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What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32 ESV)

Many of us are very familiar with these verses and others similar. But I think they are just beginning to pierce my own heart. It started last Sunday with a discussion about Hudson Taylor and how the missionaries of the late 1800s were not merely sacrificing their own lives by going but the lives of their own families. Hudson Taylor lost 1 wife and 7 children in China. Adoniram Judson lost 2 wives and 7 children in Burma. William Carey lost 2 wives and at least 3 children in India. These are no light losses. These also were not surprising to these men. Adoniram, when desiring to court and marry his first wife, Ann, wrote this:

I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left is heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteous, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?

Shockingly, the father consented and left the decision to his daughter! Adoniram was right, though. Nearly everything in his statement above came true. So where is the line? Were men like Taylor, Judson, and Carey foolish to put their families in such a harsh environment? Were they in sin? Should they have taken better care of their families? Was it worth the cost? It’s likely that over 2 million Burmese Christians can trace their spiritual heritage to Judson. Who knows how many with regard to Taylor and Carey? Who knows how many other missionaries there would be without Carey? Was it worth it? How do we, as fathers, know when it’s right to do the same for the sake of the gospel? It’s a hard question! But as we discussed this, one thought came to mind as I was praying: God willingly gave up His only Son! How profound is that? God the Father did this for His enemies (us!) nonetheless.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17 ESV)

Think about it for a second. We were utterly lost in sin. We did not love God but lived for ourselves and for Satan’s purposes (Ephesians 2:1-10). We spit in God’s face. He was barely a thought for us. All our intentions and deeds were bent away from Him. We were dead.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8 ESV)

Do we understand what God did? Who of us would sacrifice our own lives for our friends? Maybe. Who of us would lay our own lives down for an enemy? Nope. But God didn’t mere do just that. God laid down the life of His only Son for his enemies! If given the choice, even the worst of the worst parents would take a bullet for their child. Any of us parents would gladly lay down our own lives for our kids given such clear choice. But would I give up the life of my own son for even a friend? As ND Wilson says: Hell no.

It’s a joke to even think about whether I would let my own son die for my enemies. I would think myself a bad father! To lose a child is crushing. To yield a child to die is unfathomable. Yet this is what God did. He didn’t make it easy either – sending His Son into our world in poverty to then later be crushed and tortured and to be executed in one of the worst ways ever invented. This would seem evil for God to do except that we know Jesus was willing and endured for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12). Jesus said, “I will go and walk in their shoes, be betrayed, take the 40 lashes, and painfully die for them!” Jesus did this for me. The Father did that for me. How ridiculous is it for me to ever question His love and good for me! How much does it grieve my heavenly Father when I doubt His love or His intentions? Our Father sees us, knows our hurts, and says, “I sent my only Son to the cross for you! What more can I do to show you my love?” Our Father is for us. He willingly gave His only Son for our sin. He loves us.

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“Departures” is a Japanese film that won the “Best Foreign Film” award at the Oscars and came to me highly recommended from a friend. It’s currently at an 80% rating (really high) on Rotten Tomatoes and plenty lived up to the billing. Though there are still a few things that I am not connecting with in the movie and feel like it deserves another viewing, I want to give my initial thoughts and give this film some much deserved props.

This movie is unbelievably engrossing. It just pulls you in emotionally. How can a movie essentially about a man who takes a job preparing the dead for funerals be that interesting? Then add in the fact that unless you speak Japanese, you’ll be watching this movie in subtitles. Seriously? Yes. The characters are very good. Most of the scenes that just pierce your heart have barely any spoken words. The marriage is believable and intriguing. The resolve that you are waiting for definitely pays off.

There are 2 key parts to pay attention to in this film. First, once again, fathers are important. Daigo is haunted by this. There is a reason he is quirky and sometimes annoying and a bit passive, even taking into account the Japanese cultural influences (I lived in Japan for 6 years as a child). Second, let the funerals hit you. You will see a number of them. Let this piece of art hit you emotionally and do not fight it. I couldn’t help but be in tears for nearly all of them but I’m a little biased having lost my own father 9 years ago and having been to 2 funerals this year alone. Seeing the fathers/husbands in this movie break down just about crushed me multiple times. The consistent dealing with death in this movie kept me at such a stirred tension throughout almost the entire film. To me, this is a good thing because it felt so real. However, this is not a somber movie. Humor cuts throughout it and there is a hopeful feel. See it all in light of the Gospel but let yourself be immersed in the story.

“Departures” is certainly worth watching and is a well-made film! Give it a shot.

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Father’s Day 2010. Fathers and Pharisees – pretty much the theme of my day. It started off spending some time reading Jonah. Then turned to Dave Marsh’s message on Phariseeism and ending up later dwelling a bit more on the parable of the unforgiving servant.

Jonah’s Anger

I love the book of Jonah because of how the heart of God is revealed in both his heart for the sailors on Jonah’s boat as well as his heart for the Ninevites. But this time reading through it, I tried to dwell on why Jonah was so angry towards the end of the book.

When God saw what they [The Ninevites] did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?”

(Jonah 3:10; Jonah 4:1-4 ESV)
Why is Jonah so angry? The Ninevites listened and repented pretty genuinely! This would be like Jonah travelling to Las Vegas and the town gets turned upside down. He practically states that he is angry because God did not wipe out Nineveh. What? No way am I like that. No way do I wish the worst on my neighbor after their daughter appears to have been beaten. No way do I wish the worst for that crazy speeding driver who cut me off and then recklessly continues. And no way do I ever get angry with my kids because they didn’t obey and took away my well-earned peaceful morning/afternoon/evening instead of resting quietly in their beds. Not ever. I’m not like Jonah at all.
Jonah’s problem is the same as mine – his self-righteousness and entitlement and his detachment from his own sin. This leads to an utter deterioration of his own compassion, to the point where he cares more about a dumb plant than a people who “don’t know their left from their right.” Those Ninevites are sinners, debauched, they’ll never repent, they’re evil and just bring hurt on others. They’re at a level of sin that is beneath me. Of course, I would never make that last statement but isn’t that what we’re saying? The age old, “at least I’m not Hitler or Ted Bundy. Now those guys are definitely going to hell.”  And yet we deserve hell just as much. We all sin. All the time. Over the stupidest things. We hurt our kids. We selfishly hurt our spouses. We fight tooth and nail for our (not anyone else’s) own best life now. No different than Jonah.
Get in touch with your sin and you’ll find that compassion comes along with it. Don’t and you might end up continuing in anger, like Jonah, hoping for the Ninevites to simply die and go to hell.
The Symptoms of Phariseeism
Today was the first message given by my friend (and fellow engineer) Dave Marsh. Let’s just say he didn’t exactly water down the truth or hide his own struggles. His story to begin the message was worth the listen alone and left me in tears as Dave was. Listen to it here. I love how Dave tied together the thought of a loving accepting father with some thoughts on the Pharisees. We tend to make the Pharisees out to be the evilest and vilest of dudes. See the movie, The Passion of the Christ for a good example or any kids’ Bible. Why do we paint the Pharisees this way? Probably because Jesus can seem kind of harsh with them and also because we have to find ways to distinguish ourselves from these guys. In no way do we ever want to be associated with the Pharisees. We want to associate with a dude like the tax collector or maybe the younger brother of the parable of the Prodigal Son (a misnomer). But the reality is that most of us are more like the Pharisees – self-righteous, prideful, self-protecting, judgmental, status-seeking, and self-exalting. Dave delves into these a bit more in his message especially in his wrestlings with his own struggles over the past few weeks. Very convicting and powerful. We make the Pharisees out to look more evil and despicable because we think we’re not like them. But Dave makes it a point to describe them more accurately as people who genuinely were trying to obey and love God but their devotion to the Word and to tradition and to their own status simply ended up overpowering any love for the Father or trusting in His acceptance over their own efforts. Jesus absolutely takes their self-righteousness apart in the first half of Luke 14 and Dave really does a good job of expositing the passage. The point: glory in your weakness instead of your own efforts as the Pharisees did.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
This afternoon I was able then to get some down time journalling and praying and reading the Word. Somehow what I got directed towards Matthew 18:21-35 which topped off my day and was exactly what I needed to hear, especially in my personal battle with anger.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
(Matthew 18:21-35 ESV)
Now I have probably read or heard this passage maybe 50 times since I’ve known Jesus (about 15 years) and I have to confess that not once have I been taught or dug deeper to find out how much a talent is or how much a denarii is. I think I just always assumed that 10,000 talents is a lot and that 100 denarii is a little. But it’s a bit more than that and I calculated it today.
Let’s look at a denarii first. A denarii was equal to about 1 days wages for a laborer. So 100 denarii equals 100 days wages. Let’s say that a laborer’s wages in today’s age comes to conservatively about $30,000 per year. Rounding up conservatively, that makes this debt about $10,000. That average American’s credit card debt.
Now let’s look at the talent. A talent was equal to about 20 years’s wages for a laborer. Wow! Guess how 10,000 talents adds up? Using the $30,000 per year, it means that 10,000 talents equals an obscene 200,000 yrs of wages for a laborer. That equals about $6 Billion in debt. “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything”? Not a chance. Then the king forgives the $6,000,000,000 in debt and this guy goes out with practically a new life and won’t forgive a $10,000 debt. It’s laughable and meant to be. But extremely convicting in the satire.
Why did the first servant respond so unforgivingly after being forgiven that much? Why do we struggle with forgiveness so much at times? The servant had been forgiven an eternity of debt and yet I think he was still living in light of the temporal. He was given a second chance, new life, and he was still living in the old life. That’s his problem to me. He doesn’t get what he was really forgiven so he goes about his business still protecting his temporal life and fighting ultimately for his best life now. This wrecked me.
This is how I live most of the time – in light of the temporal. I fret over minor issues or high expectations or my kids’ disobedience like I’m in control and like I have no sin and like I’m not playing with house money. The unforgiving servant lived like a Pharisee – he still saw himself as under the debt of performance and amounting value instead of a man who was just given a new life.
Father, let me live in light of my own sin, glorying in my weaknesses, and then in view of your mercy, how I have been forgiven an eternity of debt through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. Let me start with the first step.
Hi, my name is Anthony and I am a recovering Pharisee. Please pray for me.

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I know that all of my posts (the few) so far have been about movies and tv but can I help it? There were 2 series finales last month for 2 of the only shows my wife and I watch! Just to disclose, my wife and I have stuck  to a couple of shows: Lost, 24, Survivor, and Biggest Loser. We’ll sometimes watch CSI NY or The Office but not very consistently.  I covered 24 in 2 previous posts here and here. Survivor is a great demonstration of human sinfulness and a fun show. We love the outward transformations while rooting for heart transformation in The Biggest Loser.

Then there’s Lost. I honestly believe that there has never been a show quite like it and there never will be again.  Tell me about another show with those ratings and popularity that ended after 6 seasons and had one single purposeful story arc that finished. The new Battlestar Gallactica?  Maybe. We bailed in season 1 simply because the characters weren’t great and it felt like it would be same storyline over and over until they found Earth (another reason we bailed – way too much sex). Lost had both the mythology and sci-fi aspect as well as superb, well-acted characters that you locked in with. Between Locke, Sawyer, Jack, Kate, Hurley, Sayid, Ben, Desmond, and more, you had someone you gravitated towards and rooted for. It was pretty much the question in the first few season: Locke, Jack or Sawyer, who’s your guy?  I just listed 8 characters above and I could name 10 more. Without the characters, there would be no Lost, just a mysterious island with a smoke monster.

The show creators knew that and wrote it that way. Sure there were the mysteries: the time travel, the smoke monster, Jacob, the Darma Initiative, the Others, Richard, the Island’s weird powers, the fertility issues the Island caused, the strange bermuda triangle aspect of the island, the electromagnetics, the man in black/Jacob’s brother’s name, the nature of the island and the light at the center, and more. But the heart of the story was always the characters. Is there redemption for them? Will they unite? Will they find happiness? Can they overcome their pasts? People have whined about the finality and how too many mysteries remained unsolved but you knew they had to end it the way they did – a redemptive ending centering on the characters. There was no other way to finish. Who cares about the mysteries? I just wanted to see if Ben would be redeemed. Would Sawyer find peace (and Juliet)? Would Jack and Kate finally be together and happy? Was Locke right, did his life matter? Would Sun and Jin reunite and finally get to move forward? Who cares what the Smokey’s name was.

You can already guess then what I thought of the finale. It was awesome. I loved it. Even watching a second time, I still wept at certain moments – Locke and Ben’s conversation at the church, Charlie connecting with Claire, Jack saying goodbye to Kate on the island, and of course when Jack meets his dad. Such a bittersweet finish. A few things to key on: the flash sideways and Jack.  I like how the flash sideways ended up being the sort of purgatory, like the gray town in The Great Divorce by CS Lewis. I loved how what happened on the Island was real. There really were no second chances at life. Locke really did die when Ben killed him. The flash sideways was not a simple everything ends well story where all is good. Sun and Jin really did die on the sub together. Sayeed really did sacrifice his life so more of them could get off the sub. Hurley never met up again with Libby in life, she really was gone. Sawyer didn’t simply get to erase his past sins as a con artist and leaving a wake of brokenness in his path. Charlie really did die trying to help rescue the others. Jack’s dad really was dead. Powerful. This life matters. What happened on the Island and the choices that were made – mattered. Jack’s final choices on the Island were not just a temporary death before the storylines merged, but mattered. Wow. Do I think that about my life? Do I wake up and think my life matters for Jesus everyday? Do I live as if I really only have one shot at this whole thing? Am I living like the selfish, wounded, fixer pharisee that Jack started as? Or am I living as the Jack walking by faith, ready and willing to genuinely unselfishly lay his life down for his friends? What a gut check. I’ll come back to this.

I have to talk about Jack and his dad. I  wanted to see them reunite. I knew it had to happen for the story to be complete, the writers were building towards it and you knew it would be a significant moment when it happened. And it was. It hit me at 2 levels. First, I lost my dad almost 9 years to alcoholism (yes, like Jack’s dad, Christian). I loved my dad. Sure he had his faults but I always felt like my dad was for me and we could always be straight up with each other.  I miss him often. I long to see him again. When I came to Jesus as an eighteen year old, one of the first things I wanted was for my dad to experience Jesus with me and that he would know Jesus and be a spiritual father to me not simply my dad. My dad accepted Christ on his death bed and I never had that chance. When I think about heaven, I think about seeing him again and fully experiencing the love of Jesus and his glory together, no longer divided and no longer blind. So to say that I looked forward to the moment when Jack would see Christian again is an understatement. The loving embrace, the tender revelation. Second, Christian Shepherd has his name in this story for a reason. A loving father meeting his son at the end, ready to guide him into eternity? I wonder what book they found that theme in. It hits us emotionally (at least it did for me) because of the truth of the gospel in it.

Finally, the bittersweetness of the ending. Walking into eternity at the same time as flashing back and forth to Jack’s death, mirroring the exact beginning of the show.  Really well done in how it draws out that feeling of nostalgia, that longing for home, for that perfect time and place, for the past and “better times”, for innocence, and for redemption. We all feel it. That longing for home. That desire for ease and peace and no more struggle. Safety. But it’s unattainable. Everything is broken in this life. Everything can feel tainted. When we try to reach back for what we’re longing for all we find is emptiness and memories, not satisfaction. What we really long for is eternity. This life is truly bittersweet and meant to direct us to the only one who really can give us a second chance and is the reason we’re even here. That bittersweetness is meant to tell us that this life is not all there is. Nostalgia is a gift to point us to our true Father, the one who really is waiting for us, making a home for us, able to redeem us and desiring to show us what matters.

Jesus’ death on the cross matters. God’s glory really does matter. Finishing well matters. A life well lived for Him and with Him matters.

Other good reads on the Finale and Series:

The Rabbit Room

WorldMag.com

HitFix

EW

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