Monday, December 28, 2009

T. S. Eliot wrote a poem about the journey of the Magi from the perspective of one the travelers. It describes the physical peril they faced but it clearly describes the testing and strengthening of their faith along the way. T.S. Eliot was on his own spiritual journey and had become a Christian. This was a man with a strong Buddhist and Hindu philosophical education.

Symbolism litters the poem and the imagery should remind us of Biblical references. The three trees that are mentioned represent Calvary and Jesus’ death on a cross. The white horse represents death. And with the tree, or cross of Calvary, death is sent galloping away. The vine leaves over the lintel represent the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts of as they escaped the angel of death. The vine represents Jesus, the true vine.

The Journey of the Magi

"A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again,
but set down this
set down this:
were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

I would love to hear what you think of the poem. What other symbolism you find and what it means to you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mary: Full of Grace

Last night I was given the honor of preaching to a group of people gathered at our church plant, In Process. My message centered on the message of Joy. I am not sure if it was the sermon of the century, truthfully I seriously doubt it. But it has made me stop in retrospect to contemplate the season of Advent.

The first week of Advent we listened to a message concerning Hope. And that despite the situation we may find ourselves in God hears His peoples’ cries. The problem is it requires us to wait on God. It is centered on God’s timing. I am not upset about the waiting, but I am thankful that God is listening and He will respond.

The second week of Advent we listened to a message concerning Peace. And that to truly know Peace, or Shalom requires a Divine Presence. Men and women throughout the scriptures sent by God with that special something, maybe the Spirit, answering God’s calling. They were the ones that brought Peace.

And that on some special day that no ones when exactly, a baby came into existence. This baby was the Divine and this baby was humanity. This baby came to save the world. The heavens opened and angels appeared to a group of hardworking migrant workers declaring, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

Last night I spoke on Joy. For me a real joy comes with a smile and laughter. Real joy can bring a tear to our eye. Real joy changes the way we move, the way we walk or run, and even puts a skip in our step. Real joy causes us to sing and rejoice, remember the angels rejoicing to the shepherds? And real joy should make us dance. King David cries out to God, and when God responds David with a song and a dance (Psalm 5).

And I spoke on Mary and her virginal conception. How did it all happen? It is part of the mystery of a God bigger than me. I pray no one will ever be able to explain it. But what was Mary’s life after the birth of her son?

Did Mary ever get to experience Peace or Joy?

This baby boy represents the Hope people had been crying out for since the Fall of Adam and Eve. God promised that One would come. The angels rejoiced that Peace would now be on earth. God had come to save us.

Did Mary ever get to experience Peace or Joy?

When the angel Gabriel visits Mary and explains God’s plans to her Gabriel calls her “highly favored” or “full of grace.” I contemplated why Mary was given this title or new name. Maybe it was not because of something she did but because of something she was going to have to endure.

Poor Mary, I am sure, suffered ridicule. Everyone in her small village knew about her condition. They knew about this baby, conceived and born out of wedlock. But she loved this baby boy as any mother would.

And the toughest situation in Mary’s life was when she was an eye witness to the execution of her son. She was there as he breathed his last breathe. And as they laid his body to rest, she mourned as any mother would.

So, did Mary ever get to experience Peace or Joy? Truly this was a grace filled woman.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Drum Major Instinct

Last Saturday our new church plant met under the new name of In Process. We decided on the name first because the church plant needed an identity, a name. Secondly, the name In Process was chosen because we are in the process of discovering how God will use this church. The name was also chosen because aren’t we all in the process of change, transformation into something new?

As we met last Saturday we spent some time reading through Acts 4:1-22. We were drawn to these verses because something new was happening. And as Peter and John were explaining the something new they were doing so in a familiar setting, The Temple. They were not discounting the old, they embraced the old while welcoming in the new.

But we discovered about Peter and John was that they were bold. Verse 13 reads, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” These were ordinary, common men speaking in a way that commanded an audience.

The question asked to the group was, “When does someone qualify for the priesthood? What are the current qualifications?”

