5 Books That Have Impacted My Christian Walk

5 Books That Have Impacted My Christian Walk

I have been serving in ministry for 10 years.  Throughout that time there have been a number of books that have been incredibly valuable to me and have shaped my ministry beyond what I could tell you.  During these 10 years I have served in a number of christian traditions and theological stances that I think you will find evident in the books I have chosen.  That is, if you are a theology nerd.  The truth is, I haven’t quite figured everything out!  As a result, I continue to try to read a wide scope of authors who I believe fall within Christian orthodoxy. Regardless of your church background, I know these books will be a blessing to you.

1. The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

As a young man in college, I was constantly finding myself in situations where I needed to defend my faith.  I remember hearing all kinds of things about Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity that made me question my faith.  In this book, Lee Strobel writes in plain language as he asks tough questions to some of the worlds most influential and well known scholars.  I’ll never forget the first time I read through the gruesome details of a Roman crucifixion, and the overwhelming evidence supporting the resurrection of Jesus.

2. The Soul Winner by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

The Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, writes a masterpiece for pastors in this book.  He stresses the importance of knowing how to “win souls” for Jesus and what it takes to do so. He shows his zeal and commitment to sharing the gospel to lost souls which cannot be done apart from holy living.

3. The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

This is quickly becoming a classic read for all Christians.  In this book, Tim Keller makes sound arguments with the skeptic in mind.  He answers tough questions such as “How could a good God allow suffering?”, “How can a loving God send people to hell?”.  He also speaks to objections to the Christian faith such as, “There can’t be just one true religion” and “You can’t take the Bible literally.”

4. Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby

This book is filled with jewels on every page.  I never understood how to hear from God until reading this book.  It is theologically sound as well as overwhelmingly practical. It teaches Christians how to listen to God and how to respond to him when he speaks.  If you are a Christian and you struggle with the reality of God actually speaking to you and being able to discern when it is his voice, this book will be a treasure to you as well.

5. The Way to Heaven: The Gospel According to John Wesley by Steve Harper

This selection shows my respect for genuine Wesleyans as well as the man John Wesley himself.  A few years ago, while employed by a Methodist church, I began to study John Wesley’s life and theology.  This was the first book of many that I read about him and I found it to be very helpful and inspiring.  I continue to find John Wesley’s story fascinating and strive to have the spiritual discipline of this man.  The book is written for everyday people.  So although it is theological, you are sure to understand what you are reading.  Even if you are not a Wesleyan, you can certainly benefit from this book.  

3 Ways to Help Disciple Your Kids

3 Ways to help you disciple your kids

As parents, sometimes it is difficult to know how to disciple our kids.  We try everything we can. We read Bible stories at night, we pray before meals, and we try to model for them what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. But sometimes we simply get bored doing the same things over and over.  Because of this, I want to offer a few ideas and resources that might be helpful in your journey of discipling your kids.

Tell them Bible stories

When I say “tell them” I do not mean “read them”.  My challenge to you is to be so familiar with Bible stories that you are able to tell them to your child.  As my son has grown up, I have told him several Bible stories from memory that he still asks me to tell him over and over again. 

When we tell Bible stories to our children there are a couple of things we can do that we would not be able to do if we were simply reading it.  

1.  We add a personal touch to the story.  When we tell stories, they connect much better than when we read them.  Have you ever heard a preacher read his entire sermon without looking up?  How much of it did you remember? Probably not much of it. But when a preacher looks at you and speaks, we are connected, we engage, and we remember much more.  

2.  We can tell them these stories wherever we go.  So even if you are driving in your car, you don’t have to read.  You don’t even have to turn on your radio.  You can simply tell them the story. This will take some work on your part, but it is totally worth it.

New City Catechism App

This is a free app designed to help children and adults learn the core Christian beliefs via 52 questions and answers.  What’s great for parents is this app has a children’s mode. In this mode, there are songs that go along with each question, as well as prayers and Scripture.  You can use this app at home, in the car, or at church. My only concern about the catechism is that parents will simply use the questions and songs without using the Scripture provided.  Do not let this happen.

