Monthly Archives: May 2012

Review of The Avengers


Likely to be the most popular movie of all time, The Avengers doesn’t need any hype from me, just as Captain America doesn’t think anybody would ask him to join a group of heroes to save the world. He wonders if he isn’t a little old fashioned. Phil (paraphrasing, and there will be more about him later) says, “Maybe it’s time for a little old-fashioned.” This movie is full of old-fashioned and biblical concepts that we need to take to heart.

Loki of Asgard plans to divide and conquer the “Team.” He is right to be confident. Captain America is obsessed with all he doesn’t know about the modern world and how “out-of-the-loop” he feels. Iron Man buries himself in his technology, popping up to insult or belittle someone and expressing his disdain for and suspicion of everyone who is not him. Iron Man and Captain America are great foils.

Thor just shows up at first to collect Loki and fix everything with his hammer. There’s a fantastic scene where he falls to earth, picks himself up, and goes to pull the hammer to him, but it won’t come. It’s not Asgard “magic” this time. It’s his own uncertainty.

Letting a bad guy play mind games and manipulate the good guy has been a standard in crime fighting programs too long. Black Widow turns that on its head in a very slick scene.

Bruce Banner, urged to “get angry,” so the Hulk would emerge, said, “That’s my secret. I’m always angry.” You can’t avoid being angry. But you can learn to control it, instead of letting it control you.

Hawkeye doesn’t dwell on a temporary failure. He gets back in the fight. Everyone has a part to play in the climax, a great part, both as individuals and co-operating as a team. Even the scientist who was, like Hawkeye, forced to help Loki, discovers determinism isn’t always a complete winner. He is a critical help in the final win.

Phil, a quiet guy in a business suit who called most of the team together, pitches in to try to stop Loki. His confidence and loyalty inspired the team when Fury practiced a deception with Phil’s Captain America trading cards. Fury showed the truth about the need people have for heroes committed to something bigger than themselves.

Here are some of the great values promoted in this movie:

Freedom: Loki says people really want and need to be controlled. Captain America arrives and says (paraphrasing here): “The last time I was in Germany I saw a bunch of people bowing down to one man. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now.”

One Man, One Woman: Pepper Potts and Tony Stark, as well as Black Widow and Hawkeye. I wish they were actually married, but their love and commitment, and the women’s ability to “manipulate” their men in a strong and positive way is excellent. Although there is no love relationship, Fury’s female second-in-command also had a strong and positive female support role.

Self-Control: Everybody needed more of this. Each character learned to focus on the real mission, to co-operate, to use different talents and skills and adapt to using his/her abilities in unusual ways.

Selflessness: Every character had a weakness. Except for Captain America, they were all self-centered. It was most clearly depicted in Iron Man but evident in different ways in the others. Captain America needed to get over his feelings of inadequacy. Hulk needed to realize he didn’t need to be afraid of his anger, as everyone was. Thor had to learn to say, “What do you need me to do?” to mortals he thought he was taking care of.

One God: Loki says, “We (Asgardians) are gods!” Captain America says, “There is only one God, and He doesn’t look anything like you guys.” Loki tries the same line on the Hulk, and Hulk smacks him into the floor and says, “Puny god.”

The movie teaches that men are not gods. We can still be heroes with the right perspective. In Christian terms, we can’t let Satan take advantage of our present weaknesses or past failures. God forgives and forgets, but we have to grow and learn what He wants us to do, work with our fellow-servants, and stay on course until the end. People like Phil and the other four non-super cast members can also be heroes. Just like people like us can, when our power comes from God. We can save the world, for Him, in a spiritual sense.

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The Busy One

Though Solomon warns us of the dangers of sloth in Proverbs 6:6-11, The Busy One is an Arabic title for Satan based on Job 1:7 And the LORD said unto Satan, Whence comest thou? Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.

Every American, even if he is hates Christianity, knows Solomon’s admonition Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat (food) in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest. How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard: when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep: Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little fording of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man. From a child I have heard the phrase “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”

But just “being busy” does not put us in good standing with the LORD. In our culture Be still, and know that I am God. is often taken as a sign of laziness while being busy is exalted. Resting in the LORD is not laziness.

Satan is very busy. Though the title The Busy One is not the exact wording of Job 1:7, it is the right idea. We can never be busy enough to outwork Satan. Satan, like the LORD, never sleeps nor slumbers. He is looking for weaknesses we do not even know about ourselves.

