He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting? - Hosea 13:14
Whenever I start vacuuming, my son gets his toy vacuum to help me clean. When I’m on my computer, he gets on my lap and wants to watch youtube. He knows where all his apps on the iPad are; I’m not sure who he learned that from… I love basketball and football; he also loves basketball and football. I sit down and play at the piano, he wants to be on the bench next to me playing the piano.
My son wants to be like me and I love it.
And at the same time am a bit terrified by it.
When you order a pizza, who is providing your family dinner? Is it you? Or is it God? Or is it the people actually making the pizza?
Martin Luther described the way that God works in this world as the “mask of God.” He taught that God is actually hidden in the world doing things like providing our “daily bread” in the ordinary work of chefs, police officers, moms, and dads. I wrote a bit about this on an awesome site called Liberate:
In order for me to eat pizza with my family that evening, I had to place a phone call to the restaurant. Thanks to the designers, marketers, manufacturers, and sales people at Apple I had a phone that could do the job. In order to get the appropriate phone number I googled the local pizza place. The search led to a website, which required a web designer…
To feed my family, God worked through web designers, employees at the pizza parlor, a small-business owner, police officers, car manufacturers, and so on. Each and every person doing their work was an important piece of my family having dinner that evening. You could even say that those hundreds of people were unknowingly serving my family, providing our daily bread. God was blessing me through others.
In the words of the classic television show, Boy Meets World, “Life is hard; get a helmet.”
It doesn’t take long to realize that life is hard. If you live long enough, you will face suffering. Whether it is death, sickness, betrayal, divorce, or something else, it’s bound to happen. And it sucks. When we are faced with suffering, we are faced with two choices: we are either run away from the suffering or we lean into it.
The most natural response that we all tend to prefer would be to run away. We try to minimize, control, or get over the pain. But the problem we face in our suffering is not that we need to figure out how to get over the pain, it is that we need to learn to see Christ in the midst of the pain. The natural response to pain and suffering is to run. And so we look for a series of tips on how to cope or try to find ways to just, “have more faith” in hopes that God will remove our suffering or we even try to figure out the reason behind our suffering as though we might find some hidden will of God that will make our pain stop being painful.
We live in a day and age that has more access to information than ever before. Yet our problems don’t seem to be lessening. In fact, at times it might even seems that our problems are even worse now than before. Lack of information is not the problem.
Information is not transformation.
And being a Christian is not about our intellectual ascent to knowing the right things. Being a Christian is not simply about knowing that an event happened in history, but it’s knowing that event in history is also present reality. It’s knowing that the death and resurrection of Jesus not only happened, but death and resurrection happens daily. You die to your sins and are brought to life in Christ because we have faith in the death and resurrection that happened.
There was a day when the church was known for its artists. Da Vinci famously painted the Last Supper, Michaelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, and J.S. Bach wrote music influenced by his Christian faith. In not quite as distant history, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote classic works influenced by their Christian faith. Unfortunately, when we think of the church in today’s culture, we do not likely think of art. And this is not about the buildings; because although our building may no longer be painted or built the same way, our churches are still full of music, design, film, performance art, and writing.
In the 21st century, art in the church tends to get associated with mediocre music, preachy films, or copycat designs.
This shouldn’t be. Our life-changing theology should lead to art that is not simply “Good for Christian art” but instead just “Good, period.” Christians should be making the best art, because we have the most compelling story to tell. Our theology clings to the divine story of redemption and that should inspire the best art.
I have bad eyes. I have since high school, maybe longer. I’m also stubborn, so although I have trouble seeing things at a distance, I still don’t wear glasses or contacts. Having bad eyesight creates some problems. In school, it created a problem seeing the board. That was actually how I discovered I had bad eyes; my classmates could clearly make out the dates in history class while I struggled to figure out what was being written down. I can see well enough to drive safely, but if I have to pick out a street name in an area I have never been, it is not an easy task.
Sin is a problem that runs deep in our hearts, yet is also a problem that we ignore. As humans we sometime do not see this problem of sin clearly. Our vision gets a little blurry and we start to think that something else is the problem.
There are certain phrases and stories that within Christianity often get treated as though they were Scripture. Like the story of the footprints in the sand… it’s awful (and by awful, I just mean it’s cheesy)! But Christians everywhere know it. It’s treated as though the footprints in the stand story comes in the appendix of all our Bibles and is expected to hang in at least one office in every church. Sometimes these phrases can be helpful in helping us understand and remember core aspects of our faith. But other times the phrases themselves can actually be a disservice to our faith. They can actually teach something contrary to what the Bible teaches.
One of these phrases:
“God won’t give you anything you can’t handle.”
Theology is often seen as something reserved for academics and seminarians. Part of the this is simply a misunderstanding of theology, but part of is also because of the way that Christians tend to talk about theology. As soon as we venture into theological topics, the conversation becomes lofty and out-of-reach. It quickly requires extensive biblical knowledge, a vast theological library, and excellent proof-texting abilities. The problem is this isn’t the way most of us want to think or talk about God.
It’s not that most of us don’t want to think theologically about God (this is logically impossible). Most of us simply want a theology that is not out-of-touch with reality. When theology is only for the classroom, we are missing out on the theology that the Scriptures teach.