Flying Blind

But flying all the same

Category: Just Thinking

I am so not an artist. I have tried so many times to draw and nothing comes of it. I wonder sometimes if the woodworking tools that I have will one day stand as rusty statues to a life that I wanted and yet was never able to enjoy for the lack of a creative artistic nature. I wrote poetry years ago. So many long years ago. I write this now.

 

I thought for the longest time that I was thinker and out of touch with emotions. Over the years I have come to understand that I am, in fact a thinker, and I am deeply emotional. My problem is that I communicate as a thinker. I receive as a thinker. My emotions are not expressed as emotions but as thoughts and therefore tend to be received as thoughts vice feelings. People do not connect with me through thoughts. Sadly, I do not connect with others through thoughts. While deep and difficult conversations are the very fires of the forge within me, I am unable to wrap myself in the security of warm connected relationships with them. For that I need to be able to express what I feel. I need to know that what I feel is understood by those around me, and I need to understand what is felt by them.

 

My dad, my brother, my wife, and my oldest daughter are artists. I see how they pour their hearts into the work of their hands; they express their emotions through their art. I spend a lot of time trying to pour mine out to no avail.

 

I think that is more or less what this blog is for me. While it is read and understood, I think it is received as the thoughts of my head, the arguments of my life, and the defining points of my being. But on my end these words are much more than that. They are the very pencils of my brother’s hand, the fondant on my wife’s counter, and the mahogany-western red cedar-white cedar sun rays on the lid of my dad’s box.

 

There are no thoughts in this post.

 

I am alone. I have the weight of so many things on my shoulders. I am a buffer between a good group of people and a coward the likes of which I have never seen. I am in dire straits because of a house I own in North Carolina. I am less than 4 years from a major career change with no real dreams or ambitions and no education. I am separated from my wife and kids and will be separated from them for a very significant portion of the next couple years. I see some great relationships behind me as well as a painful trail of broken ones. It seems that I have finally become awake to the very things my family needs and I am excited to provide, but I am relegated into a form of observation without the privilege of involvement.

 

There’s really nothing to read here.

 

I’m just sad.

 

And I am not able to read any comments, so there really isn’t any reason to leave them.

 

I am confident that I will see my family again, that the little time we have together will be grand and wonderfully uplifting for us all, and that my kids love me even if they don’t know how to express it.

 

Well… now that I have written this, I feel much better. I feel as though there is no reason to post it! I feel I will get encouraging responses that are not needed now. I actually feel pretty great!

I think I’ll go to the gym.

The Only Way I Seem to Express Me

I am so not an artist. I have tried so many times to draw and nothing comes of it. I wonder sometimes if the woodworking tools that I have will one day stand as rusty statues to a life that I wanted and yet was never able to enjoy for the lack of a creative artistic nature. I wrote poetry years ago. So many long years ago. I write this now.

 

I thought for the longest time that I was thinker and out of touch with emotions. Over the years I have come to understand that I am, in fact a thinker, and I am deeply emotional. My problem is that I communicate as a thinker. I receive as a thinker. My emotions are not expressed as emotions but as thoughts and therefore tend to be received as thoughts vice feelings. People do not connect with me through thoughts. Sadly, I do not connect with others through thoughts. While deep and difficult conversations are the very fires of the forge within me, I am unable to wrap myself in the security of warm connected relationships with them. For that I need to be able to express what I feel. I need to know that what I feel is understood by those around me, and I need to understand what is felt by them.

 

My dad, my brother, my wife, and my oldest daughter are artists. I see how they pour their hearts into the work of their hands; they express their emotions through their art. I spend a lot of time trying to pour mine out to no avail.

 

I think that is more or less what this blog is for me. While it is read and understood, I think it is received as the thoughts of my head, the arguments of my life, and the defining points of my being. But on my end these words are much more than that. They are the very pencils of my brother’s hand, the fondant on my wife’s counter, and the mahogany-western red cedar-white cedar sun rays on the lid of my dad’s box.

 

There are no thoughts to this post.

 

I am alone. I have the weight of so many things on my shoulders. I am a buffer between a good group of people and a coward the likes of which I have never seen. I am in dire straits because of a house I own in North Carolina. I am less than 4 years from a major career change with no real dreams or ambitions and no education. I am separated from my wife and kids and will be separated from them for a very significant portion of the next couple years. I see some great relationships behind me as well as a painful trail of broken ones. It seems that I have finally become awake to the very things my family needs and I am excited to provide, but I am relegated into a form of observation without the privilege of involvement.

 

There’s really nothing to read here.

 

I’m just sad.

 

And I am not able to read any comments, so there really isn’t any reason to leave them.

 

I am confident that I will see my family again, that the little time we have together will be grand and wonderfully uplifting for us all, and that my kids love me even if they don’t know how to express it.

 

Well… now that I have written this, I feel much better. I feel as though there is no reason to post it! I feel I will get encouraging responses that are not needed now. I actually feel pretty great!

I think I’ll go to the gym.

Church Influence and Weeping

I have waited more than a year to post this.  I wrote it in July of 2015 and did not post it because I was afraid it would offend somebody.  The truth is that I have been (and still am) wrestling deeply with these ideas.  The debate to post wavered back and forth…

 

 

A couple thoughts float around in my head.  I hear phrases like:

More seeker friendly, less seekers coming in

and

Increasing focus on being culturally relevant, decreasing influence in culture…  ergo less relevant?

And I am saddened.  I am hurt.  I am confused.  I get frustrated.  I feel as though I have no voice in this culture even though it is very much my culture.

If the point of the church is to influence the local community, what are we to do when the local community communicates with resounding solidarity that they don’t care about what we have to say?  We are no longer being ignored with polite passive aggressive behavior, we are being told quite clearly that we are not wanted, what we have to say is offensive and we are to keep it to ourselves.  There is not just a practice of ignoring us, there is a confidence in pushing back and silencing us.  I would say this pretty clearly communicates that we, the Church, have in fact, FAILED to accomplish our mission.

I said it.  We have failed as a Church.

Barna group reports increasing growth in church attendance.  Filling pews is not the mission of the church.  If the idea is that, the more people in the pews, the more people get to hear the Gospel, then it is not Church. That would be called Sunday Morning Evangelism.  Other research from the Southern Baptist Convention and Barna group state that a major trend is growing in which people are receiving discipleship, community, and other Christian involvement in small groups of less than 20 people and rarely or never attend a “church.”.

This tells me that there are still people who want what the Church is supposed to be giving.  So why would they stop going to Sunday Morning Worship and start doing things not in the “church”?  Because the Church is failing to feed.  Where do sheep go when the flock is on dry, grassless ground?  They wonder off looking for grass… or die.  I have heard church leadership lash out against people who are Christians, who are involved in the local church community, who are active in reading and studying their Bibles and having daily time with Jesus, but who say they are tired of church.  The response to these weary, active Believers by some church leaders is to chastise and rebuke them.  In turn, these folks turn and say they are done.

If the church’s mission is to encourage the members of the church, equip and train the members of the church, and send those members out into the local culture with the purpose of influencing that culture…  What’s happening?  A quick look at the division of our nation will clearly indicate that the ministers of reconciliation are not making much headway in reconciling.  Instead of seeing healing and community springing forth in our streets, we are seeing division, and not just in our communities, but in our churches too.

What are we to do when we see that our current model is not working?  What is defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?

We have to separate emotions and tradition from what is going on around us.  We can feel uncomfortable in the discussion of reforming the current, modern practices of church, and then get to fixing ourselves, or we can silence that conversation because of what we “know”, think, and feel and then, in time, have nobody left in the church to have that conversation with.

I think, as a shepherd, as a church, as a community, step one is to spend some time prayerfully evaluating.  It is the only thing that makes sense.  I would suggest listing out on a big board everything that the church is doing.  Meeting on Sunday, midweek meeting on Wednesday, youth group, singing before sermon, communion once a month, communion each Sunday, offering plates passed, offering boxes in the back, small groups…  EVERYTHING.  Then write next to each of these topics the simple question…  Why?

Why?

Search your Bibles and list scripture next to each of these things.  If you find there are no scriptures, or very few, to support the “What”, then we need to evaluate the priority that is placed on it by the church.  For instance, what scripture can you point to that models or sets a precedent for singing songs before receiving some sort of message?  I don’t know of any.  So why are we doing this?  What would happen if the elders of a church were to join each other on stage and say to the congregation, “Starting next Sunday, we will have the sermon first, followed by singing”. Who wants to staff that church office during the following week to answer the phones that will surely be ringing off the hook.

What about the meeting on Sunday mornings and being done by a strict time prior to lunch?  I can find scripture that talks about folks worshiping all day and through lunch.  Again, what would happen if the Elders stood together and said, “No more strict time schedule like a TV production.  We will start with singing, we will move into a sermon, then we will move into a time for the congregation to give testimonies of their interaction with God during the previous week and a time of adults reciting passages of scripture which they have memorized.  This may take awhile, plan on bringing a lunch.  We will not be pausing”.

I know of only a few mandates placed upon the Church by Jesus.  One is “Go into all the World and make Disciples”.  Are we doing this?  And don’t say “yes” because your church has a discipleship ministry, or because you have small groups, or because y’all have done studies on discipleship.  I have a good friend who told me one time that they were excited to be involved in a discipleship ministry so that they could communicate to the folks involved that discipleship can be a long distance thing, done every other week or once a month.  After a little bit of questioning, it became clear that this person’s idea was that they could remain distant, answer questions, give suggestions, and watch the growth occur.  Discipleship?  Absolutely not!!  Will the other person grow?  Possibly, maybe, if they are actually in scripture and prayer, more than likely.  But this is not discipleship… not life on life… not intimate… not like Jesus and His DISCIPLES… not like Paul telling Timothy to “take the things which you have seen in me (actions/behaviors/attitude/character/skills) and pass them on (not teach, pass… model and train) to faithful men…”.

And this is the crux of the failure.  Not the stuff I listed above, though that stuff needs to be sorted out.  We have become a culture of Christians who are lazy, takers of a social organization which seeks to teach while being entertaining enough to hold the attention of the attendees.  I have seen this model before… I used to see it all the time right around breakfast in my house.

We called it Dora the Explorer.  My kids would stop what they were doing in their normal, active lives, spend a given period of time being both entertained and taught, and when the program was over, they returned to their lives.  Interestingly enough, I can ask me kids about Spanish words and they know the answers.  They can hold their own in discussions about Swipe and Boots, but they NEVER mix Spanish into their daily vernacular.  They NEVER come ask me if we will have a Fuego after supper.  They have received knowledge which has not led to any transformation of their daily lives.

The church has effectively taken this model, and it is producing the intended effect.  Educating and bringing familiarity with the subject to the learners.  Christians should feel good knowing that, should they ever encounter a moment when the HAVE to speak about Christianly things, they can have the right answers.  Interestingly enough, as this has occurred, the world around us has said, “We don’t care about your answers any longer”. Christians have responded by setting aside their answers because they are not a natural part of their lives and have instead moved to being culturally accepted… which is what is normally occurring in their daily, natural lives.

Here I sit, each Sunday, watching us do the same thing we did last Sunday, the same thing the Sunday before, and before that.  Each Sunday I watch the smiles, and hear the conversations, and each week I watch as we become more and more marginalized.  I am afraid I don’t think I can do this much longer.  I don’t set aside a couple hours a week to sit in a stationary car.  I know there are benefits to sitting in a stationary car, it would keep me dry if it rains, it gives me a place to sit and relax away from standard distractions where I can meditate, or sing without the worry of being judged by those around me.  But I don’t do it.  Because that is not what the car is for.  So why am I filling a pew during Sunday morning social club and calling it Church?

It’s not.  Pop culture and Christian culture may both call it Church, it might be on the sign, it might be labeled this by history and tradition.  But this is not what I see defined in Scripture as church.

I understand that there are some of these communities on Sunday mornings that are, in fact, still a Church.  I applaud them and pray for them.

But I think I am done with the standard Sunday morning system.  Good people, looking for something more…  Good people on stage doing what they know to do with noble, honest hearts…  Good people on all accounts performing in a culture which has been influenced by the world in which we live…  backwards if you ask me.

I wept in anger a couple weeks ago as I saw Christians on Facebook attacking other Christians on Facebook because of their responses to a shift in our culture regarding more than one issue.

“My people perish for a lack of knowledge.”

I just don’t know if I can keep participating in a cultural organization with a clearly defined purpose when they have effectively and clearly failed to accomplish that purpose… and then refuse to reevaluate what they are doing and instead, like ostriches with their heads in the sand, continue to do what they have always done and expecting things to change.

I am not hear to be entertained.

This is not merely a hospital for the sick.

I am here to be equipped and encouraged.  I am here to equip and to encourage.

This is the meeting place of warriors.  To train.  To learn.  To rest.  To heal.  To be built back up for the brutal fight known as influencing a culture.

I guess it is time for me to look for those warriors who, like me, are wanting more and are being equipped for the battle.  I’m looking for the people who are longing to engage the cutlure in whcih they live and I believe I will find them, whether it is in a pew on a Sunday Morning, or on a couch on Friday Night.  And we will engage.

