People must be given room to grow, which includes room to fail, to think on their own, to disagree, to make mistakes. Grace must be risked, or we will be stunted Christians who don’t think, who can’t make decisions, who operate in fear and without joy because we know nothing but someone else’s demands and expectations.
In King David’s day, the city of Jerusalem stood as a renovation and expansion of Jebus, a site the Hebrews never occupied in the territory of Benjamin.
Those who come to Jerusalem today for the first time are often surprised to learn that the original Jerusalem, “The City of David,” sat on a mere ten acres just south of the Temple Mount. Hardly impressive, it looks like some third-world neighborhood.
Steep slopes surround the City of David and gave it in a strategic advantage during any military threat. So much so, the inhabitants of Jebus felt confident “David cannot enter here” (2 Samuel 5:6). But he did, and David made the site his new capital.
The steep slopes became King David’s military strength.
But the slopes also played into his moral weakness. Here’s how.
Did you have to teach your kids to disobey? Um, not hardly. In fact, they taught you! There were times when my daughters’ disobedience was hilarious.
Years ago when one of my girls was only three, she snuck in the kitchen, climbed on the cabinet, found some candy, went to her room, closed the door, and hid under her bed to eat the sweets. How did she figure out how to do this?
My other daughter was not even two years old yet when she asked for a drink from a bottle. When I gave her a cup instead, she hurled it across the room and screamed, “NNOOO!!!!!” Just precious.
Like you, I never taught my children to disobey. It is in their nature. It’s in my nature too, by the way. And it’s in yours.
But that’s okay. Here’s why.
The hard facts of life, which knock some of the nonsense out of us, are God’s facts and His appointed school of character; they are not alternatives to His grace, but means of it.
It’s hard to imagine an omnipresent God dwelling in one place. And yet, every December we celebrate the fact. God dwells in the confines of a human body. And He is also everywhere.
But the incarnation isn’t the first time God has localized His presence among His people.
God is both omnipresent and present. King Solomon summed up the seeming contradiction when he prayed:
Will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house which I have built. —2 Chronicles 6:18
From creation to Christmas—and from today to eternity.
Let’s take a quick geographical journey and follow movements of God’s dwelling place among us.
I heard them board the airplane before I saw them. A mother was pushing one toddler in front of her and dragging another behind. The only available seats were the three right in front of me.
Before this week, I had never considered childproof locks on airline seatbelts. Now, I’m certain there’s a market for them. I would have bought one.
For more than two straight hours I watched the younger son—who reminded me of Bugs Bunny’s Tasmanian devil—jump, flail, thrash, flap, flop, hop, laugh—but mostly, scream. I don’t remember the name of the older son.
But I’ll never forget the Tasmanian devil’s name: “Theo.” I know because I heard it 863 times.
Absolutely undaunted, the mother used her large voice without embarrassment to correct Theo. She also informed the rest of us what was about to happen.
Once after Theo took his crayon and marked on the wall of the airplane (see the mark on the wall at left?), she jerked him from the window seat and announced to the rest of us, “Sorry about the screaming for the next 10 minutes, folks!” She was right. Little Theo let us have it.
First, Second, and Third Reactions
- My first reaction was to wonder why the mother hadn’t brought along a gallon of Tylenol PM. (If not for Theo, then for the rest of us.)
- My second reaction to this irritation was—I confess—frustration and resentment. After all, I paid just as much for my loud seat as the lucky people in the quiet part of the plane.
- But my third reaction took my attitude in a completely different direction.
God boarded the plane at that moment and somehow found room in my narrow heart.
The annual holiday Yom Kippur begins this evening. It always reminds me of a surprising conversation I had in Jerusalem at the Western Wall. A Jewish woman approached me and engaged me in a talk.
She somehow knew my affiliation with a radio ministry and told me we needed to broadcast to the nations God’s way to be saved. I told her that was, in fact, our passion.
She smiled and shook her head no.
Then she shared with me a list of things all Gentiles need to do in order for God to accept them. I recognized some of the standards as being from the Ten Commandments, and I told her so. Again, she smiled and shook her head.
“Those commandments are for the Jews,” she said.
“Do you keep them?” I asked.
Every time I watch this video, it inspires me that we’re here to share the love of Christ to a world that needs God’s grace.
Question: What is “grace” to you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Remember the day you left home? For some of us, that day was when we took off for college. For others, it was to take a job. We all had reasons, and we were gone.
When you left home, some things immediately changed. No longer did you have to be home at a certain time each night. If you wanted pizza ten times a week, you had it. Freedoms increased.
But there were also some things that didn’t change.
- The speed limit was still 55 mph.
- You still had to brush your teeth.
- Right and wrong was still right and wrong.
It’s interesting that in all the changes we experienced, neither our parents nor we had changed. Only the situation changed.
In a similar way, God has managed the world differently at different times. Some things never change with God.
But some do.
We all need people to influence us. God made us that way.
From the languages we speak to the character we develop—it all begins with those who surround us in our formative years.
It starts with our environment, but it shouldn’t end there. It cannot.
When it does, it’s tragic. That was the case with King Joash.
But it doesn’t have to be that way with us.