Two Questions That Change Everything

November 7th, 2018

At the center of every philosophy or religion are two questions that change everything:

What is people’s biggest, most abiding problem?
How will this problem ever get solved?
The Christian worldview is very clear and very simple about the first: the answer is sin.

The Bible directs us to look inside ourselves and not outside. Scripture documents and describes the chaos that ensues when we try to set up our little claustrophobic kingdoms of one, rather than living for the kingdom of God.

Most significantly, the Word of God requires each of us to accept that, at the most practical of levels, sin distorts our thoughts, desires, choices, actions, and words.

And there’s absolutely nothing we can do within our own power to solve this problem.

At the same time, the same Bible presents us with the narrative that there’s hope and help to be found. Admitting sin sounds like a death sentence, but it’s not. We cannot solve our greatest problem, but there’s a place where the solution can be found.

The only hope for sinners is divine forgiveness. To put it even more forcefully, the only hope for sinners is that the One who’s in charge of the universe is a God of forgiveness.

The bottom line is this: if God is unwilling to forgive, we are doomed. But he’s willing!

The story that winds its way through the pages of the Bible is a story of God’s active willingness to forgive. He controls the forces of nature and directs human history to bring the universe to the point where the Final Priest—the Sacrificial Lamb, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ—comes to earth, lives a perfect life, and gives himself as a sacrifice for our sins.

All of this is done so that our most profound problem—sin—will find its only solution—forgiveness—without God compromising his character, his plan, or his law in any way.

The content of the Bible is the worst of news (you are a sinner) and the best of news (God is willing to forgive). It’s only when you’re ready to admit the worst that you then open yourself up to what’s best.

All of this means that you and I don’t have to live in denial and avoidance. We don’t have to play self-excusing logic games with ourselves. We don’t have to give ourselves to systems of penance and self-atonement. We don’t have to point the finger of blame at others. We don’t have to perform our way into God’s favor.

Rather, we can come to him again and again just as we are—flawed, broken, and unclean—and know that he’ll never turn away anyone who comes to him and says, “I have sinned; won’t you in your grace forgive?”

There’s no sin too great, there’s no act too heinous, and there’s no person beyond hope. There’s no requirement of age, gender, ethnicity, location, or position. The offer is open and free.

He asks just one thing: that you admit your sin and seek what can be found only in him—forgiveness.

Arise, My Soul, Arise
I love the words of the classic hymn, “Arise, My Soul, Arise” by Charles Wesley. Take a few extra moments to worship your way through its verses today:

“Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands, . . .
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race, . . .
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry, . . .
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!”

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One; He cannot turn away, the presence of His
His Spirit answers to the blood, . . .
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh . . .
And “Father, Abba, Father,” cry.

God bless

Paul David Tripp

Reflection Questions
What are some other answers to the question, “What is people’s biggest, most abiding problem?” that culture tries to sell you, and that you are tempted to believe?
What are some alternative “saviors” in life that we seek? That is, where (apart from the Gospel) are we tempted to look for help and hope?
Why is it so hard to admit that we have a profound moral problem that we cannot solve? How have you tried to make a case for your righteousness this week?
What freedom and joy have you found in the past when you rest in the grace of Christ alone? Where do you need to experience more of this freedom moving forward?

Preach, Invite, and Give Thanks

November 7th, 2018

Preach, Invite, and Give Thanks
We live in a broken world. Have you noticed?

Food decays
Gossip destroys reputations
Bitterness grows like a cancer
Governments are corrupt
Lust and greed control hearts
People take what isn’t theirs and inflict violence
Spouses act hatefully toward the one they vowed to love
Children are abused instead of protected
Drugs addict and destroy
People slowly die of starvation or suddenly from disease
The list could go on and on. Does this make you discouraged or fearful?

God gives us everything we need to live with realistic expectations and powerful hope. Our existence in this broken world doesn’t have to be full of shock, fear, or panic. We can thrive with faith, calm, and confidence.

How, practically? Here are 3 actions steps to take daily:

1. Preach
You are always preaching some gospel to yourself. When you face hardship, you must preach to yourself the gospel of the boundless, eternal, and unshakable love of God. When you feel abandoned and alone, it’s vital that you preach the theology of the presence of the Lord. When you are suffering, you need to remind yourself of the truths that Scripture declares.

Bad theology, or false theology, will complicate and worsen your experience in a broken world. You must strive to fill your soul with the wisdom, guidance, and comfort that only the Word of God can give.

2. Invite
While it’s true that you have incredible solo influence over you, the problem is that there are times when it’s tough for you to preach what you need to hear. So, you need voices in your life besides your own.

