I have several good friends who are all in the same life situation as myself. We’re all 30-ish guys who are trying to be better husbands and fathers. We also happen to be in a morning Bible study together. I recently came upon a great resource that our group has quickly adopted.
“For Men Only” is a book by Jeff and Shaunti Feldhahn. Just going through the first chapter together has already begun to open our eyes to better understanding our wives. This book has a lot of research behind it, was created by a couple, but written by the husband, for men. It does a great job of talking to guys in language we understand, and helping us try to understand the deep mystery that is the female mind.
I recently came across four copies of “For Women Only” which is the complementary book, for women to better understand their husbands. We each gave a copy to our wives this week. Last night, as I was reviewing for this morning’s get together, my wife began to read her book about me. We soon had a conversation going about what we were learning about the other person, and that led to more discussion about ongoing things we’ve often struggled with about the other person. I wouldn’t say it was all “Aha” and everything is solved now stuff - but it was insightful, and I think talking about it together is one of the most helpful things we can do.
So, even though I’m not finished with my book, and my wife isn’t finished with hers, I am going to go ahead and recommend this book to all couples as a great resource to better understand the opposite sex, and help bring peace and understanding to your marriage.
We’ve been at our current church for over a year now, and it’s been a blessing to my family in many ways. One of the ways was very evident to me yesterday, though it’s not the first time I’ve noticed it.
My wife and I attend a class each Sunday with other couples our age, in similar life positions (younger kids, etc.). One thing this class has done a lot of is discuss current events as they happen. Of course, this week we discussed the Boston Marathon bombings.
Long story short, it’s just really good to have a group of people you trust that you can talk things out with. We don’t agree on everything, but the debate is always friendly and open-minded. I greatly appreciate having this resource to help me process through the difficult situations that arise in life.
I’m thankful that I actually have several groups like this. Trying to figure everything out by yourself is difficult and frustrating. Sharing thoughts and opinions and Biblical discussion is very helpful in understanding the world around us. If you don’t have a group like this, try to find one.
I’m constantly amazed at how the seasons change, and how different they are. It’s wondrous really. Winter is cold and white and dead, spring is green and refreshing, summer is bright and warm, fall is windy and cooling.
I’ve written before about how the seasons simulate our spiritual life path, but I was struck by something new today. It has JUST become spring here, and it was late getting here, so we were really anticipating it this year. And the thing I thought about today was how quickly I’d be ready for summer, and then how quickly after that I’ll be ready for fall, and on and on.
Each season relieves us from the previous one at just the right time. When we can’t take any more cold and snow, spring finally arrives and colors our world with blossoms and greenery, warming us up after having cabin fever for three months. When we’re tired of it being warm, but rainy and not quite warm enough to swim and do other activities we love, summer finally arrives. The days are long and warm and we can spend as much time as we want outside, playing. When we’re tired of it being so dang hot and humid, fall eases in, cooling things off and giving us a long-awaited change of scenery. The colors of the dying leaves astound us. And once there are no more leaves to view, everything is blanketed in white and we are surrounded by quiet, sterile beauty. And so it goes.
I believe that much of what God created in this world was created to teach us about ourselves, and about Him, and about this life. And when I was thinking about the seasons today, and realized that each season is nice, but if it stays too long, we begin to dislike it, and we yearn for the next season to come. In much the same way, this life is nice, but we sometimes tire of it. We tire of the sickness, the evil, the dying, the pain. But this life and all those things pushes us to anticipate the next season - the life after we die. It’s going to be so much better, and will sweep us away from this one and ravish us with newness and bigger beauty.
From the changing of the seasons we learn that there is always something we yearn for that’s coming next. When it comes to this life, it’s the eternity we’ll spend with God. Weeks like this are a reminder that this isn’t how it’s going to stay forever. This season will eventually pass.
This weekend our church class explored this question: why don’t 18-30 year olds want to go to church? Our discussion was based around an article written on the concept of “tinkering” in which young folks will attend a Catholic Mass one week, a Jewish Synagogue service the next, and a Protestant worship service the next - and continue doing so. They skip around pulling in all that they like to form their own religious experience, showing allegiance to none.
