Manly or Godly?

Manly or Godly?

Announcements Word in Season

I have never really considered myself a very “manly” individual, but not for a lack of trying. Growing up I hunted, lifted, weights, and worked on the ranch hoping to show my prowess as a mighty provider. Yet, as I got older I never felt like I was much of a man. It did not seem like I had the characteristics that make a boy a man.

When I got to college, other Christian men came around me and taught me the importance of God’s Word and encouraged me to search the Bible for answers. So I dug in deep! I found stories of great warriors and kings that inspired me and challenged me, but I also saw stories of women with great courage and strength that did the same. As I searched the Scripture, I noticed that there were few, if any, character qualities that God designated just for men. Both men and women are called to be strong, courageous, humble, kind, gentle, peaceful, and self-controlled. All Christians – no matter the gender – should persevere, fight for the faith, and run the race. In all my reading I never found a call to “manly” characteristics; instead, I found a much more challenging call.

God doesn’t call me to be like the great warriors of the past. God calls me to be like himself!

In 1 Peter 1:14-15, Peter wrote the following words to persecuted believers, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you are also to be holy in all your conduct.” You see, I found that God does not call me to be like the great warriors of the past. He calls me to be like him! Paul wrote to Timothy and told him to “train yourself for godliness.” His call on the character and conduct of Timothy is not to be manly, but rather to be godly. What a challenge!

Notice that these are not statements about who we are, but rather statements of what we are to become; who we are to train to be. If a man wants to be strong or fast, he trains. If he wants to be the best pitcher, hunter, mechanic, doctor, or teacher that he can be, he trains. None of those skill sets come naturally. Being godly does not come naturally, either. We must work at it. We must train for it.

But where do we train? To build muscles, we have gyms. To grow professionally, we have schools and conferences. To train in godliness, Christ gave us his church. The church is meant to be a place – a fellowship – for us to train in godly disciplines.

For this reason, the Ridgeview Men’s Group will be going through “Disciplines of a Godly Man“, by R. Kent Hughes. This book will challenge us to seek godliness in all aspects of our lives from purity to studying God’s word to leadership. Along with godly disciplines we will talk about the roles that the Scriptures give men to fulfill such as being a husband, son, father, friend, and leader in the church.

Join us, every Thursday at 6:30AM.

Do You Do Well, Joe?

Do You Do Well, Joe?

Word in Season

Over the first five weeks of the fall, we studied the book of Jonah with the Main Adult Sunday School class. There are many lessons about the hardness of the human heart and the loving compassion of God in those four short chapters. Below is a short recap that hopefully will inspire you to dig deep into this book and God’s word.

I hope it also encourages anyone on the fence to join us Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM as we go through God’s Word together. It is a gold mine of hope, encouragement and calls to action.

God:
Do you do well to disobey me, Joe?
My command was certain that you should proclaim, mercy to your enemies—those whom you hate.
Their evil hearts before me, condemn them to eternal shame.
Warn sinners of my coming judgment, their sin before God, not man.
Was it wise for you to try and thwart my plan?

Have I been unreliable? Have my commands ever failed in the past?
Am I the God of optional plans that bend upon fate and man?

Joe:
Yes I do well, God!
I know you are reliable, and that’s why I’m disobeying.
Your plan must be wrong. What you command has a flaw.
Those evil wicked people, deserve death that’s why I’m flying

[God pursues Joe and exposes his sin and disobedience. But rather than repenting of his sin, Joe would rather continue in his rebellion (Jonah 1:4-16)]

God:
Joe, do you do well in the midst of the storm? Do you do well to give up on your life?
Your disobedience was for naught.
None can run from my presence, don’t you know?
I have pursued you with trials and exposed you with man’s devices.
My plans are never thwarted by feeble disobedience, or have you forgot?

Joe, do you do well to want death over repentance? Don’t you see you are in the wrong? You disobeyed me, and are embracing the consequences.

