How To Make 2018 Great

January 3rd, 2018

The calendar has flipped from 2017 to 2018, which means many people are three days into their New Year’s resolution. (Many people have also lost their desire to keep going!)

Is change important? Is commitment essential? Of course! But the reality is that few individuals have made immediate and significant life changes because of a New Year’s resolution.

Biblical Christianity, which has the gospel of Jesus Christ at the center, simply doesn’t rest its hope in big moments of change. The fact of the matter is that the transforming work of grace is more of a mundane process.

Change typically takes place in ten thousand little moments, not one life-altering event.

The little moments of life are profoundly important precisely because they are the little moments. We live most of our existence in these mundane, everyday moments. For every huge life-changing moment, we experience ten thousand insignificant moments.

The beautiful thing about the gospel is that Jesus Christ offers grace for each of these little moments. The Bible doesn’t say, “His mercies are new once a year.” No, “His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Jesus is named Emmanuel, not just because he came to earth once, but because he makes you the place where he dwells every day. This means he is present and active in all the mundane moments of your daily life.

In these small moments, he is delivering every redemptive promise he has made to you. In these unremarkable moments, he is working to rescue you from you and transform you into his likeness.

By sovereign grace, your Lord will place you in ten thousand little moments that are designed to take you beyond your character, wisdom, and grace so that you’ll seek the help and hope that can only be found in him.

In a lifelong process of change, he is undoing you and rebuilding you again – exactly what each one of us needs!

Yes, you and I need to be committed to change in 2018, but not in a way that hopes for a big event of transformation. Instead, find joy in, and be faithful to, a day-by-day and step-by-step process of insight, confession, repentance and faith.

May 2018 be a great year, by grace alone and in Christ alone!

God bless

Paul Tripp

Reflection Questions
Is there anything you want to change about your life in 2018?
Are your desires for change driven more by biblical priorities or personal gain? How can you align your 2018 priorities with Scripture?
How can you take advantage of the new morning mercies offered to you in the New Year? (Think about spiritual discplines and the blessings found in the body of Christ.)

No Such Thing As Chance by Paul Tripp

September 7th, 2017

It’s a story so unusual, so extraordinary, and so mind-blowing that when we step back and consider the narrative, it forces us to reconsider the typical ways we think and talk about our lives.

It’s a story that you’re probably familiar with, but before we dive into that passage from Scripture, I want you to examine yourself: what is your street-level theology of God’s involvement in your mundane affairs?

What do you tend to tell yourself when an unexpected or unplanned thing alters your day? What do you say to you when your story takes a turn that surprises you, regardless of whether that turn seems good or bad? How much credit do you usually give yourself for what you could have never caused or planned? How much do you look at your life through the lens of the sovereign grace of God?

Let’s be honest: our street-level theology isn’t as strong as we want it to be. We don’t actually trust in the sovereignty of God as much as we say we do. Phrases such as “good luck,” “it was a coincidence,” “serendipity,” or “as fate would have it” easily fall from our lips (or flood our thoughts) as we describe (or reflect on) our situations, locations, and relationships of everyday life.

This beautiful story of faith from Acts 8 will lovingly confront us with the inadequacy of our reasoning.

THE BACKGROUND

It’s important to understand what’s happening before Philip meets the eunuch, so let’s recap.

Philip, the deacon / evangelist, had been driven out of Jerusalem by the persecution of Saul but was still enjoying a vibrant ministry in Samaria (Acts 8:1-13). God was confirming the truthfulness of Philip’s message with signs and wonders, and crowds were gathering with enthusiasm.

What more could an evangelist want? Hungry people were responding to God’s power and presence!

But just at the height of this high and holy ministry moment, the story takes a gloriously dramatic change. I love what happens next!

THE COMMAND

An angel comes to Philip and tells him to leave his vibrant ministry in the city of Samaria and travel the road that goes through the desert between Jerusalem and Gaza. This directive from the angel is more interesting and challenging than may hit you at first glance. I can find four reasons:

First, you have to wonder why God is calling Philip away from a vibrant ministry situation where the Spirit is clearly at work, and where many people are coming to faith.

