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7.26.2007

thoughtful movie reviews

How do you decide what movies to see?

Maybe, like me, you used to see a lot of movies (pre-kids) and now it's a rare opportunity that you want to make the most of. You don't want to waste a couple of hours and the money it takes to go to a movie or to see one.

One of the best resources I've found for movie reviews is Andrew Tallman's Movie Reviews. Though not exhaustive, Tallman is constantly adding new movies and providing thoughtful critique. What I appreciate about his reviews is that he makes a distinction between Superficial content (Language, violence, sexuality, things the MPAA usually gives rankings for) and Significant content (Lessons, worldview, paradigms, things movies really should be rated for). I find typical Christian movie reviews to be helpful, but often far too simplistic (if there's cussing or violence, you shouldn't see it). Instead, I want to learn not just what bad things are in a movie, but what thought-provoking or worldview-engaging things are in a movie. I want to take things like film and learn more about the culture I live in and how to interact with the people in it, while also trying to be above reproach and live in holiness.

For another interesting place to think about how Christianity engages with film, go to http://media.marshillchurch.org/. Click on "Classes" and then "Film & Theology."

7.19.2007

no good thing does he withhold

I came across the following passage this morning and found it so encouraging:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord bestows favor and honor.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:10)

I love the promise that God will not withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly. It makes me trust that if I seek to love Jesus and be faithful to him, God will take care of me. And, even when live gets tough, I can trust that the difficulties are still for my good.

7.16.2007

"my sheep hear my voice..."

I just returned from a family wedding in Toledo, Ohio (where Molly's from). It was a great time to be with people we love and, of course, Abby was the center of attention. She was a real trooper too, considering she had two nights in a row of staying up way past her bedtime. One of these nights provided a great lesson of what it is to hear and know the voice of our Heavenly Father.

By the end of the rehearsal dinner, Abby was beginning to melt down. She was tired and getting fussy and by the time I hauled her out to the car to head home, she was all out wailing. The rest of the family was still at dinner, but I volunteered to take her home.

As we started driving, nothing would calm her down. I rolled the windows down. Nothing. I blasted the radio. She stopped crying, but only for a few seconds. Finally, I rolled the windows up and turned off the radio and just began to sing. As I sang a few made up songs and a few favorite hymns, Abby calmed down. By the time we got home, she was totally chilled and ready for bed.

This was obviously a very sweet moment, but what popped in my head was this: "My sheep hear my voice" (John 10:27). It wasn't until Abby heard a familiar, fatherly voice that she was able to rest and relax. And often, it's not until you and I hear the familiar voice of our Father God that we really can quit from our worry and anxiety and striving and stress. We have a Father who is in our midst, "a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing" (Zephaniah 3:17).

Oh that we would hear the voice of our Heavenly Father and rest.

7.11.2007

happy birthday abby!

One year ago, today, Molly and I welcomed our sweet daughter Abby into the world. It's been a great year and we are so blessed. Thanks to so many of you who have offered support, friendship, babysitting, and love.

7.09.2007

great audio content

One of the greatest blessings about the internet is that there is now access to so many incredible resources and learning opportunities. Obviously there is lots of bad content as well, but I still thank God for allowing us to hear some of the best teaching from the best communicators around. Below, I've listed some links to some recommended audio content, all of which is FREE.

Reformed Theological Seminary - Access to 20+ seminary level courses (OT, NT, Church History, Theology) as well as chapel messages. (Requires iTunes and, no, you don't need an iPod to use iTunes. It's just a media player)

Covenant Theological Seminary - 21 courses from the official seminary of the PCA, and one of the best around. Once you get to this page, the courses are listed on the bottom left.

Tim Keller - As the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Keller is becoming one of the most influential and important voices in the Christian world today. His emphasis on a gospel-centered life is incredible. This page has some great articles, but scroll down to the "AUDIO" section and to the sermons listed under "VISION CAMPAIGN."

Desiring God - 27 years of John Piper's sermons. Say no more. This site has tons of other resources as well. Some of my favorites are the biography messages that Piper gives each year at his pastor's conference.

Matt Chandler - Lead pastor of The Village, Matt Chandler is one of the best young preachers around today. His passion is contagious and I am regularly refreshed by his ministry. You can also subscribe to the church's podcast by clicking here.

Mike Shea - As a college student, I learned so much from Shea's bible teaching. His sermons are relatively short, but they pack a serious punch. His Galatians series was life changing for me.

Mark Driscoll - Driscoll is a controversial figure to some people, but I appreciate how he continually seeks to stand for the unchanging truth and also be relevant and engaging to the culture. He's long-winded, but funny and enjoyable to listen to and learn from. Podcast here.

Tommy Nelson's Church History Sermons - It's rare to hear a pastor preach on church history from the pulpit, but these sermons are a great entry into church history. Very interesting.

Monergism.com - This site has tons of other audio--more than you'd ever have time to listen to.

7.06.2007

the kingdom

Some time back, I posted a link to Sermon Jams, a website where somebody has creatively mixed hip hop beats with good sermons from great preachers. I've been listening to those again and have again been challenged by one of the jams by Alistair Begg.

It talks about the posture that Christians should take regarding politics and social issues, which I think is constantly a relevant issue. Check it out below.

Click here to listen to Alistair Begg's "Kingdom"

7.03.2007

unconditional joy in God

Wouldn't you like to take joy in God regardless of the circumstances you face? I know I would. May God make this verse a reality in our hearts.

"Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation."
(Habakkuk 3:17-18)

7.01.2007

lessons from charlotte

I spent the last half of this past week in Charlotte, NC where I was attending an Orientation Seminar for the Master's degree program I'm doing at Reformed Theological Seminary. It was a good experience in a lot of different ways. In addition to attending the course, I also visited the new Billy Graham Library and had some interesting travel snafus. Here are some of the multi-faceted lessons I learned from the trip.

1. God is moving around the world through very interesting people.
One of the greatest blessings of my trip was meeting some very unique and interesting people. My class of 15 was a great demonstration that God is working all over the world in all kinds of different environments. I met some wonderful people: a woman from China who is on Campus Crusade staff there and this was her first time to the U.S., a missionary in Turkey who is working with urban and rural people and speaks 3 languages, a chemistry professor at Idaho State, an Air Force pilot who has been doing distance courses while on tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, a pastor from Mars Hill Church in Seattle where hundreds are coming to Christ, a woman who is on Crusade staff with her husband ministering to graduate students at Princeton, and others who are serving the Lord where they're at all over the country.

2. Theological education is worth pursuing, regardless of your vocation.
I was reminded that people who love God should desire to get to know him better, regardless of whether they will ever serve in full time ministry. Some of the people in my class are pursuing education for credential purposes, but others were simply wanting to go deeper in their knowledge of God. It showed me that getting to know God better is always valuable.

3. EVBC's vision for place-based ministry is on the right track.
This might seem random, but I'll connect the dots for you. One of the professors at RTS knows Tom Shrader and Dave Moore (EVBC elders) from past days of ministry and conferences. As a result, every time he comes to AZ he tries to attend EVBC. A few years ago he attended the Men's Conference where Randy Frazee talked about the value of doing ministry in our communities. He described attending the conference as "life-changing." It was a reminder to him of the value of people being involved in their communities and was a great encouragement to me that pursuing Area Ministry is worth it.

4. Thank God for Billy Graham.
Visiting the Billy Graham Library was incredibly inspiring. Here is a man that has preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to millions of people and has stayed faithful for 50+ years of ministry. He ministered to common people as well as world leaders. He loved his wife intensely. He lives a life of integrity. He loves Jesus and seems to be a humble man. I was thrilled that the Library was not just a tribute to Graham, but also a compelling outreach to those who don't know God. As I went through the tour, I probably heard the gospel fifty times. Also, I was ecstatic to see that their bookstore was filled with good, doctrinally sound books. Authors like Packer, Piper, Bridges, Spurgeon, Alcorn, MacArthur, and others were dominant. Awesome.

5. It is foolish to complain about things we can't control.
On both ends of the trip there were severe travel issues. My flight out was canceled and my flight back was delayed, both because of thunderstorms in Dallas. I was amazed at how much griping there was and people who were really upset. I wasn't thrilled about it either. But what amazed me is how people whine and complain about things that are totally out of their hands. It does no good and only makes the whole experience that much worse.

So, there are some lessons, random though they be. I thank God for the things he teaches us, not only in his word, but also through daily life.