Thursday, June 30, 2005
"eXistenZ" (pronounced "ex-is-tenz"), is a new, virtual reality, bio-tech game console that the characters in the movie are the first to play. Playing involves plugging the console's tendril/cable into ones spinal cord--an act the main character isn't quite comfortable with. Speaking of which, there are lots of gross-out scenes in this film's fleshy, bio-tech version of the future.
The actor's performances are acceptable. The main stars are Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh, who give solid, if unmemorable performances. They do, however, rise to the challenges of this reality bending film.
eXistenZ focuses on the theme of "what is reality" that the Matrix series has now beat into the ground, but does it in a more relevant way than its blockbuster cousin. The Matrix movies look like a video game, but eXistenZ is a video game. And it's about a world where video games and virtual reality have almost completely blurred the line between fantasy and reality. Something that hits too close to home for anyone who has played role playing games for an extensive period of time.
My quibbles with eXistenZ are its early era computer graphics (although they are used artistically) and its monotonous use of gross out scenes. What I loved are the issues it addresses and the ending. I shall say no more regarding the ending, lest I spoil the twists and turns, except that it is not your standard Hollywood sunset stuff. (Which, of course, for me is a good thing.)
For any sci-fi lover, eXistenZ is a must see. For everyone else, see it when you're in the mood for a challenging film.
Two impressions: (1) My country is doing just about everything to the detainees that I used to read about communists doing to Christians. (2) The guards there don't consider the people in detention to be human. I know it's hard to trust the reports of detainees (who, if they are terrorists, would be saying exactly what an innocent would), but I'm also finding it hard to trust my government.
Anyway, that's an example of my late night cynicism and disillusionment. I'm more cheerful in the morning; promise.
Check out the show's webpage for pictures and comments.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
In the world of contemporary Christian music there is very little Canadian representation. Australia has their Hillsong; the UK, Matt Redman; and the US, more Christian recording artists in Nashville than you can shake a stick at. So, sticking with the Canada Day theme, I'm writing about Starfield, a one-album band from Canada that just picked up a Dove Award nomination.
I was first introduced to Starfield by a friend in Red Deer. We were over for lunch after church, and he popped in the CD. I was skeptical at first, but ended up liking what I heard. Kind of a combination of college rock and U2 with awesome vocals. The two singers are brothers, and their blend is perfect.
Their lyrics more thought provoking than most Christian bands, so I had to open the cover and take the time to read them. Starfield's music also 'singable', which is something I look for. A lot of churches up here are using their songs for congregational worship.
They've only got one, self-titled album out so far, but there are rumors that another is on the way. If you download from iTunes, the songs I recommend are "Filled With Your Glory" and "Cry In My Heart". You can get their CD online and at most Christian book stores in Canada. I don't know how big they are in the US yet.
Starfield's music isn't your average Christian pop analogue. If you dig Christian music at all, check it out. I'm still kicking myself that I missed out on their concert because I was sick. Ah well, next time.
Monday, June 27, 2005
I've acquired a bit of knowledge about Canada after living here for 5 years off and on and listening to the CBC all day long. I can tell you that Canadians are as friendly (or maybe "nice" is a better word) as the rumors claim. Just the other day a hitchhiker was telling me about how rude people are in Montana. I told him he should check out New York City.
Canadians are very proud of their universal health care system and peace keeping operations, the problem is the government up here doesn't want to properly fund either. But it is nice to go to the emergency room with out worrying if it's covered by your particular insurance company. As to the peace keeping, the Canadian Forces (Note that web site in English and Frances and check out the woman in combat gear with the man doing the desk job. The Canadian government is liberal and very politically correct.) are currently keeping the "peace" in Afghanistan. Check out this Canadian soldier's blog.
So for all you American Left Coast liberals thinking of making a move, come on up. But go to British Columbia. If you end up in Alberta, you might be in for a shock. But that's another discussion....
Sunday, June 26, 2005
Continuing with my week long tradition, another summary my sermon this Sabbath:
I think in North American society we've become a bunch of Zaccheuses, rich people isolated by the pursuit of wealth above all else. Loneliness is very easy to experience in today's society and churches, but consider the contrast with the church of Acts 2. They were a radical society living in a totally communal (even communist) way. They shared everything, wanted nothing, and were happy and growing. Contrast that with the society we live in and the churches we attend.
The reason they were able to live share their material possessions was because they were already sharing their spiritual possessions. Galatians 6:1,2 says: "Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." We are not to experience salvation in isolation, but to help each other in the spiritual experience. There is no room for individualism, self-reliance, or autonomy in the Body of Christ.
James 5:16 says "Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed." Sin is not just between us and God, because Christ has chosen to deal with sin through the ministry of His Body. Confession doesn't mean going to a spiritual person in order to get to God (Catholic priestly confession), but rather God comes to us through His body in the act of confession and prayer.
All this doesn't abrogate personal responsibility, as Paul reminds us (Gal. 4:3-5). We can do this either by trying to ignore or enforce the law of love in the church. What we need is faith in God's power to restore, and to work with Him by either submitting to correction when we have sinned or speaking the truth with grace and gentleness when we see our friends in danger. Then we will become the community of believers that God intends us to be.
I feel the impact of this message, as someone who enjoys his internet time. The internet is a great tool for connectivity, but is can lead to disconnection with the community we need most, those flesh and blood people through whom God can restore us.
Friday, June 24, 2005
This first study begins with some general information about the Bible and then a short fill in the blank section with answers at the bottom. You can look up scripture references here. Enjoy.
Study 1: The Bible
The Old Testament (OT):
- Our Old Testament is taken from the first three books of the Hebrew Holy Scriptures, the Mikra (Reading).
- The Jewish scriptures are arranged in order of ‘importance’:
- The Torah (The Law) or Pentateuch contains the earliest writings of Hebrew history and law. We call these books Geneses, Exodus Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuterononmy.
- The Prophets contain the histories of
Israelbefore the Babylonian exile (the Former Prophets) and the messages of God’s prophets to (the Later Prophets). The Former Prophets are the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings; and the Later Prophets are the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the last twelve books of the OT. Israel
- The Writings are the books of wisdom and post-exilic histories. These are the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles.
The New Testament (NT):
- The New Testament is the distinctly Christian part of the Bible and consists of:
- The Gospels are the accounts of Jesus Christ’s life and death written “according to” Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John, four authors who had contact with Jesus or drew on those who did. The Synoptic Gospels— Matthew, Mark, and Luke—share much of their content and are often studied in relation to each other.
- Acts is a history of the early church and the ministry of Paul. It is a Part II to Luke’s gospel.
- The Pauline Epistles are Paul’s letters to various churches and are arranged in order of length with Hebrews at the end as it is uncertain if Paul wrote it.
- The General Epistles are the letters of Peter, James, Jude, John and Revelation.
- The NT was written in Koine (common) Greek without punctuation or spaces between words.
- Our earliest NT manuscripts (papyri) date to ca. 200 A.D.
2. The first purpose of Bible is to show us the plan of s_________ (2 Timothy 3:15).
3. The Bible is God-b________, His inspired Written Word (2 Timothy 3:16).
4. The second purpose of the Bible is to give us the t____ we need to do good works (2 Timothy 3:17).
5. The Living Word of God is not the Bible but J_____ C_____ as revealed in the Bible (Heb. 4:12-14, John 1:1, 14).
6. It is possible to read the Bible and never experience the living, life giving W___ o__ G___ (John 5:39, 40).
The ultimate goal of the Bible is to reveal God through Jesus. The Bible can be read or studied, but the Word of God is not something that can be read or studied. He must be experienced. Our reading and studying of the Bible is meant to lead us to an encounter with (coming to) Jesus. If it does not, we will receive not benefit (life) from it.
1. Bible 2. Salvation 3. Breathed 4. Tools 5. Jesus 6. Word of God
Thursday, June 23, 2005
It's not hard to be pleasently surprised when your expectations are low, but In Good Company is a decent movie. It's written and directed by Paul Weitz, the guy who did American Pie, and has the same amount of 'heart' but far less crudness. The stars are Dennis Quaid, from Day After Tommorow; Topher Grace, from "That 70's Show"; and Scarlett Johansson, from Lost in Translation. The basic plot is that a middle age ad-exec's (Quaid) job is taken during a company sale by a young punk half his age (Grace) who starts fooling around with his daughter (Johanson).
When I put it that way, the movie does sound pretty stupid, but there's alot more too it. The characters and their relationships are explored in very realistic ways. There is no 'Hollywood' ending to this movie. (I hate 'Hollywood' endings). I also found that I could identify with Grace's character as a young man who's ambition has put him in a position where he's in over his head.
The film's also not short on laughs, but you have to have a dry, ironic sense of humor to get the jokes. There's alot of visual symbolism, so watch closely. And the performances from the actors are strong. Quaid's face is capable of expressions I didn't know people had, and Grace does well in his first leading role. Johansson is sublte and stunning as always.
My quibbles with In Good Company: Dennis Quaid's dribbling during the basketball game, the good vs. evil simplistic take on 'old' and 'new' business practices, and Quaid's sermon at the end.
In Good Company is an entertaining film with a good message for young punks like me. It's not an award winner, but I recommend renting it. 3.5/5 stars.
For the critics take on In Good Company visit Rotten Tomatoes.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Someone recently asked me what I would want said of me at my funeral. I couldn't tell him how I want to be eulogized. I just hope whoever does it is somewhat honest. However I do know what song I want to be played: "Agnus Dei" from Requiem by John Rutter.
A "requiem" is a funeral mass; the word means "rest". Rutter composed his Requiem in memory of his father's death. For his text he took selections from the Latin mass and added words from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Bible. The "Agnus Dei" movement is a key component of any requiem mass. Here is the text as it appears in Rutter's:
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem.
(Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, grant them rest.)
Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery.
He cometh up, and is cut down like a flower;
he fleeth as it were a shadow.
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem.
In the midst of life, we are in death:
of whom may we seek for succor?
Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem.
I am the ressurection and the life saith the Lord:
he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.
There it is. The whole gospel reflected in the simplicity, complexity, and drama. That is my hope. That's what I want people to understand at my funeral.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
I know it sounds foofy, a non-competitive game where the only goal is sharing your feelings, but the Ungame works. I can't explain it. The basic idea is that you draw question cards, answer the question, and no one else can talk. When you begin you think it's boring, but by the end you're addicted. An hour has passed and you didn't even know it.
I've found the ungame works best with friends and loose aquaintences. With family and really good friends you already know what their answers will be. We've found it works great with our youth group, especially since they're mostly girls. I recommend it for any group of friends as a way to pass the time.
Hint: Make sure you have a piece of paper handy to write down questions or comments. You might think you'll remember them when your turn to comment comes; but, trust me, you won't.
Monday, June 20, 2005
Steve Odenthal and his ex-wife Dianne were my youth Sabbath School teachers at the Minnetonka SDA Church in Minnesota. They were fun and the youth liked them, but they resigned from their position. I think they said they were having marriage problems. A few years later, shortly after I'd arrived at college in Canada, I learned from my parents that our pastor, Lowell Rideout, had been having some sort of affair with Dianne and was forced to resign
I realized right away that I'd seen it happening but had denied what I was seeing. I'd wondered about little looks passed between them, even on the platform. "Is that appropriate?", I'd ask myself. "Well, he's the pastor, so it must be, OK." I knew something was wrong, but I said nothing.
While I disagree with suing the church, I don't think the church can duck its moral responsibility. I'm not talking about legal responsibility; that's for the courts to decide. I'm asking morally, how a church can allow a pastor to continue in leadership when it's so obvious that something's wrong? Adventist Today reports that the conference president had heard allegations five months prior to Rideout's resignation. Church members must have had suspicions earlier than that. What causes us to suppress our suspicions and ignore sin?
For myself, I think fear has alot to do with it. I and the churches I've lived in are afraid to practice the bolder aspects of love. We've lost the art of confronting sin with truth and justice in an atmosphere of grace. So we approach these church issues in a legal/political way instead of a loving/redemptive way.
Now, I'm certainly not aware of the details of what happened behind the scenes at Minnetonka. The response of the lay leaders there probably had good and bad elements in it. I'm writing this to take responsibility for what I neglected to say. I knew something was wrong and said nothing, and I pray to God that I never fall into that sin of omission again.
I'm also writing to express sympathy for Rideout. There's no excuse for what he did, but there's also no excuse for a system of church polity and administration that isolates pastors from church community by moving them frequently. This discourages pastors from establishing relationships in their churches where they can confess sin and find healing (James 5:16) and encourages them to build a veneer of false holiness. I doubt that Rideout had a group of elders that he could tell about his budding attraction to Dianne who could pray for him and help him find healing from sin.
Call me naive, but I've decided to be as vulnerable as possible in my pastoral ministry, in order to model it for my members and to experience healing from sin. It doesn't come naturally to me. I've spent most of my life working on the veneer, but I think we have to try.
For more information on the topic of confronting and confessing sin check out the work of Jim Van Yperen.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Since I'm perparing simi-cogent presentations known as sermons to share on a weekly basis, I've decided sumarize them in apokalupto. Hence, my first sermon summary:
I believe that the story of the Good Samaritan is the clearest definition of kindness we can find in the Bible (Luke 10:25-37). It shows that kindness is a giving of ones self without expecting return. Through the parable Jesus points out that kindness is an expression of love, the love of God and ones neighbor.
Both the Good Samaritan and the traveler represent Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is God giving of Himself, giving everything, to show his love for us. Jesus came while we were helpless and gave Himself completely to rescue us, not expecting anything in return, simply because loved us. The Bible calls this the kindness of God (Eph. 2:7).
But Jesus resuce from sin is not rescue for us to sin. His kindness has the power to transform us into kind people. Thus, the traveler represents Jesus, for whatever we've done to the worst off, we've done it to Him (Matt. 25:40). This is how we experience a relationship with God. He shows kindness to us, and we continue (Rom 11:22) in that kindness by experiencing it on a daily basis and than spreading it to those with whom we come in contact.
There. Thirty minutes squeezed into three paragraphs. That's the folly of preaching. It makes me wonder why I bother to say anything at all. But this sermon impressed me with the need for more kindness in my own life.
I don't think I'm a very kind person. I often ignore the needs of others, unless someone's watching me, because it's too much of a bother to connect. There's a selfishness involved that the Holy Spirit is convicting me I have. I think a more powerful sermon is one that's lived, not just preached.
Friday, June 17, 2005
My wife and I are reading through
The Sacred Romance
by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge. Having read two other books by Eldredge,
Wild at Heart
Waking the Dead
, he's quickly become one of my favorite authors. In Sacred Romance Eldredge first outlines his concept of the great controversy with his late friend Brent. Here's a paragraph from "God the Ageless Romancer":
Does God have a good heart? In the last chapter Brent spoke of God as the Author of the story, which is how most people see him if they see him at all. And, as Hamlet said, there's the rub. When we think of God as Author, the Grand Chess Player, the Mind Behind It All, we doubt his heart. As Melville said, "The reason the mass of men fear God and at bottom dislike him is because they rather distrust his heart, and fancy him all brain, like a watch." Do you relate to the author when reading a novel or watching a film? Caught up in the action, do you even think about the author? We identify with the characters in the story precisely because they are in the story. They face life as we do, on the ground, and their struggles win our sympathy because they are our struggles also. We love the hero because he is one of us, and yet somehow rises above the fray to be better and wiser and more loving as we hope one day we might prove to be. (The Sacred Romanace, 71)
Perhaps we experience God as Father/Author/Creator too often. I guess that's why the Father sent the Son - our Brother, Hero, and Friend. On the cross Jesus proved that, yes, the heart of God is good.
For more on John Eldridge visit
Ransomed Heart Ministries