Apocalypto – Ugly as Sin

Mel Gibson is a crazy man, which is great. He’s consumed by a vision of either God or religion or a mixture of both.

First Gibson shocked audiences with the gruesome reality of Christ's crucifixion in The Passion of Christ. Now, in Apocalypto, Gibson uses a similarly shocking portrayal of ancient reality to demonstrate the ugliness of sin.

Mel Gibson utilizes his access to mainstream culture to challenge mainstream thinking. Where public schools teach about evil europeans invading the innocent, peace-loving Native Americans, Gibson portrays the Catholic explorers as the protectors of the innocent. The point is that neither side is completely innocent. In any case I appreciate Gibson’s efforts to shed some positive light on the Catholic Church (not that I’m a proponent of Catholicism).

*** (warning: plot spoiler) ***

The pivotal scene plays out toward the end of the movie, when the main protagonist, Jaguar Paw (Rudy Youngblood) stumbles onto the beach with his last bit of energy, prepared to give up and die at the hands of his bloodthirsty pursuers. This beach would have been Jaguar Paw’s final resting place had not a strange floating craft filled with heavily clothed men floated near the shore. The man in front held a long staff topped with a crucifix. The sight stunned Jaguar paw and his pursuers to the point that they were frozen in their tracks. In this way, the Catholic explorers saved Jaguar Paw. Score one for the Catholic Church before they even stepped foot on North American soil!

The overarching theme of Apocalypto is mankind’s wickedness. Evil doesn’t exist because religious experts saw fit to define it; evil exists because men are inherently evil. Sin wasn’t invented by Christians; it is common to all men. All men have inherited sin no matter what continent people inhabit, no matter how many years they have lived on a continent unaffected by Europeans.

The hub of evil in Apocalypto is the Mayan empire. Looking in from the outside this ancient civilization seems superior to that of the jungle-dwellers. The Mayan society seems more advanced and richer than their jungle-dwelling counterparts. But the Mayans’ fancy façade only veils the rottenness of their hearts and minds. The Mayans show their true colors by forcing thousands of people into slavery, many of which they used for human sacrifice to their gods.

The Bible mentions the blood of Abel crying out from the ground for justice. So also with the Mayans the blood of countless innocent victims cried out to God for justice. This is prophetic for Americans in regards to abortion. God will not allow innocent bloodshed forever. He will eventually step in to strike a balance, even if that means annihilating everything we hold dear.

God will not endure evil forever. He puts up with human strongholds for a time, but inevitably people forget themselves and become excessively rebellious. History reveals a cycle of men rising up because God allowed them to rise until they go too far with their perversions, at which point God either allows them to destroy themselves or He brings in some outside force to wipe them out.

Gibson made a point of showing the spirituality of the Mayans. They were actively giving their minds over their sun god, or whichever gods they were dancing and chanting for. This illustrates that evil people can be spiritually aware however they cannot tell right from wrong because their consciences are too callused.

Kingdom of Heaven

By Ridley Scott; starring Orlando Bloom as Balian de Ibelin, Liam Neeson as Godfrey de Ibelin, Marton Csokas as Guy de Lusignan, Eva Green as Sibylla, Jeremy Irons as Tiberias and Edward Norton as King Baldwin.

Kingdom of Heaven takes place in Jerusalem during the 12th century Crusades. Orlando Bloom plays the main character, an honest blacksmith named Balian. His wife commits suicide because their child was lost during childbirth so he takes off for Jerusalem to redeem his wife’s as well as his own soul.

Ridley Scott does a fantastic job developing the characters of Kingdom of Heaven, especially Balian. He goes from antisocial blacksmith to leader of the Christian army, battling to defend Jerusalem.

Balian’s father, Godfrey, admits that he has led an imperfect life, but he does manage to teach Balian a few basic truths before he dies: Protect the weak, tell the truth and follow his conscience. Balian sticks to these basic truths and thereby demonstrates that following a few basic truths is the surest way to radically change the world.

Balian is surrounded by politics and manmade religion, but he seeks something more spiritually substantial. At one point he tells his friend, “I’ve lost my religion,” to which his friend replies, “I don’t put much stock in religion.” His friend goes on to explain that the true state of a man’s heart and mind is what really matters.

Balian’s peers encourage him to kill his arch enemy, Guy de Lusignan while he has the chance. Doing this will not only elevate him to the position of king, it will prevent a war with the Muslims that would cost thousands of lives. However Balian decides to obey his conscience. He refuses to commit one little evil to prevent what seems to be a greater evil.

Balian’s decision leads to the fall of Jerusalem and the annihilation of the Christian army. From God's point of view, this was the right decision. Balian embraces the secret brilliance of faith by trusting God over his ability to crunch numbers. In God's economy, it is better to “tell the truth, even if this leads to your death,” as Godfrey said. If Balian had compromised his convictions he might have prevented the death of thousands of people, but he honored God more by trusting his conscience. This demonstrates the general rule that God's priorities are more valuable than human life.

Kingdom of Heaven demonstrates the futility of manmade religion. The selfish, religious fanatics are continually at odds with the few men who think rationally about their situations. Some of the Christian leaders mindlessly chant “God wills it” just before they do something they know in their conscience to be wrong. Therefore Balian’s sincere understanding of what is truly God's will stands in contrast to the stunning stupidity of the religious men surrounding him.

Balian's unassuming faith stands in contrast to his hypocritical peers in a few other ways: He recognizes the fact that human life is more valuable than brick and mortar. He is willing to sacrifice his life to protect the helpless. He does the right thing for the sake of doing what's right, not for his own glory.

Meet the Robinsons -– “Keep Moving Forward”

Disney made an admirable effort to teach valuable truth in this recently released computer-animated flick. The main character, Lewis, is a boy-genius who is plagued with failure and disappointment. From the time his mother left him at the orphanage his very existence has seemed unwelcome in the world. Through some dramatic, time-traveling adventures, however, he learns that failure can actually be a good thing so long as he learns from this failure. His life motto becomes “Keep Moving Forward.”

Lewis tries to teach the sinister Bowler Hat Guy to move on from his bitterness about the past to which Bowler Hat Guy replies, “Hmmm, take responsibility for my own life or blame you… ding! ding! ding! I think I’ll blame you!”

The more the motto, “Keep Moving Forward,” was repeated the more I got the feeling that this is not a sufficient philosophy for dealing with life. I got the feeling that this motto is designed to empower people as much as they can be apart from God.

Otherwise, the movie was pretty good. If I was a kid I would have loved it.

The Reaping (starring Hillary Swank)

I almost regretted renting The Reaping as I carried it over the threshold of my living room. I assumed it would spill over with religious cliché and cheap thrills (“Oh no, why is she going in their ALONE?”). This ended up being true, but with a lot of pleasantly original twists.

The Reaping kept me guessing, “Who brought on these plagues? Is the little girl evil or good?” It all ends in an enlightening surprise ending in which everyone is exposed for who they really are.

The Reaping a few bits of sincere truth, such as the fact that there’s a fine line between crazy cults and mainstream religion. Though the little town of Haven, Louisiana seems as devout as any town in the Bible Belt could be, a deceptive evil lurks in the people’s hearts and minds.

** (warning: plot spoilers) **

The townspeople confide in their pious signs with “THE LORD” painted in all caps and people burning in hell. Their Baptiseque subculture seems to validate their religious ranting. But the “lord” they follow is another god altogether as one of the movie’s main characters, Doug (David Morrissey) proudly confesses. They had learned to pray to a different god, “the true lord,” who “really answers their prayers.” It is sad to hear him admit this with such conviction.

The pivotal point in the movie occurs as the final plague rains down on the townspeople, when Katherine (Hillary Swank) finally realizes who is innocent and who is a pawn of Satan. Doug commands Katherine to kill the little girl, Loren, before all the firstborn (all the people in the town) are vaporized. He argues that the God she follows killed her family, therefore she should kill this girl who was sent by the same God. She responds with wonderful clarity that God didn’t kill her family, but rather godless, insecure men killed her family, therefore she would not kill this little girl.

At one point Katherine waxes eloquent about the ridiculousness of miracles by recounting some “false miracles” in Egypt that turned out to be nothing more than environmental anomalies. This made me realize how silly secular science is. Here’s a newsflash for secular scientists: Miraculous occurrences that can be explained through science are no less miraculous! Describing how the world works is easier and safer than explaining why the world works. The “how” is meaningless without the “why.” In any case, scientific “how’s” should lead us to the overarching “why,” which is God's divine ingenuity. Of course, as far as this movie goes, Katherine’s disbelief in the supernatural is annihilated by events as they unfold before her.

The One Good Thing about the Movie Costantine (starring Keanu Reeves)

There was one solid spiritual truth expressed in the movie Constantine, starring Neo and Rachel Weisz. The rest was either religious cliché or just plain silly. Neo (otherwise known as Keanu Reaves) played himself. Gabriel was played by a girl with an English accent. And Satan had a son. How glaringly unoriginal.

Unsurprisingly, Hollywood remains clueless about practical spirituality. The closest thing to spirituality the writers of Constantine could come up with is a lot of recycled, Catholic mysticism.

Constantine illustrates a brief struggle between Neo, Gabriel and Satan's son to obtain the "spear that killed Christ" so they can use God's power without Him knowing about it. Toward the end Constantine almost dies. At this point God shows up as a light coming down from heaven. Everyone, including Neo, Gabriel and Satan's son, were helpless against God's overarching Power. They couldn't avoid that fact that God makes the rules. In this way Warner Brothers accidentally honored God.

The Prophetic Life of Lauryn Hill

Keep in mind that it is not honorable by worldly standards to be a prophet. Prophets speak God's mind to people who usually don’t want to hear it, so their presence is oftentimes not welcome. Prophets are not perfect, not without sin and, since they speak God's Spirit-based truth, they needn’t be particularly eloquent or intellectually savvy either. As with every other area of God's kingdom, He uses unexpected people to convey His spiritual realities.

Religious experts would like to think that prophets possess a super-spiritual glow while they make lots of dramatic gestures as in Michelangelo’s paintings. But that is much too impractical. Prophetic people, as well as anyone else God uses, are regular people, intended by God to fill a practical, spiritual purpose.

With Hill’s first album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, she communicated a variety of spiritual truth by a means that people could understand: Music. This is prophetic. One particular track, “To Zion,” illustrates a powerful parallel between her own potentially “inconvenient” pregnancy and the pregnancy of Mary with Jesus, which was certainly inconvenient. According to the song, this pregnancy could not have helped Hill’s career, but she kept the baby anyway and named him “Zion.” Zion embodies salvation and hope in the minds of Jewish people, who are God's people. Hill trusted God with her pregnancy and God worked out her circumstances for something greater than she previously imagined. Mary trusted God and He worked it out for the salvation of the whole world.

Other songs on Hill’s Miseducation album touch on godly themes as well, especially the last track, which quoted First Corinthians chapter 13 almost word for word.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill sold millions and millions and won her like hundred Grammies (or at least more than anyone else had ever gotten at one time). In other words, whether or not people absorbed any spiritual truth, they certainly had ample opportunity. This is also prophetic. God oftentimes makes prophetic truth widely available, though discernable to only a few.

After this major success, at a time when people were expecting Hill to bask in the sunlight of her fame and fortune, she made an unexpected departure from the public arena. The same Truth she had been trying so hard to express led her to rethink a few things.

A few years later Hill made an appearance on MTV’s Unplugged, a show/recording session where artists come to play mostly acoustic versions of their songs. In this case Hill brought about two new CDs worth of songs, all the material God had been revealing to her for the last few years. The double-disc recording of the event (the same version that sold at least a million copies) offers both songs as well as her mid-song monologues, where she talks extensively about God. At the beginning of the performance she speaks in spiritual generalities until the end when she talks more blatantly about spiritual realities than I would have ever expected to hear on MTV. So, here again, Hill used the means she had available to her to convey spiritual truth.

Later Lauryn Hill recorded the track, “Selah,” which is the name of another of her children. The chorus of the song explains that “Selah” means “praise and meditation,” which sums up her relationship to God at that time. This is also prophetic. Throughout the Bible people name their children according to whatever God is doing or going to do, in particular the prophets (Hosea and Isaiah).

The word “Selah” is scattered throughout many of the biblical Psalms to separate one stanza, or stream of thought, from another. Interestingly, Hill’s song closely resembles both the structure and spirit of the Psalms. In this new Psalm she weaves truth, experience and revelation together into a God-honoring masterpiece. God orchestrated a convergence of life-development in just the right moment to bring this about. That particular song made its appearance through a major motion picture and its subsequent soundtrack. Again, Hill used her influence as a mainstream artist to convey spiritual truth.

Back in 2003, at the height of the Catholic church’s pedophile scandal/cover-up, Hill accepted an invitation to perform at the Vatican. After setting up on stage, she took the opportunity to publicly rebuke Catholic church-leaders for ruining people’s lives and then trying to cover up the fact. She called them out on their destructive behavior in front of thousands of stunned onlookers and then went on to finish her performance. It made sense to her to speak the truth. Meanwhile a more politically-minded Vatican spokesman dismissed her actions as “in bad taste.” She expressed plain truth to a group of stubborn religious leaders in a way they could not ignore. This is also prophetic.


Click stars Adam Sandler as Michael Newman, Kate Beckinsale as Donna Newman, Christopher Walken as Morty (the angel of death), David Hasselhoff as Ammer (Michael's boss), and Sean Astin as Bill (the guy who will steal Donna away if Michael doesn't shape up).

Michael is a father, a husband and an architect. He would like to excel at all these roles simultaneously, but he discovers that time will not permit. He tends to neglect his family in favor of advancing his career in the architecture firm, which he is doing so he can care for his family, and on and on. Right when circumstances become overwhelming, he gets the break of a lifetime: A man named Morty (who is actually the angel of death) gives him a magical remote control that allows him to alter the world around him. In particular, his new remote allows him to stop or speed up time. Much to Michael’s surprise, however, this special remote was never meant to make his life easier… it was meant to teach him a lesson about true value.

On at least a weekly basis I think about how nice it would be to accomplish everything I want to accomplish right now. I wish I had a special stopwatch to stop everything for a day or two so I might sit down and finish more work than regular time will permit. "If only I could get everything done now!”

There is a solution to my time-management dilemma: I should trust God. He specialized in redeeming lost time. Apart from Him time is my enemy.

It's helpful to remember that God's definition of “accomplishment” is not what I would expect naturally. Mortal men measure their accomplishments by how much money they accumulate, by the number of people they have working under them or by how many skyscrapers they’ve built. But, from God's perspective, this is tragically short-sighted.

What happens to these buildings eventually? They crumble and disintegrate. What happens to money eventually? It’s either stolen or it becomes worthless when the society upholding that money ceases to exist. What happens to all humans eventually? We die.

Think about these two facts:

1. We were made to wear out in a hundred years or less.

2. We will never be perfect.

These should help us remember this encouraging truth: God wants us to concentrate on the living process. The ends don’t justify the means... the means are our end. This should be a huge relief to people trying to orchestrate their lives before their lives actually happen.

At the end of Click, Michael Newman finds out that he has missed out on the best things in life by concentrating too much on the future. In particular, he was already rich and successful because of his loving family. He discovers that he should enjoy his present success by blessing his family and allowing his family to bless him.


The fact that God values the process should encourage the average working person. There is a healthy kind of discontentment, true. We should want to improve ourselves and the world around us. However, the best way to improve ourselves and the world around us is to make the most of today. This means more than just working hard... we should also be deliberately joyful and content. As we live every day purposefully focused on God, working with whatever He has apportioned us, we will grow up into spiritual wisdom and bless the people around us. This hints at our highest purpose for existing, which is to honor God with our daily lives.

That God values the process, or how we live on a daily basis, is related to the general truth that “What we do today is what we will be tomorrow.”

This should also affect the way Christians try to improve the world. Christians have learned from the world how to be excessively fixated on distant goals that might happen someday. Of course, plans and goals are good. But our most basic purpose for living is to obey God right now. Our best game plan, therefore, is to maintain a prayerful and contented mindset, enjoying God as well as whatever circumstances He has placed us in. We should take advantage of present opportunities to love others unconditionally and speak the truth with a clear conscience. God has afforded each one of us a purposeful sphere of influence, therefore let us trust and obey Him right now, wherever we are, and leave the rest up to him.


"Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit" — you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that."

-- James 4:13-15

Transformers the Movie

Movie Prologue: “Before time began, there was the Cube. We know not where it comes from, only that it holds the power to create worlds, and fill them with life. That is how our race was born...

Using a cube (called "The All-Spark") to represent a supernatural creator was an arbitrary choice made by producers of Transformers. A cube is comprehensible to the human mind, which proves that a human came up with it.

But there some significant parallels between the All-Spark and the Living God.

Notice that the All-Spark is vulnerable to its own creation. The typical manmade deity sits far off from mankind, invincible and unapproachable. However, the good guys in Transformers end up saving the day by "killing" the All-Spark. Here is one simple parallel between Jesus Christ and the All-Spark: Jesus stepped down from His place at God's right hand to make Himself vulnerable to men, even to the point of letting men torture and kill Him. This was the unexpected method by which Christ saved mankind and demonstrated His Divinity.

The creators of Transformers did right by pointing out the divine genius of biology. They attributed their intelligence and mechanical complexity to biological roots.

This appropriate because flesh is not terribly different from metal. Both flesh and metal come from the ground. They are both made from basic elements found in nature. Either flesh or metal might carry around consciousness, depending on the Creator's choice. Metal just happens to be simpler; simple enough for humans to mold and manipulate. Machines resemble the life God created they require creativity and deliberate engineering. They only lack that one mysterious element that humans will never be able to conjure up on their own: Consciousness.

Any biologist who takes a minute to contemplate their profession will admit that life, or the origin of life, is truly mysterious. It must have been a Supernatural Force that invent life.

Do you see how creative life is? We consider ourselves intelligent for our manipulation of the biological systems that God put in place... but God invented the idea of life. Life as we know it didn't exist until God came up with this clever idea.

God decided that we should have the capacity to manipulate life. He chose to give us this ability. Therefore, we mortals can only revise and reorder the elements in God put in place. Someone who manipulates this physical reality better than other people (such as a chemist or an abstract artist) might be considered especially smart, or creative. But God is the Author of the concept of creativity. You can’t beat that.

The origin of life must be supernatural. There must be something to spark life into lifeless dirt or metal. Life, especially consciousness, is an inexplicable mystery.

We might invent a robotic quality of artificial intelligence, but we can never re-invent life or an artificial consciousness. Computers can do what humans tell them to do, which is a limited kind of intelligence; they might even “learn” to make decisions on their own one of these days. But life is something beyond microchips and hard drives.

Men, who were given life, were also given certain limitations. All supernatural authority (and indeed all authority in general) is reserved for the the Original Divine One, the Originator.

Many of those who deny God would like to think that life is nothing more than complex, biological mechanisms. Such a limited understanding of life might inspire a man to spend his whole life welding silicon and metal together in a futile attempt to recreate life. This man might come up with a more-fancy-than-average computer, but his metal and silicon will never attain to consciousness.

We can’t crack open a person to find their consciousness the same way a clock maker cracks open a clock to see its inner mechanisms, and yet we admit that we are conscious. Yes, our bodies are made of biological mechanisms, but these mechanisms in themselves do not make us valuable. Our value is a spiritual trait that God instills in us.

It's no coincidence that people who don’t know God would like to throw away the lives of people who are crippled or flawed in some obvious way... because they don't know God they don’t understand what makes people valuable. For this reason, the further our society strays from God, the more acceptable it will be to throw away people's lives because they are too young or too old or because they don’t seem productive enough. If we were machines, then our inherent value would be dictated by our measurable productivity.

But Jesus' actions demonstrate the fact that our value is immeasurable by human standards.

The closer we are to God's heart the better we will understand that human life is precious in itself.

The Movies Stardust, The Mummy and other Fantasy Tales

Stardust uses magic to explain the way things are. Why doesn’t this surprise us? Isn’t it strange that so many fantasy tales explain things through supernatural causes?

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are well-known Christian authors who used magical themes to illustrate Godly truth. In his Chronicles of Narnia for example, Lewis portrays good magic and bad magic, old magic and ancient magic. He uses these different kinds of magic to demonstrate spiritual truth. We might call all God's work “magical,” both His creation as well as in His interaction with creation.

At one point in Stardust the leader of the evil witches, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, uses magic to create a quaint little inn out of nothing. Under normal circumstances such a building would require bricks, mortar, wood beams, etc. But the mere existence of man-made buildings is no less miraculous than Pfeiffer’s display. We could explain that wood beams come from trees, but where do trees come from? We could say trees grow up out of the ground, but where did the life force that drives that growth come from?

Magic is the underlying force that drives everything in the movie Stardust. What makes the king’s amulet fly up to heaven? What gives the Babylon candle its power? Magic. Magical power gives fantasy tales plot. It’s what makes sense out of incredible, fictional situations. We might describe daily life similarly.

It is ironic that secular, fantasy tales are about people who wield supernatural power but they are still fixated on earthly ideals. For example, the witches in Stardust use their magic to stay on earth as long as possible. They have this amazing power and the only thing they can thing to do with it is prolong their fleshly lives.

The Mummy, starring Brendan Frasier, is another example of people who encounter amazing, supernatural power and yet remain enslaved to worldly desires. These men (or mummies who have back from the dead) seek power to rule earth forever. But the earth won’t be around forever. Even the sun will burn out eventually. So such power struggles are ultimately futile.

The Mummy and The Mummy 2 were popular because people are enchanted the by idea that ancient Egyptians had super-magical powers. The average person would like to have such magical powers. The Egyptians might have possessed such power, but they’re all dead now, so it makes little difference anymore.

It is revealing that, even though we are trapped in mortal bodies, we remain interested in supernatural power. Even surviving life right now seems all-important we can’t avoid thinking about different versions of “the Afterlife.” This hints at the reality of God.

Jesus Christ came to explain spirituality. He called everyday, supernatural realities “The Kingdom of Heaven” or “God's Kingdom.” Spiritual or supernatural realities are relevant to daily life according to Jesus.

Worldly people would like to obtain magical powers so they might worship themselves better. However, knowing about spiritual realities is useful only so far as it drives us to worship God better. Jesus is the ultimate spiritual Guru. This is His message.

Linkin Park – “What I’ve Done” -- True Reconciliation

True reconciliation is difficult. This is unexpected because the people who need reconciliation are so often already going through difficult times. But such is God's design. He requires courage and sacrifice, even from the frightened and weak, from those who seem to have already lost everything.

When a person finally becomes desperate enough to ask for reconciliation, God says, “OK, you can have it. All you have to do is die to yourself. You’ve already been through more than you ever thought you could bear, I know. Now I’m asking you to go even further.”

The secret to true reconciliation is death in Christ. In this way Christ makes His followers some of the most courageous people in the world.

Linkin Park describes a heavenly quality of mercy and reconciliation in their song, “What I’ve Done.” This song’s lyrics express a resolute, soul-deep surrender.

Whoever might pray these words must embrace God's purposeful uncertainty. Allowing God to wipe the slate clean or erase oneself is strategically mysterious.

It is impossible for a person to be reconciled in Christ and yet also be in denial about their own sin. On the contrary, Christ gives us the ability to confront sin effectively. After all, what good is reconciliation that does not confront reality?

Any person who understands what sin is will jump on the first chance they can get to destroy it. Christ gives us that chance. How do we obtain this mercy? We must ask in Christ's name.

Linkin Park may or may not have had Jesus Christ in mind when they wrote “What I’ve Done.” In any case this song describes courageous, godly reconciliation in Christ beautifully.

Forrest Gump -– Pure Freedom

Regular people are bogged down by spiritual impurity. Even the smartest or most diligent people in the world can’t avoid the hindering effects of sin. But innocent people, such as Forrest Gump, live freely. The movie Forrest Gump demonstrates the unrestrained quality of life that only a pure-hearted person can live.

Purity recognizes injustice and acts quickly. Forrest Gump, for example, notices a man striking his friend, Jenny. Within seconds Gump was all over that man. Everyone in the room knew he was right, even despite all the racial tensions clogging their minds.

Purity loves others extravagantly. Gump didn’t hesitate to run out to Jenny in front of all those people at the peace rally. His speech went unheard but his actions spoke more powerfully than words. Gump couldn't help loving his fellow soldiers unconditionally, so much so that he ran into a jungle flying with bullets and shrapnel to save a half dozen of them. It was his genuine love for his friend, Bubba, that inspired him to go back in into the jungle.

Purity is also dedicated. Gump didn’t just run; he ran faster than anyone else in college football. He didn’t just play ping pong; he won the world championship of ping pong. He didn’t just take a jog; he ran longer and further than anyone had ever heard of. He didn’t just clean and reassemble his gun faster than his friends; he did so faster than anyone in the company’s history.

Purity is also unselfish. Gump risked his life for his friends. He stood up for Jenny despite a room full of opposition. He watched out for Lieutenant Dan despite even Lieutenant Dan's protests. He gave half the value of his shrimping business Bubba’s family to honor his agreement with Bubba.

Purity is also honest. Gump amazed people with his unassuming honesty. He captivated passersby with his straightforward storytelling. Whenever he spoke, it tended to be purposeful and to the point. He told it like it is so well that he coined one of the most famous two-worded sentences ever, “S--- happens.”

Man on Fire -– God's Justice

In Man on Fire Denzel plays a washed-out special ops agent named John Creasy who takes on a simple bodyguard gig in Mexico City for the sake of staying employed. The simplicity of this new job is fitting for him because he is still highly skilled in the killing business but his chronic drinking hinders his abilities. His assignment is to guard a little girl named Pita (Dakota Fanning).

The most dominant theme in this movie is justice, in particular God's justice. Before he gets “on fire” he speaks briefly with a Catholic nun who chides him about his job, saying she wishes it didn’t have to exist. She seems to frown on him personally. She begins to quote a Bible verse, saying “Do not be over come with evil…” but Creasy quickly cuts her off, finishing the verse with “… but overcome evil with good,” saying the verse number as well: “Romans 12:21,” all this in Spanish. So yes, he is aware of the Scriptures. Yes he is aware of evil and good. Then he says to the nun, “I’m the sheep that got away.”

I appreciate Creasy’s desire for genuine spirituality. He’s not going to hide the fact that he despises his existence. He’s not going to deny that he has regrets. If God reconciles him, so be it. This helps him develop a pure sense of justice, which God Himself seems to instill in Creasy through his relationship with Pita.

At first Creasy is cold and distant from Pita. But he eventually warms up to her persistent amiability. Time goes on and, thanks to her, he learns once again how to appreciate genuine, untainted love. Then someone kidnaps Pita. The contrast between good and evil is so clear cut for Creasy at this point that he seeks justice for the girl, even if it costs him his life.

Man on Fire takes place in Mexico City where public officials and law enforcement are famous for their corruptibility. This means, if Creasy does not save Pita, then no one will. In fact, if Creasy wants to save Pita, he must do so despite Mexican law enforcement and public officials.

I can’t say conclusively that Creasy is justified in the actions he took, but I can’t blame him either. He saw purity in contrast to a world full of corruption. He saw a vision of justice more clearly than everyone around him. This is similar to God's point of view (not to say Creasy should have seen himself as God): God's hates injustice. He kills wrongdoers. He destroys whole nations that get too far out of hand. God especially hates the oppression of the helpless and the innocent people. So it is possible that God would use a man like Creasy to bring some balance to an excessively unjust situation.

Notice the heart with which Creasy rained fire on the kidnapping syndicate. His actions brought him no personal gain. He even ended up giving his life in exchange for the girl’s. This is exactly the way Jesus Christ works. Christ will bring justice to the world in the end times, but not before He died to save the world.

I Am Legend -- Light Up the Darkness

"The Light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the Light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the Light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God." -- Jesus (John 3:19-21, ESV)

In the movie I Am Legend, Will Smith plays a man who lives in fear and solitude for about three years. He is driven by his desire to fix the biological disaster that seems to have wiped out all of humanity except himself. He borrows his life-motto from Bob Marley’s mission in life: to “Light up the Darkness.” He wants to be as dedicated as Marley in bringing good, or light, into the world.

One obvious spiritual theme in I Am Legend is Light vs. Darkness. God designed us to depend on light. Light implies reconciliation, goodness and purity. We dwell in the light if we have nothing to hide. Jesus even calls Himself the Light of the world. When we dwell in the Light, we can see and accomplish a lot more than when we stumble around in the darkness. When we dwell in the Light we live unhindered by all the blindness and fear that comes from staying in the dark.

In I Am Legend there are two kinds of people left in the world: Light-dwellers and dark-dwellers. Will Smith is one of the few light-dwellers left in the world (for a while he thinks he's the only uninfected person in the world). The vast majority are crazed zombies who can only come out at night because sunlight will burn them alive.

We would like to hide in darkness to cover up our shameful lives. But Jesus shines light on our sin, exposing it... it's no wonder that we naturally hate Him. We hate the Light because He exposes our evil deeds for what they are.

Sin is similar to the infection depicted in I Am Legend. Sin has devastated humanity. Sin reduces people to animalistic impulses. Sin inspires people to hide in shame. Apart from God, we are enslaved by sin to the point that we can’t help destroying ourselves as well as the world around us.

In I Am Legend, the majority of people left on earth have the capacity to be productive but they are compelled by their infection to use their physical and mental facilities for killing, destruction and infecting others. The minority, the light-dwellers, risk their lives in their attempts to save the dark-dwellers.

Toward the end of the movie Smith emerges as a Christ/savior-figure to the raging zombies, holding a vial of his own blood, which would cure them if they would only accept it. Smith culminates the Christ-parallel by giving the blood away and then sacrificing himself in order to make the blood available to other people. Smith also resembles Christ in that he was the only person in the whole city who was immune to this horrible infection.

I Am Legend

Any zombie movie has the potential to illustrate the ugliness of sin. Zombies are formerly pleasant, hard-working, mostly honest people who turn into animalistic, blood-thirsty goons. Apparently, anyone has the potential to be a zombie. Resident Evil, for example, explains zombification through latent brain waves that give the body enough energy to keep walking around, except only as senseless beasts. According to Resident Evil, people without restraints become monsters.

Zombie movies are ideal for scaring people because they portray an everyday world gone wrong. The people you thought you could trust are now clambering to tear out your larynx with their teeth.

I Am Legend does a particularly good job of demonstrating the spiritual implications of such a biological disaster. There are hints throughout the movie that keep God in forefront of the plot.

(Warning: Plot Spoilers Ahead)

Toward the beginning of I Am Legend, Will Smith defends God's reputation, saying that people imposed this disaster on themselves. Later on, after he endures a few years of loneliness and fear in a civilization devoid of civilized people, he struggles with this conviction.

Toward the end a young Cuban woman saves his life and claims that God guided her to find him just in time. She goes on about how, if we only listen, we will hear God's voice. Out of pent up frustration from his years of fruitless work, Smith shouts back to the woman that God doesn’t exist. Eventually, however, Smith thinks about the young woman’s words and comes around again. His newfound faith in God's divine plans inspires his so deeply that he sacrifices himself for the young woman and her son, as well as for everyone else who would benefit from his zombie remedy.

It is realistic that a man in Smith’s situation would struggle with his faith. However, the fact that his difficulties eventually solidify his faith makes the whole ordeal worthwhile.

A recurring theme is, “Where is God when bad things happen?” The answer from I Am Legend is, “We should not blame God for our mistakes.” There are posters in deserted city scenes that say “God still loves us, do we love Him?” Another poster portrays of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, except where the man’s hand used to be, reaching back out to God, there is a gun pointing back at God.

The TV Show Heroes -- How to Resist Evil

The characters of Heroes keep us at the edge of our seats with their urgent mission to resist evil: “We’ve got to stop this bomb before it kills all these innocent people!” “We’ve got to get there before the bad guy!” “We’ve got to use our powers for good so we can beat the bad guy, who’s using his powers for evil!” … and on and on.

But all the flying, invisible, nuclear, walking-through-walls and telekinetic powers in the world will never stop evil. The problem is more deeply rooted than any DNA mutation can comprehend.

The good guys in Heroes think, "If we try hard enough, we'll be able to save the world." But no one can straighten out spiritual crookedness by physical or intellectual means. For this reason Jesus Christ came to earth, to be the world's divinely effective salvation.

Sylar, the central bad guy in Heroes, for example, would have lost all motivation to be evil if he had taken care of business with God. Since he didn’t know Christ, he was driven to madness by his insecure desire to feel special. Christ would have instilled true value into his life, thereby saving him and everyone else he saw fit to kill. He would have taught Sylar the right way to feel special, which is not by focusing more on himself but by focusing more on God. Christ frees His people from trying to coerce love with His divine quality of love.

The characters in Heroes wouldn’t have caused so much trouble for themselves if they had asked Christ to redeem their outlooks on life. Nathan (the flying man), for example, would not have tried to take such drastic measures to unite the nation if he had a spiritually sound understanding of how to bring about good.

Christ teaches people to bring about good by doing good. Sin teaches people to bring about good by doing bad.

There are some bad guys in Heroes who don’t see themselves as bad because sin is making their minds malfunction. The evil that resides in them prevents them from realizing that they themselves are evil. This is a realistic demonstration of the stupefying effect of sin. As a general rule, if a person can only think of evil to bring about good, then that person is probably evil.

Characters in Heroes as well as in the real world are convinced that political intrigue, deception and mass killing will improve the world. This goes to show how people, who are naturally evil, cannot understand good until Christ teaches them.

All evil would be eliminated forever if everyone took care of their business with God. The roots of evil in this world would be torn out of the ground and destroyed if everyone cried out to Jesus.


Directed by Zach Snyder, starring Gerard Butler as King Leonidas, Lena Headey as Queen Gorgo and Dominic West as Theron (the traitor).

300 is good for its groundbreaking cinematography, creative characters and the fact that the Spartans were fighting for something greater than themselves.

300 also demonstrates the strength of camaraderie. The Spartans are so tenaciously unified that they defeat armies far greater than their own modest force (of three hundred men). A chain carries great weight because its links hold powerfully to one another. So also the Spartans’ strength was not in any singular man, but in the combined efforts of the whole regiment.

However the combined strength of the most disciplined men in the world is still limited apart from God.

In particular, 300 demonstrates the futility of manly pride. Consider this quote from King Leonidas: "Spartans! Ready your breakfast and eat hearty... For tonight, we dine in hell!" That's one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. He obviously does not know what hell is, or he would not be bragging about he fact that he is going there. There is a fearful reason hell is called “hell”: It is designed to be eternally unbearable. If hell-bound people had to face unending hardships that they might overcome then we might rename hell and call it “earth.”

Every man, no matter how great, must eventually die. How men deal with this fact divides the wise from the foolish, the sheep from the goats.

The Spartans thought that their pride strengthened them. This is true to some extent, especially in their fighting abilities... they killed more Persians than visa versa. But where are these great ones now? They’re all dead.

It is possible for our efforts on this earth to make a difference eternally? Yes. That is exactly the sort of thing Jesus came to teach about. The kingdom of God stretches from this life into the next. God's adopted children will continue in the next life in the same direction as this life. If we follow Christ, then our purpose for existing starts now and stretches out into eternity.

All prideful strongholds must eventually crumble. Sparta, for example, has been extinct for two thousand years. Likewise, the foolishness of trusting in mortal strength has been demonstrated over and over throughout history.

King Leonidas cared about something non-material, I'll give him that. But, from a heavenly standpoint, he was still tragically shortsighted.

"Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done." -- Matthew 16

“My Sacrifice” -- A Prayer By Creed

Hello my friend, we meet again
It's been awhile, where should we begin?
Feels like forever
Within my heart are memories
Of perfect love that you gave to me
Oh, I remember...

When you are with me, I'm free
I'm careless, I believe
Above all the others we'll fly
This brings tears to my eyes
My Sacrifice

We've seen our share of ups and downs
Oh how quickly life can turn around
In an instant
It feels so good to reunite
Within yourself and within your mind
Let's find peace there

When you are with me, I'm free
I'm careless, I believe
Above all the others we'll fly
This brings tears to my eyes
My sacrifice

I just want to say hello again
I just want to say hello again


The beginning of Creed’s music video for “My Sacrifice” focuses on an elderly man sitting by himself. He is blind, judging by total whiteness of his eyes. This man is an older Scott Stapp. The man sits there, thoughtful, until he begins to sink into a reverie. The camera follows him into his reverie, zooming in on his ghostly eyes, deep enough to see his memories.

The ensuing music video is the old man’s daydream. It’s a general flashback of his younger years. Everyone is carrying on in his old neighborhood as they used to all those years ago, except everything is covered with about 5 feet of water. There are kids playing baseball, the old movie house and even the mailman. No one is bothered by the water. There are childhood friends, old girlfriends and monks (representing rigid religiosity).

As Scott floats along in his simple boat, he sees a fist rise out of the water, which he grasps and pulls upward. The fist is connected to a replica of himself. His other self rises up out of the water and sits down in the boat with himself. He does a similar rising out of the water in his music video for “With Arms Wide Open.” This represents his baptism, or the momentous occasion when he came to life spiritually. When Stapp was baptized he was buried with Christ in death so that he might rise again with Christ in His resurrection, leaving all sin behind, washed clean in God's sight forever.

Toward the End of Creed’s music video for “My Sacrifice” there is a violent storm swirling around, filling the air with all kinds of debris. Stapp sits in a nearby diner as he watches a boy take shelter from the storm under a truck. Out in the middle of the storm there is motherly-looking young woman who does her best to stand up to the wind. Despite her violent surroundings, she does her best to look hopeful. This seems to be Stapps supportive mother. The storm dies down and Scott walks out of the diner, to embrace the boy. The music video ends with the boy’s eyes fading to white, matching the aforementioned old man’s eyes. The eyes zoom back out again and it is the old man coming out of his daydream.

“My Sacrifice” gives a glimpse into Scott Stapp’s lifelong spiritual journey. The song addresses someone called “My Sacrifice.” This must be Jesus Christ. Who else has died as a sacrifice and yet still lives today so that He might be addressed?

A lesson from “My Sacrifice” is: The journey Christ's people take with Him is real. This journey involves genuine life-experience. The general summation of our lives impacts our spiritual existence and visa versa. The most significant turning point anyone might experience throughout their entire life-experience is baptism in Christ.

Worship God with Alanis Morissette

The general vibe of Alanis Morissette’s opus, Jagged Little Pill, is that she’s an angry woman plagued with regrets. Crusading feminists took up her song, “You Oughta Know” as their flagship with lyrics such as, “When I scratch my nails down someone else’s back I hope you feel it…”

There is almost nothing peaceful or pleasant about this album except for one song, “Head Over Feet.” This song is a startling departure from the general harshness of Jagged Little Pill. It is this tender-hearted exception that might be adapted into a song of worship directed to God.

“Head Over Feet” expresses the heart of someone who has been won over by genuine love and affection. Whether or not this describes Morissette’s heart directly, the fact that she of all female artists performs this song is poetic. Morissette expresses stunning tenderness, even humility, as she sings “You’ve already won me over, in spite of me…”

Human romance exists to illustrate God's divinely romantic pursuit of His people. Human romance is beautiful because it is a reflection of His extravagant love for us. The fact that He injects everyday things with such heavenly significance demonstrates this pursuit.

Morissette describes a relationship that brilliantly describes the way God interacts with His redeemed people. He listens. He treats them better than they’re used to being treated. He demonstrates a divine, unconditional love that doesn’t make sense to us naturally.

The Golden Compass

Starring Nicole Kidman as Marisa Coulter and Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel. Based on the book by Philip Pullman.

Philip Pullman was so inspired by C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia that he decided to make his own imitation. Except, where Lewis wrote to inspire people toward healthy spirituality and reconciliation with God, Pullman writes to promote mysticism and discourage people from seeking God. Like C.S. Lewis, Pullman gears his magical tales for younger audiences. Except, where Lewis wrote to expand children’s imaginations and encourage innocence, Pullman wrote to impress his intellectual cynicism on young people.

Pullman’s writing ability as well as the cinematography of the Golden Compass are top notch. The movie was designed to make millions, obviously. But the substance of the story is cliché at worst, uninspired at best.

In the Golden Compass, all humans have little spirit friends called “daemons,” personified by animals. This, in a nutshell, demonstrates the unoriginality of man-made spirituality. Pullman can come up with new daemons to whatever extent God invents new animals.

Pullman, an intellectual, couldn’t help deifying intellectualism. The “free-thinking” academics of the story were the only people in town who would step up to the plate and take a swing for free-will and free-thought. This makes sense from Pullman’s perspective, as someone who is a plumber by trade might join a plumber’s union in order to uphold the rights of plumbers everywhere.

Pullman demonstrated this general rule: Godless people’s ability to detect cliché is handicapped by their tainted, self-destructive passions.

I suspect that Pullman has been burned by religion. He uses the Golden Compass to portray an insidious religious establishment, which he calls the “Magisterium.” According to Pullman, this establishment, made up of “the authorities,” is the source of all evil.

The tragedy here is that Pullman’s negative experience with the Catholic church might have driven him toward a healthy, genuine spirituality if he had only asked God for help directly. But, instead of reconciliation, he opted for bitterness and cynicism. This was the weaker thing to do. It is easier to embrace hopelessness and doubt rather than trust God.

By the looks of it, he not only doubts God, he also doubts his choice to doubt God. Why else would he go to such lengths to justify himself? He went as far as writing a series of books that culminate with the death of “god”.

Pullman is distracted by man-made religion. Man-made religion is not of God. That’s why it’s called “man-made.” Pullman figured out that the Catholic church is a fake. Whoopdee doo, he’s not the first one to figure this out. The wisest response to this would have been to seek out the Truth directly. Instead he decided to sit around and pout.

Pullman has been deceived by his own bitterness and regret. He is so thoroughly led astray that he equates sin with goodness. According to his story (this surfaces more in his later books), when people rebelled against god, a supernatural substance called “dust” was introduced into the world. This dust is the source of all good things, free will in particular. The Magisterium doesn’t want anyone to know about this wonderful spiritual substance. So, according to Pullman, the church wants to eliminate sin, but this is bad because sin is actually the best thing that’s ever happened to people. As soon as the people in the Golden Compass story rediscover this dust and embrace its life-giving power, they will be free from the stifling oppression of the Magisterium.

Again, the tragedy here is that Pullman started to discover the truth about man-made religion: It distracts people from genuine spirituality. His disillusion almost drove him to find Life; instead he found death disguised as Life.

Pullman, like any godless person, admires rebelliousness. This is shortsighted and foolish. A rebellious man does not know who he is. He only knows who he is not. God will tell people who they really are. Most people, however, choose to worship anything but God because they want to define themselves. This is imitation freedom.

The Golden Compass is discouraging because it is uninspired. Some works of men were meant to be. Some creations are brought to life by a pure, fiery passion to create. This is not easy, mind you. An inspired vision requires sweat and labor to manifest either on paper, on screen or on stage. But it takes hard-headed coercion to bring uninspired work to fruition. Any task undertaken apart from or deliberately against God must be forced into existence by manly stubbornness. Such work is exhausting to the person working as well as discouraging to anyone who might behold this work.

The TV Show "Heroes"

My wife and I rented the first two of the seven DVDs in the first season of Heroes. We had rented and watched the whole series before the week's end.

Character development is excellent. Peter, for example, goes through astounding transformations by the end of that series. He becomes a changed man, both in demeanor as well as in his worldview. The originality and likeability of almost every character in the show is remarkable.

(Warning: the following paragraph is a plot spoiler)
The good guys of Heroes are all trying in their own way to prevent a nuclear detonation from devastating New York City. Sounds cliché, I know, but it’s really not. Actually, it’s eerily prophetic. This attack on New York City was planned by the very people who are supposed to be protecting the general public. They justify this atrocity with their theory that this explosion will unite the whole country and work out for the greater good. Sound familiar?

There is a poignant longing to be special running through every episode. Some of characters appreciate their powers because it makes them feel special. Mohinder, the melodramatic Indian geneticist, recounts this emotional need repeatedly during his voiceover segues. During these voiceovers he also enjoys marveling at the “miracle” of evolution.

It’s ironic that evolution and the desire to feel special are so intimately intertwined in this show because evolution is inherently meaningless. Evolution is as meaningful as tripping over a log. It is also ironic that superheroes (super-evolved people) should be so concerned with millions of lesser-evolved people. Would such an explosion only facilitate the natural evolutionary process, killing out these lesser beings to make way for a better future?

Heroes is a prime example of how close secular stories can come to the Truth without taking that last critical step of acknowledging Him. I swear, “God” was hanging off the tip of the characters’ tongues sometimes… they had to strain not to say His name. The writers of Heroes made the show profitable by capitalizing on the most dramatic elements of human life, the very things that drive reasonable people to God. Tragedy, evil, the desire for good, imperfections, miracles, reconciliation, healing, death, life… all these things are designed to compel us toward God.

Lauryn Hill's Song, "Selah," a Modern Psalm

When David set out to write each song he simply wrote what was on his mind. He happened to be musical as well, so he was able to express himself through poetry and music. In his psalms, David expressed the general wisdom he had gained from living. He expressed his fears, loves and agonies as well... all directed to God, all worshipping God. Lauryn's Hills lyrics in her song "Selah" demonstrate all these things. Here are some lyric snippets:

"Nothing can be done against the truth
No matter how we remain in denial
Wasting time
Replacing time
With each empty excuse
But that'll only work a little while"

"Oh I'm such a mess
I have no choice but to confess
That I've been desperately trying to belong
Lying to myself
And everybody else
Refusing to admit my right was wrong"

Hill's song is structured like a Psalm. It even uses a not-so well-known Jewish word, "Selah," throughout much like in the Psalms.

Here is confession of sin, here is a longing to be reconciled to God. No excuses, just a genuine desire to be reconciled, or "healed."

Here is also a confession of immaturity. Hill went from childish denial to facing the truth about her helplessness in relation to God. She wants grow up in Spirit, to "agree" with God's right with her whole being.

The musicality of this song is also very simple, repetitive, drawing attention to the words. David played the harp, Hill plays the guitar.

There was also a huge audience exposed to this song thanks to Hill's fame as a performer. She used her accomplishments as a musician to spread God-think far and wide. This song was distributed however far the movie "Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood" was distributed. (the movie was silly, by the way, though i would recommend buying the soundtrack just because of this song.)

Another interesting fact is that she named her daughter "Selah." This coincides with the Biblical tendency to name children based on current circumstances or promises from God.

**Lauryn Hill's Selah lyrics are the property of the respective authors, artists and labels. The lyrics are printed here for educational purposes only. If you like this song, please support Lauryn Hill by buying her CD

Creed -- "Higher"

Creed's song, "Higher," is an expanded version of the simple prayer "God's kingdom come." These lyrics come from the heart of one who has experienced God's grace and yet must continue to live in this fallen world.

"Higher" Lyrics:

When dreaming I'm guided to another world
Time and time again
At sunrise I fight to stay asleep
'Cause I don't want to leave the comfort of this place
'Cause there's a hunger, a longing to escape
From the life I live when I'm awake

So let's go there
Let's make our escape
Come on, let's go there
Let's ask can we stay?

Can you take me higher?
To a place where blind men see
Can you take me higher?
To a place with golden streets

Although I would like our world to change
It helps me to appreciate
Those nights and those dreams
But, my friend, I'd sacrifice all those nights
If I could make the Earth and my dreams the same
The only difference is
To let love replace all our hate

Up high I feel like I'm alive for the very first time
Sit up high I'm strong enough to take these dreams
And make them mine


If we are God's people, then we are waiting for eternal rest and yet we are also experiencing heaven right now. The fullness of God's Presence is something much more real than a dream and yet, for expression's sake, this adequately describes the heavenly foundation of God's kingdom right now as it is on earth. Only His enlightened ones, who have been taught by His Spirit, are really aware of Him and His word among us.

God allows his people to escape the futility of death, but we still must live on earth for a while. We can, at least, live at peace knowing that the purpose of our everyday lives has eternal meaning in Christ.

There is a new thirst and hunger that God instills in His people that only He can fulfill. It is a conscience-clearing hunger. It is the rightest, richest kind of hunger.

The fact that Creed performed this song hundreds of times in front of all kinds of audiences is awesome. I appreciate the fact that this band made God's truth available to so many people.


Judging by Scott Stapp's lyrics (he put words to most if not all of Creed's songss), he possessed a
seeker's heart. As a major bonus, he fulfills his seeking desire while bringing a significant dose of godly truth to the world.

He was strategic to keep from being labeled "Christian;" he knew that such a connotation would be primarily religious and therefore detrimental to any genuine, spiritual progress. This would have only hampered his ability to perform in the mainstream music scene.