Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sun Kil Moon

There are few bands making music for music's sake nowadays. Sun Kil Moon are one of those bands. Of course "making music for music's sake"could just be seen as a euphemism for "making music that no one buys", but let's not get cynical here. There was enough of that in the 'Bent Toddley' post.

The reason I bring up Sun Kil Moon is two fold. One - they're a great band and deserve more attention. And two - they're playing in Dublin on September 20, so I'd highly recommend you go to that if you like the songs I post at the end. If you don't, then you're not coming to my birthday, and to be honest, I'm not even sure we can be friends.

If you'd like a list of reasons to go, then here are some to chew on:

- I'm going, but as of now I'm going alone. That said, I ordered two tickets, so if you'd like to join me then please contact me somehow.

- It takes place on a Saturday. Convenient, eh?

- Their lead singer, Mark Kozelek, pens some of the best lyrics floating around these days. If you've been exposed to too much James Blunt and you're looking for hope in the world, a Sun Kil Moon gig is a good place to turn to.

- Their music is soothing, without being middle-of-the-road and inoffensive, aka bland (see Jack Johnson).

- They use open guitar tunings. Who doesn't like open guitar tunings?

- Mark Kozelek doesn't talk much, and when he does, he's usually quite dry and cynical. (That's probably more of a reason not to go, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.)

- Simply going to this gig will automatically put you in my good books forever. However, going to this gig and really enjoying it may well lead to a marriage proposal from me...and that goes for both ladies and fellas.

- Mark Kozelek looks remarkably like Keith from One Tree Hill (take a look at the above picture again). Ever wondered what Keith would be like as a musician? Come see Sun Kil Moon and find out.

- I may start weeping if they play certain songs. So this will either be a good chance for you to make fun of me for crying at a gig, or a chance to be the shoulder I cry on.

- And finally, here are a couple of youtube links to some of their songs. I strongly urge you to have a proper listen (headphones if possible) and see if they're your cup of tea. If they are but you can't make the gig because you live in a different country, then just find their website and see if they're playing near you. However, if you can make the gig, then do come along. And if you like the songs I post, tell me via comments etc. If you don't like them, then it's probably best you keep that to yourself, lest things get ugly 'round these here parts.

Carry Me Ohio


Lost Verses

Last Tide

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dating, eh?

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine the other day (and believe it or not, it wasn't Paul). Anyway, one thing lead to another, and before I knew it we were talking about 'relationships'. Oh dear. It was actually a really good conversation, and during it this person put me on to a sermon on dating (or recreational dating) by Paul Washer.

For those of you who don't know Paul Washer, he's one of those guys who after he says something, you sarcastically say 'So tell me what you really think, Paul'. Kind of like a Christian
Eamonn Dunphy, except what he says makes sense. This man shoots from the hip, and mince his words he certainly does not.

You may find him offensive, you may find him hard to swallow, but what he says is very much worth considering, and needs only to be tested against Scripture, not against our personal preferences and fancies.

Anyway, I'll give you a run down on (some of) this particular sermon, and maybe add in some of my own thoughts. But before I do that, I want to make sure you understand that this isn't meant to be preachy in the least. I'm not doing this to give you rules to follow. This post is just food for thought. These are Paul Washer's beliefs, and so my goal is to present you with them and get you thinking (as I am) about this fiery topic. You're under no obligation to agree, and you're certainly under no obligation to feel condemned, but I'd encourage you to really examine what's being said.

There is clearly something wrong with the way our culture does 'relationships'. I think deep down everyone knows this. The question we have to ask ourselves is are we going to settle for the status quo or are we going to strive for something better, even if it means looking foolish? And so, to Paul Washer...

"OK, now we will talk a bit about the ungodly, demonic, worldly, sensual practice of dating". Tell us what you really think, Paul. He says that it would be proper to attach another word, just to make things clearer, and that word is 'recreational' - as in 'recreational dating'. He also says this practice of recreational dating is not just restricted to secular culture, but it's prevalent in Christendom also.

So what is 'recreational dating'? Well Washer sums it up as "dating for the fun of it". It's "getting into some sort of relationship, just because you think you would like it". He then gives a statistic which is quite surprising, although I obviously can't verify it, nor does he. He says that on entering marriage, the average Christian has had 5 relationships of note with the opposite sex (on the bright side, at least they were with the opposite sex. Amen?). Does that seem like a plausible statistic? Honestly, I think so. Is it a statistic to be proud of? I think not.

He sort of expands on the kind of relationships he's talking about, first off by saying that sex doesn't have to be involved. He's talking about the coming together of two people that has 'the hint of the romantic to it; the hint of companionship to it'.

And so what happens on the marriage day? He says that "you're not whole, because you've given a part of yourself to 5 different people". He also says that "whether you realise it or not, it will affect the way you look at your wife, the way you look at your husband. It will affect everything about your marriage more than you would dare to believe".

These sound like hard words, don't they? I hear them and I think 'Well Paul. What about forgiveness and restoration and God making us whole?' It's true. God does forgive us if we've sinned. God does create in us clean hearts. But He doesn't remove consequences. Just ask King David. When Paul Washer says 'more than we would dare to believe' it's not just a figure of speech. What we do now has consequences later. We just don't want to even think about them, lest we not be able to do as we please with a guilt-free conscience.

Washer then informs those who aren't aware that dating is a modern phenomenon. Go back 150 years and you won't find it, not even in secular culture. However, fast forward to present day and "we wonder why marriages have gone to seed, we wonder why there's immorality rampant everywhere -- including what is called 'Christendom' in America -- and maybe we ought to just put two and two together". In other words "the last 100 years things have gotten a lot worse, the last 100 years dating has become prominent".

Is recreational dating the cause of all of this immorality? Frankly, no. I think Paul Washer would agree that our hearts are the cause of all of this widespread immorality. But I can see his point, in that recreational dating (I'm just gonna call it 'dating' from now on) is most people's starting point on the road to sexual immorality. And since it has become such an accepted practice, is it little wonder that things are turning out as they are in modern day society?

After telling his audience that "you don't know what you think you know" (something that not only applies to teenagers --who I assume he's talking to here -- but also idiots like me), he goes on to ask a simple yet telling question. A question every Christian needs to ask himself or herself.

"Where did you learn all the things you know about romance and sex? From whom did you learn it? The Bible? Or television, and friends, and other things?"

Is it not a sad but true reality that most of what we learn comes from television and other friends who are as equally clueless as we are? We might not think that's the case. We might think we just watch these shows for entertainment, but we don't actually learn anything from them. I'm afraid we might be wrong. I'd like to think that One Tree Hill hasn't affected how I view relationships -- largely because that would be an incredibly embarrassing thing to admit -- but the fact of the matter is, it has. And so have lots of other shows I've watched throughout the years.

