THE HURT LOCKER

I somehow managed to see both main contenders for the ‘best film’ category @ the Oscars this year in the last 10 days. Just a freak occurence after months of cinematic draught.

After ‘Avatar’, ‘The Hurt Locker’ is a different proposition altogether.  Oozing with gritty realism it presents us with a side of life that we seem to be familiar – through the TV screen in the news items – yet in truth we know very little about. The presentation of the Iraq war through the eyes of a team of bomb (artisan home-made variety) disposal team is very unnerving.

For me this was a film where the style (cinematography, special effects, sound) communicated far better a message than the substance (script) itself. And that happens very rarely, I think. It reminded me of the almost silent movie atmosphere of  Copolla’s ‘Apocalipse Now’. Few words, almost mundane observations, trivialities – yet the images imprint themselves on our retinas.

The main character is neither a typical American hero neither a freak. He seems very ordinary – yet strangely (almost humorously  detached. It almost made me wonder whether he was one of those types where death did not matter simply because he had very little left to do amongst us mortals. The final scene becomes the pulling of the curtains, where the truth is revealed: our ordinary lifestyle (with supermarket providing gazillions of choices of cereal) seems pointless to him. He has become addicted to war.

If you are expecting a politicizing/moralising the perils or virtues of warfare – this is not a vehicle for that. Bigellow remains very focused on the subject matter.

Finally, the ‘shaky camera’ effect is exceptionally enhancing to the experience (and remember, this is someone who gets ravel sick playing ‘Didicong Racing’) by giving it a lot of depth.

REVIVAL SIGNS

Same source as below – here are (according to Jim Packer) some defining signs of an authentic revival:

  • God comes down.
  • God’s Word pierces.
  • Man’s sin is seen.
  • Christ’s cross is valued.
  • Change goes deep.
  • Love breaks out.
  • Joy fills hearts.
  • Each church becomes itself—becomes, that is, the people of the divine presence in an experiential, as distinct from merely notional, sense.
  • The lost are found.
  • Satan keeps pace.

Not really liking the phrasing of the first one – creates too much of a ‘distant God above’ theology that flies in the face of His omnipresence and immanence.

Not quite sure what he meant at number 8?

REVIVAL DEFINED

A question so often posed – ‘what is revival really?’.

One of the helpful definitions is provided by J. I. Packer  in his essay, “The Glory of God and the Reviving of Religion” in A God-Entranced Vision of All Things (pp. 100-104):

Revival is God touching minds and hearts in an arresting, devastating, exalting way, to draw them to himself through working from the inside out rather than from the outside in.

It is God accelerating, intensifying, and extending the work of grace that goes on in every Christian’s life, but is sometimes overshadowed and somewhat smothered by the impact of other forces.

It is the near presence of God giving new power to the gospel of sin and grace.

It is the Holy Spirit sensitizing souls to divine realities and so generating deep-level responses to God in the form of faith and repentance, praise and prayer, love and joy, works of benevolence and service and initiatives of outreach and sharing.

AVATAR – NY Times Column

New York Times

An extremely interesting article that reveals one of the classic traps Hollywood directors tend to fall into – MESSIAH COMPLES by David White on February 8

Every age produces its own sort of fables, and our age seems to have produced The White Messiah fable.

This is the oft-repeated story about a manly young adventurer who goes into the wilderness in search of thrills and profit. But, once there, he meets the native people and finds that they are noble and spiritual and pure. And so he emerges as their Messiah, leading them on a righteous crusade against his own rotten civilization.

Avid moviegoers will remember “A Man Called Horse,” which began to establish the pattern, and “At Play in the Fields of the Lord.” More people will have seen “Dances With Wolves” or “The Last Samurai.”

Kids have been given their own pure versions of the fable, like “Pocahontas” and “FernGully.”

It’s a pretty serviceable formula. Once a director selects the White Messiah fable, he or she doesn’t have to waste time explaining the plot because everybody knows roughly what’s going to happen.

The formula also gives movies a little socially conscious allure. Audiences like it because it is so environmentally sensitive. Academy Award voters like it because it is so multiculturally aware. Critics like it because the formula inevitably involves the loincloth-clad good guys sticking it to the military-industrial complex.

Yet of all the directors who have used versions of the White Messiah formula over the years, no one has done so with as much exuberance as James Cameron in “Avatar.”

“Avatar” is a racial fantasy par excellence. The hero is a white former Marine who is adrift in his civilization. He ends up working with a giant corporation and flies through space to help plunder the environment of a pristine planet and displace its peace-loving natives.

The peace-loving natives — compiled from a mélange of Native American, African, Vietnamese, Iraqi and other cultural fragments — are like the peace-loving natives you’ve seen in a hundred other movies. They’re tall, muscular and admirably slender. They walk around nearly naked. They are phenomenal athletes and pretty good singers and dancers.

The white guy notices that the peace-loving natives are much cooler than the greedy corporate tools and the bloodthirsty U.S. military types he came over with. He goes to live with the natives, and, in short order, he’s the most awesome member of their tribe. He has sex with their hottest babe. He learns to jump through the jungle and ride horses. It turns out that he’s even got more guts and athletic prowess than they do. He flies the big red bird that no one in generations has been able to master.

Along the way, he has his consciousness raised. The peace-loving natives are at one with nature, and even have a fiber-optic cable sticking out of their bodies that they can plug into horses and trees, which is like Horse Whispering without the wireless technology. Because they are not corrupted by things like literacy, cellphones and blockbuster movies, they have deep and tranquil souls.

The natives help the white guy discover that he, too, has a deep and tranquil soul.

The natives have hot bodies and perfect ecological sensibilities, but they are natural creatures, not history-making ones. When the military-industrial complex comes in to strip mine their homes, they need a White Messiah to lead and inspire the defense.

Our hero leaps in, with the help of a pack of dinosaurs summoned by Mother Earth. As he and his fellow freedom fighters kill wave after wave of Marines or former Marines or whatever they are, he achieves the ultimate prize: He is accepted by the natives and can spend the rest of his life in their excellent culture.

Cameron’s handling of the White Messiah fable is not the reason “Avatar” is such a huge global hit. As John Podhoretz wrote in The Weekly Standard, “Cameron has simply used these familiar bromides as shorthand to give his special-effects spectacular some resonance.” The plotline gives global audiences a chance to see American troops get killed. It offers useful hooks on which McDonald’s and other corporations can hang their tie-in campaigns.

Still, would it be totally annoying to point out that the whole White Messiah fable, especially as Cameron applies it, is kind of offensive?

It rests on the stereotype that white people are rationalist and technocratic while colonial victims are spiritual and athletic. It rests on the assumption that nonwhites need the White Messiah to lead their crusades. It rests on the assumption that illiteracy is the path to grace. It also creates a sort of two-edged cultural imperialism. Natives can either have their history shaped by cruel imperialists or benevolent ones, but either way, they are going to be supporting actors in our journey to self-admiration.

It’s just escapism, obviously, but benevolent romanticism can be just as condescending as the malevolent kind — even when you surround it with pop-up ferns and floating mountains.

AVATAR

Avatar

Just seen ‘Avatar’ – after plenty of time of waiting and listening to personal reviews from my friends. I was thrilled for the first 30 minutes and increasingly bored afterwards. Here are some of my thoughts on it:

Positives:

  • Visually it looks fabulous – though the 3D worked only in part. I agree with Dr. Kermode that it would probably be fine without the glasses. But to be fair, how many times would you watch a movie because it is fabulous visually? Think The English Patient….
  • It uses a pretty linear story line that is easy to follow – a fairy-tale, if a common one at that.

Negatives:

  • The message is confused: pro-environmentalism while portraying an over-blown cruel battle scene?
  • Far too long
  • Very ‘new age’ without any clever underlying philosophy – a real ‘mish mash’.

Star Wars or LoR it isn’t! I would have loved Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam to have a go at the subject – which seems fascinating.

PS – a few theological reflections, if I may:

  • the idea of the Avatar – new identity in a parallel world – a foretaste of Heaven – no disabilities
  • the idea of death in order to be reborn as an Na’vi – new birth – spritually

BOOK SALE

  • The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out (Paperback) – by Mark Driscoll – 3£

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The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out

  • Confession of a Reformission Pastor – M. Driscoll – 3£

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Confessions of a Reformission Rev.: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church (Leadership Network Innovation Series)

  • Worship Evangelism: Inviting Unbelievers into the Presence of God by Sally Morgenthaller – 3£

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Worship Evangelism: Inviting Unbelievers into the Presence of God

  • Lucado 3 in 1: In the Grip of Grace/When God Whispers Your Name/Applause of Heaven (Hardcover)

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Lucado 3 in 1: In the Grip of Grace/When God Whispers Your Name/Applause of Heaven

Videos that teach – 1-4 Youth Specialties – 10£ for all 4

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Charles Swindoll – The Grace Awakening (HB) – 3£

Product Details

More to follow….

CONVERSION

I have been preaching a mini series on Sunday nights – ‘Flashforward’ – triggered by the new TV series. I have already posted something about it: http://murgsy.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/flashforward/

As I started to read what Jesus taught the disciples about His return in Matthew 24-25, one of the things that strikes me is a sense of surprise: some that wear the badge, just won’t be acknowledged as authentic Christ-followers. Therefore Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (on Romans, vol 2, page 98) has a stern warning for all those of us who are in ministry:

“. . . There is nothing, surely, which is more dangerous to the soul than what we may call a glib believism. And you see how this affects all our ideas of evangelism.  If we are so anxious to get people ‘through’, as we say, instead of leaving the Holy Spirit to do His own work, we tend to say, ‘But look here, it is simple – – here, you see, the Scripture says if you believe you are saved.  Do you believe?  Yes.  Very well, you are saved, it is all right’.  But it may be all wrong!  It may be terribly all wrong!  And it can be an exceedingly dangerous thing to say that to a soul, and to give people the impression that because they have said they believe and accept, all is well.  There is a sense in which we have got to say that to them, but we must not stop at that.  We must go on – – we must say, ‘All your good living and all your works can never save you.  You have got to see that, and you have got to admit that to yourself and to God.  You have got to see that you can only be saved by the Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will act upon you.  He will bring into birth a new man within you; He will implant a new principle of life in you, and that will begin to manifest itself’.  In other words, we must never stop at just believing – – we must always emphasize regeneration – – the re-birth – the new man.  Otherwise it seems to me we are leaving souls in a very dangerous position.

JESUS

JESUS.jpg JESUS image by tcoburn22

Absolutely wonderful description of  Jesus:

“In Jesus Christ . . . meet infinite highness and infinite condescension; infinite justice and infinite grace; infinite glory and lowest humility; infinite majesty and transcendent meekness; deepest reverence for God and equality with God; worthiness of good and the greatest patience under the suffering of evil; a great spirit of obedience and supreme dominion over heaven and earth; absolute sovereignty and perfect resignation; self sufficiency and an entire trust and reliance on God.”    John Piper

PROPHET OF OLD…

Just started re-reading a book (Leonard Ravenhill – Why Revival Tarries) that has influenced me immensely as a teenager. In those times, in the homeland, Christian literature was scarce. I remember getting this book in magazine form. I ‘devoured’ it underlining many brilliant – yet piercing observations.

Ravenhill is not to everyone’s taste. He was a man of his time. He probably had blind spots. He was Arminian – and strongly so, and that might put some of you off. Yet to me – he was a prophet. Like Tozer – as contemporary – he preached a different message.

Pinch of salt might be required but power to this godly Yorkshireman. Here are some ‘gems’:

‘There are no reduced rates for a revolution of soul.’

‘The average church knows more about promotion than prayer.’

‘Blessed is the man who has graduated from the secret place of prayer and the school of suffering…to who God can impart a vision of hell.’

‘Because the church has lost Holy Ghost fire, men go to hell fire.’

‘He who fears God fears no man. He who kneels before God will stand in any situation.’

‘There are three persons living in each of us: the one we think we are, the other people think we are, and the one God knows we are.’

‘One man praying stands as a majority with God! Today God is by-passing men – not because they are ignorant but because they are too self-sufficient.’

‘When God opens the window of heaven to bless us, the devil will open the door of hell to blast us. God’s smile means the devil’s frown.’

SHORTSIGHTED?

Much ink and many words have been used in the last week or so to debate the issue of England’s football team captain’s affair with a team-mate’s partner. I was reading a pretty good piece of writing by The Times’ leading sports columnist Matthew Syed –http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/columnists/matthew_syed/article7012779.ece. Amongst many valid points and astute observations, he includes this paragraph:

We are familiar with footballing types and, indeed, politicians, lawyers, doctors and journalists betraying their wives — and, for that matter, their husbands. Adultery is such a habitual feature of modern society (and, if anthropologists are to be believed, premodern society) that is has become common to regard it as by the by; a matter of personal conscience, to be resolved (or otherwise) with one’s partner if and when it is exposed. But betrayal of a team-mate — well, that seems to be a different thing altogether.

It baffled me how it somehow seems less offensive to cheat on your spouse and children than offend a team-mate. Is faithfulness not a necessary trait of character for a leader? Should the way we treat those closest to us not be a benchmark for leading others?

And just before you think I jump on the bandwagon – I think incidents like these are an opportunity for all those of us who are in leadership to examine our thought, motives and actions. A warning sign, if you like….