Friday, February 29, 2008

What I'm reading...

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, by Tim Keller.

Keller is a fellow Presbyterian pastor in New York City and is one of the outstanding leaders of my denomination. I listen to all his sermons and learn much from them, so I'm excited about his book. It's a Christian response to a number of questions that skeptics and doubters ask about the faith. Questions like why God allows suffering, how a loving God could send people to hell, how Christians can lay exclusive claim to truth, and the like.

You can learn more about the book at this website.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

For all who miss "The Office"...


...you can watch some really funny deleted scenes from Season 4 at this website: http://www.nbc.com/The_Office/

Loony eclipse

I happened to catch a hilarious remark yesterday, but I tried not to laugh. I was in a store and I overheard two sales clerks talking to each other. One of them said, "Did you know tonight there's a total eclipse of the moon?"

The other said, "Oh, does that mean we have to turn our clocks back an hour?"

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

La Vie En Rose

If you're in the mood for a really sad movie, rent La Vie En Rose. It's a French film with English subtitles. My wife and I watched it last night. Whew! It wore us out. Not only is it a long movie, but the subject is a tragic one. It's the true story of Edith Piaf (1915-1963), generally recognized as France's greatest pop singer. The title of the movie is the title of Piaf's signature song.

I must admit I'd never heard of Edith Piaf. As depicted in this film, she was an amazingly talented singer and entertainer. But her life was SO hard. She was abandoned by her parents in early childhood and was raised for some years by her grandmother who ran a brothel. She developed keratitis and was blind for a few years. Her father, a circus performer, eventually took her back and the two of them lived from handout to handout on the street. Her talent as a singer was later discovered and Edith grew to become France's most popular entertainer and an international star. But along the way she became addicted to morphine and alcohol. If the film is accurate, she was also a thoroughly belligerent, self-absorbed person. She died lonely, angry, and sad.

While it's quite an ordeal to watch, this is an important movie. It illustrates the message of Ecclesiastes: all is vanity without God. In Edith Piaf's life you see the aching need of the human heart for love. In a scene near the end of the movie, Edith is interviewed by a magazine reporter. The reporter asks, "If you were to give advice to a woman, what would it be?" Edith replies, "Love." The reporter then asks, "To a young girl?" Edith again replies, "Love." Finally the reporter asks, "To a child?" And Edith again says, "Love."

When the need for love is not met by parents (especially in the critical early years) we carry throughout life a wounded heart that may never be healed. In the movie, a few people tried to supply the pieces missing from Piaf's life. But as Blaise Pascal said, the vacuum in the human heart is God-shaped. No amount of success, fame, or human love can do what only God's love can do.

Friday, February 15, 2008

You know you're a granddad when...

...you are excited about seeing your grandkids get their haircuts! Here are some great pictures of Eben (3) and Tate (1) when they visited us a couple weeks ago. It was Tate's first-ever haircut!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Atonement

Any movie with a title like Atonement begs for critique by a Christian. I saw it earlier this week. Besides being a beautifully made movie - with excellent acting, music, cinematography, and plot - it has a lot to say about life, guilt, and...atonement.

The story follows two sisters and the man they both loved from childhood. All three lives are completely and forever affected by what some might call "fate" but what is actually a tragic combination of choices and decisions. I once heard someone say that one's destination, both in life and the hereafter, is nothing more than the result of daily choices, some of which are made with scarcely a thought of their impact upon the future. In other words, our lives move forward like a train. Every day we lay another piece of track. So we should not be surprised where the train ends up.

In Atonement, the younger sister Briony Tallis, driven by jealousy of her sister Cecilia's relationship with Robbie Turner, shows why Proverbs 16:28 is true: "A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends." Briony spreads a slanderous lie that wreaks life-long havoc.

In addition, Robbie's decision to express his youthful lusts has destructive consequences as well.

What I found fascinating was the movie's treatment of guilt and satisfaction. Briony's guilty conscience seeks relief, but the only thing she can come up with is "works of the law": she becomes a nurse and cares for wounded soldiers. But it doesn't work. As Christians have discovered, it is only through repentance and faith that one can find true rest for the soul.

Nor can we rewrite our past and erase the consequences of what we've done wrong (as Briony tries to do at the end).

We instinctively know that wrongdoing must be punished. Some people punish themselves by trying to be good; others by self-destructing habits or suicide. The gospel says you don't have to go either of those routes. You can trust that justice was served on the cross, and believe on Christ as your substitute. "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins" (1 John 2:2). When you trust Christ, he doesn't rewrite your past but he does begin a new story in your life - one of hope, promise, and eternal life.

I'd like to see the movie again. My wife saw it twice, and the second time she noticed that water is a dominant metaphor in the movie. She also noticed the color red shows up a lot. If true, the director of this movie unwittingly (or wittingly?) communicated the truth that sins can be washed away in the blood of the Lamb.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What I'm doing for devotions...

For the Love of God, by D. A. Carson. The sub-title of the book is "A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God's Word." Each day's reading starts with a selection from Robert Murray M'Cheyne's Bible reading plan - which, if followed, gets you through the whole Bible in a year. Then Carson (professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) comments upon one of the Scripture passages for that day.

Carson now has two volumes of For the Love of God, each of which follows the one-year M'Cheyne reading plan. I bought just the second volume. Also, I'm only reading half of the M'Cheyne plan each day, which means I'll be taking two years to get through the Bible.

What I like about this devotional book is that Carson's comments take you into and behind the Scriptures to see Christ and God's unfolding plan of redemption in the Word. So many devotional books are of the "be nice today" variety. They miss the gospel and focus on "inspiring" you to better Christian behavior. Carson leads me to Jesus, and that's what I need at the start of the day.