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Archive for May, 2008

 

Actor Blair Underwood said this recently:

The reality is, you can’t read all the books written on Jesus. You can’t. You can only study so much. You really have to [look] inward and speak to your soul, and open up your soul and try to connect to that higher being.

We get into big trouble when we look inside, or within, to try to come to a knowledge of Jesus. It’s actually the last place we should look. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9)  John Calvin said that the human mind is “an idol factory.” When we look within ourselves we inevitably find a “Jesus” who likes what we like, hates what we hate, and – surprise – looks just like us!

What we should do is look outside of ourselves in order to find Jesus. Underwood is right that we can’t read all of the books about Jesus, nor should we. So, where do we look? The Bible – the Word of God. Jesus Himself said in John 5:39, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  The Bible itself testifies about Jesus – who He is and what He did – on every page.

If we want to know about Jesus, we should search the Scriptures because it’s there we’ll find Him.

 

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Last Wednesday, a group of us from school went to see Prince Caspian, and I thought I’d give a review of sorts. I’m not a movie reviewer, although I was the official movie critic for my college newspaper for a semester.

First of all, I enjoyed the movie – really enjoyed it. The scenery was magnificent. The casting choices were good for the most part. The battle scenes were magnificent. The story kept my attention. It was worth the price of admission.

After I read the book, which hasn’t been that long ago, I wondered how it could be made into a movie. Of the five Narnia books I’ve finished, Prince Caspian has been my least favorite. The horn blows. The Pevensie’s are transported to a Narnia they don’t recognize. Trumpkin the dwarf fills in historical holes that consume fifty pages. They go on a long walk. Prince Caspian meets the “Narnian kings and queens of old.” A battle scene. The Pevensie’s leave Narnia, two of them never to return. That’s basically the book.

Joe Carter, from Evangelical Outpost, makes the point that this is a different film than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He writes,

While Wardrobe was a rather literal book-to-film translation, Caspian is a loose adaptation. This is a wholly good and necessary change, for the book, one of the weaker Narnia tales, is structurally flawed and narratively flabby.

To compensate, the movie includes a variety of new elements; some that deepen the story (an extended siege on a castle) and others that serve as minor diversions (a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it romance). Overall, though, the liberties taken are what transform the talky, walking-through-the-woods book into an action packed honest to goodness war movie.

Aside from several things I didn’t like that much (Prince Caspian’s accent and the near-comic treatment of Reepicheep), the movie had every element necessary to convey C.S. Lewis’ messages.

Lucy was ever-faithful, constantly on the watch for Aslan and ready to hear his voice. Edmund was the crucial ingredient needed to resist the temptation of the White Witch. Peter and Prince Caspian were reminded on several occasions that they could never accomplish what they planned on their own (“Remember who defeated the White Witch before”). Reepicheep displayed nobility, courage, and dedication above and beyond any of the Sons of Adam or Daughters of Eve (although he had a prideful streak). Trumpkin is the picture of a conversion. Narnia wasn’t a “superstition that we modern people don’t believe anymore” was it?

I saved the best for last – Aslan. Contrary to what some have thought, I don’t think Aslan was absent from the movie at all. He was everywhere! Narnia is his creation (he sung it into existence in The Magician’s Nephew). He sustains it, rules it, and reigns in it even if he can’t be seen all the time by everyone. Aslan is present, but don’t expect him to be at your beck-and-call. He comes and goes on his timetable, not anyone else’s. I don’t think any other character in fiction has captured my attention like Lewis’ Aslan. I still get goose bumps and a cold chill down my spine when I hear the line from Wardrobe, “Aslan is on the move.”

In short, I loved the movie and, with a caveat or two, would enthusiastically recommend it. (The caveat is that the battle scenes are not gory or graphic, but intense.)

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Thank You!

Spend some time giving thanks to our great and gracious God for them men and women in our armed forces who have given the ultimate sacrifice – their lives – so that we might remain free in the greatest nation on God’s green earth (as Michael Medved says).

Memorial Day is more than simply another day off – let’s treat it that way.

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What does jealousy look like?

In a recent sermon, Alistair Begg painted a bit of a picture of just what the “green-eyed monster” might look like:

  • Jealousy can’t stand when others are doing better than we are.
  • Jealousy is sad at the happiness or success of others.
  • Jealousy makes us hostile to those who’ve never harmed or wronged us.
  • Jealousy seeks to bring about the ruin of others.
  • Jealousy fails to recognize that God knows what He’s doing in apportioning gifts.

