Play

Everyone seems to agree there are fewer true leaders in the world today than in any other previous generation. I wonder why? Here’s my BIG thought: I wonder if the lack of leadership is somehow connected to the lack of “play” in the world? Let me explain.

It’s has always been a pet-peeve of mine that kids today don’t know how to play. They are good at wasting time with TV or video games, but “play” is a whole different thing. You’ve gotta be creative to play. You have to use your imagination to play. (By the way, in the Scriptures, the very first characteristic God chooses to reveal to us about Himself is His creativity. Then He says we’re made in His image.) Play revolves around creating stories and scenes and situations. You’ve gotta be willing to look foolish if you’re gonna “pretend” anything – and what is play without pretending something? Remember when you used to play hide-n-seek. I remember imagining that I was the good guy who was hiding from the dreaded evil enemy. I remember playing football and pretending to be the radio announcer as the game winning touchdown was scored.  My parents didn’t look down on me for those days. They didn’t think I was foolish. They laughed and enjoyed my creativity. They encouraged my imagination. They imagined with me. In play, we learned about the world. We began to understand how it worked. We developed deep friendships – in some ways they were probably deeper relationships than our current ones.

What if leaders began to “play” more? What if they imagined and weren’t afraid of looking foolish? What we created a culture of “play” where everyone was a part of it and no one really felt intimidated to join in on the fun? When we “play,” we don’t have to feel insecure, ’cause it’s just for fun anyway. If we taught our children to play more (by playing with them) would their generation have more leaders? I think it would.

If our leaders were allowed to imagine more, dream more, how many of us would dream with them? If they were allowed to “play” with stuff until they figured it out, what new innovations would we have?

In his book “Soul Tsunami,” Leonard Sweet says:

He (Jesus) displayed a genius for never growing up. He didn’t have much use for work. In fact he attracted his disciples by calling them from work: ‘Let others work, even bury their dead. You follow me.’ (Matthew 8:18-22)

Ask someone born before 1964, “What do you do?” and you will find out where they work, what their title is, what they “do” for a living. Ask someone born after 1964, “What do you do?” and you are as likely to find out that they dirt-bike, mountain-climb, net-surf, sea-kayak – in other words, they define themselves more by “life-first” than “work-first” commitments. . . .

If you want to make a violin sing, do you “work” at it? No, you “play” a violin. It takes a lot of “practice,” but the “practice” leads to “playing” the instrument. I want my marriage to sing. That’s why my wife and I don’t “work” at our marriage; we “play” at our marriage.  . . I don’t want the Scriptures to “work” in my life; I want them to “play” in my life.

Erwin McManus says:

People don’t get “burn out” from too much work, but from not enjoying their work.

Anyway, leaders should learn to play and play hard – not just when they’re away from the office, but even while they’re in it. Work should never really be work – it should be enjoyable – going to the office should be like entering the playground where you are free to express yourself (within the boundaries) and imagine and create and dream and get others to join you in it all. When you leave, you might have some dirt to clean off, but you’re still excited about coming back to play again the next day.

PS – I have watched children and on the playground, it’s the ones who imagine and dream and are willing to look foolish who end up leading the other kids. Leaders play. Players lead.

Lessons from a Juggler

I have a friend, Jonathan Root, who is a professional juggler/comedian. His team has 5 International Championship Titles and 3 World Records. You can check him out at www.rootberry.net. Recently, we’ve been having a conversation on facebook about leadership and juggling. I just thought I’d share some of our conversations with you guys here. Although most of the ideas expressed here are his, I’ve marked specific things he said in blue. The rest is just my ramblings about it all.

I started out asking him the basic question, “How is juggling like leadership?”  Here’s his answer:

9:16am Feb 26th
Juggling is not like leadership. Juggling is a means to entertain people. I use juggling to draw and keep peoples attention. Then I use the juggling and comedy to relate to them. A pastor, a speaker and entertainer (in this case a juggler) are all trying to effectively communicate with their audience. If you cannot communicate with your audience then your message will be ineffective. And the message we bring is the message of salvation so we cannot (afford to) be ineffective in communicating our message. This has probably led you to more questions so feel free to ask.
Root

.

As our discussion got deeper, it became clear that he is passionate about communicating the gospel effectively – much like a pastor or Christian leader.

Here are some of the main lessons I learned in our conversations.
1. Juggling and leadership are all about practice. “Focused practice
make an excellent juggler. Trying the same tricks over and over till
you hit them every time is an art.”
In leadership, I’d have to say that the same is true. The more you lead, the better you become. The difficult thing is that a true leader is seeking to do something like it’s never been done before, while a juggler is trying to be consistent about doing the same thing over and over.  Still, even in a new situation, all of our past experiences or practice helps to guide our decisions as we lead. Practice is all about developing skills.

2. Like leadership, in juggling it is critical to not watch the ball hit your hands, but to watch a ball until it
starts to fall then you know where to put your hand.
In leadership, this is similar to the way that a true leader watches culture and the movement of God so that he can lead others to place themselves in the right place to serve Him. Watching the ball until it starts to drop is all about vision.

3. Professional juggling requires attention to details like directions to venues, time management for making flights, and constant improvement/development of your show. Otherwise, you’ll eventually burn enough bridges that you won’t be able to book anything. I wonder how many churches have found themselves in this place? It seems that our culture feels pretty “burned” by the church and I’m not sure it’s completely fair to them, but it’s still true none-the-less. It’s important for the Christian leader to seek constant improvement/development of the people (the church) too. Leaders must be managers too.

4. There is something called a “squeeze” in juggling where two balls end up landing in the same hand at the same time. These are not done very often because they are so difficult, but according to Jonathan, “you have to want to do them.” There are a lot of things in the church that we like to avoid. When a true leader’s vision requires a “squeeze,” he goes for it. No matter what the difficulty, like Moses, he finds the courage to follow God through the Red Sea’s parted walls of water. God saves us through the “squeezes” not from them.

5. Juggling is an art. The best leaders in juggling are the guys who are good at putting it all together – Routining the juggling, mixing in comedy and having it all relate to the audience so they laugh and clap. In those moments the audience experiences more than just juggling. There is a sort of “art” to leadership too – when everything comes together under the right leader there is something that can’t really be defined – something that transcends the task at hand – something that goes beyond the vision. True leadership “feels” God’s timing and transcends our humanity.

By the way, here’s a clip of Jonathan and his friend Bill from their shows.

A Tap on the Glass

It was just a tap on the glass, but it was so much more! Yesterday, is a day I’ll never forget. My beautiful bride gave birth to Kasen Mathew (our first child) at 5:08pm. He was 20.5 inches long and weighed 7 pounds 12 ounces. It had been an incredibly long day as she worked her way through labor, but when it came time to push, she was great. I saw his head the first time she pushed. He has lots of hair. After we had a little time with him, they took him away to the hospital nursery for a couple of hours. The nurse took me there so I’d know how to find him. As she winded her way around all those hallways, my mind wandered about whether I could find him even though she had taken me there. I wasn’t allowed into the nursery, so I stood outside watching them check him over. It was a quiet hallway, and the first time I was alone – away from the crowd of  family and doctors. I looked at him through the glass and imagined the future. I imagined playing football and chasing him around the house. I watched him play with the dogs in my mind. I dreamt of Christmas and taking him camping. What would it be like to sing him to sleep? Will my lifestyle speak to him about Jesus? How will I care for him when he’s crying? What will I do? How do I. . . .? How. . . Oh no! I don’t know the first thing about raising a child. How could God give such an incredible gift to someone like me? What am I gonna do? I’m not ready for this. Tap. Tap. The nurse tapped gently on the glass calling me back to the present. Beckoning me out of my imagination and into reality. She mouthed something about giving him a bottle and I answered.

I realize now that I don’t have to know everything. I just have to be ready to love him in the present. I’ll figure  it all out as I go along. I’ll trust God to help me be the father He’s called me to be. It was just a tap on the glass, but it taught me something. . . . something profound. . . . .something important about living in the present and about trusting God.

Rainforests, Closets and Nurseries

Nursery Yeah – we’ve decided to do our nursery with a rainforest theme. We decided this before we knew if Kasen was gonna be a boy or a girl. The plan was that if it turned out to be a girl, we’d add butterflies and flowers, and if it was a boy we’d add monkeys and bugs. Anyway, we painted the room a really bright green pretty early on after we found out Miranda was pregnant. One of the youth (Montana) helped us get it painted. She did a GREAT job too – there’s only one problem – once we got it on the wall, we realized how bright it really was. Almost scary bright if you know what I mean. (By the way, the picture here doesn’t really show how bright it is – it’s so bright that you can see a green glow on the opposite white wall in the hallway.) Anyway, our hope was that when we started putting other things into the room, it would calm it down a bit. (Note: I really wanted bright colors instead of the typical pastel baby colors that are normally used.)