Joe:
Yes, I do well! I will not obey.
I’d rather be dead than see goodness extended.
You must be missing how evil these sinners are.
They don’t deserve mercy, that’s why I am justified
I’m sparing them from your mercy, from being Your children they are protected

I will die now; I am indifferent.
To the pit I will go; cast me in it.

[Joe in the pit and the depths of his sin (Jonah 1:15-2:10]

Joe:
God, please help!
I went into the deep. I hit rock bottom. My life was almost done.
And in those final breaths, one thing was on my heart—it was not disobedience.
Save me God! You are my rock and hope.
Dead men can’t praise you.
Let these lunges breathe anew, my life I give to you.

God:
You are forgiven, though the grave you deserve. I will be merciful,
To the depths of the sea, your transgressions are removed.
And your life, I will spare, transport you back to earth
Now do well to obey me. It’s is truly for your best.
The mercy you’ve received is not greater than the rest.

[Joe obeys, God saves evil sinners, but Joe gets angry (Jonah 3:1-4:4)]

God:
Do you do well to be angry at me, Joe? Is your anger right?

Joe:
Yes I am right, God. Yes I am justified.
I wanted to save you from extending your mercy. I wanted to help you avoid giving grace.
That thing that you did was totally not right.
You saved sinful people, they weren’t even your own children. You made yourself dirty by extending your grace.
This thing done is evil!
I knew you would do it, it’s why I disobeyed at the first.
I wanted to save you from being tarnished,
These dirty sinners make you look the worse.
You were meant to stay pure and clean and only to extend grace to good people like me.

[Joe sits down in hope that God will bring judgment to the evil sinners. God gives Joe some comfort in the form of a thing then takes the thing away after a day. Joe gets angry (Jonah 4:5-11)]

God:
Do you do well to be angry about losing that thing, Joe?
I gave it to you then took it away. You didn’t earn it or make it.
What right do you have to be so upset?
That thing you love, is it worth such a fit?

Joe:
Yes, Yes, Yes I do!
That thing gave me comfort. That thing gave me joy.
I loved that thing. That thing protected me.
It’s not fair. It’s not just.
How can you take away what I love most?
Death is preferred to the injustice of this life!
Why live in a world where things flee from me as a ghost.

God:
Joe, do you see the problem? It’s in your heart.
You think things that you love are top on my chart.
You think things that you hate, I should hate too.
You want me to be God, but God in Joe’s shoes.
You’ve dreamed me up to be someone like you. But I’m not.
Joe, you think you are clean and deserving of mercy, and think no one below you could ever be worthy.
You want people to earn my love and affection, but have you done anything to earn me?
You love your little comfort things more than people. How is that anything but evil?
You’d rather see judgment on souls than my love to win.

I am not you, Joe. I am God.
Everything I do is right and just.
I have mercy on those I will and I extend judgment on the unrepentant.
My ways are higher. My ways are greater.
Your low opinion of me makes you worthy of the grave.
Do you not see the grace all around you? What did you do to receive it from me?
Was it your status or work, or family tree? No, I gave you mercy when you deserved death. You were down in the pit, and I gave you a lift.
You are not better. You are not more worthy.
So, stop playing judge and jury.

Joe:
God, I am broken. You’ve exposed my sin. I do love my things more than souls,
my heart is sick from within.
You are God, I am not. You get to choose who deserves your mercy.
My sick heart cannot match your grace.
I will write of your compassion upon my poor life.
It will not be pretty, from this sinner’s perspective,
But God, you will shine, your compassion overflowing.

New Elder: John Dockweiler

New Elder: John Dockweiler

Announcements Word in Season

We are pleased to announce the appointment of John Dockweiler as an elder of Ridgeview Bible Church. After a process of prayer, a time for congregational input, and a sweeping vote of affirmation from the congregation last Sunday, the existing elders believe that God has led us to John as the one to join the elder team. John has accepted the position.

We will present John to the congregation this Sunday and pray together for him and his ministry. Please be praying for John and the other elders (Jason, Devin, Mike, Rob and Jim) as we seek to humbly lead and lovingly shepherd Ridgeview, for the glory of God and for the good of his people.

