“It’s Not About God’s Wonderful Plan For Your Life”

The images used in this graphic page contrast two different worlds, yet whatever the Gospel is, it must have a message for both worlds.
Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child, “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” I know that for some people that will sound like blasphemy, like I’m denying a Biblical fact. But I’m not. (At least, I’m not trying to do so. I just want to clarify.)

If you are familiar with “The Four Spiritual Laws,” you will know that this is the First Spiritual Law. (Who doesn’t like laws? And especially laws that say you can have a wonderful life?) And honestly, I’ve used “The Four Spiritual Laws” to share the Gospel. But the more I see of life, the less I’m inclined to want to use the words “a wonderful plan.” I want better words that tell me what God wants, not what my imagination wants.

In some respects, “God has a wonderful plan for your life” sounds like a “sales pitch,” and I don’t think that would have worked very well in the early church when being a follower of Christ meant possible imprisonment, torture, and a horrible painful death. There are still places in the world where it can mean these same things. Let’s be honest. None of those gruesome things “sell.” It almost gives me the impression of being “false advertising.” This is particularly true when you look at the perfect “truth in advertising” Jesus provided.

People are probably going to “revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Matthew 5:11 (NRSV)

And that’s just to start. Think about it. You have to tell yourself “No” and give up everything that’s all about you.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25 (NRSV)

Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child, “Yes, your Mommy is an addict who would do anything for drugs and your Daddy cooks meth in the garage, but God has a wonderful plan for your life.” Isn’t that a lot like saying, “Your parents are failures. They totally missed God’s wonderful plan for their lives.” It’s that a lot like separating a child from their only source of survival and hope for tomorrow? That’s scary.

Eventually the hurt child may even create an idea of “a wonderful plan for your life” far from the reality they experience growing up, a reality that only happens in “happily ever after.” That’s scary too, but for a different reason.

Maybe that’s why evangelism often fails with children who have grown up. (I say “children who have grown up” here because even as adults we still carry our childhood self with us.) We know that reality seldom matches what we imagined. Sometimes we do the same things our parents did, and hate ourselves and our lives all the more for it. Sometimes we experience things that feel far from being part of “a wonderful plan,” so we blame ourselves, feeling like somehow we’ve missed something.
Maybe we need to ditch our own made up imaginary “happily ever after wonderful plan for your life” ideas and see what God really offers.

In the end, I think the only guarantee we have is this.

“…And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NRSV)

Jesus Himself. He alone is a wonderful plan for your life. Sadly, we may only discover this when all of our imaginary “happily ever after wonderful plan for my life” ideas have failed us.

So maybe the message should be “God has a wonderful plan for your life and it’s all about knowing Jesus”?

“It’s Not About Staying In Your Box”

The images used in this graphic page contrast two different worlds, yet whatever the Gospel is, it must have a message for both worlds.

It’s not always easy for me to choose words for pictures which carry so much meaning and emotion. The image of a child’s hand reaching out from that dark enclosed space through a small hole cut into a locked metal door is troubling. (I believe it was from a news story that I came across many months ago. It was about the imprisonment and forced labor of children in some country on the other side of the world.)

How can something like this be? What do you say to that child? What is the Gospel for that child? These questions create a feeling of helplessness in me. The only Bible verse that comes to mind is this.

So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 (NASB)

But is that really what we would say? “Believe in Jesus. He will make you free.” And then walk away from that small hand reaching out for help. Does that seem as uncaring to you as it does to me? My heart cries out for immediate rescue. I do not like the idea of any child shut away in a box.

What if that image strikes our hearts so deeply because it is really a representation of what each life is like without the light of Christ? Then aren’t we all the same as that child with the desperate hand? If not physically the same, then certainly spiritually the same without God’s intervention? Perhaps that is why it touches the heart so deeply.

This week I found the other image to pair with it. There is a small hand in it too, except it is expressing desire, wonder, and amazement at all the bags of candy and treats available inside a glass display box. What if we are so focused on what we want for ourselves and become so blinded by our own desires that we are unable to see the desperation of others? Have we not then created our own dark box of imprisonment?

While I chose it as an opposite, the more I study the two together, the more similarities I see. The first shows imprisonment to the desires of someone else. The second shows imprisonment to the desires of oneself. But both show imprisonment. I am also now less sure of which life is better. The first makes me think of people who have said, “My life is like Hell, so can Real Hell be any worse?” The second makes me think of people who have said, “Yeah, I’ll end up in Hell, but at least I’ll have fun getting there!” These perspectives are troubling. It is as if we must be imprisoned, either to someone else’s desires or to our own desires, but in the end, the result is the same. We just may be fortunate enough to choose our box of imprisonment. That’s really all the hope there is.

There must be an alternative. What was it again that Jesus said?

So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 (NASB)

Many of us have looked at our lives and said, “I do not know what else is out there, but it must be better than what is in here.” Even in the darkest cell created by others or created by ourselves, some light gets inside, and some hope remains.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5 (NRSV)

There are hearts shut away in boxes all around us. We don’t need to travel to the other side of the world to find them. It doesn’t matter whether they were put inside to fulfill someone else’s desires or by trying to fulfill their own desires. We are called to be His Light Bearers to every heart in every box. This is where inward attitudes and outward behaviors, I believe, come together to be the Body Of Christ.

“Voices From The Last Pew”

I’ve been thinking for some time now about adding a new graphic strip, one that is more on the serious side and shares maybe something different.

There is a great variety of Christian blogs on WordPress, and I’m unsure exactly where this one fits. (Then again, that shouldn’t be anything new for a guy who has felt out of place most of his life! A guy who has been and maybe still is both “Church Insider” and “Church Outsider”!)

The past few months have given me a chance to read a good number of posts here and to see a little better what’s happening in the world. So I’ve wanted to add something new that will reflect what I’m seeing.

There is a great deal of hurt going on and many people struggling to recover from past wounds. It’s something with which I feel a desire to help by hopefully binding up wounds even though I did not cause them.

Hurt and abuse that is done to us or that we do to ourselves are serious topics. I’ve been preparing a new graphic strip tentatively titled “Voices From The Last Pew.” It will hopefully offer some insights into adults struggling with big hurts and big questions since many times hurting children grow up to be hurting adults.

The “Last Pew” can refer to either “the last pew at the back of the sanctuary closest to the exit door” or “the last pew a person will ever sit in before giving up completely.” This last reference is particularly important for those of us who believe that we should never knowingly shut anyone out.

The initial perspective will be along the lines of “This is what the church is saying to the ‘Church Insider’ but this is what the ‘Church Outsider’ is hearing.”

I must be honest and say that I have no real 100% guaranteed answers, but I do believe that it is so very important to acknowledge, just acknowledge, that life experiences can effect how we hear God’s Word.

Ultimately, I believe, God’s Word Made Flesh, Jesus Christ, speaks the answers that heal and restore.

The first posting for “Voices From The Last Pew” should appear tomorrow and will deal with “Forgiveness” and the question “How can you ever forgive someone who has wounded you so very deeply?” Again, no real 100% guaranteed answers because I’m not offering “Miraculous Multiplying American Christian Apple Pie” here! Hopefully this will open some hearts however!