Looking in the Mirror First

AoG-Full-LrgMatthew 7:3-5

“Why do you notice the small piece of dust that is in your brother’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood that is in your own eye? Why do you say to your brother, ‘Let me take that little piece of dust out of your eye’? Look at yourself first! You still have that big piece of wood in your own eye.” You are a hypocrite. First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your brother’s eye.

Of all of the inventions created by man, none is more unique or as interesting as the mirror. A mirror is unique in that it is able to formulate an image that is identical to the observer. A mirror will only show what it sees and reflects the identical back to the observer.

When I think of a mirror, I think of individuality; for when you look in the mirror, you will see no one but yourself. Too often we spend the majority of our time looking at others when we actually should be looking at ourselves. This is what is so good about the mirror. No matter how hard you look for someone else, you will only see yourself. When I think of a mirror I think of a revelation. A mirror shows things about your personal appearance that would otherwise be unnoticeable to you.

When I think of a mirror, I think of something that is essential. Imagine with me for a few moments what you might look like if you didn’t take time to stop and see what the mirror sees. Many of you will agree with me when I say it would not look very good at all. When I think of the mirror, I finally see reality. The mirror cannot create, it can only reveal that which already exists. It has no ability within itself to correct or change what it sees. Only the looker can change and/or correct what he sees.

Jesus reminds us that we often pass judgment on others to keep from examining ourselves. This is wrong. In fact, it is obnoxiously and hypocritically wrong in God’s eyes. Before we start removing someone else’s sawdust, we had better get our own blinding 2×4 plank out of our way. It’s ridiculous for us to spend so much time finding all the little things that are wrong with others while we ignore our own huge problems. Let’s address our own problems, weaknesses, sins, and inconsistencies before we start trying to “fix” anybody else!

“Don’t judge other people, and God will not judge you. If you judge other people, you will be judged in the same way you judge them. And the way you give to other people will be the way God gives to man_in_the_mirroryou. “Why do you notice the small piece of dust that is in your brother’s eye, but you don’t notice the big piece of wood that is in your own eye? Why do you say to your brother, ‘Let me take that little piece of dust out of your eye’? Look at yourself first! You still have that big piece of wood in your own eye. You are a hypocrite. First, take the wood out of your own eye. Then you will see clearly to take the dust out of your brother’s eye. “Don’t give holy things to dogs.

They will only turn and hurt you. And don’t throw your pearls to pigs. They will only step on them. “Continue to ask, and God will give to you. Continue to search, and you will find. Continue to knock, and the door will open for you. Yes, if a person continues asking, that person will receive. If a person continues looking, that person will find. And if a person continues knocking, the door will open for that person. “Do any of you have a son? If your son asked for bread, would you give him a rock? No! Or if your son asked for a fish, would you give him a snake? No! {You are not like God}–you are evil. But you know how to give good things to your children. So surely your heavenly Father will give good things to those people that ask him. “Do to other people the same things you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law {of Moses} and the {teaching of the} prophets.

*Photo(s)/Resource(s): Phil Ware
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No Butts In the Body of Christ

Within a church there are various people with different interests, abilities, talents, and personalities. Diversity is such a delight, yet within an atmosphere of diversity must exist unity. In fact, this is where the term university comes from, meaning unity among diversity. In a church, a diverse group of people is to be united under a single banner. They are to use their various talents and interests to share the Gospel message of Christ, forming a unified front.

In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul uses a brilliant, yet familiar, analogy as to how a church should function. He likens the body of Christ to a physical body. He reminds us that no part is insignificant. Each piece of the body must be present and working for the whole to function. Notice what he says in verses 15-20. “Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”

He is driving a point home. There is a place for everyone in the body. No part is more important than any other. It takes everyone to keep the body of Christ functioning properly. When one part of the body is hurting the entire body suffers. He is also emphasizing that there should be unity. It takes people working together, not against one another. When there is harmony in the body it is able to move in a graceful dance.

spiritual-buttPaul discusses many different parts of the body: eyes, hands, head, and feet. One part Paul does not mention is the butt. Yes, you heard me right, the butt. Now before you think me crass, I might point out if Isaiah can liken our righteousness acts to “filthy rags” (look up the meaning) I can certainly talk about the spiritual butt.

