Friday, January 30, 2009

Top Films: Seriously, Good but Not Quite Best

The Dark Knight is a great film. It has been suggested as the best ever comic book movie, and it was the top grossing movie of 2008. (It actually is one of the top 5 grossing movies ever!) It received 8 nominations from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So why is it not in the running for Best Picture? There are a lot of reasons that the Dark Knight may not be the best picture of the year, even as it remains a great picture and one of the best of the 2008 crop.

First of all, it is a little long. Of course, there is a history of Best Picture winners being long, but in the Dark Knight’s case, we are talking too long. Not that the running time in minutes should be shorter, it’s just that the movie outlasts the story. The enemy Batman faces in this film, the Joker, is a villain that simply wants chaos. He is evil. Late in the film, the story shifts away from this evil and starts telling a new story—about justice vs. revenge. It is a new story, Batman 3 in fact. There is talk of there not being a third installment because Chris Nolan can’t think of another story that needs telling. That may be because he went and told it already… in 30 minutes at the end of part 2.

Also, there’s the Joker. Here is a case of pure evil personified. It is a great performance and a great role. However, one cannot help but think of another similar villain from last year—Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh. Now that was a creepy role. Mainly because Chigurh is not evil personified and done up crazily, he is just evil… period.

Finally, there is the critique (that feels forced) against the current US policies such as the Patriot Act. Batman’s cell phone spy machine is confusing cinema, and it is a bit inconsistent as a statement. “Oh my gosh! That is so evil, Batman, that I quit! I will let you use this one time, as circumstances are really bad, but then I quit!”

Other than that though, and considering the weaker nature of 2008 in film, it might be one of the best two or three films of the year. Time (and more viewing) will tell.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Broken Bible Stories: The Master and the Street Walker (Luke 7:26-50)

The master was scheduled to speak that day. It was all the buzz in Sunday School that morning. They must be doing something right for Him to choose their church among all the churches in the world! None of the teachers felt good about their lessons that day. How could anyone teach something worth listening to, when the sermon was going to come from Jesus Himself? To be honest no one listened anyway. They were all too busy mentally questioning themselves in preparation for the service. “Is my tie on straight?” “Are there any wrinkles in my dress?” Most were also busy practicing their “Holy” facial expressions.

Surprisingly, the music did not go well for “The Master’s Service” that day. The instrumentalists were so nervous about messing up that some didn’t even play, and those that did played much quieter than usual. The congregation was much the same. The only ones singing were those that were particularly proud of their voices, and even they weren’t as loud as usual. However, you couldn’t have guessed, because they were all sure to mouth the words.

It goes without saying that the offering that day was the best the church had ever seen. People had been saving up all week in order to give a lot, and many had borrowed money for that service. No one used envelopes.

Finally, the much-anticipated moment arrived. The pastor got up to introduce the guest speaker for the day, but his introduction threatened to be longer, than any of his sermons had ever been. Most of the people were looking at him as if they were trying to burn him up with their stare. Didn’t he know he was rambling on and on when everyone was waiting to hear the real deal? He finally came to his senses and cut his remarks short when the music minister cleared his throat for the third time.

As Jesus rose to the podium, you could have heard a pin drop. Everyone was preparing themselves to sit up straight, stay awake, and take notes for the first time in their lives. Just then, as Jesus was about to open His mouth, the door in the back opened. A woman entered, timidly, but with resolve. She squared her shoulders, fixed her eyes on Jesus, and walked up the center aisle.

As she came forward a wave of reaction followed her up the sanctuary. She was dressed in the shortest skirt, the loosest top, and the trashiest underwear (most of which was visible) they had ever seen in person. Sure, in the movies and on TV they had seen enough of her type to know her right away. She was a street walker, probably straight from the street where she had worked the night before. The whispers followed her all the way to the very front. She sat right on the pew everyone knew you never sat on.

