Wednesday, August 23, 2017

a bit of music: Wolves at the Gate; Oh, The Depths

It's been a while, years even, since I've given more than a cursory, often cringing, listen to modern Christian music. Wolves At The Gate is starting to make me think there may still be some good left in the garbage. Hard rock like this is still not my favorite kind, but they have lyrics that are much better than the feel-good fluff that infects far too much Christian music, and that's worth going about developing the musical taste further.

For the lyrics to this song, look here. Here's a bit of the lyrics, and why I'm coming to like this band more and more.

The Father of grace and mercy has poured out His wrath completely
On His Son for our sake we are free who brought the Lamb to slaughter for me





lestrangeness 7

More lestrangeness, of a very lestrange sort.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Ecclesiates animation

This is ok. Not great, but not bad, either. Of course, it doesn't do the whole of Ecclesiates, but the content it has does make a fair point.


Friday, July 28, 2017

lestrangeness 6

Needless to say, you won't find this in the Bible. It's just something this Lestrange guy made up, and since it's about money, we can safely think this about him wanting his share of it.


Friday, July 21, 2017

review: Joshua

simply not good

I'll deal with this book from two perspective, the story and the theology

Story
Judging from how much the author uses the word in positive ways, one might be safe to assume that one of his favorite words is “simple”, and in keeping with that, this story is by and large a very simple story. If the author had kept the story on the same small scale he started it with, this simple approach may have worked, but he doesn't, things keep getting on a larger and larger scale as the story goes on, but this simple approach begins to sink into simplistic because of it.

For example, the owner of a TV station, after listening to Joshua speak for a few minutes, decides, seemingly at the drop of a hat, to have a TV crew interview Joshua, pp 112-114, an interview that ends taking up about an hour of TV time, pp 138-140. This stretches belief to the breaking point. Then, towards the end, the controversy surrounding this small-town guy somehow becomes so bad that he's summoned to Vatican City to answer for his controversies, and at this point belief completely snaps and tumbles into something more fantasy-like than anything Tolkien wrote.

Another way the simplistic approach to this story shows itself is in how the other characters respond to Joshua, especially the positive responses. It's understandable that the words and actions of the main protagonist in a novel will to a large degree reflect the views of the author, that's not a problem; but when the other characters constantly keep going on about how deep and profound this protagonist's most silly and shallow statements are, how beautiful all his ideas are,and all other such examples of overblown hyperbole, one gets the impression one isn't reading a story intended to be a fair presentation of ideas, and I can't even call this book something like propaganda, but it comes off as if one is reading what the author might think having a fan club would be like, as he surrounds himself, through his protagonists, with people who will accept everything he says without any real criticism or even serious questioning, and who will constantly shower even his most mundane and trite utterances with unconditional praise.

Theology
Judging from how much the author uses these words in negative ways, one might be safe to assume that among his least favorites words are “doctrine” and “theology”, with “authority” and “conservative” not far behind.

As the reader soon learns in the story, Joshua is the personification of the author's idea of how Jesus would be if he returned to earth in the modern day; thus, the teachings of Joshua are meant to represent the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.

The problem is, the teachings of Joshua have little in common with the teachings of Jesus.

For example, there is this statement, from p 73 and taken from a much longer statement, “Jesus came to teach people that they are God's children and, as God's children, they are free, free to grow as human being, to become beautiful people as God intended”. Now, just right off, I can think of a time when Jesus said to some people that “You are of your father, the devil”, John 8:44; in Ephesians 2, Paul writes about a time when the believers in Ephesus used to be “children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”; I John 3:10 offers a contrast between those who are children of God and children of the devil.

And what does the Bible say about why Jesus came? Luke 19:10 records Jesus' statement, in the context of conversing with the tax collector Zacchaeus, that “The Son of Man has come to seek and save the lost”; Matthew 20:28 and Matthew 10:45 record Jesus saying that He, the Son of Man, has come “to give his life as a ransom for many”, that Jesus came to die as a sacrifice for sins, so that we can be forgiven by grace through faith.

This is only one example of how far off this author's Joshua is from Jesus, but it is a strong one. It shows that this author, through his title character, is preaching a false gospel, and practicing great deception by pretending to preach this false gospel through his reimagining of Jesus.

