THE INVASION — A Review

I just watched THE INVASION, another BODY SNATCHERS-type movie.

Oliver Hirschbiegel and James McTeigue directed Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig et al. in a reasonably entertaining and gripping tale of alien spores attaching themselves to a space shuttle and causing it to crash to earth, spreading the spores half-way across the United States in a swath two hundred miles wide. As those hardy buggers weren’t in the least affected by either the cold of space or the heat of reentry into the atmosphere, they invaded human bodies and began changing them into dispassionate, purpose-driven beings who looked exactly like the people they infected. And their purpose? To turn Earth into a Utopian society with none of the social problems we’ve learned to live with.

That scenario affords a glimpse into the world’s perspective on being reborn in God’s Spirit; they see spiritual rebirth as an invasion of our personhood, changing us into something that we are not. In a way I can’t blame unbelievers for arriving at that conclusion, considering Bible passages and preaching that speaks of being filled with God’s Holy Spirit and death to self. But for one significant error in that reasoning, I could easily buy into it. That error is the assumption that we evolved into what we are through random mutations and natural selection (survival of the fittest), with no higher purpose for it all. Of course, the truth is God created us for a very specific purpose: to be the recipients of his love, and to voluntarily submit to his Lordship. Thing is, God will never override our free will, as he gave it to us in the first place. He doesn’t forcibly invade our bodies with some bland, unfeeling entity. In fact, just the opposite is true: He allows us to become the people he created us to be, and to enjoy the supernatural peace and joy that he affords.

In short, THE INVASION is good movie with a false moral. But what else can we expect from Hollywood.

TRANSCENDENCE

This film tackles a … shall I say … transcendent theme, and at least from a materialistic world view, tackled it rather well. Johnny Depp and company made the futuristic scenario believable, and even evoked my sympathy for the god-like artificial being that Dr. Will Caster (Depp’s character) became.

Dr. Caster presented a lecture early in the film where an anti-technology activist in the audience asked a probing question, “So … you want to create a god? Your own god?”

To which Dr. Caster, echoing atheists throughout history, answered, “That’s a very good question. Isn’t that what man has always done?”

That is a very insightful answer, as in a way it is true. Man, left to his own devices, naturally creates his own gods; the history of religion attests to that fact. And that is why God, in Christ Jesus, intervened in our history to save us from ourselves. In TRANSCENDENCE, Dr. Caster tried to do the same thing through technology. One could say it would be the high-tech version of the Tower of Babel.

This film echoed another atheistic view as well; the town’s people, and many others who bused and drove in, submitted to the computer’s “networking” them, allowing themselves to become automatons. Non-believers in Christ view our discipleship in the same way, if they have any thoughts on the subject at all. I would that God did control us in that way, but he has always refused to invade our personal volition, which is one of the chief attributes he shared with us at creation.

TRANSCENDENCE is a great bit of futuristic entertainment, and I recommend it to Christ-followers who are well-grounded in their faith. For anyone wavering on the brink of that solid rock who is Christ, however, it could stimulate the wrong kind of speculation. Remember, we must take human wisdom, and most especially human entertainment, with great quantities of salt.

Dave Barry Learns Everything You Need to Know About Being a Husband From Reading 50 Shades of Grey | TIME

If you typically react with offense or nausea to humor that employs PG-13 level … ah … um … “gender” related … I mean … well … physically that is … subject matter, you probably aught to pass up Dave Barry’s hilarious review of E.L. James’ runaway best-seller novel, 50 Shades of Grey. At least, I thought it’s hilarious, but then, I’m weird. While it uses some frank terms to describe bodily processes—like I said, it’s roughly PG-13 rated—the humor is pure Dave Barry. And if you’ve ever wondered about all the fuss regarding 50 Shades of Grey, read this review first.

So, that’s my way shorter and somewhat less funny review of Dave Barry’s review. If all those hyperlinks suggest to you that I consider Dave Barry’s review worth reading, you are correct.

“But where,” you might ask, “is the famous spiritual content that I’ve come to anticipate in “The Well-Dressed Branch”? To that I might answer, it’s all over the place in Dave Barry’s review, by means of his comparison between men’s and women’s communication styles, and his sarcastic ridicule of the novel’s ridiculous, verbally pornographic content, euphemistically known as erotica. Barry simply confirms one of my semi-regular themes; women are every bit as likely to consume porn as men, but since it’s hasn’t got pictures, they consider it more respectable. But, if you seek sexual arousal from it, you aren’t exactly in tight with God.