Jesus had waited in silence until she was seated. Everyone braced themselves for the words of rebuke that were sure to follow. Some even began turning to the passage that tells women to dress modestly, anticipating Jesus’ next words. Instead, He merely smiled at her and began, “Good morning, may I ask you to turn with me to…”

“Excuse me, Jesus?” No one later could recall who had interrupted the Master. “Jesus, I must apologize, Lord, that You would have to see this unfortunate um, occurrence, Father. We have never seen this woman before, and I’m not sure if you are aware of whom she is, Lord. I’m sorry. We really should have had someone at the doors. It’s just that no one wanted to miss out being in the service today.”

Jesus closed His Bible, and held up His hand. In a soft yet commanding voice he spoke. “Peace. Hear the word I have for this church today. Who loves me more? They who think my presence is evidence they are a great church, or the one who knows they have sinned and I am willing to forgive?

“This woman has come to hear me. The rest of you have merely come to be a part of what you think makes you look good.” Turning to the woman on the front row he said, “Dearest, you are forgiven.” Then He was gone.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

To Bella, (and Other Teens Like Her)

Your cognitive (ability to think) and moral development are not yet complete. As you look back at your teen years from adulthood, you will recognize the incomplete state you are now in. However, from where you are now compared to what you remember from childhood, you feel like you have arrived. You feel as though you are as adult-like as you will ever be. The truth is a majority of people do not develop into their full intellectual and moral selves until their early twenties, when adolescence really ends. (Many never go beyond adolescence in intellectual and moral ability at all. One third to one half of Americans never attain the cognitive level of formal operations at all!)

One area that you will develop over the next few years will be to final break free from childhood egocentrism. Children live in a reality centered on themselves. Their whole world in their limited understanding revolves around them. Adolescents begin to realize that the world does not in fact revolve around them, but this process takes time.

Some characteristics of teen egocentrism are:

Finding Fault With Authority Figures: As teens begin to see that the authorities they have looked up to are not perfect, they begin to express this at every possible opportunity. They soon discover that no one, including themselves, is perfect.

Argumentativeness: As teens discover a greater ability to think, they enjoy arguing any side of all issues for the sake of arguing. Once they become used to the ability to think, they begin to choose sides a cease to argue as much.

Self-Consciousness: While the teen is leaving behind egocentrism, they still find it hard not to think the whole world is conscious of them. They still think everyone is looking at them, talking about them, and judging them.

Self-Centeredness: Teens still think that they are special in the sense that they are unique and the rules of the world do not apply to them like the rest of the world. While we are special and created unique by God, the rules of the world and consequences still apply to us all. A person who does not outgrow this stage is called a psychopath.

Indecisiveness: As teens grow intellectually, they are suddenly aware of a multiplicity of choices. Thus they can have a hard making up their mind about things.

Apparent Hypocrisy: Teens (and some adults) have a hard time recognizing the difference between expressing an ideal world and working towards it. This is why they can lead rallies against pollution and still liter, demonstrate against war in a violent way, or fight for animal rights and still buy leather jackets.

All this helps us to see that a person is still very much in development until well into the college years. This also means that we are at a high level of impressionability during this time. Ideas and teachings influence us during these formative years and can shape who we become. You may not be in a position to make good decisions yet.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Acts: More Antioch (11:19,20)

Who were these men from Cyprus and Cyrene? Will we ever get to meet them in heaven? Whoever they were they were geniuses, but they were probably considered idiots for their day. In those early days of evangelism, people didn’t know much. (They hadn’t even invented the Four Spiritual Laws yet!) But they at least knew one thing… you shared the message of Jesus Christ with the Jews. What were these guys thinking? They tried to share God’s message to Gentiles? Come on!

Of course, they gained notice pretty quick when huge numbers began accepting the message.

Sometimes it is possible to know too much. We have so many methods and books and training modules for sharing faith today. People become a little too intimidated to do something as simple as share something they know. That is all Jesus asked his followers to do in the end. Share what you have learned. Don’t share what you think you should know; share what you do.

