Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Life Boat Theory

Imagine a lifeboat adrift at sea.  In the lifeboat are a male lawyer, a female doctor, a crippled child, a stay-at-home mom, and a garbage man.  The storm is raging, waves are working to destroy this lifeboat, and panic has set within the hearts of the individuals on board.  They realize, that in order for all the others to be saved, one person must be thrown over board.  Which one will they choose?*
Now, imagine that I divided all the readers of this article up into groups, had you spread out in a room and debate this question, the question of which one you would choose.  Can you imagine the discussions that would take place?
Who would you choose?  And how would you choose?  What criteria would determine your decision?  Is one of these individuals more valuable than another?  Does one have more to contribute to the world? 
When presented with this scenario for the first time years ago, I don’t remember who I threw out of the boat, but what I do remember is that I did not think twice about making a decision about who had value and who didn’t.  I decided who would be thrown out of the boat and determined this based on my opinion of how valuable each individual was to the group.  I looked at their profession, their gender, their education, their ability or inability to perform to the level that I thought a person in the lifeboat should be able to perform.  In short, I decided all kinds of reasons that people should or shouldn’t be thrown out of the boat.   
Isn’t it likely that when I rattled off the individuals present in the scenario you were already deciding about who you might choose to throw overboard?  Maybe in your mind, you were thinking about which one of these individuals makes the most money, has the greatest disability, and who would help or hurt this situation the most?  But doesn’t the crippled child have just as much value as the female doctor and the garbage man?  Doesn’t the stay at home mom have just as much talent as the male lawyer?
Donald Miller says it this way, “The thing is, if people are in a lifeboat, the reason they feel passionately about being a good person is because if they aren’t, they are going to be thrown overboard.  Miller suggests that the reason there is a lifeboat scenario at play in our world at all anyway, is because so many of us have forgotten who and where we are to actually receive our value and worth from.  What if, in the same way the sun feeds plants, God’s glory gives his children life?  What if our value exists because God take pleasure in us?  
Someone once wrote, “If the gospel is good news (and it is) then let it be continually announced the hostage ordeal is over. Ordeal? What ordeal? Did we miss something?
Men and women of all brands are held hostage in trying to be what others want them to be. We are shackled by expectations placed upon us by many who feel they know best. Many struggle to be the most and best they can be because both restrictions and demands have been handed over. The result is grown people in thirty, fifty and eighty year old bodies who are stifled by someone's estimation of how they should act, where they should live, and what they should do.
The thread, which fatigues every human heart, is the pressure of trying to be what others expect.  Jesus offers great news that each can become what God can imagine.  And God’s dream is bigger than a lifeboat and announces that through the blood of Jesus, “the hostage ordeal is over.”

*This “theory” was originally presented in Donald Miller’s book, Searching For God Know What.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

For What Cause Are You Living?

Two boys go fishing.  One is on a guided trip on a Texas lake and will catch 37 fish in his four-hour trip.  The memories of this trip will last for a long time.  The other boy is working at the hands of his master in a wooden boat on Lake Volta in Ghana, Africa.   He will work somewhere between 10-12 hours today catching fish that we would throw back here in Texas.  He has memories too but most he would be fine to forget. 
The similarities between these two boys go beyond fishing.  Both are 7 years old. Both were created by God and both aware, deep in their bones, that boys love to run and play and laugh.  But their differences are obvious as well.  One fishes for fun.  The other fishes because he was sold to his master and is forced to work long hours – cleaning nets, picking fish out of the nets and setting the nets for the next day’s catch. The latter boy would love to have the opportunities that the former boy has but he doesn’t have a say in the matter.  Yet. 
This past May I had the opportunity to visit the second boy and dozens like him on Lake Volta.  It is estimated that around 7,000 children are in slavery on Lake Volta at this moment.  Several years ago two friends of mine, Chris and Stacey Field started an organization called Mercy Project (www.mercyproject.net) that is working to rid the earth of slavery beginning on Lake Volta.  In addition to making the trip to Ghana in May, one of the great privileges of my life is serving on the board of directors for Mercy Project. 
As you meet with the people in the villages surrounding Lake Volta you see that they grasp that slavery is wrong but you also sense that they are operating in a cycle that has not given them much choice.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that God is using the ministry of Mercy Project to announce “that God’s kingdom has come and that his will is to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Mercy Project has a plan to help and is inviting people to live for a cause that is bigger than any one person by joining in this world-changing ministry.  And if it isn’t this ministry then find other ways to make an eternal difference.  7-year-old boys need grow up in the way God intended and the world is looking for answers. 
This Sunday, September 2nd, Chris Field will be speaking at Kaufman Church of Christ at 10:30am.  We would love have you join us to hear more of the story and the plan for how God is using Mercy Project in Ghana, Africa.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mercy Project

