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Friday, August 19, 2011

Superhero Christology


[I supplied this for a guest post on my friend's Sammy A's blog]

The first half of that sentence is pretty clear.
Super-hero: muscle-bound, spandex-wearing do-gooders that either by some weird accident have super powers on this earth.
The second word just means the study of Christ. Like geology is the study of the earth and biology is the study of life, Christology is the study of who Christ is and what he has done.
Whether you believe it or not, you have some form of Christology.
Because Jesus is so great and powerful, it is natural for us to associate him with someone or something great to give us some reference.
Super heroes are easiest because they are larger than life, approachable and save lives through their sacrifices (kind of like Jesus).
The problem is Jesus isn't LIKE them at all. They may act alike but they aren't alike at all.
Let's take a look at three of the big ones and how they can't measure up to Jesus.
1. Batman 
He doesn't have any supernatural abilities. He just works really hard and has a lot of money.
This loner can get hurt and is only out to avenge the death of his parents.
Many atheists and Mormons see Jesus like this to some degree. The power is yours and everyone has ability to reach these heights. Jesus is really good guy that did some cool stuff but so can you if you work really hard.
The problem with this view is if he is so much like us that why should we listen to him?
2. Spiderman –
This normal dweeb got lucky and got bit by a radioactive spider. He's human but got lucky. Just like us but not like us. He is a created being that got a special blessing.
The Jehovah Witnesses, Muslims, and Coptic Christians all believe a form of this.
The problem with this view is, if Jesus is not God in substance, can his death really be more than just him?
What if his power runs out? How do we know Jesus is anything in relationship to God?
3. Superman –
This alien from Krypton came to earth but he isn't really a human. His alien nature gave him super strength. Ignoring the kryptonite weakness for a second, dude is indestructible and can do things that humans cannot.
Jesus then is only pretending to be like us. He is fooling us with the glasses.
Christian Scientists and many in the New Age movement believe this.
The problem with this view is, how can he know us if he is different from us?
Now although these views have had different names throughout history, it is our tendency to downplay the different nature of Christ, the Divinity of Christ or the humanity of Christ.
If we hold to one, we are robbing ourselves of the fullness of Christ. If we try to overemphasize one, we have a God of our own creation.
The Bible said God BECOME flesh, emptied himself of all but love and was still God (see John 1, Colossians 1, Philippians 2 and the whole Book of Hebrews).
Leo the Great said it best: Jesus is 100% God and 100% Man.
Which do you struggle with: Believing Jesus is different enough to be respected, Being God enough to actually forgive us or being Man enough to relate to us? Why?
Feel free to extend the analogy but know that at some point the analogy will break down.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Blessed BEFORE Obedience

This morning I was knocked on the floor by reading the following story from 1 Kings 3.

1 Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt and married his daughter. He brought her to the City of David until he finished building his palace and the temple of the LORD, and the wall around Jerusalem. 2 The people, however, were still sacrificing at the high places, because a temple had not yet been built for the Name of the LORD. 3 Solomon showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places. 
4 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” 
6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. 
7 “Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” 
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both riches and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. 14 And if you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.” 15 Then Solomon awoke—and he realized it had been a dream. 
He returned to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then he gave a feast for all his court.
Question: why would God approach Solomon after he married an Egyptian woman and went to Gibeon to offer a sacrifice on a pagan altar? He was not being obedient but yet God blessed him. That isn't how it is suppose to work, is it?

Well, in Christ, it is. It was while we were yet sinner Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). He blessed us before we could/would obey. That blows my mind. That's grace in the Old Testament . That is the God we serve that still blesses us even when we don't deserve it. Doesn't that make you want to obey more?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

You hunger after what you feed on

In light my friend's Sam blog post today, I'm compelled to write something I have been stewing on for a while. It  falls into the vein of things but something I have noticed in my soul. That if I feed something, it gets hungry.

I am a food addict. There is not a food I don't like (other than ketchup). Over that last few months, I have tried to give up drinking pop (or soda). After a few days of resisting, I didn't thirst for it. However, when I finally said I was strong enough to have one, I would then thirst for them more.

The same goes with sweets. Before I got married, I cut all sweets out of my diet. I found that I didn't want them. But then I married a woman with a sweet tooth. She started buying more things with sugar and then I started to crave it. Fried Food is the same. Chips too. Lori doesn't struggle with eating these things so she buys it without a problem. If I buy it (or get around), I engorge myself into a food coma.

