Honi the Circle Maker

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post I have started reading Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker.  I was not familiar with the basis of the book, the story of Honi, the Circle Maker.  I did a little research last night just to get some more information.  Here is how Batterson retells the story. (I found this info on Catalystspace website.)

A few years ago, I was reading through The Book of Legends, a collection of stories from the Jewish Talmud, when I discovered the true legend of Honi the Circle Maker. It forever changed the way I pray. I pray more. I pray with more faith. I’ve learned how to pray circles around my dreams, my problems, my family, and most importantly, the promises of God.

A devastating drought threatened to destroy a generation–the generation before Jesus. The last of the Jewish prophets had died off nearly four centuries before. Miracles were a distant memory. And God was nowhere to be heard. But there was one man, an old sage who lived outside the walls of Jerusalem, who dared to pray anyway. His name was Honi. And even if the people could no longer hear God, he believed that God could still hear them.

With a six-foot staff in his hand, Honi drew a circle in the sand. Then he dropped to his knees and raised his hands to heaven. With the authority of the prophet Elijah who called down fire from heaven, Honi called down rain.

Lord of the Universe, I swear before your great name that I will not move from this circle until you have shown mercy upon your children.

Then it happened.

As his prayer ascended to the heavens, raindrops descended to the earth. The people rejoiced over the rain, but Honi wasn’t satisfied with a sprinkle. Still kneeling within the circle, Honi lifted his voice over the sounds of celebration.

Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain that will fill cisterns, pits, and caverns.

The sprinkle turned into such a torrential downpour that the people fled to the Temple Mount to escape the flash floods. Honi stayed and prayed inside his protracted circle.

Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of benevolence, benediction, and grace.

Then, like a well-proportioned sun shower on a summer afternoon, it began to rain in perfect moderation. Some within the Sanhedrin threatened excommunication because his prayer was too bold for their taste, but the miracle couldn’t be repudiated. Eventually, Honi the Circle Maker was honored for “the prayer that saved a generation.” The circle he drew in the sand symbolizes the power of a single prayer to change the course of history. It’s also a reminder of this timeless truth: God honors bold prayers because bold prayers honor God.

In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day

I first read Batterson’s In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day several years ago and then had the opportunity to review it for the Blogging for Books program.  Batterson has become one of my favorite authors and I have had the opportunity to read and review Primal, Soul Print and just recently received The Circle Maker.

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day is based on the story of Benaiah, one of King David and Solomon’s soldiers, who defeated a lion along with some other remarkable achievements.  Batterson uses Benaiah’s story as a spring-board to talk about how we face opportunities.

Mixing in Biblical references and stories from his own life and the lives of others he knows, Batterson provides seven principles to help Christ followers when confronted with new challenges.  He offers some good insights and make some nice parallels between Benaiah’s (and other Biblical characters) experiences and how we respond to the lions we face.

Chapter 4 on “The Art of Reframing” and chapter 6 called “Playing It Safe is Risky” provided some good challenges to me as I read it.  Overall, it is an excellent book and applies to all Christ followers because, even though our lions might be different, we still need help in facing them.

One nice feature of this book was the summary at the end of each chapter.  There were several bullet points that hit the highlights from the chapter.  It would provide a good launching pad for discussion.

This is definitely a good read and one you should check out.

(I received this book from WaterBrook Multnomah in exchange for my review).

Problems = Potential

In our staff meeting today, we were talking about leadership styles and drawing some thoughts from a book one of our staff members read called Jesus CEO.  Part of the time was spent talking about different leadership styles, but then we talked about “wilderness experiences.”  We were all asked to think about a difficult experience we have gone through that has helped us identify our gifts.

As we were talking, I thought about a chapter out of Mark Batterson’s In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day.  I read this book a few years ago and am re-reading it now (review coming soon).

In one of the chapters I read over the weekend Batterson wrote this:  “I have a theory:  The more problems you have, the more potential you have to help people.  One of the most paralyzing mistakes we make is thinking that our problems somehow disqualify us from being used by God.  Let me just say this:  If you don’t have any problems, you don’t have any potential.”

All of us have problems (most of which I’m sure we wouldn’t post in a blog), but it was reassuring that in spite of our problems, God still sees potential in us.  Rather than allowing our wilderness experiences to force us to feel disqualified, we can see them as tools God uses to refine us.  Think I’m still learning that one.

