“I am the way…” John 14:6
In one of my all-time favorite Peanuts cartoons, Charlie Brown is standing on the deck of a cruise ship with a rather disheartened look on his face clutching his unfolded deck chair. Lucy, who always seems to have it all together, has already unfolded her deck chair and is waxing eloquently about life. She says to Charlie that some people set the deck chairs of life to look at all that has gone by, others set their deck chairs to look at all that is in the here and now, and that still others position their chairs to look at all that is ahead. To which Charlie responds, “I can’t even get my deck chair unfolded.”
My guess is that we’ve all had days when we feel more like Charlie Brown than Lucy. Down deep inside—sometimes way down deep inside—there is this nagging feeling that we don’t quite have life figured out. That when we are really honest with ourselves, life isn’t all we thought it would be. Shouldn’t there be something more than the endless to-do lists? And, why does the pressure to perform and prosper make us feel like the proverbial donkey chasing the carrot dangling forever in front of us? And why is it that when we take life by the throat and pull off a smashing success, it quickly morphs into a mere memory as life trudges on?
Want something more—something different? Then pack up your bags and enlist yourself as a Person of the Way. Join the revolution! The revolution headed by the world’s greatest revolutionary, Jesus. I’m not sure what you think about when the thought of Jesus crosses your mind, but my guess is that the word revolutionary rarely surfaces. Yet that is exactly who He is! Missing the point that Jesus came to spark a revolution in this upside-down world—a revolution to take upside-down people and turn them right side up—is to miss the very heart of why He came and to miss the point of life as it is intended to be.
Jesus’ arrival on our planet was an invasion from another world to overthrow the ruthless regime of King Beelzebub and to set earthbound captives free. But the revolution doesn’t stop there. It’s about freeing us sin slaves from the grip of hell in every aspect of our lives. It’s about setting up a whole new way of thinking and living, about giving freed captives a life of purpose and significance. And I don’t mean that it is a revolution whose end game is to get you to go to church more, to keep more rules, or to get busy doing more jobs for God. We already have too many who are on that bandwagon yet have no clue about the revolution. This revolution is about changing the way we think, act, and react and then raising the torch and taking the way into every aspect of our lives—into every encounter, every relationship, every responsibility, and every commodity we own.
If you see yourself as a follower of Jesus, but you still think about your money like everyone else; react to your offenders like everyone else; think about your career like everyone else; live with “you” at the center of your universe like everyone else; think about sex like everyone else; find life to be an endless string of random unfulfilling events like everyone else, then one thing is clear: You have missed the revolution.
|January 31, 2017
Tearing Up the Star Charts
“Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.’” Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV)
Our son Cooper was nearly 4 years old the day we first met him. In my head, I was flying to Africa to bring home my cuddly little toddler, only to arrive and realize this was a full-blown kid who had learned how to rule his roost at the orphanage. We’d had no input on any of the 1,400 days of his life so far, then — bam! — just like that, he was our son.
When we brought Coop back to the guest home in Rwanda, words poured out of him without any apparent concern that none of us knew what he was saying.
That first night I cooked “popeyes” for dinner on a tiny skillet. I grew up in Arkansas eating popeyes: over-medium eggs, with the yellow yolk poking out of a little hole in toast. The typical thick porridge he ate in the orphanage didn’t require utensils, but popeyes do. But when I reached to show him how the fork worked, he knocked it away.
My husband Zac quickly corrected him with words Coop couldn’t yet understand but in a tone that he apparently did. That child stood up and started waving his finger and preaching like he was in church. Our strong-willed, gregarious new son was obviously familiar with a good old-fashioned southern scolding.
This was a showdown of wills, and we needed a way to motivate his cooperation. When we got home, Coop had one obsession: a bike. So I printed a picture of the most epic bike any 4-year-old had ever seen, and I made rows of squares with an arrow pointing to the bike. Then, whenever Coop did anything noteworthy — used the potty, used a fork, stayed in bed, shared his toys — he earned a little star sticker toward that bike.
And I will be honest: it worked.
In fact, that star chart still works. He can’t do math to save his life until there is a light saber at the end of 10 stickers. Then he can do long division in second grade.
While this brings out the best in Coop’s behavior and performance, in some ways it also brings out the worst.
My Coop fights shame. Somewhere along the way, Coop decided he was a bad kid. So on the days he earns a star, a grin breaks out, as if this star proved his worth. But if he doesn’t land his star, his head drops, as if the finger-waving scoldings from the orphanage are all true. Yes, Coop wants enough stickers for his light saber, but this ache is bigger. Something in him strives to prove he is enough.
We all have our own version of star charts, something we are trying to get approval for, from our parents, friends, spouses, kids, online acquaintances, coworkers or even from God. Most of us carry that striving feeling all our lives.
But the way we interact with people eventually makes its way into our spiritual lives. So often we try to relate to God through star charts — and we end up feeling shame or disappointment that our performance didn’t bring the outcome we wanted. We try to work harder, achieve more, jump farther, score higher in order to win His approval or blessing. We end up relating to God with an underlying fear rather than full of expectant, childlike, joy-filled faith.
God doesn’t work with star charts. He is not manipulated by our performance. InJeremiah 9:23-24, He says: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”
God is not after great performances or great movements. He is after us!
God already knows we aren’t enough, but He’s not asking us to be. We are the ones who have chosen to walk through the desert with enormous packs strapped to our backs full of everything but water. As if the kingdom of God were held up or together by us.
To get to the place where God can be enough, we have to first admit we aren’t. Pretending we are okay is how many of us are making life work. With that illusion gone, we might have to live needing God.
And it might be hard. Strike that. It is hard.
No more performing. No more pretending. No more proving ourselves.
Because we have nothing to prove.
Dear God, I’m realizing it’s not my curse that I believe I’m not enough; it’s my sin that I keep trying to be. Thank You for the reminder that life with You means I can rest, and I have nothing to prove. Will You continue to show me Your freedom, Your power and my need to stop striving to please You and instead just live life with You? In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Believers are born into a living hope, whereas people without Christ have no foundation for their expectations and desires. Many non-Christians live with a false sense of security. They assume that what is important in this life is the physical and material. But there is no safety in things (1 Tim. 6:9). Those who pursue wealth and health rather than God find that their dreams either go unfulfilled or fail to satisfy.
Christians anchor their hope in the solid rock of Jesus Christ. His words are always true and His promises are never broken. I’ll sometimes hear a person project his or her unfulfilled desires on God and then argue that He came up short. But believers who make a request and submit to God’s will always get an answer: yes, no, or wait.
The Lord does not disappoint those who seek His will. Don’t misunderstand that statement. We might feel temporarily let down when something we hope for is not in God’s plan. But He doesn’t go back on the biblical promise to give His children what’s best (Isa. 48:17; Isa. 64:4). When one door closes, there is another about to open with something better behind it. And remember, the Lord cannot be outdone. We can’t even wish ourselves as much good as God has in store.
The best choice a Christian can make is to fix his or her hope on the Lord Jesus Christ. Welcome whatever fits His will for your life, and turn away from all that does not. Circumstances may shift and change, but Jesus never does. He is a living hope who never disappoints.