Friday, December 29, 2006

The fundamentals

“It has been observed that what is instinctive is not enforced, but only what is necessary to hallow and direct our instincts.”
-T. Croskery, Pulpit Commentary on Ephesians

When I was taking an Introduction to Preaching Course, the Professor made a point similar to the above. He was trying to emphasize the need for new preachers to submit to the basic rules common to all “good” preaching. While I think this in itself is somewhat dubious (the notion that the Holy Spirit must speak only through a manmade system of rules is suspect. How is one to accurately assess “good” preaching? Such a scientific judgment of such a metaphysical activity is sure to result in error. Was Isaiah’s or Jeremiah’s preaching not “good” because it lacked three points or any positive responses among its hearers?), the analogy he used to substantiate his point was quite good.

He used the example of a young quarterback that, though talented, must submit himself to the fundamentals if he is to succeed. No college or high school coach will simply allow a gifted quarterback to run wild. He must be tamed, instructed and disciplined.

If the quarterback submits to the fundamentals and follows them without fail, he will no doubt encounter a number of apparent failures: sacks, incomplete passes, a few bone-crunching hits. But in the process, he will learn much. It is a trite, but nonetheless true, saying-that one learns more from his mistakes than his successes. So it is here. The quarterback will learn to sense the defensive lineman breathing down his neck, he will learn that resting on the fundamentals and throwing an incomplete pass is better than trusting his instincts and throwing an interception, and he will learn that sometimes he must trust a teammate to make a play that is less flashy, but more functional than what his instincts would desire.

Without this wisdom gained through the sweat of submission to something seemingly beneath him, the quarterback, regardless of his talent, will not lead the team to victory on a regular basis. Instinct without discipline will yield some exciting plays, but a boring season.

I think this is just as true in life. If we trust our instincts we will only grasp that which is immediate and will miss the big picture. All instincts, abilities and talents, no matter how unique or important, can only benefit from a good dose of discipline.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Most of you have probably seen this at my MySpace page, but if you haven't...
Josh Crute came up with this idea when he grew tired of some of the more painful and sadistic video clips AFV uses. So here's our spoof:

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I'd heard a lot of this movie before I saw it, and in spite of a few initial hangups, it won me over.
If you haven't heard anything of the movie, it is a modern interpretation of the old 40's and 50's Film Noir genre played out in a high school setting. If you're unfamiliar with the genre, think of films like The Maltese Falcon, Kiss Me Deadly, The Big Sleep, The Third Man, etc. They usually center around a lone hero with a rough side and a less than spotless past who must delve into the criminal underworld without the cops' help to solve some sordid mystery.

It took me a while to get accustomed to the lingo and the slang employed in Brick, and I don't consider myself a stranger to Noir films. But once I adapted to the film's style, I was impressed by the camera angles, the lighting, and the overall drive of the plot, all of which (in spite of the fact that it was filmed in color) recreated the noir atmosphere very well.

The movie starts with Brendan (played stoically by Joseph Gordon Levitt of Third Rock from The Sun fame) wringing his hands as he crouches in a drainage ditch viewing a young woman's dead body. The next scene introduces the opening act, which is a flashback recalling the events that led to this drainage ditch scene. Brendan begins investigating his ex-girlfriend Emily's current situation after receiving her frantic phone call laced with slang that even Brendan can't decipher. He enlists the help of his friend The Brain, who acts as his secret source of intel throughout the film. With a bit of digging, questioning, and pickpocketing, Brendan unveils the location of a secret rendezvous his girlfriend is to have with some member of an underground drug network, but he does so too late, and we are brought back to the opening scene, in which Brendan is staring at Emily's dead body. Brendan tries to get The Brain to discourage him from diving into this mystery, who does so, but of course, to no avail. Brendan pledges to dive in deep to uncover Emily's murderer, and we have a movie.

Levitt plays the part as dead-pan as can be imagined. I don't think he smiles once in the entire movie; even as dire as circumstances were for Bogart's Spade or Marlowe, he would still smirk and offer wisecracks, but Levitt's stone-faced portrayal works in this film all the same, because this mystery is personal. It isn't just any old pretty-faced dame that's come into his PI's office to propel him on a quest after some stolen trinket, but it's his dead ex-girlfriend, whom, as the film reveals, is someone he deeply loved.

The supporting cast fill their roles no less adequately. Matt O'Leary is a lot of fun as Brendan's brainy sidekick. Noah Fleiss plays the intimidating muscle-bound thug to a T, and Heroes' star Nora Zehetner keeps you guessing what's going on behind her eyes the entire film.

The dialogue is delivered with machine-gun rapidity, but it fits the style. The cinematography is great, lots of good shot setups, and some well-planned locations. In addition, there are a couple of unforgettable movie moments: Brendan playing chicken with a speeding mustang and a nail-biting showdown between the ex-es in the drainage ditch in which Emily's body was found.

