Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Get Low - a Movie Worth Seeing

Some movies are great because of clever writing, flashy effects, or knockout acting. But others draw their appeal from understatement. Such is the great strength of Get Low, which, though drawn from a true story, could just have easily been pulled from a Flannery O'Connor tale about sin and guilt—and a Southern town's strangest character.
In 1930s Tennessee, legends abound about Felix Bush (Robert Duvall; our interview), the hermit who lives in a one-room log cabin at the edge of the woods. He's been withdrawn from society for so long that he hasn't really spoken to anyone in years. Small boys dare one another to go near his home. Townsfolk tell of his dark past, and his appearance—old clothing, long beard, and fierce look—only adds to the mystery and fear.
But one day Felix shows up in town with a wad of cash and finds the preacher. "It's time to get low," he tells him—time to settle the score and ready himself for his final days. He wants to plan his funeral, but it won't be just any funeral. He wants everyone in town to attend the "funeral party" and tell their stories about him. Unsure of Felix's spiritual state, the minister refuses to participate.
Robert Duvall as Felix Bush
Robert Duvall as Felix Bush
But Buddy (Lucas Black) overhears. He's just begun working for Frank Quinn (a weirdly but well-cast Bill Murray), a new man in town running the local funeral home that is, inexplicably, not getting much business. Buddy grew up locally and has heard the tales about Felix, but they need the business, so he and Frank venture into the woods to offer their services to Felix.
Felix's funeral party grows to epic proportions, the event of the season for the small town. But a chance encounter with an old friend, Mattie Darrow (Sissy Spacek), reminds Felix of his own dark past. And he'll need to confront it—much to Frank's chagrin—before he's ready to "get low."
Felix's tale is all about guilt, love, anger, and redemption. As the preacher tells Felix that forgiveness is freely available to those who ask, Felix refuses—he can't forgive himself for what he did, and he doesn't want God's forgiveness either. Yet, after decades hidden away in the forest, Felix still seeks redemption from his fellow man.
Bill Murray as Frank Quinn
Bill Murray as Frank Quinn
Director Aaron Schneider has made his career as a cinematographer, and in Get Low, the camera helps tell the story through framings that occasionally feel like paintings. It's the film's cast that carries the story, though. Duvall is simply marvelous, allowed to expand and humanize Felix into a man haunted by his wrongdoing all his life. His grunts and sighs say much more than words. Murray is an unexpected but inspired pick for this part, keeping his usual funny-man goofiness under wraps enough to have a soul.
Sissy Spacek as Mattie Darrow
Sissy Spacek as Mattie Darrow
The great cast helps to counteract the film's weakness: its underdeveloped characters. The old maxim for writers is "show, don't tell," and while film is an inherently "showing" medium, this one still does too much telling. The townspeople despise Felix Bush, and we never actually see much behavior to support the idea. Felix actually seems like kind of a nice guy—a bit gruff, but pitiable. Frank Quinn is supposedly quite a rascal—maybe even a con man—but he seems to just like a big paycheck. The story works because of the actors, but it's too bad they haven't been given more to work with.
Despite its flaws, Get Low is a fine example of excellent filmmaking on a modest budget. Its story sticks with you after the credits roll, a testament to the power of a good tale simply told on the big screen.

Robert Johnson - Cross Road Blues

New Monopoly Game

Why Believers Are More Insecure than Unbelievers

I find this statement from Lovelace illuminating, both of my own soul and of why playing hoops with non-Christians is more enjoyable than with Christians.
Much that we have interpreted as a defect of sanctification in church people is really an outgrowth of their loss of bearing with respect to justification.

Christians who are no longer sure that God loves and accepts them in Jesus, apart from their present spiritual achievements, are subconsciously radically insecure persons--much less secure than non-Christians, because they have too much light to rest easily under the constant bulletins they receive from their Christian environment about the holiness of God and the righteousness they are supposed to have.
--Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (InterVarsity 1979), 211-212
Dane Ortlund

Monday, August 30, 2010

Pride Will Not Mind Reason

Reminded this morning of the elusiveness of humility and the subtlety of pride. In 'The Blind Eye and the Deaf Ear' in Lectures to My Students, Spurgeon quotes a certain Mr. Payson as writing this remarkable statement to his mother in a letter:
You must not, certainly, my dear mother, say one word which even looks like an intimation that you think me advancing in grace. I cannot bear it. All the people here, whether friends or enemies, conspire to ruin me. Satan and my own heart, of course, will lend a hand; and if you join too, I fear all the cold water which Christ can throw upon my pride will not prevent its breaking out into a destructive flame. As certainly as anyone flatters and caresses me my heavenly Father has to whip me: and an unspeakable mercy it is that he condescends to do it. I can, it is true, easily muster a hundred reasons why I should not be proud, but pride will not mind reason, nor anything else but a good drubbing. Even at this moment I feel it tingling in my fingers' ends, and seeking to guide my pen. (331)
Spurgeon goes on to comment, 'A sensible friend who will unsparingly criticize you from week to week will be a far greater blessing to you than a thousand undiscriminating admirers if you have sense enough to bear his treatment, and grace enough to be thankful for it.'

A word in season. This is not all that needs to be said, of course. There is a place for encouragement. A crucial place. But how naturally the heart takes affirmation of an evidence of grace and turns it into self-congratulation.
Dane Ortlund

Ry Cooder - Jesus On The Mainline

From "Ry Cooder & The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces: Let's Have A Ball", a film by Les Blank taped at The Catalyst, Santa Cruz, CA on March 25'th 1987.

