Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Lion, the Witch, the Wardrobe, and the Four Year Old

Kinsey loves movies. She would watch the same movie over and over again if she could. Right now, it’s The Polar Express. In the past, it’s been Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc., Sleeping Beauty, Lion King, and Toy Story 2. You’ll probably notice a lot of Pixar movies in there. I personally love the Pixar movies because they are good and appropriate for kids, but even more importantly they tell great stories. I remember watching the first Toy Story in the theater and having to remind myself that I was watching a cartoon because the story was so engrossing.

One movie that we were really uncertain about was The Incredibles when it came out in November of 2004. It was the first PG rated Pixar film and Sheryl and I saw it in the theater to see if Kinsey could take it. We decided that since there was quite a bit of violence and a character does die at the end, it would be too much. Of course, we got it on DVD because we figured that Kinsey would really get into it when she got older. Well, I started showing it to her when we got it, just to see how she would do with it. And she loved it. Loved every second of it. She laughed at all the funny parts, liked to pretend that she was Dash, all the great stuff. She didn’t even seem too bothered when the character dies at the end. Well, this got me all jazzed up to show her Star Wars (Star Wars IV: A New Hope for you completists out there) However, Sheryl vetoed this (she has a very powerful vote) thinking that it would be completely different seeing violence done to real people.

At any rate, all of this is brought to my mind by the upcoming release of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (TLTWATW). I read the book to her this summer as well as reading a story book version of it, which she loves. However, I don’t think we’re going to take her to the movie version. I think it looks a bit too Lord of the Rings in the violence category and I think the scene with Aslan on the Stone Table looks particularly scary (and a good thing in my opinion). I want to take her to good entertainment, but I also don’t want to scar her too early. Also, there’s something different about seeing something like that in a dark theater rather than with the lights on in the family room.

So what do you guys think? Is 4 years old too young to see violence in something like TLTWATW? Or am I being oversensitive?

Monday, November 28, 2005

"...you visited me."

I don’t really plan on making these Monday posts a usual occurrence, but something happened yesterday that I want to post on.

I went with three other guys to a maximum security prison yesterday to help lead some church time. This is all a part of me trying to take Matthew 25 as seriously as I can. The first place we went is called the Annex and it’s more for guys who are getting ready to be paroled or less serious offenders. We met in basically a conference room with about 10 other guys and did communion and had a discussion about John 3.

But the thing that really hit me was that in one corner of the room was this picture painted on the cement block of Disney characters. When I first saw that it seemed so out of place to me, until I realized that it was a place for the kids when they came and visited their dads in prison and just picturing the situations when those kids would come and then have to leave and how the hearts must break during those times. I felt such pain for those guys and their families.

After the Annex, we went to the real maximum security area and had to go through all the check-in procedures. We walked up to the chapel area and there were about 40 guys in there getting ready for worship. They had a band and they played a lot of old time hymns: “Victory in Jesus,” “I’ll Fly Away,” stuff like that. It was amazing for me to think that one week previous, I’d been at the Ryman Auditorium with about 800 other Christians, worshipping in a very similar way. And I realized that God doesn’t view those two worship services as different at all. They were both His children worshipping Him. The place of them was simply different and the circumstances were. You see, the only difference I see is that the guys in the prison made bad choices and are having to live with the consequences of those decisions. The people at the Ryman could go home to their beds and wake up the next day and do the things their freedom allowed. The guys at the prison can’t, but I don’t believe that God looks at those two worship times as different at all. We create the differences. Our mistake is when we become like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14 and not the tax collector.

I was honored to be in both places, one week apart. And while I may never run sound at the Ryman again, I’ll be back at the prison.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Thanksgiving 2005

For the last two years, I've organized the Thanksgiving service at Otter Creek. Here's what I said yesterday.

I don’t really have much to say today. I figure at this time we’ve all thought about the things we are thankful for: a chance to get together with family, good food, good times. We are simply a fortunate people who live in a country that allows us to live and worship in the way we wish. These are good things and things for which we should be thankful.

One of the other things that I’m incredibly thankful for is this church body here at Otter Creek. The last 5 years of my life have been pretty full. From the birth of my daughter to losing two jobs, to now working at Otter Creek for the last three years and being at my current job for two and then this year, going on a ministry trip to England and Sheryl being pregnant, things have been incredibly full. And through it all, Otter Creek has been a bedrock for me. It’s where my best friends are; it’s where my mentors in life and faith are. It’s where I was baptized, it’s where I got married, and it’s where my daughter was dedicated to God.

