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Posts Tagged ‘sacrifice’


The subtitle gets to the point: Infusing Evangelistic Passion in Your Local Congregation. Kevin Harney has a passion for congregations that share the gospel organically. Hence the title, Organic Outreach for Churches.

This is not a book about personal evangelism, though we should personally evangelize. He wants to help congregations to have a passion for the gospel. Congregations. The Church. Evangelistic communities. Evangelism is a group project. Evangelism is a community commitment.

“Organic outreach is what happens when evangelistic vision and action become the domain of every ministry in a church and the commitment of every member of a congregation.”

By organic he means that it is “a natural and integrated part of the whole life of the church, not a fabricated add-on.” In his book he wants to provide ways for leaders to instill this integrated vision for evangelism into their congregations.

It starts with the heart. Both the process and the book. He begins with the heart of your congregation: love for God, the world and the church.

“If a congregation is gripped by God’s love and lavishes it freely on each other and their community, God will draw people to this church.”

He begins with love for God. We, of course, have been loved by God and then called to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. Love for God is the fountain of evangelism. If we don’t love God, we won’t recommend Him to others.

In many ways I heard echos of Michael Reeves’ work. God’s motive in creation and redemption was love. Having been loved, we are restored in the image of the God who is love and begin to love. Many churches have forgotten or forsaken their first love. Pleas to reach out will fall on deaf ears because there is no love. The root or fountain must be addressed. Pastors need to communicate God’s redemptive love so we love the God who redeemed us.

Some earnest churches may need to slow down and channel their energy. They launch an endless series of outreach efforts and follow all the latest fads. But we are concerned with the long haul, not a series of wind sprints. The goal is a congregation that consistently reaches out, charting a steady course that fits who God made them to be.

“As we are grounded in God’s love for us and as we learn to walk in this love, we will continue to grow in our love for people and for God.”

We are to love the world. This does not mean the godless world system that is our enemy (the world, the flesh & the devil). Rather this is the lost people in need of Christ to whom the love of God is to be revealed. Scripture recognizes this distinction. If we don’t love them, we won’t reach out to them. We won’t have sufficient concern or compassion to communicate and demonstrate that love.

“A congregation that is wholeheartedly devoted to following the teachings of Scripture will inevitably be propelled beyond what they want in order to become what God is calling them to be.”

I tend to think of love as a self-sacrificing commitment to another person’s well-being. I don’t love my wife much if I’m not willing to sacrifice much for her. The same goes for my kids. If my life pre- and post-children is unchanged then I’m not engaged with them, sacrificing for them and just plain loving them. To love the world means that a congregation sacrifices so that others hear the gospel.

“When a congregation is in love with itself and is committed to self-preservation, it’s unlikely it will count the cost and take steps to reach out. … Love, inspired by the Spirit of God, propels us out of our comfort zones and into the world.”

We tend to think about money first and foremost. A missions budget is a sacrifice. That is money that could be spent on “us”. But that is not really what Harney is getting at. Harvey is getting at changing, sacrificing, so that outreach is integral to all a congregation does. It is a willingness to remove unnecessary obstacles. It is a willingness to pay the price that keeps many congregations from consistent evangelistic vision and action.

Often churches will say they want to reach out. They will say this to a pastoral candidate. As their new pastor seeks to implement evangelistic vision and action the resistance begins. It gets back to a lack of love, and therefore unwillingness to sacrifice. We see Jesus, out of love, sacrificing in His Incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension. Jesus, our Savior, is also our Example (not one or the other).

Harney makes a necessary distinction in his exercises at the end of the chapter. We don’t sacrifice the gospel. We maintain clarity on important theological issues. We are to affirm and uphold biblical absolutes or principles. What is sacrifices is “tradition” or preference. We are to sing songs of worship that exalt God, humble sinners and promote holiness. We may sacrifice our personal preference when it comes to musical style. We affirm the biblical gospel, but we may sacrifice our preference for “gospel presentations”. We may rethink the traditions of our congregations that are rooted in how we like to do it rather than how God tells us to do it. We need to be distinctively Christian, and we need to realize church life isn’t all about us.

