4 Liberating Truths…

There is not a week that goes by, in my life, that’s not marked by a struggle with control, fear, empty joy, and trying to prove myself to others. This week I was reading from the book Everyday Church and was encouraged by these following liberating truths set out by Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

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FOUR LIBERATING TRUTHS… (pg 75)

Excerpt from Everyday Church: Gospel Communities on Mission

By Tim Chester and Steve Timmis

The following four liberating truths about God (“ four Gs”) target nearly all our sinful behavior and negative emotions.

1) God is great, so we do not have to be in control. We often want to be in control, so we dominate, manipulate, or overwork people. Or we fear things being out of control, so we worry. But God is sovereign. He is in control. Things may not always go the way we want, but God is in control, and he uses everything that happens to us for our good.

2) God is glorious, so we do not have to fear others. We often sin because we crave the approval of other people or fear their rejection. The Bible calls this the “fear of man” (Prov. 29: 25). We live to please other people, or we are controlled by peer pressure. The Bible’s answer is the fear of God. God is the glorious one whom we should fear. He is the one whose approval matters most, and he is the one whose approval we have in Jesus Christ.

3) God is good, so we do not have to look elsewhere. Sin often leads to pleasure, but its pleasures are empty and temporary. Only God brings true and lasting joy. The pleasures of sin are quick and immediate. So we need faith to turn to God for lasting joy.

4) God is gracious, so we do not have to prove ourselves. Many people act out of a desire to prove themselves. On the surface they may look impressive because they achieve many things or live good lives, but when things go well they are proud, and when things go badly they are crushed. They may look down on others because this makes them feel better about themselves or become bitter when their hard work is not rewarded in the way they want. It is also this desire that makes us determined to win an argument. The good news is that, while we can never justify ourselves before God, God has justified us through Jesus Christ. Jesus has done it all, so we have nothing left to prove.

 

 

Prayer for Gospel Rootedness

Lord, our efforts at faithfulness are fraught with failure more often than we care to admit. Thank you that your love for us is never wasted. Keep us rooted in your word, eating at your table, and praying by your Spirit, so that we may remember when we fail that we are part of your family not because we deserve to be but because you want us. Amen.

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

The Gift of Lent

by Scott Lowe

Lent is funny. The season of Lent often feels like the red-headed stepchild of the church calendar. Nobody counts down to Lent, as we do with Christmas, saying, “There are only 2 weeks to Christmas.” Or, “We better get those Lent gifts for the kids on Amazon.” There are no Lenten dinner parties or company Lent bonuses. Nope. None of that.

Lent is a season of fasting, and fasting is not the most desirable activity. Delayed gratification is not a popular notion in our culture. We see this in how we handle money and debt. We see this in our sexualized culture. And this is true of our Christian life. One particular author noted in his study that he could not find a single book on fasting from 1861-1954. That is nearly one hundred years. More has been written about fasting recently, but the list is not long. I believe, much like the subject of money, it’s a discipline or habit we reject because it reveals the things that control us.

Well, each year I try my hand at giving up something for Lent. I have fasted television, sugar, beer, and other things over the years. I will never forget giving up television. A few days in, it hit me…“What was I thinking? March Madness?!” I remember even trying to make concessions. “I’ll make it up for catching that game.” Ha. Funny. And to be honest, Lent became my own red-headed stepchild.

How can Lent be a joy and a gift? First, we have to address our mindset. Lent is not a second chance at our New Year’s resolutions. And it is not simply finding something to give up. Rather, it is more about what we “take up.” It is the joy and gift of “taking up” Christ. Richard Foster said, “Fasting is feasting… Fasting reminds us that we are sustained ‘by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ (Matt. 4:4).” Lent is about centering our hearts on the ONE who sustains us. The things that we have, eat, or consume often serve to cover up the real struggle and need within us, and many times keep us from the hope that comes in Christ. Fasting helps brings this to the surface.

Second, we must know that fasting is not about making God like or love us. Any habit or discipline can easily become legalism. And that legalism is crushing because it is filled with guilt and shame. The power of practicing our faith is found in Jesus from start to finish. In Philippians 2, we are told that Jesus gave up heaven to go to the cross for our sin so that we might be rescued and forgiven. So, as we follow Christ Jesus as our example, we must remember as Scott Sauls said in a recent post, “More than coming to be our example, Jesus came to be our rescue. Without his rescue, his example will only crush us. But with his rescue, his example will inspire us.” Christ is our joy and our gift! May this season of Lent be filled with joy in our fasting as we are inspired to “take up” the beautiful sustaining grace God offers us.

Everything Is Going to Be OK

by Scott Lowe

I recently took a personality test that revealed some things that I have been aware of for many years—I struggle with fear and anxiety. My fear can rear its ugly head in a couple of ways, such as rehearsing worst case scenarios and listening to negative thoughts that tell me I have very little value. At the end of the explanation of the personality test, the counselor said that the words most helpful for someone with my personality are “You are safe. Everything is going to be okay.” Whew-I could feel my shoulders drop when hearing those words. Yes, deep down I long to know that things are going to be okay. I long for security. I long to know my family is thriving.  I long for Grace Church to continually grow stronger as a community and in its understanding of the Gospel.

If you are like me, you long for these same things in your own lives. The season of Advent offers us hope in the midst of our worries, fears, and anxieties. Advent is the season to remind our forgetful hearts that, in Jesus, everything is going to be okay! When I want to run from my worries and fears, I am reminded that Jesus does not run away; He enters. God, in the person of Jesus, in a manger, and ultimately on the cross, enters our lives and promises to make everything that is wrong right.The hymn “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” says, “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” True peace comes as we are reconciled to our God and King through Jesus. And Jesus’ coming and entering our world tells us that God is serious about making wrong right. He is serious about bringing peace to our anxious souls. My prayer this season is for all of us to know more fully this peace that God offers. In Christ, everything is going to be even more than okay. He has entered our suffering,worries, and fears to give us His everlasting peace!

THE WAY OF THE ESSENTIALIST

“The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.

The way of the Essentialist is the path to being in control of our own choices. It is a path to new levels of success and meaning. It is the path on which we enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Despite all these benefits, however, there are too many forces conspiring to keep us from applying the disciplined pursuit of less but better, which may be why so many end up on the misdirected path of the Nonessentialist.”

McKeown, Greg. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (p. 7). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Freed to Love Others

There is not a greater challenge than to love those different than ourselves. But to not love generates the opposite characteristic… Hate.  C.S Lewis captures the end of this cycle so well in Mere Christianity. 

The Germans, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them: afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them. The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become—and so on in a vicious circle for ever. 

Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of.

 What drives your compounding interest? Love or Hate?


B U I L D I N G T R U S T

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“The kind of trust that is necessary to build a great team is what I call vulnerability-based trust.  This is what happens when members get to a point where they are completely comfortable being transparent, honest, and naked with one another, where they say and genuinely mean things like ‘I screwed up,’ ‘I need help,’ ‘Your idea is better than mine,’ ‘I wish I could learn to do that as well as you do,’ and even, ‘I’m sorry.'”

“At the heart of vulnerability lies the willingness of people to abandon their pride and their fear, to sacrifice their egos for the collective good of the team.”

The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni