Category: The Gospel and the Christian Life

Rock Me Amadeus – Serving with Joyful Excellence

The 1984 film “Amadeus” won eight Oscars for chronicling (albeit with much flare for fiction and literal license) the famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life and his genius for music. The film also dealt with Mozart’s fellow composer Antonio Salieri’s obsessive and ultimately deadly jealously of him. As Salieri becomes increasingly obsessed with Mozart, he stops composing music and focuses on destroying Mozart. At the end of the movie, Salieri sends Mozart into a delusional depression by overworking him and randomly appearing dressed in his father’s funeral mask. Tired and sick, Mozart eventually dies. Years after Mozart’s death, Salieri is still haunted and obsessed with him. An old, lonely, and brooding man, he attempts suicide by cutting himself while yelling the Mozart’s name. While the ambulance cart is dragging a bleeding Salieri to a doctor, they pass a formal ball where Mozart’s music plays loudly. Fixated as he was, Antonio Salieri could never escape his obsession, even in death. When we think of obsession, we tend to picture subjects like poor Antonio Salieri. Obsession brings to mind a dark, brooding, joyless soul trapped into preoccupation with something or someone.  Obsession usually ends in futility and anger. However, this is not the kind of obsession at the center of Biblical servanthood. It should instead be characterized by a joyful pursuit of excellence, because at its root, Christian service should have...

Read More

What’s the Easiest Way to Discredit the Truth?

As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and a brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. Acts 16:16-18 Reading this passage got me thinking: What’s one of the easiest ways to discredit the truth? With a false witness. Paul, Silas and Luke are in Philippi, where they were to do ministry. Meanwhile, this slave girl with a “spirit of divination” shows up (read: she’s a demon possessed fortune-teller), and starts following them and shouting that “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” The thing that’s interesting is she’s telling the truth. They are servants of the Most High God, and they are there to proclaim to the Philippians the way of salvation. She does this solely to hinder their work. This girl, a slave, has made her owners rich with her fortune-telling. No doubt she’d have something of a reputation for...

Read More

The Joy of the Lord

Nehemiah 8:9-12 falls within a section beginning at Nehemiah 8:1 and ending in Nehemiah 10:39. This section of the book is about the reading of the Law and Covenant renewal. In this section, the Book of the Law is read, the Feast of Booths is kept and a great act of covenant renewal is performed. For the first time in Nehemiah, Ezra enters the narrative. This section shows the unity of his and Nehemiah’s projects. With the walls securely in place, the centrality of the Mosaic Law is once again made prominent, since it is not security alone that is essential to the life of the community, not even the temple, but trust in God and obedience to God’s Word as revealed through Moses. Nehemiah 8:9-12 is where the people are called to be joyful. Though sorrow for sin was a positive response, joy at renewed relationship with God was the teaching’s ultimate purpose. In verse 9, Nehemiah and Ezra together decide that this holy day (Lev 23:24) should be one of joy, though the reading has led many to sense the need to repent of their sins. They wept as they heard the words of the Law because when they heard and understood God’s law, they understood their violations of it. These were not tears of joy, but penitent sorrow which came forth as they were grieved by...

Read More

Henry Hudson – Epic Fail

  Henry Hudson’s life was consumed by his fanatical obsession with finding a northern water route to the Pacific. During his four voyages for both England and Holland, he searched in vain for the elusive Northwest Passage. However, Henry Hudson never realized his goal – ice, harsh conditions, or landmasses impeded him each time. The crew of the ship Discovery finally had enough after Hudson insisted on continuing the search despite a year of exploration with nothing to show for it but frostbite. Low on food and morale, the crew mutinied against Hudson, on July 22, 1611. Henry along with his son and eight others were abandoned in a small rowboat in the middle of on Arctic sea (now modern day Canada). The explorer’s feelings, as he watched his ship the Discovery sail away without him, are lost to history because that day was also last he was seen alive. Henry Hudson and his castaways have never been found or accounted for. The sea where he was vanished now bears his name, Hudson Bay. Despite having inexhaustible passion and drive to discover the Northwest Passage, Hudson was never equipped to make it a reality. He did not have the latest GPS system or detailed maps. He did not own Gortex jackets and subzero equipment.  His wooden ship could not break through the ice pack. He was ill-equipped to accomplish the task he...

Read More

The Classics You Just Don’t Get

There are a lot of books that are, by and large, regarded as classics. They’re the ones you just have to read—and if you don’t, you’re depriving yourself of great literature. But are you really depriving yourself? Really? I’ve read a number of books that are considered classics (whether modern or legit), and some, like Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Preaching and Preachers and Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, are absolutely worthy of being called classics. But then there are others that I just don’t get the appeal. I have at least two examples. I cannot stand Moby Dick. Cannot stand it. I know that Melville is supposed to be the greatest novelist that America has produced, but I really didn’t find it to be that engaging a read. I first read it in high school as part of an independent study project, and nearly every time I picked it up, I fell asleep. A few years later, I did give it another shot. I didn’t want to assume that I didn’t like it simply because I had a bad experience with it in high school. The experience reading it as an adult was not unlike pushing a boulder up a steep hill. In a snowstorm. Without pants. “Call me Ishmael.” Next one: Last year, I attempted to read The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. I say attempted, because, this devotional...

Read More