Identifying Gospel-Centered Resources

BETHANY BELUE | CONTRIBUTOR A few years ago, I read a Christian book I heard recommended over various platforms. A podcaster said she couldn’t put it down. A friend at church shared wisdom she gleaned from it. A book reviewer classified it as “a must read.” When I opened the pages for the first time, I was expectant and excited. What I didn't expect was to disagree with so much of it. The principles felt more as if they were from the author's experiences than the Word of God. The practical applications only gave false hope.  There were chapters of the book that I did agree with and gained from, but I found that it was confusing to separate what was true from what wasn’t. As I reflected on this book, I began to think about why I chose to read it. I read it because I was influenced by the opinions of others and didn’t do my own research on the author or the content.   There are many books and resources available to us in the Christian community.  No matter the topic, there is a book or resource that will address it. While this can be a good thing, it is important that we be responsible to identify resources that are gospel-centered and in line with God’s Word. Since reading that book, the Lord has led me to be more thorough in examining what content I digest in my mind and heart, as well as what I recommend to others. There are five questions I have used to help guide me in choosing God-honoring books and resources.  Five Questions to Ask About Resources Is it gospel-centered? The message of the gospel is central to God’s Word.  “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8-9).   There are many books and resources that talk about God, but do they point us to the gospel? Do they communicate salvation by grace alone through faith alone? Many books point to all the things we need to and should be doing to grow as Christians. While that is often helpful, we want to ensure we are being pointed back to God’s grace. If it doesn’t, we are left thinking that it’s all up to us. Our hope should be that we walk away with our eyes focused more on Jesus and less on ourselves...  

Identifying Gospel-Centered Resources2024-02-10T19:41:12+00:00

Using a Bible Reading Plan

BARBARANNE KELLY | CONTRIBUTOR Sitting in the glow of our Christmas tree, I turn in my Bible to the book of Job to read three chapters, then I read a psalm, and then I turn to the book of Revelation for one chapter. These are the familiar passages of Scripture with which I close each year: the greatness and majesty of our God, the joy of praising him, and his final victory in the culmination of his covenantal plan for his Bride, the Church. After spending the year reading through the Bible with all of humanity’s ups and downs—mostly downs—and the steadfast love and faithfulness of the Lord on display throughout, my heart overflows. The first week of January I’ll turn back to the opening chapters of Genesis and begin again. As idyllic as that may sound, I assure you that the discipline to follow through with a Bible reading plan does not come easily for me. January is often my best month. But as responsibilities with family and ministry mount, and the occasional vacation or unexpected life-event happen, it’s easy for the reading to fall off schedule. That’s often the case, isn’t it? Time in God’s Word is so easily neglected, pushed out by the urgencies of the moments of our days, and especially when we need it most! Why Read the Bible? I used to think that those Christians who read their entire Bible through in a year must be super-saints. I expected pastors to do that sort of reading as it’s their job to know the Scriptures inside-out. But for normal believers like myself, I figured that kind of immersion in Scripture was an unreasonable expectation and out of reach. The Lord has held me fast for many decades since I thought this way, and whether it’s from wisdom or experience or a bit of both, I’ve learned that super-saints are few and far between. Normal, quietly faithful, saints-without-capes, however, fill the pews in our churches and humbly pursue the disciplines of grace as they walk with the Lord. And one of those disciplines of grace is time spent daily in God’s Word. Reading through the Bible in a year (or so) is an attainable goal. There are many resources to help, some of which I’ll link to at the end of this article. But why should you set such a goal for yourself? I’ll allow the Apostle Paul to answer: . . . from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:15–17)...

Using a Bible Reading Plan2024-01-28T01:31:47+00:00

Advent Devotional: Jeremiah 23:1-6

CHRISTINE GORDON|GUEST 1“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. 2 Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. 3 Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. 4I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD. 5 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 6In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’ (Jeremiah 23:1-6) Consider this scenario: you hire a babysitter to care for your young children for a few days. When you check in on them, you realize that instead of feeding them, the sitter has neglected them. Instead of keeping them safe in your house and yard, enforcing rules for their safety, the sitter has been so brutal that the children have run from the house, out into the neighborhood and streets. They are now hungry, unprotected, and flirting with danger. What might your heart for your children and your response to the sitter be? Any parent would feel protective love for the children and outrage mixed with enormous anger at the sitter.  Shepherds Failed God’s People This is the situation God is addressing in Jeremiah 23. God called Jeremiah around 626BC to prophesy to the southern kingdom of Israel. God’s words to these people included his anger with them for their idolatry, and warnings of a force coming from the north that would punish them if they didn’t change their ways. God spoke in particular about the failure of Israel’s leaders to care for his people. These leaders failed the people fantastically, leaving them ignorant and drifting into idolatry. In his protective love for his people, he provided priests, prophets, and kings to guide, protect, and uphold justice. In Jeremiah’s time, leaders were often referred to as shepherds. God intended for them to shepherd his people with tender care, as a shepherd protects his sheep. But far from that attentive watchfulness, these shepherds had abused their positions of power, and actually scattered the flock they were to preserve. In these words of chapter 23 we feel the anger of God and his heart for his wandering people who have not been pastored well. At this point in the book of Jeremiah, the first wave of exiles had probably already been taken out of the city of Jerusalem and transported to Babylon as prisoners. In verse two, God says through Jeremiah that because these shepherds had failed to attend his people with their love and care, he would attend the shepherds with his punishment...

Advent Devotional: Jeremiah 23:1-62023-11-15T21:56:42+00:00
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