I spent last week in Columbia, Maryland – a beautiful suburb nestled between Baltimore and Washington DC. I was attending a one week training conference helping better equip me in sharing my faith with others. Since I knew that my time in Maryland would be brief (only 5 days), I did not:
- Buy a house. (I stayed in a hotel instead.)
- Go to the grocery store (choosing instead to eat at restaurants).
- Change my phone number to a Maryland area code (still proudly representing the 405).
- Get a Maryland driver’s license (my Oklahoma license is still valid).
The reason I chose to live my life in Maryland last week as a visitor was because I knew my time there would be very brief.
Now, contrast my time in Columbia with my experience of moving to Norman 12 years ago. When we moved, we:
- Bought a house
- Found the nearest grocery stores
- Got an Norman area phone number
We did all these things even BEFORE we arrived. Why? Because we knew we would be here in God’s country for a while.
Now, as a theologian, I know that my stay in both Maryland AND Oklahoma is temporary and finite. Even if I live the rest of my days in Norman, my time here is still very short in comparison to eternity. How I live my life, however, varies greatly between the places I visit and the places I live.
I was thinking of this today as I read over again Jeremiah 29:1-14. In these verses Jeremiah the prophet is delivering a letter to the exiled people of Judah who had been deported to Babylon (people like Daniel, Rack, Shack, and Benny). God writes to them to let them know a blessed promise, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)”
As people living today in 2013, we are probably quite familiar with Jeremiah’s good news from 29:11. In fact, we have probably been given this verse on a graduation card, birthday card, or other well wished moment of apparent uncertainty. It is quite appropriate for us to encourage each other with this verse. However, sometimes in our use of this verse, we strip it out of its immediate context and expect God to bring us the “future we hope for” now . . . or at least very soon.
The reality is that God gave this promise to a people who would not ever see (in this life) the future they hoped for. This promise was given to the people of Judah near the beginning of their 70 years in exile in Babylon. Most of them would die in Babylon. Most of their children would die in Babylon. Only their grandchildren would benefit (in this life) from the fruit of this promise if they turned and followed God.
Jeremiah’s words (that are encouraging to us) were probably somewhat discouraging to the exiles from Judah. A contemporary false prophet during Jeremiah’s day was a man named Hananiah. He had gained popularity by proclaiming that the exile to Babylon would only last 2 years. Based on divine revelation, Jeremiah 29 actually corrects the exiles understanding, letting them know that Hananiah was wrong and that they would be in Babylon for quite a while.
Under the wrongful influence of Hananiah, the exiles from Judah were living life in Babylon like they were in Maryland (on vacation), instead of like they were in Oklahoma (living their regular life.) Jeremiah writes to encourage them to buy houses, go to the grocery store, and get a new phone number.
We live our lives, many times, on Jeremiah’s clock not Hananiah’s. In light of eternity, all suffering is short term, but in our experience, life is longer than we think. To borrow a famous phrase from Francis Schaeffer, “How shall we now live?” in light of the length of this short life?
This will be the subject of this Sunday’s sermon at Wildwood taken from Jeremiah 29:1-14 entitled “This life . . .” If you are in the OKC area this Sunday, join us at Wildwood Community Church as we look into this great (and famous) passage together.
Imagine you were living in the ancient land of Judah circa 627 BC. You have a nice business selling widgets in the capital city of Jerusalem. Your future looks bright and profitable. Good King Josiah sat on the Throne. Though he was only 21 years old, he had already been king for 13 years. Though he was young, Josiah was wise beyond his years and reinstated worship of the Living God in Judah, and God was blessing the nation as a result. It was during this era that God raised up a young prophet to be His spokesman among His people, Jeremiah. Jeremiah was only 20 years old when the Lord made Jeremiah one of His mouthpieces to Judah. So, in 627, the nation was led by a 21 year old king and a 20 year old prophet. Though these lads were young, they were following the Ancient of Days, so the path ahead was clear and secure. As Corey Hart would say, “The future was so bright you had to wear shades.”
