Cru @ Sru : Ask Anything Night (Part 4)

You can visit Pages One, Two, or Three in the series, or just scroll down on the home page.

 

I am graduating soon and am very unsure of what I’m going to do with my life. How do some people find it so easy to put all their stress on God and not on themselves? 

They’re faking. Haha.

If I would spend any considerable amount of time pondering the reality that God can (and often does) bring about unexpected change,I’d curl up in the fetal position in the middle of the road for fear of coming upon a fork in the road or a tunnel. (that’s a metaphor) When I arrived at Grove City College in 1997, I was a pre-med atheist. When I graduated, I was a Christian biz management major. I worked in sales & management with building materials, installing windows & mirrors, laser engraving (which then became the first business I started on my own), considered grad school (I was going to get a PhD to teach business until I was rejected), started a graphic design business, and then answered the call to ministry, which has been the most steady period of my life by far.

All that to say, I had no clue what life was going to look like. But I found an amazing wife along the way, some great friends, started a family, and lived.  We’ve moved our family. I’ve walked away from one job with no other job on the horizon. You just don’t know. But there is a contentment at knowing whose hands are forming the clay (see Post #3 and Philippians 4:13)

Everyone handles stress differently. There is no fast-track to surrender and contentment. I promise, though, that the closer you walk with Jesus, you’ll find peace there… not necessarily calm or quiet, but real peace. Peace is not tied to circumstance, nor is contentment or joy. They are in a glorious, divine, saving Person. Seek first his kingdom! They are cliched and overused statements, but they are true. It will look different for you than it did for me, but the great news is that the object of our affection is consistent, and so the result for both of us will be glory.

 

Is smoking weed a sin? 

I’m sorry to provide a redirect, but I’ve appreciated this article, and so I feel it’s a great share for a perspective on marijuana.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/don-t-let-your-mind-go-to-pot

 

Why does God not perform any more of the big miracles he did in the Bible? 

You’ll get two answers here, depending on who you ask. Some would say he still does. Some would say he has stopped. Interesting, isn’t it?

I believe God is still God, unchanging and ever present. As such, I believe he still, at times, does the same things… I would also argue, though, that he does them for the same reasons. In the New Testament, particularly the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit is the “main character,” taking center stage through the spread of the gospel, validating the ministry of the early church through repeated acts of power. In other words, as the gospel extended further and further from Jerusalem, the good news was accompanied by testimonial acts of God’s power as a form of validation. These acts were extraordinary and “proved” the gospel to an increasingly hostile world. I’ve spent enough time with missionaries to believe that God still works in power to validate the truth of the gospel as needed. However, salvation comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. In other words, it’s not the “sign” that saves, it’s the gospel. God has given us all that we need to experience the greatest miracle of all.

Reaching back even further to the Old Testament, which in many cases included a different set of miracles, I would present an additional thought. The many acts of deliverance by God in the form of extraordinary manifestations (the Exodus as a huge example) served to reveal God’s character and nature, all the while preparing the world for the ultimate expression of the miraculous – the incarnation. God in flesh, walking the earth in perfection. People could touch and speak to the Creator of the universe in the person of the Son. Amazing! Not a moment, but decades with the God-man. The miracles of the Old Testament prefigured a great many details of the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. The miracles were shadows, hints at a greater reality, whereas Christ was – and is – the full representation. It’s funny, most think parting the Red Sea was a big deal, but dismiss the unthinkable – that God would not only take on a human nature, but sacrifice it in an act of supreme love. How glorious!

Likewise, in modern terms, the regeneration of a human heart from a state of enmity with God to one of eternal life is a miracle we cannot fully comprehend… yet we ask to see something else, because “seeing is believing.” We’ve been asked to take hold of a spiritual reality – the most concrete truth – without sight. Our definition of miraculous (mine included – there are days I just want to see amazing things!) is short sighted, because we are limited by our five senses. The Scriptures promise that one day faith will be made sight… then the stories of old will seem as miniscule compared to the fully revealed glory of God in the salvation he provided.

 

Why should people believe God is real?

