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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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45 Responses to 761

  1. Tiggy says:

    Grace, according to the churches I’ve been in, appears to be very conditional.

  2. Forrest says:

    There’s a lot of the people making comments on this article who need an education in grace: http://www.parentdish.com/2009/07/14/boy-3-survives-river-ride-in-toy-car/

    And while it wasn’t in church, it’s likely by grace that this was found for me: http://www.wrongplanet.net/

  3. Miriworm says:

    I know her well! :-)

  4. Dave says:

    used some ASBO cartoons at St P yesterday Jon and told them that this one was due (Grace) – great to have ‘insider knowledge’! Hope that I was able to inspire some to be abassadors of grace… and to check out ASBO Jesus! dave

  5. Rob says:

    so secret some churches dont even remember they’ve locked it away!

  6. Nik says:

    Grace: isn’t she a blue-eyed blonde?

  7. Kathryn says:

    And one of its most valuable gifts.

  8. Hayles says:

    Don’t know if you read my question on Naked Pastor, Jon, but I’ll take this as enough of an answer!

    Why is it that so many sermons focus on warnings, and the hasher passages, and then just leave us to wonder off for tea and biscuits feeling a bit screwed? (Or is that just me?)

    ‘Grace, according to the churches I’ve been in, appears to be very conditional.’

    I agree, Tiggy, but sometimes I get this impression when I read the bible as well, hence my struggle with it.

    Love to you all this morning. x

  9. Will says:

    talked about a lot not enough shown, not enough practiced, shame, shame, shame!

  10. beckyG says:

    I’m going through a period right now where I am repenting for not showing grace towards others, choosing to judge them instead for making some very bad decision. I was right but not Christlike. Sometimes I wonder if I don’t receive Grace because I’m not giving Grace to others.

    This isn’t to let the church off the hook – I’ve been in enough church settings where I’m convinced Jesus is nowhere to be found. But wondering how much of this Grace biz needs to start with me.

  11. subo says:

    great cartoon – should patent that one jon

    have recently come across churches being judged by churches, holding themselves up as the ‘got it right’ church and intimidating other fellowships to join in with their system

    and, so relate to your comments beckyG, about keeping grace towards others, I sometimes feel so vulnerable and hurt, I find I’ve been prickly with everyone. ach, I need grace

  12. beatthedrum says:

    I love this., Being part of a church that is known for its teaching on Grace it amazes me that we dont shout it from the roof tops…

  13. jonbirch says:

    rob @ 4… or where they locked it away. :-?

    dave @ 3… cheers mate. :-)

    hayles @ 7… yes, it seems there is a reluctance to show grace throughout history. the ‘god is on our side’ thing that happens in the bible, in the christian religion, in other religions, to justify what in my view is bad behaviour i find really tricky. it is particularly difficult in relation to the bible, where we often have people saying ‘god is on our side’ before going off to commit what we would these days consider to be a deplorable act.
    i think i’d rather have jesus as my guide than the bible. i know that might sound contraversial… it’s not supposed to. the bible is an invaluable document, but if we read it switched off to what we know human nature to be like, i think we can become very unstuck and sanction all kinds of awful behaviour. it happens, sadly.

    beckyg and subo… yup it can only begin at home.

    kathryn @ 6… yup.

    will… yup, oft talked about… but best practised.

  14. jonbirch says:

    beatthedrum… speak, shout, whatever… but demonstrate it, that has to be the way.

  15. rebecca says:

    I’m not even sure exactly what is meant by grace, but I do agree that one of its critical characteristics is that it should be unconditional. But if you start looking for references for what might be “grace” in the Gospels, you start running into difficulties: e.g. the Lord’s prayer, and the parable of the unforgiving servant [aside: I have SEVERE theological problems with this particular parable] suggest that forgiveness is conditional on us forgiving others; the parable of the sheep and goats suggests that redemption is conditional on us giving service to others.

    [Another aside: of course we should be forgiving others and serving others because these are good things to do in their own right, not because there is any possibility of receiving a reward directly from God, but that’s not the point here].

    So when it does that leave us with the question of what grace might be, and whether it is genuinely unconditional? Any suggestions?

  16. Hayles says:

    Rebecca, I struggle with some of the parables too; the one about the poor guy that failed to invest his bag of gold confuses me…it’s not like he even gambled it away or anything, he just kept it safe! I understand that the point of the parable is that we shouldn’t waste our talents, but the way it is told, with the sevant being called ‘worthless’ and thrown out into ‘darkness,’ implies that he wasn’t even given a chance to learn a lesson. He failed, and that’s that. Where is the room for grace here?

