Sometimes, hope hurts.
It shouldn’t. The phrase “hope hurts” should be an oxymoron, like “Lil Wayne gospel album.” But I promise you, it’s not.
Sometimes, when you’re so deep in a season of hurt, you get used to the bad. You start to think you deserve it. You start to expect it and get comfortable with it and get numb to it. And like a creature that lives so far down on the bottom of the sea, you adapt to it. You cobble together little survival mechanisms that help you get through. You get by.
But hope is tenacious …
Even in the darkest of my days, when I’d journal about suicide and despair, a fragment of hope still bounced about softly in the dryer of my head. (When you’re married with kids and have lots of laundry to do, 42% of your metaphors and analogies become housework flavored.)
There was a problem though. There was a painful obstacle between me and hope. You see, I was so far down the path of hopelessness, I was so lost and selfish and bent on destruction, that I found myself in a terrible lose-lose situation. For example: If people were kind to me, I felt scared because I believed the lie that, if they really knew me, they wouldn’t be kind to me and would be horrified at who I really am. If people were mean to me, I felt hurt because they had been mean to me. Any way I turned simply resulted in more fear and more hurt.
And that is one of sin’s goals. Not simply to remove the good from your life, but to have it actually serve as a weapon of mass destruction.
Have you ever felt that way?
Have you ever felt completely unworthy when someone offers you love?
Have you ever been ashamed of the lies you’re living when someone offers you truth?
Have you ever felt undeserving of something good, because deep down, you believed that person wouldn’t really love you if they knew who you were?
It’s very possible that I’m the only one, and that’s OK. But I do need to tell you about the 9 words in the Bible that changed the way hope felt for me. And they’re 9 words you’ve probably missed just like I did for so many years. Which is why I remixed this post.
I’ve written about this before, but I’m a big fan of “edge verses.” I’m a big fan of looking on the periphery of a scene in the Bible and seeing all the deep truth that often gets hidden amidst a major scene. And, in Luke 22, that certainly happens.
Jesus is on the threshold of getting crucified. He has the last supper with his disciples. He is sharing his thoughts on the father and the concept of serving and ruling. There is a sense of great importance heavy in the air. In the middle of that, he has a short conversation with Simon about how he is going to betray him.
It’s going to happen. Jesus knows this, but he wishes it wasn’t. He says to Simon in Luke 22:31-32:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”
And then, in 9 words, he explains a big part of the reason I thought a mess-up like me ever had a chance at being a Christian.
Jesus tells Simon:
“And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
That’s it. Those are 9 really simple words, but they demand a second look.
Do you see what Jesus is saying in that first half of the sentence: “And when you have turned back?” He’s saying:
And when you fail.
And when you sin.
And when you blow it and sell me out like a common thief.
And when you literally and physically turn your back on me.
And when you ruin it all.
When you turn back.
That concept is part of why our God is so different than everything we expect. We can turn back. There’s a return. There’s a comeback. There’s a loss and a brokenness and a state of falling, but you can turn back. That door is open. When I read the phrase “And when you have turned back,” I read a loud, wild picture of what grace really looks like.
Then you get to the part that is so easy to miss: The comma. Thank God for the comma, because that’s not how I would have written that sentence.
Mine would have looked more like:
“And when you have turned back, repent for three years before you try to get within a mile of my holiness.”
“And when you have turned back, don’t think for a second you’re qualified to tell other people about me.”
“And when you have turned back, here’s a long list of works you’ll need to do in order to clean yourself of the mistakes you’ve made and the consequences you’ve earned.”
But Christ doesn’t do that! He throws in a comma. He continues the sentence and simply says, “strengthen your brothers.”
Six years ago I ruined my life, but you know what?
God gave me the gift of the comma.
And that’s why I write Stuff Christians Like.
I have turned back. Not once, not twice, but a million times. And now it’s time to strengthen my brothers.
I hope you don’t miss the comma because God wants to give it to you. He wants to give you grace. He wants you to know that when you have turned back, you can still strengthen your brothers.
It’s time to accept the comma of grace.
(This post originally appeared on April 27, 2011)
This is what goes through my head when I notice a typo in the worship music lyrics at church:
“Oh no, oh no, oh no! Look away, look away. Finding a typo in a song at church is like staring at the sun.
Once you see it, it can’t be unseen. Don’t look. Pretend that Hosanna is spelled with two s’s. Hossanna. That makes perfect sense: two n’s and two s’s. They’re friends. They go on adventures in wardrobes.
But they don’t, do they? Deep down, I know they don’t. “Hossanna.” What is that? It sounds like the pet name for two redneck celebrities who are dating. “Hoss Roberts and Anna White, or as you might know them, ‘Hossanna.’”
