CORN-HOLE VICTORIES AND PARTYING WITH GOD

CORN-HOLE VICTORIES AND PARTYING WITH GOD

Thunk! “YES!” I fist pumped. Thunk! “Just one more!” I said to my partner, did my wind up, and tossed. Thunk! “We won! We won!” I shouted, threw my hands up and did a victory dance. It was a classic come from behind victory. I could hear Jim Nance intoning, “It was a cornhole tournament unlike any other.”

Everybody at the church picnic turned and looked at their nutty pastor and smiled.

Hey, don’t laugh. At my age, sporting victories are few and far between. I celebrate them whenever I get the chance. In fact, I celebrate—a word with roots deep in worship of God—any time I can think of an excuse to do so, and so should you.

“Joy is the serious business of heaven,” wrote C.S. Lewis. Joy is what heaven is about. It is the driving energy of life. Without it we wither. Partying with God is essential to a happy life.

Have you considered how much joy there is in the Bible? The New Testament begins with it and is filled with it. Do a concordance search on “joy” or “rejoicing” and you’ll be amazed. Maybe that’s one of the reasons Jesus said, “Unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Children do joy automatically.

G. K. Chesterton explained, “Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”[1]

God has an immense capacity for simple joy that we have lost and need to regain. The ability to party with God, the spiritual discipline of celebration, is a crucial step in reclaiming our joy. It is crucial because joyless Christians help no one.

Put yourself in the position of someone looking for answers in life. You’re looking around at the people you know, the people you see in the hair salon, the other moms at the baseball field. You’re watching them because you know they go to a church that says there is more to this life. Yet you don’t see any joy. You see crabbiness. You see selfishness. You see someone who can find the fly in every ice cream cone of life. Are you going to be interested in her spirituality?

Somebody out there in the spiritual world wants you to find all the faults in others and all the sadness you can swallow, but it isn’t Jesus Christ. Francis de Sales wrote, “The evil one is pleased with sadness and melancholy because he himself is sad and melancholy and will be so for all eternity. Hence he desires that everyone should be like himself.”[2] Misery loves company.

Joy is an absolute necessity for healthy spiritual life. Without it we shrivel and become vulnerable, more vulnerable to temptation than ever. Fulfillment, contentment, and dare I say it, pleasure, are essential elements for a strong soul. When we fail to find these good things God wants us to have, and then celebrate the goodness, sin seems better than what He has to offer. Temptation’s power is multiplied in an unhappy soul.

So, I urge you, learn the spiritual discipline of celebration. Learn to take each good thing out of each good day, even the corn-hole victories of life, and revel in the goodness of God.

[1] G. K. Chesterton, quoted by John Ortberg in The Life You’ve Always Wanted, p. 61

[2] Francis de Sales. Quoted by Ortberg in The Life You’ve Always Wanted. P. 64.

 

BEWARE BLACK FRIDAY

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Jesus (Luke 12:15)

One of our church members, who worked in a well-known department store, mentioned something one Thanksgiving week that made me gasp. “I have to be at work at 2:00 AM next Friday morning.”

The next day, at the teen ministry I co-sponsored at the middle school, one of the kids said, “I can’t believe it. My mom is waking me up at 1:00 AM Friday to go shopping!”

I confess that I am not a serious shopper. I know that it is sensible to try to save money by taking advantage of sales. But let’s be honest about this, Black Friday is a Greed Fest, a singularly American celebration of buying and selling that rivals any other holiday on the calendar. (Note: Holiday is a word derived from Holy Day – a special day for celebration of the deity). Our dedication to getting THE DEAL on the latest trendy toy or 4G gadget is so fanatical that we will stand in line in sub-freezing temperatures at two in the morning and then literally run over each other for the limited supply of DOOR BUSTING BARGAINS! (Lucky for you southerners this year, the temps will be mild).

Let’s not kid ourselves. This is worship. Worship includes sacrifice, adoration and celebration. Fanatical dedication to Black Friday shopping has all the ingredients. There is sacrifice. Can you remember the last time you got up at two in the morning to pray or give or serve or go to a worship service? There is adoration. “Wow! I’ve always wanted one of these!” And there is celebration. “Can you believe it? What a DEAL I got!” We don’t like to admit it but this kind of activity is what worship is made of. It is the great American sin that we never condemn. But the apostle Paul puts it right up there with the sins we do condemn.

