Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday's Featured Film - 1/30/09

New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.

Gattaca

What gives a person worth? Is human value intrinsic, or dependent on a quality found in the person? The question is at the center of our modern debate on sanctity of life issues such as abortion, assisted suicide, and embryonic stem-cell research. The question is also an underlying theme of director Andrew Niccol’s (S1M0NE, Lord of War) sci-fi drama Gattaca. For anyone who likes thoughtful sci-fi or is interested in thinking about the issue of personhood, this is a film that will get you thinking while engaging your heart with a terrific story.

Gattaca takes place in the “not-to-distant” future where genetic engineering has been perfected to the point of becoming expected and mainstream, and as a result DNA has become the primary measure of personal status. Ethan Hawke plays Vincent, one of the few people born “the old-fashioned way.” Flagged to die of a congenital heart defect by the time he’s 30, Vincent is an “in-valid,” a downtrodden class of people without the genetic makeup to be of use to society as anything more than manual labor. Strengthened by a childhood rival with his engineered brother Anton (William Lee Scott), Vincent dreams of going into space, but his genetic code is a brick wall he cannot overcome. Desperate, he assumes the identity of Jerome Morrow (Jude Law), a gifted athlete who is now paralyzed. Upon gaining access to the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation, Vincent tediously maintains his cover while romancing co-worker Irene (Uma Thurman) and striving for his dream.

The film is quite simply a sci-fi masterpiece, and it cemented Niccol (who also wrote the screenplay for the prophetic The Truman Show) among my favorite directors. It succeeds on every possible level, as a stirring human drama, a complex exploration of timely themes, a beautifully photographed artistic achievement (Niccol uses color filters better than any filmmaker I’ve ever seen), and a great piece of entertainment. Hawke, Thurman, and Law are fantastic as the three leads, and the supporting cast (which includes the likes of Alan Arkin, Ernest Borgnine, Tony Shalhoub and Xander Berkeley) is equally good. Michael Nyman’s beautiful and haunting score fits the film’s mood perfectly, as does the sleek and subtle 50’s retro aesthetic (which also helps the film, released in 1997, withstand the test of time better than most sci-fi). For the pro-life crowd, there is much to digest and admire in a story which has as it’s fundamental premise that a person’s worth and potential is rooted in their basic humanity, nothing more. Chances are, most of you haven’t seen this one (it wasn’t exactly a box-office success), so if you haven’t, go rent it this weekend and savor a modern classic. - **** (out of 4)

Gattaca is rated PG-13 for brief violent images, language and some sexuality.

Does God Care Who Wins the Super Bowl?

MSNBC's John Walters explores the relationship between faith and sports, focusing in particular on the Super Bowl quarterbacks. For any Christian sports fan, this is worth a read, if for nothing else than to see the way Walters writes about faith. You'd think he had stumbled onto a strange undiscovered tribe. The whole article views religious atheletes as an oddity and isn't quite sure what to make of them. It's an interesting read, and to answer the titular question - I'm reformed, so yes, of course he does.

Every Band-Nerd's Dream

Is to grow up and be like this guy. Awesome.



HT: Vitamin Z

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Watch For Zombies in Roadway

Monday, January 26, 2009

Fifteen Pro-Life Truths

From John Piper...

1. Existing fetal homicide laws make a man guilty of manslaughter if he kills the baby in a mother's womb (except in the case of abortion).

2. Fetal surgery is performed on babies in the womb to save them while another child the same age is being legally destroyed.

3. Babies can sometimes survive on their own at 23 or 24 weeks, but abortion is legal beyond this limit.

4. Living on its own is not the criterion of human personhood, as we know from the use of respirators and dialysis.

5. Size is irrelevant to human personhood, as we know from the difference between a one-week-old and a six-year-old.

6. Developed reasoning powers are not the criterion of personhood, as we know from the capacities of three-month-old babies.

7. Infants in the womb are human beings scientifically by virtue of their genetic make up.

8. Ultrasound has given a stunning window on the womb that shows the unborn at eight weeks sucking his thumb, recoiling from pricking, responding to sound. All the organs are present, the brain is functioning, the heart is pumping, the liver is making blood cells, the kidneys are cleaning fluids, and there is a fingerprint. Virtually all abortions happen later than this date.

