By Scott Keith –
Happy New Year, everyone! As I sit next to a roaring fire in our cabin in Big Bear and write this blog, I am trying to envision what 2017 will be like. The truth is, I have no idea. For me, and I suspect for others, 2016 was a mixed bag of both personal victories and failures. That is life, at least until the Lord comes again to bring us to Himself in glory. This year, I have been quite surprised to learn about all the people who call 2016 the worst year ever. And culling social media toward the close of the year reminded me of a series I binged watch with Joy this year.
You see, I am a Marvel freak. Actually, I can get into anything nerdy. I watch Star Trek (all of them—from the original series, to Voyager, to the new movies). I love the Star Wars franchise, though the Social Justice Warrior themes of the new ones are killing me. I have always been a fan of Superman, Batman, and the whole D.C. crew. Obviously, anything LOTR (Lord of the Rings, for those of you who aren’t in the know) is right up my alley. But I love Marvel comics. Spiderman, Wolverine, The Uncanny X-Men, I dig the whole kit and caboodle.
Over the last several years, Netflix has been putting out short series based on the stories of some of the lesser known Marvel characters, such as Jessica Jones, Daredevil, and Luke Cage. Now, be warned, if you watch these shows, don’t bring the kiddos. They are for adults. Several scenes are highly sexual, and to say that they are violent would be an understatement. But they are good—really good. The stories are complicated, the writing is superb, and the acting is top notch.
The last series we watched was the Luke Cage series. Luke is a down-and-out ex-con who has superpowers that he keeps under wraps, at least at the beginning of the show. As the series presents it, it is safe to say that things have recently not gone Luke’s way. He was framed for murder, his wife has been killed, he lost his business and nearly all of his friends, and he is left with nothing. As the show opens, he is doing his job, sweeping up hair at his father-in-law’s barber shop in New York. “Pops,” as his father-in-law is called, is also a reformed ex-con and a surly but wise ole coot. I like Pops.
I won’t spoil any more of the show for you, but I need to tell you one part. Pop’s primary job as a character seems to be to convince Luke to keep moving forward. Pops never promises that everything will be good. Pops never promises that everything will work out dandy for Luke. Pops only reminds Luke that his reason for being on this earth and for having powers (no matter how he got them) is to help other people by always moving forward.
Now, not to get too “social gospely” on you, but I think this is what the Gospel frees us to do in many ways. Move forward. No longer does God remember the sins of your past. Move forward. No longer are you bound by your sin. Move forward. No longer does the Devil have any power over you. Move forward. No longer does your guilt and shame cripple you. Move forward.
Christ has set you free, and you are free indeed. Freedom is an interesting concept. Much like Luke in the show, we often prefer the slavery of our self-pity, doubt, and despair. We all seem to love to wallow in the misery of our former chains. Moving forward can look like a burden simply because we do not realize we are free to do otherwise. You are free in Christ. Move forward, always forward.
I ran across this reading from Isaiah chapter 43 the other day, and it really reminded me of what I am trying to say. “This is what the Lord says—he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 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. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”
Forget 2016 if you need to, or remember it as the year that you were set free from sin, death, and the power of the Devil. Remember that you have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and move forward for the Lord promises he has a new thing in mind for you. This new thing will probably take the form of everyday life in service to those God has called to you. You should not be surprised when that which God has in mind for you is nothing more than the simple glories of love and freedom manifested in service to neighbor. But still, always forward.
Happy 2017, and God’s richest blessings to you and yours as you move forward in His name.