I have a hard time seeing how this work has become some kind of Christian classic, much less why any Christian studio would make a movie based on this book. There is no real Christian content to this book, merely a thin film of Christian-like ideas covering over some completely foul teachings. This book is fit only to be avoided.

Friday, July 14, 2017

review: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood; A great story with some iffy ideas

One of the tricky things about dealing with things FMA is that, somehow and for reasons unknown to me, there are two FMA series, the original Fullmetal Alchemist and the later series called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

The review will be of the FMA: Brotherhood series, not the original. But that shouldn't be seen as a slam of the original. Although I think Brotherhood is a slightly better series overall, both are first-rate series.

Summary
When they are still young boys, Edward and Alphonse Elric plan to use their skills in alchemy to bring their dead mother back to life. But this act violates the rule of alchemy against human transmutation, and in trying to perform this act, not only do they fail to resurrect their mother, but they also pay a harsh price. Edwards loses two limbs, an arm and a leg, and Alphonse loses his entire body, becoming a soul bonded to a suit of armor. A few years later, Ed joins the Amestrian military to become a State Alchemist, thinking that this will allow he and Alphonse the opportunities to learn more about The Philosopher's Stone, an object of great alchemical power that may help them restore their bodies.

That's the basic premise of the story, but one of the great strengths of FMA:B is that the viewer very quickly learns that there is whole lot more going on, and the story dives into themes and topics such as political corruption, personhood, genocide and revenge, immortality, guilt and redemption, and trying to play God. There's even a bit of romance, if you're willing to be patient with it.

What to Say, What to Say
With so much going on, another tricky part is deciding what to write about.

A lot could be written simply on one secondary character, an Ishvalan man known as Scar. Given the corruption in the nation of Amestria, is his hunt for State Alchemists a quest merely for revenge, or is it the closest to justice that he and his people could hope for? Do his attempts to fight these State Alchemist, many of whom had been involved in the war to exterminate his people, make him a murderer, or more like a gunman in a story of the old American west facing his enemies at high noon on the dusty streets of Dodge City? Or does he cross a line when he attacks State Alchemists who weren't a part of that war?

Or are the Elrics and their allies like Colonel Mustang, people who are committed to not killing other humans, hypocrites for allying themselves with General Armstrong and her soldiers from Briggs, because they are people much less hesitant to take lives when they think it necessary? Is it a strength or a weakness in the overall story that two such different ideologies about taking human life are presented on the side of the “good guys”, and neither is plainly supporter or condemned?

And there's what Shou Tucker did that has made him, a very minor character, into one of the most hated characters in all of anime, though to be fair, he played a bit more of a role in the original FMA.

Guilt and Regret
The things that are part of most of the main characters are guilt and regret. Many of the military people who were a part of the Ishvalan War knew that they were guilty of doing horrible things during that war, and they regret having done those things. The Elric brothers know they are guilty of violating the rule against human transmutation, and they do not try to excuse their actions.

And then, there is how God is portrayed in this series, assuming that the being several of the characters encounter at the gateway of truth is analogous to God. This is a being who judges, who takes away, who bargains, who even seems to mock, but who can also be beaten as if he were little more than the host of a TV game show.

The god of this series is, then, not really a redeemer, not really a being who gives when the people have proven that they themselves have nothing to give back to him, not really a being who offers help to those who know they are helpless, or forgiveness to rebels, or life to those who are dead. As good as this series is, perhaps it's best takeaway is the thankfulness that the true God is very much different from the god of this series

Conclusion
As with all things, view with discernment and wisdom, but keeping that in mind, go watch this series! It's one that well worth seeing. And, contrary to my normal practice, I'd recommend watching it dubbed, not subbed.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

lestrangeness 5

I don't think he understands that the account of Paul shaking off a snake into the fire is not about revival, especially about whatever people like him mean when they talk about "revival".


a bit of music: 7!!, Orange

You don't need to have seen Your Lie In April to appreciate this, because there is really good singing and music here. But it does add something if you do know the series this song is from.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

lestrangeness 4

If anything puts the question to these modern prophets, and shows the kinds of fakes they are, it's simply how very selfish they are, which is put on full display here.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

series review: Orange

Serious Problems Not Given a Serious Solution

I had seen some things about this series, but hadn't thought much about watching it, until it was mentioned in a friendly exchange with someone with Redeemed Otaku Podcast, so I decided to give it a shot.