But the conversation segued from tinkering into the fact that most 18-30 year olds just don’t want to go to church, even if they are without question a Christian. We talked about some of the differences of this generation - that they thrive on instant gratification and mobility, that tolerance is being legalized in our nation, open-mindedness is highly valued, that they are (as all generations are) skeptical of what the generation above them thinks is a good way of doing things, etc. People tried to figure out just what a church would have to do to “get 18-30 year olds to attend.”
One reason they are less “reachable” is that they have less things that tie them to a church experience. When we are kids (under 18) we go to church because our parents do and tell us we have to. Then we graduate and go off on our own and sow wild roots through our 20s. Then when we’re back in our 30s and start having kids, we once again return so that our kids are in church, and it’s at that point that we establish it as a vital part of our religious experience as adults, and we continue that trend on through the rest of our lives. So there’s this 12-year hole where we don’t have kids, and have nothing tying us to church, so that’s logically the age group currently missing from most churches.
Another thing we discussed is how many kids who grow up in church simply are Christian because their parents told them they were. I mean, ask ten 18-year olds why they believe Jesus was resurrected and I bet only one of them has any clue. They get out of the house, not knowing WHY they believe what they believe, they have a philosophy class in college, start traveling the world, and realize there’s a lot to consider. They are confronted with options for the first time and they don’t know why they should choose one over the other.
The problem of how to get them involved in church is a paradoxical one - to understand 18-30 year olds, you need 18-30 year olds, but you have no 18-30 year olds to tell you what they need, so you can’t understand them enough to reach them. So HOW do we go about getting some 18-30 year olds so we can start a different cycle where they bring more of their own in and the church can finally understand what it needs to do?
That was the first place my brain went - that we just need to somehow get some in the door, and then the flow would start. But the church has been trying this for so long and we’re tired of banging our heads against the wall. Here’s what I think can help us stop having a headache - stop trying to bring them in. Before you reach for the comments button to let me have it, let me explain.
The things we know 18-30 year olds want are the same things everyone wants: authentic community, real faith, but in a way that meets them where they are. So we need to stop trying to “bring them in” because that’s not meeting them where they are. And let’s face it - getting them “in” “our” church is mostly about us, right? Attendance and all that? What if we started “going” to “them”? What if we made connections with people in that generation and trained them how to CREATE church? They would certainly do it the way 18-30 year olds would desire it. If the point is not our weekly attendance, but the hearts of a missing generation, shouldn’t we help them with what they need rather than try to get them to conform to our way?
I know this is a somewhat “gray area” thought. In fact when I said this in class, several people smiled and said “OK, let us know when you’ve done it!” I get it - easier to say than do. But there is a legitimate hole, and maybe we just need to look at it differently for it to get filled in.
It’s also upon my generation (those with little kids just starting to grow up) to ensure that our children have more than a surface Christianity. We need to help them choose to be a Christian rather than just telling them they are. We need to help them know what is important about church, not that it’s a place we have to go every week or else. And we need to help them understand why Christianity is true.
One of the guys said that this current 18-30 year old generation is different; for the first time noticeably different from the previous generation. Will my children be even more different from me by the time they’re that age? Or will they be like this current generation? We need to see that how we interact with our kids around Christianity is hugely important for the future - not only for them personally, but for the Church, and for society at large.
I did have one other idea… Taco trucks and other food trucks seem to be popular with this generation, right? How about a Church Truck? :)
I have many regrets from the past. Too many to count. Some big enough that when my mind dwells on them too long, I grow very sorrowful. I feel compelled to ask for divine forgiveness yet again, though I believe He’s already done it.
I started reading My Utmost for His Highest again today, by Oswald Chambers. I’ve come and gone from this great resource over the years, and it struck me this morning as I was preparing to leave that I should take it with me and get back into it again.
Here are the highlights from today’s message:
Sometimes we just have to accept that the past happened, and we can’t change it. And along with that, that the choices we’ve made are indeed sad and permanent.
There is something I chose to do in the interactions I had with my wife early in our marriage that is horribly regrettable today - and I essentially closed a door on something that could have been great. And there’s no opening that door now. It is something that could have been, but never will be now - and I am saddened by this realization regularly, as is she. We finally talked about it recently and are trying to allow for growth in this area, but only time will tell. I am optimistic, but it won’t be what it was meant to be - it will be something different.
This is the way it goes sometimes - we humans are foolish, and stubborn. We have other “gods” in our lives that we worship for a time and they lead us down a dark path - shutting doors behind us as we go. We can be brought back, but we will have to find an alternate route many times. Life is that way - we have free will, and that’s a double-edged sword.
Mind where you swing your sword of free will, because it often leads to days in the future lamenting what might have been. But God can restore and redeem anything. Nothing you do is ever futile, or final - there is always hope.
I’ve talked about tension in many different ways over the last couple years - it’s a very important theological principle to me. I grew up learning a Christianity where there was supposed to be no tension - everything had to be absolute, everything had to be exclusive to all else. I am learning through my own Biblical studies that this is not how life was designed. At it’s core, there is tension: good and evil, dark and light, male and female, life and death. We must never pursue only one half and be consistently off-balance, but must learn to embrace a tension between two.
When it comes to our past, there is regret, and there is hope. We need not worry ourselves to death with regret and sorrow - though we legitimately feel it. Neither can we be all peachy keen with hope - though it is legitimately available and is there to pull us into new growth.
Let your memory have its way with you.
Several years ago I read David Platt’s book, Radical. At that time, as I gained some exposure to him and his world, I heard about something they do called Secret Church. The premise is to get American Christians to take the Word as seriously as do those who gather to study the Bible all across the world in hiding, risking their lives for Christianity.
It was an intriguing idea. I believe they only hold one or two of these events per year, and Platt basically preaches the Word for 6 hours straight (with a couple of breaks). A friend of mine told me recently that he had signed up to stream this event if I wanted to come. So I went this past Friday night. It was from roughly 7:30pm-1:30am, and it was really good.
Platt chose as his subject “Heaven, Hell, and the End of the World.” I was immediately not sure whether I wanted to go just based on that, as I feel the entire subject matter of Revelation is one of the most highly contended, and over-emphasized part of our theology. I told myself the second he declared a date for the world to end, or the name of the anti-christ, I was out. But it wasn’t like that at all. It was a thorough examination of Jesus, the Resurrection, what happens after you die, what it’s like in Heaven, and Hell, and how it will all end. It was all taught from a very heavy Scriptural point of view, which was pretty refreshing.
The study guide itself was 190 pages long, and I didn’t think there was any way he’d make it through, but he did. Along the way we also learned of the Hui people in China who is a group of Muslims that need a lot of prayer and outreach. The event was attended live or via streaming by over 60,000 people across the country/world. Here are some of the reasons I liked the format of Secret Church and what we talked about:
It wasn’t all perfectly aligned with myself though. And really, it shouldn’t be. If I sat there for 6 hours and he never said anything that disagreed with or challenged me, I’d probably be more disturbed than just seeing that we don’t agree on everything. Here are a few things I disagreed with, or wasn’t a huge fan of in the program itself:
In general, I thought it was a great experience. Good topics, good Scriptural study, and good company. Thanks to Josh for paying for it and setting it all up!
If you (like me) haven’t studied Revelation recently, and you forget the exact interworkings of tribulation and millenialism, here’s your Cliff Notes version of how it ends: GOD WINS.
In the end, a new, wonderful earth will replace this broken earth. In the end, all of our bodies will be resurrected to perfect health, and reunited with our spirits. In the end, we will live with God in the most beautiful, neverending place you could imagine. In the end, those who follow Christ also win.
From this time until then, may God add many, many more to that number.
One thing I’ve struggled to grasp for a long time is what I would call the “fullness” of my relationship with God - really, man’s relationship with God. I mean it in the larger sense, not just in the personal relationship sense. I’ve thought a lot and read a lot about man’s relationship to God and vice versa, and how that shapes our faith.