While things I liked I stopped craving, things I didn't like before I now wanted. For a long time, I hated olives, green peppers, asparagus and other "good for you items". But when I stopped eating the bad stuff, I had to eat something so I experimented. and I found many things that didn't stink. I actually wanted to eat that stuff. Amazingly, my appetite changed.

Jesus said blessed are those that hunger and thirst for righteousness. I find when I don't feed on God's word or on his goodness, I am no longer hunger for him. When I feed on the garbage around me, I start to want garbage. Sometimes, I have to force myself to eat right and acknowledge what I actually hunger after. I need to trust that my appetite is not always right but needs to be controlled. I praise God that I have a new heart that gives me new desires. Lord, help me to feed on what is good for me and my soul.

Monday, May 16, 2011

For Judy

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Friday, April 15, 2011

"I Want A New Life!"

Have you ever looked at your life and said, "I'm sick of my life; I
want a new one." Bills are adding up as there is more month than
money. Your family looks like more like the Bundy's than the Cosby's.
You are hanging out more at hospitals and funeral homes than
restaurants and movie theaters. Whatever you are experiencing, it is
hard to resist this temptation to desire something more out of our
daily lives.

A simple look at what is popular shows that many of us want new lives.
Take reality TV for example. By turning on the Real Housewives, 16 and
Pregnant or The Jersey Shore, you can escape into some one else's
(messed up) life to make me feel better about your own. Or you can
turn on Survivor, The Deadliest Catch or Top Chef to live vicariously
through someone else's adventure. Even if that is not enough, you can
live in virtual farm or do "business" with a virtual mafia on
Facebook. Only people dissatisfied with their current situation would
gravitate to these places in an attempt to make this life more
tolerable.

If this is you, would you believe that the Easter story is the perfect
answer to your longing? If you are dissatisfied with your current life
or have ever wished for a new life, come to Payne Church of Christ
(220 W. Merrin St, Payne OH) on Sunday, April 24 at 9:00am to see how
the Easter Story can give us all a new life. If you arrive at 8:30am,
you can enjoy a free continental breakfast. If you have any questions,
contact Minister Dan Staifer at 419-263-2092.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Going to A Church better than going to NO Church

I hear a lot of reasons from people on why they do not go to church.
The big ones are that the Bible never talks about Christians are
required to go to Church and there are no good churches around me.
Very often, this is where things are left. No answers. No hope. Just
reasons (or often times excuses) for why on a Sunday morning (and
throughout the week) going to church to gather with God's people is
just not in the cards.

At church I serve at, I've been going through the Book of Revelation.
It is a letter written to seven churches in Asia minor facing
persecution. All churches had instructions from Jesus. Some good, some
bad and some just downright ugly. Some he encourages and some he
rebukes but he gives all of them a chance to repent as a church.

One church caught my eye. The church of Sardis by all accounts look
like a normal church with life and power on the inside. See what Jesus
says to them:

Revelation 3:1-6 - 1These are the words of him who holds the seven
spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a
reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up! Strengthen
what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds
complete in the sight of my God. 3 Remember, therefore, what you have
received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I
will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come
to you. 4 Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled
their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are
worthy. 5 He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I
will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will
acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels. 6 He who has an
ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (NIV1984)

I'm shocked that Jesus doesn't say to the faithful in this church,
"This church is full of dead of people so go find another one," or
"The church is not meeting your needs you who have not soiled your
clothes so find others that are clean," or the popular option today,
"Don't worry about gathering with these dead people; just worship on
your own time and in your own way so you can stay alive."

Why not? For starters, in that day, the church at Sardis was the only
church in Sardis. Second, they face persecution so there was safety in
numbers. Third, this letter is meant to serve as a warning for the
church to repent. "If you don't overcome, you will not see me coming
and you will die. Repent!" The faithful are there to serve as an
example to the rest that Jesus is enough to make you white as snow.
They walk with me. Paul says elsewhere imitate me as I imitate Christ.
He also says those that are strong in the faith lay down your rights,
your preferences to reach the weak among you. Finally, Jesus is
example here shows us he speaks to the church for the good of the
church, not individuals for the good of the individual. See 1
Corinthians 14 and the emphasis Paul puts on the use of tongues in the
corporate setting versus the private. See what takes precedent in
those text, the individual or the church?

Maybe the reason there are no "good" churches is because all of the
"good" Christians are happy staying hidden, forgetting that Christian
maturity means loving the Church/The Bride of Christ more than our own
needs. If that means going to a church that is not perfect, so be it.
It that means settling on a community of believers that are imperfect
sinners then praise be the God that He has given us an opportunity
influence people who want to love Jesus but maybe ignorant of what
that looks like.

As a minister, I may yearn for a church that is problem free and
perfect. That just means that I get the joy to influence those that
may be "weak" (though often times I am the weak one). Is it difficult?
Yes. Is it stressful? Oh yeah. But is it rewarding to see people take
steps towards maturity in Jesus? You bet. However big or small though,
these steps are easy to miss in our results oriented, altar call
focused, consumeristic church. I am grateful for the people around me
rebuking and spurring one another on to Jesus. While they may not look
"alive", they are far from dead and have a chance to change, just like
me.

In light of the persecution this Church probably faced, where options
were slim for community, these people encourage me to always be a part
of a church somewhere for the same reasons, even it is not ideal.
After all, there is one perfect church: the one we find in Revelation
19-22 AFTER Jesus comes back. We eagerly wait for that day by meeting
with others no matter what.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hard Hearted

When the Bible says, it is not good for man to be alone and the wife is
suppose to complete what is lack, in my case, it is because I am the Tin
Man from the Wizard of Oz. Without God using my amazingly gorgeous wife
to teach me how to feel, I would be lost. I am so cerebral and so
analytical, I can come off really cold and unloving.

My wife though, is the complete opposite. For the longest time, I
thought I was put here with her to help her think more about life. I
thought I was God gift (not the Holy Spirit) to rebuke and correct her
"lack of thought".

It isn't until recently that I realize it was my thinking that was off
and that it was I who needed help. While it has been (extremely)
difficult for her at time, I'm so thankful that God has place her with
me. Without her loving support and correction, I would know a lot but
not compassion. I would be able to talk a good game but no way to feel
my way out of anything.

To my wife, I'm sorry for being a hard hearted lug nut. Your patience
is a testament to the work of God in your life. Thanks for teaching me
what a heart is and how it can be just as important as a mind. You are
my oil can that has lead me to the real "Wizard of Oz", Jesus Christ.

Monday, February 28, 2011

"Just Relax. It'll happen one day."

If anyone has received this advice, he or she knows exactly what I'm talking about.If you don't know, this is boiler plate standard response of anyone upon hearing a couple is having trouble getting pregnant. It is advice my wife and I have heard a countless number of times over the last 3 years. Let me go on the record and tell everyone, it is not helpful.

I know why people say this. When confronted with something that is not often talked about openly, it easy to resort to the cliche we have heard time and time again. We don't know what to say, feel like we need to say some thing, so we say this phrase. It is an easy tack on to let people know we care and are listening during a person's rough patch. It is like saying "Let me know if there is anything I can do" when someone dies or "It is what it is" when someone complains.

The normal response here is "Stop being sensitive." So don't take this as a rant against people's insensitivity during a couple's infertility. In fact, I would agree that often times infertile couples are very sensitive and respond poorly. There is good reason to be overly sensitive. This issue is constantly being brought up so it can't be escaped. In this sense, it is a lot like a single person's journey towards marriage. For DINKs (Double Income No Kids), this is the first question that is asked in a new social situation. Also, the time between "I do" and "Wah Wah, I need Mommy" is expected to be short. So, it is always the elephant in the room. In the USA, it is more than the dream of many to get married and start a family. It is the expectation for every red blooded American. Our society revolves around families.

While it is in no way easy, marriage is something we have some control over. All that is needed to two people that are willing. For procreation, there needs to be two that are willing AND able. Unfortunately, you don't know if your able until you are (or have gotten someone) pregnant. Couple that with the pride factor of "I'm not a REAL (wo)man until I become a parent with my genetic material," this condition often takes us totally by surprise. It is something we take for granted until we can't do it.

At this point, the blame game begins and the relationship gets stressed. Who's "fault" is it? Which one is the "deformed" one causing this problem? Is it just something not being done right(other than the obvious things)? So the couple gets tested. The problem is found out sometimes. Each person then needs to fight the guilt, or in some cases anger, over not being able to provide their spouse a child.

