Thursday, July 18, 2013


Hi everyone,

I've taken quite a break from writing and have been developing a better and more interactive website.  I hope to be putting one new post up every week.  From now on, don't come to this site.  Instead use the new one:

If you've got the site saved somewhere in your bookmarks or favorites, go ahead and make the change now.  Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the new site!


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Man of Steel Review

Superman is important to Christians.  The hero has a longstanding tradition, whether intentional or not, of being a Christ figure.  His father sends him from the heavens down to lowly earth in order to lead and save humanity.  He is (nearly) all powerful, a God among men.  The only thing fiercer than his strength is his goodness.  

Man of Steel has been catching a lot of negative feedback, but I just don’t see it.  I thought this was the best Superman movie yet.  Here's why:


The Good

  • No sex!  Finally, a blockbuster movie that doesn't flaunt what the good Lord gave it.  There's no skin tight leather Black Widow here and nobody decides to get dressed in front of the camera at entirely inappropriate times like certain members of Starfleet (I'm looking at you Into Darkness).  Let's face it, with the history of Lois Lane and Clark's X-Ray vision, it would have been easy to throw sexual garbage in there.  Instead, they took the high road and made a movie that believes there are more things that sell than just sex, like…
  • Action!  Holy canoli!  Here's a Superman movie that actually shows the kind of scale and devastation that would be involved if someone as indestructible, fast, and powerful as Superman actually got into a fight.  Some have complained that there is too much destruction, but when Superman and his equals face off, it's silly to think that there would be little or no collateral damage.  This movie shows just how devastating a superpunch can be when thrown in Kansas, Metropolis, spaceships, satellites, and everywhere else you can imagine.
  • Jumps right in.  We all know the classic story of Superman.  So much so that it's honestly starting to get stale. Planet goes boom, Superbaby lands in a field.  Kents raise him and then “Holy super pubescent powers Batman!”  Clark meets Lois.  Will they?  Won’t they?  How many more scenes will those glasses fool her?  Until we all want Clark to just tell her his secret already!  Instead of dragging all of that out for us again in time honored fashion, this movie handles it in a fresh and different way.  The Lois arc moves quickly and some well-timed, emotional flashbacks give us what we need while allowing the film to jump right into its own story arc.
  • Realism.  Superman movies have always been hokey and filled with more cheese than a calzone.  This one was more serious and I like that.  None of that "Up, Up, and Away" business.  This movie tried to seriously deal with what Clark would go through growing up on earth.  How would the nation and world react knowing such an unstoppable individual existed?  Could he ever really be one of us?  
  • Old villain, new experience.  Zod and the gang from the Phantom Zone are old characters who have been recycled over and over.  But this movie does a great job of making them new and fleshing them out.  Deeper backgrounds, creepy dialogue, and a new armored look made these villains better than ever.  (Props to my friend Don for pointing this out to me)
  • Great acting and casting.  Henry Cavill nailed Clark/Kal/Superman which is no easy task.  I think what I liked the most was that, aside from the Kryptonians, everyone in this movie looked like real down to earth people.  Movies filled with gorgeous people often add to the phoniness of the film.  These actors looked real and made the movie all the more immersive.

The Bad
  • Rapid clean up.  The end of the movie doesn't really address or display the aftermath you would expect from the colossal showdown.  Jump to the Daily Planet where everything seems A-OK.  Apparently, the devastated city regrew overnight.  And let's just pretend the entire planet is fine and earth's atmosphere and gravity have better healing powers than Wolverine.
  • Confusing science.  How does the atmosphere and sunlight give the Kryptonians all of that power with just an instant of exposure?  Why is it that the Kryptonians with all of their technology can't just relocate to one of their outpost planets?  For that matter, why can't they make their AI floating computer things sound better than an echoing cassette player in my bathroom shower?   How is Lois standing calmly in the open bay of a flying aircraft without falling to her death?  And what is the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow?!
  • As always, Superman's disguise is lousy.  But for tradition's sake, you've just got to give the guy a pass on that one.  In other news, the costume looked great!
  • Long action.  These fights tend to drag on and on.  That’s enjoyable for most people but can leave you overwhelmed.  It makes sense that when you have indestructible Kryptonians punching each other in the face, you're going to be there a while.  In the midst of the high speed and long fights, it's easy to get a little lost wondering who is throwing what punch and which guy is getting his face rammed through an exploding vehicle.  Overall, I suspect the majority of teens and guys won't raise this objection.  It's an adrenaline ride many will enjoy.
  • MAJOR SPOILER HERE Superman breaks his golden rule and they don't give it enough consideration.  The Man of Steel never kills.  It would shatter the ability for earth's people to trust him and would take him one step closer to being a tyrant accountable to no one.  When he breaks this huge rule, he cries for a second and sheds a single tear.  It left me feeling like the movie makers didn't realize what a big deal that moment was for Superman history.
The Godly

Man of Steel doesn't disappoint the Christian looking for Christ imagery.  The dialogue is ripe with stuff that believers can unpack.  Superman strikes a pose that reminds us of the cross and Clark even visits with a priest for counsel.  There's so much of this, that some non-Christians might gag on it as it's shoved in their faces.  Sorry guys, I didn't make the movie.  

While undoubtedly violent, I believe that Man of Steel will open family and friends to great conversations about faith, sacrifice, and even the purpose of your own life.  Just check out these words from Jonathan Kent, "You are my son. But somewhere out there you have another father, and he sent you here for a reason. And even if it takes you the rest of your life, you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is."  Powerful words for Clark and just as powerful for you and me.  

With Man of Steel, you get a very entertaining movie that continues the tradition of Superman by pointing to the real Savior.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Woman to be Praised

This last Sunday was Mother's Day and I got to preach at church!  I spoke on Proverbs 31 to encourage the women in our church to strive for godly character, show the men what kind of girl they should be looking for, and help us all see the importance of praising the godly women in our lives.

I hope you are blessed by it!

CLICK HERE for the sermon.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 was a blast.  It was humorous, action packed, full of cool new gadgets and upgrades, and had a solid and unexpected twist.  It was inappropriate at times with language and sexuality, which is pretty much par for the course with Tony Stark.  I was mildly annoyed twice when Tony is saved by gadgets he happened to have on him the whole time.  This installment of Iron Man was quite different from the last two in the way it was directed, narrated, and even the plot structure and camera angles.  It was a lot of fun, but there is something about it that left me unsure how I'd rate it.  For now I'm thinking it was better than the sequel but not as good as part one.  Vague Spoilers Follow...

What is Tony Stark without his suits?
One of the major themes of this movie is Tony Stark's struggle to feel safe and secure.  The events in the Avengers movie have left him distraught, nervous, fearful, and suffering from anxiety attacks.  He doesn't feel safe without the Iron Man armor and has become obsessed with improving it and building new versions of it.  Despite his strongly felt need for the suit, he gets separated from it time and time again in the movie.

The whole issue of him feeling helpless without the armor is highlighted when a kid doesn't even recognize Tony Stark but points to the empty suit on the couch and says, "That's Iron Man!"  That's how Tony feels.  He is nothing without the suit.  Yet Tony continues to save the day with or without his fancy suits over the course of the two hour and ten minute film.  As Tony and not the suit rise to be the hero, he goes through a healing process.  By the end of the movie, he ends up with a restored confidence when the realization comes that he doesn't need the suits.  The suits don't make him great.  He made the suits!  The armor is not the hero.  Tony, not the suits, is Iron Man.

Just chillin' with my bro.
Ultimately this movie sends Tony on a quest to find himself and discover something about his own identity.  He was basing his identity on the suits so much that they became his only hope for safety and peace and led to anxiety and fear when they weren't around.  We all do that don't we?  Maybe we don't base our lives around our billion dollar robotic armor, but we all turn to the people and possessions around us to find our worth, safety, and peace.

We trust in our jobs and bank accounts to get us through life and when either of those is in jeapordy, we panic!  We look to our friends and family to be our rock and give us peace but when we feud with them our whole lives fall apart.  As parents, we base our whole life and identity on our kids and when they aren't home by curfew and haven't called, we go to Def-con 1 (or is it 5?) and absolutely lose our minds.

Just like our friend Tony, none of us will be at peace until we stop putting our sense of worth and security in the people and stuff around us.  You are more than your job, career, friends, money, clothes, significant other, children, and high-tech armor.

But in the end, I think Tony still ends up finding his answer in the wrong place.  In Iron Man 3, he finds his ultimate confidence and security in himself.  He is the great Tony Stark and there is nothing he can't face.

But you and I aren't billionaire geniuses who can MacGyver our way out of anything life throws at us.  The Bible says there is something greater than anything in this world and even greater than us that we need to base our identity, worth, and security on: our relationship with God.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children.  -  Romans 8:14-17

Who are you?  You're more than your career and possessions and friends.  If you've trusted in Christ as your Savior, you are a child of God!  That's where you need to find your identity first and foremost.  That's where you need to find your security.  As a child of God you know you are loved fully by God.  You are cared for.  You are watched over.  You have nothing to fear because Almighty God is your Abba, your Daddy!

Learn this well.  Let it sink into your soul.  And the next time the people around you let you down or your possessions are lost you will be calm as a Hindu cow because you know that your Father is still on the throne watching over you and He cares for you deeply.  You aren't Iron Man, you're something much, much more.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Near Far

Good old Sesame Street.
Ah yes, the difficult concepts of near and far. Michaela and I have been working on those for a few months now. We stand by the mirror and jump back and forth saying near and far. She laughs and smiles and when we're done she says, "Mah," which means "more" in Michaelanese.

But some day she'll grow up and have those concepts nailed down. She'll know that things that are near are things she can touch and see and interact with. She'll learn that things that are far are often out of reach. They are the things she can't see, can't touch, can't change, can't do anything about. She'll learn just like we all do what near and far mean.

But Jesus must not have watched Sesame Street, because He doesn't seem to have learned this lesson.

Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. - John 4:46
So Jesus is back in Cana. There is a man from the next town over whose son is dying back home. He comes looking for Jesus and begs Him to heal his son. It must have been serious and he must have tried a lot of other things to get his son well. Usually the last thing people do is run around the country looking for holy men to heal their kids.

The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies." - John 4:49

He begs Jesus to come back to Capernaum to help him.  Near and far. This man understands the concept. I can picture what this father might have been thinking and saying as he begged the Lord.   Jesus, we are in Cana and my son is dying in Capernaum. That's far away, twenty miles to be exact. We can't do anything to help him from here. Please Jesus, come down to Capernaum with me. If we leave now, we might get there in time for you to save him.

"Go," Jesus replied, "your son will live." The man took Jesus at his word and departed. - John 4:50

What an under appreciated little verse. We're so used to Jesus healing people in the New Testament that it's easy for this to just seem like any other person He healed. But there's something special about what He does here. Jesus heals a boy that is 20 miles away with just a few words! Your son will live. The man later finds out that his son got better at the very moment that Jesus was speaking with him. It didn't take any time for Jesus' words to act with power even from so far away.

With Jesus, far is near. We may not be able to see or touch or interact with or change things that are far away. But Jesus can. Wherever you are, no matter how far you may feel from God, Jesus is near. He sees you and your need. You're not outside of His reach. He can change your life in an instant. You don't need to be in the right room, building, or even city to be touched by God.

What's also incredible about this story is that the royal official believes Jesus. He takes Jesus at His word. Oh how much more simple life would be if we did that! I think of the times God has seemed far and life has seemed so difficult and I read a verse that tells me God is with me and will work all things out for good. I think of all the times I've read those verses and not taken God at His word. So I stress and I fret and I worry and God ends up keeping His promise. Instead, I could have walked away with joy trusting God would do as He said.

Today, be reminded. You and I may struggle with near and far. But God isn't limited by a few miles. Even when He feels far away, remember that far is near to God. You can turn to Him anytime, any place. And remember to take Him at His word.  His Word is final and He is faithful to keep His promises.

Here's a little reminder that near and far are child's play to the Creator of the Universe.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Why Easter is the Super Bowl Sunday of Christianity

Would football Jesus be the coach, the quarterback, or the wide receiver?
Did you know that Easter is bigger than Christmas?  I know it may not seem like it.  For Christmas, we spend months decorating, planning, and shopping.  We dish out a thousand or more dollars to buy gifts and host huge parties.  We go on vacations and return home to visit family.  We tell elaborate stories about Santa, Rudolph, and Frosty and we might even set up a Nativity scene and go to midnight mass or service.

On Easter, we paint eggs, eat candy, have dinner, and call it a day.  But I'm telling you, Easter is bigger than Christmas.  Easter is the biggest day of the year for Christians.  It's our Super Bowl Sunday.  Why?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wanna see a Miracle?

Burning bush.  Parting of the Red Sea.  Angelic appearances.  The walls of Jericho.  The resurrection.  All were crazy awesome miracles.  And you and I didn't get to see a single one of them.  Just once, wouldn't it be awesome to see a miracle?  Why did Moses, the prophets, and the apostles get to have all of the fun?  It would be amazing to actually see God doing something real in my life.  It would be a huge anchor for tough times when doubt creeps in.  But it seems that spotting a miracles is harder than finding Waldo in those old picture books.

Which is harder: Spotting a miracle or finding Jesus in this biblical Where's Waldo pic?

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Cure for Fear

Spiders.  Crazed gunman.  Car accidents.  Public embarrassment.  The dark.  Each of us is afraid of something.  What are your fears?  Better yet, how do you deal with them?  There is a Bible verse that I've known for years that tells us we were not given a spirit of fear but a spirit of adoption.  Michaela did something that made a light bulb come on in my head in regard to that verse.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Super: David is Hawkeye

Let me tell you a story about a pimp. Christy, myself, and a friend were on our way to see a movie. We drove through a less than awesome neighborhood and were stopped at a red light. In the middle of broad daylight, with many people around, a fly dressed man chased a scantily clad woman through the street while hitting her with a cane. The woman was yelling for help. People on the sidewalk kept talking to each other and laughing. People in their cars locked their doors. Nobody did a single thing while this man terrorized this woman.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Training: Penal Substitutionary Atonement Part 4

This is the fifth video in this training series.  You can find the previous videos in the links below.
You made it!  We've gone through the theological concept of the penal substitutionary atonement and learned that Jesus' death on the cross was God's way a paying the penalty of sins in our place so that we could be forgiven and at peace with Him again.  Today's video is the last in this series and the goal is to see how we can use what we know as we have normal, every day conversations with people.  

Well, that's it!  I hope you've found this series helpful.  As always, feel free to comment with questions or feedback.  God bless you and may He give you fruitful opportunities to share the gospel soon!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Ultimate Kobayashi Maru

Kirk taking the Kobayashi Maru test.
Christy and I were watching the episode Junior Salesman of the show The Office the other night.  On the show, Dwight is interviewing Clark and he presents him with this awful hypothetical where there seems to be no good option because he wants Clark to answer poorly.  Instead, Clark says, "Sounds like your classic no-win situation.  So I'd Kobayashi Maru it."

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Training: Penal Substitutionary Atonement Part 3

This is the fourth video in this training series.  You can find the previous videos in the links below.

To recap, penal substitutionary atonement is a fancy theological term that answers the question, "What did Jesus do by dying on the cross?"  The word penal tells us that His death on the cross was the just penalty for the crime of sin.  The word substitutionary tells us that His death was actually paying the penalty for our crimes and sins. Jesus traded places with us sinners.  Today's video will focus on the word atonement.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ever Changing Me

Yeah... I want to watch this...
Just a simple thought today.  Last night, after Christy and I had finished an episode of Bones, I was skimming through the Netlix menu.  I spotted TinkerBell and the Secret of Wings and my reaction surprised Christy and actually embarrassed me if I'm honest.  I saw it and said something along the lines of, "Sweet!  I haven't seen this one yet.  I'll have to watch it."

Now, before you think I've lost my mind, let me inform you that I meant that I would have to watch it with Michaela, you know, my 17 month old daughter who is in love with TinkerBell.  However, if I'm totally honest, I find myself legitimately interested in seeing this next movie.  I've seen two of them already and want to see how the next portion of the tinker fairy's saga plays out.

Call me girly or soft or whatever but I never would have reacted like that or wanted to see this movie at all two years ago.  The point is, Michaela has changed me.  Her interests have somehow become my interests.  Things that excite her are actually somehow starting to excite me.  The more time I spend with her, the more my interests are being transformed by her.  Hopefully, this will work both ways and she will be a big Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and, more importantly, Jesus fan when she grows up.

I'm not actively trying to be like Michaela or gain her interests.  I didn't have a conversation with my heart or personality and try to convince myself to like the things she likes.  It just happened as I spent time with her.

That, I think, is exactly how it works with God.  We don't start off like God.  We each start off with our own set of selfish and sinful desires.  But the more time we spend with God the more we will begin to change.  I'm not talking about trying to change ourselves by quoting doctrinal statements or telling our heart to change.  I'm talking about just spending time with God and it just happening.  Being in His presence and praying and reading His Word will change us.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. -- Romans 8:29

God wants to make us like Jesus.  How?

When we spend time with Jesus, the desires of our heart will begin to change to match His.  We become less self focused and more others minded, less concerned about our kingdoms and more concerned about His.  I've seen it happen to me.  I'm not perfect yet, but I'm also not the rude, selfish, arrogant, sarcastic, intellectual bully I used to be... though he does still rear his ugly head on occasion.  How about you?  Have you been changed by His presence?  Are you trying hard to change your own desires?  Have you tried just sitting at His feet and spending time with Him in His Word, worship, prayer, and fellowship with His people?  I hope so, because it's a close relationship with Him that changes us.  

May you find yourself ever more like Christ as you spend your time with Him.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Training: Penal Substitutionary Atonement Part 2

This is the third video I've put up to discuss the theological concept of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  If you're just joining in, you can find the INTRO HERE and PART 1: DEFINING PENAL HERE.

As a recap, we have learned that phrases like "Jesus died for your sins" are often misunderstood by non-Christians and not necessarily fully understood by Christians either.  Penal Substitutionary Atonement is a theological term used to address the issue of what exactly Jesus' death did.  The word Penal is used to convey that His death on the cross was related to the crime of sin and the just penalty for sin which is death.  Today's video will hopefully explain the second word: Substitutionary.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Lessons from the Sons of Thunder

Yes, I know that is lightning and not thunder...

Boanerges.  It means sons of thunder.  Jesus gave that nickname to James and John in Matthew 3.  This is just speculation, but I think He chose that name for a reason.  I think James and John were energetic and loud.  I think they were the kind of guys that were the life of the party.  They brought the boom and the noise with them wherever they went.  They were used to the spotlight.  They craved the spotlight.  That's what I think at least.

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. "Teacher," they said, "we want you to do for us whatever we ask." "What do you want me to do for you?" he asked. They replied, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory. -- Mark 10:35-37
James and John believed rightly that one day Jesus would be King and they wanted to be the number two people in the whole kingdom.  They desired greatness for themselves.  They wanted the glory.  They wanted the fame.  They wanted the attention.  They wanted the position of power.  They wanted the position of privilege.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Training: Penal Substitutionary Atonement Part 1

As I mentioned last week, I've created some training videos for people at my church.  You can find my quick intro HERE.

Before you hear what I have to say, take a look at the following Scriptures.

For the wages of sin is death... -- Romans 6:23a

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.--Daniel 12:2

God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power--2 Thess 1:6-9

But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca, is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.--Matthew 5:22

God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day.-- Psalm 7:11

As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." -- Romans 3:10-12

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. -- Isaiah 64:6

The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. -- Psalm 5:5

Hopefully, this begins to unpack this theological concept of the penal substitutionary atonement for you.  Let me know what you think or if you have any questions!  Part 2 will be up next Thursday.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Follow Hard

I think I would have said no to Jesus.

I mean, why on earth did Peter say yes?

Matthew chapter four tells us that Peter and his brother Andrew were fishing.  It was their job.  We know that Peter was an average kind of guy.  He had a home, friends, and a family.  We also know that Peter was married because Jesus heals his mother-in-law in Luke chapter four.  He's married and he has a job, a home, a wife, a family, and friends.  All reasons to say no.

Jesus, a complete stranger, walks up to Peter and Andrew one day while they are fishing.  Peter didn't know Jesus.  To Peter, Jesus was just some preacher he had heard people talk about.  Jesus hadn't even done any amazing miracles yet.  He was just some preacher.  And Jesus walks up to Peter and says, "Come and follow me."

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Trying Something New: Training Videos

I've created a series of videos to use as training for people at my church.  These videos cover the theological concept of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  It's a long winded title that addresses the question "What did Jesus do on the cross?"  I've put the introduction to the training below.  Give it a watch and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Super: Joshua is Wolverine

Wolverine was never one of my favorite characters from the X-Men, but he's hard not to like at least a little. He's tough as nails and always ready for a fight.  His instinct is to shoot first and ask questions later. . . or stab first in his case.  He is an independent warrior who has to learn how to play on a team when he joins up with Professor X and the X-Men.  He isn't used to following orders and his less than cool head make it difficult for him to obey.  Often this quality of Wolverine's gets the whole group into trouble.

We can be a lot like Wolverine.  Maybe we lack adamantine claws and mutant healing abilities, but we all possess his stubbornness at times.  We have our way of doing things and don't want to follow the rules or someone else's orders.  We often act without thinking things through.  Whether it's our boss, teacher, parents, or anyone else telling us what to do, we think we know better at least half of the time.  But what happens when we get this Wolverine-esque attitude with God?  What do we do when we think we know better than the Almighty?

There is a man in the Bible who fits Wolverine's description rather well.  He is a warrior through and through, solves problems with fighting first, and has a defining moment that revolves around obeying his commander.