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If you’ve attended church at all in the last twenty years our so, chances are good you’ve worshipped to the sounds of Hillsong. Hillsong is a church which began in Australia under the auspices of Pastor Bryan Houston, and has become a global movement of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ through teaching and song. Along those lines, the Hillsong movie, Let Hope Rise, debuts tomorrow, September 16th, in the United States.

Above is a clip discussing what worship is: surrender. A recognition that God is God, we are not, and oftentimes an appropriate response is simply lifting our arms in surrender. For myself, while corporate praise and worship has its place, I need to find a quiet spot, laying aside the cares and worries of the day, the distraction of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, my phone, etc, and get alone with God. It’s in those times where songs like Worthy Is The Lamb have moved me to tears, reminded me of my abject creatureliness, and my utter need for Jesus.

That is what what Hillsong is all about: connecting people with Jesus. Along those lines, I’d like to give you a copy of the Let Hope Rise soundtrack. Simply leave a comment, or share this post, and you’ll be entered to win. The giveaway will run for a week. The winner will be announced in this space.

By all means go see Hillsong Let Hope Rise in theaters this Friday.

God bless!

If you’ve been following along this week, the blog has been dedicated to publicizing the upcoming film, The Conjuring2, directed by James Wan, and starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga. I’ve done this for a number of reasons; first, because I’m a fan of the 2013 original. Second, because it’s a rare film that can scare the pants off without descending into a morass of gore, language, and nudity. Yes, that’s right; unlike Friday the 13th, or It Follows, there is no onscreen sex here. Third, the screenwriters–Chad and Carey Hayes–are believers. Fourth, and truly the biggest reason, is that although evil is depicted as formidable, it is nowhere glorified. Fifth, if we are believers ourselves, we absolutely hold to the fact that there is a real, unseen world which intersects with ours (“God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth”). Moreover, the Bible itself tells us that the “weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” And that, friends, is exactly what one sees in a Conjuring movie: the mighty power of God overcoming the spiritual forces of wickedness.

So just to sum up: evil is depicted as real, formidable, but not all powerful. It is not glorified, or presented as something desirable. In the end, as all such battles between God and evil must, God wins. And when He wins we win.

The first movie ended this way:

conjuring-quote

That, in my book, is a bold way to end a Hollywood movie in the 21st century.

But you didn’t come here to read my musings on horror films, faith, or the ongoing battle between good and evil; no, today you came for the swag. 😉 I did say I was giving away a Conjuring2 prize pack. So, in partnership with Grace Hill Media and Warner Brothers, I offer you the following:

Conjuring2 Giveaway

In the prize pack are:

2 reusable plastic cups

a leather bound journal

2 t-shirts

and a pair of tickets to see the film

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Just in case you didn’t catch yesterday’s post, I’m a fan of The Conjuring, a film based upon the work of real life couple Ed and Lorraine Warren. The sequel to that film, The Conjuring 2, releases this Friday. I have partnered with Grace Hill Media to help publicize the movie’s release to the faith community. Following is a clip, “We Don’t Run From Fights.”

 

You may be on the fence with movies like this, or you may not be interested at all. It could be that you’re wondering is the the kind of film that a God-fearing believer should see? I would say yes–stretch yourself into something that makes you uncomfortable. I think that we do ourselves, and the world, a disservice when we depict evil as something less than evil in our media. Yes, the darkness is on display in the Conjuring films–but so is the light. The world can be a dark place, and spiritual warfare is very real, but the fact is that in a battle of God versus evil evil never wins. Never. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness is not able to overcome it. And as Christians we don’t back down from a fight–for greater is He is who is in us than he who is in the world.

Never forget that; Christ is greater.

Nota bene: this post contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen Interstellar proceed at your own risk.

My wife watched Christopher Nolan’s new film Interstellar last weekend. I’ve been pondering it ever since. The film presents a rather bleak (or dystopian) view of the future, showing a world where most crops are dying due to an unstoppable blight. Corn is shown to be the hardiest, but it too is showing signs of falling to the blight. Moreover, due to the dying plants, oxygen levels are dropping.

Mankind, of course, can’t live without breathable air.

What happens next is something which appears to be supernatural–numinous–by which the film takes great pains to explain scientifically. Murphy, the daughter of the film’s protagonist, Cooper, seems to be receiving communications from her bookshelf. Some force, or entity, is using Morse code and/or gravity to leave her a message. This message contains coordinates, which lead to a secret government facility.

And thus the plot of the film is kicked into gear. The secret facility, it turns out, is the last NASA facility left, where they are working on a plan to save humanity. It seems that a wormhole has been opened near Jupiter, which is seen as a chance to find colonizable planets. Other missions have gone, by have not returned. Cooper, now a farmer, was once NASA’s best pilot, and is seen as this last mission’s best hope for success. He of course agrees, leaving his children to be raised by his father-in-law.

What follows are thrilling scenes of space travel, alien landscapes, intrigue, danger, betrayal, and salvation. It is this last of which I’m going to write.

Cooper, it turns out, becomes the means of mankind’s salvation by becoming a conduit through which ascended human beings communicate to his daughter, Murphy (who grows up to become a scientist while her dad is gone), who completes a formula to move mankind off of Earth.

As a lifelong fan of sci-fi, this didn’t bother me, namely the idea that our hope lies amongst the stars. That’s a trope as old as time. Philosophically, however, Interstellar is firmly grounded in materialism and humanism. All that exists is only what we see, and somehow we evolve to save ourselves. Becoming somehow so transcendent that we can’t communicate except by leading a man to the farthest reaches of space, and then dropping him into a singularity. My biggest beef (if you will) with the film is this: future humans are so transcendent we can make wormholes, and indeed black holes, but can’t, you know, speak.

Now there were aspects of the film I appreciated, particularly the notion that love transcends time, space, gravity, and death. But in the end I’m glad it’s fiction, and that our hope lays not within ourselves, but in God.

The God Who became one of us, spoke to us, showed us the way. Because the Gospel according to Interstellar is a bleak one.

What do you think? Did you see the movie?

noah giveaway_1

As you may, or may not, know, the Noah movie has been released on Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital. This movie generated quite a bit of dialogue both before, and during, it’s theatrical release. While we as Christians may not agree with the artistic license Darren Aronofsky employed in making the film, I think we can all agree that he had that right. Before we get into a debate about the movie’s artistic merits, or lack thereof, we would do well do remember that written works (such as the Bible is) and films are very different artistic mediums. What works well on the page doesn’t always translate to the screen. And the account of Noah as recorded in Scripture is very short. It is also completely without conflict. What I’m saying is that Mr. Aronofsky had scripted, and filmed, his movie with slavish adherence to the text it wouldn’t be a movie worth seeing: it would be woefully short, and without conflict.

Conflict is what drives stories. At their most basic, stories are about a character who wants something, and undergoes conflict to get it. In an industry dominated by the almighty dollar, name me a studio that would finance a wide theatrical release films which clocks in about twenty minutes. Who would pay to see that? (I wouldn’t. Movies are frightfully expensive these days. I’m not plunking down my hard-earned scratch on something unless it tells a compelling story. It has to be worth my time). There isn’t one. Added to that is that fact that Hollywood, by and large, isn’t in the business of catering to Christians. Why should we expect them to do so? Is that reasonable? In Celebrate Recovery, they have a maxim that goes: “Accepting this sinful world, as Jesus did, as it is, and not as I would have it to be.” Which is to say that, as people of faith, we would do well to moderate our expectations of the entertainment product coming of the movie industry. They, being very being very much interested in the bottom line, have to make a product which appeals to the broadest audience possible. That said, I have no compunction about avoiding most of the films, T.V. shows, what have which originate there. I know very well what the Scripture says about the love of money being a root of all kinds of evil.

That’s a given.

In this particular case, that of Noah, yes, Aronofsky used both the Bible, and extra-biblical sources (midrash, etc). We may not agree with that. We may not like all of his choices, or the way Noah is depicted on screen. However, let’s not forget the one, singular truth here: a director has been given the greenlight to make a big budget film about Noah, the ark, sin, justice, forgiveness, redemption. Again, we may not agree with everything that takes place on screen. Nevertheless, the fact that this film was made gives us a giant opportunity to talk about: Noah, the ark, sin, justice, forgiveness, and redemption. Let’s not miss the forest for the trees here. The good news is that the Bible has been brought back into the multiplex in a big way (this December, director Ridley Scott’s Exodus Gods and Kings will bow).

My opinion? When God hands us an opportunity this large we best use it. People that aren’t normally open to discussing the Bible will be open, will have questions.

And we need to be there… with the Good News.

And there’s more good news for anyone reading this post: in conjunction with Grace Hill Media, I’m giving away a special edition box set of Noah. Just follow the instructions below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway