Terminator and the laws of nature

Love is the most powerful weapon that we have as followers of Jesus. It isn’t truth, doctrine, convincing arguments, discernment or even clean living. The most powerful weapon that we have in our arsenal is love. I’ve seen love shine through illness, death, hate, racism, divorce, depression and regret. When you see love in these environments it is like seeing a rose in the desert. It’s like drinking from a pure fountain when you are about to die of thirst and like being next to a fire in the bitter cold. Suffering makes love stand out and it draws you in and warms you. That type of love is inexplicable.

SUPERNATURAL LOVE

It is not only hard to explain, it’s downright mysterious. When you get right down to it, there is absolutely no reason to show that kind of love while you are going through intense pain or when things in life are not going your way. It is enigmatic and supernatural.

Before you get spooked out on the word “supernatural” let’s take some cues from Webster’s and get on the same page. Here is a definition I’m fond of:

su·per·nat·u·ral (so͞opərˈnaCH(ə)rəl)/adjective “departing from what is usual or normal especially so as to appear to transcend the laws of nature.” (Merriam-Webster.com)

 To see people reach out to others who are suffering and show them a one sided, unreciprocated, unrelenting love, is… unnatural. It is uncommon and I would submit that it “transcends the laws of nature”. The laws of nature are eat or be eaten. The laws of nature dictate “only the strong survive”: kill or be killed. The laws of nature state that if you don’t pick yourself up by your bootstraps, you WILL get left behind. When you really think about it, the way the natural world operates is like a machine.

“I’ll be back” – Have you ever seen the movie Terminator? I know, dumb question. Even if you haven’t seen it, it is pretty easy to get the gist of it. A robot from the future is sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor who will be the mother of John Connor who eventually leads humanity in the war against the robots that are trying to stamp out humanity. You know, the classic feel good story. As a teen, I was obsessed with this movie. There is something terrifying about the whole concept of the movie. I mean when Mr. Universe gets mad at you, you better beef up your last will and testament!

I think that the reason movies and stories like “Terminator” are scary to us is because machines don’t feel, they don’t care and you can’t appeal to their humanity in any way to stop their course of action. In the words of Reese from “Terminator”: “It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead..” Wow, thanks Reese. I appreciate you softening the blow that a bloodthirsty robot bent on my destruction is virtually unstoppable. At least there’s that. If you’ll pardon me, I think I will put on some Pink Floyd, turn out all of the lights and eat a carton of ice cream just to cheer up.

Our lives are a little bit that way. Well, take out the bloodthirsty robot part. I think that’s why stories like this appeal to us on some level. Outside of any supernatural influence, the world that we live in is the same way. It is cruel, unfeeling and a it’s a machine that will chew you up and spit you out without blinking. That is the natural world that we live in. Have a nice day. (Wah waaaah) Seriously, the world that surrounds us doesn’t care what kind of day we’ve had, it doesn’t take into consideration what sort of tragedy we’ve experienced in our life and it certainly doesn’t have our best interest in mind.

I believe that there is something supernatural about love. It is hard to even explain what it is without getting kinda weird. Love is a feeling but it is much more than that. Love is an act of kindness but it is even more than that. Love is a way of viewing the world we live in but it is much more than that. It is all of the things that I mentioned before but significantly much, much more. When it comes right down to it, love is a way of life really.  Love is supernatural.  It transcends the laws of nature.  So what prompts us to live a life full of love?  We’ll talk about that next time.

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The Suicide Squad and Hero Mythology

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There’s no other way to say it.  I’m a nerd.  Not only am I a nerd, I’m pretty predictable nerd.  If Marvel puts out a movie, I’m going to watch it.  You want to make a movie about a guy that shrinks to the size of an ant and his arch enemy looks like a hornet? I’m in!  I’ll see it.  I may not go watch that one in the theater but you can bet I’ll watch it at some point.  Besides, Paul Rudd is money!!!  Guardians of the Galaxy 2, 3 and 4?  Front row baby (maybe more like the back row because you get a better view but front row has more oomph).  I’ll be there. Go ahead and repeat that last scenario with Captain America, Iron Man, Avengers, Thor and the likes and the result will be the same.

I’ve seen all of the new Batman movies and despite how badly I feel like the last Superman: Man of Steel movie was…I’ll be watching Batman vs Superman on the big screen.  Rooting for Batman of course.  Yes, I know that Superman has super strength and is virtually indestructable but we all know that Bruce Wayne is going to score some Kryptonite and make the fight worth our while.  I can’t wait!

I was a little conflicted however, when I heard that they were making a superhero movie about super villains.  I’m sort of a purist when it comes to superheroes.  I like my heroes good and my villain bad.  I get a little edgy when the lines are blurred on the two.  Sure, Batman has a tendency to push the boundaries a little bit but he was always still on the side of justice…with a side of vengeance.  I’ve been reading a lot of articles and I have watched the trailer for “Suicide Squad” in which Dead Shot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc and a few other baddies are recruited for impossible missions.  There is a lot of gray in this movie from the stand point of good and evil.  That being said, the writers and director (David Ayer) of this movie have done something really interesting with these characters, at least in the trailer.  You feel for them.

I think we all connect with characters who are down and out and have nothing to lose.  I am strangely intrigued by these guys I typically root against.  That’s just good writing!  Since my brain is always running and I can’t seem to turn it off, I have to wonder why am I rooting for them.  I think if I break it down a bit, I would say that we all see the bad in ourselves.  We are with ourselves 24/7 and we know our own thoughts and motivations.  We understand the capability that each one of us has for evil.  That can be overwhelming at times and we can sometimes begin to think that because of that, we can’t be used for good.

Enter in “The Suicide Squad”.  These criminals that have been thrown in a deep dark hole and then the hole has been thrown away, have the opportunity to do something valiant, to do something good.  I think we see the Suicide Squad in each one of us and we then find ourselves rooting for characters that we hope are redeemable.  That is the human story.  We are each capable of great evil but God wants to use us for good.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Since the movie doesn’t come out until 2016, I have no idea what the content of it is or even if it will be a good movie.  Quite honestly, I’m already wishing that Harley Quinn had longer pants on so I wouldn’t have a guilty conscience while watching the trailer.  That’s just me being real.  I do know that there is something inside of me that roots for these anti heroes because I also am also rooting for humanity and we’re all in the same boat:  fallen from grace but hoping for redemption.

“Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”                            –1 Corinthians 6:11

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You’re Being Lied To

“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  John 8:44

 That might seem a little harsh of Jesus. I mean isn’t Jesus our buddy and pal? How could He talk to people like that? If we put it into context, Jesus is in the middle of a discussion about truth. It was right after His infamous sound byte that most people are familiar with, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

What the group of religious people didn’t realize was that they had been lied to. They thought that the heart of the gospel was discipline and outward obedience. They’d reassure themselves by telling each other, “Doesn’t God want us to be good people? How could being extra good be wrong? Let’s be as good as we possibly can!” That doesn’t sound all of that bad does it? It’s a lot better than intentionally hurting people and embracing a destructive lifestyle right?

For context, Jesus had just finished telling them and everyone around them that they were slaves. The Pharisees didn’t really like that. You see they had been lied to and they didn’t even know it yet. They were slaves to a way of relating to God that actually put Him at a distance. The lie is that you can be good outwardly and God will love you more and you can earn a path to heaven. All lies. God loves you unconditionally and wants a relationship with you through Jesus.  That would mean that the Pharisees would have to abandon their religious practices that they had invested years and years of self-denial and of studying the law. What a waste!!!

These lies had seeped in like a poisonous gas, undetected, and it had affected them without their knowledge. Here’s the kicker, we might be tempted at this point to target the Pharisees as the ultimate enemy! They have changed God’s plan for humanity, misled hundreds of people, created a pace of life that is unsustainable for most people and driven them farther away from God! Not only that, they are actively pursuing Jesus and will even take a shot at his mom in John 8:41 by saying “We are not illegitimate children.” winking an eye to His virgin birth. Rumors were still circulating at the time about who Jesus’ father REALLY was. Low blow Pharisees, low blow.

I mean think about it. The last time someone took a shot at YOUR mom, which was probably in Middle School, how did you feel? Jesus would have been justified in making them the enemy. His disciples wouldn’t have batted an eye if He had made a hole open up underneath these guys and made them disappear. However, in this paragraph he points to the root of the issue. The root of the issue isn’t religion, or a people group or even a philosophy of life. The enemy, at a very basic level, is Satan and his lies. These people are simply under the influence and control of that power.

As followers of Jesus, we are under the same challenge.  Maybe it is people that are taking shots at what you believe.  They are in awe at your stupidity in following a dead guy that supposedly performed miracles.  They can’t believe you’d waste time reading an antiquated book full of fairy tales.  It could be that someone who has been wounded and damaged is hurting you.  You know, hurting people hurt right?  It could be as simple as an argument that you had at home with your spouse.  Don’t forget, we all get lied to.  We all get misled.  Those lies seep in like a poisonous gas.  The best we can do is cling to the truths that Jesus spoke of and lived out.  The more we reflect that example of love the better.

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Sweet Land of Liberty

On this fourth of July, I find myself incredibly grateful to live in this great country, even though we may not all agree on the decisions that our leadership makes.  However, that is one of the things that makes it so great.  We have a voice and we are able to express the things that we disagree on and we are allowed to weigh in on what we think might make it a better nation.  After watching this video from a TED talk that was filmed back in March, I realize that we still live in the greatest nation on the planet, even though we are not all on the same page.  Check this out.

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Noah and Marriage

Noah's Ark - Stained Glass

It is interesting that the rainbow is the symbol that seems to be stuck in the middle of this argument about marriage.  A lot of people get bent out of shape when they see the rainbow now because they feel like it has been stolen from a “biblical” point of view but maybe it helps us have at least one thing in common in this constant debate.

For people of the Christian faith, the rainbow is a symbol of grace, love, redemption and faithfulness.  God created the rainbow as a symbol that the flood that was visited on the earth, in ancient times, would not happen at that magnitude ever again.  When we see the rainbow, it reminds us of the God of grace.  It reminds us that when judgment should be visited on us, we get a beautiful rainbow instead.  All grace, no hate.  All mercy and no “getting what I deserve.”  The rainbow is a beautiful thing.  It reminds us of God’s faithfulness to us, despite what our response is to Him.

For a lot of people, the Supreme Court decision on marriage has caused a lot of anger.  It has sparked a lot of good and bad conversation in the last week.  I’ve read quite a few blogs on it and have been both proud and ashamed of a few of our Christian brothers and sisters for their commentary on it.  Marriage should be held in high regard and I do believe that God created marriage to be between a man and a woman.  However, like many situations in life, how we react in times like this will reveal the true nature of our heart (Luke 6:45), so we need to be careful how we respond to others.  Here are a few thoughts that I had about the issue.

1) No one can redefine marriage for you -If you believe that God defined marriage as a life long union between a man and a woman, as I do, don’t back away from that opinion (Genesis 2:18-24).  Don’t shove that opinion down everyone else’s throat, as if they HAVE to believe as you do.  That isn’t loving.  But if you are asked about your opinion, express it plainly and lovingly.  Make it clear what your opinion is, in a loving way, and then speak kindly to the other side of the argument.  Express love for them and speak to them as friends because they are.

2) Love is still the key identifying factor for us – Many people think the Bible says “They will know we are Christians because we have better and more logical arguments” or “Because we are right!!!”  What it really says is “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35).  Of course love is not telling people what they want to hear nor is it simply accepting someone.  Acceptance is a part of the deal though.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t acceptance of that person’s opinion necessarily.  It is accepting that person as a friend or someone that you can love.  Love also involves truth.  I am well aware of that.  (Ephesians 4:15).  That’s why I said in the previous section to speak what you believe to be true but do it lovingly. However, extending judgment to someone where we could have extended to them mercy, as God shows us mercy, is unacceptable (Ephesians 4:32).

3) Freedom of Religion is a Good Thing – Freedom of religion is something that this country was founded on.  Let me clear some things up before I continue with this point because some people are already mad after reading that statement.  Yes, I believe our kids should be allowed to pray in school.  Yes, I believe that freedom of religion means that children who are Jesus followers should be able to express their opinions, in a loving way, just like everybody else.  However, let’s speak honestly with one another.  We are living in a post Christian society.  Christianity is still the largest religion represented in America but the values of America no longer reflect Christianity.  So when the majority of people in America are not Christians, which is slowly happening, I want to be free to express my belief in Jesus as I see fit.  If we don’t have freedom of religion, that might not happen in the future.  Our founding fathers were pretty stinking smart.

4) Christianity Thrives as an Underground Movement – We don’t have to be in the majority to make an impact.  God, on average, uses a remnant of people who are faithful to Him to make an enormous impact on others.  See also Gideon, Daniel, the 12, and the early church.  Sure in Acts there is an enormous movement that occurs that catapults the numbers of church goers and the spread of Christianity.  I think that was absolutely necessary for the movement to continue and have the strength to scatter and reach the masses all over the globe.  That being said, we cannot legislate belief.  We can’t make laws to lead people to Christ.  But we can be true to our belief, love people as Jesus loved them and tell them about the transforming power of Christ.  Which leads me to my last point.

5) The Priority is the Gospel – My bottom line in life is that people hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and have a chance to respond.  Not only do I want them to respond on some level, I want them to be changed by it.  If I am spewing venom at a person that believes differently than I do, they will never hear that message.  Not only will they not hear it but they will look at that message with disdain, having never really heard the life saving message that God loves them, wants to know them and wants their life to be radically transformed by Him.  I need to go to God in prayer and ask Him to help me speak the truth in love.  Help me to discern between the moment where people need to know what my belief about the subject matter is and when do I need to simply love that person and wait for my next opportunity.

