Overcome: The Past – Where Have You Come From?

(Begin with 1-2 minutes of silence)

Have you ever wanted to get away? Have a fresh start? You’re certainly not alone. 

Negative experiences and trauma are unfortunate realities of the broken world in which we live. Sometimes we just want to run and get away from it all. And we’ll go to big lengths to make it happen. We may do this by intentionally avoiding someone who has hurt us or someone we’ve hurt. Trying out a new job. Some may even move to another community in order to have a fresh start. 

But unfortunately, running away from past hurts or mistakes isn’t helpful or healthy. Running away simply doesn’t work. 

There’s a similar theme woven throughout a number of stories in the Old Testament. Somebody is clearly running away from their past when a wise person challenges them with two questions: Where have you come from? Where you are going?

These questions may seem simple, but there’s tremendous wisdom in them. They provide opportunities to confront the traumatic experiences of the past. They provide opportunities to heal. They provide opportunities to grow. 


GENESIS 16:8, JOHN 16:33

Where have you come from? What negative or traumatic experiences have led you to want to have a fresh start?

Is there anything you’re still running from today?  

Extra: During Sunday’s message, Pastor Justin mentioned this scene from The Chosen, which is a creative telling of the story that occurs in John 4. Feel free to watch it by clicking here.


Heavenly Father, I confess that I don’t like to think about some aspects of my past. There’s a fear that the pain of some events may overwhelm me, and my life already feels overwhelming. But I’m beginning to see that ignoring these events isn’t helping. So today I pray that you will help me to see these events through fresh eyes. I also pray that I will regularly remember that You have overcome the world, and I can rest in You in all things. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

(End with 1-2 minutes of silence)

The Prayers of Paul

In Timothy Keller’s book Prayer, he observes the startling truth that Paul never prayers for the circumstances of his friends. Keller writes, “It is remarkable that in all of his writings Paul’s prayers for his friends contain no appeals for changes in their circumstances. It is certain that they lived in the midst of many dangers and hardships. They faced persecution, death from disease, oppression by powerful forces, and separation from loved ones. Yet in these prayers you see not one petition for a better emperor, for protection from marauding armies, or even for bread for the next meal. Paul does not pray for the goods we would usually have near the top of our lists of requests…[what] he most frequently prayed for his friends, was for them to know God better. ”

So…what exactly did Paul pray for his friends? Below is a compilation of passages to answer this question.

Prayers of Paul:

I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Finally, brothers, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 

(Phil. 1:3-6; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-12; Eph. 3:16-19; Eph. 1:17-19; Col. 3:12-17; Phil. 4:8-9)

Questions to Consider:

What do you find most interesting about Paul’s prayers for his friends?

In what ways may God be inviting you to change how you pray?

Created to Love God & Others

Chances are, you already know that Real Relationships are difficult. So how can we go about loving God and others well? 

First, recognize the barriers that are getting in the way of you being able to connect with God and others. While there may be many, here are three that were addressed in a recent message at South Ridge Church.

Question: What’s getting in the way of you being able to connect with God and others? 

Barrier #1: Searching for your identity outside of Christ.

According to Henri Nouwen, the 3 biggest lies we can believe about where to find our identity are: 

  • I am what I do. 
  • I am what others say or think about me. 
  • I am what I have. 

For example: 

I am what I do – My job or my career defines me. I’m good at it. I spend 45-50 hours (or more) a week focusing on that, so I’m really, really good at it. I don’t make time to think about connecting with God and others, because I’m not good at that. But I am good at what I do, so I’ll not only focus my energy there, but I’ll let my work define who I am. Or…

I am what others say or think about me – My family tells me who I am and what I’m supposed to say, think, or believe. As long as my spouse, kids, boss, friends, and/or family think well of me, then that’s where I’ll find my identity. 

I am what I have – Whether it’s a house, car, family, spouse, kids, personal appearance, the nicest golf clubs, a swim membership, another pair of shoes, a new computer, or anything else. We can go to what we have for our identity.

