Archive Page 2

08
Jan
10

The House

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

Matthew 7:24-25

AGREE? or DISAGREE? 

 

You never know how well a house is built until it is tested by the weather. Rain reveals the character of a roof.

Friends of mine in Houston experienced this first hand as the remnants of a hurricane dumped sizable amounts of water on their homes and businesses. Wind and cold temperatures reveal how well a house is insulated. Anyone who has sat next to a drafty window in a windstorm knows this. Heat and sun reveal the quality of the paint and outer siding.

 All of these are external elements. What isn’t necessarily seen is the foundation. Whether it’s solid or insubstantial, it will ultimately reveal if you have a secure and lasting dwelling on your hands.

Similar arguments can be said to apply to our relationship with each other as members of the body of Christ. You never know how strong a relationship is until it is tested by the pressures of living. The seasonal rains of sorrow and pain can reveal how well a relationship will withstand conflict. The wind and cold of those times when you’re not speaking to each other reveal how well a relationship is insulated against the selfishness we are all capable of at times. The heat and sun of the day-to-day pressures of life reveal the quality of a relationship to the viewing public, who seem to always be looking for our Christian paint to start cracking and peeling off.

Then there are those little things that creep into a house or a relationship that reveal its security.

         

You may have the best Schlage or Kwikset locks on all the doors, but until the typical pests like ants, cockroaches, rodents, etc. challenge a house, you don’t know its true internal integrity. We’ve fought with ants before; they are a given where I live (the running joke is that the old Indian name for our community roughly translates to “built upon ant hills”). I look at them like the occasional irritations that come into our lives and friendships. You certainly don’t like them around, but aside from the inconvenience, they really are dealt with fairly easily and quickly. However cockroaches and rodents are something else. They multiply quickly. They do much of their damage in secret, but inevitably begin to drop evidence of their existence in the little messes they leave behind.

         

At one point we were attacked by cockroaches and rodents at the same time. We called the exterminator out and he set the traps and sprayed, but we share a common wall with our neighbor, so all we may have done was chase the little critters next door. The same situation can also occur in relationships, especially if as Christians we remember we share a common wall with brothers and sisters in the Lord.

And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

1 Corinthians 12:26

 

If we let things into our lives that do not glorify the Lord, we obviously harm ourselves, but there is still great potential to damage our relationships within the Church. Each believer is a part of His body! Even upon confession and removal of a private sin from our lives, our previous actions may have succeeded in introducing our little pest into our friends’ lives. The Bible is specific in how we are to deal with sins in our lives (1 John 1:9). And there is no privacy with sin as far as God is concerned (Luke 12:2-3). Sin has significant consequences. And all sin is against God and the Church, Christ’s body. David understood this when he cried out after being confronted by Nathan about his sin with Bathsheba.

Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—that You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.

Psalm 51:4

 

All our relationships, as believers, are to be examples of Christ-likeness. Do you really want to invite rats and cockroaches into your homes? Then why would we invite those things into our relationships that are just as secretive and just as destructive?

Take some time to examine the foundations of your relationships, especially with those you hold near and dear to your heart. Are they strong enough to the storms of weather life and all the natural assaults that will come along? How do we react when the trials come? Do we worry? Do we get angry? Do we take our lives into our own hands instead of committing them to Him, who should always be in control anyway? How do we handle sinful things that want to creep into our relationships? Are we hospitable to them or do we aggressively drive them out before they get a foothold? Christ uses these times in our relationships to help us recognize whether our foundations are upon sifting and changing sand or solid, immovable rock. 

GB&G2U

01
Jan
10

A Year Ago…

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.”

James 4:13-15

A year ago, I started this blog (actually a year and four days ago, but then that would sound like I was trying to hi-jack the Gettysburg Address).

In that time span my family has expanded, geographically (my eldest, her husband and daughter moved to Arizona).

My youngest moved back in with us. I’m still working at AT&T. I still serve as an elder at Grace Baptist Church, where we have a new Pastor (Pastor David Hegg).

I gave up teaching the Awana Journey 24/7 group at our church, but still get to drop in once in a while. When my son-in-law left last year, I took on the responsibilities for leading our Among Friends ABF on Sundays.

          

Early in the year, the teaching team for our ABF and I went to the Christian Ministry Training Association (formally GLASS) convention in Pasadena.

              

My wife, Barb, and I went to Maui for a vacation, where I took my first helicopter ride.

Life continues pretty much as it has for the past few years for me and my family. My prayers continue to be for the well being and success for my two daughters and son-in-law, for health and safety for my granddaughter as she grows up and trusts Christ, and for the health and blessings of my wife. All in all, I’m blessed. By His grace, I’ll be here next year, assessing my life, as He has seen fit to give it to me.

GB&G2U

31
Dec
09

It’s Complicated — A Review

…A simple, non-professional review of Nancy Meyers’ It’s Complicated.

It’s usually not a good idea to go to the show without knowing the times a particular movie will be shown. That happened as I went with my wife to see “a show” and ended up on going to Nancy Meyers’ new movie: It’s Complicated (Universal Pictures).

The picture is rated R for language and sexuality (however, though suggested, there was no nudity in the film I screened). Ms. Meyers does double duty again on this film, both writing and directing, as she did with 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give. And it’s another in a series of “middle-aged” romance films that have started to crop up in the last decade: including in addition to the aforementioned Something’s Gotta Give, Stranger Than Fiction, Last Chance Harvey, Because I Said So, just to name a few. And as to my reference to middle-aged, don’t burst my bubble by trying to tell me that people in their 50s and 60s are not middle-aged. Let me live in my little fantasy world a little while longer.

The movie follows a fairly familiar formula. Jane (Meryl Streep) is 60-ish, divorced for the past 10 years, and on the cusp of entering a truly empty nest era in her life. Having raised three children, Jane is a successful owner/operator of a local bakery. This is the second film this year I’ve seen with Ms. Streep where food plays a significant part of the characterization (the other being Julie and Julia). After an amicable if awkward encounter with her ex-husband, and his young, trophy wife, Jane sets off to say good bye to her youngest daughter as she leaves, presumably for college. Her eldest daughter is soon to be married and her only son will shortly graduate from college.

It’s time to make some changes in the house she lives in and has engaged an architectural firm that has assigned recently divorced (two years ago) Adam (a restrained and not seen too much Steve Martin).

    

In a “gal-pal” dinner, we meet three of her friends, played by Alexandra Wentworth, the ever sturdy and reliable Mary Kay Place, and Rita Wilson, who I love, but see too little of in movies. The odd thing was that Ms. Wilson seemed to be channeling a character from Sleepless in Seattle (Suzy, Tom Hanks’ sister), right down to the same expressions and reactions as Jane reveals details of her life.

Jane has a chance (?) meeting with Jake (a rather portly, Alex Baldwin), her ex-husband, in New York as the family has assembled to celebrate the graduation of their son. The encounter leads to the two former spouses into an affair (certainly not approvable Biblical behavior, but typical fodder for this type of film). Later we see Jane on the way to an elicit tryst with Jake, at the same hotel her daughter and future son-in-law, Harley (John Krasinski), are meeting to plan for their wedding reception. Krasinski adds a nice touch to the story as he functions as buffer when things get a little out of control. He’s seen everything that’s gone on and nothing at the same time. Never is he genuinely shocked by any of the events he witnesses. Her gal-pals all approve of the affair with her ex-husband. Even her psychiatrist urges her to continue. In the mean time, she is attracted to Adam, the architect, and ultimately ends up playing the two men off each other, when she feels she is being taken for granted by her ex-husband.

It’s Complicated isn’t that complicated. Sweetly predictable, the film presents the morals of our time (my generation) as they move on to their second and third marriages. However, stories like this only work when the wife is independently well off, often a professional, and reasonably good looking; hardly a realistic portrayal. However, the movie gives Ms. Streep a chance to display her considerable talents. Streep is an actress who has graced the screen in a wide variety of characters. Not what I would call attractive in a conventional sense, Streep projects a womanly grace that is undeniably appealing. Particularly in this film, she is extremely comfortable in her own skin; wrinkles and all. I admire her honesty at this stage of her life.

Remember, this a comedy where all the members of the romantic triangle are between 51 and 64. The youngest of the trio is Baldwin, who is able to effortlessly carry off looking and acting (mostly looking) older than his 51 years. My appreciation though is reserved for actresses like Streep. Through I do not approve of the characters they play, I do appreciate the candor such actresses like Streep, Diane Keaton, and others as the portray women who, though older, still project an attractiveness that’s enjoyable to see. I can’t recommend It’s Complicated to all audiences, but as long as you are a discriminating adult, who can distinguish a morally void piece of entertainment from real life, you’ll be okay. However, next time, I’ll make sure I know beforehand if Blindside is screening when I intend to arrive at the theatre.

RET

31
Dec
09

AVATAR — A Review

…A simple, non-professional review of James Cameron’s Avatar.

Have you ever gone to a movie and thought you’d seen it before; at least parts of it…several times. Such was the reaction I had to seeing James Cameron’s cinematic event; Avatar (20th Century Fox Film Corporation).

I went to a Christmas day screening of the film with my son-in-law. Obviously, he and I come from different generations. I don’t really know if he liked, loved, or hated the flick, but I was not too favorably impressed. I do believe that to be a generational thing. Movie-goers who grew up play all manner of video games will likely see Avatar as their Citizen Kane or Gone with the Wind. But that was not my reaction.

Before I launch into my assessment, let me say that Cameron is a master film maker. Avatar will undoubtedly garner him acclaim and accolade alike, and deservedly so. It is a cinematic tour de force that should be paid its due. However, it is will be for the technical achievements, and not for the writing or acting (though Sam Worthington and Sigourney Weaver did a good job, given the medium they were assigned to act in). Proclaiming that this is a “live action” film however does not negate the fact that we’re watching Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) here for the better part of the movie. Mary Poppins was a live action movie, but you never forgot that you were also watching cartoon characters as well, and I never forgot that in Avatar either.

Rather than masterpiece, I saw Avatar as a master-piecework of a film. It was as if Cameron took bits and pieces from so many other films and wove them into his 162 minute epic. When asked by my wife what movie we’d seen, I told her we saw several movies in one: Aliens, Apocalypto, Braveheart, Dances with Wolves, Jurassic Park, even The Lion King. I’ll do my best to synthesize these examples in this review.

Thematically, the film discouraged me on several aspects. In an age when this country is at war, and the depiction of armed service personnel, even if in this case soldier-of-fortune types, is a sensitive thing to approach. To have a film manipulate your feelings in such a way as to have you rooting against American forces bothered me. Cameron’s political message of “leave the indigence populations alone” comes across clearly. When we still have lunatics from the Middle East attempting to blow innocent Americans out of the sky, this perspective reflects the height of cowardly, seditious thinking to me. After the catastrophic attack on the tribal home, I found it offensive to see the scenes of the Na’vi walking through a devastated landscape that even Cameron admits evokes a 911, New York-like atmosphere, complete with ash floating down. Cameron’s ecological bias comes across in the film, as if his past documentary efforts weren’t emphatic enough. His pagan, goddess worshipping protagonists saddened me. Why is it so many film makers feel that every other form of worship is superior to Christianity? When was the last time you saw a big budget movie extol the virtues of Christianity? I digress.

On to the area of originality, I was shocked silly to discover that the name of the element sought by the “evil” American corporate type, Parker Selfridge (played by Giovanni Ribisi, who appeared to be acting as a transplant from a sitcom where the nebbish son or nephew of the “boss” is running things in this role), was: Unobtanium! Seriously? Unobtain-ium: A term attributed to aeronautical engineering of the 1950’s for something so rare and costly as to be impossible to get or harness.

             

Is this Cameron’s homage to Alfred Hitchcocks’ use of the MacGuffin (a thematic element, unnecessary to the story, designed to move the plot along)? If so, Cameron does a good deal of this in Avatar, either paying tribute or out-n-out attempting to “one-up” others in the industry. I couldn’t tell if it was honor or ego.

I mentioned earlier that Avatar reminded me of Aliens (also directed by Cameron, and starring Ms. Weaver). In Aliens, Cameron has the Ripley character (Weaver) battle the alien queen in a cargo-handling contraption called an exo-suit.

         

The exo-suit bore a more then coincidental resemblance to the beefed up, testosterone-infused Amplified Mobility Platform (AMP) used by Colonel Quaritch and others of the security forces.

The Na’vi tribe that paraplegic Marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) infiltrates and then joins reminded me of the Mayan tribesmen of Mel Gibson’s 2006 film, Apocalypto.

The tribal dress and haircuts were oddly reminiscent. In fact, it seemed that Cameron was further affected by one of Gibson’s own characterization in another move. At one point, Jake gives the Na’vi a rousing speech on how they must band together to fight the coming attack by the American forces. At this point I leaned over to my son-in-law and whispered, “Today we fight for Scotland!” being reminded of the “…Tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!” speech in Braveheart.

    

Maybe it was the blue make up, but the comparison fits.

Jake goes through quite a metamorphosis in the movie, as he not only takes on the avatar’s persona of a Na’vi, but ultimately becomes one of them, with scenes reminiscent of Keven Costner’s character in Dances with Wolves.

    

Once again, the battle wearied and scarred American soldier converts himself into the alien culture and ultimately ends up fighting alongside them, against his brother soldiers. The times have changed, but when the chips are down, in Cameron’s universe, the noble and heroic thing to do is to desert and fight to the death to defeat those you once stood with.

The CGI animation of the prehistoric creatures lacked the realism of the Raptors and Tyrannosaurus in Jurassic Park. Though it tried, maybe I’ve become too jaded by what has come before. I could not seem to see these as living, breathing beings, as I did when I marveled at the creatures in Spielberg’s classic.

Even Disney was treated to a Cameron do-over, as the focal point of the corporate greed (the afore mentioned, ridiculously labeled Unobtanium) is seated firming below the Na’vi’s sacred and hallowed home ground; Hometree. It appeared to me that Cameron used elements of The Lion King musical when in the second act, Simba and Rafiki meet at Rafiki’s Tree. That tree is duplicated in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park with the massive Tree of Life attraction, which has striking similarities to Cameron’s Na’vi Hometree. Now that I look at the two characters, Jake’s avatar and Simba even bear an uncanny resemblance.

    

As I said in the beginning, Cameron’s cinematic achievements in Avatar will be noted far and wide. However, I would have expected more for the estimated $300-400 million in production costs. And as for me, the film strikes out on so many levels. If you enjoyed it, I acknowledge your taste. For those of you who, like me, don’t share that experience, I see you.

RET

31
Dec
09

Diversions

 

© Solymosi Tamas | Dreamstime.com
http://www.mpaa.org/MovieAttendanceStudy.pdf

 

My next few posts will be different.

I didn’t post anything last week, during the Christmas holiday, because of the rush of the season and some recent personal issues that have befallen me and my family.

That said, I’ve decided to embark on a slightly different tack for these next few posts: Movie Reviews.

“…during the Great Depression…a higher percentage of the population went to the cinema each week than during the times of economic expansion and great prosperity…”

Michelle Pautz, 
The Decline in Average Weekly Cinema Attendance,
Issues in Political Economy, 2002, Volume 11

Because of or in spite of the things I’ve recently faced, I’ve found myself in the theatre lately, seek diversion. Studies show  that during difficult times in our culture, motion picture attendance increases, as people seek diversion from their personal problems.

“During the Depression, cinemas provided an escape from life and the plague of problems that accompanied it in the tough time…”

Michelle Pautz, ibid.

 

Let me say here, that our relationship with the Lord is enough to get us through the toughest of times (Philippians 4:13), but there are times when a person just doesn’t want to think about his problems and submerge himself in the dark of the cinema and forget for a few hours. That I have done recently. Besides, going to the movies around the New Years’ holiday has become somewhat of a tradition around our house, provided suitable entertainment can be found.

 “A major function of the cinema was a source of entertainment and a way for people to forget their troubles with stories that almost always had happy endings…

Michelle Pautz, ibid.

So, my regrets to all of you who stop by here for my usual blogs (Agree/Disagree, etc.), but we’ll be back on track soon. Until then, please tolerate my brief diversion…

GB&G2U

19
Dec
09

Hooking Up

In the summer of 2001, CNN reported on an Independent Women’s Forum study of college-aged women. The forum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational group, conducted a nationwide study over an 18-month period of time, surveying the attitudes of 1000 young women. The results indicated that almost 40% of the women responding described themselves as “virgins.” At the time, the study cited an unspecified number of these young women preferred “hook-up” relationships to dating. Hook-ups were described as encounters that ranged from casual kissing all the way up to sexual intercourse, where neither participant expected any further commitment from the other party. The study also revealed that 53% of those responding thought it was a good idea to live with a person before deciding to marry them. Results from studies like these always disturb me, because they are a direct attack by the enemy, attempting to undermine God’s purposes for an entire generation. Today I am involved teaching a fellowship of Christian men and women from this generation who are now raising their own families and issues of purity are now important to them.

As I write this, the Christian world is caught up in the preparations for Christmas and focusing on Christ’s birth to a virgin. Whether in the Old Testament Hebrew or the New Testament Greek, the Bible defines a virgin as a person (either male or female) who has had no sexual intercourse. In today’s culture, staying sexually pure (in thought, word and deed) is looked upon as way outside the normal scope. Our world would have us believe that “everybody does it” and the study’s results (remember, not even four out of every ten young women asked describe themselves as virgins) supports that. We live in a society that believes casual sex is natural, healthy behavior. Over half the women questioned thought living with someone before you got married a good idea. When I read these things, I’m grieved by the spiritual ignorance exhibited. But then this has been the bane of Bible-thumping, Christians throughout time. Aren’t I over reacting, just a little bit? After all, this has been going on for a long time, and we’re no worse off as a people, right?

2 Corinthians 11:2

For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

 

Paul expressed to the Corinthians his desire to see them presented as a wedding partner to Christ. As such, he wanted them to remain pure while waiting for the marriage day. To describe the passion of his feelings Paul uses a Greek term from which we get our word “zealous”. Paul had an intense fervor over them and their behavior. The responses of this study make me just as zealous for the purity and sanctification of the present generation! Studies, like the one above, remind me that I’m not doing enough.

In the passage above, Paul also uses the word chaste. This is an archaic word in today’s culture, but basically means inwardly pure, especially as it applies to conduct, how we act toward ourselves and others. It means untainted by sexual impurity, not just in action, but in desire and imagination as well. To be sure, sin has an external component, but purity and chastity have their inception internally. The Apostle John underscores this when he reminds us about the worldly enticements of the “lust or the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.”

2 Peter 1:13-16

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

 

One of our duties to this world is as defenders of what is pure and holy. Combating worldly attitudes and influences over things like casual attitudes about sex and relationships is our war. We cannot let the guard down for one moment. Yet, Peter calls on us who have accepted the name of Christ to be holy in our fundamental character and behavior as Christians so that we are peculiar, in contrast to the lifestyles of the unsaved. Not in a priggish, sanctimonious way, but in genuine distinction. We are to reflect the wholesome and winsome nature of holiness that causes the world to be genuinely attracted to us and the Lord and Savior we serve. We are to be holy, not just practice holiness, because we are now redeemed by God, the holy, just and pure creator of the universe!

GB&G2U 

12
Dec
09

Evolved or Created?

Hebrews 3:11

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

 

AGREE OR DISAGREE?

Time Magazine’s cover for the July 23, 2001 issue declared: “How Apes Became Human.” The opening paragraphs of the story, “One Giant Step for Mankind”, established Ethiopia as a harsh environment today, but a lush landscape some 6 million years ago, and went on to declare Ethiopia as the very cradle of the elusive “missing link,” all but completing the evolutionary chain: 

“…And it was here too that nature indulged in what was perhaps her greatest evolutionary experiment…” (emphasis is mine)

From that statement, some “higher authority” (nature in this case) conducted an evolutionary experiment that resulted in a new breed of ape that walked upright! Nearly 15 years after the term “intelligent design” came into the collective vocabulary of America (Edwards vs. Aguillard, 1987), everything I’ve heard since then in the great evolution vs. creation debate always rebukes we feeble-minded Christians for our staunch insistence that an intelligent being, out side of man (God, Almighty in our case), guided all of creation into existence. However Time Magazine was doing the same thing; giving nature anthropomorphic (or humanlike) characteristics (feminine in gender), with supernatural powers, in order to better depict the creation of human life. In this article, nature is described as giving into an unrestrained desire (to indulge) by exercising both will and intellect in performing a scientific activity designed to prove or discover a fact or law (an experiment).

This article, and many more since it was published, demonstrates even the secular mind is unable to escape the self-evident fact that all creation couldn’t just have happened through a trial-and-error happenstance of chance as proposed by the evolutionary theory. And let’s be clear right from the beginning, it is a theory; “an assumed hypothesis, unproven speculation, used to advance a set of principles for the sake of argument or investigation.” Nowhere in that definition do I see that theory is accepted, proven fact. It is, by definition, only assumed as true as to make an argument plausible.

This schizophrenic denial of God (an almost pathological hatred of anything that points to a creator, while acknowledging some external power at work in the creation of mankind) was brought back to me while I was channel surfing the other night. I paused on one of the CNN affiliated stations, where the Joy Behar show was airing (December 1, 2009). Ms. Behar, a comedian, writer, actress and now talk show host (thanks to her popularity on the ABC show, The View), was interviewing comedian Louis Black (careful, Mr. Black’s website IS NOT PG) when the topic of former 2008 Republican primary presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s stand on creation came up. Both judged Huckabee mentally unstable for his belief in creation over evolution. The attack was not only unwarranted, but in poor taste and left me profoundly saddened. Not for any affection on my part for Huckabee as a personality, but for the unequivocal rejection by these two souls of anyone who was deluded enough to believe in something as intellectually bankrupt as a literal, Biblical creation account.  

But it is that very account, in the first chapter of Genesis, which begins the entire salvation narrative, when it says that God created the heavens and the earth, the creatures of the sea, the land, the sky and mankind, male and female. How did God do it? Throughout the Biblical account, it states, “God said…” It was God’s word, His rhema, the spoken words of the Creator that declared creation into existence!

Romans 1:20

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

Just look at everything around you. God constantly supports, upholds and nourishes the earth and all upon it. Creation itself boldly proclaims God’s awesome power and glory. Remember, God started with nothing. The author of Hebrews underscores that the earth, eternity and time itself were all part of creation, brought about by God to fulfill His perfect will. And, as certain as we are that He did indeed create the earth and all the universe, we are just as certain He will bring it all to His desired conclusion. Nothing can inhibit the completion of what God started in creation and in you (Philippians 1:6). We trust in God’s sovereign power, as He created the world and then, through the saving power of our Savior, Jesus Christ, redeemed us to further carry out His will.

When was the last time you gave God praise and glory for His creation? How often do you stop to appreciate the delicate yet complicated way you’ve been created? Consider how you play an important part in God’s will. If that doesn’t give you a reason to be excited about the faith that is within you, I don’t know what will. Then, think of those individuals blinded by this world and its system of lies and rejection. Think of the Joy Behars and Louis Blacks, who cannot accept that an almighty, compassionate, and holy God created them. You may have friends or family in the same frame of mind. Pray that God will continue to soften their hearts to the Gospel message and redeem them as well. As difficult as that may seem to you, it’s not a challenge too big for the Creator of all things!

GB&G2U




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