Tag Archives: hope

The Preciousness of Jesus | Fixing Our Eyes on the Cross

26 Apr


clay jar

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” –Matthew 6:20-21

In the days leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday it seems simpler somehow to focus on Jesus and the willing sacrifice He made as he took upon His perfect self our sin bearing our punishment; imputing to us His righteousness. The cross and all of its implications stands in stark relief across the worldly backdrop of cloying chocolate, spring flowers, bunnies, and decorated eggs. The glory and significance of the resurrection shines so brightly the pastel canvas is all but obliterated and our eyes and hearts are drawn to Jesus, the treasure that will never be destroyed or stolen, and the joy that can only be found in Him.

“Jesus spoke of this joy as he faced the torture of Good Friday. He faced denial, faced betrayal, faced beatings, faced splinters and nails and spears — he could not stop talking about joy! Only joy would keep him going. Joy was on his mind, joy was on his tongue, and joy was drawing him, not away from suffering, but into it (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus went to the cross for joy: to buy joy, create joy, and offer joy.” –Troy Reinke, Have You Found What You’re Looking For?

What happens on the Monday following when the candy and discarded broken and bent baskets are heaped into the clearance bin and the backdrop shifts? Our excitement and joy may wane and the treasure become less distinct. The mundane trials of everyday life may obscure the “inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). Our weariness and hurts more easily dismissed in the light of anticipation may now win our undivided attention. John Piper believes this is the time we should draw upon the strength of our brothers and sisters sharing ours in return as “…our worst spiritual and emotional collapses often follow in the wake of our happiest, most victorious experiences.” 

Draw in close to your Church family. Draw near to His heart and keep your eyes and heart focused on the finished work of the cross. Drink in the Word and spend time with the Lord in prayer, He desires to spend time with us, is jealous for it. Empty yourself of brokeness and ashes, pour it out at His feet enabling the light of the power of God to shine (2 Corinthians4:7).

The Preciousness of Jesus by Jared C. Wilson

What is the one thing you cannot live without?

I think there are two stark realities shown in the passage of the woman who anointed Jesus’ head — a deadly devaluing and a saving adoration. See if you don’t agree:
And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” –Mark 14:3-9

The logic of those scolding is understandable, clear. What the woman has done is wasteful.

And what Jesus says in reply is provocative. He is not denying the importance of caring for the poor. Indeed, how could he, since he has taught so much on caring for the poor and needy already! But he is suggesting that there is something more important.

There is something more important than helping the poor. What could that be?
It is Jesus himself.

To devalue Jesus as the indignant have done is eternally deadly. To devalue the nard as the woman has done is eternally saving.

Gospel notes on the text and the remainder of the article can be viewed here: The Preciousness of Jesus | The Gospel Coalition

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Seasoned with Salt, Peppered with Grace | Prayer and Hope for Unbelieving Adult Children

15 Mar

salt pepper2“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” –Colossians 4:5-6

Do you have family members who do not believe in Christ? If you answered “yes” like me, take heart, Jesus did too. According to John, “not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:5) and Mark makes note of his family thinking he was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:21). They lived with Jesus for 30 years and did not KNOW him! Take comfort for although they did not truly know Jesus during his earthly ministry, after the ascension there they are in the upper room with the Apostles praying (Acts 1:14).

This is a topic very close to my heart as I see this unbelief in my own daughter. She is, like Christian in Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress,”  trapped by Giant Despair, imprisoned in Doubting Castle. Lamenting her condition and blind to the fact that she possesses good news in her heart; the key of Promise that will unlock the dungeon that holds her captive is forgotten. So I pray that she “will know the truth” (John 8:32). I pray she will put her faith and trust in Jesus who poured out His own blood on the cross, taking her deserved punishment (1 Peter 2:24), to free her from the enslavement of sin. I pray her heart is softened and her eyes and ears are opened. I pray she pictures the warrior Jesus ready for battle and realizes nothing is too big for our Savior. I pray my husband and I will continue to shine Christ, speak truth, and extend grace to our daughter through email, Facebook messages, phone calls, and the very rare visit. I pray that God will continue to strengthen our marriage, root us deeper in Christ, and surround us with church family who love and pray with us, for us and for our daughter who many do not even know.

While home recently our daughter said, “Mom, why do you guys keep holding out your arms to me?” I pray someday she will truly understand what a precious gift she is to us and how loved she is, by her Dad and I of course, but even more so by the Lord whose arms are also open.

Relating to your unsaved grown child by Annette Cole

I looked at the row of velvet boxes and noticed a cross with a rose nestled next to it. I asked to see the attractive silver ring and bought it minutes later. For the first time in days, I felt a gentle touch of peace.

I’d been feeling only fear and grief as I watched my youngest daughter denounce her faith and rush into sin. Now I had a symbol of hope to cling to. As the father of the prodigal son placed a ring on his son’s finger at a “coming home” celebration, one day I hope to do the same for my daughter.

It has been years since my daughter walked away from Jesus Christ. Today we call and visit each other, but it has not been easy. The Bible asks, “What fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14, NIV).

Since the obvious answer to this is none, how do parents maintain relationships with their adult, unsaved children? I have had to find answers because my daughter does not want to be estranged from her family.

The remainder of this article can be viewed here: Relating to Your Unsaved Grown Child

The first paragraph of this blog was influenced by Jon Bloom’s article: Jesus Also Had Unbelieving Family Members

John Piper’s son Abraham, once a prodigal, wrote this letter from his perspective: 12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child

For more of Christian’s journey pick up a copy of John Bunyan’s classic book: The Pilgrim’s Progress

Five Truths About Christian Suffering

8 Mar

stress

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” –Romans 5:3-4

God is the author of His story – our story and no chapter is without purpose. The story is not one of isolation for there on every page is the presence of the one true living God revealed. When the words of our story are thick, inky black, tear stained, strokes of pain, grief, or suffering God is near sharing in our ache (Psalm 34:18). When we struggle to muster the strength to begin the next page He is there relieving our burdens (Matthew 11:28).

“God does not willingly bring affliction or grief to us. He does not delight in causing us to experience pain or heartache. He always has a purpose for the grief He brings or allows to come into our lives. Most often we do not know what that purpose is, but it is enough to know that His infinite wisdom and perfect love have determined that the particular sorrow is best for us. God never wastes pain. He always uses it to accomplish His purpose. And His purpose is for His glory and our good. Therefore, we can trust Him when our hearts are aching or our bodies are racked with pain.” –Jerry Bridges, Trusting God Even When Life Hurts

God is the sovereign author of the universe; the chief character in our narrative glorified in our weakness. His great love for us is most visible in the suffering and excruciating death of His son–the Word made flesh–Jesus Christ bearing our sins on the cross. Ransomed by His blood, the richness of God’s abundant grace is evident and overflowing. It is here at the foot of the cross our sorrows can be exchanged for indescribable inexpressible soul filling joy and the hope found in Christ alone. Our book will not close with “the end.” Our story will continue to unfold and new pages will be written for our hope is in Heaven.

Five Truths About Christian Suffering by Joseph Scheumann

All Christians suffer. Either you have, you are, or you will — “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

This reality is a stark reminder that we have not reached the new heavens and new earth. The new Jerusalem of no tears and no pain, of no mourning and no death, hasn’t arrived yet (Revelation 21:1, 4).

But just because we experience suffering as we await the redemption of our bodies, it doesn’t mean that our suffering is random or without purpose. And neither does it mean that Scripture doesn’t tell us how to think about our suffering now.

Here are five important biblical truths about suffering every Christian should have ready:

Finish the article here: Five Truths About Christian Suffering | Desiring God.

 

Death: Shall We Weep or Rejoice? | Yes!

2 Mar

hope_opt“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” –Isaiah 40:31

Saturday, March 1, 2014

“Trent Koontz passed away this morning at 5:17am. He is still a shining light in our lives. Have fun in heaven! Give Jesus a big hug from all of us!” –Jerry Koontz via Trent Koontz’s Blog

As we absorb those words, joy and sorrow tangle together within grieving hearts. Such is the paradox of living a life in Christ. Simultaneously we rejoice and mourn; are crushed and unburdened and through it all the confident expectation of hope endures; singing a wordless song of unceasing faith. 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
 –Emily Dickenson

It is hope rooted in the Gospel that creates equilibrium between the bone deep sorrow of loss and joyful trust in the sovereignty of God who works for our good. It is in this stability that we come to understand God’s infinite wisdom is inscrutable and his providence mysterious and that opposing emotions can coexist harmoniously. 

The Koontz family continues to be a powerful witness for Christ. In weakness their continued love for the Lord glorifies Him; highlighting the strength through grace His love poured out on that tree provided. 

It is here in the strange mix of contrary feelings (ache and brokenness, relief and joy) that our church body is also strengthened; growing in spiritual maturity as through shared suffering we stand in Christ with Jerry, Kristie, and Grant sadly rejoicing now that Trent is freed from the pain of illness and is with Jesus in Heaven.

Death: Shall We Weep or Rejoice? (excerpt) by John Piper

When a Christian dies, shall those of us who remain weep or rejoice? The biblical answer is both, even simultaneously.

An Invitation to Rejoice

He [Paul] already told them why he rejoices at the prospect of his death: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23). Presumably, that is why he thinks they should rejoice also. They love Paul. So when Paul is “with Christ” that will be “far better.”

Experiencing Intense Sorrow

But that is not the whole story. Ten verses later in Philippians 2 Paul praises Epaphroditus because “he nearly died for the work of Christ.” But then he did not die. God had mercy on Paul, lest he should have sorrow upon sorrow [or]…grief on top of all his other burdens.

The Complex Harmony

We should conclude that our sorrows at the death of a believer are joyful sorrows, and our rejoicing at the death of a believer is a sorrowful rejoicing. There is nothing hopeless about the sorrow. And there is nothing flippant about the joy. The joy hurts. And the sorrow is softened with invincible hope. (emphasis mine)

This is why one of the most common watchwords of the Christian life is “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). Sorrow and joy are not merely sequential. They are simultaneous. This is not emotional schizophrenia. This is the complex harmony of the Christian soul.

Therefore, when a Christian dies, don’t begrudge the tears. And don’t belittle the joy…

Read this article in its entirety here: Death: Shall We Weep or Rejoice? | Desiring God.

Valentine’s Day | Be Mine

14 Feb

valentine_opt“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 Lord’s holy people, 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” Ephesians 3:16-19

“…we were made to crave — long for, want greatly, desire eagerly, and beg for — God. Only God” (Lysa TerKeurst, Made to Crave).

We long to be romanced (courted, wooed, pursued, chased). Enemy distractions may tempt us into believing the wordly idea that somehow the perfect poetic verse or love note, pounds of chocolate, a fancy restaurant, dozens of flowers and/or some other token of love will leave us satiated this Valentine’s Day. Our misplaced hopes may leave us restless and mired in dissatisfaction craving more; searching for more. 

“Trying to boost our self-esteem by trying to live up to our own standards or someone else’s is a trap. It is not an answer” (Tim Keller, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness).

These intense yearnings emanate from a soul tuned to God; crying out for Him (Psalm 84:2); already in possession of THE ultimate gift freely given; our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ through whom the Holy Spirit was poured out upon us; streaming with God’s love (Romans 5:5, Titus 3:6), drawn in (John 6:44).

“Look at God and understand who He is and what He’s done and when you’ve forgotten about yourself and it’s all about Him, it is then that you have great pleasure; the greatest joy…the glory of God” (Pastor Burris, “The World at War Against Your Soul).

God pursues us, revealing His presence is a thousand little ways like love notes to us His children beckoning us to the cross. If only we would take notice! We need Him, only Him…desperately (Philippians 4:19)!

“Do not underestimate the power of desperation to do good for your soul” (Jon Bloom, The Merciful Gift of Desperation). 

A Prayer on Valentine’s Day (Excerpt) by Scotty Smith

Dear Lord Jesus, it’s Valentine’s Day—the day in our culture in which red hearts, overpriced cards, dark chocolates, and cut flowers abound. For some, it’s a day of incredible kindness, sweetness, and gratitude. For others, it’s a day in which brokenness, loneliness, and emptiness are magnified. For all of us, it should be a day in which our deepest longings for intimacy and connection find their way home to you…

My heart is fickle and fragile—still capable of being sucker-punched by sin within, and susceptible to whisperings without. Most of the time I believe you greatly love, desire, and delight in me; but then I also have moments when I can be blindsided by unbelief, temptation and discontent.

