Monday, December 31, 2012

NonModern in the New Year

For five years now, NonModern has been a discipline. It started out as a 5 day a week practice, but for the past 14 months (with one exceptional day last June) it has been a daily push. All of that is a good thing, and pushes me to be active in areas of my life that are valuable to me: critical thinking, being active rather than passive, and forcing myself to write, among others. What it does not automatically do is discipline me towards excellence.

Most of what I write her represents mere minutes of effort a day. This is not my job, after all. There are almost no examples here that are anything more than a first draft. That is probably apparent.

For 2013, I am going to relax the rhythmic discipline of NonModern. At most, I will be returning to the 5 day plan, but more than likely there will be many times where that does not happen. I will still throw down many unfiltered thoughts, but I will also make an effort in other areas of writing discipline this year. All of that will hopefully mean better content, but definitely less overall posting.

At the same time, I crave more interaction with readers, and for readers to interact with each other more as well. There is now a facebook page dedicated to the blog. Please like it and use the wall there as well as the comments section here to participate in this conversation.

Here’s hoping this is an improvement…

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Leadership Standards (1 Timothy 3:1-13)

We live in an age that is too comfortable with frailty. That is a statement that I stand by, even while I have a hard time reconciling it with things I observe. On the one hand, I think that believers are too prone to legalism and preferring guidelines to standards—law to love. And yet, we have simultaneously misunderstood grace to mean license.

No where is this more apparent than in church leadership. We need to be forgiving when followers of Jesus slip up. We don’t need to dumb down our desires for discipleship or our expectations of those whom we would look to set the pace.

Our leaders should not be our “best” people. They should be the people that are called and gifted to fill that role. However, we should all strive for the kinds of standards that this these lists in Timothy and those in Titus call for us to pursue. None more than those who would accept the role of being leaders.

So, let’s stop short of asking our leadership to be Jesus, but let’s be picky. And while we are at it, let’s all strive to be as Christ-like as we can be.

Friday, December 28, 2012

"Bernie" (2011)

Bernie is a strange experience. You are basically watching one of those documentaries about an event, with the recreations and interviews, except it is a “real” movie where everything has been written and performed by actors. Only, in this case, over half of the actors are actually the real townsfolk from the real source story.

Bernie is performed by Jack Black in a way that reveals what we already know about the great comics. They are usually great actors. He is the sort of character that really does exist in Texas. I have met my share. Basically he is a really weird but basically good man. He is upstanding, religious, and cares about people. He does things for the community and is genuinely interested in helping people.

And, he is capable of murder.

This story is surprisingly entertaining. It is also a good study of—and warning about—human nature. We are all capable of terrible things. We all know it. What we see here is that we are also all potentially capable of even more terrible things than we could ever imagine.

I don’t know if this will go down as one of my favorite films of the year. I imagine there is a lot I have yet to see that will push it down the list. It is, however, a very well done and watchable movie. Recommend.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

"Doctor Who: The Snowmen"

Doctor Who Christmas specials have been fairly formulaic. They offer the fans a bit of Who to tide them over until the next series gets going. They tend to riff on Christmas themes. They are fairly tame and forgettable.

This latest episode was different on a few points. It had some creepy moments. It had some genuinely memorable moments, mostly comedic. And it appears to tie into the coming episodes fairly strongly. In fact, it does so so strongly that the plot for this episode even suffers a bit. The story felt like it was in such a headlong race to get to the big mystery for the coming episodes, that it didn’t develop the plot as it should have.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

"The King's Speech" (2010)

When I finally got around to watching “The King’s Speech” I was surprised by several things:

First—and I should probably not say that I was surprised in this case—the Academy once again opted for some strange, unknowable reasoning in selecting the Best Picture. They almost always pick “great” films in the sense that they are well done and beautiful, but they are hardly THE film of the year on a scale of importance, historic or impactful. I can think of 8 or possibly 9 films from 2010 that will be mentioned, remembered and rewatched more than this film.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

On Grandparents, Family Relationships, and "Home Alone"

My granddad used to love “Home Alone.” According to family stories, he scoffed at the idea of the film but, when forced to see it with grandkids it became one of his favorite films. This shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone. All my life I remember him watching either Westerns and War Films, or “Looney Toons” shorts. “Home Alone” is squarely in the category of a cartoon.

