In this spiritually thought-provoking episode of Dinner Conversations, hosts Mark Lowry and Andrew Greer gather ’round the table with the lovely ladies of platinum-selling trio Point of Grace to dialogue about the role of scripture in a Christian’s life. The B.I.B.L.E. … is it the book for me?


Mark: Hi, I’m Mark Lowry

Andrew: And I’m Andrew Greer

Mark: And you’re listening to Dinner Conversations

Andrew: Turning the light on one question at a time

Mark: Presented by Project Beautiful. What’s the point of grace? A friend of mine, Paul Johnson, said to me one day, “Jesus saved God for me,” and I think what he meant by that is like you said. You fell in love with Jesus—

Andrew: Then you had to figure out what to do with God.

Mark: If all I knew about God was the Old Testament, I’m not sure I’d care for Him much, but Jesus came along and said, “When you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” The conversation today started out about a Bible study.

Andrew: That’s right. Our friends in Point of Grace — Leigh, Denise, and Shelley. Shelley I learned had had this really significant discovery through the Bible of grace by doing a Bible study for a year, just not doing a Bible study but studying the Bible alone. And so we wanted to sit down and talk with them today, some about growing up in the Bible Belt, talk about the Bible itself, and then talking about discovering grace throughout life.

Mark: So let’s join the conversation.

Andrew: Last year, when we did a show together, when we were on the plane ride home, this was kind of the first time, Shelley, I think you and I had actually had any conversation together, and we were talking about the Bible. I don’t even know how it came up.

Leigh: Maybe she was reading hers.

Denise: Maybe

Shelley: I always say if I’m flying on a plane, that’s probably what I’m doing.

Andrew: We started to talk about the Bible in our culture today, even in church culture, outside of church culture, is an interesting, sometimes controversial— I think it’s always been a bit of a controversial subject, the inspiration of the Scriptures, but you were telling me how in the past couple, two, three, four years from a Bible study that really prompted kind of a change in your perspective about the Bible. I was interested in what that change is. Did it affirm some things? Did it completely shift some of your perspectives about the Bible? Or did you even care before that?

Shelley: I was raised in church, but I think I have the same story that a lot of people have, which is you go through Sunday school and you learn all these different stories, like Noah and Jonah, but how they all really connect and tell the greater story that you’re still a part of, I think, sometimes falls by the wayside. And then you get into this adult life, and you think you’re supposed to— I remember being in Point of Grace those first years and just going, Oh my gosh, we’re in front of all these people. I hope nobody— If I had to do a Bible drill, I would be like, Suck. Do you know what I mean?

Andrew: Where’s Habakkuk?

Mark: That’s funny.

Shelley: I was like, I mean, I believe in the Resurrection and all that, but I didn’t feel like my biblical knowledge was very good. I kind of happened upon it, but it was the Lord looking back, this Bible study at my daughter’s school, and we just did like a chronological read-through of the Bible, because it’s not exactly in chronological order, close but you know.

Mark: Job would be first. Is that right? What do you mean?

Andrew: Historically speaking.

Mark: So it jumps all around.

Andrew: No, not the order it was written in.

Shelley: Not the order it was written in, the order in which it occurred. But that was really just a small piece of it.

Mark: Tell us the big piece.

Shelley: That, to me, just starting at the beginning and kind of understanding what the purpose of the Levitical codes and holiness was and that was set up. It was kind of like the Jews were a set up. It was the great farce. That’s what I always say. They didn’t really know. I never really knew the whole story of the Jews and the Levitical codes and how we can’t be that holy and there has to be a justice scale, just all of that, and then that’s why we needed Christ. The thread was never really there for me. And then it just awakened my faith so much because I’m like the thread’s still going and I’m part of it.

Mark: Which is sort of like the Bible’s still being written? Is that what you mean?

Shelley: Well, no, I think it’s been done, but God’s story, for sure, my part in it.

Andrew: And it’s still being written in our lives and through our experiences.

Shelley: Absolutely

Andrew: So the thread thing, that kind of is what we’ve talked about, how you filter— So many people have trouble with the Old Testament.

Mark: And it’s a red thread, the blood of the Lord Jesus.

Andrew: That is kitschy, kitschy, kitschy.

Shelley: I’m feeling a song coming on.

Mark: I am fascinated by the conversations Andrew and I had with Rabbi Aaron Finkelstein at Congregation Sherith Israel here in Nashville. […] We were always told we can have a relationship, and I believe I do, through Christ, but what’s that look like? A relationship with God, how do you get there? How would you tell someone to have a relationship with God?