When we are too busy for God we are doing the work of Satan. The work of Satan distracts us when we should be worshiping. The Law commands the Children of Israel to stop working and worship Him every Sabbath, on feast days and special occasions. While laziness is condemned, working to the neglect of worshiping God is following The Busy One.

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Through the Windshield 3

Montana has the largest surface area (by measuring all the mountain area) of the 48 contiguous states. It’s filled with bumper stickers like “My state is bigger than your state.” Yet small states like Arkansas have more roads for trucks than Montana. So last year when we drove from North Dakota west across central Montana during the floods of the Missouri River, the road closures were scary. There are no detours. At least three places had one lane of the two-lane road washed away. The remaining lane was under shallow water, but passable. Not a good thing when the last truck we passed going the other way was half an hour ago and we have no cell phone or Internet service.

Most of central and eastern Montana is made up of rolling mountains. It is like a large scale version of Oklahoma, Illinois or Ohio, only the rises and falls of the landscape are measured in the thousands rather than hundreds of feet. When it is not freezing, it is quite green. The eastern badlands are quite an exception.

While Colorado has the highest elevation of any Interstate, with Vale Pass just West of the Eisenhower Tunnel at 11, 000 feet, Montana is filled with Interstate passes over 8,000 feet and several over 10,000 feet.

Ice fishing is popular. During the winter I have seen thousands of huts on lakes, but the most memorable one was about a hundred huts on a series of small lakes near Helena. The ice fishing huts I saw in New York, Wisconsin and Minnesota were just sitting empty on the lakes. Not so in Montana. There was always somebody ice fishing.

Last year around Memorial Day, maybe even in June, we crossed Lookout pass on I-90 into Northern Idaho. We stayed the night at a truckstop near the summit. Heavy snow covered the ground and serious avalanche warnings were posted at the doors. The walls of the  truckstop were covered with silver dollars. People wrote their hometown on the silver dollars with a magic marker before attaching them to the wall. They claimed there were 50,000 silver dollars fastened to those walls. I made no attempt to count them, but there sure were a lot.

Several restaurants in Montana serve Walleye. If that is something you might like to try, one place that serves it is at the Town Pump (Pilot) truckstop in Missoula, I-90 at milemarker 101.

While there are outcroppings all over the state, the really high Rocky Mountains are West of I 15. Butte is located in an impressive valley.

I once watched a coal train being filled with coal near the Anaconda Mine. The coal came down the mountain on a conveyor belt of some kind and filled a huge hopper. One car at a time, the hopper would open up to the train car below, close its door and allow the train to move to the next empty car.

The upper Missouri River in the Rockies is about one hundred feet wide and is perfect for fishing. It also seems to be the most densely populated area outside of a city. The dam across the Missouri River at Great Falls is spectacular. There is a gorgeous park where visitors can walk up and down the riverfront.

Several dams across the Missouri River in North Dakota make lakes so large there are ocean-going tunnel hull racing boats during the summer.

I-94 in North Dakota has a very wide median and shoulders. Instead of lawn mowers, North Dakota lets the grass grow long, and then harvests it for hay. It is quite a sight watching the grass get rolled into a hay bale.

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Righting Sew Reel Ayes Reed Passed Yore Tie Till

I started to “meet” many modern authors through the joys of Internet groups for authors, readers and writers. So I started to read their books. I am especially interested in Indie Christian Writers, and I wanted to help them by writing reviews to post on places like Amazon and Goodreads.

Please don’t think I’m joining the legion of critics accusing Indie writers of being incompetent. But I do believe we are insular. We do what we do without a lot of help. Authors who have experienced the slash and change technique of traditional publishers understand that their “I know what will sell” attitude can do great violence to a writer and his work. Some have told me they paid for proofreading and editing. They got robbed, in my opinion.

I’m going to hope that I’m right, that authors can do a few simple things to help us get out from under the stigma that Indie writers don’t care about correctness.

First, please throw away that auto-editor, if you have one. It introduces errors. Should I repeat that with all capital letters? Even if you hired and paid an editor, I would bet money some of them are using an auto-editor. Somehow writers are letting homophone errors into their works. The title of this post is an example of homophone errors.

