Blogroll Category: Christian Resources

I read blogs, as well as write one. The 'blogroll' on this site reproduces some posts from some of the people I enjoy reading. There are currently 22 posts from the category 'Christian Resources.'

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A Deeper Look at Bible Verses about Anxiety

The Good Book Company - Thu, 29/07/2021 - 06:00

With tumbling locks of blonde hair, piercing blue eyes and a wide smile, my friend was the picture of health. I say “picture of health” because, just like a picture, there was something hidden underneath that you couldn’t see. She had a fear of dogs, to the point that she could barely leave the house. As a Christian she knew all the right Bible verses about anxiety, but as she read “Do not worry” (Matthew 6v25) all she could hear was “real Christians don’t worry”. So, on top of the fear, she had additional layers of guilt that she was a “rubbish” Christian.

That Bible verse about Worry

I still remember the relief that flooded my friend’s heart and mind as we looked at those words “Do not worry” in their original context, Matthew 6v25-34, because then we see the all-important why. Why we do not need to worry.

Taking this verse out of context we miss the repeated relational emphasis of the following verse where Jesus argues that “your heavenly Father feeds [the birds]. Are you not much more valuable than they?” We miss the argument of the section which drives to the conclusion – verse 32 - do not worry because your heavenly Father knows that you need [these things].”

My friend wasn’t being a “rubbish Christian” when she was worrying. Rather she had lost sight of her status as a valuable child of her heavenly Father.

Meditating on God’s word is a powerful and biblical way to fill our minds with truth to chase away anxious thoughts. Picking just a few words is ideal when our concentration is hampered by anxiety. But we need to pick wisely! Let’s consider how we could fight anxiety by meditating on those four simple words: “Your heavenly Father knows”.

"The reason we do not need to be anxious is right there at the start – the Lord is near. Like a parent holding their child after he wakes from a nightmare, the Lord is with us."

Your heavenly Father knows: you are not excluded because you worry. He came for those who are poor in spirit, who know their need. If you have come to him for forgiveness, he is your Father.

Your heavenly Father knows: the one seated in the place of all power is able and willing to help.  

Your heavenly Father knows: you are his valuable child, and children are supposed to feel powerless! Times of worry can even benefit us if they make us feel our powerlessness and so depend on our Father as we were created to.

Your heavenly Father knows: he knows what we need, and trusting that frees us to pursue his kingdom rather than be paralysed with anxiety. 

“Do not worry” is not a command to beat ourselves up with, but a privilege that is ours already, because we are children of our heavenly Father, who knows all that we need. 

That Bible Verse about Anxiety

Here’s another example of a famous “Do not be anxious” verse. How easy it is to copy, paste and send that to a friend. Smiley emoji. Three kisses. Consider how much we lose when we don’t read it in context:

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4v5-7.

The reason we do not need to be anxious is right there at the start – the Lord is near. Like a parent holding their child after he wakes from a nightmare, the Lord is with us. This is re-iterated in verse 9 as the section concludes: “And the God of peace will be with you”. We fight anxiety by remembering that God is near and speaking out our anxieties to him. As we do, he promises to guard our hearts and minds with his peace.

The context of the book of Philippians gives us even more comfort as we see in chapter 3 what it means to be at peace with the God of peace. We are no longer lost, guilty, or having to earn righteousness through our own efforts. We are found, known, loved, and safe in the One who has taken all our sin on the cross and given us his perfect righteousness (Philippians 3v3-10).

“Don't be anxious” is not a command we need to try harder to keep, but a privilege that is ours already, because of who we are in Christ.

A better Bible verse for anxiety, would be to focus on those four simple words in verse 5: “the Lord is near”.

The Lord is near: the Lord reminds us that he is in control of everything that is terrifying us.

The Lord is near: he is near, not was or might be if we weren’t such “rubbish” Christians.

The Lord is near: he is right here with us, so we can bring him our fears and trust that his peace that passes understanding will guard our hearts and minds.

Deeper Still Deeper Still £7.99 £5.59

Finding clear minds and full hearts through biblical meditation.

Anxiety is an Invisible Problem

Perhaps you are a “picture of health” outwardly, but you know that underneath you are crumbling inside. Here’s one last verse,

"Some men brought to [Jesus] a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9v2

"That doesn't even mention anxiety?!" I hear you object. Herein lies the problem. It's easy to see why this man needed help. You wouldn't expect him to be able to pull himself together and get himself to Jesus. Obviously he can't. Anxiety is an invisible problem, no different to having a problem with your legs. My friend, paralysed by anxiety, needed to be carried, reminded that her heavenly Father knows, that he is near. She also needed the help of a medical professional!

Anxiety is not our only invisible problem. The reason Jesus responds by forgiving the man’s sin, is that this man's paralysis was not his biggest problem. The invisible problem of sin was. Jesus came to save us from the greatest of danger – the sin and death that separates us from God. As we come to him, all our other fears are put into perspective as he conquers the greatest of all fears, death itself, and wins for us eternal life.

Fight anxiety with the truth about who you are. In Christ you are safe. In the safest place. Eternally safe.

Categories: Christian Resources

Should Christians Value Self-Esteem?

The Good Book Company - Tue, 27/07/2021 - 06:00

The bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love tells the story of Elizabeth Gilbert’s journey of self-discovery and spiritual exploration following a difficult divorce. After travelling around Italy, India and Indonesia, she arrives at this philosophy: “God dwells within you as yourself, exactly the way you are” (Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love, chapter 64).

The fact that the book has sold over 12 million copies, and has since been made into a film, shows that this is a philosophy that is very much in tune with the modern ear.

In some ways it’s grasping at the truth—there is something God-like about us. We’re made in the image of God. This gives us a wonderful dignity and a basis for satisfying relationships. Yet we’re merely mirrors—it’s who we reflect that makes us special.

Be True to Yourself Be True to Yourself £7.99 £6.79

Hear what the Bible says about how to be true to yourself.

Taking Our Reflection Out of Context

If you take out the reflective glass, then, without the image of the glorious God filling our “frame”, we’re left with something woefully uninspiring. Yet this is precisely what our modern culture tries to do.

Our society has increasingly rejected the idea of a creator and so looks within to find meaning. To caricature this for the sake of simplicity, here are our unexamined assumptions:

Q: What shall I worship?

A: Well, if there’s no God, then... me.

Q: Who shall I love?

A: Me.

In rejecting God, many in the modern West have turned to an alternative “gospel”—by that, I mean a truth which people look to for happiness: a big philosophy to live by. One of the biggest “gospels” our culture sells us is the gospel of self-esteem: “Look within to find out who you are: what you find is wonderful”.

"We can only be true to ourselves if we are honest."

The Gospel of Self-Esteem

Most of us are familiar with the concept of self-esteem. It describes the way that someone thinks about themselves, and the worth and value they ascribe to their person.

High self-esteem is assumed to be desirable: people who possess this are confident, secure, trusting and resilient. Low self-esteem can manifest in self-criticism, pessimism or an excessive sense of guilt or need to please others. The “gospel” of self-esteem says that the way to be happy is to esteem yourself more highly. In other words, love yourself.

Christians can easily slip into these assumptions because they’re nearly all helpful. Confidence, security and resilience are good things that we like. Excessive guilt and a slavish need to please others are unpleasant things that we dislike. So, the gospel of self-esteem sounds great!

In contrast, when we first encounter the biblical gospel, it might sounds a little, well… miserable. At my church we sing songs like Elizabeth Clephane’s hymn “Beneath the cross of Jesus”, which includes lines like “My sinful self my only shame, My glory all the cross.”

So on a Sunday we gather several hundred people together to sing that we are worthless and ashamed of ourselves. What do you make of that?!

The Gospel Gives Us Something Better Than Self-Esteem

It’s not that my church is a particularly gloomy one—if you’ve ever sung “Amazing Grace”, you’ve sung these words: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me”.

Do you believe that you are wretched? That doesn’t sound good for self-esteem either!

But when we properly understand it, the gospel of Christ offers us the security, confidence and resilience that we really want and need. We can only be true to ourselves if we are honest.

The true gospel compels us to accept that we’re made in the image of God, but, because of our sins and flaws, we need to be redeemed into the image of Christ. He has made us lovely. It’s not something we naturally are, but something we have been given.

This is an excerpt adapted from Matt Fuller’s book Be True to Yourself, which has been written to help Christians of all ages live with confidence in today’s culture.

Categories: Christian Resources

Sneak Peek: Books Releasing Soon

The Good Book Company - Thu, 22/07/2021 - 06:00

While we’re excited for holidays and a slower pace this summer, we’re also looking forward to autumn. There are so many books releasing soon that we can’t wait to share with you. Here’s a little sneak peek of what’s to come.