In many places today there is an overabundance of knowledge when it comes to knowledge. Everyone knows what doesn’t work. “Don’t do x, y, and z. They won’t produce any results.” The problem is no one knows the thing that will work. Perhaps it is that no one thing will do the trick everywhere. More likely it is that no matter what you do, God is the only “thing” that does work. The dirty little secret is that in places where “street evangelism” isn’t supposed to work, there are successful street evangelists; and in places where people don’t accept things on the street, there are successful scripture distributions taking place.

All that—not to say “do anything;” but at least to say “don’t do nothing” (bad grammar aside.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Heaven

Heaven,
Is from a purely human perspective,
Only partially as great as it could be.
Because half of the people in your life
That you love and care for with all you’ve got
Aren’t going to be there.
Friends from your childhood, and school,
College buddies and people from work,
Relatives and family members,
(Half or more of whom haven’t heard the real gospel,
God’s plan for life abundant.)
The more you live your life
In the way God would have you to,
The better Jesus can show Himself to them through you.
So the better you live, the better heaven gets.
Imagine, a place where everyone you ever loved is
All together with you.
That’s one way heaven is going to be great,
Forever.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Academy Awards 1996-2007

The Oscars can be very annoying. That must be why they are so fun to keep up with. But, seriously, the last decade to twelve years have been really bad for the awards. Good arguments can be made against nearly every choice for best picture. Assuming the award for Best Picture was to go to the best of the best for the year, the most enduringly good film made that year that would only increase in importance and audience and impact, then all but one of the last 12 years got it wrong. (Yes, yes, the Oscars are not about that, but rather a popularity contest full of politics, I know. However, they have gotten it right in the past… look at the early nineties.)

Here is a look at the Best Picture category from 1996-2007:

1996: The English Patient? Should have gone to Fargo.

1997: Titanic? LA Confidential was also nominated, and is the better film.

1998: Shakespeare in Love? Saving Private Ryan should have won, better yet, Dark City or The Truman Show should have at least been nominated.

1999: American Beauty? The Sixth Sense turns out to have been M. Night’s best film; they should have given it to him then. The Matrix or The Iron Giant should have been contenders.

2000: Gladiator? Maybe not as bad as the previous four years, but Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon ought to have gotten the nod, and O Brother Where Art Thou? wasn’t considered.

2001: A Beautiful Mind? Here is where the Oscars decided to overlook the Best Picture for two years running and just give the award to the best picture besides The Lord of the Rings, considering it as one big picture. From this point on, there was no doubt Return of the King would win.

2002: Chicago? Ditto last year, but even so Minority Report should have taken this “Second Place” trophy.

2003: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (and the previous two lumped in.)

2004: Million Dollar Baby? The animation curse rears its head again and The Incredibles is not even looked at.

2005: Crash? Munich will have a longer lasting impact, since Crash is already forgotten.

2006: The Departed? A case of a director being looked over for far too long and awarded for a lesser picture. Laberynto del Fauno was the masterpiece of 2006.

2007: No Country for Old Men? Not a bad choice, but Ratatouille was probably the best film.

What will this year bring? Wall-E is already out. Will the Best Picture win?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Chicken Little

I have seen it in the sky,
Up above the world so high.
If we don't run now,
It will crush us underneath it's feet.
If we don't run now,
It will smash us in our beds as we sleep.
If we don't run now,
And seek out shelter, we will die,
Smashed by the pie in the sky.

I have seen it in the streets.
In the outstretched hand and the sign for work to eat.
If we don't stop now,
And look to what really matters we will die.
If we don't stop now,
Take a look at our country and cry,
If we don't stop now,
And see what the madness really means,
We'll be smashed by the American Dream.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I Have a Dream

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” –Martin Luther King, Jr. August 28, 1963

Yesterday was an exciting day for a wonderful country. For the world really. But we are still waiting for the fulfillment of Dr. King’s vision.

