My Top 5 Movies of 2017

It was a great year for film. Narrowing down to a top five was difficult, and I still haven’t seen Phantom Thread, Mudbound, The Shape of Water. I’m including a variety of genres. I am not saying these will all win Oscars, but what I am saying is I liked them a lot, and why.

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Wind River – This film immerses the viewer in an unfamiliar landscape, the frozen tundra of an Indian Reservation in Wyoming, a bleak context for an awful crime. The wintry elements almost act like another character, as sexual assault, the power of male friendship in grief, acute pain of loss, and the zeal for justice fuse for a powerful viewing experience, especially if you have daughters. I cried three times.

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Colossal – One of the most creative films I’ve seen in a while, Colossal explores deep human longing through Hathaway’s unknowing ability to control a monster ravaging Seoul, with her motions. It imitates her! Is this a projection of her dark side, a sign there is a power behind our every action, or something else? It’s funny too.

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3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – When I saw the trailer, I thought, “There’s no way I’m seeing that movie.” I went out of deference to my brother on his birthday, and I ended up getting a gift! Wow, I know this film is taking some critical heat, but I thought it was incredible. The story-telling is Cohenesque and the humor hard-hitting. Knockout performances by Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell. The abrupt shift from tragedy to humor, makes you question your laugh, but think about the point. The film exposes something narrow and deeply selfish about what we often perceive to be personal injustice.

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Bladerunner – Granted, I am a sci-fi fan and loved the first Bladerunner. The film explores what it means to be human from three main vantage points, while giving the viewer stunning landscapes, surreal futuristic urban activity, and intriguing plot line. But it is slow.

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The Florida Project – Heartbreaking depiction of post-urban poor mother living in a motel with her daughter. Bria Vinaite best actress? This film will flatten you emotionally, by putting you in touch with heartache and sorrow of a desperate mother.

Action After the Sermon

It’s easy to go to a church gathering. It’s easy to sit and listen to a thirty to forty minute sermon. It’s easy to take communion and receive forgiveness for our sins. What’s hard is valuing all of that, putting it to work to show the real treasure of God’s Word in our lives. We may want to avoid obedience because we think it’s more rewarding, but it never is. Or we may think we’ll be more secure if we don’t take the Word to heart and risk acting. Or we may think we need more insight, but more often than not we need action, to act on the insight that’s been given, to express the obedience of faith, which shows the difference Christ really makes.

David Jackman’s comment is helpful:

Our problem is that we often fail to act as we know we should because we do not believe sufficiently to launch out on the bare word of our promising God. Yet nothing can be more certain or secure. When God applies his word to our lives in regard to something he is calling us to do, we must begin to do it, in the strength that he supplies, as soon as we can. Our temptation is to wait and then ask for further light, without acting on the light he has already given us. But all I need to do for my heart to Harden after.God has spoken in his word, is…nothing! A life that trusts and obey is a life that he can use.

– Joshua: People of Gods’ Purpose, 31

My 3 Favorite Coffees of 2017

Since moving to Austin over a decade ago, coffeeshops have filled the streets about as quickly as high-rise condos have populated the skyline. You’ll find one of these below. Since using a Breville espresso machine, I’ve begun to favor beans that make for a great espresso. The fact that I’ve limited myself to a coffee a day over the past year has made me even more picky (although I’ve splurged a bit the last month!). All of these can be used to make a great cup of coffee and would be a great gift for a coffee lover.

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Irving Coffee Roasters: Blackstrap – This espresso is rich, molasses-caramel, heavy-in-the-best-of-ways goodness. A favorite from NYC and worth ordering every single time.

 

large_b24823b1-233e-4b86-80a5-fcb592e1d33eCounter Culture46 – In addition to having a cool, pastel, no-nonsense compostable bag, this bean is smooth, smokey, and dark chocolate. Not as dark as Blackstrap, it’s a great everyday bean. Its name comes from the 46th recipe Counter Culture created.

 

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TweedTimepiece – This coffee is from the most-expensive, sheik coffeeshop in Austin, Houndstooth, with its original store located in the downtown Frost Tower. These guys take coffee seriously, and it shows. Timepiece manages to combine the caramel I love with a brightness that keeps it from being too heavy.

5 Ways Seminary Equipped Me for Ministry

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  • Biblical Epistemology – My prolegomena helped me grasp how a Biblical worldview in intellectually credible. The writings of John Frame and N.T Wright on critical realism helped me grasp a way of looking at the world that is neither naive or nihilist. We can perceive what is true, through reason, the Spirit, and the Word, but not all we say is true.

 

This enabled me to press into a pluralistic context like Austin, Texas with the requisite humility and confidence.

 

  • Systematic Theology – Showed me how the Bible is theologically coherent. Apparent contradictions and various texts can be harmonized to tell us something about the nature, character, and purposes of God.

 

This enabled me to know God and answer some of the big questions regarding suffering, evil, election and so on.

  • Hermeneutics – Enabled me to read and interpret texts well through propositional analysis, grammar, syntax, genre and so on. Discourse analysis was paradigm-shifting for me and taught me how to reason much better (Thank you Dr. Roy Ciampa!).

 

This enabled me to read the Bible and other books well, to reason well cultural texts and claims, as well as biblical ones.

 

  • Biblical Exegesis – I got to apply hermeneutics to the whole Bible with the guardrails of mentors in order to understand the author’s intent. Lots of Bible. I added a second degree to get more practice and more Bible! In particular, Greg Beale’s categories for OT in NT exegesis helped me grasp how to make sense of what the NT authors do with the OT.

 

This launched me into the difficult task of showing the church, through preaching, that the two testaments are a whole. 

 

  • Biblical Theology – The above led me to read diachronically not just systematically, to read along the grain of Scripture so that the grand narrative of Creation-Fall-Redemption-New Creation is always my framework and Christ is at the center. Meredith Kline, Greg Beale, Sean McDonough were all a great help in this. Monotheistic Christology, the understanding that “Jesus is Lord” places Christ into the identity of YWHW simply blew my mind and still does.

 

That is gospel-Centered and led to a a consistent practice of challenging cultural notions of authority with the authority of Christ, basically preaching and teaching and discipling and counseling people into Jesus as King, not just as Savior