    And then there’s the prodigal son that gambled and drank his money away, only to be welcomed back with open arms! Why is grace so abundant in this parable and not in the former? Why is the picture painted so different?

    I second Rebecca’s request for suggestions!

    Jon, I share your concern about how we use the bible and also feel that I rely on Jesus as my guide more than the bible. But then this leaves me with the problem of reconciling the Jesus I pray to with some of the things the bible records him saying. It’s chicken and egg; do we start with a concept of grace, and then read the bible with this understanding of God’s character, or do we get this notion from the bible initially?

    About the whole goats and sheep thing, I think this troubles a lot of people. As my mum’s friend said, before you become a Christian you think all you need to do is believe in Jesus and then you’re alright, and then after you become a christian you learn about this whole sheep and goats thing! I’m sure it has been talked about over many a cup of coffee.

    I think what is difficult about the bible is that it always leaves me wanting to know more about the people it talks about. What was their response when Jesus said that they failed to do these things to him? Did they just miss opportunities? Was it a whole lifetime of ignoring those in need? Were they repentent? Were they terrified of being separated from God? During their lives did they sincerely seek God, and just miss the point? The way they speak, it is if they had THOUGHT that they knew God, but then are told that they failed to do what was needed. Had they spent their whole lives excited about going to heaven and thinking they were going to be greeted with open arms, and then weren’t?

    When these stories are told in church, it is as if characters in a story are being talked about, but that is simply not how I respond to it. I always wonder about their lives, the fact that they were people’s precious sons and daughters (as everyone is), the fact that they are GOD’s precious sons and daughters.

    I respond more to the God portrayed in the beautiful Footprints story than I do to any particular bible passage. My mum taught me how to tell the story in sign language the other day, and it is the closest I have felt to understanding the love of God in a long while.

  17. Hayles says:

    Oh my goodness, apologies for the essay!

    Excuse me while I go and send a 10 message long text…

  18. Robb says:

    Oh dear, we aren’t showing “the church” much grace are we?

  19. Robb says:

    Is grace just a bit more jargon for us all to use to hide the key truth within?

  20. Tiggy says:

    I was thinking about this when the ‘law/grace paradigm’ was mentioned. Did Jesus do that? It’s not the impression I get from the gospels. He didn’t seem to initially approach people with, ‘You are so sinful that you’re unnaceptable to God’ and then offer to let them off the hook by taking their place, or whatever convoluted story the penal substitution crowd have. I’m not saying he never mentioned sin, but this doesn’t seem to have been his main emphasis or initial means of relating to people.

  21. duttyo says:

    my favourite quote about grace…..

    Each one of here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don’t know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them – we can love completely without complete understanding.

    I’m not sure that ‘Grace’ is kept hidden in quite the way this cartoon suggests. Maybe we just have a hard time seeing it sometimes

  22. rebecca says:

    I have a nonbiblical suggestion: there seems to be a correlation by how much grace somebody expects to be shown by God, and how much they show to other people. Or conversely, how harshly they expect to be judged by God, and how harshly they judge other people. But where do the expectations come from? Probably the way in which they have been shown grace/judged by others. And so the cycle goes on.

    The message I got from a certain book about grace (I won’t say who it was by, but I’m sure some readers of this blog will have read it) is that grace is the opposite of being judgemental. Now I’ve got to work out exactly what is meant by “judgemental”.

  23. rebecca says:

    Among the numerous Iona worship songs is a version of the beatitudes. This is their version of “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”:

    “Blessed are the ones who pardon all
    With equal grace they hear God’s call.”

  24. Tiggy says:

    I can see the first correlation, but you seem to also be implying that if someone is judged harshly by others then they will judge others harshly. I know that not to necessarily be the case – quite the opposite is often true. Maybe it depends on how much you accept the other’s judgement of you.

  25. subo says:

    grace is the expectation that you are meeting a richly blessed child of God, who is filled with God given resources to enrich both of you

  26. Tiggy says:

    Hence grace is Original Blessing.

    I’m assuming this expectation is a mutual thing and that the person with the expectation is also a richly blessed child of God with God given resources.

    Grace is finding the sacred in the mundane. The ‘rainbow shining in a bead of spittle.’

  27. Forrest says:

    Rebecca #22, yeppers, done seen that.
    Maybe even have subconsciously acted like that – ooooops!

