Category Archives: Movie Reviews

Have You Considered The Case for Christ?

The Case for Christ is based on the true story of Chicago Tribune journalist,Lee Strobel, and his search for the truth about Christianity. Back in 1980, Lee (played by Mike Vogel) and his wife Leslie (played by Erika Christensen) were livin’ the dream…self-proclaimed atheists, in love, and enjoying life together with their daughter. However, their world started to unravel after their daughter nearly choked to death and Lee’s wife became a Christian while attending Willow Creek Church.  Intent on restoring their marriage to its former simplicity and peace, Lee began a two-year investigative journey to debunk the Christian myth: the death and resurrection of Christ.His research took him around the country, where he interviewed leading experts in various fields:  archeology, theology,  psychology, and medicine. The Case for Christ traces Lee and Leslie Strobels’ journey from atheism into faith. If you’ve ever wished you could believe in Christ but haven’t been persuaded
of the veracity of the resurrection, please consider watching this movie (or read the book Lee wrote). It’s also really encouraging for those of you who might be believers
but have spouses who do not believe. PG, 84% (audience score) on Rotten Tomatoes, great acting, excellent script. Nothing embarrassing or unprofessional,
so you won’t need to hold your breath if you invite someone to see it. And, it’s probably showing in a theater near you right now!  In truth, I’ve only been to a theater for anything besides a private showing
twice in the last 55 years: once to see The Passion of Christ,
and yesterday to see The Case for Christ. So, you can tell what means the most to me! Believing in Christ,
who loved us and gave himself for us, is right at the top! 

Declare and present your case;
    let them take counsel together!
Who told this long ago?
    Who declared it of old?
Was it not I, the Lord?
    And there is no other god besides me,
a righteous God and a Savior;
    there is none besides me.

“Turn to me and be saved,
    all the ends of the earth!
    For I am God, and there is no other.”
(Isaiah 45:21-22, ESV)

 

Rise Up, My Love (229): Wouldn’t You Like to Have a Perfect Nose?

Song of Solomon 7:5 “Thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon which looketh toward Damascus.” Damascus was the capital of Syria, and although the Syrians were chronic enemies of Israel, during the zenith of Solomon’s reign the political control of his kingdom not only included Damascus, but extended another three hours north and east to Tadmor, which was half way to the Euphrates River. As Solomon’s kingdom grew, he continually built watch towers along the perimeter to guard his land from enemy attack, so a reference to a defense tower placed in the mountain range of Lebanon facing Damascus (which would have been to guard Israel from enemy troops advancing from the Syrian capital through the mountains toward Jerusalem) indicates that the Song of Solomon was probably written near the beginning of Solomon’s reign.*  This is consistent with the highly romantic but not implausible theory that Shulamith (“Mrs. Solomon”) was indeed Solomon’s first wife, and that perhaps her untimely death at an early age triggered a long and fruitless search for a replacement. (Hence, the three hundred wives and 700 concubines whom he eventually gathered into his harem…and who ruined him spiritually.) As one with the conviction that a monogamous marriage between one man and one woman was God’s design from the creation of Eve to the present, this is the only theory that satisfies my soul, and I cling to it with peaceful tenacity! (See Genesis 2:24; Isaiah 54:5-6 [consider that God Himself only has one wife: Israel, to whom he has been and will be eternally faithful]; Malachi 2:15; Matthew 19:5; Ephesians 5:31; I Timothy 3:2,12; Titus 1:6; and Revelation 21:9.)  But, back to our main subject. What did the tower of Lebanon look like? Delitzsch suggested that this comparison conveyed “symmetrical beauty combined with awe-inspiring dignity.”** That seems an apt, well chosen description. Without a doubt the reference to a tower brings to mind prominence and straight lines.Noses can “make or break” the sense of beauty in many faces, and although no one seems to greatly admire huge, prominent noses, straight, well-shaped noses often lend a sense of character to faces, giving them a courageous-appearing countenance, as if strength of line bespeaks strength of character. To describe the wife’s nose as a tower gives the feeling of a nose that descends in a straight line from the brow to the mouth (not broken or crooked)…a “tower” strong and unable to be turned aside. Spiritually, this brings to mind an impregnable fortress against which “the gates of hell shall not prevail” (Matthew 16:18). Furthermore, a nose “which looketh toward Damascus” is a nose placed squarely in the middle of a face like a watch tower supporting two eyes that are circumspectly facing the enemy. The bride of Christ is a woman of character and strength who is watchfully facing the enemy of our souls, Satan, and heeding God’s admonitions.  Although we can’t do anything about the shape or size of our physical noses (apart from plastic surgery), as part of the bride of Christ, we can be spiritually beautiful and strong by heeding God’s admonitions to be watchful:  “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15-16). “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).  Notes:
*Paige Patterson,  Song of Solomon (Chicago:  Moody, 1986), 106.
** G. Lloyd Carr, The Song of Solomon: An Introduction and Commentary (Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1984), 159.

