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Monday, August 17, 2009

My Pride

My friend Keisha has a wonderful blog. Her blogging helped inspire me to start blogging. She recently posted something from author Nancy Leigh DeMoss that was so convicting and edifying to me. I will revisit this often:

Proud people focus on the failures of others. Broken people are overwhelmed with a sense of their own spiritual need.

Proud people have a critical, fault-finding spirit; they look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope but their own with a telescope. Broken people are compassionate; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.

Proud people are self-righteous; they look down on others. Broken people esteem all others better than themselves.

Proud people have an independent, self-sufficient spirit. Broken people have a dependent spirit; they recognize their need for others.

Proud people have to prove that they are right. Broken people are willing to yield the right to be right.

Proud people claim rights; they have a demanding spirit. Broken people yield their rights; they have a meek spirit.

Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation. Broken people are self-denying.

Proud people desire to be served. Broken people are motivated to serve others.

Proud people desire to be a success. Broken people are motivated to be faithful and to make others a success.

Proud people desire self-advancement. Broken people desire to promote others.

Proud people have a drive to be recognized and appreciated. Broken people have a sense of their own unworthiness; they are thrilled that God would use them at all.

Proud people are wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked. Broken people are eager for others to get the credit; they rejoice when others are lifted up.

Proud people have a subconscious feeling, “This ministry/church is privileged to have me and my gifts”; they think of what they can do for God. Broken people’s heart attitude is, “I don’t deserve to have a part in any ministry”; they know that they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives.

Proud people feel confident in how much they know. Broken people are humbled by how very much they have to learn.

Proud people are self-conscious. Broken people are not concerned with self at all.

Proud people keep others at arms’ length. Broken people are willing to risk getting close to others and to take risks of loving intimately.

Proud people are quick to blame others. Broken people accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation.

Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when criticized. Broken people receive criticism with a humble, open spirit.

Proud people are concerned with being respectable, with what others think; they work to protect their own image and reputation. Broken people are concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; they are willing to die to their own reputation.

Proud people find it difficult to share their spiritual need with others. Broken people are willing to be open and transparent with others as God directs.

Proud people want to be sure that no one finds out when they have sinned; their instinct is to cover up. Broken people, once broken, don’t care who knows or who finds out; they are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to lose.

Proud people have a hard time saying, “I was wrong; will you please forgive me?” Broken people are quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary.

Proud people tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin. Broken people are able to acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin.

Proud people are concerned about the consequences of their sin. Broken people are grieved over the cause, the root of their sin.

Proud people are remorseful over their sin, sorry that they got found out or caught. Broken people are truly, genuinely repentant over their sin, evidenced in the fact that they forsake that sin.

Proud people wait for the other to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship. Broken people take the initiative to be reconciled when there is misunderstanding or conflict in relationships; they race to the cross; they see if they can get there first, no matter how wrong the other may have been.

Proud people compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor. Broken people compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for His mercy.

Proud people are blind to their true heart condition. Broken people walk in the light.

Proud people don’t think they have anything to repent of. Broken people realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance.

Proud people don’t think they need revival, but they are sure that everyone else does. Broken people continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of His Holy Spirit.

By Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Going Back to the Gospel of Grace

Galatians 5

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

2 Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision [Note to self: insert legalisms here, all ways I try to earn favor from God and man], Christ will be of no advantage to you. 3 I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. 4 You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

7 You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion is not from him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. 11 But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these [Note to self: these things are all about me]. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law [Note to self: These things are all loving and serving about God and others in humility.]. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Galatians 6

6:1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.

6 One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised [Note to self: It is not about looking good before others, or even about fitting in with Christian culture. It is about knowing God and His truth in Scripture, it is about living under the gospel of grace empowered in the Holy Spirit], and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation [Note to self: I can't earn salvation. If Jesus is truly Lord of my Life, then He has already fulfilled the requirement of righteousness on my behalf to merit salvation. Now, out of love for Him, I pursue becoming righteous by being in His presence, asking for His help, and learning from His example]. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

Friday, August 7, 2009

My Journey Through the Book, "Love that Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace"

I just finished reading a fabulous book on marriage called “Love that Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace” by Gary and Betsy Ricucci. The book is gospel rich, grace saturated, humble and honest. Husband and wife, Gary and Betsy Ricucci, wrote it in tandem, interweaving between each other’s thoughts throughout the book. While reading it, I felt like I was visiting over coffee with a loving, godly, wise, older couple whose heart’s desire is to encourage other couples through Scripture and by sharing from their own real life trials and errors. Rather than feeling overwhelmed or condemned as I sometimes do when reading books about marriage or gender roles, the book left me feeling encouraged and hopeful.

The topics in this book are fairly familiar topics for marriage books—the roles of husband and wives, communication, conflict, romance, and physical intimacy. However, the difference between this book and some other books I have read on marriage is that the practical really flows from the theological. The authors demonstrate that imaging God in all the practical aspects of marriage flows out from knowing God and experiencing the gospel. The ability to show grace to our spouses flows from knowing and experiencing God’s grace for us. Our ability to love our spouse as God calls us to love our spouse must flow from these truths: 1) Apart from God’s mercy on us, we were once poor, naked, wretched, and blind and without hope; 2) God is completely good and Holy; 3) God, in His pure goodness and deeply sacrificial love, chose to make us His children in spite of our selves; 4) even though we are still fallen and prone to sin, we are gradually and patiently being transformed daily by God’s power and out of His kindness; 5) God wants us to honor Him by loving others as He has loved us……if we do not recognize these facts, we will not be able to love our spouse with patience, mercy, grace, persevering commitment, sacrificial service, and hope. We can only love in the way that God asks us to love because God has first loved us. 1 John 4:19 “We love because he first loved us.”