John & Ann are longtime members of Ridgeview, and John leads one of the adult Sunday School classes. They ranch east of town, and Ann is a registered nurse. They have one grown son, Cole. You can listen to a sermon by John here [link], and a testimony he shared during a worship gathering earlier this year by clicking here [link].

The Gospel Changes Everything

The Gospel Changes Everything

Word in Season

The gospel changes everything. Jesus and the good news of his life, death, and resurrection change everything. One perfect life, one perfect sacrifice, one perfect substitute, one king seated eternally at the right hand of God changes everything. Hostility between sinners and a holy God turns into peace (Ephesians 2:14). Dead people are set free from sin and become slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18). By grace alone through faith alone, to the glory of God alone changes everything. 

Nowhere in the Bible is this more clear than the life of Paul. From Christain killer to quite possibly the greatest missionary who’s ever lived. What a gift we have in God’s word as we can watch the Lord do this miraculous work in Paul’s life. What does, “everything” actually look like? 

Radical Lack of Self-centeredness: Paul is willing to lay down his freedom in Christ if it will help others know Christ and accept the gospel (1 Cor 9:19). He gladly forsakes his rights, preferences, and comforts if they put obstacles in the way of the gospel (1 Cor 8:13). He views himself as a servant to all for one purpose: “that I might win more of them” (1 Cor 9:19). He spends time understanding the people he is trying to reach with the gospel, becoming as much like them as he can, even when that is an uncomfortable inconvenience to him personally. He overlooks being misrepresented by jealous brothers aiming to take advantage of their opportunity to shine as Paul sits in a dark prison cell. Why? Because of the joy he has over Christ being preached (Philippians 1:16-18). His name means nothing, but Christ’s name, now that means everything to Paul. When Christ is exalted, Paul rejoices, no matter the cost to his reputation. 

Unusual Motivations for Living: How does Paul view life? “To live is Christ” he says in Philippians 1:21. If he is released from prison he will rejoice because this means he can continue to work for the sake of Christ. That is what he clings to in this world. Fruitful labor! And this “fruitful labor” (Philippians 1:22) means that other believers will progress and mature in their faith. What joy this is for Paul. He is willing to deny himself the gain of death for the spiritual wellbeing of others (Philippians 1:25). He says one of his main motivations in evangelizing is so that he can share with believers in the blessings of Christ! Paul labors so he can enjoy the gospel with other believers (1 Cor 9:23). Paul sees that Christ is worth more than everything so he gladly suffers the loss of all things so he can know and be known in Christ (Philippians 3:8-11). This is what is top of mind for Paul. This is what he lives for and aspires to. 

Focused Fellowship: Paul’s closest relationships were with other Christians and these relationships centered around their work together to spread the gospel. Paul thanks God for the Philippians because of their partnership with him in defending and spreading the gospel (Philippians 1:3-7). Their relationship has been strengthened and deepened by witnessing God’s grace played out in each others’ lives (Philippians 1:7) and a shared mission to bring much glory to Jesus. He has deep affection for other believers (Philippians 1:8) and this love means he will warn them when they have strayed (Galatians 1:6-9, 1 Cor 3:1-4) and pray unceasingly for them to grow in deep spiritual matters (Ephesians 1:15-22). We see him intentionally, and most likely at a great cost to his personal time, discipling a younger brother, Timothy; training him up in the way he should go (See all of 2 Timothy). 

Everyday Influence: In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul addresses a myriad of topics: arrogance, sexual immorality, lawsuits, singleness, married unions, work, diet, relationships within the church, relationships outside the church, and more. He sees all of these things as being under the influence of the gospel. In fact, we see that, for Paul, there is nothing in a Christians life that remains outside the influence of the gospel. He has died and now it is Christ who lives in him (Galatians 2:20). 

High Expectations: It is easy to brush Paul off as an uber special dose of Christian. An unattainable sort of Christian. However, it becomes harder to do that when we read his instructions to other believers that go along with his examples. Imitate me (1 Corinthians 4:16), follow my example (Philippians 4:9), learn from me (1 Corinthians 4:6). “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1. Paul’s life is one to be followed because he is imitating the only one worthy of being followed, Jesus! 

