Things You Never Thought You’d Have to Clarify

Communication is interesting.  Sometimes people can perceive something you say in a way that you never imagined they would.

In Sunday’s message, I said something about people having premarital or extramarital sex.  I just assumed that everyone would understand “extramarital sex” to mean sex with someone other than your spouse.

Nope.

On one of the Connection Cards we received, someone wrote something like: “Extra marital sex?  Sign me up for that!”

Extramarital.  Not extra marital.

Sigh.  Sometimes the greatest subtleties make the greatest difference.

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Published in: on February 21, 2007 at 8:09 am  Leave a Comment  

One Night With the King

Last night Carolyn and I watched One Night With the King, the movie that tells the biblical story of Esther.  Good movie!  It wasn’t the best movie ever or anything like that, but I’d still definitely recommend it.

One of the best parts was the scenery.  If you read even just the first chapter of Esther, you’ll notice the detailed account of the luxuriant extravagance in the palace of Susa.  The movie did a great job of showing the magnificence of the palace and the city.  Stunning videography!  The movie would be worth watching for this alone.

Another thing I really appreciated was that the film taught me something I was totally clueless about.  There’s a story in 1 Samuel about how Israel’s King Saul attacked the Amalekites and wiped out nearly all of them.  I had no idea this story had any connection with the story of Esther, which takes place over 500 years later.  But in the movie, the wife of Agag–the slain Amalekite king–escapes and gives birth to a son, who carries on the family line.  Eventually this line (in the movie) leads to Haman, the bad guy in Esther.  After watching the movie, I looked it up in the Bible–and sure enough, it says that Haman was an “Agagite,” that is, descended from King Agag!

So Haman’s mission is to wipe out the people (the Jews) who wiped out his people (the Amalekites).  He has this weird symbol passed on through the generations from Agag’s widow to himself, and interestingly, it looks a whole lot like a swastika.

Whenever a film causes me to pull out my study Bible and do some research, it’s a movie I can appreciate.  If you haven’t seen One Night With the King, I’d encourage you to check it out.

Published in: on February 20, 2007 at 12:18 pm  Comments (2)  

Walking the Line

Today at SonRise we looked at how we can overcome sexual temptation in our lives.  This is the third part in our four-part series on sex.

The main idea is that the decisions we make can either move us closer to Christ or further from Him.  We’re constantly walking a line in one direction or the other.  When it comes to sexual temptation, we have God’s promise that He will “provide a way out” so that we don’t make bad choices (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Even if we start moving in the wrong direction, God gives us exits.  Some of the critical exit points we looked at are:

(1) Our eyes.  In the Bible, Job actually made a pact with his eyes not to be scopin’ out the ladies (see Job 31:1)!  By controlling what we allow our eyes to fixate on, we can avoid moving in the wrong direction.

(2) Our thoughts.  If we ignore the first exit point, we find our minds dwelling on the sexually alluring things we’ve seen.  But it’s not too late.  We can choose instead to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).  We can make a conscious effort to think about things that honor God.

(3) “Harmless” secrets.  If we reject the first two U-turn opportunities, we find ourselves harboring little secrets that we justify and excuse as “harmless.”  We tell ourselves that we’re not really doing anything wrong, but other people might not understand and so we need to hide these new indulgences.  Examples might include online affairs or secret visits to forbidden websites.  The Bible warns us in Ephesians 5:11-12 that “it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.”  By acknowledging that we’re teetering on the edge, we can still grab God’s hand and turn around, walking the line back to Christ.

(4) Full-fledged sin.  This is the point where things like pornography, premarital sex, and extramarital sex become a lifestyle.   1 Timothy 6:11 calls us to “flee from all this”!  At this point we are so far gone that it will take nothing short of a heart broken by our own sin, and the help of other people, to turn us back around.  By this point there’s a lot of pain and regret, and the journey back is long and hard, but there is still hope because nothing is impossible with God.

Where are you on this line?  Are you walking the line toward Jesus,  or ignoring the exits and slipping away?  Fighting temptation isn’t about just not doing bad stuff–it’s about being proactive in moving toward Christ.  When we honor God with our sexuality, we have improved intimacy with Him and with our spouse.

Published in: on February 18, 2007 at 12:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Elderly People Crossing

England has some pretty cool signs. I think we should have some of these around here.

Published in: on February 17, 2007 at 8:12 am  Leave a Comment  

Top 10 Fiction Books…Only There Are Actually 11

It’s so hard to make a list of favorite books. It’s like talking about favorite foods. How can you narrow it down? Yet here is my attempt. Because the written word has always played such an important part in my life, I’d like to share with you some of the works that have most profoundly impacted me; or in some cases, simply the ones I’ve enjoyed the most.

So today’s Recommended Reading list is my Top 10 Fiction Books…except, as you observed in the subject heading, there are actually 11. When you’re the one with the keyboard, you get to do stuff like that. Okay, here it is:

# 10: Heaven’s Wager by Ted Dekker. This book is part of his series called The Martyr’s Song. Dekker is an intense writer who really pushes the envelope. In his stories, things happen that just aren’t supposed to happen, like when you get a new dog and it’s killed by a car the day after you bring it home. Definitely not for the faint of heart. But God’s glory and mercy shine through powerfully. Dekker is one of today’s master parable tellers.

The other #10: Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar. The guy who brought us Holes has a short series of books about Wayside School, a Twilight Zone-ish school where things happen that don’t make sense–but that’s okay, because they happen anyway. Great works of postmodern literature! This book especially satiates some innate need of mine to occasionally stretch beyond the rational world with its demands on always making sense. It’s supposed to be a book for kids, but honestly, who does that exclude?

#9: The Tempest by William Shakespeare. Possibly Shakespeare’s last play, this comedy parodies the powerful role of the artist. It’s bizarre. Uncanny. Delightful. Also a quick read.

#8: Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell. This monster-sized historical-novel biography of Luke–the biblical writer of Luke & Acts–is fascinating. It’s an imaginary (though historically based) look at the world that Luke lived in. We learn about life in the Roman Empire for various classes of people. Recommended for serious readers only, due to its size and heaviness. Wonderful storytelling makes it easy to excuse the strange portrayals of the apostles James & John and the strong Catholic overtones, all of which don’t occur until the end of the book anyway.

#7: This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti. One of the master writers of Christian fiction, Peretti gives us this classic which has forever shaped my thinking about spiritual warfare. Highly creative, great plot–it will change the way you view your own spiritual reality.

#6: Junie B. Jones Has A Peep In Her Pocket by Barbara Park. Yeah, I know the Junie B. Jones series was written for little kids. But I could easily have put the whole series on this list. So back up off me yo. If you’ve read it, I know you like it too. It’s a hilarious and realistic glimpse into the mind of a unique, personality-filled kindergartener. Guaranteed to remind you of the little ones that you have known and loved…and been stressed out by. This particular book is one of the funniest of them all.

#5: A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck. Peck has written several great books with the characters from this story. When some city kids go to visit their rural grandma in the earlier part of the 20th century, their experiences deepen their understanding of their heritage and, consequently, of their own personhood. Funny, moving, thought-provoking. Anybody would like this one.

#4: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Sheer genius. In this classic, Lewis takes us behind the scenes into the unseen world of demonic bureaucracy. Chilling in its accuracy and prophetic in its spiritual insight, this short book makes a great companion to Peretti’s This Present Darkness.

#3: Thr3e by Ted Dekker. Naturally, Thr3e had to be #3. Don’t worry, the book is infinitely better than the movie (which I liked, though I seem to be the only one who did). John Grisham meets Tom Clancy meets Stephen King. That’s why none of those guys made the final cut for this list–who needs them when we have Ted Dekker and a thriller like Thr3e? Easily one of the very best works of fiction I’ve ever read. The only reason it didn’t rank higher is because the next two selections dramatically altered my entire life.

#2: The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. Yeah, I know these are actually seven books, but I wanted to include them all. Reading these classics as a kid, they awakened both my imagination and my spiritual consciousness. They taught me how to think, how to dream, how to believe. I simply can’t say enough about them. When I read the first book in the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the experience could not have been more magical for me even if I had been a character in the story.

#1: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. This book is one of the reasons I’m a Christ follower today. Someone gave me a copy (written in today’s English) when I was a kid, and I’ve never been the same. It was my first look at a Kingdom with a different value system. Reading this classic as a child gave me my first taste of Jesus. No other book, fiction or non-fiction (except for the Bible, obviously) has ever impacted me as profoundly as The Pilgrim’s Progress. In fact, very little anything has impacted me as deeply as this masterpiece.

If any of you have read any of these works or have just been influenced to do so, I’d love to hear your thoughts about them!

Published in: on February 16, 2007 at 8:12 am  Leave a Comment  

The Solo Sovereign

The past couple weeks I’ve really been enjoying my time in the Book of Ezekiel.  God gave Ezekiel some really wild visions and told him to do some really unusual things.  I love reading the conversations between the Lord and the prophet. 

This morning I was reading chapter 37 and Ezekiel said something to God that really caught my attention.  God showed him a vision of a valley full of dry bones, and He asked him if the bones could become living people again. 

What would you have said to that?  I’m not sure how I would’ve responded.  My first thought would probably be, “Of course not!  These are not even recently-dead corpses that can be revived.  There is nothing left but bones—and dry bones at that!  Their days of seeing life are years behind them.”

 Or maybe I would’ve tried to act all full of faith, and said, “Yeah, God—You can do anything!”

 Or perhaps I would’ve just sat there with a blank look.  I mean, what do you do when God asks you such a strange question?

Ezekiel’s response is absolutely perfect.  He says, “O Sovereign LORD, You alone know the answer to that” (Ezekiel 37:3). 

You alone know the answer to that. 

Wow.  How true.  How simple.  Usually I find myself wondering why God doesn’t do things right.  Not consciously, but beneath the surface I often secretly think that maybe God isn’t doing things the way I think they should be done.  My natural inclination is to question Him and give Him my answers to questions that He’s not even asking.

Not only does Ezekiel give such a wise and humble response, but also notice that he calls God “Sovereign LORD.”  He acknowledges that God is sovereign, that He alone is the One who gets to call the shots.  

How might my outlook on life be different if my approach to God was, “My Sovereign God, You alone know the answers”? 

Published in: on February 15, 2007 at 10:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Dag, That Was Uncalled For

Yesterday I visited Carolyn’s kindergarten classroom. To celebrate the 100th day of school, she had them draw a picture. The subject was: “What I Will Look Like When I Am 100 Years Old.”

To help the kids understand the assignment, she asked them what they might look like when they’re 100 years old. They mentioned things like walking bent over, having wrinkles, and being toothless.

Then one little boy pointed at me and said, “I won’t have hair on my head–like him!”

Dude. That’s common.

Published in: on February 14, 2007 at 8:17 am  Leave a Comment  

It’s A God Thang

It’s so neat how God moves in people’s hearts when they hear the truth of the Bible.  Yesterday Pastor Daryl shared with us the second message in our series on sex.  Last week he taught us about God’s design for sex, and this week he preached about other designs–that is, perversions of God’s plan.

Several people were visibly rattled by the message and came to our counselors in tears.  Pockets of teenagers gathered around each other to support and pray for one another.

From what I’ve heard this morning, it sounds like the same spirit–or I should probably say Spirit–followed people into the small groups that met last night, where more of the same stuff was happening.

It’s so awesome to see up close examples of how powerful God is and how active He is in our lives!  I’m looking forward to seeing what He does through the rest of this series!

Published in: on February 12, 2007 at 11:53 am  Comments (2)  

Water the Thirsty, but Not the Gospel

I have a playlist on my iPod called “Sermons To Keep Listening To.”  These are classic messages and teachings that will be helpful to return to again and again.

This morning I listened to a message given to leaders at a gathering of the Acts 29 Network, a church planting group based in Seattle.  It will definitely make the playlist.  It’s called “Breaking the Missional Code” by Ed Stetzer, who recently published a book of the same name.

Lots of great stuff in the message.  One thing that really gripped me was his explanation of the need to contend & contextualize the Gospel.

To contend for the Gospel means to work for its advancement and defend its purity.  It means to share the message of salvation through Jesus Christ and not let it be twisted or diluted in order to keep from offending people.

To contextualize the Gospel means to answer the question: What would a biblical church look like in my local community?  It means speaking the language of the local people and ministering to them in a way that they can understand and relate to.

Stetzer points out that many churches go to one extreme or the other.  Some do a great job of contending for the Gospel, but they’re either so mean and unloving that no one cares what they have to say, or they’re so outdated, isolated, and antiquated that no one understands what they have to say.

Other churches do a great job of contextualizing the Gospel, but they lose their anchoring in Scripture and put cultural values on a par with or even above biblical values.  Non-Christians love to be a part of these churches–but they never come to know Christ as He really is.

What a challenge!  To contend and contextualize is the key to breaking the missional code.  Definitely a message to keep listening to.

Published in: on February 9, 2007 at 1:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Another Mandi-ism

Last night I was trying to explain to some kids from church the concept of a wind chill factor.  I didn’t think they were absorbing any of it.

But about an hour and a half later, when someone made a comment about how cold it was, our lead pastor’s four-year-old daughter suddenly piped up: “What’s the wind chill factory?”

Published in: on February 8, 2007 at 12:02 pm  Leave a Comment