Ken Foreman is the Senior Pastor of Cathedral of Faith, a mega-church in San Jose with membership over 7,000.
The Voyage: Sailing the High Seas at Christmas
The Lion in the Manger
Show Movie Trailer. This weekend we continue a series entitled, “The Voyage – Sailing the High Seas at Christmas.” The starting point for the series is the movie “Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” It is a movie based on a book by the same name that was written by one of the great spiritual leaders of all time, C. S. Lewis. I hope you get a chance to see the movie or to the read the book. It is a wonderful analogy about our spiritual growth as Christians. The movie is about a ship which sets sail on a voyage. While sailing the high seas there are many adventures that happen on this voyage. Some of the things that happen on their voyage are the kinds of things that happen on our voyage. So how about if we climb aboard, set sail on the high seas, and get ready for the ride of your life?
In the voyage that is found in the movie and in the book, one of key themes is “The Lion in the Manger.” Let me set the stage for this week’s message.
This week we want to look at the great lion who is behind it all. As you watch the movie or as you read the book there is a great lion and even though he is not on every piece of film in the movie, or on every page of the book, his presence is felt from cover to cover. He shows up in just the right way, and at just the right times. When you get to very the end of the book, the children are leaving the world of Narnia to go back to the world of England. The great lion tells them that he is in their world too “but there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.” Of course the name he is talking about is Jesus.
When the first movie in the series came out, the front page of USA Today ran a story that was titled, “Is that Lion the King of Kings?” It seems to me that the answer to the question is yes. His name in the world of Narnia is Aslan, but His name in our world is Jesus.
In other words, when you bend down and look at the manger, there is a lion in the manger. The Scriptures tell us that a special person will show up one day, and that person would be like a lion. Near the very end of the Bible, there is a person in heaven, who is the focus on worship and praise, and He is called the lion. The Bible says, “See the lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed,” (Revelation 5:5). You may have never looked at it that way. You may have never thought of it that way. You may have thought that there is just a baby in the manger. But, there is also a lion in the manger. In what ways is Jesus like a lion? Here are a few suggestions to consider.
I. Main Attraction
There is a certain drawing presence that a lion has. I found this out a few years back. I had a chance to go on a safari. It was the kind of safari where you take pictures and I remember asking our guide, “What does everybody want to see? You get lots of folks out here, what is the animal that people want to see most?” He told me, “It is not even close. There is no contest, everybody that comes out here wants to make sure they see a lion. He’s the main attraction.” When we drove out into the bush and we saw a male lion sitting out in the wild, I could see why the lion is the main attraction. I could have sat there and watched the lions all day long.
There are so many babies that have been born in the course of history. Ask every mom and she will tell you how special her baby is, and that is how a mom should feel about her baby. But when you step back and you look at all the babies which have been born, all the babies that were born before Jesus, and all the babies that were born after Jesus, it is still this baby. He is like every other baby and yet He is different from every other baby. At this time of year many will gather around His manger. They will stare at Him in awe and wonder. This lion is the main attraction.
If you would have asked the people in that time period, “Who do you think will be the main attraction in history?” Will it be this baby that was born in this tiny little stable, not even in a home, not even in an inn? He was born in a tiny stable in a tiny little town which was not the center of political power, nor the center of religious power. It was a tiny little stable, in a tiny little town, to some unknown parents. Neither of them were movers and shakers. Who would be the main attraction in history? What do you think the opinion polls would have looked like? Where do you think people would have cast their votes?
A few years back, when Time Magazine made their choice for the man of the millennium, they looked at several possible candidates. They looked at men and women who have had a meaningful influence on the course of history, and they ended up being drawn to the lion in the manger. In the article they write that “the single most powerful figure in all human history has been Jesus. A serious argument can be made that no one else’s life has proved remotely as powerful and enduring as that of Jesus.” This is not a religious magazine saying this. This is not a theological magazine saying this. This is a secular magazine taking an objective look at history and deciding that this baby is the main attraction.
II. Royal Majesty
There is a lion in the manger, He is the main attraction. When you think about a lion, you think about royalty, you think about majesty, you think about the lion as king of the jungle. In the Family Circus comic, there was a drawing of a family who were setting up the nativity scene. And one little girl takes the statue of baby Jesus holds him up in the air, and declares. “Here is the star of Bethlehem.” And it seems to me that she got it right. The voyage of the wise men started with the star. It began with a star, and the star up there took them to the star down here. They found the King for whom they had been searching. The Bible says it was such a moving moment that when they saw the lion “they fell down and worshiped him,” (Matthew 2:11).
Here’s something to think about. Is that a decision you need to make? Do you need to recognize Him as King? Do you need to honor Him as King? This may sound easy as first, but it is not as easy as you think because there is something inside of all of us that wants to be in charge. I want to live life my own way. I want to be my own boss. I want to do my own thing. I want to be in charge of my life. I want to be the lion. I do not want Him to be the lion, I want to be the lion. That is why every day I have to make a decision, several times a day I have to make a decision to put Jesus in charge of my life and honor Him as King and recognize him as King.
We need to say to Him, “Jesus, You are the one who gives the commands. You are the one who sets the agenda. You are the one who is in charge of my relationships. You are the one in charge of my career. You are the one in charge of my time. You are the one in charge of my money, (that is one of the tough ones). Jesus you are in charge of our money, that can even be hard to say. Jesus you are in charge of my ______.” What would be the hardest thing for you to say? If you were to make a decision to honor Jesus as King, and to make him your King, deep down in your heart of hearts what is the one area that would be the hardest for you to say: Jesus you are in charge of my_____? How would you fill in the blank? Whatever that might be for you, I want to encourage you to make the decision to honor him as King.
