Posted by LT in on December 23, 2012
Posted by LT in on July 26, 2012
We had a rainy day up at the cabin and ended up watching the latest popular “Christian” movie Courageous. The movie came highly recommended by some of my friends. I have to admit I would have approached the whole experience with a critical eye. I like good movies. My wife and I like to get out of the house go for a nice supper and catch a good flick. We heavily rely on Rotten Tomatoes to filter out the brutal movies and rarely indulge in anything that isn’t “certified fresh.” We don’t always see things the same way as the critics in both directions. It has on more than one occasion led to us a fine evening of lesser known indie films at the Roxy Theatre.
You can tell Courageous has the same kind production values as the decent indie films which is kind of nice. One of the big action scenes was actually kind of engaging. The acting was uneven but at least it was acceptable in parts. The preachy dialog made me wince a few times.
In the movie several characters make a public resolution
to be better men, husbands and fathers.
My first thought is: isn’t the commitment to be Christ’s disciple enough? If it isn’t then why not? It reminds me of the commitments I would make in my younger days. Commitments and resolutions to quit certain bad habits, listening to the wrong kind of music and indulging in the wrong kind of entertainment. These commitments were usually made in spiritual afterglow of some kind of youth conference with a dynamic challenging speaker. After enduring a few years of this it became thoroughly tiresome. The commitment would last a few weeks, a few months, or maybe even a year. Then I would fail. I didn’t have the willpower left. Despite all my efforts to do it “in God’s strength” it was clear that it wasn’t happening. It seems as though “in God’s strength” meant doing all kinds of spiritual activities in my strength or order to “ability activate” God’s strength in order to attain a new level of victory! In the end it looked a lot like my strength all over again.
As I think about it even deeper I’m not sure the language of commitment is always helpful. It so easily falls in to the trap of willing oneself to a pattern of good conduct without actually becoming anything different. I can make a commitment to be like Christ without knowing Christ.
While Christian art is rarely subtle there are subtle undertones in the teaching of this movie. The unspoken message is this “you are not enough.” You are not enough of a man, you are not enough of a father, and you are not enough of a husband. Christ died to accept your punishment for not being enough, now you must now curry his favour and blessing by becoming enough.
Don’t think so? Watch this.
And we are inviting any man whose heart is willing and courageous to join us in this resolution.
In my home, the decision has already been made. You don’t have to ask who will guide my family because by God’s grace, I will. You don’t have to ask who will teach my son (and daughter) to follow Christ because I will. Who will accept the responsibility of providing for and protecting my family? I will. Who will ask God to break the chain of destructive patterns in my family’s history? I will. Who will pray for and bless my children to boldly pursue whatever God calls them to do? I am their father…I will. I accept this responsibility, and it is my privilege to embrace it.
I want the favor of God and His blessing on my home. Any good man does. So where are you men of courage? Where are you, fathers who fear the Lord? It’s time to rise up and answer the call God has given you, and to say, I will! I will! I will!
Grace as described in the New Testament is charis and it means unmerited favour. In this movie grace is understood as something we invoke to enable us to live a holy life. This is where the great disconnect happens. God’s grace does transform us but it has always been unmerited and unearned. There is a vast chasm of difference between receiving God’s grace and trying to activate it. One involves human effort and striving. The other involves surrender, transparency and accepting oneself in their own brokenness. One leads to shame instead of wholeness, self-denial instead of true maturity, and ultimately fruitlessness instead of abundant life.
How does one tell the difference between striving and surrendering? Someone who is striving is trying to live up to a standard and needs God’s help to do it. Someone who has surrendered knows they will never live up to the standard and is actually strengthened by knowing they are loved anyway. The true essence of holiness is love. One doesn’t love until they know love. Knowing how much God loves you also changes how you view others. Everyone becomes worthy, everyone. The love of God lives inside you and now the “righteous requirement of the law” is fulfilled because you don’t need rules to guide your conduct, your love guides you.
