Hold Your Dreams with Open Hands

From Paul David Tripp’s excellent new devotional of freshly written content, New Morning Mercies (Crossway), here’s the September 11 reading:

Life is all about to whom and where you look for satisfaction of heart. The shape and direction of your life are determined by what you tell yourself will make you content. Everyone in some way says, “If only I had this, I would be content and able to stop looking for the next thing.”

What sits on the other side of your “If-only”?

We are all dreamers. We all chase a vision of what we would like life to be. We all wish we were sovereign over our lives so our dreams would come true. We all fantasize and imagine. Now, this ability is not evil in and of itself, but combine it with the selfishness of sin, and it will surely get you and me into trouble.

Here’s what happens: it’s not just that you have a dream, but that your heart gets captured by your dream. It becomes your definition of “life.” You no longer hold your dream with open hands. What was once a desire has morphed into a demand, and it won’t be long before you view that demand as a need.

This thing that you once wished that you had becomes your nonnegotiable, the thing that you are unwilling to live without. Soon you’re unhappy, not because life has been hard or God has been unfaithful, but because this thing that is effectively and functionally ruling your heart lies beyond your grasp. You are despondent and discouraged. You envy people who seem to have captured their dreams. You wonder why you’ve been singled out. You wonder why God has forgotten you.

Dream? Yes, but when your dream becomes a ruling thing, it wreaks havoc on your spiritual life.

Pay attention also to what happens to your relationship with God as your dreams gobble up more of the turf of your heart. God is no longer the thing that motivates you and gives you courage and hope. God is no longer your source of sturdy joy. The glory of God is no longer the thing that you’re living for. Awe of God is no longer the reason you do everything you do.

Sadly, God has been reduced to a delivery system. If he delivers, you’ll worship and serve him, but if he fails to deliver, you will question his goodness and love, and you’ll have little motivation to offer your life to him.

I think there are thousands of Christians in this sad position. Perhaps this is what the Bible is picturing when it talks of those who have “abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4). However, there is grace for this struggle — grace that battles for your heart, grace that is more powerful than the draw of any dream. Own the dangerous dreams of your fickle heart and run to the grace that is yours in Jesus.

What Did You Expect?

I have yet to be disappointed by any book authored by Paul David Tripp. Some of his best works include:

•    Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands
•    Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy
•    A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble
•    A Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger Than You

So what did I expect from him? More of the same.

His latest book on marriage—What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage—looks very good. The teaching DVD and CD versions of his message have been available for a while now. The DVD series was very well done (and would work well as a video curriculum in a local church marriage retreat setting).

Don’t let Tripp’s walrus mustache, or the book’s clipart cover, fool you. This book is the fresh and pointed work of a soul surgeon. The book is structured around 6 core marriage commitments–

1: We will give ourselves to a regular lifestyle of confession and forgiveness.
2: We will make growth and change our daily agenda.
3: We will work together to build a sturdy bond of trust.
4: We will commit to building a relationship of love.
5: We will deal with our differences with appreciation and grace.
6: We will work to protect our marriage.

Here’s a short video introduction to What Did You Expect?: Redeeming the Realities of Marriage

Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy

9781433502309Surely one of the most valuable gifts God has given the church are surgeons of the soul. Men capable of cutting with the sharp edge of scripture, separating the outward surface of the torso, cutting through the muscle and spreading the chest, looking for the most dangerous problems, those not obvious on the outside, surgeons with determination to find the source of a deep root, a deadly problem found in the now exposed heart, a sin that can be cured only through precise wisdom and the sober application of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And if you can find one of these surgeons—one who knows his way around the deep inner workings of the heart, one who can scale to the very heights of the glorious gospel, and one who is a gifted communicator, able to write his words carefully for the benefit of us all—you have uncovered a gem.

Paul David Tripp is one of these treasures.

In his book Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy (Crossway, 2008), Tripp has written for us, partly in prose and partly in poetry, 52 brief devotional pieces that cover the scope of Psalm 51—covering the many contours of David’s sin with Bathsheba, and the experience of God’s grace in light of David’s sin. If you are brave enough to go under the surgeon’s knife, Tripp will guide you to see the darkness of sin at work in your own heart, before skillfully applying the restorative grace of the gospel.

There are a number of excerpts I want to share, but the one that I return to most often is a poem that recounts the ministry of Nathan in confronting David for his sin (see 2 Samuel 12:1-15). In part Tripp writes:

…Just a humble prophet
Telling a simple story
A sinner with a sinner
Not standing above
Alongside, together
Wanting to be an instrument
Hoping to assist a blind man to see
But no trust in self
Speaking calmly
Speaking simply
And letting God
Do through a familiar example
Painted with plain words
What only God can do
Crack the hard-shell heart
Of a wayward man
And make it feel again
See again
Cry again
Pray again
Plead again
Hope again
Love again
Commit again
To a new and better way.
(p. 63-64)

Tripp’s poem is a beautiful epigraph upon the granite of Nathan’s legacy. And a video of the author reading from this chapter is available online. Enjoy:

Title: Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy
Author: Paul David Tripp
Boards: paper
Pages: 154
Topical index: no
Scriptural index: no
Text: perfect type
Publisher: Crossway
Year: 2008
Price USD: $12.99 / $8.96 at Westminster
ISBNs: 9781433502309, 1433502305