Question to consider: Where do you most go to find your identity?

Practical Application: Find at least five Scripture passages that clearly say who God says you are, write them down, and read them several times a day until you begin to actually believe them.

Barrier #2: Our opinions of others and/or their behavior.

In Everybody Always, Bob Goff writes, “God makes people, and people make issues, but people aren’t issues. They’re not projects either. People are people.” 

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV) For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Matthew 5:43-44 (NIV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

What if you don’t have people you would refer to as enemies? Perhaps the best step is to think of those you often disagree with, or as Bob Goff says, those “who are flat out wrong about more than a couple of things.” Surely we all have others in our lives that fall into these categories. And one way to love them is to truly believe that they’re doing the best they can.

Question to consider: In what ways would your life be different if you believed that people, in general, are doing the best they can?

Practical Application: Write down the names of 1-3 people you don’t understand or often disagree with, and then think of at least one way to love each of them over the next week. Then think of at least one way to love each of them the following week. And then the next. And then the next. And the next. And keep doing that until you get to a point of seeing them as a person, and not an issue. 

If that seems like an unrealistic step for you, then write down the names of 1-3 people you don’t understand or often disagree with, and beside their name write the words, “is doing the best they can.” Try it. See what happens. It may take days, weeks, months, or even years. But follow through with this exercise every day and over time, you’ll find that maybe you don’t misunderstand them or disagree with them as much as you thought you did. You’ll begin to see them a bit differently. You’ll begin to see them a bit more like God sees them. 

Barrier #3: Lack of delighting in others as Christ does.

Author Larry Crabb writes in his book, Connecting, that we connect with others by:

  • Letting people know we delight in them as Christ does
  • Eagerly looking for the goodness in someone’s heart
  • Remembering that it’s the kindness of God that leads to repentance and healing

Colossians 1:28-29 (NIV) He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.

Research indicates that for relationships to work well, Appreciations need to outweigh Criticisms by a ratio of at least 7:1.

Question to consider: Do you find yourself sharing more appreciations, or more criticisms?

Practical Application: Keep count this week of the number of appreciations you share. Pick 1-3 people, and see if you can share something you delight in them at least 7 times more than you can share a criticism with them. 

Take time over the coming weeks to really think about the above questions and follow through on the Practical Application suggestions. Chances are, you’ll begin to experience tremendous fruit in your relationships with God and others.

Should I Read the Bible…in a Year?

I’d like to make a confession. I’m guilty of encouraging people to follow a “Read the Bible in a Year” plan. Having read through the entire Bible several times through the years, there’s something about a yearly reading plan that clicks for me. There’s a simple checklist, and I can read through a daily reading while drinking my morning coffee. I’ve even read a daily reading on my iPad while walking on a treadmill. (Though to be fully transparent, I’m much more likely to be listening a Brandon Sanderson novel or another audiobook while exercising.)

But in 2018 I decided to try something a bit different. I started reading through a specific Study Bible on my shelf and wanted to not only read the Biblical text, but all of the commentary notes as well. To make it worse, I tried to convince myself that I could read the whole thing in a year. Truth be told, I probably could have done it. I could have pushed myself and made it through the entire thing. But had I tried, I would have missed out on some other things God was teaching me.

Today, with 2020 drawing to a close, I’m nearing the end of reading through that particular Study Bible. I’m probably 93% through, and should finish it in early 2021.

Why am I sharing this…?

Well, I’ve talked with a lot of normal, everyday, real life, people who have attempted a “Read through the Bible in a Year” plan, and were not able to complete it. When asked why they weren’t able to complete it, the two most common responses I’ve heard through the years include:

  • I started in Genesis 1 and just wanted to read it straight through. I actually made it through Exodus, but a little bit into Leviticus I was so confused I just gave up.
  • Life got really busy for me, and at some point in time I realized I was so far behind that I’d never finish the plan in a year, so I stopped trying.

Because I’ve heard responses such as these many times through the years, I wanted to offer some insight that may help.