A Novel Idea

God, the Gospel, and Glenn Beck

A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they’ve heard the gospel, right there in the nation’s capital.
The news media pronounces him the new leader of America’s Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America’s Christian conservatives have no problem with that.
If you’d told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it’s not. It’s from this week’s headlines. And it is a scandal.
Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this. Beck isn’t the problem. He’s an entrepreneur, he’s brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market. Latter-day Saints have every right to speak, with full religious liberty, in the public square. I’m quite willing to work with Mormons on various issues, as citizens working for the common good. What concerns me here is not what this says about Beck or the “Tea Party” or any other entertainment or political figure. What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.
It’s taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined “revival” and “turning America back to God” that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.
Rather than cultivating a Christian vision of justice and the common good (which would have, by necessity, been nuanced enough to put us sometimes at odds with our political allies), we’ve relied on populist God-and-country sloganeering and outrage-generating talking heads. We’ve tolerated heresy and buffoonery in our leadership as long as with it there is sufficient political “conservatism” and a sufficient commercial venue to sell our books and products.
Too often, and for too long, American “Christianity” has been a political agenda in search of a gospel useful enough to accommodate it. There is a liberation theology of the Left, and there is also a liberation theology of the Right, and both are at heart mammon worship. The liberation theology of the Left often wants a Barabbas, to fight off the oppressors as though our ultimate problem were the reign of Rome and not the reign of death. The liberation theology of the Right wants a golden calf, to represent religion and to remind us of all the economic security we had in Egypt. Both want a Caesar or a Pharaoh, not a Messiah.
Leaders will always be tempted to bypass the problem behind the problems: captivity to sin, bondage to the accusations of the demonic powers, the sentence of death. That’s why so many of our Christian superstars smile at crowds of thousands, reassuring them that they don’t like to talk about sin. That’s why other Christian celebrities are seen to be courageous for fighting their culture wars, while they carefully leave out the sins most likely to be endemic to the people paying the bills in their movements.
Where there is no gospel, something else will fill the void: therapy, consumerism, racial or class resentment, utopian politics, crazy conspiracy theories of the left, crazy conspiracy theories of the right; anything will do. The prophet Isaiah warned us of such conspiracies replacing the Word of God centuries ago (Is. 8:12–20). As long as the Serpent’s voice is heard, “You shall not surely die,” the powers are comfortable.
This is, of course, not new. Our Lord Jesus faced this test when Satan took him to a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the earth, and their glory. Satan did not mind surrendering his authority to Jesus. He didn’t mind a universe without pornography or Islam or abortion or nuclear weaponry. Satan did not mind Judeo-Christian values. He wasn’t worried about “revival” or “getting back to God.” What he opposes was the gospel of Christ crucified and resurrected for the sins of the world.
We used to sing that old gospel song, “I will cling to an old rugged cross, and exchange it some day for a crown.”  The scandalous scene at the Lincoln Memorial indicates that many of us want to exchange it in too soon. To Jesus, Satan offered power and glory. To us, all he needs offer is celebrity and attention.
Mormonism and Mammonism are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They offer another Lord Jesus than the One offered in the Scriptures and Christian tradition, and another way to approach him. An embrace of these tragic new vehicles for the old Gnostic heresy is unloving to our Mormon friends and secularist neighbors, and to the rest of the watching world. Any “revival” that is possible without the Lord Jesus Christ is a “revival” of a different kind of spirit than the Spirit of Christ (1 Jn. 4:1-3).
The answer to this scandal isn’t a retreat, as some would have it, to an allegedly apolitical isolation. Such attempts lead us right back here, in spades, to a hyper-political wasteland. If the churches are not forming consciences, consciences will be formed by the status quo, including whatever demagogues can yell the loudest or cry the hardest. The answer isn’t a narrowing sectarianism, retreating further and further into our enclaves. The answer includes local churches that preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and disciple their congregations to know the difference between the kingdom of God and the latest political whim.
It’s sad to see so many Christians confusing Mormon politics or American nationalism with the gospel of Jesus Christ. But, don’t get me wrong, I’m not pessimistic. Jesus will build his church, and he will build it on the gospel. He doesn’t need American Christianity to do it. Vibrant, loving, orthodox Christianity will flourish, perhaps among the poor of Haiti or the persecuted of Sudan or the outlawed of China, but it will flourish.
And there will be a new generation, in America and elsewhere, who will be ready for a gospel that is more than just Fox News at prayer.
by Russell Moore

Saturday, August 28, 2010

He Used To Be Neil Young but now hes........

Grace on the Horizon

“Only when we turn away from looking at our sin to look at the face of God, to find his pardoning grace, do we begin to repent. Only by seeing that there is grace and forgiveness with him would we ever dare to repent and thus return to the fellowship and presence of the Father. . . . Only when grace appears on the horizon offering forgiveness will the sunshine of the love of God melt our hearts and draw us back to him.”
- Sinclair Furguson, quoted by Tim Chester in You Can Change (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway, 2010), 49.
Of First Importance

Chuck Berry - Maybellene

This song was his Chess Records debut in May of 1955. The lean lanky duck-walker's groundbreaking hybrid sound was the foundation that rock and roll would be built upon. "It was something new, and everybody was very interested in it" said his pianist Johnnie Johnson. "Especially coming from a black guy playing hillbilly music." Willie Dixon said, "If he could change that to a different style, from the hillbilly style, and make it a little bluesier" Berry had his first number one hit, emerging as one of rock and roll's first superstars.

Nothin's Free

What Are We Apart from Christ?

We sometimes think of the second half of the first chapter of Romans as a discourse about atheists. (And indeed, according to Romans 1 the answer to the question “Does God believe in atheists?” is “no.”)
But in reality, it’s a universal text that applies to all of us apart from Christ—what we are, what we do, and what we would do apart from God’s restraining and redeeming grace, with graphic examples to illustrate our truth-suppression and idolatrous identity.
Here’s an attempt to start to think through this sobering section of Romans.
What do all of us know?
(1) We know God himself.
(2) We know God’s decree.
(3) We know God’s judgment—that those who practice sinful things deserve death.
What is our responsibility?
We are without excuse.
How clear is the evidence for God’s knowability?
What can be known about God is plain.
Who showed us the evidence for God?
God himself has shown us what can be known about him.
What is it about God that every one of us knows?
We have clearly perceived God’s invisible attributes (= his eternal power and divine nature).
Where do we see God’s invisible attributes?
In the things that God has made.
What do we fail to do in response?
(1) We fail to honor God as God.
(2) We fail to give thanks to God.
(2) We fail to acknowledge God.
What do we do instead of honoring and thanking God?

We suppress the truth.
By our unrighteousness.
What do we claim about our thinking?

We claim to be wise.
What are we in reality?

We are fools.
What happened to our minds?

