Thursday, June 15, 2017

Who's Your Daddy?


With Father’s Day right around the corner, I think now is a good time to share some thoughts about the return of Marvel’s loveable losers in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

After banding together to save the galaxy from Ronan the Accuser’s wrath, the Guardians of the Galaxy earned their moniker. Now regarded as heroes, the Guardians must help their team leader, Star Lord (a.k.a Peter Quill), unravel the mystery of Peter’s true parentage.

SPOILER WARNING!

A Missouri native, Peter lost his mother to cancer and never knew his father. He was raised by a space pirate named Yondu who claims to have kept Peter around because, as Yondu puts it, "He was skinny, could fit into places that we couldn't. Good for thieving."

In time, however, Peter meets his true father, an ancient celestial being who calls himself Ego. A powerful living planet, Ego created a human body for himself so that he could explore the universe and interact with biological life. At first, Ego seems to be a caring and compassionate father, eager to build a relationship with Peter. The two even enjoy a game of catch. However, Peter soon discovers that his father is a ruthless entity with a god complex who wishes to conquer the universe through an extinction-level plan known as the Expansion. He tells Peter, “I need to fulfill life's one true purpose, to grow and spread, covering all that exists until everything is... me!” Talk about an ego.

After a pitched battle with Ego that rages all the way to the core of the planet, Ego—the entire planet—explodes. Yondu shows up just in time wearing a flight suit and rescues Peter from the destruction. He flies Peter to safety then puts his space suit on Peter, sacrificing himself so that Peter can live. Before freezing to death in the cold airless vacuum, Yondu assures Peter, “He may have been your father, boy, but he wasn't your daddy.” Only then does Peter realize, “Sometimes, the thing you've been looking for your whole life is right there beside you all along.”

Sadly, many of us can relate to Peter’s experience. In America, more than 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father.  Millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent.  If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency. If you grew up without a father or much of one, then Father’s Day may just be another fatherless day to you. But the Bible has some good news for people like Peter.

God wants to be your Father!

Of all the images God uses to describe his relationship with human beings, I think the most meaningful is Father. The New Testament refers to God as Father more than two hundred times. Jesus taught his followers to pray, saying, “Our Father who art in heaven…” (Luke 11:2). The Bible says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1 NIV).

God not only longs to be your Father, but he wants to be your Daddy too. Scripture says, “you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:15-16 NLT). The word Abba is the Hebrew equivalent of our word Dad or Daddy.

Regardless of whether you had the world’s best dad or the world’s worst dad, I want to encourage you to find a Father in God. The entire Bible is the story of God the Father creating a family that will last for all eternity. He created you to be a part of it!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Lego Batman and Belonging!


I’ve been absent from the blog-o-sphere for quite a while and can’t wait to share what I’ve been working on in my absence. But for now, I just had to write a quick reaction and reflection on the Lego Batman Movie, which I saw last night with my wife and SIX kids (three of ours and three of their friends).

As anticipated, Lego Batman, is clever, creative and crackles with childlike energy. The creators packed in tons of bad guys, battles, explosions, bombs, weapons, destruction, and general mayhem. I especially loved the endless stream of winks and nods to previous incarnations of DC’s superheroes and literally pumped my first when Robin whipped out a can of Bat-Shark Repellant! Surprisingly, however, the movie also worked in some heart-tugging emotional moments amidst the frenzied, fast-paced fun.

The story centers on Batman’s struggle to belong. Early in the movie he declares, “Batman doesn't do ships. As in, relationships. There is no us... I don't need you. I don't need anyone. You mean nothing to me. No one does.” He repeatedly reminds his fellow crime-fighters, “Batman works alone.” But, inwardly, Batman wrestles with his loneliness. He eats dinner alone in his enormous mansion. He spends time staring forlorn at pictures of his parents, who he lost as a young boy. At one point, he even shows up unannounced at a Justice League Anniversary party to which he wasn’t invited and feels the sting of rejection. Alfred, Batman’s faithful butler, diagnoses Bruce’s problem, saying, “Your greatest fear is being part of a family again.” The tragic loss of his parents prevents Bruce from opening up and allowing others into his life.

I’ve long seen Batman as a bit of a parable; a reminder that you and I aren’t meant to live lonely lives. Rather, God formed us for family. As I write in my book, Holy Heroes: The Gospel According to DC & Marvel:

All of us need a place to belong. All of us need to be part of something bigger than ourselves. All of us need to experience family and fellowship. Going to church is not primarily about worship. You can worship God at home from the comfort of your recliner, or behind the wheel of your car, or while kneeling at your bedside. Church is primarily about family. The Bible uses a lot of metaphors to describe the church, but the most persistent is family. In the New Testament, believers call one another “brother” and “sister.” Scripture describes our “adoption” as children of God (Romans 8:14-15). The church is called the “household” of God. The Bible says, “Now you … are not foreigners or strangers any longer, but are citizens together with God’s holy people. You belong to God’s family” (Ephesians 2:19, NCV).
               
Over the course of the movie, Batman gives himself a pretty hard look, eventually realizing that he can't do everything by himself and that working with a team and having a family is more fun and fulfilling than going it alone. The same is true for you. Maybe there’s a pew in your home church worn in the shape of your bottom. Maybe you’re as comfortable in your church family as you are in your favorite pajamas. On the other hand, maybe it’s been a while since you darkened a church doorstep. Maybe you’ve never felt the blessing of belonging to something as big as the family of God. Batman may be a Master-Builder with seriously ripped abs, but even he doesn’t do it alone. Likewise, God doesn’t just call us to believe; He calls us to belong. The entire Bible is the story of God building a family that will support, strengthen, and stir one another up to love and good works for all eternity. And He created you to be a part of it!