Tag Archives: Jesus

Why is the Incarnation Significant? – Part 3 – The Ultimate Revelation

The incarnation is significant because it is God’s ultimate self-revelation.  Consider for a moment all that we know of God that is reveled to us.  He uses what the theologians refer to as “general revelation” to tell us that He exists and that we are responsible to Him.  All throughout creation, the revelation of God is enough to hold men without excuse in the Day of Judgment.  But all this is not enough for us to know God.  There is still much missing.  Thankfully there is yet another facet of revelation provided to us.  The written Word of God forms a “specific revelation” given that we might know God.  But still there is something missing.

Here’s the problem.  With all that we know about God, no one has ever seen Him.  We have heard that Moses saw part of His glory, but no one has seen God (John 1:18).  How can you really know someone you haven’t seen, gone to a park with, watched their reaction as you tell stories to, and hugged?  There is something wholly different between a cyber relationship and the real thing.  This is something of the distance between God and His creation.  This distance has existed from the primeval period of our history, because mankind has  always wanted nothing to do with the one true God.  We’ve rebelled against Him and His holiness demands that He leave us to our will, but His mercy keeps finding ways to reveal Himself to us throughout history.  That’s where the two sorts of revelation that we just spoke of come from, but in the end God wasn’t happy just to speak to us in shadows.

The incarnation means that God spoke into our world with Himself.  The invisible God sent us His duplicate image (Colossians 1:15) so that we may see Him for Himself (John 14:8-9).  God all-glorious, mysterious, immortal, invisible, clothed in light, and high above every throne and dominion took upon Himself humanity.  As He sustained the molecules of the known universe, He was birthed into a cattle feeding trough in a smelly cave in a little town in the Middle East.

I am often fascinated by the Apostle John’s use of the term “Word” to refer to Jesus.  This was at one time a substantial source of confusion for me.  Why would you call a person a “Word”?  This makes very little sense to you and me, but it makes all the sense in the world to God.  Imagine with me that you had been trying to communicate with your girlfriend in another state.  You had emailed.  You’ve tried Facebook stalking her.  You’ve called and texted.  You’ve even had friends try to contact her locally, but to no avail.  You’ve tried every sort of message and now it’s time to do something extreme.  You hop a plane and travel across the country to see her.  You yourself are become the message.  So it is with the Incarnate Word.  Jesus is the message of God to a humanity that has ignored all of His prior messages.  But consider the content of the message.  It has often intrigued me that God’s message to man wasn’t one of hate and punishment.  We had rebelled against him, after all!  But quite to the contrary, God’s message to mankind was one of hope and peace through the work of Jesus Christ.

Every religion in the world is predicated upon the idea of man becoming a god, but the Christian teaching is that God became man that man could be reconciled with God.  God put Himself on the line so that he could suffer for the rebellion that we chose over Him.  As you celebrate this time of year I would encourage you to think of the fact that the incarnation of Jesus Christ was God shouting into the world with all His might.  God wants to be known.  God wants to reveal Himself to us and will go to the greatest lengths to do so.  Are you listening?

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”  (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Lady Gaga: Everything is Empy

23 million albums and 64 million singles.  Grammy awards.  Voted one of the most influential people in the world by Time Magazine in 2010.  The young 20-something has managed to catch the eye and the ear of, not only her generation, but the world.  But what exactly does Stefani Germanotta have to say to the world?  What is her message?  Most people look at her garish outfits or her bizarre behaviors and view her as a freak or a genius or an artist.  My belief is that her performance belies what is truly at the heart of the matter.  We must look beyond our reactions to her styles and look deeper at why she sings what she sings.

In our attempt to pull back the layers of this artist, I would first note that she has asked that we do this.  In her 2009 hit single “Paparazzi” she sees the world fawning over her and telling her that they’re her “biggest fan” while all the while missing that she is in great danger (which she pictures variously using symbolism of a monster, illness, and a dangerous relationship).  People are caught up in chasing her fame, but they fail to recognize the struggle that she has inside.  Part of her bizarre outfits and crazy stage shows likely mask the personal frustrations of a girl who can’t even look herself in the mirror.  She can’t have anyone see her for who she really is and so she hides herself (“Dance in the Dark”) and puts on her “Poker Face.”

As we pull back the curtain on her lyrics, we see why she remains hidden in giant eggs and meat outfits.  Lady Gaga bares her soul about a number of struggles and let downs in her life.  Her desire for sexual gratification has led her down a reckless and dangerous path of empty relationships.   Countless songs point the listener in this direction.  In “Bad Romance” she finds herself trapped in a controlling sexual relationship.  In “Alejandro,” her desire to take in a healthy relationship leaves her empty and scarred.  When it’s all said and done, she just keeps returning to harmful relationships as portrayed in “Monster.”  This return is evidence that she has made men her “religion” in her bondage parable “Teeth.”  She needs someone who can pull her out of her addiction and destructive lifestyle.  She cries out for someone to “change me,” but help never comes.  The ups and the downs of her romantic life and career end up leaving her in an emotional prison of sorts (“Telephone”), where she is trapped and can only attempt to find short-sighted avenues to seek revenge.

All of her frustrations put her, as described in “The Edge of Glory,” dangerously “on the edge” as she recklessly pursues something meaningful in life.  She believes for an instant that she has captured something meaningful in what she describes as a “moment of truth” only to fall off the edge and back into her life of emptiness and lies.  Her resolve to this is “Just Dance.”  When life is a wreck and you don’t know what to do, “just dance, [it’s] gonna be okay.”  In a drunken fling she gets “hosed” in order to escape the reality of her frustrated life.  In stark contrast, she looks at the near-death experience of her dad and stands “Speechless.”  She doesn’t know how to cope.  The sadness and struggles of life have closed in on her and she sees no escape.

“I am beyond repentance,” Gaga continues in her “Judas” epic.  She’s lost her moorings and is hopeless now.  She knows that Jesus is still “pulling” her away from her destructive life (imagined as Judas), but she won’t give up her desire to “cling to” Judas.  This, she demonstrates, is the reason for the frustrations of her life.  She has given up Jesus for Judas.

The story of Lady Gaga matches the personal experience of many teens, college students, midlife crisis cases, septuagenarians, and so on.  Even in the Bible we find the story of the wisest and wildest king that ever ruled Israel.  He had 1,000 wives, loads of money, an impressive following, and was a total genius.  Who wouldn’t want to have everything that Solomon had.  He wore the best and was, no doubt, thronged by the paparazzi of his day, but in the end he passes a very similar verdict on it all as does Lady Gaga.  He summarizes it like this: “everything is meaningless” (Ecc. 1:2).  After talking about his attempts to find happiness in wine, wisdom, home improvement, wealth, and women (Ecc. 2:1-9) he sums up:

“I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure.  My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

Chasing the wind.  What a letdown!  This is the end of someone who chases anything that this life has to offer.  This is what Solomon and Lady Gaga have to tell us.  This is the warning shouted by those who are surrounded by fame and glory to us who ignorantly pursue what they have already achieved.  Let us consider the pursuit of something eternal.  None of us is beyond repentance.  We can still reject our infatuation with Judas.  We have all betrayed Jesus, but He will take us if we but return to Him in faith looking to Him to take the punishment for our betrayal.  Only in Jesus will we find escape from the life of frustration and empty recklessness presented to us in the music of Lady Gaga.


I suppose that a great many things could be said about miracles.  We could describe a great many events in Scripture where the miraculous occurs.  We could investigate the reasons for their occurrence or find little tidbits about their causes.  But to begin to understand the idea of a miracle we must begin with the admission that miracles seem ever so uncomfortable to the Christian Theist.  Often I feel awkward as I discuss topics of worlds being spoken into existence, diseases being cured by a touch, and dead men coming to life again.  All this comes off rather suspicious to the modern listener who has only heard of rumors of healings being done by bizarre preachers who oddly walk away with millions and no hard and fast evidence of such miracles ever being accomplished.  A miracle, to my friend at Starbucks, seems too farfetched and other-worldly to be imagined and is rejected for that reason.

At first the rejection bothered me.  After all, why would someone reject miracles as bizarre?  But then I considered my own inhibitions about the whole notion and I had to admit that I too held my own inhibitions.  Sure, I believe the Bible, but wouldn’t a Bible without all the miracles and other-worldly concepts be somewhat easier to believe?  I do not suppose that other Christians have ever had such inhibitions because most Christians have more faith than me.  My faith has always been something of a struggle, or, as the Apostle Paul often says, a battle.  I don’t have big faith.  I shudder often at difficult things and feel the giant of despair in my life because I so often walk by sight so as to avoid seeing the key in my pocket that would free me from the dungeon.  I often find myself sympathetic to the man who cried out that he believed, but that he needed Jesus to help his unbelief.  Ultimately my faith is not the object of my faith.  My faith, albeit something of a mustard seed variety, rests in Christ and His work on my behalf.  So when I am pierced with doubt, I return back to the Gospel and begin reminding myself of where my faith rests and then working outward to the other things.  And it is in this outworking that I stumbled across the idea of miracles.

