Movie Review: Maze Runner

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When Thomas wakes up, he is in a cage. With no memory or recollection of the past, he rides up a dark chute with various supplies. The cage stops, a door opens, and a boy jumps in. With no welcome, not greeting, and no smiles he pulls Thomas out and says simply-

“Welcome to the Glade”

Thomas quickly learns that there is only one main objective in the Glade- to get out. The only way out is through a maze. A maze that changes every day and contains creatures therein only found in stuff made of nightmares- Grievers. One day though, the maze stops moving, the Grievers storm the Glade, and now more than ever, Thomas and his companies must find a way out or at least, die trying.

Because those are the only two options they have.

Things I Liked

Thomas joins a group of a couple dozen boys who have somehow established order in the small clearing called the Glade. They don’t know why they are there, only what their names are. In this group they have learned how to get along with each other, and formed a small community where, they may not care about each other, but they do get along. A few boys stand out though, and are good examples of selfless leadership. One sacrifices himself for Thomas, and another acts as the encourager- helping people to continue when things get tough.

Thomas however, is the bravest and most selfless of all. At one point, he dashes into the maze to save another as the maze closes. This means to most boys, certain death, and Thomas knew it. He still ran in, and strove to save another glader he did not know. Over and over Thomas is very lightly portrayed as a “moses” type figure. His actions are almost always selfless, for the purpose of getting the boys out, not necessarily for him to escape.

It was nice to see a film that did not include useless sexual content, and this film was clean in this way.

Things I Didn’t Like

These boys may be younger in age, but have mouths like sailors. Reminiscent of the book, they spout real life profanities about two dozen times in the film ranging from the H word, S word, B—-d, etc… and some made up ones of their own.  God’s name is used in vain twice.

Grievers might as well have been called “Killers” because honestly, that’s all they do in this movie. Huge fatty bulbous masses with metal legs for propulsion, they rip to shreds any unfortunate gladder who might get in their reach. Snatching, impaling, tossing, crushing, and mauling the gladers seems to be their main purpose, and we see glimpses of their handiwork in a fast camera style reminiscent of the hunger games. The boys’ screams perhaps are the worst of those scenes, as their cries of pure pain and terror are things not easily forgotten. Blood and gore are virtually nonexistent though, so if you are looking for a plus… that might be it.

Thomas is also attacked by a glader who has been “Stung”, and he barely survives. Later that glader is banished to the maze, and the banishment is truly heart wrenching. Thomas Stings himself to get clues out of the maze. Another boy is shot saving another. Yet another boy is impaled with a spear, and collapses in dramatic fashion. We also see an old laboratory with dead bodies and blood everywhere.

Perhaps though more than the content of the film, was the lack of real moral good in the film. There is a strong survival of the fittest feel to the movie, where we see the gliders who were slower die, and the ones smarter live. What is right? What is wrong? These boys are treated and expect to behave without a moral guidance, which results in brutality expected in a place with no authority. At the end of the film, they continue in this way, with no change in the status quo, and no growth in the survivors.

Closing Thoughts

“Who we were before doesn’t matter. What does matter is who we are now, and what we do.”
~Newt~

A dark combination of Lost and Lord of the Flies, “Maze Runner” is the latest film to hit the screens in the Young Adult dystopian genre. Based off the novel by James Dashner, which I’ve read, the film follows closely to the characters and their choices but jumps a bit more freely with the progression of the plot. What it retains and executes perfectly is the tense, sinister, and creepy feel that something is always up and nothing is ever right. Spine-tingling at times, this film takes you on an adrenaline pumping ride of “gotchas” and last-minute escapes. All for what? Honestly you don’t find out, or at least, as I’m in the middle of the book series, you have yet to know.

While the book and this film are engrossing (and gross) as a whole, it struck me while watching the film just how little I cared about the characters portrayed. So much time is spent unraveling the mysteries of the maze that the people in it are neglected so that, when some of the boys die, there is not so much a feeling of loss. This is unnerving to me as one would think the people dying would be of more concern than the solution. Sadly, this is not the case. Rather, boys of all ages are crunched, stabbed, and tossed to their deaths by the “Grievers,” and ultimately we just wind up caring whether or not the solution is found.

That could be why, at the end of the film, there is no feeling of success or accomplishment when they do come to the end of the maze. There are no lessons learned, no people changed, and dozens of lives lost. If anything, they are right back where they started, but with a few survivors and again, no purpose. And that, at the core, is the problem. In all of the struggles, the sacrifices, and the sprintings – there is never given a greater reason as to “why.” Granted, this is the first of the series and I am sure they’ll take the films all the way through the books to the end of the story – wherever it leads.

But as a standalone film, “Maze Runner” offers no hope, no growth, and no peace. Just a gladeful of the deaths of young boys, a few glimpses of leadership, and a fast-paced story from beginning to end. It starts you in maze and leaves you in a bigger one. In the words of the boys of the Glade- “It’s pretty much Klunk.”

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I’m More Important Than a Lily (Woot!)

This past weekend I moved. Moved for the first time in my life to a brand new city, with no set in stone place to stay. Crazy you might think, but I had three solid apartments to look at and choose from moving up, so figured one would work just fine. Right?

Wrong.

One the drive up, one place was removed before we even arrived at the location. The other ones were eventually declined due to lack of enough financial records… So there I was, ready to move into a new place thanks to an amazing new job with Chick-fil-A and no place to stay.

I was a little stressed. Actually… A lot stressed. See, I don’t like it when my plans don’t go according to plan. I especially don’t like it when a place of residence is involved. I did not handle it well honestly. I was grumpy, shut down, and pretty much had no idea what I was supposed to do. Other places were turning me down because of the same financial status… (No Credit score at all… as I live with cash) So my frustration was mounting. I remember praying frustratedly for wisdom, patience, and peace… but also asking why I was being punished for wise fiscal choices? Per usual, I thought the locations I knew of were best for immediate move in… but clearly, I was wrong.

So I was sleeping on a couch for a few days, and finally decided a few days to go look again. So I called my relator, looked up some places online, and just started driving around to these places I had lined up. The locations we looked at were nice, and great options, but something just told me that I should keep looking. So look we did, all day at a total of four apartments. We decided to turn in an application to one, since I had no other choice. After all of this, I decided to look at one place which said they had a studio right in my budget, but was a few days old… so probably not available anymore. Also, as nice as it looked, they’d probably want a credit check… which meant I wouldn’t be approved.

All this going through my mind, I went in and well… The place was perfect. It was still available, had everything I was looking for, and also right within my budget. It was close to the CFA where I would be working… all of it- perfect. I applied right then and there, and miraculously, I was approved on the spot. After talking to my parents for confirmation in this being a wise decision, I placed a deposit and would be able to move in a month’s time.

Looking back, hindsight is always 20/20. However, I praise the Lord for working His hand in a way which moved me to just the right spot He had for me. I still forget all the time that He’s got me like a Dad has His son’s hand when crossing the street. Like a Shepherd guiding His sheep. All to often we have to be taught over and over lessons we’ve already been shown. God will always provide for His adopted what we need, in His time.

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

~Matthew 6~

Movie Review: The Edge of Tommorow

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Living a life as a media focused Officer has it’s perks for Mr. Cage. He can talk about all the glory of war, without ever having to set foot on a battlefield. Happy in this safe and affluent place, he balks when the Commanding General tells him that he will be leading the troops on the final invasion. Cage refuses, again and again, and so he is declared a deserter, by the general of course.

Stripped of rank, title, and dignity, former Officer Cage wakes up to an Officer’s screams “Get up Maggot!” And is promptly escorted to the barracks where he will prepare with other well trained soliders to make a last stand. A stand against an alien invasion force that has all but wiped out Europe. One problem- Cage has never seen combat in his life, much less active in the mech suits everyone has to wear to even stand a chance against these alien creatures.

The invasion starts, and all before it begins, it fails. Miserably. Cage’s Transport is shot down and somehow, his crew makes it to land. Shortly thereafter, they are all killed. Without mercy or even much of a fight. Cage manages to blow one up, before he too falls to the monster’s tentacles…

Cage wakes up to an Officer’s screams “Get up Maggot!”

Live. Die. Repeat.

“Get up Maggot!”

Live. Die. Repeat.

“Get up Maggot!”

Live. Die. Repeat.

Over and over… until one day in battle he has learned to survive long enough to meet Rita, the only officer to successfully defeat an army of these beings. She looks in awed recognition of Cage eliminating almost every enemy without even looking. “Come find me when you wake up.” She says…

“Get up Maggot!”

And the cycle begins anew, this time, with a woman to find, who just might have the answers to his apparent immortality.

Live. Die. Repeat.

Things I Liked

This movie is ultimately about the personal development of Private Cage. In the beginning, he lives a life which is a selfish lie. Once demoted and sent to the barracks, he quickly learns what it means to live the life which he had been advertising for years and years. His initial reaction, he tries to get out of it. But once he gains the ability to die, then live, he finds a cause bigger than himself. He grows in a way where his actions grow less and less selfish, and more and more brave. So by the end of the film, the man who was, is no more. He is changed into a true solider- one of honor, courage, and selflessness.

Perhaps the greatest trait dwelt upon in this film is perseverance of the unimaginable kind. I cannot even fathom what it would be like to experience the feeling of death over, and over and over… That moment of pure and abject fear of the dark, then waking up- knowing you’re going to have to do it again. And again. And again… Watch the people you’ve come to care for die again. And again. And again… We watch Cage suffer from this, yet continue to pursue the answer which will win the war for the world.

Soldiers of all kinds willingly put themselves in harms way for others. Cage also, out of concern for Rita, does not tell her how certain things end.

Things I Didn’t Like

There are two passing remarks in regards to sexual innuendo, which is immediately shut down and not allowed to go anywhere. We also hear about one solider going in his birthday suit to battle, with the mech suit covering up the more private areas. We do see a good glimpse of his backside though.

Cursing is found a plenty on the battle field- about a dozen profanities in all, and Rita is called a full metal B——, God’s name and Christs name is used in vain six times.

Violence in the film was something perplexing in some ways, as you watch soldiers die over and over, then watch them again live again and again, the loss or value was quite a bit diminished. Even in the end, one wonders if in the last battle if the soldiers did really die. Or if everything was reset once again. Regardless, we do see those “deaths” happen over and over. While this film does lack (thankfully) in gore or blood, it makes up for in intensity. The shots and deaths are blurred, close up, and fast. Men are “killed” every kind of way in the battlefield- blown up, impaled, crushed… the list goes on. We don’t see many of these, due to the fact the camera is so jumpy and barely stays in one place.

Cage is killed by aliens numerous times, blown up several times, and even shot by Rita to restart the day and begin anew after he is injured. He also kisses Rita.

Closing Thoughts

Battle is the Great Redeemer. It is the fiery crucible in which true heroes are forged. The one place where all men truly share the same rank, regardless of what kind of parasitic scum they were going in.
~Sergent Farell~

Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt take the stage in this futuristic, sic-fi, action thriller. What was advertised as a time traveling and war filled flick actually has a remarkably fresh story with some solid character development to boot. While this is certainly no deep film, there are a few rounds here and there worth firing off and watching them hit their mark.

Gotta say though, the backside of a solider and smatterings of coarse and crude languages was quite distracting and degraded the film quite a bit. It distracted from the story of a fearful campaigner turning into a servant hearted solider, and was not appreciated. Honestly “The Edge Of Tomorrow” sits on the edge of greatness. The characters  and story are compelling, the messages sound, but there isn’t enough there to take it from that edge.

So while Cage did indeed Live. Die. Repeat…

While I Live, I don’t see myself Repeating this one before I Die. Not even Tomorrow.

Flashback: “I’m stuck with him?!?”

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It was just another Sunday back in 2008. Our family all got up, went to church, and I went up to the youth group like I was supposed to. Even though I disliked it immensely (another post for another day) . As a freshman, I gathered in the appropriate room and prepared myself to face another youth group gathering. There were a few new guys and gals in the room, per usual, they went about introducing them. One of them was named Josiah- clearly a homeschooler. (We can just tell these things) So, when he introduced himself, I of course, was given the task of making him feel welcome, since that homeschool thing labeled him as such.

My gut reaction inside was “What?! I’m stuck with him?!” I wasn’t the friendly sort in that crowd. I had been burned to many times, I wan’t chasing girls, I didn’t play video games, I didn’t care about music that much. Hearing I was to make one of “these people” welcome… Well, let me tell you, it didn’t still well with me. I gave it my best go though, and when in sunday school and afterwards, made it a point to at least make small talk- where he came from, what he enjoyed, etc.

Two things stood out to me in those first conversations. One, that he was an incredible sharp minded dude. He didn’t talk much, less than me actually, but when he did, it was solid and had depth. Two, that he wasn’t a “Typical youth” rather, he was a young man who had purpose and who had a foundation rooted in Christ. The conversations we had were actually serious, and we had several shared interests. I was impressed, to say the least, and we clicked pretty much instantly.

His family eventually joined the homeschooling group, and they joined a different church. We wound up doing almost everything together in high school. He introduced me to TeenPact, which changed my life. We went to Worldview academy, played against each other on different baseball teams. We did all kinds of academic activities, talked about the tough stuff we were trying to figure out, and gave each other a hard time about his CAP neediness, and my Sci-fi Geekery. He became my best friend, and God brought him round when I needed one most.

What’s the point of all that sentimentality?

Well, reflecting on this a few days ago, I just realized (and am still realizing) that even in the most unpleasant settings, at the most random times, God will bring a person or event into your life that will, quite literally, change your life. I just think about what my life would be like had I not engaged “the new guy” in a conversation, if I had just ignored him like most new people were ignored. How much I would have missed and grown in high school, and continue to grow in today.

While I do believe there is no such thing as a “missed” opportunity, there is such thing as an ignored opportunity. Even in the strangest or most difficult settings, when those opportunities arise, don’t ignore them and Don’t pass them by, unless you have really prayed and thought about it. Because honestly, We have no idea what experiences, relationships, or growth will come out of them. I for one, would prefer not to find out.

What things have you learned out of seemingly nowhere? Any rejoicings or regrets? Share them below!

Movie Review: The Giver

the-giver-wallpaperIn the community, rules dictate life. Everything you do, say, and eat is monitored by the elders for the purpose of peace…. And it works. Devoid of emotion, color, or change life continues in the same way day after day after day… Until at the ceremony of graduation, a boy named Jonas is chosen. Chosen to be the next “Receiver of Knowledge” because of his ability to “See Beyond”. To be the only one in the community to experience such things as colors, emotion, and faith. A burden to bear for the good of all.

Jonas soon finds however, that these new feelings are not only beautiful, but to live without them is meaningless. With that knowledge, he decides it is time for a change. A change which will destroy the community, but enlighten those living within it. But first, he must complete his teachings from the former Receiver of Knowledge. Known only as “The Giver”.

Things I Liked

When Jonas begins to experience life as it originally was created to be, with emotions and a release from his vulcan mindset, he begins to experience the three greatest qualities found in mankind. That is- faith, hope, and love. Through the film these three qualities, or, essences of human nature are delved into through past memories and present circumstances. We are shown that love is the most powerful of all. Love is what drives The Giver to help Jonas. Love is what drives Jonas to risk his life so that the community may experience life as it was meant to be. Faith gives him the hope that things could be better, and then, we see him rewarded for those efforts.

Jonas also, because he has been given memories of faith hope and love, commits himself to serving his community in making a way so they may experience what he has experienced. He, in essence, sacrifices his social life, and risks his physical life for the ultimate freedom of the community. He is a character with courage, integrity, and to be applauded for the risks he takes. Jonas’ friends also, even though under the drugs of emotion suppressant, aid Jonas in his task. Loyal to the end, we see some things drugs just cannot remove.

When we are introduced to the community, it is dull, unexciting, and bland. We are shown that emotions are, in fact, things which make humans have humanity. Even in the fallen state in which we live, the gift of emotions help us to live in a manner which is  more natural and beneficial. To remove this, while it would create an temporary artificial state of cooperation. It is by no means something to be pursued.

It was said by one of the Elders “We can’t let people choose, for when humans choose- they always choose wrong.” I think this is one of the best quotes found in the movie. The elders recognize man’s fallen and erroneous state completely. No one in the film is claiming they are good, or perfect. Rather, we see leaders making decisions, albeit flawed, to suppress mankind’s nature through chemicals so that they might make choices which are better for the community, and not selfish.

Things I Didn’t Like

Jonas and a girl named Fiona kiss secretly, because to do so is against the community rules.

Some of the memories The Giver provides Jonas are painful an violent. We are shown poachers slaughtering elephants, and later we are snapped into a violent war where we see men shooting each other up, and then we, with Jonas, watch a man die as the light leaves his eyes.

Jonas punches one of his friends.

At one point, we see people “released” which is another word for euthanasia, or allowed murder. It is a terrible and gut wrenching thing to watch, made even worse by the fact it is mindlessly celebrated by the community.

Closing Thoughts

“The ability to see beyond is Faith.”
~The Giver~

This movie is based on a book written by “Louis Lowry”. Enjoying the book immensely, I’d been looking forward to the release of this film as the story was so good. The trailers concerned me however, because it set the feel as an intense action thriller, rather then a reflective pondering on humanity. I can say with relief though, that the movie captures the essence and feel of the book about as perfectly as an adaptation can. Everything of importance is included, and some extra character development of Jonas’ friends are thrown in too. Take confidence, if you loved the book, you’ll enjoy the sameness found in the movie.

Rarely does a film these days show up with such messages and themes that make you sit through the whole credits thinking… Wow. The Giver is a movie such as this. Capturing essential  and hard questions about humanity, and then giving solid answers which will make you think and dwell upon. Things like the power and necessity of Faith, Hope, and Love- then showing the greatest of these is indeed Love. Exposing the true nature of humanity, yet also capturing the beauty of our condition.

We see simply, when man tries to suppress God given gifts in order to live in perfection, the result is a dull and lifeless survival. Void of anything worth living for. The Giver takes this “ideal society” and through a young man named Jonas, shows the flaws in a clean, original, and memorable way. Full of humor, suspense, and ponderings,  This movie is by far the best of 2014 in my opinion. One worthy of commendation and praise, as it gives far more than memories.

How about you? Have you seen this film? What did you think? Let me know!

Movie Review: X-Men: Days Of Future Past

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The end has come. The end of all life- both natural and mutants, is at the brink of total extinction. Today, there is nothing any of the X-men can do to stop it. Sentenial, machines of biological warfare, have destroyed all but a few of the x-men and most of the world’s population as well. Everything centers around one history changing event, but that was 30 years in the past.

Thankfully (and conveniently) though, one such X-girl has the power to manipulate time and send people back. Unfortunately, it is so painful on the brain, no one can survive. No one, save for your friendly neighborhood wolverine. He is the only one who can go back and change what was done. The mind he has to change though, is none other than Charles Xavier- the world’s most powerful telepath.

Wolverine isn’t known for his well spoken or patient demeanor. Let’s hope his younger teacher can be taught by his older self in the days of future past. Because time travel always makes about as much sense as that previous sentence.

Things I Liked

I am a fan of hopeful movies. As hope is what drives us in our everyday lives as well. This movie is filled with it, and carries through to the end. There is hope that things can go differently and that choices can be changed. Hope motivates all in their actions to change the future for the better.

Logan volunteers himself to go through the excruciating pain of time travel. His brain has a chance of being ripped to nothingness, yet does so anyway. He has grown so much since we last found him as a rouge selfish guy. It was great to see him change, in part, for the better.

Perhaps the best thing I liked about the film, is how it portrays the worldview of survival of the fittest. That is, it shows the fruit of this philosophy resulting in complete and utter destruction. Millions of lives are lost in the world, and there are essentially no survivors. This is Darwinian theory at its best, by showing its worst. By trying to survive, they have destroyed themselves. Leaving nothing but ash, ruin, and death in their wake.

Things I Didn’t Like

Logan is back with his well toned muscular form, and unfortunately in this film, we see his the back of his body, au’ naturale, as he looks out a window. Adding nothing to the plot except a clip that sinfully displays his human figure more than ever. Mystique’s costume still sports the tight fitting blue latex suit she has become known for as well.

Cursing is Prevalent as Logan drops many profanities at least once, his favorite being the D- Word. The F- word is used once as well. God’s name is taken on vain once.

With all X-Men movies, fight scenes are to expected. The difference with many of these however, is we see they happened, but then, they really didn’t. Early on we watch the result of the sentinels. Massive mounds of dead bodies litter streets, in various forums of decay. The sentinels impale and kill mutants with their own powers, but then, in another time, we see these same mutants alive. Most we see die, we see later alive. So while the violence is there, the pain of death is gone.

Mystique and Logan have their own little blurb of violence because they account for the majority of it in the film. Mystique takes out dozens of people martial arts style. We see a flashback of a man being shot by her, and also some close ups of her killing some guards with hands. She shoots a man in the neck, and we get a close up of the trail of the bullet.

Perhaps the most squirm worthy scene though, or the one I most disliked, was when Magneto decided to wrap wolverine in iron bars. The bars not only wrap around Logan, but puncture into his legs, arms and torso. Rendering him in incredible pain, immobile, yet unable to die.

Closing Thoughts

“We can show them a better path…”

~Charles Xavier~

This is the… sixth(?) movie in the multi-million dollar X-men franchise. In some ways, it is like every other movie with the superhuman mutants. While in others, is completely set apart. On the one hand, we find common things that we’ve come to expect in these films. There is sinful glorification and screen time of wolverine’s rear nude and Mystique’s bodies, a dabbling in some foul language, and obligatory violence to show off the mutant powers. The violence of entertainment is lesser than that of past three X-men, but it is there nonetheless.

On the flip side, there are some bread ideas presented that make you think long and hard about the lasting impact our choices make. We see these flawed characters grow into people they should have been, or at hoped they would be. There are also some pretty hard hits on evolution, as it fleshes out that philosophy to the core, and we see the full grown fruit. Sacrifices and mercy is shown by one character that surprised even me.

I’d like to say this is the X-Men movie we all have wanted. This movie culminates all theories and philosophies that have been toyed with in the past five films. With messages presented that are pretty solid in terms of a biblical base, the question is does it counterbalance the negative themes?

Honestly, and disappointingly- No. In my humble opinion it does not. While this one may have mutated to lead to a better moral resolution, the method in getting there is still dark and without redemption. All struggles and success point to the glorification of the mutants, rather that the glorification of the actions (biblically praiseworthy) themselves. I’d be hesitant to say it is worth watching again, and while certainly a different path, I would not say much better. Maybe sometime in the future past, wherever that may be.

Have you seen this film? What did you think? Leave your thoughts below!

Christianity, Nudity, & Game of Thrones

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Content Warning: The following post contains much material that deals with nudity, sexuality, and other mature themes. While I believe I’ve presented such material in a tasteful, rather than graphic, manner, be aware this post is certainly not the typical “G” rating that I strive towards in my writings. 

Games of Thrones. There may not be a hotter topic of discussion regarding TV shows among Christian circles. If you are out of the TV-Show loop, Game of Thrones has been described by Kit Harrington (an actor of the series) as “It is a beautifully crafted epic Fantasy. With plenty of raucous sex thrown in.”  Epic fantasy, raucous sex, not even mentioning the violence that exceeds the “R” rating scale (if that is possible.) What more could you ask for? Content aside, many Christians I know watch this series mainly for the given reason; “The story is incredible!” While the Game of Thrones yarn may be a good one, it amazes me how many professing followers of Christ watch, and even go as far as to promote, this series even with the inexcusable content it contains. The fact is that Game of Thrones shows vile immoral sex and deplorable nudity and consequently, the people who watch the series develop an insatiable lust for more and more of the show.

Here’s the deal though. Game of Thrones isn’t the problem. HBO isn’t the problem. It is much much deeper than one series which will be over in a few years. The problem is a complete moral disconnect from what we watch on TV. We view people without clothes, and, as Christians, we think this acceptable? I observe many Christians have no qualms with nudity in movies and television. They justify it by playing the legalism card, saying it does not affect them, and even go so far as to compare it to the stories of the Old Testament (thereby making it okay.)

These attempts at justification are disturbingly naive or indignantly ignorant. In either case, let’s unpack this sensitive, albeit crucial topic. For if we do not draw our line at viewing nudity and the promiscuous acts which often go along with it, then where is that line drawn?

Why Not Nudity?

In order to actually begin to dwell upon this topic, we have to first ask ourselves; “Is there anything wrong with public nudity?” I mean, God created us, our souls, and our bodies. He created Adam and Eve without clothes too. Surely it isn’t that bad. Actually, it is that bad, and we are given a moral law to abstain from viewing people in the nude. This is of course wrong, given the context outside of marriage.

When Adam and Eve sinned against God, their eyes were opened because of that sin. They had lost their perfect innocence and what was the first thing they realized? They were naked and they were ashamed. Public nakedness after the fall has always been shown in Scripture as shameful and demeaning. God also gives commands various times in the Old and New Testaments that, if someone lacks clothing, we should cover him. God set this standard by clothing Adam and Eve.

Digging even deeper, We see, in Job 31, an example where even gazing at a young woman (other translations use “virgin”) would break his holy covenant with his eyes. In Habakkuk  2, there is condemnation in looking upon people who are without clothes. Ham looked upon (an intentional look) the nakedness of his father Noah, and was cursed. Our reaction to nudity should not be even a passive gaze- even that has been declared as sin by God. But rather an active covering. Following the example God has given us.

So you don’t like the Old Testament verses. You’re free in Christ. I get that; I am too, in fact. Here’s the deal though; Christ did not abolish God’s moral Law. He fulfilled it and commanded us to have “not even a hint of sexual immorality among you.” Romans 1 sets a great example of how dangerous it is to, instead of getting as far away as possible from a potential sin, see how close to the edge one can get.

Obviously, I fail at this; everyone does. That does not excuse us from intentionally viewing such immorality with our eyes when you know it will be shown again, and again, and again … Sexual immorality is not just sex. It is thoughts, lusts, and the viewing of nakedness. If it is not so wrong to watch nudity on TV, what is wrong with going to a strip club on the weekend? The input is the same- sinful on all counts. TV just throws in a story to make it more entertaining and give people justification.

The Big Excuse

So you’re still with me so far; still reading at least. I’m sure some of you are thinking this:

Austin, viewing nudity doesn’t cause me to have lustful thoughts about those people. It doesn’t affect or bother me. Paul says meat for some is sinful, and for others it isn’t. It depends on your conscience and is a matter of conviction. I simply don’t struggle with it.

Okay, I’ll take you at your word, as I can’t judge the heart. Say viewing promiscuous sex, shameful nudity, and the like does not conjure up in your mind lustful thoughts. On the one hand, the Bible is clear, since the fall of Adam and Eve, nudity was, and is meant to be associated with sexuality (which is good in proper context.) On the other, viewing such things causes no apparent lustful or sexual thoughts to enter your mind.

When our God-given natures do not line up with our personal declared moralities, we have a problem, and a big one at that. God has put into us sexuality. In the the proper context of marriage, we are told and shown it to be a great thing in Scripture. We are not called however, to let our sexuality be reduced to the state of neutrality of a desensitized state. No one is just naturally immune to the pull of sexuality. In this day and culture though, people have been so steeped in it, that many have lost the natural desire and appreciation for our sexual natures that God has created in us to partake in. How sad it is that this gift of God has been viewed and abused to a point of where one, even a professing Christian, can look at and watch a person in the full nude, and go “meh”, and feel nothing.

That isn’t personal conviction- that isn’t even self control. That is a soul that is so desensitized and is living with a heart so deceived, that it has become sexually neutered in the mind. Have we forgotten that our heart is deceitful above all things? That we are to flee any kind of sexual immorality, instead of trying to reason through it by ourselves? It truly pains me to see so many Christians failing to understand the glory of what God has created. Continuing in this, sexuality will lose the precious meaning that was originally intended.

A Call to Accountability

So, where am I going with this? Essentially, I believe we need to continue to proclaim to all, but especially our brothers and sisters in Christ, to pray about what we watch. Notice, I didn’t say think. We as humans can reason out of any situation if we let our minds justify enough. Especially in this case of media, we need to be vigilant in asking, “Is what I am viewing sinful?

While many aspects in films can be discussed, and I believe do apply to the illustration that Paul gives regarding meat; nudity and sex are not one of them. It isn’t faked, and to look on it is sin. We need to start asking those good questions to one another in a sincere and loving way. Asking about the “why” they watch such sinful content and if they know what Scripture says about it. I’m not perfect in this area, I’ve seen things which I wish I could take back, take Braveheart for instance, and the most recent X-men (which I’ll be reviewing shortly). Those viewings are from a lack of pre-reading diligence, but are in no way excusable. Even accidental viewings are to be repented of- we are still responsible for those. I am still responsible for those.

We are also responsible for keeping each other accountable in Christlike love. Starting from the spot where we all acknowledge we all have struggles, and we are all struggling together to walk in a manner glorifying to Christ. Game Of Thrones has no place in that walk. Nudity has no place in that walk. Therefore, let’s work together to call those stumbling in these areas to get back on their feet. This proclamation will certainly come with ridicule, being called legalistic, intolerant, or even losing friendships. Through Prayer and loving concern though, we can successfully work towards this reality. One step at a time, because our victory is in Christ, and he has already won.

The Post about Controversial Posts

Wrong Internet

I think we’ve all seen it before. That one post about that one thing which that one author is incredibly passionate about. There are bible references, quotes, experiences, and e’rething (not just everything). And then it happens. Another person comes in and comments in disagreement… And you would have thought the world had been shaken out of orbit by the response given by the author. We find it everywhere don’t we? On Political blogs, Christian blogs, Car blogs… anywhere there is opinion there is most always overreaction to the disagreeing side (or vise versa). YouTube is famous for this, and also the quickest way to lose hope for humanity. ;)

One thing I’ve found about the internet which fascinates me is how quickly people will argue about something with a passion. Then, when meeting in person, they remain silent to the point of awkwardness about it. How quickly one will vehemently defend their opinions online against people they’ve never met, yet rarely do so with their best friends.  The reasons for this are many, but that’s not the point of this post, merely an observation.

Before I go on, I’d like to say I do find controversial posts expressing an opinion or belief, with a christ centered heart, an excellent thing. The problem is, often we find one without the other. Most often, I see a heart that is not centered on Christ. I’ve written my share of controversial posts, and read a great many more. One common theme I’ve found is while posters may not be soft headed- meaning they know a lot- that knowledge has puffed them up to being hard in their responses to disagreements. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we’ve all done did it. Figuring out the problem is just the first step right?

Whether you are the initiating poster, or the responding commenter, I’d definitely encourage you to share what you believe or think. If everyone agreed on everything this world would be a dull and quite boring place. Through confronting, questioning, and discussing our ideas, we grow to understand them more. Often not letting them go or changing our minds, but coming to a greater understanding of where the other is coming from, and solidifying the “Why” of your statement.

So when you post a controversial statement or opinion, don’t see a disagreement as challenge to your beliefs. Rather, an opportunity to grow in them and perhaps learn something you hadn’t considered. If more people did this, comment boxes would be a place of beneficial encouragement and dialogue, rather than the degrading speech which is currently found in the large majority of posts today regarding just about anything.

So leave a little bit of Christlike comments and posts in those controversial places. Worse that can happen is you leave a little bit more informed and the person doesn’t change their mind. Which as we all know, mind changing happens all the time online. Oh. Wait…

;)

Book Review: The Shack

The Shack Book Review

This is quite possibly the most controversial book in Christian circles today. I picked it up based on a recommendation from a friend, and after reading some reviews, dived into it. And was subsequently sucked into the world Paul Young calls “The Shack”.

Synopsis

Mack is a loving father, faithful husband, and drifting Christian. When tragedy strikes him, he gets a letter from God, telling him to meet at a shack in the middle of nowhere. He goes, and spends a weekend with none other than the trinity itself. God the father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. In the course of those days he, and we, are shown what God’s Love means, and how to deal with the pain of suffering we find in this world.

Genre

This book falls into the category of Supernatural Fiction.  It is also much like a Thriller in the first part of the book, then more of an exploratory Drama once the weekend begins.  It is hard to classify exactly, as it has so many different types of content in it. Much like life, you’ll find a bit of everything in the novel, which is perhaps, why it has been so popular.

Content and Themes

Most of the themes can be described through quotes, which I will post below. As far as content goes, there is a person murdered, and there is some cursing as well- on the weekend, which winds up in awkward situations considering Mac’s company. These that I post don’t mean I necessarily agree with them, as a few are pretty flawed.

In Regards to Love…

Trust is the fruit of a relationship in which you know you are loved.

Submission is not about authority and it is not obedience; it is all about relationships of love and respect.

