Monday, May 26, 2008

Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Ok, this is my first new review, my first review of a movie just out. That means I'll have to be careful not to give away stuff, or too much stuff.

This movie is a great adventure movie, it follows in the steps of the earlier Jones movies with big car chases, good action, and a bit of required suspended disbelief. The teaser trailer showed us early on what the opening scene was like, obviously taking place in the hangar where the Ark of the Covenant was stored. Early on, the mystique of the Crystal Skull is enhanced and the aliens introduced. The time period is also well planned out with the immediate appearance of a hotrod with a flat head engine, and going directly into action with the Communists. Slowly the crystal skulls are explained, and double agents will redouble. I didn't expect the ending, but I don't think anybody ever has with an Indy flick.

The big three: I'd buy this movie. There is no sex, quite a bit of action, but not flagrant violence, even through the fights. Most deaths are offscreen. There is only a small bit of swearing, most from the mouth of the young gun.

Communists have complained about their portrayal in the movie, but they just need to chill out and realize that it's fiction, no one really cares about communists anymore, it's become glaringly obvious that communism doesn't work.

I'd give this movie 7/10 but I'll bump it up because I plan on buying the whole set, unless they decide to make more then I'll have to wait a while. So I'm gonna give it 8/10


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Movie Review: 3:10 to Yuma

What is 3:10 to Yuma? That's what my wife asked me. It is what it sounds like, a train schedule. The train is supposed to take Ben Wade to prison.

Ben Wade is played by Russell Crowe. In my opinion, his is the most interesting character in the movie. He is pure evil, but he recognises honor when he sees it. Honor is to be found in Christian Bale's character Dan Evans. He is a in debt, starving rancher in Arizona struggling to make ends meet when his creditors burn his barn down. He accepts the offer of $200 to help take Wade to the train only because he thinks it's the only way he can save the farm.

This is a good movie, I'll say out front. It is a bit slow at times, the build ups to the action, especially the finale are long. I think it has aspects of both the old westerns, and also the new ones. The old ones because only the good guys can actually hit anything, and the new ones because good doesn't exactly triumph in the end.

I'd like to introduce a term I'll likely use alot in the future and that is EKI. EKI stands for easily killed individual, and this movie is full of them. The most obvious ones are the Marshall's men. In fact, when I saw them I told my wife "they just introduced some easily killed individuals for the finale, it will be over soon." Sure enough, they were all dead in a blaze of cowardice in less than three minutes. There are really only three non-EKI's in the movie, Wade, Evans, and Prince. Pretty much everybody else dies, and even two of those three do. It's really kind of dark.

The standouts are Crowe, Bale, and Ben Foster. The first two you know, but Ben Foster is an interesting guy. I remember him from a show called Flash Forward on the Disney Channel way back in the mid nineties. He has grown up to be quite a versatile actor, from The Punisher, to XMen, and now Yuma.

I guess it would have been nice to have more Americans in the cast, but hey, whoever can do the best job, so be it. I do really like Bale, he's one of my favorite actors, and not just because he's Batman either.

As far as the big three, there's no sex, only a woman's naked back, not much swearing, and plenty of violence with many visible squibs. Any effects used are obvious, to make towns appear, to blow up a horse, etc.

I give this movie a 6/10.

New Feature, Movie Reviews.

I've decided to expand my writing to include movie reviews. I tend to see a few movies in the summer, so I've decided that it would be a good idea to share what I thought of some of them, and to give warnings as necessary.

Unlike most reviewers, I'll be commenting from a Christian perspective, including such things as how much swearing and nudity and violence there was. This is so people with children can decide if their children should see the movie. At times I'll also explore other things involved with each movie in my typical haphazard fashion. First movie, 3:10 to Yuma.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

5000 Hits and Counting.



Review of “Jim & Casper Go to Church” by Jim Henderson and Matt Casper.

The church staff has just finished reading this book, a few weeks ago I think, and like many of the books I read, this one was recommended to me by several of them. Usually I’ll grab a used copy of whatever book they’ve recently read from the bookshelf where someone has discarded it, but this time, I couldn’t find one so I borrowed Wilson’s. It has his name in the front cover and some notes and highlights here and there. The interesting thing is that I obviously got something different from it than he did because of the things he highlights and the notes he wrote. I considered using a different highlighter and highlighting my own stuff, but I decided I was too lazy to find one.

This book is about a guy and his atheist visiting churches. Jim actually has at times paid people to come to church and gotten their opinions about what to do better, and it becomes glaringly obvious in the first chapter that what Christians think attracts non-believers is actually the thing that they may dislike the most. It ends up being a tickle me Elmo show, preaching to the choir. Elmo is meant to be tickled; it doesn’t really help anyone or accomplish anything. Coincidentally, the first church they visit is Saddleback, and Casper’s reviews are the most telling. He says things that all Christians know but choose to ignore because they like it how it is or because it’s comfortable. I’ve read the Purpose Driven Life book, and it taught me a few things, but like Casper says, where’s the call to action? We talk about our faith being lived out in our works, but besides not breaking the rules, where does that leave us? It leaves us doing nothing bad, but also nothing good.

As I continued reading, Casper’s words often struck me much more than Jim’s did. He was very straightforward and honest, not hiding things, not beating around the bush, very blunt, like me. He saw through all the B. S. and whitewash that we regular churchgoers just accept as normal and don’t even notice. It brought to my mind the prayers that pastors and others pray before and after the sermon, or at other places in the service. They sound so fake. They sound like an extension of the sermon, if the sermon was about King David, surely the prayer would mention something that we should do, either like him or not like him. Where’s the honesty? If I am ever asked to deliver a message, forget you congregationers, I’m gonna be prayin’ for me. “Oh Lord, help me not to crap my pants or wet myself or sweat through my shirt up in here, stretch forth your mighty hand and keep me from saying something really stupid.” Not something worthless like “Thank you Lord for the example of [Bible character] [doing something/not doing something], let us [have/not have] the [trait] [like/not like] [him/her].”

One of Casper’s most common references was to the lack of a charge to do something, or the lack of hearing what others were doing. I agree with this wholeheartedly. My favorite church memories are of missionaries and others sharing their stories, the things they have done, the things done to them, the miracles they have seen or experienced. I love to read what others do to change the world, not just Mother Theresa or Shane Claiborne, but even non-Christians like Gandhi or even Ed Begley Jr. You see, the heart of Evangelicalism is action, and that’s why politicians can’t get things done, they can be pro environment and preach all day long, but they will never get people to change like say J. Matthew Sleeth can because he actually lives what he preaches. He, Mother Theresa and Ed Begley actually made sacrifices in their lives to match what they believe. Who would ever think of a real live movie star riding a bicycle to the set because he doesn’t believe that the best way to get there is a car. I want to know what the faithful are doing in Honduras, East Asia, Albania, and wherever else they are because that will give me an idea of what I can do. Because following Jesus is not simply about believing something. If I am believing that I am following someone down the road, but not actually moving, then I am not actually following am I? I believe the way to get people to do things is to ask them to do things. Why do kids slave and work to their limit and get yelled at by a football coach? They sure aren’t getting paid. They need something do accomplish, and the church is the same way. Contemporary churches are languishing in their comfort, in the “bless us, love us, make us happy” mentality. And that’s because that’s not the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, he taught us “your will be done, only give us what we need to do it.”

I used to think my faith would never be fulfilled unless I led someone to Christ. But eventually I came to understand that God’s plan may or may not involve anything I plan or expect to do. However, many in the church think that their sole purpose in life, no matter how unsuccessful they may be is to “win souls for Christ.” I can appreciate the enthusiasm, but you will be held accountable at the judgment for those you drive away I believe. This is something Casper works through in the book. He sees that many times, Christians only have non believing friends as projects. The only reason they keep them around is to try to convert them. That is no friendship at all.

Another common thing in contemporary Christianity is the notion that we have to pray some kind of prayer to accept Jesus into our heart and “get saved.” Jesus didn’t work that way. He just walked up to the tree and said “Zaccheus, I’m coming to your place tonight.” I don’t know how much of the conversation isn’t recorded, but interestingly enough, Jesus never tells Zach to ask himself into his heart. No prayer, all Zach does is offer to pay back all he has taken and to help the poor, and Jesus says he has salvation. That’s all it took from Zach. Jesus didn’t even tell him to be baptized. All Zach had to do is repent and to do what was right and to do the kinds of things Jesus did and he was in. Now of course, I say “all he had to do” and it ends up being in a sense way more than simply praying a prayer, but that is my whole point. True faith in Jesus was never just praying a prayer and showing up to church, maybe tossing a fiver in the plate once and a while. True faith in Christ was and has always been a radical change in your life, your way of thinking, and I’d say in a sense, who you are. Salvation is simple, but it should not be made easy, it is also hard, but it should not be made difficult. A single prayer or full-blown legalism, either way is not the real way. The right way is what Jesus said, “follow me.”

Later on was the chapter about Emergent churches. Here I think Jim needed to do a little more research because the two churches he visited were not really all that emergent, and Mars Hill especially. Imago Dei was closer, but still not on the caliber of some of the others like Mars Hill Bible. At any rate, I don’t know if any of the three churches even claim to be part of the movement anyway. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Imago Dei, and this book is no exception. Casper found it very refreshing, a church in an old building, a video of restoring a park, sermon on giving in a real way and stuff like that. It was practical and relevant. Mars Hill on the other hand was more fundamentalist, more focused on not sinning, and mentioning sex a lot as Driscoll tends to do. I do listen to Driscoll quite a bit, every week generally, but I don’t really agree with him on a whole lot of things. I do understand what he has to deal with being in one of the centers of modern “Rome” as it were. These are the people needing “spiritual milk” as Paul would put it. However, he is quite rough, he used to be known as the cussing pastor and he is definitely Calvinist. But he is a good teacher. But like what Casper was looking for, I like the calls to action, and Mars Hill doesn’t support too many missionaries that I know of.

And finally were the mega churches of Joel Osteen and T. D. Jakes. These two churches tend to typify all that non-believers find hypocritical or off-putting about the Church today. It’s all about the glamour, the hugeness, and mostly, it’s all about you and your money. I agree with Casper when he says that it’s pretty hard to come up with “God is gonna make you rich” from the bible. There’s the problem of having a camel and a needle to fit him through. Leave it to an atheist to figure out the obviousness of that one. This section of the book is where I pretty much disagreed with Jim. He came from a Pentecostal background and could relate to T. D. Jakes’ church and how black people tended to use money to show they had overcome diversity. But what does that do for God’s work in the world? Sure, it makes them American, and shows they have over come American racial problems, but Christians are Christians first, not Americans first. Additionally, poverty and adversity is not only attached to people with dark skin, I know because I’m pretty darn white and I grew up poor. Poverty is not about lack of money, but I’ll explore that one at some point in the future.

In conclusion, it is Casper’s question that really tells the point of the whole book. “Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?” Wow, it hits the heart. We love us some church, but Jesus never mentioned church. He mentioned the congregation. He mentioned the poor, the downtrodden, the disadvantaged and the religious. WWJD. Again, leave it to an atheist to really put meaning to a Christian cliché, which is what has become.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Another Update on Energy Consumption Resulting from our Seisco Water Heater.

Last month I reported usage down to 25 kWh per day, this month it is down to 22. This is below November, but not quite at October yet. Due to a couple of cold streaks, we have still been heating from time to time, but the nights are starting to be warmer, 60 tonite, so hopefully we won't have to heat anymore.

I am also encouraging the use of the clothes line outside to further save energy.

Another report in a few weeks.


Monday, May 12, 2008

The Very Definition of "What a Load of ...."

A very noble woman has just recently died, her name was Irena Sendler. She was instrumental in the rescue of over 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw ghettos during the holocaust. She was captured, severely tortured and left in the woods with many broken bones by the Nazis. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, but lost to........

wait for it......

brace yourself.......

Al Gore.

Sometimes I am sick to my stomach to be grouped in with humans.

Monday, May 5, 2008

My Eschatology (My Scrubs-like Title.)

My JW cousin asked me what my beliefs were on the future, so I decided this was a good opportunity to outline my eschatology.

Let me preface this by affirming the following maxim. In essentials, unity, in non-essentials, liberty, and in all things love. That is to say, in the not vital, and easily arguable things like eschatology, there is no need to divide, but we can have vigorous debate.

Ok, here it goes. This whole thing starts with the work of Christ, and begins with him in Matthew 24, however Daniel and other prophets predicted the things that would happen to him, and he spoke in the prophetic language that they did. My view hinges on the understanding that the writers of the New Testament were extremely well studied in the Old Testament. And as you speak in the “language” of your Bible, so did they. They used the same euphemisms, allegories, figures of speech. The writers of the New Testament were predominantly Jewish, and as Josephus said, the Jews prided themselves on the education of their children. They were brought up with the Torah and Prophets as pretty much the only book they ever read, or had read to them. They were taught from it, every subject, grammar, spelling, etc. The best of these children were chosen by rabbis to become rabbis. They very commonly had vast amounts of the Torah and Prophets committed to memory, and we can see that evidenced by writers like Paul and others very often quoting from the law and prophets most likely from memory because they didn’t own a copy.

Another vital tenet of my view is the early writing of all the books of the New Testament. While it is difficult to prove each and every book conclusively, there are a few clues that stand out. The easiest to understand is the mentioning of the temple in Matthew 24. Jesus unequivocally predicts the destruction of the temple in verse 2. Matthew is well known for the way he speaks in his book. He speaks to a Jewish audience and many of the parables Jesus tells that are recorded by Matthew are directed at Jews. He focuses many times (21:4, 15:77, 13:35, 13:14, 12:17, 11:10, and others) on how something Jesus says or does fulfills Jewish scripture. So if Matthew was written after the destruction of the temple in AD 70, why would he not mention that as a fulfillment of Jesus’ prophesy to further prove him to be the Son of God? Writing to a Jewish audience, how can Matthew not mention the most traumatic event in Jewish history?

More important than that are the writings of John. One key to this is found in John 2:20 The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" When Jesus said that he would rebuild the Temple, his hearers said that it had taken forty-six years to build the Temple to that point. If one begins from the beginning of the reconstruction, then Jesus' conversation took place around 26/27. But that is not all. Verses 2 and 3 of John chapter five are written in the present tense. There IS a pool that HAS five colonnades, in these LAY a multitude…. If John had been writing in the mid 90’s AD as some have said he did on Patmos, how would he have known that they were still there, and wouldn’t it have been more likely that he’d have accurately reported its destruction since there is no way as a Jew that he wouldn’t have known that the Temple had been destroyed twenty five years earlier?

Most contemporary scholars see the book of Mark as the earliest of the canonical gospels (Brown, R., et al. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Prentice Hall, 1990,) and we can date it using Luke who also wrote Acts which ends before the death of Paul which leads most to believe that it was written before the death of Paul, Jude, and Peter, traditionally held to have occurred during the reign of Nero some time around 65 AD. This also places all of Peter’s and Paul’s books as well as Jude before that time, and using similar techniques, we can then place virtually every book of the Bible before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

Next we go back to what I mentioned earlier about the writers of the New Testament being familiar with the old Testament. If we look at Matthew 25:31, we’ll see something interesting. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.” If we take this literally, we have Jesus coming, then suddenly being back in heaven on the throne. How can this work unless we reinterpret where he is coming to and what his coming means. It is obviously being told from the perspective of heaven, Jesus coming to sit at the right hand of the Ancient of Days as Daniel 7:13 says. But what of the power and glory mentioned in Matthew 16:27, 24:30, and 25:31? We can understand this by a pair of prophecies against Egypt found in the Old Testament. “Behold the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt” Isaiah 19:1. “…the day of the LORD is near, it will be a day of clouds” Ezekiel 30:3 and “Thus I will execute judgments on Egypt. Then they will know that I am the LORD.” 30:19. More of the same language is found in Psalm 97:1-6, 104:1-3, Nahum 1:1-3, and other places. So, Jesus ascends, comes into the presence of the Ancient of Days, sits on his throne in judgment, and within 40 years of his death, the same court that condemned him is condemned by him and it’s people as well, and the temple, Gods representation of his presence on earth is destroyed for all time and the old covenant abolished. So instead of the coming mentioned in Matthew and Daniel as a literal event, it is properly understood in the Biblical prophetical context of a judgment of the nation of Israel.

Try it for yourself, knowing what I just told you, read Matthew 16:27-8. Now it pops out at you with a truth not often seen. Verse 27 is prophetically figurative and verse 28 is stone cold literal.

Now for Revelation, the prophetic coded narrative of the events of the reign of the beast, the great tribulation and political commentary on the Roman Empire. But before we begin this, there is one vital issue to clear up. Who is the whore or harlot in Revelation? This is by far the simplest question to answer. Who has she always been? Throughout Old Testament prophesy, there is very graphic and very vivid imagery regarding this subject. The whore is, was, and has always been Israel. There is no Biblical evidence to support it being anyone or anything else, especially when we remember that the writers of the New Testament were far more well versed in the prophets than we are today. Israel was called the whore in ancient times, why would Jewish writers not continue to call her that especially when making the same kinds of prophecies.

So lets start at the beginning of Revelation, and lets keep it stone cold literal for a minute or two. “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place… for the time is near.” And then back to our Old Testament prophetic understanding of figures of speech in verse 7, “Behold he is coming with the clouds and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him.” Wow, this really sticks in with what we’ve been studying huh? Revelation continues on from here with a few letters to ancient churches, coincidently, none of them have survived history.

Now it is difficult to go through verse by verse and check this whole thing out, so I will pick out a few things and hash them over, but before we really get in to it, we must understand that Revelation is a book that contains direct or indirect allusions to old testament passages in 2/3 of its verses or more. This book very closely parallels Ezekiel in a number of ways, almost chapter by chapter, or two by two in Ezekiel’s case.

Lets look at some of the things that pop culture as focused on in recent years. The mark of the beast found in chapter 13 verse 16 and following. It says that persons were marked on their right hand or their forehead. This is ancient language as well. In ancient times, this figure of speech was known more simply like a reputation. Your right hand represented what you did, your forehead represented what you believed, extremely similar to the phrase “by their fruits you will know them.” So you know someone by their fruits, by the works of their hand, and by what they believe, their mark. Secondly, is the number of the beast. We often hear it as six six six. However, the number is actually 666, six hundred sixty six. The Hebrew language does not have separate characters for numbers and letters as English does, it uses the first ten letters to count for 10 numbers, and then tens, hundreds, and so on. If we attach a letter meaning to a number, a code if you will, like we may have in school as kids, we get a concept called gematria. This was also commonly used in those times in both Greek and Hebrew. If we translate 666 to gematria, and add up the letters of the name of Neron Caesar, (Nero in Hebrew) we get 666, the number of the name of the beast as Revelation says.

Revelation also translates itself if we will just read it for all it is worth. 17:9 says “this calls for a mind with wisdom: the seven heads [of the scarlet beast] are seven mountains on which the woman is seated, they are also seven kings, five of whom have fallen, on is, the other has not yet come.” What city has been known for millennia as the city on seven hills? Rome. Seven kings, Caesars, the beast, Nero, the whore, Israel, the end of days, starts in chapter 19.

Chapter 19 is not like the bits before it. The war has ended, every thing is over, and John lets us know that this is a different part of the vision by saying “After this…” This is the part yet to come. This is the end, the finish of Satan, the final judgment, the New Heaven and the New Earth. Here we have the description of the holy city, the New Jerusalem, and in chapter 22, we have Jesus words that bring us back to Matthew. Verse 12 says “behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.” For now the judgment is not only of the Jewish nation, but of the whole world.

So what do I have to wait for? What is yet to come? What do I know about the future? Exactly what Jesus said I would. Matthew 24:36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the son…Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not expect.” I await the same thing the disciples did, and the same thing every true believer has ever awaited, we are waiting to see the Son of Man coming back in the same way he was seen going, into the sky, as the angels told us. Because we don’t need to read the Bible with a newspaper in our other hand, like one is just as important as the other because newspapers will pass, but God’s word is forever. People have been predicting the end since the beginning, but Jesus was extremely clear on the fact that no one will know when it will happen. So I live my life as if Jesus will come tomorrow, or today, or maybe in 200 years, like he said, no one knows.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Earnhardt Jr. Doesn't Win..........Again

If you pay attention, you already know that I watch NASCAR, and this isnt about that, it's about Wikipedia. Kyle Busch and Dale got together and Dale was in first, and Dale got wrecked, and now everyone hates Kyle, maybe he did it on purpose, but probably not. Anyway, I just happened to find this little paragraph in Busch's Wikipedia article, mere minutes after the race. I'll post it here for posterity sake because it sure won't be on Wik for long. Busch's teammate Hamlin stopped on the track to cause a caution which also had a negative effect on Jr. Hamlin was held for two laps for that. Anyway, here's the quote.

"On May 3, 2008 Kyle Busch turned into Dale Earnhardt, Jr., who was leading the race, and caused Earnhardt to back his car into the fence. He obviously hit Dale Jr. as a last ditch effort to win the race, which failed miserably because the #8 of Mark Martin kept him away from the leader. The night before Steve Wallace did nearly the same thing to Busch in the Nationwide Series race and became heated after the race, calling Wallace immature. Moses should burn this shrub for his actions at Richmond."

So, this shows a problem with Wikipedia, but it will be cleared up soon, it's the nature of the thing.