I left off in my last post, with Donna estranged, homeless, and on her own. The crash of the co-dependent life had come about in the worst of ways. Or perhaps the best of ways. For the first time in her life, Donna had to depend on her – not Dad – to get her life turned around. I prayed that she would understand such a transformation would come only through the Grace of Jesus. I had long since released this all over to Him.
In the three years since then, Donna and I have watched our relationship ebb and flow. I truly believe much of that ebb and flow was because Donna wasn’t ready to receive the Grace that God had to offer, and that I had to offer. Satan’s greatest lie in this process is that “you are not worthy of receiving that grace.” He leaves off the part where Christ paid the price and in Christ are we made worthy. Grace absolutely is a journey. Both for the one giving and the one receiving it. We are in a good place in our relationship now. It has come because of much prayer and hard work. As Kyle puts it:
Grace is more than a decision we make, it’s a JOURNEY we take.
The journey does not end as long as we are walking the ice of this planet. There are ebb and flow moments still ahead. But I believe that Grace is Greater. There is NO SIN that is able to negate the power of Grace. Nothing we could ever do can wipe away the power of Grace. We can deny ourselves the Grace that God has to offer us, and sadly, many of us do. Kyle Idleman “puts it Blountly” when he writes:
Here’s my concern: often the church is know for its outrage toward people outside of our community who need grace rather than outrage for the people inside our community who refuse to give it.
I don’t ever want that to be said about me. I am the worst sinner I know. I am in need of Grace every day. How could I ever DARE to refuse to give Grace to ANYONE else?
How about you? How can you extend Grace today? To whom do you need to extend Grace? I would love to continue the conversation in the comments section below.
Having read Kyle Idleman’s latest book, “Grace Is Greater,” I am moved to tell a story of grace, forgiveness, redemption, and reconciliation from my own experience.
I have written in the past about the fact that my Dad lived with us for several years before having to place him in a skilled nursing facility where he passed away last May. The story of how he came to live with us has not be written before.
Dad and my sister Donna had a co-dependent relationship for decades. Donna played the role of addict well, and Dad was an enabler extraordinaire. This co-dependency kicked into high gear following the death of Mom in 1993.
While there were serious warning signs of things to come as early as 2005, Dad kept me at arms-length regarding the depth of the co-dependency. Oh, I knew it was there. I even told Dad in a letter that I would do anything I could to help, IF he would let me. If he wouldn’t, then I would simply stay out of the way. All this, after I was accused of trying to control Dad. He was hospitalized (for what I now know was the 1st time of being hospitalized for polypharmacy), and I wanted to get his car repaired. I backed off.
Fast forward three years, and I found out that Donna was in jail, Dad was home alone, his bank account beyond depleted, his car hidden in the garage because he was afraid the title pawn folks were going to take his car (and they would have), his phone disconnected, and his electric about to be disconnected (again). Oh yeah, and the house was in the early stages of foreclosure.
Donna’s addiction had taken her to the point where she had written tens of thousands of dollars of bad checks on Dad’s account (she and I were both listed on the account with Dad), she had maxed out all of his credit cards, and his bank account had been closed because it was in the red for more than three consecutive months. Dad was clueless about all of this, except for the fact that Donna was in jail, and some guys were looking for his car.
Donna did indeed spend quite some time in jail for her bad check writing deeds. During that time, she wrote to Dad demanding that he bring her money and toiletries. I told Dad that he could not do that because he didn’t have any money. I wrote Donna, telling her that I loved her, but she wouldn’t be getting any money from Dad since he was tens of thousands of dollars in debt, I was trying to save his house and his car, and establish a new checking account where he could get his pension, social security, etc. direct deposited. I know that Donna thought I was satan in the flesh. I will confess that I was very angry with what she had done to Dad. I was also angry with what Dad had done to enable Donna to get to that point.
Long story short, Donna is out of jail, making restitution payments to several counties where she wrote bad checks. I temporarily saved Dad’s house, but eventually had to give it up. I got thousands of dollars of debt taken care of (either paid off or forgiven) before Dad’s health demanded placing him in skilled nursing as a medicaid patient.
Like I said, I was angry about what was going on, but I did NOT want to play the role of the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. I prayed and prayed. I prayed for Dad. I prayed for Donna. I prayed for me. I prayed to be a dispenser of grace. I did FINALLY come to the point where I truly released all of my anger, hurt, frustration, and resentment to God.
There are consequences to actions, and trust takes a LONG TIME to rebuild. I will simply tell you, that trust has been restored in my relationship with Donna. It has not been easy. Can’t find anywhere in Scripture where it says that life will be easy. I had to let go. I had to get to the point where I truly put all of this very painful situation in God’s hands. Again, I was as angry with Dad as I was with Donna. Yet, we took Dad into our home and cared for him as best we could for as long as we could without risking serious injury (Dad had balance issues…he fell NINE times in the last eight days he lived in our home). Donna, on the other hand, was still playing the co-dependent card with Dad all the way up until the point he was a medicaid patient and no longer had any money or assets she could use. She did another stint in jail about four years ago, and at about that time, I was giving the house back to the mortgage company. Now, Donna was literally alone and without a place to live, etc.
I will finish the story on Monday. And by finish, I mean I will bring you to the present day in this journey of Grace.
If you have not already ordered or purchased the book Grace Is Greater, stop reading this blog and do it right now. Don’t worry about what I am writing, read the life-giving words Kyle shares in this important book. After you have placed your order, come on back and I will continue this sneak peak at some of my (numerous) highlights.
Today I promised to speak “briefly” about the healing, feeing, prevailing, redeeming power of Grace as explained by Kyle Idleman. Buckle up. The quote blocks are from the book, the other stuff is me, just in case you couldn’t figure that out. lol
Sometimes we think we need to forgive someone when in reality we had no business being hurt in the first place.
Such an important distinction to make in this day and age when everyone is offended by anything. Toughen up, Christ-followers. We are not snowflakes, and there are plenty of times we need to simply stop playing the “I am offended” card.
There are times when we have been genuinely offended. Instead of retaliating with offense of our own, we need to remember Peter’s admonition in 1 Peter 3:9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will grant you his blessing.
We should not relatiate, because we have received Grace that is far greater than we deserve, and as Kyle reminds us:
We’re never more like God than when we forgive.
That wisdom alone is worth the price of the book. Actually I find myself thinking that thought about numerous wisdom nuggets contained in this book. However, the notion that we cannot truly be like God until we FORGIVE is sobering. It is my desire to look more like Christ in my daily journey through this life. That desire must include the continual action of forgiveness, just as I am continually forgiven by Heavenly Father.
God is standing with you and offers you a grace that is not only greater than anything you have done but greater than anything that has been done to you.
One of my favorite Rich Mullins lines is not from a song, but from a comment he made in a concert, when he declared, “‘Vengeance is mine saith the Lord,’ I just love being about the Lord’s business.” Now, this was obviously tongue-in-cheek, but I wonder how often I have lived my life in that manner. May the life of all of us who follow Christ be marked by forgiveness and grace. May we understand that extending grace does not let our offender off the accountability hook, but it does require that I move beyond my desire to “make things right” by seeking revenge. Grace prevails because Grace is greater than my vengeance.
The forgiveness we have received from God is the motivation, the mandate, and also the model of forgiveness we are to give.
Oh, I see what “preacher thing” you did there, Kyle. What with the whole alliterative phrase and all. The truth of this statement knocks me to my knees asking God for forgiveness once again.
The chapter on Reconciliation contains the story of Joyce Meyer and her relationship with her parents, specifically her father. Have your hankie ready when you read this story. Real men WILL cry at this beautiful story of reconciliation.
Total reconciliation requires both forgiveness from the offended and repentance from the offender.
The depth of insight of Kyle Idleman is clearly seen as he retells the story of Jacob and Esau AND reminds us that Jacob’s boy Joseph witnessed their reconciliation. That was an “AHA” moment of clarity that had me cheering out loud. Thank you, Kyle.
Since the book officially released yesterday, I may not continue to review chapter-by-chapter, but rest assured that future blog posts will be heavily influenced by this book. I know Friday’s post certainly will be as I bring much of this to a personal level. Thanks for hanging in there with me.
What are some ways you dispense grace? I would love to continue the conversation in the comments section below.
The journey into “Grace is Greater” is an amazing, love-filled time. Today and Wednesday, I will continue my journey through this book, and share a few thoughts with you. Thanks for giving me the grace to take this journey with me. See what I did there? lol
You can run away and hide, but grace is relentless. Grace will track you down.
Now, THAT is the beautiful thing about grace. It doesn’t wait on you, grace tracks you down. I am so grateful that grace did not wait on me, because I would never have experienced grace. The entire story of the Bible is a story of God chasing down you, me, and everyone who has ever lived. Get this: God DESIRES fellowship with you. He longs for Communion with you. Don’t believe that? God sent His one and only Son Jesus to pay the price for your sins so that you could spend eternity in the Presence of the One Who created the universe! Even though you (and I, and everyone else) didn’t deserve it. Grace chased humankind down, and Jesus provides the way for us to have ALL our sins forgiven.
If your assumption bout Jesus is that he doesn’t have any interest in you, then there’s a good chance you’ve never had much interest in him.
Bam! Jesus has been pursuing you since before you knew Who Jesus was! Jesus knows you better than you know yourself, and he loves you anyway!! As Kyle puts it…
That is the beauty of grace. It is for everyone. period. As for the redemptive work of grace, well, that depends on our attitude in receiving grace. The bottom line for all of us is this: (Romans 3:23NLT) “For everyone has sinned, we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” When we truly come to recognize that fact of life, we can either respond with regret leading to remorse, leading to despair, or we can respond with regret leading to remorse, leading to repentance.
Repentance is one of those “churchy words,” that means to turn from sin and turn toward God. It is a change of attitude AND direction. I’m not sure that the church in America has paid enough attention to the role of repentance when it comes to receiving grace. We have a tendency to gloss over repentance, because frankly there is a lot of work to repenting. Oh, the grace is a free gift, but repentance is necessary to fully experience the benefits of grace. Kyle tells the story of the hole in the closet door to demonstrate how we can miss the joy of grace without true repentance. If you want to know that story, get the book!
As I continue reading through Grace Is Greater, I find myself at the end of each chapter saying, “that was the best chapter yet.” Then, I read another chapter. Trust me, you WANT to purchase and read this book. No, I get no royalties, I just strongly believe in the message Kyle Idleman shares in this book.
On Wednesday, I will briefly take a look at how Grace frees, heals, prevails, and reconciles. Well, I’ll share my thoughts about what Kyle teaches in those areas. Thanks again for taking this journey with me.
This week, I have had the privilege of spending some time with one of my former youth group “kids” and his beautiful family. Greg Nunley was in the first youth group I led as a student minister who was still wet from the baptistery. That group is forever notched in my ever-failing memory, because I honestly relied 100% on God to get me through leading that group. I was too “dumb” to do anything else.
30 years later, I have learned much about “doing ministry,” but honestly, that group at Westwood Christian Church taught me more than I could have dreamed of teaching them. I still have regular contact with several members of that group, and yeah, they all know that they are still “my kids.”
About nine months ago, Greg found out that he has an aggressive form of lymphoma. He has undergone numerous treatments, but it appears that his time walking on this earth is drawing to a close. Greg and his wife Stacy have seven children raninging in age from 7 to 17.
Although it had literally been decades since Greg and I had seen each other, and although I had never met Stacy or any of the children, they immediately took me in as family from the instant I walked through their door. (I guess I DID teach Greg a thing or two after all).
Greg is a minister of the Gospel of Christ, and has served in several smaller, mostly rural congregations. This beautiful, loving family has moved on numerous occasions, but shows a resiliency not often seen today. Perhaps it was one way God has been preparing them for the road that lies ahead.
This family is a loving example of Christ to all with whom they come in contact. They openly talk about their faith in God, their love for Christ and for each other, and they openly talk about their journey with Greg through the battle against lymphoma. They do not shy away from the fact that Greg will not be with them on this planet much longer. Greg leads from his quiet strength that I first saw in him as a teenager. His love for the Lord has not wavered, and he continues living his life one day at a time for Jesus. He was like that long before lymphoma came around, and he is living that way in the face of this horrible disease. There is no hint of bitterness or questioning from Greg (nor was there from Stacy or the kids). We all agree that we would desire for this disease to just go away, but this family is a loving example of trusting that God has this.
How refreshing my time spent with Greg and his beautiful family has been for me this week. How I long to be a source of encouragement and strength for this family I love so dearly. I pray that they know they are “stuck” with me now. More importantly, I pray that Stacy and the children will take comfort in knowing that God loves them. Period. God wants them to continue to be vessels of praise for Him. I pray that God will protect their hearts through the very tough days ahead, just as He has through the tough days they have experienced over the past nine months. May they remember that every day is a gift from God. May they know that life on this planet is not the “be all, end all.” May they long to be in the Presence of Jesus so they can be reunited with their Dad and Stacy’s husband again some day.
Nearly 30 years ago (the exact date is in question, since Greg did NOT date this), Greg did a caricature of Don Boswell and me at Westwood Christian church. Yeah, I am the guy in the van with the mustache, Maia!
This has hung in my office for nearly three decades. It reminds me that the rock foundation of Jesus is what we must build upon. Greg, Stacy, and their children are a loving, living example of that. I am SO GLAD that I got to spend this time with them. I am SO GLAD for the love we share through Jesus. I implore everyone who reads this to keep Greg, Stacy and their children in prayer. Thank you for doing so.
So, I have been a fan of Kyle Idleman since before he wrote that book. I have listened to countless sermons through the Southeast Christian Church podcast site, and even have a 2nd degree of separation from him on several fronts (a friend was his Bible Bowl sponsor, another couple I am close with attend Southeast and know him from there, etc.). I have read all of Kyle’s books – don’t ask me my favorite, because it will always be the last one I read. So, yeah, currently it is “End of Me.“
Well, that is not entirely true. I was among those selected to be on the Lanuch Team for Kyle’s newest book, “Grace is Greater.” Having an advanced copy and having already dived deeply within the pages of this tome, yeah, it is my new favorite. I will examine my journey through the book in my next couple of posts, and let me be the first to encourage you to purchase this book. You can pre-order it now on Amazon and at Grace Is Greater book website.
The subtitle for the book says it all: “God’s plan to overcome your past, redeem your pain, and rewrite your story.” I love the approach Kyle has taken in this book. In the introduction, Kyle writes: “I’m less interested, and for that matter less qualified, to teach you about the doctrine of grace. I am much more interested in helping you experience grace. I tend to think grace is best and most fully understood not by way of explanation alone but through experience.”
That’s why the Good News of the Gospel is so good! Because that grace is for EVERYONE.
As Kyle begins this journey with us, he makes a sobering statement that should give us all pause: “Our ability to appreciate grace is in direct correlation to the degree to which we acknowledge our need for it.” When I continue to fool myself into thinking that I am not THAT bad, or that I am better than most, I have bought into satan’s trap of the wrong comparison standard. I am a sinner in need of grace. Period. So are you, by the way. That’s why the Good News of the Gospel is so good! Because that grace is for EVERYONE. No matter what you have done in the past. No matter who you are.
Kyle wraps up chapter one in the book with the encouragement that, “you’ve done nothing so horrible that grace can’t cover it. Grace is always greater – no matter what.”
May you allow the grace of God to wash over you.
May those words encourage you today. May you allow the grace of God to wash over you. May you openly and freely receive this gift of grace given not because you deserve it, but because God loves you.
I look forward to sharing other thoughts generated from this book. Thanks for allowing me in your life to do so.
I married a woman who loves Jesus more than she loves me. For that I am eternally grateful. Peggy is the most godly woman, wife, and mother I have ever known. Now, before you think I am totally out of control mushy, please understand that she is not perfect. I mean, she married me, after all!
She is a woman who models herself after the sentiment of 1 Peter 3:4, clothing herself with the beauty that comes from within. Oh, make no mistake, she is beautiful on the outside, too. I know that I married up, when God gave me the privilege of being Peggy’s husband.
I also know that she loves Jesus more than she loves me. I LOVE studying through Scripture with her. We are currently immersing ourselves in 1 Peter. She also is doing the One Year Bible readings each day (as do I, but we are on different days, having started at different times). To see her studying God’s Word makes my heart leap for joy.
She loves Jesus more than she loves me.
To see her interacting with young women as a mentor blows me away, too. Oh, she doesn’t think she does a very good job in that regard, but I hear the wise counsel she dispenses, and I hear the giddy laughter of conversations she has with these ladies. I love the “behind-the-scenes” stuff she does because of her great love for Jesus and for people.
Our children all are adults who love the Lord, and that is due in no small part to the influence of their godly Mom. Yeah, I had something to do with that, too, but Peggy never gives herself proper credit in that department.
Peggy’s unceasing love and support for me is the most tangible indication of her love for Jesus. Last night, she commented that she was always proud of me. That is humbling. I know that I am not ALWAYS worthy of her being proud of me. Yet, in her gentle, kind, loving spirit, she always encourages me. Being a ministry wife (who didn’t start out that way, since I wasn’t in ministry when we got married), is probably the toughest “job” she could have ever “hoped for.” Yet, she is there with me, every step of the way. She is my life partner in every sense of the word. She has opened her heart and opened her home to scores of students through the years, many of whom have broken our hearts along the way. Her smile persists. Her love for Jesus endures, and even thrives.
Peggy is my everyday Valentine.
On this day set aside to honor someone you love, I just want to let the whole World Wide Web know beyond any shadow of doubt, that I married up. Peggy is my everyday Valentine. I am so glad that she loves Jesus more than she loves me. Because of her love for Jesus, she loves me better than I deserve, and better than she would have otherwise.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Peggy. I love you. But I love Jesus more. I know you feel the same way, and for that I give God the glory, honor, and praise only He deserves.
As I reflect on my decades of being a dad to three (now six when you include spouses) children, I know that I made plenty of mistakes along the way. If I did one thing right, I believe it is that I tried to be consistent in my expression of love for my kids and in my insistence that my kids love God first.
With that in mind, I will share some thoughts based on Paul’s admonition to Fathers as found in Ephesians 6:4
Do not provoke, rather bring them up with the discipline. There’s the rub. As the writer of Hebrews (I believe that to be Paul, but that’s a subject for another post/time), reminds us “no discipline seems pleasant at the time.” Discipline has become synonymous with “punishment,” but that is not an accurate definition of the word by any stretch. Discipline and Disciple both come from the same root word meaning “to teach or train someone.” Yes, there can be negative applications here, but there are also positive applications. Setting the example for others to follow and helping them to see the benefits of following is disciplining or discipling them.
When it came to raising our kids, my goal was to have children who love Jesus more than anything or anyone else. I wanted my children to see my love for Christ in action. Not just to hear me say the words, but to live the life. I wanted them to fall in love with Jesus and with the Word of God. I know I could have done a better job in this regard. Not sure my children “caught me” reading the Bible as much as I should have “been caught.” It is difficult to have quiet time with the kids in tow.
