Evangelism and Aronofsky’s Noah

Since I am sermon prepping this week, I wasn’t overly audacious and did not work on a new post for this week.  I thought it would fun to share some thoughts from the wonderful writers over at Christ and Pop Culture.  E. Stephen Burnett (check out his blog at Speculative Faith, it is awesome) has a great new article briefly addressing the new Noah movie opening tomorrow.

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“We must see films and other stories for what they are. We must listen to movies and respect their makers’ intentions and messages. We must listen to actual real-world audiences for their own true reasons for seeing the film. We must see Scripture, life, storytelling and popular culture for greater ends than simply “evangelism tools.”

My thoughts exactly.  Click on the vocabulary word below to read Mr. Burnett’s thoughts on the movie and using it as an evangelism tool (how do you even refer to someone’s first name if their name start with an initial?  I mean, I guess I don’t know the guy but do I formally have to call him Mr. Burnett?  Or can I call him “E” or Stephen?  This slight excursus has nothing to do with the article, I am just confused.)  Enjoy!  

Sententious [sen-ten-shuh s] adjective – abounding in pithy aphorisms or maxims; given to excessive moralizing; of the nature of a maxim; pithy

There is also a great article by Gregory Alan Thornbury going beyond the alleged biblical inaccuracies and gives us a clearer picture of what we can take from this film and what Aronofsky’s vision was/is.

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Along the Way: Good News for Your Kids in the Everyday

I am firmly convinced that the gospel, the good news of God our Father’s redemptive work through the person and work of Jesus Christ, is a message that both informs our eternal destiny and conforms us into His son’s likeness.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians that the knowledge of Christ(the gospel) is for those being saved as well as those not-yet saved.  The gospel, to paraphrase Tim Keller, is not just the ABCs of life, but the A to Zs of life.

With that conviction in hand, I have been pondering how that can apply to my everyday life with family, and more specifically to my kids.  How do I raise my kids to value the gospel, to accept that message, and begin to show fruit in their life from believing that good news?

In the next three posts, I will share three principles I have learned and live by as I continue the learning process of shepherding my kids in the everyday with the gospel.  This is not some exhaustive theological exposition, but merely some observations and principles I am trying to live by as I have kids maturing towards really being able to understand and process the gospel message and the implications of it in their lives.

1) Evangelism for Everyday Life

I have been learning in my own life how I share the good news of Christ’s atoning death on the cross and resurrection is not something rigid and structured, but sharing the gospel is a daily life-on-life interaction with friends, family, and co-workers who don’t know Jesus Christ.  Not only do others need to hear the good news everyday, but so do I, and evangelism looks a lot like letting my thoughts echo the gospel, my words speak the gospel, and my deeds reflect the gospel.  Evangelism is a beautiful paradox of neat and messy; intentional and spontaneous; word and deed; one-on-one and in a group; deep and wide.

This is true in my day-to-day interactions with my four kids.  Sharing the gospel with them is not some wrote presentation I give or having them say a prayer (although we do have scheduled time for this and prayer, but more on that in the next post).  John Piper described the gospel (more specifically the cross of Christ) as a multi-faceted diamond that can be looked at from countless angles.  I want my kids to experience that multi-faceted nature of the gospel message in their everyday life as they live their life.  I look to passages like Deuteronomy 6:7 that says, “You shall teach [God’s commandments] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  Whether we are sitting down to eat, lying down for bed, going on a walk outside, playing video games, reading a book, watching a movie, or playing in the yard, we are to be teaching our kids about Jesus Christ and the good news of His life, death, and resurrection

For example, when someone does something nice for someone else, I will intentionally try to point them to Jesus as their example as a servant.  I will tell them (not in these exact words) that Jesus was sent as a servant who came to serve us and ultimately showed us the greatest service by laying down his life on the cross to take our sin and give us life, peace, and restoration.  We are showing Jesus’ humble servanthood and joyfully obeying him when we serve other people in our family and others outside our family.

On some days that means my three-year-old might hit her brother or sister, and I share how because of our sin we were God’s enemies and deserve death, but the Father sent His son Jesus to die for us and now we are no longer his enemies but are a part of His family and we are called to show that same love the Father showed us to other people.  The good news allows me to help her see that she doesn’t have to be mean and hit her brother and sister, but she can show love to them and if she is upset, she can lovingly talk to them or come talk to me to figure out the situation.