Those are the times when I place unrealistic demands on other relationships, including marriage. Instead of living as a grateful servant, I can act like a grace-less orphan—over-expecting from others and under-believing of you. Forgive me and free me from all such nonsense…

Read in entirety here: A Prayer on Valentine’s Day – Heavenward by Scotty Smith.

Christmas For The Weary And Heavy Laden

25 Dec

burdenedChristmas For The Weary And Heavy Laden

Christmas is supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year”, but for many of you it’s the most painful. It’s that time of year when budgets break, when you’re reminded of how dysfunctional your family is, when you miss the people you love who have died or left.

For some of you, this is your first Christmas as a divorcee. Figuring out how to shuffle your children back and forth between you and your Ex on Christmas Day is a new pain for you. For others, you’re afraid it will be your last Christmas because of your recent diagnosis. Or, you’re afraid it will be your last Christmas with your mom because of her recent diagnosis. A lost job, a daughter who won’t even call on Christmas day, a son you haven’t talked to in three years, a father who can’t get sober, a sibling in rehab–Christmas reveals our deepest frustrations and fears, our most sincere sadness and suspicions, our brokenness and bitterness.

Christmas has a painful way of revealing why the first Christmas was so necessary.

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking; How we need to hear from God…

Christmas exposes our desperation but it also announces our Deliverer—the one who promises rest to the weary and heavy laden; the one who promises never to leave us or forsake us. For those who feel lonely and lost, anxious and abandoned, tired and tense—for those who are guilt-ridden and grieving—Christmas is for you. Especially for you!

The Incarnation of Jesus serves as a glorious reminder that God’s willingness to clean things up is infinitely bigger than our capacity to mess things up. It is the fulfillment of God’s promise to confront our misery with his mercy, our confusion with his comfort, our guilt with his grace.

Christmas is the beachhead of God’s campaign against sin and sadness. It is the coming of light, life, and love into the occupied territory of darkness, death, and hate. Christmas is a war fought by a Peaceful Prince whose battle plan is to defeat death by dying, fear by forgiveness and slavery by salvation.

Christmas sets in motion the Divine pattern of God drawing near to us–not because we’ve done it right–but because we keep doing it wrong. Jesus came down to us because we are weak, not because we are strong.

Christmas highlights the inescapable fact that no matter how hard we try, we can’t do it. Apart from the Incarnation we are left to our own bankrupt resources. But at the same it shows us Jesus, who came to liberate us from the pressure of having to fix ourselves and others!, find ourselves, and free ourselves. He came to relieve us of the burden we inherently feel “to get it done” and make it on our own. He came to set us free from the need to secure for ourselves the affection and approval we long for but cannot attain.

In short, Christmas is God’s answer to the slavery of self-salvation. From the cries of a baby lying in a manger, God shouts, “I’ve got this. I’ll take it from here.”

Fragile finger sent to heal us, Tender brow prepared for thorn; Tiny heart whose blood will save us, Unto us is born.

It is this crying baby that wipes away our tears as our Wonderful Counselor. It is this powerless child that conquers despair and dejection as our Mighty God. It is this needy newborn that is the source of everything we need and long for as our Everlasting Father. It is this helpless infant that restores okayness to our lives as our Prince of Peace.

As Everything, he became nothing so that you–as nothing–could have everything.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Reprinted from: Christmas For The Weary And Heavy Laden – Tullian Tchividjian.

Additional information: Five Truths About the Incarnation – Desiring God

Immanuel, “God With Us”

24 Dec

immanuel03

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.” — Matthew 1:23 (NASB)

“‘Immanuel, God with us.’  It is hell’s terror.  Satan trembles at the sound of it. . . . Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, ‘God with us,’ back he falls, confounded and confused. . . . ‘God with us’ is the laborer’s strength.  How could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor if that one word were taken away? . . . ‘God with us’ is eternity’s sonnet, heaven’s hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of the angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky. . . .Feast, Christians, feast; you have a right to feast. . . . But in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem.  Let him have a place in your hearts, give him the glory, think of the virgin who conceived him, but think most of all of the Man born, the Child given. I finish by again saying, A happy Christmas to you all!” — C. H. Spurgeon

