Monthly Archives: February 2013

You Can’t Earn Because It Is All Grace

EarnEarning starts early in life and it is one of the hardest parts about trusting God; believing that His saving grace is, well, grace. In other words, it can’t be earned – none of it.

(Becoming a Christian – How to Receive God’s Grace by Faith In Christ.)

And what part of this life is not of grace? After all, I can’t earn (buy or pay for):

  • Initial existence. God is the sole Creator and life-giver of the universe (Colossians 1:16). Who chooses to be born? Who opens the womb?
  • Ongoing existence, which includes our earthly and eternal existence. God is speaking “all things” into being (Hebrews 1:3) without the help of anyone. How much control does any person really have in a dangerous universe, on a disease-saturated earth?

Everything else fits under these two categories, but there are other obvious evidences of unearned favor.

  • Who has earned the sun and it’s life giving light and heat? 
  • Who has earned air for breath?
  • Who has earned rain and snow?
  • Who has earned the vegetation of the earth that produces food and breathable air?
  • Who has earned the earth’s atmosphere with its layers of protection from harmful radiation?

This general revelation tells us more than the mere fact that there is a God. It also tells us He is a God of unimaginable gift-giving. General revelation does not save, but it is embedded with grace that points to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Who has paid for these things? Which one of us has earned any of these necessities? None of us, not even one. It’s all grace and yet so many of us try to earn righteousness so we might have favor with God. And some of us, even after we have received saving grace by faith, return to a learn and earn ethic. So many of us don’t know how not to earn.

How do we stop trying to earn?

Perhaps the best way to avoid a debtor’s mentality that infects every part of our lives is to remind ourselves daily that this whole show is a gift. It’s all grace. Every particle of it. Think about these things and remind yourself that it is all grace.

Replication is Probably Happening

This morning at our weekly men’s gathering we used an article by Michael Hyatt called, Leadership and the Law of Replication, as a spring board for some very challenging discussion. In summary, he argues that those we lead will be like us for better and for worse – even if we don’t recognize that it is happening.

And that’s why it is important to have some self-awareness and other-awareness. We have to know something of our own strengths and weaknesses and we also have to be willing to see them in others and recognize that it is probably a reflection of our leadership. This is especially true in parenting. Why do your children act the way they do? When you observe them, you are probably looking at a living mirror. And as one man pointed out this morning, that’s scary, and even cringe-worthy.

But how does replication take place? One of the most helpful moments of the morning was when we identified three ways replication happens. These observations primarily came from the opening story in the article that is posted above. Replication happens:

  1. By what comes naturally. What is it that we do that we don’t even know we are doing it because it is so much a part of us that we are like fish in water? What comes natural to us tends to happen over and over again. The question becomes this: “Is natural helpful or hurtful?” This is why self-awareness is so important; you are passing on something to those you influence and/or lead.
  2. By what is done consistently. What is done over and over again sticks. This is why repetition is a necessary component of teaching.
  3. By what is distinctly noticeable. Replication happens because something is visibly modeled that does not fit with what is normal. What do we do that sticks out to others? Whatever it is, it probably is being replicated – whether good or bad.

The potential trouble with all three of these means to replication is that they may not produce a desirable and virtuous outcome. So I offer four guardrails to protect us from ignorant and accidental error:

  1. Begin by asking what you hope to accomplish. What is your goal? What is the result you hope to see? What is success? If you don’t know the answer to this question, then you need not proceed. Imagine deciding to build something without knowing what you want to build. That’s a recipe for frustration. 
  2. Have intentional processes. Plan to take actions that are noticeable and consistent for others to see. You may also have to eliminate some things that come naturally that don’t accomplish the intended end. For instance, if you desire responsive and disciplined children, don’t watch TV while eating potato chips for four hours a day.
  3. Seek to be self-aware. It’s a frightening thought that you could be passing on to your children or followers something that you are completely blind to. Ask introspective questions about yourself often.
  4. Embrace community and shared leadership.  The shortcoming of number three is that we really like ourselves and are therefore often blind to weaknesses that are obvious to others. We should invite trustworthy and wise people to critique our lives. When was the last time you asked your spouse what you could do better? What about a fellow leader? Also, by placing ourselves  in a committed community of people and by sharing leadership, our weaknesses can be minimized because the people who follow us see a diversity of strengths that no one person alone possesses. My sons, for instance, need to see other males who are acting like men so that they don’t conclude: “That’s just the way us Prentice men do it.”

If we hold any kind of influence with people then there will be replication. So consider this question: If people imitated me in everything I did, would I be glad?

Without Confrontation There Is No Restoration

“Without confrontation there is no restoration.” Darrin Patrick

In light of what the Bible says about the holiness of God and the condition of sinful man, I don’t know how the aforementioned statement could not be true.

You don’t have to read long into the grand narrative that is the Bible to see God confronting Adam with the question: “”Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) And from that point on the Bible is replete with examples of necessary and course-correcting confrontation.

  • Nathan confronted David for adultery, lying and murder (2 Samuel 12:7).
  • Jesus confronted Peter for being man-centered (Mark 8:31-33).
  • Peter confronted Ananias for lying to God (Acts 5:3).
  • Paul confronted Peter for hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11). Peter needed a lot of confrontation.
  • The Spirit has confronted every person who has received Christ by faith (16:8). For we all are sinners (Rom. 3:23).

Have we not also been called to this ministry of confrontation that is necessary for reconciliation? I can’t see how we can avoid it, for there is no restoration without it.

But here’s a confrontation warning: Beware of the man/woman who enjoys confrontation. Some people just enjoy a good quarrel and Paul warns us about them in 1 Timothy. There are a few confrontation zealots out there but my concern is that far too many of us never confront when we know we must.

So when we must, here are a few confrontation pointers:

  • Understand that in a sinful world confrontation is inevitable. 
  • Pray and make sure that you need to confront based on the truth, not your preference or opinion. Choose wisely your confrontations.
  • Pray for strength to follow through. Don’t coward out.
  • Early in the conversation let it be known that your intention is to help and not to harm.
  • Early in the conversation let it be known you might not have all the facts and you hope you are wrong.
  • Lead by confronting with questions.
  • Speak the truth in love when you confront (Ephesians 4:15). How do you know you are confronting in love? Ask the question of whether or not it is for the good of the person you are confronting.
  • A prior relationship is almost an absolute prerequisite.
  • Know your categories. Are you talking to a believer or an non-believer? Don’t expect n0n-Christians to act like Christians.
  • Sometimes being in a position of leadership requires you to confront.
  • Make sure you speak to the point of the confrontation. Don’t leave things vague, otherwise, you may have to confront the person again in the near future. At some point you are going to have to make statements that get to the heart of the matter.
  • Pray that God will use your step of obedience for the good of the other person and your own sanctification (The latter will most certainly happen). God will be glorified by this motivation.
  • Thank God that He has given you some backbone and pray that God will give someone else the backbone to confront you when you need it – because you will.