9. Justice dictates that when two legitimate rights conflict, the limitation of rights that does the least harm is the most just. Bearing a child for adoption does less harm than killing him.

10. Justice dictates that when either of two people must be inconvenienced or hurt to alleviate their united predicament, the one who bore the greater responsibility for the predicament should bear more of the inconvenience or hurt to alleviate it.

11. Justice dictates that a person may not coerce harm on another person by threatening voluntary harm on themselves.

12. The outcast and the disadvantaged and exploited are to be cared for in a special way, especially those with no voice of their own.

13. What is happening in the womb is the unique person-nurturing work of God, who alone has the right to give and take life.

14. There are countless clinics that offer life and hope to both mother and child (and father and parents), with care of every kind lovingly provided by people who will meet every need they can.

15.Jesus Christ can forgive all sins, and will give all who trusts him the help they need to do everything that life requires.

HT: Vitamin Z

Friday, January 23, 2009

But I Thought Presidential Politics Was Irrelevant to the Abortion Issue?

Only for two and a half days, apparently...
"President Barack Obama plans to sign an executive order ending the ban on federal funds for international groups that promote or perform abortions, officials told The Associated Press on Friday." - from USA Today

Just remember: President Obama wants to reduce abortions - by offering people overseas your money to go get one.

HT: Vitamin Z

Are You Second?

Check out the very cool testimony of Brian Welch, formerly of the band Korn, from the great website I Am Second.

You May Be Righteous, But Are You Godly?

"Contrary to what we normally think, ungodliness and wickedness are not the same. A person may be a nice, respectable citizen and still be an ungodly person. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:18, "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness." Note that Paul distinguishes ungodliness from unrighteousness. Ungodliness describes an attitude toward God, while unrighteousness refers to sinful actions in thought, word, or deed. An athiest or avowed secularist is obviously an ungodly person, but so are a lot of morally decent people, even if they say they believe in God.

Ungodliness may be defined as living one's everyday life with little or no thought of God, or of God's will, or of God's glory, or one's depenence on God. You can readily see, then, that someone can lead a respectable life and still be ungodly in the sense that God is essentially irrelevant in his or her life. We rub shoulders with such people every day in the course of our ordinary activities. They may be friendly, courteous, and helpful to other people, but God is not at all in their thoughts. They may even attend church for an hour or so each week but then live the remainder of the week as if God doesn't exist. They are not wicked people, but they are ungodly." - Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, pp. 53-54.

Sola5 Wednesday Recap - 1/21/09

This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.

Everyone worships something. That’s the inescapable reality of human existence that we looked at to start our study of Ecclesiastes 2 Wednesday night. Those who deny God’s existence, or simply neglect to give him his rightful honor, will try to plug that gap with something else. Something, or someone, will get their heart’s greatest love and honor. Perhaps it will be a person, from a spouse, significant other, or close friend to a sports hero, pop star, or our new president. Perhaps it will be a sports team (I’ll be the first to admit that my love for the Carolina Panthers has bordered on worship at times), a hobby, or even the pursuit of an otherwise noble dream. The point is, all of us will seek satisfaction in something. All of us will give our heart’s devotion to something. It is what we have been hard-wired to do. In Ecclesiastes 2, Solomon reflects on some of the things that he tried to use to plug the gap in his life. We looked at them, and then looked at Solomon’s closing reflection on the only way to find peace.

The first thing Solomon sought was possessions. Being the wealthiest king to ever rule from Jerusalem, he could have anything he wanted. In verses 1-11, he describes that pursuit. He goes as far as to say, “Whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them.” He had it all, everything a person could desire. Yet, what was the net result? It was meaningless, he says. As he drew near to the end of his life, he saw that all he had amassed would be lost with his death. All was in vain. He found fleeting pleasure from his possessions, but he did not find lasting joy. So, in verses 12-17, he describes his pursuit of intelligence, of a wisely lived life. He sought success and accomplishment, and indeed he achieved it. He remarks that there is great benefit in wisdom – a smart man will have a better life than a fool – but he also speaks of the realization that the same fate awaits both the wise and the stupid. Even amidst all his accomplishment, he couldn’t escape death. Death pays no regard to one’s accomplishment or wisdom or success. However, many people point to the empire that they have built to leave behind to future generations. In verses 18-23, Solomon sees the vanity even in that. He speaks of working endlessly over the course of one’s life, spending stressful days and sleepless nights, only to die and leave it all to a man who may well waste it all away. Who knows what those who come after you will do with all that you have built. Even in this, Solomon sees vanity.

So where is hope? How can one live a fulfilled life? In verses 24-26, Solomon reflects on the one solution to this problem. Life a Godly life. Solomon says to enjoy one’s life and the many pleasures it brings, which is not possible outside of knowing God. When we live lives that seek the Lord in all things, that is constantly thinking about who God is and how we can express and savor his glory, then all things, all areas of life, will have meaning, purpose, and fulfillment. But without him, Solomon says, “Who can have enjoyment?” Don’t spend your life trying to find satisfaction in things, or accomplishments, or work, or people, or anything but your creator. Those things can never ultimately satisfy. However, when you find your identity in Christ and your joy in God, then people and accomplishments and work and things can all bring joy into your life, seen for what they truly are – good gifts from the hand of the Father.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

This Is Why Our Culture Doesn't Understand the Cross

It's real. I checked.

Life - Imagine the Potential

Great ad.



HT: Between Two Worlds

Set Sail

I was a big fan of Peter Weir's 2003 film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. So, a couple years ago, when I happened upon one of the books on which it was based in the bargain bin at Borders for $2.99, I snatched it up. It's taken me quite a while to finally pick it up and dive in, but I finally finished it yesterday, and found it an enjoyable, if not occasionally frustrating, read.

The Far Side of the World is actually the 10th in author Patrick O'Brian's series of 20 novels detailing the exploits of British naval captain Jack Aubrey and his confidant and ship's surgeon, Dr. Stephen Maturian. Those who have seen the Weir film (which starred Russell Crowe as Aubrey and Paul Bettany as Maturian) will find much familiar here, with much of the overall plot structure of the film being lifted from this book. However, the differences are numerous and prevalent enough that there is still a great sense of surprise and drama for one who has seen the movie. Set in the War of 1812, the book finds Aubrey's ship, HMS Surprise, assigned to track down and capture an American ship, the Norfolk, that has been attacking and capturing British whalers in the south seas. Their journey takes them around Cape Horn, through external storms and internal struggle, as they seek their prize.

Perhaps the best way for me to describe O'Brian's writing style is to call him a period Tom Clancy. Anyone who has read Clancy knows that he'll usually spend a great deal of time (often 100 pages or more) offering detail into his setting and characters before getting significantly into the plot. O'Brian operates much the same way, providing enough details to make one feel like they've spent a tour or two at sea with the King's navy. Just about the time that the detail begins to feel tiresome, the novel takes off, and in retrospect the detail is worth the time, with the subsequent drama feeling incredibly immersive. The book had segments that gripped me tremendously, but it also had lulls that tempted me to put it down. I won't spoil the ending, since it will be new even to fans of the movie, but it felt abrupt and ultimately unsatisfying. I'm sure book 11 likely picks up where it leaves off, but I'm not sure I'll ever pick it up to find out. For those who love historical fiction, you'll love O'Brian, if you haven't discovered him already. The average reader will find an enjoyable ride here, I think, but not a great one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

John Newton Is Rolling Over In His Grave

Oprah Winfrey, on her feelings upon arriving at the Obama inauguration...
"It's beyond the dream. We're just here feelin' it with the throngs of people. It's amazing grace personified."

Do people even know what that song is about anymore?

Being Pro-Life Christians Under A Pro-Choice President

John Piper has re-posted an excerpt from a sermon he preached in 1993 as President Clinton took office. I think it is relevant and helpful to those who still believe in the right to life of the unborn. As our nation celebrates the inauguration of a new President today, may we seek to humbly live out our convictions, no matter the political climate.

HT: Denny Burk

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday's Featured Film - 1/16/09

New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.