At least, it is a cartoon for that last act, a mere 20 minutes or so. The rest of the film focuses more on an important issue: reconciliation. This is what makes “Home Alone” such a wonderful Christmas film. It is all about families learning to accept and love each other in spite of their imperfections. Let’s face it. Kevin is a jerk of a kid. In spite of how slighted he feels by his family, (before they go and leave him home alone as they fly half way around the world!) he is the one who needs to learn how to get along. In the parallel story of the scary old man, he gets to see what can happen when families don’t work at loving each other.

Monday, December 24, 2012

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

“Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay... small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I am afraid and it gives me courage.”

Lay aside for a moment all of the fan-boy concerns, the literary purist complaints, and the tech-geek scoffing. At the heart of Peter Jackson’s latest is the story Tolkien wrote, and that story is full of timeless truth and inspirational example. For me, at least, this is one of those stories that defeats all of my attempts at cynicism. The fact is that I believe the same things that Tolkien was promoting in his stories.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Don't Rush to Certainty (1 Timothy 2:8-15)

There is an old rule of thumb in reading Scripture. Don’t build entire teachings or practices from single passages. There are plenty of examples of verses that seem to say something, but that we would do better to err on the side of caution rather than jump whole-hog into following. Most of us don’t handle snakes to prove our faith, for example. Or a better one (since that particular verse breaks another rule) would be to say we do not baptize people in the place of the dead even though Paul mentions the practice.

Here in 1 Timothy, many do not follow that rule. They take this passage to imply that women can’t teach. This does not seem to fit in with other examples of Jesus and Paul in ministry, and there is not another passage that repeats this teaching. However, many appeal to the mention of Adam and Eve to claim that this teaching is universal and not simply a cultural or situational application. Interestingly, few of these same people apply that universality to the whole passage. They don’t tend to preach against make-up or jewelry, or that women are saved through motherhood.

In light of other teaching regarding gender in the Kingdom, namely that there is no distinction between men and women, maybe we ought to be cautious in this case. This is certainly not a case where the Bible clearly states a wrong that will be punished in some way. On the other hand, we are repeatedly warned not to be too sure of ourselves and our interpretations in teaching. And to be loving and accepting of each other.

In any case, the main theme of 1 Timothy is to stand against false teaching that goes against the Gospel message. This sort of exclusivism may qualify as just such a teaching. It may be more plausible that the women in Ephesus were behind a lot of the false teaching Paul is addressing. Perhaps it even had something to do with what they were teaching regarding Eve.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Top (25) Anticipated Films of 2013

Here is a first attempt to list the films that look the most intriguing to me for 2013. First, 20 in chronological order by release date in the US, then the top five right now:

(Updated October 2013)

“Mama” Andreas Muschietti 

This Guillermo Del Torro produced feature from the director of a really creep short film stars one of my favorite actresses of the moment.

“John Dies at the End” Don Coscarelli 

I think this will end up being terrible, but the themes being tackled here are intriguing and Coscarelli is too crazy for film. He’s like a poor man’s Gilliam.

“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” Tommy Wirkola 

Had this one on my list last year, and its delay makes me nervous. But it still looks cool and was filmed in my neck of the world.

“Stoker” Park Chan-wook 

This film is by a director I have wanted to catch up with for some time now, and it looks like a thinking person’s horror.

“Jack the Giant Killer” Brian Singer 

Another hold-over from last year, but this one looks pretty good.

“Oz the Great and Powerful” Sam Raimi 

This one looks like a must see for Sci-Fi fantasy geeks.

“Oblivion” Joseph Kosinski 

I really love “Minority Report” and this one will probably be nothing like it. One can hope.

“Epic” Chris Wedge 

This is my most anticipated animated film for the year.

“Now You See Me” Louis Leterrier 

A fun looking caper from a director I like with stars I like.

“After Earth” M. Night Shyamalon 

Should we really give Shyamalon another chance?

“Man of Steel” Zack Snyder 

This is my most anticipated Super Hero film of the year.

“World War Z” Marc Forster 

Zombies have become the overdone subgenre of horror, but they have a lot of potential to address important topics. This one looks like it might end up being a brainless action.

“Monsters University” Dan Scanlon 

If we get a third lesser Pixar in a row, I may have to stop anticipating these films.

