This week: cohabitation and it’s effects, infanticide in Canada, definitions vs rights in the debate about marriage, and some wisdom on folly of trying to increase taxes on the rich.

What Cohabitation Does for Marriage (by Glenn Stanton, Boundless)

If couples want to dramatically boost their likelihood of divorcing once married, few things so widely practiced will ensure that than cohabiting. This is just the opposite of what most believe.

Thrown Over the Fence — Infanticide, Canadian Style (by Dr. Albert Mohler)

The moral dishonesty of the entire tragedy comes down to the fact that, in legalizing abortion, liberal societies claimed to be making a bargain. We will not protect unborn life, but we will defend all those who make it to birth. Of course, the dividing line was always dishonest. Are we seriously to believe that human personhood is a matter of mere location, inside or outside the womb?

We’re Arguing Definitions, Not Rights (by Amy Hall, STR)

So the question is, which definition should we use? It’s fine for you to argue that your definition of "two people who love each other" is better than my definition of "one man, one woman," or someone else’s definition of "one man, multiple women," but we need to start off by understanding that we’re arguing definitions, not rights.

You Can’t Tax the Rich (by Thomas Sowell, National Review)

In other words, the genuinely rich are likely to be the least harmed by high tax rates in the top brackets. People who are looking for jobs are likely to be the most harmed, because they cannot equally easily transfer themselves overseas to take the jobs that are being created there by American investments that are fleeing high tax rates at home.

And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers… (Malachi 4:6 ESV)

This is a rare fight movie in which we don’t want to see either fighter lose. That brings such complexity to the final showdown that hardly anything could top it — but something does, and "Warrior" earns it. – Roger Ebert

“Warrior” is now my new favorite movie of the year. I’ve never seen a movie like “Tree of Life” but as a man with a only one brother and a father who passed away 9 years ago from the effects of alcoholism, this film moved me. The previews appeal to mainly the mixed martial arts (MMA) side of this movie but the MMA is merely a tool to go deeper into this troubled, broken family. It’s being billed as a flop at the box office with only $10M in 2 weeks but this one is not to be missed. Nick Nolte as Paddy is perfect as a reforming alcoholic who aches over his wretched past, wanting to make things right but knowing that there’s no way he can make up for it all. Tom Hardy as Tommy is completely believable as a man beat up and burned by the world with nowhere to go and channeling everything into his anger. Joel Edgerton as Brendan is a wounded family man trying to lead his home and simply provide.

The Reality of Wounds and Pain

    For he wounds, but he binds up;
        he shatters, but his hands heal.
        (Job 5:18 ESV)

The pain these brothers feel is real, especially Tommy. Abused and exasperated by his drunken father, feeling deserted by his brother, having to watch his mother die a painful death, and his best friend killed right next to him in war, the world has kicked him in the teeth on many an occasion. He hates his father, he hates God, and he hates Brendan. Deeper than that, in all of his wounds, he also hates himself. He knows his wounds but he knows his flaws as well as you’ll see. All of this comes out in his anger and rage. He has no means to cope and nobody to trust. Even when Brendan reaches out, Tommy can’t even call him his brother.

Forgiveness & Redemption

bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13 ESV)

Seeking forgiveness means not hiding anymore, confessing sin, and striving for brokenness over the pain you caused and the tarnishing of God’s name. But redemption depends on the other person, on the offended and suffering party. This is what Paddy runs into as he attempts to turn his life to God and stop being a drunk. Brendan forgives him but doesn’t trust him, doesn’t want a relationship with him and certainly doesn’t want him around his kids. Tommy doesn’t even see Paddy as his father anymore and keeps it all business except for the moments of stabbing Paddy with his word, reminding him of his sin. This won’t simply be a clean restoration. Tommy is so wounded and Brendan he’s seen too much for a mere 3 years of sobriety and walking with Jesus to wipe the slate clean. Only one person can fully wipe the slate clean and he had to go to cross to do it

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, (1 Peter 3:18 ESV)

What Does it Mean to be a Man?

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8 ESV)

Being a man means laying down your life for your family. Can I suffer for their best? Can I lay down my rights? Can I do all this in providing for them? This is the example of Brendan. He’s not perfect but fights for his family. He takes a beating that they might flourish. He splurges on them not himself. I love the beginning when his wife speaks aside to him at their daughter’s birthday, scolding him a little for going over budget in the gift he bought. He simply proclaims that it was her birthday. It was not about the money, he couldn’t help himself, he just wanted to lavish good on their daughter. Not the complete picture of manliness but very convicting.

Entering the Pantheon

“Warrior” now enters the pantheon of manly movies for me. It’s not a movie that my wife would likely enjoy but I was stirred and softened. The ending of this movie was better than I could have hoped for. I did not feel let down at all but I simply wept. So few people have seen it but that’s likely because it’s appeal to women is minimal.

I’m thankful that the door to forgiveness through the gospel of Jesus Christ is wide open. Only in him can we cleanly forgive. Only through Him can true redemption happen. I’m also thankful for my only brother. My love runs deeper for him than most anyone else on this planet outside of my wife and my kids.

A friend loves at all times,
        and a brother is born for adversity.
(Proverbs 17:17 ESV)

Conventional understanding of God’s will defines it as a specific pathway we should follow into the future. God knows what this pathway is, and he has laid it out for us to follow. Our responsibility is to discover this pathway – God’s plan for our lives. We must discover which of the many pathways we could follow is the one we should follow, the one God has planned for us. If and when we make the right choice, we will receive his favor, fulfill our divine destiny and succeed in life… If we choose rightly, we will experience his blessing and achieve success and happiness. If we choose wrongly, we may lose our way, miss God’s will for our lives, and remain lost forever in an incomprehensible maze. – Gerald  Sittser, “The Will of God as a Way of Life,” quoted by Kevin DeYoung in “Just Do Something”

This conventional understanding is the wrong way to think of God’s will. In fact, expecting God to reveal some hidden will of direction is an invitation to disappointment and indecision. Trusting in God’s will of decree [God’s sovereignty] is good. Following his will of desire [God’s Word] is obedient. Waiting for God’s will of direction is a mess. It is bad for your life, harmful to your sanctification, and allows too many Christians to be passive tinkerers who strangely feel more spiritual the less they actually do.

God is not a Magic 8-Ball we shake up and peer into whenever we have a decision to make. He is a good God who gives us brains, shows us the way of obedience, and invites us to take risks for Him. We know God has a plan for our lives. That’s wonderful. The problem is we think He’s going to tell us the wonderful plan before it unfolds. We feel like we can know – and need to know – what God wants every step of the way. But such preoccupation with finding God’s will, as well-intentioned as the desire may be, is more folly than freedom.

The better way is the biblical way: Seek first the kingdom of God, and then trust that He will take care of our needs, even before we know what they are and where we’re going. – Kevin DeYoung, “Just Do Something”

Needless to say, “Just Do Something” is worth reading and I can’t imagine that it won’t be beneficial. DeYoung is easy to read, humorous, and quick to the point of the book: Stop seeing decision making about reading the signs in the sky and start taking risks for the kingdom of God.

This week: Ground zero and Christ, homeschool blind spots, Pat Robertson’s lack of understanding of the gospel, and a good one on fathers and sons.

Ground Zero & the American Dream (by Makoto Fujimura, Curator)

“Ground Zero,” in Christ, can also mean a cancellation point, a new beginning where we can stand on the ashes of the Wasteland we see and still seek renewal and “genesis moments.”

girl covering eyes ffound-1.jpeg

Homeschool Blindspots (by Reb Bradley via Joshua Harris’ Blog)

When I picked him up the second night of work, he got in the car with a big smile on his face and said "They like me!" As I dwelt on that comment, it suddenly came clear to me – my son had finally met someone who liked him for who he was. Few others in his entire life had shown him much acceptance, especially not his mother and I. It is no exaggeration – in our efforts to shape and improve him, all we did was find fault with everything he did.

Christ, the Church, and Pat Robertson (by Russell Moore)

A woman or a man with Alzheimer’s can’t do anything for you. There’s no romance, no sex, no partnership, not even companionship. That’s just the point. Because marriage is a Christ/church icon, a man loves his wife as his own flesh. He cannot sever her off from him simply because she isn’t “useful” anymore.

Fathers, Sons, and Fair Market Value (by David Browder, Mockingbird)

These two outlooks are on totally different planes. Who has the most rest? Who can actually play a game and enjoy it for what it is rather than having to increase their fair market value? Most of all, which one gives birth to a love that will be there long after the last pass is thrown?

This week: more grace than sin, dealing with mistreatment, the true testing ground for a wife, and glorifying God at work.

Jesus: More Full of Grace Than I of Sin (by Justin Taylor)

O Jesus, full of truth and grace

More full of grace than I of sin
Yet once again I seek Thy face:
Open Thine arms and take me in
And freely my backslidings heal
And love the faithless sinner still.

– Charles Wesley

When Others Mistreat You (by Nathan Busenitz, the Cripplegate)

For the truth is, if you are wronged by other men, you have the better of it, for it is better to bear wrong than to do wrong a great deal. If they wrong you, you are in a better condition than they, because it is better to bear, than to do wrong.

A Wife’s Testing Ground (by Jen Smidt, The Resurgence)

If our value is tied to his purity, we will be devastated. If our security is grounded in his job title, we will be shaken. If our faith rides the coattails of his, we will find ourselves drowning in unbelief.

If our husband is our rock, we may be crushed by him.

How to Glorify God at Work (by John Piper, Desiring God)

Go to work utterly dependent on God (Proverbs 3:5-6; John 15:5). Without him you can’t breathe, move, think, feel, or talk. Not to mention be spiritually influential. Get up in the morning and let God know your desperation for him. Pray for help.

“The Debt” is a solid film that not only was insanely intense but it moved me and got to me a bit. The acting was fantastic – the doctor made me loathe him, Sam Worthington (David) made me empathize with him, Jessica Chastain (Rachel) seemed very tortured internally, and I believed Stephan’s hardness both in the past and the present. The twists were superb. I appreciated seeing the ending first and then being drawn into how the pieces come together. The key theme: every sin has consequences but sometimes the lie about the sin is worse.

Beware: lots of spoilers ahead! I cannot get to the heart of this film without digging into all of it.

The Lie

As is likely with most folks who saw this film, I did not anticipate that the doctor would escape. I thought they would torture and kill him and then lie about that. I thought Stephan would carry out some form of justice and then they would lie about the circumstance. I never had a thought in my head that the doctor would get away and they would be left empty-handed. Once he got away, the choice was obvious: face and accept failure and admit their mistakes, or cling to their reputations and tell a lie. Tell a lie and become heroes, keep their careers and live a sham. They choose what many of us would: to perpetuate the lie. They choose to live a façade and seek the praise of men.

For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. (Romans 10:3 ESV)

This hit home with me because I’ve been convicted lately of how much of an idol my own reputation is. After reading “Jesus + Nothiing = Everything” by Tullian Tchividjian, I had to ask myself the question: What do I cling to that I would rather die than have God take away? God likes to answer that question and through an interaction with my wife, I realized that I cling to my reputation. How I am perceived in the eyes of others is vastly important to me. My own name is much more valuable to me than God’s name. This is wrong and will not lead me to freedom and does not lead to joy in Him. But, wow, is it difficult to kill. This is the choice they made and the shame eventually crushes David, breaks Rachel, and Stephan has to sear his conscience for the rest of his life. David knows the path to freedom: speak the truth. But he will come forward without the consent of Rachel and takes another path in killing himself.

The lie is what is at the center of the film but the lie and the escape of the doctor is triggered and set in motion by one seemingly inconsequential act of sin.

One Night Sets it All in Motion

You know what exactly what night that is if you’ve seen it. David and Rachel obviously have affections for each other but David exercises restraint. In one moment, he chooses not to yield to emotion. However, Rachel, initially rejected by David, seeking relief from the pain and intensity of pursuing the war criminal doctor in communist East Berlin, yields to the lust driven seduction of Stephan. That night changes absolutely everything. For one fleeting and regretful night of pleasure, Rachel gets pregnant and truly cuts off the potential for something better with David. This then leads right into the doctor’s hands and gives him an avenue to break David and Rachel with his words, with David eventually giving way to anger and brutalizing the doctor.

David’s anger wasn’t just about the doctor’s killing but, of course, over Rachel. Sometimes, Satan doesn’t need to speak lies to us to bring hurt and further temptation, he merely needs to tell us the truth. We know what happens next. The shards of the plate on the floor. David needing to be calmed by Stephan leaving Rachel vulnerable. The escape. The lie then leads to more shame, more pain, and living a life outside of grace and freedom.

Choose the Cross over Sin, Choose the Cross Again over Shame

We are not very different than David, Rachel, and Stephan. We are faced with the same temptations and daily choices: confess sin or hide it? Run to the cross for relief or trust in the fleeting damaging pleasure of sin?

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:18-21 ESV)

Jesus died and suffered on the cross to bring you to him, to crush the power and temptation of sin, and to bring about your justification. In Christ, we are free! There is now no condemnation! We have nothing to hide! We need not cling to our own façade and reputation – Jesus is our reputation. He is our righteousness. We will fail. We will sin. We will err. He died for it all. Many times, we lie or choose sin simply because of a mistake we made that is not even sin itself! Jesus came to free you from that to walk in the light, to be yourself, to know Him and be satisfied in him. Freedom is not found in the dark but in the light, in Christ.

But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:21-23 ESV)

I’m thankful for the film, “The Debt,” in how it so powerfully illustrates the consequence of sin and the shame and torture that lies lead to. Thank God for sending his son to bring us freedom. May he work in us to give us a deeper understanding of our justification and his deep, deep love for us, that we would not hide but come to him more and more.

It was a crazy summer and I honestly did not read as much I had wanted. But here are 4 quick reviews from the summer: Boys Adrift, To Kill a Mockingbird, Church Planter, and Brain Rules.

Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax

Think twice before you look condescendingly at the traditions of other cultures that have lasted far longer than our own. Our culture’s neglect of the transition to manhood is not producing an overabundance of young men who are sensitive, caring, and hardworking.

This book surprised me in it’s objectivity and getting beneath the surface about the demotivation and loss of men in our culture. There are 5 factors that Sax walks through: video games, teaching methods, prescription drugs (for ADHD), endocrine disruptors (plastics/food lowering testosterone), and the devaluation of masculinity. If you have sons or deal with young men, I highly recommend this book. It’s not written from the Christian worldview, and thereby has a major hole, but Sax does value the Bible.

What does it mean to be a man? The answer is: being a man means using your strength in the service of others.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill A Mockingbird

I know, I know, this book was written 50 years ago! Consider this book as part of my progress in rewriting my education! There is a reason everyone still talks about this book by Harper Lee: it is amazing and has a depth not found in just about anything written in the last twenty years. Lee has tremendous insight into the sinfulness of human nature and the blindness we have to it at times. Atticus Finch is my new hero, probably one of my favorite fictional characters of all time now. A father, lawyer, follower of Christ who is not perfect but seeks to see the best in people in order to love them, especially his kids. His final speech to the jury is awesome and how his manliness is displayed in how he takes it on the cheek is stirring.

Church Planter by Darrin Patrick

Hurriedness is like a strong wind that blows on the waters of your heart. If the waves are too high, you forget about others and focus on your own survival, making compassion toward others impossible.

“Church Planter” might have been better titled “Pastor” because it is essentially a synopsis of what it takes to be a pastor, what his message needs to be, and what his mission is. Yes, there are nuances to the term “church planter” that Patrick digs into, but this is a book about the sobering reality and demands of a pastor, especially the first part of the book. I genuinely desire to be a pastor one day and Patrick shook me up a bit in a good way. Being a pastor is no joke and is not like other jobs. Do you want to be a pastor? Read “Church Planter” and then see if it’s still your desire!

Most pastors live in a fairy-tale world. They refuse to engage the brutal reality that is ministry, opting instead for a safe, plastic world that never involves hard conversations or radical decisions.

Brain Rules by Dr. John Medina

What do these studies show, viewed as a whole? Mostly this: If you wanted to create an education environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a classroom. If you wanted to create a business environment that was directly opposed to what the brain was good at doing, you probably would design something like a cubicle. And if you wanted to change things, you might have to tear down both and start over.

Brain Rules is a fun, practical, and yet puzzling book. His rules make sense along with the studies and stories to back them up. It is no surprise that things like exercise, sleep, stress, vision, gender, and his other areas affect our ability to learn and remember. You will be amazed by the brain in reading Medina’s book. It blows me away the brain’s complexity and abilities. What also blows me away is that as Medina unpacks our brain, he continually tosses in the evolutionary junk “science” as additional arguments. It adds nothing. It’s like he has seen so much design in the brain that he has to preach evolution to himself and to us. Don’t get me wrong: this is a great book that is easy to read and holds a number of lessons for us. But if anything, “Brain Rules” became an argument for how ridiculous the theory of evolution is and Medina’s evolution propaganda only cemented it.

it is not as if chimpanzees write symphonies badly and we write them well. Chimps can’t write them at all, and we can write ones that make people spend their life savings on subscriptions to the New York Philharmonic.

If I had to pick one…

It has to be “To Kill a Mockingbird” with “Boys Adrift” not far behind. Fiction wins again! Read Harper Lee’s masterpiece again if you read it awhile back. Think about the sinful nature we all have. Think about the tragedy of racism. Think about Atticus Finch and the example of a man that he is. This book is another example of why God gave us fiction and story.