I mean just yesterday on Friends, Joey said to Ross concerning Rachel's departure to Paris something along the lines of "Maybe sleeping with her was the perfect way to say goodbye". I don't want to sound like a hypocrite here. I've seen a lot of episodes of Friends, and it used to be a very funny show (it got crap after season 5, and anyone who says otherwise is wrong). But read Joey's words again. I know he became an idiot towards the end of the series, but that sentence sums up what the media portrays as acceptable behaviour, and it's affecting all of us, whether we 'dare to believe it or not'.

I mean according to Joey, sex is now a form of goodbye? Whatever happened to an old fashioned handshake, or a hug even? To quote Mr Martin from McGee and Me, 'Garbage in, garbage out'. Again, I don't want to sound preachy here. This is just food for thought, both for myself and others. And as I said at the beginning, everyone knows there is something wrong here - Christians and non-Christians alike. How do we all know? Because when we engage in the kind of relationships the media portrays, they never truly satisfy. Ever. They might for a brief moment, but then it's gone and more damage than good is done.

At the risk of sounding preachy I'm going to stop writing shortly. My final point, and the thing that I've found most thought-provoking from this particular sermon, is the role of parents in the whole process. If someone is prone to dating etc, then dollars to donuts that person hasn't been either listening to or receiving the council from their parents that they should have.

This may be a slightly harsh generalization, but I think that Christian parents today have a lot to answer for in terms of their children's morality or lack thereof. How engaged are parents with their children and what they get up to? How much time do they spend going through what the Bible teaches on love and marriage and healthy relationships? How much discipline is carried out? How much tough love is floating around?

Maybe you're reading this thinking you're beyond the need for council, but if you're anything like me then you're probably not. My advice for you and I is to go back to the basics. Go back to the Bible. Listen to the wisdom of godly men and women in your life, who know the pitfalls this world has to offer and can help you to avoid them. We don't have to experience something in order to know it's harmful. I mean have you ever put your face in an open fire? Then how do you know it will burn you?

Also, I think one of the biggest mistakes people around my age (20's) can make is to think that just because we've reached that independent age, a relationship we enter will automatically be mature and healthy. Not so. We can have the bodies of people in their 20's (or in my case, an 8 year old boy), but the way we enter a relationship and the goal we have for it can be no different to that of a someone we consider a "foolish" teenager. We're just too proud to admit it. Thoroughly examining our motives, our hearts, and allowing God to rigorously search us must be at the foundation of a relationship. If it's not, then what is? Our feelings? If so, then oh dear.

Obviously there's no sure way of getting it right in one go. We may fall for a woman or man, bring it to God, seek the advice of others, begin to date (as in godly date), and then he or she could end things for one reason or another. I'm not 100% sure, but I imagine the repercussions of such a relationship are much less severe than for the person who just charges in and leaves God behind. These are complicated matters of course, but I guess I'm just thinking out loud here.

There's plenty more I've left out from this sermon, but here's the link if you're interested:

Dating - Paul Washer

And once more, this isn't me preaching to you, nor is it me condemning anyone. I come at this topic very much humbly and void of any real wisdom. The perfect life and the perfect marriage etc are not on offer to us. By nature we will make mistakes and sin, but thank God (literally) there is total and complete forgiveness.

As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

This is a truth that should give peace to our souls. However, we must not make the mistake of thinking our actions don't have consequences. Of course in Christ we will receive the strength to overcome them, but it will be a battle, and there will be hurt and pain and so forth.

There is a better way though. A narrower path. My only hope is that this has got you thinking about what that looks like, or at least what that doesn't look like (I'm aware there's not much actual advice here, but listen to Paul Washer's sermon if you'd like to hear more of what he has to say on the topic).

And now, may you...

(Anyone who read my NOOMA recaps will hopefully have gotten that silly little joke. To the rest of you, go read those recaps! A web of private jokes will open up to you should you do so.)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Bent Toddley

There have been countless writings about the Lakeland revival since God (read: Todd Bentley) started working there a few months ago. So many in fact that I wasn't going to bother adding to the mix. But then what fun would that be?

However, I'm not going to go into all the theological aspects of it. For one, there's hardly any theology to the whole thing in the first place, so trying to discuss it would be like trying to talk about football based on a basketball game (that analogy doesn't make any sense, does it? Meh, I tried). And what's more, I'm no theology expert to begin with, so for that kind of reasoning it's best that you go to a more reliable source than this humble blog of mine.

What I do want to do is take a youtube clip I've just watched and give my two cents.

Just so you know, I didn't type 'Wacky Todd Bentley rubbish heresy fake' into the youtube search engine in order to find the most contraversial clip out there (although remind me to do that later). I simply searched 'Todd Bentley' and this clip was one of the results. And what's more, this clip appears to have been posted by someone who has some sort of respect for the work that is going on in Lakeland (I'm saying this because of the title and the description). All in all, I think this is a fairly neutral clip to examine, and from all the bits I've seen on God TV etc it's a reasonably accurate depiction of what's happening in Florida (why is it always Florida?).

Unfortunately, the worship leader who looks like John Travolta isn't in it, but you can't have everything I guess. Although you can put a picture of him up on your blog for poops and giggles.

Ahhh, that's better. Anyway, here's a link for the clip:

Wacky Todd Bentley Rubbish Fake Heresy

And so it begins. "How do you know you're healed?" Bentley asks the woman on stage. "I'm not sure 100%, but..." is the response. I bet he gets that answer a lot, does Todd. However, Bentley recovers quickly from this little setback and swiftly drops the woman to the floor, thus rendering her incapable of saying anything further that might expose this 'miracle' as a hoax. Thinking on your feet, Todd. I like that. Thankfully, he didn't get her to the floor by kneeing her in the stomach as he's been 'called' to do on special occassions, so phew for that.

(If you've watched the clip, isn't that noise the woman makes as she falls to the floor so funny!? Just watch it again. I've watched it like 7 times and it still cracks me up.)

We're then informed that someone is been healed of broken eye disease. Well, not quite. Bentley 'almost' wants to call it a broken eye, which it isn't at all. What he's actually describing is the socket behind the eye being fixed and what have you. And even more specific, it's the socket around the 'right eye'. I bet there was one guy in the crowd that had the exact same problem around his left eye who was just like 'Ah crap!', and stormed out in a huff.

Bentley wants this person to step forth, and then goes on to say that he 'just had one of those visions'. The kind of vision he's describing is where he sees one particular person get healed. However, two people actually come up on stage, I'm assuming to claim that their eye is no longer broken, or something.

