Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Gospel According To Tolkien

It should be less than surprising to know that J.R.R. Tolkien was a Christian, and that he included Christian themes in his stories (especially the Lord of the Rings series). But exactly what does he say? Is Gandalf a Christ-figure? Is Samwise's humility and perseverence mirrored in the Bible? What illustrations does the friendship between Legolas and Gimli show? Tolkien's works aren't a direct allegory as are the novels of C.S. Lewis, so it may be a bit harder to tease out the truths.

This is where Ralph Wood comes in. His book, The Gospel According To Tolkien, seeks to detail the elements of Christianity in Tolkien's works. Readers should keep in mind that this book relies on the complete written works of Tolkien and so goes far beyond the movies directed by Peter Jackson. For those of you who haven't read the books, or have limited yourselves to the ones upon which the movies are based, you might find yourself lost at some of the references.

This book is definitely written for hard-core Tolkien fans. It's also written for those wanting a very detailed exploration into the Biblical themes of the books. While I found the discussions elightening, and will make me look at the source material in a different light, I also found it a bit dry, and couldn't read much at a time. That's not a bad thing, but I would not call this a casual read.

My recommendation? If you want a detalied study and are looking for deep discussions, and you are a big Tolkien fan, then pick up this book. If you've only seen the movies or want a lighter read, you may want to pass.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Do You Trust Him?

Last week at church, I closed the service with a quick poll. I asked everyone "Do you believe that God will do what He says He will do?" Everyone raised their hands. "Do you trust God?" Again, all hands raised. Then I asked "Who is willing to prove it?" Suddenly there were only a few hands raised. The topic I was talking about was a challenge we are having in the church. Give your tithe for six weeks, and if at the end of that you don't feel like God is blessing you, we will refund all of the money you gave. Pretty easy challenge, right? No long-term risk since you get your money back.

So do we really trust God? It's easy to read the Bible, see the promises, and say "yes, I trust Him." We talk a lot about how much God does for us and how He never lets us down. But when it really comes to proving it, how many of us will go out on a limb and truly put our full trust in God? When we're pushed and challenged to let it all go and turn it over to Him, many (if not most) people find this difficult.

Why? If we're not willing to "let go and let God", then it means that we actually don't trust Him. Despite all of our bluff and bluster, it's not that easy to put actions to words and truly rely on all of His promises. But why not?

So I challenge you to prove it. Read the Bible. Look at His promises. See if he has ever let you down. And then truly and honestly trust Him and do what He says.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Singing Love Songs

You've all seen the movies or plays where the man stands at the bottom of a woman's window or balcony and serenades her with a love song. Even if he is tone-deaf, the feelings behind it and the emotions he portrays make it very touching. He's not just going through the motions or just mouthing the words.

When we're in church, most of us begin the service by singing songs of praise and worship. The idea is that we are supposed to be lifting our hearts and voices to God, telling Him how wonderful He is and how much we appreciate everything He has done for us. But these songs are well know to us, and we sing some of them so many times that our minds can wander while our lips frame the words. It's so routine and so patterned that we just expect to stand and sing for the first twenty or so minutes of a service.

Is that really worship? Can your heart be in the right place if you're sipping your coffee or water in between verses? If you loose your place in the song because you weren't paying attention, are you really concentrating on God? Where is your heart and your mind focused when the words come out of your mouth? Do you even realize what it is that you're singing?

It's easy for us to take a familiar song and just go through the motions. I challenge you to do something different. Pay attention to each and every word that you sing. Really think about what it is that you're saying. And most importantly of all, imagine that you're standing below God's balcony, singing Him a love song. You'll be amazed at the difference this can make.