The Ricucci’s book created a hunger in me in three primary practical ways—1) to grow in my knowledge, experience, and understanding of the gospel of God; 2) to grow in tangibly loving my husband with the sincere, unconditional, and sacrificial servant love that Jesus shows me; and 3) to live a life of openness and honesty with my brothers and sisters in Christ and to live in such a way as to invite these brothers and sisters to speak the truth of Scripture into our lives.In reading the Ricuccis’ book, I am reminded of what hope there is in grace! When my life and my marriage becomes a list of do’s and don’ts, I get overwhelmed and fail. Grace, however, produces freedom and fertile soil for Biblical fruit. I was also reminded that our Great God is glorified much through grace! Ephesians 1:3-6 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”

Another extremely valuable aspect of the Ricuccis’ book is their emphasis on Biblical community. Throughout the book, the Ricucci’s discuss the importance of transparency and accountability with other believers who can speak the truth of Scripture into their marriage. They even include Biblical community in their list of three “Defining Questions of Biblical Marriage” at the beginning of their book--the three questions they believe to be the “Defining Questions of Marriage” are: 1. Does Your Marriage Find its Purpose Primarily in God?; 2. Does Your Marriage Find its Hope in the Gospel of Grace?; and 3. Does your Marriage Find its Home in the Local Church?

I found this last question unpredictable and refreshing. I am starting to see that living a life of openness and honesty with my brothers and sisters in Christ and allowing these brothers and sisters to speak into my life IS an important way that I grow in grasping, experiencing, and living the gospel. It is also an important way that I can grow in servant love for my husband—particularly since I can be so blind to my own sin in this area or I can get so full of despair in this area. Sadly, I have not experienced very much of this type of Christian accountability in marriage. I wonder why this is. I can only imagine it is because marriage is so full of highs and lows, joys, sin, and challenges--marriage is where the rubber meets the road in so many ways. My own selfishness, lack of a servant heart, and lack of graciousness is most fully displayed in my marriage. Exposing these things to others involves risk. Exposing myself—particularly my heart and actions in marriage--does not make me look good. As we open up to others, we can find ourselves judged, rejected, scorned, or ridiculed. We can find that others are not trustworthy or discreet with what we share. Or we can find that others do not reciprocate with vulnerability, honesty, and humility about their own struggles (which can further feed our despair and shame). Don’t get me wrong—we ought to be discerning and wise about what information to share with whom—I am not suggesting that we share personal details from our marriage with everyone or that we indiscriminately accept advice from everyone (and certainly I am not suggesting that we share anything about our marriage without permission from our spouse!). Yet, I deeply want to experience true, deep, and mutual accountability with another couple who loves the Lord, who loves us, who is honest and real with us, who knows and values Scriptures as the authoritative standard by which we are to live our lives, and who will lovingly and graciously hold us accountable to that standard (and for whom we can do the same). The more I grow as a Christian, the more I long to know and be known. I long to know God as I know He already knows me. I also long to know and be known by His people because this is a primary way that I honor and image God and because it is a primary way that God grows and conforms me to His image. I want to be conformed to His image! I want to be helped in the ways that I am not yet conformed to His image—I want to be helped by being continually and lovingly reminded of His glorious truth in Scripture!

I’ll conclude this post with what Gary and Betsy Ricucci call “packing and traveling tips” for the “marriage adventure”. This is from page 156, the last page of their book:

First of all, don’t begin any leg of the journey with a focus on all that you have to do! Concerns like that are probably motivated by self-sufficient pride. Begin with what God has done for you in Jesus Christ. That’s humility and faith. The gospel redeems the past, provides for the present, and prepares for the future. In marriage, it is God’s activity through the finished work of Christ, applied in our lives by the indwelling Holy Spirit, that encourages and enables us and ensures our future. Every journey must begin here.

Study and know the Word of God. It is God’s lamp for your feet and a light for your path (Psalm 119:105); his water for washing, purifying, and refreshing your soul (Ephesians 5:26-27); his compass for discerning the direction of your heart (Hebrews 4:12); and his field guide, if you will… perfect, authoritative, accurate, and powerful to equip and take you each step of the way (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Be a humble learner, Grace will always follow.

And finally, don’t travel through marriage alone. Don’t travel isolated from one another, or isolated as a couple from the local church. Being alone wasn’t good in the garden (Genesis 2:18), and it isn’t a wise way to take a journey today (Proverbs 15:22). Being alone separates you from God’s means of growth and blessing (Proverbs 18:1; Romans 12:5: 1 Corinthians 12:18-21; Ephesians 4:15-16). And failing to meet with other believers is a bad and dangerous habit that leaves you vulnerable (Hebrews 10:24-25). Jesus is building his church, not isolated wilderness wanderers. God wants your journey to be shared.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the Ricuccis. Please continue to bless their marriage and to use them to edify your Body. Thank you for marriage. Thank you for all that you are teaching me through marriage. Please remind me daily that marriage is not the end-all, but rather it is a means of bringing you glory (by bringing us joy, by teaching us about your character, by revealing our sin to us and our need for you, and by providing opportunities for repentance, grace and transformation by your power!) Please help me grow in sincere, sacrificial, servant love for Kristian. Please help me to die to my selfishness and pride. I pray that you would bring into our lives real community and genuine mutual accountability with brothers and sisters in Christ in the area of growing in our marriage. May you be glorified in our marriage in every way. In Jesus Mighty Name, Amen.