Why “Nothing” Matters

Image

Why does “nothing” matter? It’s remarkable to think that one of the most watched sitcom’s of all-time (and one of my favorites) is a show about “nothing”. For almost a decade, Seinfeld entertained audiences with High-talkers, Low-talkers, a Soup Nazi, Puffy shirts, and Vandelay Industries. Their secret weapon was “nothing”. I believe the show was such a success because it allowed us to laugh about our lives, that even if life may feel like “nothing” is happening – something could come of it.

Unfortunately, when we feel our lives are in a state of “nothing-ness”, it tends to weigh heavier than that of a sitcom. You may be dealing with the loss of a loved-one. Maybe you have lost your job and just want to give your boss a piece of your mind. Perhaps you’re to the point of just giving up. I often find myself going through the day feeling numb – feeling the same ole thing everyday and wake up to do it all over again. It makes you want to just yell, “Serenity now!” at the top of my lungs. No matter how many times, you have tried to pick yourself up and start over, you somehow manage to fall into the same pattern of “feeling insignificant”.

We are able to identify ourselves and see we are like Samson. Samson was a man of great power and great responsibility (sorry for the Spiderman reference), however his pride often got him into trouble. But his pride and sin finally got the best of him. After this dude, flat-out manhandles the Philistines for years, Samson tells Delilah the source of his strength and she betrays him. The Philistines raid the place, and we read one of the most terrifying verses in the Bible:

“And he awoke from his sleep and said, ‘I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had left him.” – Judges 16:20

First, Samson was stripped of his talents and strength, and all because he put his sin and ego before his relationship with God, he never knew God had left him. We find ourselves in the same trap Samson set for himself. We go through our systems and patterns thinking that we can defeat our enemies like we have every other time. But without the power of God and his favor we are nothing.

To borrow a quote from Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes: “The remarkable about life is that it’s never so bad that it can’t get worse.” This became true for our friend Samson. Now that the Light had left him, so did his sight. The Philistines gouged out his eyes and held him as a prisoner. Samson had lost. He was defeated. A man who once had everything – power, status, favor, influence, provision, and family – threw it all away and now a joke and a disappointment. While being carried out of his cell to be mocked, Samson prays to God to grant him strength once more, as a sacrifice for the glory of God. And God heard and answered Samson’s prayer. It was when Samson had been humbled to nothing; God used him for his greatest feat.  That day Samson killed more Philistines than in his entire life.

How did Samson wind up in this position? Our boy Samson lived a life lacking reverence of God and His law. Before we go ahead and throw Samson under the bus, let’s check ourselves. We often live a life of exception instead of conviction. This is especially true for Christians, I don’t want to sound legalistic in this but I can’t count the number of times I have told myself, “others shouldn’t do this or can’t do this. But my relationship with God is so intimate and close, that I’ll be fine.” This is a dangerous road that resembles the one Samson travelled. We are not the “exception” to any of the rules or conviction that the Bible lays out for us. Samson knew God’s word; he knew the restrictions on his life. When he started believing that he was the exception, and not living by conviction, his life turned from black and white to gray.

This series of ignoring convictions also leads us into a lifestyle of “nothing-ness”. When we sacrifice our convictions to be an exception, we create a false standard of what it means to be like Christ. And isn’t that our goal – to become more like Christ?

It was out of Samson’s “nothing” that God used Samson. This story is just one example of God’s restoring power. This takes place all over the Bible. As we study his word, find out that restoring nothing into something isn’t just something God does; it’s who He is. It is God’s character to restore the old to become new. We could go into story after story but I only want to share two. The first is quick an easy, you don’t have to go too far in your Bible either.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.” – Genesis 1:1-4

It’s simple, while there was nothing, “without form and void”, God spoke to nothing and creation took place. And it was good. It’s important that we don’t forget that when God transforms our “nothing” into “something” it is good. We may not like our outcome at times, but remember when He creates it brings glory to His name. Which leads us to our final story, Luke 1.

The Virgin Mary is told she will give birth to the Christ. Now, I maybe wrong but as much as this is “good” news, this is also a terrible outcome for Mary. Who really wants to be pregnant as an unmarried 14 year-old? Mary had to have faced ridiculed, exclusion, rejection, and frustration during this pregnancy. Let us be like Mary though, when are transformation becomes discouraging and seeming like an empty promise:

“For with God; nothing is impossible” – Luke 1:37

This has always been an encouraging statement to me. And you maybe thinking, that may have been the most obvious insight I’ve given. But humor me for a second. We know that it is nothing is impossible with God. Therefore we can assume that it is impossible for God to do nothing. Remember Samson, when you have failed God and others you love, and it’s resulted to you begging for God. He can turn you nothing into your greatest achievement.

So, why does “nothing” matter? Because it reminds us, when we are down to nothing and we feel like our lives are going nowhere; God is up to something. He has not forgotten you. We don’t have to live out Seinfeld; we don’t have to have “a life about nothing”. Let us die to our exception mentality and allow God to work in our lives like never before. We may not enjoy the process, but in the end He will call it “good”.

Posted in Daily Life, TV Shows | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Ways I Know I’m Not Superman

superman

Turns out I’m not Superman. I’m not faster than a speeding bullet or more powerful than a locomotive. Most of the time I’m unable to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It’s a hard pill to swallow – I can’t do everything on my own. The other day I was cleaning out a little storage space, that a friend is allowing me to borrow. He told me that if I needed any help moving something to just call him. Let’s face it a real man doesn’t need help. But turns out my pride and independence ended up hurting me in long run. I tried moving something that I had no business moving by myself. Due to it’s awkward positioning, I had to lift with my back, next thing I know I can hardly move. It felt like I had someone swing a sledge hammer into my back and it got stuck.

I came to find out, no matter what phase of life we are in: we will always need community. I learned that day; there are three things that often lead me away from admitting I need community in my life.

Pride: This one is the given. The outcome often punches a whole in Nietzsche’s “Superman” philosophy. No matter what I think of myself, I can’t do everything on my own. I will suffer and deal with pain. Without relationships in my life, I wouldn’t want to go through those times of heartache. I need to lay my pride down and just ask for help.

Insecurity: I never realized my insecurities played such a role in my life until I went to college. For so many years, I had tried to prove to myself and to others that I could do it. Whatever it may have been I was good enough and strong enough to tackle it on my own. Building on your insecurities is sheer ignorance. The Church no longer needs strong people that struggle in the weaknesses and insecurities. We need Christians that in their weaknesses and insecurities become strong. This links back to getting rid of our pride, so that we can admit within gospel-centered community, “I cannot do it; but in Christ, I find my strength.”

Inconvenience: In order to get to that point, many of us need to overcome this mentality of being an inconvenience to others. This is a huge reason why I never ask for help, I don’t want to bother them with my problems or issues. If you’re around people like that, you need to find better friends. Paul rebukes that type fellowship in Galatians 6:

“…if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness…Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

In Matthew 10 and Luke 9, we see Jesus send out his disciples to preach the good news together. I find it remarkable that he sends them out to do ministry and life together. He proceeds to tell them that throughout their journey they will face suffering and persecution. We need to know that we cannot go through this life by ourselves. We need to get rid of all pride, insecurity and inconveniences. Let us live a gospel-centered life together.

Posted in Daily Life | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When the Paint Mixes…

My first two years of college, I had a roommate that I will never forget. Ethan was an art major – but before you go ahead and stereotype, you need to understand that he wasn’t you typical “art major”. He was a man and quite entertaining for that matter. But that’s a conversation for another time.

One of my favorite parts about living with him was when he would do his “homework”. It was amazing to watch a blank canvas turn into a masterpiece. It was a piece of work that nobody else could complete other than Ethan. He was able to envision the “finished” product the whole time, even when it was blank.

Image

It would amaze me when he would mix the paint colors, he always knew how much to add, and which colors to add to find the shade he needed. Watching him create would always inspire, and I remember thinking: we are all paint in the Artist’s hand. He’s creating something bigger than myself, but I’m lucky enough to be a part in it.

Now stay with me, I may be the color red, but in order to perform they way God intended me, I need to be orange. If you know your color wheel, you know that I need to have yellow added to me – not orange.

Sometimes yellow is no fun at all. There have been times when the yellow has meant various things. God will and does put things in our lives, that we don’t want to happen: we lose a loved one, get let-go from our job, may receive tough news from a doctor, the list goes on. But God and His beautiful mercy, uses these things for our good. Yellow can be awesome! God is finally putting the cherry on top to unleash you into your calling. It’s that finally step towards finding your fulfillment in Christ! You are no longer a blotch of paint sitting and waiting to be used.

We often don’t see it as good though. We must trust the Artist though, He is creating something beyond our understanding, and it’s higher than our ways. When we do see it, we can rejoice in it!

The yellow that was once our pain, suffering, regrets, sin, depression, and confusion; God has used it for His glory and our good. Paul has reminded us in Philippians 4 to be content in all things that come our way. Because even though we may not see it, God is forming us into who we are meant to be, in order to advance the Kingdom.

Posted in Daily Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Fahrenheit 451 in the Church

Image

Hypothetically, if Christianity was proven to be false, God was an idea, and Jesus folklore, would you still attend church?

