Archives For death

Lazarus, Come Forth

randomlychad  —  September 21, 2016 — Leave a comment
deesisPanel2_lazarus from Flickr via Wylio

© 2012 Tim, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Today, I woke with thoughts of Lazarus in my head. To my knowledge, I myself have never been, you know, dead. The neurons are still firing up in my head. At least I’d like to think so. We’ll leave that for you, gentle reader, to decide.

“Lazarus, come forth.” It wasn’t a suggestion, but a command. This was clearly a miracle performed to show those in Bethany (where Jesus had spent so much time) that the Lord had power death. We understand that. We also understand the grief, the sense of loss, Mary, Martha, and Jesus himself felt over Lazarus’s demise. Yet this also was a command which would not have been necessary had Jesus come sooner, had healed Lazarus as he’d healed so many others.

Yet he didn’t.

Dare we impugn Lazarus? Was he lacking in faith? He knew the Lord–saw him–in ways we ourselves do not, and cannot, now know him. Yes, he lives inside. Lazarus knew him, ate with him, laughed with him, loved him.

Yet Jesus let him die.

What a letdown this was for everybody. Mary, Martha, their family, friends, the people of Bethany who knew what Jesus could do, what he had done. They knew, they saw. And yet here was one of his closest friends laid in a tomb, mouldering after three days (“I’m a servant of the Lord! Look what it’s done for me!”).

And if Lazarus, beloved of Jesus, was allowed to die what does this say of us? It seems that, rather than our best lives now, often the beloved of the Lord suffer great hardships, great losses, even die, before the miracles happen. The Christian life is, and this is not original to me, about death:

Jesus’s death on the cross, our respective deaths to ourselves. For it is in dying that we live. The lesson of Lazarus then is that while, yes, God can (and does) heal He doesn’t always. We don’t know why, except that we know him, have experienced his character–that he is good. So the lesson is that even (and sometimes especially) death can be redeemed. Somehow out of death–death to ourselves, expectations, plans–life arises.

Death often precedes the miraculous, the numinous, intruding into the courses of our everyday lives. Why is this? Only God knows.

All that we can do is lay down the gift (life) which God has given each of us back at his feet from whence it originated.

Only then can we truly live. And like Lazarus, we will live again.

Believest thou this?

The following comes from Grace Hill Media, a company whose mission is to connect Hollywood and the faith community by marketing movies that uplift, inspire, and transform. Of those, this week I have partnered with Grace Hill to highlight The Conjuring 2. At first blush, scary movies and Christianity may not seem to go together, but I don’t think that’s true. Let’s peel back the skin, shall we?

At it’s heart, Christianity is a religion of blood sacrifice: Jesus was brutally tortured, and suffered a hideous death at the hands of sinful men. And that’s a horror story if there ever was one. In fact, the Bible pulls no punches in its depiction of evil. Billy Graham once said that one of things which makes it God’s Word is that shows us (humanity) as we are. So all of human depravity is on display. Likewise, I think we do the world a disservice when we go soft on the depiction of evil in our media. I think there’s a distinction, and a vast difference, between movies like the Friday the 13th series, for instance, and films like The Conjuring. In the one, the audience is all but made to root for the killer, Jason Voorhees; in the other, evil is shown for what it is. Moreover, that evil cannot overcome good, that is to say God. In one, evil is reveled in, celebrated; in the other, it is exposed. Is that not what we as believers are called to do? Bring light into dark places?

Beyond that, in the words of director Scott Derrickson, “horror is the genre of non-denial,” e.g., it brings us face-to-face with that which we fear the most: the unknown, death, etc. The monsters are metaphor for our fears, and movies (books, too) give a safe space to vicariously face our fears. Usually, it is in horror that the veil is rent asunder–there is no denying the supernatural. Evil is a force that is real, but we can resist. Good can, and does, triumph.

I understand that others may come to a different conclusion; I respect that. But please don’t slag on my enjoyment of things that go bump in the night. With that I’ll leave you, and turn you over to Grace Hill’s parent’s guide:

 

With THE CONJURING 2 in theaters this Friday, it’s only natural to think about scary movies. For some of us, the thoughts are about avoiding them at all costs, but for others there’s excitement at thinking about getting a good scare from our theater seats.

 

But what about our kids? Especially at younger ages, they can be truly disturbed if they happen to see something onscreen that frightens them. It may not even be a well-made supernatural horror film like THE CONJURING 2 – certainly not for pre-teens – but could be something they see in one of their favorite cartoons that raises fears.

 

What can you do as a parent when this happens to your son or daughter? Here are a few tips from the experts at Focus on the Family:

 

  • The first thing you need to do is sit down with your child and give them the chance to discuss the film openly. Ask them what they saw, what they thought about it, and how it made them feel. Whatever you do, don’t make light of their fears or dismiss their feelings as silly or immature.

 

  • Once their emotions have been aired, assure your son or daughter that this was only a story, just like the imaginary tales they may have seen in picture story books. Bad things weren’t happening to real people – they were actors playing a pretend game, like they and their friends do.

 

  • Reassure your child that you, as their parent, are dedicated to protecting them. Let them know that it is one of your most important jobs – ensuring they feel safe and are safe. Reinforce that message with plenty of hugs.

 

  • If you are a Christian family, you can explain that God has promised to be with them at all times, even in the midst of danger. Open up the Bible and show them the passages where God promises never to leave us or forsake us (Genesis 28:15; Deuteronomy 31:6, 8; Joshua 1:5; Hebrews 13:5). Pray with them about the scary movie and their fears, and encourage them to pray on their own when they become frightened at night. If it seems appropriate, you can also practice some coping techniques with them, like deep breathing relaxation exercises or visualizing a happy place.

 

  • One last thought: it is definitely not a good idea for you to sleep in your child’s room or to let them sleep in your bed. That will only reinforce the behavior you’re trying to eliminate, encouraging them to act helpless and dependent. So whatever happens, make it clear that you will not be sleeping with them. Instead, find some other way to make them feel secure, like turning on a nightlight for a while or letting them take a special stuffed animal to bed.

 

Come to think of it, if you go see THE CONJURING 2 and you’re still a little scared even after the credits roll, feel free to take your favorite stuffed animal to bed with you, too.

Much ink has been spilled about the injustices, the inequities, seen all around us everyday. Kids go to bed hungry while parents shoot up dope. Or worse, kids wind up dead. There isn’t day goes by without a report of road rage; somebody cut someone else off, and then someone gets beat, shot, or run over. We regulate, legislate, send folks to anger management classes, hold sensitivity training at work, and try to watch our words. We’re simultaneously anxious, uptight, fried, yet we somehow don’t want to offend…

We sublimate, self-medicate, and stuff our feelings. Is it any wonder, with the the amounts of both intrinsic, and extrinsic, repression that there are slips in the space/time continuum? That there are blow ups? We are selfish by nature, out to get our own, looking out for number one (as the saying goes). We’re indignant when someone tramples upon our (perceived) rights, yet have no trouble trampling another’s rights, boundaries, space, to get what’s ours.

It’s reductio ad absursum. Yet we are blind to it. And no matter how enlightened, how modern, we become there are no programs, classes, sweat lodges, pilgrimages, substances, or really anything which can effect a change in what we call human nature. The heart simply cannot be changed by anything existing within the same broken, reprobate system in which it itself dwells. This calls for outside intervention.

No cleanses, juice fasts, or high colonics will ever rid us of the foolishness bound up in our hearts. A wise teacher once said it is not that which enters a man which defiles him, but rather that which comes out of him.

Out of his heart.

Many, many there are who seek enlightenment upon their own terms. But few there are who find new life.

The kids are not all right.

That’s why God sent His Son, Jesus. He may not be the immediate answer to every ill in this vale of tears, but He certainly is the ultimate one.

Seek Him while He may be found.

Guns are not the problem.
 
 Porn is not the problem.
 
 Booze is not the problem.
 
 Drugs are not the problem.
 
 Gay marriage is not the problem.
 
 No, my friends, something–someone–else is the problem:
 
 Humanity.
 
 We are the problem. Guns, porn, booze, drugs, gay marriage, slavery, sex trafficking are all just symptoms of a deeper issue:
 
 Sin.
 
 It’s not for no reason that Bible calls the human heart “desperately wicked.” Just turn on the evening news, or check your news feed, for word of the latest tragedy. We can legislate and legislate and legislate until we’re blue in the face, and still not affect any real change. Because if one thing is true, it’s this: while we can force displays of compliance, we can’t mandate any change of the human heart. Those that want to will still find the means to gun others down. Those that want to will still look at porn. The same with drugs, alcohol, and all other depravities known to man.
 
 Sin will always find a way.
 
 Historically, prohibition wasn’t all that long ago. And we all know how well that turned out. The same with the so-called war on drugs… Fallen humanity cannot, will not, change. It’s our nature to destroy ourselves and one another. Every evil perpetrated is an extrinsic manifestation of an irrefutable intrinsic reality:
 
 “The heart is evil and desperately wicked. Who can know it?” Yet we, in our hubris, think we can just treat symptoms and be done. All the while Cain kills Abel time and time again, because evil cannot be legislated away. “Man was born to trouble as the sparks fly upward.”
 
