Monday, December 31, 2007

Of Warriors and Worshippers

Like my daughter would say, wooooooooooow!!! (If you don't know how to say it properly it doesn't have quite the same effect). I can hardly believe that today is the last day of 2007. Where did the time go? When did I get those extra grey strands in my beard? When did my kids get so big? All these questions roaming around freely in my head as I attempt to put perspective on my life in 2007. I don't know about you, but I'm glad 2008 is around the corner. I certainly have experienced and learned an awful lot in 2007, but I am eager to see what 2008 holds.

The Well turns two on February 19, 2008 and I am particularly excited about what God has in store for us as we reach the 'toddler' stage of our existence. I am sorrounded by a group of loving, caring, 'battle-hardened warriors' who have truly demonstrated their mettle as we have navigated the sometimes treacherous roads of planting a life-giving church in Central Florida. So on this, the last day of 2007, I couldn't think of a more fitting tribute to pay to those men and women that I have proudly served the King alongside of. I am thinking fondly of, and praying for all of you today (you know who your are).

As we exit the grand stage of 2007 and make an entrance into 2008, I wish I had the prescience to tell you what's in store (that would, however, make me Omniscient). What I can offer though, is a reminder of one of the quotes that impacted me the most in 2007. This quote has served as a constant reminder of the strength I am sorrounded by on my team. So to all you warriors out there, you are the one!

"Of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't be there. Eighty are nothing but targets. Nine are real fighters... we are lucky to have them... they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one of them is a warrior... and he will bring the others back." - Hericletus (CIRCA 500 B.C.)

Friday, December 28, 2007

Treasure hunting

I really enjoyed watching National Treasure - Book of Secrets. It was fun, light-hearted, and witty. All the hi-tech stuff that happened from inside a toilet stall was way beyond me (I'm at a loss to see how you can control video cameras, fire alarms, locking security gates, and other such security measures simply by hooking up your iphone and laptop to the bathroom wall), but I loved the story line: An honest, nationally honored, treasure-hunting family trying to clear their good name, which has been smeared by a glory-seeking, no-good charlatan.

If you're a stickler for accuracy and believability, then this isn't the movie for you, as this one will drive you wild with questions like "How on God's green earth could they have done that?" For instance, in the space of a few days, they somehow make their way into the Queen's private study at Buckingham Palace, the Oval Office at the White House, and "kidnap" the president of the United States of America (at a party to which they are not invited), all without consequence, or without even being caught. Also, for a movie filled with so much hi-tech stuff, when it comes to attempting to 'rescue' the "kidnapped" president, they are remarkably uninventive. One is forced to wonder: all they can come up with is a sledge hammer?

But since I am not Gene Shalit (movie critic), I eschewed all the hard-to-believe artistic liberties taken by the director of the movie and simply enjoyed the unfolding love stories, the I'll-die-to-clear-my-good-name drama, and the inevitable end of the 'evil' man who finds his 'salvation' and the good inside of him at the very end. Oh, and it didn't hurt to have the not so smart, smart guy find a girl and get his Ferrari back too! If you're looking for something light-hearted and fun to do over the holidays, now that I've conveniently laid out the plot for you, I highly reccommend seeing National Treasure.
Hey, I'll do anything I can to help!
Custom Smiley

Thursday, December 27, 2007

South Africa or bust!

I thought I'd share this image with you today. There is no clearer universal language than a language that is spoken by all races. Football (or soccer as it is called in countries that don't know any better :)) is a universal game. More people on the planet play or watch football than any other sport. In 2010, in an unprecedented display of incredibly rich and diverse culture, South Africa will host the World Cup for the first time on the African continent. This is an honor not only for South Africa, but for the entire continent.

The logo for the largest sporting event in the world was recently unveiled at the FIFA preliminary rounds selection event. In case you didn't notice, the man's head and neck are in the shape of the African continent. This event is not only the greatest sporting event ever, but it also provides a platform for the building of potentially life-long relationships. Why is this news worthy? Well, if you know anything at all about African and world history, you'd know that only a few short years ago, South Africa was ostracized from the world community because of her practice of apartheid. Nelson Mandela (former South African president after the dismantling of apartheid) was incarcerated for almost 40 years because of his vocal and active objection to this evil system of governance.

