Not-So-Superheroes

P_20170403_112228_1“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord Acton

I think comic-cons and opening nights for Marvel movies are so popularized because in some weird way, superhero universes are so relatable. I know that sounds so backwards since we know it is completely unrealistic to scroll Twitter and catch a teenager actually slinging through Manhattan with web-powers. But really think about it, most of us love some kind of super-powerful story: Dragonball Z, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel or DC. . . And think about how crazy praised TV shows like the Flash and Green Arrow are becoming. Whether we are publicly known for our love of these superheroes or they are our guilty pleasure, most of us can admit we get sucked into the character building that is so familiar and interesting. And of course, we are all living in a common world experiencing an epic tale of Good vs. Evil.

Recently, I skimmed an article about some of the most powerful superheroes who won’t use their power to their full potential. Originally thinking “I would want to use all my powers if I was them, what’s the deal?”, the point made total sense by the end. Glancing through the vibrant comic book pictures of some of my favorite all-time heroes and with the nostalgia of their backstory in mind, I started to read about how they purposefully limited their power use for good reason. The common thread I found was that they did this in order to never become that which they hate. Villains are the ones without boundaries, who crave unlimited power with a heart bent on evil. The real heroes remain steadfast in utmost character and caliber by limiting themselves for the sake of saving themselves from becoming all-powerful because absolute power corrupts absolutely. Their commitment to good and to putting others first outweighed the maximizing of their abilities even if it meant it would be much more exhausting to destroy evil-doers. Truly, they know their role; Humbling themselves enough to not play God.

There’s a God-fearing man in the Bible named Gideon who was a normal guy like you and me who felt like he was the least capable in not just his entire clan, but even just his immediate family. He felt small and pretty much the opposite of intimidating. And then one day something happened . . . (Sounds like the perfect set up to a prototypical superhero plot line, eh?) . . . The Angel of the Lord came from Heaven assigning Gideon to a heroic task far beyond him and his current ability. God was going to take this underdog and make him a great leader over armies to destroy his enemies.

With the power of God, not of Gideon.

After some negotiating, Gideon finally believed the Lord and trusted that it was not he who could take on such a duty, but it would depend on God with him. So he went. With God’s power on him, he put armies of hundreds of thousands to flight with only 300 men! Like anyone else (including you or I), those who witnessed Gideon’s success and supernatural ability to fight and lead thought he was a perfect fit to rule and to govern them. After putting several victories in the W column, “the men of Israel said to Gideon, ‘Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian'” (Judges 8:22). His people who doubted him and thought little of him before, wanted an immediate election to put him in office to lord over them. They wanted to give him absolute power. Knowing this would corrupt him and remembering where his strength came from, ‘Gideon said to them, ‘I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you'” (8:23). He limited his own power. Gideon illustrates the same high level of character as that of our favorite fictional supermen and there’s something unique about him that makes us desire a way to get in on this too.

Gideon is an underdog, has doubting thoughts, desires something to change in the world of rampant evil around him but knows he has no ability to carry it out. But he trusts God’s ability to put his Super on his natural. God could be calling to you in a radical way to make a dent in his perfect work to thwart evil. Just like Gideon. You’re allowed to doubt, wrestle, find his word illogical. But obey and see what he does. With the power of God, not of you.

 

Back To Eden

eden

Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (Colossians 3:9-10)

I have to flip the channel when I see that commercial where a girl tries to pay for her cigarettes by picking patches of her skin off and placing them on the counter. It’s haunting! When you see these terms like we have to put off the old self and put on the new self, you can start to think weird things like What, do I need to pay for this “new self” by shedding my old skin like that nasty ad?” 

The new self is a back to Eden mindset. Before the Fall, our way of thinking followed the compass of God’s good revelation, void of evil. As we know, evil entered as the corrupting agent in our thought life with just one bite.

