Preview of Coming Attractions Part 2

After He had said these things, He was going on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, "Go into the village ahead of you; there, as you enter, you will find a colt tied on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here. "If anyone asks you, 'Why are you untying it?' you shall say, 'The Lord has need of it.'" So those who were sent went away and found it just as He had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, "Why are you untying the colt?" They said, "The Lord has need of it." They brought it to Jesus, and they threw their coats on the colt and put Jesus on it. As He was going, they were spreading their coats on the road. As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: "BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, rebuke Your disciples." But Jesus answered, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!" When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. "For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation." (Luke 19:28-44 NASB)

There was a time as a young dad, I could put my kids on my lap and I could bounce them on my knee and they could pretend to ride a horse. I'm far from being a horse expert but I know there was very little that we did that would have taught them about correctly riding a real horse! But at an important time of their lives, when our children are learning about the world and life, this simple game connects parents and children. But it conveys a positive view of horses – animals that are quite large and intimidating to small children.

I wonder if it wasn't fathers and mothers in the Ancient Near East who taught this game to little ones to calm them in the presence of horses. We forget that it was just 100 years ago, that the centuries old dependence on horses and donkeys for travel came to an end as a result of Henry Ford's Model T and assembly line.

We lived in a world where life and death were part of the order of the day. Our family pets served the family as hunters and pest control. Our senses of sight, sound, smell, and touch, were used to brushing up against horse and donkey and the sounds of “clip-clop, clip-clop” echoed on our city streets.

Three hundred years prior to the coming of Jesus Christ, Alexander the Great, claiming the title of “King of Kings” marched his horse through the streets of Jerusalem as he had done through many other cities in his military campaigns. In Jerusalem, it is said he was shown the scrolls of Daniel chapter 8 that described the coming of a Greek king. It is in part for this reason, Alexander spared Jerusalem on his way to conquering Egypt.

Like other kings and conquerors before and after him, Alexander's display brought discouragement and disappointment to the people. So while the words of Daniel may have brought Alexander a greater sense of his importance, the words of another prophet would preview what was to come for the people of Jerusalem - Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Those would be the words from the prophet Zecharaiah (Zec 9:9 NASB)

Zechariah previewed the significance of Jesus' coming. God had declared that the kings of Israel should not multiply horses. The stories of the kings who did, reveal kings who were destructive to themselves and the nation. Zechariah's words in verse 10 make clear that war isn't to be the means by which the Kingdom of God would spread but by the humble example of Jesus Christ.

Not only would Jesus fulfill the prophecy of humility he would speak a prophecy. It would be a prophecy and a preview to those in that day, that power and authority of humankind is not worthy of trust – it will fail. This past week, I learned of a colleague and church struggling and divided in their politics – ears that have grown deaf to the sounds of the simple “clip-clop" of a donkey with rider on a stone street.

But what of us? Have we grown silent then to the coming of Jesus in our own lives? Some times Jesus comes to us to comfort the afflicted and at other times he comes to afflict the comfortable? When you hear the sounds of clip, clop and the approach of Jesus – what will you do?

Author's Note: Rev. Wallace H. Kirby's sermon entitled "Clop Clop Palm Sunday" was referenced during preparation.

An Essay on Community

I have shied from this for too long and it seems in this week with our work as part of supporting Scouting for Food, it is a good time to get something off my chest.

You see, I have gained new perspective in my work as a church planter. It has brought me face to face with ideas and ideals that I have held for a long time. For good or bad, many have been measured and found wanting. I have measured myself and I have been found wanting so know as I write these words, they come from one who knows far better than you my own failures, fears and fallacies.

Yet there exists in my experience an incredible infraction taking place in the name of convenience for communities and it is not helped by those in the Kingdom of God. Part of this is perpetuated by our living in metro Atlanta and so it may not impact where you may live in our country.

It is the littlest of things I know, but like a pebble, the ripples are felt. While we debate now federal control versus state's rights, we are woefully neglectful of the impact of county impacts. While Chambers speak and petition for their commerce, who is the voice of non-profits and those who care for the souls of a county?

When a family leaves a county to worship or a can of food is given to a non-profit outside our local boundary, those giving dollars and that food, more often than not, are no longer accessible to those who we truly call our neighbor. In the name of convenience, we go with what is easiest and our neighbor suffers.

