Grace & the Black & White Thinker

gracechangeseverythingThis is part three of the Black & White Thinker Series.  Click for The Introduction (Part 1),  Introduction (Part 2) or Black & White Thinking Through a Biblical Lens (Part 2).

Today, I wanted to look at the most important truth that all Black & White Thinkers ought to consider, and that is the necessity for Grace.  Grace is a difficult truth to comprehend for anyone, let alone the Black & White Thinker.  Due to the intangibleness of grace, meaning that it is not in itself observable or measurable (though the effects in a person’s life are more so), it remains elusive to many who have been enslaved to the Black and White Thinking.

As I read Paul’s letters in the New Testament, I would label him as the most Influential Black & White Thinker of the Bible.  Since we see Black & White Thinking amidst the Pharisees (based on the strict adherence to the Law) and Paul labelled himself as “pharisee” (Php 3:5, Acts 23:6), it would seem that he leaned towards this type of thinking. Also, we are told of his actions (prior to conversion – as Saul) and his zealousness for the law, how he was trained in the law and supported himself by giving “consequences” for those who disobeyed the law (persecuting Christians), so we can probably conclude that he was a Black & White Thinker, but with the added passion for justice (as defined by the Pharisees).

As Saul was living by the law and persecuting the Christians, he had a life-changing experience on the Road to Damascus.  He was stopped and approached in a miraculous way by a Relational Jesus.  Jesus simply asked him this, “Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4).  This question has profound implications for Saul.  Though he was blinded by the light, he began to see for the first time that his understanding and actions, ones that he thought were right, were actually wrong.  Not only wrong, but his thinking and subsequent actions had personally impacted Jesus Christ.  Now, Saul wasn’t a believer at this point, but after such a supernatural experience with Jesus, he certainly became one.

After considering his horrible actions and the Lord’s call for him to be an instrument for Christ, and after receiving gospel training, Saul (now named Paul) became aware of  a different law at work.  He moved from living by the law of works, to living by the law of grace.  Grace became a topic he wrote about frequently and included in his letters to the churches.  Most of Paul’s letters started with the following exhortation: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  Paul spoke about grace regularly so that the people of God would know that “it is by grace you are saved, not by works.”  Paul’s recognition of the grace of God would move him from being a person who thinks in black and white to one who thinks more relationally through grace.  That is, our relationship with God is not one that is earned by us, but one that occurs only by the grace and mercy of God through Christ.

Now, does this mean that Paul ceased all black and white thinking?  I don’t think so entirely, but I do think the Black and White Thinking decreased significantly with the inclusion of Grace in his life.  Paul still called for strict consequences for those who sinned, but he also was willing to show grace and mercy to those who asked for forgiveness (see 1 Cor 5:11-12, Titus 3:9-11, 2 Cor 2:5-11).

If you are a Black & White Thinker longing to grow in your faith and relationships with those around you, I would strongly recommend growing in your understanding and application of grace.  One great book on Grace is called Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges. This resource will help you to see how we set up laws in our hearts for ourselves and people and how we can live by grace.  (For another blog on this, click here.)  Don’t simply read a book on grace and be done, but surround yourself with godly men or women to comprehend grace and apply it to your lives and relationships.  It was meeting Jesus and his grace that transformed Saul and set him on a new course for his life and relationships with God and others, and it is the understanding and application of grace that will transform our lives, too.

Video

GRACE FOR THE BROKEN

BROKEN
“When I try to look at the term [broken] in particular, I think it is saying that something was right at one point. There is a model out there for the way it is supposed to be and this is not the way it is supposed to be. Something is broken. And then the question is, ‘Can it be fixed?’” – Ed Welch

Is there any concept that is a greater reality in our life today? World issues spiral out of control, national crisis continue to grow, local communities become corrupt, and our families are being ripped apart. Brokenness takes center stage in defining our core identity. Many strive to fill this void and continually watch their dreams get shattered. Is there anyone or anything that can speak into this deep despair? These are questions and concepts that will be entertained at this year’s biblical counseling conference, Grace for the Broken. Be sure to visit our vimeo page, http://www.vimeo.com/foundationscounseling, each month (leading up to the conference) for the latest interview video on what Dr. Ed Welch has to say about this year’s conference topic.

WHAT TO EXPECT
Foundations Christian Counseling Services (FCCS) is excited to be hosting this year’s biblical counseling conference in the Mt. Pocono Region at Innovation Church, 6048 Paradise Valley Road (Rte 940), Cresco, PA. Join us on March 29th, 2014 for a time of reflecting on God’s grace for the broken. Seating is limited, so be sure to register online while space is available.

Registration will begin at 8:30 AM. Complimentary breakfast refreshments will be available during the registration and breaks in-between sessions. Registration can be completed on-line by visiting our website, http://www.foundchristcounsel.org, and clicking on the conference image. The link will take you to the conference page which contains details regarding the day’s agenda, guest speakers, session topics, and location. Follow us on facebook, http://www.facebook.com/foundchristcounsel, to stay connected with the most recent updates.

We hope to see you at the conference!

