Expedition 37: The Darkest Night

Here’s the video for Expedition 37 in Exploring the Bible. If you want to bookmark a page where all the videos are posted, you can find them on my blog, on YouTube, or the Facebook page for Exploring the Bible.

If you haven’t started your kids on the book yet, you can begin anytime and use it with any Bible version. Here are some sample pages.

You can get it at RHBWestminster BooksCrossway, or Amazon. If you’re in Canada use Reformed Book Services. Some of these retailers have good discounts for bulk purchases by churches and schools.


Finding Your Passion

I agree with James Clear that “Habits are easier when they align with your natural abilities.” I disagree with his application, which is, “Choose the habits that best suit you.” As he puts it:

“One of the best ways to ensure your habits remain satisfying over the long-run is to pick behaviors that align with your personality and skills. Work hard on the things that come easy.”

I disagree because God often requires us to eliminate sinful habits that are extremely easy for us, and to cultivate habits that are extremely difficult for us. By God’s grace, that can be extremely satisfying.

However, while Clear’s advice is bad for sanctification, it can be good for choosing our vocation. I’m sure we’ve all heard Dave Ramsey and others respond to people’s questions about their callings with the advice, “Follow your passion….Find your passion and develop it.”

I’d therefore like to take Clear’s words about habits and apply them to finding your vocation. To find your passion, ask yourself these questions:

What feels like fun to me, but work to others?
The mark of whether you are made for a task is not whether you love it but whether you can handle the pain of the task easier than most people. When are you enjoying yourself while other people are complaining? The work that hurts you less than it hurts others is the work you were made to do.

What makes me lose track of time?
Flow is the mental state you enter when you are so focused on the task at hand that the rest of the world fades away. This blend of happiness and peak performance is what athletes and performers experience when they are “in the zone.” It is nearly impossible to experience a flow state and not find the task satisfying at least to some degree.

Where do I get greater returns than the average person?
We are continually comparing ourselves to those around us, and a behavior is more likely to be satisfying when the comparison is in our favor. When I started writing at jamesclear.com, my email list grew very quickly. I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing well, but I knew that results seemed to be coming faster for me than for some of my colleagues, which motivated me to keep writing.

What comes naturally to me?
For just a moment, ignore what you have been taught. Ignore what society has told you. Ignore what others expect of you. Look inside yourself and ask, “What feels natural to me? When have I felt alive? When have I felt like the real me?” No internal judgments or people-pleasing. No second-guessing or self-criticism. Just feelings of engagement and enjoyment. Whenever you feel authentic and genuine, you are headed in the right direction. Our genes do not eliminate the need for hard work. They clarify it. They tell us what to work hard on. Once we realize our strengths, we know where to spend our time and energy.

Of course, we must also allow for the possibility that God’s calling may not be aligned with our passion, in which case we must follow God not our heart. However, if God has given us gifts and passion in one direction, we must seriously ask if that’s what God is calling us to.


See more Atomic Habits posts here.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones


Check out

Blogs

You Might Need Marriage Counseling—Especially If You Think You Don’t
“As a Christian woman of color, I’ve noticed that marriage counseling can be taboo subject among both the Christian and the African American communities. I believe this stigma thrives for several reasons”

The Spiritual Dangers of Disconnecting from Creation
“I’ve spent my career working at the intersection of development and conservation in parks, recreation, and preserved open spaces. Over the last 30 years I’ve witnessed a deep and growing disconnect between people and nature. This disconnect is accelerating as the digital revolution means more people spend less time outdoors in creation, particularly in developed and urban contexts. I believe this disconnect can negatively affect our individual and corporate spiritual health.”

8 Real-Life Questions about Children and Discipline
“The Bible teaches that a loving parent is one that disciplines his or her child. But the how can often confound well-meaning parents. Below, Sam Crabtree, author of Parenting with Loving Correction: Practical Help for Raising Young Children shares some practical advice for how to navigate some specific situations in the home.”

Celebrities, Professors & Care-Givers: How We Lost Our Missional IQ
“Celebrity, professor, and care-giver; the preferable images for spiritual leadership in North America. Each of them has a cultural history. Each is an overcorrection. None represents the biblical pattern.”

Columns from Tabletalk Magazine, February 2019
This is an outstanding series of articles on a much neglected but important topic.

What happens when God suddenly sets a pastor aside from preaching?
“Pastor and Practical Shepherding President, Jim Savastio has preached God’s word faithfully for 35 years taking only a few weeks off at a time.  That all changed 3 months ago.  Jim unexpectedly experienced an onset of Bell’s Palsy in late November and has been unable to fill his pulpit for over two months. Listen as Brian talks with Jim and he reflects on God’s good providences and what he is learning during this time of being laid aside.”

A Jesus-Shaped Life Finished Well: Robert H. Mounce (1921–2019)
Click through for a beautiful video about Mounce’s care for his invalid wife.