  28. Tamara says:

    I was talking about this with one of my friends just yesterday. We preach that we need to do something as Christians, and we never explain why we do it. We do it because are saved by GRACE, and our response act accordingly – not to keep on sinning, but to be a light.

    Maybe this secret should be the one to escape the walls of the church building. Screw the cheesey slogans on signs, just write up ‘GRACE’ and see what happens. Although, people may just think you’re telling them to pray before meals…

  29. Tiggy says:

    I think people wouldn’t know what it meant and those with some idea would probably assume we were telling them to be grateful to God for his mercy. That was how I used to interpret the phrase ‘The Grace of God’ in the Anglican blessing. And nobody likes being told to be grateful – that’s something that either comes naturally or doesn’t. My parents used to tell me I should be grateful to them for adopting me. That kind of burden one can do without.

  30. Dave says:

    “Why would God choose Jacob the conniver over dutiful Esau? Why confer supernatural powers of strength on a Mozartian delinquent named Samson? Why groom a runty shepherd boy, David, to be Israel’s king? And why bestow a sublime gift of wisdom on Solomon, the fruit of that king’s adulterous liaison? Indeed, in each of these Old Testament stories the scandal of grace rumbles under the surface until finally, in Jesus’ parables, it bursts forth in a dramatic upheaval to reshape the moral landscape” Philip Yancey ‘What’s so amazing about grace?’

  31. jonbirch says:

    i agree, i can see grace in all those things mentioned, dave. i also agree re jesus. but what about all the other less than gracious ot bits? i struggle with them.

  32. Tiggy says:

    We choose our own God and isn’t that part of our spiritual development?

    PS. What’s ‘Mozartian’ about Sampson??

  33. Tiggy says:

    I love Neil Diamond! One of those singers who’s always had a spiritual feel to his music. Like Cat Stevens, even before he became Yusuf Islam. Shame he’s lost his edge a bit now. I met him once at St. James, Picadilly. He’s really sweet.

  34. Dave says:

    Tiggy – not sure re the Mozartian thing (have to watch lifting quotes!) – did Mozart do an opera about Samson?

    I think that we chose our own PERCEPTION of God – however, it seems to me that the God that it is above and beyond perception is full of surprises!

    Jon – I guess you mean the less gracious bits of church? If so – I think the kingdom parables suggest that subversion on the inside is a characteristic of the entity that would exist post Calvary – however, I take comfort from the fact that the only time Jesus mentions church (specifically) is when he says that ‘the gates of hell will not prevail against it’ – for ‘gates of hell’ I read ‘strategies of hell’ as ‘gates’ at that time where places of decision, judgement, where the wise sat etc. So despite the lack of grace in church I hold on to the hope that redemption still works its wonderful way in me and the people i try to express church with– dave x

  35. Hayles says:

    Dave, I think Jon meant the bits in the Old Testament.


  36. Dave says:

    Cheers Hayles – well I agree then (!!) however, have to say that this requires an in depth discussion on the ‘representation of God’ in the Old Testament (and the New at times!) – But perhaps it is too early in the morning to go there!

  37. Hayles says:

    Yes maybe it is, Dave – I haven’t even had my rice krispies yet! :)


  38. jonbirch says:

    haha! yup hayles, that’s what i meant… and dave, yup, the whole ‘how god is represented’ thing is a biggy to say the least. given that many millions of people’s view of god comes from what the writers of the ot have to say, i think it’s probably wise to try and get a sense of the motivation behind the writing. but as you say, too big a subject pre breakfast. :-)

  39. JF says:

    …yes, probably best not to go there. Reading the OT after being brought up in Sunday School is like finding out that Father Christmas has a Dark Side.

  40. Pingback: Grace again « Bring on the joy

  41. Laura says:

    Love that song Robb! Though this is still my all time favorite about the topic.

  42. Tiggy says:

    Did the link work?

  43. Pingback: Grace The Churches Best Kept Secret « Rule of Christ Jesus

  44. Hello, my name is Carsten Hokema and I am a Baptist minister from germany, working in the northern part for about 300 churches.
    A friend send me some of your comics and I really really enjoy them!
    I use them on my site http://www.ewigkite.de once in a while.
    It is a church project connected to the hobby of kiting, kitesurfing etc.
    We just want to be, where the people are and share our hobby with them.
    And our faith. But we want to be “normal” ….. thanks for your wonderfull work.
    I just donated some pounds to you and hope you will have a good beer or coffee :) for it!

    Mit herzlichem Gruß, Dein Carsten

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