Saturday, June 7, 2008

Legalism Kills Joy

Here's a little secret that we have a hard time grasping: legalism kills joy. I heard an interesting little teaching today on the radio as I was driving to the store. It really got me thinking. It was some advice for women delivered by a woman concerning getting things done. She spoke of smashing old bananas to make banana bread rather than feeling the guilt of throwing them away and wasting them.

Now I love banana bread! But I wouldn't want my wife to feel guilty for not making it every time the kids didn't eat the bananas fast enough. On the other hand, I wouldn't want my wife feeling good for making it as a way to avoid the guilt of not making it. Does that make sense? The lady on the radio continued by encouraging women to get busy and clean out the junk drawer, do something around the house to make it more organized, etc. She then said something to the effect, "Just completing one thing made me feel so accomplished and free."

While I appreciate her heart in trying to encourage women and think she's said many correct things from what I can tell, I disagree with this particular message. It's amazing how freeing it is resting in what Christ has accomplished for me. It is not freeing to complete anything. It's constraining. If I feel free and accomplished by knocking something off the to-do list, then what do I feel when I fail to knock something off the to-do list? This kind of living over a long period of time will kill joy. The reason for this is simple. Rarely do we live up to our own expectations. And that is painful to deal with, because it bases our perspective on our performance rather than resting in God. On the other hand, some people do live up to their own expectations, and that's even more dangerous, because they justify themselves rather than resting in God. Either way, it's a failure to rest in God's provision of grace for us.

In saying this, I'm not saying we shouldn't do worthwhile things, like God is glorified by resting in Christ by perpetually resting on the couch. I'm simply saying the order has to be right. Remember Mueller from a few posts ago? We must do whatever it takes to get as happy in God as we can in the morning. Only in that way will we garner the perspective and power to love others in the right way. Doing our jobs in this world should flow from Gospel-centered joyful-hope. In this way, we won't assess ourselves on how well we accomplish something, or on how miserably we fail. We will assess ourselves on what Christ has already accomplished on our behalf, because we couldn't accomplish diddly-squat on our own. Now that's freeing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

You Must Love Baseball!

Okay, so our family is pretty big into baseball, softball and any other game with a ball and bases. Last week I built a batting cage in our yard. Nothing major, just a sixty by ten foot net over a bed of mulch suspended by a large frame. I have a couple pitching machines coming in the mail so I can get out of pitching duties.

After we got it up, the neighborhood kids were dying to try it out. One of the kids just smiled really big, and said, "You guys must really love baseball!" I said we like it a lot. My wife played shortstop at the University of Dayton and her brother played baseball at Valparaiso University, so it kind of runs in the family. Her family. It doesn't run in my family. My experience with baseball before meeting my wife consisted of a year of t-ball outfield spent picking dandelions. What else is there to do in t-ball outfield? My dad must have decided I'd be a better florist than slugger because I don't remember playing any more little league after that.

But something happened when I met Amanda in college. She was playing softball, so I started going to her games. I thought it was pretty cool. As my love for her grew, my love for the things she loved grew. So naturally I developed a strong love for baseball. I can sit and watch it for hours, though that never happens. But I could if I allowed myself.

Now our oldest boy loves baseball, and all our girls love softball, and my two-year old boy is already swinging his little plastic bat and throwing his plastic ball around the house. Other kids can't help but see that while they're investing their time in video games, our kids are hitting balls. What's the point of this? Glad you asked.

Point number one - When we love someone, we can't help but develop a love for the things they love. I couldn't care less about baseball before I started loving Amanda. But now, I love it too. The same thing happens with God. Before I developed a love for God (because he first loved me), I couldn't care less about what he cares about. Now, I have developed a love for the things he loves - righteousness, love for neighbor, humility, perseverance, Christ-centeredness, the Bible, the fellowship of the church, justice, Heaven.

Point number two - When we love something, it shows. I couldn't hide the fact that our family loves baseball when the batting cage went up. The little boy knew we love baseball without my even having to say it. He knew because of our priorities. Some people have swingsets and sandboxes. We have pitching machines. The same is true with God. When we love God, truly love God, it has to show. Someone should be able to look at our lives, our priorities, and say, "You must really love God!" That little boy reminded me of some pretty important truths that day. If we love God, we can't help but love the things God loves; and if we love God, that love can't help but break out for the world to see.