Monday, October 15, 2007

Using Halo 3 to talk about Jesus Christ part 2

Dare 2 Share sparked some outside interest by using the new Halo 3 as a springboard to talk about spiritual warfare and Ephesians 6. The article, written by Lane Palmer, appeared in the D2S e-blast pub Soul Fuel (I receive both the student and parent/adult versions) in September.

Some Christians are critical about mixing the culture and the word of God, and I agree—but it depends on how it’s done. When the culture itself is placed before God, then there’s a problem. When culture is used in a tasteful and God-edifying way to point people towards God, then it’s fine. Laudatory, even.

Taking Christ and trying to contort, twist and cram Him into a specific mold that conforms to the culture should properly set off loud warning bells in mature Christians. But using things in the culture that unbelievers and Christians new to the faith would readily identify with to illustrate a point is not a bad thing.

The Master Himself often used stories to illustrate His messages. He took everyday, mundane things from Palestinian life and turned those into stories (parables) of the most profound importance.

Remember how Paul pointed to the edifice for the unknown god in Athens and used that as a springboard to preach about the one true God? Same thing is happening here. D2S used many aspects of the Halo 3 game as an opening to talk about how God has a way to protect use from evil. Check it out:

Well, maybe not in a physical sense. But trust me, there's a Halo 3 battle going on in the spiritual world that is just as real as the 4 hour checkout line at Wal-Mart when you bought the game.

But don't take my word for it – take God's Word for it:

Jesus replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven." (Luke 10:18)

Jesus is referring to a time in the past when Satan was kicked out of heaven like a bolt of lightning, and thus began the war on humanity:

"For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12)

According to the Bible, after Satan was dishonorably discharged from his duties in heaven, he took a mighty army of fallen angels with him and declared war on the objects of God's grace and love: human beings – and especially those who are in the Lord's army as Christians.

Make no mistake, the dark forces of the spiritual world have marked you for destruction – and no amount of quick moves, strategy, or teamwork will win this fight. But the great news is that God gave us a powerful weapon! ...

Lane was interviewed by the New York Times, and D2S founder Greg Stier went on CNN and Fox talking about the piece. One of my other heroes in the faith, Chris Rosebrough, featured the article on his A Little Leaven web site, which highlights gross misuses of the name of Jesus in Christian circles, especially on products and in so-called ministries. I thought this piece didn’t deserve to be there among the gallery of rogues and said so.

More on this topic another time.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Using Halo 3 to talk about Jesus Christ part 1

One of my heroes in the faith, Greg Steir (founder of Dare 2 Share), was recently on the Erica Hill show on CNN and is supposed to be on the Mike and Juliet Show on Fox sometime today. He's talking about using the new video game Halo 3 as a springboard to talk about Jesus.

Says Greg:

My take? While we are not endorsing a violent videogame like Halo 3 we are endorsing the conversation that we should be having with our teenagers that these kinds of subjects usually bring up (good verses evil, right verses wrong, the invading alien force and the overwhelming victory that teenagers can have through Jesus!) It’s too easy to demonize culture. What we need to do is to demonize demons and use the topic of culture to win our teenagers back to Jesus.
Some Bible-believing Christians think this is a terrible idea, but I don't, considering that I am immersed in youth ministry. I'll put up another post later about this explaining why.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Best Is Yet To Come Door 1: Jesus Christ

As mentioned in the previous post, my church is exploring The Best Is Yet To Come: 7 Doors of Spiritual Growth by Pastor John Kieschnick from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Houston. So far, I’ve been enjoying this series immensely, because it’s not a run-of-the-mill series that sells phony feel-goodisms of “get your best now!” or finding your purpose in life or any other word of faith, seeker-sensitive fluff.

What excites me about this series is that Kieschnick’s entire purpose is to refocus people on Jesus, the cross and real worship. He explains in the introduction:

“Today, many people examine the claims of Jesus because they know deep in their gut that there has to be more to life. Some are trying to fill the hole in their hearts with corporate success, some with possessions, and some are just “raising hell” to give themselves a thrill. But in their quiet, reflective moments, they long for something that really satisfies. …”Countless others have settled for a bland, lifeless form of Christianity. They sing the songs and hear the messages, but they are distracted by the cares of living. They once had a burning love for God, but over the years, that flame has died and is now only an ember. They still feel close to God from time to time, but these are fleeting moments. They used to make bold decisions to speak out for Christ, give sacrificially, and meet needs wherever they found them, but now, they just go through the motions of attending worship most Sundays, giving a little out of their surplus, and are no longer excited about the ministries of the church. Still, the ember is there. If exposed to a little fuel and oxygen, I believe these people can flame again!”
He’s right. People who go through the motions are kidding themselves. Merely attending church is not an act of worship.

Kieschnick uses “doors” as his organizational vehicle in presenting seven ways to help Christians grow spiritually in a deep, meaningful—and lasting—way. The “doors” involve witness, worship, connections with other believers, prayer, Bible study, service and giving.

The first “door” is Jesus Himself. The Lord even describes himself as a door or gate (depending on the translation) in John 10: "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” What does this mean? Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him.

That, in essence, is the key to everything. When you realize that Jesus is understood to be the centerpiece of all Christian worship and understanding, God’s graces, mercy, forgiveness—and wrath—come into focus.

An important concept that I'm glad the pastor focuses on is that following Jesus does not mean law OR gospel. Both are equally necessary for Christians. Law, as Luther said, "creates a thirst and leads us to hell; the gospel satisfies the thirst and leads us to heaven." We need both of them -- and that is what Christ explains in his sermon on the mount. (Remember, Christ explained that He came to fulfill the law, not destroy it.)

Pastor Kieschnick also expounds on God's grace, that free gift of God that we receive undeservedly, but without which we are totally lost. Grace, he explains, is Christ-centered, received through faith (and faith alone!) and remains with believers forever. I wasn't enthusiastic to see him cite Purpose Driven Life as a good source for talking about grace, so I would rather recommen Philip Yancy's brilliant and searching expository, What's So Amazing About Grace?

Jesus as the first door to spiritual growth should be "basic Christianity 101," but considering how far afield the faith has gone in America today, it's sadly a very necessary lesson for mature Christians.

In all, it's a very good begining, and I hope this book eventually enjoys wide distribution.