Random reactions to “Batman v. Superman — Dawn of Justice.”

If you’re even a semi-regular reader of the 4thDaveBlog, you know I’m a little bit of a comics fan. I would never call myself a serious student of the genre, but I’m learning more and more as the years progress. I own a few trade paperbacks and most of the more recent film versions of these stories. That said, I definitely have my favorite characters: Superman on the DC Comics side, and Captain America on the Marvel Comics side. (Maybe I can talk about why that is, another time.)

So obviously, 2016 is a big movie year for me, as both of my favorites have major motion pictures in which they are pitted against former or future friends. First up this year was “Dawn of Justice,” a.k.a. “the studio got impatient and wanted to hustle the storyline along to set up the Justice League.”

In the days leading up to the release of SvB, the internet was ablaze with TERRIBLE reviews from professional movie critics (admittedly, not the target market, for the most part). People who were anticipating a great follow-up to 2013’s Man of Steel were worried that DC had failed to deliver on one of the most anticipated team-up movies in cine-comic history.

I’m sure you’re dying to know what I thought about it. (Otherwise, you wouldn’t have read this far.)

My non-spoilery reaction is: If you really liked Man of Steel, and you’re a fan of the characters, you’re probably going to like Batman v. Superman. It’s not a perfect film, and I have some specific issues with it, but on the whole, I enjoyed my first screening. I’d rate it a solid 7 or 7.5 out of 10. Some will call that a crazy-high rating, but that’s how I felt about it.

Check the film rating for content issues (language, violence/destruction, some sensuality) and use your discernment. I don’t think I’d take young kids to it, but it might be okay for older teens. (I’m not your kids’ parent, so.)

As for my specific feelings about the film–check below the fold.

[And it shouldn’t need to be said, but beyond the “more” button, there be spoilers. I’m openly going to discuss plot points and surprises. So if you haven’t seen the film, and want to be surprised by anything in the film, stop reading. After this point, it’s on you, man.]

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“Why Is It Called Good Friday?” (Reposted)

[Reposted from last April]

 

Why is it called Good Friday?
Because He who knew no sin became sin for us instead of
Casting the first stone. The Stone that the builders rejected
Was the stone of stumbling, the rock of offence.
They were offended who saw Him, and hid their faces,
As He was despised and rejected, acquainted with grief.
The One who would not break the bruised reed or quench
The smoldering wick was crushed according to the
Pleasure of His Father, and to that Divine Plan
The Prince of Peace bowed His holy head.

Why is it called Good Friday?
Because we who are like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us turning to our own way, doing what is right
In our own eyes, asking “Did God really say…?”
And though those who practice such things deserve death,
The great mercy of the Holy God was made manifest in
The flesh of the Incarnate Word, who tabernacled among us.
We beheld His glory, yet men loved darkness rather than light,
Because their unspeakable deeds were evil.  Into our darkness
Strode the Light of the World, the Good Shepherd of our souls
Who calls His sheep and they know His voice and come to Him,
From death to life, stumbling into light
Like Lazarus walking out of the grave, wrapped in cloths.

Why is it called Good Friday?
Because the Just Judge became the Justifier of our souls
By laying on the Righteous One the iniquity of us all
And pouring out His wrath upon the Son of Man—the wrath
That has been stored up against every wicked deed committed by
The wayward people of God—the shame of Noah, the murderous
Rage of Moses, the adultery of David, the pride of Solomon,
The hatred of Jonah, the betrayal of Peter, the bloodlust of Paul,
And even my own selfish weakness and craven man-pleasing.
Because of all these things, the holy wrath of God was poured out
Upon the perfect Christ, who did not turn away from the cup
That He was sent to drink, but received it all, down to the bitter dregs.

Why is it called Good Friday?
Without it, we would all be dead men, whose only hope is to eat and
Drink and be merry, all the days of our meaningless lives, before facing
The inevitable end and the terror of judgment.
But because He who is the Resurrection and the Life
Submitted Himself to shame and death in our stead,
And three days later, returned in victory over sin,
Having utterly defeated the greatest enemies of men,
Because He who died to save sinners was raised from the dead,
I now have hope that I will be raised up to be with Him on the last day.
Without the darkness of Friday, there would be no Easter dawn.
Without the just judgment against sin, there would be no justification.
Without the appeasing of divine wrath, there would be no eternal peace.
That’s why it’s called Good Friday.
The Son of God came and died and was raised again, so that
All who turn from sin and trust in Him would live.

“And it was night.”

After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. (John 13:21-30)

Thirteen men at a table, sharing a meal. One of them, the Light of the World; one of them, full of deepest darkness.

All throughout the Gospel of John, the apostle uses light imagery:

And on this final night before He would complete the mission for which He was sent into the world, as the weight of what was about to happen weighed heavier and heavier upon his heart, our brother John records a seemingly insignificant detail: “And it was night.”

Consider how dark was the night that our Lord faced, Christian. How inky black and oppressive its shadows! As the betrayer, a man whom Jesus lived with and ate with and shared His life with–a man whose stinking feet Jesus bent down to wash!–was slinking his way through alleys and avenues to sell out the Savior for silver, Jesus was telling His disciples to love one another, to believe and trust in Him, to let their hearts not be troubled because He has overcome the world.

Into the darkness of the olive grove, this band of brothers walked, and there Jesus prayed for them and for Himself. There, in the shadowy solitude of that arbor, He pleaded for another way to accomplish His mission, crying out to His father in dread of what was to come.

And yet.

Jesus the Christ–Son of God, Son of Man, second member of the Trinity, eternal King of Kings and Lord of Lords–submitted to the will of the Father. For it was the will of God to crush Him, and by His blood provide satisfaction for divine justice and salvation for the souls of helpless sinners whom He would choose to save in His loving-kindness and mercy.

It was night. But soon it would be dawn. Soon enough, the sun would rise on an empty tomb, a broken curse, a propitiated wrath, and a promised inheritance to all who put their hope on the risen Lord.

Tonight, all over the world, believers are gathering together to commemorate that last meal before the crucifixion. My encouragement to you, friends, is to take a moment, look out your windows, and consider the darkness that surrounds. Give thanks for the love of our Savior, who faced down the darkness of sin and death.

The Light has shined in the darkness, and the darkness has never–will never–overcome it.

 

 

 

An Obsolete Man’s Hope.

I grew up loving the old “Twilight Zone” series, and remember the New Year’s Eve marathons that used to air on local TV. However, of the 150+ episodes of TZ, I think I’ve seen half at most. So a few weeks back, I discovered a new-to-me episode starring Burgess Meredith, called “The Obsolete Man.”

obsolete-man-wordsworth

The plot of the episode: The setting is a nightmarish totalitarian state that has outlawed books and religion. Romney Wordsworth (played by Meredith), a librarian by trade, is dragged before the Supreme Chancellor (a Hitler-type, complete with similar speech patterns and gestures). Wordsworth is told that he has been deemed obsolete by the state and must be exterminated. During the cross-examination, Wordsworth argues for the rights of the individual and the importance of faith in God, drawing sneers and condemnation from the Chancellor. Finally, rather than plead for his life, Wordsworth requests only that he may choose the method of his execution, and that it may be kept privately between himself and his executioner. The execution will take place at midnight, in the librarian’s apartment.

Less than an hour before, the Chancellor visits Wordsworth, at the condemned man’s request. After noting the cameras and microphones that have been installed to broadcast the execution live, Wordsworth informs the Chancellor that he is to be killed by a bomb in the apartment, and that the door is now locked and cannot be opened. The final 20 minutes of both of their lives will be broadcast for the entertainment of the nation.

Twilight-Zone-The-Obsolete-Man 2

As the minutes tick down, Wordsworth reads aloud from the Bible, while the Chancellor’s sarcastic and arrogant demeanor melts into panicked pleading. When he finally pleads with Wordsworth, invoking the name of God, Wordsworth relents, and lets him out mere seconds before the bomb explodes. However, the Chancellor’s breakdown on live television, including his desperate pleas, have proven he is no longer strong enough to lead. The episode ends with the now-former Chancellor being brought before the bench, declared obsolete himself, and then dragged away by a mob of his former followers.

Obsolete 3

While this episode deals more frankly with religion than most TZ episodes, Rod Serling (the show’s narrator and the writer of this episode) pulls his punch in the final monologue, stating that totalitarian states who ignore the rights of the individual will one day become obsolete themselves.

