Sinner, Come Home | Desiring God

April 24, 2014

Sinner, Come Home

My heart was already full as John Piper began his message that would close the recent Together for the Gospel conference. I prayed that God would use his message to implant a passion within our hearts that would shape our lives and ministries for the length of our days.

I was very moved by John’s faithful, careful, and precise exposition of Romans 9. He pointed us to the infinite grace of God and to the assurance of his sovereignty and then pointed us to Paul’s agony over the lostness of his own people, his “kinsmen according to the flesh.” Are we driven by the same agony when we see the lost around us?

I was honestly unprepared for where John would take us at the conclusion of his message. He took us into a crowded tent where he, as a young boy, saw his own father, an evangelist, plead with sinners to come to Jesus — “Won’t you come? . . . Won’t you come?”

Time and space seemed to collapse for me as I remembered being in the same kind of meeting, hearing the same gospel pleading, many, many times as a boy. I remember one time in particular, when as a nine-year-old boy I heard a part-time preacher who was a full-time phosphate miner preach the gospel and then plead with us to come to Christ. And I did.

I know there was more to my salvation than was evident in that moment. I know that my salvation is secured in the eternal plan of a sovereign God. I know that I was effectually called by the Holy Spirit. I had the blessing of Christian parents and constant Christian witness. But I also know that the Holy Spirit used a simple preacher who was willing to plead with sinners, and thus I came to Christ.

When John began to sing, “Softly and Tenderly, Jesus Is Calling,” and to sweetly call a generation of young Reformed Christians to sing it with fervor and broken-hearted pleading, my heart broke. I tasted again the sweetness of my own conversion, and I felt more at home than words can describe.

But I was also broken-hearted with a sense of loss that so many of the 8,000 young people in that great room had never seen an evangelist plead, a godly father present the gospel, a sinner called by the Holy Spirit flee to refuge in Christ.

Imagine what it was like to hear 8,000 voices, mostly young and mostly male, singing — some surely for the first time — “Come home, come home, you who are weary, come home; Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling. Calling, O sinner, come home!”

I was overcome with joy and profound thankfulness for what happened in that room that Thursday afternoon. We all got to see an evangelist pleading with sinners, pointing to Christ, unashamed to plead with emotion and passion and agonized urgency. I heard the conviction in the voices of a rising generation as we sang that hymn, and my spirit rose within me. I was thrilled to lose my composure for the sake of a moment of such joy.

“Softly and tenderly” still rings in my ears, and John Piper’s anointed exposition still rings in my heart. I am thankful beyond words to know that others will hear this message. Don’t dare miss it.


Here is the moving seven-minute excerpt about his father’s evangelistic invitations, beginning at the 59:10 mark of John Piper’s message at Together for the Gospel:

Listen, watch, or read Piper’s full message, “Persuading, Pleading, and Predestination: Human Means in the Miracle of Conversion.”

Albert Mohler serves as president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.

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When the Bible blows your mind – Desirng God.

When the Bible Blows Your Mind – Desiring God.

The Bible teaches us to expect mental jolts when we think about God. It teaches us that our familiar ways of seeing things may be replaced. For example, it says, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33). Or again, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).

One of the reasons (not the only one) that some people reject the biblical teaching of unconditional election is that it seems and feels to them out of sync with other teachings in the Bible – like the compassion of God for people or the moral accountability of people before God. It seems to many that God can’t choose unconditionally to save some and not others and then also feel compassion for those he does not choose and hold them accountable for their sin.

The problem here is that our instinct or intuition for what is right or possible for God does not fit Scripture. And the danger is that we shape Scripture to fit our feelings.

The Scriptures teach that God chooses who will be saved before we are born or have done anything good or evil (Romans 9:10-12). “It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16). The Scriptures also teach that we are responsible for the obedience of faith and will be judged if we are disobedient. “But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Romans 2:8). We are chosen (or not chosen) unconditionally for salvation. And we are accountable for our faith (or unbelief).

As I said in my sermon on 12-8-02, I do not fully understand how God renders certain the belief of the elect and the unbelief of the non-elect. If you want to go deeper into this, I recommend Jonathan Edwards’ book The Freedom of the Will. It is slow reading, but you will grow more from the effort than you can imagine.

