Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Dwight Knight

I know I haven’t written anything in ages. Real life is keeping me real busy. In the meantime, here’s a little something I found quite entertaining. If you’ve seen the new trailer to next year’s Batman film, The Dark Knight, and if you’re a fan of The Office, you will get a kick out of this.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Bittersweet Comedy Symphony

Last night’s episode of The Office (4.07: Survivor Man) was one of my favorite episodes of the show’s existence. I can’t remember the last time I laughed that loud and hard watching television. Below are some highlights from the script. (Note: if you haven’t watched the episode yet, I’d advise skipping over these quotes. Some of them won’t make sense in and of themselves, and there are minor spoilers that will take away from the experience of watching the episode for the first time.)

Dwight: It’s better to be hurt by someone you know accidentally than by a stranger on purpose.

Dwight: Do I believe that Michael possesses the skills to survive in a hostile environment? Let’s put it this way: no, I do not.

Dwight: I would remove your teeth and cut off your fingertips so you could not be identified. And they would call me the Overkill Killer.

Creed: You tell her it’s for Creed. She’ll know what that means.

Michael: The sun is in the two-thirds easterly quadrant, which would make it about (glances at watch) 2 o’clock in the afternoon.

Michael: Well if you take a look at this, I tented my pants. I’ve made myself a nice pants tent shelter.

At the end of the show, I had a bittersweet moment. It was sweet because I was basking in the afterglow of one of the best episodes of The Office—ever! It was bitter because there is only one new episode left before they go back to reruns, seeing as how the Writer’s Guild strike has shut down production of the show. But even though it hurts me (the viewer), I’m supporting the strike; the writers need to be fairly compensated for their work.

On a related note, here’s an entertaining video of the scriptwriters for The Office explaining the strike.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

SCORE: A Student Film

Check out this impressively creative short film, produced by some of Gene Edward Veith’s students for the 2007 Insomnia Film Festival. I’m particularly fond of the cinematography and the script—not to mention the editing.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Area Teen’s Pro-Reformation Stance Creates Confusion

KNOXVILLE, TN — No good deed goes unpunished. So Martin Erasmus Hinn believes, based on the events of the last couple weeks.

The 14-year-old Knoxville native recently wrote a letter to the editor of the City Chronicle in an effort to make more people aware of the existence of Reformation Day, which happens to fall on the same day as that other little-known holiday, Halloween. “This day isn’t just about creepy, flying goblins and mounds of candy,” Martin told the Doxology Press. “That is, unless you consider the ancient Roman Catholic leaders as the creepy goblins and Luther’s 95 Theses as the tasty antidote. My dad once tried using that analogy, but it never made sense to me.”

In the wake of the recent craze over the completion of the Harry Potter books, Martin decided to focus his letter on drawing parallels between the themes of the Reformation and the themes found in the Potter saga. “Some might consider that a bit of a stretch,” he conceded, “but I wanted to write something that captured people’s attention.”

As it turns out, Martin captured the attention of the entire city. The Chronicle printed Martin’s letter on October 20, the day after J.K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore, Harry Potter’s mentor, was gay.

“The timing of it all couldn’t have been worse,” he moaned. “Talk about an inconvenient truth. They wrote this huge article, Dumbledore and Diversity, under which they printed my letter, which they awkwardly titled, Dumbledore and the Reformation. I was mortified. I wanted to throw an invisibility cloak over myself, crawl into a hole and die.”

Over the next week, the Hinn household was bombarded with letters of outrage over Martin’s “endorsement” of J.K. Rowling’s announcement. One particularly agitated Potter Protestant wrote:

The only thing right about you is your name. You have the rebellious attitude of Martin Luther, the haughty mind of Desiderius Erasmus, and the Biblical accuracy of Benny Hinn. Immaturiosity Reverso!

Local Harry Potter fans have started referring to Martin as The Boy Who Lived To Talk About It In The Paper. Martin isn’t sure if that’s a compliment or an insult.

“Actually, the worst part about this whole debacle is that my father was the first in our family to find out about it—at the breakfast table. It all happened in slow motion. As his eyes fell across the two articles in the paper, he gagged on his coffee, spitting it out his nose and mouth. The convulsive action made him spill the rest of his coffee onto his lap. Yelping in pain, he jumped up and knocked his chair over. The chair landed on our cat, Sprinkles, making her scream louder than I’ve ever heard before. She ran outside for safety, only to collide with Mr. Jorgen on the sidewalk, who was taking his morning jog. I’m pretty sure the dead bird we found in the yard later that day was the result of Sprinkles relieving her angst from the whole incident.”

Martin’s parents grounded him for a week and made him sleep in the small guest bed located under the stairs to the second floor. “They’re convinced that I’ve jumped off the deep end. I guess it didn’t help that I tried joking that I was under the Imperius Curse when I wrote the letter; they made me wash my mouth out with soap. I haven’t had to do that since I was seven!

“It also didn’t do me any good trying to explain that my letter to the editor was not meant in any way to be an anti-Biblical stance on homosexuality. I firmly agree with the orthodox Christian view of the issue. What I really want to do is write another letter to correct the Chronicle’s error, but I’m afraid they’d mess that one up too.”

Martin’s fears didn’t keep his father from writing his own letter to the editor of the Chronicle, in which he chided his son’s Harry Potter analogy. Alas, his letter was inappropriately titled as well: Harry Potter Fan Rebuked for Honoring Reformation Day.

“Now I’m scared to death about this year’s Christmas celebration,” Martin said. “What I really wanted was the special collectible hardcover editions of all seven Harry Potter books snugly packed in a decorative, trunk-like box with sturdy handles and a privacy lock. But if I ask for that now, I may as well request a lobotomy. I’ll probably have to play it safe and ask for a tie.”


No one from The Associated Press contributed to this report
© 2007, I.M. Kitting

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Lesson Learned at Jiffy Lube

I went to Jiffy Lube the other day to have my oil changed. The attendant who came out to help me was an extremely friendly guy. As we went through the process of getting checked in, he explained every minuscule detail of the process, which quickly started to irritate me. Did I really look like I had the word dumb written on my face? I had been coming to Jiffy Lube for quite some time; I knew how things worked, and this kid’s attitude was starting to annoy the heck out of me.

