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Eyes to See God's Grace

Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace pose for the cover of The Art of Relationships Podcast.


In part one of a podcast series, Dr. Chris and Alisa Grace are joined by former Art of Relationships podcast host and current co-director of The Winsome Conviction Project, Dr. Tim Muehlhoff to talk about his latest book, Eyes to See: Recognizing God's Common Grace in an Unsettled World.

Speaker 1: Welcome to another Art of Relationships podcast. We are grateful for listeners like you. Let's get right into it.

Alisa Grace: So, welcome to The Art of Relationships podcast. It is great to be back with you. I am here today with my beautiful, handsome husband, Dr. Chris Grace. We have a special guest with us.

Chris Grace: Not really. We've been around forever. I don't know if I would use the word guest. It's like, where have we been for the last six months-

Tim  Muehlhoff: I'm waiting for the beautiful part just to be worked in.

Chris Grace: Tim is with us today. Tim, you're a beautiful man. I just want to say. I mean, sitting across from you right now, you're just a beautiful man.

Tim  Muehlhoff: Thank you.

Alisa Grace: We have known Tim Muehlhoff for how long? How long have you lived here?

Tim  Muehlhoff: At least 17 years.

Alisa Grace: Yeah. So, a long time. We're in a... Gosh, we're in a marriage group together.

Tim  Muehlhoff: That has met for?

Alisa Grace: I don't even know.

Tim  Muehlhoff: 12 years?

Chris Grace: 12, 13 years.

Tim  Muehlhoff: Oh, it's 13 years?

Alisa Grace: Yeah. So, we go way, way back with Tim and Noreen.

Chris Grace: Yeah. Okay. Tim. So, obviously this podcast is something that you've been doing for a long time with us. And it's good to have you back after a little bit of a absence, because you went to write a book or something. I don't know where you've been, but-

Tim  Muehlhoff: And my modeling career took off.

Chris Grace: It did.

Tim  Muehlhoff: It was kind of a... Why was Alisa laughing?

Chris Grace: Laughing? I think she forgot about the modeling part.

Tim  Muehlhoff: To be honest-

Chris Grace: The career part.

Tim  Muehlhoff: A lot of agents forget about it.

Chris Grace: I was going to give you an eyebrow model one time, but I realized it's just Maybelline and they don't use a lot of men, but I've got the eyebrows for it. What were you modeling? Fingers? Hands?

Tim  Muehlhoff: Yeah. People are listening right now going, we really didn't miss him.

Alisa Grace: I don't know. I don't know about that. Oh God.

Chris Grace: All right, Tim. So, you've been gone for a little while from the podcast, but you're back. One of the cool things is, one, you took some time off and been writing a lot. You have a great book out that's just brand new out, Eyes To See. And I think it's by IVP if I'm not mistaken.

Tim  Muehlhoff: Yes.

Chris Grace: A lot of your books are IVP, but Eyes to See: Recognizing God's Common Grace in an Unsettled World. So if y'all haven't seen it yet, Tim Muehlhoff's book, Eyes to See: Recognizing God's Common Grace in an Unsettled World. And it came out just about a week ago, it feels like.

Tim  Muehlhoff: December.

Chris Grace: In December and his dedication is to the small group of all things.

Alisa Grace: Yes, I saw that.

Chris Grace: That was awesome. Thank you. So you can underline-

Alisa Grace: I don't know if we've ever been in a book dedication before.

Chris Grace: Well, I'm sure-

Alisa Grace: I'm honored. I really am. That's really cool. Thanks.

Chris Grace: So, Tim, you have a foreword in there from JP Moreland who's an amazing friend and philosopher of us, ours, yours. Why are you writing a book on common grace and why are you talking about it and thinking about it? And what's the connection with relationships? I mean, common grace is an amazing display that's seen in nature, that's seen in the world. We know God's special grace, but people don't always understand common grace. Have you found that?

Tim  Muehlhoff: Yeah. Or are thankful for common grace. So, the book started really two different avenues. One was a pandemic, go figure, and all of us have been struggling with it, going into a third year of the pandemic. It's easy for me, my Christian friends, my non-Christian friends, to kind of ask, "Where's God? Why isn't he more obvious when an entire world is struggling with COVID part one, part two, part three?" Woody Allen, a very famous atheist director said, "If God exists, He's certainly an underachiever," kind of a comment.

But then something happened that really drove it home. Noreen, and you all know her. She had a routine procedure and a doctor just happened to notice something and biopsied it. And sure enough, we get the test results back that many people listening have gotten as well. And that is it's cancerous. So, now we have to get a full-body imaging process done in a multimillion-dollar machine that was five floors down in St. Jude. And it's going to tell us if the cancer is localized or if it's metastasized and then it's a whole new ballgame.

So, I remember sitting there as we were waiting to go down and holding Noreen's hand and I said something that just struck me that I don't say enough. And that was, "Thank God for this hospital. Thank God for that machine that we're going to know the next day what we're really looking at." And it occurred to me there are so many good gifts from God that I just flat out don't really take time to think about, reflect on and thank God for.

So, what's interesting about that multimillion-dollar machine was made by a multitude of people. Many of them non-Christians. Our doctor is not a Christian. The doctor who happened to notice something in biopsy wasn't a Christian. So, common grace is this idea that God, even though we gave up on God, he didn't give up on us. That he kept in the midst of everything that would happen via the rebellion of Adam and Eve, God saw it was going to happen. I mean, his foreknowledge is complete. So He says, "You know what? You're going to need fire. You're going to need gardening tools. You're going to need antibiotics. You're going to need this thing called penicillin. You're going to need N95 masks. You're going to need a machine that will show you the spread of cancer. You need all of this." And the cool thing about common grace is the word common. He gives it to non-Christians and Christian sinners and saints alike.

So, I just started to say to myself, I need to have a better perspective and look for common grace, especially in the time of a pandemic where every relationship is hurting. Marriages are struggling. Calls to domestic violence shelters are up by almost 70%. So, I began to think that way, and then just started to write down observations. Eyes to See is actually a quote off of CS Lewis, having eyes to see God's faithfulness, His love and His common grace. So, that's how it kind of started. I just started writing things down in a book and thought, "Ah, you know what? Maybe I need to write a book on this," after a while.

Chris Grace: So, the eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart for which it to land. The analogies that we use are physical analogies because our eyes see something, our ears hear something. So Tim, what is it about common grace that requires us to use our physical senses? I mean, isn't that it? I could sit here and discern that God is good and God is graceful and God provides things. But I think what your book title does is it says, "This is requiring something of you." I mean, it takes some sort of effort. Common grace is so easy to ignore. I mean, I could just not think about it, not see it, but you're saying, "Wait, you can look but not see." Yeah, there's a difference between looking and seeing.

Tim  Muehlhoff: And every married couple knows this. So, John Gottman, we quote him all the time on this podcast, but Gottman says, "The first thing to die in a marriage is politeness." I would say the second thing that dies is appreciation.

So, after a while, it's like, "Well, of course dinner's at five. Of course my clothes are done. And of course the oil got changed." Of course, this, this, this, and this. And so you just kind of take it for granted. The longer you're married, you can just kind of stop and say, "You know what? I'm just now expecting these things and I don't necessarily thank the person for it."

Well, that can absolutely apply to God. I mean, if what James says is true, that every good gift comes down from the Father of Lights. Now, many theologians believe he says Father of Lights because he's literally looking up at the starry sky, seeing a plethora of stars and saying, "As vast as the stars are, that's as many gifts as God has given to us."

And so just like in a good marriage, you need to stop every once in a while and say, "Hey, you know, I don't often say this, but man, thank you for dinner. It was awesome. That was great. Thank you for that text you sent. Thank you for these different things." Well, I think that there's a spiritual application is we stop and say, "God, if everything is a good gift, then does that mean," even though Zoom drives us crazy, we're on higher education, it drives us crazy. But, man, a pandemic hit, we didn't miss a beat. We all went into Zoom. Mass are a bother, but I'm going to go teach a class later this afternoon and I can wear my mask and teach the class with live students.

