Tag: lord of the rings

5 ways to not be like Gollum

You’ve heard of Gollum, from The Lord of the Rings, right? That weasely, sneaky, under-handed nasty thief whose sole focus in life was the Ring. He didn’t start out that way. He started out as a curious, “quiet-footed” hobbit. Check out a bit of his backstory.

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Gollum’s downward gaze shaped who he became. Instead of letting his curiosity help him explore the beauties of God, he let it drive him into the dark places. Smeagol became Gollum because he didn’t “look up.”

Curiosity is a gift from God…until you let it lead you to dark places. Instead of your curiosity looking for shadows of hope and grace scattered throughout the earth, it can lead you to search in dark corners of self-pity, self-hate and loneliness. Curiosity can lead you to your sin, your “dark places.”

When your gaze is always “downward,” you’re setting yourself up for a life where you’ll be dominated by your shame, guilt, and failures. Gollum is the prototypical person who is fully aware of their “thing,” their addiction, their “thorn in the flesh,” and who has made their life, and everyone else’s, revolve around that addiction. Gollum is so marked by his addiction that his whole existence revolves around it, and like a vortex he has sucked other people into his pain.

Time to look up.

26 Look up into the heavens.
Who created all the stars?
He brings them out like an army, one after another,
calling each by its name.
Because of his great power and incomparable strength,
not a single one is missing.
27 O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
28 Have you never heard?
Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
No one can measure the depths of his understanding.
29 He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless.
30 Even youths will become weak and tired,
and young men will fall in exhaustion.
31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

How do you take positive steps away from your sin, and help ensure that your addiction and recovery don’t become your identity? How do you make sure you don’t consume others in your road to health? How do you ensure you’re not dominated by your guilt, shame, and fear?

6 Ways to Not Be Like Gollum

  1. Get outside. Enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. As you do, you’ll find the dark places of your heart a bit brighter. (Isaiah 40:26)
  2. Get outside. Remind yourself that there is a God…and that it’s not you. He’s all-powerful, you’re not. He knows all things…you don’t. He created the stars. You didn’t. (Isaiah 40:26-27)
  3. Exercise. There’s something healing about working strenuous, physical activity into your routine. Growing physically weak reminds us that God’s strength is perfect. (Isaiah 40:29)
  4. Serve someone else. Gollum served, and only thought about, himself. If you want to get out of your rut, do something for someone else, in a way that your favor can’t be “returned” back to you. Make life not about you.
  5. Remind yourself of the times that God has loved you and breathed hope into your story. (Isaiah 40:27)
  6. Trust in the Lord. (Isaiah 40:31) Easier said than done, though. Which is why you can’t do this on your own. Everything else can be done, just between you and God. But trusting in the Lord is too difficult to try to do by yourself. Bring someone else into your journey, and give them the freedom to speak hard, life-giving Truth into your story. 
Ready to grow in your faith? Time to look up.

Summer Reading List

I love summers. For me, they feel much more relaxed than the frenetic pace of normal life.

image credit: Creation Swap user http://creationswap.com/tgitt

They offer time to slow down, plan, dream, and…read.

For me, reading over the summer involves more fiction reading. Since it’s a season of relaxing and dreaming, fiction gives me a chance to think outside of my normal box and think creatively.

Not to mention that I love getting lost in a good story.

With that said, here’s my list.


Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6), by JK Rowling
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7), by JK Rowling
The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, by JRR Tolkien
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, by JRR Tolkien
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, by JRR Tolkien
The Great Gatsby, by F Scott Fitzgerald
Great Expectations , by Charles Dickens


The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People, by John Ortberg
Mere Christianity, by CS Lewis
The Explicit Gospel, by Matt Chandler
Do the Work, by Steven Pressfield
What’s on your summer reading list?



The problem with Bible stories for children

The problem with many Bible stories that we share with children on Sundays is that they’re not really for children.

I mean, the ones we share on Sundays are for children…but the ones found in Scripture aren’t.  These are stories for adults.  And if you made a movie out of them, they’d probably be rated R.

Take, for example, Noah and the flood.  We like to share it with children because it has animals in it.  And animals are cute.  And kids like boats.  But you know what really happened?

God killed the entire human race.

We also like to share the story of Moses, and the parting of the Red Sea.  Pretty cool thinking about Pharaoh charging after Moses and the Israelites, Moses stretching his staff out, the waters parting, and the Israelites walking across on dry ground.  Until we realize that thousands upon thousands of Egyptians died that day in the Red Sea.  “Ok, kids…color that picture!”

Speaking of Moses, it sounds like a good idea to make a movie (or two or three) about the events leading up to the 10 commandments, right?  Pretty cool to see the magicians trying to perform the plagues that Moses uses his staff to accomplish.  Cute, no?  Try ending your bedtime story with your children with, “And then all of the firstborn children died…”  “Goodnight, my firstborn son…sleep tight!”

And it’s not that we shouldn’t tell our children the stories of the Bible.  It’s just that we often rip out the parts that make the story what it is.  I’m not all for sharing the gory details of these stories with my 2 year old.  But the problem comes in when we as adults forget that there’s more to these stories.

Instead of engaging and true stories, we can easily equate them with the realm of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.  Great, well-told stories, but ultimately no more than a fantasy novel for children.  And if we use that logic with Noah and Moses, what’s to stop us from using the same logic with the rest of Scripture?  The adventures of Paul and the early church seem pretty far-fetched…speaking in tongues, healing people, the church growing by thousands when Peter and John would preach.  The resurrection of Jesus?  Fairy tale stuff.  Jesus coming back to Earth to claim His Church?  Nah…

I’m not against telling children the stories of the Bible.  But I am against crafting a god that is safe, tame, half-hearted, and weak.

Let’s not let The Children’s Bible lull us, as adults, into sleep, thinking the Bible is full of fairy tales for children.  The Bible is an intellectually robust, compelling story of God’s relentless pursuit of you.

Not just a fantasy novel.


Guest Post: Tolkien and the Gospel

Brett Vaden and I go way back.  We grew up going to the same church, went to the same middle school, high school, college, and graduate school.  Though our lives have parted ways because we don’t live in the same city, we’re still good friends.  I love when Brett and I get to hang out, reminisce, and talk about what God’s doing in our lives and ministries.  Brett’s got a great heart to minister to people, and his passion for spreading the Gospel to all people is infectious.  If you spend much time around him, you’ll pick up on that really quickly.  Brett’s also got an incredible mind, one that can distill difficult information and help people grasp deep truths.  I’ve always been blown away when he’s preached, because he’s explained difficult things in a way that I understand.  This blog post is yet another example.  If you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings, you’ll appreciate Brett’s take on it.  If you want to not waste your life, try picking up a copy…you won’t be sorry.  You can read more of Brett’s thought on his own blog here.

Tolkien Won’t Waste Your Life

Here are three reasons why reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s popular fantasy novels (i.e. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings), is not a frivolous, escapist, life-wasting use of your time. As Tolkien himself argued in “On Fairy Stories”:

1. Fantasy helps recover a clear sense of the world by re-presenting a world similar to ours yet strikingly wonderful. Postmodern art often tries to recast the world by twisting and darkening it. It takes what is familiar–perhaps so familiar it bores us–and manipulates it into something clever, heartless, and godless. Fantasy, however, takes something as simple and familiar as an oak tree and reminds us of its beauty, wonder, and created-ness.

2. Fantasy helps us escape not like a man deserting the front lines, but like a man escaping a prison. While the world still retains much that is good and beautiful, it is presently ruled by Satan, and there is much that is ugly, deceiving, and fallen about it. There are evils like pollution and the wasteful destruction of God’s creation for human convenience. There are worse evils like injustice, abortion, murder, greed, envy, and deception. And there is the result of our sin: condemnation, depravity, and death. All these evils threaten to obscure the created goodness of our world, the sovereign purpose of God at work within it, and the ultimate restoration of it. Fantasy helps us escape this world where evil seems to pervade and triumph into a world in which we can remember what is true (e.g. good will triumph over evil, the meek will inherit the earth, spiritual things are just as real as the material).

3. Fantasy helps console the soul of man, which is burdened and blinded by sin, with vivid pictures of redemption, or what Tolkien called, “eucatastrophe.” There are moments throughout these stories where all seems hopeless and evil will triumph, but then a joyous turn bursts into everything like lightning, and all that was lost is redeemed.

It is not hard to see the gospel in these elements. But what of it? Can’t we get the gospel in other places, especially Scripture, without having to look for it between the lines of fantasy novels that take hours–precious hours–of our life to read? Yes. You don’t have to read Tolkien to know the gospel or understand the world. But if you want to see the gospel and our universe with clearer, sharper, more potent vision, read Tolkien. It won’t be a waste of your life.


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