Posts Tagged ‘Balance’

We learn from the opening verses of Romans that this letter is all about the gospel of God, which centers in his Son. It is the good news of God’s saving grace in Jesus for sinners like me and you. And that good news is all about God’s peace. Paul closes his introduction with this promise and blessing: “To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7).

These words come to us as more than mere formalities. They declare life-giving hope to seize and believe. The apostle announces God’s stance—his posture of grace and peace toward us in Christ. Just as the words “loved” and “saints” point back to the designation of God’s people in the Hebrew Scriptures, so this promise of peace calls to mind the great Hebrew word shalom and the Old Testament vision of peace, fulfilled in Romans in the person and work of Jesus. It is no wonder that the formal worship liturgy in some Reformed churches frequently begins with an opening salutation, a word of greeting from God through the minister, often taken from texts like Romans 1:7.

Probably the most famous shalom prayer-promise comes from Numbers 6:24-26, the benediction assigned for Aaron and his sons to proclaim to God’s people.

The Lord bless you
and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.

This peace is more than the absence of war and strife. It is the positive presence of harmony, salvation, joy, blessing, and reconciliation—“the state of perfect well-being created by God’s eschatological intervention and enjoyed by the righteous.” [Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), 139.] In the context of Romans, it is the reconciliation of believing Jews and believing Gentiles both with God and with each other—both vertical and horizontal. We taste it now whenever we enjoy the fruits of repentance, confession, and forgiveness with each other. One day we will experience it fully.

Who will experience this final peace? Only those who belong to God. The apostle both promises and warns, “There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism” (Romans 1:9-11). Whether Jew or Gentile, the one who knows and follows the Redeemer God will treasure God’s saving gift of shalom. On the other hand, the unbeliever who rejects God’s “way of peace” (Romans 3:17) will only reap God’s judgment.

How does someone gain God’s peace? Romans 5:1-2 replies, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” In this compact summary of gospel blessing, Paul tells us (1) that we now have peace with God; (2) that this peace is built on our justification through faith, God’s grace-work of declaring us righteous in Christ; and (3) that this peace produces deep joy. As hymn writer Francis J. Van Alstyne (1820–1915) exclaimed,

The vilest offender who truly believes,
that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.

Similar themes emerge in Ephesians 2:11-18, where Christ and his cross form the centerpiece of our peace.

What does this gospel assurance have to do with pursuing peace in our relationships? Everything. It fills us with joy, power, and confidence as we gratefully obey God in our relationships. It provides a model of grace to convey to others. And it reassures us that, even if the other people don’t respond in kind, our relationship with the most important and ultimate Person in the universe remains secure. Thanks be to God for Jesus our Lord!

The saving work of God in the Christian, however, does not merely consist of a right standing with God. In salvation God has done something not only for us, but also in us. Our Christian growth—sanctification in its past, present, and future aspects—began with a decisive act by God of severing the spinal cord of sin and making us new people who are now inclined to love and obey him. The apostle Paul describes this internal transformation: “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Romans 8:6-8). The sinful mind is hostile to God, but the saved mind—the mind captured and controlled by the Holy Spirit—reflects the very life and peace of God’s Spirit, albeit imperfectly.

Isaiah pictures a similar reality with a vivid metaphor in Isaiah 57:18-21 concerning God’s own promise to restore his people.

“I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
I will guide him and restore comfort to him,
creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.
Peace, peace, to those far and near,”
says the Lord.3 “And I will heal them.”
But the wicked are like the tossing sea,
which cannot rest,
whose waves cast up mire and mud.
“There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”

In other words—to join Isaiah and Paul—death marks the unbeliever; life and peace mark the believer.

Relational Peace with Others

The twin gifts of God’s reconciling peace through Christ’s cross and God’s inner peace through his Spirit lead to the third peace blessing, namely, relational peace with others. In one of the Bible’s most realistic texts concerning human relationships, Romans 12:18exhorts us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

We find a fourfold call in this passage and its context. First, we must pursue peace as our Christian duty. The apostle commands us to live at peace. To fail to seek peace with people is to disobey God. We have no option.

