Tag Archives: Hebrews

I Can Do That

Some may recall the unexpected sight of a Pokémon advertisement during the 2016 Super Bowl as part of the 20 year anniversary of the franchise.  (Which can be seen here on the official Pokémon Youtube channel:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2F46tGehnfo)  The theme running through the ad is people seeing other trainers and saying to themselves or others “I can do that,” or “We can do this,” or “You can do that,” respectively, and, in turn, becoming the inspiration for the next person shown in the commercial.  In each case, their journey begins with the declaration, “I can do that.”  The same holds true outside of the Pokémon context.  When we set out to accomplish something or achieve some goal, it very often begins with us telling ourselves something similar.

This process is not unprecedented in the spiritual arena:  Ignatius of Loyola had just such an experience.  Once a man consumed by desire for the sort of fame, fortune, and perks that come with being a romantic knight, he is best known for founding the Jesuit religious order and authoring The Spiritual Exercises, a widely influential book concerned with the spiritual life.  This change in his life’s trajectory came after he was gravely wounded by a cannon ball in battle.  The projectile broke one of his legs and horribly mangled the other, leaving him bedridden and subject to what had to have been excruciating surgeries aimed at preserving his life and ability to walk.  During his recovery, there was little for the injured Ignatius to do but read.  Fortunately, there were many a book on courtly love and knightly exploits to be had.  Unfortunately, none of these titles were available to him.  Instead, the only books he could get his hands on were a commentary on the life of Christ and a compendium of the lives of various saints.  Despite it not being his first choice, Ignatius took what he could get.  Then something unexpected happened:  as he read, he found himself drawn towards and fired up to serve God with his life.  As he read about the lives of saints such as St. Francis of Assisi, Ignatius found himself thinking, “I can do that.”  So it was that, after completing his recovery, Ignatius of Loyola set out to commit his life to God’s service.

In the Christian landscape today, we often perceive examples taken from the Bible or the lives of other Christians, not as inspiration, but as either “filler” for our spiritual lives or, perhaps more disheartening, examples dangled before us of what we ought and fail to be.  Neither really fans the spiritual flame or moves us to action.  However, this is precisely what these examples are there to do.  Consider the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews:  in it the author enumerates the many people of faith we find in the Old Testament such as Abraham, Moses, and David.  If there were ever a list to make us feel inadequate and insignificant, this would be it.  However, as he begins the next chapter, the author writes something that abruptly changes our perspective:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run  with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

-Hebrews 12:1-2

Rather than feeling sorry for ourselves because we don’t think we measure up, we are called to take heart and persevere on account of these people who have gone before us.  These examples are given to us to help get us fired up.  We look at how they lived their lives in faith and say to ourselves, “I can do that.”  We may not have the same spiritual experiences they had, but that is neither the measure nor the goal that is set before us.  They were imperfect people just as we are imperfect, but they held fast to their faith in God and made that the cornerstone of their lives.  We too, setting our eyes on Christ, through whom we are and continue to be saved, aspire to live our lives in faith.  We pursue God in all we do and seek to draw ever nearer to Him as we cooperate with his formative work in our lives.  The effects of doing so are greater than we can imagine, both in our own lives and the lives of others.  As we live our lives with God, others, seeing our life and example, may in turn say to themselves, “I can do that.”

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Square One

There are times and stretches of time in our lives when it seems as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel and no hope of something better.  Or, even if we can envision something better, it appears to be forever out of our reach.  God seems distant and disinterested as we view our faith as more of a nice thought than anything of substance.  What do we do when everything seems so messed up and out of joint with both ourselves and the world in general?

What I wish to offer here is not any sort of quick-fix solution to magically solve all problems or a list of platitudes that just tell us to feel better, for hope is not built upon such things.  Instead, what I aim to do is present starting points, a series of “square-ones” as it were.  These are facts that help us to take our next step in the right direction and, just as important, help us to not give up.

1)  Jesus Christ is in Heaven.

 Yes, this seems like a rather vanilla statement, but we ought not to lose sight of what it entails.   Christ has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven:  He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world and was elevated to the right hand of God the Father (Hebrews 8:1).  There, having returned to His place at the Father’s side and opened the way for us to be reconciled to our God, Christ makes intercession for us to the end that we share in the fellowship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Hebrews 7:25, John 17:20-26).  We are never so far removed from God that we cannot reach Him and He cannot reach us.  When we come to God and throw ourselves upon His mercy, we have Jesus Christ as our Advocate, to speak for us and support us.

2)  The Spirit dwells in us.

 Though Christ is in Heaven interceding for us, we have not been left alone.  He, Himself, promised that a Helper, the Holy Spirit, would come to us and abide with us (John 14:15-18).  Through the Spirit’s indwelling, God dwells in our hearts so that He is always near.  The Holy Spirit comes alongside us in life to help and to guide us.  He is our advocate as we live on earth, reminding us of our true North and directing us closer to God.  In the midst of our weakness, in our hours of darkness, He also helps us by speaking on our behalf when we do not know what to say (Romans 8:26).  God is near to us even in the thick of the fray and is active in our lives even when we feel far from Him.  The Spirit helps us, speaks to us, and makes God known to us (John 16:13-15).

3)  We have the power to choose.

Because of what God has done for us, we are no longer slaves to sin or ignorance.  Instead, we have the help and tools before us to make meaningful decisions in our lives.  We can choose what kind of person we are going to be and what we are going to make of our current circumstances.  We can choose to remain faithful even when we feel so distant.  Even when we feel powerless, we are still able to make choices of eternal significance.  When we stumble and fall or are plain knocked down, there are always at least two options:  to stay down, or to get back up.  This is a choice that we and we alone can make.  We make it countless times throughout our lives and we make it especially often when we are struggling with sin or facing a difficult life situation.  No matter how many times we have to make it, it is always ours to make.

The points above remain constant, regardless of where we find ourselves in our Christian walk.  The worst thing that we can do is give up and succumb to despair, for then we have shut out hope ourselves.  However, if we can keep the above in mind, it will help us to remember the eternal hope we have and, in light of that hope, continue to put one foot in front of the other in our current situation.  This may be seeking out the help we need, it may be continuing in prayer despite being pressed by desolation, it may even be as simple as choosing to smile.

In spite of the darkness that may surround us and give us a bleak outlook on life, there is a light and power within us of great and eternal significance.  It is a light and power that is cared about by God and that He wishes to nurture and grow.  He has given us a key role in this process.  We can choose what to do with it at any given time and the hope that is thereby placed before us is a solid footing.


Real Motives

Reading our Bible, praying, meditating, etc. are all things that we are often told to do and often talk about. However, it is worth our time to step back and think about the “why” behind it all. Why do we do these things? The answer to this question is of paramount importance to our persistence in them and what we get out of them. For example, if we do these things because they are what a Christian “ought to do”, then they take on the all the purpose and meaning of chores or items on a to-do list.

What I wish to do here is to recall our attention to the spiritual reality underlying all religious activity. Perhaps we have heard that the word of God is living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12) or that Holy Spirit abides in us and helps us (John 14:15-18). But maybe we’ve only heard them spoken in the midst of an emotion-fueled passion and when the heat of the moment is gone, so also fades the sense of profoundness of what we have heard. The tepid haze of distraction and tedium creep in once more and we find ourselves again distant from God and quietly trying to look like we have a vibrant relationship with Him, hints of whom we only see moving behind the curtains of someone else’s experience.

But what if there is more? What if Scripture is more than a collection of Christian slogans? What if this talk of a real God who loves us, died for us, and lives in us were all true in the truest sense possible? If we start from this as the basic immutable fact of life, then our perspective of all things changes in at least some way. Focusing on our religious practices: they cease to be acts that we use to try and justify our calling ourselves Christian. Instead, they are windows through which we meet and interact with God. We engage in prayer and searching the Scriptures not because a personal label compels us to, but because we are drawn to them as a taste of what really matters and is eternal. Even when we feel spent in spirit and haven’t the slightest inkling to pursue matters of faith, we engage in our disciplines with the hope and assurance that the real and living God of the universe is with us.


Mirror, Mirror

What do we see when we look into Scripture?  Walls of words?  Long lists of rules and regulations?  What about ourselves?  Scripture can and does serve as a mirror, but not a normal mirror that merely reflects external appearances.  It is a mirror that reflects what is in our hearts.  “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)  When we look into Scripture, it interacts with us in a number of ways.  For example, it sets before us God’s standards of holiness which allows us to see the ways in which we are more conformed to them and the ways in which we are less conformed to them. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)  It also resonates with various parts of us:  many passages speak to us and illuminate things in us that we are not aware of.  If we are open to listening to Scripture and letting it speak to us, letting Scripture read us as we read it, we will find a new world opening to us.  One that shows us not only the dark corners of our hearts, but also bright new horizons of the possibilities of what we can be.

Original image by Fiona the Awesome

Original image by Fiona the Awesome


Heroes and Villains – Professor G. H. Dorr

“You, madam, are addressing a man, who is in fact quiet… and yet, not quiet, if I may offer you a riddle.”

– The Professor to Mrs. Munson

GHDorr2

Some villains stand out because of the threat they pose through sheer power or destructive capabilities.  Professor G.H. Dorr, on the other hand, is of a different sort.  Cutting the figure of a Southern gentleman, he seems to possess a devilish charm rather than devilish intent.  As a matter of fact, his skills seem limited to a great capacity for thought, having been “trained in the art of cogitation”, and an aptitude for speaking.  However, these tools are more than sufficient for him to manipulate others into helping him to achieve his goals.  In the 2004 film, The Ladykillers, the Professor is the mastermind behind a seemingly perfect riverboat casino heist.  Having gathered to himself the necessary personnel and skill sets, the motley crew executes his plan without a hitch, that is until the owner of the house they’ve been using as a base finds out.  The Professor then must convince the owner, one Mrs. Marva Munson not to call the police and turn them in.  When he finds that straight up lying about their actions will not work, he turns to convincing her that what they did isn’t really so bad.  He explains to her that the casino is itself little more than a den of thieves and inequity.  Not only that, but it has an insurance policy to cover such losses as being robbed and, he claims, after doing the math, their little venture will not cost anyone more than a penny.  Furthermore, he lies to Mrs. Munson, each of his accomplices and himself are going to donate a portion of their shares of the loot to charitable causes and they were going to donate a whole share to a cause particularly near and dear to her heart.  The Professor rests his case by pointing out the good that can be done the money they donate at the cost of a single cent to all those adversely affected.  When backed into a corner, Professor plays his most insidious card, trying to convince Ms. Munson that their crime is not such a bad thing and getting her to go along with it.

In the book of Jeremiah, God says that He will stretch out his hand against the Israelites “…Because from the least of them even to the greatest of them everyone is given to covetousness; and from the prophet even to the priest, everyone deals falsely.  They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ when there is no peace.  Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination?  No!  They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush.  Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down,’ says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 6:13-15)  God calls out the prophets and priests at this time, who were supposed to lead the people back to God and to speak His word to them, for being as corrupt as the rest of the people.  Not only that, but they are unashamed of having become so.  However what is perhaps most striking is that they have healed His people slightly.  The word that gets translated as slightly carries with it the connotations of trifling or of little account.  Arguably, the prophets and priests had made little of their job to direct the people to God and therefore done little to that end.  On the contrary, they have comforted and further secured the people in their predicament by telling them that all is well when it is clearly not the case.  The prophets and priests should have been telling the people to repent and change their ways.  However, because they were also participants in the backsliding, they whitewashed the situation and lied to the people about the true state of things.

It is very tempting for us to do the same.  We try to convince ourselves and others that there is no problem or even a need to change our course when we find our way into sin.  We are all too eager to justify ourselves rather than repent and let God be our justifier.  There are many reasons why we are inclined to do this:  we shy away from admitting that we were in the wrong, or we enjoy our sin too much to let it go are just a couple of examples.  At the core, however, we find ourselves playing the role of the Professor and trying to make our vices out to be virtues.

We have readily available to us the written Word of God which is able to reveal what is in our hearts (Hebrews 4:12).  When our sinful deeds are brought to light, we are faced with the choice either to continue in the way we are going or to turn back to God.  Unfortunately, we often opt to continue on our merry way down the path of sin.  The only problem is that it requires that we become hypocrites, claiming to be in the right while doing the very things that we know from God’s Word to be wrong.  Being a hypocrite is not something that sits very well with us and so we try to rationalize the sin in our lives so that, in our minds, we aren’t doing anything wrong.  We come up with excuses about how it is a greater good than harm or how others deserve whatever harm we may be causing them (even if it is just murdering them in our hearts), or how it really isn’t that big of a deal, seeing how in the grand scheme of things it only amounts to a drop the bucket…or a single penny.

The thing that makes these lies we tell ourselves (and others for that matter) so dangerous is that they lull us right into death.  Like the prophets and priests from Jeremiah, we proclaim our peace and wellbeing when our souls are grievously wounded and rapidly bleeding out.  There are few greater harms that we can do ourselves or others than to say that we are spiritually well when we teeter on the very lip of hell.  It amounts to blinding ourselves to our real state and stopping our ears against God’s pleas to turn back while there is still time.  These lies need not be our own inventions either.  Paul writes to his protégé Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)  It is not only ourselves, but many others as well who wish to paint what is noble as wicked and what is wicked as noble.  This means that there is a large market for such lies and there are those who are all too eager to supply that market.  Thus, we cannot rely on the world at large to be our guide and teacher in matters of the soul.  Rather, our ability to stay on the straight and narrow path is a matter between God and ourselves, aided by those trustworthy souls that God brings alongside us in our pilgrimage.

What makes the Professor such an awful rogue is that he embodies that voice which gently and quietly leads us to the wrong on a daily basis.  It often comes well-dressed and expresses itself with the greatest articulation.  It is charming and seems harmless enough.  As a matter of fact, it seems to have our best interests at heart.  Nonetheless, behind the charming façade is a path that leads straight to hell.

Food for Thought:

  1. Is there a sin in my life that I have colored to be a virtue?
  2. In what ways am I tempted by the world’s lies about what is or isn’t right?
  3. Consider what a great gift it is that God has provided us with the Scriptures to be a guide and an anchor for us.

Heroes and Villains – Relius Clover

“Yes… that dark, inorganic mass.  I’m sure you saw it during the course of repairing Ada.  That object… THAT is a person’s true form.  Strip away the veneer… and people are nothing more than things.”

-Relius to his son

Relius1

At first glance, Relius Clover may remind you of the phantom of the opera.  However, what lies hidden behind his mask is far more dreadful than the phantom’s disfigurements.  Relius is considered to be one of the most brilliant minds in the world of the Blazblue videogames.  During a catastrophic lab accident, he was thrown into another dimension which spat him out 80 years in the future.  During that transport, he saw what he believed to be a person’s true form:  a ball of bluish light.  Since then, the mind behind his mask regards people as mere things, impersonal objects that are either of use or a hindrance to his research and goal of creating the perfect human being.  While pursuing this research, he has conducted experiments that have turned his wife, Ignis, and daughter, Ada, into weaponized puppets.  When his son, Carl, demands an explanation why he would do such a thing to his own daughter, Relius responds, “I was searching for something.  Ada was of use to me during the process, that’s all, like any other tool.”  Relius’ ruthless ambition and ghastly creations have earned him the moniker:  “The Mad Puppeteer”.

Relius’ villainy brings to light our own tendency to dehumanize others and reduce them to various means to our ends.  Judas Iscariot’s response to Mary (the sister of Martha) anointing Jesus serves to illustrate one way in which we do this:  “But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’  This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.” (John 12:4-6)  On the surface, Judas’ concern seems practical, perhaps even admirable.  Would it not be better to sell the oil and donate the proceeds to the poor rather than “wasting” it?  John, however, writes of Judas’ true motives:  to get more money into the money box which he plans to take for himself.  Judas is concerned about himself uses the poor as a means.  Many times we pull a similar maneuver when we may engage in service with a wrong heart.  We are doing it so that we can help ourselves to the honor we ought to give fully to God.  Like Judas, we are using the people we claim to serve as a means to an end.

In contrast to the impersonal and dehumanizing view embodied by Relius, God has demonstrated time and time again that He is a deeply personal God.  We read that God spoke with Moses in the tabernacle of meeting “face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” (Exodus 33:11)  This isn’t to say that Moses literally saw God’s face because that is not something that anyone can do in this world (see later in that chapter:  Exodus 33:18-23).  However, the language conveys the intimacy of the conversation between God and Moses.  God wasn’t speaking to Moses in a removed or distant way, but as a “man speaks to his friend.”  Later, in the book of 1 Kings, when Elijah is in the depths of despair, God speaks to him in a cave in the wilderness with instruction and encouragement. (1 Kings 19:1-18)

God even went so far as to be incarnated as a human in the person of Christ Jesus:  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)  “Inasmuch as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil.  And release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.  For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.  Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14-18)  Christ is God coming in flesh and blood to come alongside us in our sufferings and infirmities, identifying with our humanity.  Furthermore, when Christ ascends to prepare a place for us, He does not leave us alone:  “If you love Me, keep My commandments.  And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, who the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:15-18)  Even now, God dwells within us in the form of the Holy Spirit.  God does not deal with us in a distant fashion, but closely as His beloved children.

If we are being conformed to Christ’s likeness, it means that we are learning to interact with people as just that:  people.  One of the most poignant instances where we see Christ’s heart for humanity comes from Matthew 9:35-38, “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.  But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.  Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the His harvest.’”  Christ does not regard the weary, confused multitudes with disdain or detachment.  His heart is moved because they are each important to Him and He seeks each of them as a shepherd seeks a lost sheep.

It is tempting for us to become jaded and detached from others.  The news stream seems to show us nothing but the worst of humanity:  selfishness, corruption, murder, etc.  It often reaches the point that we come view such events as impersonal news stories when they are, in fact, human events which bring about human suffering.  In the midst of our increasingly busy schedules, we may come to view people as aids or obstacles to us.  We see them as being of use or hindrances to our goals, just as Relius does.

We should not deceive ourselves, thinking that we are so different from Relius.  Although we may not undergo the same trans-dimensional experience he did, each time we choose to treat others as means rather than as people, each time we choose to view others as less than human, we are teaching ourselves to think like him.  We are practicing viewing the world through Relius’ mask rather than through the eyes of Christ.

Food for Thought:

  1. Under what circumstances do I tend to treat people as things rather than human beings?
  2. How is Christ calling me to view others as He does?
  3. Consider the love which God has for us that, though He is Creator and we are created, He treats us as His beloved children.

Heroes and Villains – Ryu

“Sometimes the most important battle, is the battle within…”

-Ryu

Ryu

Ryu is one of the most well known video game characters, right up with the likes of Mario and Megaman.  He made his first appearance in the 1987 arcade game “Street Fighter” and has since become something of a mascot for the Street Fighter series and the company which created it, Capcom.  Ryu is a martial artist who travels the world fighting all kinds of opponents seeking to further hone his skills.  Despite his benign goals, he is plagued by a dark power within him, the Satsui no Hado or dark hado.  The Satsui no Hado (translated as “Surge of Murderous Intent”) is a sinister power that arises within individuals when they become so consumed with rage or the desire for power that they are willing to kill for it.  In Ryu’s case, it was awakened in him when he was pushed to his absolute limit while fighting a powerful opponent.  He eventually loses control of himself and wins the bout with a single vicious attack powered by the dark hado.  Ever since that time it has threatened to consume him and take away his heart and his humanity.  Ryu’s heroics do not lie primarily in fighting villains, but in his struggle with the evil within himself.

