Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Life Without Grace

I don't know about you, but the title of this blog makes me cringe. I can't possibly imagine a life without grace. But for some, the concept of grace is difficult. It was for me for much of my life. As much as I love and respected my preacher growing up, grace was not a typical Sunday morning sermon topic.

And as I entered the ministry, I didn't often see grace among church members. I saw anger, resentment, racism, and elitism; but little grace. I had a woman in my office today describing her upbringing and she used the words, "there was no grace." My wife and I have recently reached out to a couple of young people who have made some missteps in their lives. One feels and complete rejection from "the church," and the other feels rejection from their "Christian" family.

I remember being at a congregation where a young lady responded on Sunday asking the church for forgiveness for a sexual relationship that had become public. I had one person say to me, "the only reason she responded was because she got caught." My response was "well praise God she got caught!"

In 2 Samuel, David received a great promise from God. God had promised to establish a kingdom through the linage of David that would stand forever. Because of Gods promise, David knelt in reverence declaring the sovereignty of God. For all intents and purposes, David had reached a pinnacle in life that few ever reach. But when David reached that pinnacle, he did what many others do: he fell. He committed a sexual sin with Bathsheeba and murdered her husband in the process of trying to cover it up.

In chapter 12 we read where David was rebuked. Without going over the whole story, when David realized he was busted, he repented. And guess what God did? FORGAVE! But what did it take? It took him getting caught to realize the magnitude of his sin.

I guess I am rambling, but the point I am trying to make is that we need to make sure that the church is a place people can find grace. The Christian home is a place where children should find grace. I am not saying that we should use this a permission to let people sin or children disobey; but when they do we should take the opportunity to show grace. How can people ever understand God's grace if they don't see it from God's people?

When people are brought face to face with their sin, it is not rejection they need. It is love, compassion, and grace. And if your wondering how many times you should forgive someone, a good question to ask yourself is this: "How many times have I sinned?" What would your life be like without grace? The very thought should make us cringe.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

From the Other Side of the Hospital Bed

As a minister, I have made trips to the hospital many times. I have rejoiced those who are celebrating the birth of a child and I have cried with those mourning the loss of a loved one. I have sat at the bedside of those battling cancer and I have prayed with those who are scared of what the doctor is going to say. But last weekend I was given a new perspective. I was the one in the hospital bed.

I first want to say that I appreciate all the love and support that was given to me by those who called, visited, emailed, texted, facebooked, and prayed. But I also experienced a few things that were not so positive. For years I have had people say to me that people with good intentions often said and did discouraging things while they were in the hospital. After this past weekend I can say that this is true. And I do not write this as a rant, but as to teach.

So after my experience over the weekend, and years of people telling me of their experiences, here are a few pointers if you have a loved one or a friend in the hospital:
• Keep visits short. Normally the patient will be tired from tests and/or medication.

• During the visit, focus your attention on the patient. Talk to them, not about them to others in the room.

• Do not give reasons why you think they may be in the hospital. Even if you think they brought it on themselves because of stress or lifestyle, it is probably best you keep that information to yourself. Job’s three friends did great until they started telling him why he was sick. Then in 16:2 Job refers to them as “miserable comforters.” They best thing you can do for someone is be there. You don’t have to say everything you think.

• Be careful about using sarcastic humor. Sometimes the patient may not be in the mood for joking and humor and may take it more personally than you intended.

• Be patient with the patient. Don’t lecture them or get frustrated with them even if you think they are being crabby or feeling sorry for themselves. If you have not been in their shoes, you have no idea what they are feeling.

This experience has made me see some changes I need to make when I go visit others. It has also helped me to see I need to do a better job not making excuses and just go. Now that I have been in those shoes (actually brown socks with sticky stuff on the bottom) I have a new perspective. I hope all who read this will take it with the spirit intended. Not as a rant, but as an opportunity to teach and help us all better learn to “encourage one another—and all the more as
you see the Day approaching. (Heb. 10:25)”