Have we taken the gospel that changes everything and made it into a gospel that changes very little?

And now we come to the heart of the matter. If we are honest, as we look around our churches, is the way the gospel affected Paul the exception? Have we taken the gospel that changes everything and made it into a gospel that changes very little? We take just enough gospel to feel good but not too much that it inconveniences the comfortable lives we love. We want the gospel and the path that is wide and easy. That gospel doesn’t exist in the Bible. That gospel minimizes Christ and exalts oneself. On the contrary, the gospel we see at work in Paul’s life, exalts Christ alone. 

This knowledge of God, his Son, and the work of the Holy Spirit hasn’t yet reached and worked in our hearts and lives the way God intended. Where do we go from here? We repent and turn to the only one who can change us. We pray Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1 and 3 (Ephesians 1:15-22, Ephesians 3:14-21), pleading with our Father that we understand more so we can be wholly transformed.  We strive together side by side for the faith of the gospel (Philippians 1:27). We throw off contentment and continue to press forward with our eyes fixed on Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14). We remember we have no confidence in ourselves to do this work but that our confidence remains solely in Christ (Philippians 3:3). We continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) until the gospel truly does change everything about us, to the praise and glory of God. Amen!

 

Member Vote Next Sunday

Member Vote Next Sunday

Announcements

As we have announced for the last two Sundays, next Sunday (October 6, 2019), immediately following the Worship Gathering, we will have a brief Members’ Meeting to vote on whether to add John Dockweiler to the elder team. If you’re a Ridgeview member please plan to be here to be a part of this important decision. But if you can’t make it, there is still a way that you can vote. You can submit your vote via email.

The official voting question will be as follows and you can cut and paste this into an email:

Full name:_______________

Are you a member of Ridgeview Bible Church?

Yes___  No___  Unsure___

Will you affirm God’s leading through the elders in regards to John Dockweiler becoming an elder of Ridgeview Bible Church?

Yes__

No__

For your vote to count, please email this to elders@ridgeviewbiblechurch.com by Sunday morning, October 6, 2019.

He is Our Refuge

He is Our Refuge

Word in Season

Adversity is coming your way. A day, a year, a long season. It will look different for each of us, but it is coming. This isn’t supposed to invoke fear, it is just a matter of fact for all followers of Christ.

The way is hard that leads to life, Jesus says (Matthew 7:14). Paul warns the Ephesians to prepare for battle (Ephesians 6:10-20). Peter even goes so far as to say that believers shouldn’t be surprised at the trials they are facing as though something strange is happening (1 Peter 4:12). Open the Bible and it is everywhere, from Abraham to the Prophets, John the Baptist to the Apostles. Of course, our Savior, Jesus, suffered greatly in his life. In following him we should expect to share in his sufferings.

Adversity is coming your way. You need a refuge.

Years ago, on a family vacation to the Rocky Mountains, my brother and I decided to try out rock
climbing. We hired a guide, geared up, and started to climb the face of an actual mountain. There were
no pre-determined places to grab with our hands or solid foot placements. No ledges that provided a
nice rest for our burning forearms. A place that looked friendly to grab could crumble under our weight.
A nice spot to place our foot for leverage may not be as sturdy as we thought. It was a vastly unknown
landscape with little to no direction to guide us. We were without a refuge.

Thankfully, God has not left us in this state when he brings the day of adversity our way. He, himself, is
our perfect and all-sufficient refuge during the storms of life.

The prophet Nahum has a message to deliver to the people of Nineveh. It is full of God’s justice, wrath,
power, and ability to do whatever he wills to make wrongs right. God is against the people of Nineveh
(Nahum 2:13), but in the midst of this sobering message, Nahum brings hope. If you read too fast, you
may miss it. It is hope for us as well.

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.” Nahum 1:7.

