A Framework for Understanding the Bible

I’ll be the first to admit that the Bible is a difficult book.  One of the reasons it’s difficult is that it’s not really even one book, but rather a collection of books.  (That’s what “bible” actually means: a collection of books.)  Over and over again people will say to me, “I’d like to read the Bible, but I just don’t understand it.”  I hope the following simple framework helps you get a little more clarity and understanding.

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All of History in 3 Acts

The Bible tells the story of the great drama of History in 3 acts, with a prologue at the beginning and an epilogue at the end.

Prologue

Subject: Beginnings.  Adam to Abraham.  The Prologue tells us why the world is the way it is.  After a beautiful beginning (“And there was light….”)  the story quickly becomes a story of blood and betrayal: Cain kills Abel, and we’ve been killing our brothers ever since.

Scripture: Genesis 1-11

Act 1

Subject: Israel.  The Lord’s plan to save all of humanity begins with one man–Abraham–and it culminates in one of Abraham’s descendant’s: Jesus of Nazareth.  Act 1 is about God’s chosen people Israel, and Israel’s slavery, exodus, kingdom, exile, and return.

Scripture: Genesis 12-Malachi

Act 2

Subject: Jesus.  Act 2 is all about Jesus, from his birth to his death to his Resurrection.

Scripture: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John

Act 3

Subject: The Church.  Act 3 is about how the church is God’s means to redeem the world.  It begins with a small group of disciples in Jerusalem on Pentecost Sunday and it’s still going, right up to and including the present.  We are living in Act 3.

Scripture: Acts-Revelation 20

Epilogue

Subject: Forever and Ever Amen.  The Epilogue is about History’s culmination, when Jesus returns and all the bad things come untrue and evil is finally ended.

Scripture: Revelation 21-22

Conclusion

I realize that the above doesn’t answer most of our good questions about the difficult parts of scripture, but it does give us a framework within which we can at least get our bearings when reading scripture.  Keep reading–it’s worth it.

 

 

 

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Saturday

What happened on Saturday?

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Jesus was crucified on Friday, and he was raised on Sunday.

But what happened on Saturday?

Nothing.

Nothing happened on Saturday.

In many ways, we live in a Saturday world.  Saturday is about waiting.  Saturday is about the promise of a better future that hasn’t yet come.  Saturday is about the hope that God will do something, but still not seeing it.

We live in a Saturday world.

But Sunday is coming.

 

 

 

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My 2015 Reading List

I set a goal to read 50 books in 2015. In September, I revised my goal down to 40…and I hit it! What follows is my reading list for 2015, in chronological order. (Click here to see my post on the best 6 books I read last year.)

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My Ratings

★★★★★ life-changing and unforgettable
★★★★     excellent
★★★         worth reading
★★             read other things first
                 not recommended

 

The Class Meeting: Reclaiming a Forgotten (and Essential) Small Group Experience, by Kevin Watson.  Clear, simple book about the most important building block of the Methodist movement.  ★★★

 

Notes from Underground, by Roger Scrunton.  Novel about the dissident movement in communist Prague in the 1980s, and the way freedom was a betrayal and a disappointment for the movement’s ideals. Scruton is a very interesting philosopher and thinker.  ★★★

 

Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell.  I wrote about Outliers in my Best Books of 2015 post.  ★★★★

 

You’ll Get Through This: Help and Hope for Your Turbulent Time, by Max Lucado.  ★★★

 

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell.  My least favorite of the Gladwell books.  ★★

 

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giantsby Malcolm Gladwell.  Some really interesting stories of turning weaknesses into strengths.  I think his reading of the David and Goliath story in 1 Samuel 17 is right on.  ★★★

 

Meeting God in Mark: Reflections for the Season of Lent, by Rowan Williams.  Typically well-written insights from the former Archbishop of Canterbury.  ★★★

 

Mark: the Gospel of Passion (the Biblical Imagination Series), by Michael Card.  I like his creative, faithful thoughts on the Gospels.  ★★★

 

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Differenceby Malcolm Gladwell.  The stuff on “connectors,” “mavens,” and “salesmen” was helpful to me.  ★★★

 

The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy As They Do, by Cloture Rapaille.  I think the basic premise–that different objects mean different things to different cultures–makes sense, but I think he really stretches to make some of the points he does.  

 

The Radetzky March, by Joseph Roth.  I wrote about The Radetzky March in my Best Books of 2015 post.  ★★★★

 

The Epic of Eden: A Christian Entry Into the Old Testament, by Sandra Richter.  I LOVE this book, which provides a cohesive vision for understanding the Old Testament.  Highly recommended for anyone who has trouble making sense of the Old Testament.  ★★★

 

Every Man a King, by Bill Kauffman.  Vulgar, convoluted, with a ridiculous plot: I hated this book.  (This 1 star review on Amazon does a good job capturing what I disliked–I didn’t write that review.)  

 

Seabiscuit: An American Legend, by Laura Hillenbrand.  Good, not great.  A story about a horse can only be so captivating, and I much preferred Unbroken, which I wrote about last year.  ★★★

 

Little Failure: A Memoir, by Gary Shteyngart.  Really funny, particularly the parts about this Russian Jewish immigrant learning to be a good American.  ★★★

 

To Live Is Christ to Die is Gain, by Matt Chandler.  Based off his sermon series.  ★★

 

Faithful: a Theology of Sex by Beth Felker Jones.  ★★

 

Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 12 Ways to Keep Yours Alive, by Thom S. Rainer.  ★★

 

The Martian, by Andy Weir.  Might be a good movie (haven’t seen it), but not a great novel.  ★★

 

Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels.  Important topic, but I didn’t find the book all that helpful.  ★★

 

Crazy Busy:A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, by Kevin DeYoung.  Helpful, particularly the chapter on acedia.  ★★★

 

An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest, by Alan Fadling.  I wrote about An Unhurried Life in my Best Books of 2015 post.  ★★★

 

Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Undset.  I wrote about Kristen Lavransdatter in my Best Books of 2015 post. ★★★★★

 

Do Not Live Afraid: Faith in A Fearful World, by John Indermark.  ★★

 

Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Can Still Make Surprising Emotional Sense, by Francis Spufford.  Although Mr. Spufford and I would disagree on a number of issues, his sincere devotion and creative approach won me over.  Recommended for someone who might want to think about the Christian faith from an unconventional starting point.  ★★★

 

The Searchers: A Quest for Faith in the Valley of Doubt by Joe Loconte.  I really like Professor Leconte’s reading of the Emmaus story.  ★★★

 

The Thirty-Nine Steps, by John Buchan.  ★★★

 

Thriving in Babylon: Why Hope, Humility, and Wisdom Matter in a Godless Culture, by Larry Osborne.  Book never really lived up to the promise of the title.  ★★

 

How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor, by James K.A. Smith.  People I respect were enthusiastic about this book, and though it offers some helpful insights into Taylor’s work, in general I thought it was poorly written, full of academic jargon and convoluted sentences.  If it were not for the fact that I think Taylor’s insights into our secular age are worth hearing, I would otherwise give this book a lower rating.  Very disappointing.  ★★★

 

Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faithby Larry Osborne.  ★★

 

The Jesus Cow: a Novel, by Michael Perry.  What do I say 2 stars means?  Right: “read other things first.”  Exactly.  ★★

 

Compassion Without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth, by Adam Barr and Ron Citlau.  Honestly, I don’t remember anything about this book.  I don’t know if that’s my fault or the authors’.  ★★

 

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo.  This lady is weird–we’re supposed to talk to our clothes and books?–but I actually kinda liked this book.  ★★★

 

The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL, by Eric Greitens.  ★★

 

The Great Christ Comet: Revealing the True Star of Bethlehem, by Colin Nicholl.  First of all, this is physically a beautiful book: hardback, with glossy illustrations on nearly every page.  An exhaustive study of the topic.   ★★★

 

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.  I wrote about The Hunger Games in my Best Books of 2015 post.  ★★★

 

Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins.  Better than Mockingjay, worse than The Hunger Games.  ★★

 

Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catcall.  I wrote about Creativity, Inc. in my Best Books of 2015 post.  ★★★★

 

The Means of Grace: Traditioned Practice in Today’s World, by Andrew Thompson.  Good, clear summary of ways people have learned to connect to God.  ★★★

 

Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins.  Not a good book.  But, to be expected: wrapping up complicated plot lines neatly is difficult.  

 

My 2016 Reading Goal

Once again, I’ve set myself a goal of reading 50 books this year.  What about you–do you have a reading goal for the year?

[Here are my 2013 and 2014 reading lists, respectively.]