As any person who grew up outside the United States could tell you, the place is still a country obsessed with race. Advances have been made. In practice, equality has been largely achieved. However, in the minds of people, racism lives on. Even people who are not hateful about it are subject to its perspective. Even minorities who are the natural target of it are slaves to it. And there are far too many people who embrace it.

(As a youth minister, a sure fire way to get in trouble with parents was to get onto a teen for racist views. There is no doubt as to where those views originated.)

And then yesterday, we showed we have not moved on to judging people by their character and not their race. Rev. Joseph Lowery delivered the benediction at the end of the service. It was beautiful. It was poetic. The delivery was spoken so much better than the poem that preceded it.

The end, however, probably caused a few double takes:

“help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around, when yellow will be mellow, when the red man can get ahead, man, and when white will embrace what is right.”

Guess it is still too early to hope for a country free of racial generalizations.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Top 40's Inferno, or the Nine Circles of Our Cultural Decline

The car radio had been mistakenly left on a top 40 station. (U2’s new single had its dĂ©but the day before, thus…) As the driver reached to quickly change the station he was struck by a revelation that unfolded over the next half hour of popular music and DJ banter…

Popular music has never boded well for the culture that produces it, but has it ever been this bad?

Katy Perry started the set off with her new single “Hot N Cold.” Never mind that this inane song is about a girl who banters endlessly about how she should know her guy is no good for her; nor that it was obviously written right after a reading of one of those preschool board books teaching kids about opposites. The opening line, “You change your mind like a girl changes clothes” is a simile with all the wit, sophistication, and poetry of Vinko Bogataj’s famous ski jump. A line later in the song claims: “You’re plain bo-o-ring.” Exactly.

Next is Kelly Clarkson’s new hit “My Life Would Suck Without You.” Is this song really catching on? Years from now, if any of the current crop of High School sweethearts make it, they will get to have this song playing at their 50th wedding anniversary. “Yes, grandkids, that was ‘Our Song.’” Nice sentiment maybe, but are we really that banal?

Next: Pink’s “So What.” A song about a woman who goes to way too much trouble to show how she doesn’t care that her husband left her. Waaay too much trouble. She must be hurting after all.

Just when he can’t take anymore, they go to one of those witty morning show sketches. Angela Merkel is trying to congratulate Obama over the phone. He keeps interrupting her because people want to kiss him… Mick Jagger, Barbara Streisand, the Pope. He finally has to ask her to ask her to call back, as God wants to put on a show for him…

It would be funnier if it wasn’t so spot-on. Yep… Popular Culture… Like so many tea leaves in the bottom of society’s cup.

Monday, January 19, 2009

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 (Eat Your Veggies, Avoid the Junk Food... Spiritually Speaking)

“Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” –1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

There is a crisis in the pulpits of the Church today. Where have all the good preachers gone? Not the popular ones, not the ones with big churches, not the ones having an impact on culture. Good ones are out there, of course. They are just hard to find sometimes because churches crave junk preaching like we all crave junk food. We want sermons that make us feel good; that tell us how good we are and how we can have better (read happier) lives.

Paul gives a couple instructions for believers concerning preaching. First of all… rejecting the true word of God affects God’s presence in our lives. We don’t simply go to church to worship God; the message we are there to hear is vitally important. God’s word, while good for us, often does not taste very good. When we encounter God’s word, we see the areas in our lives that need changing, and change hurts.

Secondly, we are to be active listeners. Not only to hear what is said and apply it, but to examine what is said every week. When was the last time you examined the sermon you heard on Sunday against the Scripture to see if it was good teaching or not?

