Well it is here – March Madness. I’m going with Michigan State and coach Tom Izzo. I grew up a UPer, that is, a native of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Tom Izzo is a UPer from Iron Mountain. So I say, go Sparky. I say all this about the my roots, because in my youth I didn’t believe that I fit into the “Divine Bracket” of God’s love. It was when I moved away to California that I discovered the wonderful reality of God’s love for me. Up until that time I was not assured of God’s love. There was a separation that I felt, that produced a deep loneliness after I graduated for high school. But since that time in 1960 I have grown in my understanding of God’s love for me as being unconditional. However, the awareness of and acceptance of God’s “furious longing” for me has taken a long time to actualize in myh heart and spirit. So at my age (70) I have a passion to communicate this reality to men in particular.
So in Divine Bracketology, you don’t have to worry if you and in or out. If you or anyone you know is “on the bubble” I want to say confidently that if you surrender and put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are “in” the great dance. I use the word “surrender” deliberately. You can know about and ever accept God’s love. But when you surrender, you learn to trust. We as men have a difficult time “letting go.” But I have found that as I surrender to God’s love in my vulnerability, guilt and shame, I really get it. God really does love me just the way I am. I don’t have to doubt about whether I am in or not. “This is the kind of love we are talking about – not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done in our relationship with God” (I John 4:10-11 – The Message)
One more thing about “Divine Bracketology.” You will never be eliminated from the great dance. Once you are in, you are in. Your heavenly Father longs to have you come into a restful assurance of his love for you. If you have doubt about his unconditional love for you, if you were like me, you will be fearful of God on some level, not able to rest in his love. I know I felt that I have to “perform” so that I could have a sense God’s acceptance of me. That was a hopeless trap for me to be caught in. I could never please God or make myself into what I thought was a “good Christian man.” No, the thing that I know about myself at this stage in my life is this: 1) I am a deeply flawed man, 2) God calls me his beloved and 3) I am a work in progress. It is vital that I keep the sequence in order. I have no illusions about my “stink.” But my stink does not get me down. as it did in the past. I keep my gaze on that unconditional love. The psalmist put it well. “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek ” (Ps 27:8).