To help you accustom yourself to living with such felt tensions (unconditional election and human accountability) consider two similar ones from the example of Christ.

First, we see Jesus weeping over Jerusalem because the things of the kingdom were “hidden from [their] eyes.” But on the other hand we also hear Jesus say that God has “hidden these things.”

  • Luke 19:41-42. And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
  • Luke 10:21. In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

Second, we see Jesus feeling compassion for those who were sick – irrespective, it seems of their faith. On the other hand, we know from illustrations and teachings elsewhere in the Bible that God is finally and decisively in control of sickness. So we have Jesus feeling sorry for people who have sicknesses that God’s wisdom has ordained (at least for a time).

  • Matthew 14:14. When [Jesus] went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
  • Exodus 4:11. Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”
  • 1 Samuel 2:6. The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

Implications: 1) Don’t cancel one truth in the Bible because it feels out of sync with another. 2) Don’t draw emotional or behavioral implications from God’s sovereignty that contradict faith, compassion, accountability, prayer, evangelism, or hard work. On the contrary, consider Colossians 3:12 and let your unspeakably happy condition as “chosen, holy and loved” produce “compassion, kindness, humility and meekness.”

©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.Permissions: Youare permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in its entirety or in unaltered excerpts, as long as you do not charge a fee. For Internet posting, please use only unaltered excerpts (not the content in its entirety) andprovide a hyperlink to this page. Any exceptions to the abovemust be approved by Desiring God.

Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

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How should Christians engage with technology?

Edit Post ‹ Bible — WordPress.

ia How should Christians engage with technology? | Geero.net.

he other weekend I went to speak at a men’s breakfast at St. Luke’s Wimbledon Park on the topic of “how should Christians engage with technology?” It’s something I’ve been wanting to put together a talk on ever since my time studying on the Cornhill Training Course and working as their IT guy, a period of my life which gave me plenty of time to think about how theology and technology interact (this was also when I first developed the PrayerMate app).

I think this is a topic which Christians ought to be encouraged to think about a lot more than we do, because it’s something that’s both really important and all too easy not to think about all that hard. For that reason, here are my notes from my talk.

The fact is that technology is absolutely everywhere. Even if you think you’re a luddite who’s hopeless with technology, there’s a chance that you own a pair of glasses – well, that’s technology. There’s a very good chance that you use electric lighting to stay up beyond sundown – that’s certainly technology. Even if you go to bed at 5pm in the winter, you’re certain to have read a book or two in your lifetime (though frankly, if you’re going to bed at 5pm, I don’t know where you find the time!) The humble book employs an enormous amount of technology – from the paper it’s printed on, to the printing press used to copy it (perhaps one of the most revolutionary pieces of technology ever invented), to the alphabet itself, which believe it or not hasn’t always existed and once upon a time somebody sat down and invented.

“Technology” is basically anything that is created by human beings to help us reach beyond what we would be able to do without it – whether that’s just doing an old thing more efficiently, or whether it’s doing something that was entirely impossible before. Technology is all around us, and it’s so deeply woven into the very fabric of our lives that we barely even notice it’s there. That’s precisely why it’s so important that we do take time out to consider it from a Christian perspective – because the technology we use always changes us.

There’s masses and masses I could say on the topic, but I’m going to basically address three areas: technology is not morally neutral; technology changes how we think; and some practical thoughts on using technology.

Technology is not morally neutral

When it comes to technology, it’s very easy to respond in one of two ways:

  • There’s the approach that just rejects all new technology outright – we don’t like the change it represents, so we reject it en masse as evil. It took me years and years before I got my first mobile phone, and in the mean time I stubbornly rejected it.
  • The other common response is that we embrace it wholeheartedly as an unambiguously positive force for good. The culture around us often portrays all technological progress as a step forwards – newer is always better, and just because something can be done, then that something should be done.

But if we look at what the Bible has to say, then I think we can say that both of these approaches are lacking. Have a look at Genesis 1:27-27:

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”

So we see that God is a creator – he makes things. And one of the pinnacles of his creation is that he creates men and women, and he creates us in his image, so that we too will be creators who in turn like to make things. As we master the world around us and bring our ingenuity to bear on the problems that we face, we’re actually reflecting something of the image of God, and that’s a good thing and a right thing. It’s part of how we’re going to fulfill that creation mandate that God gave to Adam and Eve, to “fill the earth and subdue it” and rule over it.

So our ability to create technology is a good and a positive thing that reflects something of the image of God. But we also need to recognise that we live the other side of Genesis 3: in Genesis 3 we see humanity rejecting God’s good purpose for our lives, and in judgement God puts a curse on his creation.

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17)

So things are now distorted and warped. The creation order is turned upside down, the things we created to help us master the creation now try to master us. It’s a few chapters later that we get the first clear example of technology in the Bible, in the hands of one of the murderer Cain’s descendants, “who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron” – it’s not loads clear, so don’t attach too much weight to it, but it’s not presented as entirely positive. Then you get the first major building project in the history of humanity in the form of the Tower of Babel, which again is not exactly portrayed in an overwhelmingly positive light. There it’s an example of technology being used to exert independence from God – making a name for ourselves apart from our relationship to God.

So the basic principle which we need to establish when thinking about technology is this: technology by itself is what we might call “amoral” – that is, it is neither overwhelmingly good nor inherently evil. Like lots of things in this world it’s something with great power for good but which is also deeply affected by the fall. What’s important is how we use that technology – what we use it to do, and what we allow it to do to us.

Technology is neither overwhelmingly good nor inherently evil – it’s how we USE it that counts.

Some of the benefits of technology are easy to spot – maybe it’s an app like PrayerMate that can help you in your prayer life, maybe it’s a Facebook message to a struggling friend that gives them the encouragement they need to keep going, maybe it’s just the way that electric lighting and central heating helps our midweek Bible studies go better, or the way that the printing press has enabled the Bible to be distributed far and wide and put into the hands of ordinary people. Technology has enabled some wonderful things.

But technology can also very easily become an idol in our lives. Most of what I have to say here is really inspired by Tim Challies’ book “The Next Story” (which you should all go out and read immediately), and he says this:

“Though the devices and tools we create are inherently amoral, at the same time we would be foolish to believe that they are morally neutral. The things we create to assist us in overcoming the consequences of the curse also seek to dominate us, drawing our hearts away from God rather than drawing us toward him in dependence and faith.”

Anything created has the potential to become an idol in our lives – something that we put our trust in instead of God. And technology has perhaps a greater-than-average risk of being turned into an idol because it is so powerful in extending our abilities and what we’re able to achieve – it promises to help make us a little more like God, and overcome our finiteness and weakness. And that’s something we need to be aware of and pray against. It can be that the technology is an idol in itself (the latest iDols from Apple, perhaps?) or they can enable other idols, such as my pride, as I project an image of living the most remarkable life imaginable on Facebook, or lust, in the form of Internet pornography and so on.

My goal here is to encourage us all just to be a little more thinking in our attitude to technology – not to reject it outright, nor to embrace it unquestioningly. Instead, to try to see beyond the superficial and to think a bit more about how it affects us, and why we feel about it the way we do.

Technology changes how we think

It’s really important to recognise that our technology has the power to radically alter how we perceive and think about the world around us. If you’ve ever read Neil Postman’s book “Amusing Ourselves to Death“, he argues that the advent of television completely revolutionised how we engaged with everything from politics to education (had the internet been invented at the time he was writing, I’m sure he’d have said his hypothesis was even more true of that). Because of the television, we’ve become a very visual culture. Postman talks about how important it is these days for politicians to look the part if they’re to get elected, because so much is decided by the public watching them on telly. He asks how many of the great leaders of the past would still have been elected if they were to run for office today?

So, technology can change how we think. How many of you have ever made a decision about what to wear or what to do, because you’ve been thinking “how will this look on Facebook?” Or maybe that’s just me!

Let’s briefly consider just two examples of ways that technology changes how we think. Even if you don’t think these are relevant to you, they’re sure to be relevant to your children or the people that we’re trying to reach in our churches.

1. Technology means we’ve redefined community

In the old days, your community was defined by your physical geography – where you lived – and primarily that usually meant your family who you shared a house with. So if you wanted to contact somebody, you’d call the family telephone, or you’d write a letter to the family address. Now it’s shifted from our geography to being much more about the individual, and our preferences – so our community can be a virtual one defined by common interests. You email me as an individual, you send me a text message as an individual – and it’s all completely cut off from my geographical context, my family context.

So does that mean I should throw away my mobile phone, close my GMail account and refuse to communicate with anybody except by snail mail? Of course not! Apart from anything else, it’s probably too late for that! But being conscious of the way that our technology has changed us, we can be armed to think about how this might have a knock on effect for our godliness, how we relate to God and to one another. There’s no doubt that this is one of the reasons why as a culture we increasingly find church so hard work these days, because very often we don’t have a whole lot in common with the other people we go to church with, we’re not that bothered about our local community, and it all feels a little bit too much like hard work. We’re going to need to go back to our Bibles to figure out why we should bother with church, and how to persuade the next generation to bother with church in a world where meeting together physically in one place is increasingly less interesting. Communication is increasingly about “mediated” contact these days – it’s much less daunting to send a text message or an email to somebody that they can read at their leisure than it is to look them in the eye and give them my full attention and require their full attention in response. Going to church is such an alien concept in a world of mediated contact!

2. Technology means we’ve redefined truth

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried anything on Wikipedia before – but there are very strict guidelines that determine what you’re allowed to say on Wikipedia. It’s all based around the concept of “consensus” – everything you write has to have a citation from another source, everything has to be backed up by somebody else who agrees with you. They explicitly say that it’s not a place for original ideas or new thinking.

Or if it’s not about consensus, it’s all about “relevance”. As sites like Google and Facebook have to deal with larger and larger volumes of information, they’re getting more and more sophisticated in filtering things out so that they only show you what they think you’ll consider “relevant”. You’ll see more and more content from the friends that it thinks you engage with and less and less content from the friends that it’s decided you’re not really that interested in, and it’s all very self-reinforcing.

Both of these ways of defining the truth – consensus and relevance – have problems for the Christian, because we believe in revelation. Biblical truth often clashes with consensus, and doesn’t necessarily seem all that relevant to an outsider who’s thinking superficially. But it’s the ultimate truth, and it’s supremely relevant because it’s about our eternal future – if only we have the ears to hear.

Obviously there’s loads more we could say on that topic – plenty of further examples of ways in which our technology changes how we think. But in summary: be on your guard! Don’t engage with technology unthinkingly and expect to come away unchanged.

Some practical thoughts on using technology

Really I just want to talk about one thing under this heading, and that’s distraction. Our technology these days increasingly leads to distraction. If we allow it to, our technology can really begin to own us, with all of the beeps and buzzes and notifications that constantly vie for our attention and drag us away from the real interactions with the people right in front of us.

As a result of all this distraction, we’re less and less able to concentrate for long periods of time, we find ourselves less and less able to do something simple like just sitting and reading a book. It can even get to the point where we find ourselves feeling quite anxious and fidgety if we have to sit with our own thoughts and nothing to distract us. It can draw us away from the people we’re face-to-face with, and be a disaster for our working productivity.

Our hearts long for that little beep, so we feel like we need to leave the volume turned up. But the reality is that the world will still go on if our emails go unread for 30 minutes, and we’d be much better off if we just turned the notifications off and instead just checked in every once and a while.

All this can be a real issue for habits of personal devotion like having quiet times where we spend quality time in God’s word and praying. So many times I’ve been trying to read the Bible, only to find myself checking my phone or my iPad because some idea has occurred to me part way through, and before I know it I’ve completely forgotten what I was looking at.

I think if we’re going to be serious about putting God first in our lives, we have to be pretty radical with our technology.

For myself, it’s a real discipline of trying to make sure that my Bible reading is the first thing I do in the morning, rather than checking my email. It just feels to me like it says a lot about my own priorities that I’m more excited to know if anybody around the world has sent me a nugget of novelty in my inbox, than I am to hear from the Creator of the Universe who has some eternal truth to share with me – and trying to make sure I hold off checking my email until I’ve listened to what he has to say just feels like the right thing to try and do. Apart from anything else, often I’ve only got about 3 minutes of peace and quiet before the baby wakes up, and if I use it to check Facebook then the quiet time may never happen!