One of the things that always encourages me about Otter Creek is the ability to ask questions that don’t have easy or obvious answers, and even the ability to ask questions that have obvious answers, but the answers are not easy. I’ve been asking a lot of those questions over the last two years. Wondering about the purpose of church, the purpose of staring at the back of each other’s heads for an hour every Sunday, singing songs about how much God loves me, wondering about what it means to be a Christian, wondering about who Jesus was.

One thing that I’ve thought hard about is that for those gifted with physical and financial wealth, the responsibility to the poor is huge. We have to give of what we have been given. That’s what I hope this gift card drive can remind us. That some of the things that we take for granted (like buying diapers or laundry detergent or toilet paper or getting gas) are not things that some people can do every day. And I think it’s incumbent upon those people who have the ability to help those who need it, should help those that need it. If that’s not what Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-36 is talking about, I don’t know what it is.

Honestly, this is something difficult for me to think about. I don’t like thinking about the fact that there are families in this city living on less than $10,000 a year. I don’t like the thought that tonight some parents will not eat themselves so that their children can eat. But they are there.

Back in August, this fact was brought into sharp focus with Hurricane Katrina. The memories I have are not simply of the devastation that Katrina brought onto the Gulf Coast, but of all the faces of the people stranded downtown begging for help. The stories of the people at the New Orleans Convention Center and the Superdome brought to light the struggle that so many have everyday. It’s true that those situations were among the worst that we could imagine in a civilized society, but they also show the very thin thread that can sometimes hold things together for people. When desperate people get into desperate situations, some do desperate, foolish, stupid, dangerous things.

We’ve taken the opportunity that came out of Katrina’s devastation to help people in the Gulf Coast to clean out their houses and begin rebuilding them. Now I truly believe that we are being called to help people here in Nashville do the same thing with their lives. We are being called to help people clean out their lives and begin rebuilding them. And it’s hard work. Ask any of the people who have gone down to help with Katrina clean up. It’s nasty, it’s tiring. The work of rebuilding people’s lives is just the same way. But you see, we don’t have to come up with fancy mission statements or vision statements. Jesus did it for us in Matthew 28:19: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” We’ve got our mission; it’s simply for us to decide to get off our pews and go do it.

You see, as I read the Scriptures, it becomes apparent that part of the judgment we will have will be based on how we treat those that are less fortunate. In Amos 5, verses 21-24, God says,

21 "I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
I cannot stand your assemblies.

22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.

23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.

24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!

God doesn’t care about our worship, if we are not active in bringing justice to those who are having it denied to them. And even more pointedly, Jesus says in Matthew 25.

31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

34"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Being a Christian is more than simply mentally assenting to an idea about Jesus. It’s about following him and his example.

Remembering what we have to be thankful for is a wonderful part of this time of year. But if we are serious about claiming to be “little Christs” (which is what it means to say you’re a “Christian”), then we have to be concerned about the things and the people that Jesus was concerned about: the poor, the people outside of the mainstream, the disenfranchised.

So as we go out today to enjoy our times with families and then tomorrow as some of you will be waking up at ungodly hours of the morning to save money on gifts, try to remember those we usually do our best to ignore. We claim a Savior who did that. So should we.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Picking Battles

One of the big things I think about in raising Kinsey and the next one is picking the right “battles to fight.” I really try to figure out when is the right time to really enforce my will (what I think she should do) on her (what she wants to do). You guys read about this process last week.

I get caught between this “daddy” desire to let her do exactly what she wants whenever she wants that makes her happy and the “father” ideas that she actually needs to do what I tell her to do when I tell her to do it. Now I’ll say that she has gotten much better about this than she was 1 year and 2 years ago, but every now and then I’ll tell her to do something and not only won’t she do it, she’ll give me this look of what I can only describe as defiance and if there’s anything that gets my blood boiling, it’s that.

So from you guys, what insights do you have about what battles to fight? When do you fight them? How do you fight them?