The LORD is good. Period. The Bible leaves no room to question God’s goodness. He is good. We need a refuge who is good, all the time. Turn to him and trust in his goodness. He never changes. He is always
good.

The LORD is a stronghold. In the day of trouble, where will you wait out the fight? The enemy is
encamped outside your door; will your place of refuge hold? God, himself, is the impenetrable fortress
that can withstand any attack.

The LORD knows. He sees all who come to him for refuge. He knows you are turning to him for help. He sees, he knows. He is there, with you.

The Psalms are full of wisdom about God. Psalm 37 gives us much more to consider about God, our
refuge.

He loves justice (Psalm 37:28). What could be better than a refuge who loves justice? He will make all
things right. He loves doing that.

He helps those who take refuge in him (Psalm 37:40). He doesn’t just see, he helps. He is our deliverer from all evil.

He upholds. (Psalm 37:24) A refuge that protects, but also takes you by the hand so your stumble
doesn’t turn into a fall. A gentle guide when your steps seem shaky.

He foils even the best plots. (Psalm 37:12-13). Nothing surprises him. Plot after plot, attack after attack, and he laughs. He is a refuge who is never caught off guard and always has the upper hand, the final say. He brings the day of adversity (Ecclesiastes 7:14). It is all in his hands, his control.

Ultimately, there is a day of adversity no one can escape. Death. God provides refuge for this day as
well. We know our sin condemns us, our mouths are shut before the holy one. We stand guilty. Christ’s
perfect life, death, and resurrection has secured our redemption. We have a refuge in the forgiveness
that comes through his sacrifice. His life for ours. All who believe in the name of Jesus shall be saved
(John 11:26). Jesus is our peace. He has broken down the hostility between us and God (Ephesians 2:14). He is our continual refuge as he sits at the right hand of God, advocating on our behalf (1 John 2:1).
Praise God!

Where are you turning? If it isn’t to God, it isn’t a refuge that will carry you through life and death.
Adversity is coming your way. May the LORD be your refuge.

Brent Bargen, 1969-2019

Brent Bargen, 1969-2019

Word in Season

It was with great sadness that we learned of the passing of former Chadron State basketball coach, Brent Bargen, on May 12th in Lincoln. Brent and his wife, Leslie, attended Ridgeview regularly during their last few years in Chadron. Ridgeview was also grateful for his involvement and input at our Thursday morning men’s group. Brent was integral in the re-formation of the Chadron State Fellowship of Christian Athletes Huddle, which had not been active on campus for several years.

Although Brent had a passion for coaching, his former players agree that his impact went beyond the basketball court. His faith in Christ was the motivating factor behind his influence and desire to develop young men of integrity and character. Coach Bargen was a father to many of his players. He was demanding, on the court and in the classroom. There was never a doubt that his expectations for his players were grounded in his love for Jesus.

There’s no doubt that Brent would tell you he wasn’t perfect, but that was his reminder to seek daily the gift of God’s grace through Jesus. Chadron State, FCA, Ridgeview, and Nebraska are all better, more Christ-centered places because of Brent.

He will be missed. Even so, we know that Brent Bargen’s legacy and rock-solid faith will continue to make an impact for the Kingdom for years to come.

Why Two Easters?

Why Two Easters?

Moments in History

All around the world Christians celebrate Easter. On that day we come together to remember and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. However, not all Christians meet on the same day of the year. There are two different days (most years) that Christians around the world celebrate Easter. You may wonder why. The answer is found in the pages of church history.

The early Christian church did not have a set date to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Most churches recognized the holiday on any given Sunday in spring. So when the First Nicaean Council was held in 351 AD on the agenda was when Christians should celebrate Easter. The council made a twofold decision, 1) Easter should be celebrated on the same day by all Christians and 2) Easter should be independent of the Jewish Passover Feast. Before the council, many Christian churches consulted the Jewish calendar and celebrated Easter after Passover. The Council of Nicaea decided that Easter was a Christian holiday that should be celebrated separately from the Jewish calendar. The Council did not decide a specific computation for Easter at Nicaea. It took many years for the church to decide when to hold the holiday.

