Archive for category Fantastic Friday’s Feature

Fantastic Friday’s Feature: Are You PluggedIn?

So it’s summer time – that time of year when movie makers in Hollywood cackle maniacally as innocent movie goers spend bright summer days in dank, dark theaters watching the popcorn fillers they put out.

Actually, I don’t suspect that happens. But it is true that the a lot of popular and anticipated films are released during this delightful season known as summer. It’s probably because they know that teenagers will be out of school, and when there’s little to do at home, they will congregate at theaters.

A common scenario for you or I might run like this:

“Hey Nik, you busy?”

“No, not really. Why?”

“Do you want to see [fill-in-the-blank] tonight?”

“Hmmm…”

For me, I’m not a big movie person. I do enjoy the theater experience on occasion, but only for a few films. However I am a good sport and do enjoy hanging out with my friends, so I am willing to go with people I enjoy being with, even if it’s not a movie I am particularly excited about. My problem then becomes not necessarily the quality of the movie itself (though I do appreciate it since I am spending my money), but the content of the movie.

Cue this Friday’s feature.

Plugged In is a resource put out by Focus on the Family, and they do Christian movie reviews, looking out for any objectionable content, such as crude language, sensuality, violence, and spiritual themes. However, they also look for the Positive Content. They don’t simply rip movies apart for the fun of it. They take it piece by piece so that the viewer knows what they are getting into. Usually they don’t even tell you outright “Don’t see this movie EVER!”, unless it happens to be exceptionally terrible (they said one movie needed a surgeon general’s warning, because it might cause cancer).

In addition to movies, they do music, television, and some video games. They also write up Q + A’s for family movie times, focusing on the positive and God glorifying aspects of the good movies, and have a blog on various subjects in the culture at large. It’s a pretty impressive resource, and has saved me personally from going to see movies I would not have liked, and prepared me for the movies I did end up seeing.

So instead of innocently walking into the black hole known as your local theater, bring a light in, and be prepared.

http://www.pluggedin.com/

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Fantastic Friday’s Feature: My Favorite Hymn

He published the words to six thousand hymns and wrote the words to two thousand more during his eighty years of life. That's not even getting into his preaching career. Talk about productive!

Perhaps as you’ve gathered from some of my past posts (G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and J.S. Bach), I rather enjoy old things, particularly old things written by wise but dead men. Thus it is only natural to conclude that I rather enjoy hymns. This would be an astute observation and a true one at that. I do enjoy many modern worship songs as well, but there’s just something about the hymns of old that capture my attention. Isn’t it amazing to imagine that these songs have been in the family of Christ for a hundred, or even hundreds, of years? I consider them an heirloom passed down from generation to generation; or as one man I heard put it, they’re our “family songs”.

So now for what is perhaps my favorite hymn. For some reason, this was the first hymn I remember having entirely memorized. As far as I know (I could be wrong), I first heard it in Windsor, Colorado at the Ellerslie Leadership Training. Since then, I have come to see how the text embodies everything I believe and want. That hymn is “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing” by Charles Wesley (the man in the picture).

Like many well known hymns today, this one originally had 18 stanzas and was published as “For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion”. Verse 7 of this poem is the one that starts off the famous hymn, “O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise…” which is based on a saying Wesley had heard: “Had I a thousand tongues, I would praise Him with them all.” John Wesley, his brother, compiled a hymnbook in 1767, where the seventh stanza was made the first and it was the first hymn in the book. If you sing this song in your church, you’re probably singing stanzas 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the original poem.

You can find the entire original poem here, which is very beautiful and incredible. Since each stanza was written in the same rhythm as the others, you can still sing them with the familiar tune of the hymn. Along with that, David Crowder has done this hymn an honor by creating a modern version that is catchy, adds a chorus and two of the old stanzas, yet still contains the heart of Wesley’s original hymn. That can be found here.

I hope you are blessed today, and may we all be assisted “to proclaim, to spread through all the earth abroad the honors of His name!” And remember what He has done for us; for “He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free! His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood avails for me!” Amen.

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Fantastic Friday’s Feature: The Book Itself

Over the next few weeks I’ll be doing an intensive study of the book of Ecclesiastes. My first post on the subject can be found here, and the next few weeks will probably revolve around the insight I gain from this study. A friend of mine is doing the book of Romans. Our goal is to read through our chosen book of the Bible once each day in order to gain a richer understanding of the text. I chose Ecclesiastes because I didn’t understand it and thought I would like a challenge; my friend chose Romans because it is the basis of many key Biblical doctrines, particularly the Gospel.

Often, especially if you live in the good ol’ South like I do, people say they love the Bible. But the question is, do we really? Do we treat the Bible the same way we treat other things we love – foods, movies, people, etc.? The reason many people are deceived or led astray today is simply because we don’t read the Bible anymore.

So before I give you some things that have helped me, I want to share some passages that have helped me to see the importance of personal devotion to the word of God.

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” – Hosea 4:6

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” – Psalm 1:1-2

“Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.” – Psalm 119:148

These verses always convict me; I mean, when was the last time I stayed up late into the night just to read and think about God’s word?

This world around us is always moving, from here to there, but without any purpose. We need to learn how to just sit, be still, and know that He is God. Jonathan Parnell recently had an excellent post about that on the Desiring God website. I encourage you to take the time to read it: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/how-to-steady-yourself-in-the-age-of-compulsive-mobility

Perhaps you want to read through the whole Bible but don’t know how. Here’s a link to a plan suggested by John Piper. The great thing is, there are only 25 readings a month, so you get 4-6 free days to catch up or study other things. For me, getting behind in a plan was the most discouraging thing, so I would quickly stop. This helps balance that out. http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/bible-reading-plans

Perhaps you think you don’t have time. In such a case, I hope you enjoy this poignant and humorously convicting video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgMFXan9pjQ

Finally, you could join me and my friend in an intensive study of one book of the Bible. I would suggest Romans or, if you want something shorter and easier, the book of Ephesians. Whatever you choose, commit to reading it once a day for at least fifteen days. Try to notice patterns and similarities throughout. I can guarantee you’ll be blessed.

However you do it, I pray that you just read the Bible. Nothing is more important, because the Bible is what leads us to Jesus. It’s the only way we know who God is and what He desires of us.

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Fantastic Friday’s Feature: The Practice of the Presence of God

So you wake up in the morning, perhaps shower and get dressed, or grab a cup of coffee – whatever your morning routine may be – and begin your morning devotions with the Lord. Perhaps you read a Psalm, or a chapter of Paul, and pray. Then you’re on your way out to the world and whatever the day may hold.

By the time you’re through the day, you feel incredibly distant from God, as though the day stands as a wall between you and Him, and you wonder how it got there. So you go to sleep, hope tomorrow is better, and repeat the same pattern.

So often in my own life I found that I forgot all about God during the day. Because of that, it was much easier for fleshly or worldly thoughts to occupy my mind and by the time I ended my day, my heart was hard towards God. This little book, The Practice of the Presence of God ,  helped me with this problem. It details the experiences and maxims of Brother Lawrence, a 17th century French monk. Since it is a small book, it won’t take you long to read; but it holds great power.

You see, Brother Lawrence found the secret to remembering God throughout the day and uninterrupted fellowship with Him, no matter his circumstances. He could honestly say, “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen (he was the cook of the monastery)… I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees at the blessed sacrament.” Lawrence found that every task can and ought to be done consciously to the glory of God, as expressed in his little poem:

 Lord of all pots and pans and things,

Make me a saint by getting meals,

And washing up the plates!

There are many ways I have found to practice God’s presence and to remember that He stands beside me. One is the memorization of hymns which I can hum or sing to myself and remember God. Or just turning off the radio in the car and being silent. What are ways you can remember God throughout the day? If you are in Christ, then He is with you; it’s simply a matter of remembering Him.