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these…( Col 3:5-8 NIV)

One day in the department store is no different from any other. Shopping on Black Friday is not a sin. Looking for bargains is not transgression. And if you are going shopping on Friday I hope you find what you’re looking for. But beware the ethos of Black Friday — the culture that celebrates the abundance of possessions as life’s highest good. There is much, much MORE to life than finding Friday’s best bargains.

YOU’RE WORTH IT

News of the missing pilot and the massive search for him headlined global media.

Authorities initially believed that sometime on September 3, 2007, Steve Fossett, the first person to circle the globe in a hot-air balloon, had made an emergency landing in the vast Nevada landscape. Hundreds of search teams were hired to comb the rugged terrain, using planes, helicopters, and the latest search technology. Thousands of web surfers, armed only with personal computers and Google search technology, were recruited to study high-resolution photographs for clues concerning Fossett’s location.[1]

Fossett was perhaps the world’s best adventurer. He was not only the first man to circle the globe in a balloon he was also the first to do it solo in an airplane. Fossett, 63, had previously survived a nearly 30,000-foot plunge in a crippled balloon, a dangerous swim through the frigid English Channel, and hours stranded in shark-infested seas[2].

The guy knew what he’s doing in some of the world’s most dangerous environments and knew how to survive when things went wrong. But the truth is even though he was a wealthy, experienced adventurer, he was lost.

Cynical people said that Fossett was getting all this attention because he was rich and famous. But his friends weren’t looking for him because he was wealthy or experienced. They were looking because he was lost and they loved him. That’s it. That made him worth it.

By the time you reach chapter fifteen in Luke’s story of Jesus you find a bunch of people hanging out with him that were far removed from the Steve Fossetts of their day. They were the low life of the landscape, the zeroes of Palestine, the ‘tax gatherers and sinners’.  If they got lost, NOBODY would go looking for them. Yet Jesus was hanging out with them. Jesus was having them over for lunch. Jesus was meeting them for coffee in the morning. It was a major taboo, monstrously politically incorrect, it just wasn’t done!

But Jesus was doing it and he heard the muttering so he told three stories we’re all familiar with: The parable of the lost sheep; the parable of the lost coin; the parable of the lost or “prodigal” son.  He told them back to back. He told them in order to teach us something no one believed about God then and many of us still have a hard time believing now.

In all three stories people got lost. That’s the point with the sheep, and the coin, and the son. They all represent people like you and me. And like Steve Fossett, it doesn’t matter how good or experienced, or wealthy, or smart they happen to be, people get lost like sheep get lost. It’s just a fact of our fallen human nature.

The stories also tell us that God doesn’t care how we got lost. Jesus didn’t spend any time saying, “That dumb sheep, always looking for greener grass.” The prodigal’s father made no comment on how the son got lost. The older brother did. But the father didn’t bother. He just said, “He was dead and now he’s alive, he was lost and now he’s found”. That’s all that matters to God.

Finally, the stories tell us that God doesn’t care how badly we are lost. Feeding pigs was about as low as a Jewish kid could get, until he started eating their food, which was even lower.

Some of us know we’re lost and think, “I’ve gone as low as a person can go. No way will God be interested in me, no way.”

But that’s not what the stories tell us.

No matter what the world thinks of you or what you think of yourself, God loves you so much that he will turn heaven upside down looking for you when you are lost and celebrating you when you’re found.

———

Sadly, the mangled remains of Fossett’s plane were found thirteen months after he disappeared. The legendary adventurer’s luck had run out.

The good news is that yours hasn’t. If you are lost and you are reading this post, be assured of this: God loves you so much that he has turned heaven upside down looking for you and he will do it again when you are found.

Want to know more about God’s love for you? Click this link and watch the videos: http://alphausa.org/

[1] Brian Lowery, associate editor, PreachingToday.com; source: Associated Press, “Couch Potatoes Aid Search for Missing Aviator Steve Fossett Using Internet,” http://www.cnn.com (9-11-07

[2] Foxnews.com Oct. 8