So what is the spiritual butt of the body? These would be the people with smelly attitudes. They see all the problems but want no part in coming up with solutions. They want to see new ministries started, but want other people to start them. Instead of promoting unity, they sow seeds of dissent. They speak discouragement instead of encouragement. They point out mistakes, but forget to show love. They are concerned with their own wishes instead of seeking the desires of the greater body. They see ministry as competition instead of service.

The spiritual butt of the body isn’t concerned with seeking Christ, promoting unity, and seeing that the body does well. Instead, the concern is on self. The Spiritual butt asks, “What am I getting out of church?” instead of “What am I giving?”.

Let’s just be honest. Some Sundays, for whatever reason, we just don’t want to go to church. Even though I am a minister, and kind of get paid to be there i.e. (God’s favor on my life)  Favor isn’t fair…but it’s not free, either. As Luke 12:48 says,

“… From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

I understand some christian as long as they don’t go over their Christian-ometer limit, they look bad in others eyes. So, I decided to put together a list of great excuses heard in every church. Majority of these I have heard with my own ears throughout the years (I didn’t mean for that to rhyme, I promise), while some have been heard by others that they shared with me. So, if you would like some good excuses reasons for not being at church, then feast your eyes on these.

  • But it is youth Sunday.
  • But it is Senior Sunday.
  • But it is Sunday.
  • But God told me I needed to stay home this Sunday for some reason (this is great, who can dispute God???).
  • But they are just serving communion, so I will just stay home.
  • But the music is too loud/slow/fast/old/new/contemporary.
  • But the music director wouldn’t let me sing in the choir.
  • But they are having a guest speaker.
  • But the pews/chairs are too hard/soft.
  • But someone made fun of my toes (no joke, heard it myself).
  • But I’m just not getting fed. (well yea, your coming coming where the food is being served).
  • But I don’t know anyone there (because you never come, wait, did I just type that?)
  • But it’s full of hypocrites (well yea, it’s full of people).
  • But they try and get “rough” youth to come. I don’t want to be a part of a church that invites kids with problems (blank stare).
  • But I don’t have anything to wear. (Agh!!! The word said “Come as you are”
  • But I can stay home. There are plenty of preachers on TV.
You know, some of these sound pretty decent, BUT aren’t they really excuses?

The “BUT” That Changes Everything! (Jesus)

  • John 3:16 – ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only son – that whosever believes in Him will not perish “BUT” have eternal life!’
  • Jesus’ “BUT” Prayer in the GARDEN = TOTAL SURRENDER!
  • You must first reach a FAITH level that understands IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU… IT’S ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT HIM!
  • IN GOD’S REALITY – SURRENDER ISN’T WEAKNESS… IT’S STRENGTH!!
  • The “BUT” of an EMPTY TOMB
  • They came to the TOMB facing FINALITY and IMPOSSIBILITY and encountered UNENDING and POSSIBILITY!
  • The “BUT” that can CHANGE ANYTHING… remembering that there’s nothing in your life that HE CAN’T HANDLE!
  • DEATH IS NOT THE END – IT’S ONLY THE BEGINNING!
  • BIGGEST “BUTS” OF THE BIBLE… (Check yourself before you Wreck yourself!)
  • IS YOUR “BUT” IN THE WAY OF GOD MOVING (it) IN A BIG WAY?
 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.  – Hebrews 10:25
Hands and feet are desperately needed, but there is no room for Spiritual BUTTS in the body of Christ.
Photo(s), Resource(s) & Video(s):  Traci Brosman, Churpedia.Com & Josh Fults

How Can I Know If My Faith Is Enough?

#1The yesterday while I was stuck in traffic, my spiritual daughter who is 13 called me after she saw a church track that read “Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding on to”. Then she asked me “how can I know if my faith is enough?” This funny how God’s puts us in position to help other. A rainy Monday after a long day at work, stuck, not moving do to a accident and I’m asked to breakdown FAITH to my 13 year old. What a doesy, thanks God!

Before I could ask her anything, Just like a presumptuous teenager, she ran off that she looked up scriptures in her kid study bible on faith and came up with two of my favorites:

John 1:12 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

1 Timothy 1:16  16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.

That’s my girl! But then she stated she still was not sure about her’s? She said that she thinks she understands that a person either believes in God or doesn’t. So, if they believe in Christ and are saved, what more do you need to do? Isn’t that enough? Now just to remind you again she’s (13) asking these questions. I might admit I was proud and blown away all at the same tyme!

I tried my best not to be so Holy or Religious with my answer. I know she has a strong understanding of the word, but she’s still only 13.  I explained that when it comes to salvation, a person is either saved or not saved. The Bible tells us that, spiritually, you are either dead or alive depending on whether you’ve accepted Christ. “We were dead because of our sins, but God loved us so much that he made us alive with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-5 CEV).

I explained that I don’t think measuring the health of your faith ends there. Your belief can be really alive, or kind of in a coma, or even dead. How do you measure it? Two questions came to mind, and I tried my best to ask her:#7

1) Are you trying to obey Christ’s commands? Most Christians live well for Christ in some areas of their lives, but struggle a lot in other parts. Even the Apostle Paul faced problems trying to do what was right. He said: “No matter which way I turn, I can’t make myself do right. I want to, but I can’t. When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway” (Romans 7:19).

We all struggle and sin. But the important thing is whether we really desire to move closer and closer to God. If we are truly trying to live for God, we will regularly do things like pray, confess and turn away from our sins, read and study God’s Word, worship with others, and meet to learn with and from fellow Christians. And we will desire to remove stuff like gossip, jealousy, greed, lust, dishonesty, hatred and anger from our lives.

2) What’s the quality of your relationship with Jesus even though your thirteen? Are you able to trust him, to exercise faith, to love? This goes beyond just how we act with me or your mother. It’s also in school or even when your at the park with your friends.  Knowing Christ exists and being close to him are very different. You may love your mom. But let’s say you never talk to each other. Your relationship isn’t very healthy. With Jesus, we need to ask ourselves: What is our ability to respond to life with faith, hope and love? When your (BFF) breaks up with you or when a loved one passes away, can you lean on Jesus and expect him to redeem the situation? That’s an alive faith. Growth in Christ is not just avoiding sin, but is developing your ability to practice a living faith and confidence in God.

#7aIf you have no desire to grow, then you must seriously stop and ask if Christ has really come into our lives. You see, the Christian life isn’t just about whether or not we believe in God. It’s also about what we do with that belief. James 2:17 says this:

“Faith that doesn’t show itself by good deeds is no faith at all—it is dead and useless”.

I tried to give her some character witnesses to give light to the fact that when people who think that their faith must be perfect before it will be acceptable to God ignore dozens of scriptural examples of people whose trust in God was imperfect, yet their faith was still accepted by Him. Here are just seven we talked about:

These examples show that it isn’t the perfection of our trust that matters, but the perfection of God’s love and forgiveness. Perfect faith will be ours only when the Holy Spirit has completed His work of sanctification within us.

IN SUMMARY God not only convinces us, THROUGH FAITH makes us see what he sees, knowing what he knows… Faith is not based on what is not known – but on what is known. We cannot have faith in Christ until we know what Christ did. Given the context (Jesus telling a tree to die and it subsequently dying – and Peter seeming to be amazed at the fact it died) it is reasonable to think along those same lines – Jesus was saying (if I may paraphrase) Be like God in that you are fully assured that what you say will happen will come to pass.

As traffic began to slowly move forward finally after like twenty minutes of dead lock and my wipes swishing back and forth. She surprisingly asked me if she had the right understanding; “if your faith isn’t big enough for your life right now, it’s okay because God is. You may not be able to trust your faith, but you can trust that you are loved, you are forgiven, you are no longer alone. Because Jesus is really here for us and my faith is strong.”

And again I say “That’s my girl”!

“Be like God, in that you are fully assured that what you say will happen, and will come to pass.”

                                 -Unknown

*Photo(s)/Resource(s): Luis Palau, Peter Smythe & Marshall Shelley

Cancel the Audition… You Already Got The Part!

#7aWhen God calls you to do something, it will always feel intimidating because it will be something you can’t do without Him. So that through us God’s glory can be seen. This can often leads us to ask, why us? The lack of confidence this questioning brings often does not bred humility in us to trust God more. Instead we let it discourage us. Making us want to give up and not play the part God wants us to play.

We need to remember God didn’t choose us to do something that we can do or because we proved ourselves in the past. Jeremiah 1:5 tells us He knew us before we were even born. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;”

We can be so temperamental in our roles.  One minute I feel 10 feet tall and the next minute, loose my temper, setting a bad example.  I am all over the map and not up to playing the part!  There are many tymes that I ponder whether to take the wide or narrow road.  That wide one can be so much easier with little to no value, and it can lead to destruction.  Choosing the narrow road is always the harder choice but I want to travel that one and experience all the scenes – easy and difficult not missing anything!

As I think of the show my wife and I like to watch “The Voice”, (it is very similar to American Idol but with a twist).  The judges have their back to the contestant in the beginning and judge only by their voice.  They then can choose to coach them only by what is heard.  With this method, they choose them by the gift they have on the inside.  As they turn around and actually see them, a double reaction can happen which we can see in their eyes.  They either like or don’t like what they see.

So many tymes, I want to choose before I see.  Knowing that God has chosen me for a production I want to say, BUT… God’s calling is deeper than our outward circumstances. I must be concerned with what I see on the inside and not the outside.  So much tyme can be spent trying to get people to approve or accept us.  If we do or say the right things, others will accept us, etc.  If we sing the right note, they will choose us.

Cancel the Auditions! 

If we had to audition we would fail. We have already gotten the part just play it! We have already gotten God’s love so live in it. We already earned through Jesus the right to be in God presence so just stand in it and enjoy your calling. The enemy will try to distract you from playing your part by making you think you have to achieve things before you will be cast in the role. But 1 Corinthians 26 says:

“Brothers and Sisters, think of what you were when you were called.” Which as Jeremiah told us that was before we were even in the womb! When we were nothing!#7

When you think you are failing or missing the mark, remember God called you before you did anything wrong and before you did anything right! It is not like He called you, then He got stuck with you … it is more like He started with what He wanted to do in the world, then created something to fulfil that particular role, at that particular tyme and that something is you!

1 Corinthians continues:

.. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

We Have Already Gotten The Part. When you realise God didn’t pick you for your strengths but for weaknesses, it enables you NOT to stop trying but to stop trying out! To start living in the knowledge that you have already been given the part. You see this all through the Bible. See Exodus 4:10 Moses told God he wasn’t worthy because his lack of speech skills. But in verse 11 The LORD says to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?”

God knows all of our failings, and our weakness but He has picked us before we got here. We don’t have all the skills, He does. He writes the script, He controls the budget, we just need to turn up to work and deliver on what He has put inside of us! What if God was intentional about our flaws? We need to own them. I need to own my awkwardness, own my doubts and failings because we are perfect for our parts. The things I want to hide are what God wants to use.

#7I am not going to show up to do the things God chosen me to do in order to prove my worth to God. I am going to show up to DO what he has chosen me to do. I definitely want to live and be the part of a story of value.  My role may not be something I deserve, but I am ready to let God help me make the right choice.  Even if I don’t sing the right note, He will choose me, no, he has already chosen me.

I already have the part whether or not I am deserving or make the wrong choices. As I begin to work through the part of finishing up B.A.S.I.C. Training and creating these blogs, I must remember that the audition has been called off – I already have the role.  I must remember that He hasn’t called me to do something He hasn’t equipped me to do.  I will stand in His love and walk in it.  I will focus on what I have and not on what I don’t have. Yes, Lord, I am trusting in you to guide me and live the story. ”Cancel the audition” means that we don’t have to try out for God. We don’t have to prove ourselves. God accepts us before the music starts!  He said, we don’t need to achieve God’s acceptance. We just need to receive it.

It reminded me of what I read in the New Testament today.  It said…

…let us live up to what we have already attained. Philippians 3:16

In other words, God has given us everything we need to live a Spirit-filled life of joy and success.  Now just live it.  Quit hoping that God is happy with you.  Just live knowing that he is happy and let that knowledge take you to a new level.

*Photo(s)/Resource(s) courtesy of: Danielle Grehn, Steven Furtick & Kevin Mann

Check Engine Light

check-engineOne of the automotive Q&A articles in a “do it yourself” repair manual had this question:
The “Check Engine” light in my car’s instrument panel came on, but there’s plenty of oil and water in the car. I’ve been driving the car, and everything seems OK. What could be wrong? I suspect most of you know what I’m talking about when I say “Check Engine” light. It’s a red warning light that goes on when the car’s engine is started, but should go off when the engine is running.

When this light stays on—this ominous, glaring red beacon shining out from the dashboard—one can experience a bit of anxiety.A few years back a survey estimated that 10% of drivers in the United States are buzzing around town with their Check engine lightt on. With their vehicle seemingly running like normal, they ignore the glowing light on their dashboard warning them that something in their car is not operating properly. They continue to gamble that the potential issue is minor in nature with every mile they place on the car.

If the shining light persists, they might contemplate taking the vehicle into the shop, but a lack of funds or busy schedule normally win out. Sometimes it isnt until the car wont start, makes a loud screeching noise or breaks down completely that they face the reality that all is not as it should be under the hood.

You start wondering:  could this actually be the engine, battery, or a malfunction with the switch?  There have been many times when I have taken my car in for a diagnostic, just to find there to be no causes for the actual light to come on.  Well at least, no causes that the diagnostic tool picked up.

Have you ever thought that perhaps our check engine light could be the Holy Spirit reminding us that we need to check our heart and attitude?  I can often find myself grumbling and complaining about my current situation instead of being grateful for God’s provision.  When I do this, I am not any different then the Israelites.

Was it because there were no grave in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?  What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians?  It would have been better for us to serve Egyptians than die in the desert!” – Exodus 14:11

Despite their lack of faith God provides for them.

The Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me?  Tell the Israelites to move on.  Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea to dry ground.” –Exodus 14:28

After watching this miracle, going forward on their journey the Israelites forget again about God’s awesome provision.

 The whole Israelite community set out from Elim and came to the Desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had come out of Egypt.  In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron.  The Israelites said to them, “if only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!  There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”-Exodus 16:1-3

God then provides them manna to eat.  He provides them with just enough to be satisfied and even provides them with quail.  Despite this, they complain again.

But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses.  They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?” –Exodus 17:3

The Israelites were not thankful for God’s continual provision.  They were not thankful for their salvation from being enslaved in Egypt.  Despite how God rescued them, they only thought about their current struggle not about God’s continued faithfulness.  Instead of remembering how God rescued them, they instead remembered how they were free to eat what they wanted while in bondage.  How often do we reflect on our life as unbelievers as being like a whimsical dream, when in reality we were stuck and enslaved?  We did not have joy or freedom.

Even though we have been saved by God’s grace, it’s easy to get distracted from our own hurts and hang ups.  When we focus on our own struggle and forget about how God has rescued us, we sin.  When we remember that God loves us, provides for us, and saved us by his grace, we are grateful.  When we are grateful we have a desire to submit.  When we submit we trust.  When we trust we have faith.  When we have faith, we don’t complain.  When we don’t complain we are able to love God and others.  And when we love God and others we have joy.

The good news is that despite my selfishness, I am forgiven.  I am thankful for God’s grace and I am thankful for a check engine light.  The only trick now is for me to not ignore that light, and keep good maintenance of myself by studying God’s truth (His Word) while remembering Christ’s death and his continual provision in my life even when I experience pain and hardship.

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your ATTITUDE should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himslef and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tounge confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Glory of God the Father.”-Philippians 2:2-11

*Photo(s)/Resource(s): Bethany Amman

 

 

Lessons from a Superhero

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1: 14 NAS

2729573-aquaman14_01Who is your favorite superhero? If you asked me when I was 7,8,9, the answer would have been Aquaman, “I loved to swim”. Most people might find this surprising since, let’s face it; Aquaman has never been that popular of a superhero. He doesn’t strike fear into the heart of evil, like Batman, or block bullets like Superman. Heck, even most sidekicks are able to fly, but Aquaman needs to hail a seahorse to get anywhere.

For me though, that’s why I like him. Whenever Aquaman fights, he’s always at a disadvantage. His ocean powers never help him on the land, but despite that he still fights the bad guys and wins. It’s easy to be brave or strong when you have the home field advantage, but what happens when the tables are turned and you find yourself in enemy territory?

This all sounds pretty corny, I know, but things like this remind me of what Jesus faced when he became a man. We Christians are quick to quote Jesus’ death on the cross, the sacrifice he made so that we could be forgiven, but sometymes I think we forget about his life.  We forget the miracle that occurred when a Holy God chose to step into a world overrun by sin.

Can we even begin to imagine what it must have been like for the all-knowing, all-powerful God of the universe to become a human? To understand the indignity of stubbing a toe or skinning a knee, the frustration of being confined to a small desert when the whole universe could not contain him, the humility required to endure hunger and thirst? Meanwhile, the devil stood in the background promising release, offering to make everything the way it was if Jesus would only pay a small, insignificant price.

I think C.S. Lewis says it best in Mere Christianity when he writes,

“Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. … We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.”

Jesus greatest triumph was His death and resurrection, there can be no mistake. Yet every day he lived, he battled the temptations of lust, envy, greed, pride and triumphed over them. So this December I encourage you to read the Christmas story and remember the miracle of Jesus’ birth. Remember that our Heavenly Father became a small baby so that we might one day live in eternity with him. Remember that Christ lived as a man, was tempted as we were, and has defeated sin.

We are His, and He is ours.

*Photo(s)/Resource(s):  Ryan Duncan

Superman-as-Christ Comparison

jesus_supermanFor most of us, the story is all too familiar. A being descends from the heavens in the form of a child. Raised by adoptive parents, the child grows in stature and strength, leaving his rural upbringing to become a savior to the world.

It is the origin story that Christians and comic book fans everywhere know by heart. It is the story of Jesus Christ. But, it also happens to also be the story of Superman.

As a lifelong fan of comic book superheroes, I excited for the new reboot to the Superman franchise “Man of Steel” to swoop into theatres. Like when most new ovies come out , TV starts to replay prior installments. On FX other night I watched Superman Returns. And as a Christian, watching the movie gave me more than I bargained for. I was looking for a little escapist fantasy. Instead, I found my thoughts soaring “up, up, and away”–as Superman would say-into the very heart of reality, heaven itself.

Why heaven? Because Jesus Christ is there. And The Superman Returnsl draws some very interesting parallels between the Messiah and the Superman Returns. The Christian overtones begin early in the movie with the opening lines, spoken by Jor-El to Superman in which he says,

“You will travel far, my little Kal-El, but we will never leave you-even in the face of our deaths. You will make my strength your own. You will see my life through your eyes, as your life will be seen through mine. The son becomes the father. And the father, the son.”