Truth for Life: 365 Daily Devotions by Alistair Begg

What: A year of gospel-saturated daily devotions from renowned Bible teacher Alistair Begg.

Who: The hardback cover and ribbon marker make this a wonderful gift for anyone. 

When: Releases November 2021.

Truth for Life Truth for Life £14.99 £12.74

A year of gospel-saturated daily devotions from renowned Bible teacher Alistair Begg.

PLUS: Be one of the first 50 to preorder and you can enter here to claim two bonus books free!

Mere Evangelism by Randy Newman

What: 10 Insights from C.S. Lewis to help you share your faith.

Who: Readers who enjoy C.S. Lewis’ work or are interested in practical evangelism.

When: Releases September 2021.

Mere Evangelism Mere Evangelism £8.99 £7.64

Let C.S. Lewis inspire and equip you to share your faith.

Finding My Father by Blair Linne

What: A powerful blend of story and theology about how the gospel heals the pain of fatherlessness.

Who: Teens and adults. Particularly meaningful for those who have struggled with their earthly father.

When: Releases October 2021.

Finding My Father Finding My Father £8.99 £7.64

A personal story of learning to trust our heavenly Father when you feel your earthly father has let you down.

Just Ask by J.D. Greear

What: Specific, practical tips for experiencing prayer as a delight, not a duty.

Who: This short, helpful book is meaningful for any Christian.

When: Releases August 2021.

Just Ask Just Ask £8.99 £7.64

Helping Christians to pray so that it's a delight, not a duty.

For 2-3s: Seek and Find: New Testament by Sarah Parker

What: Seek-and-find activity book exploring New Testament Bible stories.

Who: Over 450 things for little ones to find and count. 

When: Releases November 2021.

 New Testament Bible Stories Seek and Find: New Testament Bible Stories £8.99 £7.64

Seek-and-find activity book exploring New Testament Bible stories.

For 4-8s: Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer by Laura Wifler

What: Teach kids how to pray with this beautifully illustrated Bible storybook.

Who: Part of the Tales that Tell the Truth series for kids. 

When: Releases September 2021.

Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer Any Time, Any Place, Any Prayer £8.99 £7.64

Teach kids how to pray with this beautifully illustrated Bible storybook.

For 9-13s: Big Questions series by Chris Morphew

What: Fun and fast-paced books sharing what the Bible says about some of the big questions of life.

Who: Great reads for 9-13 year olds, independently or with adults.

When: Now available.

Who Am I and Why Do I Matter? Who Am I and Why Do I Matter? £6.99 £5.94

Helps kids grow in faith and confidence by looking at what the Bible says about their identity.

For Teens: Making Faith Magnetic by Daniel Strange

What: Five hidden themes our culture can't stop talking about... and how to connect them to Christ.

Who: Thoughtful insights for Christian teens and adults about culture, faith, and evangelism.

When: Releases October 2021.

Making Faith Magnetic Making Faith Magnetic £8.99 £7.64

How to talk about Jesus in a way that connects with modern culture.

The Dawn of Redeeming Grace by Sinclair Ferguson

What: This 24-day Advent devotional will stir hope and inspire worship.

Who: Great for your devotional time or reading with friends and family members.

When: Releases October 2021.

The Dawn of Redeeming Grace The Dawn of Redeeming Grace £7.99 £6.79

Advent devotional for Christmas that will stir hope and inspire worship.

The Adventure of Christmas by Ed Drew

What: 25 easy-to-use Advent devotions that the whole family can enjoy together.

Who: Questions for 3-4s, 5-7s, over 7s, and teens. No prep required. 

When: Releases October 2021.

The Adventure of Christmas The Adventure of Christmas £6.99 £5.94

Easy-to-use Advent devotional that the whole family can enjoy together.

The Promise and the Light by Katy Morgan

What: A captivating, imaginative, biblically-faithful retelling of the nativity story.

Who: Written for 8-12 year olds.

When: Releases October 2021.

The Promise and the Light The Promise and the Light £6.99 £5.94

Captivating retelling of the nativity story. Great Christmas gift for kids who love to read.

Is Christmas Unbelievable? by Rebecca McLaughlin

What: Shows that there is a rational basis for the belief that the world’s most famous story is fact, not fantasy.

Who: Great conversation starter with unbelievers and for outreach events. Also bolsters the faith of believers. 

When: Releases October 2021.

Is Christmas Unbelievable? Is Christmas Unbelievable? £2.99 £2.54

Evidence for the Bible's account of Jesus' birth.

Check our Coming Soon page regularly for information about all of our upcoming books!

Categories: Christian Resources

Is Grace a Licence to Sin? (Lessons from the Life of Bonhoeffer)

The Good Book Company - Tue, 20/07/2021 - 06:00

Does the fact that we don’t earn our salvation by doing things to impress God mean that grace is a licence to sin? Can we, in Augustine’s famous phrase, “Love God and do what we like”?

A powerful answer to this question can be found in the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was martyred for his faith. He begins his book, The Cost of Discipleship, with a chapter entitled “Costly Grace”. Costly grace is to be understood in part by contrasting it with what he called “cheap grace”. But what can this mean, since God’s grace is supposed to be free?

Is Cheap Grace a Licence to Sin?

In the German Protestant church of his day, Bonhoeffer could see plenty of evidence of the cheap variety of grace, but not much of the costly sort. The Protestant church was founded on the teaching of God’s free grace to us in Jesus Christ. But in Bonhoeffer’s eyes, many thought that they could receive God’s grace without needing to change in any way. Life could go on as if nothing had happened.

Bonhoeffer puts it this way:

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Grace is not cheap because it is free; but, because it is free, by some it is held to be cheap.

Grace is Free and Costly

The cheap grace of Bonhoeffer’s experience is unfortunately alive and well in our own time. The “Christianity” of cheap grace is remorselessly nice. It is as bland as an easy-listening radio station. It is concerned with social approval and belonging, and risks nothing. It has misunderstood what Christianity really is.

“Cheap grace Christianity” also keeps theology at arm’s length, as if it has nothing of any impact to say about the real world but is only a mental game we play.

What of costly grace? This may seem like a contradiction in terms. But Bonhoeffer reminds us of Jesus’ parable of the treasure hidden in a field: the man who discovers it happily pays everything he can to possess it (Matthew 13:44). This grace is not simply a lucky prize that we didn’t even buy a ticket for. It involves a call to follow Jesus to the cross.

"Costly grace is what shatters our faith in the world, and calls us to leave behind our old way of living."

We Struggle With Free Grace and the Cost of Discipleship

It is perhaps not surprising that we find this teaching very hard to take since the first disciples found it difficult too. How could the coming kingdom of God really mean that they might have to follow Jesus even to his death? Was there not a short cut that did not involve this path?

There is no short cut. Grace costs nothing, but it demands everything.

Bonhoeffer says:

“Costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. Grace is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him.”

And that call doesn’t come to just a select few—to a spiritual elite who can dedicate themselves solely to prayer and contemplation. That, for many centuries, was the church’s response to the difficulty of this teaching. The heavy burden of discipleship was borne by the spiritual specialists: the monks and nuns, with their daily routines of prayer, and their disciplines of self-denial. But our discipleship cannot be outsourced.

Discipleship has to be lived out in the world—not just by monks, but by farmers and bankers, by princes and the poor, and by parents with their children. There is no area of life to which the call of the gospel does not come, no territory exempt from the lordship of Christ.

Is forgiveness really free? Is forgiveness really free? £4.99 £4.24

A short book that gets to the heart of how grace really works

The Costly Call of Grace

By Bonhoeffer’s day, many so-called Christians had fallen for the lie that the grace of God offered in the gospel to the whole world automatically bestowed on humanity the blessing of God. The great doctrine of justification—by which sinners can be declared “not guilty” of their sin because of Christ’s death—was taken to mean that because God had shown mercy to the world, his judgment against sin had been removed.

Was there any compelling reason for German Christians in the 1930s to reflect that something had gone badly awry within their culture? Apparently not, since they thought they could do as they wanted because of the grace of God.

But a grace which is presumed upon becomes something other than grace. It is a perversion of the teaching of Jesus and the rest of the Bible. Grace, costly grace, comforts us in our sinfulness, but does not say “okay” to our sin.

Costly grace is what shatters our faith in the world, and calls us to leave behind our old way of living.

For Bonhoeffer, the call of Christ meant standing against Hitler. It meant the loss of his academic career, his security, his chance to escape the grasp of the Nazis, his future marriage, his freedom and eventually his life. He would not have thought that this was extraordinary; but only rather what the grace of God in Christ had called him to do.