This list hit home with me because I see them in myself, too. One of the occupational hazards of being a pastor is jealousy. You may not know that, but it’s true! For the seven years I spent in pastoral ministry, jealousy was a constant companion – the guest who wouldn’t leave. I, and all of my honest colleagues in the ministry, were jealous of other pastors (even ones we didn’t know personally), churches, staffs, and congregations, to name just a few.

That guest hasn’t showed up very much in the last year (thank God!). Maybe I’m enjoying what I’m doing (which being interpreted means school) too much to have time for it. Maybe the Holy Spirit is really at work in me to make me more like Christ. Maybe I’m growing more satisfied in God and a little less concerned about being satisfied with life. Maybe it’s a bit of all three.

Galatians 5:20 says that jealousy is one of the “works (or fruit) of the flesh.”  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

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As my wife and I do some work in the yard today, I’m reminded of a biblical truth: The Christian life is hard work. Don’t be deceived into thinking it isn’t.

In 1 Timothy 4:7, the apostle Paul tells Timothy, his young colleague, to “discipline” himself “for the purpose of godliness.”

Why would Paul make that admonition to Timothy? Probably because Timothy needed to be reminded of it and he may have assumed that living as a child of God was supposed to be smooth, easy, and pain-free.

Why would the Holy Spirit inspire this exhortation for the rest of God’s people? Because we need to be reminded that living as a child of God is not supposed to be smooth, easy, and pain-free. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The word Paul uses for “discipline” means “to train” and “to exercise.” It’s a command that is to be continually obeyed. In other words, the discipline necessary to be godly isn’t a one-time thing. We can’t check it off of a to-do list. The discipline of the Christian life is a regular activity that involves blood, sweat, and tears (not all that different from yard work, really).

So, are you ready to get your hands dirty? I hope so!

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An Item for Your Prayer List

Please pray for Steven Curtis Chapman, his wife, and family. They really need it right now. The Chapman’s five year-old daughter was killed in a terrible accident. You can find out more here. You can also send your condolences and let the Chapman’s know you’re praying for them.

Heavenly Father – God of all comfort – give the Chapman’s Your strength, peace, and comfort. Use Your children, their brothers and sisters in Christ, to help and come alongside them. Convince them of Your presence and care for them. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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R.C. Sproul, Jr. was recently asked if reading fantasy stories was a sin. Yes, he is the son of the founder of Ligonier Ministries, in case you were wondering. Fantasy comes under the umbrella of fiction and R.C. includes it in his answer.

I’ve been asked that question before and didn’t have a good answer. R.C.’s answer is helpful. Here’s part of it –

Some families believe that reading fiction is in itself a sin, a violation of the ninth commandment in principle. Others argue it isn’t fantasy per se that is the sin, but that stories wherein magic is used, particularly if it is used for good, are off limits. Still others would argue that reading fantasy is at least sinful indirectly, that such reading is a failure to wisely steward our time.  Others, of course, have no quarrel at all with reading fantasy.

The first objection, in my estimation is far too sweeping. If fiction is a violation of the ninth commandment, then our Lord is Himself a sinner and in need of a Savior. A certain man did not in fact go out to sow seed. A woman did not throw a party after finding her lost coin. These parables of Jesus are fiction. They were delivered as fiction. No one was lied to or misled. (Telling your children that there is a man who lives in the North Pole and who brings presents to children, now that is lying.)

The last objection likewise falls of its own weight. If Jesus used stories, then certainly stories can bear much fruit. (There we are again – metaphor is fiction writ small, and even the most persommonious fiction foe uses metaphor all day long.) We are indeed to redeem the time, and it is surely possible to read works that our a waste of time. Just yesterday I was asked by one of my children why we don’t celebrate Halloween. I did not give her an essay on the demonic roots of Halloween. Instead I told her the truth – we’re too busy celebrating something really important, the Reformation. we are making better use of our time. Reading fiction, even if it is fantasy, does not necessarily mean we are wasting our time. It depends on the fiction itself.

That leaves the second option. (There could, of course, be more. I don’t claim to know every reason a person might have for objecting.) This is the one that gives me the greatest pause. Because we live in a modernist world, we are tempted to see the supernatural realm as a make believe world that is perfectly safe. Fiction that takes us in that realm can encourage that kind of understanding. Because we are worldly, we miss how seriously the Bible takes these matters.

As with the R-rated question, the far more important issue is that we submit to those who are in authority over us. If your parents say no, the answer is no. If your elders have determined that it is not permissible, submit to them joyfully. And, if you yourself believe it to be wrong, and the decision to read or not to read is your own, by all means do not read. Whatever is not of faith is sin.

By the way, R.C. and his family regularly read C.S. Lewis (the Narnia series and the Space Trilogy) and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and assigns them to his students. They have not read any of the Harry Potter series.

Interesting comments. What do you think?

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