Monday, November 21, 2005

My Weekend

Could I post this tomorrow? Sure, but let me tell you about my weekend…

Saturday morning. Woke up at 6:45 (not my normal waking time on a weekend). Drove downtown to hear Tony Campolo speak on politics at the Downtown Presbyterian Church. Talked to Tony Campolo and his wife for a brief time about the interior of the church (Egyptian revivalist from the 1920s, I think, even though I said it was the late 1800s on Saturday [couldn’t remember the field trip information from my youth]) Heard Tony Campolo lecture about politics. “If someone asks me if I’m a Democrat or Republican, I say, ‘On what issue?’” Also got to hear him say, "Every day 3500 children die of preventable causes and what's even worse is that most of you don't give a shi.. And what's even worse than that is the more of you are more concerned that I just said 'Shi.' in a church than the fact that 3500 children will die today." He was quoting himeself, but I still heard him say it live. Went down to the Convention Center to get in to the exhibit hall for the National Youthworkers Convention with my buddy, Adam Ellis. Didn’t have a badge. Couldn’t get in. Went back up the Downtown Pres. Actually TALKED with Tony Campolo about Christians in Politics and how he thinks Karl Rove is actually evil and a genius.

Saturday Afternoon: Went home and picked up Kinsey so Sheryl could sleep some. Took Kinsey to Davis-Kidd so she could play and hang out (she didn’t do much of either of those things). Got her a couple of books and me one (Luke for Everyone by N.T. (Tom) Wright). Came home. Turned on the TV. WATCHED VANDERBILT BEAT UT!!!!!!!!!!! Ran out into my yard and screamed and jumped up and down. Called all my Vandy friends that I know to celebrate. Barely avoided calling all my UT supporting friends and being really obnoxious.

Saturday Night: Clean up house and rest…

Sunday Morning: Church. Did the Ministry Moment about the Loughborough trip. Met someone who had gone to the British Bible School with Mark and Paul Hill and had done campaigns in Loughborough. Small world? No, Tiny World. Went to lunch with Sheryl and Kinsey.

Sunday Afternoon and Night: Went downtown to the Ryman. Set up for the Thanksgiving Worship Service sponsored by the Operation Andrew Group and the YMCA of Middle Tennessee. Ran the sound mix at the Ryman Auditorium. For a 19 person racially integrated Praise team from Otter Creek and the Temple Church. Plus a 5 man band. Ran the sound mix at the Ryman Auditorium. Btw, this was an amazing night. I’ll never hear Days of Elijah the same way again. Came home. Was asleep by 11 (early for me).

Friday, November 18, 2005

Things Are Happening

In last week's post, I talked about the poverty seminar that Otter Creek had (was going to have, at that point). Something is happening.

If you've read this blog over the last year or so, you know that I've been doing a lot of thinking about what my obligations as a follower of Jesus are to other people. I've started to really get to a point that I feel like there are significant responsibilities to the poor (Matthew 25; Luke 4; etc.). The truth is that while I recognize that fact, I've never felt like I truly have been able to put that thought into action. Part of it is that I'm kind of protective of my "me time." When I get home from work, I don't want to head back out and do something else. I like having my weekends to spend time with my family or doing something enjoyable. The other thing is very simply that poor people make me uncomfortable. I don't know if it's a strange sort of guilt that I feel because I have "things" and they don't or what's going on with that. It just is what it is.

But it's time for me to get over it.

For a long time, I've talked and talked and talked. It's time to put some actions behind my words.

I've become very fortunate in the last six months to get to know Doug Sanders, the Director of Ministries at Otter Creek, quite a bit better. Now, I'll be honest (really honest), when Doug joined, I was a bit leery. Here was a guy coming from the business world into the church world and I was really scared that he was going to bring a business approach to the church (numbers focused). I was very wrong. Doug has caught on fire for the kind of stuff that I and others have been convicted about. But even better, he is putting actions onto words and thoughts that people have really been talking about and directions that people have been moving gradually in.

It's exciting, scary, and I have no idea how all of this is going to turn out. It's in God's hands. Otter Creek is going to start doing some things that I'm excited to see how it turns out. It's going to be hard and it's not always going to be successful and we're probably going to get taken advantage of. But it's how we can show love to people.

I talked a while ago about wanting to be as committed to helping people here in Nashville as I was to the England trip. I hope this is the beginning of that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Thoughts of a Soon-to-be Second Time Father

So the news is out. Sheryl is pregnant with our second child and we really do appreciate all the congratulations and well wishes from all over the world (Hi to Chris and Lena in Kyiv and anyone from Loughborough that might be reading).

