Why I Can’t Always Write About Jesus…and Why I Love the MCU

So I don’t write about things other than Jesus on this blog very often. And there’s a reason.

I want you to think that I’m super-spiritual, that I only think about Jesus and the Bible and God day and night and day and night.

But I’m gonna be honest with you: that’s not all I think about. Here’s a few other things that take up my mind, and honestly take more of my brain space than Jesus, right or wrong:

  • How am I progressing in my marriage?
  • Is Arsenal FC gonna figure their defense out before our next game?
  • Isn’t the way some Christians speak about “mainstream media” just shameful?

That’s just a few.

I recently read a blog post by entrepreneur Nicolas Cole in which he talks about what we really need to be asking ourselves when we think about our dream jobs – what do we enjoy doing on a daily basis?

…in order to find what your dream job really is, you can’t ask yourself what “end reward” you want.

That question is elusive, and often times leads you astray.

Instead, you need to ask what activities you enjoy doing on a daily basis.

I love writing, but I don’t always enjoy writing about Jesus. Sometimes it’s a drag to find something relevant to the Bible. Honestly. I don’t know whether that’s right or wrong, but here goes.

Today, I’m going to tell you five things about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, why I love it and why I think you should too:

The MCU has now spanned 10 years and more than 20 movies, from 2008’s Iron Man to this summer’s Ant-Man and the Wasp. I love it. I love reading theories about it, thinking about the characters, the stories, watching YouTube videos, all that.

I can’t watch Avengers: Infinity War, at least not all the way through, because the ending is too sad. I just can’t.

But I love it, and here’s five reasons why.

1. There are characters I relate to so well.

Captain America has become one of my favorite characters in all of fiction for a number of reasons. He doesn’t pretend to be perfect or pretend to be a Christian — although he did reference God in The Avengers. He’s Marvel’s equivalent to Superman in his pursuit of truth and justice and what’s right. You see that throughout all of his films that, even when there might be an easier way, he wants to do the right thing.

I desire my life to look like that — principled, assertive and direct, looking solely to what is right and what is just. There are a range of characters in the MCU like Captain America in which you can find yourself. You’ve just got to look.

2. There’s lots of mysteries.

Infinity War was not the first MCU movie to leave us wondering what was going to happen next. Each movie leads well into the next by leaving some holes and some questions for us to ponder and think about.

For instance, Doctor Strange, another one of my favorite MCU movies. After the day is saved — what, did you think the good doctor was going to lose in his first film? — one of the main characters is shown to be doing something quite dastardly. Sorry, minor spoiler alert. I’m left wondering what’s going to be next.

Not only is it a great business plan to keep people interested and buy more tickets, it’s a great narrative plan to keep the characters alive and the story going.

3. It’s flippin’ funny.

If everything in the MCU films was destruction and fights and mystery, that’d be OK, I suppose. But there are some movies in the franchise that are just too funny.

My favorite MCU movie, Thor: Ragnarok, is one of the best examples of this. Director Taika Waititi brings in his real-life goofiness — just watch this video — to the film in both the tone and words, as well as my favorite MCU character Korg, who is played by him. “Over here, the pile of rocks waving at you!”

If Thor doesn’t do it for you, check the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation leads the gang, if that doesn’t tell you enough. If you need more, watch this.

4. The best actors flock to these movies.

Benedict Cumberbatch of the BBC’s Sherlock fame plays Doctor Strange. Michael B. Jordan is striking as Black Panther villain Erik Killmonger. Paul Rudd is perfect as criminal-turned-superhero Ant-Man. Tom Holland portrays a youthful and slightly naive but determined Spider-Man. Former WWE superstar Dave Bautista is an excellent Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy.

If you want to see good performances, see a Marvel movie.

5. The characters are flawed people doing good things.

Tony Stark/Iron Man is a narcissistic playboy. Bruce Banner/The Hulk has an anger problem. Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow has a shady past. Peter Quill/Star-Lord sleeps around and exhibits extreme selfishness at times. Hope Van Dyne/The Wasp lost her mom at a young age and holds great resentment for her father.

These are the people who are the heroes of the MCU. They’re not perfect, but they show redemptive qualities. Some even display incredible sacrificial selflessness in key moments.

In this way, they’re representative of what we can be as believers. (I guess I did have to Jesus juke this). They are not perfect, and while some of them are born with or unwittingly discover extraordinary gifts, they try to make the best of them while dealing with their flaws.

Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange is perhaps my favorite example. He’s an incredibly talented surgeon, the best in the world. And he knows it. He tells others it. But after a car accident leaves his precious fingers unusable, he reaches the bottom. Through the help of a teacher, he learns a new set of skills and powers and starts to use them to help others, selflessly and sacrificially.

Sounds like a believer after conversion, right?

That’s why I love the MCU. Plus, it’s just so much fun.

Do We Have It All Wrong About ‘Prosperity Teaching’?

It was a little past midnight.

Unable to go to sleep because I had taken a four-hour nap earlier in the day, I pulled out my Bible. I’ve been a little lax, to put it mildly, on Scripture reading in recent months, so I’ve decided to go back to my favorite chapters in the Bible to be reminded of why I liked them and liked reading Scripture in the first place.

