Friends Your Age Are Not Enough

I'm writing on desiringGod today about a subject near and dear to my heart: intergenerational friendship.

We like people who are like us. Beginning as children, we’re corralled by different categories and compartmentalization. Age may be the biggest. From grade school to Sunday school to the workplace, we tend to intuitively gravitate to those who are the same age as us.

Many churches (surely unintentionally) feed this anti-intergenerational message: children go here for Sunday school, teens go here for youth group, separate Bible studies and classes for college, career, parents, and seniors. Quietly and subtly we come to believe that our friends should exclusively be from our generation.

Yet while having friends of the same age is normal and natural, we miss something special when we don’t have any friends who are of different ages than us, particularly in Christian community. Christians share a bond and identity that trumps everything else — job, race, and most definitely age. If there’s no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, there should be neither old nor young (Galatians 3:28).

Age should not build walls. Jesus should tear them down. When we put aside our preference for people just like us, we broadcast the beauty of our shared union with Christ.

And intergenerational friendship is not just beautiful, but necessary. We need intergenerational friendship. We need the balance, perspective, and experience of people who are walking through different stages of life than us (1 Timothy 4:12; 5:1–2; Titus 2:3–5). Teenagers, you need older Christians. Seniors, you need teenagers. Young moms, you need empty-nesters. Empty-nesters, you need twenty-somethings. We all need each other.

Photo courtesy of desiringGod.

10 Resources Every Christian Teen Needs to Know About

I have 10 recommended resources for Christian teens on TheRebelution.com today.

Here are a few:

1. The Valley of Vision ed. by Arthur Bennett

This is a collection of Puritan prayers. I will admit, that sounds dry and kind of boring, but it’s anything but. This book changed how I pray forever. The language is filled with life.

Here’s a quote:

“O Saviour of sinners, Thy name is excellent, thy glory high, thy compassions unfailing, thy condescension wonderful, thy mercy tender. I bless thee for the discoveries, invitations, promises, of the gospel for in them is pardon for rebels, liberty for captives, health for the sick, salvation for the lost.”

2. Holiness by J.C. Ryle

In this important book on sanctification and the Christian life, there is so much to take in. When my mom finished it, she promptly said: “This is a read-again book.”

Every Christian should read J.C. Ryle. I could have shared a hundred quotes, but here’s just one:

“We can never have too much humility, too much faith in Christ, too much holiness, too much spirituality of mind, too much charity, too much zeal in doing good to others. Then let us be continually forgetting the things behind, and reaching forth unto the things before (Phil. 3:13).”

3. The Bible Project

This YouTube channel posts tons of beautifully-animated videos about Scripture. My favorite is the “Read Scripture” series. Each video is a brief overview of a book of the Bible. The minor prophets have been the most helpful for me (see Obadiah for a taste). Watch here.

8 Lore Ferguson Wilbert Tweets for Your Tuesday Morning

A few months ago I shared eight encouraging tweets from one of my favorite people on Twitter, Burk Parsons. Now I want to share eight beautiful tweets from one of my favorite females on Twitter, Lore Ferguson Wilbert.

Lore is a profound writer and thinker, and I'm constantly encouraged, emboldened, and zinged with conviction from her thoughts.

Here are eight of those thoughts for you to ponder today.

Why Zephaniah Is One of the Happiest Books in the Bible

Today I'm reading Zephaniah for the third time in three days.

It wasn't planned. I've just been so overwhelmingly encouraged by it, I want to keep reading it. Yes, there are some horrible, sad, and scary things in this book. After all, the majority of it is about God's fierce judgment, on both the pagan nations and His own people.

But there's a bigger picture to the book. The last half of the third (and final) chapter makes that clear. God will save His people. He will restore them, because He loves them. He will forgive their sin and do whatever it takes to make things right. The imagery in chapter 3 is so beautiful and joyful. God will rescue His people. He will rejoice over us. He will actually sing over us! We will no longer fear evil.

This is the passage that has been making me so happy this week:

“For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord. From beyond the rivers of Cush my worshipers, the daughter of my dispersed ones, shall bring my offering. 