But there was a truth hidden in plain sight in this episode, a truth that Serling’s individualistic final monologue couldn’t obscure:  While the Chancellor despaired as he saw his life about to end, the quiet librarian was able to face his execution with peace. Why? Because he knew that this world isn’t all there is.

To be clear: this television episode didn’t present anything resembling a Gospel message. But it did reveal a truth that should resonate with us, especially during this “Passion Week”: if we hold to the promise of life beyond death, we don’t have to be afraid when the hour of our passing arrives. And that promise isn’t a vain hope in some unknown future, but a specific hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So, if you will permit me, I’ll fill in the gaps left by Rod Serling.

In the eyes of this world, Christian, we are obsolete. Washed-up. On the wrong side of history. Doomed to the rubbish-bin of humanity.

However, the reason “obsolete” men like us can have death-defying hope is because Jesus Christ died in the place of sinners to make peace between man and God. God’s righteous wrath against sin was poured out on Jesus, who satisfied the full requirements of the Law in the place of sinners who could never do so. Our condemnation was poured out on Him, and the acceptance that His obedience earns from God is transferred to us.

But not only that–Jesus was raised from the dead, conquering death itself. His victory over death becomes OUR victory over death, if we have turned from our sin and believed in Him as our Savior, Lord, and King.

So, if you are in Christ, you have hope for a future inheritance with God in Christ–an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

No matter how the nations rage, no matter how the mountains tremble, no matter how our flesh and heart may fail–we are secure because God has promised life to those who are found in Christ.

Rejoice, you “obsolete” Christian–the slings and arrows of a perishing world cannot take away your hope. Again, I say: rejoice!

 

[Note: Photos used without permission under Fair-Use rules; I do not own any copyrights.]

 

That Mean Ol’ Old Testament God.

One of the more common critiques of the Christian faith and the Christian Bible is that God seems inconsistent: the “Old Testament God” seems to be a God of wrath, while the “New Testament God” (in Jesus) seems to be a God of Love. I even ran into this thinking in the church, as people in my Sunday School classes suggested that this seeming shift in divine posture was God’s way of changing tactics–as if the “stick” didn’t work, so He decided to use the “carrot.”

The truth, however, is that God’s grace and His wrath are both displayed throughout the entirety of Scripture. The God of the Old Testament speaks of his rebellious people like a Father who will not abandon His wayward children. The God of the New Testament judges sin and pours out His wrath (Jesus “meek and mild” is also the blood-soaked Rider on the White Horse in Revelation 19!). Why? Because God in the Old and New Testaments is the SAME GOD. He does not change. His character does not shift. He is fully loving and wrathful and gracious and jealous and merciful and holy and just and righteous and all-powerful and all-knowing and all-present and timeless and self-sufficient and forever perfect, and this is displayed in both the Old and New Testaments!

I was reminded of the grace of the “Old Testament God” the other day, when I saw this in Jeremiah 18:

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the Lord, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’

(Jeremiah 18:1-11)

See here the grace of God! He judges evil and punishes wickedness, but to those who repent and turn from their sin, He shows mercy. He demonstrated this with the wicked people of Nineveh, who heeded the warning of Jonah and turned from their sin (even if only for a time).

I bring all this up to say this: no one is beyond hope, on this side of the grave. The God of the Bible is a gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will still show mercy to those who recognize their sin, confess it before Him, and turn from it in obedience to Him.

If you are running from God, if you are choosing to be your own ruler instead of submitting to the God of all the earth, let me plead with you: you have broken God’s laws and rejected His authority, and because of this, His wrath remains upon you. He is a just Judge, and He will punish all wickedness to the fullest extent–including yours. But there is time yet to repent, to turn from your sin and your selfish ways and be forgiven. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died to pay the penalty for sinners, so that they might be spared, and then rose from the dead victorious, promising eternal life to all who believe in Him. Run to Him, believe in Him, follow Him, and be saved, while there is yet time.

If you are in Christ, and you are burdened for someone who is far from Christ, let the lesson of the potter be an encouragement to you, as well: As long as that person is alive, there is time for God to rescue them. Do not grow weary in doing good, and do not lose heart. God may yet have mercy and save even the most hardened of rebels. So share the Gospel, pray, and trust God, believing that He is faithful to save all whom He will.

All praise and glory to the only God, full of grace and wrath, full of mercy and justice, who does all things well! He is kind to the undeserving, and patient with the weak and foolish! May He be praised in all the earth! Amen.

