The Cherry Wood Cabinet
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, hear a story by Roger Thompson, a speaker at FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember, about building a lovely hand-crafted cherry wood cabinet for his daughter, only to have her reject it. Roger explains how we often reject God's grace in the same way.
Roger Thompson explains how we often reject God’s grace.
The Cherry Wood Cabinet
Bob: If you're facing a challenging relationship with someone in your family or a friend, a neighbor, a loved one – there is often pain and struggle. What do you do with that? Roger Thompson says you need to rely on God's sustaining grace.
Roger: Are there people in your life that don't relate? You've done all you can, you've crossed the bridge, you've built a bridge, you've tried everything, and they don't relate, and it hurts. There's an ache there. That's where sustaining grace comes in. It's sustaining grace is Jesus Christ's grace to me because I live in a broken planet, and I need His grace to sustain me.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, August 18th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Grace is not just some theological concept. When it comes to relationships, it's vital.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition. One of the things we talk about when we are at our Weekend to Remember conferences, we talk about the things that threaten marital oneness, intimacy in marriage, and one of those things that is a threat to marital oneness is for couples to be on what you've called for years, "The 50-50 Plan." Now, I remember when Mary Ann and I were dating, seeing magazines that would talk about, "You can have a 50-50 marriage," and it was like everybody was saying, "This is really what you want, is a good 50-50 marriage."
Dennis: Yeah, the only problem is …
Bob: Well, the problem is I'm not that good at math, you know?
Dennis: And her part is never – it's never as much as my part.
Dennis: I mean, that's always the way the math works.
Bob: That's what I mean when I say I'm not good at math. Mine gets plus 2 and hers gets minus 1.
Dennis: Yeah, there you go, and as a result those relationships – well, they don't work long after the honeymoon, and people don't know what to replace it with, Bob, when they see the 50-50 performance relationship fail.
Bob: You know, in reality, I think we all tend to be more performance-based in relationships than …
Dennis: We do that naturally.
Dennis: We're trained in it.
Bob: We don't easily give grace. We instead say, "I withhold affection if I don't like the performance; I am free with affection if you performed well today."
Dennis: Also, Bob, just in how we receive gifts. Somebody gives us a gift, what do we automatically feel like we need to do in return?
Bob: Give them something, even the score a little bit.
Dennis: That's right. It's back to 50-50. We're always trying to give as we've been given to, and that's why sometimes when we haven't been given to the way we think we ought to be, we withhold that affection, and that can destroy a marriage relationship.
Bob: You know, this issue of how we relate to one another and being grace-based in our relationships, I think it became clear to me when you and I were listening to a message together that was given by a friend of ours, Roger Thompson, at an event where we had all of the couples who speak at the Weekend to Remember conferences, we had them together, and we asked Roger to speak to the group. As I remember, he was preparing us for communion, for the Lord's Table, as we were all going to take the Lord's Supper together, and he told a story that took me by surprise. Do you know the one I'm talking about?
Dennis: I know exactly what you're talking about. I was in the audience and, frankly, I figured it out before he got to the punch line.
Bob: Did you?
Dennis: But rather than give our listeners the punch line, we'll let him do that.
Bob: Roger is the senior pastor at Berean Baptist Church in suburban Minneapolis. He and his wife Joann speak together with us at our Weekend to Remember conferences. In addition to being a pastor, Roger is kind of a part-time woodworker. He loves to go out in his shop. He kind of likes to get alone and just be there and work with his hands and make things out in his woodworking shop, and the story he told us actually relates to that hobby of his, and it caught me off guard.
Roger: [From audiotape]. Well, I'm an introvert, and I like being alone. So I'm also a woodworker. I love creating things out of word and making furniture and working in detail and being challenged by that, and so one of the ways – one of my love languages is to make things, make furniture, tables and chairs and bookcases and beds and things for the women that I love. I have two daughters and Joann, and they are the recipients of that, and I love my time alone. I'm by myself, and I'm doing something that I love.
Well, my son-in-law, Eric, just graduated from dental college this past June or May, and in July he started his practice. And so I made for my daughter, Shelly and Eric, who have been married for two years and in school, their whole marriage up until now – I made for them a corner cabinet. It's made out of beautiful Midwestern cherry, a dark red cherry, it's about 84 inches high, and it fits in the corner and has a big door on the top and a smaller door on the bottom. If you know Thomas Moser furniture, I kind of copy his stuff.
And then at the appropriate moment this fall, we went and surprised them and took it up to their home and gave it to them. And then I received this letter back from Shelly a little while later, and here is what she wrote – "Dear Dad, Eric and I want to thank you for all your work to make the cherry wood corner cabinet for our dining room. We realize it represents many hours of planning and many Mondays in the garage, cutting, fitting, and sanding. Dad, I don't have a lot of time, and I hope you won't take this the wrong way, but there are several reasons why we just can't receive this gift at this time. Please hear me out, and then we'll see if we can reach an understanding.
The first reason we have had a hard time receiving this handmade furniture is that, well, and I know you like big words, Dad – it's superfluous. Yes, I mean it's over the top, it's not necessary. I mean, I wish you would have asked us what we really needed the most before going to all that trouble. You know that we've been in school forever. Eric has just finished dental college, and we have some pretty hefty loans to pay off. What we really need is cash not furniture. I'm sure that's no surprise to you so one option would be for you to sell the cabinet and send us the cash. I'm just being honest about how we feel and what we really need right now. I know you'll understand.
The second reason we hesitate to receive this gift is a little tougher to communicate. It's about appearances. You know, how it makes other people feel. You see, something hand-built like this, and we know what it would sell for in the catalog, it's real expensive. Well, it just doesn't seem fair to flaunt something like that in front of our friends. We would feel self-conscious. It feels like we'd be showing off with something we can't explain, and we don't deserve. Maybe we could store it somewhere an install it when everybody else seems to be established and secure in their lifestyles and when it won't be quite so noticeable and dominant.
And that brings me to our third reason to forgo your loving but misguided intentions. We are a tad bit offended. Don't worry, we love you and all, but we would like to reframe our working relationship with you now that we are two working professionals. We feel strongly that we can stand on our own two feet. In the future, we would like to pick what we need from a catalog and allow you to submit what you would charge as compared to others. We would gladly pay you the going rate for anything you build for us in the future. Can we establish this new footing of mutuality as adults with you? It sure would make us feel like equals, and it just seems like it would help everyone concerned to know exactly what to expect from everyone else. It puts us all on a level playing field.
Well, we know you mean well, we just thought some honest feedback might help you redirect your hard work in the right direction. We'd be glad to help you find your focus. Love, Shelly and Eric."
What would you feel like if the one thing you loved most to do, and the thing that you had meticulously handcrafted was rejected like this rejection? Well, the only thing real about this letter is the cherry corner cabinet. But I put these words in the mouth of a child, and I hope if you ever meet her that you won't remember this. But now I want to ask you something. Is there any way that I am treating my father in this way? How do you see yourself in light of grace? It's the most important statement and the most important relationship in the universe. Do I resist the free grace that my Father has specifically planned for me?
So a couple of ways to think about this tonight – first of all, I just want to think about sustaining grace. Jesus Christ's handcrafted, perfectly made, delightfully offered, sustaining grace. Joann and I have spent some time this year examining our lives and recognizing that we carry a lot of what we have coined as evangelical guilt. It's not really morally wrong, it's just our humanity. We're just human. Could we just sustain for a moment that there are some weaknesses we have, some humanity that we have, that is not sin? It's a need. You need to breathe. You need to eat. You need to drink.
Sustaining grace, the way I'm thinking about it is Jesus Christ's grace to me because I live in a broken planet. Are there people in your life that don't relate very well? You've done all you can, you've crossed the bridge, you've built the bridge, you've tried everything, and they don't relate, and it hurts. There's an ache there. That's where sustaining grace comes in. It says, you know, "Yeah, there are aspects of sin in this, but you're not the problem for a bent world."
