‘Top Gun – Maverick’ is Action-Based “Dad Cinema” At Its Very Best

‘Top Gun – Maverick’ is Action-Based “Dad Cinema” At Its Very Best

The moving story in “Top Gun: Maverick” of a fatherless son’s journey toward healing is proving popular with audiences worldwide. This is a film highlighting the importance of fatherhood, portraying a tale of reconciliation and redemption.

Top Gun: Maverick is smashing box offices, and it’s easy to understand why.

The film is spectacularly outpacing its weak-because-they’re-woke counterparts, because the film’s unapologetic dad themes resonate.

Alongside the gutsy F-18 camera shots, audiences are in love with the Tom Cruise/Joseph Kosinski sequel because its father-son backstory hits home.

Even the, “it’s all flag-waving, MAGA propagandist tripe” critics are applauding the sequel for keeping to the consistency of the first film’s deep relational backbone.

As The Atlantic’s David Sims explained, the film’s ‘emotional weight rests on Pete Mitchell (Maverick) fighting to earn the respect of Goose’s son (Rooster), who blames Maverick for the tragic loss of his father.’

Childhood Memory

For me, Top Gun: Maverick cut deeper.

My family and I recently saw the film for a birthday bash. The only thing missing was my dad.

Watching the first Top Gun at the cinema with my dad was to be one of the only long-lasting positive memories I would have of him.

It was 1986, I was 9, and we’d turned up late to the cinema.

Missing the iconic afterburner intro of the first Top Gun, dad and I slid into our seats in rhythm with Tony Scott’s smooth golden orange sunset, shot high above a lone F-14 landing on the silhouette of the USS Enterprise.

It became a shared interest, a mutual pursuit, a common bond solely shared between father and son.

From the soundtrack, which always seemed to be on repeat in our broken-down housing commission home, to the old-school Amstrad computer game, the movie connected us.

This was true, right up until my dad’s final week, when, knowing he would never get a chance to wear it, I gifted him a T-shirt with the Top Gun logo on it.

Now covered in dust, I still hold onto the volumes of Warplane magazines he’d chosen to buy me, instead of paying “through the teeth” for participation in a weekend sport.

Healing

I related to the second film because of the first.

Similar to ‘Goose’s’ son in the film, I was confronted by what was lost, what might have been, and what my dad chose to abandon somewhere along the way.

The sequel made the memories all the more material when Val Kilmer (Iceman), tells Maverick — still haunted by the death of ‘Goose’ — “It’s time to let go.”

Seeing the first film at the cinema in 1986 with my dad was an oasis event, an anomaly of normalcy in a wasteland of ash.

This explains why, in almost every scene of Top Gun: Maverick, I heard, and felt my dad’s absence, and choked up at Hans Zimmer’s rendition of Faltermeyer’s iconic Top Gun anthem.

We’re taught in The Good Book to raise up thanksgiving in the face of suffering. Even the smallest object or event that is worthy of our gratitude puts points on the board when it comes to healing trauma.

In retrospect, watching Top Gun with my dad in ’86 was the first, and only time he offered me a healthy introduction to manhood.

His wasn’t perfect, but that was a perfect day. That day my dad did good, and for that I thank him.

For me, the only thing missing from Top Gun: Maverick was the man who took me to see the first one, sitting, at his best, beside me and my uber-impressed family.

Top Gun was, and is, about loss, grief, and recovery; fatherhood, and fatherlessness — as much as it is about courage, defiance, and the determination to overcome obstructions encountered along the way.

The sequel builds on its original father-son backstory. It is “dad cinema” at its very best.

To lean on Miles Surrey’s review in The Ringer,

‘Every single dad — past, present, and those who are expecting to be dads in the near future — should check out Maverick, if not for the sanctity of ensuring Dad Cinema doesn’t fade away, then for experiencing a blockbuster that surpasses its predecessor in every respect.’

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First published at Dads4Kids.

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You Were Warned – Now You Will Pay the Price

You Were Warned – Now You Will Pay the Price

Warnings must be given when danger abounds. It is a sign of charity when someone gives you a heads up about what lies ahead if you are venturing into peril.

Life is full of danger, risk, peril and misadventure. So many things can go wrong. So many traps lay before us. So many dangers lurk everywhere. Therefore, life is full of warnings. Those who truly care for others will warn them of various dangers and risks. Only those who do not love you will remain silent when a warning needs to be given.

From an early age, children will be warned by their parents about all sorts of things: looking both ways before crossing a road; being careful of an open flame; not eating too much junk food; and so on. Parents who care about their children will constantly be warning them about the dangers that abound.

As our loving heavenly father, God does exactly the same with His children. He warns them repeatedly because He loves them dearly. But just as in earthly families, so too in the heavenly family: warnings can go unheeded, resulting in us getting into all sorts of strife, difficulty and calamity. We bring all these troubles upon ourselves because we refuse to heed the warnings.

Wayward People

The story of Israel is a major example of all this. Many times in Scripture the story of Israel is recounted, usually emphasising God’s great patience and mercy, and the people’s continual sin, disobedience and hardness of heart.

These retellings of Israel’s story usually include the matter of warnings gone unheeded. Consider one such account, as found in Nehemiah 9:26-31. There we read about how the priests are reminding Israel of its failed past:

Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against You and cast Your law behind their back and killed Your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to You, and they committed great blasphemies.

Therefore You gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering, they cried out to You and You heard them from heaven, and according to Your great mercies, You gave them saviours who saved them from the hand of their enemies.

But after they had rest, they did evil again before You, and You abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to You, You heard from heaven, and many times You delivered them according to Your mercies. And You warned them in order to turn them back to Your law.

Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey Your commandments, but sinned against Your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey.

Many years You bore with them and warned them by Your Spirit through Your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless, in Your great mercies You did not make an end of them or forsake them, for You are a gracious and merciful God.

