Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Eat, Pray, Love," Should you watch it!

Director Ryan Murphy’s Eat, Pray, Love (rated PG-13 for language and sexual references) was as I anticipated. While Julia Roberts’ laugh is infectious, James Franco’s lazy smile leaves you wondering what mischief he is hiding and Javier Bardem’s accent is enticing this movie left me discouraged.

We are invited to experience the true story of author Liz Gilbert’s (Julia Roberts) quest for self-discovery through Italy, India and Bali. The catalyst for this trip is Liz’s divorce. After a seven year relationship, and an affair with David Piccolo (James Franco), she simply can’t be married anymore. It’s too hard. He’s too unfocused. He’s just not into her. She’s bored. They’ve hit a lull and leaving is the only answer. Stephen (Billy Crudup), proclaims he doesn’t want a divorce. He intends to keep his vows. He wants to work it out. Liz doesn’t give him a choice.

With Stephen and David both gone Liz’s first stop is Italy, remaining for four months where she eats and enjoys life. Next we find Liz in India at a Hindu retreat where she prays for strength to forgive herself for leaving Stephen, finding peace through meditation and the worship of Hindu gods. Next she’s off to Bali revisiting a medicine man she met years before. With Bali comes love through Felipe (Javier Bardem) a Brazilian businessman.

While I enjoyed watching the scenery of these three countries, Julia Roberts’ performance was lacking leaving me bored in parts. I believe the movie is less about Liz “discovering” herself, but more about her justifying her actions in having an affair and divorcing her husband. I do not recommend this movie for any age group. I found Liz’s selfish quest to be exactly what our culture proclaims as truth, when in fact as Christians we are to die to self and lean on God’s grace to carry us. We don’t just give up and leave when the going gets tough. Liz was also quick to jump into bed with David and Felipe even while still married to Stephen or not yet being married to Felipe. Eat, Pray, Love eloquently pays homage to our culture’s “live for yourself” mantra, but left me feeling as if I had wasted my time and money...Stephanie Spurgetis

Movie Review Bio:
I have been asked to periodically provide movie reviews for The Raven. In the event that you read my opinions, I thought it pertinent to tell you who I am. My name is Stephanie Spurgetis. Bill Farley is my Uncle. I work full time as a Paralegal. I earned a Bachelors of Liberal Arts with an emphasis in English and Communications from Washington State University in 2005. In June of this year I earned a Paralegal certificate from the University of Washington. However, despite my temporary lapse in judgment, I still bleed crimson and grey.
I love movies. My favorite being The Sandlot followed closely by The Village. I love to watch them, quote them and dissect them. I love when they make me cry, laugh and cringe, but don’t love when they frighten me. I believe there to be an appropriate You’ve Got Mail quote for every aspect of life and am never one to resist anything done by Masterpiece Theater. I acutely feel the pain of love scorned by Margaret in North and South or Lizzy in Pride and Prejudice but empathize with Fran in Strictly Ballroom. I have an unhealthy love of Amanda Bynes and an even unhealthier love of Ashton Kutcher (please don’t hold it against me). I believe Stardust and Penelope have earned the right to be deemed creative and worthy of multiple viewings.
I am not, however, a book to movie purest. I have adopted E.W Eagan’s quote “Never judge a book by its movie” as my mantra.While some felt director and screenwriter Andrew Adamson too liberally changed C.S. Lewis’s original story in Prince Caspian I thoroughly enjoyed the movie despite Susan and Prince Caspian’s fling. While I loved the book The Power of One I cannot recommend the movie simply because I didn’t like it. However, despite not needing the movie to perfectly match the book, I prefer to read the book first.I have yet to view Sandra Bullock’s Oscar winning performance in The Blind Side because I have not had time to read the book. I have not seen My Sister’s Keeper due to waiting for a friend to finish the book so we can watch it together (I read the book years ago).
Despite this long diatribe on movies the only important thing you must know about me is that above all else I love Jesus. My opinions and reviews will hopefully stem from a Biblical worldview that is constantly being molded by Biblical truth.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Controlling the Video Game craze!

In many homes the video game craze has all but taken over. What can Christian parents do for sons hooked on this form of entertainment? C. J. Mahaney has some insightful suggestions here. I think you will find them very helpful.

How to Battle Anxiety

For most of us anxiety is a recurring theme. Here are some great tips on how to battle and defeat this monster. Your thoughts are always appreciated.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Population Collapse or Population Explosion? You Decide!

The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity And What To Do About ItSince the early seventies, it has been fashinably assumed that our great global problem is overpopulation. A rash of books from the early seventies like Silent Spring and The Population Bomb have convinced most citizens of the industrialized west that population explosion is a crucial global issue. 

However, according to demographer, Philip Longman, the exact opposite is unfolding. His book The Empty Cradle: How Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity And What To Do About It argues that world population growth is slowing dramatically. If current trends continue, t will soon reverse and begin to go South. Nations such as Japan, Russian, Italy, and many other western countries actually have falling birth rates, and the resulting consequence have been falling popluations. The United States would be in this same predicament but for the many immigrants whose fertility rates are above the norm.

This is a problem. Our social programs assume growing numbers of young workers to pay the taxes to fund our government's promises. In addition, growing populations are necessary to fuel increased demand for goods and services that make our economy tick. In addition, no country has maintained a position of world leadership with a stagnant or falling population.

Longman argues for the changes in assumptions and attitudes needed to fuel population growth. This book is cut-across-the-grain reading. It is not politically correct. Nevertheless, Longman has his facts and he cites them loquaitiously.

I recommend heartily. What do you think? Is our problem overpopulation or underpopulation? If the latter, what attitudes in our culture contribute to falling birthrates?

Friday, October 8, 2010

How to Become Becoming one of God's Favorites!

Although God loves every Christian, he does have his favorites. Isaiah 66:2 describes the qualities inherent in one for which God has special regard. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” God esteems the humble!

Why humility? Humility always metamorphoses into something more beautiful. It is the root of all the other virtues. In this verse it leads to real contrition, which then deepens into trembling at God’s word. It ends by sensitizing us to God’s word, equipping us to hear. Paul’s humility led him to work out his salvation “with fear and trembling” [Ph 2:12]. David’s humility led him to “rejoice with trembling” [Ps 2:11]. Because humility expands our felt need for God it enhances our esteem for His word. The Bible comes alive. We read it trembling with holy joy and fear.

Pride, on the other hand, metamorphoses into something more dreadful. It is the foundation of all vice. Instead of contrition, pride leads to self-righteousness, and instead of trembling at God’s word, self-righteousness deadens us to God’s word. This was Ahab. Rejecting God’s warning through the prophet Micah, he rode out in battle to his death [1Kgs 22]. Deafened by self-righteous pride, Jehoiakim read Jeremiah’s words then arrogantly tossed the prophetic scroll into the fire [Jer 36]. He had no capacity to fear God. In fact, arrogance doesn’t end in ambivalence, it ends in actually despising God’s word. When Nathan confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah it was for the sin of “despising the word of the LORD” [2Sa 12:9]. If David, the man after God’s own heart, could despise God’s word so can you and I

Why is humility the key to intimacy with God? Since humility makes us tremble at God’s word, it brings us into real communion with God. It sensitizes us to God. It opens our ears to His voice. It deepens our gratitude, and it unlocks our dependence upon God. It is the chief thing. “This (humility)is a great and most essential thing in true religion,” wrote Jonathan Edwards. “The whole frame of the gospel, every thing appertaining to the new covenant, and all God’s dispensations towards fallen man, are calculated to bring to pass this effect.”

The edifice upon which God builds humility is the revelation of Himself. In His Light we see ourselves. We become humble by looking at God, not ourselves. John Calvin opened his Institutes with this sentence. “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves… Man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God’s majesty.”

This “majesty” teaches us several things. First, God is indescribably holy. He hates sin and evil. Second, He acts righteously when he rejects every person blemished with imperfection. Third, we are sinners. We are by nature His enemies and under His wrath. Fourth, God only owes us justice. He does not owe us mercy or grace. But fifth, God so loved the world that He died for His enemies, that we might be made perfect in His sight and eternally reconciled to Him.

Our need is incalculable. To the degree that we see God, and ourselves, in this light we will be humble, increasingly contrite, and will tremble with joy, delight, and sobriety at His word.

How should you resond? Humble yourself under God's mighty hand and he will exalt you. The best way to humble yourself is to obey God's commands.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Do You Pray?

