Archive for May, 2009

24
May
09

The Dark (K)night – part 2

Last year I posted on the subject of the state of our culture and this was motivated by the brouhaha related to what at the time was a blockbuster new movie, the latest in the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight.  This post eventually has become the 5th most popular ever on this blog and stirred up a lot of feedback from people (on and off line).  I had not seen the movie when I wrote my original thoughts.  A few weeks ago I actually saw The Dark Night and I wrote a reply to my own original post as an update.  Read on…

I was recently on a trip and a friend loaned me “The Dark Knight” to watch on the plane. Having written this post several months back but never seeing the movie, my curiosity was piqued. I decided to pop it in and watch it on my laptop.

I had to stop the movie since the flight was over and normally I would not have finished it because I wasn’t really enjoying it that much. But then I recalled that this original posting got a lot of traffic and lots of conversation, and honestly, some people were a little upset at me. I decided to watch it to it’s conclusion so I could post this follow up.

My first impression as I watched is that the movie wasn’t as sadistic as it was originally reported to have been. Yes, the Joker was quite disturbing. They did a fine job with his makeup and Heath Ledger did a fantastic job acting quite insane, psychopathic, intelligent, and maniacal. But were elements of this movie “heinous” as I mentioned in my original post? Was this really “Saw-light?” (I will say parenthetically that the comparison to “Saw” is not unfair since the morality choice/murder/sicko-methodology combo thing would not be in The Dark Knight if it were not for that series of very popular films.)

I’ll start with positives and a cool-factor. As mentioned before, Heath Ledger did a fine job acting. And the Harvey Dent/Two face character was also well done. Honestly, the Two Face situation was a welcome surprise in the movie even if I felt that just because they *could* show us graphically how disturbing he became, I wondered why they really needed to (back to the whole should-have-been-rated-R discussion). How can you ever really go wrong with Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman? And Christian Bale is an acceptable Batman, really the best the franchise history I suppose. And the cell-phone radar thing was a really cool special effect and an idea that worked.

Fast forward to the end of the movie; my first impression had changed. I had witnessed a man cut open and a cell phone/detonation device sewn into his stomach, then blown up remotely killing everyone in the jail/police station with him. I had seen people given a moral choice in pulling a trigger and killing hundreds of men, women, and children on a ferry boat before the people on the other boat made the same choice to kill them (yes, they didn’t do it, but I will point out that the vote taken was overwhelmingly in favor of doing it). We saw a hospital blown to smithereens room by room and during that time we do not know if the patients are in their rooms or not. And yes, there are the multiple times when the Joker takes his knife and slices open people’s faces just like was apparently done to him (though we never really know how or who did it, another dangling plot line). On this last point I heard people say “yeah but you didn’t see it on screen” which basically blows me away. In my most “duh” statement I have ever written on this blog: just because we don’t see it doesn’t mean we don’t know it was done. Do you really need to see it for it to be corrupt or if it’s off screen do we somehow place it in a redemptive category? I vote not since our minds can fill in the blanks.

I didn’t like things about this movie that I guess others either a) overlook or b) somehow expect in a superhero movie: the plot line is thin and strays, I think the hero (Batman) is 2 dimensional, people pop up when you least expect with no explanation of how they got there, villains make silly choices, guys who should know better don’t, the police chief is always made out to be bumbling, Batman’s mysterious code of honor is cloaked in mysterious dialogue of mush, most of the action sequences are too dark to understand what is actually happening, and dangling plots abound. Normal fare for a superhero movie unless it’s named “Spiderman.”

There are movies I have seen that delve into the depravity of the human condition and have sparked interest in discussing redemption. Batman did not do any of that but only left lasting impressions of gross images.

In the end, I walked away with a “whatever” personal experience. The movie was not that good and the really bad guy (the Joker) didn’t get what he deserved, the really good guy (Harvey Dent) didn’t get what he deserved, and the “good” guy (Batman) didn’t get what he deserved (which is somehow where people come off calling him a “Christ figure”). But maybe America got what it deserved which was another movie with a bunch of Satan in it since we seem to love it so much.

Some say Heath Ledger went insane portraying the Joker and his death was the result of the role. It seems Mr. Ledger got so close to the devil it likely killed him. I ask you to ask yourself and the Holy Spirit why you would get close to anything that has that potential? Kind of sounds like the forbidden fruit conundrum.

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17
May
09

Hello Vineyard

“Hello, hello, I don’t know why you say goodbye I say hello” – The Beatles

There are many twists and turns, rises and falls, on the road of life.  There are goodbye seasons, which can be bittersweet, and there are hello seasons, which are full of wonder and discovery. Sometimes God takes us down paths in our lives that are unexpected but the result is so amazing.

It’s like the father who is taking his son to his first trip to the zoo.  “Where are we going daddy?” the son asks.  “You’ll see,” says the father with the knowledge that his expectant son will absolutely love where they are going.  The father knows that when they get there his son will be excited and it will be a great experience and he will likely remember it for the rest of his life, so he holds back to get the pleasure of seeing that look of joy and discovery on his son’s face.  Our heavenly Father does that for us sometimes.  I really wish that I knew what was happening next, but God says, “Just wait, it’s going to be good,” and somehow He loves that element of surprise.  God knows, we don’t, and He’s good with that.  The little boy trusts his daddy, just as we should trust our Daddy in heaven.

Dina and I have been in a transition period in our lives.  Transitions are uncomfortable and this particular season was the most painful and difficult of Dina’s and my life. Always there is the unknown, and many times we asked, what’s next Father?  In response our loving God opened up door after door to lead us to a group of Jesus-followers that have a refreshing purity about them in their walk with the Lord and their fellowship with each other; so much so that it seems a special impartation of the Holy Spirit loves this place and has taken up residency there.  In hindsight, the road to this church was an easy one.  An email from an old friend, a coffee with a new friend, meeting, greeting, connecting, praying, plugging in, God speaking, and finally a sense of peace.  I wish all life decisions were this smooth.  In a time when Dina and I could have been hard-headed about what’s next and laid out our own agenda of what the future should look like, God had a special plan for us.  And now that we are here, full of wonder, we absolutely love it.

Isaiah 40:31 says “but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”  We had patience and let the Lord lead us.  There really is no other choice.  You must trust.  www.vineyardcs.org

07
May
09

We Need More Holy Spirit – Part 2

Several weeks ago I posted on the subject matter of a lack of reference to the Holy Spirit in our modern worship songs.  In summary, I was a bit surprised when it occurred to me that contemporary, popular worship songs made little or no reference to the third part of the trinity.

I am sitting in the conference hall of the Vineyard USA National Leadership Conference in Galveston, TX right now.  We just had a time of corporate sung worship and I will say that I stand in a position of humble revelation that the church still loves, sings to, and worships the Holy Spirit.  As we worshipped I furiously typed the words to the tune we sang with abandon:

Come Holy Spirit, Come in your power

Come inhabit our praise, Come now and reign in our lives

Come Holy Spirit, Come Like the Wind

Come be Lord of our hearts, Come fill Your church once again

“As Children” by Jeremy Riddle (copyright Mercy/Vineyard)

I had an opportunity to meet some great Jesus followers here at the event and have some discussions about the state of worship in the church and it’s future, which got me thinking about something:

From the perspective of a professional marketer (a worshiper first and a marketer second yes, but experienced nonetheless) I sensed there might be intelligence built into the trend to fill a growing need within the non-charismatic evangelical church market.

A couple of years ago I was at an industry worship conference in a deep conversation with the head of said conference he remarked, “yeah everyone wants contemporary now.”  In a chat with a long-time worship pastor from the Assemblies of God denomination (a guy who had labored for years in helping many churches move from plant to mega size) said to me “I guess that [contemporary worship] is what everyone wants now, so we have to do it.” 

Could it be that the lack of Holy Spirit in contemporary worship based in a marketing plan by the contemporary worship music industry to reach, or rather, feed the evangelical church (and subsequently profit from it)?  The charismatic church, and even the mainline denominations have sung of the Holy Spirit for decades, and in the case of the latter, centuries.  But the modern evangelical church that hugs the conservative side of the road to appeal to a broader audience is making a conversion from old school worship to contemporary worship and could it be that artists and songwriters are softening their message? (Read my post on decline in CD sales here).

The larger the audience the more distilled the message typically becomes in order to appeal to broader commonalities within the audience.  Specialty shifts and lowest common denominator comes into play.  Niche is replaced by “reach.” 

As I said before, the Holy Spirit is a bit controversial.  Is the mentality:  let’s just remove the controversy and leave the palatable aspects of God!  Heck if we do that more people will hear about Jesus right?

The cross is an offense and removing the offend-able aspects of Jesus has been a strategy of Satan for ages.  If you don’t believe me, just ask yourself how many “blood” songs have you sung lately?  The blood is an offense.  I wrote the lyrics “a body broken atoned for my sin” into the song “Savior of the World” and at first the people who heard it met it with chagrin.  They were not used to this kind of poetry.

Removing the blood is like removing the Holy Spirit.  It is a strategy to extricate the whole truth from the lips of God’s children.

I am guilty of man-pleasing.  I don’t think any worship leader can escape that.  With some perspective though I think I truly understand how far popular contemporary worship has strayed from the commands of the faith.  Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength.”  If we leave out the Holy Spirit, we are not following the commands of God.

Worship and prayer being replaced by business and corruption.  Sound familiar?  Think about Jesus in the temple.  Let’s not let this next generation down by not writing about the fullness of God in our worship songs.  Let’s start a revolution.  No barrier between people and their worship of God.




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