In the liturgical calendar this week is an important passage of scripture: Mark 10:35-45. It is the passage where James and John, the sons of Zebedee ask to sit at the powerful positions of Jesus’ left and right.

I was reading a sermon done by Dr Martin Luther King Jr called The Drum Major Instinct where he preaches from this passage.

I want you to see what Jesus was really saying. What was the answer that Jesus gave these men? It's very interesting. One would have thought that Jesus would have condemned them. One would have thought that Jesus would have said, "You are out of your place. You are selfish. Why would you raise such a question?"

But that isn't what Jesus did; he did something altogether different. He said in substance, "Oh, I see, you want to be first. You want to be great. You want to be important. You want to be significant. Well, you ought to be. If you're going to be my disciple, you must be." But he
reordered priorities. And he said, "Yes, don't give up this instinct. It's a good instinct if you use it right. (Yes) It's a good instinct if you don't distort it and pervert it. Don't give it up. Keep feeling the need for being important. Keep feeling the need for being first. But I want you to be first in love. (Amen) I want you to be first in moral excellence. I want you to be first in generosity. That is what I want you to do."

And he transformed the situation by giving a new definition of greatness. And you know how he said it? He said, "Now brethren, I can't give you greatness. And really, I can't make you first." This is what Jesus said to James and John. "You must earn it. True greatness comes not by favoritism, but by fitness. And the right hand and the left are not mine to give, they belong to those who are prepared." (Amen)

And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Amen) That's a new definition of greatness.

And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, (Everybody) because everybody can serve. (Amen) You don't have to have a college degree to serve. (All right) You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. (Amen) You only need a heart full of grace, (Yes, sir, Amen) a soul generated by love. (Yes) And you can be that servant.

I know a man—and I just want to talk about him a minute, and maybe you will discover who I'm talking about as I go down the way (Yeah) because he was a great one. And he just went about serving. He was born in an obscure village, (Yes, sir) the child of a poor peasant woman. And then he grew up in still another obscure village, where he worked as a carpenter until he was thirty years old. (Amen) Then for three years, he just got on his feet, and he was an itinerant preacher. And he went about doing some things. He didn't have much. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. (Yes) He never owned a house. He never went to college. He never visited a big city. He never went two hundred miles from where he was born. He did none of the usual things that the world would associate with greatness. He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against him. They called him a rabble-rouser. They called him a troublemaker. They said he was an agitator. (Glory to God) He practiced civil disobedience; he broke injunctions. And so he was turned over to his enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. And the irony of it all is that his friends turned him over to them. (Amen) One of his closest friends denied him. Another of his friends turned him over to his enemies. And while he was dying, the people who killed him gambled for his clothing, the only possession that he had in the world. (Lord help him) When he was dead he was buried in a borrowed tomb, through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone and today he stands as the most influential figure that ever entered human history. All of the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, and all the kings that ever reigned put together (Yes) have not affected the life of man on this earth (Amen) as much as that one solitary life. His name may be a familiar one. (Jesus) But today I can hear them talking about him. Every now and then somebody says, "He's King of Kings." (Yes) And again I can hear somebody saying, "He's Lord of Lords." Somewhere else I can hear somebody saying, "In Christ there is no East nor West." (Yes) And then they go on and talk about, "In Him there's no North and South, but one great Fellowship of Love throughout the whole wide world." He didn't have anything. (Amen) He just went around serving and doing good.

So the questions return to me as I consider Dr King’s sermon: “When does someone qualify for the priesthood? What are the current qualifications?”

Dr King finished his sermon with these words: Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. (Amen) Say that I was a drum major for peace. (Yes) I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. (Yes) I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind. (Amen) And that's all I want to say.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Scouting the Divine

Reading the Bible can be hard; rather understanding what the Bible says can be hard. There are so many obstacles to fully comprehending what we are reading. The Bible was translated into English but sometimes translating the words from Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek loses the meaning of the words. The Bible was written at a time when moral and cultural standards of living were vastly different than the ways we live our lives today. And then there is the metaphor. The Bible was written to a group of people that understood the various metaphors used throughout the scriptures. If the Paul would have written his epistles with football or baseball metaphors I would have been able to pick up quicker the message he was trying to communicate. If the parables of Jesus talked about computers or traffic on the freeway I would have had a deeper clarity of the stories.