The same is found in the New Testament. In Acts 7 for example, we find the speech of Stephen given just before he is stoned to death. He too recounts Israel’s history and how they kept ignoring the warnings that God sent to them. As verses 51-53 state:

You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

None So Deaf

The rejection of the prophetic word — the refusal to listen to prophets and believe their warnings — is a constant and sad theme of Scripture. Here are just a few of the many instances in which we read about the rejection of the prophets:

2 Kings 17:7-14 ~ All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshipped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced.

The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the Lord had driven out before them had done.

They did wicked things that aroused the Lord’s anger. They worshiped idols, though the Lord had said, “You shall not do this.” The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and seers: “Turn from your evil ways. Observe My commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your ancestors to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.” But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God.

2 Chronicles 36:15-16 ~ The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising His words and scoffing at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against His people, until there was no remedy.

Isaiah 30:9-11 ~ For these are rebellious people, deceitful children,
children unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction.
They say to the seers,
“See no more visions!”
and to the prophets,
“Give us no more visions of what is right!
Tell us pleasant things,
prophesy illusions.
Leave this way,
get off this path,
and stop confronting us
with the Holy One of Israel!”

Jeremiah 6:10 ~ “To whom can I speak and give warning? Who will listen to me? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear. The word of the Lord is offensive to them, they find no pleasure in it.”

Jeremiah 6:17 ~ I appointed watchmen over you and said,
‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet!’
But you said, ‘We will not listen.’

Jeremiah 7:25-27 ~ From the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt to this day, I have persistently sent all my servants the prophets to them, day after day. Yet they did not listen to me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers. So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you.

In the Time of Christ

Jesus said the same about His own contemporaries:

Matthew 23:29-37 ~ “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

Thus it shall be until the end of time. In Revelation 11 for example, we read about the Two Witnesses. Consider their fate as described in verses 7-10:

And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified.

For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth.

We must keep on warning today

Refusing to heed God and His spokesmen is the story of mankind. Ignoring and making fun of His warnings has always been with us. Just imagine how Noah and his family were mocked, ridiculed and hated as they warned the people of the coming flood (Genesis 6-9).

We have a New Testament commentary on this in Hebrews 11:7:

“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”

The ministry I and others are involved in is not a welcome one. It is a watchman on the wall sort of ministry. It is a prophetic type of calling. And it involves warning others — constantly. It is a burden the Lord shares with certain people, and it is a ministry that most of us would never choose ourselves. But it needs to be done, even though it will usually result in rejection, enmity and hatred. Words of warning are needed both for the world and the church.

Given the sorts of verses I featured above, as you can imagine, this will always be a thankless task. Most folks — Christians and non-Christians — do NOT want to hear you and your warnings. They want you to just shut up. They want to go on living their lives as they want. So you will never be well-received.

But as I said at the outset, if you really love someone, you will give them warnings when they are needed. Refusing to speak out and sound the alarm when required is proof that you do NOT love others. Then you are only concerned about yourself, your own well-being, and your own reputation.

Sure, all the usual caveats must be stated here: we need to know when to speak and how to speak — and when to keep silent; we need our words of warning to be backed up with prayer, and so on. But if God has given you a calling to give warning — and in one sense all Christians have that calling — then you best do it faithfully, and not worry about all the flak you will get.

Some words by A. W. Tozer on the life of Leonard Ravenhill are worth offering here in conclusion:

Those who know of Leonard Ravenhill recognize in him the religious specialist, the man sent from God to battle the priests of Baal on their own mountain top, to shame the careless priest at the altar, to face the false prophet, and to warn the people who are being led astray by him.

Such a man as this is not an easy companion. He insists on being a Christian all the time and everywhere. That marks him out as different. Why do we have men of such fiery swords as Ravenhill? They are sick inside when they see the children of heaven acting like the sons of earth. To such men as these, the church owes a debt too heavy to pay.

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Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo by Joël Super.

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The Business of the Church: An Encouragement and Exhortation to Stand Firm

The Business of the Church: An Encouragement and Exhortation to Stand Firm

Christians face an increasingly hostile culture. Several recent events in the world of politics drove this reality home to me. And it’s a hard reality. As I grappled with the disappointments, I had to once again ask the question, why? Why do we do what we do? Why do Christians not just shut up, keep their heads down and get on with life?

Here are my thoughts. May they be an encouragement to you.

It’s easy for Christians to get discouraged. In a world — in a country — where we too often feel like we experience far more defeats than victories, it’s so easy to get disillusioned, to disconnect, to get cynical.

But as Christians, this is not who we are.

We are children of God, children of light. We are a city set on a hill, whose light cannot be extinguished. Jesus called us the salt of the earth and the light of the world — we are to be effective.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like that, though.

When the world seems to be going to pieces — when we see the Enemy “winning” — it’s so easy to let doubt creep in… why do we bother? Just let it be how it will be. If God is good and if He is really in control, why doesn’t it all just stop? Why don’t our prayers seem to be doing anything? Why is it that every headline seems to be a victory for the Enemy?

Wouldn’t it be easier just to sit back — just let it all happen? Maybe it’s all inevitable anyway? Why bother?

I’m often tempted to adopt this mentality. But something just doesn’t sit right about it.

Getting Our Priorities Right

As Christians, we are called to engage; we are called to speak out and stand up for righteousness.

Does it really matter if we see tangible victories?

Should our level of success measured in temporal terms really affect how we engage with the world?

Maybe the number of victories we achieve here and now isn’t the point

Don’t get me wrong: we should be heartbroken by what is happening in our world. Our hearts should be grieved by the things that grieve God’s heart.

But we shouldn’t give up.

Something that has encouraged me about the ministry of Martyn Iles in the public square has been his insistence on unrelentingly speaking out for righteousness while simultaneously understanding and affirming that politics is not our salvation.

Our salvation is in Christ. Unlike every secular ideology, Christianity does not stand or fall with political success and legislative victory.

So why do we engage in public life?

In my mind, it’s simple. There are three clear reasons.

1. Glorify God in All We Do

Firstly, it’s because Christians are called to glorify God in all that we do.

(While some might argue that political activism and public engagement are sinful — and hence, not capable of being done for the glory of God — I see no scriptural basis for such a claim provided they are pursued with integrity and for God’s glory — as all things should be.)

