Breathe

Pleasure of a life

In a recent sermon at Redeeming Grace Church, Dave Odom communicated that “grace is like an oxygen mask for the soul.” When we receive God’s grace, our souls can breathe again, and we begin to truly live – maybe for the first time.

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

God loves to bestow His grace on needy sinners, and He is rich in mercy.

It’s one thing to be rich, it’s quite another thing to be rich and generous. Not only is our God rich in mercy, He is also generous with His mercy.

Because of his great love, He lavishly grants His mercy and grace to desperate sinners in need.

He takes us from being dead in sin, makes us alive together with Christ, raises us up with him and seats us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

Through no merit of our own, God graciously redeems us from death to life to royalty as heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). That’s amazing grace and mercy.

This is what causes the soul, even the dead soul, to breathe again.

And the good news is that there is enough mercy and grace for all of us in Christ.

Enjoy grace, and breathe!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. (Psalm 23:6)

What Gives Rest To The Soul

Water drop

For years, I have enjoyed reading Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional. It’s an oasis of comfort leading to the fountain of true joy. Excerpts like this one point me to the One who alone gives rest to the soul:

“It is always the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus. But Satan’s work is just the opposite; he is constantly trying to make us look at ourselves instead of Christ. He insinuates, “Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you do not have the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold on Jesus.” All these are thoughts about self, and we will never find comfort or assurance by looking within.

But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that Christ is everything. Remember, therefore, it is not your hold of Christ that saves you–it is Christ; it is not your joy in Christ that saves you–it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, although that is the instrument–it is Christ’s blood and merits.

Therefore, do not look so much to your hand with which you are grasping Christ as to Christ; do not look to your hope but to Jesus, the source of your hope; do not look to your faith, but to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of your faith.

We will never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our deeds, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we are to overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by “looking to Jesus.”

Keep your eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession be fresh upon your mind. When you wake in the morning look to Him; when you lie down at night look to Him. Do not let your hopes or fears come between you and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail you.

‘My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.'”

Morning by Morning, p. 192 (June 28).

May tonight find us looking to Jesus and resting in Him.

“Endless Need Glorifies Endless Supply”

Ray Ortlund @ RGC

This Saturday evening, Redeeming Grace Church had the joy of hosting Ray Ortlund, pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, as our Guest Speaker. For many reasons, it was an immensely encouraging evening for us all.

Ray has been so kind to our church plant and has already served us in countless ways with his encouragement and support. After spending many Sundays benefitting from Ray’s teaching and care during our “waiting period” (prior to the launch of Redeeming Grace Church), Ray has become a very dear friend to us.

Immanuel Church has also become a beloved partner in gospel ministry. So, it was an honor, a privilege, and a pleasure to have Ray with us on Saturday night.

He served us so well.

After communicating about the necessity of Gospel Doctrine and Gospel Culture in Gospel-Centered Churches, Ray preached from the beginning of John’s gospel, John 1:1-18, a text that he said “may be the greatest passage ever written in all of human history.”

As Ray proclaimed the truths of John 1:1-18, my soul was greatly comforted, encouraged, strengthened and filled with joy. I saw once again that “our endless need glorifies his endless supply” and just as the ocean rolls with wave upon wave, so God’s love and grace in Christ is unceasing.

I can’t hear that enough.

Here’s a link to this wonderful message. Trust me, it is worth listening (and re-listening) to.

EnCouragement: Something We All Need and Something We All Can Give

Supporting a friend

Our words have power. Our words have purpose.

And our words have great potential to encourage those we interact with.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says,

“Encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

Everyone needs hope. Everyone needs strength. Everyone needs more grace. I’ve never met anyone who says, “I don’t need any more grace; I don’t need any more encouragement.”

Most of the people who share with me how they are really doing communicate that they battle discouragement from time to time, struggle with various forms of doubt, and have difficulties managing everything life is throwing at them daily. The circumstances of life have a way of knocking us back.

How many times have you looked forward to the end of the day when you can just crawl in bed utterly exhausted, hoping that you’ll get some rest so you can make a little more traction on everything that needs to be done when a new day dawns? The tasks that were left un-checked from our to-do list, the phone calls that didn’t get made today, the inbox that is full of unanswered mail, the weight that we still haven’t lost, the relationship that has grown cold, the hopes deferred — all these things can dishearten a soul and rob us of courage.

It’s so easy to be more aware of what we have and haven’t done than we are aware of what God has done for us.

The Potential In Our Words

That’s why encouragement is so huge. We have the opportunity to help someone get his or her eyes off themselves and back to God.

Our God is the God of all encouragement.

God is at work everywhere around us. We can see His work in others, but it’s more difficult to perceive His work in ourselves. That’s why we need encouragement, and that’s why encouragement takes place best in the context of community.

In community, we have the privilege of pointing out grace to those who are more aware of their failures, faults, and frailties. They, also, can share with us how they see God at work in our lives.

When we encourage one another in Christ, we build a culture of grace.

Every believer in Christ is amazing because he or she is in-dwelt by the Spirit of God and God is at work in them to will and to do according to His great pleasure.

Psalm 10:17 says,

“You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.”

When we listen to a friend, when we hear them in the midst of their affliction, and when we encourage them, we honor The Lord and reflect His character and goodness.

Encouragement imparts grace, and together we build up the body of Christ.

