Why the Kitschy “God’s Not Done with Me Yet” Is the Most Profound Truth You’ll Encounter Today


It starts with a girl, because for many a guy, that’s where life lessons often begin.

I’d known her for years, but one day she took me into the off-limits basement of her home to show me a secret. There sat her dad, engineer’s hat in place, surrounded by his model train “kingdom.”

I say kingdom because the spread was impressive, perhaps 20 feet by 15, and from his perch, her dad controlled it all. Multiple trains, switches, throttles, and on and on. You could tell by the look on his face: He loved this hobby.

And nothing on those tracks escaped him. He knew the beginning, end, and everything in-between.

This imagery comes back to me because I continue to think we all need some perspective about perspective.

It bothers me greatly to see America descending into factions so imprisoning that no one seems capable of understanding anyone else. Soon, the verbal sparring turns into questions of an opponents’ intelligence, and all parties retreat to their corners still attempting murder with words.

We have become a people with no ability to step outside ourselves and to inhabit another person’s perspective. Worse, we question the other person’s motives, without any understanding of that person’s past, upbringing, hurts, joys, or hidden beliefs.

One of the sad realities I see played out online every day consists of the “enlightened” Christian believer tearing to shreds the novice. The sage must publicly destroy the naïf to show not only the sage’s wisdom but also to defend the honor of God against fools, regardless of how much punishment the supposed fool must endure and its personal cost.

And because pounding idiots into the dust is fun.

But it shouldn’t be.

You see, God is not done with any of us yet. Each of us is made in the image of God, yet we are all marred by sin. In our current form, we are flawed, but God can reshape us as He will. And He promises He will if we let Him.

When you and I encounter another human soul, we see a slice of a life, a moment in another’s journey. We do not see the departure from the gate, nor the arrival at the final destination.

But Father God watches over it all. Like my friend’s dad, He is the celestial engineer who knows the entirety of the track and all that is possible on the journey. He stands apart from time and sees the beginning, the end, and everything in-between. To Him, no surprises are possible, and the ultimate journey of each passenger He knows down to the second.

But only the Father knows.

The Bible says this:

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
—Colossians 3:3-4 ESV

Not only can we not know another’s life, we cannot even know our own. We do not know the future. We incorrectly process the past. And we don’t see at all the workings of God in our inmost person. Our life truly is hidden in Him.

But He sees everything.

Which is why it’s such foolishness for any person to presume superiority over any other. We see a fleeting slice of another’s life, but if we try to draw suppositions from that slice, chances are we will miss the truth entirely. We critique another, and the criticism is based on vapor. If each of us cannot comprehend even our own thoughts and lives correctly, how can we be assured of anything about another’s life, especially as to where that person might be in the journey?

Each of us is a clay pot in God’s hands. The final form we take is not up to us but to God:

Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
—Isaiah 29:16b ESV

But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.
—Isaiah 64:8 ESV

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel….”
—Jeremiah 18:1-6 ESV

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
—Philippians 1:6 ESV

Potter & clayUltimately, if we rashly condemn another believer in Jesus and deem him or her inadequate by our standard, we presume to judge God’s working in that person’s life. We stand in judgement over God Himself, questioning His sanctification, His timing, and His thoroughness.

This does not mean that if we think that young woman over there is about to throw her life away or that elderly man is slandering someone without cause that we cannot make a judgment in that moment, one that might demand we intervene or correct.

But what we cannot do is write them off or think that they are outside of God’s redemption. If we do, then we presume to play engineer and to see all of the track, every train, switch, tree, hill, co-passenger, and all beginnings, middles, and endings. Or in the potter’s case, we question the artistry, the process, and the outcome. We commit the sin of the Garden. We attempt to strip God of His title and instead enthrone ourselves in His place as the engineer or potter.

Each one of us is in process. What you see in me now is neither who I was or who I will become. The same for you.

For the Christian, the journey is to make us more like Jesus. It’s an effort God undertakes but never completes this side of heaven. Much now is hidden. Only when the End comes, and Christ who is our life appears, will all be revealed.

Let’s not break the bruised reed or quench the smoldering wick. Instead, let us partner with God in the journey, whether it’s our journey or another’s. Let’s trust Him that He knows what He is doing in the lives of you, me, and everyone.

God’s not finished with any of us yet.

Mistakes As Sin: Does the Church Need a New Grace?


I keep wondering why the American Church seems to be having little or no impact on this nation. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that evangelism ain’t what it used to be. I’ve said before that in my younger days I was routinely approached by people trying to share Jesus with me, but that hasn’t happened in a long time.

Speaking of a long time ago, Cerulean Sanctum turns 10 this year, and back in the early days I wrote a post called “Whatever Happened to Sin?” The important line in that post stated the obvious: “In short, it used to be about sin.”

It used to be.

The Church’s main talking point was sin. Sin used to be obvious. We knew what sin was. And we knew who the sinners were.

Today, we think we know who the sinners are, but their sins are not always as clear as they once were. Or should I say that they aren’t so easily labeled sin as they once were.

Think about these “sins”:

The pharmaceutical company that releases a batch of tainted drugs that harm people.

The accountant who makes an error in a corporate spreadsheet that causes shareholder losses.

The bus driver who falls asleep, his bus careening off the road, killing a dozen passengers.

The politician who said one stupid thing amid a host of smart ones and derailed his election chances.

The school principal who responds to angry parents by banning a disputed book from a reading list, only to anger other parents.

People can do a million things right, but that one thing done wrong, that decision made in a flash and under pressure, comes back to haunt them. It’s what they fear more than the fires of hell when they go to bed at night.

Christians will argue that people have the wrong priorities. And maybe they do. Maybe the unbeliever SHOULD be more worried about the fires of hell.

