Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Grace and Forgiveness

I haven't blogged in a while. A long while. And I haven't written a lesson in a long time either. But this one is burning inside me tonight, and it needs to come out; since I have no other teaching outlet at the moment, it goes here. I hope it benefits someone besides just me.

So I was thinking about grace because of a song that was playing on the radio in my daughter's room when I went in to kiss her goodnight after Tae Kwon Do tonight. I've heard grace defined recently as "unmerited favor", and favor recently defined as "undeserved kindness". Therefore, if those definitions are correct, and we'll assume for the moment that they are, then grace means "unmerited, undeserved kindness". Well, let's do some research and see if we can back this up.

While I did, in fact, find "the free and unmerited favour of God shown towards man", it was in a subsection headed "Christianity", so I will discount that as it is what I would consider an esoteric or specialized definition. However, I did find the following definitions (among others; see

  • Favor or goodwill
  • A manifestation of favor, especially by a superior
  • Mercy; clemency; pardon
I believe we can use those definitions to create a working definition of grace for our discussion, as follows: "a manifestation of favor in the form of mercy, clemency, and pardon by a superior (God)". Note we have not included "unmerited" here - but we may find that as we proceed.

That leads us to the second part of our original definition, "favor". What does favor mean? Again referring to (, we find (again, among others):
  • Something done or granted out of goodwill, rather than from justice or remuneration; a kind act
  • Friendly or well-disposed regard; goodwill
Hmmm... Let's consider what "goodwill" means, then. "Friendly disposition; benevolence; kindness" ( "Hmmm" again.

OK, then, let's revisit our working definition of grace and make a substitution for the word "favor", thus: "A manifestation of kindness in the form of mercy, clemency, and pardon by a superior (God)". Not quite what we came into this with ("unmerited, undeserved kindness"), but close. Very close. In fact, based on the definitions of "favor" above, we can make one more change to our definition: "A manifestation of unmerited kindness in the form of mercy, clemency, and pardon by a superior (God)". There we have the return of "unmerited".

But there's something very specific here: "mercy, clemency, and pardon". Which means?


God shows us kindness we don't deserve by forgiving us - something we also don't deserve.

But so far, we only have a word study; what does the Bible say? "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9 ESV, emphasis added.) Oh, look, there's the "unmerited" part right there. Does it make sense to substitute our definition? Let's see:  "For by a manifestation of unmerited kindness in the form of mercy, clemency, and pardon by a superior (God) you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Wordy, but yes, it fits.

How are we saved? "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7 ESV, emphasis added). Back we come to forgiveness.

That is an awesome thing. The Bible teaches elsewhere that every sin (trespass) we commit causes God pain (it's getting late, and that would be a whole lesson itself, so I'm not going to go find passages to reference). And yet...

And yet He chooses to forgive us for them. Not because of anything we did. Not because of our otherwise sterling character. Because He is kindly disposed toward us. Because He wants to. And we don't have to ask - we just have to believe that Jesus is who the Bible says he is, and confess out loud that he is, and we are forgiven. (But as we continue to sin, because it's a moment by moment struggle, we do need to confess our sins so they will continue to be forgiven - again, another lesson).

But here's the kicker: we have to give this same grace to others. That's right, folks, we must forgive other people. "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." (Mark 11:25 ESV) No matter how many times they do something wrong: "Then Peter came up and said to him, 'Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" (Matthew 18:21-22 ESV; note that other translations may use a different number in place of 77. The number rendered 77 here is not intended to be taken literally; instead it is a literary/storytelling device used in the time of Jesus to indicate an unlimited number of times.)

Let me interject, though, that you  might want to use good sense: if you find yourself forgiving someone over and over again, especially for the same thing, you might want to reconsider your association with that person. Just saying...

Notice in the passage from Matthew that there is no mention of the person asking for forgiveness. The same is true of the passage above it from Mark. However, the Luke version of the Matthew passage has a slightly different message: "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him." (Luke 17:3b-4 ESV). I think this means 2 things.
  1. We need to forgive people in our hearts even when they don't ask for it. I believe this is a direct application of the "unmerited" aspect of the grace we are giving. This doesn't mean we need to pursue the person and say "I have forgiven you even though you haven't asked" - it means that we purpose within ourselves to forgive them.
  2. There is room for us to (kindly?) point out to someone when they have done wrong, especially against us. Then, if they repent (which is not a big theological thing - the word just means to turn away from a course of action), or even say they repent, we are to not only forgive them in our hearts but, in that case, tell them we have done so.
In conclusion, it's OK to forgive. In fact, it's imperative for the believer. Don't keep that undeserved kindness God has given you to yourself. It's also OK to tell someone they've hurt you - it's easy to go overboard with "meek and mild" (again, yet another whole separate lesson). But forgive them if they ask. Heck, forgive them if they don't ask - you don't deserve for God to forgive you, so what do you care if someone else deserves your forgiveness? 