In his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney records the following. “During the 1980’s, more than seventeen thousand members of a major evangelical denomination were surveyed about their prayer habits while attending seminars on prayer for spiritual awakening. Because they attended this kind of seminar, we can assume these people are above average in their interest in prayer. And yet, the surveys revealed that they pray an average of less than five minutes each day. There were two thousand pastors and wives at these same seminars. By their own admission, they pray less than seven minutes a day…To be like Jesus we must pray.”[1]
What do you think? Are these statistics true? If so, why don't we pray more?

[1] Whitney, Donald, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian life, pg 66 (Colorado Springs, NAV Press, 1991)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Overflowing with Thanksgiving

Paul began most of his letters with profuse thanksgiving. Despite their many problems, Paul always saw the church as a glass half full. Even when his churches faced immense problems, Paul always saw them through the lense of gratefulness. Why?

Paul knew that neither he nor any of the churches he planted were getting what they deserve. If God were just there would be no Christian churches anywhere. We live in a fallen world, and if God were only just this planet would be living Hell, utterly devoid of hope, lacking any gospel light or Christian witness. When the angels sinned God offered them no hope of redemption, and he owes us the same justice.

But, the amazing reality is different. There is hope. Because God is merciful, gracious, and kind there is light in the midst of darkness. There is hope in a fallen world. This light—local churches centered in the gospel—came at infinite expense to God. Therefore, Paul overflows with gratitude.

In other words, humility is the ground of gratitude, and gratitude is the first sign of humility. Humble people are thankful. On the other hand, the opposite of thanksgiving—complaining, self-pity, pouting, fits of anger—are symptoms of pride. A proud heart thinks, “I deserve, I deserve, I deserve, and I am not getting what what God owes me.” By contrast, Paul was humble. We know this because he was incredibly thankful. Paul was humble and thankful because he understood what the cross said about what he deserved.

I remember the story of a Viet Nam vet who lost both legs to a claymore mine. As he lay recovering in a veterans’ hospital, self-pity oppressed him. One day his nurse wheeled him into an adjoining ward. There he saw a man whose face was burnt off, another who had lost all four limbs, a different man completely paralyzed, and one who had lost both sight and hearing. The contrast between his problems and theirs completely changed his perspective. He returned to his ward filled with gratitude for how good he had it.

What the cross tells us about what we deserve has the same affect. It wheels us into an adjoining ward. There I see Jesus suffering as my substitute. I see him taking what I deserve. I deserve crucifixion. I don’t deserve good things from God. In fact, such is the measure of my sin (in God’s eyes) that I deserve to be tortured to death slowly and then cast away as refuse.

Crucifixion was a barbaric form of capital punishment. Since blood loss was minimal, death usually came after two or three days. Spasms tore the wounds against the hard nails. Waves of excruciating pain surged through the victim. The thirst was unbearable. The person being crucified longed for a death that would not come. He longed for the moment when he would finally lapse into unconsciousness.

To the one who resists thanksgiving and yields to complaining the cross says, “You have it upside down. You don’t deserve good. You deserve death by slow torture. Anything short of crucifixion is infinite grace bestowed by a loving God on one utterly unworthy.”

Because of all this, the cross makes us joyful and thankful in even the worst of conditions. No matter how bad your circumstances, you are getting better than you deserve. And because of Christ’s cross, one day God will clothe you in glory and plant you on a New Earth.

Because of the cross Paul would not yield to self-pity, complaining, pouting, or grumbling. Bound in stocks in a Philippian jail, he sang God’s praises (Acts 16:25). Confined in a Roman prison, he wrote to the church at Philippi, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God" (Phil. 4:4-7).

New Testament scholar, P.T. O’Brien, notes, “Paul mentions the subject of thanksgiving in his letters more often, line for line, than any other Hellenistic author, pagan or Christian.” Why? Paul knew what he deserved. At the end of his life, he wrote Timothy, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners of which I am the foremost” (1 Tim. 1:15). He saw both himself and his sins nailed to the cross. This insight banished all thoughts of self-pity.

Therefore, every circumstance in Paul’s life—beatings, shipwrecks, hunger, betrayal, persecution, imprisonment, sleeplessness, hard work, and more— was an occasion for joyous thanksgiving. Even in these circumstances, Paul was not getting what he deserved.

No matter how sour your circumstances, you and I are not getting what we deserve either, and that is why we also should be grateful. In summary, Paul overflows with thanksgiving because he is not getting what he deserves and neither are the Christians he serves.

It is no different for us today. If this is true, in the words of Paul, we should "Overflow with thanksgiving! (Col. 2:7).