A Prayer About Relational Messes and God’s Mercies

Thanks to Pastor Scotty Smith for this prayer:

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Galatians 5:13-16

     Forbearing Father, thank you for documenting the relational foolishness and failures of your people. Though it must grieve your heart, these portions of your Word arrest our naiveté and keep us from idolizing Christian community. They also demonstrate how much we need the gospel every day, even every hour. Life in the Body of Christ is often messy and requires a constant supply of your never-ending mercies.

     That we indulge our sinful nature, and “bite and devour each other” is a sad fact, but it’s not our fate and it’s not something you want us to get used to. One Day we will be made perfect in love. One Day all of our relationships will reveal the beauty of life within the Godhead. Throughout eternity we will enjoy perfect society, friendship, communication, camaraderie and intimacy. Sear and seal this hope upon our hearts, and may it be the fuel for earnest reflection, repentance and change.

     Come, Holy Spirit, come. Grant us godly sorrow and deep repentance, for the ways we hide the beauty of Jesus through our pettiness, immaturity and selfishness. Let us grieve the ways we love so poorly. The gospel should make it harder, not easier for us to hurt one another. Let us weep as those who understand what is at stake. In a day when the culture is looking for reasons not to believe the gospel, forgive us for adding to their ammo and salvo.

     Forgive us, Jesus. You’ve made it clear that the world will know we are your disciples by the way we love one another. Bring the power of the gospel to bear upon our shared and broken life as your Bride—in our marriages, friendships, community groups, leadership gatherings and in our corporate worship.

     Grace doesn’t free us to love haphazardly and selectively, but generously and extravagantly—as an overflow of the way you love us, Jesus. So very Amen, we pray, in your holy and loving name.

How the Gospel Can Transform a Marriage

This was over at Justin Taylor’s blog last week and I thought it’d be good to share here:

  • Because of the gospel, Christians have become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17). Therefore, in our marriage, our past does not define us, confine us, or determine our future.
  • Because of the gospel, we are forgiven (Ephesians 1:7). Therefore we can live free of all guilt and condemnation for every sin, and we can trust that God, in his mercy, will be gracious to us.
  • Because of the gospel, we can forgive, just as Christ forgave us (Ephesians 4:32). Nothing done against us compares to our sin against God. Therefore all offenses, hostility, and bitterness between Christians can be completely forgiven and removed.
  • Because of the gospel, we are accepted by God (Romans 15:7). Therefore we are not dependent on a spouse for who we are or what we need.
  • Because of the gospel, sin’s ruling power over us is broken (Romans 6:614). Therefore we can truly obey all that God calls us to do in our marriage, regardless of any circumstance or situation.
  • Because of the gospel, we have access to God through Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). Therefore we can at any time take any need in our marriage to the One who can do all things.
  • Because of the gospel, we have hope (Romans 5:1-4). Therefore we can endure any marital difficulty, hardship, or suffering, with the assurance that God is working all to our greatest good (Romans 8:28).
  • Because of the gospel, Christ dwells in us by his Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14). Therefore we are confident that God is always with us and is always at work in our marriage, even when progress is imperceptible (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
  • Because of the gospel, we have power to fight and overcome remaining sin, which continues to dwell and war within us (Romans 7:19-2124-25Galatians 5:16-17). This indwelling enemy represents the essence of what is called the doctrine of sin.

These are just a few of the ways the gospel can transform a marriage. Sometimes it’s not easy to live in the reality of these truths. But it is always possible—and not because of our strength or determination, but because of God’s empowering and enabling grace.

Gary and Betsy Ricucci, Love That Lasts: When Marriage Meets Grace (Crossway, 2006), pp. 22-23

Peace Initiatives

On the website of World Magazine (www.worldmag.com), there is an excellent article on peacemaking by Andrée Seu that will be in the upcoming January 1 issue of World.

In the article, she documents 5 conflicts resolved in her life over the last week.  Reflecting on them, she writes:

“I feel quite happy at the moment. Not with myself, precisely, but with the Lord. I had done things His way, and His way paid off. I have peace. Peace is nice, I like it. Please understand, I am not viewing this repentance business mechanistically, nor appreciating doctrine from a purely utilitarian point of view. Nevertheless, it is fun to see how well God’s commands “work.” I feel like I just bought a new double-flex rod “pocket fisherman,” and it practically catches trout by itself.”

Isn’t it wonderful how God commands us to do things that truly are in our best interest?  He loves us, and that is why he calls us to be peacemakers and to live at peace with Him and with those around us.

Read the whole article on the World Magazine website.

May the God of…?

While I was rummaging around my blog feed reader this week, I ran across two outstanding posts about Christ’s peace that are too good not to share with you. They both wrestle with the idea of what biblical peace looks like and how that contrasts with the way the world around us defines it.