With the problem determined, a plan is now in place. The couples act. With their hope renewed, every month provides a great opportunity for joy and disappointment. Will it work or not? Higher highs and lower lows. Often times, these plans put women on drugs that mess with hormones which make mole hills turn into mountains pretty fast in the marriage. This costs time and money that they may not have thus increasing the stress that much more. At some point, the couple has to consider different procedures and the ethics behind them. That will determine how far they will go in this journey. In other words, when do they give up?

Other plans might emerge but still the longing to be a parent is still there. Adoption starts to become an option but it is a totally unknown world. Domestic or international? Which agency? Is become a foster parent an option? How much? A question comes to the surface, "Will I be able to love this child that does not look like me?" Would it just be easier just to continue to be a DINK and pour ourselves into raising nephews, nieces, cousins and the children of friends?

There aren't just pressures within but pressures without as well that point to the injustice of two willing and able people failing to conceive. After all of this, the couple then sees alcoholic teenagers look at other and get pregnant. They ask themselves "Why do they deserve it?" They see people complain and abuse their children. They ask themselves, "why do they take their children for granted?"  Maybe that one (or 30th) time where the pregnancy test flashed positive only to miscarry, they ask themselves "why the tease?" All this complicates a tense situation where telling a couple to relax is like telling some one on fire to just cool off.

So what can you say to someone during this time that will help? More than anything we need to be affirmed that this is not our identity or incomplete because we are not parents. We need to know that while we were created to be fruitful and multiply, sin entered this world. It is unfair for all of the reasons you think. The world is broken. God understands. He gave his son to adopt you as his child. The "biological" child died for the "adopted" one(s). He rose from the grave with the promise that all that is broken will be made right. All that you need is found in man who was single and childless. He understands your longings but in Christ you are a new creation, new mind, new dreams, new goals. You are not justified through procreation. I am enough and you can trust me.

Paul words in 1 Corinthians 7 have been of great comfort. After a discussion of marriage, he writes [17] Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. [18] Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision. [19] For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God. [20] Each one should remain in the condition in which he was called. [21] Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. (But if you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity.) [22] For he who was called in the Lord as a slave is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a slave of Christ. [23] You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. [24] So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God. (1 Corinthians 7:17-24 ESV).

I will live as a DINK for the glory of God. In the meantime, I will pursue holiness and my new identity. I will seek your kingdom first, my wife second and becoming a parent third. I will rejoice when you bless others with pregnancy, whether i think they deserve it or not. In reality, non of us deserve it since we will all probably turn it into an idol that steals glory from you. I will weep with those that are hurting in this as well. This is what is best for me in spite of the fact if I understand it. I trust you because you have proven faithful in all areas before. All of the voices I hear are lies. I know you want us to be parents. I'll let you fill in the details how that will look (even if it is a no). I'm blessed with a wonderful wife and a wonderful life. I will rejoice in this moment and in this season as long as you will have me here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Substitute

It has been a while but I've been pretty busy. I've up dated my blog design. I had to stop blogging because I realized it was an escape. It was a substitute to ministry. If I wrote it, they will come. Putting things out on the Internet would be the same as me going out there myself. I failed to understand my context. I'm was a fool.

I'm realizing there is no substituting human contact. Since January 3rd, I've been substitute teaching at Vantage Career Center as a High School Science Teacher. Not only could we use the extra money but it was a good way to connect with people. I've learned a lot about this community through the conversations I've had with students. More information than I could have gotten from Internet research.

But I found something else out too. When I do Internet research, it is easy to get mad, enraged or frustrated with the area. I also got very discouraged because I was seeing God do amazing things elsewhere. I was subconsciously hoping to substitute my context with another in hopes to get the same "awesome" events.

While subbing though, my heart has changed. Hearing stories, seeing things first hand and being challenged with the sins of people have melted my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh. Is it easy? No. Do I feel drained most days? Yes. I now feel again. Those stats are now faces with stories.

God made us for flesh and blood interaction. The Internet is not a substitute for community. Jesus became flesh and blood to be our high priest to interact with us. He could have just researched us from heaven but no. He came down to "tabernacle" among us. Why can't I do the same?