I wrote this regarding Mother’s Day for our church bulletin.
Mother’s Day is a complicated day.
It all started with a woman named Anna Jarvis in 1907 as a way to remember her deceased mother. Just two years later and Jarvis was (unsuccessfully) campaigning to shut Mother’s Day down and stop it from happening again. Why the sudden about face?
Jarvis hated how commercialised the day had become in such a short time. That companies seized the opportunity to increase sales of flowers and greeting cards etc. For Jarvis, the true meaning of Mother’s Day, a day where love and appreciation was shown to the women who raised us, was replaced by a cheap cash grab.
Love it or hate it, Mother’s Day isn’t going anywhere. But the reason I think it’s complicated is not just because of ridiculously sappy greeting cards.
As a church, we want to affirm the role of mothers in our community. Mothers have been given a special role by God to love and nurture children. Mothers give us life and they keep us alive. As a father, I am very thankful for the blessing my wife has been to me and to my boys.
But not all women in our community are mothers. This may be their choice. Or it may be because their wants and desires to be a parent have not matched up with God’s plans for this world. A day celebrating motherhood can be difficult when you are not a mother. Or if you are a mother and your family life is filled with strife and conflict. Celebrating motherhood may be the last thing in the world that you want to do.
The reality is that things are not right in this world. The good world that God created, with everything in order and everyone in good relationship with each other has gone. This is the world we live in, where our lives are not what we want them to be. We long for something better. We long for Jesus to return and make things right. That day is coming. Until then, we wait.
For all our mothers today, we pray that you are looked after. That your family shows you how much they need you and love you. For our women who are not mothers, we pray that you will be looked after. That as a church we can show you how much we need you and love you. A church is not a random collection of strangers, but a family brought together by God to love and encourage each other as we wait for Jesus’ return.
Today, let’s be thankful for all the women in our church family and show them our love and appreciation.
Starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey
The Dark Tower novels were a favourite of mine as a teenager. I picked up my first Stephen King novel when I was 12 and ravenously turned the pages of what ever book of his I could get my hand on. But there was something about The Dark Tower. Something about the last gunslinger and his Moby Dick like obsession for the Man in Black and that ominous Dark Tower. Here was this epic fantasy story that somehow combined Clint Eastwood Westerns with wizards and portals into 20th century New York and giant cyborg bears. And it worked. And I loved it. I’ve always regretted not finishing the series when the wait between books grew too long and I found it harder and harder to make time to read books without pictures. But I never stopped being fascinated by that mysterious tower that stood in the centre of all things.
Adapting The Dark Tower is an ambitious project. I don’t believe a straight up retelling would work on the big screen. So I’m glad director Nikolaj Arcel didn’t even try. This is not the movie I was expecting. It’s not the movie I visualised in my head as I followed Roland’s journey to the tower. It’s different. And as I write this on my way home from the cinema, I think I like it.
Starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
X-Men Apocalypse is the closest representative of an 80’s X-Men comic we’ve ever seen on the big screen. And that’s a good and a bad thing. In the 1980’s, the X-Men were by far the biggest thing in comics. The X-Men were big and loud and exciting, with complex characters that had powers and abilities that made sure every panel was something phenomenal. While the X-Men movies have tried to capture this feeling, they have largely fallen short, usually because of budget, technology, or fear of spandex. And now we have X-Men Apocalypse, which has given me the comic book movie I never knew I wanted and now eagerly want more of.
It’s 1983 and things are looking up for mutants – people born with extraordinary abilities. While they are still hated and feared by the world around them, they are no longer living in the shadows, and some mutants are even seen as heroes. But because it would be a pretty boring movie if it was just 2 hours of mutants sitting on the grass having a picnic, a major crisis is about to hit. The ancient and powerful mutant Apocalypse has woken up and he is not a fan of the status quo. He believes in survival of the strongest and is planning an extinction level event to kill the weak and promote the strong. Of course, it’s up to the X-Men to save the day.
The star of this movie is Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique. Over three movies, she has taken a character already filled with depth and complexity and taken her in a new and exciting direction. Mystique as a reluctant folk hero is something we haven’t seen before and is something I want to see more of. I really hope that if there’s another X-Men movie that we get to see her develop the character more. Most of the characters we see on screen are given moments to shine, though given the enormous cast, some are going to fall through the cracks (I’m looking at you Jubilee, you big tease).
This big cast is both a blessing and a curse. On the plus side, it means that there stacks of opportunities to show off those cool looking powers used in innovative ways. If you liked the Quicksilver scene in Days of Future Past, you’ll love how he’s used here. On the negative side, if you didn’t watch Days of Future Past, you’re never really introduced to him. I’d have to watch the movie again to check, but I didn’t hear the character given a name until the movie was almost over. Storm, who is one of Apocalypse’s generals, I’m not even sure she’s named at all (neither real name or superhero name). I feel like unless you’ve invested effort into knowing these characters before watching this film, you’re going to be lost.
Finding the themes in a CGI heavy block-buster punch ‘em can be a bit like reading a Where’s Wally book – they are there but can be hiding somewhere behind an explosion or two. The villain Apocalypse follows a very Nietzsche style philosophy – the strong will rise and the weak should get out of the way. In the movie he is challenged by Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), leader of the X-Men, who asserts that it is the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak. From a Christian world view, we are not Apocalypse. We are not even the X-Men. Because we are not the strong. We are the weak. We are powerless in the face of sin in this world and we are unable to overcome this great adversary. If we were to follow Apocalypse’s world view, we wouldn’t stand a chance. We’d be lost. But Xavier is on to something. It’s up to the strong to protect the weak. And the strong is Jesus. We need Jesus. He, not the X-Men, is the saviour of the weak.