But the Bible requires us to do a little bit of digging. We get a deeper understanding when we learn what the moral and cultural standards were. We understand more clearly when we know that there were different words for love in Greek but only one word in English. And what does it mean to be a sheep or a shepherd? What does a harvest look like? What is a land of milk and honey? Where does wine come from?

I have just completed Margaret Feinberg’s book “Scouting the Divine.” Margaret explores the language used in the Bible by visiting people who still raise sheep, farm, grow grapes and keep bees. Through her interactions with these people she gets a better comprehension of the stories found in the Bible. Margaret asks great questions and shares some amazing answers.

For me a land of milk and honey would be found in the grocery store that I manage or shop. If the milk box is stocked it is full and all the jars of honey can be found on aisle four.

Margaret shares her encounters in a series of chapters that allow us to listen in on the conversation. It is easy for us to be drawn into the setting and hear the voices and sounds surrounding her. We know what a lamb looks like and are pulled into the compassion she shares as a shepherdess calls her flock. We get a better understanding of a missing lamb. We learn that this a dirty but rewarding profession. Rather for the shepherdess is a way of life.

But Margaret does not just look at the metaphor for clarity she also looks for clarity on the message on how it should shape the ways we live. Even though she gets answers it leaves her, and the reader with more questions. What does it mean to give first fruits? What are my first fruits? Why allow the poor to glean? How should I look at the poor? How does pruning make us more fruitful? Why does it have to hurt?

I appreciate this book and know that it will be a gift that I share with many people.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Great Banquet

Yesterday I had the opportunity to preach to the congregation. I really enjoy these times up front. I enjoy researching the passages I am preaching from and hopefully teaching something the congregation has never heard or considered. I work hard to not to be the pastor that starts a message with a story from a Chicken Soup book or a quirky joke. I share my personal experiences that relate to the passage or I bring people up front to share their experiences.

Yesterday I spoke on the Great Banquet (Luke 14:15-24). This is a very difficult passage to preach, especially if you share the parallel passage in Matthew 22 or share that there is a similar passage in the Gospel of Thomas. My emphasis was not on those that turned down the invitation, although it was necessary to demonstrate that it appears that everyone turned down the invitation, rather the emphasis was on inviting in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. It was not about inviting the “in crowd but the message is about inviting those that are on the outside.

Before Jesus told the parable he shared this bit of information on who to invite to your parties:

Luke 14:12-15 “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Here is where I think I dropped the ball.

I asked the congregation to look at all the empty chairs in the room and to visually pick a chair. I wanted them to notice that there was plenty of room, and as we gather to celebrate and worship God, who should we be inviting in. (My hope is that they remembered verse 12 and would not just invite friends and family)

I was criticized for presenting a self serving message that was only concerned with filling the place (church) with people. Now I know that I did present the idea that Jesus is relational, and that throughout the Gospel of Luke Jesus enjoys table fellowship with the religious folks and with sinners. I also shared that this same idea is communicated through the Old Testament. But as I am trying to reach people without a relationship with Jesus, let alone other Christians, I am going to have to choose my words more carefully. What got lost in translation?

The servant is told to go out into the streets and make people come in to the party, the word here in Greek is anagkazo or better translated compel. Unfortunately this translation and phrase helped the Inquisition to forcefully compel others into the faith, or risk losing their lives. My hope is that I communicated well that there is a sense of urgency but we must be able to communicate to others, in love, that Jesus desires to invite everyone into a relationship with Him and to enjoy His incredible party.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Curse of 3?

First let me say that I love Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon and Michael Jackson. I loved Farrah’s poster as a boy in the 70’s. My brother had a poster on his wall that I thought she was pretty HOT! Ed had that great laugh every time Johnny Carson would tell a joke. He was the perfect sidekick. And Michael was pretty cool in the 70’s and 80’s. I even went to a Jackson concert with my wife Monica early on in our relationship.

