Embracing the Opportunity to Wait

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen
thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”

Psalm 27:14

Given the current circumstances of our adoption, I’ve been thinking a lot about waiting lately. Based on what I’ve learned thus far in my 34 years on earth, it seems to me that life is a constant cycle of learning and re-learning how to wait on the Lord. When we look at Scripture (and at all of the practice God gives us), it’s clear that waiting plays a vital role in our sanctification. 

In his new article for The Gospel Coalition, “5 Signs Waiting Has Weakened Your Faith,” biblical counselor Paul Tripp warns of the dangers of growing spiritually cold when you struggle to see how God is at work in your wait… 

When God asks you to wait, what happens to your spiritual muscles? While you wait, do your spiritual muscles grow bigger and stronger, or do they become flaccid and atrophied? Waiting for the Lord isn’t about God forgetting you, forsaking you, abandoning the ministry he’s called you to, or being unfaithful to his promises. It’s actually God giving you time to consider his glory, grow stronger in faith, and grow in courage for ministry. Remember, waiting isn’t just about what you’re hoping for at the end of the wait, but also about what you’ll become as you wait.

So waiting always presents us with a spiritual choice-point. Will I allow myself to question God’s goodness and progressively grow weaker in faith, or will I embrace the opportunity of faith that God is giving me and build my spiritual…muscles?

Tripp then shares 5 hints that you are allowing the waiting process to weaken rather than strengthen you:

  1. Giving way to doubt
  2. Giving way to anger
  3. Giving way to discouragement
  4. Giving way to envy
  5. Giving way to inactivity

Do you see any of these in your own life? If so, then Tripp’s biblical advice will be an encouragement to you. 

You can read the entire article HERE.

Photo: sem rox

Why Suffering?

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us
an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison”

2 Corinthians 4:17

Why do we suffer? It’s a question most human beings will ask countless times throughout their lives. Thankfully, those who know Christ and His Word are not left without answers. 

In this video, Paul Tripp shares a biblical perspective on the reasons for suffering…


Image: SCapture

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Proper biblical confrontation is never motivated by impatience, frustration, hurt, or anger, but is one way God prevents these things from damaging our relationships. Failure to make loving rebuke part of our relationships gives the Devil a huge opportunity. I have met many couples who have lost all the tenderness, appreciation, patience, respect, sensitivity, and romance in their relationship. These precious commodities had been destroyed by a failure to confront sin biblically.

Their marriages had become a cycle of accusation, recrimination, and revenge. Bitterness and anger had sucked the life out of their love until the spouses could barely remember what once attracted them to each other. They never intended it, but their refusal to confront sin in God’s way and their daily habit of devouring each other had gutted their relationship. The sweet, hopeful couple of the past had become two isolated, angry, and hopeless people who wanted out of their marriage.

A humble, honest lifestyle of rebuke protects us from ourselves. As sinners living with sinners, we need something to retard the progress of sin in our relationships. Early in our marrige Luella and I decided that we would not let the sun go down on our anger (Eph. 4:26). We promised each other that we would not go to bed angry. At first we would lie in bed, propping our eyes open, waiting for the other perosn to ask for forgiveness so that we woudn’t have to. But as time went on, we saw how this principle restrained our sin, strengthened our relationship, protected our love, and matured us both. We have been married for over thirty years and we are still sinners, yet we love each other more than ever, and we don’t carry yesterday’s baggage into today’s encounters. Each anniversary we thank the Lord for rescuing us from ourselves.

~Paul David Tripp in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

Photo: OBMonkey

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Giving hope is about helping a person see the Lord. Suffering commands our attention and clouds our vision, making it easy to forget what anchors our faith. Because trouble has such power to blind and confuse us, it is a sweet grace to have someone come alongside and point us to the One who is a rock, a fortress, a refuge, a hiding place, and a shield. We all need someone to remind us that life is not defined by our pain but by our union with Christ.

Giving hope is more than convincing people that things will get better. or helping them decide what to do. Giving hope introduces them to a Person. It helps people who are dealing with the unthinkable to view life from the perspective of God’s glory and grace and their identity as his children…It is in the darkest night that the glory of the Redeemer’s love and grace shines brightest. Hope points people toward the Light.

