Toy Box Leadership” LEGOS- Relationships

Toy Box Leadership Legos Relationships Bob was in trouble. He had forgotten his wedding anniversary…and his wife was MAD! She grabbed him by the shirt and said, “Tomorrow morning, there had better be a gift in the driveway. And that gift, my friend, had BETTER go from zero to 200 in less than 6 seconds…if you get catch my drift! Hear me now- it BETTER BE THERE!!” The next morning when his wife got up, Bob was gone. And on the driveway was a gift-wrapped box. She thought to herself, “I’ll bet it’s the keys!” She went out, picked up the gift-wrapped box and read the attached note, “Here you go- it goes from zero to 200 in less than 6 seconds.” She excitedly opened the box and found…a brand new bathroom scale! Bob has been missing ever since!
Matthew 18:21-22 Peter came to Jesus. He asked, “Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but 77 times.”
We are in the 3rd week of our current Sunday morning sermon series- Toy Box Leadership. Based on the book by Ron Hunter Jr. and Michael Waddell, this series focuses on lessons of Christian leadership based around the toys from our childhood toy box. The 1st week, we looked at the Slinky Dog and we talked about vision. Last week, we looked at Little Green Army Men and we talked about strategy. Today, we look at LEGOS as we talk about relationships.
In 2004, at the age of 31, a high-powered, highly-paid attorney by the name of Nathan Sawaya won a contest. And winning that contest gave Nathan the privilege to give up his lucrative career and take a $13/hour job with…guess who? The LEGO company! His new title? Master Builder! Now I don’t know about a 31-year old well-paid attorney, but 5 years ago, I KNOW I had a nine-year old 4th grader in my house who would have thought he had died and gone to heaven if he could have been a LEGO Master Builder!
LEGOs got their start in 1932 in Billund, Denmark. A guy by the name of Ole Kirk Christiansen was a carpenter who specialized in handmade step ladders, ironing boards and…small wooden toys. The original LEGOS were made of wood. The LEGO name is made from the first two letters of the Danish words LEG GODT, meaning “play well”. In 1942, the wood-filled factory burned to the ground. Christiansen rebuilt, but this time he switched from the wood and installed a plastic-injection molding machine. In 1961, LEGOS made their way to North America and the rest, as they say, is history!
In 2012, 45.7 billion LEGO bricks were produced at a rate of 5.2 million per hour. Laid end to end, the number of LEGO bricks sold in 2012 would stretch round the world more than 18 times. Their annual sales topped $4 billion last year. On average, every person on the earth owns 86 LEGO bricks! To reach the moon you would need to build a column of around 40 billion LEGO bricks. In the year 2000, LEGOS were voted the toy of the century!
Remember the original Home Alone movie? In that movie, McCauley Culkins’ character, Kevin McAllister, is accidentally left behind when the family goes to France for Christmas. At first, Kevin is delighted- he has full run of the house! He jumps on the beds. He rides a toboggan down the stairs. He has…a blast! But fairly soon, he comes to the conclusion that, without people to share his life with, he feels empty and sad. And because of his loneliness, he overcomes his fear and reaches out to Old Man Marley- the reclusive neighbor whom the kids think is…literally…a monster. Through the course of the movie, these two unlikely neighbors encounter each other and pretty quickly develop an appreciation for togetherness, for relationship. Relationships are vital. What does the Bible have to say about relationships?
Matthew 22:37 – Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest command. And the second one is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’
A group of kids were asked a series of relationship questions. The first question they were asked was, “How do you decide who to marry?” Kirsten, age 10, said, “Nobody
really decides before they grow up who they are going to marry. God decides that WAY before…and we get to find out later who we’re stuck with!” The second question was, “What’s the right age to get married?” Freddie, age 6, said, “No age is good because you have got to be a fool to get married!” The third question was, “How can a stranger tell if two people are married?” Derrick, age 8, said, “They might have to guess, based on whether they seem to be yelling at the same kids or not.” The fourth question was, “What do you think your mom and dad have in common?” Lori, age 8, said, “Well…neither of them want more kids.” The fifth question was, “What do most people do on a date?” Martin, age 10, said, “On the first date- most people tell each other lies. That usually gets them interested enough to go for a second date.” The sixth question was, “When is it OK to kiss someone?” Pam, age 7, said, “When they’re rich.” And the seventh question was, “How do you make a marriage work?” Ricky, age 10, said, “Tell your wife she’s pretty…even if she looks like a truck!”
A little boy was in the family room with his dad, who was tired after a hard day on the job. Dad was sitting in his favorite recliner, reading the paper. The boy inched up alongside the chair and said, “Daddy- I love you.” The dad, without even looking, offered, “I love you, too, son,” and continued reading his paper. Well, that simply didn’t satisfy the boy, so he went around to the other side of the chair and started rubbing his dad’s arm. “Daddy- I love you.” With just the slightest amount of impatience, the dad replied, “I love, too, Son,” and went on reading. The boy was still not satisfied. Suddenly, he came crashing through the paper, landed on his dad’s chest and gave him a big hug around the neck, “Daddy- I love you..,.and I HAD to do something about it!”
Love, true Christian love, is about selflessness. It’s about thinking about those you love more than about yourself. We are most like God when we offer true Christian love to one another. Why? Because if we are going to relate to each other as God intended for us to, then our relationships have to be built on a solid foundation of Christian love. And the truth of the matter is that, sometimes, loving those closest to us can be the hardest thing to do! We can give money to feed starving people on the other side of the world, but to deal kindly with someone at work or next door can be a different matter entirely. LEGOS teach us that each person is dependent upon the interconnectedness of the whole.
Connection is vital to building relationships. Here are three aspects of connection that LEGOS help us recognize:
1. Connectional value- How do you build with LEGOS? You build from the bottom up! The same is true of relationships. Relationships are ultimately more important that power or position. Connection has a great value- it is crucial to every stage of our spiritual life. Through that connection, we are able to better partner with others. And partnering with others is about treating them with value and respect. How do we best do that? We best do it by working alongside our brothers and sisters Christ. We best do it by placing value on those connections.
When we make a connection, it helps build the foundation. And the more good relationships we can foster, the stronger our foundation becomes. And the stronger our foundation is, the higher we can build. Connecting with others helps foster unity- over and above uniformity. Unity occurs when we are willing to set aside our personal agendas in an effort to support the greater good. Often, when a group makes a decision, the majority vote FOR it while the minority vote AGAINST it. True unity occurs when the minority support the outcome…regardless. Unity occurs through connection.
2. Connectional ability- LEGOS are reliable- only 18 out of every million produced don’t pass inspection. LEGOS are compatible- they fit well together because they are designed to: studs on the top and tubes on the bottom. LEGO makes 33,000 different pieces…that all fit together. A LEGO brick made yesterday will fit perfectly with one made in 1958. But simply pouring a box of LEGOS out on the floor doesn’t produce a castle- it produces a pile of LEGOS! They don’t come together by accident- you have to intentionally join them together. Likewise, the best relationships don’t happen by accident. Relationships, at their best, are designed, intentional and connected. They are built. Bringing all of that together requires the ability to connect others AND to connect WITH others. LEGOS are also reusable. You can build something, completely disassemble it, then build something else. Relationships need to be flexible. They CANNOT stay the same. You have to be willing to adapt, to change, to rebuild.
3. Connectional failures- Nothing is as frustrating as a cell phone call that loses service or an internet connection that fails to connect. When communication fails, then tasks go undone and frustration reigns. When connections fail, relationships fail. I am a huge fan of the Peanuts cartoons. I remember one strip where Lucy is talking to Snoopy, “There are times when you really bug me. But there are times when I feel like giving you a hug.” Snoopy says, “That’s the way I am- huggable…and buggable.” That is the situation many of us find ourselves in when we try to connect with others. We find them both huggable and buggable. But in the church, if we fail to connect with others…then we’re out of business. That fact is a good reminder that relationships are more important than accomplishments.
Ask 100 people what makes them happy. Many will say things like money, success, fame, good looks, popularity, prestige and power. But the truth is that LOTS of people have most, if not all, of those things…and they still have a void in their lives- a need for something more. And just what IS that “something more” that we crave to fill our emptiness? It is, simply put, relationship…with both God and others. Just imagine all the ways you can connect with other people through this church- worship, Sunday School, United Methodist Men, United Methodist Women, musical groups, Wednesday Night Fellowship, a WIDE variety of Bible Studies and Sunday School classes, Youth Groups, Children’s ministries, Children’s Church, missions, folding bulletins and newsletters, Caring Hearts cooking, visitation team…the list goes on and on.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two people are better than one. They can help each other in everything they do. Suppose someone falls down. Then his friend can help him up. But suppose the man who falls down doesn’t have anyone to help him up.”
If you found out today that you were dying soon and you could make one phone call…just one…who would you call and what would you say? If that is who you would call and if that is what you would say…then what are you waiting for? The true value of a relationship is in direct proportion to the time invested.
Gertrude always bought her stamps at the Post Office. One day the line was extra long, but she stood there anyway. Someone else in line said, “Are you just buying stamps? You DO know that there is an automated stamp machine in the lobby, don’t you?” Gertrude turned to them and said, “I DO know that, but the machine doesn’t ask me about my arthritis!” For Gertrude, buying stamps wasn’t about speed and efficiency…but about personal contact and
human relationship. Actor and former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein once said, “Personal relationships are the fertile soil from which all advancement, success and achievement in life grows.” There is a tremendous value in planning, but the real strength is found in relationships.
1Corinthians 13:4-8a Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not want what belongs to others. It does not brag. It is not proud. It is not rude. It does not look out for its own interests. It does not easily become angry. It does not keep track of other people’s wrongs. Love is not happy with evil. But it is full of joy when the truth is spoken. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It never gives up. Love never fails.
Carl Printz, who was the Swedish consul in Toronto, was interviewed on his 99th birthday. The interviewer said, “Give us the rule that you followed during your long and useful life.” Printz thought about it and replied, “There has been one definite rule I have lived by- be temperate in all things. Perhaps I should say be temperate in all things…except one- love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all mind. And love your neighbor as yourself. Those are the ONLY things you can rightly do to excess.”
It is impossible to love God too much. And the more we love Him, the more we love others. Those two things go hand-in-hand. To love the Father is to also love His children…ALL of them.
Have you ever done a jigsaw puzzle and you got to the VERY end…only to find that one piece was missing? It’s SO frustrating, because you will NEVER complete the puzzle without that missing piece. We are all a part of the body of Christ. We are more than friends…we are family, joined together in the household of God. It is the love of Jesus Christ that unites our hearts as brothers and sisters. Anything less than that and we are nothing more than a social club. We are NOT a social club- we are the church. And we are called to be IN the world but not of it. God is putting a living jigsaw puzzle together and we are the pieces. I pray that He continues to knit our hearts together so that the beauty of His Body can be seen in us.