The first post is one written by Dr. Moore. I have it excerpted here, but it’s definitely worth your time to read the whole thing:

The way we tend to think of “peace” is in terms of a tranquility, a lack of disturbance. This is perhaps all the more in focus with our contemporary notions of what Christmas is all about, reinforced constantly by the marketers all around us.

It is more than possible to have this kind of peace in a Christless life. In fact, it’s easier that way. The shepherds on the Bethlehem feeding grounds were probably experiencing a very “peaceful” night before the sky exploded with supernatural beings, beings ferocious enough to necessitate a command not to fear. The message of peace comes in the drama of disturbance.

I find that, too often, I want a satanic peace, the kind that comes with Christlessness. I just want tranquility, to be left alone with the path in which I want to go. That’s the kind of peace that comes with slavery, and it’s attractive (Gal. 4:9). After all, peace with Pharaoh simply means making more stray bricks. Peace with the flesh simply means watching out for your own tribal loyalties. Peace with Satan simply means marching in rhythm with your desires toward a bloody grave (Eph. 2:1-3).

You can have a Christless pseudo-peace, for a little while.

But true shalom doesn’t leave us alone, as though we were orphans (Heb. 12:8). Christful peace prompts us to struggle (Heb. 12:4), to scream out for deliverance (Rom. 8:15), to be nailed down in execution (Mt. 10:38).

Only in that kind of disturbance do we find the “peace that passes all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). In the gospel that uproots the powers of this age (including our own tranquil egos), we find “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1), as our consciences are cleansed before him. We find peace with one another as we find our identity in Christ who is our peace, and the old dividing walls implode (Eph. 2:14-17).

That’s a sword-rattling kind of peace, and it’s anything but calm, anything but quiet.

Read the whole thing here.

This second article was a guest post on Desiring God’s blog from Dustin of His Peace Upon Us. He primarily tackles the way we view the calling of God to be peacemakers:

Our master, Jesus the Messiah, said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Christians are called to be peacemakers. So how are we doing? Is this what we are known for? Does this describe you?

Imagine you were to tell your family that you wanted to be a peacemaker. Would they first think of the church or the UN? “Peacemaker” ought to be synonymous with Christian, especially in light of the frequent New Testament commands to be at peace with others (i. e. Romans 12:1814:192 Corinthians 13:11). Do we realize that not only does Paul give a blessing of grace at the beginning of each of his letters, but he also always includes peace?

But what is a peacemaker? Here is an intentionally peace-filled definition that I hope helps reawaken us to the prominence of peace in the Bible:

A peacemaker is someone who experiences the peace of God (Philippians 4:7) because he is at peace (Romans 5:1) with the God of peace (Philippians 4:9) through the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6), who, indeed, is our peace (Ephesians 2:14), and who therefore seeks to live at peace with all others (Romans 12:18) and proclaims the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15) so that others might have joy and peace in believing (Romans 15:13).

I have quite a bit to chew on after reading those posts and I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. Too often my image of peace and, by extension,  a peacemaker is shaped by what I read in the news and watch in movies and not by what God himself says about it in his Word.

I desire: The Idolatry and Adultery in Our Hearts

Over at The Gospel Coalition, Thabiti Anyabwile posted this great excerpt a couple of days ago:

What causes fights and quarrels among you?  Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it.  You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want.  You quarrel and fight.  You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.  You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? (James 4:1-4a)

“An idolatrous heart will produce idol words, words that serve the idol that grips us.  It is hard for us to hold our desires loosely.  Instead, they tend to take hold of us.  Our desires tend to get elevated to a position where they should never be.  Here is what happens: A desire battles for control until it becomes a demand.  The demand is then expressed (and usually experienced) as a need.  (“I need sex.”  ”I need respect.”)  My sense of need sets up my expectation.  Expectation when unfulfilled leads to disappointment.  Disappointment leads to some kind of punishment.  ”You want something, but you cannot get it.  You quarrel and fight.”  So when James says, “You adulterous people,” he is not changing the subject.  He is saying something very significant.  Adultery takes place when I give the love I have promised one person to someone else.  Spiritual adultery occurs when I give the love that belongs to God alone to something or someone else.  James is saying that human conflict is rooted in spiritual adultery!  This is a momentous thought!  We will not solve our problem with angry words until we humbly address the adultery and idolatry of our hearts.”

Paul David Tripp, War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2000), p. 59.

HT: Pure Church

Round- Up: Seven Characteristics of the Most Forgiving People in the World

Today we have a round-up of all seven of the characteristics we shared last week on Facebook and Twitter.

