Defining Moments After Sinners Say ‘I Do’

We count marriages in years, but they’re really defined by moments. And usually not the picture-perfect ones. We tend to enjoy recounting the early moments—when we met, when we got engaged, when we said “I do.” While those moments are necessary for the formation of a marriage, the ones that come later tend to have more effect on the health and duration of a marriage.  What about the moments when parenting is hard, or we face financial struggles, or we receive a difficult diagnosis? As Dave Harvey—president of Great Commission Collective—explains in his new book, I Still Do: Growing Closer and Stronger through Life’s Defining Moments, there are “unique points of trouble and transformation that visit us as our marriages mature” (17). This work is, in many ways, a natural sequel to Harvey’s popular 2007 book, When Sinners Say ‘I Do’: Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage. Trouble Couples who’ve been married for any time at all know that troubles are a part of marriage. But how we view the source of trouble and our response to it can have great implications for our marriages. One of Harvey’s foundational and most helpful points is that “brokenness is broader than sin,” so the fact that sin is “our biggest problem” doesn’t mean sin is “our only problem” (25). Harvey explains that we need to understand ourselves and our spouses in a holistic way.  I Still Do: Growing Closer and Stronger through Life’s Defining Moments Dave Harvey I Still Do: Growing Closer and Stronger through Life’s Defining Moments Dave Harvey Baker Books. 224 pp. With 37 years of marriage and 33 years of pastoring under his belt, Dave Harvey has identified those life-defining moments of a post-newlywed marriage. He wants to help couples recognize them in their own relationships so that… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Feb. 11

Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 14:22-36; Acts 20:13-38; Psalm 34, Exodus 30-31.  ​One of the greatest causes of the breakdown in relationships is unspoken expectations. We assume another person holds a certain attitude, opinion or outlook, or we thought they would or should respond a certain way under certain conditions – and when they don’t, we feel betrayed. ​There isn’t an actual betray mind you, but our assumptions and expectations were contradicted, and it feels like betrayal. And this same dynamic can be at work in our relationship with God in Christ. The Psalmist in Psalm 73 wrestles with this issue, and by his own admission, it almost derailed him. He saw the wicked prospering and the righteous suffering and he thought to himself: Psalm 73:13–14 “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. 14 For all the day long I have been stricken and rebuked every morning.” I’m the one obeying God, and I am the one suffering, while those who scoff at Him seem to do better – then why serve Him? And there is the crisis of the unspoken expectation. The Psalmist assumed that serving God meant an easier life – one without the trials, temptations, sorrows and difficulties which those who do not serve God OUGHT to have instead. But of course, there is nothing in Scripture which intimates any such viewpoint. In fact, that is the viewpoint of the idolator, not the Believer. If I make my sacrifices, keep to my rituals, obey my list of duties – I will be “blessed” with the good life. That’s the contract. Only it isn’t. And this could well have been the way it was with the Disciples that night Jesus sent them across the lake after feeding the 5,000. As they… Read More

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James Leo Garrett Jr. (1925–2020), the Gentleman Theologian

During his life, theologians across the spectrum honored James Leo Garrett Jr. as first among equals with titles like “Last of the Great Gentlemen Theologians,” “Dean of Southern Baptist Theologians,” and “The Most Knowledgeable Baptist Theologian.” Garrett blushed at such accolades, for he was genuinely self-effacing. But you need read only one of his two greatest works before realizing no other contemporary Baptist systematician has yet risen to his level of authorial achievement. And when you consult his entire corpus, you discover it may well be a long time before anybody will. Who was this man? And how did he accomplish so much? Who Was James Leo Garrett Jr.? Born to a father who served as a deacon and university professor and a pious mother named after a missionary, Garrett was born again at the age of 9 then baptized into the church of the founder of Southwestern Seminary. Disappointed after the military twice rejected his voluntary service (due to extreme myopia), he entered college instead, ultimately sensing God’s call to pastoral ministry. Between leading three churches, he earned two bachelor’s degrees (Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary), one master’s (Princeton), and two doctorates (Southwestern and Harvard), followed by an honorary doctorate (Baylor). His formal academic career included significant stints at Southern Seminary (14 years), Baylor University (6 years), and Southwestern Seminary (28 years), interspersed with one-year stints in Oxford and Hong Kong. In 1948 he married his soulmate, fellow Southwestern student Myrta Ann, who herself became a highly respected librarian. They raised three sons and together ministered to students, faculty, and churches until she predeceased him in 2015. Garrett taught masses of theological students. During the administration of Russell Dilday, when over 5,000 students were enrolled at Southwestern Seminary, Garrett’s classes in particular overflowed. (I still appreciate the student who… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Feb. 10