All this is to say that we worked a whole lot last week in cleaning things out of the closet so we could begin turning it into the nursery that we want. We got out all the stuff that people have already bought and moved a dresser into the room along with some fake trees that we bought. Anyway, things are coming together. My mom, sister, nephew, and niece came in town too and they helped us pick out some of the stuff. Mom even helped us figure out how to do some curtains (she’s gonna make them) and make them match some linens for the crib. (She’s gonna make those too)

Closets – so as I cleaned out the closet where Kasen’s nursery is gonna be, I found all kinds of fun stuff. That particular closet had become the “Steve’s old treasures” closet. I threw away quite a bit – a CD player, a DVD player, a set of speakers, and a few other things. But I also found some other stuff that brings back great memories for me.

My rock collection (yeah – you never knew I was one of “those” guys did you?)
Star Wars collector’s cards (I have the entire “Empire Strike Back” collection from when I was really little – I wonder what I could sell it for on E-bay?)
Sheet Music from Texas Wesleyan
School Yearbooks from Jr. High and High School
Old Bibles
My Tape collection – Yes – I’m that old – I remember when I bought my first CD and it was long after I started collecting music.

Anyway, all of these things bring back all kinds of memories for me. They have helped to make me who I am today in one way or another. Of course they don’t even come close to the influence that God or my family has had on me, but regardless these things still have still shaped me and the way that I think. As I cleaned out this closet, I wondered what kinds of things would be collected these for Kasen.Dscf0446 I wonder what things we’ll dig out of his closet one day? I wonder what things will help to shape him?  I prayed over that closet. I prayed that the things which end up in that space, will be things which we have intentionally placed there. Things which we chose for him ’cause we knew they’d have an impact on who he becomes. I pray that God will give us wisdom in choosing these things. I also pray that it won’t become a place where we just throw stuff that we really don’t care about. (‘Cause I think that has an impact too – it’s just not an intentional one – it’s not an impact that you chose for yourself.)

Wow – all this just over a nursery closet – what have I gotten myself into? I’m not ready for this whole parenting thing. If there’s this much to think about over a closet – how will I ever think through everything else in his life in the way that I should?

God – I need you! Please guide me. Show me your desires for Kasen. I know you will provide, but help me to be a good steward and make the right choices which would help him to grow up in such a way that he comes to know You. In a way that he would choose to serve You. Keep my bride safe and healthy as she carries Kasen for these next few months. Hold him close to Your heart and continue knitting him together in the way that You see fit. Create him inside Miranda. Mold him into a man who will honor You with his life, his words, his decisions, his everything. – by the way, mold me to be that way too – AMEN!

Indescribable

Here’s the info I spoke on last Sunday Night. I got it all from a DVD sermon by Louie Giglio – the founder of the Passion Worship movement.

1 milky way galaxy

Psalm 19:1-4 – New Living

“The heavens tell of the glory of God.
The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship.

Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.

They speak without a sound or a word;
their voice is silent in the skies;[a]

yet their message has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to all the world.”

The stars are shouting God’s praises – day after day they’re telling us what they know! The stars are like a billboard telling us everyday about His glory and how great He is.

Big bang – there probably was a big bang when God created it all! Science and Christians are all seeking to find the truth in this mystery of creation.

God said “let there be light.” Of course – when God asks for something, that’s what He gets.

We don’t even know how big the universe is – the telescope isn’t big enough. God is laughing at us – He enjoys when we discover more, but He has so much more for us.

Habited planets? If the universe is just for us, then it’s way oversized. What if it’s primary purpose isn’t to give us a home, but to show off the glory of God? Then it’s probably the right size.

Light Speed is 186,000 miles/second – a beam of light could circle the earth 7 times every second.

Psalm 33:6 – “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”

We live in the subdivision called the milky way universe. Consists of billions of stars. Scientists say there are hundreds of billions of other galaxies in the known universe.

Light year = 5.88 trillion miles/year

2 milky way galaxy

If we were to count just the stars in the milky way galaxy one/second, it would take 2,500 years.

Isaiah 40

25 “To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.

26 Lift your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

We’ve got to right-size Him tonight. He is not our size. He doesn’t think like we think. He is working on a canvas bigger than anything we ever imagined. The heavens are telling us that, and they’re telling us that we are really really really really small.

3 – milky way galaxy

 

4 – milky way galaxy

The Milky way galaxy is a bard spiral galaxy which is 100,000 light years across. (remember a light year is 5.88 trillion miles)

5 – milky way galaxy with earth

Where’s earth? We’re not even in the center of our own subdivision – it’s not about you, it’s about God. You don’t wanna live in the center anyway – it’s scary there. It’s also scary in the bands surrounding the center – we live between them about 2/3 of the way out. Our solar system is too small to even put on this picture. Scientists say that our solar system is the size of a quarter and the milky way galaxy is the size of the North American Continent.

06 – earth

Earth – you don’t see any people, cities, countries. . .you don’t see the great need, the poverty, the strife, the pain, the glory, the glamour – as you step back you get this feeling that maybe we aren’t so big after all. We know the one who made this world must be huge. Maybe we aren’t as important as we thought. Maybe our plans aren’t so grand at all.

Neil Armstrong – first man who walked on the moon said, “I remember on the way home on Apollo 11, it suddenly struck me that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the earth. I put my thumb up and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out planet earth, but I didn’t feel like a giant. I felt very very small.

Psalm 8

3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

Voyager was launched 1977 – to take pictures. In 1990, Voyager is 3.7 billion miles away from the earth traveling 40,000 miles an hour away from the sun. It takes 60 pictures, with 640,000 pixels in each image. It takes 5 and a half hours for each pixel to make it back to earth from 3.7 billion miles away. – talk about a dial-up problem.
07 – pale blue dot

Do you see earth in that one? It’s there. The “Pale Blue Dot” picture was taken – the suns rays reflected off voyager (4 billion miles away) to create the bands you see. Earth is the dot.

Famous astronomer called it a “mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam.” Our huge lives are all played out on a “mote of dust.” Not trying to make you feel small – I want you to see that you are small.

But it’s significant, insignificance ’cause as tiny as we are – we are prized my majesty. Who sent for us and knows us and loves us even though we are just tiny little specks in this vast universe that He made. Just as He can call the stars by name, He can start in this room and call each of us by name. And not only that – He could even tell you how many hairs are on your head and what you’re thinking right now and if you secretly desire to be sitting next to someone else right now. He knows us!!!!! And Is aware of us!!! And Loves us!! And Invites us into a relationship with Him that will never ever end!!! It’s amazing to think how big He is and that He still knows and cares for us.

Lets go on a journey now.

10 – sun

93 million miles out to the sun.

It burns you up. Raging ball of fire. Not the smiley face sun like we drew it as kids. 10,000 degrees on the surface. It’s like billions of nuclear explosions going off every second. It takes 8 seconds for light from it to go the 93 million miles from there to your skin. It came out of the mouth of God – He is not some kind of wimpy God. He is intense, powerful, ferocious, holy, and full of radiant splendor – He opens His mouth and stuff like this just come out. The sun is 100 times the diameter of earth.

11 – earth/sun comparison

That’s why you wanna thank God in your bed tonight that we are 93 million miles away from the sun.

12 – close up of sun

Close up of the sun from the Swedish solar institute – they’re doing studies of the sun – raging fire. Scientists say, it would take the gross national of the United States for 7 million years for our local power company to run the sun for one second – and it’s just one star out of billions in the milky way – which is only one galaxy of billions of known galaxies in the universe that God has made.

5.88 trillion miles is a light year – 440 light years out we find:

13 – plieades

The Pleiades constellation.

Job 38:31

“Can you hold back the movements of the stars? Are you able to restrain the Pleiades or Orion?

14 – vela pulsar

Vela Pulsar – 1000 light years away

what’s a pulsar? A star explodes into a supernova and can collapse back into itself into a magnetic intensity – it’s a highly magnetized neutron star – it’s center occilates 11 times a second – it sends out this intense signal:

A radio telescope captured this recording of the Vela Pulsar

The vela pulsar didn’t wanna miss out on the worship – it’s screaming “He’s Big!! He’s bigger than you think He is!! God is Awesome!!”

15 – hourglass nebula

8000 light years away – hourglass nebula – just beautiful – God is watching us.

16 – helix nebula

17 – star dust ring

28 million light years out (28 million X 5.88 trillion miles) – sombrero galaxy


18 & 19 – sombrero galaxy

Sombrero galaxy – not just a cool little frisbee thing – its 50 thousand light years wide – trillions of miles thick – why is it there? Just to glorify God – to give a small example of who He is. Showing off the greatness and majesty of God.

20 – hubble telescope

Hubble hangs out 353 miles above the earth.

21 – whirlpool galaxy

31 million light years away – grand design galaxy – hundreds of billions of stars – pink areas are star-forming incubators – every second a new star is born in our universe – God is naming them all and putting them where He wants

Let’s go far far far out! Indescribable how far out it is

22 – christ

He made everything we’ve seen tonight – and yet He chose to be hung on a tree that He himself created. The maker of the entire universe came to that pale blue dot –

Philippians 2:5b-11

Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature[a] God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Psalm 103:8-12

8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.

9 He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;

10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

23 – x structure at core of whirlpool galaxy

The world – the universe is all about God. Not us, but God. And He has decided to ask you and I to be a part of His big big story. It doesn’t matter how big your situation seems, God is bigger and He loves you! Nothing can shake you out of God’s hand as He holds you.

Love so amazing so divine, demands our my soul my life my all.

Comfort

06-08-22 01I’ve been thinking alot about “comfort” lately. I’m not real sure why, but here are some of my thoughts:

Matt Redman wrote a song quite a few years ago with one line that really stuck out to me – “I’ve crafted myself a more comfortable cross.” When I first heard the song I thought about this guy I had seen when I was in college. He was one of those crazy preachers who traveled around yelling at people. He was yelling at all of us students between classes and asking if we were “saved.” etc. I think he meant well, but he wasn’t getting very far with most of the students. Anyway, he was carrying a cross and said he was traveling across the United States with his message. But here’s the interesting part: the cross he was carrying had wheels on it. Did Jesus’ cross have wheels? Were they there to help make the journey? I mean, you can’t really put wheels on your cross if you’re trying to be like Jesus – can you? Anyway, it was just like Matt Redman sung – a “more comfortable cross.”

06-08-22 02I worked with a speaker named Jeremy Kingsley a few years ago. He had a strange practice I remembered as I’ve been thinking about comfort too. When the youth that I work with would go on trips, they’d always yell “shotgun!” to get the front seat. You know the game. Right?? Jeremy would yell before they even thought of it “I get back seat!!” Strange, huh?? But cool!! Jeremy is that kind of guy. He’s great at taking the normal things we do and making you think about them differently. Anyway, as he worked towards “discomfort,” he served the Lord and our youth.

I wonder how I have made my cross more comfortable? It’s true – I’m comfortable in the ways that I serve. We Christians are uncomfortable whenever we get out of of normal routines. We have our own Christian subculture that we’ve created so we can be comfortable all the time. I mean we have Christian music, Christian toys, Christian clothes, even Christian candy. I guess it’s important not to eat any of that secular candy. (By the way – Christian is a label that can only be used on people)

Anyway, where would Jesus be in all this? I’m pretty sure He got accused of hanging out with the sinners and the prostitutes. He even had fun and turned water to wine at a wedding. Why am I uncomfortable in these party situations? If Jesus was comfortable there, why am I on my guard when someone starts drinking around me or says a cuss word?

What if the cross I carried wasn’t supposed to be comfortable? What if I worked at being uncomfortable? What if I tried to hang out with people who make me uncomfortable? When it comes to money and what I give to the church, if I was uncomfortable, I’d probably be giving more to the Lord. If I wasn’t so concerned about my own comfort all the time, I bet I’d be a better husband and I’d do more things for my beautiful bride. If I worked to be uncomfortable, I’d probably do a lot more physical labor and help out my friends with things they needed done. If I worked to be uncomfortable, with the way I eat, I’d probably lose weight. If I was uncomfortable with the sin in my life, maybe I’d repent and be more spiritually healthy. If I was uncomfortable in the ways I serve the Lord, maybe I’d find myself serving in places I never 06-08-22 03imagined. (By the way, watch the movie “The Second Chance” someday.) Maybe I’d live in another town or country. Maybe I’d have a different job. Maybe I’d buy more things to give away and fewer things for myself. How much does my own “comfort” really drive my life? Probably more than I’d like to admit.

Anyway, you get the point. “Comfort” might just be right where Satan wants us. It’s when we’re uncomfortable, that we learn to lean on and trust in the Lord.

Prayer: Lord, I hesitate to even pray this prayer, ’cause I know it’s gonna mean changes for me, but I wanna be the man You’ve called me to be. So help me to step into uncomfortable situations more often. Help me to give myself away more often and teach me to seek comfort for others over comfort for myself. Lord, I don’t want to be comfortable in this world (well, admittedly, part of me does) because it’s not my home. I’m an alien here. As Andrew Peterson sings, my home is the “Far Country.”

Here’s a link to another blog I wrote about a book that addresses some of these same topics. http://uturn.typepad.com/steve/2006/09/under_the_overp

Stories I Need to Tell – The Beach

When I was really little (like 4 or 5 years old) my parents took my brother and I on a vacation to Galveston. We lived in Oklahoma at the time so it was the first time I had ever seen the beach. I don’t remember a whole lot, but I do remember playing in the water right next to the beach. I also remember watching all the “big” kids playing out in the “big” waves. Like most kids, I wanted to be a “big” boy and play in the “big” waves too.
06-08-08I asked my dad to take me out there and I remember how he helped me get out to those waves. (The waves probably were just over my dad’s waist, but they were way over my head.) Anyway, I remember holding his hand and how the waves would knock my feet out from under me and throw me around, but that my dad would never let go of me. Even when I couldn’t hold on to him, he was still able to hold me.

This story is a picture of the verse in Ephesians 4:14 that says, When we become mature in Christ, “we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men.” I think about how God can hold me when things get out of control and that if I live my life with Him, it’s like having my dad right there next to me. When the “big waves” hit, He can keep me safe and with Him, I’m able to venture out into the deep waters of life. With Him I can even look at the waves coming toward me and not feel scared, but even a little “playful” as I enjoy the ride with Him.

Lions, Little Boys, and Me

Here are just a few thoughts about stuff God has been showing me lately. I’m not sure how it all fits together, but I’m gonna try to explain it here as best I can.

The story that sparked my thoughts was from Efrem Smith at Ichthus during the communion service. He talked about a tribe (I think in Africa) where they practice a coming of age ritual for boys. When they are about twelve they are expected to kill a lion in order to become a man! Since I teach a guys small group I wondered what I could do to help my guys “become men.” Anyway, here’s how the boys do it: (According to Efrem this practice is still in existence)

06-06-22The bravest boy sneaks up on the lion while he sleeps and then runs to a certain place where 4 other boys are ready to attack the lion with spears and knives. When the lion is killed, the bravest boy (the one who woke the lion) cuts off the mane and wears it as a symbol of his bravery.

Efrem used this story to go on and talk about the “lion” (Satan) who prowls about seeking to steal, kill, and destroy us. He also spoke of the “lions” in our lives which attack us like addictions, bad habits, unhealthy relationships, etc.

My mind went somewhere else though – I was thinking that Efrem was talking about Satan attacking us, but his story was about these boys attacking him. Maybe that’s the difference in a boy and a man. Boys live life trying to prepare for when Satan attacks them, and men live planning their attack on the lion. It’s the difference in living life defensively or offensively. Another BIG difference is that boys get attacked by a lion they never see, but men (with this definition) CHOOSE THEIR LION. When they attack their lion they know where the resistance will come from.

As I look at different youth who I have watched grow up, I can see pretty clearly how this difference plays out in their lives. Here’s an example I heard this weekend: One of the speakers talked about a 20 year old girl who had gone on mission trip one summer when she was in High School. Now, at the age of 20 (no college) she is running an orphanage for over 50 children. She is living her life offensively. She knows that the lions (Satans) attacks will be on this ministry that she is putting her heart into, but she has also chosen that lion. She has “taken ground” for the kingdom of God. Now, take another girl who went on the same mission trip, who decides to go off to college. She too will fight a lion, but it will be on his ground. She too might very well “take ground” for the kingdom, but her attack will probably come in a way that she would never have expected – Satan will use a relationship to attack her, or maybe her professors will challenge her faith, who knows? – the point is – she doesn’t know where her attack will come or even what her “lion” looks like.

For men – God calls us to be warriors – to be “wild at heart” as one author puts it. I certainly have something in me that wants a “battle to fight” and an “adventure to live.” I wonder how I can live this way? How can I be offensive for God? Which “lion” will I choose? And who are the other 4 guys I should ask to help me in this fight? God show me. I need You.

Palm Sunday

06-04-20 01I know. I know. Palm Sunday is over and I’m a little late in this post, but here’s the deal: I was listening to Rob Bell’s sermon on-line from that day and feel like I’ve just learned a lot. Anyway, I’ve just gotta share it ’cause it’s so cool. So here we go.

Palm Sunday is the day that we celebrate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem the week prior to His crucifixion and resurrection. Anyway, here’s what I learned about the culture of this whole event:

06-04-20 02During Jesus’ day, Pilate ruled over Jerusalem as a Roman governor. Pilate’s superior would have been Caesar. Caesar believed that he literally had come from heaven to earth and that he was the son of God incarnate on earth. He wanted to show people his power by spreading propaganda. Some of the sayings of his day were: “Caesar is Lord! There is no other name under heaven by which people can be saved than that of Caesar.” He also had a 12-day celebration of his birth called the “Advent of Caesar.” You could even give him offerings so that your sins could be forgiven. He was “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” Caesar also minted coins with his face to help spread his name. When Rome conquered Jerusalem he also required a tribute in the form of a tax from that country. This is a huge deal to the 06-04-20 03Jews ’cause Caesar was claiming to be
god. If they paid the tax, then they would be breaking the first two commandments – no other gods before me, and you shall have no graven image. (coin itself was an image) When the religious leaders try to trap Jesus with this issue he asks them for a coin – this means that Jesus didn’t have one (He wasn’t carrying a graven image) When the religious leaders pull one out, they have already broken the second commandment. Jesus is so cool!!!