Grace = forgiveness. Forgiveness = freedom... for the forgiver.

Accept grace. Give grace. Love freely. Live free.

Please note: this entry is copyright 2014 by the author (Rex Arnold). Please do not copy in whole or in part without express written permission from the author. All quotations are copyright by their respective copyright holders.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Unmotivation. It's not really the same as demotivation. Demotivation implies, at least to me, that something has taken away your motivation. Unmotivation, on the other hand, is simply a lack - or disappearance for no real reason - of motivation. For example, I am, for no reason I can discern, unmotivated to do anything at home after I get off work, even if I leave work on time for a change. Why not? When I actually leave work, I think "Hey, I'll get home and do this and that and the other thing". But when I get home, I just don't wanna any more. Why not? Unmotivation. I am unmotivated.

Where does unmotivation come from? Is it the same source as motivation? If so, why does unmotivation come out rather than motivation? What is is that moves us ("motive" = "moving") - and, conversely, does not move us? Certainly external motivation has been proven to be far less effective than internal motivation. Is this the same with unmotivation? How, then, would unmotivation be external? How and why is it internal?

Certainly those things I am unmotivated to do (not do?) are often not the exciting and glamorous ones, but the necessary ones. But that's not always true. I'm often unmotivated to do even fun and exciting things. Why? Sometimes I'm motivated to do mundane things - internally motivated to. Why? And why not at other times?

I suspect this bears on our lives as believers. Just as we may be unmotivated to, say, wash the dishes, we may also be unmotivated to read the Bible. Or just as we are sometimes unmotivated to, for instance, go to Disneyland, we are unmotivated to go to church or a small group and be with other believers. Why is this? Shouldn't we be excited to be in communion with the God of the universe? Shouldn't we be ecstatic to spend time hearing what our Creator has to say? Shouldn't we be overjoyed to hang out with other members of God's family while doing these things? Sure. Of course. Absolutely. And yet... and yet we aren't. We are unmotivated.

What is our motivation for following God? For learning more about him? For spending time with other God-lovers? Likewise, what is our unmotivation for not doing those things? Perhaps these are questions we ought to be prayerfully seeking answers to. Answering these questions might well help us solve our unmotivation problem in other areas of our lives. Maybe that's a good enough motive right there...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Get Up? Pick up my mat? WALK??? You can't be serious!

I recently started working at the church again on a regular basis. Normally, this doesn't mean Wednesday nights, but I filled in last night (well, 2 nights ago now; it's Friday as I write this) since the regular sound guy was on vacation. Pastor Dane was also on vacation. Not so much of a coincidence; the regular sound guy is his son. Anyway, the pastor of the local Biker Church, which "grew up" on our campus, the church not the pastor, spoke. He talked about the passage in Luke 5 where the man is waiting around by the pool for somebody to toss him in when the angel stirs it so's he can get healed.

Pastor Denver said he believes this guy was not only physically paralyzed, but mentally as well. After all, he'd been lying there every day for 38 years, making his comfy little living, letting things go on as they were. He'd gotten used to things as they were. He'd quit trying. He'd become complacent and his complacency had paralyzed him mentally just as much as his disease or whatever had paralyzed him physically. As Pastor Denver discussed this paralytic's situation, he drew a parallel to our own lives. He pointed out that we often become paralyzed in our bad situation, because we've gotten used to it. We look around and say, "You know, it's really not that bad after all" when it really IS that bad after all.

Jesus knew this paralytic was in this condition. He knows we are in this condition. He didn't say to the guy, "Hey, dude, maybe you should get a little counseling for your situation. You know, discover what it is about your past that has you stuck here." Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against getting therapy and dealing with your past, sometimes together. I've actually done it myself. It can be a vital part of being healed. Sadly, though, it is all too often an excuse to just stay where you are, now with "a reason". Anyway, Jesus also didn't say, "Let's make sure you're right on the edge of the pool tomorrow morning. We'll get... hey, you guys over there, can you make sure this guy's right on the edge there tomorrow? Thanks! Oh, and let's go find the friends and family that have abandoned you and get them..."

