Tuesday, February 12, 2013
There was a vast crowd of people. They were a different sort of people in some way -- a nation of people. The people were a nation in an ancient land. They were gathered for an annual celebration. They had been known in the victorious days past as those who flew … for they had the power to fly. But in this day and age, no one knew how to fly. The art was lost. No one knows exactly why the art had been lost. And then this day came upon us. There was music unlike other music being played. It was an ancient song of celebration. It made you want to dance … it made you want to fly. People would jump and bounce about and it almost looked like they were flying … and then it occurred to me that I could fly. I wasn’t on the ground anymore. When I had the faith to fly I could fly … it was a bit like swimming but far more exciting. I would loop and dive through the air. I didn’t even have wings (and didn’t need them). I remember flying high above the crowd and looking down and seeing the masses. Others joined me in flight … youth and children and a few adults. We danced and looped about as the crowd watched in astonishment … clapping their hands in excitement and glee. I flew … this way and that … diving down right above them and then back up. And then I flew extremely fast and away from the crowd across a huge landscape of trees, desolate some of it. I could dodge the trees and fly extremely fast to far away places. The landscape was like a blur beneath me and around me. I knew about this land … there were the palaces of the ancient kings in the distance. I thought of the long tedious travel along the ground that our people often use for transportation. The palaces were hardly visited anymore. But I could reach them very quickly. Perhaps that’s why the land is as it is … hard to travel on the ground … places spread out by great distances. It is the structure of an ancient society of fliers who had abilities we now only dream of. Then it was normal … today it was astonishing. When I returned to the massive crowd, no one was flying. I would stop and walk among them then wink at a little girl and ask her if she could fly. “No one flies anymore,” she would say. And so I would leap into the air and tell her … “This is how it starts … leap into the air!” She just stared at me as I did leap into the air. But then I fell back down to the ground. I tried again … but still didn’t fly. Finally I leaped and believed I could … I pushed off out of that reality and flew into the sky. The crowd gasped. The ancient art had returned.
I had a dream last night ...
There was a big ship. Every once in a while the ship would be lost. A man would come and help steer the ship and it wouldn't be lost anymore.
The man would eventually get his own ship and sail away.
There were three ladies on the ship who became very close. So close in fact that they all changed their last name to "Smith". They had taken on each other's identity. It was an act to demonstrate their love and unity for one another ... that they were family.
But then this man returned to the ship. He began to romance the woman. One of the women became engaged to the man. They all rejoiced at this. Now the man happened to have the same name as the women ... Smith. But He changed his name and became Mr. Johnson. This caused no small difficulty for the women, who loved one another.
It went on for months ... engaged, she was deeply in love with both her sisters and with her future husband. But she could not conceive of doing as he was asking ... changing her identity again. But eventually she did it. She was married and she became Mrs. Johnson. And then I woke up.
I believe that ...
The ship was Israel
The man was Jesus Christ
The three women were the Church
Only one was willing to get married and change her identity again, to take on His identity.
We are that woman. We are engaged in unity to the Son. We are not united in one another ... we are only united in Christ ... romance Him!
Monday, February 11, 2013
I had a dream ... my dream was a bit unusual for me. Most of my dreams show movement, action, activity. This was different. In my dream I just saw snapshots ... pictures appeared in front of me ...
I saw a snapshot, a photograph of a restaurant kitchen. The stainless steel tables were brilliantly shining, that impossible glossy texture that is only possible when knives have not yet sliced against them. The stoves were perfectly clean. The shelves held unused pots and pans that shone and sparkled, flawless and polished. There were spices, all completely full, unopened, unused.
And there was all of you ... you were all there ... in this kitchen. You were smiling for the camera and pointing at the fantastic beauty and wonder of it all.
Snap. Another picture appeared in front of me ... this one in another part of the kitchen. It was equally clean and unused, beautiful. You could see and sense the excitement of all these new chefs with their beautiful kitchen.
Snap! Another photo appeared, another pose with everyone holding a beautiful stainless steel pot above their heads. Smiles all around.
Snap! Another photo, this time everyone pretending to cook at the stove ... but the fire wasn't on.
The photos went on and on and I was thinking to myself. Well look! This must be the organic body of Christ at the beginning in their new kitchen, they're getting started and ready to cook. But the pictures kept coming and I begun to realize that none of them actually included any real food or any real cooking. Oh how exciting and blissful that kitchen was, but since there wasn't any cooking, I begun to wonder where the food was, and why taking pictures were so important.
Picture after picture of people who were excited about their kitchen but apparently never cooked anything or scratched those beautiful stainless steel surfaces.
And then, of course, I woke up. Not with any strong sensation on my mind from the Lord, but with an amusement. I was chuckling to myself about that kitchen that there wasn't any food ...
