Christianity, current events, God, religion

The Superman Questions

Charlie Rose: “What are we talking about then? Must there be a Superman?”
Senator June Finch: “There is.”
Dialogue from the movie “Batman v. Superman” (2016)

In the Batman v Superman movie, there is a scene where various contributors discuss the Superman question and its implications. What does it mean to have a being in your midst whose power transcends and overshadows anything humanity has? The very possibility of such a reality is frightening. Vikram Gandhi raised the point that while most people believe in a higher power, when a savior character actually does come, we want him to abide by our rules. Andrew Sullivan was concerned about what, if any, moral constraints this person would follow. Glen Woodburn rightly points out that humanity has often followed after powerful people into great atrocities. Niel DeGrasse Tyson points out how having a Superman challenges our place in the universe, and shows that mankind doesn’t hold a special place in the universe after all. Charlie Rose and Senator June Finch are concerned about Superman’s interventions in human history because he acts as he sees fit (unilaterally) rather than by the consent and will of the people. These are all interesting contributions, but let’s examine the question Charlie Rose asks Senator Finch.

Must there be a Superman? Yes, because humanity has a depravity problem and we cannot solve this problem with our own power and wisdom. People don’t get along well with each other, and there should be no argument on this point because there is so much empirical evidence to support it. People malign one another and gossip about others. People divide themselves into groups based on ethnicity, economic status, etc., and are suspicious and even hostile to outsiders. When they don’t have what they want, they quarrel and fight one another to get it. We have seen rulers throughout history rise to power and then become depraved and murderous. This all points to the work of depravity, and something that is missing in the human condition, an empty place in every human heart that needs to be filled to make us complete so that we can overcome the effects of depravity: So that we will stop using our words to destroy other human beings and lift them up instead. So we come together in true unity and not divide into cliques and groups. So that leaders will rule wisely and well, and the people won’t live in fear of a government that has gone out of control. Humanity has been plagued by its problems for thousands of years, and to paraphrase the Humpty-Dumpty fairy tale, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t make humanity whole again,” even though they have tried for throughout time. Since we cannot solve our own problems with our power and wisdom, it follows that we need someone who has power and wisdom that is greater than humans who can solve the problems of depravity. The good news is that there really is a Superman today, but this person isn’t a man in a cape flying around saving the day. The real Superman has powers that far exceed anything the creators of the caped Superman could ever conceive of.

The real Superman and the most powerful man the world has ever known is our Savior, Jesus, and as such it is not surprising that He is also a figure of controversy. Throughout the centuries since He walked among us, He has been loved by some, vilified by others, and misunderstood by many. When Jesus asked His disciples who the people said He was, some said He was John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. Then He asks the disciples “who do you say that I am?” and Peter replies “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16: 13-16). When Peter identifies Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, he shows us that Jesus is not an ordinary man. Jesus is the “theanthropos,” the God-man. He is fully human and fully divine. Jesus’ life and works also testify that He is no ordinary man. In John we read this about His divine identity:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4, NASB)

John goes on to say: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1: 10 NASB). Can you imagine that? The Creator of everything came down to Earth and lived among us! He created us in His image, and He took on the form of man when He came down to us. He was God in the flesh, the theanthropos! Listen to what the writer of Hebrews tells us about Him; it’s truly awesome:

But of the Son He says ‘THY THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. THOU HAST LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, THY GOD, HATH ANOINTED THEE WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE THY COMPANIONS.’ And ‘THOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING DIDST LAY THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT THOU REMAINEST; AND THEY WILL BECOME OLD AS A GARMENT, AND AS A MANTLE THOU WILT ROLL THEM UP; AS A GARMENT THEY WILL BE CHANGED. BUT THOU ART THE SAME, AND THY YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.’ (Hebrews 1: 8-12, NASB)

Since God walked among us in human form, this is the reason we can say there really is a Superman.

We have all heard the saying “truth can be stranger than fiction,” but in this case, truth is much more wonderful and amazing than fiction. The fictional Superman could bend steel and leap over tall buildings, but the real Superman did the impossible: When thousands can to hear Him speak and He wanted to feed them, He used a few loaves and fishes to miraculously fed them all from what would only have been enough for one person (Matthew 14: 13-21; 15: 32-38). When people needed any kind of healing, He spoke the word and they were healed (John 4: 46-54; Matthew 8: 5-13). When demons oppressed and tormented people, He drove them out by His word and authority (Matthew 8:16-17, 28-34; 15: 21-28). Even death doesn’t have the last word because He has the power to raise people from the dead (John 11: 1-44; Luke 7: 11-15). When a storm threatened to sink the boat He was travelling in, He caused a great calm when He rebuked the wind and waves (Matthew 8: 23-27). He knew what people were thinking and what was in their hearts (John 2: 24-25; Matthew 12: 22-25). His sacrifice made it possible for people to be forgiven and born again (Luke 23: 34; John 3: 16-17). There is nothing He cannot do, which is what makes a real Superman; this is the one who has the power to solve humanity’s depravity problem and fill our hearts with His presence.

Towards the end of the Batman v Superman movie, there is a scene where people are honoring and remembering Superman and his life. The words written about Superman say “If you seek his monument, look around you.” These words remind people that Superman’s legacy can be seen in the lives he affected and changed while he was alive. Superman's monumentUnlike the fictional Superman, the theanthropos Jesus cannot die. After He was crucified and buried, He rose from the dead; if you were to seek His monument, it would be an empty tomb. He lives on as our High Priest, always making intercession for us before the Father in heaven. His perfect sacrifice made it possible to have friendship with God again and overcome the power of depravity that has caused so much suffering in our history. His presence fills the empty void in our hearts and makes us content in whatever circumstance we are in. His power to change lives is found in the Gospel message:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith. (Romans 1: 16-17, NASB).

He lives in the hearts of millions of people and still interacts with us today. Just ask any of His people to tell you their story about how they met Jesus and what He did for them. Then ask them what He can do for you today!

Who do you say Jesus is? This is the Superman question Jesus asks of us, and everyone must answer. Will you believe the Gospel and come to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins? If you will take that step of faith today and come to Jesus, the real Superman, you will find forgiveness, mercy, and grace. All your sins and mistakes will be forgiven and you will start life anew. Come by faith believing that He is the Son of the living God and pray this prayer:

Lord Jesus, I confess that I have done many things against you. I confess that I have sinned and been rebellious, and for that I am truly sorry. I repent of all of this and I ask for your mercy and forgiveness (You can list specific things to ask forgiveness for if you want). I believe you are the Son of God, and I place everything in my life under your control. I ask you to come and live in my heart. Create a clean heart in me and give me a right spirit so that I may always do what is right in your eyes. Thank you for saving me Lord Jesus!

If you have prayed this prayer, you are a new creation, and your old life is over. Your new life has begun! Congratulations and welcome to the family of God! The important thing now is to find a good body of believers to fellowship with for discipleship and spiritual growth. Now the adventure begins!

Av 22, 5776

1 John 1 9

Advertisements
Standard
Christianity, current events, Uncategorized

Revisiting Marina Keegan’s “The Opposite of Loneliness”

I first heard about Marina Keegan when it was reported online that she had been killed in a car accident in 2012. Her death seemed all the more tragic because she had just graduated magna cum laude from Yale only five days before. I first read “The Opposite of Loneliness” and “Even Artichokes Have Doubts” from links provided in news reports; these and other writings have been collected in book form and I have included information about this at the end of this post. Even after she had been told it’s virtually impossible to be a writer today, she announced that “‘I’ve decided I’m going to be a writer,’ she said. ‘Like, a real one. With my life.'”  It’s very easy to see from her writings that she was gifted and would have made her mark in this world as a writer, but sadly, that was not meant to be. “The Opposite of Loneliness” and what that is will be my focus for this writing. Before we discuss what the opposite of loneliness is, let’s take a look at loneliness.

 
Marina begins by saying “We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I would say that’s what I want in life.” Loneliness has never been on anyone’s bucket list for things they want to have in life. Even in the Garden of Eden, the first time God said something wasn’t good was when God saw that Adam was alone. To be lonely is also to be forgotten, and no one wants to be forgotten. We want to populate our lives with people and or activities that leave us engaged with the world around us, and to be remembered. Those who have great power and wealth have gone to great lengths to be remembered. When the Pharaohs of Egypt erected massive pyramids to make a lasting legacy for themselves, it’s as if they were saying “Pharaoh was here.” In a way we also want to leave some tangible proof to the world that we were here, that we existed, that we mattered and that we were loved. For a scientist, his “pyramid” might be a notable discovery or winning a prestigious prize that secures his place in history. A politician might try to create a lasting legacy through leadership and service. Explorers want to be remembered for their discoveries. Soldiers want to be remembered for their bravery and the battles they won. Writers want to be remembered for their contributions to literature. If we are remembered, it’s because we had this “opposite of loneliness” during our life. So what is it?

 
Marina Keegan gives us a description of what she felt the “opposite of loneliness” is, and to me, it sounds like what I felt in my high school days. Somewhere in my sophomore year of high school, I realized something: “Life won’t give me a chance to repeat this time in life. Once high school is over, it’s over.” Marina described the opposite of loneliness this way:

It’s not quite love and it’s not quite community; it’s just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people who are in this together. Who are on your team…Yale is full of tiny circles we pull around ourselves. A cappella groups, sports teams, houses, societies, clubs. These tiny groups that make us feel loved and safe and part of something even on our loneliest nights when we stumble home to our computers—partnerless, tired, awake. We won’t have those next year. We won’t live on the same block as all our friends. We won’t have a bunch of group texts. (1)

I realized I was about to lose my “opposite of loneliness” when it came time to graduate from high school, and like Marina, I was uncomfortable about it. I was about to enter a new and uncharted area in life, and this caused me to reevaluate what I was doing (or not doing) in school. When I finally understood that this opposite of loneliness I had was going to end one day and I would no longer have the familiar life of I was living any more, I decided to make the most of high school. I almost failed my freshman year and I didn’t care, but after my epiphany I was getting awards for perfect attendance and honor roll. Even after all these years some of my strongest and best memories are from this time in life, and it’s gratifying to be remembered at reunions.

 
But is the opposite of loneliness really something we cannot find a word for? If English doesn’t have a word that exactly fits the bill, maybe we need to look outside our language, In the New Testament Greek, they had a word called koinonia that may be a candidate for the opposite of loneliness. Koinonia was used in association with life in the early church, and as we explore what this word means, it will help us find an answer to the appellation of the opposite of loneliness. According to Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, koinonia generally means:

“fellowship, communion, participation, sharing.” It can refer to the mutual interests and sharing of members in the community of faith, the church…John uses koinonia to refer to the Christian fellowship we have with one another (1 Jn. 1:3, 7). This fellowship is centered in and based on our common fellowship with the Father and his Son, Jesus (1:3, 6). (247)

The Christian concept of fellowship was founded on love and it centered on our Savior, the Lord Jesus. Those who participate of Christian koinonia were disciples who sought to walk in the same steps as Jesus. The presence of Jesus in koinonia is a different type of koinonia than one without Him.

 
The opposite of loneliness that Marina Keegan described was for a specific time. In her case, the opposite of loneliness was in effect during her days at Yale. The opposite of loneliness that describes a special time of togetherness in our lives that ends one day is only one type of opposite. There is another type of opposite that is enduring and doesn’t have an ending. This may sound incredible, but it is true, and if Marina was aware of it at the time of her writing, I feel sure she would have spoken about it. So what are we talking about? Let me illustrate it by introducing you to another young woman named Katie Davis Now Katie Davis Majors).

 
Katie Davis is close to the same age as Marina, and she was so touched by this enduring kind of opposite that it changed the course of her life. If you looked at Katie’s life from an earthly perspective, she had an opposite of loneliness that many would envy:

For as long as I can remember, I had everything the world said was important. In high school, I was class president, homecoming queen, top of my class. I dated cute boys and wore cute shoes and drove a cute sports car. I had wonderful, supportive parents who so desired my success that they would have paid for me to go to college anywhere my heart desired. (XVII)

So what is the difference between Marina’s opposite of loneliness and Katie’s? We see it in Katie’s favorite Bible verse: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37: 4). The opposite of loneliness that changed Katie’s life was the Lord Jesus; His presence made the opposite of loneliness (or koinonia) something enduring and doesn’t fade away. It inspired her to a life she never dreamed for herself:

The fact that I loved Jesus was beginning to interfere with the plans I once had for my life and certainly the plans others had for me. My heart had been apprehended by a great love, a love that compelled me to live differently. I had grown up in a Christian home, gone to church, and learned about Jesus all my life. Around the age of twelve or thirteen, I began to delve into the truths of Scripture. As I read and learned more and more of what Jesus said, I liked the lifestyle I saw around me less and less. I began to realize that God wanted more from me, and I wanted more from Him. He began to grow in me a desire to live intentionally, and different from anyone I had ever known. (XVII-XVIII)

Katie Davis found an opposite of loneliness that never goes away when she allowed Jesus in to her life. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t have any more problems, but it does mean that the Lord Jesus is always at her side, teaching her how to live an overcoming life, loving people through her and giving her strength when she is weak. She currently lives and serves the people of Uganda thousands of miles away from her home in America and family. She has determined that she doesn’t “want to miss what He has for me. Ever, ever again.”

 

We don’t have to worry about losing the benefits of the opposite of loneliness if we will take hold of the one that never ends. We can and should appreciate the special times of our lives as we go through life, but we should treasure above all else the fact that through the love of God we have a koinonia with Jesus ends loneliness forever.

 
Please don’t interpret this post as some kind of attack on the memory of Marina Keegan; that is not my intention. Marina’s words on her graduation day were “I will live for love and the rest will take care of itself,” and from what I could see in her writings, she wanted to live a life of purpose and to make the world a better place. I want those who remember Marina to know she hasn’t been forgotten, and that her desire to live for love is just as important today as when she expressed it. My intention is to make clear that there is an opposite of loneliness that has a beginning and end, and another that never ends. Jesus Himself said:

All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matthew 28: 18-20, NASB)

This never ending opposite is available for anyone who is willing to repent, turn away from evil and receive God’s forgiveness. We have this precious promise: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1: 9, NASB). When we do this, we are reconciled with God and we have fellowship with Him! Please give these things serious thought because much depends on how you receive this and act on it.

 
If you would like to learn more about Marina Keegan and Katie Davis, here is some additional information:

 
A collection of Marina Keegan’s writings are available in the book “The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories” with an introduction by Anne Fadiman.

ISBN 978-1-4767-5361-4

ISBN 978-1-4767-5391-1 (paperback)

ISBN 978-1-4767-5362-1 (ebook)

 
You can visit a Facebook page celebrating Marina Keegan’s life at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/387194241326318/

 
Katie’s ministry is called Amazima, which is a word for truth. The ministry website contains up to date information about the work of the ministry and Katie’s blog.

 

Katie Davis also has a book called “Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption.”

ISBN 978-1-4516-1206-6

ISBN 978-4516-1210-3 (ebook)

 

Sivan 13, 5776

Standard
Uncategorized

The difference that faith makes

Faith is never more disparaged and mocked than in the arguments of science articles and their apologists; they see no use for something that would cause people to believe that the world was created in six days or that all life originated from God. They believe the world around them is understood through empirical observation, as such they see faith as a relic of times past. Since faith deals with the invisible realm of the spiritual and the supernatural, they feel it served a purpose at one time when mankind didn’t understand how the universe worked thousands of years ago. But now that we are enlightened by the advances of science, the secular world feels confident that we can put away such childish things. It would be a huge mistake to dismiss faith because it isn’t empirical in nature, so with this in mind please join me in examining the benefit faith gave a woman who lived thousands of years ago in Canaan. She was an unlikely candidate for membership in a faith based community, but we should not quickly dismiss anyone’s faith just because they don’t fit our idea of what a person of faith should be. The people of faith can (and do) turn up in the most unlikely places, even in a place that God has devoted to destruction. Before Israel entered the Promised Land, Moses reminded them that:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than yourselves, and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them.

Deut 7:1-2 (ESV)

These were Joshua’s marching orders when Israel crossed the Jordan, but something unexpected was about to happen. Unknown to Joshua, there was a prostitute in Jericho called Rahab. She was a native Canaanite; the bumper stickers on her chariot said “Got Walls?” and “I heart Jericho.” At the same time she was also different from everyone else in Jericho; she may live in Jericho, but she was not of Jericho as we shall see. This difference is what would save her life.

Joshua had sent two spies into Canaan to scout the land, and he was particularly interested in Jericho, which was known for its thick and high walls. The spies were found out in Jericho and took refuge in Rahab’s house. Rahab misled the searchers and told them the spies had already left. As they were settling in for the night, Rahab told the spies:

 I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.

Josh 2:9-11 (ESV)

Let’s examine some things here. We should note that everyone in Jericho was aware of what God had done for Israel. They all knew about what happened at the Red Sea and the fate of the Amorite kings Sihon and Og. Now that the spies of Israel have been discovered scouting their city; it can only be a prelude to an attack. Look at how the news was received. On the one hand, there were the inhabitants of Jericho whose hearts melted with fear when they heard the things the Lord did for Israel. They looked at things naturally, so they were in dread and fear of what was ahead for them; they had no hope and they saw no way to escape what was coming.

On the other hand, there was Rahab. She was also concerned about the immanent attack, but her reaction was entirely different. If she had the same mind as her countrymen, she could have made herself a hero by turning in the spies, but she welcomed the spies in peace instead. She saw things differently, so she had a spark of hope that it was possible the destroying army would pass her by. She implored the spies to treat her father’s house with kindness:

Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.

 Josh 2:12-13 (ESV)

The spies then told her what she must do to be saved:

The men said to her, “We will be guiltless with respect to this oath of yours that you have made us swear.  Behold, when we come into the land, you shall tie this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household. Then if anyone goes out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we shall be guiltless. But if a hand is laid on anyone who is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head. But if you tell this business of ours, then we shall be guiltless with respect to your oath that you have made us swear.” And she said, “According to your words, so be it.” Then she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

Josh 2:17-21 (ESV)

Faith is the difference between the Rahab and her countrymen. The people of Jericho wanted to capture the spies, which would be the natural thing to do. Rahab welcomed them in peace by her faith. When she hid the spies by faith, she received a good report in the camp of Israel, and Joshua gave the army instructions concerning Rahab and all who were in her house, so that the destroying army would pass her by. The people of Jericho tried to find safety behind their walls, but by faith Rahab followed the spies’ instructions and saved her household. The people of Jericho lived in fear about the coming destruction because they looked at things naturally (without faith aka empirical observation), but Rahab had hope because she looked at the situation with eyes of faith. Jericho was destroyed, but  Rahab survived and lived in Israel; she even appears in the lineage of the Lord Jesus Himself: “and Salmon [was] the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king” Matt 1:5-6 (ESV). Her faith made her a child of Abraham.

We can see from this that the Abraham’s children really do appear as the most unlikely people and in the strangest places. Even though Rahab was a prostitute and lived in the midst of a people marked for destruction (which would seem to disqualify her from being considered a person of faith), she survived the destruction of Jericho because she had faith, which the world considers foolish. This confirms what Scripture tells us:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

1 Cor 1:26-29 (ESV)

Jesus told the Jews that “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did” John 8:39 (ESV). What did Abraham do? He believed God, and as a result of his faith God considered him righteous. Rahab really was a child of Abraham because she also did the works of Abraham. Rahab was also considered righteous because of her faith, and she experienced a type of Passover in Jericho. Don’t believe the arguments of science that mock your faith as irrelevant and unenlightened. Faith is life giving; it is the difference between life and death for all of us.

Why mention all of this? We will need faith now more than ever because there is another time of trouble that is coming on all who live on the earth. It will be the worst time in the history of humanity. In the last days Jesus tells us:

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Luke 21:25-26 (ESV)

When this time comes, some people will look at the events happening around them and literally faint with fear like the people of Jericho. Empirical observation will not bring hope for them because it is not faith based. On the other hand, some people will look up with joy and hope when these same events happen because faith has assured them what will happen; they know their redemption is almost here. Faith made the difference for Rahab, and faith is what will make the difference for us also. The time to prepare for all of this is now. Got faith?

Standard