Or if my son is throwing a fit over not being able to play the computer before bed, I can go into his room where he is flopping around and throwing a tantrum and talk with him (most of the time it is after calming him down and asking him to respectfully listen instead of flop around) about how God is good, so we don’t have to look to something else to make us the most happy.  We want to be happy, and God the Father knows that, and that is why he sent his Son Jesus so that we could have the only thing that will always make us happy, God himself (God is the gospel, after all).  I urge my son to worship God (to make God the most important thing) and let him know that throwing a fit over video games is his heart worshiping a false God that won’t bring him lasting happiness.  When we worship God, we find true happiness and we can enjoy the times we get to play video games and the times we don’t.

The whole point of these interactions is that I want the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to meet my children where they are at every single day, whether that is related to discipline, false worship, thankfulness, sadness, joy, obedience, friendship, or whatever.  If I expect that of myself as a disciple of Jesus Christ, why would I not expect that out of my kids?  Discipleship doesn’t start with our kids when they pray a prayer or choose to be baptized, but discipleship starts at the point they begin to walk (or crawl) alongside of us as parents and learn from us how to daily follow Jesus Christ (Deuteronomy 6:7).  Isn’t that what discipleship is all about?

Stay tuned and I will dive into the next point addressing how our family balances the day-to-day sharing of the gospel with intentional time engaging God’s Word in Scripture reading and prayer.  Thanks for reading today!

 

Have You Read the Twible?

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No I am not writing with a speech impediment, those aren’t funny, my brother grew up with one and I Iove that guy, I would never make fun of him (well, about that part of him.  I make fun of him all the time).

I am referring to a recent offering from Jana Riess called the “Twible”.  Riess set about reading the Bible from cover to cover and reacting to each chapter with a 140-word tweet.  I have not personally read it, but Luke Harrington’s review of the book over at Christ and Pop Culture makes me want to.   You can read his review by clicking on the vocab word below, but here is one snippet that is particularly thought-provoking for you Christians out there.

“In the introduction, Riess writes, “I love the Bible. I tell you this now just in case you begin to wonder about my feelings down the road, when you see me railing at God,” and The Twible absolutely delivers on that promise: there’s a lot of affection, and a lot of anger. What the average Evangelical reader gets out of The Twible will depend on how he or she distinguishes between honest anger, opportunistic snark, and straight blasphemy. But if you’re thinking of writing it off as the latter, allow me to remind you of what God does in Genesis 32. Faced with the opportunity to give his people any name he chooses (“God’s Girl Scouts”? “WE♥YHWH”?), he chooses to christen them “Israel”—“Wrestles With God.” Maybe true worship isn’t always found in blind submission, but in wrestling with the Creator’s holy will, even when it’s ugly or terrifying in your eyes.” 

Enervated [en-er-vay-ted] adjective – with out vigor, force, or strength; languid

[From TGC] 9 Things You Should Know About Sex Trafficking

pimp

Joe Carter in his always helpful and informative “9 Things You Should Know” posts at The Gospel Coalition Blog, shares some recent findings from a newly released study from the Justice Department on the Underground Commercial Sex Economy.

Click on the link below to learn a little more about how terrible the problem of Sex Trafficking is in our urban areas and find out more from your local organizations about how the problem is right in your own city.

Joe’s post: “9 Things You Should Know About Sex Trafficking” 

The Justice Department’s report: “Estimating the Size and Structure of the Underground Commercial Sex Economy in Eight Major US Cities.”

For those close to my home in Appleton, check out these two fantastic organizations I have worked with and for in the past to combat sex trafficking in our home state of Wisconsin:

5-stones – Fighting the Giant of Sex Trafficking

Exploit No More – End Child Sex Trafficking

Authority and Humble Faith [Redux]

I seem to be in the mood to re-hash some older posts that I really like.  Here is one for the REDUX file and your happy Thursday!

Faith of the Centurion

My kids want the same thing that politicians want.  They use their force of being and cuteness to try and make me look past their grabs for it.  I have authority over my kids, and they want to exercise it over me and each other.

There are few days that go by that I do not have to tell my oldest, “You are not the boss of your brother.”  She wants to tell her younger brother what to do, and tends to chime in with, “You shouldn’t do that,” or, “You didn’t listen to Daddy,” when my wife or I are disciplining him.  It trickles down to him, too, when he orders around his little sister.  And our littlest, despite only being two, tries to tell the other two and my wife and I what to do when she doesn’t get what she wants.

Those who don’t have power want power, it is inherent in human nature to crave dominion and authority over other things.  God created this desire good (Genesis 1:28; Genesis 9:1-3).  Authority is ultimately an image of our Creator (Imago Dei) and is a reflection of the hierarchy found in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  This was not a domineering authority, but one of mutual submission, mutual love, and mutual honor.  The mandate from God in the Garden of Eden to exact dominion was a great responsibility and in the wise words of Ben Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Unfortunately, the Fall led to this good desire being re-purposed into an idol (Genesis 11) and has caused untold suffering and human strife.  Sin has twisted our responsibility to care for creation and for each other and has lead to death, decay, tyranny, extinction, genocide, rape, deforestation, and a host of other ills.  We’ve taken our God-given authority and replaced it with a man-made desire to hold the authority, both in our own lives and in the lives of others.  Sin has caused both the moral decay of the human soul and the physical decay of creation.

Fast forward a long time from the Garden to one man who held lots of authority.  In this story we do not know his name, but that he is a centurion in the Roman Army stationed in Capernaum.  As a military leader of one hundred men he held substantial power and sway over a lot of people, even the locals, as evidenced by being a major benefactor to the city’s Jewish population (Luke 7:5).  He had power that stemmed from civic authority, martial authority, and financial capital.

Two things that he did not have power over are death and sickness.  In his house a servant he highly valued had become very sick and was at the point of death (Luke 7:2).  There was no army tactic or civil edict he could give to return this servant from the point of death, but he had heard of one who had been demonstrating great power and preaching the kingdom of God.  That man was Jesus of Nazareth, and he happened to be in town!

Showing his continual clout he sent elders of the town, from the local synagogue, to find Jesus with directions from the centurion to have Jesus come and heal his servant.  They begged and pleaded on behalf of the centurion, pointing to his benevolence towards God’s people and love for the Jewish nation.  Jesus agrees to go and follows the Jewish elders towards the house of the centurion where his servant lay sick and dying.

On his way, the centurion sends friends out to Jesus and the elders and this is the message they bring from the powerful centurion:

“Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof.  Therefore I did not presume to come to you.  But say the word, and let my servant be healed.  For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he does; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Luke 7:6-8)

Jesus, in response, is absolutely blown away.  He responds to the centurion’s response with:

“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”  (Luke 7:9)

The centurion’s friends are sent back to him and by the time they return the servant is fully healed!  The faith of the centurion causes Jesus to marvel and his faith made his servant well.  Such faith was said not even to be found among those in Israel!  That is a shocking statement coming from the messiah of the Jewish people!  His statement is a foreshadowing of what the Spirit will do to bring the gospel to Gentiles through the ministry of Paul.

The centurion recognized Jesus’ authority, having heard from others that he had been demonstrating power over death and disease, and instead of trying to prove his own power, he appeals to their commonality and he humbles himself before the superior authority of Jesus.  It is less remarkable that a Gentile asked the Hebrew Messiah for help (although that is remarkable), and much more astounding that a man of power such as a Roman centurion would condescend before a Galilean peasant and Rabbi and confess that Jesus’ authority comes from a greater source than the Roman Ceaser, but from God himself!

“There is not one square inch in all of human life of which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!” 

This story from Luke powerfully illustrates how we as believers, in Christ, approach him.  Jesus’ commends the faith of this centurion because his faith is one of a humble recognition of Jesus’ authority over all things!  That is the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ!  We are not in control, God is in control, and faith is a humble recognition of God’s position of authority over not just our souls but all created things.  As Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not one square inch in all of human life of which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!”  The centurion’s faith is one we model because it preaches a message of God’s sovereign rule and reign over everything, from life to death, A to Z, to infinity.

Tucked into this story is the recognition that only one faithful person has shown this type of humility.  He was the only one to exemplify the faith of the centurion perfectly, all the time.  It was God himself, Jesus Christ, humbly laying down his authority to condescend into history and  take on flesh and be one of us.  Jesus Christ showed true, perfect humility by submitting to the authority of the Father and coming to proclaim the kingdom of God and ultimately die on the cross for the penalty of our sins and rising again victorious over Satan, sin, death, and Hell, so that we can experience life with Him.

We can live out the faith of the centurion, but his humble faith ultimately points us to Jesus, the one who exemplifies perfectly humble, perfectly submitting faith to the Father.