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Overflowing Mercies | Craig Allen Cooper

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman
The Truth Network Radio
June 1, 2024 1:00 am

Overflowing Mercies | Craig Allen Cooper

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman

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June 1, 2024 1:00 am

What could happen in your life if you were immersed in mercy? On this Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, best-selling author and speaker Craig Allen Cooper wants to help us move toward patience and compassion in a world in desperate need for both. How can you receive mercy and then extend it to others? Don’t miss the encouragement for your soul on Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman.

Featured resource: OVERFLOWING MERCIES: 100 MEDITATIONS ON THE TENDER HEART OF GOD

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God's heart is tender, and He loves you, and He's for you, and He wants you to feel that, not just have it in your head intellectually, know that and have your soul warmed. We do that by coming near like you do a fire, meditating on His mercy for us. Welcome to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Well, what if your life were immersed in mercy?

What kind of changes would that bring about for you and those around you? In a culture short on compassion, where we find little patience and kindness, we're going to look for the tender heart of God. Bestselling author and Bible teacher Craig Alan Cooper is our guest.

You may remember him from the conversation we had with him and his friend Walker Hayes some time ago. Craig wants to open our hearts to the beautiful, merciful heart of God. And if you go to buildingrelationships.us, you'll see our featured resource Overflowing Mercies. Just go to buildingrelationships.us. And Gary, I think this is going to be a great conversation about building a relationship that will affect every other relationship.

Well, I think you're right, Chris, because let's face it, our relationship with God is going to impact everything else we do and all of our relationships. So I'm excited about our conversation today. Well, let me reintroduce our guest. Craig Alan Cooper is a USA Today best selling author, keynote speaker. He co-wrote the book Glad You're Here with Grammy-nominated country singer-songwriter Walker Hayes.

That book became a national bestseller. Craig served as one of the founding pastors of Redeeming Grace Church in Franklin, Tennessee. And he's the founder of Glad You're Here Ministries. He lives near Nashville with his wife and four children. And our featured resource is the new book Overflowing Mercies, 100 Meditations on the Tender Heart of God.

You can find it at the website buildingrelationships.us. Well, Craig, welcome back to Building Relationships. Thanks so much for having me, Dr. Chapman. I'm thrilled to be here. I think the world of you and your ministry with "The 5 Love Languages" and beyond. So I am just grateful that we get to talk.

Well, we're glad you're here. You know, I often find that people write about what they struggle with. Has there been a wound in your own life?

Did you grow up struggling with seeing God as tender and merciful? You know, I grew up with a very strong culture of achievement. So I was a straight-A student all through high school, valedictorian, vice president of my senior class. Actually, my twin brother was the president when we flipped a coin so we wouldn't run against each other. We flipped a coin when the coin toss ran for president.

I ran for vice president. But I think I formed a really performance-based mindset growing up. And I kind of adopted the attitude of that for nearly every aspect of my life, including spiritually.

I would say the church that we were a part of as a family focused more on what we have or what we haven't done for God than on what God has done for us. And so it was somewhat legalistic. And I wasn't a believer at the time. And I was just dead set on excelling at everything.

That was kind of my, you know, little g God. What I was living for was achievement. And so I actually became a leader in the youth group, even though I wasn't a true believer there. And around 17 or 18 years old, through a series of unfortunate events, God began to really help me see my need for Him and for the righteousness of another, the righteousness of Jesus. And so I guess you could say it was a series of fortunate events because I came to faith in Christ as a college freshman through the outreach of a campus ministry as a man was preaching on Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus. And I saw myself in Nicodemus and how I just needed life from above and life in Christ, and it completely changed my life. So yeah, that's kind of what I walked through and struggled initially with seeing God as tender and merciful, and I do now.