“Much Ado About Nothing” Joss Whedon 

A little film from a great writer filming material by an even greater one.

“The Lone Ranger” Gore Verbinski 

I enjoy Verbinski every time he makes a film...

“Pacific Rim” Guillermo Del Torro 

...And Del Torro so far as well, but this one has me questioning.

“R.I.P.D.” Robert Schwentke 

This film from the guy who brought us “Red” looks to be even stranger.

“The Wolverine” James Mangold 

I am ready to see a vision of Wolverine from the guy who brought us “3:10 To Yuma,” “Identity” and “Kate and Leopold.”

“Mr. Peabody and Shermon” Rob Minkoff 

I really liked the TV show.

“Jack Ryan” Kenneth Branagh 

I will watch any Ryan story and any film made by Branagh, so bring it!

5. “Elysium” Neil Blomkamp 

This may be the most anticipated Sci-fi film of the year. Blomkamp’s first film tried to say something important. It didn’t quite pull it off, but maybe this time he will.

4. “Warm Bodies” Jonathan Levine 

This Zombie film looks like it will be wearing its message on its sleeve.

3. “The World’s End” Edgar Wright 

The team that brought us “Shawn of the Dead” is back!

2. “Star Trek: Into Darkness” J.J. Abrams 

I think I am finally ready to declare Trek better than Star Wars. This film may seal the deal.

1. “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Peter Jackson 

Maybe I ought to revise this list later today, depending on what I think of the first installment in this story.

Friday, December 21, 2012

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (2011)

One of the films getting a lot of award buzz this year is the story of several British retirees who, due to financial concerns and limitations, decide to live out their retirement in India. The only problem is that the retirement resort they choose is less than it has made itself out to be. Hilarity ensues.

Only in this case we get less hilarity and more poignancy. This film is a study in cross cultural experience, aging issues, and finding the means to live life as it comes. Some of the characters here are totally incapable of that. Much of western culture is about the way we set up our routines and situations to avoid the unexpected—as much as possible. The fact is that life is full of unexpected circumstances and experiences. When we are able to roll with what comes our way and make the best of things, we may find that life is so much more of an experience than we are prepared to plan for.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sin in James

For James, sin is serious. This is not to say that for other authors, Paul for example, it is not a big deal. Paul shows repeatedly his intolerance for sin in Romans, I Corinthians and other letters. For James, however, the tone of the entire epistle is Christian lifestyle. Especially important for James is a life lived without sin. This is probably due to the fact that James as a pastor was exposed to more sin among Christians. Paul on the other hand was used to seeing converted lost people and starting out work. He was used to lives changing for the better.

The attack on sin in the epistle is seen against two types of sin: those sins that go against the will of God for the Christian life, and those that are more of an attitude that fails to produce good behavior. These later sins are not wrong actions on the part of Christians, but more the lack of good actions. Examples of the first type of sin are the “tongue” passages, and the tirades against the abuses of the wealthy against the poor. The second type of sins are discussed in the “faith without works” passages primarily.

This view James presents of sin is a good outline of sin as a whole. All sin can be encapsulated into two categories. Those deliberate sins against God, and those of omission. It is safe to say that Christians have a problem with both types and that both affect the life of the Church. This is the type of problem that James in his pastoral role had to deal with day in and day out. This is why his epistle appears so legalistic. He was simply addressing the problems of his congregation. One must be careful to not let this specific purpose of James’ letter be read in such a way as to go against the emphasis of grace that the New Testament gives as the solution to the problem of sin. Man cannot overcome sin without Christ, but once he has Christ he must strive to live an overcoming life.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Seeking A Biblical Position

As a Baptist, I am driven to basing my positions on what I read in the Bible. It is an ideal my denomination doesn’t really hold to much anymore, but a part of the roots of my faith that have me still claiming the label these days. Many Christians in America these days don’t read their Bibles much, and they certainly don’t stop to look to Scripture to determine what they should think on an issue. It is far easier to let your favorite pastor tell you what you should believe… or worse, your political party. Because, as every Christian knows, Jesus was very clear about His political affiliation.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TV and the Meaning of Christmas

Many people, especially believers, look back on the Charlie Brown Christmas Special with great fondness. One of the things that makes it so unique is the way it concisely and faithfully cuts through the seasonal chaos and pressure to remind us of the simple, beautiful meaning of the holiday.

