Monday, December 31, 2007

90-Days to read through the Bible...

So, 2008 is upon us - this is the last day of 2007. It was quite a year for us - planting a new church will do that to you. We are very excited as we look forward to 2008, however. I am looking forward to diving deeper in my connection with Christ this year as we continue to pursue the people in our community with the gospel. On that front, I'm taking on the challenge to read through the Bible in 90 days. I'm going to kick it up a notch on the blogging front during these 90 days and write briefly each day about what I've read, how long it took to read it, and what God is teaching me along the way. Blogging will keep me honest and accountable as I move forward. To do this, I've also agreed to take a 90-day fast from reading any other books so that I can focus on Scripture alone for 3 months.

I start tomorrow - you are invited to join with me if you'd like to journey with me. I'll be following this 90-day reading plan so you can read along if you want. As always, you're welcome to comment along the way - I hope it is an encouragement to you as I know it will be a blessing to me.

Happy New Year's to you - 2008, here we come...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Harry Potter, Vol. 1-7

So, I just finished reading last week the seven volumes of the Harry Potter series. Over-all, I really enjoyed them. I enjoyed being able to read all seven volumes at once and not having to wait for each volume to be released over the course of seven years. I almost didn't make it through the Left-Behind series because of having to wait for each book and because of how much material was repeated in each book to get you caught up from the last one. Rowling does a much better job of not killing you with repeated information in each book, and providing plenty of narrative history, dialogue, exciting action, character development, and plot twists to keep the story interesting. Still, with the number of pages, I almost gave up in the middle of book 4, but kept going and the series really picked up toward the end. A couple of summary thoughts related to the series as a whole:

(1) JK Rowling is incredibly creative and inspires me with her literary skill. I have read that she new most of the story from the very beginning. She has done great work increasing the level of intensity with each book and the complexity of the story. Her vocabulary increases with each book as well, pointing toward her desire that kids read the books as they age along with Harry. I don't know if these books will be long-term classics like Lord of the Rings and Narnia, but they are definitely as creative as these previous classics.

(2) I'm reminded of the power of a good story as I look back over the series. Story is one of the most powerful ways to communicate truth and principles, which is probably why God chose story as the main way to communicate with us in Scripture. Rowling's story is detailed and multi-layered, but she manages to grab the reader and take the reader with her the whole way. And throughout the story, Rowling is teaching - she is making statements about our world through Harry's world. You can see more about what she planned to teach by checking out the latest interview with her in Time magazine - she was the 2nd-runner-up for this year's person of the year. Amazing how much her life has been changed by the book and how many books she has sold.

(3) The message of good defeating evil will never grow old. Because we live in the time "in-between" where we see the redemption of Christ at work in our hearts but also recognize the brutality of a world still ravaged by sin, all of us long for the day of complete redemption. When one reads Revelation 21-22 and sees the "new heaven & the new earth" where evil has been destroyed, death is gone, and joy and peace reign with Christ, our hearts can't help but long for that day. Rowling's books parallel this theme - a world-wide struggle between evil and good, between those who love and those who hate, where unjust things happen all the time, and characters long for a day of reckoning. We all can relate, because our world is very much like Harry's world in this. While the wizarding-world may be different, the struggle is our struggle. This is why closure in book 7 is so sweet (the last enemy to be destroyed is death) - Harry's life and death struggle connects with our struggle. And his defeat of death to eliminate evil connects with the truth of the gospel - Christ's death & resurrection to bring an end to evil and the completion of redemption.

(4) The complex nature of the human soul is our point of contact. Rowling wins over so many fans mostly, I believe, because she makes us relate so completely to the characters in her story. Their awkwardness, loneliness, friendship, goofiness, stumbles, victories are really ours. We see ourselves and our lives in their successes and failures. We connect so completely with the fact that those who have it all together externally really have dark secrets and those who are the most goofy have heroic moments. We know that we can't judge a person by their external actions alone because many times our actions are disconnected from our hearts. We are conflicted people - the Bible ascribes this to being image-bearers of God (the stamp of God's goodness still exists on our souls) and yet being broken because of sin and the fall. Whatever you ascribe the cause to, everyone identifies with the struggle.

Overall, I'm so glad that Rowling has had the success that she has - a great work that will surely be read by generations of kids to come. I'm excited to take my boys through them when they are older and are ready, and that I can talk to them about the spiritual themes that Rowling highlights.