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Friday, December 30, 2011

Blink

Priorities, time management, legacy and what's really most important are concepts that are dominating my thoughts these days.

I don't want to waste my time or just go through the motions...I want to be a man of God who lived it full on for His Savior and full on for His family.

The other day my daughter was singing this song by the band Revive, it's called "Blink", and it's quickly becoming my new theme song...it happens in a blink...so my prayer is that I invest wisely in the things that matter most!

Friday, December 16, 2011

In whom does your hope lie?

I'm putting the finishing touches on the message I'll be delivering on Sunday, which is part 2 of a Series I began last week dealing with the gifts that God gives us at Christmas...Think about that, we get stuff on Jesus' birthday. That's incredible! Anyway, this week I'm going to be focussing on the Hope that we have because of Jesus, and my mind went back to an article I wrote a few years ago about the question "In whom does your hope lie?" A question I was posed with during one of my trips to Ukraine.

I recently returned from an extensive teaching, preaching and training trip to Ukraine, which is a place that I have become very familiar with over the last few years.

It’s a place that I always enjoy returning to, and a place that connects with me, and impacts me in different ways every time without fail!

My latest trip to Ukraine was just as amazing as the other times, but as I reflect on some of the reasons why, I keep thinking about a theme that kept recurring in my mind as I was there.

The theme that kept popping up everywhere I went was a question…”In whom does my hope lie?”

Maybe it was the vast Eastern Orthodox Cathedrals that I visited, or the Immense World War 2 Museum or the memories of the Orange revolution that took place five years ago in the very square where I was standing. At first I wasn’t totally sure what made this theme emerge in my mind, but I know when it became vividly clear to me that God was trying to get my attention through it.


I was taking a tour through the World War 2 museum in Kiev, and was so intrigued by the war from the Soviet perspective that I found myself trying to put myself in the shoes of the people, places and events that I was learning about. In fact the whole different perspective idea became very obvious to me when I realized that they call the war “The Great Patriotic War” instead of World War 2…interesting.

Well, as we walked through the museum, which is actually in the base of this incredibly huge statue of the Motherland, complete with shield, sword and hammer and sickle. I kept realizing that these people have faced so much pain, evil and intense atrocities over the years, that I can’t even begin to understand.

I passed through a room that told the story of the Nazi occupation of Ukraine, and the incredible hardships the people had to endure. Years and years of pain and suffering that led to uprising and what they call “The Great Patriotic War.”

As I moved from room to room, and tried to feel what they felt and let it really sink in, I entered a room that was dedicated to the remembrance of what it was like for the people when it seemed that there was no hope. I came face to face with the theme that God wanted me to wrestle with on this trip and beyond.



I saw a picture of a woman fearfully peering between barbed wire, and the caption beneath the picture said in Russian “Our hope is in you RED ARMY.”

As soon as this was translated to me, I stopped dead in my tracks, and thought about that statement. Now I’m not judging or condemning anyone, but as I thought about that and tried to process what extreme desperation and hopelessness must feel like, I thought to myself “how incredibly sad, it must be to have our hope in man, weapons and machines.”

Then I started to think about some other times I’ve seen this mindset in people when I’ve visited Ukraine in the past.


In 2004, I was visiting during a period of time known as the “Orange Revolution”. It was a time when Millions across Ukraine stood up for truth and Justice leading up to the election of the new President. Their hope was being placed on a man who would bring freedom and prosperity to this often oppressed people.

So, for several months a peaceful demonstration, in the form of a tent city was erected in the center square of Kiev, and people were overjoyed at the hope of a new day once President Yushenko took office.

I was in attendance at his inauguration speech, and as I joined with what seemed like millions gathered in the center square I was in awe of the peace, reverence and respect that I observed. I really had the sense that the new day these people had been waiting for had arrived.

There was a song that was at the top of the charts in Ukraine during that time, it was a song that became the theme of the orange revolution, and everywhere I went I heard it loudly and proudly being played. The song was called “Razom Nas Bahato” which means “Together we are many”.

Take a look at this video clip, and read the lyrics to the song. Notice the hope and joy that the people have as they gather, stand up, and proclaim their freedom.


Razom Nas Bohato
Together we are many, we can't be defeated
Together we are many, we can't be defeated
Together we are many, we can't be defeated
Together we are many, we can't be defeated


We won't stand for this (No), revolution is on
Cause lies be the weapon of mass destruction
All together we're one, all together we're strong
God be my witness, we've waited too long
Falsifications (no), machinations (no)
Little understandings (no), no to lies
We trust (yes), we can (yes)
I know we will win (yes, yes)


What you wanna say to your daughters and sons
You know the battle is not over till the battle is won
Truth be the weapon, we ain't scared of the guns
We stay undefeated, 'cause together we're one


That was 2004, hope was high, freedom and prosperity were right around the corner, they could feel it, they could see it…it was in their sights.

Fast forward to 2009, I’m teaching Youth Culture to College Freshman from all over Ukraine, we get to the section where we talk about fads, trends and other symbols that help us understand what effects teens, and why.

I opened up the discussion telling the students about a time when I was in attendance at a President's inauguration and heard an awesome song, that I downloaded and played all the time on my mp3 player when I got home.

The song was so moving to me especially when I realized the deep lyrics and inspirational message that it conveyed. I then played Razom Nas Bohato, and I wish you could have seen their reaction.

They laughed, and laughed as if I was playing the latest greatest hit by Vanilla Ice, and to represent the essence of coolness itself, I played “Ice Ice Baby” or something like that.

It was a joke to them, this whole idea of peace, prosperity and hope that the song so powerfully encapsulated for millions of Ukrainians, just five years ago, was now the punch line of a very un-funny joke.

“What Happened?” I asked. I got lots of responses and replies, too many to list actually, but the main thing I kept hearing from these students was, “hope placed in a person is futile!”

As they were sharing with me their observations of the incredible irrelevance of that song and the disillusionment of millions of their countrymen as they’ve seen what hope in a man can and can’t do, my mind kept thinking of all the times I put my hope in things other than God.

You know, I didn’t have to travel all the way to Ukraine to learn that lesson, I could have just looked around me right at home. Many times my thoughts, motives and priorities are screaming out loud the fact that my hope is in things that have no eternal value, and no heavenly power.

In short, if I’m honest there are times when I ascribe to the good ‘ole American Motto “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get back at it.”

That’s a scary thought actually, because the truth is, that without God and His power alive and well in my life, I’ve got nothing!

This was a great trip once again, and God used all kinds of things to get my attention, but this question of “in whom does your hope lie?” is a question that was answered in my heart by some awesome visuals that hammered the truth home to me, that My hope is in God alone!

In whom does your hope lie?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Consultant's Report

This "consultant's" report on Jesus' Disciples is a great reminder that "man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart." I'm so thankful for that!

Jesus, Son of Joseph
Woodcrafter’s Carpenter Shop, Nazareth 25433

Dear Sir:
Thank you for submitting the resumes of the 12 men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant. The profiles of all the tests are included and you will want to study each of them carefully.

As part of our service and for your guidance, we make some general statements: this is given as a result of staff consultation and comes without any additional fee. It is the staff’s opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education, and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.
Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and is given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by greater Jerusalem business bureau. James, the son of Aphaeus, and Thaddaeus, definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.
One of the candidates however shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right hand man. All of the other profiles are self explanatory.

We wish you success in your new venture.

Sincerely yours,
Jordan Management

1 Samuel 16:7 - But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”