We became futile in our thinking.
What happened to our hearts?
Our foolish hearts were darkened.
What is the result?
We exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling
  • mortal man
  • birds
  • animals
  • creeping things
We exchanged the truth of God for a lie.
What did we do with created things?
(1) We worshiped the creature rather than the Creator.
(2) We served the creature rather than the Creator.
What is the result of this idolatry?
God gave us up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity.
What kind of impurity?
The dishonoring of our bodies among ourselves.
How did we become entangled in dishonorable passions?
God gave us up to dishonorable passions.
Which dishonorable passions did women commit?
Women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature.
Which dishonorable passions did men commit?
The men gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
What does God do to us for failing to acknowledge him?
God gave us up to a debased mind.
To do what?
To do what ought not to be done.
What are we filled with?
All manner of
  • unrighteousness
  • evil
  • covetousness
  • malice
We are full of
  • envy
  • murder
  • strife
  • deceit
  • maliciousness
What are we?
We are
  • gossips
  • slanderers
  • haters of God
  • insolent
  • haughty
  • boastful
  • inventors of evil
  • disobedient to parents
  • foolish
  • faithless
  • heartless
  • ruthless
What do we know?
God’s decree.
What is God’s decree?
Those who practice such sinful things deserve to die.
What do we do?
(1) We do these sinful things.
(2) We give approval to those who practice these sinful things.
What does God do in response?
God reveals his wrath from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
Is there any hope?
The gospel.
What is the gospel?
The power of God for salvation.
For who?
To everyone who believes—to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
What is revealed in the gospel?
The righteousness of God, from faith to faith.
As Habakkuk 2:4 says, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Justin Taylor


Friday, August 27, 2010

Chuck Berry - Nadine (Is It You?)

Great song from Berry's Chess record days, recorded in 1964

Liberalism under siege

Charles Krauthammer analyzes the rhetoric of today’s increasingly desperate liberals. He is essentially arguing that those who used to claim that they were “the party of the common people” now hold the opinions of the “common people” in contempt. Instead of arguing for their positions, liberals have become reduced to labeling everyone who disagrees with them a bigot:
Liberalism under siege is an ugly sight indeed. Just yesterday it was all hope and change and returning power to the people. But the people have proved so disappointing. Their recalcitrance has, in only 19 months, turned the predicted 40-year liberal ascendancy (James Carville) into a full retreat. Ah, the people, the little people, the small-town people, the “bitter” people, as Barack Obama in an unguarded moment once memorably called them, clinging “to guns or religion or” — this part is less remembered — “antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.”
That’s a polite way of saying: clinging to bigotry. And promiscuous charges of bigotry are precisely how our current rulers and their vast media auxiliary react to an obstreperous citizenry that insists on incorrect thinking.
– Resistance to the vast expansion of government power, intrusiveness and debt, as represented by the Tea Party movement? Why, racist resentment toward a black president.
– Disgust and alarm with the federal government’s unwillingness to curb illegal immigration, as crystallized in the Arizona law? Nativism.
– Opposition to the most radical redefinition of marriage in human history, as expressed in Proposition 8 in California? Homophobia.
– Opposition to a 15-story Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero? Islamophobia.
Now we know why the country has become “ungovernable,” last year’s excuse for the Democrats’ failure of governance: Who can possibly govern a nation of racist, nativist, homophobic Islamophobes?
Note what connects these issues. In every one, liberals have lost the argument in the court of public opinion. Majorities — often lopsided majorities — oppose President Obama’s social-democratic agenda (e.g., the stimulus, Obamacare), support the Arizona law, oppose gay marriage and reject a mosque near Ground Zero.
What’s a liberal to do? Pull out the bigotry charge, the trump that preempts debate and gives no credit to the seriousness and substance of the contrary argument. The most venerable of these trumps is, of course, the race card. When the Tea Party arose, a spontaneous, leaderless and perfectly natural (and traditionally American) reaction to the vast expansion of government intrinsic to the president’s proudly proclaimed transformational agenda, the liberal commentariat cast it as a mob of angry white yahoos disguising their antipathy to a black president by cleverly speaking in economic terms.
Then came Arizona and S.B. 1070. It seems impossible for the left to believe that people of good will could hold that: (a) illegal immigration should be illegal, (b) the federal government should not hold border enforcement hostage to comprehensive reform, i.e., amnesty, (c) every country has the right to determine the composition of its immigrant population.
As for Proposition 8, is it so hard to see why people might believe that a single judge overturning the will of 7 million voters is an affront to democracy? And that seeing merit in retaining the structure of the most ancient and fundamental of all social institutions is something other than an alleged hatred of gays — particularly since the opposite-gender requirement has characterized virtually every society in all the millennia until just a few years ago?
And now the mosque near Ground Zero. The intelligentsia is near unanimous that the only possible grounds for opposition is bigotry toward Muslims. This smug attribution of bigotry to two-thirds of the population hinges on the insistence on a complete lack of connection between Islam and radical Islam, a proposition that dovetails perfectly with the Obama administration’s pretense that we are at war with nothing more than “violent extremists” of inscrutable motive and indiscernible belief. Those who reject this as both ridiculous and politically correct (an admitted redundancy) are declared Islamophobes, the ad hominem du jour.
It is a measure of the corruption of liberal thought and the collapse of its self-confidence that, finding itself so widely repudiated, it resorts reflexively to the cheapest race-baiting (in a colorful variety of forms). Indeed, how can one reason with a nation of pitchfork-wielding mobs brimming with “antipathy toward people who aren’t like them” — blacks, Hispanics, gays and Muslims — a nation that is, as Michelle Obama once put it succinctly, “just downright mean”?
The Democrats are going to get beaten badly in November. Not just because the economy is ailing. And not just because Obama over-read his mandate in governing too far left. But because a comeuppance is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them.
Gene Veith

Keep Those Schools Out Of Our Drug Zones

Halo 3 Doesn't Compare to Salvation History

Darrin Patrick:
The gospel is the most beautiful story in the history of the world. In fact, the reason that other stories are beautiful--the reason we love movies, novels, and biographies that are saturated with redemption themes--is that they are an echo of the story. All good stories follow the same basic plotline of the gospel. . . . The story of redemption captures the human heart, inviting and challenging us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. This story is movie-ready and myth-like. C. S. Lewis was converted out of atheism as he was enraptured by the beautiful story of the gospel, calling it a 'true myth.' . . .

