Month: June 2014

Believe Me! – This is a Great Movie

BELIEVE ME is the film a lot of people have been waiting for. Part satire, part substance, part laugh your head off humor (can you say Ron Swanson or Christopher MacDonald, aka “Shooter McGavin”?), Believe Me does what many films have tried to do with Christian subculture, and the gospel message, and have failed. Believe Me succeeds, in flying colors.

The dialog is excellent. Stephen Jones calls the humor “comedic perfection.” The cinematography isn’t just industry standard, it takes some creative risks, and lands them with skill. The ending is pitch perfect. On top of all that, the soundtrack is killer.

I’m proud of the guys behind this film. Don’t miss it.

Interesting Books I’m Reading this Month

Summer lists are rolling out, so I thought I’d throw out some titles I’m enjoying this month. Last week, I posted books on 1 Corinthians, so I won’t relist those here.

Original Sin

This is a cultural history of human nature, not humanity’s first sin, as Alan Jacobs emphasizes. It’s a fascinating read. So far he’s culling from Greek mythology, Bibilcal stories, anthropological case studies, and theology.

Sabbath as Resistance

Americans can’t read and reflect enough on the sabbath. Once a cultural fixation, the sabbath has largely left the Christian field of view. Bruggeman argues that it is “the most difficult and most important” of the Ten Commandments. The Preface is worth the book, where he makes a distinction between the Adamic man–who creates through work, and the Mosaic man–who cultivates reflection and worship through inaction and devotion.

Most of us have an “under-developed” Mosaic man, sucked into production and consumption by work and play, we no longer know how to resist the flow of consumerism and capitalism, and are losing our distinctive, sabbath identity as Christians.

Most of us have an “under-developed” Mosaic man, sucked into production and consumption by work and play, we no longer know how to resist the flow of consumerism and capitalist, and are losing our distinctive, sabbath identity as Christians. Church attendance, alone, is a sign enough of that, but the signs run much deeper and further.

Apostles of Reason

Based on the recommendations, I’m expecting a lot out of this analysis of the 20th century culture wars and how American Evangelicalism is really a struggle for authority in a faith that advocates both faith and reason.

The Twilight of the American Enlightenment

George Marsden is back at it, drawing ideological conclusions as he deftly sweeps in and out of decades of American history. Probably the shorter version of Apostles of Reason, but I’ll have to read that to find out for sure. I liked his observation about how America jettisons God in the 50s and 60s, while keeping God’s values of human freedom, self-determination, and equal rights. If you boot God, its harder to make a case for these values.

Jettison God and it’s hard to keep God’s values of human freedom, self-determination, and equal rights.

Soul Keeping

This book is an entirely different pace than the rest of the titles above, but touches on similar themes to Bruggeman and Jacobs. It’s very accessible exploration on the meaning of the soul, how we’ve neglected it, and what to do about it. Lots of Dallas Willard and story-telling in here. The closing description of Peter’s harbinger in the Gospel of John has stuck with me: “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.”

When you’re young, you go where you want to, but when you’re old, you learn to go where God wants you to, and you embrace the cross-shaped life.

Called to be Saints: An Invitation to Christian Maturity

I really enjoy the balance, clarity, and pull of Gordon Smith’s writing. His book, Transforming Conversion, was great. Here he argues maturity is a vital dimension of the church’s teaching that often goes neglected. He writes:

“Congregations that do not pursue with passion and vigor a dynamic maturity in Christ are surely as fraudulent as a hospital that is not passionate and vigorous in its pursuit of healing and holiness.”

Stew on that one for a while.

 

How to Be a Good Dad (& What to Do with a Bad Dad)

Father’s Day–some are grateful it’s just one day.

There are many fathers who have heaped unbearable burdens upon their children with unrealistic demands. To you, this day reminds you of failure, not measuring up, not being who Dad wanted you to be. For others, Dad subtracted meaning from your life. Your Dad just cut out on you, left Mom for another woman, a career mistress, or never entered your life at all.

How do you respond to your father while edging out on the ice of fatherhood yourself?

Others see Father’s Day as an opportunity to honor someone they’re grateful for every day. Dad reminds you of warm approval, strong godly character, firm discipline, and vibrant faith. You don’t know how good you got it but you know it’s good. Fathers possess incredible power over their children, for good or for ill, and a new generation of Christian fathers are emerging with very poor role models. Is it possible to redeem your patriarchal past? How do you respond to your father while edging out on the ice of fatherhood yourself?

What to Do with a Not So Great Dad

St. Augustine had great Mom and a not so great Dad. Throughout his Confessions, (a Western classic every Christian should read), Augustine reflects on his mother’s prayerful faithfulness and his dad’s worldliness. In a passage in Book 2, he extols his father for providing for his education in literature and rhetoric. He notes that his father took great pains to secure the necessary finances. It is hard to imagine the Western Church without an educated Augustine. His books, ideas, and turns of phrase have been admired by many, believer and non.

Augustine shows us how to honor our fathers, even when they were less than honorable.

Augustine shows us how to honor our fathers, even when they were less than honorable. Even if your father was absent and just cut a check for child support, at least he did that. Instead of ripping cynically on his absent Dad, he shows us how to carry out the Christian principle of “honor your father” by searching for anything positive and honoring him for that.

But what about his Dad’s absence, or worse, his very real, damaging presence?

Augustine describes his father’s neglect: “father took no pains as to how I was growing up before you [God], or as to how chaste I was, as long as I was cultivated in speech, even though I was a desert, uncultivated for you, O God, who are the one true and good Lord of that field which is my heart.”

Though he received a financial deposit, Augustine was raised in spiritual poverty by his father. His father approved winkingly over his sexual exploits, a badge of manhood. He sent his son in the wrong direction. Dad held the career high–a rhetorician–and Christ low. Augustine repeatedly reflects on his struggle with mistresses and sexual temptation remarking that he was “in love with love.”

Moving Beyond Dad Issues

Until he was conquered by a holy love: “You love, but are not inflamed with passion; you are jealous, yet free from care…who will help me, so that you will come into my heart and inebriate it, to the end that I may forget my evils and embrace you, my one good?

The prison of his father’s neglect was redeemed by the Heavenly Father’s attentive concern. Evils were slowly blotted out from his memory in the presence of the one, true Good. The way we move beyond our Dad issues isn’t to bury them, but to carry them to the Redeemer.

When I was preparing to become a father for the first time, I asked a good father friend for advice. He said, “Be a good Dad by being a good son.” He was saying that fatherhood is less about technique and more about identity.

Be a good Dad by being a good son.

The more a man settles into the perfect love of God, the more his fathering becomes an approximation of the perfect Father. The more rooted you are in God’s approval, the more inclined you are to give it to your kids. The more you are aware of the holiness of God, the more you will call your children into his holiness–cultivating their soul. The more you are aware of God’s unfathomable grace, the more quick you will be to extend it to your children.

Fatherhood is less about technique and more about identity.

Dad, you have an opportunity to cultivate the soul of the next generation. You can point them to the “one true and good Lord of that field which is their heart.” You don’t have to be enough for them because God already is enough. Cultivate your soul and act like your heavenly Father toward your kids. Teach them the gospel, repent quickly, and be present–no perfection required–Jesus has that covered.

Be a good son, and you’ll be a good Dad.

 

Reading for 1 Corinthians

I’ve been reading 1 Corinthians a lot in preparation for preaching through it the rest of the year. If 1 Timothy lays the foundation for the church, 1 Corinthians builds a distinct community on top of that foundation, and it does so amidst a pluralistic culture swirling with the idolatries of knowledge, power, status, sex, and wealth.

1 Corinthians is practical theology par excellence. Every ethical exhortation is rooted in rich gospel thought. Ethical issues are treated with backwards Christology (cross) and forward Christology (new creation). The letter is retrieves old testament theology and, to use Richard Hays’ phrase, converts the imagination to think out the story of God in a way that resocializes them to live distinctly in their culture. Everything is here: biblical theology, practical issues, cultural engagement, pastoral wisdom, and Christ crucified and risen. Here are a few books I’m reading to help me understand and preach this letter well:

A Reader’ Greek New Testament 

This is a great version of the GNT with words that occur less than 30 times defined in the footnotes.

The Theology of First Corinthians

Victor Furnish does a nice job with the theology arguing that the gospel drives everything in this letter. I also have three others in this series including Green’s Luke and Bauckham’s on Revelation and have loved them both.

First Corinthians: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching

Richard Hays, one of my favorite NT authors, does biblical theology that inspires you.

Conflict & Community in Corinth 

Ben Witherington, especially good on Greco-Roman backgrounds.

The First Epistle to the Corinthians 

A heavy weight scholar with masterful exegetical skills and great detail. Eye-crossing at times.