Christ, the Church & The Lego Movie

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Yesterday, I took my 4 daughters, along with 10 other  kids, to see The Lego Movie. Despite that it was dubbed in Spanish, I literally laughed the entire time. I woke up this morning feeling like Emmet. Even that cute yet annoying tune buzzed through my brain: “Everything is awesome!” (If you watched it, don’t lie – you had the same experience!)

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!

[If you haven’t seen the movie yet, come back latter to read this entry.]

OK, I’m a pastor, and I admit that the entire meta-narrative isn’t exactly a consistent Biblical worldview (i.e. the prophesy is true – there is a chosen one!). But I’m fine with it, because this movie is told from a kid’s perspective. Just as if I would be gracious to my 6 year-old’s imaginary world of My Little Ponies & Littlest Pet Shop, so I will not point out all the gaps. Rather, let me share with you several awesome themes of redemption that I found:

1. We all have a special role to play on God’s team

What is refreshing about The Lego Movie is that it does not just celebrate the repetitive theme that “everyone is special” but places our specialness in a community context. The second line to the theme song (“…everything is cool when you’re part of a team”) actually interprets what the movie means by awesome.  As Cuidon of Christianity Today says: “The Lego Movie proposes that our different roles in the larger story make each of us totally necessary and special, even if we don’t all look and act the same.” One can easily see how the all the members of a local church are very special because all are very needed to make disciples and be salt and light in the world.

2. We all have a creative role to play on God’s team

The Lego Movie also connects our collective awesomeness to our creativity. I agree with Gray Ewing, that we are all builders that image the Master Architects creativity in making a better world. “In creation,” Ewing states, “God has basically given us a bunch of colorful blocks and told us to go play with them in meaningful ways.” Yes, we do have dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:28), but not in an oppressive way like President Business, but in a caring way like Emmet and his motley crew of master builders. We make the world more awesome through innovation, creativity, and many times through improvisation.

[Side note: Richard Bauckham does a brilliant job in his book The Bible & Ecology, of making a biblical case that the cultural mandate is a call for creative care of the earth, rather than cruel exploitation of the earth as some Christians in the past have interpreted.]

3. We all have to follow the rules on God’s team

A major turning point in the movie is when Emmet improvises a speech to the other master builders. He tells them how they can enter the unscalable, impenetrable Office Building. It will not be by building a bat mobile, a pirate ship, or a rainbow train. Rather, Emmet surprises them all and says that following instructions is the most subversive thing they can do! “No one will expect it!” Another thing I loved about The Lego Movie is that they don’t portray rule following as boring and dumb, but rather as the most counter-cultural strategy against President Business. To be on an effective team, yes, we have to follow the rules, especially the rules our Master Builder tells us in the blue prints of Scripture.

4. Even the most unlikely people are chosen to be on God’s team

Right when President Business is about to glue Emmet, all seems to be lost! Yet Emmet improvises again (something he seems to be growing in) and says he has a secret weapon. This spikes President Business’ curiosity and asks, “What is it?” “Our hands,” replies Emmet (If the dialogue isn’t exactly right, I did watch it in Spanish!). What Emmet says next is the most surprising moment of the movie, he tells the undeserving, cruel President Business that he too is special, that he is the chosen one, and the most gifted master builder he knows! Although Morgan Freeman (Vitruvius) already said that had made up prophecy about the chosen-one, what Emmet says still communicates a powerful point: electing love changes even our enemies’ hearts. Emmet chose to love the villain. As Emmet lavishes his love on President Business, his perpetual angry face melts away into wonder.

Perhaps when President Business becomes part of the team is the most powerful gospel moment in the movie. The good news is that the Divine Architect is real and His prophecy is true. God does have a Chosen One and He is the real hero of the story.  His death on the cross looked more idiotic and unpractical than Emmet’s double-decker couch (which interestingly saves them all). The cross was foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews. We too are like President Business, and Jesus’ counter-intuitive act of love melts our hearts. “While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10).