This alone should be reason enough to give us the strength to press on.

2. Preach the Gospel to All Nations

Secondly, the Church needs to engage in the public space to fulfil its most pressing commission: to make disciples of all nations. We can’t keep the Good News to ourselves; God has committed to us the “ministry of reconciliation”.

“Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
(2 Corinthians 5:20-21 NKJV)

Do we really believe this? If we do, we cannot possibly think that it is okay to keep it to ourselves.

We need to engage publicly with the truth of the Gospel wherever we are: at our work, on social media, in the halls of parliament, at school meetings. Wherever we are. We are ambassadors. There are no exceptions.

3. Speak Out Against Injustice

But, finally, we engage the world because we want to see less sin in it — less evil in our nation. We want to see God’s goodness made manifest in the world. To do so, the Church needs to engage publicly.

Granted, politics is not always the only way to do that. Christians can often engage publicly through any number of public media. However, there are many issues (like abortion, euthanasia, school curricula, etc.) where no other medium can appropriately address a moral issue.

When a society collectively decides to enshrine evil in its laws, the Church should speak out publicly and engage politically.

But here’s the crucial part.

We need to have our priorities right when it comes to opposing sin. We need to take into account our own walk with God.

We need to see the goodness of God — His will done — in our own lives first, before we can confidently share it with others.

As Isaac Parkinson pointed out in his excellent article, the reason we so often neglect preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom is that “we are still so unfamiliar with the Kingdom itself”. This is a huge problem for Christians today.

Peter outlines this tension in his first epistle:

  1. Submission and sanctification: “… in your hearts set Christ apart [as holy—acknowledging Him, giving Him first place in your lives] as Lord.” — this is our private responsibility to be sanctified (having our character made like Christ’s).
  2. Apologetics and evangelism: “Always be ready to give a [logical] defence to anyone who asks you to account for the hope and confident assurance [elicited by faith] that is within you, yet [do it] with gentleness and respect.” — this is our public witness: reasonable, joyful, confident, respectful and gentle.
  3. Christian character in public: “… see to it that your conscience is entirely clear, so that every time you are slandered or falsely accused, those who attack or disparage your good behaviour in Christ will be shamed [by their own words].” — this is an example of our public witness being strengthened and supported by our personal character.

Christians should begin this process of eradicating sin in our own lives, rather than in the world around us. How? We do this by continually committing our lives to the Holy Spirit’s sanctifying work. This will then affirm our public testimony and stand, guarding us against hypocrisy, adverse witness and self-righteousness.

Being diligent in this way will not eliminate suffering from our lives. According to Scripture, we are to expect suffering: on that basis, it is better than we suffer persecution from the world unjustly for our good witness, than being condemned by the world justly for our own hypocrisy.

So how do we rediscover the effectiveness of the church?

The Church needs to look within itself. Winning new converts alone will not turn the Church around. If those new converts are not discipled and taught, they will remain forever immature, stuck on baby food.

Immature believers produce immature believers. The cycle becomes vicious.

As the great Christian thinker A.W. Tozer wrote:

“Remember, missionaries, that you can never produce anything better than you are yourself.”

And we should not expect to.

Thank God that it is not we alone who are building the Body. We are co-workers with God, who undertakes faithfully to sanctify all who are diligent in submitting to Him, regardless of the vessel by which they were drawn to Him.

Still, it is gravely irresponsible for us to treat flippantly our own Christian character and the state of the wider Church to which we are bringing people.

Do we really understand the Great Commission? I think if we had a truly holistic view of the Matthew 28 Commission, we would save ourselves, as a Church, a great deal of trouble. Let’s break it down:

1. Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.

This is the foundation upon which the Church stands. We need to reclaim this authority in our interactions with the world around us. For too long, the Church in Australia (as a whole) has been sapped of authority. We are too worried about what the world will think of us if we act counter-culturally — if we take a stand.

2. Christians need to ‘Go’ into all the nations (or into all the world as Acts 1:8 tells us).

Wherever we have been providentially called to or placed by God, there is our mission ground. Get moving! Be diligent with the sphere of authority in which God has placed you. Don’t be distracted by others’ callings and don’t distract others by demanding and expecting that they follow your calling. God will sort out the details. He will assign the territory.

3. We are commanded to make disciples of all nations.

We’re not to be making mere converts; we are making Christ-followers — disciples and apprentices of Christ. The preaching of the Gospel is not just a numbers game. Be faithful in discipling people into Christ (not the church “club”). Give them the tools to develop their own relationship with Him.

4. The Church is expected to baptise new believers in the name of the Triune God.

This is about a public declaration of faith. All believers need to be willing to publicly declare to the world around us that we follow Christ. If we’re not, will we really stand when genuine persecution and revilement and hardship come? Time will tell.

5. We are to teach believers to observe everything that Christ has commanded us to.

This is a tough one. Obedience is not popular and neither is teaching. Nevertheless, the Church must learn to rightly divide the word of God, lest we be tossed to and fro and carried by every wind of doctrine that the world throws at us. Love God with your mind as well as with your heart and soul.

To the exceptional advice contained within the Great Commission, I want to add two final exhortations:

Firstly, we should not neglect meeting together, especially as the end may be drawing near. Don’t stop going to church gatherings! We should be encouraging one another corporately in these times.

Finally, study your Bible for yourself devotionally and spend time talking with God. It can be hard, I know. Sometimes — often — we don’t feel like it. We are all distracted. We are all busy.

But we need to make the time. As the late Dallas Willard said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

We need to be saturated by the Word of God: reading it, studying it, memorising it and meditating on it. And we need to be in constant contact with the One who has it all well in hand.

As the great C.S. Lewis wrote:

“Prayer is either a sheer illusion or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete Person. Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctuary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine. In it God shows Himself to us. That He answers prayers is a corollary — not necessarily the most important one–from that revelation. What He does is learned from what He is.”

Amen.

Now, let’s get back to the business of the Church…

“For though we walk in the flesh [as mortal men], we are not carrying on our [spiritual] warfare according to the flesh and using the weapons of man. The weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood]. Our weapons are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.

