Musings on Repentance 1: Glen Beck’s Call for Awakening versus Biblical Repentance

Glen Beck has made the news because of a speech he gave on the Washington Mall on 8/28/2010 which was an Anniversary date of Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream speech.  The speech was part of a rally hosted by Glen Beck that when by the title of Restoring Honor.  The speech made the news because Glen called for the nation to return to God.  The speech garnered varied reactions ranging from unqualified support, skepticism, or criticism. Many Christians were alarmed that such a call came from a person known to be a member of a Latter Day Saints (Mormon) congregation.  Some have spoken with Glen Beck and have come away convinced he understands and embraces the idea of atonement.  Well, given all the reactions this writer decided to listen to the speech and having done so have found it to be quite disturbing.  Yes, Glen Beck calls for an Awakening and a turning to God by acts of faith, hope, and Charity. He spent time pointing at the need for firm reliance on divine providence as written in founding father documents. However, his call for Awakening does not match the Biblical view of awakening or repentance. Let’s examine a bit closer what he stands for as indicated in his speech. You may want to take the time to view the speech for your self before you read the further commentary in this article. The speech can be found at: http://www.glennbeck.com/content/articles/article/198/45013/.

In listening the speech there were four concepts espoused by Glen Beck that do not correspond to Biblical principles or Biblical repentance.  Glen Beck did use some words that have an element of truth, but the truth he spoke simply served as a means of accepting the other content of his message as true.  There are four key message elements of his speech that are in direct contrast to Biblical repentance and awakening. 

The first element that is in contrast to Biblical repentance is that Glen Beck emphasized the importance of self-determination. He opened the speech with a comment “One man can change the world.” “It is you.”  He made frequent references to Moses and his staff.  He encouraged people over and over to “pick up the stick.” Meaning get involved in the efforts to alter the course of the nation. He used the metaphor even of Egypt and slavery to make his point. However, the slavery he refers to is not being involved in political action and having restrains to self-determination.  True, he does reference seeking God and acting in faith, hope, and charity. Yet, it is all for the building up of self.  He even alluded to his being a broken man and having made changes. Yet, he points to political actions to “set people free.” 

The second element that is in contrast to Biblical repentance is that while he hearkens to engaging in prayer and engaging in firm reliance on divine providence, he emphasizes the importance of “America.”  He clearly espouses the concept of America as a “special nation.”  He referred to the documents from the founding fathers of the country as being “American Scripture.”  He indicated that if “America” does not change the course it is on, then there will be no one to step in when the “world” is in trouble. In essence, he elevates “America” to a savior of the world status.  This is elevating the country of the United States to an unhealthy level and looking for human element to saving the world.  The perspective of the Christian faith is that nothing will be made right until Jesus returns and everything will continue to get worse.

Another disturbing element of Glen Beck’s speech was the frequent references to “looking within.” He made comments such as we need to “strengthen our spirits” and we need to explore “inner space.”  The need for such “inner exploration” is not part and parcel to the Christian concept of awakening and repentance but rather calls to finding what you are sure of and finding some form of spiritual guidance for inner strengthening.  And while it was not directly said, it suggests pointing to some inner element of “the divine.” For Glen Beck made constant references of to humility. He even declared God as King, yet he frequently focused on self effort.  Even his push for “faith, hope, and charity” really seem inclined to being found in looking within in and choices made.  Yes,  Glen Beck did proclaim that we need to look to God and look to love, yet the direction he pointed folks to look was within.

The last disturbing element of Glen Beck’s speech  is that  what he pointed to is everyone needs to know what they believe. He indicated that belief is important, he stated truth was important but only as elements of self.  In terms of truth, a person needs to be truthful and have no lies in your life.  He proclaimed  “truth shall set you free” but the determiner of truth is self and what you believe. He emphasized that what was important were the “universal principles” of the varied faiths, not absolute truth.  His embracing nebulous universal truths was highlighted even by his action as he called for a “Black Robe Brigade” of people of varied “faiths” that were standing for advocating political answers with a human moral base centered on universal principles.  This is not by any shape turning to submission to a Holy God and Jesus who is “THE WAY,” rather it is being actively involved and engaged in solutions of this world to change moral behavior and political focus. It is quite different that biblical awakening and repentance.