What it doesn’t do, and this is something that a lot of believers fail to replicate today, is preach about what the season is NOT about. Linus doesn’t complain about the “X” instead of the “Christ.” He doesn’t bemoan Santa or the commercialism. But we have a problem with being that positive today. Instead of sharing the love of Jesus and the story of His birth, we have to assume our grumpy expressions and go around correcting everyone for doing the season wrong.

Monday, December 17, 2012

"The Devil and the Drunk" (Story pt. 6: The End)

Part 5

The idiot! Maureen was walking towards the fountain, not bothering to stay out of sight! She was entranced with the man at the fountain. He was too busy to notice her yet. I heard a noise coming from the right. Turning, I saw a carabinero coming, swinging his baton as he whistled.

"Psst! Someone is coming! Let's get!"

Maureen was still walking to the fountain. I looked at the man. He was facing Maureen and smiling. It sent chills down my spine. "Maureen!"

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent Reflections on the Ultimate Story (Part 3)

(Part 2)

3. Play your Role; Be the Story

We are partners with God in the story of the Gospel. We have been commanded to share the story. We are storytellers by calling. It is something we are empowered to do; or at the very least we have access to a power that will help us. However, as with any task we have been given—and hopefully desire to do well—we should work at doing it better. We want to improve our efforts. We want to make an impact.

Too often we have been made to think of the Gospel as a sales pitch rather than a story. We have turned the most inspiring story ever told into a list of bullet points and removed all the drama, the humanity, the art. If we have any ability to communicate at all, we don’t approach any other conversation that way. We adjust our stories for the audience. We tell them in a way that will connect. When we want people to love or identify with a story, we tell it right.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Peripheral Response to America’s Violent Crisis

In this world of instant information and online connectedness, everyone was reeling in the aftermath of the Connecticut shootings yesterday. Like many others my heart was torn, but I didn’t see any reason to add my obvious and natural response to the chorus of internet comments. The problem America is currently experiencing is shocking. The shootings seem to be increasing in frequency and it is unimaginable that it would impact a kindergarten.

However, as I reflected on this latest tragedy, another thought came to mind. This is a good time for a wake-up call to be voiced again. Maybe it will be heard. More likely it will not.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Why Revelation?

Mankind was created in the image of God to have a relationship with God. When sin entered the scene, the image of God and the relationship with God were broken. Man is still a creature in need of that relationship, and the widespread existence of religion testifies to the search for God that has always existed, but on his own man cannot find God.

God must take the initiative to reveal himself to man. In the broken sinful state of man’s existence, it is impossible for him to find God on his own. All man can know is the fact that God exists by the evidence left in the creation, and that this God is supreme and that man is accountable to God. It takes a special act of revelation for man to understand enough about God to reenter the broken relationship.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Cross as Primary Referent (Part 3)

Other theological issues beyond revelation, God's nature, and creation are dependent on the work of Christ on the Cross. Soteriology is intricately tied to the work of Christ. It is that work and it alone that provides humanity with salvation (John 14:6). Any discussion of soteriology without the cross is neither a Biblical nor Christian understanding of salvation. Jesus Himself said that He must be lifted up to draw all men to Himself (John 12:32). It was not enough for Christ to come and live a perfect life as a revelation to illumine humanity. Humanity could not save themselves from sin even with if they understood how. Christ had to go to the cross and pay the price of sin; God’s just nature had to remain true.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Questionable Christmas Devotions

This year I got around to watching two very beloved Christmas films for the very first time. I might have caught a scene or two before now, but I had never before seen “Christmas Vacation” or “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Now I am asking myself, why? Not, “Why had I never seen these films before now?” but rather “Why are they so beloved?”

In the case of Rudolf, this dear story is pretty messed up! We all know that Rudolf is rejected for being different. What is so unsettling to today’s first time viewer is that this rejection of the other is never really shown as being wrong. The only way that Rudolf is ever redeemed in his society’s eyes is when they perceive him as someone useful. They exploit his useful difference in desperation. If he had not had a useful defect he would have never been embraced. When you read about the production of the special, you discover that they never intended to do anything for the rest of the misfit toys. They added scenes in after the initial broadcast because so many children wrote in to ask why Rudolf never helped the toys as he had promised too.

“Christmas Vacation” is an easier target, but you still have to ask yourself why this film has been so embraced. It is only marginally funny, and even then in a less than joyful, more at the expense of people, way. Not exactly a Christmas-y comedy. Like most comedies set at Christmas (Home Alone, Santa Clause, Elf, etc.) it tries to convey a message. Only this one leaves the viewer feeling empty. Clark deeply desires to have a special, family Christmas. He feels a deep nostalgia for his childhood Christmas, but that causes him to seek an elusive perfection. As his frustration increases, things get worse and, in the end, we get the message… Don’t be a jerk like Clark’s boss at Christmas time. (You can be a jerk like Clark, because he had good intentions.)

Don’t get me wrong. I chuckled a few times. But there is no way either of these films cracks the top 25 Christmas films. (I think, anyway. I don’t think I have made that list yet…)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Star Trek Deep Space Nine (Season 3a)

Season 2b  Season 3b

Well, thus far in, “Deep Space Nine” has not quite measured up to what I was promised, and this first half of season three is a low point. It isn’t terrible, but it is not as compelling as other Treks have been. Sure, it does carry more complex storylines across multiple episodes the way previous Treks had not, but with today’s television the way it is DS9 is hardly impressive. For its day it was cutting edge, but no longer.

Beyond plot, there is also a theme apparent this time around. Nearly every episode is dealing in some way with the concept of identity.

Episodes 1&2 “The Search”

The big revelation in the lengthy two-parter (3 if you count the last episode of season 2) is that Odo finally finds his people. He learns who he is. Or does he? It turns out he is one of the Dominion, the big, scary, unseen adversary on the other side of the wormhole. They don’t deal with this much for the next half-season, but ultimately, Odo decides he is his own person. His values and ethics are more important to him than those of his “home” culture.

Monday, December 10, 2012

"The Devil and the Drunk" (Story pt. 5)

Part 4

We ducked down and looked over the edge toward the center of the park. There, approaching the flowers, was a young man. He couldn't have been more than twenty-five, and he was gorgeous. His skin shown in the moon-light, and his hair was dark and long. His eyes were light, even from half a block you could tell.

 "I wonder who he is--"


He walked with soft, deliberate steps. It appeared as if he glided up to the fountain. As he did, he hummed something to himself.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Advent Reflections on the Ultimate Story (Part 2)

(Part 1)

“Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

2. The Gospel, the Most Multifaceted Story

Critics also fail to remember the way prophecy works when they are critiquing Isaiah 7:14. Prophets tend to see the future with a deep focus. They can’t always tell when the things they see will occur in relation to each other. Things years and centuries apart may appear to be a part of the same picture.

Another way of looking at this concept is story related. A choice or an action may have multiple impacts on multiple plot lines. In real life, God tells very sophisticated stories. As we become more “sophisticated” in our culture, we do so too.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Top Early Films (1900-1929)

Here is my lamest list for the “Years in Film” series. It is not exactly just a list of all the pre-1930 films I have seen. I did leave on off:

10. “Haxan” (1922)

9. “The Great Train Robbery” (1903)

8. “Frankenstein” (1910)

7. “The Ring” (1927)

6. “The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog” (1927)

5. “Blackmail” (1929)

4. “Phantom of the Opera” (1925)

3. “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (1919)

2. “The Kid” (1921)

1. “Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens” (1922)

I have a lot more to watch, obviously.

Friday, December 7, 2012

We Need More Anticipation!

This time of year brings to mind memories of waiting for family coming to visit. I remember not only having to wait for Christmas to open presents, but also the anticipation of knowing that my grandparents were coming and having time slow down as their arrival approached. They lived eight hours away when I was in elementary school, and the day that they made that drive was always one of the slowest of the year.

Of course, I also have other memories of anticipation and learning to deal with waiting and disappointment even. Trying to go to sleep the night before going to an amusement park was nearly impossible the first time I tried it. There was even a day we were driving to some event like an air show, and the traffic ended up being so bad we had to turn around and go home instead.

These days we don’t teach children to deal with anticipation. We avoid it. There is a valid reason for surprising our loved ones. It is fun to see a child surprised by joy. But we shouldn’t do it all the time. And we do it, not just for the fun of giving our children surprise, but because we can’t deal with them learning to deal with waiting.

