We are taking a quick break from our series about starting school here in Haiti. There are so many other things going on down here in conjunction with the start of school including our adoption (click here to read our story and for an option to donate to our adoption), elections, botched election results, and now an impending tropical storm. There are so many great topics we could blog about, but I want to take some time today to share something that I read in the Bible last night, and some thoughts that I had about it. I do not get to preach here very often anymore, so sometimes I like to blog about things that I would normally be able to lead a Bible Study on or preach, and this is one of those days.
I want to start by talking about a large regional grocery store that is based in Jacksonville. A few years ago, they came up with one of the funniest (accidentally funny I should add) advertising ideas I had seen up to that point. They coined the tag line (and also wrote a song with this same line) “Getting Better All the Time.” Some of you may or may not remember this particular advertisement, but in Jacksonville it came on television and the radio all the time. Now, I do not want to mention the name of the grocery store that I am talking about because I am kind of making fun of their advertisement, so let’s just call it “Dinn Wixie.”
Anyway, you may not see the humor in the way they are advertising, but just think about it for a minute. They are trying to get people to come and buy things from their store by basically telling them, “I know we are one of the worst grocery stores here, but just come anyway, we are trying to do better.” They are doing the one thing that no organization ever wants to do, they are admitting that they are utter failures at their respective craft. They cannot even spin how awful they are into something positive like every other store does. You know what I mean…when a restaurant has really bad food they focus on how cheap everything is, when a Dentist is poorly trained they advertise how many different insurances they take, or the way car dealerships (and really any retail establishment) raise their prices significantly so that they can then discount the prices back to where they used to be so we can feel good about purchasing the car at the regular price while thinking we are getting a great deal. “Dinn Wixie” cannot even do that, they had gotten to the point in their organizational life where they were so bad they had to tell the truth. They had to say, “Please shop here even though we are so terrible we cannot even make you think we are better than we are.”
This is so countercultural that I cannot believe that other people did not recognize how strange of a commercial this grocery store was making. We are not supposed to admit defeat, we are not supposed to tell other people how bad we truly are, and we are definitely not supposed to advertise to the world that we can do no worse than what we have done so far so the only way to go is up. I have noticed this phenomenon especially since joining the non-profit world. If you were to look at all of our (and by “our” I mean the collective group of non-profits in the world) websites, our promotional material, hear our speeches, and listen to our supporters talk about how each of our non-profits are doing…You would think everything was great in the world. Have you ever heard a non-profit leader tell you a story like this, “We are trying to alleviate hunger in the 3rd world, but honestly, we do not know how to do it. We have a plan that we hope will work, but we also know that we will have to learn a lot of things as we go and it will be a learning process for all of us.” Of course not. That is not how we are supposed to present things, and that is certainly not the right tactic to take when we are trying to raise funds for something that we are passionate about. Oftentimes, however, it is true. There are many organizations that tell people what they want to hear and stick to their “talking points” even if those talking points are only moderately (sometimes not even moderately) true.
All of these things struck me last night and the night before as I read the prayer of Solomon after he finished constructing the Temple of the Lord. The prayer was so funny to me because directly after this major construction event and directly before the presence of the Lord came to dwell in the temple, Solomon lifted up this prayer about how much Israel was going to sin during the next few years and how much they would need GOD’s forgiveness. Read 2 Chronicles 6 to see the whole prayer, but some of the excerpts include:
- “When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you and when they turn back and give praise to your Name…then hear from Heaven and forgive their sin.”
- “When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against You, and when they pray toward this place and give praise to Your Name and turn from their sin because have afflicted them…”
- “When famine or plague comes to the land, or blight or mildew, locusts or grasshoppers, or when enemies besiege them in any of their cities, whatever disaster or disease may come…”
Anyway, you get the picture. In the midst of this huge celebration, Solomon just starts to lift up prayers about how much Israel will sin and how much forgiveness they will need. Is this really the time? In the midst of this glorious accomplishment, why would you risk dampening the hearts and spirits of the people by talking about what horrible wretched sinners they are and always would be? But it is right after this prayer that the Lord says, “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.” (2 Chronicles 7:12) When I first read the prayer, I wondered why this is the way that Solomon would approach this time. When I read the prayer for a second time, I realized the type of mercy and grace that Solomon was asking from his GOD. He knew the evil of man would always be there and that only the goodness of GOD could overcome what man would do. He was so wise that he could look right past the success of the day to see the truly remarkable thing that was happening…
A perfect GOD was coming to dwell in the midst of sinful man.
That brings me back to the slogan from the beginning…”Getting better all the time.” What a horrible slogan for a retail grocery store, but if you knew the grocery stores close to where we live, you would also know how true it was. They were not good. I am not sure if they are “getting better all the time,” because when we are home we shop at other places, but they at least knew who they were. They knew that they needed to be better to help them out of what they had built. The question is, do we know who we are? This is something that I have to ask myself as a Christian, as a husband, as a man, and as a leader of All Things New. Do I know that I am going to make mistakes, that I am a sinner, and that I am in need of someone outside of myself to make me better? Or am I going to stick to the “talking points” so that I fool everyone but myself and my GOD?
My prayer for myself and for everyone who reads this blog is that we would realize who we are. We are sinners that deserve hell but we have a Savior who gives us Paradise. We are people who will make mistakes but we have a GOD who will cover over them. We are nothing, but we have been given everything by a GOD who is everything.