Michael Bublé -- "Feelin' Good"

"Feeling Good," as performed by Michael Bublé:

(I would love for Michael Bublé's version of "Feelin' Good" to be played at my funeral.)


Birds flying high
You know how I feel
Sun in the sky
You know how I feel
Breeze driftin' on by
You know how I feel
It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good

Fish in the sea
You know how I feel
River running free
You know how I feel
Blossom on a tree
You know how I feel
It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good

Dragonfly out in the sun
You know what I mean
Butterflies all havin' fun
You know what I mean
Sleep in peace when the day is done
That's what I mean
And this old world
Is a new world
And a bold world
For me

Stars when you shine
You know how I feel
Scent of the pine
You know how I feel
Oh freedom is mine
And I know how I feel
It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good


Every glance we get of nature should remind us of how much God enjoys His job.

Creation sings of God's beauty and liveliness. I can imagine Him thinking these lyrics as He wove the universe together.

Ecocentric Trends in Wall-E, Hell Boy 2, The Happening and The Day After Tomorrow

Ecocentrism has become a driving force in Hollywood. As a Christ-follower, I agree with this trend.

The Day After Tommorrow
(starring Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal) helped energize Hollywood's environmental awareness with it's daring, high-definition portrayal of what might happen if we keep using fossil fuels as our primary source of energy. The movie boasts of a generous budget and big actors as any blockbusters should, yet it stands out for it's frighteningly vivid portrayal of our future as an excessively consumptive society. The movie makes a statement about the environment that appeals to both our moral and pragmatic senses.

More recently, Wall-E, Hell Boy 2 and The Happening have come along to portray a similar message.


A few reasons why Christ-followers ought to care about the environment:

-- We should use the brains God gave us. I wouldn't pump car exhaust into my house, so why would I pump exhaust into the air outside my house? Doesn't the air inside my house come from outside?

-- One of the most basic things that Jesus teaches His followers is to care. We all live within the confines of the Earth's environment. If Christ's Second Coming does not occur during our lifetime the way it didn't during our parents' lifetime, then our children will have to breath the same air and drink the same water that we are polluting right now.

-- We should express our appreciation for the air we breathe and every other good thing God gives us by taking care of these things. This means not only polluting less, but also consuming less. Environmental trends demonstrate that, rather than humbly eating our fill, we tend to gorge ourselves with whatever resources we get our hands on. This is both physically and spiritually imprudent. We would honor God better by humbly embracing whatever good things He provides, concentrating more on our neighbor's needs than our right to hoard and consume.


As Christians, taking care of the environment is not our main purpose for existing, but it should be a fruit of our main purpose for existing. There are some who acknowledge that God has been generous, who then use this truth to justify their excessive consumption, but this is an inappropriate reaction to God's generosity.


I heard an interesting song by by Scars On Broadway, titled "They Say." Here's an excerpt:

I walked the line, the line I choose
I see the people in front of me
I climbed the wall, the wall of news
I watched them show the tragedy

If you were me, could you defend
the given rights to all the men?
Let's f--- the world with all it's trends
They say it's all about to end...

Thank God, it's all about to end...

Although these lyrics are sarcastic, this is how a lot of people actually thing... consuming whatever they want regardless of their children, or the next generation. Tragically, many church-goers adopt an excessively consumptive lifestyle and then justify their actions with the statement from 2nd Peter chapter 3, "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up."

However this is in appropriate... the above statement is a not an argument for consumption, but for holiness, as the next verse clarifies: "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives..."


If we know Jesus at all, we will endeavor to look out for others, excelling in every way, to the best of our abilities. Taking care of the environment is included in this.

In any case, consuming more does not equal living more. And having more does not equal living more.

Creed -- "My Own Prison," Part 2

... continued from Creed - "My Own Prison," Part 1

the rest of Scott Stapp's "My Own Prison" :

I hear a thunder in the distance
See a vision of a cross
I feel the pain that was given
On that sad day of loss
A Lion roars in the darkness
Only He holds the key
A Light to free me from my burden
And grant me life eternally

Should have been dead
On a Sunday morning
Banging my head
No time for mourning
Ain't got no time

(And I said oh)
So I held my head up high
Hiding hate that burns inside
Which only fuels their selfish pride
(And I said oh)
We're all held captive
Out from the sun
A sun that shines on only some
We the meek are all in one

I cry out to God
Seeking only His decision
Gabriel stands and confirms
I've created my own prison
I cry out to God
Seeking only His decision
Gabriel stands and confirms
I've created my own prison


Christ's death was and still is serious business. That such a drastic measure had to be taken to dispose of our sin demonstrates the scary consequences that await anyone who has to atone for their own sin.