At the core, Biblical repentance is not turning to self or elevating self with the aim of some political world changing purpose. Biblical repentance is turning away from self-effort and following God’s ways. Yes, that involves loving God and others. Yes, it involves turning to Jesus as King.  But it is something that is not about elevation of self or society but simply doing what is right before God and turning away from that which is self.  The Bible is filled with evidence of what repentance looks like.  The story of the Prodigal son is one example.  It is a coming to an end of self and turning to God.  True repentance will result in a turning to Jesus.  The attitude seen in Biblical repentance is shown in James 4:6-9 (ESV) “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”   There really is stark contrast.  Look at Zacchaeus for a Biblical example of repentance. He was crooked, greedy man. He met Jesus and he changed his life to the point of even returning more than he stole.  He was called and he followed. Biblical repentance involves two actions, a turning from self and turning to God.  It is leaving the old way for a new.

Glen Beck offers ways to arrange the world and life to best accommodate desires. It is holding on own life in a way, it is far different from the self-surrender of scripture.  There is a verse passage in Ephesians that really sums up the difference between what Glen Beck is promoting and the Biblical view.

Ephesians 5:6-17 (ESV) Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  

 This passage  exposes those  appear  to proclaim a turning to God yet really are elevating self.  The passage also commands to have nothing to do with those who are deceptive.   For there is always really two ways, the way of God and the way of the world.  There is Godly sorrow and repentance that leads to salvation as those who lose their life will gain it. Then there is the way of the world, the works of flesh, the elevation of self that has no life and leads to death and destruction.  One is real, one is but illusion.  Glen Beck’s call is to that of illusion leading to death. There is no life there.

News Commentary: St. Elmo’s Friedrich house doomed to destruction

In Today’s Pioneer Press there is an article about a house that seems doomed to destruction and the dreams of one Linda Hardy. The home is a historic farm home from Lake Elmo.  Linda and her husband David saved the home from destruction in 2006 with a promise of restoring the home.  Then David became sick and died and Linda is left with the home and the dream.  However, she is not able to deliver on the promise.  Restoring the home is beyond both her ability and means.  She would need someone else to intervene and the cost is beyond what she can pay.  She is holding on to the dream and stated, “”If they want to fine me or something, OK. But if I miss a deadline, I am going to lose my house and belongings?” and “I am 62. My husband is dead. I can’t get a job. There will be no comeback for me.”  The fact is her husband died, and what may once have been feasible is not. In order to keep her dream alive she needs the intervention of someone else to do the work and even at a reverse mortgage will have a debt far too large for a 62 year-old woman with limited income to maintain.  In this story, there are lessons for each of us.

Lesson One:  Dealing with the Past. 

            This lesson is about the farmhouse itself. A building holds memories to the town of Lake Elmo. There area has some emotional attachment to the building. Yet, it is just a building that has far outlived its usefulness.  It is admirable that the Hardy family wanted to take on the challenge of restoring the old house.  Turning something old and damage into something new is a challenge that takes a lot of commitment, time, and resources.  Perhaps if David had not gotten sick and lived they would have been able to accomplish it but now the house becomes a burden. It is now about something to which one person is holding. It is one really large burden that has become an object one person is holding onto in her grief.  If the community as a whole truly valued the building as an historic landmark, it would not depend on the limits of one family to restore. The community could work to bring it to restoration. Instead, it is a rather large piece of the past that needs to be let go of. Often in our own lives, we can old onto remnants of the past.  We can even take on the burdens of others, seeking to display some good.  Sometimes though the past is something that needs to be let go of and let be a memory to look back on.  Trying to hold on to something that is best let go will just bring a burden that is unbearable.

Lesson two: Own dreams often pursued at expense of others.

            Too often in this world we focus on self.  We identify a want, a need, a dream and it is our sole focus.  We fail to take into account others.  We hold on to what we value most.  This is seen in this story as well on multiple levels.  We have an individual holding onto a dream and not considering those around her. Her expectation is they should understand and points to her attempts to preserve something that is a reported landmark. The neighbors and Lake Elmo community on the other hand are exhibiting their self-focus as well. Complaints about how one persons dream and project interfere with their own lives, dreams, and desires. We have a widow; holding on to a dream and project beyond her own ability and no one has offered to help. Sure there are contractors who are willing to get paid, if allowed, all ultimately at the exploitation of this widow. Yet, no one has offered to set in to aid the widow. She will lose the dream, lose the house, and lose the little she did hold onto and will be destitute and alone. Not one soul has come to her aide.  ABC Extreme Makeover is not coming to help.  Neighbors are caught in their own world and dreams that the struggle of a widow and her dreams are simply a nuisance. Fact is no one in the community really cares and Linda Hardy is left holding onto something that for her is just simply beyond. Apparently, some people have thought it would helpful to provide items like a shower and just dump it their, basically getting rid of their own baggage and turning it over to someone already over-burdened.

Lesson Three: The cost of being saved from destruction is beyond own abilities.

            This story really points to me that saving anything from destruction comes at a great price. Here a home is in need of restoration and salvage.  However, it is beyond the scope and ability of one person to do it.  Linda Hardy can put in all she has and more and still she will fall short.  There is a need for someone to step in and do what is beyond her help.  Now perhaps it can be saved at a dept that Linda Hardy cannot repay.  It is rather a hopeless situation. The picture though is one that rings true for each of us.  Each of us ultimately are like the farmhouse.  We are in great disrepair due to our own sinfulness.  The best work we put into restoring self will fall short.  Any attempt to restore self by works is akin to Linda painting the house “as far as she can reach.”  Trouble is our reach will always come up short.  For each of us there is needed intervention for the cost of restoration and transformation is beyond our own limits. 

We need the help of others, but ultimately the damage done by self is so great that even those we know trying to help can only touch the surface.  For true change and true restoration their needs to be an ABC Extreme Makeover type event, only one far more lasting.  Extreme Makeover comes in, guts a home, and rebuilds a bigger and better home. Yet, the families are left to deal with cost, have greater expense, and can still lose their home.  The Extreme Makeover needed is far more intensive and far more reaching.
We all need a Savior, a redeemer. Someone that can change us wholly and take on all the debt associated with change.  There is an answer for each person, and the answer is Jesus. He paid the price and He alone can restore us and save us from destruction.  He alone can pay the debt we cannot pay.  He has paid the price, all each person needs to do is accept the price and remain in the submitted relationship.  The choice is up to each person but too many will try to take on the impossible task and depend on own efforts with like the house, ultimate destruction being the final destination.

Video Selection: ¡Alarma!

When I first started writing this blog there was a post about Lakeland and recent events entitled https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2008/07/02/daniel-amos-the-%c2%a1alarmachronicles-prophetic/.   The content of that 4 album series is still appropriate today.  Given the recent post related to “The coin game”, decided to see if I could find a you tube video of the song alarma and was able to do so. It was preformed live at the Cornerstone Music Festival in 2000. 

¡Alarma!from the album “¡Alarma!”

Words and Music by Terry Taylor
©1981 Paragon Music Corp./ASCAP

It’s a brain drain laid down on the reel to reel
The warning of the after life the after birth
And telling how we feel

Alarma, somebody’s crying
Alarma, somebody’s dying
Alarma, somebody’s turning away

Sugar cane in cellophane is playing at the radio station
Laughs out in the gallery believing that it’s all elation

Alarma, somebody’s pleading
Alarma, somebody’s bleeding
Alarma, somebody’s turning away

A wise guy in the sky invites you to a guilty party
Won’t charge you at the door
But sure knows how to get your money

Alarma, he’s pointing a finger
Alarma, he’s such a dead ringer
Alarma, somebody’s turning away
Somebody’s turning away, somebody’s turning away
Alarma, somebody’s turning away
Alarma, somebody’s turning away
Alarma, somebody’s turning away

Video Selections: The Cash Cow-Rock Opera in 3 Parts by Steve Taylor

This old video from Steve Taylor seems to be appropriate.  Hope you enjoy. The lyrics are posted under the video.

 

([Act One)
Move…
Move in closer…
Move in closer to the…
Move in closer to the middle of the frame
(Act Two)
It was a morning just like any other morning
In the Sinai desert, 1200 B.C.
It glistened, it glowed, it rose from the gold of the children of Israel
…and most of the adults
The cash cow!
The golden cash cow had a body like the great cows of ancient Egypt
And a face like the face of Robert Tilton
…without the horns
And through the centuries is has roamed the earth
Like a ravenous bovine
Seeking whom it may lick
Cash cow!
Cash cow!
From the valley of the shadow of the outlet mall
To customized petwear boutique
From the trailer of the fry chef
To the palace of the sheik
The cash cow lurks
The cash cow lurks
The cash cow lurks
HA HA HA HA….
Who loves you, baby?
Who’ll give you good credit?
Who says you’ll regret it?
Aaa-ooooooo
Who loves you, baby?
Who’ll give you good credit?
Who says you’ll regret it?
Aaa-aaa-aaa-ooooooo
I was in love and I needed the money
And then I needed more money
I was filthy rich and all I wanted was love
…and a little more money
Woe to you, proud mortal
Secure in your modest digs
You think you’re immune?
You, who couldn’t finger said cow in a police line-up with the three little pigs!
Cash cow!
Master of disguises!
Who’s gonna change shape at will?
Who’s the eye on the pyramid on the back of the dollar bill?
Who loves power lunchin’ from Spago to Sizzler?
Who loves you, baby?
Who’ll give you good credit?
Who says you’ll regret it?
Aaa-ooooooo
Who loves you, baby?
Who’ll give you good credit?
Who says you’ll regret it?
Aaa-aaa-aaa-ooooooo
Who loves you, baby?
Who’ll give you good credit?
Who says you’ll regret it?
Aaa-aaa-aaa-ooooooo
Cash cow comin’ to get ya
Why?
Cuz you think this is stupid, don’t you?
The cash cow will not be mocked!
The cash cow’s planning a coup!
The cash cow chews cud bigger than you!
Woe, woe, woe to you
Who blow off this warning
Perhaps you’ve already been licked
I, too, was hypnotized
By those big cow eyes
The last time I uttered those three little words
“I deserve better!”
(Act Three – instrumental)

Just Stop and Think

Here is a 15 minute evangelical message for more information go to www.stopandthink.com

Did Mr. Vennes know? Difficulty of standing for truth at personal cost.

      Previous articles on this blog have both chastised and apologized to Frank Vennes Junior.  However, it is time for further commentary. An article in January 10th edition of the Star Tribune offered more information regarding  whether Mr. Vennes was aware of the fraud.  The article states that Mr. Vennes during the end of 2007 became concerned when promissory notes were not paid off. Eventually, the article reported, Mr. Vennes became aware that fraud was occurring and talk to his lawyer about it, but no one else.  The article additionally alleges that Mr. Vennes was quoted in varied warrants stating the scheme would implode if auditors and investors showed up at the warehouses where these goods were supposed to be found.  So the questions arises as to why Mr. Vennes once aware of the fraud did not bring it to light and if he was still selling the investmant.

      In thinking about that question it brings up an important question to all of us.  It appears on the surface that compromise for self gain happened. It was a resignation to the status quo which was profitable. Now, this article is not about pointing the finger at Mr. Vennes, that road already has been improperly travelled. Rather, there is a larger question for each of us. How often do we settle for what is going on around us for personal gain.  Do we resign to certain situations and circumstances because of the potential for great loss?  I think each of us are fully capable of sitting back in the midst of great fraud, because the temptation of gain is so strong.  Perhaps we excuse ourselves with rationalizations such as “It is just a little thing,” “No one will know,” “Everybody does it” and others.  If we are not rationalizing then perhaps find ways to alleviate the feelings of guilt. In essence not standing up for truth is a form of building a kingdom of self. It is far easier to resign to what is going on around us then to stand for truth and personal cost.

      We all falter at some level in standing for truth and putting ourselves first. It is part of our innate selfishness. Now, a professed believer in Jesus as Messiah who doesn’t stand for truth at personal cost is part of why those who have not accepted Jesus as Messiah scream hypocrisy, for we often say one thing and do another.  We are in a continual process of submitting to Jesus in all areas of our lives. It does not happen immediately and it a choice by choice matter. We live in a world that pushes self focus. Companies use whatever means they can to separate people from their dollar.  There are countless schemes and practices that exists in the world to focus on appearances of gain but ultimately are but deception. The more you cross a line, the harder it is to stand for what is true, because the greater personal cost.  We all can easily focus on short-term gain and appearances over the long term, and especially when it comes to a focus of life on this earth, versus what comes ahead, after death.  Christian believe that people do have life after death, and that what you did with Jesus as Messiah really answers whether you face the life ahead in God’s presences, or away from God with the ongoing torment of separation from God. 

