The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Month: June, 2013

My Purpose

life-purpose2How does one define the purpose of their life?

Life can often seem so pointless. Like you are just going through mundane day after mundane day with no real direction or eternal significance. How do remind ourselves of why we are here?

I have found Paul’s words in Philippians 1:20-26 to be particularly helpful for daily setting my mind on the reason I’m still breathing. Every morning, when I wake, I quote these words to myself…

“…it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress andjoy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus…”

I agree with Paul…if I compare this life to being present with Jesus in glory, it would be far better to depart and be with Christ. But, as long as I am here, there is a reason for my presence, and Paul brings clarity to that reason…I labor to point others to Jesus in all that I do, so that they (and I) may progress in joy and the faith!

I do all things that people may have ample cause to glory in Christ!

ByPurposeThe purpose of my mundane day to day life is to lift high Jesus and proclaim every glorious reason we have to trust in him and rejoice in him.

The mundane and monotonous are redeemed by the monumental and mesmerizing glory of Jesus!

Day after day, our “regular, routine” lives are drawn up into the eternal realities of the living God. As you work, parent, change diapers, think, read, write, talk, meet deadlines, hurt, rejoice, suffer, endure, make friends, struggle…as you do normal life…enormous, eternal things are at stake.

All you do, even things as mundane as eating (1 Corinthians 10:31), can be done for the glory of Christ! All you do can point people from the daily to the eternal!

Nothing you do is insignificant!

To live is Christ! And, all we do may be done for him! Nothing is mundane! Everything is monumental…for Christ may be honored/glorified in all!

4458294625_f17dd8dbb7Have full courage! Live to give your kids, your coworkers, your family, your friends ample cause to glory in Jesus!

To live…with every mundane moment being caught up in monumental meaning…because…to live IS CHRIST!

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Letter #8: You’re a Patient, Not a Physician

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you for not being too upset by my last letter. I do hope it didn’t sound like I was being “holier than thou” or “attacking” you. Honestly, if I was attacking anyone it was myself.

I so badly want to help you avoid many of the pitfalls I dove head-first into while in seminary…especially the endless void of pride. There is actually one simple truth that really helped me combat pride during my seminarian years…

skeptical-doctorYou’re a patient…not a physician.

Over time, I noticed that I could tell when pride was beginning to swell within my heart because I would put myself in the position of a physician. I would look at the world of Christendom, diagnosing all the ills I saw and proudly proclaiming my miracle prescriptions that I just knew would bring healing!

How pompous I could be?!?! I looked down my nose at local churches and at pastors in the trenches of ministry…and from the safe, lofty heights of academia I would point out their infected theology and diseased practices. All the while, I was so blind that I could not see I was only being part of the problem…not the solution.

I was acting like a physician…yet I was truly a patient.

In other words, I was not seeing myself as part of the body of Christ! I was separate somehow. The body was sick, but not me…I was God’s gift to “fix” the body! Ha!

We are not physicians, Jesus is! He is the great physician! We are part of the body in need of his healing.

The only way I was able to see this was to actually be a part of the body. The Lord convicted me of safely distancing myself from the local church, and I knew I had to plunge in and become a part of it.

Jonathan, I would highly encourage you to be an active member of a local congregation.

Serve within the body…teach within the body if you can! Teaching should humble you and drive you to your knees as you see your own feebleness/inability and your need for Christ’s sufficiency! Teaching should help you see yourself as a patient in need of Jesus’ miraculous healing work!

It becomes very difficult to criticize the church when you see that you are a part of its brokenness.

I’m not saying there is no room for critiquing the church (perhaps I’ll write about that later), but I am saying that the posture from which you critique it transforms when you are a member of the body instead of trying to be a master over and against it.

Don’t be an arrogant seminarian who thinks he is the “Doctor” the church needs. There are enough of those. Swallow that bitter pill of pride and remember you are a part of the church that needs healing…you are broken too.

You’re a patient…not a physician.

Grace and Peace,

J

*To know/understand the premise behind these letters please click here.

Man of Steel?

*Don’t worry…there are not that many movie spoilers below.

“Space Jesus…” That was the nickname my friend gave the man of steel as soon as we exited the theater at 3am on June 14. Yes, I was crazy enough to go see the movie at midnight, but that is beside the point. A conversation ensued among the five of us about all the Christ imagery used in the film.

Superman has always been a very “Jesus-esque” character, but there were several moments this seemed to not only rise to the surface…but blatantly jump off the screen. Here are just a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • Man-of-steel-Christ-poseKal-el (Clark Kent/Superman) was born in a unique way on Krypton. It wasn’t a virgin birth, but the parallel is still there.
  • He was sent by his father to earth as a savior to bring hope.
  • He grew up in obscurity.
  • There was a scene in a church where Clark was talking to a priest and the stained glass Jesus behind him was practically sitting on his shoulder.
  • At one critical point in outer-space, Kal-el was told by his real father (Jor-el) that he must save the world and he began his flight back to earth in a slow-motion-explicitly-cruciform-shape.

I could keep on going, but it is clear that the film makers want us to catch the association they are making between their superman and Jesus. And why not? This association has long existed in the minds of comic book fans…including myself…that is until recently.

As the release date for man of steel approached and more and more trailers released…I found myself thinking a lot about why we like superheroes so much, and specifically about why superman has really fallen from the heights of his popularity throughout the years.

After all, the man of steel reboot itself has been marketed as an update of the superman mythos with a greater appeal to todays audiences. What makes superman different from the other characters we love and why the need for the makeover?

Many of you may not care or think that putting this much thought into a comic-based movie is a foolish waste of time, but I think within these questions we discover important truths about ourselves. I think I discover my desire to be my own savior.

Superheroes like batman, spider-man, the black-widow, the hulk, the x-men, etc. appeal to a wide audience, and the reason is because we find them easy to relate to due to their flaws. Each of these characters has faults or a dark-side. They are far from perfect and yet they still get to be the hero. This appeals to something deep inside me. I am able to put myself in their place and imagine that I am the one who saves the day.

I love a broken hero because that is the only type of hero I could ever be.

old-Superman-comic-cover-superman-84977_590_816The good ol’ man of steel is not like this. We find it difficult to relate with him because he is too perfect. He has every power, perfect character, perfect hair, and on and on. His only weakness has historically been rocks from his true hometown…again, not relatable.

In the truest sense, superman seems like a savior coming from the outside to rescue us. The only place for us in the superman mythos is to imagine ourselves as the one being rescued…we could never be the rescuer in the red cape.

I believe that is why the new Man of Steel movie really goes out of the way to connect Kal-el with humanity. In more or less words it is said that he needed to be “truly human” so  he could serve as a bridge between Kryptonians and humans. There is a much greater emphasis on his relationship with his earthly father, Jonathan Kent, than with Jor-el. Even the title of the film emphasizes his ability to identify with humanity…the first word is MAN.

Yes, he has amazing strength and abilities, but they want us to think of him as a MAN of steel. Here is a superman that we can hopefully identify with…a savior we can hopefully accept so that he can fly back to the heights of his former fame.

That’s all well and good for the world of comic book storytelling…but in reality…is this what we need? Do we need a MAN of steel?

We want so badly to save ourselves and our make-believe media keeps trying to tell a story where that is actually possible. We, humankind, can become the hero/heroines we need to be and, despite our character flaws, save the day. But is that truth? Can we become men/women of steel? Is that even what we need?

I believe we need just the opposite. I believe we have been given just the opposite in Jesus. When you really think about it…Jesus and Superman are not alike…they are actually completely different! And this is good news…because…

baby jesus in mangerWe don’t need a man of steel…we need a God of flesh.

God himself took on flesh. He could identify with us in every way, yet he was without sin. He stepped into this world not made of steel, but made of skin. He was tempted, he cried, he sweat, he bled…he died.

He took on our greatest enemies…the enemies within that corrupt, and the enemies without that kill. He took on sin, death, and the devil…and defeated them all by rising from the dead! He alone is our savior! The one who knows all our weaknesses for he was born, truly human, yet he was and is truly God.

We DO need a savior, not from the stars, but from among us. We need a savior who is one of us, but is not us. The good news of the Gospel is that we have been given one such savior…only one…Jesus Christ. He was not a man of steel…

He was and is the God of flesh.

*PS – I enjoyed the movie. Not the greatest film ever, but I thought it was worth seeing once in the theater.

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