Earlier this year I added a page on this site where readers can submit questions or suggest topics (click here for that page). Recently I received a few questions about resources for families:
Question 1: In a recent Calvary Live you mentioned a ‘kids’ Bible you read to your kids. Can you tell me the name and publisher of that Bible?
The name of that Children’s Bible is The Jesus Storybook Bible, and it is published by Zonderkidz, which is the children’s branch of Zondervan.
I love this Bible because, to put it in semi-technical terms, it uses a Christo-centric hermeneutic and a Biblical theological approach to teaching kids the stories of the Bible, which is so important. Almost every children’s Bible I have come across presents a moralistic message to children, rather than one which helps them to see Christ in all of Scripture, and that all of the Bible points to Him and is fulfilled in Him.
On a similar note, I have found that many Children’s Ministry curricula are moralistic in nature, and can err on the side of telling Bible stories, but not explaining how those stories point to Jesus or fit into the narrative of the Bible which culminates in Jesus’ saving actions on our behalf. However, there are some good ones out there; at White Fields we use The Gospel Project, and we love how well it points our kids to the gospel every week and helps them learn to read the Bible through a christological lens.
This children’s Bible is a breath of fresh air, and I have often found myself choking up as I read it to my children, because the message of the gospel and the brilliance of God’s love and grace comes through so clearly.
Personally, I think every adult should read this too. It is a wonderful introduction to Christ-centered hermeneutics and biblical theology, which everyone, not just children would benefit from.
Question 2: I am the leader of a small group in my church. We want to study parenting but are having a difficult time finding materials. I was hoping you might be able to suggest some?
Starting April 28, the Sunday after Easter, we will be doing a series at White Fields called “I Could Never Believe in a God Who…”, in which we will be addressing some of the common struggles and objections that people have about God, the Bible, and Christianity.
You can help me by taking a second to fill out this quick anonymous poll to let me know what are some of the biggest hurdles to faith that you have experienced yourself or encountered in other people. Thanks!
Please also share this with others; I’d like to get as many responses as possible to get a clear picture of the things people are really struggling with.
(email subscribers can click here to access the poll)
There are a few others I subscribe to and visit from time to time, and of course you should totally subscribe to the White Fields Community Church podcast, so you can listen to my sermons, as well as those of our other teachers and guests.
What podcasts do you listen to?
Leave a comment with your recommendations for good content that you enjoy and that you think other people should check out.
One of Aesop’s fables tells the story of a man who found a goose who laid golden eggs. Every morning, he went and found another golden egg that the goose had laid, until one day he became greedy, and decided to cut the goose open so he could get more golden eggs. Of course, by doing so, not only did he not get any extra golden eggs, but he also ceased getting the daily eggs he had previously received, since the goose was now dead.
The point of the fable, Aesop said, is that greed often overreaches itself. However, like with most parables, there are several applicable truths packed into this very short story.
Many of the best things are acquired indirectly
The golden eggs in the story represent a desired outcome: something you want. For you, that might mean spiritual growth in your relationship with God, it might mean increased knowledge of the Bible or theology. It might mean deep and meaningful friendships, developing a skill, or increasing your success in your work. It might be making an impact on the world around you.
But what this fable illustrates for us, is that whatever the “golden egg” is for you, it is usually acquired indirectly. When the man in the story pursued the golden eggs directly, seeking to bypass the goose, he ended up with nothing, and killed the thing which gave him that which he wanted.
CS Lewis writes about how friendship works in a similar way. Friendship, he points out, must be about something else other than the friendship itself. The basis of a friendship is that both people are committed to and passionate about something beyond their friendship. “This is why,” Lewis says, “those pathetic people who simply ‘want friends’ can never make any.” “Those who have nothing can share nothing,” he points out, and concludes: “those who are going nowhere can have no fellow travelers.” (The Four Loves, ch. 4)
The same is true of spiritual growth. To quote from John Piper: “Doctrine is the fuel for worship.” The way to grow, the way towards deeper worship, is indirect: it is through getting to know more about who God is and what He has done and will do, which fuels growth and worship.
If you’ve ever met someone who is purposefully seeking to “climb the ladder” or make a name for themselves in an organization or community, it often backfires, because it is seen as off-putting and self-serving. On the other hand, those who make a practice of genuinely and faithfully serving others will not remain anonymous for very long.
If you want to keep getting “golden eggs”, then make sure you feed the “goose”
The goose in the fable is the thing which you must “feed” in order to get the desired results.
If your goal is spiritual growth, then to “feed the goose” means to do those things which will result in spiritual growth, e.g. reading the Bible, prayer, attending worship services, joining a community group.
At White Fields, something our leadership has done is develop a plan that guides us in doing the qualitative activities which we believe will lead to our desired outcome (our vision): to build and foster a passionate, engaged and spiritually healthy Christian community to influence and bless Longmont and beyond. The way we go about doing this (our mission) is by making disciples of Jesus Christ through teaching the Word of God, engaging in the mission of God, and raising up leaders. In order to accomplish that mission, we have tried to determine what things we should be doing, which will lead to those outcomes.
The same is true on a personal level: a few years ago, after a doctor visit in which I was told I was pre-diabetic, I decided I wanted to get in better shape. Since running seemed to give the best return on investment, I decided to do that. Rather than setting weight-loss goals, I’ve set running goals, knowing that if I run a certain amount, whether I lose weight or not, I will be in better shape.
Make sure that the “golden eggs” you’re after are godly and aligned with God’s heart and will for your life, and then determine what the “goose” is that will produce that outcome, and feed that goose.
Moving beyond good intentions and wishful thinking
I have found that using my calendar is the best way to make sure I’m feeding the “goose”.
