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Posts tagged "grace"

Walking Away from a Murder

Walking Away from a Murder

His girlfriend had recently got back together with him. He’d have been better off without her. But tell that to an eighteen year old who’s in love. She was all he had, and all he wanted. So when he lost her, he thought he lost everything. And when he got her back, he thought he regained everything.

Loneliness creates vacuums in the souls of men that they often fill with women who make them even lonelier.

But Tom, drunk on misplaced hopes, only felt the intoxication of happiness. Finally, after years of “family life” where there was little family and no life,…

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The Weight of Masculinity, Toxic or Otherwise

The Weight of Masculinity, Toxic or Otherwise

In our house, emotions were embraced. I was never told that “boys don’t cry;” it was never implied that men hide their emotions. When your dad is a professional opera-singing pastor-psychologist, and your mother a high-powered hospital executive, you get different messages about gender norms than most. As if you needed proof: my parents let me dress in a bathrobe and red heeled slippers and pretend to be Wendy from Peter Pan until I was four. If Peter Pan is a woman (the incredible Mary Martin), why can’t Wendy be a man?

That freedom was cut short. “Boys can’t play with…

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Jonah's Reluctant Obedience, and Ours

Jonah’s Reluctant Obedience, and Ours

The absurd thing that happens in the book of Jonah is not the fish swallowing a man…it is the grace Jonah receives after he basically tells God off! The fish, which consumes the prophet, serves as an indictment on how sin turns everything topsy-turvy. It reverses God’s order in the worst way. Man was made to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and in condemning the pride that prefers the creation over the creator, God does something that shows the exceedingly stupid nature of sin for what it is. Our rebellion against God is both foolish and a joke…and…

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Hopelessly Devoted: ‘Grace At Work’ – James Chapter One Verse Seventeen

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

Grace is not always guaranteed to work on the horizontal plane — i.e. as we attempt to steward it in the midst of our relationships with one another. We can however be sure that grace is always at work. We don’t get to define what this has to look like. We don’t always get the privilege of discerning its results or activity. In fact, grace specializes in disappointing and confounding our every expectation of what God ‘should be’ and what His people ‘should be’.

You’re free, though you often feel like a slave. You’re forgiven, though you often feel the weight of judgment. You’re victorious, though you often feel like a chump. The gospel confronts our self-righteousness and confirms the righteousness of Jesus as being ours. We walk by faith, not by sight…yes, but rarely in an experiential or functional manner. All we have ultimately is the faithful witness (James 1:17) of the indwelling Spirit bringing us back to a ridiculous, impossible-to-believe verdict: “You are absolved.”

A New Year & A Better Immanuel...

A New Year & A Better Immanuel…

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

-Matthew 1:23

Immanuel, God with us, epitomizes the Christmas season and carries certain implications which we could summarize in the following respects: Firstly, God has come near us not to condemn, but rather to be condemned for our sins. We understand this as a fitting contrast to Genesis 3:8 (and they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden…and they hid). As well, we can see in this a foreshadowing of the blessed future state John…

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Wendell Berry's Plea for Grace

Wendell Berry’s Plea for Grace

Have you ever seen your dog or cat suddenly turn its head, tense up, and stare intently into an unoccupied space? It’s quite unnerving. They obviously see something we can’t, and if the more instinctual part of our brain trusts their superior senses enough, we tense up as well. It’s an interesting cross-species bit of performance art that happens, and we, of course, have learned to harness those senses for our benefit and protection.

There are certain people throughout history that fill those roles in our own species. Martin Luther, and his namesake, Martin Luther King Jr., are obvious examples of…

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Am I My Brother's Keeper?

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

When I was a kid attending Sunday School in a very traditional Baptist church in the Midwest, we learned Bible stories… I became familiar with the regular cast of characters like Adam and Eve, Noah, David, Moses, etc. I could tell you that Moses parted the Red Sea; Adam and Eve ate an apple; David slew a giant (thanks to a relative who gifted me one Christmas with 12-inch David and Goliath action figures!). As a teen, I would learn that the book of Leviticus was all about how family members in the same house should not undress in the…

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I Still Believe: The Lost Boys’ 30th Anniversary Spectacular

I Still Believe: The Lost Boys’ 30th Anniversary Spectacular

If Georges de La Tour was a movie director, his films would probably look a lot like Joel Schumacher’s. Well, maybe…minus the nipples on the suits in Batman and Robin. I think my assertion, knowing Matt Milliner is lurking around here somewhere, holds up particularly well with Schumacher’s 1987 film, The Lost Boys, or as I like to put it, The Two Coreys’ (Haim and Feldman) Showcase.

My slightly sketchy comparison to a famous French Baroque painter aside, I’ve been reflecting on what I think about the movie, now, 30 years on. The surprising thing is that a couple of scenes…

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Heroin in the Hymnals

Heroin in the Hymnals

There is a moment deep into Netflix’s underrated Ozark (spoilers below), where the raising of a cross atop a church emits ripples of fear, as if recreational Missouri were ancient Rome. Whatever the show’s imperfections, I submit that restoring a sense of the scandal of the cross to America’s Bible belt is a considerable accomplishment. For the most part, the sex and violence in this show is more narrative tool than titillation – though I do wish there had been less of it. Even so, while most critics have fallen into lock-step complaint that Ozark is not Breaking Bad, I…

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Identity and Summer Selfies: A Reminder

Identity and Summer Selfies: A Reminder

It’s that time of year again, when all of us at some level look at our bodies and realize that we’ve been more, let’s say, “relaxed” about our health during the colder months. We also see — well, some of us do, anyway — our offensively pale skin or winter-weight and dread the first day of shorts, or sun dresses, or swimsuits. It’s difficult because when everything is green and bright, there is much work to do. That is, those social media photos aren’t going to take themselves.

There’s tremendous pressure, isn’t there, to have a good time when times…

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Living in Denial in Victory

Living in Denial in Victory

If you read enough popular Christian books, listen to enough Christian sermons, radio shows, or podcasts, you could reasonably get the idea that Christians are like the Black Knight in Monty Python and The Holy Grail. With cries of, “I’m invincible!” the Knight continues to fight, even after King Arthur has relieved him of all of his limbs.

I hear versions of this all the time in Christian media, and in conversations with Christian brothers and sisters: something awful has happened to them, and with a strained look and a hard swallow, the mask goes on, and they say, “But everything’s great!”…

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Fathers, Sons, Law, and Grace in August Wilson's Fences

Fathers, Sons, Law, and Grace in August Wilson’s Fences

My mother and father always attempted to instill into me and my brothers an appreciation for culture. Mom was and remains extremely well-read in classic literature, hailing Steinbeck as her favorite; she enjoyed foreign cinema and took me (while in the womb) to an Ingmar Bergman film festival; she could reference renowned plays and decided to middle-name me after Neil Simon; and her record collection lined the living room perimeter containing everything from Funkadelic to Simon & Garfunkel, Temptations, Barbara Streisand, The Police, Rick James, etc…

But I think the most significant (though at the time not fully appreciated) exposure came…

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