This article is adapted from a chapter of Is Forgiveness Really Free? By Michael Jensen. In this short, readable book, Michael Jensen explores the Bible's teaching on these important questions, insights from the lives of Christians like Bonhoeffer, and delivers some surprising conclusions.

Categories: Christian Resources

On the Podcast with Tim Thornborough: Celebrating 30 Years of The Good Book Company

The Good Book Company - Fri, 16/07/2021 - 06:00

 

It's our 30th anniversary! Joining us on the podcast this time is the founder of The Good Book Company himself, Tim Thornborough.

In this episode, Tim opens up the annals of TGBC history, taking us from its unlikely beginning in the front room of his South-West London home, all the way up to our current status as a global Christian publisher, committed to helping believers everywhere open up the Bible for themselves.

 

Categories: Christian Resources

Unchanging Truths from God's Word

The Good Book Company - Thu, 15/07/2021 - 06:00

The Bible encourages and reminds God’s people about who he is and why we can trust him. It helps us to have confidence when we are feeling uncertain about our circumstances or anxious about the future.

This year we're celebrating our 30th anniversary as a company. As we've reflected on 30 years of opening up the Bible together, we asked some of our staff to share an unchanging truth from God's word that is particularly precious to them, which they come back to again and again for encouragement.

May you be encouraged to open up God's word and remember his faithfulness, too.

1. God is trustworthy.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” - Proverbs 3:5-6 ‭

The reason that this verse has been so helpful to me is that I tend to lean on my own understanding of God's work in my life and in the world around me. There is so much about his perfect plan that I simply do not understand in the moment, but as I trust the Lord for each step on my spiritual journey, each decision, God will lay out his path before me. 

This doesn't imply that the path will be an easy path to follow, but that God will make it clear the direction he would have me take. God is good, his steadfast love endures for ever - great is his faithfulness! - Geoff Dennis

2. God is for the sinner.

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” - Mark 2:17

Like many Christians, I tend to look at my own performance, and either see achievements and make those the reason for me being right in my own eyes and being able to come to God, or I see my failures and I think they are a barrier to my relationship with God.

But in this story in Mark, seeing Jesus sharing a meal with the worst people in society, and saying to the self-righteous Pharisees, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners”, reminds me that God is for me, even though I am a sinner. I don’t have to parade my achievements. I don’t have to hide my failures from others or God. But seeing Jesus, God’s Son, come to earth to mix with the worst people and serve them by dying for them, is a wonderful encouragement and reminder that he is for me, and he loves me, even though I am a sinner. - Mus Yusuf

3. God’s grace is greater.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” - Ephesians 2:8

God's grace is before all. We've got good works to do, but only because God has already saved us entirely out of his own great love for us. - Tom Beard

4. God reveals his glory through his people.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” - Matthew 5:14

In this verse, Jesus is comparing Christians to a city on a hill, shining brightly. I sometimes forget how wide the influence of my own ministry is, especially as a woman in the church. My own love of the Lord radiates out from the Holy Spirit within me, spreading light, joy and love to others. - Katie Thompson

5. God works through our weaknesses.

“ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9

It is so comforting to know that even when I am weak, the Lord redeems my weakness to show his power. It’s a great comfort to me, because I am especially weak! - Abigail Talbott

"Modern philosophies tell us that the universe is cold, unfeeling and without meaning—and so we have to invent our own. But at the heart of the Bible is something quite different and far more wonderful—a relationship of love."

6. God’s love underpins the universe.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” - John 17:24

Modern philosophies tell us that the universe is cold, unfeeling and without meaning—and so we have to invent our own. But at the heart of the Bible is something quite different and far more wonderful—a relationship of love. Christians believe that God has revealed himself as a Trinity: Father, Son and Spirit united in self-giving mutually submissive love.

It is this love that is at the heart of the gospel message—a love that brought Jesus to live and die for us, so that we could be rescued and brought into that relationship of purposeful love at the heart of the universe. This is the powerful truth that I cling to and turn to when times are hard, or when my trust wavers. - Tim Thornborough

7. God is all-sufficient.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” - 2 Peter 1:3

God is sufficient and gives sufficiently. We lack nothing needed to live a life pleasing to him, and when we are weak and fail, his grace covers us too. - Bethany McIlrath

8. God’s love is deeper still.

“...he gives us more grace.” - James 4:6

The longer I am a Christian, the more I understand not just with my head but with my heart how much I need, and will always need, God’s grace to sustain my faith and forgive my failings. 

On my better days these five words remind me that I’m still a sinner who needs grace; on my worst days, they assure me that however deep my sin, his love is deeper still. And the “us” spurs me to keep pointing my brothers and sisters back to his grace rather than their efforts, too. - Carl Laferton

9. God gives hope in all circumstances.

“...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” - Hebrews 12:2

Whether it's a good or bad season, this verse always reminds me of who I need to look to rather than focusing on circumstances, and it helps me to remember the eternal hope we have in Jesus. - Sayuri Kato

"When something hard happens, if we look at it through biblical eyes, we have to see that it is God's loving gift to us. That may seem a bit hard to get our heads round, but I find it immensely comforting when life is tough."

10. God is sovereign and good.

“I will exalt you, my God the King … Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom … The LORD is good to all.” - Psalm 145:1, 3, 9

The unchanging truth that keeps me going is that God is both Sovereign, so always in control, and Good. The Puritans used to say that the Lord is “too wise to err and too loving to be unkind”. 

So when something hard happens, if we look at it through biblical eyes, we have to see that it is God's loving gift to us. That may seem a bit hard to get our heads round, but I find it immensely comforting when life is tough. - Alison Mitchell

11. God keeps his promises.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’ ” - Hebrews 13:5-6

This verse reminds me of Jesus' rock-solid faithfulness through everything.

The Lord Jesus never breaks a promise. So if he has said “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” he will definitely keep it. I have certainly experienced his faithfulness through this past year and seen how he has come through in many ways. He has proved his faithfulness and that only encourages me to trust him more. 

We do not need to be afraid since the Lord truly is our helper in every circumstance. - Anton Joubert

12. God alone saves us.

"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory." - Ephesians 1:13-14 

Ephesians was the first book of the Bible I read after becoming a Christian, and I was blown away by the realization that salvation is from start to finish a work of God. It was his kindness, not my intellect, that brought me to repent and believe, and it's by his grace alone that all Christians—me included—are saved finally and for ever. To the praise of his glory! - Peter Anderson

It has been our privilege to serve alongside you over the past 30 years by publishing Bibles and books that help you to open up God's word.

Is there an unchanging truth from God’s word that is precious to you and has been a source of encouragement during your Christian walk? We’d love to hear it! Share yours below in the comments or send it to us at publicity@thegoodbook.co.uk.

Categories: Christian Resources

Unchanging Truths from God's Word

The Good Book Company - Mon, 12/07/2021 - 06:00

The Bible encourages and reminds God’s people about who he is and why we can trust him. It helps us to have confidence when we are feeling uncertain about our circumstances or anxious about the future.

This year we're celebrating our 30th anniversary as a company. As we've reflected on 30 years of opening up the Bible together, we asked some of our staff to share an unchanging truth from God's word that is particularly precious to them, which they come back to again and again for encouragement.

May you be encouraged to open up God's word and remember his faithfulness, too.

1. God is trustworthy.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” - Proverbs 3:5-6 ‭

The reason that this verse has been so helpful to me is that I tend to lean on my own understanding of God's work in my life and in the world around me. There is so much about his perfect plan that I simply do not understand in the moment, but as I trust the Lord for each step on my spiritual journey, each decision, God will lay out his path before me. 

This doesn't imply that the path will be an easy path to follow, but that God will make it clear the direction he would have me take. God is good, his steadfast love endures for ever - great is his faithfulness! - Geoff Dennis

2. God is for the sinner.

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” - Mark 2:17

Like many Christians, I tend to look at my own performance, and either see achievements and make those the reason for me being right in my own eyes and being able to come to God, or I see my failures and I think they are a barrier to my relationship with God.

But in this story in Mark, seeing Jesus sharing a meal with the worst people in society, and saying to the self-righteous Pharisees, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners”, reminds me that God is for me, even though I am a sinner. I don’t have to parade my achievements. I don’t have to hide my failures from others or God. But seeing Jesus, God’s Son, come to earth to mix with the worst people and serve them by dying for them, is a wonderful encouragement and reminder that he is for me, and he loves me, even though I am a sinner. - Mus Yusuf

3. God’s grace is greater.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” - Ephesians 2:8

God's grace is before all. We've got good works to do, but only because God has already saved us entirely out of his own great love for us. - Tom Beard

4. God reveals his glory through his people.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” - Matthew 5:14

In this verse, Jesus is comparing Christians to a city on a hill, shining brightly. I sometimes forget how wide the influence of my own ministry is, especially as a woman in the church. My own love of the Lord radiates out from the Holy Spirit within me, spreading light, joy and love to others. - Katie Thompson

5. God works through our weaknesses.

“ ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9

It is so comforting to know that even when I am weak, the Lord redeems my weakness to show his power. It’s a great comfort to me, because I am especially weak! - Abigail Talbott

"Modern philosophies tell us that the universe is cold, unfeeling and without meaning—and so we have to invent our own. But at the heart of the Bible is something quite different and far more wonderful—a relationship of love."

6. God’s love underpins the universe.

“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.” - John 17:24

Modern philosophies tell us that the universe is cold, unfeeling and without meaning—and so we have to invent our own. But at the heart of the Bible is something quite different and far more wonderful—a relationship of love. Christians believe that God has revealed himself as a Trinity: Father, Son and Spirit united in self-giving mutually submissive love.

It is this love that is at the heart of the gospel message—a love that brought Jesus to live and die for us, so that we could be rescued and brought into that relationship of purposeful love at the heart of the universe. This is the powerful truth that I cling to and turn to when times are hard, or when my trust wavers. - Tim Thornborough

7. God is all-sufficient.

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” - 2 Peter 1:3

God is sufficient and gives sufficiently. We lack nothing needed to live a life pleasing to him, and when we are weak and fail, his grace covers us too. - Bethany McIlrath

8. God’s love is deeper still.

“...he gives us more grace.” - James 4:6

The longer I am a Christian, the more I understand not just with my head but with my heart how much I need, and will always need, God’s grace to sustain my faith and forgive my failings. 

On my better days these five words remind me that I’m still a sinner who needs grace; on my worst days, they assure me that however deep my sin, his love is deeper still. And the “us” spurs me to keep pointing my brothers and sisters back to his grace rather than their efforts, too. - Carl Laferton

9. God gives hope in all circumstances.

“...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” - Hebrews 12:2

Whether it's a good or bad season, this verse always reminds me of who I need to look to rather than focusing on circumstances, and it helps me to remember the eternal hope we have in Jesus. - Sayuri Kato

"When something hard happens, if we look at it through biblical eyes, we have to see that it is God's loving gift to us. That may seem a bit hard to get our heads round, but I find it immensely comforting when life is tough."

10. God is sovereign and good.

“I will exalt you, my God the King … Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom … The LORD is good to all.” - Psalm 145:1, 3, 9

The unchanging truth that keeps me going is that God is both Sovereign, so always in control, and Good. The Puritans used to say that the Lord is “too wise to err and too loving to be unkind”. 

So when something hard happens, if we look at it through biblical eyes, we have to see that it is God's loving gift to us. That may seem a bit hard to get our heads round, but I find it immensely comforting when life is tough. - Alison Mitchell

11. God keeps his promises.

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.’ ” - Hebrews 13:5-6

This verse reminds me of Jesus' rock-solid faithfulness through everything.

The Lord Jesus never breaks a promise. So if he has said “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” he will definitely keep it. I have certainly experienced his faithfulness through this past year and seen how he has come through in many ways. He has proved his faithfulness and that only encourages me to trust him more. 

We do not need to be afraid since the Lord truly is our helper in every circumstance. - Anton Joubert

12. God alone saves us.

"And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory." - Ephesians 1:13-14 

Ephesians was the first book of the Bible I read after becoming a Christian, and I was blown away by the realization that salvation is from start to finish a work of God. It was his kindness, not my intellect, that brought me to repent and believe, and it's by his grace alone that all Christians—me included—are saved finally and for ever. To the praise of his glory! - Peter Anderson

It has been our privilege to serve alongside you over the past 30 years by publishing Bibles and books that help you to open up God's word.

Is there an unchanging truth from God’s word that is precious to you and has been a source of encouragement during your Christian walk? We’d love to hear it! Share yours below in the comments or send it to us at publicity@thegoodbook.co.uk.

Categories: Christian Resources

In a world of constant change, one thing remains stable

The Good Book Company - Mon, 12/07/2021 - 06:00

A lot has changed in the last few decades. A lot has changed in the last few months! 

Some change is gradual. For instance, there are now almost a quarter of a million electric cars on Britain’s roads—compared with just a few thousand a decade ago—with the government aiming to phase out sales of new petrol and diesel cars completely by 2035. 

Other times, our world is turned on its head in a moment. Most of us can remember where we were when we heard the UK Prime Minister speak those stomach-churning words in March 2020: “You must stay at home.” The up-and-down, back-and-forth Covid regulations since then have led to many a hastily-changed plan.

Sometimes, change bewilders us. To begin with it was hard remembering a mask every time we set foot outside our front doors. Now it is second nature. But, if we’re honest, many of us fear what’s changing next and how we’ll adapt. 

That’s why it’s as vital as ever that we remember and celebrate this simple truth: the word of God does not change. It is always true, always good, always relevant to our lives. What a comfort that is!

"God’s word is always for everybody: every age, every nation, everyone."

1. The word of God is always true.

As our culture’s values continue to shift—and as yesterday’s heroes become today’s villains—we can rejoice that God’s word is always true. It tells us how it really is, and why it really is. It shows us right and wrong, good and evil, wisdom and folly. “In your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9). Sometimes that’s painful; but always that’s what we need. When it comes to the fundamentals, we’re not left groping around for a way forward, hoping that whatever solution we’ve come up with will work. No, God, in his grace, has revealed himself to us. Our Lord Jesus is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6), and will never cease to be so. 

2. The word of God is always good.

God doesn’t tell us what is true in the manner of an instruction manual, which would do the job if only we could persevere through our impatience and boredom to get to the end of it. Instead, God’s words are good: “More precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). Through laugh-out-loud narratives, soul-stirring songs, breathtaking visions and everything in between, God blesses us abundantly as we read his word. 

3. The word of God is always relevant 

God’s word is always for everybody: every age, every nation, everyone. Imagine a believer living on another continent in a distant century in the past. Imagine all the things that would be different about you: your language, your work, your clothes, your home, your hopes, your expectations, the way you see your world and your place in it. And then consider how extraordinary it is that God wrote a book with the power to speak to both of you. To both of you it is a sword that convicts your motives; a mirror that reflects your heart; a light that guides your way. And that’s true of our brothers and sisters today, and for the future generations of tomorrow. Young and old, rich and poor, male and female—God’s word is his gift to us all.

That’s why for the last 30 years, The Good Book Company has produced books and resources that point to the Bible (“the Good Book”). That’s why we make sure that our books apply the Bible’s teaching, so that they are useful in everyday life and ministry. That’s why we make sure that everything we publish is easy to read without compromising on depth or rigour. 

Whether children, teens or adults, whether believers or not-yet believers, whether you want to deepen faith or are just hanging on by your fingertips, we want to encourage you to open up the Bible and hear God speak. 

So, to commemorate 30 years of doing just that, we are offering 30% off a selection of books that will help you open up the Bible.

Open up the Bible and hear God speak.

Categories: Christian Resources

How Do I Keep A Feeling of Contentment?

The Good Book Company - Thu, 08/07/2021 - 06:00

They’re few and far between, aren’t they, those days of transcendent joy? You’ve probably experienced a few of them in your life—when the guy you liked finally noticed you; when you got accepted to the college you’d been dreaming of; when you slept well, woke up late and knew the vacation was just beginning. But a life can’t all be highlights, and I’m sure you’ve had more than one moment of wondering, “How do I keep a feeling of contentment on the ordinary days, let alone the difficult days?”

In the book of Philippians, Paul tells his readers that he had “learned to be content whatever [his] circumstances” (Philippians 4 v 11). He’d certainly had his fair share of circumstances! Since his dramatic conversion he had been alternately praised and persecuted wherever he went. Now, writing to the Philippians, he was imprisoned in Rome with everything stripped away. He’d already survived multiple beatings, a shipwreck and being bitten by a poisonous snake. It makes our daily stresses and struggles pale in comparison, doesn’t it?! And yet Paul had learned how to keep this feeling of contentment no matter what kind of day he was having.

Learning Christian contentment

When I was studying the book of Philippians prior to writing my book on finding contentment that lasts, If Only, the word I was most struck by in Paul’s letter was “learned”. We can often think that spiritual characteristics like joy, holiness or contentment are things we either have or we don’t. But most of the New Testament, if not the whole Bible, teaches us that we can and must learn these things like we do everything else in life. So how do we go about learning contentment?

"Our contentment will grow as we intentionally rejoice in the way that God is being glorified in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in."

