Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Blog is Moving

Hey all, 

I am moving my blog to Wordpress. It is going to be the same great content, just with a new host. I hope you will all follow me. This is the new link - Looking forward to many more years of blogging. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Owl Post 2-20-2012

As You Wish: The Princess Bride: 
I asked our readers what I should watch (and review) for Valentine’s Day, and The Princess Bride was nominated. Some people in my college dorm watched the film back in 1991 ad nauseum and put a bad taste in my mouth for this 1987 Rob Reiner movie, but the reality remains that the fanciful film is an enduring classic for men and women, boys and girls of all ages in all ages. Examining the narrative, is it any wonder why? Link
Learning to Stand: 
My recent studies of Ephesians have marked me deeply. It may be that the most important application to my life has been in the awareness of Satan’s work around me and, on that basis, learning how to stand firm. Ephesians 6 is a powerful call to be aware of the enemy and his army; it teaches that there is an enemy who devotes his entire existence to the destruction of God’s work and God’s people. Every Christian is engaged in battle against him. Link
The 'Safe, Legal, Rare' Illusion: 
AMID the sound and fury of the latest culture-war battles — first over breast cancer dollars and Planned Parenthood, and then over the White House’s attempt to require that religious employers cover contraception and potential abortifacients — it’s easy to forget that there is at least some common ground in American politics on sex, pregnancy, marriage and abortion. Link
An Open Letter to Praise Bands: 
"Dear Praise Band,
I so appreciate your willingness and desire to offer up your gifts to God in worship. I appreciate your devotion and celebrate your faithfulness--schlepping to church early, Sunday after Sunday, making time for practice mid-week, learning and writing new songs, and so much more. Like those skilled artists and artisans that God used to create the tabernacle (Exodus 36), you are willing to put your artistic gifts in service to the Triune God." Link

Friday, February 17, 2012

Owl Post 2-17-12

Why Jesus Wants You to Lose Hope:
"In Mark 10, a young rich man eagerly comes to Jesus. He is a winner who does not want to give up trying to win. The good thing about him is that he has a desire for something more, something beyond worldly winning. He asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Link
Film Nerd 2.0 looks at Star Wars on Blu-Ray:
"This day has been a long time coming.
We all have landmarks by which we measure our lives and our accomplishments, goals you've set for yourself that you've either accomplished or not, and I'm certainly someone who holds film experiences very dear. The moment I knew I'd spend the rest of my life somehow involved in movies took place in a dark movie theater when I was seven years old, and it was one of those lightning bolt occasions. I felt pinned to the back of my chair as I watched a tiny blockade runner fleeing from a seemingly endless Star Destroyer that just kept coming out and over, more real than anything I had ever seen, and I've never wavered in my determination to be involved in storytelling somewhere, somehow." Each one of these entries is a priceless look at sharing the things that we grew up with, with our children. Very much worth reading the read. I, II, III, IV, V, VI 
Bad Art Doesn't Exist Apart from the Good:
''I'm not trying to draw badly. I'm just trying to draw without any consideration of craft,'' says David Shrigley, whose "unsteady freehand" drawings were recently featured in The New York Times Magazine. I could hear Tom Wolfe whisper in my ear, "That's the sound of a man who wants you to think he's unconscious of his own brilliance." Link
The Problem With Going Green:
"A favorite trick of people who consider themselves friends of the environment is reframing luxury consumption preferences as gifts to humanity. A new car, a solar-powered swimming-pool heater, a 200-mile-an-hour train that makes intercity travel more pleasant and less expensive, better-tasting tomatoes—these are the sacrifices we're prepared to make for the future of the planet." Link
Cormac McCarthy: Judges in the American Canon:
David Powlison, Russell Moore, and Eugene Peterson are just a few church leaders who have recognized how literature helps us understand relationships, stories, and language. Reading opens us to worlds, experiences, and perspectives that simply can't be explored any other way. Link
Forgiving Don Draper: 
"A laudably contrarian view of Mad Men appeared in the recent issue of The New York Review of Books by Daniel Mendelsohn, “The Mad Men Account,” raising a number of important questions before making a remarkable and even rather touching conclusion, namely, that the real subtext of the show is an attempt by boomer children to come to terms with, and maybe even forgive, their parents." Be sure to check out the article they linked from the The New York Review of Books. Link
Komen, Planned Parenthood and You: 
"The uproar over the Komen Foundation/Planned Parenthood debacle from a few weeks ago has led to a lot of dialogue about abortion, women’s health, and conscience. Few have provided better or more thoughtful analysis than Russell Moore or Ross Douthat." Link
Marilynne Robinson, The Art of Fiction No. 198:
"When Marilynne Robinson published her first novel, Housekeeping, in 1980, she was unknown in the literary world. But an early review in The New York Times ensured that the book would be noticed. “It’s as if, in writing it, she broke through the ordinary human condition with all its dissatisfactions, and achieved a kind of transfiguration,” wrote Anatole Broyard, with an enthusiasm and awe that was shared by many critics and readers. The book became a classic, and Robinson was hailed as one of the defining American writers of our time. Yet it would be more than twenty years before she wrote another novel." Just an amazing interview with one of America's premiere authors. Link
Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books:
"I ended by liking Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books. I came to the conclusion, well before the final chapters, that this book has something helpful in it for all kinds of people." I have not read this book yet, but I hope too. It does seem to promote all the things that I believe about Christians and literature. Link

Darth Maul Returns

Get More: MTV Shows

Friday, February 10, 2012

Jesus+Nothing=Everything - Review

Tullian Tchividjian
Wheaton: Crossway, 2011 220 pages $18.99

To follow Jesus and grow as a Christian, to give up all the world offers us, we must see the overwhelming value of the gospel and what God has done through Christ. We cannot truly change unless we understand the weight of the gospel in our lives. This is the focused message of Jesus+Nothing=Everything.

Tchividjian uses this formula as the backbone of the book; looking at each part, starting with everything and working to Jesus, then backtracking to talk through it all again. This means that he drives home his point effectively by giving us the time to digest what he is saying because we hear it again and again. The main thrust of the book is that our lives need to be gospel focused and centered and that it is only by gaining a deeper and richer understanding of what Christ has done that one can truly grow.
“The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of ourselves and our performance and more of Jesus and his performance for us. Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better, we actually get worse. We become neurotic and self absorbed. Preoccupation with our effort instead of with God’s effort for us makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.”(95)
It is only when we believe and trust in the new identity that God has given us, through the life and work of Christ, that we can let go of our self and actually grow.

The natural question that arises from all this talk of grace is, “What about the law and the commands of God?” Tchividjian answers this way:
“Therefore, it’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey comes from being moved and motivated by the complete work of Jesus for us. The fuel to do good flows from what’s already been done. So again, while the law directs us, only the gospel can drive us.”(192)

Considering this topic is foundational to the Christian faith, the author doesn't expect his book to be exhaustive on the topic. He provides a list of twenty-six books on the gospel for further study. At the end of the book Tchividjian says, “So relax and rejoice. Jesus plus nothing equals everything; everything minus Jesus equal nothing.” This reminds us of what Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”(Matthew 10:39 ESV) 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Owl Post: 2-3-2012

More great links from this week. Hope you enjoy!

Searching for Paradise in the Descendants:
"Ever since the events of Genesis 3, we've hungered to return home. It's the impulse that sent explorers out to the ends of the earth. It's what Ponce de Leon looked for in Florida, what Cortez searched for amongst the Aztecs, and what sent Cheng Ho out from China into the Indian Ocean. It was promised to Israel as a land of milk and honey, and promised again to the church as the city of God." Link
The Elephant Room:
"There was a lot of controversy and fall out from this years Elephant Room; (if you don't know what I'm talking about you can check it out here. This has added to the number of links for this section. So here are some the best that I read this last week." Tim Raymond, Justin TaylorKevin DeYoungThabiti Anyabwileand Don Carson and Tim Keller 
Respecting the (Enemy) Dead:
"Much has been made lately of the video circulated the Web that purportedly shows U.S. Marines urinating on dead men, presumably Taliban fighters killed by the Marines." Link 
West Toward Home:
"IN HER NOVELS AND in her nonfiction essays, Marilynne Robinson's questions are always roughly the same: Who are we, and where did we come from? The first is a matter of metaphysics, the second of history. At least since the publication of her first collection of essays, The Death of Adam (1998), Robinson has been making it her business to remind us that these questions are not yet settled." Link
Citing Attacks, Christians Fear Losing Freedoms:
"CAIRO – From her home in a labyrinth of stonewalled alleyways, Samia Ramsis holds a key chain bearing the face of the Virgin Mary as she sits in her yellow pajamas on the morning of Orthodox Christmas." Link
Watch Your Conjunctions in Parenting:
"I love you, but you need to obey." 
Every English-speaking parent has said that phrase at some point or another. It's our attempt as parents to express commitment to our children even as we require them to obey: "I love you despite anything you do, but you also need to obey what I tell you." Link
The Coming Tech Boom...Or Babel:
"There’s a technological transformation coming that will revolutionize this century the way the telephone, electricity and automobiles altered the one before." Link
Gender Liberation:
"Numerous stories have emerged recently about parents who have chosen to raise their children as "gender neutral." The parents have received widespread criticism with many questioning whether they have a political motive and are just using their children to enforce their own agendas." Link
The Media’s Abortion Blinders:
IN the most recent Gallup poll on abortion, as many Americans described themselves as pro-life as called themselves pro-choice. A combined 58 percent of Americans stated that abortion should either be “illegal in all circumstances” or “legal in only a few circumstances.” These results do not vary appreciably by gender: in the first Gallup poll to show a slight pro-life majority, conducted in May 2009, half of American women described themselves as pro-life. Link

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Missional Life

I just finished this book and I find myself having to think through the issues it brought up a lot. I was going to write out a review, but I feel that this review on The Gospel Coalition website does a much better job than I could. 

What is funny, is that this review is what prompted me to read the book in the first place. My work is to helping people find missions opportunities and I thought that this would be a good read. So, I recommend this book; it is going to make you think and challenge you. Revel in that challenge, because how we portray the gospel to the world will benefit from deep thought and in rethinking our presuppositions to make sure that we are in line with the reign and will of God.    

Also please visit RightNow Trader Stories to learn more about missions opportunities. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Owl Post

Owl Post is something new. I come across a lot of things that I think are worth sharing from the web and so each week I will link them here. Hope you enjoy it!

Picture Prefect Marriage : 
"This morning I am going to begin just a short series of articles on marriage. Having read several books on marriage in the past few months, I found myself really intrigued by what Paul says about the topic in his letter to the Ephesians. I’ve since had the opportunity to study it and wanted to share what I’ve learned along the way." Part one, Part two, Part three
Government and Its Rivals: 
"WHEN liberals are in a philosophical mood, they like to cast debates over the role of government not as a clash between the individual and the state, but as a conflict between the individual and the community. Liberals are for cooperation and joint effort; conservatives are for self-interest and selfishness. Liberals build the Hoover Dam and the interstate highways; conservatives sit home and dog-ear copies of “The Fountainhead.” Liberals know that it takes a village; conservatives pretend that all it takes is John Wayne." Link.
The End Has Come For Chuck: 
"Chuck's five-year plan has reached its end.
On Friday, series creators Josh Schwartz and Chris Fedak saw the end of their beloved spy comedy that inspired nerd culture and Subway sandwich diets. True to form, they still kept up with the fans who made the continuation of the series possible."
What We do in the Face of Suffering:
"For many people living in the West where the cultural bias is towards an expectation of everybody being healthy and living longer, sickness readily becomes seen as the main focus of one’s “suffering”. But, suffering is a far broader concept than struggling with physical, emotional or mental illness." Link This is an amazing paper on the subject of suffering; it is long, but it is well worth the time.
 5 Things We Do Today Instead of Preaching the Word:
"I wish I could tell you that most pastors are preaching the Word. I can’t—some are not. Here are five things we may choose to do instead of preaching the Word." Link 
Well that should do it for now. Look for more every week.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Out of the Shadows

I love heroes and I love books. I also love what I can learn about life, spiritually and otherwise, from a well written story. If I was a better writer(or thinker), these posts are the kinds of things that I would like to have written. There is so much that we can learn from the world around us if we would just learn to think critically. If I wring out the things that I consume in the world through the filter of a Scriptural worldview, how much might I learn? Thomas Torrance says, 
"It is incumbent upon us, therefore, to relate the actual order we find in the world to the redemptive order which lies at the heart of the Christian message. In the Christian faith we look for a new order in which the damaged order, or the disorder that inexplicably arises in the world, will be healed through a creative reordering of existence as it is reconciled to its ultimate ground in the creative love of God." 
In beginning to look at the world through this lens, I am introduced to whole new ways to acquire the keys to the kingdom.  God can teach through anything and because of this I have more reasons to praise because his truth is evident in so much more than I have given him credit for, "For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made...". Even in comic books and fantasy stories, the light of the truth can shine. What I am seeing is a shadow of the eternal; so I challenge you, where are you seeing a shadow?

This is an amazing look at the Star Wars Saga as a whole and how it can teach us about our relationship with God. I was really blown away by these posts and it has helped me enjoy all six films all the more.

There is not greater series that I have read in the last ten years than Harry Potter. It has been such a force in literature and in film; it is hard to realize that it is over. What has been most fascinating for me to see has been the reaction in the Christian community change in relation to the series. The church is beginning to see how many parallels and lessons that are in Harry mirror what is seen in Scripture. For more on this read,"How Harry Cast His Spell" by John Granger.

This is a look at the Caped Crusader and the philosophical, historical and theological underpinnings of the character. I read this one before the Superman series and it is what got me hooked and then searching for more, in-depth analysis of my favorite heroes. This is also an ongoing series, so be sure to check back for more!

Adam West
Michael Keaton
Val Kilmer
George Clooney 
Christian Bale
Kevin Conroy 

And not to be outdone, the original; Superman. He is my favorite superhero and the one I find people have the hardest time relating to. This unique and complicated hero is the foundation for all superheroes today and has a special connection with those of us in America since he fights for truth, justice and the American way. But what happens when the American way is not the best? 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Boy Who Lived

The last Harry Potter film has finally come to homes and it has given me a chance to re-watch and think again about the difference between the films and the books. For the most part, I have been able to understand the changes that haven been made for the cinema; but in the last film, the last few minutes, really left out some of the most important elements and themes that, I believe, Rowling has poured into her masterpiece. 
In the movie, Harry goes to the Forbidden forest to meet his doom. He knows that he has been marked for death and has excepted that by his death, others might survive. Harry knows he has been kept alive to die at the right time. So Harry dies, but as we all know, he comes back and defeats Voldemort for good. The main problem is that the movie lacks all the nuances that makes Harry’s death so important. Harry’s death, in the book, means so much more than a final showdown and the end of an evil person. Harry’s death stands in for something deeper and much more mythic than just defeating the “bad guy”. This was the place where the film fails its source material and audience the most. 
“Harry understood at last that he was not supposed to survive. His job was to walk calmly into Death’s welcoming arms.” In the book Harry calmly walks into the forest and faces death. It is in this moment that he does the one thing that Voldemort could never do, face death and not be afraid. Harry has learned that there are more important things than living and that death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person. In all of Voldemort’s scheming and work to escape death only Harry will become it’s master. Harry goes willingly to death, he sacrifices himself for others, he lays down his life, like his mother, for the good of those he loves. In the end Harry defeats death by death.    
In the movie, the full affect of Harry’s sacrifice is not seen, and in the end, it does a disservice to all those who watch. 
“And his knowledge remained woefully incomplete, Harry! That which Voldemort does not value, he takes no trouble to comprehend. Of house-elves and children’s tales, of love loyalty and innocence, Voldemort knows and understands nothing. Nothing. That they all have a power beyond his own, a power beyond the reach of any magic, is a truth he never grasped. " Rowling goes on to explain this in the final showdown. Harry taunts Voldemort and fully explains his failings and deep misunderstanding of the world around him. Harry’s death has much more meaning than the end to an evil dictator, he has bought life from death. “You won’t be killing anyone else tonight,” said Harry as they circled, and they stared into each others eyes, green into red. “You won’t be able to kill any of them, ever again. Don’t you get it? I was ready to die to stop you hurting these people-”  
“But you did not!"
 “-I meant to, and that’s what did it. I’ve done what my mother did. They’re protected from you. Haven’t you noticed how none of the spells you put on them are binding? You can’t torture them. You can’t touch them. You don’t learn from your mistakes, Riddle, do you?"
This pivotal moment in the book is missing from the movie and cheapens the power of Harry’s death. Harry’s love is greater and more powerful than Voldemort’s ambition, hate and cruelty. And it is not just Harry’s love, but the love of his mother and Snape that have played Voldemort for a fool. Another moment that leaves a character not as strong as he is in the book is the moment that Harry explains how Snape’s love has made all of this possible. “Severus Snape wasn’t yours,” said Harry. “Snape was Dumbledore’s, Dumbledore’s from the moment you started hunting down my mother. And you never realised it, because of the thing you can’t understand.” 
Voldemort has no understanding or comprehension of love. 
In all this talk of love and the true meaning of death, Rowling is saying something. She is linking her myth with a much more powerful and much “deeper magic” than is seen in the film. J.R.R Tolkien says this about myth, 
“We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming 'sub-creator' and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall. Our myths may be misguided, but they steer however shakily towards the true harbour, while materialistic 'progress' leads only to a yawning abyss and the Iron Crown of the power of evil.” 
It is in myth making that we can understand the true reality. Tolkien goes on to explain further, 
I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man's history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the ‘inner consistency of reality.’ There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.”
 The Apostle Paul speaks of these things that Harry dimly reflects, 
For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
What Rowling has written connects us with something that runs deep and mythic, it points to the greater reality, the meta-narrative that we are all a part of. There is a story that we are all involved in and when we respond to certain works of fiction or a good film it is because it is touching something innate and fundamental to the reality of the world. C.S. Lewis puts it this way, “In the enjoyment of a great myth we come nearest to expressing as a concrete what can otherwise be understood only as an abstraction...It is only while receiving the myth as a story that you experience the principle concretely” While I love the Harry Potter films, in missing this key element, they have taken away the true power of the story, it’s connection with the profound reality of the universe. And I believe this is the reason that so many people, from all walks of life, all over the world have fallen in love with, “the boy who lived”. 
All quotes from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" from the Bloomsbury edition, 2007