Yeah. Well, what motivated you to write the book, this one, Overflowing Mercies? And so Mark Twain said, the best way to cheer yourself up is by trying to cheer somebody else up. And I think there's a lot of truth in that, and I struggle myself with discouragement. I wrestle with weariness, and I've really tried to encourage and comfort other people with the comfort that I've received from the Lord. So, I mean, I wrote it really to cheer myself up by trying to cheer other people up. I've read, if you're familiar with Spurgeon's Morning and Evening, that devotional, I've read that alongside my Bible for nearly three decades, and it's really served my soul. And I've often thought, I'd love to be able to serve people the way Mr. Spurgeon has served me in just a few minutes of being able to take people immediately to the heart of God and recenter them on eternal realities. And so that's really, you know, why I wrote the book.

Well, I think it's going to accomplish that purpose. Yes, let's talk about the cover of the book. It looks like a waterfall. How does that imagery resonate with you? I actually requested a waterfall for the front.

They always ask, you know, do you have any ideas or whatnot? And Eric Peterson designed the cover. I think he did an absolutely stunning job. It's beautiful.

The book is great, even if it's just sitting there on the table. It looks so beautiful. But I requested a waterfall because I believe God's mercies are new every morning and they're inexhaustibly full of power. And they're more like a deluge than a drip. You know, it's more like a mighty waterfall than it is like a sprinkle. And I believe God restrains his wrath with greater might than the Hoover dam, while his mercies fall on us with more glory than Niagara Falls. And I've been to Niagara Falls and it's glorious.

My daughter Penelope said, she's my youngest daughter, she said, Daddy, are we in a dream? This is my favorite place I've ever been. And so I was thinking about Niagara Falls and I was thinking about just the refreshment and that mist and that glory. And I just said, hey, can you do something? And they blew me away with what they came up with.

I don't think it's awesome. Well, that's great. Now, Chris mentioned an earlier book that you wrote with Walker Hays entitled Glad You're Here.

For those who didn't hear that story, take us through that and what happened between the two of you and tell us how perhaps this book that we're talking about today may be tied to that event and that book. Yeah. So, Walker Hays, he's a country music star. He wrote the song Fancy Like. So, you know, many people have heard that.

Yeah, we fancy like Applebee's. I can't sing, but that's it. There was a dance, it went viral, all that stuff. But when we met, he was an atheist. He didn't want to have anything to do with church, didn't believe in Jesus. And, you know, he was kind of struggling with a fledgling music career. And I was a church planting pastor and I was struggling with my own sense of discouragement.

I was wondering, you know, if my life was making any difference to anybody around me. And you would never have put the two of us on paper together to be best friends. But that's exactly what the Lord did. And he just knit our families together. And then in a time of need, after Walker lost a record deal and their family van was repossessed, we secretly gave them our van. We didn't share that with anybody.

And even my twin brother who lives 10 minutes from us, we, you know, we kept it a secret. And, you know, Walker felt like he'd never adequately thanked me for that gift. So he wrote a song about it.

And the song is called Craig, which is my first name. And it really highlights our friendship and my relationship with Jesus, which is remarkable because he wrote that song as an atheist, as an unbeliever. And then after they lost their seventh child, Oakley, in childbirth, the Lord really drew near to Walker.

And, you know, I officiated the funeral. We held Oakley in the hospital and walked with them through that time of pain and grief. And the Lord drew near to my friend and he came to faith in Christ. And if you read Glad You're Here, it's really how the gospel transforms lives through the gift of friendship, both mine and his. And, you know, people, many people have said they see the hands and feet of Jesus at work through Glad You're Here. And I wanted them to feel his heart through Overflowing Mercy. So if you see the hands and feet of Jesus in Glad You're Here, you will sense his heart in this new devotional, Overflowing Mercies. Well, Craig, there's probably someone listening right now who doesn't disagree at all about God's love and God's mercy, but they don't feel that. They feel far away from forgiveness and kindness.

What do you say to that person? Well, I want to say the Lord loves you. He loves you. And our hearts, I think they need to be warmed by God's love.

Just like in the dead of winter, our bodies need to be warmed by a fire, you know, or warm blanket. We need to get near it and add the kindling and, you know, place the wood, stoke the flame. And we do that in our souls by meditating on God's love and his mercy for us. And that's how he reveals himself to us. He says, the Lord, the Lord, the gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and mercy. And God's heart is tender toward you.

I would share with that person. And he loves you. He's for you. And he wants you to feel that, not just have it in your head intellectually and know that, but to feel it in your heart. Feel it in your heart and have your soul warmed by his presence.

And I think we do that by meditating, you know, coming near it like you do a fire and meditating on his mercy for us. Now you write this, and I'm quoting here. You say, you are relentlessly on the mind of God and you are incessantly in the heart of God. How do you know that?

Yeah. Well, we know it because he has said it. And the Lord has continually, consistently, over and over and over again, communicated his love for us in the scriptures and in sending his son for us. I think of where it says, I've loved you with an everlasting love.

Therefore, I continue my faithfulness to you. And God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. And this is how we know what love is, that Christ laid down his life for us. And the fact that the sun came up this morning, you know, in Chicago, in Nashville, Tennessee, and all over the world, that's an expression of God's love and his tender mercy. He causes the sun to shine on all, you know, the righteous and the unrighteous, and the rain to fall for all. And he is continually, continually showing and proving his love for us.

But there's no greater proof of that than the cross of Calvary in that the Son of God came, lived the perfect life that we could never live, died as a substitute, received in full, the wrath and the punishment that we deserve, and now is raised from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God and ever lives to make intercession for us. We know God loves us because he's proven it on the cross. You know, people have asked me through the years, what is God's love language? I read the Bible again, the whole thing again. God speaks all five love languages fluently, Old Testament, New Testament.

Yes, he does. So, as you said, we know he loves us because he's revealed it to us. Now, this particular book is a devotional, so there are a hundred chapters, a hundred days. So, tell us how you structured the book and how you envision people using it.

Yes. So, the way it's structured is each entry has a verse and then it's followed by a meditation on God's heart for us. And then that's followed by some questions for reflection and then a prayer that you can make your own. And so, you could spend two and a half, three minutes in it, or you could spend 20 minutes or two hours. In one particular one, there's verses you can look up and all of that.

But I envision people would use it in three ways. One is their own personal devotions. So, really drawing near to the flame of God's love so that your soul is lit on fire by his tender affection. And you do that in your own personal communion with God alongside your Bible. Just like I've said, I've done with morning and evening for years. And the second way is family devotions.

That's hard for people at times to know, how do I lead my family spiritually? And we found years ago that we sit down together. I've got four kids. And so, the six of us would sit down together for dinners regularly, most nights. And I found, well, we're all here.

We have a captive audience. And so, we would ask questions, what are your highs and lows of the day and all of that? And let everybody share. And then at some point, just at the end of it, as we're done, I would pull out a resource. And I'd say, hey, we're going to go through this and have somebody read the verse, somebody read the meditation.

Somebody asked the question, and somebody asked the question. And it might be seven minutes, or it could be 20 minutes, or sometimes it lingers longer. But in family devotions where you're already together, I really wrote the book thinking about that too, where that could serve people. And the third way is really small group enrichment and encouragement. I like having something when I'm leading a small group to just center us all within three minutes. And so, people could use it in those three ways.

Yeah. When you, with your family, had those devotionals at dinner, did you have the devotional before you ate or after you ate? That's a great question. Actually, just like anything, you always try stuff and figure out what works and figure out what doesn't work. What we landed on, that has worked really well for us, is that we all eat the dinner together. And then I pull it out once it's clear, everybody's kind of done. I will pull out a book or a resource. And what I found, I've got older kids now. So, I mean, now the age we're in, I have a 21-year-old daughter who's about to graduate from college.

I've got an 18-year-old son who's about to graduate from high school and go to college. And then I've got a 16-year-old who's just now driving, and I've got a 13-year-old, she's about to turn 13 in just a little bit. And so, what we have found now is I can hand the resource to somebody and say, hey, why don't you, Penelope, why don't you read the verse for us? And then Charlotte, would you read these paragraphs right here? And then Joshua, would you read the questions?