Summary
Now in their mid-twenties, Naho Takamiya and her four closest friends from high school meet to dig up a small time capsule they had buried ten years before, and to remember their friend Kakeru Naruse, who had died in an accident not longer after the time capsule was buried. Ten years earlier, Naho Takamiya is preparing to start her second year of high school, when she receives a letter from the person she will be ten years in the future. The letter tells her of events that will happen during the school year, things the future Naho regrets doing or not doing, and she wants her past self to do differently. Much of what the future Naho writes about concerns a new student, a boy named Kakeru Naruse, a boy Naho will fall in love with, a boy who will die in an accident that might not have been an accident.

Characters
One of the big strengths of this series is that the characters are well portrayed and developed. The way the group of friends interact with each other is very much like how one might expect a group of high-school friends to act around each other.

Given the speculative element of the time-traveling letters, it's makes sense that the older people would want to try to tell their younger selves how to act in certain situations, especially when it comes to something as serious as a friend having committed suicide.

And while the time-travel thing is kinda-sorta explained with references to black holes and parallel universes, the focus is still on the characters and what they want to do. And in some cases, what they want will involve sacrifice, something one of the older men is honest enough to show to his younger self, by showing him the future he might lose by acting in different ways.

Regret
The biggest theme of this series involves regret; the older people wanting their younger selves to not do things they had grown to regret; Naho's often faltering attempts to act on the advice her older self wrote to her so she would not live with those regrets; the guilt and regret that eats at Kakeru over his mother's death, and his friends' attempts to cheer him up and help him carry the things that are dragging him down.

On the one hand, there is something good about watching these people really try to help each other, especially as they try to help the one among them that is going through a hard time. It is good to see how they will not give up on Kakeru, not just let things play out as their future selves say it did until he ends up taking his own life. There is something very admirable and even noble in their actions.

On the other hand, the solution, which is basically friendship and love, comes off as being too much like putting a bandage over a mortal wound. It isn't that human friendship and love aren't good things; they are, but are they things to put such faith in? Can someone like Naho really be sure that she'll be able to pull Kakeru back from the edge if he is ever overwhelmed again by guilt and regret? Can any person really keep themselves, let alone another person, from feeling pain, from doing things they will regret later on? It may be good to tell a person to not die by his own hands, but that doesn't mean that that person will not eventually die anyway.

This kind of shallow solution simply cannot survive reality. No person can be happy all the time, and no person can keep another person happy all the time. In fact, a person takes on a grinding and crushing burden when they try to make other people, or even only one other person, happey all the time. What is wrong with each of us is simply too deep, too profound, too much a part of us, to allow for such a shallow solution.

Make All Things New
It is very easy for me to think about things I've done in the past, and wish I'd done them very differently. I can easily think of times when I was selfishly, when I was arrogant, when I was dishonest, when I supported things I later came to regret supporting.

For me, the forgiveness of sins promised in the Gospel of Christ to those who repent and believe in Christ is a great promise. I have some idea of the truth behind the biblical saying “All our works of righteousness are as filthy rags”. For me to say that we are sinners is not some kind of attempt at self-righteous boasting about my supposed virtues, but rather it's a statement of reality from one sinner to others. I know that even now, there is some sense in which I am a new creature, but I do find comfort in the Bible's promises in Revelation 21, that there will come a time when God will make all things new.

I've heard it said that “The Gospel is for Christians, too”. Christians need to be encouraged to do good works, true, but we also need to be reminded of what God has done for us. While we are still on this earth, still not completely sanctified, still at the same time both justified and sinful, we need to be reminded that our salvation is not something we had a hand in, and that Christ of His own choosing and by His Father's will was the sacrifice for our sins. I've been comforted in remembering that, when guilt and regret haunt me.

Conclusion
This is a fairly good series. It's well written and has many very moving moments. Of course, you should watch it with discernment, and not just let the emotional moments cover over its weak ideas. You might find it worth a look.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

lestrangeness

A sentence may be described as a sequence of words, though I think it's suppose to be a sequence that has some kind of meaning. What we have here is pretty much a sequence of words that have been emptied of any real meaning.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

this is why people shop online

I remember going into certain stores, trying to buy a thing or two, and when I would check out, being hit by the cashier with questions like "Can I have your area code, or zip code, or some other piece of personal information completely useless to buying this product?"

