Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blogroll Change

My good friend, Corey Reynolds, has changed up his blog a bit. My Great Blogs sidebar used to point you to his Wanderlust in the Word blog, but he's now moved his address and renamed the blog Chasing the Wind. In addition to Corey's sermons and theological insights, which are always thought provoking, he's also beginning to blog some about other things. Definitely worth checking out - especially if you, like me, share some of Corey's interests in the realms of geekdom.

Guns For Jesus?

I'd hope that phrase would strike us as a little bit strange. Apparently, it didn't for a church here in Louisville. On Saturday, New Bethel Church - an Assemblies of God congregation - held an "Open Carry Celebration," inviting people to come to the church packing their (unloaded) pistols to celebrate their second amendment rights.

Now, I'm all about the second amendment. I don't own a gun, but if you do, it's your constitutional right, and more power to you. However, this event strikes me badly in a couple ways. One, I don't believe that the church should be a place for politics. I may agree with gun ownership rights, but what about someone who is a gun control advocate? You may think their politics are wrong and stupid, but are they not in need of the gospel just like you are? This church has just crushed any chance that they'll ever darken their doors. By making a stand on an issue that is not Biblical but political, they've unwittingly put a political credo over their God-given mandate to preach the gospel. They've alienated many people from the gospel by their actions. Whether or not you believe in gun ownership, the gospel isn't just for the Red State crowd. That's not the message this event broadcasted. This story was picked up by national and international news outlets. Instead of boasting in Christ, they're reporting on Christians boasting in their guns.

Secondly, what does this event say about Jesus? After I just preached a sermon Sunday night from 1 Samuel 26 highlighting David's great mercy in sparing Saul's life, even when Saul deserved death for attempting to murder David several times, I can't imagine that God is pleased with this image of his gun-totin' church. While they're celebrating their right to self-defense, Romans 12:19-21 is telling us never to avenge ourselves. Hebrews 10:34 talks of joyfully accepting the plundering of your property because of your hope in a better reward, not putting a 9mm shell in someone who's looking to rob you. Jesus talks of turning the other cheek to the one who would strike you. Our culture isn't going to be convinced of the glory of God when they see us willing to take up arms to protect ourselves. They're going to be convinced when they see us enduring suffering with patience and grace, even unto death.

Do you own a gun? If so, it's certainly your right. Scripture doesn't speak with clarity on the issue, so my conviction is to keep my mouth shut about it. But I would ask you to carefully consider what your gun says about your savior. Everything we do as Christians makes a statement about Christ. What does your gun ownership say? Only you can wrestle with that question. I would ask, though, that when we gather for worship this week - please leave the gun at home.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday's Featured Film - 6/26/09

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.


What does revenge cost? What does it do to a man to take another man’s life, even if it was justified? Where is the line between justice and vengeance? Perhaps no film has explored these questions recently quite so thoroughly and devastatingly as Steven Spielberg’s 2005 Best Picture nominee Munich. Heather and I saw the movie last weekend with her parents and sister, and I found it difficult to watch – but in a positive sense. This is a film that examines a bloody and nasty conflict, but in its focus shifts attention away from socio-political debate and toward the realities of the individuals most involved. The result is a film that inevitably causes the viewer to look inward, pondering what it would be like in the shoes of these men who sought revenge at the request of their government but at the peril of their souls.

The film follows the events of the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre, in which Palestinian terrorists took hostage and eventually killed 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team. Avner Kaufman (Eric Bana) is an Israeli intelligence agent approached by his superiors to lead an off-the-books mission. He and a team of four others will track down and kill 11 men believed to have had a part in planning the Munich massacre. The men move through Europe eliminating their targets, all the while finding that their mission’s external dangers are exceeded by its personal toll.

