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Does being a Christian today mean something different than it did a twenty years ago? Fifty years ago?
It definitely feels different.
Of course, I wasn’t around fifty years ago so I can’t speak with absolute certainty, but it seems as though society valued Christianity then. Not that things were perfect fifty years ago. Let’s not forget how the dark shadow of racism and bigotry lorded over the political and social landscape in that era. Much of that bigotry stemmed from misshapen, so-called “Christian,” worldviews. To be sure, I’m not waxing poetic about the good ol’ days here. Every generation’s had their share of problems. But it seems that with each passing day, Christianity falls further down the social ladder of importance and social influence.
This was not so in generations past. That Christianity influenced bigoted politics and the social moral compass of yester-generation only proves my point. More, such bigotry was overthrown in large part due to the Christian influence manifested in the Civil Rights trailblazer Dr. Martin Luther King. In King’s I Have a Dream speech, his Christian worldview, and the way it informed his cause, shines. The work of Dr. King and many other Christians went a long way toward correcting flawed biblical interpretations.
Would Dr. King be as successful today? Would his style of speaking and leadership ring as true in today’s America? I’m not so sure. Dr. King’s success was only partly due to his talents and inspiring leadership. He was also a man for his generation — a generation who held high the ideals of Christianity, for better or worse. And for those who didn’t hold Christianity to so high a degree, they at least respected the authority of the Bible, the Church, and what Christianity had to say, even if they had no intention of living under that authority.
Author: Shawn Achor
Review by: Antwuan Malone
The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work almost feels like it’s going to be a self-help, “the power is within you” kind of book, and maybe it is. But reading it helped me tremendously. Shawn proposes that happiness is not the product of success, but that success is the product of happiness. He’s humorous, informative and practical. If you’re having a tough time with your work environment, your home life, or just about any other sphere in your life, this book just might have something for you. Recommended!
We all believe that happiness is just around the corner. If we can just do this thing or have that thing, that then we could finally be happy. Success is one of those mythical catalysts to happiness… at least that’s what most of us believe. Shawn Achor seeks to turn all of that on its head by proposing that success is the product of happiness, not the cause of happiness. In other other words, we succeed because we are happy rather than depending on success for happiness.
While the full title promises ways to fuel performance at work, I think most of the principles and practices in this book can apply to nearly every area in one’s life. The Happiness Advantage is the secret to better everything, it seems. Better work, better health, and better relationships. I’m been particularly interested in honing my leadership skills, and found a lot in here to get me thinking. Happiness, and developing a culture that promotes gratitude and appreciation of the small and big wins in the day create more productive and loyal human resources.
Shawn whimsical writing style makes the content easy to digest, which is precisely what it needs to be if you’re a disgruntled employee looking to find a way to be a better worker. The read is light and easy, with enough stories to keep the “rake the leaves” reader delighted, and enough notes and references to send the “dig for gold” reader a good start into further research.
I’ve added this book to my list of books to read with a future team I will lead. For the practical advice he gives alone, it’s worth your time.
I heard a talk recently from Peter Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, about the power of vulnerability.
It’s funny. A few years ago, I was pretty obsessed with vulnerability. Having grown up in the church, and all but watching folks slip on their masks just before entering Sunday morning service, I’d grown frustrated and cynical. Even embarrassed. Not only was I watching it happen in other people, but I was doing it too! I knew what to say and the proper social cues of church : the fake smile, the religious jargon, and the disingenuous handshakes and hugs.
It’d become exhausting. And I was tired. Tired of pretending. And tired of watching others pretend.
Look, there are lots of reasons to fake happiness when you enter a church. First off, nobody likes a Debbie Downer. So right off the bat, there’s a pressure to be positive (or to at least NOT be negative). Especially at church, where all the people are supposed to have it together. But some of us are more motivated by another reason. So much of churchy happiness fakery comes from our fear of looking weak or “non-spiritual.”
Fear, as it turns out, is a great immobilizer, a great handicapper. In both of the reasons I gave above, fear is the underlying motivator. Ultimately, it’s fear that gets in the way of our authenticity and vulnerable, and is thus the greatest inhibitor of any positive relational momentum.
Let’s freely admit. We are all fearful people. We fear people’s opinions of us, the stories they’ll tell about us over lunch after service.
This all makes sense… for society. As the saying goes, it’s a dog eat dog world out there. But for the church, we should expect something different. Truthfully, as a collection of sinners saved by grace, we are in prime position to help remove the social chip of approval from folks’ shoulders. We should be able to ease the tension that comes from the social lies that link value with performance. To some degree, the disarming power of vulnerability is one of the church’s strongest weapons against the fears that shadow people all day, every day.
Because, at the end of the day, no one wants to be in a permanent state of “afraid.” Fear is meant to protect us, not define us.
But somehow, fear has defined much of the American Church culture.
Hell is a sticky subject.
