Sunday, March 31, 2013

He is risen!

On Friday we considered the seven last words of Christ. Think back, again, about what happened on that Friday. Because of Christ we don’t just avoid that punishing treatment. We receive the exact opposite.

Probably no single passage reveals this more than Revelation 21, which is especially poignant when compared to Calvary:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,

* * *

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there.
God abandoned Him, yet His dwelling will be with us. He thirsted, we are given a spring of water of life. “It is finished” was Christ’s death, “it is done” is our promise of life. We don’t need a temple, because we have Christ himself. And darkness during the afternoon is replaced with light at night. He truly makes all things new. Even death can not hold Him.

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 
Remember how he told you.” (Luke 24:7)

He has risen indeed! Hallelujah!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Meditation on the Seven Last Words of Christ

On Good Friday, the Christian Church remembers the suffering and death of Christ. One common way to do that is to meditate on the last seven words of Christ, as recorded in the four gospels. Several years ago, the church I was attending did a sermon series on these words, which is the inspiration for this post.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Jesus asks for forgiveness for those crucifying him while simultaneously making that forgiveness available by his death. And if the Father could forgive the crucifixion of his own son, the greatest crime possible, He can certainly forgive our other daily sins.

Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

Jesus said this to the thief who asked for salvation, as the crowd shouted “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” What they do not realize, but the thief did, is that He is saving others by not saving Himself. When all others had abandoned Him, the thief, by God’s grace, is the only one to see who Jesus really is, and the only one to get a response – the immediate promise of paradise.

“Woman, behold, your son!” (John 19:26)

Even in the midst of His suffering, Christ is still attentive to earthly needs. Yet there may also be a greater spiritual statement here, which foreshadows the spiritual adoption that Christ accomplishes. “God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

The penalty for sin is separation from God. Yet Christ bore this on behalf, even as it ripped apart the Trinity. The one who said “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) was separated from the Father. As a result, we will never face this separation. Because He was forsaken, he could turn to us and say “behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20) and “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5).

“I thirst.” (John 19:28)

As with separation from God, this is a condition He faced on our behalf. It is a sign of being cursed:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
 and makes flesh his strength,
 whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
 and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
 In an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
 whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
 that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
 for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
 for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
(Jeremiah 17: 5-8)

Yet /he was cursed with thirst so we would never be: “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

“It is finished” (John 19:30)

Scripture is finished, all prophecies about Christ’s life were now fulfilled: “knowing that all was now finished...” (John 19:38).

Sin is finished and the debt is paid: “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. . . . For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:6, 14)

Satan is finished and defeated: “now will the ruler of this world be cast out” (John 12:31)

Death is finished: “so also in Christ shall all be made alive. . . . The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, 26)

Salvation is finished: But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God . . . For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. . . . Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:12,14,18)

“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46)

Christ’s life was not taken from Him, he gave it up: “I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18)

“And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” (Mark 15:38) The cherubim blocking access to the Father, embroidered on the curtain, were removed. (Genesis 3:24, Exodus 26:31) Access to God is restored and we are no longer kept back. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

* * *

Good Friday, at first glance, is a poor name for the day we remember God’s death. Yet when we consider the purpose and effect of that death, and the truth that it was done willingly out of love, it truly becomes good.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Corinthians 15: 54-56)

Friday miscellaneous (3/29)

Doug Wilson and Thabiti Anyabwile are still going back and forth about slavery and race (although the discussion appears to be dying down). Since last week’s links, the exchange has gone Doug, Thabiti, Doug, Thabiti, Doug, Thabiti, Doug, and Doug. Honestly, I’m with Thabiti on this one. Maybe when it’s all over, I’ll write something about it.

It’s Easter weekend, which means its time for peeps dioramas. It’s also time for Ben-Hur, which makes this history of the novel’s author particularly interesting.

In what might be a fitting revelation concerning the secrecy of the drone war, it turns out that the most popular drone image is a fake.

Random question of the day: would you be more likely to visit your library if it had a water slide?

Second random question: what do millionaires do in their spare time? Amazon’s Jeff Bezos finds spaceship parts on the bottom of the ocean.

Practical advice for the President (and anyone else who wants to influence people who are inclined to disagree): “When you are trying to build trust with someone who does not trust you, don't give them new reasons not to trust you.” Hmm, maybe Congress needs to learn this lesson too.

Speaking of distrust, Ayn Rand didn’t care at all for C.S. Lewis.

Birthers strike again, this time at Ted Cruz.

Ever wonder what impact touch screens have on child development? Maybe it would just be better to let them get bored and explore abandoned places.

Bart Gingrich (a former classmate of ours) gives five excellent things to remember when engaging in the marriage debate.

Homeschooling can sometimes get pigeonholed as a conservative evangelical sub culture. Here are eighteen reasons to homeschool that break out of that mold.

And finally, reflexes and alertness like this are the reason cats rule the interwebs.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

"The Bible"

Updated: this series is now available to stream in HD on Netflix. Jeremiah also reviewed the series.

Original Post:

Those of you who read my posts know I get very passionate about films. I love films and I love the medium of visual storytelling. A good story is hard to come by, so when I see one I latch onto it and don't let go. My latest obsession is not a blockbuster, but a modest $22 million project; the ten-hour television miniseries entitled "The Bible."

David, with his friend Uriah,
invades Jerusalem.
This title is both deceptive and shockingly descriptive. For you see "The Bible" is not the scriptural summary it might lead you to think it is, but a lean, focused story about Jesus Christ. Don't let the fact that it spends 5 hours on a selection of Old-Testament characters fool you. Their stories are incredibly abbreviated, and though there are still two hours yet remaining, they have already spent four times the amount of screen-time on Jesus then they have on anyone else. This reveals a hidden bias on the part of the filmmakers: the the message of the Bible is primarily about the redemptive mission of Christ, and that the earlier stories primarily exist as the context and introductory chapels of the main narrative. That we should see the sacrifice of Christ in the context of the proposed sacrifice of Isaac, the deliverance he brings in light of Moses and Joshua, his kingship in light of David, and his faithfulness and power in light of Daniel.

Moses, as deliverer, is a Proto-Christ.
If you've read the Bible, you know the story. What's impressive is how closely the series adheres to it. It is surprisingly Protestant in its depiction. Now yes, I'm sure you've heard about the myriad departures and omissions made by the creative staff. But if looked at from the perspective of the many adaptations we've seen over the last ten years, its extremely faithful. More faithful than "The Hobbit" or "The Fellowship of the Ring." If you are looking for an exact visual record of the text of Scripture you will be disappointed. But there is no better way to experience the story of God's redemptive plan this Easter season than watching "The Bible."

The series is beautifully shot in Morocco, and since they shoot all the installments in the same general area, you see great continuity between the time periods. The actors are all unknown in the United States (though if you are like me, you might spot an Indiana Jones villain in there somewhere), and they use a wide ethnic diversity to represent a variety of characters. This is a reaction to the reality that most Bible characters were not British, or likely even white. Jesus is played by a Portuguese actor, angels by a variety of ethnicities, and yes, Samson by an African. If this offends you, I challenge to examine your pre-conceptions of the Bible. Many of the extras are clearly of North African descent (leading to some humorous comparison between one of the characters and President Obama), but again, this is due to the location of the filming of the series.
Only Jesus can throw the stone.

So now you're sad you've missed the show. Even though the first episode was the cable event of the year with 13 million viewers, and subsequent installments have hit 10 million, you weren't among them. Only one more episode left to air (and on Easter night) on the History Channel. Well I have some suggestions for you.