And that’s the actual reason I started posting this Tuesday update, kind of to track my thoughts throughout the pregnancy so that Wilson II: The Quickening will be able to see them from when s/he was in utero. I was always curious as to who my parents were before I was born and what they thought about things, so this blog is to see how exactly I felt about things. Btw, yes, we are going to find out the sex in January and that’s actually the subject of today’s blog.

As most of you know, Sheryl and I have a daughter, Kinsey, who will turn 5 on June 5. The due date for this child is May 30, so just six days difference in the two birthdays, if everything goes according to schedule. Sheryl and I were always going to find out the sex (we did with Kinsey), but the closeness of the due date makes it really interesting.

I think as a guy I’m genetically predisposed to wanting a son. Someone to roughhouse with, take to football games, all that guy kind of stuff. Which is stupid, because I can and do do all that with Kinsey. She roughhouses with the best of them, with me anyway. But I still would like a boy, at least to even up the odds in the house. However, having a boy would mean buying a whole slew of new stuff (or at least borrowing it). If we have a girl, not only do we have all the girlie toys (yes, another social stereotype), we have all the clothes in the right season in the right size (winter for 6-9 months, summer for 12-18, etc), plus I’ve got experience with a girl and at least have some expectations of how one will act and react.

For instance, putting Kinsey to bed last night. She decided she wanted her blinds open and obviously, that’s not going to work. So I shut them. She proceeds to open them one by one with her hands. They’re those slat blinds. I told her to stop and with that look at me like “What are you going to do about it?” she did one more. Now I know she’s tired and she needed go to sleep, so I picked her up, laid her on her bed, and shut the door.

You would have thought I had cut off her hand or something. She cried for 20 minutes, calling for Mommy the entire time. I finally went in there and told her that she could see Mommy when she stopped crying and she did, and then fell asleep in about five minutes.

The joys of parenthood.

btw, for an "ouch" laugh today, go to Preston's blog and prepare to sing along.

Friday, November 11, 2005


Sheryl's pregnant with our second child. Heard the heartbeat today. Or "heart beep" as Kinsey calls it.

Woo hoo!!!

Helping the Poor

Well, after that slight diversion into Pat Robertson country (fun place, ain’t it?), here’s the real blog for today.

My church is holding a “Poverty Seminar” on Saturday to get some information about the problem of poverty and explore ways that we as Christians can assist in that. I think it’s a valuable pursuit and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.

Here’s the question and I’m really not sure how the answer to this goes:

I completely agree that Christians have an obligation to the poor and to help those less fortunate, but what form should that take? I have a real issue with the image of the rich suburban church striding in triumphantly to help the poor urban folk. How do we help people that are poor without marginalizing them simply by helping them? Can we offer assistance without that being an insult in and of itself? Does it have to be more that “paratrooper help,” i.e. dropping in and getting out? Does it require building credibility slowly and convincing people we really care about them and not just about doing a “ministry”?

I’m looking for really concrete ideas out of this.

Pat Robertson Is at It Again.

Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson told citizens of a Pennsylvania town that they had rejected God by voting their school board out of office for supporting "intelligent design" and warned them Thursday not to be surprised if disaster struck.

Dear Mr. Robertson,

Please shut up.



Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Family Blog

I thought I’d try something a little different on Tuesdays. I’ve got a lot of family stuff on my mind right now and feel like I’m struggling some. There are a lot of mom blogs out there so here’s the dad perspective. Rest assured that I’ll still post my drivel on Fridays.

I’m discovering that Kinsey is a very strong willed and extremely sensitive little girl (4 years old, for those who don’t know). She is stubborn as they come and will cry at the drop of a hat. For instance, if something doesn’t go her way like not getting to sit with a friend in class, she will cry and cry. She can also be very demanding and quite bossy with people, simply telling people what to do and even using a very strong tone of voice. It’s quite frustrating to me as her father because I want her to be a well adjusted and well liked girl and I’m kind of afraid her attitude will make that harder than it should really be.

Part of me wonders if this is an only child thing, where she is pretty much the center of attention. Part of me wonders if it’s a personality thing that she’s going to have the rest of her life.