Ode To Youth Pastors…and Volunteers! (a repost)

I subscribe to Mark Batterson’s blog and thought today’s post was good.  I would also make sure to include volunteer youth workers in this as well.  While the “paid guy” is important, that person cannot do it alone.  Without a good team of volunteers, ministry to students is pretty limited.

So, if you are a youth pastor or volunteer, THANK YOU for what you do.  Let this post remind you of the role you play in the lives of students.  Sometimes we need to hear this.

Here’s my ode to youth pastors! And this isn’t really a tribute from a pastor. It’s a tribute from a dad.  I didn’t fully appreciate the role you play in the kingdom until my kids were in your youth group!  If kids are most open to the gospel during their developmental teens years, then youth ministry is the frontlines of the kingdom.  It is where the battle is won or lost.  It is where habits are formed. It is where decisions are made.  Don’t we need our most passionate, most gifted, most Spirit-filled, most loving leaders on the frontlines?

Youth ministry is not a stepping stone to something else. It never was. It never will be.  It is where the action is.  There are kids who are contemplating suicide–they need you to discern it.  There are kids who are struggling with sexual orientation or sexual purity–they need you to speak truth.  There are kids who are trying to decide where they land spiritually–they need you to preach the gospel, live the gospel.

Just so we’re clear: It’s not your job to disciple my kids. That’s my job as a parent.  But I’m so grateful that I have someone to tag-team with.  There are times that my kids need a “third-party” to say what I’ve been saying their entire life.  They won’t hear me, but they might hear you.

So go ahead and dress cool and act cool.  Pull the all-night events and pull crazy stunts.  Laugh with the kids like crazy!  But don’t forget that you are first and foremost a prophet in the life of my child.  That’s what matters.  Don’t cower before a politically-correct culture.  Speak the truth boldly, lovingly, prophetically.  Get in their face. Get in their life.  Challenge them to dream big and pray hard.  They are capable of far more than we can imagine!

A Long (Like Really Long) Obedience

I was listening to a podcast from Mark Batterson and he was using Noah as an example of someone who was all in – totally obedient to God.  Several times in the book of Genesis it says this about Noah – “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.”

The story of Noah and the building of the ark is probably one of the better known Old Testament events.  While we probably cannot fully comprehend the magnitude of the project, we know Noah and his family built the ark, filled it with animals of every kind and lived in it while the world was destroyed by a flood.

What Batterson mentioned in his podcast was a tradition regarding Noah and the ark.  The tradition states that Noah first planted the trees he would use to build the ark, waited from them to grow, sawed them into planks and then built the ark.  No one is quite sure how long it took to build the ark, but most conclude it took several decades, even up to 100 years.

Whether that tradition is true or not, Noah displayed a long obedience.  He not only built the ark – just as God commanded – but also gathered the animals and cared for them in the ark.  In a time where we want results now and continually have to seek to be patient, Noah shows what a long obedience looks like.

Batterson made the observation that obedience to God makes life more complicated, not less complicated.  I imagine that the larger the ark became and the addition of all the animals (along with a world-wide flood) made life more complicated for Noah.  Yet he remained obedient.  May we strive for the long obedience despite the complication is may bring.

Embracing our Uniqueness

For the last 5 years or so, I have been a coach in our church’s Upward Basketball program.  It is a great program that gives students the opportunity to play basketball, develop their skills and hear truth from God’s Word, all in an environment that is focused on the players, not just winning games.  While everyone likes to win (including me), it is not held out as the highest value of the program.

Along with coaching, I get the opportunity to give a half-time devotion to the parents and family members in attendance.  The good news?  I already know what I’m going to say (for the most part).  In Mark Batterson’s latest book, Soul Print, he shares a great illustration of how each of us is unique.

As you may recall from a high school biology class, you have forty-six chromosomes.  Twenty-three are from your father and twenty-three are from your mother.  And it’s that unique combination of chromosomes that determines everything from the color of your eyes to the numbers of hairs on your head.  Your identity is part heredity.  And so it is with the image of God.  The image of God is your heredity and your destiny.