 

 

 

Missing My Kids

I wish no longer to see the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets over distant shores, to smell the fresh baked breads of cultures unknown, to taste the foods adored by peoples whose legacy is one of adventurous travel, to walk the streets of exotic nations as they celebrate the achievements of their past forgotten empires… If I have to do these things alone.

I just want to be with my family.  Wherever that may be.

I am naturally given to a cold distant disposition.  Detached and disconnected.  Partially due to the wounds of my past, and partially due to the natural tendencies of my personality.  This easy detachment serves me well in a lot of the areas of my life.  Slipping into this detachment is easy.  Climbing back to the realm of being emotionally connected is not.  I have spent untold hours and sleepless nights praying and wrestling with this struggle. I know my wife and kids want my attention and my affection and I enjoy giving this to them.  I find that I am only able to provide what they need when I am fully awake, fully engaged.

I have seen a tremendous amount of ground gained in my ability to navigate between the moments that need me to be cool, discerning, emotionally detached and the moments that need me to be warm and connected.  So much has changed in the lives of my kids and in my marriage as I have learned how to “wake up” when they need me.

But in moments like these, I feel how easily I turn off my heart.  How easily I switch into a kind of auto pilot and go through the motions of living.  I am something like a robot zombie performing tasks and seeking the basic needs of survival.  I am good at living like this, I’ve been practicing it for the last 16  years.  I spend time praying and meditating, putting in the work to see my life healed so that I can be the dad my kids need and the husband my wife wants and I can see the fruit of this labor.

As I sit here alone, I feel the sadness and the ache of my heart while thinking about the family I have left behind.  There is a pull for me to disengage, get wrapped up with this life around me and let the affection and longing for my family drift away as I have done so many times in the past.  I don’t want to do it like that anymore.  It feels like eating cake for a week straight and skipping the squats after months and months of training so hard under a bar.  I can’t simply undo the fragile work which I have labored so diligently to achieve.

Attempting to remain emotionally engaged and connected has produced a couple things on this trip that I have not dealt with before.  A deep sadness, and a resentment towards my job.  I have never resented my job before.  I have downright hated parts of it from time to time, but I have never felt a sincere resentment towards this organization. I’ll figure out what to do with that I am sure.

I am happy that I am living this struggle.  I hope that new life will flow freely through my family before it is too late for us.  I hope that I get to see my wife and kids again.

And I am sure that it I am ready to move on from the Navy.

 

 

Surprisingly Jealous of a Pharmacist

I wrote this almost 6 months ago and sat on it.  I wanted to make sure that I was not just letting emotional lightning scorch the keys and then publish a vain and wayward post.  As I have had my coffee with Jesus over the last several months, I still feel the same way… even though some things have changed.  So…

 

Jealous may not be the word I am looking for, or even the best word to describe what I am feeling, but what I feel seems to feel a lot like jealousy.

And why wouldn’t I be jealous?

Meet Dan.

I have seen Dan struggle, think, sacrifice, and work like a mule in order to become a pharmacist.  (I still don’t see how it is all that hard though, I mean, you’re just counting pills and calling people’s names right?  Just Kidding!) I have seen Dan persevere through some mentally and emotionally grueling days and I rejoiced with him and his family when he landed a job.  Albeit a LONG commute each day from home and not quite the environment that he had hoped for, but a job none the less.

When we made our detour trip through Washington en route to Japan, Dan picked us up from SeaTac.  He told me about this great opportunity that, more or less, just fell in his lap.  As Dan was telling me the ins and outs of what was going on, I was getting super excited for him.  I felt as though he was scared of committing to this new opportunity.  Did I mention that Dan is a calm, quiet, gentle man?  Though I was busting at the seams with excitement for him, I tried to temper that and merely encourage him to take the offer, or at least meet with whoever he needed to meet with to see if things really were going to be as good as they sounded.  Were it my decision, I would have jumped at it in a heartbeat.

My family stayed with Dan and his family while in town and used his home and backyard as a defacto base of operations.  We had many MANY late LATE nights with some of the people we were involved with before we left the Great State of Washington.  12108974_10153654713010682_7792035204522113729_n

 

Dan sat with me every night that I was there.  His house became a revolving door of men, one at a time, or married couples, coming in and going out almost constantly in order to spend time with me or my wife and I (and sometimes just my wife) and Dan was by my side for almost every bit of it.  These people would share with us the joys and sorrows, the victories and struggles of their lives over the last year or so and would look to Jessica and I for advice, counsel, and encouragement… which we were STOKED to give.  (Something in me just comes magnificently alive when I get to function in this role)  I would listen and would engage, all the while noticing that Dan would have his fingers running at mach 3 through the pages of his Bible.  At one point it seemed like he had 13 fingers holding 15 different passages of scripture in queue.  Dan would say nothing… or almost nothing… most of the time.  When he would speak up, I would be blown away by the depth of his wisdom and insight.  Every.  Single.  Time.

When Dan and I would talk after all of the visitors had left, I would be amazed at how concerned Dan would seem.  These meetings were adventurous bouts of spiritual and emotional grappling which fuel my fire and leave me refreshed and encouraged at the end of the night.  Did y’all catch that?  These long hours and stressful, delicate conversations  leave me refreshed and encouraged.  These meetings are things that I pursue and run after, engaging every chance I get with little hesitation.  Like jumping out of the car and running down a wilderness trail with reckless abandon.  Dan seemed to view these meetings with… um…  well… with what seemed like a bit more maturity.  He seemed to be, at the same time, intimidated and confident, simultaneously academic and studious while being deeply burdened and frankly concerned.

This seems to have rabbit trailed from why I am jealous of a pharmacist to simply being a tribute to my Bro-mantic feelings for Dan.  I digress.

Why am I jealous of this man?  He has been deeply blessed in a very real, tangible, public way.  That is what fuels my jealousy.  This is such a problem for me.  I see Dan’s life and I see the principles and themes present therein and I immediately think that if I apply these to my life, then I too will be blessed in a truly deep, tangible, and public way.  If I make the right sacrifices, if I work hard enough, if I study long enough, if I persevere and endure the hardships, then one day I too will be as blessed a man as Dan.

How ridiculous is that?!?!

While Dan did work and sacrifice, he was not blessed because of these things, he was blessed because he was a man of integrity who spent time in the word and on his knees before God.  Every conversation that Dan sat in on while I was there was, for him, an exercise in blowing through the scriptures finding dozens of references that applied to EVERY topic we were discussing.  That cannot be faked.  That cannot be developed in a matter of weeks or even months.  That is the evidence of a man who knows the cannon of Scripture.  Likewise no amount of hard work alone will result in the kind of blessing in my life that Dan is seeing in his… that is a result of falling broken and contrite, scared and alone at the mercy of Jesus.