For South Africa to be hosting the world in a competition that demonstrates the dissolution of any kind of racial barriers, is not only epic and historic, but undoubtedly proof that mankind is redeemable no matter how low we sink. I for one am thrilled that the continent of my birth will host such a major global event. Anyone interested in going to South Africa in 2010?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Do you like Rock or Roll?

That quickly it's here and gone! Christmas seems so fleeting. In the weeks following Thanksgiving there is such a frenzy to prepare for Christmas. Get the gifts... check. Get all the ingredients for the meal... check. Call the credit card company and ask for an extension... check. Fall into bed completely spent, the evening of December 25... check. Is it worth it? I guess that depends on your perspective of Christmas.

If for you, the most important thing about Christmas is the fact that you can pause in the middle of your busy life and contemplate the truth about eternity, and the fact that history records its dates from the life of one man (B.C. and A.D.), suggesting that He offers more to our world than just a day in which you become catatonic from too much tryptophan, then it may well be worth it. If, on the other hand, you simply look forward to the "holidays" so that you can gorge yourself silly on sweet potato pie and all the other 'holiday fixins,' then you might want to reconsider what is value to you.

Christmas takes its name from the one that we Celebrate. That really is what it's all about. Worshiping, praising and thanking Him for all He's done. Jesus said if we didn't praise Him, it would be nothing for Him to give voice to rocks that would praise Him. A Christian recording artiste once wrote a song in which he essentially said that he didn't want to be replaced by a rock and so he was committed to praising God. Christmas provides just one opportunity for you to do just that. Now, if you choose to excercise your rights not to praise Him, that's okay too. Except, I hope you're ready to be replaced by a rock! So I suggest that you roll over, get out of bed, and give praise today to the One who is worthy of all praise.

Hey, even dogs are smart enough to know when to tow the line and they don't even have anything at stake.
Light Bulb

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Happy birthday, we are saying we love you…

Some people are born and simply pass through our world. Our world is no better for their entrance or their exit, and the only proof that they came, is an epitaph on a weed infested grave somewhere. Then there are those who pass through our world and our world remembers their contribution, for good or for bad: An Abraham Lincoln or a Winston Churchill. A Jeffrey Dahmer or an Adolph Hitler. Then there are the uncommon few who not only pass through our world, but who shape it by their convictions, their character, their commitment and their courage. These are people who leave the world a better place than they found it. People like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King Jr. readily spring to mind. We should all aspire to be such people.

Then there is the ONE! The One whose birth was foretold. The One, at whose demise creation groaned in protest, and for whom the heavens wept torrents of driving rain. The One who created and shaped our world with a spoken word. The One who said, “Let there be…” and there was. The One who chose to subject Himself to His creation and suffer the shame and ignominy of the cross. The One who said, “I have loved you with an everlasting love…” Today, on this wonderful December day, we celebrate You and we say:

“Happy birthday Jesus, we are saying we love you…”

Monday, December 24, 2007

And He will be called...

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom... from that time on and forever." (Isaiah 9: 6 - 7 NIV)

Isaiah couldn't have had any earthly idea that a Messiah would be born, and that he would be accorded all the titles that Jesus was accorded. Isaiah lived at least 600 years before the birth of Christ, yet his prophecies so accurately predict his birth. This could only have been by Divine insight, since there are over 200 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled concerning the coming Messiah. You might think this is no big deal, but put another way, your perspective might change:

It's been said that the chances of one man fulfilling all of the prophecies concerning the Messiah (if he were not truly the Messiah), are slimmer than the chances of a high wind blowing through a metal scrapyard and assembling a boeing 747 in its wake. Wow! Jesus is God incarnate, whether we give mental assent to that fact or not! The calumny of men simply leaves me bemused at how they think they can erase truth by simply denying it. I hope your Christmas is meaningful and Christ centered, otherwise your celebrations might just be an exercise in futility.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I'd like to thank the Academy...

And the winners are… (Drum roll please)!!!

The following are the correct answers to the 20 Christmas carol trivia questions. We certify that the envelope containing the answers has not left the possession of our (ac)counting firm of Thompson & Thompson since the answers were tabulated. We further solemnly attest that no one else has handled the envelope (other than the manufacturers, and maybe the store clerk where it was purchased, and possibly the delivery truck driver, and…) I’m sorry, I got a little carried away. Back to the results:)

The Academy is proud to announce that the winners of this year's Christmas trivia quiz are...

1. Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer
2. Silent Night
3. O’ little town of Bethlehem
4. Good king Wenceslas
5. Joy to the world
6. Hark, the herald angels sing
7. We three kings
8. Away in a manger
9. Angels we have heard on high (Gloria in Excelsis Deo)
10. O’ come all ye faithful
11. O’ holy night
12. I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
13. The 12 days of Christmas
14. It came upon a midnight clear
15. Frosty the snowman
16. All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth
17. I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus
18. Walking in a winter wonderland
19. Deck the halls with boughs of holly
20. Silver bells

So how many did you get right? Are you up on your Christmas carols or do you need to make a quick dash to Walmart and purchase a few greatest hits Christmas albums? Any way, have an incredible weekend and I’ll talk with you next week. Oh, incase I don't see you before then, have a blessed and merry Christmas.

3D Santa

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Name that tune

How did you do figuring out yesterdays Christmas carols? Apparently only one person was confident enough in their answers to be willing to post them. Don't be so bashful, just take the plunge and give it a try. You might surprise yourself. Any way, here's a list of the final 10 carols. Hope you do better than you did yesterday (pun intended, Hope)!!!

11. Hallowed Post Meridian
12. Fantasia of a colorless December 25th
13. A dozen 24-hour yule periods
14. Befell during the transparent bewitching hour
15. Homo Sapien of crystallized vapor
16. Desire a pair of incisors on December 25th
17. I spied my maternal parent osculating
18. Perambulating through a December solstice fantasy
19. Adorn the vestibule
20. Tin tintinnabulum's

Go ahead, knock yourself out. I'll see you tomorrow with the correct answers.
3D Elf With Candy Cane

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Are you smart enough to figure these out, or...?

Last Sunday we had a great 'outdoor' service except that it was held indoors. We had planned a special outdoor service with all kinds of fun. A gift exchange, games, brunch and lot's of other activities, but we had reckoned without the totally unpredictable weather of Central Florida. Heck, hurricane season is over so who would have thought that there would be torrential rains in the forecast? It rained non-stop overnight and by 7.00am on Sunday morning (it was still raining) I had figured out that our planned special outdoor service was going to have to move indoors (I know what you're thinking, but I'm really smart like that!)

Anyway, it turned out to be a great 'outdoor' service, and we had a ton of fun with our newcomers as well as our regular attenders. One of the fun games we played ("Fun in church? How sacrilegious," I hear you say. Well, all I can tell you is that we break the stereotype), was a Christmas carol trivia game. The idea is to figure out the actual name of the Christmas carol from the description listed. Since you didn't get the opportunity to be part of our incredible 'outdoor' service (may be I need therapy from the trauma of having to move it indoors), I am going to give you the opportunity to test your Christmas carol savvy right here. Today I will list 10 popular carols. Tomorrow I will list another 10, and on Friday I will give you the correct answers so you can see how well you did. Don't hurt anyone in frustration while you're trying to figure these out. Okay?

1. Quadruped with crimson proboscis
2. Eight P.M. to six A.M. without noise
3. Miniscule hamlet in the near East
4. Ancient benevolent despot
5. Exuberance directed to the planet
6. Listen, aerial spirits announcing
7. Trio of monarchs
8. Yonder in the hay rack
9. Cherubim audited from aloft
10. Assemble, everyone who believes

Well, what are you waiting for? Go on and get started, you've got a long way to go. No I don't want to hear any excuses about it being too early in the day to get your brain in gear. Let me know how you did.
Seasons Greetings

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lost in translation

Since I'm on this travel theme, I thought I might share another story about observations I've made while traveling. Airports are the most amazing places in the world to people watch. If you travel often enough, and you make it your 'business' to people watch, you are bound to become quite the expert at interpreting facial expressions. My all-time favorite of course, is the perplexed look. This is generally seen on the faces of people who are clearly in a country where they don't read or speak the language. While English is a universal language, in some airports around the globe many of the directional signs are in 'gibberish' (or they might as well be for all the good they do the traveler looking for directions to catch a connecting flight).

Take for instance one time I was in Heathrow Airport in London. I noticed what appeared to be a gentleman of eastern European stock attempting to get directions from an equally perplexed, uniformed custodian. Evidently, in eastern Europe any kind of uniform screams of authority, and so this confused traveler thought that the uniform implied knowledge. I suspect that, like a friendly smile attracts other friendly smiles, so the perplexed look says "hey, your expression looks just like mine so you must be able to help me." Otherwise why else would you go up to someone who looks just as confused as you, to ask for help?

Anyway, I pretended to be totally disinterested, while I strained as hard as I could to hear the conversation. Since it was taking place in haltingly broken english and sign language, as near as I could deduce, the traveler needed to transfer between terminals in order to catch a connecting flight that was leaving in an hour. Even though I understood perfectly well what the custodian was saying (he spoke English), his hand gestures and Midlands accent would have been confusing to the most well versed person, if you weren't familiar with the accent. I heard him direct the passenger to the trains which would connect between terminals, explaining that he had quite a ways to go. I continued on my way and by the time I had retrieved my luggage and headed to the train station to catch the Picadilly line to central London, I noticed the 'perplexed' passenger standing on the platform apparently waiting to catch the same train.

My heart went out to him and I tried as best as I could to explain that this train would take him to London and not to the terminal he was trying to get to. I have no idea if he understood me, or for that matter, if he ever made it to his flight on time. Sometimes, life seems to work the same way. Everything around me seems so confusing and uncertain, and I go to the wrong source for directions. I look for the nearest, just as 'perplexed' person to ask for help and guidance. If only this traveler had the foresight to find an information desk he would almost certainly have been helped. By the same token, life offers us only one authoritative source of helpful information, and if we turn to Him we are certain to find our way through the maze of confusion that has us lost in translation.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Traveling light

It's the 17th of December, a little over a week until Christmas. If you blink you might miss the rest of 2007. I don't know about you, but I'm full of excited anticipation for what 2008 will bring. I love the journey I'm on! I have a one way ticket to my destination and I'm committed to getting there no matter what the weather.

During this Christmas season, lots of people are traveling to spend the holidays with family. Sadly, some of them are destined to spend Christmas day at Chicago's O'Hare airport, amongst numerous other of our nations airports that might be snowed in. This happens every year. The weather offers no guarantees that your flight will depart (or arrive), and you make connections through Chicago at your peril. I remember meeting my wife at O' Hare airport one year, as we were meant to fly out to New England. She came from Colorado Springs, and I came from one of the numerous places I travel and speak at. We spent the entire day waiting for our flight, only to have it cancel just in time for us to catch the last flight back home to Colorado Springs (It turned out we had met at Chicago for a lunch and dinner date before returning home).

One of the keys to traveling successfully during this season is to travel light. If all you have is carry on baggage, you can switch flights (and sometimes even airlines), to ensure that you don't spend the holidays at the airport instead of at your planned destination. Life is kind of like that too you know! We're on a journey to a destination that passes through many of "life's terminals." How much "baggage" we have will often determine whether we are able to move quickly through each terminal or whether we have to "camp out" a while until the "weather" clears up. I know, I know, I'm speaking in parables. Well, I learned from the best! So, as you're preparing to "pack" for your journey through life in 2008, wondering what to bring from 2007, pack carefully so that you can travel light.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Broncos Vs. Patriots (1 - 0)

One can only persevere so long right? I mean who would blame me for jumping ship right? Come on, you know you would do it too right? Think about it for a moment: My commitment as a fan should last only as long as my team is winning, especially in this day of free agency where your favorite player's commitment to the team lasts only as long as things are going just the way he wants. These days there are little or no guarantees that your favorite player will end his career playing for the same team he started out with. Since that's the case, who on earth am I being loyal to?

I'm sorry, are you confused? You must have joined this conversation mid-thought as it was playing around in my head. I'm talking about the 'schizophrenic' Denver Broncos. Last night they played the Houston Texans, but brought their 'college' team instead of the guys that beat the Kansas City Chiefs 41 - 7 only five days earlier. In a poetic twist of fate, some good friends of ours had sent us an official welcome pack as New England Patriot's fans (see post titled Fair Weather Fans under the Commitment label), and it just happened to arrive yesterday. In it were 'hoodies', caps and a 'membership certificate' certifying that we are officially Pats fans.

So, should I do it? Should I just go cold-turkey and make the switch? I'm thinking about it, but it's really hard. You see, I'm not a quitter. I've never quit at anything in my life. Don't get me wrong, I've failed at a few things but it wasn't because I quit. I can live with failure, but I can't live with wondering "What if?" Life is like the Denver Broncos (and you thought it was 'lak' a box of 'choclits'). Sometimes everything goes just like you want and other times it really, well... sucks! But it is no reason to quit. So Sola and I (she couldn't really care what team I like since she has no idea about football) decided to show off our support for our new team (just kidding). Russ, I hope you like this picture 'cos it's the only time you're going to see anything like it, so enjoy. By the way, does anyone out there like football? Who's your favorite team?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Bourne 'Shopping' Ultimatum

I went shopping yesterday! Yes. I said it. The dreaded "S" word. You need to know that I hate shopping. I don't like looking for a parking spot about 2 miles from the front door. I don't like feeling guilty about not having any change to put in the 'kettles' of the poor souls sitting for hours on end outside the store entrances, raising support for charities. Most of all I don't like having to wrestle with the rest of the 'mob' vying for a spot at the check out counter. So I pulled a Jason Bourne... I snuck in under the radar. I arrived at the store when most normal humans are at work or at school, hoping that I'd have the store to myself. I did. It was just me and a few thousand others.

'Hating' shopping the way I do, why did I do it you ask? I did it because I had to. I have my last lead team meeting of the year today, and I had to get a few gifts for my leaders to demonstrate my appreciation for all that they do. When I was done shopping, it occurred to me that what I was giving them cost significantly more than what I paid for in cash. Braving the sea of humanity, risking life and limb (okay, maybe I exaggerate slightly), getting in my morning exercise simply by walking to and from the car to the store (considering where I parked), all have to count for something right? But it really is worth it. I have a great team of leaders who make my job and my life infinitely easier. So for them, I went shopping :)

While I was at it, I decided to buy a copy of the newly released Bourne Ultimatum. Having watched it for the second time last night, I am reinvigorated and ready to brave the 'evil' world of shopping yet again. Why? Duh, cos I still have to shop for gifts for my wife and kids for Christmas. Gulp! Are you done with your shopping?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Butterfly Effect

You're probably thinking that it's been a couple of days of some pretty heavy posts. I can't help it. I am truly overwhelmed at the depravity of what is going on in our world. I am equally aware though, that life is made up of hills and valleys, peaks and troughs, entrances and exits and all the other 'beginning and end' cliches you can think of. So I am dealing with my sadness at the irrationality of humanity, in my own way, and praying that as I am circumspectly gaining understanding, I am truly becoming a better person.

As we experience life, change is inevitable. Our paradigms shift, our values are tested, our philosophies and ideologies are challenged. And we, inevitably begin to change. Sometimes we are more tentative and less adventurous. Other times we second guess our calling and effectiveness. And at the worst of times, we want to throw our hands in the air and give up. But life doesn't permit such indulgences. You can't just stop living; unless you're dead. Since I'm obviously not dead, then I must live, and change. I must become the man that God designed for me to be. Part of the price I pay in becoming that man, is that I am more compassionate and feel the pain of others more deeply. So I am greiving for the Works family that lost two daughters on Sunday, having just celebrated the love of God together in a church service. I grieve for the families of the two YWAMmers that were also killed on Sunday. I grieve for the family of the tormented young man who took their lives.

With all of this metamorphosis going on in me, I really relate to the butterfly. Larva (nasty and ugly looking), pupa (not much use for anything and almost as ugly); butterfly (an amazing kaleidoscope of color, beauty, and flight). This is what my life looks like. I am constantly evolving (not in the way Darwin's theory would suggest), and some of the stages of my evolution are not pretty. But with each successive stage, I am becoming more and more like God designed for me to become. I pray you are changing too. We must all change. That is the inevitability of living. That is the butterfly effect.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Rich beyond belief

When life is weighed in the balance and we are confronted with its fragility, the significant is distilled from the irrelevant. With the weekend shootings at both New Life Church and the YWAM base in Colorado, we are suddenly forced to take a closer look at our own lives, and at how finite we really are. So I pose a troubling question today: If your life ended right now, would people celebrate the life you had lived? Is your legacy one that would suggest that you gave more than you took, or would those who knew you best, breathe a collective sigh of relief at your demise? Whatever the case, events like these force us to take a closer look at our humanity and at how we interpret what is value to us.

With the recent spate of allegations of financial mismanagement by pastors of mega ministries, here's what I have to say about whether or not they are living in excess: NOTHING! It doesn't matter to me in the slightest. What really matters to me is how I am living in response to how God has asked me to live. Believe me when I tell you that this is an issue that I have really had to process through. I have had more material possessions than most people on earth. I have always had a full stomach (when I wanted). Over the years I have spent money buying 'Christmas' trees which I turned around and discarded a few weeks later, while people on the other side of the globe had no guarantee that there would be a next meal. I have a decent vehicle to move around in, and even to drive myself to the doctor's office where I get great health care if I need it. Shamefully, I take all of this for granted until I'm confronted with my mortality and my proclivity towards excess.

So the truth is that I am certainly not interested in executing judgment on how other Christians are living their lives. I have enough trouble trying to figure out how to live mine. This video segment of a Rob Bell (Mars Hill Church) message drives home the point much more powerfully than my words. Enjoy!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Colors of Christmas

Christmas brings out the best of humanity. We become more giving, more caring, and more serving. There is something about human nature that suggests that we should be more accomodating and more magnanimous during this season. As a result, it makes it doubly difficult to understand that this season also brings out the worst of humanity. I'm certainly not a psychologist, but I think a basic understanding of the scriptures qualifies anyone to speak to the 'psychology' of human nature..."For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..." (Romans 3: 23)

Early last week we dealt with the senseless killing spree of yet another disgruntled gunman at an Omaha, Nebraska shopping mall. Reportedly, one of the victims happened to be at the mall to buy a dress for his two year old daughter. Sadly she will never get to attend a father/daughter dance with him. He will never get the opportunity to give her a chastity-promise ring. He will miss the privilege of modeling for his daughter how she should be treated by a man. Preliminary reports, in an attempt to find answers as to why the killer 'snapped', informed us that he had just recently lost his job at McDonalds and his girlfriend had just broken off their relationship. Yesterday, this dark side of humanity surfaced yet again. At around 12.30am (in the small hours of Sunday morning) another gunman killed 2 people and injured 2 others at a YWAM base in Arvada, Colorado. Approximately 12 hours later, at New Life Church (where I served as associate pastor for five years) in Colorado Springs, Colorado (about 70 miles south of Arvada) a gunman of similar description ended the lives of two more people and wounded another two before he was shot to death.

We can conjecture and speculate all we want as to why these senseless tragedies occur, but I am persuaded that the real answer to why these 'dark colors' of humanity seem to surface during a season when there is meant to be so much joy, love and giving, has nothing to do with lost jobs or broken relationships. We were created by a loving God to live in relationship with HIM. Out of that relationship flows the ability to live in healthy community with others. Whether we acknowledge it or not, it is that pivotal relationship that serves as the principal hub for human relationships. The value of life is magnified in the understanding that Jesus gave His life in exchange for ours (Whether you believe this or not does not make this truth subjective). This season has a way of highlighting the void in our hearts that results from an absence of a true relationship with the Savior of mankind. While it's true that the majority don't resort to violence as a display of that void, the few who do, make it patently obvious that we need a Savior.

So today, on the other side of these senseless deaths, as we pray for the families and survivors of these meaningless acts of violence, it is incumbent upon me to tell you that there is a God to whom we must answer. If you don't have a point of reference for the depravity of mankind that informs both the best and the worst of us, let me give you one... "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17: 9). Today I'm asking that you spare a moment to pray for the hurting families and friends.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Wise Men trivia

For you lovers of the Christmas carol "We Three Kings..." I am about to burst your bubble with some facts that will ensure that you never see that song in the same light again. This is the proverbial "Santa Claus doesn't really exist talk" and you're certainly old enough to hear it now.

The story of these "three kings" is taken from Matthews account of the birth of Jesus in the Bible. The Bible never tells us that they were kings. It calls them Magi (a Median preistly caste in ancient Persia or what is now modern day Iran).

The Bible does not tell us how many Magi there were. We have assumed the number three simply because three kinds of gifts were presented.

The names Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar first appeared in Christian literature in the 8th century when Saint Bede the Venerable, described them this way: "The first was called Melchior; he was an old man with white hair and long beard; he offered gold to the Lord as his king. The second, Gaspar by name, young, beardless, of ruddy hue, offered to Jesus his gift of incense, the homage due to Divinity. The third, of black complexion, with heavy beard, was called Balthasar; the myrrh he held in his hands prefigured the death of the Son of man."

The Bible never gives us any information about their mode of transportation. Camels are assumed simply because they are the most popular mode of desert transportation, and also because they would fit a kingly mold much better than a donkey or a foot caravan.

Contrary to the popular nativity scene depictions, Matthew's Gospel tells us that they did not arrive at the manger when Jesus was a baby, but arrived when He was a "young child" living in "the house."

I know, I know, I'm a party pooper. I just couldn't bear to have you continue living with the deluded notion that your nativity scene, all nicely laid out on your mantlepiece, was an accurate depiction of the events sorrounding our Savior's birth. So now that we've burst that bubble, what other "facts" do you know about Christmas that are urban legend and not actual facts?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Wishlists (Part 2)

Yesterday I mentioned that the "Wise Men" who sought out Jesus, brought gifts other than gold, frankincense and Myrrh. They brought gifts that we can still give today. They gave the gifts of Hope, Time and Worship. When everyone else saw a dark night sky, this small band of brothers saw the Light. The sight of the star ignited a desire and a hope in their hearts. When night comes to your world, what do you see? The darkness or the stars? Hopelessness or hopefulness? If, during this festive season your heart has been overshadowed by the darkness of loneliness or grief or disappointment, look for the light that only He can give. "I am the Light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the Light of life." (John 8: 12)

And while you're giving, give God your time. The Bible gives us precious little information about the journey of the wise men or Magi (monarchs) as Matthews Gospel refers to them. So what do we know about them? We know that they came from the East. We know that they got word that a special 'King' had been born. We know that they immediately embarked on a journey, following a guiding star that took them to the King they sought. We know that by the time they arrived, Jesus was no longer in a manger but in a house and He was no longer a baby but a child (Matthew 2: 9 - 11). What don't we know? We don't know where they specifically came from. We don't know how long or how far they traveled. This leads us to conclude that, the one guarantee that we do have is that they devoted themselves to seeking the Savior. So can you. "...You will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul." (Deuteronomy 4: 29)

It's important for us to understand some things about these wise men. It's probable that they were wealthy, or how else could they have embarked on an extended journey and still have gifts to give at the end? It's likely that they were men of some influence, or how could they have commanded Herod's attention and an audience with him? It's almost certain that they were men of great intellect, or how else could they navigated across, possibly thousands of miles of desert terrain following a star to a precise location? So, potentially these were men of wealth, influence and intellect. What did they do when they saw Jesus? "...Fell down and worshipped Him." (Matthew 2: 11)

The gifts of hope, time and worship. Three gifts on God's wishlist. Three gifts wise men (and women) still give.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


A friend of mine recently sent me an outline on a Christmas series he had titled "Wishlist." His series got me thinking about 'copyright infringement' (in other words I thought it would be a great idea to steal the title) and so I developed a message of the same title which borrowed the idea that God has a wishlist too. In this season when we all get creative about wishlists, we might do well to remember that God has one too, but even He doesn't always get what He wishes for. For instance, we know that He wishes that "none should perish" (2 Peter 3: 9) yet people are dying daily sans a personal relationship with Him.

So over the next day or so I'll be sharing with you about a few things on God's wishlist so we can find out if you are interested in giving Him a gift for Christmas. Actually, that would be a great place to start. Suppose you could give God a gift for Christmas, what would you give Him? You might be inclined to ask, "What do you give to the One who not only has everything, but who made everything?" Well, how about a Wii? A Sony Playstation 3? Vibrating massage chair? No? Well, what about belly-button-lint (the 'traditional' gift for one who has everything)? I guess my list just doesn't cut it. What if we knew what was on God's wishlist, what would we do with that knowledge?

In the Bible we're told the story of "wise men" from the East who came to find Jesus, bearing gifts. Now before you rush out to your friendly neighborhood Walmart looking for Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh so that you can give an appropriate gift to God this Christmas, let me assure you that, while we know that the wise men brought these gifts, they aren't the gifts that are on God's wishlist. What else did they bring you wonder? Join me tomorrow and we'll explore the answer to that question in earnest. I 'wish' that you have a fulfilling day!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Reflections on the Seven Dwarves

"Grumpy" is one of the fabled seven dwarves of Snow White fame. You run into him at the stores quite a bit during this season. A friend told me how he successfully paid a little under $6.00 for a 14 pound turkey the other day simply because he was behind Grumpy in the check out line.

Grumpy, as it turns out, comes in a variety of colors, shapes, sizes and even genders (like many of the gifts out there during this season). This time, Grumpy was an extremely impatient and irritated lady who couldn't wait to give the cashier a piece of her mind about how long it had taken her to check out (as if it was the poor cashiers fault that everyone and his uncle had decided to shop and check out at the same time). The turkey she was buying happened to be the same brand of turkey my friend was buying, and it rang up at a whopping $0.78 a pound, which meant that, for a 14 pound turkey she would have paid $10.92. After she had taken her grumpy disposition and the cloud that hung over her head, out of the store, my friend smiled sympathetically at the cashier and complimented her patience. The cashier took one look at my friends disposition and realized that he was "Happy" (another one of Snow Whites dwarves), so she said, "I heard that these turkeys were selling for $0.40 a pound across town, so can I give it to you for that price?"

Well, my friend, while he may look like "Dopey" (yet another one of the erstwhile Dwarf clan) was certainly not "Bashful" (yes, you guessed it, he's another one of our friendly dwarves) and so, recognizing that that price was nothing to "Sneeze(y)" at, he readily agreed to the 'instant savings' and ended up paying $5.60 for his 14 pound turkey. Now, he did tell me that he and his wife consumed the turkey all by themselves, which, as you can imagine would have brought on a comatose state and made them quite "Sleepy" (this is getting ridiculous). I just hope they wouldn't have needed to see a "Doc" (Thank God this is the last one) after consuming a 14 pound turkey between the two of them.

So the real moral of the Snow White story is: If you have to go shopping for food this Christmas, and there's a long line of people at the checkout, try and get in line behind Grumpy and save your self a ton of money by switching to Geico... I mean... Ah, who knows what I mean? It's too early in the day to think that deeply. Hope you have a "Happy" day Brows

Monday, December 3, 2007

It's been nineteen years!

(This is a photo of my wife and her sisters in Nigeria in October 2007. She is the gorgeous one in the white)

Wow! It’s hard to believe it, but I’ve been married nineteen years today. It’s been an amazing journey and I’ve discovered things about myself (and about marriage) that have needed every one of the nineteen years to learn. The truth is though, that in some ways it feels like just yesterday that I was a young and dashing groom, starry-eyed at the prospects of becoming a husband and a father, yet in other ways (especially when I have to hold in my stomach so that it doesn’t droop over my belt) it feels like an eternity of good, home-cooked meals and lazy Sunday afternoons in front of one football game or another.

In retrospect, I realize that the smartest thing I ever did, other than making the decision to become a Christian, was to marry my wife. She has made my life infinitely easier and has prayed for and loved me into seeking to become the man that God ordained for me to be. I’m still a work in progress but trust me when I tell you that the last nineteen years have had a definitive and positive impact on my life. So if you’re thinking of getting married, find someone who’s just like my wife… oop’s, sorry, the mold was thrown away after she was made, so you’re just going to have to make do with second best.

To those silent readers who never post a comment, today would be a good day for you to send congratulations so that we know you’re out there. Well, enough blogging for today, I need to go and figure out what we’re doing for dinner tonight so that I can really enjoy my nineteenth wedding anniversary.