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I love David Powlison’s article, Pleasure, probably as much as anything I’ve ever read by him. One of the reasons why is that it is so hopeful—so redemptive. It doesn’t start with the whole, “stop doing bad things” lecture that I’ve scolded my own heart with way too many times. Instead, it starts with a sweet, beautiful call to greater pleasure … real pleasure … innocent pleasure. And that means (of course) that it starts with a call to God and to the things of God.
So that is hopeful.
I also appreciate that it is not afraid to deal with the reality of life—which means, pain. Not always of course. Sometimes life is fun and happy and filled with joy. But lots of times, life is painful. Boring. Annoying. Uncomfortable. Filled with rejection, betrayal, attacks … pain.
To be alive, especially to be vulnerable and risk and put yourself out there and love? Well. All of that means that we will face pain. And sometimes? For certain seasons? A LOT of pain.
So what do we do with our pain? Do we run to drugs, alcohol, shopping, or fantasies to dull our pain? Do we shovel vast quantities of food into our swollen bellies to try to damp down our pain?
Or can we learn to just be sad. Down. A little depressaed. (Not the kind of lasting depression that endangers ua and for which we MUST get help—just the kind of temporary depression that leads us to stay in bed and tuck the covers over our head and lie there, shocked, slightly traumatized, actively hurting. Feeling our pain.)
You know what? It’s OK to to be sad. Scared. Angry. We can be feel, intimidated, annoyed, restless, or lazy. Sometimes we know right away why we are hurting. Sometimes it takes reflection and prayer and time to peel back the layers of complex pain.
Whatever the case, turning to the very enslaving thing that helps to cause our pain (drunkenness, sexual sin, gluttony, reckless spending, overexercising, Facebook gaming) … to help to alleviate our pain is pretty much rock-bottom of a cycle of despair. Loneliness and lack of friendship is not helped by isolating ourselves far away from people. Chronic back and joint pain due to inactivity and weight gain is not helped by further inactivity and more unhealthy eating. Fearful stresas over increasing credit card debt and bills we cannot pay is not lessened by the temporary “high” of spending more money on more things we do not need.
Instead, we can feel our feelings (name them!), grieve them (entrust them to God!), and move on with redemptive living, rather than enslaving (temporary) escapism. (Well. Maybe we move on after a nice long nap …)
Today has been a day of nearly unrelenting pain for me. How about you?
Let’s run to our sovereign, good, beloved, full-of-care Triune God, shall we?
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16, ESV)
With you in the journey—
(Great job, Dale & Dwight & the entire Peacemaker Team!)
A GREAT read by Pastor Thabiti that we re-posted over on Redeeming Church Conflicts:
Great story here from Justin Holcomb:
Many of us think (whether we admit it or not) there must be some breaking point where our Father God gives up on us. Even if we successfully avoid believing this fallacy, others’ overzealous cries still reach our ears: certainly there must be some sin or amount of sin that is just too much.
My understanding of unconditional love and its implications deepened when I was 10 years old. Our neighbors had moved and they were trying to sell their house. One day I broke in through the back door and closed all the drains in all the sinks and tubs and turned on all the faucets. Then, I just sat there and watched the water run. I let it keep running when I went home for dinner, only finally returning a few hours later to turn it off. I flooded the entire house.
I knew right away that what I had done was wrong. I was shocked that I just wanted to do something so destructive. Our neighbors saw the damage the next day while showing the home to prospective buyers. They came to our house, and asked us if we had seen anyone around their place recently. On top of what I had already done, I lied to our neighbors and my parents.
I felt completely messed up. I was destroying stuff for the sake of destroying, and then I lied blatantly to everyone. I had heard about asking God’s forgiveness (my dad had taught me the Lord’s Prayer), so I begged God to forgive me.
But I was worried that he wouldn’t. Surely something so deliberate and cruel was just too much to forgive.
After a month of an uneasy conscience, I was finally found out. Another neighbor had seen me sneaking around and told my parents. My father called me in from playing outside with my friends and asked me if I remembered anything important about the flooding incident. I knew something was up, but I felt like I had to stick with the lie at this point.
Finally, my dad told me that I was busted. I experienced an overwhelming sense of shame and guilt for my sins, and intense fear of the consequences. I sobbed and muttered, “Dad, I’m so sorry. I’ve been asking God to forgive me for so long for this and I don’t know if he ever will.”
In a moment of parental love and great wisdom, my dad said, “If you asked God to forgive you, then you are forgiven. You deserve to be punished, and this will cost lots of money to fix. But, son, you are forgiven. Go back outside and play.” In that moment, the reality of forgiveness and gratuitous grace powerfully moved me.
Instead of experiencing my fears unfold, I knew I was safe with my dad and I finally understood what he told me growing up: “I love you unconditionally.”
Now when I confess my sins, I think of that experience of absolution. My dad didn’t take grace “too far.” He saw that my misunderstanding and fear of God’s wrath and my dad’s discipline threatened to crush me. He took on the consequences of my sins and literally paid for them for me.
I know there was nothing I could do to cause him to love me less. And I also know there was nothing I could do to cause him to love me more.
