Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Planting Seeds (Weeds of Faith)


Jolen is an Inhuman.

He has been given the power of plant manipulation.

He was one of the few of the Inhuman super-race to be sent to Earth from their home on the moon to see how well their race could cohabitate with our human-race.  Bent on making sure that their time on Earth sheds a dark light on humanity, Jolen  used his power to cause strife and conflict between his own group of Inhuman "friends" along with the normal humans.


Jolen uses his influence on plants not only on the plants themselves, but also through them. He manipulates those around him. He inspires fear, traps the weak, and constantly has his way. Poison Ivy does the same thing in the DC world.

It's a shame, really, to have the ability to create something and misuse it. Jolen could make the most beautiful plants, bushes, and trees in the world. But, instead he chooses to form spiked weeds and poison plants.

He spends his gift well in planting something, tending it, and watching it grow. But, instead of making a breath-taking flower with the perfect sent in order to form appreciation (for the gift given to him), Jolen spends his time growing gnarly and rough snake-like vines to cause destruction.

In our real world people do this too.

Instead of teaching the beautiful and breath-taking truth of the Gospel, they spread snake-filled lies. They grow their philosophies from the smallest hint of an idea (the seed) to the biggest, ugliest moss-pits imaginable (enormous and fallacious arguments, irrational bantering, and filibustering). This is why we must heed the warning found in Colossians 2: "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit."


Where the world may wish us to believe that we should be swayed by their slippery vines and hallucinogenic herbs we must remember that we have been given Christ as Lord and we must continue to be "rooted" in him.

Like a precious seed, we have been "buried with him in baptism" which has also "raised" us with him through faith. We have budded and bloomed. From the dry kernel, the Spirit has made us alive and able to grow even more in faith.

It is as 1 Corinthians says. We are God's field. Although some evangelists may have planted or helped water the seed of faith, it is God who is at work. He is the one who is able to let the  truth grow in you and through you.

Although we may be like Jolen or Poison Ivy, spreading falsities, we may learn to become like Paul, spreading the Gospel. God's Law becomes the weed-killer and the Gospel becomes the Miracle Grow. Where once there was just a twisted growth into death, God has taught us to grow into life.

Instead of becoming choked by thorns like the seeds in The Parable of the Sower, we can be the seeds that produced grain. Instead of letting the Jolen's and Ivy's in the world suck up our beliefs and make them whither, we can flourish as God would love to see us do. Instead of being cursed, we may be brought back to life.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to Love


"See you had a lot of moments
that didn’t last forever.
Now you in this corner
trying to put it together:
How to love..."


There are so many meanings to the word "love," but many of them lead only to a lack-there-of. In the search of what love really is, many people fall prey to the same mistake that this girl had. She wanted to be accepted, to be loved and know love. But, she thought she could only fill the void of love with the sexual pleasure. The Psychologist, Viktor Frankl, might have said it best: "Love is not interpreted as a mere epiphenomenon [A phenomenon that occurs as the result of a primary phenomenon.] of sexual drives and instincts in the sense of a so-called sublimination. Love is as primary as sex. Normally, sex is a mode of expression for love. Sex is justified, even sanctified, as soon as, but only as long as, it is a vehicle of love. Thus love is not understood as a mere side-effect of sex; rather, sex is a way of expressing the experience of that ultimate togetherness which is called love" (Man's Search for Meaning pg. 112).

There are definitely different types of love: physical love, romantic love, and brotherly love. But, all seem too short. They all really point back to a bigger love, a more-wholesome love. This love they point to can only be the limitless fulfilling love that comes from God. This would be very similar to Pascal's God-shaped vacuum.

Once we find the source of this true love, God, we are able to share that love with others. When we know what love truly is then we can teach others how to love.

" By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth" 1 John 3:16-18.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us" 1 John 4:7-12.

"See I just want you to know,
That you deserve the best,
You’re beautiful."

Not only do we now know what love is and can share it with one another; God's love makes us worth something. We become Christ's bride and the Father's heirs. We become more than just servants to the world (though we are those too), we are Lords over it.

A boy ran up to his girlfiriend's father-in-law and asked him if he could marry her. The father retorted, "Why do you think you are worthy of my daughter's love?!?" The boy responded, "Sir, I thought that sort of worth was exactly the thing that real love ignored."

They were married six months later, with the father's outstanding approval. Even though we aren't worth anything without Him, God's love makes us worth something to him.

Share the love.

The Dichotomy of Deadpool (Saint & Sinner Paradox)


Most of you already know who Deadpool is. He has been a Marvel fan-favorite for a while and probably my second favorite superhero after Spider-Man. In the comic books he is loony and loves to be the center of attention along with messing with people just for fun. The movie portrayed him as a little too serious, but they did get one thing right:



He is really good at fighting. That last sentence was an understatement.

Concerning his origins, Deadpool might have said it best himself:

"The day my father Odin banished me from Asgard,
I was bitten by a vampire and had radioactive waste dumped into my eyes.
To make matters worse, my mutant ability to control weather activated
just as I was hit by a blast of gamma radiation.

Nah, actually,
I got this way by volunteering for the Weapon X program.
They promised to cure my cancer.
And they cured it all right, by giving me an outrageous healing factor.
Then they labeled me psychotic and tossed me into a prison lab.
So I escaped and became what some people might call a 'mercenary'.
I prefer the title 'cleaner of the gene pool'."


So, Deadpool (Wade Wilson) had skin cancer (a lot like leprosy). His healing factor continuously heals him so that he does not die. But, this has cost him. He would have his handsome looks (above) either way. Yet, with this continuous healing, his mind has changed.


As part of him is consistently dying, part of his is also consistently growing. His mind has become split. In reality this would make him go insane. But, due to his already loony personality he is able to take his split mind in stride. Some of the funniest Deadpool comic books are the ones where he ends up arguing with himself.

In this same way we constantly die and constantly live.

Every day, the Old Adam must be drown within us.

We have a mind that wants to sin, it worships the world we live in (the Old Adam). And this mind is "a good swimmer." It consistently wants to come back and resurface.

But, at the same time, we have a mind that knows what is best. We have a New Adam. This mind knows to follow God's commands. In a way we are as dichotomous as Deadpool. It is not as if we are hypocrites, but as if we have a disease like a cancer or leprosy that can never be truly healed on Earth. Our minds have been so sick and tainted that we start wanting not only what is good in the world, but also the bad.

