Goliath - 01

Lesser lions, smaller giants

Goliath - 01

One of my favorite stories is the story of David facing the giant Goliath in 1 Samuel 17. The ancient nation of Israel is on one mountain facing the Philistine army with a valley in between. The Philistine champion Goliath the giant is taunting the Israelites: send out your champion so I can kill him because your God is a joke.

The only one willing to go is the shepherd boy David, the anointed future king of Israel. On one side is this giant Goliath, standing over 9 feet tall. Nine feet! Not only that, he is covered in armor and has a spearhead weighing over 20 pounds. On the other side is David, this teenage rookie of all rookies, maybe 5 foot-five at a good guess. No one gives him a chance. He’s never fought in a war, never been a soldier. Who does this punk think he is?

Scripture says David ran, ran to the battle line. No sign of fear, no hint of second thoughts. Using a strap of leather and a chunk of river rock, David blew out Goliath’s brains and chopped off his head. Can you imagine the shock on both sides?

Do you know why it was easy for David to face Goliath? Because David had already faced a lion before.

David spent a lot of time out in the wilderness protecting his father’s sheep. If a lion or bear attacked the flock, David didn’t just leave well enough alone. He went after both a lion and a bear and killed them for attacking his sheep.

The big payoff is when David credited God for rescuing him from the bear and the lion. It wasn’t just luck or his superior skill; it was God rescuing David by giving him the courage, skills, and opportunity to fight back.

Sometimes God puts struggles and obstacles in our path to better prepare us for even bigger challenges ahead. A good loving Father wants His children to be ready for whatever they face, even if it’s so far beyond our ability to cope.

It’s much easier to face the giants in life when we’ve already seen God help us overcome our fears. Giants stand shorter when we’ve fought off lesser lions.

No matter what giant is looming in your life today, whether it’s a recent job loss, broken relationships, or a medical threat, I can promise you that God has given you the tools and courage to face your giant today. Whatever giant you’re facing today, there’s a good chance God allowed you to face some lesser lions to prepare you for this moment.

Trust your Father in heaven and run towards your giant with courage from the lions you’ve faced.

I used to be perfect…

…and then I got married.

Our wedding

Okay, so I didn’t think I was perfect, but I thought I had my life together. Caring for others? Check. Good listener? Absolu- sorry, what was the question? Flexible, understanding, patient, and kind? I had all of that and I had arrived.

Pardon me while I double over laughing at my old perspective.

If anything, marriage has taught me how many things I still need God to transform in my life. Many of the things I thought I’d mastered weren’t fully realized until I got married. I’ve found a depth of listening I didn’t know before. My perspective is different now than three years ago. My heart now sees how much my life needs constant renovation because of the incredible woman I married.

It’s not because Kara completes me, because she doesn’t; only God can complete me. God uses others in our lives though, like our spouses, to show us where He wants to transform us.

You don’t have to be married for God to open your perspective. Some of the most eye-opening moments in my life happen when a close friend, roommate, Kara, or co-worker has the guts to tell me tough truths. It doesn’t matter whether I agree with it or not, my perspective doesn’t change the truth.

God puts people in our lives to open our perspective. Other people reveal the plateaus in our Gospel transformation and push us towards either dynamic Gospel change or into full-blown indifference. We don’t have the luxury of ignorance when we live in close community.

When we ignore the honest words of a friend or spouse, we fabricate our own version of reality. God didn’t create us to live ignorant lives. We need the courage to listen and learn from other perspectives. If we listen to the voices God’s put in our lives, we will better understand our need for Gospel transformation.

Until then, we’re stuck with being perfect.

Rewind on The Hunger Games

Last week Kara and I went to see The Hunger Games in Chesterfield. Neither of us have read the books (yet) but we wanted to get the full movie experience before reading the books. I was familiar enough with the storyline to know what to expect and I came away completely impressed with the final product.

Overall, the movie was incredibly well done. The design was beautiful, the CG was top-notch, the dialogue was well-written, and the acting was excellent, especially Jennifer Lawrence’s work as Katniss Everdeen. (Rumor is that she’s already being talked about for an Oscar, something that none of the Harry Potter movies can claim to have won.)

When it comes to the premise, let’s be honest… the premise of The Hunger Games is kind of morbid, in the same vein of “Lord of the Flies” and “The Island“. In the growing pornography of violence, I will say that The Hunger Games is the latest glossy-covered edition. Twenty-four teenagers killing each other in gruesome ways does carry a certain shock factor throughout the story. If the premise is all that’s focused on though, it’s easy to miss some really rich parts of the story, and the power of the premise is what helps underline them in the end.

Is it actually believable that a world might exist in the future where this is the annual reminder of war’s devastation? Is it only about these teens being thrown into this world of “kill-or-be-killed” with no correlation to society today? As we watched the movie, I started to connect different pieces to our own world…

  • The appetite for the Capitol’s elite to see destruction and ruin in others’ lives, even in the lives of youth, reminded me of the paparazzi, TMZ breaking news, and celebrity gossip over the latest rehab story. We love to see someone fall and fail miserably as we look on with flashing camera bulbs, capturing every second of it. This flies in the face of a grace-filled Gospel.
  • Social injustices under the President’s tyrannical rule over the districts reminded me of the warlords spreading terror across Africa, Asia, and Central America today. These injustices are not always blatant to the outside world, using North Korea as an example of how many quiet horrors happen behind closed doors.
  • The cold indifference towards the tributes’ deaths reminded me of the inaction of first world inhabitants today as millions die each day within our ability to help.
  • The abundance of food in the Capitol and its scarcity in the districts reminded me of a whole variety of situations in our world today when it comes to abundance and scarcity, everything from food to medicine to clothing to clean drinking water to education.

God and faith may not have been mentioned in this film, maybe since faith was seen as a necessary casualty of the preceding Apocalypse, but the connections between our faith and the journey of these characters is unmistakeable at times. There were some beautiful and powerful themes throughout this story, themes of friendship, justice, loyalty, and taking action in an inactive world.

I loved it when Peeta said he wanted to remain who he was, unchanged by outside forces of evil, and not become a monster because he was in the Games. (“If I’m gonna die, I want to still be me.”) Katniss’s own metamorphosis from passive participant to a heroine focused on a higher good holds its own collection of rich imagery and truths.

Maybe the eclectic fashion sense of the Capitol or the savage nature of the premise would make it easy to disassociate from our own world. Maybe our own inaction is too closely reflected in this story for us to realize. But maybe, just maybe we can see that The Hunger Games is more of a mirror to our world than we might admit. Maybe the odds are never meant to be only in our favor.

Friday List – December 16, 2011

It’s two weeks ’til Christmas and snow might finally be coming to St. Louis! Kara and I are headed down to Jefferson City today to see the old house where her family lived. For now though, here’s the Friday List.

Book Review – Nobility (Nathanael White)

Recently I was able to read Nobility, the debut novel of author Nathanael White. It’s the story of Michael, a young boy celebrating his thirteenth birthday, whose life changes immediately following his birthday as he dreams himself into another world, a world filled with mighty kings and jealous knights, honor and greed, a call to lead with a temptation to continue following others.

Michael awakes to find that Cotheria is only a dream until he mysteriously returns again without warning…or dreaming. He goes deeper into this new world as rebellion threatens to tear Cotheria apart and the country is plunged into war. He meets extraordinary characters and learns valuable life lessons about integrity, leadership, and of course, nobility.

Throughout these dreams and realities and back again is one common element: the sword his parents gave him on his birthday. The sword is a symbol of his calling to nobility, a life of making much of others so that they can do great things together. These lessons learned in Cotheria begin to challenge how Michael sees his life and influence among his circle of friends, resulting in a climactic opportunity to show nobility in leadership or to remain where he has been before.

White does an excellent job of weaving together the parallel realities that Michael faces: the real world of his family and the dream world of Cotheria. From a literary perspective Nobility bears a similar resemblance to C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia and Ted Dekker’s The Circle Trilogy with similar rich imagery, parallel worlds within, and spiritual overtones invoking contemplation of the soul.

I would recommend this work to young men and their fathers as they begin to navigate the new waters of adolescence. The medieval kingdom of Cotheria and the life lessons found in the pages of Nobility are excellent points for discussion between fathers and sons as they look to capture these same lessons learned by Michael.

Nobility is published by Megaphone Publications and is available for purchase through Megaphone, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. White is a pastor, counselor, and father of four in southern Minnesota where he looks to plant a church in the upcoming year.

Holy Week: Betrayal

This year our Good Friday service is called “The Betrayal of Good.” To betray means “to be unfaithful in guarding, maintaining, or fulfilling.” Betrayal is the act that broke ranks with your commitment. You were committed and faithful in one moment and in the next you decided, consciously decided, to give it all up.

Most of us might assume that the betrayal surrounding Jesus’ death only had to do with Judas betraying Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In reality, there were many betrayals that happened during the hours leading up to Jesus’ death.

Faith was betrayed when the disciples fled from the soldiers in the Garden. Those who claimed to be closest to Jesus were the first to distance themselves from Him when they felt threatened. Don’t judge; it still happens today.

Courage was betrayed when Peter denied Jesus. Not once. Not twice. Three times. Three times Peter chose to deny He ever knew Jesus and even began to curse those who asked him about Jesus. He was so afraid of what others thought of him that he went to an extreme compromise to disprove their questions. Don’t judge; it still happens today.

Justice was betrayed when the Sanhedrin held an illegal trial at night to convict Jesus. Those who were the most vocal about holding up the letter of the Law were the first to abandon their claims for their own agendas. Don’t judge; it still happens today.

I wonder if hope was betrayed as the apostle John watched Jesus get nailed to a cross. If there was ever a time for Jesus to show all of His glory and install His kingdom on earth, this was it…but why isn’t He moving? Why is He staying up there? Is this actually happening?

And, finally, life was betrayed when the One who made life released His grip on it. The Author of Life, the One who penned pulses and breaths into existence, gave up His own gift for the redemption of everyone. Jesus, the One who had guarded and maintained life from His throne in heaven, chose to release His own life to rescue the lives of others.

None of these betrayals happened by accident. None of them were a surprise to Jesus. Some of the greatest betrayals surrounding the death of Christ were necessary for us to fully understand the severity of Christ’s sacrifice.