This shows Jor-El, father of Superman, to represent a God-like figure, giving his powers to his only son, as God did to Jesus, and the part of the son becoming the father and the father becoming the son is a staple to the Christians beliefs that God is three entities, the father, the son, and the Holy Spirit.  Jor-El furthers this comparison with another quote by saying,

“Live as one of them, Kal-El, to discover where your strength and your power are needed. Always hold in your heart the pride of your special heritage. They can be a great people, Kal-El, they wish to be. They only lack the light to show the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you… my only son.”

Supes coverSuperman was created 70 years ago by Jewish teens Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (a Canadian!). No doubt they were thinking more of the original Moses than the new Moses (Jesus) when they dreamed up their iconic character, but the allusion to Moses is unmistakable in the Superman story. As their home planet, Krypton, is destroyed, Jor-El and his wife Lara set their infant son Kal-El adrift, not on the river Nile, but into outer space, in the hopes that a good family on Earth will raise their son as one of their own, even though he is truly a king. Of course, Jonathan and Martha Kent did just that in Smallville, Kansas, naming the boy Clark, Superman’s alter-ego.

Superman’s alter ego is mild-mannered Clark Kent, reporter at the Daily Planet. The names Clark and Kent, some say, have double meanings that reinforce the Christ connection. “Clark” is an Old English term for a Clergyman, and “Kent” may be derived from the Biblical Kenites (Genesis 15:19 ). He switches between these roles to live on Earth as both man and superhero. Jesus also had a dual persona, that of a man and that of God and the Holy Spirit. These dual personalities, as both man and something higher, is another comparison between Superman and Christ.

Although the Superman legend springs from Jewish roots, just as Christianity itself does, the creators of Superman Returns have made their own mark on the character–a mark that looks an awful lot like the cross. Superman film directors like Richard Donner (1978′s Superman: the Movie) and “Superman Returns’ director Bryan Singer chose to portray Superman as a Christ figure. The “S” on Superman’s chest might just as well stand for “Savior.” Singer acknowledged as much in a recent interview with Wizard magazine: “Superman is the Jesus Christ of superheroes.”images

Christ lived in a time when Hebrews sometimes referred to God as “El,” Superman’s birth name is Kal-El son of Jor-El. Christ and Superman were both sent from above to offer salvation for humanity. Both had “evil twins,” the  Anti-Christ and Bizarro. Finally, and most tellingly, Christ and Superman both died, and were subsequently resurrected.

Obviously, Superman is a myth; Christ is a historical person, “born of the Virgin Mary …(Who) suffered under Pontius Pilate.” Superman is not Christ. But he is a Christlike figure, as we all should be. What we are dealing with is more of an allusion to Christ (a la Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings), rather than a straight Christian allegory like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, where Aslan = Christ. But Superman Returns’ Christian allusions are no illusion.

superman146Consider: Superman is sent to earth as a baby in a rocket ship shaped like a star, which lands in a rural cornfield. Christ’s arrival was also heralded by a star seen by shepherds in a field. Superman is raised on earth in a “backwater” town reminiscent of Nazareth: Smallville. Like Christ, Superman grows up where people have no idea of the powers he possesses, or what his true identity – hiss true nature, a Christian might say – really is.

Jesus was raised by an earthly stepfather named Joseph, a carpenter. Clark (which, incidentally, means “cleric”) was also raised by a manual labourer, farmer Jonathan Kent. Ironically, Clark’s parents were originally named Mary and Joseph in the comics, but later were changed to Martha and Jonathan. Superman’s Kryptonian father, Jor-El, sends Kal-El to earth with these words in Superman Returns: “They can be a great people, Kal-El; they wish to be. They only lack the light to show them the way. That is why I have sent them you, my only son.”

