stuff I won’t share at church

Tomorrow, I am preaching at Cross Community Church about Esther in part 2 of Divine Intervention. She is one of the most awesome heroines of the Bible. Her decision to risk her life saved the lives of an entire nation. No wonder she is highly honored by Jewish people still today.

But I have a love/hate relationship with the story. While I honor the way that God divinely rescued the Jews by utilizing a very brave woman, I hate what she had to go through to be in the place where God could use her in such a powerful way.

The key phrase in the book of Esther is “such a time as this.” It comes from Esther 4:14 when Esther’s cousin, Mordecai challenges her to step up and intercede for her people who were about to be annihilated by King Xerxes and Haman.  “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” She was waffling on whether or not she should ask the King to spare her people. There was a very real chance that she would die for even trying. Ultimately, she did the right thing and the King changed his decision.

Mordecai is saying to her (my paraphrase) “God has put you into the perfect position at the perfect time. He did this for a reason. Everything you have been through in your life is in preparation for this moment. Don’t blow it!”

Here is where I struggle with the story and what I do not plan to share while I am preaching tomorrow: Everything Esther had gone through was apparently orchestrated by God. If you know the story, you might be squirming a bit, too.  Basically, Esther became queen because the king had sex with a bunch of young women in one of his harems and he liked Esther the best. (Reminds me of the disgusting TV show The Bachelor!). Because Esther was the most attractive and apparently the most sexually satisfying to the King, he chose her to replace the queen he had just disposed. Think about it. This kind of degradation of women is a little hard to overlook. She had to be intimate with an arrogant, self-centered and most probably disgusting despot in order to save others. Would she say it was worth it? We have no way of knowing but I would assume she would say it was.

This whole story makes me wonder what all God will allow His children to go through in order to get them where He wants them. A little scary to me.  I don’t have the theological answers for this one and I’m not really even looking for them.  But I sure don’t plan to open that can of worms to the good people who will be sitting in the chairs at our church tomorrow.

the easy way out

When you see an injustice – keep your mouth closed.

When surrounded by corruption, ignore it.

Suck up to the rich and powerful.

Let your convictions be determined by popular vote.

Wait to see the direction of the crowd, then follow.

Be a social chameleon.

Listen to gossip.

Turn your head on abuse.

Cave to pressure.

Feed your temptations.

Don’t rock the boat.

Cook the books.

Be greedy.

Don’t get involved.

Cower to bullies.

Put money ahead of people.

True, it would be easier if we just went along with what other people want. It would be better if everybody liked us. But good luck sleeping at night.

This is the right time to speak up for the right thing, the right way.

the journey to the east

I sniffed out a great read. Recently, while going through some leadership materials presented by Robert Greenleaf, I noticed his mention of a classic book, The Journey to the East by Hermann Hesse. The book was written in 1954 and apparently is the first literary work featuring the topic of servant leadership.

The book is an allegory about a group (or league) that embarked on an expedition. The hero, only identified as H.H., describes in first-person poetic artistry the wonders of the sights beheld and mysteries encountered. There is much symbolism in the book and honestly, some pretty weird imagery. But I found the book engaging and entertaining.

“Leo” is a key character. He appears as a servant, a kind of Sherpa that aided the group as they traveled. He was an unassuming worker to whom few paid much attention. He provided directions, advice and carried the heavy loads. One day, Leo was no place to be found and it was discovered that he had left the journey. The travelers were dismayed at his lack of loyalty and experienced much confusion and discouragement with their expedition. Eventually, H.H. abandons his secret league and forgets about his commitment to the journey. It is only after years passed by that H.H. discovers the true identity of Leo and the true meaning of the journey.

I don’t want to give any more of the story away. But rest assured, there are extremely valuable lessons for modern readers and leaders to learn in The Journey to the East.

Below are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Words do not express thoughts very well; everything immediately becomes a little different, a little distorted, a little foolish.”

“He who travels far will often see things far removed from what he believed was Truth. When he talks about it in the fields at home, He is often accused of lying. For the obdurate people will not believe what they do not see and distinctly feel. Inexperience, I believe, will give little credence to my song.”

“He who wishes to live long must serve, but he who wishes to rule does not live long.” “Then why do so many strive to rule?” “Because they do not understand.”

“Faith is stronger than so-called reality.”

“Free yourself. Throw Leo overboard.”

“…everything else that I have considered good and fine, and for which I have made sacrifices, has only been my egoistic desires.”

“As soon as suffering becomes acute enough, one goes forward.”

“He must grow, I must disappear.”

I found a nice used copy of the book on Amazon for a couple of bucks, maybe you can, too, if you are inclined to do so.

j simms is a beast

J Simms is one of a kind. Today marks the 20 year point that he and Rebecca joined the staff of our church.  3 Lead Pastors, numerous job titles and countless ministry responsibilities later and he is still going strong. J is as knowledgeable regarding local ministry as anyone I have ever met. He is a wealth of information. He has an unusual gift mix which includes music, creativity and administration. He works as hard as anyone you’ll ever meet – and he works way too many hours every week. He is an excellent Executive Pastor!

J is intensely passionate about our church. This is not a job to him. He lives and fights to see the mission of the church fulfilled. Among my favorite attributes of J’s is his loyalty. He is fiercely loyal to his God, his family and his church. Lots of people have come and gone and this will continue. But J remains a consistent and trustworthy friend, co-laborer and Pastor.

Congratulation, J, Rebecca, Taylor and Jordan. We love you and thank God that you are a part of our family!