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Learning About God's Mercy

Air Date 02/01/2018

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Radio host and author Brant Hansen explores the breadth of God's grace and how he has seen it play out in his life, particularly in his overseas work with a medical missionary organization. Brant offers encouraging reminders about God's goodness, mercy and love.

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Episode Transcript

Opening:

Excerpt:

Brant Hansen: I’ve realized God is not a computer program... I used to think, “If I’m good, if I do this, this, this; He’s obligated to do this, this, this and this for me. That’s not Him. He actually has a personality.

End of Excerpt

John Fuller: Well, I wonder if you’ve ever thought about God that way. We’ve got more insights, more provocative thoughts from radio personality Brant Hansen today. Thanks for joining us for Focus on the Family with your host, Focus president Jim Daly.

Jim Daly: This is a great message, John, about God’s grace and mercy and how we can trust him to care for us. And I know it will really be a blessing to you today as you listen along. Brant Hansen is best known for his off-beat and quirky radio show which airs on many of these same stations and he also hosts a podcast called “The Brant and Sherri Oddcast” with his friend and producer Sherri Lynn. He’s also an author and his latest book is called Blessed are the Misfits.

John: And you can get that through Focus on the Family. And as to this message, it was recorded at a conference hosted by our Boundless team, which is our outreach to single adults. Here now is Brant Hansen and we’re gonna pick it up as Brant is introducing himself to the audience.

Body:

Brant: I talk about the fact that I have something called Asperger’s Syndrome.How many people have Asperger’s in here, anyone? Yes. You are my people. (Laughter)

There’s somethin’ … just to explain what it is, ‘cause it is helpful, um … I don’t…..use body language right. Like some people pick up on cues. I guess … normal humans pick up on cues, body language and stuff. I use the wrong ones. My wife has been really helpful with this. She’s explained to me, “Brant, don’t stand like this.” I’m like, “Why not?” (Laughter)”I don’t understand.”’Cause my favorite person on “Star Trek Next Generation” stands like this (Laughter), Data. (Laughter)

She said, “Don’t stand like that, ‘cause normal people,” apparently this is true, “normal people don’t evenly displace their weight like that.” Like I’m thinking this is the most efficient use of both of my legs. (Laughter) And she said, “You’re a lot more approachable, Brant, if you don’t stand like that. If you bend your leg just a little bit like this and then do this.” (Laughter)

And then I say, “What up.” (Laughter) And she said that people will approach and sure enough, it works. So people like me now (Laughter) and um … it’s all cause of this little move. (Laughter)

I have all sorts of little quirks and things, but what I have seen is that while being an “Aspbe,” it’s what we call ourselves, can be painful in middle school for instance and in high school, as well, what I have seen is thatGod takes your weaknesses and He uses them to His … to His glory. Like He looks good as a result of them.He changes you in other areas because of your weaknesses. I’ve seen it over and over. I’ve seen it in my own life, too.

I went to the University of Illinois and whileI was there I was, like, in a reporting class and I had this really hard-core professor who was a former White House correspondent for CBS News and all this stuff.

And anyway, I’m drivin’ home from some friends’ and this whole huge class building on campus is engulfed in flames. I mean, a giant, a huge fireball into the sky.There’s no fire engines. There’s no police. There’s no … nobody there. It’s just a huge burning building, nothin’.

I’m like, oh, I’ll cover this. I’ll get some extra credit. So, I drove home, which was like two blocks away and then I was like, “okay, I need a pencil. I need some paper and I’m gonna go cover this story.” This is totally true, by the way. And I grabbed a pencil and I ran out the door and I went the back way so that I wouldn’t … you know, I’d get there faster and I went through the bushes and stuff.

And as I’m gettin’ there, this, you know, building’s like in flames. And I see, oh, the … the fire and the police are gettin’ there now. So, I just decided I don’t want to get in their way, ‘cause I’m not kind of person. So, I just decided I’d lurk in the bushes and watch. (Laughter)

Uh … how come you guys are so quick to put this together? (Laughter) Seriously. Yeah, so anyway, about 10 minutes later I’m in the back of the squad car (Laughter). And they’re like, “So why did you set fire to this um … thing.” I’m like, “I didn’t set fire to it. I’m coverin’ it, so I’ve got my pencil here.” “You’re coverin’ it, so you brought a pencil. Where’s your paper?” “I forgot paper.” (Laughter) But seriously, so they went home and they took all my clothes and they … I was their suspect for arson.

And um … I went in the next day to my professor and I’m like, “Did you … did you ever get to the scene of a crime so fast that they arrested you for it?” (Laughter) He … he literally left the room to go laugh in the hallway. (Laughter)

So, Ibecame a youth pastor and one thing about you … I really enjoyed youth ministry. It was weird, ‘cause I’m not that social, but I really did enjoy it. Um … and I was always like, “Okay, guys, let’s talk about prayer. Prayer is where it’s at. You gotta pray, pray, pray. It’s all about prayer. Really the whole Christian life is about prayer.”

Okay and then the next month, you know what? It’s all about giving to the poor. That’s what the whole Christian … the whole Christian life is. You gotta give, give, give and I go, okay, missions trips. Okay, let’s give ‘em missions. Okay, now it’s about worship. It’s really all about worship. It’s all about worship and worship … and I finally had a kid, a really smart kid. He said one day, he’s like, “Hey, can you um … can you help me with somethin’, ‘cause we got all this stuff we’re supposed to be doing. Can you like put it in some logical way so I can keep track of how I’m doin’ with God?”

And so, I actually made a chart.I made this for my youth group. I’m like, okay! All right, I figured it all out. There’s eight areas that if you get all these areas goin’, then God’s gonna be … you know, now you’re doin’ all right. Now you’re doin’ good. Just keep these eight areas going.

You’ve got to attend church, evangelize. Obviously, that’s core, okay. Bible study, duh! It’s all about Bible study and minis … you gotta be in a ministry group, duh, hello! Also, tithing, pfft! Obviously! Uh … missions trips, I mean, come on. Uh … small group. So, if you’re doin’ enough small groups and you’re prayin’ enough and you’re going to church and you’re evangelizing and you’re doin’ Bible study and you’re plugged into a ministry and you’re tithing, you’re probably doin’ okay with God.

And the kids are like, “oh, good, finally. I got a pie chart. (Laughter) I finally understand what this relationship with God looks like, thanks to this chart (Laughter) that you’ve made for us with your computer.” (Laughter) So I spent like 40 hours makin’ that thing, my entire work week at church.

I regret this so much. I honestly do. This is a lie. This is a lie. God is better than this.

I want the one thing to be, if I could just tell you one thing that I’ve learned and believe me, I was raised in church. I never really understood how good God was.I’m still beginning to understand it, but I’m just beginning. He’s way better than I thought, ‘cause I thought He was about this and I thought I would please Him if I was doin’ enough of these eight things. He’s much better than this.

One of thethings, as a dad, I’ve seen my kids grow up, um … is trying to impress on them that, yeah, there’s things I want them to do, but my love isn’t dependent on it. Their status as my child doesn’t change based on their behavior. It doesn’t change.

I told them a story and by the way, this is the world’s worst bedtime story. (Laughter) If you have kids, don’t tell ‘em this story.

It’s actually in a book calledA Severe Mercyby Sheldon Vanauken, who is a friend of C.S. Lewis. It’s about two dogs. It’s Snowball and Gypsy and they live in the country. And it’s like one of those idyllic dog settings where they get hills to run around on and they get streams to jump over and they get to do all sorts of cool dog stuff. And their master’s really good to ‘em, really good.

What he demands of them is when he calls, “Dinner! Snowball, Gypsy, dinnertime!” when he calls them, they gotta come right then. That’s what he demands of them. And of course, they do.

And one day, arabbit ran across Gypsy’s path right as the master was callin’ for them to come inside. And she was like, “Oh, I’d like to chase after this rabbit.” She didn’t. She held off, resisted temptation, ran in, but she was thinkin’ about it.

And the next day it happened again and this time she thought, “I’d like to chase after the rabbit,” and so she did. And it changed things with the master, because the master didn’t trust her. He was very disappointed. She came in with her tail between legs and she came in late for dinner, but it was kind of exciting.

So, the next time it happened, it was a little bit easier for her to go out and chase after that rabbit. And pretty soon, I’m tellin’ my kids this … Gypsy’s on a leash. She can’t romp like she used to. She can’t be trusted. So, now her master’s got her on a leash.

And you know what, kids, one day he took them out into the country to take them for a walk, the master did. And he got ‘em out of the … out of the car near the woods and Gypsy’s, like “Oh, I can get loose, freedom!” And she (Sound of snap of fingers) darted out of that car and she raced into the woods and she ran and she ran and she ran. But she could hear her master calling, “Gypsy, Gypsy, Gypsy, Gypsy,” until she couldn’t hear him anymore. And then it was lo … she was lost. And the sun went down and she was cold and the master was so disappointed, but he got Snowball back and he put Snowball in the car and he drove away.

Gypsy lived in the woods and she had puppies. Her fur was matted and she was a mess, but she lived in the woods and she had puppies and she toldthe puppies about the master. She told’em stories about this good master and so, they heard stories. But then they grew up and it was just stories to them. And they sorta told their puppies and those puppies grew up. And then their puppies didn’t even know the master anymore. And that’s the end of the story.

And the reason I told my kids this, I’m actually glad I did, ‘cause they remember it. But I want them to remember, you know, the Master’s really good, even if we’ve forgotten it, even if we’ve gotten away from Him or we’ve made choices to deviate from Him, he’s actually good. He gives us freedom to walk away from Him.

Jesus does that with everybody. It’s remarkable, remarkable. One guy told Him no. Jesus said you need to … he asked Him a question. Jesus said, “Well, here’s what you need to do.” And the guy’s like, “No, I’m not doin’ that.” And it says, Jesus watched him walk off and loved him. But He gives us freedom and you can walk away. But He’s good. It doesn’t make Him bad that people have walked away. He’s really good.

What changed my heart on this since I’ve been 30-years-old, isI’ve realized God is notan iMac. He is not a Mac book, He is not a, uh …a computer program. I used to think, if I’m good, if I do this, this, this, he’s obligated to do this, this, this and this for me.That’s not it. He actually has a personality.We think of Him as these precepts. Like we relate to pre … “God loves everyone.” You know what? He does love everyone, but He doesn’t look at us the same. Some people have a certain relationship with Him that others don’t.

What do I mean by that? Widows, the rejected, people scorned, uh … the poor, the fatherless, the people without a home. It’s clear throughout the Bible, these people have a special relationship with God that other people don’t have.

Program Note:

John: Radio host and author, Brant Hansen on Focus on the Family and this reminder-- you can get a CD of this broadcast to share with a friend or get a copy of Brant’s latest book Blessed are the Misfits when you call 800-A-FAMILY. 800-232-6459.And you can also order those resources and more at focusonthefamily.com/radio. And remember when you get the book from our online store, those proceeds go right back into ministry-- saving babies’ lives, saving marriages, helping parents get through tough situations with their kids and encouraging people in their faith. When you shop with Focus on the Family, you’re furthering the ministry that we have to families around the world. And let’s go ahead and return now to more from Brant Hansen.

End of Program Note

Brant: I’m affluent. He doesn’t look at me the same way as He does other people. I love this about Him! I finally realized He’s actually got a personality. He has things that He cares about. He has values and they’re not necessarily mine, but I love His values. And He’s changing my heart, hopefully to see what His are and … and align with Him.

Something happened. They sent me. It was a radio thing. I was supposed to go to Israel to visit a hospital and then they were like, “Uh, no, we can’t go there. We need you to go to Afghanistan.”So, I show up in Afghanistan at a Cure Hospital. I’m workin’ for them now. I’m so sold on ‘em.

Look at this picture. They told me I was doing kangaroo duty. Like “Can you do kangaroo duty?” I’m like (Laughter), apparently newborns and preemies need human contact.I didn’t know anything about it.But they had me take care of a baby for … for a couple hours and just hold her. She was 1 lb., 2 oz. And um … her name is Zakara and I got to just sit there and ruminate and think about her and they just need skin contact, because they’re in this ICU.

She’s an Afghan female, highest infant mortality rate in the world. Highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Women are abused. Uh … they are considered a property. They have the lowest status of anyone in the world; I’m convinced of it. And here’s an Afghan female who’s a pound! And I was holding this baby and I’m thinking, “Is it true that God is such a God that He aligns Himself with this girl more so than other people?” Is it fair? I don’t know, but I love it. I love that. He identifies Himself with the underdog.

This is what’s so amazing. He actually says this. I’ve read this on the air on my Christian radio show. There’s lots of stuff I can read directly out of the Bible. People will call me and argue with me about it—Christian people. They’ll “out-Bible” me, they think. Like, “It’s … that’s not in there.” “Yeah, it is.”

This is one of ‘em. It’s from Proverbs chapter 19. “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord and He will repay you.”

He identifies so strongly. If you’re giving to the poor, God says “You’re giving to Me.” And what’s so interesting about this, think about this with … with your life. Most people at this age, not terribly wealthy, but at some point you start to accrue a little bit more money. Where do I put it? Where do I invest?

God says if you help the poor, you give to them, you’re lending to Him. Hewillrepay you. I am not making that up and I don’t know how He’s gonna repay you or exactly form that takes, but I … it’s 100 percent return rate. You can actually trust Him.

Oh, by the way, Jesus said, “If you’ve done something to one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you’ve done it to Me.” He identifies with the least of these, with the dispossessed, with the lonely, with the widow, with the hurting, with the lost. He identifies with them. He becomes one with them.

I’ve got a picture of that baby.I just wanted to show you. By the way, I … I met her a few years ago and I went back last year and she survived. She had … actually had internal surgery before this picture was taken. And her … they thought she had about a five percent rate of survival and I got to meet and play with her. She’s a toddler. I thought that was so sweet. (Laughing) Like there was the neatest thing. I … I can’t believe this. It’s amazing that God would identify Himself withthat.

For me, I love that. I don’t want to just relate to precepts. His personality is such that He values this scrap of human life that has no power, no status, no money, isn’t famous and God identifies with that. To me, that’s good news.

If it’s a God about your performance, how you’re doing, “Are you keeping the eight pie chart things good? Are you doin’ a good job with that?” That’s not good news to me. This is good news.

Can you ever relax? Can you ever actually enjoy God? A friend of mine told me this a few weeks ago. He’s like, “Brant, I think … you know what I think God’s lookin’ for? I think He just wants a spiritual people that He can spend time with.” Like remember the Israelites? He built a tent among them. This is a rag-tag group of people. He built a tent. “I want to live among you,” He said. He loves us. He wants you.

I’ve seen Him be good to me. I keep thinking, too, I keep thinking like God’s been so good to me, I keep thinking the other shoe’s gonna drop. I don’t know if you can relate to this at all. But I feel like, “Okay, yeah, I’ve been blessed, but when does the big hammer drop where I pay the price for being a sinner, ‘cause I still am deeply a sinner. When does He get even with me?”

And I was walkin’ the dogs the other day and for some reason a song popped into my head from bein’ a kid in church. And the song goes … it’s from Psalms, I think Psalm 23. (Singing) “Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days, all the days of my life.” And I never thought it was a great song, like that’s in the Bible. His mercy is gonna follow you the rest of your days. Do you understand that? No other shoe’s droppin’. He’s actually good.

I found the most unbelievable Scripture and you guys might be familiar with this. Well, there’s a Scripture where Jesus says, “Don’t let your heart be troubled. I’m going to prepare a place for you. If it weren’t so, I would tell you.” Okay, so maybe you’re familiar with that. It’s in John. I think it’s John 14, or something like that?

