April 08, 2020
David & Karen discuss the importance of looking to God, and to His grace, especially during times of crisis. To get the Scripture verse handout mentioned in this podcast, visit http://grow.beforewego.show/ or email email@example.com.
David: Did you know that experts sometimes refer to today’s young adults as the repair generation? This is because of the economic, environmental, and family a man misses. They’re going to have to clean up. Kind of reminds me of one particular scene in the film Jurassic Park where there’s a shot of what looks like a small mountain of dinosaur poop. It seems as if this generation has been given a shovel and told that his job is to clean up these colossal mounds that appear just about everywhere on the landscape.
David: Recently a friend asked me, Karen, “What do you see ahead for our country”? I didn’t have a specific or all-that-dramatic answer, but my response was, “I see times of great stress on the horizon. Incredible tension and pressure.”
Karen: We don’t have to be a prophet to see those things to you. I mean, we’re just really in a state of puzzlement here.
David: Stress can bring out the best in people.
Karen: And it can bring out the worst. It does both, doesn’t it?
David: Yeah, I relate to what you just said about it, bringing out the worst.
Intro: Welcome to the Before We Go Podcast featuring Dr. David Mains and his wife noted author, Karen Mains. Here’s David and Karen Mains.
David: Karen, I look back on my life and we had two very stressful times. One was when Jeremy died.
Karen: Our son.
David: And there are things that I think I said and did that were exemplary of the worst in me. Those horrible, horrible times. And then I think also in terms of when the ministry was accused by supposed heretic hunters being new age, those were terrible days to go through and eventually shut the ministry down because the support fell off so much.
Karen: Yes, right. Well, we are in a time where I think a lot of people are under such extraordinary stress. This is during the coronavirus pandemic. And we’ve been in isolation at this point about 18 or 19 days.
David: There is the terrible time of deaths in families.
Karen: The death tolls are mounting across the country.
David: The whole economy of the nation.
Karen: It’s closed down and is collapsing. Right.
David: So, we have a lot of businesses that are laying people off. We know that pain.
Karen: So, you at a certain time, when we were going through those hard things, you were invited to speak at Wheaton College, your alma mater for their special spiritual life series. And you have the manuscript from those days. And they seem to be totally appropriate as though they were written for the things that we’re going through in our country right now. So, why don’t you go ahead and read from that one chapter and it’s on grace, I believe. I think it’s on grace.
David: That’s the key word if there is one.
Karen: Let’s hear about that. I think we need some of that.
David: I always put these disclaimers because these were messages written 25 years ago and a lot of the key illustrations were movies of that time. I was speaking to a college audience. So, if it seems dated, it was dated. And if it seems up to date, it is.
Karen: It’s both, right?
David: Up to date, yeah. God’s grace and forgiveness, that’s what the thrust was. The series was called When Life Becomes a Maze.
A good maze is not designed to be solved quickly. If there’s no challenge to it, then it probably should be called something else, a garden for scrolling, for instance. The word maze implies a certain degree of difficulty. But what would you think of a mis-constructed maze that has no exit route? The workman who built the walls or the gardener who planted the hedges or the graphic artist who designed the puzzle made a mistake and every escape was blocked.
Some of the labyrinths in which we find ourselves feel as though they were constructed by a cruel or sadistic architect. I should have mentioned this before, but it’s a mistake to assume that all of life’s mazes follow certain rules, because a human error, a great number of tragedies, can occur in mazes. It would be naive not to remind yourself about the risk of meandering on your own through these complexities. I frequently think that my adult children have inherited a world that’s not as good as the one to which I was introduced six decades back.
Did you know that experts sometimes refer to today’s young adults as the repair generation? This is because of the economic, environmental, and family a man misses. They’re going to have to clean up. Kind of reminds me of one particular scene in the film Jurassic Park where there’s a shot of what looks like a small mountain of dinosaur poop. It seems as if this generation has been given a shovel and told that his job is to clean up these colossal mounds that appear just about everywhere on the landscape.
Yes, it’s a messed-up world and we’re all messed-up people who do some good, but who can’t seem to stop doing a lot of bad also. Our best efforts come apart far quicker than we want. Our moments to remember are like the brief shining one that was known as Camelot, which incidentally even the best of the best messed up.
Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot. People make a lot of mistakes. They overschedule their lives. They fall into sexual sin. They get angry, really angry. They sink into depression. They abuse their spouses. Some literally try to vanish by not eating. People get confused about their gender. They gamble. They cheat. They kill. Put messed up people in a messed-up world maze and you should expect to end up with mountains of trouble.
That’s why I quickly add that messed-up people in a messed-up world would do well to accept the Lord’s grace and forgiveness. We all need to get used to drawing on this boundless source because regardless of whose fault it is, sooner or later we all will run smack into a wall and get trapped down some no-exit corridor. Maybe the dead end wasn’t there the last time you negotiated that passage so you thought you could run a fast track. But it was there this time and you forgot that mazes don’t have agreed upon rules.
So where does this leave you? “Sorry with all the grunting around here. I didn’t hear you.” “No, no, I know your story. Yeah, the big bucks from dad and how they bought you friends and fund, and wouldn’t it be great if life could remain like that forever? And what was the license plate on that truck that hit you? Talk louder please.”
“These pigs are noisy when they eat. So, you think you’ll go home? Is that your plan? Mitt, you were a fool. Asked to work somewhere in the family business because any lowly menial task would be better than this degrading hovel. How do you think your dad will respond? Blew a lot of his bucks, you know? He’s liable to punch your lights out. Going home might be a stupid idea.”
I’m reading now from Luke 15. “So, he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I’ve sinned against heaven and against you. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son’. But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick, bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fatted calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again. He was lost and he’s found.’”
This story is a powerful picture of the grace and forgiveness that has been memorialized in sermons and people’s lives down through the centuries ever since Christ first told it. Its truth has to sound as good in your ears as it does in mine. We can’t earn this grace, but we certainly need it. We especially need grace and forgiveness when we feel trapped in a maze; when we’re not used to the frustrations of these confinements. When we often say things, we shouldn’t; when we also think things we shouldn’t. We do things we shouldn’t and too often we mess up in ways we shouldn’t. Maybe we need to be told how bad we are and maybe we already know that. And maybe most of all we need to be repeatedly reminded about God’s incredible grace and forgiveness.
Have you seen the film Little Women? Then it’s a good movie, you ought to see it. For a change it’s about a healthy and loving family. Laurie is the fellow who’s a longtime family friend, the rich boy next door. And he loves Jo, J-O, one of the four March daughters.
Jo is beautifully played by the actress Winona Ryder in the 1995 remake. In one touching scene, Laurie returns from college where he’s been a bit of a prodigal. But he’s always loved Jo and he attempts to propose to her by the old fence in the meadow. She tries like everything to sidetrack him. “Please don’t do this, it would never work, we’d kill each other.” “If you loved me, Jo”, he says, “I should be a perfect saint, for you could make me anything you like.” “I’m sorry, I just can’t. Let’s keep it as best of friends, which we are.”
She’s most of all uncomfortable. Now he’s really mad. “You’ll be sorry someday.” And he storms off. “Where are you going?” She asks as his face frightens her. In the book by Louisa May Alcott, his response is, “To the devil.” And for some months that’s where he goes. The handsome attractive wealthy Laurie has just hit a wall.
Flush on. This is a humiliating, devastating, traumatizing rejection for the young man. If in the film he had said, “Okay let’s remain friends like you suggested. In time I think I’ll be all right.” He wouldn’t have felt the welter of emotion some people experience when they’ve been told they’re not loved. When that happens men and women don’t always act like perfect saints. This deeply disturbing rejection causes the world to tilt. Then by an overtly negative reaction of grief or rage they are capable of making matters even worse. Much, much worse.
But hear me, it is not so much worse that what they do is beyond God’s grace and forgiveness. Laurie eventually straightens out and would you believe he falls in love with and marries Amy, the youngest of the sisters. And he turns out to be a fine man and it is a fine match.
Would you also believe that lots of disappointed people, losers, repeated failures, even broken folk, discover marvelous futures. They become whole and grateful adults. Somewhere along the line they learn about the miracle of grace and forgiveness.
This is not a matter of their earning their way back. Grace is more than making up for the bad with great efforts at good. Grace is given freely and must be accepted freely. That’s why we call it the father’s amazing grace.
I know I’m referring to movies quite often but in this visual culture these fresh film pictures sometimes clarify the points a minister struggles to illustrate. In 1986 a film was produced by the same people who did the killing fields and chariots of fire. This one starred Jeremy Irons and Robert De Niro and was called the mission. Irons plays Father Gabriel, a Spanish Jesuit who goes to the 18th century South American wilderness to build a mission in hopes of converting the Indians. Actor Robert De Niro plays Mendoza, a slave hunting profiteer who plundered the same people.
In a fit of jealous rage, over a woman, Mendoza kills his brother and is absolutely overwhelmed with grief and guilt for what he’s done. Wanting to aid the process of repentance, the Jesuits devise a means of penance whereby Mendoza lugs an impossibly heavy load up the side of a steep cliff. It is a long and torturous scene as he tugs and scrambles to get this huge net filled with the armor, he used to capture slaves to the top.
Finally, he reaches the summit where totally exhausted. He’s met by converted Indians who recognize him, their former enemy. In a new act of Christian love, they cut him free of his burden, which rolls and tumbles down the route he’s just clamored up with incredible tenacity and sheer willpower. Literally and emotionally, Mendoza is suddenly released and he cries and laughs and cries and laughs some more.
It is a classic film picture that graphically records the results of forgiveness. Grace is not about carrying the impossible load up the side of your chosen cliff. It’s about being set free by an act of divine love even though you are undeserving.
Some have yet to experience that marvelous gift. Oh, you’re not a slave trader like Mendoza, but you’ve been sleeping around with someone outside of marriage, or you’ve cheated on taxes, reports, or tests. Maybe you’re captive to an addiction of one kind or another. You’re a rebel, but just why you are doesn’t make as much sense to you as it once was. Just think what you just did. Maybe you’re HIV positive, but nobody close to you knows you’re carrying that burden in your net. Or you’ve denied your Lord, said to peers or to complete strangers in one way or another, “I’m not a Christian”, even though Jesus has been incredibly gracious to you.
Now like Peter or Mary Magdalene, where the slave trader turned hymn writer John Newton, you need the Lord to put a new song in your heart about a marvelous, sweet sound of amazing grace. You’re the wayward daughter or son who needs to be found; the blind one feeling sorry for yourself who needs to be able to see again. Through many mazes, toils and snares you have already come. If you’ve gotten free of them, I’m sure it’s been grace that brought you safe thus far and that will lead you home. For messed up people in a messed-up world do well to accept the Lord’s grace and forgiveness.
Should I say it again? Messed up people in a messed-up world do well to accept the Lord’s grace and forgiveness. I hope that sounds good to you. Those to me. I’m always touched when my close friend Dr. K. P. Yohann, President of Gospel for Asia, talks about getting lost in the great American maze. Born in South India, never wore shoes until his later teen years. Then as a young man, he was profoundly moved by a message given by George Verwer of Operation Mobilization. Deeply challenged about the purpose of his life before Long Cape, he was involved with an evangelism team witnessing in North India.
In this setting, he experienced the paradox of hardship and joy, of having little but considering himself the most fortunate of people. Here was a cause worth living for, a calling that made the resistance of the crowds and the cat calls and the rocks aimed at him a privilege to face.
In time, K. P. decided to come to the States for further training at a Bible school. The studies went well, but that’s not all K. P. learned about in this seductive land. Like the brother of the prodigal in Luke 15, his heart started to lose the warmth of his father’s love for lost children. What began to concern him was whether God was giving him all that was his by rights.
In his book, Revolution and World Missions, K. P. writes, “From the moment I touched foot on American soil, I walked in unbelieving days. How can two so different economies coexist simultaneously on the earth? Everything was overpowering and confusing to me.” The story continues in his second book, The Road to Reality. “I was preaching, studying the word for hours daily, and shepherding a flock of 200 souls. Our church was growing, the congregation was being fed, the word of God, people were being saved, but I was miserable inside. My soul was drying up. I was tormented by the knowledge I carried around inside my heart and head. Others had not seen what I had seen in Asia, and I could not forget the people I had left behind. I was haunted by memories of millions of lost souls in North India, and the suffering forgot little band of native missionaries I knew were still trying to reach them for God. So, for two years my heart had heartened. I had not shed a tear for them. In fact, I could not shed a tear for anyone or anything.