Second, we must pursue peace with everyone. The peacemaking charge in this text is comprehensive; we must address all of our relationships. Our Lord does not permit us to ignore even one relationship or dismiss any individual. As the apostle declares in Acts 24:16, “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” While this “with everyone” standard is admittedly high, God’s power makes his commands less daunting.

Third, as we actively pursue peace, the apostle urges us to leave the results to God. “If it is possible,” Paul reminds us, we should live at peace. He acknowledges that a peaceful result may not be possible; we have no guarantee that the other person will follow God’s peacemaking plan. As the old saying goes, “It takes two to tango.”

Fourth, keeping in mind the larger context, we must pursue peace in light of God’s mercy toward us in Christ. The entire twelfth chapter of Romans flows from God’s saving grace expounded in detail in Romans 1–11. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). In other words, we must apply Romans 12:18 against the backdrop of Romans 12:1-2 and the preceding eleven chapters. Peacemaking is but one way we offer ourselves to God in sacrificial worship, and that obedience, like every other command in Romans 12, arises from the gospel of God’s mercy in Christ.


Taken from Pursuing Peace: A Christian Guide to Handling Our Conflicts by Robert D. Jones. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

Stephen Altrogge

We all know that we’re supposed to pray. We all have our own prayer “tactics,” such as prayer lists, prayer apps, prayer walks, prayer meetings, praying out loud, writing down our prayers, writing down the prayers we say out loud, and saying out loud prayers which have been written down.

In spite of all these tactics, I believe prayer is THE MOST underrated spiritual discipline. The simple fact is, I take prayer for granted. Because Christ has opened the way into the Holy Places, I can pray freely at any time of day. I can pray in the car, as I’m working, and while I’m watching my kids. Being able to pray so freely is an incredible, wonderful blessing. I think, however, that the freeness with which I can pray causes me to take prayer for granted.

Think for a moment of all that takes place when I pray.

GOD HEARS

But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. (Psalm 4:3)

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch. (Psalm 5:3)

Holy smokes! When I pray, the Lord himself, Yahweh, the King of Kings, the commander of the armies of Heaven, hears me! The God who crushed the Egyptian army and humiliated the prophets of Baal, hears when I call to him. I’m not speaking empty words into a void. I’m not simply talking to myself. This is not the power of positive speaking. When I call, God hears.

GOD STRENGTHENS

O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. (Psalm 10:17–18)

Not only does God hear me when I pray, but he also strengthens me. In the midst of affliction, when I barely have the strength to call out to God, he hears me and strengthens me. He imparts real spiritual, emotional, and even physical strength to me. Prayer connects me to the infinite strength of God.

GOD BLESSES

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)

God is eager to bless me. Just as I am eager to give good gifts to my kids, God is eager to give good gifts to me. When I pray, God unleashes blessings into my life. I realize that sounds terribly Joel Osteen-ish, but it’s not. It’s God’s word. God will give me good things when I pray to him. He will bless me and pour out his incredible riches into my life.

GOD ACTS

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (>James 5:16–18)

This passage is meant to encourage us that God does real, incredible things in response to my prayers. When Elijah prayed, God actually altered weather patterns! When I pray, God does real, amazing, incredible things. He changes circumstances. He softens hearts. He intervenes with financial provision. He brings reconciliation. Prayer brings the Almighty God into the mundane details of my life.

Given all the astonishing things that happen when I pray, why do I treat prayer so lightly? That’s the big question we all need to answer.


Stephen Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church. Find out more at The Blazing Center.

Tips to a brighter Relationship
The wise couples (you know the ones that most people say “they were meant to be”) turn into wine and keep on getting better with age. Yet, lots of relationship fade away after the excitement phase is over and separate themselves like oil and water.

If you want your relationship to have the long life it deserves, have a look at our 10 things to do for a brighter relationship.

1. Have a positive attitude towards life

Everyone wants to be around cheerful people that seize the moment and take the best of everything.

A constant attitude of dissatisfaction, complaining and nagging — attracts negative emotions creating a terrible mood, and implicitly creating bad relationships between people.

Having and keeping a positive attitude towards life makes you a more attractive partner while at the same time, makes you a happier person overall.

2. Love yourself

Your partner doesn’t want to be the object of your sacrifices. He wants you to be happy with him just as much as he wants to feel good with you.

You both need to be pleased and fulfilled with your own individualities in order to be able to draw the same emotions in your relationship. And, more importantly, you need to preserve your own personality above and beyond the things you’re doing to please the other person.

3. Pay attention to your partner’s wants and needs

Men and women are different and inherently share different perspectives on relationship and what makes them happy in life. Acting controlling and trying to change your lover around to like the things that you do and undertake the actions and reactions you see as righteous — is an instant major turnoff for your partner and extremely frustrating for you.

4. Show admiration and gratitude

If you are in a relationship with someone — it goes without saying that you appreciate them for a series of qualities, the way they treat you, how they make you feel etc.

The key here is to REMIND your partner CONSTANTLY just how much you admire the things he/she does for you and the way those makes you feel.

5. Be careful with words

“Words cut deeper than swords” is more than just an idiom. It is a universally valid truth.

You cannot take back an offense, an insult, a humiliation, a lie or any verbal abuse. No matter how much you’ll excuse yourself after the storm has passed. It will irreversible linger in the back of your partner’s head and “scar” her/his feelings or opinions about you.

6. Show respect

Any kind of healthy relationship needs to be built on mutual respect.

Respect is multi-leveled and shows that you have common-sense and value the person for what they are and stand for. Therefore, you need to respect them verbally (see item 5), you need to respect their opinions and decision even when you don’t agree with them, you need to respect their friends and family even if sometimes it’s just for the single reason that “they come with the package”.

7. Be empathetic

We all go through stressful periods, have bad days and lazy moments and get affected by various factors which alter our spirits and self-worth. Having someone besides you who accentuates your awful mood rather than ameliorating it — is even worse.

So, try to cheer up your other half when they’re down, accept that your partner might be upset by something that does not impinge on you (and vice-versa) and show them compassion. Bear in mind that once in a while, we all need some time alone.

8. Make memories together

There is nothing that brings you two closer than going through happy, adventurous and also less joyful experiences together. Try to make an effort towards taking some trips, lessons (dance/music), doing whatever you find exciting and fun (scuba-diving, camping, participating in a contest) as long as you do them TOGETHER.

Take a lot of pictures and souvenirs to reinforce your good times and to remember that blissfulness, if and when things become tedious.

9. Fight routine

Sometimes, life just seems too demanding and tiring to find the time, patience and will to fight daily routine. Still, as I said previously, memories are what make your connection deeper and more meaningful. Sitting in front of the TV the whole afternoon and ordering dinner every evening is not too much of an experience.

10. Spice up your love life

Routine is again a turnoff when it comes to your most intimate moments. Once again, being adventurous and open to trying new things can make a huge difference.

You need to constantly find new ways to appeal to your partner’s senses and outreach his or her desires.

Try new positions and / or locations, anticipate the moment (through messages, notes, phone calls) and value foreplay in order to relate at a deeper emotional level. Dare to dive into each other’s fantasies and be that person that he or she never had and never wants to leave.

There’s nothing wildly spectacular about the pieces of advice shared throughout the article yet that’s precisely the reason why they work — always! They fit with any person and any type of personality, it’s what people in successful relationship do, and what keeps them in those relationships.

So, are you ready to brighten your relationship with these 10 easy and natural things?

When it comes limits, I’m one of those people my friend Nicole Unice would describe as having a “dessert-sized plate”—I can only add so much to my schedule, my ‘plate,’ before anxiety sets in and overwhelm begins.

This is hard for me because I live with and find community with a lot of ‘big plate’ people – the type who fill their time with amazing ministry endeavors and projects and events, all with a certain amount of adrenaline fuelling them—they find life in full schedule. Like my friend Cara, for instance, who admits she’s not only comfortable with a high amount of chaos; she actually thrives in it. Thrive and chaos are never used in the same sentence in my world.

So right on the outset, this isn’t intended for everyone. If you’re like my friend Cara and thrive when your big plate is filled to the brim, this isn’t necessarily going to resonate. But if you’re wondering if maybe you’re stretching yourself past the God-given limits of your personality and phase of life, read on, dear friend.

Here are a few sure signs you’re living outside your limits:

1. The relationships closest to you are suffering. Who are you closest with (husband, children, best friend, mom)? Write your top 5 people down if you need to. Now, think about your relationship with each one. How are they fairing? Are you finding the time and emotional energy to care for these people, or are they getting the dregs of your time and love? When our plates are too full, the people we love most are usually the first to suffer. Committed, intentional time with your loved ones is crucial for your flourishing. (Nicole touches on this in a Q&A I did with her on knowing your limits—I’d encourage you to check it out!)

SEE ALSO: How Taking Care of Your Body is an Act of Worship

2. You no longer make time for the things that bring you life. Think about the things that bring you joy and refresh your spirit. My list would include taking walks in sunny weather, gardening, reading a good book, sitting down to a home cooked meal with my husband, and one-on-one time with a good friend. For you, it might look like going to see a movie, listening to music, taking a car trip to a new place, etc.

When we’re living outside our limits, often the first things to go are the things that refresh us and bring us joy. For example, I’ll skip a walk at lunch because I feel pressure to reply to all the email in my various inboxes. But when we don’t take the time to refresh ourselves, we become overwhelmed and our zest for life runs low.

Related, we might be tempted to think that God would rather us give all our free time to service projects or nightly bible studies or work or whatever good ministry opportunities crop up. But when things, even good things, overwhelm our schedule to the point where we no longer have the time or energy to enjoy what God has uniquely created us to enjoy—that’s a problem.

I’ve found some of my most worshipful times are when I’m immersed in an activity that brings me joy. Whether I’m out in nature or after a conversation with a good friend – I’m just overwhelmed with thankfulness and often pray prayers of gratitude to God for those sweet times of restoration. But those moments wouldn’t happen if I was so busy that I didn’t have time for the things my soul delights in.

SEE ALSO: When God Won’t Take Away Your Anxiety

3. Things that should be effortless become taxing. Think about the things you’re naturally gifted in – this can include spiritual gifts, natural talents, or skills you’ve honed over the years through hard work and study. For me, these things include writing, ministering to other women through my gifts of listening and good question asking, and strategic/creative idea curation at work.

When you’re at your best and living inside your limits, these giftings flow freely out of you. My friend Tabitha calls this getting into “flow” – when you’re in the “flow zone,” all other thoughts, distractions and anxieties are gone and you’re delighting in and completely focused on whatever the thing is you’re doing.

But when we’re living outside our limits, these natural gifts stall out. For example, I know I’m outside my limits when I find myself sitting across from a friend and have no capacity to ask good questions or listen thoughtfully to what’s going on in her life. It might not just be that I’m tired; I might be thinking about the dozens of other things I have going on that week. I might be feeling more anxious or insecure than I normally would, more self-focused and not friend-focused. What is usually a natural skill for me becomes totally nonexistent when I’m past my limits.

These are just a few key indicators that you’re living outside of your limits. If some of what I’m saying resonates with you and you think you might be trying to stuff too much on your plate, I hope you see how much might be gained by reassessing your schedule and learning to say no. When you live within the natural limits God has set for you, the relationships that are most important to you have a chance of thriving, you can better utilize the gifts you were born with, and you’ll have more time for the things that God created you to find joy and life in.

SEE ALSO: 3 Ways to Overcome the Fear of Missing Out

How do you know when you’re past your limits? How do you reclaim time for the things that matter most? Share in the comments section!

Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.