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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Spiritual Lessons From “The Walking Dead” Season 5 - Part 2

  • I originally detested the thought of watching a show full of gore and dead people.
  • I’ve only watched one full season of TWD: Season 5.
  • This post will not cover any theories of eschatology (the study of the end times).
  • The show in no way connects specifically to any religious belief, and this post does not intend to suggest the show is about any particular religion.
As the season six premier of AMC’s The Walking Dead gets closer, here is the second iteration of spiritual lessons I gathered from watching season five. (View Part 1 here).

6. Everyone Has Purpose in the Kingdom
“…who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began…” 2 Timothy 1:9 (NKJV)

Daryl loses his girlfriend, Beth, and becomes very distant within the group. Upon arriving to Alexandria, he struggles to adapt and is the only member of the group to not receive a job from Deanna, the town’s leader. Set on feeling useless, Daryl does what he wants and avoids interacting with the residents of Alexandria. Aaron later reveals to Daryl that he has the perfect job for him, and that he is gifted specifically to accomplish the job. Aaron makes a recommendation to Deanna that Daryl help him recruit high-quality people to become part of Alexandria. He justifies this by stating that, “he (Daryl) knows the difference between good and bad people.” Many people desire to know their life’s purpose, and many of those same people go through moments of doubt regarding whether they were born to actually accomplish anything. 2 Timothy 1:9 reassures those in Christ that we were saved for a purpose a long time ago, and that we must remain patient until He aligns our gifts with our situations.
Figure 6: Aaron identifies Daryl’s gift and tells him he officially has purpose in Alexandria.
Source: S05 – Episode 13

7. Satan Is a Liar
“…When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” John 8:44b (NKJV)

Sasha cannot rest. She is in a constant state of anger and paranoia. Because Sasha is always on edge, she tells Deanna that Alexandria is just not real. There is no peace for her, therefore she refuses to let her guard down and accept Alexandria as a peaceful safe haven for her. Satan is a liar, and is very capable of convincing people that good things are bad and vice versa. When we have these moments of extreme doubt and paranoia, it is important to have someone to turn to that you can trust as a personal barometer.

Figure 7: Sasha explaining to Deanna that the peace in Alexandria is not real.
Source: S05 - Episode 13

8. Your Gift Will Make Room for You
“A man’s gift makes room for him, And brings him before great men.” Proverbs 18:16 (NKJV)

Seemingly everyday, someone in Rick’s group is promoted to a leadership position within Alexandria. None of the group members assert their expertise over the people of Alexandria, but they simply help out and step up as needed. In doing so, it becomes very evident that each member has a specific skill set and compassion toward other people. In this scene (See Fig. 8), after Tobin witnesses Abraham save a member of the crew, Tobin requests Deanna make Abraham the construction team leader. Upon watching this, Proverbs 18:16 came to mind. God gives each of the members of the body of Christ a specific gift for a particular purpose. There is no need to compete or connive one’s way up the ladder of success. True heart and skill will always make room for themselves.
Figure 8: Tobin insists Deanna make Abraham the new construction team leader. 
Source: S05 – Episode 14
9. Do Not Succumb to Evil
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21 (NKJV)

As Morgan sits calmly near his campfire, a Wolf, or hostile survivor catches him off guard. The Wolf informs Morgan of his impending death, to which Morgan politely responds, “I will not allow you to take me away” (See Fig. 9). This scene exemplifies the critical need to speak positivity in the midst of a dead-end situation. The Wolf has Morgan at gunpoint. There seems to be no way out of this situation, but Morgan decides to execute a great deal of faith. He ends up speaking his truth and fighting his way out. The Wolf could represent any obstacle one faces in life. Despite the apparent outcome, one should choose to speak life first before assuming the worst.

Figure 9: Morgan speaking to a Wolf who told him he was going to be taken away and killed.
Source: S05 -Episode 15

10. Redemption: There’s More Beyond Guilt and Shame
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9 (NKJV)

Sasha, Gabe, and Maggie each have different issues that presumably could end with their demise. Sasha is struggling with anger and wants to die. Gabe is struggling with guilt and wants to die. Both have attempted to place themselves in dangerous situations hoping to find death as a result (See Fig. 10). Maggie, on the other hand, is struggling with faith as a whole and is starting to question how much longer until she dies. Despite each of their fights with death, the three are shown praying at the end of the season. This scene, demonstrates, even in the midst of chaos and grief, that one can find peace and receive redemption from anger, guilt, and confusion (1 John 1:9).

Figure 10: Sasha wants to die from her unrelenting anger (Upper Left), Gabriel wants to die from his guilt (Upper Right), and Maggie has lost all sense of faith in this new world (Bottom Left). After a long season, they all find redemption and peace (Bottom Right).
Source: S05 - Episodes 10 and 16

MercyMe – The Hurt & The Healer

Sometimes I feel it's all that I can do
Pain so deep that I can hardly move
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on You
Lord take hold and pull me through

So here I am
What's left of me
Where glory meets my suffering

I'm alive
Even though a part of me has died
You take my heart and breathe it back to life
I fall into your arms open wide
When the hurt and the healer collide

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Spiritual Lessons From “The Walking Dead” Season 5 - Part 1

  • I originally detested the thought of watching a show full of gore and dead people.
  • I’ve only watched one full season of TWD: Season 5.
  • This post will not cover any theories of eschatology (the study of the end times).
  • The show in no way connects specifically to any religious belief, and this post does not intend to suggest the show is about any particular religion.

AMC’s The Walking Dead is a TV series based in the time of a Zombie Apocalypse. The show primarily follows a group of survivors trying to make life work in the midst of a dying world. I recently began watching the series in the latter half of the fifth season. Although the survivors have no specific connections to any religious sect, as I watched, I surprisingly found myself paralleling the characters’ experiences with many biblical principals. This post will cover the first five biblical principals that came to mind as I watched the season five. (Part 2 can be found here)

1. Everything Has Purpose
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

Tyreese has lost many loved ones, and against his own moral compass, killed many zombies, Walkers, and some people. He struggles to recuperate from the grief and guilt, but ultimately decides to live. In making this decision, he finds himself the caretaker of a baby, Judith, two other children, and a woman, Carol who murdered his girlfriend. His grief turns into purpose as he is able to save other people despite his own loss. Tyreese is later able to share his wisdom with Noah (See Fig. 1) who just discovers his own family has died. Tyreese’s words to Noah made me think of Romans 8:28. Many times one may believe the sole purpose of some life events is to bring pain, but there are good elements somewhere along the line in every situation.

Figure 1: Tyreese encourages Noah about as he laments the loss of his family.
Source: S05 - Episode 9

2. Satan Is an Accuser
“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.” Zechariah 3:1 (NIV)

During a hallucination, all the people in Tyreese’s past sit around and take part in a gathering regarding Tyreese’s life choices. In particular, the Governor, Tyreese’s ex-boss, condemns Tyreese’s good nature and his forgiveness of Carol for murdering his girlfriend. The Governor taunted Tyreese about his “good” ways having no place in a dying world. Satan often nags us about the negatives of our past, so we remain bound to situations we cannot change. He posits accusations that we should be like everyone else in the world around us, even when we stand out for the good. There is no freedom in guilt. Tyreese, committed to live with freedom of mind, tells his hallucinations that they are dead to him and that he knows who he is. (See Fig. 2)

Figure 2: Tyreese speaks to his hallucinations.
Source: S05 - Episode 9

3.  Do Not Forsake the Assembly
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together….” Hebrews 10:24-25a (NKJV)

Sasha has lost her brother Tyreese, and boyfriend Bob. She’s propelled to take her anger out on the Walkers and struggles with surges of excessive rage through killing. As Sasha goes through another fit of rage, Michonne (having transcended that state of mind regarding the deaths of her brother and husband) understands and commands Sasha not to “go there.” She remains accountable to Sasha throughout the season, keeping an eye out for her mental well-being, and reminds her that she doesn’t have to live in anger and bitterness. Without the group, Sasha would surely have died or committed suicide (See Fig. 3). Hebrews 11: 24-25 speaks to the need for accountability and encouragement from other believers. With no one’s past any better than the next person’s, each person brings support, comfort, and connectedness in a world demanding revenge and selfishness.

Figure 3: Michonne chastises Sasha for thinking about and wanting to attack a herd of Walkers alone. 
Source: S05 - Episode 10

4. Trust Is a Must
“They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.” Psalm 112:7

Rick struggles with the decision to go to Alexandria with Aaron, a stranger. He knows the group needs a safe haven. They have almost been “out there” too long. Their mental and physical health is declining and Aaron presents a very enticing opportunity of hope and safety for the survivors (See Fig. 4). Rick does not want to put himself or the group in harm’s way, but knows they are equally unsafe remaining where they are. Often worry consumes our judgment and past experiences cloud our ability to “take another chance.” Psalm 112:7 came to mind as Rick spoke. In life situations there is no algorithm for the right answer, one has to make the decision to take a chance and trust the Lord even in the midst of great uncertainty. 