  1. Get a good Study Bible.

30 years ago, the Study Bible market was fairly limited in scope. Today, there are a lot (like, a lot a lot!) of Study Bibles to choose from. So many, in fact, it may be difficult to choose.

Personally, I often recommend the NLT or NIV Life Application Study Bible as a good choice. But feel free to read this article outlining some other popular options, and/or do some additional research on what Bible you think may be best for you.

  1. You may not want to read the Bible straight through.

Beginning in Genesis and reading straight through may work for some people, but it probably isn’t best for many. Why? Well, because that’s not how it was written. The Bible isn’t one book written from beginning to end. It’s sixty-six books. And while the timeline of the Bible is mostly in order, there is overlap between some of the books.

For example, if you read 1 & 2 Kings and then 1 & 2 Chronicles in the Old Testament, you’ll quickly discover you’re reading some of the same historical accounts of the same kings of Israel.

One solution to this is to read through the Bible chronologically. There are many chronological reading plans available, but this one is probably the simplest one for those reading through the Bible for the first time. If you read through the Bible in this way, you’ll begin to see some passages tied together in a way you may not have noticed before.

Another possible solution is to use a Reading Plan that doesn’t focus on the entire Bible. The F260 Bible Reading Plan is one that focuses on the foundational passages of the Bible in 260 daily readings. So those passages in Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy that may seem confusing…likely aren’t included in this plan.

  1. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall behind.

Picture this. You’re binge watching a TV series such as The Mandalorian on Disney+. You have a goal to finish the first two seasons within two weeks. But something comes up and you’re only able to get through the first half of Season 2 by the end of your initial goal. Do you give up and say, “Well, I didn’t complete it before I wanted to, so I’m not going to go back and watch the final episodes of Season 2”? I mean really, you know you’re going to finish it, right?

Here’s the deal – there is no hard and fast rule saying you have to complete a “One Year Reading Plan” within a year. These plans are simply a guide to help you follow a systematic plan to read through the entire Bible. As I noted above, I’m just now nearing the end of a plan to read through a specific Study Bible and it’s taken me three years to do it. I’ve pushed pause on the reading plan a few times to focus some energy studying out other topics and passages. But I didn’t give up on completing the plan.

So yes, there are benefits to engaging with the Scriptures on a regular basis. And yes, most people I know who read the Bible at least 5-6 days a week can’t imagine not reading it. But don’t give up just because you fall behind on your goal. Keep reading. Get to know God. Get to better understand who He has made you to be. And continue to experience the full life He desires you to live.

  1. Bonus: Journal what you’re learning.

Choosing to journal will undoubtedly extend the amount of time you need each day to engage with the Scriptures. But in my experience, it helps to better process and reflect on what I’ve read and engage with the text more fully.

Personally, I often type my journals into an app called Day One. It’s my go-to software on my computer and phone for journaling. But I occasionally use pen and paper to really slow my mind down, as I can sometimes more fully reflect on what I’ve read when I’m not sitting behind a computer screen.

Outside of reading the Scriptures, I’ve also discovered that journaling helps me reflect on other areas in my life, and to identify the positive things that happen throughout each day.

If you’re not used to journaling, here are some steps you may find helpful as you begin to engage with the Scriptures more regularly.

Do you have another tip that wasn’t covered above? Feel free to leave a comment and let us know!

Getting Started with Journaling

Think about this: How clear are you on your biggest convictions in life? Do you know exactly what you believe and why you believe it? Do you know what your preferences are and what your boundaries are? If you’re anything like me, it takes time to think through questions such as these. But thinking through them for just 10-15 minutes a day often proves very helpful. It’ll take time (weeks, months, and maybe even years), but a little bit of intentional journaling/thinking every day will help you track your growth in ways you may never expect. If you’re not used to journaling on a regular basis, consider trying it for two to three weeks and see what happens.

