Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Your Real Life Goliath

In our Men's Group last night we were talking about the story of David and Goliath - perhaps one of the most famous and well-known passages within all of Scripture. A couple of observations from this story that I think are eye-opening.

David had very little that he carried into battle. He had his staff, 5 smooth stones, and a sling-shot of sorts. On the other hand, Goliath had a sword, a spear, and a javelin. I don't know about you, but if I'm betting (not that I would), I'd bet on the guy with the sword, spear, and javelin. Not to mention that he was also a "Giant Philistine Champion." Still, the story ends rather unexpectedly as David comes out the victor and ends up killing Goliath.

As we wrapped up our discussion, we talked about some of the "Goliath's" in our own lives. I think it's safe to say that we all have them. Some of us face emotional giants like depression and loneliness. Others of us have physical giants such as illnesses and handicaps. Still others of us suffer from behavioral giants such as addictions and other hard-to-break habits. And since we all have them to some degree or another (some of us more than one), how do we deal with them? What are some possible strategies for facing these giants?

May I suggest that David offers us some incredible insights, here are two:

One, he is fully confident in God. Despite the fact that Goliath looked incredibly large and scared every other Israelite to death, David knew that his God was much bigger than Goliath was (see I Sam. 17:26). We too have a God who loves to defy the odds when we allow him to be part of the battle. It sets the stage for miracles and other supernatural and unexplainable phenomena to occur. Good things happen when we put our faith, trust, and hope in God. It worked well for David and it can work well for us.

Secondly, David entered the battle "in the name of the Lord Almighty." We too should enter confidently into the battle against our giants by relying upon the Lord God Almighty to guide us and direct us along the way. Way too often, we go into battle all-alone and try to fight off these giants by ourselves and under our own power. I can tell you from experience that this won't work and that you're giant will never truly go away.

So, whatever your giant may be, face your Goliath head-on in the confidence that God will be at your side to direct you in the way that you should go.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What I'm Thankful For

As Thanksgiving is only a few short days away, I thought it very relevant to share my laundry list of things that I'm thankful for:

My beautiful wife Cara that I met nearly eighteen years ago - it was love at first site.

My son Mitchell, although strong-willed and stubborn like his mom and dad, is growing into a young man that will someday make a great lawyer or salesman but probably a basketball player.

My son Joshua, although quiet mannered, is compassionate and seeks to go out of his way to help others. A future pastor in the making - I think.

My son Zachary, who is a literal ball of energy and whose enthusiasm for life is contagious. His karate skills aren't bad either.

My daughter Joy, whose love for candy reminds us of the joy-filled days of a child. It also reminds us that we better brush her teeth really well.

My daughter Hope, whose smile can brighten even the most hopeless of days.

For all of this, I'm thankful.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Word is Life

As a pastor, I'm reminded that we should not take the Word lightly. It has far more power than we might think. An old professor of mine, Dr. Ben Witherington highlights this in his most recent book The Living Word of God. He summarized his findings in a recent blog. It's worth checking out so here it is.

The Word as Sacrament

Traditionally, Protestants have recognized only two sacraments—baptism and the Lord’s Supper. There has been some debate about this amongst the more high church Protestants, but basically the position has been the same throughout recent church history. What is interesting about this view is that it overlooks the Protestant theology of and about the Word of God. While ‘de jure’ baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the Protestant sacraments, ‘de facto’ there has always been another one, and in fact one that has been seen and believed to have a far more regular and enduring effect—namely the Word of God.

The term sacramentum in the Latin has had various definitions over the ages of church history but perhaps the most familiar one is ‘an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace’ or more simply, a means of grace. If a sacrament is a means of grace, by which is meant a means of divine influence and change in a person’s life, then surely the Word of God and its proclamation, reading, hearing learning, memorizing is a sacrament. We just don’t tend to call it that. Consider however what is said about the Word of God in the NT at various junctures. The Word of God is seen as something living which dwells richly in the believer once received, probing and changing the person inwardly.

For example, Paul referring to his preaching of the Good News in Thessalonike in one of his earliest letters says this—“And we constantly thank God because when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as it actually is—the Word of God which is at work in you who believe. (1 Thess. 2.13). Paul is not talking about consuming communion wafers or getting wet, but he is talking about a means of grace that is at work in a person’s life.

Or consider the famous passage in Heb. 4.12—“for the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing life breath and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” What is especially interesting about this passage is once again we are referring to oral proclamation of the Word and its reception into the inner life of the person, and notice that what is said about the Word here could just as easily be said about the role of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life (cf. e.g. what is said about the spirit in Jn. 14-17 or 1 Cor. 1-4 and elsewhere).

