June 20, 2018

Spring and Summer, Podcasts and Books

A happy summer for me involves later rise times, lots of sun, adventures with my boys, and losing myself in stacks of books, all of which I've indulged in so far. I hope whatever makes for a happy summer for you is well underway and, most of all, that the Lord meets you with his truth and grace.

It's nice to have a break after a full school year! With three growing boys, all involved in their own activities and friendships and all with various needs, I'm at the constant-taxiing, emotionally taxing stage of parenting. Add to that a thriving church, the release of Searching for Spring, and a new podcast, and whew! I'm seeking more mental input than output this summer, praying God will renew me and help me sort through some of the questions I'm carrying. I'm asking him about endurance: how do I press on and reengage with the people and places to which he's called me? I'm asking about parenting and marriage: what do these relationships need most during the season we're in? And I'm asking him to teach me humility and servanthood in deeper ways than I've previously known. I know what the Lord teaches me will show up in my writing and podcasting in months to come.

Books are a large component of the input I crave. I'm working through Melissa Kruger's new study on Philippians, In All Things and reading Jen Wilkin's new In His Image after my Bible study each morning. I'm also reading The Evangelicals and Divided by Faith, as well as several books on the kingdom of God, a subject I've become curious about. You can keep up with my ever-changing reading list if you're on Goodreads. What are books you'd recommend I add to my list? (Obviously, I need help in the fiction genre.)
I'd love to be your companion throughout the summer in the form of my podcast. In case you missed any episodes this spring, play them all below directly on my website or find them on your favorite podcast platform, such as iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, or Stitcher.

I'm happy to announce that there is a mini season coming your way next week! For the month of July, I've asked pastor's wives from various contexts to join me and tackle questions related to being a pastor's wife. We'll talk about marriage and ministry, kids and ministry, hurts and hangups, friendship, and everything in between. Subscribe now so you don't miss a single conversation! And let your friends know so they can listen as well.

For those of you who don't like podcasts, have no fear! Writing is still my first love, so I'm not taking the summer off from it. You'll find me each week in your inbox with fresh words, some written and some spoken. And of course, if you haven't read Messy Beautiful Friendship or Searching for Spring yet, the invitation is a standing one. They are better discussed with a friend or a group of friends, so I've put together a Bible study guide and leader guide for MBF and a discussion guide for SFS that you can use this summer as you read together.

I've given you a lot to do today, so let's review:

  • Send me your book recommendations! I can never get enough.
  • ICYMI: now's a great time to catch up on Season 1 of the By Faith podcast. 
  • Subscribe and share about the mini-season for pastor's wives, coming next week!
  • Read, read, read. Discuss.
  • Have a happy summer!

June 13, 2018

From Complainers to Rejoicers

When God’s work in and around me seems slow or nonexistent, I’m prone to grumbling. But there are many other times too, I’m noticing, when I’m quick to grumble or complain: when I’m under stress or experiencing suffering, when I can’t be sure of guaranteed outcomes in the future, or when I’m focused on myself and want my own way.
What is the antidote to grumbling? How can I become not only a non-complainer but rather a wholehearted rejoicer? Paul’s words to the Philippians have washed me afresh with the salient, transforming truth needed:
“Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life” (Philippians 2:14-16a).
This seems a strange segue from Paul’s previous reminder that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (vs 13). However, by using very specific words—”grumbling” and the phrase “a crooked and twisted generation”—Paul references an Old Testament story in which the Israelites, having escaped slavery in Egypt were, under the leadership of Moses and Aaron, making their way toward the land God had promised them.

The Israelites had forgotten how God provided for them, and so they’d become worried about their future and their children’s future. Because they’d forgotten God’s promises and neither trusted Him nor the leaders God had given them, they wept, grumbled, and searched for an escape from their circumstances. Just before he died, Moses referred back to this scene, calling the grumbling Israelites a “crooked and twisted generation” (Deuteronomy 32:5).

We may think of murmuring in discontent or disputing as a relatively small thing. The Israelites were simply sharing their hearts, right? What did it hurt that they grumbled against their spiritual leaders in a whispered aside?

Paul uses the language of Moses (“crooked and twisted generation”) in order to teach the Philippians—and us—that grumbling and disputing is ultimately a grumbling and disputing against God. Therefore, Paul’s command is that the Philippians must respond to their own uncertain times and difficult persecutions differently than the Israelites did theirs.