Second, the timing of the request is unusual. The “go south” command is probably better translated “go at noon.” It would be brutal for Philip to walk through the desert during the heat of the day, and there would be few people with him on the road. Not only is God calling Philip away from a place where many people are spiritually hungry, but he’s sending him to a place where likely no one would be.

Third, the angel gives Philip no indication at all of what his mission or destination will be. Philip is told to simply go, with no knowledge of why he’s going and no understanding of where he’ll be at journey’s end.

Finally, what strikes me most is how Philip obeys this unusual command without a word. He doesn’t argue that he should stay in Samaria, where ministry is going so well. He doesn’t demand to be clued in to the nature of his mission. He doesn’t question the wisdom of God. He literally says nothing!

THE CHALLENGE

If you were Philip, what would you be thinking when the angel commanded you to go? How upset would you be if God took you away from something that seemed to be going so well? How tempted would you be to demand an explanation before you accepted the mission?

At this point in the story, we’re confronted with the humbling nature of true faith in God.

This story is God’s story, not ours. It was God’s mission, not Philip’s. The narrative is a drama of the Lord’s wise choices, not a drama of our ministry successes. He’s in complete control, while we have little control over anything in our lives.

God doesn’t owe us any explanation. Why? He hasn’t been commissioned to manage our agenda, but rather, he’s chosen us to be part of his. Perhaps one of the ways God loves us most is by not explaining things to us that we’d find very difficult to understand and accept.

You see, this story reveals that Philip clearly knows the place true faith has assigned to him. He knows that he’s been chosen to be part of something that’s dramatically bigger than his own wants, needs, and feelings. As a result, when God calls, Philip goes – no argument, no debate.

Can the same be said about our faith?

THE ENCOUNTER

As Philip walks along the desert (and most likely deserted) road from Jerusalm to Gaza, he encounters a very powerful court official of the Ethiopian queen, Candace. This eunuch was an esteemed and trusted man, responsible for all of the queen’s treasure (Acts 8:27).

As Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch cross paths, Philip has no idea that this man is actually his destination. There’s no final geographical location for Philip’s trek; rather, this dignitary is the reason for his journey.

In this reality, the glorious character of our God is revealed. God has manufactured all of the details of this encounter for one thing: the rescue of the soul of this man. God is so magnificent in his love, so amazing in his grace, and so tender of heart that he would go to this extent for the heart of one man.

Let that sink in for a moment.

While Philip was seeking to evangelize the masses, God is aware of, and attentive to, the seeking heart of one African man. Our Lord, who is at the same time ruling the nations of men and controlling the forces of nature, is never too busy or too distracted to not have a loving heart for one person seeking him.

God knew this high court official was searching the Scriptures but didn’t understand what he had been examining. This poor man was spiritually intrigued, but he had not yet been spiritually awakened, and God knew that for spiritual enlightenment to take place, this man would need help. So, for the sake of one lost but seeking man, God altered the story of another man so that the seeking man would experience his saving grace.

But when Philip first encountered the Ethiopian, he had no idea of any of this. Remember, Philip had been humbly willing to go on a mission he didn’t understand, so it wasn’t just the court official that needed divine help; at this point, Philip needed it too.

That’s when the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” (Acts 8:29)

THE STUDY

As Philip ran to meet the man in the chariot, he heard him reading from Isaiah. Philip had reached his destination! Philip asked the man if he understood what he was reading, and when the man said he needed an explanation, he invited Phillp to come and sit with them. As they continued down the road, they had the most important conversation of this official’s life.

For the first time, through the lens of Isaiah, this high-ranking official heard about the person and work of the Messiah that Isaiah wrote about – Jesus Christ. For the first time, he heard the best news that any seeking heart could ever hear, so much so that as they came upon water, the official demanded to be baptized. After Philip and the eunuch came out of the water, the Spirit whisked Philip away because his job was done and the official saw him no more.

Just like that, the story ends. We hear nothing else of the Ethipoian eunuch. Why? Because God has made his divine point, using this little vignette to reveal to us the wonder of his amazing sovereignty, love, and grace. The Author has done his job, so the narrative of Acts moves on.