Like Deadpool has been given the healing factor, we have been given the Holy Spirit. With Him we are able to still live even though we deserve to die. Our sinful nature consistently degrades and wants to die, but Christ has made it possible for the Holy Spirit to keep us alive. God consistently loves, redeems, and renews us so that we are able to carry on.

He even gives us the armor and the fighting ability needed to get through the dying world that we live in.

And with a never-give-up attitude like Deadpool's and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can continue to survive through the world around us. We can get past those who are already dead in their faith around us, not only with courage and bravery, but also with the power of God at our side. His power (the Gospel) is so great that He can do more than just heal us and promise us a complete healing once we get to Heaven, He can also heal those around us and bring the dead in faith back to eternal life.


Super-powered Philosophies



The world is run by philosophy.
Different ideas scatter around, leading people to believe one thing over the other.

Comic books have been influential in spreading different philosophies. They have created story lines to combat drug use, abuse, needless violence, and many other topics. Through the understanding of the story and its morals, the reader (possibly inadvertently) learns what to do or what not to do (moral philosophy). With Comic books, along with any other media material (newspaper, TV, internet...) the reader needs to be able to pick out the underlying theme to recognize whether or not they truly agree with the message.

I am grateful that Comic books are typically a lot more straight-forward with their viewpoints (contrasted to the hidden bias behind other media). Even though they do push these ideas through their story-lines, they do so boisterously. If someone's dealing drugs they get beat up by the good guy, message: "Drugs are bad." If someone's abusing their wife they get punished by the hero, message: "Abuse is bad."


Recently though, it has been announced that DC is going to make one of its main characters "gay:"

"Predictably, this answer caused quite a stir, with many across the internet trying to figure out which of DC's many, many characters would be coming out of the closet. A statement from DC's Senior VP of Publicity Courtney Simmons narrowed it down, when she confirmed to ABC Burbank that one of DC's 'major iconic' characters will 'reveal that he is gay in a storyline in June.' So we know that the hero in question is male, and that he is considered an 'iconic' level character.

That slims the field down considerably. The only male DC superheroes I can think of who would be considered 'iconic' are Batman, Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, and maybe Aquaman. Any one of these coming out of the closet would be a huge deal, as he would easily be the most high-profile gay hero in the comics business."


Sadly, my money would be on the Flash for the one to turn. He is the only one without a steady female influence on his life (relationship-wise). If it's not the Flash, it could be Aquaman, but they really shouldn't do that because he is the KING of the deep and in one story-line sacrificed his own arm in order to save his (biological) son. If it wasn't definitely a male, I would say that it may be Wonder Woman because they had already alluding to drastically changing her character. She was raised on an island with only woman and has never really had a decent relationship. But, if the character is really a guy it will probably be Flash.


This should not happen.

Yes, I know I'm bias.

Both Marvel and DC have usually strayed away from any sort of religion. Marvel is consistently inclusive of various faiths while DC tends to just avoid the subject. So, would not have had an affect on their judgment.

But, they both have never (as far as I am aware) supported such a harmful philosophy before. Marvel has a gay marriage coming up and DC is letting someone come out of the closet.

Homosexuality doesn't make sense. We weren't "born this way." In fact, we were obviously born to do contrarily to the homosexual belief. It would seem obvious (especially in a Darwinian view) that one man and one female make one baby for the race to continue. Even if it weren't a direct command from God to avoid this sort of sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:9), it goes against the Categorical imperative which states that one should not do something if it would not be beneficial to the world if everyone else also did it. If no one did drugs, that would be great! If no one abused anyone else, perfect!! But, if everyone stole then we would all be getting stolen from!!! And, if everyone was gay, then there would be no children and no future!!! Perhaps, homosexuality is truly just another way to trim down our species so that the world may continue to survive.

The worst part of this whole mess is that I'm pretty sure that this new genre of comic book characters will not draw in more homosexual readers as (most-likely) predicted. Gays will either read the books or not, based on their own judgment and interest in superheroes (not because of this new fad). In reality, more kids who already read the books will become gender confused or at least tolerant of the bad philosophy. The tolerance of homosexuality may be helpful for them in the direction that this country is going, but that should not be the way that we determine our morals. Morality should stand a part from and ahead of the government, not written by it.

Unlike the good of providing a release for violence or encouraging a child to wear his hearing aid, spreading the thought of homosexuality through comic books is unwarranted. But, it does portray how messed up life really is.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Cries of the Heart (Slice)


"In the Psalms, David described himself as one wounded and crying in his bed at night.
This same David spoke of the happiness that came when he took his cry to the Lord.
With that same confidence, let us begin our journey to respond to the cries of the heart.
We might be surprised to know how much bottled-up sentiment will be uncovered.
When God speaks we will not respond by saying, "Don't say a thing;"
rather, we will be soothed by God's touch
and will rest in God's comfort,
knowing that God has bothered to hear our cries
and to come near in our need."


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Hope with the Holy Spirit (A v X)

"Why are all of the people we meet skeletons?
Ugh."

One thing missing from the Hope devotion earlier this week was how much Hope wielding the Phoenix can be related to us and the Holy Spirit. It seems as if He truly was the "Forgotten God."

Images of the Phoenix are the perfect reminder of the Spirit; a living fire (Acts 2:3-4) with dove-like qualities (Matt. 3:16).

Without the Holy Spirit, we are weak and frail. We don't even have enough strength to believe without Him. But, with Him we have a limitless power source.

The comparison works perfectly with Hope and Phoenix because she is really just a C-rated character without him. Even though she has a neat family history, she really doesn't bring too much to the table by herself. She might as well join the GLA. With the Phoenix, she is a force uncontrollable that could either save or destroy the entire world.

The Spirit, in pointing to and connecting us with Christ, allows us to do all things (Phil. 4:13). He gives us the fruit (Ga. 5:22-23) and the sword (Eph. 6:17) that we need to not only get through in this sin-filled world, but also to conquer it. He gives us strength although we are weak (2 Cor. 12:10). And, He even works through us to give His gift to others.

His power is so great that it is something that everyone could benefit from, it is something that every person truly needs. He works through us so that others may also stop being like "skeletons" and become filled with the Him.

Go out into the world sharing the life changing power of Jesus,

through the Holy Spirit.