(I took the photos of people while watching First Knight, a 1995 reinterpretation of Camelot with a more virtuous Gwinevere and Lancelot than usual. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I know we can’t all look like movie stars, but by God’s grace, we can all be virtuous if we’re willing! I took the photos of the towers in Tunisia, not Lebanon.)

The Horrible Truth about Deep Water Horizon and Deep Waters

Seven years ago, on April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon exploded into a firestorm that could be seen for 40 miles, resulting in the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Deepwater Horizon was an offshore drilling rig that had successfully drilled the deepest oil well in history (over 10,000 ft. deep) in the Gulf of Mexico just a few months earlier, and           on April 20th, the crew of 126 were hard at work testing the new well               at Macondo Prospect, forty-one miles off the coast of Louisiana. Deepwater Horizon cost almost a million dollars per day to operate with equipment and crew, and although there were issues with safety, the project was over a month behind schedule and overdue at a new site, so the decision makers decided to test the well before they were sure all the work was properly completed and all the concrete had time to cure.  The movie dramatizing this disaster is excellent and rated PG-13, but it is so graphic (and bad language) that I recommend it with caution. As one who’s inexperienced with the technical side of oil drilling, it was somewhat hard to follow what was happening, but the message was crystal clear: Often those who take the risks and make the decisions are not those who suffer the greatest consequences for their greed and irresponsible selfishness. Eleven men died, scores of men suffered, and the responsible companies ended up spending not millions —but billions—of dollars trying to recover and compensate for the damages. As we make important decisions, let’s remember that if we choose selfishly and unwisely, we’re not just going to hurt ourselves, we’re likely to do more damage than we could ever possibly imagine.  But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels. Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! (Psalm 81:11-13)

God’s Compass: Have You Found True North?

God’s Compass, a 2016 release from Liberty University’s Cinematic Arts program, is truly outstanding. To my mind, it’s one of the best yet in the Christian film industry, particularly in the areas of acting, pacing, and script. Had I been an actress, it’s a movie I would have been honored to have been in! In fact, it even got a 7.2 rating from IMBd.  The story follows the life of a retiring high school principal, Suzanne Waters, who goes immediately from celebrating her retirement to coping with a series of crises surrounding the birth of her first grandchild, trying to help a juvenile delinquent (and her overly busy surgeon son), solving a mystery, and processing the recent death of her beloved husband.  There is definitely some suspense, and there’s a humorous plot twist,
but there’s also a great lesson to be learned.  By faith, Suzanne perseveres in in making godly, gracious decisions (which appear absurd by human reasoning), and there’s a warm and wonderful happily-ever-after ending
that made me sigh contentedly and lifted my spirit. God’s Compass: Finding Your True North,
affirms the rightness of following God through dark and difficult circumstances and sacrificing for the sake of others, only to find that joy awaits
those who are willing to put the needs of others ahead of their own. And, isn’t that the Truth? It’s certainly been true in my life. Besides all that, there’s no sex, no violence, and no profanity!   🙂I just loved it, and I’m already looking forward to their next release, Extraordinary. Way to go, Stephan Schultze and the Christian film industry!!!