Responding differently—becoming a rejoicer rather than a complainer—means first recognizing the truth of Philippians 2:13: “...for it is God who is at work in you.” Philippians, Paul says, God is at work! God is in charge! God is willing and empowering you to live and serve in a way that pleases him. You are secure and provided for by your Abba Father, even if you can’t see it. This leaves no wiggle room for grumbling or disputing.

And so it is for us, too. God is at work, even if we can’t see his work unfolding quite yet. With this truth in mind, we can read verse 14 as “do all things then without grumbling or disputing,” because the command follows Paul’s description of the continual work of God in our lives. Grumbling and disputing are antithetical to the idea that God is at work in all things, for these actions convey that God has abandoned us, will not provide, or does not have our good in mind when he sets leaders over us.

Emphasis in the command Paul gives is on the words “all things”: do all things without grumbling or disputing. Should we not then have matters we disagree on in the church? Should we not ever disagree with our leaders? No, rather he exhorts us to handle our disagreements the way modeled to us by Christ in 2:1-10: with humility, with an attitude of obedience to the Father, and with a focus on understanding and showing the value of the other. We are to handle our disagreements with humility, not with even an ounce of grumbling or quarreling.

Paul then tells us the purpose or the outcome of our obedience to this command: “..so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

Paul tells the Philippian church that they have a witness to the world. He describes this witness using light imagery, not saying “you need to shine” or “I command you to shine,” but rather that they already shine because they have the Light of the World in them. In other words, Paul tells them that they naturally stand out in the world because of their hope in Jesus.

What is the command for us then? It is that we must do everything without grumbling or disputing so that the Light of Jesus in us will shine unhindered by our own attitudes and actions. We must not tarnish or blot out the light of Jesus in us through our faithless grumbling and disputing. Our lack of grumbling displays our trust and peace in God, and these certainly shine bright in a cynical, despairing world.

When we trust God’s sovereign hand, Paul says we “hold forth” or “hold fast” the word of life. We hold forth to what we hold fast: Jesus, called the Word, called the Life. When we refrain from grumbling and disputing because we trust that Jesus is Lord and the Holy Spirit is at work, we commend Jesus to others. We show people in the world where life is truly found.

This, then, is the work of the Christian: to know God is at work. When this truth is embraced by faith, grumbling and disputing wither, and in their place grows a heart overflowing with joy.

June 6, 2018

Joy and Contentment in All Things

A few years ago I did a word study on joy, because I wanted to know how to have more of it. I felt as if I were slogging through life and ministry, and I wondered if I should somehow feel differently about it all or how I might choose joy, if joy was actually a choice I could make. I think joy is a word we love, but we don't always know what joy is, nor do we understand how it comes to us. 

That's why I'm glad for Melissa Kruger and her new book, In All Things: A Nine Week Devotional Bible Study on Unshakeable Joy. I'm working through it right now and can't recommend it highly enough. In All Things takes readers through the book of Philippians and helps us discover a joy and a contentment that will carry us through every circumstance of life.

In celebration of the release of In All Things, I've asked Melissa to pop in on the blog to give us a sneak peek of the book. 

Tell us about you, your family, and your current ministry.
I’m married to Mike, who serves as the President of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte. I love getting to share life and ministry with him. We have three children, Emma (17), John (14) and Kate (11).  Most afternoons you’ll find me on a sports field somewhere watching one of their games.

I currently work as an editor for The Gospel Coalition and at my church as our women’s ministry coordinator. I’m thankful that both jobs allow me to work in Word-based discipleship with women. Each job helps me do the other job better.

You have a new book coming out. Where did the idea for this book come from and what is it about?
About 10 years ago I was visiting a missionary friend in Prague. We were walking along the streets together talking and she casually asked if I’d be willing to help write some questions for her on the book of Philippians. She wanted to study it with her Bible study group that fall and couldn’t find a resource she liked. I agreed to help and that began the process of 10 years of studying, teaching, and writing on the book of Philippians. I’m so glad for that conversation—it led me to so many rich truths!

What are the biggest takeaways you hope readers will gain from your book?
I hope for us to truly believe that joy and contentment don’t happen because we get our lives organized or perfectly balanced, but rather they flow from spending time with Jesus and remembering his goodness and graciousness toward us. Jesus is the source of all joy and nothing else can satisfy us.

What surprising truths did you learn in the process of writing this study?
Philippians is known to be a book about joy. However, Paul’s joy is so different from the joy we typically see in the world today. While suffering in prison, he rejoiced because it allowed the imperial guard to hear the gospel. Though he knew people in ministry were preaching the gospel with wrong motives, he rejoiced that the gospel was preached. When faced with imminent death, he rejoiced at the thought of being alive with Christ. Paul’s joy was rooted in his salvation and it overflowed from his life, no matter the circumstance he faced. By the power of the Holy Spirit this same joy is available to you and me—what a gift!