As I considered miracles it seemed to me that they must be considered at face value and given at least a fair shot at consideration before anyone should reject them out of hand.  So as I consider the idea of a miracle I find myself considering what the substance of a miracle is.  Perhaps if we understood this it would make much more sense.  Take, for example, the story where Jesus was welcomed to a wedding party where the poor bride and groom ran out of money for wine.  Jesus arrives on the scene and turns water into wine.  In the midst of the mundane of the mundane I read that the most other-worldly sort of thing has happened.  Water turned into wine.  It would seem that the rules of the universe as I know them have been suspended.  Herein we have arrived at something of our first conclusion in regard to miracles.  Miracles are an intervention into our world.

Horton Hears a Who!

What I mean here is that the little blueberry that we know as Planet Earth has been touched by something quite unknown to the specks on the blueberry.  We are made uncomfortable by miracles for this very reason, namely, that they intervene with our world but that we do not understand them.  It is like someone attempting to explain the color yellow to a blind person or an iPad to a caveman.  Without the ability to see what these things, explanation is impossible.  I’m often led to the neat little Doctor Seuss story of “Horton Hears a Who” as I think on this point.  In the neat little story, Horton tries to convince all the big animals that a speck he has found contains an entire world of strange little creatures.  Everyone around him thinks he’s lost it because he talks to a speck.  Meanwhile, on the speck the mayor of Whoville talks with Horton and finds out that the entire city is merely a tiny speck.  He tries to tell the Whos about this, but they laugh at it because they see it.  Ultimately, the Whos end up believing that they are a speck when Horton is able to interact with them and the big animals end up believing that the Whos are real when they are able to shout loud enough for the animals to hear.  Miracles are God’s way of shouting into our world.  They crackle like fireworks to tell us that there is something else out there.  Miracles are the explosion of the infinite crashing into the finite.  The real matter at hand now seems to be not a question of who so simple as to accept the existence of miracles, but a question of who is so arrogant as to believe that no other realm has interacted with our own.  Miracles are God’s way of reminding His creation that He exists.

This thought leads me to another.  Miracles, as we find described in the Bible, lead us to believe that this God which is worshipped is not aloof from His creation, but cares deeply about it and is involved in and with it in some extraordinary way.  Imagine that you have a son in the 4th grade.  He’s bullied because he’s ugly and has freckles.  When your son comes home from school with a bloody nose, how would you respond?  Would you simply hand him some cotton balls and send him to bed, or would you break into his world, call the teacher or principal, go to the PTA meeting, and do everything you could to rescue him from his sad estate?  In a similar manner, miracles are God’s way of showing us that He cares.  He even cares about the poor couple who couldn’t afford a proper wedding party.  Miracles are a sign, not merely that God exists, but that He cares about His creation.

Beyond this, another obvious point needs to be made (although I think most of this is obvious and I may be wasting many good peoples’ weekends of reading by writing this), namely that miracles speak not only to the fact that God exists and that He cares about His creation, but also to the fact that He is able to do something for His creation.  There are many of us that are happy with a sentimental view of God who hugs us and cares for us, but we don’t like what theologians refer to as an omnipotent and all-knowing God.  This is intimidating.  But this is what miracles speak to.  Miracles scream out that God is able to do something about the mess that we’re in.  This leads me to another point.

Miracles teach us that something is broken.  As we look out in our world we find hospitals full of sick and dying people.  We find earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes that destroy life.  We find that most of the world lives on $2 a day.  We see that 100% of us will someday face death.  Miracles amplify this brokenness because through them we see that there is hope for healing.  You see, Jesus came around teaching people on the hillsides of Galilee and told them that there was a coming kingdom.  In this kingdom everything would be made right again.  By again it is meant that there was once a time when humanity did not experience sickness, hurricanes, poverty, or death.  All this was before man’s rebellion against God.  Jesus spoke of a kingdom where all of this would be no more.  But He did more than just talk about it.  He showed us what this kingdom would look like.  From the eyewitness accounts we hear of numerous afflictions being cured, storms being stilled, the poor being fed, death being reversed, and even the minions of Satan being repelled.  All of the miracles of Scripture resonate with this reality, specifically that humanity is broken, God is there, God cares, and God is able to heal that brokenness.

So as I return to the idea of the awkwardness of miracles in this post-Christian age I am driven to consider that miracles are awkward because they are meant to be.  Miracles have been and always will be otherworldly and strange because hope for humanity’s healing does not come from within.  If we reject the miracles of the Bible then we are left with a humanity with all the answers to the problems of sickness, disaster, poverty, and death.  Call me what you will, but I refuse to believe in such a humanity.  Even a simple glance at the record of human history exposes that humanity is its own worst enemy.  We are broken and our hope must come from another realm.  Someone must break through to fix our problems, but we cannot let Him in.  Our culture cannot allow for such a breakthrough.

Our culture believes in the miracle of naturalistic evolution.  It sincerely believes that billions of years of explosion, mutation, and natural selection made the world and the complexity of the human genome.  I suppose that if my culture can believe something so fantastical and unobserved, then I may go on believing the eyewitness accounts of the man named Jesus who turned the world upside down by the greatest miracle humanity has ever known.  Death was shown to be subject to God.  While all the created order shivers and shakes and groans in its brokenness, the Healer shouts into the world by nothing less than the resurrection from the dead and tells us that He is there, He cares, and He has done something about all the brokenness.  And to this end the Christian prays when he says, “Thy kingdom come.”

Approval: Why we all look for a thumbs up

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Approval is a fascinating aspect of the human psyche.  It seems that we are born with a desire for approval, a desire to have others like us.  From our early childhood, we remember doing things to get our parents’ approval.  We enjoyed hearing our parents brag us up and hated letting them down.  But this desire has not faded over time.  Social media keeps the flame burning.  Facebook is built around the notion of approval.  Good and funny posts will be liked or commented on.  The desire for approval can be instantly gratified by a successful post or a witty comment.  We also find this desire played out as we interact with our peers.  Scholars desire approval from other scholars.  Musicians crave acceptance from other musicians.  People who claim they don’t care to be approved or accepted by society seek approval and acceptance from others who hold the same claim.  Ultimately we all want to be accepted by our peers and superiors.  Approval gives us a sense of belonging and a feeling of significance.

But we come to the question of our article today.  Why?  Any psychologist or casual observer can tell us that we crave approval, but can they tell us why we crave it?  Is there some sort of reason for which the human being would need such a desire?  Does it make him stronger?  No.  Does it increase his survival skills?  Not directly.  Then why do we go through life fawning for attention and acceptance at every juncture?  As a theist I can propose an answer.  I believe that humans were made to have a relationship with their Creator.  We were intended to have the closest friendship with the greatest Friend imaginable – to walk and talk with Him face to face.  We were made for approval, but something happened.  We didn’t want God’s approval.  We shook our fists in His face and went our own way.  The human race chose the approval of the serpent over the approval of God.  And God let us seek approval elsewhere.  He let us set out on the path to nowhere because that was the path that we wanted to follow.  Because of this rebellion man cannot have the approval of God anymore.

Sometimes I consider what a problem I would be in if I were but a theist.  But, you see, I’m not just a theist, I am a Christian theist.  I believe in the solution to the problem of the rebellion against God.  I believe that our desire for approval has been met.  Here’s how it has been fixed.  God saw that humanity had separated itself from Him.  He knew that they would not make a way back to Him, but that He would have to make a way back to them.  He would have to insert Himself behind enemy lines in order to His reconciliation with humanity.  Jesus Christ, fully God, took upon Himself humanity in order to be one of us and to be part of who we are so that He might restore our approval before God.  But there was a twist.

Humanity did not approve of Jesus and they strung Him up like a common criminal.  But this was already the plan of God.  In a strange twist of fate, God allowed His Son to bear the penalty for our failure to accept God in the first place.  In fact, God even rejected His Son Jesus so that we could be accepted as sons and daughters.  Here is the awesome reality regarding our desire for acceptance.  God has provided a solution to our unquenchable desire for acceptance.  At the cross we find the fullness of God’s acceptance in the present and in the future.  All along our petty desires for our peers’ approval has been but a shadow of the approval that was lost in the primeval creation and has been regained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.