In this passage, when Paul exhorts believers to cling to good and abstain from evil, he is referring to the preaching we hear—not our behavior. Hold on to the good sermons, throw out the fluff. Sounds like it is time for everyone to go buy a notebook and start taking notes on Sunday… class is in session.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Robot, the Oscars, and Animated Features

As is so often the case in human endeavors, a decision made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2001 to increase recognition of animation films had an unintended effect. Ten years after the first and only animated feature film was nominated for Best Picture (Beauty and the Beast), they created a new award: Best Animated Feature Film. Since that time, no animated film has ever achieved the distinction of being nominated for Best Picture, even though arguably a couple could have even won the award outright.

2008 was by some accounts a weak year for film. Not only that, but as in many of the past few years, an animated film has made it’s way onto many of the top ten lists for the year. Wall-E has been touted as “pure cinema” and a fresh look at what the medium of film can do. The question is: will this finally be the year that an animated film gets nominated for Best Picture since the animation award was created?

Wall-E is not perfect. The live action humans and their transition to animation over the years is less than convincing. That being said, the first half of the film is an experience in visual storytelling unlike hardly any film has achieved since the silent era of film. The way the filmmakers communicate Wall-E’s personality and tell an engaging story with very little dialogue or current points of reference is amazing.

At first glance the message is obvious and slightly heavy handed. However, the ecological “Don’t liter!” imperative is not the real point of the story. This is a story of culture, societal interaction, life, and love. The truly subtle commentary is deftly balanced between the anthropomorphized robots and the personality deficient blobs of flesh posing as humanity. Check it out.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Stuffed Animals

Stuffed animals are soft and cuddly.
Stuffed animals are so sweet.
Stuffed animals don't like to get muddy.
Stuffed animals are not to eat.

If you leave your stuffed animals,
Out at night,
They might get cold and not like you.
Then they might all rise up,
And get together,
Buy a gun, and some ammo, and ice you.
So make sure you sleep with them,
Under the covers,
And you might want to tie them up tight.
'Cause everyone knows stuffed animals,
Turn on you,
The first chance they get in the night.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Aesthetics and Absolutes

Last week a mistake was made in an article titled “Missional Art.” The term Christian Artists was used. This is a term that has been discussed early on here at Nonmodern, and not one that is deemed a good term due to the baggage it carries.

Other philosophical perspectives are alright as labels to describe art (Existential Art, Postmodern Art, etc) because they simply describe the perspective the art is coming from. "Christian Art" is dangerous because, while it could simply mean art that shares a Christian worldview of reality, it has also been used by people to pass off garbage as something good. The idea is most Christians will swallow anything hook-line-and-sinker if they are just told it is “Christian.” (Unfortunately this is true.) So, many a talent-less singer or hack painter has established a career on selling junk to Christians.

Art should be judged on two qualities. For simplicity sake they could be called the aesthetic and the absolute. Aesthetic is the beauty or sensory appeal of the art. The Absolute aspect is the message it communicates or the perspective it takes on reality. Does it communicate truth?

For example, Salvador Dali’s “The Sacrament of the Last Supper” in Washington D.C. is aesthetically a masterpiece. It is incredibly well done, beautiful, and shows the tremendous skill of the artist. However, the message the painting sends is one of irrationality in respect to the life and work of Christ. It represents Christ as something outside of reality. It denies the reality that Christianity is based on. On the other hand, one need only walk into any Christian bookstore in the United States to find example after example of more Biblically accurate yet aesthetically crude paintings that are sold at a 60-80 percent mark-up.

Thus the reason Christian Art can no longer be freely used to describe works created by artists who happen to be Christians and are trying to communicate their perspective.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Storytellers, Not Salespeople

Somewhere along the way, evangelism became all about convincing, persuading, and the appeal to reason. We have developed an expectation that we should be able to change people’s minds about the way they view the world around them.

Very intelligent people have heard and understood the Gospel and rejected it. People are free to do that. Some may say that only with God’s help can anyone truly understand the Gospel. So perhaps the people who have rejected God’s message have not been “quickened” and no one who truly understands it rejects it. Either way, the evangelist is not responsible for changing people’s hearts. We are commissioned to tell the story, not convince people of its validity. We perform the story of the Gospel with our lives; we don’t persuade people with our logic. We communicate God convicts.

Recently it seems that the most popular “method” of convincing people of the Gospel’s truth is to appeal to whatever makes “self-help” so popular. Christianity is to such thinking simply the way to a better life: success through good living. There is so much wrong with this thinking it is hard to know where to begin.

Sometimes (often) the life of a Christian is a hard life. Living God’s way in a hostile, sinful world that is already a difficult place to live, fallen as it is, is never easy. Anyway, if all we have to offer is a better life through good living, forget it. Humanist Atheists have that.

Jesus has called you to be His witness. Tell your story. Share the Truth you have experienced. Don’t try to be an intellectual giant, especially if you aren’t one. God wants to use you to tell His story. He will do the convincing, the convicting, and the changing.

Monday, January 12, 2009

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (Habits of Holiness)

Paul uses three verses in chapter 5 to describe three habits of the believer, three characteristics that should be present and practiced in all circumstances.

“Rejoice Always”

The believer in Christ is a person who practices joy in all circumstances. Joy is not happiness. It is not contentment. Lewis described Christian joy as the feeling Sehnsucht; a German word meaning something like intense longing. For Lewis this was the experience of the Human heart yearning after Heaven—that which for which we we’re created. It would not be accurate to think that Paul was thinking of this feeling here. However, Paul’s idea of joy was certainly a celebration of the hope that the believer has. We can rejoice in the face of all that life brings us for we know the destiny that awaits us.

“Pray Without Ceasing”

Not the idea of a monk in constant meditation, more like hyperbole. However, there is a discipline of constant prayer involving attitude. Like the man who never said “Amen” at the end of his prayers. He was keeping the line open. Giants of discipleship have spoken of the state of perpetual communion with God. Brother Lawrence is someone to read who has practiced this; Richard Foster has a lot of helpful things to say about this discipline as well.

“In Everything Give Thanks”

There is always the story told of this or that person who missed an important flight, but being sooo spiritual, they thanked God that they missed the flight… only to have the plane that they would have been on crash! The implied connection here is that a thankful heart avoids tragedy—but Paul here teaches us to be thankful in all circumstances, not necessarily for those bad things that happen to us. Tragedy happens to everyone; the believer suffers and hurts like everyone else. They simply always have something to be thankful for in spite of the bad.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Films to See in 2009

Okay, so 2008 was a somewhat disappointing year for film all around. (More on that in another entry when the 2008 film season is closer to a true end.) Hopefully 2009 will be a little better, but it is hard to tell. There is reason for hope, though. Here are a twenty 2009 movies to look forward to, either because they may be a source of good spiritual-philosophical dialogue or they just look cool.

The International
Probably a let down, but Clive Owen and the trailer are enough to raise interest.

Watchmen

Will it be released on time? Will it live up to the classic status of the book? Will anyone go see it?

Monsters vs. Aliens
and Up
DreamWorks has been hit or miss, Pixar has yet to truly stumble. Will Disney itself ever have an animated film worth seeing again? The Princess and the Frog? Please.

Knowing

The director made a very good movie called Dark City. This one looks like it might have some thought to it as well.

X Men Origins: Wolverine

Does this one need any comment?

State of Play

Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, and political intrigue.

Star. Trek.

Yeah.

Angels and Demons

Will this one be as boring as the DaVinci Code, or will it have some action to go with the obviously conceived conspiracy theories?

Terminator: Salvation

With a planned trilogy, we may see more of Christian Bale’s John Connor than his Bruce Wayne.

The Brothers Bloom

This just looks fun.

G.I.Joe The Rise of Cobra

I was a kid in the eighties.

Jennifer’s Body

A cheerleader possessed by a demon starts feeding on boys… sounds funny.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Terry Gilliam.