The prosperity of 627 would not last, however, as Josiah died much too young at the age of 39, ushering in a difficult era in Judah’s history. Three of Josiah’s sons and one of his grandsons would assume the throne of Judah in the years following Josiah’s death. None of them followed the Lord . . . each of them walking Judah further and further away from the Rock of their Salvation. Finally, God disciplined the nation as His Old Covenant had promised He would do, and allowed several of the surrounding nations to conquer Judah and enslave its inhabitants. Due to ungodly living and covenant breaking, your once proud widget business was now shut down as you (and if you were lucky, your family with you) were carted off to Babylon in exile with Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel.
As the nation was going through this demise and difficulty, the now aging prophet Jeremiah served as the play-by-play announcer, describing the nation’s decay in vivid terms AND serving as the color commentator providing the divinely inspired analysis that the nation’s decay was their fault and that God was judging them for their sinfulness. As you can imagine, this was not a fun, nor lucrative job. Everybody loves a winner, but when things begin to go south, people begin looking for a lightning rod upon which to focus their anger. By speaking God’s truth, Jeremiah became just such a lightning rod to his people, and he lived out maybe the most difficult extended period of time any prophet of God has ever endured. Though Jeremiah did not enjoy his job, he faithfully adhered to all the Lord had called him to. For this reason, Charlie Dyer says of Jeremiah that he was a “weeping prophet for a wayward people.”
In two of the next three weeks, I am going to be preaching out of the book of Jeremiah at Wildwood Community Church. In many ways it is odd that I am going to do so. It is odd because Jeremiah is not a book people today preach much from. In fact, in my 39 years of church attendance I do not recall hearing a single sermon series out of this lengthy Old Testament book. Additionally, it is odd because I only have two weeks to preach it! With such limited time, you would think I would not tackle such a lengthy subject matter.
Though it may seem odd, I believe the Lord is leading me to direct our attention to this ancient text over these two Sundays. Of course, we will not be comprehensive in our study . . . in two weeks that would be impossible. However, in these two weeks I want to share a couple of things God has been teaching me as I have studied this book. These are two lessons I think have great relevance for us today. Jeremiah ministered at a time when God’s people were walking away from Him. God spoke in vivid terms to His people through Jeremiah to awaken their souls and call them back into a relationship with Himself. Though we no longer live under the Old Covenant and though we are not the people of Israel, Christians today could learn something by way of application from God’s pronouncements through Jeremiah. This Sunday, April 14, we will look at Jeremiah 2:9-13 in a message I have titled “The Tale of the Broken Bucket.” In these verses there is a great challenge for any people who are coming up empty in their pursuit of filling their buckets with anything other than the God of the Living Water. Come Sunday and join us at Wildwood, worship God, and be challenged by His ancient word with relevant application. See you then!
God is at work. Not just in Bible times, but He is at work today in the lives of people we know and love. One such person in whom God is working is Wildwood member Ricky Wyatt who is dealing with ALS. We showed his testimony as a part of our worship service on Easter Sunday. Join us in praising God for His work.
Our Children’s Pastor Brian Hayes recently had a great idea to film a series of fun video promos for recruiting children’s ministry workers. My son is one of the kids in this video. Very funny stuff!
Today heaven celebrates the homecoming of one of the greatest men I have ever known. Today, Dr. Howard Hendricks (Prof as his students called him) shed his aging body for a heavenly home. Today, Prof did not just teach others about Jesus, he saw Him face to face. Today, Howie is singing – not on the stage of the seminary chapel – but around the crystal sea.
Many of you know that I received two degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary. Though I got my Masters of Theology and Doctor of Ministry degrees with a major in Pastoral Ministry, closer examination would see that I minored in Prof Hendricks. During my 8 years as a student at DTS, I took everything Hendricks taught during that span. He made a lasting impact on my life.
Three things Jesus used Hendricks to drill into my brain:
- “It is a sin to bore people with the Word of God.” I heard Prof say this a hundred times. We have the greatest message to share in all the world. We have the Spirit of the God who created EVERYTHING living inside of us. Therefore, we should be trusting Him to allow us to share in creative and compelling ways the greatest story ever told. I have spent my teaching life thinking of this every time I prepare to write a blog post or take the pulpit.
- “Only two things will endure on this planet: God’s Word and people. Therefore, we should spend our lives building God’s Word into God’s people.” This was more than just Hendricks slogan, it was his way of life. His signature course at the seminary when I was there was “Bible Study Methods,” teaching every DTS student how to study the Word of God on their own. Dr. Hendricks always pointed us to the Word of God . . . but he also helped us as students never forget that we were not just “Preachers” we were “Pastors.” Our job was not just to proclaim, but it was to disciple. Prof modeled this to us, demanded it from us, and inspired me to never want to just be a “talking head” Preacher. Prof gave me a seminary level booster shot to the discipleship mandate Todd Stewman and Bill Boldt modeled for me in my undergraduate days at OU.
- “It’s not about what YOU can do, but what THEY can do.” As I mentioned earlier, Dr. Hendricks taught Bible Study Methods to all the first year students. He taught this class for four decades. For most of that time, one of the first assignments students had to do for the class was bring observations of one verse: Acts 1:8. Every year 300-400 students would come to class with their lists of 20-30 observations from this one verse. Over 40 years, Prof probably heard 500,000 observations on the two dozen words in Acts 1:8. I am pretty sure he had “heard it all,” when it came to this one verse. However, I was amazed at the enthusiasm he showed over students observations. He would run around the front of the room almost cheering with excitement at his first year student’s thoughts. Over time I have come to understand why Dr. Hendricks was so excited. He was enthusiastic not because we were seeing something HE had not seen, but because we were seeing something WE had not seen before in the text. The process of us “getting it” is what excited him about being a professor. It was not about what he knew (and he knew a lot) but about our growth and development. I hope this marks my ministry as well.
Thanks Prof. Your investment in my life is prayerfully paying dividends down the line. It is possible that Prof was the most influential American Christian leader of the 20th century. Not because of what he did, but because of the legacy he passed along to some of the most dynamic church leaders of the past 50 years in America (men like Tony Evans, Chuck Swindoll, Andy Stanley, Dennis Rainey, and Jim Rayburn).
Prof will certainly be missed, but I am certain I will continue to hear and see echoes of his influence for the rest of my life.
That’s right. I have never had a case of Bieber fever. I may have had that strange Carly Rae Jepsen sing along in the summer of 2012, and “Hmm Bop” from Hansen is certainly in my iTunes rotation, but somewhere, someplace, a man has to draw the line. I have drawn my line with Biebs.
I may know what he looks like, may recognize a song or two on the radio, and may even tune in to see him on SNL tonight (who knows, the night is still young), but I certainly do not “get” him. I don’t understand the incredible fascination with this young pop singer . . . after all, he’s no Jon Bon Jovi . . . but I digress.
You know what else I don’t “get” sometimes? – The Christian life.
That’s right. Even as a Pastor sometimes I forget what it is all about. Sure, I walked the aisle of a worship service and gave my life to Christ. Sure, I had Petra’s “Petra Means Rock” greatest hits cassette always cued up in the summer of 1990. But sometimes, I just fail to “get” it.
I may know what the Bible says, have the Lord’s prayer memorized, and know all five verses to Amazing Grace (you heard me), but sometimes I fail to “get” it. What do I mean? Well, maybe looking at Mark 8:14-21 will help add understanding.
Mark 8:14-21 follows a series of miraculous demonstrations of Jesus’s power. In Mark 6, He feeds the 5,000 and walks on water. In Mark 7, He casts out demons and returns sound to the deaf. In the beginning verses of Mark 8, He feeds the 4,000 . . . and the disciples see Him do ALL OF THIS. So, after seeing Him do all this stuff, do you know what they were fixated on? Food. Really? Yes . . . food.
This is demonstrated in Mark 8:14-21:
Now they (the disciples) had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And He (Jesus) cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
In these verses, Jesus is teaching the disciples an important truth. They are to beware of the “leaven” of the Pharisees and Herod. “Leaven” is a substance added to bread (like yeast) to make it rise. It was also a common idiom in Jesus day referring to false teaching. Jesus was warning the disciples to not be tempted to incorporate the false teaching of their day into their understanding of the spiritual life. The Pharisees in particular were a group that practiced a self-earned type of righteousness . . . believing that if a person followed their rules strict enough, they could earn the approval of God. Not needing Jesus as their Savior, the Pharisees sought out Jesus merely for the show. Mark 8:11-13 tell us that the Pharisees came to Jesus demanding to see signs (as if the feeding of 20,000+ people, casting out demons, walking on water, and healing the deaf was not enough). The “leaven” of the Pharisees tempted people to focus on the food. To them Jesus was a sideshow, not a Savior.