For centuries the church has sold God as a loving being full of grace and mercy. And yet, equally consistent has been its message that Hell, a place of torment, is the eternal place for unbelievers. That eternal damnation awaits those who don’t make the right choice about God.
Understandably, the two ideals create an odd friction. How is it that God can be loving and full of unmerited favor and send people to torment in Hell for an eternity?
Before we begin, I think the Christian must first recognize the question as legitimate. More than legitimate, even. Most of the time the very asking of this question implies a “benefit of the doubt” being afforded to God. The asker wants to believe in a loving God, who pardons in great and fantastic ways.
There, of course, are other times when the person asking has simply identified what appears to be an odd contradiction in God’s character. Eternal separation does not, on its surface, jive well with ideas like love, mercy and grace.
It’s important to grant these positions.
There are quite a few naysayers (here, here, and here) out there concerning Darren Aronofsky’s latest work, Noah. Most of which are Christians who are outraged that the director did not take a straight-from-the-Bible approach to making the film, and others because of its storyline and themes. Some are not even calling it a “biblical” movie at all.
I profoundly disagree. From my perspective, Noah presents a significant opportunity for us to peek into the mind of God.
I’ve reviewed Noah already, but in that review I try not to tell much of the story in order to preserve the experience for the viewers. In this blog, I will assume you have already seen the movie, and so will discuss five different things I found significant about the film from a Christian perspective.
1. Concerning The Watchers
The easiest target in this movie is the stop-motion, rock titans called “The Watchers.” They are introduced in the first five minutes and most certainly procured the “eye-roll” from the Christians in the audience. I think I rolled my eyes as well. But, as I continued through the film, I understood that the movie was setting us into a very different, pre-flood, Earth.
Darren seems intent on showing this in several ways. Many Christians are familiar with Genesis 6 and its mention of the fallen angel’s interaction (and intermingling) with men. The passage mysteriously lacks thorough descriptions. And yet, when you read it, you get the sense that some hybrid of man and angel not only existed, but was prominent in Noah’s day. They are referred to as “heroes” (ESV) or “giants” (KJV).
I bring this up because no one knows the nature of a creature that is half fallen angel- half human. And, again, the scriptures are not very descriptive. This means that any representation of such beasts might inspire a critical reaction.
That said, Darren’s version of Nephilim (The Watchers) are not even close to what I’d imagine. Their function, as presented in the movie, is a complete fabrication. But they do serve a couple key purposes for the storyline. First, they establish Man, especially the pure line of Adam, as significant. And two, they offer a redemptive picture in the midst of the God’s judgment.
Banished from heaven, they have been stuck on Earth until their purposes are fulfilled. And then, upon asking for forgiveness, the fallen angels shed their earthly trappings to be received into heaven by the very “Creator” they chose to rebel against. All this while the rain of judgement is falling on the earth from that very same “Creator” to wipe away wicked Men from the earth.
It is one of the many places in this story where we see God’s judgment and God’s mercy side by side.
If you’re looking for a warm and fuzzy story to share with your children, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is not it. Aronofsky tells the story of Noah and the great flood with creative flair, beautiful cinematography, and an unapologetic humanism that floods us emotionally from all sides. It is a step forward for movies inspired by biblical stories. The story is a complex tale that negotiates biblical factual accuracy for a chance to connect with something deeper. This movie is not what you think. It’s dark and a bit long, but there are so many great moments you don’t mind the wait. I dare say, you must see it!
A young man faces off against his college philosophy professor to put the existence of God on trial for the class. Kudos to the makers for approaching a demographic (college students) who are historically (and increasingly) walking away from Christianity. But I’m afraid most of the satisfaction felt in the audience is coming from those already convinced of their faith, rather than those searching for answers. God is Not Dead inches the genre forward, from an artistic standpoint, but is plagued with the same lack of “real life” storytelling that alienates the audiences it tries to introduce itself to. Namely, for this movie, the cynical skeptic.
When you read the title of this blog, you probably thought the passage was going to be about the wedding where Jesus turned water into wine. And you were mistaken.
Today’s passage is a parable about a king whose throwing a party for his son. Follow this link to take a peak at it.
Well, there are so many things to talk about here, and so little blog space to talk about them in. The story Jesus tells here is such a theological whirlwind. The style of writing found in Bible communicates so much in an amazingly few amount of words. This story is jam-packed with goodies. In this story, we see both God’s judgment and God’s grace, a combination not often found Jesus’ parables. More than that, it holds up a mirror for us to look into as it describes the responses of the invited guests: namely apathy, hostile rebellion, and selfish insincerity.
The story ends with an offbeat situation about a man not properly dressed for the wedding feast. His wardrobe seems to earn him the boot! He gets thrown out of the wedding feast into a place of torture that sounds a lot like Hell. After which, Jesus ends on the “many are called, few are chosen” statement, which is bound to rile up the Calvinism conversation.
So much is here.