For those who missed it, throughout the day on Wednesday (Oct. 6) we posted the list of the common characteristics of the most forgiving people in the world that Ken Sande taught us about  in staff devotionals.

  1. The most forgiving people in the world have an exceedingly high view of God.
  2. The most forgiving people in the world trust that God is all powerful, all loving, and always working for his glory and our good, even in the midst of suffering. (Gen. 45:4-7; Acts 2:23-24; Rom. 8:28)
  3. ‎The most forgiving people in the world trust God’s promise that every sin will eventually be fully paid for, either through Christ’s atonement on the cross or through eternal judgment. (Gen. 50:19; Luke 18:6-8; Rom. 12:19)
  4. The most forgiving people in the world see their sin against God and his forgiveness of them as being infinitely great. (Matt. 18:23-25; Luke 7:47; Ps. 25:11; Eph. 1:7)
  5. The most forgiving people in the world see God as the true treasure of forgiveness and will do anything to have more of him. (Ps. 73:25)
  6. The most forgiving people in the world see others through the eyes of Christ. (Col. 1:21-22; Luke 23:34)
  7. The most forgiving people in the world depend utterly on God to cultivate the perspectives and attitudes needed to forgive. (Phil 2:13)

Andrew Peterson: “Dancing in the Minefields”

Several of us at the PM office have really been enjoying this music video for the last few days.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that this is very much a peacemaking song.  In marriage, or any relationship, we know that we’re going to stumble and hurt one another, but we enter into this “minefield” joyfully because of the hope we have in the Gospel.

“This is harder than I dreamed, but that’s what the Promise is for.”

HT: Justin Taylor


I’ve been listening to a little bit of Dave Harvey’s message from our 2009 Peacemaker Conference entitled “God’s Mercy and My Marriage.” The whole thing is SO worth listening to, and I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t heard it (or give it another listen if you have). You can download it for free from our website.

Here are some of Harvey’s opening comments on mercy:

[Mercy is] an amazing, unique, exceptional word that we rarely hear talked about within the culture that is a biblical theme that starts springing at us in the book of Genesis and goes all the way through Revelation. This word is one that we must understand because we are called by God to be merciful, and that calling begins with the person sitting next to you.

Mercy addresses how God relates to us as sinners; it describes his disposition of kindness, of patience, of forgiveness towards us despite the fact that we’ve rebelled against him and can be oriented to rebelling against him still. It describes how God suffered for sinners in Jesus Christ and suffers with sinners. Mercy arms the believer with a whole new language, with a whole new vocabulary of God’s love because all of a sudden when we talk about mercy, God’s longsuffering gets put into play. Words like forbearance begin to enter the discussion. Compassion is restored to our marriage.

…We talk about the mercy of God, and we find in the cross that the Father was merciful by sending the Son to die for our sins. Without the cross, “the Father is merciful” can become the sentimental actions of a tender old deity. It’s the cross that makes mercy real because it defines what it means in the reality that God did not treat us as our sins deserved.

Harvey goes on to apply that mercy in three specific areas of marriage/relationships: mercy in kindness, mercy in covering, and mercy for weakness.  The overarching theme is this: “Mercy introduces ministry as a primary goal in marriage.”

Again, here’s the link to download the whole message.

The hard part is being the first to say “I’m sorry…”

Chris Brauns has a great post on the humility required to be the first to say “I’m sorry” in a relationship:

The Bible says that God gives grace to the humble. Sometimes, being humble means saying “I am sorry” first.

Think about it. Don’t you find it relatively easy to apologize if the other person says, “I am sorry,” first? Saying it first is sometimes hard to swallow.

You would never claim perfection in marriage. You just believe your spouse was more wrong; he or she ought to say “I am sorry first.” Maybe you clattered your bowl into the kitchen sink and shut the door with a grumpy bang on your way to work this morning and left the milk out for good measure. What silly games we play.

Remember Proverbs 3:34 says, “God mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.” Let your pride go. God mocks mighty mockers, but blesses the broken.

Do you want a special measure of God’s grace? Here is what you do. Flip open your phone and pound speed dial. Follow this script, “I am sorry, I was wrong, will you please forgive me.” Do not, I repeat, “do not,” find yourself continuing after the apology with a criticism of the other person.

You may or may not get a corresponding apology in response. But, you can be assured of the grace of God at work in your life. God blesses the broken.

One of the most powerful things I’ve ever read that helps me to tangibly understand how the Gospel empowers me to take that first step of saying “I’m sorry,” is Alfred Poirier’s article The Cross and Criticism.  If you find yourself unable to say that first “I’m sorry,” I hope you’ll take some time to read The Cross and Criticism and to meditate on how devastating the cross is to our pride, and freeing it is to live as sinners who are no longer under condemnation.