My goal was to have children who love Jesus more than anything or anyone else.
So what are some practices we can put into place to help our children be brought up with discipline while not provoking?
Set the example. If your kids don’t see you actively living out a life of love for Jesus, don’t expect them to do so themselves. Actions speak louder than words. You reverence of, respect for, and adoration of Jesus can be expressed in many ways, including how you treat your spouse and your children.
Read Scripture and pray with your kids. This is above and beyond your “quiet time” in the Lord. As I already mentioned, it can be difficult to be “caught” by your kids in your personal quiet time, but it wouldn’t hurt to be “caught” by them occasionally. Meanwhile, part of your daily routine should be time in the Word and in prayer with your kids. Ask you kids to pray for you, stuff like, “pray that daddy will live a life of love for Jesus today.” Including your kids as prayer partners, not just the subject of your prayers is a big deal, and can be done at all ages beyond the toddler years. For toddlers, encourage them to pray for Mommy and Daddy in simple terms they can handle.
As your kids grow older, let them in on some “quiet time” with you. Take them to a quiet place, let them in on your personal Bible study of that day, and pray with and for them.
Show your spouse love in front of your kids (keep it age appropriate). It is a good thing for your kids to know that Mommy and Daddy love each other. A friendly kiss on the cheek or even on the lips in front of your kids will NOT scar them for life!
Remember that your kids will learn more from what is “caught” than what is “taught.” Every second you spend with your kids is a “teachable moment.” The tone of voice you use, the choice of words, the smile (or lack thereof) are all important.
Don’t be afraid to admit your mistakes, especially when you are caught in one. Ask for forgiveness, and lay out a plan to correct the situation. Then, when your kids are caught in a mistake, have them do the same thing. You model it, and expect them to follow.
Remember that no one is perfect. Not even you. Extend grace freely, just as God extends it to you freely every day.
What would you add to this list? What are your successes in disciplining your kids? What would you do differently? I would love to continue the conversation in the comments section below.
Peter reminds us that humility comes from a tender heart. Man, is that so counter-cultural. Especially for us men, who are supposed to be rugged, tough, take-no-guff guys.
But humility doesn’t mean that you think any less of yourself. You just think of yourself less.
God has no favorites.
The paradox in our Christian life is the fact that we hear (or should hear) often that God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to take our sins away. We are the object of God’s great love. At the same time, Paul reminds us in Colossians 3:26b “For God has no favorites.” Peter echoes that sentiment in 1 Peter 1:17, “And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites.”
When I am tenderhearted, I am more Christ-like.
As I try to make sure I have a proper perspective, it is important for me to remember that as crazy as God is about me, He is that crazy about everyone else in the world. I have no reason, nor any right to become puffed up with myself. I need to remember that a modest opinion of my own importance, rank, etc. IS the proper perspective in the Kingdom of Christ. When I am tenderhearted, I am more Christ-like.
Of what can I boast? Any skills that I have come from God. Anything good I can conceive comes from God. Anything I can do that promotes peace, harmony, and love comes from God.
On the other hand, pride, arrogance, and judgementalism, those all come from my sinful nature which I am attempting to wipe out of my new life in Christ. I have no room for such sinful attitudes and behavior in this new life in Christ. It is my desire to see such traits disappear as I walk closer with my Lord every day of my life.
My prayer is that God will humble me daily, as I relate to others. I want to serve the King of kings and the Lord of lords ONLY.
So, how can I be a more tenderhearted, humble person? Here are a few suggestions to start off on that path:
I want to consider the wants and needs of others ahead of my own desires.
I want to serve those who can do nothing for me in return.
I want to serve without hesitation or condition.
I want to be a source of encouragement always.
I want to realize what my part in the Kingdom is, and to do that part with reckless abandon.
I want to be content with my part in the Kingdom, and not desire someone else’s part.