Andy Stanley’s, “The GRACE of GOD,” was probably one of the best books I read this year. I’ve been a pastor for 20 years and thought I understood all about grace, but Andy truly showed me how amazing grace is by taking me through the entire Bible showing me God’s grace in places I least expected it.
The book was masterfully put together and organized in a clear concise way. I enjoyed the trip Andy took me on as he went through the Old Testament and into the New Testament to help me discover some aspects of grace that I would normally miss. In his acknowledgment, Andy credits Thomas Nelson with encouraging him to write the book and providing him with someone (Mark Gaither) to help organize his thoughts on the matter.
There were plenty of write me downs:
Grace is never just enough, but more than enough.
Grace plus anything is anything but grace.
Grace is not reserved for good people; grace underscores the goodness of God.
God initiated a relationship with his people before he even told them what the rules were.
The Law is an expression of God’s grace. (Chapter 4… Great Chapter!)
God’s Law reminds us of our need for grace.
The purpose of the Law was not to make us good, but to keep us free.
Grace is slow to judge and quick to deliver.
The Grace of God has no load limits.
Grace is predictably unpredictable.
Receiving grace is often easier than dispensing it.
Grace is inviting to the unrighteous and threatening to the self-righteous.
Grace is not earned; it is offered.
My favorite chapter wasn’t even listed as a chapter, but was a prologue that dealt with all the “what-abouts” of grace. What about obedience? What about disobedience? What about repeated misbehavior? What about bad habits? What about justice? What about repentance? I LOVED the way Andy tied in all these “what-abouts” to the story of the Prodigal Son! The book would be worth the price just for those 6 pages of insight I learned from that story. It made me read through the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) and count the number of “what-abouts” implied in the story.
I would give Andy’s book a SOLID 5 stars and would recommend it for both the new as well as the seasoned believer.
**I received, “The Grace of God,” free of charge in exchange for a non-biased review.
There are so many misconceptions about what forgiveness is and what forgiveness is not that I thought I would lay it out in this month’s newsletter. A couple of weeks ago in the Adult Sunday School class we had an in depth discussion about forgiveness. We looked at specific Scriptures and then we watched a short 10-minute video clip from Mark Driscoll who is the pastor of Mars Hills Church in Seattle, Washington. (You can view the clip at http://bit.ly/o25BJp)
Mark offered some very insightful teaching about what forgiveness is and several people in the Sunday School class asked me to summarize and republish his teaching.
1. Forgiveness is not approving or diminishing sin. It’s not saying, “It’s OK, nobody’s perfect… everybody makes mistakes… its no big deal.” The fact of the matter is that it IS a big deal! It’s SO BIG that God died for it! So don’t dishonor the cross of Jesus and approve or diminish something that required the death of Christ.
2. Forgiveness is not enabling sin. You see this sometimes with wives who misunderstand submission. For example, the Bible teaches that the husband is the head of the house and that he is suppose to lead which isn’t a problem if he leads by lovingly following Jesus, but what if he’s not following Jesus? The wife shouldn’t follow him because her ultimate allegiance is to Jesus. The truth is that you can forgive someone without enabling their sin and participating in it. You can have a family or friend that is an addict… you can forgive them without enabling them. Forgiveness is not enabling. Forgiveness can even include confronting and rebuking.
3. Forgiveness is not denying a wrongdoing.
“It didn’t happen… I forgot all about it… I just moved on… I didn’t let it affect me.” That’s not true. Forgiveness is not the denial of a wrongdoing. It’s not denying that you were sinned against.
4. Forgiveness is not waiting for an apology. A lot of people won’t forgive till the other person apologizes. “I will forgive them as soon as they say they are sorry.” The fact of the matter is that some people are never going to apologize. Some people will continue in their rebellious and foolish life course. Some people will be stubborn and self-righteous and they will never confess or admit. Some people will move away and you’ll never speak with them again. Some people may even die before they ever articulate repentance. So you what do you do? You forgive them before they apologize.
5. Forgiveness is not forgetting. This is one of the great Christian myths. “Were suppose to forgive and forget.” NO YOU DON’T! You can’t forgive and forget! You can’t! If you were raped, molested, abandoned, beaten, abused, cheated on, betrayed, lied about… forget it? You can’t forget it. It’s impossible. Some will appeal to Scriptural passages such as Jeremiah 31:34 that says, “God will remember their sin no more,” and they’ll say, “SEE, God doesn’t remember our sin.” But God DOES remember our sin. He’s omniscient. He’s all knowing. He forgets nothing. He knows everything. So what does it mean when it says, “God will remember their sin no more?” It means that God chooses not to interact with us based upon what we’ve done, but to instead interact with us based on what Christ has done. It means that He chooses to see us as new creations and He chooses to work for a new future. It means that at the forefront of God’s thinking is not all of the sin that we’ve committed, but all the work that Jesus has done. Forgiveness is not a matter of forgetting, but it is a matter of releasing.
6. Forgiveness is not ceasing to feel the pain.
Just because your hurt doesn’t mean that you’ve failed to forgive. It still hurts! Some of you have had horrible things done to you. Horrible things! It would be so cruel for me to say, “Well, if you’ve forgiven them then you shouldn’t hurt anymore.” That simply is not true. Sure it hurts. We don’t hear in the Bible that all the tears are wiped from our eyes until the resurrection of the dead and the final unveiling of the kingdom. It means people are crying all the way to Jesus. It still hurts. It’s OK for it to bother you.