Now it’s not always like that and generally she’s a very sweet and cooperative girl. I just want her to be well behaved and pretty much perfect. Hmmm. Maybe I’m the unreasonable one.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The England Journal: Final Thoughts

You know, I've had about two weeks now to really think about this trip and the good and bad of it. And honestly, there was both, but I'll focus on the good.

This was a really unique experience for me and my family. On one hand, I have had the incredible opportunity of being to England twice. To be honest, after the trip in 2000, I knew that Sheryl and I would go back. I honestly didn't know that we'd be back in 5 years with our child. I really thought it would be another 20 or 25. But we got to live our dream a second time and we loved it. However, it was very different from the trip in 2000 in that it was a mission trip and not only that, it was our first mission trip.

It was incredibly special. The people that we met in Loughborough blew me away with their kindness and warmth and hospitality. Mark Hill is one of the hardest working men I've ever met and I respect and love him dearly. His cousin Paul is so hysterical and such a great father to his children and just a man after God's heart. Mark's parents, Norman and Brenda, allow an American family to invade their house and gave us some privacy when we needed and made us laugh and feel at home after long days.

That doesn't even get to the young adults that we met and played with: Tim, Jo, Graham, all those teenage girls that acted just like I'd expect teenage girls to act, confirming that shrieking girls are not limited to the States.

And the children in the HBC. Those sweet fun faces that loved learning the "Going Bananas" song and "C-O-C-O-N-U-T" and that laughed with us and did the crafts and screamed at the Banana piranha.

I loved eating the fish and standing in the queues at the supermarket and saying "crisps" and "biscuits" and kind of acting English, even though I'll really never be.

And I'll always remember Wednesday night. Not because of the talk I gave, but within that talk, I spoke of a smidge of guilt I had for being in England. You see, I really wanted to go. And when the opportunity came up, Sheryl and I jumped at it. And we planned and we worked and we raised funds and all of that. Then Katrina hit and I watched with horror the devastation and had these doubts. How could I go to England when people so close (relatively) were suffering. I was going to England to work with the church, but I was also looking forward to being there and going to London and the Lion King and Westminster Abbey. This was as much a pleasure trip for us as it was a mission/encouragement trip. Mark then spoke up and encouraged me greatly and said that, Yes, they could have put on their own HBC and yes, we could have stayed home and helped with Katrina, but he already knew of children that were so sad we were leaving, because we'd worked so hard with them and taught them about Jesus and they were already getting inklings of that. And that night made the whole trip right there.

There were hard times. I got really annoyed with some people on Friday in London. I wonder sometimes if the team as a whole didn't get distracted by the fact that we were in England, and if we'd gone somewhere else that we didn't have a natural attraction to, if we wouldn't have been as distracted. But I know God worked through us and in us. I have formed relationships with people in our singles' group that I would never have had before. We have grown to love them and will always count them as a part of our family, and I know Kinsey will always remember them as her England friends.

I look forward to us going back and working with the church in Loughborough again, although it might not be for awhile. I'm grateful for the chance and the time that we had there. I thank all of you who have read with me over the last two weeks and hope you've at least got something out of it.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The England Journal: Sermon

This is the sermon that I was planning on teaching the Sunday we were in Loughborough, but ended up using it as the basis of the discussion on Wednesday night. It's pretty long, but I would be interested in the thoughts of the blogworld on it.

We’re going to look at three different Scriptures today, from all over the Bible, but you’ll be able to see some relation between them as we go through them.

The first one is in 2 Kings 7, and to give you some context here. Samaria is in a famine and on top of that a city in Samaria is being besieged by the Arameans. Prices have risen so high that the Samaritans are paying the equivalent of five pounds of silver for a donkey’s head to eat, and let’s remember here that donkeys were unclean. So here we have a famine and they’re under siege by Arameans. And into this story, we come to verse 3 of chapter 7.

2Ki 7:3 Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die?

2Ki 7:4 If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’—the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.”

2Ki 7:5 At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, not a man was there,

2Ki 7:6 for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!”

2Ki 7:7 So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.

2Ki 7:8 The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.

2Ki 7:9 Then they said to each other, “We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.”

To give more context to this we have to understand the condition of lepers. They were the outcasts of society. Worse than dogs. Worse than Madonna. So bad that they had to live outside the city gates. They were untouchable. They had to yell “Unclean!” anytime anyone came near them. And things were so desperate for them that they were willing to go to the enemy that was putting them under siege them to beg for food.

However, the most important thing to notice is their reaction when they discover the Arameans are gone. At first they are selfish and greedy. They eat and drink and hide things. But then, it’s as if their eyes are opened and they realize the problem with what they’re doing. They’re not sharing good news with everyone who can benefit from it. So they go back to the city.

Now, the obvious lesson we can take from this is that we should not be greedy with our faith. That we should share with everyone we come in contact with. As Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.” However, I’d like to look at this from a slightly different perspective. I want us to look at the focus. The lepers, the outcasts. These are the ones bringing the good news back. And with that we have to note the prominent position that the poor, the downtrodden, and the marginalized play in the Kingdom of God.

One of the primary components of the Kingdom is that it works completely differently from the power structures of this world. In this world, the rich, the strong, the mighty are the ones that have the power. In the Kingdom, it is the ones who are weak, the ones who are dependant, the ones who are the least of these. This is a critical component of the Kingdom because it causes us to realize that all the ways that we try to create power for ourselves, whether in business or relationship, have no bearing in the Kingdom and have no eternal significance.

Philip Yancey, in The Jesus I Never Knew, says that God seems to have a special preference for the poor and the downtrodden. In fact if we look at the people that God has chosen to bring His message through it seems to be a who’s who of people that you wouldn’t expect.

Here we have the lepers and I think we’ve covered them. Both Saul and David were not the ones expected to be the King of Israel. As we get into the New Testament, the list gets even more unlikely. The book of Philemon shows that slaves like Onesimus prominently figure into Paul’s picture. The book of Philemon leaves no doubt in this. Tax Collectors who were considered collaborators with the Roman empire join with Jesus in spreading the good news. Look at Zaccheus and Matthew. Women are used in the spreading of the kingdom from Mary Magdalene telling the disciples about the empty tomb and the risen Jesus, to the woman at the well running back to tell the village about this man that knew more about her than he could have possibly known, even to Jesus’ mother Mary. I mean think of it, one of the first people in the world to know and to understand what the coming Kingdom of God would mean was a teenage Jewish girl in a backwater of the Roman Empire.

And let’s ponder that fact for a second. Jesus is the only person in human history that could choose his parents. And whom did he choose? Did he choose to be the son of Augustus Caesar the Roman Emperor of the time? Did he choose to be the son of the High Priest of Israel? Or even the son of Herod? No. He chose two Jewish people, not even from Jerusalem, who were obviously poor, as we see from the sacrifice they make at the temple in Luke 2:24. Had they had the money, Mary and Joseph would have sacrificed a lamb instead of two doves.

This is even further reflected in Jesus’ first public teaching in Luke 4:14-29.

Lk 4:14 Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.

Lk 4:15 He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.

Lk 4:16 He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read.

Lk 4:17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

Lk 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,

because he has anointed me

to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners

and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

Lk 4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Lk 4:20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,

Lk 4:21 and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

We see here the statement that God has come to bring good news to the poor and the downtrodden and oppressed. And it’s obvious that the people of Nazareth had no issues with what Jesus says here, because verse 22 says that the people spoke “gracious words” about him. They were oppressed by the Romans and here was Jesus saying that this Scripture (quoted from Isaiah 61) was coming to pass with him. And to them this meant that the Romans were going to be overthrown and the Kingdom of David would be restored; in other words, a physical Kingdom.

But then look at verses 28 and 29:

Lk 4:28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this.

Lk 4:29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff.

Huh? What happened in the intervening verses to make the people of his hometown so angry that they would want to kill him?

Verses 24 through 27 give us the answer.

Lk 4:24 “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.

Lk 4:25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.

Lk 4:26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon.

Lk 4:27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”

What does Jesus say that makes them so angry? He includes Gentiles in salvation! He includes people who were not of Abraham’s covenant in the prophecy from Isaiah! If his coming was heralding the overthrow of the Gentiles how could Gentiles participate in the Kingdom?

