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Showing posts from July, 2011

End Times, Week 5

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Here's a look at the worksheet for Tuesday night.
Movies Covered: “The Book of Eli” (2010), “The Road” (2009)Synopsis: In “The Book of Eli,” the story is set in the future, 30 years after a nuclear blast that destroyed the Earth as it had previously existed. A man named Eli (Denzel Washington) is making his way across the barren wasteland to the West Coast. He is driven on his mission, and is in possession of the last remaining copy of the Bible.“The Road” is a post-apocalyptic tale of a journey taken by a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blasted by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed much of civilization and, in the intervening years, almost all life on earth.Theological Terms to ConsiderThe Tribulation: refers to tumultuous events that are described during the "signs of the times,” referenced in the Old and New Testament. The Tribulation is referenced first by the prophets, extensively in the book of Revelation, and is even…

Favorite Movies Countdown — No. 9

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9. Jurassic Park (1993)
Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum, and Samuel L. Jackson
About: "You're scientists were so concerned with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should." — Dr. Ian Malcolm, "Jurassic Park."
This was one of the first big event movies I remember from my child hood, and also sparked a life-long love of Michael Crichton novels. Crichton, of course, penned the novel that served as the basis for this film from Steven Spielberg. This is the third, and final, Spielberg entry on this list. "Jurassic Park" was one of my absolute favorites when I was younger, and remains a favorite to this day.
It was a unique film in a couple ways. First, it features special effects that, at the time, were pretty groundbreaking. In fact, that's one of the reasons that, even though filmmaking has changed a lot in the last 18 years, this film still holds up well today. The action, effects, and th…

Favorite Movies Countdown — No. 10

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10. Jaws (1975)
Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and Robert Shaw
About: "I think we're gonna need a bigger boat," Chief Martin Brody, "Jaws;" "I'm not going to stand here debating with someone who's lining up to be a hot lunch," Matt Hooper, "Jaws."
I first started watching "Jaws" films when I was in elementary school, and it's led to to things. First, I have a deep passion for shark tales, and second, I'm terrified of what might be lurking under the surface of the water in the ocean. Oh well, that's the breaks.
"Jaws," the second entry from director Steven Spielberg on this list, is a wondrous study in happy accidents. Many of the most iconic scenes and lines — including the quote from Chief Brody at the start of this post and Quint's incredible speech about the U.S.S. Indianapolis — were ad libbed. Many of the iconic scenes and cinematic decisions — such as not revealing the shark until the …

Now Playing

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Here's a look at this week's new films.
Captain America Starring: Chris Evans, Hugo Weaving, Hayley Atwell, Sebastian Stan, and Tommy Lee Jones Synopsis: In this Golden Age of superhero movies, there seems to be a story out there for everyone. The hero tales come dark and moody, disconnected from reality and a little too patriotic depending on the project and the source material. “Captain America,” predictably, falls into the latter category. One of the original Marvel properties, and one of the most iconic, poor Captain America had to wait a long time to get his chance at the 21st Century spotlight. In a film that’s loaded with special effects, set during World War II and designed as a prelude to next summer’s “Avengers” film, “Captain America” provides insight and an origin story for the most patriotic of heroes. Director Joe Johnston has led a group of varied projects over the years. He directed more family-oriented films like “Jumanji” and “October Sky,” but recently offered …

The Alpha Course, The Church

I remember when I first enrolled at Biola University I was excited by what I thought the environment would be like. It was a Christian college (The Biblical Institute of Los Angeles), and I expected it to be like going to school in this beautifully serene, holy place. (Of course, as a youth, I had yet to realize that places aren't holy).
When I rolled up the first day to unload at my building, I heard the sounds of Eminem blasting from a room on the second story. The un-edited version of Eminem.... That was the start of my illusions about Biola being shattered.
Now, I want to make a few things clear. First, I loved my time at Biola, would do it again, and would recommend anyone else to go there. But I would have them go in with different expectations.
A couple things happened for me when I went in. First, I had this idealized version of what the place would/should be like (of course, it could be argued that Biola furthers this perception through its marketing). Second, working as a j…

The Alpha Course, Week 14

Here's a look at the worksheet for tomorrow's class.
Alpha Course, Week 14What About the Church?Key Verse: Ephesians 4:16 “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”Introduction: Misconceptions about the ChurchChurch = servicesChurch = clergyChurch = a particular denominationChurch = the buildingSo what is the Church?1. The Church is the People of God (1 Peter 2:9-10)The Greek word “ekklesia” = an assembly or gatheringChurch/kingdomBaptism is a visible mark of being a member of the ChurchBaptism Signifies:Cleansing from sin (1 Corinthians 6:11)Incorporation into Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12)Sealing of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13)The Universal Church (Ephesians 3:10; 21; 5:23-25)1.9 Billion Christians in the world todayPersecuted churchThird worldFree WorldLocal Churches (1 Corinthians 16:1)“The churches in the province of Asia” (…