Due to policies and procedures, funds and resources are often tied to a county by non-profit organizations in their charters or by government. Those same non-profits find their support and volunteers most often from local churches, synagogues and mosques. Yes, good is done but what of the work and mission of those right next door? We go to the other side of the world yet ignore the hungry child on the other side of our county?

It isn't easy to build anything new (learning that first hand) or to change what is old (I know that one too). I confess, in many ways I'm not smarter than either my fifth grader or my fourth grader. Yet, I know the struggle of those who want to feed their hungry neighbor but can't because of a lack of resources that could be there. I've seen the weary faces of volunteers who serve others out of love but burn out because no one has come to take their place and could have.

It is a matter of civics.
It is a matter of citizenship.
It is a matter of the Kingdom of God to do what is the hard thing not what is convenient.
And that, I believe, is a matter of justice.

Preview of Coming Attractions Week 1

I enjoy previews almost as much as I enjoy movies themselves. Sometimes the 60 second spot is all you need anyway! I love the way a preview sets you up for what is to come, giving you just enough, just not much more. When I worked at a movie theatre in college, our guys working projectors would fight to put together not the movie but previews (especially leading up to summer) because you could see what was coming up. Peeking at presents is one thing, peeking at preview is entirely different.

But this is what we're talking about when we speak of Previews of Coming Attractions. The prophecies around Jesus' coming were giving a peak as to who Jesus would be like, what his life would be like and what his purpose would be. More than that, these prophecies would confirm Jesus would be who God said he would be – not what we might think we need.

Prophecies like previews share pieces of the whole. One preview alone may not contain all that is necessary, however the second and third add pieces to show a slightly larger picture but alas, it is not the feature film.

Prophecy is more than fulfilled fantasy. It reminds us that God keeps his promises. Maybe not as we think they ought to be. Maybe not when we think they should come. Maybe not even in the form they are shown. And as I observe it, it seems to me, it when the prophecy becomes thought of as impossibility – God moves.

In the recent release of Alice In Wonderland, there is phrase that becomes a theme through the movie. It is a phrase in the original work of Lewis Carroll. It is the idea of practicing the impossible. Alice says, “I regularly believe as many as 6 impossible things before breakfast!” And here we are – what is more impossible than this – God became human but as if that wasn't enough, this God-man would take impossible even farther to make a point – the previews can't touch the premiere attraction.

As we look at the previews, we can see the words of Matthew are not insignificant words at all. It is very important for this truth to be heard and understood. These disciples of Jesus, these writers were Jews. The prophets were their own flesh and blood. These prophets came from their story. For us, and today the world, Christianity is thought of as a separate religion BUT not to them. No, Jesus was no starter of a new religion – he is the living fulfillment of the prophecies of the old.

Just how many prophecies regarding the Messiah are there in the Old Testament? The number ranges from 100 – 300. Mainly, scholarly work and mis-understandings regarding what is and what isn't prophetic play into the discrepancy. It isn't done like Nostradamus or by examining stars. Biblical prophecies cross the lines of centuries, authors and writing styles.

Josh McDowell in his book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, pointed out the importance of prophecy. Like wise, Lee Strobel, did much the same in his research for The Case For Christ. In searching out the prophecies, Strobel interviewed Rev. Louis Lapides.

Today, Lapides is a Christian pastor but he was Jewish by both heritage and faith growing up. In the interview he talks of his search for truth reading Deuteronomy 18:15-18 noting the words that indicate there would be a prophet greater than Moses. To Jews, there is no prophet greater than Moses, so what could that mean? He later came across the words of the prophet Isaiah chapter 53, a chapter that describes the suffering of the Messiah (a passage worth reading as we get closer to Easter). These words written 800 years before Jesus made him stop “cold.”
Both McDowell and Stroebel refer to the work of mathmatician Peter Stoner. It was Stoner who noted that the probability of any man who has lived fulfilling just eight prophecies regarding the Messiah has been calculated as 1 in 10 to 17th power (100,000,000,000,000,000)!

Dr. Stoner suggested “...we take that many silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep. Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one.”