'On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in my holy mountain. 

But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. 

They shall seek refuge in the name of the LORD, those who are left in Israel; they shall do no injustice and speak no lies, nor shall there be found in their mouth a deceitful tongue. 

For they shall graze and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.'

Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 

The LORD has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. 

On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: 'Fear not, O Zion; let not your hands grow weak. 

The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. 

I will gather those of you who mourn for the festival, so that you will no longer suffer reproach. 

Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors. And I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. 

At that time I will bring you in, at the time when I gather you together; for I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes,' says the LORD" (Zephaniah 3:9-20 ESV).

It's the Little Things in Life

My  parents have instilled in me a deep love for the little things in life. You know, those ordinary, seemingly unspectacular moments that hold meaning.

Our neighbor completing the siding on his garage, after leaving a square uncovered for weeks.

The garbage man taking all of our garbage, even though we put out extra.

Using leftover food.

Killer deals in supermarket flyers.

A new podcast coming out.

Getting a stain out of shorts.

Gas going down two cents the day we planned to fill up.

A perfect breeze on a summer day.

Our cats being really cute.

Watching The Price is Right as a family.

Finishing a book.

Everybody says, "It's the little things in life." And it really, really is. Those are the things that create your everyday delights. Sure, the big things hold their magic too -- a major vacation, getting married, having a child, landing a dream job. But if you neglect the wonder in the little things, you miss out on 99% of God's grace in your life.

Take a moment today and appreciate something little, whatever it is. A green light. A great cup of coffee. A stunning sunset. On-sale ice cream. A fan positioned just right. Your favorite t-shirt.

Just appreciate it as a little manifestation of God's glorious, happy grace. Amazing.

5 (More) Podcasts I Listen To

Back in April I posted 6 podcasts I'd been listening to. But time brings new podcasts, new interests, and different perspectives. While I still listen to some of those podcasts, here are 5 more I've been listening to since that post.

Apologia Radio -- Honestly, I had no idea why I wasn't listening to this podcast. The cast is funny and entertaining but they have such solid and fascinating conversations about culture and theology. I wasn't all that familiar with Jeff Durbin and Apologia Studios before listening to AR, but I've been impressed and encouraged with everything that I've seen. (Side note: Apologia Studios recently released a video of a conversation Jeff had with a Planned Parenthood supporter outside of a PP clinic in Tempe, Arizona. It was a fascinating watch.)

Home Row: A Podcast for Writers -- Okay, if you're not a writer you may not find this the most interesting podcast ever. But I love it. J.A. Medders has interviewed Christian writers like Tony Reinke, Douglas Wilson, Tim Challies, and Barnabas Piper about their writing processes, the world of publishing, what to read, how to come up with ideas, and a lot of other things. If you're interested in writing, this is a podcast to check out.

Stop, No, Weight -- I am eagerly awaiting the third episode of this brand-new podcast hosted by Paul Maxwell and Joy Beth Smith. Stop, No, Weight is about Christians and body image and food and attraction and romance, and it is both incredibly vulnerable and insightful. It's an important conversation to have, and I think Paul and Joy Beth are really nailing it. I look forward to continuing to listen.

The Happy Rant -- Ted Kluck, Barnabas Piper, and Ronnie Martin are the cast members of The Happy Rant, an amusedly cantankerous podcast where these Christian guys just rant about a few different topics. It sounds ridiculous, I know, and probably rather negative, but you can't take much seriously on this podcast. It's funny and a teensy bit edgy (at least in my conservative/Reformed context), but it is also thought-provoking and self-aware.

Limetown -- Totally different from any other podcasts I've listened to, Limetown is a fictional program. I listened to the entire show in one day and was spell-bound. Similar to radio theater, Limetown is presented as a series of investigative reports by reporter Lia Haddock as she uncovers the truth behind the mysterious disappearance of 300 people at a research facility in Limetown.

What are you listening to?

The Conference I'm Going To in December

Yesterday registration opened for a conference I have been looking forward to for months. It's CROSS.

In 2013, this student missions conference hosted their first conference in Louisville, Kentucky (which I live-streamed from my basement in Halifax). Then, a year and a half ago they held a one-night simulcast, and, after watching it, I wrote about it here. But this December they're hosting a full four-day conference in Indianapolis, and I couldn't be more excited to attend in person this time.

From December 27-30, dozens of godly men (like John Piper, David Platt, and Kevin DeYoung) and a few godly women will speak to thousands of college-aged kids about the global cause of Christ. Musicians Trip Lee and Matt Boswell will lead worship, and Dad and I will soak it all in.

This is what the website says about CROSS:

"CROSS aims to mobilize students for the most dangerous and loving cause in the universe: rescuing people from eternal suffering and bringing them into the everlasting joy of knowing and worshipping Jesus.

CROSS is not a church. It is not a new campus ministry. It is not an offshoot of any existing ministry, as thankful as we are for so many likeminded movements and organizations. The aim of CROSS is simpler and more focused: We are a conference that, we pray, may be used of God to mobilize students in the cause of frontier missions for the glory of Jesus Christ. That’s our passion, our purpose."

Something tells me you'll be hearing more from me about this conference as it draws closer and especially once I've attended. After going to TGCWC last month with 7,000 other women, I'm pretty psyched to attend a conference full of passionate Christian guys and girls my age. I'm eager to hear truth preached and see the glory of Christ lifted up in light of the call of gospel work. 

And I am now counting down the days: 153 sleeps until CROSS.

The Sermon You Need in Your Life

Yesterday Dad preached a sermon on a psalm I love -- Psalm 47.

Its theme? Celebration. That's an idea you can't hear too much about. But what kind of celebration? The purest, most fundamental, most everlasting kind. Celebration that God is king.

Do you need joy today? Do you need peace? Do you need courage? Do you need faith? Then listen to this sermon and soak in the richness of the truth that God is reigning now and forever.

Listen to Dad's sermon here.

An 18-Year-Old First Time Attendee Recaps TGCW16

This time two weeks ago I was sitting near the back of a very full room. Two moms and a baby sat on one side of me. A girl with glasses in her twenties sat on the other side of me. Sandra McCracken stood on the stage with her guitar and led 7200 women in worship. It was day 2 of The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference. 

Two weeks ago I attended my very first big conference, and it was marvelous. The only thing lacking was the circumstances. At the beginning of the conference, D.A. Carson commented how delightful it was for him to see so many moms and daughters attending this conference together. That stung a little, because my mom was supposed to be at the conference but was instead at home, sick. So I attended the conference by myself. While Dad drove me down to Indy, walked me to each session, and was basically Superdad, I actually went to the conference by myself.

And in the midst of unfortunate circumstances, I was overwhelmed with great joy.

The Joy of Hearing Women Teach
I frequently read books by Christian women but infrequently have the opportunity to hear them teach in person. To soak in the faithful exposition of 1 Peter by so many godly and articulate women was an immeasurable blessing. Kathleen Nielson, Jen Wilkin, Carrie Sandom, they were all rich with insight and grace. (I unfortunately missed Mary Willson, but I heard she was one of the best.) 

Coming to God's Word hungry to be fed with over seven thousand other women was a delight. 

The Joy of Hearing Women Sing
There's not much like singing praise together in a room of thousands of women. Keith and Kristyn Getty led worship like I've never seen done before. What gifted and humble and lovely people they are. There were moments I was led to tears by the utter joy of the gospel on display in the songs we sang. It was magnificent.

The Joy of Tasting Heaven
Since I went to each session alone, I tended to make friends with people I sat by. There was the young mom from Georgia, the single lawyer from Manhattan, the sweet Texan named Kelly, the foster mom from Iowa, and so many others. It was one of them who said to me, "Don't you just love this? All these Christian women together? It's like a taste of Heaven." And it was. The place was ripe with encouragement, with unity, with worship, with teaching, with growing, and with fellowship. 

But even more, I knew that image of Heaven was incomplete -- because a part of me longed for the diversity of both men and women worshiping together. Dad and I are making plans to attend CROSS conference in Indy in December, a missions conference for college students, and I'm eager to join with a great group of diverse young people of both genders. I'm eager to learn and worship together

I dearly hope I get to attend the next TGCWC, especially with my mom. TGCW16 was a treasure and a gift. I was fed full and came home fit to bursting. It was a privilege to be edified by women and with women and enjoy sweet fellowship. It was indeed a throbbing blot of joy in the midst of this life. I am grateful.

If You Want to Know About the Persecuted Church, Watch This

As I mentioned last week, I was privileged to attend The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference in Indianapolis from June 16-18. My mind is still flipping and flopping with all the heavy truths, rich worship, and striking joy I encountered, and a post is brewing in my mind on all that the experience was for me.

One of the most unexpected moments of blessing and enlightenment came during a panel on the persecuted church. Led by Nancy Guthrie, four people sat on it: D.A. Carson, K.A. Ellis, Mindy Belz, and Nastaran Farahani. Together they discussed the persecuted church. It was horrible and wonderful all at once. The persecution they talked about was horrible, but the hope they highlighted was wonderful.

Take just an hour out of your day and watch (or listen to) this deeply moving and enlightening panel.

*Also, all the media from TGCW16 is now available here. You can watch every plenary session and listen to every breakout.

One Mom's Journey Into Foster Care

Did you know that May is National Foster Care Month?

We have a foster mom in our church who never fails to amaze me by her sacrificial service to the kids she takes in. Reading about foster parenting is always so heartrending, I can't imagine what it's like for the moms and dads who do it. 

Today at Randy Alcorn's blog, there's a wonderful piece by an active foster mom. Why don't you check it out?

I have not given one back yet. At least not one that I have had for more than a few days, one that I have fallen in love with. Friends tell me you cry the day you find out they are leaving, and you cry the day they leave. Then you start all over again, fall in love again, say goodbye again. Sometimes I wonder if I will be able to do it, give them back, but of course I will, whether or not I think I can. This is what I signed up for. This is foster care.

I cannot remember what exactly brought foster care to the forefront of my mind, but in a mind like mine, when something comes to the front, it gets stuck there. So I read about it, talked about it, prayed about it, and I became compelled to do something.

I was compelled by the stories of children, just like mine, living right across town from me who were hurt, starved, raped, ignored. I was compelled by the statistics that predict these kids’ futures: jail, pregnancy, homelessness, further abuse. I was compelled by admitting what is true: God created them, loves them, values them, and died for them, just like He did for me and my own children. Ultimately, I was compelled by the most compelling thing: the fact that I, too, was rescued. These kids were just like me: helpless, hopeless, fatherless.

So, that was it. I had to do something. But my husband and I are a team; we do “somethings” together. And so began the months of talking, praying, and struggling through what this something was. We know God loves orphans, we know God wants us to love orphans, but does that mean we have to upend our happy “one-boy one-girl, all we ever wanted” family to love them?

People Are Different

The more I spend time with people, the more I realize how different people are.

We are so diverse. You love the movie that I hate and hate the book that I love. It's dizzying how different humanity is from each other.

There is no one person you will agree with one hundred percent. No one.

And that's okay. More than okay, that's how things were meant to be. We aren't robots. We aren't clones. We're individuals.

I hate conflict, so sometimes I see my different opinions or preferences as potential flaws. But those are the things that make me me. They're reflections of my specific God-given personhood, little pieces of my heart and mind.

When you see the differences of the many people around you, pause and wonder at the creative complexity of God. This is the God who made all our differences, who loves that we're unique in our image-bearing.

And rejoice in your differences.

I Need a Break (And You Probably Do Too)

I forgot I was supposed to write a blog post today.

I remembered this morning, but then it slipped away, forgotten in a flurry of other writing projects, projects with bigger and scarier deadlines. I worked on one piece for one publication this morning and then rabidly brainstormed article ideas for another website. Then I sat down and started hammering out a rewrite of one of my chapters.

And my brain's getting a little tired.

