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


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.

The Great American Love Affair: Part 2

This post is appearing on “the green room” which is a blog by the students and alumni of Eternity Bible College. These are my opinions and in no way does what I write in this series exclusively express the positions of Eternity Bible College’s students, staff or alumni. The hope is that if there is disagreement, that we could do what Christians ought to do and dialogue in a healthy, scripturally based manner. 

This series, The Great American Love Affair comes from a current Eternity student, Stephen McMahon.

In my last post, I talked a little bit about my background with American Nationalism and how the Gospel confronts these issues. Today I want to dive a little more into what a Gospel-centered perspective is on some of the issues I previously introduced…

Christian living 

The process of refinement is necessary for all Christians on a daily basis. Addressing generally long accepted issues like Nationalism, racism, consumerism, and oppression that clash with the Gospel can be awkward and painful, but is very much needed to grow in Christ-likeness. When confronting a problem, a better solution must be given.

Luckily, we don’t have to speculate on what Jesus would want. Our literal, political King shows us exactly how to live this out, and is demonstrated by His life as described in the Gospels. Jesus had many followers in his life but the closest to Him were His 12 disciples. One of these men was Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, Jesus knew would deliver Him to His death at the hands of the Romans. Jesus himself submitted to His betrayer and His captors all the way to death. One of the 12 at the time of the betrayal reacted just as most of us would. Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus, (and probably himself) from harm and cut off a guard’s ear. Jesus’ response in Matthew 26: 52-54 is the evidence that the kingdom He is the King of is not defined by the sword, but by submission. In the text, Jesus says if the sword were the way of His kingdom, he would have called down legions of angels to save Him and destroy His oppressors instantly.

Concerning the oppressed, Jesus also shows us the way of the kingdom in His life. Jesus’ interactions with the poor, diseased, and outcasts were always defined with love and care. He healed the sick and fed the hungry and calls all those who choose to follow Him to do the same. Jesus was constantly being mocked and challenged because of the company He kept. As previously stated in part 1, many people do help the poor and the sick but the difference is in His complete devotion to these people. Looking at Nationalistic American churches, it is hard to see the same commitment as we see in Jesus. Our individualistic society condemns those who won’t help themselves, and we subscribe to our humanistic, individualistic culture in the way we diagnose and look for the quick fix solution to these issues. If you’re sick, we have a pill for that. If you’re poor, get a job. If you’re an addict, there’s a program for you. Jesus’ prescription is holistic and calls for the church to step in and sacrifice our comforts and desires and to surround, support and help those in need. Was there any agenda more important to Jesus than loving people?

The ultimate temptress, money. 

It’s pretty clear that Americans have a love affair with material things and it is these love affairs that end up dropping us into a selfish, individualistic, material-chasing mindset. Materialism/money is one of the biggest detriments to a Christian life. The pursuit of it will literally determine the path of one’s life and the choices they make. The idea of security or pleasure through money, or what it can buy, drives people to ignore all else and pursue a life of faith in their own work. We all “need” money to survive, to function on a basic level. What we do to attain it, or when we go beyond “need” to “want” and sustenance to gross decadence is when it becomes the idol and guide of our lives. The spread of the Gospel should be the most important thing in a believer’s life, and money is not evil, but when the acquisition of wealth derails or distracts one from the pursuit of the Gospel, and our focus is turned inward, it becomes a major problem. When we choose to build our kingdom, we become self-focused.

Jesus’ Kingdom, not America’s

Jesus’ kingdom is a kingdom of justice; justice that is redemptive, not retributive. It is a holistic healing that meets people where they are, in their mess and brokenness, regardless of their situation. Jesus calls for His followers to care for the hurting, broken, lowliest members of our society: the outcasts. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Jesus’ plan for the broken can be seen in His life and how he treated them. He was constantly feeding the hungry, welcoming the children, and healing the sick. Even though we don’t see these miracles in the same dramatic fashion today, the command to care for the broken is still the same. The church in America spends an excess amount on buildings and programming and coffee. What if this money was used to buy food to feed the poor or medical care to help heal the sick? What if children’s ministry actually meant ministering to the broken children of the world by selling our stuff that we don’t need in order to start a massive adoption movement?

Consider this: “1.5 billion followers of Christ own two-thirds of the world’s resources and have an average yearly income more than three times that of non-Christians. Not all Christians, however, are materially wealthy. Almost 200 million live in absolute poverty, while 750 million of their fellow Christians live in affluence. Although most well-off Christians support relief, on average they give less than 3 percent of their income to Christian ministries. If they were to give even a tithe, Barrett concludes that “to a large extent, the global sharing by Christians of money, wealth, property, and goods could solve most of the problems of famine, poverty, disease, unemployment, dangerous water supply and so on”. (Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries, 292)

Gospel allegiance means allegiance to Jesus alone 

The Gospel is the good news. It is the way to true fulfilling life. The Gospel offers freedom from worries and cares of this world, healing the sick, salvation for the oppressed and vindication for the guilty. When individual Christians and the church preach a message of salvation and freedom without practicing the realities that Jesus calls His followers to, this message is dulled and does not translate to the hearer. Faith without works is dead. James 2:14-26 shows how intimately tied together works and faith are. These are not works to earn salvation but they are works that show the reality of our faith and how the Gospel is lived.

When the church gives its full allegiance to Christ the King, priorities will change. When our securities are founded in Christ, we are free to love our enemies in an extreme way. The love and pursuit of money turn us into self-focused consumerists and Jesus asks us to give up our desires, plans, and use our money for the good of others. We can’t serve God and money. It is up to us as Christians to choose this day whom we will serve.