Friday, September 07, 2018

film review: God bless the Broken Road

"God Bless the Broken Road,” directed by Harold Cronk (“God’s Not Dead”) is based, in part, on the 2004 Rascal Flatts hit “Bless the Broken Road.” It's a mixture of country music, NASCAR, the war in Afghanistan, tribute to the military, and faith. 

There are lots of positive elements around the community (both church, military, and other friends). Although at other times, that same community seems judgmental, and offers support that seems shallow. My sense is that while trying to portray the complexities of a life broken by pain, Cronk has tried to add too many things into the storyline, that just don't fit within the limited time frame.

The film does an excellent job of depicting the struggles of a woman who feels as if she's lost everything, despite her having put her trust in God. The scenes of Amber's deep disorientation after her husband's tragic death, the lose of her home, her daughter turning her back on her, realistically explores the gritty, grief-filled aftermath of terrible loss.

The film, is at times, a little melodramatic, a little too pro-military for my liking, but it suits the setting (Kentucky).

Here is the trailer

review based on an advanced on-line screening
via Nuts About Books

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Shooting on the Danforth

Sunday night, as you have heard by now, a single shooter shot and injured 13 people, killing 2 along the Danforth in Toronto. 

I have not commented. Not because I don’t care. But because words are hard to find. It’s hard when 2 young women are killed. I have no answers. 

I could go on about how awful guns are, but someone else is going to start an argument about how more people having guns would have resulted in less devastation. I don't believe that for a minute. I know that no gun laws will stop this epidemic. (That's not to say we shouldn't have restricted laws on guns). If we ban guns, we will simply see violence taking other forms. 

Who and what do we blame? Because that’s what we do when difficult, painful things happen, isn't it?. Access to firearms? Religious ideology? Mental illness? Lack of social resources? Family members? Immigration policies? Racism? Socio-economic status? Probably a little bit of all of them. 

In the days since Toronto council has passed a series of motions intended to begin addressing the proliferation of illegal guns in this city. These include: 
  • a motion to immediately hire 100 new police officers; 
  • a motion asking the province to change legislation to permit the city’s social housing landlord, Toronto Community Housing Corporation, “to evict people for criminal behaviour specifically related to guns, gangs, and drug trafficking”;
  • a motion asking Ottawa to change federal legislation to:
    o Include tougher penalties — including mandatory-minimum sentences — for gun traffickers;
    o Direct more resources to tackle domestic firearm trafficking, specifically targeting large single purchasers of firearms; and
    o Implement tougher screening for mental health and intimate partner violence issues for licensed gun owners and those seeking to acquire firearm permits. 
We will never know exactly why this man chose to fire a handgun into restaurants along the Danforth. (Anyone suggesting that they know why is speculating.) 

We do know he was Muslim. (Anyone who suggests that every, or even the majority of Muslims are violent has bought into a stereotype.) 

We do know he had diagnosed, mental health issues that were unable to be treated. (Anyone who places blame at the mental health system for not “fixing” him, doesn’t understand mental health.) 

There has been an unsupported claim by ISIL that the gunman was one of their soldiers. (Anyone who believes everything that ISIL says, doesn’t understand propaganda.) 

Among the saddest of responses has been some who call themselves Christians: 
  • who seem to be ready to jump all over a possible terrorist connection; 
  • who seem to see any reference to mental health as a red herring; 
  • who are ready to blame Muslims for this; 
  • who seem to delight in stirring up hate. 
Among the best responses has been the folks from theJesusnetwork. The gunman lived and his family still live in Thorncliffe Park. Friday, 27 July at 7pm, they are hosting a prayer walk through the area. 
  • Instead of feeling helpless watching endless news reports, they will shine a light into this darkness. 
  • Instead of being paralyzed by fear and withdrawing, they plan to step out in faith. 
  • Instead of sitting and worrying and doing nothing they will march for and with Jesus into the places he seeks to reach. 

We cannot control how other people choose to act or what they say. But we can control how we respond.

Can any good thing come out of Thorncliffe? Yes. 
I would encourage you to join with theJesusnetwok, wherever you are this Friday in praying for the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood

God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of love. Let's pray to show the gates of hell they will not prevail! Let's believe with others that God is working in the midst of terrible darkness.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

book review: the fingerprints of God

title: The Fingerprints of God
author: Robert Farrar Capon
publisher:Wm. B. Eerdmans
year: 2000

Capon, makes you think. Whether you agree with him or not, he makes you think. In this little book (163 pages) he explores some of the images in the Bible and in church history that point to God.

In this book, he tackles some of the mistakes of some of the church fathers, he calls it "transactionalism" - the old left-brain idea that one must contribute something -  sacrifice, repentance, good works, or whatever - to deserve the free gift of forgiveness and grace given by God. 

He argues that the Reformation kicked transactionalism out the front door, proclaiming salvation by grace, through faith, (not works), but let it right back in the back door by stipulating that faith was the current coin of the realm.