I was reading yesterday about how draining it is to exert a great deal of mental effort. It is. I'm getting tired now, the dreaded 2:30 slump. But not sleepy. Just a little weary.

Breaks are good. A run or a good book are both viable near-future options. I'm still learning that working hard is vastly important, but equally important is resting hard. Do you make time for rest?

It's something I perpetually struggle with, probably because I love my work so much. But rest is necessary to make us better workers. And when I say better, I don't just mean more productive (though that too). I mean more complete and more satisfied.

Rest makes us better Christians. God gave it to us as a gift for refreshment and soul nourishment, a tool to tackle work with more strength and knowledge.

So take some breaks today. Work hard, and rest hard too. Don't abuse either of these good gifts (that's the temptation), but embrace them with equal passion. And thank God for both.

Friends, Keep Runnin'

There are a lot of ra-ra, go-you songs out there. You know the kind -- peppy anthems of sugar-coated self-worship. "You're beautiful." "You're perfect." "You're worth it."

These are meant to instill a sense of secure hope and enthusiasm for the future. But at best all they do is make you feel a little happier for a moment while letting you down in the long run.

Then there are songs like Matt Papa's "A Pilgrim's Progress (Keep Runnin')." This is not a ra-ra, go-you song. It's a stop-and-reflect, bible-based, take-all-of-your-joy-from-God song. It is rich with encouragement for pushing through the fight and faithfully running the race.

Listen to it today, take delight in God through it, and, friends, keep runnin.'

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Ambushed By Beauty and Chicken Nugget

Wow, this is good. What a reminder that there is beauty in the ordinary and wonder in the mundane. There are 27-year-olds who are prestigious college graduates and working at Chick-fil-A - and who are there serving and glorying in God. That's beautiful.

"I pull my car into an empty spot in the K-Mart parking lot that lies just behind our store. Glancing at the clock, I say to myself, You’re pushing it, bro. Regardless, I stop to take a deep breath before heading inside. A thought begins to cross my mind. I attempt to rebuke it, but instead I think it anyway.

This is not what I thought I’d be doing at twenty-seven…

It’s the same observation I make at the beginning of every shift at Chick-fil-A, regardless of how many times my arrogance in entertaining it has been reprimanded over the past two months. I love the company, and I am grateful for the environment here and for the paycheck, but it’s humbling to tell many of my accomplished, high-flying friends that I am not currently doing something more “impressive” with my life. I know this thought is patently wrong on so many levels, yet I still have a hard time pushing it away as I walk through the front door.

Nora, one of our cashiers who effectively functions as the store grandmother, greets me with her thick North Carolina accent and reminds me that it is Family Night – easily the best night of any week at the store. She follows up, “You get to see your babies tonight!” I can’t help but grin at the prospect of the dozens of laughing kids who will arrive in a few hours. Why are you complaining again?

What God Thinks About You

John Rinehart writes:

"We all want to know who we are. We seek and search and try to 'find ourselves.' Many of us have taken personality tests and other assessments. We learn that we are a lion, a beaver, an ENFP, an activator, a competitor, a high I, high D.

But as helpful as those tests can be, have you ever stopped to ask, 'What does God think about me? Who does he say that I am?'

In all my years as a Christian, I had never asked the question quite this way until recently. And what I found is that God has a lot to say about what he thinks about us — a whole Bible full. But if we could summarize it in a short space, here’s how it might sound.

You Are Valuable

I am the Creator and you are my creation. I breathed into your nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). I created you in my own image (Genesis 1:27). My eyes saw your unformed substance (Psalm 139:16). I knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). I know the number of hairs on your head, and before a word is on your tongue I know it (Matthew 10:30; Psalm 139:4). You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

You are more valuable than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31). I have given you dominion over all sheep and oxen and all beasts of the field and birds of the heavens and fish of the sea (Psalm 8:6–8; Genesis 1:26, 28). I have crowned you with glory and honor as the pinnacle and final act of the six days of creation (Psalm 8:5; Genesis 1:26).