Coupled with the short attention span, we have less and less need to exercise our memories, as we become more and more reliant on Google to give us the answers. We don’t know how to memorise scripture any more, because we know we can just look it up on Bible Gateway instead. How much the poorer are we for it?

So let me urge you: keep reading your Bibles, keep reading good Christian books, and why not try to memorise the occasional Bible passage?

Questions to ask our technology

I am aware that this was a bit of a whirlwind tour, with lots left out. However, I hope there’s been something there that was vaguely useful, and some fuel for further thought on the subject.

To close, let me leave you with some questions from Tim Challies that we should ask of any technology. You’ve heard of the discipline of talking to yourself – well here’s some ways you can talk to your mobile phone instead:

    • Why were you created? This will often give us some useful insight into the likely effects of this technology. For example, the mobile phone was invented to keep businessmen in contact with the office at all times, so it shouldn’t surprise us if one of the effects of a mobile phone is that suddenly we find ourselves connected to the office at all times!
    • What is the problem to which you are the solution, and whose problem is it? The problem that a new technology solves isn’t always my problem – it’s possibly just the solution to the manufacturer’s falling annual profit!
    • What new problems will you bring?
    • What are you doing to my heart?

Or the very timely XKCD version that was published today:

P.S. I’m trying to raise money to bring my PrayerMate app to Android – can you help?

Related:

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An open letter to the Daily Mail…

So agree with this…people have no idea what it is to be a “charity” you are judged as being “fit and well” because you aren’t lying in a hospital, thing is people don’t see the inside, they don’t realise how far you have come for so long and the permanent damage it has had on your physical, mental and emotional well being. They don’t see how their response to you adds to the effect, they carry on judging…playing games…manipulating….generating opinion. Yes there are scroungers out there, but not everyone is one and quite often the scroungers don’t need the food banks!

squidgetsmum

The Daily Mail chose today to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, champion of the oppressed, by publishing this article today.  Here’s my response.

 

Dear Daily Mail,

I’ve got a little boy.  His name is Isaac, and he’s nearly three.  Like any little boy, he loves cars, balls, and running around.  He’s barely ever still.

A few days ago though, he was.  I took him to the supermarket to spend his pocket money, and we passed the donation basket for our local food bank.  It was about half full – nothing spectacular, in fact, mostly prunes and pasta – and he asked what it was.  As simply as possible, I tried to explain that it was for people to give food for other people who couldn’t afford it.

This affected his two year old brain fairly deeply.  After a lot of thought, he decided to spend a little bit of…

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Fall In Love Again by Paul Tripp Ministries

Fall In Love Again.

Fall In Love Again

I saw her for the first time during my freshman year of college.

We were standing in the lunch line at the same time, and even though I was having a conversation with my friends, I couldn’t take my eyes off her. It probably made her uncomfortable the way I was staring her up and down, but I was smitten.

I was absolutely determined to get a date with her, and I was absolutely convinced that we needed to be together – she wasn’t so convinced! As our relationship progressed, I fell deeply, madly, hopelessly, and desperately in love.

I’ll never forget that first summer we were apart. I couldn’t function – I didn’t think I was going to be able to make it an entire summer without seeing her. So on July 4th weekend, I hitchhiked 800 miles each way to see her, even though our time together lasted only 36 hours.

When I finally made it to her house, she walked out onto the porch. I fell in love all over again. I hadn’t forgotten what she looked like or what her voice sounded like, but it was a fresh sensation of love rushing through my soul.

Luella has been my wife for 42 years (I was married at 7), and even to this day, when I go on long international trips, I experience a similar sensation when I get back to my loft. Even though life with Luella has become so familiar, there’s something about her that makes me fall in love again.

WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY?