   

News Commentary: Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich arrested for corruption including sale of Senate seat.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Federal authorities arrested Rod Blagojevich and his aide John Harris for .  They apparently have charged them both with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and solicitation of bribery.  Even in a state such as Illinois with a long history of political corruption including the voting of the dead, this is a low day.  The federal authorities have a 78 page affidavit of evidence with lots of direct quotes based on evidence from wire tapping.

    When I read of this news, what comes to mind is here we have a foolish man.  He had a attained a position of influence, a position of power and what did allegedly do with it? Use it for his own gain by selling government contracts, state jobs, regulatory favors, and definitely sought gain from the pending open Senate seat.  Such actions fit the Biblical definitions of foolishness.  The book of Proverbs is filled with comparisons of the righteous and the foolish and wicked and paints the picture that the latter follows a path to destruction, the former a path to  reward and blessing.   Here we have a man who allegedly engaged in foolish actions to enrich himself at the expense of those he was seeking to serve. 

      And reading this, it is real easy to pontificate and judge what is clearly wrong. The obvious and blatant corruption and foolishness bring anger, wrath, judgement and triggers self-righteousness and pride.   Yet, in some ways each of us are similar. Each of us at some level have made choices for are own benefit and regardless of cost or consequence.  We all falter.  It is the obvious and apparent corruption and foolishness but it is the secret, hidden, and unexposed that  are even more dangerous. Yet, even all that is not exposed, will sooner or later be brought to into this come, either now or at judgement day.  But you know what, there is good news! No matter what anyone has done, God has grace.  The righteousness of God can become our own through the grace of the Cross and the sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus took our sin so that we take on His righteousness.  The worst most vile evil is covered through Jesus by acceptance and a turning from self, it truly is that simple. So will you continue to walk the path of foolish, seeking after crooked gain, walking a path leading to destruction, or will you turn around and walk a different way?  The offer is always there, it is what we choose the path of wisdom or the path of the fool. The difference is clear as protrayed in Proverbs 9.   Please take time to think on this, the other option is to ignore it and pontificate on the evil corruption of fools.

 

Proverbs 9 (NIV) :

1 Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. 2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. 3 She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city. 4 “Let all who are simple come in here!” she says to those who lack judgment. 5 “Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding. 7 “Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. 8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. 9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. 10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. 12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.”

13 The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge. 14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, 15 calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way. 16 “Let all who are simple come in here!” she says to those who lack judgment. 17 “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” 18 But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.

The Greed Effect: Positive and Negative Consequences

     Well recent news certainly has brought greed and it’s consequences to the forefront. Greed is part and partial to many events in the world today. Most people are looking for continually more.  American culture pushes the lust for for and feeds greed.  It is all around us. And when greed is rampant, eventually there comes a crash, it is inevitable because that which is driven by greed will eventually be exposed.

      There are already famous greed crashes. We have the original stock market crash in 1929 and the infamous black Monday in 1987. More recently,  there is the NASDAQ crash in 2000 and scandals like Enron in 2001.  Today, we have the crash of the real estate markets and the ripple effects going out to multiple financial institutions like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual, and AIG.  Today there are many signs of huge financial instability.  What got us to this point is at the core greed and the subsequent consequences.

     Now not all consequences of greed are bad. Greed can result in quality work being done, and work being done quickly to meet some reward. For example, in Minnesota the completion of the I-35 W bridge was done with a bonus for early completion. The hired company put out all stops to meet the significant bonus, and reached it.  The natural inclination of achieving for gain is a central component at times for facilitating behavioral change.  However, most change dependent on reinforcement only lasts as long as the gain is meaningful.  Also the effects of greed can result in a robust economy, as people always seek for the newer and better.  However, those positives are often short lived.

     As already mentioned, anything that is driven by greed will reach a limit.  Humans have limited capacity and as such, there is never unlimited growth.  When the limits of growth are reached, you will find what is happening today.  First of all areas of corruption and exploitation are exposed.  Then those dependent on the money derived from corruption and exploitation find that they did not stick to sound principles and essentially it all becomes a house of cards. So when falls happen the question always is how to get it restarted. In the past those driven by greed simply finding another area to seek the continual more in.  Eventually though, there is no place left for the greed seekers to go.