So perhaps its a warning not to focus too much on our new digs (the kitchen) in Christ ... to instead focus on the food. Preparing the food ... utilizing the kitchen rather than taking pictures in it.
We aren't here to create picture perfect moments. We are here to be real, to scratch the counters, to chase kids through the kitchen, to stir the sauces, to burn the food sometimes or even to undercook it other times ... to put the wrong spices together and discover something new ... unusual ... different ... gross even? But yes, to cook.
Cooking involves chopping and slicing, it involves seasoning and preparing. Sometimes it involves time ... like when I make my own bread and it has to sit on the counter for a while to rise and prepare for baking.
I think it is same in the spiritual realm. We need to focus on not just seeing Christ and expressing Christ, but also on preparing the food in His kitchen. The raw ingredients are all there, but if we don't know how to use them and put them together, we will just be taking pictures of those raw ingredients, and many of them won't be edible in that form (anyone want to have a tablespoon of cinnamon? Watch this, if you're interested: )
I think we have to bring raw ingredients to one another, and talk about the food we are preparing. Then we should chop them up, process them, contemplate them. I'm not sure it takes 30 chefs to work on any individual raw ingredient, but smaller groups of them can obviously work together or individually on the ingredients. Perhaps that's the majority of the work ... our work with one another.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Jesus of Nazareth was conceived before his parents were married. He was born to a poor family in a poor town. His situation was desperate. His father died when he was young, and most of the parenting responsibilities fell on his mother. They noticed there was something special about him.
Justin Bieber was born to his 17 year old unmarried mother. A year later his dad left them. She raised him with the help of her parents. They noticed there was something special about him.
When he was 12, the people began to realize that Jesus wasn't like everyone else. The priests and elders and religious leaders of his day were shocked by his questions, his answers, his ideas.
When he was 12, Justin Bieber begun to shock the world through his YouTube account. He posted videos of his singing, drumming, his music. The music industry leaders were amazed by his talant, his good looks, and his influence.
Today Justin Bieber has 55 million followers on Facebook and 33 million followers on Twitter. Today, Jesus Christ has an even bigger following (whether you count his followers here in the United States or around the world).
I see a picture of Jesus Christ in Justin Bieber.
Take his fans, for example. They call themselves "Bieberlers" and flock to his concerts and social media accounts in droves. In fact I heard that Twitter has racks of servers dedicated to Justin Bieber, and am certain that Facebook and other social networks must have the same. While the industry was trying to figure out how to market Justin's music, they discovered that his online presence, this organic group of Biberlers would make him one of the top celebrities of our time. While they were trying their old tried and true (marketing, business) ways, Bieber connected himself with incredible effectiveness to those who had made this discovery of him, to those who felt a sense of ownership and pride in that discovery.
It is the same for those who truly discover Christ for themselves. They take personal ownership of this new spark of understanding, and like a seed that goes into replication, they begin to walk in a time of miracles. They are born into a new reality, and with this new reality comes an awareness of Jesus, they begin to tap into this organic network all focused on one person, the one that God gave all power, all dominion, all authority in heaven and on earth. And they don't care if a million or a billion people already follow Him. They become captivated with this one, and cannot look away, cannot betray their discovery or His love.
Bieber was young, and he represented something new. He reminds me of what I would picture Adam to have been like: full of energy, passion and love. He has a hopeless affinity for making his fans feel special. He drops in on them unexpectedly, he randomly picks a girl from the crowd to sing to her that she is "one less lonely girl." He plays for a concert of 300,000 in Mexico ... for free.
And that reminds me of another thing. His focus. His focus isn't on himself. His focus is on his fans. He loves his fans, and doesn't allow himself the luxury to consider himself. Jesus constantly reminded his followers to consider others before themselves, and then went on to demonstrate it with his sacrifice, being willing to lay his life down for them. Justin sends "his people" outside the stadium before his concerts to give away tickets to front row seats, to those who don't have a seat. Jesus told a parable of a banquet where those who were invited were given wedding clothes and brought into places of honor. "Go out into the streets and find those who are poor and wretched, give them wedding clothes and bring them in!"
And the fans ... these Bieberlers ... what are they like? They are fanatical, they are all in love with their musical idol. They don't even hold it against one another that they all love him. They don't try to compete against one another, their focus is on one person. They aren't focused on one another. They don't see anyone other than their super star. That reminds me not of those who compete for position, or regale others in tales of their own glory. No, it reminds instead me of those who only have a vision for one person, so in love with that one, they cannot see anyone else. It reminds me of story after story that I've read or watched on the silver screen about a young man and a young women who are so deeply in love that they are willing to give up everything for one another, do irrational things, go to the ends of the earth and even abandon their own ideals and dreams to be with the one they love. Like the woman who cannot think of anyone other than her man, the woman so captivated that she cannot sit still at the thoughts running through her head, so is the bride of Christ, the people of God who are called by his name. With eyes for only one, it is hard to see anything else!
