you don’t agree with. Some people even use social media simply to “hate follow” others because they like watching someone else fail or do something they think is ridiculous.

There are a lot of reasons people have social media, but you need to figure out why it is that you have it.

Because more than just having a personal social media strategy, we should think about a personal life strategy that can help us live out our Christian faith in everything we do, including how we interact with our online community.

To start, I would use Colossians 3:17 as a filter “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Notice Paul doesn’t tell us what to do but instead he tells us why we should do it.

It should be in the name of Jesus.

3. Be Intentional With the How

Finally, what I’m here for!

Well, if you’re hoping I’ll give you a quick “ABC’s to using social media for good” strategy, I think you’re going to be left wanting more than I can provide.

Because in the end, your strategy will look different than mine.

We are different people with different hobbies, gifts, interests, and lives.

The point here is to be intentional about everything you do on social media. Let the why inform the how.

Here’s an example of being intentional with the how.

Take a look through your friends list on Facebook or Instagram. I believe everything happens for a reason — even down to the friends you’ve connected with over the years.

You will find people that you haven’t talked to in a long time. Pray for a few of them. Think about why God has placed them in your life. Ask him to give you courage and opportunities to share the Gospel with those who haven’t heard it.

This is one very small thing, but it’s intentional.

When companies like Nike, Southwest Airlines, and Toyota are trying to sell you a product, they are very intentional about the things they post and the ways they interact with others on social media. It’s no different for us, except that we aren’t trying to sell a product.

We’re trying to help people know Jesus better than they did yesterday.

Social media is simply another tool at our disposal.

 

As you work through all of this, I’d love to know what you come up with! Hit me up on social media: @jon_crump

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

– Colossians 3:17


 

Bring the Fish

There’s a character in the Bible who you’ll miss if you aren’t looking for him. He’s only mentioned in one verse, but his role in the story is fascinating.

He’s a young boy. We never even learn his name. But one day somewhere near the Sea of Galilee, in the midst of a crowd of over 5,000 people, he gets to give Jesus something.

You see, there’s a problem.

Jesus – an emerging celebrity in the land – is ministering to people, healing the sick, teaching about God’s kingdom, and making extraordinary claims about who he is and what he’s on earth to do. All of that adds up to a lot of people wanting to see this guy for themselves; to see if the stories are true. Jesus wants to teach them about the love of the Father. He wants to dismantle their false beliefs about who God is and what he wants for them. And he also wants to meet their needs.

In this case, he wants to feed them.

But where can you find enough food to feed a stadium full of people? And who’s going to pay for it?

That’s what the disciples want to know.

Until our pal – the boy – enters the story.

One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”

– John 6:8-9

Scripture doesn’t say whether Andrew just happened to notice this boy with a picnic lunch, or if the boy came and tapped him on the shoulder to offer his meal. But however it happened, the moment comes where this bread and fish is offered to Jesus.

And he gets that look in his eye; that look the disciples have come to know all too well.

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”

– John 6:10

I’m willing to bet he said it with a grin.

Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

– John 6:11-14

And that’s the end of the episode. We never hear about the boy again. Jesus leaves the crowd and journeys on.

So, doesn’t the boy seem kind of insignificant?

Well, here’s the thing: he is insignificant. He’s just a kid who brought some fish to a get-together.

What is significant is the impact these offerings made. What is significant is the miracle-working fully man, fully God Jesus ending up with the fish in his hands.

Did he need this boy’s meal?

Of course not. He could have produced fish from thin air or called bread to rain down from the sky. But, instead, he invited this picnic-packing kid into the work he was doing.

And it’s the same with us.

In the middle of this great big world and this grand eternal story, it’s easy to feel small and insignificant.

It’s easy to feel like you have nothing to offer God, or, at least, like you have less than someone else.

But God doesn’t care how much you have. He’s concerned with what you do with it.

Just like the boy in the story, we are invited into the work he’s already doing, and that makes what we have significant. Because in the hands of the God of the universe, even the smallest offering of our time, energy, talents, or resources can have an exponential impact – an eternal impact.

All we have to do is bring the fish.


 

New Creation

REMEMBER // RECOGNIZE // REPEAT

REMEMBER the promise of New Creation 

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.”
– Isaiah 65:17

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:17

“Behold, the dwelling place[ of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”
– Revelation 21:3-5

 

RECOGNIZE the presence of God in Prayer

Father, you are our creator, redeemer, and restorer who makes all things new. We long for the return of Jesus, when every tear will be wiped away, and all that is sad will become untrue. We hope in this promise.

Help us to live in light of the new creation, showing others what your kingdom looks like, and trusting you when we feel overcome by sadness, pain, and tears. Your promises are all true in Jesus and we rest and hope in the day when they are fully consummated.

 

REPEAT the rhythms of God’s presence

Remember that the new creation is marked by justice, peace, love, and the presence of God.

What is a small way you can demonstrate to someone near you what this new creation will look like? How can you seek justice, trust God completely, and love others in a tangible way that points to God’s care and restoration of his creation?

In your small corner of the world, show others justice, peace, and love. Embody the gospel around you and illustrate the kingdom of God.

 

“Is He Worthy?” – Andrew Peterson