NO! Jesus said this: "Get up, pick up your mat, and walk." Pastor Denver's point was that He's telling this to US, too. Now, I was very convicted by that, but I immediately started making excuses (the biggest one being "How the heck do I roll up my metaphorical mat?"). And it made me think.

In the Bible, people did the outlandish things Jesus told them to do in order to be healed. Blind people let Him put spit-mud on their eyes and touch their tongues. People who knew - didn't just think, but KNEW - they could NOT walk climbed up off their mats on the ground and walked around. Where did they get the courage to do that? Why didn't they just say, "Hey, you moron, I can't walk here! If I could 'Get up and walk', do you think I'd be lying here in the dirt?" (In no way do I mean to imply Jesus is a moron. It's poetic license. Leave me alone.) Because that's the kind of thing I know I keep saying. More politely, of course. But the gist of it is there just the same.

"Get up? What do you mean get up? I've been lying here for years! I can't 'get up'! My legs DON'T WORK! And even if I could, I don't even know how to walk any more! I'd have to re-learn all that! How embarrassing would that be, just staggering all over the place? I'd probably fall down and break something and you'd just have to heal me all over again! Besides, where would I go?"

Jesus is telling me, and telling you, to GET UP. Just - get up! Don't whine, don't motorboat ("But-but-but-but-but"), don't come up with 83,462,347 reasons why not. GET UP! Then, when you trip over the next thing in your life, do it again!

"You make it sound so easy!" If it were easy, we wouldn't need God's Holy Spirit to show us what to do and how to do it, would we? In some ways, the guys Jesus and the disciples healed in the Bible had it easy. When He said "Pick up your mat and walk", it wasn't a metaphor! I'm working on getting up. Wanna join me?

Friday, May 28, 2010

The job

God works in very unexpected ways. My job has been changing for some months, but what it has been moving toward has still been a bit up in the air. Then Monday morning, my boss came to talk to me. I'd had a bit of warning from a co-worker in another department, but nothing concrete and certainly not something I was expecting to hear about anytime soon. Anyway, he essentially told me that he and the sales manager had been talking, and decided that my job needed to be split into two positions.

I do a lot of document support for Sales, even though I'm in Engineering. Originally, my boss thought we'd be able to make my position kind of a company-wide document support position. As things have gone one, he and the head of Sales have realized that Sales needs more direct support and that we needed someone to provide support and oversight to Production. So, long story short (too late), my job needed to be split.

My boss said that they'd like some input from me; they wanted to know which position I thought I'd be best in. It was at that point I texted some of you to ask for wisdom and clarity. After that, I went and talked to the head of Sales and the other guy I'd be working with very closely. As I learned more about what they were envisioning for this position, I began to become very interested in the possibilities it presented. I did pray about it, and sought the advice of my wife, who the decision affected the most.

The end result: I'll be moving to Sales, in a position that I will have a hand in defining. I expect to be doing things that fit well with my talents and the things I like to do. It was also nice to know that my boss will miss having me in his department; I will be "leaving a hole" as he put it. We are just waiting on hiring someone to take over the position I'll be vacating and a couple of other minor things (like sorting out the financial end). Hopefully I'll be transitioned in a couple of weeks, but I'm kind of expecting a month or two.

I'm excited. I'm a little nervous. I'm anticipating growing with a new position in a new department. I'm grateful to God for constantly surprising me. And I'm grateful to each of you who prayed for me in this situation. Woohoo!

Thoughts on the Spirit...

I had the idea for this blog some weeks ago when the Journey began its series on health choices. Shawn delivered his message, and it sparked this blog. I'd intended to write it then, and I may have lost some of the thread, filler, point, or other parts of it, but hopefully nothing important. Shawn, I'm somewhat ashamed to say I really don't remember anything else about that message... eek.

So, in the course of his message, Shawn said something about all of us being connected by the Spirit once we become Christians and receive Him into our hearts. That short statement sparked this train of thought. If anything, I'd always visualized the indwelling of the Spirit as a... shadow? color? that fills the heart of each person. As a small, individual thing that we each have within us.