However, from the very beginning, you exchanged the truth about me for a lie. You worshiped and served created things rather than me, the Creator (Romans 1:25). You have sinned and fallen short of my glory (Romans 3:23). Just as I said to Adam and Eve, the penalty for your sin is death (Romans 6:23; Genesis 2:17). And in your sin, you were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). You were children of wrath, living as enemies to me (Ephesians 2:3; Romans 5:10). You turned aside from me. You became corrupt. There is none who does good, not even one (Psalm 14:2–3). What you deserve is my righteous judgment (Psalm 7:11–12).

And yet, in my great love, I gave my unique Son, that all those who believe in him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). While you were still sinners, Christ died for you. While you were still hostile toward me, you were reconciled to me by the death of my Son (Romans 5:8, 10). Sin doesn’t have the last word. Grace does (Romans 5:20).

Now everyone who calls on the name of Jesus will be saved (Romans 10:13). You who have believed are born again (1 Peter 1:3). I have adopted you (Ephesians 1:5). You are children of God, heirs of God (1 John 3:2; Romans 8:16–17). You are no longer orphans. You belong to me (John 14:18; 1 Corinthians 6:19). And I love you as a perfect Father (1 John 3:1; Luke 15:20–24)."

7 (Practical) Ways to Prove You Love Your Parents

We love our parents simply because they’re our parents. But sometimes it’s hard for us to express that love in tangible ways.

Sometimes we dishonor them. Sometimes we fail spectacularly. Sometimes our love seems mercenary. Sometimes we are selfish.

Sometimes our parents may even doubt our love for them.

I know nothing that might break a parent’s heart more. So here are seven practical ways to love your parents:

1. Reject the caricatures.

Too many modern media present parents as out-of-touch, past-obsessed, irresponsible, and immature. They are the screwballs at the center of the comedy routines. We are taught to laugh at our parents. Laugh at their age. Laugh at their un-worldliness.

Love your parents by rejecting the caricatures, the stereotypes, the anthems of parental disrespect that sing from the silver screen.

2. Mine their wisdom.

Despite what Hollywood would have you believe, your parents are actually very wise. Yes, there are sad exceptions and I can only empathize with those who live in such contexts. But many of us have godly, sound parents who have years and years of life experience and would be delighted to impart their wisdom to us.

Sometimes we forget that our parents were teenagers once too. They had boyfriends/girlfriends. They stressed over tests. They worried about college. They drove used cars and worked part-time jobs and went to football games.

They’ve been there and done that – just in a different time.
Go to them for advice. They are worthy counselors.

3. Communicate.

Don’t expect your parents to read your mind. Open up the communication channel.

Ask your parents questions. Go to them with your struggles. Are you wrestling with hard Bible verses? Sexual purity? Finding your passion and purpose?

Communicate with your parents.

4. Laugh with them, not at them.

Your parents are not made to be a joke. Sure, sometimes they are crazy and deserved to be laughed at, but reject media’s idea that it’s “cool” to mock your parents.

Laugh with them at their corny jokes. Celebrate life with them.

5. Get to know them as people.

As we get older, we start to see that our parents are not just “Mom” and “Dad.” They’re real people with unique identities and stories that extend beyond the reach of parenthood. We start to relate to them more as friends rather than just as authority figures.

Take the time to see what they really like to do. Talk about life. Just hang out. Get to know your parents as people.

6. Serve them.

In big ways and small ways and all the ordinary, mundane ways in between. Make them dinner. Say, “I love you.” Write them a letter and tell them how much you’ve learned from them. Clean their house. Take them out for a fancy dinner.

7. Pray for them.

Do it every day. Know how they need prayer. Pray faithfully and lovingly. Thank God for your parents and pray for His glory to be manifested in their lives as they do His will. Pray specifically. Pray boldly. Pray humbly.

And tell your parents you’re praying for them.

Our parents are people too. One day we may be them. In this unique, beautiful time in our lives, we’re surrounded by change. Our parents feel it too. Be open with them. Serve them. Share with them your dreams and fears.

And love them. God gave us our parents for a reason. Celebrate them.