Perception is Reality

     At my first church, I was the Associate Pastor. From the moment I stepped in the door until 7 years later when I left…that was my title. It never changed. My DUTIES, on the other hand, changed pretty dramatically during that time. At first, regardless of my title, I was ‘the youth and children” guy. That’s what I did! And that leads me to today’s story.

It was probably fall of 2000. It was a Friday night and I was leading a Senior High lock-in. I had learned the HARD way that if you don’t schedule things for the kids to do…they’ll FIND things to do (and that’s NOT always a good thing!), so I had planned several events that evening. The biggest of these events was a video scavenger hunt. I divided the youth group into 4 smaller groups and had an adult that was assigned to each group. We had a series of riddles that each team got. They had to solve the riddle by figuring out what geographic location in the area was being referenced, and then drive to that location and videotape it, preferably with the team out of the vehicle and in the video. Then, everybody came back and watched the videos…which were a hoot, by the way!
My group got the church van, a big old 15-passenger jobbie that was impossible to miss when it was on the road- the church name and logo where plastered all over it and it was just…big! One of the places we figured out we had to go was a tanning salon that was about 10 minutes from the church, on the other side of the interstate. We feared we were behind in the race to get back to church, so we didn’t get out at that stop- we simply pulled up in front, shot a little video of the place, and drove off. When we pulled up, they were closed (it was pretty late at night) but we could see an employee in the store…and he saw us. We videoed and left. Simple, right? Not so much, as it all turned out! We went down to the end of that particular strip mall, turned, drove over the interstate and onto a surface road on the other side, where we were pretty immediately stopped by a red light. As we sat at the light, this car comes SCREAMING up alongside of us ans screeches to a halt! The driver’s door FLIES open and the guy from the tanning salon hops out, absolutely frothing at the mouth! He was nearly apoplectic (Google it) as he screamed at us about videotaping his store while he stood there and counted money and what did we think we were doing and who did we think we were and he was going to call the cops! All the while he somehow seems to fail to notice that we are sitting in a CHURCH VAN! (I understand…that doesn’t guarantee anything, but it would AT LEAST have given me pause to reflect!)
Once I was able to talk him down off the ledge and inform him (in no uncertain terms) that he needed to STOP shouting profanities at these high school boys or he was going to find out that the Lord’s justice is swift…and comes from the right, I explained to him what we were doing. He stood there (remember…we’re in the middle of the road, at a dead stop, while all of this is going on!) for a second, then got all apologetic and embarrassed, shuffled his feet a bit, and drove off. Let me assure you- when we all got back to church, regardless of anybody’s video…we had the BEST story!
Perception is an interesting thing. What YOU perceive is NOT always going to be what I perceive. But at the end of the day, I am convinced that perception is reality- if you genuinely perceive something to be true, then it is…to you. And I fear we all too often lose sight of that fact. We forget that others don’t always see things the way we do, and so we are shocked, or surprised, or angered when they don’t agree with us. And that sometimes leads to consequences that are both unfortunate and avoidable. The next time someone sees something in a way that you do NOT… stop for a second, consider things from their perspective, and try to react accordingly. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with them, just be willing to consider their perception of things. Try it…you’ll be surprised!
Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

What Ever Happened to Those Niebuhr Boys?!

niebuhr

I went to seminary in St. Louis. I think every seminary has a theologian (or two, or three, or four…) that seem to be their “favorites”. For any number of reasons, they focus much of their attention on that (or those) theologian(s). Nothing wrong with that, by the way. You can’t focus on ALL of them; why not pick a small handful who seem to lift up a theology that is congruent with the theology espoused by the seminary? Well, at my seminary, two of the theologians who were lifted up quite often were brothers Richard and Reinhold Niebuhr. Now, let me qualify- they were NOT the only theologians we focused on, by any means. But they are revered in the hallowed halls of my seminary, to the point that they are forever memorialized in the stained glass of the chapel there. (I SERIOUSLY doubt I will EVER see me memorialized in stained glass. A DC comic book perhaps, but never stained glass!) You might ask, “Why them?” If you are like most people who haven’t attended seminary, you probably haven’t even heard of them. Here’s why- both brothers are graduates of this seminary, and Richard also taught there. They went on to be among the “giants” of 20th century theologians and Christian thinkers. They impacted and influenced a generation of national and world leaders. Pretty big stuff! Or so one would think! But read on, MacDuff!
The Niebuhrs grew up in a small town outside St. Louis called Wright City. So, one day, two of my seminary professors decided to take a run out to Wright City and see where the Niebuhrs grew up. They found the town and drove around. They went to the house where the brothers had lived as kids. Then, they decided to go see the church the Niebuhrs had attended. They found the church, and they also found an elderly lady out in the church yard pulling weeds and planting flowers. They stopped and struck up a conversation with her. They asked her if she remembered Richard and Reinhold Niebuhr. Well…YES…of course…she absolutely remembered them! They told her they had come out to see where the Niebuhrs had grown up- to see their house, their church, their town. She listened to them, and when they were done, she looked them in the eye, and with a straight face asked, “What ever happened to those Niebuhr boys? Did they amount to much?”
Let me say right up front- YES, the “Niebuhr boys” DID amount to much! But how often do we get to feeling full of ourselves, thinking we are all that AND a bag of chips, only to be knocked down a peg or two…or three…or twelve? I don’t know about you, but every time I start feeling like the world owes me something, that GOD owes me something, I get a great big heaping tablespoon of reality shoved down my throat! I sadly cannot count the times that has happened in my life! (I’m a bit on the slow, thick-headed side- it takes A LOT to get through to me!) Why do you suppose that happens? I have a thought. (Now THERE’S a surprise!) At least for me, I think that when I am getting a little “too big for my britches” (to quote my mother!), God has a way of stepping in and taking me down a notch or two- putting me in my place, as it were! That used to REALLY make me mad! But finally (remember, I’m hard-headed!) I recognized it for what it was- the correction or discipline I needed in my life at that moment to be a better, more productive, more loving Christian. When I am able to put it in those terms, suddenly it becomes much more palatable! So, next time you start having trouble getting your big ‘ol swelled head through the doorway…keep an eye out. My guess is…the correction is coming. It may not be pleasant. It may not be fun. It may not be ego-boosting. But it WILL be just the thing you need to re-align your perspective!
Thanks for stopping by today- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back by tomorrow…and stick with Jesus!

Crazy Labeling

McDonalds cup

I drove through McDonald’s the other day and was reminded of the signage that deals with the fact that the HOT coffee is HOT. Now, I personally don’t blame McDonald’s for feeling the need to plaster that information everywhere they can think of- if I had been sued by someone who didn’t realize that HOT coffee was HOT until they dumped it on themselves…I would be a bit gun-shy as well! But it got me to thinking about other advertising that seems a bit…obvious…redundant…goofy! Here are some examples:

-printed on a carton of sleeping pills: “Warning: May cause drowsiness”. A SLEEPING PILL, causing DROWSINESS…what ARE those people thinking?!
– printed on a car steering wheel lock: “Warning — remove lock before driving.” Whew! Barely dodged THAT bullet! (Explains why I crashed the car 3 times, though!)
– printed on a pudding cup: “Warning: product will be hot after heating.” Wait…AFTER heating it will be hot? OH…I get it now!
– printed ON THE BOTTOM of a cup of Tesco’s Tiramisu dessert: Do not flip over! Huh?!
– printed on a package of Christmas lights: “Warning! For indoor or outdoor use only!” I may be missing something…but where else is there to use them?
printed on a bottle of baby oil: “Keep out of reach of children” Then HOW do I use it?!
– printed on the packaging for a Wet-Nap: “Directions: Tear open packet and use.” Slow down…you’re losing me!
-printed on a package of Dial Soap: “Directions: Use like regular soap.” So Dial ISN’T “regular” soap? Then what IS it?
-printed on a package of Old Spice Red Zone deodorant: “Use only on underarms.” I don’t know about YOU, but I never even IMAGINED using it anywhere else! Have I been missing something all these years?
– printed on a bottle of Zantac 75: “Do not take if allergic to Zantac.” Insert own joke here!
– printed on a bottle of pepper spray: “Caution: Never aim spray at your own eyes.” Does this thing work? I’ll stare directly into it while I spray it to find out!
-printed on a car shade/windshield visor: “Warning: Do not drive with sunshade in place.” I see now…explains why, after I took my steering wheel lock off, I STILL kept crashing!
– printed on a package of Pine Mountain Fire Logs: “Caution: Risk of fire” Who’d a’ thunk that?!
– printed on a road sign: “Caution- water on road during rain.” I bet there’s snow on the road when it snows, too!
– printed on another road sign: “Cemetery Road. Dead End” Makes sense.
– printed on the packaging for a Children’s Superman costume: “Wearing this garment does not enable you to fly.” Goes even further in explaining my multiple head injuries.
– printed on a bag of American Airlines Peanuts: “Instructions: open packet, eat nuts.” Did we even need TWO steps?
– printed on a can of Nabisco Easy Cheese: “For best results, remove cap.” The cheese-like substance squirts out a WHOLE lot better when you do!
– printed on the box for a 500-piece puzzle: “Some assembly required.” I want a REFUND!
– printed on a bag of Frito’s: “You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside.” So…I could…wait…I…
-printed on a bottle of children’s cough syrup: “Do not drive car or operate machinery.” SHOOT! And I was going to have my nine-year old grade the driveway a bit later!
– printed on a wheelbarrow: “Not intended for highway use.” Then how am I going to get to town?
– printed on a box of rat poison: “Warning: has been found to cause cancer in laboratory mice.” Is that REALLY my biggest concern when I am trying to euthanize rodents?
– printed on the packaging for an electric thermometer: “Do not use orally after using rectally.” I…they…never mind!
– printed on a bus stop sign: “No stopping or standing.” So…should I run in circles until the bus comes?
– printed on a hammer: “Caution – Do not use this hammer to strike any solid object.” Maybe my dad lied to me all those years, but…
– printed on the box for a VCR: :Instructional video on hooking up VCR included.” What can I say but , “Duh!”
– printed on the packaging for a toilet brush: “Do not use for personal hygiene.” I think I just threw up a tiny bit in my mouth!
– and printed on a container of bathtub cleaner: “For best results, start with clean bathtub before use.” I guess that’s ALWAYS true, isn’t it?
Seen any stupid advertising lately? If you DO, email me and share it with me! (I love a good chuckle!)

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please stop by again tomorrow, and stick with Jesus!

6 Di.N.T.S. (Difficult New Testament Stories)- Dead Man Preaching!

6 DiNTS Dead Man Preaching If I said “Magic Eye”, would you know to what I am referring? Did an image jump into your head when I said that? Magic Eye pictures are those…things…that became popular a while back. (As I wrote this, I started to write, “became popular a few years ago”. But then I wondered…how many is “a few”? So I Googled it. In this case, “a few” is somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 years! For my money, that’s a bit more than a few!) You know- at first glance, it looks like a jumbled mess of…mess…but if you get your eyes focused in JUST the right way and hold your mouth in JUST the right way, a 3D image appears.
I can remember standing in a store, looking at a framed Magic Eye picture. My wife and I stared at it for a bit and then she pronounced, “I see it! It’s a whale!” AS she turned to walk away, she tossed over her shoulder, “Do you see it? You see it, don’t you?” “Umm…yeah…a whale…a whale? Really? I gotta be honest…I don’t see Jack Squat!” I have since learned how to see them. Seriously!
As I recall, everybody had a theory about how to see the hidden picture. You know- squint your eyes, cross your eyes, uncross your eyes, focus your eyes, unfocus your eyes. You name it, everybody had “the way”. Everybody had THE tip that would guarantee you would see and understand that Magic Eye picture.
Scripture passages can often be like one of those Magic Eye pictures- you look at it and you look at it, and it seems like you’re just not getting the message. And then, all of a sudden, you take a step back, look at at the big picture- consider the story in context of the larger story- consider what the writer meant for you to see and BOOM- you understand what the passage is saying. You see the 3D whale in the Magic Eye picture, jumping out at you!
Tonight, we continue our Sunday evening service- a bit of a sequel to our last series- 3 Difficult Old Testament Stories. This series is 6 Difficult New Testament Stories. We are looking at 6 stories from the New Testament that are hard to wrap your head around. Last week, we started with a doozy- God condemns angels to eternity…in Hell!
Tonight’s Scripture passage is one of those Magic Eye passages. Some have identified it as one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament. But if we look at it from the right perspective, we can gain some purchase and begin to see what it means in context of the larger narrative.
1Peter 3:17-20a It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. In that state he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits- to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.
An elderly woman walked into the local country church. The friendly usher greeted her at the door and helped her up the flight of steps. “Where would you like to sit?” he asked politely. “The front row please.” she answered. “You really don’t want to do that”, the usher said. “The pastor is really boring.” “Do you happen to know who I am?” the woman inquired. “No.” he said. “I’m the pastor’s mother,” she replied indignantly. “Do you know who I am?” he asked. “No.” she said. “Good”, he answered and walked away!
There are several interpretations of the passage we just read. One of the commentaries I read about this passage focused on the Greek words that are used. The author pointed to the fact that there are two primary words for speaking about the Bible in the Greek. His take was that if you’re preaching the Gospel, the Greek word is “euangelizo”- evangelize. On the other hand, if you’re proclaiming a message, the Greek word is “kerusso”- “to be a herald, to announce a message publicly and with conviction”. He builds his whole argument around the fact that Jesus is not preaching in this passage because the Greek word that is used is “kerusso”. That’s all well and good…but not quite accurate. If you go to Strong’s Greek dictionary, it says that “kerusso” means “to herald, to proclaim…to preach”. Slice it any way you want- Jesus is preaching the Word, proclaiming a message, acting as herald for God the Father.
There is also some disagreement about who exactly Jesus is…or isn’t…preaching to. Some think it was the ⅓ of the angels who were cast from Heaven along with Satan and banished to the lowest depths of hell. Some think it was the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6 who came down to Earth and took the daughters of man as their wives. (Seriously, look it up!)
But I. for one, don’t have to go any further than the text itself to tell me who I think Jesus preached to. “He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. In that state he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits- to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built.”
So, if you DON’T try to read tons of hidden imagery into the text and instead…read the text, it seems pretty clear. Jesus died on the cross- “was put to death in the body”- but His Soul continued on- “made alive in the Spirit.” Once that happened- “in that state”- He went to Hell and preached- “went and made proclamation”- to the folks who messed things up SO badly that God flooded the Earth- “those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built”.
Last week, when we looked at the angels who were cast into the deepest corners of Hell with Satan, we talked about how they weren’t just there- they were bound in chains and imprisoned. Well, apparently so are these people- “imprisoned spirits”. They are bound and shackled, waiting for the final dispensation- the white throne judgement.
So why would Jesus choose to go to Hell, after experiencing the Hell of such a painful and humiliating death on the cross, to preach to these people who were SO bad that they caused God to…oh, I don’t know…destroy the world?!!
My wife and I have this theory that God gives everybody…EVERYBODY…a 2nd chance. No matter what, when you stand before God on Judgement Day, you have one more opportunity to confess your sins, repent, accept His forgiveness and be ushered into an eternity with Him. That’s how we see that. Is it possible that this is simply Jesus going out of His way to give these people, who have been imprisoned for a LONG time, another shot at redemption?
For my money, there are two main topics that grow out of this passage:
1. Do we REALLY get one last chance to repent?
2. Why are believers often called to suffering?
So, first things first- what do you think? Do we get that last chance? To be honest, there is no definitive Scripture that points directly to that notion. This passage suggests it, but doesn’t confirm it. Ultimately, there is no real way to know this side of Heaven. BUT…what do YOU think?
And then there is the suffering question. In this passage, Peter wades right into a difficult topic- why are believers called to suffering? The Christians to whom Peter was writing were in the middle of it and didn’t understand. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there.
You might say, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” You might say, “Why do Christians have to suffer?” You might say…a lot of things. But you cannot deny that fact that there is more than enough suffering in the world to go around AND Christians are NOT exempt from it. In fact, you could make a case that once you accept Christ, the suffering quotient actually increases.
Why do people suffer? Why do Christians suffer? Do Christians suffer more than non-Christians?
In the end, Jesus Christ, the sinless One, suffered at the hands of sin-filled men. And not just at their hands…but for their sake…and for the sake of all sinners. He suffered ALL so that we could be forgiven for our sins. And He will go anywhere…ANYWHERE…to find us and save us. We are NEVER too far from His love. No matter how far you might think you are, no matter how unlovable or un-savable you might think you are, He is right there, waiting for you. He wants you to turn back to Him. He wants you to turn back to Him. He wants you to come to Him. He wants you to confess your sins, repent of them and come fully into His embrace.

Memorial Day Events

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Yesterday was quite the day! It started at 6:35AM…when my cell phone alarm went off because I forgot to shut it off for the holiday! I managed to go back to sleep for a bit, then got up, started the coffee brewing and took the dogs out.

At 9AM, I had to run our younger son to the high school to pick up his marching band uniform and trumpet. At 10AM, he had to be at the staging area for the Memorial Day parade…which was about 30 feet from our house!!

At 10:30AM, my wife and I walked about a block up the street. From there, we watched the marching band go by. We then walked the 4 blocks or so up to Central park, where the town’s Memorial Day remembrance is held. It was a very well-done and meaningful event.

After walking back home and getting a few things done (including running my son BACK to the high school to return the uniform!), we had lunch. The  I got dressed and left for another Memorial Day event.

I had been asked to speak at an event being held at an old church next to an old community cemetery. The church is literally out in the middle of nowhere. In fact, when I punched it into Mapquest, the app just looked at me and said, “You have GOT to be kidding!” I did, however, find the location in Google, so I was able to look at a map and figure out how to get there.

I had been told that it would take me about 20 minutes to get there, but since I had never been there before, I allowed 35 minutes. (I am OBSESSIVE about not being late!) The event was to start at 1:30PM, so I left the house at 12:55PM. At the 20-minute mark…1:15PM…I was NOT there. In fact, I knew I was at least 5 or more minutes away. But I allowed for extra time, so…no sweat!

By about 1:18PM, I was on the road I needed to be on to find the road the church is on. (Got that?!) Great! All I need to do is watch for the sign on the right side of the road, turn there and drive to the church. Again…no sweat! 1:20PM came and went. 1:21PM came and went. 1:22. 1:23. By 1:24PM- only 6 minutes before the event was to start, I decided I had missed the turn. Did I miss the sign? Was there NO sign? I got my phone out and asked Siri where the cemetery was. I was too far out to have enough cell service! I was simply NOT going to make it!