But we have a Lord who purchased this curse. One who calls us from the deathly bite in the garden to the fruit of the Spirit that will renew our knowledge after the image of its creator. To this Lord we are able to submit every thought for his dealing.

Just like we put on new clothes each day (hopefully) we must decide to put on the new self that is progressively refreshing to the original design.

Lord let us be done with the old and embrace the new that has been ushered in by the grace of our creator.

By Faith: Noah

Have you ever felt God call you to do something that just didn’t seem logical? Your default response might have been to disregard the prompt and push it as far away from the forefront of your mind as possible. Or you may have answered back something like “Good one Lord, we both know that’s not going to work.” Perhaps another option you considered was “I’m not called to that” or “doing something like that doesn’t fit my gifting”. There are these awkward moments in the Christian race where we somehow think it seems plausible to tell our Caller – the Author and Perfecter – of our faith that he should rethink what he said and get back to us.

If we imagine ourselves in the thick of Noah’s story, we would know how foolish our responses can be. Let’s dive into that.

If Noah could have went to college, he would have been an agriculture student not a carpenter. Nobody would have taken his resume to build a mammoth ark. Furthermore, Noah lived in a land of intense drought for a long, long time. This dude probably can’t remember the last time he felt a rain drop. . drop top. . let’s not get off track. Can you fathom getting this call from God, when all you want to do is farm but you live in a desert wasteland? And God says, actually you are going to build a giant boat that can withstand the most rain this world has ever seen. Yeah right. Your mind would immediately go to the flack you’ll receive from neighbors, the lack of textbooks you have on wood working, and the tempting idea that erecting a flood ship is probably pointless. And that even [gasp] God may be wrong. But it was not Noah’s credentials or years of experience that landed him this call to the hall of faith. It was indeed solely on the merit of his faith in a great God. To such an absurd task from on high, the Scripture tells us – “Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22).

You may be thinking Man, how many spiritual push ups do I need to do to get half that kind of faith?” Wrong thinking. Noah was just a normal, fouled up human being like you or I. Remember that even after his stunning accomplishment when the lush lands once again breathed in nourishment, Noah planted a vineyard and enjoyed his homebrew a bit too much.

God uses flawed human beings with an ounce of faith to write his narrative.

Our Lord calls his sons and daughters to the illogical daily. However, it is not always going to be as seemingly epic as the story of Noah. Luckily it doesn’t have to be because God said “I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth”! (Thank you Noah for taking that job off our hands): It may be that you are called to engage a hurting a person in a parking lot when you feel you don’t have the time. Teach the Bible and read it with a co-worker or fellow student when you don’t feel like you are a quality teacher. Invite your neighbors over for coffee and pray for spiritual conversation when you want to binge Netflix. Save up to go serve in an international mission instead of that trip to the beach this summer. Allow God’s Spirit room to direct your next steps of faith.

The most important takeaway from any of the character stories in the hall of faith is that God puts his Extra on their ordinary (and most of them are even less than admirable). We should long for him to do the same with us. By faith.

By Faith: Abel

‘Mericans are exceptional in the depressing sport of Foodball. Like, we literally take food and shoot it in the hoop that is the kitchen waste basket. If we are honest, we splurge on way too much food for the one or two meals we have in mind for the week. We get in the lab that is our kitchen to innovate an Instagram-worthy dish that will dazzle our family and friends #Delicious. Then we are either ill-equipped to creatively use left-overs or we lazily let the unused groceries hang out until the marked day of their calculated death and they are tossed to the curb.

We are really good at thinking of ourselves first.

In terms of food, this is clearly true in the US. As I said, most of us buy too much, accomplish what we set out to do with the ingredients, and waste the rest. According to Feeding America, there is an estimated 70 billion pounds of food waste in America each year. I don’t even have a word for how stunning that number is. What a waste of resources and an assault on God’s blessing.

