Seven ways we can guard and repair relationships

Mar 05, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

1.  Let’s rejoice in one another, because the Lord rejoices in us.

Psalm 16:3 sets the overall tone: “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”  There is excellence to admire in every Christian.  And it’s easy to discern.  Two questions into a conversation and the excellence starts appearing.

2.  Let’s create an environment of trust rather than negative scrutiny.

1 Corinthians 4:5 says, “Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.”  Human eyes are not competent to judge human hearts.

3.  Let’s judge ourselves, even as we give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Matthew 7:5 says, “First take the log out of your own eye.”  And 1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love believes all things.”  In other words, love fills in the blanks with positive assumptions.

4.  If a problem must be addressed, let’s talk to, not about.  Gossip destroys.

Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”  The Lord didn’t say, “Go ask your brother his fault.”  Let’s man up and tell him his sin.  But let’s tell him to his face, rather than spread accusations around.

5.  If a problem must be addressed, let’s avoid blanket statements but identify factual specifics, offer a positive path forward and preserve everyone’s dignity.

“You are ___________” is too sweeping to be fair.  It leaves a person no freedom to change.  Better to say, “In this situation, when you _____________, that was wrong.  It would be helpful if, in the future, you would ______________.  What do you think?  And is there anything I can do that might help?”

6.  Let’s extend kindness.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another.”  That word “kind” is used in Matthew 11:30 when Jesus says, “My yoke is easy.”  So kindness asks, “How can I make this situation as easy for the other person as possible?  How can I make a positive response as easy as it can be?”

7.  When we wrong another, let’s admit it: “What I did to you was wrong.  I am sorry.  By God’s grace, I won’t do that again.  Is there anything I can do now, to make up for it?”

Where a wrong has been done, as the Bible defines wrong, an apology will help.  Reparations are also biblical and may be necessary in the case of a significant injury.  But evading the wrongs of our past only builds hypocrisy into our future.  And God cannot bless that.  But God will surely bless serious repentance.  When Zacchaeus vowed to repay the people he had defrauded, the Lord didn’t reply, “You don’t have to.  That’s water under the bridge!”  No, the Lord said, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:8-9).

One of the most beautiful scenes in the Bible is between brothers who had been long alienated: “Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept” (Genesis 33:4).  God wants that beauty to reappear in every generation, as needed.

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They are their message

Mar 04, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


“The most effective preaching comes from those who embody the things they are saying.  They are their message. . . . Authenticity gets across from deep down inside people. . . . What communicates now is basically personal authenticity.”

John Poulton, A Today Sort of Evangelism (London, 1972), pages 60-61, 79.  Italics original.

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Mar 03, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


Pat Macmillan, in “The Mission-Directed Ministry Team,” RTS Ministry, Winter 1994, quotes Peter Senge: “When a team becomes more aligned, a commonality of direction emerges, and individuals’ energies harmonize.  There is less wasted energy.  In fact, a resonance or synergy develops.”

To achieve that powerful alignment among the individuals on a team, the stated mission must meet four criteria:

1. Relevant.  “I want it.”

2. Significant.  “It’s worth it.”

3. Achievable.  “I believe it.”

4. Clear.  “I see it.”

Macmillan goes on: “Don’t assume that the benefits are as clear to others as they are to you.  Don’t gloss over the pragmatic elements of the team mission and the goals that flow out of it with eloquent generalities.  Cooperation based on warm fuzzies, cliches and platitudes will soon break down.”

Interestingly, he also notes that it’s the individuals who are just a little out of alignment who blunt the effectiveness of the team.  People who are way off are obvious.  It’s the not-quite-there people who are more difficult to discern but who make the task tedious.

“A clear, certain mission . . . serves as a gyroscope providing stability and allowing the team to maintain its footing and sense of direction in turbulent, fast-changing environments.  It provides boundary lines in which the team can set realistic, but exceptional, goals.  It also enables the team to monitor and evaluate progress.”

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Happy Birthday, Johnny

Feb 26, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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You’re not crazy

Feb 24, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

Serving Christ gets hard.  Harder than we expected.  Harder than we can endure, even for one more day.  We are tempted to think, “No way can this turn out well.  My life – the only one I have – is going to end up on the junk pile.  I must be crazy to be out here doing this, taking these risks, getting hammered with this criticism, paying this price.  The body count in ministry is high, and I’m the next casualty.  How on earth did I ever get here?”

Inevitably, serving the Lord, obeying the Lord, putting him first, we experience this.  It’s not because we’ve forsaken the Lord, but the opposite.  It’s the path of obedience that leads us into deep trouble.  And then our critics, and especially our betrayers, to justify themselves, tell us that it’s all our own fault.  Sometimes we believe them.

Sure, we can learn and improve and avoid some land mines.  But here is the foundational truth of your life, faithful Christian.  You are retelling the story of Jesus in his death and resurrection.  “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:11-12).  He died, and now he lives.  He endured, and now he reigns.  He wasn’t crazy.  And however this turns out short-term for you, whatever people may say or do, God will keep your life deeply enfolded in union with Christ crucified and risen again, and your ministry will bear eternal fruit.

Remind yourself of this every day: You’re not crazy.  Whatever obedience costs you, you will rise again.  Christ will see to that.

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Who are you married to?

Feb 20, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

“A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. . . . and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.  Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another.”  Romans 7:2-4

We were married to Mr. Law.  He was a good man, in his way, but he did not understand our weakness.  He came home every evening and asked, “So, how was your day?  Did you do what I told you to?  Did you make the kids behave?  Did you waste any time?  Did you complete everything I put on your To Do list?”  So many demands and expectations.  And hard as we tried, we couldn’t be perfect.  We could never satisfy him.  We forgot things that were important to him.  We let the children misbehave.  We failed in other ways.  It was a miserable marriage, because Mr. Law always pointed out our failings.  And the worst of it was, he was always right!  But his remedy was always the same: Do better tomorrow.  We didn’t, because we couldn’t.

Then Mr. Law died.  And we remarried, this time to Mr. Grace.  Our new husband, Jesus, comes home every evening and the house is a mess, the children are being naughty, dinner is burning on the stove, and we have even had other men in the house during the day.  Still, he sweeps us into his arms and says, “I love you, I chose you, I died for you, I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  And our hearts melt.  We don’t understand such love.  We expect him to despise us and reject us and humiliate us, but he treats us so well.  We are so glad to belong to him now and forever, and we long to be “fully pleasing to him” (Colossians 1:10)!

Being married to Mr. Law never changed us.  But being married to Mr. Grace is changing us deep within, and it shows.

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You can stand any test

Feb 19, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


“The cross is practical, it is God moving in love to meet violent men and women, facing violence and suffering for us.  Your faith was born in violence.  The Christian is not scared when the whole world is shaking.  Your faith was born on Calvary.  It can stand anything.  It is an all-weather faith.

Don’t imagine you can only be a Christian when everything is smooth.  Christians shine better when everything is just the opposite.  Your faith was born in blood and sweat in the loneliness of Calvary.  You can stand any test.”

Bishop Festo Kivengere, When God Moves in Revival (Wheaton, 1973), page 16.

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Psalm 40

Feb 18, 2015 | Ray Ortlund

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What can be a greater honor than this?

Feb 18, 2015 | Ray Ortlund


“How great an honor will it be to a person to have God at the day of judgment owning a person, declaring before all men, angels and devils that that person is before his all-seeing eyes and that he stands innocent and perfect in his sight, clothed with perfect righteousness and entitled to everlasting glory and blessedness.  How honorable will this render them in the eyes of all that vast assembly that will be together at the day of judgment.  That will be an infinitely greater honor than any man or any angel declaring that they judge him upright and sincere and that eternal life belongs to him.  What can be a greater honor than this — to be owned by the great King and Lord of all things?”

Jonathan Edwards, The Glory and Honor of God (Nashville, 2004), edited by Michael D. McMullen, page 61.

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