“It’s Not About Being One Of The Best”

This post is a followup to yesterday’s post and tries to fill in a few gaps that may explain why some people become who they are.

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong.”

I don’t know when we stop becoming little ones. There are times that I want to go back to being a little one, particularly on days when I feel I have absolutely no strength in myself.

I have a feeling that there are some things that we have to resolve when we are a little one, and if we don’t resolve them then, they will confound us until we do. One of those things is the love of Jesus.

Perhaps one of the strongest senses a child has is whether or not they are loved. It may be stronger than their sense of whether or not they are warm and nourished. Children gravitate to love. They want to figure out how to receive more of it. Sometimes it’s very difficult to figure out, particularly when using just outward appearances. Sometimes outward appearances appear to be what love is all about. Who always seems to have new stylish clothes? The popular new toy? Who always seems to get picked for special privileges at school and at church? Who is “The Best Boy” in my class? Who is “The Best Girl”?

God made you just the way you are.

God loves you just the way you are.

God picked out your family just for you.

But what if you don’t look like all of the other children? You have brown skin, but they don’t. You have a twisted limb, but they don’t. You wear the same thing to church every Sunday, but they always have something new. Your mom gives you cereal for dinner, but they have a hot meal. Your dad is in jail, but theirs is playing ball with them in the backyard. Maybe that’s part of what “They are weak, but He is strong” is really all about.

It’s not always easy when you’re not one of “The Favorites,” but then there is a different kind of difficulty for those who are one of “The Favorites.” Maybe that’s a different kind of weak too.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that sometimes we may have to help people figure out God’s love is not like the things we see that may accompany human love. It’s too easy to be lured away by those things as nice and as wholesome as they are. Then maybe they will realize they have been receiving God’s love all along.

“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 Changing God’s Mind”

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

You may like to read posts and articles where the author says, “Here is some new knowledge for you. This is the way things are.” This is not going to be one of those. It is just going to be mostly some “What if” statements as my way of thinking through some things. (You may have already figured these things out. I’m still working on them.)
What if we don’t look at the Cross of Christ as a “keeping law and order” kind of legal transaction?

I ask this because I’m thinking that whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child, “You have made God hate you, and God is going to make you pay for what you’ve done. Too bad you’re not like other children that God loves. You just wait.”

What if we stop thinking like this? “When you sin, God gets angry, the gun of execution is loaded and cocked. Somebody has got to die. It’s either going to be Jesus or you.”

I ask this because I’m thinking whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child, “It’s a good thing that God had Jesus killed so that He can change His mind about you. It was either going to be Jesus or you.”

What if we start thinking like this? “God the Father never stopped loving humanity. Nor did He need to separate from, turn His back on, and kill God the Son to start loving humanity again.”

What if we stopped thinking of baptism as “an initiation ritual” and started living it out as “a spiritual reality”?

That truly seems to have been Paul’s perspective.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 (NASB)

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4 (NASB)

What if in God the Father’s eyes, He saw Jesus and you and me altogether on the Cross? What if in God the Father’s eyes, He saw Jesus and you and me altogether leaving the tomb? How do we live that out right here and now?

What if the good we now do is because we really have a new life in Christ rather than a guilty obligation? (It’s an obligation we feel because Jesus “took the bullets with our names on them”?)

What if after we say “Somebody has got to die,” we don’t say “It’s either going to be Jesus OR us”? What if instead we say “It’s ALREADY BEEN Jesus AND us”? How do we live that out right here and now?

“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!

“It’s Not About Conforming”


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

The New Testament tells us that Jesus went about “preaching the gospel” and telling people to “believe the gospel.”

But what was that message? And what does it have to say to hurting children?

Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting and bullied child, “It’s your own fault. You brought this on yourself. Stop being so different. You have to fit in before we can accept you and we aren’t going to stop knocking you down until you change to be like us! Even then maybe not!”

Please don’t misunderstand, there must be a “conforming” aspect to the Gospel, but it is not a requirement to be accepted, nor is it something that we are able to do for ourselves.

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NRSV)

Any transformation we need will come from the Lord, the Spirit, but first we must see the glory of Jesus.

We cannot see Him when we are focused on messages such as “You must be like us before we welcome you, and even then maybe not because we remember who you really are.” (This is tue both for those sending this type of message and for those protecting themselves from this type of message.)

Whatever The Gospel is…it must be welcoming enough for a bullied child to feel loved just as they are without pressure to conform and change in order to be accepted, or eventually that bullied child may begin to see God as the biggest bully ever.

If you might consider yourself a “Church Outsider,” please know that there are churches that don’t have a list of all the things that you must and must not be, must and must not do. There are churches which will meet you exactly where you are and even offer to walk with you wherever Jesus leads.