While listening to Shawn, I suddenly, and for the first time, had this completely different vision. I saw the Spirit as this large cloud. Inside this cloud (overlaid on it, if you will) moves each of us who has the Spirit within. This cloud not only connects each of us, it is larger than all of us, let alone any of us. It made me think; as Christians, our actions and attitudes have an effect beyond just ourselves and those immediately connected to us (Shawn may also have made this point). When we say or do something, positive or negative, it can, and often does, affect the larger body of Christ, whether through doing actual harm or simply affecting the perceptions of non-Christians.

We, as Christians, cannot afford to have the attitude of the rest of the world, the "ME FIRST!!" that is the mantra of most. "Me first" results in a thinning of the Spirit, a dilution of His power in the world. Not that we humans make God less powerful; that cannot be done. No, since He chooses to act through people in most cases, we dilute His power in the world by reducing the effectiveness of the body as a whole.

Paul says there is one Body, and we are all members. I'd never thought of how that should affect us. Think of a human body. If one cell goes bad, and affects other cells around it, making them go bad, and they affect others, making them go bad, we have a name for that. It's the most basic, simple definition of cancer. Even skin cancer can have an adverse effect on the body as a whole if left untreated. Similarly, as I've always envisioned each of us as cells in the Body (as opposed to things like fingers, feet, etc), if one of us is simply acting like the world, or worse, it spreads like cancer in a human body. In extreme cases, the tumor must be removed. The same is true in Christianity... to a degree. This is where the analogy breaks down; "cancer" in the Body of Christ can often be healed well before it reaches the point where it needs to be removed, which is the opposite of common medical practice.

So, since we are all connected to something (Something) larger than ourselves, we need to consider that before we act and speak. What does all this mean? Pretty much that. Christians can't be "me firsters". It's not the right way to do things.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Workin' on the car

I left a rather cryptic status update on FaceBook last night: "Not exactly what I wanted to do tomorrow..." or something to that effect. Here's what happened: when we got home from the potluck, there were billows of steam coming from under the hood of the car. It overheats periodically (more momentarily) but never like that. When I popped the hood, there was coolant everywhere. Initially I thought a hose had broken, but it was too dark to really tell, even with a flashlight. So, the conclusion to my status update was that I was going to have to work on the car today.

Now, some background. This section will be rather technical in nature, so if you don't know about cars, or if such things bore you, feel free to skip a few paragraphs for the conclusion. Warning over. On with the background: some months ago, I noticed the car was running hot if allowed to idle for any length of time; running the speed up helped it cool off. It kept getting worse, and eventually, a friend helped me diagnose it as a bad thermostat. By the way, I really was missing my dad around then... he'd have diagnosed it much more quickly.

So, I went ahead and changed the thermostat. After all, I could get to it easily, there was really nothing in the way, should have been super-simple. Of course not. Ford decided to use a t-stat housing with three bolts on this engine (why? idk. Maybe because the housing is vertical? Maybe because it's not one of Fjord's better designed models?), one of which is directly on the bottom of the housing. The top two bolts came out fine, maybe a little stiff, but nothing major. The bottom bolt (of course) snapped when I tried to take it out. I was very careful, but it did it anyway. I RTV'd the crap out of the gasket, crossed my fingers, and put the two bolts back in. It had a minor leak, but no big deal. Of course, the leak got worse, because it didn't occur to me to re-tighten the bolts after a while to account for gasket compression. So, we needed to constantly replenish the coolant, but instead of checking the levels regularly, lazy me just did it when it overheated.

This brings us to last night. A combination of having to run the defroster (which, on this car, automatically runs the A/C system, which has a leaky valve and thus no freon, so that heats the system up worse) and driving briefly on the freeway on a cold, damp night evidently made the gasket finally rip. I didn't notice any blown hoses, so here's hoping. Anyway, on to today.

I figured this would be my opportunity to go ahead and pull the rest of that broken bolt, particularly now that we have a second vehicle (that was one of the main reasons I didn't try to the first time - no way to go anywhere to get a bolt). So, I pulled the thermostat housing, then realized I needed space to get to the bolt. That necessitated removing the (distributorless) ignition from the end of the forward head, which required removing another bracket, which also had to be unbolted from a TVS, etc etc. Finally, I had the way cleared. I began considering what tools I had, finally concluding that I had no EZ-Outs, nor even any vise grips. Well, I had to go to Kragen anyway to get coolant and hopefully the bolts I needed.

