Dave Barry Learns Everything You Need to Know About Being a Husband From Reading 50 Shades of Grey | TIME

If you typically react with offense or nausea to humor that employs PG-13 level … ah … um … “gender” related … I mean … well … physically that is … subject matter, you probably aught to pass up Dave Barry’s hilarious review of E.L. James’ runaway best-seller novel, 50 Shades of Grey. At least, I thought it’s hilarious, but then, I’m weird. While it uses some frank terms to describe bodily processes—like I said, it’s roughly PG-13 rated—the humor is pure Dave Barry. And if you’ve ever wondered about all the fuss regarding 50 Shades of Grey, read this review first.

So, that’s my way shorter and somewhat less funny review of Dave Barry’s review. If all those hyperlinks suggest to you that I consider Dave Barry’s review worth reading, you are correct.

“But where,” you might ask, “is the famous spiritual content that I’ve come to anticipate in “The Well-Dressed Branch”? To that I might answer, it’s all over the place in Dave Barry’s review, by means of his comparison between men’s and women’s communication styles, and his sarcastic ridicule of the novel’s ridiculous, verbally pornographic content, euphemistically known as erotica. Barry simply confirms one of my semi-regular themes; women are every bit as likely to consume porn as men, but since it’s hasn’t got pictures, they consider it more respectable. But, if you seek sexual arousal from it, you aren’t exactly in tight with God.

Okay, since I couldn’t play the harp if my life depended upon it, I’ll cease my harping on this well-worn topic.

You’re welcome.

Don’t Say “Ouch”

Say, “Lord, help me.”

I heard some fantastic preaching today at Parkgate Community Church in Pasadena, Texas, while I was washing a sinkload of dishes in Kalispell, Montana. The second sermon ended when the dishes ran out—yes, it was that bad. If you are considering giving ear to Pastor Ken Boggs’ preaching, I can promise it’s more-than worth the time spent.

Pastors Ken, Jim, and a guest speaker, have been preaching through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. So far, this is convicting preaching, or it should be for some of those people. Well, Apostle Paul admitted to making crazy, worldly statements in his letters to make a point, so why can’t I? In fact, I didn’t even get off scot free.

Since you’re reading this, I assume you can access said preaching on your own, so I won’t try to re-preach what I heard. It’s tempting, even though I certainly couldn’t add anything of value to it.

The one thing Pastor Ken didn’t say that I desperately wish he had is (even though I just said that I wouldn’t), “If you consider this message as something others need to hear, you need it more than they.” We all have trouble keeping our eyes on our own hearts instead of others’. God won’t convict anyone but you from his Word and its preaching.

So, again I say, “Lord help me to live according to the light you’ve given me, and not worry about others’ lives.

What?! No CGI?

The BBC’s version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is headed back to Netflix this morning. I rented it to compare it to Disney’s version, and it was actually quite good … once I got used to the live action, that is.

“Why did I not think it was hokey?” you ask?

“Because I got more out of it than simply entertainment,” I answer.

“What could possibly eclipse the entertainment value of flashy special effects?” you ask? Okay, even if you didn’t ask I’ll tell you, so suck it up.

The BBC’s version didn’t gloss over C.S. Lewis’ message of redemption through the blood of an innocent sacrificial offering. And that’s odd, in a way, as the BBC is part of the British government, and the producers weren’t compelled to make the movie politically correct. What a concept?! Freedom of expression.

Aslan’s death and resurrection according to “the Deeper Magic” touched me greatly. The principle of vicarious sacrifice for one who is unworthy came across clearly enough that even I caught it.

The other side of the continuum was the reanimation of the people whom the White Witch turned into stone. That smacked of the doctrine of purgatory, which is unscriptural; either we’re hell-bound sinners, or we’re heaven-bound saints, and that’s that. But I’ll forgive Lewis for the occasional mistake, as important as is the balance of his work.

Each of the four Pevensie children portray a type of person: Peter is a noble character who feels compelled to triumph in his own strength. Susan is one of nominal religion who thinks she is just perfect, thank you very much. Edmund occupies the opposite end of the spectrum from Peter, as self-interest means everything to him. And Lucy is the honest seeker, even though she allows peer pressure to sway her.

The conspicuous truth of Aslan’s character is his equal love for each of them, regardless of their personal failings. And a second truth becomes apparent as well: Even though Aslan created Narnia and its magic, he wasn’t above the obligation to obey it, even to the cost of his own life. What a perfect picture of Christ, who, though he created the entire universe, submitted to death on the accursed cross to redeem his unworthy creation.

Rent it. Watch it with your kids. And be sure they understand its eternal message—CGI or no CGI.

I Deserve More!

Does my title sound perhaps a smidge self-centered? Even greedy? Not really; no one in their right mind would want what I deserve.

Joe Stowell, writing for Our Daily Bread, titled his piece for today, “More Than We Deserve.” Oddly, considering my own title for this post, I agree with him completely. We’re just attacking the issue from different sides.

Brother Stowell looked at deserving from the perspective of blessing, while my perspective for this post is that of punishment, or at the very least, reaping what I’ve sown. In fact, God’s infinite grace shields me from a world of hurt, and nothing that I am or can do exempts me from eternal separation from him. But instead, he offered me reconciliation, relationship, and fellowship through his Son Jesus.

If you think you deserve more of anything but hardship and heartache, get off your pedestal. You might want to take your eyes off yourself, and take another look at God’s Word, the Bible.

God’s Not Dead — the Movie

That’s nuthin, I knew it all along. I just pray a few folks who have doubts will also see this movie.

After reading the synopsis, I’d hoped young Josh Wheaton, played by Shane Harper, would present his challenge to Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) slowly enough that I could take notes, but as the theater was dark, legible notes wouldn’t have been very practical. Practically speaking, though, Josh didn’t present any arguments that I hadn’t already heard. I only wish I could have presence of mind to face opposition with such clarity and forthrightness.

Sorbo’s accurate portrayal of atheists’ typical, condescending attitude toward people of faith revealed a lot about their claims of open-mindedness and free-thinking. Of course, all academic atheists aren’t as elitist as those portrayed in the movie. On the ledger’s other side, Professor Radisson’s convenient confession of God-hatred offered Josh an easy summation for his persuasive case. In fiction-writing practice, that’s called, “the hand-of-God” escape for an otherwise hopeless situation. But, I guess, expecting anything more realistic would be unrealistic.

That leads me to an interesting contrast between bitterly militant atheists, and those who honestly have no hatred for God because they don’t acknowledge the possibility of his existence. They simply can’t see any compelling reason to accept it. Typically, they refuse to consider even the remotest possibility of a supernatural component in life, preferring rather to place their faith in Science to ultimately provide natural explanations for everything. That, however, begs the question of what is “natural,” and what transcends it as “supernatural.”

There’s nothing “scientific” about all those so-called scientific proofs for God’s non-existence. Though I seldom take the liberty of making absolute statements that I cannot prove, I will venture to label all such “proofs” as pseudo-science. By contrast, true science is simply the process of inquiry that seeks repeatable observations of phenomena, to establish reliable conclusions about them. Interpretation of such conclusions is another matter entirely.

If we look into the scientifically regrettable history of scientific inquiry, we can find innumerable examples of “scientific law” that new discoveries rescinded. In view of the fact that such “new discoveries” materialized through the application of new observational technologies, how can any reasonable scientist presume that future technological developments will not render the “supernatural,” perfectly natural. In other words, what atheists call “magical hocus-pocus,” will eventually become mundane.

God’s Not Dead is anything but a comprehensive proof that God is, though it makes a competent stab at establishing the reasonable possibility that he exists. And once established, can anyone afford to ignore it?

John Ortberg’s FAITH AND DOUBT

I happened upon a summary of John Ortberg’s Faith and Doubt, but rather than give a simple review, or regurgitate a another summary, I present my slightly predigested take on it (hope you won’t mind a hint of intellectual bile).

Faith and doubt are like two sides of the same coin; without one, you can’t have the other. Ortberg dealt with their interaction quite realistically and effectively.

Faith and conviction are related, but not identical. Faith allows us to thoughtlessly flip on the light switch. Conviction tells us that the light will most certainly come on as the necessary result of flipping it. When the light fails to respond to our action, we know something must be wrong. If something, or Someone, is worthy of our convictions, the “light” will always turn on. If not, our convictions are misplaced.

With God, the “light” always turns on, though perhaps not within our timetable. Nevertheless, conviction tells us God will always, in some way or time, respond.

One salient point is conviction’s variability; our certainty ebbs and flows to the tides of our circumstances and moods. Another thought is God’s highest desire for us. Ortman said God desires our goodness, rather than our happiness. I believe God desires only our ultimate happiness, with goodness (obedience) as the path we must tread to reach it.

An illustration of that principle would be the man who lived in an old house with inadequate wiring. When the fuse blew he simply replaced it with another … until he ran out of fuses. So, the resourceful guy wrapped the last fuse in foil, with a couple of extra layers for good measure. Sure enough, the lights blinked on, the fridge kicked in, and the window air conditioner renewed its gusts of cool air. The man was once again happy. What he didn’t realize, however, is the climbing temperature of the wiring in his attic crawl space. When his sawdust insulation ignited he wasn’t so happy. If he had investigated the fuse issue when it began, rather than taking the shortcut to power—and happiness—he would still have a roof over his head.

I don’t quite agree with Ortberg’s idea of hope for something, versus hope in someone. We can place our hope in something when it is an idol such as money, status, power, property, or even a person whom we believe will give us happiness. Hope in someone or something is rather like placing all our eggs in one, weak-bottomed, basket … unless, of course, that Someone is worthy of our hope. That qualification quite effectively limits our choices.

Doubt

Doubt requires something as its target. Doubting God requires the doubter to at least acknowledge his existence.

Ortberg deals with three reasons for doubt: First, God’s apparent absence when we need him, or when we doubt his love and concern for us. This isn’t what he wrote, but what I got out of it; God wants our faith and trust to be based on his character, not on evidence. Matthew 16:4 reports Jesus saying, “A destructive and adulterous breed of men is always seeking after a sign.” Admitting he exists is quite different from believing in who he is. One acknowledges him as a sterile, objective fact, while the other invests in him, personally.
That sort of doubt leads directly into the second category: God’s church isn’t doing its job. In fact, it seems to do everything it can to negate Jesus’ message.

Churches try to be all-inclusive; they hope they can love and serve non-believers into Christ’s kingdom, so they allow most anyone to join up and maintain membership, including those who take only themselves seriously and behave as if it’s their church. But it eventually becomes their church, and no longer belongs to God. That same principle is the common thread that shapes a pattern of religious destruction throughout history, in all religions.

Rebellion is the third category of doubt. Often it says, “If this is God (or God’s people), I refuse to believe in him!” It’s the voice of outrage, and the motivation for active opposition to God and everyone who expresses faith in him. As with any other category of doubt, it requires a target, even as it denies his existence. Since this activistic doubt can’t get at God directly, it does its best to wipe out his influence.

Rebellion can also exist simply as the expression of a rebellious attitude. The rebel throws rocks at a church’s windows simply because a Ten Commandments sign occupies the front lawn. “Nobody is going to tell me what I can or can’t do,” is his refrain.

Faith

Like all clouds with light behind them, doubt has a silver lining; faith must always overcome doubt of some sort. Whether it’s doubt about God, or self, resolving it produces faith. Another shade of silver is the believer’s humility when he feels doubt about what he knows from experience to be true. Doubt also motivates a believer to study it out. The author quotes Frederick Buechner, “Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith; they keep it awake and moving.” Doubting our preconceptions is a very good thing. Finally, faith in the face of doubts strengthens our faithfulness, leading us to maturity.

Ortman also presents several reasons for faith: we’re built to believe, our sense of right-and-wrong, creation’s perfection, our sense of beauty and wholeness, our sense of joy, as well as a few others.

Don’t feel like you’re the only dedicated Christ-follower who experiences doubts. If we’re honest, we’ll all admit to having them. One serious problem in the church is believers concealing anything in their lives, or relationships, that isn’t hunky-dory. While nobody likes a whiner, confessing serious problems with a close brother or sister is often the direct route to resolving them. That, after all, is what love is all about.

Jesus of Nazareth, the Movie

While perusing Netflix programming I noticed an ad for the 1977 movie, “Jesus of Nazareth.” I must say, Netflix took long enough to add it to their streaming menu. So, I added it to my watch list, but let it sit there for a week or so. I finally watched the first half tonight, but with mixed reactions.

Hollywood, for a change, didn’t reduce the gospel to pablum, but the British and Italians made a valiant effort to do just that. Still, the gospel’s power shined through bland cinematography and loose treatment of salvation’s story, as there were a few brilliant, extra-Biblical lines that effectively related some of what wasn’t included from the Bible.

Of course, one can’t expect a movie to conform to everyone’s vision of Jesus’ life, but Robert Powell’s sometimes vacant Jesus-stare was lost on me. Somehow I’m certain that Jesus was in fact far more dynamic than this portrayal. He nailed it, though, in Jesus’ debate with the Pharisees, showing at least some of the power and authority I might expect from the very Son of God. During that debate he defended his healing on the Sabbath, but as far as I can recall, the writers left out a most telling statement: “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:28) If you know I’m wrong, inform me in the comments.

I suggest to anyone who takes in this movie, first familiarize yourself with the true gospel so you’ll know where the film falls short. Even so, watching this film will be an emotional experience for anyone who loves Jesus.

Gone T’ Meddlin’ 

 If you’re not from West Virginia, or you’ve never sat under the preaching of a West Virginia pastor, this writing’s title won’t mean much. It’s a colloquialism that means someone’s preaching has trod too close to one’s toes. Which, in fact, Dave McCasland was dangerously close to doing in his Our Daily Bread vignette titled Daily Diligence.

I don’t need to belabor his point, as he’s done a fine job of doing it himself. But if you feel like facing a challenge to your status quo Christian walk, please tune in to this Our Daily Bread.

I dare ya.

 

The Man from Earth

I must write my reaction to Richard Schenkman’s move The Man from Earth quickly, before it disappears like the recollection of a dream. The premise struck me as ingenious Sci-Fi, a refreshing switch from run-of-the-mill space-operas, mindless monster gore-extraviganzas and ray-gun totin’ space cowboy yarns.

In its simple complexity,The Man from Earth pegs humanity, the simply complex race. And yes, I loved it the movie. As a Christian literalist, I take John Oldman’s statements from the “Jesus” persona(played by David Lee Smith) as well-meant social commentary possessing more than a grain of truth. I happen to agree that popular Christianity bears little resemblance to the way of Yeshua, though my confidence that he was and is and is to come the divine Son of God remains unshaken by skeptics’ trite arguments and clever works of fiction.

To be credible, Christians must pursue the childlike faith Jesus taught, that refuses to be threatened by intellectual and emotional human arguments. Unlike Edith’s reaction to apparent sacrilege(played to the “T” by Ellen Crawford), we must simply listen to the inevitable challenges folks will throw at us and refuse to take them personally. As blasphemy doesn’t hurt God’s feelings, though it grieves his spirit, insults heaped on believers shouldn’t hurt our feelings, lest we provide the enemy with easy victories.

We must remember that the enemy of our souls is a liar who will stop at nothing to break our spirit. To pay him heed will divert our walk from the way of Christ onto the wide, smooth, well-populated road of personal affront. Do we really wish to join the religious world’s unholy warriors who would kill the infidels? When we strike back at challengers we do so from pride, not from righteous indignation. In fact, the only one who has a right to righteous indignation is the only righteous One, the very object of our faith.

Movies can’t threaten us, unless we lust after the hedonism displayed therein. Arguments can’t threaten us, unless we are so poorly versed in the truth that we’re swayed by them. Even displays of force can’t threaten us because our hope lies beyond this mortal life.

Jesus’ apostle John wrote one of the most important lessons we can get from God’s word: Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them(the spirit of antichrist): because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4 KJV)

Refuse to be threatened by human reason or rage against God. Sit back and enjoy the movie, even if it purports to challenge your beliefs. If a simple movie that presents another view threatens our spiritual well-being, how can we hope to stand against the real wiles of the enemy?