There is a startling picture of Jesus Christ in not just every superstar, but a surprising image for us to look at. If your eyes were opened you would see His wonders every day, the demonstration of the miracle of the true super star of the universe in every moment. Can you see it? Are you awake to the existence of this reality? Every story whispers His name, everything in all creation is a parable. Don't miss them, they're all around you.
I'll leave you with this: I highly recommend you watch the movie, "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" ... and look for Jesus Christ in this movie. It's free on Amazon Prime and may be available on Netflix as well. Watch it ... even if you aren't in to pop stars (trust me, I'm not!).
Sunday, February 3, 2013
Every story is in some way a picture of Jesus Christ. In fact, it is hard to find a story that doesn't in some way reflect the power of the message of redemption, of true love, of the cross, of God's eternal purpose for his body, his family, his bride. It is actually an inescapable reality that the telling of stories always finds itself back to the doorstep of the creator of the universe.
Some of the stories being told aren't exactly what you might assume that they are. Sometimes the characters in these stories aren't found in books, movies or on the lips of a gifted entertainer. Sometimes you will find these stories playing out all around you, in 3D, in real time. In fact, you might find that you yourself are one of the actors in this drama, and as you look around you may realize that you are experiencing something that has been in the heart of God since before the beginning.
Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) is a timeless children's classic. Geisel weaves the tale of an elephant who believes he has a "small speck" on which creatures live. The other animals in the "Jungle of Nool" feel that Horton the elephant is of course a great fool. And while he tries to convince them of the existence of this other reality, they laugh and ridicule him. And while he fights brilliantly for its survival, he is unable to convince them.
This story reminded me of living in a world where I believe in someone and in something that everyone else thinks is crazy, outlandish, ridiculous even. They see me reacting to something that they can plainly see, is a figment of my imagination. Or is it? This story show the experience of someone who clearly is persecuted for his beliefs and his experience. It shows that those others have not taken the time to get to know our friend Horton. It seems a little like Horton is Jesus Christ, and we are the jungle animals. We are either crazed and frustrated by this strange belief, or are ready to destroy it by any means necessary. Or perhaps Horton is you, because you are walking in Christ and everyone else around you doesn't understand you, they don't get your strange beliefs.
And then there's the Mayor on that small speck ... who has a similar conundrum. He is unable to explain to his fellow countrymen that they are in fact living on a speck of dust that is floating through a jungle unaware, resting on a clover. To warn them he must convince them that this entirely incredible and unlikely concept is actually their reality. He is persecuted, screamed at, made fun of. It is not a pleasant experience until Horton convinces them that everyone on the speck should cry out for their small lives. And then it is a picture of Christ in a whole new way. Instead of crucifying the poor mayor, the tiny world unites to convince those who hold the speck of dust in their hands that they are worthy of a continued existence.
The interpretation of parables is never a wise thing to share very loudly or publicly, since some people might become angry at you ... they may want to shut you up, get rid of you, get you out of their way. It was the way of the prophets throughout history. Those prophets spoke loudly and critically of their generation and they were often killed for their words.
Think of stories or parables as pieces of a universal genetic code. The genes in any creature are, in a simplified explanation, similar to a computer program that describes every mechanism and part of how that creature should operate. Now you can see how all these genetic parts are actually within every cell, but those cells are often specialized for a specific function and work. That means much of the "software" is inactive and is not currently in use at any particular time in any particular cell. So if you look around you and see stories that don't make sense to you, they are perhaps another part of the "program" that forms the genetic universe that is Jesus Christ, within which we dwell. You often have to wait and watch for the parable that fits your place within the body before a story jumps out at you in living color and begins to instruct you in how you should operate as a part of the body. That specific set of instructions was tailor made for you!
You will find many pictures of both Christ and of His Body in that small Whoville. And you will find Him also in the story of Justin Bieber and his loyal fans (another article on this, another time). You will find him in your own life as well, whether you're working to adopt a healthier lifestyle or meeting up with a new group of friends. You will find his parables in the most surprising places, in the places where people don't know who Jesus is, in the darkest places, where corruption rules the day and death rules the night. Where right and wrong are upside down, you will find his shining light.
Not convinced yet? Solomon had this same thought as well: "Out in the open wisdom calls out, she raises her voice in the public square; on the top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?" (Prov 1:20-22). Jesus Christ is wisdom impersonated, all reality expresses Him, and everything is being and will be brought into Him. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And it is wise to watch, learn, and understand the parables that are around you, to not be offended by them, but to truly understand the fear of the Lord. As Horton said, "A person's a person, no matter how small!"