Sometimes it can be difficult to discern the difference between grace and mercy. They are often used within the same context when describing the glorious and kind attributes of God, but it’s important to understand their distinctiveness and how we benefit from each of them in different ways as Christians.
Photo: Jon Tyson
Grace is often defined as unmerited favor, meaning that it’s a gift, help, or support given to us that we don’t at all deserve. It’s an extension of benevolent kindness from God toward us by which we are able to receive the eternal blessings He lavishes it on us through no effort of our own. We cannot earn grace in any way. If we could, it would—by definition—cease to be grace. It is an undeserved proactive gift from God extended to us by which we are able to experience the riches of relationship with Him through no effort of our own.
What’s the point?
It’s a good question to ask when examining the validity of getting married today as opposed to just living together to “try things out” and see if you’re compatible before jumping into a life-long commitment…right? Isn’t living together just easier? Wouldn’t it be a good “test-drive” for both of us? Wouldn’t we have more collective money if we lived together instead of separately? Can’t cohabitation act as a good safety net for our relationship in case things don’t work out? Our sex life would improve if we moved in together, wouldn’t it?
In my newest book, What’s the Point?: Asking the Right Questions About Living Together and Marriage, I tackle questions like these and much more. It’s a resource about cohabitation and marriage that anyone can give away to those who are wrestling with the idea that marriage is anything more than a piece of paper, or read ourselves as Christians to be more prepared for those conversations. The intended audience is mainly for college students, but the subject obviously applies to a variety of others as well. There’s also a full gospel presentation within it that directly links to the subject at hand.
If you’re interested in picking up a copy, you can find it here: What’s The Point?
Today would have been the first day of beach evangelism for all the students who came for week 1 of Cru’s Big Break conference.
This morning, they would have gone through their first session of evangelism training on how to listen well, ask good questions, care for people they talk with, and genuinely empathize with the struggles they encounter out there on the beach. Day 1, week 1 of a seven-day conference, repeated each week for four weeks total.
Big Break was utterly unique, and I had the honor of emceeing that conference for almost two decades.
I’m constantly in the bad habit of trying to control everything around me. As a typical American drenched in a Western mindset, I like to think that I’m in the driver’s seat, commanding the direction my life will go.
Photo: Erik Kroon, Unsplash
Naturally then, my inclination is make assumptions that my own actions are what determine my circumstances and ultimately, my destiny. Of course, when I write it out like this or follow that specific line of thought from beginning to end, it seems ridiculous to say that I would really live this way. Experientially, though, these are the sinful and arrogant day-to-day assumptions I consistently make about my life.
If you’re a comic book geek like me (which you probably aren’t), then you know that most action figures purchased by adults are not meant to see any action at all. They are meant to be purchased and then quickly stored away or put on display next to other pristine action figures that have never been removed from their protective see-through plastic tombs. Ahem, I may or may not be guilty of this very thing.
Photo: Nareeta Martin, Unsplash
But that attitude toward moveable pieces of plastic is all really silly when you think about it. Toys are meant to be played with and not just observed, right? So why do so many people insist on never taking action figures out of their packaging in order to experience them to the fullest?
During our second pandemic lockdown in Pennsylvania, my daughters (9 and 7) heard from a few of their friends that Disney+ had a trilogy of movies originally released on the Disney Channel between 2015 to 2019 about the teenaged children of famous Disney villains. As a result, Descendants, Descendants 2, and Descendants 3 quickly became the favorite movie requests for my girls when they were allowed to have screen time.
Photo: Maria Teneva, Unsplash
And because I’m a dad who tolerates dreadful kid movies for the sake of my children, I’ve seen all three “films” and now regularly wake up with the ear worm soundtrack of the third movie playing in my head as soon as I open my eyes each morning.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.” (Revelation 22:7)
It’s easy to see that there is great agony in our world. Trials, difficult times, pain, and suffering are everywhere and, frankly, are altogether unavoidable. And when (not if) suffering rears its ugly head, you can wonder why God permits it, and if it will ever stop.
In many ways, you have control over what you want to have fed to you online. When you think about it, the internet is one giant digital buffet line you can pick and choose from to put on your plate and eat, depending on the mood you’re in at that particular moment. Other than advertisements here and there, nothing is digitally forced on you except what you have personally chosen.
And the same can be said about who we choose to spiritually influence and mentor us. If you’re trusting in yourself and choosing who you are going to on the internet as your primary source of spiritual input, you’re submitting only to the trustworthiness of yourself, and you don’t have to listen to anybody you don’t want to listen to. If the sermon on the podcast starts to make you feel uneasy, you stop it and find something else to tune in to. If the Bible study is too challenging, you can simply click away to a different one you’re capable of easily digesting.
This was an important conversation to have right now in our current cultural moment.
My hope and prayer is that this conversation with Alisa Childers helps you understand how doubt can be a healthy part of your walk with God, and also point you in some great directions as you see/hear stories of “Christian deconstruction.” I really appreciated my time talking with Alisa. She was kind, warm, and super encouraging. Click here or on the image above to see the video of our conversation.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to be interviewed on Igniting a Nation and talk with Messianic Rabbi Eric Walker on the topic of doubt and how people young and old can doubt well in our current cultural climate. The background where I’m recording in this video is white and bland (like me), but I assure you the topic of conversation will be helpful for you. To watch the full interview, click here, or on the image below.