Book Review: The Pressure’s Off by Larry Crabb

pressure1Over the holidays I chatted with a friend who was reading a great book by a favourite author of mine, Christian psychologist and all round smart guy, Dr. Larry Crabb. The theme is living by grace, and avoiding an attitude of works-based performance and perfectionism in our Christian walk. I would love to say I have read it, but only had a quick flick. Instead I will share a review from someone else. The book is definitely on my reading list this year. It would be great for any of your friends who struggle in this area. Praise be to God for his glorious grace!

Here’s the opening of the review. Click the link below to continue reading.
“Where the Protestant reformers sought to live for the glory of God,  Larry Crabb contends American Christians of today seek to be blessed by God. The result is a performance based pursuit of God’s blessing that leaves the pressure on where God never intended there to be pressure in a relationship with Him. Larry Crabb suggests there is a better way, a way that leaves as his new books says, The Pressure Off.”

Book Review: The Pressure’s Off by Larry Crabb.

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Oh the Mercy of God

GOD'S GRACE IN HANDSAs I prepare a new playlist of songs for church this year, I’ve been thinking through older songs we have enjoyed in the last decade of which you may not even be aware. Can’t believe I haven’t mentioned this one yet (since I am blogging about God’s grace, and music!). The lyrics of “Oh the Mercy of God” (1997) come to us straight from Ephesians 1:3-12, through the pen of Geoff Bullock, one of the founding musicians at Hillsong Sydney. In just three verses and a chorus he manages to sum up the wonder of a gracious God, who not only redeems us, but counts as as righteous! And why? For His own praise and glory. This is the astounding and almost unbelievable good news of the Gospel. Enjoy.
(Click on the link below to listen)

Oh the Mercy of God

Oh the mercy of God, The glory of grace
That You choose to redeem us, To forgive and restore
And You call us Your children, Chosen in Him
To be holy and blameless, To the glory of God

Chorus:
To the praise of His Glorious Grace
To the praise of His Glory and Power
To Him be all Glory Honour and Praise
For ever and ever and ever A–men

Oh the richness of Grace, The depths of His love
In Him is redemption, The forgiveness of sin
You called us as righteous, Predestined in Him
For the praise of His Glory, Included in Christ.

Oh the Glory of God expressed in His Son
His image and likeness revealed to us all
The plan of the ages completed in Christ
That we be presented perfected in Him.

We are His People

HelloImSavedByGraceHoping soon to compile a list of new songs that we plan to add to our repertoire at ARPC in 2013. But before I do that I want to introduce you to an older song (if 2002 is old!) from EMU music – a song which is filled with the mercy and grace of Jesus that we have been singing for many years. You will find it to be a fairly simple and lively song. It is based on that great grace passage in Ephesians 2:8-10 (my favourite!). What a great verse for your church to be singing.

The song seems to be based on the wording of the NIV, but I quite like the NLT version: God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Hope you enjoy the song and find it useful. Sheet music is at Song Select (and from EMU).

1. We, we are God’s people
Once, dead in our sin and
Now, raised up with Christ in heaven
God, rich in his mercy
Made us all alive in Christ
Seated with him forever

Chorus
By grace we are saved through
Faith, not from us but
God – not our works or boasting
By grace we are saved through
Faith, not from us but
God – not our works or boasting – by grace.

2. We, we are God’s people
Once, once who were far away
Saved by the blood of Jesus
Now, we are his temple
Filled, filled with his Spirit
Made – for doing good in Jesus.

© 2002 Philip Percival

Listen here or purchase

The unbearable mercy of a thief

lesmisI have just enjoyed 3 hours at the cinema, immersed in the musical-film retelling of Les Miserables. I will refrain from passing much judgement on the film or the singing, except to say I thought it was great! But most importantly, I want to say that the story of Les Mis has taught me some new things about grace – and why God’s ‘irresistible grace’ is apparently resisted by some.

First, a quick refresher for those unsure of the basic plot: Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman in this film) is convicted for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s seven starving children and sent to prison for five years. He is paroled from prison nineteen years later – under the watchful eye of prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe). (This release came after four unsuccessful escape attempts added twelve years, and fighting back during the second escape attempt added two extra years). Rejected by society for being a former convict, Valjean encounters Bishop Myriel, who turns his life around by showing him mercy and encouraging him to become a new man. . . which he does, a man of honour and grace.