All of this should not only produce hope but deep thankfulness. Perhaps nothing has as much potential to produce true worship as suffering. Trials reveal critical things about us and wonderful things about God. People discover that there is strength to be found in weakness, love to be found in the midst of rejection, wisdom to be found in the face of foolishness, and that someone is with them even in their most profound loneliness. The result is worship that flows from an experience of the goodness of God.

~Paul David Tripp in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

Photo: OBMonkey

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Many Christians have very little idea of what it means to live a Cross-centered life. How about you? How much of the way you view yourself is shaped by what Jesus did for you on the Cross? When you awaken each morning, what functional identity shapes the way you face the day? Is your identity grounded in what you do or certain skills you possess? “I am a businesswoman.” “I am a pastor.” “I am a parent.” Notice how these things begin to function as identities rather than callings. Or do you define yourself in light of a past event? “I am a survivor of sexual abuse.” “I am an alcoholic.” “I am a person who grew up in a dysfunctional family.” Maybe you define yourself in light of your current struggle. “I am depressed.” “I am bipolar.” “I am an angry person.”

While a Christian should never minimize personal gifts, past problems, or current struggles, these do not displace his or her more fundamental identity of being in Christ. “I am a new creation in Christ who happens to be a businesswoman, pastor, or parent.” Jesus defines me, not my particular calling or vocation. “I am a Christian who was hurt by someone in my past, who struggles with depression, who struggles with anger.” My fundamental identity in the Cross of Christ supersedes whatever struggle I am going through now.

Do you know what it means to live a Cross-centered life on a daily basis? Some Christians think that the Cross is what you need to become a Christian and get to heaven. They think, I need my sins forgiven so that I escape God’s judgment when I die. But once that is taken care of, what matters is that I follow Christ’s example. I need to roll up my sleeves and get to work! The tricky thing about this perspective is that it is partially correct. Once you become a Christian, you do participate in your ongoing growth. You do actively pursue the obedience that comes from faith (see Rom. 1:5; 16:26; Gal. 5:6). You do engage in spiritual warfare! However, you are never to minimize your continuing need for the mercy and power of Christ in the process of becoming like him.

~Tim Lane and Paul David Tripp in How People Change

Photo: OBMonkey

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Our failure to confront one another biblically must be seen for what it is: something rooted in our tendency to run after god-replacements. We confront unbiblically (or not at all) because we love something else more than God. Perhaps we love our relationship with this person so much that we don’t want to risk it. Perhaps we prefer to avoid the personal sacrifice and complications that confrontation may involve. Perhaps we love peace, respect, and appreciation more than we should. Here is the principle: To the degree that we give the love of our hearts to someone or something else, to that degree we lose our primary motive to confront. But if we love God above else, confrontation is an extension and expression of that love…

Confrontation is rooted in the Second Great Command, which calls us to “love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:39). Isn’t it interesting that the Old Testament call to love your neighbor as yourself is tied to this call to frank rebuke [Lev. 19:17-18]? A rebuke free of unrighteous anger is a clear sign of biblical love, but I am afraid we have replaced love in our relationships with being “nice.” Being nice and acting out of love are not the same thing. Our culture puts a high premium on being tolerant and polite. We seek to avoid uncomfortable moments, so we see, but do not speak. We go so far as to convince ourselves that we are not speaking because we love the other person, when in reality we fail to speak because we lack love…

Please don’t misunderstand. True love is not offensively intrusive or rude. But the Bible repudiates covering sin with a facade of silence…If we love people and want God’s best for them, how can we stand by as they wander away?

~Paul David Tripp in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

Photo: OBMonkey

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Sin makes us glory thieves. There is probably not a day when we do not plot to steal glory that rightfully belongs to the Lord. When we compete with one another for glory, we fail to experience the unity that can only be found when we join together to live for him.

At the bottom of a broken marriage, a shattered family, or a forsaken friendship you will always find stolen glory. We crave glory that does not belong to us, and we step on one another to get it. Rather than glorifying God by using the things he has given us to love other people, we use people to get the glory we love. Sin causes us to steal the story and rewrite it with ourselves in the lead, and with our lives at center stage.

But there is only one stage and it belongs to the Lord. Any attempt to put ourselves in his place puts us in a war with him…Sin has made us glory robbers. We do not suffer well because suffering interferes with our glory. We do not find relationships easy, because others compete with us for glory. We do not serve well, because in our quest for glory, we want to be served.