You need to invite wise and loving people to eavesdrop and interrupt your private conversation, providing in their words things you wouldn’t be able to say to yourself. And don’t take offense when they fail to agree with your assessments; you need these alternative voices!

When I was in the hospital suffering, and doubt and fear were creeping into my theology, my wife Luella would say to me, “Paul, you know that’s not true!” She wasn’t saying those things to hurt my feelings but to give me what I wasn’t able to provide myself in those moments.

That in itself is a sweet grace from the hand of God!

3. Give Thanks
There is no more powerful tool against debilitating fear or doubt than gratitude. It’s precisely at the point when you’re tempted to think that you’re not blessed that counting your blessings is the most important.

No matter how painful your experience in this broken world is, there are blessings to be found. Look at the trail behind you and what is now around you for evidence that God is good and worthy of your trust. A thankful heart is the best defense against a doubting and fretful heart.

In the most simple of exercises, do what the old hymn says:

Count your many blessings, name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

God bless

Paul David Tripp

Reflection Questions
How have you personally experienced the reality of life in a broken world this week?
When the unwanted and the unexpected knocked on your door recently, what gospel did you preach to yourself? How did your soul respond?
Who have you invited to interrupt your private conversation recently? How can you take steps this week to surround yourself with a community of truth-speakers?
Have you taken time today to recount the many, many blessings that are yours as God’s child? Come up with a few right now.
Who do you know who is near to you that needs to be encouraged with the gospel? How will you reach out them this week and provide them with the rich, practical theology their soul needs?

Everybody Hurts

July 11th, 2018

You live in a terribly broken world. The evidence is all around you. Every day you awake to a world that is groaning, eagerly awaiting redemption (see Romans 8:18-23).

You probably don’t need me to remind you of this reality, but everybody hurts. If you’re not hurting now, you’ve hurt in the past. If you’re not hurting now, you’re near someone who is. And if you’re not hurting now, you will someday.

Therefore, in addition to being a creature and a sinner, we must embrace a third core aspect of what it means to be a human being.

Identity #3 – Sufferer
To pretend that suffering doesn’t exist or that you are immune to the effects of life in a broken world denies the reality of your circumstances. To act as if you have reached a level of spiritual maturity where suffering doesn’t shake you is both unhelpful and unbiblical.

The Christian faith never denies reality. On the contrary, the Word of God encourages us to deal with our suffering with shocking honesty.

We need to be honest about:

How much the situations, locations, and relationships of life in a broken world can hurt
The inclinations of our heart to respond with bitterness and vengeance instead of forgiveness
Our doubts and questions regarding the wisdom, goodness, and sovereignty of God
The desire to take life into our own hands and write our own set of rules
At the same time, that shocking honesty must be coupled with the glorious hope of the Gospel. Every sufferer needs to run toward the comfort of knowing that the One who rules over all things is a fellow sufferer.

He was tempted in all the same ways that you are (Hebrews 4:14–16). He understands the damage that suffering does. He is sympathetic to your situation, and he offers you mercies that are form-fit for your individual need.

And it really is true that he exercises his sovereign power for your good, even in those moments when what you’re going through doesn’t seem good at all (Ephesians 1:15–23).

He knows what it’s like to be hungry. He knows what it’s like to be homeless. He knows what it’s like to feel disliked and cast out. He knows what it’s like to suffer injustice. He knows what it’s like to be forsaken and betrayed by one’s closest companions.

In your travail he doesn’t look down on you; he will never mock you in your moment of need, and he doesn’t condemn you. Instead, he enters into your suffering with patient grace, faithful love, and life-altering wisdom.

So this week, as you experience life in a broken world, and as you comfort those who are suffering, remember: the Gospel is both shockingly honest and gloriously hopeful at the same time!

God bless

Paul David Tripp

Reflection Questions
Are you suffering now? If not, have you suffered recently? Consider the spiritual battle that came with your suffering.
During this suffering, did you attempt to deny reality in any way? Did you act with others as if your suffering wasn’t affecting you as much as it was?
Consider some of the ways that honesty is both biblical and healthy.
Who do you know who is suffering right now? How can you encourage them to be honest, while comforting them with the hope of the Gospel?
How can you relate more personally to Jesus as a fellow sufferer? How will this help your suffering, and help you as you encourage others in their suffering?

Lasting Marriage Rule #9: Interdependence

May 30th, 2018

Meet Your Marriage’s Next Rule: Interdependence

First, what is Emotional Dependence?

Did you know that you and your partner are emotionally dependent on one another?

Research shows that, just like a child is dependent on a parent for nurturing and security in order to survive, two married adults are also dependent on one another for emotional nurturing and emotional security in order for the marriage to survive.