THE HERO

After reading stories of faith like this in Scripture, we’re tempted to draw human-to-human parallels. What does Philip’s faith reveal about our lack of faith? How should we seek answers like the eunuch sought after answers? These are good questions to consider, but they ultimately miss the point.

While we should esteem Philip for his faith and the willingness that it produced in him, it’s vital to understand that Philip isn’t the hero of this story. And while we should also have a heart for the Ethiopian official, who in the middle of his own spiritual confusion continued to seek God, we need to understand that he’s not the hero of this story either.

Like every other story of faith that we could ever recount, God is on center stage here. God is the hero of the moment!

God is so glorious in his sovereignty that he orchestrates our individual lives for his glory and our good. That means he’s not just powerfully ruling over the grand moments, but intimately ruling over all the little details of our lives as well.

God is so glorious in his love that he will never ignore a seeking heart, even if it’s only of one person. He’ll listen to the cries of anyone who seeks him, and he’ll make a way for them to find him and know him.

God is glorious in his management of our time. He’ll control moments so we can experience eternally significant encounters, even when we would actually be satisfied with just our days to be easy and moderately successful.

God is so tender of heart that he turns the proud and rebellious hearts into humble and seeking hearts that have an insatiable hunger for him.

Our God is no respecter of race, power, or position. No, his grace levels the playing field. We all are desperately needy, and we all have no hope without him. The seeking soul on the streets of Samaria shared identity with the powerful official on the road to Gaza: lost, apart from rescuing and forgiving grace.

So, again and again, God will send out people of grace to give grace to people who need grace.

Oh, and by the way: there’s no way that this encounter would have ever happened by chance. It can only happen at the intersection of God’s sovereignty and his grace. Our hero Redeemer does all of his saving work at that intersection!

Memorize these words of grace that explain this strange and wonderful story: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13, ESV)

How To Have Faith When You’re Afraid

August 23rd, 2017

How To Have Faith When You’re Afraid
Do you ever feel as if your Christian faith is like a roller coaster ride?

Sometimes my spiritual life feels that way.

There are seasons when my faith feels sky high and rock solid. I’m confident in the Lord’s plans for my life, my identity is secure in Christ alone, and my excitement for the gospel can barely be contained.

And then there are the low points, when the opposite feels true. I know you can relate.

Why do we experience such highs and lows? Of course, there are multiple reasons, but as I’ve studied the bible, counseled others, and examined my own heart, I keep bumping into a common conclusion:

For Christians, it’s very tempting for us to hook our everyday faith to our everyday circumstances.

There’s a short story in the Bible that illustrates this truth with power. Hebrews 11:23 says, “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.

Could there be anything more scary than what Moses’ parents were experiencing? Pharaoh had just issued a death sentence for their newborn son! The horror of this moment is hard for us to wrap our brains around.

The circumstances of everyday life could not get worse for Moses’ parents; they had every reasonable right to be terrified. But their faith never weakened, and they were not afraid.

How can you live with such confidence?

Your faith must not be tied to your daily circumstances, but to the Lord, whose eternal presence, promises, and provisions are never altered by daily circumstances.

Living by faith means that no matter what happens, you have reason to continue. God is still the same. His commands are still valid. His promises are still true. His provision is still abundant. His presence has never left.

At street-level, even though your circumstances may change dramatically, nothing has actually changed at a spiritual level.

In the most terrifying moment of life, Moses’ mother and father believed by faith that God never changed. And they held on to this truth with every quaking fiber in their soul.

I love the Bible because it tells real stories of real people with real fears and real pain. This particular man and woman aren’t heroes of the faith; they’re just like me and you.

These flawed Christians made the decision to hook their faith to the only Hero of the Bible, who does not change, instead of hooking their faith to the rollercoaster of daily circumstances.

Why don’t you do the same today?