But the purpose of this quick post is to ponder the Curse of 3. Do celebrities get freaked out when one of their own dies? There is this legend that celebrities die in threes. I personally think this is crazy talk. If that were true who picks which three die? Why were the three chosen, is there a merit system? Did God cause the Angel of Death or the Grim Reaper to swoop down and pluck three celebrities?

What are your thoughts and feelings of the Curse of 3? Is it real or not?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Top 10 Reasons Why Men Shouldn't Be Ordained

My partner in ministry, Tara Healy posted this on her Facebook. As we have been considering planting a church together it is funny, to the point of frustration, how many are against women in ministry. I hope you enjoy the list as much as I did.

I receive this in an email and thought "How darkly funny!" Although this list we may consider absurd, we however do not apply that same absurdity to the list of restrictions to the ordination of women, when often reasons such as this exist as reasons to exclude women from ordination. Perhaps someday the list that is given about the exclusion of women will be just as "darkly funny" as this list. Enjoy and discuss!

Top 10 Reasons Why Men Shouldn't Be Ordained:

10. A man's place is in the army.

9. For men who have children, their duties might distract them from the responsibilities of being a parent.

8. Their physical build indicates that men are more suited to tasks such as chopping down trees and wrestling mountain lions. It would be "unnatural" for them to do other forms of work.

7. Man was created before woman. It is therefore obvious that man was a prototype. Thus, they represent an experiment, rather than the crowning achievement of creation.

6. Men are too emotional to be priests or pastors. This is easily demonstrated by their conduct at football games and watching basketball tournaments.

5. Some men are handsome; they will distract women worshipers.

4. To be ordained pastor is to nurture the congregation. But this is not a traditional male role. Rather, throughout history, women have been considered to be not only more skilled than men at nurturing, but also more frequently attracted to it. This makes them the obvious choice for ordination.

3. Men are overly prone to violence. No really manly man wants to settle disputes by any means other than by fighting about it. Thus, they would be poor role models, as well as being dangerously unstable in positions of leadership.

2. Men can still be involved in church activities, even without being ordained. They can sweep paths, repair the church roof, change the oil in the church vans, and maybe even lead the singing on Father's Day. By confining themselves to such traditional male roles, they can still be vitally important in the life of the Church.

1. In the New Testament account, the person who betrayed Jesus was a man. Thus, his lack of faith and ensuing punishment stands as a symbol of the subordinated position that all men should take.

Monday, March 16, 2009


I am sure I have mentioned this numerous times but I love TV! Really! I love sitcoms, dramas, reality shows, games shows and even info-commercials. I cannot get enough TV! I thank God for allowing us the ability to create the DVR; my DVR can record four shows at any one time.

A new show was introduced to me last night: Kings. I was unsure what the show was about and really didn’t want to be sucked into another show, I watch too much TV already. I am thinking about seeking medical attention for this disorder. I saw the commercials for the show but didn’t pay much attention, who wants to watch a show about a modern king of a country similar to the USA? Not me!

But then I heard it was based on the Biblical narrative of King David. Really?

King Silas (Saul), whose last name is Benjamin is the current leader of the unified country of Gilboa. King Saul, a Benjamite, was the first king of the unified Israel, before Israel and Judah split.

The capital city of Gilboa is Shiloh. Gilboa is the mountain where Saul and his sons were killed, rather Saul committed suicide and fell on his own sword there.

Shiloh is mentioned throughout Joshua as the meeting and worshiping place of the Israelites. It was at this place where Samuel the prophet was raised.

The religious leader of Gilboa is a Reverend Samuels, think Samuel the prophet.

David Shepherd is the hero of the story, think King David, who was a shepherd. His father’s name is Jesse but he died in the unification war.

Reverend Samuels stopped by David’s family home with car problem. David fixed the problem and Rev. Samuels anointed David’s forehead.

King Silas’ son is Jack Benjamin. I am waiting to see the parallels to Jonathan. David saved Jack Benjamin, who was captured by the army of Gath, by destroying Goliath, a military tank. He used a rocket launcher rather than using a sling.

