Monday, November 5, 2007

Mario Lopez I am not.

Mario Lopez, I am not.

Recently Mario Lopez, Slater from the show Saved by the Bell, was supposed to take part in a charity night for Casa Seguras, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence and their children. He was forced to cancel though because the wildfires in California impacted his family.

Unfortunately that wasn’t true. Turns out instead of going to help the charity he decided to attend the Playboy Halloween party. One of the trash news programs showed him dancing in some sort of skimpy leather Speedo, kissing his muscled arm anytime the camera came his way.

The first thing I thought was, “I could become that guy in about 10 minutes.”

Maybe I have low expectations of myself, but I haven’t done very well with success in the past. I am a lightweight for approval, and when I get some it usually intoxicates me pretty quickly. A compliment, a good comment posted on something I wrote, an encouraging phone call all have me desperate to pat myself on the back and essentially tell God adios.

One thought that I have used to temper that scenario is that “unless I’m good, God won’t give me good stuff.” I think that’s pretty common in a performance driven society. You earn incentives. Bonuses are given at the end of a year, not the beginning. Everything is evaluated.

Everything is measured. Gifts are not free. Praise is produced not given.

But maybe that’s wrong. I listened to a Joyce Meyer book on tape once and the reader mentioned the book of Joel. I thought she had mispronounced Job because I didn’t think there was such a book. (I am not a very good Christian.) Anyway, in the book, there’s a great example of the rhythm of God. Here’s what Chapter 2:25-27 says:

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm
my great army that I sent among you.

26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the LORD your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.

27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the LORD your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.

Those verses are beautiful and I’m tempted to just camp out on the idea that God felt compelled to repeat the phrase “never again will my people be shamed.” That is gorgeous, but there are five really simple words I want to point out.

The words are “I will” and “Then you will.” By themselves they’re not that extraordinary, but in this context they become flares to a lost people. The thing I love about them is that they explode my notion of an “If then God.” See, I sometimes feel that God will publish my book if I am good enough. If I am holy enough, am a good enough father/husband/Christian, then I’ll finally connect with a publisher. If I was reading my bible enough then this weekend when I ran into Andy Stanley, mega pastor, he probably would have published my book right there in the hall.

God doesn’t work that way though, does he? We get the good stuff first. We get a party just for coming home. We have plenty to eat and then we praise. We have wonders worked in our favor and then we know that he is the Lord our God. I heard a minister once say that God’s gifts are so great they’re almost wasteful. I agree.

Give up your if then God. Don’t try to manufacture praise, let it flow naturally out of the goodness that gets poured over us.

And I promise I won’t become Mario Lopez.

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