Book Recommendation from a Pastor
The pain of this season in history leaves all of us with a collective sense of longing. We together yearn for the pandemic to end, for racism to end, for violence to end, and for righteousness to prevail. The longings I have felt recently led me to pick up the book, “A Hunger for God,” by John Piper and read it, hoping it would help me place Christ at the center of my longings.
There are so many little things in this world that might momentarily sooth our current pain: snacks, getting a haircut, doing a puzzle, eating a meal, etc. But rather than temporarily soothing my unrest, this book has helped me see how fasting can drive me to pray more fervently and worship God more fully in the midst of the lingering trouble.
Piper’s book reveals how the neglected discipline of fasting can be used to encourage a deeper longing for Christ and strengthen our resolve to meditate on “the things that are unseen.” Especially in seasons of suffering, we are called to “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2Cor 4:18) Fasting is a powerful discipline for moving our hearts away from the seen and letting the physical hunger we feel set our hearts and minds on Christ. He is our only true comfort and source of wisdom as we walk together through this valley of suffering.
Unlike other books on fasting, this work didn’t focus on method, schedule, or what to give up for your fast. But it laid a clear theological foundation for fasting. Piper discusses how fasting reveals our deepest desires, how it helps us set our houses in order, and how it gives us the opportunity to draw closer to God. Then, he examines Jesus’ experiences with and teachings on fasting. There’s also a great chapter on how fasting points us toward the Kingdom.
Most of all, the book helps us address the propensity of our hearts to worship the gift and forget about the giver. Fasting is a discipline of grace from our loving God to help us temporarily set aside a gift and refocus our hearts on remembering who he is as our loving Heavenly Father who cares and provides.
Here are a few quotes to help you see the soul nourishing qualities of this work:
- “If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great.”
- “The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night […] The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable and almost incurable.”
As our church moves towards reopening, let’s be charitable with others. We may have a variety of opinions on the best way to do this, but we can all agree that what’s best is to pray for one another and show grace.
An oldie, but a good one. Ray Ortlund shares lessons he gleaned while observing and being taught by his father. An encouraging read, the key idea is stewarding our influence on others to foster a greater love for Christ and the gospel.
Contentment is a lifelong struggle, one that has probably been intensified in the pandemic. This article points us to God who is at work in bringing us into likeness with His Son–and that’s where our true contentment is found and that’s what we actively strive after.
It may not feel like it, but summer is upon us. Sam Crabtree outlines ways we can be praying for our children. In a lot of ways, these prayers can be lifted for ourselves and others since we are all seeking to mature in Christ.
We live in an age where social media and shame culture has shaped how quick or reluctant we are to comment on the latest issue. But what if we spoke openly about our love for Jesus. Alan Jacobs considers what faithfully confessing our faith in Jesus might look like in a time where devotion to Christ is costly.
With so much unrest and brokenness going on in our world, we may feel overwhelmed and as if our efforts are pointless. But God has called us all to be responsible and faithful in what He has entrusted to us. Let us strive to honor God in the spheres of influence and the gifts He’s given.
In this strange season, there’s no denying the prominence of politics. But as Christians, let’s be known for our allegiance to Jesus above our political affiliation. This is a longer article, but I think there’s value in thinking through some of the concerns this author raises so we might better represent Christ as Lord and Savior.
While being quarantined, we all find our liberties restricted. But our growth as Christians isn’t contingent on our physical abilities. Here’s a hymn by John Newton that puts our prayer to song.
If you enjoy these collaborative songs, here’s another one put together by over 50 churches in the San Francisco Bay Area.
More hymns (and spiritual songs)! Some of these may be unfamiliar, but they are laden with truths that raise our gaze to God and encourage us to hope in Christ.
“When our health is at stake, medics will check our vital statistics. But medics at my church long for their patients to take a spiritual health check, too. I’ve prepared this video to ask some vital questions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. How is your spiritual health?” This is a good way to diagnose and reflect on our hearts. It can also be passed along as an evangelistic resource.
Ligonier is offering a free video series by Steve Lawson on the Attributes of God. Redeem shelter-in-place to deepen your understanding and appreciation of God.
Our church family was blessed and learned much from interviewing Pastor Bobby Scott of Community of Faith Bible Church. For those wanting more of his insights as well as how to respond to racism in a godly manner, this is another video interview with Pastor Bobby. The second part can be found here.
John Piper shares his experience with racism growing up in the South. This video is a little longer, but worth the watch as Piper provides his personal testimony to encourage us on how powerful the gospel is. The eBook of the same title is free to download here.