David didn’t wear his military uniform with the country’s insignia (a butterfly) because he couldn’t run it. This is very similar to David refusing to wear Saul’s armor into battle.

David falls in love with Michelle Benjamin, King Silas’ daughter. King Saul’s daughter’s name was Michal.

The butterfly is the national image of Gilboa. We are told that a group of butterflies encircled King Silas’ head and made a crown, signifying that he was to be king. At the end of last night’s show butterflies encircle David’s head and make a crown as King Silas watches.

Ok I am sucked into another show, I hope I have enough room on my DVR. If you don’t want to know what happens next, don’t read your Bible. But if you want to understand the story better I would suggest you read your Bible.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Lent 2009

Lent started this past Wednesday and as in years past I was contemplating what I should “give up” as I prepared my heart for Easter. In the past I have given up coffee, soda and even TV for the entire period of Lent. These items had a grip on me and it was good to acknowledge the grip they had on me, the problem was I focused on the grip and not on Jesus. As soon as Easter came I was quick to jump back into my old ways, I still drink coffee to excess. I still watch too much TV, is DVR of the devil? So this year I decided to approach Lent from a different angle.

This year for Lent I wanted to give things up but not so radically that I miss the focus: the death and resurrection of Jesus. So my plan is as follows.

During Lent I will be reading through the Gospels. Do you know that more is written in the Gospels about the resurrection of Jesus than His birth? Bible Gateway has a great reading plan that I am using.

On Tuesdays I am fasting. I am not a fan of fasting but I hoping to do some quality research on the benefits of fasting and focusing that day on how God supplies my daily needs. This day will also be a day devoted to a more intense prayer time.

Fridays I am not eating meat of any kind except fish. Now that may sound simple but think of all the ways that meat pops up in your daily life. Last night I enjoyed a grilled swordfish!

I will keep you updated on how I am progressing and what I am learning in the process. I am excited to see how God communicates this Lent. But maybe even more, I am excited to see how well I hear God this Lenten season. What are some things you doing or giving up for Lent?

Friday, February 27, 2009

Give it Away

Just got done watching the news and saw the video below. Imagine a church giving it all away.

Dr. Dobson Steps Aside

According to the Associated PressConservative evangelical leader James Dobson has resigned as chairman of Focus on the Family but will continue to play a prominent role at the organization he founded more than three decades ago.

Dobson notified the board of his decision Wednesday, and the 950 employees of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based ministry were informed Friday morning at a monthly worship service, said Jim Daly, the group's president and chief executive officer.

Dobson, 72, will continue to host Focus on the Family's flagship radio program, write a monthly newsletter and speak out on moral issues, Daly said.

Now I know a lot of my conservative friends are grieving this announcement while many of my liberal friends are rejoicing. What do you think, is this the start of the end of this organization? Will their voice be heard (or listened to) in the future?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Legacy or Destiny

For some life is about leaving something behind, a way to be remembered by family and friends. For others it is about insuring that they will have lived the right life and maybe prayed the prayer to reach the pearly gates. But which is most important: the legacy or the destiny?


Have you ever considered what people will say about you once you have died? Will I have done the things that God wanted me to do? Will I have been good to others around me? Will I be missed, or just forgotten? Will I leave anything that will help make my kid’s lives easier?

What about in the future, will I be remembered? Will there be a plaque commemorating some contribution I gave to society? Will I have a building named after me? Or will I just be another name in the Ellis book of genealogy on a family tree?

I have a great uncle, Rube Ellis who played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1909 to 1912. He also played for the some minor league teams before and after his major league career. I have a couple of his baseball cards and a large poster of one of his cards hanging in my office. One significant piece of history I know about my great uncle is that he played a game against Babe Ruth in Brea, California. The ball field was located where the Ralph’s on Imperial and Brea Blvd. is located today. Besides that ball game, his career stats and some family information I know little about my great uncle. But Rube’s memory lives on in some baseball books and web sites.


Have you ever considered life after death? What happens next? Does your body just become worm food? What happens to your soul?

I have been considering the “what next” question. Maybe I should start with the “what first” question. Are we only living our lives in expectation of life after death? Is it just about getting to heaven? And if heaven is the goal why should I be concerned about the here and the now?

When I consider reaching a destination I think of the journey we find ourselves on. Half the fun of a road trip is the car ride. Reaching the destination is sometimes anticlimactic (consider the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation). But for the journey of “what next” I do not know if that is a destination we will see in our lifetime. But it should be a great road trip! Do not get me wrong there is a destination but it may be different than we have thought (read Revelation 21).

So, which is most important the legacy or the destiny?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Help Wanted?

This morning I saw this great picture on Brad Ruggles’ blog as he talked about the tensions that we are facing in this crazy economic time. Many churches and nonprofits (which I now can say I have worked for both) are cutting jobs or not replacing open positions. I have been out of work for the past four months and have been busy trying to land the right job in youth ministry. They have been very few openings that were right for me. It has been frustrating.

So today I have an interview with a retail grocery story. I spent almost 30 years in the grocery industry, and most all of those years in a management position. I really enjoyed those years in the store working with others and serving the needs of those that shopped in my store. Even though it is not a ministry job I looking forward to the possibility of returning to my former career.

This might not be a job where I plan all-nighters or pizza parties. This might not be the job where I create messy games or play egg blow. But this job is an opportunity to meet people, where they are, living out their daily lives. Working in a church sometimes limits our connection with those outside Christianity. It is my hope that I can land this job and connect with people inside and outside Christianity.

Please consider praying with me that God opens just the right door to just the right career.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

We ain’t seen anything yet!

Next Wednesday night Lost returns to TV and I am very excited. The past seasons have been the attempts of the castaways to get off the island. This season the Oceanic 6 are attempting to return to the Island. But the Island has disappeared and all that left the Island must return, but who does that really include? What about dead Locke?

In the Orange County Register today a columnist wrote that he has solved the mystery of Lost.

For me, the light bulb finally went on when Ben climbed down a ladder at Jacob's behest.

In Genesis, Jacob had a dream of a ladder that reached between heaven and Earth. The "Lost" island is a Jacob's Ladder for the post-Einstein world.

Rather than a ladder to heaven, it is a gateway to other dimensions, including the afterlife. Hence, the appearances of many dead people to the passengers, as well as the resurrections of Locke and others.

Jacob, as the ruling being of the Island, holds the key to the link between Earth and the extra-dimensional worlds.

Another thought I read was that the survivors are stuck between Heaven and Hell, with Jacob’s ladder being blocked somehow by Ben. Consider that Richard and the Others do not age, and no babies are born on the island.

It’s all amazing and who knows what will be the actual truth! All I know is that this season of Lost will be great! We ain’t seen anything yet!

In the Bible we read the story of Jacob’s dream and a vision of a ladder that reaches to Heaven.

Genesis 28:12 He (Jacob) had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

God appears to Jacob and gives Jacob a promise that includes land, descendants and continuing protection through all the wanderings that will follow and all peoples of the earth will be blessed through his descendants.

In the New Testament Philip encounters Jesus and he believes immediately that the Messiah has arrived. Philip tells Nathanael to come see Jesus of Nazareth. Nathanael responds, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”(John 1:46)

Later Jesus tells Nathanael "You shall see greater things than that. I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man." (John 1:50c-51)

Encountering Jesus is life changing. We have an idea of what is in store for us but I really think that “We ain’t seen anything yet!”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chastity, Marriage and Babies

In Mark Driscoll’s Blog today he talks about the Spiritual Discipline of Chastity. Now I will admit being married has helped me not worry too much about this topic. But there is a phenomenon happening in our culture (you know I love exploring cultural things) that has been shaping marriage, or rather when individuals get married.

Driscoll shares some interesting statistics:

Statistically in the U.S., the number of unmarried adults has continually increased, with 36 percent in 1970, 39 percent in 1980, 41 percent in 1990, and 44 percent in 2000. In 2006, for the first time in history, the number of unmarried people exceeded 50 percent of the adult population. Both men and women are waiting longer to marry for the first time; the median age for men went from 23 in 1950 to 27 in 2003, and the median age for women jumped from 20 to 25 in that same period.