There are folks who dedicate their whole lives to coming at God from a purely rational perspective. The field is called Christian Apologetics. Some are great in this field. Ravi Zacharias is probably the best if you’re into the YouTube. However, one thing cannot be underestimated, and that is the biblical reality that apart from Christ, our understanding is darkened. Grace awakens in us the capacity to understand things that our sinful hearts are not inclined to acknowledge. I bring this up to say, there is – and until Christ returns there will always be – a critical element of faith to this question.

However, to give an overly simplistic answer in the form of a question and a statement – I would encourage you to give these some thought… If there is a sovereign God who is responsible for creating everything out of nothing, then is it fair to say that he is entitled to establish the rules and judge the outcomes? As an unfortunately combative side thought, but one that speaks into your question, I’ll share this. If Christians are wrong, then they’ve wasted their lives pursuing faith, hope, and love. If the atheist is wrong, they’ve wasted their eternity. Again, harsh, but intended to further raise the idea of consequence. I find the matter of consequence to be a significant motivation to consider the biblical narrative.

 

Are there requirements to get into heaven?

According to Scripture, only perfect righteousness is worthy of heaven. No mere human has ever attained righteousness. Due to our sin nature it is impossible. Christ was born in order to live a perfectly righteous life, which accomplishes two things… first, his perfection enabled him to bear the weight of sin as the perfect sacrifice – sin deserves death… in order for God to be just, death is required. So as Jesus died, he was bearing a penalty that he did not deserve, a feat only possible for one who is without sin. Second, his perfection is then credited to the believer in what is traditionally called the great exchange… Christ takes sin, the believer takes righteousness. With this righteousness in our accounts (so to speak, for there is far more than a mere transaction), we are free to approach God. This imputed (gifted) righteousness, then, satisfies the requirement. This is why salvation, for the Christian, is the gift of God, given by grace (unmerited favor) through faith.

 

 Is there only one God? 

According to the Bible, yes. The doctrine of the Trinity is mysterious… that we have one God, eternally existing as three persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These are not three manifestations of one God, or three representations of one big idea of God. Three distinct persons, yet one God. The Father is God, but the Father is not the Son or the Holy Spirit. The Son is God, but the Son is not the Father or the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God, but he is not the Father or the Son. The only word to describe this is a mystery, but it is the revealed truth of God’s word. If the Bible is true, then yes – there is only one God.

 

Is believing in God possibly just ignorance for us not knowing where we started from? 

One of the arguments in favor of God, proposed by Anselm, is the Ontological argument. Oversimplified, the argument states that the idea of God is evidence for the existence of God. There is something inherent in the concept of a supreme being that suggests his existence. I believe it unconvincing that man could invent such a being. Moreso, I find it even less convincing in light of the reality that the concept of God has not only be sustained, but increased in time, even if not every expression of deity is in line with the truth. The pursuit of deity is a human norm… far beyond any simple ignorance.

The irony of Scripture is that the word makes clear the fact that our unbelief is a result of not knowing where we started from.

 

 

This was a longer post, but I’m still working through questions! Please keep checking back for additional food for thought!

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In Brief : Daytripper

2016 ReadingTitle: Daytripper : Deluxe Edition
Author: Gabriel Ba & Fabio Moon

Pages: 256

The premise of Daytripper is fascinating. Bras de Oliva Domingos is an obituary writer. It is fitting, then, that in each issue this man, whose vocation is death, would himself meet his end. Ba & Moon have masterfully written a unified arc that is unexpectedly cut short in every episode. I can only imagine they began by writing the life of Bras, and then explored what it would have looked like had he perished in various circumstances that came to define his life.

The stories are not chronologically arranged, a detail which shines light on the grown man before considering the possibility of a much earlier demise. It is helpful to catch a glimpse of the man Bras will be before looking, for example, at his childhood.  

The series itself stands, in the writers’ own words, as an honest meditation on mortalityThey’ve succeeded. Daytripper raises wonderful questions as to the significance of a life, and the value of knowing the full story before casting a lasting judgment.