If you have never tried to live this way, I want to encourage you to try this way. This is what I have discovered, my life works better when the great lion is in charge. When I try to be the great lion, (and believe me, there have been plenty of times I have tried to be the great lion—it is a jungle out there), I will mix things up and will mess things up. Being out there in the wild will work me over. I was not made to be the great lion. I was not meant to be the great lion. But when I let the great lion be the great lion, life works so much better. Is there an area in your life you need to surrender? You need to honor Him as King.
III. Mighty Strength
There is a lion in the manger. The lion is the main attraction. The lion is royal and majestic, and the lion is known for his strength and his power. The lion in the manger has power. He has ultimate power. Power can be a good thing or power can be a bad thing. It all depends on the character and nature of the person who has it. For example, the devil is sometimes referred to in the Bible as a lion, (1 Peter 5:8). He does have power, but he does not have ultimate power. He has power which he uses in an evil way. When power is in the hands of someone who is evil, it is not something you can trust. When power is in the hands of someone who is good, you can trust. That is what we find when we come in contact with the lion in the manger. Jesus has ultimate power and you can trust His power. You do not have to hide from His power, you do not have to run from His power. Friend, you can trust His power because Jesus is thoroughly good.
You find a power that you can trust and He is willing to share his power, with you. Not too long ago my wife went to one of those fairs, one of those holiday fairs, and that’s always a dangerous thing to do because you can end up buying something at one of fairs. And that is what she did, she found something she liked – it was an old wardrobe. In the back of the door there was not a pathway to another world. I checked it out. But it was a big wardrobe, and when she showed up with this old wardrobe I looked at this thing and I thought I am going to need some help. I could try to do that heavy lifting on my own but I would not get very far. I would probably hurt my back in the process. So I called for some help.
If you’re going to do some heavy lifting you need to call for some help. One of the things that you find in the book, and one of the things that you find in the movie, is that the great lion shows up in all kinds of ways and in all kinds of situations. He uses His power and He uses His strength to help. We have seen that through out this series – the lion is willing to share His power. When you have some heavy lifting to do, you can try to lift it on your own, but you will not get very far. You are going to hurt your back in the process, and that is why you can make a decision to draw on the power of the great lion.
One of the ways which He shares His power is through prayer. Through prayer I can bring my need to Jesus. Through prayer I can express my need to Jesus. Through prayer He gives me the strength which I need. Through prayer He gives me the power which I need to do the heavy lifting. I am not sure how it all works, I just know that when you need to do some heavy lifting, the best place to start is on your knees in prayer, because He cares for you. You are invited to “cast all our cares on Him because He cares for you,” (1 Peter 5:7). When you are on your knees in prayer it is going to save your back. When you are trying to move that wardrobe, there is a lion in the manger.
IV. Constant Companion
The lion is the main attraction. The lion is royal and majestic. The lion has strength and power. And finally, there is connection and companionship. Up on the screens you can see a group of lions that are hanging out together. (Show a slide of a pride of lions). This is something you will not see with any other big cat in the wild. All the other big cats tend to be loners. In fact, most cats in general tend to be loners. If you do not think so just look at the cat that you have at home. Someone has said that the difference between dogs and cats is that dogs come when they are called, cats take a message and get back to you later. Cats tend to be loners. And all the other big cats tend to be out there on their own. They are all loners except for the lion. Lions tend to hang out together. It is called a pride. Groups of thirty or forty will hang out together, and they will watch out for each other.
There is this sense of community and companionship among lions. In fact, when you hear the lion roar, one of the reasons he roars is to check out where everybody is. Where are the other members of the pride? How are you guys doing over there? They call out to each other that way. There’s a sense of connection and companionship. And this lion in the manger, friend, that is what He wants with you. He wants a sense of connection and a sense of a companionship. He wants to be more than a main attraction that you look at. He wants to be more than a king whom you honor. He wants to be more than a power that you draw from. In one place the lion looks at us and he says, “I have called you friends,” (John 15: 15). A friend is someone you are close to, someone you are tight with. This is the kind of attachment He wants you to have with us. To know Him as friend, to speak to Him as friend, to be His friend. This is a good place to pause and ask myself a few questions.
What would it look like for me to really live this out, for me to treat Jesus as my very best friend? To go through the day with Him? To walk with Him and to talk to Him? To be close to Him, so that He is my very best friend? Is this the friendship that I value and treasure most?
What am I doing to deepen and develop that friendship? Am I really learning to enjoy the friendship and take pleasure in the friendship? Jesus enjoys being a friend. Jesus enjoys being your friend. That might be a paradigm shift for you. When you think of Jesus as a friend, you may think, “Well, He is my friend because He has pity on me.” Or, “He is my friend because He feels sorry for me.” But that is not the case. Jesus is your friend not because He has to, but because He wants to. Jesus enjoys being your friend, your very best friend. Maybe you need to come back to that friendship, you may have walked away from that friendship and the decision you need to make is to come back.
Before he died, Johnny Cash gave an interview and he was talking about his life. He spoke about a season in his life when he was young and got in drugs pretty heavily because he was trying to escape. He talked about how this took such a toll on his life. His drug addiction affected him physically, it affected him emotionally, and it affected him spiritually. He said that the way it affected him spiritually was the worst of all. He said, “I could not communicate with God and there’s no lonelier place to be. I was separated from God and was not even trying to call on Him. But, I came back.” So can you. You can have Jesus as your very best friend. Can you hear the roar from the lion in the manger? He is calling out to you.