So, to step back and say, am I really prepared to say, "A mask, Zoom, microphones, this is common grace. And I should be thankful towards God." I think James would answer in the affirmative. And so as Christians, we step back and say, "Okay, I got a lot of thanking to do if..." and by the way, we're talking material gifts. It's interesting in Psalm 103, when David says, "I'm going to count the benefits of the Lord," he doesn't start with the material. He starts with the spiritual. "All my iniquities are forgiven. I'll be redeemed from the pit. I've been crowned with loving kindness and compassion." He starts spiritually and works materially. One of the problems with us as Americans, we flip that. And we start with the material blessings. "God, where were you? My car broke down. Where were you? One of my family members got sick."

So the eyes to see thing can revolutionize your walk with God, but I would argue it can also revolutionize your marriage and relationships because now you're vocalizing things that you may think of, but now you're actually taking time to complete the loop and say, "Hey, thank you for doing that."

Alisa Grace: I think this is something that we commonly refer to as reframing. So, you have the same set of circumstances, but you look at it from a different perspective, a different viewpoint. The picture's the same. You just take the frame off and you look at it a different way. You put a new frame, you reframe it.

And so I love the example that you gave, Tim, of you and Noreen in the hospital and just being thankful for that machinery, for the doctors. Two years ago when Chris was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer, we began to embark on one of the most grueling years of cancer treatment and as bad as they say it is, it's that bad. In the midst of it, I think after going through chemo, radiation, surgeries, a nearly ostomy, four more months of infusion chemo, losing hair, losing feeling with that neuropathy, and just so sick that he was spending 18 hours a day asleep in bed.

And on those days where it was the hardest, he would just look at me and he would say, "Lis. What do we have to be grateful for?" It's like, "Just remind me, what do we have to be grateful for?" And so in the midst of that, it's like this treatment as a caregiver, watching him go through that was just incredible. But to be able to stop and say, "Lord, this treatment that feels like it's killing him is actually saving his life. Thank you." It's hard to be thankful when he's in there puking his guts out. It's hard to be thankful when he's going bald, losing his hair, when he just can't even get out of bed, he's so sick, or where he can't feel his feet as he's walking down the hall to go to the bathroom to throw up. But you just stop and think, "You know what, Lord? This medication is actually going to save his life. And I'm so grateful."

Chris Grace: Lis, the reframing is awesome. And what a great way, Tim, to see God's grace with eyes to see. I think what Paul and many of the Psalmists directed us to, David including, was open it, it's right in front of you. You can begin to see Me just by opening your eyes. I have never left you, never forsaken you. I'm right there. And it's those small blessings, those small ways of reframing, Lis, that you mentioned and even friendships. I mean, Tim, you and Noreen and the small group would come around and bring food. I remember you one time brought dinner, a plate of lasagna that fed over 24 people.

Alisa Grace: It was the family size for two of us. It lasted four weeks.

Chris Grace: Lis and I were sitting there and it was this amazing display of just friendship and goodness.

Alisa Grace: So sweet.

Chris Grace: And lasagna that lasted for years. But that's what it is, it's seeing and looking and knowing.

Tim  Muehlhoff: And your last time you're going to go get treatment, I remember we lying-

Chris Grace: Yeah. You stood on the street-

Tim  Muehlhoff: Called the SAC and-

Chris Grace: All of that is-

Tim  Muehlhoff: For sure, all that is calm and grace. It reminds me of what Matt Hughes said. He's one of the original ultimate fighters who's now in the Hall of Fame, but he was hit by a train. It was a foggy night and he didn't see. There's some discrepancy about how well the crossing was working, but he got hit severely. And the day he was released, he said this. I thought this was interesting. "I am beyond grateful for every physician, doctor, nurse, therapist, coach, first responder, family member, friend, et cetera, who worked with me over the past three years. I thank God for guiding their hands and their decisions." And that's the reframing thing, Lis, but I will say common grace can make your life great by reframing, but it can also bring up questions.

Chris Grace: Okay. Let's [crosstalk].

Tim  Muehlhoff: I'm a migraine sufferer. Lucky me. I'm one of the millions of Americans who are migraine sufferers.

Chris Grace: All the... I mean, this is a constant struggle for how many years now?

Tim  Muehlhoff: Oh, 15, 16?

Alisa Grace: Debilitating.

Tim  Muehlhoff: Yeah. Do I believe Ephesians 3:20, "Now to Him is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond." Absolutely. Because I'm writing a book about common grace, I do not discount the overtly supernatural that we've seen. You mentioned JP Moreland writing the foreword to the book. Well, as he's writing the foreword, he's writing a book on experiencing miracles.

So, this to me is the world I live in. So, on one hand, do I believe God can take away my migraines? I do. I actually have a friend of mine who was healed from migraines, which is kind of even irritating, just a little, because I've prayed and had people laid hands on me. So, when I get a migraine, yesterday was a really bad day. I take Maxalt, it's a type of migraine medication that works. I mean, it works.

Now, I could say, "God, I don't get it. Take away my migraine forever." And I don't want to have to use Maxalt, but He has chosen not to do that. So I now can be angry at God and to say, I don't get why. I can be so much more effective, so much more productive, but God says, "But I'm giving you a non-Christian neurologist. I've given you medication that works. I've given you homeopathic stuff that works. A shower routine." Because you can only take so many of this medication in a day. So, I found out this shower routine, where you go and you're like water hit your forehead. It really does help. All of those are good gifts.

So, Alisa, I like your thing about reframing. I can sit and say, "Well, I'm absolutely drawing a line in the sand and I'm waiting for God to heal me without any medical intervention and I'm just going to be angry."

So, I actually started the book with a joke. We've all heard this joke, right?

Chris Grace: I sent the boat.

Tim  Muehlhoff: So, for anybody who's been under a rock and has not heard this joke, here's the joke. The joke is flash flood warning is given over a radio, guy hears it. He's fine, he's a Christian. God's going to save him. Well now the flood waters come. He's now up on the second floor and a boat comes by and says, "Hey, jump in the boat. You'll be okay." He says, "No, I'm good. God's got me. I'm fine." Now he's up on the roof. The waters have risen even higher. And a FEMA helicopter comes by, drops down a ladder, says, "Get on the ladder. Come, we'll save you." He goes, "No, I'm good. God's got me." Well, sure enough, he drowns. He stands in front of God and he goes, "God, why didn't you save me?" And God said, "What do you want? I gave you a radio message, a boat and a helicopter."

Now that is the book. The book is, do I believe it's possible for God to have saved that man without a helicopter or boat? Yes, but expectations play a huge part in our happiness. That could be marriage, friendships, and certainly our relationship with God. So, the man is up on the roof, angry at God because he had a very clear expectation of God acts in really hard times. And that expectation was, I don't know what. Crosswinds would come? Blow the water away? A divine hand would come pick him up? But the question becomes was God in the helicopter?

So, one cool thing was my brother-in-law's actually a Sikorsky pilot and Sikorsky is accredited in 1936 with creating the first fully functional helicopter.

Alisa Grace: Helicopter. Yeah.

Tim  Muehlhoff: At age eight, he started to have these dreams of a flying boat that would come straight down, pick people up, and take them to safety. When he finally gets to the United States, he forms Sikorsky Air Company and creates a helicopter and absolutely attributes it to God. So, all of those aha moments is what the book is about. Now, can I prove that was God? The answer is no, but these are great conversation starters using pop culture that we can use with friends, family member, coworkers, and the book is replete with just great medical history things, inventions. How does God use art? How does He use communication? All these different things to open our eyes, to see that common grace is free-flowing 24/7.

Chris Grace: So, Tim, I'm just surprised that a book like this has taken so long to come out and I know there are a few out there, but just in my reading of it, it's amazing. It's so good.

Let me ask you this question. When you think about a relationship that a person might be in that they're having a hard time seeing God. They are married to the person with migraines and they are saying, "God, I can't take this. I don't know what to do. Why are you?" Isn't there a possibility that one of the reframes in a relationship is if we find ourselves stuck in some place, in some relationship, that our ability to recognize, I wonder what God is doing. What questions should they be asking themselves in order to see better? Are there certain questions you would recommend?

Like, wait a minute, do you think that God might have you in here as a testimony to the neurologist who doesn't know Jesus? Could God be asking you for some reason to be the helicopter for that, the spiritual helicopter for your neurologist? A spiritual helicopter that you are in because you wouldn't be able to reach that guy that prescribed that medication, nor would the spouse be in a relationship in which others say, "Look at the way she treats and serves and come alongsides and supports. What a model for Jesus. Look at the way he loves his wife through this." And that you become the pilot of the helicopter that God needs, but you wouldn't be there.

Tim  Muehlhoff: So, I have a story about that. You know that I had to make a difficult decision to give up all my knowledge on automotive things, because I wanted to become a-

Alisa Grace: Sorry. Didn't mean to laugh.

Chris Grace: Become a model.

Tim  Muehlhoff: ... professor. So, I'm at Campus Crusade for Christ on staff with crew. We're at Miami of Ohio University in Oxford, Ohio. I have set up this huge campus-wide meeting on evangelism, pulling together all the campus ministries. I'm leading the meeting. It is not Southern California. It is Ohio. And it snows like crazy and it's freezing. So, I'm running out the door. I cannot be late to this meeting. Get in my car, turn that thing. Nothing. I mean, not even a click. And I'm like, "You are kidding me." I cannot... Again, click. "Lord. Oh my gosh." So, I'll never forget this. I go to my apartment, literally lay face down on the ground. I said, "God, I need your help. I got to get to this meeting." I'm praying right now in Jesus' name that when I walk out there, I'm turning that key and it fires up and I'm claiming this in the authority of Jesus Christ. As sincere as I can. Walk out there, close that door. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I'm just like, "Are you kidding me?"

Well, in pulls Vance, who's on our team, who knows a ton about cars. So, I pop my head out. I said, "Man, you won't believe this. My car won't start. I got this meeting." He goes, "Oh, okay man, hang on." So, he, under the freezing snow, crawls under. "Hey man, go get not your tools, brother, go get my tools." Get his tools. Boom, boom, boom, boom. Took about a half hour. I was late, but it fired up. So, I drive and there I am. I would say the predominant feeling was upset. God, I know you could have done this. This is the reframing thing, Alisa, because I could have stayed in that moment. I am upset. You could have done... It would have been nothing for You to do. And I would have had a story to tell forever, but He used my friend.

And that's your point, Chris, is God has given us this wonderful ministry of partnership. And part of that is you be the common grace. So fascinating that we read all throughout the Old Testament, God is for the foreigner, the outcast. Then he says to James, one of the earliest New Testament leaders, "Listen, you want to know what true religion is in the sight of God? Caring for orphans and widows in distress. You know how I'm going to do it? You. Now, go do it, church. Do not forget about this." And that to me is a beautiful partnership where we get to be the hands and feet of God in really, really practical ways.

Chris Grace: Well, on a previous podcast or maybe one that's somewhere recorded that Alisa talked about was an opportunity, Tim, that she found in a McDonald's line, a situation, a story. She just pays for the drive-through the person behind them. That person chases them down afterwards, gets out of the car and says, "Why did you do that?" And she goes, "The Lord's blessed me and I felt like blessing you." And he says, "We are a military family. Money is hard. And we are just overwhelmed when we found out that you had paid for our meal." And she-

Alisa Grace: A complete stranger.

Chris Grace: ... becomes a vehicle for God's grace. Isn't that it? I mean, that's what community is. It's that maybe that's the very definition is sometimes the need for us to be in community and relationship with others is the fact that that's the best way to see God's hand, not just the stars and that's awesome, but to be able to love one another. What do you think, Lis?

Alisa Grace: I love that. And I think not only that someone else can be that conduit that you're talking about of God's grace. But I think also back to Mark Batterson in his book, The Circle Maker on Prayer and the 40-day Prayer Challenge, changed my prayer life, was so, so good. One of the things he says is that there are times for... Oftentimes we're praying, "God, get me out of this, change this, start my car right now. I need your answer to this ASAP right now." And that oftentimes He doesn't move right now. And that we have to learn to turn that around, to pray... What is it? A-L-A-I-T, as long as it takes, Lord, to accomplish what You want this situation to accomplish.

So, actually the very challenge itself becomes the mechanism of grace in our lives, where he says, oftentimes when we pray for circumstances to change, to change, to change and we pray, and it doesn't happen, that oftentimes it's because God is using those very circumstances to change us. And that's the common grace.

Tim  Muehlhoff: It is. It is.