Below are some steps / questions you can walk through to ensure you’re thinking through life’s challenges in a healthy way. There are other methods as well, but consider this a starting point:

Journaling Recommendation #1: 

    • Begin with 3 positives from the day
    • After writing out 3 positives of the day, write about anything else on your mind. 
    • Oftentimes, the four questions (1) What am I sad about? (2) What am I mad about? (3) What am I anxious about? (4) What am I glad about? Are good questions to consider. 


Journaling Recommendation #2: 

    • Begin with 3 positives from the day, then focus on one or two of the following questions: 
        • Where do my thoughts on self-worth come from? If they’re negative thoughts, what Scripture verses speak against these lies?
        • Why do I feel like I’m not good enough? What Scripture verses speak against these lies?
        • What, specifically, do I love about my spouse, kids, others – emotionally? spiritually? physically? etc.? 
        • What healthy / unhealthy thoughts did I have today? How can I replace the unhealthy ones with healthy ones tomorrow? 
        • What healthy / unhealthy behaviors did I have today? How can I replace the unhealthy ones with healthy ones tomorrow?


Journaling Recommendation #3: 

    • Begin with 3 positives from the day and then focus on one or two of the following questions: 
        • What are the 2-3 things most getting in the way of me growing in my relationship with God? 
        • What are the 2-3 things most getting in the way of me growing in my relationship with my spouse (or kids, others)? 
        • What are the 2-3 things most getting in the way of me knowing who God has made me to be? 
        • What steps can I begin to take to overcome these barriers? And who can help keep me accountable to ensure I take these steps? 


Journaling Recommendation #4: 

    • Read Scripture and answer (1) What am I learning about the nature and character of God? (2) What have I learned over the past week (or month) about myself? 
    • Note: In my own life, I’ve written out 3-5 Biblical principles and/or Scripture verses that I regularly repeat to myself as I wrestle with my own unhealthy fears. You may likely find it helpful to do something similar.



I Wish Someone Had Told Me How Harmful Judgmental Thoughts Can Be

Today, we at SRC began a new message series titled I Wish Someone Had Told Me…

This series will be focusing on topics such as, I Wish Someone Had Told Me…

  • How harmful judgmental thoughts can be. 
  • What forgiveness is, what it isn’t, and how to practice it. 
  • How much envy impacts our lives. 
  • How much shame impacts our lives. 
  • What it actually means to live in the Kingdom of God. 
  • That not all anger is bad or sinful. 
  • How to grieve. 

As I (Justin) mentioned in the message this morning (July 26), this first message on the topic of Judgment was difficult to write. I felt like there was so much more that could’ve been said. For those interested in digging a little deeper into this topic, here are some steps you can take this week.

  1. Follow through on the end-message questions to consider. Give 10-15 minutes a day to follow-through on your answers to #1 and #3. Also consider specific ways a mentor may be of help, and consider contacting one or two individuals to ask them if they would be willing to serve in this way.

Questions to Consider: 

In what ways will I begin to practice thinking and speaking encouraging thoughts about others? 

Who can I invite to be a mentor in my life to help me be accountable in the areas that matter most? 

Who is somebody I know who is hurting right now? How can I serve them?


  1. Take the opportunity to study out the topic of judgmental thoughts on your own.

For example, the NLT Life Application Study Bible provides the following references for judging others:

  • don’t be quick to judge (Acts 11:2-18)
  • God’s standards versus society’s (1 Samuel 16:7, Luke 3:2)
  • how God judges others (Psalm 1:1)
  • avoid double standards when (Isaiah 11:3-5)
  • we’re experts at telling others what to do (Matthew 5:19)
  • why it should be left to God (Matthew 13:40-43, 1 Corinthians 4:5)
  • we cannot know who will be in God’s Kingdom (Matthew 13:47-49)
  • can’t judge others’ salvation (Matthew 16:27)
  • use compassion and forgiveness first (John 8:7)
  • difference between judging others and dealing with their sin (1 Corinthians 5:12)

See if you can find additional references in your Study Bible of choice, and then think through the following questions:

If I were to be completely honest with myself, how regularly do I judge others?