I am continually surprised at just how much more there is to our relationship with Him than I think we all often assume. For instance, a belief I used to have which I no longer have is that when things are going well in my life, it is because I am being a good Christian, and when things aren’t going well, it’s because I’m being a bad Christian. In some ways I still believe that to the extent that a lot of the things we call “good” in Christianity have positive side effects. For example, if you read the Bible and pray every day, you will feel better spiritually emotionally, and will have a better perspective for whatever comes your way. If you do drugs, sleep around, and neglect God, it’s reasonable to expect things in your life to be a relative mess. Blessings and consequences are woven into the fabric of this life.
But, I think bad things and good things happen sort of agnostic to our religious habits. You can read the Bible and pray every day and still lose your job. Conversely, you can be rather neglectful to being in Christian community and be far from God and still get a raise. So, I don’t believe that God is keeping a tally, and when He tells us to sit, and we sit, we get a treat. I don’t believe when He tells us to sit, and we don’t sit, we get swatted on the nose with the newspaper. Life happens, and in life there are good times and there are bad times. Those with strong faith weather those changes better than those with weak faith. See Matthew 7.
Also, reference The Story of the White Horse.
I’ve heard people say “God was really watching over us during that” (referencing that it went well because He was making it go well). When I think of what the converse to that statement would be, “God wasn’t watching over us during that” (which would indicate things didn’t go well) - it causes a theological problem for me. I don’t believe God is EVER not watching over us. I think we think too narrowly about exactly what that means when we say it. I think we mean He stepped in for a minute, made something happen, then stepped back out and we’re sort of in the fray again.
It’s so much bigger than that. God is simultaneously orchestrating all life on this earth, for 7+ billion people, of which millions are being born and dying every day, so the population is in constant flux. I think in His perfection He set in motion a bazillion factors that all come together just so and what we see is simply life.
One place I know I and others around me have struggled specifically is whether God causes the bad things to happen. “Causes” is probably not the right word. “Has sovereignty over” is probably a better way of saying it. “Is not surprised or deterred by” them is another way. “Can redeem even the worst of” bad events is yet another.
Life ebbs and flows, back and forth between good and bad. All life comes from God, and He’s with us through it ALL. May we recognize His presence more and more in both the good and bad times, and through giving thanks find redemption of this broken life in all circumstances.
God’s relationship to man is bigger than what we imagine. It’s better.
I recently flew to Colorado and back on business, and had a lot of time on the plane to read. The book I brought with me was Kurt Vonnegut’s “Palm Sunday.” He’s one of those guys that most people either hate or love. I happen to love reading his work. Just to say I did it, I read that book entirely in the air (only while flying).
There were many things that struck particular interest with me as I read, but one that was from one of his many literary acquaintances, Conrad Aiken. Here is the quote I saved:
And Conrad Aiken the poet, the one time I met him, told me that a child will compete with its father in an area where the father is weak, in an area where the father mistakenly believes himself to be quite accomplished.
Interestingly, from the time I first read this till just now as I wrote it out, I had in my mind that a “son” will compete with his father - but it says a “child.” I guess Aiken saw this as a son OR daughter thing that would occur.
This struck a note with me because of the relationship I have with my father these days. As a fully-adult male now, there are many things I enjoy doing that I would like to share with my father. But I often receive little to no interest from him in participating. I’ve struggled with why that might be for a long time. It was my wife who first suggested that the things I invite him to do are things I excel at above his ability - which might cause him to not want to engage.
That still never really made sense to me - from his perspective. I would think that if I was a father and my son was good at say, basketball, and he wanted to play with me (as adults), I would play with him. So, because he won’t do what I would do, he is at fault.
But, what I see now from Aiken is that there is perhaps another angle at work. A child will purposefully go after a father’s weak point and do it better - for whatever psychological reason. If that tendency exists, then perhaps I am the one at fault, for continuously asking my father to participate in things with me I (consciously or unconsciously) perceive as a weakness, which makes it almost like an attack, rather than an invitation.
