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

How Should I Give? Way #1: Tithing

How should I give?

Way #1: Tithing

 

When I was a kid I used to go visit my grandparents for a few weeks during the summer. When I visited them I would always go to work with my grandpa. While I always enjoyed working and spending time with him, I also looked forward to the day he would pay me. I remember one summer when I was about 12 years old, my grandpa paid me $100. As you might imagine, as a 12 year old, I was excited to have so much money. When I got back home from visiting my grandparents, I remember talking to my dad one day about the $100 I had made and he asked me, “Are you going to give a tithe to the church?” I remember thinking, “Is he serious? I’m just 12 years old. I can’t believe he wants me to give some of my money to the church.” So I said, “Well, I don’t know. If I tithe on $100 it would only leave me with $90 and I have never had $100 before.” To which my dad replied, “Well Jeremy, God is the one who allowed you the opportunity and the health to even make that money.” I couldn’t argue with that. Talk about bursting a kid’s bubble.

I was frustrated at the time, but little did I know my dad was trying to teach me that everything belonged to God, He is the one who provided the money, and we trust in the Provider, not what’s provided. I was clinging to the money without giving a thought of who provided the money and ultimately to whom the money belonged. I had the “This is my money!” mindset and I am thankful my dad taught me how to think differently, as well as eternally, even though I did not understand it at the time. When I got older I finally understood that I am not the owner of any money I earn, I am simply the manager of it. My job is not to cling to money but to be obedient to my owner and sensitive to where he leads me to put his money. In this instance, I was learning the starting point of giving, which is the “tithe” which literally means “a tenth part.”

Here are some verses in Scripture that affirm the tithe:

“Every tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the trees, is the Lord’s; it is holy to the Lord” (Leviticus 27:30). This was a mandatory practice for the Israelites.

“Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of all your produce” (Proverbs 3:9). God wants us to give him the first and best of everything we earn. This mean we should not buy everything we need or want and then see if we have enough money left to tithe. This means we should tithe first.

“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:8-10). We have to realize that when we do not tithe we are actually robbing God. But if we will obey God out of faith, he will bless us beyond measure.

You may be thinking, “Sure it says to tithe in the Old Testament, but what does the New Testament say about tithing?”

Well, it does not speak of tithing as much as the Old Testament, but rather more about voluntary offerings and sacrificial giving, which we will talk about later. However Jesus does affirm the tithe in Matthew 23:23. It seems to me if Jesus affirmed the tithe, then we should obey it. But because the tithe is not specifically mentioned as a practice of the New Testament Church, many Christians do not believe they should have to tithe.

I have tried to be sensitive to this subject and have wrestled with it myself. When I was younger I remember researching tithing just so I could try to prove that it was not a biblical command to Christians. I did not want to have to give 10% of “my money” to my church, so I was looking for a way to get out of it without feeling the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I also thought to myself that since we are saved by grace through faith in Christ, I should not have to give a tithe because God should accept me and love me for who I am. Unfortunately “who I am” was a selfish man looking to only build his own kingdom instead of helping build the eternal Kingdom. The root of my problem was not that I thought if I did not tithe then God would not love me. The root of my problem was self-centeredness. I wanted as much as I could get and I did not want to give it to anyone. Without knowing it, I was finding my identity in money and possessions and also trusting in them instead of God.

Take a look at what the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 1,

“…they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” There were people in first century Rome who Paul said were worshiping the things God created instead of God, the Creator, himself. This is exactly what we do when we do not tithe. When we do not tithe or give any money, we are basically saying, “I trust money more than I trust God.”   We have actually created an idol in this moment because we are expecting money to do for us what only God can do for us.  We are expecting money to bring fulfillment to our souls but ultimate satisfaction is only found in God though his son, Jesus Christ. 

So we must realize that everything is God’s and He is also the Creator of everything including any type of currency. So when we choose not to tithe or give, we are choosing the creation over the Creator.

But I also hope you will understand this fact: God does not need your money.

He is never in need. Remember as we saw before in Psalm 24:1 and Haggai 2:8 that God already owns everything. He actually asks us to tithe and give for our benefit which ultimately leads to the benefit of His eternal kingdom. When we tithe and give, we become less dependent on money and more dependent on God. This leads to freedom from worry and anxiety that stems from our finances. More importantly, the more dependent we are on God, the more he can use us to build his eternal Kingdom. The rich man who hoards everything for himself is of no use to God. Even if he claims to know Christ, his faith is only an inch deep because his trust is in his money, not God. So who does the rich man really follow? Who is really his God? To love God is to depend on God and we cannot depend on God if we are not practicing the spiritual discipline of tithing.