7. Forgiveness is not a one-time event.
Forgiveness is both a one-time event and a process because sometimes they keep sinning so you need to keep forgiving or sometimes you forgive them but there are emotional moments where it feels fresh. For example, a husband commits adultery. The wife can forgive him and the husband can earnestly repent and seek Biblical counseling and they can work things out. But there still could be times that the husband might innocently be talking to another woman at church and just the mere sight of him talking to another woman might trigger her to feel all of that betrayal again. She needs to forgive him again for what he did in the past. Sometimes forgiveness is something that is regularly required.
8. Forgiveness is not neglecting justice.
You can forgive a person and call the police and have them arrested. You can forgive someone and testify against them in court. “Well I thought you forgave me?” “I did, but you’ve committed a crime… you’ve broken the law and so these are the consequences.” You can forgive and pursue justice.
9. Forgiveness is not trusting. “My dad molested me and he’s sorry… so should I let him babysit my kids?” Answer: NO WAY! “My husband hit me, but he said he’s sorry… should we just pick up where we left off and keep going?” Answer: NO WAY! Trust is built slowly and it’s lost quickly. If someone sins against you grievously then trust has to be rebuilt slowly over time. Some people can be trusted with time. Other people should never be trusted because the risk is simply too high. This is particularly true with children.
10.Forgiveness is not reconciliation.
It’s not that you become friends again and hang out together. It takes one person to repent and it takes one person to forgive; and it takes two people to reconcile. In Romans 12 Paul writes, “In as much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Here’s what he’s saying… do your best, but you can’t be at peace with everyone.
So what IS forgiveness? A definition for forgiveness could be — giving up my right to hurt you, for hurting me. Gary Smalley writes, “The original definition of forgiveness actually means that you untie or release someone.” As long as you remain bitter and unforgiving, you’re tied to that person with emotional knots. So being untied involves a conscious and deliberate release of the offender through an act of forgiveness… and important though difficult part of releasing someone is giving up the expectation that the person will eventually see the error of his or her ways and take the initiative to make things right with you.”
The bottom line is that we need to forgive. Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. After being forgiven such a great debt, how can we not also forgive?
Andy Stanley’s, “How Good is Good Enough?” is a short book that addresses the common misconceptions people have about what it takes to make it into Heaven. The mistaken logic flows like this: “There is a good God who lives in a good place reserved for good people. This God goes by many names and is behind all major religions… therefore, all religions provide a legitimate path to God.” It’s a tragedy that so many people bank their entire eternal future on what really doesn’t make sense.
The book does a great job describing the conscience as something that condemns you and reminds you that you are not perfect. Yet the conscience doesn’t assure you when you’re doing well. That’s where RELIGION takes over. All religions of this world share one common denominator: How you live your life on this side of the grave determines what happens next. The problem is that all these religions disagree as to what you need to do. Continue reading →
“TrueFaced,” is all about discovering how to live under God’s grace. The book was written as an allegory. (i.e. The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Chronicles of Narnia)
The Book sucked me in right from the start by talking about two possible paths for the Christian to take in life: PLEASING GOD or TRUSTING GOD. At first glace, I saw the PLEASING GOD path as the best. It sounded a lot more “spiritual,” but it actually ends up being the least graceful. It leads to a room called, “GOOD INTENTIONS,” that is opened by the doorknob of EFFORT and is full of people who put on a facade because they feel no one (Including God) would accept them as they really are. I quickly realized that many times I have mistakenly taken this route in life and was miserable as a result.
The path of TRUSTING GOD is just the opposite and leads to a room called “THE ROOM OF GRACE.” The doorknob of HUMILITY opens this room and it is characterized by people who want to grow and trust God and others with who they really are. This involves faith. The Bible says that without faith it’s impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6) Continue reading →
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The last three weeks, I have been OVERWHELMED with the hymn AMAZING GRACE. That happens as you study the Book of Romans. We have sung it in church the last three weeks in many different ways. I never get tired with that hymn because I can readily identify with it. I have been a WRETCH, but by God’s GRACE I have been SET FREE.
Watch and Listen to a different take on the most FAMOUS hymn of all time!
— From a Methodist minister —
Give Thanks in ALL Circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
What a Great Day This Is! This morning, as I was driving to work, I heard that the market had gone down another 500 points. It has now dropped from a high of over 14,000 to 9,000. This is not good news. It has messed with my retirement plan and made my net worth go from pride to hide. It has turned easy street into a mean street. The bottom line is that I do not have nearly as much money or assets as I had just a short while ago. Let me share with you what I also discovered this morning:
I was breathing and, in general, feeling pretty healthy.
My wife gave me a kiss and told me she loved me.
I was driving to WORK! I have a job.
All of my children have jobs and are safe and well.
My two grandchildren still light up my life and give wonderful hugs and sugars.
I am a citizen of the greatest nation on the face of the earth and I will get to vote soon on how to make it better.
A good friend called and wants to go out to dinner and a show. (I have a friend.)
I am still a United Methodist minister.
My home is safe, warm, secure and nearly paid for.
I got an e-mail that told me my new book was changing their church for the better (someone is reading it).
I ate breakfast and lunch and will have dinner later. (Many won’t get three meals today.)
I am actually sitting down in a building I own, at a desk I bought, typing on a $2,000 machine I can barely use.
I have a big huge bottle of wonderful fresh clean water right down the hall or I could choose to drink right from the tap all I can hold.
I am wearing clean clothes today, and tomorrow I will wear something different. In fact, I could wear something different every day this month if I wanted to.
I HAVE A SAVIOR WHO WILL NEVER LEAVE ME.
It is a shame that it took losing so much money for me to realize how rich I really am! This week may be one of the best weeks of my life.