And Charis, can you ask some questions? And in doing that, we get everybody involved and just let it be. I'm trying to normalize spiritual leadership in the home so it doesn't feel weird.

It just is normal. It's kind of, hey, we're gonna talk about the Lord. And that's been really effective for us. I'm grateful for that. Yeah. And my children say that one of the most meaningful memories they have growing up was those devotional times each night with the whole family together participating, as you say, at their age level. I just didn't want you sitting there reading the Bible and the food's getting cold, okay?

Yeah, you gotta eat. That's right. Well, let's talk about the power of a devotional life. Now, you're not saying that God loves you more if you read the Bible more, right? Right.

Oh, yes, right. God's love for us is an everlasting life. It's before we did anything good or bad. It's a steadfast love. It doesn't fluctuate. It doesn't change.

It's not like the weather, cold one day and warm the next. And it's an eternal love. You can't earn it, but you also can't lose it either. It's a beautiful thing that His love is fixed. I'm so grateful for that. Now, I will say His love, that doesn't fluctuate.

That doesn't change. Our feeling of His love, our grasp of it, our sense of it, that can fluctuate. Just like if there's a fire blazing in one room and you're outside and you're not near it, you're not going to feel that warmth. But if you come inside, you shut the door, you grab your blanket and you get near the fire, you'll feel it. The fire was always there.

It's burning, but you've got to get near it. Absolutely, God does not love you more or less based on your performance. Thank the Lord for that, because we would all be struggling big time. But our sense of His love can fluctuate and we want to be near it. We want to sense it and feel it. Absolutely, and the more time we spend consciously with God, the more we sense His presence and His direction.

Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Craig, you alluded to this just a bit earlier, but what does your own personal devotional life look like? I read through the Bible each year. I use a one-year Bible plan and I found that years ago.

I think you can get it on oneyearbibleonline.com. I read through the Proverbs. I start in Proverbs because it's the shortest entry. It's usually like one verse and I try to pray it back and ask God for wisdom and ask Him for understanding and skill and living a life that is honoring to Him. Then I move into the Psalms and I usually read it and try to pray through that too. I follow this plan and it just really helps me that way.

I don't think, what am I supposed to be reading? I had a couple years where I didn't have any plan at all and I realized that wasn't serving me. So, I go from Proverbs to Psalms and then I go into the New Testament and then I end with the Old Testament. Sometimes, if I'm pressed for time, I just read the Proverbs and Psalms in the New Testament and then I'll read in a larger chunk of the Old Testament when I have more time if I'm traveling or whatnot. I try to just breathe in Scripture and then breathe out prayer. That's been my practice now for over 25 years. I've read through the Bible.

I think I'm on my 27th trip and it's been a blessing. Oh man, I'm so grateful. That kind of devotional reading of the Bible is really kind of more like having a conversation with God, isn't it? Because you're listening to him but you're also talking back. You're responding to him. I was faced with a major decision recently and I didn't sleep well the night before. I was really wrestling. I took some notes down and whatnot and then I came into my home office that next morning and I said, Lord, I really need to hear from you right now.

Would you please help me and speak to me? This doesn't always happen like this. It doesn't. This was a remarkable moment but I was in Exodus 36 and in the first seven verses or so, the Lord just hugged me. It was remarkable because I was trying to... I was faced with a decision about whether or not I go all in with a particular ministry role that would have been bivocational and whatnot. The Lord really spoke to me at this part where it talks about him saying they have more than enough for the work of the sanctuary and so Moses restrained people from coming and bringing more gifts. I felt like the Holy Spirit was saying they're okay.

They don't need anymore and I'm restraining you from bringing in your gifts right now because I have something else for you and something else for them. I was able to make the decision full of faith and that was just my regular reading. I was blown away. God meets us where we are. It sounds like, Craig, that was a hard process to be in because if God had just spoken to you and said, you've got to do this, then you could take that and go. But you're having to live through the process and the struggle of not knowing and having to walk by faith rather than sight, right?