My daughter, Jill, who is now 29 and a mom in Houston, 15 years ago we made the hard decision to move from Colorado to Minnesota, and at that point Jill was 14. She was at the very epicenter of her Jill-centric world. Everything wrapped around our house, our church, her friends, and it was never going to change until we came to her with the news, "Jill, God has called us," and Jill went into her room. She's an introvert, too, and that's the way she is. She just went in her room, and she cried.
She cried for about a half an hour, and I didn't know what to say and, finally, I started to scoot off the bed and get up to go. And she said, "No!" and I thought she was resisting the decision, and I started to explain to her, "Honey, this is God's will for us. We're going to go. I'm sorry you don't get to vote, but you're going to" – she said "No! Don't leave." She wasn't arguing the issue, she just wanted to be with me.
The Lord's sustaining grace, you could all speak volumes about that. That every weakness is not necessarily a sin, and every failure is not necessarily your fault, and everything – all the problems in the world are not necessarily ours. Jesus is our victor, our pioneer won a victory and He now is saying, "This is what you will one day be – co-heirs with me, and I want to give you My grace today."
This past two and a half years has been a very difficult time for us in our ministry. I won't go the whole long story, but I had asked my executive pastor to make a transition, and he's an honorable man. He's a brother in Christ, but it just didn't go well, and we didn't have a conflicted relationship, but we were sending different messages, but we hurt one another in the process of separating, and it went through our whole church, and so we called in the peacemakers ministry. We sat down with two brothers who sat down with Paul and myself and our deacons, and they began their process of surgery on our hearts.
They said, "Roger, what are the logs in your eye? What have you done to sin against your brother?" And I began to work on that. They sent me home that night to work on it some more, and I realized what I allowed my motives to think about my brother and some of my words to say, and I needed to go to him and confess it to him. And we met the next day, and they asked me and coached us into this session, and they said, "Roger, what do you need to say to Paul?" And I confessed to him my sin, and I said, "Paul it was against you that I did this and, Brother, I want to ask you for your forgiveness." And he instantly said, "Of course, I forgive you. Of course, I forgive you."
What a weight rolls off our shoulders when we know the one we have offended has forgiven us. How do we know we're forgiven because the cross is all there ever is and ever will be for our sin, and it's finished, it's His cross.
Bob: Now, that's Roger Thompson, the pastor of Berean Baptist Church in suburban Minneapolis and also one of the speakers who speaks at the Weekend to Remember conferences talking about how grace is not just some abstract theological concept. It's a very real part of what relationships need to look like in the body of Christ, certainly, but also in our homes, in our families, in our marriages. We've got to be people of grace if we want to honor God in how we relate to one another.
Dennis: And, Bob, those of us who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ need to realize that this grace he's just spoken about is not an option, but it is the essence of who Christ is. If you think about John 1:14, it says, "And we beheld His glory," full of what?
Bob: Grace and truth.
Dennis: Two things – two things represented the glory of God, Jesus Christ in His grace and in His truth. And if we're going to represent Him, if we're going to be Christlike, that means in our relationships we need to represent Him being full of grace. That means we can offer forgiveness, and we can forgive as well as being truthful in those relationships as well.
Bob: You know, it's interesting. I was – and I don't know why I was doing this the other day, but I did a word search on the word "grace" on my computer software, my Bible software. And I think it was just two references in the Old Testament to the word "grace." And I looked them up, and both of them, as I remember, were not about God's grace toward us, but they were pleas for God to be gracious. And then you get to the New Testament, and it starts slow, but after the cross, there is a lot about grace in the Bible. That's the turning point in all of human history, and that's the point where grace became real for each one of us.
Dennis: And, you know, it's at home, Bob, that I think grace is most needed. I'm thinking of the song, "Amazing Grace," and just one stanza where it says, "Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; 'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me" – where?
Dennis: Home. And if we don't know how to express grace to the people we love the most, how are going to ever express grace to a generation of people who are dying without Christ? And here is where I just want to – I'd like to roll up my sleeves and put my arm around a listener at this point and say, "If you and your spouse have not been to the Weekend to Remember to come and find out about this grace and this truth and the Savior that represented both perfectly, why don't you come and spend a weekend with us and let us equip you to be a person who knows how to exhibit grace to your husband, to your wife, to your kids, instead of snapping at them or barking at them or being embittered towards them?
Bob: Or measuring them to see if they measure up to whatever performance you're looking for.
Dennis: Exactly, but, you know, we need a new game plan here, and I think the Christian community, for the most part, really needs a refresher when it comes to this grace, and I really never thought about it this way, Bob, but our entire conference is all about the grace of God. It talks about God giving you a gift through His Son Jesus Christ and also the gift of your spouse. And He has made known His love for you because He gave you a helpmate, a husband or a wife to meet your needs, and the issue you need to come to grips with is how do you relate to this imperfect person that you're married to and how do you express grace, give grace, and receive grace in return from that person?
Bob: Coming up in another couple of weeks, we're going to be kicking off the fall season of our Weekend to Remember conferences. We're going to be hosting these conferences in about four-dozen cities all around the country this fall, and we want to encourage all of you to consider setting aside a weekend this fall, finding out when the conference is coming to a city near where you live and planning now to take that weekend to get away and invest in your marriage and spend a little time learning more about how God's grace applies in marriage and how you can be a channel of God's grace to one another in your marriage relationship.
Go to our website at FamilyLife.com and click on the "Go" button that you find in the middle of the screen. That will take you to a page where you can get more information about the upcoming Weekend to Remember conferences. You can find out when the conference is coming to a city near where you live, and you can go ahead now and mark that weekend off on your calendar. You can contact us to register for one of these upcoming conferences.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, and if you click that "Go" button in the center of the screen, it will take you right to the page where you can get the information you need about the upcoming conferences. You will also see on that same page information about a book by our friend, Dr. David Jeremiah. It's a book that tells the story of a man whose life was so transformed by the grace of God that he wrote the words to probably the best-known hymn in all of hymnity – John Newton, the former slave trader who was amazed by God's grace and wrote the hymn, "Amazing Grace."
Dr. Jeremiah, in a book called "Captured by Grace," looks at how grace is transforming in our lives and in one another's lives. God's grace to us and God's grace through us to others is what God uses to change hearts and to change lives. If you'd like a copy of Dr. Jeremiah's book, it's available from our FamilyLife Resource Center as well.
Again, go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the "Go" button in the center of the screen, and that will take you right to the page where you can get more information about the book and about the upcoming Weekend to Remember conference season that begins here in another couple of weeks.
And when you do get in touch with us, can we ask you to consider making a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today? We are nearing the end of summer, it's the end of our fiscal year, and as we approach it, we find ourselves about $650,000 away from our donation goal for this year, our budget for the year, and knowing that, we've had some listeners who have already gotten in touch with us not only to make a donation to help us out, but many of those listeners have made a challenge to other listeners encouraging you to donate as well.
We heard from a mom who lives in Ohio who called to make a donation, and we want to challenge others who are mothers of six or more children, or whatever your family size is. She says, "If you think you've got a full quiver, call in and make a donation." We heard from another mom who is a stay-at-home mom. She wanted to encourage other stay-at-home moms to donate to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and we heard from a homeschooling mom who called and said, "I want to make a donation, and I want to encourage other homeschooling parents to make a donation as well."
So can I encourage you? Go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the button that says "Make a Donation." You'll see it on the left side of the screen, and that will take you right to a page where you can make a donation online, and not only make a donation, if you are able to, but issue a challenge. Ask other folks who are in your situation, maybe you're a grandparent or maybe you're a newlywed couple just starting out, maybe you're single. Issue a challenge to others to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today as well.
Again, our website is FamilyLife.com. You can make a donation online, as I said, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. When you make your donation just say "I want to make a challenge as well," and we'll pass the word along and see if we can't get a little closer to our budget goal before we come to the end of our fiscal year here in a couple of weeks.
Well, I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can be back with us on Monday when Rebecca St. James is going to join us. We're going to talk about some of her personal convictions as a young woman; choices that she has made in the area of modesty and purity to try to represent a godly standard to other young women, and we'll talk about resource that we've created here at FamilyLife to try to help moms and daughters embrace some of those same standards. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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