Well, what you don’t know probably, ‘cause that … the chapter starts that way. The preceding chapter, John 13, the story is, He’s talking to Peter. It’s … excuse me, at the Last Supper. He’s at the Last Supper and Peter is saying, “Oh, I’ll always be with you Jesus. I’ll always be right there with you.” And Jesus says, “No, you’re gonna betray me three times before the cock crows tonight. You’re gonna betray me three times.”

And the chapter ends and then the next chapter starts. “But don’t let your heart be troubled. I’m gonna go prepare a place for you. If it weren’t so I would tell you.” We don’t put those two things together because somebody stupidly put a chapter break in there. (Laughter) And who knows why? So, I’d never put those two things together. Understand what He’s saying. Do you realize how radical this is in your own life?

“I’ll be with you forever.” “You’re gonna betray Me, but don’t let your heart be troubled. I’m gonna go prepare a place for you.” I’m thinkin’, as Brant Hansen- sinner, could I hear Jesus actually say, “I know, but don’t let your heart be troubled. I’m gonna prepare a place for you.”

I’m thinkin’ Brant Hansen- fake. When’s somebody gonna find me out that I’m … I’m a sinner. My mind is not where it should be. I get to speak in front of people. I can look like a Christian, you know, like a … really he’s got it figured out kind of guy. When … when … when is the other shoe gonna drop.

And Jesus is saying, “I know, but don’t let your heart be troubled. So, I’m gonna prepare a place for you.” He wants us; do you realize that? Fake person, thinkin’ that shoe’s gonna drop, you know, He’s actually really good. You know, He actually really truly wants you?

Another reason I love God, this little girl, she was in surgery in Afghanistan. I had … was in the O.R., watching this girl be knit back together. She had a cleft palate. But it’s just a little teeny kid and … and uh … I was askin’ the doctor, “Doctor Hashimi … What happens to her if she doesn’t get this surgery?”

“Well, she’ll never have any status. She’ll never go to school. She’ll never have a future. She’ll never have what every Afghan girl wants desperately. She’ll never have a wedding.” And I thought, wow, that’s amazing. And Christians paid to have her surgery done and as he was doin’ his last suture on this little girl, Dr. Hashimi said … he took the last suture and he cut it off and he goes, “And now there’ll be a wedding.”

I’m like, if that’s the way God is, I love that God. In fact, we do serve a God who loves weddings.He loves ‘em. [He] promises everyone a big one, a big one. In fact, any wedding we have now is just a shadow. If you have one, great. If you don’t, great. You’re gonna have a big wedding one day and all the ones we have now are just a shadow of what’s gonna happen. He loves weddings.

The God I believe in loves little girls. The God I believe in identifies with them.You can actually trust Him.

I, uh … I’ll tell you one more story, then I’ll be done. Um … I was … when my girl was young and I had a … I have a little boy, too, but they were both little and we put ‘em in a … we lived in Houston at the time where they have this big rodeo. It seemed like they’re always havin’ a rodeo, but um (Laughter) … they had this big rodeo … it’s Texas. (Laughter)

Um … so, I was … we put them in the backseat of our car in … in their little seats and you buckle ‘em in. It’s this gigantic hassle and you put ‘em in there and we were drivin’ all over town and I knew we were goin’ to the rodeo at the Astrodome, but we had like 10 errands first.

And so, we’re goin’ here; we’re goin’ there. We’re parkin’ here; we’re parkin’ there.But we gotta get back over here by the grocery store and get out. I go in and out, in and out.And then I got on the freeway and then there’s lights behind me from a police car. I’m like, oh, man. I didn’t realize I was speeding, as this strange guy comes to the door and then, you know, he gives … gives daddy a ticket and daddy’s got a ticket.

And then I start drivin’ again and about 10 minutes later, we’re on the freeway. And remember, we’d made 10 stops. There’s been lights. There’s been police. There’s been all this stuff. And I hear this voice coming from the backseat and my daughter says, “Hey, dad.” She’s tiny. I went, “What?” I’m lookin’ in the rearview mirror. So, “Where are we goin’?” Oh, I forgot to tell her where we’re going. “We’re goin’ to the rodeo. You know, at the rodeo they have “horseys,” lots of horse[s].” “Oh, good, good, good, good.”