The message of this movie is you should be ashamed for not being better. God will judge you therefore be courageous enough to make this commitment. Man Up and activate the favour and blessing of God in order to become better. It doesn’t work and it can’t work. It does nothing more than pile on more shame which makes you believe you are unworthy, unloved and distant from God. It undercuts the work of grace and leaving you fruitless. The message of Christ is that even while you were dead in your sins you were always worth something to God and never ever beyond his love. While God was once separate from you by the blood of Christ he has brought you near, he has always been with you and always will be with you because he decided you were worth being with. If you could just accept his love by faith, it would restore your relationship with him and you no longer have to be afraid.
Posted by LT in on July 22, 2012
Gun control! My few thoughts on what we should be thinking about in the aftermath of the shootings. Knee jerk reactions blaming our favourite targets (lack of gun control, poor parenting, lack of mental health services etc…) are easy but we really should find out all the facts in this case. The alleged shooter was using a semi-automatic rifle which apparently jammed forcing him to switch guns. In Canada one can legally acquire semi-automatic rifles. I don’t know that a similar shooter couldn’t have accomplished the same thing in Canada. Did we forget about the shooting in Toronto just a little while ago?
The big question we should ask is why so many Americans shoot each other relative to the rest of the world? In Canada we have lots of guns too, we just don’t use them on each other with anywhere near the same frequency. Sometimes the appeal for new restrictive laws is just a distraction from the real problem. I don’t honestly know why Americans shoot each other so much.
A friend of mine told me that even the American military doesn’t have their assault rifles set to full automatic. (I haven’t confirmed this elsewhere). The popular theory is that our friends to the south are so trigger happy they waste too much ammunition on full auto. Is gun culture the issue rather than lack of gun control?
Like the vast majority of people on this planet I don’t believe the American constitution is a moral authority on firearms. I know American’s get all choked up about it but most of it is a few hundred years old. The original notion was that the people could resist oppression by their government. Now I don’t know what good even an assault rifle would be against the American military. In an even more absurd twist more American’s believe they have a right to have a gun than actually bother to vote. The best way to resist a drift towards an oppressive government would be become an active and politically engaged electorate. I think it is backwards to watch their government implement more and more restrictive controls and monitoring, some of which have been constitutionally suspect, while caring so much about owning guns. That is unless people love guns for some other reason. Which I think is the case.
Why do American’s love guns? I think one explanation is that Americans are more polarized than other mature democracies. They trust their government less and have less confidence in law enforcement. They feel they need to defend themselves more than a Canadian, Brit or Australian.
In the wake the tragedy many gun advocates proclaimed that the situation in that theater would have resolved itself quicker if someone else had a gun. A somewhat fanciful notion. What if 4 other people had guns and they started shooting each other in the confusion? Would law enforcement know who to shoot?
I don’t know the way forward, but I am worried about this. The societal and political discourse in America continues to grow less rational and more polarized. This could lead to more defensiveness, fear and gun conflict.
Posted by LT in on July 10, 2012
I’m intrigued by Kickstarter. It is a “crowd source” approach to raising funds for purely creative projects. People put come up with a creative project. It could be a video game, novel or movie or whatever. They put up a profile on the website. People pledge money to the project. The project owners get the money pledged to them if they reach their funding goals.
What if the church could fund authors, theologians and missionaries the same way? Instead of using traditional publishing we could directly fund an author who could open source their work or give electronic versions away to people in the developing world? This way we could fund quality work that can be shared without all the hang ups of publishers and intellectual property?
Posted by LT in on July 9, 2012
I know that the contemporary “douche bag” is the 80′s “chotch.”
Personally I don’t thinking everything has changed for the better since my childhood.
Posted by LT in on March 13, 2012
Here is an interesting little group of statistics discussed at TWW.
In a recent Time Magazine article some interesting statics were revealed. In America 16% of people identified themselves as having no religious affiliation in a 2009 survey but only 4% identified themselves as athiests or agnostics. So 12% of the American population believes in God but does not identify with religion or church. A little less than half of the unaffiliated (40%) claimed to believe in God, pray and had a desire find the right “religious” home.
Breaking this down with numbers based on the population of the United States of 307 million as of July 2009.
16% unaffiliated would be 49 million people.
4% are athiests or agnostics: 12 million
The unaffiliated spiritual/religious people: 19.6 million. Of these spiritual people we might guess that 3/4 of the unaffiliated are Christians given than 76% of American identified themselves as Christians. It is a guess but not an unreasonable one.