Then as I prayed and evaluated my life and the light of eternity, it all changed. I let go of one materialistic thing after another to surrender my ambitions and plans for future ministry in the safety and security of America. Our lifestyle became simpler. My new car was the first thing to go. Insurance policies, saving accounts, credit cards, most of my clothes. Everything that could be, was sold off so the money could be sent to needy native brethren. But we never missed a thing. It was such a joy to move in the flow of the Holy Spirit again.
Suddenly we were free. We had wings like eagles to soar above our bondage to these material playthings. In one stroke, we as a family were again having a significant impact on a lost and dying world. We knew that we were experiencing the mind of Christ about these things, and we began trusting our father to provide for our needs.”
K.P Yohannan is not the only person who has performed better under hardship than an amaze of blessing. Even so, the Lord extended grace and forgiveness for him and gave him a powerful ministry. Here are similar words of testimony from the pen of the Psalmist David, another leader who did better in fire than he did in favor.
Psalm 103. “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his love for those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west so far has, he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. For he knows how we are formed he remembers that we are dust.”
As people of dust, we must not mistake being a Christian with never falling short of God’s expectations or those of our spouse or friends. Following Jesus doesn’t mean you don’t get so frustrated with life that you suddenly shock everyone including yourself with an expletive or a string of them. Being saved doesn’t ensure that your business will succeed or that a trusted employee won’t secretly rob you blind. Christian couples who sacrifice so their sons or daughters can attend Christian schools have no guarantees how they will turn out. The church is a true sanctuary or safe place but as a refuge or haven it still isn’t free from the troubles that the rest of society knows all too well.
Everyone in the family of God isn’t perfect and problem-free. The truth is that nobody is including the most respected of church leaders. Yes, we know the broad path leads to destruction but sometimes the narrow path seems to have pit stops there too. Hey, wherever the less than best place you’re in is, I don’t want you to think, I’m blowing it. And no way I’d like to go back to my spiritual roots. If my father in heaven is anything like I picture, he’ll punch my lights out.
If you think that friend, then you got the wrong picture of him in your head. The devil has put a horror picture poster in the theater window when in reality what’s playing is a tender love story, a divine romance. It’s a picture about knowing Camelot again. It’s a tale about a theme park of a much earlier time, not Jurassic Park, but Eden restored. It’s the real report of an amazing God who frees people of the crushing burdens they try to carry up steep cliffs. It’s a happy ending story of a prodigal who went to the devil but came back home to be surprised by a love that changed him forever. It’s a narrative account of a Christian worker from India who got mixed up trying to negotiate an American maze, but now in the Lord’s great mercy is helping others to see clearly through their own puzzles. It’s a true-to-life plot that we’ve all been thrust into about left turns, right turns, dead ends, an unimaginable God who has pointed us down the right path. It’s the author of life’s portrayal of a direction for tomorrow’s maze, and it’s his promise to eventual freedom from this difficult terrain. It’s a blockbuster story you don’t want to miss, especially if yours is one of the starring roles.
Well, good word to hear during difficult times like we are going through even now.
Karen: It’s exactly the word that needs to be heard. So, listen here, one of those mazes, look to God, look to his grace, find those scriptures for yourself, and let them speak to your heart.
David: Karen, I wrote out some scriptures for people who might want to just go to Bible verses. There are five of them. They’re not long sections, and I wrote five questions for each of those. Sometimes people like to go to scripture, but they’re not sure where to start, so I put those together. I believe they’ll be helpful if people would like them. They’re free.
Karen: And they can find that by going to… we’ll let Dean tell them how.
Outgo: You may obtain a copy of the handout mentioned in this podcast by pointing your web browser to the following link: www.grow.beforewego.show. That’s all-lowercase letters. GROW www.grow.beforewego.show SHOW. And if you would like to write to us, please send us an email at the following address. firstname.lastname@example.org.
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