In his unique style, Capon has the Holy Spirit saying (in a dialogue among the Trinity at the beginning of the book), "They're going to paint themselves into a corner and say that the unbaptized go to hell or even that sins after Baptism make forgiveness flake off like a bad paint job, and that unless Christians go to confession for a second coat before they die, they'll go to hell too. Oh sure. We've also agreed on this Reformation business where I convince them that nobody has to do anything to be forgiven except trust the grace that Jesus has already given everybody. But give them a hundred years after that and they'll manage to turn faith itself into a requirement for grace: no faith, no forgiveness. Out the window again goes the free gift we've given them once and for all; and back in comes forgiveness as a deal that's good only as long as they behave themselves."

Capon explores how some of the church reformers such as Irenaeus, Athanasius. Luther, Calvin and Melanchthon, while contributing invaluable insights essential to a true reformation, still slipped into this transactionalism. 

Capon says he was originally planning to call the book "Re-forming the Reformation" and I think that may have been a better title for the second half of the book. And is probably even more relevant for today, with the rise of neo-calvinism.

I would have liked to see more exploration of images. Capon roots his exploration mostly in his discussion around Literalism/Fundamentalism vs. Liberalism (turning the Bible into a book of ethics and denying the mystery). He, I believe, rightly says both views are mistakes. God can use whatever device he wants to tell the STORY of scripture - images in poetry, hyperbole, allegory, parables, and yes, even literalism - even though that is used far less than some think.

One of the key things that Capon repeatedly says in this book that it is essential that we continually come back to Who Jesus Is... not just focus on what he did. As important as that is, if we lose sight of Who Jesus Is we miss his mission, his incarnation, his role in creation, his relationship within the Trinity... in fact, we miss Jesus. And that is the whole point... to know Jesus.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

book review: deep impact

title: Deep Impact: keys to integrating theology and psychology in the treatment of complex traumatic stress
author: A. E. Gilles
publisher: World Alive Press
year: 2016

A.E. Gilles writes about complex trauma from the perspective of personal experience, as a psychologist and as a pastor.

She provides a great overview of some of the dynamics of complex trauma. While the book is short, and is not intended to be a textbook on the issue, it is an excellent introduction to something the church does not often recognize. She also provides some helpful approaches and resources to assisting people with complex trauma.

book review: The 49th Mystic

title: The 49th Mystic
author: Ted Dekker
publisher: Revell
year: 2018

I have not read much of Ted Dekker before. This novel is an immersive journey that mixes suspense, fantasy and spiritual truths into a compelling whole. While this is part of a "circle series" I think this works as a stand-alone... although I am awaiting part 2 in the fall of 2018.

Dekker alternates between scenes from the present and those from a radically different future. The character development and storyline are complex and intriguing. 
In addition, there are extra resources available online The 49th Mystic 

If you are looking for a compelling read this is well worth it.

A free copy of this book was provided by Resourcing Leaders

Thursday, June 28, 2018

book review: resurrecting religion

title: Resurrecting Religion
author: Greg Paul
publisher: NavPress
date: 2018

Religion is a polarizing word. It is often reinterpreted into something it is not. 
We have all heard the meaningless phrase "I'm not religious. I am spiritual." Religion has an identity crisis.

Greg Paul, pastor of the Sanctuary in downtown Toronto has something to say about true religion. It is a reflection on the implications of the book of James. 

I enjoy Greg's writing - I have read his other books, have heard him speak and have met him. Greg is a great story teller. A story teller who draws us not just into the story, but to see Jesus in the story.

As can be expected, "Resurrecting Religion" is about the good news of Jesus being lived out where widows, orphans and strangers are the guest of honour, where everyone is welcome, everyone is a newcomer to God's Kingdom, where the last are declared first.

Greg's writing is informed by years of practice and activism, rooted in contemplation.

I would highly recommend "Resurrecting Religion." You will be encouraged and challenged. And see Jesus and his kingdom a little clearer.

A free copy of this book was provided by Resourcing Leaders

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

film review: Samson

Title: Samson
Release Date: 2018
Production: Pure Flix Productions, Boomtown films

I am hesitant about biblical movies. They are often low budget, telling big stories, which is not a good combination.

That said, Samson, is a good film. It's not a blockbuster. It doesn't show all the guts and gore (which seems to be all too common in films these days) nor does it emphasize the sexuality. Some will argue that it should have showed more violence or sex to be true to the biblical account. The Bible is filled with flawed individuals like Samson because that's the whole point of the story. It makes the redemption at the end strike a cord with the viewer. So yes, they watered down some aspects of the story to make it more family friendly. It doesn't include everything in the biblical account, but then it doesn't promise to do that. It tells the (modified) story in an entertaining way.

Some of the production values are a little weak:

  • Some of the beards look like really cheesy beards that are looked glued on. 
  • And the King of the Philistines wears a crown that looks like it was taken from a Three Wise Men Christmas pageant.

A couple of other weak points:

  • They gave Samson a brother which doesn't make any sense. 
  • The screenwriters were almost afraid to have Samson and Delilah spend more than ten minutes together at any given time for fear of things getting too "sexy". They could have found ways to develop a relationship on screen without jumping into sex. 
  • Delilah feels more like pretty wallpaper than an actual character. She "loves" Samson, but we never get the why, because while she's always around she's never given anything especially interesting to do. 
While the film has some flaws, it's not a bad film. In fact, it definitely works if you want to start your kids off on a "Bible lite" movie that you won't need to cover their eyes to watch with. 

A free copy of this movie was provided by Resourcing Leaders

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

book review: it's not that simple

Title: It’s Not That Simple: Euthanasia & Assisted Suicide Today
Author: Jean Echlin, Ian Gentles
Publisher: The deVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research
Date: 2015

When this book was written, Canada was in the midst of legalizing euthanasia an assisted suicide in Canada. Jean Echlin and Ian Gentles made a strong argument for the provision of fully adequate palliative care in Canada that has largely been ignored.

Echlin and Gentles do an excellent of tracing the history of euthanasia and assisted in the modern world and the multitude of abuses in jurisdictions that have gone this route.

This book was published before MAID – Medical Assistance In Dying – was made law in Canada, but they point to some of the ways jurisdictions were planning on abusing the system. [if there is a way to abuse a system, some will find a way]. The Quebec announced ahead of the new law that hospitals and palliative care institutions will not be allowed to opt out of offering euthanasian services. They are also moving in the direction of having doctors not identifying euthanasia as the cause of death, thus hiding the numbers of people impacted.
I am aware of at least one person walking into an Ontario Emergency Room and asking to be euthanized, fortunately, the staff was able to get the person the mental health bed they needed.

As the book suggests, we will see euthanasia and assisted suicide become the norm in Canada. We will see abuses – individuals who are “too expensive” to care for will be euthanized as we continue to devalue human life.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

book review: Surprise the World

Title: Surprise the World! The Five Habits of Highly Missional People
Author: Michael Frost
Publisher: NavPress
Date: 2016

Michael Frost has written a short, practical introduction to living missionally. The word “missional” gets thrown around by so many, and often in ways that miss the point. Frost makes it clear using the acronym BELLS. It has to be a good book if it uses that word, right!

  • We BLESS people, both inside and outside the church.   
  • We EAT together, sharing meals with believer and unbelievers alike.   
  • We LISTEN to the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit as we engage with those around us.   
  • We intimately LEARN Christ as our leader and model for making disciples.   
  • We see ourselves as SENT by God to everywhere life takes us.

Frost takes a chapter to unpack some of the meaning and then the living out of each word. He outlines some very practical steps and ways of doing this. 

Missional living, as Frost defines it (and I think he is right) is about being on mission with God for the sake of those who don’t yet know God. Surprise the World, is a simple (in the sense of straightforward), practical, easy to read book on how to live missionally. 

It is well worth reading. It is worth even more as we begin to live it out. And therein lies the issue. We can read the book and think it’s great. But will we live it?

Saturday, February 10, 2018


A couple of articles on Haiti
how Haiti became poor

A brief history of how the rich world brutalized and looted Haiti, a country the US owes its very existence to

The history of Haiti is complex - far more complex than Trump is willing to admit, and probably more complex than he is willing to try and comprehend. We tend to hear bits and pieces, mostly around voodoo and a pact with the devil. But there is far more.

Without Haiti, the history of USA and probably all of North America would be much different.

And no matter what you think of Trump and whether he said what he is alleged to have said (he has made enough on the record racist comments), his comments are totally inappropriate. Because no matter what the colour of skin, no matter country a person is from, they are people created in God's image.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

book review: Life in the Wild

Title: Life in the Wild: Fighting for Faith in a Fallen World
Author: Dan DeWitt
Publisher: The Good Book Company
Date: 2018

In “Life in the Wild”, Dan DeWitt aims to help us better understand, from a Biblical perspective, where we are and how we can live in the world around us.

Life in the Wild” is an exploration of living in what DeWitt calls “the wild,” the place between the Garden of Eden and eternity in God’s presence. 

Life in the Wild” is, in at least some senses, an exploration of the opening three chapters of Genesis, and specifically the consequences of the fall. All of us have a longing for what was lost and a longing for the blessings that are to come in the future, but now, we are stuck in a place that is marred by sin. DeWitt walks us through several areas of life to show us not only how to survive but how to thrive in the wild (which we can’t actually do by ourselves). 

I’m not going to summarize all the chapters, but a few highlights are his excellent description of guilt and shame, their relationship to each other and their differences.

The second area I would highlight is the idea of stewardship of the earth being a Christian duty. Sadly, not many Christian worldview books highlight this. Too many Christians view this as a secular/liberal thing to do.

If you are living between Eden and eternity, this book is for you. Read it and be encouraged for your journey “in the wild”’ rooted and grounded in biblical truths and the hope that one day all things will be made new. The book is accessible, short, full of hope, helpful for anyone with questions about “life in the wild.”