Rabbi Aaron: I think it’s challenging. I think Jews, in general, struggle with it because not having an intermediary— I have a good friend who’s a minister, and she’s like, “Yeah, Jesus is my buddy,” and I’m like, Wouldn’t that be nice? That sounds great. So Jews, at least in America these days, tend to talk less about God. I think the way we have a relationship with God is by following commandments in the Bible and the Torah. There’s a famous passage, “Just as I am merciful, you should be merciful to your fellows,” and so a lot of it ends up manifesting, I think, through action toward others. There’s, of course, prayer, which is a pretty central piece and that I think for a lot of Jews is challenging.

Mark: Why is it hard?

Rabbi Aaron: Well, you’re talking, but no one ever talks back.

Andrew: So the mysterious nature of God.

Rabbi Aaron: At least for me. I’m having a whole conversation, but, you know, you don’t ever know if you get a response.

Mark: Well, that’s true— I mean, God’s never spoken to me audibly or anything like that. I’ve seen nothing. Pentecostals, they get all the miracles. Baptists, we get nothing. We have to walk by faith.

Andrew: If you see a thread of Jesus, which I think as New Testament Christians, that’s who we most closely identify with in our relationship with God.

Shelley: Sure

Mark: Well, He’s the only way to God.

Andrew: Right, so if you see a thread throughout, it’s a gracious, more generous way of reading.

Denise: Totally

Andrew: The Old Testament though, that’s where everyone— Mark, you’ve said what about the Old Testament?

Mark: My mother could keep the law better than anybody, and I could break it better than anybody and I needed grace. To me, sometimes if you look at the Old Testament without the lens of Jesus to look through, it’ll make you mean. Even the Bible itself says of itself, “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Sometimes I’d tell mama, “It looks like God was in a bad mood until Jesus showed up.”

Andrew: Here’s a question based on that then, which I think your head’s going to spin.

Shelley: Watch this.

Andrew: So God is all knowing, all powerful, but to be all powerful — someone explained it to me this way: For anything to be all powerful, He must be able to also limit Himself. If you can’t limit yourself, then you’re not actually powerful over yourself. Maybe part of God’s limitation was Jesus. Like He put on skin. He limited His omniscience and all powerfulness to be able to relate to us. So that’s where I’m going with it, but is it possible that God in the Old Testament — bad mood God, is it possible that He could actually evolve in an effort to be real-time? Like instead of just create everything and let it spin so that we’re just puppets, is He actually living in time and space? Because we see these things in the Old Testament where it does seem — I’m not saying this is what happened — God is a bit flexible, even with the Jews.

Mark: Well, He repented that He made man on the earth. That’s in there. That looks like He changed His mind, which I don’t think it means He—

Denise: But do we really understand what He was saying?

Mark: I don’t think it means He repented that He made man. I believe that He repented that He made man on the earth because it said He did, but what does that mean to Him? And also, could it mean that here He’s God, He sends Satan to earth to keep Him here when the angels fell, and then He decides to plant His crown and creation in the middle of a war zone.

Andrew: So, perhaps, He repented putting us in the middle.

Mark: Who knows? But it does say whatever repentance is to God, it said it. He divorced Israel in Jeremiah 3. God went through a divorce. God couldn’t pastor a Baptist church. He’s been through things we’ve been through so He can relate. Even in the Old Testament, I think he’s trying to relate to us. And I don’t think He came to Himself; I think He knew before the foundation of the world, so I would disagree with you.

Leigh: I would so.

Mark: I do not believe God is evolving.

Denise: I believe He is who He is.

Mark: I believe the revelation of God is like a crescendo, and we are learning who He really is and it apexes in Jesus. Moses learned there was one God. That was big news. And he got some things right and some things wrong. He said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Well, back in that day, you knock out my teeth, I’d go kill your whole family, so he made it equitable. And then Jesus comes along finally and says, “No, you’ve heard it said, ‘an eye for an eye,’ but I tell you…” And Jesus trumps the Old Testament, Jesus trumps Moses, and He’s got the better way, the best way — forgive, love.

Shelley: Yeah, and when you say Jesus trumps the Old Testament, I actually think of it as He fulfills the Old Testament.

Mark: I like that better too.

Shelley: Because a lot of people these days will try to go, “The law is gone and that doesn’t matter.” The moral law never went away. The ceremonial law—

Mark: We can eat shrimp.

Shelley: Yes, we can eat shrimp. That’s ceremonial law. He came to break the ties of the ceremonial law, but a lot of people try to mix the ceremonial law and moral law together. Does that make sense?

Mark: What is the moral law?

Shelley: I’m just saying anything that has to do with the heart. The flesh doesn’t have to do with the heart.

Leigh: The Ten Commandments is the moral.

Denise: I heard a pastor say the other day, and I really loved this. I guess I’ve known this, but the Israelites, they had been living with Egyptian rule. They did not know moral codes. Egyptians, you murder, who cares? Live the way you want to live, so nobody knows. And so that grace, that law, that He put in, it was to go, “Don’t murder. Hey, y’all, don’t murder one another. Hey, love your neighbor. Be kind.” That’s not mean.

Mark: The law was a babysitter ‘til Jesus could show up.

Denise: Yes, but we look at His laws like He’s so harsh.

Mark: There’s only 10, but then Moses came along and added 613 more.

Denise: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind.” If you just do that, you’re following these.

Andrew: Was that the origin of legalism, then, when Moses added all the—

Mark: Oh, we’ve always been trying to get back under the law. We love rules.

Shelley: Are you talking about the Levitical codes?

Mark: I’m talking about the 613 laws.

Leigh: The Jewish laws

Shelley: Is that the Levitical codes? The shrimp?

Mark: I don’t know what code it is, but I do know that God gave him 10 on the mountain and then Jesus had an eleventh one before He left, “a new command I give you.” Not “Love your neighbor as yourself,” because He’d already said that, but “As I have loved you, you love your neighbor,” because He realized after working with humans for three years we don’t love ourselves. He backed up and said, “As I have loved you.” And He said, “This is a new command. This is No. 11.” Somebody should’ve written that down.

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Mark: Do you divide the laws like that?

Rabbi Aaron: No, we don’t.

Mark: They’re all under one umbrella.

Rabbi Aaron: Yeah. It is a debate, but, in general, Judaism actually has a number, 613 commandments, and they’re all equal. One way to break it down is between positive and negative commandments, meaning “you shall” and “thou shall not.” There’s a lot of things that you should do, celebrate the holidays, all that stuff which is so much a part of Judaism, and the calendar is barely covered in the Ten Commandments.

Andrew: Isn’t it interesting that Christianity is so into this grace, the freedom that we receive through grace, and we are so stiff about some things. We don’t know how to celebrate our spirituality. We really don’t. I think we know in reverence. I think sometimes through liturgy, just like any tradition, but as far as just relationally, I don’t know if we fully understand. You know, we hate to drink. Everything that’s good about that comes from the earth and we can’t stand to partake of.

Rabbi Aaron: In Judaism, it’s like, No, wine is here. Wine is at every celebration because it’s meant to be a conduit for joy.

Andrew: It is?

Rabbi Aaron: Oh, sure. Marriage ceremony. That’s how you start Shabbat is with a blessing over wine.

Mark: Well, Jesus turned water into wine; Baptists turned it into grape juice.

Rabbi Aaron: It’s a shame.

Andrew: It is a shame.

Andrew: So many of my friends and so many of our friends grew up with this major toxicity of Scripture where it was used to browbeat, it was used to manipulate and control. How do we help those friends, and how do we help even ourselves because I’ve still used Scripture against myself— How do we take out, what I always say, the mom and dad issues? Go work on your issues with mom and dad so that we can rediscover God for who He is and what He’s saying.

Mark: So the first question is what?

Denise: I’m very grateful. I did not grow up resenting church.

Mark: Me either.

Denise: I loved my foundation of church, and our youth group was great and all of that. I still somehow feel like I missed it along the way. I still wanted to be that good girl. I worked so hard to be that good girl. This is what it looks like to be a good Christian girl. And again, we like the rules. Like, I want you to tell me how I should think, what I should do. I can do that.

Andrew: It’s more tangible.

Denise: Yeah. But to deal with my jealousy of somebody else. I just need to be a good girl and do these things. Even though I feel like looking back I had a relationship with Christ and a sweet one, I still for the longest time, until literally my 40s, did I deal with this is what— I worked so hard to do it right. I guess God’s gracious because in your 20s, 30s, you’re young, you can do it, and then in the 40s, everything just starts falling apart a little bit. You can’t quite handle all the balls that you’re juggling, so at that point, I began to really deal with why am I so upset with myself, and I came to realize that somehow I had added rules. Jesus loves me period. For the Bible tells me so. First song I ever sang, but somewhere along the way I put—

Andrew: He loves me if.

