I Love My church

i-love-my-church

The title pretty much says it all, I love my church.  I love the Church as a whole, but I particularly love my local body of church.  I am a member of Veritas West, a part of Veritas Community Church here in Columbus, Ohio.  I love my brothers and sisters in Christ here, I love my deacons, I love my elders, I even love our Bengals loving pastor (why do all the pastors in my life like the Bengals?!).   They are all fall from perfect, but I love them because God has put me here and under their discipline and discipleship.  Lisa and I started attending Refuge Church back in March and became members in June.  So we have only been attending here for a little less than a year. But I have no doubt that this is where God wants Lisa and I at this moment.

Same with our current living situation here.  Lisa and I have felt called to the Hilltop/Franklinton area for a while now, and this past November we finally found a place to rent here in the Hilltop.  It definitely has it challenges, but we are grateful for God placing us here right now.  We have met other people living in the Hilltop who also feeled called by God to this area, and shortly after our move here, our church relocated to half a mile up the road from our house.  I am excited when I hear of other families who want to move to this area as well to help spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Gospel

tmnt-2011-a-lA story as old as time, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Alright, so maybe the turtles themselves only date back to the late 80’s, a time when shoulder pads, jelly shoes, wallet chains were all the rage.  It’s not too hard to see how a story based on genetically mutated reptiles who fought crime with martial arts that were taught to them by a giant rat could catch on during this time period.  But at its core, the story of the Ninja Turtles is a story as old as time.  Four brothers who do not fit in with the world around them, who feel destined for greatness, only to eventually face the truth that their existence is the result of a mere accident.

Splinter in a scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja ...

Splinter in a scene from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The origins of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles varies in each incarnation of the series, but it stays similar; a certain chemical ooze gets spilled or accidentally spayed onto four baby turtles.  This “ooze” not only allows them to grow and resemble humanoid creatures, but also greatly heightens their intelligence and cognitive abilities.   They are then raised by a Rat (or Japanese martial artist turned rat, depending on the incarnation) who then teaches them the art of ninjitsu (obviously).  The four brothers are then raised in the sewers of New York City, going through adolescence and puberty while fighting petty crime in the city.

We all experience at least two thoughts during our teenage years, its universal.  1) We are unique, individual snowflakes who are unlike and completely individual from the masses around us, nobody really understands us.  2) We are destined for greatness and nothing can stop us.  Of course, neither of these two thoughts are really true.

Yes we are all individuals and slightly unique, but for the most part, humans are all basically the same.  We are all slaves to our own sin nature, and at the end of the day, everything we do serves ourselves.  Even our “good deeds” are an extension of our selfishness.  Look throughout history and see how similar we currently are to the ancient Romans and Greeks.  We are all sinful humans who, at our core, strive only to satisfy ourselves.  This is one aspect that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles actually hits on quite well.  The turtles are (for the most part) completely different individual from the rest of society.  And what is the thing that they strive for the most?  To be like everyone else and just be able to blend in.

The TMNT logo of the 1987 animated series.

The TMNT logo of the 1987 animated series. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second universal teenage thought is that we are destined for greatness.  We put here by some cosmic force to accomplish something.  However, as the turtles learn, this is simply not the case.  Their entire existence is the result of a mere accident.  They have no great spiritual significance or destiny.  If a little boy hadn’t tripped and lost his pet turtles down a drain, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would not have even existed.  This is contrasted with our reality, where we have been uniquely created by the almighty God and have a distinct purpose and calling for our lives.  It may be something simple as suffering for the sake of Christ, or loving others as Christ loved us and spreading the Gospel through those means.  We have a great meaning in our lives, and we will accomplish it for the glory of God.

Shredder (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

Shredder (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One other thing I would like to touch on in regards to Ninja Turtles and The Gospel is the turtles selfless protection they give to the people of New York.  The turtles are mocked, ridiculed, and persecuted by the people they are trying to save, nobody would blame them if stayed in the sewers and showed no emotion to the people who dwell among the streets.  But they spend their nights saving those who hate them and are scared of them.  They receive little to no recognition, and are often hunted by those who they help.  This is a great picture of what it means to spread the gospel of Christ through persecution.  Our love of people should empower us to go forth and spread the gospel, even if we are mocked, ridiculed or persecuted.  I pray that God gives me a heart similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

But I With The Voice of Thanksgiving, Will Sacrifice To You; What I Have Vowed I Will Pay.

ImageI’ve written about my perceived calling to inner cities several times before.  If you know me outside of this blog, I’m sure we have spoken about it before as well.  Moving back to Columbus after college has really only served to further fuel that desire.  To be honest, it’s a calling I have struggled with believing.  Not because I don’t want to minister to that type of area, but because I want to minister to that type of area so badly.  I have feared at times that I have made myself feel that calling because I like to hear people tell me how brave I am for wanting to move to a ghetto to share the gospel or how I’m a better Christian because I’m willing to sacrifice comfort for the gospel.  After living the last two years pretty comfortably in Columbus with my wife and attending a couple of churches who minister to wealthy suburbs of Columbus, I just can’t shake the calling to the inner city.  Specifically in this case, the bottoms of Columbus.  My wife and I want to buy a house in the bottoms and move there as we share the gospel with our neighbors.

