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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ponder Even While Busy

Season's Greetings and Salutations, Warriors and Scholars!

http://www.christmastvhistory.com/2012/07/eureka-christmas-2011.html
What are you pondering this Christmas season? Are you pondering about what gifts to buy for someone? How about that big play your kid is in that has rehearsals all weekend long? Are you pondering who to ask to that special dance on New Year's Eve? Maybe this is your first Holiday season with a certain someone just gone or adversely your first season experiencing Christmas with new eyes from Christ.

We have a lot going on around us and in our lives this time of year. Events, honey-do lists, kids activities, needs at church, etc, etc. Our American culture tends to be busy all of the time, but especially now in this time of year. In one of the Eureka Christmas specials ("Do You See What I See"), we find Jack and Allison and their family enjoying the last minutes of Christmas Eve and Allison is not even close to ready. She has so many things to do yet. She had grown up with very little Christmas and so now that she has kids, she tends to go way beyond the call of duty. With all the hub-bub going on, a bunch of signals get crossed and they all become animated. Literally, their senses start perceiving everything as various forms of animation throughout the episode because of another Eureka technical blunder.

Of course it all is fine in the end, but they don't really have time for individual pondering about the reason for the season. Luke records many things happening at Jesus birth. Travels to Bethlehem, angels appearing to some of the lowliest of social groups, etc. But one of the biggest lesson comes from Mary:
"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19
This verse comes to us during the night itself, when the shepherds came to find Jesus and the town was bustling with travelers for the census as well as Roman soldiers. Have you ever considered the actual atmosphere? People walking past the door looking for a place to stay or where to sign up for the census. Roman soldiers harassing the citizens because they would rather be fighting "for the glory of Rome" instead of "babysitting" a bunch of Jews. Vendors selling bread, fish, papyrus and other goods. People complaining about how much in taxes they had to pay.

I think Mary had other things on her mind, though. What it would mean for God's Son to be born near the animals instead of a private room? Why would angels tell shepherds, whom people disliked, a smelly and out-cast group. Why was she chosen? How would she raise a child that was supposed to change everything? Why were angels constantly appearing to proclaim the coming of this child? Remember they had approached her, Joseph, and now the shepherds.

Here we find Jesus operating as both "Lion" with great pomp and ceremony of angels proclaiming his birth and as "Lamb" by being born not in a palace but in what would have been a barn and only those with little respect and means being told about it by these angels.

In all of the hub-bub of the aforementioned Eureka episode, there are some interesting character explorations as a robot takes time to learn from Rudolph (who is in dog form). In order to learn this, he has to sit down and allow Rudolph to ponder his existence with him. He has to stop and be still for a time.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Identity and Powers

Greetings Warriors and Scholars.

Legends of Tomorrow progressed a new theme for this season, one of an identity crisis. Spoilers if you have not yet watched this season.

The team itself faced it as they found their leader missing when rescued from time by Oliver and Nate Heywood, a historian. Rip Hunter had scattered most of the team when the ship was damaged while stopping a nuclear incident. He then went somewhere in time and chose to keep himself hidden from them. Basically, they lost their leader. When you don't have a leader, your team suffers. Another reason the team had such an identity crisis was that individuals were facing so many questions.

Heywood wanted to be a hero in the footsteps of his grandpa and had a rough first meeting with him when they met the JSA. He then gained powers but then had to figure them out.

Ray Palmer lost his suit after a Japanese warlord took it. Without his suit he was questioning his role on the team and his use as a hero. He even went to the point of trying to become Captain Cold. That persona did not fit him at all.

We also had another run in with a young Professor Stein. After seeing his future self and realizing that time travel was real, he lost himself in his studies. To a point that it was damaging his marriage quite heavily.

In most of these cases, you have people basing their value on their equipment and skills and knowledge. They all lost sight of the real truth. These things all come out of our identity; they do not shape it. As a Christian, I find my identity in my savior. In following Jesus I am forged and granted skills and powers (a.k.a. spiritual gifts), though not the same as those you see in comic books.

From an early point the church struggled with the concept of viewing our identity in skills and knowledge. Paul often wrote against Gnosticism, which was trying to affect the church with the lie that if you have special knowledge you are more special or important. Many in the church got overly focused on having certain spiritual gifts (a.k.a. powers). We have a whole chapter dedicated to warning us about the over-emphases on speaking in tongues.

You see while spiritual gifts are great, useful and sometimes extraordinary, our view of them can be skewed by our worldly desires. What did Paul say about worldly desires and objects?
"More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ," Philippians 3:8, NASB
Our abilities and our desires will never fulfill us. They are part of us but they can not define us. They don't have that power. Even our roles don't really define us. Often times we define these things but scripture makes it clear: Christ is our fulfillment. Hobbies, roles, even gifts from Christ will never be able to fill the place in our lives meant for Him.

As we follow Jesus, He will fulfill us. As He fulfills us and trains us to love each other and Him, through what we often call the Fruit of the Spirit, we become better at handling all these things. Our hobbies do not necessarily get lost, but they often become part of God's mission for us. Our skills and powers are used for that mission. But overall, the one single fulfilling aspect of life is Jesus Himself.