 Despite more and more evidence linking smoking to cancer, and tighter and tighter legislation, people don’t care and haven’t stopped smoking. Cigarettes don’t smoke themselves, Internet porn doesn’t make a person look. Guns, like any other tools, don’t operate without human intervention. Are we to outlaw cars because accidents happen? Because there’s such a thing as road rage? Ridiculous. (May as well outlaw air travel while we’re at it. Because planes crash, or can be used as weapons of mass destruction). It’s not the cars that are the problem; rather, it’s the idiots behind the wheel. What makes us so selfish that we think where we’ve got to go is so much more important than everyone else on the road?
 
 The problem lies in the fact that in the supposedly rational West, within its prevalent humanistic worldview, there is no such thing as sin. This is why we’re always shocked by stories of violence, tragedy, depravity. Because in the rational West we believe are better than that, should know better than that.
 
 The sad truth is that we’re not, and we don’t.
 
 Just ask the Carpenter from Galilee, Whom we hung upon a tree for doing exactly nothing wrong. The fact is unless we–all of us–let His story take hold of us things will only continue to get worse and worse. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can affect the change that we’re looking to Washington for.
 
 We should know better by now…
 
 Oh, wait.
 
 
 

Just Come

randomlychad  —  October 6, 2015 — Leave a comment

My wife and I participate in a small group study. Lately, we’ve been looking at how to share the Gospel. As a part of that process, I’ve been tasked with answering a couple of common objections:

The exclusivity of the message of Jesus, and the plethora of world religions. I may have bitten off more than I can chew here, but intend to give it the old college try.

The world as we see and experience certainly establishes a prima facie case against the existence of God. There is much suffering, atrocities, and evil. Why would a good God allow such things to transpire? On the other hand, there is much about this world which is beautiful, lovely, and sublime in way which surpasses our poor power to express it. There is an order to the universe, and a precision in the way in which it operates that certainly at the least implies design. Atheists will say that’s all it is, implied design. But according to Occam’s Razor, the simplest solution is often the correct one, e.g., the universe appears designed because it is designed. In other words, and in the words of C.S. Lewis, “if the universe were without meaning we should never have discovered that it was without meaning.”

Is it possible that both are true? That all we see around is designed, yet all is not as it should be? Pain, suffering, disease, and death certainly provide a strong argument for this. If this is so, is God to blame? Is He a cosmic sadist delighting in our struggles? Why would He go to such great lengths to create all of this only to seemingly remain hidden from His creation? Why does He allow us to flounder in the mire? Surely a loving Father would [fill in the blank]?

And there’s the rub: we’ve just gone over the line into idolatry, making a god in our image, instead of falling at the feet of the One Who is. Because the One Who is, while promising an ultimate end to evil, in the meantime chooses the much harder path of walking with His suffering creation in love. Rather than delivering us from every trial, He suffers along with us. Instead of answering our questions, our every objection, He gives Himself. This is not an answer that many are willing to hear.

So yes, the world is broken. We are broken, and our brokenness try to fill that void with whatever we think will sooth our savage breast: science, atheism, sex, drugs, alcohol, relationships, education, what have you. We move from one thing to the next, never really assuaging the emptiness. And into this mess comes the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It seems an offer too good to be true; for how can it be free? This answer to our broken selves, this broken world? Because our experience is here, in the material plane, we know that there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch, that we get what we pay for… Thus it is that the word squeezes us into its mold. Because there’s always strings, right? And we don’t want to be anyone’s puppet. That is ultimately what it boils down to, really; every objection to the existence of God, while purporting to be philosophical, scientific, logical, is really about this: we don’t want to give up control. All else–the prima facie case the world presents–is but a smokescreen to an underlying condition of the heart the Bible terms “sin.”

Because God made us free, we are free to either accept, or reject, this fact. In essence, in shaking our fists at the sky we are saying, “Don’t confuse me with the facts, God, my mind is already made up.” And then we will come up with our reasons, our justifications, of why this is so. Why we are right, and Christians are wrong. Why we’re okay. This is nothing but confirmation bias. We’re right because we’re right. I’m okay, you’re okay. Now go away.

Meanwhile Jesus is saying, “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.”

And that is what the Gospel is all about: rest from our striving, our brokenness, our sin.

Come to Me, He says.

Come and lay your objections down, and take up the life you were made for. For His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

Just come.