Thoughts On “Furious Love”

Thoughts On “Furious Love”

On Sunday night at Redeemer we showed Darren Wilson’s new film “Furious Love.” Several hundred people showed up – it was a great turnout. The film premiered in 500+ churches around the world last night. It was cool for us since Darren grew up at Redeemer and his parents Gary & Linda are two of our great leaders. We are biased about Darren and what he does to bring in God’s beautiful Kingdom. We all wanted the movie to be good. It was. Linda and I love it! Why?

“Furious Love” puts the heart of the Gospel and the Real Jesus in the spotlight. It’s about love. Real love. Because God is, in his essence, love. Love, God-style, is other-centered and sacrificial. God fully displayed his love in Jesus on the cross. Love intentionally descends into dark places for the sake of rescuing (“sozoing”) people held in the captivity of hatred, abuse, addiction, and all things sin-filled. While love is compassionate, and com-passion is a feeling-with others, real “love” is not essentially a self-centered quest for personal feelings. When that becomes the motive then there’s manipulation taking place. We feel used by people who “love” us mostly or solely for their own selves.

“Furious Love” does an excellent job of depicting the essential verb-nature of love. Love’s an action. Trinitarian theism explains this best. There were a few moments during the film that I had tears coming out of my eyes, because of the beauty of rescue. I now think that nothing in life captivates and moves me as much as seeing moments of human liberation. My Jesus is: the Liberator.

As one who was trained in evangelical theology, I know there are Christians who will see this movie who are like what I once was; viz., skeptics when it comes to the manifestation of the demonic. Some will watch the episodes of deliverance and, because it is in their theological genes, “reduce” the demonic deliverance to psychological factors. “A demon is causing that women to thrash around on the ground? Yeah, right!” Thirty to forty years ago I would be tempted to do this, in spite of an experience I had in my first year as a Jesus-follower that I was quite unprepared for and could not help but conclude that, “If the demonic realm is real, then surely this was it!”  Now, I’ve left reductionism far behind, except for a few moment that function like vestigial organs in me, serving no real purpose except to remind me that they once had a role in my life.

I want to help the Jesus-follower who loves Jesus as Lord but wonders about some of the “Furious Love” scenes where the claim is made that: here is a person manifesting a demonic presence. Here are some things I think may help, in no certain order.

  • At the heart of the four Gospel-stories about Jesus is the conflict with Satan and demons. I suggest that if we become theological reductionists in regard to this then we will have left the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus believed in Satan and demons, and that the act of redemption involves spiritual battle against these dark powers. Surely that ought to mean something to us as his followers?
  • I believe that at the core of any evangelical skepticism re. the demonic as explanatory of certain human behaviors is an incipient philosophical naturalism. This is part of evangelical theology’s “Enlightenment inheritance.” J.P. Moreland is interviewed in “Furious Love” and explains this well, especially so in his writings. (See herehere, and here.) Few scholars are today writing as well about the problems with philosophical naturalism as Moreland is. Because Christian theism is not indebted to philosophical naturalism we are able to not only affirm the existence of non-physical reality but experience it as well. The realm of Christian non-physical reality includes thngs like: “soul,” “consciousness,” “free will,” and “spirits” both good and evil.
  • If we affirm the reality of Satan and the demonic, then we can expect the demonic to “manifest” itself, like we see it does in the Jesus-story. It then becomes an issue of discernment as to whether or not a certain event is demonic or attributed to, say, mental illness or something like it. For me, currently, to be following the Spirit means inevitable conflict with demons. More and more I wonder about churches that never talk about this stuff.

Greg Boyd and George Otis are also interviewed in “Furious Love.” Greg especailly talks about the outrageous love of Jesus and his beautiful kingdom. George gives what I would call anthropological examples of evil that can best be attributed to demonic spirits. In that regard I believe Christian Trinitarian Theism best explains such manifestations as demonic, and that reducing all of them to physiological constraints is not helpful. “Furious Love” shows this well. Thank you Darren, for making it!

Save Me From “Fat Tuesday”

Save Me From “Fat Tuesday”

(Some “paczkis”)

“Fat Tuesday” – Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2010.

Save me from this day and all that it means. Because I want to eat every one of these. But morally I am obligated to refrain. I should not eat one bite of one of these. It is my moral duty to not eat of these things. This is because, historically, one bite leads to eating all of them, no matter what number “all of them” equals. Doing this will lead to my premature death. It is morally wrong to intentionally contribute to anyone’s premature death, including one’s own.

Here in Monroe the paczkis are the size of footballs and the weight of shot puts. Imagine eating five pazckis, each weighing 16 pounds and the size of a football. That’s 80 pounds of butter, sugar, and eggs. We need to do some self-examination here. Begin with this: why, when you just read about “80 pounds of butter, sugar, and eggs,” do you now want to stuff a handfull of butter, sugar, and eggs into your mouth?

Why, when we see this…

… do we want it badly?

That picture is of a “jelly-filled bismarck.” When we lived in Joliet, Illinois, I met the most incredible jelly-filled bismarcks and became intimately acquainted with them. It was a little pastry shop called “Flailors.” It was my habit to ingest two Flailors bismarcks at the beginning of each day. What began as a “choice” to try one became a “habit,” which means it was no longer a matter of choice but of “need,” like breathing.

But what is, the philosopher in me cries out, a “bismarck,” anyway? It “is a predominantly German and Central European doughnut made from sweet yeast dough fried in fat or oil, with a marmalade or jam filling and usually icing, powdered sugar or conventional sugar on top. They are sometimes made with chocolate, champagne, custard, mocha, or advocaat filling, or with no filling at all. The filling is injected with a large syringe after the pastry is fried.” (From here.)

“In Canada a filled doughnut is known as a “bismarck” on the Prairies; usually referring to the custard-filled variety; “jambuster” in Manitoba; and “Burlington bun” in Nova Scotia.” (Ib.)

Is it called a “Bismarck” because there was once a battleship called the “Bismarck”? As in the song “Sink the Bismarck?” The pazcki is a battleship that sails down your esophagus entering into your stomach and launches an attack of cholesterol- and fat-bombs into your arteries. In this case the bismarck eventually sinks you. As for the “Burlington bun,” it becomes attached to your buns. And I don’t know what to do with the “jambuster,” except eat it. Perhaps it busts up the cholesterol jam of my clogged arteries?

Here’s a sweet-looking, delicate “Berliner”:

What could be wrong about this?
Perhaps because it’s European it’s better for me.

Why, in God’s way of doing things, is this…

…better for you than this?

Why is this good for you…

…and this is out to get you?
Fat Tuesday is coming. Prepare.

The Soul-Maker as “Soul Mate”

The Soul-Maker as “Soul Mate”

(Heart-shaped snowflake at Monroe County Community College)

When I was in grade school, way back in the Medieval period of human history when the only texting we did was with a book, we used to write Valentine’s cards for every kid in class. We made a “Valentine box” and put our name on it. When the time came we all took our cards and placed them in everyone’s boxes. When we got home we would open the cards and read all the notes of love, plus other notes that were not loving, or notes that contained obscure messages that needed to be decoded. That, for me, was a long time ago.

Last night Linda and I went out for dinner and exchanged love-cards and spoke words of love to each other. As we did this we thought how hard Valentine’s Day is for some people we know. Like people with struggling marriages where love does not exist, where no cards with loving words will be exchanged. Like people who long to find someone to spend their life with, but as of yet no one is there. Like some Jesus-followers who “missionary date”; i.e., they fall in love with some non-Jesus-follower in hopes of leading them to Jesus, all out of their need for love. We know of many of these situations that have ended in disaster, and also of a few success stories. In the search for love, to love and be loved, a lot of people settle for less than love, or non-love.

For the Jesus-follower stuck in a divided-Kingdom marriage their moral stand against divorce makes them feel condemned in the painful situation. Make no mistake: it’s far, far better to be unmarried and passionate about Jesus then to be passionate about Jesus and married to someone who doesn’t feel the same. In fact, if you are reading this and are not married rejoice that you have not settled for a divided-Kingdom marriage!

What about love? To love, and to be loved? Here is the good news. Real, deep love is there for the taking. God, the author and source of love, loves you. And desires to be loved back by you. The Father loves you! It’s the Father’s love that is the substantial reality behind all the worldly imitations and desires. No “significant other” can come close to this. God, the Maker of your soul, is the one true “Soul Mate.”