Jesus Kids by Shai Linne  

Christian rap artist, Shai Linne released his first Children’s album this year.  It is filled with songs for kids that are all Christ-Centered.  This is a fun way to for you and your kids to learn Bible stories, how the Bible points to Jesus, and why Jesus loves children so much!  It even has 3 tracks of kids reciting the catechism. The song “Jesus Kids” brought tears to my eyes the first time I heard it because it’s a great reminder of how much Jesus loves children and how much he wants to use them for his glory. 

I hope these suggestions will be helpful to you!  I am praying for you as you train your children to be more like Jesus every day.  Sometimes it is difficult, but it is such an honor to point our children to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, our Savior, our very Life, Jesus Christ.  What an opportunity we have! Remember you are not alone, for He is with you each step of the way.

 

You are deeply loved by the Father in Christ Jesus,

 

Jeremy

Beyond The Sexual Boundaries of Christian Dating

Beyond The Sexual Boundaries of Dating

3 Ways The Gospel Should Inform Our Dating

 

First of all, before I get into the depth of this topic, I want my readers to know that I am no expert on dating, marriage, nor am I immune to sexual impurity.  In my past, I have fallen into sexual sin in ways that have left me broken.  I have dated terribly in my past.  I am also a divorced man.  But I have seen the redemption of Christ in the midst of it all.  I have seen him use my past to make my heart heavy for this topic in order to speak to other brothers and sisters in Christ with boldness.  I also pray that if there are any divorced men (or women) who are now single who are reading this, that I understand the struggle of being married and having access to maritial sex, then all of a sudden being divorced and having to honor God by staying pure.  This is a struggle, but I promise you it is possible by God’s grace and power within you.  He is not surprised by your divorce, and he is ready to walk with you during this time.  I truly hope this will be encouraging for divorced men and women, for I really can empathize with you and have a heart for you.

Collaboration

My fiancee, Sarah Jane, and I collaborated on this post so we hope it will be helpful to men as well as women who are in dating relationships, or are even engaged like we are.  Ultimately we pray that God would be glorified in our relationships and we would not allow Satan to rob us of our sexual intimacy and exctement on our wedding nights, and throughout our marriages.

We are praying for each of you as you consider the following

Countless times in my life I have thought to myself, “As a Christian, what are the sexual boundaries in dating?”  Now obviously we know we are not to have sex outside of the covenant of marriage, but what can we do?  Can we make out?   Can we do more than that?   Most of us have been in the place where we are physically attracted to our significant other so we are led to ask these questions.  I have google searched it and many answers come up.  Most of the answers have to do with boundaries.  Things such as, do not touch this, do not touch that, or you can do this but you can’t do that.   I have even come accross articles that strongly suggest not even kissing before marriage. Unfortunately, although boundaries are good and needed within a Christian dating relationship, they are not the answer to ultimately staying pure.  

Because of this, many of us have asked ourselves the wrong questions when it comes to Christian dating.  What we should ask is this:

How does the gospel of Jesus Christ inform the way I should view my dating relationship?

 

Here are three things we should consider above any boundaries we could possibly set: 

1.  We Are Children of the King

Scripture tells us that we are sons and daughters of God.  We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17).  Because of this, men, we must ask ourselves this question: “Would I be able to bring God’s daughter home to him after a date and he be pleased with how I treated his daughter?”  And although it is the man who typically takes out the woman and returns her to her home, women are not exempt from this principle.  

When we think this way, it changes how we think about our date.  We stop viewing her as an object, or even the most respected woman in the world.  We view her through the eyes of the Father.  A daughter of the King.  A person with intrinsic value as she is created in the image of God.  So we do not simply respect the person we are dating, we respect the one who created our date.  In this truth, we worship our Creator who is God. Even the beauty we find in the other person will lead us to this worship. What kind of Creator could create someone so magnificent?  If we can shift our thinking in this way, our dating life will change dramatically.

 

2.  Lay Aside Every Weight

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12

Many times I have asked myself, “is it a sin?” when it comes to physical intimacy in dating.  Unfortunately, there are some things the Bible does not specifically address.  Because of this, we get consumed by the question “is it a sin?”  