A man by the name of Abel knew not to offend God with his first-fruits and only serve himself. Hebrews 11:4 references the early Genesis story – “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.” Genesis 4 tells us that Abel was the keeper of sheep and his brother Cain was responsible for working the ground. So a shepherd and a farmer walk into Garden Bar and. . . nevermind. . . So Cain the farmer’s love for God and his respect for his resources lacked considerably compared to his brother Abel the shepherd. Their story goes something like this:

“In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry and his face fell” (Genesis 4:3-5).

We could unpack this like so: Abel immediately thanked the Lord for what was given to him as blessing by offering the first and best of what he received back to the One who gave it to him in the first place. His heart was oriented towards the hand of the Lord, the Giver of good gifts. Meanwhile Cain, lacking affinity for the Lord and selfish in his heart, checked his “giving back to God” chore list off by offering his left-overs.

The American issue I mentioned before, does it sound more like it comes from a heart and thought process like Cain or Abel? And for you, just you personally – are you offering your very best to God from a depth of love, purity and thankfulness to our Lord or are you bringing him a to-go box with what you could find nearing its expiration date?

We should long for God to be pleased with the offering of our lives (and stop dropping so much money at the grocery store like dang!). . .  Allow God to put his Extra on your ordinary as he did with Abel. By faith.

By Faith: Rahab

“By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.” Hebrews 11:31

There is something really gritty about authentic faith that God endorses. We often associate faith with passivity and waiting for God. But Rahab’s story of faith involves lying, deceiving, negotiating and oh yeah. . . the main character is a prostitute. Activating faith got her hands dirty unlike the big, glittered, bubble letters that spell F-A-I-T-H in the last Christian school I walked in.

We might say these are actions that we would not want to instill in our children. And we would be right. But that’s not the point of this story. The point of focus lies in two far more important ideas: her heart and her priorities.

Rahab’s heart was to save the lives of the spies who would have surely been killed if not for her intervention. There was no other way to divert their attention than to tell the rally of enemy troops to go look somewhere else and fabricate a story. Her priority of authority aligned in a way that we should fashion for ourselves and others. She believed and feared God over anyone else based on her tale in the book of Joshua – “for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath” (Joshua 2:11).

This is surely not a narrative describing a pale and passive faith. Neither is it rooted in a character who lied and deceived for her own selfish benefit. This is a flawed human being like you and me, acting as a hero of faith when she had no idea she was one – simply because she put God and his work first, allowing her to partner with him. She is not a hero because she lived perfect but because she worked with God in his perfect work.

The most important takeaway from any of the character stories in the hall of faith is that God puts his Extra on their ordinary (and most of them are even less than admirable). We should long for him to do the same with us. By faith.

Benching Jesus

For many of us seasons of soul care are on a pendulum. If we are honest, there are times when we bench Jesus due to the issues of our humanity. Apathy, discontentment, distraction and procrastination can be a part of us just as much as our limbs are. We are silly and fickle trading Jesus to the alternate team when we force our efforts and attentions elsewhere. The reality is Jesus is the source of life to the degree of Abundant. And he can breathe such life into every nook, cranny and category of our lives; And every fiber of our being.

14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” 15 And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Luke 7:14-15

Did you know that to any priest, prophet or really to any person that understood Israelite heritage at this time, what Jesus engaged in was considered ceremonially unclean? This is how counter-cultural Jesus was. With relentless care for a woman and her dead son, Jesus enters a taboo situation as he lays a finger on the bier that the boy rest on. A bier would have been like a bench, or an open coffin, that they rest the boy’s lifeless body on for carrying. To any witness, they must have been thinking “That isn’t allowed, right?!” This is “dirty” and honestly disrespectful in the culture. But the boy is yanked out of death and back to life. Jesus is never concerned with how we view him, he offers life anyway.

When we bench Jesus, we only seek to ignore the One who can touch the bench of a young man without a pulse and restore cadence to his beating heart. Today, stop the pendulum swinging. Stop everything you are doing for a moment and invite Jesus into every department of your life. For he can revitalize every “dirty” situation.