Years later, police inspector Javert recognises Valjean (now a respectable factory owner) as the parole breaker and his most unfavorable prisoner.  Yet Valjean extends to him the grace he once received. He refuses to report Javert for his ‘false accusations’. Later, when the opportunity arises for Valjean to end Javert’s life, he chooses to let him go free. But for Javert this indebtedness to the mercy of a thief is a cage, a burden too great to bear. He hurls himself into the river, after proclaiming (and I quote here at length):

Who is this man? What sort of devil is he
To have me caught in a trap and choose to let me go free?
It was his hour at last to put a seal on my fate
Wipe out the past and wash me clean off the slate!
All it would take was a flick of his knife.
Vengeance was his and he gave me back my life!

Damned if I’ll live in the debt of a thief!
Damned if I’ll yield at the end of the chase.
I am the Law and the Law is not mocked
I’ll spit his pity right back in his face
There is nothing on earth that we share
It is either Valjean or Javert!

How can I now allow this man to hold dominion over me?
This desperate man whom I have hunted
He gave me my life. He gave me freedom.
I should have perished by his hand
It was his right.
It was my right to die as well
Instead I live… but live in hell.

Is this precisely what makes Jesus so unpalatable to the lost? It seems they would rather be damned than live in the debt of a thief, one who was rejected, despised, crucified. If they accept grace and forgiveness through his death, they would be forever indebted to him, to his mercy. He would have dominion over them. This mercy is too great for some to bear and sadly they turn away.

I have never really thought about rejection of Christ as a rejection of his unbearable mercy. But this is what Les Mis has shown me. So for us who live in the lightness of Christ’s mercy, might we find ways to express to the lost the immense freedom that comes from being indebted to this innocent yet condemned God-man, Jesus Christ. His yolk is easy and his burden is light.

Matthew 11

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Nb. If you are up for more Les Mis action, check out the Liam Neeson/Geoffrey Rush/Uma Therman/Claire Danes film version from 1998.

The wonders of rest

image

Enjoying a break away with our family, and two other ministry families, on my parents’ farm near Mount Warning, northern NSW. (For my international readers, try google maps.) Mia our Maremma dog is enjoying being in the thick of our community, and is a perfect model of the relaxing rejuvenating experience of camping. I’m reminded, as I keep my feet up as much as possible, how important it is to recreate yourself. It’s only when you stop that you realise the pace you have been keeping up. You also realise how important it is to be refreshed and restored. We have been reading each night through 1John and John Piper’s Pierced by the Word. And along with the rib fillet steak, this has produced great encouragement and discussion. Eternal life is ours now, in Christ, but we will have to wait for the end of this life to be fully restored and re-created as we enjoy the rest God has planned for us. Our rest now is but a foreshadowing of the Rest we wait for, in hope. Praise be to God for the gift of rest and relaxing as we rest in Him for the hope of salvation.

Try these New Life Resolutions

SYD0037  New Year's Eve Fireworks Sydney NSW _DSC2336In some ways the start of a New Year brings with it a sinking feeling, a feeling that although we have successfully negotiated our way through a full year plus the hectic Christmas period, now we have to do it all again! And then there are the New Year resolutions that everyone else seems to be making. Where do we put God in all this, the God who sits outside the passing of months and years, and controls the changing seasons? He does not change from year to year. How do we look at the road which stretches ahead with optimism, with joy, and our eyes firmly on Christ?

At the New Year’s Sunday service last year our pastor shared an alternative to New Year’s resolutions (which are usually broken by mid-January and forgotten mid-February). These New Life Resolutions apply every day in every season as we seek to follow Christ. We need not feel frustrated with these or give up when we fail. . . because, yes, we will all inevitably fail!  For this is the reason Christ died. . . because we could never “make it” on our own. “But God gives us more grace”. Here are some guiding principles to hold on to each day as we seek to live in the freedom of the new life Christ has won for us: (from Luke 12)

1. Resolve to live by GRACE not WORKS. If we are in Christ it is His works which we are judged on, and He is perfect! Have confidence in this, and extend this grace to others. (verses 1-3)
2. Resolve in your thoughts to TRUST GOD. Don’t allow our minds to entertain thoughts that are fearful of man, the future, anything! (v 4-8)
3. Resolve in your words to PROCLAIM CHRIST. The promise is that if we acknowledge Christ before men He will acknowledge us before His Father! Be proactive and speak up, tell others you are a Christian, ask what they know about Jesus. He promises to give us the words. (v 8-12)
4. Resolve in your actions to IMITATE GOD.
The aim is to transform our walk, our talk, our thoughts to those of Jesus. Be rich toward God! Rely on the power of His Spirit in you to transform you (v13-21).

Sharing my 2012 in review

THANKS to all my followers and visitors for reading my thoughts this year. It has been such a rewarding activity! And I’ve really enjoyed the mutual encouragement from reading your blogs and getting to know you a bit better. God’s blessings to you for the year ahead.

from Ros (sevennotesofgrace)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.