Now, I’m the last person in the world who has a right to get angry about such things. You see, I know practically nothing about cars. I can fill my Camry with gas, make sure the tires have the right amount of air pressure, and on a good day I might even be able to change a flat. (Although the last time I tried, I broke one of the lug nuts, which ended up taking a bit of money to fix.) In spite of my vehicular ignorance, however, I still felt irritated by the way the attendant was treating me.

My reaction got me to thinking: why was I so upset? Well, the root answer was that I was reacting in pride. (I already knew I was a prideful person, but God sometimes sees fit to make me more acutely aware of just how conceited I really am.) It would have been illogical for the attendant to assume that I knew everything there was to know about both my car and the services Jiffy Lube provided. In an effort to best serve me, he was explaining everything in detail so that I would understand exactly what was taking place. I was offended because proud people oftentimes mistake servant-heartedness for condescension. The humble servitude of the Jiffy Lube guy irritated my pride.

It is this same pride that causes another vehicle-related sin: road rage. I can get so mad when I’m driving because I think others on the road should let me have my way. I literally see myself as the king of the highway and everyone else as my subjects. When they don’t do as I please, I become agitated. I may not be able to declare, “Off with his head!” but I can at least tailgate the sucker who gets in my way and/or speed by him the first chance I get—just to let my subordinate know his king is most displeased with his performance.

Ultimately, this pride is directed toward God Himself. It is His sovereign hand that I am raging against when traffic doesn’t go my way. “All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Daniel 4:35).

By God’s grace, I am becoming more apt to accept traffic conditions as the result of God’s loving and sovereign hand. Slowly but surely, I am getting less angry while on the road. Even so, if I happen to cut any of you off in the future or speed by you in protest of your poor driving skills, please bear with me; I’m a work in progress.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Felicity Margaret Piper

This morning, I discovered a blog update by John Piper and broke down in tears. Events like these make me tremble at the greatness of Piper’s ministry. I tremble because it is a sobering reminder that there is a price to greatness. The servants of God whom we admire most are esteemed in large part because they have shown by example what it is like to pass through the valley of the shadow of death and still not be overtaken by evil. Keep the Piper family in your prayers.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Life is Beautiful

I never thought it would actually happen, but I got paid to go watch a movie. Along with a few other members from the media center, I had the privilege of attending an advance press screening of the movie Bella, which is set to be released in theaters on October 26. I had heard about the film several months ago and was interested in seeing it, since it is one of the first blatantly pro-life movies (if not the first) to garner serious attention in Hollywood. It has won several awards, including the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. Anyway, watching an advance screening is really fun: you get in for free, it’s semi private (which means finding a good seat is less difficult), and there are usually special guests involved (in this case, one of the film’s producers and the main actor, who shared his testimony after the showing).

My main concern with the film (which, admittedly, is a big one) is that the filmmakers don’t let the audience know where the story is headed. The movie feels more like a “day in the life of” snapshot than a narrative with a clearly defined story arc. Certain scenes and sequences are definitely well executed, but I kept wondering, “What’s the point? Where are we going with all this?” And a proposed trip to a certain geographical location (made by one of the main characters), which is made to sound as though it will be a vital element of the plot, takes a meandering detour before finally revealing that it really has no dramatic weight whatsoever.

What saves the movie is the ending. And what an ending it is! I can’t explain it in any detail because it will give away too much. There is no huge twist or anything—just a solid presentation of some dramatically heavy material. Thankfully, it doesn’t delve into the realm of unrealistic and sentimental cheesiness (a trap that snared Facing the Giants), but it is nonetheless heartwarming. In fact, “heartwarming” is too soft a word to describe the emotional impact. Here’s a better description: You’ll bawl your eyes out.

So if you get a chance to see the film, I’d recommend doing so—if for no other reason than to enjoy the stunningly poignant conclusion.


UPDATE: After more thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that my above review is a little too positive. I was trying to be nice because of the movie’s (pitifully few) high points. Any other film of this caliber would have gotten a much worse review. For more insight into the film’s artistic demerits, check out this link.

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Sovereign Source of Joy

One of my common tendencies is to believe that I will be happy only if my circumstances change. During my (pitifully short) devotion yesterday morning, I was reminded of God’s sufficiency in meeting all my needs and satisfying all my desires. The Lord graciously brought two verses to my attention, calling me to recognize that circumstances are not the source of my joy. Instead, God is the only sure foundation of the happiness of my soul.

The first verse was Psalm 106:15: “And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” The Israelites received the monetary blessing they had asked for (or “lusted exceedingly” after, as verse 14 says), but God kept them from enjoying it.

The second verse was Psalm 4:7: “You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased”(Psalm 4:7). Here, the Psalmist’s heart rejoices—but not because of circumstances. On the contrary, he is not experiencing the increase that others have experienced. And yet the gladness of his heart exceeds the gladness of those who experience material blessings.

These two verses reminded me that it is God’s good and sovereign pleasure to satisfy the longing of one heart and deny the fulfillment of another. His power is so great as to transcend all circumstances, so that the glutted soul feels destitute and the hungry soul feels glad, should the Lord so choose. What I need is nothing less than God Himself.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

From College Classroom to…Cable?

Who would have known that a measly school project would get so much attention? No one is more surprised than my co-producer and I that God has shown us so much favor. In the last couple years, our documentary has garnered the attention of the Knoxville News Sentinel (including a favorable article by Betsy Pickle!), Carmike Wynnsong 16, Avid Technology Inc., and now cable television.

A few months ago, the 700 Club gave me a call from out of the blue and requested permission to use some footage from our film in an upcoming feature on the Moeller Family. After navigating through the legalities, we were able to work out an agreement.

The segment, “Little Miracle Morgan,” aired on CBN yesterday. Both the transcript and the video are now available online. The producers of the show ended up using a lot of our B-roll footage and Brendan Anderson’s original score. Personally, I like our film better—but what would you expect? Any parent thinks his child is the cutest thing in the world, even if it’s dirt ugly.