Christians, lets me honest. Look around. Not only are many of us as bizarre as Uni-Kitty, as simple as Emmet, as narcissistic as Batman, but we are also as mean as President Business. We do not deserve to be on the team. And that is precisely what makes election so beautiful, so touching. Although we are the most unlikely people to be on God’s team, He has chosen us to do some awesome things. So let’s keep extending the hand like Emmet and work together as God’s unlikely team, because we know that one day everything will be completely awesome!

What did I miss? What other themes did you you see?

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Most Impacting Ted Talks

I love Ted Talks, and other Ted-like venues. They have become the pulpit of the globalized world. I have been exposed to great idea shapers, and I wanted to share with you some of my favorites. Here’s my top 5:

5. Seth Godin: How to get your ideas to spread

This 17 minute video shows why Godwin is the leading marketing guru of today. In a information saturated world, we must be remarkable (or even weird) to stand out.

4. Nancy Duarte: The secret structure of great talks

From the “I have a dream” speech to Steve Jobs’ iPhone launch, all great presentations have a common architecture. In this talk, Nancy Duarte shows the underlining architecture for every great speech.

3. Jeff Shinabarger: Black Friday and the Endless Cycle of Want

Our family watched this on Black Friday and generated a great discussion about materialism and service. Jeff makes a great point that if we don’t know what enough is, we will always want more. If we don’t, every time we hang out with people who have more than us, we’ll want more. And every time we hang out with someone that has less than us, we will feel like that we need to simplify our lives. Yet the enough for you is not the enough for me. It’s easy to draw the line for others, but hard to draw the line for ourselves. When we choose to live with less, we gain the opportunity to give more. Ultimately, generosity is the key to freedom in a greedy world. Great stuff!

2. Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

Amy quickly and convincingly reviews the latest science to show how our body posture directly influences our heads and hearts. The old theologian, Augustine, would have agreed but probably would have put it differently, like James K. A. Smith says: our liturgy trains our hearts just as much as our worldview. I find these new findings extremely helpful in how people are actually discipled and formed as people.

1. Mark Driscoll: Tribalism & the Evangelicals

I love charts! Driscoll basically states that Evangelicals are no longer one tribe (as in the days of Billy Graham). Based on Seth Godin’s work, Driscoll developed key question chart to help navigate the divided world of Evangelicalism. So based on your answers determines who is your tribe, and who are your tribal leaders.

  • Are you Reformed or Arminian?
  • Are you Complementarian or Egalitarian?
  • Are you Charismatic or Cessationist?
  • Are you Missional or Fundamental?

Continue reading “Most Impacting Ted Talks”

Most Listened to Music of 2013

Continuing this mini-series of “best-of 2013”, here is our family’s favorite, most-listened to music of this past year.

Allen’s Favorite Music

 

1. Gungor

When I first heard Gungor, it was love and first listen! They are most known for their song Beautiful Things, which we used for our family update. Gungor is made up of eclectic styles, beautiful melodies, and thoughtful Christian lyrics. Most morning I wake up to Brother Moongive it a listen:

2. Bastille

I recently stumbled upon the Britt band, Bastille. I love their 80 electric sound with Queen-like harmonies and Muse-like melody lines. There is not a bad track on their new album, Bad Blood. I look forward to listening to the tribal song, Pompeii, on Easter Island!

3. Liquid Mind

Since my study is at my house, I’m always looking for ways to cancel the noise of squealing girls playing in the rooms. However, I can’t just listen to any music with rhythm, lyrics, or dynamics. That’s why Liquid Mind perfectly fits the bill: peaceful, ambient, rhythmless sounds that helps me focus while studying.

Sandi’s Favorite Songs

1. Little Talks by Of Monsters & Men

2. I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons

3. Un Día de Sol by Los Claxons

A poppy song that was free on iTunes this past year. Click on the album cover below to here this fun song.

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Kids Favorites Music

1. Cimorelli

Last year we discovered a 6 sister singing group called, Cimorelli. Our 4 daughters can identify and love singing their songs. Here is one of their favorites, Made in America.

2. The Trinity Band

Our friend from the Netherlands, Albert den Oudsten, introduced us to a Dutch Christian group called The Trinity Band. What is unique about these guys, is that several of the brothers grew up in Peru and learned many of the same songs we sing in church. Here is their funnest song, Fiesta Celestial (Heavenly Party) – our favorite song for camp this year.

3. Britt Nicole

Our girls have also enjoyed Britt Nicole. Here is her most popular track, Gold.

What are some of your favorite music groups and songs from 2013?

Most Listened to Podcasts of 2013

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I’m such an auditory learner! I can remember exact times and places when I listened to transformative talks and sermons. I remember the cadence, timbre, and rhythm of each speaker’s voice. Now that Podcast streams, this app has become my primary way to listen to audio. I use to have to scrounge the internet looking for good sermons and audio files, download them to my computer, drag the files to iTunes, then sync my devices. All I have to do now is simply stream.

Like my top books of 2013, I’ve reviewed using the same categories of head, heart, & hands.

Head

  • 14f37aadd69661321bd67e9e19dbf7a0Usually every Saturday morning, while I’m making pancakes for the family, I listen Ed Stetzer’s weekly podcast The Exchange. My favorite episodes was the State of the North American Church, where Ed explains that though the Western Church is not dying but loosing nominal Christians – which is a good thing. He also suggest that if America wants to get a glimpse of the future of American Christianity, the North West (Seattle, Portland) is about 10-15 years ahead of the central and southern States.
  • This is not exactly a podcast, but audio files I found on the internet. Ijamessmalln 2013 I discovered James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy at Calvin College. I saw in blogsphere that many were discussing his recent books series Desiring the Kingdom Imagining the Kingdomso I googled him and found several online talks. I found his New College Lectures at University of New South Wales, Australia and Winter Conference talks at Redeemer Church in Knoxville, TN. I  listened to these lectures many times over. Prof. Jamey’s works has profound implications not only for worship but also for how we make disciples in the normal rhythms of life (liturgies). I hope to connect the dots more in a future blog post.

Heart

Living in Peru, I am not around much good preaching in English. So I water my soul via preaching podcasts. Here are my top two:

  • RICHIESESSIONSforsign-thumb190x190Since our days in RTS Jackson, I have witnessed phenomenal growth Richie Sessions’ preaching. He is Senior Minister of IPC Memphis; the church that we are eternally grateful for allowing our family to live in their mission house during our 2010 Furlough Year. Not only is Richie a clear communicator and passionate lover of Christ, he preaches with unction – that tangible presence of the Spirit. Check out IPC’s sermon podcast.
  • 2bb3158dfff313718c9d4c2f0b00d6eeWhile living in Memphis, I met an amazing church planter, Jonathan Macintosh. He moved to Memphis the same time we arrived the River City. Sandi burns through Jonathan’s sermons while on the treadmill. What I like about Jonathan is that he is culturally relevant as well as gospel-centered. His sermons are not only entertaining, but thoughtful and convicting. Check out his podcast here.

Hands

This past year I have tapped into several great leadership podcasts. Here, I’ll mention my top three.

  • 8449Andy Stanley’s leadership podcasts is also one of my new standards. Although I do not follow Andy in much of his attractional megachurch event model, he is very gifted and seasoned leader. His principles are transferable beyond church leadership. I’ve listened to his recent episodes on the Power of Teams several times. The main draw back is that he only broadcasts once a month.
  • rainer-on-leadership-logo-300-300x300Finally, Thom Rainer has afforded some great information for church leaders at his podcast. As president of LifeWay Christian Resources, he and Stetzer have access to the most up-to-date ecclesiastical stats for the evangelical church in America. Most of his podcast is the application of their research. For example, I put into practice immediately several of his points from his episode, The Main Reason People Leave the Church.

What are some of your favorite podcasts? Please let me know in the comment section.

Most Used Apps of 2013

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I am amazed how smartphone apps have become an integral part of my daily life. As I review 2013, I find it fascinating to see which apps have become of my daily rhythms. Instead of making a list of my favorite, most used apps, I thought it might be more interesting to see when I used certain apps in the course of day.

Morning

After I wake up in the morning at 6:00 am to the preinstalled clock app (with an inspiring song from iTunes set on the lowest volume), I go down stairs and begin my day.

  • NPR-iPhone-icon-smMy first routine is to put on coffee and listen to NPR News. The primary reason why I like NPR is simple: it is short and convenient, usually around 3-4 minutes – perfect timing for brewing 4 cups of coffee.
  • Feedly_LogoThen as I drink my first cup of coffee, I review my blog & news feeds via Feedly. I was very sad to see Google Reader kick the can this past year. I use to use Flipboard religiously, since it seamlessly integrated Google Reader and other social media like Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram. Now, I use Feedly as my primary RSS Reader.
  • Pocket-app-iconWhile I catch up on my news feeds (usually 10-15 minutes), I  save all the pertinent articles for future reference to Pocket. Honestly, I would prefer if Feedly directly linked to Evernote. The Pocket.app is a work around for me – a virtual desktop that allows me to store articles and later file them on Evernote.
  • EvernoteUsually once a week, I comb through my articles saved on Pocket and them archive them to Evernote. One of my goals this year to make considerable strides towards a paperless archiving system. I have tried to figure out Evernote for several years, but it did not dawn on me until I saw a need to transfer my filing system to an online cloud that synced with all my digital devices. Evernote fits the bill perfectly. Evernote has also become my primary place to take notes, especially for sermon and other leadership talks.
  • PodcastLogoLargeAfter time in Scripture reading and prayer, I take a shower. Honestly, some of my best thinking has been in these 15-20 minutes of my day. Using my iPad speakers, I have listened to some great Podcasts. In the past, the iTunes Podcasts was clunky. Now that I can stream each episode, instead of downloading them individually, I have begun to use Podcast more than ever. In a future post, I will share my most impacting Podcasts of 2013.

Afternoon

  • mzi.zsfbaqmz.175x175-75After lunch I usually take a 30 minute to hour siesta. I love that the first app in my “Productivity” folder on my iPad is Sleep Machine. I am a true believer of power naps! Also, I love how this app has a timer that gently wakes me up to wind chimes.
  • Google-Drive-iconAfter my nap, I am in meetings several afternoons a week. In the past, we use to print out our agenda on paper. Now that everyone has a digital device (computer or tablet), we have used Google Drive as our primary collaborative work station. Saving our minutes, action points, and other important notes in real time has been a great advance in our team’s organization.
  • kindle-for-ios-app-icon-220x220After my meetings, I get on my bike and head for home. Half way home there is a small café that I frequent and do some personal reading with a juice or and empanada by my side. For an hour I have used the Kindle app as my primary reader. I would say that have used Kindle for 80% of my reading in 2013. In fact, all but one of my top books of 2013 were digital books.

Evening

  • netflix_iconMost evenings, Sandi & I finish out the day reading together, using our Kindle.app. Then we veg-out by watching TV episodes from Netflix. I do not doubt that most of America now uses Netflix as their main “TV time”. Lately we have been enjoying Parks & Rec – the perfect light-hearted comedy that helps us appreciate our Peru Mission team.

What apps have you appreciated this year? Please share in the comment section below!

Most Impacting Books of 2013

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Every year I try to develop a balanced reading list. My tendency is to read in only one area. I am drawn to practical books on leadership and heady books on theology. However, I have noticed that I often lack in reading for my heart.

One of my favorite living theologians, John Frame, has helped me to develop a reading list that is both balanced and broad. He calls his approach triperspectivalism (It’s the job of theologians to invent fancy new words). In a gist, Frame says that in life there are three aspects (perspectives) that are interrelated and interdependent that enables to us know what we know; the three aspects are:

  1. the Normative aspect – content, doctrine, truth, morality, principles: Christ as Prophet
  2. the Situational aspect – context, culture, application, wisdom: Christ as King
  3. the Existential aspect – character, personal piety, community experience: Christ as Priest

Many practitioners have simplified Frame’s three categories to head, heart, & handsSo I will review this year’s literature that most impacted me under these three headings.

Head

  • Center ChurchTim Keller’s Center Church. This book really deserves its own blog post. Let me just say that Keller has finally compiled over 20 years of  articles, sermons, and lectures into one standard. Some of the chapters are summaries of his other books, such as Ministries of Mercy, Generous Justice, & Every Good Endeavor. Our church planting apprentices along with our university pastor, Oscar Briones, read and discussed this entire book. It was a great launching pad to have in-depth discussions about the gospel, contextualization, the church’s postures in culture, urban ministry, making disciples in the workplace and many other topics. Keller’s book definitely sharpened our theological vision for church planting and the ministry.
  • the-permanent-revolution-hirsch-alan-9780470907740Alan Hirsch & Tim Catchim, The Permanent RevolutionNo other book has more exhaustively studied Ephesians 4:11 and its implication on the church. No other book has stretched me to think outside the box of traditional categories of church leadership. Hirsch & Catchim argue that the church needs all five types of leaders (apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, and teaching) to grow the Western Church to full maturity so that it might become a multiplying global movement. The focus on the book is on the apostolic ministry – where Hirsch & Catchim do not identify apostles as some coo-coo neo-pentecostal post-Benny Hinn, rather he is the custodian of the church’s DNA. Apostle-types know what it takes not only to plant churches but to start movements. A brilliant part of their book is when they show that in the NT there are two prototype apostles: Peter & Paul. If this peaked your curiosity, I encourage you to give this book a thoughtful read. You will not agree with all of their conclusions, but they will stretch your paradigms.

Heart

  • Dangerous-CallingPaul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling. I knew this was going to be a tough read. Like surgery it was a necessary procedure. Paul Tripp has become the modern Baxter and this book is like Reformed Pastor. Heart searching. Pastoral. What I like most about Tripp’s book is that he is deadly honest. He does not hold any punches. Every pastor ought to read this book. Although Tripp at times goes overboard with personal application, sometimes writing a full paragraphs of various examples, God tremendously blessed my soul for shining his precise light on all my blind spots and sinful habits. I found myself  repenting over and over in every chapter.
  • 7598_large_imageJoe Thorn’s Note to Self. This short book was also great medicine to my soul. It’s short chapters are directed mainly to pastors and church leaders. Like Tripp, Thorn is a reliable gospel-centered author who is always leads me to Christ. For many of us pastors, we find ourselves often leading others to Christ, but very rarely does our parishioners lead us to Christ. So praise God for men like Thorn who have faithfully ministered to us, remind us of the Savior.

Hands

  • PrintOtt & Wilson’s Global Church Planting. One of our apprentices, Albert den Oudsten from the Netherlands, turned me on to this great book. Ott & Wilson have studied broadly and summarize many articles, books and other resources. Each section is balanced, well researched, and very accessible. I took notes in every chapter. Their chapter on church planting teams was worth the price of the book – at times I wonder if he had spied on our team in Peru and written about us! I’m sure I will refer to this book again and again in the future.
  • 9780830858644Marion Kneel’s Burn Up or Splash Down. This book is not your normal read. It is written for families who have lived in another culture and are returning to their “passport country”. So as we return to the States in April, we have been reading various articles and materials to prepare ourselves for entry to America. There is an entire section for family and friends who want to help missionaries adjust back to their “passport country.” Very helpful and brief book.

What books have shaped you this year? 

Best of 2013 Series

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Tis the season of posting top lists. So I thought I’d join the fun share my favorites of 2013. I’m using these posts as a way to learn what voices shaped me this  year. Here are my topics I’ll be reviewing the next few days:

  • Most Impacting Books
  • Most Listened to Podcasts
  • Most Listened to Music
  • Most Used Apps
  • Most Impacting Movies
  • Top Youtube Videos

If you have already posted you top lists for the year, please share with me in the comment section. I’d love to see what shaped you this year!