Jakson scored his first One Goal Basketball basket the other day. He is six and so far, his team is undefeated. No thanks to Jakson. He happens to be on the team with Davin, who is a fifteen year old in a six year old body, and Anthony who is the Eveready Bunny in a One Goal T-shirt. Anthony takes the ball from the other team every time they bring it down the floor. He throws it to Davin and Davin can dribble and shoot like a miniature Steph Curry. This whole league is like herding chickens anyway, so having one kid who can actually propel the ball toward the basket is a huge plus.
But, the other day, Davin missed. (I know, hard to believe.) The rebound bounced off the heads of three other players and landed in Jakson’s arms. The herd of chickens saw that and headed for Jakson. In a panic, he tried to throw the ball back to Davin. It accidentally hit the backboard, rattled around the rim several times and dropped through the net. There was a moment of stunned silence, then the crowd went wild. Jakson scored. Miracles never cease.
The cool thing is what happened next. Jakson went into full celebration mode. He turned and gave the two thumbs up to his mommy and all the family doing cartwheels in the bleachers. He proceeded to get a delay of game penalty for high fiving everyone within thirty yards of the court, his teammates, the other team, the two referees, the guy who was fixing the air conditioner. The he topped it off by circling the court and getting the wave going in the spectators around the floor. It was one basket, but it was an epic moment in the history of One Goal Basketball.
We all have those defining moments from time to time, those events in our lives that demand all out celebration. A raise at work, a hole-in-one on the golf course, finally cleaning out the hall closet, times where a genuine HOORAY is in order and nothing short of a party will do. Celebration is the perfect, and unavoidable response to that particular moment in our lives. High fives all around.
John Ortberg wrote, The Life You’ve Always Wanted. He says, “We will not understand God until we understand this about Him, God is the happiest being in the universe. God also knows sorrow. Jesus is remembered among other things as, “a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief.” But the sorrow of God, like the anger of God, is a temporary response to a fallen world. That sorrow will be banished forever from His heart on the day the world is set right. Joy is God’s basic character. Joy is His destiny. God is the happiest being in the universe.”
And that joy has always been God’s plan for us. He never desired our fear, or angst, or shame, or regret. God has always wanted for Him and for us, wonderful celebrations. Ridiculous, raucous rejoicing. Parties. Life. God is doing cartwheels for us in heaven and wanting us to do the same here. The really cool thing about that is that we get to choose to do so. All we have to do is make up our minds, give it the old two thumbs up, and start circling the gym.
The Book of Deuteronomy is winding down. The farewell sermon of Moses is coming to an end. (It has been a long one.) Joshua is getting ready to take his place at the front of the line. The Israelites are getting ready to cross the Jordan River and head into the promised land. Moses is getting ready to die. And He calls them to one more great celebration. He is trying to get the wave going in the crowd.
He reminds them of God’s promise to love them and care for them. He describes the many ways in their history that God has provided. He tells them how God has defeated their enemies in the past. He calls them back to obedience and all the blessings of God that comes from that. And then, he challenges them to choose between life and death, joy and gloom, celebrating or crumbling. He urges them to choose LIFE. The end of chapter 30 says, “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying Him, and committing yourself firmly to Him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
That sounds a lot like what Jesus had in mind in John 10 when He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) The New Living Translation says, “I have come to give them a rich and satisfying life.” And that celebration is all there, waiting for us to choose.
Listen, there are hard days. We miss a lot of baskets. We get the ball stolen away a lot. We can’t all be Davin or Anthony. Life is hard sometimes. I know it. But the choice is still ours. Do we choose to grovel in our grumbling or revel in our rejoicing? Do we focus on the negative stuff, Lord knows there’s plenty of it, or lift our eyes to the party that God has placed before us? As our clinical director says, we get to pick?
Moses knows about the tough things they went through and were going to go through. He knew about the awful consequences that could come from disobedience. He even knew that because of his history, he was not going into the Promised Land with them. But he still challenges then to choose life, to trust God, to testify to the good things He had done, to step out in courage and faith and EXPECT the land across the river to be flowing with milk and honey.
You can mope and be miserable about all the bad stuff you see, or you can high five everybody around you and choose to celebrate the God of the Universe that “loves you with an everlasting love.” So how do you do the latter? Some quick history lessons from chapters 29 and 30:
- First, recite the promises of God. Moses says in 29:1, “These are the terms of the covenant that God has set before you today.” Where do you find those terms? In His Word. Fill your heart and your head with His promises until you can recite them easily when adversity comes.
- Second, remember His blessings. Moses starts telling them again about food that didn’t stop, clothes that didn’t wear out, enemies that fell by the wayside. Doris and I will often put a “Blessing Jar” on the kitchen table. When God throws us a private little party, (which He so often does,) we will write it on a slip of paper and drop it in the Blessing Jar. Then, every so often, we will pull them out and have a celebration.
- Third, return to the things that got you here in the first place. Remember when you first started following Christ? All you could think about was what you could do to be closer to Him. After a while you started asking, “How little can I do and keep from going to hell?” Hey, if you’re asking that you are in hell already. Prayer, devotions, giving, service, church, fellowship, purity, passion, witnessing; those are not words of duty or drudgery. Those are things that used to bring you great joy. THEY STILL DO. Get back to doing them.
Listen, God has set life before you. Choose it. You may only score one basket this whole season but its worth celebrating. Choose joy today. Start a party. God is sitting on the edge of Heaven, wanting to bless your socks off. All you need to do it choose that. And if you have a hard time getting the party going, call Jakson. He knows how to celebrate. Mike
Okay. I think this is ALMOST working out. Today read one extra chapter. Read Deuteronomy 29 and 30, Proverbs 29, and II Corinthians 13. Tomorrow Deuteronomy 31 and 32, and Proverbs 30. And Wednesday, Deuteronomy 33 and 34, and Proverbs 31. If you have been a part of this blogging journey, in the last two New Year’s we have read together all of Genesis, Deuteronomy, Proverbs, John, I and II Corinthians, and 100 of the 150 Psalms. Pretty good! A note of thanks to my great friend and great evangelist, Lane Loman who taught me years ago to read one chapter of Provers every day of the month.