So what will happen next? Maybe we’ll get a movie deal with Steven Spielberg. Or...maybe not.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Deadline the Movie?

From the blog of author Randy Alcorn:

Part of [my] time away...will be spent going over the screenplay for my novel Deadline, which, if all goes as planned, will be made into a movie.

I’ve not yet had a book made into a movie, though I’ve had many years of discussing various projects with interested parties. I’ve learned this about moviemaking: everything takes longer than expected and there are countless obstacles along the way. That’s okay, because I could die content without any of my books being made into movies. But my biggest concern has always been that if a movie is made it will glorify God, and not in any way displease Him. The people I’m working with on Deadline love Jesus and have integrity (two commodities less common than you’d hope), but prayers for all of us would be much appreciated.

Deadline is one of the best fiction stories I’ve ever read. My copy of the novel has been borrowed more times than any other book in my collection. That’s how good it is. One thing I’m concerned about, though, is the translation of the material into screenplay form. Much of the book’s dialogue involves characters engaged in Christian apologetics—which, while convincing and entertaining in the book, would come across as blatant proselytizing on the big screen. Let’s hope the screenwriters focus more on the plot.


UPDATE: This post gives even more information.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Potter Mania (a.k.a., a retrospective short story)

Last Friday night, I accompanied some friends to Barnes & Noble for the release of the final Harry Potter book. Having not pre-purchased a copy myself, I didn’t stay until midnight like the rest of them. (I’m more a fan of the movies than I am of the books. Surprise, surprise.) However, the highlight for me was an announcement made over the loudspeakers somewhere around nine o’ clock. What made it so funny was the fact that the bookstore employee was being dead serious. He stated the following:

This is a public service announcement. There will be no broom flying in the store. Those caught flying in the store will have their brooms impounded.

I couldn’t help but burst into a laughing fit. Evidently, I was the only one who found the announcement humorous because no one else laughed with me (although there were a couple people who giggled and/or stared at me).

So concluded my first—and last—experience at a Harry Potter publishing event extravaganza.

[Note: I neither took the above picture nor do I know the individuals in it.]

Friday, July 06, 2007

Quote for the Week(end)

“…the foundation of pleasure is labor with pain, and the foundations of pain are vain and lascivious pleasures.”

-Leonardo da Vinci

Laws of Attraction

Thanks to Carolyn McCulley for posting a link to this outstanding article on cultivating an attraction to what really matters in the opposite sex (written specifically for guys). It’s simultaneously a breath of fresh air and a slap in the face.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Christian Hedonist’s Playbook (Part 10) – Conclusion

If we realize our joy in God is lackluster, we must seek to discern what our hearts are prizing more than God. This is the pursuit of a saint determined to eradicate all idols from his heart, by the grace of God. This is the pursuit of the Psalmists. This, I believe, is the ultimate aim of the book of Psalms—to show us how normal believers in times past fought for joy in the living God. The only thing that can destroy a superficial joy in superficial gods (i.e., idols) is the life-altering and soul-sustaining joy found in the one true God. And it is this God that the Psalms offer to us as the remedy to all our idolatrous pursuits. More than any other book in the Bible, the Psalms persistently and passionately call us to prize the Lord above all else. And this, I believe, is the goal of the Christian hedonist.

Truth be told, if I had to point to one factor that has most encouraged my Christian growth in the last year, it would be the power of God’s grace made effective in my life through the study and memorization of passages from the Psalms. I wholeheartedly agree with Charles Spurgeon, who said, “The delightful study of the Psalms has yielded me boundless profit and ever-growing pleasure.”

In fact, Psalms has become my favorite book in the Bible. No other book has God used more repeatedly to encourage my soul in Him and to help me fight for joy in the Lord when all around my soul gives way. Psalms is a precious book, a spiritual feast, a God-breathed treasure trove of hope-instilling, idolatry-destroying, God-exalting literature. May I continue to treat it as the treasure that it is and feast on the truths it contains.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Christian Hedonist’s Playbook (Part 9)

Last time, we looked at how the book of Psalms can powerfully change our prayer life. Now, let’s examine one specific example.

You might be familiar with John Piper’s prayer acronym IOUS. What you might not realize is that this extremely helpful model—which can be found in his book When I Don’t Desire God (pages 57-59)—is based on the Psalms. Let’s look at the acrostic.

“I” stands for Incline, and is based on Psalm 119:36: “Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness.” Piper writes, “The first thing my soul needs is an inclination toward God and his Word.”

“O” stands for Open. This comes from Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law.” Piper says, “I need to have the eyes of my heart opened so that when my inclination leads me to the Word, I see what is really there, and not just my own ideas.”

“U” stands for Unite. The supporting verse here is Psalm 86:11: “Unite my heart to fear Your name.” Piper puts it like this: “I am concerned that my heart is badly fragmented. Parts of it are inclined, and parts of it are not…. What I long for is a united heart where all the parts say a joyful Yes! to what God reveals in his Word.”

“S” stands for Satisfy, and it is taken from Psalm 90:14: “Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!” Piper writes, “What I really want from all this engagement with the Word of God and the work of his Spirit in answer to my prayers is for my heart to be satisfied with God and not with the world.”

Looking at my own prayer life, I see how easily I focus on peripherals: “Help my day to go well,” “Let me have a safe trip without any incidents or injuries,” “Please let this situation resolve itself as quickly as possible.” Our circumstances are not unimportant, but God is in the business of changing our hearts, not giving us a life of ease. In fact, it is oftentimes through trying circumstances that our hearts experience grace-empowered sanctification. Like gold that can only be purified in the fire, our hearts are often purified through trials and suffering.

And that is why prayers like Piper’s IOUS acrostic are so valuable—they dig through the surface and go for the roots: “Incline my heart,” “Open the eyes of my heart,” “Unite my heart,” “Satisfy my heart.” The way people experience change is by having their hearts—not necessarily their circumstances—change. The Psalmists knew this, and it affected how they prayed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Who’s to Blame?

Time Magazine has an insightful article about the Virginia Tech killings. It rightly looks past the surface issues and places the blame on mass murderer Cho Seung-Hui’s narcissistic worldview. The article may not quote Scripture (in fact, it quotes Freud instead), but the main point remains the same. I’d recommend reading the entire thing, but here are a few excerpts:

Psychologists from South Africa to Chicago have begun to recognize that extreme self-centeredness is the forest in these stories, and all the other things—guns, games, lyrics, pornography—are just trees. To list the traits of the narcissist is enough to prove the point: grandiosity, numbness to the needs and pain of others, emotional isolation, resentment and envy....

[Cho’s] florid writings and videos were an almanac of gripes. “I’m so lonely,” he moped to a teacher, failing to mention that he often refused to answer even when people said hello. Of course he was lonely....

There’s a telling moment in Michael Moore’s film Bowling for Columbine, in which singer Marilyn Manson dismisses the idea that listening to his lyrics contributed to the disintegration of Harris and Klebold. What the Columbine killers needed, Manson suggests, was for someone to listen to them. This is the narcissist’s view of narcissism: everything would be fine if only he received more attention. The real problem can be found in the killer’s mirror.

(HT: Barbara Nicolosi)

Friday, April 20, 2007

So Easy, A Caveman Could Do It

You’ve probably seen several (if not all) of the GEICO caveman commercials. They’re priceless. Well, you might not be aware that these persecuted primates have their own interactive website: www.iheartcavemen.com. It’s hilarious. There’s lots of stuff to view and participate in on the site. And just when you think you’ve gone through all the material, you find new stuff. My favorite part of the website is helping the cavemen decide what clothes to wear for the party. Their responses to some of the suggestions you make are ingeniously funny.

If you need a refresher, here are the links to all the commercials (minus the “party scene” one that makes absolutely no sense):

Airport
Home
Complaint (“Four feet by five feet”? What kind of screen ratio fiasco is that?)
Apology
CNN Interview
Boom Operator
Therapist (featuring none other than Talia Shire—i.e., Adrian from the Rocky movies)

And don’t forget that little feature about playing golf.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Christian Hedonist’s Playbook (Part 8)

“The Psalms are prayers for those who are engaged in an ongoing, spiritual conflict. No one else need bother even opening the book.” (Patrick Henry Reardon)

One thing we learn from the Psalms is that prayer is an essential weapon in the Christian Hedonist’s arsenal. The Psalmists don’t merely apprehend truth about God in a stoic manner, they use those truths as catalysts for prayer. And these prayers—i.e., the Psalms—are fervent. These men recognize how desperate they are for God. They know that apart from the life-sustaining grace found in God alone, they can do nothing (see John 15:5).

Martin Luther is quoted as saying that praying the Psalms brings us “into joyful harmony” with God’s Word and God’s will. He continues:

Whoever begins to pray the Psalms earnestly and regularly will soon take leave of those other light and personal little devotional prayers and say, “Ah, there is not the juice, the strength, the passion, the fire which you find in the Psalms. Anything else tastes too cold and too hard.”

To my shame, prayer is not a weapon that I have used as much as I should. Too often I feel self-sufficient, even in the face of my own sin. What a paradox! Being proud is bad enough, but being proud even when confronted with your own sin is quite an accomplishment in depravity. But I believe my study of the Psalms is affecting my prayer life. By God’s grace, my thoughts and prayers are (slowly) becoming more God-intoxicated and I am becoming more satisfied with the sufficiency of God’s grace.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Prophecy Cannot Replace Scripture

John Piper argues that the gift of prophecy, while still in use today (as we Reformed charismatics believe), is not the norm for discerning the will of God:

So we are alerted not to carry our enthusiasm for prophecy beyond limits. It is not supposed to become the usual way we make the hundreds of decisions that we must make each day. Why do you think this might be? I think the basic reason is this: if you live your life not on the basis of spiritual wisdom but on the basis of external revelations, you are not compelled to deal so deeply with the corruption of your own heart and mind. It is possible for a servant to hear the commands of his master and do them without really loving his master or being like him. But if the master refrains from telling the servant the details of what he wants done, and simply says, “Go now, and be a good representative for me in what you choose,” then the servant is forced to consider what his master is really like and how deeply his own heart and mind conform to the heart and mind of the master.

Read the entire sermon—including four excellent application points—here.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Christian Hedonist’s Playbook (Part 7)

I am reminded of a phrase in the English language: “damn with faint praise.” If we commend something with little enthusiasm, we are showing that our praise is not heartfelt. It is fake, superficial—even hypocritical. Words of praise only ring true when flowing from a heart full of praise.

The true state of our heart is revealed when we praise something. For example, my coworkers don’t doubt my love of the Copper Cellar hamburger. Why? Because I continually praise it as a great lunch—the best, in fact—and because I partake of that meal every single Wednesday (except in cases of conflicting business appointments, inhibiting sicknesses, or when the restaurant closes and locks its doors). It is obvious that I enjoy the food because I so heartily commend it.

Similarly, our praise of God reveals how much we prize God. Do I see my need for God? Do I recognize that I am desperate for His aid? Do I value God’s presence in my life so much that I would rather stop living than have Him leave me? My heart’s true posture before God is revealed in how I praise Him.

“Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You…. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips” (Psalm 63:3, 5). When we see God as better than life itself, we will praise Him with our lips and our life. When our soul is satisfied with God as our treasure, we will praise Him with much joy.

In Matthew 15:8 Jesus said, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” May that never be said of us! May we not damn our Lord with faint praise.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Non-VQers Accused of Not Committing Vandalism

[The following “news story” will not make complete sense unless read in conjunction with this article.]

KNOXVILLE, TN – In an unusual turn of events, a group of Knoxville locals was incarcerated last Saturday for not committing a crime. Cornerstone Church of Knoxville members Jill Brickey, Cap Stewart, and Joanna Holbrook were arrested last Saturday when it was discovered that they failed to vandalize any of the vehicles owned by the church’s vacationing college students.

The UT students had taken their annual spring break “Vision Quest” (or VQ) trip to Laguna Beach, Florida. Most of the students rode down in buses, leaving their cars in the church parking lot for the week. Last year Brickey, Stewart and Holbrook (a.k.a., the K-Town Trio) were arrested for smearing window paint all over the unattended vehicles. Some viewed the act as an attempt to serve the college students, whereas others viewed it as a blatant display of depravity. CCK pastors reprimanded the trio by ordering them to read The Mortification of Sin in Believers by John Owen and write a 10,000-word essay on the relationship between Puritan theology and 21st century vandalism, with an emphasis on ecumenical application.

This year, the college students returned home from Vision Quest at 1:30 AM Saturday morning, only to discover that none of their cars had been hit by any vandalism whatsoever. Some went into shock and needed to be rushed to the hospital.

Police found non-victim Jeff Moore prostrate on the concrete next to his car, moaning, “Why, God? Why me? I don’t understand!” After regaining his composure, Moore explained, “Last year, vandals had written JUST MARRIED on my car, and I wasn’t even in a courtship. Now that I have a girlfriend, I was expecting someone to put something on my car. But now I see my windows haven’t even been touched. Where is the justice in that?” Friends tried consoling him by offering copies of the book Trusting God Even When Life Hurts, by Jerry Bridges.

Other college students expressed outrage. “I pay the K-Town Trio good money to regularly write on my car,” Matt Bowman told reporters, his fiancée holding his hand in an effort to console him. “This is a gross violation of their contractual agreement. I’m calling my lawyers first thing in the morning.”

“Whoever failed to write BOO-YA on my car is a stinkin’ dork!” said Holly Ritchhart. “I mean, I had such a great week in Florida and I was expecting it all to culminate in seeing my vandalized car. But nooooooo, someone decided to take a vacation. Now I’m depressed.”

In a phone interview yesterday, Suzanne Holbrook (now a resident in an Amish community in Pennsylvania) bemoaned the weekend’s events—or lack thereof. [Editor’s note: Suzanne participated in the interview while huddled in a closet in order to avoid being caught by her Amish landlord with a cell phone. Not everything she said could be easily distinguished.] “Great,” she muttered. “I move away to avoid any further acts of vandalism on my car and now the K-Town Trio fails to strike. What kind of sick game are these people playing? Now I’m stuck here in this eighteenth-century design school that’s nothing less than a nightmare. I mean, the only ‘colors’ I’m allowed to work with are black and white!”

“This is an unusual set of circumstances,” officer Andy Young told reporters Monday morning. “In fact, I’m not even sure why we’re detaining the K-Town Trio. They’re more like a group of local do-gooders than villains. I’m ready to finish this ridiculous case and go bust some real bad-guy heads. Hooah!”

Information leaked to the press indicates that Joanna Holbrook is far from happy with the situation. Having not physically participated in last year’s vandalism, she has accused her accusers of accusing her of innocence when she is only innocent by association. She has reportedly made a decision to move to Pennsylvania with her sister as soon as this problem is settled.

CCK staff member Leslie Bowden, having recently returned from the Sovereign Grace pastor’s college only to be told that she still can’t assume a pastorship in the church, took out her anger on Stewart. “I can’t stand that short little twerp any longer!” she fumed to reporters. “In fact, I can’t stand all men everywhere. I’m just going to start my own church-planting organization. I think I’ll call it MSG: Man-free Sovereign Grace.”

The pastoral team of Cornerstone Church of Knoxville has not decided how to respond to the lack of action by the K-Town Trio. “We’re still not in full agreement as to the exact nature of this…uh, inaction,” Mike Plewniak explained to the Knoxville News Sentinel earlier today. “Some on the pastoral team think these individuals exhibited self-control by not vandalizing the college students’ cars. Thus, this lack of crime is an evidence of God’s grace. Others, however, see the lack of action as evidence of Cap Stewart’s inability to initiate any form of servant leadership. So, depending on how we eventually interpret these events, our response to these members could go either way. For example, if we decide to condemn the Trio’s inaction, we might as well give up on trying to turn Cap into a real man and just send him to the next women’s conference.”

In related news, Kevin Shipp, also a CCK member, broke into one of the cages at the Knoxville Zoo and was found chewing on the arm of a monkey. When questioned about the ordeal he explained that it is a new post-VQ tradition. “God spoke to me in writing on my car last year,” he allegedly stated. “Until I hear otherwise, I’m bound by conscience to obey God’s laws, not man’s. So sue me.” Authorities are still investigating the incident.


No one from The Associated Press contributed to this report
© 2007 Stewart D. Caprio

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bauer Power

Last night’s episode of 24 was excellent. No surprise there, really. I mean, a bad episode of 24 is like a hamburger without beef. Jack Bauer has to be one of the most amazing TV characters of all time. His prowess never fails to bring a smile to my face. He is an absolute thrill to watch.

In the spirit of Jack Bauer Appreciation Day (which is a recurring holiday—every Tuesday, in fact), below are some entertaining Jack Bauer sayings I recently discovered. Enjoy!

  • Jack Bauer never retreats, he just attacks in the opposite direction.
  • On Jack Bauer’s Tax Returns, he has to claim the entire world as his dependents.
  • Some people see the glass as half full. Others see it as half empty. Jack Bauer sees the glass as a deadly weapon.
  • When bad things happen to good people, it’s probably fate. When bad things happen to bad people, it’s probably Jack Bauer.
  • When a convicted terrorist was sentenced to face Jack Bauer, he appealed to have the sentence reduced to death.
  • Jack Bauer once arm-wrestled Superman. The stipulations were the loser had to wear his underwear on the outside of his pants.
  • If you’re holding a gun to Jack Bauer’s head, don’t count to three before you shoot. Count to 10. That way, you get to live 7 seconds longer.
  • “You don’t know Jack” is a blessing among terrorists.
  • American Idol is popular only because it has a commercial for 24.
  • The Berlin Wall fell because Jack Bauer needed to get to the other side.
  • If Jack Bauer shot you while quail hunting, it wouldn’t be an accident.
  • Jack Bauer’s family threw him a surprise birthday party when he was a child. Once.
  • When car-pooling with Jack, never yell shotgun.
  • There are three leading causes of death among terrorists. The first two are Jack Bauer, and the third one is heart attack from hearing Jack Bauer is coming for them.
photo credit: Victor Bracco via photopin cc

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Christian Hedonist’s Playbook (Part 6)

It’s been a while since we visited this series on the book of Psalms. I didn’t mean to take such a long break. Here’s the next installment…

Much of the content of the Psalms is praise, whether the writers are praising God themselves or calling others to praise Him. In fact, the word “praise” appears more in Psalms than in any other book in the Bible—a total of 152 times to be exact (in the NJKV). This is amazing when considered with the word’s use in the rest of Scripture. “Praise” appears only 28 times in the rest of the Old Testament, and only 23 times in the New Testament.

