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A lesson from "Perks"

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OK.  This is my first post here.  As a Christian, I thought I'd try and post a spiritual truth that you can see displayed (intentionally or unintentionally) in some of Emma's films.  I'm hoping to add to this once a week.  The first one I'll try is Perks of Being a Wallflower.  Here goes:


“We accept the love we think we deserve.†There’s a lot of truth in that statement.  If we’re honest, most of us would admit that we have a hard time thinking that others would truly love us if they really got to know us.


Most people are aware of their own bad habits, selfishness, and mistakes. We often act like Adam and Eve, when they heard God walking in the Garden after they had sinned. They tried to hide from God, because they felt they were no longer worthy of His love – He only asked of them one thing – and they knew they blew it, so they were scared.


It’s this same fear that makes all of us do stupid things.  Guys act foolish and hurt other people, just to impress their “friendsâ€.  Girls date guys who hurt them.  People enter into relationships with others that are either physically or emotionally abusive. Many of these eventually end, but then the same people simply develop new ones that are just as destructive.  It’s a vicious cycle.  All of this is due to one thing: In our heart of hearts, this is all of the love that we believe we could possibly deserve. We’re afraid to think that we are worth so much more!


The Bible tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. But people unwilling to accept the perfect love of God remain frightened.  So they turn to other things to dull their senses…alcohol, drugs, shopping, eating, etc.  These things often help us temporarily work through the pain. But they are not the answer.

Accepting the perfect love that comes from God is the real solution, but Satan is sneaky. Sometimes he’ll even use the truth if it benefits him. Ultimately, we are all just sinners, unworthy of God’s love. He’ll make sure we understand this, but that’s all he wants us to know.


But of course, there’s more to the story. As C.S. Lewis puts it, “God loves us; not because we are loveable but because He is love, not because He needs to receive but because He delights to give.†I like the Hawaii Pidgin Bible’s version of Romans 5:8. A loose translation of this same passage back into regular English would be, “God showed the plentiful love that he had for us, because at the same time we were doing all kinds of bad stuff, Christ was willing to die for usâ€. God’s love for us is infinite. And even though we aren’t worthy of it, because His love is unlimited, He chooses to love us anyway.


The real problem is our acceptance of Him. The beginning of true self-esteem is the realization that even though we’ve got quirks, problems, and misgivings; God chose to love us anyway. We were not loved because we were worthy, but because God made us worthy through His Son Jesus Christ. That’s how much it cost Him. That’s how much He loves us. That’s the love that we long for, even though we don’t deserve it.



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  • 2 weeks later...

A Lesson from "Pacific Rim".


OK.  My next entry is not on an Emma Watson movie.  However, it is about a movie that she recommended people see via her Twitter account.  That’s close enough for me!


The movie I’m talking about is Pacific Rim.  Pacific Rim is about these huge monsters called Kaijus that have come up to the earth’s surface through a hole in the ocean floor.  To fight the monsters, the world builds these large fighting robots called Jaegers.  Just like most films, at one point things look desperate, but of course humanity and the Jaegers win in the end.


In the story, the people of the world, through a mathematical formula, know almost exactly when the evil Kaijus will appear.  In addition, after the Kaijus appear, the good guys are almost instantly aware of their location.  To top this off, the bad creatures usually appeared only one at a time.


If only real life were like this!  If we could know exactly when and where our problems were going to come, and if they would come to us one and a time; life would be quite simple.  But our own experiences show the opposite to be true.


In reality, we often don’t know when we’ll face temptations.  Problems come in groups, and when we least expect them.  It’s just when we think everything’s okay that a temptation seems to overwhelm us.


But there is hope.  The good news is that Christ does not leave us alone.  The apostle Paul wrote the following words,


13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Cor 10:13 (NLT)


The truth is, we may face multiple problems and temptations…but for us as believers, we can put our hope in this: God knows our limits and He will never give us more than we can handle.  When we’re going through a tough time, Christ will be there with us to show us the way through.   Even if it doesn’t end well for us here and now, that’s okay.  Our hope was never really in this world, but in the world to come.

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  • 2 weeks later...

For the next one I finally get to the Harry Potter series.


Harry Potter and the ontological argument!  I'm writing this from the Christian perspective.  It's just my opinion.  Please don't be offended.  Feel free to disagree.  Anyway, here goes...


How many times do we see the concept of the substitutionary atonement through sacrifice in fantasy literature? Just off the top of my head there's not only Harry Potter...there is also a lot of other good fantasy with the same theme. Think about Thor, or The Fantastic 4 - Rise of the Silver Surfer, or Narnia's The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, or The Matrix just to name a few. All of these stories revolve around the idea of the atonement through sacrifice.


Now take this into the realm of philosophy. The Ontological argument for God's existence basically starts out with a dream argument...the idea that we can only dream of things that are logically possible. In other words, we can dream of crazy things…such as people flying…but we can’t dream of illogical things.  In other words, we can dream of people flying because we know people exist, and we know some things can fly.  But we can't dream of circles that are squares, for example, no matter how hard we try...because such objects are inconceivable to our minds.


However, many of us do dream about things such as Heaven and God. The very fact that we do shows that it is at least logically possible for God to exist.  Some people take the argument a step further...the basic idea being this: if we can imagine a supreme being...then one must exist, because limited, finite beings created by chance would have never thought of such a concept.


I believe that the very fact that people dream of better worlds...whether they be Hogwarts, Narnia, or a world outside of “The Matrixâ€...might be do to the idea of a better world being put into our minds from the beginning. The ontological argument makes the assumption that the reason we think of these things is most likely due to a true better world actually existing.


But if this is true, then how do we get there? I think that it’s interesting that in most of our fantasy literature we get there through an atoning sacrifice. Harry saved Hogwarts...Aslan saved Narnia...Neo saved the people from “The Matrixâ€, etc. I believe the reason that human authors seem to be drawn to this theme is because we somehow know it to be true.


This also doesn’t appear to be a new concept.  In the past, people have made up creation stories...such as The Gilgamesh Epic...because they have always known that we were created and not put here by chance. In the same manner, I think the main reason people make up atonement fiction (and it's so popular) is due to the fact that all people know in their hearts that the atonement did or at least needs to happen.


Even in the book of Job, which may be the oldest book of the Bible, we see a person that looked forward to someone that would be the atoning sacrifice…


25 â€œBut as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last.â€

Job 19:25 (NLT)


From the Christian perspective, we believe that many years ago...God did indeed come to the Earth in human form. He came to die in our place and save us from our own destruction.  He did not sin and did not deserve to die, but He willingly died and rose again. Now He sits at the right hand of the Father in Heaven...and as many who are willing to believe; He calls them out of this world to the place that our hearts have always been longing for in our dreams...our eternal home...Heaven.


11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Eccl 3:11 (NLT)

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  • 2 weeks later...

How about the Noah movie, what can we learn from it?


Basically, we can learn the concept of original sin and judgment. I think that the movie also provides a bridge to the Abraham/Isaac story and the concept of a sacrificial atonement. My explanation is REALLY long and ruins the plots of both “Noah†and “Facing the Giantsâ€, so if you’ve never seen them and don’t want to know what happens, then don’t read on! Otherwise, here goes:


I liked the Noah movie. In preparation for the movie I re-read Enoch, the beginning of Genesis, and a slightly abridged English version of The Gilgamesh Epic. As you can tell, I was quite excited before it even came out. After seeing it, I thought that Darren Aronofsky made a good movie, and I think that Emma’s performance was terrific.


But as a Christian, the question again is what can we learn from it?


First of all, I think the movie itself more closely followed the Book of Enoch than the book of Genesis.

What is this book of Enoch? The book of Enoch was a book that was not included in most Jewish cannons of the Old Testament.  According to Wikipedia there is a group of Ethiopian churches that have accepted it, but most have not.


I think the biggest argument against Enoch being legitimate comes from the story of how it was supposedly “handed downâ€. The story goes that Enoch wrote this book…and he gave it to Noah to save on the ark…and that’s why we have it today. The problem is, if Enoch wrote the book, and then he gave it to Noah…in what language would it have been written? It would have been written in the world’s first universal language. It was only about 100 years after the Noah story in the Bible and what do you have happening next? The tower of Babel, where all of the earth’s languages were confused. But the oldest fragments of Enoch that exist are written in Aramaic. It’s just not old enough. Most Christian and Jewish groups would consider this book a forgery, not really written by Enoch. But it’s still good to understand it.


In a nutshell, the book of Enoch tells of these angels that decided to have sex with human women. Samyaza was kind of the leader of these angels…and you find him mentioned by name in Aronofsky’s Graphic novel. The way Enoch puts it is that there were many of these chief angels, and they taught the humans living at the time all these different things: sorcery, incantations, using roots and plants, etc.The offspring of these people were Giants. And the giants were evil and killing each other…and the people were using all of this stuff and killing each other. And so, that’s why there had to be a flood.


If we take all of this to the Bible, there is this one passage in Genesis 6 that is quite confusing. I don’t know if we’ll ever have consensus on exactly what happened here this side of Heaven. Genesis 6:1-8 tells us,


1 Then the people began to multiply on the earth, and daughters were born to them.2 The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives.3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.â€4 In those days, and for some time after, giant Nephilites lived on the earth, for whenever the sons of God had intercourse with women, they gave birth to children who became the heroes and famous warriors of ancient times.5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.6 So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart.7 And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.â€8 But Noah found favor with the Lord. Gen 6:1-8 (NLT)


Now, who are these “Sons of God†that had sex with these daughters of men?


Back when I was in seminary, our theology teacher, Dr. Elmer Towns, he taught us that there were a number of ways that this passage could be explained. Basically, everything in the next 3 paragraphs in quotation marks below is a rough quotation of Dr. Towns.


“FIRST, some people thing that this passage does suggest sexual relations between fallen angels (or demons) and the human race. There is some support for this. The term ‘Sons of God’ always seems to refer to angels in the Old Testament. The passage seems to imply that the resulting offspring of these unions were Giants. In this case, the Flood was not just a natural consequence but a universal judgment of such vast devastation that eliminated any trace of the sin and unnatural offspring of the cohabitation between angels and women.

In addition, 2 Peter 2:4-5 seems to imply the same, inferring that there were angels that sinned.


4 For God did not spare even the angels who sinned. He threw them into hell, in gloomy pits of darkness, where they are being held until the day of judgment.5 And God did not spare the ancient world—except for Noah and the seven others in his family. Noah warned the world of God’s righteous judgment. So God protected Noah when he destroyed the world of ungodly people with a vast flood. 2 Peter 2:4-5 (NLT)


SECOND, however, and a totally different view, is that what Moses was writing to us in Genesis was God’s explanation of a godly line from Seth intermarrying with the ungodly line of Cain. This would make sense in the sense that the previous two chapters of Genesis list the godly and ungodly genealogies

Furthermore, in Matthew 22:30 Jesus said that angels do not reproduce.â€


All of this being said…if you hold to view #2…then the entire Noah movie is going to be inaccurate. (Again, not to say that it won’t be a good movie…but it will be totally out of context).


At least if you hold to view #1…then there is some kind of strange angel/human thing going on…so having these “Watchers†(rock type creatures…fallen angels that the comic novel refers to) running around is at least a possibility.


But even if you hold view #1, then there’s still a lot of additional material added. Emma’s character, Ila, she doesn’t even exist in either Genesis or Enoch. And here you have her, she becomes like an adopted daughter of Noah. Noah at this point has determined that the best way to stop the inherited sin from Adam is to just let the entire human race die out…the plan is Shem & Ila will bury Noah and his wife…Ham will bury Shem & Ila, and Japeth, will then be the last man.


The caveat though, is Ila finds out she is pregnant while on board the ship. She ends up having twins…two girls. Noah decides to kill the children, because he wants the human race to stop.Ila asks if she can just hold them, and she sings a lullaby to them, and then she tells Noah to go ahead and kill them…and then in a “Noah meets Abraham/Isaac Momentâ€â€¦Noah says he can’t do it…and right after, the dove comes by with the olive branch in its mouth.

Following this, the people then return to land, and we’re taken to the scene of Noah getting drunk and Ham seeing him naked…and the idea is that of course sin still reigns in people. It basically ends with Ila telling Noah that maybe he can teach the remaining people to be better…to give them hope.


So what does Aronofsky get right? He gets right the idea that humanity is sinful. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God†(Romans 3:23). To the people saying that the movie made Genesis to be about environmentalist issues, it didn’t seem that way to me at all. There were places where the Noah character in the movie stresses the importance of being a good steward…but that to me is a Biblical concept…we’re not to waste things…and I thought that both the graphic novel and the movie made it clear that people are just sinful…arrogant, proud, etc…it’s sin that’s the problem.


What’s the solution though? We just teach people better? In the Noah movie…I think the whole temptation for the sacrifice of Ila’s two children is an allusion to the Abraham/Isaac story…but what really happened that kept Abraham from killing Isaac? God provided the sacrifice…Look at Genesis 22…


7 Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?†“Yes, my son?†Abraham replied. “We have the fire and the wood,†the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?â€8 “God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,†Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.9 When they arrived at the place where God had told him to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood.10 And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice.11 At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!†“Yes,†Abraham replied. “Here I am!â€12 “Don’t lay a hand on the boy!†the angel said. “Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.â€13 Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son.14 Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provideâ€). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.†Gen 22:7-14 (NLT)


God provided the sacrifice to die in the place of Isaac. As Christians, we believe that God provided the ultimate sacrifice…Christ died in our place. He died when we deserved to die.


It’s interesting, Darren Aronofsky only considers himself culturally Jewish…but he has a handle on sin…he understands that humanity is sinful. He knows the need of judgment for sin. But it’s almost like, what hope can there be…look at all the bad we’ve done?


What about Emma? I think she did amazing. But in the publicity, she comes out with this interview saying that she’s a spiritual universalist who believes in a “higher powerâ€. She kept saying, [my rough summary of her quotes], “All these cultures have flood stories, and we should celebrate this.†That’s the only thing that disappoints me. Technically all of these faiths having flood stories is a true statement. But what’s the problem? The problem with this for me is that all of these flood stories clearly aren’t the same.


You take something like the Gilgamesh Epic. In that story, Utnapishtim was sort of the Noah…he wasn’t really the focus of the story. Utnapishtim was the one that survived the flood and the “gods†granted him immortality. Gilgamesh sought him out, but he himself wasn’t granted immortality. However, Utnapishtim’s wife told him about a magical plant that would help him be young again. So Gilgamesh manages to get this plant, but just before he eats it a snake takes it and eats it. Gilgamesh then learns to accept mortality. This isn’t the same story at all, although it does mention a flood and a man that survived it and took two of each animal with him.


People will say that the Gilgamesh story is older (it may be the oldest book in existence), so it must be the true one…and the Bible is making things up…but most evangelical Christians hold to the view that God explained the first five books of the Bible, mainly to Moses, who wrote them down…(although I guess Joshua probably wrote part…I doubt Moses wrote about his own death)…so we believe that Moses had an eyewitness in God himself. The Babylonians got part of the story right, but we believe that they messed it up as it was handed down through time. I have to admit, Christians have no proof of this…we believe this by faith. Regardless what one thinks about this, though, it can clearly be seen that these two stories are not the same.


Now the Christian message of Noah is what? Genesis 6:8 and Hebrews 11:7…


8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Gen 6:8 (KJV)

7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. Heb 11:7 (KJV)


God decided to show his grace to Noah…and Noah responded in faith.


What do we get from the movie…we get an understanding of sin and the need for judgment…Sadly, though, there really isn’t a reason for hope…except for Ila trying to console Noah by telling him that maybe one day people will learn.


All in all, though, I appreciate the honesty of Paramount Pictures. Right up front they said that this movie is inspired by Noah…they didn’t claim it as a word for word retelling. They admitted that this wasn’t the purpose.


Furthermore, we have had “Christian†movies from “Christian†production companies. An example would be, “Facing the Giantsâ€. Movies like this didn’t come with a disclaimer, and yet, what did “Facing the Giants†teach? In that movie, the basic plot goes as follows: before following Christ, a football coach was about to lose his job, his football team was losing, his car didn’t work, his house smelled, and his wife couldn’t get pregnant.  Then, the man decides to follow Christ, and he ends up keeping his job, the football team wins, he gets a new car, they find the dead mouse that smelled up the house, and the wife gets pregnant. It’s like a come to Christ and all your earthly problems are all solved…it doesn’t represent “a take up your cross and follow me†picture at all. It's a terrible misrepresentation of the Gospel. And yet, this is sold on DVD at Christian Book Stores with no apologies. And Christian’s don’t complain about the movie being totally inaccurate…they promote it.


On the other hand, you have the “Noah†movie…and it’s made mostly by people who were not Christians…and Paramount is up front and honest that it’s not a retelling of Genesis…and the movie attempted to get some things right (fountains of the deep, dimensions of the ark, explanations for how the animals possibly hibernated to survive the journey)…but still, some Christians response was, “Well, if it’s made by an atheist, I’m not going to it.†A response like this seems hypocritical to me.


I mean some of the Facebook comments about the people involved with this film were really mean, and many of those comments came from people that considered themselves Christians. It seems so often that Christians raise the bar higher for non-believers than they do their own. The double standard just makes me sick. On one hand, I guess I can understand people having a high view of the Bible getting upset if the story is changed…and I can understand people pointing to John’s prohibition of adding words to scripture from Revelation 22…but to me this wasn’t really adding words to scripture…Darren didn’t rewrite a Bible…he rewrote a story from the Bible and made it into a movie, and the producers from Paramount were up front and honest that it was simply based on the Biblical story, not a retelling of it.


To sum up, I enjoyed the movie. I didn’t expect it to be accurate. I guess it could confuse some people. But I think that the movie Noah correctly presents the concept of sin, and the need for the judgment of sin. In addition, the ending makes for an easy transition to talk to people about the story of Abraham and Isaac and the meaning of the Gospel.

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  • 3 weeks later...

While We Were Young


This movie hasn’t even happened yet.  But I read through some of Ling’s post of the novel.  In the part that I read, there is this 75 year old lady using self-deprecating humor to explain old age.  She’s reminiscing about the past and things she could have done differently.


What can we learn from this?  I think we’re often tempted to glamorize our own pasts.  Looking back, we remember the good times, but we often forget about the struggles and work that took place when those memories were made.  Through our own internal editing, we develop a view of the past that really isn’t accurate.  When we compare our present to this jaded view that we’ve created…our current reality has a hard time measuring up.  We end up feeling depressed.   


Hopefully the following illustration will help.  In one of the Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis talks about a woman being tempted with help from a demon named Glubose.  She unintentionally glamorizes the past, and becomes trapped in what Mr. Lewis calls an, “All I want†state of mind.   An excerpt from the story is as follows:


“Glubose has this old woman well in hand.  She is a positive terror to hostesses and servants…All she wants is a cup of tea properly made, or an egg properly boiled, or a slice of bread properly toasted.  But she never finds any servant or any friend who can do these simple things ‘properly’ – because her ‘properly’ conceals an insatiable demand for the exact, and almost impossible palatal pleasures which she imagines she remembers from the past; a past described by her as ‘the days when you could get good service’ but known to us as the days when her senses were more easily pleased and she had pleasures of other kinds which made her less dependent on those of the table.†(Letter #17)


Mr. Lewis makes the point by using this fictional lady, who in the present thinks that no one can prepare her food properly, because in the past she had other pleasures and wasn’t really paying attention to her food.  Now that she inspects every piece of her meal with scrutiny and expects to get all of her pleasures from eating, she ends up disappointed. 


The point is this: we often look back and remember things as better than they actually were at the time.  Then we take those thoughts, and we compare them with the present.  This leads to complaining, resentment, and bitterness.


Sometimes this is easy.  In the Bible, when Job went through a series of terrible trials, it wasn’t difficult for him to long for the days of the past, saying,


“I long for the years gone by when God took care of me, when he lit up the way before me and I walked safely through the darkness. When I was in my prime, God’s friendship was felt in my home.  The Almighty was still with me, and my children were around me.  My cows produced milk in abundance, and my groves poured out streams of olive oil." Job 29:2-6 (NLT)


However, even though Job went through these bad situations which made his past look stupendous…the truth still remained that God had much more in store for him.  In fact, Job’s future ended up being much better than his original past, as chapter 42 tells us,


“So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys.13 He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters.†Job 42:12-13 (NLT)


The bottom line is this: We need to be honest about our past experiences.  And in reality, regardless what has happened with our lives to this point, there is always hope for the future.

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  • 1 month later...

This is the End


This is the movie where Emma Watson plays a character that thinks she’s going through a Zombie apocalypse.  She is not one of the main characters, but in her role she gets to attack people with an axe because she thinks she’s going to be sexual assaulted.


So…other than the importance of running away from a person yielding an axe, what can we learn from this movie?


Look, I know this is a comedy that basically pokes fun at end times beliefs…and I personally didn't like it and don’t want to see it again.  But if you peel away all of the terrible language, sexual references, and other crude jokes…there still might be some stuff that can be learned from it.


One thing this movie shows is how soft and dependent we have become.  The movie itself is referring to actors and celebrities…but to be honest I think most of us that live in developed countries often take our blessings for granted.  We can see something terrible on the news (perhaps about a sinkhole somewhere on the other side of the world) and we feel bad for about a little while, and then we go on with our lives.  But if our cable or internet goes out…it’s a tragedy! 


Look, I live in a somewhat rural area…and there are a lot of farmers that go out and do really hard work, taking care of animals and raising plants.  They work out in the dirt under the hot sun.  In the meantime, I sit in an air-conditioned office and prepare messages.  If the apocalypse comes and I end up going through the tribulation, I am not going to last long!  I just couldn’t handle all of the manual labor.   So on at least one level, the movie teaches us to be thankful for what we have.


In addition, I found it interesting that in one section of the movie, Jay Baruchel’s character says he’s quoting out of the Bible…and he says what he’s reading is from the book of Revelation…the part about “the good-hearted people being taken upâ€.  Well, the truth is that quote is nowhere in the real book of Revelation.  The movie writers just made it up.


I wonder how many people even noticed.  One of my sermon illustration books says that Benjamin Franklin used to rework Bible quotes using his printing press to support his own arguments.  In other words, he’d basically just put whatever he thought into Old King James English, print it in a font that matched that of most Bibles, and then go on to say that his quote was part of the book of John…and no one ever called him on it, because they never checked his references.


Amazingly, I found this misquoting of the Bible slightly more offensive than the language, drug, and sexual references…because to me there wasn’t even a need to do it.  I mean, regardless what religious book you decide to use in a movie…whether it be the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, etc., if you have a character say that he’s quoting a part of the book, and even have him holding the book…then quote it.  Why make up your own quote?


The same thing happens if someone is making a sports movie…perhaps about American football…and the players keep lining up in an illegal formation…it might not be an integral part of the movie itself, but it ruins the show if it’s not accurate...because we want to think that what’s happening on screen is at least plausible - even in a comedy.


So here’s what was happening.  The writers were basically assuming a pre-tribulation rapture when they wrote the script.   We know this because at the very beginning before all the bad things happened, Jay Baruchel’s character sees some people being taken up to heaven in these blue rays of light.


Just to explain, some Christians believe that one day Christ will appear, and when he does, all the believers that have died, followed by all the believers that still are on earth, they will be taken up to meet him in the air.  (This idea of being “taken up†is derived from a Latin word that basically translates into the English as rapture).  This was represented in the movie by the blue lights taking people into heaven. 


So, if you take this view, (this is part of only 1 of about 4 different systems of interpreting the book of Revelation)…but if you understand Revelation in this way, and you want to have Jay’s character read a passage that some Bible scholars believe refers to the rapture, then just have him read part of 1 Thessalonians 4:17…


…then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds  1 Thess 4:16-17 (ASV)


His character could have said, “Look, the Bible says that the dead would go first and that those that are alive, that are left, will meet God in the clouds…and that was the blue lights we saw…and we missed it.† The writers could have done all of this without making up a quote.  This was one of my major pet peeves about the movie.


But I think we can also learn from this that it is important to know what we believe.  When someone just starts making something up about our faith, we should be able to realize it.  Other than the messed up Revelation quote, this movie basically says that we atone for our sins by doing something really good…but for Christians, we believe that salvation comes through trusting in Christ as our Lord and Savior.  We do good works because of our love for Christ, not to earn God’s acceptance.  Our acceptance was already earned through Christ’s work on the cross.


“When Jesus died for the sins of the world, the righteousness of God was vindicated, for sin was judged; but the love of God was demonstrated, for a Savior was provided.†– Warren Wiersbe

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  • 4 months later...

“The Fault in Our Starsâ€


Well here’s my attempt at a Christmas devotion from “The Fault in Our Starsâ€.  This is a GREAT book/movie Emma once mentioned on her Twitter.  I think the author, Joe Green, was from Pittsburgh, where Perks was filmed.  According to Wikipedia he also volunteered as a chaplain at a children’s hospital, which makes it easy to understand how he could come up with such a heart-wrenching book.


Putting everything else aside, what can we learn from this story of two lovers with terminal illnesses?  First, when watching this movie, I have to admit that when I saw the leader of the support group - his character reminded me so much of myself.  I mean, I’m volunteer as an associate chaplain at a local hospital…and I can remember on more than one occasion bringing my guitar into the sub-acute unit to lead the devotions, and often I’d be thinking that these people have so many problems – what in the world can I possibly say to them…it seems so disingenuous and corny for me to tell them about Jesus when they’re going through so much.  Often times, I think people in the clergy say things when there really isn't anything more to be said.


On the other hand, sometimes people make assumptions, not really knowing what others have experienced.  When I first became a full time pastor, I was only 28 years old.  I remember one of my earlier funerals, I was talking to this family, and this couple was telling me, “We know that you don’t know what it’s like to lose a father.†


Now the truth was my own father had unexpectedly passed away before I ever became a pastor…but here I was with these people that were assuming, solely based on my age, that I couldn’t possibly know what it felt like to lose a parent.  I never said anything about it at the time…because to me it wasn’t about what I had gone through anyway…it was about what they were going through…the ironic thing is they never knew that I already had a pretty good idea of how they felt.


But even for people that work in social or religious work…it’s easy to become calloused after you've seen so much..  I’ve been doing this for about 10 years.  I’ve preached funerals for suicides, I’ve done ones for accidents, some for diseases, and I’ve even done funerals for little babies where they have the graveside with the smallest little coffin you’ve ever seen, and just looking at something like that will make you want to cry.  Sometimes you just see all of this suffering, and you compartmentalize it so nothing that happens even surprises you anymore.


But the question in all of this is, how do we really deal with people that seem to have been dealt a “bad hand†in life?  What can we possibly say to comfort them?  I think that’s the main question of the movie.  A bunch of kids battling cancer.  Two of them fall in love but they never really have a chance.  How is that fair?  How do we answer questions like this?


Well, the whole problem reminds me about a man in the Bible named Job.  Job had lost most of his family, he had lost his wealth, he had lost his house, and even his health…and he was sitting at the town garbage dump talking to a bunch of religious people who were basically telling him that God blesses the good and brings the wicked to their downfall.  They looked at Job, and they saw all the bad that had happened to him, and they said, “Repent, and God will restore you.â€


Job, as sick and emotionally drained as he was…he looked at these “religious†guys, and he basically said, “How stupid can you be?† Job went on to list groups of people that seemed to have been dealt a bad hand from the very date of their birth.


Job basically said, “Look, there are all these people that were born, some of them poor, some of them sick…they never really even had a chance…so how can you say God blesses the good and curses the bad?†


Job, what he really wanted was an audience with God…he wanted God to come down and set things right…but Job himself knew that even he couldn’t stand before God.  In Job 9, Job complained…and he said, “If only there were some kind of mediator…someone who could go between us and God…that’s what’s needed.† Of course, Christians believe that this person, sent by God to restore our relationship, our redeemer, our mediator, is Jesus Christ.


In other words, the religious people were just spouting off some simple answers.  But Job was saying that there’s got to be more to life than just what happens here on this earth…there’s got to be someone that’s coming to set things straight…and even after he’s dead…he’s going to see Godâ€


And that, I believe, is Christianity’s answer to the problem of suffering.  Not that all suffering is going to be taken away in this life.  But that there is an afterlife, and that God sent someone to redeem us.


On the other hand, what is John Green’s answer in the book?  What was the answer for Augustus and Hazel Grace?  That they would fall in love for a moment, and they could make that moment last a lifetime. 


His basic premise was that even though Augustus was facing death…he and Hazel could have an infinite moment.  They could choose to live in that moment, and make it last…because “some infinites are bigger than others.† 


Where else have we heard this?  Remember Perks…Charlie in the tunnel saying, “I feel infiniteâ€â€¦the idea being that even though a lot of things in his life were still messed up, at least at the particular moment in the tunnel all was right with the world, and he wanted to make that moment last forever.


In either case, what’s the problem with this line of thinking?  Well, we really can’t make something last longer than it does.  We can take as many pictures as possible.  We can take videos.  We can watch the video and look at the pictures…we can even save the ticket stub…but we can’t make a moment last forever. 


The sad truth is, some infinites are not bigger than others.  You can take any number between 0 and 1…and you can multiply that number by 2…and you will get the matching number that’s between 0 and 2.  The sets are equal.    


FURTHERMORE…IT’S IMPOSSIBLE FOR AN ACTUAL INFINITE TO EXIST IN THE REAL WORLD!  This is actually an argument for God’s existence from our Muslim friends.  And I think it’s a valid.


It goes like this…it’s impossible to have a real, actual infinite exist in the natural, physical world.  Imagine it like this…imagine if you could, a library that had an infinite number of red books and an infinite number of green books.  If such a library existed…and someone went in and checked out a red book and left…the library would still contain the same number of red books as it did green books.  It just doesn’t make any sense.


Therefore, since an actual infinite cannot exist in the physical world, then the universe can’t be truly infinite.  It cannot just have “always existedâ€.  No, it had to have a beginning point.  And if the universe had a beginning, then there also must have been something that caused that beginning.  And whatever caused that beginning had to be greater than the universe itself.  And there you have the argument for God as the First Cause.


Fast forward to the time of that first Christmas…it was amazing in the fact that God choose to voluntarily empty Himself of his own divine attributes in order to come to Earth.  The Supernatural Infinite choosing to become finite.  As a baby born in a manger of all things!  Emmanuel - God with Us.   All so that we could have a relationship with our Creator.  This is what Christians celebrate this at Christmas!  And as we live in a fallen and broken world, it’s our real reason for hope.  Even when things seem bad.


Happy Christmas.

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  • 3 months later...

Beauty and the Beast


I’m sure most of us are excited about Emma’s performance in the upcoming Disney musical of Beauty and the Beast!  So, what can we learn from this story?


Of course it's a love story.  So we can learn about love.  But there's more going on than just the simple "Don't judge a book by its cover" message.  It’s interesting.  Now in English, we use the word “love†in many different ways.  We can make statements like,


“I love the movies!â€
“I love potato chips!â€

“I love the Pittsburgh Steelers!â€

“I love my dad!â€


All of these can mean different things, yet we use the same word. 


But most of the New Testament was written in Koine Greek.  In this language, there are a number of different words for love.  In “Beauty and the Beastâ€, we can see at least three different types of love portrayed.


One type of love is called EROS (I can’t use a greek font, so I have to transliterate, but you get the idea).  Eros is the Greek word for a type of love that’s a sensual love.  We get the word erotic from this type of love.  It’s a physical attraction.  In “Beauty and the Beastâ€, this can be seen in the love that the village girls have for Gaston, as seen below.



There’s nothing wrong with this type of love…it’s really physical attraction.  But it is somewhat superficial, and it can come and go.



Another type of love is called PHILEO.  This is the love that we have for a friend.  In Romans 12:10, when the Bible exhorts believers to love each other, this is the word that is used.  An example from the movie would be the teapot, or the candlestick welcoming Belle, as seen below:



This type of love is a true concern for the welfare of another.  You could really call it friendship.  In some ways it can be deeper than EROS, and in others there isn’t as much attraction.



But then there’s a third type of love.  The word AGAPE is used in Greek to describe the highest level of love…a sacrificial love that gives all for another.  Where do we really see this in the movie?  It actually occurs right near the very beginning!  When Belle’s father was imprisoned by the Beast and she came and offered to be the Beast’s prisoner in his place…that’s Agape love, the willinging to sacrifice oneself.   A picture from the scene is below,





We can clearly see all three of these loves expressed in the movie.  Of course, as Christians, the love that God has for us is AGAPE…He was willing to send His Son to die in our place.  That’s sacrificial love.



Oh, and by the way, here’s one more interesting image from the movie.



In this scene, we see that Beauty and the Beast is yet another movie where you can see an example of the atonement.  I don’t think it was intentional…but I think that God has placed this truth in our hearts, and that’s why we see it portrayed in art, again and again.  


We see the atonement as follows: In the beginning of the movie, the Beast “sins†by not welcoming the lady with the flower.  Because of his sin, he is forced to be the beast.  It’s true love that breaks the spell…but before the spell is broken, the Beast has to die (he was stabbed by Gaston) and be reborn (true love makes him comes back into his original form as a human).  It’s really a reverse incarnation.  Truly, that is the “Tale that’s Old as Timeâ€.    :)

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