The Greatest Gift Is God Himself (Reading Notes)

The best and final gift of the gospel is that we gain Christ. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8). This is the all-encompassing gift of God’s love through the gospel – to see and savor the glory of Christ forever.

In place of this, we have turned the love of God and the gospel of Christ into a divine endorsement of our delight in many lesser things, especially the delight in our being made much of. The acid test of biblical God-centeredness – and faithfulness to the gospel – is this: Do you feel more loved because God makes much of you, or because, at the cost of his Son, he enables you to enjoy making much of him forever? Does your happiness hang on seeing the cross of Christ as a witness to your worth, or as a way to enjoy God’s worth forever? Is God’s glory in Christ the foundation of your gladness?

From the first sin in the Garden of Eden to the final judgment of the great white throne, human beings will continue to embrace the love of God as the gift of everything but himself. Indeed there are ten thousand gifts that flow from the love of God. The gospel of Christ proclaims the news that he has purchased by his death ten thousand blessings for his bride. But none of these gifts will lead to final joy if they have not first led to God. And not one gospel blessing will be enjoyed by anyone for whom the gospel’s greatest gift was not the Lord himself. (John Piper in God Is The Gospel)

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Attacking Our Own? (4 Considerations Before You Blast Christian Leaders Online)

I’m frustrated. I’m discouraged. I wish I could read ministry blogs and twitter feeds without encountering harsh rhetoric and personal attacks. You may have no idea what I am talking about (if so that is good) but I fear many of you have witnessed this divisive obnoxiousness. Christian leaders are being tarred and lit on fire in front of our eyes on twitter and various blogs. This should not be so! When did it become ok to shoot our own, especially when they are already wounded? How can we justify launching grenades into the barracks of our comrades?

Brothers and sisters, our mission to make disciples is too urgent to waste time on such trivial matters. Before we are tempted to write scathing blog posts about various Christian leaders or attack them on twitter, may we heed these admonitions:

1. Speak the truth in love.

We must speak the truth. We need to call out error. But we must do it in love. If we call out sin in a believer it must be in the spirit of Galatians 6:1 – “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” We must get this! Too much of what I have seen and heard lacks even the hint of gentleness.

The Internet has made it possible for people to do and say things online that they would never do or say in person. In situations like these, that is a curse. Speak the truth but do it in love. Expose error with gentleness and genuine concern for a fellow brother or sister in Christ.

May the words of Paul in Philippians 4:8 guide us as we think and write: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” There are too many true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy things that we can think and blog about without thrashing about in the gutter of contemptuousness.

2. Remember the world is watching.

It saddens me to consider that the world is watching us castigate our own. We often demonize those in Washington for backbiting and viciousness but have no problem imitating that behavior in our own little Christian ghetto. This is not what we want to be known for!

We should be known for our love for one another. We should be known for our humility. It is impossible for us to be salt and light in the world when we have forfeited our saltiness in favor of harsh rhetoric and snuffed out our light in favor of self-promotion. It is no wonder that a lost world looks at us inquisitively, wondering why we say one thing and live another.

3. Consider the depravity of our own hearts & magnify God’s grace.

We are way worse than we ever imagined! It is amazing to me how I can easily spot sin in someone else’s life without seeing my own. Jesus warned us of this very thing in Matthew 7:3-5 – “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” When was the last time you read a blog post attacking a Christian leader that began with the author of that post confessing his or her own personal sin?

Every believer has experienced amazing grace. We have all been saved out of depravity and darkness (Ephesians 2:1-3) and yet we often forget that reality. I am not advocating morbid introspection of our sin (Jesus’ grace delivered us from a life characterized by sin) but it is helpful to remember exactly where we were when God saved us. We can and should boast of nothing except the cross of Christ and God’s amazing grace!

4. Pray.

Pray before you write. Pray before you speak. If a Christian leader is in error, pray for them. Pray for God’s convicting truth to pierce their hearts as the Holy Spirit works. Pray that God would raise up leaders in their life to guide them to truth. Pray, pray, pray.

Then pray for yourself. Pray that God would help you remain true to His mission of making disciples instead of focusing your attention on someone else’s failure. Ask God to give you a passion for encouraging others and lifting them up when they are down. Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart for areas of unexposed sin and bitterness.

I’m convinced that if we spent half as much time praying for Christian leaders as we have spent discrediting and disparaging them, we would realize very little good comes from personal attacks. The last thing the blog world needs is another critic – be an encourager. Be an intercessor.