Only after this song's narrator experiences a taste of this scariness is he ready to hear the Lion's roar and see the Light who would free him from his spiritual burden. Such is the case for everyone; we all need a spiritual "wake up call" to jar us into comprehending our spiritual shortfalls. Only after we sit in the lonely prison cell we create for ourselves, only after we experience a taste of the frightening consequences of our sin will comprehend our desperate need for God's mercy.

This is why God sent Jesus Christ... to save us from ourselves and free us from our own prisons. He is the Author of our salvation from beginning to end. Mercy was his idea, and it is His to give as He sees fit. As the song goes, "I cry out to God seeking only His desision..." we created our own prisons... that was our contribution. Then Jesus took it upon Himself to bust us out of our prisons.


"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound."
--Isaiah 61:1

Dark Knight -- Crazy Good Vs. Crazy Bad

The Joker is, in some ways, a better spiritual role-model than the Batman. He is more dedicated, more effective and more efficient in advancing his cause than the Dark Knight.

The Joker isn't just bad, he's crazy bad. He is so dedicated to destruction and disorder that he inspires others to follow his lead. He embraces his true criminal roots, which are chaos, anarchy and sadism. He doesn't even care about money. Such is the zeal of the Joker's animosity that he eventually usurps Gotham's entire criminal system with a new anti-system.

The tragic irony of Batman's efforts is that he has inspired the Joker to become a particularly accomplished psychopath. Not only does the Joker have to explain this to Batman, he chastises the Dark Knight for his lack of dedication.

The Joker is far more efficient than the Batman because he inspires other people to live and die for his cause. He fans the sadistic/psychotic flames that already burn in the hearts of so many Gotham citizens. He doesn't just inspire henchmen, he inspires new leaders such as Two-Face, a man who used to be a poster boy for law enforcement.

Batman, on the other hand, works alone. He prefers to shun whatever help the police might offer, except when they stand aside and let him do things his way. At the beginning of the movie a few guys tell Batman that they're trying to follow his example, to which Batman says, "Sorry, but your equipment isn't good enough to do what I do."

Also, while Batman's cars, planes and bat-suits require the backing of a large corporation, the Joker simply uses whatever's available to any average person -- knives, guns and gasoline.

The Joker is not conflicted like the Batman, living one life during the day and then another during the night. The Joker is 100% evil, all the time, to his dying breath. He embraces his remorselessness to the point that his conscience is totally clear. He is ready to depart this life at any time knowing that he has dedicated his entire being to advancing the cause of lawlessness.

Batman, on the other hand, can't decide if he is an agent of light or dark, peace or violence, lawfulness or vigilante-ism. If he really put his mind to it, he could figure out how to work during the night and day... after all, the law is already more on his side. Yet he has earned the nickname "The Dark Knight" for sneaking around after hours as if he is ashamed of himself.

Bruce Wayne tries to focus on Harvey Dent as the new face of hope for Gotham, which is a step in the right direction... but the fact that Wayne's efforts end there demonstrates his inability to imagine infectious goodness. Notice what ends up happening: While Bruce Wayne can only think to lift up one man who's already getting the job done without his help, the Joker assembles an army of support and ends up corrupting Harvey on top of everything. Harvey would have been better off not associating with Batman at all.

Bruce Wayne fails to empower the greater populace of Gotham, while the Joker overwhelms Gotham's entire justice system by manipulating these "little people." Batman fails to understand that it's not the single man at the podium or the single man with the high-tech weapons who will change the world, it is the multitudes of average Joes (or Janes) who represent most of the human race.

Batman has a small mind for accomplishing that which is truly good. Gotham as well as the world in general doesn't need someone with super-expensive weapons or really good kung-fu skills, they need someone who is crazy good. In the same way that the Joker is a genius for evil, so also the world needs geniuses for good.

The Joker is zealously dedicated to wreaking havoc on the world; can we imagine anyone who is similarly zealous for goodness, or righteousness? Is there anyone who might inspire us the way the Joker inspires rampant crime in Gotham?

The answer is: Yes. There is one Man who is so good that He is crazy good. He is so crazy faithful and pure-hearted that He not only died for His righteous cause, but God saw fit to raise him again to demonstrate His divine approval. This crazy good Man is Jesus Christ.

In the same way that the Joker propagates evil in all kinds of unexpected and creative ways, so also Jesus Christ propagates life in unheard of, creative ways. He teaches his followers how to embrace an inconquerably hopeful perspective. He trains his disciples to aspire to a mysterious, heavenly quality of life and then go on to teach and inspire others in a similar manner.

It makes sense that Jesus should be the Great Counter-Balancer because he is the only stronghold of righteousness in the world. God has appointed him to be humanity's immovable anchor for purity and life.

Anyone who surrenders to Jesus Christ and doesn't look back will learn the secret of unraveling all the malice, greed, envy, lust and selfishness that entangles every human heart. As the Joker requires 100% dedication and trust, so also Jesus requires 100% from his followers. Batman does not understand this but the Joker does and so should anyone who understands the nature of people, or the natures of good and evil.


"When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority..."
-- (Matthew 7:28-29)


Batman - The Dark Knight stars Christian Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne, Heath Ledger as the Joker, Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Dent/Two-Face, Michael Cain as Alfred, Maggie Gyllenhaal as Rachel Dawes, Gary Oldman as Commissioner James Gordon and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox

Forrest Gump -- Inspired Living

Forrest Gump's mind and heart were pure, therefore his everyday life was ground-breaking. The movie Forrest Gump demonstrates the fact that anyone who is extremely pure of heart will lead a truly influential life.

Every Christ-follower (any person who continually seeks out Jesus Christ) will lead a similarly unassuming, revolutionary lifestyle. This is how God's kingdom works... He changes His people from the inside-out to live as agents of his kingdom on earth.

"Who can say, 'I have made my heart pure, I am clean from my sin?' "
-- Proverbs 20:9

Spiritual transformation is a gradual process; we don't have to arrive at perfection right now to serve Jesus in all kinds of radical ways. We need only put one foot in front of the other in Christ's wake; He will lead us into a more meaningful quality of life than we can imagine right now. As He transforms us He will make us into effective instruments for transforming the world.

Creed -- "My Own Prison," Part 1

"My Own Prison" -- Lyrics by Scott Stapp

Court is in session, the verdict is in
No appeal on the docket today
Just my own sin
The walls are cold and pale
The cage made of steel
Screams fill the room
Alone I drop and kneel
Silence now the sound
My breath the only motion around
Demons cluttering around
My face showing no emotion
Shackled by my sentence
Expecting no return
Here there is no penance
My skin begins to burn

(And I said oh)
So I held my head up high
Hiding hate that burns inside
Which only fuels their selfish pride
(And I said oh)
We're all held captive
Out from the sun
A sun that shines on only some
We the meek are all in one


It still amazes me that this song was played on the radio so often... so much that during high school I actually grew tired of hearing it. But, like other songs that get tons of radio exposure, I grew tired of it without ever actually knowing the lyrics. It wasn't until Creed's later work ("My Sacrifice" and "Higher" in particular) that I started recognizing the band's spiritual astuteness. This was during college, soon after I was saved.


"My Own Prison" is a powerful illustration of sin, or the fact that we have sinned by breaking God's law. More to the point, these lyrics describe one man's genuine realization that he is sinful and there are frightening consequences to his sinfulness.

Notice that the song is titled "My Own Prison," not "Just Some Prison I'm Trapped In" or "The Prison God Imposed Upon Me." Stapp reacts to his own faults appropriately by calling it "his own." This hints at the first step toward reconciliation with God: The realization that we need reconciliation in the first place.

Most people will admit that they are not perfect, but few will take ownership of their spiritual trespasses to the point of asking God for help. Some go out of their way to brag about how "bad" or rebellious they are, but this is spiritually childish as well as counter-productive. Anyone who recognizes the disgusting ugliness of their sin would be foolish to brag about it. The only appropriate reaction to realizing our spiritual uncleanliness in light of God's holiness (which is hinted at in His law) is to fall to our faces and beg for mercy. This is the first step to obtaining mercy: Desperately wanting it.

God's law (the Ten Commandments for example) serves as a spiritual point of reference, to remind us that we are spiritually bankrupt. Take the commandment that says "Don't Lie;" this should remind anyone who reads this that they are a liar. Or we can see the law that says "Don't steal," and realize that we are all thieves.

Jesus clarified the exacting nature of the law when he said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (refer to the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, for more examples.)

"Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith."
-- Paul to the church in Galatia, (Galations 3:24)

to be continued in " Creed -- 'My Own Prison,' Part 2 "

Star Wars -- Pray to... the Force?

Star Wars immortalized the phrase: "May the Force be with you." But this statement has bothered me ever since I began the process of knowing Jesus Christ.

How should I type "the Force," for example? Is it "the Force" or "the force?"

What does "May the Force be with you" mean? Is it a statement of faith in the Force, or a prayer request addressed to the Force, as if the Force is listening?

When someone sneezes, we say "Bless you," which is short for "God bless you," which implies "I am praying right now to God that He will bless you." So the phrase "bless you," at it's roots, is both a statement of faith and a prayer.


Toward the end of Episode IV (the original from the 1977), Luke is upset with Han Solo for leaving the Rebellion so he can go spend his reward money. In an attempt to reconcile the situation, Han Solo says, "Hey, Luke... may the Force be with you." Translation: "Luke, regardless of my general selfishness, I am praying right now that the Force will help you blow up the Death Star." Han's "prayer" is also meant to reassure Luke that there is a larger Purpose at work, call it "Fate" if you want, that makes the Rebellion's efforts worthwhile.

Notice what happens soon after Han Solo "prays" ... he ends up doing something totally out of the ordinary: he risks his life to save Luke and the entire Rebellion in one fell swoop. This is a realistic portrayal of prayer. The more we pray, the more we will be transformed by God's presence. The more we spend time with God, the more He will transform our hearts and minds.

Whoever prays persistently will think more and more like Jesus Christ. If you, for example, ask God consistently to bring about some positive change, He will most likely turn you into a zealously effective agent for bringing about that very change.

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you."

-- Jesus to his disciples (Matthew 7:7)

Star Wars -- Worshiping... the Force?

"The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together."

-- Obi-Wan Kenobi


Star Wars (the whole series) demonstrates the fact that most people believe that some kind of Divine Force is at work in or around them. If there really was such a Power, it would make sense to seek that Power diligently until we find it/him/her until we know it/him/her unequivocally.

If there was such a Power, it would make sense to worship it/him/her. However, though many believe in a higher Power, most people prefer to worship themselves.


" 'Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.' But the people said nothing.' "

-- Elijah to the people of Israel (1 Kings 18:21)

Spider Man 2 -- Choose Faith

"I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, gives us strength, makes us noble and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams."

-- Aunt May to Peter Parker, Spider Man 2

"There's no news like bad news."

-- Carver, the main villain from James Bond, Tomorrow Never Dies


Why does the news tend to be negative? For some reason, I associate "the news" with falling stocks, crooked politicians, crime rates, credit crunches and a looming environmental doomsday. Are these the subjects that are reported on because they most effectively attract the public's attention? It's no wonder people say the news is depressing.

But we need not and should not focus excessively on everything that's wrong with the world. More specifically, we should not surrender to evil as if it is unavoidable or unbeatable.

This is, in essence, Aunt May's message to Peter. Spider Man should go back to work not just to fight crime, but to give people hope (excuse me if this sounds cheesy, but it's true).

This illustrates the fact that the best thing we can do for others is empower them and give them hope. One of the best ways to give people hope is to sacrifice oneself for the good of others.


Everyone, at some point, makes a conscious decision to either surrender to hopelessness or cling to faith. The more difficult choice is to resist evil (I say this to be realistic, not to contradict the purpose of this post) because we are all naturally evil.

Jesus alluded to this when he said, "Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many; but the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few" (Matthew 7:13-14).

It's healthy to acknowledge the things that are wrong with the world as long as we remember the factors that offset these negatives. Americans, for example (as well as whoever else lives in a democratic nation) have the freedom to take all kinds of productive action to inspire others and improve the world. The fact that we are facing difficulty in the U.S. right now does not make us special... every country, including the U.S., has had to deal with some sort of difficulty since its inception. In any case, as long as we have our business taken care of with God, we can resist evil right up to our dying breath and then pass on to the next life with a clear conscience.


Spider Man 2 more poignantly illustrates Peter Parker's struggle with his identity than the other two installments. Spider Man 2 brings us along with Parker as he reaches his breaking point, when he can no longer be Spider Man and Peter Parker at the same time.

Parker possesses an extraordinary ability to help other people, but exercising this ability involves sacrificing many of his own desires. His first impulse is to abdicate his secret identity as Spider Man, and we can hardly blame him. He wants a full and happy life the same as anybody else. And, like anybody else, he can do with his life as he pleases.

But he finds out that living a full life requires that he focus more on others than himself. To his surprise, he is full to the extent that he fills others. Thus the humbled Peter Parker restores his identity as Spider Man.


The kind of heroes, or leaders, the world needs are people who will give up their own well-being for the well-being of others. The beauty of this design (God's design) is, by dying to ourselves we will experience an amazingly full quality of life.

Jesus demonstrated this fact by his death on a cross, which he did for the very same people who beat him and left him to die. This is the unexpected wisdom of God's kingdom... we will have power to change the world if we become powerless to ourselves so that Christ might be powerful through us.

P.O.D. -- "Southtown"

Southtown Lyrics:
Welcome to hard times, back again like its never been
For the first time it seems to mess with my head
When I realize what it takes, can I relate
With whatever, but never will it drive me to hate?
Could be the next guy that you take before I wake
Now I lay me down to sleep, eyes tight when I pray
This here is real life, circumstances make you think
Should I be counting my blessings, the next second my eyes blink

Here in the Southtown, you know that kids don't play
Put it down it the streets, will I see another day?
If I make it back this time, got to hold what is mine
And thank God that I made it alive

One love, it's easier said than done
Can I rise above anything that's in my way?
Like words you say, you let your tongue get loose
And when push comes to shove, I'm not used to walking away
I keep on looking up, 'cause these times are gettin' tough
Tomorrow's gone and it's the same old song,
Father fill my cup, give me strength to power up
A life to shine, You're the diamond in this rough

Don't wanna throw up my fist, Don't wanna be like this
Don't wanna throw up my fist, I must resist


"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
-- Hebrews 11:1


Faith that overcomes hardship is true faith. We are tested for a little while here on earth, the results of which affect our eternal well-being.

Everyday we have to deal with huge questions, such as "Do I trust God's priorities over my own?" In the case of this P.O.D. song the question is "Do I trust God even though my life is in danger?" We answer these questions with every decision we make as well as with the overall quality of our lives.

The most important commandment, "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5) is hard to follow no matter what, but it's particularly difficult to follow during hard times. It's easy to focus excessively on survival, creature comforts or other good things when any of these are threatened. But the best way to take care of everything we care about is to put God first.

Having faith is having perspective. When the things of this world threaten us, we shouldn't focus more on the world, we should focus more on our heavenly purpose in Christ. As P.O.D. says, "I keep on looking up, 'cause these times are gettin' tough..."

Job is famous for his enduring faith even after his life and everything he cared about was devastated. His wife looked at him sitting there, scraping his sores with a broken piece of pottery, and said "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!" But Job responded, "Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity as well?" (from Job 2:9-10)

Jewel -- "I Wonder as I Wander"

from Jewel's album: Joy: A Holiday Collection
I wonder, as I wander
out under the sky
how Jesus the Savior
did come forth do die
for two lonely people
like you and like I

Anyone who knows Jesus Christ recognizes what an incomprehensible mystery it is that He came to earth to die for humanity.

Are we so valuable? Did we do anything to earn this divine sacrifice?

In any case, it's a pleasure just to think about Him and His work.


"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?" -- Paul to the Corinthian church (2 Corinthians 13:5)


Wanted stars James McAvoy as Wesley Gibson (an insecure guy who learns to be an assassin like his father), Morgan Freeman as Sloan (the Fraternity's corrupt leader) and Angelina Jolie as Fox (she trains Wesley so she can manipulate him later on).


The members of the Fraternity fail to question their faith-based system, which opens them up to dedicating their entire lives to a lie. One man, Wesley's father, dares to question the system, but Sloan quickly casts him out and turns the rest of the Fraternity against him.

Lesson: It is necessary as well as healthy way to test your worldview. Humbly investigate your beliefs in relation to reality. Maintain a no-nonsense, reality-based spiritality.


As a whole, Wanted communicates an extremely shortsighted worldview. By the end of the movie Wesley seems successful because he gets what he wants... but he's still just as self-centered and childish as ever.

Here's Wesley's story: He starts off hating himself. He doesn't feel special. Then he finds out that he is special because he can shoot and fight real good. Then he kills all his enemies. Then he lives happily ever after.

According to Wanted, Wesley enters into manhood by killing his enemies (several times his former best friend says to him "You're the man!"). However attaining to bad-ass-assin-hood makes him no more a man than he was slumped over in his cubicle because, at heart, he's still a selfish little boy.

Ironically, Wesley isn't much different from the main bad guy, Sloan. In fact, if Wesley continues his course, he will develop exactly the same psychotic selfishness that overtook Sloan's otherwise good senses.

