You are currently browsing the monthly archive for February 2009.

“We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.” So says Christof (This and subsequent quotes and descriptions are from The Truman Show, prod. Scott Rudin, dir. Peter Weir, 103 min., Paramount, 1998, videocassette.). Truman Burbank is the star of his own television show; . . . Only he doesn’t know it. Truman is the first child legally adopted by a corporation. All this action takes place in the largest man-made studio ever constructed. Truman lives on Seahaven Island, a fictional place where everything is controlled, everything except Truman. The Truman Show, created and produced by Christof, generates tremendous revenues through product placement. Truman’s best friend shows up with a special brand of beer. His wife brags about this new kitchen aid that peels, slices, and dices. And wouldn’t you want to drink Mococoa, made from the world’s finest cocoa beans, grown on the upper slopes of Mt. Nicaragua. The producers are forced to manufacture ways to keep Truman on the island. You simply can’t have Truman leaving his world.
The outside world watches, enraptured by the occurrences of Truman’s life. They watch as he grows, they watch as he dates and gets married. They watch as he mows the lawn. They watch as he sleeps.
Everything in this fictional world starts to unravel as Truman begins to realize that everything revolves around him. His entire life is recorded on over 5,000 cameras. Until day 10,913. Truman escapes. He escapes from the world of the cameras. He escapes from the watchful eye of the producers. He escapes from his little island. Truman comes to realize all that he has believed was false, a facade. From the manufactured weather and traffic jams; to his everyday encounters with his neighbors. “Good morning. And in case I don’t see ya, . . . good afternoon, good evening, and good night.” Each morning is the same.
His marriage is fake, his best friend is fake, his job is fake. The buses, the newsstand, the elevators are all fake. All is meant to keep him in his place. All his world is a play and each person an actor, all playing a part for his benefit.
All until Truman escapes. He sails away from his little island. As Truman stands on the edge, before the open door, the door between the only world he has ever known and the door he now believes to lead to reality: Christof speaks:
“Truman . . . You can speak. I can hear you.”
“Who are you?”
“I am the creator . . . of a television show. A show that gives hope and joy and inspiration to millions.”
“Then, who am I?”
“You are the star.”
“Was nothing real?”
“You were real. That’s what made you so good to watch. Listen to me. There’s no more truth out there than there is in the world I created for you. Out there are lies, deceit; but in my world you have nothing to fear.
“I know you better than you know yourself. I was there when you were born, when you took your first step; for the episode where you lost your first tooth.
“You can’t leave. . . . You belong here . . . with me.”
Truman turns. “In case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.” He bows deeply and then exits.
In many ways we live in a world much like The Truman Show. The Prince of this world would like to lie to us. “I know you better than you know yourself. I was there when you were born, when you took your first step; for the episode where you lost your first tooth. . . You can’t leave. . . . You belong here . . . with me.” And so it is. Our world is so ordered that it makes it extremely difficult to change, to move into a new realm. And Satan would like nothing more than to keep us in his world.
In what ways do you experience the two realities: our world and God’s world?

In Sailing terminology, there are different types of sailing based upon the direction of the wind versus the direction of the ship. If you are sailing with the wind it is called running. Running is fast sailing. You move quickly. If you are sailing against the wind it is called pulling. In this case, the wind is physically pulling the boat forward. It’s harder and slower sailing when you’re sailing against the wind. If you are sailing across the wind it is called reaching. Reaching is actually the fastest and safest type of sailing.

I’ve picked up these terms as an analogy for how we move in our Christian lives in according to the Holy Spirit. There are times that we act and move with the Spirit. We’re running; things happen quickly. Times are exciting. There are times that we act and move against the Spirit. The Spirit has to pull us along. We kick and scream; cry and complain as we’re moved long. Then there are times that we are stretched by the Spirit. When we’re reaching, we grow in ways we’ve never experienced.

Where are you in accordance to moving with the Spirit? Are you stalled? Still at the dock? Are you running, pulling, or reaching? When have you especially felt the Spirit’s movements in your life?

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’
Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’
The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’
Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!'” (John 21:15-19).

There are some moments in life that cause us to pause. We reflect on our direction and current circumstances. “We’ve decided to go in a different direction.” “It’s a boy.” “It’s cancer.” “I don’t love you any more.” “We’re moving.”

Some are good, positive events. Others are devastating. But they cause us to consider where we’re heading.

Peter had such a moment in his encounter with Jesus recorded in John 21. Not long after Peter’s complete denial of Jesus, he is confronted by Jesus. Jesus recalls him to fellowship. Jesus recalls him to ministry. Jesus recalls him to life.

In the words of Gordon MacDonald, “No one, having heard Him [Jesus], could remain spiritually motionless for long. Either people moved closer to Him, could remain spiritually motionless for long. Either people moved closer to Him, or they moved farther away. Whatever the direction, there was always movement. Our Lord was not an entertainer. He was an agitator of the soul, provoking people to think mid-course correction in life” (Gordon MacDonald, Mid-Course Correction.)

What experiences or events in your life have caused you to reconsider your direction? What were the results? What has helped you in the process?