And one more thing…  why am I chasing His public, tangible blessing with such fervor when what I should be chasing is simply intimacy with Christ?

And if that wasn’t enough, why do I feel so moved and motivated to see such a blessing in my life… as though being healthy, having such great relationships with my wife and kids isn’t enough?

I know.  I can be so shallow sometimes.

Dan, if you are reading this, I am proud of you (and I feel a lot like a little boy saying that to an adult).

Truly I am.

 

 

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

 

I sent this to Dan in order to get his perspective and permission to post this.  I sent it to him almost 6 months ago and the following paragraphs are an excerpt from his response.  I hope y’all can hear the depth of this mans heart.  I have a deep yearning to sit again with this man and his bride by a fire.

 

When I was reading what you wrote I was really thinking, “I had no idea he thought that way.”  I honestly did not know you understood why I am who I am and the beatings required to walk this road.

Things that are true:  When I was at [Grocery Store] as a pharmacist, I was taken emotionally and mentally to my very limit.  I would have lines of people who had come to speak to me; a couple that had just lost their first child at the very end of  pregnancy, a man just diagnosed with a brain tumor, a woman who had just been raped, a mother with 3 children who just found out she had 3 months to live, an old man whose wife of over 50 years had just passed.  All of these one after another after another.  It wears on you.  I do struggle, I feel burdened, intimidated, concerned and find it hard to keep up in conversation with quick thinning people.  I do try to be calm and gentle.  I want to be mature, studious, wise, insightful, quick-thinking, and easily able to navigate scripture to the exact reference.  It is very true that I feel very blessed.  God has provided a new pharmacy with an owner who expects me to be in prayer.  My wife is a blessing to me and all those she comes into contact with.  She is a far better pharmacist than I am and yet she has sacrificed a career which she loves to serve our family and God.  My oldest son as a teenager is thinking about others and praying that he and his friends would delight in reading the Bible and loves time together as a family.  My younger 2 children have confessed that they are children of God.  God has richly blessed us beyond what I could have planned out.  Not one of these things is because of me, they are in spite of me.

 

He says “In spite of me.

 

Funny thing is… a few months after he sent me his response, he told me that the new pharmacy job dried up and life again was looking difficult in front of him.  His question to me…

“Still Jealous?”

 

And my answer…

 

Yes, Dan, I am.  Why wouldn’t I be?

 

…  and again, Jealous may not be the best word to describe it anway!

 

 

OICA Method for Paige

Dear Paige,

I did not mean to take this long to get back to you.  I was a day or two away from leaving on a deployment when you sent your question to Jessica.  I was deeply encouraged by your question.  I remember talking about Bible study methods when we all lived in Washington.  I sometimes feel as though, because I talk so much, that my words are less valuable than the words of others and so they will not be well remembered.  Thanks for remembering that we talked about this several years ago.  That you remembered means a lot to me.

So here goes…

OICA

Observation

Interpretation

Correlation

Application

That’s it!!   Have fun!!!

LOL… I’m just kidding.

When sitting down to study your Bible, have a few tools at the ready.  A dictionary, concordance, a couple commentaries, a notebook, a Bible you are comfortable writing in (or several in different translations), and something to drink.  I like to have a couple pens and a set of colored pencils too.  I don’t like using hi-lighters because they bleed through the pages.  Colored pencils do the job, are pretty cheap, and are readily available in my house.  (The kids make comments sometimes about me coloring in my Bible)

The first step is to read whatever passage you wish to study.  I used to advise people to push through a chapter at a time, but I don’t do that anymore.  I like to stick to no more than a “thought” at a time.  Sometimes that is a chapter, sometimes a little less or a little more.  When I am reading and it seems like the story or the main theme has changed, I stop and try to find roughly where the change occurred.  That is where I choose to place the end point for the passage I am studying.  Depending on the amount of time that I have, I may work this process several times on sequential “thoughts/passages” or on other passages that I think of while studying the one currently before me.  That is one of the things to put in your notebook… other passages that you think of and have one of those thoughts like, “Huh… I remember reading… and I wonder what exactly…  I’d love to look into…”. Each time you sit down to study, you have no shortage of things to look into.  Continue where you left off or pick up one of the passages that was a tangent for you from a previous study.

After you have read the passage a couple times, start writing down your observations.  Not your feelings, or your interpretations, your “this means…” statements, just simple observable facts.  Think, “What do I see” not so much “What does it mean” or “What can I find that is significant.”  The meaning and the significance will be looked at later.  Observations are things like, “There is a book on the chair” or “A gorilla walked through the basketball game”.   There are a couple ways to go about making observations.  Look at the passage as a whole and write down what you observe.  This is the easiest and least invasive.  Look at the passage as a whole and pick an arbitrary number for how many observations you want.  The smaller the number, the easier, the larger… well… challenge accepted!  Pick an arbitrary number and look for that many observations per verse.  I often ask some of the guys I spend time with to find 5 observations per verse from Romans chapter 6.  This is a great exercise in placing value on what is written on the page before placing value on how to feel about what is written on the page.

I was having a conversation with a guy about John chapter 8 this morning.  Lets use that as an example.  The passage will be John 8:2-11.

Here are my observations:

Jesus went to the temple at dawn.

People were going to see Jesus.

There were people at the temple at dawn.

There does not appear to be a coffee shop at the temple.

A woman was caught having sex with a man to whom she was not married.

The woman was brought to Jesus.

The woman was brought into the crowd.

The woman was publicly charged with adultery.

The scribes and pharisees want Jesus to condemn the woman to death.

Jesus stoops and draws/writes on the ground instead of answering.

Jesus stands, answers, and returns to writing/drawing on the ground.

There appears to be no mention of what Jesus wrote/drew.

The accusers abandon their plot and leave.

Jesus acknowledges the woman.

Jesus does not condemn the woman.

Jesus sends the woman on her way.
There ya go.  Those are my quick observations.  No interpretation, no answering the question, “What does it mean” or even “Why…”.  Just simple observations.

It is now time to move to the next step… oIca… Interpretation.

What does it mean?

Be careful here.  It is hard sometimes to keep this question in this simple form.  For some reason we like to add “to me” to the end of the question and I often here that same little addition added to the beginning of statements being made by Christians when discussing Bible things.  I do my absolute best to never put those words anywhere in my head, much less my heart, when working through this part of a study.  I don’t want my ideas or perspectives flavoring the life giving soup of the Spirit.  I want the soup… what does it mean… not what I want to be in the soup… what does it mean to me.  Try to keep in mind things like historical context, local economy, the culture of the day, they way the characters in the passage would respond.  This part gets easier the more we read and study.  Do not do this step without regard to the observations you already made.  Here is what I interpret from this passage:

Jesus values spending time with His people and teaching them.

