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January 2008

Facing the Giants

Facing_the_giants Tonight we watched (again) the movie, Facing the Giants.  I really like this movie.

I was reading some of the things written on the internet about the film.  The responses to the movie vary, and the critics, Christian or otherwise, all have something “critical” to say--especially about the "happily ever after" ending.  I guess I could pick the movie apart too.  But what good is that? 

Like I said, I really like the movie Facing the Giants and there is a lot of good I could say about it but I won’t list the specifics for fear that I might spoil the movie for some people that haven’t seen it yet.  What I will say is that there is a lot of Truth interspersed throughout the story and if you have “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” you might realize God speaking to your heart.

In the story of Facing the Giants there is a commitment to follow God . . . “no matter what.”  For me, the real message of the movie is not in defeating the giants it is in FACING the giants.   Giants cause us to be fearful.  They limit us and mock us. Giants are things we avoid and ignore; they are things that cast a looming shadow over our lives. 

To face the giants means to go with God, to rely on His strength, to live for Him and to trust in Him . . . “no matter what.”  When this is the case—the giants are defeated.  Regardless of how things turn out—the battle is already won. 

Another word for this is…..FAITH.

This morning in my Bible reading I read Daniel chapter 3.  It is the story about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar.  The three friends were facing the incinerator because they would not bow down and worship a GIANT golden statue of the king.  God was their rock, their fortress and their deliverer and He was the only one worthy of their worship and adoration.

It is an amazing account—the king throws them into the fiery furnace and when he looks in to see their charred remains he can’t believe his eyes.  Instead of being dead, the three guys are very much alive and they are not alone!  God is with them! 

Take a look at the words of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego before they were thrown into the fiery furnace.  King Nebuchadnezzar threatened them with their lives if they didn’t worship the statue and they replied,

"O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

Did you catch that?  “But even if he does not….”  In other words, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said, “NO MATTER WHAT we will serve the Lord.”  That is FAITH.

Giants are a problem.  They stand between us and God’s promises.  Long ago, King David, a giant killer of old, penned these words:

I will love You, O LORD, my strength.
The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
         My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
         My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the LORD. . .

.--Psalm 18:1-3

Life is hard, giants are real and not all stories turn out happily ever after.  But don’t leave the theater yet.  Let the credits roll and at the very end you will find a cross, an empty tomb and the loving savior, Jesus Christ.

He is our strength, our rock, our fortress, our deliverer, our shield, our salvation and our stronghold.  Giants and fiery furnaces don’t bother Jesus.

In Him all we need to do is have FAITH and face the giants—He will do the defeating.

Running Reflection--January 3

Run Today’s Race
A Word from Oswald Chambers for Every Day of the Year
Copyright © 1968 Oswald Chambers Publications Association Ltd.

January 3

"The Spirit of God alters my dominating desires; He alters the thing that matters, and a universe of desires I had never known before, suddenly comes on the horizon."

Reflections by Ryan:

“Dominating desires” . . . Hmmm . . . the term “dominate” is a pretty hefty word.  Dominating desires are those desires that rule you and control you; they are the desires that exert a supreme guiding influence over your life.  What are your dominating desires?  If you don’t know, you might take a look at your checkbook, your thought life, your relationships or at the way you spend your time. 

Regardless of how long your list of dominating desires might be there is most likely only one overarching, dominating desire that serves as the source for all of your other desires.  In most cases it is that thing that matters the most to you and for most of us that thing is . . . OURSELVES.

God wants to make a change in those things that control you and he will make the change by focusing the eyes of your heart upon Himself and others.  If you will let Him, God through the Holy Spirit will actually change the focus and desire of your heart.

By now you have probably figured out your list of “dominating desires.”  Do you really want to keep that limited, debilitating, mundane, miserable, short-sighted, self-focused list?  If not, look away from yourself and look to God.  In Him, the sky is the limit, as He holds out a list of desires that you can only imagine.

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Matthew 6:33 (NLT)
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”

Make Your Mark

Dscf2018cropped Click on this photo and take a close look at it.  In a visit to Seoul, South Korea last week I came across this graffiti covered wall advertisement.  The volume of writing on this wall was amazing.  I wonder, how did this extensive display of graffiti begin?  Did it start with the initials of two young lovers proclaiming to the world their affinity for one another?   Did it begin with a lonely man or woman leaving their name and the date just to let the world know that they exist? 

Why did the inscriptions continue?  Why are there so many?

We all want to leave our mark on the world, don’t we?  Some people write books, some record music, some have children, some go on shooting sprees in shopping malls, some build companies, some write blogs, some plant trees and some leave their initials on a wall somewhere in the world.

We all want to make our mark on this world and each of us will in at least two places.  One place will be on a grave marker somewhere on this planet and the other will be on the tablet of someone else’s heart. 

I like Henry James’ final words to his young nephew.  He said, 

“There are three things that are important in human life.  The first is to be kind.  The second is to be kind.  The third is to be kind.”

Making your mark in this world with kindness isn’t a bad place to start.  It might be a nice addition to your list of New Year’s Resolutions.  There is much more that could be said on this topic but for now, that will do.

Running Reflection--January 2

Run Today’s Race
A Word from Oswald Chambers for Every Day of the Year
Copyright © 1968 Oswald Chambers Publications Association Ltd.

January 2

"The very life of Jesus is given to us unstintedly if we will identify ourselves with His Death. At the back of us stands the Risen Life of Jesus that nothing can overcome."

Reflections by Ryan:

In other words....go for it.
The life of the One who created the galaxies, the oceans, the mountains, and the inhabitants of the earth is available to us. His presence, his peace, his hope, and his love is available to us in an unlimited, unrestricted way. . . IF . . .   

IF what?  "If" we will identify ourselves with His death.  What does it mean to identify with the death of Jesus?  The Apostle Paul gives us a pretty good idea in Philippians 2. 

He writes:

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”
(vs. 2-8 NIV)

We identify with the death of Jesus as we live lives of service, forgiveness and love amongst others.  God gives us the strength and support to live in this way.  As we face life and its challenges we have one who stands behind us—like a big brother.  Actually, standing behind us is the risen life of Jesus Christ—the one who has defeated sin and death and who stands as hope and life for all who believe.  He says to us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” in other words, “I’ve got your back.”

Philippians 2: 9-11(NIV) best completes this thought.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Go for it.  Live in abandonment to Jesus Christ, facing the trials and obstacles of life with confidence because Jesus has “got your back.”

Running Reflection--January 1

Run Today’s Race
A Word from Oswald Chambers for Every Day of the Year
Copyright © 1968 Oswald Chambers Publications Association Ltd.
Scripture NIV

January 1

"God is so immediately near and so immensely strong that I get more and more joyous in my confidence in Him and less and less careful how I feel."

Reflections by Ryan:

I read the words of Oswald Chambers and I realize that I need to remember that God is near—He is here with me right now. In Psalm 139, King David asks of the Lord, “Where I can I go from your Spirit?” and the resounding answer is….nowhere. I need to remember that. God is near. Yes, this knowledge will keep me accountable but more importantly, it is so good to know that my “abba” Father is always with me.

As I read the daily news and consider the struggles in my own life and in the lives of those around me I find myself doubting that God is “immensely strong.” However, God’s immense strength is not realized on my terms. I think God should flex his muscles and hold back the tsunami tidal wave, cure the stage four cancer and end world hunger but God shows His strength in other ways.
God is immensely strong as He gives me grace to live today, as He loves the unlovely, as He forgives the sinner through the blood of Jesus Christ and as He is hope even when things appear hopeless.  Even if the boat sinks and we with it—He is with us, holding us all the way down.  Even in death, He is strong.  "Death where is thy sting?"  He is our hope and ours is the hope of heaven.
In God we are never alone and we are never without hope.  Now that is cause for joy.  Not happiness, but joy.  It has been said that "happiness" is based on "happenings".  This is not the case with joy.  Joy in the Lord is not found in "happenings" and it is not realized in feelings.  Joy in the Lord is much deeper.  It is foundational in our lives.  It is the place of strength, peace and hope for the one who is abandoned to Jesus Christ.

". . . This day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength."          --Nehemiah 8:10

God's Glory in a Backyard BBQ

Dscf1666 Here is great picture of two of my friends—Mike on the left and Thomas on the right.  This picture was taken on the patio/deck of Thomas’s house in the countryside of South Korea.  Our families had a get together in early December.  We enjoyed the beautiful view, some great food and most of all a great time of fellowship with one another.

This picture looks like any other Saturday backyard BBQ picture and to you that is probably all it is.  However, to me this picture holds layers of meaning. 

First, the setting of this picture is in the countryside of South Korea.  That is significant to this Idaho boy.  It was so refreshing to get out of the “city” for awhile and to enjoy the hills, mountains, foliage and open air of South Korea.  It was a bit strange for me to experience Korea in this way.  In my mind, Korea is a place of crowded streets, tall apartment buildings and never ending pavement.  At times I had to remind myself that I was not visiting a friend’s house in Idaho.

Secondly, it was a real treat to spend some time with these two guys.  Mike is a “Kiwi” from New Zealand and Thomas is a native Korean who has spent a significant amount of time living in the United States.  Our three perspectives and life experiences are completely different and this made for an excellent time of conversation.  The questions and discussion amongst us were dynamic and refreshing.  From our time together I learned so much about the world and people and God.

Yes, I learned about God.  Actually, I walked away from that afternoon BBQ feeling as if I had just been on holy ground.  The richness and diversity of God’s creation as revealed in humankind, history, culture and geographic location is amazing.  This combined with the essence of relationship and friendship left me with a sense of awe that continues to this day.  The very weight of this experience is something that I equate with the “Glory of God.” 

The Glory of God—is not only realized in scenic vistas, telescopic gazings into the galaxies, and elaborate cathedrals but it is also evident in hospital delivery rooms, evening walks with a loved one and even in……Saturday afternoon backyard BBQs.

Psalm 8

1 O LORD, our Lord,
       how majestic is your name in all the earth!
       You have set your glory
       above the heavens.

2 From the lips of children and infants
       you have ordained praise
       because of your enemies,
       to silence the foe and the avenger.

3 When I consider your heavens,
       the work of your fingers,
       the moon and the stars,
       which you have set in place,

4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
       the son of man that you care for him?

5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
       and crowned him with glory and honor.

6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
       you put everything under his feet:

7 all flocks and herds,
       and the beasts of the field,

8 the birds of the air,
       and the fish of the sea,
       all that swim the paths of the seas.

9 O LORD, our Lord,
       how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Lion Chaser's Manifesto

Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Set God-sized goals. Pursue God-ordained passions. Go after a dream that is destined to fail without divine intervention. Keep asking questions. Keep making mistakes. Keep seeking God. Stop pointing out problems and become part of the solution. Stop repeating the past and start creating the future. Stop playing it safe and start taking risks. Expand your horizons. Accumulate experiences. Enjoy the journey. Find every excuse you can to celebrate everything you can. Live like today is the first day and last day of your life. Don't let what's wrong with you keep you from worshiping what's right with God. Burn sinful bridges. Blaze new trails. Criticize by creating. Worry less about what people think and more about what God thinks. Don't try to be who you're not. Be yourself. Laugh at yourself. Quit holding out. Quit holding back. Quit running away.

Chase the lion.In_a_pit

The manifesto above is written by the author Mark Batterson and taken from his book In a Pit With a Lion On a Snowy Day.  I read this book last year and it is a good one.  The theme of the book is based on events found in 2 Samuel 23:20-21.  Take a look at the passage and at the book.

It is a good thought for the New Year.