We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/ Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 14:1-21; Acts 20:1-12; Psalm 33, Exodus 27-29.  Psalm 33:1 (ESV): Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. For those who are serious about following Christ, it is easy to slip into a legalistic mindset. To set up a list of dos and don’ts, culled from Scripture and/or personal convictions, and to rely on our performance for a sense of well-being. The first danger of course being that we subtly begin to lose a sense of need to rely wholly upon the righteousness of Christ for our right standing with God. We start to look to ourselves. Nevertheless we feel – rightly so – a compulsion to order our lives rightly before this God of goodness and grace who has saved us from our sins. And our text provides one means to help rescue us from performance anxiety, and yet still serve as a much needed help. What is it? It is found in that little word “befits.”  The more we grow in Christ, the question which ought to occupy our thoughts more in this regard is: am I living, deciding, thinking and acting in ways which befit – which are commensurate with who I am in Christ, and where He is taking me in His redemptive plan?  Is sexual immorality fitting for one redeemed by the blood of the Lamb? Drunkenness? Combativeness? Carelessness? Harshness? Unforgiveness? Bitterness? Indolence? Selfishness? Lack of compassion toward the suffering? Greediness? Fear? Neglect of God’s means of grace: His Word, prayer, public worship, fellowship with the saints? The list could go on and on. And again, the idea… Read More

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On My Shelf: Life and Books with John Starke

On My Shelf helps you get to know various writers through a behind-the-scenes glimpse into their lives as readers. I asked John Starke—pastor of preaching at Apostles Church, a regular contributor to TGC, and the author of The Possibility of Prayer: Finding Stillness with God in a Restless World—about what’s on his nightstand, favorite fiction books, influential biographies, books on prayer, and more. What’s on your nightstand right now? I don’t have a large nightstand, so they tend to be scattered around the room like the cups of water in the movie Signs. My wife, Jena, and I are reading David Sedaris’s book When You are Engulfed in Flames aloud to each other. We like to read aloud funny books together, but we’ve also read Wendell Berry’s Hannah Coulter and Robert Capon’s Supper of the Lamb, which aren’t funny (though Capon is witty!). By the way, Engulfed in Flames isn’t Sedaris’s best. Jena got me a nice hardback edition of John Updike’s In the Beauty of the Lillies for Christmas, which I’ve been reading since the New Year. It’s a slow, beautiful novel, following a family line throughout the 20th century. I just began Tom Holland’s Dominion on how Christianity has shaped the Western imagination. I’ve never been a huge Kurt Vonnegut fan, but Pity the Reader—a collection of his remarks on writing—has been surprisingly fun. Two books I’m working through in tandem are Richard Foster’s Streams of Living Water and James Choung’s Longing for Revival. What are your favorite fiction books? I remember sitting on a train platform in Boston, finishing Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, thinking, This might be the best book I’ve ever read. I don’t know if that’s true, but it felt so in that moment, and it’s surely near the top. I love Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead trilogy (Gilead, Home, and Lila). She forces you to slow down… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Feb. 9

Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 13:44-58; Acts 19:23-41; Psalm 32, Exodus 24-26.  ​Spurgeon said the parable of the hidden treasure speaks of Christ dying to purchase the whole world that He might have the treasure of those given to Him by the Father found in it. But it appears to be directed more to the Believer. ​ The lesson is simple but profound. You cannot have Christ truly, if you are not willing to let go of everything else you might value in order to gain Him? What is so valuable that time with Him is so cheaply sold by us? What of sin is so valuable that it is worth hanging on to rather than to Him? Pride? Social standing? Peer opinion? Drunkenness? Sex? Partying? And it is in contemplating this that we come face to face with something truly astounding. In truth, what do we broken, defiled and convicted sinners have of any real value that to seel it might procure the riches of Christ? Nothing. And to add insult to injury, who would purchase our miserable trifles? No one. Except, this is where the miracle of God’s grace comes into full view. He bids us come and He will buy our brokenness and give us wholeness in exchange. We sell Him our sin and He gives us holiness. Our we turn in our pride that we might possess the fruit of divine humility. Our lies for His truth. Our death for His life. Our defilements for His purity. We give up our degradation for His affirmation. Our blindness for sight, deafness for hearing, lameness for the ability to walk with Him. We bring Him all we have, broken, defiled, corrupt and less than worthless, and He gives us the very Treasure of Heaven in return. George MacDonald:… Read More

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The Underrated Potential of One-to-One Bible Reading

Imagine if everyone in your church were regularly reading the Bible. “Everyone?” you might ask. “I don’t even read it regularly.” But if this happened at your church, do you think your church would grow in the likeness of Christ? Imagine if everyone in your church were regularly engaged in evangelistic relationships. “Maybe a few people, but certainly not the majority,” you think as you get sweaty palms, knowing you don’t consider yourself an evangelist. We all recognize the top evangelists in our midst, but surely not everyone can do that, we think. But what if we did? What if we each pursued one other person with gospel aims? Imagine if everyone in your church knew how to disciple others. “In your dreams,” you chuckle. “Discipleship is the pastor’s job. He’s been trained for it.” But what if you could be trained for it? What if there were a simple way to help yourself and others grow in grace? In my experience of local-church ministry, I have found a simple activity that, by God’s grace, encourages us to read our Bibles, pursue evangelism, and engage in discipleship. It’s called one-to-one Bible reading. 2 People + 1 Bible + Regular Meetings = Gospel Fruit One-to-one Bible reading is not complicated. It consists of two people meeting together on a regular basis to read through a book of the Bible.  They might meet weekly or bi-weekly. At their meetings they do a few things: pray; read through a passage together; ask simple questions related to observation, interpretation, and application; pray again; and schedule a meeting to read through the next passage. They continue meeting together until they finish reading the whole book together. This simple activity gets people reading their Bibles regularly. It’s also helpful as we encounter difficult-to-understand passages. Think of… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Feb. 8

We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/ Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 13:24-43; Acts 19:1-22; Psalm 31, Exodus 21-23. I love the 7 parables Jesus gives in Matthew 13. Nowhere else in all of Scripture is there as clear and comprehensive a primer for Believers to understand what it means to be in Christ’s Kingdom, and what that looks like over time.  It is a handbook of the “mysteries of the Kingdom” for the Church in every generation.  1 – MYSTERY OF PROPAGATION / THE SOWER & THE SOILS / 3-9, 18-23. This is how the church grows, through preaching the Gospel. Let no one get us off that track for any reason.  2 – MYSTERY OF PROXIMITY / THE WHEAT & THE TARES / 24-30, 36-43. There never will be any fully Christian society. There will always be “takes” in the World until Jesus returns. Don’t try to create what cannot be.  3 – MYSTERY OF TRANSITION / THE MUSTARD SEED / 31, 32. The Kingdom will have but the smallest of beginnings in the earth. But one day it will reach its full bloom. It will weather its storms, survive its droughts, not be withered by blistering sun, nor be uprooted by violent winds. Christ’s Kingdom will reach maturity. Do not despise the day of small things. 4 – MYSTERY OF TRANSFORMATION / THE LEAVEN / 33. The Believer is gradually transformed into the image of Christ, it is not an instantaneous act. And this, through permeation. The Spirit inwardly makes His way into the deepest recesses of the heart and mind – bringing his Holy influences to every particle of our being. God does not fear time.… Read More

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The FAQs: What You Should Know About Late-Term Abortion