End Times, Natural Disasters

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Last week, when we looked at pandemics, it was an interesting chance to reflect on the fears regarding the role humanity will play in its own destruction. After all, when you consider most of the stories about these viruses that wipe out most of the population, they begin as innocent lab experiments, or supposed medical breakthroughs.
But what about those events that we can't control. It's hard not to look at the path of destruction wrought by a tornado and not wonder why some are spared and some are not. In fact, that's the central question driving the main character, played by Helen Hunt, in the film "Twister." The same could be said of earthquakes, floods, tsunami's, and hurricanes. So called "Acts of God," or natural disasters that bring death, destruction, and sorrow.
The book of Revelation doesn't shy away from descriptions of the kind of natural disasters that will potentially destroy the Earth and ruin its population. Consider Revelation 6…

End Times, Week 4

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Movies Covered: “Knowing” (2009); “2012” (2009)Synopsis: The disaster movie has long been a staple of Hollywood, but in recent years the genre has grown increasingly apocalyptic. In 2009, a pair of films featured a similar apocalyptic stance on this genre. “Knowing” featured a hybrid story of aliens and a natural disaster that destroyed the Earth.“2012” features a different scenario of the destruction of the Earth, this time based on the prophecy regarding the end of the Mayan Calendar. The film depicts a certain presentation of a possible end of the world, but as with “Knowing” it features a special ending that attempts to offer some hope about the possibility of those in the world being able to survive a possible apocalypse.Theological Terms to ConsiderThe Seven Seals: Revelation 6, 8:1The First Seal (Revelation 6:1-2) — Rider on the White HorseThe Second Seal (Revelation 6:3-4) — Rider on the Red HorseThe Third Seal (Revelation 6:5-6) — Rider on the Black HorseThe …

Favorite Movies Countdown — No. 11

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11. Heat (1995)

Starring: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, Wes Studi, and Ted Levine
About: This is my favorite Michael Mann movie, and probably the movie against which I measure all other crime dramas. I love the crime drama genre — as you can probably tell from this list — and "Heat" is chief among that group of films.
Basically this is a story of a group of criminals (De Niro, Kilmer, and Sizemore) trying to pull off a big job and the cops (Pacino, Studi, and Levine) trying to catch them. It also involves their lives, and the ways in which they are similar and different.
Mann did a lot of research to try and nail this movie and, ironically, "Heat" isn't even the first version of this story. Originally it was done as a TV movie called "L.A. Takedown," that Mann went back and decided to re-visit. Thank goodness he did.
This film is notable for two major things. First, it was the first time De Niro and Paci…

Favorite Movies Countdown — No. 12

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12. No Country For Old Men (2007)
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin
About: "The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure. It's not that I'm afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But, I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He'd have to say, 'O.K., I'll be part of this world.'" — Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, "No Country For Old Men"
I think "No Country For Old Men" is a cinematic masterpiece. In a good year for movies, it stood out above the rest, which is why it earned several Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Joel and Ethan Coen (who make their second appearance on this list) did an incredible job adapting the novel from Cormac McCarthy. The performances — particularly from Jones, Brolin, and Bardem — are strong, and the cinematic scope of the film is great.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

After 10 years and eight films, the cinematic saga of Harry Potter has come to an end. I've never read the books, but after so many hours on screen I grew attached to Harry, Ron, Hermione, and their quest to best evil. There are a lot of familiar themes and archetypes in these films as well, which is part of what draws audiences in.
Typically, when you're talking about a film series there are two routes — the first is the standard trilogy. All three films have individual stories, but they're part of a larger narrative. Consider the original "Star Wars" films, where there was great inter-connectedness between the films and the way the characters grew. The other pattern is films with sequels — each chapter a new journey on its own with little or no inter-connectedness.
So the question with Harry Potter, seeing as it has eight films, is how does it fit into these molds. In analyzing the films and the characters, I actually think the series fits nicely into the origina…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new movie I saw this week.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, and Alan Rickman Synopsis: Ten years and seven films have all led up to this — the epic conclusion to the cinematic sage of the Boy Who Lived. There is a reason the opening weekend of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” smashed all Box Office records, apart from the bump of being available in 3D. It feels like the conclusion of a journey with these characters. Though the “Harry Potter” narrative is stretched over eight films, in many ways it plays like a traditional trilogy. The films, though containing different events and sub-plots, are part of one continuous narrative. And Harry, Ron and Hermione sit at the heart of that narrative. And as with all good things, the story of “Harry Potter” must come to an end. If “Deathly Hallows Part 1” did a good job of setting the stakes and framing the te…

Alpha Course, Does God Heal Today

I don't know about you, but I have a hard time when I think about faith healing today. The first thing that leaps to mind is the movie, "Leap of Faith," and those of that ilk that seek to prey upon the hopes and desperation of people in need. I also tend to be skeptical about the sign gifts — healing, prophecy, miracles, and tongues — which doesn't make it easy to understand and address modern takes on healing rationally.
I appreciate the way Nicky Gumbel eases into this topic. He talks about his own skepticism, which I could identify with, and talked about the way he started to think about the idea of healing. His conclusion is that God still heals in miraculous ways today, and regardless of what you think of laying on hands, faith healers, and people given a miraculous word of healing, you can't deny that God's healing power is still evident in the world today.
It's interesting to me that I have so much trouble, at times, thinking about this concept given…

The Alpha Course, Week 13

Here's a look at this week's worksheet.
Alpha Course, Week 13Does God Heal Today?Key Verse: Exodus 23:25-26 “Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span.”1. Healing In The BibleOld TestamentPromises of God (Exodus 23:25-26; Psalm 41:3)The character of God (Exodus 15:26)Examples of God healing (2 Kings 5; Isaiah 38-39)The Ministry of JesusHis teaching The kingdom of God (Mark 1:15)Proclaimed and demonstratedHis Healings25% of the Gospels (Matthew 4:23)His commissionsCommission of the 12 (Matthew 9:35-10:8; Luke 9:1)Commission of the 72 (Luke 10:1-20)Commission of the disciples (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-20; John 14:9-14).2. Healing in Church HistoryMany examples of healing; miracles (Acts 3:1-10; Acts 5:12-16)Early Church His…

End Times, Pandemic

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Tonight, we'll be tackling the light topic of the Four Horsemen. Hence the Lego representation in this post. Of course, wherever possible, I lean on Lego representations to sort of add a little levity to some of these weighty topics.
The historical interpretation of the four horsemen is Conquest, War, Famine, and Death. A more modern interpretation — read non-Biblical scholars seeking to capitalize on the imagery of Revelation — is War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death. Pestilence, of course, is disease that wipes out humanity. Though that might not be a traditional interpretation of the Four Horsemen, it certainly has roots in Revelation.
I think the idea of a global pandemic is always pressing on people's minds, and has been the fodder for plenty of films. Tonight's cultural theory is destruction of the Earth by pandemic. If you'll remember, that was even one of the "signs of the apocalypse" referenced in the trailer shown during our first week.
Consider the stor…

End Times Week 3

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Movies Covered: “I Am Legend” (2007), “Jurassic Park” (1993), “The Andromeda Strain” (2009)Synopsis: In 1954, novelist Richard Matheson wrote “I Am Legend,” which became the inspiration for a series of apocalyptic works built around the theme of a pandemic that wipes out a significant portion of the population. The film was the source material for three film — “Last Man Standing,” “The Omega Man,” and “I Am Legend” — as well as the inspiration for modern zombie films, beginning with the 1968 opus “Night of the Living Dead.”Writer Michael Crichton, a medical doctor, wrote stories about developments on the forefront of scientific and medical achievement, but was always cautious of men trying to play God. Two classic examples of this work were his novels “Jurassic Park” and “The Andromeda Strain,” both of which were adapted into films.Theological Terms to Consider:The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse: (Revelation 6)The traditional view is the white horse represents Conquest; the red …

Favorite Movies Countdown — No. 13

13. Way of the Gun (2000)
Starring: Ryan Phillippe, Benicio Del Toro, James Cann, Juliette Lewis, and Taye Diggs
About: "There is a natural order. The way things are meant to be. An order that says that the good guys always win. That you die when it's your time, or you have it coming. That the ending is always happy, if only for someone else. Now at some point it became clear to us that our path had been chosen and we had nothing to offer the world. Our options narrowing down to petty crime or minimum wage. So, we stepped off the path, and went looking for the fortune that we knew was looking for us." — Parker, "Way of the Gun"
Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects"), "Way of the Gun" is a fascinating film that didn't get a lot of attention when it was released. When I was in college, I rented the movie but didn't really know what to expect. From the madcap opening sequence through the close, I was hooked.
It…

Favorite Movies Countdown — No. 14

14. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Matt Damon, Ed Burns, Tom Sizemore, and Jeremy Davies
Synopsis: Few films have as big a cultural impact as "Saving Private Ryan." The film — which begins with the D-Day invasion — captured audiences of all ages, particularly veterans. Steven Spielberg has directed a number of films, but in my opinion this might be his greatest cinematic achievement. Sure, some would argue that "Schindler's List" was the top of his films, but I think this film has more relatable themes and a much broader appeal. The fact that it lost out on Best Picture remains one of the biggest gaffs in Hollywood history — a testament to the enduring appeal of this film.
Hanks delivers a beautiful performance in the lead role, and a number of character actors that compose the core group also do a nice job. This is really a beautiful portrait of men, and the toll that combat takes on them. It's also one of the finest war films made, including…

Emmys Reaction

So, they're not like the Academy Awards (or even the Golden Globes) but there is always a certain level of interest in the Emmy nominations. With TV rapidly becoming a place with more quality storytelling than the movies (anyone gonna argue that given the tepid 2011 we're experiencing at the Box Office), there is more interest than ever in TV awards.
Which is a problem, because the Emmys are probably the most predictably sad awards we have. Old guard shows and stars seem to rule year after year, while quality programs are routinely snubbed. This year is no different. Since the nominations were announced this morning, I figured I'd highlight a few nominees that caught my eye and some sad snubs.
The Good: "Friday Night Lights" earned nominations for both leads (Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton) and for best Drama series. The show probably won't win, but I'm heartened to know that it was at least nominated and recognized for the quality it brought during its fi…

Now Playing

Here's a look at the new movies I saw last week.
Horrible Bosses Starring: Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Charlie Day, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Colin Farrell Synopsis: At some point in our lives, most people have had a boss, supervisor, or co-worker that made life difficult. It’s easy, in that situation, to imagine how much better life would be if those people weren’t there. That’s the idea behind “Horrible Bosses.” The writers take the basic premise and run wild with it, delivering a comedy that’s exceptionally funny at times and passable at others, generating an amusing film featuring a couple likeable central characters. This film has a certain charm and some interesting sequences. Bateman has long been a favorite at this kind of role, and he brings that to this role. He’s flanked by a couple other funny men, with Sudeikis playing a variation of the role he played in “Hall Pass” and Day, who perhaps shines the brightest in this film. On the other side, with …

Alpha Course, Why and How Should I Tell Others?

Tonight, we look at the topic of evangelism. This is the most important, and often the most daunting, aspect of our Christian walk. It's impossible to miss the Biblical mandate to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In fact, Jesus himself extolled the importance of this mission before ascending. Matthew 28:16-20 is referred to as the "Great Commission." It says, “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
One thing that often troubled me was that I didn't think I had an impressive story to tell. I can remember, when I was appl…

Alpha Course, Week 12 supplement

Here's the supplement we passed out last week.
Alpha Course SupplementHow to Prepare Your TestimonySuggestions:Make it short. Aim for three minutes — people switch off after that.Make it personal. Don’t preach, use I or We, not you.Keep Christ central. They need to follow Him, not you.FormatA little of your former lifeHow you came into your relationship with ChristSomething of what it has meant since then.Write it out in full. It’s easier to see the waffle when it’s down on paper.Sample Prayer:Lord Jesus Christ, I am sorry for the things I have done wrong in my life. (Take a few minutes to ask His forgiveness for anything particular that is on your conscience.)Please forgive me. I now turn from everything which I know is wrong. Thank you that you died on the cross for me so that I could be forgiven and set free.Thank you that you now offer me this gift of forgiveness and your Spirit. I now receive that gi…

Alpha Course, Week 12

Here's a look at this week's worksheet.
Alpha Course, Week 12Why and How Should I Tell Others?Key Verse: Matthew 28:16-20 “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”Introduction:Why do we share with othersThe Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20)The Needs of OthersThe Gospel = Good News (about Jesus)!Two opposite dangersInsensitivityFearKey = it arises out of a relationshipCo-operation with the Spirit of God1 Presence (Matthew 5:13-16)We are called to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-14)When p…

End Times, Alien Invasions

This week, the cultural theory we'll be tackling in the End Times class is the theory of destruction by alien invasion. The idea of a hostile alien invasion is one of the oldest pop culture scenarios, and also one of the most prevalent.
Long before "War of the Worlds" was synonymous with Tom Cruise, couch jumping, and a sub-par effort from Steven Spielberg, it was a cultural phenomenon. “War of the Worlds” was originally a novel written in 1898 by H.G. Wells. It is listed as the first depiction of the conflict between mankind and aliens. And it certainly preyed up people’s fear of the unknown.
In 1938, Orson Welles took that a step further as he produced a radio drama based on “War of the Worlds.” The first two-thirds of the 60-minute drama were presented as a series of news bulletins, and there was no disclaimer that it was a piece of entertainment. Due to the content, and the style of the broadcast, the radio drama engendered fear and paranoia as many people believed the…