All I want from you is to trust me with what little you can, and grow in loving people around you with the same love I share with you. It’s not your job to change them, or to convince them. You are free to love without an agenda.

True love never forces.

In Regards to Judgement…

Judging requires that you think yourself superior to the one you judge.

Judgment is not about destruction, but about setting things right.

I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.

In Regards to Institutions…

Marriage is not an institution. It’s a relationship. Like I said I don’t create institutions that’s an occupation for those who want to play God. So no I’m not too big on religion and not very fond of politics or economics either. And why should I be They are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three

There is always risk in relationships, but bottom line? The world has no meaning apart from relationships. Some are just messier than others, some are seasonal, others are difficult, and a few are easy, but every one of them is important.

Religion must use law to empower itself and control the people who they need in order to survive.

Other Thoughts…

You cannot produce trust just like you cannot ‘do’ humility. It either is or is not.

Lies are a little fortress; inside them you can feel safe & powerful.

It is so easy to get sucked into the if-only game, and playing it is a short and slippery slide into despair.

Humans have a great capacity for declaring something good or evil, without truly knowing.

Emotions are the colors of the soul; they are spectacular and incredible. When you don’t feel, the world becomes dull and colorless.

Closing Thoughts

I’ll be the first to say, The Shack isn’t perfect. It has some theological holes which need patching like a bad roof, and the method of presenting above themes is non-scriptural as well. This isn’t a book for a young christian, and certainly not to be used for establishing theology of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. When I read other reviews, mostly negative BTW, that’s what most people focus on and end with.

But while reading the book, I was not so much impacted by what the Trinity was supposed to be, but rather, how Mac wound up dealing with his suffering. I don’t see the purpose of this book to communicate a way one should view God, though undeniably Young interjects his views of who God is in the story. Rather, this a story- yes, a story, speaking volumes about something each of us undergo and deal with in life. Suffering which seems pointless, anger towards God, the thought we’ve all had- “How Lord could you let his happen?!?”

That’s the core issue “The Shack” deals with. Personally, I think the author choose an unwise venue to communicate the messages he desired to share- that being a physical manifestation of God and other such things. But he did. Anyone with a solid foundation in scripture can see the flaws in the book theologically. So, confident in my belief and knowing scripture, I did not struggle with that. I passed it off as fictional conversation.

Finishing the book, I was struck by two distinct feelings. First, an humbled understanding of just how inadequate we are in determining the plans of God. One thing this book communicated exceedingly well is the absolute assurance and guarantee God knows what we are doing, and how arrogant we are when we think we could do something better. Even in Tragedy. Second, while I felt I understood God’s loving side a bit more, I was deprived of what makes God… God. God isn’t just loving, He is so many other things, all of which could be filled with millions of novels and never be fully understood.

That being said, I personally benefitted from reading this novel. I was convicted by some lessons taught in the book, even if presented in a flawed way. Would you benefit? I don’t know honestly. What I do know is the Shack is not a novel worth of admiration, but with discernment, can be read and benefitted from.

Leadership is… Being Genuine

Genuine LEather

Any quality leather company prides itself on one main thing. We’ve all see it stamped on their product or on the packaging: “100% Genuine Leather”. Why in the world would they put that on their box of product? Well, turns out that most leather we buy is not real leather. Most is a fake plastic textured, dyed, and scented to smell like the real thing. While it may be cheaper, anyone who has used a fake leather anything will tell you it degraded pretty quickly.

Genuine leather though? That stuff lasts forever. It not only is tough, but the more you use the leather, the better it fits you. Obviously a leader cannot be compared to a piece of cowhide in terms of usefulness or lasting impact, however, I think there is a lesson to be learned here which I’ve started to observe in my own life.

Genuine leaders are the ones who inspire trust, openness, and communication. Genuine leaders- those who lead as they really are, not the kind with a deceitful or even masked mindset- are incredibly influential, because they are incredibly open. People have no doubt as to whether or not that person is who they really claim to be. And that is a huge thing.

So why isn’t every leader open and genuine? Probably, I think, because of fear. When you are real, you are vulnerable. People reject others all the time. They criticize a personality, or even simply dismiss a person based on who they are. That shouldn’t stop a leader though. Because leadership isn’t based upon circumstance or petty opinions. It is based upon vision and passion, two things which are greater than any personal vulnerability.

I’m not going to lie, this is one aspect of leadership I do struggle with immensely. I’ve got my own personal little box which I like to live it. It is safe, secure, and predictable. It is also open when I want it to be, and can be closed too. That is not conducive to great leadership though- it is only conducive to yourself.

So let’s be real, authentic, and genuine leaders. Not two-faced ones who acts differently for different people, or hides behind their mask to feel safe. Let’s be genuine, and through our example, inspire others to do the same. So the question comes… How you do display genuineness as a leader?