Defeating Our Disability

I have a disability. I have at times been known to be selfish or stubborn. I’ve lied, I’ve cursed, I’ve stolen, and I’ve abandoned. In short, I am far from perfect. Beyond that, I’ve at times stumbled over my words, missed the winning shot, been late, been absent, and I’ve failed at a handful of my dreams. All of these together are my disabilities. They are ways in which I fall short of fulfilling the potential that God has placed in me.

However, even though I have many disabilities I am in no way disabled. To be disabled would be to allow my disabilities to define who I am and in the process cloud who God intends me to be. For sure, my disabilities have provided many long and short term hurdles in my life but I know that I can overcome them because I am defined first and foremost by Christ.

Taken in this light, our disabilities can at times in fact become gateways to our greatest strength because they point us to the source of power: God. Our deficiencies can help us to realize that we absolutely need a God who can work in our lives and restore who we are meant to be. This doesn’t mean that we necessarily revel in our weakness but rather that we use it to see how God is building in our lives out of our need for Him, rather than how we have failed. When we do this then our struggle to grasp onto Christ and overcome our disability becomes a wonderful power which displays the providence of God.

A perfect example of this was when my grandpa, who was a carpenter and a small business man, had a debilitating stroke 17 years ago. He could have let the weakness define him but instead he leaned into the power of God to overcome his weakness. He re-learned to talk, walk, and live life, and as a result the remaining years of his life became a wonderful testament to never settling to be disabled.

We see this same mindset in Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 right after he has recounted his many trials and missteps. Yet amid them he realizes that God pushes him on by telling him that, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” And it’s because of this that Paul can declare: “I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.”

In two days the paralympics will begin in London. As the second largest sporting event in the world, the paralympics wonderfully represent the idea that a disability does not mean that you are disabled. By relying on Christ our weaknesses can be transformed to strength. Yet this only happens when we refuse to be defined by our disabilities and instead submit them to Christ. In this, we are able to recognize how God uses them for his glory so that we not only may be restored, but also so that, like Paul, our trials may become a testament of God’s strength to others as well so that all may come to know the redeeming power of God.

Sex is Super

Everybody loves sex. But this beautiful thing is often outrageously taboo when it comes to either the church or video games. Both communities tend to shy away from talking about sex and the role that it plays in our lives. Sometimes games will throw in a steamy alien/human love scene or a bouncing car in an alleyway but for the better part its typically not addressed. The church tends to carry this a step further and either outright condemn any talk of it or its congregants coyly change the subject when it’s brought up.

But what if God really loves sex? I mean the guy made it for us for crying out loud so you’d think he’d intend for us to enjoy it. And if that’s the case then why don’t we ever talk about it? Well lucky for you, you’ll find an excerpt below of a paper I wrote which addresses this very question. And if you dig that then make sure you hit the link after the excerpt to get the full paper. Enjoy! (Oh, and while the paper may make you blush a bit, it’s definitely only rated PG13).

Sex is worship. That’s right, that scandalous, unspoken, sensual act actually glorifies the creator of the universe. While many Western, evangelical Christians may feel their faces flush at the mere mention of sex, it is a God given, God crafted act which has existed since the dawn of time. However, over the ages sex has been twisted, perverted and condemned by those both inside and outside of the church. The result is that it has been relegated to the recesses of our minds and sucked dry of its beautiful essence. For many, sex seems to only exist to fulfill our genetic or seedy desires, yet nothing could be further from the truth. The glorious dimension of sex, the first and foremost reason it was created, is bound up in its natural ability to glorify God. This ability to glorify is woven into our imago Dei and as we will see, sex is one of the most beautiful ways in which it is expressed.   

Research Paper – Sex as a Reflection of God

A World Without The Batman

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It is one of the saddest tragedies of our age that Batman doesn’t exist. Sure any hero (ahem, Spider-Man) would be stupidly, awesome in real life but they require the bending of known physics or reality itself. Batman on the other hand is simply a man. A man who decided to change the world and sacrifice everything to do it. What if we followers of the Kingdom took our role just as seriously?

The disconnect lies in the fact that true villains exist in the world but unfettered heroes mostly don’t. Now when I say villains I don’t mean people like Osama bin Laden or Hitler. Those people are certainly demented but they do what they do to obtain power. As a counter weight, many people (though not all) such as soldiers, officers, and firefighters act as heroes to save the world from these evil forces. Yet, there are some people who live beyond the code of the power struggle. These are true villains; people who seem to live only to (in the words of Alfred Pennyworth), “Watch the world burn.” It is for these villains that we need unfettered heroes.

People who are willing to lay down everything in order to save the world. Not just their lives but their salaries, their homes, their livelihood, their dreams, and their joy just to take part in rescuing humanity. Heroes who are not bound by county or country lines. Heroes who save a life at any cost, even it’s the Joker’s. Heroes who have nothing holding them back.

How different would the world look if we lived like Batman? Striving only for the desires of the Kingdom: to save a world that is lost and broken by sacrificing our all.

Night of the Resurrected Dead

Michael Gilmour, an English and Biblical literature professor at Providence University College, is a complete badass! I’ve been cooking up a zombie theology for quite some time and I’m stoked to see that somebody else is on the same page as me! You should check out the full article here or at least his top 10 biblical zombies list below!

1. The Gospel of Luke: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:5). Such a suggestive phrase. Note also that the angels asking the question and those they address are standing inside a tomb at the time (Luke 24:2-4).

2. The Book of Revelation: “the sea gave up the dead that were in it” (Revelation 20:13). John the Seer’s creepy statement reminds me of a scene in George A. Romero’s “Land of the Dead” (2005) that features slow-moving corpses walking out of the surf, and Max Brooks’ “World War Z” with its account of the boy returning from a swim with a bite mark on his foot. He also describes the zombie hoards roaming the world’s oceans: “They say there are still somewhere between twenty and thirty million of them, still washing up on beaches, or getting snagged in fisherman’s nets.”

3. Deuteronomy: “Your corpses shall be food for every bird of the air and animal of the earth, and there shall be no one to frighten them away” (Deuteronomy 28:25-26; cf. 2 Samuel 21:10; Psalm 79:1-2; Isaiah 34:2-3; Jeremiah 7:33). The ancients worried about the exposure of their body after death. Improper care of one’s corpse was a terrifying prospect, so it is no wonder it features in prophetic warnings of divine wrath. Qoheleth insists that even though a man lives a long life and has many children, if he “has no burial … a stillborn child is better off than he” (Ecclesiastes 6:3). The indignity of non-burial presumably accounts for the honor bestowed on the poor man Lazarus in Jesus’ parable; the rich man receives proper burial but Lazarus “was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham” (Luke 16:22) because there was no one to care for his remains.

4. The Book of Job: “Why is light given to one in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it does not come, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures…?” (Job 3:20-21). Job is angry he did not die at birth (3:11), adding that he loathes his life and does not want to live forever (7:16). Others prefer death to life out of principled anger against God, like the prophet Jonah (4:3; cf. 4:8). Physical death eludes a surprising number of people in the Christian Bible, and this is not always a welcome thing. The prophet John refers to some who “seek death but will not find it; they will long to die, but death will flee from them” (Revelation 9:6). The prospect of an elusive death, as every zombie fan knows, terrorizes the living. The “stricken” Charlotte Lucas in “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” agrees to marry the tedious and obsequious minister Mr. Collins because she wants “a husband who will see to [her] proper Christian beheading and burial.” This is no small task for most survivors left with such a grim assignment, as Shaun well knows: “I don’t think I got it in me to shoot my flat mate, my mom, and my girlfriend all in the same evening” (“Shaun of the Dead,” 2004).

5. The Gospel of Matthew: “The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After [Jesus’] resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many” (Matthew 27:52-53). Unwanted persistent life is a recurring image in biblical literature and so too is language referring to the impermanence of bodily death. The dead do not stay dead. The psalmist is confident he will not “see decay” (Psalm 16:10 New International Version; cf. Acts 2:27; 13:35). We read of the physical resurrections of specific individuals (e.g., 1 Kings 17:17-24; Luke 8:49-56; maybe Acts 20:7-12) and expected mass revivals (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Some of these accounts of un-dying involve reference to un-burying. Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus walks out of his tomb when “they took away the stone” (John 11:41). On Easter morning, mourners find “the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back” (Mark 16:4). A second century writer describes further the events preceding Jesus’ emergence from the tomb: “That stone which had been laid against the entrance to the sepulchre started of itself to roll and gave way to the side, and the sepulchre was opened” (Gospel of Peter9.35).

6. Ezekiel: Ezekiel receives a vision promising the restoration of Israel (37:11). Seeing a valley full of bones, the Lord instructs him to speak to them, saying, “O dry bones … I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live” (37:4-6). When Ezekiel does so, “there was a noise, a rattling” as bones come together and sinew and skin appears and the breath of life returns. The dry bones “lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude” (37:7-10).

7. Zechariah: “their flesh shall rot while they are still on their feet; their eyes shall rot in their sockets, and their tongues shall rot in their mouths” (Zechariah 14:12). They seem to resemble extras in a George A. Romero film.

8. The Gospel of Mark: “hell, where their worm never dies” (Mark 9:48; alluding here to Isaiah 66:24). Gehenna (here symbolically representing “hell,” and usually translated so, as in Mark 9:44, 45, 47) refers to the Valley of Hinnom located to the south and southwest of Jerusalem. Following the reign of Israel’s righteous King Josiah (see 2 Kings 23:10-14), it became Jerusalem’s garbage heap, a place with maggots and rotting corpses. Jesus refers to this burning garbage in Mark 9:48, a place where residents of the city would leave the rotting corpses of humans and animals to the worms that do not die, to maggots. The image suggests the corpses of the damned rot ingehenna/hell — maggot ridden — in perpetuity.

9. 2 Maccabees: “[Antiochus IV Epiphanes] was seized with a pain in his bowels, for which there was no relief, and with sharp internal tortures — and that very justly, for he had tortured the bowels of others with many and strange inflictions … he fell out of his chariot as it was rushing along, and the fall was so hard as to torture every limb of his body. … the ungodly man’s body swarmed with worms, and while he was still living in anguish and pain, his flesh rotted away, and because of the stench the whole army felt revulsion at his decay. Because of his intolerable stench no one was able to carry the man who a little while before had thought that he could touch the stars of heaven” (2 Maccabees 9:5-6, 7, 9-10). The Syrian ruler’s physical body rots away zombie-like while he still lives. The cause is divine, as the God of Israel strikes this enemy of the Jews with “an incurable and invisible blow” (2 Maccabees 9:5).

10. Genesis with the Book of Revelation: “the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep”; “the first heaven and the first earth has passed away, and the sea was no more” (Genesis 1:2; Revelation 21:1). With the disappearance of chaos, Eden returns: “On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit” (Revelation 22:2; cf. Genesis 2:9). Horrors stories often wander back and forth between forms of paradise (ordered society) and chaos (some variant of an apocalyptic hellscape) thus recalling biblical stories with similar alternations. Zombie stories typically depict the disintegration of the modern world, and often hint at a return from the wilderness to the paradisiacal garden for survivors (cf. Genesis 3:23-24). Danny Boyle’s “28 Days Later” (2002), for one, ends with a developing romance between Jim and Salina, happy in the cultivated lands around a cottage that echoes Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The sequel “28 Weeks Later” (2007), however, depicts a failed attempt to restore Eden. After the spread of the disastrous infection in the first film, the sequel documents efforts to repopulate the United Kingdom. Survivors return to their homeland, to what the director’s commentary refers to as “a new world” and a “Garden of Eden.” Naturally, mayhem ensues and the infection spreads as the movie unfolds. It wouldn’t be much of a horror movie otherwise.

Does Whatever a Spider Can

FINALLY!

After years of suffering through the vapid droning of Tobey, the flat charisma of Kirsten and the misguided attempts of Sam, Spider-Man finally has a movie that is worthy of his character. The Amazing Spider-Man released a week ago and has already swung up to over $140 million in sales earning it two more sequels, the first of which will be released in May 2014. 

Now before I go on you have to understand something: I legally changed my middle name to Parker a few years ago out of my love for the Spider-Man franchise. I’m not saying I’m the biggest fan ever but I do love me some Spidey and I’m thus rather critical of anything thing that attempts to cash in on the web head outside of the comics themselves. That being said, The Amazing Spider-Man was one of the best films I have ever seen.

The pacing was quick but deliberate about giving even new fans the necessary information about the Lizard, Gwen, Peter’s parents and his origin story. Sure there were some liberties taken for the sake of time and interpretation but they were done so with a nod and care of their respective roots. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone were flat out awesome. They nailed their characters: from their awkward teenage attraction to the serious with a dash of silly confrontations with the Lizard or the law, both actors simply knocked it out of the park. Martin Sheen and Sally Field also did a great job as Ben and May. Even though their screen time was rather limited, they wonderfully encapsulated the familial love of the characters and the profound effect that they had on Peter’s growth.

As a fan, I was extremely excited to see the level of care that went into the battle scenes between Spidey and the Lizard. You really got a feeling of the bulk of the Lizard and the agility of Spider-Man. The acrobatics and one-liners were wonderful and the scene with Stan Lee was his best cameo to date. Everything felt deliberate and fluid and it was clear that a significant amount of care went into faithfully portraying fight scenes that reflected their illustrated origins.

But by far the best part about The Amazing Spider-Man is that Andrew Garfield wonderfully portrayed how Peter is just a normal teenager. Sure he has super powers, but he still messes around on his phone while waiting for the lizard or smarts off in the middle of a fight. Sure he is stronger than his peers by far, but he still is meek at school. Sure he has super healing, but he still get self conscious about hiding the scrapes and bruises while they mend. In Garfield’s portrayal Peter is Spider-Man but more importantly Spider-Man is Peter. That is something that Tobey never seemed to quite get down and the impact of it is that for the first time Spider-Man really comes alive on the big screen just as much as he has in the comics and animated series.

I’m excited to see a step up in the computer graphics with the inevitable increase in budget for the next film and for the ways that the script writers start to flesh out Peter’s parents and his other foes. The Amazing Spider-Man is easily the best film of the summer (at least until July 20th) and I would highly recommend that you check it out, particularly in IMAX 3D.

Now get out there and enjoy it True Believers!

The Game of Life – E3 2012

Life is a bit nuts right now. In the last two weeks I took a trip to Colorado to see friends, to Iowa for the funeral of my hero and to LA for 3 days of rock awesomeness at E3. In the next two weeks I’m taking a Greek final and leading a team of 10 on a mission trip to Nassau to serve folks living in poverty with HIV and AIDS; needless to say, I’m a bit exhausted.

However, amid everything that is going on I can’t seem to stop thinking about all of the innovation and creativity that poured out of the LA Convention Center last week. I am so excited to get my hands on the likes of Tomb Raider, Halo 4, Guardians of Middle Earth, and the Last of Us as they roll out later this year and next. One of the surprise standouts for sure was Watch Dogs; I really love the approach that it takes on the inherent dangers of inter-connectivity, social networking and the general age of technology that we live in.

A few quirky games from the indie sector have been haunting me as well. Songlines from Samantha Vick was really cool in the ways that it married the act of creation with music, something that totally hearkens back to the poetry of Genesis. And I can’t seem to shake the Johann Sebastian Joust monkey on my back. I would have never thought that you could play a video game without a TV and it might be fun but damn, that game was so addictive!

The jury is still out on my impressions with the Wii U. On one hand Nintendo Land was simple but engaging and games like Zombie U look friggin awesome but on the other hand it kind of feels like I’ll be able to get a similar experience on my 360 when Smart Glass comes out this fall… and that’s free. Although whether I get the Wii U at launch or not I know I’m bound to cave when Nintendo inevitably comes out with the next Mario Kart on the system; what can I say, the joy of crushing first place’s joy with a blue shell is my Achilles heel.

Something that I’ll totally be keeping an eye on in the coming months is Disney’s new flick, Wreck-it Ralph. The ideas of predestination (are we only made for one job/purpose?) total depravity (even if we were born into a broken, bad state, i.e. as a bad guy, does that mean we have to remain that way?) and community of sinners (we support each other through our broken/bad guy states) are outrageous! I am so excited for this movie to come out in November!

Overall, E3 captured the same nerdy gaming magic that it does every year. There may have been a hearty handful of sequels but there’s nothing wrong with an extra dose of great games. The whole thing felt a little bit like the drawback before a tsunami and it only makes me more excited for the waves of innovation that will be rushing in between now and next year!

E3!!!^_^!!!

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year: convention season! And we’re kicking it off right with E3!

People from all over the world enjoying the art of creation; needless to say E3 is ripe with the movement of the Spirit.

Well be posting pics and talking about a lot of the amazing stuff pouring out of LA over the next few days so stay tuned!

God Blesses Those Who Are Humble…

“God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.”

Sometimes I feel like a zombie. I go through my day working, laughing, talking and dreaming all under the guise that I am the center of my universe. I wish I was different, but in the end I’m like most everybody else: mindlessly filling my own needs because my culture has told me to do so.

I can’t say that I’m completely to blame though. Everywhere I look the notion of egocentric consumerism seems to relentlessly bash itself into my face. It’s all about the money I make, the house I own, the job I have, the causes I care for, the ambitions that I pursue. I scarcely see myself in the context of a greater community; mostly because true community has been obliterated by modernity.

Then I look at the Kingdom of God. Man, that is a totally different animal. In the first century Israel was a community of God, not a community of individuals. Jesus entered that context to explain how God’s Kingdom existed for two reasons: To glorify God and bring people together. In this equation there is no me. There is God and there is the group. Jesus called his followers (which includes us today) to set aside their personal desires, their identity and even their life for God and for their friends. God’s intention here isn’t to make us dull or uniform (our diverse and beautiful world as a created reflection of God attests to that alone) but rather because this is the mental state that is required for unfettered love. This is the state of humility. That’s why the humble are blessed, because they can experience their true loving selves as made in God’s image; beings who are purposed for a community.

Spartan-B312 or Noble Six showed us a glimmer of what this looks like in Halo: Reach. As the newest recruit to Noble Team, the player assumes the role of Noble Six as the planet of Reach is besieged by the Covenant. What makes this team of Spartans special though is that they have their own personal strengths and identities but their meta-identity, their true self if you will, is only understood in the context of their group as a whole. While they are all amazing soldiers, their true glory comes in the way in which they humbly understand themselves to be a part of something greater than anyone one of them alone. This humility causes every member of noble team (save one) to lay down their life at some point, not just for the sake of the group or the mission but for the very survival of the universe.

I think that what Jesus, the disciples and the early church did is pretty similar. They saw the ways that their community glorified God and brought out the best of them. Many of them were so humble that they laid their identity and lives down in order to be defined by Christ and the Kingdom of God which he proclaimed. This is what I want to be like. I want to set aside my selfish desires and live only for the will of the Kingdom. Because living for myself can bring me happiness, prosperity and wealth but living for the Kingdom can bring restoration, healing and love on a scale that I could never achieve on my own. Indeed, a humility like that could cause you to lose yourself but gain the community of the entire earth.

-Jeremy

Ethical Dilemma

If you’re in the mood for some awesome ethical adventuring then look no further! Below is a snippet of a short article I just wrote concerning the rights of characters in video games. Click on the link to see the full article. Enjoy!

What if you walk along and everything that you see is more than what you see – the person in the T-shirt and slacks is a warrior, the space that appears empty is a secret door to an alternate world? What if, on a crowded street, you look up and see something appear that should not, given what we know, be there? You either shake your head and dismiss it or you accept that there is much more to the world than we think. Perhaps it really is a doorway to another place. If you choose to go inside you might find many unexpected things. – Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Mario, Zelda and Donkey Kong.

Sometimes the line between the real world and fantasy is substantially thinner than we may believe. Things that were once scoffed at as being impossible fancies were the next day fully present within our reality. Once, only the dreams of visionaries could encounter the void of space and today people live there for months at a time. Once, the idea of an artificial limb or robotic companion was mere whimsy while today they are the foundations of medical discovery. Clearly, just because something seems impossible today does not mean that it is in fact impossible all together. It is in this space, between the fully realized and the potential dream, in which video games exist. Here, one can don the role of space marine, a medieval knight, or a martial arts master. The fantasy of who we could be collides with the expanse of our imagination and we are transported to a realm that is simultaneously real and an illusion. Yet, if this space of video games is real then why do we act in ways within it that we never could in the real world? At the same time, if it is fantasy then why do we restrict ourselves from delving into the dark recesses of our desires, that is to say, why do we ensure that the game is always merely just a game? These questions are gravely important because in some regards they may be guiding us toward a set of principles that will extend beyond the game into the real world. Baring this in mind, I will seek to discern whether or not it is moral to inflict actions on hypothetical sentient beings in video games that we would not live out on actual sentient beings in reality.

Ethics Paper 1