Grace, Truth, And Tensions. . .

How do we balance it out? How can we maintain that tender balance between grace and truth that marked the life and ministry of our Savior, and must mark His bride, the Church?

I’ve been attempting to navigate that tender nexus over the last few days in the midst of making statements, receiving feedback (positive and negative), and responding to questions/comments from people who are personally dealing with the complex issues of the day with an earnest desire to faithfully follow Christ. Obviously, I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m eagerly pushing forward in an attempt to know more and more with each passing day.

Over the course of the last twelve hours, I’ve read some things that have caused to me to pause, read again, and then re-read several times over. They include a statement and two prayers.

The statement comes from Os Guinness, a keen and discerning student of history and culture who, I believe, is one of the sharpest “men of Issachar” of our day. In his book Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times, Guinness offers some provocative analysis of what is happening both globally and in the West. Last night, I read these words from Guinness that I wish were not prophetic and true, but that I believe are accurate and relevant to the discussions we’ve been having over the last few days: “Soon, as the legalization and then normalization of polyamory, polygamy, pedophilia and incest follow the same logic as that of abortion and homosexuality, the socially destructive consequences of these trends will reverberate throughout society until the social chaos is beyond recovery. We can only pray there will be a return to God and sanity before the terrible sentence is pronounced: ‘God has given them over’ to the consequences of their own settled choices.”

Whether or not you agree or disagree with Guinness on this one, you would no doubt agree that we must be immersed in prayer as we navigate these difficult issues and discussions. In the last few hours, I’ve read two prayers that I think are timely.

The first comes from Guinness himself. It’s a prayer for the church. . .

High King of heaven,
Lord of the years and sovereign over time and history,
grant to us such an overpowering knowledge of who You are
that our trust in You may be unshakable.

Grant to us too a sufficient understanding
of the signs of the times in which we live
that we may know how
to serve Your purposes in our generation
and more truly be Your people in our world today.

To that end, O Lord, revive us again
and draw us closer to Yourself and to each other.

Where there is false contentment with our present condition,
sow in us a holy restlessness.

Where there is discouragement,
grant us fresh hearts.

Where there is despair,
be our hope again.

For Your sake
empower us to be Your salt and light in the world,
and thus Your force for the true human flourishing of Your shalom.
In the name of Jesus, Amen.

The second comes from Scotty Smith’s Everyday Prayers, a book that’s been a morning companion to me for a few years now. This prayer reminds me to seek a posture that truly brings glory to God. . .

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” – Philippians 4:5

Dear Lord Jesus, there is no one more gentle with me than you. There is no one as welcoming of sinners, as kind to the broken, or as understanding of the struggling as you. You are gentle, yet persistent; gentle, yet firm; gentle, yet so very powerful.

You’re like the perfect surgeon—the one I want working on me. You never get nervous, flustered, agitated, or hurried. You have a steady hand because of your steady heart. Oh, how I need you to do ongoing gospel surgery on me if I’m going to be a true gentle man—someone whose gentleness is evident to all, and not just evident to the people who are so easy for me to be with.

Gentle me when I’m behind slow drivers who stay in the fast lane. Gentle me when I face both fair and unfair criticism. Gentle me when I think things that are obvious to me ought to be obvious to everybody else. Gentle me when loud, boorish people invade “my” space—as though I have some inalienable right to an uninterrupted life. Gentle me when I whine about not getting a wifi signal.

Gentle me when I’m too tired to engage, but my wife really needs me to listen. Gentle me when I need a nap, but my grandson needs to play. Gentle me when someone gets the last cookie I was already planning on enjoying with a glass of milk. Gentle me when my exercise plans are disrupted because it’s too humid to run.

Gentle me when the vacation gets cut short by crises. Gentle me when friends keep making the same mistakes and foolish choices. Gentle me when the restaurant sends me home with the wrong takeout order. Gentle me when Satan starts condemning me for things I actually did, but for which you already paid my debt.

Gentle me when I start debating theology rather than loving the people who see things differently. Gentle me when I cannot fix the very people you never gave me to fix. Gentle me around people who fear the world more than they have confidence in your kingdom.

Lord Jesus, I praise you for being so very near to us. You are most near to us in the gospel; and ,in fact, you actually live in our hearts. You’re also near in terms of coming back to finish making all things new—a Day for which we long. May your nearness generate a much quicker repentance on my part. Please make me a gentle man, by the gospel and for your glory. So very Amen I pray, in your kind and loving name.

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