“The truth is that most churches have all sorts of opportunities for believers to grow, fellowship, and be encouraged in their faith. The problem is that we don’t really do all that much for those who are not followers of Jesus. … When this love is alive and growing in our hearts, we willingly- and naturally- sacrifice for the sake of those who are not yet followers of the Savior.”

Harney notes that many churches often forget they are to love the church as an essential aspect of organic outreach. He says “What we often fail to recognize is that a joy-filled love for the church is also a key to outreach.” We are not only to love Christ, but also His Bride. We invite people to Christ, and also His Body. If we are focused on the faults of His Bride our love for Her will wane and we won’t think inviting others into Her life is a good thing. If you want to grow in your desire to reach out, you must also grow in your love for the church- especially your particular congregation.

If you are embarrassed by your dysfunctional family, you won’t invite your new significant other to meet them. The solution is not to find a new family. The solution is to love your family despite their many, obvious flaws and work slowly to resolve the dysfunction (it wasn’t created in a day and won’t be resolved in a day either). So, don’t take this as “find a church you can love” but love the one you’re in. Return to the Scriptures to see how Jesus sees His Bride and Body. He didn’t love Her because She was perfect and had it all together. He sacrificed Himself to make Her holy and blameless. See His profound love for the Church and ask Him to give you a similar love for His not yet holy and blameless people.

If our congregations don’t have an evangelistic vision and action that permeates the whole congregation, engaging every member, we probably have love trouble. Our love for Christ, the world and/or the church is the problem. This is what must be addressed. Our love for each grows only as we see the manner in which God loved the world, sending His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for sinners. His love for us will grow into love for Him, His people and His world. This is the motive for God-honoring outreach.

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The Good Lie starts with sadness, as a group of kids’ village is destroyed in northern Sudan. Their parents were among those killed by the soldiers. And so begins their heartbreaking journey, on foot, to Kenya which is more than 700 miles away. Among the few possessions they carry with them is the family Bible. They are led by Theo who is wise, and whose wisdom they would need to survive as they try to avoid armed troops. Along the way a group of refugees they have fallen in with is slaughtered, but they escape alive due to Theo’s wisdom and foresight. They also face desert conditions, and there is attrition including Theo who allows himself to be captured so the others can live.

They end up spending 13 years in a refugee camp waiting for a new place to go. Eventually they are on the list of those being sent to America. As the movie shift, your source of anger shifts from the Muslim soldiers to the clueless Americans. I know they didn’t mean it to be that way, but you will grow frustrated at the clueless policies of our government. You will be frustrated by how we Americans just don’t grasp how others live. We often assume people know what refrigerators and phones are.

The three young men, separated from Mamere’s sister Abitar (thanks to INS rules), are like young innocents trying to figure out life in a very strange world where no one “gets” them. In one scene Paul tries to explain the scars on his arm come from a lion. This obviously lends itself to some humor (not the story of the lion obviously). There are a few scenes about trying to identify the lions of their new environment.

Mamere thrives initially. Jeremiah struggles with his first job because he isn’t supposed to give the old food away to homeless people. Paul gets introduced to marijuana and his anger over Abital’s being separated from them. His resentment of Mamere threatens to tear the small group apart.

In all of this is their very broken job counselor named Carrie (played by Reese Witherspoon who looks very much like Sally Field at times). Great white hope she is not (some have criticized the movie for portraying her as a great white hope). But she and her boss slowly begin to understand the horrors they faced. They also begin to open their lives to help reunite this family. In some ways she changes their lives, but in many they change hers.