So, the word “praise” appears 152 times in the book of Psalms alone, and only 51 times in the rest of the Bible! Claiming that Psalms is THE book of praise is no exaggeration. Therefore, Psalms is an indispensable tool in helping us know what it means to be a Christian hedonist.

After all, at its root the oft-repeated call to praise the Lord is really a call to prize the Lord—to consider Him as the ultimate treasure. As John Piper puts it in his book Future Grace, “prizing is the authenticating essence of praising. You can’t praise what you don’t prize. Or, to put it another way, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him” (page 3). So, in a very real sense, we could describe Psalms as the Christian’s instruction manual on how to prize the Lord above all else. (Hence the title of this series.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

And the Cue Goes To…

Once again, the Oscars have come and gone. Also coming to a close are the 2006 Cue Awards, where members of the Tracksounds team (including yours truly) honor various achievements in film scoring. Awards include Best Score Missed by Oscar, Best Score for Television, and Best Score as Heard in Film. Kudos to Christopher Coleman for creating a great layout for this year’s awards, with each category getting its own visually appealing web page.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Amazing Grace

This Friday, Bristol Bay Productions (which also produced Ray and Sahara) will bring the life of antislavery pioneer William Wilberforce to the big screen. The film Amazing Grace is directed by Michael Apted from an original screenplay written by Academy Award nominee Steven Knight. The cast includes Ioan Gruffudd (Black Hawk Down), Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich), Michael Gambon (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), and Rufus Sewell (Legend of Zorro).

As the movie website explains:

The legacy of William Wilberforce is tied to his relationship with John Newton. John Newton, an ex-slave trader turned minister and abolitionist, wrote the lyrics for the hymn Amazing Grace and became Wilberforce’s spiritual counselor. He set his young protégé on the path of service to humanity. It was only after Wilberforce underwent what he later described as his “great change” or embrace of Christianity, that he became a reformer. Newton knew this to be true, and invoking the deliverance language of the Old Testament Book of Esther, told Wilberforce that it was “for such a time as this” that he had been placed in a position as a powerful Member of Parliament to secure the abolition of the slave trade. It was in the House of Commons, Newton stated, that Wilberforce could best serve God.

Furthermore, the original motion picture score is composed by David Arnold (Stargate, Independence Day, The World is Not Enough). I’ve heard over an hour’s worth of music from the movie and it is gorgeous! Here’s hoping for an official score release…

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

When Romance Meets Tragedy

Carolyn McCulley has posted a sobering yet touching story that is well worth reading:

A Valentine’s Day Testimony

A great reminder that true love costs a great deal.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A Lovely Loser

Recently, a new artist named Jason Gray visited Love 89 to meet with the staff, sing/play a few of his songs, and promote his debut album. For some reason I decided to join this meeting (I usually don’t participate in them)—and am I glad I did!

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big fan of most Christian artists. So many aspects of the Christian music industry are controlled by secular values, shaky theology, and fame-entranced pride. Jason Gray definitely breaks this horrendous mold. He’s like a blast of cool, fresh air in a scorching desert wasteland. (If that’s hyperbole, it’s understated hyperbole.)

Jason Gray’s music impresses me. His songs are excellent, with lyrics that are both simple and profound, revealing a theological depth not readily found in Christian music. One song in particular dealt with the amazing nature of God’s grace to undeserving sinners. He approaches the topic through the eyes of a man who finds himself being loved by a girl named Grace who has no reason to delight in a wretch like him. The song is amazing!

The overarching theme of his album, All the Lovely Losers, deals with brokenness, and how God blesses us in our weaknesses. You see, Jason was abused as a child and developed a stuttering problem that he has to this day (although it seems to evaporate when he sings). He is a man who has chosen to glory in his weaknesses so that God’s grace can be magnified. During our meeting, he wasn’t afraid to take shots at himself, revealing a sincere and delightful humility—and a good sense of humor.

When the meeting was over, everyone on staff crowded around Jason’s agent, leaving Jason and me alone to talk for fifteen or twenty minutes. Sometimes you just hit it off with certain people, and this was one such example. As we talked, I was increasingly amazed by his commitment to sound doctrine and his heart for the hurting. I’m definitely a fan!

All the Lovely Losers comes out on March 6. I would recommend pre-ordering a copy today. You can do so here. And you can preview a few of his songs at his MySpace page.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Is Your Gratitude Hypocritical?

John Piper writes:

It is a shocking thing to learn that one of today’s most common descriptions of how to respond to the cross may well be a description of natural self-love with no spiritual value.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Some Inconvenient Truths

In a recent Newsweek article, George F. Will wrote an excellent—and concise—article on global warming, in which he explains the six tenets of global warming:

1. Global warming is happening.
2. It is our (humanity’s, but especially America’s) fault.
3. It will continue unless we mend our ways.
4. If it continues we are in grave danger.
5. We know how to slow or even reverse the warming.
6. The benefits from doing that will far exceed the costs.

He continues:

Only the first tenet is clearly true, and only in the sense that the Earth warmed about 0.7 degrees Celsius in the 20th century. We do not know the extent to which human activity caused this…. We do not know how much we must change our economic activity to produce a particular reduction of warming. And we do not know whether warming is necessarily dangerous. Over the millennia, the planet has warmed and cooled for reasons that are unclear but clearly were unrelated to SUVs. Was life better when ice a mile thick covered Chicago? Was it worse when Greenland was so warm that Vikings farmed there? Are we sure the climate at this particular moment is exactly right, and that it must be preserved, no matter the cost?