Oh yeah, 100 percent. It's a walk of faith, isn't it? We wish that the Lord would just tell us everything at times to do this, don't do that. That was a moment where the Scriptures just came and grabbed a hold of me, laid a hold of me, ran after me.

Really, I felt like the Holy Spirit hugged me and said, it's okay and this is good. Don't you think part of the gold of that is being able to, with devotions, being able to slow down, being able to say, this is really important in my life. I'm going to give some time to this, even though I've got a to-do list that's longer.

I've got to do this and this and this. We're so hurried. We've got so much technology, social media and everything, but to be able to still our and quiet our heart and allow God to speak, that's a lost art in a lot of ways.

Yeah, we live in a society. There's so much noise. There's so much noise. Most people, I think, are living with their cell phones next to their head as they go to bed at night. The first thing is you pick your cell phone up and then you open it up and you've got notifications and you've got noise. If you're immediately met with all of that, it's very challenging to quiet your heart and to come into a place of communion with the Lord and rest.

I agree with you completely. We just need probably more than ever to become skilled at quiet and communion with the Lord and just resting in His presence and going to the scriptures and breathing that in. Craig, this is a huge question, but what encouragement would you give to a young believer or someone who's looking to grow in their relationship with the Lord?

Oh yeah, I would say God wants to have a vibrant relationship with you and He wants you to sense and know and feel His love. Whatever you're going through, my encouragement would be to tell it to the Lord. That was one of the biggest pieces of counsel that I got in my Christian walk or in my pastoral ministry was those five words. We were faced with a moment of challenge and whatnot.

I was going to an older believer asking for his counsel and he said, here's my encouragement, tell it to the Lord. Like you would your best friend. Just think about somebody who you've been really close with and what marked that relationship. I would say one of those things was communication.

You talked a lot, you shared a lot. I would encourage a younger believer to hear from the Lord through the scriptures. Go to God and study the scriptures and meditate on them and then just go tell Him everything. Whether you're in your car, driving, some people are going to think you're crazy, but everybody has AirPods these days and people talk on the phone.

People walk and they're usually talking to somebody, at least in my neighborhood, or listening to a podcast or whatnot. People don't know whether you're talking to a friend or you're talking to the Lord. Just put your AirPods in, turn some music on, and go tell it all to the Lord. That'll help. That's for sure.

That's a good starting place. Absolutely. What about the Christian who has read the Bible all their lives? They grew up in the church and they have read the Bible kind of regularly. Maybe not every day, but they read it. They just don't feel God's love and God's mercy.

Yeah. Well, I've been there, which is one of the reasons why I wrote this book. I want them to be encouraged and comforted and strengthened and to feel and sense God's love and His mercy. I think life is really hard. We err when we take the hard stuff of life and we equate it with the heart of God, as if He delights somehow in our troubles. He clearly does not, but He says, in this world, take heart. In this world, you'll have trouble, but I've overcome the world. He wants us to take all the stuff that's going on in our lives, the hard stuff, the discouraging things, the hope deferred, and even the sense of, wow, I feel numb right now. Just take it all back to Him and ask Him to, by the Holy Spirit, to show us His love and strengthen us in His grace.

I would encourage an older believer to just keep going back to the wells of life in Jesus. Talk about technology for a moment. What do you think social media has done to people's relationship with God? There are all kinds of books and articles and everything that are being written about the effect of social media in our hearts, in our minds, in our lives. Right now, it's a real deal and mental health. I think we're wise to pay attention to that. My encouragement would be that there is a world of difference between table connection and tablet connection. Table connection is face-to-face, eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul, person-to-person, image-bearers before God, connecting around a table of grace and mercy where there's acceptance not based on your achievements or your accolades or your accomplishments or your performance, but just because of who you are.

There's a difference between that and then the tablet or social media. I think we crave acceptance. I think we crave a sense of, am I loved, even though I'm known? I think that that can be like a mirage or whatnot in the desert where it just looks like there's water right there.

You rush to it and then you just have sand in your hands. I think we've got to really look at the effect that social media has on our souls and understand that that's not real connection in the way that it is when you're one-on-one or around a table of grace or in a small group or in a church. Yeah, we all need grace in this regard, don't we? Yeah, you're right. The thing is, there's always something online. There is, yep. But if we can realize, there's always something in the Bible. Yeah, that's good.

So good. You talked a little bit about this earlier and maybe you wouldn't have anything else to say about it, but how you utilized books like this, the one you've written here, devotional books, in your family setting. You mentioned how you allow each family member to read parts of the devotional and that sort of thing. I can see that as being a really, really positive use of a book like this.

I hope so. Yeah, we actually went through Nancy Guthrie's Dinner Table Devotions and it was really helpful for us. We did it for a season.

It was funny because it was one year, but it took us probably three years to get through it. But it's titled Dinner Table Devotions and I loved it because whether it was on my Kindle or we started, we have both copies. We've got the physical copy. We also have Kindle because when you travel and whatnot, that was a bigger book.

I wanted to be able to just have it wherever we were. It gets everybody in the family involved. It gets your focus up on the Lord and there's questions that are already provided for you.

I don't know about everybody else, but when I'm done with my day and it's six o'clock, six o'clock at night or seven or whatnot, I'm tired. If somebody's already prepared it for me, it's really helpful just to throw a question around, bat it around. That's what we did in Overflowing Mercies.

That's what I did. I think that's a part of a healthy Christian family. I really do. You also mentioned small groups. Talk a moment about the value of being in a small group study of the Bible.

Yeah. We are more connected as a culture than ever because of what we talked about with social media, but it's the loneliest culture ever. That's because there's just a world of difference between being connected on your phone or Facebook or Instagram or Twitter or TikTok or whatnot. That's very different than being connected with somebody who knows the real you, who loves you and who accepts you.

I'm reading a book now and it's all about achievement culture, but it's talking about how friends really help your mental health and for people to be able to have a consistent rhythm where you just know, yeah, every Monday night we're doing this or every other Wednesday night it's this. Sometimes you have to make yourself go because you're like, I just want to sit in my PJs and watch Jeopardy. But you make yourself go. I've never walked away from a small group that I have pushed myself towards going to where I thought, I really regret that use of time. I'm always appreciative, grateful for it, and it's a safeguard that feeds and nourishes our souls in ways that don't happen in other ways.

Yeah. I've always found that I personally grow far more in my relationship with God when I'm in a small group like that. There's something about sharing ideas and hearing other people's ideas and where they are in their journey and all. I think the Christian life was meant to be lived in community, not in isolation.

Oh, I agree. Now, in each of the devotions in this book, Overcoming Mercies, there is a section to reflect on what the person just read. One of those, I'm going to quote, where do you see marks of God's grace, mercy, goodness and love in your life right now? So I want to ask you that question.

Where do you see the marks of God's grace and mercy and goodness and love in your life right now? I love it. I feel like I'm part of your family. I wrote that question and you turned it on me. I appreciate that.

I love it. I see God's grace and kindness and mercy to me when He's opening up the scriptures to me in ways that I'm in a season where I'm stretched right now and I really need that encouragement and that comfort. That's happening on a consistent basis. I know I mentioned that Exodus 36, that wasn't but a few weeks ago. So that was a pivotal mark for me. But even this morning, as I was reading in the scriptures, I'm pulling it up right now. What struck me, I was in Psalm 94 and it says, If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, My foot slips, your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. And when the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. I read those three verses and I just had a moment with God where I thought about moments where I would have slipped if He hadn't held me up and how I would have lived in the land of silence.

But His steadfast love surrounded me. And then I thought, What are the cares I'm carrying right now and how His consolations cheer my soul? And I was just able to really commune with the Lord on that. So I am sensing grace there. And then also on Sunday mornings, I'm serving in a church right now as the interim pastor for preaching and teaching at Twelve Church in Winchester, Tennessee. And people are coming to faith in Christ.

