Why We Should Default to Grace Rather than to Criticism

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.

Why We Should Default to Grace Rather than to Criticism

(Picture: Meet Theo.)

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.

My First, Second, and Third Reactions

  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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How God Broadens Your Limited Perspective

Bridging the gap between the God we want and the God who is.

Have you noticed how often we tend to interpret our faith as we want it to be, rather than as God reveals it to be? I think of it this way. We have adopted the lifestyle of a tourist who only wants to see the highlights of the city.

How God Broadens Your Limited Perspective

(Photo: courtesy of Oomph)

Forget all the back alleys of New York. Show me Times Square. Let’s just jump to the Empire State Building. We focus on how the Christian life “ought” to be. (As if the tough parts are electives.)

A broad chasm stretches between the God we want and the God who is. Between the life we want and the life God wants for us.

As tough as it sounds, the only way to bridge this gap is the cross.

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4 Excellent Strategies to Really Conquer the Tug of Temptation

When you feel the pull, here's what to do.

Temptation tugs hard at our hearts at times. It’s like pulling a rope tied to an elephant. In this tug-of-war with our hearts, we need a mindset that goes beyond a defensive strategy and takes an active approach to sin and temptation.

4 Excellent Strategies to Really Conquer the Tug of Temptation

(Photo by Photodune)

Here are 4 basic strategies to help you battle the tug of temptation and sin on your heart.

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One Thing that May Make You Doubt God’s Presence

The Sinai Wilderness reminds us God's presence among us doesn’t always prove itself by our standards.

We know intellectually that God is with us. But sometimes our emotions haven’t gotten the message yet. We look at our Bible and it doesn’t seem to match our lives.

One Thing that May Make You Doubt God's Presence

(Photo: Sinai mountains with book of Exodus. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

When our world screams that God isn’t with us, or that He doesn’t care, or that the way things are will never improve, we have to remember what caused the Hebrews of old to doubt the Lord’s presence.

A shift in our thinking can help connect our emotions to truth.

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How to Turn Your Life Around 360 Degrees

A God of impossibilities shows His power in impossible situations.

Life often feels like a lot of effort with nothing gained. It reminds me of what Jason Kidd said after the Dallas Mavericks drafted him: “We’re going to turn this team around 360 degrees!”

How to Turn Your Life Around 360 Degrees

(Photo by Photodune)

At times, the Bible seems like a history book in which God makes and fulfills promises to the ancients, but the words somehow lack immediacy to our struggling lives. And yet, it’s funny how the anxieties that overwhelm our lives seem identical to those that biblical people struggled against.

Even though Scripture provides assurance of God’s promises, assurance doesn’t negate the stressful circumstances that force us to trust God.

Truth doesn’t make the hard parts of life go away. We still have to trust God with that truth.

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Finding the Motivation for Giving All of Your Heart to God

It comes from a past action that wasn't even yours.

There is a past action that dictates your motivation for living for God. It’s an action you can’t change. In fact, the action wasn’t even yours. But it can help you give it all to God.

Finding the Motivation for Giving All of Your Heart to God

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Years ago I owned a different car—a sports car. Sitting behind those eight cylinders, I could go from zero to too-fast in about five seconds. (Of course, I never did). After Cathy and I had our first daughter, I decided I needed a family vehicle. Car seats don’t fit in Firebirds.

So I sold the car.

A few months later, I found a spare set of keys to the car, and I thought: I need to get these to the new owner. Even though I could have kept the keys (as insignificant as it seemed), they really weren’t mine to keep. I had sold them, in a sense, when I sold the car.

Living for God is like finding a spare set of keys to a car you no longer own.

In fact, you have a whole lot of keys that aren’t yours, because of that past action I mentioned.

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What My Dumb Dog Taught Me about the Greatness of God

Welcome to the spectrum of all we don't know.

As I left the house early one morning recently, I turned on the garage light to make my way out. Our dog, Carlie, who sleeps in the garage, immediately stood up, walked over to me, and leaned against the wall.

What My Dumb Dog Taught Me about the Greatness of God

(Photo: Our dog, Carlie)

Her wagging tail slammed against the wall repeatedly—and the other side of that wall was my bedroom. I knew the pounding would disturb my sleeping wife.

I had tried to keep quiet. My dog ruined that. I got frustrated fast.

“Dumb dog,” I muttered under my breath.

Then it hit me.

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Did the Old Testament Offer Only One Way to God?

The exclusivity of salvation isn't a new question.

Of course, we can only approach God’s presence God’s way. The New Testament clearly reveals that only through Jesus can anyone come to God the Father (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:23). But what about in the Old Testament? Are there multiple ways? 

Did the Old Testament Offer Only One Way to God?

(Photo courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

After King David conquered Jerusalem and secured it as his capital, he desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant up from Kiriath-Jearim into his new City of David. But in his passion to have God’s presence, David neglected to follow God’s principles. That negligence of improperly transporting the Ark cost a man his life (2 Samuel 6).

Three months later, David correctly transported the Ark into Jerusalem and placed it in a tent he pitched for its keeping.

In this experience, David gained a profound respect for God’s holiness.

This principle directly relates to the question: did the Old Testament offer only one way to God?

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Ein Gedi—A Testimony to God’s Grace and Provision

Finding hope against a depressing backdrop of death and desperation.

Ancient travelers who made their way along the shores of the Dead Sea would no doubt shake their heads when they saw it. How could so much water stand in such a barren place—and none of it be drinkable?

Ein Gedi—A Testimony to God’s Grace and Provision

(Photo: The oasis of Ein Gedi beside the Dead Sea, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Before the obliteration of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Jordan Valley looked like the “garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10). But afterwards, even the many springs that bubbled beside the Dead Sea tasted too salty to swallow. The plentiful waters gave nothing in the way of sustenance.

They only offered a spiritual prompt of the need to take God seriously.

Against this depressing backdrop of death and desperation flows the Ein Gedi.

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Why God Allows Us to Crash and Hurt

Our assumption misses an astounding part of God’s love.

I will never forget the day when one of my daughters learned to ride her bike without training wheels. (The “fall” was an appropriate season for this event.)

As she sped down a hill toward a huge ravine, I saw written all over her face the message: “I’m not in control!”

Why does God allow us to hurt?

(Photo: Monkey Business Images, via Vivozoom)

As she raced by me, I reached out and lifted her off the bike—saving her from the ravine but causing her to fall. As the bike launched into the abyss, my rescued daughter hopped up hotter than a hornet!

“Why did you do that, Daddy?!” To answer, I simply pointed to the bottomless gorge I saved her from. But that didn’t matter. All she could see was that I caused her to fall.

Years later, I pondered how we can carry this same attitude into our relationship with God.

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