Working on a Dream




Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reading between the Lines: The High Priest pt.1

You can tell a lot about a person by the things that they wear.

Take for instance, Harvey Spector.  He is all business; dressed to the nine's.
His suit probably costs more than every piece of clothing that I own. 
Then, there is this human that apparently orders her clothes from the butcher shop. 
Yes, she likes her cut of meat tender and slightly above the knee-caps.
You can tell a lot about a person by the things that they wear. Let's do one more ...

The High Priest. Let's start things off with the Earth's highest quality Blue, Purple & Scarlet threads, then throw in some super precious stones, and finally solid gold headband & bells.

So what can we learn about this mysterious High Priest that lived in the Ancient world?We have some clues from the 28th chapter of Exodus.  When opening this chapter, we find ourselves right in the middle of a long list of instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle (place of worship for Israel). 
Then, we read the following:
“Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron’s sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty..."

Lesson number one can be found the fact that the High Priest was called out from among the people.  This teaches us two very important elements about the High Priest, but ultimately about God. (A) That God uses average ordinary men & women to accomplish His purpose.  If I had a motto for this point, it would be that the High Priests were, "of the people, by the people, for the people."  The High Priest could minister effectively among the people because he was someone that everyone could associate with.  He knew names, birthday's anniversary's, Etc.  Secondly , (B) it teaches us that God is compassionate & is wise.  We all know someone that has walked beside us when tragedy hit or we struck for proverbial oil.  This means that the High Priest could not only express sympathy (when you have compassion, but you don’t necessarily feel another person's feelings) but could go further and be empathetic (understand and feel for someone).

The second lesson can be found in verse 2. The High Priest was someone that was distinct from the people.  If you notice the High Priest's outfit, you will see that it puts the F in fancy. Remember, in this time there were priests, BUT THIS WAS THE HIGH PRIEST.  The Donald Trump of Business. The Micheal Jordan of basketball. The Bruce Springsteen of Rock.  Ok, I think I made my point...
Despite the similarities between the High Priest and the rest of Israel, these men where set-apart.  And one major way that they were set-apart was through their once a year offering on the Day of Atonement in the Holy of Hollies.   This teaches us that although the people needed a High Priest to simultaneously represent them, they needed someone set apart in full-time service to the Lord.  Continual sacrifices were necessary because they represented a community that continually sinned.

For those of you that are keen enough to read between the lines, I wonder if you can see any type of foreshadowing with the High Priest?  Did you know that the NT book of Hebrews states that, "The law, is a shadow of the good things to come and not the very image of things?"  B.B. Warfield famously described the Old Testament as a room “fully furnished but dimly lit.” And Jesus in the 24th chapter of Luke taught perhaps the greatest Bible study in all of history when "beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Jesus) explained to them (disciples) what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.”

I'll let you chew on this for a few, then I'll close the loop this week with how the above made it into my Easter Morning Sermon. Feel free to leave a comment!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Suit.

Do you know where you are going?

I'll go ahead and admit it.  I'm directionally challenged.

I get lost in the city that I was born and raised in.  And don't worry, my ego isn't so big that I can't ask for directions. Generally speaking, people like to come to me for advice, but when people stop and ask me for directions, I always spare the person and tell them to find someone that won't have them driving in circles for the next 3 hours.  Seriously, when it comes to me giving directions, just think of the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy asks the Scarecrow for directions to see the wizard...
Yes, it is that bad. 

There is something to be said about a person that knows where they are going isn't there? They have a final destination in mind ... great men and women often have this characteristic. The Rev. Billy Graham is one of them.  Below, I share a powerful story highlighting this quality.

Billy Graham is in his 90's and suffers from Parkinson's disease. In January 2000, leaders in Charlotte, North Carolina asked Billy Graham to a luncheon in his honor. Billy initially hesitated to accept the invitation, but Charlotte leaders said, "We don't expect a major address. Just come and let us honor you."  So he agreed. After wonderful things were said about him, Dr. Graham stepped to the rostrum, looked at the crowd, said:
I'm reminded today of Albert Einstein, the great physicist who this month has been honored by Time magazine as the Man of the Century. Einstein was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of every passenger. When he came to Einstein, he reached in his vest pocket. He couldn't find his ticket, so he reached in his trouser pockets. It wasn't there. He looked in his briefcase but couldn't find it. Then he looked in the seat beside him. He still couldn't find it.

The conductor said, 'Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I'm sure you bought a ticket. Don't worry about it.' Einstein nodded appreciatively.
The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket.

The conductor rushed back and said, 'Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don't worry, I know who you are; no problem. You don't need a ticket. I'm sure you bought one. Einstein looked at him and said, "Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don't know is where I'm going.''

Having said that Billy Graham continued, "See the suit I'm wearing?
It's a brand new suit. My children, and my grandchildren are telling me I've gotten a little slovenly in my old age. I used to be a bit more fastidious. So I went out and bought a new suit for this luncheon and one more occasion.
You know what that occasion is?

