Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Enemy's Gate Is Down

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

In last week’s post, I noted that Ender Wiggin found success because his perspective was different, and more effective, than everyone else’s, not only in the Battle Room but also before; it was in the ship that brought them to Battle School from Earth that Ender first realized that directions like “up” and “down” were fluid in a zero-gravity environment.

I find it notable that when Ender’s perspective is different from his peers’, it is because he is already looking ahead toward the goal rather than staying where he was to begin with. Just as in the shuttle to Battle School, where he orients himself towards what is ahead rather than continuing to hold on to “up” as the same direction it was when they entered the ship on Earth, in the Battle Room he thinks of directionality as it relates to his goal - “the enemy’s gate is down” - while others define it relative to the hallway from which their team entered.

 I have heard it said that the “seven last words” of a church are “But we’ve always done it that way.” Yes, by continuing to act as in the past you may in fact win the game, but at what cost? By focusing on the goal instead, and by thinking out of the box when developing a plan for getting there, how many more people could the church reach, with how many fewer burnouts along the way?

The church needs more Enders: the people who look at things from a different perspective and focus on where they are going rather than where they came from. Even more than that, it needs people like Ender’s friends Alai and Bean, the ones who recognize and support outside-the-box thinking and who are willing to listen and learn and give the new ideas a try for the sake of ministry rather than tradition. May we strive to be like them, or at least, not to hold them back.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corninthians 12:9-10)

The first time Ender Wiggin experiences a war game in the Battle Room, he quickly picks up on something that no one else does - perspective is the key to success. He watches everyone else remain oriented to the entry hallway in the zero-gravity environment, then he does something radically different. “The enemy’s gate is down,” becomes Ender’s mantra. Without gravity to define direction, Ender is free to define direction for himself, and by doing this he finds he has an advantage over everyone else.

This was not a change that just occurred suddenly the first time he entered the Battle Room, either. When the spaceship from Earth arrives at the orbiting Battle School, Colonel Graff notices that, unlike the rest of the new recruits who continue to think of “up” and “down” relative to the ship’s position (and their position in it) when it left Earth, Ender has already oriented himself relative to the ladder out of the ship and into the artificial gravity of the space station.

In his letters to various churches, Paul never gives details about the “thorn in the flesh” that he had, but it certainly seems to have impacted his daily life. It wasn't something he wanted to have - “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me,” he tells the Corinthians. He didn't let its continuing presence ruin his ministry, however. Seeing that God wouldn't take it away, he chose instead to change his perspective. God used Paul’s weakness to show His great power, and Paul recognized this and came to accept it.

Changing our perspective isn't something that happens automatically. It is something we have to choose to do. If we make the choice, however, to let God work through us in even the most negative of circumstances, there is no limit to our strength in his power.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Waiting for the Harvest

Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55: 7-8)

Much of the third season of Falling Skies revolves around the strange things that are happening to Tom and Anne’s daughter Lexi as a result of her hybrid alien/human DNA, the most notable of which is the fact that although she is only eighteen months old, she looks like a young adult. In the episode “Door Number Three,” we find Lexi in a cocoon, metamorphosing into who knows what, while the rest of the community debates what to do about her. Many think that she should be destroyed lest she emerge with tremendous power and the ability to destroy or enslave the humans once and for all. Tom tries to be, if not the voice of reason, then the voice of compassion and love. For the sake of his child, he has to convince everyone else not to do anything rash and out of fear. He wants them to wait and see what comes out of the cocoon - there is a chance she might come out completely on the side of the aliens, but they have no way of knowing this for certain.

In Matthew, Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who plants some wheat, but his enemy comes along and sows weeds in the same field among the farmer’s good crop. When both wheat and weeds start sprouting, the farm hands want to pull up the weeds. After all, it would be irresponsible to let the weeds grow along side the wheat, taking the nutrients from the soil that should be going only to the good plants. They want to make a preemptive strike, get out the Roundup, get rid of the potential threat before it has a chance to do something bad.

God, like the farmer in the parable and Tom Mason, says, Stop! Wait! Don’t do something stupid that you can’t reverse! You need to wait for the plants to grow up so you can be sure of the difference between them or you will pull up the good plants along with the weeds. You need to wait for Lexi to come out of the cocoon and find out for sure what has happened to her so you don’t kill her for no good reason.

May we always love people and have compassion for them, never writing them off as irredeemable, never trying to do God’s work for him - only God can tell for certain what a person will become and only he can make the determination of Wheat or Weed.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). (John 20:15-16)

Sarah Jane Smith is investigating the strange, sudden rise in test scores at a local school following a mysterious UFO sighting. So is a handsome stranger in an ill-fitting suit. One night they are both prowling the halls of the school looking for answers when Sarah Jane makes a discovery in a storage area: a familiar blue police box. Backing away from it, she walks past her fellow investigator and realizes just who he is. She has never seen this face before, but yet...she does recognize him. And he, of course, recognizes her. “Hello, Sarah Jane,” he says, and instantly she knows it’s the Doctor.

Mary had come with the other women on the first day of the week to complete the burial rituals that there had not been time to see to when Jesus died just before the onset of the Sabbath. When they arrive, however, the tomb is empty. Frantic and upset, she pleads with the gardener to tell her where the body has been taken, but it turns out he is not the gardener. “Mary,” he says, and once he says her name she looks up and immediately recognizes her teacher and friend.

Sarah Jane wasn't expecting to see the Doctor when she began investigating the school. “I waited for you and you didn't come back and I thought you must have died!” she tells him. Mary was expecting to see Jesus when she went to his tomb, but not in a state where he could stand there talking to her. We have the benefit of history and hindsight, so we are ready to see the Risen Savior on Easter morning, but there are other times that we are surprised to see God in our lives because we weren't expect to see him there.

Jesus was right where he said he would be three days after his crucifixion, so why were his followers so surprised to see an empty tomb? Not long after that, he said he would always be with us, so why does he have to call our names before we actually look around sometimes? My Easter prayer is that we might expect to see God in every situation, right where he said he would be.