Conclusion

The reality is that God has not called us to be “Holy Spirit Jr.” When we take on this role in someone else’s life we elevate ourselves as gods and it was that exact promise (“you will be like God, knowing good and evil”) that Satan used to deceive Eve in the garden. May we trust God to work his process of sanctification in the life of every believer (especially Christian leaders) to conform him or her into the image of His Son. There is no doubt he will accomplish this mission (Romans 8:29-30)!

9 Things I’ve Learned In 9 Years Of Marriage

Today, my wife and I celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary. On December 18, 2004 I watched a beautiful lady walk down the aisle at my home church and we promised to love, honor, serve and cherish one other until death do us part.

wedding

Over the past 9 years I have learned a ton about marriage (yes, I know I have a lot more to learn) and thought I would share 9 specific things that jump out to me as I reflect over the past 9 years:

1. A Great Marriage Takes Work. I know this does not sound romantic but it is reality. If you want a great marriage you must work for it! Professional athletes become great because they put in the work it takes to get there. Successful professionals do well in their business endeavors because they work hard to make it happen. Every fairy tale might end with, “And they lived happily ever after” but the only way this can be true is for the couple to work their tales off to make it happen. Great marriages take work!

2. Allow Room For Growth In Your Spouse. One piece of advice I was given by my father-in-law, before he passed away, was to allow space for Janie and I to change and grow through the years. I married Janie when I was 21. I still had one semester of college to complete and I was playing baseball, which took me away from home every other weekend. Janie was 23 and had a full-time job.  From there we went to seminary where, again, she worked full-time while I worked part-time and was in school. Fast forward to today and I am the one working full-time outside the home while she is working as a stay-at-home mom and part-time accountant. Our lives are much different today than when we first married. We have changed and grown over those years. Give your spouse room to change and grow through the years!

3. Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!!! If you want a great marriage you must communicate about everything; kids, church, jobs, finances, taking out the trash – everything. Turn off the TV and talk to your spouse. Stop checking your Facebook account and listen to your spouse. Effective communication requires both spouses to talk to one another and listen to one another. Janie and I have found it helpful to set aside a night every few months to sit out on the deck by the fire pit and communicate with one another. We talk about our dreams and our concerns. We listen to one another’s fears and failures. We communicate and this must be a priority in every marriage!

4. Spend Quality Time Together. Find out what each other likes to do and spend time together doing those things. I know Janie loves to shop (especially for clothes for her and the girls) and I make it my aim to help her as much as I can. Also, since I am off on Fridays and both our girls are in school, we go to breakfast each Friday morning. This gives us uninterrupted time together to talk about various things. Let’s just be honest – quality time does not happen in front of the TV or when kids are running around the house. You must make an intentional effort to spend quality time with you spouse without your kids! Set aside a weekly or monthly date night. Schedule a weekend to be away with just your spouse. Spend quality time together!

5. Forgive & Move On. When your spouse hurts you, and they will (intentionally or unintentionally), be quick to forgive and move on. We must always remember, as believers, that we married a sinner and the Holy Spirit is still conforming them into the image of Christ. We are going to make mistakes. We are going to say mean things. We are going to hurt one another. But we can control our response when we are hurt. We can do exactly as Jesus did to those involved in his crucifixion – forgive. Be quick to forgive your spouse and then move on!

6. Apologize. When you are wrong say, “I’m sorry” – not “I’m sorry…but if you would have…” Just say, “I’m sorry.” You may not even feel like you are in the wrong but apologize anyway. This goes a long way with your spouse. They realize you are less interested in defending yourself (which is a sneaky way of saying “I am right”) and more interested in their feelings and concerns. I’m still working on this one! J

7. Make Life Fun. Life is difficult and every day is definitely not Friday. But you can choose your attitude and the way you approach your spouse and family. Choose to be happy and to make life fun. There are days when it will take more effort than others but do everything within your power to make life fun. Often, we will take spontaneous trips just to communicate to our family that we want life to be fun. Go to the park; make a visit to the local pet store and pet the puppies; head out for ice-cream. Making life fun makes Janie happy – she loves to see smiles on her little girls’ faces

8. Pray For & With Your Spouse. I pray for Janie daily and I know she prays for me. I treasure this – my wife is truly a prayer warrior! We pray together during family worship and let our kids see us pray for one another. The old adage is “The couple that prays together stays together.” I truly believe this. Pray for and with your spouse!

9. I Am Blessed Beyond Measure. The Bible says, “He who finds a wife finds a good things and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). In God’s providence he brought Janie and I together and for that I am blessed. I thank the Lord daily for this good and precious gift he has given – I truly have obtained “favor from the Lord!” Thank God for your spouse and tell your spouse you believe they are a blessing from the Lord!

**There are tons of other things I have learned over the past 9 years of marriage but I would love to hear what you have learned in your marriage. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section!