Signing Off…

Hi,

We have loved you reading our blog, but like all good things, it doesn’t last.  After some time of thinking and praying we have sadly decided to close Soma.

This, of course, means we need to stop contributing to this blog.  😦 .  But we will leave it up for a while for you to get to our posts :-).

And if you still want to follow Pete, he has set up a new blog at peterdhughes.org.

Thanks for reading!

Risen: Singing to the Choir?

There will be a number of reviews of Risen.  So let me add one more.  In short, this is going to be one of those movies that Christians will love (or at least like) and non-Christians will find odd, hence it will be one of those movies that end up singing to the choir.  It’s not up to the standard of The Passion of the Christ but its not as bad as other Christian movies that have attempted Christian themes like this in the past.

I am sure there will be a lot of criticism of the theology of the movie, forgetting that it is a movie.  I was expecting a more apologetic view of the resurrection, and it wasn’t quite that either.  But I want to focus on the movie as a movie.

As a movie, frankly, I found it disconnected.  It was very ‘bitsy’ and missed coherence.  If I were not a Christian I am not sure I would have cared if the movie resolved or not because the drama and tension dropped off very quickly.

The directing, likewise seemed disconnected.  For example here is what I think some of the directors notes would have been:

  • Peter Firth (Pilate): “You are in a Shakespearean tragedy set in first century Jerusalem”.
  • Tom Felton (Lucius): “You are in a BBC detective series like Mid-Sommer Murders set in first century Jerusalem”.
  • Stephen Hagan (Bartholomew): “Ummm….you know….just have fun with it.  Go nuts”.
  • Joseph Finnes (Clavius): “Stare.  A Lot.  Usually at the floor like you are looking for your keys”.

That being said, there were some things I liked about the movie:

  1. It was about the resurrection.  There have been some great movies about the life and death of Jesus.  But this is about the one thing that means you can’t just take Jesus as just another teacher or tragic death.  What the movie missed was why this matters so much.
  2. Yeshua.  While Yeshua (Jesus) was not the main character, a strength of the movie, it was played so well by Cliff Curtis.  He is not a good-looking anglo guy and carries the character so believably.
  3. The actors didn’t have American accents.  Because so many production companies that focus on Christian themes are based in America we get American accents in Palestine.  On the other hand here we get English accents in Palestine.  This means there are times you are thinking you are watching Life of Brian or a Guy Ritchie film but it is a refreshing change.
  4. Cinematography.  While the directing and the script let the film down, the cinematography, the usual achilles heel of Christian movies, has depth and balance.  (Hey, it matters to me!).

There are some questions you will want to ask if you were watching the movie with someone:

  1. If you were Clavius, would you have been convinced Jesus rose from the dead?
  2. Do you think Clavius’ resultant changes were consistent or exaggerated?  What would you have done?
  3. What difference would it make today if Jesus was raised from the dead?

Is it worth watching?  Yes, but don’t have high expectations.

Book Review: Delighting in the Trinity

Delighting in the Trinity by Michael Reeves (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 2012)

The quick review: read this book.

The longer review: Michael Reeves has attempted to give us a readable book about the Christian doctrine of the trinity and not only make it sound understandable, but essential for the Christian understanding of God and his gospel.

Reeves’ thesis, I believe, can be summed up with this quote.

If God is not Father, Son and Spirit then he is eminently rejectable: without love, radiance or beauty.  Who would want such a God to have any power, or even exist?  But the triune, living God of the Bible is Beauty.  Here is a God we can really want, and whose sovereignty we can wholeheartedly rejoice on.  (pp111-12)

There are some important things to note about this.  Firstly, for Reeves, the trinity is all about God.  The doctrine is not something that we use to try and resolve an inconvenient dilemma about how Jesus can be God and yet there is also a Father.  It tells us who God is.

Secondly, throughout the book Reeves repeatedly uses the word ‘beauty’ to describe God and the trinity.  This kept wrong footing me because I am not used to the word coming up in a theological book like this.  On one hand I think he uses it well and the wrong footing for me was a chance to stop and think.  On the other hand I don’t see the term being used as a repeatedly in Scripture (though I am sure people will now fill the comments section with Biblical references).

I think the best thing I got out of this book was how the trinity helps me understand the gospel around the idea of love.  That sin is stopping being lovers of others and becoming lover of the self.  That the character of God is to be loving of the other within the trinity and then towards creation and humanity.

This book is probably best for mature Christians, leaders and professionals in ministry.  I found it very readable, but reading through other reviews, not everyone did.  Being readable, it was also very meaty.  There is a lot to stop and think about in terms of God, his character and his gospel, and I am looking forward to reading this in a group.

Throughout the book there are several asides from church history and other theologians.  I appreciated these nods to historical theology but if you were reading this with a young Christian or a group of youngish Christians these could be tangents that need to be explained.

A trial of the first chapter can be found here.

Worship Defined

While reading a book on the doctrine of Church [1], I happened upon this definition of Christian worship:

True worship is the celebration of being in covenant fellowship with the sovereign and holy triune God, by means of:

  • the reverent adoration and spontaneous praise of God’s nature and works
  • the expressed commitment of trust and obedience to the covenant responsibilities, and
  • the memorial reenactment of entering into covenant through ritual acts,

all with the confident anticipation of the fulfillment of the covenant promises in glory. [2]

The reason I like it is because other definitions include one or another of the threefold definition above and I think they miss at least part of the idea of worship.

Those who emphasize the praise aspect of worship often end up making church a place where you need your spiritual fix for the week.  Those who emphasize the obedience part tend to make worship into a moral code.  And those who emphasize the rituals end up elevating the role of church above what it should be.  Only by holding all three together do we properly worship God.

But we need to ask some practical questions here:

  • Which of these do you neglect? Why?
  • Which of these do you emphasize?  Why?

 

 

ENDNOTES

Continue reading

The Favourites Chocolate Talk

I am one of those people, when someone asked to do a kids talk in church, smilies and nods outwardly and panics inwardly. I like doing them. People who do them seem to have so much fun. But the coming up with the idea: Google becomes my best friend!

I was asked to do a talk at a Christmas Eve service this year for “we don’t know how many kids and how old they will be”. But this year I was prepared!!  Someone had sent me the chocolate talk and I filed it away for a moment like this.

The problem with the chocolate talk is that when it comes buying the chocolates, its not cheap. Especially for a talk when you don’t know if any of the kids will turn up.

chocs

All the Chocolate you need for the Chocolate Talk!

Fortunately I found a box of Favourites on sale. I figured I could re-write the talk around them. And it would only cost me $6!!

The first draft was a poem. I figured it would be clever to put some of the word plays to rhyme and it would make a bit more sense.

The Chocolate Christmas Poem

A tale I have, though it’s quite true.

Of a baby, some cows and a shepherd or two

And Some angels that all up lit the night

And to help us some clues sweeter than a TURKISH DELIGHT

Joe was a man to be married quite soon

But was worried when his wife started to blow up as a balloon

An angel arrived in a DREAM and said “Joe, be cool

Your son is destined to become God’s great crown Jewel”.

Walking to Bethlehem made poor Joe’s energy reduce

“Hey Mary, I think we need a good BOOST

Let’s stop on the way, there’s a good chick

I know you are preggiers but sort out a PICNIC

Finally they got into town and had a rest somehow

With a chicken, a horse and few DIARY MILK cows

There Jesus was born, the king of us all

Humbly entered this world in door of stall

Out the the fields acting quite CARAMELLO

Where a few of the sheep caring fellows

Awakened by light and angels quite stayed

They decided to go and check out this child.

So toMORO before you get stuck into Christmas lunch

And stop and think when it comes to the CRUNCH

Spend some time in  deep meditation

That we celebrate the Birth of the king of our MARVELLOUS CREATION

I ran this by my wife and she panned it. “Too many words and you lost me”.   So, back to the drawing board.

This time I would use prose. But I set myself the challenge of using all the different types of chocolate in the box. Here is what I came up with..

IMG_0032

What I had to work with in a box of Favourites

THE CHOCOLATE CHRISTMAS STORY

I would like to tell you about one of my FAVOURITE stories from the Bible.  It’s all about the birth of Jesus

Joseph was told that his wife would have a baby and it would be the son of God.  He was told this by an angel in a DREAM.

When the time was RIPE for Mary to have the baby they had to head to Bethlehem to be counted.

On the journey, so they needed a BOOST.

Joseph said, “Mary, let’s stop! It’s time to rest and have a PICNIC!”

When they finally got to Bethlehem, they had to stay in a stable with some DIARY MILK cows

That very night, baby Jesus was born!

Meanwhile, the shepherds were out minding their sheep being all cara-MELLO.

It was so cold out there that the grass was really CRUNCHIE!

They were really surprised to see some angels who told them to go to Bethlehem and see their new king.

The point is that Christmas is about Jesus and seeing who he is. 

So, don’t FLAKE out and forget.

This CHRISTmas, take some time out, and remember, and DELIGHT that  the very best thing about CHRISTmas is JESUS!

So toMORRO when you are opening presents or watching your parents enjoying some BUBBLY .  Remember that we are celebrating the birth of the Lord of our MARVELLOUS CREATION.

Jesus May Not be the Crazy Guy on the Pier

“Jesus is like a crazy guy yelling “I love you” while running down a pier and jumping off”.

I can’t remember who said that.  I think it was a German Liberal like Schweitzer.  The point he was trying to make was that the cross didn’t make sense as an act of love.  You end up with Jesus looking crazy, and the cross should be seen a tragic event that Jesus had no control over.  At least I think I remember that being the point.  Evangelicals like me use the same illustration to demonstrate that the cross doesn’t make sense until you look at sin.  Jesus would seem crazy heading to his own death as an act of love without it being as a substitution.

But I really don’t like it as an illustration.  It all doesn’t make sense.  That is, until recently…

I was listening to someone else use the illustration recently.  He pointed out that the problem with the illustration is that it assumes the the point of view is on the pier.  Or to put it another way, it assumes the person that Jesus is calling “I love you” to is standing on the pier.  If that is the case, then Jesus would seem like a crazy person.

But what if the person was not on the pier?

What if the person, the point of view, was in the water, drowning?  This changes it all.  Someone coming to rescue them as an act of love.  Someone so identifying with them that they would come and dive in the water to rescue them.

Then I worked out that the problem with the illustration is that we assume we are on the pier, we are safe.  We don’t need rescuing.  But the Bible points out that we do.  It also points out that our rescuer comes because he loves us.

Advice for Writing/ Studying/ Getting Stuff Done

Recently I had to spend some extended time writing talks.  At the moment, focus is not one of my strengths so facing a week of getting things done was a little daunting.  But I also realise it is something I need to work on as I need to be a better steward of my time.  So, here are my top ten rules for getting focussed and getting things done:

  1. Turn off Social Media.
  2. Turn OFF Social Media.  (Feel free to make any Brad Pitt references here). It really does distract your focus.  If you have the same amount of self discipline in this area as I do (none) then I recommend Self Control for a Mac and leave your phone in another room.  This also helps with texts and calls.
  3. Get ON to Pomodoro.  Pomodoro is a technique that breaks your time into 25 min blocks with 5 minutes rest.  Knowing you only have 25 minutes to write say 500 words (my average) means you get on with the task.  There are different apps available or you can buy a timer from Coles.
  4. Get off Social Media on your 5 min rest.  (Some of the more astute among you are probably sensing a theme at this point).  The temptation to get on Facebook for 5 mins is strong, but resist.  It will only break your focus and its not really a rest.  In fact, if you write on a computer like 99.9% of the world then get off screen time for the 5 min rest time.  This was some advice given to me on Facebook and it was the best advice I was given (ironic, huh?).
  5. Use your 5 minute rest for other things.  It’s best to get out of the room you are working in if you can.  I did pushups, read a Psalm, read a book (not online), made calls and checked my texts from the phone in the other room, rang a friend I hadn’t spoken to for a while (I’m a guy so these calls tend to be short), clean my desk, make a coffee.
  6. Plan your work and work your plan.  Use the first and last parts of each Pomodoro to work out what you are doing and why.  Why is this the next most important thing for you to do. And then stick to your plan.
  7. Be disciplined in the 5 min break.  The temptation is to keep going when you are on a roll, but you are doing a marathon and not a sprint.  You need to stick to the plan.
  8. Do some physical exercise.  Martial arts originally came from Buddhist Monks who needed to keep their minds sharp and so they developed exercises that would become awesome for action movies centuries later (truish story from the internet).  But the point is the same.  You need to do something with your body while you are working your mind.  Since I am not the best at this I use the 7 minute intense exercise routine.  You can find an app for that.  Ideally at the start of the day.  Think of it as an investment in focus.
  9. A new location can give fresh results.  Working in cafe or outside means you can have less distractions and new location really does change your focus a bit.  A friend of mine does all his sermon prep in his study but writes in the final talk in a cafe for this reason.  Also it means you have less access to Wifi and see rules 1 and 2.
  10.  If you are getting stuck on a section, move onto one that you can work on.  Momentum is important and keep it going for as long as you can.  When you have momentum then you can come back to the tough section with more force and it usually ‘breaks’.
  11. Get off Social Media.  If you use it, you may have forgotten that by now.  At least you will have forgotten that there were only meant to be 10 rules!