The Informant

Steven Soderbergh directing and Matt Damon in a fat suit.

The Surrogates

Bruce Willis and Science Fiction.

The Wolfman

A remake of a classic. That means a potential for disaster or passable entertainment.

The Box

This one will either stink or be very deep, maybe both.

Avatar

James Cameron’s much awaited sci-fi mind-blower.

And then, three that are at the top of Nonmodern’s list of films to see in 2009:

3. Sherlock Holmes
Directed by Guy Ritchie, staring Robert Downy, Jr. and Jude Law

2. Where the Wild Things Are
Directed by Spike Jonze

1. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mere Human Beings (Changed)

Walking on broken glass,
Playing on scorpions backs,
Oasisles deserts in every direction.
Relationships of trust with mere human beings.
How can we live, without the pain?
Why do we do it, if it all is in vain?
We know the hope for this world,
And the end is in sight!
We stay here to give escape,
And assurance of rest from the plight!

Look at me through inhuman eyes,
See that I too am a human.
But look beyond and try and you’ll find,
That in Christ, even hypocrites, we’re forgiven.
Look at Him with human eyes,
If the light of his face does not blind you.
But look beyond and try and you’ll find,
That with Christ you too can live…

Walking on broken glass,
Playing on scorpions backs,
Oasisles deserts in every direction.
Relationships of trust with mere human beings.
You too can live with the pain.
You too can see that not all is in vain.
We know the hope for this world,
And the end is in sight!
There is a real escape,
An escape from the plight.

Look at me…
Look at Him.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Missional Art

It is exciting to see that people all over are thinking along the same lines as Nonmodern. If art in all its forms is the primary form of cultural communication, then it should be used by Christians… who are, after all, commanded to communicate. The history of art is a history of ideas, and primarily ideas about philosophy and religion. The Christian rejection of art as a valid means of expression, other than in the most propagandistic forms, was a sad development in the story of the Church. Things have looked better lately though.

Christianity Today has an interesting article this month about the Overseas Ministries Study Center’s Artist in Residence program. One can’t help but think that this is a largely untapped resource that churches everywhere could use to expand their evangelistic/cultural-engagement ministry to their communities. How cool would it be to have churches everywhere sponsor artists to study theology and produce art that would be presented to communities around the world? Picture a movement of Christian Artists working in all mediums having an impact on our culture like they haven’t done since the Middle Ages!

Of course, it couldn’t simply be a bunch of alternative presentations of the Four Spiritual Laws or some other “canned” presentation of the Gospel. Unfortunately that is what a lot of churches would want it to be. Instead it should be a wide spectrum of thought covering the entire Christian worldview as it speaks to the cultures in which we live. We have such a wide variety of revelation and teaching, and our message has something to say to all the important issues facing society.

Missional Art: an exciting idea that’s time has come.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Asleep in the Light

In the Biblical sense, a prophet is not someone who predicts the future, but rather someone who speaks God’s word to people. Often it is a word of judgment or warning with a prediction attached, but basically prophets are preachers. In this sense, contemporary “Christian” music as it has become today was founded in part by a true prophet.

When Keith Green sang, he was preaching. Whereas a lot of Christian artists today are “singing to the choir” (or even worse, hitting an easy target audience) Keith probably made a lot of the church crowd mad in his day. He preached a message of no compromise and selling out for what we claim to believe. All too often Christians today simply see Christianity as a message about the good life—how to live it and how to reap the benefits it provides.

But we aren’t really that callous to the lost and the Great Commission, are we? Look at all the people who are involved in missions today, so many more than ever before. True, but how sold out is it to give a week or two of your life to go have an “adventure” on a mission trip and then go back to your nice secure job with the house, two cars and picket fence?