And it's just amazing to watch. And we've just baptized four individuals, which was just incredible. And in the stories of people saying the Lord's really meeting me, it's been a blessing. So all of that is grace. All of that is mercy.

All that's goodness and love from above. Talk to the pastor who preaches about mercy and grace, but he really feels burned out, just kind of depleted of energy and is really going through a valley. And you've been a pastor, you're now an interim pastor, among other things that you're doing. What would you say to that pastor? Oh, I'd give him a hug. That's the first thing I would do.

I'd say, brother, you are loved and I have been right there. I've been right there. I know what that's like. I've served in some form of pastoral ministry for 20 plus years. About half that time was vocationally in a larger church in East Tennessee. And then the remainder of the time has been bivocationally as I helped plant a church and then now serving with 12 church. And I know what it feels like to feel depleted. And I've experienced about three major moments of burnout.

And one was early on, my early 20s. And what I would say is pray for good friends and pursue good friends and find your people who you can be open and honest with. And there's this group called Refuge that I went to last year and I'm going again this year. And that has been a huge means of grace in my life because I'm on text chains now where guys are just encouraging one another and they'll ask you how you're doing and they really want to know. And then there's been coffee meetings outside of that.

There's been birthday celebrations that have happened from that. The Bible talks about rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. And that obviously is a command for us to do. But also it stands to reason that we need to have those who are able to rejoice with us in seasons of abundance and grace and prosperity in your soul and whatnot. But then also weep with us as well. So I would say keep going back to the Lord in that well of mercy and grace and then find good friends that can walk with you through the valley and in the valley.

And you'll get on the other side. Yeah, that's great advice. I think there are a number of pastors who really don't have a close personal friend with whom they can be honest and open. And they're afraid to share with people in the church because they don't want them to be discouraged.

But I think if pastors can reach out to other pastors, I mean even two pastors who are going through difficult times, sharing it with each other is going to help both of them. It does. You feel less alone, don't you? Definitely feel less alone and you feel bolstered and known.

And find that safe place. Yeah, that's good. Now there's one devotional in your book that's titled, Nevertheless. And you say there's an ocean of tender mercy in that word, nevertheless.

Unpack that for us. Well, I love that word. I love that word because it's right in Psalm 73, Psalm 73, 23. It says, Nevertheless, I'm continually with you.

You hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel. And afterward you will receive me to glory. And it's a Psalm of Asaph. And he's explaining in the Psalm that he was embittered in soul. He was envying the prosperity of the wicked. He was doubting God's goodness, his sovereignty, his wisdom.

He was being wise in his own eyes. And he was acting with arrogance toward the Lord and complaining in the bitterness of his soul. And he was doubting God's care and his compassion and his control. And God, in his mercy, opens Asaph's heart in his mind as he sought the Lord in the sanctuary. And God enabled him to see his circumstances from an eternal perspective.

And then that's when everything changed for Asaph. And he was convicted of his attitude of unbelief and all of that and convinced of God's grace. And that's where that verse comes because it says, When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in my heart, I was brutish and ignorant. I was like a beast toward you. Nevertheless, nevertheless, I'm continually with you. You hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel.

And afterward you will receive me to glory. So, nevertheless, is that God does not treat us as our sins deserve. He is not repaying us according to our transgressions. He knows our frame. He knows exactly how we're made. He knows all the yuck inside and all of that. And nevertheless, he just loves us. He loves us. And he's going to receive us into glory through faith in Jesus, his Son. So, that's one of my favorite words.

I'm glad you asked that. That is an amazing word, isn't it? Well, I want to say to a listener who's really discouraged today, go get your Bible and turn to Psalm 73 and verse 23. You read the whole Psalm, but focus on that verse because that's God's response to you as well as it was to the author of the Psalm. Well, there's another devotional entitled, God Never Waste Your Pain. Have you seen that to be true in your own life?

I have. You know, Psalm 103 says he's a redeemer. He redeems our lives from the pit and he crowns us with steadfast love and mercy. And God is a redeemer. He takes all of the brokenness and brings beauty out of it.

