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Author: Ben Libby

What will you wish for?

What will you wish for?

The last blog post that I did focused on a Disney movie, Inside Out. I hope you’re ready for another!

It seems like a big trend for this huge media empire is to recreate live-action versions of successful cartoons that they released in the past. I think this strategy makes sense: after all, children who grew up on these movies would be likely to take their own children to remakes of beloved stories they themselves have grown up on.

There have been several attempts at this. They have released a live-action version of Cinderella, The Jungle Book, and Beauty and the Beast. Their most recent attempt at recapturing lightning in a lamp is the remake of the 1992 hit Aladdin, which is set to come out this weekend.

I must admit, I am old enough to remember when the original movie came out. I must have been about 4 years old, and I can tell you this movie was right in my wheelhouse. The 1992 movie still holds up today. I would argue that this movie perhaps has the best soundtrack in the entire Disney catalog (The Lion King is also right up there, whose live-action remake is set to come out this July). I think I found Robin Williams Genie character the most appealing. He did all kinds of celebrity impressions which slew me as a kid. My son also loves this movie, and even though he finds large portions of it to be “scary”, he really enjoys the comedy and songs as well.

Basically, Aladdin is a story about a poor “street-rat”, whose life is changed after he finds a regular, ordinary lamp. That lamp just happens to contain a magical genie, who will grant whoever rubs that lamp 3 wishes of anything their heart desires.

This story has always made me ask the question, “If I could wish for 3 things, what would I wish for?” There are some rules and stipulations of what can actually be granted. You can’t wish for more wishes, you can’t wish for life or death, and you can’t wish for someone to fall in love with you. But that’s about it. If you could be granted anything in this world, what would you ask for?

This is a fictitious work, but there was a scenario in history that reflected this wish granting opportunity. We are told in the book of Kings that God approached King Solomon and told him to ask anything of Him and he would get it. 1 Kings 3:5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask! What shall I give you?”

What would you ask for? The young King had just come into his throne and truly had much already. But he could see that he needed the wisdom to be able to rule Israel properly. He did not ask for riches or military success, instead, he asked the LORD for wisdom. 1 Kings 3:7-9  “Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. “And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted. “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” The Bible tells us that this request pleased the LORD, and not only did God give Solomon what he had asked for, He also gave him what he didn’t ask for. 1 Kings 3:12-13 “behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. “And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days.

Aladdin is a fantastical story, but it gets us thinking, “If I could ask for anything, what would I ask for?” The fact of the matter is we have something much more powerful than a genie who grants 3 wishes. We have a God who gives us all things! Our God is far superior to a genie. Whereas the genie only grants 3 wishes, God grants us things all throughout our lives. Not only that, but God also gives us things that we would never even think to ask for. More than that even, God gives us the things we need, but He also refrains from giving us the things that we wouldn’t be able to handle. I think one of the things that most people would wish for is to be rich. Having lots of money would make some things in this world easier. But it would make more important things harder. If you had great riches, it would be very easy to depend on those riches to solve your problems instead of the God who gave you everything that you have. Think of the example of the rich young man who came to Jesus, seeking eternal life. He was so accustomed to being privileged, that he mistakenly thought he had kept the law from his youth. When Jesus told him to give up his riches and follow after Him, the man went away sad. This is why Jesus told His disciples Matthew 19:23-24  “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

We do have a God who gives us all kinds of things. How do we make our wishes known to God? We don’t need to stumble upon a lamp containing a genie to get what we want. We simply pray! Philippians 4:6  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

One of the plot points in Aladdin is that Aladdin has to preference his wishes with the words “I wish”. It is not enough for him to imply that he wants something, he needs to formally say the words “I wish” before the genie is able to grant him that wish.

The same is true for us as well. Yes, God gives us some things without our actually asking for them. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask for them still. God knows all and He knows what we need even before we do. The real question is, do we have the presence of mind to ask God for the things we need? This is why we are told to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). We don’t need to reserve our requests to just three. We are to pray all the time, continually asking our God for things, and returning to thank Him. God answers our prayers in a number of ways. He may answer our prayers in His Word and through those who bring us His Word. He may answer our prayers through His representatives, like our pastors and teachers, our parents, or the government. He may answer our prayers after some time has passed. His answer may be “Yes”, His answer may be “Not yet”, or His answer may be “My Grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9), but He always will answer your prayers!  

How do we know this to be true? Well, God has already given us the greatest gift we could have ever hoped to receive: JESUS CHRIST! God knows the needs of all, and all people have the same need everywhere. We are all sinful. We all needed to be saved from the sin that would condemn us to eternal hell. And God gave us this gift before we even knew that we needed it. He promised Adam and Eve in the garden that He would send a Savior, who would be born of a woman, to save us from our sins. That Savior was and is Jesus. He was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died for us on the cross, and rose triumphantly from the dead 3 days later. God has already given you the best gift ever, the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses you from all sin. How would God also not give you anything else that you need? Romans 8:31-32  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

What will you wish for? Riches? Power? All of these things do not last. We need to pray for what King Solomon wished for, we need to pray for wisdom! True Godly wisdom is found only one place, the Word. In that Word, we see that God has granted us the best gift ever, Jesus Christ. It’s all just gravy after that. When we have needs here on this earth, we should turn to God in prayer. But we always pray with the words “If it is your will”. We do so knowing that God already knows what is best for us. Our God is better than some fictional genie. He gives us things all the time, not just three times. He gives us things that we do not even think that we need. He also refrains from giving us things that would be detrimental to our faith and reliance on Him. He has already given us Jesus and the forgiveness of our sins. So, pray, and pray all the time! Do so knowing that He hears your prayer, He will answer it, and praise and thank Him! He has already granted your biggest wish, and we will reign with Him in heaven as a result. What more could we really possibly want? He has given us Jesus!

The Inside Out Christian

The Inside Out Christian

I don’t know about you, but I watch a lot of Pixar Movies… A LOT! This might have been true to a certain extent earlier in my life. But now that I have a two-year-old, Pixar movies are a constant on my television. One of the first words usually out of my son’s mouth in the morning is “Buzz?” As in, Buzz Lightyear, one of the heroes of the Toy Story series. My son does have a Buzz Lightyear action figure, but usually, when he mentions the name he is requesting that he be able to watch one of the Toy Stories… Lucky for his parents there are 3 such stories, with a future fourth installment to be released next summer. This way we can cycle through these movies without getting too bored…

I’d say that he is a fan of most of the Pixar library, but he does not like the rats in Ratatouille, so that movie is not a favorite. He also likes Nemo from Finding Nemo, but he gets scared of certain parts, so that movie doesn’t last long. But his favorite from the non-Toy Story Pixar’s movies is by far the movie Inside Out.

Inside Out is a very thought-provoking movie, and the fact that it is considered a kid’s movie is kind of dumbfounding. The basic premise of the movie is that we are given an inside look into an eleven-year-old girl’s head. Her name is Riley.  The different emotions that Riley experiences are represented by avatars. The main character is Joy, who shares the controls of Riley with 4 other emotions: Sadness, Disgust, Fear, and Anger (my son’s favorite). When one emotion seems to be in control of the present situation, they “take the controls”. When Riley’s parents try to feed her broccoli for the first time, Disgust is there to save her from eating the revolting vegetable. When her dad tells her that she won’t get dessert until the broccoli gets eaten, Anger takes over the controls and lashes out by throwing a tantrum. And so on, and so forth. The question that even small children can glean from this movie is, “Who is driving me right now? Who is at my controls? Am I being driven by my Anger? Am I doing what I am doing because of fear? Am I experiencing sadness when I should be experiencing joy?” These are pretty big ideas for a kid’s movie to be asking.

But I think the movie does bring up a good point, one that we as Christians should be asking ourselves. Who is driving us? Of course, we all have these same emotions, but determining which emotion is driving you is not always the relevant question. The emotions displayed in the movie get along with each other for the most part. But I would contend that there are only 2 forces that are fighting for the controls inside a Christian, and they do not get along! Who’s driving you? It’s either the old Adam or the new Man!

I think that nowhere else in the Scriptures or perhaps in the whole world is this internal struggle more defined than by Paul in the seventh chapter of Romans:

Romans 7:15-19   15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.

Paul describes this internal struggle he has that we can all relate to. We know what God’s Word tells us. We all know what we should be doing and what we should not be doing. And yet, how often we end up still doing what is contrary to God’s Law? Why is this the case? We all know that Jesus Christ went to the cross and suffered and died for our sins. We know that because Jesus did this, and we have faith and believe that He did this for me, that I will go to heaven. And yet, we don’t always live like this is the case. We don’t understand! What we will do, what we should be doing, we end up not doing. Instead, we do the very thing that we hate! We want to do good, not because doing good earns us salvation, but because we are thankful for what Jesus first did. We want to do good for Jesus, and yet, we often end up doing evil! What is going on with us? Paul concludes O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? ( Romans 7:24)

The fact of the matter is that we do have two, different driving forces inside of us all. There is the old Adam, the sinful flesh. And then there is the new Man, the regenerated by baptism member of God’s family. These two forces are always fighting inside of us. They both want the “controls”. They are both us. You can’t simply blame the old man, it’s still you. We will one day go to heaven because we have that new Man inside of us, but on the other hand, we will never be without the old Adam this side of heaven. These two forces don’t get along, they are always fighting inside us.  Galatians 5:17  17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. How can you make sure that your new Man is at your controls?

Let’s go back to when this “war” first began. When we were born, it was in a state of deadness. Many people think that all children are innocent and sweet. This is not what the Bible says. We just saw Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells Paul was not speaking of just himself, that statement applies to all people. There is none who does good, not one (Rom 3:10-12). All had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3.23). Before we were baptized, we were dead in trespasses and sins. We were, by nature, children of wrath! (Eph 2:1-3)

This also becomes apparent when you become a parent. My son likes the anger character. He thinks he is funny when he explodes. But I think he also relates to this character as well. My son also reacts like this. Often, this anger is directed at his parents. He is only 2, but his sinful nature is at the controls just as much as the rest of us.

And that is where the new Man comes in. The new Man is called “new” for a reason. He was not always there. Rather the new Man came into the picture when we were baptized. This baptism that brought about the new Man also meant the subsequent death of the old Adam.

Romans 6:4-6 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,  6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

And there you have it! We were baptized, the old man was killed, and the new Man replaced him. The problem is that he makes a comeback.

Since we are talking about movies, I would like to discuss movie genres. I think I have seen many different movies. But I have not watched many horror movies. I have never cared much for the genre. It is my opinion that I would rather laugh or cry from a movie than experience fear in one. While I have not seen many of these movies, even I know their clichés. They always seem to feature a master villain, someone who is always one step ahead of the characters we care about. These villains cannot simply be killed. Just when you think they are gone, BOOM, they pop out of nowhere. They always come back. How else could they make sequels?

The old Adam is the ultimate horror villain. He has been killed, yet he always comes back! No matter how many times we kill him, he always finds a way to linger and survive.

In the Catechism, Martin Luther wrote about this when he addressed the meaning of baptism. “It means that the old Adam in us should be drowned by daily contrition and repentance and die with all sins and evil desires. It also means that a new Man should daily appear and arise, who lives eternally before God in righteousness and purity.” Luther stressed that we kill our old Adam and drown him with contrition and repentance every day!

How does your old Adam look? We can never get rid of him completely, but we still need to put him through the ringer constantly. Don’t make it easy for him to take over! Does your old Adam look healthy and strong, or is he haggard and feeble? Is he cozy and dry, or is he soaking wet and paranoid about what the new Man will do to him today?

This is a battle that is worth fighting every, single day. As Paul said in Romans 7, more often than not the old Man not only survives but thrives! Sure, we might drown him here and there, perhaps on Sunday mornings. But what about the middle of the week? Is he comfortable and at the controls for most of your week? What about at work, who’s in control there? What about at school? What person do your family and friends know best? The New You or the Old You?

How can we make sure our new Man is at the controls? Ephesians 4:22-24   22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,  23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,  24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

This new Man that we are to put on, we can’t do it by ourselves. We need God’s Holy Spirit to work this in us! We are reminded of that when we read God’s Word, when we study it in our homes and when we worship Him in our Churches. When we are left to ourselves, we are powerless against our flesh (and our other enemies for that matter). But when we look to God, He is able to overcome in us and through us! This Spirit worked new Man does not live for itself as the flesh did. It lives for God! 2 Corinthians 5:15  15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.  Jesus died that we might live. We do live for Him! It’s not because we are great people, we still carry around that horror supervillain who appears constantly. No, rather we love Jesus because He first loved us! (1 John 4:19)

Dear Christians, let us live inside out! When we have the new Man inside at the controls, then we can live the outside Christian lives that are God-pleasing. This seems like an impossible task, given that the old Man can and will creep back without a moment’s notice. How can we rid ourselves of him? With daily repentance and contrition! OK, well how can we accomplish those things? By being reminded through the Word and Sacrament what Jesus did to make us children of God! We are God’s new creation through the means of Grace, and we shall be His forever. The old Adam always comes back, but he shall be permanently sunk when the Savior returns. Jesus is the one who will deliver us from this body of death!  May we always look forward to this, when our new Man will rest with Jesus!

He that believes and is baptized Shall see the Lord’s salvation;

Baptized into the death of Christ, He is a new creation.

Through Christ’s redemption he shall stand Among the glorious heavenly band

Of every tribe and nation. – TLH 301