Note to stores: Making yourselves completely unpleasant to deal with will not make people want to shop there.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

a bit of music--Jimi Hendrix 12 String Blues

If I understand it right, this is one of the very few recordings of Hendrix play acoustic guitar, or maybe even the only recording. Enjoy.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

a bit of music: James Hill - Voodoo Child (Hendrix Ukulele Cover)

When I thought of ukulele music, I might have thought of some country or bluegrass, or maybe even Tiny Tim. Up until hearing this, I never thought of Hendrix. Now I do.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Christian Geek Central review of Logan

I've been commenting at the Christian Geek Central forums for a few months, and I've enjoyed it. This review of the movie Logan has some good insights on the movie. Enjoy.


Thursday, March 2, 2017

a bit of music: Beethoven, Symphony No. 6

It had been a long time since I'd heard this piece of music, and I'd even forgotten what it sounded like. But it's good to hear it again, and remember why I liked it so much.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

one reason i don't like church singing

Few things irk me more than the manipulative church music leader. If you try to guilt me into making me feel excited for sitting through your music, it ain't happening. If all you have are songs about how great I am, how devoted I am, now excited I am, you've lost me, because I know how great I'm not, how devoted I'm not, and on a Sunday morning (or any other morning) I don't do excited.

Stop trying to make me build up your ego by making me jump when you say jump. Your job isn't to create an emotional state in me. Your job is to use music to tell us about the God we're suppose to be singing about.



Wednesday, February 1, 2017

book review--Making Jesus Lord by Loren Cunningham

two abused teachings to support one very bad idea

First, a comment about the Kindle version of this book, which is what I read. It's shoddy and sub-standard. It has no table of content, and doesn't even have paragraph indents or chapter breaks. It was obviously a hurried and slipshod job.

Now, on to the contents.

The author twists two biblical teachings in order to end up pushing one very bad idea.

The first misused teaching is the idea of “giving up your rights”. Now, there is a biblical basis for this idea. One can look in I Corinthians 8 and 9, and see where Paul wrote about how he decided to not exercise certain rights, such as the right to expect the churches to support him financially, or the right to eat certain things when doing so might cause someone else to stumble. Paul's reasons for doing so are love for God and other people, his concern that others shouldn't stumble in his actions such as eating certain foods, though he had the perfect liberty to eat those things, and his concern to preach the gospel free of charge.

But this author uses this idea of giving up rights to smuggle in some very strange ideas, ones not found in the Bible. “He was giving us the strategy for accomplishing the greatest job ever given to man—taking over the earth from Satan and winning it back for God. Jesus was showing us that the only way to conquer is to submit.” (Kindle Locations 114-116) That's something not taught in the Bible at all, but it does lead up to the big bad idea of this book. “It is a rule of the Kingdom of God: Give up something good and receive something of greater value; give up your rights and receive greater privileges with God.” (Kindle Locations 133-134) Wow, great privileges with God? Well, too bad that's not in the Bible. What we're getting here is a quit pro quo, you give up something and God will give you something in return. That's not how it works.

The second abused idea is “moving in the opposite spirit”. Just like the first, this one does a biblical basis. One could, for example, point to Galatians 5:16-26, where the works of the flesh are contrasted with the fruit of the spirit, and show how Christians should turn from those fleshly works and grow more in the fruit of the spirit.

But this author again goes some strange places with his teachings. “God is going to utterly defeat Satan, and He’s going to do it with individuals who move in the opposite spirit to the forces of darkness.” (Kindle Locations 1177-1178) Well, that's quite the claim. Gotta verse for that? Btw he doesn't. “God allows attacks from the enemy in order to extend Christ’s Kingdom on earth. We take literal ground for God in this world every time we respond correctly to Satan’s offensive.” (Kindle Locations 1274-1276) I assume he means “literal” literally, and not figuratively, but he certainly does not mean it biblically, because he offers no biblical support for this claim.

All of this leads up to the last part of the book, where the author introduces his biggest and worst idea. It can be summed up by the phrase “Seven Mountains Dominionism”. “God has told us to take the world for Him. That’s what it says in Matthew 28:18-20 when Jesus tells us that He has been given all authority in Heaven and on earth, all other issues and doubts are settled. Then He turns around and says to us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you….”” (Kindle Locations 1523-1526) Uh...no, Jesus wasn't telling the disciples to go out and take over the world here, that's nonsense. You can look at what the Bible says in many different places about the state of the world when Christ returns, and you'll see a gaping lack of any mention of the Church having taken over the world and setting up a bliss-filled theocracy just eager for Jesus to finally decide it's time to come join the party.

