Friday, November 26, 2010

God's Beautiful, Broken Drama - Luke 1:5-26

Josh Broward
November 28, 2010
KNU International English Church

Do you ever feel confused about life and God?
Do you ever wish God would show himself more clearly?
Do you ever wonder if God cares about you and your life?
Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions?  Wake up.  Go to work.  Go home.  Sleep.  Wake up.  Go to work.  And on and on and on.
Do you wonder if your life has any larger meaning?  Is there something in life that is bigger than us?   Is there a larger plot that gives meaning to our little dramas and comedies?
Do you ever feel like nothing is ever going to change?
Do you struggle to obey God or to maintain active faith in God? 
Do you ever feel like God and the Bible are so far from our natural world that it’s difficult to see the connection, or at least difficult to live in a connected way?
Do you ever feel disappointed with the way your life has turned out?
Do you ever feel like you’re too human, too sinful, too broken for God to really use you in a significant way?  Do you ever feel like real Christianity is for those other people who are holier or smarter or have easier jobs?
Do you ever feel that church is boring or irrelevant or maybe even corrupt?
Do you ever feel that it’s hard to connect with what’s going on here when we gather on Sundays?  Maybe there are just too many happy people for you.  Maybe you don’t believe everyone is actually this happy, and that puts you off.  Maybe the style of music or sermon or whatever is not what you want. 
Do you ever wonder if you’ll ever find a church that feels right for you? 
Do you ever wonder if you even want to be part of a church at all?

    If you ever feel like any of this, then today’s story is for you. ...

 To continue reading this post, click here.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Engage Magazine

Engage Magazine is a webbased, missions magazine for the Church of the Nazarene.  They recently posted two of my articles.
First is "Our Asian Jesus," a reflection on the Jesus Film showing we witnessed on our trip to South Asia this summer.  (I have been asked not to use the name of the country, for security reasons.)  I was surprised at several points during the showing, and this process removed some of my scepticism about how the Jesus Film is used. 
The second, is "Culture Shock: Surviving, Thriving, and Helping."  This one is an adaptation of a sermon I preached last year on culture shock here in Korea.  If you're a newby or are friends with a newby, this is a must read. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

For Whom the Bell Tolls - Movie - Review

I thought this was on AFI's top 100 movies of all time, but it's just an old classic.  It's a good classic though.
The movie is based on Ernest Hemingway's novel by the same name.  Hemingway was involved in the production of the movie, even choosing Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper for the leading roles.  However, Hemingway was reportedly unhappy with the movie because it removed most of the political content associated with its context in the Spanish Civil War.
The lead character, "Roberto" is an American voluntarily assisting the guerrilla, mountain bandits fighting for "the Republic" of Spain -- against "the Nationalists" or fascists who began a military coup and civil war.  Before the war, he was a Spanish professor in the USA, but now, he travels by the name "Ingles" (English man) as an explosives expert, blowing up bridges and trains on secret missions.
This movie shows many of the painful realities of war, especially for the underdogs.  However, it also offers a complex set of characters.  Although, the over-all plot is fairly straightforward and predictable, the individual character development (especially of the supporting roles) is beautifully complex and surprising.  For example, a woman ends up being the unspoken, then spoken, chief of the mountain bandits, and she is exceedingly loving in her rough and tough, lonely way.  Also, the former chief continually alternates between good and bad, so that at the end of the movie, the audience is still left with ambiguous feelings about him.
Incidentally, after seeing Ingrid's hairdo, Sarah said, "Now, I see why all the grandmas have short, curly hair."  That is what the ladies of highest fashion were wearing when they were young, so that image is etched in their minds as beautiful.  It makes me wonder if our generation will stick to the styles of today's stars even in 40-50 years.
Overall, I would say this movie is a good watch.  However, be prepared to stay a while; it's almost 3 hours long!  But, it lacks some elements of greatness (largely in it's predictable plot, and partly in some of the cheesiness of the romantic dialog).  I give it 3J's: JJJ.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jekyll and Hide - Review

Sarah and I are on a classics kick, and we recently finished (reading aloud) Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  It was well worth the time and energy. 
Most of you know the basic story.  There is one guy with two personas - one good and one evil.  However, I had forgotten (or never learned) some of the details. 
Dr. Jekyll invented a concoction that would actually change his physique as well as his psyche to express his inner evil side.  Hyde was shorter, younger, and uglier than Jekyll.  Hyde was supposed to be the pure physical and mental expression of the evil nature of Jekyll.  While Jekyll was the combination or moderation of his own evil and good sides, Hyde was unfiltered evil.
Dr. Jekyll had already been leading somewhat of a double life before the invention of the concoction.  In public, Jekyll was an upstanding citizen and philanthropist.  In secret, he was a different person, giving over to his temptations.  The concoction only allowed the bifurcation of his nature to become more extreme and more physical.
Over time, after repeated use of the concoction, Dr. Jekyll could no longer control when he turned into Dr. Hyde.  In fact, eventually it was a great effort to maintain his status as Dr. Jekyll, and the potions were used only to return him to his original state.  Though he wanted to be "good," he no longer found it within his power to be the person he wanted to be.
Obviously all of this has great implications theologically and morally.  This story represents the downward slide into evil that is possible for all of us.  If we try to live a double life - good outside and bad in secret - then we will often find that the bad is slowly taking over.  Slowly, like Jekyll we become addicted, making the transition to evil actions and attitudes more frequently.  Later, to our horror, we discover that we have lost control.  Evil overtakes us in the worst possible times and ways.  Without outside help (from God and loving community) we are lost in our own depravity.
I know that sounds really theological and preachy, but nonetheless, I think it's true. 
So for a good story AND a good point, I give this book a strong 4J's: JJJJ.  The only weakness was the somewhat anticlimactic ending.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Godfather (Part 3) - Review

This weekend, Sarah and I finally finished The Godfather trilogy.  We were surprised by several things. 
1.  Part 1 was filmed in 1972, and Part 2 in 1974.  However, Part 3 was filmed 16 years later - in 1990.  The writer and director originally wanted to call this "The Death of Michael Corleone," which gives more meaning to the final scene.  However, for marketing reasons the studio insisted that it be called "The Godfather - Part 3."  That makes sense.  However, the original title gives a good frame for understanding the movie.
2. Mary was actually Copolla's (the director) daughter.  Julia Roberts was originally cast in the role, but she backed out.  The quality of Sophia  Copolla's acting is much disputed, with some claiming her simple style ruined the movie for them.  Sarah like her, but I thought her character was a little stilted.  However, that could have been the fault of the script itself.
3. The scandals related to the Catholic Church are loosely based on actual historical events.  The writers just mixed the Corleone family's story into that network of events.
4. Godfather 3 is consistently rated lower than Godfather 1 and 2.  However, I definitely liked it more than 2 and maybe about as well as 1.
5. More than any of the other Godfather movies, this movie deals with spiritual themes.  It tells the story of Michael Corleone's original intentions to "legitimize" the family business - in other words to get them out of the mafia ... and his subsequent failure to do so.  He is drawn back in as he seeks revenge for the attack on his father. 
There is a poignant and theologically deep scene in which Michael Corleone is talking with his ex-wife about how he did everything with the mafia and the killings to protect his family, but it was these actions in particular which caused him to lose his family.  To me, this is a beautiful and painful picture of how when we turn to violence and greed to get what we want, we end up losing what we care about most.
There is also a beautiful scene in which Michael is talking with a Catholic bishop, and the bishop convinces Michael to do a confession.  Michael feels that he is beyond redemption, but the Bishop says that Michael could in fact still be redeemed if only he were willing.

Overall, this is a very good movie.  I'm still uncomfortable with the violence which a mafia movie basically necessitates, so that costs it a J in my book.  I give it a strong 4Js: JJJJ.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dangerous Safety - Luke 21:5-36

Josh Broward
November 14, 2010

    You have all heard the story of “The Tortoise and the Hare,” but have you heard the sequel - “The Tortoise and the Bees”?  After winning the dramatic, ever-so-slow victory over the Hare, the Tortoise decided that it was time to lay her eggs.  Yes, the Tortoise was a girl.  But don’t blame old Aesop for that mistake; it’s very hard to tell with turtles! 
    So the Tortoise made the slow journey back to her ancestral breeding ground.  She found the same sandy field where she was born and the same tree where she had been laying her eggs for many years.  It was perfect.  There was plenty of water.  There was plenty of soft green plants nearby.  It was not too sunny but not too cold.  It was perfect -except for one thing.  This year, there was a beehive in the tree. 
    The bees were not happy about the arrival of the Tortoise.  They buzzed about her head and told her to scram.  She quietly said, “You can sting me, but you can’t kill me.  This is my home, and I must produce life.”  She quietly went about her work, moving the sand and preparing her nest.  The bees began to sting her.  They stung her head, her legs, her tail.  They lost their stingers in her shell.  She continued preparing her nest.  “You can sting me, but you can’t kill me.  This is my home, and I must produce life.” 
    Slowly, slowly, slowly, the Tortoise prepared her nest.  Slowly, slowly, slowly, she laid her eggs.  Slowly, slowly, slowly, the tiny tortoise babies developed inside their eggs.  Slowly, slowly, slowly, the attacks from the bees began to wane as more and more bees lost their stingers in her shell.  No matter what the bees buzzed as they stung her, no matter how much it hurt when they stung, she always quietly replied: “You can sting me, but you can’t kill me.  This is my home, and I must produce life.”
    Finally, after many long months of waiting and patience and endurance, her eggs began to move.  The baby tortoises began to poke through their shells and emerge into the fresh clean air.  When all of the babies were out and free, the momma Tortoise prepared her babies for the annual journey to the watering place.  As they were about to leave the nest, she said, “Never mind the bees.  They can sting you, but they can’t kill you.  This is our home, and we must produce life.”

    This world is full of bees.  Bees of all kinds buzz about us and try to distract us from our calling.  Sometimes they attack and sting.  Other times they just do one flyby after another, trying to get us off course, trying to cause us to lose focus and to lose faith.  In our passage today, Jesus calls us to be like the Tortoise: quietly faithful and unafraid.

To continue reading this post, click here.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Korea Tip # 100: Coffee Tree on a Hill

Nestled in the foothills of Taejo Mountain, lies a hidden treasure.  Coffee Tree on a Hill (언덕 위 커피 나무) is a quaint but spacious coffee roasterie and cafe.  Their menu includes coffees from a dozen different nations, scrumptious sandwiches, and lush desserts. 
The coffee beans are delivered green and roasted on the premises.  The red and chrome roaster churns all afternoon.  A single cup is a bit pricey at 5,000 won.  However, if you stay for a while, they will refill it about once an hour with whatever happens to have just been brewed.
The bacon and chicken sandwiches include savory grilled onions and peppers, fresh tomatoes, pickles, and a tangy sauce (making the napkin mandatory).  Be sure to order the bacon crispy (basakbasakhan 바삭바삭한), or else it will come out half-done in the Korean style. 
The New York Cheesecake is thick and creamy.  The Big Brulee Cheese Bar, with chocolate chips sunk into the crust, has just the right combo of tangy and sweet to match a steaming cup of black coffee. 

Perhaps the best part of Coffee Tree on a Hill, though, is the hill itself.  Taejo mountain is within sight and walking distance.  The large bronze Buddha, one of Cheonan’s minor claims to fame, is a peaceful 20 minute walk up the street.  From within the temple complex, one can enter the trail head that runs along the Taejo Mountain ridge.  A morning walk on the mountain is a beautiful set up for a peaceful afternoon with a good book and freshly roasted coffee. 
A few warnings.  Coffee Tree is open late, but its doors are shut until 11:30am.  Conversely, the temple complex is open early but closes at sundown.  I’ve been on the wrong side of these time limitations more than once.
To get here, take the #24 bus from the Cheonan Bus Terminal (on the Dunkin Donuts side of the street).  Wait until the very last stop (about 20 minutes).  The bus will probably pull into a parking lot.  Walk down the hill to the first gravel driveway and turn right.  Coffee Tree on a Hill is on the second floor of the orange brick building, with a nice walk out patio.  The only English on the building is a pink sign for the “Face to Face” skin clinic.
(This review will be published in Korea's 10 MAGAZINE, February 2011.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wild at Heart - Review

I just finished reading Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man's Soul by John Eldredge.  This an old best seller from 2001, but I can totally understand why it has sold some 2,000,000 copies.  John Eldredge also wrote another of my favorite books (with Brent Curtis): The Sacred Romance (also a minor modern classic).
Wild at Heart is about the loss of the man's heart and how to regain it.  The first premise of the book is that men (at least in modern Western culture) have forgotten how to be men.  We have exchanged the essentials of manhood (battle, adventure, and rescuing beauty) for reliability, safety, and good manners.  In the process, we have buried our hearts deep within us, and we have come to doubt our own manhood.
I deeply resonated with Eldredge and his analysis of manhood.  In fact, I've been ready a minor flurry of articles about the loss and struggles of manhood.  It seems that he has really hit on a key struggle of our culture. 
The middle portion of the book is about identifying and healing the deep wound in every man's heart.  We all have received deep wounds that strike us at our core, where our identity and self-worth originate.  Somewhere along the way (early or late or both), we have all received crippling arrows that tell us that we are not good enough and don't have what it takes to be a real man.  This may sound like pop psychology, but it is actually very deep and real.  The path to healing is opening our hearts to hear the voice of God counteracting those false messages deep within our hearts.  Eldredge has explained this with beautiful poignancy. 
In a difficult time in my life, God has used this book to encourage me to bring my full strength to bear in all my relationships and tasks.  The best thing I can do in this world is to be fully myself through the fueling power of the Spirit.
I highly recommend this book.  The Josh rating: JJJJJ.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bigger than our Boxes - Luke 20:27-40

Josh Broward
November 7, 2010

Let’s start today with a little riddle.  I need some audience participation here.  (I raided McDonald’s trash in my sermon preparation this week.)  I’ve asked ______ to help us out.  Here’s the deal.  You have to get this balloon into this box.  Today, we are in a very practical sense the Body of Christ.   ______ will work as the hands, but you are all the collective brain.  You give him some ideas.  Tell him what to do. 

OK, let’s review the suggestions.
We could push and push to try to make it fit, but it will probably pop if we push too hard.
We could pop the balloon and put the little pieces inside, but then we no longer have a real balloon.
We could let some of the air out to make it smaller, but then, we’ve lost something of the balloon’s full potential.
There’s one more option.
We could reshape and expand the box.  If we take off some of the tape and tear it apart at one seem, the triangle unfolds.  Then, we can see that this box has much more potential than we thought.  There was hidden capacity here.  If we keep unfolding and reshaping, then it becomes a rectangle that is plenty big enough for the balloon.1
Thanks ______.

God is always bigger than our boxes.  Jesus is always bigger than we think he is.  The Truth is always bigger than our mental constructs.
I hate to break this to you, but you’re wrong. You’re all wrong. Don’t feel too bad about that. I’m wrong, too. We’re all wrong about something. ...

To continue reading this post, click here.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Scholars of Life Blog

My friend, Mike Bobo (a former KNUer), started a community blog called Scholars of Life.  It's a bunch of people who want to be students of life itself, learning together how to live life more fully and more faithfully.  Mike invited me to join the blog.  Check it out.