Perhaps our generation hasn’t experienced anticipation enough ourselves. We don’t see it as a natural part of life. We think it is bad. It isn’t. God put humanity through centuries of anticipation. That is part of what Advent is all about.

Make your kids count down the days, people.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Cross as Primary Referent (Part 2)

A theology desiring to be Christian can not merely be Biblical. Christian Theology must be cruciform.

The fact that God is all knowing raises the question of God’s purpose for creation. Since God knew that the cross would be necessary, and still decided to create, the cross and its results can be seen as a desirable thing. God’s purposes in creating the universe are ultimately His and unknown to His creation; but this can be known. His purposes in creating the universe, the world, and a humanity characterized by free will were important enough for God to send His Son to die. They were important enough for the Son to give Himself freely (Philippians 2:5-11). The pictures of the Love shared within the Trinity, and the Love shown towards humanity by the Trinity, are clues as to the nature of the purpose of God in creating. He created to further love. It is in His nature to love. In humanity, God made one aspect of His creation with the capacity to reject His love. In doing so, He created a being with the ultimate capacity to love Him back, in that the love shown by humanity is a freely chosen love.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

“Community” and the Mafioso Side of Church

Continuing to watch season one of “Community,” I have continued to think that it is like the postmodern, XXI Century version of “Cheers.” That show was a lot of people’s pop-culture go-to for what church should be. A place “Where everybody knows your name,” the attractional picture of community. In this new series, we see the community less centered on a building or meeting place, (even thought they do have regular meetings in a designated space) and more about the changes that the group bring upon each other as they share life. It is a good picture of the way church should be, albeit without the spiritual dimension.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stream of Santa Consciousness

“Dear Santa! Are you real? If you live at the North Pole, how come I can't see your house when I look on Google Earth?”

That is the opening of a letter to Santa in “Arthur Christmas.” It makes my nerd head spin. It is from a girl who believes in Santa even though a slew of evidence and all here friends tell her she shouldn’t. But before you begin to think that this is a story about faith or belief in something you can’t see, you need to remember something. Not only does this story take place in a reality where Santa does exist. It is a reality where 2 billion children receive a present from him every year. In our world parents play the game of deceiving their children and everyone grows up to the realization that it was an elaborate lie done “all in good fun.” In the world of “Arthur Christmas” parents surely realize that the presents are not from them. They have to all know that Santa exists. What boggles the mind is that any kids in Arthur’s world doubt Santa.

And that, folks, is how you can ruin entertainment by over-thinking things.

Of course, I over-think things in real life as well. Like Santa.

Monday, December 3, 2012

"The Devil and the Drunk" (Story pt. 4)

Part 3

"Let's break into the cemetery!" Maureen sat across from me tormenting her cat.

"That's stupid. We never go in. We'll just stand around looking like idiots."

"This time we'd have to promise to go in."

"I don't see myself going past those walls."

The truth of the matter is Maureen didn't relish the idea either.

My encounter with the old woman at the park had been on my mind for the week since it had happened, and I saved the evening from certain boredom. At least that's what I thought at the time.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent Relfections on the Ultimate Story

“Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

Isaiah 7:14 is one of the most used, abused and disputed verses of the Bible; especially around Advent time. Isaiah uttered the prophecy as a sign for Ahaz, telling him how long it would be until his troubles were over. A young woman would conceive, give birth and, before the child would reach an age of accountability, the threat would be resolved.

Later, Matthew—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—applied this sign to Jesus’ virgin birth.

Today, scholars and skeptics like to disdain the Bible and its Christian readers by pointing out that Isaiah did not intend his sign to predict the Messiah’s coming and certainly not the idea of a virgin conceiving a baby miraculously. They miss the point and raise such criticisms in at least two ways:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Paranorman" (2012)

“Paranorman” is a mixed bag of a film. It is fun, creative, and original in its production. However, as far as the story goes, it tends to lag a bit. And even though it admittedly is an exercise in paying tribute to a whole genre, it does not really take the genre further or add much creativity into the mix.

Friday, November 30, 2012

NonModern in November 2012

November is the third highest month in this blog's page view history.  It is always encouraging to see so many entries here getting views even years after they are written.  (And humbling to think that a lot of them are simply search engine result clicks that people mistakenly hit only not to stick around.)  This month (as usual) many of the page tabs above got clicks.  If you haven't looked at them, check them out.


Movie List

Years in Film


Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Cross as Primary Referent (Part 1)

A theology desiring to be Christian can not merely be Biblical. Christian Theology must be cruciform.

 The cross of Christ is closely tied to the rest of the theological questions. Its meaning and operation are dependent on such issues as the nature of God, God’s plan for creation, His design and purpose for humanity, and the nature of sin. The cross of Christ is the cornerstone of Christian existence and thought. Any Christian understanding of who God is and how creation is intended to be is only possible by looking closely at the cross and its significance. Once the cross is revealed and understood, then other theological issues are open to be seen in their full meaning. At the cross, for the first time, God is revealed in His fullness. At the cross, sin is given its fullest expression in terms of the terrible consequences humanity has brought on itself. True understanding of God and creation and God’s plan are only possible through the cross.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

"Some Nights"

fun. has emerged as one of the more popular and influential groups this year. They certainly have one of the more original and exciting (in studio, at least) sounds going. Unfortunately, their first single was too high in the rotation on the radio. (A mixed blessings for bands as they get increased exposure but people get sick of hearing them.) They also have a borderline nihilistic outlook on the world. In that sense they reflect the culture around them.

This year’s second single, “Some Nights” was no less “anthemic” than “We Are Young,” but it is a much richer song. Musically it has a lot of variety and flair, but is a bit impossible for them to reproduce live. Lyrically, it does not embrace the meaninglessness of their previous hit, but rather they question it. They don’t know what to stand for, but recognize that as a problem.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Comming to "Community" Late

Jeff: I discovered at a very early age that if I talk long enough, I can make anything right or wrong. So either I'm God or truth is relative. In either case, booyah!

Duncan: Interesting, it's just that the average person has a much harder time saying 'booyah' to moral relativism.

I have been wanting to watch “Community” for a long time. It has been getting positive buzz as a funny, yet intelligent comedy for years. Of course I had to wait for it to make its way to Germany and then become cheap. All that having happened; I am wading in.

Monday, November 26, 2012

"The Devil and the Drunk" (Story pt. 3)

Part 2

The voice startled me. There, on the bench next to the park, sat an old woman. "Why not? What's so bad about this park?"

"What park?"

"This park right here! Look around, vieja, you're practically sitting in it!"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Missional Roles (1Timothy 2:7) (& 2 Timothy 1:11)

[7] For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

In this verse (and later in 2 Timothy 1:11) we see what Thom Wolf highlights as the way Paul saw his own ministry. This is a good thing for anyone trying to help the church advance into new areas to understand.

Paul says that his mission, his task, is a threefold one. He is a preacher. He is an apostle. He is a teacher. The three areas of any Missional task are summed up in these roles.

A preacher proclaims. We are sent out to spread Jesus, to tell His story and our part in it.

An apostle, in the most basic definition of the role, advances the church. (We sometimes call this the role of church planter these days. This is problematic, but that is the topic of a different post.)

A teacher is one who makes disciples. We are called to make disciples by teaching them everything Jesus taught His initial followers. That would be where the more well known part of Universal Disciple comes into play.

So, if you see yourself as Missional, or want to be more Missional in your walk with Christ, make sure you are telling the story, spreading and establishing Jesus in communities and helping followers of Jesus become better disciples.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Dessert List

This time of year I find myself putting a lot of thought into desserts. I am not nearly picky enough when it comes to sweets to actually make a ranked list, but here is an attempt:

10. Banana Pudding

9. Peach or Berry Cobbler

8. Crème Brûlée

7. Carrot Cake

6. Walnut Ice Cream Sunday

5. Derby Pie

4. Pumpkin Pie

3. Pecan Pie

2. Apple Pie (American or Strudel) with Ice Cream

1. Apple Cake

What did I miss?  Or, help me build a 11-30 expansion...

Friday, November 23, 2012

"The Raven" (2012)

It is a fascinating mystery: the death of Edgar Allen Poe. As with all unsolved deaths involving celebrities, especially suspicious deaths involving someone like Poe who made a living from the macabre, we love to speculate. Many a work of fiction has been inspired by such events. Of course, a big part of the allure with such stories is the unknown. Once you answer that question, you remove a great part of what makes these stories interesting to people. After all, we already know how the story ends. So, your proposed explanation had better be interesting in its own right.

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