Today, Carol and I toured the Warner Bros Harry Potter Studio in Leavesden, UK, outside London. It was a fascinating tour containing the actual sets, props, costumes, special effects, and movie magic from the actual movies. Well worth the trip. #wbstudiotourlondon #mischiefmanaged
Category Archives: Movies
‘Beauty and the Beast’ Features Disney’s First Gay Character – While I am not surprised by the headline and the story, I am disappointed.
“Beauty and the Beast” to feature an “exclusively gay moment” – Professor Denny Burk of Boyce College offers his take on this issue.
Even though I’m not surprised by this, I am disappointed by it. My own children were delighted by the live-action Cinderella that came out in 2015. It was really well done. For that reason, we have been looking forward with great anticipation for another well-done production. But if these reports are true, we won’t be seeing this one.
The reason is very simple. I am not going to let a movie studio communicate to my children that sexual immorality is “normal and natural.” This movie will no doubt be packaged in a narrative and a production value designed to capture their imaginations, and it will do so in a way that conceals a false and destructive message. To let them see this material would go against everything that I am trying to teach them about the good, the beautiful, and the true. If these reports are accurate, this movie would powerfully subvert that effort.
We have to be constantly vigilant about what stories capture our children’s imaginations—even stories from places like Disney. In fact, I should stipulate, especially from sources like Disney. As one friend put it to me:
We don’t allow Disney into our house, except for the older stuff. They are wicked engineers of the imagination. The corruption of the best is the worst.
My friend’s point is a simple one. Our minds and our consciences are shaped more by the stories that frame our experience than by anything else. The story-tellers, therefore, are the “engineers of the imagination.” They can influence and shape us for the good or for ill. They can either reflect or deflect our moral imagination from the true story of the world—and there is but one true story. Virtue involves not only knowing that story but understanding all of life within its frame of reference.
This decision by Disney is one more example of what Tim Jack used to say, “Why be surprised when the world acts like the world?” I’m sad, but not surprised. It certainly colors my expectations for the movie and might influence my decision whether or not to see it in the theaters.
In the 2000 movie, Chicken Run, Rocky (voiced by Mel Gibson) takes pride in being a “free range chicken” who’s “not the type to settle down.” While comical in an animated movie, it is an accurate description of people in today’s culture, even among those who claim to be committed Christians.
Two weeks ago, I taught our church’s membership class. I explained that membership is like being part of a family and that a Christian without a church home is like an orphan. Becoming a member of a church tells the leadership that “you can count on me” and that “I am willing to place myself under your authority” because greater accountability leads to greater spiritual growth. Becoming a member helps us build a biblical community and practice the “one another” commands of the New Testament.
After attending the class, each person is interviewed by one of our elders or deacons so that we can hear their testimony and get to know them better. One individual did not show up for the interview, so I inquired as to whether something came up or if they changed their mind. The person responded, “I don’t feel being a member will really benefit me in any way. I would like to be free to visit where I choose and not have to be stuck in one location.”
Wow! Sounds like I met a real life “Rocky.” One more “free range Christian.”
“Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine.” The Imitation Game
Last night, Carol and I watched The Imitation Game, the story of mathematician and cryptanalyst Alan Turing, who built a machine that broke the Nazi Enigma code in WWII. The quote above was repeated several times in the movie and grabbed my attention.
Yesterday morning I preached on the feeding of the 4,000 (Mark 8:1-10). It is the second of two feeding miracles in the gospel of Mark. In Mark 6:30-44, Jesus feeds the 5,000. In both miracles, Jesus takes a little and turns it into a lot. He uses five loaves and two fish to feed between 5,000-20,000 people (6:30-44). He takes seven loaves and a few sardines to feed 4,000 people (8:1-10). Jesus can take a little and turn it into much.
I often hear people comment, “God can never use me. I have nothing to offer. I don’t have any gifts.” I’ve been known to downplay and discount my own contributions on occasion. “I just don’t have the gifts/personality/abilities/charisma that ___________ has. How could God ever use me?”
And yet, those are the people that God loves to work in and through. If I make myself available to him, he can take my little and use it for his glory. Though I or anyone else may not imagine anything of me, God can use what I have to do things no one can imagine.
“When did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you?”
I was struck by this question the other evening as my wife and I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The question is asked during a conversation between Gandalf the wizard and the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.
Gandalf has challenged Bilbo to set off on an adventure with a company of dwarves. In his response, Bilbo states, “I’ll be alright. Just let me sit quietly for a moment.” Gandalf dryly replies, “You’ve been sitting quietly for far too long. Tell me, when did doilies and your mother’s dishes become so important to you? I remember a young hobbit who was always running off in search of Elves, in the woods. He’d stay out late, come home, after dark, trailing mud and twigs and fireflies. A young hobbit who would’ve liked nothing better than to find out what was beyond the borders of the Shire. The world is not in your books and maps. It’s out there.”
Needless to say, Gandalf’s persuasive words reach the heart and soul of Bilbo, who finally agrees to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. This journey is not without risks, however, and Gandalf advises Bilbo that if he returns, he most certainly will not return the same. And these predictions all come true.
I’ve come to realize that I have hobbit-like tendencies myself. If I am not careful, I will resist change every time. I will gravitate towards a risk-free existence and an adventure-less lifestyle, surrounded by my soft, comfortable, cozy doilies and dishes.
In February 2015, I will head to Russia on another ministry adventure. It will be one week longer than previous trips and take me to new, unexplored areas. I will travel a portion of the way by myself. When the new elements and twists were first proposed, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stretch myself one more time. But when I realized I was reaching for a comfortable armchair, I knew I had to say, “Yes.” The intimidating presence of fear and concern was all the more reason to accept the new challenge before I turned into a hobbit.
Along the same line, I have to guard against the tendency to accept risks myself, but want to shield my children from danger. I was curious to read, “The Cult of Kiddie Danger,” where the author points out what has become America’s newest religion, one based on the belief that children are in constant danger from everyone and everything.
If I spare myself and my family members from danger, change, and stretching experiences, how will I ever grow? Scripture is pretty clear that God uses trials, tests, and suffering as catalysts to jumpstart our growth process and to produce deeper faith and character in our lives.
Romans 5:3–4 – Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,
James 1:2–4 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
If I want to avoid becoming a hobbit, I need to step out of my front door and accept the adventure that God brings my way. I need to leave my comfortable existence, embrace change, and allow God to transform my character.
This afternoon, my wife and I went to see the latest Superman movie, Man of Steel. For a popcorn movie, Man of Steel presents an interesting twist on an age-old theological debate. Is man’s destiny determined or does he have free will? Are we predestined or can we choose our own future?
Most knowledgeable comic book fans know that Superman hails from the planet Krypton. Knowing that the planet was doomed to destruction, his parents, Jor-El and Laura, send their son, Kal-El, to earth.
Man of Steel adds a new twist to the tale by explaining that Kal-El is the first natural born child on Krypton in centuries. Prior to his birth, all of the children were created/conceived in the Genesis Chamber where their future destiny was woven into their DNA. From birth, some were born to be warriors, some scientists, and so on. Kal-El, however, was conceived naturally. Jor-El explains to his son that because of this, he had the freedom to choose whether or not he would be a force for good or a force for evil. He could choose whether or not to follow the pattern of Krypton or to identify with the people of earth.
What does Scripture say about this subject?
Romans 8:28–30 says, “Man is predestined. His destiny is determined.”
28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
On the other hand, Mark 8:34–38 says, “Man is free to choose his own destiny.”
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
I recognize that predestination and human choice are both found in Scripture. God sovereignly chooses but man is responsible for his choices. God is sovereign and man has free will. I also recognize that I will never fully understand how to resolve these two seemingly conflicting truths while here on earth.
While Man of Steel doesn’t answer the question, it does contribute to the debate. It is a good conversation starter to lead people into a study of the Scriptures.
I found it disturbingly ironic to receive the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly with the cover story about J. R. Ewing entitled “Evil Never Dies” on the same day that a gunman shot up a movie theater in Aurora, CO, showing the latest Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises.” In addition, reports indicate the gunman rigged his apartment to kill whoever entered it, namely police officers.
Evil never dies? Indeed.
Both stories, one fanciful and one frightening, reveal the truth of the Apostle John’s statement, “. . . the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19b). Satan—the god of this age (2 Cor. 4:3–4) and the prince of this world (John 14:30), is at war with God and his people. It doesn’t mean that every person is evil, but there are evil people among us.
Before we comfort ourselves and conclude that we are not as bad as the Colorado shooter, we need to acknowledge that each one of us has been tainted by evil. Perhaps we haven’t shot up a theater, but who hasn’t wanted to get rid of an irritating boss or a tailgating driver? All of us have murderous hearts, despite our calm and compassionate appearances.
In theology, we call this “human depravity.” It doesn’t mean that each of us is as bad as we can be. But it does mean that each of us has been marred by evil or sin and need forgiveness. At the deepest core of our being, each of us has a corrupt operating system. In addition, we face temptation and choose to give in. We are sinners by nature and by choice.
Lest we despair, God has provided the rescue we so desperately need.
“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24–25a)
By trusting in Jesus Christ for forgiveness rather than embarking on a self-improvement campaign, we can be rescued from sin. Our corrupt operating system can be replaced with a new one that pursues holiness and righteousness.
While evil may never die, it can be conquered through Jesus Christ.