The Son of Man

Writing my last post on doing your research, combined with our family’s recent reading and study in the book of Revelation, and connected with my day-to-day work where I am routinely sharing my faith with non-believers, I was thinking about a particular subject that I wanted to write about here. This subject is related to Jesus calling himself the son of man.

I’ve read the Bible with several non-believing friends here in Catania. There have been a few times when my friends clearly understood the implications of what they were reading and became offended because it was significantly different from what they had learned in their youth and as they were growing up in a different faith.

I can remember one interaction like this where they simply said:

Jesus never said, “I am the son of God. Worship me!”

Aside from the fact that I knew that they were simply repeating what they heard someone else say on a YouTube video, I also knew that they were trying to deflect from the conversation and the realities about the story from the scripture that we were reading. It was an objection that wasn’t specifically germane to the conversation but they were looking for something to hold onto their position that Jesus is not God incarnate here on the earth.

At the same time, they were right. While Jesus did say that he was the son of man and the Messiah, and confirmed to Peter that God revealed to him what he had said when he called Jesus both the Messiah and the son of God, he never did say “I am the son of God.”

Instead, Jesus called himself the son of man. In fact, he referred to himself this way 78 times in the Gospels.

But I think the important question here is to understand what that title means. I can say that I am the son of a man and it is pretty clear that I simply mean that I am a person, a man. Did Jesus mean the same thing?

There is history and background that we have to take into account, and this knowledge is, I believe, what my non-believing friends are missing. If we look back into the book of Daniel, which includes prophecies about the end times, we can see a first reference to the son of man. Here is what it says:

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14

When Jesus refers to himself as the “son of man”, what does it mean? Here are a few things that I can take from these two verses in Daniel 7:

  • He was coming on the clouds of heaven.
  • He was worthy to approach God, the Ancient of Days.
  • He was given authority, glory, and power over the earth.
  • He was worshiped by all people, of every language.
  • His kingdom and rule (dominion) will never end and will never be destroyed.

So now, I ask myself, What did Jesus mean when he called himself the son of man? Just looking at this list, I think it should be clear to say that he is a spiritual being who was given authority by God to set up a kingdom of earth and be worshiped by people across the face of the earth. And this is precisely the story, that if we are paying attention to Jesus’s words and deeds, that Jesus is telling throughout the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and is the same story that is affirmed by the apostles that come after him and the prophecy that later comes by John in the book of Revelation.

Do Your Research

This last Thursday, our Life Lessons evening focused on doing your research, getting the facts and understanding, and knowing what you are talking about before forming opinions and making comments about particular subjects.

What led me to this topic as a Life Lesson was frequent questions conversation at our house with our kids about capitalism vs. socialism. They would frequently point out something that they saw or understood in Europe, especially here in Italy where we live, and ask if I thought that it was an example of socialism. We often didn’t have time to dive into the nuances of the conversation, so we frequently left the conversation open-ended and without a satisfactory ending.

I decided, therefore, to illustrate the need to do your research and gain understanding by watching three videos together from YouTube, learning what capitalism, socialism, and communism are and then discussing them together as a family to confirm that everyone understood, at least at the level of the fundamentals of each system if not also the implications and perceived advantages or disadvantages of each system.

Interestingly, I found that it was a little difficult to find videos on these topics that gave a simple rendering of the facts without much opinion or political background for each of the systems. I found that even those that were presenting the facts were frequently also presenting a lot of the back-and-forth that we see in political conversation, thus making it challenging to present to kids without being too confusing and getting caught up in the swirl of unnecessary political conversation.

If you are interested, here are the three videos that we watched:

In each of these videos, I simply asked the kids some basic questions to check their understanding. For example:

  • What is capitalism / socialism / communism?
  • What is the goal of the system?
  • How is it achieved?
  • What are the potential advantages / disadvantages of this system?

We tried to stay away from the political conversation although, of course, even as the kids asked questions about the advantages and disadvantages, we couldn’t completely ignore our opinions on each of the systems given that we have certain values that we have each grown up with and consider more important over another. At this point, though, my hope is that my kids have a sense of the differences between these economic systems and can begin to form their opinions based on knowledge and understanding instead of simply being caught up in a wave of political or emotional frenzy based on who they like, who they don’t like, or some other type of making decisions that lack real knowledge of the subject that they are discussing.

Extreme Ownership

A few months ago, I watched a TedX video by a guy named Jocko Willink, a former Navy Seal who commanded a unit of Seals in Iraq. He spoke about a particular experience in Ramadi where they experienced one of the worst things imaginable. In the confusion of war, two units who were on the same side started shooting at one another, ultimately killing one of the men that they were working together with.

Jocko spoke about the aftermath, thinking about whose fault it was that this happened. He said that he ultimately decided that it was up to him to take the blame. He was in charge of what was happening on the battlefield, and despite the bad decisions and miscues among the team that could be to blame for the horrific experience, many of which were acknowledged in their debriefing, Jocko decided that he should be the one – if someone were to be fired – to be blamed and fired for the problems that they experienced.

This is going to be tonight’s Life Lesson for my kids. I’m planning to simply watch this and ask some questions:

  • What happened?
  • Why?
  • Why did Jocko take responsibility when there was blame to go around?
  • How do we apply this to our lives?

I want my kids to understand the importance of taking responsibility and ownership for their lives. They shouldn’t simply be tossed by the waves of life, and they certainly shouldn’t pass ownership to someone else. That is for them to do, for them to take ahold, whether for good or for bad.

This is a difficult lesson in a world that typically does the opposite, that frequently simply points the finger at another instead of taking ownership of their own work and their own lives. My hope is that they will learn this lesson early.

Make a Budget

The next lesson in the Life Lessons series is that we need to learn to make a budget. In this time with our kids, we started with a simple budget using, as an example, an estimated starting school teacher’s salary in the US. From there, we then considered taxes, tithes, living expenses, and other ways of prioritizing the ways that we spend our money. I wanted the kids to have a sense of how this works, even though we didn’t really get into a great amount of detail on each of the items.

Here is the spreadsheet that we used as we discussed this example budget. I simply used a Google Chromecast to show the screen from my computer to the TV where the family watched and discussed the budget together.

As I think about future Life Lessons related to finances, I want the kids to think about prioritizing how to use their money, including how to manage their tax burden, where to give their money, how to invest or how to make money, etc. More to come!

The kingdoms of this world vs the Kingdom of God

This is the first of the Life Lessons that we have started with our kids. I’m posting this here for future reference for my family as well as for anyone else that may be interested in reading or using them!

First, as a family, we watched this YouTube video about the Capitol Hill riots in the US:

From there, I asked the kids a question: Why did this happen? Why are the people so upset that they spent all of their money to come to Washington DC to protest and riot in this way?

I told them that they couldn’t simply say that the people want Donald Trump to be president. They need to understand what else is happening at a deeper level.

After several responses, we discussed that it is important to remember which Kingdom that we belong to. Very often, we get confused. We think that the politicians will help us, that we can put our trust in them, especially if they align with our political beliefs. But the truth is that – and this is the Life Lesson – the kingdoms of the world are always temporary. They cannot be depended upon. We can only put our trust in the Kingdom of God. It is the only kingdom that will last forever and is truly good.

As we watched the video above together, I asked the kids about the differences between what happened in this situation vs. how we are to live as members of the Kingdom of God. Through this conversation, we read the words of Jesus which point us in the direction of understanding the nature of the Kingdom of God:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:1-12

Life Lessons

As a family, we don’t always get to spend as much time together as we would like. With kid activities, work, and other things infringing, we frequently are on the run.

At the same time, when we do have some downtime and can be together, we are often pretty tired, so we default to the easiest thing to do. Often, that can be watching TV or doing whatever sort of needs to be done to get ready for tomorrow.

It became clear to me that there are several things that we were missing in how we were teaching our kids. Several things that I think are important that we never really spend any time talking about. They won’t get these lessons in school, at university, or anywhere else except for experience in life, so it is important to figure out how to set aside time to discuss them.

There isn’t necessarily a curriculum of things that I was wanting to go through, but there are certainly a set of topics to talk about. We’re only two topics in so far, but the kids seem to be engaged in what we’ve been discussing.

Below, I’ll list some of the topics that are yet to come, and continue to update it as we go forward, subsequently entering posts for the individual topics as we do them.

Upcoming Life Lessons

  • Extreme Ownership
  • Be on time
  • Marriage
  • Race relations

Reading the Creation Story

Today, as I mentioned in my previous post, I started reading through the Bible with my friend who has been a believer for only about 6 months. We’ve read the Bible a lot over the last several years, although most of what we have done previously has been reading through the Gospels as well as the new believer lessons that our team uses with people who have said that they want to believe and follow Jesus. I felt like it was important for him to understand the bigger picture, the larger story that God has been telling from the beginning so he could have a solid Biblical picture of what God has been doing, leading to Jesus, and ultimately now to us.

We read Genesis 1 today, talking about how God created the earth. Here were a few notable parts of the discussion:

  • God seemed to have systematically moved through the process of creation, developing each component of the creation of the earth and the heavens in a step-by-step way.
  • God created man and woman in his own image. We are loved by God and considered to have great importance to him as carriers of his image and his likeness.
  • We were given two commandments directly from the beginning: To be fruitful and multiply and to have dominion – oversight – over the birds, the animals, and the fish of the seas. We have been given a great responsibility for all of these.

New Regions for Phase 2 Training

This morning, I was able to work through two additional regions for the Phase 2 Training:

As I noted in my last post, the intent is to continue to develop the list of these countries so that we can be praying through them, having some basic information to work from and a basis for which we can pray in addition to the people that we know and have met from these countries here where we are working. It is probably also important to understand that I am primarily including those countries whose people we meet here in Italy on a regular basis. I haven’t necessarily included all of the countries, for example, from East Africa, but if they are a regular part of the population that we connect with, I will include them in these lists.

January 8 2021

West Africa for Phase 2 Course

I’ve been working on the Phase 2 Training course, specifically trying to think about how to introduce the complexity of all of the different nationalities, tribes, languages, and backgrounds that we work with here in Catania. My initial plan was to try to work through it by region – for example, West Africa, East Africa, North Africa, etc. The peoples in each of those areas are very different, and see themselves as different, despite living on the same continent.

I think I’ve arrived at the idea of introducing these different nations and people groups through our times of prayer. Our weekly prayer calendar already reflects prayer for specific nations and their top people groups by population, so as people come in to train and work with us, I think they can learn about these different nations and peoples in preparation for our times of prayer and then experientially as they meet them during the day.

I’ve created a template per country that uses various resources for Geography, Culture, and Spiritual background information, and just started to fill it in. It certainly doesn’t feel complete, but for the breadth of people that we are working with, the likelihood that we will ever learn any of these in-depth, especially when we are meeting them in a third culture in Italy, seems low to me. Here is what I created for West Africa to date with more to come in other regions of the world.

Prayer Walk

On Friday, we have been going for a prayer walk, praying specifically for Muslims in our area given that their Friday (Jumu’ah) is similar to our Sunday in that they go to the mosque for congregational prayers and a teaching by the imam.

We know the imams in each of the mosques and have enjoyed spending time with them and sharing with them. During this prayer walk, we met an assistant imam at one of the mosques. We had previously given him some food as part of Covid relief, so as we were outside of the mosque praying today, he saw us and called and greeted us. We spent a few minutes talking and he invited us to come visit the mosque next week, so we’re hoping to take some time together one afternoon next week to visit their prayer time and then sit and visit together, hopefully having an opportunity to share our hope in Christ with them as well.

Abiding in Christ

We have been working to disciple a man that was baptized in this last year. As part of our discussion in the afternoon, we read John 15:1-8 and talked about what it means to “remain” or “abide” in Christ, as some of the translations say. As part of that process of abiding, we discussed three ways that we believe that we can do that:

  • Reading the Word of God
  • Obeying what Jesus tells us to do
  • Praying and hearing from God

There are probably other ways as well, but these were the ones that we identified and discussed. The result of this conversation is that we’ve decided to start meeting for a short time each day, even online as needed, to read God’s Word and pray together. This particular man has no background with the Bible, so I’m looking forward to see him grow as he learns what the Bible says.

Dancing Robots

I’m generally pretty fascinated by advances in technology. I love seeing how sciences and technology advance to do things and create a world of new opportunities and help people and economies in new ways.

I do also think that there is reason to be concerned. As you think about advances in robotics and Artificial Intelligence, it isn’t a long leap to begin to think about how the world of the movie Terminator could be too far away. Even Elon Musk has spoken strongly of these things in the past.

But sometimes it can just be a little fun as the robotics companies show off some of their most recent advances in their abilities of the robots. Boston Dynamics recently released a video of their robots dancing to the song Do You Love Me. Enjoy!