If you find yourself now racing to get to the end of this so that you can defend one of the positions I’ve taken up and tell me I’m probably wrong, a) that is fine, but b) I am purposely exaggerating these points to make another point. So bear with me. :)
My point is, as young adults, congratulations to us on finding ourselves in the peak of life! We are accomplished at numerous things now - and we should enjoy that. We should also just use caution when interacting with our parents, and with older friends/mentors, to be sensitive to this weakness in our relationship with them. We may sometimes challenge them on ideas, share our talent, or invite them along on something we’re really good at - and it can potentially be seen by them as showing off, bragging, and subtly attacking something that is a weakness for them.
In the vein of respecting our elders, and honoring our fathers and mothers, we should put their needs before ours, consider their feelings with ours, and just be mindful of our interactions with them. And lest we think too highly of ourselves, we should also remember that wisdom grows with age, so they will always have us there. We should listen and respect them as their youth.
Last night I had the privilege to hear Don Miller speak in person for the first time at James Madison University, which happens to be right in town for me. He was talking generally about living a life of meaning, and here were some of his insights:
I enjoyed his talk, and enjoyed his sense of humor as well. He was asked some pretty tough, and intriguing questions after his talk was over, and I enjoyed hearing him defend his ideas.
Personally, it was also nice to see him in person. I admit to celebritizing him in the past, and I think it always helps to see someone in person to remember that they are just a guy like you. Also encouraged me to continue finding my way through the Storyline program.
My morning men’s group has been studying various elements of Easter, each person teaching on whatever they want to regarding it. This week we focused in on John 19:25-27, which says:
Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
What we discussed was the significance of Jesus, in the throws of death, literally dying in an excruciatingly painful way at this very moment, taking special care of his mother by pairing her with John. We also talked about who in our families right now needed some extra care from us? Following Jesus’ example, who did we need to give particular attention to? Interestingly enough, either moms, or mother-in-laws was on most people’s list.
And then we asked ourselves what gets in our way of passing on this legacy of care to our kids? For me, I feel like I am often my own biggest barrier. My selfishness can get in the way of me truly caring for my family in the way they need, at all times. I also felt work was a barrier because when you work 9-10 hours a day, and you get home and the kids need you to care for them, and your wife needs you to care for her, often you’re too exhausted to engage. So even though work in a way is one way we care for them, by providing financially, it also can get in the way of caring for them in the more tangible ways.
So, we ended with a sort of re-commitment to care for our families, and we have a great example to follow in Jesus who took care of his family even in His most dire hour.
This was the subject of discussion in my class at church this morning. Should we read the WHOLE Bible? Or are there certain parts that are more important than others and some parts that don’t really apply anymore.
As soon as this subject was announced, my wife and I exchanged glances and she smiled knowingly, because this is just the type of thing that gets me riled up. I absolutely believe we should read the whole Bible, and further believe there is a lot of harmful theology out there stemming from people who don’t.
One of the first times I experienced this was when one of my coworkers, a Jehovah’s Witness, gave me some of their literature. We had shared an open and honest discussion about the differences in our beliefs, so I wanted to read a little more to see where she was coming from. What I found over and over was that they took tiny parts of many verses and strung them together to create meaning. This took a bunch of different verses that did not fit together in entirety or context, hacked them up, and made them mean something different - something they wanted it to mean. Perhaps well-intentioned, this creates bad theology that can lead people astray.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I realize a lot of people do this, even people in my own church. Again, it is well-intentioned, and likely not on purpose - they read the “highlights” and “important parts,” but skip over the “boring and confusing parts.” People read a lot of these parts:
People hardly ever read these parts of the Bible:
Here’s why that can be problematic. Reading from the above section would focus on Creation, Worship, Wisdom, Jesus, and some admonitions to good living. For a lot of people, this is their whole theology: God created this world, we are to worship Him, Jesus is important, and we are supposed to live a good life.
But here’s what you miss out on (just a small segment taken from the second list): God’s system for holiness, how much of life’s blessings and struggles are tied to the way we live, the connection between the Old and New Testaments, that the Gospel is for everyone, and the way in which God will restore all things in the end, better helping us understand where we are today.
You could get through life with just the focus from the first list, but look at all you miss out on by not reading the second one. And that’s just a third of the books in the Bible! And you will probably experience a lot of disappointment and confusion by only having a small section of God’s Word under your belt. Even the parts you have read won’t make as much sense without reading the rest of the Bible. It was meant to all go together.
