Archive for July 22, 2012

The dark knight rises and Gotham’s dark night deepens.

Gotham is a virtual world that sprang into horrid actuality as alleged  shooter James Holmes gave flesh and breath to his avatar, the Joker.

Survivors, some costumed in the attire of Gotham, ran into the dark night  shrouding Aurora, Colorado, and emerged from the virtual world into hard  concrete, shrill sirens, squawking police radios, and the cold metallic  microphones of reporters seeking eye-witness sound bites describing the world’s  latest atrocity.

The survivors had escaped the virtual Gotham on the big screen only to run  into a rock-hard parable spun by the prince of darkness himself. Until the Joker  incarnate popped into the movie-house the celluloid Gotham was preferable  because it disappeared when the film ran out.

Without the incarnation of evil, the late-night moviegoers would have taken  their costumed selves to eateries, bars, and clubs, and talked about the  chilling fiction they had watched, and the way it all seemed so real it was as  if they were there.

Except they were there, horribly so.

“Gloomy, dark, self-enclosed, claustrophobic,” is the way reviewer Thomas S.  Hibbs described the vision of Gotham presented by director Christopher Nolan. In  the third film of the trilogy, there’s more daylight, but Gotham is still a  gloomy place, Hibbs wrote in National Review.

British critic Jenny McCartney didn’t see much light in Gotham. As she  watched Dark Knight Rising, “the greatest surprise of all – even for me, after  eight years spent working as a film critic-has been the sustained level of  intensely sadistic brutality throughout the film,” she wrote, in the UK  publication, The Telegraph.

Gotham is to the contemporary world what a caricature is to a living person’s  likeness: identifying features – Bob Hope’s nose, Kelsey Grammer’s “Frazier”  forehead – that are exaggerations of the real thing.

Gotham is the caricature of “Babylon,” identified in the Bible Book of  Revelation as the world system seeking to function without God, and usually in  defiance of Him. In the Gotham of the wonderfully camp Batman and Robin played  by Adam West and Burt Ward in the 1960s, we didn’t know about virtual worlds and  avatars. It was all a hoot punctuated by “Bam!” and “Sock!” callouts festooning  the cartoon-like “fights” in which the worst that happened was Joker’s hair  getting mussed, or the Penguin’s top hat sent askew. No one bled. There were no  pencils jabbing out people’s eyes, no bombs stuffed into their pants.

And no one blasting a theater audience with guns designed for major  combat.

As alleged shooter Holmes shows, Gotham-Babylon has its own physics. Gravity  and entropy operate in the glum world. If Gotham-Babylon is a spiritual realm  with direct impact on the physical world, then the gravity-entropy is spiritual  in nature with the physical manifestation impacting human behavior.

A Richard Dawkins or Stephen Hawking would decry me, a mere layperson with  respect to physics writing about it. However, they have no problems penning  whole tomes on theology without ever sitting in a single class on apologetics,  systematic theology, or maybe  even a basic doctrines workshop. So I shall write of the physics of  Gotham-Babylon seen in the Aurora tragedy.

Gravity is mass attracting mass. From the perspective of our position on  earth, the pull is downward. Entropy is the acceleration of the decline, moving  faster and faster until the awful crash that destroys everything.

If James Holmes was the Joker incarnate, what began the descent that led to  the slaughter in the Aurora theater? At some point, the weight of the killer’s  personal sin was attracted by the mass of absolute evil, and a chaotic spiral  began until, under the force of spiritual entropy, disintegration and chaos took  over.

This is what St. Paul is warning about when he writes, “don’t give place to  the devil.” (Ephesians 4:27) That “place” in James Holmes, in me and you can  grow into a density that is captured by the mass of absolute evil spun into  reality by the first rebel, Lucifer.

St. Paul also understands the macrocosmic implications of sin-evil, and  writes in Romans 8 that the whole creation is caught in the spiritual gravity  and entropy of decay, disintegration, and death.

So blame the Aurora tragedy on the Batman movie, the warped psychology of a  world-weary young man, too much sugar, too much exposure to video games and  computerized carnage, an excess of alcohol and-or drugs, and mental illness, but  until we recognize the reality of evil and the demonic that seeds itself in our  fallen nature until we turn ourselves over to the vortex of chaos, there is no  answer.

Dark Gotham doesn’t need Batman. It needs a Savior. Only He can overcome the  gravitational pull downward and the entropic acceleration to Hell.

And bring light to gloomy Gotham.

Baptism: The Demonstration of Devotion.

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” 2 Corinthians 9:6

It’s interesting to me that Jesus taught more about money than any other subject. He consistently talked about the importance of generosity and the deadly danger of greed. To the man who asked Jesus to tell his brother to divide the inheritance with him, Jesus responded by warning, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). And in Luke 6:38 Jesus taught, “Give, and it will be given to you . . . pressed down, shaken together and running over.” To disciples distracted by financial needs, Jesus assured them that the Father knows they need such things as food and clothes: “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Luke 12:22-31).

God’s plan is simple—give to gain. In other words, give to the kingdom and God will take care of your needs.

The great British preacher Charles H. Spurgeon once learned about this kind of trust while trying to raise money for poor children in London. He went to Bristol hoping to collect £300 (which in those days was a huge amount of money) for London’s homeless children. At the end of the week of meetings, many lives had been changed and his financial goal had been reached. That night, as he bowed in prayer, Spurgeon was clearly prompted to give the money to a co-laborer of Christ named George Mueller.

“Oh no, Lord,” answered Spurgeon, “I need it for my own dear orphans.” Yet Spurgeon couldn’t shake the idea that God wanted him to part with it. Only when he said, “Yes, Lord, I will,” could he find rest.

With great peace, he made his way the next morning to Mueller’s orphanage and found the great man of prayer on his knees. The famous minister placed his hand on Mueller’s shoulder and said, “George, God has told me to give you the £300 I’ve collected.”

“Oh, my dear brother,” exclaimed Mueller,” I’ve just been asking him for exactly that amount!” The two servants of the Lord wept and rejoiced together.

When Spurgeon returned to London, he found an envelope on his desk containing more than £300. The Lord had returned the £300 he had obediently given to Mueller, with 300 shillings of interest!

Spurgeon learned what another generous believer once said: “I shovel out, and God shovels in, and he has a bigger shovel than I do.” And while the return may or may not be monetary, you can be sure that your heart will overflow with the joy of giving generously and seeing His kingdom prosper.

And you don’t have to look back a hundred plus years to discover stories about the overflowing generosity of God to people who cheerfully give their money to the needs of others and God’s work. Just ask those who have discovered the joy of giving. They’ve got plenty of stories to prove the point. Let me invite you to get a few stories of your own!


  • When was the last time God prompted you to give something? How did you respond? If He hasn’t prompted you to give to others, ask Him to give you an opportunity. You can be sure that He will!
  • Do you give generously and sacrificially to the kingdom? Examining your heart to find out why or why not will be an important exercise. What holds you back? Greed? Fear? Disinterest?
  • Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. Why is it sometimes hard to be a “cheerful giver”?
  • To help you give more cheerfully in the future, be sure to consider the outcome—your gift “is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12).
  • What assurance do you find in the promise of Philippians 4:19? Don’t miss the fact that the promise was made to the Philippians who had just given themselves sacrificially into poverty for the work of Christ through Paul.

This is the will of God, your sanctification. . . —1 Thessalonians 4:3

The Death Side. In sanctification God has to deal with us on the death side as well as on the life side. Sanctification requires our coming to the place of death, but many of us spend so much time there that we become morbid. There is always a tremendous battle before sanctification is realized— something within us pushing with resentment against the demands of Christ. When the Holy Spirit begins to show us what sanctification means, the struggle starts immediately. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate . . . his own life . . . he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26).

In the process of sanctification, the Spirit of God will strip me down until there is nothing left but myself, and that is the place of death. Am I willing to be myself and nothing more? Am I willing to have no friends, no father, no brother, and no self-interest— simply to be ready for death? That is the condition required for sanctification. No wonder Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). This is where the battle comes, and where so many of us falter. We refuse to be identified with the death of Jesus Christ on this point. We say, “But this is so strict. Surely He does not require that of me.” Our Lord is strict, and He does require that of us.

Am I willing to reduce myself down to simply “me”? Am I determined enough to strip myself of all that my friends think of me, and all that I think of myself? Am I willing and determined to hand over my simple naked self to God? Once I am, He will immediately sanctify me completely, and my life will be free from being determined and persistent toward anything except God (see 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

When I pray, “Lord, show me what sanctification means for me,” He will show me. It means being made one with Jesus. Sanctification is not something Jesus puts in me— it is Himself in me (see 1 Corinthians 1:30).

Rescue the weak and the needy;      deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” — Psalm 82:4

Sometimes in reading the psalms, we stumble on how a particular verse is written and wonder what the psalm writer had in mind. For example, why, in verse 4 of Psalm 82, does the author tell us to deliver the poor from “the hands of the wicked”? After all, didn’t the psalmist already tell us to “Rescue the weak and the needy” in the first half of the verse?

Over the centuries countless answers have been offered to questions like this. In this case, one particularly poignant resolution is as follows: as praiseworthy as it may be to help those in need, many times this help can be offered without much risk. After all, while volunteering with a charity may take time and effort, there is little chance that person will suffer actual harm through such volunteer efforts.

Sometimes, however, helping the weak involves standing up to the wicked. For instance, when a child helps his fellow student with his homework, that’s one thing. But it’s another matter entirely for a child – seeing a new student in school being victimized by a bully – to stand up for what’s right. While both of these forms of assistance to the needy are admirable, standing up to a bully takes a special form of courage.

The psalmist is trying to tell us, then, that this act of deliverance “out of the hands of the wicked” is especially worthy in the eyes of God.

Indeed, helping others while they are being bullied by the wicked is not limited to interpersonal relationships. Think of tiny Israel – a country so small that it’s barely noticeable on a map. This little country is surrounded on all sides by hostile nations, some of whom would like to see Israel destroyed and its inhabitants swept into the sea.

In a situation like this, those who render aid to Israel are not simply fulfilling the Scriptural instruction to “rescue the weak and needy,” but also the Bible’s exhortation to “deliver them out of the hands of the wicked.”

As we look to our own communities and neighborhoods, we would do well to remember the psalmist’s lesson:  there is a special value not just in helping the less fortunate, but in protecting them from those who would victimize or take advantage of them.

When Herod the ruler of Galilee heard what Jesus was doing, he was greatly puzzled, for some said that John had come back from the dead, some that Elijah had appeared, and others that one of the old prophets had come to life again. Herod said, “I have beheaded John; but who is this of whom I hear these stories?” And he tried to find him.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Come by yourselves to some quiet place and rest a while”; for so many people were coming and going that the disciples could not find time even to eat. So they went in a boat by themselves to a quiet place; but many people saw and knew them as they went, and, running from all the towns, they arrived before them. When Jesus landed he found a large crowd waiting for him. Feeling sorry for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, he began to teach them many things.

As it was already late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, “This place is far away from any town and it is now late. Send the people away to the neighboring farms and villages to buy food for themselves.” But he answered “Give them some food.” They replied, “Are we to go and buy two hundred silver pieces’ worth of food for them?” He said, “Go and see how many loaves you have.” When they found out, they said, “Five, and two fishes.” Then he commanded them to make the people sit down in groups on the green grass.

So they sat down in companies of a hundred and of fifty. Then Jesus took the five loaves and the two fishes, and, looking up to heaven, he blessed the loaves, and broke them in pieces; and he gave to the disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fishes among them, and all ate and had enough. Then they picked up twelve baskets full of broken pieces of the bread and fish, although the number of the people who had shared them was five thousand.

Then Jesus had his disciples enter the boat and cross before him to Bethsaida, while he himself sent away the crowd. After sending them away, he climbed a hill to pray. When evening came the boat was in the middle of the sea and he alone on the land. Seeing that they were having trouble as they rowed, for the wind was against them, he went to them at about three o’clock in the early morning, walking on the sea as if he intended to pass them. When they saw him walking on the sea, they believed that he was a ghost and cried out, for all saw him and were frightened; but he spoke to them at once, saying, “Have courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Then he went on board the boat and the wind dropped, but they were greatly astonished for they had not learned the lesson of the loaves, for they were slow to understand its meaning.

After crossing the sea they landed at Gennesaret and fastened the boat. As soon as they had gone ashore, the people knew Jesus and searched all that part of the country, and whenever they heard that he had come to a certain place, they brought to him the sick on their beds. In every city or town or village to which he went people would lay their sick in the market-place and beg him to let them touch even the edge of his robe. And all who touched him were made well.

Since Joshua prefigures the Lord Jesus, we are led to think of his inheritance in the midst of his brethren.

In the midst on the Cross. – ” They crucified Him, and with Him two others, on either side one, and Jesus in the midst.” Forasmuch as we partook of flesh and blood, He shared the same; and since we were under the curse of a broken law, He also bowed beneath its weight, and was made a curse for us. He took the mid-current of pain; where the pressure was heaviest, there the Lamb of God bore the sin of the world. On Him God made to meet the iniquities of us all; alike of those who refuse, as did the one thief, and of those who accept, as did the other.

In the midst, in the gatherings of His People. – “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them”. He is the centre of unity. We come from different quarters with our peculiar prepossessions and preconceptions, with no special affinity to each other; but touching Him, we become one with all who touch Him also. See that, not the sermon, nor the supper, nor the form of worship, is the centre of fellowship; but Christ always and in all. Then let Him be the centre of thy home life and thy business life under all circumstances.

In the midst in Heaven. – ” In the midst of the throne, and in the midst of the elders, a Lamb standing.” All the circles of the re- deemed, of angels, and of all other beings, re- volve around Jesus, as their common centre. They thus become concentric. Jesus is the Heart of Heaven; the Sun of Paradise; the Essence of its bliss; the Centre of its love; the innermost Soul of its life.