More Hope Summers:

Avengers Vs. X-Men

This has been part of the A v X Series

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Unlikely Narratives (Slice)


Unlikely Narratives

Recently, I attended a writers' conference in which the beauty, glory, and power of the written word was celebrated and extolled. Once again, I was reminded of the way in which a carefully crafted story communicates far more than we often imagine. One of my favorite seminars involved a reading from the author's work, hearing her written words wash over me and sweep me up into another time and another place. My imagination fully engaged, I was able to hear her story, place myself in her narrative more than if I had simply read her story for myself.

I often think about reading the gospel narratives in this same way; reading them aloud in order to hear the narrative flow and to be swept up into the world of the first century. It is not difficult to do with the parables of Jesus. Yet, how often do we do this kind of reading with the descriptions of events in this life of Jesus and his disciples? It might be helpful to try.

They both trod along the dusty streets of ancient Jerusalem: one as an outcast and traitor and the other as a would-be hero. One used his position to cheat and extort his own people. The other carried a dagger under his cloak to swiftly exact vengeance on agents of government extortion. Neither man would have hoped to meet the other. Yet, a stranger from a backwater town would bring the two of them together. In fact, this most unlikely pair would not only meet, but serve alongside each other. All that had previously defined them would give way to a new understanding and a new path of life.

On that most unexpected day, Matthew was collecting taxes from the people. He made sure to extract more than what was necessary to fill his coffers with unlawful profits. The stranger who came by the tax office that day looked like any other man, so it likely came as quite a shock to Matthew when the stranger called out to him, "Follow me." No one from among the people of Israel would even desire to speak with Matthew—yet this stranger called after him and invited him to follow. To where, he did not know, but his welcoming invitation was irresistible. That very night, Matthew invited the stranger to his home for dinner and they reclined at the same table. Even to Matthew, it would have been a radical sight. Seated among the most despised members of society, didn't the stranger know how deeply this company was hated? How was it that he had come to Matthew's house, a man hated in all Israel for being a sellout to the Roman government? Yet, here was this intriguing stranger eating and drinking with outsiders and sellouts.(1)

The day that Simon the Zealot was approached would be no less surprising. The Zealots sought any and all means to overthrow their Roman oppressors. As revolutionaries, Simon's political affiliates hated all that Matthew's kind represented. For Simon, Matthew was nothing but a colluder with those who sought to oppress the people of Israel. Yet this stranger from Nazareth called both of these men to his side. "Follow me," he asked. So along with a group of fisherman—Simon Peter, the sons of Zebedee, James and John—and this wretched tax collector, Simon the Zealot was invited to follow this stranger who gathered a most unexpected group of followers.(2)

Why would anyone call such an eclectic collection of people to become his followers? What kind of leader brings together people who for all practical purposes are at opposing ends of the spectrum with regards to their views of the world?

The man was Jesus of Nazareth. And his call to "follow" would upend all their expectations, replace all previous affiliations, and transform their views of the world. This unlikely group would follow Jesus beyond personal expectations and goals, as well as their expectations of him as their leader. The nature of his teachings and his form of radical hospitality would not only change their own lives and views, but transform the world. Jesus called Matthew as well as Simon, sellouts and revolutionaries alike. And the power of Christ's message is displayed in the fact that a tax collector authored one of the four gospels, and the Zealot most likely gave his life, not as a revolutionary hero, but as a martyr for the gospel.(3)

Jesus proclaimed good news good enough to bring together a tax collector and a zealot, men from entirely opposing camps, the poor and the rich, the outcast and the sellouts. Indeed, he declared that anyone who does the will of God is his brother and sister and mother. The good news was also given to a former blasphemer, persecutor, and violent aggressor. But this is not what we remember the apostle Paul for either. We remember him for his efforts to take the good news throughout the Roman world.

The gospel story has a way of reaching out and adopting into the family of Jesus a most unlikely group of characters. But Jesus continues to call them to follow him—together—as the gospel goes forth into the utmost parts of the earth.

This, then, is both the challenge and the opportunity of entering into the gospel narrative. As I place myself in the narrative, I hear an invitation broad enough, wide enough, and good enough to include even me; it also reaches out and welcomes those I might not expect and bids me to serve alongside. It challenges me to leave my preconceptions behind, as the door to the kingdom of God swings open to fellow sinners who will become saints. And it ushers us in a community of new allegiances, a body only God could create and a story too good and too true.

--Margaret Manning

(1) See Mark 2:13-17.
(2) See Mark 3:13-19.
(3) Many later church traditions suggest that Simon joined Jude in apostolic ministry. Later tradition suggests that Simon was martyred by being sawn in two. See for example, The Golden Legend (Aurea Legenda) compiled by Jacobus de Voragine, 1275.

Kony 2012: Results (Cause)

I just got this email today:

LRA commander Caesar Achellam was captured alive
by Ugandan military troops this weekend.



Caesar Achellam Captured Alive.

Over the weekend one of Joseph Kony's top three commanders was captured. Caesar Achellam has been with Joseph Kony and the LRA for more than two decades. He was captured Saturday by Ugandan forces in the Central African Republic (CAR) along with a wife, a daughter, and a 12-year-old girl.

In early interviews, Achellam said, "My coming out will have a big impact for the people still in the bush to come out and end this war soon."

You have made LRA violence an issue that merits global attention. Thank you for your diligent efforts. Capturing Caesar Achellam is a victory in every sense. It is proof that the remaining LRA commanders can be captured alive and it is an important opportunity to encourage members of the LRA to surrender peacefully. Visit our blog to find out more about Achellam's role in the LRA and the significance of his capture.





Sincerely,
Invisible Children

Hope (Avengers Vs. X-Men)


"You say I'm your future.
I'm here to save you or something.
I'm starting to think...

I dunno,

maybe I am. "


Hope Summers was pretty much a normal girl. Well, I guess she was as normal as any mutant and daughter of Cable (time traveling cyborg son of Scott Summers [Cyclops]) could be. She had been protected all of her life by Cable (the reason why he left his bromance with Deadpool and traveled to the future in the first place). In order that one day she may wield the power of the phoenix (which comes to earth as an extreme power and is only able to be controlled by very few individuals [Jean Grey was the last one to wield the Phoenix]) in order to save the world. Perhaps, in revenge of the Messiah Complex, where the mutants become decimated and endangered, or just due to the often found mutant superiority attitude, the X-Men want to use Phoenix on their side. This could possibly wipe out many non-mutants. On the other hand, the Avengers want to prevent Hope from doing anything with the demonic storm in order to stop whatever serious repercussions may happen.

In a way, the X-Men think that Hope's their savior while the Avengers see her as a danger. This is currently at the root of the Avengers Vs. X-Men series. Hope has taken on the burden of carrying the Phoenix. And this will surely influence the world in many unforeseen ways.


"I know why you're scared.
You think the Phoenix is either going to kill me or drive me crazy.
Or maybe both. Just like it did Jean.

But I'm not your dead wife, Scott.
That's not my story.

The Phoenix is coming.
I know that.

And I'm not afraid.
I want it to come.
I'm ready."
Hope Summers
[Picture of Jean as
Phoenix]

Even though it may overwhelm or overpower her, Hope is ready. She is willing to be the role that she needs to be. She will take on the Phoenix. She will do her best to save the world.

It might be scary at first, possibly even uncontrollable, but we also need to be like Hope. When we see where we fit and recognize where our true calling is, we can follow through no matter how difficult it seems. We can know that many are the plans that God has for us, "plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11). We can trust in Him.

At the same time, with all of Hope's time traveling and immediate difference she makes to others (the whole world really), we can remember our influence to others. As seen on It's a Wonderful Life, just the fact of whether we are present on not in others lives changes them. Like the show Journeyman, who is called to hobble through time, helping people and being there for them, his presence alone makes a world of difference and he becomes a major event changer in the person's lives. Hope's life is the same way. And, I would argue, that our lives are too.

We can be the good influence to our neighbor in our vocation. We can step up to the challenge and be who we were meant to be, to be there for them. Like Christ is and was their for us, saving us from our sin and forgiving our trespasses, we can be there for each other.

With graduation coming up this weekend, remember those who were there for you and those you were there for. It would be horrible to have missed any one of these opportunities to have been there for each other. Don't hesitate to be there for someone in the future.

But, we must continually remember that it is only with God's strength (Psalm 73:26) and hope in Him (Psalm 146:5-6) that we can become these tools that He has intended us to be, whether it be strengthening us through our suffering (Romans 5:3-5) or transforming us with the Gospel (Romans 12:2). God can work through us to constantly be His light and His hand for one another.

Although it might not seem as if we change the world, like Hope does, we do still change someone's world.








P.S. Here are some more great verses from Jeremiah 29:

"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you... and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile" (Jeremiah 29:12-14).

P.P.S. Journeyman is a really awesome show when considering vocation. He is called away to serve whomever his gut tells him to at different time periods. He can never find I scientific answer that quite fits his predicament and it's even suggested that God might be playing a role (or at least some other power out there). There is only one season and it's really worth watching.



More Hope Summers:

Hope with the Holy Spirit

This has been part of the A v X Series

Monday, May 14, 2012

Leadership Like Paul's


A LEADER: MAN OR OFFICE?
Josh Schmidt

When we choose to follow someone, many times it is only because they are the boss. They have an office above ours and it is our job to do what they say. But, can’t leadership be more than a job? Most good leaders are recognized not just because people follow them, but because people want to follow them. Yet, what is the difference between someone that we must follow and someone that we wish to follow? Often times it is character.

Character is more than just personality. It is who a person is and what they have been built up to be (See Rom. 5:3-4). In some cases, a person may have learned how to be a leader through their office; learning through endurance who they are. But, it would seem that the office is not the only thing that designates someone as a true leader.

Paul is a great example of this. Long before he was proclaimed as one of God’s chosen instruments (Acts 9:15), he was a leader of the Jews. He was highly educated and respected. Known as Saul, he stood by while Christians were persecuted (Acts 7:58) and he led arrests of those who believed in the Lord (Acts 9:1-2). It was by his office that he led.

On the road to Damascus, he changed. God’s words rang in his ears, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4) and Saul became transformed by Christ (Rom. 12:2). He was no longer known as Saul, he became Paul. He did not continue to lead in an earthly way, solely through his office, but in a loving way, through his character.

Instead of being like the deceitful Pharisees around him, Paul now exuded authenticity. He did not wish to please others so that he could boast in himself and his own reputation, like many other leaders do. Instead of being greedy and self-serving, Paul only wished to boast in God and focus on who He is (2 Cor. 10:17-18). Paul strived to live, as any Christian should, by example (2 Thess. 3:7). He took his vocation even further. He not only walked the walk, he ran the race (2 Tim. 4:7).

In his change of character, Paul also became approachable. He did not hide in the temple or behind the Law, like the other religious men did, Paul stayed out in the open proclaiming the Gospel. He lived in the community, amongst those to whom he preached. Not only that, Paul encouraged questions and hoped to help others know God.

Instead of living to be served, Paul now lived to serve. Learning to become humble, he put others above himself. This was not through some sort of understanding of his duty, but it was through the affection that he had for others (1 Thess. 2:8). Paul served out of love, “like a nursing mother taking care of her own children,” (1 Thess. 2:7) and encouraged others (1 Thess. 2:12).

In learning to lead as Paul led, we can understand that no matter what type of leadership your office may hold, your character is what should shine through. Whether you are a teacher, minister, politician, or shepherd, your authenticity, approachability, humility, and genuine love for others is what truly leads others to you. Perhaps it is because these other characteristics, given by God to you, are also truly what will lead you.

Source:
I wrote this for YouthWorker Magazine. Please, click the link here.

The Helpful Hulk (Psych)


VIOLENT MEDIA IS GOOD FOR KIDS

"At 13 I was alone and afraid. Taught by my well-meaning, progressive, English-teacher parents that violence was wrong, that rage was something to be overcome and cooperation was always better than conflict, I suffocated my deepest fears and desires under a nice-boy persona. Placed in a small, experimental school that was wrong for me, afraid to join my peers in their bumptious rush into adolescent boyhood, I withdrew into passivity and loneliness. My parents, not trusting the violent world of the late 1960s, built a wall between me and the crudest elements of American pop culture.

Then the Incredible Hulk smashed through it.

One of my mother's students convinced her that Marvel Comics, despite their apparent juvenility and violence, were in fact devoted to lofty messages of pacifism and tolerance [True.]. My mother borrowed some, thinking they'd be good for me. And so they were. But not because they preached lofty messages of benevolence. They were good for me because they were juvenile. And violent.

The character who caught me, and freed me, was the Hulk: overgendered and undersocialized, half-naked and half-witted, raging against a frightened world that misunderstood and persecuted him. Suddenly I had a fantasy self to carry my stifled rage and buried desire for power. I had a fantasy self who was a self: unafraid of his desires and the world's disapproval, unhesitating and effective in action. 'Puny boy follow Hulk!' roared my fantasy self, and I followed.


I followed him to new friends--other sensitive geeks chasing their own inner brutes--and I followed him to the arrogant, self-exposing, self-assertive, superheroic decision to become a writer. Eventually, I left him behind, followed more sophisticated heroes, and finally my own lead along a twisting path to a career and an identity.... I wrote some Hulk stories, and met the geek-geniuses who created him. I saw my own creations turned into action figures, cartoons, and computer games. I talked to the kids who read my stories. Across generations, genders, and ethnicities I kept seeing the same story: people pulling themselves out of emotional traps by immersing themselves in violent stories. People integrating the scariest, most fervently denied fragments of their psyches into fuller senses of selfhood through fantasies of superhuman combat and destruction.

... In the wake of the recent burst of school shootings, I heard pop psychologists insisting that violent stories are harmful to kids, heard teachers begging parents to keep their kids away from 'junk culture.' ...

That's when I started the research.


'Fear, greed, power-hunger, rage: these are aspects of our selves that we try not to experience in our lives but often want, even need, to experience vicariously through stories of others,' writes Melanie Moore, Ph.D., a psychologist who works with urban teens. 'Children need violent entertainment in order to explore the inescapable feeling that they've been taught to deny, and to reintegrate those feelings into a more whole, more complex, more resilient selfhood.'

... Every aspect of even the trashiest pop-culture story can have its own developmental function. Pretending to have superhuman powers helps children conquer the feelings of powerlessness that inevitably come with being so young and small. The dual-identity concept at the heart of many superhero stories helps kids negotiate the conflicts between the inner self and the public self as they work through the early stages of socialization. Identification with a rebellious, even destructive, hero helps children learn to push back against a modern culture that cultivates fear and teaches dependency.

At its most fundamental level, what we call 'creative violence'--head-bonking cartoons, bloody videogames, playground karate, toy guns--gives children a tool to master their rage. Children will feel rage. Even the sweetest and most civilized of them, even those whose parents read the better class of literary magazines, will feel rage. The world is uncontrollable and incomprehensible; mastering it is a terrifying, enraging task. Rage can be an energizing emotion, a shot of courage to push us to resist greater threats, take more control, than we ever thought we could. But rage is also the emotion our culture distrusts the most. Most of us are taught early on to fear our own. Through immersion in imaginary combat and identification with a violent protagonist, children engage the rage they've stifled, come to fear it less, and become more capable of utilizing it against life's challenges.

... I'm not going to argue that violent entertainment is harmless. I think it has helped inspire some people to real-life violence. I am going to argue that it's helped hundreds of people for every one it's hurt, and that it can help far more if we learn to use it well. I am going to argue that our fear of 'youth violence' isn't well-founded on reality, and that the fear can do more harm the reality. We act as though our highest priority is to prevent our children from growing up into murderous thugs--but modern kids are far more likely to grow up too passive, too distrustful of themselves, too easily manipulated [the opposite extreme]....

... When we try to protect our children from their own feelings and fantasies, we shelter them not against violence but against power and selfhood."

Original source:

Chapter 9 of Media Studies, pages 230-233.

More Hulk:


The Wholeness of the Hulk (Devotion)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Computer Infatuationists


"No technology is neutral.
Each tool we use
changes the way we work
for bettor or worse.

The same is true for today's digital frontier, which holds a mix of promise and peril. Unfortunately, many of us seem to have embraced an ism that says new technology is good technology;

but in some cases,
our tendency to dive in
means we may miss what's really happening
beneath the surface."

A common theory of society is that most people began as artisans. As cultures started becoming domesticated and thriving within towns and villages, people settled in. The main demand changed from a hunter or food gatherer to a need for people that could work with their hands as a "primary" career. Towns eventually grew and villages became cities. Most people moved ahead to a career within the "secondary" category. Instead of creating things such as tools and structures with their hands, their jobs became human-focused. Direct human service such as accounting, lawyership, care-giving, and the like became the most popular demand.

Most sociologists today would exclaim that we are now moving into a "tertiary" career track. Instead of directly creating things with our hands (primary) or performing a face-to-face human service (secondary), we will begin working through other means. With the use of telephones, computers, and the internet, people will no longer need to be in direct contact with each other in order to work. It has been stated that one day, most of us will just need to get out of bed (or possibly remain lying in it) and meander over to the computer to "go to work." Instead of performing physical or personal labor, our individual knowledge and influence will be utilized over electronic means.

Now, this tertiary career change is not necessarily evil or inhumane like some cultures might proclaim (such as the Amish and some Islamic sects). Using technology has its place. In fact, it may help the Christians call, "to serve your neighbor," even more convenient.

At the same time, we need to remain aware of what is happening.

Many philosophers themselves have struggled with the difference between idea and substance / noumena and phenomena / primary qualities and secondary qualities... It is extremely difficult to rationally prove that any real thing exists outside of one's body. With modern technology, the gap gets even broader.


In many households today, kids are obsessed with remaining online. Monitors and iPads have created a new form of mesmerization that the world has never seen. It leads me to picture a man from just decades ago walking up to someone watching TV, using a nook/kindle/iPad, or watching a monitor and asking them, "What's so great about watching a glowing box?!?" He would surely think that the "victim" must be under some sort of trance or possessed state.

This reminds me of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Montag's wife, Mildred, is obsessed with watching TV's encompassing three of the four walls in their living room. It seems as if she has no real life, even if she did she would have to think for herself and put herself out there, so it is much easier for her to stay home and read from a script so that she can have this sort of life. So she doesn't have to think, the walls think for her. She would be glad if her husband felt the same way.

In his other book, The Illustrated Man (a collection of short stories), Bradbury has a chapter entitled "The Veldt." Here, two parents use an electronic nursery to keep their kids happy. It works. The wall screens and room all appear real and joyous. Only, when the parents threaten to take this new, miraculous, world away from their children, the kids change the rooms settings to a dangerous veldt (African Plain) filled with lions. They trick their parents into being locked inside the nursery with the lions who are supposedly harmless and machine-generated. It is implied that the parents are quickly mauled and killed by the atrocities of the machine.