My Father’s World.

Yesterday, I brought up the idea of internal vs. external locus of control. I mentioned how both ideas are based on a basically materialistic mindset, and that neither truly addresses a Biblical worldview.

So today, I want to take a few minutes to spell out an alternative stance.

A Third Type of Stance: Superior Locus of Control

A possible third approach to the question of locus of control is something I will call a superior locus of control (and I’m using this term in the sense of proximity, not quality–though I think that applies). To put it more visually: rather than being inside me, or outside me at my level, this locus of control is above me.

A superior locus of control recognizes that there are certainly things outside of my individual power that can affect and even dominate my life. However, rather than these forces being indifferent or malevolent, all external influencers are subject to the sovereignty of a benevolent God who has changed me from being His one-time enemy into His adopted son through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus, which cleanses me of sin and satisfies God’s wrath against me. As a born-again Christian, I don’t believe that God is a far-off capricious deity or a semi-involved external equalizer. Rather, I relate to God as a son to a loving Father, believing that all circumstances of life are directed/superintended according to His purposes and plans. Because of this, I’m not the victim of blind chance or the pawn of cruel fate–I am living within my Father’s world, and the details of that world are guided by an omnipotent, omniscient, and ultimately benevolent King.

Does the sovereignty of God constrain me? No, it actually frees me. It allows me to function with the knowledge that I do not have to live in fear of outside forces destroying my life, and it helps me to cope with disappointment and tragedy through the knowledge that even the darkest moments of my life will serve to glorify God and make me more like Jesus Christ, which is my ultimate good. I am therefore free to live boldly (even in ordinary ways) without the crippling worry of being responsible for everything in my life going the right way. I can take up the tasks at hand, plan for the future, and trust that no matter what happens, I am secure in Christ.

Does this sovereignty instead let me off the hook? Not at all. Just because God is in control of all things doesn’t mean I am not responsible for my own actions or for the responsibilities which He has apportioned to me. I cannot be like those Thessalonians who became lazy and apathetic because they believed the return of Christ was days away. Rather, I have been entrusted with a family to provide for and protect, relationships to nurture, and work to accomplish. These are good works prepared in advance by my Father that I may walk in them, and thus complete my mission to proclaim the Gospel and do good works in the world that give my God glory.

This is what I think was missing from Dave Ramsey’s video: he leaned hard into an interior locus of control, without acknowledging that “if the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” I don’t think he would necessarily deny this, but I think it needs to be said, and it needs to be said repeatedly, given our tendency toward humanistic self-sufficiency without acknowledgement of God’s involvement and direction.

In summary, I think the idea of superior locus of control is a better way to understand the spiritual reality of God’s sovereign provision and care for my life, while still accounting for my personal responsibility to take seriously the calling of God to live as salt and light in the world.

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Your Turn: Does the idea of “superior locus of control” present a better alternative when it comes to our motivational stance as individuals? Is there anything I’m not accounting for? I’d love to discuss this with you in the comments.

 

Remote Control.

I’ve been reading Charles Duhigg’s newest book, Smarter, Faster, Better (which debuts today–I’ll review it in the next week or so), and the first chapter deals with a concept that may be familiar to students of psychology or counseling but was new to me: internal and external locus of control.

Who’s in Charge Here?

In lay terms, someone with an internal locus of control believes that their choices can affect their lives. They have the power to make changes, to make a difference, and to chart the course of their own path.  This leads such a person to take responsibility for their circumstances and make decisions that are meant to lead to a desired outcome.

Conversely, someone with an external locus of control sees their life as being affected by outside forces that are indifferent to them (or even opposed to them). A person with an external locus of control sees his or her life as being directed or at least affected by these external forces, and due to this, their best efforts will still be moderated, if not totally undone, by these forces.

The result of this is that people with an internal locus of control feel like they can change their lives for the better, and it’s up to them to do so, while people with an external locus of control tend to believe that they need help from the outside in order to make any positive changes in their lives.

(I realize this may be a gross over-simplification of the concept, and it’s probably more complicated than that. If you have more experience with the idea, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!)

