“How easy is it for you to handle the stressors of life today? How hard are simple decisions?”
A few months back, Josh Reich, pastor at Revolution Church and author of Breathing Room, shared with a pastors’ group I recently started attending. He asked a series of questions that have served as a great mirror for me in the past few months to assess my health.
It’s a strange thing that it’s a difficult thing for us to assess our own emotional and spiritual health. We’re usually pretty aware when our physical health is off, whether it’s an upset stomach or a headache or a sore back. And yet, I suspect that you have those days where you really don’t know how well you are doing emotionally and spiritually.
In Matthew 11, Jesus casts a vision of what following him looks like. You’re probably familiar with the verses. Read Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase and ask yourself how much this resembles your life:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Isn’t that a beautiful vision of the Christian life? Are you living into Jesus’ “unforced rhythms of grace”? Can your life be characterized by its lightness?
1. 5 Dangers of Being Deprived of an Involved Father: Eric Geiger condenses 55 findings of researchers. He begins with two physical impacts: "Children who suffer the loss of a father have, by the age of nine, a 14% reduction in telomere length – the most reliable predictors of life expectancy. The more frequently a father visits the hospital of an infant who is born prematurely, the more quickly the infant is released from the hospital."
2. To Spank or Not to Spank: My friend Benjamin Vrbicek with a healthy and nuanced perspective on the topic: " Yet this post isn’t part of my crusade to get you to spank your children. I’ve never written about this before and don’t plan to do it again. I certainly don’t want to be another polemical voice in the already overly opinionated milieu of Christian child-rearing. Instead, I’d like to talk about how parents can spank their children rightly." All 13 of his nuggets are worth considering.
3. Why to Take Your Vacation: Ben Healy reports on the positive benefits of taking vacation and the negative impact of viewing other people's vacations. I don't think that not sharing vacation photos is the solution to the envy issue, but it's worth considering. Two of the positive benefits are: "From 1974 to 2004, those men who took at least three weeks of vacation were 37 percent less likely to die than those who took fewer weeks off... Vacation can yield other benefits, too: People who took all or most of their paid vacation time to travel were more likely than others to report a recent raise or bonus."
4. Teaching Our Daughters Positive Self-Talk: Tracy Lane considers how we ought to protect our daughters from the natural tendency of negative self-talk. She says, " I don’t want criticizing our looks or our bodies to be a natural inclination. Instead, I want the truth of who God made us to be, to become the natural overflow that we believe about ourselves."
5. Foster Care and the Fear of "Getting Too Attached": Jason Johnson considers perhaps the biggest barrier to foster care, that it will be too hard because you will get too attached and concludes, "Yet despite all of that, over and over I've found the remarkable stories of those who also have this pain branded into their souls all consistently on some level sound the same - the goodbye was devastating and the grief is hard. Extremely hard. But so, so worth it. No question. These kids are worth it."
One of our favorite games as a family is called Oh Heck. You might know it as Up and Down the River. The reason this simple card game is so great is that while the rules of the game remain the same, every hand there is a different trump and a different number of cards. Throw in the fact that you can play the game with anywhere from two to seven players, and every game is different.
That feels a lot like parenting a child in 2019. The only thing that is the same is that everything is always changing.
In April our fifteen year old daughter asked if she could create an Instagram account. We said yes.
When is the right time to let your child engage in social media? More broadly, how do you parent children relating to technology?
If you’re a child of the 80s like myself, the phrase “your own personal Jesus” is heard channeled through the distinctive voice of Martin Gore of Depeche Mode whose massive 1989 hit democratizes the first century Jewish Messiah. Gore tells us to “reach out and touch faith” through whatever experience we can create that makes us feel as though someone hears our prayers and cares.
Martin Gore’s vision of a personalized Jesus is truer today, thirty years after his song hit the charts, than it has ever been. JD Greear wants to lovingly but firmly let us know that You Don’t Get Your Own Personal Jesus in his thin volume by the same name. “Sometimes I hear people talk about ‘my God’ or ‘my Jesus’ as if he were their possession,” Greear reflects. But strangely absent of our personalized visions of Jesus are Jesus’ own claims of who he is. Unhappily for those who like to shape Jesus in their likeness, Jesus tells us that he is, in fact our Lord.
It makes sense that we think we can remake Jesus in our own image. Why shouldn’t we? Our social media feeds cater to our desires, my Amazon webpage is distinctive to me, your Netflix suggestions reflect your tastes. Why shouldn’t we be able to craft a Jesus who suits what we would like in a Savior? Greear reflects, “Those of us who have grown up in a consumeristic Western culture envision an Americanized Jesus who is one part genie, one part fan club, one part financial advisor, one part American patriot, and several parts therapist. Our ‘God’ makes us more narcissistic and materialistic, not less.” In Voltaire’s words, “God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.”
DA Carson is one of the clearest and deepest thinkers in the Reformed evangelical world. In The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God Carson tackles what is perhaps the most difficult issue for Reformed thinkers to grapple with: if the God of the Bible is sovereign, can he really be loving?
Before making his case for what the love of God looks like, Carson grapples with the distortion of the love of God. In Carson’s words, “The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and above all sentimentalized.”
Carson spends the first two chapters parceling out the love of God. First, Carson lays out what is his most significant contribution in the book: a layered understanding of the love of God. In doing so, Carson comes to grips with the multitude of ways God is talked about scripturally. For instance, how does one reconcile God’s love of the world with his love of the elect? It is a surprisingly difficult task that Carson has an elegant solution for.
How many decisions do you make in a day? A lot! From minor choices about food to significant decisions about our spiritual, relational, and vocational life, our days are filled with making choices. And yet, how much have I considered how I make those choices and how I might make better choices?
Most of us make decisions with a method popularized over two hundred years ago by Benjamin Franklin: tally up the pros and cons and go with the winner.
This approach, according to Chip and Dan Heath, is flawed. In fact, cognitive research says that we are wired to make poor choices. Our tendency is to narrow in on the wrong set of information—what is referred to as the “spotlight effect.” “Kahneman says that we are quick to jump to conclusions because we give too much weight to the information that’s right in front of us, while failing to consider the information that’s just offstage.” As decision-makers, we need to actively move the spotlight to include the information we need.
The Heaths lay out what they call “the Four Villains of Decision Making”—and this is the first of those: framing your choice in too narrow terms. In addition, there lie the dangers of seeking out information that supports your biases, being influenced by short-term emotions, and being overconfident about the future.
In contrast, the Heaths recommend an approach that they dub “WRAP.” Widen your options. Reality-test your assumptions. Attain distance before deciding. Prepare to be wrong.
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