Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Of Mice and Men

My family and I had a magical time Disney World earlier this month. It was the first time for our kids, who are now 10 and 13 years old. For our first day, at the Magic Kingdom, the weather was pleasant, the crowd was smaller than we expected, and we were blown away by the quality of everything.

When we first walked down Main Street USA, we could see Cinderella’s Castle, and we could hear the songs and dialogue of a live Disney show. As we made our way to the castle, we could see the performers on stage at the foot of the building. It was like dropping into a Broadway show, outside.

I was most impressed with the audio, because you could hear the show clearly from the other end of Main Street, about a quarter of a mile away. It was clear, intelligible and just the right volume. As we got closer, the sound was just as clear and never got too loud. How do they do that? I could not even find the speakers (at first).

Well, the rest of the day was amazing, too. The rides were fun, the waits mostly short, and we got to take it all in. We even saw Capt. Jack Sparrow teaching 5-year-old boys to outwit pirates.

Throughout the day, I kept noticing the references to dreams, wishes, magic and believing. “When you wish upon a star/ Makes no difference who you are…” Looking around, I kept seeing the evidence of wishes and dreams coming true. The shows, cast members (Disney employees), displays, rides, stores—they all were full of joy. How could they create such an environment of total bliss? OK, there were some less-than-perfect parts of the experience, but I willingly suspended my disbelief.

With a purely humanistic paradigm, Disney has created a place where kids and families can come for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. They did that for us. But they do that 365 days a year. They keep up the quality, the energy, the enthusiasm. And they do this with mere human willpower.

Now, imagine if we could dream the dreams of God, not Walt Disney. If we could share the love of Jesus, not Mickey Mouse. If we could pray, not wish; if we could be full of the Holy Spirit, not sprinkled with pixie dust; if we could trust Providence, not fate.

Imagine if God got a hold of our creativity. What dreams would he bring?

God would have us do more than show people a good time. He would have us show his love, redemption, healing, restoration and forgiveness. He would have us show the world how glorious, perfect and righteous he is. He would bring his joy to all who will believe. He would do amazing works in families, marriages, communities and nations. His work will make Walt Disney’s seem Mickey Mouse.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What Kind of Wisdom?

Solomon seems like one of the most contradictory characters in the Bible. On the one hand, he is the wisest man ever, living with wealth, power, and political peace. On the other hand, he makes some of the most foolish decisions which led to the division of the kingdom. If he was so wise, then how could he be so foolish?

As I was reading through the scriptures on Solomon, I noticed something I had never seen before. Remember that as a new king Solomon was worried about how to run the kingdom. He felt inadequate for the job. As he was worshipping God (1 Kings 3), God allows Solomon to make a wish: “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon does not ask for riches or fame or power. He simply asks for a discerning heart to govern his people. In response, God promises to give him a wise and discerning heart, and to give him riches and honor as well.

As the story of Solomon unfolds, we see him running a vast government and erecting great buildings. His wisdom in running his country is so great that he becomes an international celebrity. The Queen of Sheba visits Solomon in 1 Kings 10, and she declares that he is even wiser than she had heard. She asks him all kinds of questions, and he has an answer for everything. She declares that his officials must be very happy, serving under such a wise king.

Solomon’s reign is a time of peace and great prosperity.

But this wise man is not so wise with his own family and his faith. He knows all about running a country, but fails miserably in more important matters. First Kings 11 gives us a glimpse into his home life. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Imagine what his family meetings were like! His children would have to introduce themselves! Many of these wives worshipped foreign gods, and Solomon accommodated their various faiths. He built altars and places of worship for all his foreign wives.

In all this, God was not pleased. Duh. God forbade the Israelites from intermarrying with the people of Canaan at all. Solomon obviously ignored that piece of wisdom. As a result, his wives led him astray spiritually.

Remember, though, that Solomon only asked for wisdom about running his country. God gave him abundant wisdom for governing. But Solomon was sorely lacking in wisdom about faithfulness to God. He made foolish decisions. He probably thought he could do no wrong. He did as he pleased in marrying for political purposes.

His foolish choices led him to a life of emptiness and frustration. Read the book of Ecclesiastes to see how joyless this rich and wise man was.

After Solomon’s death, the kingdom fell apart. His son was clueless about how to rule – how ironic – and the kingdom of Israel was divided.

The best kind of wisdom is not just about doing a good job. The best kind of wisdom keeps us in touch with God for every aspect of living. Jesus wants abundant life for us. He wants us to live in love, joy and peace. That comes from staying connected with the Lord. That’s real “abundant life.”