What just happened? Recent events have brought the issue of late-term abortion back into the news, and into the realm of presidential politics. On Tuesday, during his 2020 State of the Union address, President Trump called on members of Congress to “pass legislation finally banning the late-term abortion of babies.” The next day, on the talk show The View, Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg was asked to elaborate on his support for late-term abortion. Co-host Meghan McCain said, “I think the interpretation from pro-life people like me was that you meant a baby actually being born . . . I just wanted you to clarify, because I found that statement to be pretty radical.” In response Buttigieg replied, I’m just pointing to the fact that different people will interpret their own moral lights, and for that matter interpret Scripture, differently. But we live in a country where it is extremely important that no one person should have to be subject to some other person’s interpretation of their own religion. . . . What are late-term abortions? The definition of what is considered “late-term” is controversial within the abortion debate. Pro-lifers generally use the term to refer to any time after the fetal viability, when the child could possibly survive outside the womb. This is usually around 21 weeks, or the last half of the second trimester of pregnancy. In contrast, abortion supporters usually say that late-term only after 27 weeks, when the chance of viability is more than 90 percent. Some more radical claims, such as by The New York Times health reporter Pam Belluck, contend that the term should only be applied to “pregnancies that extend past a woman’s due date, meaning about 41 or 42 weeks.” Isn’t late-term abortion illegal? Wasn’t a ban on the procedure already put… Read More

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Tracing Truth in This Year’s Oscar Films

The 92nd Academy Awards will air this Sunday night, celebrating the best films released in 2019. This year nine films were nominated for the top award, best picture, and over the last few months TGC has featured reviews of all nine. Below you’ll find excerpts and links from these reviews, which explore the various ways these films intersect with faith and theology or contain elements of goodness, truth, or beauty. As with all our movie reviews, these are not endorsements as much as engagements—attempts to theologically interpret the films our culture creates and celebrates. 1917 Excerpt from TGC’s review: When Schofield and Blake receive the grim orders from the general, they respond with a firm salute. This resolute gesture, made with unmistakable dread in their eyes, captures the beauty of duty and simple obedience, of saying “yes” to something costly and hard, simply because an authority above you gives the order. In a “follow your heart” world where “do as you’re told” deference to authority is tantamount to blasphemy, the moment feels radical and refreshing—and the rest of the film only builds on it. See also: Jared C. Wilson’s “Some Men Just Like the Fight.” Ford v Ferrari Excerpt from TGC’s review: The film beautifully captures some of the tensions of fatherhood. How do you teach your child safety and prudence without raising them to be too safe and risk-averse? How do you shield them from danger without being overprotective? How do you model ambition and risk-taking without recklessly setting them (or you) up for disaster? What’s the value of modeling diligence toward some hard-won achievement, if it means more time away from home? The Irishman Excerpt from TGC’s review: The sadness and emptiness of [Sheeran’s] life—for all its grand underworld exploits and made-for-the-movies drama—stands as a bracing warning to the… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Feb. 7

Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 13:1-23; Acts 18:18-28; Psalm 30, Exodus 19-20.  ​The 2nd half of Psalm 30:5 gets quoted often, even by those who may have no sense of its origin. ​”weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” And by itself, it does form a nice little platitude – though not at all accurate in every circumstance. The context here makes all the difference. For it is in the midst of David extolling how it is God remains faithful to those who are His. Faithful, even when we have sinned against Him. The first past of the verse brings it into clearer focus: “For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime” This would be a good place to mentally insert the word “therefore”. In other words, it is because the first part of the verse is true, that the second part is true. And this is meant to remind the Believer – not the World in general – that even on those times when we have failed our Savior gravely, wounded Him deeply by our sin and rebellion, grieved His Holy Spirit within us – so as to rouse His anger, it is not the kind of anger that casts off. Unlike fickle human anger which often sacrifices love on the altar of anger – not so our God. When He has set His love on one, He may at times be angry with us, but it is only a momentary anger punctuating a lifetime of love. Hear His Word Believer. Yes, we can anger Him at times. But in Christ and as Christ’s – bought with His blood, it is an anger within a context of love, and never, NEVER the withdrawal of love in anger.… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Feb. 6