[T]he gospel is not just cold, dry historical facts--it is God's perennial speech to man. The gospel is history on fire. (Church Planter, 112)
Reminds me of something I read a few days ago in William Still, concluding an overview of salvation history, the great snowballing story of redemption rushing through the Bible and of which we today are a part:
How could any of us be put off balance in any day, whatever it held or threatened, if we knew that that was what we were engaged in furthering. Some ministers I know, for light relief from the burden of holy work, read complicated novels full of tangles and twists and intriguing and unexpected cleverness. But not in their wildest dreams (or their favorite authors' wildest dreams) have they come across anything so exciting, fabulous, fantastic as this that God has done and is doing. Truth is stranger than fiction. (The Work of the Pastor, 107)
Dane Ortlund

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Billy Cobham, Ron Carter, Kenny Barron: The Art Of Three

The track title is "If I Were A Bell" From the concert held in Bergamo (Italy)
on 1st March 2002 at Teatro Donizetti.Line up: Billy Cobham - drums, Ron Carter - bass
Kenny Barron - piano


A holy and unholy weapon

“Only he who loses his life will save it. We are baptized into the death of Christ, and it is the remedy for the Fall. Death is, in fact, what some modern people call ‘ambivalent.’ It is Satan’s great weapon and also God’s great weapon: it is holy and unholy; our supreme disgrace and our only hope; the thing Christ came to conquer and the means by which He conquered.”
- C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York, NY; Macmillan, 1960)
Of First Importance

The Bible Is Not Basically about You

Using a clip from Tim Keller’s talk at the 2007 TGC conference, Heath McPherson created using the art of Gustave DorĂ© (1832-1883):

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Wife Knows Everything VS The Wife Doesn't Know

Monmouth Park race call.... 7th race on 8-22-10.... Track announcer's dream call! 'My Wife Knows Everything' more than 'The Wife Doesn't Know' ! You gotta listen to this.

The world is filled with boys who can shave by Mark Driscoll

The New York Times Magazine ran a story this past week called "What is it about 20-Somethings?" looking at the new life stage of emerging adulthood. The article echoed what other recent studies are showing and something we've been saying at Mars Hill Church for awhile: The world today is filled with boys who can shave.
Historically, a guy would go through two life phases: boy, then man. The transition from boy to man was comprised of five sociological variables that happened almost simultaneously or in very close succession:
1. Leave your parents' home (Gen. 2:24);
2. Finish your education or vocational training;
3. Start a career-track job, not a dead-end-Joe job;
4. Meet a woman, love her, honor her, court her, and marry her;
5. Have children with her.
But here's what's happened. Rather than moving from boy to man by this succession of sociological transitions, we've created something called adolescence. It's a third life stage in the middle between boy and man. We don't know what to call them so we just call them guys. These are boys who can shave.
Today, adolescence starts somewhere in the teen years and continues indefinitely. There is no foreseeable end. The problem with adolescence is guys don't know when they're ever going to grow up and be men, and no pressure is exerted on them to do so.
Is it when you're sixteen and you can drive, or eighteen when you can vote and join the military, or twenty-one when you can drink?
Is it when you graduate from college after you've worked on your undergrad degree for seven or eight years?
Is it when you get married? Is it when you have kids? Is it when you buy a house?
No one knows. So, we are left with indefinite adolescence and a Peter Pan Syndrome epidemic where men want to remain boys forever.
Men in the World: Childish Consumers
The Apostle Paul says, "When I was a boy, I talked like a boy, I thought like a boy, I reasoned like a boy. When I became a man, I put childish and boyish ways behind me" (see 1 Cor. 13:11). A lot of guys don't, as if responsibility is a bad thing and the longer you can prolong it, the more masculine you are. That's the world. It's absolutely childish and it's consumerism.
The marketing sweet spot for many companies is young men ages eighteen to thirty-four. These guys don't know what it means to be a man, and so marketers fill the void with products that define manhood by what you consume rather than what you produce.
The tough retrosexual guys consume women, porn, alcohol, drugs, television, music, video games, toys, cars, sports, and fantasy leagues, as if being a man is defined by how much meat you can shove through your colon, how many beers you can pound, how fast you can drive, how stinky you can fart, how hard you can hit, how far you can spit, how loud you can belch, and how big your truck is.
The artsy, techie metrosexual types consume clothes, decaf lattes, shoes, gadgets, cars (not trucks), furniture, hair products, and underwear with the names of very important people on the waistband. For them, manhood means being in touch with one's feelings, wardrobe, and appearance.
A legion of moms and girlfriends enable these boys who can shave. They pay his bills, pick up his messes, loan him their car, and refill his sippy cup with beer or martinis, depending upon his preference. Girlfriends, gal friends with benefits, and miscellaneous other mannies (nannies for men) need to know this: you want a guy you can marry and have babies with. You don't want to marry a guy who's a baby.
Men are supposed to be producers, not just consumers. You're defined by the legacy, the life, and the fruit that come out of you, not by what you take in. But most guys are just consumers.
Men in the Church: Cowards and Complainers
What happens if you walk into the church and try to find out what a man looks like? First of all, you're not going to find a lot of guys in most evangelical churches. The least likely person to see in church is a single, twenty-something male. He is as rare at church as a vegan at a steak house.
In the world, boys who can shave are children who are consumers. In the church, boys who can shave are cowards who are complainers.
A buddy of mine calls them evangellyfish because they have no backbone. They don't declare a major, church, theology, or fiancé. They don't want to fail and they think if they don't try, then they can't fail. And by definition, that's a failure.
They are, however, endowed with the spiritual gift of complaining. They say, "I hate the church. The church just wants my money." As if the church wants his futon, Xbox, light beer, and computer filled with free Internet porn.
Here's the cold hard truth: it's a lot harder to do something than it is to complain about those who are doing something. The notorious sin of Christian guys is complaining about guys who are doing something rather than doing something.
Real Men: Creators and Cultivators
Paul says a man is "the image and glory of God" (1 Cor. 11:7). He is to reflect the truth, goodness, love, and mercy of Jesus, his God and Savior. He is the glory of God.
I have no hope in guys. But I still have hope for the guys because they are the glory of God. God wants his glory to shine through men. God wants his kingdom to be made visible through them. God wants them be his sons. God wants them to follow, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the example of Jesus.
I don't care if you buy a truck or play some video games or rock out on your guitar. But the problem is when those are prevalent, predominant, and preeminent in your life. Some of you guys would argue and say, "It's not a sin." No, but sometimes it's just dumb. You got fired because you were up trying to get to the next level and become a guild leader. That's dumb. You work one part-time job so you can play more guitar or Frisbee golf. That's dumb. You spend all your money on a new car or truck, or toys, or gear, or clothes, or gambling, or fantasy football. Dumb. Some of you say, "Well, it's not a sin." Neither is eating your lawnmower. It's just dumb. There are a lot of things that Christian guys do that aren't evil, they're just dumb and childish.
Men, you are to be creators and cultivators. God is a creator and a cultivator and you were made to image him. Create a family and cultivate your wife and children. Create a ministry and cultivate other people. Create a business and cultivate it. Be a giver, not a taker, a producer and not just a consumer. Stop looking for the path of least resistance and start running down the path of greatest glory to God and good to others because that's what Jesus, the real man, did.