During Jesus’ day, there were a few times a year that all Jewish people were supposed to go to Jerusalem to celebrate specific holidays together. The Romans were in charge and ruled over Jerusalem, but during these celebrations, the Jews would certainly have outnumbered the Romans who were present in the city. Pilate (the Roman governor) would probably have felt pretty weary about these festivals. I mean, there was always a big mess to clean up, fights to break up, and simply more people to govern and take care of during these times. It would have been a stressful time in government and there was also the 06-04-20 04ever-present threat that if the Jews decided to all get together, they might be able to overtake him. Pilate lived in a mansion in Caesarea, but during these festivals and specifically this week (Festival of Unleavened Bread or Passover – this festival celebrated that God heard their cry during a time when they were oppressed by a foreign government.) Anyway, Pilate would march into Jerusalem to keep things in order during these festivals. His procession was designed to be authoritative and show his power. It was designed to scare the people so that they would never even dream of uprising against Rome. The procession began with the Roman emblem which was an eagle.

Sidenote: A teacher of the law, says Jesus I’ll follow you wherever you go, and Jesus responds “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20) He was speaking about Rome as the “bird” and the word “fox” refered to the Herods who were corrupt kings who lived in palaces but didn’t care about the people. Jesus’ answer spoke saying “These other movements are about power, mine is different – I don’t even have a place to sleep.”

06-04-20 05Behind the the eagle in the procession would have been the Roman soldiers carrying etchings of the Caesars with all kinds of things reminding the people of all the power they had and all the battles they had won. The etchings were all about power, strength, and domination. They also marched with metal shields which made sounds which would have brought about fear and terror to the people watching. Pilate would have entered next on a horse – a huge stallion – again a symbol of power, strength, and military conquests.

Now, PILATE ENTERED JERUSALEM ON A HORSE FROM THE WEST!


Luke 19 describes another event which happened the same week. Jesus went to Jerusalem and from the Mount of Olives (east of Jerusalem) he sent some people ahead of him to get a donkey. As you look west from the Mount of Olives you can see Jerusalem just past the Kiddron Valley. They brought the donkey to him and people spread their cloaks on the road as He went past them. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” This word “King” might not have been a good one to use in light of Pilate who had just come in himself. Some of the Pharisees ask Jesus to rebuke the disciples and to kind of “keep it down.” Jesus responds, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out!” Now, there were a bunch of stones/graves on the Mount of Olives, because the Jewish belief was that the Messiah would raise from the dead all the good Jews who had died. From there they believed He would lead them all into Jerusalem where there

06-04-20 06would be peace and prosperity. Therefore, they all wanted to be buried near Jerusalem. So anyway, the Pharisees told them to be quiet, but Jesus says basically, “I’m the Messiah who will raise these people from the dead!” The Pharisees lightbulbs came on ’cause they certainly knew what Jesus was talking about.

Jesus doesn’t walk into the city, but rides a donkey. (Matthew 21) Zechariah had said years ago that the King would come “gentle and riding on a donkey.” Jesus used the donkey to say, “Hey, I’m the guy you’ve been waiting for.” Now the way Matthew quoted this verse is called a “remez” – where Jews would quote the first part of a verse knowing that the other Jews would know the 2nd part of the verse. (Remember, they all had to memorize the Old Testament)

06-04-20 07Here’s the whole verse: Zechariah 9:9-10 “See your King comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt the foal of a donkey.(That’s the part Matthew quoted – next is the part the Jews would have known.) I will take away the chariots from Ephraim (Jews) and the war-horses from Jerusalem and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations.” Now check this out: Pilate came from the west proclaiming his war abilities, Jesus comes from the east and takes the peoples weapons away so he can proclaim peace. Jesus’ kingdom is totally different than the kingdom of Rome. His kingdom is about peace, not war. His parade is humble rather than proud.

JESUS ENTERED JERUSALEM FROM THE EAST ON A DONKEY!

06-04-20 08Why did Jesus weep as He entered the city? In the year 70AD the Jews decided to do it all Pilates way and they took up arms against Rome – they got destroyed! The temple was also destroyed. Jesus knew that Jerusalem would fail to do things His way, even though they were quick to follow Him now. In the city of Rome todaystands the “Titus Arch” in remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem. Can you hear Jesus? “You guys don’t realize it, but you’re gonna end up falling into the trap of war too.”