     We also see that when money gets easy, and the quest for more continues, that people readily take shortcuts.  Why work for to get more, if you can find a quick way to get it.  Many scams and con men gain much all related to people’s greed. 

    Make no mistake though, greed will be seen as a problem, and is seen as a problem globally. Being anti-greed is part of an underpinning to communism. It takes the truth that when people share it is benificial and twists it into some form of forced sharing that ultimately only benefitted the elite, who in turn displayed there greed.  There will come a time, perhaps soon, when folks will be pointed to global sharing as the answer.  There will be promotion of interdependence and global sharing. And while the concept sounds and looks good on the surface, it is not founded on the truth. Sharing doesn’t negate the selfishness at the root of greed.  It doesn’t address anything about the basic essence of humanity.  Sharing does have a benefit, but to focus on sharing without the foundation of the gospel and surrender of self to the messiah, it is faulty.  It is just taking the principle found in the prosperity gospel and extending it. If all share, all prosper will be what is promoted.  For example, the show Oprah’s big give whole concept was ultimate prosperity comes through sharing.

    So, how does one really combat greed.  It all has to start with the Gospel. It has to start with the answer of our selfishness and moving beyond our own self-interest and toward surrender to the King of Kings.  It involves accepting where God has us in life.  God’s word states in I Timothy 66-12(NIV):  6.But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7.For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8.But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9.People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.10.For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.11.But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.12.Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

   Contentment is clearly a biblical key to individual dealing with greed.  We all need to rest in being able to manage all things through the strength of Jesus, not our own strength as shown in Phillipians 4:12-13 (NIV):   12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.13: I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

    Now we are called to share and be generous (2 Corinthians 9) and doing so is contrary to the principles of greed. It is not a compulsion with true giving being a response tothe recognition of the gift of grace, not for ultimate gain. When we are truely generous, God is pleased, because true generosity is giving from beyond our self. We are each incapable of giving beyond our own selfishness without living in surrender to Jesus the Messiah. 

Movie Commentary: The Mummy-Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Yes, I actually spent time watching another movie. I do enjoy movies, even some that are not the best done. I went with my wife and mother and saw The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. And to the reader, again a reminder that my commentaries when read will include spoilers, so you may want to stop reading if you care about spoilage.

 In terms of the technical merits of the film, it was at best an average action film.  Plenty of fighting, gun shots, explosions, and other special effects fill the screen.  The movie even tends to have some developed themes to the script. The writers and director of the film do not take themselves too seriously. I think of the three mummy films, this one was not as well done as the other two but definitely a fun movie to watch and worth viewing. 

However, the film is not real artful in presenting the product.  The acting is mechanical and devoid of true emotional connection.  The movie does more “telling” the story then showing the story. You really don’t feel the emotion of the conflicts depicted on screen, but really get told they exist, or if shown, shown mechanically. The movie does have a lot of interesting puns, some entertaining, some fall flat. They even have the actress playing Evelyn (Maria Bello, 2nd actress playing role) stating “I’m not that person.”  The funniest moment for me was the Yeti putting up arms for a field goal after kicking a soldier head through some posts of some sort.  

The film of course relies heavily on special effects. The most interesting was the three-headed dragon. The most impressive special effect to me was the avalanche with the evil emperor mummy walling it with a wind for a short period.  There are some instance though that the special effects are not real clear.  Twice the evil emperor mummy transforms itself into some form of beast, but it is not real easy to figure out what he is supposed to be.  Overall, though the film was fun and enjoyable and if you enjoyed the other movies, you should enjoy this one.

Now that the technical merits have been examined, now time to explore the themes of the story.  I will of course examine things, as always from a Christian perspective.  This movie, like most Hollywood movies contains themes that can be related to Christian theology and symbolism, but it is clearly coming from a non-Christian theme.  The movie displays a magical and mystical view of the supernatural with magic being a force used for either good or evil.  And I don’t want to dwell on that fact any further, since there are more interesting theme dynamics to examine.

I think the movie all boils down to a central theme of being when we are reconciled and work together, even if coming from different perspectives, we can defeat evil.  This was really made evident in how they defeated the evil emperor. Rick (Brendan Fraser) initially states that the plan is to divide and conquer.  In the process of fighting the evil emperor, the special dagger that needs to go through the mummies heart to kill him, breaks in two.  Rick and Alex (Luke Ford) come together from different angles and reconcile the knife in the heart of the mummy, resulting in the mummy’s death and defeat. This scene encapsulated the varied themes of the movie into the central theme of ultimately coming together.

 The coming together and reconciling is important in the movie.  Rick and Evelyn at the start of the movie are missing each other and basically living in their own separate worlds.  They also are alienated from their son, who isn’t telling his parents what he is up to.  Everyone is doing there own thing.  When they come together for this adventure, they rediscover what they have in common and ultimately reconcile around those common elements, which ultimately is based on their love for each other, but also the similar ways they interact with the world.

As such, the movie also points out the need to be true to ourselves. We need to be doing that which fulfills how we are wired and created.  When we step back from our place in this world it can lead to dissatisfaction and ultimately conflict and isolation.  Rick and Evelyn came alive when they were back in the action versus being retired and holed up in their mansion.  

The movie does put a lot of emphasis on love.  The movie has love betrayed by the evil emperor resulting in the death of his general.  There is love restored between Rick and Evelyn, and there is the new love being formed between Alex and Lin (Isabella Leong).  Amidst these relationships also runs the theme of the value and importance of sacrifice.  The writers designate that the pure in heart sacrifice for those they love. Evelyn was willing to die for her husband.  Rick received a fatal wound for his son, Alex.  Lin and her mother sorceress Zi Juan (Michelle Yeoh) have their immortality sacrificed for a spell to raise those the Han Emperor (Jet Li) unjustly killed building the Great Wall. So by their sacrifices the writers designate the characters as good, pure in heart.

Of course as in any movie with mummies, resurrection is also a theme.  The movie has Han Emperor resurrected by water from a fountain in Shang-ri-la.  There is  Rick being spared from death by same fountain.  There is the resurrection by spell bring back  those wronged by the Han Emperor. There is also the immortality of the sorceress and her daughter.  The resurrections are generally limited to their tasks.  The emperor would become permanently immortal and set to take over the world. The resurrected wronged time ends when the evil emperor is defeated.  The sorceress and her daughter lose immorality in completing task to stop the emperor.  We don’t know the effects of the water on Rick other then keeping him from death.  Actually the movie does also draw from passing on of purpose from father to son, which is a fairly common theme connected to resurrection, that our lives and purpose carry on through our children.

So you have themes of reconciliation, love, sacrifice, resurrection, and purpose. These themes all taken from a standard secular view.  The movie shows love is epitomized through the romantic relationships as well as passing on of through our children.  The secular view is also seen in the reconciliation of coming together under the common bond of purpose, which is that of fighting evil in the film. 

These messages are positive and uplifting and definitely being cause for reflection, but it misses the boat when compared to Christian beliefs. Evil has been defeated through Jesus at the Cross and no need to fear some mummy coming to life to conquer the world. Christians believe there will be on last great political figure intent on taking over the world and who will be defeated when Jesus returns.  My mother  felt a connection to the resurrection of the Saints related to the resurrection of the oppressed and unjustly killed.  However, the resurrection of the Saints will not be just a bunch of flesh rotted corpses and skeletons but with new bodies. 

As a Christian, love is vitally important but love doesn’t stop at those we care about. Love doesn’t stop and burgeoning romance.  Love is to be displayed toward all and not a love that looks out for own needs but matches what is shown in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV) 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

The essence of that love as played out in sacrifice is found only in Jesus who is the true fountain of eternal life.  Eternal life is not some mythical fountain or spring, it is found in the gift of Grace through the sacrifice of Jesus.  Jesus is the way the truth and the life.  Any sacrificial love on our part, is reflective of Jesus on the cross.  To have true eternal life, true resurrection, a person simply needs to accept Jesus sacrifice, and turn from the self-seeking and power grabbing that occurs in building kingdoms of self.  God has created true purposes for each person, things to do in the Kingdom of God that truly fulfill how you were created and no matter how successful you are, until you walk in the true purpose in the Kingdom of God you will not be satisfied.