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;
and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

(Proverbs 3:5-6)

Did You Understand the Message of Arrival Before They Departed?

arrival_movie_posterHave you seen the super highly rated, PG-13, 2016 sci-fi thriller, Arrival?
Or, maybe first I should ask if you watched the Academy Awards last night.arrival-posterArrival was nominated for 8 Oscars (although it’s only win was for sound editing), not to mention 184 other nominations in other venues,
and it already had 34 wins going in to the 89th Academy Awards. trying-to-decipher-language-in-arrivalMy son Joel
(who’s an editor at a local publishing house and is fascinated by language) arrival-dvd-2016enjoyed it so much that he bought a copy shortly after Arrival was available,
and we watched it as a family.arrival-amy-adams-as-linquistics-professorWithout spoiling the end (if you haven’t seen it), I can tell you that the story
is about a linguistics professor, Louise Banks (played by Amy Adams), arrivalwho is asked to leave her position teaching linguistics at a university arrival-jeremy-renner-as-ian-donnellyand join physicist Ian Donnelly (played by Jeremy Renner) base-camp-for-studying-aliens-in-arrivalas part of a special army task force assigned to a military base in Montana arrival-space-shipin response to a world crisis, where 12 extraterrestrial spacecraft appear hovering just above the earth at various locations around the globe. arrival-what-are-theyAlthough throughout the world people feel threatened by this extraterrestrial presence, and some nations prepare to attack in hopes of destroying them,amy-adams-in-arrival-2Louise and Ian work together for months trying to decipher the aliens’ language in the hopes of understanding why they have come to the earth. trying-to-understand-the-aliens-in-arrivalAre the aliens friendly or dangerous? arrival-hetapodWhat are they trying to say? arrival-louise-banks-enters-the-sphere-of-the-aliensWill Louise and Ian survive their encounters?extraterrestrial-spacecraft-in-arrivalWill the earth survive their encounters?

arrival-space-ship-landingThere’s a lot of suspense, a fascinating plot with a good twist at the end, and a subliminal message that the viewers are left to ponder for themselves. Without saying too much that might spoil the experience for those who haven’t seen it yet, the message I took from the movie is that of transcendence. To me, God is the timeless, transcendent One who knows the past, present, and future. He sees all and knows all, from the beginning to the ending.

This goes beyond the movie, but I believe we can know some things about the future even in our present if we’ll only study to decipher God’s handwriting on the wall. God tells us in the Bible that He’s the great “I am,” the beginning and the ending.

Is God friendly or dangerous? Although many people fear God as a potential threat (just like many of the nations feared the aliens), God is actually friendly now. God is Love, and God loves us!

What is God trying to say? He has come with a message:  There is a Day of  Judgment coming in the future, for which we need to prepare now.

Will we survive our encounters? Only you and I can answer that for ourselves by trying, but it’s scary to try before you know, isn’t it? Just like Louise and Ian demonstrated, it takes a lot of faith, courage, and hope. God entered time and space in the form of a man, Jesus Christ, who came to die in our place, making reconciliation with God possible if we are willing to repent (change our ways) and accept the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ.

Will the earth survive our encounters? There is an answer in the Bible. Do you know it? (If you don’t, try reading the last book in the Bible, called Revelation.) Finding the answer is a lot more thrilling than watching Arrival! arrival-skyNow unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,  To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).

Before Black History Month Ends: Take Time to be Charmed by the Queen of Katwe

queen-of-katwe Have you seen Disney’s Queen of Katwe?
It’s a perfect movie for celebrating Black History Month! queen-of-katwe-enjoying-her-first-snowQueen of Katwe is a glowing tribute to the brilliance and beauty
of African people, as well as their capacity for integrity and perseverance.

queen-of-katwe-accepting-recognitionWhen I first started preparing for this post, I was tempted to complain that the shortest, darkest month has become Black History Month, and that if I were running the country I’d choose March or May—long beautiful months…until I read the reason why. carter_g_woodson_portraitDr. Carter G. Woodson (African American with a PhD from Harvard who is known as the Father of Black History) chose the second week of February as “Negro History Week” because two men who were very influential in elevating African Americans, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, were born then.

