Saturday, February 28, 2015

2014 in Film

 With the usual caveats and excuses, sure changes to come, here are my lists of 2014:

(Updated 6/30/15; 4/17/16)

My Favorite:
12. Godzilla
11. Muppets Most Wanted
10. The Imitation Game
9. Dear White People
8. Unbroken
7. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
6. How to Train Your Dragon 2
5. Babadook
4. Interstellar
3. Captain America: Winter Soldier
2. Big Hero Six
1. Guardians of the Galaxy

Most Disappointing:
-5. Only Lovers Left Alive
-4. Labor Day
-3. Divergent
-2. The Monuments Men
-1. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Yet to See:
[Rec]4 Apocalypse (seen)
Birdman
The Boxtrolls
Boyhood
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (seen, see above)
Deliver Us from Evil (seen)
The Equalizer
Gone Girl
Interstellar (seen, see above)
Oculus (seen)
The Theory of Everything
The Wind Rises

Friday, February 27, 2015

Brief Thoughts on "Fury" (2014)

“Fury” was, in spite of brilliant cinematography, editing and acting, a bit of a disappointment. In a film that aims to show the terrible reality of war—the inhumanity, the horror, the evil all around—“Fury” seems to have gone a step or two too far. What one is left with is so much horror and hatred that any message is overwhelmed.

It does manage to avoid the hero worship aspect of some war films. Pitt’s character “Wardaddy” in particular is an example of the tension within a man trying to lead men to do their duty and survive while visibly struggling with the monster he has become. Other men under his command have lost that struggle and come across as no better than the Nazis they are killing.

Shia LaBeouf made news claiming this film led to his conversion. One wondered if it was merely his “method acting” and whether it would last, but seeing the film one wonders where the epiphany even came from. The character is a cartoon of a Christian.  Not a terrible one, but not fleshed out much either.

If you are looking for inspirational hero material, this is not your film. On the other hand, if you can handle a realistic messy look at men killing each other, this is a very well done film and the message is tucked in under all the carnage and inhumanity. It tries too hard though, and there are other examples of balanced, honest looks at WWII.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Star Trek TOS (Season 1c)


Season 1bSeason 1d

Trek has really hit its stride, and even the weaker episodes here tend to be entertaining, if not always intelligent or thought provoking.

Episode 16 “The Galileo Seven”

Summary: Spock leads a shuttle crew that crashes on a planet where giant men in fur dresses throw spears at them. Meanwhile, Kirk is pressured to abandon the search and rescue to deliver some medicine.

Struggle: Production values really hurt this episode, especially the “monsters.” That said, the writing is still pretty bad. They didn’t quite have Spock figured out as a character yet.

Thoughts:

This episode feels like a misstep. It seems wrong that Spock’s first command would be a minor, shuttlecraft mission, especially since he is second in command for a starship. Also, they were clearly struggling to find the correct level of logic for Spock’s character. It seems that Spock would have had a lot of experience and a better command of using pure logic in real-world situations. Because as much as one would like, the world does not operate on a purely logical level. People simply aren’t that rational, and giant hairy monsters seem to be even less so.

Episode 17 “The Squire of Gothos”

Summary: The Enterprise is harassed by a childish, godlike, alien who is as obsessed with as he is misinformed about Earth.

Struggle: This one seems to hold up pretty well.

Thoughts:

This basic premise has been done enough since this show that it seems like rather a trope to today’s audience. I feel certain that this episode did not initiate the idea, at least in all of fiction. That said, it is done well in spite of the way the trappings are rather dated. The sexism is uncomfortable, but that is a reoccurring problem in the original Trek. Less an analysis of divinity, this is a premise that causes us to evaluate our role in creation. Are we as advanced and smart as we think we are, or are we just a bunch of children in the grand scheme of things?

Episode 18 “Arena”

Summary: Even more “all-powerful-aliens” interfere with the Enterprise. This time, they stop a interstellar battle and force Kirk and an alien captain to fight to the death in order to see with race will be allowed to survive.

Struggle: This one is iconic, but saying the alien is less than agile is an understatement. Also, Kirk’s canon and his ability to make gunpowder is a little much to swallow.

Thoughts:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Drain and Stress of Trust

Yesterday I went to bed a good hour to ninety minutes earlier than usual, and I slept hard. I was exhausted. The noteworthy thing about that is that—apart from a brisk 5km run, which is routine for me 3-4 times a week—I largely sat around doing nothing. I had things I could do, but I just couldn’t seem to motivate myself.