All this combines to make a great film. There's nothing necessarily revolutionary about the plot or theme, but it's done so well that you won't notice. And of course, revolution is not what this movie seeks to accomplish, but reinterpretation, and it does this flawlessly.
***1/2 of ****

Monday, December 18, 2006

Proverbs 18:2

"A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind."

I thought today's current quote would be a helpful reminder for everyone in Blogland, because sometimes we just shoot off whatever we think is important or needs to be said at the moment, even if, upon closer scrutiny, it is total nonsense. The sad thing is that we often don't even let ourselves admit that what we've said is wrong. This happens to me in political or moral discussions quite a bit. I'll say something because of a knee-jerk reaction, and later realize that maybe the opposing viewpoint was not quite as radical as I'd like to have thought. I end-up pidgeon-holing the other person's opinion into some preconceived category, even if it doesn't fit. I think we all do this because we don't want to admit we don't know everything. We analyze viewpoints superficially because we want to feel in control. I hope my blog does not become that-just another rock upon which I will carve the views I hold as absolute, never to be changed. I know some of my future posts will carry assertions that will, when read by some, invite critique, and it is my hope that we all can remember this Proverb when self-justification seems more important than real understanding.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Local Talent

The above video features a former student of mine: Brady Mandigo. He does some mind-boggling freestyle tricks on a skateboard.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Casino Royale

We watched the newest Bond film on Saturday night. I will admit that I am no Bond connoisseur, and have only payed to see one Bond film (Tomorrow Never Dies), so I am in no place to compare this with the franchise as a whole. Nonetheless, I found Casino Royale, even if it were a stand-alone film, to be quite the work of art.
It has it flaws. I think the writers should have had a bit more faith in the public's poker savvy, because I found the time spent at the table much too predictable. It seemed like every play that was given screentime always gave the high hand to the last person showing their cards, which would build up suspense if it weren't so predictable.
Daniel Craig played the part very well, and the action sequences met if not exceeded expectation. The opening foot chase between Bond and a terrorist bomber named Mollaka is fantastic largely because Mollaka is played by Sebastien Foucan-the founder of free running-that incredible sport where people jump off rooftops and off and over walls.
I was impressed by the direction they took this film thematically. The character development was deeper than expected, and I thought the dialogue, especially between Bond and Vesper, was well-written.
I thought it was especially interesting that if left to himself, Bond would have chosen a very tradional love life. He was ready to give his all to one woman, and after that love was lost, he resigns himself to becoming the Bond we all know: the carefree womanizer.

My rating: *** out of ****

Ride for Africa

Dustin Bryson is the youth pastor at our church, and he is embarking on a week long journey to raise support for orphaned children in Uganda. He'll be riding a bike for seven days around Panama City in lieu of driving, and he's looking for people to sponsor him. All money will be donated to Invisible Children, an organization devoted to helping the cause of these Ugandan orphans. Here's a little vid to explain:

There's more info available on Dustin's missions site:

For more information about the organization that works with the Ugandan orphans, visit:

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Lost giveth and Lost taketh away

"You see what I like about this elevator ride is stuff is actually happening. Unlike your show where stuff only pretends to happen." -Fred Armisen, poking fun at Lost

Today's Current Quote comes from a Saturday Night Live sketch during Matthew Fox's episode on Dec. 2. The "Lost in an Elevator" sketch poked fun at Lost fans, the writers and the basic x-Files-ish quagmire into which the show has plunged recently: giving the viewers answers we didn't ask for, retracting revelations that we relished, and spinning out six episodes that tell one episode's worth of plot progression.
Fred Armisten's line made me laugh, and that's saying a lot, because Lost's failings aside, have you sat through a whole episode of SNL lately? Yikes-Talk about writing problems-even the Matthew Fox episode suffered from the when-are-they-going-to-end-this-joke-because-it-wasn't-funny-the-first-three-seconds syndrome.
I sincerely hope that Lost's writers just went on hiatus for six episodes and hired the likes of Lorne Michaels and co. to write season 3a because the freshness and vitality that was there in the first two seasons has been replaced by cliche, crappy dialogue, and the beating of dead horses.
To save this show I think they need to (among other things):
1-Shake up their storytelling method. Ditch the flashbacks for a few episodes and plow into some serious plot pushing. They need to get this show moving ahead.
2-Kill or otherwise write those two extras-turned-protagonists out of the show. I don't even know their names after three episodes. Every moment of screentime they've sapped has totally wrecked my suspension of disbelief.
3-Devote less time to the Kate-Sawyer-Jack triangle.
Any other ideas?

If you'd like to see the elevator sketch go to:
They have a link on the page to download the sketch.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Cause of the Poor

Proverbs 29:7
The righteous considers the cause of the poor,
But the wicked does not understand such knowledge.