From a mathematical perspective, the probability that you would get the twenty-three chromosomes you got from your mother is one-half to the twenty-third power.  That’s 1 in 10 million.  But the same is true for the twenty-three chromosomes you got from your father.  So if you multiply those two together, the probability that you would be you is 1 in 100 trillion.  But you also have to factor in that your parents had the same probability, and their parents, and their parents’ parents.  My point?  You are incalculably unique.

I think we need to hear that our uniqueness is something to be celebrated.  In a society that elevates certain characteristics and qualities over others, we need to realize that each of us is one of a kind.  Students need to hear that.  Adults need to hear that.  We are unique and we are God’s workmanship.  God created us as His masterpiece and our role is to embrace our uniqueness and then use that uniqueness to live for God like no one else can.

Scripture reminds us that we are not here by accident.  God created us on purpose and with a purpose.  How can we use our uniqueness for Him?

Public vs Private

I have been reading Mark Batterson’s new book Soul Print. I was fortunate enough to receive a preview copy (more on that in a later post.)

He offers a pretty big challenge in the midst of one of his chapters. He is discussing integrity and doing what is right even when it is difficult. Batterson points out a truth about us as individuals: we are probably more concerned with how we look/act/talk in public than in private. The opinion of others is of pretty high importance so we watch the things we do when others are around.

Batterson flips that thought upside down when he writes this: One of my deepest desires is to be a better person in private than I am in public . . . I want those who know me best to respect me most.

I think our natural tendency is to play to the crowd when many people are around and then kind of let our guard down when we are with people close to us.  We are more concerned about the public “me” than the private “me.”  I wonder, what would it require of us to be a better person in private than we are in public?

Wild Goose Chase

Just finished reading “Wild Goose Chase” by Mark Batterson.  This is the third book of his I have read and I enjoy his style of writing and communicating.  He seems to live and serve with such passion and energy.  I especially enjoy reading the stories of the church he leads, National Community Church, in Washington DC.

In the book, he uses an old Celtic description of the Holy Spirit.  Celtic Christians had a name for the Spirit which translated into “wild goose.”  In his book, he identified 6 cages that keep us from chasing the Wild Goose – responsibility, routine, assumption, guilt, failure and fear.  In addressing each cage, he referenced a Biblical personality who overcame that limitation and chased the Wild Goose.

He has several challenges in the book that encourages the reader to get out of the rut and routine of church as we know it and pursue God.  One of his questions requires some reflection – are we more concerned with knowing God’s Will or knowing God?  How often are we guilty of trying to make God into our image rather than being made into the image of God?

Definitely a good read.  Now to do some of the things he said….

Primal Review

I had the opportunity to read Primal as part of Mark Batterson’s blog tour.  I became acquainted with his writing when I read In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day.  It was a good read on a pretty obscure passage of scripture.  When I heard about his new book, I wanted to check it out and the blog tour was an added bonus.

In his new offering Batterson explores the Great Commandment (to love God with all your Heart, Soul, Mind & Strength).  He says as Christ followers we are not great at the Great Commandment; in fact, most days we are not very good at it.  He asserts that we need to get back to the basics of Christianity, to rediscover what is primal.  His book does an excellent job of doing just that.

What I found engaging about the book was his mix of personal discoveries, practical suggestions and great illustrations, especially from the realm of science.  Sprinkled throughout his writing are various facts and insights from the world of science that reminded me why I didn’t pursue that as a profession.  Facts about how the human body works, about sound waves and other aspects of our universe  are used to point us back to God as Creator and to marvel again at what God has done.  As we know more and more about God, revealed through His word and His creation, we love Him more, which is the heartbeat of Primal.

Batterson develops his premise that what we need to rediscover what it means to love God with a heart of compassion, a soul of wonder, a mind of curiosity and with strength of energy.  He develops each one of these aspects well in the chapters throughout the book and challenges the reader to seek to do each one of those things.  I not only enjoyed the book, but drew some specific things I need to implement in my own walk with God.

Primal definitely gets my recommendation to be on your reading list in 2010.  It would not only be helpful to an individual; it would provide great discussions in a small group format.

Waterbook Multnomah  http://waterbrookmultnomah.com/catalog.php?isbn=9781601421319

You can also get information about this book and Mark Batterson’s other writings at his blog:  www.evotional.com