To read the entire article, click here.

I Was Expecting—though Not Hoping for—a Higher Score

I am nerdier than 5% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Why I Love My Job

Reason #62:

I just pelted Bob Bell with a snowball. Inside the radio station. While he was on the air. Talking about the weather. With Matt Hinkin.

BOO-YA!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Quotes for the Day

“If I have observed anything by experience, it is this: a man may take the measure of his growth and decay in grace according to his thoughts and meditations upon the person of Christ, and the glory of Christ’s Kingdom, and of His love.”

- John Owen


“We have turned to a God that we can use rather than to a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfill our needs rather than to a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves. He is God for us, for our satisfaction—not because we have learned to think of him this way through Christ but because we have learned to think of him this way through the marketplace. In the marketplace, everything is for us, for our pleasure, for our satisfaction, and we have come to assume that it must be so in the church as well. And so we transform the God of mercy into a God who is at our mercy.”

- David Wells

(See Preach the Gospel to Yourself)

Monday, January 29, 2007

An Ineffable Union

Fighting for a Biblical view of marriage is no picnic. How quick I am to look at the world through sin-stained eyes. Too often I have treated the image as the shadow and the shadow as the image.

Blogger Ched Spellman writes the following:

Could there be something more intimate than this [marriage between a man and a woman]? As it turns out, there is. Paul exhorts his readers in 1 Cor 6:16 not to indulge in sexual immorality, because the one who dabbles in prostitution become “one body” with the prostitute, referencing the Gen 2:24 text. One of Paul’s reasons for fleeing from immorality then is because “the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him” (1 Cor 6:17). When you are joined to another human being (i.e. through marriage), you become “one flesh.” However, when you are joined to Christ (i.e. through salvation), incomprehensible as it may seem, you become “one spirit” with him!

The entire post is excellent! Read it here.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday Randomness

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys jump-starting your day with a heavy dose of despair, I recommend a trip to your local Weigel’s. On my way to work this morning I stopped to get some gas, and through the loudspeakers I was serenaded with a country song entitled, “I Let Her Die.” (At least, I’m assuming that was the title of the song; the singer repeated that phrase over and over again.) The song was stuck in my head all the way to work.

**********

Everyone at the Christian Media Center is updating his/her biography. My submission was short and sweet:

I came. I saw. I was. Oh, and I ate. (Not that I’m dead yet or anything.)

My boss didn’t find it acceptable. I’m not sure why.

**********

One of my coworkers came across an unopened Passion of the Christ promotional package today. It contained, among other things, a sheet of music from the original score (composed by John Debney), autographed by Mr. Debney himself! And I get to keep it (probably)! This definitely makes up for having “I Let Her Die” stuck in my head all morning.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Lyrical Meditation, Yo!

I have found a unique way to meditate on gospel truths. It’s engaging, affecting, and—dare I say it?—even entertaining. What I am referring to is Scripturally-informed rap music. Yes, you heard me right. Ol’ Capper is now a hip-hopper. Just call me Capdog.

Granted, I’m no rap connoisseur. I’ve never really liked rap music, except maybe one or two songs from one particular artist whose name I will not divulge (although it sounds like a kind of candy.) Things started changing when I was exposed to Christian rap artist Curtis Allen, a.k.a. Voice. His music piqued my interest in “Reformed rap.”

Well, a couple weeks ago a friend from church introduced me to an album by rapper Timothy Brindle, entitled Killing Sin. What John Owen did for literature, Brindle has done for hip-hop. The CD is absolutely amazing. In fact, it may be my favorite Christian album EVER! No, I am not exaggerating. With all due respect to Voice, Brindle’s work is far superior. Killing Sin is marked by slick production values, catchy rhythms and melodies, and lyrics that are both startlingly eloquent and theologically rich.

The typical worship song format involves two or more verses, a chorus, and maybe a bridge and/or tag. Even when the content is doctrinally sound, there’s not a whole lot of room for in-depth exposition. But through the use of rap, and aided by Brindle’s poetic mastery, the music on Killing Sin provides a heavy dose of Scriptural truth. And every single song is excellent—from the hilarious opening track to the closing song on the excellencies of Christ. Though the topic of the CD is simple, the tracks don’t just rehash the same truths over and over again. The album provides a rich theological and musical tapestry. Some of the tracks even begin with short snippets of John Piper sermons.

If I had anything critical to say, it would be that Brindle needs some help with his album cover art design (which is not exactly stellar), but that’s a petty concern when all is said and done. You can check out lengthy sound clips from each track of Killing Sin here. Then, go purchase it here. The music will serve your soul and inspire you to fight indwelling sin by prizing the promises of God.

Word.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Justin and Jack

Justin Taylor is an accomplished theologian. I mean, check out his résumé:

An M.A.R. from Reformed Theological Seminary
Director of Theology/Executive Editor, Desiring God Ministries
ESV Bible Project Manager at Crossway Books

And that’s just a partial list. JT has been affected by God’s grace in ways that have greatly benefited the body of Christ. He is a godly man, worthy of honor and respect.

That is why I recommend his work, including this especially important post on his blog.


(On a somewhat related note: check this out.)

The Christian Hedonist’s Playbook (Part 5)

“Whoever would be wise should read the Proverbs; whoever would be holy should read the Psalms.” (Richard Steele)

Psalm 86:8-13 (which I am currently trying to memorize) basks in how the glory of God trumps the superficial glory of all lesser things. Verses 8-10 explain it like this:

Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord;
Nor are there any works like Your works.
All nations whom You have made
Shall come and worship before You, O Lord,
And shall glorify Your name.
For You are great, and do wondrous things;
You alone are God.

Imagine a soldier who treats his enemies better than his allies. He continually seeks to build relationships with those who are out to destroy the army to which he belongs. You would think the enemy would appreciate his traitorous acts and treat him like a prince as further incentive for his allegiance. You would also think this traitor’s commanding officer would have him executed the moment he finds out what is going on. That’s not how it works in the spiritual realm, though.