Books

Embracing Obscurity by Anonymous $1.99.

Making All Things New: Restoring Joy to the Sexually Broken by David Powlison $2.99.

This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel by Trevin Wax $2.99


Two Helps to Delaying Gratification

James Clear’s  first three laws of behavior change—make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy—increase the odds that a behavior will be performed this time. The fourth law of behavior change—make it satisfying—increases the odds that a behavior will be repeated next time. It completes the habit loop. Clear’s fourth law is, “What is immediately rewarded is repeated. What is immediately punished is avoided.”

And here’s where we run into a major problem, because most good habits come with an immediate cost or loss, whereas most bad habits come with an immediate reward or gain. Bad habits have an immediate reward and long-term costs (e.g. eating lots of chocolate), whereas good habits have an immediate cost but long term reward (e.g. dieting).

Indeed, success in nearly every field requires is to ignore an immediate reward in favor of a delayed reward. That’s why, “People who are better at delaying gratification have higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, and superior social skills.”

So, what do we do? How do we use Clear’s fourth law? We can ignore it and simply push on through the immediate pain in hope of perseverance until we get the long-term gain. We can do this in the strength of God, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain, support, and strengthen us through the pain until repentance and obedience does pay off in the long-term. We can trust God’s promises of blessing upon obedience and tough it out by his grace. That’s certainly an option, and sometimes it’s the only option.

However, at least in some cases, might we not incorporate Clear’s suggestion to help us wait for ultimate gratification: “Add a little bit of immediate pleasure to the habits that pay off in the long-run and a little bit of immediate pain to ones that don’t.”

“Heresy!” you charge. “Is the Holy Spirit not enough?” Do we need to add Habit science to the Holy Spirit?

Well, consider a couple of immediate pleasures and immediate pains that Clear has in mind (you can think up others I’m sure):

Immediate reward: A habit tracker that provides visible evidence of success and progress.

Immediate punishment: An accountability partner or a habit contract that adds a social cost to bad behavior.

Obviously, these means could be, and often are, used independently of the Holy Spirit. But acknowledging that some of us need all the help we can get, is it not possible that the Holy Spirit can use these immediate rewards and punishments to help us to change out habits for the better? can we not pray:

“Lord I’m weak. I wish I could do what’s right just because it’s right. But often I don’t. I wish I could do what’s right because the Bible says it will pay off at the end. But I confess, even that ideal doesn’t change me. I’m weak and my ideals don’t match my reality. So, please see my desire to change. But also see my weakness. And bless my habit tracking and accountability to provide immediate reward for good and immediate punishment for wrong, and so make long-term changes in my life and character. Glorify your name as I look to you to do what I cannot do. And all for Jesus sake. Amen.”


See more Atomic Habits posts here.

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones


Check out

Blogs

Raising Future Husbands and Wives
“There’s a myth out there that is ruining marriages and probably reducing the number of marriages as well. It’s the myth that we can spend our childhood and adolescence putting our personal success before our need of personal character development and the needs of our future families. A selfless habit of mind will not suddenly appear in marriage. There’s a myth that if we meet Mr. Right or Ms. Perfect and exchange vows at the altar, magic marriage dust will fall upon us both, and we will walk out of that service transformed into selfless people, ready for the real-life demands of marriage. There is no magic marriage dust. We walk out of the service with the same deeply entrenched habits and dispositions that were rooted in our heart when we walked in. Only now, we have so much more responsibility. As parents of future husbands and future wives, perhaps we should think less about training up gifted standouts and focus more on training up men and women who will be prepared to succeed where Tiger Woods fell short.”

Cancer and God’s Sovereignty
“Everything changed when I received a cancer diagnosis on the day before my thirty-fourth birthday. The biopsy revealed a rare and aggressive cancer called angiosarcoma, and the five-year survival rate was not encouraging. I knew I might not live long enough for my eighteen-month-old daughter to remember me. Over the months of treatment and years of survivorship since that day, I’ve wrestled with God’s sovereignty. I don’t question the truth of His rule and reign over all things. I’m grateful that He provided a solid biblical understanding of His character before the phone call came. But I’ve often struggled to find lasting comfort from God’s sovereignty as I look ahead at an uncertain future for my family and me.”

Man says emotional support alligator helps his depression
I
‘m not recommending this, but….

Joie Henney, 65, said his registered emotional support animal named Wally likes to snuggle and give hugs, despite being a 5-foot-long alligator. The York Haven man said he received approval from his doctor to use Wally as his emotional support animal after not wanting to go on medication for depression.

Come to me and rest
“Just rest, child of God. Just rest. One day in seven. Silence those voices that tell you that 6 days and 24 hours a day are not enough. He knows you are dust, and need a rest. Buy a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and take a day. No dishes. No cooking. No cleaning. And just rest. Stop. God gave this day to you, so that you would know that your Father loves you and knows that you are finite, weak, and human. Your bones need rest. You need rest. Just stop. One day. Not a work that you do to earn God’s favor, but just stop and rest in his love. He sanctifies you.”

