Imagine sitting down in my office or yours, and discussing the great works that are influencing our lives and ministries right now, over a good cup of joe. That’s the heart behind The Study this week, a list I’m experimenting with on Amazon . . . So, here are some points of interest from my readings and my library this week.
Take a look at the Amazon list if you’re interested in some of my top recommendations, readings, and good coffees or teas (since I’m somewhat of an expert at those as well). This list grows throughout each week. To drop by The Study this week CLICK HERE
i. Readings with my sons
Time with our youngest
I assist in the homeschool readings each day. One of the things I look forward to the most is the morning Bible and devotional readings with our youngest son. At times he is rambunctious to say the least. He’s an early riser whose often awake before the rest of us. He’s also a little sneaky at times. So that means he has time to sneak before anyone is awake enough to take a peak at what he’s up to. Recently, our devotions hit him between the running lights.
Do you remember why God made us? He made us to love Him, to praise Him, and to live for Him. And He tells us that we will be happy if we love and obey and praise Him. But sin whispers naughty things in our hearts. Sin tells us to disobey. The sin in our hearts makes us cross and angry and selfish. Sin puts fun and play and other things first, and we forget to put God first. God’s law says we must love Him best of all. Our hearts say, “Me first.”
In my study time with our youngest son, this particular point turned into a major discussion. In his own way, he started dodging the point, evading, justifying, hiding behind the couch pillow (classic defense mechanisms). I kept pressing the issue gently, telling him he was not in trouble, but also emphasizing that we had to discuss it. His guard eventually came down.
The truth is, we all put other things before God at times, even if they are playful things that seem innocent. At some point, as with our youngest son, our guard eventually has to come down so we can admit that anything that we put before God is sin, even if it’s ourselves.
A common read with our oldest
Our oldest son is starting Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, a classic that I highly recommend for any personal Christian library. I’ve studied it before, but I’ve been looking forward to this time to share this common read. There are new essays in this 40th anniversary edition. Once again, I’m struck by Richard Foster’s ability to be relevant and to critique our culture in these new essays.
There is one major difference that has occurred in the past forty years that does indeed impinge upon the spiritual life. I can state it in one word: distraction. Distraction is the primary spiritual problem in contemporary culture. Frankly, when we are perpetually distracted, we are unable to discern the Kol Yahweh, the voice of the Lord.
Foster offers a spiritual exercise to aid with distraction, an exercise that can develop into a new life rhythm. I’ll let you discover his answers for yourself. In general, a habit that overcomes habit is sometimes necessary, but a Christian practice is a blessed activity that can help us form a new rhythm of the soul.
I wonder if my readings with my youngest and oldest are not that far apart. In the language of a child, are we playing too much and putting ourselves before God? In the language of grown ups, are we distracted too much and allowing our fast paced lives to drown out the voice of God?
ii. Ministerial readings
I’m returning to a book I’ve been wanting to complete for quite some time. This is a tremendous work, given to me by a college professor in the Christian denomination. He said this is a standard textbook for that organization.
As someone who has studied group and marriage systems, I find this systems approach to the church to be profound. The premise of the book is that we have a variety of systems at work in our culture today, both to our benefit and our dismay. The Christian pastor or leader has the ever-increasing burden of working with multiple systems in a congregation.
People can live side by side, even within the same family, but not perceive the world’s complexity alike. And it is our perception of complexity, not the actuality of it, that triggers new thinking systems. The complexity of our existence, in other words, is a subjective reality, not an objective one.There is no difference of intelligence between people in one system or another. They have just grown to see the world differently.
Marriage and family
One example of this difference could possibly be seen in marriage and family. I’ve unearthed a study that compared the quality of family life to church attendance and Christian practices in the home.
If you were to pick only 1 partner, the husband or wife, to send to church, which one would you pick?
The study showed that when the husband goes to church alone, the quality of family life is 19 points better than if the wife attends church alone. How important then is the husband-church connection?
The research only reported the stats, but didn’t try to interpret them. Of course the quality of the family increases when both husband and wife attend church. The research also showed that inside the home, the single greatest factor for a better home is a couple that prays together! It’s greater than any other demographic.
An educated guess: Blending the readings
In our marketplace workforce, how common is it for marriage and family to be heralded as a company value? When I was in college, I was working for a well known outlet membership club. Then I got married and I noticed a raise in my hourly pay on my check. When I questioned one of my managers, he said the club values marriage, and honors the decision I had made.
How often do we see that type of reward in our society today? We may be rewarded for holding to a higher standard of business ethics, but family values? That’s another question.
My interpretation may be too simple. We operate at certain levels of systematic thinking correlating to our families, place of employment, school background, etc.
Then what happens when we enter a healthy church system? We’re challenged with an ancient system, one that has been around for 2,000 years. We’re challenged with a Kingdom system, not a democratic or marketplace system. We come face to face with our benevolent King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Indeed, we begin to adapt to a system that turns the systems of the world on their heads (Acts 17.6).
If you’re interested in tracking with me, I have a list that I’ll be updating each week on Amazon. This will show how you can purchase books that I’m utilizing in my studies. You can also pick up other necessities, like coffees and teas. I may also include other items of interest from time to time, so take a look at my readings and library.
To see the new list, The Study this week CLICK HERE
Pastor, Long Lake Friends Church
Traverse City, MI
JC Ingle, Inc.
Ministry | Speaking Engagements | Individual, Couple, and Family Therapy with supervision