We Don’t Need Another Hero

In thinking about this idea, one can even make the jump to social and political ideology. It’s not hard to see that some political positions work from an internal locus of control; they focus on self-reliance, personal responsibility, and limited involvement from outside forces. Others work from an external locus of control; they emphasize systemic issues that require systemic solutions, and de-emphasize the ability of an individual or  family unit to overcome such challenges, which require outside assistance (usually in the form of governmental intervention) in order for such individuals to succeed.

Each stance has its inherent dangers at the extremes. People with an internal locus of control struggle with having a solely-inward focus, caring only for themselves or their family and ignoring the needs of the people around them. (For example, consider Ayn Rand’s “objectivist” philosophy as an extreme example.) Such a stance also makes it hard for these individuals to sympathize with people from a much different background and set of experiences, who may not have the same opportunities and are unable to change certain circumstances.

On the other hand, people with an external locus of control may feel like they are always victims of outside forces, and thus they refuse to take responsibility for their actions. They may feel helpless and dependent, despite having the capability to create change. As a result, they look for rescue from other people and outside entities who promise to set things right and deliver them from evil (even if these pseudo-saviors consistently fail to live up to their promises).

A Savior on Capitol Hill

Which leads me to the following video, from nationally-syndicated radio host and financial guru, Dave Ramsey:

As I’m sure you can guess, Ramsey functions very much from an “internal locus of control” approach. He emphasizes that “YOU” can change your life and that “YOU” are not a victim.

I have to admit, though: as I watched that video, something didn’t sit right with me. I understand that Ramsey was trying to speak to wide range of viewers, even if he is himself a professing Christian. But as a Christian, I can’t help but notice that there’s Someone missing in all this.

The same thing is true with the locus of control discussion as a whole: the internal vs. external models seem primarily materialistic, and don’t account for spiritual realities.

So how do I think of these concepts as a Christian? What kind of “model of control” addresses a more Biblical worldview?  I have some ideas about that, and an alternative stance, which I’ll share…tomorrow.

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Your Turn: Have you ever heard of this idea of “locus of control”? Do you find yourself leaning more toward internal or external locus, in your day to day thinking? Am I misunderstanding this concept? Share your thoughts in the comments!

 

Doing More, Better: A Month Later

[Greetings, Challies-readers! Thank you for stopping by! If you like what you see here, you can scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “Follow” button so you can get updates about my latest posts (usually 2-3 a week) via WordPress or by email. You can also follow me on Twitter. Thanks for stopping by!]

A month ago, I reviewed Tim Challies’ productivity book, Do More Better. In that review, I noted then that the productivity books only make a difference if you actually follow their plan and implement their system. At that point, I had been using Challies’ recommended combination of calendar, task-list, and information-capture apps, and was starting to see some good fruit come of it.

You may be asking: How is it going, a month later?

The good news is that I’m still using this system, which is more than I can say for my several past attempts at improving productivity. I am using Todoist and Google Calendar and Evernote every day, and I find that I am able to stay on top of appointments and responsibilities more consistently.

I find I’m also feeling much less stressed about appointments and obligations, because I no longer have that nagging “I’m forgetting something” worry in the back of my mind. This is a huge relief for me.

The bad news is that the best system in the world cannot change my sinful tendencies. And I’m using the word “sinful” very specifically. My tendency is toward inertia, laziness, and procrastination. Rather than taking care of tasks at hand, I am tempted to put them off. Todoist has a very helpful (and simultaneously, very dangerous) feature that allows you to reschedule or postpone tasks, over and over. When used with discipline, this is a great thing: life happens, and sometimes you can’t cross everything off your list.

In my case, it’s not “life” that’s happening, so much as “books” and “presidential debates” and “I-don’t-wanna’s.” So I’ve been pretty bad about bumping things down my list that I really could have completed–putting off until tomorrow what I can take care of today. As a result, even with a great system in place, I’m still in danger of becoming “lazy-busy” and letting the procrastination spin-cycle start to take over.

The great news is: I’m more organized and self-aware now than I was before. Having these tools in place and using them every day keeps me aware of my responsibilities and, despite my back-sliding, keeps me “on the hook.” I’ve established a good habit of immediately putting tasks into my task manager, appointments into my calendar, and information like shopping lists and date-night ideas into my information-storage app. I know where to look for all these things and can pull them up easily, so my life really does function a little better.

Would I still recommend the “Do More, Better” system? I sure would, but with these 3 caveats:

  • No productivity system will give you motivation you don’t have. It will make it easier for you to be productive. It will help you become more effective and efficient. But if you don’t want this, no phone app or website will make you want it.
  • No productivity system will cure your sin problems. If you struggle with laziness like I do, the solution is not more alarms, more tasks, or more information. The solution is repentance and obedience. It’s recognizing that laziness and selfishness are heart issues, sin issues, that need the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to break.
  • No productivity success will make you holy, righteous, or good. The Todoist app has this little “productivity karma” feature that reflects how many things you’ve crossed off the list in time. I get the idea, but I can imagine how many people derive joy and personal pride from watching that little number go up. I’m not saying it’s wrong to be happy when you finish things; I think it’s a gift from God to find a level of satisfaction in your work. But even if I work this system perfectly, and knock out everything on my lists before they’re due, it won’t give me true peace. It won’t give me security. It won’t give me value or worth. My hope, my peace, my security is found in the completed work of Jesus, the Son of God who died in my place and rose again to eternal life, guaranteeing my future inheritance with Him. There’s nothing wrong with trying to be more effective and productive, for the good of others and the glory of God. But my joy, my value, and my hope should never be tied to my to-do list or my calendar, because even on days when everything is falling apart and I’m not able to get anything done, I am no less loved, no less accepted, and no less secure.

So. About 2 months after I started using these tools, I find I’m doing more and doing it better. I still have a long way to go, but I’m thankful that I have a system and strategy in place to help me be a better steward of my time and resources.

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Your Turn: Have you tried a productivity system like Tim Challies’ “Do More Better” approach or David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”? How has it worked out for you? Let me know in the comments.

Reading Challenge Update: February

Just checking in today to give you a quick update on my Challies 2016 Reading Challenge progress.

I’m sorry to say that I’m falling a little behind on my reading list progress. To stay on track, I need to read 4-5 books a month from the reading list. However, I still have to take care of book review commitments I made at the end of last year. The Pastor Theologian took a lot longer than I expected it to, and it doesn’t even fit on my list!  That said, I got 3 more books done this month for the Reading Challenge:

A Self-Improvement Book: Do More Better, by Tim Challies. I reviewed this previously, and I’ll update you on how the process is going in the coming days. Obviously, this one has been a big help to me as I seek to be more effective and productive with the time and opportunities God has given me.

A Children’s Book: A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle. I had never read this book growing up (probably because it had “witches” in it), so I missed out on the pleasure of being exposed to this series. This is a beautifully-written sci-fi/fantasy novel that is heavily steeped in Christian themes and language (including several direct Bible quotations). L’Engle weaves together descriptive language that is vivid and colorful, and her characters are simply drawn and endearing. While the book is not in the same league as the Narnia series (my all-time favorite children’s series), it will definitely become a nice addition to my future children’s library. That said, I have one complaint: it’s the first book in a quintet, so it ends rather abruptly. I won’t be able to check out the rest of the series until next year, probably (unless I can somehow make them fit the reading list!), so that’s a bit of a bummer. Nevertheless, I will eagerly await the rest of the story.

A Book about Christian Living: Slave, by John MacArthur. In this short volume, MacArthur focuses on the Greek word doulos, typically translated “servant” or “bondservant” in English translations of the New Testament. That word always has a note in my Bible, stating that it can also be translated “slave.” MacArthur explores the concept of 1st century slavery, from both a Jewish and Roman perspective, to provide some context on what the NT writers meant when they called themselves “slaves of God” or “slaves of Christ.” MacArthur fleshes out this point, as it relates to redemption, adoption, and our hope of resurrection. This is an important concept, and I appreciate MacArthur’s treatment of it, though I have to admit, even at just over 200 pages, it felt a little padded.

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So what am I currently reading?

  • George Orwell’s Animal Farm (“Four legs good, two legs bad!”)
  • Smarter, Better, Faster, by Charles Duhigg (interesting take on productivity and success)
  • Gates of Fire, by Steven Pressfield (a novel about the brave 300 at the battle of Thermopylae)
  • Biggest Brother, a biography about Maj. Dick Winters of the famous “Band of Brothers”
  • Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, a record of Christian martyrs throughout the first 1600 years of the Church

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

Your Turn: Did you read anything interesting in the last month? Share your recommendations and thoughts in the comments!