If any marriage is excellent it is because both man and woman love, in the first place, God the Father. No marriage can give what only God can give. We can live without human love. I emphasize: the person who says, and means it literally, ‘I cannot live without you,’ puts too much on the other person. Beware of someone who believes this, since they don’t have a life outside of you. I don’t mean to be insensitive here, since if something were to happen to Linda I’ll need my friends to scrape me up off the floor and speak into my life. Yet both Linda and I loved God first before we loved each other. That still strikes me as the healthiest way to enter into a marriage. We cannot live without the Father’s love. Two “Christians” in a marriage minus the Father’s love equals disaster.

I think it is significant that, in eternity, there will be no marriages. Love, however, will be there, and it will be unlike anything we could have even imagined. Which means that it’s not necessary to be married to experience real love. “Being-married” is not God’s solution to the love problem. Heaven will be, centrally, a being-loved-and-loving affair with our Creator and Savior. Apply Christian Trinitarian theism to this and its gets very exciting, since we’ll indwell with our Three-Personed God, forever.

Accept this “Valentine” from the heart of your Maker to you: “_________, I love you!”

Marks of a Free Person

Marks of a Free Person

The person who merely or simply acts in response to an urge or feeling that they have to do something is, in that moment, not free. The person who “simply eats and drinks whenever he feels like eating and drinking, who smokes whenever he feels the urge to light a cigarette, who gratifies his curiosity and sensuality whenever they are stimulated, can consider himself a free person.” (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, 85)

Such a person is a mere automaton. The porn addict is a robot whose neural wiring controls their physical body. They are under the illusion that they are “free” to do whatever they wants, so they “choose” to spend their time looking at naked people engaging in sex acts. But this is addiction, not freedom. All addiction is bondage. Even the folk-Christian saying that one is “addicted to Jesus” is a bondage that Jesus himself would be scandalized by. Addiction is a controlling beast that always gets its own way. Even religious addiction.

“Freedom,” on Christian theism, is best exhibited when one chooses what God wants against urges, feelings, and desires. When one needs comfort, and the comfort food calls your name, choosing not to obey that voice is a mark of a free person. When God interrupts your evening agenda and calls you to go help the needy person, to get out of your jammies and put on your winter clothes and head out into the night on a rescue mission is to be free. Interruptibility for the cause of Christ is a mark of freedom.

To serve others selflessly, as God calls, is another sign of freedom, since in so doing one denies the self for the sake of God and others. To self-deny is to be free.

Can a person freely choose according to their desires? Yes. This happens when the mind and heart have been morphed into the “mind of Christ.” Such a person is one who, “whether he eats or drinks or whatever else he does, does all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) Merton writes: “This does not mean that he merely registers in his mind an abstract intention to glorify God. In means that in all his actions he is free from the superficial automatism of conventional routine. It means that in all that he does he acts freely, simply, spontaneously, from the depths of his heart, moved by love.” (Ib., 15)

The desire to eat food is a God-given desire. The desire to eat food to be put out of one’s inner misery is not a God-thing. Say “yes” to healthy eating, and enjoy. Say “no” to using food as a drug, as a God-replacement.

Jesus said “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) I can hear the chains of bondage breaking. I can see prison doors opening.

Christ Now IS Our Righteousness

Christ Now IS Our Righteousness

At Redeemer, on Sunday mornings, we have for months now been preaching on John chapters 14-17. One thing clear in all of this is that, if you are a Jesus-follower, the secret of your followership has nothing to do with legalistic, rule-oriented, back-breaking, burden-bearing, guilt-motivated human striving to be like Christ. We see in Paul’s letters how he clarifies the Jesus-motifs of John 14-17. For example, look at Eugene Peterson’s “Message” translation of 1 Cor. 1:26-31:

“Take a good look, friends, at who you were when you got called into this life. I don’t see many of “the brightest and the best” among you, not many influential, not many from high-society families. Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That’s why we have the saying, “If you’re going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God.””

The NIV translates 1 Cor. 1:31 as: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”

The Pauline ideas carry forth the central Jesus-truth found in John chs. 14-17; viz., that followers of Jesus will do the things Jesus did as they dwell in Christ (“remain” in Christ; “abide” in Christ; stay connected to Christ like a vine is connected to the branches). Christ now is our righteousness. This, therefore, has nothing to do with our striving and working hard to be, somehow, righteous as Jesus is righteous.

Andrew Murray writes, in ch. 8 of Abide in Christ: “The union to Jesus has effected a change not only in the relation to God, but in the personal state before God. And as the intimate fellowship to which the union has opened up the way is maintained, the growing renewal of the whole being makes righteousness to be his very nature. To a Christian who begins to see the deep meaning of the truth, “HE is made to us righteousness,” it is hardly necessary to say, “Abide in Him.””

Murray adds: The follower of Jesus “understands what deep meaning there is in the key-word of the Epistle to the Romans: “The righteous shall live by faith.” He is not now content with only thinking of the imputed righteousness as his robe; but, putting on Jesus Christ, and seeking to be wrapped up in, to be clothed upon with Himself and His life, he feels how completely the righteousness of God is his, because the Lord our righteousness is his. Before he understood this, he too often felt it difficult to wear his white robe all the day: it was as if he specially had to put it on when he came into God’s presence to confess his sins, and seek new grace. But now the living Christ Himself is his righteousness–that Christ who watches over, and keeps and loves us as His own; it is no longer an impossibility to walk all the day enrobed in the loving presence with which He covers His people.”

“Imputed” righteousness is: righteousness give to us as a gift, and not about us being instrinsically wonderful people. As Murray says, Romans 1:17 contains a deep truth: “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.””

If you are a Jesus-follower slow down now in your heart… take a deep breath… relax… rest… your God loves you…  God “imputes” the righteousness of Christ in you… it’s not you that is the hope of glory, but “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

From Brandon Robinson, on Murray ch. 8:

To abide, means I have nothing to achieve

A righteous person follows the law against the force of lawlessness. His actions follow the decisions about right and wrong as established by a will. A truly righteous person follows the law perfectly. He only acts to cooperate with the direction of the established will. When a person is truly righteous, the power behind the will trusts him. Since the person follows the will perfectly, he is trusted with treasures of the heart which generate the will. Consider that a person will suffer heavily to trust his heart’s treasure to an unrighteous person.

To be ‘in’ a person, this phrase, means to know my experience through the other person’s presence. The fact that this someone else is with me, takes first precedence over the faculty of my comprehension, and the quality of my person. The presence of the other person is my immediate reference point for experiencing the current circumstances, in my thought, and in my identity.

To be in a person, and for this person to account as my righteousness, means that the established will that holds me before it is too great for me. It means that this other person, who has internalized me into himself, has followed the way of the will perfectly. It means that, in my unrighteousness, this other person was willing to suffer and absorb the void between my lowly state and the will. It means that, because of this person’s suffering, I am entrusted with the treasures of a heart so sacred, they would pulverize me if I stood alone.

Jesus as my righteousness removes the lawlessness, and fulfills the law. It leaves me abiding, with His presence, with His Heart, towards His will. I have nothing to achieve, and everything to love.

Ancient 6th Century Road Discovered In Jerusalem

Ancient 6th Century Road Discovered In Jerusalem

If I had a next life on this earth I would be an archaeologist in Israel who studied philosophy and theology on the side. Here’s the latest discovery, from the Jerusalem Post.

“For the first time the main road of Jerusalem, dated 1,500 years ago, has been discovered. An Israel Antiquities Authority archeological excavation in the heart of Jerusalem’s old city confirms a description of the road on the Madaba Map – an ancient mosaic map from the sixth century CE, measuring eight by 16 meters, and located in a church in Madaba, Jordan.

The map, from the Byzantine period, is the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Land of Israel. What is notable on the map is the illustration of the entrance to Jerusalem from the west via a very large gate that led to a single, central thoroughfare on that side of the city.”

“Furious Love” – In Monroe This Sunday Night

Furious Love – At Redeemer on Feb. 14

Darren Wilson’s new film “Furious Love” will be shown at Redeemer Fellowship Church, Sunday evening, Feb. 14, 6 PM.

Tickets are $5, and are on sale at Redeemer this week (734-242-5277) and at the door. 

Darren’s first film was “Finger of God.” “Furious Love” is a journey into some of the darkest spiritual climates on earth to test the limits of God’s love. According to a website created by the film’s distributors, viewers will “witness God’s unconditional love for the demon possessed in Africa, the heroin addicts of Madrid, and the witches of Salem, Massachusetts. Watch His love in relentless pursuit of the persecuted church in India and the oppressed victims of sex trafficking in Thailand.”

A Snowblower & A Man’s Existential Priorities

A Snowblower & A Man’s Existential Priorities

(Thanks J.C. for this photo.)

I just got inside from firing up my snowblower. I had not used it since last winter. It was slow starting. It’s a manual, not electric, start-thing, so I have to pull the cord. I pulled and I pulled and pulled… until I began to remember stories of old and young shapeless men who go out on that first snowy day and clear their sidewalks and driveways even if they are not going anywhere (just because men, being what they are, must do this) and have heart attacks.

How many times did I pull the cord? I didn’t count, but can tell you that my right bicep is now twice as large as my left one. My heart is still beating, but asking me, “Just what the heck was that all about anyway?!”

What’s it about? Power, that’s what it’s about. Men must have power, exhibit power, exert power. Men must move things, lift things, and those things must be heavy. For me this is the snowblower-as-an-extension-of-my-being. I am the snowblower. I and the snowblower are one. Men made such machines to do two things: 1) to help them with their labors; and 2) to adrenaline-rush their souls. I am not sure which comes first in terms of existential priority.

So here I now am at my computer, with the sense of having accomplished something I could not have done in my own strength but did with my power-filled snowblower. I got a big, sudden cardio-workout, and blew a lot of snow, a significant portion of which got on me. In the aftermath of my great accomplishment a sense of personal well-being settles in, and all is well with this world once again.

What To Do On a Snow Day in Michigan

What To Do On a Snow Day in Michigan

(Relaxing in my back yard)

Finally – I get to use my snowblower! It’s been hard to see the thing just sitting there with nothing to do, like a wasted life whose purpose lies unfulfilled as the snowless winter days pass by. If I were a snowblower I would today rejoice at the redemption of my meaningless life!

So today…
  • abide in Jesus
  • enjoy God’s creation
  • listen to beautiful worship music
  • take some pictures
  • sip on a hot drink
  • eat fruits and vegetables
  • take a snow-walk
  • write in your journal
  • pray (prayer is talking with God about what you and he are doing together)
  • feed the birds
  • fire up the snowblower
  • meditate on the phenomenal Jesus words in Matthew chapters 5-7
  • invite a friend to see “Furious Love” at Redeemer this Sunday night (6 PM)
  • get some alone-time with God (solitude)
  • count your blessings
  • relax outside in a chair in your backyard
  • and be renewed in your spirit.

Merton On the Need for Solitude & the Irrelevancy of Many Corporate Meetings

Merton On the Need for Solitude & the Irrelevancy of Many Corporate Meetings

(Linda and I have this photograph by David Winston, called “Solitude”)

Thomas Merton, in New Seeds of Contemplation, writes:

“There are men dedicated to God whose lives are full of restlessness and who have no real desire to be alone. Interior solitude is impossible for them. They fear it. They do everything they can to escape it. What is worse, they try to draw everyone else into activities as senseless and as devouring as their own. They are great promoters of useless work. They love to organize meetings and banquets and conferences and lectures. They print circulars, write letters, talk for hours on the telephone in order that they might gather a hundred people in a large room where they will all fill the air with smoke and make a great deal of noise and roar at one another and clap their hands and stagger home at last, patting one another on the back with the assurance that they have all done great things to spread the Kingdom of God.”

Sadly, I have not only attended many such meetings but have organized some of them. But not so anymore, at least as regards organizing them. I feel myself wanting more organizational leanness so that what time God has given me can be more effectively used for his Kingdom and its advancement. This includes using the strengths and gifts I have as the Spirit leads. It’s the “as the Spirit leads” thing that is crucial here, because being-directed and led by the Spirit requires much alone-time with God. There is simply no substitute for it. And, BTW, Jesus did it. If Jesus needed alone-time with the Father to discern what the Father wanted him to do, who do we think we are not to spend much time in solitude?

So we had another meeting. What’s the Kingdom-doing it led to, if any? That is the bottom line. Do we need to have a meeting? Or, better put, does God want us to have a meeting? If so, then meet. If not, then don’t. Another meeting just for the sake of meeting has an illogical circularity about it that creates interior nothingness.

Much time spent alone with God in a focused way brings the fruit of relevant doing for God’s sake and his Kingdom.