The scribes and pharisees have little regard for the dignity of the woman who was caught in adultery.

The scribes and pharisees are not simply motivated to see the quick execution of justice or else the man would also have been brought before Jesus.

The sin of the woman and the sin of the scribes and the pharisees have led them to Jesus where they await his Judgement. (This might be considered an observation… don’t over think it)

Jesus addresses the heart of these 2 groups, the woman and the scribes/pharisees, at the same time.  As Jesus stoops to write on the ground, a woman feeling guilty and exposed in the middle of a crowd of men, is no longer the center of attention as the men surely look to see what Jesus is writing.  Jesus immediately starts to address her shame and guilt, immediately addressing the effects of sin in her life.

Sin’s result in somebodies life is not condemnation but is shame and guilt.  The attitude of the person with sin in the presence of Jesus determines their outcome after encountering Him.

These are just some very quick interpretations.  Something to realize is that interpretations may very well be wrong.  Interpretations are not convictions,  though the way scripture is interpreted directly effects our convictions.  When you have made your interpretations and written them down, test them.  Make it a point to go over them with somebody else.  Doesn’t have to be during a Bible study.  While getting coffee or shopping with somebody, just fire one off.  “So I was thinking about this the other day… what do you think?”  Read some commentaries and see if what you are thinking is congruent what the commentary says.  What you think does not need to match exactly, but if it is contradictory, then spend some more time looking into it.

C is for Correlation.  Co-Relate.  Does this passage, this theme, this verse, this idea have a cousin, a relative, living in another part of the Bible?  Pretty simple.  Spend some time running your fingers through your bible to passages you are reminded of from your current study.  If while you are doing this, you come across a passage that is really significant to you, or seems to really drive something home in you, then write that reference in your Bible in the same area of the passage that you are studying.  If it is a REALLY significant thing, or something that your head and heart have been circling for a while, or it is a topic that you find yourself talking about often, jot the reference on one of the first few pages of your Bible with a tag.  “Woman in Adultery NOT stoned!!  John 8”  Those pretty pages, mostly blank, with the publisher emblem or some other scholarly but otherwise useless information are just begging for you to fill that space with these kinds of tags.  You will essentially be building your own concordance in the first few (and last few) pages of your Bible, and you will be strengthening your grip on the themes of scripture.  As you see important and powerful representations of Christ, the Holy Spirit, God the Father, the Kingdom, or any one of the many other themes of scripture, you will be able to fit them together in an appropriate tapestry of theology and life.

Application is last.  This is the one that I think I had the hardest time with.  Because I (and most of us I believe) come from a “do” society, that tends to be the immediate filter that “application” comes through.  “What is the application for your life in John 8?”  “Teacher, the application is to not get caught in the act of adultery!”  Well… yes… but… no.

Application is not just something to do.  If we boil all of our study down to a list of actions, then we run the risk of missing the relational aspect of Christ, the resting/recovering/healing nature of the Kingdom, or we may slide into developing a legalistic bend to our thoughts as they apply to the Christian life.  There are lots of places where the application will be “Do… more”  and “Do… less”  or “Do NOT do… anymore”  and “Start doing…”.    But things like, “I am a valued and chosen, precious person to Christ.” is not so much of a “do” statement as a “be” statement.  Applying that truth wouldn’t come so much from doing anything tangible so much as spending a little extra time that day (or the next day, or over the next week) simply meditating on the grace and goodness of God and how He has chosen to give you value, or beauty, or strength, or influence.  The question for application is, “How does this apply to my life?”  Be careful about asking “How do I apply this to my life?”   Trying to find something in a study to do, or to make applicable to your life ushers you into a “do” attitude, which in turn can (doesn’t necessarily, but can) lead into a belief system based on, “If I only pray more and work harder and live more selflessly, then life will be better and Jesus will love me more.”  Which, without realizing it, is a way that I lived for a long LONG long time.

In short… OICA.

Observe

Interpret

Correlation

Application

What does it say and what do I see?

What does it mean?

Have I seen this in Scripture before and where?

How does this apply to my life?

 

This is by no means the end all be all method of studying the Bible.  This is, however, a very simple, straightforward method and one that I have utilized more than any other over the course of my short life.

And one last note… Try to stay away from Study Bibles while studying (or when doing any kind of Bible reading for that matter).  It is easy to jump into the footnotes and commentary of the person that wrote the notes while looking for observations and interpretation, which is then letting somebody else think for you instead of you thinking (and therefore connecting) to Scripture and Christ for yourself.  I do have study bibles, and I use them while studying, but I don’t open them until after I have finished O I C, and then I turn to them to see if what I thought lines up with what these other folks think.  Then I move forward with application.  I use study bibles more like commentary reference material, a dedicated study tool, and less like my Bible.  I want to be intimately familiar with my Bible, my sword, instead of only be proficient with it when I am reading the notes and directions from somebody else.  I wouldn’t do that in the heat of battle, so I don’t do that in the calm of training.  And that is what Bible Study is, Paige, it’s the calm of training so that you will be ready, out of season and in season, to engage on behalf of your King, your Husband, Kid(s), family, and friends as needed.

 

Again, I am deeply encouraged that you asked me about this.  I hope you and Matt are doing well.  I have not forgotten about y’all and I am still trying to come up with some sort of good way to help y’all with praying.

 

Take care,

 

Mike

My Kids Are More Mature Than Me

I am in a position right now between the Navy and my family which is pretty rough.  I am handling it pretty well, but it is awfully hard.  As I have told my story to a couple friends, I have heard the response,

 

“You are a better man than me”

 

I usually dismiss that phrase because I know it just isn’t true.  These guys are men of character, men who would respond very similarly to how I am responding were they in my shoes.

My kids, on the other hand, really are “better” than me.  I hope they stay that way.

 

Because I did not make it through the school I was in, I fall at the bottom of the Navy’s priority scale for selecting orders.  As it turns out, the only set of orders that I am allowed to have right now are to a foreign country.  I’m not upset about that.  Jessica and I have wanted to take the family overseas for years.  Herein lies the problem.  Because the family is so large, we may have to be separated for 2 years.  The orders I am taking will allow me to bring my family with me, but there are other restrictions which can cause my family to be left behind and, at this moment, there is a very real chance that they will not join me.

Can you understand the sadness, fear, turmoil, and agony which I am swirling in?  It is hard stuff to say the least.

