Grace Is Greater – A Book Review

The word “grace” is thrown around so often that it hardly seems amazing, writes Kyle Idleman. When a word has been around for as long as “grace” and when it has been abused and misused, it’s important to try to breathe new life into it and remember just what it means.grace-is-greater 

In “Grace Is Greater” author and pastor Kyle Idleman reminds people of the importance of grace. As followers of Christ, when we go about doing things without grace, we can easily suck the life from those things. We need to remember just how much grace we have received in order to be reminded of just how much grace we should be extending to others. 

Idleman shares from his own personal experiences and expounds on some accounts within the gospels to speak the message of grace that we all need to hear. We all live with guilt, shame, and regrets, but we can give all of those up when we remember the grace that we receive through Jesus Christ.` 

While a large part of grace is accepting it ourselves despite the things that we have done, Idleman also reminds us that we need to extend that grace to others. That’s easier said than done when we’ve been hurt and wounded by others. We want to see justice, we want to see someone pay for our pain, but we need to move past that, not demeaning the significance of what was done to us but realizing that holding onto things reaps bitterness and does more damage to us than it does to the person that we are supposedly hurting. 

“We are never more like God than when we forgive,” Idleman writes. A true statement and a reminder as we are on this journey of transformation. Forgiveness is not optional, it’s required of us. Idleman shares stories of people who have moved beyond their own bitterness and desire for vengeance and embraced the love, forgiveness, and grace of God. That grace transformed them to be able to do unthinkable things, forgiving people who didn’t seem deserving of forgiveness.

He reminds us that when we hold back our forgiveness, we are forgetting just what we have received ourselves. While we may be expecting a certain level of repentance from people, we can’t forget that our own level of repentance doesn’t match the level of our offense against God.

As Idleman writes, “we’re able to receive God’s grace only to the extent we’re able to recognize our need for it.” We need to examine just how deep our sin goes in order to fully appreciate how desperately we need grace. We may always want to have answers to our circumstances and situations, but there are times when answers won’t be given. We need to look past the lack of answers to see what God has in store for us.

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. Idleman has written a few others books that have been popular. I missed them and may even have purposely avoided them. Given the opportunity to read “Grace Is Greater,” I seized it and I was not disappointed at all. “Grace is Greater” is a reminder again of just what I deserve, what I don’t deserve, and what I have been given. It stands as a challenge and conviction to move past my hang-ups to a place where I see my own need for grace and in doing so, see my need to extend that grace to others as well. 

“Grace Is Greater” isn’t full of deep theological ideas, but then again, it’s often the simpler ideas that can be the hardest ones for us to grasp or accept. Give this book a try if you need a reminder of just how much you have been forgiven. You’ll never look at grace the same again.

(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)

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Forgive Us Our Sins – Director’s Cut

I’ve asked 2 good friends and loyal readers to share their favorite blog posts.  Over the next few months, I will be sharing their thoughts and insights that they have shared with me regarding some of these posts.  I hope that what they share will add some new insights to some of my previous posts.

[Lesley writes: I love this post for several reasons. Honestly I didn’t know this prayer by heart until just a few years ago, not to mention I hardly considered its significance or beauty. I love the way Jon broke down this prayer, especially the parts about sin and forgiveness. I admire Jon’s raw honesty when it comes to his own struggle to forgive. As he says so eloquently, “Thank God that I’m forgiven and a work in progress, now if I could just come to that place where forgiveness was as easily given as it is accepted.” I was blessed to study this prayer in my small group. Between studying the prayer and Jon’s blog post I look at the Lord’s Prayer in a whole different light. I look at it as God intended, as a daily reminder of how I strive to live my life, all for His glory.]

Our Father….

Who are in Heaven….

Hallowed be Thy name…..

Thy Kingdom come…..

Thy will be done…..

On earth as it is in Heaven…..

Give us this day our daily bread….

And forgive us our sins…..

As we forgive those who sin against us……

Those who sin……against……us……

When’s the last time that you prayed that prayer? When’s the last time that you actually thought about it? I mean, really thought about it….

Forgiveness. It’s a strange thing. We like to be forgiven when we do something wrong. What happens when someone does something wrong to us? How willing are we to forgive them?

Some sins are more easily forgiven than others. We can forgive a lie, depending on how big it is. We can forgive a false word, as long as it’s not said against us. We can forgive a little anger, as long as we weren’t embarrassed by it. But what happens when the sin that we’re called to forgive is more significant. What if someone steals from us? Breaks into our house? Hits our car? What happens if someone takes the life of someone we love? How do we forgive them?

I’ve had my fair share of harboring resentment and bitterness. I’ve struggled to forgive people who hurt me, and most of those hurts were insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Eventually, I came to the point where I realized that anger and withholding forgiveness wasn’t doing harm to anyone else other than me. It’s funny how that works.