But, the disciples were too preoccupied to “get” Jesus’s point. All they heard Him say was “leaven” and (like the Pharisees) they became fixated on the food – what they had to offer. Jesus realizes this and strongly rebukes the disciples. By looking only into their own napsacks, the disciples illustrated their lack of understanding. They had seen the miracles, but had missed the point. They thought the miracles were about the food. They thought the miracles were just a part of the show. They missed the message Jesus was preaching to them through the feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000. They were still focused only on what they had, not on Who they had with them.
In our Christian lives, all too often we get focused on ourselves. Our shortcomings, our plans, our dreams. We can spend way too much time fixated on the lack of “food” in our spiritual backpacks. We study the “food” of our ambition or the “food” of our religious activity. When we focus on this food, we miss the reality that Jesus is calling us to have faith in Him.
Jesus was trying to train His disciples to understand that living in relationship with Him is not about how much we pack in our backpack. It is all about faith in Him who takes our “one loaf” and makes it enough. Our good works do not fill our spiritual backpacks. In fact, on our own, we can never be good enough to satisfy the holy hunger of a perfect God. We need a Savior, not a sideshow. As we place our faith in Him, He fills our packs and then some . . . even if we brought far too little onto the boat.
When it comes to the Christian life, sometimes I just don’t “get” it.
I reveal my lack of understanding so many times in private moments that none of you see. Moments when I think my sermon was terrible or my counseling appointment was a disaster, or that I have somehow missed my calling and should be writing for someone’s sports page instead of leading Wildwood Community Church. When I have these thoughts, I am merely looking into my backpack instead of looking at who is in the boat with me. Jesus is with me. The One who fed the masses through His disciples wants to feed others through me as well. I need to stop fixating on my food and start having more faith in Jesus Christ.
The same may be true for some of you who are reading this and have spent a lifetime waiting until you had a “full backpack” before you “got in the boat with Jesus.” If this is you, then maybe you just don’t “get” Christianity yet. Sure you may have attended church, own a Chris Tomlin CD, and support a Compassion child in South America, but if you are looking at your own spiritual resources to save you instead of to Jesus, then you are treating Him like a sideshow and not a Savior. He is calling you to get in the boat and follow Him, allowing Him to provide the food if you will just reach out in faith.
Here’s hoping we all “get” it tonight.
I just spent some time with a friend talking about the good news of the Gospel. Praise God . . . it is good news. Great news in fact. As we talked, I thought of the video I posted below. I have posted it to my blog before, but felt the urge to post it again tonight. A great summary for all of us . . .
January 16 is one of my favorite days of the year. On this day my wife was born. Since Kimberly and I have known each other for 25+ years and have been married or engaged for the past 17 birthdays, I have many fond memories of this day. Here are a few:
- Kimberly’s sweet 16 birthday party at Mazzio’s in Bartlesville. I remember being there and giving her a “Bad English” cassette tape as a present. Ah the 80′s.
- Senior Year of College I had my roommate help me make dinner for Kimberly. After dinner I proposed and she accepted. After trusting in Christ as Savior, this is still the best decision I’ve ever made.
- First Year of Marriage, I was in seminary. I had struggled through the fall doing odd jobs (literally, the jobs were odd), but on January 16, I had my first day as a commercial window washer. This job would help provide for us all spring. I had to be at work at 5:30 AM and the temperature was 21 degrees. I worked a 11 hour day and then “rushed” home through rush hour in time to take a quick shower and take Kimberly out to the Dallas Symphony with some free tickets I got through the seminary. When I got home, I was depressed, late, and tired, but I overheard Kimberly telling my sister on the phone that she had gotten a great job that day at University of Texas-Arlington . . . a job that God would use to provide for us the next five years. I teared up on the couch so thankful for this provision, and for my wife.
- This Year – this is truly a happy birthday. One year ago we were faced with all the uncertainty brought on by Kimberly’s impending kidney transplant. Not knowing exactly what to expect, and sitting in the shadow of your own mortality makes for an interesting year. As we sat at Outback tonight at dinner, however, I was struck with just how thankful I am for my wife, and the fact that God has given us another year together. Praise God for that gift!
Kimberly is my best friend. She knows me better than anyone else, and loves me still. It is a joy to see her encourage all around her to walk more closely with Christ and to see God use her in ministry to others. Every person is important to Kimberly, just as they are important to God. She is a wonderful mother and friend. I could never do what I do without her support and encouragement. If relationships could be monetized, I would forever be in her debt.
On this day, January 16, I just want to publicly thank God for Kimberly Atwater Robinson. On the inside of our wedding ring is written Ephesians 3:14-21. I am so thankful that God is continuing to do abundantly beyond all I could ask or think.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Hanging on the wall in my office is a simple black frame containing a very common collection of papers. Inside this frame rest a personal info card from our church membership class and a single page of sermon notes . . . both of which originated from a man I hardly knew. If you were to walk into my office, you probably would walk right past this framed “art,” hardly even acknowledging that it is there. But I know its there, and it is special to me.
The message notes and “Starting Point” card were filled out by James Whyatt just a few weeks before he passed away. Since I help lead our Starting Point class and since the message notes were from a sermon I had preached at Wildwood, these pieces of paper are a great reminder to me of the importance of what I do. At any time, God could call any of us “home” and these pieces of paper are reminders for me to always give people a chance to trust in Christ in all my ministry settings. You see, Jim trusted Christ sometime around when these papers were filled out.
If you were just to see the frame on my wall, you would not know the story . . . only when I tell you the background can you fully appreciate its significance.
The Gospel of Mark begins with Jesus’s public ministry. While Matthew and Luke begin their Gospels with Wise Men and Mangers, Genealogies and Angels, Mark begins His Gospel about 30 years after Jesus’s birth when He began His three year trek to the cross. Along the way Jesus teaches us so much about who God is, who we are, and how we can have a relationship with God. Along the way, Jesus also teaches His disciples (and us by proxy) what ministry looks like.
In Mark 1-2, Jesus lets us see that ministry is not just about us showing certain things, we need to tell also. In these verses Jesus casts out demons (1:21-28), heals the sick (1:29-39), cleanses a leper (1:40-45), and heals a paralytic (2:1-12). These are amazing acts of love, compassion, and kindness. They demonstrate Jesus great power, and authenticate His love for people. However, during these same two chapters, Jesus is not JUST showing His love, He is also telling the Gospel. In Mark 1:14-15, 21, 38-39, and 2:2 Jesus is said to be “preaching the Gospel.” More than just showing, He was telling also.
This is significant. Saint Francis of Assisi has famously said, “Preach Christ always and when necessary use words.” While I appreciate the sentiment behind his statement, I think Saint Francis missed something here . . . by the example of Jesus, it is always necessary to use words. Without words to articulate our intentions, people can misconstrue or dismiss our actions.
As believers in Christ who desire to impact the world around us for Him, we must authenticate our love for others by demonstrating compassion — feeding the hungry, comforting the broken, and caring for the orphan and widow. However, as we do this, we must also be telling others WHY we are doing it . . . because we serve a God who cares, and because we know the One (Jesus) who can bring restoration to our souls and forgiveness to our sins.
Ministry is about show AND tell. At least that was Jesus ministry in Mark 1-2 as best I can see.
I’ve had a few people ask me in the past 24 hours how to respond to the many questions raised by the shootings in Newtown, CT. I am writing tonight to add my thoughts to this conversation, as imperfect as they may be. My thoughts will center on some of the theological questions spinning out of yesterday’s tragedy. They are not complete or even heavily edited. I just opened my laptop and started writing. I welcome your dialogue as well in the comments section . . .
