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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Conviction July 27, 2011



Amazing. Inspiring. Awesome. Unbelievable. TRUE!
My wife and I just watched “Conviction.” Wow. What a movie.
I suppose it would still have been an excellent movie as a work of fiction, but by being a true story, it’s made all the more remarkable.
Strong love, faith, perseverance, and incredible sacrifice are all on display here.

“Conviction” stars Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis and Peter Gallagher.
It’s the story of Betty Anne Waters, who spends around two decades going to law school and becoming a lawyer for the sole purpose of proving her brother innocent of the murder for which he was convicted. Talk about conviction!
It’s also the story of a “justice system” that doesn’t like admitting to mistakes, as well as a story of the advent of DNA evidence and Barry Scheck’s “Innocence Project”.

Yes, there is a lot of profanity in this movie. But what is truly profane is the corruption of those who willfully twisted the facts, and procured perjury in order to get a conviction.

They don’t whitewash the fact that the man found guilty was often a short-tempered obnoxious jerk. Rockwell gives a performance that shows us a man it’s hard to be compassionate toward. But he is still a man falsely accused.
Had he been in a state where the death penalty was in effect, he would have been dead before his sister had time to exonerate him.

Hundreds of convictions have been overturned due to DNA evidence. We’ll never know how many hundreds or thousands of innocent people have been “proven” guilty but the lawyers, found guilty by the jurors, sentenced guilty by the judges, and put to death as guilty by the executioners.
There are many who think this “collateral damage” is acceptable in order to keep the death penalty in place for those they believe “deserve” it.
I am NOT among them. I’m pretty sure most of them would think differently were it their son or daughter wrongly sentenced. The possibility of even ONE person wrongly convicted and put to death is reason enough to abolish capital punishment.

All the performances in “Conviction” are top-notch. My favorite was probably the few, but excellent minutes occupied by Juliet Lewis.
I don’t recall hearing of this movie at the theaters, but I’m very glad I found it. It was time well spent.
Buy, rent, or borrow this movie.

— df

Buy the movie.  Click HERE.


Here’s a CBS news article about the real story: Read HERE.

 

The Gods Aren’t Angry July 23, 2011



“So, There’s this cavewoman…”

Thus starts this wonderfully educational, informative, thought-provoking, and entertaining presentation.
As usual, Rob weaves theology, history, culture, and philosophy into a beautiful verbal tapestry, where we learn of various religions, as well as the proposed beginning of religion.
We discover the nature of God along with pre-biblical, as well as biblical, characters.

There’s a positively refreshing and, somewhat freeing, understanding of the story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac. It’s right in tune with McLaren’s teaching of the evolving understanding of God. Not that God changes, but our understanding of Him has, and must.  Rob helps us enter in to Abraham’s mind-set, and see how God was showing himself as incredibly different from the other “gods” of Abraham’s day.

New light is also shed on the incident of Jesus in the temple with the whip.
[So many use this story to justify violent behavior. I’ve frequently stated that nowhere in the text does it say or indicate that the whip ever made contact with a person, thus causing bodily harm. Jesus rebuked his disciples for that kind of action. To do so himself would have been contradictory to everything he taught and held to be sacred.]
Anyway, Mr. Bell, again using history and the culture of the day, helps us see what may have actually been going on here.

We, at one point, get into a good discussion of the book of Hebrews.  We see how radical this book was in its time and setting.

There’s so much more he goes into in this approximately 90 minute production.
At the end, he brings it all home in a way that timeless truths, and a love of God, can be applied today, in our world, in ways that truly matter.

As would be expected, much controversy emerged over the content of this video.  But, as one blogger noted:
“The watchdoggies didn’t see the gospel because they weren’t looking for the gospel.
They were looking for the reformed religion they’ve invented to make themselves feel better.”
When those “watchdoggies” start howling, that’s a pretty good sign there’s something worth listening to.

— df

Buy the video.  Click HERE.

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What others have said:

Rob Bell does an amazing job of weaving historical narratives and Christian and Jewish literature together with contemporary questions about faith and what it means to be a follower of Jesus in a pluralistic and postmodern culture. You will find this video presentation to be refreshing and challenging.
— C. Lambeth

Loving God and loving one’s neighbor go hand in hand, not just in word but in deed. The beauty of Bell’s vision is that the things he’s relating could be done by anyone. You don’t need an MDiv to change someone’s world. You don’t need a certificate to make things better for someone in need. I think Rob Bell is purposefully singing alto on many issues because all the parts of the music are beautiful and worth focusing on. Some people listen to Rob Bell and can only hear a failure to stick to the melody. But I hear someone who really understands the melody and can make it even more appealing to people.
— John Sexton

Buy the video.  Click HERE.

The thing I most enjoyed about it was his constant comparisons to Old Testament sacrifices and the Grace of God. This release explained what the Gospel is in a way that I have never thought of before. I am honestly thinking (as a pastor) that if you have someone with doubts in the existence or even love of God, allowing them to borrow “The Gods Aren’t Angry” and “Everything is Spiritual” may dismiss their doubts and get them on the path they need to be. Thank God for teachers like Rob Bell who speak in a way that even the biggest biblical novice could comprehend 10,000 years of history.
— Matthew C. Hafer

Rob once again turns Christianity (as we Westerner’s know it) on its proverbial head with his lecture: THE GODS AREN’T ANGRY. I found this DVD not only to be a breath of fresh air, but couldn’t stop saying “WOW!” for 15 minutes after it had ended. You will be inspired.
— David Margulis

Buy the video.  Click HERE.

 

Review of “He Loves Me” December 12, 2009

“He Loves Me.”  A simple title.  Actually, so simple it kept me from reading this Wayne Jacobsen book for years, even though I’ve enjoyed his other writings, audio, blog, etc.  I mean, it’s a book about God’s love.  What Christian doesn’t know about God’s love?!?!  I know His love for me is based on His grace.  I know it’s not by merit.  I know…

Well, this book is SO not as simple as its name, and yet, it is.  One of the many things I’ve learned over the last 10 years, is how much we say we know (and sincerely believe we do) that we really don’t;  at least not the way we should.  This book is yet another journey into learning what we’re sure we already know.
It looks at the Cross, not as an act of judgment, but as an act of love.  We’ve too long reduced the Father and Son to some schizophrenic “good-cop, bad-cop” god.  {The Father was really, really mad, so Jesus had to jump in the way to keep us from getting beaten up.}  Yet Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.”
Hmmm.  Something is amiss.

I’m amazed at how fearful of grace many Christians really are.  Always afraid of what someone else will get away with.  Afraid of losing their ability to use religion to manipulate and control others in the name of God.
God may have wrath, but God IS love.  His wrath is against ungodliness and sin, but never against you.  “He Loves You.”  This is about learning to live loved.  It’s about choosing relationship over the fear of hell.  It’s about no longer trying to earn points with God.  That’s something many Christians say they don’t do, but listen to them talk very long, and you’ll see otherwise.
There’s a very small portion called “A Touchdown For Jesus.”  It may help you rethink what kind of testimony really gives God glory.

“He Loves Me” looks at many facets of the diamond that is God’s love.
I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  Just add this book  to your personal library.  You won’t regret it.
— dave
To Buy “He Loves Me,” Click HERE.

Here are some excerpts to wet your reading appetite.

We often view sin as evil action alone and miss the nature of sin itself. At its root, sin is simply grabbing for ourselves what God has not given us. In this realm, our best intentions can draw us into as much bondage as our most indulgent desires.
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We don’t enter into this kingdom by a sinner’s prayer, going forward at a religious gathering, or reciting an orthodox creed, but by learning to trust who he is and by living in that trust no matter what life hurls at us.
No longer oppressed by the need to appease God, we are free to live in his love, and that can completely transform everything about the way we think and live.
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There is absolutely no condemnation or guilt for anyone who lives in him. Now you can be with your Father just as you are, still in the process of transformation, and not have to hide anything. Those who are o longer influenced by shame can finally live authentic lives.
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When Jesus asked people to “repent and believe” the gospel, he was not asking them to be sorry for their sins and embrace an orthodox theology.  He was asking them to forfeit their own agenda and embrace his.  That’s the invitation to the kingdom.  It is not whether we want to go to heaven or hell, but whether we want to trust God or continue trusting ourselves.
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In every situation you’ll ever encounter, you will be offered two options in prayer: “Father, save me,” or “Father, glorify your name!” One will lead you to frustration and disillusionment, the other to the greatest wonders in God’s heart.
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I don’t think there has been a time since the Middle Ages when the practice of Christianity was so at odds with what it means to live in the life of Christ.
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His message was not “Come to God or you’ll burn in hell.” His message was “God’s kingdom has come near you and you can become a participant in it. You have a Father who loves you.”
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As you grow increasingly certain that his love for you is not connected to your performance, you will find yourself released from the horrible burden of doing something for him.

I used to be driven to do something great for God.

I’m not driven anymore.  I haven’t tried to do anything great for God in more than a decade, and yet I have seen him use my life in ways that always exceed my expectations.  What changed?  I did, by his grace.
My desire to do something great for God served me far more than it ever did him.  It kept me too busy to enjoy him and distracted me from the real ministry opportunities he brought across my path every day.

God’s work won’t be thwarted by my lack of participation.  He will touch people anyway, but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

His focus on touching people instead of managing programs has revolutionized my view of ministry.

People who learn to live out of a genuine love relationship with the God of the universe will live in more power, more joy, and more righteousness than anyone motivated by fear of his judgment.
To Buy it, Click HERE.

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Mercy, Not Sacrifice

Since Adam’s fall we have come to picture God not as a loving Father inviting us to trust him, but an exacting sovereign who must be appeased. When we start from that vantage point we miss God’s purpose on the cross. For his plan was not to satisfy some need in himself at his Son’s expense, but rather to satisfy a need in us at his own expense.

But I am deeply bothered by the thought that in some way God was able to separate himself at the cross. The popular understanding of the cross seems to be that God the Father executed wrath on God the Son while standing at some discrete distance.

Such thinking not only denies the essence of God’s nature but then distorts what happened at the cross. Paul wrote that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ…” God was no distant observer, but a participant. He didn’t send Jesus to do what he would not do; but God himself acted through Jesus to bring about our redemption.

Some have taken Jesus’ cry that his Father had forsaken him to mean that at the darkest moment, the Father had to turn his back on the Son. God cannot bear to look on sin, they argue, so that when our sins were laid on him, God had to turn his face away from his Son.

God has never run from sinful humanity. He didn’t hide from Adam and Even in the Garden. They hid from him as he sought them out. It is not God who cannot bear to look on sin, but that we in our sin can’t bear to look on God. He’s not the one who hides. We are. God is powerful enough to look on sin and be untainted by it. He has always done so. He did so at the cross.

To Buy “He Loves Me,” Click HERE.

Here are some other reviews:

Do Yourself a Favor and Read This Book
Excellent insight. A logical, biblical foundation for a new framework for understanding God’s intended relationship with His children. Love, rather than fear. Even if you don’t consider your relationship with God to be based on fear or “appeasement” (I didn’t either), this book will challenge you to reassess many of the traditions and approaches that dominate many in the Evangelical Christian Church. However, the book is not written from a critical point of view. A freeing book. Approach with an open mind. This book is having a strong, positive impact on my life. I have recommended it highly to several friends.
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The Best Book I’ve Read On The Topic of God’s Love For Me
I’ve enjoyed a meaningful relationship with God for 37 years, and have read extensively on the topic of God’s love for individual people. This is definitely the best, most specific, and down-to-earth book I’ve read on this topic. It has impacted my life and how I view God. It’s very freeing indeed.
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“For those of us who are longing to ‘live loved,’ I cannot recommend a better follow-up to The Shack than this book. It is an exploration and adventure into the heart of the God we hoped was truly there, and who loves each of us in particular with an everlasting love.” (Wm. Paul Young, Author of “The Shack.”)

To Buy “He Loves Me,” Click HERE.
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