That’s a good thing!

Marriage provides the structure for this to happen in a healthy way, and this is why emotional connection is the single largest factor in marital success.

What is Emotional Interdepedence?

Although emotional dependence is universal in all marriages, the level of dependence varies from person to person.

This is one of the greatest tensions in marriage and happens quite often: one person wants more dependence, while the other wants less, which results in one person appearing to be “clingy,” with the other appearing to be “distant.”

This tension is normal, but can skew healthy and unhealthy.

The healthiest way you and your partner can act in your marriage is to be emotionally “interdependent.” This means that, while you and your partner are dependent on one another, neither of your sacrifices who you are or compromises your values.

Why is it vital?

Even though it’s vital to support your relationship’s sense of “We” (Lasting marriage rule #3), this should never come at the expense of your sense of “Me.”

You can help your partner and your marriage when you take responsibility for your own actions and feelings in your marriage.

In sum, you can depend on one another emotionally, but also honor one another’s differences and separateness.

Daily reflection: do you think that you are too clingy or too distant at times in your relationship? If so, why might that be happening?

Meditate for just a few moments. When you’re finished, tell your partner how much you love them!

Relationships are a two-way street, and you and your partner can support one another in your journey to interdependence.

Lasting Marriage Rule #8: Your Sex “Script”

May 30th, 2018

Meet Your Marriage’s Next Rule: Your Sex “Script”

What is your sex script?

Everyone wants to know the secret to a good, satisfying sex life. To get the answer, ignore the opinions and turn to the research.

Research 🔬 shows that good sex is related to two key factors: maintaining your emotional connection and having conversations about your sexual preferences with your partner. And, while both are important, talking about sex often gets overlooked.

Your sex “script,” a term coined by researcher Dr. Sheila MacNeil, is what you create for each other when you’re able to have thoughtful conversations about your sexual preferences with your partner (e.g. likes, dislikes, time of day, frequency, etc.).

It’s like asking for directions—and remembering the answers.

Why is it vital?

Only 9% of couples who said they can’t talk comfortably about sex report sexual and relational satisfaction.

Again and again, studies like this have shown that being able to talk about sex is linked to overall marital satisfaction.

That’s why it’s vital for couples to not only prioritize sex in the relationship, but also to learn how to talk about sex comfortably on a consistent basis.

How can you make it more comfortable?

Sharing your likes and dislikes about sex isn’t a difficult task in itself, but being that vulnerable (even with your soulmate!) can make it a very difficult task.

To make it more comfortable, try to think about sex as a physical expression of your friendship.

At its core, the goal of sex is to become closer friends and have fun together. This reframing makes it a friendship issue, which is easier to address than a sexual issue.

Lastly, don’t forget to begin any discussion gently with your partner (Lasting marriage rule #4). Start with a friendly phrase, such as, “Hey babe, I’d love to talk about our sex life and how it’s going. Can we do that?”

Daily reflection: do you know all of your partner’s sexual likes and dislikes? What can you learn today?

Meditate for just a few moments. When you’re finished, tell your partner how much you love them!

Lasting Marriage Rule #7: Money Isn’t About The Math

May 30th, 2018

Meet Your Marriage’s Next Rule: Money Isn’t About The Math

Why isn’t money about the math?

Typically, conversations about money revolve around how to spend money, which is a conservation about the here and now, and how to save for things that really matter, which is a conversation about the future.

The truth is that each of us has a different way we want the here and now and the future to look—and that’s not mathematically-based. That’s emotionally-based.

That’s why couples tend to fight about money.

Then, there’s the brain.

In addition to differing perspectives, each of us also has a cognitive relationship with money that
influences our spending and saving tendencies.

Our childhood, teenage years, and adult experiences have continually crafted our likes and dislikes regarding money. It’s “okay” to spend money on some things, but not on others.

Remember the inner world principle (Lasting marriage rule #2)? Well, each of us have an inner world pertaining to money, too.

What can you do?

Solving money-related conflicts takes open and honest discussion about what’s important to you.

When your partner is able to hear what you value or don’t value (spoken gently, per Lasting marriage rule #4), the odds that you’ll have a productive conversation go up tremendously.

And so, when you find yourself getting flustered, pause for a moment and think: “Why do I value this purchase? Why does my partner value this purchase?”

Since the difference in value is the cause of the issue, understanding the difference is the key.

Daily reflection: what was your last fight about money? Do you see how it was rooted in a difference in value?

Meditate for just a few moments. When you’re finished, tell your partner how much you love them!

Lasting Marriage Rule #6: Co-Create Your Own Culture

May 30th, 2018

Meet Your Marriage’s Next Rule: Co-Create Your Own Culture

Why should you co-create your own culture?

Life is complicated, busy, and chaotic, and it’s easy to lose sight of what really matters.

But, research 🔬 shows that your culture can provide the structure to keep your marriage strong and guide you toward both of your goals and dreams.

Put another way, your culture keeps you on the right path, even amidst the chaos of life.

It’s powerful. 👏

How’s it work?

Your culture sets up daily, weekly, and monthly rhythms for you and your partner.

Co-creating rituals—such as morning coffees, date nights, family dinners, and evening walks—enables you to prioritize your marriage on a consistent basis. Even when life gets crazy, your marriage and family life can still thrive.

Additionally, co-creating a culture helps you define your family’s values, mission, and purpose—the foundation of your future goals and dreams.

In sum, your culture keeps you connected over time, shapes how your family thinks about the world, and defines what you work toward achieving together every single day.

Co-creating a family culture is also symbol of your marriage.

In the culture-creation process, while you’re getting to know one another’s values, goals, and dreams, you’ll combine the ways you think and feel about the world into a single family.

That’s one of the greatest privileges of marriage and will bring far more meaning and purpose into both of your lives.

Daily reflection: are you satisfied with your daily and weekly rituals? Going deeper, are your rituals a reflection of your family’s

Meditate for just a few moments. When you’re finished, tell your partner how much you love them!

Lasting Marriage Rule #5: The Appreciation Effect

May 30th, 2018

What is The Appreciation Effect?

Research 🔬 shows that practicing appreciation protects and nurtures your marriage over the long haul.

In a study named “How a Couple Views Their Past Predicts Their Future,” clinician Kim Buehlman interviewed couples about the history of their relationships—how they met and fell in love, the good and bad times, and how the experience of marriage has been.

These stories predicted future marital satisfaction and divorce within 94% accuracy. Couples who appreciated their relationship and its history were very likely to create happy, healthy futures together.

How’s it work?

Practicing appreciation makes you far more likely to respond positively to 86% of your partner’s emotional calls, which is Rule #1 of Lasting marriages.

Studies shows that couples who feel more appreciated by their partners are more responsive to their partner’s emotional needs and more committed to the relationship.

All of that happens with just a simple, “Honey, I appreciate you.”

Appreciation is powerful. 🥇

Daily reflection: what do you appreciate about your partner? And, what relationship moments are your absolute favorites?

Meditate for just a few moments. When you’re finished, tell your partner how much you love them. Share your moments!

Lasting Marriage Rule #4: The 96% Conflict

May 30th, 2018

What is the 96% Conflict?

Research 🔬 shows that the way you begin a conversation with your partner determines the outcome of that conversation.

96% of the time, when a conversation begins poorly—due to tone, volume, words used, or a combination of all three—the conversation ends poorly, too.

Only 4% of conversations that begin poorly can end well.

Why is it vital?

The power you have to create healthy conversations with your partner is enormous. Simply bringing up issues softly and mindfully will put your relationship on a far better trajectory.

Dr. John Gottman can predict divorce accurately by just watching the first 3 minutes of a couple’s discussion.

The way you begin conversations influences your marriage satisfaction.

Pause before you bring up an issue.

Ask yourself, “What’s going on in my inner world, and what’s going on in my partner’s inner world? How can I understand my partner’s viewpoint better?”

A split second of mindfulness before you start speaking can help you start softly with your partner.

How would you want to be spoken to?

Daily reflection: how do you normally start discussions with your partner?

Meditate for just a few moments. When you’re finished, tell your partner how much you love them!

Lasting Marriage Rule #3: The “We”

May 30th, 2018

What is the “We?”

Every marriage is compromised of 2 unique people, but the relationship creates a new 3rd entity, with needs distinct from the two people.

This has been called the “We,” as opposed to the “Me.”

When you make decisions for the “We” (is this good for us?) instead of the “Me” (is this good for me?), your marriage health grows.

Why is it vital?

Research 🔬 has proven that this sense of sacrifice is a strong indicator of marital satisfaction.

These sacrificial decisions happen every day and span virtually every marital topic, from Money, to Sex, to In-Laws, to Household Chores.

Sacrifices don’t have to be big and bold.

You can make decisions to support your relationship’s “We” by making breakfast, planning date nights, running errands, listening to your partner vent, taking responsibility for your part of the conflict, prioritizing sex, and the list goes on and on.

Studies show that these small sacrifices promote more trust and emotional connection in your daily married life.

Daily reflection: how can you choose the “We” today?

Meditate for just a few moments. When you’re finished, tell your partner how much you love them!