Something else that gets me riled up is when someone asserts a theological point, but can’t reference where it is in the Bible. I don’t do it to be a pain, but I always push someone on those types of things to actually SHOW me where it is in the Bible. Often they say something like “Well, I don’t know where it is, but it’s in there.” As someone who has read the entire Bible more than 3 times, I have a strong sense of what is and isn’t in there, so that when people make wild theological statements, I’m not prone to believe them. But people who’ve never read the whole Bible (and usually have only read a very small percentage) wouldn’t have any way to verify if what someone says is true or not.
I remember a time in my old church when someone committed suicide. As we tried to process through that difficult time, one guy asserted that people who commit suicide don’t get into heaven. People were shocked and deeply saddened to hear that. I challenged him in front of the group to show us where in the Bible it said that. His response was almost a direct quote of the one above. “I don’t know off the top of my head…” I explained that it was in fact NOT in there, and invited him to show me where it was when he found it. He never got back to me.
The point is, this life is difficult and confusing at times. The more we know of God’s Word, the more sense we can make of it. The less we know, the more confusing it can be. Also the less we are able to discern whose words and counsel to follow.
It’s incredibly important to read the whole Bible. I know it’s a big, tough task, especially getting through Leviticus. Engage with other people in your effort. Conversations help us make sense of what we don’t understand, and help us hammer out what we do. There are tons of resources out there - one of my favorites is free and online, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. And above all else, pray for understanding every time you open the Book. It’s a life-long process that will bless you over and over and over. But read the whole thing.
My men’s morning group is studying Easter for 4 weeks, and this was what we discussed this week. Why is Easter such a big deal? This is what I presented…
Every good story starts off by the character immediately finding himself in trouble, and then the rest of the story is occupied by him trying to overcome it. It starts off with stability, then the stability is destroyed in magnificent style. The protagonist struggles to regain stability, and as the conflicts build and built to a climactic life-or-death final struggle, that he overcomes, stability is then regained, but because of all that’s happened it is a new kind of stability.
The Bible is a true story, and it happens to follow this same structure. Genesis chapters 1-2 are the stability, which is immediately destroyed in grand fashion in chapter 3. Adam & Even sin, are cursed and put out of the garden. An important point on that chapter: they were put out of the Garden of Eden to keep them from eating from the Tree of Life, not because they sinned. The Tree of Life granted those who ate of its fruit eternity, and since they were sinful now, and God cannot be in relationship with sin, if they ate that fruit, they would be eternally sinful, hence eternally separated from God. And He wasn’t about to let that happen!
So they are kept away from that danger by being taken out of the Garden and away from eternity, for now. The rest of the OT is God and man’s struggle to try to regain stability. God had a system, but it was huge, and difficult, and it just further proved that re-establishing a relationship with God while sin is in the picture was almost impossible. Then comes Jeremiah 31, in which a fix is predicted - “The days are coming when I will make a new covenant with my people. I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Just to be clear, this wasn’t God giving up on the system and deciding to just not care about sin anymore - He was saying that He was going to fix things once and for all so that sin was no longer a barrier between Him and His people.
Solution? Jesus, God’s son, was sent in the form of an innocent man, to teach us and then die for us, and then be resurrected. His sacrifice paid the price of all our sins. It was highly symbolic and significant that the temple curtain was torn in half - showing that the place where God dwells will no longer be separate from where His people dwell. This is the climax to the story where stability is once again restored, even though it’s a new, different stability.
And we have it in one form here on earth, and in a different, more similar form to before, once we die and are in heaven with God. Revelation 21 and 22 talk of how wonderful heaven will be, with no sin or crying or pain. And now instead of just a tree of life, there is a river of the water of life, flowing through all of heaven. So Jesus took away the sin forever, which allows us to one day enter back into direct relationship with God, and when we get there, we will have eternity offered to us finally.
(If you want to read just 4 interesting chapters in the Bible, read Genesis 1 & 2, and Revelation 21 & 22. This really gives you the sense of the beginning and end of this true story.)