His being born of a virgin Isa 7:14 Mt 1:22,23 Lu 2:7
His being called Immanuel Isa 7:14 Mt 1:22,23
His being born in Bethlehem of Judea Mic 5:2 Mt 2:1 Lu 2:4-6
His meekness and want of ostentatious Isa 42:2 Mt 12:15,16,19
His being rejected by the Jewish rulers Ps 118:22 Mt 21:42 Joh 7:48
His disciples forsaking him Zec 13:7 Mt 26:31,56
His being sold for thirty pieces silver Zec 11:12 Mt 26:15
His price being given for the potter's field Zec 11:13 Mt 27:7
His sufferings being for others Isa 53:4-6,12 Da 9:26 Mt 20:28
His being buried with the rich Isa 53:9 Mt 27:57-60
His resurrection Ps 16:10 Isa 26:19 Lu 24:6,31,34

The truth of the previews is only determined in light of the actual attraction. Likewise, until you meet Jesus, till you know Him, till you see Him by faith, you're just looking at previews – nothing that quite gets fulfilled. I've seen previews that didn't quite convey the real movie. I've been in churches that have done the same with Jesus, heard people talk about someone that sounded a lot like Jesus but not the Jesus I had seen.

The question for us today, is are we tired of previews and do you know people spending their time on previews? Jesus comes here every Sunday but he doesn't stay here you know? Nope, the real attraction is more like NetFlix online than a Blockbuster store, you can get him 24-7 or once a week. I believe in Jesus, not because of the previews of Moses, Isaiah, Zechariah or John the Baptist, I believe today, in the hard times because I've seen the real thing and there is nothing in Hollywood that comes close.

The Countdown is Over!! A new season begins!

It is officially time to change seasons!!!

Oh, and it is spring today too.

Word Filled Wednesday

All You Have To Give

Faith Like A Child

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, (3) and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (4) "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (5) "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; (6) but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. (Matthew 18:2-6 NASB)

As an outdoor kind of family, this story kind of stuck with me as I read it. It seems that on the way home from a family camping trip, 6-year-old Tanya and her dad were the only ones still awake in the car. As Tanya looked at the full moon through the car window, she asked, “Daddy, do you think I can touch the moon if I stand on my tiptoes?”
“No, I don’t think so,” he smiled. “Can you reach it?” he asked her. “No, I don’t think I can either,” she said.
She was quiet for a moment, then she said confidently, “Daddy, maybe if you hold me up on your shoulders?”

It is child-like faith no doubt but don't take for a minute that this equals easy – Tanya just figured out it was worth it to try. She also knew the one she was asking, and that my friends, makes all the difference.

Jesus is talking about childlike faith, not because it is something that is easy but because it addresses something we can all understand and observe. This was Jesus' knack, his gifting as God – he made the world so certainly he could see all the connections we miss. It is just like the prodigal story last week or the story of the lost coin or parable of the seeds. Go ahead and pick one of Jesus' teachings and you'll find not what is easy but what is available to our senses.

Faith is from the Greek word PISTIS. Romans 10:14-17 tells us that faith comes from teaching. In the writings of John, we find knowledge connected to faith but also seen as a near equivalent. (Joh_10:38; 1Jo_2:3). But the two, Easton's Bible Dictionary tells us, “are distinguished in this respect, that faith includes in it assent, which is an act of the will.”

That is the difference of a child pointing to a mother or father and saying the fact - “That is my mommy” or “that is my daddy” and the child running forward and jumping into their arms. In our family, it had to do more with jumping into the water, believing the truth of my words - “I will catch you. I won't let you drowned!” It wasn't faith until they jumped and you could see it take place.

But Jesus said something had to happen to us as well. In English, the word we get from Jesus is to convert. It doesn't raise many images in our mind. But the word Jesus used was STREPHO. Now that word means “to twist, turn, bend, or steer.” I suddenly have some images in my mind that go with those words and not all of them are positive.

What happened to your childlike faith when you first remember going to the doctor and getting a shot? How about when your parents couldn't obtain that one exact gift on Christmas morning? I'm sure your imagination can take you to any number of twists – turns and bends in your life that brought home that parents and guardians are not deities. But does God turn from not hurting us?

Jesus said it would be hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. Paul warns the Roman Christians (15:14-15) and in 1 Corinthians 8:1 he notes knowledge of religion as something “puffs up”. We need a conversion – a twisting and turning and steering toward another direction for childlike faith.

God's words of encouragement and assurance to me that I was more than just his assistant but his son have helped me see more clearly that in a very significant way, my calling to being and elder and church planter in the UMC wasn't a call to ministry. No, this fall in my journaling I wrote that this was a call to brokenness.

I have often looked to John Wesley for guidance in my spiritual journey and to know Mr. Wesley's works is to know that he was full of knowledge and lived one of the most disciplined lives. Childlike faith, Wesley notes is about 3 things...
1.Humble in Heart
2.Ignorant and Helpless
3.Hanging wholly on the heavenly Father.