I wonder how Todd explains the inaccuracy of this vision, since, you know, his vision was for one specific person? Maybe it was a special-offer vision, like 'have a vision of one person healed, and get another person healed absolutely free'.

Or maybe, just maybe, one of these people is faking it. I say a Solomon-like test is in order here. What Todd Bentley should do is knee them both in their left eye, and whichever one can still see out of their right eye is the true miracle receiver. Makes sense, doesn't it? Hopefully Todd will then get 'one of those visions' where he sees people with left eye problems being healed, and things will be as you were before the test was carried out, with no harm done.

No such test is carried out of course, so what we have is two people claiming to be healed, one of whom has a patch over her left eye [?]. More on that later.

But first, Todd interviews possibly the dumbest man alive. Think guest on the Jerry Springer Show and you're in the right ballpark. Todd asks him who he is, and he doesn't actually appear to know. Maybe I'm wrong, but a damaged eye appears to be the least of this man's concerns.

Todd asks him if he 'broke his eye'. Too funny, but it gets even better. Todd continues by asking him if he's blind or if there's nerve damage, or if there's anything wrong with his eye at all. First off, blind? Blind!? Didn't Todd already say that this is not a case of a broken eye, and that his vision was for that of socket repair? Yes, he did. I'm no medical practitioner, but I'm fairly confident that blindness is as a result of damaged eyes, therefore that's not the issue at hand. Maybe that's why Todd calls these visions 'open visions'. As in they're open to whatever interpretation fits the situation at hand.

Of course maybe Todd asks all his, I mean receivers of miracles, if they're blind, regardless of the vision he received. It could be an oral disclaimer of some form, so that if God calls Todd to kick someone in the face, then at least he's made himself aware of that persons current eye-sight status, lest he be duped by an already-blind person and sued for millions. Blind people, eh? You just can't trust them. There's a lesson here kids - it's always good to cross your t's and dot your, um, lower case j's (Oh Wayne's World II, how I love you).

Anyway, this mans socket got damaged when 'a car hit [him] on a bicycle'. I bet it was a parked car, wasn't it? We don't actually get to see his right eye, which makes me a little suspicious. Also, the lady with the patch on her (left) eye is smiling the whole time, which leads me to believe that his face isn't horribly disfigured or anything. Either that, or she's incredibly insensitive. Or maybe she actually is blind, in which case watch out Todd. This one could be up to something, so make sure you ask her the question.

Todd then says that a creative miracle is about to happen, and 'Boom!', Bentley sends him to the floor. Didn't Todd say that the miracle has already happened during that vision speech of his? Shouldn't this guy already be healed? Wasn't he called up to the stage to proclaim the miracle that Todd had just witnessed in one of these 'open visions' of his? Maybe it's like a visualisation type thing, where Todd first sees the miracle, and then a few minutes later it happens. Hey, I'm just brainstorming here.

Of course a cynic might say that Todd just makes these visions up in his head, some idiot from the crowd responds/is dragged to the stage by Todd's henchmen, and then a whole bunch of hokey-pokey madness ensues. I mean these cynics probably want 'medical proof' of the miracles too. Why can't they just have faith and believe that everything being done is authentic? Why this need to 'test the spirits'? I mean where did they even get that idea? Not from any source Todd Bentley knows about, that's for sure.

The woman with the patch over her (left) eye is next in the firing line, as Todd Bentley points out to her 'You've still got the patch on'. It's keen insights like this that give merit to all that Todd Bentley is doing.

The woman goes on to say that 'I had a brain tumor, it was right behind my eye...' but before she can actually flesh out her story and more than likely contradict Todd's open vision, he interrupts, saying 'The Lord is gonna do a miracle right now' and gentley guides her to the floor (not pushes...gentley guides [?]), which apparently is the only way in which a miracle can take place.

"My job is to see, my job is to pray, and then God does the rest." And how much do you get paid for this job, Todd? Just curious. OK I'm being too cynical. Open mind, Dec. Open mind.

"Sometimes the miracles are instant, but like that woman who came out of the wheelchair, sometimes it takes two/three days." That sounds suspiciously like another oral disclaimer, with Todd basically saying that if you're not healed at this meeting then be patient and give it a couple of days, by which time you'll hopefully be far away from Lakeland and unable to complain to anyone about not receiving any healing.

A woman who was prayed for earlier then begins to leave the stage, but is stopped in her tracks by Todd, who kindly says 'Come here, you with the growth' (as she's affectionately called by friends and loved ones). I really hope this isn't how Todd addresses all his flock - by their respective sicknesses. "Hey you with the brain tumor, get over here." "Where do you think you're going, you with the mangled legs?" "See ya later, syphilis." Insensitive much?

Anyway, Todd asks this lady if she can feel anything. He asks this while tickling her throat, so I'm guessing she can, Todd. He stops tickling her and asks "can you feel any sensation?" We get a pause for about 7 seconds and the woman lets out a quiet "" Brilliant!

Todd then uses the Benny Hinn-approved method of putting words in peoples mouth by 'asking' "Did you feel a burning on the floor, or what were you doing on the floor?" The woman says that she did feel burning [Glory Hallelujah!], but only in her arms and hands (presumably the growth is on her throat).

Todd then ushers her to the floor for a second helping, saying 'That growth will be gone. Check it in the mirror." Aha. So Todd does encourage the verification of his miracles. And not only that, he's also urging people to use the most rigorous, fool-proof device of them all - a mirror. Basically, if you don't see it, then you're healed.

- "But Todd, how do you know I was healed?"

(Todd holds up a mirror to the persons face)

- "Well, can you see your lung cancer?"

- "Um, no, but.."

- "But what!? You've been healed!"

OK so I'm blowing things way out of proportion here. I just thought the 'check it in the mirror' line was hilarious.

Next we have a man whom Todd 'called out by word of knowledge the other day', or so says David Tate, one of Todd's henchmen. Tate says that this man has been healed of shoulder problems, and also Todd's word of knowledge about financial blessing has come to pass, because 'God is prospering him'. How do we know that his latest paycheck hasn't just gone through? What is this prosperity that you speak of, Mr Tate?

Todd wonders how he managed to call this guy out, and the guy just says that Todd mentioned his blue shirt (which he's wearing again today [?]). He describes Todd's vision for him, where an angel came and touched his shoulders, and then a ball of fire came out of heaven and gave him some sort of burning sensation. (I would have payed serious money for John Travolta look-a-like to start singing 'Goodness gracious, great balls of fire!" right then. Serious money.)

Anyway, ridiculous story short, this man's shoulders appear to be functioning normally, although all we have to go on is the fact that he can move them around for about 5 seconds. Who's to say he couldn't have done that a couple of days ago? I say get the mirror out. It's the only sure way to know what's what.

Busted shoulder guy continues talking about his problems, but Todd just starts shaking his head and says that he can still feel that fireball. This whole thing is just hilarious to watch, because it's perfectly obvious that Bentley isn't listening to a word that this man is saying, but busted shoulder guy has no idea and just stays talking.

Todd then rushes over to him, places his hands on the guys stomach and goes 'Bam!'. Finally the guy stops talking, but he was too busy talking to realise that this is the moment in which he's supposed to fall on the ground. Todd is a persistent man though, so he's not giving up just yet.

He goes in for a second bam now that the guy is aware of what's going on, but this doesn't get him to the floor either. Um, what's going on here Todd? Why isn't this working?

Not to worry. Todd starts on this big rant about, you guessed it, fireballs, angels, visions etc etc. Not Jesus though, because on the spiritual food chain, apparently fireballs trump Jesus. Who knew?

The rant finishes with the sentence "God's gonna mess up your theological box." God, Todd - who knows? The point is, your theology is going to be totally screwed up, and it may take years to recover from it. Eventually the man falls to the floor, presumably dazed from all the crap he just heard. Todd's work here is done. Neeeext.

"Somebody broke the bones on the top of their right foot..."

I bet there's this guy who had that exact same problem with his left foot who just...

And that's how this little clip ends. We don't get to see what happens next, but I'm presuming about 3 people came up on stage, one of whom had a big cast on their left leg. They all end up on the floor, and they each receive one of those miracles that takes two or three days to kick in.

In closing, I know I've been really, REALLY harsh with this piece. I just have so little time for things like this. I believe in miracles, absolutely. But they're signs, as well as being initial manifestations of God's kingdom. They're not the be all and end all. Here's a verse from John's gospel just to confirm as much:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

A sign always points to something. I mean that's the very definition of a sign. It appears to me that Todd Bentley's ministry is all about miracles (the validity of which I feel I'm right to question), and very little of it has to do with people coming to a saving faith in Christ Jesus, and having life in His name.

A lot of people are sitting on the fence with regards this movement. However, I'm never really one for fence sitting, so I'm more than happy to say that I don't think it's a good thing whatsoever. I'm willing for God to open my eyes if I'm wrong, but right now I firmly believe that this is doing so much more damage than good for the kingdom of God.

Can any good come out of it? Yes, of course. I'm sure there's a very tiny amount of good coming out of Benny Hinn's wild crusades too, but that doesn't make them right.

There is a passage in Philippians where Paul talks about people preaching from wrong motives etc, but that he still rejoices because Christ is being preached regardless.

However, I would assume this to mean that there were no strong doctrinal errors being taught. The same cannot be said for ministries such as Bentley's and others of similar ilk. I may be wrong, but I can imagine Paul having a very Galatian-esque letter lined up for Todd Bentley and co.

Are these guys preaching Christ in all His fullness? It doesn't look like it, and I see that as great cause for concern. To anyone reading this who isn't a Christian, Todd Bentley is not what Christianity is all about. Check the post below this one for some proper teaching, and avoid Todd Bentley.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Price is Right

Let me say this to begin with. I'm under no illusions about mans total depravity, and I fully agree that we should never put all of our hope in fellow man, because if we do then we will eventually be disappointed.

Now that I've got that out of the way, allow me to talk about the demi-God that is Charles Price. People may say that I tend to put Charles Price on a pedestal. I don't. I actually put him on top of about five pedestals stacked together, but that's neither here nor there.

It all started about two and a half years ago, when I stumbled across one of his sermons on UCB TV. For those of you who don't know, UCB TV is a Christian TV station. And unlike almost all of the other Christian TV stations out there, it's actually Christian in content. I'm serious. UCB TV actually has preachers that teach the Bible in context. Can you believe that? And what's more, UCB TV doesn't show sermon series' that have titles such as 'The Art of Good Debt Management' (another stellar effort from Creflo $) and 'How to Live a $uccessful Life' by one of the other nameless prosperity preachers who all seem to wear white suits, crocodile skin shoes, and walk to and fro across a ridiculously large stage without a Bible in sight.

To their credit, for the most part UCB TV presents fairly sound Biblical teaching, but unfortunately it seems to be quite alone in that department.

Anyway, by chance I managed to catch one of Pastor Charles Price's sermons one Thursday evening, around tea time. He was talking about prayer, calling his series 'Journey Into The Heart Of God'. I can't remember much from it, but one thing that stuck with me was the simple truth that God doesn't revolve around us, but it is we who revolve around God (you'll never guess what analogy he used).

I remember making some New Year's resolutions soon after, and that quote was included ( I might talk more about those resolutions in the future, since that time was a pivotal moment in my life).

So having soaked up that bit of truth, I continued to come back for more, and I was never left unsatisfied. Sermon after sermon I would be challenged, convicted, filled with hope, excited, refreshed etc etc. This was teaching like I had never heard before. This was the kind of teaching that fed the soul, the kind of teaching that made Christianity make sense.

To jump forward to present day, I'm still listening away, and still benefiting immensely. His website, which I have linked on the right, is beginning to take off in terms of free resources, and you can also watch dozens of his sermons on youtube (and believe me when I say I have!). My parents actually bought a couple of his series' on audio cd, and I've even transcribed one of his sermons myself (I found it that encouraging). And in case you're wondering, yes, my parents and I sit down most Sundays and watch his sermons together. Do you have a problem with that?

So what is it I like about him? His hair? Well actually now that I think of it I do kinda like his hair, but it doesn't just stop there. There's his eyes, his pale skin, his...OK that's enough of that.

First and foremost, he preaches the Word of God. His sermons start with a Bible reading, and he remains focussed on the Bible throughout, always putting things into context as well (think of Benny Hinn, and then think of the exact opposite to that).

He's not a verse-by-verse preacher, which also pleases me. Not that I have anything against verse-by-verse. Not at all. But I just prefer Charles Price's more topical approach. That said, it's not as if he's just plucking random topics out of the air, or just sticking to his favourites. For example, right now the series I'm reading is called 'Colossians: Staying On Track' where he has taken 10 topics to study from the book of Colossians. Topics such as The Supremacy of Christ, The Mystery: Christ in You, Continuing the Christian Life etc etc.

I also like the structue of his sermons. It's clear that a lof of thought and prayer goes into them. He usually has maybe 3 sections within a sermon, and he will generally make them easy to remember by using alliteration or other similar little word plays. So for example, his sermon on the Law is divided into The Context of the Law, The Content of the Law, and the Consequences of the Law. Clever, eh?

Also, his sermons will almost always have a Monday to Saturday application as well. They're not just given because that's what is supposed to happen on Sunday mornings. He's all about the real world faith, the kind of Christianity that extends far beyond the church walls.

He's all about the gospel too, and more often than not his sermons end with him encouraging people who don't believe to step into the relationship with God that he's been describing. And it doesn't sound forced or contrived. It just flows naturally.

I don't say any of this to raise up the name of Charles Price, and proclaim him as 'King of the Sermon'. He's one of many excellent preachers, and we would do well to listen to a variety of sources, thus giving balance to our diet.

And of course we must not forget (OK, I must not forget) that Charles Price is a human being, just like everyone else. He's also a sinner, just like everyone else. But God is using him in great ways, and so I just wanted to share how much God has taught me through the teachings of Charles Price. If you haven't yet heard him, then I strongly suggest you visit the website on the right hand side of this blog. It's well worth checking out (The series entitled 'Sermon on the Mount' would be a good place to start).

Any questions about his sermons, any comments about this piece, or any desire to exchange pictures of him over the internet, then feel free to contact me in whatever way you see fit...although may I suggest email for the pictures.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Irony...It Can Be a Funny Thing

For those of you who don't know, I have this friend. For anonymity's sake, let's call him Saul (He may or may not be the guy pictured above. I'm not saying). Anyway, while I was away in Greystones, Saul got a job as a factory/hospital cleaner. Basically, he cleans toilets, mops up vomit, and does other various types of cleaning related work. Not the nicest of jobs, but somebody has to do it, and right now that somebody is Saul, so fair play to him for stepping up to the plate, or toilet bowl, as the case may be..

Anyway, when I came back from Encounter we were just chatting away, and he tells me that he's reading this great book during his breaks from work. Actually, he tells me he's reading this great book while he's supposed to be working. I ask him what it's called, and he tells me he's reading Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper. I was like, "So let me get this straight - you're skiving off from your job as cleaner of poo and vomit in order to read a book called Don't Waste Your Life?" Oh the irony of it all.

I guess if anyone should be reading a book like that, it's probably the guy who spends a significantly large portion of the day in male bathrooms. Of course none of this is to make fun of Saul. In fact as soon as I pointed out the irony of his situation I told him that this is so going in my blog, and he just laughed it off.

And what's more, I'm hardly in a position to point the finger when it comes to the topic of wasting your life. Saul is at least earning money while he's wasting his! I, on the other hand, am jobless.

That said, you could do worse than Saul and I, ladies. We're single, we have "rugged good-looks" (not my words), and we'll keep you on your toes. Also, we're involved in our local church. If that last one doesn't get you then I don't know what will.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A New Dawn

Before I get cracking on the second half of my wildly successful One Tree Hill recap [?], I'm going to fill you in on the latest development in my topsy turvy, thrill-a-minute world.

My sister has left town for a few weeks (with her family, just in case you think there's domestic trouble or something), so she gave me the key to her crib and told me to go nuts. In fact her exact words were 'Gerry, enjoy my house' (ala Liar, Liar, but you got that, right?).

I see this as a good chance to get my feet wet in terms of living on my own (although given my lifestyle, I'll probably have people crashing here like every night, but whatever). I'll be ordering my own me...I mean cooking my own meals, washing clothes, doing dishes, buying groceries, tidying up, hoovering. Basically, I'm going to be a woman for the next 3 weeks. Oooh, burn!

No I didn't mean that. Those are as much guy things as they are girl things. I just suck at them, which is why I see this as a good opportunity to improve on these grossly underdeveloped skills of mine.

In a nutshell, once I become domesticated, I'll be the complete man. So ladies, form an orderly queue, because this guy is about to become hot, domesticated property.

My plan for today is to get settled in, i.e. scatter my clothes all around the bedroom and stock the fridge with Coke. Some light shopping will need to be done, because there is no orange juice in this house and Declan can't survive unless he's able to open the fridge, take out a carton of orange juice and just chug away to his heart's content. (Notice the absence of a cup in the above description. Cups both slow down the process and create extra wash-up, so I will avoid them at all costs, even the health of my own family).

I've already set up the bed I'll be sleeping in, which I'm quite proud of. One of my pet peeves is putting covers on duvets and basically everything else that preparing a bed entails. I just feel like it takes me a lot longer than it should, and also I usually do it at night time when I'm just about to go to sleep, so really the last thing I want to do at that point is work, which is what it feels like to me.

However, a certain Jugen showed me a better way of doing things while we were temporary roommates in The Y. The trick, he told me, is to have your duvet cover inside out and then work from there. Granted Jurgen tried to demonsrate this approach in Greystones and failed miserably, meaning we both slept in our bunkbed without any form of bed clothing apart from a pillow cushion (even rookies like myself can handle pillow cushions with relative ease).

But despite Jurgen's demonstration being a tiny bit pathetic, I could see where he was coming from in some small way. Anyway, to cut a pointless story short I tried it out just now and it worked a treat. So thank you Jurgen. Every time I think I have you pegged you never cease to amaze me. And if anyone else has any tips with regards any of this stuff then please comment away or send me a facebook message or something. I'm scared, and I need help.

Well I best be off. I have some shopping to do and a One Tree Hill recap that needs to be posted before you guys start going mental. I'll try and keep you updated on anything interesting I discover from living alone over the next few weeks, so stay tuned.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

One Tree Hill

Here's half of a recap I just wrote for an episode of One Tree Hill. You may enjoy it, or you may have no interest. The other half will be up soon, so I don't want dozens of you people leaving me comments demanding to see it now. Be patient, OK?

Anyway, here's the link to the recap:

One Tree Hill - An Expose

Enjoy...and feel free to comment on this or anything else that you've read.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kelly Snubs F365

Let's play a game. I'm going to tell you something about myself, and you have to decide if it makes me weird or not. OK, here we go.

I go to the same football website - - EVERY DAY, even though there are no football games being played at the moment, nor will there be any games of note happening until about 3 weeks from now. Go on, you think I'm weird, don't you? Just say it.

But aside from thinking less of me, you may also be wondering why? Why would anyone go to the same football website EVERY DAY (and several times a day at that) when there is apparently nothing happening in the world of football? THAT...would be a very valid question. The answer is not so valid I'm afraid.

I do it because I want to see which players are moving where. More accurately, I do it because I want to see which players are 'reportedly' moving where. You see most of the stuff I read isn't actually true at all, or never comes to fruition.

For example, at the moment there is talk of Riki Kaka moving from AC Milan to Chelsea for an astronomical sum of money. Now this of course will most likely never happen (largely due to the fact that its probably all lies, but if by chance it isn't it, I just can't see Kaka leaving Milan for a club so seedy and unholy as Chelsea), but that doesn't stop me from reading all about it, and worse, getting excited about it.

The question you might be asking, and the question which I probably need to ask myself, is why this information excites me? Even if Kaka really is moving to Chelsea for gillions of pounds, what difference does that make to my life now? I mean do I really need to constantly keep myself updated on these goings on? Can't I just wait until the season actually starts? At least then when Chelsea walk out onto the field I can be like 'Oh cool. There's Kaka. What a pleasant surprise'. Or when Man United walk out onto the field I can say 'Oh look. Ronaldo is still there. What a plonker'.

As David Mitchell wrote concerning this confusing infatuation with football transfers, "Are other sports so hated and inadequate that their actual matches are considered less interesting than football's behind-the-scenes admin?"

That's it in a nutshell really - I'm basically using up large chunks of my time to keep track of employee's contracts. Sounds a bit silly when you think of it like that, doesn't it?

Now don't get me wrong, I love football...clearly. I love playing it, and I love watching it. (Not all of it mind. I watch Champions League, Arsenal matches, and any 'Big Four' clash.) I even love writing about it, so don't be surprised if the topic of football appears again someday.

However, there comes a time when you have to draw a line in the sand. A time when you have to decide what is sane, and what is insane; what is rational, and what is irrational; what is good for you, and what is destroying your life, one grossly misleading transfer gossip column at a time.

That time is now my friends. As Mitchell asked, 'what's next? Reports on clubs' heating bills?' The madness must end. Football365 must no longer be my most frequented site. Not now. Not in the middle of summer.

I think when God talked about broken cisterns in Jeremiah, He had transfer gossip columns at the forefront of His mind...or at least the Hebrew equivalent anyway. (I'll let your mind wander as to what that might have been. Maybe rumours about who's going to replace Moses as head of the Israelites - "The Hebrew Times has just learned that the Israelites have made a late swoop for young Jewish sensation Joshua, who they see as the ideal replacement for long time servant Moses. Joshua, who had previously snubbed a lucrative offer from arch rivals The Amalakites because of their unwillingness to break their rigid wage structure to secure his services, is set to put sharp object to stone tablet in the coming days. Once some minor details like how many camels and wives he receives as a sign-on bonus are sorted out, then the deal will go through.")

But never fear. Change is afoot. From now on, I shall be drawing my water from the fountain of living waters, the fountain that never stops flowing, the fountain that is always there when you need it. And that fountain is Facebook. I mean I have the Daily Bible Verse application on my profile page, and access to instant message conversations with powerful men of God such as Luke Johnson, Jurgen Karwig and Keith Adams at my finger tips. What more spiritual food does a man need?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Not Creed, But Christ?

I read That Incredible Christian by A.W. Tozer a few months ago, and while all of the (short) chapters are well worth a read, the chapter entitled 'How Important is Creed?' has always stuck with me. I mention this because I got caught up in a little conversation yesterday about doctrine and knowledge and all that intellectual stuff, and this chapter came straight to mind.

In it, Tozer highlights what was then (and probably still is) the cry of many Christians - Not creed, but Christ. Basically, he says this cry ushers us to forget about the nitty gritty of doctrine and go straight to Jesus. Sounds good, doesn't it? In fact, as Tozer says, this expression appears to honour our Lord more perfectly by focusing all of our attention on Him, and not upon 'mere words'.

However, he goes on to say that this kind of thinking is not the right kind of thinking. In fact, it's not really thinking at all. According to Tozer,

Love must be intelligent and informed if it is to have any permanent meaning.

I have to say, I agree with this wholeheartedly. I think too often as Christians we rely on our feelings in order to gauge how spiritually healthy we are. We love God when we have that warm, tingly feeling inside, and we are far from God when we feel down and depressed. I mean think of the dangers of this kind of behaviour in earthly relationships. Relying on 'feelings' for someone here on earth will only get you so far. You may set your eyes on a beautiful woman and have all these feelings rush through your body at the speed of light. She may then say or do something kind or loving to you, which causes even more excitement to well up within. However, if that's as far as things go, then could you ever say you truly love her? Of course not, because you don't actually know this person. You don't know who she is, you don't know what she stands for, you don't know how she treats people, you don't know what she values. Now of course she might be perfect with regards all these things, but if you don't get to know her and thus become informed of her qualities, then any kind of love you claim to have for her will be superficial, and it may not last, because feelings fade.

In the same way, we can go through life experiencing various 'buzzes' that we get from Jesus, but never fully understanding who He is, what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. And as a consequence, how can we ever really worship what we do not know? As Tozer says,

We must worship in truth as well as spirit; and truth can be stated and when it is stated it becomes creed.

Of course a deeper intellectual knowledge of who Jesus is and what He did is not the goal of the gospel. You can know all the right things about Jesus and tick all of the right boxes, but never know His life inside of you. Faith in Jesus Christ is the heart of the Christian life no doubt, but a maturing knowledge of Jesus Christ must follow suit.

The kind of knowledge I'm referring to isn't simply the knowledge that will help you pass a test in Theology 101. It's the kind of knowledge that brings about transformation by the renewing of your mind. How can we live like Jesus lived unless we know what it is He stands for and what it is He values? It's not a case of ZAP! and then suddenly you just walk around like a zombie doing good things. We must read the Bible for ourselves and allow the Holy Spirit to write the truths it contains within our hearts. Truths like who Jesus is, what He has done, how He wants us to live. The sermons we hear on Sunday must challenge us to think differently to the rest of the world. We should be engaging in conversations where iron begins to sharpen iron.

All of these things speak to both our intellect and our hearts. I think that too often we as Christians view the mind as something worldly and the heart as something godly, so therefore we think we need to shut off our minds and just let the Spirit stir in our hearts. This is not what Scripture teaches however. We are to love God with our minds, as well as every other facet of our being (Matt. 22:37).

If all you have are feelings of love for Christ without any sound foundation, then how can you ever be an effective evangelist with lasting fruit? The apostle Paul didn't appeal to King Agrippa on the basis of how Jesus made him feel. He appealed to King Agrippa by proclaiming the truth about Jesus, in order that he would believe and 'become also as I am' (Acts 26).

Because when we truly believe everything Paul believed, when we join ourselves to Christ through faith in Him, when we allow ourselves to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, when we are so consumed with the knowledge of Jesus Christ, then we will be a people who worship in spirit and truth, and a people ready to lead others to do the same.

The effort to be practicing Christians without knowing what Christianity is about must always fail. The true Christian should be, indeed must be, a theologian. He must know at least something of the wealth of truth revealed in the Holy Scriptures. And he must know it with sufficient clarity to state it and to defend his statement. - A.W. Tozer

A Change of Pace

I might do a proper entry later but for now, here's something completely different.

1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie

Opening Credits:
Green Eyes - Coldplay

Waking Up:
Moving Pictures, Silent Films - Great Lake Swimmers

First day at High School:
I Remember Music - Rocky Votolato

Falling in Love:
Mary Of Silence - Mazzy Star

Fight Song:
Lazy - Mark Kozelek

Breaking Up:
Buddy Holly - Weezer

How Life Can Turn - The Appleseed Cast

King or Cripple - Delirious?

Mental Breakdown:
The Past And Pending - The Shins

Sleepwalk - The Shadows

Sliver - Nirvana

Getting Back Together:
Fly - Nick Drake

Monsters - Band Of Horses

Birth of Child:
Good Deeds - Owen

Final Battle:
Down In A Hole - Alice In Chains

Death Scene:
Good Morning, Providence - The Gloria Record

Funeral Song:
A Praise Chorus - Jimmy Eat World

End Credits:
16 Military Wives - The Decemberists

1. One movie that made you laugh

Liar, Liar

2. One movie that made you cry

Cast Away

3. One movie you loved when you were a child

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (Cartoon Version)

4. One movie you’ve seen more than once

The Rock

5. One movie you loved, but were embarrassed to admit it

Shall We Dance? (although 'love' is such a strong word...)

6. One movie you hated

Spiderman 3

7. One movie that scared you

No One Could Protect Her

8. One movie that bored you

Into The Wild

9. One movie that made you happy

Jerry Maguire

10. One movie that made you miserable

Fool's Gold

11. One movie you weren’t brave enough to see

The Matrix Revolutions (With 'Reloaded' being so bad I could never bring myself to see the third installment)

12. One movie character you’ve fallen in love with

Pocahontas...There, I said it.

13. The last movie you saw

Gone Baby Gone

14. The next movie you hope to see

The Dark Knight

Monday, July 21, 2008

Baptism of Fire

Over the weekend I made one of my frequent visits to my long lost brother in Dublin. Three times in as many years is considered frequent, right? OK well let's not bicker and argue over who hasn't visited who. The point is, I was there last weekend and that's all that matters.

More to the point, Dave invited me to come along to what can now be considered his home church - Grosvenor Road Baptist Church. I may be wrong about this, but I'm going to go ahead and say that this would be my first time to step inside the walls of a full-on, leave-your-gifts-of-the-Holy-Spirit-outside-the-door, Baptist Church. However, as nervous as I was about facing into a Sunday morning without being able to utilise my mad prophetic skillz, I decided to accept the invitation. I've been to quite a few different churches over the summer, so I wanted to keep up that trend.

Aesthetically speaking, Grosvenor (to cut a long title short) is a very pretty church. You really feel like you've stepped into a House of God once you're inside. It has got a lot of classic, old school church type things, chief of which being a massive pipe organ. But then you also have a drum kit on stage [?]. And what's more, there are no pews, but you sit your good self down on actual cushioned chairs - a necessary component to any sanctified place of worship in my opinion.

However, I'm no New Testament scholar, but I'm inclined to think that how pretty a church looks or what kind of seating it provides are not the criteria by which a church is considered healthy or not. So what of the actual service?

There were some announcements first of all, which I think works much better than a 15 minute interruption between worship music and teaching (yes, I'm looking at you Galway Christian Fellowship). As for the worship music itself, it was a little, I don't know, Songs of Praise-ish for my tastes. But obviously you're never going to suit everyone so there's not much you can do about that. Just like with other similar styled churches, I found it hard to really connect with the songs, but that's just my own personal opinion.

To be honest I didn't actually know many of the songs, which doesn't really help. We did sing that song that goes 'Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise. The city of our God....', which I know all too well from my Sunday mornings at GCF. I think the biggest difference between our respective versions was the actions, which I guess the people at Grosvenor Road just don't know.

For example, when the songs goes 'And Lord we want to life your name on high...', everyone in the congregation is supposed to close their eyes and slowly raise their hands to an elevated position, thus symbolically lifting the Lord's name on high. The next action is optional, and really only for truly sanctified people to take part in, but when the song goes 'We bow down on our knees...' that's exactly what you do. It works best if you're in the front row or by the edge, where you have sufficient space to perform said action. Again, you do it slowly and with eyes closed (if possible). And if you're really in the zone, you move into the raising of arms action while maintaining your kneeling position on the floor. I think you have to be 30 years a Christian before engaging in that level of symbolism though, so for now it's best to just stick with the basics.

As I said, Grosvenor Church have obviously never been taught these actions, which is a shame, because if I know Grosvenor Road Baptist Church like I think I do, they'd really enjoy that kind of thing.

Moving along, there were times of short prayer (lead very well by a guy whose name escapes me), a Bible reading (in fact two very long Bible readings. I'm talking 50 verses in total) and then we had the sermon.

The sermon itself was not given by the much-hyped John Samuel, which was a little disappointing. However, Sean Martin did a very fine job in his place. He was speaking on Isaiah chapter 1, which is no easy chapter to speak about.

His layout was clear and concise, which made it easy to follow and easy to remember. He used the analogy of a divine courtroom, and had each key word start with 'r' - Rebellious, Repent, Retribution, Reconciliation. That kind of thing helps me remember the content of a sermon to no end, so I'm always appreciative when someone puts in the time to do it (where possible).

Over all, he stuck rigidly to the Scriptures. And while the content was relatively basic, it's vitally important that we as Christians don't forget who we were and what we came from - enemies of God and children of wrath; 'rebels' as Sean Martin said. We can't even come close to appreciating the cross without a healthy understanding of these things.

There was one awkward/funny moment when he talked about the show Pimp My Ride in relation to how God completely transforms us. I actually thought the old women in front of us were going to collapse on the ground after hearing the word 'pimp' uttered in their beloved, sacred church. Thankfully they didn't, but some faint gasps were to be heard I'm sure. Needless to say, this wasn't the cleverest of analogies to use in, well, any church that isn't Emergent (so God is going to 'pimp' me, eh?) but it didn't detract from the over all content one bit.

After the sermon we broke bread and sang 'Before the Throne Of God Above', which was very fitting and quite moving given what we had just heard prior to it.

In summary, while there were certain things that didn't suit my particular tastes, there were a lot of positives to be taken from Grosvenor Road Baptist Church, and I'm not just saying that because I know people who go there. Again this was only a once off Sunday, so you can't read too much into it. But if the teaching of the Word is as powerful every Sunday as it was yesterday (and If I'm to believe my brother then it certainly is), Grosvenor Road Baptist Church is serving the community very well indeed.