The Good Lie refers to Huckleberry Finn, that which you say to survive. Or like the lie Theo told to save the others. The others have to deal with survivors guilt while they try to adapt to a new world. I don’t want to give away other plot lines. But we all have to deal with circumstances beyond our control, circumstances that have wrought grief and loss. Sometimes we receive second chances. How far will we go to find the ones we love? Will we tell the good lie?

It hits home to me because after adopting our last two kids, we discovered they had two young uncles that were also in the orphanage (CavWife unknowingly took pictures of them because they were helping out with CavSon #2). There was nothing we could do. “All” we can do is pray for them. All we can do is wait for the DRC to resume issuing exit letters.

Back to the movie. It is funny, and sad. It is about living as a community, where the whole is greater than the one and great sacrifices are made. It is about everyone’s lives being changed by everyone else.

“If you want to go fast, go alone.

If you want to go far, go together.” African Proverb

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Earlier in his book Love into Light, Peter Hubbard talked about change. There he talked about unrealistic expectations for change. Change is an internal thing.

Discussion of change for a homosexual (as well as for any sexually immoral person, like addicts) eventually gets to the issues of celibacy and marriage. How you understand yourself if important to this discussion. If you view yourself as the world labels you (“homosexual”, “pervert” “misfit” or “dirty”) you will live out that reality. If you view yourself as God views you if you are in Christ (beloved, holy, son) you will begin to live out of this new reality. No, not perfectly. It is a progress. But God’s labels for those in Christ provide something of the goal.

He notes that we struggle with this notion of an “assigned” life or label. Deep down most of us suspect that God doesn’t have our best in mind. Deep down we think that we know the path to a fulfilling life better than God does. We forget that this is what got us in the deep hole we were in in the first place.

Additionally, Matthew Vines, he notes, talks about how homosexuals often feel left out as their friends marry and have kids. This is not something particular to homosexuals. I didn’t get married until I was 36, and a father until 39. I saw so many friends get married and have kids. I felt left out, forgotten and as if it would never happen to me. That’s the funny thing about sin, it deceives us into thinking we are the only one who feels this way. We don’t realize that others who don’t share our reasons also feel the same kinds of things. Marrying late wasn’t really MY choice. I wanted to get married, but experienced that frustrating reality that the people I wanted to marry didn’t want to marry me. And the people who wanted to marry me were not ones I wanted to marry.

I, like many in my state, wondered “what if God is calling me to be single, forever?” It seemed a fate worse than death at times. I wasn’t struggling with SSA. This is a human problem, not merely a SSA problem. My wife and I have many older friends who have never been married.

There are a number of people in the Bible who were never married or were widowed and remained single and alone with no outlet for their sexual desire. Jesus is pretty prominent there. As fully (hu)man, He would have experienced sexual desire. He would have found particular people attractive. But he never acted upon such desire. He mission trumped all those internal feelings and desires, such that His food was to do the will of His Father.

We also see Paul (probably widowed since he was a Pharisee of Pharisees). Paul was a sinner, like the rest of us. Paul lived in a culture with few if any sexual boundaries. There was temptation without and within. Surely there was loneliness and frustration. As the head of her household, Lydia was single or widowed as well. As that head of household, there would have been slaves or servants she could use to satisfy her sexual desires, as was common. But every indication is that she lived a faithful, obedient life that flowed out of her faith and love for Christ.

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Today is Fat Tuesday which used to have a different meaning than it currently has in secularized America.  It refers, originally, to the end of the feast in the church year and the beginning of a time of fasting in the church year.  It has turned into a time of feasting, not on food, but sin before fasting from sin.  America has turned it into another excuse to get drunk, naked and engage in immoral activity.

“Fat, drunk and stupid is not any way to go through life, son.”  Dean Wormer

For some, the Lenten practice is to give up something they love or enjoy.  It is something of a sacrifice to fast from TV, drinking, candy etc.  I don’t want to say sacrifice is a bad thing.  I believe I am saved from my sin by sacrifice- the sacrifice of Jesus.  In the Old Testament, the sacrifices were intended to point us to Jesus and His once for all time sacrifice.  Sometimes people fell into the misguided notion that those sacrifices were the real deal.  They missed God’s point since the blood of bulls and sheep can’t take away or cover your sin.

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In the Introduction, the author notes that 75,000 books on parenting have been written in the last decade.  We are apparently obsessed with parenting, and we apparently haven’t discovered how to parent well.

In Gospel-Powered Parenting, William Farley brings something different to the table.  He isn’t focused on technique, he’s focused on the hearts of the parents and their goals.

“The common denominator between success and failure seems to be the spiritual depth and sincerity of the parents, especially the spiritual depth and sincerity of the father.”

This is interesting in light of an Atlantic  Monthly article a young lady on the plane was reading recently, “Are Fathers Necessary?”  Every study (which the article thinks erroneous, without real data) I’ve read indicates they are (check out Life Without Father by David Popenoe.  This is why the wise church focuses on dads and tries to involve men in ministry to children (time to man up, guys: you are important to the kingdom!).

Success here is essentially defined as children who own the faith of their parents are are involved church members after leaving the home.  How they were educated is far less important than their witnessing “experiential religion”, as the Puritans would say, in the home.  And especially by dad (hmm, maybe those passages in the Bible aren’t shaped by ‘patriarchism’ but reflect how God often works in light of the covenant).

Initially, his claim that the Job 1 responsibility of Christian parents is to see their kids come to faith (he is a Calvinist, so he recognizes parents as a means, not the cause, of their faith).  It seems like all that matters is that if we get our kids to say the prayer, we’re done.  That would be reductionistic, and that is not what he means.  If we are powered by the gospel, and they believe it, many of those issues will be addressed but not in an idolatrous fashion.  Our children will learn how to manage money, persevere in difficulty, delay gratification, do their best in school (depending on their own intellectual capacity) and be good citizens and workers.  The gospel will produce the character necessary for those things if we recognize it isn’t just “fire insurance”

He begins with the assumptions each parent has in that process.  They are often unseen, but drive our parenting.  He lays out his assumptions.

  1. Parenting is not easy.  We are sinners, and so are they.  There will be plenty of failure to go around.
  2. God is sovereign, but He uses means.  We are not to be passive, but active, in light of His commands.  But we are also to be trusting in light of His promises and providence.
  3. A good offense (is better than a good defense).  Often we try to protect our kids, fearing the world will corrupt them.  As a result, we often raise legalists or rebels.  We recognize the battleground is their hearts and make the gospel the main issue to shape their hearts.  Love for Christ is the only real way to avoid the corruption of the world.
  4. Understand the New Birth.  Our kids don’t need the Moralistic Therapeutic Deism of our day.  They need to be born again- given spiritual life.  This is borne out by its fruit, not merely a decision.
  5. God-centered Families.  Most people have child-centered families, and sports or performing arts often crowd out manifestations of lively faith.  The kids learn they are more important than God, and worship is essentially optional.

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I am not really part of the intended audience of Lisa McKay’s You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes (and other great advice from an unlikely preacher’s wife).  That’s okay.  CavWife didn’t expect to be a pastor’s wife but married into the role.  She got a crash course.  With a new call on the horizon, I thought I would pick up a review copy to 1. better understand some of her struggles, 2. give her a resource in dealing with some of the realities of being a pastor’s wife.  In fact, if she ever gets around to reading it (in her defense, we have lots going on right now) I hope to have a Q & A with her about the book.

Despite the fact that I’m not in the intended audience, I found the book interesting and helpful.  She shares some of her personal experiences, brings Scripture to bear on important issues.  Lisa also utilizes interaction from her blog to provide other viewpoints on the topics at hand.

Lisa sounds like a Calvinistic Baptist.  She loves John Piper’s books, and often refers to book by John McArthur.  Her husband went to Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He has served primarily in the South.  But the relationships she has developed online transcend those particulars.  Of course, the human condition being what it is, the problems pastor’s wives face also transcend those particulars.

Among the things she addresses are false expectations, stereotypes, having good expectations for your kids, protecting your kids from knowing too much, leaving one church and embracing a new one (CavWife may want to fast forward to that one).

This was a funny book!

Perhaps it is because I’m a guy, but I didn’t find it a witty and funny as the cover and some blurbs claim.  Really, I have a good sense of humor.  Okay, a strange sense of humor.  Being married, I know that CavWife and I don’t always agree on what is funny.  So maybe she’ll laugh as much as I did reading Blue Like Jazz.

A minor thing that annoyed me was her talk of “mutual yielding” though she says she loves Piper’s book What’s the Difference? Manhood and Womanhood Defined According to the Bible.  Perhaps I’m being too simplistic, but in Ephesians 5 we see that wives submit and husbands sacrifice.  Those are different.  She recognizes his authority and responsibility before God, while he is called to do what is best for her (listening to her may help him figure that out).  Minor thing.  But the quote by Tony Evans at the beginning of the chapter was very funny.

“Submission is knowing how to duck so God can hit your husband.”

This same chapter, I Can Potentially Be My Husband’s Worst Enemy, best illustrates my other issue with the book.  Maybe it is another one of those male/female things.  I like linear arguments, and knowing where an author is going.  Not very much of the chapter is about how a wife can undermine her husband’s ministry or just plain make his life miserable.  There were sections on how he can be on the phone too much at home (maintaining boundaries in ministry is difficult), pastors neglecting their wives and similar things.  Certainly need to be addressed.  It just didn’t seem to be the right place.    Or the chapter was not titled properly.

These minor issues aside, this was a good book.  It was easy to read.  It was informative, and I thought much of her advice was helpful.  I think my wife will benefit from reading this book, and so will many pastor’s wives.

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I remember the infamous Dennis Green press conference while he was coach of the Cardinals.  “They are who we thought they were!”  John Ensor’s book Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart is not the book I thought it was, 2 times.  First, I thought it was connect with his book, The Great Work of the Gospel: How We Experience God’s Grace.  I’d been wanting to read that book, and thought this was a follow up on obedience.  When my copy arrived in the mail, I discovered I was quite wrong.  It looked like a marriage book.

I began to read it to discover I was still wrong.  But I kept on reading.

It is a book that seeks to lay out some issues related to manhood and womanhood for young adults (and teens) so they can understand what they are looking for in a spouse, and how to find that person.  What you get is an understandable introduction to complementarianism (men & woman are equal, but different, with men granted authority/responsibility to lead in the home and church).  And some helpful dating/courtship advice as well.

Ensor draws upon Scripture as his authority.  To illustrate things, he draws heavily on Shakespear, Wendy Shalit’s Return of Modesty, George Gilder’s Men and Marriage, and Shel Silverstein.  He also draws upon personal experience to create a readable, understandable little book that many should find helpful.  I wish I had been able to read it as a young man.

A few things stood out to me.  His emphasis on unity as the goal of submission and sacrifice.  These 2 are joined together to arrive at unity.  Men are to sacrifice, like Christ, for the well-being of their brides.  This is a high call, and sometimes painful call since we must die to our own agendas and goals.  Women also die to their goals and agendas at times as they submit to the loving leadership of their husbands.  This requires communication, that he might understand the needs and concerns of his wife and they both understand the greater goals they are to pursue together.  It is not about control, but unity.  And so, both seek their happiness in the happiness of the other.

Another item that stood out to me was that of celibacy before marriage being important for the maturation process of the male.  It is how men learn to control their desires, lest they be mastered by them.  It is also a test so the woman can identity men who are maturing versus men who are remaining immature.  A man who is unwilling or unable to wait until marriage for sex is a man who will not sacrifice for his wife in marriage.

As a result, this is a book I would recommend to those working with single adults and youth, as well as single adults and youth themselves.  Many, like myself, did not grow up in a Christian family and may never have had these things communicated to them.  These are important matters that shape many generations, so I’m glad John Ensor wrote this book, and hope he writes the one I thought it was the first time.

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We finally watched the latest movie by Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino.  He plays a crotchedy, bigoted, foul-mouthed widower who ends up learning to care about people- in his own way.

The movie opens with his wife’s funeral and we are introduced to this distant family.  They are distant because he is essentially toxic.  They know little to nothing about him, only that his is abrasive.  We don’t see very much of them except as they try to relieve their guilt over neglecting him, or try to use him to get something they want.

Walt Kowalski is pursued by a young priest who made a promise to his wife.  But he essentially rejects his family’s faith.  It does not seem to address the needs of his heart, which are more than he’s ready to admit.  The young priest makes no headway.

Walt’s neighborhood has changed, considerably.  And he’s uncomfortable with all the strange-speaking immigrants on his street.  Until one night when he stops the local gang from abusing his neighbor.  He soon becomes the unofficial protector of the neighborhood.  He slowly allows his neighbors into his life.

The neighbor feels out of sorts too.  He has no father-figure, and has turned away from his family’s faith as irrelevant to life in America.  He is being pressured by the gang, led by his cousin, to join, and the initiation is to steal Walt’s mint Gran Torino.

Wally sees the young man only as a thief, who works for him as a type of penance.  Soon, his perception changes and he begins to guide and direct the young man in his own akward way.  And this brings him into repeated conflict with the gang.

The middle of the movie moved a bit slowly as the relationship between the main characters developed.  The priest nearly disappears.  He finally confesses the misdeeds that have haunted him all his adult life, to the young neighbor.  Finally able to love, he lays down his life for his friends.

This is a movie about violence that does not glorify violence.  We see how violence has disfigured his soul and mutilated his relationships.  He wants none of this for his neighbor, seeking to save him in the only way that seems to make sense to him: sacrifice.

It is a movie with a message- perhaps Eastwood’s own repentance- but the telling is not easy.  Walt’s rants are not PC and loaded with profanity.  But we also see that people can change, they are not cast in cement.  Eastwood uses a variety of metaphors to communicate what is going on internally.  And a tough of humor.  Sadly, sometimes it is those just like us that pose the greatest danger to us.  Race is insufficient to overcome selfishness and greed.  It takes something alittle more- love.

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Still working through the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Here are the sections on the Covenant and Christ our Mediator.

Chapter VII: Of God’s Covenant with Man

80. What is a covenant (in terms of God’s relationship with man)?  It is a bond sealed in blood by which God has redeemed His people, and outlines how we are to live as His people.

81. What is meant by the “covenant of works” (or, “of life”)? Does it have a present validity?  It was the covenant under which Adam lived in the Garden.  It is the covenant under which we all fell into sin with him.  All who are in Adam remain in the covenant of works and shall experience the just condemnation due them.

82. What is meant by the “covenant of grace”?  It is covenant in which Jesus is offered as our Redeemer who perfectly obeyed in our place  that we might receive covenant blessings, and died in our place suffering the penalty for our sins committed under the covenant of works.

83. Explain the statement that there is one unified covenant of grace with various administrations. Distinguish from dispensations. The revelation of that covenant was progressive and expansive.  Each successive covenant provided greater clarity and blessing rather than replace previous covenants.  In dispensationalism, each successive dispensation replaces the previous dispensation.

84. What are the signs and seals of the covenant? Circumcision and Passover in the OT; Baptism & the Lord’s Table in the NT

85. Are you personally committed to covenant theology? Yes.

 

Chapter VIII: Of Christ the Mediator

86. Why is the office of Christ as Mediator necessary for the salvation of God’s elect?  Apart from the work of a Mediator, we perish in our sins.  God is just and he can’t just wipe the slate clean.  Someone must be punished for our sins, and we need real obedience to receive covenant blessings.

87. Could God have pardoned sin without Christ’s sacrifice?  No, for no mere man is able to perfectly obey God but sin each day in thought, word and deed.  God is just and must punish sin.  No other substitute was available.

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I was not a big comic book fan.  But I usually enjoy movies based on comic books.  I suppose too much is lost emotionally with drawings rather in motion pictures.  I’m thinking more of the shifting emotions.  Or I am a snob.

I’m not a big Iron Man fan, nor was I anticipating the movie.  Robert Downy Jr.?  Not even remotely a draw for me.  But Jon Faverau (Mikey from Swingers, director of Elf) is the director (as well as pulling a cameo as Tony Stark’s driver) and the trailers made it look interesting.  The initial reviews have been pretty good.  So I plunked down my $6.50 and enjoyed a matinee.

I’m glad I did.  As the first in what the producers hope is a series, this movie introduced the character and set the stage for all that is to come.  Robert Downy Jr. was a good casting move for this movie.  You buy into him as Tony Stark- a womanizing, smart-mouthed man prone to the excesses that his incredible wealth affords him.  His family has been in the defense industry since World War II.  He is an engineering genius.  His parents died while he was a teen.  His father’s friend Obediah ran the business until Tony joined him when he turned 21.

You really don’t like Tony.  He’s arrogant and a user of people.  But all of that changes when he is captured by terrorists in Afghanistan.  The religious aspects are complete ignored.  What the movie focuses on is that they are using weapons manufactured by his company!  Despite patriotic intentions, his weapons systems are being used by aggressors not just for defense.  Stuck in the cave for 3 months he has an epiphany.

But he’s trapped in a cave.  He is recovering from heart surgery after shrapenal from one of his weapons injures him in the attack.  The also-imprisoned doctor uses a magnet to keep the remaining shrapenal from going into his heart.  There he must build his latest weapons system for the warlord.  Instead, Tony makes a technological discovery and also creates a metal suit with weapons to make his way to freedom.

He succeeds in escaping and decides to develop his original design.  Back home people don’t understand the change in mindset that has overtaken him.  It is a picture of repentance (without the religious component).  His whole reason for living, and how he lives, changes.  He is, essentially, a new man.  He tries to right the wrongs of his past.  Unfortunately for him, there is a betrayer who tries to destoy him.

There aren’t as many battle scenes as I’d like, but they fit the story line.  The focus is on character development.  Tony comes face-to-face with his personal emptiness, confessing to his personal assistant (played well by Gwyneth Paltrow): “You are all I have.”  Due to her attentiveness to his compulsive nature, he is all she has too.  A very different looking Jeff Bridges plays Obediah.  He looks like he’s put on some muscle (thicker, but not fat), grew a goatee and shaved his head.

The ending was not as good as the rest of the movie.  It was a letdown in some ways.  But this was a good summer blockbuster.  But it is not mindless.  It has themes of repentance, redemption, betrayal, sacrifice etc.  He can only survive because of a power outside of himself.  Not quite a new heart, but pretty intriguing.  The ‘new’ Tony Stark uses his wealth and genius to help the poor and oppressed, not for his own excess.  These are things that a Christian can affirm, and should be doing.  But the ‘old’ Tony will pose some uncomfortable moments for parents (no nudity, but some implied sexual immorality).  In the context you see that his sin does not satisfy. 

Overall, Jon Faverau did a good job with the pacing of the movie.  There was enough humor to keep it from being too serious.  Much of this takes place while he builds the high tech suit at his home workshop.  The soundtrack also had lots of hard rock, but Black Sabbath’s Iron Man doesn’t show up until the credits.  The soundtrack fit the movie, and that’s what you are looking for in a soundtrack.

This is the first good movie of the summer blockbuster season.

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