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The Dangers of Silence

Charleston

For the past year I’ve been working on a project called “First Church of the Broken”.  Currently, I am in chapter four and I have about three more chapters to go.  The premise of the book is “Loving others in a world that relentlessly tears them apart.”  I have felt for some time that this book desperately needed to be written but I’ve never felt more compelled than I have the last week following the evil acts that have occurred in Charleston South Carolina.

I am pretty cautious when talking about matters of race, due to the fact that I am white and cannot understand the pain of what has happened and continues to happen in our country over this issue, so I will keep it brief.  My heart hurts for the people of Charleston and for Emanuel Church.  They have been in my prayers since this has happened and my spirit is heavy because of the hatred that perpetrated this heinous act.  I don’t understand that side of this issue either.  I don’t get what drives people to hurt others in this way and it continues to confound and anger me.

Our country and churches are hurting from the problem of racism.  It is true that the root of the problem is sin and that our hearts are desperately evil and we struggle with this evil constantly.  However, I am a big fan of calling things by name in prayer to our God so let’s join together to do that.  Let’s pray for the problem of racism and pray that God will use us in a way that will combat this problem and not accelerate it or perpetuate it.  Let’s not bicker about semantics that some people use and let’s not argue about what the real problem is.  Let’s simply call it by name and pray that God would intervene.  Let’s pray for unity in our churches and ask God that we would not be part of the problem but part of the solution.

I am reminded that as a believer, my life is supposed to look like the life of Jesus.  Jesus approached people from different cultures, genders and races without hesitation and often shattered ancient barriers that were erected by well meaning but misguided people.  See also the woman at the well, the Roman soldier, the parable of the Good Samaritan, ….and I could keep going.  My point is that when it comes to loving people, there should be no boundaries.  (Galatians 3:28).

We need to love all people relentlessly and ask God for healing and that He would use us to be a part of that process.  That is the prayer I will pray for me and my family.   I will also be praying this for you as well.  One love, one Spirit and one purpose.  (Phil 2:2)

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Seventeen Years

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Armageddon had just come out, Friends was still on television and the search engine Google was founded.  The Bulls were the NBA national champions.   Clinton was impeached.  (No comments please).  “Gettin’ Jiggy with it” was a really popular song.  Try getting that song out of your head now.  (Na-na, na, na, na-na, na…you’re turn.) You’re welcome.

The year was 1998 and it was also the same year that Jenn and I were married.  Hands down, one of the best decisions that I’ve ever made.  Outside of following Jesus, it is the decision that has impacted my life the most.  We recently went out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary and reflected on the last seventeen years of our life together.  It was crazy to think about how much time has past and how much our lives have changed.

One of the things that struck me was how much I’ve learned about the topic of love.  Going into our marriage, I loved Jenn.  There was no question about that.  It was a fledging love for sure but it was definitely love.  Based on her character and her life style, I was ready to spend a lifetime loving this woman.  But did I really know what that entailed?  Of course not.  Like many twenty somethings that tie the knot, I had no idea what I was getting myself into (she would tell you the same).  Seventeen years later, I am pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve learned from our relationship.  Here are just a few things that struck me.

I learned that love doesn’t stop, even when I’m suffering.  Thankfully the love that I receive and give needs to keep going.  Jennifer and I have loved through the loss of loved ones, the loss of dreams (not permanently), the loss of sanity (kids), the loss of direction in life and financial loss.  When we are able to choose that, because love isn’t a feeling it is a choice, our love grows and strengthens.  And it has done that.  (Romans 8:38-39)

I’ve also come to the realization that I need to choose to love the strengths of my wife.  She has to do the same with me.  It would be easy for us to chose to focus on the things that we aren’t doing right, that annoy us.  Okay, that would be a lot easier for Jenn to do than me.  She’s perfect.  :) But by choosing to love her strengths, and vice versa, I’m reminded of what I love about her.  If I’m doing this right, I’m shown new reasons why I love her. (Philippians 2:2-8)

Finally, something else that we’ve done right, (and we’ve made plenty of mistakes) is that we’ve chosen to love each other with the love Jesus has shown us.  We love each other with grace.  We have to come to a place where we realize that as individuals we are flawed.  We are broken.  The great thing is that God loves us despite our flaws.  Knowing that is pretty freeing.  I don’t have to earn His love.  If I know that, I’m free to love others in the same way.  I’m not setting up a paradigm where people have to earn favor with me.  I just love them. (Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:8)

Honestly, time and space do not permit me to write down all of the lessons that I’ve learned about love over the years but these would definitely be in my top ten.  It has been a great seventeen years with my wife and I’ve been thankful and grateful to have learned them with her.  Peace out peoples.

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