Figure 4: Rick talking to Michonne about deciding to go to Alexandria with Aaron.
Source: S05 - Episode 11

5. Love Will Show Them
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:35 (NKJV)

Despite the unpleasant past of each survivor, Rick’s group maintains a sense of sincerity. Although the majority of them are complete strangers, they somehow became family. Each member is accountable and protective of the other members. As the group arrives to Alexandria, the leader Deanna, interviews each one to determine if they would succeed in Alexandria’s vibrant community. During her interview with Rick, Deanna says she wants to be part of Rick’s family, although she had only heard about the group from her scouts (See Fig. 5). In one’s life as a Christian, there should be something peculiar and enticing about the way s/he lives. Despite one’s individual past, their current way of living should prompt others to “want in.”

Figure 5: Deanna speaking to Rick upon his group’s arrival to Alexandria.
Source: S05 – Episode 12
To be continued…Part 2

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Friday, October 2, 2015

8 Things to Know About God's Garden

Photo Credit: Freshly Exposed Photography

The bible is full of parables about agriculture. Lately, I’ve been feeling like a blossoming flower participating in a science fair. I can state the problem in the form of a question, provide detailed observations of the process, and come to sound conclusions based on the evidence. Below are a collection of scriptures and reflections that I found to represent my growing environment: God’s garden.

God’s garden…

“But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matthew 13:8-9 (NKJV)

Healthy plants grow from good soil. Although the soil appears as an abyss to the seed, the soil is continuously providing the seed with nutrients, water, and a resting place throughout the growth process. Once sprouted, the soil protects the plant’s roots - its foundation. Don’t despise the dark place; it may be the very thing feeding and securing your growth.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” John 15:4 (NKJV)

Plants receive all their energy from the sun. Plants cannot thrive without energy. Very few blooming plants excel in the shade. Christ is the sun in God’s garden. Without him we are unable to bear fruit.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” John 12:24 (NKJV)

Traditionally speaking, gardens can be started from plants or seeds. All the plants in God’s garden start from seeds. You cannot be placed in his garden as a mature plant. You must die in order for your seed to be planted and yield much fruit.

And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how.Mark 4:26 – 27 (NKJV)

“Stop trying to figure it out, and let God work it out,” has become my new motto. As a flower in God’s garden, I now marvel at the process it takes to sprout from a dark place and bloom above ground. The dark spaces used to worry me, but now they strengthen me to wait in expectation of the next phase in the process.

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:2 (NKJV)

After successfully sprouting through the soil, eventually a plant needs pruning. The plant type determines its pruning season, and what tools are necessary for the job. Essentially, pruning is wounding the plant for its own benefit by selectively removing certain parts. Pruning improves plant appearance and controls its size while also protecting others from the plant and influencing fruiting and flowering.

“…“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.” Matthew 13:24-25 (NKJV)

All gardens, even God’s, have weeds. It’s part of the process. Unlike a traditional garden, the weeds that occur in God’s garden will not be removed until the good plants are grown. Removing the weeds too soon, may cause harm to the developing plants. Weeds are typically seen as an eyesore, but God authorizes the weeds to grow alongside his flowers with no fear. As we grow, we should embrace life’s weeds, confidently knowing they will be plucked in due season.

“To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven…” Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NKJV)

Annuals are plants that complete their entire life cycle in one growing season. They typically remain in bloom all season, but need to be replanted each season. Perennials on the other hand, have a shorter bloom time and do not require replanting each season. In God’s garden you may find you’re surrounded with a lot of people/things that come and go each season, while other people/things consistently grow back although they previously appeared dormant. Despite the types of plants surrounding you in your day-to-day life, remember the best gardens are strategically planted to have a mixture of annuals and perennials.

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:14 (NKJV)

As a growing flower in God’s garden, one should learn to appreciate the beauty of the garden as a whole - the weeds, the new buds, and the full blooms. Each plant is purposely chosen for the garden and is beautiful to the gardener. Everything is where it should be, and rain and snow will continue to fall to nourish the earth in the appropriate season for the development of all of God’s plants.

He Walks With Me (In The Garden) - Mahalia Jackson

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The son of God discloses.

He walks with me and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.

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