I firmly believe that in order to effectively reach a community, you have to live in and be apart of the community.  While I was in college I attended a church that desperately wanted to reach out to the poor and lost of the towns urban areas and asked for their members to live in those areas, while the church leaders (some, not all) lived far away in very nice houses while sending their kids to private Christian schools.  You can’t share the gospel with people when you only want to interact with them when it’s convenient for you.  I know it’s a scary thing to live in the ghetto, there have been many times where I have thought about moving my young bride to the drug riddled and crime capital of Columbus and have simply wanted to ask God for another calling, but as a husband, I have to lead my wife and my future children to where God wants us.  And right now I am completely confident that He wants us in the Columbus ghetto.

Lisa and I are in the very beginning stages of looking for a home when our apartment lease is up this coming winter.  I pray that if this truly where God wants us to set up shop, that it will be made obvious in this part of our journey.

Rich People Need The Gospel, Too.

Before I start, allow me to just clear something up.  Everyone needs the gospel.  There isn’t a group of people on the planet that doesn’t need the gospel.  There isn’t a single person on the planet that doesn’t need the gospel.  With that said, why are we only focused on the poor?

Christ makes it pretty clear that it will be very difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  I can name off the top of my head many local and national ministries aimed at helping the poor, and that’s great.  But I can’t really think of any ministries aimed at sharing the glory of Christ to the wealthy, and that’s not okay.  I think it’s become to the new cool thing to help and love the poor while we hate on and ignore the rich.  They have more stuff than else, so we don’t need to help their souls find Jesus.  It makes us bitter and not any better than the wealthy we criticize.  I was told recently that “true christians” are more concerned with poor people then any other group.  Not sure how accurate that is.

More than likely you are thinking of the poor person as the guy who has to go to the soup kitchen for a meal and the rich guy as the person in the 7 bathroom/5 bedroom house who has 4 cars.  Perhaps you are thinking of all THOSE rich people who need this message…hold on…if you are reading this… on a computer… in America, you are rich by any objective, historic, Biblical definition.

We are rich.  By any objective historic standard, everyone and all of us would be in the category of rich by the Bible’s standards. We have more than most people in history: more stuff, more food, more shelter, and more transportation than anyone in history. MIT economist Abhijt Banjerjee in his book Poor Economics maps out by city and country the population where 75% or more of the residents live on less than $2.00 a day.  It’s staggering.

My overall point, everyone needs the gospel.  Rich, poor, white, black, short, tall, etc.  EVERYONE needs the gospel.

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Next on Theory of The Phil: Why KONY 2012 is a load of crap no matter what your pastor says.

Spider-Man and The Gospel

Probably one of the two most popular comic book characters of the last decade (Batman being the other), Spider-Man ushered in a new renaissance for comic book movies.  Prior to the first Spider-Man movie, the only two successful comic book movie franchises were the Batman and Superman movies from years earlier; both ending on very bad terms (as did Sam Rami’s Spier-Man franchise).  Spider-Man’s popularity boomed with his new movie and he quickly became one of the top selling comic book titles of the decade.  Spider-Man’s story echos our story very similarly.

Spider-Man’s story begins with him in high school, and through a series of unpredictable events… has super powers bestowed onto him by a radioactive spider.  He decided to use his new found powers to advance himself and begins to professionally wrestle, earning large sums of cash.  Through this, he has to hide his second life and lie about his activities to his uncle and aunt (who care for him after Peter’s death as a young child).  This process ends up getting his uncle into a unlucky situation where he is shot and killed.  The news of his uncles death is of course heartbreaking to Peter who takes it upon himself to avenge his uncles death and become the friendly neighborhood crime-fighter.

You can probably see where I’m going with this.

Our story starts in a time very similar to high school, it was a time where, looking back, everything was so simple but we seemed to mess it up.  God gave Adam and Eve one command, do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  But what do they do?  They break their one commandment!  Afterwards they never seek forgiveness from God and continue to live unrepentant.  God then gives Israel the law to show them how imperfect they are and to show them their need for a savior.  But instead, they try to use the law as a way to make up for their sins and to earn their way into Heaven.  But as we all know, that does not end well.

Much the same way that Spider-Man’s journey never ends well.  Throughout the course of his history, Spider-Man has virtually lost everyone he has cared for and although he prevails in the end… he almost always suffers a great loss.  Spider-Man is Israel in this analogy, he tries to use what God has given him and atone for his problems.  Yet, he can never quite do enough to save himself and the people he loves.  One can only hope that there is a Comic Book Jesus to save Peter Parker from his problem of not being able to atone for his sins.