You see, I am that traitor. Too often I discard the magnificent promises of God for the cheap promises of sin. I will often treat an idol as a priceless treasure to be sought at the expense of the glory of God. And yet, sin’s promises never deliver as advertised. No mater how much I attempt to ally myself with idols, they will never reciprocate my affections. Sin is out to destroy me, regardless of whether I snuggle up next to it or seek its death.

And through it all, God’s faithfulness remains constant. If I was God and I saw the idolatrous pursuits of Cap Stewart I would have forsaken him a long time ago. And yet God is the only one wholly dedicated to my good. Even His chastisement has redemptive purposes. The Lord stands alone as the only source of all human need, including the greatest need of all: salvation. If God has appeased His wrath toward me by punishing His Son in my place (thus reconciling me to Himself for eternity), how will He not lavish on me every good thing that I need for life and godliness (Romans 8:32; 2 Peter 1:3)? What amazing grace!

May my prayer be like that of Isaac Watts:

Lord, I would walk with holy feet
Teach me Thine heav’nly ways
And my poor scattered thoughts unite
In God my Father’s praise

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Not Exactly the MPAA

I’ve been told that my movie rating system needs an explanation. So, here it is…

My number rating system is pretty straightforward. A rating of 1 (or sometimes 0) means “horrible” and 10 means “a masterpiece.” What’s not as clear is that there are usually two areas in which I give a number rating. First is the Artistic Merit rating. This number represents a consideration of the film as a work of art. It reflects the cumulative effect of all aspects of a film: scriptwriting, acting, production design, cinematography, musical score, and so on. If I believe it is a well made film, it will receive a high Artistic Merit rating.

The second rating is the Personal Marks score. (Yes, my two ratings are initialed AM and PM. Ain’t I clever?) This represents how much I liked the film, regardless of its artistic merit. Sometimes I may enjoy a movie that isn’t the greatest piece of filmmaking (or vice versa) and I like to make a distinction between the two. “Fun to watch” doesn’t always equal “good art.” Kung Pow: Enter the Fist is one example. It’s hilarious and a blast to watch, but as a piece of art it stinks worse than Sean Penn’s humor.

On occasion, I might evaluate a third category: Theological Soundness. Thr3e, reviewed earlier today, actually got two such ratings: a +10 and a –10. The +10 represents the film as portraying life from a Christian worldview without a hidden agenda (i.e., using the medium of film as nothing more than a lame excuse for a sloppy “proselytizing message movie” that the masses can’t enjoy). It also gets a –10 rating because the underlying theological belief on which the story is based is nothing short of gross doctrinal error.

So that’s how I rate the movies I review. I hope that clears things up.

THR3E (2007) – Film Review

Hi, this is Cap the Filmmaker. I’ve been following the progress of the movie Thr3e ever since the project was greenlighted by Namesake Entertainment. The film is based on the Ted Dekker novel of the same name. You can check out the trailer here.

The following is the official plot synopsis: “When a young seminary student is targeted by a psychopathic killer, he joins forces with a criminal psychologist whose brother was murdered by the same madman. Together they must unravel the killer's riddles and catch him before he strikes again, but the closer they get, the more twisted the path becomes. This heart-pounding thriller will keep you guessing up until the final shocking scene!”

Though the film doesn’t open until Friday, I was privileged enough to receive an advanced-copy DVD (yes, legally). The first thing that stood out to me was the exceptional cinematography and desaturated colors. This looks like a slick Hollywood product, not a cheap, cutesy Christian film. Furthermore, the prologue is one of the most riveting openings I have ever seen in a movie made by Christian filmmakers outside Hollywood. The acting is good all around, and while the storyline isn’t always the most logical, the overall tone of the film keeps the viewer’s interest for—

Hi, this is Cap the Film Critic. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t wait to speak any longer. The Filmmaker dude is about to make me queasy. Sure, the prologue to this film is pretty darn good. Unfortunately, the setup creates the need for an epilogue that is one of the most ridiculous film closures I have ever seen in a film made by Christians outside Hollywood. There are also several lame explosion effects that are used intermittently throughout the production. Could someone have raised just a little more money so they could actually blow a few things up? Then there’s the occasional problem with ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement), which makes it very obvious when dialogue was dubbed over the original recording. And why couldn’t the story have been tighter? One of the most riveting scenes doesn’t propel the story forward at all, showing that Christian screenwriters still have a lot of work to—

Hi, this is Cap the Theologian. I’m tired of waiting my turn. The thing is, I’m torn about Thr3e. On one hand, the filmmakers accomplished something few Christians have: they produced a film based on a Christian worldview that is both obviously not secular and yet not manipulatively proselytizing. There is no blatant salvation message and no one prays the sinner’s prayer. Instead, the Christian worldview is an organic part of the story and not an unnaturally forced element of the plot. For that, I am extremely grateful. We desperately need more films like this.

On the other hand, the core doctrinal premise of the film—and this is a problem with the source material—is a gross misinterpretation of a key biblical principle taught by the Apostle Paul. I wish I could go into further detail but that would spoil the ending. Suffice it to say, the theological implications of Ted Dekker’s story are staggeringly unbiblical. I wish Dekker’s semi-Pelagian theology would take a flying leap off—

Hi, this is Cap the Filmmaker again. Okay, so the underlying premise of the film is not in tune with sound doctrine. Namesake Entertainment definitely needs to improve the strength of its theological department. Well, there is no such department, but maybe that’s the problem. Anyway, what the movie espouses is nothing new. People won’t walk away from the film with their worldview irrevocably skewed. Thr3ee is still an engaging story, albeit with plot holes and inconsistencies. It may not be up to par with The Visitation (Namesake’s best production thus far), but it is helping to raise the bar for Christians in the film industry. That is enough of an accomplishment to warrant my recommendation.

Artistic Merit: 5
Personal Marks: 9
Theological Soundness: +10/-10

Rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, and terror. [Make no mistake: this is a(n) (appropriately) dark film that deals with the evil of human nature. It doesn’t glorify violence or evil at all, but it doesn’t sugar coat it either. This is, in fact, a sugar-free movie.]