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Posts Tagged ‘fathers’

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)

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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?

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This week: Jonathan Edwards’ first resolution, the grace-loving antinomian, redemptive embarrassment, and some thoughts on family worship.

Jonathan Edwards’ First Resolution (by Matt Perman/What’s Best Next)

First, he sees no ultimate conflict between his good and God’s glory. God’s glory is most important, but his good is found in pursuing God’s glory. There is no ultimate conflict between his joy and the magnification of God’s excellence.

An Open Letter To Mr. Grace-Loving Antinomian (by Tullian Tchividjian)

There seems to be a fear out there that the preaching of radical grace produces serial killers. Or, to put it in more theological terms, too much emphasis on the indicatives of the gospel leads to antinomianism (a lawless version of Christianity that believes the directives and commands of God don’t matter). My problem with this fear is that I’ve never actually met anyone who has been truly gripped by God’s amazing grace in the gospel who then doesn’t care about obeying him

Redemptive/Historical Embarrassment (by Doug Wilson/Blog & Mablog)

They know further that the only reason they are keeping quiet is that they would be ashamed to be identified with a position that has had so much opprobrium heaped on it. And believe me, the lordship of Jesus over everything will always have opprobrium heaped on it. Who wants to be a nutter? Keep it respectable, champ. Keep your head down. Read those books, certainly. Enjoy them in your study, friend. No harm in that,  but don’t go to extremes. Keep your head down.

How I Lead My Children in Personal Devotions (by Tim Challies)

I find that the kids are quite eager to do devotions, but also very quick to lose the habit if I do not help them maintain it. It was not until I stepped up my leadership that they began to do it with regularity.

Second Thoughts on Family Worship (by Jerry Owen/Credenda Agenda)

We simply are not required to have a set, formal, liturgical time of worship as families. I’m glad some people do this and benefit from it, and as far as they do, I’m for it, but no one should feel it is something they ought to do. This is not the same thing as saying parents shouldn’t read the Bible, pray and talk about God with their children. Of course they should. And it’s helpful if this is regular, methodical, and often. But some of the healthiest Christian families I know never had “family worship” formally conducted.

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This week: the truth in beauty, a gospel legacy, the war against girls, and the pitfall of perfectionism.

Beauty Never Lies

Beauty Never Lies (by Sarah Clarkson)

I think most of us have these “knowings.” C.S. Lewis called them “joy,” the great gladness that startled him into his faith. L.M. Montgomery (author of Anne of Green Gables) called them “the flash.” Tolkien called them “eucatastrophe,” the unexpected grace of a happy ending. But all of them mean the same; the taste, in an instant of beauty, of a joy beyond anything we know in this world. A certainty of some good that dwells beyond the limits of what we can see.

Dad, Thank You for Building a Gospel Legacy (by Steven Sakanashi)

It’s been seven years since we had that conversation and I remember everything you said. God has been so gracious, and I’m trying my best to love and follow him like you did. Sometimes I worry about whether I’ll ever be as good a Christian, husband, and dad like you were, but then I am able to rest in peace because you taught me that the Father loves and accepts us regardless of whether we succeed or fail.

The War Against Girls (by Jonathan V. Last)

It is telling that Ms. Hvistendahl identifies a ban on abortion—and not the killing of tens of millions of unborn girls—as the "worst nightmare" of feminism. Even though 163 million girls have been denied life solely because of their gender, she can’t help seeing the problem through the lens of an American political issue. Yet, while she is not willing to say that something has gone terribly wrong with the pro-abortion movement, she does recognize that two ideas are coming into conflict: "After decades of fighting for a woman’s right to choose the outcome of her own pregnancy, it is difficult to turn around and point out that women are abusing that right."

The Pitfall of Perfectionism (by Tullian Tchividjian)

Perfectionism (or performancism) is a horrible disease. It comes from the pit of hell, smelling like rotting flesh. Someone convinced these folks that they were called to measure up to an unattainable standard. They couldn’t do it and each in his or her own way simply quit trying.