There is much more than just that in this book, and I highly recommend it to all.

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Fantastic Friday’s Feature: Manalive!

G.K. Chesterton has gotten some attention on this blog already (what with Cheese and Fairy Tales as older posts); however, I feel the need to let you, my beloved reader, know that I have recently finished perhaps one of the most amusing, deep, and poignant books I have ever read.

That book, my friends, is Manalive. Recommended by my elder brother, who you may remember wrote a true Chestertonian essay called The Romance of Coffee, this short story captured my mind and ravished my attention. If a book can keep me awake past the midnight hour, dear reader, you ought to know it is indeed a good book; and this book is one such book.

The back cover of the Dover Publications copy my brother loaned me reads thus:

First published in 1912… Manalive celebrates on of G.K. Chesterton’s earliest themes: the joy of being alive. That principle is embodied in one Innocent Smith, who is taken up by a fierce wind one day and dropped on the lawn of a boardinghouse inhabited by a group of disillusioned young people. His arrival has a rejuvenating effect on this dull group.

In the course of the book, Smith courts and remarries his wife repeatedly, lives in various houses, which all turn out to be his own, and attempts murder, but only succeeds in firing life into his victims.

Perhaps the most lighthearted of all Chesterton’s “serious” books, Manalive is full of high-spirited nonsense expressing important ideas: life is worth living, one can break with convention and still maintain moral and ethical standards, and much of the behavior civilized man has been led to believe is wrong, isn’t wrong at all.

So often in life, we begin to see the incredible and amazing things around us as merely “normal”; we miss the beautiful sights and sounds that are all around us. So often we forget the beauty of this earth; and so with the beauty and radiance of Christ Himself. As one man in the book expresses, “Any habit is a bad habit.” Meaning this, that if anything we do becomes merely routine or normal or regular, we ought to check ourselves. We need to realize that the world around and the things that we do are perhaps the furthest thing from normal there is.

Professor Clyde Kilby, a professor of John Piper’s, said it this way in his list of “10 Ways to Stay Alive in the Beauty of God’s World” – I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what Lewis calls their “divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic” existence.” (for more of this, check out this link: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/10-steps-to-stay-alive-to-the-beauty-of-gods-world )

This book is one that God has used in my life to remind me of the beauty and simple glory of the gift of life. Life is beautiful. And if this life is so wondrous, how much more that spiritual, abundant life which He gives us right here and now? How much more the eternal life we will one day have with Christ in heaven? In Him is life; and if you feel yourself dead today, if you feel yourself estranged from God, then find life today, now, in Christ. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life; without Him, we all remain dead. But thanks be to God, that through Jesus Christ, He has made a way for us to have life, abundant life, and eternal life.

Blessings on your weekend!

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Fantastic Friday’s Feature: Biblical Manhood Series

Hello all! Today is Friday, which means that it’s time for another Fantastic Friday’s Feature!

This week’s feature is a three part sermon series given by one of my favorite preachers (if I can say that) Paul Washer. Mr. Washer is not a man to beat around the bush when it comes to truth and he speaks straighter than many a man I’ve heard in this generation. A subject that particularly interests Mr. Washer is the lack of men in our generation. Thus, he is fighting to restore the true masculine growl that once embodied Christianity in the persons of Paul, Peter, and other such men throughout Christian history. Each sermon will run at least an hour, but you can always do what I did, and watch a few minutes here and there.

The first message is called “What a Man is Not”. This message is a general call to men to wake up and act once more as men. It can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1U-JmgBnFHk

The second message is called “Are You Ready for a Relationship?” and, though it is targeted towards single men, it is a strong message to any and every man about true masculinity in the arena of marriage and family. Mr. Washer pulls no punches in this message, and even if you never get married, the benefits of this message affects every area of life: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVXXm49qg0I

The final message is called “A Young Man’s Attitude Towards Women” which deals with the issues of lust  and more, how a man ought to behave as a gentleman. This message is all about what it means to be a man in regards to “treating the younger women as sisters, with all purity” (1 Tim. 5:2). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJqE9qchGpo

And, if you still don’t feel like you have time for a long message, you can watch this three minute Bravehearted Thot to get a taste of what God has done in the life of Paul Washer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVeXy7mPL0M

I hope you are as blessed as I have been by Brother Washer and his messages. He is a voice of truth in this generation, and we would do well to heed what he says. God’s richest blessings on you!

 

 

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Fantastic Friday’s Feature: The Romance of Coffee

Good day, my fabulous Fantastic Friday’s Feature readers! Last week, I featured an essay by G.K. Chesterton on the glories of cheese (which can be found here) and so this week, as you may have gathered from the title, I am featuring another delectable dainty, known by some as the dew of heaven: coffee.

Yes, coffee. But no, I am not the one to wax eloquent about this tasty treat. My brother, Zak (who also has another guest post here on “Embracing the Fairy Tale Life”), has written a brief essay called “The Romance of Coffee” in true Chestertonian style expounding upon the wonders of this drink we enjoy known as coffee. I hope you enjoy:

Chesterton once said that we all have a tendency to overlook the startling quality of the world around us.  We are inclined to use the terms “normal” or “ordinary” to classify things which in fact viciously defy these categories.  Recently, it dawned upon me that I was guilty of this crime as it pertains to my view of coffee.  I had allowed my daily contact with this magical substance to blind me to its extraordinarily poetic properties.  Filled with remorse at such a heinous offense, I have resolved to appease my conscience by writing this eulogy for coffee, the greatest of all beverages.  Indeed, the act of drinking coffee is an act of such tremendous romance that it is with great trepidation that I wade into the waters of such a deep and mysterious subject.

The essence of romance lies in thinking that the more dangerous something is, the more beautiful it is.  Falling in love is romantic because it involves a loss of control over our actions, which is a very dangerous state of affairs.  Sacrificing your life for someone that you love is romantic because it involves danger to the physical body.  Now, the romance of coffee lies in its association with two of the most dangerous things in our world: fire and death.

One of the most attractive qualities of coffee is the warmth that it brings to those who partake of it.  However, it is sobering to realize that the warmth of coffee is quite capable of being turned to more harmful purposes.  The mugs that allow us to drink this beverage are all that restrain the destructive power of this fiery liquid.  By such modest means, we casually harness the ancient qualities of Greek fire.  However, only a slight movement of the arm would thrust this fire into the face of another, thus releasing all the potential of this primeval weapon.  We have laws that set limits to the carrying of firearms, but what laws protect us from those who carry an arsenal of portable lava?  When we see a man carrying a cup of coffee, we see a man who dares to fill his goblet at the fountain of flame.  When Prometheus gave fire to man, could he ever have foreseen how contemptuously man would regard this gift, that he would have the boldness to transform it into a consumable substance?  Not content merely to wield such an awesome power, we daily flaunt our mastery of this element by absorbing liquid fire into our very being.

Coffee also has a bitterness to its taste that carries with it an echo of the bitterness of death.  Yet, it is this bitterness that the coffee drinker loves.  Is there anything more romantic than how we so willingly give ourselves to this drink of death?  I cannot think of a more prevalent and evocative memento mori in our culture.  Even the blackness of coffee is reminiscent of death.  I never drink a cup of coffee without thinking of Socrates, who cheerfully drank the hemlock that destroyed his life.  As I drink, I participate in a symbolic martyrdom, because the essence of martyrdom is a willingness to embrace death.  The paradox of coffee is that it stimulates life and vitality, while cloaking itself in the blackness and bitterness of death.  When God gave us the gift of coffee, he was giving us the gospel in liquid form.

In all truly romantic things we will find the gospel, because the gospel is the greatest romance story of all.  It is the story of God embracing death, so that we could find life.  It is a beautiful mystery, and a mystery that no one is better suited to understand than the coffee drinker.

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