Discernment, Reading

Developing Discernment in Choices for Reading: Why it Matters

“I think I will just read dead people,” I remarked as the penned words (freshly planted in my memory) hit the trash can. Confirmation of early morning news revealed the deplorable acts committed by a popular author, grandson of an evangelical icon. Yet, the flow of his work, piercing words camouflaged as wisdom, lurked in the crevices of my mind. Developing discernment in choices for reading is vital.

Reading Christian authors can help guide us into growth-producing habits fostering well being. Although, when lacking theological wisdom, they can distort readers’ understanding of the gospel and encourage practices that foster spiritual ill being. Sadly, reliance on a best seller’s list or label is not helpful – Popularity is no indicator of solidity. How can Christians learn to discern which books are worth reading and which to avoid?

TIP ONE: Never judge a book by its cover.

Do your homework.Jackets are marketing ploys using catchy titles and trendy graphics. Drawing the reader’s eye, they rarely offer hints to an unbiblical worldview promoted by some well-intentioned Christian authors. Today’s publishers meet responsible Christians with a need to do research beyond summaries and endorsements: At the very least, Google the author’s church membership and education. Remember, guard your heart and mind: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7

TIP TWO: Question modern-day writings. They are not the Gospel.

Today’s authors often prey on emotions and vulnerability of women. Mysticism and felt-needs psychology are woven into writings, subtly leading the reader to a spirituality more about experiences than beliefs. Publications undermining Scripture (masked in “I feel” and “I think” and not what God’s Word says) warrant rejection. These unhealthy core teachings of a writer’s work spill over into the reader’s thinking. Stand guard against the enemy: “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” – Romans 1:21

We’ve become reckless and lazy in our choices, reading memes of positivity and superficial devotionals. Despite their use of biblical language, the voice of many authors is not the Gospel. Whitewashing our sin and desperation of forgiveness diminishes the central message of the Christian faith. The uniqueness of salvation and our identity in Jesus Christ is at the heart of spiritual growth.

Above all, any book distorting the gospel has no place in the hands of a Christian reader. Quite the contrary, works on the attributes of God, apologetics, and spiritual disciplines of the Christian life are faith building! When coupled with Scripture, Christ-centered reading inspires awe and prompts change. Seeking God-honoring life enrichment, rooted in biblical truth, acknowledges He has spoken amidst the pages of Scripture. Period. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8

TIP THREE: Read!

Return to the classics. Pick up a novel. Read for sheer pleasure and have a heart of gratitude for all of God’s good gifts to us! That is to say, not all books at our bedside must bear the name of Christ. In the event they do, His name deserves being represented rightly.

For additional help, see: https://debbieswindell.com/2019/04/30/read-but-read-well/

Biblical Counseling, Reading, Uncategorized

Love and Marriage

The chasm between the biblical vision and society’s view of love and marriage has never been broader. It rings true that previous generations’ view of marriage was never high enough but we have reached a low, casual attitude of both what constitutes marriage and warrants it disposable. What would seem ludicrous in generations past has become the norm. Marriage is fundamentally God’s own design, confirmed by Jesus in Mark 10:8.

He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 19:4–6). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 2:24–25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 

 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 10:8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

Love doesn’t come easily and as a counselor, I see women who’ve become tired and frustrated in marriage. It takes intentional work and time to model God’s good design. Much like other relationships, love is best shared when applying biblical principles. It’s shameful that many couples are no longer willing to exercise patience, preferring to simply throw in the towel. David Powlison said it best, “It’s no accident “Love is patient” comes first in 1 Corinthians 13. Patience isn’t very dramatic, but it counts.” 

If we are to be biblical Christians, God will be honored in our relationships. The book titles I refer to time and again are: God, Marriage, and Family by Andreas Kostenberger, Preparing for Marriage by by Boehi, Nelson, and Shadrach (edited by Dennis Rainey), What did you Expect? by Paul Tripp, and The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller.

Below are words penned by Timothy Keller in his book, The Meaning of Marriage. Whether you are long-time married or merely contemplating marriage, I suggest you read Keller’s book.

“Our culture says that feelings of love are the basis for actions of love. And of course that can be true. But it is truer to say that actions of love can lead consistently to feelings of love.”

“Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!” 

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” 

“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” 

“You can only afford to be generous if you actually have some money in the bank to give. In the same way, if your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, then anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief but a psychological cataclysm. If, however, you know something of the work of the Spirit in your life, you have enough love “in the bank” to be generous to your spouse even when you are not getting much affection or kindness at the moment.” 

“Only with time do we really learn who the other person is and come to love the person for him- or herself and not just for the feelings and experiences they give us.” 

“What marriage is for: It is a way for two spiritual friends to help each other on their journey to become the persons God designed them to be.” 

Reading, Reading List

Top Ten + Two

Throughout the year I’ve shared book titles for pleasure and purpose. I am grateful for published authors whose education far exceeds my own; many good men and women have spent the bulk of their lives learning, teaching, and sharing through writings as their life’s vocation. Aside from my own continued learning, I am an advocate for women to learn, enjoy, and share God’s Word. In this blog post I will share the top ten book titles aiding my Bible understanding, expanding my knowledge of theology and the church, and those offering wisdom that speaks to the Christian life.

10) Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End by David Gibson reminds us of how living our lives in the present should be shaped by what is certain at life’s end. Seeing life as God’s wondrous gift frees us to live wisely and faithfully, Gibson engages the reader with his retelling of Ecclesiastes. I found this book especially helpful with long-term planning and decision making.

9) Knowing and Growing in Assurance of Faith by Joel R. Beeke is a book that will bring comforting peace to the child of God who is trapped in doubting her assurance of faith. Tackling the hard topics of both easy believism and hard believism Beeke presents a thorough biblical case.

8) Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Paul David Tripp is an honest yet compelling book of comfort. Tripp offers an empathetic ear without trivializing our own sufferings. Personally, I found this book timely and helpful. This is an important book in the life of the church as we come alongside one another.

7) Maturity: Growing Up and Going On in the Christian Life by Sinclair Ferguson focuses on the important lesson the New Testament has to teach us about the process of Christian growth to spiritual maturity. Rooted in the reality of the Christian life, Ferguson seeks to show what maturity is and how it is to be obtained. For me, this book prompted reflection time and again.

6) Knowing Christianity by J.I. Packer turns our attention to the central doctrines of God, the Bible, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. As the author explores the principal elements of the Christian life, his book offers help and hope from the unchanging truth of God. Packer offers much more than the latest self-help books, laying out a vast picture of the Christian faith.

5) Christianity at the Crossroads: How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Church by Michael J. Kruger is a readable and well-researched book. With little writing for the lay person on this time period, I had great appreciation for the author’s work. Through Kruger’s summaries, the reader is presented with practical data of the transitions faced by Christians in the second century that would determine the future of the church. I gained better understanding of Christianity as well as the church we know today. My only regret is that I had not read it sooner.

4) The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life: Connecting Christ to Human Experience by Jeremy Pierre is written specifically for counselors and shepherds. A Professor of Biblical Counseling, Pierre provides biblical truth as he shows how to carefully make diagnoses. While sharpening the counselor’s skills in remedy by way of scripture, he takes us into sound doctrine while equipping us to help with wisdom and love. This book is a discovery of a dynamic relationship with God and how it changes the way people respond to every other aspect of life. Pierre’s work is endorsed by Ed Welch, Bruce Ware, Russell Moore, and Alistair Begg.

3) The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders is a readable book on the Trinitarian shape of evangelical faith and practice. Sanders writes, “Nothing we do as evangelicals makes sense if it is divorced from a strong experiential and doctrinal grasp of the coordinated work of Jesus and the Spirit, worked out against the horizon of the Father’s love.” With a personal study guide included, I believe this book would be ideal for life application and group discussion. This book was a staple when teaching the Doctrine of the Trinity.

2) Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper is a reminder that Christians often pit thinking and feeling against each other. This book’s focus helps us to consider how thinking and things of the heart glorify God together. This book is helpful to any woman whose desire is to learn and grow in the Christian faith. I highly recommend Think to those who attend the Sunday evening class, Let’s Do Theology. My personal copy is on loan to my granddaughter. It’s an important read!

1) None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God by Matthew Barrett addresses how Christians have domesticated God, bringing him down to our level. Rightly lifting Him up as the Creator rather than the creature, Barrett presents the attributes of God as the most perfect, supreme being. This excellent book lays out clear, accessible terms in his glossary (helping the reader track the argument throughout the book). I found Barrett’s glossary superior to others in the comprehension of these particular theological terms. Without question, this was my best read of 2019. None Greater was an excellent resource in preparing to teach the communicable and incommunicable attributes of God.

+2) Last but not least, I would be remiss if I did not list two recurring titles in my yearly reading. Knowing God by J.I. Packer and The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer are two classics. Whether reading Tozer’s focus on the attributes of God, or J.I. Packer’s significant book on the glory and joy of knowing God, each time I am left better equipped to deal with basic spiritual truths in a practical way.

I hope my list encourages reading the works of these skilled authors. May you grow in grace and knowledge in the upcoming year.

Gradual growth in grace, growth in knowledge, growth in faith, growth in love, growth in holiness, growth in humility, growth in spiritual-mindedness – all this I see clearly taught and urged in Scripture, and clearly exemplified in the lives of many of God’s saints. But sudden, instantaneous leaps from conversion to consecration I fail to see in the Bible. – J.C. Ryle

Reading

Digging Deeper

Recent weeks brought me to a place of digging deeper for the purpose of affirming what I had known as truth. In addition to my personal Bible studies, I read several books whose titles I will share with you here. My quest was to explore complementarianism going beyond the 1988 Danvers Statement (https://cbmw.org/about/danvers-statement/) and search for the church’s position throughout history. You should know that questions from women in my local church and community prompted my quest. In addition to biblical text, accompanied by numerous systematic theologies and commentaries, I found these resources helpful:

Wayne Grudem, Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood – writers explore key issues, including the interchangeability of male-female roles.