He loved me because I was his.
God the Father loves you like that. It’s gratuitous grace, the only kind there is.(A version of this story appears in Judgment and Love, a 35-story collection from Mockingbird)
I’m reviewing Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love (by Jerry Bridges) for our “True Woman Discussion Course” tomorrow and I thought some excerpts might bless you too. Enjoy!
“The grace of God is one of the most important subjects in all of Scripture. At the same time it is probably one of the least understood.
All Christians by definition believe in grace. Many of us frequently quote Paul’s well-known words in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” And John Newton’s beloved hymn, “Amazing Grace” is said to be the all-time favorite hymn in the United States. Why then do I say the grace of God is one of the least understood subjects in the Bible?
When we think of grace, we almost always think of being saved by grace. That is why Ephesians 2:8-9 is so familiar to us. Even Christian literature available on the subject of grace seems to deal almost exclusively with salvation. But the Bible teaches we are not only saved by grace, but we also live by grace every day of our lives. It is this important aspect of grace that seems to be so little understood or practiced by Christians.
My observations of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well—whatever “well” is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In his sense, we live by works rather than by grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance.
Moreover, we are always challenging ourselves and one another to “try harder.” We seem to believe that success in the Christian life (however we define success) is basically up to us: our commitment, our discipline, and our zeal, with some help from God along the way. We give lip service to the attitude of the apostle Paul, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Corinthians 15:10), but our unspoken motto is, “God helps those who help themselves.”
The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on my own performance is a very freeing and joyous experience. But it is not meant to be a one-time experience; the truth needs to be reaffirmed daily. That is what this book is all about.”
“After we become Christians we begin to put away our more obvious sins. We start attending church, put money in the offering plate, and maybe join a small group Bible study. We see some positive change in our lifestyle and we begin to feel pretty good about ourselves.
Then the day comes when we fall on our face spiritually. We lapse back into an old sin, or we fail to do what we should have done. Because we think we are now on our own, paying our own way, we assume we have forfeited all blessings from God for some undetermined period of time. Our expectation of God’s blessing depends on how well we feel when we are living the Christian life. We were saved by grace, but we are living by performance.
If you think I am overstating the case, try this test. Think of a time recently when you really fell on your face spiritually. Then imagine that immediately afterward you encountered a terrific opportunity to share Christ with a non-Christian friend. Could you have done it with complete confidence in God’s help?
We are all legalistic by nature; that is, we innately think so much performance by us earns so much blessing from God.
Not only are we legalistic by nature, our Christian culture reinforces this attitude in us. We are exhorted to attend church regularly, have a daily quiet time, study our Bibles, pray, memorize Scripture, witness to our neighbors, and give to mission—all of which are important Christian activities. Though no one ever comes right out and says so, somehow the vague impression is created in our minds that we’d better do those things or God will not bless us.
Then we turn to the Bible and read that we are to work out our salvation, to pursue holiness, and to be diligent to add to our faith such virtues as goodness, knowledge, self-control, and love. In fact, we find the Bible filled with exhortations to do good works and pursue the disciplines of spiritual growth …
One of the best kept secrets among Christians today is this: Jesus paid it all. I mean all. He not only purchased your forgiveness of sins and your ticket to Heaven, He purchased every blessing and every answer to prayer you will ever receive. Every one of them—no exceptions.
Why is this such a well-kept secret? For one thing we are afraid of this truth. We are afraid to tell even ourselves that we don’t have to work anymore, the work is all done. We are afraid that if we really believe this, we will slack off in our Christian duties. But the deeper core issue is that we don’t really believe we are bankrupt. Having come into God’s Kingdom by grace alone solely on the merit of Another, we’re now trying o pay our own way by our performance. We declared only temporary bankruptcy; we are now trying to live by good works rather than by grace.”
“Grace does not rescue us from the penalty of our sins, furnish us with some new spiritual abilities, and then leave us on our own to grow in spiritual maturity.”
SCRIPTURES TO MEDITATE ON (& MEMORIZE!)
- Romans 11:6
- Philippians 1:6
- Galatians 3:3
- Ephesians 2:4-7
- Titus 3:3-5
- Psalm 103:12
- Colossians 1:21-22
- Romans 4:7-8
An excellent read by Paul Tripp:
This is, so far, my all-time favorite article re: a godly, wise, appropriate, healthy, happy attitude towards food: Urban Servant’s “Rice and Beans and Unmarked Meats”
I aspire to Dorothy’s godliness in so many areas of life. Including this one.
It’s that time of year again—we’re all probably feeling burned out by our end of the school year / graduation / etc. commitments. The weather is nice outdoors and we just want to relax and have fun. And I’m all for that!
But first. Before you spend your Memorial Day prep time thinking only about what you are going to grill and if you have enough Fritos, etc. … please take just a few minutes to figure out which one of your local community Memorial Day services you will attend.
Before we had children, Fred and I used to go to the super early one down at the courthouse. But now we go to the 9 or 10AM services at our local cemeteries. The services are not long, but they are important. And I urge you to go. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Hope to see you there, Billings friends!