Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Acceptance (Fallen Son)



I... um...


wasn't supposed

to be this way..."

--Tony Stark's entire eulogy for Captain America's funeral at Arlington National Cemetery

Today we find ourselves at the fifth and final stage of the Kübler-Ross model: Acceptance. In the comic book, Captain has a funeral fit for the leader of the United States. Reporters speak on the scene, "Get a glimpse of the casket drawn by a single white horse, riderless, a ceremony up until now held only for a president. But, then again, there are many who feel that he [Cap'] was even more important than any elected official." Here, heroes and civilians alike gather in order to find some sort of end, to seek resolve, to discover acceptance.

Following Stark, Sam Wilson gives a speech. He states that no matter what different names Captain America had in his time as a hero (Captain America, Cap, Winghead, Nomad, and Cap-Wolf), "It didn't matter what we called him--because it all began and ended with Steve Rogers." He speaks of Roger's strengths and inspiration. He reminds us of those whom Cap' had saved from concentration camps in WWII, he reminds us at Cap's regret for knowing he would outlive many of the people he fought beside (due to the Super Soldier Serum), and he reminds us of the partner that Cap' was (to those who had served as people with and without superpowers both in the past and the present).

In the end of his address, Wilson shares how Cap will still live through the other heroes. "Steve Rogers, that skinny blond-haired kid who grew up on the streets of New York showed us that the ideals of the American dream--the great melting pot that can bring out the best in each of us and bind us all together--actually works! And he can keep teaching us that long after he's gone. By telling stories about him to our children, to our grandchildren, Steve Rogers, Captain America, will never die. This doesn't have to be a day of sadness. We can accept it as a gift of unity and hope. The kind of day Captain America lived for."

Isn't this our relationship with Christ? Even though he had to die he lives. "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20). The Father continues to give us strength (Psalm 73:26) and the Holy Spirit continues to bear inspiration. Instead of solely being freed from physical confinement (like the concentration camps), we have been saved from the confinements of sin, death, and the Devil. Instead of fighting with Christ in an earthly battle, we are blessed with the armor of God to become united with him in the Spiritual War (against Satan).

Even though we could never accomplish the things that Jesus Christ has done, we are able to let his light shine through us (just as the heroes let Cap's influence radiate their lives). In the end, Jesus is even stronger than our other heroes. He is even more important than any elected official or earthly warrior. He rose! He already won the war for our souls; but, he is also free to continue in helping us fight our own battles and complete the war at the end of days. "For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet" (1 Corinthians 15:25).

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Drops in the Ocean

                  "What we do
                   is but a drop
                   in the ocean.
             Yet if we did not do it,
            the ocean would be less
                 because of that
                  missing drop."

                Mother Theresa

Monday, March 26, 2012

Common Sense Resurrection

Common Sense Resurrection

Paul’s epistles are known to give off a sarcastic flare. God often works through these inspired letters to let Christians see their predicaments as they really are, ridiculous. This brings back the tone of Isaiah 40:21, “Do you not know? Do you not hear?” Some facts, to God, must seem painfully obvious while, to man, they appear incoherent.

In 1 Corinthians 15, the concept of the resurrection is explained. Paul makes it obvious that if a Christian does not believe in the resurrection then he does not truly believe the Gospel. His life is in vain. But, if a Christian does believe in the resurrection, then he knows the Gospel. His life is not in vain. Paul’s argument attempts to relay that the idea of the resurrection should, in a way, be common sense to a Christian. He explains that the very Gospel itself which unites us is founded on the fact that Christ has risen. God even gave us proof with many witnesses and people willing to proclaim Jesus’ resurrection. It follows that since Christ has been resurrected, we too may be resurrected. Even though our bodies are perishable, we now become imperishable through Christ.

To start out, Paul points out to the Corinthians that they already know the basic message of the Gospel, a message received by him to pass along to others. He reminds them that Christ died for our sins, Christ was buried, and Christ rose again in order to fulfill the Scriptures. If the Corinthians did not believe this message then all of Paul’s preaching was in vain and they surely would not be able to follow the rest of his argument.

Paul reminds his brothers that what we believe as Christ’s resurrection is based on even more than just faith alone. There was also empiric proof and eye-witness accounts showing that Christ was truly alive. He was able to relate his message with both the Corinthian’s accounts and his own.[1] A crowd of over five hundred witnesses saw Jesus Christ alive after his crucifixion. Not only did Christ appear to this group of men, but he also revealed himself to the church leader, his half-brother, James. He appeared to all of the other apostles. Finally, Christ revealed himself to Paul. Paul emphasizes the fact that Christ had appeared to him last, not first. In his eyes, he was the most unworthy to see Jesus and yet Jesus had come for him. Paul declares himself to be a still-birth due to his deeds of Christian persecution, yet Christ’s revelation to him had finally brought him to life. Yet, even in all of these pieces of evidence and accounts, Paul acknowledges that it is only due to God that we may ever know such facts. It is only by the grace of God that he might have ever known Him. And, Paul knew that whether the Corinthians had heard the Gospel from these other witnesses or from Paul himself that they had believed. If they had believed these accounts then surely they must believe in a resurrection: the Christ’s.

Now, if this one resurrection is true and if Christ truly rose from the dead, a fact that the Corinthians already claimed to believe and a fact backed by various eye-witness accounts, then it should not be too hard to understand that all man may also rise from the dead. W. Harold Mare states, “The Gospel assures them [the Corinthians] of salvation unless the supposed faith they had was actually empty and worthless.”[2] If the Corinthians assumed that there can be no resurrection of the dead, then they deny their Gospel, that Christ himself had really raised from the dead. Their beliefs, their faith, and their lives would all be in vain.  H. Alford is frank enough to say that, “With the resurrection of Jesus Christ the whole gospel stands or falls.”[3] If no man could be raised from the dead, including the Christ, then there would be no way for the Gospel to remain intact. There would be no victory over sin, death, and the Devil. Even Romans 6 would be a farce; we could not die and rise with Christ because he had never truly risen. Paul claims that the Corinthians would be misrepresenting God if they did not believe in human resurrection. They would be claiming that God raised Christ, but that cannot be true if the dead are not raised.

But, both Paul and the Corinthians already knew that Christ had been raised from the dead. It follows that man may also be raised. Ever since the Fall, man has suffered death. But, now because of the resurrection, all can enjoy life. Even though one man (Adam) had brought death by tasting sin, one man (Jesus) brought life by living again. As Mare states in a different commentary, “All who are represented in Adam—i.e., the whole human race—died. All who are in Christ—i.e., God’s redeemed people—will be made alive at the resurrection.”[4] Through Christ’s resurrection, everything had now become subject to God, even death itself. Even Paul, who was chosen as an apostle last, would be risen again in Christ.

In the midst of this argument, Paul reminds the Corinthians of their baptisms. He sarcastically states that they must have been baptized into death if they do not believe in a resurrection. If there was no resurrection then there would have been nothing else for them to have been baptized into. In reality, the Corinthians understood themselves to be baptized into a new life. Even through the water and the word they have been born again, resurrected in a way. They have not been brought again through their mother’s wombs like Nicodemus would have implied, but they have been reborn into a relationship with Christ. Paul continues with saying that every day we are to remember that we deserve death, and every day we are to remember that Christ has brought us back life. He himself had been brought back to life more than most as he had started out as a pharisaical still-born.

After Paul reminds the Corinthians of their baptism, one can almost see him trying to shake them awake shouting, “Sober up!!” The Corinthians truly knew better than to disbelieve in a resurrection. Paul hoped that his brothers could remember what they had already believed. They knew that Christ had been raised and it only makes sense that they too may be raised. They should not continue in doubting or disbelief, but instead they should refocus themselves on God and spreading his Gospel.

Still, some Corinthians remained confounded. Once would begin to stabilize themselves and go back into the world, Paul knew that some unbelievers would confront them, not understanding how it is possible for the dead to be raised. Particularly, these people would not be able to understand how their mortality could become something immortal. In a Martin Luther-like manner, Paul cries out something like, “How foolish!!” Can the Corinthians not understand that the body must first die so that it may once again come to life? Paul uses the analogy of a kernel. Does not the kernel first give way for the plant to grow? It truly does. This is the same thing that happens with our bodies. First, we live a life that is perishable so that one day we may live a life that is imperishable. We live a dishonorable life while one day we will be raised to an honorable life. We start out as a man from the dust so that one day we may be a man of heaven.

In man’s eyes, there is no way for flesh and blood to achieve immortality or the perishable to merit the imperishable. This is why, in a way, the resurrection is still a riddle. As man, we cannot wholly understand how we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. We cannot grasp how the mortal can put on the immortal. But, we must be able to trust that God is the one who makes the connection letting us grow; this is explained in 1 Corinthians 3:5-9. He takes our kernels of natural bodies and makes them whole as spiritual bodies.

Even though we know that our natural bodies only deserve the sting of death, through Christ’s victory and his resurrection death has no sting. Our natural bodies may pass away, but in a flash we will rise again. This proves that our lives are not in vain. This mortal realm is not all there is. We are not just wasting away, biding time until one day we will all eternally sleep. We can be steadfast in our faith and working for the Lord knowing that there is a reason behind all that we do. We will rise again.

Paul has tried to explain to his brothers in Corinth that there is a common sense resurrection of the dead. Through faith and eye-witness accounts they believed in the Gospel of Christ dying and rising again. It follows that we also die and rise again. Simply enough, since he can do it, it has opened the door for us to do it too. If the Corinthians did not believe in the resurrection then no man may have been resurrected, including Christ, so then their belief system and their Gospel would be in vain. Yet, because Christ had truly risen from the dead, we will also be resurrected. The Gospel remains intact and our lives truly do bear meaning.

"For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
Saint Francis of Assisi

[1] David K. Lowry, “1 Corinthians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, ed. John F. Walroord and Roy B. Zuck (Colorado Springs, CO: SP Publications, Inc., 1983), 544.
[2] W. Harold Mare, “1 Corinthians,” in Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary: Volume 2: New Testament, ed. Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 650.
[3] H. Alford, “Quebec Chapel Sermons,” in The Sermon Bible: Acts VII.—I Corinthians XVI (New York, NY: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 362.
[4] W. Harold Mare, “1 Corinthians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1976), 285.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kony 2012: Retaliation (Cause)

"Russel was down, naked and humiliated.
Millions took that as a cue to point and laugh."

Jason Russel, moved by the horrors of Joseph Kony started a movement that shook the world. Russel knew that Kony needed to be stopped, he is still out there. Russel's thirty minute movie swept through the internet spreading the word, popularizing Kony so that he may be known. Once he had become known, the plan was to make him stop. (For more information, including the video, click here. There has also been an updated video, here.)

With a message this big and this wide-spread, of course there would be some sort of feedback. Besides the caring and willingness to push this message forward, there was also retaliation. People responded with varied conspiracies: "this was about oil, this was about radical Christianity, this was about the U.S. electoral cycle. A lot of it was directed at Russell himself, and deeply personal, cruel, bullying" (TIME). I have even had to defend Russel's mission a couple times on Facebook (info on my debate in the comments).

This harshness of these debates became more than any single man could bear. Eventually Russel, "Hadn’t slept for nine days. Three days later he suffered what appears to have been a psychological breakdown and was found by San Diego police naked and kneeling in the street, slapping the pavement with his bare hands. At which point, the baying and blood lust only increased. Russell was down, naked and humiliated. Millions took that as a cue to point and laugh" (TIME).

Instead of treating Russel with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control; the world threw "rage, selfishness, dissension, bitterness, and envy" at him (Forgotten God p130). If Russel bent under this insurmountable pressure (more pressure than we ever hope to face in our lifetimes), imagine how much more pressure Christ must have been in as he hanged upon the cross. He could have made the wood split or the nails fall, he could have chosen not to die. But, he did choose death. He did not give into the scorn of this world, but stayed true. He chose to save us even though there was no way that we had deserved it.

We should also remember that even as we go through our own trials: "we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly" (Romans 5:3-6). As we spread the message (both of Kony 2012 and the Gospel), no matter what obstacles get in our way, we can overcome them.

Depression (Fallen Son)


We've all felt it. We all know it's tough.

The mind aches from worry, the body becomes weak, and the person doesn't want to really do anything. Motivation is gone, emotions become overpowering, and the being is crushed.

The fourth stage of the Kübler-Ross model brings us to Depression. Marvel takes Spider-Man and rips away his mask of funny catch phrases and superhuman ability to show us who he truly is, a man. Even though most would see this hero as Marvel's biggest drama queen, I would argue that this is because he is Marvel's most human character. At his core, he's really just a guy who got bit by a spider and only fights because he feels that he would be shirking his responsibility if he chose not to. (With great power comes great responsibility Amazing Fantasy 15.) Peter Parker is the one who takes Cap's death the hardest.

After running out of the New Avengers' temporary HQ in "Anger," Spider-Man is out of sorts. He realizes how much he has failed in his life and how different it would be now without a great person like Captain America to look up to. He ends up going to the grave of his other role model, Ben Parker. Instead of being able to think of the positive, Pete falls into depression. He knows that it was his fault that Ben died and he feels powerless against the death of Captain America. Pete thinks, "They say the true legacy of a hero is based on the lives he's saved. Knowing me, my legacy will be judged by the lives I've lost." Not only is Spider-Man treated skeptically as a comic-book character, it is hard for people to appreciate him in his universe (616). He thinks of all the people that had been lost to him, the deaths that he feels he could have prevented. He remembers what happened to his parents, his Uncle Ben, his best friend Harry Osborn, the officer Captain Stacy, his once girlfriend Gwen Stacy, and now America's hero Cap'. "Even though I didn't have anything directly to do with it [Cap's death]... I know the role I played in leading up to it made everything... worse."

While lost in his thoughts and grieving over deaths of those he had loved, Pete's Spider-Sense goes off. He sees Rhino in the cemetery and attacks him thinking that if he didn't the villain would probably just go off and kill someone else. It seems like he struggles with taking out his aggression in the same way that Ms. Marvel did in "Anger."

As he's beating up on the beast Spidey thinks, "Captain America survived World War II, and about a million battles since then, and... somebody shoots him. Dead. When it can happen to Cap... who the hell am I to be doing this? If God has a sense of humor... I don't get the joke."

In the midst of battle, Spider-Man realizes (too late) that Rhino was only here to grieve the loss of his mother. He wasn't going to cause any harm or bother anyone else. Spidey wants to apologize, but he can't get the words to come out. He feels even more depressed. His body no longer wants to move and the Rhino starts slaughtering him. Pete starts going into a flash back of another time he thought he was about to die. The Hulk was beating him, trying to be left alone (just like Rhino) and Cap' was the only one willing to stand in the way and save Spidey.

Luckily, Spider-Man regains his energy and is able to survive his fight with Rhino. But, he probably wouldn't have made it without Cap's help in his fight with the Hulk. This leads Pete to say, "What are we going to do without you, Cap?"