 

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My Thoughts on “Spotlight”

I went to see the movie Spotlight on Friday afternoon.  Here are some quick thoughts.

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Every now and then I’ll go to the movies by myself on Fridays.  I tend to do a lot of my sermon preparation on Fridays, and from time to time I’ll go to a movie for sermon research.  (I’m not kidding.)  I’m preaching on Judas this Sunday, and it struck me that the movie Spotlight might give me some insight into the idea of betrayal.

Spotlight, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture on Sunday, is about the investigative reporting the Boston Globe did in 2001 that blew the clergy sex abuse scandal wide open.  It is a serious, earnest movie that thankfully avoids the self-importance and self-regard in which these sorts of “Important” Hollywood films sometimes indulge.

At one point in the film, one of the reporters, for whom reporting on the story has been an emotional ordeal, shouts: “They knew and they let it happen…to kids.”  That line really struck me, and I just started crying quietly, in the dark.

How could you betray that trust?

But that’s the way it always is, isn’t it?  Spotlight does a good job of showing how the real scandal was not that hundreds of priests preyed on the vulnerable, but that thousands of people let it happen, covered it up.  As one of the characters says, “It takes a village to molest a child.”

The movie very clearly takes on the Roman Catholic Church, but I don’t think Spotlight is either anti-Christian or anti-clerical.  There was never a point while watching the movie that made me say, “I don’t think you are being fair.”  Rather, I found the film to be a spotlight on the inevitable tendency of the strong to hurt the weak, and the invariable human tendency to knuckle-under, close ranks, and deny ever seeing anything.

I can’t compare Spotlight to any of the other Best Picture nominees since I haven’t seen any of them, but it is exactly the sort of movie that is worthy of that designation: tautly constructed, about an important topic, and a moving story.

Recommended.

 

2 Brief Thoughts on Elections

Christians make two mistakes when it comes to elections.  Either we are triumphalist, thinking that because our candidate won, all will be well, or we are defeatist and despairing, thinking that because our candidate lost, all will be lost.  Both reactions are mistaken.

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Elections Are Important

Don’t get me wrong–politics matters.  I voted yesterday, and I think it matters who is elected, from dog catcher to president, and I want our leaders to lead and our government to run well.  It matters whether the trains run on time and the roads are paved and the trash picked up.  But as important as all that is, politics is not ultimate, and political power is not most important.  There is something more important than politics, and therefore Christians shouldn’t make the mistake of believing that our hope depends on how the election returns come in.

But Political Power is Not *Most* Important

Faithfulness is more important than politics and election results.  David Watson is the Dean of United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and he wrote a blog post yesterday about the temptation the church faces to value political power over faithfulness.  Professor Watson’s article is worth quoting from at length (though you should read the whole thing):

My fellow evangelicals, let me state this clearly: the “system” will never serve us, because the “system” is not of Christ. The “system” is a political machine beholden to special interests, lobbying groups, large corporations, financial contributors, and other entities, many of which are not the least bit concerned with anything remotely resembling Christian values. The idea that you can tear down the “system” and reshape it to serve you is, and always has been, a lie. It has been a lie since the time of Constantine. The “system” is about power, but Christ’s power is the power of the cross, and God’s power is made perfect in weakness. Christians must always stand outside the “system,” even when it is ostensibly Christian. As Christ taught us, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). Christians willing to compromise core tenets of the faith in order to bend the political process to their will may win in the short term, but it will be a pyrrhic victory. In the end, they will lose far more than they gain. “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?” (Mark 8:36). It’s not worth it. It’s not even close….

His ending makes our choice clear:

Who will we follow? Will we follow Christ and rightly understand ourselves as a countercultural family of faith, or will we baptize an idol of crass materialism, place a crown on its head, and call it Jesus?

Good stuff.

 

 

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The Best Books I Read in 2015

I set a goal to read 50 books in 2015. In September, I revised my goal down to 40…and I hit it! What follows is my list of the best 6 books I read in 2015, in chronological order.  (Update: My entire 2015 reading list is here.)

25th February 1939:  British statesman Winston Churchill (1874-1965) sits at the writing desk of his country home in Chartwell, Kent. On the desk can be seen medals awarded to him for his various services, now serving the function of paperweights. Original Publication: Picture Post - 90 - Churchill - pub. 1939  (Photo by Kurt Hutton/Picture Post/Getty Images)

My Rules

I only count books I read all the way through, cover to cover.  I read lots of journals and periodicals, and in my weekly sermon prep read parts of different books and commentaries, but for my reading goal, none of those count.

A book that I keep thinking about, a book that adds enduring value to my life, that’s a book I’ll define as good.  I use a 5 star system in my ratings to signify the following:

★★★★★ life-changing and unforgettable
★★★★     excellent
★★★         worth reading

Books getting less than 3 stars aren’t on my “Best” list, which doesn’t mean they were necessarily bad, but just not books that I’d excitedly recommend to you.

★★             read other things first
                 not recommended

Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell

gladwell

I read all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books in 2015; Outliers is my favorite.  No man is an island; any amount of success we achieve is due to hard work, of course, but it’s also all about right place, right time; success is about our circumstances, our family, and our environment. ★★★★

The Radetsky March, by Joseph Roth

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I read because I want to experience life; the books I like best are the ones that evoke other times and other places so acutely that, to paraphrase Robert Frost, they make me remember things I’ve never known.  And, there is something about the vanished places that only exist in memory that are the sweetest and saddest.  Since I first read Patrick Leigh Fermor’s great memoirs (A Time of Gifts and Between the Wood and Water) I’ve loved reading works of nostos for Mittereuropa, that now-vanished world of the Austro-Hungarian empire, dismantled in World War I and disappeared with murder and concrete by World War Two and the Iron Curtain.

After watching The Grand Budapest Hotel, I read about Stephan Zweig, whose work was the inspiration for the Wes Anderson movie. Then, in Zweig’s autobiography, I stumbled across a reference to The Radetsky March.  I’d never heard it mentioned anywhere else, but it was one of the best books I read in 2015 and the sense of it will stay with me a long time after.

So, what is The Radetsky March about?  I like Simon Schama’s remark:

‘Read this and your life will change,’ we say, pressing it relentlessly on strangers encountered in Daunt Books who might confuse him with Henry or Philip of the same moniker. ‘So what’s it about?’ they reasonably inquire. ‘Ah, well,’ you say, ‘it follows an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army before the first world war, stuck in a provincial border garrison doing nothing in particular except getting drunk on 180 per cent schnapps and haplessly wandering from calamity to disaster … ‘ ‘Oh, right, thanks,’ they say, looking around for an escape route before you can add: ‘Oh and, of course, all of human life – sex, class, food, music, land, power, and Jews – there’s this scene where Kaiser Franz Joseph runs into an old Hasidic rabbi … ‘ But you’ve already lost them to the Man Booker shortlist table.”

Franz Joseph, Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1848-1916.

Franz Joseph, Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1848-1916.

The novel is an “elegiac evocation of the slow decay of a way of life that disappeared with the collapse of the multinational Habsburg Empire” and about the soft but irresistible pull of that empire towards destruction, and about one family’s own petty paralysis in the face of that slow pull.

For me, The Radetsky March is all atmosphere, elegy for a world that will never come again. (For a contemporary review of the novel that even then was looking back on a lost world, see this 1933 New York Times piece.)  ★★★★

 

An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest, by Alan Fadling

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“If you had one word to describe Jesus, what would it be?”  In An Unhurried Life, Alan Fadling recounts how, when philosopher and theologian Dallas Willard answered that question, he chose relaxed.  Fadling writes, “What took root in my own heart [after hearing Willard’s one word description] was the desire to know Jesus as an unhurried savior.” When I read that sentence last summer, I thought “YES.  Me too.”

I read this book at exactly the right time.  I had been feeling harried and shallow for months, feeling as if I could never find quiet, and feeling that God was calling me to prayer and silence.  Alan Fadling’s book was a blessing to me, and I recommend it to you.  ★★★

Kristin Lavransdatter, by Sigrid Unset

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Imagine living in a world in which all of reality–everything you could see and touch and taste and smell–was enchanted with the power of God.  This is the world of Kristin Lavransdatter.

Rod Dreher explains:

The late medievals were heirs to a belief system that regarded the world as enchanted. God was everywhere, and ordered all things to Himself. All of Creation — and it was “Creation,” not yet “Nature” — was a sign pointing to its Creator. It is an anachronistic mistake to think that our late medieval ancestors regarded the world as we do, except with a belief in God added to it. They did not. God and things divine were far more present in the imaginations of the people, who looked around them and saw Him. They lived in a cosmos — a universe ordered by God, pregnant with meaning and divine purpose [emphasis in the original].”

Kristin Lavransdatter is an 1,100 page historical novel (actually a trilogy of novels, published in the early 1920s), written by Norwegian writer Sigrid Undset about 14th century Norway.  The novel follows the life of the title character (Kristin, daughter of her father Lavrans)

first as a young girl enjoying bread, butter, dried reindeer, and mead in sunny alpine meadows with her father; then through her thrilling first encounters with the love of her life, the beguiling Erlend Nikulausson, during which Undset precisely renders the romantic heart of a teenage girl; and finally through Kristin’s adulthood as a brooding but hardworking mistress of a household and mother of many sons.”

Carrie Frederick Frost has an insightful essay at First Things (from which I took the above quotation) about Kristin and motherhood and faith.  I will never be a mother, but I am a son and a father, and I appreciate Frost’s summary of the insight that Kristin gains from motherhood:

It is through reflection on her own experience of motherhood that Kristin is able to understand her parents’ love for her. After a decade of motherhood she considers the character of her parents’ love: “That love had been strong and wide and unfathomably deep; while the love she gave them in return was weak and thoughtless and selfish, even back in childhood when her parents were her whole world.” Kristin realizes that even though she loved her parents, her love for them did not approach the love they had for her, and that she now feels this same “strong and wide” love for her own children. Through her maternal meditation, Kristin understands that she belongs to a lineage of love linking her children, herself, her parents, and all of humanity back to God’s “unfathomably deep” parental love.”

Kristin Lavransdatter is not just about motherhood, though: like other great epic novels (e.g. War and Peace or Island of the World) it is about all of life: marriage, adultery, hatred, war, forgiveness, and the grace of God.  I love this novel.  ★★★★★

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspirationby Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

buzz

I had an insight last year: my job (or at least the most public aspect of it) is essentially creative.  Every single Sunday, 47 weeks a year, I am personally and alone responsible for a 30 minute presentation that is supposed to faithfully convey Christian doctrine, bring the Bible to life, appeal to outsiders and skeptics, nourish the faithful, and, if possible, be both humorous and poignant.  And then do it again in 7 days.

How is it possible to make that kind of creativity and excellence routine?

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Ed Catmull is a computer genius in his own right, but he is also a business genius, and as a co-founder and president of Pixar he has been obsessed with creating a culture of creativity since 1986.  Creativity Inc. is Mr. Catmull’s attempt to put what he has learned down on paper.  The result is a business book unlike most business books, and I found myself underlining sentence after sentence as I read.  ★★★★

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

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The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins’s dystopian young adult novel, surprised me: it was much better than I expected it to be, and I still find myself thinking about it frequently, months later.  The basic story line–how a ruthless elite amuses themselves to death while exploiting the general population in order to maintain their wealth and comfort–strikes me as chillingly similar to life in modern America: we live in The Capital.  I think Katniss Everdeen is a totally believable heroine, and I am impressed with Ms. Collins’s creativity and vision.  ★★★

My 2016 Reading Goal

Once again, I’ve set myself a goal of reading 50 books this year.  What about you–do you have a reading goal for the year?

 

[Here are my 2013 and 2014 reading lists, respectively.]

 

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You Need a Sex Habit*

Couples who are having problems aren’t having sex.  Yes, I’m not a researcher or a therapist and my evidence is all anecdotal from conversations with lots of different couples, but I’m telling you: couples who are having problems aren’t having (enough) sex.  Correlation or causation?  Here’s what I think.

Grant_Wood_-_American_Gothic_-_Google_Art_Project

Sex is a Keystone Habit

I’ve written previously about keystone habits:

A keystone habit is a simple habit that has effects that cascade into other aspects of an individual’s or a group’s life.

So, a keystone habit might be:

To think of it another way, a keystone habit is the first domino that falls and knocks down all the others with it.

So, a keystone habit in healthy families is having dinner together at home every evening.  That simple practice affects the relationship between the mom and the dad and the kids’ behavior in school and even their reading level.  It’s one domino that falls, knocking over a bunch of others.”

It’s not the keystone habit itself that matters as much as what that particular habit represents and sets in motion.  I think sex between a husband and a wife is exactly that sort of habit; it’s a domino that falls and knocks over a bunch of others.  Here’s why:

  • Sex requires proximity.  It’s good for a husband and a wife to spend time together–too much time apart is never good.
  • Sex requires selflessness.  Like everything else in life that’s good for you, sometimes you won’t feel like it, but there are times when your husband or your wife will need it, and therefore your relationship needs it.
  • Sex requires intentionality.  Unlike in the movies, married folks don’t walk around ripping each others’ clothes off whenever possible.  With jobs and kids and schedules, sex requires intentionality.
  • Sex sends a message.  Women tend to become self-conscious about their bodies as they age and have children, and when a husband tells his wife she is desirable, it draws them together in a profound way.  And vice versa (though not the having children part).

[http://whyatt.com.au]

[http://whyatt.com.au]

Everybody likes sex, but contrary to what a 15 year-old boy would think, it’s not the sex itself that makes the difference for couples so much as it is the proximity, selflessness, intentionality, and message of commitment that regular sex brings to a marriage.

At least, that’s my theory.  What do you think?

 

*If you’re married.  I subscribe to the outlandish and clearly ridiculous belief that sex has a purpose, and that that purpose is only realized within a marriage between a husband and a wife.  If you’re not married, not having sex won’t kill you, believe it or not.  You should try it.

 

 

 

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Everybody Wants To Be The Same

Everybody wants things to be different, but nobody wants to be different.  It is the different people, though, who make the biggest difference. The people of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon were always different, which is why they made the difference they did.

sermon pic 03 - le-chambon-vue-sur-le-temple-et-leglise

Le Chambon Was Different

Le Chambon is a small town in southwestern France, and for centuries it had been the home for a population of French Protestants called Huguenots.  The Huguenots had been influenced by John Calvin and had been persecuted by the Roman Catholic French state during the wars of religion.  The Huguenots, therefore, knew what it meant to be different and knew what it meant to suffer.

André Trocmé, wife Magda, and their children [https://extravagantcreation.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/pastor-andre-trocme-wife-magda-and-children63.jpg]

André Trocmé, wife Magda, and their children [https://goo.gl/8vfEGN]

André Trocmé and the Jews

When World War II began, Pastor André Trocmé led the people of Le Chambon in welcoming and sheltering refugees and fugitives, many of them Jews.  The people of the town refused to declare allegiance to the collaborationist government in Vichy and devised ingenious ways to disguise the Jewish population around them.

In August of 1942, the police came to the town and demanded that Le Chambon give up the Jews they were hiding.  On August 30, André Trocmé ascended the steps of the pulpit in his packed church.

The church in Le Chambon [http://goo.gl/bnFsv6]

The church in Le Chambon [http://goo.gl/bnFsv6]

The pastor told the people to “do the will of God, not of men.”  The authorities left the town without making any arrests.

In 1943, however, Pastor Trocmé was arrested and detained for 5 weeks, and after his release he had to go into hiding until the end of the war.  His wife Magda carried on his work and provided leadership to the effort to shelter and save Jewish refugees.

Approximately 5,000 Jewish refugees were sheltered in Le Chambon (a town of only 5,000 people) over the course of the war; not a single Jew was given over to the Nazis.

There is a memorial to André and Magda Trocmé at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

Yad Vashem [http://goo.gl/sr6tkR]

Yad Vashem [http://goo.gl/sr6tkR]

If You’re Not Different, You’re Not Any Good

Nobody wants to be different, which is why the world is the way it is: everybody is just like everybody else.

It’s like salt.  Salt is meant to flavor and preserve, but if salt loses its saltiness, it’s good for nothing but to be trampled underfoot.

The people of Le Chambon were different, and so they made a difference.

 

In memory of the people of Le Chambon, the salt of the earth and “righteous among the nations.”

 

 

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Who Cares if Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Lots of folks are asking that question these days, and though it is an important question (and one that I will not be answering in this post), I don’t think the question is as helpful as other people seem to think.

Jerusalem Skyline Photo

Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

Some people say yes, and these people imply that Christians are therefore under obligation to show compassion to Muslims because of their theological commonalities.  After all, aren’t Christians and Jews and Muslims all “people of the book?”  (That phrase comes from the Qu’ran.)  And, since we are all people of the book, shouldn’t Christians treat Muslims with compassion?

I do not agree with this implication.

The Problem With Saying Yes

As Mark Tooley points out in Newsweek, if you stress that Christians are obligated to show compassion to Muslims because they are theological cousins, you are inadvertently implying that Christians are not under the same obligation to show compassion to other peoples with whom they don’t have any theological commonalities.  Hindus, for example, are not “people of the book,” and yet that fact should not affect Christian treatment of Hindus (or Sikhs or Jains or Buddhists or atheist communists, etc.)

A Christian’s compassion for another does not depend on that other’s theological commitments.  Whether or not Christians and Muslims worship the same God is completely irrelevant to the issue of whether a Christian should show compassion towards his Muslim neighbor.

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?  What if the answer is no–should that change how a Christian treats her Muslim neighbor?

Love Isn’t Conditional

Christians are not required to only love people with whom we agree (or partially agree).

Jesus, after all, told his followers to love their enemies.

 

 

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Best of 2015

The editors at www.andrewforrest.org (best blog on the internet™) have been working long hours and our fingers to the bone to get our 1st annual best-of list together.  Yes, we didn’t make it by 12/31, but it’s not too late to look back at 2015, right?

71movie1

 

Best Book I Read in 2015

 

FullSizeRender 26

The Amazon description calls Kristin Lavransdatter “the turbulent historical masterpiece of Norway’s literary master.” I agree that it’s a masterpiece (though certainly an overlooked one): Sigrid Undset’s 1100 page historical novel is a book that will stay with me for years to come.  It’s about the life of the title character in 14th century medieval Norway, and I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like it.  Highly recommended.

Best Movie(s) I Saw in 2015

71-film-image

[https://lisathatcher.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/71-1.jpg]

Here’s what I wrote in April about the brutal war thriller ’71:

Walking down the stairs of the theater afterwards, I realized that I’d been keeping my entire body rigid and tense throughout the movie–it’s that kind of film.  It’s really well done: terrifying, honest, brutal, and resists the urge to clean-up everything at it’s end.  Highly recommended, though not for the faint of heart.”

Thinking back on it 9 months later, I stand by that assessment.  ’71 is one of the best movies of the year.

Meanwhile, on the complete other end of the movie spectrum….

Shaun-Sheep-full_3175019b

[telegraph.co.uk]

On the complete other end of the spectrum, the British claymation film Shaun the Sheep: the Movie is also one of my favorite movies of the year.  It’s wordless, really funny, and touching and sweet as well.  Recommended.

Best Reason Not to Visit Seattle

24675-SanAndreasMovie.1200w.tn

Yes, I do know the difference between San Francisco and Seattle….

Kathryn Shultz wrote a long article in The New Yorker‘s July 20 issue called “The Really Big One,” about how the Pacific Northwest is overdue for a massive earthquake.  One of the memorable quotations from the piece comes from the region’s FEMA director when he says (and subsequently stands by his remarks): “Our operating assumption is that everything west of Interstate 5 will be toast.”  Her follow-up piece 8 days later addressing some FAQ’s won’t make you feel any better.

I’ll stay in Texas, thank you.

Best App

"All packed...." (The kind of pic we shared on Togethera in 2015.)

“All packed….” (The kind of pic we shared on Togethera in 2015.)

My wife and I made a decision to never share pictures of our son on social media.  However, our extended family is far-flung and lives on 3 different continents, and sharing pictures is an important way to feel closer.  Enter Togethera, a photo sharing app that allows you to create closed groups.  We’ve been using it since the summer and love it.

Best Sermon

1463703_10101211019564134_2975620768245809003_n

That’s like asking me to choose which one of my kids is the best.  The answer is obvious: I like them all, except the ugly ones.

Best Everyday Carry Accessories

I never leave the house without the following in my pants pockets:

Best State Fair

FullSizeRender 25

Too easy: The State Fair of Texas, fool!  (September 30 will be here before you know it….)

Finally: Best Hanukkah Song

I know, I know: with so many to choose from, how do you narrow it down to just one?  But, this year’s winner (which, being held hostage by our house’s resident kindergartner, we played on repeat in our household 1,000 times in the month of December) is Jewish reggae rapper Matisyahu’s 2012 single “Happy Hanukkah.” The video ain’t my favorite, but I defy you not to be happy with the audio turned way up.

My favorite part is the “Lion of Juuuuudah” part of the refrain.

Auld Lang Syne

2015 was a great year; here’s to an ever better 2016.

 

 

 

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