Denise: If I do this. If I look this way, He thinks nicer of me; and I want to please Him, and I am a people pleaser. I just finally came to rest with He loves me. As I’ve done that, Scripture, for me, has become so much sweeter because I know the tone of voice. Maybe it’s having teenagers, but I love my teenagers. I read something that says, “May the words of your mouth and the meditation of your heart be pleasing to Me.” Where I used to be like, OK, I’ve got to zip it up. It’s like, No, sweetie, if you are kind to people, if you don’t say what you want to to your husband sometimes, if you’ll choose to not say that, you’re choosing life in that relationship. When you look at these little things along the way, it says, “Parents, don’t aggravate your children,” and sometimes I go, Oh, my teenager, I just keep nagging away at him. I’m nagging away. And God’s going, “Look, I’m showing you right here. Just ease off a little.”

Mark: He’s a lot nicer than they told us.

[Point of Grace singing “How You Live”]

Wake up to the sunlight
With your windows open
Don’t hold in your anger or leave things unspoken
Wear your red dress
Use your good dishes
Make a big mess and make lots of wishes
Have what you want
But want what you have
And don’t spend your life lookin’ back

Turn up the music
Turn it up loud
Take a few chances
Let it all out
You won’t regret it
Lookin’ back from where you have been
Cause it’s not who you knew
And it’s not what you did
It’s how you live

So go to the ballgames
And go to the ballet
And go see your folks more than just on the holidays
Kiss all your children
Dance with your wife
Tell your husband you love him every night
Don’t run from the truth
Cause you can’t get away
Just face it and you’ll be okay

Turn up the music
Turn it up loud
Take a few chances
Let it all out
You won’t regret it
Lookin’ back from where you have been
Cause it’s not who you knew
And it’s not what you did
It’s how you live

Oh, wherever you are and wherever you’ve been
Now is the time to begin

So give to the needy
And pray for the grieving
Even when you don’t think that you can
Cause all that you do is bound to come back to you
So think of your fellow man
Make peace with God and make peace with yourself
Cause in the end there’s nobody else

Turn up the music
Turn it up loud
Take a few chances
Let it all out
You won’t regret it
Lookin’ back from where you have been
Cause it’s not who you knew
And it’s not what you did
It’s how you live

Cause it’s not who you knew
And it’s not what you did
It’s how we live

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Leigh: I used to say growing up I didn’t know anybody that didn’t know Jesus and love Jesus and live for Jesus and have Him in his heart. I didn’t know anybody. So I would say for me, the Scripture, I still would go back to the fact that as far as understanding just that whole thread of God being revealed through my life, it’s still, even to this day, something was revealed to me today through His Scripture.

Andrew: Was it when we were talking?

Shelley: She said the Scripture.

Leigh: I wasn’t a wife 35 years ago, so the dripping and nagging in Proverbs, that Scripture didn’t come to life for me until it was my experience. I was a dripping faucet; I drove my husband crazy.

Denise: Drip, drip, drip

Leigh: So the Scripture comes to life as it’s a part of your experience. For me, when I had the courage to share a part of my story with my family and they exuded God’s grace, grace was woken up. Oh my gosh, I walked different, I spoke different, I lived different because I never saw the hand, the feet, the eyes, the arms of God’s grace until the lies were released, truth was revealed, and what truth brought me was grace.

Rabbi Aaron: Do you mind defining grace? I’ll tell you, for Jews, it’s not a concept that is particularly important, resonant. We talk a lot about gratitude. The word Jew comes from Judah, which the name comes from being grateful. But grace is not a concept that comes up a lot, and I know it comes up a lot in the Christian world.

Andrew: This is very elementary and basic, but isn’t mercy withholding what we deserve and grace is giving us more than we deserve? It’s a very basic way to apply those terms to other things.

Mark: It’s like when a police officer pulls you over and he doesn’t give you a ticket, he gives you an ice cream cone.

Rabbi Aaron: So that’s grace?

Mark: That’s grace.