Reading through the Bible in a year is a great goal, as is family devotional time and committed church attendance. However, if you don’t use your calendar to block out times for those things, they won’t often move beyond the realm of good intentions. I have found that by putting things in my calendar, I am able to prioritize things according to my values, rather than being a slave to the “tyranny of the urgent.”
May God lead you, as you seek Him, to determine the right “golden eggs” to pursue, the right way to “feed the goose” and the ability to be intentional in doing so.
The idea for the series comes from James 5:10, where James tells us to “remember the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Take them as examples of patient endurance under suffering.” In this series, we will be looking at a different Old Testament prophet each week, considering their lives and their messages and what we can learn from them.
We are moving through them chronologically, and so began with Amos, an interesting person with an important message. Click here to listen to that message: Amos: Faith that Works
This Sunday we will continue the series by looking at Hosea, a gripping story of adultery and faithfulness which gives us insight into God’s heart.
Resources for Studying the Prophets
Generally speaking, the prophetic books are not well known by many people who even regularly read the Bible. Part of the reason for that is because of the negative tone of some of the books, as well as the feeling that without understanding the context of the books, they don’t make sense.
People have asked me at times what books or materials are good to use if they want to get to know the prophetic books better. Here are my top two recommendations:
I had the pleasure of studying under Gordon McConville at the University of Gloucestershire in England, where he is professor of Old Testament theology. This was one of my text books, but is part of a great series from Inter-Varsity Press and is very accessible to the average reader and also scholarly at the same time.
On the scholarly side, this book tends to get a little bit into the weeds about theological discussions and debates, but the introductions and outlines of the books, their themes and their structures are very good. In other words, you can use it to go as deep as you’re ready to go.
When I first became a pastor, one of my mentors told me, “You’re going to need some books.” He then walked me into the book store at the church we were at and pulled Jensen’s surveys of the Old Testament and New Testament off the shelf and handed them to me.
The benefit to these books published by Moody Press is that rather than being a commentary that tells you information, they instead instruct you about how to ask the right questions. Thus, you are the one doing the exegetical work, or the inductive Bible study, rather than just passively receiving information. They do, however, give you important background information in order to get the context you need, but they also tell you where to go to get that context if it is found in other places in the Bible.
I hope these resources are helpful for you, as they have been for me!
In the month of December, we did a month-long series at White Fields on the topic of joy, and how Christianity gives a unique perspective on joy because it finds the source of joy in a unique place.
This past week, Mike and I sat down to discuss Christian joy and what it means when the Bible tells us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials”, and what this means especially at the outset of the new year.
‘People in my congregation refer to this phenomenon as “falling through the cracks.” They say things like: “Have you seen Sally around church lately? I hope she didn’t fall through the cracks.”
What if, instead of “falling through the cracks,” we use a different image: “straying from the flock.” That picture seems more fitting for at least two reasons. First, “straying” implies that a disconnected church member bears a personal responsibility to stay involved with the congregation. Sheep don’t ordinarily leave a flock by inadvertently plummeting into a void. They wander away over time through a series of choices.
Second, the image of straying sheep also suggests that someone should keep watch over the flock and take action when a sheep begins to meander away. Yes, each member has a personal responsibility not to roam, but all church members have a duty to watch out for one another. However, one group in particular has an obligation to be on the lookout for straying sheep: the elders.
Elders watch to make sure that no “wolves” infiltrate their congregations with false teaching. But elders also keep watch for unwanted movement in the other direction: members straying away from the flock and from the Lord. This is part of basic shepherding work. Shepherds feed the sheep, guard them from predators, and keep track of them.’
He goes on to point out something interesting from Ezekiel:
‘Ezekiel prophesied against Israel’s leaders by accusing them of negligent shepherding: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel, who have been feeding themselves! Shouldn’t the shepherds feed their flock?” (Ezek. 34:2). And what was one of the ways they failed to shepherd? “You have not . . . brought back the strays, or sought the lost” (v. 4). As a result, “My flock went astray on all the mountains and every high hill. They were scattered over the whole face of the earth, and there was no one searching or seeking for them” (v. 6).’
Jesus, in contrast, is the “good shepherd” who leaves the 99 to pursue the one wayward sheep, something which is indeed “reckless” from a business perspective (and this is exactly what the lyrics of Cory Ashbury’s song “Reckless Love” come from).
The difficult balance from a church leader’s perspective is how to be a good shepherd under Jesus, and being overbearing. May God give us wisdom and grace as we seek to do His work!
Project Greatest Gift, our church’s annual outreach to children and caretakers in the foster care system in Northern Colorado, was a success again this year.
In the end, we were able to sponsor 241 children and caretakers in three northern Colorado counties. Additionally, we were able to take part in an event to meet and bless the families who were recipients of these gifts. Along with giving gifts, we were able to include materials in each bag explaining to each child and caretaker the hope that we have because of Jesus.
One thing to pray about for 2019 is that Weld County (where the majority of our recipients come from) is considering cancelling their program next year. If that happens, White Fields would consider taking over the program from them. This would require significant resources, meaning we would likely have to expand what we do beyond our church. This might just be the next step God has for this project, but do pray for God’s leading and provision as we move forward!
Check out this interview that our worship pastor Mike Payne did with Christine Appel, the founder and leader of Project Greatest Gift:
Join us at White Fields Community Church on December 24, 2018 at 4:30 or 6:00 PM for a special Christmas Eve service which will include Christmas music from our band and choir, as well as a reading of the Christmas story and a message about why Jesus’ birth is good news of great joy for all people.
Invite someone to join you as well! Studies have shown that most people are willing to attend church on Christmas Eve if someone invites them, so consider yourself invited, and invite someone to join you and get Christmas started by focusing on Jesus!
Here’s this week’s video in which we discuss the somewhat confusing phrase in Romans 12:20 – “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head”: