This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Monday, December 12, 2011

In The Image - A Radical New Perspective

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  (Genesis 1:27 NKJV)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privelege of hearing a singing evangelist by the name of Jeff Steinberg at a local church where he was in concert.  Jeff is not your typical evangelist - he is a little person, was born without arms, and spent most of his younger life in hospitals going through corrective surgery.   He holds the microphone as he sings and speaks with a prosthetic hook, and he autographs his books and CD's with a pen in his mouth.  Yet, this amazing guy is someone God is continuing to use mightily, and his testimony is one of the most inspiring things you will ever hear.  I finished reading his book, Masterpiece in Progress,  just recently, and there is something he taught me from reading it that certainly I hadn't seen before, but it makes perfect sense in the light of the total context of the Bible - being created in God's image doesn't mean we look necessarily like clones of the Most High, but rather that God created us in the image He personally saw of us!  Think about that for a moment, as it will rattle some theological cages, but it will revolutionize your view of yourself and of human nature in general if you grasp it.  I was so inspired by it personally that I decided to do this study on the whole thing, and hope it will be a blessing to you as well.

Humanity is far from perfect - we sin, we have physical issues a lot of times, and as we age we get fatter, more wrinkly, and less hairy on our heads and more hairy in other places.   Reason for that is simply because our mortal flesh was not meant to be eternal, but our souls and spirits are.  And, with the sting of sin affecting humanity, one of its consequences is that all mortal flesh will die someday - one in one die, let's face facts!  Now, that doesn't detract from the fact that there will be a resurrection of the body, but like Scripture says, if we are dead in Christ we will be raised incorruptible in glorified bodies, being restored to that which God originally intended.  However, on this earth, we deal with physical pain, bodily inperfections, and death as part of the process.  I said all of that now to say something that will shed new light on the verse that I opened this study with, so let us begin.

Sickness and suffering, as mentioned, are a consequence of the fall and we all are subject to that at some point.  However, God always has plans for things, and in a lot of cases He can even use our limitations to His greater good, and thus this verse.  When God said he created us in His image, that by no means implies we are to look and act exactly like God Himself.   Much bad theology over the years has resulted from a misunderstanding of that, and in many cases it has had tragic consequences.  Take, for example, this whole "health and wealth" nonsense in these charismatic churches that is often piped from the peepers of TV preachers like bad elevator music.   If half of that heresy were true, then we should all be walking around looking like Romanesque statues or something - have you looked in the mirror lately though?  I know I don't come anywhere close to an Adonis personally, and sorry, but neither do you!  And, sorry to say to those crooks on TBN, but neither do they - one of the idiots teaching this weighs about 400 pounds for instance, and another one - and Lord forgive me for saying this - is this woman Bible "teacher" who is uglier than a mud fence!  Their issue is not what they look like, but rather what they are saying - they have not only disqualified (in their not-so-humble opinions) 99% of the human race from God's blessings, but they have disqualified themselves.   Thanks be to God that HE is in charge, and His truth has more sense than some people selling his name like cheap moonshine.   Another example recently that my good friend Johnny Lee Clary, a wonderful evangelist with a tremedous testimony, shared with me was this church who decided that, due to some "revelation," they were going to ban fat preachers from their pulpit!  Well, that rules out a lot of good ministers in the South down here then, don't it?  Do you think God really cares what we look like on the outside?  I mean, seriously, there is nothing wrong with healthy living and exercise, and we all need those to be sure, so that is not what I am talking about.  What I am talking about is this mentality that all women need to look like Playboy centerfolds and men like GQ models, and sadly that mentality has entered into the Church - especially with these "Purpose-Driven" and "seeker-friendly" fads that are a bi-product of the Emerging Church cult.   However, God never said that to be "in His image" meant you had to look perfect - He meant that we are created in an image He had for us, as an individual, from the beginning of the world.  God doesn't mass-produce babies in heaven, but each of us is, as Psalm 139:14 says, "fearfully and wonderfully made."  And, that aspect of our creation goes hand-in-hand with Romans 12:4-5, which talks about us being one Body with many members, as well as the diversity of gifts in the Body of Christ it talks about in Ephesians.   The talent and creativity you have personally and individually is not an accident - God gave it to you!  And, if we are to follow Christ, we learn to use those talents and creativities to His glory and to the best of our ability.  Jeff Steinberg is a man who does that well, I must say - not only him, but so many others.   Take Jacob Berry, for instance - he is a young Free Will Baptist evangelist in Oklahoma I believe who was born with muscular dystrophy, and although he cannot talk and has to be in a specially-made wheelchair, he is in God's eyes a great creation, and God has used him to touch many lives.  Then there is David Ring, the Southern Baptist evangelist from Arkansas with cerebral palsey - in the 30+ years he has been in public ministry, untold numbers of people have been touched by his testimony as well.   I also need to mention Joni Earickson Tada, who for decades has produced so many things such as paintings, music recordings, and books, and yet she is a quadraplegic who cannot move a muscle on her body.   And, there is my friend Bill Burtoft, whom I went to college with - Bill has been in a wheelchair, yet he not only has a strong and unshakable faith, but he also has a sharp mind and you couldn't find a more capable technology whiz than this guy.    If the establishment (and some heretical TV preachers) would have had their way, all of the above would have been cast by the wayside and even aborted at birth, but God uses what the world casts out as "foolish" oftentimes to confound the idiocy of worldly wisdom, and all the individuals I have mentioned - all handicapped people I might add - have been used greatly of God to touch and improve many lives.   The testimonies of these people have prevented suicides, healed marriages, and more importantly, brought people to the altar to be born again of the Holy Spirit in Christ.   Appearances can indeed be deceiving sometimes, and we need to be more discerning of that as a Church.  What is created in God's image may not always be what we think, and sometimes those perfect specimens of humanity we think are "blessed" of God may often be no more than prettily-packaged compost heaps as God sees them.   Which is why I believe God can use a person in a wheelchair more often than not than he can a supermodel, because looks indeed can be deceiving - my friend Bill, for instance, is secure with who he is, and while he lives his life as God intended, the next "America's Top Model" is puking her guts out in the bathroom sink due to the fact she ate a Lifesaver and is tormented about that.  Which one of them do you think is more in God's will?  Think about that.  

It is not just physical disabilities though that people often flippantly dismiss, but other factors as well.  Some people, for instance, are born into money and they get all the opportunities, all the prestige, and all the accolades due to the fact they have Donald Trump as a grandpaw or something.  Yet, often, these same people cannot operate a toaster, yet they are in places of authority.   On the other hand, there are people much like myself who were reared in poverty, with a single parent, and had to fight and scratch and scrape to get somewhere, and often those people are written off as statistics.  Let me tell you about me - according to the "official" statistics, I should have been an alcoholic, had a girl knocked up at 16, and should have been dead 10 years ago.  Yet, I was a great student in school, never had a taste for alcohol, and finished college and made something of myself, and still have no kids!  Reason is, I followed God's plan instead of man's, and thankfully I did that.   I was created in the image God made me, and He knew just what would bring out my best and thus made the way for that to happen.   God wants to do that for all of us, but oftentimes we are so blinded by what the world thinks that we miss it, and oftentimes the world too writes us off because we don't fit into their profile for success.   God, however, is greater than the world, and if He wills something for your life and you are yielded to what He wants to do, you will be that person God intended you to be as an individual.  It may not involved great financial riches, and you may not be a great superstar or model, but you will know within the depth of your being that you are where you are supposed to be.  People may give you opposition for that - expect it, as a matter of fact! - and you may even screw up on occasion along that pilgrim trail (I could tell you stories of my own on that one, believe me!) and you may get impatient and discouraged at times because things may not be where you think they should be.  However, remember this - we need to trust God to guide our steps.  It is hard, and honestly as I write this it is something I struggle with just as some of you do, but we need to find peace within ourselves to understand God doesn't steer us wrong.   Remember again, we are created in HIS image - not necessarily a carbon clone of Him, but in the image He made us - and that means something in the greater scheme of things.   So, be encouraged today as you read this, and hope to visit you again really soon.