What Keith Green tried to inspire young people to in his day was radical—perhaps too radical for American Christianity. Many a youth minister has entered the job ready to change young people only to find out that that is not what they have been hired to do. “Entertain the kids. Keep them out of trouble. But don’t you dare get them too enthusiastic about Christianity. They need to go to college and get a real job, not go into the ministry or even worse… career missions!”

Where is the next prophet called to try and wake us up?

Video Worth a Watch

Monday, January 5, 2009

1 Thessalonians 5:14,15 (The Gentle Push)

This is one of those curious/ironic passages, where Paul says one thing and then turns around and says something unexpected or (apparently) contradictory in the same verse.

He tells the church (not just the leaders) to admonish the unruly (or in some versions, lazy), encourage the fainthearted, and help the weak. Three instructions for the church to basically light a fire under it members; to spur people into practice, boldness, and action… and then he tells them to be patient with everyone. One can’t help but notice that the “everyone” includes the members who are not disciplined in their walk, not courageous in their faith, and are powerless to act.

Well, we can sure use this passage in the church today! We are a mass of buildings full of lazy, cowardly, anemic Christians. To make matters worse, the only thing we seem to get excited about are self-help versions of the Gospel or knocking each other down over our short-comings. We need both sides of this teaching. We need to push each other on towards excellence, but we need to do so in a Dumbledore/Obi-Wan sort of way… gently prodding and guiding and being very tolerant of each other… because that is the sense of the word “patience” here. Not the tolerance popular in today’s culture that says, “Do what you will; everything is permissible.” But rather, “I will love you for whom you are and help you see who you were really created to be.”

In fact, all too often we have gone beyond verse 14 and really need to hear 15 first.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to see churches where all the membership was performing that ministry for each other? This teaching of Paul comes on the heels of his instruction to respect the leadership of the church, but this teaching is for all the members, not just the leaders.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Top Films: What Love Is

There are a lot of themes in the film Forrest Gump: the question of fate versus random chance, the counter-culture revolution contrasted to common sense conservative values, etc. However, the most appealing theme in Forrest Gump is the way it deals with love.

Jenny tells Forrest at one point: “You don’t know what love is.” The truth is that in this film, Forrest is love personified. The Bible describes true love, God’s idea of love, in many places, the most well known being 1 Corinthians chapter 13. Everyone is familiar with this passage: “Love is patient, love is kind…”

Forrest is simple and called stupid over and over again in the movie, but the viewer gets to see that Forrest, while not smart, knows the simple truths that he needs in life. He is simply lacking in the selfish, negative, and even evil side of human nature. He is not driven by pride or ambition. He does not try to take things or get anything for himself. It is a fun aspect of the movie to see the ways that he ironically “lucks” into so much history and riches.

He is an innocent in many ways but he does have some qualities that make him be seen as a good man. He is selfless. He cares for others. He values truth and honesty and he knows what love is. He does not question life, but he does think some pretty deep thoughts about the things that happen.

“I’m not a smart man… but I know what love is.”

Thursday, January 1, 2009

History

Darkness failing,
Light!
Color, ending night.
Sun passing in flight.

You taught him,
Life.
He left Your side.
Now he knows who’s right.

Darkness,
Fading light.
...

Web woven of,
Sin.
Devouring, pulling all men.
Moon, witness in spin.

Man has fallen,
In.
Conscience worried thin.
Hope gone in the wind.

Darkness,
Every Sin.
...

God’s will shown,
Anew.
Given to the few.
Desert meets fresh dew.

Hopes through law are
Hewn.
Man is shown he’s through.
Death reigns in the pew.

Sin,
In full view.
...

Baby born, son of
Man.
Wholly God, perfect man.
Living life roaming land.

Taking law in
Hand.
Proof to world God can.
Dead three days, alive again.

God,
Perfect man.
...

Rose petals in the
Sky.
Falling on you and I.
The sole flower died.

Sunburst overcoming
Night.
Freedom from chains, life!
Music sounding on high!

Chorus
Of the Light.
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