Wednesday, December 30, 2009

HDTV and my sin

Today my in-laws got a new TV with High Definition. What a marvel of modern technology. Now movies that seemed to have a gloss are crystal clear and you can now see the pimple on Brett Favre's face when he throws a touchdown (or recently, fumbles!!).
While basking in its glory a friend said, "It is almost too clear, we can now see everyone's imperfections." My friend was right. One of the appealing aspects of television is that you enter a surreal world where everyone is good looking and their problems only come out on Entertainment. But when you have HD you can see how long they had to work at getting ready for work (make-up, hair spray, lighting, etc) and realize that they are just people!
I think many of our churches need a touch of HD on Sunday morning. We come to church with our best clothing, hair all done, and the custom answer, "good", when someone asks how we are. However, we are far from well. We all have hidden sins, much on each of our plates, and we usually don't let out our real feelings in a fear of being a burden on others. In all reality, we are all a mess (Romans 3:23).
Although we in our world don't see all the mess, God sees in HD and knows our sins and imperfections. He probably wishes He didn't have that kind of vision. Yet, when he does see that mess in faith in Jesus, Christ stands in front of us and the Father only sees perfection. The HD vision looks only to Christ and He stands in front of us all the way to His kingdom.
May we confess our imperfections and allow Him to see us only in the perfect HD of Christ.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Alright, here is my first Vikings talk in some time

To be a Vikings fan means to be humbel. I have learned this since my arrival in Wisconsin. Since us Vikings fans know that you never have a sure thing or can even hope for it, we usually keep our mouths shut when we are successful and are more vocal when we are bad. Which is why this year I have rarely brought up the Vikings, even with a great record (remember 1998?). Now they once again lost a game to a lackluster opponent and it is painfully obvious that momentum is not on their side.
Maybe this is God just proving that us Vikings fans don't need a Super Bowl to be happy and also to be reminded that there is more to life!!!
Lord have mercy

Monday, December 28, 2009

So you don't want to go to church anymore....Review and thoughts

I just finished reading a thought provoking novel by Jake Colsen, "So you don't want to go to church anymore."
The book highlights a made up pastor named Jake how is struggling with ministry, even though he is leading a huge evangelical congregation. In these struggles he meets a man named John that leads him on a journey to "experience" a life following Jesus that is separate from the church. Eventually he leaves his pastoral position, is part of a house church, and has an enlightening Jesus filled life.
This book reveals some glaring issues within the pastoral ministry and ministry within the church. Jake was feeling empty because much of what he was doing was guilting individuals to serve on church boards while he was trying to impress everyone with technology and flashy music. And what was lost was Christ. People were remember the rules (worship only on Sunday, memorizing Bible verses, serving on boards, coming to church on time) and forgetting the love and grace of Jesus.
This is a big concern even within our Lutheran circles. We often try to "fill" boards, ask for volunteers, organize activities, all the while people aren't desiring to grow in faith, but keep busy. Many people end up burned out, especially pastors, and the moment they are off the board they run away or go to another church due to more programs or nicer people. This is a MAJOR problem in all of our churches. When people discuss faith do they mention Jesus or the number of boards they served on. This struggle is a vital one for all churches to admit. Are we promoting churchianity or Christianity?
However, this is where things go very bad in the book. The ending solution was basically discounting the church insitution as a simply an institution without Christ. The pastor ends up leaving the church and promotes an experience of disorganized groups as a better alternative. Now, I must admit this is quite tempting at times. There are only so many church meetings one can attend before a house church with no rules seems awfly nice. Yet, the church is not all meetings or rules, but the means by which His gifts are given. Specifically the gift of the Gospel and Sacraments. Do we overdo our workload for the sake of looking busy? All the time. However, we don't need to get rid of the whole church system, but bring our churches to look to Jesus.
This might mean less meetings, it might mean less "fellowship" gatherings, it might mean more Bible study, it might mean more prayer, it might mean more offerings of the Lord's Supper, but it doesn't mean getting rid of all that the church has to offer.

On the road again...but why?

Yesterday morning our family traveled from North Prairie, WI all the way to Alexandria, MN. It was around a 9 hour trip in a van that is strikingly smalll with three small kids and enough packaging to last a few weeks. There were threats of snow, the parents were tired, the kids wanted to move, dad just got done with the busiest time of year in ministry, and we arrived around 8:00 p.m. to grandma and grandpa's house just in time for bed and time for around 40 hours of being in one place. Talk about stressful and in many ways crazy.
So why do we do this? Why drive such a long time with children for such a short time period? 30 years ago nobody would be driving this far with small children (at least that is what everyone tells us).
It is simple: vocatio (vocation). When I was born God gave me a family that would always be my family, we don't choose our families, God does. A family made to love me when I was unlovable, take care of me when helpless, and to instruct me in the ways of the Lord. On top of that when my wife entered our family, she became part of this same vocatio. In the same way, I am called to love them in the same way and God in his wisdom brings that natural love through the ups and downs of life. We get together out of love for one another and the love God has for us. Plus, let's be serious, grandma and grandpa want to be their grandchildren.
May we all enjoy our time together in the God given vocation of family and realize that even though there might be tough times, God still has brought us as families together by His grace

Friday, December 25, 2009

What's on the mind this Christmas?

I love Christmas. However, I have found that with small children, my mind runs in 8 million directions this time of year. On top of the daily activities (diapers, naps, getting dressed, dinner, dishes, etc) there are many other things I think and worry about (school choices, homeschooling, usage of computers, internet, health, nutrition). Obviously include my vocation as pastor and your whole world is turned upside down.

This is why the words on Christmas day hit me extra hard this year, "“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" We sing these words every "non-communion" worship service in the Gloria Patri. I have chanted it hundreds of times in my 3 1/2 years of ministry, but it really hits home in my relatively chaotic life that the peace of God is here.

And if he brings the peace of salvation in a baby boy, how is he not also going to take care of us through whatever it might be (even late night awakenings from my son). May this peace be upon us all this Christmas.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Light of the World has come...

Another powerful Christmas eve. This year we added an extra service at 5:00 p.m. The last few years we have been packed at our 7:00 service and we figured why not try it.

We we base things off of pure numbers it was more than success. Over 300 in both services and ended up with more at 5:00. Once again the candlelight singing of "Silent Night" was an emotional time thinking of what Jesus gave up to be our Savior.

May the peace of Christ rest upon all people this evening and the Spirit work in our hearts.

Merry Christmas

"Unto us a is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11

May the presence of Christ be upon us all this day and tomorrow as we celebrate and live under His grace knowing that He has dwelt among us.

Thanks be to God for His unending mercy

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Struggling up the hill...

It begins. The snow is falling in Minnesota and Wisconsin conveniently right before Christmas. Ever wonder, "God what are you doing? This is the night that many inactives come to church, why send this snow?" But it isn't up to us, God is leading by His grace.

Tonight my wife and I went out, even with all the snow, and found it interesting on the way home witnessing a small pizza delivery truck attempting to go up a hill with rear wheel drive. He tried everything: going in circles, having someone push, etc, but to no avail. Either the pizza was not delivered or they had to change vehicles.

This Christmas may this remind us of our lives as sinful human beings. We are trying to make it up the hill to salvation constantly, if not to find salvation to find acceptance in our world. But the more we try (works, help, love, etc), the worse it gets and to no avail. The only chance to be delivered from this work is for someone to pick us up and do the work for us. This the work our Lord has done for us on the cross and He is the one who carries us through everything as we struggle up the hill of life.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12 Days of Christmas

The Origin of the Twelve Days of Christmas
You're all familiar with the Christmas song, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" I think. To most it's a delightful nonsense rhyme set to music. But it had a quite serious purpose when it was written.
It is a good deal more than just a repetitious melody with pretty phrases and a list of strange gifts.

Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829, when Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England, were prohibited from ANY practice of their faith by law - private OR public. It was a crime to BE a Catholic.
"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England as one of the "catechism songs" to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith - a memory aid, when to be caught with anything in *writing* indicating adherence to the Catholic faith could not only get you imprisoned, it could get you hanged, or shortened by a head - or hanged, drawn and quartered, a rather peculiar and ghastly punishment I'm not aware was ever practiced anywhere else. Hanging, drawing and quartering involved hanging a person by the neck until they had almost, but not quite, suffocated to death; then the party was taken down from the gallows, and disembowelled while still alive; and while the entrails were still lying on the street, where the executioners stomped all over them, the victim was tied to four large farm horses, and literally torn into five parts - one to each limb and the remaining torso.
The songs gifts are hidden meanings to the teachings of the faith. The "true love" mentioned in the song doesn't refer to an earthly suitor, it refers to God Himself. The "me" who receives the presents refers to every baptized person. The partridge in a pear tree is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In the song, Christ is symbolically presented as a mother partridge which feigns injury to decoy predators from her helpless nestlings, much in memory of the expression of Christ's sadness over the fate of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem! Jerusalem! How often would I have sheltered thee under my wings, as a hen does her chicks, but thou wouldst not have it so..."
The other symbols mean the following:
2 Turtle Doves = The Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = The first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

Friday, December 18, 2009

Missional Lutheran Church

Lutheran and missional? I think most people within the Lutheran church do not see those things being simultaneous. After all, most of us have grown due to immigration and maybe a little through education. But can we as Lutherans be missional or is it a lost cause?

One of our biggest problem as Lutherans is what I call the "Debbie Downer" mentality (made famous with SNL). We think, "our theology doesn't allow us to be missional, we focus too much on confessions, and we have no chance." It is too bad that we place "missional" above understanding theology. Or thinking they are separate things. This is why A.L. Barry bolded professed as our President, "Be the message right, get the message out." If we don't have it right, then why get it out?

Mark Driscoll in his book, "Vintage Church" defines a missional church in the following ways.
A Missional church is:
1) Biblical-believes in the inerrant Scriptures
2) Practices and preaches repentance-bring the law
3) Goes into culture-knows the community and engages it
4) Contextualizes the Gospel-brings Jesus to people
5) Loves singles AND couples
6) Trains Christians as missionaries-each person a witness to their surroundings
7) Supernatural-they expect miracles
8) Countercultural-Lives by Scripture and not culture
9) Multiplies-more churches and groups
10) Messy-a bunch of sinners

He does a great job defining what a missional church looks like, but I found one striking thing missing-Gospel. I'm NOT saying that Driscoll denies the Gospel, but we as Lutherans would confess that all people need to hear that the Gospel is for YOU and to receive His precious forgiveness. In John 20 Jesus tells his disciples to proclaim forgiveness to all who repent. Driscoll as a good reformed guy, he loves calling for repentance (as do we). But he does fall short in focusing on the forgiveness piece. Big problem for us Lutherans.

So what does a missional Lutheran church look like?

1) Messy-Driscoll puts it at the end, we would put it at the beginning. No perfect people allowed.
2) Practices and preaches repentance-Brings the law and show their sin.
3) Vigorously proclaims forgiveness when repentance occurs (I John 1:8-9). Show us a Savior.
4) Goes into culture-Know the community like the back of their hand. And serves that community for what they need.
5) Brings Jesus to people-Applies the Gospel to all situations: couples, singles, children, and the eldery.

When things are understood in a church they will automatically love singles and couples, they will want to be missionaries, they will be countercultural, they will be biblical, they will multiply, but it will be with the focus as to what Jesus tells us: Forgive as I have forgiven you.

Once again, it doesn't begin with the goal to be a HUGE church. But begins with Jesus. When our hearts are centered on Christ, the church will grow in His time.

Lord have mercy

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Vintage Missional Church

What does a missional church look like? For the last 20 years, "missional" has become a buzz word for many big churches, many of which don't actually do mission, they do programs. Basically, if the church is big, therefore, they do mission.
Yet, I have seen many churches that are huge, but are not engaged in proclaiming faith, little mercy ministries, doesn't know the culture around them but has created its own subculture and few people actually know each other. Doesn't seem real missional to me.
So what does it mean to be missional? Mark Driscoll attempts to answer this question and I thought he does a good biblcal analysis.
A Missional church is:
1) Biblical-believes in the inerrant Scriptures
2) Practices and preaches repentance-bring the law
3) Goes into culture-knows the community and engages it
4) Contextualizes the Gospel-brings Jesus to people
5) Loves singles AND couples
6) Trains Christians as missionaries-each person a witness to their surroundings
7) Supernatural-they expect miracles
8) Countercultural-Lives by Scripture and not culture
9) Multiplies-more churches and groups
10) Messy-a bunch of sinners
A very thorough, contemporary view of missional. What would it look like for a good Lutheran? I will cover that tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent candles and presents

Recently I have been blessed by the sharing of Advent traditions among friends and congregation members. Growing up, our family did not really have many traditions during the Advent season. This was probably due to our congregation not having Advent services and did not make a big deal of the Advent season. Nor did we have many "Christian" traditions with Christmas besides worship on Christmas eve.

Three traditions that our family is trying this year to prepare our family for the coming of Christ:

1) Advent Candles at home. Each week of Advent we are now lighting the candle which corresponds to the candles lit in church (purchased from Northwestern Publishing House). After supper we light the candles while singing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." We have a short reading from a kid's Advent book and then before blowing out the candle we sing, "Silent Night." This has helped our children learn the hymns and gets them excited after supper for the "birthday party" for Jesus.

2) Number of presents for the kids. While speaking to a good Baptist family, they commented on how their children only receive three gifts for Christmas. I said, "Oh, any particular reason?" "Yes" they said, "If Jesus only got three, then we don't deserve anymore." Although this tradition is not something to use in a legalistic way, it does help keep us all pointed to the reason for Christmas and hopefully fends off a little bit of materialism. This year the Finnern kids will only get three presents each (more than likely they will not be that big either).
I'm hoping for a new tie!

3) Present for Jesus/other child. We continue the tradition of St. Nick (not Santa) of giving this time of year through stockings. We have stockings up for all the members of our family and then an extra one for Jesus. We will gather letters and small gifts (stickers, trinkets that can be sent by letter) and we will then send the gifts to our sponsor child in Kenya through Compassion International. The kids are very excited about getting presents for Jesus and a great teaching moment of how when we help others, we are in essence serving Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46).

Hey, our family doesn't have it all figured out. Too many mistakes made here at the Finnern household. I would love more input from other families of ways to keep Christ at the center.

Happy Advent

Monday, December 14, 2009

Lutheran Vintage Church

What is the church? Is the church Synod, inc or the congregation? Is it two guys talking about Jesus or is it only Sunday worship? Is it the least sinful of people Sunday or the sinners? How do the Sacraments play a part?

Mark Driscoll offers a relatively simple thought to the visible church in his book, "Vintage Church":

1) Regenerated believers in Christ (I Corinthians 14:22-25)
2) Qualified Leadership (Acts 2:42, Acts 14:23, 20:28)(Mainly qualified men)
3) Preaching and worship (Acts 2:42-47)
4) Rightly administered sacraments of Baptism and Lord's Supper
5) Spirit unity (united by the Holy Spirit in Christ)
6) Holiness (When sin ocurs, repentance is next and discipline is administered).
7) Great Commandment to love
8) The Great Commission to evangelize

Driscoll comes from a Reformed background and it shows in the way he speaks of regenerated believers (made outside of Baptism) and Holiness (as if we have a chance). However, I would say the rest has proof according to Scripture. Yet, I do think that the church can be even more simplified. I propose a simple, Lutheran understanding of church can be in this order:

(AC=Augsburg Confession and SC=Small Catechism)
1) Baptized believers who are deeply sinful and need Jesus (AC VIII)
2) The Gospel purely proclaimed (AC VII) and people who hear the words of Jesus (Luther)
3) Sacraments administered by God's command (they do something and regenerate hearts)(AC VII)
4) Repentance is called for (AC XII) and forgiveness is pronounced ALL the time (SC, Confession)
5) Acts of Mercy are a part of the work of the church in response to the Gospel (AC VI)

This understanding points us to our sinfulness and the MERCY of Christ, not only to his Sovereignty.

Man, it is disgustingly simple. I am appalled as an American, but as a Christian, it really is that simple. Be baptized, hear the words of Jesus, repent, and be forgiven. PERIOD.

As Lutherans we might not have the biggest churches or the most amazing programs. But first and foremost, what we do have is Christ and Him crucified. The one whom we follow humbly and let Him do the work.

Lord have mercy

Saturday, December 12, 2009

What is the church? Scripture, Confessions, and Mark Driscoll

What is the church? This is the age old question. In Mark Driscoll's book, "Vintage Church" he interviewed a number of prominent evangelical pastors how they would define the church and NONE of them had an answer. My assumption is that such guys as Bill Hybel and Rick Warren would on the top of that list.
But what is the church? Mark Driscoll attempts to define it in ways that I think brings together more facets than even our own confessions. He says the church is the following:
1) Regenerated believers in Christ (I Corinthians 14:22-25)
2) Qualified Leadership (Acts 2:42, Acts 14:23, 20:28)(Mainly qualified men)
3) Preaching and worship (Acts 2:42-47)
4) Rightly administered sacraments of Baptism and Lord's Supper
5) Spirit unity (united by the Holy Spirit in Christ)
6) Holiness (When sin ocurs, repentance is next and discipline is administered).
7) Great Commandment to love
8) The Great Commission to evangelize
This definition is much broader than our usual definition "Gospel preached and sacraments administered accordingly." However, there would be disagreement in certain things and also I wonder how do we determine regenerated? What does he mean by Sacraments? What does it mean to be holy?
How we define church will greatly determine how we do church. Ever felt that the church is going on about 80 different directions? How we define the church determines what we do. I will be evaluating these statements by Mark Driscoll in the next few days. How would you define the church?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Santa: the most unloving of everyone this Christmas?

"You better not shout you better not cry, Santa Claus is coming to town. He's making a list, checking it twice, gonna find out whose naughty or nice, Santa Claus is coming to town. He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you're a awake, he knows when you've been bad or good so be good for goodness sake."

When at a Youth Gathering the whole assembly knew this common Christmas carol, but most could not tell you the first lines of "A Mighty Fortress." That aside, how much Gospel does Santa bring? Alright, he makes a list of good and bad, he watches over you to see if you have been nice, and you better not shout or cry or ELSE, he will not bring you a gift.

What is even more fascinating about the Santa dynamic is that we live in a over-Gospeled society (no law), but we at the same time promote the most law oriented, judging figure in all of history: Santa the Claus!

Why promote a law monger when we can promote the Word made flesh? Why promote one that can't be everyone all the time for one who only shows up one night a year? Why promote a judge with no Gospel, when we can promote the one who kills us in the law, but then lifts us up into His arms? Why promote a sinful Santa, when we can promote a sinless God who has done it all?

Am I saying NO SANTA ever? Not necessarily (even though that is what our family does), BUT are we celebrating Santa more than Jesus? If so, why is that a problem?

Lord have mercy

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Got a worship problem?

"I don't go to church, but I'm tight with God." A person recently told me. By whose standards I asked, "My own." "How do you know you are right?" I responded. "How do you know you are right?" they asked, "By the Bible!" I said with an awe of silence following.

How many people look upon the church this way. The church doesn't seem to be a worship place for many people, it is a place to get what they want. If it isn't what they want, it isn't really worship.

I think today's problem isn't a church problem, it is a worship problem. And most people are worshiping everything under the sun rather than God. A couple lives together before marriage, they are worshiping each other. A family that allows the sports season to dictate their attendance, worships sports. A person who shows horses on the weekends and never goes to church, worships the horse. And the pastor who gets more excited about drinking Dr. Pepper than reading the Bible, worships Dr. Pepper.

No wonder God places the 1st commandment with the big ball buster, "You shall have no other gods." What do you worship right now? Don't try to explain away your worship habits, don't justify them, come to the cross, repent, and receive God's forgiveness and sin no more. No more excuses. Who are you gonna worship? May it be the lordship of Christ!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Juno and Pro-life

When my wife and I saw Juno we were impressed with its humor, array of actors (Jennifer Gardner and Jason Bateman) and it's filming in the great state of Minnesota.

Juno highlights some very disturbing themes. It promotes pre-marital/casual sex, dysfunctional families, and allowing adoptions to a family without a husband/wife. These things are a major problem in our society today and must be addressed in a merciful and serious ways. When I speak of these problems, I am not endorsing these values and neither am I suggesting that everyone should watch this movie.

However, there is a distinctively pro-life message. It is simple: girl and boy have casual sex, girl gets pregnant. She is about to have an abortion a girl outside the clinic says, "Your baby has finger nails" and she leaves the clinic because she realizes it is a person. She puts the child up for adoption and her and the father stick together in love.

This shows us an opportunity and the place where there needs to be work. Today's movies and shows uplift life (Psalm 139, Jeremiah 1:5), however, they do not support sexual morality put into place in creation (Genesis 2:24). Will we have to fight the abortion debate as much as in the past, I would argue no. But our new problem will be things like sexuality and family dynamics (both of which are much larger than abortion by itself).

Tomorrow I will end with Finding Nemo and ways that we can promote the pro-life message and take on the new problems that God is calling us to address.

Lord have mercy

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A baptismal repentance...

It is with a humble and contrite heart that I come with bended knee. The last month or so I have been on a rampage of discussing movies and their input on our culture and even some discussion of how a Christian can discern these movies. In the middle of these things, I have forgotten much of what my goal is to have this blog-the daily baptismal life and God's grace. While I am evaluating movies and TV shows, people are worrying about their jobs, raising families, and have family members who are suffering with disease. My passion tends to get out of control on addressing cultural trends and not doing my calling: Jesus guy. This I repent over and pray for your forgiveness.

This week I Am going to finish my piece on the pro-life message in many current movies. From there, I will work on proclaiming Christ and addressing it to today's world.

Lord have mercy

Monday, December 7, 2009

Knocked up and pro-life

Wait a second, "Knocked up" with a pro-life message? If you saw this particular movie, you would probably be shocked that I would highlight such a flick. The movie promotes sexual immorality, idiotic men, drug use, and has very colorful language. However, it uplifts a strikingly pro-life, family oriented message. Ironic isn't it?
The basic premise is between two people: The unmotivated guy Ben Stone (Seth Rogen) and the professional woman, Alison Scott(Katherine Heigl) have a night of weakness, get their freak on without "protection" and find out she is pregnant. She is tempted by her mother and other friends to get an abortion but he adamently proclaims that this child is a human being (Wow). From there she shows an unfounded commitment to a guy with no job, no life, and little motivation. It is never revealed what happens to their relationship, but he eventually gets a job, takes his responsibility serious, and they stick together.
In the 80's the scenario would have been much different, probably having the woman give up on the guy, have the kid herself and find a cure for cancer. Or just get an abortion and become President. But this movie along with others doesn't allow abortion to enter the scenario and it is the younger people who fend off the older generation. This is a complete overhaul to the baby boomers who went in the "liberal" direction of their parents.
What this means is that while we have a MAJOR issue of healthy family relationships, promotion of drug use, and weird models of manly men, the pro-life message is prominent and strangely popular. This shows us good things to come, but also shows that much work must be done.
Lord have mercy

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pro-life movies infriltrating Hollywood? Intentional or not?-Bella

There appears to be a modern phenomenon in Hollywood that I don't think anyone ever predicted: A Pro-life message. Over the last three years many movies I have watched have bring a message that life is important, especially for children. This is a HUGE impact for the next generation. In the past movies such as "Fast Times at Ridgemount Times", "Dirty Dancing", and "Cider House Rules" and shows like the "Real World" showed abortion as a healthy alternative and in many ways the best option for EVERYONE.

The movie that has the BEST pro-life message of all movies and it very well made is called, "BELLA." Bella takes place in New York City in a Mexican Restaurant. The cook, Jose (Eduardo Verastegui) witnesses a co-worker, Nina (Tammy Blanchard) get fired and has compassion and wants to help. It was revealed to Jose that she was pregnant. It is never revealed who is the father, but the rest of the movie shows Jose's history (which is tough to watch as a parent) and his attempt to help her through the decision. The movie is greatly pro-life and the ending will tug at your heart strings. I highly suggest it for everyone.

It has been highly publicized since bella won a plethora of awards that the producers and writers were of the Roman Catholic faith. Their goal was to write and produce a high quality movie with a pro-life message. Since this movie it has become evident in our society that the pro-life message is quite popular, especially with young people. Following bella have been a number of popular movies that has an obvious pro-life message. I will highlight the following movies this week: Finding Nemo, Knocked up, Juno, and Defiance. Let me know if you have other ideas of pro-life movies.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Adam Sandler, Family, and where do we go from here?

Today wraps up my discussion on Adam Sandler and his "twist" to family oriented films. Other films such as Bedtime Stories, Splanglish, and Mr. Deeds bring to light other highlights of pointing to the importance of family and it is no doubt it emulates his own life as a husband and father.
I highlighted Adam Sandler this week to indicate a general trend of "morals" in movies. What is different than the 1950's model of "morals" is that everything surrounding the moral behavior is a bizarre twist of immoral stuff.
Adam Sandler's movies point us to a better family time, but it does not address the problem of language, sexual immorality, and addiction. This is kind of the plea for many of today's writers. Bring a main moral point, while making everything else look like the good immoral movies of the 80's and 90's.
What I think is missing from Adam Sandler's movies is two fold: 1) The call of purity of men and women outside of marriage, and 2) The call of the man to be the religious head of the household. Neither of which I believe I will ever see in my lifetime. So that is something we need to show in our churches and our homes or else our families and children will follow much of the bad stuff from these movies.
This next week I will highlight how today's movies point to a pro-life stance, even with other theological and morality issues. Can't wait

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Adam Sandler, family, and Chuck and Larry?

Alright before anyone thinks I am crazy and losing my theological touch, I am going to discuss family and "I now pronounce you Chuck and Larry", but I once again tell everyone that I am NOT saying I agree with the uplifting of homosexual marriage, the womanizing that Adam Sandler is part of, or the downgrading of Christianity.
The movie portrays two men on the NYFD, Chuck (Adam Sandler) and Larry (Kevin James). Larry has two children and had lost his wife in the no so distant past. He was having a tough time paying the bills for his kids and keeping things afloat. So they had a brilliant idea-"Domestic Partnerships." If they claimed to be gay they could receive benefits and just have to live together!
Throughout the movie it was a battle of Chuck and Larry trying to "act" gay, but not be gay. They also became part of another group of gay people that they realized were nice people and cared about them. And realized the people who denied their friendship, maybe weren't the best of friends.
How I see this relating to family and uplifting the family structure is that both of these men understood that gay marriage was in essence wrong. But Larry wanted to provide so badly for his family that he was willing to do whatever it took. And his friend Chuck, loved Larry's kids so much that he was willing to do that also. It reminds me of the sacrifices we all have to make as parents. Sometimes we need to give up our dreams because it isn't in the cards. Sometimes we have to get up late at night, change diapers, deal with loud noises all the time, because of the Godly vocation given as parents. And as a friend of others, we are called to uplift them as parents to help in any way we can.
Do I suggest anyone watch this movie? Probably not. But it has some gems to look at for our own lives in God's kindom.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Adam Sandler, Family, and Reign over me

One of my recent favorite movies was "Reign over me." It was strangely refreshing because it did not have a "political" agenda, no real sexual immorality, and ended the movie with tension as opposed to solving all issues.

The movie is best summed up by mourning the loss of loved ones. Charles Fineman (Adam Sandler) meets up with his college roomate, Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) randomly and they begin a unique friendship. Fineman seems to live a strange life (late nights, no job, remodels his kitchen each week, and no friends). And it was revealed that his wife and three girls were killed in the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

What was grasped perfectly was the deep pain Fineman was feeling even after the million dollar repayment and a number of years after the fact. It showed the deep love a father has for his children (especially his girls) and his wife. As a young parent myself, you felt as if you were in his shoes and wonder if I would be much different. Adam Sandler captured perfectly how our family is the essence of our existence, our wives are our better halves, and our children are such a gift that if they were gone one day, it would shake our world. Even if we sing "A Mighty Fortress" and sing with energy, "take my goods, wife, or spouse" Christ is still the center. Our whole world would be shattered.

All we can do is come to the Throne of Grace and ask God for strength for what comes next, and look to him for mercy when we need it.