1: History will probably re-air them. If you have cable you can watch for free.
2: iTunes currently sells a season pass at a very reasonable price. Downside: cut up into hour installments instead of the 2 hours they were aired in. Also poor sound mix.
3: The series gets released on Blu-Ray and DVD on April 2nd, two days after Easter. This is the best way to experience the series, and a wonderful way to host showing for your friends and neighbors.
4: UPDATED in 2014 - the series is now on NETFLIX, in HD, with surround sound, and a spanish language track as well. For those of you with Netflix accounts, this just became a no brainer.

I am a huge fan of this series. Even the soundtrack is top notch with work by Hans Zimmer. I cannot recommend it to you enough. So from me to you, Happy Easter.

Click here for more movie reviews.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (3/21)

Thabiti Anyabwile and Doug Wilson have kept at it on racism and slavery. See Thabiti’s part 5 and part 6, and Doug’s response part 4 and part 5.

Britain is digging up bodies everywhere. First under parking lots, then in basements, and now in a car park.

The question every conspiracy theorist needs to confront: was the death star an inside job? (refutation here)

Note to the Secret Service: the presidential limo doesn’t run on diesel.

I haven’t been watching the History Channel’s series on the Vikings, but I still found this review interesting.

Have you ever thought about Supreme Court Justices workout routines? Me neither, at least, not until reading this article.

It’s been awhile since I posted a “Republican party needs...” link. But this one is pretty good. We need something to combat the young getting left behind in what little economic improvement we see.

Last week we wrote about several prison escapes. Here’s another idea: use a helicopter (apparently it happens outside of the movies).

If you were wondering, he’s a partial breakdown of how Colorado turned liberal.

And finally, this makes me want to eat croissants.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (3/15)

I apologize for the lateness of this post. In addition to my regular schedule, I had an Immigration Court hearing and an unscheduled client meeting this week. Also, my wife gets a major shout out this week, as she is responsible for most of these links.

This week Pastor Thabiti Anyabwile began a thorough critique of Black & Tan, Doug Wilson’s book on American slavery. I highly recommend it. See part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4. Doug Wilson also responded, part 1, part 2, and part 3. Also, be sure not to miss the original review by Bryan Loritts, which started the whole thing off.

Although they have a reputation for being anti-evolution, some hoemschoolers are becoming more open to teaching evolution.

This is an excellent article by a homosexual man on why he opposes same-sex marriage.

And speaking of culture issues, did you know that the evangelical Christians didn’t always oppose abortion? Here’s how that changed. Arkansas, meanwhile, is taking a new approach on restricting abortion.

One of this week’s news hoaxes: militarized dolphins on the loose. (No, the dolphins are real, but they’re not on the loose.)

And on the international front, there are signs a rift is forming between Iran and al-Qaeda.

In today’s economic troubles, libraries are seeing dual uses as homeless shelters.

Did you know that over half of the world’s companies that are over 200 years old are Japanese? Apparently they last long by remaining small and sustainable.

In a strange tale showing the blinders of arrogance (as well as the bubble of academia), a physics professor traveled overseas to meet his online girlfriend and ended up in jail.

On to prison breaks. Apparently there was a plan to rescue Napoleon from St. Helena by submarine. It didn’t work. Maybe instead they should have consulted with the team that broke six dangerous prisoners out of Australia.

And speaking of odd history stories, have you heard about the illegal basketball game that officially “never happened”?

And while some people worry about skeletons in their closets, London residents have to worry about them in their basements (no word on any new royalty turning up, though).

And finally, it’s amazing what a difference a little sound editing makes.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Every so often, a story captures your imagination with a lesson that will leave you sitting in the car with a handful of friends discussing themes of pride, selfishness, beauty, and sacrifice. Last night, we had this experience. So we (Jeremiah and Josiah) decided to share our thoughts.

The story that inspired us was Oz the Great andPowerful.

I (Josiah) have always had a soft spot for the world of Oz; the first book I ever read (aside from those dreadful elementary readers) was The WonderfulWizard of Oz. I also love to see artists take established worlds and reimagine them. You can imagine my delight, then, when I saw the teaser for Oz the Great and Powerful this past autumn. I expected wonderful things, and, happily, I was not disappointed.