God bless,

Paul Tripp

Reflection Questions
Why is it spiritually dangerous to hook your faith to daily circumstances when life is hard?
Why is it spiritually dangerous to hook your faith to daily circumstances when life is good?
In what ways may you be hooking your faith to daily circumstances right now?
Who can you encourage this week with the unchanging presence, promises, and provision of God? Identify one person and minister to their soul.

Breaking Free From Shrink Wrap

June 28th, 2017

Shrink wrap was a genius invention.

The scientific brilliance behind it is that it always shrinks down to the exact size of whatever it has been wrapped around.

Whether it’s a piece of beef jerky or a boat in winter storage, the plastic molecules contour to the shape of the item to preserve and protect it.

Sin has a similar effect to shrink wrap, but not in a beneficial way. On the contrary, our sinful hearts cause damage by shrinking our life down to the size of selfish desires.

In the process, we hurt other people and miss out on the abundant and joyful life that God has available for us.

Think about it:

Husbands and wives, how many opportunities do we miss to deepen our relationship with our spouse because we shrink wrap our marriage down to the size of our selfish demands?

Moms and dads, how many opportunities do we miss to mold our children’s souls because we shrink wrap our parenting down to the size of our seflish comforts?

Friends, how many opportunities do we miss to minister to others because we shrink wrap our relationships down to the size of our selfish preferences?

Neighbors, how many opportunities do we miss to be a light in our communities because we shrink wrap our lives down to the size of an selfishly enjoyable and risk-free schedule?

Is it wrong to enjoy comfort and have personal preferences? Not at all! But at times, these become idols in our heart, and sin shrinks our life down to the size of these selfish idols.

So how do we break free from the shrink wrap of sin and experience the fullness of life that God offers?

1. Think Long Term

C.S. Lewis wrote, “If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were those who thought most of the next … Aim at Heaven and you will get earth thrown in.”

If the entire length of our lives on earth is but an infinitesimal blip, we would do well to make daily decisions based on ten thousand years into eternity, and not in the moment of here and now.

2. Look Out The Window

When I was in seminary, my classmates and I would drive through a destitute part of Philadelphia every day. We were so proud of ourselves to be having robust conversations about doctrine and ministry.

It wasn’t until I looked out the window one time to see broken houses, cars and people. I was filling my brain, but I had a shockingly uncaring heart! We would do well to look out the window and be grieved by the pain and hurt of others.

3. Remember What You Deserve

If you take credit for what only God’s blessing could provide, you will find greater delight in being served than serving, and you will have a vigilant eye to how others are treating you.

We would do well to remember our plight as sinners and God’s free gift of mercy on our life. It will keep us humble and grateful, excited to give more than receive.

4. Use Different Senses

God designed us to be physical people and placed us in a physical world. It’s not wrong to enjoy the created world. But through faith, we would do well to define our lives more by what is unseen than by what can be heard, felt, touched or tasted.

Do you see any effects of shrink wrap in your life? I know that Paul Tripp is daily wrestling with a heart wrapped up in momentary, self-centered, entitled and physical desires!

But we’re not left alone. Grace gives us a desire for a clean heart and provides us with resources of help to break free from the shrink wrap.

When we do, the energy of our life will be expended on something much bigger, more beautiful and soul satisfying!

God bless

Paul Tripp

Reflection Questions
Think Long Term: Think of a decision you made recently that would have been altered if eternity was in view.
Look Out The Window: Who is one person in your life right now that you treat with too much insensitivity?
Remember What You Deserve: Think of a specific way that you can serve instead of demand this week.
Use Different Senses: How can you use your enjoyment of the created world as an opportunity for ministry?

June 20, A Prayer about Jesus’ Transforming Love

June 20th, 2017

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Phil. 2: 1– 4 NIV)

Dear Lord Jesus, still sipping my first cup of coffee, I awake this day celebrating a great night’s rest. Even as you gave me sleep last night, you gave to me in my sleep. You never sleep or slumber. You ever live to advocate and pray for your beloved bride. While we were catching z’s, you were making us like yourself. There is no one like you, O Lord, no one.

How I long for the day when my heart will not even be tempted to share its adoration and affection with any other suitor or wannabe savior. Hasten that day, but until that day, keep changing me in ways that empower me to love well. Since the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love, I boldly ask for greater impressions of your love upon my heart. How else will I consider others better than myself? How else will I love my wife, my children, my friends, my church family, and strangers as you’re calling me to love them?

So, Jesus, what encouragement do I have from being united to you, and what comfort do I find in your love? More than can be measured! It means that the Father loves me as much as he loves you, and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t add to it or take away from it. It means that all of my sins— past, present, and future— are forgiven. It means that I’m enveloped in your righteousness, already declared to have passed from judgment to life. It means I’m guaranteed, one day, to be as lovely and as loving as you are.

It means all these things and many more. It means I can love people and not expect them to give me what you alone can supply. It means I can serve people and not hold them hostage to my selfish ambition and vain conceit. It means I can become more intrigued than irritated with others, more restful than rigid in their presence, more caring than critical of them. Indeed, Jesus, I want to love to your glory, by your grace. I pray in your merciful and magnificent name. Amen.

Treasures, Birds and Flowers by Paul Tripp

May 17th, 2017

I love a good picture book. As the father of four and now a grandfather, I’ve seen my fair share of illustrated stories.

I don’t know if you’ve thought about this, but the best picture book of all is the Bible. God, the great Author of life, employs everyday, earthly illustrations to communicate his invisible, spiritual truths to the reader.

While these pictures are splashed across nearly every page of Scripture, Jesus draws three in particular in Matthew 6 that have helped shape my personal life and ministry.

TREASURES

When we hear the word treasure, we typically think of some hidden chest of gold or a rare gem. But a treasure can be a valuable possession of any kind. Jesus warns, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.”

This word picture is meant to remind us that we weren’t created to find our ultimate satisfaction in the temporary treasures and pleasures of the here and now. Affection from another person, possessions, and success in life are not ungodly by any means, but they are not eternal.

The next time your eye catches a glimpse of a treasure, allow your heart to see the warning label so that you don’t invest all your time, energy and money into something that will rust.

BIRDS

In this passage, birds represent anxiety, or more accurately, a life free from it. Think of how small a creature a bird is. Because of their size, they can control almost nothing.

We mistakenly believe that because we’re humans, we can control our lives. While it’s important to be responsible and make plans, Jesus encourages us to let go of our delusion of control and entrust our lives to the One who rules the universe.

The next time your eye catches a glimpse of a bird, allow your heart to remember how little time and space you control so you can rest in how much you are guarded by the Creator of time and space.

FLOWERS

Flowers are similar to birds, but there’s a final element illustrated here: the difference between want and need. It’s not wrong to want certain pleasures and comforts of earth, but we must be careful to not name it as a need.

Needs, if they’re not actually needs, become dangerous. We feel entitled to them, we feel we have the right to demand them, and then we judge the love of another (typically God) by his willingness to deliver.

The next time your eye catches a glimpse of a flower, remember that God knows and has provided for everything that is essential for your life.

God bless

Reflection Questions
Think of the excitement that a young child has reading their favorite picture book. What can you do to stir up that level of excitement for reading the Bible?
Pick one of the three illustrations that you feel most convicted about. How have you given evidence this week that your heart needs to be reminded of that area?

Do You Really Want To Change? by Paul Tripp

April 26th, 2017

Have you ever said, “I’ll never do that again!” only to make the same mistake a few days later?

If you’re a Christian, at some point in your walk with God, you’ll feel stuck in the same cycle of sinful decisions and foolish mistakes.

So how do we get from where we are to where God wants us to be?

Well, we need to start here: sometimes, we don’t actually want to change.

It sounds harsh, but I’ll lead the way.

Maybe that selfish pleasure is just too pleasurable for me. I know the Bible says I shouldn’t pursue it, or at least not allow it to dominate my calendar or wallet, but there are times when my heart simply loves the creation more than the Creator.

Then there are other times when I really do want to change, and I just feel stuck.

There are 4 “C” words that help me in my struggles.

Ultimately, these four action words won’t produce change in me. Only the power of Holy Spirit and the grace of God will produce lasting heart change.

But these 4 C’s remind me of how I can position my heart closer to the Spirit and Grace of God.

Here they are:

1. CONSIDER: The psalmist prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart … see if there is any offensive way in me” (139:23–24). The first step to change requires us to look intently into the mirror of God’s Word (James 1:23-24) and consider – or examine – what the Bible says about us.

2. CONFESS: If we accurately consider what the Bible says about us, it will be very tempting to run away from the verdict, or lessen the blow by making excuses and shifting the blame. Change only happens when we confess that we’re the primary problem (like David, in Psalm 51:10).

3. COMMIT: Once we’ve considered and confessed, we ought to be grieved by the reality of sin. That grief should spur us into action. Commitment can take a variety of forms, but there needs to be some plan to move from where we are to where God wants us to be.

4. CONTINUE: This will sound obvious – change has not taken place until change has taken place. At some level, we all stop short. We talk about change, we create an action plan, but then we never follow through, or we give up with discouragement.The process of heart and life change is a process, not an event!

So brothers and sisters, continue to consider. Continue to confess. Continue to commit. And continue to continue. The gospel of Jesus Christ provides us with the hope and help we need to keep pressing on!

Surround yourself with believers who will walk with you. Seat yourself under good preaching. Dive into the Word and pray, even when you don’t feel like it.

There is a day when sin will be eradicted. Until then, our Lord has given us everything we need. Stay encouraged, and watch the Lord bless you with a harvest of good fruit!

God bless

Paul Tripp

Reflection Questions
In what ways have you been ignoring, or apathetic to, the diagnosis of Scripture in your life?
Where are you pointing the finger and blaming others for the sins of your own heart? Be specific.
What are some practical steps that you can take to wrestle with the passions of the flesh?
Identify a brother or sister who is discouraged. This week, how can you be their spiritual support and spur them on to good works?

What Are You Hoping For? by Paul Tripp

April 26th, 2017

What do you hope will happen today?

Maybe your hope is something simple. You hope that today’s forecast is warm and sunny. You hope that your packed lunch contains a personal favorite. You hope that the train isn’t as busy so you can catch up on some reading.

Maybe your hope is more significant, potentially even life-changing. You hope that you will get that raise or promotion at work. You hope that the medical tests will come back clean. You hope that God will activate a heart of faith in a lost and wandering loved one.

All human beings hope for something. God has hardwired us this way from the beginning of creation. Unlike animals, who live by pure instinct and moment-by-moment reaction, we project our lives out into the future to imagine things as we would like them to be.

There are three elements to our hope – assessments, objects, and expectations.

First, we look around and ASSESS that something or someone could be better than it is. If things were as perfect as they could be, we wouldn’t need to hope.

Second, we must have an OBJECT on which we bank on hope on. Hope is never abstract. We’re always asking something or someone concrete to fix what is broken or to deliver what is desired.

Finally, our hopes have EXPECTATIONS of what could be if the object of our hope pulls through. Sometimes our expectations are realized, and other times, our expectations leave more to be desired.

According to the Bible, there are ultimately only two places to look for hope.

We can either search for hope HORIZONTALLY in the situations, experiences, physical possessions, locations, and relationships of everyday life.

Or, we can search for hope VERTICALLY in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the promises and truths that he provides in his Word.

When we look for hope horizontally, we’re relying on items or people who suffer from the same degree of brokenness as we do. At best, they can provide fleeting pleasure, but they always result in disappointment, or at worst, addiction.

On the contrary, vertical hope is summarized by the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:5 – “hope in God will never put us to shame.” It will never embarrass us by failing to deliver!

You and I already know this, but it’s worth repeating every day: lasting, satisfying hope is only ever found vertically.

Only in God is your hope sure and secure. Only he can provide you the life that your heart seeks. Only he can supply your soul with the rest that it needs. Only he can deliver the internal peace that is the hunger of every human being.

In his brief words, the Apostle Paul confronts us with this thought: if your hope disappoints you, it’s because the object of your hope is horizontal!

