What 30 Somethings Need to Hear: Mercy

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What we 30 Somethings need to hear, to embrace, and to extend to others in this season is Mercy. There is far too much criticism and judgment in the world already. We encounter it on a daily basis from a society that is set in opposition to God. We don’t need to encounter it from one-another.

We need a safe place where we can be ourselves, where we can be honest about our struggles and our sins, and where we can be ensured that mercy will triumph over judgment (James 2:13).

In short, 30 Somethings need mercy from Christ and mercy for one another.

Mercy from Christ

What is amazing is that God sees every imperfection, every sinful motive, and every evil act we have ever committed (or entertained), and yet he still relates to us in love. “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).

God does not treat us as our sins deserve and he does not repay us according to our iniquities (Psalm 103:10). That’s mercy! One of my favorite verses is in Psalm 40, and every believer in Christ can claim this truth:

As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!

Unrestrained mercy is the ultimate reality for every sinner who has trusted in Christ. Merciful and gracious is WHO GOD IS (Exodus 34:6). Believer, what you have to look forward to experiencing from God is MERCY! Yes, despite your failures and sins!

Richard Sibbes has famously written that “there is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” Aren’t you thankful that God is merciful? And this mercy is available to all who will simply come to Jesus. No one is too far from his reach.

Mercy for one another

Surely, God’s mercy toward us should inform the way we relate to one another, right? Without question. Jesus said, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). When we exude mercy to others, we reflect the character of God.

On this point, let us take some helpful (and might I add, very convicting) counsel from the Puritan, Richard Sibbes, and learn to be merciful to others:

“Men must not be too curious in prying into the weaknesses of others. We should labour rather to see what they have that is for eternity, to incline our heart to love them, than into that weakness which the Spirit of God will in time consume, to estrange us. Pride is intolerable to pride.

The Holy Ghost is content to dwell in smoky, offensive souls. Oh, that that Spirit would breath into our spirits the same merciful disposition! … The church of Christ is a common hospital, wherein all are in some measure sick of some spiritual disease or other, so all have occasion to exercise the spirit of wisdom and meekness.

Let us put upon ourselves the Spirit of Christ… That great physician, as he had a quick eye and a healing tongue, so had he a gentle hand, and a tender heart.”

In this season, let’s strive to embrace God’s mercy, and to extend God’s mercy. Let’s aim to be a source of encouragement and blessing to others, as our God is to us. May we have a quick eye toward grace and a healing tongue for encouragement. Gentle and tender is the way of our Lord.

You can read the other posts in this 30 Something Series by clicking here.

What 30 Somethings Need to Hear: Just Be Yourself

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Never before in the history of the world have we had as much instant access to what everyone else is doing. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media outlets have opened up a whole new world to us. With the instant access to other people’s social lives, there’s a huge temptation to compare ourselves unfavorably to everyone else.

To Compare Is a Snare

You can do it with virtually anything: the way you organize your home, the meals you cook, your exercise routine (or lack thereof!), what time you get up in the morning, what type of bread you eat (if you do…), how you educate your children (homeschool, private school, public school, co-ops, or something else…), etc. The options to compare are endless these days.

Here’s the problem: Endless comparison can leave you feeling discouraged, overwhelmed, and defeated. It can all take place in the first few seconds of the day, just by checking Facebook on your iPhone before you roll out of bed and your feet hit the floor in the morning.

I’ve written previously about my own struggles with comparison as an identical twin. I am very familiar with this temptation, and I think addressing this issue is something we 30 Somethings need to hear.

One of my readers wrote me the following:

I think the things most of my 30 something year old friends struggle with is STILL comparison! Learning to rest in who God made us to be and what capacity we have as individuals compared to what we THINK we should be doing with our lives and what OTHER people have a capacity for is a constant struggle!

The guys can feel discouraged that they aren’t farther along in their sanctification process – they thought they would have “arrived” at a higher place of holiness than they are – and the women seem to think everyone else is farming their own organic food while homeschooling their perfectly obedient child… while they are just dishing up Kraft mac & cheese…

I agree that comparison is a strong temptation in your 30s. The good news is that there’s hope for all of us!

Learn From Others, But Be Yourself

It’s one thing to hear what someone else is doing and take helpful advice to serve our families, to tweak it and make it our own. It’s another thing to look so much at what others are doing that you forget what God has called you, specifically, to do.

The truth is that there is no other individual on planet earth that is exactly like you. And God has a unique calling for you.

I love the way the greeting is made at the church we attend currently. Every week they say, “You can be yourself here; you can be a sinner here, because, what of it, Christ died for sinners.” What 30 Somethings need to hear is the same thing Peter needed to hear when he was comparing himself with the Apostle John: “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me!” (John 21:21-22).

Follow Jesus. It makes life so much more simple. He has a different calling for you than he does for your brother, your neighbor, your best friend. What’s important is that you stop unfavorably comparing yourself to others. Be yourself. Be who God has called you to be, and follow Jesus. That will make our 30 Something lives so much more enjoyable and God-honoring, and in-the-end, it will serve everyone better than trying to be someone else.

