Luckier Than Lucky The Dog image

Luckier Than Lucky The Dog

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I recently spoke to an entire primary school of 800 kids. As I asked God for a message to share, he whispered to me: ‘Tell them I love them.’

Challenged by Karl Barth’s recognition that at the end of all theology is the conclusion, ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so,’ and by CS Lewis’ pointer that if you can’t articulate theology to children, it shows you don’t understand it, I tried to usher these little lives into the love of God.

Here’s what I said…

“Did you know that God loves you with all his heart? He made you. He knows you. He cares for you. He’s interested in you. You’re under his gaze all the time. His heart beats with love for you. For every one of you.

I have five kids. Sometimes they worry that I can’t possibly love all of them. Then I explain that I have five favourites! Every new kid I have had is like adding a new room in my heart – a room reserved for them alone. Well, God’s heart is a super-mansion of love! There’s a room with your name on the door.

There’s a little verse in the Bible that says that God loves us and calls us to himself, but the more he does so, the more we tend to walk away from him (Hosea 11:2).

When my boy Eli was just 2, and he wanted to do something he knew I didn’t like, he would give himself away: ‘Bye bye Daddy.’ It was his way of saying, ‘I don’t want you to close to me. I want to do something right now that you might not like, but that’s your tough luck. I’d much rather do this than have you close to me.’ It’s not just Eli. We all do silly things sometimes – like lie, and steal, and treat people badly, put ourselves first, tease people, maybe not care about people. Each time we say, ‘Bye bye God.’ Not wanting God to get in our way, we keep our distance from him.

But did you know that God loves us no matter what. He loves us when we’re naughty and when we’re good. I saw a sign once about a lost dog. There was a big cash reward for whoever found the lost dog, and a description of the dog. It said: ‘He’s only got three legs, he’s blind in the left eye, he’s missing a right ear, his tail has been broken off, he was neutered accidentally by a fence (ouch!), he’s almost deaf, and he answers by the name Lucky.’

I thought, ‘That dog is the unluckiest dog on the block! But he’s lucky because he’s got an owner who loves him and wants him back despite how messed up he is.’ See, even when others might not like us, or we do ugly things, God still loves us.

Do you think it costs God anything to love like this?

I know of a pastor who told this story: ‘A parent in our church told me about how he had discovered his little girl had stolen a book from the church bookstore. He wanted to know if I would represent the church so she could come and apologize. He said he wanted to use this incident as a teaching moment. I agreed—but I had a much bigger lesson in mind. The next day, the parent’s daughter trooped into my lounge and sat down. ‘Tell me what happened,’ I said to the little girl as gently as I could.

‘Well,’ she said as she started to sniffle, ‘I saw a book that I really wanted, but I didn’t have any money…’ Now tears formed in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. I handed her a tissue. ‘So I put the book under my jacket, and took it. I knew it was wrong. I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I did. And I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again. Honest!’

‘I’m so glad you’re willing to admit what you did and say you’re sorry,’ I told her. ‘That’s very brave, and it’s the right thing to do. But what do you think an appropriate punishment would be?’

She shrugged. I thought for a moment before saying, ‘I understand the book cost 20 pounds. I think it would be fair if you paid that 20 pounds, plus four times that amount, which would make the total 100 pounds. Do you think that would be fair?’

She nodded sadly. ‘Yes,’ she murmured. She could see the fairness in that. But now there was fear in her eyes. 100 pounds is a mountain of money for a little kid. Where would she ever come up with that amount of cash?

I wanted to use this moment to teach her something about Jesus. So I opened my wallet, pulled out 100 pounds and held it out to her. Her mouth dropped open. ‘I’m going to pay your penalty so you don’t have to. Do you know why I’d do that?’ Bewildered, she shook her head. ‘Because I love you. Because I care about you. Because you are valuable to me. And please remember this: That’s how Jesus feels about you too. Except even more.’ At that moment, she reached out and accepted my gift. I wish I could find the words to describe the look of absolute relief and joy and wonder that blossomed on her face. She was almost giddy with gratitude.’ Wow – cool story, don’t you think?

Remember my question: do you think it costs God to love us? Yes it does. It cost Jesus his life. On the cross, he paid for all the wrong things we’d done. He didn’t just give 100 pounds, but his very life, every drop of blood. That’s how much he loves you. He loves you so much that he would rather die than live without you.

And remember that verse I mentioned earlier? So many of us, he loves us, but we tend to walk away from his love – ‘Bye bye God,’ we say. But that doesn’t stop him from loving us. Think of God’s love like the sun. The sun only shines, just as God only loves. As it shines, it generously offers warmth and light. In the same way, God loves. We are free to get away from the sun—we can lock ourselves in a cold, dark room—but we do not keep the sun from shining just because we put ourselves in a place where it cannot reach us. So it is with God’s love. We can reject and hide from God and his love, but God keeps on loving us.

Isn’t it much better to come out into the sun? Like my family did yesterday afternoon. It was freezing cold inside, but beautiful outside. So – all 7 of us! – we lay on the trampoline in our garden and basked under the warm sun.

Can I be real with you? My life (I am much older than you) can be divided into two. The first part of my life I seldom thought about God’s love for me. I lived in the dark. I prayed at night, of course, but mostly in the day I said, ‘Bye bye God.’ I didn’t want him to get in my way.

But then there came a time when things went wrong. My daddy died. We lost all our money. We lost our house. I lost some of my friends. I felt very unlucky. But then a friend told me that God loves me, and I should let God love me. It was as though my friend opened the curtain a little, enough for a shaft of love to invade my dark room, inviting me outside. I pushed the door open and stood under the brightness of God’s love, dazed and dazzled. The warmth and the light was wonderful. (It is still wonderful twenty years later.)

See, it doesn’t matter what I’ve done. It doesn’t matter what people think of me. It doesn’t matter that life is sometimes very sad and very hard. No matter what goes wrong in my life, God loves me.

You know what? I am even luckier than Lucky the dog.

Instead of saying, ‘Bye bye God’ my heart now prays and even sings, ‘Hello God.’ And I jump on that trampoline, the sunshine of his love all over me, giddy with gratitude. Oh, there’s plenty of space for all of us, for you too. It’s a mansion of a trampoline!”

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