Throttleneck by Brad Paisley

This dude can play the guitar, this song is from his CD 5th Gear

Yes, Bob Dylan Can Paint

The troubador, who has painted for decades, opens a new exhibit in Denmark Check out the painting below, by a man most of us only know as a legendary singer/songwriter. But take the guitar and pick away and give the guy a brush and a canvas, and yes, he can create even more magic. This is one of many new paintings and drawings to be on exhibit at Denmark's Statens Museum for Kunst September 4-January 30. "It was an honor to be asked and a thrilling challenge," Dylan said in a statement about the collection, called "Brazil Series," which he created exclusively for the museum. "I chose Brazil as a subject because I have been there many times and I like the atmosphere." Check out 13 samples of Dylan's artwork in this Rolling Stone gallery.

Are You Depressed?

Ditches on the Path to Godliness

I see two opposite dangers Christians face when thinking about growth in godliness. These tendencies are like ditches on the side of the road. Many veer into one because they are so concerned to avoid the other.
On one side is the dreamy danger. These Christians idolize their heroes. They are idealistic about how fast they’ll grow. They underestimate the reality of indwelling sin and are unrealistic about how maturity actually takes root. They expect too much too soon and feel too spiritual for effort.
On the other side of the road is the disbelieving danger. These Christians have no heroes. They are cynical about growth in godliness. They underestimate the reality of the Holy Spirit and figure the use of appointed means is a waste of time. They expect nothing of the Bible, prayer, and the Spirit’s sanctifying work, and nothing is what they get.
In contrast to these two dangers, those on the path of holiness realize that growth is possible and it is also hard work. Sanctification is God’s power working through our exertion–rooted in knowledge, sustained by hope, made possible by faith.
Kevin DeYoung

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

James Cameron Backs Out of Debate

'Avatar' director wanted a "shoot-out" with climate change dissenters . . . then didn't show
Ann McElhinney of NotEvilJustWrong.com reports this week that James Cameron, director of Avatar and Titanic, backed out of a planned debate with those who disagree with his views on climate change.
In March, Cameron had said of those who are skeptical about global warming, “I want to call those deniers out into the street at high noon and shoot it out with those boneheads.”
McElhinney responded immediately: "James Cameron I accept your offer, I’ll even drive myself to your gigantic gated Malibu double mansion to shoot it out."
Turns out she didn't have to drive to Malibu, but a debate was planned for the recent AREDay conference in Colorado. In the end, Cameron was a no-show, prompting McElhinney to write: "Does he genuinely believe in man made climate change? . . . Or is it just a pose? The man who called for an open and public debate at 'high noon' suddenly doesn't want his policies open to serious scrutiny.
"I was looking forward to debating with the film maker. . . . But that is not going to happen because somewhere along the way James Cameron, a great film maker, has moved from King of the World to being King of the Hypocrites."
CTEntertainment Blog

What The Law Cannot Do

"The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."  John 1:17

It is proper that the Law and God's Commandments provide me with the correct directives for life; they supply me with abundant information about righteousness and eternal life. The Law is a sermon which points me to life, and it is essential to remember this instruction. But it must be borne in mind that the Law does not give me life. It resembles a hand which directs me to the right road. The hand gives me the proper direction, but it will not conduct my steps along the way.

Thus the Law serves to indicate the will of God, and it leads us to a realization that we cannot keep it. It also acquaints us with human nature, with its capabilities, and with its limitations. The Law was given to us for the revelation of sin; but it does not have the power to save us from sin and rid us of it. It holds a mirror before us; we peer into it and perceive that we are devoid of righteousness and life. And this image impels us to cry: "Oh come, Lord Jesus Christ, help us and give us grace to enable us to fulfill the Law's demands!"

Luther's Works 22, 143-44  Sermons on the Gospel of John

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Superstition

The Tank Is Empty

The Real Sacrifice For Sin - The Theology of B. B. Warfield

For months I’ve eagerly awaited the release of Fred G. Zaspel’s book The Theology of B. B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, Sept. 30, 2010). Over the past two weeks I have been reading a copy of the book and it reminds me how thankful I am for able theologians who can break down the writings of a theological giant. Zaspel is doing this for me with Warfield. Not only is the systematic approach very thoughtful and very well executed, Zaspel also scatters within his summary many rich (and often devotional) quotes from Warfield’s works. Here’s just one example (page 300; from Warfield’s works, 2:434–435):
Christianity did not come into the world to proclaim a new morality and, sweeping away all the supernatural props by which men were wont to support their trembling, guilt-stricken souls, to throw them back on their own strong right arms to conquer a standing before God for themselves. It came to proclaim the real sacrifice for sin which God had provided in order to supersede all the poor fumbling efforts which men had made and were making to provide a sacrifice for sin for themselves; and, planting men’s feet on this, to bid them go forward. It was in this sign that Christianity conquered, and it is in this sign alone that it continues to conquer. We may think what we will of such a religion. What cannot be denied is that Christianity is such a religion.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Jonathan Edwards's "Sense of the Glory of the Divine Being"

Came across this passage on Jonathan Edwards's progressive Word-born gospel wakefulness in B.B. Warfield's essay "Edwards and the New England Theology."
But about the time of his graduation (1720) a change came over him, which relieved the strain of his inward distress. From his childhood, his mind had revolted against the sovereignty of God: "it used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me." Now all this passed unobservedly away; and gradually, by a process he could not trace, this very doctrine came to be not merely a matter of course to him but a matter of rejoicing: "The doctrine has very often appeared exceedingly pleasant, bright, and sweet; absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God."

One day he was reading 1 Timothy 1:17, "Now unto the King, eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory, for ever and ever, Amen," and, as he read, "a sense of the glory of the Divine Being" took possession of him, "a new sense, quite different from anything" he "ever experienced before." He longed to be "rapt up to Him in heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in Him forever."

From that moment his understanding of divine things increased, and his enjoyment of God grew. There were, no doubt, intervals of depression. But, on the whole, his progress was steadily upwards and his consecration more and more complete. It was this devout young man, with the joy of the Lord in his heart, who turned his back in the early months of 1727 on his brilliant academic life and laid aside forever his philosophical speculations, to take up the work of a pastor at Northampton.
I wonder how many of those in our churches could say they've ever experienced a sense of the glory of God while reading the Scriptures. I wonder how many pastors have.

No, no, it's not about feelings of course. But it's not about not feeling either.
Jared Wilson

Little Walter - Last Night

Dead Weight

Thoughts On Justification (1)

The way we approach something determines, to some extent, what we find.  We approach food differently when we are hungry.  We approach people differently when we are lonely.  We approach sleep differently when we are tired.  Things are understood in a context, and our angle of approach is a part of that context.
From reading John Calvin on justification I’ve come to see that we approach the matter of justification differently when we have a sense of our sin in light of God’s holy character.  God is the context in which justification feels needed and makes sense.  And errors on justification are related to other more basic theological errors in our doctrine of God.
After his initial discussion of justification in the Institutes (3.11), Calvin has two further chapters which are extremely helpful at further teasing out what justification means and why it matters (3.12 and 3.13).  In 3.12.1 he writes:
“In the shady cloisters of the schools anyone can easily and readily prattle about the value of works in justifying men.  But when we come before the presence of God we must put away such amusements!  For there we deal with a serious matter, and do not engage in frivolous word battles.  To this question, I insist, we must apply our mind if we would profitably inquire concerning true righteousness: How shall we reply to the Heavenly Judge when he calls us to account?”
I wonder if part of the explanation for the prevalent confusion about justification today is that we don’t talk as much as previous generations did about God’s Law and God’s role as Judge.  We are more comfortable quoting “God is love” than “thou shalt not,” and we like to think of God as a Father but not as a Judge.  In Scripture, however, God is both Father and Judge, and there is both law and grace.  We must remind ourselves of the legal aspects of our relationship with God – the law, the final judgment, our guilt – in order to see justification rightly.  Only when we are in a place of despairing of our status before God are we able to approach the doctrine of justification properly, and receive it for what it is.  Only when we despair of human righteousness can we understand and receive “righteousness from God” (Romans 1:17, 3:21, 3:22).
Gavin Ortlund

Sunday, August 22, 2010

There Ain't No Grave - Johnny Cash

For Bob Clarke who went to be with Jesus last night. I'll see you on the other side, friend.

Matt Redman - This Is How We Know

Where Government Help Leads

Sick with Desire

From the final chapter of Bunyan's remarkable book:
Now as they walked in this land, they rejoiced more than they had in any other part of the journey.

And as they came near the Celestial City, they could see that it was built of pearls and precious stones and that the streets were paved with gold. The natural glory of the City and the sunbeams' reflection on it made Christian feel sick with desire. Hopeful also had a few bouts of the same sickness. The sickness was so great that they had to rest from their journey while crying out because of the deep pangs of desire.

Finally they got some of their strength back and were able to bear their sickness.
--The Pilgrim's Progress (ed. C. J. Lovik; Crossway 2009), 212
Dane Ortlund

Luther on Faith

Faith alone lays hold of the promise, believes God when He gives the promise, stretches out its hand when God offers something, and accepts what He offers. This is the characteristic function of faith alone. Love, hope, and patience are concerned with other matters; they have other bounds, and they stay within these bounds. For they do not lay hold of the promise; they carry out the commands. They hear God commanding and giving orders, but they do not hear God giving a promise; this is what faith does. … Faith is the mother, so to speak, from whom that crop of virtues springs. If faith is not there first, you would look in vain for those virtues. If faith has not embraced the promises concerning Christ, no love and no other virtues will be there, even if for a time hypocrites were to paint what seem to be likenesses of them.
Luther's Works Vol.3

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jimi Hendrix - Little Wing - Live

The Love & Justice of God

The cross can be seen as proof of God’s love only when it is at the same time seen as a proof of his justice.”
- John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Ill.; InterVarsity Press, 1986), 221.
Of First Importance

Crazy Nancy Strikes Again

Luther Defines the Gospel

In his 'Preface to the New Testament,' Luther writes:

This gospel of God or New Testament is
a good story and report,
sounded forth into all the world by the apostles,
telling of a true David
who strove with sin, death, and the devil,
and overcame them,
and thereby rescued all those who were
captive in sin,
afflicted with death,
and overpowered by the devil.

Without any merit of their own he
made them righteous,
gave them life,
and saved them,
so that they were given peace and brought back to God.

For this they sing,
and thank and praise God,
and are glad forever,
if only they believe firmly and remain steadfast in faith.
--Luther's Works 35:358
Dane Ortlund

Friday, August 20, 2010

On the Virtue of Wasting Time by Carl Trueman

One of the amazing things about modern American culture is surely the pathological fear of wasting time.  It is especially evident in the attitude to children.  Public school kids have their lives scheduled from morning till night; homeschool parents seem to regard any second of the day from the age of two that isn't used to learn Latin poetry or the cello or conversational Swahili as time that is wasted.  It's a far cry from my childhood, when school ran from 9 in the morning till 4 in the afternoon, and then I was free to ride my bike, walk on the common, or just sit around with friends.  And it continues in to later life: all the technology we have, and people seem to have less free time than ever.

Indeed, we have surely lost the virtue that is laziness.  As Kierkegaard once said, 'Far from idleness being the root of all evil, it is rather the only true good' -- a truly amazing theological insight.   Some may think that that maybe going a bit far, but compared to the idea that the essence of humanity is busy-ness, it is much to be preferred.