Which 2 or 3 of these verses stick out the most to me? Why is that?

Abraham Lincoln once said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” In what ways may God be inviting me to grow in my knowledge and understanding of those who look, think, act, worship, and/or live different than me? Be specific. 

In what ways is God inviting me to change my judgmental thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors? Be specific.


This topic is a challenging one, as we’re each confronted with something deep within ourselves that God desires to refine. But just as gold and silver needs to have all impurities removed to increase its purpose, God desires to refine each of us so that we may better fulfill His purpose in our lives. His refinement transforms us into something stronger than we were before. May you continue to grow in Him this week.

Be blessed!

Who’s Sitting at the Table?

Earlier this year I took the opportunity to read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning. As Manning goes on and on about the tremendous love and grace of God, he pauses in one chapter to share a story about a friend who is uneasy about having dinner with Christ in heaven. She’s uneasy because she isn’t the one who will get to choose who’s sitting with her at the table.


This story has challenged me to consider whether I have the same sense of uneasiness. I’ve challenged myself with questions such as:

  • Am I willing to sit and dine with those who look, act, think, work, and live very differently than myself?
  • If not, why not?
  • If so, why am I not taking more opportunities to dine with them now, on this side of heaven?
  • Am I to only build relationships with those who have similar interests as hobbies as myself?
  • In what ways can I be more intentional to build relationships with those who do look, act, think, work, and live differently than myself?

Ouch. These questions are difficult, even painful to think about. It feels like Jesus Himself is standing with me whispering, “You’re invited. Come and dine.”

“But Jesus, who will be sitting with me?”

“It doesn’t matter. I have a seat reserved just for you.”


“Come and dine.”

You see, Jesus spent years of His life and ministry being with those who looked, acted, thought, worked, and lived very differently than He did. He dined with sinners and tax collectors. He showed a prostitute that she was loved by God more deeply than she knew. He told stories of how His own people (the Jews) walked on the other side of the road from somebody who was beaten and left for dead, and how a Samaritan – a people group loathed and hated by the Jews – gave aid to the man in need. He took a rag-tag group of twelve men and revealed to them that they were created by God for a magnificent purpose. One that would forever change the trajectory of their lives. He then invited you and I to follow in His footsteps. To come and dine with Him, not being concerned or afraid about who else may be at the table.

All in all, Christ’s words and actions should stir a reckoning deep within us. We should be confronted by our own thoughts, fears, and feelings. We should be asking ourselves how much it really matters who else is sitting at the table, and simply rest in knowing that He is sitting at the head. And maybe, just maybe, we should each be considering who we can have join us at the table here and now.

Each and every day, we’re being transformed into the image of Christ. May our prayer continue to be one of being transformed into His image and not asking Him to be transformed to ours.

As David prayed,

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Psalm 139:23-24


What’s Coming Up at SRC?


Those who have been joining us each weekend at SRC know we’ve been focused on a series titled Do Not Be Afraid, which is based on the book Letting Go of Fear by Neil T. Anderson and Rich Miller. We’ll be continuing this series over the next few weeks, but then we’ll be engaging in a couple of series’ I’m really excited about.

Beginning Sunday, July 26 we’ll begin a series titled, “I Wish Someone Had Told Me…” The idea behind the series is to take a look into some difficult life lessons learned the hard way. Honestly, it was difficult to narrow down a list of topics for this series, as I’m sure we’ve all learned some life lessons the hard way. The topics we’re likely to cover include:

I wish someone had told me…

  • How harmful judgmental thoughts can be.
  • What forgiveness is, what it isn’t, and how to practice it.
  • How much envy impacts our lives.
  • How much shame impacts our lives.
  • Not all anger is bad or sinful.
  • How to grieve.
  • What it means to live in the Kingdom of God.

Then this Fall, we’ll be launching a series titled The Good & Beautiful God which is based on a book by James Bryan Smith. Our hope is that all of our Community Groups will join us for a more in-depth study on this book which focuses on the nature and character of God.