Encourage the fainthearted (1 Thess. 5:14)

Encourage one another daily (Hebrews 3:13)

It’s something we all need and something we can all give.

Rest for the Weary Soul

BLUERIDGE PARKWAY OVERLOOK OF LOOKING GLASS ROCK

Some time ago, I took my wife on what was supposed to be a very restful, romantic getaway to Asheville. I had it all mapped out. The plan was to visit a place called The Max Patch along the way and then drive in to Asheville for dinner at one of our favorite places, Tupelo Honey, for sweet potato pancakes that are out of this world.

We were going to stay the night in Asheville and then visit the Biltmore the following day.

The Goal was Rest and Refreshment

Everything was going great when we arrived at The Max Patch in the early evening. We took a short hike and savored a stunning 360-degree view of the mountains in the Pisgah National Forest. It was spectacular. Then, we watched the sun-set brilliantly over the mountains, and we hiked back down just in time to head out for our special dinner. We had timed it just right where we would make it to Asheville in time for our dinner reservations.

Here’s where our restful, romantic getaway took a very surprising turn.

When we returned to our vehicle, despite numerous attempts, the van would not start (I mean nothing!). Because we were in a National Forest, our cell phones didn’t work, either. At this time, it was dark; it was late October, and we had no coats and no other accommodations. We were completely stuck.

I hadn’t planned for a night of camping (and we’re not campers!). What was supposed to be a restful, romantic getaway, turned in to a very uncomfortable night in our van, as we were freezing together and we ended up splitting a rock-solid cliff bar for our dinner.

There was no rest for the Coopers on that getaway outside of Asheville!

No Rest Outside of Christ

As we make our journey through the ups and downs of life, God regularly reminds me that there is no true rest outside of Christ.

The only way to find spiritual rest is by coming to Jesus. In Matthew 11, Jesus invites all who are weary to come to him for that rest.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for you souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (v. 28-30)

Notice that Jesus does not invite the “wise and learned” (v. 25) but the weary and heavy laden (v. 28). This is good news for the weary. Your weariness qualifies you to come to the Savior for rest.

Jesus offers ETERNAL REST for all who seek forgiveness for their sins and freedom from their guilt. He invites us to come to him and rest from all our endless, fruitless efforts of trying to save ourselves through works of the law.

But this rest is also a PRESENT REALITY: All who are burdened by sin and suffering in this fallen world can come to Christ. He is a Just Judge and a Gentle Savior. He’s not mistaken about your condition: He is the Judge. He knows everything. He knows your condition exactly, so you can go to him honestly.

All Who Are Burdened Can Come

The invitation is universal. It is extended to ALL who are weary and heavy laden. None of the troubled are excluded.

To the weary mom who is pouring herself out day-in and day-out, morning and afternoon and evening, whose work does not stop and whose efforts are often met with no thanks and no immediate rewards, Jesus says, “Come to me and I will give you rest.”

The illness that goes on and on and on, the pain in your body that just won’t go away, the pain in your heart that never seems to heal, the grief of the loss of a loved one, the financial stress, the slander of those who disagree with your decisions, the loneliness you feel even in a crowd, the betrayal, the rejection of people you love, all of it we can bring to Jesus for rest.

Whatever the situation, whatever the sorrow – Jesus says “COME to me and I will give you rest.” What a gentle Savior!

He can give us rest because he is gentle and lowly in heart. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. In his service, pain is pleasure, and “he makes any condition comfortable” (Richard Sibbes).

This rest doesn’t mean that we don’t work. It means we take Jesus’ yoke as we work (not the yoke of slavery, but the yoke of sonship, the yoke of complete acceptance and full pardon and absolute approval in and through Jesus).

There is no rest outside of Christ. Oh, but in Christ, there is a continual fountain of refreshment and rest for every weary soul.

He is our rest and our righteousness. Let us go to Him to find rest for our weary souls.

Upheld By Grace, Daily

iStock_000003374170Upheld

“Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up. God is our salvation.” Psalm 68:19

Every day, we need to be upheld, supported, enabled, helped, empowered, borne up, sustained, and strengthened in our faith.

God does not give us all the grace we will ever need in one large sum. Rather, the grace that we need comes daily as we need the grace.

This is how dependent we are, and this is how gracious God is:

He daily bears us up.

Meditating on this verse, I am reminded of something Jerry Bridges wrote in his excellent book Is God Really In Control? Trusting God In A World of Hurt:

“I think of a physician whose son was born with an incurable birth defect, leaving him crippled for life. I asked the father how he felt when he, who had dedicated his life to treating the illnesses of other people, was confronted with an incurable condition in his own son. He told me his biggest problem was the tendency to capsule the next twenty years of his son’s life into that initial moment when he learned of his son’s condition. Viewed that way, the adversity was overwhelming. God does not give twenty years of grace today. Rather, He gives it day by day. God stores up goodness or grace for our times of adversity. We do not receive it before we need it, but we never receive it too late” (p. 106).

In this world, every day we are in need of grace. Jesus said, “Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Wonderfully, that grace is bestowed on us daily as we are in need.

Daily, we are dependent, and daily God provides.

God’s care for His people is constant. His grace is sufficient, and He is with us in our trouble and pain (Psalm 46:1). In every day and in every moment, He will sustain His people.

“Even to your old age I am he,
and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.”

God, in Christ, will bear us up daily and bring us safely home to our desired haven. Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears us up!