But the other bit of information that Driscoll shares is that individuals are more sexually active at a younger age.

A 2006 report on NPR said that 80 percent of Americans are sexually active by the age of 20, and only 20 percent of women marry as virgins. Furthermore, cohabitation has increased 72 percent between 1990 and 2000, and the cohabitation rate increased ten-fold between 1960 and 2000. Fully 41 percent of Americans will cohabitate at some point during their life.

From a Reuters article in 2004 fewer teens were getting pregnant but more unwed women were having babies. 45% of all pregnancies were to unwed mothers. 12% of all pregnancies were to teenagers (compared to 15%in 1990).

So what does this all mean? Chap Clark in his book Hurt shares that adolescence continues longer in life than in past generations. For my generation you were fully out of adolescence by the time you reached 18. Today Clark states that there is a stage of life called post- adolescence which lasts for some individuals until they are 28. Is it an unwillingness to commit the issue? How does maturity play into this?

I am seeing more and more young people getting married later in life. I have had to encourage those that are living together and enjoying all the benefits of marriage to consider getting married. It was hard enough for my generation to attempt to stay virgins until 18, imagine the added difficulty to stay a virgin until 22, 25 or even 28. There are so many outside influences that work to destroy whatever foundation we have built into the lives of our sons and daughters. As a youth pastor it requires a renewed effort, filled with creativity, each year to share again the benefits of living a chaste life.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Wind of Change

Yesterday I was reminded of the movie “Mary Poppins.” Now I know that you may be thinking “Why and how does Mary Poppins come up in everyday conversation?” In the story two children decide to write up their ideas on what would make a perfect nanny for them only to have their stern father tear up their list and throw it into the fireplace where a strange wind carries it up the chimney. The next day there is a change in the weather, the wind changes direction and blows all the unqualified nannies away. But the wind of change also brings in the most qualified nanny: Mary Poppins.

We live in a world that is changing, and for some this change is happening rapidly and is an unwelcome intruder threatening to take away safety and security. Many have been saving and investing in various money market accounts: CD’s, T Bills, property, stocks, and numerous others ways to grow their money. But many have lost the wealth they have stored up for themselves, money that would ensure a simpler life during retirement. The questions become, “Who do you trust, the bank or God?” and “Where are you storing your treasure?”

We live in a world that is changing, and getting smaller. We can connect with people around the world and talk to them in real time. Social media (Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and others) have created a world where our neighbor can be another continent away. We hear about the evils happening to people groups, sometimes even before the world’s media pick it up (example Dafur, Somli Pirates and the attacks in India). We can connect with our favorite author or musician and discover they are people with hopes and dreams, just like us. And we get to read, discover and share ideas and thoughts. How will we deal with the injustices around the world?

We live in a world that is changing. Next week Barrack Obama will be sworn in as our 44th president. 140 years ago the Civil War was ending and through the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, slavery was abolished. 100 years later our country faced civil unrest as African Americans fought for equal rights. That was 40 years ago. 40 years ago African Americans were given the right to vote. 40 years, a generation later, Barrack Obama is president. Isn’t it ironic that Inauguration Day is the day after Martin Luther King Day?

We live in a changing world. We can fight it, and sometimes we should, or we can support it.

Over 2,000 years ago a man was executed on a Roman cross, this in itself was not unusual and many in the Roman Empire faced a similar punishment. But this man was thought to be the savior of the world, but then he died. For his followers this death was unexpected, they believed he was the son of God, indestructible. But he died.

Most all of you know the story but three days after he was laid to rest in a tomb where he rose from the dead and was physically alive again. He beat death! This is the resurrection. I have been reading through N.T. Wright’s book “Surprised by Hope” and Wright explains that this unexpected resurrection was a culturally changing event. It changed history. Consider that in a very short period of time the day of worship changed from Saturday to Sunday.

Change is not new, we have all read our history books on movements and culture shifts, some have been good and some have been bad. But God is in charge of the wind and the wave, he is in control and he is allowing the winds of change to happen in our world.