Three top tips from a joyful jail-bird

1. Know what matters

Paul has scattered lots of clues for us throughout Philippians. In chapter 1 it seems he must be responding to concerns the Christians in Philippi had for him. He tells them that he’s not bothered about the stories they’ve heard of other people muscling in on his patch and preaching the gospel while he is prevented from doing so. The important thing is that Christ is being preached, and that gives Paul immense joy: his first priority is that God should be glorified and the gospel preached. That is what his heart longs for, more than his own comfort or success. In a similar way, our contentment will grow as we intentionally rejoice in the way that God is being glorified in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

2. Care for others

Secondly, Paul cares more about serving others than having his own wants and needs met. We see this in chapter 1 v 21-26 and 4 v 10-19. In chapter 1 he tells his friends in Philippi how he actually looks forward to death, because it means being with Christ, but that it would be better for them if he were to stay alive. For that reason, he chooses to embrace life, putting their needs before his own. In chapter 4 he thanks them for the financial support they have sent to him, but says he’s more delighted at the blessing from God that this will bring to them than at the fact he has been able to eat for another few weeks. How could you use your circumstances to serve others?

3. Think on good things

Thirdly, Paul tells us to train our minds to focus on the things that bring joyful contentment rather than the things that make us discontented. In chapter 4 v 8 he says “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Notice how he puts this in the positive. If I say, “Don’t think about pink elephants”, I can guarantee you’ll immediately think of pink elephants (where presumably you hadn’t been before). If, however, I say, “Think about a lovely, juicy orange”, that will quickly put all thoughts of pink elephants out of your head and replace them with juicy oranges. So, Paul exhorts us to think of good things, which will help to push the negatives, the struggles, the disappointments out of our minds, and leave us much more contented. And of course, the very best thing to think about is God, his goodness and his wonderful gift of salvation.

Making contentment last

As with all things we learn, the way to ensure this contentment really sticks with us is to keep practising. I’ve found it is far easier to do this when you’re in community with other believers—when you feel low and discontented, those around you can remind you of God’s goodness, his past faithfulness to you and his trustworthiness for the future. And when they are feeling discouraged, you can do the same in turn.

As you practise, fail, try again and repeat, you will slowly but surely get better at it, and will find that the feeling of contentment that once seemed so elusive gets easier to sustain and easier to regain when it temporarily escapes.

If Paul can find lasting contentment in a Roman jail, we can find it too, whatever our circumstances.

Categories: Christian Resources

The Power of a Simple Story

The Good Book Company - Tue, 06/07/2021 - 06:00

Good stories may age, but they never die. They grow old with us. And the best ones outlive us.

Powerful stories speak to a universal need and point to eternal truths. That’s why the stories in the Bible, above all stories, have perennial appeal. Even epic stories outside the Bible that garner massive attention often do so through redemptive themes that only make sense from a Christian perspective.

The Bible is more than a mere story, but it isn’t less. Other stories might inspire us, but the Bible is inspired in a way that is categorically different from any other literature. While our first goal as Bible readers is to understand the meaning of the text, I think sometimes it is helpful to step back and consider different angles to a biblical account.

One of my favorite true tales from the Gospels is found in the last chapter of John’s Gospel. This passage follows the lowest moment in the disciple Peter’s life. It ends with the highest example of hope for broken disciples like him, you, and me. Consider some of the elements of the story that make it so appealing…

The Friend Who Forgives Board Book The Friend Who Forgives Board Book £4.99 £4.24

Beautiful board book pointing pre-schoolers to Jesus, the friend who forgives.

Repetition

The majority of humans learn through repetition. Precious few of us have photographic memory. We need truths to be repeated again, and again, and again.

Look at the story of Peter’s denial. Jesus predicted it. Peter did it. Then Jesus used Peter’s predicted failure to drive home a point. Peter denied Jesus three times, and what do you know, Jesus gave Peter three chances to say “I love you".

Instruction

Jesus uses this link between Peter’s three-fold failure and his three-fold restoration to drive home a powerful point. “Do you love me?” Jesus asked. “Yes!” Peter proclaims. And each time Jesus uses this reference point to bring in a new element.

“Feed my sheep,” Jesus repeats again and again and again. Jesus starts with the familiar and moves to the new. The perfect parallel of Peter’s failure and restoration points to a new reality. Interestingly, this is a pattern for all of us. We not only learn from repetition but we grow outward, beginning with and then moving away from the familiar.

"While the Bible isn’t a manual on how to teach or write, it has a lot of lessons like these along the way for those with eyes to see."

Nuance

Every good story packs in details that add colour and context. For example, Disney movies often hide “Easter eggs,” little clues of past movies, in newer films. In the Bible, these are elements that might be lost on us in the first reading, or even the first several readings. In fact, since the New Testament was originally written in Greek, we might miss them altogether.

In the story of Peter there is a neat detail that adds colour and context to Peter’s encounter with Jesus. The author, John, uses a specific Greek word to describe the fire over which Peter warmed himself during the cold night when he denied Jesus. The original Greek word for fire lets us know it was a fire made from coal. Why is that important or interesting?

John uses that same word to describe the fire over which Jesus cooked fish on that warm morning when he gave Peter the present of forgiveness. That was a coal fire too. Peter denied Jesus over a coal fire and Jesus gave him a chance to start again. It was over the same kind of fire that Peter was able to now say he not only knew Jesus, but that he loved him.

Food

One last element in this story is worth noting. Jesus taught a lesson with food. He did that a lot. Maybe there’s something to Bible-study teachers giving out snacks to children when they teach their Sunday morning lessons. It seems deeply biblical. The Bible even uses food to describe itself – that we can enjoy milk but God wants to in time teach us to eat meat.

We understand food. We need it. We like it. Jesus taught us to think this way about God – that he gives us a cup to drink and bread to eat. The Bible begins with food in the Garden and ends with a feast in the New Creation where humanity once again dwells in God’s presence.

While the Bible isn’t a manual on how to teach or write, it has a lot of lessons like these along the way for those with eyes to see. I wanted to tell this story for children. When I wrote about it in the book The Friend Who Forgives, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri, I was reminded of a quote from C.S. Lewis.

“A children’s story which is enjoyed only by children,” Lewis said, “is a bad children’s story.” Of course this story about Peter is inspired by God and meant for us all, but it is a story that truly appeals to every generation. We all need hope for our hard times and dark moments. And this story has it all. Best of all, it’s true. That’s good news for you and me!

Categories: Christian Resources

Helping New Christians Start a Life of Faith

The Good Book Company - Thu, 01/07/2021 - 06:00

It was both a thrill and a very strange feeling to be asked to lead a group of new Christians (or “almost Christians”) through Need to Know (NTK). After years of wanting a resource to help people who have recently become Christians (or for whom the gospel had recently started to make sense and grip them), now the rubber had finally hit the road! I am part of a church right in the centre of the city, with all the opportunities and challenges that this brings. And our NTK group reflected the diversity of our city and our church – a Norwegian, two Indonesians, a South African, an Iranian, four Australians and an Irishman! 

The first night was fascinating as we shared our stories. It turned out we had quite a range of experiences in the group: everything from “I’m still a Buddhist” to “I was damaged by my fundamentalist upbringing” to “I became a Christian through reading the history of the Reformation”! From the first few minutes of our first evening, I was very aware that this was going to be a really helpful test of how useful the book actually is in the diverse context that most of us live.

"Perhaps surprisingly, these theological foundations meant that even though Need to Know is basically a book about the Christian life, the focus always remained on what God has done for us through the Lord Jesus."

Our Starting Point

When writing the book, I was convinced that the place to start is with our awesome God himself – making sure that people had grasped that being a Christian isn’t, at its core, simply an intellectual commitment but is being drawn into a relationship with our awesome, Trinitarian God. To my delight, this extremely diverse group warmed to this theme right from the start. Again and again over the seven weeks we met, members of the group would bring us back to the central truth that “it isn’t just about us.” 

Perhaps surprisingly, these theological foundations meant that even though NTK is basically a book about the Christian life, the focus always remained on what God has done for us through the Lord Jesus. The group saw that what we are called to do is simply a grateful and wise response to what God has done. It was also heartening to see some of the group lifted out of a slightly angsty self-focus by the truth that it is God who does all the heavy lifting in our lives. 

The practical power of our union with Christ by faith seemed to give people a helpful context. It helped them to think through how God speaks to us through the Bible in a way which took us beyond the simple duties of personal Bible reading and showing up in church. If God wants us to know and enjoy him for ever, of course he’ll want to speak to us. It’s far too early to say, but I think that the group got the fact that this is the “engine” which will drive us to keep reading and listening and responding for our whole lives.

Need to Know Need to Know £7.99 £6.79

An inspiring and practical introduction to living the Christian life.

When Things Got Lively

The discussion on how God changes us was probably the most animated we had, and I got the sense that people hadn’t really thought about this much. By this stage in the course, however, I did feel that everyone had grasped the flow of the book, and understood that this is what God is doing in us, and he does it as we live together as the people of God, his church. The discussion on church was also lively, as people had many random comments or questions about pet peeves. It was tempting to answer every question!