But, like I said, the hurts that were caused were fairly insignificant. The only one who ever took someone from me was cancer and heart disease, and it’s kind of hard to be so angry at diseases. They’re just not people. I don’t know what I would do if I lost someone because of another person. I don’t know how I would forgive if someone else took someone that I loved away from me…..

While he was hanging on the cross being ridiculed, laughed at, mocked, and spit on, Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who had put him there. He actually wanted them to be forgiven…..while he was in the thick of what they had caused. No anger. No contempt. No withholding of forgiveness.

As we forgive those who sin against us……

It’s not a good idea to pray things that you don’t mean. I’ve really got to stop and think about this one, am I really willing to forgive? I mean REALLY willing to forgive?

My forgiveness has been tested and left wanting. It’s been tested, but not as much as other’s forgiveness has. I’ve still got a long way to go to really come to that point where that prayer will roll off of my tongue easily without a stutter or a struggle. Thank God that I’m forgiven and a work in progress, now if I could just come to that place where forgiveness was as easily given as it is accepted.

Washing Away the Past

At any given time, I have a fairly hefty list of movies to watch or books to read.  It’s hard to get around to all of them because I can get easily distracted, kind of like Doug, the dog, in the movie “Up,” something as simple as a squirrel can throw me off of my game and get me reading or watching something else.  I review books for my blog every month which genuinely take precedent over some other stuff and then I get intrigued by something else and end up throwing another one on the pile.  It can be an endless cycle and the pile just never seems to get as small as I would like for it to get.

Not too long ago, I finally watched the movie, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”  I had heard enough about it that I was intrigued to want to watch it but not so much about it that I was afraid it wouldn’t meet my expectations.  So I gave it a whirl, not fully knowing what to expect.

I wasn’t disappointed, but it was certainly a heavy movie, something I’ve been trying to avoid in my current stage of life.  Life has been heavy enough without having to subject myself to fictional bouts of drama, so I’ve tried to avoid things that are too heavy.  “Wallflower” presented enough humor to counteract the heaviness that it was palatable for me at the time.

The thing that stood out to me the most about the movie was a quote that was said by one of the characters.  He said, “You accept the love that you think you deserve.”  From the moment that the character uttered it until the end of the film, I couldn’t get it out of my head.  I had to play back the quote a few times in order to really let it sink in.  As I let it marinate in my mind, it seemed that its poignancy seemed to deepen and it became even more meaningful to me.

When I was younger, I always marveled at these girls that I knew who ended up dating these complete jerks.  I never quite understood it.  Of course, being ever the friend and never the boyfriend to any of them, I saw it all too often.  Throughout high school I saw it and it didn’t get any better in college.  In fact, one could argue that it got worse.  Years later, this quote kind of brought it all back around for me and it seemed like the clouds parted, the skies opened up, and I could finally see something shedding light on this confusing situation.

We accept the love that we think we deserve, and it becomes more evident in certain relationships.  I guess that I always called it “settling.”  Why would someone settle for second best?  Why would someone who had so much to offer settle for someone who took what they offered and gave nothing in return?  How could someone think that they could deserve to be treated poorly?

As someone who has made their fair share of mistakes in the past, I can attest to the need for grace.  I am grateful that my past doesn’t define me.  While the things that I have done in the past have shaped me, they don’t have to define me, but it’s taken me a good chunk of time to come to that conclusion and be okay with that.  Frankly, understanding the grace that God shows me has been the number one facilitator of that realization.  I’m not sure where I would be had I not come to that conclusion, probably somewhere back in the past thinking that I deserved to eternally reap the consequences of my actions.

We accept the love that we think we deserve.  If we can’t get past our mistakes and move on to a place of forgiveness, both from others and from ourselves, we will always think that we deserve less than we really ought.  If we allow mistakes to define us rather than shape us, we could easily find ourselves accepting much less than second best.  Forgiveness is something that we need to accept and it’s not always easy to do that.

Again, this is where the grace of God shows up to me.  It doesn’t make sense, it’s completely contrary to our culture, it moves beyond what is deserved.  If it weren’t, it couldn’t be called, “grace.”  The reality is that we all fall short of receiving and deserving love, but people extend us grace, God extends us grace.  It’s just a question of whether or not we can accept it.  That’s easier said than done, depending on what we’ve done.

We accept the love that we think we deserve.  I deserve what I deserve not because of what I’ve done, but because of what someone else has done for me.  It’s a freeing thought to come to the conclusion that I can’t earn something.  If I realize that I, through grace, receive what someone else deserves, that’s a priceless gift.  I wonder how many people are out there trying to earn grace and failing miserably.  Do we accept the love that we think we deserve?  If so, what do we think we deserve?

Forgive Us Our Sins……

forgive us our sinsOur Father….

Who art in Heaven….

Hallowed be Thy name…..

Thy Kingdom come…..

Thy will be done…..

On earth as it is in Heaven…..

Give us this day our daily bread….

And forgive us our sins…..

As we forgive those who sin against us……

Those who sin……

against……

US……

When’s the last time that you prayed that prayer?  When’s the last time that you actually thought about it?  I mean, really thought about it….

Forgiveness.  It’s a strange thing.  We like to be forgiven when we do something wrong.  What happens when someone does something wrong to us?  How willing are we to forgive them?

Some sins are more easily forgiven than others.  We can forgive a lie, depending on how big it is.  We can forgive a false word, as long as it’s not said against us.  We can forgive a little anger, as long as we weren’t embarrassed by it.  But what happens when the sin that we’re called to forgive is more significant.  What if someone steals from us?  Breaks into our house?  Hits our car?  What happens if someone takes the life of someone we love?  How do we forgive them?

I’ve had my fair share of harboring resentment and bitterness.  I’ve struggled to forgive people who hurt me, and most of those hurts were insignificant in the grand scheme of things.  Eventually, I came to the point where I realized that anger and withholding forgiveness weren’t doing harm to anyone else other than me.  It’s funny how that works.

But, like I said, the hurts that were caused were fairly insignificant.  The only one who ever took someone from me was cancer and heart disease, and it’s kind of hard to be so angry at diseases.  They’re just not people.  I don’t know what I would do if I lost someone because of another person.  I don’t know how I would forgive if someone else took someone that I loved away from me…..

While he was hanging on the cross being ridiculed, laughed at, mocked, and spit on, Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who had put him there.  He actually WANTED and PRAYED for them to be forgiven…..while he was in the thick of what they had caused.  No anger.  No contempt.  No withholding of forgiveness.

As we forgive those who sin against us……

It’s not a good idea to pray things that you don’t mean.  I’ve really got to stop and think about this one, am I really willing to forgive?  I mean REALLY willing to forgive?

My forgiveness has been tested and left wanting.  It’s been tested, but not as much as other’s forgiveness has.  I’ve still got a long way to go to really come to that point where that prayer will roll off of my tongue easily without a stutter or a struggle.  Thank God that I’m forgiven and a work in progress, now if I could just come to that place where forgiveness was as easily given as it is accepted.

Grace Is Amazing, Until…..

amazinggraceSometimes it takes me hearing something multiple times for me to finally stand up and take notice of it.  That happened this morning.  I heard someone say something the other day and when they said it again this morning, it jumped out and I started thinking about the implications of it.

The discussion was on the extension of grace to people.  The general concept was that when grace is needed by someone, they’re all in favor of it, but when it’s someone else who needs it, it’s not so easily given.

Grace is a concept that most of us have trouble with anyway.  We don’t always know what to do with something that is offered to us free of charge.  We always look for the price tag, and when the price tag is missing or we’re told it’s free, we look for the catch.  After all, nothing good comes for free, does it?

If we’re honest with ourselves, we have probably been in that place where we’ve desperately wanted grace for ourselves and then when it came to extending it to someone else, we were reluctant.  Jonah was certainly guilty of this when he ran from God.  God was merciful to him and when he finally went to Nineveh, he was upset that God was merciful to them.

Why do we have such a harsh reaction to grace extended to others?  Is it because of what’s happened to us?  Do we feel as if the hurt that we have caused to others is more easily forgiven than the hurt caused to us?

Jesus told a parable of a servant who had the same unmerciful attitude in Matthew 18.  After being forgiven a significant amount, he went after one of his fellow servants who owed him a few dollars.  It was a fairly extreme example, but it was something that we can probably all relate to if we look closely enough at ourselves.

I waiver between a strong sense of justice and a strong sense of grace and it seems that I follow this same trend, extend grace to me but justice to others.  Not something to be proud of, but something to be honest about nonetheless.

I’ve joked about the possibility of bottling up my feelings when I make mistakes so that any time I think I might try something stupid again, I can just open up the bottle and remember how I felt when I did it before.  I wonder what a fresh bottle of grace would smell like if I opened it up every time that I was reluctant to extend it to someone else.  I wonder if the smell would be enough or if I would need to take a drink of grace to really experience it.

What if we could line up all these bottles of grace stories on a shelf?  What if we could take them down every time we needed to be reminded of it?  Is it possible to have such a strong reminder of how much grace we have received that we have no choice but to extend that same grace to others?  I guess, if I ever really am in doubt, all I need to do is sing that great hymn and remember that, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”