Why God Why!?

What You’ve Missed…
* Jesus blows people’s minds when he knows what they’re thinking.  Dude would have crush dominated on The Family Feud.
* Jesus heals a bunch more people, pisses off a bunch more people, and then raises some folks from the dead.  No big deal.
* Jesus dies, then he rises from the dead, putting him in the same category as Ron Burgundy of being kind of a big deal.
* Jesus disappears into and appears out of thin air enough times to make it look like he’s enjoying himself just a little too much.

Day 311
Daily Reading: Mark 16, Luke 24, Acts 1-2

Today wraps up the story of Jesus.  The short version is that he’s killed, his followers are all upset and disheartened, he rises from the dead, appears to his followers and instructs them to carry on his work with the help of the Holy Spirit who will empower them to do great things.  Then Jesus flies away into heaven, kind of like Neo at the end of The Matrix I guess.  Just with less hardcore Goth music.

And that’s it.  Jesus’ time on Earth is over.  He spent three years (most people think) walkin’ around preaching and healing people.  Then he left.  That’s what I want to focus on…because that’s crazy.

Jesus’ whole deal, as Christians understand it today, was to restore humanity’s relationship with God.  In other words, Jesus came to tell people they could know God personally.  He told them God cared about them as an individual.  He told them God was their father, and He considered them His own children.  He wanted people to believe what he was saying, and he wanted everyone to know that he died as the sacrifice required to be in a relationship with God.  His revolutionary message was for the whole world.  The whole world!

Yet, he chose to come to Earth at a time when mass communication consisted of yelling really loud and mass transit consisted of your feet.  If that wasn’t limiting enough, he was only around for a few years, and then he peaced out.

What!?  Isn’t this God?  Couldn’t God appear to everyone on the planet at once?  I mean, even aliens can pull this off.  Independence Day?  The whole world simultaneously discovers these aliens have some pretty awesome laser guns.  Signs?  Worldwide news coverage of the spookiest corn-field-loving aliens of all time.  Even an inanimate asteroid from Armageddon is able to unite the whole world as a global family.  If an asteroid can do it, couldn’t an all-powerful God?

Why does God show up as a single guy, walking around the desert?

If God is trying to reach the whole world, why doesn’t He just appear as a big guy in the sky and let us know what’s up?  That seems to be the most effective way to reach everyone at once, and have them believe in Him and in what He’s saying.

But that’s not what God does.  According to the Bible, he comes to Earth as a man, tells people about it for three years, teaches twelve guys about his mission, and then leaves, telling them to keep up the good work.  Jesus says it’s actually better that he leaves.

“In fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate (Holy Spirit) won’t come.  If I do go away, then I will send him to you.”  John 16:7

This seems so counter-intuitive to how we operate today.  Today it’s all about mass exposure.  Your band, or company, or cool non-profit, or whatever needs a viral video.  You need web presence.  You need maximum exposure.  The more people who hear your message, the better.

But Jesus doesn’t do that.  He seems to go for depth, rather than reach.  He lives alongside twelve men day in and day out.  He puts most of his efforts into those twelve disciples.  He teaches them much more than he teaches the crowds in general.  Instead of investing in mass communication, Jesus invests heavily in personal relationships.  And then he leaves the very movement he started, entrusting it to twelve, highly under-qualified individuals, one of whom has killed himself.

Way to shoot yourself in the foot Jesus.  Clearly you weren’t in my Market Strategy class in college.  (Then again, neither was I because, hey, ultimate Frisbee on the quad.)  This sounds like the worst strategy ever.

Seriously though.  You’d think an all-powerful, all-knowing being like God would just announce himself to the world, clear things up, and then have everyone live in a Care Bear utopia playing tag on rainbows and sleeping in fluffy cloud beds.

So what’s the deal?

I don’t know.  It’s not how I would’ve done it.  When I think about it, I’m amazed the Christian movement even exists today.  God’s strategy to solve a problem seems less likely to work than most of what I’ve seen in both Hangover movies.  Yet…here I am today, a believer in the whole thing.

It almost makes no sense when you think about it.  The fact that the movement still exists, despite seemingly horrible planning has led me to the following conclusions.  God is indeed very mysterious, and that maybe it’s my understanding of what’s logical, sensible, and reasonable that’s off.  Not God’s.

It’s still crazy though.

Christians Are The New Vampires

What You’ve Missed…
* Jesus walks on water, which is pretty impressive.  Though not as impressive as walkin’ on sunshine.
* Jesus creates the world’s first free and instant buffet when He feeds thousands of hungry people, using only a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish, and everyone eats as much as they want.  Twice.  I think it’s official.  Jesus loves buffets.

Day 283
Daily Reading: John 6, Mark 7, Matthew 15

I’m going to just jump right in and talk about zombies and vampires.  They’re everywhere these days.  Zombies have taken over the world of fiction, and even local news stories in Florida, and vampires have taken over the romantic dreams of teenage girls everywhere.  (Vampires that are ridiculously handsome AND they sparkle?  It’s like Brad Pitt and My Little Pony had a baby, and now we all have to suffer the unending squeals of teen girls everywhere.)

But this is nothing new.  The idea of zombies and vampires can be traced all the way back to the Bible.  In fact, Jesus himself talks about both.

Check out what He says.

“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man (Jesus) and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you.  But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”  John 6:53-55

Whaaaaaat?  Correct me if I’m wrong, but what I get from this is Jesus tells people they have to eat His flesh and drink His blood to gain eternal life.  Did I miss something because that sounds all kinds of jacked up.  Eating flesh?  Drinking blood?  That sounds…really weird, really creepy and…cultish.

Jesus, dude, couldn’t you have just stuck with, “Love your neighbor,” or “Peace in the Middle East,” or even a little bit of Bill and Ted wisdom like, “Be excellent to each other?”  Why do you have to freak people out, talking about how your followers have to eat your body, and drink your blood?  No one wants to hear that.

In fact, after He said this, a lot of His followers turned away.  Probably because they weren’t interested in eating other people.  This isn’t the Jesus I heard about in Sunday school.  I heard about “nice Jesus”, not “B Horror movie Jesus.”

Speaking of which, many of you reading may be Christians and might not find this weird, because you believe in the act of communion, which is how Christians take part in eating Jesus’ flesh and drinking His blood today.  It may seem like no big deal.  I think that’s because we’ve heard it so much, it no longer has any impact on us.

But think about it.  The central figure in your spiritual beliefs, the one you base your lifestyle on, told people they would have to eat His body and drink His blood in order to gain eternal life.  Do you actually believe that?  If there was a cult that drank the blood of their leader, would you think that was normal?  Or would you think they were totally whacked out?

Well I have news for you.  That’s exactly what we’re doing as Christians.  We’re drinking the blood of our leader, to gain eternal life.  That’s the whole myth behind vampires!  (It’s just a shame we don’t get super-speed and super-strength as by-products.  We also don’t become overly dramatic horrible actors either, so that’s pretty good.)

And don’t forget, we also have stuff in common with flesh-eating zombies.  Though, we may not be mindless, I know of a few Christians who drool as much as any good zombie would.

So what’s my point?  I think we, as Christians, need to have some perspective of why non-Christians think we might be a little weird.  I think we need to be mindful that when we use expressions like, “The blood of the Lamb,” or “Our sins have been covered by the blood of Jesus,” people may be totally weirded out.  (Wow, we really do talk about blood a lot don’t we?  Yeah…that’s NOT totally creepy at all.)

Okay, okay…so it’s not really that intense.   Christians don’t actually drink blood.  We drink wine (or grape juice) as a symbol of Jesus’ blood.  And we don’t actually eat flesh, but rather bread (or fancy Catholic wafers) as a symbol for flesh.  But still…when you really think about it, it’s pretty crazy that we do it at all.

Geez, after all this eating, drinking and horror movie talk, I’m ready for some Jimmy Johns and a Walking Dead Marathon.

Christianity is awesome.

God Pooped

What You’ve Missed…
* The Israelites encounter close to 400 years of radio silence from God when it seems He stops speaking to His people. We can’t go 5 minutes without checking our phones to know what’s going on. They went 400 years. Great, now I just feel pathetic.
* The Old Testament is old news. We’ve rounded the bend and now find ourselves in the New Testament.
* John the Baptist invents baptism, lives like a sketchy homeless dude in the woods, eats weird hippie food, wears weird hippie clothes, and tells people to prepare for the coming of God. Basically he was like the weirdest dude ever.

Day 267
Daily Readings: Mark 1, Luke 1 and 3, John 1, Matthew 1

I remember back when I took Latin in 6th grade, and I heard the myths of the Greek gods and how they would come down to Earth, interact with people, then go back to Mount Olympus. I remember wondering if the Greeks actually believed that stuff, and if they did, wondering how anyone could be so dumb. (Though they were on to something with those togas. They basically walked around in Snuggies. I think it’s worth it to revisit that idea.)

But those Greek legends are just made up stories. Everyone knows they aren’t real. No one actually thinks all-powerful gods, who created everything, come down from their heavenly thrones disguised as people to walk among us. No one who saw Thor thinks it’s real. (Mostly because that guy is waaaay to pretty to be as tough as he is.)

However, the New Testament starts out with this exact premise. God came down from His heavenly throne, in the form of a man, to walk among his own creation. Think about that for a second. If you’re a Christian, it means you might have more in common with the mythology of the ancient Greeks than modern science. It means the idea that the Greeks might have been crazy for believing what they did applies to you and me as well.

“In the beginning, the Word (Jesus) already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him…So the Word became human and made his home among us.” John 1:1-14

So what happens next? An angel visits Mary saying,

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus…The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:29-35

Long story short, Jesus is born. (And if you’re looking for a totally awesome, action-adventure blockbuster version of the story not found in the Bible, check out Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith. He’s the dude who wrote Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and clearly someone I need to be friends with.) So Jesus is born. So God becomes human. So what?

Let’s just stop and think about what this means for a minute. For one thing, it means God pooped. A lot. That’s crazy. It also means he cried as a kid. God cried. It means He had to do chores when He didn’t want to growing up. It also means He was vulnerable to disease, to physical pain and injury and to death. Think about the risk He took in living in such a volatile and dangerous world.

I’m not here to debate the whole virgin birth thing, or to discus whether Jesus was God or a prophet, or neither. I believe He was God. I’m interested in exploring the idea of what that looked like, what it says about the character of a God who behaves in such a way as to intentionally make Himself vulnerable. To lower himself, even to the point of having to live under the restrictions of a human body. It’s crazy.

I can only wonder if God had to learn to share, a value He Himself created. I wonder if He was ever interested in girls. I wonder if He ever had His feelings hurt. I wonder if He loved stories, staying up late, and sneaking out of the house at night. I wonder if He loved playing with fire, and if when He realized that He created fire, He thought, “Dude I’m glad I invented this. Fire is awesome!” (Because it is. I don’t understand how people aren’t pyromaniacs.)

God as man opens up so many ideas. God was hungry. God was tired. God was happy, sad, confused. And the craziest one, God learned from people. Let me repeat that. God. Learned. From. People. That thought alone blows my mind. I’m just glad I wasn’t Jesus’ dad, because I would have taught God to pick His nose, take lots of naps and to make Taco Bell a central part of His diet.

Get Ready to Rumble!

What You’ve Missed…
* God tells Jacob to go back to his homeland in a dream that features a lot of horny goats.
* Laban (the father-in-law) gets all angry and yells at Jacob who gets all whiny and yells at Laban.
* The men resolve their differences the same way my brothers and I did on long family car trips…they drew an imaginary line between themselves and agreed not to cross into each others’ territory.  (I hope it worked better for them, because that line only lasted about three seconds in our family.)
* Jacob and his thousands of animals, thirteen children and four wives, all head home.  (Speaking of long family trips…this sounds miserable, and without a Stuckey’s in sight.)

Day 12
Daily Reading: Genesis 32-35

In sixth grade I took nine weeks of Latin.  I don’t remember much of anything during that time, mostly because I spent that period punching myself in the face because of the horror that is Latin.  The rest of the time I was lost in thought puzzling out how some of my classmates had found a way to start growing facial hair.  However, in the few seconds I did pay attention, I remember the teacher telling us all about the Greek gods…and how they came down to Earth to mess with people.  They would sleep with them, fall in love with them, torture them or even fight them.  I remember thinking it was ridiculous that people used to actually believe that stuff.  Well, just like the rest of middle school, turns out the joke was on me.

Apparently Christianity has its own crazy story of God coming down to find someone to pick a fight with.  One night Jacob is hanging out all alone when out of nowhere a dude walks up and just starts fighting him for no reason.  Apparently this is the cultural norm at the time because Jacob goes along and wrestles the guy all night long without ever asking what they’re fighting about.  As morning approaches the mystery attacker realizes he isn’t going to win.  So what does he do?  He pulls out the mother-of-all pressure point moves and touches Jacob’s hip, wrenching it out of its socket.  If this were me you’d better believe I’d immediately be in the fetal position, which, let’s be honest, I probably already would’ve been in anyway…but not Jacob…the dude isn’t even phased.  He continues to wrestle so hard, he gets other guy cry “uncle”.

Short story even shorter, turns out the guy was God.  (Did you catch that?  Jacob got God to cry “uncle”.  I can barely handle a pair of jumper cables, and this guy got God to cry “uncle.”)  God goes on to bless Jacob and gives him a new name saying, “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.” (Gen. 32:28)

So let me get this straight.  Jacob is doing his thing, and God walks by and just…jumps him?  He’s sees Jacob and decides to just start wailing on him?  And even though he clearly has Mortal Kombat fighting capabilities, he lets Jacob win?  Then He gives him a blessing (along with a serious limp)?  Why?  What is God doing here?  It all just seems so…unnecessary, so…bizarre.

And why is the Bible so casual about the whole thing?  This is God, the Almighty Creator, allowing himself to literally be manhandled by some regular Joe Schmo.  Why is the author not having his mind completely blown?  This is THE Pay Per View fight of the millennium, and it comes across as an amusing anecdote that probably turned Jacob into the ultimate one-upper.

And if this was God in the form of a man…was it Jesus that was wrestling?  Could He just not wait a couple more years for WWE and simply had to come on down to get His wrestle on?  Was the point to show us He can dominate us whenever He wants, but that His real desire is to interact with us?  To roll around in the dirt, gettin’ into the nitty gritty with us?

I just don’t know what to do with this, other than be glad it wasn’t me because the last time I was in a fight was with Duane Terry in seventh grade where we both threw one punch, we both missed, and we both decided to call it a draw.  And that was the best I could do against an uncoordinated seventh grader…let alone God.

(On a completely separate note…for some interesting reading check out Genesis 34.  It’s insane.  Two of Jacob’s sons wipe out all the men of a nearby town because the prince raped their sister.  The best part is before they killed everyone, Jacob’s sons made the men circumcise themselves first.  C’mon, that’s just mean.)