Since Munich’s story is an intensely personal one, the strength of the five actors who make up the squad is of the utmost importance, and the cast delivers tremendously. Bana gives a terrific performance, especially as the film progresses and his leadership becomes ever weightier. Daniel Craig’s Steve is a great contrast, becoming ever more set in his hatred for their enemies and his determination to carry out vengeance. Ciaran Hinds is very engaging as the mysterious Carl, Mathieu Kassovitz plays the part of the team's conscience as Robert, and Hanns Zischler’s Hans is the weakest of the group, though it’s more due to a shallower character than an inferior performance. The film's best moments come as we watch this group morph from a group of committed idealists to men struggling for their physical and emotional survival. Bana in particular portrays a brutally honest look into the human toll of revenge. As his bloody task is contrasted with his wife and new baby back home, we begin to see the stark effects of his every action. Spielberg came under much scrutiny from both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli debate, and I think that indicates that he did what he set out to do - make a movie that avoids political trappings and explores the much more intimate and human aspect of the war. I give this one a big recommendation, but also with big reservations. This is no popcorn flick, so if you're expecting a light Spielberg action film, this probably isn't for you. Also, this is a very graphic film, with some brutal and tough-to-swallow violence as well as some graphic nudity (though, it isn't particularly sexual in context). If those two factors will be a deal-breaker for you, I'd urge you to stay away. This is definitely much closer to Schindler's List than any of Spielberg's other films. However, if you're in the mood for a film that will make you think about - and feel - the human side of war, this is a great film that's well-deserving of the praise it received at awards season. - **** (out of 4)

Munich is rated R for strong graphic violence, some sexual content, nudity and language.

You Are What You Tweet

Check out this great post by Stephen Altrogge over at The Blazing Center on what our online personas say about the real us. A good reminder, and an interesting 21st-century look at what Jesus said in Matthew 12:34.

Curse You, New Jersey

My Bobcats were one pick away from pulling off the draft that I've been hoping to see. Too bad the New Jersey Nets had to go and screw it up. The Nets drafted Louisville forward Terrence Williams at #11, one spot before the Cats scooped up Duke G Gerald Henderson as a consolation prize. Henderson should be a good player (and shut up all the Duke fans who constantly gripe about Charlotte's Tar Heel-centric nature), but after watching T-Will here in Louisville I was very excited about what he would bring to the team. Charlotte rounded out their draft with Xavier power forward Derrick Brown in the second round. I don't know much of anything about him, but hopefully he can provide us with the backup power forward that Sean May never became. How was your team's draft? Weigh in in the comments.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Ultimate Youth Pastor

How many of you have ever sat through something like this? I see those hands.

HT: Douglas Wilson

What a Difference a Year Makes

June 20, 2008June 20, 2009
Incedentally, I just noticed that I'm wearing the same shirt in both. Weird. Happy Birthday, Jordan!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday's Featured Film - 6/19/09

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.

Marley & Me

My wife is a big-time dog person. I’m more the take-em-or-leave-em type. So, when we rented the Owen Wilson/Jennifer Aniston dog dramedy Marley & Me last weekend, suffice it to say that she was a little more excited than I was. I wasn’t dreading the movie; I just wasn’t expecting a whole lot from it. I figured it would be formulaic and cute with a heartstring-tugging ending. I figured it would be pretty much like every other dog movie that’s ever been made. I was right on all counts. What I didn’t anticipate was that in spite of its blatant predictability, it’s actually pretty good.

The movie is actually based on newspaper columnist John Grogan’s autobiographical book of the same name (so it’s hard to get too upset at the formulaic nature, since most of this stuff really happened). Wilson and Aniston star as Grogan and his new bride Jenny as they leave Michigan to pursue new jobs at newspapers in South Florida and start their life as a family. The two of them adopt a yellow lab puppy named Marley, who very quickly shows his colors as “the world’s worst dog.” The film follows the Grogans as jobs change, their family grows, and their marriage is challenged – with Marley there every step of the way, for better or for worse.