Alisa Grace: Even in the moment of the challenge. I love it when... This is from Habakkuk 317. This verse meant so much to me as we were going through that cancer treatment. And on those hard, grueling hard days, I would read this and Habakkuk 317 through 319 says this. "Even though the fig trees have no blossoms and there are no grapes on the vines, even though the olive crop fails and the fields lie empty and barren, even though the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in the God of my salvation, for the sovereign Lord is my strength. He makes me as surefooted as a deer and able to tread upon the heights." Notice he didn't change... That common grace is the Lord's strength. He didn't change the circumstances, but he met the need in the midst of them.

Chris Grace: It's been such a powerful verse for her that we've named our first child Habakkuk.

Alisa Grace: Chris is still learning to say it.

Chris Grace: I don't know how to spell it let alone say it. How do you say that? Habakkuk.

Alisa Grace: Wouldn't you hate to be a first grader learning to spell your name?

Chris Grace: Hey Habukkuk, come on over.

Alisa Grace: H-A.

Chris Grace: What do you think, Tim?

Tim  Muehlhoff: I love that. I think we're in a weird place as Christians because we know God's all powerful. We know He's aware. We know He can do certain things. And yet we find ourselves almost like Pascal, who was at times like, "God, I know you could... You are hidden. And I know you could reveal yourself in an undeniable way anytime you want to. And I'm just confused why you don't choose to do that." I think that's a fair question. I don't think we ever get from the scriptures that you're not allowed to ask hard questions and even voice your disappointment.

So, what do we do when it's like... See there, let's go back to Miami of Ohio University. It would have been awesome. It would have been a story I never would have forgotten.

Alisa Grace: A real testimony.

Tim  Muehlhoff: What's that?

Alisa Grace: A real testimony. Look what God did.

Tim  Muehlhoff: I mean, right there, that car is dead. It is dead in the water and it would have been so cool for that thing to fire up. And then Vance comes along. And you see how there's the doubt? The doubt is like, well, he just happened to come along. He does know about cars. He did fix the car. I did get to the meeting. It was a good meeting. A boat did come. You know what I mean? That's where the faith thing comes in. That's what Hebrews says, "Without faith, it's impossible to please Me, but I'm a rewarder of those who seek Me." So I do think, and again, I am not discounting the Old Testament nor the New Testament nor even stories we've heard afar and here of the miraculous. We know somebody in our marriage group-

Alisa Grace: Yes.

Tim  Muehlhoff: ... that we would say-

Alisa Grace: Had a miracle. Healing.

Tim  Muehlhoff: ... had a miracle. And all of us are deeply encouraged by that. So, I don't want to discount any of that. But if I'm using my life as the example, I'm saying the modus operandi is common grace. And so Nehemiah said, remember, they're building the wall and they get word that they're going to be attacked. So Nehemiah, fascinating verse in chapter four, he says, "So we prayed and posted a guard." I like that. "We prayed and we posted that guard." To me, that's going to be the balancing act of life. I am going to pray for a release from migraines and take my Maxalt. You know what I mean?

Alisa Grace: Yeah. Batterson calls that pray like it depends on you or "Pray like it depends on God. Act like it depends on you."

Chris Grace: Yeah. Tim, that's so good. And that idea of grace, eyes to see what common grace is in relationships and in our own lives and how we see Him. Let's continue this conversation. In fact, let's have another podcast because I want to hear a little bit more about how this comes into play in things like relationships, in the area of things like communication, or how we see beauty in the world of art. What do you think?

Tim  Muehlhoff: And in like the Detroit Lions?

Chris Grace: Well, Detroit lions. Yeah. I forgot about them.

Alisa Grace: Our Broncos and Detroit Lions need a lot of help.

Tim  Muehlhoff: Stop that. Do not put the Broncos who have won a Super Bowl. Have you won a Super Bowl?

Alisa Grace: Yes.

Tim  Muehlhoff: Do not.

Alisa Grace: Yes.

Tim  Muehlhoff: Do not put us in the line. We have our own misery, Alisa.

Chris Grace: All right, everybody, it's good talking with you.

Tim  Muehlhoff: Bye, you all.

Alisa Grace: Bye-bye.

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