Wesley leaves us with one thought as we exit the theatre: "This is me taking control... from Sloan, from the Fraternity, from Janis, billing reports, ergonomic keyboards, from cheating girlfriends and sack of sh-- best friends. This is me taking control of my life. What the f--- have you done lately? " Wow. How extremely... lame.


It is fitting that Wanted focuses on failing to know one's own identity because the movie itself lacks identity. It feels like a high-budget mish-mash of Fight Club, The Matrix, The Da Vinci Code, Tomb Raider, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Office Space.


But Wanted is a better than average action flick... there. I said something positive.

Other than that, the plot is totally unconvincing. Ahhh, that's better.

A superior storyteller can get away with more fanciful twists than a shoddy one. Thus Wanted's broke-down, wheezing storyline left me questioning almost everything by the movie's end. For example, why can only a few people out of the world do what these assassins can do? Is it genetic? Why does the entire Fraternity have to die? How does Wesley get cut up and shot up so much without bleeding to death? How does Fox (skinnier-than-ever Angelina Jolie) punch guys in the face without breaking her dainty little hands?

The casting seems lopsided too. Wesley is the main character as long as the camera isn't focused on Angelina Jolie standing... or staring... or taking charge in some awkward fashion. And Morgan Freeman's outburst at the end is totally out of character, not only for the movie but for his career in general. He's no Samuel L. Jackson... and that's a good thing.

The Happening

The Happening stars Mark Wahlberg as Elliot Moore, Zooey Deschanel as Alma Moore and John Leguizamo as Julian. Directed, written and produced by M. Night Shyamalan.

(Warning: Not much plot to spoil)

Life seems normal throughout the New England area... until plants start telling people to kill themselves. This makes sense because plants evolve quickly and they can talk to each other.

How it works: Plants release a toxin into the air that causes people's brains to become disoriented so they start speaking incoherently and then stop at nothing to destroy themselves. The plants could have gotten this idea from a variety of people/organizations.


The Happening reveals a lot about American priorities. When the outbreak first begins, people immediately assume, "Terrorists!," which is realistic. Somehow, within the last fifty years, Americans have become excessively fixated on terrorism. What is "The War on Terror," anyway? How might we wage such a war? I wonder who is really "terrorizing" us... someone on the other side of the world, or are we terrorizing ourselves?

The Happening exposes what has become our top priority as a nation: feeling safe. But, not only is feeling safe a lame purpose for existing, it is a futile pursuit.

Life is fragile. There is nothing we can do to guarantee our safety. The sooner we get over this fact, the sooner we can start living our lives to the fullest. Most of us know in our minds that life is fragile, but we won't acknowledge this fact until we don't feel safe anymore.

I don't know for sure whether there is a particular toxin that preserves our will to live as The Happening would suggest, but at least this story demonstrates how fickle life truly is. Anything could give out at any time, bringing our lives to an abrupt end. Car accidents happen all the time. There are a variety of deadly diseases with no known cure. Anyone might have a nervous breakdown and lose his/her mind altogether.

The healthiest way to deal with the fact that life is fragile is: Live with eternal purpose. The fact that life is fleeting should is purposeful; this should remind us to take care of our business with God.

"See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides Me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of My hand."

-- Yahweh to the Hebrews (Deuteronomy 32:39)

The 11th Hour -- The Grain of Wheat

"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."
-- Jesus to his disciples (John 12)

11th Hour (a movie produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, designed to raise environmental awareness) leaves us with the question: "What shall we do now?" As Dr. Lanning said in I,Robot: "That, detective, is the right question."

11th Hour inspires a healthy sense of urgency about the escalating environment issues we are creating for ourselves as we continue to consume too much and pollute too much either by littering or by burning fossil fuels. This movie instills a genuine moral compunction about our fragile ecological surroundings.

The creators of 11th Hour have faith in human ingenuity, though not so much in people's willingness to use that ingenuity for the greater good. There are already a few people who will go out of their way to develop technology and change their habits for the good of our environment, but are there enough of these kinds of people? Who will be willing to sacrifice their own priorities and comforts so that humanity will be able to go on living on planet earth? Who will offset the overall trend, which is to consume and pollute without regard to our environment?

The question, again, is "What shall we do now?" The scientific specialists in 11th Hour would answer, "Look to nature, there is in answer in there somewhere."

The cycles we observe in nature hint at the answer. A blade of grass is a complex, biological machine that is chewed and digested by grazing animals, which are also complex, biological machines. These creatures are complex but their relationship to one another is relatively simple: One dies so another might live. There is balance in nature when one species doesn't demand to live at the expense of other species.

This is also true for human beings in a spiritual or moral sense. We will live in harmony with one another to the extent that we follow the example of Jesus Christ, who died for other people's benefit.

We will be able to die to ourselves, or sacrifice our own priorities to the extent that we trust God to take care of us (Jesus exemplifies this). Anyone who can say, "God's got my back," will possess an otherworldly freedom to give extravagantly, whether time, energy or resources.


It is unfortunate that death has to exist... it is the greatest enemy of anyone who clings to this life. Thus, the fear of death cripples most of us, preventing us from living truly free lives.

But Jesus redeemed death by making it an instrument for giving and encouraging life. For those of us who have died in Christ, we needn't fear death anymore; on the contrary, we can look forward to it. This applies both to the obvious, physical death, when we breathe our last as well as to following after Jesus, which requires of lifetime of gradual dying. The more we die to ourselves, which includes our rights, our needs, our desires, etc., the deeper we will dive into the freedom of knowing and trusting in God.

Les Misérables -- Radical Mercy

After twenty years in prison, Jean Valjean finally gets out on parole. But any joy his liberation might have given him is shortlived, as his criminal record makes everyday survival nearly impossible. His employer, for example, refuses to pay him the same wages as his coworkers.

Thus Valjean's heart hardens even further. At that point, and with good reason, he would gladly take advantage anyone to help his survival. Shortly thereafter he finds lodging with a kindly, neighborhood Bishop. Valjean sees a chance to steal silver from the bishop, so he takes it. Soon after, the police catch Valjean and bring him back to the bishop for questioning. But the bishop tells them that Valjean was supposed to take that silver... not only that but some other household goods as well. Thus the kindly bishop managed to "buy" ValJean's soul for God.

The bishop's actions toward Valjean demonstrate the power of mercy as well as the unexpected way God's kingdom works. The bishop understood and exercised Jesus' confounding instructions: "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles" (Matthew 5, Sermon on the Mount) The bishop trusted that his treasure was in heaven so he took a chance to invest his worldly wealth for another person's spiritual well-being.

It is necessary to offset the evil momentum of the world with radical mercy. Thus, the kind bishop sacrificed his most valuable belongings to alter Valjean's bitter life-course.

It was not his twenty years in prison, but rather the bishop's groundbreaking kindness that corrected Valjean. He was transformed from a petty criminal into a powerful advocate for the common people, the weak and the downtrodden. He went from caring only for himself to becoming a full-time advocate for the poor, the abandoned and the orphaned.

1776 (the Movie-Musical) -- Happy 4th of July!

It's a tradition with the wife's side of the family to watch the movie 1776 every July 4th. The first time I heard about this tradition I thought gloomily, "Yippee, a musical made in the 70's about a historical event..." But I soon discovered that 1776 is in many ways a cinematic gem. It's unique and well-constructed. It does the founding fathers proud.

1776 is a musical/drama about the events and characters that bring about the Declaration of Independence. The movie is based on the Broadway play bearing the same name (it stars many of the same players as well).


According to 1776, the birth of the United States resembles the birth of a church. In both cases, certain men are equipped to work together and clash against each other in order to culminate a singular cause which will affect a greater good. Ephesians 4:22 gives a breakdown of the sorts of people, or spiritual equipment, that God uses to establish His church: apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists. There are also elders, whom God appoints to be exactly that--older and more experienced. 1776 depicts a core group of congressmen who possess striking similarities to these spiritual gifts.

John Adams cannot resist his apostolic drive. His visionary zeal is nearly intolerable to everyone, including his closest friends. This zeal is evident in his song, "Is Anybody There?":

Is anybody there? Does anybody care?
Does anybody see what I see?

They want to me to quit; they say
John, give up the fight
Still to England I say
Good night, forever, good night!
For I have crossed the Rubicon
Let the bridge be burned behind me
Come what may, come what may


The croakers all say we'll rue the day
There'll be hell to pay in fiery purgatory
Through all the gloom, through all the gloom
I see the rays of ravishing light and glory!

Is anybody there? Does anybody care?
Does anybody see what I see?

I see fireworks! I see the pagaent and
Pomp and parade
I hear the bells ringing out
I hear the cannons roar
I see Americans - all Americans
Free forever more

How quiet, how quiet the chamber is
How silent, how silent the chamber is

Is anybody there? Does anybody care?
Does anybody see what I see?*

This is exactly the way God's prophetic leaders think. He expects His apostles and prophets to stick to whatever vision He gives them, saying if needs be, "Come what may, come what may!"