You control your horse with reins. You also rein in your emotions. But a king reigns over you. A dictator has a reign of terror. I have seen shutter (window coverings) for shudder (shaking badly), wonder (uncertain or amazed) for wander (walking aimlessly), and many, many others.

Read up on homophones, and you’ll get a list of words commonly misspelled, commonly confused, and that spellcheckers or auto-editors really can’t handle. But some are not so obvious. The cure is to have some real person read the thing. Maybe several real persons, and underline or turn red everything that sounds strange or wrong. I’m not really talking about editing. Hardly even proofreading. Just real eyes to catch what you might miss.

“Lay” and “lie” are very confusing. Lay the book on the table. The path lies yonder. Lay up treasure in heaven. It’s a question of whether something does the action, or whether action is done to it.

Use “further” when it’s in your head, like “upon further examination.” Use “farther” when it’s on a map, like “We went farther today than yesterday.”

One rule of thumb is that almost all punctuation goes inside the end quotation mark in a conversation, unless you use British English rules. “I love you,” she said. “I love you!” he screamed. “I love you?” she asked. “I love you.” Hannah threw her arms around him. Only time it might not is something like this: “‘I love you’! Is that all you can say after what you did?” Somebody’s repeating what someone else said, but with his own inflection (emotional quality) and within his own sentence. The exclamation point means the speaker’s angry about what the person he’s quoting said. It doesn’t go with the original “I love you.”

Enough mushy stuff. One set of errors that is both a punctuation problem and a homophone problem is with “it’s” or “its.” “It’s” is a contraction meaning “it is.” It does not mean “belonging to it.” That’s what “its” means. Examples: “It’s a sad state of affairs when your car gets a mind of its own regarding fuel economy.” If you can’t make the words “it is” out of what you want to say, then don’t give it an apostrophe.

Here’s how to do “to, too and two”: “The two of us are going to the store and dad is going, too.” Two is a number. To is a destination. Too means also (or sometimes it’s a qualifier, as in “too much”). Here’s one more: “your” is possessive, as in “That’s your problem” and “you’re” is a contraction meaning “you are.”

Do not use apostrophes for mere plurals like “The Bushes invited us to Kennebunkport.” (Notice that the name Bush gets an “e” tacked on in both these examples.) Use them for plural possessives like “The Bushes’ estate on Kennebunkport was beautiful.” No it doesn’t get another “s.”

Briefly, here are my rules on hyphens, dashes and ellipses (a group of three periods). Hyphens connect two words that go together to modify a word. “Blood-red sand.” “Break-neck speed.” “Ellie-Mae Clampet.”(Well, maybe that last is not the best example.) “Dead-on throw.” A dash is two hyphens together, sometimes called an em-dash. If you are running, speaking in broken gasps, use that double-dash between words. “Wait — Can’t catch — breath.” If you are a poor speaker of the language and words might be left out, use that too. “No — understand — English.”

In other words, dashes are for speech that’s broken up but not drawn out. Quick breaks or sharply broken off, as when someone is interrupted or startled speechless. Ellipses are for drawn-out speech. “I … am … dying.” “You … can’t … be … serious.” Nothing missing, nothing uncertain, just drawn out for a certain effect. Leave a space after the word and before the em-dash or ellipses, but normally not when using a hyphen.

Here are some bad, wrong, naughty things I don’t want to see in your books. Please. Not ever. At least, not again.

“John looked into her eyes”.  (Unless you are British, get that period inside that quote, now!)

“Go over their and help him.” (Go over their what? — It should be there.) Their is a possessive, when something or things belong to more than one person. And by the way, stop saying “their” instead of him or her/ his or her to try to be politically correct/gender neutral.

“Those books are not her’s.” (No such thing. It’s hers and only hers. There are no hi’s, are there?)

“I’ll never except that from you.” (You say “accept” here. ‘Except” would be as in, “I like this, except I hated the ending.”)

“You cant come in here.” You must have an apostrophe in this, “can’t.” It’s a contraction for can not. “Cant” means putting something at an angle or a special vocabulary for a group of people.

“That wasn’t complementary to my intellect.” This word means something that goes with something or makes it better. Instead you want complimentary, meaning to express approval.

Verbs have a present tense, a past tense and a future tense. Plus there are a bunch of sub-tenses. Most authors write in the past tense. “He went to school.” Simple. However, if you add this it gets more complicated: “He went to school as he had gone every day that month.” You might also say, “He went to school as he did every day.”

Here’s where it gets very tricky. “John no longer went to school. At one time he had gone every day. He remembered having gone, but it had become only a faint recollection.” You have established a pattern of starting out in the past and then talking about times in the more distant past. “At one time he went every day. He remembered going, but it became only a faint recollection.” It really is okay to say it this second way. But you don’t want to end up with this. “He will have went back to that time when he hadn’t have thought through what leaded up to that dreadful sentence.”

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Through the Windshield 2

On I-80 in Illinois on the north side of the road we saw a dozen or so small elk. I didn’t recognize them at first because they did not have the characteristic rump. Then I realized that they were covered in mud and the young bull had small velvet antlers. They were on a small piece of land just coming out of a lake. I had never seen elk in Illinois before.

Today I saw a larger herd of adult elk in central Utah. They were up the mountain about a half-mile with several large fence rows between us and them. A few months back we saw an even larger herd of elk in Utah on US-89 between Kanab and Panguitch. I believe that all three of these are domesticated elk herds.

Yesterday and today we saw herds of antelope along I-80 in Wyoming. It’s warm enough that I expected they would no longer be in herds, but I guess I was wrong. While no single herd was larger than maybe a hundred, the Pronghorns numbered in the thousands. They were all at 6000 feet or higher. There is still a lot of snow up there.

Birds have paired up, except for the seagulls which are in large flocks. The storks are huge, much larger than great blue herons or bald eagles. These storks are the largest birds I have seen outside of zoos.

Porcupines were the favorite roadkill of Vermont and upstate New York. Opossums and Raccoons took their place in Ohio to Iowa, where coyotes and deer seemed to take over.

Canada, from Windsor to the Thousand Lakes region, is in the 40s and 50s. Watertown, where we had dinner with our son, Sergeant Findley (10th Mountain Division) was about 50. Jon told us, “This is about as warm as it ever gets around here.”

We had to run the AC from Ohio to Nebraska, then the heater in WY and UT. IT’s AC time again in California, so we are “motelling” rather than run the truck all night.

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Be Ye Holy

(Exodus 22:31, Leviticus 11:44, 45, 19:2, 20:7, 20:26, Numbers 15:40, Deuteronomy 23:14, 26:19, Ephesians 1:4, 5:27, I Peter 1:15,16, II Peter 3:11)

Facebook friends we never met such as Pastor Mike Sproul and John Darrell Askey have linked to several excellent, thought-provoking articles over the past several months. While there were many excellent comments, some were deeply disturbing. One issue I have seen repeatedly is, “So what is worldliness? We are not to love the world but what does that mean?” While I am not the Holy Spirit and I do not know the intentions of these people, the very question troubles both my wife and I.

The command, Be Ye Holy or some other form meaning the same thing, is found in at least 14 verses. We are to draw near to God, not see how far we can get from God and still squeak into heaven.

So what is that supposed to mean? Is it any wonder the pastorate is such a high-stress job? Jesus is concerned about our heart attitudes, what we really believe. This all too common response breaks God’s heart.

The last words penned in the Gospels are And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written. (John 21:25, NASB) With so many deeds omitted, why is the command Be ye holy repeated over and over?

Jesus told twelve men to leave all and follow Him. This same command was given to the nameless man we call “rich young ruler,” because he did not give up his wealth and follow. Abraham, Isaac, Solomon, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were allowed to keep their wealth. The man of the Gadarenes who had a legion of unclean spirits cast out of him wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus told him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis haw great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.

We do not know why Jesus tells one disciple to leave all and follow Him while telling someone else to go home to his friends. Not only are we not omniscient, most of us do not examine our own circumstances very well. The important point we need to understand is that being holy and not loving the world is a heart attitude. Two people, each with the correct heart attitude, might be commanded to take what seem to be opposite courses of action.

There are certain principles that apply to all believers. Loving the Lord with all your heart means spending time with Him. The more you love someone, the more you set aside other things to be with that person. This might mean more personal Bible Study, more time in prayer, taking a mission trip or going to Bible School. The one thing it always means is rearranging the priorities in your life.

