There is scene in The Lord of the Rings which Professor Tolkien felt was the pivitol moment of the book; in it, Gollum nearly repents, having been won over by Frodo’s kindness. But the well-meaning Sam interferes. Chastened by Sam’s meanness, Gollum sulks off. Following are Tolkien’s thoughts:

“For me perhaps the most tragic moment in the Tale comes when Sam fails to note the complete change in Gollum’s tone and aspect….His (Gollum’s) repentance is blighted and all Frodo’s pity is (in a sense) wasted. Shelob’s lair becomes inevitable” (Letter #246).”

One wonders how often this happens, e.g., when a sinner is close to repentance, but one of God’s well-meaning children interferes? More often than we’d care to admit. There will be much one day which we will have to answer for. Many surprises are in store.

Along these same lines are the all-too-often instances of when a brother, or sister (or both), are hurting, and reach out for help. Let’s say that they’re getting help, finding some measure of mentorship, of folks coming alongside them. Things are happening, God is moving.

Then the church steps in.

The church leadership. If the church is a hospital, they are its doctors facilitating a connection to the Great Physician. Not this time. Not on their rounds.

The church says “No, you can’t do it that way. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting helped, making connections. You’re not doing it under our auspices. You have to stop.”

There again, Gollum is shut down, shut out, feeling cast aside… Wondering “What did I do wrong? I thought the church was supposed to help me? Isn’t this a spiritual hospital? God was moving, my struggles were getting better. Why did you shut me down?”

Brothers and sisters this ought not to be. But it happens over and over again. 

Have you been there? You think you’re doing the right thing, reaching out, in evangelicalese getting “plugged in,” but it blows up in your face, and then crumbles into dust… Leaving you wondering why you ever did this in the first place. You’re left feeling like you’d find more camaraderie, more acceptance, down at the corner bar. At least there they won’t judge you for being a sinner seeking solace, relief, healing.

What do you do when the church fails? Where do you go?

Who has the words which bring you life? Can life be found? Is it worth trying again?

Jesus, where are You in this?

Jesus

Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll, right? That’s the theology of most bands, isn’t it? Live fast, party hard, have fun, and damn the consequences. Insofar as I know, Metallica has never been quite that band; lyrically, at least. This isn’t the glam rock of Motley Crüe, or RATT, but the thrash of angst, anger, and injustice.
I’m not here saying I’m a fan, or that one should listen to Metallica. What I am saying is that, at least in their most recently released single, Hardwired, there’s a theology present. What do I mean?

C.S. Lewis famously wrote of theology of dirty jokes, his thesis being that off-color (especially sexual or scatological) humor makes us uncomfortable precisely because, on some instinctual level, we recognize that we are more than these flesh suits we wear. That we were in fact made for more, for glory. So that our own creatureliness offends us. Granted, one can’t make an entire theology of dirty jokes, but there is one there.

Likewise, with Hardwired, Metallica while delivering a fast-paced, frenetic tune, have hit upon a certain theological truth. Let me put in this way:

If the central tenet of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is “the wages of sin is death,” then Hardwired is a song (whether through composer intent or not) about the most basic fact of human nature:

We’re lost, born in sin.

Please understand that the theology contained herein, as in dirty jokes, is crudely expressed. With that in mind, consider the lyrics below:

In the name of desperation [our condition]

In the name of wretched pain [pain is universal]

In the name of all creation [the creation groans]

Gone insane [who can dispute this?]
We’re so f*cked [our natural state without Christ]

Sh*t outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct
On the way to paranoia

On the crooked borderline

On the way to great destroyer [the god of this world]

Doom design
We’re so f*cked

Sh*t outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct
Once upon a planet burning

Once upon a flame

Once upon a fear returning

All in vain
Do you feel that hope is fading?

Do you comprehend?

Do you feel it terminating?

In the end
We’re so f*cked

Sh*t outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct

Hardwired to self-destruct
Self-destruct

Self-destruct

Self-destruct

As the Scriptures say, we’re “born in sin and shapen in iniquity,” doomed to die apart from our Creator. By our very nature we are indeed “hardwired to self destruct.”

But…

But, God, knowing our nature, made a way. And that way is Jesus. Only in him can our very nature be rewired.

Be redeemed.

So, as in Macbeth, there is a theology in Hardwired, but it’s only half the story. Yes, indeed the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Which path are you on? The Hardwired one, the broad way? Or the narrow one leading to life?

 

PS You might say I’m reading too  much into a rock song. That’s as may be. C.S Lewis also said,

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Lazarus, Come Forth

randomlychad  —  September 21, 2016 — Leave a comment
deesisPanel2_lazarus from Flickr via Wylio

© 2012 Tim, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

Today, I woke with thoughts of Lazarus in my head. To my knowledge, I myself have never been, you know, dead. The neurons are still firing up in my head. At least I’d like to think so. We’ll leave that for you, gentle reader, to decide.

“Lazarus, come forth.” It wasn’t a suggestion, but a command. This was clearly a miracle performed to show those in Bethany (where Jesus had spent so much time) that the Lord had power death. We understand that. We also understand the grief, the sense of loss, Mary, Martha, and Jesus himself felt over Lazarus’s demise. Yet this also was a command which would not have been necessary had Jesus come sooner, had healed Lazarus as he’d healed so many others.

Yet he didn’t.

Dare we impugn Lazarus? Was he lacking in faith? He knew the Lord–saw him–in ways we ourselves do not, and cannot, now know him. Yes, he lives inside. Lazarus knew him, ate with him, laughed with him, loved him.

Yet Jesus let him die.

What a letdown this was for everybody. Mary, Martha, their family, friends, the people of Bethany who knew what Jesus could do, what he had done. They knew, they saw. And yet here was one of his closest friends laid in a tomb, mouldering after three days (“I’m a servant of the Lord! Look what it’s done for me!”).

And if Lazarus, beloved of Jesus, was allowed to die what does this say of us? It seems that, rather than our best lives now, often the beloved of the Lord suffer great hardships, great losses, even die, before the miracles happen. The Christian life is, and this is not original to me, about death:

Jesus’s death on the cross, our respective deaths to ourselves. For it is in dying that we live. The lesson of Lazarus then is that while, yes, God can (and does) heal He doesn’t always. We don’t know why, except that we know him, have experienced his character–that he is good. So the lesson is that even (and sometimes especially) death can be redeemed. Somehow out of death–death to ourselves, expectations, plans–life arises.

Death often precedes the miraculous, the numinous, intruding into the courses of our everyday lives. Why is this? Only God knows.

All that we can do is lay down the gift (life) which God has given each of us back at his feet from whence it originated.

Only then can we truly live. And like Lazarus, we will live again.

Believest thou this?


View on YouTube

If you’ve attended church at all in the last twenty years our so, chances are good you’ve worshipped to the sounds of Hillsong. Hillsong is a church which began in Australia under the auspices of Pastor Bryan Houston, and has become a global movement of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through teaching and song. Along those lines, the Hillsong movie, Let Hope Rise, debuts tomorrow, September 16th, in the United States.

Above is a clip discussing what worship is: surrender. A recognition that God is God, we are not, and oftentimes an appropriate response is simply lifting our arms in surrender. For myself, while corporate praise and worship has its place, I need to find a quiet spot, laying aside the cares and worries of the day, the distraction of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, my phone, etc, and get alone with God. It’s in those times where songs like Worthy Is The Lamb have moved me to tears, reminded me of my abject creatureliness, and my utter need for Jesus.

That is what what Hillsong is all about: connecting people with Jesus. Along those lines, I’d like to give you a copy of the Let Hope Rise soundtrack. Simply leave a comment, or share this post, and you’ll be entered to win. The giveaway will run for a week. The winner will be announced in this space.

By all means go see Hillsong Let Hope Rise in theaters this Friday.

God bless!

Greater

randomlychad  —  August 26, 2016 — Leave a comment

image

Greater, the story of Brandon Burlsworth, is now out in theaters. It stars Neal McDonough (lately of TV’s Arrow). Brandon had one dream: play for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Problem was he was overweight, slow, and had never played at that level.

How did he become the greatest walk-on play in history?

That’s the story of Greater, of how Brandon’s grit and determination in the face of derision and overwhelming odds would not be denied. He worked harder, practiced longer, and still gave all the glory to God.

See below for an essay from actor Chris Severio on what it meant to him to get the privilege to play Brandon in Greater:

GREATER Offers Great Life Lessons
By Chris Severio

Actors wait their entire lives to play a role as meaty and meaningful as Brandon Burlsworth. I was blessed to get that opportunity in my first movie, bringing Brandon to the big screen in GREATER, in theaters everywhere Aug. 26.

Brandon was a true champion and role model for so many, and I hope this movie entertains and inspires you and your family. For all the young athletes, new athletes, struggling athletes and dreamers out there (and their parents), these three lessons from Brandon’s life hold the key to building character and finding your destiny.

         Dont let anyone tell you that you cant: Brandon was not the most physically gifted athlete. He struggled with being overweight, wasn’t naturally graceful, was a pretty unlikely candidate to be a college football All-American and then drafted into the NFL. He was able to do it all because he refused to listen to those who doubted him or his abilities. He always believed in himself, knew that through hard work and dedication, he could be anything he wanted to be. The only thing standing between you and your dreams is how passionately you’re willing to produce them.

         Dedicate yourself to something greater: Its no coincidence the film of Brandon’s life is called GREATER. As a Christian, he believed he was called to be a man of integrity and honor off the field as well as on he dedicated himself, first and foremost, to God. Your faith can strengthen you, and like Brandon you can choose to be a role model on and off the field.

         Help others: Brandon Burlsworth was a giver. He didn’t just play football, or live his life, focused exclusively on his wants. He made others needs a top priority–family, team mates, friends and fans. As he dug in deep to reach his potential as an athlete and a man, he encouraged and supported those who were taking that same journey alongside him. Brandon didn’t just make himself better; he made others better, too, because he was intentional about finding ways to help them.

Below, I’m privileged to share a clip from the movie that shows how dedication, persistence and helping others can contribute to your character and destiny.

https://youtu.be/vyYFGBUESIkGreater clip

I hope you enjoy GREATER and are as inspired by Brandon’s story as much as I and so many others who knew him and know of him have been. He was a remarkable young man, and having the privilege of bringing his life to the big screen was a remarkable experience.