Church Budget Matters That Matter
“As congregations look at their budget it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sum total. But every dollar that appears there, is a dollar that can glorify God. No wonder the Lord Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).”

God’s Purposes for Suffering in Ministry (Part 1)
“2 Corinthians 4:6-18 gives us ten redemptive purposes for suffering in ministry. Today we will consider five purposes for suffering in ministry addressed in verses 6-13 and Part 2 will discuss five additional purposes found in verses 14-18.” And here is Part 2

Different Mega-Church: Same Old Scandal
This is powerful writing about the nature of power, and it applies not just to megachurches. Be warned that there is one mis-use of the world “hell.” That usually rules out a link on Check out, but this subject is too important and this insight so vital that I’m making a rare exception:

“We can’t just speak fearlessly into “that culture out there”, we must be able to speak fearlessly into “this culture in here”.   But as long as the “that culture out there” is nameless and faceless, it’s fairly easy to fight with.  This culture in here that we know and whose champions we know by first name? Not quite so much.”

3 lessons about mental illness for the sufferer and caregiver
“Loving someone with mental illness has taught me to show grace, compassion, empathy, and patience, giving me the opportunity to be a reflection of the character of Christ in the midst of difficult life circumstances. ”

Kindle Books

The J. H. Bavinck Reader $3.99.

Revelation: The Lectio Continua: Expository Commentary on the New Testament by Joel Beeke $2.99.

Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World  by Michael Horton $2.99.


Check out

Blogs

3 lessons about mental illness for the sufferer and caregiver
“Loving someone with mental illness has taught me to show grace, compassion, empathy, and patience, giving me the opportunity to be a reflection of the character of Christ in the midst of difficult life circumstances.”

Theology for the Teen Years
“Despite the fact that my generation is the least religious generation in US history, God is at work among my peers. He is using faithful churches, pastors, and parents to give us clarity in the midst of a blindingly confusing culture. All throughout history, some of the biggest explosions of conversions and gospel work have happened among students. That could happen again today.”

Seven Questions to Ask Your Daughter’s Boyfriend
“I do not have a daughter, but I do have a sister. A sister who recently got engaged. Before she got engaged, her then-boyfriend and I had a conversation. My latent CIA interrogation skills, like my now-father-in-law’s almost two years ago, kicked into gear. I wanted to protect my sister, and to get to know and encourage the man who was already contemplating proposing. I wanted her best in the Lord, and his. By no means are the questions I came up with exhaustive. And some might be better suited at different times throughout the relationship (before the first date, or as the relationship becomes more serious, or before engagement, or after). I asked these questions before the proposal, and I pray they serve as a good starting place for other brothers (and even fathers) as they sit down to talk with a young man pursuing one of our treasured women.”

An Open Letter to the Parent of a Strong-Willed Child
“”I’ve heard parents say things like, “I feel like I’ve exhausted all my options. No approach seems to work. I’ve tried praying with him. I’ve tried appealing to his conscience. I’ve tried time-outs, and various consequences. . . and it just seems like things don’t get better, but worse. I’m very weary and discouraged. And weary. Did I mention weary?”"

Self-Control, the Leader’s Make-or-Break Virtue
“I’m convinced that the vast majority of leaders whose ministries implode because of a moral failing started on their path by neglecting their relationship with God. Estranged from God’s Spirit, the fruit of self-control eventually withered in their lives. One of the cruel ironies of ministry is that it’s easy to nurture other people’s souls while neglecting your own. If you’re not careful you can get to the place where you only talk to God when you’re praying in public and only open God’s Word to prepare to teach. Don’t be that leader. Make intimacy with the Father your number-one concern. Your life—and the lives of those you lead—depends on it.”

Preaching in a Mild State of Panic
“As one who has been teaching preaching to seminary students for over a decade I know that many (most?) approach using their preaching notes in a way that is detrimental to their preaching.”

Redemption Accomplished & Applied
PCRT conferences in Grand Rapids and Philadelphia.

Puritan Documentary

Books

I want to highly recommend Broken Pieces and the God who Mends Them: Schizophrenia Through the Eyes of a Mother which Westminster books has for sale at $9.00. My endorsement:

“The most honest and deeply moving Christian book I’ve read in a long time. Simonetta opens up her broken heart to show us the painful darkness and agonizing tragedy of serious mental illness. But she also opens the door of hope and help for other families by sharing the hard-won knowledge and resources she discovered both in the common grace of God and in the church of God. May this book transform her beloved son Jonathan’s death into life for many others.”

Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End  by David Gibson $2.99.

Taking God At His Word: Why the Bible Is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung

Experiencing the Trinity: The Grace of God for the People of God by Joe Thorn $1.59.