We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/ Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 12:38-50; Acts 18:1-17; Psalm 29, Exodus 16-18.  As the Psalmist notes so powerfully, no other word will do at the sight of God. “Glory!” is the divine expression. Rolled into it are simulataneous exclamations of: ABSOLUTE PERFECTION! PROFOUNDEST MAJESTY! INFINITE INDESCRIBABILITY! UNSURPASSABLE TRANSCENDENCE! FATHOMLESS FORGIVENESS! UNBELIEVABLE HUMILITY! INCOMPARABLE BEAUTY! INDEFILABLE HOLINESS! LIMITLESS, BOUNDLESS, MATCHLESS LOVE!  UNFATHOMABLE MERCY! INCALCULABLE GRACE! MIND-NUMBING, UNSPEAKABLE WONDER! INVIOLABLE JUSTICE! INCOMPREHENSIBLE TRIUNITY! INDEFATIGABLE POWER! INEXHAUSTIBLE PATIENCE! IMMEASURABLE SWEETNESS! And so very much more – GLORY!  Share this: Like this: Like Loading… Visit ResponsiveReiding

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Andrew Sach on Teaching 2 Kings

The book of 2 Kings begins with the prophet Elijah being taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire, and it ends with Jerusalem being destroyed by fire, with plenty of action and intrigue in between. So how do we make the most of teaching this book, clearly presenting its message and getting to the greater Elisha and the greater king it points toward? Andrew Sach, pastor of Grace Church Greenwich in greater London, has been teaching (and, interestingly enough, rapping) through the books of 1 and 2 Kings. He is also working on a book on 1 and 2 Kings for his Dig Deeper series. Having listened to some of his messages in person and others online, I noted nine things Andrew does as a teacher that makes his teaching clear and compelling, which we worked through in our conversation. Andrew demonstrates how Elijah and Elisha relate to John the Baptist and Jesus at numerous points in their stories. He also talks about how the story of the northern tribes of Israel presents an opportunity to get to Christ as the ultimate prophet, while the southern tribes of Judah present an opportunity to get to Christ as the true king. Listen to this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible. Suggested Audio Resources: Print resources: Transcript The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.  Andrew Sach: Up in the chariot, the prophet goes, leaving his successor to deal with God’s foes. Elisha is now the man with Elijah’s cloak. Elisha is now the water parter prophesying bloke. We’re expecting the judgment to come, instead Elisha raises a Shunammite’s son. A poisoned stew is healed, the sons of prophets fed as Elisha multiplies 20 loaves of… Read More

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Through the Word in 2020 / Feb. 5

Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 12:22-37; Acts 17:16-34; Psalm 28, Exodus 13-15.    It is amazing how God’s dealings with the Children of Israel grant us lasting insight into how He still continues to deal with the Saints in every generation. And part of our reading today in Exodus 14:10-15 is one such wonderful example. As with the immediate aftermath of Israel fleeing the confines of Egypt, it is not unusual for the newly minted Christian, to suddenly and fearfully find him or herself pursued by his former sins in a most menacing way. How fiercely they come seeking fresh dominion. And at times, it may seem as though remaining as was would be preferable to being caught once again – and then perhaps dragged even lower than before they believed. We fear we will never be free of the fetters we have been strapped by for so very very long. Generations of bondage to sin leaving its scars everywhere. But God has a plan. He intends to be glorified in His grace toward us in victory over our former bondage – a decisive victory that we have not yet imagined. How shall it be accomplished? The same way our deliverance was at the first – by believing our Lord, and trusting Him. 1. Believing unequivocally that He has our best interest at heart. “Fear not”. Do not fear that what Christ has done can in any way be un-done. 2. Believing that He intends to vanquish the power of sin’s dominion over us. “Stand firm”. Stay your ground. Do not flee back. The LORD WILL fight for you. 3. Believing enough, to let our hearts be silent in trust – that in our continuing to follow, God will break Egypt’s back on our behalf. “Be silent”. Do not cry… Read More

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