July 23, 2012

Metanoia

Ever see that word before? It's the Greek word from where we get the word 'repent'. The way many people understand it, the word means admit we're sinners, to confess our misdeeds. But even that's not it. The way I used to understand it, it meant to change your behavior, to make a 180-degree turn. But even my old definition didn't capture the essence of this word. 


Metanoia means to have a change of mind. It means to think one way about something and forsake that thought for another. It's so fitting because God looks at the heart, not just the action. So when He wants us to turn from our old ways, He's first looking for a change of mind, a change of heart. You could convince me never to do something again, maybe through threats of punishment or some other means, but to truly get me to never do something again, you'd have to ensure that I thought differently about it. Problem solved. Why? Because you ONLY do what you believe. If it wouldn't have been helpful, you would never have done it.










With the world we currently live in, I wonder how people learn about God and how they view Him. And from what I've seen, the answers I'm getting is that our generation doesn't have much of a clue what God is really like. But sadly I cannot blame them. They are bombarded by images in the media, mostly always steering them away from God, and cultivating appetites for lifestyles and things God hates. It's to the point that the religion of our nation's youth (and many of our adults also) isn't Christianity, though they often try to wear the label. It's really Moral Therapeutic Deism. I touch on that in my personal faith blog.


As a missionary company, there are several goals that I hope to accomplish to help people have a changed mind about how they view life, how they view God, and how they interact with people.


Restore Our Image of God


Our God-talk is partly responsible for the image people have of God today. And FYI, our collective lack of response is also part of our God-talk. Our platform doesn't just consist of what we say, but also what we don't talk about. So when our primary concerns are almost always gay marriage and abortion, we neglect poverty, we neglect war, we neglect political corruption, we neglect the persecution of saints worldwide, we neglect pollution, we neglect racism. The list goes on. Our platform has shrunk way too far down. As if God has nothing to say about this. But I digress.


Think about this: What does God look like? As in God the Father, specifically. Normally when people think about God, what they have to go off of is an image from TV, like the Simpsons or Family Guy. 



Notice how God is always old. His dress style is always depicted as from Roman times, His beard is always huge, going along with His age, etc. The Simpsons' depiction of God is more reverent, but is still not up to task. Part of that might be because of this image:


This image shows an elderly God reaching out to Adam in the Creation. He's advanced in age, though He has some muscle-build. His dress-style is reflective of Roman times, and His beard is long. This one image has shaped the way God has been depicted in modern media today, because it first resonated with someone when first painted, and its impact has carried on. It stuck out. It's our mission at Renewal to depict Him in a more Biblical sense, using our holy imagination. Perhaps that will change the image people have of God, which will hopefully help in translating to how we relate to Him. With these images above, God seems like the old man upstairs that we would prefer not to deal with, but have to. What about an image that shows how vibrant and lively God is, still in His prime. Because He always is. What if God was depicted as the "life of the party", where everyone wanted to be around? Because that's how He is. In His throne room is an array of angels, people, etc. There's the 24 elders who always bow their crowns before God proclaiming His holiness. There's the 4 cherubs looking like strange animals. There's the many angels and saints gathered together all around Him. Yeah, the rest of Heaven is nice, but the throne room is the place to be. 

Articulate the Gospel

I went into this in my personal faith blog recently, but I come back to it again this time because I have seen this demonstrated time and time again among people of faith. Question: Why should God let you into Heaven? This question has yielded answers like this: "Because I'm mostly a good person", "Because I don't do _____, ______, or _______", "Because I pray and read my Bible often", etc. And more important a question: What do I need Jesus for? What makes Him special? This is where things start to veer off wildly. I have seen that people know the right answer, but when asked to define what that means in practical terms, I see that they never really understood the Gospel to begin with.

"Jesus makes our lives better." "We need Jesus to be in our heart so we have companionship." "Jesus was the Son of God." These are the kinds of answers I get. But so what??? What do I need Him for? He was the Son of God? Great. Glad He came and paid a visit. Jesus makes life better? Sure. But what if I'm hated because of Jesus? What if following Jesus means having nowhere to lay your head at night because no one would welcome you into their homes? Or why can't I substitute money for Jesus and say money makes life better? Jesus is our companion inside our heart? Yes, yes He is. But why couldn't I just get married and say I have a wife for companionship? Or come up with an imaginary friend?

No. I wouldn't be convinced to come to Christ through those answers. I would come to Christ because I absolutely needed Him and His perfect record with God. Christ lived a perfect life without sin of any kind. He died in our place for the sins we committed, taking our punishment that we deserve. He takes our sin record in exchange for His perfect record. He takes the fall for our 'F' and we get the benefits of His 'A'. We need Jesus because He alone was perfect and died in our place. We cannot go to God and say we should get into Heaven because of the good things we've done, because He's going to see all the bad things we've done, said, or even thought. And one sin is enough to disqualify us from Heaven, because God is perfect and expects the same of us. If I baked you an apple pie using 6 apples, and one of the apples is rotten, you would never eat the pie. Even if the other 5 apples were good. That's how God is with our sin. He demands perfection, and knowing we all fall short, He sent His Son to live that perfect life and to die in our place, taking our punishment. God couldn't just forgive our sin and let us off the hook. He's just and holy and MUST deal with our sin. So He dealt with it through Jesus.