You can read the other posts in this 30 Something Series by clicking here.

What 30 Somethings Need to Hear: Never Lose the Wonder

young professionals

I was asleep Sunday night at 8:15pm. Seriously. The fun weekend with my family had worn me out and I was utterly exhausted. I think I read about 3 sentences of a book before I dozed off and started dreaming.

It’s funny how I took pleasure in staying up until 2 or 3 a.m. when I was in college. Just about the only time I see those hours now are when one of my kids wakes up screaming (or running to the bathroom to get sick!). In any event, it’s usually not associated with happy thoughts.

There are some things I’ve lost in my 30s. The late night lifestyle is certainly one of them. I know I’m not the only one. (When our good friends, the Ridners, were staying with us around the holidays, we turned a classic Christmas movie on and within 15 minutes 2 of the 4 of us were sound asleep). If you’re in your 30s, don’t tell me you can’t relate!

We may lose our late night lifestyle. We may lose a good bit of our “free time”. We may even lose some of our hair… But there are some things we should fight to never lose as we navigate our way through the wonderful 30s.

Let’s never lose the wonder

If you are in Christ, remember that you are destined for glory. The amazing thing is that today, even after being beaten up more by the cares of this life, you have no less share of Christ than you did the day you first believed in him. You are no less forgiven. You are no less righteous in God’s sight as you were when you first trusted in Christ for your salvation. That is amazing!

Even if your bank account is over-drafting, you are eternally rich in Christ! Even if your job is a daily struggle and an up-hill battle, or your children are slow to obey you, or your house looks like a wreck half the time, or some dreams you’ve nursed for years have been dashed in the dirt, your names are still written in heaven (see Luke 10:20). You may not feel completely happy about where you’ve been, but you can rejoice in where you are going!

One day, you will be with Jesus. God will forgive every sin, wipe away ever tear, and heal every sickness and disease. You are not yet whole, but on that day you will be because of God’s grace.

A fresh perspective

For those of us in our 30s, this is a powerful thing to consider. I think it’s easy to get calloused as we age. Let’s face it: Some of the things you’ve hoped for haven’t taken place yet. Along with the heartaches of disappointed dreams, you’ve watched many of your friends suffer and you’ve experienced your own measure of suffering. As reality sets in that this world is broken, it’s easy to lose heart and grow fearful and even cynical.

But let’s look at life from a different perspective. We’ve lived longer. We’ve made more mistakes. We’ve sinned more. Nevertheless, because of Jesus’ perfect life and substitutionary death on our behalf, we are no less forgiven and accepted by God. Rather than growing calloused, we should grow more and more amazed.

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares
we have already come.
‘Twas grace that brought us safe thus far,
and grace will lead us home.”

There are many things we can lose in our 30s. But let’s never the lose the wonder that we are fully forgiven and accepted in Jesus.

We are growing older, but take heart, you and I are destined for glory!

Click here for the first post in this series on “What 30 Somethings Need to Hear”. Click here to follow Reviving the Soul on Facebook.

What 30 Somethings Need to Hear

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I’m beginning a new series that I am calling “What 30 Somethings Need to Hear.”

I turned 36 a little over 3 months ago, and there has been so much that has been unique to the last 6 years of my life that I’m convinced God has something to say to those in their 30s.

In the blog posts in this series, I’ll be addressing myself as well as any of my friends who are in their 30s (If you’re not in your 30s, don’t worry, you can read on as I’m sure there will be things that are applicable to all seasons).

My Current Season of Life

With my wonderful wife of over 14 years beside me and 4 kids ages 10, 7, 5, and 1, the Cooper household is full of life in this season. Most often, with the exceptions of an afternoon rest-time and when the kids are in bed at night, the house is very loud.

Our children have loads of energy, ask lots of questions, and greet each day with multiple requests. They are in an age of discovery where every day holds something new to learn. They are fascinated by lightning bugs and bull frogs and fairy-tale stories. They want to swim, do gymnastics, play baseball, and create works of art with their own hands (“Daddy, look what I can do!” is a common phrase in our household).

I love to watch the way my children are processing life at their age and I marvel at the energy they possess. There is a simplicity and innocence about them that is so refreshing to observe. It has also caused me to reflect on the different stages of my own life and especially my current season. I’m 30 Something. So, what does that mean?

Navigating the Different Phases of Life

If the youngest years are an age of discovery (0-10), it seems to me that the decade following is an age of growth (10-20). The pre-teen and teen years are a season marked by development, change, and maturation.

I think the 20s, on the other hand, could be called an age of conquest (20-30). That season, for me, was certainly a decade of “firsts”. It’s when I graduated from college, married my wife, bought my first home, had my first child (and my 2nd). It’s when I started my career in recruiting, and it’s when I became a pastor. Times with friends in my early 20s were carefree and marked by laughter and joy. There was a lot of excitement and celebrating and the future looked very bright. I remember having high expectations and allowing myself to dream about future possibilities.

