Friday, February 12, 2010

A lesson from Tsavo

The "man-eating" Tsavo lions on display
I love adventure stories, especially if they're true!  One of the best is the true-story of the "man-eating" lions of Tsavo (made famous in the movie, "The Ghost and the Darkness").  It happened in 1898; a pair of man-eating lions terrorized a group of men who were working on the Kenya-Uganda Railway.  Over a period of months, somewhere between 35-135 men were killed by these lions (nobody knows the exact number).  Apparently, these two lions had developed a taste for humans.  And once they had that taste, nothing else would satisfy.  Finally, after a number of un-successful attempts, John Henry Patterson, the man who was leading the construction project, was able to kill both lions (you can read more about the story, here).

"Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8)

In my line of work as a pastor, I have unfortunately had many chances to witness the struggles of many individuals; men, women, husbands, wives, young and old alike, all of us are capable of falling, and all of us are targets of the enemy.  In almost every situation I've witnessed or been privy too, there is one thing in common...something that happens in the beginning.


Back to the lions for a moment...think about this question; how does a lion attack?  Lions, like most carnivores/predators, prey on the weak.  They look for the one in the pack that is weakest, or young, or struggling, and they look to isolate them.  The only chance the potential victim has is to stay with the pack and use the strength of the pack to re-buff the attack.  If the lions succeed in identifying and isolating their target, it's game over.

Look at that verse again - "...looking for someone to devour." 

This should cause us to pause and ask ourselves, "am I being targeted?  Am I being isolated?  Am I running on the fringes?"

When questions of religion or spirituality come up, a common response is "that's relationship with God is private."  Hmmm.  Really?  This seems to be directly opposed to the life of Christ that God calls us to.  If you're not convinced, read this.

24"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25)

16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (James 5:16)

What exactly is my point?  Simply this; isolation is a tool of the enemy, and is often the first step in his goal to devour you.  The antidote?  Community.  Encouragement.  Accountability.  Confession.  Fellowship.  Whether you're relational or not, whether you're extroverted or introverted, we all need community.  It can be organized or organic, structured or fluid, but none of us can survive on our own.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Long Beach, WA
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it." 17 He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven."

Awesome...what a word!  It used to have meaning, and it still has meaning, but I'm becoming more aware of how we use and mis-use this word.  As far as I can tell, this passage in Genesis 28 is the first time the word "awesome" is used in the Bible.  So what does it mean?  First, I'm not a Hebrew scholar by any stretch, but I did do some digging, and here are some notes I gathered (using Logos Bible Software).  The english word "awesome" in our Genesis 28 passage, comes from the Hebrew word "yare."  Look at these notes on this Hebrew word;

3372 יָרֵא, יָרֵא [yare’ /yaw·ray/] v. translates as “fear” 188 times, “afraid” 78 times, “terrible” 23 times, “terrible thing” six times, “dreadful” five times, “reverence” three times, “fearful” twice, “terrible acts” once, and translated miscellaneously eight times.  Definitions: 1 to fear, revere, be afraid. 2 to stand in awe of, be awed. 3 to fear, reverence, honour, respect. 1b2 to cause astonishment and awe, be held in awe. 1b3 to inspire reverence or godly fear or awe.

Our english word "awesome" means "expressive of awe" or "inspiring awe" which isn't a big help until you know what the word "awe" means - 1 : an emotion variously combining dread, veneration, and wonder that is inspired by authority or by the sacred or sublime.

So what's my point with all of this?  Hang in there, I'm getting to the point.  First, I have to recognize how often I mis-use this word;  "That was an awesome song," or "an awesome game," or "that sub-sandwich I ate was awesome."  Do I really mean, "Wow, that sub-sandwich was so good it made me feel dread, veneration and wonder inspired by the sublime"?    Do I really mean "that football game was so good, I hold it in awe, in dread and reverance"?  Of course not! That's ridiculous.

Now on the flip-side, what if I said "that sunrise was so absolutely stunning, it was awesome - it gave me a sense of wonder and awe, and I suddenly felt reverent as the colors moved across the expanse of the sky."  Now we're getting somewhere.  Or if I said "God, Jehova, is surely awesome.  I love Him, fear Him, revere Him, and my relationship with Him fills me with wonder, mystery, and awe."  Now we're really tracking.

What's my point?  I think I'm on a one-man mission to recapture certain words...words like "awesome."  Someone once said "if everything's important, nothing is important."  In a similar way, if we use powerful words like "awesome" to describe everyday things, then the word loses it's power.

God is Awesome
His creation is Awesome

Today, in your day, look for an "awesome" moment...and then, and only then, use the word.