You make that exchange with Jesus (his righteousness for your sinfulness) by confessing and renouncing your sins, believing Jesus died in your place, and by receiving Him as your Lord and Savior, the way it was always meant to be. So your relationship with God is restored, your sin has been paid for, your record is now clean. So if God asked why He should let you into Heaven, it's not because of your good deeds, because you aren't going off your own record, but because of Jesus' death in your place. So God judges you off of Jesus' record. And He finds Jesus perfect. And you get in. THAT'S what you need Jesus for.

Lavish the Poor

This is another part of our mission at Renewal. By trying to minister the Gospel to everyone, we are very much aware that many of the problems we face as a society are exacerbated by poverty. It's one thing to have moral character when life is easy and you have no worries about your living situation, your next meals, your access to opportunities to grow. But when you don't have those assurances, it tends to reveal character traits inside you that you never knew were there, where you may do anything to get out of your impoverished state. You think I'm talking about crime, don't you? Well, I am, but not exclusively. Because in addition to crime are also self-subjugation and  extreme validation-seeking. 

With crime, a lot of what you're seeing with that is either a desperate search for financial provisions or direct material provisions that somebody felt either unfairly deprived of or felt was too out-of-reach to afford but yet so desirable. And that's by no means an exhaustive definition. But with self-subjugation, the person has been so petrified by the fear of losing what little financial security they have that they'll put up with ANYTHING in order to maintain it. The system or organization overseeing them has succeeded in demoralizing them and they will endure unenviable working conditions to maintain some source of income. If a better opportunity came along, they would jump at it in a heartbeat. Lastly is extreme validation-seeking. In an effort to not come off as poor and needy, some poor people mask it by acquiring anything name-brand to put on a front of being well off. It's a facade for self-worth. Unfortunately for them, their identity and self-worth are wrapped up in what they wish they had. They do not (yet) know that the essence of "life does not consist of the abundance of possessions" (Luke 12:15).

How do we remedy that? Well, this is our target market, and understanding that they do not have money to throw around, we are willing to lower prices for their benefit, to increase access to the game and the Gospel's depiction therein. But does that mean we lower the quality? God forbid. When we put on that slogan "God-centered. Gold-standard." we are saying that we're going to deliver a quality product every time we enter the market. It's partly out of our pride in what we do, but it's also partly out of necessity, because Christian games have a bad reputation. Our job is to honor God with excellent work as much as we can. But another part of our job is to make sure our customers are treated like they are made in God's image. Practically, that means:

  1. Give them a good product.
  2. Build them up as people through our product.
  3. Address things in society that have torn them down.
  4. Introduce an alternative that restores what God wants in their lives.
Case-in-point: A new book I'm working on now, a prequel to "5th Grade Challenge" addresses whether moving to a new and better place will really change you and your behavior. Here's a hint: It won't. What must change is your heart. Though I anticipate it being a bigger book than 5th Grade Challenge, its price range should not differ wildly. It will be written up to Biblical standards as well as be well-edited for quality. It will address issues like bullying and emotional well-being. And it will introduce Christ-like values that help one transcend their environment's conditions.

So what I hope to accomplish with this goal of lavishing the poor is threefold. I want them to first have access to top-quality games and books on their limited budget. I want to empower them with principles that can help them transcend their current living conditions. Lastly I want our products to inspire them to live the kinds of lives God is pleased with.

In doing so successfully, it's my hope that other companies will follow suit and also begin to treat the poor not as wallets with legs or nuisances to society, but rather as valuable customers who deserve their attention, service and respect. So even if we're eating off-brand food, it is still of nutritional value and quality. Or if we're wearing off-brand shoes, that they can still retain their shape and integrity after getting wet or being worn day-in, day-out for months on-end.

At the End of the Day

It all comes down to fixing what is broken in society. It all comes down to treating each other with the respect we all deserve for no other reason than we are each the image-bearer of God. Therefore I cannot write you off as less valuable because you don't have money or because you don't talk the way I do, or because you come from a neighborhood riddled with crime. "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to give strong support to those whose hearts are entirely His" (2nd Chronicles 16:9). I can attest to the truth of that statement. I come from poor backgrounds. I haven't seen my father since I was 4. My neighborhood is sometimes really sketchy and the city as a whole has dealt with high murder rates, particularly among young people. But God has helped me. And He has inspired me to pursue this path I am on. I've been on this path since 7th grade. God first introduced Himself to me in 5th. And if God could begin to transform me and use me for His purposes, who's to say He can't do the same or greater in someone else whom society would have written off. Remember what they said about Jesus? "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

I'm looking to change the hearts and minds of people, not just their behavior on the surface. I want them to really understand God and His ways, not just adhere to religious traditions and rules. I want companies to change the way they see customers and how they treat them with their products. I want to change what it means to be poor in this world and give them the validation they've been conditioned not to expect. I want to even change the way we as companies treat our employees and our neighborhoods. But it all starts at the heart. It all starts with metanoia- a change of mind.

Thanks for reading.

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