God bless

Reflection Questions
Where have you assessed that life is not all that it should be? How much of your assessment was made out of holy discontent? How much out of selfish desires?
What temporary earthly objects do you tend to place your hope in? How have these failed you in the past? Be specific.
How does vertical hope in the person and work of Christ give you strength and peace for what you’re experiencing right here, right now in this broken world?

Why I Go To Church by Paul Tripp

March 22nd, 2017

Church is wonderful. Church is important.

Church is meant to remind us of the miserable condition in which sin left us and our world, and of the glorious rescue of redeeming grace.

The songs we sing, the Scriptures we read, the sermons we listen to, and the prayers we engage in are all designed to keep us from ever taking the person and work of Jesus Christ for granted.

Despite all of this, there are some Sundays when I don’t attend church with a good attitude.

I know you are more like me than unlike me.

While there are many Sundays that we are excited for church, there are those “other Sundays” when you just don’t want to be there.

On more Sundays than I wish to admit, I grumble my way into the worship service. There are some weeks when I’m just running through the motions, going to church because I’m supposed to.

(Sometimes I go because my wife makes me! But I know that has never happened to any of you…)

But on these Sundays, something happens: the glory of God confronts my fickle heart.

God ordained for us to gather for worship because he knows us and the weaknesses of our grumbling and easily distracted hearts. He knows how soon we forget the depth of our need as sinners and the expansiveness of his provisions in Jesus Christ.

He knows that little lies can deceive us and little obstacles can discourage us. He knows that self-righteousness still has the power to delude us.

So in grace, he calls us to gather and consider glory once again, to be excited once again, and to be rescued once again.

It’s not only that these worship services remind us of God’s grace; these worship services are themselves a gift of grace.

Going to church is designed to confront you with the glory of the grace of Jesus so you won’t look for life, help, and hope elsewhere.

Are you allowing yourself to be confronted?

God bless

Reflection Questions
Why are you not excited about worship services sometimes? Examine your own heart and resist finding flaws with your church.
What temporary earthly glories tend to get you more excited than the Glory of the God?
What practical steps can you take to get more excited about the Glory of God?

The Direction of Words by Paul Tripp

March 8th, 2017

There are many verses in the Bible that encourage me and fill my soul with hope. But then there are other verses that scare and sober me.

Proverbs 18:21 is near the top of that latter list.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (ESV).

I like how The Message summarizes it: “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit — you choose.”

That verse compels me to wrap duct tape around my mouth. Why?

Because my words – and your words, too – are never neutral.

The Bible says that our words are either moving in a life direction, or they’re moving in a death direction. What we say either builds up or tears down.

There isn’t any middle ground.

I don’t know about you, but I often speak as if my words exist in a happy neutrality. It’s uncommon for me to think before I speak, “Is what I’m about to say in this moment going to bring life or bring death?”

But the Bible says that every word we speak is moving in one of those two directions. So how should this spiritual reality change the way we live?

I can see four ways:

1. Think more: Jesus says that we’ll give an account for “every careless word” we speak (Matthew 12:36). That same Jesus will speak perfectly on our behalf on the day of judgement, but we still need to take the time to consider the direction of our words before they roll carelessly off our tongue.

2. Speak less: Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” In other words, the more you and I say, the higher the probability we have of bringing death and tearing down. Sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all.

3. Rest in God: If you’re anything like me, there will be many words that you wish you could take back. But God’s timing is always right. He chooses to reveal these things to us at just the right moment, and he forgives every careless word we have spoken and will speak.

4. Forgive others: If we’re going to rest in God for our own careless words, we need to give others the same grace that we’ve received. Be patient and forgiving as God reveals to others what he has revealed to you.

May we take advantage of the grace offered to us and move our words in the direction of life!

God bless

Reflection Questions
Identify some careless words you spoke yesterday. How could you have given those words “life” instead?
Think of a time when it would have been wiser to stay silent. What was the result of you speaking?
What do you regret saying, either recently or in the distant past? How can you preach the gospel to yourself about that regret?
Who is currently agitating you with their careless words? How does the gospel inform and transform the way you respond to them?