Focus on the Family Broadcast

Giving and Receiving God’s Grace

Giving and Receiving God’s Grace

Humorist Phil Callaway encourages listeners to live life with G.R.A.C.E. – an acronym that stands for Grateful, Relational, Amazed, Compassionate and Expectant.
Original Air Date: May 18, 2015

John Fuller: As we start today’s Focus broadcast, we want to bring you an encouraging message to counter all of the stress and anxiety that we’re all feeling during this coronavirus pandemic. We hope you and your entire family can sit back, relax and enjoy this message of faith from Phil Callaway.


Phil Callaway: I have met Christians who look so sour, they look like they could suck buttons off a sofa. (laughter) Let’s stop it. The fruit of the Spirit is not prunes.

End of Excerpt

John: Oh, what an image there and, uh, do stay with us. We’re going to have some great laughter today and a really powerful message on Focus on the Family. Your host is Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, we’ve got a humorous look at life and the amazing gift of God’s grace today – featuring author and speaker Phil Callaway. Yeah, he’s got a lot to say, so let’s get right to his message.

John:  All right. Here’s Phil speaking to 8,000 people at a Breakforth Ministries conference in Alberta, Canada, on today’s episode of Focus on the Family.

John: Oh my. That’s an image that’s going to stick with me! Welcome to an uplifting edition of Focus on the Family with our host Jim Daly, I’m John Fuller.

Jim: John, we’ve got a humorous look at Life and the amazing gift of God’s grace today featuring author and speaker Phil Callaway. And he’s got a lot to say, so let’s get right into his message.

John: Here’s Phil Callaway, speaking to 8-thousand people at a Breakforth Ministries conference in Alberta, Canada, on today’s Focus on the Family.

Phil: Anyone here a sinner? Some of you are puttin’ two hands in the air, huh. The Pentecostals among us, that’s great. Love you guys, yeah. I began to realize that I had problems and that I was a sinner at about the age of 4. That was the year I stood by the bathtub and had an irresistible urge to flush a large fluffy white washcloth down a little porcelain thing they had in there. A voice said, “Do it.” And I thought, why not? And I did, kawoosh, down it went.

The pipes were not made for wash cloths of that size and I found this out when a very puzzled plumber retrieved the washcloth and held it up for my equally puzzled father to look at. And he turned and he looked at me and I said, “It must have fallen in.”


I later tried flushing firecrackers down, but I could not get them to stay lit long enough to do what God created them to do. I had problems. Did you, anyone?

The thing that convinced me more than anything else that I was a sinner, sports. Huh? Sports! I accepted hockey into my life at an early age (laughter) at a Saturday night hockey night in Canada Crusade meetin’, back when men loved to play the game just for the sheer joy of it. Nothing beat winning at any cost. I’m ashamed to tell you that I was a bad guy. I carved guys up with sticks. I used words they did not teach you in Sunday school and I once spit on a Prairie Bible College guy who was – was chasing me as I went in on a breakaway. Sinner? You betcha. But I discovered I wasn’t alone. There were others.

I began refereeing hockey in high school to get women to chase me. (laughter) And they did. Boy, did they ever. They chased me down darkened hallways, out into parking lots and sometimes out of town, they were so mad at me.

If you ever doubt there is sin on earth, referee church hockey (laughter). One night I found myself breaking up a fight between two pastors, honest. Wow! I put them into the penalty box and one guy turned to me and said, “When I get to the rink, I leave Jesus behind.” That’s what he said. I said, “You’re not a-kiddin’. Look at you. Wow!”

I do the things I know I shouldn’t and avoid doing the things I should. I entered fifth grade and my father, wise man that he was, sensing I had problems, promised me a watch if I would read vast portions of Scripture. I started in the Psalms. In chapter 15, David asks, “Who may worship in Your sanctuary? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.” Whoa!

I read Romans 3, written just after the invention of golf. “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Ah! “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” I thought there is no hope for me. Look at me.

That year we had a teacher by the name of Miss Ida Weismuller move across the ocean from Germany to conduct experiments in our classroom. She was sick of me by September the 4th. She had had enough. I was a crazy child. She was tired of my joking and – and I knew I needed to do something in that class to redeem myself. I thought, “Certainly I can do something.”

I hadn’t been doing well in school, as you might imagine. It was a Christian school and one of our assignments was to memorize Scripture from the Bible, you know. That’s where Scripture is. And we were told to do so and then we had a test. She said, “Boys and girls, it is time for your Bible memory.” Oh, she was a fierce German woman. She had her hair pulled into a bun too tight to allow her any smiling. (laughter) “It is time for your Bible memory.”

And I thought, I have not been doing anything worthy of that. I – I have been doing lesser things. I haven’t been memorizing Scripture. And so, as fellow students began to dutifully write out their memory verses, I decided to do something, because my marks had been slipping ever since kindergarten. I needed to do something to get them up. So, I reached into my desk and I pulled out a cheat sheet and I lodged it between my knees, and I began to cheat on my Bible memory.

This is what I wrote. “My little children, these things write I unto you that ye sin not.” (laughter) “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous. And He is the propitiation (spelled it correctly) for our sins and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world.”

And the verses go on to say, that if we don’t have the truth in us, we are a liar. We are in trouble. Oh! And I wrote out the reference correctly, 1 John 2:1-5. I was feelin’ great. I handed that in. My marks would be going up. That night we had hot dogs for supper. I remember this for some reason. I climbed into bed, bedtime. The sun set on the wall. It got dark and I started thinkin’. That voice that had been whispering to me, “No one will ever know. No one will see you.” Staring at the ceiling, I thought, “That voice lied. God saw me. I saw me.” Make no mistake about it, we can’t get away with anything.

This is the first time I remember being terrified of the Living God. Have you? I’d heard in church what he was capable of and it scared me. I stood condemned, a sinner, not a thing I could do to redeem myself. Zip, nada. There is no hope.

Or is there? Earlier that same year, our preacher brought a model of the Temple to church. I don’t know who built it, but I loved studying it as a boy. It was divided into three parts. You’ve maybe seen this. The inner court, the outer court and the Holy of Holies, which was surrounded by a thick veil, which in the model was made of some poor guy’s starched shirt, that someone had sewn and hung from white fishing line.

There was a little match box in the Holy of Holies, the Ark of the Covenant. In the real Temple, it’s the presence and the face of God, the Shekinah glory of God appears over the Mercy Seat atop the Ark. And it all looked harmless enough, mostly wood and glue.

But in reality, this was a scary place. You know, a little kid did not gonna go runnin’ through there laughing. They didn’t gonna go pullin’ pigtails. In fact, just one person on one day of the year was allowed into the Holy of Holies. Imagine. That was on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. That person, the high priest of Israel.

When that high priest went before the Lord, he was as spotless as is humanly possible. Certainly, this was good enough. Certainly, this would atone for our sins for all time, right? But listen to Hebrews 10:4. “It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. What sacrifice can we offer my friends? What payment can be made to be redeemed from the penalty of sin?

The answer comes from the Prophet Zachariah, chapter 3. Joshua is shown, if you can imagine, standing before the angel of the Lord and Satan is at his right hand to accuse him, which he’s always doing. The angel said to those standing before him, “Take off Joshua’s filthy clothes.” And the he says to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin and I will put rich garments on you. Listen; I am going to bring my servant, the Branch, and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.”

What? What? A single day? Impossible. Our sins gone!? Centuries later, another Joshua was comin’. And He came like the high priest before him. On the night Jesus atoned for our sins. He did not sleep. But unlike those priests, no one cheered Him on. His friends denied, forsook and betrayed Him. He was stripped. He was beaten. He was ridiculed. He was scorned. Jesus our Redeemer died naked, bathed all right, bathed in human spit.

Nothing else could ever deal with the stain of our sins. “God made Him, Who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God.” “He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him and by His stripes, we are healed.”

John: You are listening to Phil Callaway on Focus on the Family and we have a CD of this entire presentation for you to share with a friend when you call 800-A-FAMILY. That’s 800-232-6459. Or you can donate and request that CD at Let’s go ahead and hear more now from Phil Callaway.

Phil: Remember me back in fifth grade. There I was, starin’ at the ceiling, terrified of this living God. What would you do? I got out of my little bed there and I walked across the hallway, went into my mother’s room, actually it was my parents’ room. They shared a bed in there, I remember.

I tapped on my mother’s shoulder to wake her up and she sat straight up and said, “Italian dressing.” I don’t know why. It doesn’t matter. (laughter) She said, “What?” I said, “I – I cheated on my Bible memory-ship.” “Wha…??” So, she got out of bed, and went over to the corner, where she kept that big 2 x 4 and she began – no, she didn’t. (Laughter)

She knelt down beside me and we asked God to forgive me and He did, and I was leaving that room, feeling light and happy and she stopped me dead in my tracks. She said, “You will have to tell Miss Weismuller, too.” Oh! (laughter)

I didn’t sleep well that night. Went to our fifth-grade classroom, tapped on the door first thing in the morning. “Yes, what is it?” “Oh…” I opened the door. I – I couldn’t look at her. I knew what she looked like anyway. (laughter) Came in. She said, “What is it?” I said, “I cheated on my Bible memory.” She said, “You what?!” I said, “I cheated on my Bi…” She said, “Did anyone see you?” I said, “I don’t think so.” She said, “Did God see you?” I said, “Oh, yeah, He kept me awake last night.” She said, “Did He forgive you?” I said, “Yeah.” And I looked up at her and I think perhaps maybe she was smiling despite that bun in her hair. (laughter) She said, “Then I forgive you, too.” She said, “You will write the test out later today, but I forgive you.”

In 10th grade I was accused of cheating on a mathematics test. I got 72%. My teacher called me in. He said, “Either you cheated, or it was a – a miracle. Which was it?” I said, “It was a miracle” and it was. And the reason I didn’t cheat in 10th grade, was because back in 5th grade, when two women could’ve thundered the Law down upon me, they stooped and they offered me the most amazing gift of all, God’s Grace.

You have heard about it and sung about it this weekend. (applause) Amen. My friend, are you discouraged? Never forget that you’ve been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Your salvation does not depend on you dressin’ up and lookin’ good and sayin’ all the right things, but upon a completed transaction by a Holy God through Jesus Christ.

In light of these things, how do we live? Here’s an acronym I want to leave you with before I sit down. Five transforming words that characterize people of grace. You can spell it with me, G R A C E and here it is. Many of you taking notes, not a single person. (laughter) Okay.

The G, “grateful,” grateful. Would that describe you? Gratitude is the great secret of the joy-filled life. Our service for Christ comes from thankful hearts.

When I was a kid, I was asked to abdicate my room so a conference speaker could have my Styrofoam bed. I didn’t know that a movie was being made about her life, that her books were selling briskly around the world. But Dr. Helen Roseveare gratefully gobbled a meager ham sandwich at our table and thanked me repeatedly for her humble accommodations. A 10-year-old kid rarely attends evening church, but her life and thanksgiving so captivated me, that I skipped playing football to hear her speak.

Raped twice during the Simba uprising in Africa’s Congo, she watched these men who had raped her, pillage through her house and find the most precious possession she had, a book she was writing, the only copy. She had spent 10 years writing. And while she was tied naked to a tree, they came out and they burned that book.

She told how she went back later to prison to forgive these men. And her words in our home resounded with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving turns a ham sandwich into an extravagant feast, a Timex into a Rolex, a Styrofoam bed into a mattress fit for a queen and a 10-year-old boy into a life-long fan.

When I got my room back from Dr. Roseveare, two gifts sat atop my pillow, a kind note that I kept for years and $2, a veritable fortune to a little kid. Grateful people are filled with joy, regardless of their circumstances. Is that you?

R is for “relational.” As we focus on what Christ has done, grace characterizes all of our relationships. We are forgiven, so we forgive. We care about people more than politics, about winning a friend, more than winning an argument. If ever bitterness creeps up on us, we are reminded that we follow a Man, whose first words amid blood, horror, spit and hands nailed to wood were, “Father, forgive.”

We are extravagant with our encouragement. Two of my high school teachers had a profound impact on me. The first one came to me and he said, “Callaway, you’ll never amount to anything.” Imagine saying that to someone. The second one said, “Callaway, come here.” He said, “Do you know what? You make people laugh. You have a gift. I want you in my class. You can start tomorrow morning. It’s not too late in the semester. I’m gonna try to help you improve on your jokes.” (laughter) Guess which teacher absolutely transformed me.

I’ve had the opportunity to thank Mr. Al Beeder before hundreds of thousands of people. Thank you, thank you, Lord, for a guy who believed in God enough to believe he could do somethin’ in the life of a crazy kid.

You say, “But Phil, hey, hey, hey, I can’t do much. I can’t do anything.” You know, look at me. I can’t – well, can you make somebody laugh? Can you? Can you be real? I was on an airplane and the guy beside me found out I was a Christian, he said, “I’ve had bad experiences with Christians.” I said, “Really, me, too!” (laughter) And he started to laugh. We had a four-hour talk about Jesus as a result of a simple little goofy thing I said.

Can you be kind to a waitress when you leave here? Huh? Can you love a neighbor? Can you love your spouse? Ooh! Did I say that? Married guys, just raise your right hand quickly. Okay. Left one over your chest. Say this, repeat it after me. “I will love, honor and cherish my wife. I will clean the sink (laughter) after I shave. Once this year, I will say, ‘Honey, let’s go get you some shoes.’” (laughter) Put each other’s needs ahead of your own.

Grateful, relational and “amazed”, amazed. We are so amazed by God’s grace that it transforms our faces. Some of us need it. I have met Christians who look so sour, they look like they could suck buttons off a sofa. (laughter) Let’s stop it. The fruit of the Spirit is not prunes. (laughter)

My dad was part Scotch and part ginger ale. He used to (laughter) – he saw a sign, “Drink Canada dry,” and they tried, this family. And then God got a hold of his life. Grace absolutely transforms us. Has it done that with you?

In Sarasota, Florida, a lady came out of the grocery store with a small bag of groceries. Went to her car to find four young men in her car about to take off, steal it. She flipped out, dropped her groceries, grabbed her handbag and pulled a handgun from it. She waggled it in the window, and she yelled, “Get out of my car; I’ve got a gun; I know how to use it.” Imagine, wow!

These guys got out and took off like a herd of cats. She climbed in, put her groceries in the back, got in the front. She was so nervous, she couldn’t even get the keys in the ignition. And she looked over here, there was a basketball on the seat there and on the floor, a six-pack of beer. She couldn’t remember putting them there. (laughter) And suddenly, she realized, “I’m in the wrong car.” (laughter)

So, she got out of that car fast and she went, and she found her own car and drove her to the – self to the police station and turned herself in. (laughter) The – the officer taking down the information, he couldn’t stop laughin’. He couldn’t even write. (laughter) He pointed to the end of the room where there were four young men standing. (laughter) Pale expressions, oh! “Crazy lady out there, go find her. She’s got a gun, she knows how to use it.”

Maybe you feel a little like that old lady as you leave here today. I hope not. Or maybe you look around you and you think, your car and your world has been taken over by idiots, you know. You look at the next generation, you think, “They can’t run the planet. They don’t even know which way to point their hats or how high to pull their pants.” (laughter, cheers and applause)

Let me tell ya, God is not finished with any of them. You know what He’s gonna do through you as you love them. My parents, they loved teenagers that had more earrings than brain cells. They just loved them. What a difference. When we worry, we undermes – estimate our God. His greatness is amazing. He gives us amazement and amusement. The joy of the Lord is our strength.

C on grace is “compassion.” The message of the cross always impacts us as we leave this place to reach around us and love others. And sometimes it reaches clear down to our wallet. If we see a need, we meet it. And here’s how we don’t get into debt, right? And those of us who are debt we’re gonna get out so we can help out. You know, break forth. Whatever it is we can give. Getting into debt is like wetting the bed. It feels good for a very short period of time. (laughter) So, don’t do it.

