Archive for category Pop Culture/Entertainment
I just watched “Stranger Than Fiction” again starring Will Ferrell. I thought the movie and story was alright – nothing too special. But I absolutely LOVE the idea that drives this movie. If you haven’t seen the movie, here is the summary from the back of the case:
Will Ferrell stars as Harold Crick, a lonely IRS agent whose mundane existence is transformed when he hears a mysterious voice narrating his life. With the help of Professor Jules Hilbert (Dustin Hoffman), Harold discovers he’s the main character in a novel-in-progress and that the voice belongs to Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson), an eccentric author famous for killing her main characters in creative ways. Harold must quickly track down Eiffel and stop her before she conjures up a way to finish him off.
The parallels and contrasts between this silly story and the True Story of God and humanity as revealed in Scripture are quite profound. Let me just share a few observations.
1. The author of Harold’s story is evil and seeks to find a creative ways to kill her characters. In God’s Story the characters tend to find creative ways of bringing about their own destruction, but God in His infinite love and mercy finds a way to rescue them from death!
2. While Harold must hurriedly track down the Author before time runs out, in God’s Story it is the Author who relentlessly pursues His prodigal characters before it is too late.
1. We are indeed living in a story driven by a particular plot, with God as the primary author and ourselves as one character among many others. Waking up to this reality is one of the most significant moments of one’s life. The sooner we find our place in this larger story, the more meaningful our lives will be.
2. Far too many people today find their lives as lonely and mundane as Harold Crick, the IRS agent. Many of us, like Harold, will only find real meaning, significance and purpose when we begin to hear the still, small voice of the narrator trying to get our attention amidst all the noise of our daily shuffle.
3. Harold’s future hangs in the balance and is dependent upon whether or not he can find the author of his story and make peace with her. Our future hope also hangs in the balance and depends on whether or not we can make peace with our Author.
4. While it is a bit of a stretch, Professor Hilbert plays the role of the mediator who helps the confused, scared Harold make sense of the plot he’s in and connect him with the author of his story. God’s Story is full of prophets, pastors, teachers and ultimately Jesus himself who function as mediators between lost souls and the Author, unfolding the plot and bringing us back into relationship with God.
If you want to pursue this concept of “Narrative Theology” further I would recommend the small book and DVD called Epic: Discover the Story God is Telling by John Eldredge. One of his opening lines is that “life often feels like a movie you’ve shown up for 40 minutes late; something important seems to be going on but you’re not quite sure what.” I am taking our high school group through the Epic curriculum for the next 5 weeks exploring our place within God’s Big Story. Check it out the trailer below:
It’s already been 10 years since the release of The Green Mile (1999). The Stephen King film stars Tom Hanks as a Death row guard and the massively large and mysteriously gifted prisoner named John Coffey played by Michael Clark Duncan. I finally saw it for the first time this weekend at the request of one of my youth group boys who has been powerfully moved by the Christian themes found throughout.
Here’s a general plot summary:
“Paul Edgecomb is a slightly cynical veteran prison guard on Death row in the 1930′s. His faith, and sanity, deteriorated by watching men live and die, Edgecomb is about to have a complete turn around in attitude. Enter John Coffey, He’s eight feet tall. He has hands the size of waffle irons. He’s been accused of the murder of two children… and he’s afraid to sleep in a cell without a night-light. And Edgecomb, as well as the other prison guards – Brutus, a sympathetic guard, and Percy, a stuck up, perverse, and violent person, are in for a strange experience that involves intelligent mice, brutal executions, and the revelation about Coffey’s innocence and his true identity.” Written by Kadi Lynnith
On a basic level this movie presents the difficulty for some to believe in the miraculous. At a much deeper level what comes through very clearly — even to the casual observer — is the obvious similarities between John Coffey and Jesus Christ as depicted especially in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Here are some of the strongest parallels between Christ and Coffey:
- John Coffey is a hated and despised man, rejected and unwanted because of his race, reputation and size. “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3).
- John Coffey is a striking blend of power and might clothed with Jesus-like meekness and gentleness. He’s 8 feet tall with barrels for biceps yet afraid of the dark and wouldn’t hurt a fly. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory” (Isaiah 42:3).
- He has the ability to see what’s inside people’s hearts. “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance,but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).
- He is characterized by “light” and cannot stand the darkness. “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12); “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Read the rest of this entry »
I’m preparing a sermon this Sunday playing off some of the biblical themes in The Hobbit. Below is my favorite conversation from The Lord of The Rings. Friends, these stories of Middle-Earth are only a pale shadow of the real adventure that God calls us into. It’s an epic story and we have a major part to play if we’ll only wake up and discover God’s intended plot for our life — and give up the pathetic story of the American Dream that lulls so many into a dull life of mere self-preservation and comfort-seeking. We were created for so much more!
My life was forever changed the day I stopped to ask the hobbit’s question: What sort of a tale had I fallen into. Answer: God’s unfolding masterpiece — and it’s been an epic journey ever since. Enjoy this conversation! -JB
“The brave things in the old tales and songs, Mr. Frodo: adventures, as I used to call them. I used to think that they were things the wonderful folk of the stories went out and looked for, because they wanted them, because they were exciting and life was a bit dull, a kind of a sport, as you might say. But that’s not the way of it with the tales that really mattered, or the ones that stay in the mind. Folk seem to have been just landed in them, usually – their paths were laid that way, as you put it. But I expect they had lots of chances, like us, of turning back, only they didn’t. And if they had, we shouldn’t know, because they’d have been forgotten. We hear about those as just went on – and not all to a good end, mind you; at least not to what folk inside a story and not outside it call a good end. You know, coming home, and finding things all right, though not quite the same – like old Mr. Bilbo. But those aren’t always the best tales to hear, though they may be the best tales to get landed in! I wonder what sort of a tale we’ve fallen into?”
“I wonder,” said Frodo. “But I don’t know. And that’s the way of a real tale. Take any one that you’re fond of. You may know, or guess, what kind of a tale it is, happy-ending or sad-ending, but the people in it don’t know. And you don’t want them to.” …
“I wonder if we shall ever be put into songs or tales. We’re in one, of course; but I mean: put into words, you know, told by the fireside, or read out of a great big book with red and black letters, years and years afterwards. And people will say: ‘Let’s hear about Frodo and the Ring!’ And they’ll say: ‘Yes, that’s one of my favorite stories. Frodo was very brave, wasn’t he, dad?’ ‘Yes, my boy, the famousest of the hobbits, and that’s saying a lot.’” …
“Why, Sam,” Frodo said, “to hear you somehow makes me as merry as if the story was already written. But you’ve left out one of the chief characters: Samwise the stouthearted. ‘I want to hear more about Sam, dad. Why didn’t they put in more of his talk, dad? That’s what I like, it makes me laugh. And Frodo wouldn’t have got far without Sam, would he, dad?’”
“Now, Mr. Frodo,” said Sam, “you shouldn’t make fun. I was serious.”
“So was I,” said Frodo, “and so I am.”
I’m reposting an oldie but goodie from several years back. -JB
These days, teachers in the news facing charges of “corrupting the youth” are usually repeat sex offenders. But did you know that the great philosopher, Socrates (469-399 B. C.), was also charged, convicted and ultimately executed for “corrupting the youth”? Socrates’ mode of “corruption” however was of an entirely different kind. At his trial, Socrates’ (in Plato’s account) explains the nature of his so-called “crime”:
“I go around doing nothing but persuading both young and old among you not to care for your body or your wealth in preference to or as strongly as for the best possible state of your soul.”
When given the option of acquittal on the basis that he stop teaching this “subversive” philosophy, he responds as follows: Read the rest of this entry »
If you haven’t heard the news yet…well…you probably have a life outside the Christian blogosphere. But Rob Bell is leaving his church to pursue a new venture in Hollywood. Meanie Christians are already drawing their own conclusions, questioning his motives and condemning this fellow brother….
Well, Eugene Cho, fellow Covenant pastor has the right take on this. So, enjoy his perspective HERE.
PS: Mean people. Be nice.
Boy, did we have fun going to see Burlap to Cashmere live in concert back in 1998 as freshman in college. They played, believe it or not, at the old New Union (before it moved downtown and became Club 3 Degrees). After their award winning full album release in 1998, which was warmly received and an enthusiastic fan following formed, they disappeared from the music scene indefinitely.
Until now. They’re back, and better than ever! Check it out – and buy it.
“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images… They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator…” (Rom 1:21-25).
Paul defines idolatry as a foolish exchange. ”They exchanged the glory of God for images” and “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” Coincidentally, ABC Night Line featured a story this week on “American Idolatry” and interview Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. [SEE STORY]
Driscoll defines idolatry as follows:
“An idol is someone or something that occupies the place of God in your life,” [Driscoll said. "[It] gives you identity, meaning, value, purpose, joy, love, significance, security. When the Bible uses the word ‘idol’, that’s what it’s getting at.”
A. SO, WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT IDOLS? Read the rest of this entry »
“Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14).
Christians have always had a tough time with Halloween. The danger usually associated with the message of Halloween was its association with the occult — the glorification and celebration of evil, death, Satan, witchcraft, blood-sucking vampires and the like. Clearly the people called to “live in the light as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7) have no business dabbling in this sort of darkness. Christians living in the bright new day of the Resurrected Son are called to “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom 13:12).
I have always appreciated C. S. Lewis’ balanced approach to the topic of Satan and the forces of darkness, warning that: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” So, reasonable and balanced Christians and church leaders have attempted to recognize the real evil standing behind the folk religion of Americanized, materialized, sugar-laden Halloween by offering alternatives to dressing up as goblins, witches and vampires. The Harvest Party and other family-friendly gatherings that celebrate the true Light’s victory over the powers of darkness have provided alternatives to trick-or-treating. (Read Ben Witherington on “Should Christians celebrate Halloween?”)
Well, one wonders if even the creative mind of C. S. Lewis who wrote at length from the point of view of the “devils” in The Screwtape Letters could have anticipated the sneaky way our culture (or the Devil) would try to put a new spin and sexy veneer over the dark focus of Halloween’s evil under layer. Lewis has the senior Devil named Screwtape write to Wormwood, his devil in training, instructing him on how to try to keep humans (called “patients”) from even believing in their existence (since they can do more harm when their “patient” is unaware of them):
“I don’t think you will have much difficulty in keeping the patient in the dark. The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in the modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade that since he cannot believe in that (it is an old textbook method of confusing them) he therefore cannot believe in you.”
Well, take a trip to the nearest Halloween Costume Outlet store today and you will find that old Screwtape and his junior devils have taken it a step further. You would have to be blind or living in a cave somewhere to not have noticed the trend in costumes the past several years. The cultural forces at work (driven by the sexual forces within) have managed to add an entirely new kind of darkness and evil to the traditional favorites. I speak of the overt sexualization of Halloween costumes. Read the rest of this entry »