I think conservatives are right in their desire to refine government aid to the poor, but only if they are seeking alternative ways to reach the poor in the private sector. If we as the Church would step up and do what we should be doing, the government would be out of a job.
With the amount of churches in any given area (especially in the South), it seems to me that we could have the capability to devise a system of combatting poverty. It would be a long, difficult, and logistically hair-raising task, and people would surely take it for granted, but wouldn't it be refreshing to see the Church lead the way in an area that liberals take for granted as their baby, an area in which God has desired and even commanded His people to actively engage for over three thousand years?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

New Look, New Quote

I've upgraded the blog and added a new element to the sidebar: the current quote. I hope to update it periodically with quotes from various sources.
I've been reading through the book of Proverbs, and I've come across a number of verses that were tailor-made for me. I put this one in more as a reminder for myself and anyone else reading this who, like me, has a temper problem. I know that there have been times when people went easy on me when I lost my temper in a big way, and though I am grateful for their understanding, I know that even though I was penitent and truly sorry at that moment, I wonder if I really had learned a lesson.
So, though we must be sure to show grace, sometimes there are consequences and rebukes that should be delivered (carefully and in love, of course) if one is to learn a lesson and put those old parasitic habits behind.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Hark the Herald

The first Christmas contata did not take place in a Civic center or a church building, but in the shepherds' fields. Even before Christ was born the missionary ideal of "going out" was being applied.
For some reason, we still don't seem to get this. We still expect that if we can get people to come to us, we'll get people saved.
I'm not saying that God can't use this method, but it's not the New Testament model. Our Savior, His disciples, and even these angels were messengers who brought the story of Christ out.
We need contatas (and I use that term very loosely) in the fields and in the projects, by the sea of Galilee and by the Gulf of Mexico, on the temple mount and in the mall.
I don't know how to do this best, but I think we need to talk with God and with one another about this as-we-are-out-there model. We have mission fields-even in Bay County-and these fields need the messengers to come to them.

Psalm 96:2-3
2Sing unto the Lord, bless His name; show forth His salvation from day to day.
3Declare His glory among the heathen, his wonders among all the people.

Satya at home

Here's my first youtube attempt-home vid of Satya.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Reality Greater than Fiction

God is the ultimate author. He crafts the plot arcs of millions of protagonists and countless contributing characters, all of whom have some level of freedom to choose from an array of possible paths. I look at my own life and believe that I could have taken another path and still been within the bounds of God’s will. So often we believe that God’s perfect will is a black and white issue, which might be the case if we had been born into a black and white world. But we were not.

This is not to say that absolutes do not exist. It is only to affirm that our God, in all His infinite complexity and splendor created an existence that is structured but at the same time beautiful. There is a broad way that leads to destruction and a narrow that leads to life, but within these paths, I believe choices can be made further that will lead to different areas, some that have perhaps never been explored before.

This, I think is what separates our God from the simple 3dimensional concepts of Calvinism and Arminianism. We have a degree of free will, but God has the ability to direct our paths in that free will to something that our free will could never have been able to foresee or plan. He works all things together for good to the called, even though we may not have the same thing in mind.

How can free will and God’s sovereignty be reconciled, being that they are such seemingly contradicting ideas? I think they can be, because our God is not limited to the dimensions we see. This is not to say that other mutually exclusive ideas can be supported –ideas like Jesus “I am the way the truth and the life” or Krishna’s “All paths, Arjuna, lead to me.” The reason is that while the Bible affirms ONE path to God, it does not affirm one view of his sovereignty or man’s free will. The Bible, of course, not our experience is to be the final authority on all things relating to faith and life. But while the Bible is dogmatic on God’s nature, man’s nature, and the means of salvation, it is not in this area of free will and determinism. More verses allude to God’s sovereignty, without question, but does this make the verses like Hebrews 10:26-31 null? God is sovereign, AND man is free.

This is what is so incredible about this God we worship. He is an author sketching a story so unfamiliar and magnificent no human can duplicate because his characters are not two dimensional words on a page, but living, breathing, thinking and choosing people. While our creations are two-dimensional (although the best authors create the illusion of their three dimensional qualities), our God is working with material that is not only three dimensional, but has some stake in the supra-perceptual dimensions. And while human authors are bounded by at the most four dimensions, this author is bounded by none. He is the author, par excellence. He is the prototype of all authors, what all authors can only aspire to be. The plot arcs he has crafted for us are beyond comprehension because our God does not limit Himself to a three dimensional understanding of existence.

This is why I think Calvinism and Arminianism are fictional. They are finite attempts at categorizing an infinite God. Proponents of both views limit God and make Him look smaller than I think they realize. If His characters have no choice, they are little more than two-dimensional words on a page. God’s story is real, and the wonder and mystery in this world are far deeper and more complex than any fiction I’ve ever read.