So much is the Word of God seen as a living and active thing in the NT, that Luke can actually speak about the ‘Word of God’ growing or increasing (Acts 6.7; 12.24) by which was meant it affected and infected many people and the church grew. Christians are exhorted in Col. 3.16 to ‘let the Word of God dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another’. In 1 Tim. 4.5 speaks of the consecration or sanctification of all things including food by means of the Word of God and prayer.

Much more could be said along these lines, but this is sufficient to establish that the Word of God is not only seen as a living thing, its proclamation is seen as something that changes things, including people, indwells them and saves, sanctifies, and illumines them. This surely makes the Word of God and its proclamation and reception a sacrament on any normal understanding of the term.

This in turn brings me to a crucial point. At least in the Protestant Church we partake of the sacrament of the Word at greater length and far more often, than we do the other sacraments. It is far more influential and provides a far more lasting effect on the congregation simply because of the frequency of encounter with the Word, and its inward appropriation. If we are thinking pastorally about our flocks one of the things that we need to ask is—What is doing them the most good, including sacramentally, on an ongoing basis, as a means of grace? Here again the answer must be that de facto it is the Word of God.

I do not say this because I think we should neglect the other sacraments. I say this because we actually need a more sanctified view of the Word of God. The Word of God, when faithfully preached and openly received is far more than just preaching, or a good life lesson, or an edifying discourse. It is the unleashing of God’s transformative power in the human life. In short—the Word does things to the recipient that the recipient might well be unaware of at the time, much like taking a medicine the effects of which take time to be noticeable. There is of course a corollary to this-- the less one consumes the Word, the less grace, the less spiritual health, one is likely to have. In an age of Biblical illiteracy even within the church, it is no wonder that the church is sickly and open to all sorts of false teaching and its bad spiritual effects.

And there is more good news. Ever since Tyndale, the Word of God has been available to all and sundry English speaking persons. The Gutenberg revolution prevented it from simply remaining something chained to a pulpit. The Word of God can be self-administered as a sacrament, or it can be received from others. It is not something that can or should be controlled by clergy, dispensing it out as they deem appropriate. No, the Word of God has been unleashed from clerical control, and there is no turning back now.

This brings me to a crucial point. Every Christian needs a more sacramental, and sanctified life than they currently have, even if you are in a church that downplays the traditional sacraments. There is one thing you can do about that every day—add more Word to your diet! I promise it will be beneficial in many ways. Unlike Special K, Special W (the Word), really is special.

For more Ben Witherington insights, be sure to check out his blog at

The Ultimate Iron Chef

One of my favorite shows on TV most recently has been the show, The Next Iron Chef. In conjunction with that show, our family also enjoys watching the Iron Chef on the same network. Now understand, I'm not a cook and there is really no apparent reason why I would be a fun of such a show. Sure, I like food, but I'm not someone that likes to spend time in the kitchen. For me, the microwave is as complicated as it gets. But watching great chefs as they create food in the kitchen is like watching a great artist create something out of nothing. There is something inspiring about observing such a creation.

As I think on this, I'm reminded of God's remarkable creation out of nothing in the land before time. How awesome would it have been as an observer to God's creation over the course of those 6 days? Seeing the land being formed. Being the first to witness the animals. Having a chance to see the creation of the light that we now take for granted. Wow! If only You Tube was around back then, then we would have had a chance to have seen the Ultimate Iron Chef at work.

So, next time you find yourself looking down upon Kitchen Stadium and witnessing these great chefs at work, remember the Ultimate Iron Chef has made it all possible. After all, we wouldn't be able to witness such a thing if it wasn't for Him.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Halloween Makeover

I've always been a big fan of Halloween. This is partially because I enjoy being scared by things that go bump in the night. I especially enjoy the sights and sounds that help create such an atmosphere and who doesn't like to eat a little candy now and then. Nonetheless, last night was probably the first time in my life that I wasn't really looking forward to the Halloween festivities. Quite honestly, I had other things to do or that I wanted to do, and taking the kids door to door in the cold rain wasn't one of them.

But, then it hit me when one of our neighbor kids came to our door with the proverbial "Trick or Treat." Standing beside him was not only his mom (whom he lives with and who we know) but also his dad that we've never meet before. And in that one brief hour or two on Halloween, both of his parents were together again as a family.

It's amazing to me that Halloween could do that - unite a family if only for a time. If Halloween has that kind of power, to connect and unite people, then I'm all for it and I wish it wasn't a once of year kind of thing. I wish I spent more time walking around with my own kids and having "fun" with them and I wish other parents spent more time connecting with their kids every night. I wish every family and all of our neighbors smiled as much as they do on Halloween - the one night everyone has a chance to dress up and look crazy and forget about the pressures of everyday life. If this is what it takes, then I'm for Halloween at least on a monthly basis.

Anyone else out there want to start knocking?