This is the suit in which I'll be buried.
But when you hear I'm dead, I don't want you to immediately remember the suit I'm wearing." I want you to remember this:
-I not only know who I am.
-I also know where I'm going.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Failing the Quiz: A lesson in Caring.


1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winner for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

Zero for six? Got two right? I'm sure that most of you failed pretty miserably.
The point is, many of us forget the headliners of yesterday.
Applause dies off over time. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten...
-------------------Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners---------------------

Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:
1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through life.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of five people you enjoy spending time with.
Easier? I thought so.

The Lesson:
The people who make a difference in your life are not always the one's with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the one's that care. One of my favorite sayings is, "Initially, people do not care how much you know -until they know how much you care."  Consider the the time Jesus was ministering to the crowds and the little children started flocking to Him. He was quick to notice them, embrace them, and show them value.  If you were to ask those children the 5 questions above, Jesus could have been their answer for all 5. Amazing.  No wonder Napoleon said, "I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him."

Make a difference in some one's day & you just might make a difference for an eternity in their heart.

*Adapted from Charles Shultz' philosophy

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

What's your Excuse?

-Ant, I really want to go to Bible study, BUT my friend needs to meet with me at the exact same time as your study...
-Anthony, look for me this week, I'll be there at Bible study! ... (3 hours later, after Bible study ends) Hey, Anthony, I don't really know anyone so I just stood home...
-Anth, I am so pumped about learning more about the Bible, BUT ...

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses.

I don't know much, but here is something that I do know:
If you really want to do something in life, you find a way to do it, if not, you find an excuse.
Listen, don't get me wrong, I often feel the same way as you do before I go to church or attend Bible study. The warm cozy sheets over my body just seem to perform magic and continually lure me back inside of them ... or the number of reasons to avoid Bible study during the week always seem to pile up extra high just as I hit the front door.

I'll share with you an illustration that I often tell my friends at church:
I have a membership at my local YMCA and I try to get there 3-4 times a week. Every night I have my gym bag packed and ready by the door so I can easily grab it on the way out of my house. On the way to the gym, I am dreading it. I am tired. Nothing inside of me wants to be at the gym. Then I park my car, walk inside, look at all the machines, look at all the weights, look at all the posters of people with no body fat ... and I start.
As the time passes, something starts to happen inside of me. My mind starts following my body and I begin to sweat, I begin to push around the weights and get stronger.  See, we have this backwards.  We think that we have to be "in the mood" to first do something.   Wrong.  Greatness rarely is accomplished by men and women that where in the mood.

My friends, I have never regretted leaving the gym. Ever. (Except for that one time when I lifted too much and couldn't turn my neck left or right and everyone referred to me as "AnthonyStein"). Kidding aside, I always feel good mentally, physically and spiritually afterward.

I submit that the same will happen to you if you stop listening to yourself & start talking to yourself. Let's take this illustration a step further for a second because there is another parallel here that I do not want you to miss. Your faith is just like a muscle. If you do not find a way to exercise it and you neglect it; your faith ---like your muscle will atrophy.

Everyday, you and I have hundreds of excuses holding us back; keeping us further from the person that God has called us to become. This means you will have to be intentional about growing in your faith.

So stop the excuses.
 And start flexing your spiritual biceps.

Here is a shameless plug. I offer a Bible study twice a week called,
Engage(D).  We meet at the New Castle YMCA on Thursday night's (6:00 p.m.) & Monday night's at Northminster Presby. Church (6:30 p.m.). 
If you want a place to come and grow, then I have an inkling that Engage(D) is the place for you!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How to avoid Really Dumb Decisions (aka The Cobra Effect)

Have you ever attempted to solve a problem but the solution you came up with actually made things worse?  There is a name for this; the Cobra Effect.  I learned of the Cobra Effect a couple of weeks ago while leafing through an officers handbook on leadership.  Apparently the concept originated in colonial India when the British Government offered a reward for every dead Cobra in an effort to reduce the number of the deadly snakes.

While successful at first, Indians began to breed them for profit and when this was realized, the rewards were cancelled. Without a profit, breeders released the snakes and what was intended as a solution became more of a problem.
You see, by offering a reward for dead snakes, the government hoped to eliminate the problem. At first, the officials thought the program was a success due to the large number of dead cobras, however, officials quickly realized that the locals were breeding the snakes and selling them to the British government. The reward ceased, and then the locals -who no longer needed their cobra farms- released their snakes right back into the city. Hence the Cobra Effect was coined and is used whenever a supposed solution makes the problem worse.

I think the Cobra Effect is a fancy title for something else: making Really Dumb Decisions (R.D.D.). Albert Einstein said, "Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them." I tend to believe the guy that came up with the theory of relativity. So the question becomes, "How can you and I avoid being bit by the deadly Cobra?"

