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“What’s the most resilient parasite? An Idea. A single idea from the human mind can build cities. An idea can transform the world and rewrite all the rules.”


I’ve seen Inception twice now. I wrote an initial guide to the movie here. I think the second time was the best and even now I’ll be anxiously awaiting the DVD release or maybe even the $2 theater! I’ve had numerous discussions with friends that have seen it, I’ve processed it a lot, and now I’m ready to dig into a more spoiler laden analysis as to why I loved it and what makes it such a powerful piece of art. There are so many things you can talk about with this movie but I am going to focus on just one theme, the one that continues to stick with me and move me to Jesus, and even helps further enlighten the Gospel for me. This will be full of spoilers so turn away now if you have not seen this movie, it won’t make much sense to you anyway!

They are fully persuaded of Christ’s love and good-will to them, but the difficulty they have is whether the Father accepts them and loves them… Such thoughts ought to be far from us. – John Owen

The Inception


Peter Browning: I just don’t know. He loved you Robert, in his own way.

Robert Fischer: His own way? At the end he called me into his deathbed, he could barely speak but he took the trouble to tell me one last thing. He pulled me close and I could only make out one word, “disappointed”.

Robert Fischer, excellently acted by Cillian Murphy (The Scarecrow/Dr Crane in Batman Begins), is son of Maurice Fischer, head over a multi-billion dollar energy company. Maurice is near death and Saito hires Cobb and company to attempt to implant an idea to get Robert to do one thing: break up his father’s company after the death of his father. The characters discuss how they can even do this. What idea will they try to plant? How will they implant it? It has to be simple and Robert has to desire for it to be true – redemption and catharsis are significantly more powerful in how they impact us than some negative thought. Cobb and Eames quickly seize upon one idea: affect the perception of his relationship with his father, Maurice. When Maurice dies and they enter the dream world with Robert, Robert confesses that he had a terrible relationship with his father and that his father barely expressed any love towards him at all. His last words to Robert were “Disappointed.” Robert’s relationship with his father is completely broken and when they engage in the dream world with Robert, you find this really does hurt and crush him. That word, “disappointed,” sticks with him.

Robert Fischer: After my mother died, you know what he told me? “Robert, there’s really nothing to be said.”

Peter Browning: He was bad with emotions.

Robert Fischer: I was eleven.

In level 1, Eames (disguised as Browning, Maurice’s chief adviser and Robert’s godfather) starts to try to convince Robert of one thing: his dad really did love him. Eames wants to change Robert’s perception and believe that his father was not completely who he thought he was. Robert wants to believe this! He loves his dad, never wanted his relationship with Maurice to be broken! But at this level, there’s no way Robert can believe it. Level 2 is all about getting to level 3 and convincing Robert that Browning is trying to deceive him, trying to steal from him, and that there really was something else to Robert’s father. In level 3, after a whole lot of action, Robert takes the bait. He relives the scene with his father from before, only this time it’s different. This time, his father (merely a projection in his dream) doesn’t just express the word “disappointed” but tells him that he wants his son to be his own man, and shows him a pinwheel from Robert’s childhood, expressing satisfaction with who his son has come to be. It drops like a hammer on Robert. Maybe his dad actually loved him! His dad was only disappointed that Robert was trying too hard to be like him. Robert absolutely breaks down and this new perception seems to carry all the way through. His countenance and his whole life seem to change in one fell swoop.

Maurice Fischer: [trying to get his words out] I was dissa…dissapoi…

Robert Fischer: I know dad. I know you were disappointed I couldn’t be you.

Maurice Fischer: No…no…no..no! I was disappointed that you tried.

The Idea: Your Father is Not Who You Thought He was


What a powerful vision from Christopher Nolan. How do they change Robert Fischer’s life? They do it by changing his father. They completely transform his perception of who his father was and they provide for a restoration. Of course, in the movie, this is all a lie. Their motives are for selfish gain not for Robert.

But what if it’s the truth? What if we’re all living with a false vision of who our real father is and was? What if our father is not who we think he is? What if the key to restoration and transformation in our lives is understanding who our real father is?

He’s not a voice in your head,

He’s not the father you fled.

He’s not the things that they said.

He’s raising up the dead.

– Caedmon’s Call, “Raising Up the Dead”

Even if we had a great dad, don’t we still long for something more? This world and everything in it never seem enough. To top that, we seem to have this darkness within us that we just cannot shake. God feels very distant from us and it all feels like a fog. How could He love us? How could He not be disappointed with us? Does he even care? Isn’t he much of the cause of all my pain and misery? Praise Jesus that our Father God is beyond all of that! Praise Jesus, our God in heaven, is not who we always thought he was. He is our perfect loving father who is not distant, does not sleep, does not get frustrated with us, is always pleased with us yet never satisfied, and is gentle and tender towards us in Christ Jesus.

Be fully assured in your hearts that the Father loves you. Have fellowship with the Father in his love. Have no fears or doubts about his love for you. The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay on the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to him is not to believe that he loves you. – John Owen

Beyond our earthly fathers, we have a Father who sacrificed His only eternal Son for our sin and separation that our relationship with Him would be restored once and for all. Our earthly fathers were meant to point to Him. But they were never Him and never could be.

Sin makes the sinner unlovely and undesirable. There is nothing in the sinner that could arouse love in God. Yet it is as sinners that God loves us. Not only when we had done no good, but when we were polluted in our own blood. – John Owen (based on Eze. 16:6)

Your true Father is not “disappointed.” He loves you. He paid a price to adopt you. He is waiting for you. He is not who you thought He was.

Let us remember how eager and willing He is to accept us. – John Owen

More good posts on Inception worth reading:

Cinemagogue (James Harleman/Mars Hill) Series:

Dream a Little Dreamscape of Me

Waking From Inception

From Cliffhangers to Topspinners via INCEPTION

Subjecting Yourself to INCEPTION

(INCEPTION) “This is the really REAL World…”

“True Inspiration” versus INCEPTION – does it exist?

INCEPTION, Reformed (for the last time)


Others:

Inception and the Gospel (written by an old friend of mine)

Lessons in Shared Dreaming (The Rabbit Room)

Dreaming Unawares (Damaris)

Truth and Consequences (World Magazine)

Inception (Christianity Today)


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Here are 11 of my favorite books of all time. I base my choices on 2 main criteria. First, was it a paradigm shift for me when I read it? Did God use it to redirect me in a significant way? Second, how much of this book has stuck with me? Was its impact on my life short-lived or do I still think back to it? Here there in alphabetical order by author:


To the Golden Shore by Courtney Anderson (Published in 1956)

An engrossing read about the life and tribulations of the first American missionary, Adoniram Judson. I first heard of his life through this sermon and, soon after, roughly 5 years ago, this book fell into my hands. This man is one of my heroes. His story stirs me and moves me to tears when I get into it. From rejecting the faith of his pastor father in college to how God pursues him and restores him to an authentic radical faith to many deaths he suffered taking the gospel to the Burmese people that rejected him so many times, God speaks to me through Judson’s life. I want to be like this man and I want to imitate his faith. I want to be a missionary like he was. The other part of this story that moves me is his relationship with his brother. It’s a minimal piece of the book but what is there and how God uses their relationship just pierces my heart.

The fact was, any inhabitant of Burma – even of a border of a seaport such as Rangoon – lived at mercy of a despotic governor. Everything depended on his whim. Officialdom was unspeakably corrupt. Treaties meant nothing. The Burmese had no conception of trade, and only contempt for foreigners. Missionaries would have to live like rats in holes, unable to teach the Gospel, exposed to arbitrary torture or execution if discovered. For a man, life would be difficult; for a woman, impossible… Let them go back to America, or anywhere else in the world – but forget Burma.

Judson did not forget Burma in 1813 and he suffered everything that was predicted and worse. But he thought all of it worth it for the sake of the glory of God and the Gospel. The fruit of this man’s life is roughly 2 million adherents within the Baptist Convention today.


Victory Over the Darkness by Neil T.Anderson (Published in 1990)

Many Christians are living under half a gospel… For some unknown reason, we have left the Resurrection out of the gospel presentation. Consequently, we end up with forgiven sinners instead of redeemed saints.

This book helped me a ton early in my walk in the mid 90’s. It helped me to start to grasp what it means to have freedom in Christ, what it means to have a Christ centered confidence, and the power that God has given me in Christ over the power of sin. Anderson can be a bit psychological at times, but he’s pretty grounded in the Bible and his main purpose is to help you understand who you are in Christ. My theology and leanings are very different than when I read this book but it was such a help to me at that point as a young believer trying to figure out this walk with Jesus thing. This book very much aligns with a series of talks called “The Meaning of Fatherhood and The Difference Dads Make” given by Mark Darling.


Experiencing God by Henry T. Blackaby (Published in 1994)

You will never be satisfied just to know about God. Really knowing God only comes through experience as He reveals Himself to you.

Like Victory Over the Darkness above, this was another book I read very early on after I came to Jesus. This book covers numerous areas of our walk with Christ but the biggest help to me was in understanding how personal God truly is. God is not far off and wants to speak to us through prayer and through His Word. This was a major concept for me to get as a young believer.


The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (Published in 1880)

Why have You come now to hinder us? And why do You look silently and searchingly at me with Your mild eyes? Be angry. I don’t want Your love, for I love You not. And what use is it for me to hide anything from You? Don’t I know to Whom I have been speaking? All that I can say is known to You already. And is it for me to conceal from You our mystery? Perhaps it is Your will to hear it from my lips. Listen, then. We are not working with You but with him – that is our mystery.

Considered one of the greatest novels of all time by many, it is special to me because of the circumstances in which I read it. I first read this great work while in my senior year of high school. I did not know Jesus. I did not see any of the Gospel in this book. I was apathetic and the Gospel was just words and foolishness to me. I came to Christ less than a year after reading this book and proceeded to read it again a few years later. I was dumbfounded by how pervasive the Gospel is on these pages. Dostoevsky had to know Jesus to write what he writes. This is a man who wrestled with the depth of sin as well as the unending extent of God’s redemption. Alexei, Dmitry, Ivan, and Smerdyakov are living characters because they are us. To even name the depraved, foolish, disengaged father after himself is quite troubling. It’s meant to be. This book is about all of our wrestling with God and who He is and who we are. Writing this makes me want to pick this book up yet again! I love Dostoevsky. His fiction is second only to CS Lewis in its impact on me. Brothers Karamazov stands out to me as a testament to the change that God has worked in my life. I can pick it up and think back to the blindness that I had. God had to intervene to remove it in order for me to see Him and for the Gospel to be more than just foolishness to me. I read this and I know, without a doubt, that I was blind and now I see. This is a long book but well worth the time it will take you to engage with it. I don’t know anyone who knows Jesus who writes like this today.


Living By the Book by Howard Hendricks (Published in 1991)

This book is the gold standard in how to read and study and engage with the Bible. I’m not sure I’ve seen anything else come out that is better. This book will encourage you as well as overwhelm you because of all the training and tools he gives you. The workbook that you can get with this book is fantastic and worth purchasing as well. Don’t be intimidated by the table of contents and let Hendricks teach you how to trust God for more when you approach His Word. Hendricks essentially teaches you how to read in this masterpiece.

The Bible was written not to satisfy your curiosity but to help you conform to Christ’s image. Not to make you a smarter sinner but to make you like the Savior. Not to fill your head with a collection of biblical facts but to transform your life.


Perelandra by CS Lewis (Published in 1943)

I love CS Lewis’ fiction more than I love the rest of his writings. His depth of thinking about our walk with God and genius in communicating it through story stirs my heart. Perelandra is the second book in Lewis’ Space Trilogy. In the series, Lewis uses the question of “What if there were life on other planets?” to illustrate and draw out Gospel themes. Perelandra takes place on a Venus where creation has not yet fallen and where the first Adam and Eve have just been given life. They get separated and the battle for Eve’s heart begins. Two individuals are sent from Earth: Ransom, the main character, representing God and Weston, a representative of Satan. It moves from there. From the unfallen world Lewis imagines to the dialog and Satan’s path of deception, this is well worth the read.

I almost included Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters” but I had to narrow it down. Perelandra is better but the audio dramatization of The Screwtape Letters from Focus on the Family is very well done and extremely enjoyable.


The Great Divorce by CS Lewis (Published in 1945)

Lust is a poor, weak, whimpering whispering thing compared with that richness and energy of desire which will arise when lust has been killed.

This is probably my favorite fiction book ever. It’s a short read, easy to get through in one sitting. Even now, I’m not quite sure how to describe this book without doing justice to its depth. Lewis uses a main plot about a journey from hell to heaven to dig into what matters to us. What is our one thing? How does that one thing hold us back from pursuing joy in God? Can we let go of it? I’ve read it once or twice every year since college (10 years) and it simply gets better every time I pick it up.


Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Volume 1 by Josh McDowell (Published in 1972)

This first apologetics book that I was exposed to and given to me by a very good friend (his short note in the cover still encourages me today). It’s more of a reference book but it is a very thorough reference book regarding the validity of the New Testament and the evidence that Jesus truly did rise from the dead. McDowell actually wrote this book in his own journey to believe in Christ. A must have reference book in any Christian’s library. There are a million books demonstrating evidence and arguments to believe in God but not too many like this one which details references and notes, building his argument for the resurrection of Jesus so simply and conclusively.


Mortification of Sin by John Owen (Published in 1656)

This is the most recent read of any of the books on list but quite likely the biggest paradigm shift I’ve had in how I approach my battle with sin and what it means to grow spiritually. This is a book I wish I had read 15 years ago instead of just 2 years ago. This book is a must read for any believer. Owen effectively nukes every method you ever had for fighting sin and directs you Biblical to how to kill sin and push to victory. Sounds fun but reading this book the first or second time through is like having Owen do open heart surgery on you without any anesthesia. Also, be forewarned, this book is not about some simple step by step method to fighting sin. Owen does not yield to recipe theology here and you will be forced to wrestle with your own sin and how to see it rightly.

The basic characteristic of an unmortified course is the digestion of sin without bitterness in the heart. He who is able to swallow and digest daily sins in his life without conviction in the heart is at the very brink of turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.


Desiring God by John Piper (Published in 1986)

The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

Honestly, the book did not impact so much as this one sermon that explains the main message of the book! The concept of “Christian Hedonism” was an idea that blew my mind and put the pieces of the Bible together like nothing I’d ever heard before. If you read one book on this list, read this one. Once you get the vision that Piper is attempting to help you connect with, your perception of the way things are will change. Listening to that sermon, and understanding the main points of Desiring God, rerouted almost my entire theology. That is no understatement; ask anyone who is close to me.

This is the great business of life – to “put our mouths out of taste for those pleasures with which the tempter baits his hooks.” I know of no other way to triumph over sin long-term than to gain a distaste for it because of a superior satisfaction in God.


Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr & Mrs. Howard Taylor (Published in 1932)

Never shall I forget the feeling that came over me then. Words could not describe it. I felt I was in the presence of God, entering into a covenant with the Almighty. I felt as though I wished to withdraw my promise but could not. Something seemed to say, “Your prayer is answered; your conditions are accepted.” And from that time the conviction has never left me that I was called to China.

This is the first missionary biography that I read not long after I came to know Jesus and right in the midst of spending a summer in China back in 1997. It impacted me deeply. I wanted to be a missionary and still do and this book got me fired up to go. I ended up taking a year off of school in 1998-1999 to go back and I think this book was a piece of what stirred me up in zeal for pioneer missions. I love his life and the unbelievable sacrifices he made and the faith that he demonstrated over and over again.

My Top 3?

My top 3 out of this list would have to be Mortification of Sin, Desiring God, and The Great Divorce but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by any of these books.

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