Showing posts from May, 2011

Alpha Course, Week 6

Here's a look at the worksheet for tomorrow's meeting.
Alpha Course, Week 6Why and How Should I Read The Bible?Key Verse: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”1. God Has Spoken Revelation in the BibleIt was inspired by GodDifficulties in the BibleHistorical difficulties (Luke 3:1-2)Moral difficulties (such as issues of suffering)It is God-breathed and provides authority in: (2 Timothy 3:16-17)For TeachingFor RebukingFor CorrectingFor Training in Righteousness2. God Speaks Through the Bible (2 Timothy 3:15, John 5:39-40)To those who are not Christians (Romans 10:17, John 20:31)To those who are ChristiansTo become like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18)To provide joy and peace during the storms of life (Psalm 23:5)To provide guidance (Psalm 119:105)To provide health and healing (Proverbs 4:20-22)To provide defen…

The Finish Line

Most endeavors in life take time. You usually end up with more marathons than sprints. And when you finish those marathons and achieve your goals, it can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience.
In 2009, I started a marathon — a full-time, on-line Master's Program through the University of Phoenix. After considering for a long while whether to re-enroll in school, and if so what to pursue, I decided to enroll in a Management/Public Administration Program. It has been challenging, fascinating, and time-consuming.
This week, that program came to an end. It feels like the kind of accomplishment I know I could never have done without the support of my friends, family, and God. I am grateful to have had this experience, to have run this race, and to have, finally, reached the finish line.
Now it's on to the next one...

Favorites by Genre — Drama

A while ago I started recounting some of my favorite films by genre. I will wrap that up today with a look at my favorite dramatic films. Beginning in June, I'll be listing my favorite 25 films of all time on Fridays and Saturdays.
For now, my rules in making this list were simple: films appear in ascending order and no film appears on more than one list, so I picked the list I thought fit best.
5. The Paper (1994) Starring: Michael Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Glen Close, Robert Duvall, and Randy Quaid Why I Like It: This movie could be classified as a comedy, because there are some funny moments. But it's always stood out to me as an example of what I always loved about journalism. This movie boasts a great ensemble cast — led by Keaton — and is directed by Ron Howard. It's about a day in the life of a metro editor for a New York daily newspaper. I have loved it since I first saw it. Rating: R for strong language.
4. The Silence of the Lambs (1991) Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jody Fost…

Men Behaving Badly

About a week ago I had someone tell me they were going to see "Bridesmaids" and ask what I thought. I said I thought it was good (I gave it Three Stars in the review) and asked if they had seen/liked "The Hangover." They said yes, so I assumed it would be the same with "Bridesmaids."
Turned out it wasn't. That made me wonder why. I started to wonder if maybe it wasn't the reversal of the gender roles.
For a long time, comedies featuring men behaving badly have been a staple genre. "The Hangover" might be the most famous recent example, but it was hardly the first or only. "Wedding Crashers" followed a similar model, Kevin Smith's films often feature a similar model, and way back in the 1970s and 1980s we had films like "Animal House" and "Porky's."
"Bridesmaids" was marketed as the female equivalent of "The Hangover." For all intents and purposes, that's a pretty apt description.…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new movies I saw this week.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz Synopsis: This is the fourth installment of the "Pirates" franchise, but the first without Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom. After the bloat that nearly drowned the last two installments of "Pirates," it's clear that the filmmakers wanted to go with something different here. The film relies more on slap-stick comedy and situational humor, abandoning the heavy use of CGI. McShane makes for a compelling villain, and is perhaps a shade darker than the typical "Pirates" baddie. Rush, as Barbossa, makes for a good friend/foil to Depp's Capt. Jack Sparrow, and Cruz does a nice job as Blackbeard's daughter and Jack's former flame. Much of the film this time around is built around Depp. That's probably a good change, seeing as how the lowly regarded third film's biggest error migh…

Alpha Course, Why and How Do I Pray?