Question #1: Where was God at 9:30 yesterday morning? The short answer to this question is the same place He was during the Columbine Shootings, the same place He was during the Holocaust, the same place He was during the Rwandan genocide . . . On His throne. It is at moments like this that our faith is tested the most on the topic of God’s sovereignty over this universe. Our experience (viewing a world that seems totally out of control) is at odds with our theology (God is in control.) For the Christian, moments like yesterday give us a chance to trust God for something big, belief in His character when part of our world is crumbling. We cannot merely tout the sovereignty of God when the cancer goes into remission or the dictator is overthrown. To do so would make us out to be theological “front runners.” We exhibit our faith in the sovereignty of God at precisely moments like this.
Question #2: Why do things like this happen? Evil happens in this world because Satan prowls about like a roaring lion waiting to pounce upon his prey. From the Garden of Eden, Satan has been trying to corrupt, challenge, and destroy. . . yesterday’s actions are part of the outflow of sin and the fall. The really painful truth of yesterday is that the evil that led that young man to commit this heinous crime is still in existence, and inside of all of us. We live out our lives on this planet inside a corrupt shell known biblically as “the flesh.” Our flesh is the part of us tainted by the fall. It is the sin nature that compels us to doubt God and deal selfishly. It is our flesh that drives us to “kill” a relationship with our greed, pride, or anger. It is our flesh that prompts us to destroy others hopes and dreams to further our own agenda. When this shooter walked into the school, he drew from that same selfish, skewed, corrupted nature and committed a terrible crime. The firearms in his hands merely magnified the hate and selfishness in his soul. French philosopher Jean-Jauque Rousseau held a heretical notion that many ascribe to today. The idea is that people are basically good, and if we just leave them alone, they will make wise choices. The biblical understanding of humanity after the fall is quite different. At the core, we are not people who make wise choices, we are sinful people who wander away from God and have the capacity to commit terrible crimes (like Cain to his brother Abel). This does not mean that I think all people are as bad as they could be . . . for many reasons, people choose to deal nicely with others . . . but the ultimate problem of Newtown is the ultimate problem in the world . . . sons of Adam, living lives in direct rebellion to God.
Question #3: Is there hope for today? Absolutely. There is certainly hope. When I heard the news yesterday I was deeply shaken, but not stirred in my hope. At the appointed time, Jesus Christ will return to this earth and put an end to these kinds of senseless acts. He will also judge Satan and usher in His Kingdom on the earth. The Kingdom of God is the fully realized rule of Christ “on earth as it is in heaven.” Moments like yesterday cause me to long for this return all the more. Like an expectant mother who longs for delivery as the kicks inside her womb grow stronger and the nights yield less sleep, so we long more for the return of Christ as we see the true nature of the fallen world in which we live.
Question #4: What can I do? The antidote for these crimes is redemption. The ultimate cure is not gun control laws (though I have thoughts there). The ultimate cure is not better health care (how we deal with mentally unstable people is a real challenge in the world today.) The ultimate cure is not better relationships (though friends and family can be a great stabilizer in our lives). The ultimate cure is Jesus Christ. We need Him. All of us need Him. We need Him to cleanse our souls: to wash us clean from our sins. We need His Spirit to empower us to sanctification: producing His living fruit, not fleshly death in our lives. Because this is our ultimate need, we should allow the events of yesterday to instruct us toward repentance and dependence. Confess our own sin, receive the atonement provided for in Christ, and walk forward in His new life. This is our ultimate response. Simultaneously, we can pray for those victims and everyone impacted by this crime. May God bind up the broken-hearted and may God use this terrible event to lead to a national repentance, turning instead to Jesus Christ.
M. Night Shyamalan wrote and directed a movie several years ago called “The Village.” The basic premise of the movie was that a collection of people who had all had a close family member murdered, moved out into the woods (away from society) to establish a life free from criminals, hate, sin, and untimely death. For a few years, their plan seemed to work, until one of their sons attempted to commit murder on another member in their village. This action revealed to the townspeople (and to the audience watching on) that evil does not exist only “out there,” but inside us as well. The solution, therefore, must be an internal cleansing . . . a rebirth. The solution cannot only be to homeschool or improved security or to reform government or to develop better treatment plans and medication for the mentally unstable (though these social solutions may be temporarily helpful in certain situations) . Only Jesus can redeem us. Only Jesus can change us. Only Jesus can return and make this wrong world right. May we all trust in Him more and more as we see our need for His mercy and grace.