I would like to ask that you take a few minutes and watch this video.  Mercy Project is an organization that I believe in.  I'm privileged to serve on its board and support the difference that is being made in the world through this ministry.  Take a few minutes and hear our story and pass this on to others who might be interested.  Chris Field, my friend and the MP executive director will be speaking at Kaufman Church of Christ, the church were I serve, on Sunday, September 2nd.  Come Join Us!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Who's in Control?

I was reading through the story of Esther again this week and saw something I have never seen before. I love it when this happens with Scripture.

The story tells us that Xerxes is powerful, influential king.    He throws himself a party that is unlike any other party in an attempt to put his wealth and control and influence on display.

Xerxes has all the control.

His queen, Vashti, is asked to come out and parade in front of all the men at a party that king Xerxes has thrown for himself.  She asked to come out in her royal crown, a reference that a number of people think means come out in only your royal crown.
Queen Vashti becomes one of my favorite characters in the story at this point because she refuses to do the thing she has been asked to do and parade herself naked in front of the men in Xerxes kingdom.

Xerxes may not have as much control as he thinks.

But because the story tells us so much about Xerxes power and influence you know it isn't going to end well for Vashti.  She's banished and the search for a new queen begins.

So the unlikely jewish girl Esther is chosen after her cousin Mordecai reminds her that she may have come to her royal position "for such a time as this."

In the midst of all of this a guy named Haman, is being elevated to a high position in Xerxes kingdom and convinces Xerxes to sign a decree that all Jews need to be killed.  The story tell us that Haman is a descendant of Agag, I guy Saul should have killed back in 1 Samuel 15.  But Saul didn't kill him and now his descendant is influencing this story hundreds of years later.  Haman is holding a grudge because of what the Israelites in almost wiping out his people and would like to return the favor.  

But the powerful Xerxes let's Haman issue this decree.  A signal that he has less control that we were first made to believe.

So the story goes on and Esther musters the courage to go the king and point out that Haman is trying to wipe her people from the earth.  This makes Xerxes angry and he hangs Haman and elevates Mordecai to Haman's position.

The drama becomes a comedy.

A decree issued by the king cannot be reversed so the Jews are still awaiting their annihilation at the hands of the people in Persia.  But now Xerxes also allows Esther and Mordecai to issue a decree that Jews will be allowed to defend themselves when attacked.

And defend themselves they do.  Killing more than 75,000 non-jews.

Esther and Mordecai were responsible for issuing the decree for Jews to defend themselves.   Because of this a war breaks out in Xerxes powerful provinces and 75,000 people die as a result.

The king who controlled everything actually controls nothing. 
But something we might miss unless we were looking for it is that God is not mentioned by name in the story of Esther.  The unnamed character has more control than the character who we are told from the beginning has the greatest amount of influence.

Maybe you, like me, can identify with Xerxes.    I do my best to make it clear that I have control.  I'll tell you, I'll behave in a way that works to convince you and I can even talk, teach and preach about it.

And I can do this on some days without a mention of God.  I've got this.
And then the foundation gets a crack.

The person who thought they had control over everything is actually out of control.  Maybe it is overworking, stress at home, with family, relationships or something else.

"For such a time as this" gets a lot of attention in the story and rightfully so.  But let's remember to notice too that all the characters in the story (and all of us) can get caught thinking that we have all the control.

God, the unnamed hero is in control at all times...even when life seems out of control.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Life is Ordinary

A college sophomore who is struggling with a decision about a major and what to do with her life has been told for years life that "God has something special planned for your life." She has been encouraged by well-meaning parents who love the gospel and love God with all their hearts. So, what is this student supposed to do when she realizes that growing up is not what she dreamed it would be? Where is she supposed to find that "God sized plan" for her life?

This is a dilemma that a generation of people are facing (and I believe will continue to face) as we continue to live in a world that is increasingly on the lookout for the next big thing /moment/experience/idea.

The reality is that life is pretty ordinary. Life is made up of more ordinary moments than extraordinary moments. Life is made up of moments that include taking out the trash, wiping bottoms, paying bills, washing dishes, writing the letter, making the visit, mowing the lawn, and buying a loaf of bread.

These things don't receive recognition from others. They stay far away from the spotlight. They don't contribute any help with closing the sale. They require no special training. And they don't necessarily create a tingle of your spine.

But what if these ordinary, everyday things are some of the most important things that any person will ever do? As we experience them stacked on top of one another, what if we can see the joy found in the ordinary?

Ecclesiastes 9:5-9 says,
"For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate, and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy your life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun - all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hands find to do, do it with all of your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom."

The joy of the journey is not found in the extraordinary. It never has been and never will be. The reason for this is because once you experience an extraordinary moment you'll always be on the lookout for the next one and it is a cycle that will never end. Those special moments are not the place where we live. We live with dishes and laundry, homework and bills to pay. And it is those moments, if we can find the joy of the Lord, that we will never be left having to search for something to fulfill us. Instead we can just do whatever it is that our hands find to do and be on the lookout for the smallest of things that provide a joy that can sustain us for a lifetime. That sounds more like the "something special" that God has planned for our lives.

What ordinary thing is it that brings you joy?
Have you seen God in the ordinary?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

God's Story

I have had several Bibles in my lifetime.
One of these Bibles I got when I was in late elementary school. It has a turquoise leather cover and the binding is falling apart. I took it on a mission trip one summer and a girl's shampoo spilled all over it in the bus. It still has a blueish tint on the outside edge of the pages and you can smell a hint of head and shoulders if you sniff it. On one of the first pages, in a girl's handwriting (maybe the one who spilled her shampoo) someone wrote, "Hi Dougie!" Classic high school youth group flirt move: write IN someone's Bible.
This Bible means a lot to me and learned a lot as I read from it's pages.

When I turned 18 I got another Bible for graduation. This Bible was the one I use until last year. I grieved having to transition to a new Bible but it was just not in working condition anymore. Matthew 6,7, and 8 are completely missing from it, the front cover has fallen off, and multiple pages had been taped together because they were torn.
It had already been rebound once and I didn't think it could handle it again. This is easily THE book that has changed my life more than any other book I've ever owned.
Last night I had both of these Bibles with me to share their stories with our church.

Last night we began a 31 week journey through scripture that the kind folks at Zondervan, with the help of Randy Frazee have put together call The Story. Maybe you've heard about it. I'm particularly excited about it because it is going to lead our church through a reading of the Bible together in 2012.

So, as I grab the second Bible I described above last night, I was OVERCOME with emotion. Unexpected tears coming down my face, shortness of breath, kind of emotion.
It was one of the oddest things that has ever happened to me.

As I think about it now I am not as surprised by the emotion. Maybe it is a Bible for you but we all have things that connect us to larger experiences. This Bible serves that role in my life. When I picked it up and began to tell it's story I was overwhelmed by the ways that Scripture contained in those pages have changed my life. Forever.

I'm wondering:
What is the earliest memory you have of your own personal Bible? What do you remember about the pages you read in that Bible?

What are other "things" that connect you to the larger experiences of your life?

Or - How has seeing the Bible as a seamless story helped you understand it more fully?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Eve Service

Here's a preview of our Christmas Eve candlelight service. Preparations are underway!
Join us at 5:00pm on Christmas Eve at Kaufman Church of Christ in Kaufman, TX.