And without Jesus and the death and resurrection we celebrate during Easter, none of that would be possible. Man would be forever stuck in a problem situation with sin still in the picture. ONLY Jesus was able to reconnect us to God, and God never gave up, working the perfect plan to get us back. This is what I think of when I think of Easter. It’s the linchpin to the whole narrative of God and Man that we see in the Bible.
I drive past several churches on my way back and forth to work, and I recently passed one that had posted simply this on their sign board:
GRACE FOR THE HUMBLE
It immediately struck me as off, but it took me a while to think it through. Obviously being humble is a quality we are told to embody by Jesus (“those who humble themselves will be exalted.”) And we all definitely need grace and want it in our lives (“continue in the grace of God.”)
But as I put the phrase together again while I drove, it dawned on me that there was a word missing from the phrase, but it’s still implied. ONLY.
Grace ONLY for the humble
Thinking of the logic of the original phrase, if it was grace for everyone, it would have said grace for everyone. So it’s only grace for some, not all - in the minds of whoever wrote this statement. So, who is the grace for in their minds? The humble.
That got me thinking, am I humble? Who is humble? I am humble sometimes, but not always. Does grace come and go from me? Is this even a true-to-life statement? I mean, I’m pretty sure grace has come to me at times in my life when I WASN’T being humble.
I want to look at two things that I think shed light on the validity of this church sign proclamation. First, a definition of grace. And second, what Paul had to say about grace.
Grace defined: “unmerited divine assistance” OR “a favor rendered by someone who need not do so.” The illustration I always think of when I think of grace is the kid who gets in trouble at school. He goes to the principal’s office and his punishment is going to be 10 slaps of a ruler across the knuckles. But this kid has been in trouble a ton, so the principal says to him, “You’ve been punished plenty of times. Today you will learn about grace.” He has the student step aside and has his teacher administer the blows to himself instead. The student watches in horror as the principal’s knuckles are reddened by the blows. After it’s over the principal turns to the student with swollen hands and says “This is grace.” So grace is something good given to us when we definitely didn’t earn it, AND/OR it’s something bad that is kept from us even though we deserve it.
Based on this understanding alone, I would say that their statement it wrong. Grace for the humble? If it’s for people who are humble, is it grace? So, to get the logic right and make it really grace, you’d have to say grace for the prideful (those who aren’t humble, who are undeserving). Read Romans 5:20! Where sin increases, grace increases all the more! Furthermore, Paul says in Romans 11:6 “grace cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”
In John 1:17 it says that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” So, to all who come in contact with Jesus, there’s your access point to grace. Not humility, or some other spiritual discipline or work - just knowing Jesus.
Romans 3 tells us who grace is for:
There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Grace is available to everyone. So if I was to rewrite that church sign to better reflect my understanding of grace, it would say this:
GRACE FREELY AVAILABLE FOR ALL
To my few readers (hi mom!), my apologies for being woefully absent from this blog for a few weeks. I’ve been traveling for work a lot and it’s sapped my extracurricular energy.
However I wanted to share a quick insight I received while on my most recent trip to Colorado. It was my first time there, and we were visiting one of our offices that has about 20ish people in it. I knew maybe 3 people before I got there, so the rest were people I met for the first time. They were so welcoming and accommodating, it was almost like an extended family reunion. It was like being with people I just hadn’t seen in a long time.
We were only there 2 1/2 days, but at the end of the day on the last day, it really struck me what people said to us. We heard over and over phrases like “Come back again soon!” and “Next time, you guys can stay in my home.” “Bring your family back sometime and we’ll take you to that lake.”
The power of those words really stood out to me because what they represented was much stronger than merely what was said. They said, “come back soon.” They meant, “you are a part of us now.” “We’re in the same tribe.” “You have a second home here.” “You belong.”
I was somewhat overwhelmed with emotion as I got the strong communication that I belonged there, that I was part of that tribe now. It’s what we all desire, to belong, to be a part of a community. And words are a very clear and strong way of affirming that in another person.
The question is, do we use our words in powerful ways? Or do we withhold live-giving, healing, affirming words from the people around us?
Words are very powerful - don’t keep them to yourself. Use them a lot. Use them for good.
Page 1 of 20