Where We Wound Up

The final session on looking at the world through the gospel was interesting, in that it revealed that people in the group were in very different places. In fact, it became obvious that every person needed a personal follow-up conversation, to explore some very practical issues for them. It was at this point that one member of the group realised they are only a cultural Christian, and desperately needed to sort things out with God, and another that they need to re-examine the historical basis of Christianity. Other members of the group spoke of the encouragement of pushing deeper, or simply of having what they already knew spelled out clearly and coherently (which came as a relief to me!)

Reading through the book with these precious people was basically a reminder that God continues to do his work through the gospel – and that it is Jesus himself (through the gospel) that we all need to know! 

Use Need to Know by Gary Millar in a discipleship group or mentoring sessions. Packed full of warmth and wisdom, this book will set anyone up for a lifetime of living for Jesus.

Categories: Christian Resources

The Church Isn’t Closed For Summer

The Good Book Company - Tue, 29/06/2021 - 06:00

As summer gets into full swing, many churches offer fewer events like Bible studies and weekly kids’ programs. This is just part of the busy season of vacations, weddings, grad parties, and more. 

But, the Church itself doesn’t close for summer. God’s still working in and through his people. Many are still in need of the gospel. Fellowship is as valuable as ever (even if it takes place in backyards for a time). 

During the summer break from typical ministry routines, here are some flexible, doable ideas for building up the body of Christ.

Study The Church, Share What You Learn

“Few things present a more astonishing contrast than the way most people view church today and what the Bible tells us about the church,” author Anne Woodcock says in Church: Enjoying God's Masterpiece. This book is a simple study guide that walks through Bible passages about the church, and asks study and personal application questions.

You can complete this on your own as you have time (or with a spouse or friends). Share what you learn as you re-gather in the fall, or throughout the summer whenever you get to enjoy time with your church family.

 Enjoying God's Masterpiece Church: Enjoying God's Masterpiece £3.99 £3.39

Eight studies for small groups exploring the New Testament’s images for the church.

Read Together (Apart)

Even if you aren’t able to meet up with your small group regularly, you can encourage each other in the faith. Agree to all read through the same book over the summer and text one another when any points strike you. No deadlines needed.

Some of our top picks for reading together (apart) are:

No spoiler alerts needed when texting about any of these books!

Gain Practical Evangelism Practice

Summer’s a season for meeting neighbors, catching up with friends and family, and hanging out with strangers by the community pool or on the beach. These lighthearted times of gathering are wonderful opportunities for pondering spiritual questions and starting meaningful conversations with non-christians.

Seize these opportunities for evangelism with the helpful insights and tips found in books such as Stay Salt, Honest Evangelism or Extraordinary Hospitality (for Ordinary People).

Categories: Christian Resources

Don’t Forget To Rest

The Good Book Company - Thu, 24/06/2021 - 06:00

As the pandemic seems to impact everyday life less, many are feeling the exhausting effects of jumping back into busyness. May this adapted extract from The Art of Rest by Adam Mabry remind us all that rest is a good thing. 

I can relate to exiled Israel, who quickly forget about God’s command to keep the Sabbath. 

Maybe you can, too. It’s so easy to let go of the rhythm of rest, forget all that rest is meant to help us remember, let loose a flood of issues, and by that stage be so far into forgetfulness that we wonder where all these issues came from and how on earth we might turn the tide.

The physical issues are first. Then come the emotional ones. Finally, the spiritual weakness and passionlessness arrive. Perhaps for you it started with a life transition: a new baby, a job loss, the workload of school, or climbing the career ladder. It was only going to be once... or for a season... but you stopped showing up for the Sabbath rest.

Maybe the first time it was an accident. The second time it was expedient. And now... well, now you can’t remember why you ever rested in the first place. You’re caught in a new ritual—one without rest.

How Do We So Easily Forget Rest?

What leads to this spiritual amnesia? It’s irritatingly simple: we forget when we forget to remember.

God gave Israel the Sabbath—the special day of rest, remembrance, recuperation, and recreation. Life in the ancient Near East was hard—harder, I dare say, than most of our lives. 

Working for food from sunrise to sunset, living off the land, in constant danger of being attacked by neighboring tribes—that was their life. The idea of taking a day away from toil must have seemed a little crazy. And yet it was this day that was given to them as their ritual, so that they could remember.

But they didn’t keep the ritual. They dismissed the art of rest. They forgot to remember.

"It’s no different for us when it comes to Christian rest. The Sabbath ritual of rest is given for us to remember God, ourselves, and the true story of the world."

We Forget The Reason for Rest

Maybe they forgot to remember why they needed to rest: “Was it for rest? Or worship? Or... well, never mind. It’s a busy season of the year and it’s almost time for harvest. Better put in a few more hours of work...”

When we forget the reason for the ritual of rest, it becomes pretty easy to forget the rest itself.

In our family, every Thursday night is family movie night. We began this ritual back when our first child was barely able to watch a movie, but the idea wasn’t the movie itself. It was to build a family moment into the week—an intentional time of togetherness.

But, over the years, the night started to change. Gradually, Hope [my wife] and I found this a good moment to get a little extra work done, or to take a moment for ourselves, while the kids were sitting still and quiet. Then, it got less quiet as the kids began to argue over the movie, or the popcorn, or whatever.

Over a period of time, we allowed ourselves to forget the point of the ritual, and so it stopped working. In fact, because we forgot the reason for the ritual, we had already started forging new rituals (like work, extra time out, and so on).

The Art of Rest The Art of Rest £7.99 £6.79

Discover the secret to real, realistic, non-rules-based rest

What We Need to Remember about Rest

Israel had done the same thing. First, they forgot the reasons for the ritual. Then they forged new rituals, until finally they forgot the godly rituals altogether. And with that, they forgot to remember the great truths that the ritual was intended to remind them of.

It’s no different for us when it comes to Christian rest. The Sabbath ritual of rest is given for us to remember God, ourselves, and the true story of the world. Letting go of rest means acquiescing to the spiritual amnesia that so tragically marked our forebears.

God gave us regular, weekly times to stop in order to know (because we’re bound to forget) that it is God who is God, not us.

In The Art of Rest, Adam Mabry shows us how rest helps us make space for relationships, shared experiences and moments to remember; how it liberates us from the pressure of self-reliance; how it gives us a chance to think and reflect; and how it stops us from burning out.

Categories: Christian Resources

Five of the Strangest Things in the Bible (and how to grapple with them)

The Good Book Company - Tue, 22/06/2021 - 06:00

You’re reading along in the Bible, and it’s all familiar and fine—you turn the page and… Waitwhat?! 

Sometimes the Bible is just plain weird. Stories that send your head spinning. Ideas that just seem … well … wrong. So what do you do when you crash into one of these episodes? I’ve got some ideas on that, but first, here are five of the strangest things in the Bible that I have struggled to wrap my head around at one time or another:

It’s Stranger than You Think

1. Psalm 137: Dash their heads. This psalm starts off all nice and lovely with the Boney M tune earworming itself into your mind. “By the rivers of Babylon…” But it ends with an absolute shocker: "Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”  Is God really suggesting that violent infanticide is a good thing?

2. Exodus 4: The “bridegroom of blood”. God wants to kill Moses, but he is saved when his bride Zipporah picks up a knife, circumcises their son and touches Moses’ feet with the foreskin. Huh?

3. 1 Kings 13: Lionising a prophet. It’s a long complicated story involving two prophets, a promise, some bread and water, a donkey and a lion. Bottom line, an honourable prophet gets killed by the lion when someone lies to him. He acted in good faith, but ended up dead. Seems a little unfair Lord…

"The Bible is God’s word. It’s God’s truth about the world, himself and reality. So when I come across something that is strange, it’s often a signal that there’s something about me and my thinking that needs to change."

4. Ezekiel 1: Wheels within wheels. A vision of a bizarre chariot is carefully explained, but every time I try to picture it, my head just explodes. Tried drawing it once. The pencil broke. Maybe Erich von Daniken was right after all… 

5. Ruth 4: I’ll swap you a shoe for this woman. Ruth is widely viewed as a love story; but I think if I’d gone to my beloved's family and offered to swap a smelly old shoe for my bride, my marital status would have remained unchanged—probably forever. What’s going on here? (Sidebar—what exactly does “uncovering his feet” mean in Ruth 3:7)?

How to Grapple with Weird Bible stuff

Don’t Panic

It should not surprise us that the Bible is weird. It’s from different times, different cultures, and written in different languages than our own. They had a different way of life, different expectations, different jokes and expressions in that culture than we do now. In fact, because our western culture has been shaped by the words, ideas and stories of the Bible, it perhaps appears less strange to us than it really is. 