This is a question that I have often pondered.

Now, don’t misread this as a muse covering my lack of faith. Jesus becomes more alive to me everyday I walk with Him. This is more of a question regarding the position of the Church in our lives.

I’ve had friends tell me they would still attend church – even if Christianity were proven to be a hoax. The church is a remarkable entity that promotes the importance of community. They tell me why they would keep attending: “I receive great teaching on how to be a better person, husband, father, friend, etc.”, “I am building relationship with people in my community”, and the list of reasons go on.

For myself, being an introvert, those thoughts don’t pop up in my head. I could get the same type of teaching out of a book, rather than surrounding myself with hundreds of people.  Without Jesus how is there any standard of morality. C.S. Lewis asks the question: “Without an absolute truth – how do we gauge what is good or what is bad?” In short, I wouldn’t attend church if the gospel of Jesus Christ were weightless.

So if our churches are comfortable enough to just go and learn how to be better people, have we missed the mark? I don’t want to be like other people. I want to be like Christ. Isn’t that the purpose of the Church: to help people to become more like Christ?

In Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag brings the last-known-existing Bible to the house of Professor Faber. Upon reading this Bible, Faber looks at Montag with a look of desperation and says:

“I often wonder if God recognizes His own son the way we’ve dressed him up or is it dressed him down.”

Do we see Christ in the ways we have dressed him up in our churches? We must stop dressing up the gospel with morality mumbo-jumbo. We walk a dangerous line when we try to find the balance of morality teaching and gospel-centered teaching. Shouldn’t it be a red flag that we would still want to attend a church if Christ is not at the center? Christ must be at the center or our mission is lost.

Keep in mind that this is not a slam against the Church be any means. I side with Augustine, “The Church is a whore, but she is my mother.”

Let us always be centered by Christ, in everything we do. I believe if we become more like Christ – by default we become better spouses, parents, employees, co-workers, friends, etc.

Posted in Daily Life, Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Divine Riddler

I remember growing up when I would visit my grandparents, there would be an unfinished puzzle on their coffee table. We would always work on them together. I was always around puzzles, I loved piecing it together – but I hated not being able to figure them out.

It was probably all of those puzzles that developed my love for cliffhanger movies. I love walking out of the theatre and the rest of the night becomes a debate of what would have happened. The movie that always comes to mind is Inception – did Cobb’s top keep spinning or did it fall?

riddles

I’m not writing this to determine what happened next. But I’m writing this to dig into man’s desire to problem solve. I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t find satisfaction in resolving an issue. I like to think it’s our desire to always be in control, have power, and all the answers to life. I wish this were possible, the only problem with seeing this come to fruition is the Bible. We will never have all the answers.

An obvious illustration would be Job – the most righteous man on earth. God allows all sorts of destruction to lay the smackdown on Job’s entire livelihood. His business collapses, children are killed, he becomes sick, but his nagging wife remains, as well as, friends that didn’t really give a rip about how Job was experiencing. This dude is miserable. A guy who had it all is now penniless. Like any other human being that assumes they have all the answers, Job begins to question God on how He is running things.

And how does God answer Job? He tells him to gird his loins and starts with His own rapid fire of questioning! Job doesn’t even get one of his questions answered. However, when God was finally finished telling Job who is ruling the universe, Job responds:

“I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
 It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” - Job 42:1-6

Also, while John the Baptist is in his prison cell. We find him puzzled – “If Jesus is really the Messiah, then why am I about to die for him? Is he not here to set me free?” In Luke 7, we see John send his disciples to Jesus, asking if he really is the messiah they have been waiting for or if they should search for another. And what does Jesus do? Same thing he’s always done with questions – He doesn’t give a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Jesus starts quoting the prophet Isaiah. Informing them that everything that has been prophesied has been fulfilled.

After giving them a riddle, Jesus tells the crowd that John the Baptist is the greatest man to ever walk the earth. That’s right. The man we saw doubting his faith in a prison, Jesus extended love. So while we are stuck in the middle of our crossroads, problems, riddles, doubts, lack of faith, or maybe just complacency – Jesus still loves us. Don’t be intimidated by your troubles. For we have a lifeguard, who saves us while we are sinking into our own despair and doubts. When we are struggling in our faith, searching for answers, we may end up getting riddles. G.K. Chesterton once wrote:

“The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.”

Instead of focusing on what is troubling us, let us rejoice as Job did: He answered us!

In our questioning – Jesus, being rich in mercy, responds to us.

Posted in Daily Life, Film | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Attack of the Self-fulfilling Zombies

Zombies are stupid. That’s right I said it. Zombies have never really intrigued me. The principle of it just doesn’t compute in my mind. If you are dead, then you are dead – the whole idea of the “night of the living dead” is an overwhelming oxymoron.

However, the idea of taking something/someone that is dead and bringing it back to life – this astounds me. The human spirit wants to revive things in our lives that appear to be dead. We so often try to become creators of light – masters of life. But perhaps creating light has never been our job at all.

“So much has been done…—more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.”

Mary Shelley writes this declaration in the third chapter of her novel, Frankenstein. While being one of the most morbid works in literature, Frankenstein tackles a major issue: By nature, are we inherently good or evil? While ignoring this question, Dr. Frankenstein decides that he would create life.

Ironically, we see a similar rebellion in the third chapter of Genesis. After Adam and Eve fall from grace, the pioneer a new way and explore the unknown and unfold the mysteries of the world. Now, they have to do this without God, the light has been removed and now they dwell in darkness.

But God promised us that the light would return. God promises Abraham a son to continue the line of Messiah.  After years of hearing this promise, Abraham and Sarah become impatient and attempt to fulfill the promises of God and try to create life. Abraham has a son with Hagar, Ishmael and God comes through with His promise and blesses Abraham and Sarah with Isaac. Long story short, this is a sibling rivalry that is still being fought today.

Be patient and wait upon the Lord, trust in His promises. We often try to create life on our own. And more often than not, because we want things to happen on our own watch, we miss God’s timing. When we attempt this, we don’t only mess up our own lives but the ripple effect of our actions reach far beyond our control.

Much like Dr. Frankenstein and Abraham, who both set out to revel in the mysteries of life. It was their self-fulfilling prophecy mindset that destroyed their lives.

But in this season of Advent, I’m reminded so often how God keeps His promises. He sent us the Light of the world! In Jesus, what is dead comes to life and becomes a new creation! He is the fulfiller and the fulfillment of all of God’s promises:

         “For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And through Christ, our ‘Amen’ ascends to God for his glory.” – 2 Corinthians 1:20

Now that we are in Christ Jesus, creating light and mastering life isn’t something we do. It is something Christ has already done.

Posted in Daily Life, Literature | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dichotomy of Lord and Savior

I’m confident that the thought of killing myself has never popped into my head. Now, of course, death has crossed mind. However, I’ve never contemplated taking my own life.

That is until I saw the film 7 Pounds. Now I wasn’t actually suicidal, but the end of the movie couldn’t help but make you think – “Would I lay myself down for the sake of others?”

7 Pounds is the story of a man – Tim Thomas. Two years previously, Tim Thomas, while carelessly driving, veers across into oncoming traffic and causes a multi-car crash in which seven people die: six strangers and his fiancée.

In a conscious effort for atonement, unable to live with what he did, Tim sets out to save the lives of seven good people by donating his own vital organs, a process that will be completed after his planned suicide. In each case he “interviews” them first to determine if they are “good” people.

SPOILER ALERT: Tim kills himself in order to save the 7th life.

Clearly, Tim is the “salvation” figure in this story. We could get into the argument of what happens to Tim after his death, in regards to his eternal resting place, but that’s weird and morbid.

Instead, I’d like to look at how art & culture attempt to create a Lord and Savior.

A phrase that recently hit me as confusing is one we often see throughout Scripture. That Jesus Christ is our Lord AND Savior. Jesus is Lord, in the sense; He is ruler over all encompassing total power. He is the almighty, sovereign, King of Kings.

Movies today, echoes remnants of a savior that lays down their life to save someone – more often than not, our “savior” doesn’t even die. In contrast, Tim Thomas does die, like Christ, to save other. That being said, Tim’s death had conditions tied to it. He would investigate to see if they were worthy or not. He would then tell them “alright but if I do this you better live right”. Now compared to the magnitude of the cross…well…I’ll let Paul inform you:

“…But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” – Ephesians 2:2-9

In short, there is nothing that you or I have done to earn His salvation. There was no interview, no audition, no measurement of our individual worth. He saved us while we were not worthy of being saved. Jesus is now our: Unconditional Savior. No man, woman, character can hold a their own compared to his saving sacrifice.

Then comes the “Lord”, who frequently isn’t even a protagonist. Let’s be honest, how boring would that movie be if one man controlled everything and nothing could stop him. Even Superman has kryptonite. Nowhere does it even make sense to combine the terms – Lord and Savior. In film and in literature you can’t find the two going hand-in-hand. No king, with all power, sacrifices himself for the salvation of his people – deserving or not! I believe that’s what is proclaimed when we sing “Name Above Every Name!” He is the only one able to keep you from falling (Jude 24), and the only one who has laid down His life unconditionally. I don’t understand it. But I’m glad He didn’t.

Posted in Film | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment