Jul 16, 2007

leftovers: harry potter

Yesterday I shared a message that used the Harry Potter craze as a metaphor and reference point for the Big Picture of God. On that note (and in light of the news events referenced below), this is a pretty amazing passage...

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord's hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

News of this reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.

The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

- Acts 11:19-26

A little background... according to the common understanding of their faith, the Jews didn’t associate themselves with any non-Jews. This crept into the early church, and for a while they struggled with who they were supposed to reach out to.

So picture this if you can– there was a time when it seemed as though Jesus just came to give a message to the Jews and only the Jews.

This line of thinking isn’t just a first century ideal, though… just this past Tuesday Pope Benedict of the Catholic Church issued a statement that asserts that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church and that anything else is not a true denomination.

In other words, non-Catholics are not the proper church.

Well... not trying to argue with the Pope (especially if you're Catholic), but... um... John 1:12:

Yet to all who received [Jesus], to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.

Apparently, God is into building bridges and He did just that as Jesus Christ. Maybe that’s why when the church decided to reach for people who it normally avoided the culture called them Christians or little Christs.

Because the image of God shows up in the most unexpected places and it often requires us to look beneath the surface... even in groups of people who are into things that we don't get.

Maybe because it can be hard to track our growth in Jesus Christ… and so we sometimes make up some rules to make us feel better that we’re not like “those people” over there. So we train each other that there are people we’re supposed to stay away from – and we build fences instead of bridges.

Which is why Jesus Christ totally messes with our world as He demonstrates what compassion looks like in real life.

It would have been shocking for people in the first century to do what Jesus did, not to mention His followers. It would be like Osama Bin Laden sending George Bush a birthday card... or LeBron James stopping his game to bring a drink of Gatorade over to Shaquille O’Neill... and so on.

Restoration of the world and people to their original image can come from the most unlikely sources... including us. If we are originally made in the image of God, then each one of us have a value beneath the surface. We need to look for this in others instead of quickly jumping to an “us” versus “them” mentality.

For instance, why are some families so into a book like Harry Potter? Maybe because it gives them something to talk about. Maybe because this book (like other epics and movies) gives a broken glimpse to the fact that we are a part of a great story.

Author J.K. Rowling put it this way about the "source" of her stuff...

''Yes, I am [a Christian]. Which seems to offend the religious right far worse than if I said I thought there was no God. Every time I've been asked if I believe in God, I've said yes, because I do, but no one ever really has gone any more deeply into it than that, and I have to say that does suit me, because if I talk too freely about that I think the intelligent reader, whether 10 or 60, will be able to guess what's coming in the books.”
Then again... a lot of people say they're Christians these days and aren't. Maybe the difference is when things happen like they did in Antioch... and the world can't help but recognize when we're like Jesus Christ.

If we are originally made in the image of God, then it stands to reason that whatever stories we get swept up into it is because deep down we know there is more to us than we’re even in tune with. It’s why boys often pretend to be superheroes or knights… why girls often pretend to be princesses. We are looking for ways to reconnect with our Creator and our God-given image without even knowing it... even through broken pathways.

Aren’t you glad that God didn’t ban us from Him? Instead He chose to use a broken opportunity to bring healing. I don’t believe God has called us to ban Hollywood or other things in this world in as much as He desires us to point to Him through the language of lost people.

Make no mistake – God has called us to be separate... but He hasn’t called us to stop building bridges in any way we can.

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4:5-6)


Ed G. said...

Tony - Sometimes we (I) can get so caught up in all the intra-church squabbles, which are things we need to get beyond quickly. I like that you ended this with Colossians, focused on making the most of opportunities with outsiders.

irreverend fox said...

what amuses me is that people are surprised the Pope is Roman Catholic! He said nothing new...all he did was stress again historic Roman Catholic doctrine. A FAR bigger story would have been if he stood up and said that other "Christian" churches and groups were true (or might be/could be true). THAT would have been noteworthy to say the least. But this? There is no news in what he said.

Tony Myles said...

You're right, Gary... it seems, though, in doing so whatever cross-denominational unity was in the air got sucked out a bit. While the announcement he made was more separation-oriented than inclusive, I do agree that this just further reveals the differences that may have been overlooked in a time of unity on other things.

irreverend fox said...

if Rome has never changed her positions regarding the doctrines that have historically (and rightly) divided us...upon what basis was any unity founded?

every such attempt at unity, while possessing admirable goals, has consistently resulted in theological compromise from the children of the Reformers. Rome has never once wavered...that is for sure.

Tony Myles said...

Unity doesn't mean need to mean conformity, nor a sacrifice of personal convictions.

If Christianity is a neighborhood, and the denominations are fences, I would imagine it's not that hard to reach over the fence and shake your neighbor's hand.

Personally, I'd like to see those fences turned into bridges... while still sleeping in my own bed at night. 'Cuz, man... when the 'hood gets together for a cookout that's some great BBQ!

irreverend fox said...

are you suggesting that Roman Catholicism is simply one brand of true Christianity?

Tony Myles said...

I'm suggesting that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

irreverend fox said...

lol...are you running for political office or something?

I love you man...sorry...you've awakened and "emerging" conservative!


Tony Myles said...

Just majoring in the majors... :)

irreverend fox said...

wait, wait, wait...I can not resist, don’t you just love me? do you not consider the content of the gospel message a "major"? you do understand that Roman Catholicism has a gospel that contains drastically different information than the one you preach, right? I hope you are not under the impression that what you preach and what Roman Catholicism preaches is “basically” the same thing…because it is not.

this is a significant issue…unless of course the content of the gospel is not a major in your view…or unless you don’t see the content of the gospel worth dividing over.

Tony Myles said...

You're right... there are a lot of things that divide different groups that claim Christianity (Mormons, anyone?) as well as others who seem more denominational in their divisions. As someone with a Catholic past, believe me... I get the differences.

The major I was referring to was Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

My focus in doing so is less on the separation of interpreted doctrine and more on the fact that this is who He is... and we are not, whether we're talking about any one individual or any doctrinal organization.

So the real question/major is who needs Jesus Christ?

Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, pagans... ?

irreverend fox said...

the are two "real" questions...not just one my friend:

1. who needs Jesus Christ?
2. how does a dirty, rotten, sinner (the “who” of question 1) rightly come to Jesus Christ?

Roman Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Eastern Orthodox ALL agree that ALL people need Jesus Christ and they ALL agree that He is THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE. Not ONE of those groups denies that Tony.

it is the second real question that separates the sheep from goats...and the second question is as vital as the first my friend.

I am still unclear as to your view of the second question. is it a "major" issue or not? can a group that incorrectly answers the second question (in an official manor) rightly be called "family" or "Christian"?

Tony Myles said...

That's a great question... I'm just glad we're not handed the task of separating the sheep from the goats and that's really God's role. *Phew* I mean, how easy would it be to become a Pharisee if that was our role?

Thankfully, our task (as you well know) is to encourage people to reach out to Jesus Christ and embrace His reach that has already been in place in their lives.

irreverend fox said...

Tony...do you believe that Roman Catholicism proclaims the one true gospel? The same message Paul and the rest of the Apostles boldly proclaimed? Do you believe that if one were to truly believe in his heart the gospel message according Roman Catholicism that he will enter heaven justified?

Just shoot straight…believe what you believe and just be honest…no more dancing, ok? I think your readers deserve to know because so many of them surely have Roman Catholic loved ones.

Tony Myles said...

Just for clarification so I know where you're coming from before I try to answer...

what is the "one true Gospel?"

how does one receive it?

and who is purely preaching that today?

irreverend fox said...


I believe that justification is by God's grace ALONE, through personal faith ALONE in Jesus Christ ALONE. Read Galatians 3:22

but...what difference does my understanding make? I'm not trying to set you up...I'm just asking if you believe that Roman Catholicism proclaims the one true gospel or not.

Tony Myles said...

"But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe."
- Galatians 3:22

Now this is confusing... this is a chapter written to the church in Galatia that was struggling with Jewish law. Why are you bringing the Torah into this? Are you suggesting that Paul's argument in Galatians was written to the Pope? I'm lost.

Per your query, I can't yet answer your question as I'm still a bit unclear on how one receives this one true Gospel... in your opinion. I can't accurately answer your question until I know what your words mean... because the phrase "one true Gospel" means different things to different people.

So again - how does one actually, practically receive this Gospel?

Also, there's that third question... who is purely preaching this one true Gospel?

I'll think and pray about this a bit tonight on my way to the Harry Potter party at Borders.

irreverend fox said...


no...Paul did not have to be speaking directly to the Pope in order for that passage to apply.

I am very concerned that you don't actually believe there is such a thing as "one true gospel"...it is obvious that you are not comfortable articulating your views which is really concerning me, my friend…you are the pastor of a sister church.

I'm disappointed because, frankly, I highly doubt that you truly do not understand my view of the "one true gospel". I fall in the dead center of historic, mainstream, Reformed…Evangelical...a Baptist...so unless you are truly unfamiliar with those terms I find it hard to believe that you don't understand my view Tony. What I think you are doing is attempting to side step answering a question that you don't want to answer.

To be honest, I’m stunned.

check out this link for a deeper study of "my" view of the gospel...


Tony Myles said...

I can't control your perceptions, Gary... and I believe I have answered your question.

Track back with me in my comments...

1) Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

2) My focus is less on the separation of interpreted doctrine and more on the fact that this is who He is... and we are not, whether we're talking about any one individual or any doctrinal organization.

Please read that last part again.

3) We're not handed the task of separating the sheep from the goats and that's really God's role.

Please read that last part again, too.

4) Thankfully, our task (as you well know) is to encourage people to reach out to Jesus Christ and embrace His reach that has already been in place in their lives.

As it stands, I've asked you two questions you haven't answered either...

1) How does one actually, practically receive this Gospel?

2) Who is purely preaching this one true Gospel?

then there was that other one, too...

3) Who needs Jesus?

I like how you threw in the "sister church" and "pastor" stuff into this, but if manipulation worked on me I wouldn't be in ministry. I love you too much to let that attempt bother me, though, and I am enjoying this conversation.

irreverend fox said...

Tony...I have answered...fully...clearly...your questions...I even provided you a link to an "overkill" description of my beliefs. Continuing to repeat that I am not answering your questions is getting old…I don’t know what else I can do other than start writing a book…but let me try this again…

1.)How does one actually, practically receive this Gospel?

By God’s grace ALONE (apart from any human effort or merit) Romans 4:6, through faith ALONE Phillipians 3:8-9(faith is the gateway…and is a gift of grace…not a mental ascent or work) in Jesus Christ ALONE 1 Corinthians 1:30(the Godman)

2) Who is purely preaching this one true Gospel?

I don’t think I did answer that one…I’m sorry! His (Universal/Catholic) Church, His Bride, His Body…all true Christians(those who have experience the reality of question #1)…the Church that Christ promised He would build.

so please...how does one receive Jesus Christ? back to the original context...does Roman Catholicism rightly answer that question? why will you not answer these two questions?

you are a pastor of a sister church and this does concern me...no manipulation is implied or intended...I'm trying to give you context as to why this now concerns me.

what exactly would I be trying to manipulate you into anyway?

Tony...if you don't want to answer my question(s) then please...put an end to this and just say "no comment" or something.

I love you too man...but you can't have my Bud Light.

Tony Myles said...


Sorry my first question wasn't clear - I meant to ask what does it mean to appropriate that grace? That is what I mean by "How does one actually, practically receive..." (key word on the word "practically" - do they say a prayer? Do they do something on their own first? That's what I meant... that's why I said I was hoping for clarity.

Could you help me understand what you mean in that question?

Per question 2, I still need a bit more clarity... sorry... would an Assembly of God person who insisted on the evidence of faith being manifested in tongues be considered a true Christian in the definition you gave? Or how about someone who would say just believe and receive, then don't worry about working your salvation because you're good - is this person also a true Christian?

Sorry... I just am unclear on what a true Christian is because it seems like Jesus said many people would assume they would be in heaven one day and then be blown away by the fact that they're not... and then others who you wouldn't expect to be in would be.

In fact, if memory serves, that passage talks a lot about "works" impacting the way God views whatever faith we claim.

Don't you just love it when we make a box for God and suddenly find Him both inside and outside of it?

So if Jesus said that we can't ever really know with complete certainty who is in and who is out, I am always a bit leery about declaring who's in and who's out.

I mean, wouldn't you?

Then there's question 3... who needs Jesus?

Don't worry... I'll answer that one.

Everyone does... whether they're in or out.

Sorry if you think I'm being evasive... I'm not. If you read what I just wrote in the comment before yours, I did answer. So let me connect the dots:

You: "Do you believe that Roman Catholicism proclaims the one true gospel?"

Me: "We're not handed the task of separating the sheep from the goats and that's really God's role."

I think that's the third time I've answered.

Oh yeah, and I don't drink alcohol so you can hang on to the Bud Light. Pass the Iced Tea, please. ;)

irreverend fox said...


the AG teaches no such thing my friend.


Peter warns us of false teachers in the second chapter of his second epistle...how does that square with your not having the task of seperating sheep from goats?


I told you...the grace is recieved or made effective through the gateway of personal faith. Salvation is an act of God's grace...totally and utterly apart from the merit of the sinner.

the Apostle James makes it clear that faith without works is dead...that there is no such thing as one who has faith without works. but it is not the works that brings the salvation...it is the salvation that brings the works.


what is the gospel?

dude...it is not an issue of me thinking you are being evasive...you are clearly being evasive.

you act as if the Bible itself does not define for us what a Christian is and is not.

I have been preaching verse by verse through the book of Acts for about a year and a half now (taking topical breaks here and there). Over and over and over we are told that people "believed". WHAT DID THEY BELIEVE? they clearly believed SOMETHING, Tony!


do you understand that JW's, Mormons, RC's, Eastern Orthodox and Evangelicals all teach that

1. all people need Jesus Christ


2. that Jesus Christ is the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE?

Should I come away from this with the impression that you believe that anybody and any group that affirms those two things are part of the family of God? That they are (or could potentially be) true Christians with only differing interpretations of certain doctrines?

Tony Myles said...


I don't even know where to start.

What I'm about to say - every bit of it - is in a soft tone. I don't know how it reads on your end, so just thought I'd explain that.

Gary, I think I've been quite clear on my answer... three times. It seems like you want me to sit in judgment over a group of people, and as I've explained... I'm not sure that's anyone's role but God's. You seem a bit insecure with this role He plays and we don't... I'm quite secure with His place and role.

Now, there's my question... the one I asked again.

How do you believe? How do you practically receive grace?

Do we say a prayer? Do we do something on their own first?

How about it this way... how do you teach someone to accept this grace? If someone were to ask "How do I become a Christian?" or "How do I know if I'm a Christian" what do you think the best answer to that is?

Could you help me understand what you mean?


Some AG churches do teach this, depending upon the church you're in. I've known at least three in different towns I've been in where this has been an overt issue. Throw in several people I know informally and I've heard it to be a common issue. You may not have encountered it in your experience, so no fault... but I have.

That's not the point of the question, though. So let's not make it the point.

If you remember the question (another I was hoping you would answer) - which is a true Christian? Such an individual who insisted on a manifestation of one's faith or someone who insisted on grace "and you're good?"

I think that's a good question worth answering... and it will help me better understand where you're coming from so that I can best answer other questions you're asking of me.

Could you tackle that one?


I read Peter... you're right - Peter warns against false teachers. He says they are bold and arrogant and not afraid to slander, even celestial beings (v.10). It seems like a false teacher in this sense is someone who is quick to judge heavenly issues in human understanding... so instead of running the risk of blasphemy by speaking about things we don't fully understand (v.12), I think what you bring up is a very good passage in helping us remain humble about whatever conclusions we believe we've come to... about "this, that, and them."

As the Message paraphrases it, "Even angels, their superiors in every way, wouldn't think of throwing their weight around like that, trying to slander others before God."

That's scary, dude. Maybe we should go with Jesus' lead on that... again, that He does the separating of the sheeps and goats.

What do you think?


I know Mormons, JWs, etc. teach as you say.

Interestingly enough, they do need Jesus Christ.

We all do.

I wonder if Jesus would want us to build a bridge into their world or erect a fence.

Once again (fourth time):

You: "Do you believe that Roman Catholicism proclaims the one true gospel?"

Me: "We're not handed the task of separating the sheep from the goats and that's really God's role."

As for what impression you walk away with from that, that all depends on any bias or preconception you walk in with.

Which, I think, is one of the reasons the Pharisees couldn't see the Savior for who He was.

Hope that helps.

derek said...

tony who is this guy? seems kind of legalistic and precarious.

irreverend fox said...


it is apparent that you believe 1. all people need Jesus and 2. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life…and that is the extent of the gospel message.

It is too bad that you can not say the Mormon church is not part of the family or that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not proclaim the legitimate gospel (it is not your job to distinguish between sheep and goats after all)

I will stop harassing you. I will pray for you and your people.

Call me if you ever need to talk.


My name is Gary Fox and I am a church planter in Wadsworth and Akron. You can check out my blog at www.emergingreformer.blogspot.com It’s funny…I’m too far right for liberals and too far left for conservatives, lol. Never been called precarious before...not a good fit for me I don't believe...but that is for others to judge I suppose. Thanks for the encouragment though! lol

irreverend fox said...

oh...one more thing, lol...name calling is such a shallow form of debate. it's an immature form of judging...it is easier to dismiss someone after slapping a villain label on them.

the left is as guilty as the right when it comes to slapping villain labels on people.

terms such as "legalistic" and "liberal" can be used accurately...they can be fair terms…but they are so prone to misuse by the subjectivity and position of the one using them that they should only be used when the evidence is clear that their use is fair.

I am many things…but legalistic is not a biggie for me. I fear legalism as much as I do liberalism. The Scriptures warn that we are not to add to Scripture (legalism) or take from it (liberalism)…and I believe the Lord was serious when He warned us to avoid both.

irreverend fox said...

ah...one more thing and then I promise...I am out...

the AG does NOT teach those things Tony! It’s not about what I have experienced with AG over what you have experienced…I almost laughed when I read that! if you have met a few individual AGers that do that does not mean the entire denomination does for crying out loud! I'm telling you and your readers that the AG does not believe that tongues has ANYTHING to do with salvation.

If anyone doubts (or cares) what I am saying let the AG speak for herself. To read what the AG teaches visit their site and read their 16 fundamentals at http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/Statement_of_Fundamental_Truths/sft_full.cfm#5

derek said...

tony this guy just proved my point. i read his blog and he obviously has christianity all figured out. don't bite on the bait of this pharrisee! i know your heart man and what youre all about

derek said...

he didnt even answer your questions

Tony Myles said...


Derek, thanks for your comments but I'd rather this not become personal nor a debate.

Gary -

Several of the things you have said/concluded aren't accurate, and I'm concerned for your sake that you are trying to put words in my mouth that I haven't said.

I'd rather talk with you about this via phone if you're available since you're obviously frustrated and I'm not.

In light of 2 Timothy 2:23 and Titus 3:9, let's close up this post.