Nobody told them that Jesus was perfect for them, and because of that they didn’t have to be perfect for themselves. They didn’t understand that if Jesus makes you free, you will be free indeed.

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Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4 ESV)

In my first post on The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick, I discussed the film experience, the creation sequence, and the overall worldview. Now, let’s look at sin and the family.  Tree of Life is a tour de force of a glimpse of sin and the impact of a father.

The very beginning of the film presents two ways of living: the way of nature and the way of grace. For the way of nature, you can pretty substitute “law” in place of nature. These ways are represented in the parents: the way of grace in the mom (Jessica Chastain) and the way of nature/law in the father (Brad Pitt). Malick also does a tremendous job of painting the nature the sin in young Jack’s struggles and temptations.

The Mother

Mrs. O’Brien is clearly pictured as the way of grace. She delights in her children, runs and plays with them, and seems to enjoy nature. She is full of life and hope, and genuinely loves her three sons. As a mother, she is sensitive to her children but does not simply let the boys run without boundaries. Mrs. O’Brien is not perfect but endures 3 boys and her husband, which begins to sap the life from her. My wife caught the progression in her life: from joy to squashed. Why squashed? Because Mr. O’Brien is the way of nature and the law and he eats the life out of his family.

The Father

Brad Pitt plays Mr. O’Brien, the classic overbearing, semi-hypocritical, controlling father. Mr. O’Brien demands respect, and expects perfect manners at all times. He works hard and thinks respect (& love) should be earned. His love feels very conditional and yet very genuine at the same time. He reminded me a lot of my dad, and, unfortunately, myself. He hammers young Jack on taking care of the grass. The 3 sons detest dinner time. They feel like they walking on eggshells around him all the time, worried about the one little mistake that will unleash dad. He is affectionate but tempered and always guarded. He has to be. It’s not like he doesn’t have similar expectations on himself! Mr. O’Brien is a picture of the law: unforgiving, man-powered, and life-sucking.

There are 3 keys scenes: teaching his sons to box, when he explodes on his family at the dinner table, and he confession to young Jack near the end. When he is teaching them to box, his intent is good but he is crushing them. He is frustrated with them, not giving them any grace or any room to breath, only pressing them to hit his jaw. Hit your unsafe and unstable father in the face even though he’s asking? I’d pass too. The dinner table scene is intense but perfect. I felt their fear but I also say way too much of myself in how he responds to the disrespect shown him. A grace driven father could have laughed at himself, laughed at the middle brother’s statement, but not the law driven father. He confession to young Jack near the end practically brought me to tears. It takes something to break him, and he still is himself, but he knows his sin.

I resonate with Mr. O’Brien. I confess I can tend to be overbearing at times and nagging my kids too much about little things. I struggle with an internal flesh desire for control and respect. It’s a very ugly thing. I appreciated Malick’s portrayal because he so clearly paints the effect of it: a squashed wife, kids who are angry, scared, and boxed in, and the older brother lashing out, clearly seeing his dad’s hypocrisy and sin. Other films paint the depth of sin but wash it away easily. Not in the Tree of Life. You see the impact of the law driven father. I certainly want to keep trusting God to grow me to not be that way, to keep pressing to live by grace, not by the guilt, control, and suffocation of the law.

Young Jack & Sin

Young Jack (Hunter McCracken) is a fascinating character. You feel what he feels under the crushing effect of his father. You feel what he feels also when he confronted with some of his emerging darker desires. The growing temptations of sexual desire. The anger he feels and the temptation to hurt his brothers and simply unleash his destructivity. The way he starts to treat his mother. As a man, I can remember that time and it resonated with me. Malick paints it so well. That struggle is relevant just as much now as when I was that young. Why do I do what I don’t want to do? Why does choosing sin once not appease it but drive it? What will bring me back from being given over to it? The scene when he enters the woman’s house and steals the nightgown and the effect on him afterwards was so, so good. I felt the darkness but I felt the allure of sin to him and the loss that came to him emotionally when he succumbed to it. It was very powerful. McCracken does a great job with very few words in how he played young Jack.

Final Thoughts

This film is worth seeing. We need more films like this: big picture thought provoking, the effect of sin, and a unique and challenging experience. This is not a film where you can check your brain at the door and be entertained for 150 minutes. Malick calls you to engage, to think, to ask questions, to empathize, and to wonder. I am thankful for such a film. Don’t be afraid of it, endure the beginning, and read a few reviews (see below) to get your brain cranked up prior to seeing it.

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:13-15 ESV)

More Reviews Worth Reading

A Visual Prayer (by Rebecca Cusey, World Magazine)

Review of “The Tree of Life” (by Michael Horton, White Horse Inn Blog)

The Tree of Life (by Brett McCracken, Christianity Today)

A prayer beneath the Tree of Life (by Roger Ebert)

A Tale of a Father and a Son (by Makoto Fujimura, The Curator Blog)

The Tree of Life (A.V. Club)

Malick’s Film Adds a Dose of Sincerity to the Festivities (by Manohla Dargis, NY Times)

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This week: an encouraging article about a father, rethinking spiritual growth, ministry without spirituality, and the forging of an excellent wife.

My Father’s Stunning Failure to Achieve (by S.D. Smith)

But he’s the best man I know. He’s been an exemplary father and has served people of many colors and languages on several continents. He is a beautiful man.

How many High Achiever stories have you read with the tragic footnote that the person lost their kids and ruined their families? Too many.

I’ll take my Dad. I’ll take him, receive him, for what he is and has been: a gift from a far better Father.

Rethinking Spiritual Growth (by Tullian Tchividjian)

But can it be, perhaps, that it is precisely the unconditional gift of grace that helps me to see and admit all that? I hope so. The grace of God should lead us to see the truth about ourselves, and to gain a certain lucidity, a certain humor, a certain down-to-earthness.

Remember, the Apostle Paul referred to himself as the chief of sinners at the end of his life. It was his ability to freely admit that which demonstrated his spiritual maturity—he had nothing to prove or protect because it wasn’t about him!

God’s been hunting me down (by David Murray)

Let me summarize where I believe I erred: ministry without spirituality. Perfunctory and spiritual disciplines and going from one ministry activity to another to another to another, with hardly a moment to feel dependence upon God, cry for help, and seek the Lord’s blessing before, during, or after.

An Excellent Wife is Forged, Not Found (by Jennifer Smidt)

A godly woman becomes an excellent wife as she understands she is made in the image of God, re-made in the image of Christ and formed over a lifetime of repentance and redemption. Excellence is not measured by a to-do list; it is manifested in the life of a wife who knows Jesus intimately.

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This week: parenting thoughts from Doug Wilson, thoughts on living in a post-feminist world, the sexualization of our kids (big props to TV and public schools!), and the desperate need for actual discipleship from Matt Perman.

Parenting Young People I and Parenting Young People II (by Douglas Wilson)

The hallmark of whether or not a father is experimenting on his kids, as opposed to bringing them up in obedience, is how open he is to the idea of someone else actually measuring what he is doing. How open is he to true accountability?

The Church in a Post-Feminist World: An Interview with Mary Kassian (by Paula Hendricks)

Feminism, as a cultural movement, is over. This is not to say that feminism has ended. On the contrary. The only reason the feminist movement is over is that it has been so wildly successful. Feminism has transitioned from being a movement to being the prevailing mindset of the masses.

The Sexualisation of Britain’s Youth (by Robin Phillips, Telegraph)

In treating sexuality as common, we end up neutralizing its potency, turning it into something tame, benign and trivial. But in doing that, we put our children at risk. When Camille Paglia argued that if rape is a totally devastating psychological experience for a woman, then she doesn’t have a proper attitude about sex (because rape is just like getting beaten up and “Men get beat up all the time”), she was merely following the itinerary of desensitization to its final destination.

The Cape Town Commitment on the Need for Developing Godly Leaders (by Matt Perman)

Arguably the scale of un-Christlike and worldly leadership in the global Church today is glaring evidence of generations of reductionist evangelism, neglected discipling and shallow growth. The answer to leadership failure is not just more leadership training but better discipleship training. Leaders must first be disciples of Christ himself.

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