We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ, being ready to punish every act of disobedience, when your own obedience [as a church] is complete.”

Bible passages quoted or cited in this article:

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Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko.

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Father Stu: Marvellous Movie with a Fatherhood Theme

Father Stu: Marvellous Movie with a Fatherhood Theme

“Father Stu” is not a movie for the fainthearted, but with the true story of a man who overcame his trauma and his failures to become a solid spiritual father, it has an inspiring message for us all.

I go to movie theatres these days in fear and trembling. I just don’t know if I am going to like what I see. Sometimes it is like buying a ticket in a lottery that you know you are going to lose.

On one of our twice-weekly date nights, my wife suggested we go and see Father Stu. The fact that it was based on a true story encouraged me.

She had seen a great review in Movies Change People. I was not convinced, but I have become a true believer.

Father Stu certainly had a star-studded cast including Transformers star Mark Wahlberg, Passion of the Christ producer/actor Mel Gibson and Australia’s own Jacki Weaver.

Let me add one caveat. The language is very strong. If you have worked in the mining or building industry as I have, it will not be anything new to you. All around, it is a strong movie and not for the fainthearted.

Strong Hope

It is a movie about manhood and faith, with the underlying theme of fatherhood gone wrong and fatherhood gone right. Thankfully, there is hope for us all. Watch the trailer here.

The reactions from pre-screening by the Movies Change People team in Australia were amazing. Of the people who saw it, 92% of them said they would recommend it to a friend

“Amazing true story, well worth seeing.”

“RAW AMAZING WORTH SPREADING.”

“It’s a powerful, inspiring story that brought tears to my eyes.”

Powerful Story

Having seen Father Stu, I would say the same. Sadly, reviewers dismissed the movie in a predictably pathetic fashion. I searched high and low for an honest assessment of the film. Ron Cerabona from the Canberra times hit the middle ground with his 3-star review below.

“Cards on the table: I’m not a believer in any religion. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a well-done religious movie. I don’t play or enjoy watching sports, either, but there are good sports films.

Mark Wahlberg, who stars and produces, and Mel Gibson — who plays a major role and whose partner Rosalind Ross is credited as writer and director — are both devout Catholics with troubled pasts. It’s not surprising, then, that they would team up for a religious-themed biopic about a man who overcame many challenges — some his fault, some not — to become a priest.

Stuart Long (Wahlberg) hasn’t had much of a life in Helena, Montana. He and his mother Kathleen (Jacki Weaver) are estranged from his abusive, alcoholic father Bill (Gibson) – the couple split after Stu’s younger brother died as a child – and he’s a self-centred, foul-mouthed delinquent and a not very successful amateur boxer still fighting at an age where most men are retiring from the ring.

When medical issues prevent him from continuing to box, he decides to go to Hollywood to become an actor.

Kathleen opposes this, but Stu is a stubborn man, and off he goes.

He’s not very successful in Hollywood, either. One man offers help in exchange for sexual favours (hotly refused) but mostly Stu is stuck working in a supermarket.

One bright spot comes when he meets Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) and is instantly smitten.

Not only is Carmen wary of this stranger’s sudden infatuation but she’s a pious Catholic, a Sunday-School teacher not interested in a fling.

To win her over, nonbeliever Stu starts going to church and gets baptised…

Then comes a major life change. Stu is badly injured in a motorcycle accident that a stranger seemed to predict…

In fact, we see Stu’s plain-speaking sincerity can make connections where other, ostensibly more suitable candidates — like the patronising Jacob (Cody Fern) — cannot. But then there’s another test for Stu: he is diagnosed with a rare muscular disease and the prognosis is dire.

Although Ross has the onscreen credits for writing and directing, Gibson’s influence seems to loom large beyond his onscreen presence as a damaged man who finds a way to reconnect with both his (somewhat similar) son and his spirituality.

Gibson’s films as director often lay on the suffering — think The Passion of the Christ — and that’s a big part of this story. Stu’s physical, spiritual, and emotional pain are heavily emphasised…

As so often liberties have been taken with the truth for reasons of time and dramatic effect — for example, Bill is apparently depicted far more harshly than he really was, and Stu’s mother encouraged his Hollywood ambitions (presumably in real life she didn’t refer to Los Angeles as being “full of fascist hippies”). And Stu’s path to the priesthood was much longer.

During the end credits, there’s footage, photos and words from the real Father Stu — who died in 2014 at the age of 50 — and a cute if incongruous moment with Wahlberg and a child.

Father Stu is sincere and well-acted with some touching moments. It’s not perfect but better than many other movies about religion, even if, like me, you don’t subscribe to the theology or find the rationalisations for suffering very credible.”

Lovework

Father Stu is really a man’s movie and his struggle to become a man in the absence of a loving father.

The good news is love triumphs in the end, as it always does. Grab a few mates and go and see it if you are able. You won’t be disappointed.

Yours for the Power of Love,
Warwick Marsh

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First published at Dads4Kids. Image: The Sun.

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5 Subconscious Lies of Our Therapeutic Age that Can Deceive Christians

5 Subconscious Lies of Our Therapeutic Age that Can Deceive Christians

As we shed our traditional Judaeo-Christian values, our worldview has radically changed, including our expectations of life, of others, and what we base our identity upon. Feelings trump reason and suffering is unacceptable.

Over 200 years ago, a revolution was launched across the West.

Or rather, revolutions. Western societies began to move away from Christianity. They moved slowly at first — like a crawling baby. But as that baby grew, it became less and less Christian, shaking off its religious beliefs.

Fast forward to 2022, and this child (to continue the metaphor) has a radically different view of reality and humanity than 200 years ago.

We’re now a society where our feelings are critical to our existence. Or, in the words of sociologist Philip Rieff, we live in the ‘therapeutic age’: we’re driven and defined by our feelings in ways utterly foreign to our ancestors. And this has spawned all sorts of beliefs that shape us and our view of the world.

What’s more, these beliefs are mostly subconscious:

We don’t consciously choose to accept them. Instead, we ‘catch’ them as we swim in the sea of Western culture. Whether through the media we consume (e.g. Disney, Hollywood), our workplaces, social media, or friends.

And because these beliefs are unbiblical, they can wreak havoc on people’s lives. 

Here are 5 of those beliefs:

1) Our Feelings Determine Who We Are

This belief is the bedrock of our therapeutic feeling-based age.

You see it everywhere, from Disney (‘just follow your heart’) to the transgender movement (your internal feelings about gender trump your physical biology). Genuine ‘authenticity’ now means living out your inner feelings, no matter what they are (and woe to anyone who tells you otherwise). [1]

But when anyone — including Christians — adopts this belief, it shapes us in strange and ungodly ways:

We can let our feelings trump our given identity in Christ. We can let our emotions drive our moral decision-making. And we can judge our Church not on its faithful teaching and living, but on how it serves our felt needs.

2) True Freedom Means Defining Your Own Existence

If our feelings determine our identity, then true freedom means society giving us space to express that identity.

This view of freedom is a bedrock belief that sustains the abortion rights movement across the West. As the US Supreme Court wrote in a ruling about abortion rights:

‘At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under the compulsion of the State.’ [2]

With freedom thus redefined, oppression is also redefined: oppression now includes anything — any belief, any law — that prevents people from expressing their own view of existence (the Biblical sexual ethic, anyone?). And so, Christians have moved from being the ‘moral guys’ to being the ‘bad guys’.

While Christians feel this pressure externally, from society, it’s also a belief that shapes us internally:

We’re less willing to submit ourselves to others, like church leaders and religious institutions. We’re less likely to see submission as good. We don’t want others telling us what to do.

And if we’re in positions of leadership, we’re less likely to want to enforce rules like church discipline, as it feels a little unfair.

3) Always Trust Your Feelings

Because feelings are essential to who we are, they now hold authority like never before.

If something or someone makes you uncomfortable, then the problem is always the other person and never your feelings. Your interpretation of reality (which leads to those feelings) is always right because we are our feelings.

We see this in the rise of cancel culture, where any person or belief that causes people to feel offended is attacked and shut down. There’s little engagement or understanding with what the other person might mean or why they might hold to that view — let alone whether that view is true or not.

4) We’re Meant to Have Good Feelings, So Avoid Anything That Makes You Feel Bad

The aim of life in a therapeutic age has moved from having good character to having good feelings.

Feeling good becomes a moral duty: the big question we ask ourselves is no longer ‘what’s the right thing to do?’, but rather ‘how will it make me feel?’ And so, as a culture, we avoid anything that makes us feel bad:

  • We avoid the difficult person at Church because they don’t make us feel good.

  • We avoid having those hard but important conversations because they make us feel uncomfortable.

  • And we avoid conflict like it’s an out-of-fashion pair of jeans.

  • We use people and things to help us feel good: life becomes increasingly self-centred.

Of course, this has all sorts of problems because constantly feeling good is an unrealistic goal. We’ll regularly feel frustrated. Yes, we might feel good for a while — when we get that new phone, friend, or partner. But it never lasts.

More perniciously, life lived for self-centred feelings and avoidance of difficulty can leave a trail of damaged relationships.

(Ask almost any celebrity.)

5) Suffering Serves No Good Purpose

If life is all about feeling good, then suffering is all bad: it serves no purpose.

Suffering gets in the way of my feeling good. And I’ll do anything to avoid it. There’s no ‘higher purpose’ to my suffering.

But we can’t avoid suffering in a fallen world.

It’s part of our human condition (no matter how much we try to avoid it). Adopting a therapeutic view of suffering leads to anger and even despair when suffering hits us. We’ll feel discombobulated and fearful, worrying about the next bout of suffering that might come our way.

These 5 beliefs, these lies, are deeply embedded in Western Culture. But in an upcoming post, we’ll explore how we can respond to each of them in a way that frees us from their grip.

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[1] It’s worth mentioning there are still culturally accepted limits to what desires people can live out: e.g. pedophilia is still unacceptable.

[2] Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 851 (1992). Quoted in Carl Trueman, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self – Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2020), 303.

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Originally published at AkosBalogh.com. Photo by Yan Krukov.

Thank the Source

Who is Really in Control of Your Life?

Who is Really in Control of Your Life?

The idea that man is fully in control of life is an illusion. Only God Almighty has sovereignty over each moment. Faith in Him carries us through mishaps and suffering, giving us peace in the midst of earthly turmoil.

The real struggle throughout human history has to do with the question of who is in control — or better yet, who should be in control. Fallen autonomous men like to think they are in control, and as such, they seek to take the place of God as the ultimate sovereign of the universe.

Sinful, rebellious humans think they are the centre of the universe and that they are in control. They certainly WANT to be in control. But the rightful ruler is not so easily deposed. It is God who is in control, and He is calling the shots. Sure, we are able to make morally significant choices, but at the end of the day it is the sovereignty of God that we all are under.

Shattered Illusions

The fact that we keep forgetting — or refusing to acknowledge — that God is in control means that out of love for us, He often seeks to get our attention by reminding us just how little control we have over most things. We plan a nice picnic in a park, and instead of the warm sunny day we had hoped for, a cold, miserable and rainy day happens instead.

Or the weather may be fine, but as we are about to drive to that park, we discover that we have misplaced the car keys, and they are nowhere to be found. Yes, human error has happened, but a God who is at work behind the scenes may be the ultimate cause of such things.

There is very little in life we have direct and total control over. Let’s say the weather is nice, the car keys are found, and the picnic with loved ones commences. We get stuck into a steak sandwich in a nice hard roll that we had prepared, only to find the first bite results in a very bad toothache — so much so that the picnic is cancelled and a quick trip to the dentist is undertaken.

God may well often allow such things for all sorts of reasons; one such reason is to remind us that we are NOT in full control, and that there is a God in Heaven who cares about us so much, that He is willing to rob us of temporary happiness in order to give us eternal holiness.

War

Often, difficult and trying times can be a major means of bringing this about. A time of war certainly brings us to an end of our sense of self-sovereignty and control. One minute you are planning picnics and sleeping in your own bed and having friends over and going to work, and the next minute you might be one of millions of refugees fleeing a war-torn country like Ukraine.

I just saw a quote on social media by the famous US Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall which ties in here. I looked up the source of the quote and learned about this story. He was about to give a speech to the midshipmen at the U. S. Naval Academy, but changed his mind at the last moment, ignoring his notes and speaking off the cuff. An hour after his talk, it was learned that the Japanese had just bombed Pearl Harbor.

In that prophetic speech, he said this in part:

“War forces us to examine the very foundations of life itself. …
What man refuses to learn in times of peace, God teaches him in times of war.
God permits war in order that we might see what sin really is.”

It also teaches us how little control we have over things.

Everything changes in such a situation, and we quickly realise that the control we thought we had over life was just a mirage. Of course, other calamities and tragedies such as illness or the death of a loved one also will help remind us of these basic truths. A particular illness may leave you without control of your own bladder. The death of a spouse may leave you reeling as your world caves in.

When these things happen, we can either become bitter or better. We either re-orientate ourselves back to God, or we become even more defiant, angry and rebellious. It is not just non-Christians I am talking about here. Christians need to learn and relearn these lessons just as much as any pagan does.

Cancer and Control

As mentioned, illness is one major area in which lessons about control arise. If you are like me, you really do not like it when you cannot be in control of things. You want to be able to make decisions, determine your future, be self-reliant, and be in charge of your life. But when something like cancer comes along, all that is thrown into the wind.

While I have a mild, non-aggressive (so far) form of prostate cancer, it is my wife of course whom I am now fully concerned about. As some of you know, we just recently learned that she has a very aggressive and very harmful form of breast cancer — one of the worst there is, with not real terrific survival rates.

That certainly turned our worlds upside-down. Any illusions of being in control were shattered very quickly. Now we are entirely in the hands of doctors, nurses, hospitals, surgeons, medicines — and of course the grace of God. Action had to be taken immediately, so chemotherapy was started, and surgery will soon take place.

As anyone knows who has had cancer, or has a loved one who has had cancer, the cure can often be almost as bad as the disease. Chemo is of course a poison — its aim is to kill off the bad cancer cells while not killing off too many of the good healthy cells. The side effects of chemo can be quite severe.

Just after her first session with a particularly strong chemo (known as the “Red Devil”), I brought her home. She needed me to get her some medicines, and close by is a nice deli, so she suggested a few things. I got those and a few other treats for her. She never did get to enjoy them.

She started going downhill real fast, and a few days later at 2:30 in the morning, I had to rush her to a hospital emergency centre. She ended up staying there a few days until things stabilised. Since then she has been on less strong chemo, and she is doing a bit better, although plenty of unwelcome side effects continue to bubble along.

One Day at a Time

She is in the hospital right now actually, getting her seventh weekly dose of chemo. While in between procedures, she managed to just email me saying this:

“CT scan and ECG results were both normal, the breathlessness is likely from the paclitaxel (the weekly drug) so no serious issues there. From the CT scan the tumour has shrunk from 5cm to about 3.5cm which is nice to know. I’m a bit anaemic (89 if that means anything to you) so I’m getting a blood transfusion as well today after the paclitaxel.”

That is good news, but it is always one day at a time. Today things might be a bit better — tomorrow things may be a bit worse. As I say, control over our lives has in most ways been taken away from us. We are thankful for good doctors and medicines, but ultimately we turn to God in faith and trust, knowing, as Spurgeon once put it, that He is too loving to be unkind, and too wise to make a mistake.

I too have lost plenty of control. As soon as we first learned of her cancer, I cancelled all my speaking engagements. Various meetings and functions all had to be missed as well. Our routine was thrown up in the air, and our sense of control really took a hit — but that is a good thing.

Trust in God

We all need to learn these truths, and it is a pity that so often we have to wait till tragedy or hardship strikes before we really start learning these things. We simply are NOT in control. But the good news is, a loving and caring and all-wise God IS in control.

That means we can trust Him, even in times of war. Even when a loved one passes away. Even when cancer strikes. The idea that illness and the like can be a wonderful teaching tool and a God-appointed means of bringing us closer to Him while shattering all our false illusions is of course a truth that Scripture and the history of God’s people have long affirmed.

Just two passages from Psalm 119 can be mentioned here:

  • “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey Your word.” (Psalm 119:67)
  • “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn Your decrees.” (Psalm 119:71)

And just two general quotes from some great saints who have known all about suffering:

“There have been some hard things in my life, of course, as there have been in yours, and I cannot say to you, I know exactly what you’re going through. But I can say that I know the One who knows. And I’ve come to see that it’s through the deepest suffering that God has taught me the deepest lessons. And if we’ll trust Him for it, we can come through to the unshakable assurance that He’s in charge. He has a loving purpose. And He can transform something terrible into something wonderful. Suffering is never for nothing.”
~ Elisabeth Elliot, Suffering is Never for Nothing

“Suffering is no failure of God’s plan. True, it is part of the curse, along with death, disease, and destruction. But before God comes back to close the curtain on suffering, it is meant to be redeemed. Our miracle-working God can reach down into what otherwise looks like awful evil — terrible evil — and He and He only can pull out of it positive good for us and glory for Himself. … Suffering makes us want to go to heaven. Broken homes and broken hearts crush our illusions that earth can keep its promises, that it can really satisfy. Only the hope of heaven can truly move our passions off this world – which God knows could never fulfill us anyway – and place them where they will find their glorious fulfillment.”
~ Joni Eareckson Tada, HeavenGospel Wakefulness book - God is in control

In sum, we like to think we are in control, but we are not. However, knowing that a wise, just, compassionate and loving God is in control makes all the difference in the world. As Jared Wilson put it in his 2011 book, Gospel Wakefulness:

“God is the lord over pain; the pain of life is subject to His power and prerogatives. Because of this — because our heavenly Father Who is not just loving but love Himself is in control over all that befalls us — we can be confident that our pain is being used for our good. We can be sure that no thorns will pierce our flesh except those that will do so for His glory.”

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Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo by cottonbro.

Thank the Source

How Western Secular Beliefs are Feeding an Epidemic of Cowardice

How Western Secular Beliefs are Feeding an Epidemic of Cowardice

We have become too comfortable in the West, unwilling to risk our earthly security in standing up for truth and freedom. How have we come to this juncture, and is there a way to become brave again?

Stories of Ukraine keep filling our headlines and social media feeds.

Despite being invaded by a much stronger country, Ukrainians are still resisting. More to the point, they are doing so bravely. Centre-Left social commentator Bari Weiss contrasts their bravery in the face of horrifying odds with our modern Western culture:

I cannot help but notice the gap between [the Ukrainians] and us. Between the bigness of their vision and their mission and the smallness of ours. Between their moral clarity and our moral confusion. Between their spine and our spinelessness. Between their courage and our epidemic of cowardice.

Our epidemic of cowardice.

I can’t stop thinking about that line — it’s got such an awful ring to it. No culture has ever seen cowardice as a moral virtue, and being a coward has always been associated with shame. Lest we’re in any moral doubt, the Bible also condemns cowardice (e.g. Rev 21:8).

Rightly so: cowards shirk moral responsibility. They’re silent when they should speak. They run when they should stand. And they get others to do their work for them.

I remember cowardice being on full display in 2012 when the Italian vessel Costa Concordia sank in the shallow waters off the coast of Italy. As one commentator has written:

On the Titanic, the male passengers gave their lives for the women and would never have considered doing otherwise. On the Costa Concordia, in the words of a female passenger, “There were big men, crew members, pushing their way past us to get into the lifeboat.”

The Captain also abandoned his ship, leaving the passengers to suffer and die without him (he was later put under house arrest for dereliction of duty). It’s hard to describe those actions without the word ‘coward’ thrown in.

An Epidemic of Cowardice?

But do we have an epidemic of cowardice?

It’s a tricky question to answer.

After all, nobody’s invading Australia or any other Western nation: that would be the ultimate test of national bravery. And yet, there are signs that people are more fearful today across the West than in previous years:

  • People seem hesitant to speak up about many issues, especially when they think differently to the prevailing cultural orthodoxy (e.g. on gender and sexuality).

  • Cancel culture is a real thing: not only does it chill speech, but more often than not leads to swift apologies from the cancelled, rather than Martin Luther-like ‘here I stand, I can do no other’ responses.

  • And if panic buying is any indication, fear is bubbling beneath the surface, ready to launch us to grab the last rolls of toilet paper when #toiletpaperapocalypse trends on social media.

Update: there is new evidence that most Australians would flee if we faced the same situation as Ukraine. The Australian’s foreign affairs editor Greg Sheridan writes about a new poll just released:

‘A slim majority of Australians, if faced with a situation similar to that faced by Ukrainians, would not stay and fight for their country but would seek to flee overseas, according to a fascinating poll conducted by Compass Polling.’

Yes, Weiss may have a point when it comes to our growing fearfulness and – dare I say it – cowardice.

The Beliefs that Provide Fertile Soil for Cowardice

Whether or not there is an epidemic of cowardice, there are many common secular beliefs that provide fertile soil for the growth of cowardice.

Here are 6 such beliefs:

1) We value the ‘victim mentality’

Western culture now places special moral value on being a victim.

While there are genuine victims that should be valued and cared for, we now live at a time when nearly everyone wants to be seen as an oppressed victim by virtue of their group identity. You get special privileges and cultural kudos if you’re a victim, and you get to say and do things that other people can’t, especially about political and cultural issues.

And so, the victim mentality is rife across much of the West.

But the victim mentality is destructive. There’s a tendency to blame your problems on others, and expect them to fix them for you. It corrodes individual and group agency and turns your focus inwards rather than to the needs of others.

Such a mentality doesn’t promote bravery. On the contrary, it lays down fertile soil in which cowardice can grow.

2) We live for nothing greater than ourselves

We’re a culture that lives for no higher purpose than self-fulfilment.

Whether it be the fulfilment from work, family, or entertainment, our highest goal is self. We’re self-made people.

But if you live for nothing greater than yourself, you won’t fight for anything but yourself.

Instead, you’ll stay silent instead of speaking up. You won’t stand up for others if it means you might get hurt. And why would you put your life on the line for your nation?

3) We expect (and even demand) to be comfortable

Modern Westerners are the most physically comfortable generation in human history.

We haven’t had to fight a major war in 70 years. We’re not under constant threat. And our living standards are through the roof (especially compared to previous generations).

We expect, nay demand, comfort.

And if that’s our expectation, we’re less likely to do things that compromise comfort.

4) Our society is atomised and lonely, with little holding us together

While previous generations had many ‘mediating institutions’ with loyal followings such as social clubs, religious organisations and philanthropic movements that brought people together, such organisations are few and far between.

Most people in our culture don’t belong to any particular club (or if they do, they’re more consumers than givers). We’re more lonely, more individualistic than in recent history. As such, there’s little holding us together.

Yes, there are tribal loyalties strengthened through the rise of identity politics (e.g. race, sexuality, gender).

But neither tribalism nor individualism can hold societies together, let alone inspire people to sacrifice themselves for others outside their inner circle. Without bonds of affection for others, we revert to only thinking about ourselves.

That’s not exactly a recipe for courage.

5) We increasingly see the West not as a beacon of hope, but as a bastion of bigotry

Many secular elites across the West have bought into Critical Theory-inspired views of Western Civilisation.

They increasingly see the West as irredeemably racist, xenophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, imperialistic, patriarchal and bigoted. They believe White Supremacy is rife. And that it would be best to overthrow it all and start again.

While few people deny that the West has its share of shortcomings, this view of the West will not inspire anyone to fight for it when push comes to shove.

6) We see morality as relative: there’s no principle worth standing up for

Moral and cultural relativism is rife across the West. We don’t see one person’s or culture’s morality as any better or worse than anyone else’s. We can’t condemn other people for their moral beliefs, because we don’t believe in a moral standard that transcends time and culture.

So, moral confusion is rife. We’re hard-pressed to find reasons why we should stand up for ethical principles.

(Admittedly, many secular woke people hold to a moral standard, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown the bankruptcy of moral relativism.)

Nevertheless, if there is no external moral standard by which we can judge people of other cultures (e.g. Putin, China) and times (e.g. Stalin), then why risk your neck to uphold moral principles like justice and freedom?

What about Christians? Do we suffer from cowardice?

Christians are swimming in the same sea as the rest of our culture.

We love to be loved and hate to be hated. We’re tempted to live for nothing but ourselves and our own comfort. Furthermore, our views are under increasing attack, both culturally, and in some parts of the West, legally. In many ways, our situation is more pressured than our secular friends.

And yet.

We have all the resources we need to live courageously. Even though we are ordinary, weak people, we follow an extraordinary God who gives us courage:

  • We have the Holy Spirit giving us strength to be obedient to God in the face of persecution and pressure (e.g. Matthew 10:18-20)

  • We have the hope and security of eternal life, which means we don’t have to fear even in the face of death (Matthew 10:28)

  • Our God is in sovereign control, working out all things for our good (Romans 8:28)

  • Our aim in life is no longer comfort and ease, but to be like Christ (Hebrews 12:3-11). It’s an honour to suffer for Him, and our reward in heaven will be great (Matthew 5:10-12).

 Yes, Christians may be reviled for our counter-cultural beliefs. Yes, there may be an epidemic of cowardice across much of the West.

But may it never be said that Christians are cowardly.

Thank the Source

Easter: From Grief To Joy

Easter: From Grief To Joy

The resurrection event changed human history forever, giving us the firm hope of redemption and everlasting life. We still face death and suffering in our fallen world, but our sorrows and grief will not last — they will be replaced by joy and rejoicing.

Many Bible verses speak about a great reversal wherein those who are suffering and mourning end up rejoicing and praising God. Indeed, a great and marvellous theme of the biblical storyline in general, and of the Easter event in particular, is how God turns sorrow and grief into joy and rejoicing. Consider some of these terrific passages.

One such text is Psalm 30. In verses 4-5 we read:

Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints,
and give thanks to His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
and His favour is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

And in verses 11-12 there are these memorable words:

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever!

Prophecy

Isaiah 61:1-3 is another well-known passage:

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.

Jeremiah 31:10-14 says this:

“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall be like a watered garden,
and they shall languish no more.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,
and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
declares the Lord.”

Redeemed

And Jesus, just before He was to go to the cross and suffer horribly, told His disciples that their grief would soon be turned to joy. As we read in John 16:16-24:

“A little while, and you will see Me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see Me.” So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” So they were saying, “What does He mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what He is talking about.”

Jesus knew that they wanted to ask Him, so He said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see Me, and again a little while and you will see Me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. In that day you will ask nothing of Me.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”

This is the great hope of the Christian faith. Not only can we have forgiveness of sins and new life in Christ, not only will there be a resurrection in which the redeemed will go to be with the Lord forever, but even the sorrows and griefs we experience now will come to an end — in this life, partially, and in the next life, fully.

Loss

On Easter SundayResurrection Day — I awoke to the news that a Christian friend, Paul, had just passed away with leukemia. He and his family had raised a special needs child for many years. The wheelchair-bound Grant was lovingly looked after by Paul and his wife and daughter for so many years. Sadly Grant, the adopted son, passed away a few months ago. And then Paul, this wonderful caregiver, too has just passed away.

They are now both gone to be with the Lord. Pray for his surviving family members, please. They would be glad that both are now with Jesus, but they would also be grieving and mourning heavily right now. The sorts of passages I shared above would undoubtedly be going through their minds right now.

Of interest, just on Holy Saturday night, I was reflecting about all the friends and folks I have known over the years who have passed on and are now with the Lord. Like the Apostle Paul, I am torn: I would much prefer to be with the Lord, but it seems my time here is not yet finished.

I had told my friend Paul I wanted to write up his story, and do an interview with him as well. Neither one happened. But his story will be told for all eternity, because of His Story. What a difference the resurrection of Jesus makes!

God Died… and Rose Again

Let no one ever fool you into thinking Christianity is like all the other world religions. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only biblical Christianity features a God who becomes one of us, dies in our place, is raised from the dead, and offers those who put their faith and trust in Him resurrection life as well.

Easter - The Crucifixion bookAs Fleming Rutledge put it in her important book, The Crucifixion:

“Christianity is unique. The world’s religions have certain traits in common, but until the gospel of Jesus Christ burst upon the Mediterranean world, no one in the history of human imagination had conceived of such a thing as the worship of a crucified man.”

Everything changes because of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. This is something incomparable in all of human history. No wonder even our calendars are marked by the Christ event. Three concluding quotes all stress the absolute newness and utter uniqueness of what Christ did.

On the third day the friends of Christ coming at daybreak to the place found the grave empty and the stone rolled away. In varying ways they realised the new wonder; but even they hardly realised that the world had died in the night.

What they were looking at was the first day of a new creation, with a new heaven and a new earth; and in a semblance of the gardener God walked again in the garden, in the cool not of the evening but the dawn.”
~ G. K. Chesterton,
The Everlasting Man, 1925

“The New Testament writers speak as if Christ’s achievement in rising from the dead was the first event of its kind in the whole history of the universe. He is the ‘first fruits’, the ‘pioneer of life’. He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because He has done so. This is the beginning of the New Creation: a new chapter in cosmic history has opened.”
~ C. S. Lewis, Miracles, 1947

“The cross, incomparably vindicated by the Resurrection, is the novum, the new factor in human experience, the definitive and world-changing act of God, that makes the New Testament proclamation unique in all the world.”
~ Fleming Rutledge, The Crucifixion, 2015

Remember: because of the resurrection, your sorrow WILL be turned into joy — if not now, then in the next life. So hang in there, saints. One final passage from John 16:33 says:

I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Afterword

After a bit of digging around on the internet, I found a song that speaks to this. Back in 1976, a roommate at a Christian college had this album and played it often. The song is Joy in the Morning.

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Originally published at CultureWatch. Painting: Ron DiCianni, The Resurrection.

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