All posts by philipmt

Phil Thompson is a husband and father who serves as a lay teacher at The Church at Cherrydale in Greenville, SC and works in the travel industry. He holds a MA in Theological Studies from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary and an MDiv from Columbia International University.

Church Tech | Online Giving Options Go Head-to-Head

This article continues a series on church technology, particularly geared toward small to medium-sized churches. The previous article covered Church Management Software options.


Besides questions about church management software (and included in those questions), the other most common tech question for churches is how to implement online giving. A host of online giving options exist for churches. Let’s compare seven of the popular options to see how they stack up in an even match-up:

a spreadsheet of church giving apps compared
Click image to expand

It’s worth throwing out a caveat here that some church networks or denominations offer giving platforms with more competitive rates than these. So begin your search there before you begin exploring these options further.

Of the above options, Tithe.ly and BlueFire are fascinating standalone platforms. Tithe.ly has an excellent array of helpful features (including an option for donors to cover transaction fees themselves). BlueFire has the best terms for a standalone service as best I can tell. EasyTithe doesn’t seem to bring much to the table given the current options available to churches, but they have a deep history in providing great service. Lifeway’s platform offers some intriguing features such as non-cash donations and coaching, but the monthly fees and transaction fees are incredibly high. Church plants may be drawn to Lifeway’s 6-month free program; however, they will need to find a better long-term option for the life stage of the plant from 6 months until at least year 1 or 2.

Subsplash is an exciting option for churches who are already in the market for an app for their members. After the setup fee (around $1,000) and while paying a monthly subscription fee (between $100–200), churches can take advantage of some of the lowest processing rates available right out of the gate. But what’s truly unique is that Subsplash uses a metric that they refer to as “GrowCurve”, which decreases credit card processing rates as giving volume increases. This model seems far more attractive than the Planning Center model, which increases a monthly fee as the number of givers increases. But the usefulness of Subsplash giving is contingent on whether your church is in the market for a church app–something that can be helpful for push notifications, sermon note distribution, etc. for a middle age and younger congregation. But an app may not make as much sense for an older congregation or a church with a tight budget. It’s worth considering that churches that need and can afford Subsplash could actually hit a break-even point and recoup their monthly app fees through decreased credit card processing rates.

I’m not confident that the monthly fees for Planning Center are justified, especially as their platform is tied to the amount of transactions per month; however, if your church is already committed to their platform, the additional cost may be worth considering, giving you a unified system for every aspect of your church. One unique aspect of PC’s setup is that they integrate with check readers, a handy tool for increasing counting accuracy, speed, and accountability. Breeze may work well for your church if you have not already committed to another church management software.

Two other financial tools are also worth a mention before we go:

  • Quickbooks: This is the gold standard in accounting software. It’s bulky and non-intuitive (pun intended), but a necessary tool for your church’s finances. Subscription costs normally range from $15 to $45 per month, but the best prices for churches are available on TechSoup.
  • The Cash App: The Cash app by Square is an incredibly simple and free tool for transferring cash from individual-to-individual. Whether you’re paying back another staff member for coffee or you’re a small group leader who wants the group to chip in for pizza, this is the app for you.

What’s working well for your church? Let me know in the comments or on social media.

Church Tech | Church Management Software

One of the perennial questions of pastors and church leaders relates to what church management software is best for their church. Church management software is a challenging investment. Many tools try to do too many things in the life of the church–check-ins, donations, slide presentations, group emails, and the list goes on. Usually, the larger they get, the more likely it is that some of the features or the overall service of the platform falters.

My general recommendation is: find the easiest tool that works well in your areas of need, and supplement it with other tech solutions that function better or easier or cheaper. For example, it’s hard to find products that do kid’s check-in and church people management (essentially a CRM for churches) better than the leading church management software packages. But you may discover that there’s a better solution for processing online donations. In this case, it may be advantageous to abandon the church management software donation component (even if you’re forced to pay for it) and use the other giving tool.

Below, I will highlight three common alternatives for church management software in the expensive, middling, and cheap price bands. These would be my go-to recommendations; however, each one of them has serious weaknesses that the church may need to supplement through other resources.

Planning Center ($$$)

Planning Center is the current gold standard for church management software. Their support is impressive and their constant innovation and improvement of their software is evident. Their solutions are designed to scale for various sizes of churches; however, even at the low end, costs may be prohibitive for smaller ministries.

The strongest features of Planning Center are definitely it’s kids check-in tool and service planning interface. The other four paid features (groups, giving, registrations, and resources) are good, but could easily be supplemented with other standalone software components. That said, if you begin scaling out Planning Center, you may discover that you are best served by using their other services in order to consolidate your data.

Pros:

  • Check-ins sets up rapidly
  • Quick response to support issues and extensive software documentation
  • Excellent design
  • Unique approach to service planning

Cons:

  • Doesn’t play well with other software
  • Incredibly pricey

Breeze ($$)

There’s a lot to love about Breeze. Unlike Planning Center, which parcels out various components for set rates and forces you to upgrade if you cross data thresholds, Breeze has a fixed price per month ($50) and allows unlimited data. In short, it’s church management software made simple for simple and small/medium-sized churches. They use a single dashboard to clearly present all their features and an easy to use way.

One of the cool features of Breeze is its API, which stands for “Application Program Interface.” If you’ve got programmers in your church, this will make them drool. APIs are the mouths and ears of software. They allow Breeze to receive and send information to other apps. This sounds boring, but it’s actually really cool. This means that you can create custom forms to input people into your database. Or you can tie giving data into Quickbooks with ease.

Pros:

  • Simple pricing with no data limits
  • Easy and strong API
  • Strong support, including custom training and importing assistance
  • Built for small/medium-sized churches

Cons:

  • No service planning feature
  • You can find cheaper entry level options

Church Trac ($)

Church Trac has some cheap entry level options (starting at $5/month) and is capable of an incredible variety of tasks. While inexpensive, the lower cost is reflected in the user experience and design. In a lot of ways, the look and feel is similar to 2005 web design. It’s garish and complicated. But it is a tool worth considering if your finances are tight.

Pros:

  • Incredibly cheap
  • Broad variety of features

Cons:

  • Poor design quality
  • Doesn’t play well with other software
Features Planning Center Breeze Church Trac
Check-Ins Yes Yes Yes
Giving Records Yes Yes Yes
Online Giving Yes Yes Yes
Text to Give Yes Yes Yes
Group Management Yes No Yes
Event Registration Yes Yes Yes
People Management Yes Yes Yes
Group Texting Yes Yes Yes
Volunteer Management Yes Yes Yes
Facility Management Yes No Yes
Service Planning Yes No No
No Limits on Data No Yes No
Plays Well With Other Software No Yes No

If you can afford it, I would recommend Planning Center for pure quality and robust capabilities. But I would strongly recommend considering Breeze as a cost saver for church plants, revitalizations, or churches with small budgets. Whichever you choose, commit to it and build out your data within it. Plan on a review of your database and usage of the software on an annual basis.

Honorable Mention

Depending on your church’s needs, you may want to look at some of these platforms:

  • FellowshipOne: Their pricing requires a call, and their software is geared toward large churches. If your church is growing beyond 500 or 1,000, FellowshipOne may be a better option to consider.
  • Realm: This looks like an interesting cloud-based platform with a robust array of features. Pricing isn’t publicly listed, but some sites indicate the pricing is between $30–200/month depending on the plan the church selects. Like FellowshipOne, this seems to be designed with large churches in mind. Realm absorbed another popular people management tool called “The City” some time ago.
  • BAND app: This is an app designed to facilitate group communication, whether for a youth soccer league or for a church small group. It’s a helpful tool that may help fill the communications gap for small group leaders, worship leaders, etc. if your church opts to take a more piecemeal approach to church management software.
  • ChurchTeams: This is another full-featured ChMS with loads of features and pricing ranging from $37–197 per month depending on the size of the church. The user interface appears to leave much to be desired.

Didn’t see your favorite ChMS listed? I’d love to see your comments on what’s working well for you. Do you have some additional pros and cons other churches should consider about the solutions I’ve offered above, please post your own pros and cons.

Three Reasons I Tell My Kids “I Like You”

I caught myself doing it again. My lanky 4-year-old was grinning from ear-to-ear as she showed off her latest skill she’d learned in dance class. I tousled her hair and whispered it: “I like you so much!” I remember one of the first times I said it to her, and it just felt right. I have always told her “I love you,” but now there’s a fresh word in my vocabulary that completes the picture. This isn’t to say that I verbalize either of these words enough, I’m probably about average when it comes to husbands and fathers who fail to speak words of affection to their spouses and kids. But it’s something I want to grow in. And to grow in it, I need to think about it (and write about it). So, after some time pondering why “like” felt so different, here are a few reasons that inspire me to use this word more frequently.

“Love” overlooks the bad; “like” revels in the good.

Deeply rooted in the Christian faith and in western culture more broadly is this notion that “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). The power of love is found in its ability to forgive, to heal, and to restore relationships marred by our inevitable human tendency to hurt others. But “like” shows approval in what someone is doing. We frequently have to remind our kids that we do still love them after they’ve done wrong and experienced consequences for their wrongdoing; however, there needs to be a way to high-five them in the good stuff they’re doing. For example, I “like” someone’s Facebook post because it’s something I agree with. So when I tell my daughter that I like her, I’m affirming that she’s doing what seems right to meI want her to feel validated and valued in her father’s mind for the good that she does. There’s nothing more she needs to do, no look she has to achieve, no academic award she has to win, nothing. You’ve got my thumbs up, girl!

“Love” can be done out of duty; “like” demonstrates delight.

You can tell a husband to love his wife. We make this unilateral promise at the altar to love each other until death parts us because love is a volitional responsibility that can be maintained regardless of physical intimacy or emotional connection. Love is a sacrificial and big word that means a whole lot more than we’d often like to admit. But because of its bigness, we can be lulled into feeling that we’ve done our job when we don’t walk out, keep paying the bills and save up for their obscenely expensive college tuition. I understand that love should be more than this, but sometimes we’re too satisfied with achieving the bare minimum of the Great Commands.

So kids need to hear that you delight in them beyond the mere daily obligation you have to them. I “like” my morning cup of coffee because it gives me joy and makes me feel human again. I “like” a good book because it satisfies an intellectual or emotional need. My girls need to hear that I like to see their smiles, to hear them sing, to watch them dance, to comfort them when they’re sad, and to celebrate with them in their successes. Just as I need to know that my Heavenly Father rejoiceshe sings and shouts and claps his handsover me (Zephaniah 3:17), my kids need to know that I feel the same way about them. I don’t begrudgingly carry them, wake up for them, or clean up after them; I exult in them.

“Love” is for the long haul; “like” is in the moment.

Love has this durative capacity that makes it essential for families to work. I will always love my girls regardless of what career choices they make, who they date, where they move, or what they come to believe. But liking someone is an expression of the more fickle sort. It’s here one moment and may be gone the next. While that quality may lead us to devalue telling someone we love that we also like them, I think that it adds a fresh dimension to our value of someone we love. We are souls that exist within the confines of time and space, so there is value in speaking pointedly and exclusively to the present. Telling my girls that I like them speaks to the moment we’re inright here, right nowand tells them that I think they’re wonderful. When I want to speak beyond the long-term and say something intensely appropriate for the present moment, “I like you” is a perfect way to express that feeling.

Bright Monday: A Meditation on the Day After Easter

The familiar ringtone breaks my semi-restful night at the appointed time. Another Monday–another week–arrives with the expected regularity. My routine of mug and bowl and Word seems about the same. Outside, the birds and bugs seem to carry on their everyday rhythm. Cars zip past as yet another workday begins.

But something is different.

The resurrection happened yesterday, did it not? The ground shook and soldiers fell down like dead men. Women gasped in astonishment at empty corpse-wrappings, and men ran with reckless abandon to discover the truth–while others desperately conspired to hide the truth.

But today my life continues as usual.

Or does it?

Bright Monday, for the Christian, is an aftershock of the resurrection. Sure, it’s a return to normal–another swing of the God-ordained weekly pendulum of life, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s the ordinary Monday lived in the brightness of the not-so-ordinary Sunday. The ripple effects of the rolléd stone baptize the Monday ritual of regular work in extraordinary worship to our resurrected King. As every Sunday serves as a resurrection reminder, so every Monday serves as an opportunity to live the new life we’ve been given.

This is the day that the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!

Psalm 118:24 with Paschal Troparion (c. 6th century)

The Graceless Christian

The legalist lives a graceless existence that opens himself up to a crash-and-burn catastrophic spiritual self-destruction.

This realization hit me like a ton of bricks one morning while I was on the way to work and reflecting on another story of someone who seemed to have their life together who had just walked away from the faith in a blaze of glory. I was listening to my audio Bible, and I got to the passage where Jesus talks about those who aren’t sick and don’t need a doctor (Luke 5:31). One thing that has always bugged me about that passage suddenly became much clearer to me. It always bothered me that Jesus said that there were people who “didn’t need” a doctor. But, come on, Jesus surely knew that *we all* need a doctor! We’re all sick! Yeah, of course Jesus got that. So what was he getting at? What Jesus is expressing here is that those of us who avoid looking clearly at our own sin can quickly become pathagnostic; we can quickly fail to accurately diagnose sickness in ourselves and others. We become convinced that we’re healthy and that other people are truly sick. Spiritual health quickly becomes a world upside down.

Enter Jesus. In this situation, we quickly stiffarm him because we think we don’t need him. And we don’t need him because we’ve created a world in which he isn’t needed. The dying man kicks the doc off the front porch and sends him packing to the hospital. And this is what I mean by living a “graceless” existence.

Sure, the legalist needed grace to get him saved. But this is a whole different thing for him. The Christian life, to him, is a life of health guaranteed by his own good behavior. This good behavior is a mix of avoiding clear biblical sins and avoiding cultural taboos, which are supposed to keep him from violating the big biblical sins. In the flesh, the legalist is able to live a moral, upright, and healthy life. He really and truly doesn’t need a doctor in order to live a moral life. And it goes on like this month-to-month and year-to-year. The legalist lives a miserable and graceless existence apart from the healing hands of the Great Physician.

Into this void of grace creeps a sin which stricture and traditions can’t beat. And where sin abounds and there is no grace to abound even more, the graceless person is slowly overcome. This is the life of the legalist. Sin comes alive and she dies. She has no grace to fight sin because every day of her life has been a rejection of grace in the place of moral scaffolding. Every week has begun with the premise that being a good person is now just a matter of following the rules.

This graceless life can quickly end in a high speed wipeout of unrestrained sin because there is no room for the grace of God in a person’s life. Finding grace puts a believer on his or her feet. The first steps toward accepting grace are hard for the legalist’s heart. Here’s what the first steps looked like for me:

Let God show you that you’re more like the guy in the hospital than you’d like to admit. The sin that threatens to destroy you can be a means to grace if it brings an end to your graceless existence. When you think you’re messed up, let the scalpel expose more of your sinfulness.

Let the healing patient point you to the Doctor. When you think you’re healthy, you tend to see the sick as inferior. Once you begin to see your sickness, you’ll start finding true fellowship with those who are experiencing the gracious healing hand of Jesus. You’ll see grace up close and personal in the lives of other believers. Until you see the church as something that you need instead of something that needs you, you’ll never find the healing that God’s grace brings because you’ll always soar above the sickness.

Let grace train your heart to obey (Titus 2:11-13). Your behavioral medical kit is no good. Run to God’s grace for the ability to obey and for forgiveness when you don’t. As grace becomes your daily soul-nourishment, it will sustain you where your legalistic strictures did not. The growing cancerous sins are a massive threat to the paltry remedies of legalism. The scarily simple gift of God’s sustaining grace is your one hope for fidelity and obedience to God in this life in the face of besetting sins.

Meaningful Mentorship for Ministry

As I talk with friends and acquaintances who believe that God has gifted them for pastoral ministry but aren’t there yet, I’ve picked up on some common themes. One of the biggest is this: “My church doesn’t have a plan to mentor me toward ministry. Or if they do, I’m not aware of it.” Okay, it’s not usually said that bluntly. But you can frequently elicit this conclusion by asking someone what path they’re being guided down, what kind of pastoral mentorship they’re receiving, what counsel they’re getting on next steps, and what the church’s timeline is for sending them.

Let’s take a step back and look at the less-than-meaningful method of handling up and coming servants in the church and then suggest some correctives.

They give me service for service’s sake

Men and women with a heart for ministry will do anything—yes, anything—if their pastor asks them to do it. I know guys who’ve had their hearts set on ministry and have spent years plunging toilets or teaching kids. Don’t get me wrong, these are awesome ministries. But tossing a dude a service ministry in hopes that he shuts up or learns on his own is an absolute death sentence for future pastors, planters, and missionaries. If the guy is passive, he’ll stay and serve in frustration, waiting on you to clear him for other opportunities. If the guy is hyper-passionate, he’ll quickly burn out or blow you off and move on to another ministry. Either situation isn’t great for developing next generation leaders in your church.

Instead, give those next generation leaders a variety of opportunities as they are faithful and willing. Let them try their hand at greeting, teaching, technology, nursery, counseling, music, or administration. You’ll never understand the impact of this question: “What areas could you use opportunities to develop your gifts?” Try asking one of the young leaders in your church that question this week. They’ll appreciate it far more than you can imagine.

They don’t give me much/any feedback

Once someone passionate for ministry gets assigned to serve, they get little, if any, feedback from their pastors. They serve in silence. The only feedback they get is if something didn’t turn out well. Good feedback from church leaders is one of the most effective ways for a person to nail down aspects of calling and gifting. By not giving feedback, pastors avoid offering the next generation the clarity that they desperately desire regarding God’s will for their lives.

Take time to give feedback to young leaders. No, this doesn’t always mean that you have to sit in their class or visit their small group. Just start by asking questions of those who serve alongside them or those who sit under their teaching. Collect what you hear and talk it over with him or her. It’s really not super hard. A teachable servant of the church will soak up the feedback and be open to critique. Be cautious about forming internal opinions about the young leader without discussing critiques and giving them clear ways to improve. If they’re consistently dropping the ball and you think they need to put ministry ambitions on hold (or reshape those ambitions in some way), clearly tell them as much. They’ll thank you for it later.

Pairing the idea of feedback with the previous idea of meaningful service, I’d recommend using a two-year leadership development plan. Let a young leader serve in a number of general ways in the church for a year with basic feedback and accountability. Then evaluate their fitness for Gospel ministry. If it makes sense, then do a year of directed and intense service with more robust feedback and follow-up. The goal at the end of the second year is to launch that leader into pastoral ministry. With intentional planning like this, it won’t take long for the word to get out and you won’t know what to do with all the men and women looking for an opportunity for meaningful mentorship for ministry.

They gave me a book to read

Among many evangelical churches in the US, head training is one of the things we do well. We have great books. We attend great conferences. We have great seminaries. It’s all great knowledge at arm’s length. So when a young guy seems to have a passion to plant churches, he’s often given a book (or a stack of them). Sometimes a pastor will meet with him and discuss theology. But who is talking with him about spiritual formation, calling, gifting, and ministerial challenges? Who’s prodding him about his sin struggles and spiritual disciplines?

Assign an elder to meet weekly or bi-weekly with next generation leaders. Use a programmatic tool to guide discussions to ensure that you’re equipping young leaders on a broad scale of topics and issues.

They told me to move and attend seminary

Sometimes I wonder if churches understand what they’re doing when they tell a young leader to leave and go to seminary. Often this advice demonstrates that the church leadership frankly doesn’t know with a young, aspiring leader. It essentially says that the church’s role in a leader’s development ends where seminary begins. Here are some of the bad results of this advice:

  • Young leaders leave their spiritual community, with plenty of potentially ruinous spiritual effects. The doctrinal and spiritual mooring of a local church can be helpful to young leaders as they weigh what they learn in seminary.
  • Young leaders lack the locale to practice the hands-on aspects of ministry. Enough said.
  • Young leaders lose a sense of sending and arrive at a sense of searching. Sending is when a church has your back. Searching is when you’re trying to find your own way. Sending is awesome. Searching sucks. Send your next-up leaders. Don’t leave them searching.
  • Young leaders are driven to non-relational networking to find pastoral ministry opportunities. Most of the ministry roles worth having are not the ones you find with a resume. They’re ones that are either forged through planting/revitalizing or initiated by others who know you well.
  • Young leaders make poor decisions about where to attend seminary. When telling a guy to go to seminary is a “check-out” move by a church, guys often make dumb decisions about where to go. What many guys don’t realize is that seminaries set them up to serve in and be heard by particular audiences or denominations. Stay involved in the process and visit a seminary or two with your young leaders. Make helpful recommendations based on what you know of them.

If your default is to tell a guy to pack his things, consider changing to more of an apprentice model. Can he take hybrid or online courses? Can he commute? Is there any possible way he can get a theological education while undergoing spiritual formation and pastoral training in your church? If you feel willing to train a next generation leader but lack the resources or ability, try asking about other churches in the area that do this well and forging a partnership with them. Do your utmost to retain the God-given task of pastoral training within the local assembly.

Someday, by God’s grace, I hope I can start meeting with more next generation leaders who can tell me: “One of my pastors and I meet weekly for accountability and discussing pastoral responsibilities, and I’m on a two-year track to be sent to revitalize a church in a nearby city.”

Presumed Grace

Probably my all-time favorite cartoon is “The Emperor’s New Groove.” The epically audacious Emperor Kuzco has been given everything in life. Really, he has no room to complain about anything. But this all ends one day when a peasant doesn’t want to give up his humble abode in order for Kuzco to build a personal resort. Shortly thereafter, Kuzco gets turned into a llama and loses any frame of reference for what he’s experiencing. What should be an overcomable obstacle becomes an end of the world scenario. Because he’s always been given whatever he wanted, a season of limitation results in a personal chaos and a (literally) meandering path back to comfort.Grooveposter

We all struggle to sympathize with characters like Kuzco, Richie Rich, Cinderella’s step-sisters, and so on, who presume that they should always receive the best things in life. Those of us who are used to receiving very little in terms of preferential treatment or monetary freedom have a different floor of expectation. For us, a life of moderation is what we expect. We anticipate that our basic needs will be met and know that everything else is gravy. But there’s another perspective that we’re often reminded of. Many in the third world don’t even take for granted that they’ll have a meal or two each day. That we should expect meals and clothes and housing is scandalous in their minds. To them, the daily provision you anticipate is a glorious blessing.

I’m not interested in shaming you if you’ve received a lot in your life. All I’m saying is that if you’re reading this article, you probably have received a gracious plenty in your life. Many who read this article have experienced heaps of blessings that others haven’t. Theologians tell us that the Bible teaches that every little blessing that we get, whether you’re a Christian or not, comes from the hand of God. It’s not something you earn because you’re good or because you’re from a certain part of the globe. God dispenses his “common grace” on the planet to sustain every human being that exists and to hold back the swell of evil in the world. This seems to be what Jesus was getting at when he said:

“For [your Father] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” – Matthew 5.45

From Jesus’ perspective, God’s care for the day-to-day blessings we enjoy is the only reason why we exist today. God’s common grace is the only reason why all of humanity isn’t starving and sick, hammered daily by earthquakes and hurricanes, and suffering from the devastation of mass despotism. So in a sense, we’ve come to anticipate common grace. And that’s why I think theologians should adopt a new term for this teaching: “presumed grace.” Kuzco-like, we tend to presume that God’s restraint of darkness is the norm and that calamity is the rare exception. We feel like every pack of Pokemon cards (yes, I’m showing my age here) should be full of rare holographic cards. When we come up with a single common card, we flip out. We start to feel that we deserve God for to keep the chaos of a rebellious world at bay and to be provided with all of the things we feel we need.

Let’s test our outlook with the following chaotic experiences: Tomorrow an earthquake kills hundreds. A relative is killed in a car accident with a drunk driver. You lose your retirement money in a stock crash. You get slandered in front of your friends and they buy it. Your adult child doesn’t want anything to do with you. A close friend is raped.

Some of you don’t have to think very hard in order to envision one of these scenarios. I’ve recently experienced a measure of hurt in my life too. And what do we tell ourselves when we’re in the middle of a situation like this? We tell ourselves that we don’t deserve this hurt. We feel devastated that we have been given this pain. We see the event in isolation from the blessings that God has so richly given us. In that moment, we’ve presumed upon grace. Instead of presuming that we will receive pain and hurt and chaos in life, we’ve come to anticipate the opposite.

Two conclusions seem plausible based on my consideration of presumed grace. First, I think that Christians should frame a better response to the academic pondering: “How can there be so much evil in the world and there still be a God?” Perhaps a better question is: “How can there be so much goodness in the world apart from a God?” We all see how the world turns to chaos and that the very possibility of life on planet earth seems but a fluke of flukes. So even our very existence and the stability of civilizations full of broken people like ourselves seems to be evidence of a good and gracious care of a Sovereign God.

The second conclusion is closer to home. Believers who are enduring a season of chaos should let this circumstance reorient them to God’s grace. Instead of presuming upon God’s grace, we should let the dark times remind us of so much of the brightness of mercy we’ve received. Every day that we draw breath, experience the joy of friends and family, enjoy food and drink, or see another disaster-free day is a gift of God. I suppose that we suddenly experience this reorientation when God gives us a win after a season of darkness. We look around and find ourselves momentarily out of the mud of the last few months and look around; the freedom from the chaos is what I’ve enjoyed far too often. No more do we presume upon grace.