Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Donnie wants to punch me in the mouth.

When I was in the seventh grade, an eighth grader named Donnie taught me the power of a simple message.

I’m not sure why he wanted to beat me up, but on the bus ride home after school he came and sat in the seat in front of me. He grinned a crooked teeth smile at me, I looked back nervously with a mouth full of braces.

He raised his right hand and showed me his knuckles.

“You see these scars? Know how I got them? From punching kids like you that have braces in their mouth.”

The bus dropped us both off, he threw my school bag under the back wheels (perhaps inventing the phrase “to throw someone under the bus”) and left me alone.

But the message he had given me was so simple and powerful. By just showing me his hand he painted a pretty accurate picture of what the future looked like. And I instantly understood.

For some reason I thought about Donnie and his perfect threat the other day. I think it was because I’ve been really struck by how simple Jesus shares his messages in the book of John.

One of my favorite examples is in chapter 6 when Jesus decides to feed 5,000 men with a handful of fish. Here is what the text says:

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

What a funny question to ask, “Hey, does anyone know where we can get bread for 5,000 men?” Clearly the answer is no, but Jesus asks it anyway.

But the disciples miss it. The correct answer to that question is “Wait a second, I see what’s going on here! God, God is the only place we’re going to get bread for 5,000 men in the next 10 minutes. You almost got us!”

Instead, the disciples respond with the following:

Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"

They missed it. It was so simple. Something impossible was about to become possible. Something unreal was about to become real. And I think when God does that he does it in a really simple fashion because it shows his glory best.

Ego hides in the details. We can pretend it was us when the hand of God is not simply and powerfully shown. We can look at the situation and think, “Well, it’s not that unusual. I mean there were a lot of factors that were involved.”

But when he moves with big, wild thunder, it’s impossible to deny his hand. The blind get sight, the lost get found, lives are changed in ridiculous ways.

Have you ever experienced that? Found yourself facing odds that only God could overcome? Found yourself in a room so dark that only God could light the way out?

You will, at some point, you will.

When you do, keep your eyes open for the simple. The enemy loves to complicate and confuse and tangle, but at the core of God’s message is a single reality, he loves you.

And that’s the simplest message of all.

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