Easter was one of the many Christian rituals affected by the Great Schism.

Eventually, it was decided that Easter would be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox (the first day of spring). However, by the time this computation was settled, the church was not as unified as it once was. In 1054 AD, the church suffered a split known as the Great Schism. The schism split Christianity into the Western and Eastern Churches. Easter was one of the many Christian rituals affected by the schism. While Western Christians used the Gregorian calendar, Eastern Christians used the Julian calendar. Also, the Eastern Church decided that Easter should always follow the Jewish Passover. These two differences put the Eastern celebration later in the spring than the Western.

In the West, Easter falls between March 22nd and April 25th. In the East, Easter is between April 4th and May 8th. Some years, such as 2010 and 2011, Easter lands on the same day in both the East and The West. This year, Christians in Western countries will celebrate Easter on April 21st. Eastern churches, in countries like Romania and Russia, will celebrate on April 28th. The dates are different but the purpose of the holiday is the same.

All believers recognize Easter as a time to celebrate Christ’s victory on the cross and his defeat of death at the resurrection. And for what greater purpose could Christians gather than to remember the pinnacle of human history when God became man and gave his life for his people and for his glory. So no matter the day, may you join with your brothers and sisters in Christ this Easter season and celebrate our risen King! May our hearts sing the words of this beloved hymn:

Behold the man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders;
Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers.
It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life –
I know that it is finished.

I will not boast in anything,
No gifts, no power, no wisdom;
But I will boast in Jesus Christ,
His death and resurrection.
Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer;
But this I know with all my heart –
His wounds have paid my ransom.

Four Reasons to Study Exodus this Summer

Four Reasons to Study Exodus this Summer

Word in Season

Our church is taking the summer to go through the book of Exodus. I can hardly contain my excitement as I type! Exodus is one book of that Bible that I can’t recommend enough for Christians to study. Why? Of course, it is God’s very own words. What could be more important to study? But what is so particularly important about Exodus and why should believers make time to study this book? Four reasons come right to mind.

You open this book and you meet God.

God makes himself known. I have yet to study another book of the Bible where so many of God’s attributes are on full display as they are in Exodus. You open this book and you meet God. Who God says he is. In fact, he even introduces himself to Moses with his name! Knowledge of God is life changing, faith-strengthening, and worship inducing. Paul often prayed for believers to increase in their knowledge of God (Colossians 1:9-10). Have you ever wondered God’s ultimate purpose in revealing himself, why God saves people, how God wants to interact with his people, or even how God works amid evil? Study Exodus.

God makes his sovereignty known. This is one of those attributes I mentioned above. You may have read that God is sovereign in Romans or Ephesians, but seeing it in action throughout the pages of Exodus adds much depth to help our understanding of God’s sovereignty and why this attribute, that belongs only to him, is such a glorious truth in the life of a believer. Are you living in a world full of injustice, evil, disappointments, suffering, persecution, and wondering how God fits into that? Be encouraged in God’s sovereignty. Study Exodus.

In Exodus, we see shadows of the gospel that point us to the reality found in Christ.

God makes his plan for salvation known. Exodus is a book about redemption that points us to the ultimate redemption that comes thru Christ. Throughout Exodus, God is progressively revealing how sinful man can be made right before a holy God. What other question is there in this world that we should strive to understand? In Exodus, we see shadows of the gospel that point us to the reality found in Christ. Does water save man or blood? Will salvation come from man or God? Can man make up for his own sin enough to be in the presence of God? Saved by grace or by works? Strengthen your knowledge of the gospel. Study Exodus.

You cannot understand Christ the way the New Testament authors describe Christ and intended the original readers to understand Christ without studying Exodus.