The book description notes, “God wants me to try harder.””God blesses me when I’m good and punishes me when I’m bad.””God is angry with me.”We all have ideas that we tell ourselves about God and how he works in our lives. Some are true–but many are false. James Bryan Smith believes those thoughts determine not only who we are, but how we live. In fact, Smith declares, the most important thing about a person is what they think about God. The path to spiritual transformation begins here. Turning to the Gospels, Smith invites you to put your ideas to the test to see if they match up with what Jesus himself reveals about God. Once you’ve discovered the truth in Scripture, Smith leads you through a process of spiritual formation that includes specific activities aimed at making these new narratives real in your body and soul as well as your mind. At the end of each chapter you’ll find an opportunity for soul training, engaging in spiritual practices that reinforce the biblical messages on your mind and heart. Because the best way to make a complete and lasting change is to go through the material in community, small group discussion questions also accompany each chapter. This deep, loving and transformative book will help you discover the narratives that Jesus lived by–to know the Lord he knew and the kingdom he proclaimed–and to practice spiritual exercises that will help you grow in the knowledge of our good and beautiful God.

Currently, Community Groups are set to launch Sunday, September 13. If you’re not currently in a Group but would like to look into the possibility of joining or leading one, feel free to let us know by clicking here.

Summer Reading: 2020 (Part 1)

Those who know me well know that I read (or listen to audiobooks) a lot. This year I set a goal of reading through an average of one book a week (52 for the year) and I’m currently four books ahead of schedule.

With COVID-19 hindering many people’s travel plans, I thought I would recommend a few good reads you may enjoy. The links provided here are for the Amazon Kindle edition of the book, but many of these are available at your local library. For those who may not know, you can borrow digital / kindle books directly from the library and return them after 14-21 days. It’s a free service, and well worth utilizing.

If you have any other book recommendations, feel free to leave a comment below. Be blessed all!

Christian Non-fiction:

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning:


The Ragamuffin Gospel was originally published in 2009, but is a book that will continue to go down in history as a classic. Manning repeatedly focuses on the wonders of God’s grace. As I read through it (and am reading through it again), I find myself regularly stopping to absorb the weight of his words. A powerful book worthy of the accolades it has received over the past 30 years.

In the Name of Jesus : Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri Nouwen


Henri Nouwen was a Catholic Priest who penned a ridiculous number of books throughout his ministry. While having opportunities to teach at Notre Dame and Harvard, he ended his career caring for those with severe intellectual and physical disabilities at L’Arche institute in Ontario.

In the Name of Jesus is a fairly quick read, but is another that will provide a plethora of insights worthy of chewing on for days, or even weeks at a time.

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.


Corrie Ten Boom, her sister Betsy, and their father sheltered Jewish refugees during WWII and were late captured by the Nazis and forced to labor in Ravensbrück concentration camp. Corrie’s real life story will inspire you to think about those who persecute you in new ways. Know going in that you may need to keep a few tissues nearby, but it’s well worth the time to engage with her story.

The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby


Growing up in a community with less diversity, I didn’t (and probably still don’t) fully understand and appreciate the ongoing conversations about racial inequality and bias. The Color of Compromise is one of a dozen or more books I’ve read over the past year in an effort to understand the need for the conversation and to educate myself as to how to better engage in the discussion. Admittedly, you may find parts of this read unsettling. You may even wonder why our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents generations allowed certain things to happen. But a hundred years from now, there’s a good chance our great grandchildren will be wondering some of the same things about the decisions we make today. Hopefully they won’t still be asking questions about why we allowed any form of racial inequality or bias to continue.

Young Adult / Fiction:

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls


Yes, this is yet another old classic that was originally published in 1961. I believe I first read this one in 8th grade as required reading, but during the COVID-19 stay-at-home-order I was looking for something light and easy to read. Where the Red Fern Grows fit the bill nicely. If you’ve never read it, or even if you have, consider giving it another go.


The Guardians by John Grisham.


Generally speaking, I’m not a huge Grisham fan. But The Guardians has been highly reviewed, and for good reason. While the story itself is fictional, it is based on real life stories of racial injustice that continue to be part of our culture. All in all, it was an excellent portrayal of inequality and one man’s mission to have a wrongful conviction overturned.

Feeding Your Heart, Mind, and Soul

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic many of us are stuck inside. As such, we may be tempted to waste our time with boredom, numbing, or even escaping the realities of our current circumstances.

Below are some brief ideas on how you may use this time in a more encouraging manner — renewing your mind, heart, and soul. Also included are some reading suggestions (from Pastor Justin) for those who want to read something other than the national news media.

Suggestions for Feeding Your Heart, Mind, and Soul: 

  1. Memorize Psalm 23 and/or read through it several times a day.
  2. Write out all the things you’re grateful about. Keep your list growing for days until you reach at least 100.
  3. Place a “Jesus Jar” on the shelf. When something enters your mind that you have no control over, write it on a card and put it in the Jesus Jar to remind yourself that He is in control.
  4. Read a good devotional each morning and evening. 
  5. Utilize the Romans Devotional for this message series.
  6. Read Scripture during free time. Start with the Gospels, Psalms, Proverbs, or other books in the New Testament.
  7. Spend a full two hours with God. 
  8. Find ways to play, smile, and laugh. (Play a table game with the family. Take pictures and create a video. Plan a dream vacation. Just find something to do that is much more life-giving than life-draining.) 
  9. Schedule a media fast for an entire day (or week). 
  10. Commit an entire day (or longer) to not gossiping. Gossip is speaking negatively about someone who is not present – whether in person, on the phone, text, or on social media. (This may include family, neighbors, politicians, journalists, or anybody else.)
  11. Pray for somebody you’re struggling to forgive, or whom you may be experiencing bitterness or resentment. 
  12. Write a card of encouragement for a family member, friend, pastor, colleague, neighbor, or other. 
  13. Practice a full day of Sabbath rest in a godly way. (What is it that truly brings you rest?)
  14. Spend 10 minutes a day being still, knowing God is God.
  15. Have video calls with family and friends. Zoom.us is a free service that anybody with a laptop, cell phone, or tablet can use for free video calls.


Encouraging questions you can ask others you may check-in with: 

  1. How are you currently holding up emotionally? Can you pinpoint exactly what you’re feeling? 
  2. What are some things you’re doing to listen to God each day? What are you learning or discovering about Him? 
  3. What are some things you’re learning about yourself at this time? 
  4. How has God uniquely suited you to be a light to yourself, your family, your neighbors, and others at this time? 
  5. Do you have any doubts or fears we can discuss and pray about? 


Book Recommendations (by Genre):

Christian Non-Fiction: 

  1. Victory over the Darkness by Neil T. Anderson (What does it mean to find your identity in Christ?)
  2. The Good & Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith (Is God good only some of the time? Does he love you more when you’re ‘good’ and less when you’re not?)
  3. Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (You cannot grow spiritually without growing emotionally, and vice-versa.)
  4. Everybody Always by Bob Goff (What would it look like to love everybody, always?)
  5. It’s Not Supposed to be This Way by Lysa TerKeurst (Finding unexpected strengths when disappointments leave you shattered.)

Other Non-Fiction: 

  1. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (Injustices in the legal system.)
  2. Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King (A True survival story of a shipwreck in the 1800’s.)
  3. Educated by Tara Westover (Memoir of growing up uneducated and completely off the grid.)

Fiction / Fantasy:

  1. Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson (This is fantasy writing, much like Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings. As such, it isn’t for everybody. I would give it a PG-13 rating for violence and language.)
  2. And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman (A short novella about the challenges of an aging parent or grandparent. Be warned, you may very well tear-up if you listen or read this one.)
  3. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (My personal favorite WWII fiction novel.)

If you’re looking for other reading suggestions, feel free to comment and let me know. I read a lot and could have posted many more suggestions!