Wednesday, August 29, 2007

three hundred

I love the movie "300". It is definitely not for youngsters due to the violence and some adult content. But there is just something about that movie that stirs up something in my soul every time I watch it. I have been trying to reflect on why I am so moved by it.

I love that when Ephialtes comes to King Leonidas and asks to fight, he doesn't get rejected because of his disfigurement. In fact, Leonidas invites him to help with the battle by clearing the battle field and helping the wounded. But Ephialtes doesn't want to do that, he wants to fight. King Leonidas tells him that he can't fight with them. When the Spartans fight, they come together as "one impenetrable unit" with their shields. Each soldier has to protect the man next to him. Because Ephialtes couldn't do that, then he couldn't be on the front lines. I love that picture of unity.

I love that Xerxes is called "King of Kings" and "Lord of Hosts." These are titles that can only be given to a ruler whose kingdom stretches across continents. It can only be said of a ruler who rulers even other kings and their kingdoms. When one thinks about the vastness of the Persian Empire at that time and the power that Xerxes had it is mind-boggling. It also adds some context to when Jesus is given those titles, "King of Kings" and "Lord of Lords." His Kingdom is vast beyond imagination.

It’s interesting how Xerxes tries to take over Sparta. First he bribes the religious cult leaders and strategic people in their government. Once he has them in his back pocket, he approaches King Leonidas on the battlefield one on one. He first tries to appeal to logic, something Greeks are known to value. Then he asks Leonidas to consider the fate of his loved ones back home when he loses this battle. After these threats don't work, Xerxes moves to bribery. He tries to appeal to the Leonidas' ego and desire for wealth and power. Xerxes offers him the chance to rule over all of Greece if only he would bow down to him. After Leonidas refuses, Xerxes promises to blot him and the Spartans out of the history books.

This scene reminds me of Jesus dealing with the temptations of Satan in the desert. Jesus is offered all the kingdoms of the world. All he needed to do was bow down and worship Satan. Instead, Jesus chooses the way of the cross, knowing that death waits for him in his near future.

I also love the language that Xerxes uses to describe himself to Ephialtes. He offers the traitor everything that he can imagine, all the pleasures and wealth that he could handle. It's overwhelming for Ephialtes. He doesn't have the strength of character to resist the temptations. Xerxes says, "Your gods were cruel to shape you so, friend Ephialtes. The Spartans too were cruel to reject you. But I am kind. Everything you could ever desire, every happiness you can imagine, every pleasure your fellow Greeks and your false gods have denied you, I will grant you for I am kind. Embrace me as your king and as your god. Lead my soldiers to the hidden path that empties behind the cursed Spartans. Your joys will be endless." And after that kind of offer, Ephialtes agrees. He wants wealth, women, and one special request, a uniform.

Then Xerxes says this classic line. "You will find I am kind. Unlike the cruel Leonidas who demanded that you stand. I require only that you kneel."

In the words of Xerxes, I hear the voice of the enemy. These are the same words that Satan whispers in all of our ears. He pretends to be kind by giving us pleasure, wealth and power. He calls everyone else cruel. Those in our life who would call us out, those who would hold us to a higher standard, he calls them cruel. And yet the truth is that Leonidas was the kind one and Xerxes' kindness was simply a hidden cruelty.

Besides all the testosterone filled fighting scenes that make me want to jump up, take a shield and joint the fight, there are significant scenes of meaning in this film. There are important lessons to be learned about the nature of temptation and the strategy of the tempter. There are lessons to be learned about the strength of unity and the power of having a vision to die for. Leonidas had a vision of Sparta that meant people lived in freedom. He was willing to die for that vision. He was willing to truly lead when the rest of the world was bowing their knee to a tyrant ruler. I leave so inspired every time I watch this movie.

Friday, August 24, 2007

thank you from FaithWorks Project

Just wanted to say thank you to all who came out to support FaithWorks Project at our Chick-Fil-A night. It was great to hang out with everyone and even better that we were there for a great cause.

We don't have the totals in yet but it looks like between the food and the raffle we brought in about $2000. We also received an independent donation of $1000 that night. So all together, you helped us raise about $3000 last Wednesday.

So what happens next?

In the next week or so, Scott and myself along with the Board of Directors will be investigating people in impoverished countries who have applied for a microloan through Kiva. When we find who we are looking for, we will give this money out in the form of multiple small microloans. We will let you know who these new entrepreneurs are when we do it.

Throughout the next year, they will be paying back these loans. When that $3000 comes back to us, we will turn around and invest that same money you helped us raise into Baltimore City. In the meantime, we are looking for innovative community development initiatives in Baltimore which have a proven track record of successfully fighting poverty here locally. Right now, we are excited about some of the things happening in Sandtown. We would like to reinvest the money into these kinds of programs and ministries .

So thank you again! Thank you for taking the time to help change the lives of people in Africa and our city of Baltimore.

If you would like to learn more about FaithWorks Project or would like to opportunity to donate on a more regular basis, go here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

FaithWorks Project and Chick-Fil-A

This Wednesday, August 22, FaithWorks Project is having our first fundraising event.

The Chick-Fil-A in White Marsh, Maryland has agreed to give FaithWorks 20% of all the profit they make from people who come and eat in order to support FaithWorks Project from 5pm-9pm.

So this Wednesday come and have dinner at the Chick-Fil-A in the Nottingham Square Shopping center from 5-9pm and help change the lives of impoverished people in Africa and in Baltimore City.

For directions go here.

For more info about FaithWorks Project go here.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Texas BBQ

There are major hubs of barbecue all across this country. Some like the chopped pork and vinegar based BBQ sauce of North Carolina. Others prefer the pulled pork sandwich with sweet BBQ sauce of Memphis, Tennessee. Some long for the baby back ribs of St. Louis. But right now I am in Texas, home of the slow-cooked beef barbecue.

Here in Texas they don't focus as much on pork. This is the land of beef. Good steaks and good roasts are around every corner. And in Texas, barbecue means "beef brisket." It also means the meat is smoked for almost a day in order to get the perfect flavor and tenderness.

As I sat in a smokey barbecue joint, up to my elbows in BBQ sauce eating some of the best beef you'll ever taste, I thought of how those master barbecuers do their magic. You see, brisket is a tough piece of meat. It is found on the chest part of the cow which gets plenty of exercise. This makes the meat fibrous and hard to eat. Believe it or not, brisket is one of the least favorable parts on a cow. You can't just pop brisket in the oven for a couple hours and hope to have something edible.

So what these "Sultans of Smoke" have to do down here is cover it in spices and let it cook "low and slow." They put the meat in the smoker early in the morning and sometimes even the night before. And the meat is cooked on a very low heat for a very long time. But it is precisely this cooking method that not only makes the meat extremely tender by dinner time, but also full of that amazing, smokey flavor.

This gradual and patient cooking process changes a below average cut of meat into a meal fit for a king. And as I sat there with my lips covered in BBQ sauce, I was reminded that this is also how God changes us. We are all in our own way below average, tough pieces of meat. We aren't naturally tender or full of flavor. So God in His grace patiently works with us. This change into the image of Christ doesn't happen all at once. But with gentle warmth and a lifetime saturated in the Holy Spirit, we tenderize. The taste and aroma of the Lord penetrates our tough skin. And gradually, over time, we become a servant fit for a King. God's transforming grace works "low and slow" to make us into the image of Christ.

So when you find yourself frustrated that changes in your life aren't immediate. When you get down about the fact that you just aren't who you want to be. Just know that God is working, gently and patiently to make you into who you are called to be.