Andrew: It’s like literally offering you something that you’ve never earned, and that all is filtered, in my experience, through the work of Jesus dying for our sins to save us to offer us salvation. And what is salvation? For me, that’s reconciling us back to God in spite of our sin. That’s all grace to me because I don’t believe that I could’ve done anything in my own flesh— There’s nothing I could’ve done in my own understanding to attain God to reconcile, to bridge that gap. Here’s God, most holy God. Here’s me, sinful Andrew but created by God to be in relationship with God. So then grace is what is the connective tissue.

Rabbi Aaron: We tend to believe that people are created good and have their faculties and have strengths and weaknesses and maybe have challenges that they can overcome or not, but it isn’t that you’re starting from a place of sin.

Mark: There wasn’t original sin; there was original virtue. The Garden of Eden, they were virtuous, right? It was before sin, and we were infected with it.

Mark: We’re all walking in all the light we have. And you can’t walk in light that you don’t have. That’s what helped me forgive my mother for not keeping up on the grace issue. She’d say, “When I get to Heaven, I’m going to go crawling in on my hands and knees.” I said, “Not me. I’m kicking the door in and saying, ‘Ain’t y’all glad I’m home.’” And she said, “If I get a crown, I’m going to lay it at His feet.” I said, “Not me. I’m trying mine on. I mean, how rude, mama.” You go to a party and somebody hands you a party hat, you throw it at their feet? I’m being facetious.

Andrew: But that’s the reception of grace.

Mark: But I will ever more give God the glory. I remember one time we were leaving a Gaither concert, and I’d already pushed the buttons. I knew which buttons to press with her, and they’re all theological.

Denise: Gloria or your mom?

Mark: My mother. We never argued about anything but the Bible because we loved the same God and couldn’t agree who He was, on His temperament. I don’t know what I said. She finally swung around and looked at me and said, “Are you even saved?” And were not even out of the parking lot and this well came up in me. I’d never experienced it before, and it was falling out of my eyes and I couldn’t stop it. And I said, “Mama, I have loved Him since the day you told me His name, and if He sends me to hell, I’ll go there praising His name because that will be where I fit in the best because He’s always had my best interest at heart, and I’ll praise Him because I trust Him that much.” I think I do. I haven’t gotten to that point where He says, “Mark, you’re going to hell.” “Oh, thank you, praise the Lord.” I do tend to live in hyperbole a lot, but I trust Him.

Andrew: There’s a true surrender there.

Mark: Anybody who loves you enough to die for you is on your side. And I don’t fear Him.

Leigh: I’ve heard somebody say the older I get the more I realize how far apart I am from Jesus as far as understanding Him because He reveals Himself and He reveals Himself, and we just realize, Oh my gosh, how did I miss that? Thank you for your gentleness. The fruits of the spirit, He wants us to have them because it makes a difference. When you’re gentle towards someone, when you have self-control towards that sweet man I’ve been married to almost 25 years— We should know better. We really should.

Mark: But give yourself grace too.

Leigh: But I can give myself grace. I can wash this in some nice Tide or Gain, whatever, new day and everything’s OK.

Mark: His mercies are new every morning because we wear them out everyday.

Leigh: And I’m thankful.

Shelley: Sometimes by 2 or 3 o’clock.

Mark: Then you’ve got to go sit in the corner until morning. I say on my journey, it was all about legalism at first, but it was great. I didn’t know anything. I had a mama who loved to sing and loved God, but there were a lot of rules. I’d hear preachers preach 1 Corinthians 11:14, “Doth not even nature itself teach you it’s a shame for a man to have long hair.” That was one we memorized like John 3:16.

Andrew: We want to thank our sweet friends Leigh, Denise, and Shelley of Point of Grace for being today’s episode guests. We want to thank our friends the Breen Family for opening their home to host this podcast, Quentin Philips for his expertise, Dana Claremont for all her assistance. Our show is recorded by Center Street Recording Studios in Nashville, Tennessee.

Mark: Our executive producer for Dinner Conversations is Celeste Winstead. Our show is co-produced by Andrew Greer and myself. Andrew is also our director. Our assistant director and editor is Chris Cameron. Tristan Swang is our director of photography. Britt Edwards is our sound engineer. And the theme song was played by Britt Edwards, Chris Cameron, Andrew Greer, and Ron Block. Thank you for listening to Dinner Conversations.

Andrew: Turning the light on one question at a time

Mark: Presented by Project Beautiful.

Andrew: Join us next time for more conversation around the table, and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss one single episode. While you’re at it, rate and review our show. It’s an easy way that you can help us continue the conversation. Dinner Conversations is a production of Center Street Media.

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