 


06-04-20 09OK – here’s the point for you and I: THERE ARE TWO WAYS TO ENTER A CITY – the way of Pilate or the way of Jesus. There are two ways to enter a conversation. There are two ways to treat your family. There are two ways to deal with conflict in a relationship.  There are two ways to deal with pain. There are two ways to treat your friends. Which will it be for you? Horses or donkeys? From the West or from the East? The way of Pilate or the way of Jesus?

Me? I hope I can choose the donkey.

Jewish Wedding Lessons

06-01-23 01I heard a guy (Dan Kimball who wrote “The Emerging Church” – www.vintagefaith.com ) talk the other day about what a Jewish Wedding back in Jesus’ day was like. He related the Jewish customs to our relationship with Christ as the groom. We are the bride. He is the groom. Here’s my take on it all:

1. Selection of the Bride – The first step in the process was when the father of the groom selected the bride. Young Jewish girls had little say in who they would marry and would dream about who would select them. The groom committed his love the the bride based soley on his father’s decision. The bride loved her groom simply because He had loved her first.

It’s good for us to remember that God chose us. Even in the midst of our sin against Him, He still loves us. Romans 5:8 “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Of course it is out of our response to the love that He offers us that we are able to love Him. 1 Jn 4:19 “We love because He first loved us.”


06-01-23 022. Mohar – The second step in the process is called the “mohar.” This is the price that was paid to the bride and her family. It represented the magnitude of how the groom valued her. The greater the price, the more value they had ascribed to her.

For us, we should remember that Jesus (the groom) paid the ultimate price for us with His own life. This is proof that we are incredibly valuable to God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “You are not your own; You were bought with a price.”

3. Engagement Contract and Gifts – After paying the “mohar,” the groom would offer the bride a list of promises which he was committing to her for the life of their marriage. This is list was called the  “ketubah.” In addition, he would give her gifts to remind her of his love while he was away. (see next step) He would also offer a cup of wine to his girl. If she accepted his offer, then she would drink of the cup without saying a word. This act ceremonially sealed the engagement before he left. (check #5)

We were given a “ketubah” (list of promises) called the Bible, and many gifts (Romans 12:6-8 – spiritual gifts, the Holy Spirit, the church, etc.) to remind us of Christ while He is away. Mark 14:25 Jesus says, “I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine again until the day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.” The last supper represents the seal that Christ has on us.

06-01-23 034. “Mikvah” – The fourth step in this process is called “mikvah” which is a ritual bath that the bride would take to “set her apart” from the world and “for” this man. She would symbolically say – my old life is gone and the new has come.

Our baptism is our “mikvah.” It is the time when we decide to “set ourselves apart” for Christ. It is during this time that we are made “new” again. Jeremiah 1:4-5 – We are set apart for God.

5. Groom leaves to prepare the wedding chamber. Typically this would last about a year, but the groom could not decide when he was ready to come back for his bride. This decision was made by his father. Most grooms would typically want to rush through the preparations to “get on with” the wedding, so their fathers would decide when the chamber was ready. When the day finally came, the groom would gather his friends and together they’d march into town blowing a “shofar” to announce their arrival. They’d make all kinds of noise to show how proud they were for this union. It was the bride’s job to be ready (to have her lamp trimmed) for when he came.

John 14:2-3 – Jesus speaks of leaving to prepare a place for us in heaven.

Matthew 24:36 – Not even Jesus knows when He is coming back, only the Father does.

Matthew 24:31 & 1 Thessalonians 4:16 – Jesus will come to get us loudly – with a loud trumpet call.

Matthew 25:1-13 – It’s our (we are the bride) job to be ready for His arrival.

06-01-23 046. Wedding Ceremony – In most cases a “chupah” (canopy) was built for the ceremony to be performed under. It symbolized the “covering/blessing” of God on this union. The bride would receive a crown and the couple would drink another cup of wine. (Another custom which was added later is that this cup would then be broken as a symbol of the “bittersweetness” of the day – sweet for the couple, but bitter for their people whose temple had been destroyed.)

When Christ returns and gives us our crowns, our union will be complete and we will be with Him forever. As the cup is destroyed, we can remember that we will no longer need it for communion – we’re already communing with Him.

7. Wedding Feast – There was one final step in the wedding process. The party time!

This is the time after we are joined with Christ forever and begin the eternal party with Him. Rev 19:6-9 and check out who is invited to the wedding – the normal/poor people – Rev 3:20.