When it comes to areas where Scripture seems to be silent we certainly want to dig as deep as we can into Scripture and do our best to determine the heart of God on the matter.  But I have discovered in my life that there are simply things that are morally neutral.  On these issues we must pay close attention to Hebrews 12 as the author writes, “let us lay aside every weight and sin…” So the writer is making a distinction between sin and anything else that would weigh us down and keep us from running the race with endurance.

So is what you are doing physically with the person you are dating help you run the race with endurance?

That’s the real question.  Does this allow me to grow closer to God or does it pull me away from him?  If we ask ourselves this question, it is much more tangible than “is it a sin?” In the question, “is it a sin” we are really asking, “how much can I get away with without feeling conviction?” What if our questions were different? What if the questions we asked were more along the lines of, “does this specific act bring me closer to the one who made me?”  If your answer to that question is no, then it seems pretty clear that it is not something you want to “get away with”.

 

3.  Only Christ Can Satisfy Our Souls

In sexual intimacy we are all looking to be satisfied. We were created for intimacy in this way. We long for the satisfaction that sex brings. But as people created in God’s image and children of the King, we long for so much more than physical satisfaction. What we long for is the satisfaction that only Christ brings.  That is deep and true satisfaction that is sealed with a covenant.  So Christians, when you have sex with one who is not your spouse, it will not ultimately satisfy you because it is completely outside the will of God. It was never meant to satisfy you on its own, and it is actually incapable of achieving that goal.  However, inside the covenant of marriage, sex is satisfying because our satisfaction goes past the act of sex to the giver and creator of sex, who is God.  When this happens, our hearts explode in worship to God, for we have been satisfied in him.  Anything short of this type of sex will leave you empty.

 

Celebrate What God Has Done

Ultimately, in dating, we should celebrate that God has attracted our bodies and souls to another human and as our bodies long to be with the other in the most intimate of acts, our souls have the opportunity to long for the covenant to be made in marriage. Longing for that day is much like the Christian longing for God to make “all sad things become untrue,” for all the hurt, all the pain and all of life to be fully redeemed and consummated to the Creator.

Keep pressing into Christ,

Jeremy & Sarah Jane 

 

 

A couple of books we recommend on this topic:

The Mingling of Souls by Matt Chandler

The Meaning of Marraige by Timothy Keller

 

 

How Long Will You Forget Me?

Often times I can feel so dry. Bankrupt of the presence of God as if he’s nowhere to be found. I live life going through the motions, just trying so hard to get a glimpse of who God is and so desperate to enter into the peace and rest he claims to offer. It’s like I’m walking in a desert so desperate for water. My soul just longs to have satisfaction but nothing satisfies. I read my daily Bible plan but I do not let it penetrate my soul. I read a devotional from one of the greatest preachers of all time but it leaves me empty. I flew to California and Florida, but seeing all of God’s beauty in both places did not satisfy my soul in its deepest part.  I listened to sermons but only found myself happy to receive information. These things had no impact on my heart. They did not move my soul. They did not stir my affections for Jesus.  “Oh God!” My soul would scream. “Why have you left me?” “Why are you content with your people being so vacant?”  I felt like the psalmist:

 

“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
   How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
   and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”- Psalm 13:1-2

 

But God is gracious to me

Last weekend my soul was somewhat renewed.  I was able to preach the gospel to a group of high school students at a youth retreat. In the midst of that, God reminded me of the gospel. I was preaching on faith, and God also reminded me that I probably needed the sermons as much as anyone.  It’s a humbling and emotional experience to preach on faith when your own is lacking. It’s a humbling and emotional experience to preach on the goodness of God when you have your own doubts of his goodness. It’s a humbling and emotional experience to preach that Jesus is God in the flesh, and he experienced all the hardships I have and defeated them on the cross, when my inner self has not rested in that truth in such a long time.  It’s a humbling and emotional experience to plead with students to believe the gospel is true in their hearts when my own heart is struggling to embrace it. I truly was not worthy of preaching those messages last weekend. As I think of it more, I have not been worthy of preaching one single message I have ever preached in my life. But God revealed that to me to allow him to penetrate my heart and tell me so graciously, ”Jeremy, that’s the point. That’s the good news.  You do not preach in your own righteousness. By grace, you preach in the righteousness of God through my son Jesus Christ.”