Knowing his books were written in the 1950's would make Bradbury seem like some sort of prophet.

It would be easy to give into the trap of Mildred, relieving ones self of the stress in worry or the need to think. Sitting in front of the TV all day is a new form or relaxation and comfort. But, if we are not careful, it sways to a new form of gluttony, sloth, and degeneration. What was meant to be used as a tool for broadcasting information and increasing knowledge may prove to do the opposite.

In the nursery world, the kids become addicted to the machine. They also prefer it to the real world which contains real struggles. They become apathetic to natural life and replace it with the synthetic. This synthetic then destroys all they have, their only care-givers, their parents. Instead of learning to love their family, they destroy it as a sacrifice to the machine.


If we are not careful, we might fall into Mildred or the children's traps. We need to remember that there is more than just electronics. There is a whole world out here to explore. It's more than just pixels and sounds. It's emotion, experience, ..., trials, joys, beginnings, and endings. It's life!

... Just think about it, you wouldn't want to watch a show if all they did was watch TV would you? ...

The computer is great if utilized as a tool (and an excellent device in "serving your neighbor"), but dangerous if it becomes more. It helps to communicate, but is it worth it if you forget how to talk one-on-one? Many people are terrified of public speaking, but relieve themselves by posting their thoughts online. Do these things correlate? Is the internet a misused relief-system? There is a place and time for the internet, but it should not be every place and all the time.

Do not become too mesmerized by the screen in front of you to forget the world that's around you.

The most terrifying thing about this article is that I find myself needing to heed this warning too.

"Isms" (Youth Worker)


"Atheism, pluralism, consumerism,
secularism, universalism and Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD)
are a few of the isms surrounding us,
profoundly influencing our lives and faith.

Many in youth ministry
are aware that contemporary isms
compete for young people's minds and hearts,
but few have a plan for exposing
and critiquing these philosophies and worldviews...."

For some help, check out the most recent Youth Worker Journal.

Nonsense or New Life? (Slice)




Nonsense or New Life?

Is the Christian faith intellectual nonsense? Does God really transform us?

"If God exists and takes an interest in the affairs of human beings, his will is not inscrutable," writes Sam Harris about the 2004 tsunami in Letter to a Christian Nation. "The only thing inscrutable here is that so many otherwise rational men and women can deny the unmitigated horror of these events and think this is the height of moral wisdom."(1) In his article "God's Dupes," Harris argues, "Everything of value that people get from religion can be had more honestly, without presuming anything on insufficient evidence. The rest is self-deception, set to music."(2) Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins similarly suggests that the idea of God is a virus, and we need to find software to eradicate it. Somehow if we can expunge the virus that led us to think this way, we will be purified and rid of this bedeviling notion of God, good, and evil.(3) Along with a few others, these atheists call for the banishment of all religious belief. "Away with this nonsense" is their battle cry. In return, they promise a world of new hope and unlimited horizons once we have shed this delusion of God.

I have news for them, however—news to the contrary. The reality is that the emptiness that results from the loss of the transcendent is stark and devastating, philosophically and existentially. Indeed, the denial of an objective moral law, based on the compulsion to deny the existence of God, results ultimately in the denial of evil itself. Furthermore, one would like to ask Dawkins: Are we morally bound to remove that virus? Somehow he himself is, of course, free from the virus and can therefore input our moral data.

In an attempt to escape what they call the contradiction between a good God and a world of evil, atheists try to dance around the reality of a moral law (and hence, a moral law giver) by introducing terms like "evolutionary ethics." The one who raises the question against God in effect plays God while denying God exists. Now one may wonder: Why do you actually need a moral law giver if you have a moral law? The answer is because the questioner and the issue he questions always involves the essential value of a person. You can never talk of morality in abstraction. Persons are implicit to the question and the object of the question. In a nutshell, positing a moral law without a moral law giver would be equivalent to raising the question of evil without a questioner. So you cannot have a moral law unless the moral law itself is intrinsically woven into personhood, which means it demands an intrinsically worthy person if the moral law itself is valued. And that person can only be God.

In reality, our inability to alter what is actual frustrates our grandiose delusions of being sovereign over everything. Yet the truth is we cannot escape the existential rub by running from a moral law. Objective moral values exist only if God exists. Is it all right, for example, to mutilate babies for entertainment? Every reasonable person will say "no." We know that objective moral values do exist. Therefore, God must exist. Examining those premises and their validity presents a very strong argument.

Of course, the world does not understand what the absoluteness of the moral law is all about. Some get caught, some don’t get caught. Yet who of us would like our hearts exposed on the front page of the newspaper today? Have there not been days and hours when like the apostle Paul, you’ve struggled within yourself, and said, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.... What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:15, 24). Each of us knows this tension and conflict within if we are honest with ourselves.

In that spirit, we ought to take time to reflect seriously upon the question, "Has God truly wrought a miracle in my life? Is my own heart proof of the supernatural intervention of God?" In the West where we go through seasons of new-fangled theologies, the whole question of "lordship" plagued our debates for some time as we asked, is there such a thing as a minimalist view of conversion? "We said the prayer and that's it." Yet how can there be a minimalist view of conversion when conversion itself is a maximal work of God's grace? "Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). In a strange way we have minimized every sacred commitment and made it the lowest common denominator. What might my new birth mean to me? That is a question we seldom ask. Who was I before God's work in me, and who am I now? [Check out Romans 12:2.]

The first entailment of coming to know the God of transformation is the new hungers and new pursuits that are planted within the human will. I well recall that dramatic change in my own way of thinking. There were new longings, new hopes, new dreams, new fulfillments, but most noticeably a new will to do what was God's will. This new affection of heart—the love of God wrought in us through the Holy Spirit—expels all other old seductions and attractions. The one who knows Jesus Christ begins to see that her own misguided heart is impoverished and in need of constant submission to the will of the Lord—spiritual surrender. The hallmark of conversion is to see one's own spiritual poverty. Arrogance and conceit ought to be inimical to the life of the believer. A deep awareness of one's own new hungers and longings is a convincing witness both to God and God's grace within.

--Ravi Zacharias

(1) Sam Harris, Letter to a Christian Nation (New York: Knopf, 2006), 48.
(2) Sam Harris, "God’s Dupes," The Los Angeles Times (March 15, 2007). Article available at http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/gods-dupes1/
(3) Richard Dawkins, "Viruses of the Mind," 1992 Voltaire Lecture (London: British Humanist Association, 1993), 9.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Does Prayer Matter? (Slice)


Does Prayer Matter

There is an immense difference between a worldview that is not able to answer every question to complete satisfaction and one whose answers are consistently contradictory. There is an even greater difference between answers that contain paradoxes and those that are systemically irreconcilable.

Once again, the Christian faith stands out as unique in this test, both as a system of thought and in the answers it gives. Christianity does not promise that you will have every question fully answered to your satisfaction before you die, but the answers it gives are consistently consistent. There may be paradoxes within Christian teaching and belief, but they are not irreconcilable. To those who feel that Christianity has failed them because of prayers that went unanswered, it is important to realize what I am saying here.

I sat with a man in my car, talking about a series of heartbreaks he had experienced. "There were just a few things I had wanted in life," he said. "None of them have turned out the way I had prayed. I wanted my parents to live until I was at least able to stand on my own and they could watch my children grow up. It didn't happen. I wanted my marriage to succeed, and it didn't. I wanted my children to grow up grateful for what God had given them. That didn't happen. I wanted my business to prosper, and it didn't. Not only have my prayers amounted to nothing; the exact opposite has happened. Don't even ask me if you can pray for me. I am left with no trust of any kind in such things."

I felt two emotions rising up within me as I listened. The first was one of genuine sorrow. He felt that he had tried, that he had done his part, but that God hadn't lived up to his end of the deal. The second emotion was one of helplessness, as I wondered where to begin trying to help him.

These are the sharp edges of faith in a transcendent, all-powerful, personal God. Most of us have a tendency to react with anger or withdrawal when we feel God has let us down by not giving us things we felt were legitimate to ask him for. We may feel guilty that our expectations toward God were too great. We may feel that God has not answered our prayers because of something lacking in ourselves. We may compare ourselves with others whose every wish seems to be granted by God, and wonder why he hasn't come through for us in the way he does for others. And sometimes we allow this disappointment in God to fester and eat away at our faith in him until the years go by and we find ourselves bereft of belief.

G. K. Chesterton surmised that when belief in God becomes difficult, the tendency is to turn away from him—but, in heaven's name, to what? To the skeptic or the one who has been disappointed in his faith, the obvious answer to Chesterton's question may be to give up believing that there's somebody out there, take charge of your own life, and live it out to the best of your own ability.

But Chesterton also wrote, "The real trouble with the world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite."(2) He is right. Only so much about life can be understood by reason; so much falls far short of any reasonable explanation. Prayer then becomes the irrepressible cry of the heart at the times we most need it. For every person who feels that prayer has not "worked" for them and has therefore abandoned God, there is someone else for whom prayer remains a vital part of her life, sustaining her even when her prayers have gone unanswered, because her belief and trust is not only in the power of prayer but in the character and wisdom of God. God is the focus of such prayer, and that is what sustains such people and preserves their faith.

Prayer is far more complex than some make it out to be. There is much more involved than merely asking for something and receiving it. In this, as in other contexts, we too often succumb to believing that something is what it never was, even when we know it cannot be as simple as we would like to think it is.

[Prayer teaches us not only to talk to God, but to truly lean on Him. In our words, we are reminded that He is there for us, hearing us. Even though His response may seem unheard or misplaced, it is still there. He loves us and cares for us.]

--Ravi Zacharias

(1) Excerpted from Has Christianity Failed You? by RAVI ZACHARIAS. Copyright © 2010 by Ravi Zacharias. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com
(2) G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 87.



Prayer is really to help strengthen your relationship with God. He already knows your thoughts, wants, and needs (and takes care of them). Prayer, then, is many times voicing your gratitude, repenting, and listing your wants/needs... not really to have your request filled, but to remember that God knows what they are and truly considers them in caring for what's best for you.


"Prayer is an opportunity
to express our thanks and praise,
as well as our deepest needs.

As we present our requests to God,
we act in faith,
believing that God will answer
our prayers according to
His will."



"The really amazing thing is that God actually offers us human beings the privilege of influencing His decisions. God invites us, even orders us, to pray (Psalm 50:15; Matthew 6:5-15). At any time we can come to the Lord in prayer, knowing it really makes a difference.

Who are we to influence God? In ourselves, nothing! But God has made us 'something' when He sent His own Son, Jesus, to become a human being like us, to live and to die and to rise form the dead. And now we can speak to Him confidently as dear children ask their dear Father."

Portals of Prayer

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Pascal's Pensées (Introduction Retake)




Pascal's Pensées
Introduction Retake

There were a couple things I haven't addressed yet that were contained in the introduction. Although, the last post was a good summary/preview of Blaise Pascal and his life, there is still much more to be said.

Pascal's first conversion had happened in 1646, when he was 23. After Blaise' father had broken his hip (an often fatal tragedy at the time) and miraculously recovered. This experience led not only Pascal, but also most of his family to believe in God due to the extreme influence of Pascal Sr.'s doctors (who were Jansenists) and the witness of the Holy Spirit at work in the healing process. His father died four years after his healing (in 1650).

After his father's miracle, Pascal began to write concerning theology for the next year or so. But, in 1648 he depressed into a "worldly period" until 1654.

His sister, Jacqueline, became a Jansenist nun at Port-Royal. Growing chronically sick, Pascal seemed frustrated with the convent for taking so much of Jacqueline's (inadvertence) money stating that Port-Royal "had begun to smell like a cult."

At 29, Pascal had a taste of poverty and began a pursuit of the life of a bachelor. "During visits to his sister at Port-Royal in 1654, he displayed contempt for affairs of the world but was not drawn to God."

Pascal's second conversion fell eight years later (1654), when Pascal was 31.

I had previously quoted, "... in 1654 occurs what is called his 'second conversion,' but which might be called his conversion simply. He made a note of his mystical experience, which he kept always about him, and which was found, after his death, sewn into the coat which he was wearing. The experience occurred on 23 November, 1654, and there is no reason to doubt its genuineness unless we choose to deny all mystical experience...."

On that night between 10:30 and 12:30, Pascal had a vision and immediately recorded what he saw in a brief note to himself: "Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and the scholars..." The note concluded with Psalm 119:16, "I will not forget they word. Amen." This letter is now known as the Memorial.

Pascal became re-inspired to write on philosophical and theological matters. Starting with a two-week retreat at Port-Royal in 1655, the next four years were contained many trips between this convent and one in Paris. Immediately after his vision and during these travels, Pascal wrote the Provincial Letters (criticizing casuistry used by many Catholics, including Jesuits). Following these, he started his Pensées (thoughts).

"The plan of what we call the Pensées formed itself about 1660 [Pascal was 37]. The completed book was to have been a carefully constructed defence of Christianity, a true Apology..."

"... He who reads this book will observe at once its fragmentary nature; but only after some study will perceive that the fragmentariness lies in the expression more than in the thought. The 'thoughts' cannot be detached from each other and quoted as if each were complete in itself...."

Pascal died in 1662 at the age of 39. Even though he was unable to finish his Apologie de la religion Chrétienne ("Defense of the Christian Religion") himself, his scribbles were later published as Pascal's Pensées ("Pascal's Thoughts").

One of this apologie's main strategies is to use the contradictory philosophies of skepticism and stoicism in order to bring the unbeliever to such despair and confusion that he would embrace God. In Pensées, Pascal surveys many philosophical paradoxes: infinity and nothing, faith and reason, soul and matter, death and life, meaning and vanity--seemingly arriving at no real conclusions besides humility and grace. Combining these, he proclaims Pascal's Wager.

*An  event that occurred during Pascal's time at the convents was "the miracle of the Holy Thorn: a thorn reputed to have been preserved from the Crown of Our Lord was pressed upon an ulcer which quickly healed.... It probably led him [Pascal] to assign a place to miracles, in his study of faith..." This miracle had happened at Port-Royal (his sister's convent) and Pascal may have believed in it. Truly, the glorification of the thorn should have been ignored as it would have been the faith in God and gift of the Holy Spirit that actually brought the healing about.

**Pascal was also a notable mathematician and physicist.

***Most of these quotes are from T. S. Eliot's introduction.

<-Intro-The Memorial-"God-Shaped Vacuum"->


Get a copy, so you can follow along:

Harley Quinn’s Infatuation (Original Sin)



Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel is the intern psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum who works with the Joker as he is detained there. She works honestly and hard. She wants to aid all the inmates and help them to recover. However, this one inmate, the Joker, is different from the rest. He is crazy and unpredictable. He is wild, but not stupid. She cannot figure him out. She then begins to fall for the Joker and all of his mysterious danger. She is enticed by her lack of understanding of him. She needs to know and understand him. She needs to be with him. Finally, she gives in and helps him to escape.

            The Joker successfully escapes and Harleen’s nerves are set at ease. However, not long afterward Batman finds the Joker and they duke it out. The Joker is returned to Arkham Asylum, but not before receiving quite the beating from Batman. Seeing the Joker beaten and bruised pushes Harleen Quinzel over the edge, so far over the end that she then dons the costume and persona of Harley Quinn.


Harley Quinn quickly earns her status as one of the most dangerous villains in all of Gotham City. She accompanies the Joker from then on as his trusty and trigger-happy sidekick and sometimes even as his girlfriend. She has totally fallen for him, beyond the point of no return.


She works her very hardest to destroy the Batman for her lover, the Joker. She is taken advantage of by the Joker one plan after another, but she does not mind. She is totally bonkers for the Joker. She would do anything for him! If he wants the world destroyed, she would be delighted to destroy it for him. The Joker has no goal, other than to cause the world to fall. Harley Quinn is more than happy to help him trip it.



            At one point in their crime filled careers together, the Joker is captured and placed back into Arkham Asylum. Harley Quinn, being totally devoted to her evil clown, quickly makes way to save him. She disguises herself as a psychiatrist to sneak in and visit the Joker. What she does not know is that the Joker was anticipating this for his own gain. She sneaks in and sees him. The Batman finds out what is going on and rushes in to stop their supposed escape. However, no one would have guessed how untrustworthy the Joker truly is. He never intended for them both to escape. He grabs Harley Quinn and prepares to slit her throat so that the Batman can watch. Just before the knife slices, the Batman makes quick moves to free Harley Quinn from the clutches of the mad clown. Joker just looks at Harley as simply a tool to use instead of a human being. The Joker and Batman tangle while the Joker delivers a rambling rant on why he cannot kill Batman when suddenly, Harley shoots Batman in the shoulder and says... "You gotta’ stop ignoring me, Mistah Jay." In the end Batman wins the fight and places the two lunatic jokesters behind bars.


            Like Harley Quinn was drawn into the evil unpredictability of the Joker, we as humans and as individuals are drawn into the enticement of sin. We often know what is right and what God commands, but ignore it to chase after the enjoyment of sin. Adam and Eve were no different.
            “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:6 They both ate even though they knew that this was the one and only tree that God had commanded them to never eat from.


            We were made perfect in the beginning by a perfect God, but soon after fell to the lure of sin. Harley Quinn also started out good. She was an honest psychiatrist working to help those in need, but was drawn into evil.
            However, God did not leave us to die as fallen men. Just as Batman saved Harley Quinn when the very man that she devoted her entire life to attempted to kill her, He sent His one and only Son Jesus Christ to die on the cross for our salvation against the very sin that we devoted our lives to so that we may live with Him for eternity in heaven. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” When we were at our lowest, God sent His good son Jesus to die for us. Jesus is truly a superhero!
            Christ saving us from our sin was not a one time event! We are all harlequins. When Harley Quinn was saved by Batman, there was no “Thank you”. No, rather, she waited for Batman’s back to be turned and shot him through the shoulder to help the Joker escape. We do the same to Christ. When sin had its cold blade to our necks, Christ came and died on the cross, rescuing us from certain death. Did we stop sinning, though? No! We repaid Christ and His love in the same way Harley Quinn repaid Batman. We sinned again. Thankfully, Christ did not stop loving us. Even now, He forgives us for the sins that we continue to commit. He says in 1 John 1:9. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
            We can be little more than harlequins on this earth. We cannot stop sinning, but we can live in the knowledge and the thankfulness that Christ has died for us and forgives us of our sins. We are His children and we will be living with Him in heaven for all of eternity through His grace, mercy, and love. Amen.

--Logan Landes