If that plot setup seems a little thin, it is – and it’s actually one of the movie’s strong points. The film finds its drama in the ins-and-outs of daily life and the challenges and joys of marriage and family. There’s no contrived, over-the-top antagonist, no implausible crisis to face. Screenwriters Scott Frank and Don Roos and director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) realize that there’s plenty of drama in day-to-day life to sustain an interesting film without resorting to cheap cinematic tricks. Wilson and Aniston are both strong in the lead roles, contributing to a movie that is one of the more refreshingly honest, realistic, and moving depictions of family life I’ve seen on screen in recent memory. This is a film that’s not deprecating marriage and children, but showing the family as something of high value that is worth the many sacrifices life demands to sustain and nurture it. With my little girl about to turn 1 tomorrow, perhaps my heart was a little more tuned to what amazing blessings marriage and family are, but I found the film genuinely moving. The standard “bad-dog” gags are played - but not overplayed - and many of the film’s scenes can be predicted before the previous scene even finishes. As I said, it’s formulaic, and for that reason I didn’t really want to like it, yet I did, in spite of itself. So guys, if your wife wants to rent Marley & Me this weekend, rest easy – this is no vapid chick flick, and it’s certainly not a film you have to dread seeing. In fact, in a culture that sees marriage as a joke and children as a hindrance to personal freedom, it’s actually rather refreshing. - ***1/2 (out of 4)

Marley & Me is rated PG for thematic material, some suggestive content and language.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Chicken or the Egg?

A couple weeks ago, when I went out shopping for books for my high school grads, the first place I visited was a local Lifeway. I must say, I was absolutely disgusted by the drivel that filled the shelves, and the associated lack of solid content. It's a shame that this is the best our SBC dollars can do. There were three or four books I had in mind for my students, all by known authors, and none of them were anywhere to be found. The place had more Don Piper than John Piper. Fluff was the name of the game. My wife had a similar experience a week earlier looking for a family and parenting book for some friends of ours. No wonder everybody's using Amazon. I mean, it's not like there's not good stuff out there. This got me thinking recently - what's the problem? Are our bookstores stocked with fluff because that's what our biblically anemic American Christianity wants, or is our American Christianity biblically anemic because our bookstores are full of fluff? My sense is that it's much like the classic "chicken or the egg" conundrum, where the two are so interconnected it's impossible to say which begat the other. I'd be interested to hear your take.

Note: For any Louisvillians out there, let me recommend the Christian Book Nook, where I easily found what I was after. It's a great, locally and privately owned bookstore with great prices, selection, and service. Check it out. Lifeway - take some notes.

Short But Very Sweet

One decision I enjoy getting to make every year as a youth pastor is what book to buy as a gift from the church to my graduating seniors. Last year, I really enjoyed Alex and Brett Harris' Do Hard Things, and I'd actually given thought to getting it again for my 3 grads this year. In hindsight, I'm very glad that Tim Keller's The Prodigal God caught my eye instead. Though it was a quick read, don't let that fool you as to the depth of spiritual insight contained within. This is one of the best-written books I've read in some time in terms of making excellent use of every word.

The book is an examination of Jesus' parable from Luke 15:11-32, commonly called the parable of the Prodigal Son. Keller seeks to examine the parable to see what it teaches us about the nature of the Christian faith, and he exposes a parable that reads very differently than most people have thought. Rather than focusing on the wayward son, Keller points out that the focus of the story is actually the father, who represents God to us. Also, he spends a large amount of time examining the older brother in the story, who is actually cast in worse light than the younger brother. This was especially helpful to me, pointing out how dangerously often my "obedience" to God is really self-centeredness in clever disguise. In the end, though, the lasting impact of the book is a picture of a father who seeks to reconcile both sons to himself and does so at great personal cost. This is the inspiriation for the book's title - rather than meaning "wayward" as is often assumed, "prodigal" actually means "to spend recklessly, to spend all that one has." Keller paints us a picture of a God who is the ultimate prodigal, who takes the debt of sin on himself and who graciously and lovingly calls both individualistic, rebellious "younger brothers" and self-righteous, self-seeking "elder brothers" to repentance.

I really cannot recommend this book strongly enough. Keller writes extremely well and makes his points with clarity and power. Last night, I was talking with two of my grads and they were both gushing over the book. One of my guys was nearly finished with it after just 3 days, adding that he'd never finished a book in a week in his life. Whether you're a high school senior or a senior citizen, this is a book that you'll find edifying, enlightening, and encouraging. Put it at the top of your summer reading list.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Taste and See That the Lord Is Good

"There is a difference between believing that God is holy and gracious, and having a new sense on the heart of the lovliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. The difference between believing that God is gracous and tasting that God is gracious is as different as having a rational belief that honey is sweet and having the actual sense of its sweetness." - Jonathan Edwards