I knew I needed to tell my kids.  It isn’t fair to them to have them going to the appointments and screenings and for them to feel the tension in Jessica and I and to have no idea what is going on.  We have always spoken to our kids as though they are capable of understanding the life which swirls around them, and this is no exception.

I sat with my older 2 and explained to them that I may be going overseas and they will probably have to stay here.  Neither of them cried.  They got quiet, but didn’t even seem to get sad.  I explained it again… That I AM going overseas for 2 years and they ARE NOT going with me… for 2 years… separated… without me.  Again, no great emotion came out of them.  I asked them,

 

“Are you sad at all that your dad will be gone for 2 years?”

Answer:

Daughter – We are sad…

Son –  Yeah… but we don’t know for sure if we will be apart or not

Daughter – … but we can trust God

 

Whose kids are these?

Surely not mine!  Surely not the offspring of a man who walks with such uncertainty and fear upon his shoulders.  Surely not the son and daughter of a man who agonizes every detail of a plan in order to ensure the best possible outcome.  Surely not the kids of a man who can talk about God, Christianity, Faith, and Trust but falls hopelessly short when his back is up against a wall.

My kids are more mature than I am.

This little conversation we had, coupled with a Vacation Bible School song that they love (You Can Trust God) and play on their stereo over and over again, as well as other conversations I have had in the midst of this decision has me really pondering the goodness of God.

The congregation my wife came from regularly participates in a call and response during their Sunday morning worship.  The pastor says, “God is good” and the people say “All the time”.  Then the Pastor says “All the time” and the folks say “God is good”.  I believe this to be true.  God is good, all the time.  All the time, God is good.

But I am not a blind Christian, I don’t just check off the boxes without thinking (or feeling) about the stuff I am agreeing with and forming as a part of who I am.  This is one of those moments.

I can continue to walk around under this painful cloud feeling like I am under a storm and over a barrel because I don’t know whether or not I will be separated from my family for 2 years.  This is what I am doing right now.  It essentially says that I do NOT believe God is good… or rather, I do NOT believe God is good ALL the time.  Most of the time maybe.. A lot of the time for sure…  But all the time?  Do I really believe that?  My thoughts and feelings right now say no.

Now y’all hold on a minute before you send me encouraging and correctional emails and messages.  I know what the right answer is… and that is the point.  I could swallow what I am feeling and hide it from the world (which I did for SOOO LONG) and I can give the right answer and nobody in the world would know that a Man of God has a hard time grasping the full implications of the God he follows.

Here are the hard questions in my heart.   If I am separated from my family for a period of 2 years, where is God’s goodness in that?  Where is God’s goodness when it comes to my kids growing and struggling with identity/purpose/value troubles and my wife is left alone to encourage them?  Where is His goodness in this?  For that matter, where was His goodness when Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Jim Elliot, Ed McCauley, and Pete Fleming were killed on Palm Beach leaving their wives and kids behind?  Does God’s goodness address my desire for comfort or the feelings of security at all?

I am reminded of a verse in Romans that says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”

Where is God’s goodness in the death of His Son?  In the temporal perspective… I’m not seeing the goodness.  With an eternal perspective, the goodness of God is realized in the redemption of mankind.  In the temporal perspective, there wasn’t much good about the previously mentioned 5 men dying on a beach, but within a generation or 2 the rampant murdering and revenge killing of an entire tribe of people came to an end.

On the one hand I want to reject the idea of God’s enduring, timeless goodness in exchange for my own temporal comfort and pleasure.  But I know the way that seems right in my heart will lead me to my death.  I know the other hand leads down a painful road which, for some, has held certain death, but it ends with redemptive healing in the lives of others for generations to come.

I should be more careful with what I hope for… what I pray for.  Though I have asked many times that God would grant me influence in the lives of men so that His kingdom will advance through my labor to many cultures for generations to come, I do not want to take the road necessary for Him to use me to that end.

I want my family to go with me.  I have tears in my eyes as I finish up this post because of the pain which I feel when thinking of being separated from them.

I fear that my family will not be able to join me.

And I am resolved to bear my true character in the face of adversity with hope, trusting that the temporal pain to be experienced by my family will surely result in the realization of a theme of Scripture and Christianity…

 

God is good

                    All the time

All the time

                  God is Good

I Am An Easter Egg! (And So Are You)

My family does not participate in Halloween, Thanksgiving is my personal favorite holiday of the year, I wrestle each Christmas with whether or not we should have a Christmas Tree and I would opt out of pretty much all of our pop Christmas celebrations if I thought I could get away with it.  I get told around holidays that I take things too seriously, that I am “curmudgeonly”,  that I should lighten up and live a little.

I decide for my family what and how we will celebrate.  It is hard for me to juggle the appropriate worship of Christ, genuine pursuit of holiness, modeling the pursuit of holiness to my kids, and making sacrifices of time and money to celebrate cultural holidays.

How do I tell my kids that Easter is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus, and then demonstrate this celebration by giving my time and money to boiling, dying, hiding, and then finding some eggs.  It feels as though Easter Eggs, though fun, are a complete diversion from what Easter is all about.  Maybe it is personality, maybe it is me taking conviction and faith too seriously, but I have a hard (HARD) time engaging in anything that is not in line with what I believe to be my purpose, my life’s objective.  Hiding Easter Eggs…   eh…  well…

I believe we are created in the image of God.  More specifically, I believe that every person intrinsically has some aspect or attribute of God’s character in them.  The Bible makes it pretty clear that God is a creator and an artist.  These attributes are found in everybody I know, albeit some more than others.  Everybody I have ever met has been proud of something they have made.  Everybody I have ever met has had some form of art that they seem to connect with (though some would argue about whether it should or should not be called art).  I encourage my kids to express this connection to the Character of God by participating in the “creation” of artistic things… coloring books, clay, pencil and marker drawings…  and Eggs on Easter.

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I go a bit further than that on Easter though…

I believe that Mankind is the pinnacle of creation.  I have heard artists say that there is nothing more beautiful than the “human form.”  I stand amazed at the complexity of our biologic systems and functions, I am humbled and awestruck when I ponder the human psyche or the way in which relationships are formed, the way cultures function, the sociology of humanity.  EPIC.

At the same time, I am amazed at just how fragile we are.  A short sentence full of painfully sharp words so often ends in the death of a relationship.  For as resilient as the human body is, we are not that hard to kill.

We are beautiful, we are “fragile”, we are precious.  I easily use Easter Eggs to represent the attributes of humanity to my kids.  They take time to create them, just like God took time to create us.  They express themselves and their artistic creativity on a very fragile, temporary medium just like God did and cotinues to do with us.  They value their Easter Eggs just like God values us.  These Easter Eggs are precious to my kids, just like we are precious to Jesus.