The second truth that struck me is that Paul’s famous line, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” refers to his battle for contentment. We often think of this verse in terms of doing amazing things for Christ and his Kingdom, but Paul uses it in reference to his ability to be content in both plenty and in want. It’s made me realize that perhaps the most difficult thing in all the world is not doing great and big things for God, but walking in daily trust and reliance on our Savior—in whatever circumstance we face. Our daily joy in the midst of a difficulties and trials is only possible by Christ’s work within us. Our joy shines to the watching world in a way that makes them wonder about our God.

How has writing this book affected your own life?
One way this book has affected my own life is that it's helped focus my prayer life in new ways. Paul’s love for the Philippians overflowed in prayer. And here’s what he prayed: "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Phil. 1:9-11).

This is how I want to pray for those I love—seeking the Lord on their behalf in hopes that their faith may flourish, whatever circumstances they face.
Order your copy of In All Things today for your own study of Philippians this summer. Find out more about Melissa on her website or follow her on Twitter

May 30, 2018

Episode #17 of By Faith: Ask Me Anything

This season on the By Faith podcast I’ve talked to men and women who are walking forward by faith, many through difficult circumstances. We’ve asked the question together, “How does God meet us in our deepest, darkest pain and how does He turn that pain into beauty?” We’ve heard about faith and hope in the midst of depression, divorce, and everyday life and work. 

Today I’m sharing a bonus episode of “By Faith” called Ask Me Anything. Listeners and readers like you sent in questions for me to tackle, and so I asked my friend Amy to join me for the conversation as I attempt to answer them. You’ll hear us talk about how I do what I do, how I’ve responded when a friendship has faded away, how the church can be a safe place for those who are hurting, and about writing and pursuing passions.
That's me closest to the camera. Amy's right beside me. 

Make sure you listen all the way to the end to hear what I have planned for Season 2 of the podcast and for a very special mini-season this summer! 

Listen to the "Ask Me Anything" episode on iTunes or, if you're on my website, in the embedded player below:
Links from the Show

Order Your Copy of Christine's Newest Book, Searching For Spring 

Connect with Amy
 Instagram // Twitter

Connect with Christine
Blog // Facebook // Instagram // Twitter // Books 

May 23, 2018

By Faith Episode #16: Jason Duesing on Hope in a Cynical Age

Each week this season on By Faith I’m talking to someone who is walking forward by faith, many of them through difficult circumstances. We’re asking the question, “How does God meet us in our deepest, darkest pain and how does He turn that pain into beauty?” 

This is the last regular episode of Season 1. Next week I’ll share a special episode called “Ask Me Anything,” where I’m answering your most pressing questions, and where I’ll also reveal what’s coming up next for the By Faith podcast. Yes, there will be more seasons! I originally started this podcast in conjunction with the release of my new book, Searching for Spring, because I wanted to hear and share stories with you about how people are living out the theme of the book, specifically how people are walking forward by faith believing God is going to make all things beautiful. But I’ve loved it so much that I’m going to explore new and different themes. So tune in next week for what’s coming. I’m excited to share!
My guest on the show today is Jason Duesing. Jason is the provost at Midwestern Seminary in Kansas City. He also happens to be a friend of ours who we’ve known since our college days. Everyone we know who also knows him agrees that he is one of the best people we know. Personally, he’s been a huge supporter of my writing, and so I’m incredibly glad to share him with you today. Jason’s written a new book called Mere Hope: Life in an Age of Cynicism. I love that title, and I love the book! I think understanding our hope is such a fitting close to this season of the By Faith podcast, because we've been talking about how we’re walking forward by faith, and my guests have shared practical ways they’re doing that, but we need a solid understanding of what we’re walking forward toward. What is the hope that calls us forward? That’s the question I put to Jason. 
Friends, you’re going to want to read Jason’s new book, Mere Hope. Thanks to B&H Books, one listener will win a copy! Head over to my Instagram page and look for the Mere Hope book cover image to find out how you can win.

Listen to my conversation with Jason on iTunes or, if you're on my website, in the embedded player below: 

Links from the Show

Order Your Copy of Christine's Newest Book, Searching For Spring 

Connect with Jason
Blog // Instagram // Twitter

Connect with Christine
Blog // Facebook // Instagram // Twitter // Books