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“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.

We habitually look to something or someone smaller than Jesus for the things we crave and need. And none of it is ever enough to fill the void. – Tullian Tchividjian, “Jesus + Nothing = Everything”

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

I love Mr. Tchividjian’s blog, I’ve probably read it all over the past year. It’s been a great encouragement to me and God has used it to stir me in the Gospel. He has such a strong grasp of the heart of grace and why understanding grace is crucial to running this race hard for Jesus. His talk from last year’s DG conference still sticks with me. In the message, he essentially expressed the foundation of “Jesus + Nothing = Everything.”

The Blog Revealed the Book

Saying all that, I struggled with the book. Don’t get me wrong, it is a fire hose of the Gospel. He bleeds grace and does everything he can to communicate it. The problem is that I felt like I had already read the book through his blog. Chapter 12 is a profound close to the book, easily my favorite chapter. But I had already read most of it through Mr. Tchividjian’s blog! I even wrote a blog highlighting the key illustration about the daughter who is given an A by the professor.

We All Need the Fire Hose

All idolatry heads us down this path to no-nameness. And Jesus’s story reminds us that far from being some vague, painless, amorphous existence, that ultimate condition of nothingness is acutely painful in every way. Inwardly and outwardly, it brings us anguish and torment. That’s the tragic destiny Jesus wants us to connect with idolatry in our understanding of it.

Because I’ve read his blog religiously, don’t mistake my thoughts for saying this book is not worth reading. We need this fire hose. We need to swim in everything he expresses. Though I was dying for a few more illustrations, he hammered me with the Word. It would be hard to read Colossians and not see what he sees after reading “Jesus + Nothing = Everything.”

The gospel liberates us to be okay with not being okay. We know we’re not – though we try very hard to convince other people we are. But the gospel tells us, “Relax, it is finished.”

My greatest need and yours is to look at Christ more than we look at ourselves. The gospel empowers us to escape our predicament of being curved in on ourselves. In the gospel, God comes after us because we need him, not because he needs us.

His key point is this: Our problem is not that we take advantage of grace but that we don’t understand the grace of God in the Gospel well enough. In fact, most of us just don’t get it. We express a mild form of grace while clinging to our own efforts and façade. Mr. Tchividjian simply destroys the Pharisee and the sulker. There are many idols, but self-righteousness is what he guns for and continually moves to crush.

Summary

"Jesus + Nothing = Everything” is a continual tour of the equation in the name and I promise that it will be worth your time. I struggled only because I had seen much of the material in his blog so it was not as fresh as I wanted it to be. But that reveals our problem – we want something complex and new but what we need is the gospel. What I need is grace. Over and over and over again until it stirs me to look more at Christ and less of myself.

Real slavery is self-reliance, self-dependence. Real slavery is a life spent trying to become someone. But the gospel comes in and says we already have in Christ all that we crave, so we’re free to live a life of sacrifice, courageously and boldly.

This week: The gospel and enjoyment of life, an interesting breakfast account, and doubting yourself is good.

The Gospel and It-ness (by Jared Wilson, Between 2 Worlds)

If coffee or chocolate or anything else other than God is the highlight of my day or the ultimate joy of my heart, my joy is temporary, hollow, thin.

But if I believe in the gospel, I can finally enjoy the chocolate-ness of chocolate and the coffee-ness of coffee. Only the gospel frees me to enjoy things as they truly are and as they someday will be.

Breakfast and Honesty (by Brant Hansen, Air1)

I asked him if he would do the same thing.  I told him I knew – it ? would be much, much harder for him.  But IF he were completely convinced that this was not what God wanted for his sexuality, that it was actually hindering him from being who God wants him to be, if he were somehow convinced…

Would he change?  Would he submit that aspect of his life to God?

He paused and said…no.

Do You Doubt Yourself? Good (by Tullian Tchividjian, The Resurgence)

The more I look into my own heart for peace, the less I find. On the other hand, the more I look to Christ and his promises for peace, the more I find.

Update (9/28/11): September and October DVD releases offer a plethora of film goodness between X-Men, Thor, Tree of Life, and Captain America. Be sure to read my full reviews of each. Remember: don’t simply veg out but watch to be stirred to worship the One whose story is the only one that ultimately matters.

X-Men: First Class (September 9)

X-Men-First-Class-Quad-Poster

Apart from Tree of Life, this was easily my favorite movie of the summer. James McAvoy is tremendous as Charles and Michael Fassbender plays a very good Erik. This movie works because of those two and the man that Charles is and becomes. Read the rest of my thoughts here. This was definitely the X-Men movie I’ve thought this series could be. It’s not a perfect movie but the character of Charles is worth the watch.

Thor (September 13)

MANHATTAN

Cheesy at times and predictable, this movie actually works because of the charisma and humor of Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and the genuineness of Tim Hiddleston as Loki. By the way, while writing this I just realized that Hemsworth also played Captain Kirk’s dad in that powerful scene at the beginning of the latest Star Trek. Read more of my thoughts on Loki here.

Update (9/17/11)

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon (September 30)

This film was a complete waste other than the incredible special effects. The slow motion transformation sequences, the destruction of the skyscraper, and the battle sequences were phenomenal. That’s about all the good I can say. The flaws are comical. Megatron gets seduced by the token girlfriend. The Decepticons lay siege to Chicago and lock down the city. Then they somehow forget what cars the Autobots are, who very easily sneak into the city. The film attempts to make the humans more important and is laughable. You can only threaten to destroy the whole world so many times and be taken seriously. Would we really believe that the Autobots would leave? That Bumblebee would die? Also, if less than 10 or so Autobots can take on over 200 Decepticons, how did they lose the battle of Cybertron? Seriously, Optimus Prime probably waxes 50 Decepticons by himself! On top of all that comedy, the movie is absurdly long.

Update (8/31/11)

Tree of Life (October 11)

This is without question my favorite movie of the summer and 2011 [update: Warrior beats it out slightly…], for that matter. It’s such a profound movie experience that you have to just immerse yourself in and then engage with the world and imagery Terrence Malick presents. Grace versus the Law. Our deeply flawed sinful nature. Our loneliness. Eternity. Beauty. Many people have hated this film because it’s so different and non-escapist but I hope this type of film is the direction of movies, it’s a work of art that will move you if you let it. You can check out more of my thoughts here: the experience and sin & family.

Update (9/28/11)

Captain America: The First Avenger (October 25)

captain-america-movie-bucky

This movie was better than I expected, especially the first half of the film. The set up to the transformation and then to the initial battle is simply fantastic. I love how Steve Rogers emulates Jonathan of 1Samuel in his humility and friendship. Read my original thoughts here: Captain America: Steve Rogers is the Jonathan of the OT

A few other intriguing movies coming out:

Hanna (September 6): The dangers of homeschool? Training children to be assassins!

Fast Five (October 5): The dangers of 1000 foot cliff diving? None!

Update (9/28/11)

Winnie the Pooh (October 25): The dangers of honey? Obesity!