We are to go into all the world and preach the gospel, teaching them. “Only one life, twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” We can only do one thing at a time. Every purchase we make, every obligation we agree to either draws us closer to God or drives us a little further from Him. An acquaintance, a fellow believer, in another congregation, owned a Porsche. I asked our Pastor, actually in jest, if owning Porsche was a sin. He gave a wise reply. “It would be for me.”

“Well, so far you have not said if you think electric guitars in a church are sin!” I believe if you are thinking this way, the answer is “yes.” Paul put it this way: For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense. (Romans 14:15-21, NASB)

The word “offense” in the Bible does not mean to hurt someone’s feelings. It means to cause someone to sin. The believer who walks up and says, “That offends me!” is sometimes, perhaps most of the time, proud. They need to grow in the LORD and not allow little personal “affronts” to bother them. The weak believers most likely to be offended are also the ones most likely to keep quiet.

If you really knew what a weak brother thought about you, would you watch that movie? Would you watch any movie? Would you watch television?

If you want to be a better ball player, musician, computer programmer or whatever else, you both spend time developing that skill and improving that skill. How much time do you spend reading God’s Word? Studying God’s Word? Praying? Talking to others about the Lord? Teaching God’s Word? Fellowshipping with other believers? (not talking about the weather), staying out of debt? If you are doing these things already, are you examining your walk with the Lord and looking at ways to improve it?

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13, NASB)

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A Christian Continuum

The name or title “Q” is known to geeks and many others as the godlike creature in Star Trek the Next Generation. He was part of something called the “Q Continuum,” a race of fellow godlike beings who apparently liked being aloof and distant from mankind. This Q claimed he had benevolent feelings for humanity (include in this all the races of intelligent beings STNG insisted existed, please), and was just trying to figure man out. Usually, however, he did this by putting people in outrageous and impossible situations. He found out how to create these situations by asking questions about cultural ethics, values, and resolves, or at least those that the scriptwriters claimed man held. He would then reduce people to helplessness and cause them to fail. He was trying to help man, he insisted. He was trying to show the crew of the Enterprise how unprepared mankind was.

A conference of young evangelicals calling itself “Q,” hosted by Gabe Lyons, met in the middle of April of this year. Among other things the conference advocated providing contraceptives to singles in evangelical churches, as a ministry of the church. The name Q seems appropriate, given the repeated insistence by the group that they were caring and concerned, that they only wanted to help people, to get them prepared for the realities of life. I don’t know much about this Gabe Lyons or his organization, and I don’t know why he chose this name for it. It just seems ironically appropriate.

An excellent article in Christianity Today addresses these misguided people and their “Solution.” Matthew Lee Anderson points out that the conference advocated contraceptives because of the epidemic of abortions in evangelical churches. To those who protested that women who get pregnant should have their babies with the help of the church, they respond that no church member is going to be there with that mother when the baby starts to cry at 3 AM.

Please back up a step, Q, Gabe Lyons, and the rest of evangelical and many other kinds of Christianity. Maybe more than a step. You have given all mankind permission to fail. You have said that sin is inevitable. Single people are going to have sex. They are either going to use contraceptives or abort their babies. You have insisted the only way to stop this is with contraceptives. If we leave them alone with a crying baby at 3 AM what else will they be unable to stop themselves from doing?

Please explain to me why Jesus Christ bothered to die on the cross? I thought it was for sin. In fact, I’m sure it was. Even for the sin of being tempted to have sex while unmarried. He not only died for it, He provided the power to overcome it. If abstinence, true chastity and continence are jokes, then so is the Cross of Christ. The Cross, the sacrifice, the atonement, are all so much more than just Jesus “loving us.” Salvation is so much more than us “loving Jesus back.” The atonement is power, crackling supernatural energy to submit to God and do all kinds of amazing things that make sin anything but inevitable. Putting a condom in your pocket or a birth control pill in your mouth, as Anderson says, is admitting you’re going to fail. Wrapping the sheltering wings of Almighty God around you and strapping into place the armor of God is insisting that you’re going to succeed, not by your own power, but by tapping into the ultimate power source.

http://bit.ly/JmrZQG Christianity Today “Why Churches Shouldn’t Push Contraceptives to Their Singles.” Matthew Lee Anderson, posted 4/25/2012 10:46 AM

Gabe Lyons’ website http://bit.ly/JbfF8e

 

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