But the story of Scripture is the story of the Lord’s glory. It calls me to an agenda that is bigger than myself. It offers me something truly worth living for. The Redeemer has come so that glory thieves would joyfully live for the glory of Another. There is no deeper personal joy and satisfaction than to live committed to his glory. It is what we truly need. 

~Paul David Tripp in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

Photo: OBMonkey

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The gospel motivates us not only with the presence of Christ and the surety of his promises, but also with our brand new identity. In passages like Romans 6:15-17 and 1 John 3:1-3, Scripture lays out this new identity for us. We learn that we are not only forgiven, but have in fact been adopted into the family of God. We are children of the King of Kings! The God of the universe is our Father!

…In the press of everyday life, it is easy to forget who we are. As we try to replace old behaviors with new ones, it is easy to take our eyes off our status as children of God. In fact the longer we struggle with a problem, the more likely we are to define ourselves by that problem (divorced, addicted, depressed, co-dependent, ADD). We come to believe that our problem is who we are. But while these labels may describe particular ways we struggle as sinners in a fallen world, they are not our identity! If we allow them to define us, we will live trapped within their boundaries. This is no way for a child of God to live!

There is a radical difference between saying, “I am a depressed person,” and saying, “I am a child of God ‘in Christ’ and I tend to struggle with depression.” The second statement does not pretend that the war isn’t raging, but it is infused with hope. It says, “Yes, I wrestle with depression every day, but I am not alone. I do not rest on my own strength and wisdom. I have come to understand that my Creator and Savior is also my Father. I am beginning to grasp how rich I really am because of my place in his family and I am learning to live out of the riches he has provided, rather than the poverty of the identities I used to assign myself.” 

~Paul David Tripp in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

Photo: OBMonkey

Representing the Redeemer

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ…”

2 Corinthians 5:20

A couple of years ago, one of my classmates in The Master’s College biblical counseling program came into class wearing a t-shirt with the slogan, “Rep the King.” I’ll be honest–I am not now, nor have I ever been a cool person, so my first thought was, “Rep? What’s that mean?” Somewhere along the way I figured out that “rep” was just “represent” in hip-hop lingo, and the phrase has been stuck in my head ever since. Rep the King. It’s not only a great slogan for a t-shirt; it’s the prescribed mission statement for every believer.

Do you live your life to rep the King? This past week as I read Paul David Tripp’s book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, I was struck by his teaching on what it means to be an ambassador, or a representative, of Christ. I spend so much of my life pursuing my personal comfort that I often forget–I’m not here to please me; I’m here to please the King.

We are ambassadors of Christ–what a difference this thought should make in every aspect of our lives…  

The job of an ambassador is to represent someone or something. Everything he does and says must intentionally represent a leader who is not physically present. His calling is not limited to forty hours a week, to certain state events, or to times of international crisis. He is always the king’s representative. He stands in the place of the king (or the government of his country) wherever he is, whatever he is doing. His relationships are not primarily driven by his own happiness. He decides to go places and do things because they will help him to faithfully represent the king. Thus the work of an ambassador is incarnational. His actions, character, and words embody the king who is not present…

What is God calling you to in your marriage? To be an ambassador. What is God calling you to as a parent? To be an ambassador. What is God calling you to regarding your friends and neighbors? To be an ambassador. What is God calling you to at work and in leisure? To be an ambassador. We represent God’s purposes to the people he places in our lives. This is much broader than a commitment to formal ministry occupying a portion of our schedule.
It acknowledges that our lives belong to the King

Living a representative lifestyle can be summarized by three points of focus. As an ambassador, I will represent:

  1. The message of the King. An ambassador is always asking, “What does my Lord want to communicate to this person in this situation? What truths should shape my response? What goals should motivate me?
  2. The methods of the King. Here I will ask, “How does the Lord bring change in me and in others? How did he respond to people here on earth? What responses are consistent with the goals and resources of the gospel?
  3. The character of the King. Here I ask, “Why does the Lord do what he does? How can I faithfully represent the character that motivates his redemptive work? What motives in my own heart could hinder what the Lord wants to do in this situation?

How could this tri-fold focus change the way you respond to your friends, your family, or your coworkers? We have been sent by the King. We must turn our backs on the claustrophobic confines of our own mini-kingdoms and open ourselves up to the grandeur of the Kingdom of God and the glory of representing him. 

[Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands, pp. 104, 107]

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In response to humanity’s deepest, heartfelt questions, God sweetly speaks of his sovereignty. “Take heart, I am in complete control. I am the definition of holiness and love. All of my ways are right and true, all of my decisions are best, and I will not rest until my plan has been completed.”

There is comfort in your moment of greatest mystery. There is encouragement in your time of greatest confusion, and hope in your moment of greatest discouragement. Your world is not a world of constant chaos controlled by impersonal forces. Your destiny is not in your hands or in the hands of other people. You are held in the hands of your heavenly Father, who rules everything! You are a child of the King of Kings and you live under the shadow of his wing. You are part of his plan. That means that the exercise of his power and authority is for your blessing.

You and I can rest in the middle of deep and personal mysteries. We can press on when little around us makes sense. There is reason in the mystery and order in the chaos, because behind it all stands the One in control of it all.

What does it mean for each of us? It means peace when my brain is unable to put it all together. A Christian’s inner peace is never based on his ability to take the teachings of Scripture and figure it all out. Our peace always rests on the presence, power, and character of the Lord. Because he rules heaven and earth according to his wise plan, I need not live in anxiety and fear. God’s absolute sovereignty guarantees the fulfillment of each of his promises to every one of his children. That includes you!

~Paul David Tripp in Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands

Photo: OBMonkey

Beauty Supplements

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In elevating appearance as one of its highest values, Western culture has lost its heart. There has been a huge shift in the way that our culture thinks about the identity of people. In our obsession with all things physical, we have quit viewing people as being controlled by the content and character of their hearts. To deny the heart is to reject the true nature of our humanity. In essence, our true self is spiritual and when we deny this, we lose an accurate sense of our personhood and get reduced to a network of interacting and interrelated biochemical machines.

If there is no heart, then there is no inner self, and if there is no inner self then the real you is the physical you. So, the health, adornment, and pleasure of the physical self will, by necessity, become the highest of functional values.

But if there is in each of us a heart, as the Bible describes, then there is a spiritual inner self. This means that the essence of the true you is not to be found in your physical body. The essence of your true self is your heart. In reality, your body is just an earth-suit created by God, and therefore reflecting His glory, but designed to be a house for the real you, the heart. The motivational you, the thoughtful you, the emotional you, and the character that is you, is the heart. It is much more than our bodies that make us different from one another. The place where we are most profoundly different from one another and from the rest of the creation is the heart. What is essentially the most glorious and beautiful or sad and ugly about any human being is not the lines of her face or the profile of his body, but rather the condition of the heart. Your identity and mine was never meant to be rooted in the physical self. It was never meant to be attached to the size of your ears, the width of your nose, or the shape of your stomach.

True beauty has always been and will always be a matter of the heart. There is nothing ever made that is more gorgeous than a heart ruled by an active and joyful worship of God. And there is but one surgeon who can produce such beauty, the Messiah, the suffering Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

~Paul David Tripp in “Appearance is Everything: Reclaiming God’s Image in an Image-Obsessed Culture,” Journal of Biblical Counseling, Fall 2005

Photo: OBMonkey

What’s the Big Deal about Biblical Counseling?

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

Hebrews 4:12

You won’t have to read this blog for long before figuring out that I’m pretty passionate about biblical counseling.

Not psychology.

Not even Christian psychology.

Biblical counseling–using the Word of God in the power of the Spirit of God to care for the souls of the people of God. That’s what I’m passionate about.

Wonder why? Here are a few reasons…  

Learn more about Paul David Tripp’s counseling resources HERE.

Photo: Colin Nixon

Precious Picks

This week, I’ve come across more good stuff than I could share with you through individual blog posts, so I thought I’d give you the links and a brief description of each in case you’d like to check them out yourself.

Are You Distracted, Anxious, or Troubled?
Teaching on Luke 10:38-42, Mark Driscoll explains how God wants us to live in a Mary world with Martha moments instead of vice versa: “The truth is, Martha, you’re never going to get everything done that you’ve got on your list, and if Jesus is last, you’ll never get to Him. So, make sure that time with Jesus is first.” This is a great clip.

Don’t Judge the Depressed
Stephen Altrogge gives some helpful tips on ministering to the depressed, “Don’t make my mistake. Don’t judge the depressed, care for them.”

The God We Praise
David Platt’s church, The Church at Brook Hills, has just released a beautiful worship album called The God We Praise. You can hear the music, get chord charts and lead sheets, and watch song bios on the website.  

