Friday, February 28, 2014

Grace and Enabling

(Are you making the problem better or worse?)

Grace is a huge concept in the Bible, but I think that most people don't take  a lot of time to dive into that topic and studying the Bible to see what grace is.

“Make me understand the way of Your precepts; So shall I meditate on Your wonderful works.” Psalm 119:27

Growing up with the AWANA program, I learned a definition of grace as follows:  “A free gift that you don't deserve.” That's one basic tenant of grace that Christians generally agree upon:  Grace is unmerited – if it was merited (deserved), it would no longer be grace.  Some people will say that grace also means favor: God's grace is when God shows you favor.  But none of those definitions go deeper than that, which leaves unanswered questions, such as:  When God decides to give us favor and send us something undeserved and unmerited, what does He send us?  What IS this unmerited grace that God gives us when He shows favor?

Some people give the answer that anything God gives us that we do not deserve is grace. Like, when He sends rain and sunshine to everyone on earth, that's undeserved and therefore a form of grace. However, this answer doesn't stand up because Biblically, both blessings and grace are undeserved, and yet they are not used synonymously. The word “blessing” is used for many things, mainly extras – like, you are already doing okay, and then God gives you an extra blessing that you can praise and thank Him for.  God blesses people with children, for instance. The “grace,” on the other hand, is only used in situations where we need help and God is helping to fix that situation for us. When Noah received grace from God, it saved him from dying in a flood. When we are saved by grace, we are rescued from the sin and death we were wallowing in. In the christian life, we are told to come boldly before God's throne to find grace *in time of need.*  Blessings are unmerited extras, while grace is unmerited help/rescue.
"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:16
So, when help/grace is offered, there is still a choice: God allows us to accept or reject that grace. We can receive grace in vain when we are living under grace, as Christians, yet do not accept that help – Usually because God wants to help us become sanctified and Christ-like while we are still clinging to our familiar sins and being too scared to take up our cross and follow.
"We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain." 2 Corinthians 6:1
Who benefits from grace?  Well, who benefits from free help?  Those who WANT help. In other words, only those who have humility and realize that there is a problem will even want to be rescued or helped.
"But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."  James 4:6
When the Bible says that God gives grace to the humble, it doesn't mean that God is somehow playing favorites. Rather, it means that He offers grace to those who *desire* grace.

In the Lord's prayer, He instructs us to ask God not to lead us into temptation. In this prayer, we are asking God to make right choices easier for us. We are asking for His help in keeping us on the straight and narrow.

Now, with this understanding of grace (unmerited help), we can start to make sense of the various passages of the Scripture that tell us to be gracious and to give grace to other people. What does it mean to offer grace to others?

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." Ephesians 4:29

Here, we are instructed to speak in a way that gives grace to those who hear; our speech should make it easier for others to received the edification that they need. In short, grace is opposite of temptation. Temptation makes it easier for a person to make a bad choice, while grace helps make it easier for a person to make a right choice.  All of our speech is to be gracious, and the Bible tells us to speak about doctrine, encouragement, correction, and instruction in righteousness. You'll notice that “correction” (ie godly confrontation) is included there.  Accountability and confrontation provides grace because it makes it easier for us each to learn and grow – it makes it harder for us to make wrong choices. [See also: The story of The King and His Hawk]

I remember one friend I knew who was battling an addiction. After realizing that he couldn't fight it alone, he got involved in a (very helpful and kind) men's group. Each evening, his accountability buddy would call him – and would ask if he had had any temptations in that area or had sinned in that area. (If he said no, the follow-up question would be to ask if he was lying – which sounds harsh, but it's helpful because addicts struggle also with the temptation to cover up the situation.)  Now, just *knowing* that there would be someone to hold him accountable made it tremendously easier for him to say “no” to temptation again and again, while kicking his habit. Accountability absolutely is a form of grace that helps us when we need help. None of us can do this life alone.

Both grace and condemnation start with acknowledgment that there is a problem present.  The difference is that condemnation points a finger while grace lends a hand.


So that's grace. What is enabling?

“An enabler is someone who—despite knowing that a behavior is destructive or harmful—allows a loved one to continue to do it. It is frequently used in the context of addiction.”

“No one wants their loved ones to do things that hurt themselves. However, by excusing behavior or looking the other way, you can enable an addict to continue abusing drugs or alcohol. Enablers allow substance abusers to continue using drugs without suffering the negative consequences of their actions.”

I found a good quiz online that goes like this: Are You an Enabler?

