Of Snakes and Spiritual Growth

“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” – Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark  

Few creatures on earth can induce such a terror-stricken state of panic as snakes. No matter the size or species of the snake, people can be absolutely terrified of them. I have no particular fear of snakes, but I can understand people who have a fear of snakes, as many, many species are venomous and can kill with a single bite, while others constrict the breath out of their prey.  That sounds like something out of a nightmare.

Snakes have been portrayed in a negative light since time immortal. The Bible describes how the serpent mislead Eve in the Garden of Eden. In the Book of Revelation, John refers to Satan as “that old serpent” (Revelation 12:9 and 20:2).  God sent snakes to bite and kill rebellious Israelites. After the surviving Israelites repented, God instructed Moses to make a serpent statue for people to look up at and be healed (Numbers 21).

In Greek mythology, Medusa had a head full of snakes and anyone who looked at her turned to stone. Snakes have also been portrayed as hypnotizing and deceitful, such as Kaa in The Jungle Book.  Snakes have also been portrayed as wise, which gives background to Jesus’ statement of being “wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” (Matthew 10:16).

Unlike humans and other animals, snakes grow throughout their entire lives. So, it is conceivable in the right environment, a snake can grow to be in excess of twenty-to-thirty feet long. However, a snake’s skin does not grow along with its body and it becomes necessary for the snake to shed its skin (which also helps it remove parasites from its skin). If a snake does not shed its skin properly, it could die.

I know this seems like a rather odd topic, but there is a spiritual principle involved. As snakes are always growing, so should we always be growing in our spiritual lives. As we go about our lives and our relationship with God, we too develop some parasites on ourselves- sin, bad habits, false doctrine, a religious spirit, bitterness, unresolved anger, the traumatic experiences we cannot shake off- whatever it is.  Anything that is not helping us grow is hindering our development and possibly suffocating the life out of us.

From time to time, we have to shed some of our “skin” in order to grow into God has called us to be- bad relationships, forgiving others, asking for forgiveness, etc.   We may have been comfortable in our old skin, i.e. our old life, but we cannot stay there. That clothes no longer fit. Could you imagine a thirty-year-old person trying to fit into pants they wore when they were three? You are not the same person you were yesterday, last year, or twenty years ago- you have come along way and you have a long way to go. Keep growing and God bless you.

Do Not Dwell on the Former Things

Nostalgia is a double-edged sword. While we can look back fondly on childhood memories and the “good ol’ days” in general, nostalgia often clouds our judgment of past events and can be exploited by others. In the United States, politicians and political movements rise because of nostalgia. In a world of increasing technological, social, and political change, these politicians play upon the fears of people, speaking in general terms of how if elected, the country will go back to a simpler time, before all of these changes happened. In essence, they will turn back the clock twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years.

Nostalgia is also big business. One of the constant complaints about Hollywood is “They’ve run out of ideas. It’s all sequels, reboots, and comic book movies.” Of course, not every film will be financially successful, but marketers know that if there is a built-in audience for a movie, that audience will go see it and maybe bring along the next generation. It becomes a vicious circle when audiences reject movies with new and different themes or stories, so Hollywood then has to go back to what makes money. For me personally I too am film nostalgic, as I grew up in the late 1970s/1980s and watched the original Star Wars trilogy over and over. To this day, I can almost quote the movies word for word and I look forward to the new movies in the upcoming years.

If we are not careful, we can fall victim to a “spiritual nostalgia,” where we long for our days before Christ. I know in my personal life the circumstances that brought me to Christ seem less daunting today than what I have gone through with Christ. I do not long to go back to a time when Christ was not in my life. If you are honest with yourself, was high school really that great? Do you really want to go back to the days of brokenness, pain, addiction, hopelessness, and frustration? Probably not. In your “BC” days, you were comfortable in your slavery to sin. Satan had you where he wanted you.

The Israelites complained about how they had it better in Egypt, they had food and water, and how Moses led them out to the desert to die. While the Israelites complained about their current situation, their nostalgia glossed over the fact they were slaves back in Egypt. For over 400 years, the Israelites and their ancestors broke their bodies building monuments of Egypt’s power and glory. Everyday served as a reminder of “We’re great, you’re slaves.” Why would they want to go back to that? Keep in mind that these are the same people who crossed the Red Sea. We must not allow nostalgia for the past to override the present moment. Even in your days before Christ, God’s prevenient grace allowed you to get through the hard times and you will get through this. Once we have crossed our Red Sea, there is no going back to Egypt.

The Apostle Peter fell prey to spiritual nostalgia. John 21 tells the story about how Peter decided to go fishing. Some of the other disciples joined Peter. Keep in mind that this event occurs after Jesus’ resurrection and previous appearances to the disciples. The Bible does not give us details about Peter’s inner dialogue, but maybe it went something like this:

This whole thing with Jesus was nice while it lasted. I left my livelihood and gave up three years of my life to follow Him. What am I supposed to do now? I failed. I failed miserably. I denied Him just like He said I would. One time He even told me ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ Maybe I’m not cut out for this whole ministry thing. I’ll go back to being a fisherman. If nothing else, I know how to fish.

However, Peter had an encounter with Jesus and his life and the world has not been the same since. Just weeks after seemingly giving up, the Holy Spirit empowered Peter to preach a sermon that led to 3,000 people to Christ. Peter was also the first apostle to share the Gospel with the Gentiles.

As Christians and as the Church, we must understand that while God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, He also does not want to get caught up in the religious bondage of man’s past traditions. We must be spiritually attuned to God’s voice and what He wants to do today. God’s methods may change, just as Jesus did not always heal people or raise people from the dead the same way every time.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV).

As we go forward with God, let us not long for the past nor fear the future at the expense of the current moment. Let us be mindful and present as to what God is saying to us now. God bless you all.

Christ Symbolism and Superman

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Superman with his arms in a “cross” pose. 

© Copyright Warner Brothers Studios/DC Comics

My wife and I recently went to the theater to watch Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (no spoilers here if you have not seen it). This film marks the first big screen team up of Superman and Batman in their character histories, which go back to the late 1930s. I admit that my inner fan boy could not wait to see Batman v. Superman, my two favorite superheros together and I enjoyed it. As we left the theater, my wife and I began to reflect on the movie’s imagery.

Superman was created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster in 1938 and has gone through numerous incarnations by other comic book writers, screenwriters and artists. The Superman mythos contains elements of Hercules from Greek mythology and parallels the story of Moses, as baby Kal-El is saved from an extinction of his people on his home planet of  Krypton, whereas Moses was saved from pharaoh’s order to kill the male Hebrew children. However, it appears to be the intent of Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice and its predecessor, Man of Steel, to portray Superman as a Christ-like figure.

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke give details concerning the birth of Christ, while Mark and John focus squarely on Jesus’ ministry. The story of a twelve-year-old Jesus debating with the religious teachers (Luke 2:41-49) is the only story Scripture records of a young Christ. The next time the Gospel writers mention Jesus, He is thirty years old. We naturally assume that Jesus worked in obscurity as a carpenter in small town called Nazareth. In Man of Steel, Superman, aka Clark Kent, is portrayed as a drifter who performs occasional heroic acts until he makes himself known to the world at age thirty-three, the same age Jesus was when He was crucified.

In Man of Steel, Superman surrenders to the U.S. Government, as Jesus stated that He would lay down His life Himself (John 10:18). Superman captures the world’s imagination and is seen as a god because he can do things no mere human can do. For example, Superman flies, he is not harmed by bullets, he can see through walls, he has super strength, heat vision, etc. Just as when Jesus walked the earth, He performed acts and miracles on a scale people had not seen- raising the dead, walking on water, healing the sick, casting out demons, teaching with authority, feeding multitudes with a few loaves of bread and a few fish, etc.

Flash forward to Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and public opinion has began to turn against Superman, per the events of Man of Steel. Superman has upset the established government order and people are questioning his agenda and intentions, perceiving him as an alien threat. This can be compared to how Christ upset the religious order and the Pharisees and priests looked for an opportunity to arrest Him. Consider the fact that many of the same people who shouted, “Hosanna,” when Christ came to Jerusalem also shouted “Crucify Him,” at His trial before Pilate.

When you take both movies together, there are numerous references to Christ, such as a stained glass image of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane over Superman’s shoulder as he speaks to a priest  and Superman making another “cross” pose in the water in Man of Steel. Superman is thronged by a crowd of people  as shown in the trailers and commercials for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, just as Jesus was thronged by the masses. In the new movie, there is a subplot (as advertised) of man vs. God and the devil vs. God as Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman go against Doomsday.

With the heavy Christ symbolism projected upon this current incarnation of Superman and his drawing the ire of the government, the change of public opinion, and taking on a beast creature such as Doomsday, could this be a way of the New World Order conditioning the masses against the return of Christ? Consider for a moment how the return of Christ will upset and defeat Satan’s plan of world domination. Consider the current violent persecution of Christians all around the world at the hands of oppressive dictatorships and terrorist groups. From the time of the Tower of Babel, to the empires of the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, etc., Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, the United Nations, men and governments have sought to impose a one world government system upon the masses and to also direct their religious affiliations.

Brothers and sisters, we are closer than ever to seeing the world government and religious systems as described in the Book of Revelation. What is the best way to control the masses? Control the message. With a reported budget of $250 million dollars and millions more poured into marketing, nothing in Batman v. Superman or any movie for that matter is accidental. There is an agenda, there is a message the filmmakers want to spread, as if you hand millions of dollars at your disposal to share the Gospel, we would share the message and love of Christ.

I enjoy movies. I enjoy superheros, science fiction, historical epics, and a good good versus evil story. If you enjoy movies and comic books, enjoy them. However, as Christians, we must be discerning and pay close attention to what we watch and read.  We must watch with our spiritual eyes opened. Let us not sleepwalk through these last days. God bless you all.