So I washed up, stuck a bolt in my pocket, climbed into the truck, and went to Kragen (which, by the way, is about to officially become O'Reilly). That experience is a story of its own, which I will not share here in the interest of brevity (I know, too late). I was able to find everything I needed, spending more money than I wanted/planned in the process, so I came on home. On arriving home, it took me nearly two hours, several trips up and down the stairs (our apartment is upstairs), and a great deal of frustration to discover that I could not, no matter what I tried, get that stupid expletive-deleted bolt body out of its hole. The vise grips just ripped metal from the outside of the bolt; the ez-out just ripped metal from the inside of the bolt. Somebody probably crossed it up when they put it in, and then it proceeded to rust in place.

So I put everything together as best I could, put 2 gallons of coolant (mixed, of course) in, cleaned up a little, and went for a test drive. It seemed to be fine. I got home, popped the hood to double-check everything, and discovered I'd gone and left the lid off the coolant tank. Praise God, nothing happened; I put it back on and closed the hood. My wife said it was fine on the way to work. I'll check everything in the morning. This time, I'll keep an eye on the coolant and re-check the bolts periodically.

The point: I do not like working on cars. It makes me angry, frustrated, tired, and inflicts physical pain and discomfort on me. I know this. I knew this going in. "So what," you may be asking. Well, some time ago, Pastor Dane preached a sermon on the armor of God, and challenged us to pray each piece on every day for a week. I've been doing it since then, at least during the week. I tend to forget on the weekends; I forgot today.

Satan is an opportunist. Don't get me wrong; I don't believe he's omni-anything or that he truly has power over a Christian unless we give it to him. A lot of what we attribute to him is simply human nature, such as the consequences of our own laziness or bad self-image. However, I do think he uses our natural tendencies to push us. Here's what I mean: Say you make a mistake, not even necessarily a big one, just a mistake. That first little voice you hear, saying "You are such an idiot! Why do you do stupid things like that?" is, in my opinion, Satan (or his minion) whispering in your ear to get you to respond, "Man, I am an idiot! Why the heck do I always do that kind of dumb stuff?" You are not an idiot, and you do not always do dumb stuff. The prompt is the enemy; the response is human nature.

Back to my story. The impetus: I couldn't remove the bolt body no matter what I tried; not my fault. I broke it off in the first place, but it snapped at a level of pressure that does not normally break bolts --- weak bolt+poor installation = still not my fault. Today's prompt: "I can't believe you couldn't get that bolt out. You should have made sure it never broke in the first place; now what if you made it worse? This is why you should never work on cars. You always screw it up." And I started to buy that! I started to recite it, to believe it myself. Then I finally realized it wasn't my fault!! I didn't screw up! I did everything I could --- it just was beyond my abilities with the tools I have. I did everything right, even last time --- it's just one of those things that happen.

So here's the bottom line. PRAY!! Pray on God's armor every day, even the weekends. Given what it's done for me on weekdays, I firmly believe it would have helped today; I wouldn't have gotten so angry and frustrated, and I wouldn't have so readily bought the lies. On top of that, pray when you have to do something that you know makes you upset, or sad, or frustrated, or whatever. God will help you with that. If I had called on Him before I started, or really at any point in the process (other than "God, please make this work!"), my experience would have been better.

Will I ever enjoy working on cars? Not unless everything goes right, I have all the right tools, and I'm doing something I want to do instead of something I have to do. Will I continue working on them when what needs doing is something I can do? Yes --- but I'm sure as heck gonna pray first!!!!!

Purpose for the blog

In my opinion, this blog is not just to share the goings-on in my life with everyone. I feel that part of what God has charged me with is to help others grow and develop as Christians by sharing what He has been doing in my life, the lessons He has been teaching me through the things that happen to me. So when I share an event, or just vent, I will include the things that I think God is showing me with those things. I also intend to read my Bible a lot more; as I do, I plan to share what I'm reading and what insights God is giving me. Caveat: in these cases, what I will be sharing is not the meaning, it will just be my personal insights.

There will be things I will not share, but you won't know what they are, because I won't share them! :-)

Please enjoy my ramblings, and I hope that my readers will gain some benefit from my experiences and thoughts.