At exactly the moment I decided that last sentence, I passed…a sign with the name of the cemetery on it! Hallelujah! I did a quick U-turn, drove up the road and found it! I parked, walked to the church and met the woman who had invited me. Three minutes to spare! Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Being out in the middle of nowhere, in a 140-year old church that has never had electricity and hasn’t had a regular, weekly Sunday service for a long time, I expected a small but dedicated crowd. Boy was I wrong! Based on how many pews were in the sanctuary (I counted!) and how many people a pew held, there were 90 people there! 90 people! Amazing!

We ended by walking through the cemetery and putting flowers on the grave of veterans. Then there was a 21-gun salute, followed by a bugler playing Taps. And then…everybody went home. The event, from start to finish, was very powerful and meaningful.

I am, at heart, a farm boy. I grew up…well…out in the middle of nowhere. I spent my “growing up” years working on farms. We raised animals. We had a MASSIVE garden. We canned. The whole nine yards. But as a college student, I lived “in town”. Then, as an adult, that continued. My first appointment as a pastor was in a very suburban/urban area. And I liked it! But my next two appointments, including the church I currently serve, have been in more rural, farming communities. And, although it took me a while to realize, I have come to understand that old adage- you can take the boy out of the country…but you can’t take the country out of the boy!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- 6 Di.N.T.S. (Difficult New Testament Stories): Dead Man Preaching

It’s Not a Watch…It’s a Warning

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Last night, we were JUST wrapping up our Sunday evening worship service when I saw someone hand their cell phone to someone else. A look of concern was on BOTH faces. Based on the time of year, I had a feel what it was…and I was right. It was a tornado warning.

It had been just a watch. But right about 7PM, it turned into a warning. A tornado had actually been sighted. The town sirens were going off. We were being told to seek shelter immediately.

Now, there was a time in my life when I would have responded to that with a hearty, “Blah…blah…blah!” I have always lived in Illinois. The first 18 years were in Southern Illinois. The next 4 were in Central. Then 21 more years in Southern. 8 more in central. And now 3 in Northwestern. And one of the consistent things about this state (other than our trouble with Governors!) is tornado watches and warnings. There are a decent amount in Southern Illinois and there are a decent amount where I live now. And Central Illinois? They might as well just stick that warning logo on the TV in late April and leave it up- 24/7- until September!

In fact, I remember once as a kid, we had a tornado warning. (OK- I remember about a jillion times! But this one time in particular!) My dad had us go to the basement. He wanted us to gather against a particular wall because of where it was in relation to the rest of the house and because there were no windows. While everybody else was crowded against the wall…I was riding a tricycle around the room! (Oddly, I was 17 years old at the time! NO…not really!)

So basically, tornado warnings were just a whole lot of nothing! Until, that is, until my family led a mission trip to Joplin, MO just 5 weeks after the town was devastated by a tornado. Late in the afternoon of Sunday, May 22, 2011, an EF5 multiple-vortex tornado struck Joplin with a force that has not been seen many times before. In it’s wake, it left a path of destruction 1 mile wide and 5 miles long. ONE MILE wide and FIVE MILES long. Then, 5 weeks later, on Sunday, June 26, 17 of us from the church I was serving at the time pulled into Carl’s Junction, MO…just outside of Joplin. We lived in a Baptist Church there for the week while we worked in Joplin. The first full day, Monday, June 27- as we stood at Ground Zero and surveyed the damage- none of us could even speak. I have never seen devastation like that in my life…and there we were, standing in the middle of it.

No city block in sight had more that 1 or 2 trees still standing, and none of those trees had any limbs…or bark. Houses were just foundations, littered with what used to be the houses above those foundations. It was overwhelming to begin clearing the rubble from what was once someone’s yard- you didn’t even know where to begin. All of us were changed that week.

And that is why, last night, when the sirens went off while we were in the church, my wife went to the church basement to seek shelter and be with our younger son (who had gone over to the house, got our dogs and brought them over!) and the Senior High Youth Group. Meanwhile I went to our house (next door) to get my wife’s parents, who live with us. And it wasn’t an ask…it was a tell. “The sirens went off. Let’s head over to the church basement!”

In the end, it was a tempest in a teapot- a whole lot of nothing. But after seeing a path of devastation 1 mile wide and 5 miles long…we just don’t take chances anymore!

Thanks for stopping by- I pray you have a blessed day! Please make sure and come back again and stick with Jesus!

Tomorrow- Memorial Day Events