That leaves 14.7 million Christian Americans that have given up on institutional church.
If they were a denomination they would be the second largest in America behind the Roman Catholic church with 25.1 million. The SBC claims to have 16 million members but only 15.8 million American identify as Baptist in general…so their claims are suspicious.
The number of the unaffiliated is growing and has doubled since 1990.
Posted by LT in on March 10, 2012
I love it when people actually talk about principles rather than partisan attacks.
Posted by LT in on February 26, 2012
It has been 10 years since my best friend of most of the first half of my life died. It has been over 6 years since I married the person he married and began to help raise his children. I miss Mike in many ways. He was a lot of fun, and if was still around I’m sure that we would still be having a lot of fun. In some ways it is kind of a difficult thing to think about as I have no idea how my life would have turned out if things didn’t happen the way they did.
I was at bible school when Mike died. I received a call from an old friend informing me that Mike had died suddenly. After about 10 minutes of processing the shock I jumped in the car and headed home…next door to where Mike lived. My mind rushed with thoughts of promises made long ago. The situation was subdued when I arrived. Carol and the kids were gone. I sat and chatted with my roommates. It takes a while before the reality of such major events sets in.
That night I walked across the 12 or so feet that separated my door from his and entered their lonely house. We had a key for emergencies and such. I remember sitting on the steps of the stairway experiencing a peace about the whole situation. Little did I know at the time that was the exact spot where Mike took his last few breaths. I remember fondly the times I shared with many of our mutual friends as we cherished our memories of Mike together at the viewing and the funeral. There was lot of great stuff to cherish and remember about Mike. We mourned, we grieved, and we laughed. I have to remember to have a few words with him about how heavy his casket was…just about pulled my shoulder out carrying him on a frosty winter’s day.
I had no idea how much this event would change my life. Carol and I had a on again, off again relationship. We both had baggage to work through and I’m glad we did. Eventually I got through some of my issues and asked her to marry me. As I walked through our relationship things seemed chaotic and irrational, but in retrospect the timing couldn’t have been better.
The challenge of leading this family together is hard enough all on its own. I’m glad we worked through what we had to. Life raising Mike’s kids hasn’t been easy. I’ve often joked that I’ve been reaping what I’ve sown. I used to tease Mike a lot, and it was probably poetic justice that I got to raise his oldest son. There has been incredible blessing even in that. I’m not just spouting of Christianese…for all the grief I’ve endured I am a much better man than I was 5 years ago. Fortunately it is getting easier and our worst fears for David have subsided. Matthew embodies a lot of what was so great about Mike and has many wonderful unique qualities as well. It is stunning sometimes to see both of them reflect different aspects of their father. David mutters under his breath in the exact same way Mike would, kind of like Fred Flintstone would. The boys always enjoy my stories, and I have many, about their father.
I’ve often said that when I reach eternity Mike will be the one to take me on my first tour. I’m pretty sure he would be able to muscle himself up to the front of the line. I won’t be able to avoid a big bear hug either.
Posted by LT in on February 14, 2012
Justin nails it. Although I wish I knew what he said in French. I don’t believe any of the crap that Justin is a conditional Canadian.
This latest internet spying bill is really invasive. Lumping opponents to the bill in with child pornographers is even more disgusting. We can’t afford to pay seniors but we can afford to build unnecessary jails to hold people and turn them in to better criminals when the crime in Canada continues to decline.
Posted by LT in on February 4, 2012
Jamie has reshared a shout out to the men who might respond to John Piper’s recent message on the “masculine flavour” of God. You can read the full text here. Mr. Piper contends that God has given Christianity a masculine flavour and defines masculinity this way:
Theology and church and mission are marked by overarching godly male leadership in the spirit of Christ, with an ethos of tender-hearted strength, and contrite courage, and risk-taking decisiveness, and readiness to sacrifice for the sake of leading, protecting, and providing for the community—all of which is possible only through the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s the feel of a great, majestic God, who by his redeeming work in Jesus Christ, inclines men to take humble, Christ-exalting initiative, and inclines women to come alongside the men with joyful support, intelligent helpfulness, and fruitful partnership in the work.
