Upon Further Review – May 17, 2017

May 17, 2017 4:53 pm

There’s something beautiful and miraculous about the scent of sea air, the feel of the sea breeze, and the sound of the sea’s waves; these are also therapeutic for the soul. I am thankful to have had three days at the beach last week, leading to a personal Easter, rising again on the third day. I left Monday and came home Thursday a much more rested and renewed person.

The Montana mountains do this for me too, and I can’t wait to get there after General Assembly in June. The Bozeman-Paradise Valley area this trip. Ocean depths and Mountain heights both bring us nearer to the transcendent majesty of the One who made all things and whose attributes are revealed in the vast spectacle these display. That’s reason enough to get out of the house and into a boat, onto a beach, or up a cliff. See you there.

I tried to be spiritual when I got to the beach – really I did, I promise! – still bent on ‘making the most of the time’ and ‘going inward to go upward’. That was folly. The truth is my body and brains were fried and I couldn’t do anything except go for long, sunrise walks, and then lay there on the beach slathered in sunscreen, listen, drink La Croix water, and rest. I am thankful I was given that opportunity. Since I’m a better human when I make the time for such breaks, I promise to do so more regularly.

Speaking of God’s attributes being seen in the glories of creation, let me commend to you Peter Leithart’s very fine little study, “Traces of the Trinity – Signs of God in Creation and Human Experience”. The Trinity and the Incarnation are the two areas of theological exploration which to me are at once the most thrilling and compelling while also being terrifying and intimidating. I have a lot of books on both subjects. This book is one that helps us catch a glimpse of the Trinitarian revelation of God in everyday life, drawing our attention to the wonder of this truth while also making it much more accessible. That’s a gift, and one you’ll probably enjoy opening.


This next Sunday we begin a new series of messages on Paul’s brief but poignant and powerful thank you letter to the Philippians. Entitled “Rejoice!”, we will be looking into this great section of Scripture throughout the summer. I’m especially excited about this not only because I love Philippians, but because of the team of communicators we’ll be hearing from. Joining me in proclaiming the joyful tidings will be Richie Sessions (RUF Vandy), Charles McGowan (The Archbishop of Nashville – well, if we had archbishops, that’s what he’d be), Scott Stewart (Midtown), Jeff Shulte (TinMan Ministries), and Charles Johnson (our very own, the one and only). In other words, this is going to be a really rich summer series for our community.

Some of you may want to do some background study and reading on Philippians. In addition to excellent notes and introductions in the Crossway ESV Study Bible and the Zondervan NIV Study Bible, I’d also commend to you four commentaries, two in the smallish less intimidating end of the spectrum and two on the more weighty scholarly end. The little ones are ‘Exalting Jesus in Philippians’, published by Holman and written by Francis Chan and Tony Merida, along with ‘The Prison Epistles’ in NT Wright’s ‘Paul for Everyone Series’. The larger books are the Philippians commentary in the Baker Exegetical series, by Moises Silva, and, If you’re into Greek textual commentary and want what I think is the best commentary on Philippians you can get, don’t miss Peter O’Brien’s excellent work in the NIGNT series. Here are the links:





Melinda Youngs

On my desk, I keep Bill Lane famous proverb, “When God gives gifts to a church he wraps them in a person.” That’s never been truer than it is in the life of my friend and colleague Melinda Youngs, who is retiring at the end of the month. She’s been my Assistant since I arrived in Franklin, and she’s going to be missed in our office. Melinda not only made my life and work easier but also got me out of serious schedule mishaps, handled more paper than I can fathom, and kept me going with tea and coffee during some very long hours in these first three years. She’s one of those people who does the work from the heart, going way beyond job descriptions and into the deep end of serving the people she loves at Christ Community Church. Melinda has worked in the office here for eight years, first brought on board to assist Cindy Blom and Dr. Bruce McCurdy. Please join me in thanking her for her often unseen but always essential service over the next couple of weeks. Melinda, we love you.

Things I Think

  1. I think Nashville really has shifted from being Music City to being Hockey Town. The Predators won again last night, taking a 2-1 lead over the Ducks in the Western Conference Finals. The Bridgestone Arena was booming! If they get to the Stanley Cup Finals the roof may come right off. I’m certainly enjoying cheering along. Go Preds!
  2. When it comes to the NFL I’m a Packers fan, so how the Titans fare is not a huge concern to me. I think they’ll be better this year – in fact, I think they’ll win their division and do OK in the playoffs if they stay healthy. That said, they better be good, if they want to keep pace with the Predators in the passion department.
  3. The NBA. Yawn.
  4. Can’t wait to hear James Taylor and Bonnie Raitt at the Bridgestone in July. That’s not the greatest venue but that duo is spectacular. James Taylor is the most played artist on my album list and he’s been my favorite for decades – just never gets old in my ears. After that, it’s John Mayer, U2, The Black Keys, Johnny Cash, Fernando Ortega, & Dierks Bentley. OK, I workout to Ted Nugent and Billy Idol but that’s different.
  5. I think General Assembly could be great this year. Or awful. We shall soon see.
  6. I think some Presbyterians wish they could be in the Spanish Inquisition. Some would be good at it. Which I say with sadness.
  7. It seems to me that a lot of Presbyterian churches are actually Baptist churches with a water shortage. A higher sacramentology should be a priority in a lot of places.
  8. I think the Session at C3 is remarkable. I loved watching them work through some difficult material this past week because they did this with wisdom, careful listening to one another, respect, deep concern for church members, and above all else, concern for the glory of Jesus. It’s a privilege to serve with such men.
  9. I think the best cup of coffee I had this past week was on the patio of the condo at the beach. I brew Community Coffee/Breakfast Blend, and it’s impossible to beat in the genre of store bought coffees. Drinking it as the sun comes up over the Gulf of Mexico can’t be beaten either.
  10. Folgers is to Coffee what hotdogs are to meat. Just saying.
  11. Can’t wait to start teaching Romans on Wednesdays this fall. I also can’t wait to do as little as possible this summer. I’ll write more next week about my annual vow of silence
  12. Reading David Brooks is a must.
  13. I think Franklin is never more lovely than in the Spring.

Anne with an ‘E’

So you may insist that I turn in my man card, but here’s my confession nonetheless: I always liked Anne of Green Gables, both the literary work by LM Montgomery and the TV series. No, really. I even visited Prince Edward Island – which is stunningly beautiful – on my 20th anniversary to make the pilgrimage to Charlottetown and the original house.

It was always going to be incredibly difficult for anyone to top the Megan Fellows led production that captivated audiences twenty years ago, but I think it’s been done. Netflix – Way to go! From the incredible artistry of the opening credits to the darker, more realistic take on the protagonist and her journey, the new Netflix production shocks and stuns, adding the fearful dimensions of young Anne’s life to the more gregarious and ebullient character with which viewers are more familiar. The PEI setting is portrayed in all of it’s stark, rough-hewn beauty, the unforgettable red soil and coastline getting a solid starring role.

It’s also getting painfully harsh reviews:
Netflix’s dark, gritty reboot of Anne of Green Gables has all the subtlety of a chalkboard smashed over your head. – Slate

‘Anne With An E’ Sucks The Soul Out Of Anne Of Green Gables – The Federalist

Well, I disagree entirely. In fact, I think this ‘gritty’ take on the story is more true to the perils of childhood and the austere surroundings of the original story. Amybeth McNulty is terrific as Anne, and the Cuthberts are ably played as well. Frankly, the older series feels a bit like a Hallmark production, while the new Netflix series has the hallmarks of excellence and truthfulness. If I have a complaint it would simply be that Anne is viewed as slightly less hopeful and slightly more fragile than the book’s heroine. That’s an imbalance in the psychology I can forgive, but it needs to be noted. I also can’t abide the lazy, tragi-comic way the minister is portrayed – a bumbling, mumbling, buffoon –  which is exactly what most ministers aren’t.

Here’s the Netflix link, and let me know what you think after you binge watch the first season (because I’m betting you won’t be able to stop).



Finally, my Cubs: they’re a .500 club right now, and that’s about right, given the poor defense and starting pitching they’re showing. Wake me after the All-Star Break. Last year was an incredible run, one for the history books; there was virtually no way they could repeat that level of early season success. At the end of the day, barring serious injuries, this is a better team than any of the others in the division, and they’ll be right there at the end ready to win it. As for the World Series, well, that’s a different matter. Maybe. Still way too early for such prognostications, whether for the Cubs or any other teams. We can already see who’s going to be tough to beat but the playoffs are a different animal and you just never know. It’s baseball.



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