Embrace the Weirdness

The Bible is God’s word. It’s God’s truth about the world, himself and reality. So when I come across something that is strange, it’s often a signal that there’s something about me and my thinking that needs to change. The Bible isn’t weird—I am. So any of the stories above pose a fundamental question for me: How does my thinking need to change?

"There are parts of God’s self-revelation in Scripture that are deliberately opaque to us. Parables, for example, force us to ponder, to think and discuss their meaning. Perhaps the weirdness is part of the point."

Probe the Meaning

When you read the Bible, you’re reading a translation, and translations often hide things from view that are clear in the original language. And things would probably have been clearer in the original culture too. Perhaps there was an established custom or cultural expectation (like swapping sandals), which, though now unknown to us, meant that the things written would not have appeared at all odd to the book’s first hearers. Truth is, they would find you weird if they met you.

Spend Time With It

We’re used to instant clarity—it’s the mark of good communication. But what if the Bible was written for people who take their time, who ask questions, who reread again and again over the course of a lifetime? There are parts of God’s self-revelation in Scripture that are deliberately opaque to us. Parables, for example, force us to ponder, to think and discuss their meaning. Perhaps the weirdness is part of the point.

Talk it Through

It’s not just you and the Bible. God has made each of us part of what John Stott called “a hermeneutical community"—the church. Or to be less weird about it—we are a bunch of Jesus followers who get together to work out what God is saying to us through the Bible. So don’t be afraid to ask the question, raise it with others, laugh about it, research and ponder potential answers together. It’s how we grow together in our understanding. 

For verse-by-verse guides to strange things in the Bible (and the not so strange parts, too) we recommend the God’s Word For You series. In each book, a trusted Bible teacher walks you through a book of the Bible verse-by-verse in an accessible and applied way.

Categories: Christian Resources

What is Father’s Day to the Fatherless Child?

The Good Book Company - Fri, 18/06/2021 - 12:00

Growing up without my father on Father’s Day, I would often make out my card to my mother. I would tell of all the ways she provided for me and protected me and how grateful I was. As I’ve grown older I realized that my mother could not take the place of my father. Her role was to model things about God that were different from how my father could. Of course, ideally, the two of them would be Christians working together to create a beautiful bountiful bungalow for me to thrive in. 

Like a Shadow

Like mothers, fathers are a shadow. They are to point us to our heavenly Father. The problem with shadows is that they can bring joy or fear. Delight or distress. How we feel about shadows depends upon our interaction with them. 

Have you ever made shadow puppets at night? Merging hands and twisting fingers together, to mimic one of God’s creatures of nature, projecting it onto the bedroom wall by using the visible light. We laugh in amazement at what hands can create. Hands transform into a flying bird with flapping wings, crab claws walking sideways or an elephant with tusks and a trunk. Young eyes widen in amazement until the shadow changes form. 

Have you experienced seeing a “monster” projected on that same bedroom wall? Waking up in the middle of the night to find a dark shadowy figure is in your room. Your hands are under the blanket so you know it is not a puppet show. Fear rises up inside your heart making you wish it were only a dream. It is not until you turn on the light that you realize it was just a few coats hanging near the closet, or the quilt you balled up and plopped on top of your dresser - and forgot about - several hours earlier. Sometimes shadows leave us jovial and other times jittery. This is especially true when dealing with human shadows.

Finding My Father Finding My Father £8.99 £7.64

A personal story of learning to trust our heavenly Father when you feel your earthly father has let you down.

Flipping the Idea of Father

Often for those who did not grow up with their father, when we think of “father” the idea is riddled with so much pain and truancy that we cannot formulate a healthy picture in our brain of what it means to have God as our Father. This may be because our natural father projects an image of God that has been distorted, scary, or aloof. We ask ourselves if we want to face these scary shadows. Sometimes, rather than moving towards the light, we bury our head in our blanket out of fear. In truth, our mind must flip the concept on its head. Our concept of fatherhood should be the other way around. 

When we think of “father” we should immediately think of God. For he is the epitome of fatherhood, the Father of fathers. Yet, as with everything that is to be a pointer to the original, Satan’s goal is to distort the shadow so that it only exudes pain, leaving fatherless children writhing in order to draw our attention away from the light and onto the dark silhouette. This blinds us from seeing our human fathers as a temporary figure whose job is to point to the prototype. Thankfully our imperfect father is not the only one who can point us to God.

"If Father’s Day is typically filled with pain and fear because of a distorted shadow, remember you can acknowledge the gift your father has given you in the divine shadow and know that you have another Father you can behold today"

We have a perfect brother who also points us to the perfect Father. Jesus says if you have seen him you have seen the Father. For he is the image of the invisible God. Jesus teaches the disciples (and us believers) in the Sermon on the Mount that God is our Father. In Matthew 7 he tells them the reason they should ask, seek, and knock is because God gives good gifts to his children. He says, “If you then, who are evil (speaking of human fathers), know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him. (Matthew 7:11)”

Jesus argues from the lesser to the greater here. Earthly fathers are an imperfect picture of provision but God the Father is a perfect picture of provision that is always good. Even if our earthly father doesn’t give good gifts, it does not change what our heavenly Father will do. And let me share this, even if your earthly father has never made provision for you, he has helped give you life, and that is a good gift. If we cannot praise our earthly fathers for anything on Father’s Day, we can at least praise them for giving us life. You are here in part because of your earthly father. Even with the gift of life our earthly fathers helped give, the reality is we can expect more from our heavenly Father than our sinful earthly one. 

Looking to our Heavenly Father

Our heavenly Father does not only give natural life, but spiritual life. As Christians, God has made us his children. He sent his only begotten Son Jesus into this world as our unblemished lamb. He laid his life down on the cross to take away any punishment we deserved for our sin by bearing the wrath himself. Jesus took his hands and stretched them out in this dark world, allowing them to be pierced for our ultimate joy. Not only his pierced hands and feet, but also his death are signs of him being a shadow we could behold to point us to God. He resurrected from the grave and is now at the right hand of the Father interceding for us.

Jesus is our brother that brings us to God. He not only brings us to God in order to justify us through faith, he makes us one with himself and through that faith adopts us into God’s holy family. We are God’s children now! God is our Father. And God shows no partiality. He loves us the same way he loves Christ. 

So if Father’s Day is typically filled with pain and fear because of a distorted shadow, remember you can acknowledge the gift your father has given you in the divine shadow and know that you have another Father you can behold today. Turn on the light, open his scriptures, which say he is a “Father to the fatherless,” (Psalm 68:5) and get to know his beautiful transcendence and his fatherly love.

Our brother Jesus says, ask, seek, and knock. He is waiting to provide you with good gifts, the first being more of his fatherly affection. So rather than give your mother a Father’s Day card, you can send one to your father if he is around, thanking him for life. Whether or not you can get a card to your dad, you can look up and give your heavenly Father praise today for the good Father he has always been and will always be. 

Categories: Christian Resources

On the Podcast with Helen Thorne: Finding Hope in an Anxious World

The Good Book Company - Fri, 18/06/2021 - 06:00

Whether mildly, moderately or severely, feeling anxious is something most of us experience at some point in our lives. 

Helen Thorne, author of Hope in an Anxious World, joins us to talk about her experience of battling anxiety and how to take the first few steps towards a lifetime of change. 

Categories: Christian Resources

Remembering Ben Shaw (28 February 1968 - 17 June 2021)

The Good Book Company - Thu, 17/06/2021 - 11:48

I first met Ben at Heathrow Airport more than 25 years ago. He was wearing a bandana and carrying a guitar case, and just looked cool. I had invited him and John Dickson to the UK to do a series of outreach meetings in churches, schools and youth groups, and to go to a Christian conference to speak and perform. It was the start of a friendship that continued and grew over the years. John and Ben returned to do another mission I was involved with organising in Wimbledon, and subsequently Ben moved to the UK to join my church as an assistant pastor.

Ben was always enormous fun to be around. He had a sharp mind, a quick wit, and a careful, determined and compassionate way of sharing Jesus with people. He never forgot the pit from which he, along with John, had been dug. He never tired of telling the story of how, as a wild young man with “disaster” written all over him, he was rescued by Christ for a life of purpose and meaning through the kindness, patience and careful teaching of an older woman who had adopted him as her personal gospel project.

Ben and his wife Karen were a glorious team, and found avenues of gospel opportunity in unlikely and creative places—singing (of course); doing outreach to models and fashion designers at London Fashion Week; and among medics and health professionals through Karen’s work with the World Health Organisation. 