As a husband, father, church leader and author I appreciate how God’s desire for me to become fully what I’ve been created to be. I find common ground with those who find most expressions of church emasculating. I have to ask the question where does my definition of masculinity come from? Is it a sociological category, societal norm, biological expression, a product of consumer culture or theologically defined. I just pulled up my bible program, I can’t find the word masculine anywhere. Trying to define what manhood might be from scripture might be a bit scary if we are ever brave enough to venture in to the Old Testament.
We know that David told Solomon to be a man (1Ki 2:1-2). Immediately after this he told Solomon to follow the Torah and to make sure a certain someone met an untimely demise. In the book of Judges we see someone taunted Gideon to “be a man” and kill them, so he did (Jdg 8:21). Some aspects of manhood being displayed here have been superseded by Jesus’ instruction and example.
We know the definition of masculinity has changed with our culture. Over a hundred years ago many baby boys were dressed in pink, because some believed that red was a masculine colour, and masculine lite would have been pink. Defining Christianity as masculine would force us to define what version of masculinity from what culture.
Piper’s definition of masculine breaks down this way
- tender hearted strength
- contrite courage
- risk-taking decisiveness
- readiness to sacrifice
- for the sake of leading, protecting, and providing for the community
I could include “spirit of Christ” but that isn’t defined so I’m leaving it out. You know who Piper’s list reminds me of? Optimus Prime or perhaps Aragorn. When I look at this list I don’t immediately think of Christ or Paul. The same Christ who willingly walked in to his own slaughter and send his disciples out as lambs among wolves. The Christ would extoled meekness as a virtue and told men to let others exploit them. The same Paul who appeared to the Corinthians with weakness, and fear and much trembling (1Cor 2).
While Jesus was tender hearted, he rarely exhibited strength. He cleared the temple and he had spoke boldly against the religious establishment, but the lion’s share of his ministry was an expression of gentleness, mercy and grace. Paul was pushed around a lot. While certainly ready to sacrifice and was willing to take risks his interactions with the churches had a decidedly gentle tone.
Consider Paul’s words to the Thessalonians:
But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed–God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
(1Th 2:2-8 ESV)
Does Paul sound masculine or feminine here?
While it is true that Jesus was a man and he appointed men as the 12 disciples one could easily argue that such a strategy would have been advantageous given the cultural context.
Let’s consider Piper’s implied definition of feminine ministry in the church:
- joyful support
- intelligent helpfulness
- fruitful partnership
It sounds a lot like Paul’s approach to ministry.
For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.
(1Co 3:9 ESV)
But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm.
(2Co 1:24 NLT)
Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.
(Php 1:4-5 NLT)
My read of Paul in particular gives me the impression that many aspects of Christian ministry would be more typically understood as feminine.
We are all created to experience the fullness of our own humanity. Men should be what they are designed to be, as should women. Some of us fit in to nice neat categories but many do not . True grace and compassion wouldn’t reject people just because they don’t fit in to our nice neat categories. When we do we miss out on what God has for us. Thankfully the people of Israel followed Deborah in to battle. Thankfully the church embraced the Gentiles. Coming up with inflexible theologies that might even catch some aspects God’s intention for us but codify it in to a rule use to judge and impair the choices of others is not consistent with the gospel of grace.
Some aspects of masculinity are at odds with new covenant ministry. We normally associate masculinity with strength and strength, whether it be personal, physical, political, or institutional can hinder our ministry. God’s power is perfected in weakness not strength. The kingdom is like a seed that grows on its own and we don’t understand why. As Christians we must acknowledge we are completely dependent on the power of God and our own power gets in the way of that. The more typically male inclination to use coercive force through rules, judgments, or raw brute strength, especially against perceived competitors is at odds with the gospel. It leads to moralism and shame.
That is my big concern with all this masculine chest thumping. There are many men who aren’t very good men as defined by folks like Piper, Driscoll, and Eldridge. Insecure men often over compensate through other means like the pursuit of career or ministry success. Inwardly they are flooded with shame because they know they don’t measure up. Often that shame is then projected and dispensed to people all around them. Some churches are just a web of shame. People trying to live by their own strength living up to an ideal that isn’t realistic for who they are and where they came from. This striving in their own masculine strength impedes them from coming to know the powerful transformation available to them through God’s strength.