If you had to write a short description of Christianity, what would you write? If you had one sentence to capture the essence of your belief, how would you phrase it? I’ll give you 5 common answers:

  1. Christianity is having your sins forgiven and going to Heaven
  2. Christianity is a commitment to ministry within the body of Christ
  3. Christianity is a commitment to evangelism and service
  4. Christianity is theology that provides answers for major life questions
  5. Christianity is a moral code for daily living

None of these answers are wrong. Christianity is absolutely about justification and eternity; Christianity most definitely includes ministry and evangelism; Christian theology provides a framework to interpret life; and Christianity does lay out a moral code for daily living.

However, at its essential core, Christianity is not about activity, theology, or evangelism. All of those things are good and meaningful parts of Christianity, but they miss one key ingredient.

THE MISSING INGREDIENT

In a word, Christianity is about love. The core of the Christian message is the comfort of God’s love for undeserving sinners, coupled with the call that Christians should love God above else. Christianity is about a life altering, agenda-setting, love relationship.

The message of the Bible is that God has moved toward me in love when I really deserved His condemnation. He’s wrapped His arms of love around me and He’s in the process of changing me at the level of my heart.

If you remove this fundamental love relationship, all you’re left with is theology and rules. Those five common answers to Christianity suddenly become dangerous and damaging when you forget that their foundation is built upon love.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Is your faith more about an organization, meetings, and activities than it is about a deep appreciation and affection for Christ? Imagine what my marriage would look like if I wasn’t personally in love with Luella. Sure, we might go out to dinner, participate in church activities, and visit family together, but if you take away the love we have for each other, you couldn’t call that a healthy marriage.

At street level, where the rubber-meets-the-road, do you really love the Lord? Do you get a fresh sensation of awe when you meditate on the majesty of God? Do you get a fresh rush of gratitude when you reflect on the Cross? Even if you’ve walked with the Lord for decades, do you still experience a fresh appreciation for His Word?

I’m concerned that many Christians experience a stale “romantic” relationship with the Lord. As I travel around the world, I’m saddened to discover that Christianity has often been reduced to a Christ-less Christianity of rules and activities.

I would encourage you, right here and right now as you’re reading this Article, to reflect on your relationship with Jesus. Don’t reconsider “Christianity” in the corporate sense of the word – keep it personal.

Meditate on His beauty. Focus on His glory. Bask in His grace. Fall in love again with your Savior.

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Relationships: A Grace Mentality

http://paultripp.com/wednesdays-word/posts/relationships-a-grace-mentality

 

Relationships: A Grace MentalityThis is the final devotional in an 8-part series on Relationships. We\’ve had such positive feedback on the series that I want to make an additional resource on Relationships available to you.Tim Lane and I co-authored a book called \”Relationships: A Mess Worth Making\”, and for the next week, you can get it for 50% off the retail price in the PaulTripp.com store.CLICK HERE to add a copy of the book to your cart, and before you check out, enter the Coupon Code relationships plural, all lowercase.This offer is available until January 28. Happy reading!Get \”Relationships: A Mess Worth Making\” for only $8.99!Last week we discussed what it meant to live in our relationships with An Investment Mentality. Here\’s the third and final mentality:3 YOU MUST LIVE IN YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH A GRACE MENTALITY:When I got married, I didn’t understand grace. I had a principle-istic view of Scripture that caused me to bring a law economy into all of my relationships.The central focus of the Bible is not a set of practical principles for life. No, the central theme of the Bible is a person, Jesus Christ. If all you and I needed was a knowledge and understanding of a certain set of God-revealed principles for living, Jesus wouldn\’t have needed to come.I think there are many Christians living in Christ-less relationships. Without knowing what they\’re doing, they construct law-based rather than grace-based relationships. And because of this, they ask the law to do what only grace can accomplish.The problem with this is that we\’re not just people in need of wisdom; we\’re also people in need of rescue—and the thing that we need to be rescued from is us. Our fundamental problem is not ignorance of what is right. Our problem is selfishness of heart that causes us to care more about what we want than about what we know is right.The laws, principles, and perspectives of Scripture provide the best standard ever towards which our relationships should strive. They can reveal our wrongs and failures, but they have no capacity whatsoever to deliver us from them. For that we need the daily grace that only Jesus can give us.We must not simply hold one another to the high relational standards of God’s Word, but we must also daily offer the same grace that we\’ve been given to one another so that we may be tools of grace in the lives of one another. Our confidence is not in the ability we have to keep God’s law but rather in the life-giving and heart-transforming grace of the One who has drawn us to himself and has the power to draw us to one another.When we live with this confidence, we look at the difficulties of our relationships not so much as hassles to be endured, but as opportunities to enter into an even deeper experience of the rescuing, transforming, forgiving, empowering grace of Jesus, the One who died for us and is always with us.Three mentalities—each an essential building block for a healthy biblical, relational lifestyle. Each require the honesty of personal humility, and each encourage us to be reconciled to one another and to God again and again and again.God blessPaul David TrippREFLECTION QUESTIONSWhat is the difference between LAW and GRACE?What does a LAW-BASED relationship look like?What does a GRACE-BASED relationship look like?Are you better at laying down the law than giving grace? HINT: no one lays down the law better than the one who thinks they are keeping it themselvesHow can you give grace better? HINT: no one gives grace better than the person who knows they need it most

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Relationships: Mercy in the Mess

Relationships: Mercy in the MessThis is the second devotional in an 8-part series on Relationships.Read the first devotional – \”Relationships: Gaining Ground.\”We all dream of the perfect relationship. You know, the one that’s free of disagreement, conflict, communication difficulties, power battles, anger and control. We can envision what it would be like. The problem is, none of us ever get what we were once able to imagine. When we wake up from our dreams, we’re all greeted by the reality that all of our relationships live in the same location – the fallen world – and all of our relationships are with the same kind of people – imperfect human beings I’ll remind you again, you\’re one of those too!.Now you just have to ask why God would choose to subject us to such difficulty and disappointment. Is there meaning in the mess? Is there mercy in the mess? Maybe right now you’re facing things in one of your relationships you never imagined you’d face. Maybe right now you’re dealing with such deep hurt and disappointment that you simply don\’t know what to do. Have you wondered what in the world God is doing? Have you been tempted to doubt his goodness and question his love?Here are some things to remember:1. God never gets a wrong address:Acts 17 tells us that God determines the exact place where we’ll live and the exact length of our lives. Your life isn’t out of control. What you’re facing isn’t the result of God forgetting you. God hasn\’t turned his back on the promises he made to you. I know it\’s hard to grasp, but what you\’re facing is the result of God being faithful to his promises to you.2. God is in the middle of the mess with you:Psalm 46 tells us that \”God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.\” If you’re God\’s child, you’ve never been in a location all by yourself. If you’re God\’s child, you’ve never been in a relationship all by yourself. You’ve never endured difficulty in isolation. Why? Because God is always with you and he’s there so that you would have a place to run \”refuge\” and help in your moments of greatest discouragement and weakness \”strength\”.3. God is up to something good in the mess:Here\’s the mistake we make in the way we attempt to make sense out of lives. We think that the mess is a sure sign that God isn’t working in our lives, because if he were at work, we wouldn\’t be in such a mess. The Bible tells us something completely different. It tells us that because God loves us so, he’s not satisfied with us as we are. He looks down at us and sees many areas where change and growth are needed. He couldn\’t love us and be willing to leave us in our immaturity and weakness. So God takes us where we don’t want to go in order to produce in us what we couldn’t achieve on our own – character.And how does he do this? He uses the difficult experiences of life to expose and change our hearts. One of his main tools is our relationships. These messy relationships expose our hearts, bring us to the end of ourselves and cause us to reach out for the help that only Jesus can give us.I know it’s hard to face the hurt and disappointment of a relationship gone bad. But there is hope. You’re never alone. The One who’s with you is up to something very good and because he is, there really is mercy to be found right smack dab in the middle of the mess!REFLECTION QUESTIONSWhere are you experiencing relational conflict and difficulty?Are you shifting all responsibility to the other person, or are you humble enough to admit that your flaws are a factor for the mess?Do you wish you lived at a \”different address\”? How is God using your specific location for your redemption?How can the Person of Jesus Christ – with you in the middle of your relational difficulty – help you in your relationships?

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