This week, may I ask: what is preventing you from being more childlike in your faith? What can you do today to humble yourself?

Word Filled Wednesday

Check this out @ Lori's Blog, All You Have To Give, and all the other great inspirational stuff she is working on!

Permission To Play? Who's Your Daddy?

Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. (2) Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." (3) So He told them this parable, saying, ... "A man had two sons. (12) "The younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.' So he divided his wealth between them. (13) "And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living. (14) "Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. (15) "So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. (16) "And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him. (17) "But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger! (18) 'I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; (19) I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."' (20) "So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (21) "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' (22) "But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; (23) and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; (24) for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate. (25) "Now his older son was in the field, and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. (26) "And he summoned one of the servants and began inquiring what these things could be. (27) "And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has received him back safe and sound.' (28) "But he became angry and was not willing to go in; and his father came out and began pleading with him. (29) "But he answered and said to his father, 'Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; (30) but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.' (31) "And he said to him, 'Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. (32) 'But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found.'Luke 15:1-3/Luke 15:11-32 NASB

Tell me about your family? Every counseling session comes to that question. What would that be like for Darth Vader to sit down with Luke and Leia from Star Wars? How about Vito Corleone of The Godfather Family sitting down with Sonny, Fredo and Michael or Tony Soprano for that matter? Or how about the McCallisters of Home Alone who make it a habit of leaving their children alone in the house, not once but 3 times, to fend off criminals while they fly all around the world on vacations. Somebody needs to call child services!

I bring this all up regarding family because if there is a dominate metaphor that runs throughout the whole Bible, it is about family. Traditionally, this parable of Jesus is termed “The Prodigal Son.” But I'd like you to consider for a moment that it isn't the son who is the prodigal in this story. No, in a childish world, it is the father who is truly acting like a prodigal. Or as was intended, it is God who is acting as a prodigal.

It is a father with two sons who appear quite different...
The younger son asks his father to give him his portion of the inheritance due him. According to the Law of Moses, the eldest son received a double portion - cf. Deut 21:17. Since there were two sons, the younger son would receive one-third. If there were other sons all would split the one-third. Now prepared – the younger son heads out into the world and makes a mess of the time and the money.

The older son is the epitome of responsibility. In his own words he describes how for many years he had served his father – in essence, he has been running the family business, doing all that was necessary to maintain the family reputation. He had never transgressed his father's will. It is so easy to sympathize with the elder son isn't it?

But this is precisely the problem Timothy Keller points out in his book, The Prodigal God, regarding our childish world. You see, each son cared more for the father's stuff or in their minds – their 'stuff,' than they did about enjoying and loving their dad for who he was. I remember as a kid when I had some vague idea or dream of being a golfing superstar. I can even recall asking my dad if I could have his golf clubs when he died? Of course my dad was smarter – he said he would put it in his will to be buried with them. It's okay for a 6 year old but not an adult.

Keller points out a startling revelation: we can get into trouble in this life by being both really bad and on the other side, by being extremely good. It is a childish world after all.

But the problem is the Father – he doesn't condemn the runaway in his recklessness nor does he chastise the self-righteous in his arrogance. Have you ever watched kids when they know the pain of another? You can tell, because rather than ridicule and point fingers, which would be childish,and the way of the world, they set down beside the hurting one and put an arm on their shoulder. They say things like, “I'm sorry” or “can I help?” or they don't say anything at all.

And so, in the midst of this all, stands a father, the true prodigal of the story. Each story of the interaction leaves us wondering in regard to this father. With the first son, you wonder, “what was going through the boy's mind?!?!” With the older, we sit on the edge of the seat wanting to turn the page and find out what the older boy decides.

No parent, not even God the Father, can control the behaviors of children. And would we want that to happen? Do we not know, that it is in adversity and facing consequences, that we learn the most? In a childish world, childlike faith and actions will always be the way of the prodigal and so it is the followers of Jesus Christ, whose Father is a prodigal God, who are destined to be outcasts.

Jesus' message was to the tax collectors and prostitutes in the midst of sinning and to Pharisees and arrogant religious people in their self-righteousness. Our heavenly Father loves his children. The children of God need to see the way to receive the erring child who returns to the Father – even if that erring child is the one in the mirror.

Will you hold to a God out there, demanding what things of you that you can never accomplish or will you come back to a prodigal Daddy who invites all in to the party? In a childish world, the question for you is who is your daddy?

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