Okay, since I couldn’t play the harp if my life depended upon it, I’ll cease my harping on this well-worn topic.

You’re welcome.

Don’t Say “Ouch”

Say, “Lord, help me.”

I heard some fantastic preaching today at Parkgate Community Church in Pasadena, Texas, while I was washing a sinkload of dishes in Kalispell, Montana. The second sermon ended when the dishes ran out—yes, it was that bad. If you are considering giving ear to Pastor Ken Boggs’ preaching, I can promise it’s more-than worth the time spent.

Pastors Ken, Jim, and a guest speaker, have been preaching through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. So far, this is convicting preaching, or it should be for some of those people. Well, Apostle Paul admitted to making crazy, worldly statements in his letters to make a point, so why can’t I? In fact, I didn’t even get off scot free.

Since you’re reading this, I assume you can access said preaching on your own, so I won’t try to re-preach what I heard. It’s tempting, even though I certainly couldn’t add anything of value to it.

The one thing Pastor Ken didn’t say that I desperately wish he had is (even though I just said that I wouldn’t), “If you consider this message as something others need to hear, you need it more than they.” We all have trouble keeping our eyes on our own hearts instead of others’. God won’t convict anyone but you from his Word and its preaching.

So, again I say, “Lord help me to live according to the light you’ve given me, and not worry about others’ lives.

What?! No CGI?

The BBC’s version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is headed back to Netflix this morning. I rented it to compare it to Disney’s version, and it was actually quite good … once I got used to the live action, that is.

“Why did I not think it was hokey?” you ask?

“Because I got more out of it than simply entertainment,” I answer.

“What could possibly eclipse the entertainment value of flashy special effects?” you ask? Okay, even if you didn’t ask I’ll tell you, so suck it up.

The BBC’s version didn’t gloss over C.S. Lewis’ message of redemption through the blood of an innocent sacrificial offering. And that’s odd, in a way, as the BBC is part of the British government, and the producers weren’t compelled to make the movie politically correct. What a concept?! Freedom of expression.

Aslan’s death and resurrection according to “the Deeper Magic” touched me greatly. The principle of vicarious sacrifice for one who is unworthy came across clearly enough that even I caught it.

The other side of the continuum was the reanimation of the people whom the White Witch turned into stone. That smacked of the doctrine of purgatory, which is unscriptural; either we’re hell-bound sinners, or we’re heaven-bound saints, and that’s that. But I’ll forgive Lewis for the occasional mistake, as important as is the balance of his work.

Each of the four Pevensie children portray a type of person: Peter is a noble character who feels compelled to triumph in his own strength. Susan is one of nominal religion who thinks she is just perfect, thank you very much. Edmund occupies the opposite end of the spectrum from Peter, as self-interest means everything to him. And Lucy is the honest seeker, even though she allows peer pressure to sway her.

The conspicuous truth of Aslan’s character is his equal love for each of them, regardless of their personal failings. And a second truth becomes apparent as well: Even though Aslan created Narnia and its magic, he wasn’t above the obligation to obey it, even to the cost of his own life. What a perfect picture of Christ, who, though he created the entire universe, submitted to death on the accursed cross to redeem his unworthy creation.

Rent it. Watch it with your kids. And be sure they understand its eternal message—CGI or no CGI.

I Deserve More!

Does my title sound perhaps a smidge self-centered? Even greedy? Not really; no one in their right mind would want what I deserve.

Joe Stowell, writing for Our Daily Bread, titled his piece for today, “More Than We Deserve.” Oddly, considering my own title for this post, I agree with him completely. We’re just attacking the issue from different sides.

Brother Stowell looked at deserving from the perspective of blessing, while my perspective for this post is that of punishment, or at the very least, reaping what I’ve sown. In fact, God’s infinite grace shields me from a world of hurt, and nothing that I am or can do exempts me from eternal separation from him. But instead, he offered me reconciliation, relationship, and fellowship through his Son Jesus.

If you think you deserve more of anything but hardship and heartache, get off your pedestal. You might want to take your eyes off yourself, and take another look at God’s Word, the Bible.

God’s Not Dead — the Movie

That’s nuthin, I knew it all along. I just pray a few folks who have doubts will also see this movie.

After reading the synopsis, I’d hoped young Josh Wheaton, played by Shane Harper, would present his challenge to Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo) slowly enough that I could take notes, but as the theater was dark, legible notes wouldn’t have been very practical. Practically speaking, though, Josh didn’t present any arguments that I hadn’t already heard. I only wish I could have presence of mind to face opposition with such clarity and forthrightness.

Sorbo’s accurate portrayal of atheists’ typical, condescending attitude toward people of faith revealed a lot about their claims of open-mindedness and free-thinking. Of course, all academic atheists aren’t as elitist as those portrayed in the movie. On the ledger’s other side, Professor Radisson’s convenient confession of God-hatred offered Josh an easy summation for his persuasive case. In fiction-writing practice, that’s called, “the hand-of-God” escape for an otherwise hopeless situation. But, I guess, expecting anything more realistic would be unrealistic.

That leads me to an interesting contrast between bitterly militant atheists, and those who honestly have no hatred for God because they don’t acknowledge the possibility of his existence. They simply can’t see any compelling reason to accept it. Typically, they refuse to consider even the remotest possibility of a supernatural component in life, preferring rather to place their faith in Science to ultimately provide natural explanations for everything. That, however, begs the question of what is “natural,” and what transcends it as “supernatural.”

There’s nothing “scientific” about all those so-called scientific proofs for God’s non-existence. Though I seldom take the liberty of making absolute statements that I cannot prove, I will venture to label all such “proofs” as pseudo-science. By contrast, true science is simply the process of inquiry that seeks repeatable observations of phenomena, to establish reliable conclusions about them. Interpretation of such conclusions is another matter entirely.

If we look into the scientifically regrettable history of scientific inquiry, we can find innumerable examples of “scientific law” that new discoveries rescinded. In view of the fact that such “new discoveries” materialized through the application of new observational technologies, how can any reasonable scientist presume that future technological developments will not render the “supernatural,” perfectly natural. In other words, what atheists call “magical hocus-pocus,” will eventually become mundane.

God’s Not Dead is anything but a comprehensive proof that God is, though it makes a competent stab at establishing the reasonable possibility that he exists. And once established, can anyone afford to ignore it?

John Ortberg’s FAITH AND DOUBT

I happened upon a summary of John Ortberg’s Faith and Doubt, but rather than give a simple review, or regurgitate a another summary, I present my slightly predigested take on it (hope you won’t mind a hint of intellectual bile).

Faith and doubt are like two sides of the same coin; without one, you can’t have the other. Ortberg dealt with their interaction quite realistically and effectively.

Faith and conviction are related, but not identical. Faith allows us to thoughtlessly flip on the light switch. Conviction tells us that the light will most certainly come on as the necessary result of flipping it. When the light fails to respond to our action, we know something must be wrong. If something, or Someone, is worthy of our convictions, the “light” will always turn on. If not, our convictions are misplaced.

With God, the “light” always turns on, though perhaps not within our timetable. Nevertheless, conviction tells us God will always, in some way or time, respond.

One salient point is conviction’s variability; our certainty ebbs and flows to the tides of our circumstances and moods. Another thought is God’s highest desire for us. Ortman said God desires our goodness, rather than our happiness. I believe God desires only our ultimate happiness, with goodness (obedience) as the path we must tread to reach it.

An illustration of that principle would be the man who lived in an old house with inadequate wiring. When the fuse blew he simply replaced it with another … until he ran out of fuses. So, the resourceful guy wrapped the last fuse in foil, with a couple of extra layers for good measure. Sure enough, the lights blinked on, the fridge kicked in, and the window air conditioner renewed its gusts of cool air. The man was once again happy. What he didn’t realize, however, is the climbing temperature of the wiring in his attic crawl space. When his sawdust insulation ignited he wasn’t so happy. If he had investigated the fuse issue when it began, rather than taking the shortcut to power—and happiness—he would still have a roof over his head.

I don’t quite agree with Ortberg’s idea of hope for something, versus hope in someone. We can place our hope in something when it is an idol such as money, status, power, property, or even a person whom we believe will give us happiness. Hope in someone or something is rather like placing all our eggs in one, weak-bottomed, basket … unless, of course, that Someone is worthy of our hope. That qualification quite effectively limits our choices.

Doubt

Doubt requires something as its target. Doubting God requires the doubter to at least acknowledge his existence.

Ortberg deals with three reasons for doubt: First, God’s apparent absence when we need him, or when we doubt his love and concern for us. This isn’t what he wrote, but what I got out of it; God wants our faith and trust to be based on his character, not on evidence. Matthew 16:4 reports Jesus saying, “A destructive and adulterous breed of men is always seeking after a sign.” Admitting he exists is quite different from believing in who he is. One acknowledges him as a sterile, objective fact, while the other invests in him, personally.
That sort of doubt leads directly into the second category: God’s church isn’t doing its job. In fact, it seems to do everything it can to negate Jesus’ message.

Churches try to be all-inclusive; they hope they can love and serve non-believers into Christ’s kingdom, so they allow most anyone to join up and maintain membership, including those who take only themselves seriously and behave as if it’s their church. But it eventually becomes their church, and no longer belongs to God. That same principle is the common thread that shapes a pattern of religious destruction throughout history, in all religions.

Rebellion is the third category of doubt. Often it says, “If this is God (or God’s people), I refuse to believe in him!” It’s the voice of outrage, and the motivation for active opposition to God and everyone who expresses faith in him. As with any other category of doubt, it requires a target, even as it denies his existence. Since this activistic doubt can’t get at God directly, it does its best to wipe out his influence.

Rebellion can also exist simply as the expression of a rebellious attitude. The rebel throws rocks at a church’s windows simply because a Ten Commandments sign occupies the front lawn. “Nobody is going to tell me what I can or can’t do,” is his refrain.

Faith

Like all clouds with light behind them, doubt has a silver lining; faith must always overcome doubt of some sort. Whether it’s doubt about God, or self, resolving it produces faith. Another shade of silver is the believer’s humility when he feels doubt about what he knows from experience to be true. Doubt also motivates a believer to study it out. The author quotes Frederick Buechner, “Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith; they keep it awake and moving.” Doubting our preconceptions is a very good thing. Finally, faith in the face of doubts strengthens our faithfulness, leading us to maturity.

Ortman also presents several reasons for faith: we’re built to believe, our sense of right-and-wrong, creation’s perfection, our sense of beauty and wholeness, our sense of joy, as well as a few others.

Don’t feel like you’re the only dedicated Christ-follower who experiences doubts. If we’re honest, we’ll all admit to having them. One serious problem in the church is believers concealing anything in their lives, or relationships, that isn’t hunky-dory. While nobody likes a whiner, confessing serious problems with a close brother or sister is often the direct route to resolving them. That, after all, is what love is all about.

Jesus of Nazareth, the Movie

While perusing Netflix programming I noticed an ad for the 1977 movie, “Jesus of Nazareth.” I must say, Netflix took long enough to add it to their streaming menu. So, I added it to my watch list, but let it sit there for a week or so. I finally watched the first half tonight, but with mixed reactions.

Hollywood, for a change, didn’t reduce the gospel to pablum, but the British and Italians made a valiant effort to do just that. Still, the gospel’s power shined through bland cinematography and loose treatment of salvation’s story, as there were a few brilliant, extra-Biblical lines that effectively related some of what wasn’t included from the Bible.

Of course, one can’t expect a movie to conform to everyone’s vision of Jesus’ life, but Robert Powell’s sometimes vacant Jesus-stare was lost on me. Somehow I’m certain that Jesus was in fact far more dynamic than this portrayal. He nailed it, though, in Jesus’ debate with the Pharisees, showing at least some of the power and authority I might expect from the very Son of God. During that debate he defended his healing on the Sabbath, but as far as I can recall, the writers left out a most telling statement: “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:28) If you know I’m wrong, inform me in the comments.

I suggest to anyone who takes in this movie, first familiarize yourself with the true gospel so you’ll know where the film falls short. Even so, watching this film will be an emotional experience for anyone who loves Jesus.

Gone T’ Meddlin’ 

 If you’re not from West Virginia, or you’ve never sat under the preaching of a West Virginia pastor, this writing’s title won’t mean much. It’s a colloquialism that means someone’s preaching has trod too close to one’s toes. Which, in fact, Dave McCasland was dangerously close to doing in his Our Daily Bread vignette titled Daily Diligence.

I don’t need to belabor his point, as he’s done a fine job of doing it himself. But if you feel like facing a challenge to your status quo Christian walk, please tune in to this Our Daily Bread.

I dare ya.