Elizabeth

When Elizabeth: The Golden Age was released last year, Heather and I were interested to see it, but held back by the fact that we hadn’t seen director Shekhar Kapur’s first Elizabeth film. After a few unsuccessful attempts to rent it from our local video store, we gave up, until we came across the movie on TV a couple months ago. We recorded it, and finally sat down to watch it last week. The movie was interesting, intricate, and beautiful to look at, but at the end of the day I didn’t find myself a huge fan.

Cate Blanchett (Oscar-nominated for the role) stars in the title role as England’s first protestant queen. The film follows her rise to power following the death of her Catholic half-sister, Mary (Kathy Burke) and her development from a na├»ve young girl into the strong and assertive ruler that history remembers. With a look at her life both personal and political (and the frequent intersection of the two), the movie functions as a stylized and engaging biopic.

On a technical level, there is little to criticize here. The cast is tremendous, from Joseph Fiennes’ portrayal of Elizabeth’s lover and friend to Richard Attenbourogh’s fatherly adviser to Geoffrey Rush’s more assertive and less conscience-bound right hand man. Other familiar faces show up as well, including Daniel Craig, who swaps his tuxedo and pistol for a priest’s robes. The art design department was well deserving of their Oscar noms, with the costumes, art direction, cinematography, and makeup all lending themselves to an incredibly immersive experience. The story material, I believe, falters a bit. I can’t say it’s not interesting, and for today’s politically-driven church it could even function as a cautionary tale against too much wedding of church and state. However, I felt like the human element was missing far too often. The movie focuses just as much on Elizabeth the woman as Elizabeth the queen, but I found it to be nowhere near as interesting when it delved into the former. We’re seeing the choices that made her the woman, and thus the leader, that she was, but I had trouble many times feeling and understanding why she made those choices. For me, a second pass at the script could have solved a lot of the movie’s problems. As it stands, it’s merely okay. I wouldn’t mind seeing the sequel, but I won’t be rushing out to rent a copy anytime soon. Historical buffs or those who are interested in the art direction side of the movie industry will find much to enjoy here, but at day’s end, this was a film that I simply admired much more than I really liked. - **1/2 (out of 4)

Elizabeth is rated R for violence and sexuality

Sola5 Wednesday Recap - 1/14/09

This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.

This week, we finished up chapter 1 in our study of Ecclesiastes. Solomon continues to talk about the vanity and meaninglessness of life, but he takes it here in an unexpected direction. In verses 12-18, he shifts the discussion to look at the vanity of wisdom. That’s strange, isn’t it? After all, aren’t we supposed to pursue wisdom (Proverbs 8)? Isn’t wisdom a characteristic of God (Daniel 2:20-23)? Why, then, would Solomon call his life’s pursuit of wisdom meaningless? What does he want us to understand?

The first thing he wants us to understand is what his wisdom allowed him to discover. He says that he applied himself to trying to understand life, to understand the world around him. He sought wisdom and knowledge at every turn. What did he find? He found that the word is hopelessly broken. This world is crooked and lacking, he says. His pursuit of wisdom and understanding brought him face to face with so much grief, suffering, and sin that he called it an “unhappy business.” We all can attest to the reality of this feeling. The more you know about our world, the more troubled you become. Turn on the evening news tonight. Count how many stories they report, and count how many of those stories are bad news. Head over to CNN.com. How many of their “Latest news” stories are negative (as of this writing, out of 19 stories, 3 are about deaths by accident or murder, 2 are about the war in Gaza, 3 are about aspects of the economic crisis, and 3 are about the end of the Bush years and people’s negative view of them – all in all, 11 of 19 stories with a predominantly negative vibe – and today actually isn’t all that bad, with headlines dominated by the amazing US Airways water landing in New York)? The point is, everybody knows that the world is screwed up. It’s filled with suffering and tragedy – all driven by sin. We all, when we’re honest with ourselves, know that we’re screwed up. We’re driven by anger, bitterness, lust, greed, jealousy, pride – all things that we know are wrong but which infest our hearts and drive our actions anyway. The seeds of the world’s evil are planted in each of our hearts. So, we can certainly understand Solomon’s feeling that the more you know, the more you wish you didn’t. Ignorance is bliss.

However, the true vanity is wisdom is seen in the fact that though it allows one to see the brokenness of the world, it doesn’t enable one to fix it. As Solomon says, “What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.” He saw a broken world, and he also saw that he was powerless to fix that world. Look around – the centuries of human history have been filled with wise men, yet we still have the same problems that we had 3000 years ago in Solomon’s day. Wars are still fought over the same issues, people are still downtrodden and oppressed for the same reasons, and relationships still break and fail because of the same shortcomings. We cannot fix the problem, because we are the problem. Sin is destroying the world, and we cannot destroy sin. Thus, Solomon concludes that wisdom only serves to increase the sorrow and stress of a man. He becomes like one who is watching a loved one drown while he himself is chained to a tree on the shore – able to diagnose the problem, but incapable of fixing it, and emotionally destroyed because of it.

Where, then, is hope? Why does God call us to seek wisdom? The wisdom that God calls us to is his own, and it always leads us back to him, and by leading us back to him, it leads to a solution that Solomon couldn’t fully comprehend – Jesus Christ. Christ can deal with the brokenness of the world. His grace and forgiveness are the only things that can overcome sin in our lives. He is the only one who offers hope. However, before we can see the greatness of the solution, we must come face-to-face with the depth of the problem. Otherwise, we will end up like the Pharisees, convinced that we’re just fine, thank you, and in no need of what Jesus offers. Don’t be afraid to stare the darkness of this world – and your own heart – in the face. Let the problem drive you to the one solution that can offer the world hope, and your heart peace.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Just In Case You Ever Wondered

I'm Famous!


From Sunday's Gaston Gazette: "Dejected Panthers fans watch during the Panthers-Cardinals playoff game Saturday at Bank of America Stadium."

Monday, January 12, 2009

Go Get This CD. Now.

For my 7-hour solo drive to North Carolina on Friday, I wanted some new music to listen to. So, I headed over to NoiseTrade (if you haven't been to the site, you're missing one of the best ways ever to check out indie bands and artists), and downloaded a few CDs that looked interesting. I expected to find some decent music, I didn't expect to find one of the best CDs I've heard in years.

The album is by Rick Hopkins, a part time musician from Michigan. Entitled Where We Are and Where We Long to Be, the whole album is a meditation around one theme - the "already/not yet" tension of the Christian life. The songs explore our current foretaste of salvation, our struggle to live in a broken world and our craving for the hope yet to come. Each song explores a different aspect of this theme, from the hope of the resurrection ("Sleeper") to the doubt and depression that hide God's face ("Psalm 42") to the craving to see and know ever more of God ("Beautiful That Voice") to explorations of these themes in Biblical narrative ("Lift Up Your Eyes," "Gate Called Beautiful"). The album brings it all together in thunderous doxology with the final track, a great version of the familiar "Lord Most High." There is not one throwaway song on the album, but as good as they are individually they are exponentially more powerful when heard as a thematic whole. Do yourself a favor, and the first time you listen to the album, block out an hour and listen to it in one sitting.

Musically, it's every bit as good as it is lyrically. Hopkins takes a genre (contemporary rock) that is all-too-often stale and predictable and injects it with originality and beauty. Just when you think you know what's coming, he changes things up, whether it be through rhythm, chord progression, or the way that the instrumentation is richly layered. There's a depth to his sound that is lacking in most music in this genre. The way his voice is sampled over itself gives the vocals great power and a memorable sound.

I really can't say enough good things about this record. It brought me to tears multiple times during my Friday drive. Oh, and did I mention that thanks to NoiseTrade, you can get it for free? You've got no excuses. Download the album, block out a distraction-free hour with your iPod or CD player, and prepare your heart to be riveted with a beautiful artistic exploration of our craving for the fulfillment of redemption.

Who Would Jesus Smack Down?


Fascinating article in the New York Times on Mark Driscoll. The article's focus is mainly the unusual ministry of Driscoll and his church that angers both liberals and conservatives alike. For me, what I found tremendously interesting is the very clear notion I have that author Molly Worthen simply doesn't understand him. She writes like a curious spectator at a zoo, watching the strange behavior of some never-before-seen exotic animal. It's beyond her how somebody could find comfort in Calvinism. At any rate, check out the article. Driscoll isn't always right (no pastor is) but I'm a huge fan of his preaching and what God's doing through him in Seattle.

Cardinals 33, Panthers 13

My dad and I had great seats (end zone, front row!) but saw a lousy game. The Panthers decided to play their worst game of the season in the biggest game of the season. Now, it's time for that annual sports fan motto - wait 'till next year. Anyway, here are a few pics I took Saturday night.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Nothing Could Be Finer...

...than to be in Carolina for a Panthers football game - and that's exactly where I'll be Saturday night. I'm hitting the road this afternoon for Charlotte to take in our playoff showdown with Arizona. Enjoy your weekend, and go Panthers!!!

Friday's Featured Film - 1/9/09

New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.

Leatherheads

I’m a fan of George Clooney’s work as an actor (provided that one strikes Batman & Robin from the record). Though I wasn’t a huge fan of the movie, he showed promise as a director with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind several years ago. I haven’t seen his much-acclaimed Good Night and Good Luck, but after watching Leatherheads with my family last week I’m convinced that Clooney’s talent extends to working behind the camera as well as in front of it. The movie was nothing to write home about, but its style, charm, and sense of humor made for an enjoyable evening.

Set in the 1920s, the movie tells the story of the birth of pro football, with Clooney playing Dodge Connelly, star player of the Duluth Bulldogs. With his career nearing an end, the Bulldogs in financial trouble, and the fledgling league close to folding, Dodge sets out to save and legitimize pro football by signing college star and war hero Carter Rutherford (John Krasinski of The Office fame). Rutherford draws crowds and fame to Duluth, as well as the attention of Chicago reporter Lexi Littleton (Renee Zellweger), who is out to prove that Carter’s war heroism is more legend than fact. With the crowds, the press, and unexpected consequences (in the form of actual rules) swirling, Dodge and the Bulldogs chase a championship and a place in the national sports scene.

Clooney gives the movie a great style and wit. My mom described the movie as having a Vaudeville feel that really fit the time period, and I think she’s right. The writing, the pacing, and even the screwball way the football scenes were shot all produce a movie that encapsulates the comedic legacy of that period in time. The cast is very good, with Clooney and Zellweger in particular having a great rapport together. If there's a weak link, it's Krasinski. As an Office fan, that's hard for me to say, and he's not bad - he just doesn't quite hold his own with some of the other heavy-hitters on screen. The movie is light – nothing that you’ll remember a year from now, nothing that will make your all-time Top 10 list, but an enjoyable evening of entertainment. If you’re a fan of any of the movie’s actors, of Clooney’s direction, of football, of 20’s period pieces, check this one out. There’s an angle here that most everyone will enjoy. You probably won’t love it, but I can almost guarantee you won’t hate it, and in today’s cinematic landscape, that’s something. - *** (out of 4)

Leatherheads is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

I Would Play "Noah: Operation Rogue Beast"

Check out this very funny post from blogger Seth Ward, who takes on crappy Christian pop-culture (anybody remember playing Noah's Ark on your old NES as a kid like me? - wow, that was bad) by imagining Christian video games that would actually be fun.

HT: Vitamin Z

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sola5 Wednesday Recap - 1/7/09

This weekly topic is an effort to recap the Wednesday night Bible study I teach at Sola5, my youth group. I hope it serves to help us all in contemplating the ceaseless riches of God’s grace as revealed through the Scriptures.

Last night, we began a new book study at Sola5 for the first time in nearly two years. Sticking with our tradition of alternating between studying New and Old Testament books, we began a journey through one of my favorites, Ecclesiastes, that we’re calling Chasing After the Wind. We started with a quick introduction to the book – who Solomon was, why he wrote, etc. We then tackled the first eleven verses, and sought to understand what the ancient and frankly depressing text could have to say to us today. The answer? Everything.

Solomon keys us on the main point of the passage, and the book for that matter, in the opening verses. “Vanity of vanities, everything is vanity!” he declares. The word translated “vanity” literally means “a short, quick breath or wind.” When used poetically, as it is here, it means “vain, empty, meaningless, worthless.” Solomon’s declaration is that all of life is meaningless and empty. Not exactly the sentiment you’d put on a motivational poster, right? So what’s his point? To understand, we talked last night about the fact that in life, all of us are chasing something. Maybe it’s a career, or a dream, or a hobby, or a person, but all of us spend our lives seeking satisfaction somewhere. Thus, our question was, what are you chasing? Is it something that will last, or is it vanity? To explore, we looked at three things Solomon guides us to check if we’re to see wisely. The first is our perspective. We tend to get very bogged down in the day to day, rarely seeing past the next couple days. Solomon asks what we accomplish when it is all said and done, when we view our labors from the perspective of a lifetime. He asks, “What do you gain by your work? By your chasing?” After all, generations have come before us, and they are all dead and gone, and they didn’t take their work and effort with them. Think of what you’re chasing. When you die, will it last? Or will you lose it all?

Secondly, we checked our purpose. Solomon begins to use several examples from the natural world to show that though we may be busy, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re accomplishing anything. My favorite example is the one he gives of rivers that flow constantly into the sea, yet the sea is never full and the rivers never stop. If you live near a big river (here in Louisville, we have the Ohio), think about it. Millions of gallons of water flow by you every day, making their way to the ocean, yet the ocean stays the same. Every day, millions more gallons flow by. Are you constantly busy, working at living the life you dream of, only to find that you accomplish nothing? When you die, will you have gained anything by the things you’ve spent your life chasing?

Finally, we checked our pride. Solomon points to our innate human desire to leave our mark on the world, to do something that no one has done before. We think that by doing so, we will give our lives significance. Yet, Solomon says, there is nothing new under the sun. Sure, times and technology change, but the things that we strive for and seek to do never change. In 1000 BC, when he lived, wars were fought over power, over wealth, over freedom. Today, wars are waged for the same reasons, only with different means. He also points out that there is no remembrance of people gone before, and it will be the same for us. I asked my students last night (a group of 11 aged 12-18) if they could name the first person to climb Mt. Everest, the first Super Bowl MVP, the first million-dollar actor, the first person in space. No one could name any of them. These people did earth-shattering things, they were the gods of their time, and they all did them within the past 100 years, yet here, a sampling of young people knew nothing about them. As those who witnessed their feats pass away, they will be largely forgotten, save for the few scholars and fans who tuck the trivia away. Is your life’s highest goal to do something great, to leave your mark on the world? Don’t bother, Solomon says, nobody will remember you when you’re dead anyway.

Why such a depressing view of life? What benefit could this possibly have for us? Why is Solomon saying these things? He’s saying them because he’s trying to tear down anything that we’ve built our lives around that is not God. We will see in the book, Solomon has realized that only God can give life meaning and purpose, and if we elevate anything in life above him – good or bad – we will reach the end realizing that we wasted our life. That the realization that he had come to. As we prepare to go further in the book, ask yourself, “What am I chasing? What am I living for?” Ask yourself if it’s something that will ultimately be “vanity,” and if it is, tear it down and let God be your foundation and your driving purpose. Ecclesiastes is not an easy book to read, but it has so much to say to us as we embark on life’s journey.

Everything's Better In Koine

This cracked me up - though that probably says more about me than it does about the video. For the uninitiated, "Koine" (which means "common") is a reference to Koine Greek, the dialect that the New Testament was originally written in.



HT: Denny Burk

The Big Cat

Check out this great article from Charlotte Observer columninst Tom Sorensen on Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, who is currently awaiting a heart transplant. Though the Al Davises and Jerry Joneses of the NFL get all the headlines, Richardson, a quiet, caring, and humble man, is a great example of what an owner should be.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Take That, LenDale White

Happy New Year!

Happy 2009 to everybody! Rather than write a lengthy New Year's message, I'll just link to the New Year's sermon I preached to my church last Sunday. Enjoy the new year, and may the Gospel go out in power.

Bring on the Cards

Arizona it is. The Cardinals advanced to the second round of the NFL playoffs by beating Atlanta 30-24 on Saturday, setting up a date with my Carolina Panthers. This will be Carolina's first home playoff game since a 29-10 drubbing of Dallas in 2003. I attended that game, and I'll be driving down to Charlotte this weekend to cheer the Panthers on again. Arizona will be tough (they jumped out to a 17-3 lead over Carolina in October before the Panthers roared back to win 27-23), but we've got a healthy defense for the first time in a month, "Double Trouble" in the backfield, and I think we'll take care of business Saturday night. Should be an entertaining weekend of football.