 

 

Just Average

I just want to express that we are all just average, broken people and we so desperately need one thing: the gospel of Jesus Christ to penetrate our hearts every single minute of every day.  When it does not seem like God is near, call out to him and wait on him. I know we are going to go through times when we are sure God has left and forgotten us. But don’t give up. Keep pursuing him. Keep going. Keep waiting. He will reveal himself to you. He is faithful and he is good. He will surely renew your strength.  

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:28-31‬ ‭‬‬

Victory is yours in Christ,

Jeremy

5 Ways to Help Your Children Focus on Jesus This Christmas

Every year, my son will ask me, “Daddy, when is it going to be Christmas?” He asks this several times in anticipation that Christmas is coming soon. He is so excited about the toys he will receive that he can hardly stand it. One of the things he absolutely hates is when we are at the store and he asks for a toy and I say, “Not today. Maybe for Christmas!” “You always say that!” He often replies. (He’s right. I do use that line quite a bit!) But when Christmas finally comes, it is so exciting to see his eyes light up as receives all of his presents.

As parents, maybe you have a similar experience. You enjoy buying gifts for your children and have so much fun watching them receive all of it. It’s a blessing to be able to see your child’s eyes light up in excitement.

But what if something is missing?

As Jace gets older I consider more and more his spiritual development. In many situations I ask myself if there is an opportunity to show him the gospel of Jesus Christ. Christmas should be an easy one, but it can become so busy that we miss one of the greatest opportunities of the year.

So how can I do this?

In the midst of opening presents, eating, and playing with new toys, I hope you will consider these five things you can do to focus on the true meaning of Christmas: The birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

1.  Pray

Don’t forget this one! Before you do anything, pray that the true meaning of Christmas would be enlightened in your hearts this season. If we fail to pray then we will fail to rely on and see the one who is truly doing the work in you and in your children. Remember, you do not possess any power to help your child focus on Jesus. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. Your job is to be faithful.

2. Read the Christmas story as a family using Luke 2:1-20

This is often a tradition for some families, but if it’s not yet a tradition, this can be the perfect time to start it. Allow the kids to be a part of the story by asking them questions about what they heard. Yes, this may be awkward at first, and it’s possible the kids will just be ready to get finished so they can play with their toys, but anytime we open Scripture and read God’s word to our children, God will use it and honor it.

3. Read the names of Jesus together

Do this with your children to help them see how incredible it is that the “King of Kings” and the “Lord of Lords” came to earth as a baby. Below is a list of some of the names of Jesus found in Scripture:

Almighty (Revelation 1:8)

Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8)

Advocate (I John 2:1)

Author of Eternal Salvation (Hebrews 5:9)

Beloved Son (Matthew 12:18)

Bread of Life (John 6:32)

Cornerstone (Psalm 118:22)

Creator (I Corinthians 1:16-17)

Deliverer (I Thessalonians 1:10)

Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6)

Founder and Perfecter of our Faith (Hebrews 12:2)

Good Shepherd (John 10:11)

Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14)

I am (John 8:58)

Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)

King of Kings (Revelation 17:14)

Lamb of God (John 1:29)

Light of the World (John 8:12)

Lord of Lords (Revelation 19:16)

Messiah (John 1:41)

Mighty One (Isaiah 60:16)

Our Hope (I Timothy 1:1)

Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

Savior (Luke 2:11)

Son of Man (Luke 19:10)

Son of God (Luke 1:32)

The Word (John 1:1)

Victorious One (Revelation 3:21)

4. Sing Christmas Carols together

Kids love singing, so what better way to share the gospel with them than singing Christmas Carols during Christmas? Sing the song, then ask them questions about it. For example, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King!” So I might ask my son, “Who is the Lord?” “Who is this King?” Depending on the age and maturity of the child, you may want to go into deeper questions such as, “Why is he the King?” “Why is it such a joyful thing that he is come?”

Again, this may be a little awkward if you have never done it, but it will get easier and God will use your faithfulness to speak to your children.