The greatest testament to the power of wasted time in the history of the church is surely Luther's Table Talk.  A collection of anecdotes and sayings collected by Luther's closest friends, it reflects the full range of Luther as pastor, mentor, Christian and friend.    Reading the comments, from advice to young preachers (`The sixth mark of a good preacher is knowing when to stop.') to comments on lawyers (`One only studies something as dirty as law in order to make money') to general observations on life, some of which don't bear repeating on a polite blog such as this, I suspect Luther's table companions learned more about life and ministry while drinking beer and having a laugh with the Meister than in the university lecture hall.

Numerous applications come to mind: seminary is the people with whom you strike up friendships (a point which must be taken into account as seminaries move towards more distance education);friendships (real, embodied friendships that are not exclusively mediated through pixels) are crucial to staying the course of ministry -- laughter in the face of adversity and hardship not only being vital in this regard but also, of course, an almost exclusively social phenomenon that requires company; drinking beer with friends is perhaps the most underestimated of all Reformation insights and essential to ongoing reform; and wasting time with a choice friend or two on a regular basis might be the best investment of time you ever make.
Reformation 21

Somethings Not Right

The Ring and the Cross

From Peter Kreeft, The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings (Ignatius, 2005), page 224:
“The most fundamental Christian symbol is the Cross. This also is perfectly opposite to the Ring. The Cross gives life; the Ring takes it. The Cross gives you death, not power; the Ring gives you power even over death. The Ring squeezes everything into its inner emptiness; the Cross expands in all four directions, gives itself to the emptiness, filling it with its blood, its life. The Ring is Dracula’s tooth. The Cross is God’s sword, held at the hilt by the hand of Heaven and plunged into the world not to take our blood but to give us His. The Cross is Christ’s hypodermic; the Ring is Dracula’s bite. The Cross saves other wills; the Ring dominates other wills. The Cross liberates; the Ring enslaves.”

The Most Disobeyed Command in the Bible

Our brother Drew Hunter, College and 20's pastor at Grace Church of Dupage, points us to this good reflection by Ray Ortlund on Isaiah 54:1 ('Break forth into singing and cry aloud'):
In other words, 'Let joyful song explode out of you!' We resist that. Isaiah 54:1 may be one of the most disobeyed commands in the Bible. Our exaggerated sense of decorum is the last bastion of pride holding out against the gospel. Some churches make it a virtue. But God doesn't. In his exuberance he's creating a new world of boisterous happiness through Christ. We must rejoice with him, or we risk making our hearts impervious to salvation, because that holy raucous joy is salvation.
--Ray Ortlund, Isaiah: God Saves Sinners (Crossway 2005), 363

Delbert McClinton - Givin' It up for Your Love - Austin City Limits

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sad but Not Unhappy - the quintessential Christian demeanor in a post-Fall, pre-glory, already/not-yet age

Ralph C. Wood is commenting here on The Lord of the Rings, but this is also a pretty good description of the quintessential Christian demeanor in a post-Fall, pre-glory, already/not-yet age:
Treebeard possesses what might well be called the essential Tolkienian demeanor—a fundamental somberness about the world’s state, yet with an overriding joy that cannot be quenched:
“Pippin could see a sad look in his eyes, sad but not unhappy ([2.90; my emphasis).
The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth (Louisvile, WJK: 2003), 18.
The Apostle Paul put it this way:
“We are . . . sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
2 Cor. 6:10
Update: Tim Keller’s comment below is helpful:
This is a very important theme in Tolkien. The elves are often described as both old and young, both joyful and sad. A more explicit expression of it is the description of Gandalf in Book 3–
. . . in the wizard’s face he saw at first only lines of care and sorrow; though as he looked more intently he perceived that under all there was a great joy: a fountain of mirth enough to set a kingdom laughing, were it to gush forth.
And I agree—it is very helpful in describing the demeanor of Christians, who will feel the fallenness of the world most keenly because they know what God created the world to be, and who know that nothing in history will ever bring about any fundamental repair of things, and yet Christians also have an unquenchable, infallible assurance that in the end, everything will be joy and glory. So how else can we act, but “sad, but not unhappy,” “afflicted, but not crushed”—weeping, but rejoicing.
Justin Taylor

Kenny Wayne Shepherd "Blue on Black" Live At Guitar Center's King of the Blues

Only by a power from beyond ourselves

“If we stress the love of God without the holiness of God, it turns out only to be compromise.  But if we stress the holiness of God without the love of God, we practice something that is hard and lacks beauty.  And it is important to show forth beauty before a lost world and a lost generation.  All too often young people have not been wrong in saying that the church is ugly.  In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we are called upon to show to a watching world and to our own young people that the church is something beautiful.
Several years ago I wrestled with the question of what was wrong with much of the church that stood for purity.  I came to the conclusion that in the flesh we can stress purity without love or we can stress the love of God without purity, but that in the flesh we cannot stress both simultaneously.  In order to exhibit both simultaneously, we must look moment by moment to the work of Christ, to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Spirituality begins to have real meaning in our moment-by-moment lives as we begin to exhibit simultaneously the holiness of God and the love of God.”
Francis A. Schaeffer, The Church before the Watching World (Downers Grove, 1971), page 63.
Ray Ortlund

How To Bring Down The Debt

Os Guinness: Courage in Engaging the World

Here, a video clip from the BioLogos Forum.

I am strengthened by the delightful optimism of this man.

Os quotes George Whitefield saying, 'I'm never better than when I'm on the full stretch for God.' Here's the full context of that statement, which comes from Whitefield's Journals (Jay Green, 2000), p. 81.
Expounded, in the evening, to above a thousand hearers of all denominations; supped with General Columbine; and went home betimes, full of unspeakable comfort. I am never better than when I'm on the full stretch for God. God grant that I may not, like Jehu, drive furiously at first, and afterwards fall back; but 'forgetting those things which are behind . . .' (Phil 3).
Mark Dever interviewed Os here.
Dane Ortlund

Jonathan Winters remembering Christmas on Johnny Carson's show

This man always made me laugh. I grew up watching the Tonight show with Carson and always loved the comedians.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Do It Again

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter 4:
“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Robert Randolph And The Family Band - Shot Of Love

Weird picture. This song is from Robert Randolph and the Family band's new CD We Walk This Road

BOB DYLAN - Shot Of Love (1981)

Bob Dylan (vocal & guitar), Fred Tackett (guitar), Steve Ripley (guitar), Willie Smith (keyboards), Tim Drummond (bass), Jim Keltner (drums), Clydie King, Carolyn Dennis, Regina Havis, Madelyn Quebec (background vocals)

Out Of Control

An “Interview” with the Apostle Paul on the Law, Life, and Death

Paul, thanks for taking some time to help me think through what you’re getting at in Romans 7:7-13. Let’s start with your intended audience here. Who are you talking to?