What I did instead is sit around waiting for a phone call that I was hoping would not come. My wife was in the hospital for a routine, safe, yet major surgery. In the US, I would have been twiddling my thumbs in the waiting room waiting for a report. But my experience in Germany—particularly the eastern part of the country—has been quite different.

They don’t want you there. They don’t even let you hang out in a waiting area. You are expected to go to work, or home. And, don’t expect a report either. That is something for the patient’s ears only. So, unless the worst happens, you know you are in the dark.

In some ways this seems inhumane. But in the German culture it fits perfectly. What you want it to stay busy and never contemplate the unexpected or the unplanned. So, when someone does have to go to a hospital, it seems natural that people would simply deliver their loved ones and wait for them to be whole again before picking them up. And waiting rooms seem too conducive to asking those pesky difficult questions no one wants to ask.

In my case, it was a good exercise in faith and trust. I had to wait far away from my wife and trust God and the doctors to keep her safe. I knew (or hoped) I wouldn’t hear anything, and simply trusted that I would be able to reach her once she came out of the surgical haze. It was a good exercise in putting my trust into action.

And it was exhausting!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"Unbroken" (2014)

At the (long-time-coming) end of “Unbroken” a text on the screen informs the viewer that Zamperini found God, and found true meaning in life through forgiveness. Unfortunately, we never see this aspect of the story. What we did see—without that all important meaning and fulfillment—amounts to nothing more than suffer-porn, doesn’t it?

Don’t get me wrong. The film is wonderfully made. It is strangely inspiring. It will likely end up amongst the best films of the year on my list based on the amazing cinematography, acting, and the bits of the story we do see.

Still, it bothers me that we found what we got so inspiring. Many Christians I know loved this film. But there is no way to argue that what we got is some sort of inspirational Christian story. Either we are filling in gaps with external knowledge, or we have a messed up fascination with the suffering of others. There is a strong Biblical message teaching that suffering for the faith--and an identification with Christ’s suffering—is edifying.

However, this was not the story of a Christian suffering for the faith. It is tragic circumstances. It is incredible resilience. It is general, petty injustice. It is a man with incredible fortitude and endurance. Unbroken, sure. But the message we get is encompassed in “If you can take it, you can make it.” I would have preferred the story that taught about the power of forgiveness.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Live Your Hope Fully (1 Peter 1:13-21)

In light of the Salvation—no, Grace—Peter has been describing and gushing over, he now goes on to describe the appropriate reaction. Tom Wolf puts it succinctly, “You have been given a new birth, so live a new life.” Peter says the correct reaction to Grace is a commitment to a changed life. Contrary to what a lot of Christians throughout the centuries have tried to convince themselves, our helplessness and God’s forgiveness is not a license to wallow in sin.

When we realize that God has done everything to reconcile us to Him in grace, we also realize the hell that we have been saved from. Why would anyone want to remain there? Peter’s call to action is both a call to holiness and to fear. We strive to be holy because God is holy, and, also, because we are no longer ignorant to the devastation of our own rebellion. Once we have been freed from that devastation we no longer want to return there. Sure, there is a battle of wills going on, but it isn’t really a case of two desires. Our wish is to remain in the wonderful new reality we now inhabit. It is only when we close our eyes to that reality that we stumble and find appealing the kind of suffering we once knew.

But there is fear there too. We tend to see the fear of God as more of an appreciative awe, and that is part of it. But there is true respectful, fear there too. God isn’t a lovable Teddy Bear that exists to bring us comfort and happiness. He is a grizzly with all the danger that implies. Loving and good, but not safe. If we don’t find enough reason to fear Him, the danger of sin is something to consider. Either way, we need to foster an appropriate level of reverence in our new reality. Christianity done right is not easy.

As to the “How” of this new life, that is what Peter tackles next…

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Animated Films of 2014 in Brief

A somewhat surprising fact in a year where Pixar didn’t release a film, animation brought us some of the best films of the year. Well, just a little surprise. I think I have mentioned elsewhere that the nature of the animation format often results in better filmmaking. (If not I may have to write that post sometime.)

“Big Hero 6” 

I think this is my favorite of the bunch this year. The story is moving. The robot character is amazing. And, the art—the color palate, the mise-en-scene, the design—is some of the most beautiful seen on film this year.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” 

Once again, we get a visually stunning film. The world in which this story takes place is as magical and original as you get. I don’t know if the books these films are based on are as thematically deep and message oriented, but the films are wonderfully so.

“The Lego Movie” 

I was not as blown away by this film as everybody seems to be. I mostly just don’t like the aesthetic. It leaves me dry. And, the thematic elements—while interesting—were not developed in a compelling way. The idea of creature/creator—or at least subject/storyteller—was superficially handled. Maybe they will explore more of the philosophical-theological elements in the inevitable sequels.

“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” 

This wasn’t quite what I had hoped for considering the source material. That being said, it was pretty good considering they took that original, iconic concept and made a standard, similar-to-every-other-animation-project-going, movie. I liked the humor, the heart, and the art.

“The Penguins of Madagascar” 

This may have been the most straightforwardly comedic animation of the year. And, even though it completely falls apart in the climax, I enjoyed everything leading up to it.

Friday, February 20, 2015

"Dear White People" (2014)

Racial prejudice is a universal problem, and many cultures and countries struggle with varying degrees of racism, but the United States has a particularly bad case. Tremendous strides have been made to correct the problem, and some people wonder why we can’t just put it all behind us. After all, King’s dream seems to have been achieved, right? The truth is that, even though things aren’t as overt as they once were, the problem still persists because the racism persists. And the issues are not easy to correct because the problem is too complex.

A satire like “Dear White People” could be helpful because it is smart and it doesn’t take sides. Every angle in the debate is skewered, and the inconsistencies and weaknesses of every perspective are exposed. IN this story we have white racists, inspired by the true and disturbing stories on college campuses in recent years. But we also have black racists—prejudiced against whites, against blacks that aren’t “black” enough, even against themselves as they try to fit into the perceived norm of their campus.

Perhaps the most compelling story is seen in Sam, a biracial girl who presents a strong, righteous front to the world, while being a lot more conflicted in her private life. She runs a radio show and has written a satirical guidebook exposing the racism she sees everywhere, but in her own life she doesn’t live up to her declared ideals. Over the course of the story, she begins to see that the solution lies not in upping the racial ante or strengthening the divide between races, but in embracing differences and seeing individuals rather than categories.

It isn’t perfect (and it certainly is not squeaky clean) but it is compelling.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Book Find: Babylit Books

Board books and preschool books were always something my wife and I liked when we had age appropriate kids, and we even continued to collect some after our kids outgrew the need for such sturdy literature. Well, today I found a series of books that tempted me to purchase every title the store had. They are called Babylit, and they combine the preschool teaching aims (counting, colors, sounds, etc.) with classic literature themes. And, they have some great graphic design elements too.

I settled for just one now. Of course, it had to be “Dracula: A Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams.” I was highly tempted by the Sherlock Holmes volume and especially “Jabberwocky: A Nonsense Primer” as well. I may put these on gift wish lists for the future. I could see me teaching future grandkids the finer aspects of counting and classic literature all at once one day.



Check them out over at the website.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"Maleficent" (2014)

I thought this was a life action film? In the new world of computer animation, we like to pretend don’t we?

Maleficent is a little too “on the nose” in its many messages for my taste, but it is a very good, entertaining film. I liked the director’s world-building, as seen in “Oz the Great and Powerful,” and this film is similar in its aesthetic as well as its morality play approach to storytelling. And, since it is a retelling of a children’s story, it feels right.

Among the many “lessons” we have things ranging from the (silly) scene in the beginning where Maleficent return’s the stolen jewel to the river, to much more serious (and traumatic) issues like the moment where Stefan drugs her and robs her of her wings. Most have focused on the feminist related issues in this reimagining of the story, and they really are interesting and well-told. However, I was much more pleased with another aspect of this story.

I have liked the way that Disney has reevaluated its old, stand-by message that appeared in nearly all of their old movies. The “True Love” worldview that told countless numbers of girls that they needed a man to come rescue and take care of them to find happiness and fulfillment in life. Here, we get that nonsense clearly turned on its head whit the (uncomfortable) scene where the fairies try to have a total stranger kiss a (for all practical purposes, drugged) Aurora. It does not work.

Instead, we get to see Maleficent’s growing motherly affections for the girl fulfill the cure. And this is more than just a predictable motherly, true love. We have seen Maleficent go from hating a baby as an extension of an evil man who hurt her, to truly caring for a girl she has watched grow into a wonderful, joyful girl.