And it dawned on me, why in the world was she not thinking the whole time, “where are we goin?” Why is she not panicked about this? I’m buckled in. (Laughter) I cannot move. I’m going here.I’m going there. I’m going over here. I’m going over here. I’m going over here.(Laughter) There’s funny lights. There’s a police officer. My dad’s upset. We’re going here. We’re going there. (Laughter)

And then it dawned on me why she wasn’t panicked by this. It’s because she knows who the driver is and she knows(Sound of clapping)he loves her, right? (Applause) Well, to me, if … if you know who the driver is and you know He loves you, why worry?

There’s something about humility, actually trusting.Look, do you believe God’s in control of your life or not?Are you ever gonna relax and actually believe that or is it constantly gonna be chafing for position to accomplish something to impress somebody. Who cares?Can you ever just enjoy Him and realize just how good He is?And that the work’s done, work’s done. And from here, see what happens, but He’s good.

Let’s pray and I’ll be done. God, Idon’t know if I expressed things right, butI pray that You would align our hearts with Yours. Father, forgive us for thinking we can impress You with the things we do or that it’s about obligating You to do something for us if we’re good. God, I want to just give that up forever. Thank You for being so good that You … You’ve accomplished what needs accomplished and it’s done. It’s finished. And we pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Audience: (Applause)

Closing:

John: Brant Hansen today on Focus on the Family and I’ve gotta tell you Jim, it’s so hard to take that kind of advice that Brant gave us, to sit and relax and trust God and just enjoy His goodness.

Jim: It really is, John, and I think there’s something about our culture, especially in North America, that pushes us into a lifestyle of always striving for the next ‘thing’, whatever that might be-- the next promotion, the next purchase, the next upgrade-- and that’s really not what God wants for us. And if you’re in a time of life that is difficult; you’re struggling, perhaps you’re suffering and you really can’t see God’s goodness in your life-- give us a call. We would be honored to listen to you, to pray with you, maybe provide you some insight and advice from a biblical perspective. And if you’d like to receive a call back from a counselor, we can make that happen as well. We want to be here for you.

And let me remind you that we’re here every day to help your family thrive in Christ. So I hope you’ll consider joining us as a financial partner as well- you can do ministry through Focus on the Family. And when you give a gift of any amount, we’ll say thank you by sending you a CD of today’s message from Brant Hansen so that you can listen to it again or share it with a friend. It’ll include a lot of extra content as well. I know you’re gonna enjoy it. Get in touch with us today.

John: And you can do so when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio to donate and request the CD.

When you’re online, check out Brant’s book, Blessed are the Misfits. One reviewer wrote that Brant has a gift for empathizing with believers who feel like they don’t fit in with a message that is positive and Christ-focused.

If you enjoyed today’s broadcast, please tell a friend to tune in next time as we share one of our top programs from 2017 about a difficult topic but one we have to talk about-- human trafficking.

Teaser:

Nita Belles: We live in an area where there are cougars, and so in the spring, we have a warning how to respond to cougars, because if we don’t respond that way, they will eat us. And that’s the way we have to look at these predators for our children-- we’ve got to protect our children from the predators so they’re not trafficked.

End of Teaser

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Guest

Brant Hansen

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Brant Hansen is an author, nationally syndicated radio host, and advocate for healing children with correctible disabilities through CURE International. He's won multiple "personality of the year" awards for his work on his offbeat and quirky radio show which airs on more than 200 stations. His podcast with his friend and radio producer Sherri Lynn, called "The Brant and Sherri Oddcast," has been downloaded millions of times. Brant has authored two books, Unoffendable and Blessed are the Misfits, and written for numerous major media outlets on topics as varied as public policy, culture, sports, Asperger's Syndrome and faith. He and his wife, Carolyn, have two grown children. Learn more about Brant at his website, branthansen.com.