Andreas J. Kostenberger & Thomas R. Schreiner, Women in the Church – concluding the unfolding of biblical text in depth, they offer a roundtable discussion of women’s voices.

Michael J. Kruger, Christianity at the Crossroads – summarizes the best of contemporary research about second-century Christianity.

Diana Lynn Severance, Feminine Threads: Women in the Tapestry of Christian History – encouragement through the telling of faith of ordinary women humbly trusting the Word of God and living to serve. Deeply researched survey of the last 2,000 years.

Kathleen Nielson, Women & God – A conversational book about what God says about women. Unpacks some difficult passages many want to avoid.

Goal Setting & Decision Making, Reading

Finishing Well

I’m often asked, “What’s the end-game?” Viewing life in light of 2 Timothy 1, Colossians 1:28, Titus 2, Matthew 28:18-20, and Acts 1:8, my “end-game” is to finish well. It is for the glory of God I live this life, and all things I do in His name I commit to Him. To do all things well and to represent Him rightly is my desire. Redeeming this time for eternity will be the laurels I lay at the feet of my Savior. Albeit, my attempts are feeble and at the mercy of His completion. Wisdom calls me to consider the brevity of life in long-term goal setting and decision making.

It’s not how we start; it’s how we finish that is of most value. There is no greater example of finishing well than the life of Paul. Paul endured beatings, imprisonment, false accusation, and difficulties most of us can only imagine. Yet at life’s end, he passed the torch to Timothy and spurred him on. Finishing strong requires courage; Paul’s bravery was intentional and God-supplied. No matter life’s hardships and circumstances, we become our best selves when we are aligning direction with God, resting in his grace, delighting in his mercy, and keeping hope for life eternal. 

  • 2 Corinthians 11:16-33
  • 1 Corinthians 9:24-25
  • 2 Timothy 4:6-8
  • 1 Corinthians 15:58

I will let you know that my phase of goal-setting and decision-making has proved profitable. Through prayer, Bible study, reading, and receiving counsel, I have gained better understanding of where and how many good things before me come together. David Gibson’s book, Living Life Backward, I have found to be helpful as an exposition of the book of Ecclesiastes. I can’t say it was my favorite book, but it was timely. I enjoyed the questions asked in the book for personal reflection. Here are a few quotes from the book. Stick with me because the last is best.

Death can radically enable us to enjoy life. By relativizing all that we do in our days under the sun, death can change us from people who want to control life for gain into people who find deep joy in receiving life as a gift…life in God’s world is gift, not gain.

If you haven’t ever wondered why it matters what you do, given that one day you will be a forgotten nobody, then you haven’t thought much about the reality of death.

The very limitation that death introduces into our life can instruct us about life. Think of it as death’s helping hand.

But the wise person sits at the funeral home and stares at the coffin and realizes that one day it will be his turn. The wise person asks himself, “When it is my turn, what will my life have been worth? What will they be saying about me?” He loved his bowling and his partying and his holidays. Is that it?

The sermons death preaches can tell us more about the way we love and the way we live than we ever realize is actually going on while we love and live.

To die well means I realize death is not simply something that happens to me; it happens to me because I am a sinner.

Preparing to die means thinking about how to live.

The path of wisdom along life’s road is to enjoy the gifts God has given you, the simple things that give you pleasure…God takes pleasure in your pleasure.

Ecclesiastes urges us to think about life under the sun from the perspective of life above the sun…Think about time from the standpoint of eternity. What you do, and how you do it, matters because God will bring everything and everyone to the day of judgment.

Your friendships aren’t there to bolster your confidence or your security or self-image so that you can now go and do something with your life. Don’t use people like that; your friendships are themselves the gift.

Putting one foot in the grave is the way to plant the other on the path of life.

Human destiny rests on a word of divine promise.

We can labor for Christ while we live, and we can live with Christ when we die. Your death and the judgment to follow – the great fixed points of your life – are the very things that can reach back from the future into today and transform the life God has given you to live.

Reading

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day! All you moms get to church this morning. Let’s worship and give praise to our God for the privilege of being who He made us to be. Count your blessings one by one and name by name. May we give thanks for all God has done.

As Paul Tripp so wisely penned, “Like everything else God calls people to, God doesn’t call people to be parents because they are able…God did not create human beings to be independently able; he designed us to be dependent. It is not a sign of personal weakness or failure of character to feel unable as a parent…Independent ability, like independent righteousness, is a delusion.” May we understand our inability and give credit to our God for any parenting successes. HE is able.

Today we celebrate moms but as a grandmother, I’ve entered the phase of spiritual mothering: women mentoring women. And what a joy it is! I’m sharing with you this morning two great parenting titles and one on mentoring:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp 
Parenting – 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp  
Spiritual Mothering – The Titus 2 Model For Women Mentoring Women by Sunsan Hunt