Like Ryu’s Satsui no Hado, sin is and remains a constant threat to us during our lives here on earth.  Paul writes about our struggle against it in Romans 7:21-25:  “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”  Even though sin’s power over us has been broken, this does not mean that evil remains idle.  God’s warning to Cain back in Genesis 4:7 is every bit as applicable to us today:  “If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door.  And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”  Sin no longer has the last word, but that doesn’t stop it from constantly trying to coax and cajole us back into its service.  It lies at our door (“crouching” in the English Standard Version) accosting us at every opportunity.  God also wants us and seeks us at every turn, but His desire for us is very different than sin’s.  Sin wants us so that it can consume us.  God wants us so that we may be filled with Him thereby receiving life everlasting and being shaped into the person He created us to be.

With sin so persistently after us, Paul advises us to think of our Christian walk as an athletic contest.  He writes, “Do you not know that those who run a race all run, but one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may obtain it.  And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things.  Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.  Therefore I run thus:  not with uncertainty.  Thus I fight:  not as one who beats the air.  But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)  The prize that athletes receive for winning a contest is a perishable one, one that does not last (as a matter of fact, Paul is probably here referring to the crown of laurels that was awarded in ancient Greece, a crown of leaves and branches that would wither).  Paul states, however, that in our Christian walks we are striving for a crown of eternal consequence.  The imperishable crown of which he speaks is the crown of life used as a metaphor for the eternal life with and in God that we receive. (Revalation 2:10, 3:11)  The contest of Christianity has the highest stakes and we compete, not against others, but against ourselves, sin, and the devil.

Although Christ has won the victory for us against sin, we cannot sit back and rest on our laurels, for we must follow Christ in order to cross the finish line.  Paul urges us to be deliberate in our living:  “Therefore I run thus:  not with uncertainty.  Thus I fight:  not as one who beats the air.”  The decision to follow Jesus is a deliberate setting of ourselves against our former ways and a decision that we must make many times each day (as many times as sin urges us to return to it).  Making this decision is no easy task.  Just like a martial artist (or any other athlete) we must train ourselves as we pursue our goal.  Martial artists train themselves by such means as weightlifting, practicing kata, running drills, cardiovascular exercises, etc.  Christians train themselves by meditating, reading Scripture, praying, serving, etc.  The goal is the same:  to further immerse oneself in and become more proficient at one’s art.  The Christian’s art is to rely on God alone and become ever more conformed to Christ’s image.

Ryu’s training and travels may serve as a metaphor for the kind of pilgrimage that Christians are on.  Though he is well traveled, Ryu’s destination is not a physical place, but an intangible one:  ever further mastery of his art.  Likewise Christians, no matter how far we go or how spiritually mature we become, have no physical destination.  As a matter of fact our destination cannot be found in this world, tangible or intangible.  “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.  And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return.  But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16)  Christians constantly seek the heavenly country that God has prepared for them in eternity.  The Kingdom of Heaven which grows in our hearts is a foretaste of the rest which awaits us.  Despite the constant attack of the dark hado upon him, Ryu remains dedicated to his journey.  Likewise, despite sin’s attack we ought to remain dedicated to our Christian journey.

It is worth noting that Ryu doesn’t have a perfect track record when it comes to resisting the dark hado.  There have been times that it has successfully taken over him, but he was able to come to his senses again, not due to his abilities alone but with the help of his friends who called him back to himself.  Ryu’s battle with the dark hado is not a solitary one, but one in which he is helped and supported by others.  Our battle against sin is not a solitary one either.  God is always with us and He has also created the Church in which we are able to help and support one another as fellow pilgrims.  We cannot stand alone against sin because there will be times that we stumble or lose our way and need others to help us up and to lead us back to the straight and narrow way.

Ryu shows us that being a hero isn’t always about battling villains but sometimes consists in battling the evil that dwells within us.  It is about the daily resisting of that evil and the training that helps us to resist.  For Christians, this means learning to rely on God rather than ourselves and to draw from His strength rather than our own.  “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man:  but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Food for Thought:

  1. Am I actively following Christ’s call to heaven or am I sitting idle and waiting for heaven to come to me?
  2. Do I merely go through the motions and fight as one who beats the air or do I discipline myself and bring myself in subjection to Christ?
  3. Consider what a mercy it is that God helps me in my struggle to follow Him.