Some reviews have complained that this live action remake fell short in ways that seem to hinge on it not being a slavish, faithful remake of the animated classic. That film is a masterwork of the art form, and did not need to be retold. We still have the original. The changes made in this version are good, and interesting enough to merit a watch, or even a few.


Monday, February 16, 2015

The Deepest Truth (1 Peter 1:10-12)

This is a wonderful little aside in the story of the Gospel. Peter declares here that the Gospel story has been the subject of revelation in the Old Testament. This is exactly what everything in God’s Word had been hinting at and revealing.

A lot of people like to treat the Gospel as the stuff for beginners, when it comes to faith and theology. They like to point out that they have surpassed that “baby’s milk” of spiritual truth and they have moved on to “deeper” truth. They are more mature. Be it any number of secret truths that only the wise can grasp: Holy Spirit stuff, secrets to successful living, power, etc.

The truth is that it does not get any deeper than the Gospel. The story of the incarnation, sacrifice, and resurrection of the Christ and all that that implies is so deep we will spend an eternity failing to fully grasp it all. This is the stuff that prophets searched and angels long to see clearly.

If you have fallen into the trap of thinking the salvation story is minor, beginner’s fare; if you are unmoved by the beautiful truth revealed on the cross; then you need to look again. Reexamine the story. The grace of God is the most amazing realization you will ever experience, and when you do begin to see the vastness of that truth, you will never tire of it. It will impact every aspect of your life.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Instead of "Go and Tell"...

The local Baptist church in town today got what every church usually only wishes for, and it wasn’t what they expected. How would you react if you showed up to worship and there were twice as many people as usual, and half of the people there were unchurched, unbelieving families. Awesome, right?

That was the result of an outreach program this weekend, where kids were invited to a VBS-like event for two days. They built a whole city out of Legos, ate meals together, and learned about Bible stories and Jesus’ love. The official “opening” of the city was to follow today’s service, so all of those kids showed up with families in tow.

The church did a great job too. They knew what was coming, and they made sure the service was explained every step of the way. Everything was “evangelistic” as well. Unfortunately, it was pretty hard to get through. What do you expect doing traditional, churchy things with over 100 people who have never done such things before? Kids were loud and only interested in getting through the formality to experience the city they had helped build.

Working with believers who have a true desire to share their faith, I come across this attitude and desire all the time. “If I could only get my unbelieving friends to church, I know they would finally see the truth.” No, they would likely only see a foreign culture that they could never hope to understand. Often those very cultural oddities are what stand between a person and the message that wants to be conveyed.

Instead, if every believer would take the love of Christ and their faith out into the culture around them—incarnationally, so to speak—perhaps then the world could begin to see truth. Then, that truth could transform those cultures into little bits of the Kingdom of God. Maybe not always exactly like the church cultures believers are used to, but those changes might be good changes as well.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Star Trek Voyager (Season 1b)





Season 1a -- Season 2a


Voyager picked things up a little bit in the second half of its opening season, but it still feels like the early “finding their way” seasons that Trek series always seem to go through. And, as they round out the shortened season, we get a deja vu feeling like we’ve been here before, be it in a political episode dealing with past war crimes like we saw in DS9, or training raw recruits like they did in STNG.

Episode 9 “Emanations”

The story is pretty straight forward: Kim gets switched with someone from another… dimension(?), area of space(?), during a transporter mishap (that plot again) and has to be rescued. However, the implications here are interesting. Turns out, the people from the other… place are sending their dead to “heaven.” Only the Voyager crew are finding their dead bodies on an asteroid. Then, to make it even more ethically and philosophically interesting, the “dead” are only dead because the process is killing them. Most would die anyway, but some are sent away as a matter of convenience.

Unfortunately (or obligatorily) the show opts to cop out on taking a position. They clarify that the dead could still be achieving a heaven, spiritually speaking. (One thinks that a true-blue “Roddenberry-ite” would cynically shout that death is the end.) I would have liked a more provocative signal that there is something beyond scientific materialism at work.

And, interestingly, Trek again takes a very pro-life stance. This time in the face of euthanasia. They do that a lot.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Book Find: Tetrapla 1964

I am a bit of a Bibliophile, and am fascinated by some books as objects, and not just the thoughts they contain.

The other day I came across a fascinating Bible on one of those “Take a Book, Leave a Book” shelves that I had to grab. (I’ll leave another one on there soon.) It was a parallel New Testament called “Tetrapla 1964.” As the name may suggest, it is a collection of four translations of the entire New Testament. Common enough, one might think.

What makes this one fascinating is that it was published in 1964 in Leipzig, then part of the German Democratic Republic. I have heard countless stories about and know people who actually smuggled Bibles into that communist land back then, and here they were publishing and selling them!

What is even more interesting to me is the selection of translations. Unsurprising are the first three: Martin Luther 1956 update; the Zurich Bible; and one by Fritz Tillmann (a Catholic priest) done in 1962. All those are in German. But the fourth is The New English Bible. Not a Russian text, the language that all East Germans were forced to learn and know, but an English translation.

I would love to hear more about this book, but haven’t found all that much.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" by Neil Gaiman

“Oh, monsters are scared,” said Lettie. “That’s why they’re monsters.”

Neil Gaiman again delivers a truly creepy story about a child facing danger that might seem like too much for a child to read. That may be exactly what makes it such a good story, even for children. Those are the best sorts of stories. After all, in another quote from that same discussion in the book:

“Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups.”

That has been my feeling. I never have figured out how to feel as confident and “adult” as the adults I have known, even now when I am older than many of the adults I know.

But that is just one element that this story brushes up against. And, I say “brushes up against” because this is a light story. Even when it manages to evoke very intense horror, it remains a brief, transient, tale. The monsters in this book are all dried out cloth or shadow, and the story feels like that as well.

It deals with a boy accidentally opening himself up to an evil, and then watching helplessly as that evil plays itself out in his family, impacting them in real, uncomfortable to read ways. And, it is not a story about a “power within” or a child overcoming the evil. He is helpless and remains so throughout. He must rely on the power, and sacrifice of more powerful being to fix his problem. There is a good deal of truth in that type of story. Truth that kids would benefit from hearing more often.

But be warned. Even as a “light” story, it is not to be read lightly.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Born Again to Joy (1 Peter 1:6-9)

Our joy now lies in our tremendous hope for the future. Even if we are now subject to trials of all sorts in this fallen world. Peter reminds his readers that we may be put to the test, or more precisely, it is our faith that is tested. Faith being largely about trust, our faith is best seen when we have to exercise that trust.

As much as Western Christianity has liked to make faith all about a type of magic power that leads to all manner of blessings: health and wealth and the fringe benefits of religion; it is really more about an ultimately blind leap of faith. We trust that God has a plan and a purpose in the face of all the suffering, tragedy, and uncertainty that life throws at us.

That is why being a follower of Jesus is never quite as easy as evangelism has pretended it is for the past several decades. It is not a mere intellectual agreement with a fact that leads to a wonderful, carefree life. It is a surrender to trust someone we cannot see with our life and direction where we are never guaranteed an easy or pleasant outcome. In fact, quite the opposite. What we trust, though, is that it is worth it.

And, in that life of faith, we do indeed find joy in the face of suffering. Christ is not only the focus of our trust in this matter, but also the supreme example. More on that later in the letter…

Friday, February 6, 2015

"Paranoid Park" (2007)

Here in Dresden, we have a monthly series of events where we look at the messages and themes in film, and see how they relate to the biblical worldview. For our latest, my friend P. Mathes did a great job having us look at the themes from “Paranoid Park,” Gus Van Sant’s 2007 film about a teen skate boarder named Alex and a terrible mistake he is trying to hide.

“Paranoid Park” deals with the same sort of themes that all movies tend to elaborate: evil, sin, the bad stuff in life. There aren’t many secular artists focused on grace and redemption, the divine or certainly not a biblical understanding of love. A few, but not many. What is interesting about this story is the take that it has on sin and guilt.

At first glance, we have more of the same old same old attitude towards sin. It is a mistake, an accident. Our character did not intend to commit evil. Can you even call it that when there is no intent? However, the guilt that Alex feels is the dominant theme in this story. Of course what Alex did was evil, even if he did not have evil intent when he acted. And, Alex isn’t just dealing with guilt, but also the shame and fear he is avoiding by trying to hide his guilt.

This is an art-house film, and it isn’t the sort of thing you sit down to watch for entertainment. But because of that, there is some very interesting storytelling and symbolism going on in places. There is a fascinating scene after the accident occurs where Alex is showering. The camera holds a seemingly interminable shot of his head as the water pours over him. The light shifts in a way the projects his realization of guilt, and the soundtrack is simply the ambient sound of nature. Perhaps a garden.

The proposed solution for Alex’s guilt is confession. He is encouraged to write a letter detailing what he has done. However, the psychological assumption is that that act will suffice. He burns the letter after he reads it. His confession was not made to anyone in particular, or really even at all. The film leaves the outcome of the story ambiguous. But we are pretty clear in the end that Alex’s guilt remains. He is a broken boy in need of healing. And the film and the attitude it represents has nothing to offer.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

El Truco

It seems today’s games are all about Swords
We struggle, defend, inflict just the same
When seeking out treasure, increasing Coins
It’s only to strengthen, weaponry gain
Sadly the least of aims lies in Staves
Changing the world through toil, effort, and deign
To regain the true sense, meaning of Cups
Pouring out, giving up self for others

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Unconscious Sexism?

So the big issue in Doctor Who fandom these days is gender. Specifically, the clamor (mostly from the media) for the next regeneration of the Doctor to be female. Conventional wisdom sees that as a great idea and a boon for feminism.

It strikes me as exactly the opposite.

To be clear, I don’t think that I am anti-woman. I love playing with story and seeing things from multiple perspectives. I welcome the idea of an all-female retelling of “Ghostbusters.” I love when shows like “Buffy” turn gender stereotypes on their ear. (I also think Idris Elbe would make a wonderful next Bond.) The difference in those cases being that a story is being retold or reimagined.

In the case of “Doctor Who” the conceit is that this is one long story happening to a single being. (Albeit an alien who periodically regenerates into a new body with new personality traits.) It is, however, the same being with (largely) the same memories and values. If the Doctor were to suddenly, after 1000+ years, change gender, it would not be a win for women. It would render gender meaningless.

(I realize that a lot of “feminists” want exactly that… the nullification of gender. To me that seems to belittle women even more than they have been in the past.)

I would love to see more spin-offs exploring female characters in the Who universe. A female Time Lord would offer the perfect opportunity to explore new messages and themes. But to make gender a meaningless, interchangeable part of personhood would be the wrong path to traipse down. Doctor Who has a long history of wonderful, strong female characters. We want more of that, not a move that makes femininity an irrelevant, toss-away quality.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"The Men Who Stare at Goats" (2009)

This picture is a disappointment on so many levels. Mostly there is the fact that it simply isn’t a good story. The acting is fine, and the direction works, but the plot is aimless and underdeveloped. That is surprising, because the true stories upon which this film is based are absolutely engaging.

This tries to be (and could have been a great) story of the tragedy of belief, when that belief is misplaced. The real background for the story here told is almost unbelievable. That the US military would pay a man to spend years submerging himself in a New Age movement fueled by drugs, and then consider his resulting paradigm shift. That Special Forces would spend extended training trying to kill animals with their minds. That the head of military intelligence would literally believe that he could and try repeatedly to run through walls. All of that really happened.

How can you start with such a compelling and disturbing source material and end up with an inconsequential film like this? In Hollywood’s case, one gets the feeling that they don’t see a cautionary tale here, but rather an inspirational one. If they ever make a movie based on Ronson’s “The Psychopath Test,” one hopes they hire a different screenwriter.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Born Again to Hope (1 Peter 1:3-5)

What a sentence! This run-on goes together with the next, even longer, one. However, for clarity it is perhaps easier to treat each one individually. They both deal with the new life, the salvation that believers have in Christ. This one talks about the hope in salvation (future) and the next one looks at the joyful aspect of it (present).

The subject of this sentence is God the Father. God is the active agent. The central focus of the passage, however, is on the believers—the born again—and the hope that awaits them. They are the direct object of God’s activity. Nearly every clause in the sentence expounds on how God has made them, or what being born again means; what awaits us.

Believers are born again thanks to God’s mercy. There is nothing we do that earns us a reward. We simply trust God and follow His lead. In that trust, our blessing is three-fold.

We have a living hope. This is not some dream or wish. It is a hope that is founded on a tangible reality. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the reality that justifies our hope for the future. We do not trust in some idea or a random teaching.

The living hope that we have is for a future—an inheritance. This inheritance is solid and trustworthy. It cannot be destroyed, it cannot be changed, it will last for eternity. It is a future secure in the relationship with God that we were created to fulfill.

And we have a salvation, protected in the power of God. The trust that we place in Him will not be disappointed. Despite the difficulties, tragedies, and suffering we experience in life, we count on a healing in the end.

The salvation Peter introduced in verse 2 provides us with this bright future. And that has a tremendous bearing on the here and now as well…

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