An enabler is a person who, acting out of a sincere sense of love, loyalty and concern, steps in to protect, cover up for, make excuses for and become more responsible for the chemically dependent person. This can prevent the addicted individual from a crisis that might bring about change, and thereby prolong his or her illness. To find out if you may be an enabler, answer the following questions:
1) Do you avoid potential problems by trying to keep the peace? Do you do whatever you can to avoid conflict because doing so will solve problems?
2) Are you in denial about your loved one being addicted? Do you think his or her drug or alcohol use is just a phase and isn't anything to be concerned about?
3) Do you have a hard time expressing your feelings? Do you keep all your emotions inside? 
4) Do you minimize the situation? Do you think the problem will get better later? 
5) Do you lecture, blame or criticize the chemically dependent person? 
6) Do you take over the responsibilities of the addicted person? Do you cover for and pick up his or her slack to minimize the negative consequences? Do you repeatedly come to the rescue — bailing him or her out of jail, out of financial problems or other tight spots? 
7) Do you try to protect your addicted loved one from pain? 
8) Do you treat him or her like a child? Do you enjoy taking care of your loved one and feel superior when you do? Do you still financially support him or her, even though he or she is an adult?
9) Do you try to control the dependent person?
10) Are you good at just enduring? Do you often think, this too shall pass?
11) Do you believe in waiting? That God will take care of this?
12) Do you give him or her one more chance, then another and yet another?
13) Do you join him or her in the dangerous behavior, even when you know he or she has a problem? 
If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you may have enabling behaviors, which could be [increasing the power of addiction in the life of your loved one.]

In short, God has some grace built into the system: It's called hitting one's head up against reality. This lets you know that what you are doing isn't working and motivates change. Enablers protect the person struggling with sin – they don't protect from the sin, but rather protect from the consequences of sin. They make sure that the addict/sinner never hits their head up against reality, and therefore never has motivation to change.

Why am I comparing and contrasting grace and enabling?  Well, to start with, they are exact opposites. Grace helps people to make good decisions, while enabling makes it easier for them to make sinful choices. But furthermore, people get these two concepts confused. Those who want to show grace want to avoid stumbling people, and a few believe that enabling is the only way to avoid stumbling people. They reason that if you do something and it makes another person upset, you have stumbled that person. They preach that we should avoid potential problems by trying to keep the peace – we should avoid conflict (not because that will solve the underlying issue, but because it won't trigger their anger).

Is there truth to their viewpoint?

 “If a loved one is struggling with drug addiction, confronting your friend or family member about their addiction can be a challenging and emotional experience. At first, it may seem easier to deny that there is even a problem or to excuse your loved one’s behavior. These denials and excuses however, will only make the problem worse. Denying or excusing a loved one’s addiction enables them to continue using drugs, which hurts themselves and others.”

Ultimately, if a loved one is sinning, they need grace and not enabling.  It may seem like giving them grace (confrontation in some cases) will “stumble” them because it will arouse their anger.  Let me share an analogy:

A friend comes to visit a farmer on a rainy day. After being invited inside, he notices that there is a hole in the roof, and rain is dripping into the living room. “Why do you do something about that hole?” he asks his farmer friend. “Oh but it's raining right now,” the farmer replies, “I can't go on the roof because it's slippery.”  This is a good point, and so the friend drops the topic and enjoys the rest of the visit.

A week later, the friend visits again. It's a bright and sunny day, but when he goes inside, he notices that the hole is still present. “Why didn't you fix that hole in your roof?” he asks. “Well, it's not raining,” the farmer explains, “there's no need!”

Now the question of the story is this:  When would be the right time for the farmer to fix the roof?  Obviously, it would be when it's sunny outside and there is “no need” because the problem is not causing any symptoms (no leakage). Those who claim that triggering anger is stumbling a person mistakes the problem (heart problem) with the symptom (anger). They think that by avoiding the symptom and preventing consequences, then things are great – the hole in the roof (heart problem) isn't a problem as long it's not raining (symptoms), right?  Right guys?

The issue IS a heart issue, though, all sin is. If you are gracious and they get angry at you, that's a symptom of that underlying heart condition. To avoid confrontation and accountability (Biblical forms of grace) will irritate the symptom less, but it will enable the heart problem to get worse. If you go out of your way to protect someone from the symptoms of their issue (including anger), you are a textbook case of an enabler who prevents the sinning individual from a crisis that might bring about change, and thereby strengthens the power of sin in that person's life.

That's not grace. That's not offering help. That's not making a righteous choice easier. Rather, enabling makes wrong choices easier and offers to whitewash the world instead of washing the world. Chesterton wrote that one who is not truly loyal will “be less inclined to the reform of things; more inclined to a sort of front-bench official answer to all attacks, soothing every one with assurances. He will not wash the world, but whitewash the world.”

Galatians 2:17
“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!”

In other words:

“Seeking Christ includes increasing the knowledge of our own sin – does this (increase in knowledge of sin) increase sin? Certainly not!”

Grace often increases knowledge of sin, but it does not increase sin itself. In fact, grace is the only way out of sin.

[CLICK to view full size!!!]

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Tale of Truth and Loyalty

The King and His Hawk

GENGHIS KHAN was a great king and warrior.

He led his army into China and Persia, and he conquered many lands. In every country, men told about his daring deeds; and they said that since Alexander the Great there had been no king like him.

One morning when he was home from the wars, he rode out into the woods to have a day's sport. Many of his friends were with him. They rode out gayly, carrying their bows and arrows. Behind them came the servants with the hounds.

It was a merry hunting party. The woods rang with their shouts and laughter. They expected to carry much game home in the evening.

On the king's wrist sat his favorite hawk; for in those days hawks were trained to hunt. At a word from their masters they would fly high up into the air, and look around for prey. If they chanced to see a deer or a rabbit, they would swoop down upon it swift as any arrow.

All day long Genghis Khan and his huntsmen rode through the woods. But they did not find as much game as they expected.

Toward evening they started for home. The king had often ridden through the woods, and he knew all the paths. So while the rest of the party took the nearest way, he went by a longer road through a valley between two mountains.

The day had been warm, and the king was very thirsty. His pet hawk had left his wrist and flown away. It would be sure to find its way home.

The king rode slowly along. He had once seen a spring of clear water near this pathway. If he could only find it now! But the hot days of summer had dried up all the mountain brooks.

At last, to his joy, he saw some water trickling down over the edge of a rock. He knew that there was a spring farther up. In the wet season, a swift stream of water always poured down here; but now it came only one drop at a time.

The king leaped from his horse. He took a little silver cup from his hunting bag. He held it so as to catch the slowly falling drops.

It took a long time to fill the cup; and the king was so thirsty that he could hardly wait. At last it was nearly full. He put the cup to his lips, and was about to drink.

All at once there was a whirring sound in the air, and the cup was knocked from his hands. The water was all spilled upon the ground.

The king looked up to see who had done this thing. It was his pet hawk. The hawk flew back and forth a few times, and then alighted among the rocks by the spring. The king picked up the cup, and again held it to catch the trickling drops.

This time he did not wait so long. When the cup was half full, he lifted it toward his mouth. But before it had touched his lips, the hawk swooped down again, and knocked it from his hands.

And now the king began to grow angry. He tried again; and for the third time the hawk kept him from drinking.

The king was now very angry indeed.

"How do you dare to act so?" he cried. "If I had you in my hands, I would wring your neck!"

Then he filled the cup again. But before he tried to drink, he drew his sword.

"Now, Sir Hawk," he said, "this is the last time."

He had hardly spoken, before the hawk swooped down and knocked the cup from his hand. But the king was looking for this. With a quick sweep of the sword he struck the bird as it passed.
The next moment the poor hawk lay bleeding and dying at its master's feet.

"That is what you get for your pains," said Genghis Khan.

But when he looked for his cup he found that it had fallen between two rocks, where he could not reach it.

"At any rate, I will have a drink from that spring," he said to himself.

With that he began to climb the steep bank to the place from which the water trickled. It was hard work, and the higher he climbed, the thirstier he became.

At last he reached the place. There indeed was a pool of water; but what was that lying in the pool, and almost filling it? It was a huge, dead snake of the most poisonous kind.

The king stopped. He forgot his thirst. He thought only of the poor dead bird lying on the ground below him.


"The hawk saved my life!" he cried; "and how did I repay him? He was my best friend, and I have killed him."

He clambered down the bank. He took the bird up gently, and laid it in his hunting bag. Then he mounted his horse and rode swiftly home. He said to himself,—

 "I have learned a sad lesson to-day; and that is, never to do anything in anger."


What I get out of the story is this:  Sometimes, being a loyal friend means being the hawk - Being the friend who is willing to try to communicate truth to a friend, in order to protect him, even when it means putting yourself in the line of fire.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

What doctrine do you follow?

Here's a quiz that lets you know whether or not you are an Arminian:  QUIZ

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Question of Calvinism

I saw this meme on Facebook today:

Now of course as an Arminian, I also agree that salvation is of the Lord. God invented it and Christ died (and rose again!) to make it possible; He chooses who to save (conditional election) and He saves them by His power alone.

So, Arminians do say "Salvation is of the Lord."  But what separates us from most Calvinists is that we believe in the power of the Lord.

Arminians proclaim the ability of God.  Calvinists begin their argument with saying that man cannot have faith until regenerated. And many cannot answer this question:

If God wanted to, would He be able to give a man so much grace that the man could accept salvation, without needing to give so much that the man would be unable to refuse?

Is that an option that God has available to Him?"

Monday, February 3, 2014

So I Threw It to the Ground!!!

[ Please click on picture to view it full size!! :) ]

When I watch "I Threw It To the Ground" by Lonely Island, the scene where the main character quips: "MAAN! This ain't my Dad, this is a CELL PHONE!" reminds me of people who actually do make that kind of mistake with their relationship to God.  :)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Christian Journey: Into the Light

Job 12:22: "He uncovers deep things out of darkness
And brings the shadow of death to light.

[ Please click on picture to view it full size!! :) ]

Psalm 18:28: "For You will light my lamp, 
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.

Psalm 90:8: "You have set our iniquities before You, 
Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.