Money – money will promise you the very same things that God promises you, but it will never deliver. Don’t hold money in your heart, hold it in your hand. And as you leave, remember, there is pain in every pew, every bus seat, there’s pain there. Reach out with compassion.

And finally, Grateful, Relational, Amazed, Compassionate, “Expectant”, expectant. We leave here today believing God to do great things. He has throughout history. He’s not about to stop. The Bible tells us that we are His precious inheritance. He will use us for His glory. God continually uses the most underqualified people to do His work, because we know we can’t do it without Him. And when good things happen, we get down on our knees and we know exactly Who gets the credit, amen? He does, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

A Sunday school teacher was testing her children to see if they understood about heaven. Talk about expectant, we’re lookin’ forward to heaven, aren’t we? She said, “If I sold my house and my car, had a big garage sale, gave all the money to the church, would that get me into heaven?” These kids says, “No” Huh? She said, “Well, how do I get into heaven?” And a little guy yells, “Ya gotta be dead.” (laughter)

Those who think most of the next world, make the greatest difference in this one. Janella, one of my best friend’s daughter, was killed in a car crash, his only child. And on her tombstone, it says, “Warning, site of future resurrection.” That is our hope as we leave here this afternoon.

I’m sometimes asked for the funniest joke ever, what is it? How would I know? But I’ll tell you, the greatest punchline in all of history, is that a holy God loves the likes of us and He’s gonna use us. Isn’t that amazing? He’s a God Who would rather die than live without us and He will use us.

How many of you want to live this way? Do ya? In some churches in China, they welcome new believers by saying this, “Jesus now has a new pair of eyes to see with, new ears to listen with, new hands to help with and a new heart to love others with.”

God bless you. Thank you so much. (applause and cheers)

John: What a tremendous ending to this presentation today from Phil Callaway on Focus on the Family. And I’ve got to say, Jim, in hard times like we’re seeing right now it is nice to have a little bit of normal and some laughter. And let me mention to our listeners that we have some more normal for you in your life with a free streaming service that we’ve just launched. It’s called Focus@Home and you can access a huge library of encouraging, Biblical, Focus on the Family resources for kids. We’re going to link over to it at And, Jim, as I was thinking through Phil’s message this was so timely. We all have to be more intentional, patient, and kind in our relationships.

Jim: Well, I really appreciate Phil’s challenge. That’s the point. To be a person of grace and mercy and it seems like the busier we are the harder it is to do that for some reason. But let me remind you, we have a grace and mercy filled staff right here at Focus on the Family that are available to pray with you and talk with you about the Lord every weekday. So, why don’t you just give us a call if you’re going through some things that we can help you with. We all have challenges in life and sometimes it really helps to talk things through with someone who can be objective and if you need a call back from one of our caring Christian counselors, we can arrange that as well. And let me say a big thank you to those of you who donate to this ministry. Literally we couldn’t do it without you. Thank you for making it possible for us to meet the needs of everyone who calls us looking for that help for their family.

John: And as we’ve said in recent days here, Jim, we are open. We are actually taking a lot of calls. We have a lot going on to help families. We’re aware that there’s a great need. I mentioned the streaming service. Look for that link online. And then we know that many of you are being effected from the shelter-in-place, stay-at-home orders. A lot of businesses are at least temporarily closed. So, we’re sensitive to that and we want to help you to the extent that we can. If you’re doing okay financially and you can, please support the work here. The need is greater than ever, and we’ll say thanks in advance for your generosity. Now we do want to send a copy of Phil Callaway’s book to you. It’s called To Be Perfectly Honest. And you’ll follow Phil through a year of telling the truth no matter the cost to his relationships, his reputation or even his finances. I think you’ll appreciate this book and we do have it here at the ministry. Call us. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459. Or donate online and request To Be Perfectly Honest at On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back tomorrow as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

To Be Perfectly Honest

To Be Perfectly Honest

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