This is another one of the misunderstandings about the Kingdom that people had during Jesus’ life and continue to have today. In Mark 10, when James and John ask for them to be at Jesus’ side in the Kingdom, they’re not asking about spiritual positions; they’re asking about places of physical power. Even after the Resurrection, the disciples still don’t understand. Acts 1:6 shows that the disciples are still thinking that the Kingdom is going to come physically. Only after receiving the Spirit in Acts 2 do they understand the truth: the Kingdom of God is a spiritual reality that has physical manifestations.

The good news of the Kingdom of God is about surprise. It’s about unexpectedness. It’s about God being available to everyone and it’s our responsibility to be aware of that and be a part of that mission. We have to be about preaching the good news to the poor, we have to be about all of these people Jesus mentions here, because that is a part of our mission.

We have to be willing to die to ourselves and go places that we might not be comfortable and befriend people we might not normally befriend. There is such a tendency for Christians to insulate ourselves against the world to avoid being “contaminated” that we forget the primary mission Jesus gave the disciples before he ascended in Matthew 28:19. “Go and make disciples of all nations….”

Notice that he says “Go!” Not bring them somewhere. Go to them.

Because honestly, that’s what he did for us. He came down from where he was. He came down from his place in glory. The beautiful passage in Philippians 2 tells this story:

Phil 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Phil 2:6 Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

Phil 2:7 but made himself nothing,

taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

Phil 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

Phil 2:9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

Phil 2:10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

Phil 2:11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

If this was the attitude of our Lord to us, how can it not be ours to others less fortunate than us, especially if we are supposed to be Jesus to the world? May God give us the strength and the courage and the dependence on Him to do His work in this world. May He give us the dependence on Him and the dependence on each other for this work.

For those that have ears, let them hear.

Final Thoughts

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The England Journal: Pictures

The Loughborough Church of Christ

Looking Down through the
Market to Loughborough Town

The jetlagged team

Angie in a rare happy mood

Hopscotch on Sunday Afternoon

Rehearsing for the Skits


Monday Afternoon Tea Trivia

Mt. Saint Benard's Abbey
Fave Pic)

Bradgate Park

Paul Hill, in Matrix Mode

A couple of cutups

Banana Piranha!!!!

Kinsey and her Dan (Oh,
yeah, and Kasey)

Let's all go Bananas!!!

Is that a face in your pie, sir?

She's 4. Hopefully she'll
grow out of it.

Kinsey and her new friend, Loren

Kinsey at Chatsworth

The girls in the maze

The Americans descrating
the grounds of Chatsworth

Kinsey and Daddy in Chatsworth

Off to Hogwarts

Is that the Queen?

The Family at Trafalgar

On the London Eye

Tubing after the Lion King

At the Covent Garden Market

The London Eye

Piccadilly Circus

Up the front of Westminster

Westminster at night

The back of Westminster

Blurry Ben

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The England Journal: Sunday, October 23

Home. At last.

I’m very glad to be here. As much as we loved England and the time that we spent there, there’s no place like home.

We caught our taxis at about 9 this morning, with very little room to spare inside the vehicles for us, our bags, and Michelle’s cement samples. Then we flew through the city to get to Heathrow. It was my first time going to the airport by not using the Heathrow Express so that was kind of fun. Heathrow was fine and we got on our plane.

The neverending flight. Seriously, I thought that this flight was never going to end. Not because Kinsey was bad or there was a lot of turbulence, it was just a long flight. And unlike the flight to London, there were no good movies. Sure there was Bewitched, but after a promising first half, the last half was absolutely horrible. I watched a couple of episodes of CSI and tried to read. However, we got to Chicago finally.

And Chicago was no fun. We had to get all of our luggage (including Michelle’s) and go through Customs and then recheck all of our luggage. I understand that that is how it has to work, but man, it was a serious hassle.

We hung out for our flight to Nashville, and then learned that our flight was over its weight limit and they needed some people to volunteer to take a later flight (incentives offered of course), so Bart offered to stay behind, with the joke becoming that Michelle’s luggage bumped Bart off.

We finally got back to Nashville at about 7:30 and some of the people from church were waiting for us along with my mom and dad. Kinsey had to introduce everyone to her Gee (my mom). We hugged everyone and being kind of tired of being with them, left and got home at a decent time.

I’m glad to be sleeping in my own bed tonight.

Non Journal Note:
Well, that's the end of the journal. I think that over the next couple of days I'll post some pictures of the trip and then on Friday I'll post some of my post trip thoughts.

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