This week's session puts the focus on an important aspect of our personal walk with the Lord — prayer. Prayer is an essential part of our walk with the Lord, in fact Nicky suggests it's the most important activity in our lives.
But how many of us put prayer in that kind of focus? My guess would be not many, myself included. I'm always amazed by the faith of those who spend hours in prayer. I've mentioned this before, but Francis Chan tells the story of his grandmother who spent hours each morning in prayer, calling it her most cherished part of the day. Most of us go to prayer when we're in need, when we're scared, when we feel lost; but how many go to God when we're overjoyed, or just because we have some quiet space during the day and we want to share our what's on our hearts?
And you know, I've noticed those that are more able to answer yes to the back half of that question seem to be happier, more content, and more full of joy. And that's beca…

Alpha Course, Week 5

Here's a look at tomorrow's Alpha Course worksheet on prayer. Should be a good one!
Alpha Course, Week 5Why and How Do I Pray?Key Verse: Ephesians 2:18 “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”1. What is Christian Prayer? (Matthew 6:5-13)It’s the most important activity of our lives (Ephesians 2:18)The whole Trinity is involvedoTo the Father (Matthew 6:6, 9)oThrough the Son (Ephesians 2:18)oBy the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26)2. Why Do We Pray? (Matthew 6:6)Model from Jesus (Mark 1:35, Luke 6:12, 9:18, 9:28, 11:1)Developing a relationship with God, for which we are createdRewards of Prayer (Matthew 6:6, John 16:24, Philippians 4:6-7)Results of Prayer (Mathew 7:7-11)3. Does God Always Answer Prayer? (Matthew 7:7-11)Our Prayers May Not be answered if:oWe have unconfessed sin (Isaiah 59:2)oWe have unforgiveness (Matthew 6:14-15)oWe are disobedient (1 John 3:21-22)oWe pray with the wrong motives (James 4:2-3)oWe have misappreh…

No Time for Leisure

I was reading an article today that called America the "No Vacation Nation." Basically, the article compared the vacation allotment — and how it's used — in America with other places in Europe and around the world. Seems we do things differently here.
In Germany, for example, employees typically get six weeks of paid vacation a year, commonly using two or three weeks at once. In many countries, paid vacation time is mandated by law. Sweden, which ranks above the United States in survey of competitive economies, legally mandates five weeks of paid vacation.
The article went on to say that, even if people in America take their one or two weeks of paid time, they're often expected to be checking e-mail and be available by web and by phone for emergencies.
I found myself identifying with that. I remember a few years back when I was at my last job working late into the evening several nights in a row to get things ready for me to be gone for five days. It's hard to break…

High Seas Fun?

This weekend's sole mass release was "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides." For those counting, it's the fourth installment in the franchise. Doubtless, the film was meant to show that the franchise still has legs. It's estimated to have taken in $90.1 million this weekend, but the question is whether that's a good showing.
From a money standpoint, it's not a very "Pirates"-like number. The first "Pirates" film only nabbed $46.1 million opening weekend, but it was somewhat of a surprise hit. No one knew what to expect of a movie based on a Disneyland ride, and the film's legion of fans quickly swelled. The film ended up grabbing more than $300 million domestically.
The first "Pirates" film spawned two sequels that were closely tied together. The second film, which bowed in 2006, took in more than $135 million opening weekend on the way to more than $400 million domestically. The third film, which opened in 2007, too…

End of Days

This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper. - T.S. Elliot
Today is the day that some in the Christian community have pointed to as the date for the Rapture. According to the theory, a secret set of numbers contained in the Scriptures offer insight to the End of Days, which marks the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Of course, I would point out that all the references to the Rapture indicate we won't know when it will happen. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2 says, "Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night." So it seems unlikely that anyone could correctly pin down the day and hour.
Yet people around the world have become obsessed with this prediction. In reading the stories on the group, following the leading of Harold Camping and his Christian family radio network, many sold their houses an…

Recapping Upfronts Week

So each of the networks have unveiled their schedules for the fall. Below I have some thoughts on a few different categories based on what I saw.
Bubble Shows That I'm Glad Were Renewed: Fringe, FOX This is my favorite show, and I've made no secret of that. This is one of the most original shows on television, and it had an epic finale (on May 6) that is a potential game-changer. This show has incredible acting and, even though it doesn't draw great ratings, it has a passionate fan base.
Chuck, NBC The show was renewed for a shortened fifth and final season. "Chuck" has never been deep or drawn great ratings, but it's a fun show and it's cool that fans will get some closure with a final season.
New Shows That Could Have Potential: Prime Suspect, NBC The original British series featured Helen Mirren. This American re-make, set in New York City, features Maria Bello. The template has potential, but the trailer leaves me a little undecided. Still, if it works, this …

Now Playing

Here's a look at last week's new releases. Below, I've also included a snapshot of what's coming up since we're into the summer blockbuster season.

Bridesmaids Starring: Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph, Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jon Hamm, and Chris O'Dowd Synopsis: One could argue that “The Hangover” changed the template for outrageous male comedy films. Now, in her first starring role in a feature film, Kristen Wiig hopes to do the same thing for the ladies with “Bridesmaids.” The film has gotten good buzz and sound reviews, all of it deserved. Wiig, who serves as the star and co-writer, creates a funny, outrageous film that keeps you entertained and rooting for things to work out in the end. Much like “The Hangover,” no matter how wild the events of the film get, “Bridesmaids” never forgets to invest in its characters. Wiig, the film's co-writer, does a great job in crafting the lead role. Long a personal favorite in her supporting roles, it's great to se…

Alpha Course, How Can We Have Faith?

The first two full lessons of the Alpha Course basically lay the foundation for what Christianity is, what it means to be a Christian, and the importance of Jesus Christ. The theme for this week's message could actually be summed up with two words — now what?
That's kind of what Nicky tackles in this week's message, talking about what it means to have faith. He starts with what a Christian is and what a Christian isn't, often seeking to attack the inaccurate representations the world sometimes offers.
It all comes down to the concept of faith. Someone once said faith equals taking God's promises and daring to believe them. The second and third weeks of Alpha laid the foundation — the messages showed the giant steps God takes toward us in an effort to build a relationship. But God doesn't come all the way on his own, the last step has to be taken by each of us. That's where faith comes in.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Hebrews 11:1, which says, &quo…

Alpha Course, Week 4

Here's a look at tomorrow's worksheet.
Alpha Course, Week 4How Can We Have Faith?Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”IntroductionWhen we received Christ, we became a child of God (John 1:12)1 John 5:13 “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”1. The Word of God — Faith is taking God’s promises and daring to believe them“I will come in” (Revelation 3:20)“I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20)“I give them eternal life” (John 10:28)2. The Work of Jesus — We cannot earn God’s forgivenessIt’s the gift of God (Romans 6:23)God loves us and died to prove it (John 3:16)He took our sins upon himself (Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21)3. Witness of the Spirit — When someone becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit indwells them (Romans 8:9).He transforms us from withinOur …

Upfronts Week

There are probably plenty of people that don't know what an Upfront presentation is. Basically, it's a week where all the major networks announce their fall schedule, what they've cancelled from the previous year, and what new shows they've added.
It happens in mid-May, just as the previous season is wrapping up. For those that follow entertainment news (that's me), it's always kind of an exciting time. Each day I look forward to the reports, reading about the casualties, and reading the descriptions of the new projects. When I was still working for the newspaper, I actually investigated ways of getting credentialed to attend Upfront week. Call it a dorky pursuit if you will, but I thought it would be thrilling. I actually kind of still think that.
Anyway, this is Upfront week! In case you didn't already know, now you can begin to plan accordingly. Once all the schedules are released (one a day from Sunday to Thursday), I'll add a new post about some of t…

Something Borrowed

OK, so those that follow my blog will note that over the past few days some weird stuff has occurred. The site was down for maintenance on Thursday, so new posts couldn't go up. (Hence the delay in my movie capsule reviews). Then on Friday, I put the post up finally, and another post disappeared. (Sorry for all you Alpha readers out there). Then it magically re-appeared on Saturday.
Anyway, to make a long explanation even longer, today there will be two posts. Either that makes you excited or makes your eyes tired. This first post (which was originally supposed to appear Friday) is on the May 6 release, "Something Borrowed."
If you read the capsule review, you'll know I didn't particularly care for the film. But I figured it was worth expanding on my problems with it in a separate post... but the blog sought to defeat me. (My new working theory is the people at Google have a financial stake in the film....)
Anyway, the movie is not a cinematic work of art, but it wa…

Valley of the Bones

Today we looked at Ezekiel 37:1-14, an interesting story about Ezekiel's vision of the dry bones. This passage offers plenty of food for thought in a number of different ways, but here are two things that I couldn't help but think about.
First, it's a fascinating parallel to the End Times. Sure, Ezekiel is in the Old Testament, and Revelation — which is typically what we think about as the authority on the End Times — falls in the New Testament. But Ezekiel 37:1-14 is one of those passages that shows the continuity of Scripture, and I think it's a vision that is helpful when we think about the more hopeful aspects of the End Times.
In the vision, Ezekiel sees the people of God, long dead but not forgotten, rise and come to life again, infused and invigorated by the breath of God. This is the hope we all have, not just for ourselves, but for all those cherished saints that have gone before us. Revelation foretells of the Second Coming, and those that are dead being raised…

Crazy Love

I have been going through the book "Crazy Love" for a small group I'm a part of. Each chapter of the book, written by Francis Chan, seems to offer an even more challenging idea than the next. And I mean that in the best sense of the word.
The latest chapter I read focuses on what a loving relationship with God looks like. Not, of course from his point-of-view, but from our own. Chan begins with an illustration about his Grandma Clara that I found powerful. He talked about how much she looked forward to her morning prayer because it was her special time with the most important person in her life.
Of course, as Christians, we should have God as the most important person in our lives. We should desperately crave our time with him. We should be able to share with Him completely — after all he knows everything about us anyway — but we allow our lives to get in the way. I'm no different.
For a long time I've struggled with opening up to God more completely. There are litt…

Now Playing

Here's a look at all the new movies I saw last week.

Dylan Dog: Dead of Night Starring: Brandon Routh, Sam Worthington, and Taye Diggs Synopsis: This film is a hybrid comedy/detective noir. The film has an interesting premise — a private investigator who polices the world of the undead, including vampires, zombies, and werewolves. And it's clear the attempt was for it to be somewhat humorous, which it is at times, but it doesn't always work. The film reunites Routh and Worthington — who played Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen, respectively, in "Superman Returns" — and they have a good on-screen rapport. The film doesn't seem to take itself too seriously and does somewhat capture the scenery of New Orleans, where it is set. It's not the best movie, but it's certainly not the worst. I see this as having a bright future replaying on late night cable telecasts. Rating: PG-13 for sequences of creature violence and action, language including some sexual references, a…

Alpha Course, Why Did Jesus Die?

Tonight's Alpha Course session again focuses on Jesus, who I noted last week is at the heart of Christianity. Last week considered who Jesus was, and looked at his Lordship. This week's focus is on the cross.
The cross has become an important symbol of our faith because it represents Jesus' ultimate sacrifice made on our behalf. That, in itself, is an awesome thought to consider. Most people — Christians and non-Christians have heard the verse John 3:16, which reads, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believe in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." But how many of us really stop to consider how incredible that idea is?
Nicky does a good job of breaking it down into a couple simple points. First, why it was necessary. Basically, Jesus made the sacrifice because we are imperfect beings. Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Not some of us make mistakes — we all do. That i…

Alpha Course, Week 3

Here's a look at the worksheet for this week's session.
Alpha Course, Week 3Why Did Jesus Die?Key Verses:John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”Introduction:The cross lies at the heart of the Christian faith. (1 Corinthians 2:2)1. The Problem (All have sinned, Romans 3:23)Results of SinPollution of Sin (Mark 7:20-23)Power of Sin (John 8:34)Penalty for Sin (Romans 6:23)Partition of Sin (Isaiah 59:2)2. The Solution — Jesus sacrifice on the cross“The self-substitution of God” (1 Peter 2:24)The Agony of the Cross (Isaiah 53:6)3. The Result (Romans 3:21-26)Four imagesThe Temple — “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:25, Hebrews 10:14, 1 John 1:7)The Market Place — “The redemption that came by Christ …

Facing Our Fears

Sunday we talked about how fear can suck the oxygen out of our bowls. I think this is something that everyone can identify with at some point.
Generally I'm able to absorb things, focus on solutions, and move forward. But sometimes those rational and irrational fears become tangled in such a way that it consumes ones thoughts. I have, on occasion, felt times like that, where you can't help but feel weighed down by those things that creep into your thoughts.
I've found that it can happen at the most unexpected times. Friday was one of those times. I went to the movies — as is my custom — and it was the perfect storm of things that were going on in my personal life being magnified by what happened in a fictional story, and within 10 minutes my focus was completely shattered. I joked that it caused an existential crisis. Really, it just amplified things that were already on my mind, things I had been working to push below the surface.
I was reminded of something Francis Chan tal…

Losing with Dignity

When I was in college, I had the chance to coach our dorm's intramural football team. I was a junior at the time, and the team was composed mostly of freshman. They came into the season believing that they were too quick and too talented to be beaten. It didn't really matter what kind of discipline or work ethic I tried to impart.
So I decided to let them see what the league was like. During our pre-season game, we played a veteran team that had won the championship the prior year. My team went out with swagger, and it didn't take long for reality to set in.
Once they were down by four touchdowns, the team started to get a little aggressive. Finally, our starting quarterback got frustrated and drew a 15 yard penalty. My back up went into the game, got sacked quickly, popped up and slammed the ball into the ground in frustration. I took both of them out of the game and wouldn't let them go back. This only added to the frustration.
As I knew they would based on their mental…

Horse Play

Today is the Kentucky Derby, often referred to as the fastest two minutes in sports. The Kentucky Derby is the first jewel in the Triple Crown, kicking off an exciting six-week period for horse racing fans.
In fact, for many it's probably the only six weeks of the year they follow the sport. That's certainly true for me. I look forward to the three Triple Crown events each year, mostly in hopes that one magical horse will get on a run and actually win all three. In the past few years we've had several capture the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to fall apart at the Belmont Stakes, the longest and toughest of the races.
Of course, the profile of the Triple Crown was no doubt raised last fall when the film "Secretariat" was released. The film chronicles the greatest of all Triple Crown winners — Secretariat — who still holds most of the records for the three races. Watching the film was a thrill, and also made me reflect on the fact that it's been more th…

Too Old To Win?

Wednesday was my birthday. I had planned to play it low key, especially since it was a mile-marker birthday, but apparently others decided that wasn't going to happen. On Wednesday night I was where I am every Wednesday, serving in programming at Highlands. It's one of my favorite nights of the week, and is always a good time — first working with adults, then with our high school group.
After a long day, when I got home I was excited to watch the second half of the Lakers' game two win over the Dallas Mavericks. After seeing them blow the game Monday, I was sure they're make up for it on Wednesday. Apparently the Lakers didn't get the memo.
Each of the last three summers has featured a lot of basketball for me, as the Lakers have made it to the NBA Finals. With Coach Phil Jackson retiring at the end of the season, I was hopeful the Lakers would make it back to try and win again, giving Jackson his fourth Three-Peat.
It has been a tough year to watch the Lakers, as the…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the first (unofficial) big action release of summer.

Fast Five Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson Synopsis: The summer movie season officially kicks off today, but it’s possible that the best action film in the first half of summer debuted on April 29. “Fast Five” might not be deep, complex, or original, but it’s a lot of fun. In 2001, “The Fast and The Furious” introduced a new kind of summer blockbuster. From there, the franchise got lost in the tall weeds for a few years as producers attempted to build films around other character combinations. In 2009, the original cast gathered again for a reboot of the franchise that was a smash hit at the Box Office. It also came with an ending that provided for a ready-made sequel. “Fast Five” is that sequel, returning not just the original cast but popular characters from all four films in the franchise for an epic next installment. This reunites may players from the …

Alpha Course, Who Is Jesus?

Tonight we dive into the meat of the Alpha Course with the first real lesson, "Who Is Jesus?" This is a key foundational piece to our faith. After all, what sets Christianity apart from other world religions is the belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ.
Some may not realize this, but Muslims and Jews acknowledge that Jesus lived and taught, they just don't believe him to be the son of God. The same goes for many Deistic Humanists — those that believe the in the inherent goodness of man and leave room for God. Nicky actually talks about author Dan Brown, who wrote "The Da Vinci Code," and fits into that category. One of the reasons I find that film fascinating is that, within it, you get a 15 minute argument against the Divinity of Jesus Christ.
Of course, as Christians, we take this to be a fact on faith. Nicky does a great job of talking about evidence, but noting that those that require tangible proof will never be satisfied by what they find. That's where…

Alpha Course, Week 2

Here's a look at the outline for tomorrow's session.
Alpha Course, Week 2Who Is Jesus?Key Verse: Matthew 16:13-16 “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you,’ He asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’”Historical Evidence:Roman historians Tacitus and SuetoniusJewish Historian JosephusNew Testament manuscripts5,000 Greek, 10,000 Latin, 9,300 others.1. What did He Say About Himself?Teaching on Himself“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35)“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12)I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26)“I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6)“My Kingdom” (Luke 22:30)“Come to Me” (Matthew 11:28-29)“Follow Me” (Mark 1:1…