Those who know the law. Is the law still binding on them?

The law is binding on a person only as long as he lives.
Well, since they’re alive it sounds like they are still bound to the law. But maybe I’m misunderstanding. Can you give an example of this principle from everyday life?

Sure. A married woman is bound to her husband while he lives.
You gave the initial principle as “the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives,” which had one person and a law. But now you’ve introduced two persons, bound to each other by a common law. I think I’m tracking with you. So when does that “binding” cease to exist?

If her husband dies, then she is released from the law of marriage.
And what happens if she is unfaithful while she is bound to her husband and under the law of marriage?

If she lives with another man while her husband is still alive, she will be called an adulteress.
But she’s not bound if she becomes a widow?

If her husband dies, then she is free from the law of marriage.
And if she is free from the marriage law, then she is free to join to a new man?

If her husband is dead and she remarries, then she is not an adulteress.
This marriage-law-divorce-remarriage stuff is helpful in illustrating your point: “The law is binding on a person only as long as he lives.” So what’s the upshot with regard to Christians and the law?

We have died to the law.
How did we die to the law?

We died to the law through the body of Christ.
For what purpose did we die to the law?

We died to the law so that they we belong to another—to him who has been raised from the dead.
Why did God join us to Christ?

So that we could bear fruit for God.
What kind of fruit will we bear if we are under the law and not united to Christ?

While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear  fruit for death.
So we’re not under law?
We are released from the law.
You’re saying we’re dead to the law?

We died to that which held us captive.
What are the results of our death to law?

We now serve in the new way of the Spirit . . .
As opposed to?

. . . the old way of the letter.
I’m tracking with you now. The old way of the letter—the Mosaic law-covenant before Christ—held us captive, aroused our sinful passions, and produced deadly fruit. So we have to die to it and in a sense get remarried to a new person, the resurrected Christ. So the law is now sinful?

The law is sin?! By no means!
Ok, sorry. Does the law do anything good with regard to sin?

If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin!
Can you give an example?

I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
So the law gives knowledge of sin, in this case coveting. But what led to the actual act of coveting?

How so?

Sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness.
But wouldn’t I still sin even if there were no commandments in the written code?

Apart from the law, sin lies dead.
Another death metaphor! Let me try to restate: Sin was dead, then the law came and sin came to life. Sin killed me through the law. But Christ’s death made me die to the law. So before the law came, were you dead or alive?
I was once alive apart from the law.
But then God revealed his law-covenant and what happened?
When the commandment came, (a) sin came alive and (b) I died.
So something that promised you spiritual life led to your spiritual death?
The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me!
And you said it wasn’t that commandment that killed you but sin using the commandment?
Sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me.
Let me try to put all this in chart form. (I work better when I doodle sometimes.)

No law Law arrives Christ dies
Sin is dead; I’m alive Sin is alive; I’m dead Sin is dead; I’m alive
Let’s go back to the law again. To reiterate: you think the law itself is a good thing?
The law is holy.
The commandment is holy, too?

The commandment is holy and righteous and good.
But this good law-covenant—the commandment—it killed you?
By no means!
Sorry! So what killed you spiritually?

It was sin, producing death in me through what is good.
Why would God do this?
In order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment sin might become sinful beyond measure.

Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.
4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.
13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Are “totems” (in the movie Inception) sacraments?

Is there an analogy between Totems in the movie Inception and the sacraments?
If you have seen Inception, then you know that Totems are an important part of the story line.  Per the movie:
A Totem is an object that exists in the real world in order to ground oneself not only in reality, but also in the dream world. A Totem has a specially modified weight, balance, or feel in the real world but in a dream of someone who does not know it well, the characteristics of the totem will very likely be off. In order to protect its integrity, only the totem’s owner should ever handle it. That way, the owner is able to tell if he is in his own dream or someone else’s. In the owner’s own dream world, the totem will feel correct. Any ordinary object which has been in some way modified to affect its balance, weight, or feel will work as a totem (Source).
The importance of Totems to the characters in Inception cannot be overstated. These objects of substance and weight, give concrete assurances of reality.  They assure Dom that he is not a projection of someone else’s dream.
Compare and contrast “totems” with Calvin’s thoughts on sacraments.* 
It seems to me that a simple and proper definition would be to say that [a sacrament] is an outward sign by which the Lord seals on our consciences the promises of his good will toward us in order to sustain the weakness of our faith; and we in turn attest our piety toward him in the presence of the Lord and of his angels and before men. Here is another briefer definition; one may call it a testimony of divine grace toward us, confirmed by an outward sign, with mutual attestation of our piety toward him.” Calvin. IV.14.1, page 1277.
Sacraments are “totems” given by God which assure us of the reality of the Gospel.  As Sinclair Ferguson wrote (in reference to Calvin):
[God] provides the visible words of baptism and the Lord’s supper where Christ puts his grace on display in order to bring us to a more assured communion with him through the Spirit’s work and our responding faith (p. 205, emphasis mine). (As quoted in this post).
Inception-050610-0002.jpgThink of it this way.  There are times when we feel that reality is “sloping.”  We wonder if anything is real.  And, at such moments we run to the table to bite into and taste the Gospel.  We remember that Christ’s body was broken, his blood shed.  Or, we see the water splashing down over the face of a brother or sister and are reminded of new birth.  The sacraments are vital aids that sustain the faithful.
Of course, sacraments do not bestow grace in and of themselves, even as in Inception, totems don’t make reality happen.  Rather, the sacraments are a grace which assures the person holding them in his hand of reality.
But, they are more than just memory devices.  They bring us into the presence of Christ in a particular way.  At this point, the analogy breaks down, as illustrations and analogies always do.
The perfectionist in me wants to refine this even more.  But, it is a blog – -not a book. 
Chris Braun