Ben moved on from our church to pour his energy and creativity into a new plant, The Boathouse Church in Putney. It became a church that reflected his own character—full of kindness, compassion, and with a constant desire to reach out and share the love of Jesus with others. I know that many others at The Good Book Company have their own memories of Ben, and kindness, compassions and desire to reach the lost characterise all of them, whether it was his willingness to preach at a church that was in between pastors, or him giving his Saturday morning to speak at an evangelism training event with Becky Manley Pippert back in 2015. 

Ben’s struggle with the cancer that has eventually overcome him started two years ago. But Ben’s faith in Jesus shone all the brighter through the treatments, operations and frustrations as the illness progressed. He was never, to my knowledge, self-pitying or despairing. And he continued to work on the manuscript of his last book, Seven Reasons to (Re)Consider Christianity, which he made a goal to see published before he died, aiming in particular to be able to give a copy to his dad. It’s been a privilege for us at TGBC to help and support Ben in seeing that dream made a reality.  

We grieve along with those who knew and loved him—especially with Karen and his life-long friend John. But we rejoice in the sure hope that he now sees face to face the Saviour whom he worshipped and served so well. And we will continue to pray what we know that he was praying: that there will be many who will greet their brother Ben in eternity and thank him for writing a book that was part of their own journey from disaster to discipleship. 

Thank you, Ben. And see you soon.

Categories: Christian Resources

Is Life Spiralling Out of Control?

The Good Book Company - Thu, 17/06/2021 - 06:00

Life can be desperately difficult. The impact of the fall is everywhere and hard things come at us each day. Sometimes it feels relentless. Sometimes we’ll want to weep. Of course, the Lord has deep compassion for us in those moments - his love and care never fades - but, we don’t always remember that. When it’s hard, it’s easy to get distracted and let our minds think things that just aren’t true. We don’t just experience events; we interpret them too. And the events that fuel our anxiety can nudge us towards an awful conclusion: that life is spiralling out of control.

In the first book of the Bible, we meet a man called Joseph. To put it mildly, Joseph had reasons to wonder if life was spiralling out of control!

Joseph’s Spiral

He was born into a large family and one where the relationships were more than a little strained. His brothers hated him so deeply that they plotted to kill him and only relented when they saw an opportunity to make some cash.

They sold him into slavery, and he was trafficked into a foreign land. There he went into the service of a man whose wife was not an upright or trustworthy woman. She made several passes at him and, when he rejected her advances, accused him of attempted rape. The result was that he was thrown into prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

"Joseph may have suffered greatly, but he was able to keep going because he knew something extraordinarily important. He knew that nothing in his life was out of control—even though it was out of his control."

While locked up he made a couple of good friends. He knew one would be released and would return to the king’s service quite soon, and so Joseph asked that friend to help expedite his own release. But his friend forgot. It wasn’t until the most powerful man in the country needed some help that finally the light at the end of the tunnel began to shine through.

The Aftermath of Joseph’s Trauma 

Joseph had a gift—with God’s help he could interpret dreams—and so when the Pharaoh had a dream he didn’t understand, Joseph was allowed out of prison to help. It was a step in the right direction, to be sure, but certainly not a relaxing day. There was Joseph, no longer incarcerated but now standing before a powerful king delivering a very unwelcome message: the significance of the dream was that the nation would soon face a life-threatening famine.

In the ancient world it was never safe to give kings bad news. But Joseph wasn’t punished. Instead, he was given a job with more responsibility and pressure than most of us could even begin to imagine: to navigate an entire nation through the process of stockpiling resources that would help them survive the disaster to come. Oh, and then the brothers who had sold him into slavery turned up.

Hope in an Anxious World Hope in an Anxious World £4.99 £4.24

Help and hope from the Bible when you feel anxious.

Can you imagine what Joseph’s life must have been like? Can you begin to get your head around the catalogue of disasters—traumas—that he faced? All that uncertainty, a catalogue of betrayals, pressure beyond measure. In his shoes I think I would have felt more than a bit anxious! And yet, when he finally had a heart-to-heart with the brothers who had kick-started such a lifetime of uncertainty and pain, he said this:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good. (Genesis 50 v 20)

How Joseph Kept Going

Joseph may have suffered greatly, but he was able to keep going because he knew something extraordinarily important. He knew that nothing in his life was out of control—even though it was out of his control.

There was plenty that was painful. There was a great deal that was evil and wrong. God certainly did not condone the way others treated Joseph. But over the painfulness of Joseph’s experiences, there lay the perfection of God’s plans—plans which meant that nothing of Joseph’s horrors went to waste. God wove together the messy strands of Joseph’s life in such a beautiful way that it culminated in this unpopular young man leading a nation through a crisis and saving the lives of many. What looked like chaos turned out to contain deep hope. 

Our stories are not the same as Joseph’s. It is highly unlikely that many of us will taste the depths of his suffering or the responsibility of his national leadership. But his life does point to an unchanging reality: our world is not out of control.

This is an adapted extract from a new book by Helen Thorne, Hope in an Anxious World, which is designed to help both Christian and non-Christian readers understand anxiety better, learn some useful techniques to cope with it and, most importantly, show how the living God can liberate us from its grip. Helen is Director of Training and Resources at Biblical Counselling UK and an experienced counsellor.

Categories: Christian Resources

Anxiety doesn’t have to be a lonely place

The Good Book Company - Mon, 14/06/2021 - 12:20

Anxiety is a lonely place. A cursory glance at our social-media feeds and everyone else appears to have it all. Even when we remind ourselves that social media isn’t an accurate representation of how life is, that sense of being alone with our pain can remain.

The Bible has good news, though. We are never alone.

A Wonderful Truth

In the middle of Scripture, there is a beautiful book of songs—Psalms—that help us speak to God and hear from him too. One psalm in particular reminds us that, even on our bleakest days, we can grasp a wonderful truth: God knows, and he cares.

It starts like this:

You have searched me, Lord,

and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,

and you lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

too lofty for me to attain. (Psalm 139:1-6)

"This knowing is the action of a loving King whose rule over the world is so complete and whose compassion for the world is so deep that he doesn’t miss a thing."

It’s an astonishing set of words: one that reminds us that even though God is huge and powerful, ruling over the entire universe and beyond, he is intimately involved in the lives of individual, messy human beings. He’s the kind of God who isn’t just interested in keeping planets spinning—he’s also interested in you and every facet of your life.

A Wonderful God

Far from your struggles being played out in secret, away from the gaze of anyone who understands, there is one who is familiar with every single thought that has ever crossed your mind. One who knows every action that you have taken—and every event that has impacted you for good or ill. His understanding of you is so comprehensive that he even knows what you’re going to say before you say it. You couldn’t be more known!

And the God who knows is good and safe. This isn’t some malicious cosmic surveillance system by which God monitors humans for information to store away in a heavenly supercomputer in order to manipulate or wound. He’s not that kind of God! Of course, as he looks at our lives, he will see things that don’t please him—not one of us has lived a life of perfection—but he’s not out to hurt us. This knowing is the action of a loving King whose rule over the world is so complete and whose compassion for the world is so deep that he doesn’t miss a thing.

Hope in an Anxious World Hope in an Anxious World £4.99 £4.24

Help and hope from the Bible when you feel anxious.

A Wonderful Help and Hope

A little later in the Bible, Jesus utters these words:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-31)

A yoke is simply a wooden crosspiece that fits over the shoulders of two animals to ensure they keep walking together closely. This is also a picture that helps us understand the manner in which God is inviting us to walk with him. It might sound a little strange to be “yoked” with God. It’s certainly not about being tied up in a constrictive sense! Instead, this is an invitation to closeness. He wants us to be alongside him every moment of the day—with him in the lead and him taking most of the load.

He’s invited you to walk through this life in relationship with him, and that means knowing you are never isolated but always understood. Always with a place—a person—to whom you can turn. Even in the small hours of the morning, there is a God to whom you can talk in prayer—openly, honestly, personally— about your pain.

This is an extract from a new book by Helen Thorne, Hope in an Anxious World, which is designed to help both Christian and non-Christian readers understand anxiety better, learn some useful techniques to cope with it and, most importantly, show how the living God can liberate us from its grip. Helen is Director of Training and Resources at Biblical Counselling UK and an experienced counsellor.

Categories: Christian Resources

On the Podcast with Richard Coekin: Finding Courage From the Witnesses of Hebrews 11

The Good Book Company - Fri, 11/06/2021 - 06:00

The Christian life is hard. We all need encouragement of some kind, and through many years of teaching it Richard Coekin has found Hebrews 11 to be a rich well of refreshment.

In this episode we discuss this extraordinary chapter, Richard's role as CEO of the London-wide Co-Mission church-planting network and how churches can navigate this unique season. 

Categories: Christian Resources

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