I can honestly say that the final two issues of the series take an interesting story and infuse it with meaning. Without them, the story would be far more tragic. These final reflections frame the authors’ efforts and make the story extraordinary. I share this, not as a spoiler, but as an encouragement to see the parts in light of the whole. In that regard, their story writing mirrors the story they wrote.

As a fair warning, the book does contain panels that are inappropriate for children. As much as I’ve grown to love the graphic novel as a medium, I sure wish folks believed they could write a real story without necessarily showing everything. It’s almost as if there’s an unwritten code in the industry that there must be at least a few nude panels, some blood, and  curse words. As it turns out, humans have been blessed with a certain creativity that enables us to fill in blanks. But that’s a commentary for another day.

 

 

daytripper4

 

Ba & Moon, by varying the timing and circumstances of death, demonstrate their point, that the end casts its shadow over the minutiae of the middle. What might have seemed a tragedy in the middle becomes a mere stepping stone, and what appeared to be the best day proves to be nothing more than a dangerous snare. The final perspective is set by the instance of death. Unforeseen fatalities keep the tragedy a tragedy, and the best the best, removing the opportunity to see growth dependent upon survival.

Were the authors to lay out all of the possibilities and then choose a particular instance of death and declare, “this is how it really happened,” (something like the end of one of my favorite movies, Clue) they would have introduced an entirely different effect. In light of the proposed possibilities held within the life of Bras, this would have stirred a set of emotions and forced a particular judgment. But by merely exploring the possibilities, Ba & Moon have instead raised a number of wonderful questions on the effect of mortality and the valuable process of life.

Daytripper calls upon the reality that moment by moment our stories are being written, as are the stories of all humanity. Every encounter might be a piece of tragedy, or a slice of the best. The final determination will become clear when death enters the picture. In many ways, Daytripper awakens the sense that our limited human perspective means that we rarely (if ever) understand the purpose, effect, or alternative possibilities of any given moment. We cast our efforts, be they in love or enmity, without any substantial perspective. We inherently lack divine perspective.

 

daytripper2

 

As an honest meditation on mortality, the effect of death upon life is central to Daytripper. Ba & Moon offer encouragement to embrace the reality of death, without being so bold as to suggest exactly what that will look like. Instead, their engaging efforts allow you to walk away into meditations of your own.

If you are not easily offended or tempted by the more depraved panels, I would highly recommend the series. The challenge within is compelling.

 

A Christian Consideration

Our brains may acknowledge death, but that doesn’t mean our hearts are prepared. In reality, we fear death. Death raises questions we aren’t, by nature, excited to answer. But just because we fail to see the baby grand piano hanging by a frail thread above our heads (a la Looney Tunes), doesn’t mean it’s not there.

I am thankful for Christ. He has not only conquered death, but the fear of death as well.

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself [that is, Christ] likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Death has no hold upon the Christian heart. Death has been defeate, losing its sting. The slavery of fear has been eternally broken by the Son of God who died in our place. This does not mean death is no longer a reality. Sadly, we must still face death until Jesus returns to make all things new. However, death has been put in divine perspective for the Christian. The work accomplished by Jesus has enabled the Christian to see death through God’s eyes, and to rest confident that the enemy has been defeated, that resurrection is the final reality. Resurrection and life embraced by grace through faith.

For the Christian, the consideration of death being in a state of care by the Lord Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, the concern moves as well to the life and death of others. I meet Bras every day. Men and women, created in the image of God, growing by their experiences, unwilling to face the fear of death and unaware of the hanging piano.

Even with a hint of divine perspective, though, I am incapable of fully discerning the heart condition beneath the surface. What I see as tragedy, God may be working for their glory. What I see as joy may be nothing more than the deep and dangerous snare of sin. How do we move forward in such ignorance?

With love.

Love meets the tragedy and the joy as a single facet of a much larger picture over which we have no control, and over which Jesus is Lord.

When we reach the end, I mean the REAL end, the picture will be clear. The moments will make sense. The minutiae will have had a purpose. And Jesus will be praised.

For now, I rest my ignorance at the foot of the cross, gaze upon my Savior, and go out to love.

Make no mistake, Daytripper will awaken something in your heart.

 

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“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory? 
O death, where is your sting?”
(1Corinthians 15:55)