Monday, November 14, 2016

Dr. Strange: It's Not About You!

This week I returned to Marvel Theater to re-watch Marvel’s latest blockbuster, Doctor Strange, this time with my son. I’m still mentally sorting through all the spiritual life-lessons packed into this film. Last week I wrote about Steven Strange’s lack of faith. But another aspect of this movie stood out to me as well.

Before he started wearing a donning a supernatural cape, Dr. Strange wears surgical scrubs. Blessed with a photographic memory and gifted with a set of amazingly steady hands, Strange fixes all manner of brain and spine ailments better than anyone else in the world. After an emergency procedure where Strange removes a bullet from a man’s brain and simultaneously humiliates a rival surgeon, Strange invites his one-time love interest Christine Palmer to attend one of his upcoming speaking engagements. Christine dismisses the notion, but Strange persists, "You used to love coming to those things. We had fun together." Christine replies, "No, you had fun. They weren't about us, they were about you." Strange answers, "Not only about me." Christine caps the conversation, saying, “Steven, everything is about you.”

Toward the end of the movie, Steven still struggles with this self-seeking mentality. His spiritual tutor, the Ancient One, tells Strange, “Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.” Steven asks, “Which is?” And the Ancient One replies, “It's not about you.”

Pastor Rick Warren agrees. In the opening line of his best-selling book, The Purpose-Driven Life, Warren writes, “It’s not about you.” He continues, “The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness. It’s far greater than your family, your career, or even your dreams and ambitions. If you want to know why you were placed on this planet, you must begin with God. You were born by his purpose and for his purpose.”

Many of us fall into the same trap as Steven Strange. We’re me-focused. Self-centered. Self-absorbed. Self-serving. Self-involved. Me. Me. Me. Too many of us feel as though “the world revolves around me.” Scripture warns us, however, “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall” (Proverbs 16:16 NLT). Or, in the case of Strange, pride goes before a horrific car crash in your Lamborghini.

The truth is—it’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s all about Jesus! God wants us to stop living self-centered, self-focused lives. He wants us to stop making a big deal about ourselves and start making a big deal about Jesus! Tapping the collective shoulder of humanity, God points to Christ and proclaims, “Behold the center of it all.” Life makes so much more sense when Jesus is at the center.

In our search for satisfaction and significance in life, let’s heed the words of the Ancient One and learn the simplest most significant lesson of all: It’s not about you!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Dr. Strange: Seeing is Believing

My wife and I went on an honest-to-goodness date this weekend to see Marvel’s newest movie, Doctor Strange, and it did not disappoint. In addition to being visually stunning, the movie tells a compelling story about a scientist turned sorcerer.

Just as in the comics, Dr. Steven Strange is a renowned neurosurgeon, a man of science and medicine, until a terrible car accident robs him of the use of his hands. When traditional medicine fails him, he desperately searches for healing and hope from a mysterious group of monks in Kathmandu, Nepal. After learning that their methods are more mystical than medicinal, Strange asserts his unbelief. “I don’t believe in fairy tales,” Strange bemoans. “There is no such thing as a spirit! We are made of matter and nothing more! You're just another tiny, momentary speck in an indifferent universe. ”

Strange changes his tone, however, when a powerful sorcerer called the Ancient One forces him into the astral dimension —a spiritual realm where the soul exists apart from the body. After seeing the evidence for himself, Strange humbly drops to his knees and pleads, “Teach me.”

If anyone can relate to Doctor Strange’s “conversion” it’s Thomas. History remembers him as “doubting Thomas.” When the rest of Jesus’s followers claimed to have seen Jesus alive after his crucifixion, Thomas refused to believe. “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands—and put my fingers into them—and place my hand into his side” (John 20:25 TLB).

Thomas changes his tone, however, when Jesus appeared again eight days laterl. Turning to Thomas, Jesus invites, “Put your finger into my hands. Put your hand into my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” (John 20:27 TLB). After seeing the evidence for himself, Thomas humbly drops to his knees and confesses, “My Lord and my God!”

Many of us can relate to Thomas and Steven’s skepticism. Materialists like Strange, believe there is nothing more to the universe than matter—nothing supernatural, nothing spiritual, and certainly no God. They are either unable or unwilling to believe in anything they cannot see. In his infinite grace, Jesus continues to provide the evidence we need.

Christian apologists like Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. John Lennox and others have aptly demonstrated how cosmology, physics, morality, and the resurrection of Christ, provide powerful evidence for the existence of God and the deity of Jesus Christ. Countless skeptics have become believers after seeing the evidence for themselves.

After offering Thomas the evidence he so desperately needed, though, Jesus offers a bit of wisdom: “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” (John 20:29 NLT). In other words, while there’s nothing wrong with being skeptical or seeking evidence, we don’t always have to see to believe. People often say, “seeing is believing.” But in God’s economy there is a peace and blessedness that comes from having an open mind and a heart of faith. Jesus’s words to Thomas may as well be his words to you and me: “Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”