This movie has flaws, no denying it. But it also has a man with metal wings fighting a blue skinned teleporter. If you’re after a movie full of superheroes using their powers and not being all grim and gritty and serious where it’s always night time and raining, then check out X-Men Apocalypse. It’s my favourite superhero movie of the year so far.
Starring Ryan Reynolds
This is not an easy review to write. I enjoyed this movie. A lot. But I can not recommend it. In fact, if you are a Christian, I recommend that you avoid this movie. Especially if you are under 18. Now, I know in Australia you can legally see this movie if you are 15 or over. Younger if you see it with your parents. But let me explain why I think this is a bad idea.
The Master List is one of the most popular features of Pop Culture Christ. It’s a list of a whole bunch of popular songs that mention God, Jesus, or Biblical themes. One of my aims for 2016 is to fix up the list, add new songs, as well as write about more of the songs on the list.
This week, The AV Club published a list of 22 Songs That Are Great Despite Being Pro-Jesus. It’s a good list, with a couple of those songs already being on the Master List. You can be sure that these songs from the AV Club will be among the first added to the Master List in 2016.
At our church, we’re encouraging everyone to pick up their Bibles and read a small passage of Scripture each day. To help with this, we’re doing two things. Firstly, in the service sheet each week is a checklist with 5 Bible passages, one for each weekday. For example, in the first week of 2016 we’ll be starting with the book of Acts: Monday – Acts 1:1-11, Tuesday – Acts 1:12-26, Wednesday – Acts 2:1-13, Thursday – Acts 2:14-42, Friday – Acts 2:43-47.
Secondly, we’ve produced these bookmarks for our congregations to help them to find the passage and to read the passage. Something like this may be helpful for you or for your ministry.
In the first season of South Park, the town is going all kinds of crazy in their efforts to make sure everything is politically correct during “the holiday season”. To the extent that they forget what the true meaning of Christmas is. Which leads to one of my all time favourite Christmas scenes after the credits have rolled.
Jesus Christ, all alone, singing happy birthday to himself. Classic.
Don’t forget to sing happy birthday to Jesus this Christmas.
When I think about how over-the-top Christmas is in Australia, I’m thankful that we’re not facing the other extreme. In Brunei, it’s illegal to celebrate Christmas in public, invite a Muslim to a Christmas party, or wear a Santa hat in a shop. And Brunei is one of the least extreme countries operating under sharia law.
You can read more about it here.
Please pray for Christians in these countries this Christmas as they celebrate the birth of Jesus while the threat of persecution hangs over them.
I’m not a big fan of the hype that surrounds Christmas. I think it’s all a bit too much. But there’s a danger in being too anti-Christmas hype. Don’t be that guy this Christmas.
When this song was released back in 1992, I vaguely remember that I thought this song was pro-Christianity. What a naive little Catholic school boy I was. Jesus He Knows Me is full of biting criticism of the state of Western Christianity in the late 20th century. Unfortunately, a bit over 20 years later and it still cuts a little too close to home.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Starring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega
Star Wars is everywhere – social media, TV, shopping centres, bags of fruit – you can’t escape it. For nearly 40 years the Star Wars movies have been part of our pop culture landscape, endlessly quoted, referenced, copied and parodied. Even a poorly received prequel trilogy wasn’t enough to dent the hopes and dreams of Star Wars fans as the latest installment hit the big screen. With new creators behind the wheel, will Episode VII be a return to greatness?
Next week, people all over the world are going to be celebrating the birthday of a man who lived 2000 years ago. His name is Jesus. You might have heard of him. He’s kind of a big deal. We know so much about Jesus, but do we know what he looked like?
Yes and no. Read More…
Now that I’ve got Pop Culture Christ up and running again, it’s time for another episode of the Pop Culture Christ Cam!
I really want to change the name of the show, so if you have any cool ideas for a new name, let me know in the comment.
I don’t think Christians really know what to do with humour. The stereotype that Christians are a bunch of humourless neigh-sayers unfortunately has some truth to it. We can be quick to take offence and slow to laugh at ourselves. And that’s a real shame for two reasons. Firstly, the Bible can be outright hilarious at times (I will never not laugh when read 2 Kings 2:23). Secondly, we may be missing out on learning truths we may otherwise be blind to. And that’s why Telling the Truthiness: The Gospel of Stephen Colbert by Richard Braaksma is worth reading and engaging with.
Most days of the year, the best way to describe my office would be organised chaos. There’s stuff everywhere – mostly dumped there at the end of a long night of youth group or as I’m rushing from one event to the next. In those rare moments of quiet – when programs are wrapping up for the year and I feel like I can stop and take a breath, I get on top of the job of cleaning and organising my office. And in even rarer moments, I start thinking of how I can do the organising thing even better.
And that’s when I get ideas like the Youth Ministry Toolbox.
From the day I got my first smart phone, Glo Bible has been one of my favourite apps. Not only does it have a full text version of the Bible (which alone makes it a worthwhile app) but it’s chock full of extras like commentaries, maps, videos and dictionary articles. On top of that, the apps visual interface is a joy for a visual learner like myself. If you have an iOS device, Glo Bible is a must have app.
At least until the new version comes along early next year. The team behind Glo Bible are currently running a Kickstarter to raise funds to produce an even better app. I’m really excited about the new app and I’m really keen to check it out. I’ve signed on for the Glo Premium reward, which will give me the premium version of the app at a discount rate ($25 reduced from $40). Have a look at the campaign video and consider supporting this great project.