Book Notes: The Grace of God by Andy Stanley

Here are my notes from Andy Stanley’s the Grace of God, one of the books on my 2012 Reading List. The first half of this book could be called “Grace in the Old Testament” and would make a great sermon series. In fact, much of the material in the book comes from sermons Andy has preached. Here are some highlights and quotes.

  • Grace is what we crave most but what we are hesitant to extend.
  • When we are the receiving end, grace is refreshing. When it is required of us, it is often disturbing.
  • You can no more deserve grace than you can plan your own surprise party.
  • Creation is all about grace. When you look at the Garden of Eden, you’ll see that his expressions of grace were innumerable and his requirements were minimal.
  • Sin brings shame and blame.
  • In the life of Abraham, God showed that a righteous standing with God comes through faith.
  • Grace is not reserved for good people.
  • In the life of Joseph, we see that the law of sowing and reaping was thwarted by grace.
  • With the Ten Commandments, we see that God initiated a relationship with his people before he even told them what the rules were. God’s law does not establish a relationship it confirms an existing one.
  • The purpose of the law is not to make us good but to keep us free.
  • Grace is slow to judge and quick to deliver. When people around me mess up, I default to the opposite.
  • In the life of Rahab, we see God punishes sin, AND extends grace to the sinner.
  • In the life of David, we learn discipline is often an expression of grace. If grace had a limit, David’s actions would have exposed them.
  • You can run from God, but you can’t outrun him.
  • In the life of Jonah, we see that the purpose of God’s discipline is not to pay people back but to bring people back.
  • Receiving grace is often easier than dispensing it.
  • The New Testament reveals people who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus and Jesus liked people who were nothing like him.
  • Jesus did not strike a balance between grace and truth. He dispensed full measures of both.
  • Jesus was not uncomfortable surrounded by those who needed grace.
  • Nichodemus showed us grace is not a reward for good people but it’s God’s gift to forgiven people.
  • It’s always easier to talk about theology than our pain.
  • We can talk about fairness, but the grace of God isn’t fair. Philip Yancey talks about “the scandalous mathematics of grace.” Interestingly, we don’t complain about fairness when we something works in OUR advantage. Jesus was extravagantly unfair.
  • The church is most appealing when the message of grace is most apparent. The church is most effective when the message of grace is most evident.
  • If the local church is God’s vehicle for dispensing the message of grace, then the local church is clearly not for church people. It’s for everybody.
  • The church should not make it difficult for people who are turning to God (See Acts 15:23-29)
  • As much as you may want to qualify this with statements like “what about the person who…,” grace can’t be qualified.
  • First and foremost, God celebrates restored relationships.

Here’s a Great Sermon Illustration

Here’s a great sermon illustration that you could use in your preaching.  After you read, would you leave a comment and share your feedback.  Is this helpful for you?  Do you think you would use it?  Would you save it for later?

Title: How a failed video game led to the most successful game franchise in history
Tags: failure, second chance, leadership, mistakes

In 1980, a Japanese company called Nintendo came out with an arcade came called Radar Scope. If you’ve ever seen a game called Space Invaders, it looked a lot like that. It was a shoot-em-up, one button, one joystick video game.

It quickly became Nintendo’s biggest game of the year in Japan and Nintendo looked to expand into America. Hiroshi Yamauchi, who took over the company from his grandfather in 1949 set up his son-in-law to run Nintendo of America.

Yamauchi decided to go all in on Radar Scope and started manufacturing thousands of cabinets and shipping them from Japan to a warehouse in New Jersey. They were able to pre-sell about 1,000 of them, but 2,000 more remained in that New Jersey warehouse collecting dust. Nobody was biting…nobody was buying.

When they realized that Radar Scope wasn’t going to sell anymore, they began promising a new smash hit.

So here was Hinoru Arakawa with 2,000 useless video game consoles and a promise to deliver a smash hit that nobody had developed yet. He announced an internal competition and received several ideas from a young employee with no video game experience.

He took a basic story – a guy trying to rescue a girl from an evil villain. And the villain would be a giant gorilla. They made the decision to take these 2,000 Radar Scope video games and convert them to a new game.

At the time, conversion kits were commonly used to update older games to get a few more quarters out of the kids. It’s the equivalent of reheating yesterdays leftovers.

They took the Radar Scope cabinet and turned the monitor sideways, so the game would play from the bottom of the screen to the top of the screen. They created a story…a common plumber saves a girl from an evil villain. The little plumber with the mission of rescuing the girl was known as “jumpman” and was given the name Mario, a suggestion from the owner of the warehouse where these 2,000 video game cabinets were being retooled. The evil villain holding the girl hostage would be a giant gorilla. The game would be called King King.

They removed the old game board and put a new one in. They connected the wiring harness, slid out the old plastic art and slid in new art panels. It took two months, but all 2,000 video games were converted.

The hero from King Kong would go on to star in several other video games, including Super Mario Brothers…Nintendo’s biggest selling video game ever. Mario has starred in more than 200 titles.

If Radar Scope had been more popular, Donkey Kong probably wouldn’t have been invented. But a leader named Arakawa and his team at Nintendo took a failure and turned it into a successful game, and in the process, created the most successful video game character of all time.


1. Second Chances. 
“God, my God, I yelled for help and you put me together. God, you pulled me out of the grave, gave me another chance at life when I was down-and-out.” – Psalm 30:2 (The Message)

2. God isn’t through with you. “…for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.” – Romans 11:29

3. Failure isn’t fatal. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength
of my heart and my portion forever.”
Psalm 73:26 (NASB)

Unimportant #DinosaurRoom Recap

Early Thursday morning, I joked on Twitter that I wanted to organize a conference called Dinosaur Room to discuss unimportant issues in the church that nobody cares about anymore.  Of course, this was a funny follow up to the Elephant Room, where very important issues were discussed.

A few other people jumped on board, and later that night, #DinosaurRoom became a worldwide trending topic for a few moments.  It was actually crazy to watch it all unfold.  Lots of fun all the way around.

Here were some of my favorite #DinosaurRoom tweets.

  • When you use the Bill Gaither Trio to explain the Trinity (3 people, one song), it’s a “Possibility” you’re in the #DinosaurRoom – @Tobymeis
  • The potluck is the true and better buffet.
  • A real church is where songs come out of a book and not off the wall. – @chadhunt
  • Do you call the youth ministry service X-treme or Souled Out?
  • We are very open to tongues in our church…someone sings El Shaddai almost every Sunday. – @hasonbhuffman
  • Those guys literally ripped a phone book in half with their bare hands, then I got saved.
  • What color robes do the young people like? – @cnieuwhof
  • It’s not a skit…it’s an interpretive movement.
  • Is it a vestibule, an atrium, or a narthex? We’ll decide in the #DinosaurRoom. – @jayhardwick
  • The WMU is broadcasting for 24 hours from the roof of the fellowship hall this Sunday
  • Should we take down the thrones on the stage that pastors sit in or leave them? – @caseygraham
  • Do we sing the 3rd verse, or skip it and go right to the 4th?
  • When is the best night to make everyone cry at youth camp…the first night or the last night? – @charlieswain
  • Should offering plates be gold or silver? – @willgoodwin
Some funny comments are still rolling in.  Thanks to everyone who participated in the Dinosaur Room.

Don’t Build for the Fringes

Here’s how things become complicated.

You launch a simple product with a simple interface, and one person requests an additional feature. They simply can’t use the widget unless it has the ability to sync with a particular device. So you add it, and one person is happy.

Two weeks later, you get alternate – even opposite – feedback from another customer. To keep that person happy, you release version 1.0.2. Before long, you’re adding features, re-releasing manuals, and updated 16 different links.

And this isn’t just a product issue.

  • One of your seventeen employees tweets something inappropriate so you react with a six page social media guidebook
  • One person says your emails are too long so you immediately change your writing style.
  • One person says the service is too expensive, so you slash the price.
  • One person says they would pay more, so you raise the price.
  • You read about a specific meeting at company XYZ so you add it to your weekly meeting flow.

The principle here is important. You might need to respond, bud you don’t need to react. Creating a rule or policy to deal with the exception isn’t smart. Building a business or installing a model in response to your fringe customers isn’t good.

How to Write an Email Subject Line

Most churches send out some sort of weekly or monthly email. And most of those emails aren’t opened or read. But did you know that there’s one simple thing you can do to ensure that your email is opened and read by more people?  Write something good in your subject line.

A good email starts with a good subject.

Here are five tips, adapted from the book Advertising Headlines that Make You Rich. (Yes, the book is expensive, and yes, the book is worth it.)

  1. Draw attention to a problem or desire that people have. So instead of saying, “Financial Class on Thursday night,” say something like, “Learn how to save money for your dreams this Thursday.” That let’s people know that the information you’re communicating is about them, not just you.
  2. Show people how to avoid mistakes. Instead of “Small Group Leader Training next week,” say, “Avoid these Five Mistakes in Your Small Group.” Negative headlines (five mistakes, three dumb things, etc.) have better reader rates.
  3. Use comparisons. There’s a reason that spam emails say things like “you can have the body of a supermodel.” It’s because comparisons frame the discussion and speak to peoples desires. “Kids volunteers are like superheros” is better than “Thanks for serving.”
  4. Show people that something is easy. “It’s easy to become a student ministry volunteer” is much better than “New volunteer opportunities.” People need to know that they can do it.

Put a little more thought in your email subjects, and more people will connect with your message.  For what it’s worth, these principles also apply to blog titles.  That means I should have called this post “You’re Killing Your Emails with Terrible Subjects” or “Write Email Subjects Like Joel Osteen.”

If you want to learn more about this important subject, I partnered with Giving Rocket to release an eBook called “Why Nobody Reads Your Emails”.  It’s full of a ton of coaching and ideas that will help you communicate with your church.