But that is not where the analogy ends.

We do not live our lives, or have our relationships, or even think our private thoughts in a soft, gentle, comfy environment like Eggs being cradled in plastic grass filled Easter baskets.  We live our physical lives in a real world governed by natural laws with legitimate and sometimes immediate consequences.  If you are outside when it starts raining, you get wet.  It doesn’t matter why you were out there.  We have our relationships with other people who are constantly in a state of flux.  Emotions, hormones, and insecurity can result in us acting or reacting in a manner that is harsh or harmful to the other person… whether or not they “deserved” it.  Our own insecurities, life experiences, expectations, desires, and beliefs create a cauldron that, at times, results in confusion, anxiety, or fear.  Though we are precious, every aspect of our lives is surrounded by things that are potentially harmful, most often distracting, usually benign, and sometimes downright malicious.

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And this is where I hide my eggs.  I take these precious, artistic creations and I place them in grass… distracting, on tree branches… precarious and hard, in the mud…  deceptive and hiding their beauty (so similar to how I cover up my insecurity).  I scatter these precious Easter Eggs to the far reaches of my yard and I try to hide the very preciousness of these Eggs in order to keep my kids from finding them.

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This is where the analogy for my family hits the high notes!

The Bible has a theme that runs through several different stories.  A theme of searching for what was lost, recovering and redeeming that which is precious but misplaced.

There is a man who finds a really expensive, precious Jewel in a field.  He makes a pretty big sacrifice, sells all he has, and buys the field so that he can recover that precious Jewel.

A shepherd has a bunch of sheep, precious to him, and one of them goes astray.  The shepherd embarks upon a search for this sheep in order to restore his lost, precious sheep to the rest of the flock.

We are told that if we separate the precious from the worthless, we will be God’s ambassadors indeed.

And the pinnacle is that we, being precious in the eyes of God, being covered by dirt in our lives, distracted and lost in the grass, deliberately hiding in the mud, or burying ourselves, cold and alone, or vulnerable and exposed like an egg precariously balanced on a tree branch, can be recovered, redeemed, restored, healed…

Easter Eggs, for my family, are not in any way an analogy of Jesus being in the grave and then resurrected.  Jesus was not hidden, there were guards at his tomb in order to keep people away… they knew where His body was.  He was not beuatiful when he went into the tomb, he was broken, beat, bloody, and arguably unrecognizable when he went in, not at all like our Easter Eggs when we hide them.  When Jesus rose from the grave, he did so never to die again, but the Easter Eggs are recovered… and then peeled and eaten!  A lot like mankind, precious, beautiful, hopefully recovered by the creator prior to undergoing that which is also common to all mankind, death and decomposition.

I do not send my kids out to find Easter Eggs in a participation of Resurrecting Jesus from the grave, I send my kids out to separate the precious from the worthless and to bring those beautiful, fragile, little Eggs back into a place of safety…

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If you are a Christian who has struggled with the idea of Easter Eggs and Jesus, please consider my thoughts and take a look Matthew 13:45-56, Luke 15:1-7,  and Jeremiah 15:19-21.

 

Call It What It Is… Fail

Fail

I don’t know if ever I have come across a word as painful, demoralizing, or heavy to me as this one.

Fail

It doesn’t hurt when it is being used in the typical pop culture manner of the word, but when bestowed upon me as a reward for my actions not meeting the requisite standard…  Sigh…

And fail I did.

I have had many people who care about me try to soften the blow.  I have had some very encouraging people attempt to encourage me by saying things like, “If you did your best, its not a fail,” and “Your wife and kids still love you, you didn’t fail.”  There were a good number of these kinds of statements being sent to me.  On the one hand, I really appreciated them.  They made me feel good for a moment.

On the other hand, they were frustrating to a deep level.

I felt as though the encouragement that was being given to me was a dismissal of what had happened, a denial of the facts, an enticement to live contrary to reality.

And so I write this now…  I’m calling it what it is.

It is a fail.

I failed to meet the minimum requirements to move forward with my training.  I failed to accumulate the required minimum number of points on a battery of patient scenarios.  I failed to perform my job in a manner commensurate with the predetermined standard which was required of me.  This is the simple reality and truth of the matter.  There was a standard.   I did not attain it.  Fail.

I understand what these encouragers were communicating to me.  I am not a failure.  I felt like one.  The weekend after I got the news, I walked around in a strange fog of disbelief.

It is humiliating.  It is painful for me.  I am heavy hitter, a hot runner.  I have been ” they guy that gets things done” for a long time.  For me to engage in something this difficult and not succeed is a foreign concept.

I spent a lot of time thinking about failure and how it is handled by the folks around me.  I think we need to adjust fire.

I had some folks tell me they were sorry that I failed, that they had faith in my ability to pass, and that they hoped I would get back to the plate and start swinging again.  This is the healthy approach.

We cannot redefine a word when we don’t like how it makes us feel.  We do not have the ability to redefine the standards placed upon us after we have committed to the task.  We do not have the luxury of walking through life sans consequences.  We had better not communicate to those around us that we believe we can do these things.

I have started to wonder… how many times have I redefined something in my life, or in the lives of those around me, because the truth was too bitter to swallow.  Have I looked at a friend and told him that what he was doing is healthy, appropriate, just, wise, or even “not that bad”, when in fact it is unhealthy, inappropriate, unjust, unwise, or quite frankly “bad”?  Has this quickness to redefine what is offensive so that I don’t have to really deal with the source of offense stretched into my beliefs?  Or rather, have my beliefs failed to stretch into my daily interactions with others to such an extent that I believe that I am the authority who decides what is a fail, a pass, wise, just, unjust, good, bad, etc., without really understanding that that is what I am doing?

I am not the one to determine a fail.  I simply perform.

Those who wrote the course, set the objectives, presented the material, and evaluated my performance are the appropriate judges.  It is on their shoulders to define the fail.

Likewise, it is not me who determines what is right or wrong, just or unjust, fair or unfair.  I simply discern what I see.

The Author of all life is the one who wrote the course of my life, set the objectives, determined my purpose, presented me with the resources required, and is the only appropriate Judge who determines what is right or wrong, just or unjust, righteous and unrighteous, pure and holy, or sin and…  well… fail.