God entered into human history as Jesus Christ — Immanuel, God with us, when he was born in a stable. “…the Word that was with God and that was God (John 1:1) “…became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14). He lived a sinless life and on the cross was a life poured out; taking upon Himself our sins and giving us His righteousness (double imputation). After His resurrection and ascent to Heaven we are not alone,

“…new covenant believers enjoy God’s constant presence in [their] lives through the Holy Spirit…John Piper says, that the first distinguishing thing about being Christian different from those who are “in the flesh” is that we are an “inhabited” people. And Paul says it three ways in Romans 8:9-10:

  1. “the Spirit of God dwells in you” (v. 9b);
  2. “you have the Spirit of Christ” (v. 9c);
  3. “Christ is in you” (v. 10a).

The different names here all are referring essentially to the same presence. The Spirit is equally the Spirit of God the Father and the Spirit of God the Son, Jesus Christ. Believers are in the presence of Christ all of the time…[as] the constant presence of God, the indwelling Spirit” (Marcia Lichte via It’s All About the Presence).

“…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” — Matthew 28:20 (b). Jesus was and is “God with us!”

References/Resources:

Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > It’s All About the Presence | Christ in You

Ray Ortlund

True Woman | Immanuel Changes Everything

Harried, Hurried? | Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon

17 Dec

stress“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28

“One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business, when all that legitimately concerns us is today. If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to Him and ask Him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy.” ― Elisabeth Elliot

If you find yourself harried, hurried, and just too busy to do the will of God during this Christmas season and your focus has shifted from Christ to the wordly pursuit of the perfect gift, meal, or travel experience…refocus. If all thoughts of serving have fled under the crushing stress of unrealistic expectation and the highlighted ideal has robbed you of your joy…realignPerfect holiday tableaus are erected months in advance in the hopes we will all be looking ahead willing to spend now for unattainable perfection in the future or looking to the past at less then ideal gatherings that missed the mark hoping for a second chance to recreate what failed. Blind yourself to these manufactured distractions…re entrench

“…your only hope for joy, and your only hope for peace, and your only hope for comfort, your only hope for love, and your only hope for strength in this life is found in the cross of Jesus Christ” ― David Platt

You cannot truly find your joy, peace, hope, love, strength, rest, or faith anywhere else but in the cross. Peter began his letter in 1 Peter 1:1-9 by addressing believers; reminding them they owe their salvation to God’s mercy and the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is there on that tree fashioned of wood and nails we find God’s gift; a heart poured out. When weariness deflects your thoughts from the magnitude of the cross immerse yourself in the Word…drink it in and rediscover the hope and joy inexpressible found when you rest in the Lord.

“And what shall meet the deep unrest around thee,

But the calm peace of God that filled His Breast?

For still a living Voice calls to the weary,

From Him who said, “Come unto me and rest.””

― Freda Hanburry Allen

Additional resources for women: Taft Avenue Community Church: Orange, CA > Harried, Hurried? | Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon

The following article explores the ways Jesus offers us a place to store our fears and rest in Him…

Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon

For many, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas leave us grateful but gassed. In the name of holiday festivities, December means attending multiple Christmas parties, traveling to see family and friends, and standing in line to get the ever-elusive “perfect gift.”

As much joy as Christmas brings, if we aren’t careful, holiday cheer can sap our energy and steal our joy. It is a great irony that the season of light often feels heavy. What can we do to find rest in this annual merry-thon?

Five things you might do to cultivate spiritual rest.

1. Unplug. While there’s a place for Christmas specials and live nativities, doing something smaller, with less pomp and circumstance, may be exactly what you need to cultivate rest. Such a change might give you the margin you need to be still and know that he is God.

2. Say no to something old. If your schedule includes multiple family meals, Christmas parties, and gift exchanges, find one (or more) to which you can say no. We are finite creatures, and it is good for us to draw boundaries.

3. Say yes to something new. Sing Christmas carols in a nursing home. Serve meals at a local mission. Take groceries to a needy family in your church. Christ’s invitation to rest is not a call to complacency; it is a chance to work in his strength (Col. 1:29).

4. Feed on the Word. As much attention as we give to savory meats and holiday treats, we should give more attention to God’s Word. This might mean reading Advent scriptures or picking up a book on Christ’s birth. However it looks, spiritual rest always involves hearing the promises of the gospel.

5. Pray. With your family or with others, carve out time to praise God for the birth of Christ. Pray for the persecuted church and those who are suffering this Christmas. Pray for missionaries and for those who don’t yet know Christ.

Whatever you do this month, put Christ at the center. And whether you finish the month rested or restless, take comfort that ultimately his life, not ours, secures our Sabbath rest. In this month’s merry-thon, remember that Christ has come to be the good news of great joy for weary people.

Excerpted from David Schrock’s article Finding Rest in the Merry-Thon – The Gospel Coalition Blog.

 

Four Accounts, One Savior | Captivated By Christ

3 Dec

in-the-gospels

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” John 17:3

The four Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) present their parallel accounts of the life of Jesus uniquely to help us, the reader, truly understand the magnitude of his birth, death, burial, and resurrection through comprehension of His character in which God’s attributes and His glory are revealed. The more we immerse ourselves in this truth the more we are captivated by Christ. Our desire to know Him grows exponentially and we become more purposeful in our pursuit; cultivating inexpressible joy at the foot of the Cross and in the presence of God.

Peace, joy, radical generosity, audacious faith, and unwavering trust are all the fruits of dwelling on the gospel…That is the “secret,” if you will, of the gospel: these fruits are not produced, at the heart level, by focusing on them; they come by focusing on Jesus. That is what makes the gospel truly a “revolutionary” message.

~J.D. Greear

Four Accounts, One Savior

The significance of Jesus’ birth is best understood in the totality of his life, teachings, death, and resurrection. Whether you have just begun to consider Jesus or already consider yourself a believer in him, let me encourage you to read through the four Gospels this Advent season to gain a fuller appreciation for the significance of his birth…

To view the post in its entirety please click here: Four Accounts, One Savior | Captivated By Christ

God’s Mercy in Messed Up Families

10 Oct

 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” –Ephesians 2:4-5

mercy-graceWithin the confines of the familial structure the intimate dynamic serves as a transparent illustration of God’s mercy when wrath, eternal judgment and death are the only thing we sinners deserve…

“…there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it” (Johnathan Edwards).

and the Gospel message of love, forgiveness, and grace are shown.

God’s Mercy in Messed Up Families

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to find an example of what we would call a “healthy family” in the Bible? It’s a lot easier to find families with a lot of sin and a lot of pain than to find families with a lot of harmony.

Why is the Bible loud on sinfully dysfunctional families and quiet on harmonious families?

Well, for one thing, most families aren’t harmonious. Humanity is not harmonious. We are alienated — alienated from God and each other. So put alienated, selfish sinners together in a home, sharing possessions and the most intimate aspects of life, having different personalities and interests, and a disparate distribution of power, abilities, and opportunities, and you have a recipe for a sin-mess.

But there’s a deeper purpose at work in this mess. The Bible’s main theme is God’s gracious plan to redeem needy sinners. It teaches us that what God wants most for us is that we 1) become aware of our sinfulness and 2) our powerlessness to save ourselves, as we 3) believe and love his Son and the gospel he preached, and 4) graciously love one another. And it turns out that the family is an ideal place for all of these to occur.

But what we often fail to remember is that the mess is usually required for these things to occur. Sin must be seen and powerlessness must be experienced before we really turn to Jesus and embrace his gospel. And offenses must be committed if gracious love is to be demonstrated. So if we’re praying for our family members to experience these things, we should expect trouble.

Family harmony is a good desire and something to work toward. But in God’s plan, it may not be what is most needed. What may be most needed is for our family to be a crucible of grace, a place where the heat of pressure forces sin to surface providing opportunities for the gospel to be understood and applied. And when this happens the messes become mercies.

My point is this: if your family is not the epitome of harmony, take heart. God specializes in redeeming messes. See yours as an opportunity for God’s grace to become visible to your loved ones and pray hard that God will make it happen.

The remainder of this article may be viewed here: God’s Mercy in Messed Up Families – Desiring God.

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