God makes his Son known. Jesus is everywhere in Exodus. Even the Old Testament is all about him. He even said so in Luke 24:27. You cannot understand Christ the way the New Testament authors describe Christ and intended the original readers to understand Christ without studying Exodus. When John talks about Jesus being the Lamb of God (John 1:29), what does he mean? Jesus tells a group of Jews he is the “I AM” (John 8:58) and they try to kill him, why? What about Jesus as the High Priest, the mediator, the tabernacle, the bread of life, or the fulfillment of the law? Try to make sense of the book of Hebrews without Exodus, it is nearly impossible. Come to know Jesus, our savior, in all his fullness and glory. Study Exodus.

For these reasons and so many more, I pray you will study Exodus this summer with a friend, with your family, and with your church.

Why You Should Read Good Books this Summer

Why You Should Read Good Books this Summer

Word in Season

When a sunny and summery reprieve finally came a couple of eons ago, I dug out my garden gloves and headed outside to tend to our long-neglected lawn and garden. Even though I had cleaned it all up in the fall, a few months of snow and wind had left a mark. Sticks and leaves and trash had blown in, and even dog poo was left here and there, courtesy of our neighborhood pals. We weren’t paying attention and look what happened! Spring came and exposed a mess that happened gradually, all by itself. That’s a simple fact of life for you: things left to themselves tend to get messy.

You can’t expect good things to sprout without planting, or thrive without consistent pruning and care. Only weeds do that!

Yard work (and housework) has always reminded me of the work that we, as children of God, are called to do on our minds: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Without constant and ongoing transformation, our minds fall into default mode: we become world-admiring and God-forgetting. You can’t expect good things to sprout without planting, or thrive without consistent pruning and care. Only weeds do that!

Which is why I want to make a case for putting some good books on your summer reading list! Reading good books is a big part of transforming one’s mind. And by “good” I mean a book that will encourage you in your faith, help you get better at loving others, and help you grow in your knowledge of God.

Here are some ideas (along with a lot of helpful links!).

  • Read Christian biography this summer. Looking at the life of someone who served God and finished well and seeing how God worked in difficult situations and “made all things work together for good” is incredibly encouraging. Reading biographies was helpful to me in our transition years when I didn’t have a mentor close by. I can still hear Amy Carmichael’s lessons in my head, 15 years later.
  • Read books on Christian growth. There is never a point when anyone can say: I know enough about God and the Christian faith. Our minds constantly need the fertilizer of knowledge and the pruning of solid advice.
  • If you are carrying some sort of ministry, summer is a great time to get refreshed and spurred on. As my husband says, “we’re not awesome”. We need constant input, new ideas and the examples of others. Ministry was never meant to be accomplished alone. Are you a Bible teacher? Pick up some books on Bible study this summer. Does your heart ache for the unsaved? Read books about how people from different worldviews think. Are you a parent who wants more ideas on how to instruct your children in the Lord? Read good parenting books written by godly and wise people. Do you find yourself in a lot of heavy conversations with people going through difficult times? Maybe a book on people helping or Christian suffering will help. Whatever your ministry – don’t do it alone, read a book. (Click here for a few other suggestions).
  • Read Christian classics! Books become classics not only because their messages endure, but also because these books apply to so many different settings and cultures. There may be centuries between us and John Bunyan, but I promise you, your heart will resonate with his writing as if he is your best friend, no matter where you live – Africa or Nebraska.

“But I am not a reader”, you say, “where do I begin?” Here are a few tips:

  • Very few people in our society are total “non-readers”. Most of us read something, and our brains are capable of learning new tricks. Find a 15-minute pocket of time in your day, and spend that time reading. You’ll be surprised how much you can read by reading only 15 or 20 minutes a day. What a great habit to form.
  • Read and highlight sentences that will define the lesson you can take from that book. It is impossible to remember everything the author offers. What is the one thing that is helpful for you today? What resonated with you and encouraged you?
  • Read and talk about it! Share at your dinner table, on a hike, on a playdate. You will be surprised at how this will enrich your fellowship. Remember that when you grow, others grow around you!

So this summer, instead of checking out mentally, how about nourishing your mind, tending to your soul, and planting good things in your garden by reading good books? Paul reminds us: “whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).

At the end of this summer, what will you be reaping?