Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas: an Unexpected Journey - what The Hobbit, the Shepherds, and Missions have in common

In the new movie, The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey, Bilbo Baggins is seen running thru his home in Bagend yelling “Im going on an adventure”. He, the most unlikely of adventurers, is selected to be of great assistance to a company of Dwarves on a mission tied to reclaiming their heritage in the land of Erebor. This unexpected adventure proves to be a life-changing choice for Mr Baggins, a Hobbit of the Shire who never does anything unexpected but faithfully sticks to a routine lifestyle. However his choice is a about a larger purpose unfolding. His choice proves to involve the hinges of the future of the precious world that he resides in called Middle-Earth. 

In the account of Luke 2 in scripture, the Shepherds are found tending their sheep faithfully in their routine lifestyle. Because they also are unlikely candidates, the shepherds are specifically selected to be the first in hearing of the “good news of great joy that will be for all the people”. This unexpected encounter of the lowly shepherds and heavenly Angels proves to be of great significance. It involves the initial entrusting of the precious message of the Gospel to humanity. They were certainly connected to a larger purpose paving the way for missions.
And much like Bilbo Baggins hurrying off on adventure, leaving their sheep behind “they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them”.

You see, everyone has a role to play in proclaiming this Good News, especially the unlikely candidates who give expression to its truth in seemingly unimportant ways.
Perhaps this is why in the same book of Luke chapter 19, the truth taught by Jesus in parable form is included: be trustworthy in the very small matters & you will be entrusted with even more. 
There are enough people to do the job of proclaiming the Gospel. Many people are just disobedient. Or to put it another way, "I believe that in each generation God has called enough men and women to evangelize all the yet unreached tribes of the earth... It is not God who does not call. It is man who will not respond!" 
- Isobel Kuhn, missionary to China and Thailand

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May this new year find you ready, willing, and obedient to proclaim the Good News, especially in the day-to-day tasks. May you also always be ready to take part in any “Unexpected Journey” that is brought into your path by the Lord!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas - blog #1 - The Riddle of your Heart

This may sound like a strange blog for Christmas, but read on and think of the indications of the hope of a new heart heart we have because of the Christ child's arrival... 

“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Galatians 4:6).

In the Marvel comic movie, Iron Man 2, the Arc-Reactor that keeps Tony alive is poisoning his blood and he doesn’t have much time left. This movies enemy, Ivan Vanko’s appearance causes Tony to doubt his own integrity of the Stark legacy. Tony, directionless and dying, simply throws himself one final going-away party (the only way he knows how.)
Finally, through the interruptions of agents of SHIELD,  Tony is given and sees a film of a video of his father, Howard Stark, speaking of the Stark legacy. Howard admits that he wanted to contribute more to the world than weapons but he was limited by the technology of his time. In a very touching scene, he asks Tony to fulfill the Stark legacy, “I’m limited by the technology of my time, but one day you’ll figure this out. And when you do, you will change the world. What is, and always will be my greatest creation… is you.”
This statement spurs Tony on to create a new element for his suit (poison free this time) using the model from His Father’s special energy powered city to one day be built. 
NOTE: The last place that He thought he could turn to, because of preconceived ideas about his Father, was the only place He would find the greatest answer to give him life.
Likewise, what is the Greatest Answer to Prayer? It can be found in Luke 11:11-13     
"Does any of you have a son? What would you do if your son asked you for a fish? Would any father give his son a snake? No! You would give him a fish. Or, if your son asks for an egg, would you give him a scorpion? No! {You are like all other people}--you are evil. But you know how to give good things to your children. So surely your heavenly Father knows how to give the Holy Spirit (indwelling of Him in your Heart) to those people that ask him."
This is the answer to the Riddle of everyone's heart. Or in other words, Good news of great joy that is for all people!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

"Empty" - a Providential Poem

This was an email that was sent out by me over a decade ago to a select groups of friends. Providentially came across it in a folder this Fall while experiencing great Emptiness.
May the Lord continue to have His way in all our lives no matter how He sees fit to Empty us...  

Monday, November 12, 2012

"They Needed a Push"

Funny how when we are kids and learning to swing we don’t mind asking a family member or friend, people we trust, to “give me a push”. And eventually as we trust in them and our experiences with them, growing bold enough to say “push me higher!” 

Funny how Jesus said in Mark chapter 10 “that whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Funny how we “grow up” and allow ourselves to become so independent we often live like we don’t need God.
Funny how the disappointments in this life can drive us to God... or away.

Funny how the Lord does things that seem backwards to our grown-up intellectual minds but often make sense to the simple faith of a child.
Funny how Job was able to proclaim that "Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15) 
Funny how the Lord promised that “He disciplines those He loves” in Hebrews chapter 12.
Funny how “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” according to Matthew 4:1. And even stranger how in Luke 22:31-32, Jesus bluntly explains to Peter that “satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” 

Funny how often overlooked is this basic truth of Christianity. His wisdom is based on different (higher) presuppositions (read Isa. 55:8,9). Once we understand and accept his presuppositions, His wisdom makes perfect sense.

Funny how some have chosen to have the childlike faith like Jesus described and were able to live and record some of their insights for us to look into and learn greatly from...

“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” - A.W. Tozer

“If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart.”... “At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God’s hand until we learn to hear Him.”   
- Oswald Chambers

“It is always upon human weakness . . . not on human strength and confidence, that God chooses to build his kingdom; and he can (do this) not merely in spite of our ordinariness and helplessness and  . . . infirmities, but precisely because of them. - James Stewart

“Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won't also cost you yours.” 
― Rich Mullins

Funny how a modern day Superhero movie can have a glimpse of truth about Christianity revealed in it :

“There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could”. Fury tells The Avengers that a set of Captain America trading cards were on Agent Coulson’s body (and accordingly bloodied when he sacrificed himself earlier in the film) in order to motivate them. He throws them on a table in front of all of them especially in close proximity to Captain America;... When asked about the cards by another agent later he replies, “they needed a Push” - Nick Fury in THE AVENGERS

Funny how the Lord of all creation cares more about getting you where He wants you to go with your life than even you do.
So, what cards has He thrown on the table in the engineering of your circumstances lately? 
More likely than not you “needed a push”. Choose to trust and obey Him as He guides you. And eventually you’ll grow bold enough to say “push me higher!” 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

We Are FAMILY...

A Few thoughts on FAMILY... make sure to look closely at little Mrs Ava's expressions in the photos at the end :) 

“If strangers and strange sights can shake the world of children, it takes the people they know and love best to pull it out from under them like a chair”  - Buechner

“You don't choose your family.  They are God's gift to you, as you are to them.”  ~Desmond Tutu

“Families are like fudge - mostly sweet with a few nuts.”  ~Author Unknown

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.” 
George Bernard Shaw

“The greatest thing in family life is to take a hint when a hint is intended-and not to take a hint when a hint isn't intended.” 
Robert Frost

“You set standards that no family activity can live up to.”
Ellen Griswold-Christmas Vacation

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:4- 9

1 Timothy 5:8
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever

"Family" Lyrics by TobyMac 2012

Arrows flying, into silence
Broken pieces, lying around where it went down
Waters risin, back to silence
Quietly crying, wondering how
And look at us now
We thought our love would take the world by storm

Are we too far apart?
Two worlds among the stars
You’re gonna take a piece of my heart if you leave
So its two separate ways
Or am I too late to say “I wanna fight for what we got
Cause I believe in family”
In family

So are we still trying, or simply surviving
Facing these giants, the bigger they are the harder they fall
But I still believe in the dreams we’ve been dreamin
The hope that we built on
Its never too far, never too far
If we choose to turn and let these walls fall down

I still believe…
I still believe…

That we're not too far apart?
Two worlds among the stars
Don’t take a piece of my heart please don’t leave
It’s not too late to say: “Father show us the way
To fight for what we got
Cause You believe in family, in family”

Monday, October 1, 2012

"Making This Up As I Go" Part 3

So, what about our reciprocation back towards God? 
In his comments on the exact RAIDERS scene mentioned in part 1 of this blog and in the book “Wild At Heart”, John Eldredge notes that “God is an immensely creative Person and he wants his sons to live that way too”. 

Really? I mean do we really believe that this is the way God wants to relate to us? This I believe is the other missing ingredient in how we are able to “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God (Hebrews 4:16)”.
As a son, Carson was able to extend to me his own creative gracious choice of picking the restaurant where we would go after the movie. 5 GUYS was the final choice and he was uncertain as a first-time customer. But he did know that it was conveniently located near a Barnes & Nobles that he definitely wanted to go to after the meal. I was glad to be led by him to do both wearing quite a smile.

On a final note, Charles Spurgeon once said that “It is when we are in His work that we may reckon upon His smile”.
Or to put it in an Indiana Jones style: I’m going after this Jesus... How?... I don’t know. I’m Making this Up as I Go.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"Making this Up as I Go"...Part 2

In order to get to this really good day, we have walked through some tough times together recently. 
A few weeks back I invited Carson to go with me to this IMAX showing of Indiana Jones as a shared experience in lieu of my recent 38th birthday. He was extremely excited about this prospect.
Leading up to the day of the event, I had told him that we would have some “fun” things to do together as we traveled to the movie. He didn’t seem convincingly excited about this prospect. 
Little did he know that the day I would pick him up from school, that my car would be full of IJones items including his stand-up lego IJ from his room, trivia questions, a “Mad-lib” game and a “Trumps” card set for us to play while traveling. And of course along for the ride with us was my 1981 IJ large action figure along with his more new-and-improved IJ large action figure acquired in recent years. With a smile on his face throughout the ride and amidst the blaring tunes on repeat of the “Raiders March” in the car, he continued to affirm me as his dad, in a way every Dad longs to be affirmed: "Dad, you know you’re crazy, right?” (see Photo of Car Seat full of Indy props attached)

So, how does all this relate to this walkaway truth I mentioned? One of the missing ingredients I see in many believers is an understanding of how the Heavenly Father waits to relate intimately to His children.  Our friendship with God is to be a delight where we willfully are obeying Him around every corner of life. And when we round those corners He often surprises us with Joy, even in the midst of life's toughest situations. He invites us up into adventures we could never imagine nor could be be prepared for if not steadily listening to Him along the way.  A large part of His love, because He is Holy and Just, is revealed in walking through tough times together often due to our own willful disobedience. Only then in that order can we be led by the Heavenly Father to the really good days. As a Father, I was able to extend this same grace to my own son in the simple form of offering to take him on a road trip centered around common interests.

Oswald Chambers, as with most timeless truths, once had something to say about this:
"Obey God in the thing He shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. God will never reveal more truth about Himself until you have obeyed what you know already...oh, the delight of the friendship with God"

To Be Concluded...