No Thought, After Thought & Fore Thought: The Process of Loving Well

“Wow, that didn’t even occur to me.”

lovewell

This is the thought that occurs when a person asks a question about something that doesn’t even cross their mind.  It doesn’t have to be something important, just a topic that you haven’t really thought about or thought through.  In marriage, it is the thought that  comes when one realizes that he or she is living in their own little world and not thinking about anything outside of it.   The busyness of life often gets in the way…as does the sinful and selfish nature.  When we live in our own little worlds too long, we look to others as being a part of our worlds…but their existence is to make our worlds better…easier.  We forget (or pay little attention) that others are important.  We forget that their needs and desires are important.  We forget or have not even realized yet that they do not exist to serve us, but in Christ, we exist to serve them.  This is our sinful, self-centered nature.  Thoughts of others’ desires and needs do not occur to us because we live in our own worlds.  How do we change this?  Well, admitting it is the first step.  Confess this to God, and by His Spirit, begin to apply the love God gave you to your spouse (or others).

“Aw man…I should have thought about that before!”

This is the second step of process.  It is the beginning of awareness of the sinful state of the selfish mind and awareness of the desire and need to love others.  Demonstrating love may not be easy at first, but as one becomes more aware of God’s call to serve others, the afterthoughts occur more regularly.  These afterthoughts are not intended to bring guilt, but are a sign of greater things to come…if you remain aware of self-centeredness and begin to place priority in loving others.  Chances are, as you continue to be aware, you will at other times begin to plan out times of serving, date nights, giving praise, making love, etc (for your spouse) or serving other people in other ways.

“Let me think about this first.”

This is third step in the process of loving well.  This is the intentional practice of Christ-likeness, where thought, effort, and humility merge into an action of love for another person (or people).  It is the full awareness of others’ needs and in love, placing those above your own.  I remember several getaways with my wife and I.  Our trip to Niagara Falls on our 15th Anniversary was thought out, planned, and, I must say, well executed.  At this time, I loved well (though sadly other times I fail).  Another time my wife had planned a secret getaway for my birthday where she kidnapped me and we went to a Bed-and-Breakfast.  The thought and planning behind the action meant she loved well.  Both trips are etched in our memories.  Fore thought (or before-thought) is essential when we are not in the regular practice of loving well.  Jesus had thought of us when he went to the cross.  So, too, we must think of others before ourselves.

Loving well can be difficult, especially since we often go against the grain of our sinful natures where our desires are for others to love us well.  However, when we recognize our self-centered natures, confess and repent, begin to be aware of others needs and desires, and then intentionally commit to loving well, we will move forward by God’s grace to love others well.  So, how are you doing in this area?

The Blueprints of a Godly Marriage

In High School, I learned a little about architectural drafting.  I’d learn how to create homes on paper with a pencil and various tools for measuring angles and such.  I’d learned to create the pitch on roofs, the measurement of stairs, the symbols for various electrical components and appliances, and even landscaping details as well.  Whatever I conjured up in this brain of mine, I put onto paper.  These became the blueprints to my grand designs (I still have a few of those designs, too!).

When people enter marriage, they have their own sets of blueprints of what their marriage will look like.  Throughout the years of childhood, the “horror”monal teen years, and early adulthood, people have decided what their goals are, what their spouses will do in the home (roles), how many children they want to have, and what kind of house they would like to live in.  They each have their own sets of expectations;  some of which are rigid, others which are more minor and can be modified for the greater peace.  Unfortunately, many marriages struggle because the other person is not following the blueprints that they should follow (your own).  As you can imagine, when there are two different sets of blueprints for a  house, sooner or later, there is going to be conflict. Whose blueprints will prevail?  Well, the one who wins.  But if one spouse wins, then one loses.  When one spouse loses, eventually, they both lose.

There is, however, another set of blueprints that is in the mix.  It is the Blueprints of the Master Builder.  This Builder is the Master Craftsman, our Creator, and creator of marriage.  He knows the desires of each spouse’s heart.  He knows how to effectively build a house that will withstand even the greatest of storms and the greatest of floods.  This Builder knows how to build the home of your dreams, but He does not like to do that…because the home of your dreams is often too small and won’t satisfy you as you might think.  He actually wants to build a home for you that will satisfy your deepest longings.  This home He wants to build for you will also help mold you into who He wants you to become like…His Son…. and which will give Him glory.

The toughest part about choosing a blueprint that is not your own is making the decision to trust the Builder.  It’s both a one time and an everyday decision.  It’s an everyday decision because we constantly want to go back to our default blueprint.   We say “Yes” to the builder at first, but then, slowly and surely, we try to weave in our own blueprints into His, but it doesn’t work as we think it should.

A few years ago, my wife and I made the decision to build a garage and some rooms above it.  When speaking to the builder, I told the him that I had wanted the garage floor level with the current garage space and the upper floor level with the floor upstairs.  He told me that I couldn’t have it the way that I desired because of building codes.  He was surprised the present house even passed inspection when it was built more than 15 years prior to our conversation.   I couldn’t have it my way.  If he had given me what I wanted, the building inspector would have had them start over, costing thousands of more dollars.  I had to trust the builder who had more knowledge and experience.

Our approach to marriage is the same way.  We can have dreams and expectations (blueprints) of marriage and family, but they often get in the way of our spouses dreams and expectations (blueprints), and they get in the way of the Builder’s Blueprints.  To have a marriage that will stand in the storm, both spouses need to lay aside their blueprints and follow the Blueprints of the Builder.  His blueprints include everything that is needed to build a grand home and a godly marriage.

So, what is included in the blueprints of the Master Builder?  Well, stay tuned to the next few blogs which will explain His Master Plan for Marriage!

This blog includes a brief portion taken from the “Building a Godly Marriage” Seminar.  To schedule this seminar at your church, please contact us at 877-414-HOPE.