Growing Impact from True Woman ’10
True Woman compiled a number of video testimonies from women who attended their recent conference in Indianapolis. It’s exciting to see what God is doing through this movement!

Illustration: Svilen Milev

The Cleansing Power of Dirty Work

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:43-45

When I was young, my sister and I loved to sing together. One of the songs we sang repeatedly was called “Make Me a Servant.” I remember singing these simple lyrics and meaning them with all of my little heart:

Make me a servant
Humble and meek
Lord let me lift up those who are weak
And may the prayers of my heart always be
Make me a servant
Make me a servant
Make me a servant today

As I thought about the topic of servanthood during a reading assignment today, I realized that I don’t pray and ask the Lord to make me a servant nearly so often as I once did. The following excerpt from the book, Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, by Timothy Lane and Paul David Tripp challenged me to once again make the humble spirit of servanthood the sincere prayer of my heart:  

If our relationships are going to produce Christlike character in us and if Christian community is going to flourish, it is going to take lots of people who relish being demoted in the eyes of the world. Imagine human beings who naturally want position, power, and recognition being transformed into people who gladly throw off self-glory and self-love to be servants in the image of Jesus. This is what will turn average relationships into something glorious. Serving others is a simple way of consolidating all the Bible’s “one another” passages under one big idea. When we serve one another, we carry one another’s burdens in practical ways. We get our hands dirty as we come alongside people and pay attention to the details of their lives. If our professed commitment to Jesus does not lead us to resemble him in our actions, then we are mocking him and not representing him accurately to the world.

When you think about your relationships, how many of them ultimately revolve around making sure your concerns are heard and your self-defined “needs” are met? Start with those you love the most. I am married and have four children, and most of the time I am committed to thinking about how they can make my life more fulfilling. I know this is true because of how easily I get irritated when I have to give up personal comfort to serve them. This is with people I say I love; I haven’t even begun to think about the difficult people. And let’s not even bring up our enemies! Do you see this in yourself? This is the first step to becoming a servant. You have to see how much of a servant you aren’t before you can start to become one. That is the abiding irony of the Christian life. Up is down, life is death, and power is expressed in serving.

[Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, p. 119]

Related Post: From Mess to Masterpiece

Illustration: Amy Burton

Making the Right Change in Marriage

   

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”

Romans 8:28-29   

In addition to attempt to unlock the secrets of the universe, the brilliant scientist Albert Einstein also applied his genius to making keen observations about the mysterious union known as marriage. Although E=mc2 is the formula for which Einstein is most often remembered, he is also noted for verbalizing another, “Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.”    

Einstein’s analysis could rightly be referred to as the ideal formula for marital disappointment. To enter marriage with faulty expectations for how your spouse will or will not change is to haphazardly balance your hopes on the edge of a precipice from which they will soon be dashed. How much better prepared young men and women would be if they exchanged their vows while fully mindful of the fact that from that moment on, neither one of them would ever be the same again. In order to have a God-honoring marriage, both husband and wife must be committed to changing slowly, yet deliberately, each and every day of their life together.   

In his book What Did You Expect?, Paul Tripp helps couples learn to develop appropriate biblical expectations for change within marriage: 

Every marriage between the fall and eternity is in the middle of a lifelong process of change. Your marriage may be better than it once was, but it is not yet all that it could be. In marriage you are meant to grow together in an increasingly maturing love and to grow personally in your love and service of the Lord.    

You see, patience in marriage is vital, because the goal of marriage is greater than marriage. The goal of marriage, from God’s perspective, is not that you would reach some mutually agreed-upon plateau of romantic and interpersonal happiness. No, God’s goals are much wider and more beautiful than that. God’s goal is that your marriage would be a major tool in his wise and loving hands to rescue you from claustrophobic self-worship and form you into a person who lives for nothing smaller than his kingdom, his righteousness, and his glory. God’s goal is to transform you at the causal core of your personhood–your heart. He is working so that everything you think, desire, say, and do is done in loyal and joyful service to him. God’s goal is not to deliver to you your well-thought-through dream of personal happiness. No, his goal is nothing less than holiness; or as Peter says, that you may become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).    

(What Did You Expect?, p.244; emphasis added) 

Tripp explains the importance of focusing your attention on your own need for change within marriage instead of your spouse’s:

   

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Photo: Penny Mathews   

Video: Crossway