When I Do Not Desire God

How do you fight for joy in your Christian Life? Unless you approach it from a correct understanding of the victory achieved by Christ, you are lost.

Download (& Read!) the full book by John Piper, “When I Don’t Desire God” in PDF.

After 40 Days He Ascended

Friday 14 May is the anniversary of Jesus’ bodily ascension – 40 days after his resurrection. John Calvin discusses the relevance and importance of this event is that it is a necessary prelude to a greater promise to the Church – the Holy Spirit.

… it was only by his ascension to heaven that his reign truly commenced … Being raised to heaven … the promise which he made to be with us even to the end of the world, he fulfilled by this ascension, by which, as his body has been raised above all heavens, so his power and efficacy have been propagated and diffused beyond all the bounds of heaven and earth.

This I prefer to explain in the words of Augustine rather than my own:

For a few days the Church had him bodily present. Now, she apprehends him by faith, but sees him not by the eye, (August. Tract. 51).

Calvin, Institutes 2.16.14

Jesus said

I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for ​if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But ​if ​I go, ​I will send him to you. ​And when he comes, he will n​convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, o​because they do not believe in me; ​concerning righteousness, ​because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; ​concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. – John 16:7-11

Ironman 2 – Legacy, Vengeance, Self-Sufficiency

James Harelman from Mars Hill Church presents a review of Ironman 2, latest of the comic book movies in the Marvel franchise.

As Harelman notes elsewhere, “science fiction and fantasy films will often cherry-pick ideas from philosophies, religions and worldviews to add depth and color to its narrative.” The question is how do we approach movies (or any artistic expression) with a view to, as the Westminster divines succinctly taught, “to glorify God and enjoy him”?

Distortions, warped reflections, and half-truths should certainly be dealt with, but this isn’t the preaching device the apostle Paul used when quoting Athenian poetry in Acts 17 as part of his sermon. For a man who without question believed Jesus Christ was the only way to reconciliation with God the Father Creator, he felt confident enough in his foundation to establish common ground that “we are God’s offspring” (even though the quote he referenced at the time was part of a poem associated with Zeus). In other words, you can lead your discourse with a “wrong god” attack or you can lead with “right idea…” bridge and work to “true God” in the treatise. I see good reason and a compelling example for the latter.

It’s always important to filter and discern a compelling narrative, but what am I looking for first? Am I primarily an “evil-hunter” strutting through life with wrinkled nose and curled lip pointing out the ills, or sifting for joy-bringing, God-declaring gems amidst the fool’s gold? Am I Buffy the sin-pyre slayer, or Indiana Jones grasping for the grail amidst dirty cups? While I’m not suggesting misleading philosophies shouldn’t be illuminated, it can be very telling what a person declares first, and how that illuminates their focus as well.

Is the first thing that stands out in The Matrix the spoon-bending conversation, or the one where Morpheus tells Neo he has been deceived, and may remain self-deceived? Does the Buddhist child stand out first, or the baptism as Keanu Reeves’ character literally comes out of an embryonic shell to find himself immersed and raised to new life? Similarly, is the first chord struck in your mind with Avatar the pagan trappings, or the man being born again? Does a life-sustaining tree in the center of an idyllic garden remind me of pantheistic philosophy, or Eden? Do I wrinkle my nose at seeming creation worship to such a reactionary extent that I neglect my call to steward and cultivate the creation our designer declared “good”? All of these things should be discerned carefully in handling the highest grossing film of all time. As it has been with Star Wars, as it has been with The Matrix, so it will be with Avatar. Vehement voices will abound. There is nothing new under the sun… what goes around comes around… to every thing turn, turn etc.

James Harelman is the Founder and Editor-in Chief of Cinemagogue, where Cinema meets Truth.

Put the cross at the front door

Have been doing some thinking and teaching recently about my vision for a theologically oriented Church as opposed to one that is culturally oriented or pragmatically oriented.

The culturally centered Church focuses on issues of language, food and ethnicity as the key components of identity and mission. The pragmatic Church has a primary concern with attendance, cash flow, building projects etc. None of these are bad things. Some are important operational and logistical components of Church life. However, if they become the primary features and occupy a majority of time and resources, the Church has lost distinction from the local club and, frankly, why bother?!

In the below video (from The Resurgence) James Noriega discusses the place of the cross in Military Chaplain counseling. His challenge applies equally to the priority and emphasis of the Church in general. If you’re fair dinkum about God’s power, strength, might and majesty then “putting the cross at the front door” is perfectly reasonable. Just make sure it’s THE cross that you’re fronting up, not your peculiarities, preferences or other secondary issues.

Marriage, Communion and Jesus

Douglas Wilson makes an ingenious (& all too often ignored or overlooked) connection between marriage, communion (The Lord’s Supper/Table) and our identity in Christ as believers.

The modern evangelical generic invitation to nonbelievers to develop “a personal relationship with Jesus” is therefore more like a suggestion for shacking up than it is a proposal of marriage. A proposal of marriage involves a church, vows, commitments, authority, and submission. Hooking up does not.