The answer, I believe can be found in Dr. Henry Cloud's book titled, "9 Things a Leader must Do."  He calls it, "Playing the Whole Movie.  I'll illustrate the principle by a story.
"An middle aged man sat down on a park bench to read the newspaper. Within a few minutes, a young man sat next to him and started reading a magazine.  Time goes by and the young man asks, "Do you have the time?"  "No." 
Puzzled by the response the young man says, "Sir I see that you have a watch, why won't you tell me the time?" The man replies, "When you first sat down I noticed you are clean cut and you seemed well mannered.  I also knew that if I gave you the time, we would probably start talking and I would take a liking to you. Then I would probably invite you over to my house for dinner and there you would meet my daughter and she would feel the same way about you.  You two would likely become friends and then go out on a date, then fall in love and get married.  AND I'LL HANG MYSELF IF I'M GOING TO LET MY DAUGHTER MARRY ANY MAN WHO DOES NOT OWN A WATCH!"

The concept of "Playing the whole movie" is this:
You must evaluate your decisions in the present, based on how those decisions affect the future.  I know so many people that take action without considering any future implications and that is exactly what the British did when they foolishly tried to outlaw the Cobra.  Jesus said, "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?"  (Is it just me, or is Jesus spot on ... on EVERYTHING.)  And just to make you all feel better, I am not asking you to become omniscient, I am merely suggesting it prudent to take a bit more time thinking about how your present decision(s) will impact your future.

What about you? How do you avoid making harmful decisions?
Can you share any other ideas that will help others in their decision making process?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Van Halen & "The Brown M & M"

The following is taken from Chip & Dan Heath's latest book, "Decisive." 

In it, they tackle the subject of decision-making. Something we all take for granted, do too quickly and forget that our approach will either make or break you. However, I will be applying the story they share to forming perceptions too quickly.  Below they share a story from one of rock n roll's most outstanding bands, Van Halen.

David Lee ROTH WAS THE lead singer for Van Halen from the mid-1970s to
the mid-1980s, an era when the band cranked out one smash hit after another: “Runnin’ with the Devil,” “Dance the Night Away,” “Jump,” “Hot for Teacher,” and more. Van Halen toured tirelessly, with over 100 concerts in 1984 alone, and behind the band’s head-banging appeal was some serious operational expertise. It was one of the first
rock bands to bring major stage productions to smaller markets. As Roth recalled in his autobiography, “We’d pull up with nine eighteen wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max.”
The band’s production design was astonishingly complex. The contract specifying the setup was, according to Roth, “like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment and so many human beings to make it function.” A typical article in the contract might say, “There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes...”

While Van Halen had its own road crew, much of the prep work had to be done in advance, before the eighteen-wheelers arrived. Van Halen and its crew lived in fear that the venues’ stagehands would screw up something and leave the band exposed to injury. (This was the same era when Michael Jackson’s head was set on fire by some
misfiring stage pyrotechnics as he filmed a Pepsi commercial.) But, given the band’s frantic touring schedule, there wasn’t time to do a top-to-bottom quality check at each venue.

-How could the band know when they were at risk?

During this same period of touring, rumors circulated wildly about Van Halen’s backstage antics. The band members were notorious partiers, and while there’s nothing particularly noteworthy about a rock band that likes to party, Van Halen seemed committed to a level of decadence that was almost artistic. As Roth writes in his
autobiography, “Well, we’ve heard about throwing a television out a window. How about getting enough extension cords … so that the television can remain plugged in all the way down to the ground floor?”

 Sometimes, though, the band’s actions seemed less like playful mayhem and more like egomania. The most egregious rumor about the band was that its contract rider demanded a bowl of M&Ms backstage—with all the brown ones removed. There were tales of Roth walking backstage, spotting a single brown M&M, and freaking out, trashing the dressing room.

This rumor was true—Roth bragged about it in his autobiography. The brown-free bowl of M&Ms became the perfect, appalling symbol of rock-star diva behavior. Here was a band making absurd demands, simply because it could.

--Get ready to reverse your perception.

The band’s “M&M clause” was written into its contract to serve a very specific purpose. It was called Article 126, and it read as follows:
“There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.” The article was buried in the middle of countless technical specifications.

When Roth would arrive at a new venue, he’d immediately walk backstage and glance at the M&M bowl. If he saw a brown M&M, he’d demand a line-check of the entire production. “Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error,” he said. “They didn’t read the contract ... Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show.”

In other words, David Lee Roth was no diva, he was an operations master. He needed a way to assess quickly whether the
stagehands at each venue were paying attention—whether they’d read every word of the contract and taken it seriously.
In Van Halen’s world, a brown M&M was a tripwire.
More than that, in Van Halen's world, a brown M&M could've meant death.

The Lesson?
= Do us all a favor, reserve your judgement(s).

Jesus says,  "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment."