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Wherever we see beauty, light, truth, goodness, we see Christ. Do we think him so small that he couldn’t invade a series of books about a boy wizard? Do we think him cut off from a story like this, as if he were afraid, or weak, or worried? Remember when Santa Claus shows up (incongruously) in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? It’s a strange moment, but to my great surprise I’ve been moved by it. Lewis reminds me that even Father Christmas is subject to Jesus, just as in Prince Caspian the hosts of mythology are subject to him. The Harry Potter story is subject to him, too, and Jesus can use it however he wants. In my case, Jesus used it to help me long for heaven, to remind me of the invisible world, to keep my imagination active and young, and he used it to show me his holy bravery in his triumph over the grave. – Andrew Peterson

I have been a fan of Harry Potter since I picked up the first book sometime in college in the late 90s. I didn’t think about it much at the time, I just saw a lot of good being glorified in it and was enthralled by the story. Aside from biographies and the Puritans, I’ll choose a good fiction book any day. The story of the paths of the dead in Return of the King is stunning, reminding me that Jesus is with me in the darkness. Jekyll’s slow losing battle with Hyde is demonstrates that yielding to sin does not satisfy it but actually perpetuates it and enslaves. Atticus Finch is an example of an imperfect father with rock hard conviction and integrity. Fiction can be messy, but story lingers with you and can help us understand greater truths and the gospel in deeper ways.

I think Harry Potter has lasting power and there is a lot of good built into it in a way that can stir us up in the right things. The Harry Potter series will prove to be a classic.

Side note: I will not be making this argument for Twilight.

What is the Metanarrative of Harry Potter?

Christians were warned about the dangers of Harry Potter, the draw to the occult, to witchcraft, the likelihood that Satan existed in the very pages of Rowling’s novels. Some, perhaps even some reading this, still wonder whether we should be concerned about in the Potter books. I’m not intending to tread on those concerns; we should always be discerning. But at this point, reviewing the history of the debate, the content of the Potter books, and the professions of faith from their author, it’s hard to come to any other conclusion than that those of us who were once concerned about or opposed to the series were wrong. It’s edifying literature, deliberately full of Christian symbols. – Travis Prinzi

Until recently, I mostly saw how Christians opposed the Harry Potter series and warned of its witchcraft and occult references. I’ve read a few things about how Harry Potter supposedly uses the same “magic words” as actual witchcraft.

That may be true and certainly there is some maturity needed to handle these books just as there is maturity needed for many a book. Readers need to be mature enough to evaluate what is glorified? What is the imparted worldview? What main themes being ingrained through this story? Evil is awesome? Be like Voldemort? Spells are what win battles? Magic rules? Anyone saying that has not read the books.

Harry Potter is all about character over magic. Love over evil. Good triumphing in the end. Battling evil is more about courage and the willingness to lay down your own life than it is about pure knowledge or being able to aim well with your wand. That’s why Harry is not the best wizard, and why Ron is so important and why we need to see Hermione’s heart more than her dazzling skills. Neville represents more of a thirst for revenge than we may like but he also represents perseverance, growth in courage, and honoring the legacy of your parents. Neville also represents the sovereignty and grace of God. The only thing that ultimately distinguishes him from Harry is the fact that Voldemort chose to try to kill infant Harry instead of infant Neville. Their destiny is by no choice of their own and yet their destiny is affected by their very character.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:24-25 ESV)

Think about these themes: the destiny of good to triumph over evil, sacrifice and the willingness to lay down your own life being the route to victory, loyalty, friendship, love. Doesn’t sound like a terrible story rooted in the occult to me.

Why will Harry Potter last?

Consider the long-standing, complicated issue of fate and free will, which has been endlessly debated in systematics and caused harsh and violent lines to be drawn between Christian groups. Now, watch the way events unfold in Oedipus Rex, or in MacBeth, or in Harry Potter, where free will and prophecy fulfillment interact and intersect and weave in and out of each other. The issue, in story form, produces mystery and wonder, whereas in our theological propositions, it tends to produce argument and frustration. Fairy tales give us imaginative access to truth in places our religion textbooks cannot go. – Travis Prinzi

I’m not sure if Harry Potter will have the lasting power of a Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia. It might have too many roots in our current culture to be a classic. However, when I think back to my childhood and the 80s and 90s, I can think of no lasting classics like this. Harry Potter stands out. How many other series have been written using similar themes and magic and coming of age children? Along with vampires and other similar themes, I’m guessing too many to count.

I think Harry Potter will still be worth reading (movies get old very quickly!) in 25 years. The themes are so accessible and glorifying of the right things that it will last. The characters are fantastic. The story brings in way too much of the gospel to ignore it. Forget about the movies, read the books. Try not to be moved. Try not to get caught up in the war against evil. Try not to be moved by a character willing to be hated by all in order to be a major component for good. Just try. This is a story that will last because it has so much of the one story we all need.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 ESV)

I think it’s obvious and becoming even more obvious by the day. Is there really a more ridiculous idea than evolution? Random mutation + time + chance = we’re here! Let’s roll the dice with some mud and produce some lions! How much time do we have? 4.5 million years? Oh wait, that’s too short. How about 4.5 billion years? That sounds about right.

This clip is merely a tidbit of how absurd evolution is and it’s actually one part of a DVD that includes 6 videos about the problems of evolution.

I’m not trying to say I have all the answers but what more do you need? This hit me about 2-3 years ago in some discussions over evolution and looking at various arguments as to how evolution could produce the human brain or eye. The arguments revealed the gist of humanistic evolution: natural selection is not the driver, random mutation is. Go on Panda’s Thumb. Look up the arguments, there are too many discussions and arguments to link to. But the heart of the modern theory of evolution (an evolution of a theory that still hasn’t found its own evidence) is simply random mutation producing change over a very long period of time with a miniscule aid called natural selection (which is really isn’t much of an aid when it comes to increased complexity).

In fact, just forget about natural selection when you deal with evolution. Natural selection comes in handy with change but not with forming new species. You need a whole lot of mutation for that to happen. Mutation that we have yet to really see produce new genetic code.

Maybe calling it the dumbest idea ever is a bit extreme, but it’s pretty close…

This week: panoramas from Hiroshima, what not to say to a depressed person, real men, killing moralism, and ebooks vs books.

After the Bomb – Hiroshima Panoramas (Google Maps Mania): I lived in Japan about a 45 minute train ride away from Hiroshima from 7th-9th grade. We visited Peace Park many times where the dome you see above still remains as the centerpiece of the park, the only building really left standing after the bomb.

Ten Things Not to Say to a Depressed Person (by purplepersuasion)

Over a person’s life-time, their risk of experiencing clinical depression is 10-20% in women and girls, and slightly less in males.  Yet despite the fact that depression is so widespread, it is apparently still a very misunderstood illness.  That’s the only conclusion I can draw from some of the insensitive, crass and sometimes downright bizarre things people have said to me about my depression over the years.

Killing Moralism (by Joe Thorn, The Resurgence)

We must always remind our people (and first, ourselves) that God commands us to act—not that we might become good, but that we might know and show him to be good. God does not reveal his will so that we can build our confidence in our ability to keep it, but so that we can exalt and exult in the God we know by grace.

Real Men Repent (by Carlos Montoya, The Resurgence)

I’ll never forget the day my dad came to me and confessed his sins against our family and me. He admitted he was wrong in so many areas of his life, and that by God’s grace he would be a better example of what a man truly is. He didn’t only do this with me, but also with so many people he had wronged throughout his life. It was in that moment I learned one of the most important things about being a man.

What are the deeper implications of the shift to ebooks – for us (Kindle Review)

eBooks are making reading a lot more accessible. People who couldn’t read can read now –  Larger text and Text to Speech is opening up reading to a lot more people. Additionally, People can read now in places and at times when they couldn’t read earlier. You can read on your phone, on your PC, or on your eReader. As Jerry Lee Lewis would put it – Whole lotta reading going on.

This week: godly friendship, a secular perspective on evangelicals, the life of Paul, and thoughts on the market crash.

The Gift of Friendship and the Godliness of Good Friends (Parts 1-4) (by Kevin DeYoung)

Friendship is wonderful, and we all want it. But friends can be hard to come by. This is nothing new. A true friend has always been one of God’s most sought after gifts. “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” (Proverbs 20:6). Thankfully, the book of Proverbs says a lot about friendship. It won’t help you find friends, at least not directly. But Proverbs will help you be a better friend. And the best friends usually have the best friends.

Evangelicals Without Blowhards (by Nicholas Kristof)

But in reporting on poverty, disease and oppression, I’ve seen so many others. Evangelicals are disproportionately likely to donate 10 percent of their incomes to charities, mostly church-related. More important, go to the front lines, at home or abroad, in the battles against hunger, malaria, prison rape, obstetric fistula, human trafficking or genocide, and some of the bravest people you meet are evangelical Christians (or conservative Catholics, similar in many ways) who truly live their faith.

Paul’s Downward Trajectory (by Justin Holcomb)

Do you see the trajectory as Paul matures in faith? This is what happens when you boast in Christ alone. Your weakness becomes more evident. You can’t help but make much of Christ and little of self. That is maturity according to Paul—boasting in nothing but Christ’s grace and our weakness.

Why the Market Meltdown is Crazy (by James Altucher, Freakonomics)

So, don’t read the news; don’t panic. How many people in San Francisco took iodine pills because newspaper headlines (The New York Times, for instance) were talking about the “radioactive plume” that was going to hit San Francisco the week after the Japanese earthquake? Not many, I think.
My take: Relax. Eat a doughnut. Enjoy the weekend.

Finally getting around to April’s Tabletalk magazine, there was an article by John Piper which discussing anger and means to crushing it. I found it very convicting but helpful. I can struggle with letting the desire for ease, comfort, and respect lead to anger when my children are not making my life any easier or don’t seem to be tracking with my intent for them. I definitely have seen God’s work in this area of my life over the past 2-3 years but I still have a long way to go. Piper gives 9 things to ponder when struggling with anger:

First, ponder the rights of Christ to be angry, but then how He endured the cross, as an example of long-suffering (1 Peter 2:21).

Second, ponder how much you have been forgiven and how much mercy you have been shown. (Eph. 4:32)

Third, ponder your own sinfulness and take the beam out of your own eye:  (Matt. 7:3–5).

Fourth, think about how you do not want to give place to the Devil, because harbored anger is the one thing the Bible explicitly says opens a door and invites him in:  (Eph. 4:26–27).

Fifth, ponder the folly of your own self-immolation, that is, numerous detrimental effects of anger to the one who is angry — some spiritual, some mental, some physical, and some relational: (Prov. 3:7–8)

Sixth, confess your sin of anger to some trusted friend, as well as to the offender, if possible. (James 5:16).

Seventh, let your anger be the key to unlock the dungeons of pride and self-pity in your heart and replace them with love: (1 Cor. 13:4–7).

Eighth, remember that God is going to work it all for your good as you trust in His future grace. Your offender is even doing you good, if you will respond with love: (Rom. 8:28) (James 1:2–4).

Ninth, remember that God will vindicate your just cause and settle all accounts better than you could. Either your offender will pay in hell or Christ has paid for him. Your payback would be double jeopardy or an offence to the cross: (Rom. 12:19) (1 Peter 2:23).

Read the entire article here. Also check out these worthwhile articles from April’s issue as well:

The Victory Parade We Don’t Deserve by R.C. Sproul Jr.

He explained to Joshua this most fundamental truth: “The question, Joshua, is not whether or not I am on your side or theirs. The question is whether or not you are on My side.”

Young Women, Idolatry & the Powerful Gospel by Elyse Fitzpatrick

The antidote to idolatrous worship isn’t found in rules prohibiting idolatry. Rules don’t dazzle and captivate. They can’t generate worship. They’re not powerful enough to transform.

Here’s what I struggled with after watching Captain America: Steve Rogers appeared to be too otherworldly. He is so good and self-sacrificing. He is so willing to lay down his life for others that he even appears to be self-centered to his friends. You’re thinking – is this guy for real? No one is this good! But then as I thought about it, I realized: that is much more an indictment on my own heart and our culture than the story. In truth, the goodness and manliness of the imperfect Rogers is what makes Captain America such a worthwhile film.

Captain America is Jonathan

One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” But he did not tell his father…

Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. And that first strike, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, killed about twenty men within as it were half a furrow’s length in an acre of land. And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic. (1 Samuel 14:1, 13-15 ESV)

Jonathan, the son of Saul (surprising, eh?), is a man of courage and yet humility. He is brash and, with the help of his armor bearer, and decides to take on a whole Philistine garrison by himself – which leads to a great victory. He has such a faith and an almost unbelievable self-forgetfulness about him. He cares not that David would be king instead of him – he embraces David as a loyal and dear brother. He cares not for power. He sticks with his father even as Saul becomes more and more insane and given over to darkness. Jonathan is one of the most amazing people we learn about in the Old Testament. We named my son (middle name) after him because of all this. Jonathan is very real and very much lived. I’m sure he had struggles we don’t know about, but he was an amazing man.

Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, is Jonathan. He cares nothing for glory or for power. He cares for his friends. He hates evil and bullies. He counts himself expendable for the fight against evil and is ready and willing to lay down his life. It’s almost unbelievable but I think that’s because these traits tend to be lacking in our comfortable and safe American lifestyle.

I love the humility of Steve Rogers. He’s so unaware of himself. He is extremely loyal. He can take a beating. He is sold out to a purpose higher than himself and everything is merely a bonus. You can’t help but root for Captain America even in a all the cheesy, but not cynical, patriotism.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13-14 ESV)

Captain America is very good film. Out of the films released this summer, it’s up there and it definitely came through on the hype. I appreciated the bittersweet ending, even knowing what was coming, because of the character of Steve Rogers. I wanted more of these characters and more of Steve Rogers.

Be sure to wait until all the way past the credits before getting up out of your seat, you will be rewarded.

Can’t wait for Avengers

This past week I read 1 Corinthians over the course of about 3 days and God showed me one discussion I’d never seen there before: hard work versus grace. It was encouraging and helpful for me as I’ve been wrestling with my own personal habits and disciplines that I need to be renewed in and step up in. I found 5 lessons in how grace and hard work go together.

#1: Hard work is not a means of status or standing (Ch. 1-4, 12-14).

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:28-31 ESV)

For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:11 ESV)

On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. (1 Corinthians 12:22-25 ESV)

#2: We work hard but, by His grace, God gives the fruit (Ch. 3)

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:5-9 ESV)

#3: Hard work is not the primary source of fighting sin and resisting temptation, grace is (Ch. 10)

We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:9-13 ESV)

#4: Love is what we should strive to work hardest at (Ch. 13)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV)

#5: We work hard in light of eternity (our future grace!) (Ch. 15)

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
    “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
    “O death, where is your victory?
        O death, where is your sting?”
    The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
    Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:54-58 ESV)

#6: Christ’s work, not ours, is of first importance (Ch. 15)

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ESV)

1 Corinthians is a very helpful book of the Bible that I think I’ve neglected in the past. The Corinthians were struggling with status symbols, striving for a standing with each other, worried about who was following who, boasting in themselves and their leaders, working hard at their reputation and establishing their own justification. Paul very gently reproves this heart and encourages them in striving to be Christ-centered, not man-centered. He never tells them to stop striving or to stop working – but to work hard in the right motivation (in light of His grace) and right direction (loving and building up others).

Personally, I need to step it up in certain disciplines (like exercise and prayer) not so I will look good and feel more justified but to know God better and increase in my capacity to love and bless others. I want to be freed from my own selfishness and I need to work hard. But God will bring the growth as I persevere and trust Him. He has good plans and it may be that I need to wrestle with my sin for awhile in order to draw closer to Him and grow in humility. What I fear is either justifying myself through discipline or not persevering. God in 1 Corinthians reveals the antidote to both: the grace of God.