If you have given over your rights, if you are standing barefoot in His presence, He is promising to give you all the land that the sole of your foot treads upon (Joshua 13).” (Kindle Locations 1565-1566) I don't know what this author is thinking, but there is nothing like that in Joshua 13. This is a common practice among people like this author, taking a promise made to one person in the Bible and try to shoehorn it for themselves. God made that promise to someone who lived about 3500 years ago, not to us today. This promise is not God telling us to go and take over the world.

Jesus has promised to give the earth to the meek, to the barefoot, to those who have surrendered their rights to Him. He wants us to claim the nations of the earth as His inheritance.” (Kindle Locations 1807-1808) While Jesus has promised that the meek will inherit the earth, there is nothing in the Bible that tells us that Jesus “... wants us to claim the nations of the earth as His inheritance”. That's just something shameful this author made up.

Like any other Christian, I read my Bible and try to discern what is going on around me. But one thing I do believe very clearly: Jesus told us to occupy until He came (Luke 19:13 kjv).” (Kindle Locations 1632-1633) “He says to occupy until He comes. To occupy means to take leadership.” (Kindle Location 1816) This is so bad, I'm embarrassed for this author. Luke 19:13 is taken from a parable. “12 He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. 13 Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’” This is from the ESV, and it gives the real meaning of the word translated “occupy” in the KJV which in context would still be a fine word, it only becomes a problem because of this author's dishonest twisting of that word. In a video on YouTube titled “Ruling With Jesus - Loren Cunningham”, this author even goes so far as to compare the Church to an occupying army. It is completely shameful for this author to try to take the “occupy” from both the meaning of the original word, and from it's context in this parable, and try to make it about some kind of need for the church to act like an occupying army.


There is simply so much wrong with this book, that it's just not worth wading into the sludge to find the few good things he says. There are so many better resources out there, ones that don't try to push made-up ideas and fairy tales about taking over the world. Skip this piece of rot, it's worthless.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

excerpt from WITITB?: Bethel Redding


The Book of Acts also provides us with a dramatic lesson on the importance of consistent prayer. Acts 12:2 records the death of James, the first apostle to be martyred, at the hands of King Herod. When he saw that James’ death made the Jews happy, he detained Peter in prison with the intention of killing him as well. The church, mourning the loss of James,was not going to lose another one of their friends and leaders. Their response to the imprisonment of Peter was to pray: “… but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church” (Acts 12:5). Notice that it was not just prayer but constant prayer. That night, Peter was miraculously set free by an angel and reunited with the friends who had been praying for him. Continuous prayer was the key for the believers in Acts to gain access to the realm of authority that was needed to see Peter set free.

Jesus Culture: Living a Life That Transforms the World (p. 155)

Here's a bit of the account Liebscher refers to.

Acts 12 
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased theJews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 Andwhen he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiersto guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. 6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers,bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.”

There's a bit more to the account of this event, but this is part in question, where Peter is rescued.

Liebscher wrote “Continuous prayer was the key for the believers in Acts to gain access to the realm of authority that was needed to see Peter set free”. Now, while the passage does mention that the church prayed, it says nothing about them gaining access to a realm of authority, and that this is the reason Peter was set free.

In fact, look at Peter's own words, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” Peter doesn't say that the church got the authority to send the angel to set him free. It was God's work, not the church's.

Not only is the idea that “Continuous prayer was the key for the believers in Acts to gain access to the realm of authority that was needed to see Peter set free” not in this passage, it is also nowhere else in the Bible. This is something Liebscher either made up, or got from someone else, either directly or through degrees of separation, who made it up.

Prayer is a good thing, but nowhere does the Bible teach us that prayer gets us into realms of authority. Prayer is petitioning, it is asking God to do something.God chose to rescue Peter here. But in this same passage from Acts 12, it says that James was killed. Was he killed because the church didn't pray for him? What about the other persecutions mentioned in Acts, for example the people Saul put into prisons? What about what Paul himself went through, the beatings and scourging and other things he mentions in II Corinthians? What about the martyrdoms the apostles suffered, not to mention the many martyrdoms that have occurred over the past 2000 or so years?

Liebscher's teaching here is simply bad, and it's completely unbiblical.