But in a daily existence where every last one of us is bombarded by an endless series of choices our forefathers never had to contend with, most people are wary of every little decision they must make. Because we’ve ramped up the consequences of decision-making mistakes to a fever pitch.

I’d hate to be a doctor today. I can’t imagine the minefield most doctors must contend with. Make a tiny mistake—or even the patient perception of a mistake that actually isn’t—and you could be sued to within an inch of your life and lose everything you spent decades working for.

And it doesn’t have to be the doctor. It seems like each of us, no matter what our profession or life goals, is under a ridiculous amount of scrutiny, where even an innocent mistake can derail a lifetime of hard work, where the difference between success and failure may be one word more carefully chosen.

Beyond our own competency issues and the ever-present whip of punishment, what of the unforeseen?

I confess: I was an Enron investor. It wasn’t a lot of money, just $1,500, but I watched it vanish. I’d done all the research too. Even had a couple investment advisers commend the choice of that Houston company. 2+2=5All the stats about the company looked good. No one realized all the stats were lies foisted on the SEC by the company.

Life happens, right? It’s not always in your favor or mine.

But decisions matter, and sociologists are noting an increased fear of decision-making and a subsequent burnout with having to make an endless stream of choices daily. Each of those decisions may offer potential downsides, with the fallout from a mistaken choice not always obvious on the surface.

Sure, Boris Yeltsin wept from all the choices that bombarded him when he and George H.W. Bush visited an American supermarket. And yes, we have to contend with that decision overload every day.

But where is the grace for mistakes when making those decisions?

Also in the distant past of Cerulean Sanctum, I wrote “We Need a Gospel That Speaks to Failure.” More than at any time in history, I think meeting that need is critical.

It’s not that people don’t understand sin. It’s that we’ve conflated sin and mistakes. For the most part, the world at large can’t tell the difference anymore. Worse, we’ve elevated the cost of mistakes and we’ve made them the worse offense.

You make a goof at work that gets you fired and you yell at your kid because of it. The real sin is yelling at your kid, but the consequences of failing to carry the one that led to underestimating a project’s cost that dominoed into your job ouster seem far more oppressive and dire.

Or you chose the wrong major in college and spend the rest of your life in a series of dead-end jobs because of a decision you made at 18, when your head was full of Jell-O and your naiveté on overdrive.

Or you complimented that “nice” woman at work on her fashion sense and she slapped you with a six-figure lawsuit because of it.

Or all that you learned as a kid got turned upside-down by a changing society and you can’t adapt fast enough because none of your coping mechanisms work now that all the rules have changed.

Life is merciless anymore. There is no room for mistakes. Ever.

Can we blame people for thinking that maybe a mistake is worse than a sin? Or that we’ve made the two synonymous? And how can we get back to talking about sin, grace, and where people spend eternity if we can’t get past this issue of simple mistakes that carry nasty, earthly consequences?

We STILL need a gospel that speaks to failure. As far as I see, though, we don’t have one. The American Church continues to deal poorly with failure. Witness how church leaders who goof, whether by actually sinning or just making a simple mistake, often suffer the worst consequences of all and find the grace they heard about constantly now in preciously short supply.

Here’s the thing: What Jesus said about the measure we judge with being the measure we will be judged by extends beyond sin. If we hold every little non-sin mistake against people, that will come back to bite us some day.

I keep wondering if we Christians need to reexamine our theology to work up a new grace that addresses non-sin mistakes. Because, honestly, those mistakes trouble people immensely, and the guy who made the wrong choice of contractor in the heat of the moment and ended up costing his company dearly for that decision still needs grace for his mistake.

And if the Church can’t offer that kind of grace, who will?

Your Church and the Facebook Friend Ignore


Facebook friend ignoreCommunity has been a buzzword in contemporary Church circles for the last dozen years, but I have yet to hear of a local church that does it well. Too many churches are lucky if they can find a way to get together once a week, much less three or four. I don’t hear of enough churches where the church members meet in each other’s homes regularly, outside of  the occasional small group.

In fact, my conversations lately have centered around how more and more of us are realizing our primary means of fellowship with other Christians outside of Sunday mornings is through Facebook. Which is why a recent discussion troubled me.

A friend mentioned that she stopped accepting Facebook Friend requests from others at her church. Evidently, she shared something with her carefully selected group of friends and it got back to an elder at her church with whom she was not Facebook friends yet. (I suspect another of her Facebook friends passed it along.) That elder then told the pastor of the church, and my friend ended up getting a pointed little “chat of correction” from the pastor the following Sunday morning.

The upshot is she stopped accepting Facebook Friend requests from everyone at her church.

I could identify. Something similar happened to me. While I haven’t ignored everyone in that circle of fellowship, I’m much more selective of Facebook friend requests as a result. Truthfully, that disappoints me greatly.

Only a fool would think the 21st century Church is immune to gossip. Still, that said, by their nature social networks tend to foster gossip, and I suspect some of you reading this who have been on Facebook for a couple years have been burned by something you wrote in an update. If fellow Christians precipitated the scorching, especially those at your own church, it hurts all the more. No one wants to share an update that they enjoyed a certain book and end up having to defend themselves on Sunday because someone at church found out through the gossip grapevine and took issue with their choice of reading material.

Given how much of our sense of social connection now exists through online means, I wonder if social networks such as Facebook are ultimately damaging our shot at real community. It’s something I’ve pondered for years, and when I get a friend request from someone I’ll chat with in church on Sunday but with whom I’m leery of sharing my Facebook updates outside of church, it makes me wonder if something vital is going unaddressed in our Christian community.

I truly believe a more fully realized community within the Body of Christ exists, but we certainly are not nurturing it as well as we should. And Facebook may not be helping, especially when Facebook friends talk about us in inappropriate ways and to the “wrong” people.

What do you think?