You may think at this point, “But we are under the grace of the New Covenant in Christ, so how dare you say that I don’t depend on God if I do not tithe?”

Should not each person be able to give what he or she chooses as long as they give something? Well, I am glad you asked that question! This is actually a very common one. I will answer this question by pointing you toward the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Here are a few things that He teaches:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28)
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31-32)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:38-41)

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)

So now you may say, “Those are great words from Jesus, but what does that have to do with tithing?”

Well, let’s take a closer look at these statements. Jesus begins by saying “You have heard that it was said…” When He says this He is referring to the Old Testament laws that were given to Moses. These were laws that the Jews took very seriously. But after He says this, He follows each statement with, “But I say to you…” in each of the statements that come after the phrase, “But I say to you…” we never once see Jesus lowering the standard of the Old Testament law. Instead, in each “But I say to you…” statement, He follows it by raising the standard. But He does not just raise the standard a small amount, He raises the standard radically. So by examining the radical statements of Jesus in his teachings, and also the commands that God gives the Israelites to tithe in the Old Testament verses we considered earlier, why would we think Jesus would expect his people to give less money today than he did from the Israelites in the Old Testament? This would be completely against his character and would be inconsistent of the New Testament teachings of Jesus. Jesus would not raise the standard in everything and then lower the standard when it comes to tithing and giving. It is just too inconsistent to even consider.

So to answer the initial question, yes, each person should be able to give what he or she chooses.

We are under the grace of the New Covenant in Christ so we certainly do not want to become legalists when it comes to the 10%. But if you are using this grace in order to give less than 10% then I urge you to consider these teachings of Jesus. Many times we give less than 10% because we have yet to become totally dependent on God and it scares us to give up “our money” out of fear we would not have enough for other things. This kind of giving takes faith, but that’s what giving is all about. Trust God even when you are scared. Trust God even when it hurts. This will strengthen your faith more than you could ever imagine. Remember what is printed on your money: A bunch of dead guys who can’t even use it, which we should consider every time we look at our money. When we go into the grave, money will become worthless. But what is also printed are the words, “In God We Trust”. It is my prayer that this statement be the truth when you consider the great privilege of tithing to God’s eternal Kingdom.

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

 

 

Giving Part 4: All Money is God’s Money

Why Should I Give?

Reason #2
All Money is God’s Money

Have you ever been confronted by one of your parents (or maybe you were the parent doing the confronting) for something they found in your room while you were not home?  This has happened to most teenagers I know, as well as myself when I was a teen.  When this happens, your initial reaction will be to say, “What were you doing in my room?”  To which your parent will usually respond, “That is my room, I just let you live there.”  

The Same Concept 

The same concept applies when it comes to God and our money.  All money we have is God’s money, he just allows us to manage it.  Here are a few verses that suggest this truth: 

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.  The world and all its people belong to him.”  (Psalm 24:1 NLT)

“The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” (Haggai 2:8 NLT)

“But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth.”  (Deuteronomy 8:18 NIV)

Because we do not own any of our money, it is our job to manage it in a way that brings God the most glory.  The mindset of “That’s my money!” has to leave us if we are going to be successful managers.

In his book, The Treasure Principle, Randy Alcorn writes,

“A steward manages assets for the owner’s benefit.  The steward carries no sense of entitlement to the assets he manages.  It’s his job to find out what the owner wants done with his assets, then carry out his will.”

 

What About You?

Maybe as you are reading this blog post you realize you have the “That’s my money!” mindset and you are becoming uncomfortable at even the thought of giving some of “your” money away.  Don’t worry!  This is a good indication that God is already stirring your heart for action in giving.  Why is it so uncomfortable Because we are fallen people, and sinners are selfish by nature.  It is not a human quality to be generous and give money to the church, it is a godly quality.  So if you are experiencing some conviction and uneasiness, remember it’s normal.  God is working on your heart and teaching you to trust him.

I Am Certain of This

When God’s people accept this concept of “All money is God’s money” and combine it with the previous “Our hope is in Jesus, not money” concept from previous blogs, the way money is viewed and handled drastically changes, and God is glorified.  They quickly become Zacchaeus Kinds of Christians.

The next blog post will cover the specific ways God calls us to give.

In Christ,

Jeremy

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

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