Now, I’m midway through my thirties and this season has been very different from any other season I have experienced. There has been tremendous joy in my 30s and many monumental moments of grace. With this joy, if I had to give it a name I would call my 30s an age of responsibility (30-40).

For those of us in this age range, reality has set in that we’re not kids anymore (and we’re not in our 20s). There are more demands at work and more demands at home than ever before. My hair is gradually turning grey, and my body is beginning to show some wear and tear.

I’ve also experienced a number of disappointments and setbacks in this season. Some have been major and some have been minor. Some of the setbacks have been mine to endure and some I have experienced vicariously through the grief and pain I’ve watched my good friends walk through. Many of the trials came as a complete surprise to me, and they have been varied in their nature and scope. I’ve watched a number of friends suffer, and I’ve seen several lose heart.

Most of my friends have at one point or another confessed to me that they are facing weariness. Conversations in this decade have definitely carried a lot more weight. But I believe God has much to say to us in this season. So…what do 30 Somethings need to hear?

Don’t Lose Heart: God is a Redeemer

By now, you’ve made many mistakes. You’re aware of faults and failures. You’ve screwed up at times. People have sinned against you, and you have sinned against others. Some relationships you once cherished are now broken and are a relic of the past. Shattered dreams and disappointments can beckon you to dwell in “the slough of despond” and you can wonder if it was worth it all.

This doesn’t mean that God is far-off. In fact, it’s right in the midst of our broken-ness that God meets us with His grace.

30 Somethings need to hear Psalm 103:

“Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me,

bless his holy name!

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,

who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

who crows you with steadfast love and mercy” (v. 1-4)

God forgives. God heals. God redeems. God crowns. He does all of this for messed up broken sinners who see and acknowledge their need for him.

In 1630, Richard Sibbes put it this way,

“Let all know that none are fitter for comfort than those that think themselves furthest off… A holy despair in ourselves is the ground of true hope… the God who dwells in the highest heavens dwells likewise in the lowest soul (Isa. 57:15). Christ’s sheep are weak sheep, and lacking in something or other; he therefore applies himself to the necessities of every sheep. He seeks that which was lost, and brings again that which was driven out of the way, and binds up that which was broken, and strengthens the weak (Ezek. 34:16). His tenderest care is over the weakest… He was most familiar and open to troubled souls.” The Bruised Reed, p. 14-15.

If you are in your 30s, like me, I think this is a great time for us to finally be open and honest that we aren’t all perfect. Instead, in the midst of all our weakness and weariness, we can go again to our Perfect Redeemer who both saves and sanctifies us. He will strengthen us and meet us with His grace as we give ourselves to Him.

Click here to read the second post in this series on “What 30 Somethings Need to Hear”

How My View of Success and Failure is Changing

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If you’re anything like me, you love to win and you hate to lose. Whether it’s as simple as a board game or as complex as a board meeting, let’s admit it: winning is enjoyable. Losing, on the other hand can be, well… very uncomfortable.

But does success mean that we never fail?

I don’t think so. If that were the case, not many of us would ever learn how to walk, or ride a bike, or jet ski, or play piano, or speak in public, or start a new business, or do just about anything worthwhile.

It’s through the scrapes and the bruises and the bumps and the falls, that we find our strides.

There are certain lessons in our lives that we only learn through failing. Pressing through the pain has a strengthening effect on us. As Romans 5:4 states it, “Perseverance (through difficulties, trials, and failure at times) produces character” (parenthesis mine).

A New View of Failure

This hasn’t always been my view of failure. In fact, I would say that I’ve carried a lot of shame over the failures in my past. But my view of failure and success is changing.

This past year, my wife and I were privileged to be prayed for by a group of men and women from Covenant Fellowship Church out of the Philadelphia area. We knew none of the individuals who were praying for us, and they knew nothing about us. Yet, as they prayed for us, they communicated with such clarity and precision regarding our past and present circumstances that we felt as if they had known every detail of our lives. It was amazing, really.

In the midst of the time of prayer, one of the ladies spoke directly to the failures I had experienced in the past. She shared an impression of seeing me running on a track and trying to jump over hurdles (many of which I hit and fell to my knees). Reminding me of the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 3, she encouraged me to put the past behind me and press on toward the goal:

“12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way”

This Scripture has been so encouraging to me this year. I’m beginning to see that an aspect of maturity is the ability to learn from our past mistakes without dwelling on them. I’m working hard to keep my eyes in front of me and continue straining forward to what lies ahead.

I recently ran across a powerful quote from Winston Churchill who said, “Success is stumbling from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.”

What if working through failure is actually a necessary component to our success?

If you feel like a failure today, take heart! Your past and present mistakes could very well be the key to your future success. Don’t give up. Press through the difficulties. Your perseverance is producing the very character you need to succeed.

And most importantly, remember that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life for you.