Another thing I got to think about was my struggle with “failure.”  I fought, off and on, with feeling like a failure for years.  I had such a ridiculous, strict, narrow view of success that practically everything I did failed to measure up.  I would recall all the things I “failed” at and would feel as though nothing I did was good enough.  I really felt as though I was a failure.  Interestingly enough it took a legitimate fail for me to see that I have not legitimately failed at much of anything in my past.  I know it is ironic, but a couple weeks after my first fail and I am realizing how awesome I have been in this game of life!   (feel free to roll your eyes)

In summary, I failed and I  want to call it a fail.  Calling it a fail is not the same as calling me a failure.  Saying I did not fail is redefining reality and calling “bad” “good”.  I am simply the one who failed.  After getting the bad news, the Navy went through the required procedure and, in the end, decided to send me back to the beginning of the course with another class.  I hear repeating the 8th grade isn’t so bad…

 

Grace for Those Who Believe

I was talking with a good friend of mine recently about grace.   As we discussed our marriages, or kids, our jobs, and other mysteries of our lives, it seemed the topic of grace became a major undertone.  I directed the conversation towards grace and asked some questions…

What is Grace?  What does Grace look like in the our lives as fathers and husbands?  How do we interact with Grace in our lives?

My friend let me know pretty quick that these were NOT easy questions for him to answer.  We went on to talk about other things for the rest of our time together.  I asked him to think about grace and these questions and send me an email with his answers.

Maybe I am getting lazy… just posting other people’s emails in this blog… but I loved his response!  He has agreed to let me post his thoughts and his heart below.  Enjoy!

What do I know of grace?  This was a question I knew for sure, for quite some time until  heard some talk about it.  This topic came up, probably bi-weekly, for around 9-10 months from various people.  I knew God was trying to tell me to do a study on grace, but I kept putting it off. I kept meaning to get around to it, after I finished this book, or that book, or meeting with this guy.  I finally sat down one day and looked into the matter.  What is grace? According to a website definition, grace is special favor, or the unmerited favor of God.   What is merit?  According to another definition, it is the quality of being particularly good or worthy.  What does this mean?  It means there is nothing we can do to be particularly good or worthy of the favor of God.  In the letter of Paul to the Ephesians, he states it is only by grace that we are saved through faith.  This does not have a bearing on anything we can do or achieve of ourselves.  It is purely a gift given to us by God.  This is so nobody can go around boasting and say, “look how much better I am than you are at getting saved.”  This, I knew.  I had no problems with this.  My deeds are like nasty dirty nasty nasty dirty, nasty, rags.  So, I become a Christian based on the work that Christ has accomplished and not on the work that I have accomplished.
Aaaaaaand then it stops.
I learned that I wasn’t good enough to please people, so I tried harder. When I would try really hard, I would find the favor of people.  I learned to associate this approval with good deeds in my day to day life. Grace was something that we needed to come to a saving faith of Jesus while justice was what we needed to keep people in line with their “lack of living the Christian life like their supposed to.”  I began to link the effects of my good deeds in my day to day life to how I view my Heavenly Creator.
So what did this create?  It created a false view of the abundant love of God, post conversion.  Talk about destructive in a marriage relationship, whew, you have no idea.  I could love my wife when she was trying hard enough, and I could love her when she wasn’t trying hard enough, but I had to show her justice in the times she didn’t try so hard.  This was so she could be worthy of MY love.  Well, that didn’t work out very well and I didn’t know that’s what I was doing.  I showed my kids I loved them MORE when they brought home good grades, and they got punished for bringing home bad grades.  I was teaching them that to receive MY love they had to prove themselves worthy.  This is not grace.Grace does not stop when someone professes Christ with their lips  and believes in their heart.  Today, I am in no less need of God’s grace than the person shooting up drugs in the crack house.  I can do nothing on my own merit now, or before I came to a saving faith in Christ.  It doesn’t matter how much I try to prove myself to God for Him to love me.  He just loves me. It also doesn’t matter how little I try, He STILL loves me.  I don’t do spiritual disciplines, like read the bible, to get Gods love.  I can’t.  So why do I have spiritual disciplines if nothing I can do will allow God to love me more or less?  I do them BECAUSE God loves me, not FOR Gods love. Its like if someone were to give me a new car.  I would bring them cookies to show them how much I love them, not to get another car.  This is the same as God’s grace for us. Do  want my kids to do their best in school?  Sure I do.  But now I tell them it doesn’t matter how many F’s or A’s they bring home, I just love them, then we work on extra homework.  We do the homework not to receive my love, but to do with all their might whatever their hands find to do. There’s a story similar to this in regards to Gods grace.  In a college classroom there were the slackers who would come in 15 min after   class started, sit in the back, sleep, and rush out after class.  They would turn in half their assignments and applied themselves to parties and not papers. Then there were the students that would show up 15 min early, sit in the front, and stay after to ask the professor to expound on his lecture.  These students sacrificed their social lives to make the grade.  When the end of the semester came, the students crowded around the cork board to see what they got for their final grade.  To the studious students amazement they noticed they received an A, but they also noticed the bad students received an A as well.  They became irate and nearly rioted outside the professors office.  How on earth were the bad kids able to make an A when they put in half the amount of work?  The professor replied, Isn’t it my grade to give as I see fit?  The “bad” students aren’t worthy of an A.  But neither are the “good” students.  They both receive a reward, not based on their merit, but based on being in the class.Now, with grace and love, grace and works, there’s also grace and freedom.  Legalism – law, liberty, love – license.  Let me explain.  We have grace. We have grace with love, liberty and the law.  Because of Grace, we have love in law, and love in liberty.  Because of Grace we have liberty in love, and liberty in law, and law in love and law in liberty.  This is all in balance and all because of grace.  When grace is skewed we go to an extreme. On the right there is “license.”  We say, because of grace I have the license to do whatever I want (so that grace may abound even more.) And on the other side we have Legalism.  You have to wear a suit and tie on Sundays or you are required to read the bible every day, if not then you’re sinning and Jesus won’t love you.  When grace is in balance we have what is called, freedom. Because of grace, I can be free to disagree with people.  Because of grace, I can be free to not have sexual addictions.  Because of grace, I can be free to be there for my children if they go down a wrong path.  I don’t condemn these people because of grace.  I can’t learn to love, and I mean actually love, until I learn grace.  To sum up what Jerry Bridges says, it wasn’t Christ died so that we could have grace, rather, because of grace Christ died.So what is grace to me now?  Well, in a nutshell, grace is something I need on a daily basis.  I am not worthy on my own.  Nothing I could ever do could ever come close enough to have God love me more or less than what He does. I work to show myself worthy of the calling with which He has called me.  I work, BECAUSE of the love He loved me with, not for it.  I love my wife because of the love that God has for her, not what she is doing or how she is doing it. And I love my children, not because of what they can do, but because I have freedom,with grace, to demonstrate this love of God to them.Honestly, I don’t know if I could ever explain the full concept of grace. But this I know, grace has changed my post conversion life in a way that I would never have expected. 

 It’s not about winning and losing.
It’s just grace.
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