Hoss. That’s a cowboy’s name. If your parents name you Hoss, then you don’t get to be an accountant when you grow up. At the hospital, they look at a birth certificate, see your name “Hoss,” and hand you a pair of Wranglers. No, not Wranglers: Those are for the gentleman cowboy. They give you Rustlers, Wranglers cousin who might be cooking meth.
Should I tell someone about that typo?
They’ve got two other services. I could spare a lot of people from having a Hoss Attack. That was so awful.
What would Jesus do?
Probably make a whip out of the little bracelets they give you with your kid’s Sunday School number on them. He’d storm the soundbooth and kick over the soundboard.
“How dare you mix the temple with powerpoint!”
That’s what Jesus would do, definitely. Do I have enough time to make a whip? You know what? I don’t. I really don’t.
“Let’s finish this song already Hoss.”
That’s what I think when I notice a typo in a worship song. Have you ever seen one?
That’s a juke.
Andy Warhol was right when he said, “In the future, everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame.”
Social media offers all of us the opportunity to build platforms and gain influence. Now everyone can have followers and be famous to a group of people for 15 minutes, but there is a danger.
Sometimes, as Christians, we think the following:
“If I get a bigger platform, God will get bigger glory.”
This starts in an innocent place. We want our God to be well known. Perhaps if we were well known he would be well known too. If we had more followers or fans, there would be more people to tell about Jesus. If we’re supposed to be a light on a hill, shouldn’t we be the biggest light possible?
But over time, what often happens is “If I get a bigger platform, God will get bigger glory” gets mutated to, “If I get a bigger platform, I’ll get a bigger platform” and we lose sight of God.
At least that’s what has happened to me a few times.
Fame isn’t inherently bad. It’s a tool just like money. It can be used for good. Ask Bono about that. Or bad. Ask anyone on the cover of any tabloid about that. The problem is that fame is just so seductive, especially if you are at all insecure. It feels great having people you don’t even know tell you that you’re awesome. But ultimately, fame is incredibly empty. It doesn’t fill a hole, it just hollows you out even further.
The biggest lie in all of this is the idea that the size of your platform is somehow linked to the amount of glory God receives. That is insane.
As if God is in heaven saying, “Awww, I wanted big glory today but Jon’s blog traffic was down.”
Here is a simple truth I constantly remind myself about God:
“God will not be handcuffed by my failures or unleashed by my successes.”
He doesn’t need me to complete him. He’s God. He doesn’t need my platform to do his will. He’s God. He doesn’t need my success to fulfill his purpose. He’s God.
Does he use me and you?
Without a doubt.
Does he invite us into his story?
Does he give us important things to do even?
But not because he has to. But rather because he wants to. His calling is not so that you will complete him. It’s so that you will know he loves you completely.
Build a platform. Be a light. Grow it so bright you can see it from space. Use any fame you get to change the world. We built two kindergartens in Vietnam because in a very small circle of people, this blog got “famous.” But don’t get lost in fame. Don’t ask it for your self worth. It’s not worth it.
My friend Frank Viola has just released a new book called God’s Favorite Place on Earth.
The premise of the book is simple: when Jesus was on the earth, He was rejected everywhere He went . . . from Bethlehem, to Nazareth, to Jerusalem. The only exception was the little village of Bethany.
A lot of people write books, but Frank writes stories and in this one we once again see why he’s such a master.
If you get the book between May 1st to May 7th, you will also get 25 free gifts from 15 different authors including Leonard Sweet, Jeff Goins, Andrew Farley, Steve McVey, DeVern Fromke, Pete Briscoe, Frank Viola himself, and many others.
Go to GodsFavoritePlace.com to read an excerpt from the book, watch the trailer and get the bonus content!
I thought this was funny. (If you know who the artist is, please let me know so I can add it to the post.)
The Dave Ramsey graphic design team has put together tons of cool START wallpapers you can use all over the place on your social networks or desktop. There’s even a lock screen image for your iPhone! Want to make your iPhone into an “awesome switch”? Okay, done!
See below for links to all of the various sizes and designs.
iPhone Lock Screen
- Punch Fear in the Face:
1280 x 800 | 1440 x 900 | 1920 x 1200 | 2560 x 1440
- Do Work That Matters:
1280 x 800 | 1440 x 900 | 1920 x 1200 | 2560 x 1440
- Average to Awesome Switch:
1280 x 800 | 1440 x 900 | 1920 x 1200 | 2560 x 1440
Facebook Cover Images
- Escape Average
- I Am Ready to Start
- Punch Fear in the Face
- It’s Time to Start
- It’s Time to Start (with book cover)
- Average to Awesome Switch
- What Are You Starting?
Twitter/Facebook Profile Images