lupita-nyongo-as-nakku-harriet-in-queen-of-katwe Do you get frustrated by my rabbit trails? I hope not. phiona-mutesi-in-queen-of-katweAt any rate, Queen of Katwe tells the true story
of a young girl named Phiona Mutesi, kampala-uganda-in-queen-of-katwewho grew up in “Katwe,” a slum of Kampala, Uganda. harriet-in-queen-of-katweHer father had died, and Phiona’s mother, Harriet,
fiercely defended the children, vegetable-market-in-queen-of-katweworking constantly in a street market selling vegetables so they could survive. phiona-at-mission-school-in-queen-of-katwePhiona and her little brother, hungry,
wandered into a mission school, where they were fed. missionary-with-child-in-queen-of-katweWhile there, they also met Robert Katende, a young missionary  robert-katende-praying-with-children-in-queen-of-katwewho coached soccer  chess-game-in-queen-of-katweand taught the children chess with the hope of helping them learn skills benjamin-in-queen-of-katwethat would enable them succeed in life generally. phiona-mutesi-and-madina-nalwanga-in-queen-of-katweThe rest is history
(current history:Phiona is only 21 today and still going strong!), returning-to-school-on-mission-bus-in-queen-of-katwebut I don’t want to say too much so you can fully enjoy the movie. receiving-prize-in-queen-of-katweAnd, if you have any school-aged children in your life, it would make a wonderfully inspirational movie to share with them too. Disney does it so well!

slum-of-katwe-in-kampala-uganda-in-queen-of-katweBear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:2-10)

(I took all the photos while watching the movie, except for the first [publicity poster] and the B&W of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, which is public domain, from Wiki.)

Loving: More than a Just a Name

loving-movie-posterMuch more than just a name, Loving is “an absorbing, beautiful piece of American cinema” (Paul Heath, The Hollywood News) based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving. marriage-of-richard-and-mildred-loving-from-loving-movieLoving is a PG-13, 2016 movie recently released to video that has been highly rated. It’s already won 19 awards and has been nominated for 82 more, including an Academy Award nomination for Ruth Negga in her leading role as Mildred Loving. February is Black History Month. If you haven’t watched this moving film yet, February would be a great time to see Loving and start putting love into action by understanding and loving our dark-skinned citizens more.   🙂  ruth-negga-as-mildred-in-the-movie-lovingAlthough I sat through the entire movie feeling petrified that something terrible would happen to this young couple—and they did suffer many hardships for their interracial marriage (which was still against the law in Virginia back in 1958), I was able to sigh happily at the end. Their case, trying to legitimize interracial marriages throughout America, went to the Supreme Court in 1967.   richard-loving-in-the-movie-lovingIf you’re a white supremacist, I beg you to look deep into your heart and try to figure out why. What makes you think white is superior to any other skin color?  I promise you that, apart from skin tissue, we’re all the same colors underneath.  richard-and-mildred-loving-with-lawyer-from-loving-movieCaucasians, Mongoloids, and Negroids are all similar in what’s inside our bodies, brains, and hearts. When I look into my heart, I find that I’m a sinner, just like everybody else. I find that I’m imperfect. I find that very, very little of what makes me “good” has anything to do with me. Some of it has to do with how I was created in the womb, who my parents were, and all the advantages I had as a child growing up. The rest is attributable to God’s redemption through Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit in my life. The only thing I can claim is believing and surrendering my life to Christ, and even that I know is a gift of God for which I can only thank Him.   mildred-and-their-first-child-in-the-movie-lovingIf you think whites are in any way superior to any other race, on what do you base that? Certainly not the Scriptures, which teach that God created all of us in His image, that we are all marred by sin and in need of a Savior, and that the death of Christ occurred to break down the walls between us and unify us into one glorious body, the Church of Jesus Christ, the bride of Christ. mildred-loving-in-the-movie-lovingIf you separate yourself from your brothers and sisters based on race, you’re separating yourself from the body of Christ and the love of Christ. God calls us to love and humility. Will you answer that call?the-lawyer-who-helped-in-the-movie-lovingBut now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”
(Ephesians 1:13-22, ESV)the-movie-loving-mildred-feeding-their-baby