At this moment, it was Proverbs 3. I’m daily reminded of that chapter because I get verses 5 and 6 as a reminder every day at 9 a.m. — “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

I kept going, but I stopped short at verses 9-10:

Honor the LORD with your wealth with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.

I stopped because this sounded like the so-called “prosperity gospel.” It sounded like, “Give God money, and He’ll bless you unbelievably.”

This is the “prosperity gospel” that many evangelicals rail against, whose main proponents some criticize President Trump for hanging out with, which pastors can get congregational points for speaking ill of. This is what we think the Bible speaks directly against.

As I thought about these verses and this idea, a couple things came to mind (which is why I’m writing a blog post) and I was left with some questions that I’ll attempt to answer.

Is “Prosperity Gospel” Even the Right Phrase?

This is the common phraseology we use for the teachings of Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar (a ridiculous name, by the way) and more.

But I don’t think that it’s the right verbiage. The teachings of the “prosperity gospel” have nothing to do with the act of being saved, with salvation. A quick peek at Osteen’s “What We Believe” page on his website shows that, in his beliefs about salvation, he doesn’t veer from what most evangelical Christians believe.

Perhaps the right language is “prosperity teachings.” It’s a look at the Bible that says that if we give and are obedient to God, we will receive health and wealth in return and be blessed. It’s not a matter of salvation, so “gospel” isn’t even the right word.

Are People Who Believe in “Prosperity Teachings” True Christians?

So the people who believe in “prosperity teachings” are still believers, I think. I was talking to my pastor about this today and he made a comment that some would say that those who believe in such teachings are going to hell. Well, he added, so are some of those who believe in what many believe are “right” teachings. As my mother has said many times, we’ll be surprised who’s there and who’s not there when we get to heaven.

Does the Bible Really Support the Idea of “Prosperity Teaching”?

I think the answer to this is yes.

Verses like Proverbs 3:9-10 prove it. There are many Scriptures that talk about God blessing the faithful with riches and asking for and receiving things. The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. John 10:10, about having life abundant. Matthew 7:7, ask and you shall receive. Matthew 21:22, you’ll receive what you ask for in prayer if you have faith.

Most of these are words of Jesus, and aren’t being taken out of context. So I think it’s safe to say that, in both the Old and New Testaments, there are verses that support the idea of prosperity for Christians.

Does the Bible Support All of “Prosperity Teaching”?

I don’t think so.

There are many Bible verses that talk about how suffering is a part of being both a human and a Christian. Just because you’re faithful doesn’t mean everything will go well. Jesus asks a young man to leave his wealth behind to follow Him. Jesus guarantees His disciples that they will suffer for claiming to believe Him, and that those later on will also.

So Have We Gotten “Prosperity Teaching” All Wrong?

Yes and no.

I think Christians often vilify the teaching, the teachers and followers unfairly.

Many prosperity teachers have massive amounts of wealth and some manipulate poor people in a horrible, non-Christian way. Just watch John Oliver’s piece on televangelists (it’s on HBO, so expect some profanity and inappropriateness) to see that. In those cases, they should be admonished and people should be warned about how harmful they can be.

But in other cases, maybe these teachers and followers understand something that we don’t. Maybe they believe the Bible (in certain places) more than we do. Maybe they are more cognizant of God’s blessings in their lives than we are because they’re looking for them and looking for a way to praise God in response.

I’m pretty confident that they’re believers, just as I am. But if they’re guilty of misreading Scripture in the intensity of their belief in “prosperity teachings,” I’m just as guilty of other sins. I’m no better.

I’m left with a lot of questions. How much of “prosperity teaching” is true? I think it’s a matter of some of it is right and some of it is wrong. Perhaps it’s a matter of finding the balance. We can ask God for things, and he will answer, and He does bless us for our obedience, but maybe it’s not in the volume prosperity teachers preach about.

We’re All Like iPhones. We Need Re-Charging Every Once in a While.

One of the marriage clichés I’ve heard a lot of in these last couple months is that marriage is not a 50-50 proposition, it’s 100-100.

You don’t give 50 percent of yourself and the other person gives the same amount. You both give everything you’ve got.

As I was talking about this idea with my fiancée, a thought occurred to us: it’s impossible to give 100 percent of yourself if you’re not 100 percent yourself.

How often is your cell phone battery at a fully-charged 100 percent? For some of us, it’s every morning when we wake up. We’ve been charging our phones over night, so when we get up in the morning it’s good to go. Some of us don’t charge our phones overnight, so we have to get to work, or get in our car so we can refuel it.

Using our phones suck the life out of them. In the same way, living life sucks the life out of us. It’s not a bad thing; it’s unavoidable. Every time we go to work, a percentage of us gets used. Every time we go exercise, a percentage of us gets used. Even when we go to church, a percentage of us gets used.

So we need to recharge, we need to refuel.

If we spend so much time working and not enough time recharging, we won’t be able to give everything we’ve got in whatever relationship we’re in, whether it’s with God or with man. That’s why rest is so important. That’s why we need to have times where we do things we enjoy that help us to rest and relax.

If you’re an introvert who needs time alone to recharge, do it! If you’re an extrovert who gets drained by alone time, get around people!

But just be aware: you need to be fully charged to give everything you’ve got. So plug in.