Sunday, February 27, 2005

Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby was the big winner at the Oscar's tonight so I thought I'd share my own review of the film. First off, I believe this movie was worthy of at least one of the awards it received. Hillary Swank was excellent in a very difficult role. I also loved the subtle music that supported the films most emotional moments. The movie is sad...and that's coming from an un-emotional guy.

I don't mind when movies try to get political on me, but I'm not a fan of when they exclusively use emotions to prove their point. And I felt like the ending kind of forced the issue. The circumstances surrounding her injury in the title fight was a little unrealistic in my opinion. This movie was, like Ray, too long.

Rating: 6.8
Status: Worth the Time

Saturday, February 26, 2005

30 Hour Famine

I just got home from the 30 hour famine at our church. I'd say it was a big success. We have some good young adults and teen leaders who organized the event super well. I did the famine a few times when I was a teen and this was the most fun I'd had at one. I pretty much ran the slides/sound and spoke Saturday morning. The kids raised $2800.

Anyone else do the famine this year?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I Quit

Just so everyone knows and nobody can claim I'm only excluding them, I have an announcement to make.

I WILL NOT BE UPDATING ANY MORE ADDRESS BOOKS VIA EMAIL

The line must be drawn here!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Search Begins

Sunday afternoon I was driving home from filling an empty pulpit when a vehicle started making strange noises and then stuttering. Unfortunately, it was the very same vehicle I was driving. I pulled into a parking lot and called for a ride and told the tow trucker where to take the motionless van.

The mechanic said it'd be repaired and ready to pick up the next morning. From past experience, I knew his predictions were very optimistic so I waited till afternoon to call. The guy on the phone said it was ready. I picked it up, paid the price, and drove back to work. A few hours later I started toward home, but strange noises accompanied me. By the time I reached the driveway the car was barely working at all. I was not impressed. Turns out, there was a mis-communication between mechanics. The van had only been fixed a little, it wasn't done. The guy on the phone/at the desk when I picked it up was mis-informed. It also turns out, they mis-diagnosed the problem and the real problem is bigger, but at least they gave me my money back.

So my search for a new car begins this week.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Donnie Darko

Hmmm...How do I describe one of the strangest movies I've ever seen. I can't. I'll let IMDB describe the plot for me:

"During the presidential election of 1988, a teenager named Donnie Darko sleepwalks out of his house one night, and sees a giant, demonic-looking rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds. He returns home the next morning to find that a jet engine has crashed through his bedroom. As he tries to figure out why he survived and tries to deal with people in his town, like the school bully, his conservative health teacher, and a self-help guru, Frank continues to turn up in Donnie's mind, causing him to commit acts of vandalism and worse."

Very strange. And strangely appealing. I really liked it actually. As I watched it I was trying to figure out what the movie was trying to tell me. Some of the points it made were interesting. Some confusing. In the end, I think I decided it was trying to make the point that we should stop making points. And oddly enough, that was the best point of all.

Rating: 8.3
Status: Must Own

Monday, February 21, 2005

Napoleon Dynamite


If you had $400,000 and a video camera, what would you do? Could you turn it into about $50,000,000 in less than a year? Me neither. But Jared Hess did just that with his cult hit Napoleon Dynamite.

The movie is hard to explain to those who haven't seen it. The storyline is not interesting. It's simply about a high school geek. He makes a friend (Pedro), gets to know a girl (Deb), and argues with his brother (Kip). There's not much of a plot really, at least not a plot closely connected to the humor.

Very few movies make me laugh a ton. This one did. Great line delivery. Very fresh humor. One of my favorite comedies of all time. It'll be interesting to see if Jon Heder can be funny in other films.

Rating: 9.2
Status: Must Tell Others

Sunday, February 20, 2005

The Turning Point of My Life

When I was 17 I didn't really like my life. Too shy to get a girlfriend. Too short to star in sports. Too average to be popular. I didn't have many friends at all to be honest. Even at church, where most of my meaningful friendships existed, I was feeling more and more out of place. Something was missing.

Each year my family went to our district family camp at Houghton College. This was the highlight of my year growing up. But recent years had gotten worse and worse. I was too old to just have fun riding bikes around all week, too unsure of myself to flirt with 'district' girls, too prideful to just hang out with the little kids all day. Things were getting worse.

Evening sermons were brutal. It was hot. Sermons were long. Vacation time was ticking away. Tim Elmore was the speaker that year. One particular night his preaching seemed to speak to my heart. When he finished speaking the Spirit didn't. I tried to ignore Him by hanging out with my friends in the lounge. They started telling dirty jokes. I was sick of same old same old. I stood up and walked away silently. Someone asked, 'where's he going?' I just kept walking.

I locked my door, knelt beside my bed, and prayed. I cried. I rarely cry. I told God my life sucked. I told Him I sucked. I let go. I gave up. I think it lasted about 15 minutes. Then I saw my Bible. Took it. Opened it. Read the first verses my eyes landed on. Romans 12:1-2, 'be transformed by the renewing of your mind.' I told God I was ready to be changed.

Now what? I tried to stand. I couldn't stand. I didn't know why. The only thing I could think to do was be silent before God. And then He spoke. Not in an audible voice, but not just in my mind either. Something in between somehow. He told me to be a pastor. I questioned Him. He repeated. I questioned again. He became silent.

For the remainder of camp that year I was quiet as usual, but now it was a different kind of quiet. Before it was a quiet depression, now it was a quiet wonder. I told nobody. Words had been faked for too long to be of value. I just lived. Differently. Less angry. Less bitter. Less worried. More nervous, but the good anticipatory type of nervousness. More gentle. Things seemed to happen slower, or maybe more things seemed to be significant.

I was changing, but into what? How could God make me a pastor? It seemed ridiculous. I started to doubt. Maybe I had added the 'pastor' part of that night myself. I asked God for a sign, something to assure me that it really had been His voice. The very next Sunday morning my pastor came up to me in the hallway. He grabbed me by the shoulders, looked me in the eye, and asked, 'were you called into the ministry last week?' I nodded, or something. I don't remember. I hadn't told anyone.

It's been almost 6 years since that week. Since then I've graduated twice and now serve as the assistant pastor of my home church. I've changed a lot. God has changed me. I believe I am more like Christ almost every day. But my 'greatest' sins have also been since that week. My greatest victories have too.

Sometimes I have incredible doubts. I even doubt that God spoke to me that night. Maybe I did tell someone and that someone told my pastor. I was sure I didn't, but maybe I'm just forgetting. Maybe the skeptics are right. I feel attracted to questions about faith. Investigating them usually adds to my faith, but once in a while it gets shattered.

This is a very long post. Probably few of you have made it to the end. It is my prayer tonight, though, that I will fight the good fight of faith, that I'll come out victorious with Christ, that I'll enter His presence and hear Him say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant!'

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Ray



Another sleepless night, another movie. And I'm not even near tired yet. 'Ray' is the story of Ray Charles, the great musician. I always liked his voice so I had some level of interest in this movie. I learned a lot about the life and times of Mr. Charles. As we journey through his biography, we watch him struggle with guilt, loneliness, addiction, and sin. He struggles through it, but comes out on top (that's not really a spoiler b/c most of us already know the basic story). But I think what was most noteworthy about this film was the acting of Jamie Fox. He really looked and sounded like Ray Charles. He's a very talented guy. It was, however, too long.

Rating: 6.8
Status: Worth the Time

Friday, February 18, 2005

Off Again On Again Off

The NHL will NOT play afterall. We knew that before. Then we didn't. Now we do again. Maybe. TSN-'It's not good' and Slam-'No Movement' and ESPN-'No Deal'.

My position on this whole business is firm. The owners bit off more than they could chew by giving huge contracts out when they couldn't afford them. That was dumb. But the fact remains, NHL players are receiving over 70% of NHL revenues. That's a higher percentage than the other major sports. The players have been spoiled. The owners are simply asking the players to make a comparable percentage as other major sport athletes. No more. No less. The problem is that for the past 10 years, the teams have always caved to the players...the players have every reason to believe they'll cave again.

Only this time they won't.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ask And It Shall Be Given?

I hear quite a few Christians...and a lot of televangelists...saying that whatever you ask for in prayer, God will give you. Name it and claim it. Bing. Bang. Boom. Tonight at men's group we did a very simple study of the 'ask and receive' verses in the New Testament. Everyone of them, that I found, included a condition.

You must not seek public recognition (matt 6:6)
You must ask with others (matthew 18:19)
You must ask in faith (matthew 21:22)
You must first forgive others (mark 11:25)
You must ask in Jesus' name (John 14:14)
You must remain in Christ (John 15:7)
You must bear fruit (John 15:16)
You must first obey (1 John 3:22)
You must ask according to His will (1 John 5:14)
You must have a right motive (James 4:3)

The above are prayer busters

Answered prayer is not magic, it is the product of being the kind of Christian that knows Christ well enough to ask for the right things and for the right reasons.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Zombies

Sunday evening we studied Jesus' letter to the church in Sardis (we're slowly making our way through Revelation). One of the great advantages to being a minister is the view. You really see a lot more from up front. I love watching the faces of the congregation during praise, prayer and proclamation. Sardis was the dead church. They were basically zombies. I'm so thankful, that as I watched the faces of the congregation Sunday night, I saw people who were alive spiritually.

Before we studied Sardis 4 people were baptized. The heater on our baptismal was broken, so the quartet was quite cold. But I thought to myself as I watched them emerge from the water, knowing I was about to teach about a dead-cold church, how much better to be physically cold, but on fire for Christ than to be physically warm, but cold-hearted!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Anchorman

Last Night I couldn't sleep so I watched Anchorman. It is one of the movies that is purposefully stupid. Sometimes I like such movies. This time I didn't. It wasn't that it was overly offensive or anything. My major problem with it was it simply wasn't very funny. I find this is true of most (not all) movies done by Saturday Night Live actors. I lightly chuckled a few times. But I think that had more to do with the hour than the humor.

Rating: 4.2
Status: Waste of Time

Monday, February 14, 2005

Smiles

This is a poem I wrote a long while ago. It's very simple, but was one of the most meaningful things I ever wrote.

I'm always looking forward
to the times when I can see
the shining face of yours
smiling back at me

I'm always waiting harder
it seems like time stands still
and the smiles, they seem shorter
they have more time to fill

So let me make this promise
which I will never break
I'm going to make you smile
whatever it may take

And when a smile starts
to fade into the past
I'll just send another
and none will be the last

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Knew Movie Reviews

Below is a list of movies I've reviewed on 'The Matthew Never Knew.' Right now the list is short, and this seems like a really dumb post, but it will grow and then you'll regret calling my post dumb.

50 First Dates 6.9
Amazing Grace 8.9
Anchorman 4.2
Aviator, The 7.8
Be Kind Rewind 7.0
Ben Hur 9.1
Butterfly Effect, The 8.3
Cast Away 9.4
Catch & Release 4.8
Cheaper by the Dozen 6.9
Chocolat 9.0
Click 6.9
Crash 8.0
Christmas in Boston 6.9
Chronicles of Narnia, The 8.8
Da Vinci Code, The 7.2
Dark Knight, The 7.0
Donnie Darko 8.3
Dumb and Dumber 9.2
Elizabethtown 5.9
End of the Spear 8.3
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind 9.5
Facing the Giants 8.0
First Knight 8.1
Flight Plan 6.9
Garden State 8.1
Gods Must Be Crazy, The 8.6
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids 7.2
Indiana Jones (all 3) 8.4
Invention of Lying, The 8.0
Juno 7.8
Last Sin Eater, The 6.9
Lord of the Rings (all 3) 7.3
March of the Penguins 7.9
Meet Joe Black 9.8
Million Dollar Baby 6.8
Miracle 7.9
Most 7.0
Mr. Holland's Opus 8.9
Mr. & Mrs. Smith 6.9
Napoleon Dynamite 9.2
National Treasure 7.6
Nothing to Lose 8.2
Passion of the Christ, The 8.7
Polar Express 7.2
Postman, The 8.2
Prestige, The 8.2
Pride & Prejudice 7.0
Radicals, The 8.1
Ray 6.8
Sahara 6.7
Saved 8.2
Saw 5.7
Seven 9.4
Shawshank Redemption, The 9.7
Sixth Day, The 7.6
Stranger than Fiction 6.8
Time Changer 6.9
Total Recall 8.8
Trial and Error 8.3
Truman Show, The 9.6
Walk the Line 8.4
War of the Worlds 5.1
Waterworld 7.3
Wedding Crashers 8.2

Rating System
9.0+ = Must Tell Others
8.0+ = Must Own
7.0+ = Must See
6.0+ = Worth the Time
5.0+ = Average
4.0+ = Waste of time
3.0+ = Don't Bother
2.9- = Worst Movie Ever Candidate

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Global News

Until a relatively recent moment in history, news could travel no faster than 35 miles/hour. After the wedding of the telegraph to the photograph, television was conceived. Even in its infancy, it made the world smaller each day. Wars, Earthquakes and murder entered living rooms acrosss America.

How do you respond to global news? I doubt your life changes at all when you hear there was a murder in the city nearest to you. Maybe you sent some money to the recent tsunami survivors. Maybe you voted a certain way because of the war. All this is another way of saying, you did very little of consequence.

But, if Postman's thesis is correct, the technologies that bring us global news also carry with them an idea that changes how we view the world. This idea, that information need not be responded to, has...in my opinion...had a dramatic impact on how people view church. Sermons, Bible studies, even 'devotions' simply become something we hear/see/do...not something we respond to.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Early this morning I finished a book entitled Amusing Ourselves To Death by Neil Postman. Quite thought-provoking. I find myself thinking about technology. Postman says, "In every tool we create, an idea is embedded that goes beyond the function of the thing itself." For example, regarding the invention of the clock he states, "The clock made us into time-keepers, and then time-savers, and now time-servers…with the invention of the clock, Eternity ceased to serve as the measure and focus of human events."

Postman argues that TV has transformed the thought process in our country, "Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business." He goes on to say, "Our priests and presidents, our surgeons and lawyers, our educators and newscasters need worry less about satisfying the demands of their discipline than the demands of good showmanship…there’s no business BUT show business."

I really enjoy the book and look forward to reading some Marshall McLuhan stuff now too.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Author of the Light

This song is based on Romans 1 and 2 in regards to those who have never heard the Good news of Christ. We all have been given the 'light of creation' and the 'light of conscience' to point us toward that final light- Jesus Christ.



verse 1
The sun comes up
The light has shown
It’s been made known
The rocks and trees
Oceans and streams
That we call home

They are revealing what may be known
God has made it known

chorus

And His invisible attributes are clearly seen
A light has been given to all
Our hearts and our minds declare Him King
Will we respond to the call

verse 2
A mind that knows
The right from wrong
We’ve had all along
A heart that shows
Which one to choose
We’ll never loose

They are revealing what may be known
God has made it known

Repeat Chorus

bridge
And to those who respond
to the light they’ve been given
God will give more light
And to those who accept,
their reward is in heaven
The Author of the Light

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

After the Song

This is another song I wrote a while ago. I was reading through Psalm 106 and thinking a lot about how worship is so much more than just singing a song. Worship is about how we live 'after the song'

verse 1
Led through the depths
As through a desert
Saved from the hand
Of the enemy
Waters covered up
Their adversaries
And they were redeemed

refrain

Then they believed His promises
They sang His praise
But what went wrong after the song?

verse 2
The people stood by
Waiting for Moses
To come from the mount
Of consuming fire
But they did not wait
They made a god of gold
The shape that they desired
“Not the sound of victory
Not the sound of defeat
But the sound of singing I hear”

refrain
Then they danced to their idol
They sang its praise
But what went wrong after the song?

Verse 3
There’s two songs to sing
but one we neglect
One to the God of all
One to a gods we erect
Why worship a god
That can’t rule the day
In the midst of the storm
Has nothing to say
But the one we forget
Deserves our devotion
A response to the divine
Mind, will, and emotion

refrain

So we’ll believe His promises
We’ll sing His praise
And worship long after the song

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Fishermen

I used to write songs after my time-alone-with-God. The songs were based on the passage of Scripture I had been reading. Below is one such song:



Verse 1
The fishermen launch out to sea
One more time out to the deep
They let their nets down wishing still
They’d come back up completely filled
The two crews start to pull their sides
This is their last try for tonight
They squint to see just what they’ve caught
But find that it’s been all for not

Chorus
Trust in me
And you will succeed
The night is not yet over
Let down your nets and trust in me

Verse 2
The fishermen came to the shore
A wasted day their bodies sore
The Lord walked by and saw their boat
And noticed they had no more hope
He sat and taught the many men
He said let down your nets again
They told him how they’d tried all night
And so far nothing had gone right

Repeat Chorus

Verse 3
And finally Peter who had heard
Said I will take you had your word
And as the nets sunk in the sea
They filled up unexpectedly
Two boats filled up, began to sink
The men did not know what to think
As peter fell at Jesus' knees
Jesus called out ‘follow me’

Follow me
And you will succeed
And I will make you fishers
Fishers of men for me

Monday, February 07, 2005

Like One of Them

This may be the only song ever written based on the book of Obadiah. It's about the cycle of hatred we encounter in this world. Only Christ ended it. Only in Christ can we find its ending.



verse 1
We stand so still
Stare the storm of one who hurts
Our iron will
of hatred keeps us there
not long until
our deeds will return
and we’ll be killed
will we ever learn?

chorus
we’re like one of them
when we cease to lend a hand
and stand observing pain
gaining pleasure in the terror
that’s fair we tell our hearts
which have started growing cold
as we fold our hands in hate
Our late brothers in that day

verse 2
We think it’s right
That they should face this time
Of prolonged night
After all they did to us
In broad day light
They cut through us so deeply
In the fight
Will we have time to see?

repeat chorus

verse 3
Hate runs our land
Makes blood flow fast while
Deadening our hands
Brings hurt and pain but we
Don’t understand
How to end this sick sick
Cycle it demands
Will we keep on this way?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Patriots Win Super Bowl



Another great year of NFL football is over and the New England Patriots have won their 3rd Super Bowl in the past 4 years. Each of the 3 victories was by a 3 point margin. The Patriots are my enemies as a Bills fan, but I admit they are a modern day dynasty. Congrats to the Patriots and their fans.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Influential Evangelicals

Time magazine has published its list of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals. I've ony ever been influenced by 10 of them. Below I will rank those 10 according to how influential they have been to me.

10. T.D. Jakes- Seems to not believe in the trinity. Can't recommend the guy 9. Tim & Beverly LaHaye- I disagree with their eschatology, but they sure did sell a lot of books. 8. Joyce Meyer- I don't really like her teaching that much 7. Rick Santorum- Politician not afraid to state the truth. I'd vote for him 6. Jay Sekulow- The ACLJ is a great organization countering the ACLU 5. Chuck Colson- His books are very underrated, great testimony 4. Bill Hybels- I actually like his assistants better. 3. James Dobson- I love the focus on the family...hehe 2. Billy & Franklin Graham- Hard not respect these guys, I'm glad Franklin has become another great spokemen for evangelicalism 1. Rick Warren- I really enjoyed the Purpose Driven Church and I always like what he has to say in interviews

Friday, February 04, 2005

No Hockey. Know Why?

Hockey is about to be officially cancelled. It seems certain now that there will be no NHL hockey for a long time. Last chance meetings toward an abbreviated season ended badly Friday afternoon.

Basically, undisciplined owners handed out hefty contracts that they could not afford to pay. As a result, they began to lose lots of $$$. Debt accumulated. They began to realize that the system wasn't working and so they have locked the players out of the arenas (in a manner of speaking). The players, on the other hand, have been enjoying the $$$ in recent years. They want things to stay the same.

The owners are arguing for a salary cap system in which teams are only able to spend a certain amount on players (42 million/team) and individual contracts (6 million/player). The players reject the idea of a built in bookend to how much they can make and, at most, have offered a one time 24% reduction of their current contracts.

I agree with the owners that the system needs to be dramatically changed. As it stands, hockey has the worst financial arrangement of the 4 major sports. Here are the basic systems in order of their effectiveness:

NFL-A very structured salary cap inceases as league revenue increases. This system is working great.
NBA-A salary cap is in place, but you can spend beyond it as long as you pay some extra taxes
MLB-The rich teams share their riches with the poorer teams in exchange for their good players
NHL-Players are given NFL sized contracts despite hockey's clear financial inferiority. Debt grows. Owners quit. Players get mad. Fans get forgotten/upset/bored/etc.


Thursday, February 03, 2005

Essential Christian Doctrine

What beliefs MUST we believe in order to be considered a Christian?

I've heard many responses to that question, but none better (in my opinion) than the response Steve Gregg (one of my favorite Bible teachers in recent weeks) gave earlier today on his message board. First, he looked at what the Bible says on the issue:

You must believe...
That God Exists
That God rewards those who seek Him
That Jesus has come in the flesh
That Jesus is who He claimed to be
a. The Messiah (1 John 5:1)
b. The Son of God (John 20:31)
c. The Lord (Romans 10:9)
That God raised Jesus from the dead

Probably not as strict as the evangelical church makes it out to be. I think we need to do a better job of realizing that everyone on this earth is at a different place in their relationship with God. I liked something Steve said later on in his reply:

"I think that God will judge people, not on the basis of their understanding, or lack thereof, but on the basis of their willingness to accept what the scripture says, and their not refusing to embrace true doctrine when they see it to be true. Condemnation belongs, not to those who have too little light, but to those who, having seen the light, have loved the darkness, because their deeds are evil (John 3:19)."

I responded to his lengthy reply with the following agreement:

I think it is tempting for Christians to figure out what they already believe and then make those things 'essential.' I think it is also tempting for Christians to think of things in a linear manner...in the sense that once people stumble across a list of 'essential' doctrines they can then make a decision on whether to accept them and become a Christian. I don't view God as so linear or rigid. I believe our hearts are always moving either toward God or away from Him. Christianity is not so much about believing the right things as it is following the right Person.

This is an extreme departure from my thoughts on this subject even a year ago. I believe God is really changing my heart on such matters, making me more like Him.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Space


I think the universe is probably surrounded by a dome of ice. I don't believe time travel will ever be possible. I don't believe life exists on other planets. I think a TV show about space exploration would be great if week after week, they found nothing interesting. I have seen every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I think there is probably something to the 'Zodiac' (see D. James Kennedy's book). I fully support NASA and the space program. Mission to Mars is the dumbest space movie I've ever seen. It used to really bug me that I could see light from stars millions of light years away, but now I'm OK with it. One night when I was little I thought I saw a UFO in the field near our house, but it turned out to be a farmer working a very late night on his tractor.

What do you think about space?