5. Read a Christmas book together

Below is a list of Children’s books that are perfect for sharing the true meaning of Christmas with your children. It’s a little late to order a physical copy, but if you would like to read one to your child this Christmas, I have provided links to the Kindle versions for instant download:

 

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room- Nancy Guthrie

Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story- Sally Lloyd-Jones

My Merry Christmas- Sally Lloyd-Jones

Christmas Stories: Heartwarming Classics of Angels, a Manger, and the Birth of Hope- Max Lucado

 

Your challenge

Pick one of these and do it. Be faithful with the time and and children God has given you, and share with them the most incredible gift ever given to them. They may not recognize that right then, but do not be discouraged. You are being faithful, and God will bless that.

Be encouraged. Be Faithful.

Jeremy

 

“Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,

but a faithful man who can find?”- Proverbs 20:6

3 Ways to Pass Down Your Faith to Your Kids

“Daddy, I prayed with Mommy” Jace said as I tucked him into bed as I always do when he is at my house.  “Really?” I replied.  “That’s great!  Who prayed?  Did mommy pray for you?”  “No.” He said.  “I prayed.” When I heard this I was proud to know that he was praying even when he was not with me.  As parents we often wonder if we are doing a good job in raising our kids in the Christian faith.  We strive to do well, but in the midst of a hectic life we can drift away from our responsibility as parents to raise passionate followers of Jesus Christ.   So what can we do about this?  From my experience, I have learned there are a few things we can do to pass our faith down to them, even when our lives are hectic.   First let’s take a look at God’s word.   Before the Israelites entered the Promised Land, Moses gave them this command from God to remind them of the responsibly they had to pass down their faith to next generation:

 

4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[b] 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”- Deuteronomy 6:4-7

 

Now I am going to take a few things from this passage and apply them to us as parents today.

1. Lay down with your children at night.    In verse 7, God commands us to teach the commands to our children when we lie down.  Each night I put Jace to bed, I read a Bible story to him.  Since August I have been reading him one story a night from The Jesus Storybook Bible.  This Bible is wonderfully illustrated to catch the attention of children, but it is so much more than that.  This Bible points all of Scripture to salvation in Jesus Christ.  I do not know about you, but when I read the Bible I want to see Jesus.  Otherwise, there is no hope or reason to read any of it.  Even Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39).  This book also offers much for adults who are reading it.  The way the author crafts the words and shows salvation through Jesus in all of Scripture is really moving.  When I read about the Fall in Genesis 3, I remember tearing up because of the focus on future redemption through Christ.  Reading one story takes about 5 minutes at the most.  When I am finished, I pray with him and tell him goodnight.


2. Talk to your children while in the car.  We all drive our kids places, right?  So why not start spiritual conversations with them during these times?  Verse 7 also makes reference to teaching them the commands of the Lord simply when doing everyday life with them.   For example: “When you sit in your house” and “When you walk by the way.”  This could look different for different families, but one of the the ways I see this with my son is when we are driving.  There are many things I can do with him to teach him about God and salvation through Jesus.  One thing I have done is tell him stories from the Bible.  I have told him about Jesus and Zacchaeus, Jesus healing the blindman, Jesus walking on water, and Jesus healing the woman who was bleeding for 12 years, just to name a few.  He loves these stories.  When I ask him about them later, he enjoys telling the stories back to me.  Many times he asks me to tell him more stories.

 

3. Talk to your children when you are outside.  This is simply another everyday task that we can use to share God’s incredible truths with them.  Often times when I am outside with Jace, I will simply ask him questions like, “Who made the trees?” or “Who made the birds?”  Our house sits on a hill that overlooks the town in which we live.  We have the advantage of being able to look down the hill, to the west, and see the sunset in the evenings.  It’s always beautiful.  When Jace and I see it, I may say, “Isn’t God’s creation beautiful?”  Many times this leads to other questions about God and his creation.  The mind of a five year old is always thinking.

 

These are all wonderful things to do and they do not take any extra time.  This is simply living your faith in everyday life.  If you haven’t already, I hope you will consider these things the next time you have the privilege of spending time with your children.   Also, what do you think?  What are your success stories of sharing your faith with your children?  Is there anything you would add to this list?  I would love to know your thoughts so we can better help each other as parents.

 

Jeremy

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