If this does not evoke echoes of John’s gospel, I don’t know what does! Jesus is “the light of the world” (John 1:4,59;8:12) and God’s one and only Son (John 3:1618). The early Church’s members were first called members of “the Way” (Acts 9:2. Jesus Himself said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Interestingly, “El” is Hebrew for God, which may or may not have had some significance in the creation of the Kryptonian names of Superman and his father. El the father and El the son evoke the Trinity, as does the line repeated by Jor-El and Superman in Superman Returns, “The son becomes the father, and the father, the son.” Jesus said to Philip: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

imagesSuperman hovers above earth and listens, via his super-hearing, to myriad cries for help from below. This scene echoes what he will later tell Lois: “You said the world doesn’t need a savior. But every day, I hear people crying for one.” Superman answers those cries, flying to the rescue, faster than a speeding bullet, breaking the sound barrier with a boom. This recalls Christ’s hearing our prayers on earth. His response is even faster than Superman’s. God “is an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

Superman’s mortal enemy is Lex Luthor: a name that phonetically evokes that of Lucifer. Luthor is insanely jealous of Superman’s powers, just as Lucifer was of God. There is a scene where Superman, weakened by Kryptonite, is savagely beaten by Luthor and his thugs. The violence is raw and very reminiscent of The Passion of The Christ. Seeing Superman stripped of his powers and thrashed reminds one of Jesus, holding back His great power, brutalized by the people he came to save. Superman is then stabbed in the side by Luthor with a shard of Kryptonite, an unmistakable allusion to Christ being flogged and beat by the Romans before being sent for crucifixion and while he was on the cross, he was stabbed in the side with a spear.

Luthor’s gal pal Kitty Kowalski calls to mind Pontius Pilate’s wife Claudia Procula, who tells Pilate not to harm Jesus, having been warned in a dream. Kitty is visibly disturbed during Superman’s beating, and later throws away Kryptonian Crystals possessed by Lex, which had given him the edge in his battle against Superman.

Just as Christ did away with sin through His death, burial, and resurrection, Superman, after saving earth, falls (in a cruciform pose) from space to earth, where his impact “buries” him in a crater, seemingly dead. Is this the end for Superman? Not really Warner Brothers will just do another reboot!

treasure_chest306tumblr_mhv9xxaV6l1qg4vcvo1_500Much more can be said, more than we have space for here. Of course, the comparisons between Superman and Christ the final comparison between Christ and Superman is how both of them died to save the world and came back from the dead. Christ died on the cross to abolish sin from humans, saving us in the afterlife while Superman ‘died’ launching a colossal hunk of Kryptonite infused land into deep space to save the lives of millions of people, and the world from Lex’s evil plans (also interesting to note that he falls back to earth with his arms outstretched as if he were on the cross).

Christ is buried in a tomb and is discovered missing three days later as he had resurrected from the dead to speak with his disciples. Superman flat lines in a hospital and goes into a coma while the world waits eagerly to hear whether he lives or dies, until one day a nurse enters the room and he has dissapeared. Superman is last seen telling Lois that he will always be around, much like Jesus had told his disciples before.treasure_chest4

But they forget that what attracts us to the character of Superman is, well, his character, as well as his saving powers. He is to, as Jor-El intones in the film, “inspire others to moral good.” And what people are attracted to in Superman–the qualities and powers of a savior–can only be found in the reality of Christ, the true Super Man.

In the movie, Superman returns after a long disappearance. We, too, are waiting for our hero, Jesus, to return in glory. However, as Christians, we are not asking Our Lord, as Lois does of Superman after his long absence, “How could you leave us like that?” We always have Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, where He never leaves us or forsakes us. “I am with you always” (Matt. 28: 20).

Really, we can all identify a lot with Superman, because we are all aliens of a sort. This world is not our home, but “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a savior from there”–no, not Superman–”the Lord Jesus Christ, who … will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21). When He returns, we will all be Super.

*Photo(s)/Resources(s): cale clarke