Check This Guy Out

I'm listening to an absolutely beautiful song by a guy who's currently one of my favorite artists, Micah Dalton. The song is called "This Day," and it includes backup vocals by Sandra McCracken. Here are the lyrics...
I knew that you'd free me
You never did leave me
But the chains on my soul
Are too comfortable to let go
And the life that I live
I've forgotten how to give
I've forgotten how to give
My patience, my pride and my soul


Crucify this day
So that I can see the way
You love your beloved
Show your resurrection
Through the way you kill my pride
Please take control (x2)
And let me die (x2)

Let your life live on through me
Let your breath breathe on through me
So that they can see in me
How you love me


Seems like I've died to you a time, a time or two
At least that's how it seems when I'm closest to you
I'm losing this world on pace, my place
Is realizing your embrace
So that I can rest

You can get Micah's latest EP, the bluesy Advancement, for free on Noisetrade. His debut record, the more pop-ish These Are the Roots (which includes "This Day"), is available on Amazon and iTunes, as is his sophomore release (and my favorite of his), the folk-funk-country-soul Pawn Shop, which is inspired by a collection of short stories.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Urban Exile

Those of you who minister and live in urban areas should check out David Swanson's piece about the temptation of declining churches to flee the city for the suburbs and the Biblical reasoning for staying in difficult neighborhoods. I found it very relevant to my church's current situation.

HT: Vitamin Z

Hazelwood Stories, #3

This time, it was my turn to sit in front of the camera for my church's Hazelwood Stories video project. Here's my story of faith in Jesus Christ.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday's Featured Film - 6/12/09

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.

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Back in 2005, I was thrilled when director Andrew Adamson (Shrek) filmed a tremendous adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s classic The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The film was one of the most faithful book-to-film adaptations I’d ever seen, and a great movie. Last year, the second film in the Narnia series, Prince Caspian, was released. Heather and I never made it to the theater to see it, but we caught up with it last week on Blu-ray, and while it wasn’t as good as the first (and to be honest, the source material isn’t as good either), it was still an entertaining entry in the series.

Caspian, which is actually the fourth book in Lewis’ Chronicles (Lion is actually #2), picks up with the Pevensie kids (Williams Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, and Georgie Henley) back in London and having trouble readjusting to life as schoolkids after their long lives as kings and queens in Narnia. Suddenly, they are summoned back to Narnia, only to find that well over a thousand years have passed in the magical land. Their castle lies in ruins, a foreign power has invaded and occupied the land, and the rightful heir to the throne, Prince Caspian X (Ben Barnes) is on the run from his ruthless uncle, Miraz (Sergio Castellitto). After discovering exiled Narnian creatures hiding in the forest, Caspian joins with them and summons the Pevensies back to the land, seeking to overthrow their oppressors and return Narnia to peace. Together, they seek the long-absent Aslan and fight for the future of Narnia.

The movie is a little slow out of the gate, with the story taking a while longer to get rolling than it did in Lion. Part of this is due to the fact that Caspian is hardly the strongest Lewis novel (it was chosen for the second film because of the required age of the kid actors), and I imagine it took a fair amount of work to adapt the screenplay into something that played well onscreen. Once all the characters come together, though, the film finds its stride and its second half is noticeably stronger than its first. I had heard a lot of buzz going in about the drastic changes made to the story for the film, but I must say, I didn’t find anything that was so out of spirit with the book that it negatively affected the movie for me. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Caspian is hardly my favorite Narnia tale, so I don’t mind seeing a couple tweaks here or there. The action scenes were well shot, and it’s apparent that Adamson feels more comfortable in the director’s chair in his second outing than he did for his first. The cast is serviceable, but nobody (including Barnes in the titular role) turns in a performance that you’ll remember down the road. As for the film’s allegorical power, those looking for the vivid Christian imagery of the first film will still find it here, though it’s not nearly as prevalent. In the end, this is a good film but it’s not one that I think I’ll have the desire to re-watch quite as much as Lion. Adamson and company took one of Lewis’ weaker offerings and made a film that, while not great, is a decent entry in the series and paves the way for new director Michael Apted (The World is Not Enough, Amazing Grace) to take the reigns for the next installment (The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). If you haven’t already, give Caspian a rental. It’s well worth the time. - *** (out of 4)

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is rated PG for epic battle action and violence.

Where Do You Wanna Eat?

This is so funny...and so true.

HT: Vitamin Z

Sola5 Update

As an FYI for those of you who may read the weekly "Sola5 Wednesday Recap" posts, I wanted to let you know that there won't be one for a couple weeks. This Wednesday, I had a great in-house discussion with my youth about the way that we live out our faith among each other when we're together as a group. I asked my students and leaders to evaluate us in several areas, from humility and encouragement to reverence and a Christ-centered focus. We got to have some good discussions on where we're falling short and how we can seek to be more Christ-like as a group. It was a very profitable time. Next week, we're having a youth choir from Jacksonville, FL come in for a concert, and the following Wednesday we'll be in the middle of putting on Vacation Bible School, which our youth are always a big part of. So, it'll be about 3 weeks before we have our regular Wednesday Bible study again. By then, I'll be really excited to resume exploring my students' questions about the Bible and Christianity, and I hope a few of you will be too.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tired of Madden?

If so, you may want to take a look at this upcoming football game from developer NaturalMotion, Backbreaker. The game contains no canned tackle animations like Madden, instead, every collision is rendered in real-time by the game's Euphoria physics engine, the same engine utilized last year in games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. What does that mean in non-tech speak? Every tackle will be unique, every time. I'm interested to see how they pull this one off this fall.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

An Unfulfilling Salvation

After making Terminator 2: Judgment Day my featured movie last week, Heather and I decided to go see the fourth movie in the franchise, Terminator Salvation, Saturday night. After the recent Terminator TV show was cancelled before it could really mine out some new territory, we were excited to see the direction that this new movie (reportedly the first in a new trilogy) took the Terminator story. The TV show had allayed my fears that a good Terminator movie couldn’t happen without Arnold, but I was still nervous about one of my least favorite directors (McG of Charlie’s Angels fame) taking on one of my famous franchises. In the end, McG proved capable, and the film was entertaining, but not even James Cameron could have elevated this script to anything beyond an mildly enjoyable popcorn movie.

The movie is the first in the franchise to take place in the future during mankind’s war with Skynet. Now and adult and a leader in the resistance, John Connor (Christian Bale) is viewed by some as a savior and some as an over-eager idealist. On a raid of a Skynet facility, he uncovers the revelation that Skynet has begun taking prisoners and experimenting on human tissue in preparation for the new T-800 Terminators. As he and the other resistance commanders plot their next move, a man named Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington), whose last memory is of being executed on death row, emerges from a destroyed Skynet lab. Seeking to figure out what has happened to the world and to him, he happens upon Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), a teenager surviving in now-desolate Los Angeles. Over the course of the film, these three cross paths and seek to take the fight to Skynet in hopes of making peace with their pasts or futures (and in Terminator mythology, aren’t they the same thing?).

I can say right off the bat that my biggest fear, McG’s directing ability, was put to rest. He actually proves himself capable, handling the film reasonably well, showing a great knack for how to stage an entertaining action scene, and even making some of the movie’s quieter moments (there aren’t many) effective. The problem with the movie lies with the script. I don’t want to give too much away, but in the end, the story doesn’t really go much of anywhere. Much has been made of the original ending, which was dropped after it was leaked online. I can’t say how it would have played onscreen, but as a concept at least it would have pushed the Terminator narrative somewhere. As it stands, there really doesn’t seem to be any reason to make this movie save to set up further sequels. It just couldn’t seem to find its identity. We don’t get much of a window into John Connor here, and his wife (Bryce Dallas-Howard) is pretty much a throwaway character, but Marcus is fascinating to watch. The supporting cast ranges from decent (Yelchin and Moon Bloodgood) to dull (Common), to why-are-you-in-this-movie (Jadagrace Berry), and I suspect that it’s not so much because of the ability of the actors as it is the material they have to work with. In the end, that seems to be the best summary of the movie – a cast and crew doing the best they can with a flimsy premise. I realize that my review has sounded pretty negative, and I’m actually going to surprise you by giving this a mild recommendation. I was never bored by it, it held my interest until its all-too-abrupt end, and it provided its fair share of exciting moments (including a cameo from you-know-who). As an action movie fan, I liked it. However, as a fan of the Terminator series, which has always been good sci-fi and more than just explosions and computer effects, I found it the weakest installment by far and a disappointment – and that sentiment grows the more that I think about it. - **1/2 (out of 4)

Terminator Salvation is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language.

The Beauty of Unspectacular Providence

Last night, as I was lying next to my wife in bed and about to fall asleep, I couldn't help but think back and wonder how amazed we would have been almost nine years ago, as 17 and 16-year-old kids, to see where life has taken us. As I traced in my mind where God has brought us - from high-school dating through college and into marriage, ministry, and parenthood, I couldn't help but be amazed at his grace, wisdom and love. It may have felt like we were forging our own path, making decisions and choosing directions, but looking back I can't help but think of Proverbs 16:9 - "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps."

This got me thinking this morning: we usually only think of God's providence and sovereign rule in terms of the spectacular - those amazing "coincidences" in life that are just too good to be true and beg for a divine explanation. However, this sells God so far short. God is just as much at work in the unspectacular, day-to-day aspects of our lives as well, though we seldom think about it. To us, it seems that we're planning our way, but the beautiful reality is that the Lord is establishing our steps. Every step of your life's journey has been mapped out and sustained by the creator of heaven and earth. What an amazing God we serve! I would encourage you today to spend some time looking back at your own life, thanking God in prayer and meditating on the beauty of unspectacular providence.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday's Featured Film - 6/5/09

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.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

A couple weeks ago, the Terminator franchise re-launched with the much-publicized Terminator Salvation, starring Christian Bale as John Connor as he wages the future war with the machines. After the first three films and the (sadly) cancelled TV series, Heather and I are big Terminator fans and are excited to see the series’ new direction. For this week’s featured film, I figured I’d point those of you who have never experienced the Terminator saga to it’s best volume, 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. T2 is a terrific sci-fi film, and more accessible than the original in my opinion. If you’re looking for an entry point into Terminator, then it’s the place to start.

In the first film, Skynet, the self-aware supercomputer that seeks to annihilate humanity, has sent a cyborg called a Terminator back in time to kill Sarah Connor, a woman who will become the mother of John Connor, the future leader of humanity’s resistance against the machines. John sent a protector back for his mom, a soldier named Kyle Reece, who defended her against the Terminator and destroyed it, while also becoming John’s father (don’t think about that too hard) before being killed. T2 takes place 15 years later, with Sarah (Linda Hamilton) now confined to a mental hospital because of her paranoia (so others think) about the future, and John (Edward Furlong) as a rebellious 11-year old living with foster parents. Skynet has sent another Terminator (Robert Patrick) back to kill young John, but this time future-John has sent a new protector back as well – a reprogrammed Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the same model (though not the same actual machine) that hunted them in the first film. Together, John and the Terminator seek to stay alive, rescue Sarah, and stop Skynet from ever being created.

This is the last Terminator film to be directed by James Cameron (The Abyss, Aliens, Titanic), and his masterful touch is evident. While the movie has its fair share of action (which holds up amazingly well even 18 years later), don’t expect a thin plot or bland characters. This is an epic sci-fi saga, and one with surprisingly more heart and brain than you probably expect. The premise (save for the time-travel paradoxes that you’ve just got to go with) is incredibly cool, the script is expertly crafted and it leads to a movie that is exciting and well-paced, and the finished product is a blast to behold. Say what you will about Ahnold’s acting ability, but this is his defining role for a reason, and he’s great to watch. Hamilton is excellent as a woman teetering on the edge of sanity, Patrick is just plain creepy as the liquid metal T-1000 (which is a landmark in the history of CGI special effects), and while Furlong isn’t an award-winner by any stretch, he’s serviceable as kid-actors go. This is a landmark sci-fi film, a landmark action film, and perhaps the movie world’s first true blockbuster. If you haven’t seen it, go rent it before you head out to see Salvation and perhaps you’ll understand why the new film is getting so much hype. - ***1/2 (out of 4)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is rated R for strong sci-fi action and violence, and for language.

The Great Civil War

A sermon I preached a couple weeks ago on Romans 7:7-25 just went online over at my church's website. Here it is, if anyone's interested.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sola5 Wednesday Recap - 6/3/09

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, our You Asked For It series continued with the question, “How do I know if I’m saved or not?” The questioner asked if the fact that they were even having those thoughts was a sign that they likely weren’t saved, and if they should “feel different.” I started my answer with the encouragement that the fact that someone asks that question is more likely a positive sign than a negative, because of the fact that they are actually concerned about it. This is a question that almost every Christian will struggle with at some point in their spiritual walk. How do we answer it?

The obvious starting point should be the gospel. I assume that the person who asked the question would mentally agree with the gospel, but that must be our starting point nonetheless. Do we believe in God’s holiness, our sinfulness, Christ’s sinless life and sacrificial death, his victorious resurrection, and the free offer of grace through faith? That is the only way that we find peace with God, so we must start there. However, we can fake beliefs, can’t we? In fact, we are so good at being deceptive that we can even deceive ourselves into thinking that we are Christians when we’re really not. Jesus himself warned against this, saying that on the last day many would speak of what they did for him while hearing the dreaded, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” We certainly don’t want that to be us, so we seek assurance that the faith we profess is real, and not a deception of our sinful heart and mind. How do we do that? In 2 Corinthians 13:5, Paul encourages us to test ourselves to see if we are really believers. If we are really in the faith, then there should be tangible evidences in our lives that we can look for and evaluate. So, what are they? I believe that the book of 1 John is a great place to start. As John himself says in 5:13, the book was written to us so that we could know that we have eternal life. In very straightforward terms, he gives us a series of things that should be present in our lives if we are truly in Christ. Last night, I used those things to form eight questions that we can ask ourselves in an effort to do exactly the testing that God has commanded. I’ll list them for you here with a reference to where I’m getting them from 1 John and a brief description.

1. Do You Walk In Darkness? (1:5-7, 3:1-10) – Obviously, we’re not perfect, and even as Christians we still sin. However, do you perpetually walk in darkness? Are you still comfortable with your sin? Does it still dominate your life, with no real desire or effort to change? If so, consider Scripture’s warning.

2. Are You a Self-Righteous Person? (1:8-10) – The flip side of the first question. Do you depend on your own goodness for your confidence before God. You may not verbally claim perfection, but does your life communicate that you’re mistake-proof and that you’ve got it all together? A Christian should be humble and reliant upon Christ for forgiveness.

3. Do You Love Learning About God? (4:1-6, 5:6-12) – John’s book isn’t all about actions – he’s concerned with false teachers and stresses the importance of right belief. Does learning about God and his works excite you, or are you bored by the Scripture. Certainly, some parts of Scripture can be tough to work through (Leviticus, anyone?), but do you stay unmoved even by things that you understand? Do you desire to know God more?

4. Do You Follow Jesus’ Commands? (2:1-6) – One of John’s more blunt statements, and important for us to think about. If you say you love Jesus, then do you follow the things he said? Do you avoid the things he calls you to avoid (anger, lust, apathy towards God)? Do you do the things he calls you to do (show mercy, forgiveness, love for God)?

5. Do You Love Like Christ? (2:7-14, 3:11-24, 4:7-21) – The most frequently mentioned theme in 1 John. Do you show the kind of love that Jesus did (selfless, sacrificial, even for enemies), especially to your brothers and sisters in Christ? Or, are you the type of person whose love for others is conditional on what they do for you?

6. Are You In Love With This World? (2:15-17) – We are warned here against being consumed with things that are passing away. Obviously, we are to show love for those in the world, and we don’t want to make the mistake of monasticism that withdraws from any earthly comfort or pleasure, but we need to watch ourselves, especially in our wealthy culture, that we don’t neglect our first love and fall in love with lesser things.

7. Are You Persevering In Faith? (2:18-29) – John here writes about some from among them that fell away from the faith, and he says that indicates that they were never truly Christians to begin with. Perseverance (continuing to the end) is the proof of true faith. Are you pressing on? Are you growing? Or, has your faith grown cold and routine to the point where now its just a show for keeping up appearances?

8. Do You Love God Supremely? (5:1-5) – This is the culmination of the first seven. Do you have a love for God that surpasses all else? Do you see him as supremely valuable, supremely beautiful, supremely satisfying? Is your faith a duty, or a joy? Are his commandments burdensome, or are they life to you?

So, do you pass the test? You won’t be perfect, but do you see these qualities in your life in increasing measure? If so, press on, and persevere in your faith knowing that it is God who is at work preserving you to the end, and he is always faithful and true. If you must honestly say that these things show you to be outside the faith, then my advice to you is simple. Trust Christ! Why not today? Turn from your sin and trust Christ, and you’ll find his power at work in your life to begin to make these things a reality in you.

You're Already Crying, So You Might as Well Laugh

Douglas Wilson's top 10 reasons we should be glad that President Obaba pronounced June to be Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Pride Month...
But here are ten reasons to be grateful for the small mercies at any rate. We should be grateful . . .

10. That, despite the glowing rhetoric, nobody appears to have noticed that equal rights for bisexuals means that such marriages (when we get there) would have to have a minium of three copulating units. So the good news is that President Obama is still guilty of hate-criming the bisexuals. And imagine my astonishment that he is doing this legally. And nobody pushing this seems to be aware of how filled with hate they all still are.

9. That this happened at a time when we have an example to follow as we craft our responses. All we have to say is that we think a wise heterosexual, having lived that life, should be able to make better judgments than someone who hasn't had the richness of that experience. That's all.

8. That Walker Percy and Flannery O'Connor have gone to be with the Lord. If they were still here writing their fiction, the head-bending that would have to go into them now would be beyond my capacity to bear.

7. That the longer this kind of thing prevails, the more it should become apparent that in Washington we now have the governmental equivalent of professional wrestling; more specifically, we have the governmental equivalent of VEGAS Xtreme SMACKdown.

6. That they are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of polygamy, which will prove to be the basis for the rebuilding of the Republican Party. Then watch out.

5. That the president issued this proclamation while at the same time holding to the same position on gay marriage as recently articulated by the winsome Miss California, thus showing in yet another way that he is filled to the brim with thought crimes and all manner of evil.

4. That this came about when the Democrat in charge of shuffling the sexual deck was named Obama and not Clinton. Since National Do-Whatever-You-Feel-Like-This-Minute Week is now an inevitability, just imagine the repercussions had it happened with the Lecher-in-Chief in the White House -- the central problem being that the Europeans would finally think we had arrived.

3. That they had the foresight to press these issues in the midst of an economic downturn. Sexual energies are powerful when harnessed, and suppose, say, the nation's shoe manufacturers are languishing. All you have to do is proclaim National Footwear Fetish Week, and bam! there you are, back in the game.

2. That the president is clearly hearing Dick Cheney's footsteps everywhere. On foreign policy certainly, but now that the former VP has declared himself a tolerance-monger on gay marriage, Obama is getting chased down the road by him on this issue as well. You can cluck at both of them with moral disapproval all you want, but the entertainment value is still high.

1. That they are working us into this slowly. September as it turns out is Screw the Pooch Month, but the American people won't be ready for that for, oh, weeks yet.
HT: Darius T.

We Have No Idea

Michael Kelley offers some great thoughts on how his daughter helps him to understand Romans 8:28. Check it out.

HT: Vitamin Z

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Nintendo: A Capella

To celebrate E3, the big annual video game showcase going on right now in Los Angeles, here's a very clever and funny tribute to some old 8-bit classics.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

To Facebook or Not to Facebook?

Over the last few months, it seems like I can't get through a week without someone telling me I need to join Facebook. I've resisted and resisted, but now I'm thinking about jumping in, especially with the announcement yesterday that Facebook will be integrated into Xbox Live this fall. It looks like a cool way to stay in touch with people, but it also has the looks of a major time-waster (or at the least, a time-spender), and I've already got several of those in my life. I'd like to hear from those of you who use Facebook. Do you like it, is it an annoyance or distraction, and if you didn't have a Facebook page, would you sign up all over again?

Monday, June 1, 2009