On the way out of the cemetery, Spider-Man runs into Wolverine. This creates one of the best dialogues ever (especially from Wolverine):

Wolverine: You really think I don't know what you're going through? Me.

                  Try this. It's like somebody shot a cannonball right through your stomach, leaving a great
                  big hole.

                  Eventually, it starts to close up from the outside in...

                  ...And one day, it'll be different. The load won't feel as heavy.

                  'Course, then you'll hear a song or somebody will laugh or the wind will blow the wrong

                  ...And the hole will tear wide open again.


                  Believe it or not, it heals back faster after each time.

Spider-Man: And when does it go away?

Wolverine: You already know the answer to that or else you wouldn't have been standing in that
                  cemetery tonight.

                  Wanna know why it's called "depression"? Because it is depressing...

                  A death isn't like losing a job or getting divorced.

                  You don't "Get over it."

                  You have to integrate it into your life. Learn to live with it.

                  But... Life does get better.

Spider-Man: Someday...?

Wolverine: Best you can hope fore...

Spider-Man: Someday.

Even Jesus knew depression.

He wept with Lazarus's companions in John 11:33-35. He mourned over the city of Jerusalem, knowing that it would soon fall in 70AD (Luke 19:41-44). He cried out to God, "Why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34).

God knows emotion.

He is a Jealous God, calling his people a prostitute running away from him. With such great love for us, we can only imagine what great sorrow it must be for one of us to turn away from him.

The Holy Spirit also knows sorrow.

He mourns when we neglect God and forget how we are to live. Francis Chan said, in Forgotten God, "When we are disunified, unloving, hateful, jealous, gossipy, etc., that is when we grieve the Spirit of God. And since He is the creator of emotions, I believe that the Spirit grieves more deeply than we can even understand" (p72).

It is not as if God cannot relate to us. He is even more than we ever could be. We were made in his image, imagine what it would be to feel our limited emotions on his limitless level. With his everlasting love, would it follow that he would also know everlasting sorrow? Like Wolverine, God is able to sarcastically say, "You really think I don't know what you're going through? Me."

But, even more than sorrow, recognize God's everlasting comfort and his everlasting strength. Even when we know that we fall short. Even if we don't feel guilty for the deaths of our friends (like Spider-Man), we always know that in a way we could have done much more. This sorrow, this depression, really should point us to God.

It is not as if this is the only time in our life that we need him. We need him constantly, in every breath. But, many people only learn to recognize him through tragedy. Here, instead of turning away from God, we should become more dependent on him. "Although my heart and flesh may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." Psalm 73:26. When we know that we're not enough, when we don't know what to do next or even how to move on, and when life just doesn't make sense, we realize how much we really need God.

The "Someday" that Spider-Man is hoping for is the someday with Christ. We know that he has taken our burden, our yoke, our cross and has given us a lighter load. If we can't handle what we are given now, imagine how much harder it must have been for Christ to bear the world on his shoulders. He is the one that stood in the way of sin, death, and the devil (parallel to Cap' standing in the way of the Hulk). like Cap' took the bullet for us, Christ bore our cross.

Still, we can be comforted knowing that we are now gifted with the Holy Spirit and his fruit in order to be able to make it through the toughest parts of life (including depression). Instead of sorrow, we may know joy. "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (John 15:11).

To be continued...

Make sure to check in next time
as we discuss the final stage of grief "Acceptance:"

This has been part of the Spider-Man Series

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Forgotten God (Book)

"Whoa." I just finished this book today, and that's about all I can say.

I first saw this book at the Christian book store and the cover drew me in. It sat next to Francis Chan's other book, Crazy Love, and I thought I would read this one first to get an idea of Chan before getting into the other book. My dad and I both got a copy, he finished his and said it was good; I didn't have time to finish mine until this week (Spring Break).

Instead of only getting an idea of Chan's authorship (which I do appreciate as it is easy to read and has many biblical references), I was taught of the Holy Spirit. Chan attempts to point out both the biblical account of the Spirit along with daily examples of Him in our lives. Even though I had understood the Spirit before, this book points out His daily relationship in each Christian. It shows us what we're missing and encourages us to dig in deeper with Him. He is constantly alive and active in us. Without Him, we can do nothing. It is better to be with Him. He can do anything.

Chan cites many memorable examples of the Spirit working in peoples' daily lives. He also is able to understand that this book may rub both "liberals" and "conservatives" the wrong way. That's ok. It is based on truth and those willing to listen will hear. Do not let your ears be deaf (Micah 7:16-17).

The book points out the Lord as neglected:
"How much it grieves Him to watch His children ignore the promises..." (p48).
"The Spirit grieves more deeply than we can even understand" (p72).

It shares cases of the Spirit at work:
"Murderers and swindlers who were utter outcasts were changed before all who watched as the love of Christ, through Esther, healed their hearts and gave them hope... She [Esther] could have just endured her suffering... But she was not content to merely endure. She was ready every day and every moment, asking God, 'Who do You want me to love for You today?'" (p98-99).

And it reminds us of how to live:
"Dependent on Him, desperate for God the Spirit to show up and make a difference. When you begin living a life characterized by walking with the Spirit, that is when people will begin to look not to you but to our Father in heaven and give Him the praise" (p156).

Do not forget God.

(One day, I plan to put this book up on my shelf of "Life-Changing Books.")
(It also looks like I'll have to pick up Crazy Love)

Here's another book review:

Chan, Francis. Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of The Holy Spirit. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2009. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bargaining (Fallen Son)

We are now on the third step of the Kübler-Ross model and the third comic book in the Marvel series, "Bargaining." In the comic, Hawkeye (Clint Barton) suddenly reapers after being assumed dead for a while (ever since he had some run-ins with the Scarlet Witch). He is knocked out by Iron Man and taken up the a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. Iron Man believes that the United States still needs a Captain America and refuses to let his legacy be forgotten. He leads Hawkeye into believing that perhaps he should be the next Cap. He is clearly able to wield the shield (at least a lot more able than previous military-men attempts have been) and wants to serve the world again. Perhaps, this is truly what he is meant to do.

Iron Man suddenly receives a communication and with the new Cap' tagging along, they go to address the situation. It turns out that the Patriot and the new (female) Hawkeye were the problem. They had come out of hiding from the law (they had been hiding from Iron Man and his Superhuman Registration Act) in order to stop an evil villain (Firebrand) from blowing up a gas station. After they stopped the villain, Iron Man assumed the new Cap' would follow his lead and arrest the two young heroes.

Characteristically of Clint Barton (Hawkeye), he rebels in order to stand up for what he believes is right. He, almost ironically, picks the kids' side because they were only trying to do good (just as the real Captain America would have if he were still in the picture). During this he is able to realize what it truly means to bear another's legacy from the new Hawkeye. She helps Barton see the difference between living in someone's honor and trying to replace them. She says, "The second you put on that uniform, it's a different argument." She shares that he is not trying to honor Cap, but to replace him. The Patriot is even more frank when he says, "Look, we're just trying to do the job, learn the job, inspired by our heroes. Not pretending to be one of them." Barton lets the two heroes get away and turns down Iron Man's offer of being the next Captain America. Even though Iron Man thought that America needed a Captain America, Barton realized that it was not him, it never could be him, and even if it was him he couldn't play into Tony Stark's political trap (trying to get "Captain America" on his side of the Civil War).

This reminds me of what the Christians tried to do after Christ had left them. Even though they understood that he was not truly dead, in fact he beat death and had risen and ascended, they seemed to think that they needed someone to replace him. Without Christ still physically on earth they felt more comfortable if they could follow a different leader.

This is what Paul is witnessing in 1 Corinthians 1:12-13. He writes, "Each one of you says, 'I follow Paul,' or 'I follow Apollos,' or 'I follow Cephas,' or 'I follow Christ.'" Paul retorts to this idea sarcastically, "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?" The mere idea of following someone other than Christ confounds Paul. He knows that no matter what, no one else could live up to the expectations of Jesus. He was the only Son of Man who could possibly be perfect as he was also the Son of God. Paul knows that even he has a thorn in his flesh and all of humanity has partaken in the corruption of sin. Due to this, there cannot be another perfect being. Just like Hawkeye knew it was impossible for him to replace Cap, it would be impossible for any other man to fulfill the role of Jesus. This is not only because he was such a great and honorable man; but, he, in fact, was perfect.

So then, what can we do? We know that our Lord and Savior chose to die for our sins. But, it is easy to forget that he has risen and ascended. Here, we should remember that he is still truly with us. It is not as if Christ has really left us, for he is always near. But, there is also a void in the knowledge that we are lacking Christ's perfection. If we love him so much, why can't we be as perfect as he was? It often seems as if we should at least attempt to do something in repayment to him; if for no other reason, to live in his legacy. This is where our Law comes in. Christ has become the perfect Gospel and the fulfillment of the Law, but we are still left the Law as a means to better follow him. Instead of hiding from it like the heroes needed to hide from the Registration Act, we are meant to embrace it. It is not a Law that harms, but a Law that protects. With the knowledge that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), we can address the Law willingly, to take on the challenge. It is not as if the Law now saves us, because Christ has already done that, but we can willingly complete the Law not only to please and glorify God, but also to honor Christ.

Like the Patriot and Hawkeye who chose not to replace, but to resemble their idols, we now resemble Christ. In fact, through faith in him, Paul reveals that we can go even a step further. Galatians 2:20 states, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Becoming transformed by the Gospel (Romans 12:2), we now let Christ shine through us. We do not replace God, but we help him (in a way) to replace us. He rids us of our wretched thorns in our flesh and our corruptions to sin so that we may be like him in a deeper way than we could ever even attempt to be like another person.

To be continued...

Make sure to check in next time
as we discuss the fourth stage of grief "Depression:"

The Value of Something (Slice)

The Value of Something

During a speaking engagement at the University of Illinois, I was handed a question scribbled on a note card from a student who hesitated to come to the microphone. It read, "The state of humankind as we know it is on a serious downward spiral, and from my perspective, it's only getting worse. Do you have any hope in the future of humankind and specifically our generation, and if so, why?"

I was both saddened and heartened to read his question. Overwhelmed by the maze of conflicts facing humanity, this young heart sought a way out. And I believe he represents large numbers of young people in the world. Contrary to the "couldn't care less" image we are often given of university students, he revels how close to cynicism—and pessimism—many of them actually are.

Students today are not easily taken in; they do not trust readily. But their questions show a depth and an understanding of our world that is lost in the shuffle of cultural cynicism and hopeless pessimism.

Here, G.K. Chesterton makes a significant point: there is a world of difference between sorrow and pessimism. He explains, "Sorrow is founded on the value of something, and pessimism upon the value of nothing."(1) In terms of hope for the future, this makes all the difference.

I once had breakfast with an atheist who repeatedly insisted that there was no evidence for God—absolutely none. At one point during our meal he told me how much he loves his wife, and painfully recounted the details of her battle with disease. His wife was dying and he could do nothing. After all the intellectual arguments had run into a headstrong willful resistance, I asked him why he loved his wife. He stared at me. "Don't you see her as a unique woman of intrinsic value to you?" I asked. "Yes," he answered. "But how can she have such value," I replied, "if all life is nothing more than chemicals?" Suddenly, the conversation took a turn. As we got up from the table, he said, "You just keep doing what you're doing in life. You are bringing back common sense into our heads."

What thoughts occupy my mind as I ponder the world at this present time? Above anything else, I, like the young man from the university, want to believe in hope for the future. I see reason for sorrow, but it is founded on the value of so much. Hope, like character, takes years to build and minutes to shatter. But friends, hope, like character, can also rise beyond the moment to reinvest in what is of ultimate value—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This hope points in cumulative strength to the person and power of a God who is real, and will not let you down.

Ravi Zacharias

"We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame,
because God's love
has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit
who has been given to us."
Romans 5:2-5

(1) G.K. Chesterton, As I Was Saying, Ed. Robert Knille (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985), 267.

Original source:

C215 (Artist)

I have always admired art. Strangely, one of the mediums that I have always appreciated the most has been graffiti. Even though morally it may be wrong to do without permission, taggers and other artists always seem to pick the most dry and boring canvases in the actual world and made them something even more beautiful and unique. Even if it is just to rebel or mark their turf, graffiti has a flare that most other mediums seem unable to capture.

Even though I do not know much about Steven P. Harrington, "C215," his work is amazing. He paints on many different canvases. The painting in the header was done on wood while some of the paintings below were done on more traditional canvas. My sister, an Art and Teaching Major at the Concordia University of St. Paul, posted a link about him on her Facebook and so I searched a little further into his work.

This is what I found:

C215 is a street artist who paints for the world in order to raise awareness for people on the streets. Here's a link for his book, "Community Service:"

On these hard streets a man discarded
can’t possibly feel like a citizen of any community.
I’ve wandered these streets in my own disconnected delerium
and not seen the homeless man lying inside the contorted cardboard box.

Layered in sweatshirts and drowsy beneath the roaring traffic

on the bridge his eyes flicker above the edge of the box

and we are jolted by each others’ suddenness.

It’s a split second, and maybe unnerving, but not uncaring.

I am, after all, only another man, and here we are on the same street.

Given the right chain of events,

I could be the one peering out over the tattered edge.

Am I changed by this moment?
Sometimes I am.

Here's more art:

The reason for art: Click Here

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dhalsim and Sagat (Street Fighter X Tekken)

Tuesday, Street Fighter X Tekken was released. So far, it's a lot better than I had predicted. Even though it has the Street Fighter graphics and fighting style (which I don't particularly like), it's still pretty awesome to be able to play as both Street Fighter and Tekken fighters in a tag-team sort of way (there are 5 more people on the PS3 version then on the 360 version [including Cole from Infamous]). My favorite combo, so far,is either Hwoarang and Vega or Dhalsim and someone else. You can even go couch-coop in both vs. and arcade mode (either fighting each other or two people actually tagging each other in and out). It rocks!!

Click here for another review:

Tekken X Street Fighter (which as of this post has no official release date) is sure to be even better as it will have a lot of the same characters only in the Tekken graphics and gaming style.


This one, of about five awesome trailers, reveals some of the main conflict in the arcade mode. If your first player is a Tekken player then the second to last arena is fought against the team of M. Bison and Juri (magically charged). If your first player is from Street Fighter then you will be matched against Jin and Xiaoyu (powered by the devil gene).

I beat the game first with Hwoarang and Vega. This unlocked a Hwoarang title and his (written) end-story summary. I then beat the game with who I see as the main characters of Tekken and Street Fighter: Jin and Ryu. This unlocked the Jin title and his (written) end-story summary.

The third time, I got smart. I realized that the teams that I had been facing had continuously been paired with the same characters. Kuma was with Heihachi, Law was with Paul, Dhalsim was with Sagat...

So, I decided to fight through arcade with Dhalsim and Sagat. This unlocked more cinematics at the beginning and the end of the arcade mode. There was also new dialogue as the characters progressed their way up the story line. It turns out that each fighter had entered the arcade mode in order to reach Pandora's box (which had crash-landed in Antarctica). Hwoarang wanted to use the box's power to become stronger. Jin wanted to use the box's power to relieve himself of the Devil Gene. This is what the team of Dhalsim and Sagat ended up doing:

They had started their mission, not for their own power, but to save the children which had been captured from their villages. They chose not to use the power of the box as it had never been their true goal. They walked away.

This is what Christ did for us. We were God's lost children, Jesus came to save us. Due to our sin, he had to fight his way through trials and temptations. He battled against pharisees and demon-possessed men. He made the journey all the way to one of the most desolate places (the cross). He died and rose so that we too may die and be risen again with him, beating sin, death, and the devil. Yet, even at the end, like Sagat, Christ chose against glory. Instead of letting himself be known as a mighty earthly king (which he could have easily done), Jesus walked away (carrying his cross). Much like Sagat who says that a king has no need for the power of the gods, Jesus may have retorted that God has no need for the power of man (earthly glory).

Later, in Dhalsim's (written) end-story summary, he reflects on the box's power. He knows that he could have taken it, but believes he made the right choice. Too much power corrupts, it would even corrupt a man as moral as Dhalsim. He also knew that it was better for him to rely on his own power to protect his village than some mystical box working through him. In this same way, we too can live out our vocations. God can work through us no matter where we have been called. In anything from a brother to a sister, a grocer to a president, and a hippie to a soldier, God can choose to work through us to serve our neighbor and tend to the sick and corrupt world. It is not as if we need to go and search for a magical box to give us even more power (unless that has been what we were truly individually called to do [much-like the other Street Fighter and Tekken characters]), because God can use us right here, right now, even in our daily lives to encourage one another and remind each other of Him.

Rorschach Mask (Watchmen)

Just in case you ever wanted a legit Rorschach mask:

The only thing closer would have been if they had made it into
a dress first and then cut it out and put it together.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kony 2012 (Cause)

Today was the first day I have heard about Joseph Kony; this awe-inspiring film (and hopefully your help) is going to make sure that this isn't the last:

This man is more twisted, sick, and evil than anyone you or I will ever personally know. He abducts kids from their homes and takes more than just their body; he steals their wills and corrupts their souls. Not only does he force boys to grow into mindless soldiers and girls to become sexual manikins, he feeds off of their lives like a parasite. Kony has prided himself in making this growing number of enslaved teenagers his very own method of defense. The governments of the surrounding countries haven't done anything. Even though Kony is at the top of the UN's most wanted, they have done nothing. The United States has remained inactive, giving the local governments a chance to clean up the situation. Now, it is up to the world to unite in offense to stop this vileness.

What can we do? We sign the pledge and donate to the cause ( to let the world know that this horror must be stopped. We can show the world how to care on that day in April. Yet, most of all, we can pray. "If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31.

This video has been seen more than 11 million times since its release two days. Somehow, we are compelled to share this story. Even my Facebook page is currently flooded with pictures of Shepard Fairey's depictions of Kony to raise awareness. We, as a network and a digital world, have come together in order to at least view and hopefully support the dethroning of Kony. He is only one man, one evil, one little tic that we are wishing to expel. Imagine how much more we could do... how much further this could go.

What if this same drive, this same hope and fervor went towards spreading the message of Christ? What if the world united, not only to condemn one man, but to spread a Gospel that saves all man. God wanted to save us, the children that had been taken from him by sin; just as we wish to save these children who have been taken from their parents by Kony. But, instead of just watching, or just donating, or just messaging, or just hanging up posters, God knew that the only way to save us would be to send part of himself (knowing that he would die).

The message of Kony 2012 focuses on the future. We want to create a better, safer world for our children to live in. We want a world with hope and a world free of evil. That is the same thing the Christ wants for us. He doesn't want us to be taken from the world as Jacob desperately pleads in the video. He knows that we have a place in the world; we are called to help each other (our purpose in this world is vocation). Whether it be helping a child cross the street, smiling and saying hello, or even saving enslaved youth; God works through us to tend to the world. We are all put here with an intended purpose. Our cooperation in defeating Kony should be proof enough. It is great that no matter our background (sexuality/race/gender/phil.), we are able to work together for this cause. To prevent the absence of love, we have shown that we really do love our neighbors (especially the Ugandans). Our hearts go out to them giving us the need to help. God also wants us to know joy and hope in him knowing that he has defeated all that stands against us. He has risen and ascended, proving that he is unstoppable. We too will liberate these children from what could be death (to truly live a will or freedom should be supplied in the American philosophy) and bring them back to a joyous life.

I know that these are dark days and that it is hard to imagine why God would want this to happen. Why would he let Kony do this? Why all those children? Why, God, why? In truth, we can never know. But, take heart. Know that we will defeat this evil. Know that even though Kony meant his acts for ill, God can use them for good. We will be able to sing and rejoice the day that Kony is defeated. The captive children will weep tears of joy in their freedom.

God's peace brothers and sisters,
Josh Schmidt

Here's some updated posts:

Here's a link to the TIME Magazine article:

Here's a link to the Invisible Children Facebook page:

Where Reality Lies (Slice)

"Yet we all chase shadows. We chase them because they are a haunting enticement of the substance without being the substance themselves. It takes a jolt, sometimes even a painful jolt, to remind us where reality lies and where shadows seduce. Jesus was so aware of this weakness within us that he often walked the second mile to meet us in order that something more dramatic might be used to put into perspective for us what is more real and of greater importance to God. Yes, he did heal that man, but not without the reminder of what the ultimate miracle was. Once we understand this, we understand the relationship between touching the soul and touching the body. In this instance, Jesus followed the act of forgiveness with the easier act of physical healing. If the paralytic was a wise man he would walk with the awareness that the apparently less visible miracle was actually more miraculous than the more visible one—even as his feeling of gratitude for his restored body would remain a constant reminder to him of the restoration of his soul.

As I have pondered this and the many other examples of Jesus's acts of mercy, I look at our hurting world that is desensitized to the gospel message—the message that cleanses the soul, heals the inner being, and brings light to the body. Our world is weighed down with pain, fear, suffering, and poverty. Our world is so broken that if we were to stare reality in the face, we would wish it really were only a shadow and not an actual embodiment. Such is the blind eye people turn to the familiar and dismiss as mere shadows what is tragically real. Sadly, both body and soul are forgotten in the process. The cost in human suffering is beyond computation.

In such a world, the question becomes: Does Jesus still lift body and soul out of the shadow and bring it into the light? I believe he does, and what an answer is the cross upon which "He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows." Such is the power of love. It is Christ who shows that unless a person's pain is understood one will never understand a person's soul. He is the best reminder of what is real and what is shadow."

Anger (Fallen Son)

The second step of the Kübler-Ross model is anger. This comic begins with the New Avengers (These are the Avengers who were against the registration act; they were on Cap's side of the Civil War) also meeting behind locked doors like the disciples (the heroes are hiding in secret, behind disguised doors ... John 20:19). The New Avengers (Thing, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, and Wolverine) attempt to play poker while the Mighty Avengers (Ms. Marvel, Ares, Wasp, Wonder Man, Black Widow, ...) try to take down Tiger Shark and his mind-controlled sea-monster army. Both teams end up taking their anger out on each other. Spider-Man lunges at Wolverine and Ms. Marvel almost slaughters Tiger Shark.

Even though they should be focused on the task-at-hand, both teams have bottled up aggression in the loss of Cap' (a hero to both sides). This causes problems. There should be peace in a meeting of superheroes (the New Avengers), not anger. Tiger Shark probably would have been killed by Ms. Marvel if Namor hadn't shown up to take him away. "Pressing anger produces strife." Proverbs 30:33.

In this same way, we become angry. When we can't do what we want to do or feel the need to do (like Paul in Romans 7:19: "I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.") we may become aggressive. We may be mad that we can't complete God's law (I used this as an example in chapel Instead of trying to solve the problem or come to terms, rage fills our mind. We look for someone to blame. We blame our friends, we blame our family, and we blame God. Most of the time, we forget to blame ourselves.

One of the new sayings in my room is "You know what all of your main problems have in common? All of your main problems have this one thing in common... It's you." A lot of the time we don't realize that the best way to "solve" a problem may be to change our perspective on it. Peter rebukes Jesus in Mark 8 because he does not understand that what Jesus says must be true. The Son of Man must die. If Peter could have known the whole story he may not have attempted to rebuke God.

Upon Jesus' arrest, before thinking, Peter draws his sword and cuts off a soldiers ear (John 18:10). Even though he is not a son of thunder (like James and John), his personality makes him lash out. Anger is a defense mechanism. When we don't understand what's going on, we may not know the whole situation or even comprehend our own feelings about it, we lash out in anger.

Even though we may feel enraged, James 1:19-20 encourages us to be slow to anger: "Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God." Without God's peace and a cool head, self-control (a key teaching in Christianity) is difficult to grasp. How can you help others when this emotion is overpowering yourself? "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" Matthew 7:3.

We should remember that Jesus is the completion of the law (Romans 10:4). Even though we may be looking for people to blame, Christ took care of what we had always lacked. It is not as if we no longer need to try to keep the law (as it still serves as a curb, mirror, and guide), but we no longer need to be enraged at our own shortcomings. We can live in the peace of his resurrection and know him as our guide and Lord. Instead of merely coming to terms with his death, it can bring us hope as we know that in His death he has defeated all Death. In truth he lives and grants salvation to those who believe in him.

It's also good to note that there is even a passage in the Bible entitled "Anger." Matthew 5:21-26 discusses anger with your brothers and sisters in God's family. It teaches us not to feed off of the anger or abuse it, but to reconcile and seek forgiveness.

What should we do with this anger then? We can use it as a driving force (like Atrocitus in the DC universe). Instead of fueling the emotion, we can use the emotion as fuel. We can burning off adrenaline in righteous work instead of anger; redirect its effect. But, we need to remember not to go overboard like these heroes were pretty close to doing.

To be continued...

Make sure to check in next time
as we discuss the third stage of grief "Bargaining:"