When I was young, I watched a TV show called “Doogie Howser M.D.”. It was a show about a teenage prodigy who was a practicing physician, while still juggling the more typical demands of the teenage life. And true to sitcom form, each episode was wrapped up with a nice bow; the problem that was unveiled in the first half of the episode was neatly resolved in the second half. But Doogie concluded each day in a unique way. He’s sit down at his computer in his bedroom and summarize the day’s lesson in a brief quip. The close of every episode found us watching a blinking cursor make its way across his monochromatic screen.

I wish that I had the kind of life that warranted such entries, and furthermore I wish I had the discipline to sit down each night and record my thoughts as I look back over the past 14-16 hours and the activities they held. But sadly, I don’t. So, you’ve got a blog here that is hit-and-miss, more off than on, and pretty much a roulette as to whether I’m going to post anything.

And I suppose that I enjoy hearing from people when I don’t post for an extended period of time. And I’m not just talking about my Mom. Hi Mom! But I think today’s event, though not exciting per se, were worthy of reflection.

My wife just walked in with nasal decongestant. I’m not kidding–for one of them, she had to sign her name for it, swearing she won’t use it to start a meth lab. I’ll be right back.

Okay, I’m back. My day began in the darkness of 5:50 a.m. when my watch alarm went off, awakening me to get showered and ready to go. I was the invited speaker at a men’s breakfast which started at 7 a.m. They asked if I would come and speak to them about connecting with the next generation. I started off by sharing 8 distinctives of the current youth culture. If you’d like to read my notes containing my observations on today’s young people, just email me. I’ll get them to you. That went great and triggered a lot of wonderful discussion with the men present. At about 8:30 I headed back home, feeling tired (wonder why?) and decided to climb back in bed. I should mention that I’ve been a bit under the weather–hence, the nasal decongestant.

Speaking of said nasal decongestant: it’s been less than 5 minutes and I can tell a marked difference. Whew. That stuff works. No wonder you’ve got to sign for it! But I digress.

So after a failed attempt at a morning nap due to incoming texts and phone calls, I got out of bed for the second time and worked on the message I’ll be delivering tomorrow morning at The Mixx at our Courthouse Road campus. I’m excited about that. We’re in week 3 of a church-wide series called “Living Large”. It’s a deep and bold look into the life of Joseph. This is my first time delivering the Sunday morning message since the series began. So, it felt good to get that done after Steve, my partner in ministry crime, got me the outline.

By then, I felt like it was early afternoon, but wasn’t yet 11 a.m. I had some leftover pizza for lunch and then we headed out to our kids’ school fall festival. Merritt and I had volunteered to work a couple of the booths. I manned the huge inflatable slide for an hour and she tackled the pie eating contest table. Fun, fun. All in all, a pleasant afternoon with a huge crowd of people, despite the sprinkling rain.

Then back home we came for a lovely family dinner before plunkin’ down on the couch with the Hotness for a melange of romantic comedy film and non-effective nasal inhales. Throw in a pile of tissues and you’ve got a rip-roarin’ good time.

And that was the most recent event in my day. After the movie, I put the kids in bed while Merritt executed a “covert op” at Walgreens…and scored BIG with this unbelievable nasal spray. Yep, the meth lab stuff.

And it was while she was gone that I was reflecting on my day, all that it held, and Doogie Howser M.D. And just like Doogie, here I am wrapping up my day with a blinking cursor.

If you know this Doogie of which I speak, and you’d like to hear the soothing sounds of that synthesized theme song, have at it.

The desires God gives

While reading in the book of Haggai this morning, I came across an interesting phenomenon. The situation in Haggai was that God’s people had been allowed by Cyrus back into Jerusalem after their Babylonian exile in order to rebuild the Temple that had been destroyed. They came back with fervor that turned out to be quite short-lived. It wasn’t long before the Temple got put on the “back burner” and instead God’s people had turned their attention to their own homes, and not His.

And this was because God’s people didn’t think that it was time to rebuild the Temple (1:2). But then God did something peculiar: He changed their desires.

Huh? What about free will? What about you and I living a life where we are free to either embrace God and His will or reject God and His will? What are we, puppets on His strings?

There’s no way to give a fitting explanation to the relationship between God’s graciousness that allows our choice and God’s soveriegnty that has everything in the palm of His hand. It’s just too other-worldly. But still something must be said about how God is operating here in Haggai.

God desired His Temple to be rebuilt. In fact, He said clearly through Haggai that the rebuilt Temple would outshine the first Temple. This had nothing to do with God being some cosmic task-master, or some ego-maniacal bully. Why was God so determined to get His people back on the Temple-building track?

Plain and simple: God desperately longs to be near His people. His promise of blessing on the rain, on the crops, on the supplies, on the gold, on the silver, on all the necessities, and on the people screams His desire to be near His beloved and chosen people. God says in 2:19, “From this day on I will bless you.”

The name “Haggai” has as its root “hag” which is the word for “festival”. In today’s vernacular, we’d say “party”. God had instituted regularly scheduled “parties” for His people to enjoy with Him. Why? I’d dare say it was in preparation for eternity. It seems to me that everything that God does, allows, and effects is in preparation for our eternity with Him. Our problems arise when we lose sight of God’s view on things: eternal. Stressed? It’s temporary. Worried? It’s about temporary things. Burned out? Temporarily. We experience these emotions when we stop considering eternity as more prominent than temporary.

With eternity as the backdrop of every conflict, every problem, every uncertain situation, every unanswered question–we find things managable when we remember that God resides in eternity and none of the things of this world will last, but all of the things of this world are preparing us to reside with God in eternity.

And so our desires become what God desires; all in preparation for a never-ending reality with Him. This is why God was calling His people, through Haggai, to take their focus off of temporary homes and instead return to a focus on His dwelling, and dwelling with Him.

I lead a new small group on Sunday nights. Last night was our 2nd meeting and we were studying the “almost” murder of Joseph in Genesis 37. We decided to record the re-enactment we did. Enjoy!

Plenty of grass around a dry well

Our church is studying the life of Joseph. All ages, from toddlers to seniors, we’re all putting our noses in the book of Genesis for a new, fresh, bold look at the life of this otherwise ordinary young man. And while I was listening to the message last Sunday (ably delivered by Dave Wright), something caught my eye that never had before. It was in Genesis 37:24. Take a look:

“And they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.”

Joseph’s brothers seethed with hatred toward him. Joseph was the favored son by their father, Israel. Evidenced by an ornate coat given to him by Israel, Joseph enjoyed a special relationship with dad that the others didn’t. And they hated him for it. Not to mention Joseph had shared some hair-brained dreams he had about them all; essentially saying that they’d all bow down to him. Joseph wasn’t winning any popularity contests, that was for sure.

So 10 of his 11 brothers came up with a plan to kill him. But the 11th brother, Reuben suggested that they throw him in a cistern instead of killing him.

My small group and I re-created these events in a video I posted on this blog. Check it out.

What caught my eye as I read this familiar story again was the deliberate pointing out that the cistern Joseph’s brothers put him in was empty. Dry. Nothing in it.

Now, we can consider this reality in a couple of different ways. The first thought I had was,
“Wait a minute–there was grass enough for the sheep to graze, which probably meant there was enough moisture in the ground to sustain plant life. And yet, the cistern was dry. Weird.”

So, I came to the conclusion that the dry cistern was essentially a miraculous occurance. Why would the grass be lush enough for sheep, and yet the cistern be dry?

But I had to stop short of that conclusion. Why? Because saying definitively that God kept the grass thick and the well dry would be a stretch. After all, there are too many variables. Like what about desert grass? It doesn’t need as much water to survive. You see, I don’t want to say or think anything that God’s Word isn’t saying. Doing so would necessitate me taking “creative license” with Scripture. I’d rather stick to saying what the Bible says.

But in the book of Jeremiah, the prophet talks to the people and likens them to cracked cisterns which were common in that day; no longer useful since they weren’t effective in holding the rain they collect. So, back to Joseph; we can say that while the grass was sufficient to sustain sheep grazing, the cistern was dry for a reason.

I serve a sovereign God. And that truth eradicates coincidence. While some might say that the cistern was coincidentally dry, I say that the cistern was dry because God wanted it dry. So, why the cistern was dry becomes a secondary issue. The primary issue (evidenced by its inclusion in the story) is that there was a dry cistern nearby. Clearly, the dry cistern was an indelible part of God’s ultimate plan for Joseph.

A new low for Hollywood

Certainly you’ve heard about Roman Polanski, the oscar-winning director who has recently been arrested for a 30+ year old sexual crime he committed against a 13-year-old girl. After drugging the young girl, Polanski raped her and shortly after fled to Europe where he has been side-stepping the law for lo these 30+ years.

What has mortified me in the wake of Polanski’s arrest is the draw of support and defense some in Hollywood are giving him–apparently in light of his strength in artistry as a movie director. In essence, the horriblly unspeakable act he committed against that 13-year-old girl those years ago is simply not as big a deal to them as the accodates he had received from movies he has directed. To some, the latter simply outweighs the former.

Can you imagine the lack of class, compassion, and intellect it would take to come to the conclusion that a child rapist should have his case dismissed in light of his accomplishments in his career field? It completely underscores the words I have heard countless times when I hear people respond to the question about how entry into heaven is achieved; its usually something like, “Well, I’ve been a good person, and hopefully the good I’ve done outweighs the bad and God will let me into heaven.” Friends, honestly and truly, if that were God’s criteria we’d all be screwed.

I’m not a big Jay Leno fan, but I was watching his show last night and he was talking about this Polanski story and he too was shocked that some would come to Polanski’s defense. In jest he said, “Not even Johnny Cochran said about O.J.’s trial, ‘But did you see him in that game against New England?!?‘” You see? Not only does one not outweigh the other–one has nothing to do with the other!

But sadly there are some that would, given the chance, speak in favor of Polanski’s freedom. To them, Roman Polanski, the child rapist, should be excused from the justice system because of his accomplishments as a director. That is mind-numbingly insane.