And I have definitely seen that time and time and time again, where he just didn't waste our pain. I alluded to a season in my early 20s where I was burned out. What happened was I graduated college in three years and went straight into pastoral ministry as the second pastor of a church that grew.

It ended up growing from around the 150 mark to 1000 mark. And I just packed out my schedule. So Monday nights I was doing worship practices because I led worship on Sunday and then Tuesday nights leading the Bible study, Wednesday nights leading a small group, Thursday nights preaching on campus at volunteers for Christ. And then Friday nights we would do some sort of social event and activity. Saturday nights I was getting ready for all my responsibilities on Sunday. And then church on Sunday.

And then I put my date night, we were doing date nights, I put it on Sunday night after a week like that. And I did that for two and a half years. And you can imagine I was just, I was burnt to a crisp. And then they let me go.

And they say, Craig, we're going to bring in somebody who's got a little more ministry experience or this and that. And I was devastated. I was like, oh Lord.

It didn't feel like a job change. It felt like a death of a dream and a calling. And I was in the depths of despair right then, but the Lord used it. And I went and I stayed in the same church and just really said, Lord, do whatever it is you want to do. And then our schedule just completely opened up and Laura and I, my wife and I stopped arguing.

We started having great conversations and the Lord just started to really mend that brokenness and everything. And then before you know it, I had staffing experience, recruiting experience. I had a career.

It was great. And then the church came back and said, hey, we really regret letting you go and feel like you really are a pastor. And would you consider coming back on staff in order to get prepared to help plant a church?

And that's what we did. And when we went to plant the church, the job I got was a staffing role with a believer who had named the company Provisions after God is our provider. And he was fully supportive of me helping plant a church while also working there. And that would have never, ever, ever happened if I hadn't gone through all of that. And yeah, so God redeems. He didn't waste our pain.

Absolutely. Craig, as we come near the end of our time, talk to the person who says, you know, I'm glad Craig, for you, that you found mercy and grace with God. But I've always felt judged by Christians. And I felt like I'm an outsider to church people.

What do you say to that person? Well, that hurts my heart. You know, that hurts my heart. That is not the heart of God. Whatever you've experienced on that end is not coming from God's heart for you. And I just would want that individual to know that Jesus was drawn to, you know, people that others would say, you know, what's he doing?

What's he doing eating and drinking, you know, over here or there? And Jesus was known as a friend of sinners. And we're all sinners, every one of us. We don't have a leg to stand on in front of a holy God outside of Christ. And so I love what Billy Graham has said, that it's God's job to judge, you know, it's the Holy Spirit's job to convict, and it's my job to love. And, you know, I would just want to hug that person and say, you are loved, you are loved, my friend, and let's sit down around the table of grace.

Let's just talk about all of it. And I know people who have church hurt, and I've experienced that. And so, but there's grace, there's grace for you.

Yep. Amen. Well, I've been reading your devotionals for the last week, and I really like them.

Overflowing mercies. That means a lot to me coming from you. Thank you. I'm going to work my way through it.

As I said, I've already gotten started. So, but thanks for being with us today. It's been an enjoyable time. It's been a realistic time talking about our relationship with God. So thanks for the time you invested in this book.

And I think it's going to help a lot of people. Oh, thank you. Thank you for the time. And just so grateful to be here. And thanks for reading it.

It means a lot. Again, our featured resource is that book, Overflowing Mercies, 100 Meditations on the Tender Heart of God. It's written by our guest today, Craig Alan Cooper. And you can find out more at the website buildingrelationships.us. Again, go to buildingrelationships.us. And next week, How You Can Heal Racial Divides One Friendship at a Time. You'll hear Dr. Chapman and Dr. Clarence Shuler speaking to college students in one week. Our thanks to Janice Backing and Steve Wick for their work today. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production of Moody Radio in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute. Thanks for listening.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-01 02:24:14 / 2024-06-01 02:42:03 / 18

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