Adams cares little for anyone else's opinion; it is a revolving joke that he is "obnoxious and disliked." However, despite his relentlessness, he earns his peers' respect as well as their loyalty, not because of his eloquence but for his purity of heart. It is common knowledge amongst this First Congress that Adams would place himself first in line to give up everything, even his life, for the cause of liberty. He might be called a "founding father" as well as an "apostle of American freedom."

Thomas Jefferson seems to possess the mindset of a teacher, as he is more exacting than his peers. He is a man of few words so, when he does speak, he commands people's attention. For this very reason the Declaration Committee chooses him to do the writing. Jefferson's mind is perhaps the sharpest of all his peers; or at least he possesses the most engaging powers of expression.

Benjamin Franklin and Caesar Rodney stand out as the "elders" of the American Independence. They were, first off, two of the most experienced as well as the physically oldest men in Congress. In any case, their main qualification for the title of "elder" is their long track record of commitment to the well-being of America. Caesar Rodney attends the meeting to vote on the issue of American independence though he is literally on his deathbed. Franklin in particular is renowned for his useful wisdom. Almost every member of Congress defers to him and he never fails to inform and guide as needs be. Franklin might also be called "the pastor of American Independence."

We might also call Richard Henry Lee "the evangelist of American freedom" for his particular ability to "convert unbelievers." It is his charisma that sparks the debate on American independence in earnest. If not for his fiery influence, the southern colonies would not have even considered debating the issue.

*lyrics by Sherman Edwards, 1776 Music Inc. www.1776themusical.us

Sex and the City

"You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked." (Revelation 3:17)

Ironically, Sex and the City (the movie) came out just as the American Economy started experiencing its sharpest decline in years. This movie represents a way of life that seems to be fading away rapidly.

At one point Carrie Bradshaw notices the issue of Vogue that features her wedding gown, only her magazine is covered almost completely by an issue of Forbes magazine, the cover of which poses a question with bold letters: "When will the real estate bubble pop?" It is striking how the camera pauses so long on that seemingly irrelevant magazine... it's as if reality invades the Sex and the City wonderland for a moment or two. This contradicts the driving force of Sex and the City's fabulous success, which is that it allows average people to imagine themselves into the ritzy lifestyles of Carrie Bradshaw and her girlie gang.

On one hand I love the American way of life. On the other hand, it is difficult to be wealthy and also keep one's bearings in God's kingdom. I hate to admit it, but the more we are down and out, the we will be to living by faith in Jesus Christ. We will possess groundbreaking faith when we realize that we desperately need God's grace (this has been true all along regardless). In the mean time, material wealth is tricking us into thinking that we are sufficient in ourselves, apart from God.

There is a predictable, generational cycle: One generation experiences great need, so they cry out to God for mercy. He grants them mercy, which they pass on to their children in the form of safety and comfort, which leads this new generation to forget who gave their parents safety and comfort in the first place. Then God sends a "reminder" of some kind, which inspires them to cry out again in mercy, and on and on it goes. Refer to Israel of the Old Testament (the Jewish Tanakh) for examples of this.

Sex and the City stars Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, Kim Cattrall as Samantha Jones, Kristin Davis as Charlotte York and Cynthia Nixon as Miranda Hobbes.


Spanglish stars Adam Sandler as John Clasky, Téa Leoni as Deborah Clasky and Paz Vega as Flor Moreno.

The parenting style of Deborah Clasky clashes violently with that of Flor Moreno. In a nutshell: Deborah thinks mainly about herself while Flor thinks mainly about her daughter. The parenting methods of these two women have a dramatic effect on Cristina, Flor's daughter. When Cristina first enters the Clasky household, she is considerate, thankful and well-mannered. However, the more time she spends with Deborah the more she becomes selfish and cantankerous. Thanks to Deborah, Cristina become excessively fixated on herself and her potential ascent into the California high-life, which threatened the genuine character that Cristina mother had instilled in her.

Out of the entire Clasky household, only Flor maintains a solid moral footing. She keeps a clear head about raising her daughter despite the Mrs. Clasky's relentless immaturity. Flor feels a genuine attraction to Mr. Clasky, who would have gladly slept with her, but she disregards her own desires and pursues the best course of action for her daughter instead. Despite the heavy influence of wealth all around her, Flor remembers that developing her daughter's character should be a higher priority than money.


"You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16)

"Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal." (Matthew 6:20)

-- Jesus to his disciples