Oz unapologetically acts as a prequel to the 1939 The Wizard of Oz, making several delightful references to the classic film. The focus of Oz, however, is on the titular wizard. This man, as we meet him in the film’s black-and-white opening sequence, is a self-centered charlatan, ladies’ man, and con-artist—hardly the makings of the wonderful wizard. But when a cyclone transports him to the magical Land of Oz, the carnival magician is expected to fulfill a prophesy by killing a wicked witch and restoring balance to a kingdom.

Near the start of the film, Oz explains “I don’t want to be a good man… I want to be a great man!” Oz wants to forge a legacy, not to simply do his duty. Despite his ambition, however, Oz is not a great man; he is merely a selfish one. This tension between the man Oz is, the man Oz wants to be, and the man Oz ought to be, represents the heart of the film.

In our generation, many of us aspire to become great men and women. Heck, I (Jeremiah) want to be a great man. But goodness is often seen as a hindrance to greatness. Look at Hollywood; look at Washington DC; look at New York City: movie stars, politicians, and business executives all seem eager to sacrifice their goodness on the altar of their ambitions.

Like many of us, Oz fights most of his battles against his own faulty character—no outside power conspires to corrupt him. And as the shortcomings in Oz’s character continue to exhibit themselves, it becomes painfully clear that Oz can never be the savior and ruler of the land that bears his name.

Flawed heroes are a staple of modern fiction because audiences can identify with internal struggles. But, typically, a hero has one major flaw such as fear, or vengefulness, or pride. The wonderful wizard has many faults, and he sees each of them as an impassible obstacle, preventing him from ever becoming a good man. It’s not that some fault inhibits Oz’s inner heroism; it’s that, in his despair, he doesn’t want to be a hero at all.

Oz is not the sort of movie in which the arrival in the magical land completely changes the perspective of the protagonist. The moment he dismounts his balloon, Oz finds occasion to exercise his roguish tendencies. He soon ascertains an opportunity to win the greatness he so covets: if he can convince the inhabitants of Oz that he is the wizard foretold in their prophesy, then immense power, riches, and prestige will belong to him. The selfish man in Oz grasps at the great man Oz would be.

Oz demonstrates that the would-be-wizard’s self-absorption does nothing but multiply the kingdom’s problems; the selfish Oz is not good enough to save the realm. The question Oz asks is “Can such a thoroughly flawed man become a leader for the forces of good?”

The movie’s answer is consistent with what we know as Christians: Christ can transform the worst of who we are into something that is good and beautiful. When Oz surrenders his selfish ambition, he learns that, despite his weaknesses, he can be used for good.

At one crucial point, the good witch tells Oz: “If you can make them believe, then you’re wizard enough.” And, they do believe: a porcelain girl, a good witch, a flying monkey—these and other characters believe that Oz, despite his faults, can become the wizard of prophesy. Their faith ultimately helps Oz to let go of his own ambition. By valuing Oz above his worth, the wizard’s supporters help to turn their belief into reality.

Heroes aren’t examples of perfection; they are people who face their own imperfections and emerge victorious. Heroes needn’t be flawless, only willing. Oz reminds us that we shouldn’t wait until we’ve achieved personal perfection before we reach out to others.

Oz does become a great man, but not by seeking that status. As long as he pursues greatness, Oz is left with only hollow ambition. But when he allows himself to be used for the good of others—when he seeks to become a good man—then Oz becomes a great man as well.

Other aspects of Oz don’t disappoint. The eye-candy is delightful, especially with the use of 3-D. The film effectively utilizes 3-D effects that are stunning, but not distracting. The slightly-convoluted plot wins no awards, but the nuanced character development and phenomenal acting more than compensates. James Franco plays the sleazy wizard convincingly, and both Rachel Weisz (Evanora) and Joey King (the porcelain girl) deliver breathtaking performances. These elements combine to create a charming world that communicates a meaningful truth.

In the film, Oz learns from the example of his hero, Thomas Edison, that seemingly worthless materials can be combined to create something truly magical. We learn from Oz’s story that our messy lives can be shaped into something equally magical. 

Written by Jeremiah Lorrig with guest contributor Josiah Duran. Josiah maintains his highly erratic own blog: Dark and Brite.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (3/8)

Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez passed away this week. Don’t worry though, according to Iran’s President Ahmadinejad, Chavez will return at the end of the world (which, according to the US Government, could be any day now), along with  Jesus Christ and the Mahdi. (Hey, getting one out of three right isn’t that bad.) Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Council honored Chavez with a moment of silence.

Silence, however, was the farthest thing from Senator Rand Paul’s mind when he filibustered the nomination of CIA director for nearly 13 hours. Paul wanted to know if the Administration thought it could target US citizens on US soil. The next day the White House answered: no. (But John Yoo of the former Bush administration says that the Administration’s reasoning is still wrong.)

This is just another of what is beginning to look like what one analyst is calling a long line of defeats for the Obama Administration. (The Administration does look kinda silly having to send emails to the agencies to ensure that the sequester is as painful as promised and canceling White House tours.)

CPAC is coming up: The Republican governors of Virginia and New Jersey have not been invited to speak. Donald Trump has. At least priorities are straight. Meanwhile, on the campaign front, “The problem is not that the GOP lacks technology but that no one knows what to do with it.

On a more sobering note, researchers are discovering that the Holocaust was worse than they previously thought.

And prepare for another housing crisis.

In a case of life imitating art, SimCity may be changing how local government is (or should be) conducted.

In another case of life imitating art, the Hubble telescope has spotted space invaders.

Historic fads can sometimes seem strange. Like putting an Egyptian themed movie theater in Idaho. Or radium in, well, everything.

Now, get off the internet and go look for hidden treasure (but first watch our weekly video).

Because these animals haven’t done enough treasure hunting.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (3/1)

Today marks the end of the world. Or at least, the beginning of the sequester. Or at least the beginning of the last month before effects from the sequester. (Seriously, I think it’s high time that the world made up it’s mind whether it was going to live or die. This shilly-shallying with the question is absurd.)

Oh well, whatever it is, we know it’s bad. Really, really bad. Previously abolished agencies are losing funding and the entire American workforce is going to lose their jobs (some of them multiple times). It might even inhibit projects such as setting policy for Yeti hunters or parachuting dead mice by hand from helicopters over Guam.

Meanwhile, the White House is more concerned that journalists might discover that the sequester was actually a White House proposal (Obama White House, that is. Were it a Bush White House proposal...)

Meanwhile, Republican Governors are distancing themselves from the Republican Congress.

Moving to another branch, here are Justice Thomas’ thoughts on writing judicial opinions.

But enough about triviality. For Lego and/or Harry Potter fans, here’s something truly impressive (more pictures here).

In other news, China is trying to develop its liberal arts education system.

And it appears that Christianity is overtaking Judaism as the most persecuted religion in the world.

Continuing a year of train-wrecks, David Barton now admits to citing a Louis L’Amour novel as historically accurate. His defense: L’Amour said he once heard that anecdote was true. (Wait, wasn’t it Barton who said that a lack of primary sources was part of “the common method employed by those seeking to subvert American culture and society”?)

We’ve all heard “more guns, less crime.” What about “fewer streetlights, less crime” (and less light pollution, and lower energy bills, and...)? And we might actually be able to see the stars.

The Atlantic asks: What day most changed the course of history?

NPR asks: what is that one piece of knowledge that you didn’t learn when you should have?

The Atlantic asks: will the border ever be secure enough for immigration hawks?

This is a fascinating article challenging some of the presumptions of modern psychology. What if the American mind is a rather unique outlier when compared to the rest of the world? (In case you were still doubting, here’s more proof.)

Here’s a new idea: showing a mystery mini-series to those waiting for the subway.

And finally, my brother is currently studying computer animation. Here is his most recent project.
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