Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Comfort is for the Weak (thank heavens!)

Comfort has become sort of a dirty word in Christian circles. We deem it appropriate for older folks or those who have cancer, but feel that the everyday Christian shouldn't need comfort. Many Christians place themselves in uncomfortable settings to feel more spiritual (ie. fasting, super long prayer times, Promise Keepers, etc...). Not that those things are bad, because they aren't, it's just that it's easy to start believing that things that hurt a little are more spiritual. If we are not careful our motivation can become a bit off. The truth is, we need comfort and we want comfort. It's a fact of life that anyone who is uncomfortable instinctively and reflexively seeks comfort. Comfort is the homeostasis for which we were created. The Garden of Eden before the Fall (life as God intended) was the definition of comfort. Our desire for comfort in a painful, brutal world, is a sign that we were created for more than this world can offer. The problem isn't comfort, but that we take on the job of providing our own comfort, and that's a job that God wants all to Himself. The Garden of Eden worked because God provided all that Adam and Eve needed, and they trusted what He provided. When they sought to find their own comfort (knowing everything by eating from the forbidden tree) things broke down. The comfort we provide ourselves is always short lived and less than satisfying. (ie. drinking too much, hours in front of the tv, countless relationships, buying the newest and best...) Our challenge is to seek out the comfort that God uniquely provides, but that is for the next post.....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Michael's Lists

It's only fair that I reply to Tony's last post with my own lists of best movies ever, and my favorite movies. So, here goes....

Best Movies Ever
10. On The Waterfront: Brando at his best, classic in every since of the word.
9.Saving Private Ryan
8.High Noon: Perfect tension, perfect real time drama, perfect casting. I love Grace Kelly
7.Trois Colours: Kieslowski's classic trilogy of Red, Blue, and White. If you haven't seen this, drop whatever you are doing and watch them now!
6.Citizen Kane
5.The Lord of the Rings trilogy
4.The Godfather parts 1 and 2.
3.The Searchers: Greatest Western of all time.
2.Modern Times: Charlie Chaplin at his absolute best.

My Favorite Movies
10.Tommy Boy
8.The Count of Monte Cristo
6.What's Eating Gilbert Grape
5.The Thin Man/ The Thin Man Returns
4.To Catch a Thief
2.Saving Private Ryan

This is the part where we welcome comments, or even your own lists, fire away!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Best and Favorite Movies

OK, now that Michael has released his John Ford fetish, it's time to seriously talk movies. I have to agree with Michael that Ford's collaborations with John Wayne in Stagecoach, The Searchers and the marvelous The Quiet Man resulted in true classics. Recently, Michael and I listed the Best Movies Ever and our Favorite Movies. We limited the selections to 10 each and used whatever criteria we felt was relevant. My Best Movies List was based on the full motion picture experience: acting, directing, cinematography, score, editing, social relevance, ground breaking content and/or techniques or anything else that made a particular movie stand out above the crowd. As for Favorite Movies, the criteria was simpler. I had to really like the movie and be able to watch it over and over without tiring of it. So here are my picks:

Best Movies Ever
1.)           The Godfather Parts 1 and 2
2.)           Saving Private Ryan
3.)           Pulp Fiction
4.)           Alien/Aliens
5.)           LA Confidential
6.)           Unforgiven
7.)           Patton
8.)           Lord of the Rings Trilogy
9.)           To Kill a Mockingbird
10.)        Once Upon a Time in the West
Favorite Movies
1.)           The Right Stuff
2.)           Saving Private Ryan
3.)           Pulp Fiction
4.)           The Shawshank Redemption
5.)           Love, Actually
6.)           Seven
7.)           Aliens
8.)           Excalibur
9.)           Out of Sight
10.)        Star Wars: A New Hope

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

John Ford: The Significance of Being Alone

Ok, Tony weighed in on faith, so I guess I should post something on film....

John Ford is by far one of the greatest directors of all time. Beginning in the silent film era and extended into the 1960's, Ford churned out over a hundred films. His favorite actors included the likes of John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and Maureen O'Hara. You could literally watch his movies and find great topics of thought and discussion for years, so for the sake of space and simplicity (I'm all kinds of simple), I'll take one theme and start from there....

Ford excelled at portraying the beauty and pitfalls of being alone. The rugged individual who despises needing anyone is the hero in countless Ford films. The American ideal of a self made man conquering his own world of wilderness is set across various backdrops, genres, and time frames. The detachment and loneliness pours off the screen in Ford's "Rio Grande" starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. They play a still married couple separated by war, duty, and now a grown son (they have differing opinions as to what his future should look like). Their love for each other is clearly evident, but the unspoken space between them seems impossibly vast. My Ford favorite, "The Searchers" ends with one of the greatest scenes of isolation in film history as Wayne's character, Ethan, having fought to bring home his kidnapped niece to bring a family back together and to begin healing, is left alone to walk off into the distance of Monument Valley. He walks away slowly and with purpose, and you can't help but feel the contrast of the joy of home and the duty he feels to be separated from it.

I could go on all day, but I recommend grabbing a Ford film and embracing the beautiful cinematography and haunting loneliness for yourself....

Elite: (the absolute best must see movies)
The Searchers

Essential: (great movies that are well worth your times)
The calvary trilogy (Rio Grande, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Fort Apache)
The Quiet Man
Stage Coach
How Green Was My Valley

Recommended: (for the committed movie viewer who wants a deeper look at Ford)
The Grapes of Wrath
They Were Expendable
Horse Soldiers

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Rules (Mosaic Law)

After a recent Bible study, Amanda, my 21 year old daughter, and I had a long discussion about the role of the Old Testament Mosaic Law and today’s culture. After the discussion and prayer, I went to bed. The next morning I woke up with a clear message. I rushed to write it down and do further research on the internet. The following is what I was led to write.

Why are there so many rules, why are they so diverse and why are they so archaic when viewed from our perspective?

There are so many because they are a set of guidelines to show how far short we fall to God’s ideal. If the list was short and simple, many of us would simply say. “I follow those rules so I am OK.”

The rules are to show us what we lack, not as a measure of our goodness and self-righteousness. The purpose of the Old Testament law is to convince us of our inability to keep the law and point us to our need for Jesus Christ as Savior.

Romans 7:7 But I can hear you say, "If the law code was as bad as all that, it's no better than sin itself." That's certainly not true. The law code had a perfectly legitimate function. Without its clear guidelines for right and wrong, moral behavior would be mostly guesswork.

Galatians 3:23-24 Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.

God is outside time, He is eternal, He knows the future, so why do so many of the rules not reflect our present day standards. Clearly, because He didn’t want them to or need them to. They were intended as a snapshot. They reflected a specific time and culture. They were a specific message to a specific people in a specific place and time. We are not intended to use them as a strict guideline for us today. Some of the laws were to show the Israelites how to obey God (the Ten Commandments,), others were to show the Israelites how to worship God and atone for their sin (the sacrificial system) and other laws were to make sure the Israelites saw themselves as separate and distinct from others in the same region (the food and clothing rules). None of these Old Testament law is mandatory for us today. Christ fulfilled all the demands of the Mosaic law. We don’t sacrifice animals today because it is understood that Jesus fulfilled the law of the sacrifice. Yet, we sometimes ignore that Jesus fulfilled all aspects of the Mosaic Law. Jesus either fulfilled all of the law, or none of it. We are no longer bound by its standards. Does that mean we have no standards. Of course not. We are now under a new set of standards, those centered on Jesus Christ.

Matthew 5:17-18 Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished”

Romans 10:4-10 The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it's not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print! But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story…The word that saves is right here, as near as the tongue in your mouth, as close as the heart in your chest. It's the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—"Jesus is my Master"—embracing, body and soul, God's work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That's it. You're not "doing" anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That's salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: "God has set everything right between him and me!"

Ephesians 2:14-15 The Messiah has made things up between us so that we're now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody.

In place of the Old Testament law, we are under the law of Christ which is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). If we obey those two commands, we will be fulfilling all that Christ requires of us: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40).

The Old Testament law was never intended by God to be the universal law for all people for all of time. We are to love God and love our neighbors. If we obey those two commands faithfully, we will be upholding all that God requires of us. Everything else are requirements that fall outside our relationship with Jesus and can be looked on as attempts to cause us to judge each other or place barriers between us.

(Disclaimer: To be fair, everything here was what I was led to write, however, several items are copied form sources on the internet that I didn’t think to note. I will try to do a better job of crediting other sources in the future.)