“The expedition’s main object, explained in the fund-raising brochure, was ‘to cross the Antarctic from sea to sea, securing for the British flag the honor of being the first carried across the South Polar Continent.’ That, in a patriotic nutshell, was the plan. That was what was supposed to happen. Many of the details of how the expedition would be carried out were unspecified. Like many explorers of his day, Shackleton was a great believer in improvisation: he would figure things out as the need arose. As long as he was well equipped and had a good crew, he was confident in his ability to pull off his plan” (Jennifer Armstrong, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World).

We can’t account for all contingencies. Even if we’re well prepared, things will come up in life which we could not have anticipated. Sometimes we are blindsided by life. Even when we think we are following God closely, sometimes especially when we are following God closely, something can happen that will shake our faith. How do we respond? How do we take stock? How do we continue to walk by faith?

As we said on Sunday, Dead reckoning:
•Becomes necessary when we leave the harbor.
•Is performed when there is no land in sight.
•Is making the necessary adjustments to arrive at the intended destination.

How are you at improvisation? What skills, beliefs do you need to be prepared for an unpredictable future? How can we, as a church help?

“An unfortunate combination of words. But dead is thought to have come from ‘de’ed,’ a contraction of deduced. For this is deduced reckoning—you deduce your new position from a previous fix by using measurements of speed, time, and distance. It is navigation without landmarks.” (David Seidman, The Complete Sailor: Learning the Art of Sailing).

So, dead reckoning is figuring out where we are and where we are heading when our landmarks aren’t in sight. Listen to Captain Worsely’s words about their ocean crossing from Elephant Island to South Georgia Island in the lifeboat, the James Caird.

“Navigation is an art, but words fail to give my efforts a correct name. Dead reckoning or DR—the seaman’s calculation of courses and distance—had become a merry jest of guesswork. . . . The procedure was: I peered out from our burrow—precious sextant cuddled under my chest to prevent seas falling on it. Sir Ernest stood by under the canvas with chronometer pencil and book. I shouted ‘Stand by,’ and knelt on the thwart—two men holding me up on either side. I brought the sun down to where the horizon ought to be and as the boat leaped frantically upward on the crest of a wave, snapped a good guess at the altitude and yelled, ‘Stop,’ Sir Ernest took the time, and I worked out the result. . . My navigation books had to be half opened page by page till the right one was reached, then opened carefully to prevent utter destruction.” (from Captain Worsley’s journal quoted in Caroline Alexander, The Endurance).

In your walk of faith, what keeps you on track? How do you know when you’re off course? Who helps you get back on track?

Once Shackleton made the hazardous crossing from Elephant Island to the inhabited South Georgia Island, they still had to make cross the treacherous terrain to the whaling villages on the other side of the island for rescue. Half of their team were unable to cross. The ocean voyage had been two difficult for them. Shackleton knew that they couldn’t stay where they were. They needed to press on for themselves, but also for the rest of the crew left on Elephant Island.

The crossing was an incredible 26 miles over uncharted territory of ice flows, mountains, and uncertain paths. Three men made the journey. However, read one account from their journals.

As they slogged their way through the snow, a strange feeling began to grow on each of the men. The three discovered long afterward that they all had the feeling that there was a fourth. “Even now I again find myself counting our party—Shackleton, Crean, and I and—who was the other?” Worsley wrote later. “Of course, there were only three, but it is strange that in mentally reviewing the crossing we should always think of a forth, and then correct ourselves.” (Jennifer Armstrong, Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World: The Extraordinary True Story of Shackleton and Endurance).

What is your reaction to Worsley’s account? When have you been aware of the presence of God? How did he make that presence known to you?

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:35-41).

We need to remember that in the midst of our storms Jesus is with us. He hasn’t abandoned us. He hasn’t forgotten us. He goes with us through the storms. Sometimes the storms are the result of sin; ours or others. Sometimes the storms are the result of evil; Satan tempting us. Sometimes the storms are sent to strengthen us; God using our situations to help us grow and draw us closer to Him. We can’t know the cause in the midst of the storm, or sometimes even afterwards. However, we need to remember that Jesus is by our side.

Second, he cares. God is not indifferent to our circumstances. God is good. God is love and he loves us. He is not capricious. He does not delight in our hurt or pain. No, God wants what is best for us. It is certainly difficult to see that in the midst of a storm, but God is for us.

Finally, Jesus calms our storms. He doesn’t always calm them the way we would like or within our time frame, but he does restore peace to our lives.

How have you seen Jesus walk with you through the storm (usually we can only see after the fact)? How has he demonstrated his care for you? How has he restored peace?

Last week we focused on detaching from the things that keep us from Jesus. This week we focused on fixing our eyes on Jesus. In the midst of the storms of life, we came become distracted by the wind and waves around us. We get caught up in what is happening that we forget who we’re with.

As I said yesterday, we all face storms. Some of those storms are storms of identity: who am I? What am I doing? What should I be doing? Does what I’m doing really matter? Some of those storms are storms of relationships: Am I really loved? Do I love others? Will others love me if they knew the “real” me? Some of those storms are storms of circumstance: Why is my health failing? Will I lose my job? Will I find another job?

What storms of life have you faced? Have they helped you to grow or did they cause setbacks? How might you have faced them differently? Are you facing any storms currently.