All they need to do is learn a few of those actions I mentioned earlier and they'll be sorted.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


For some reason I thought it would be cool to do a post from Greystones, so here it is. After all, as I just told my dear friend Jurgen, if I were to move anywhere outside of Galway and yet remain in Ireland, Greystones just might be at the top of my wishlist. But Dad and Mam, if you're reading this, don't get any ideas. I plan on living at home for a very long time, so there's no cause for celebration and rejoicing just yet. No that's not true. I've given myself a rigid deadline, so I can say with full confidence that I will be moved out of home not a day later than 15 years from now...and that's the absolute maximum figure. Who knows? If I find that someone special or just decide to settle for whoever will take me, then that figure could be reduced to 12 years, or maybe even less. I aim high, don't I?

OK all of this nonsense aside, it's good to be back in Greystones, and more to the point, it's good to be back with friends again. Sure I have friend in Galway (that's you Paul, just in case you think there's someone else), so it's been sweet to be back there and doing some long overdue hanging out. But it's also good to reunite with these newer friends, especially since I may not see some of them for a long time, or maybe even ever again (for more on that, see my first post).

There are a lot of things I enjoyed about Encounter - Greystones itself, the Sonship Course, all the stuff we did on O-teams - but the one thing that stands head and shoulders above everything else for me is the fellowship (I really wanted to use a different word to 'fellowship', but I just didn't have the heart).

Being from the West of Ireland tends to marginalize you when it it comes to having Christian community. Don't get me wrong - we have some smashing people in Galway, and if you ever visit I'll be sure to introduce you to them. But there is still something lacking, especially during the summer when all the students disappear. So going to Encounter was my way of trying to just get out there and meet new people. I didn't have any prerequisites for these people - they didn't have to be interesting, funny, intelligent - which was fortunate considering the group I was stuck with at The Y.

Ah no I'm just kidding around. I met some of the most interesting, funny and intelligent people I've ever met in these last few weeks. (I'll be posting a list of names over the coming days, so well done if you made it, and better luck next time if not.) Just being able to have fun and listen to other peoples stories and experience the kindness of (at one point) strangers was a real eye opener to me. God used every single one of the people at Encounter in some way or another to demonstrate some of Himself to me, and none of it will soon be forgotten.

So yeah, this is just a general thank you to any of you who may be reading this. Maybe you don't feel very Christ-like, or maybe you do. I don't know. But throughout my time at Encounter you were a mini-Christ to me (which is what the term 'Christian' actually means), be it in small or large ways, and I'm so thankful to God for using you as only He can.

By the way, there's no one I know in the picture of the Happy Pear, just in case you've spent the last 5 minutes trying to figure out who those people are. I just googled 'greystones happy pear' and this is what I got. I do wish I knew that guy on the left though. He seems pretty cool.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

All Aboard

If you haven't seen 3:10 to Yuma then may I make a gentle suggestion to stop reading this blog and go rent 3:10 to Yuma immediately. You won't regret it. In fact one could make a strong case that if you stop reading this blog and do anything else you won't regret it, but let's not hurt feeling here. Anyway, if you have seen the movie in question, then by all means continue reading.

I'll admit right off the bat that I know very little about Westerns. I haven't watched many, with a few notable exceptions being classics such as Unforgiven with Clint Eastwood, Dances With Wolves with Kevin Costner, and Wild Wild West with Will Smith. In looking at the top 50 Westerns on IMDB, Unforgiven and Dances With Wolves are the only two I've seen in their entirety. So my point is, I don't exactly know what makes for a good Western or a bad Western.

However, I do know what makes for a good movie and a bad movie. For example, I know that Wild Wild West is not a good movie, and that The Godfather is a good movie. (See, I told you I knew.) And as for 3:10 to Yuma, I happen to think it's one of the best movies since the turn of the century, and here is why...

Characters. That is why I watch movies. Yes, I enjoy movies with lots of explosions; yes I enjoy movies that are just plain dumb (the two tend to overlap). But when it comes to my favourite movies, I'm all about the characters, baby. That is why Heat is possibly my favourite movie of all time. Yes it has got action and tension and about 30 minutes of non-stop gun-firing madness, but at the heart of it all are two extremely interesting and intense characters. Much like 3:10 to Yuma.

On one side of the law you have Dan Evans (Christian Bale), and on the other you have Ben Wade (Russell Crowe). Initially, I was much more drawn to Wade, because he's undoubtedly the 'cooler' of the two. I mean he's the outlaw, the expert gun-slinger, the ruthless boss of a deadly posse. Dan, on the other hand, is a rancher. A one-legged rancher at that. Is there anything more uncool than a rancher who doesn't have the use of both his legs?

Not according to Dan's son William, anyway. He looks at his 'Pa' with a certain disdain and almost embarrassment, while he's in awe of the great Ben Wade. However, as the movie progresses, we (like William) start to see things a little differently.

If you take things a little deeper, this movie gives us an insight into what society thinks is 'cool', and what is actually cool (for want of a better word). Like I said, initially it was Russell Crowe's Ben Wade that I was drawn too. I mean he hooked up with a woman simply by calling her skinny. What more can you ask from a man? He demonstrated in spades all of the things that we as "surface" people latch on to so easily - charm, wit, confidence - but at the expense of what is deeper. As The Wolf once said "Just because you are a character, that doesn't mean you have character". Never a truer word spoken by a guy who helps to clean up dead bodies for a living.

While Ben Wade was a character, it was Dan that had all the character, and I think this made Ben Wade a little jealous, but also intrigued and respectful. Dan obviously didn't have to escort Wade to the train, but he did it anyway. We might believe that he only did it for the money, but by films end that is not the full story. Dan wanted to bring a criminal to justice. He didn't want someone as dangerous as Wade wandering the streets, or deserts or whatever.

He also did it for his son. He knew the way his eldest boy looked at him, and he wanted to prove to the kid that he wasn't a complete failure. While Dan was by no means the perfect man, his innate sense of integrity eventually won over Ben Wade, and more poignantly, his own son. William went from resenting everything his father stood for to having the utmost respect for him, which was really quite the transformation. And what's more, it was a plausible transformation. A transformation that made sense.

And as for Ben Wade...well, I think the end of the movie speaks for itself.

There are other little details I could go into, but I won't. I think on a personal level, this film gave me clearer sense of what it means to be a real man, as cheesy as that sounds. Because of the age we live in, I'm lead to believe that Ben Wade is the bar and it is my duty to try and reach it. He is the yardstick by which all men are measured, and if you don't quite make it, then I'm afraid you're just not cool and you'll have to try harder. Maybe gather some new pick up lines or something.

That whole notion is a myth however - a myth that this film dispenses with. The more we strive to be like Dan Evans, the better the men we become, and the more positive influence we have on society. And of course since I'm a Christian, the same characteristics that draw me to Dan are found in their completeness in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is a person of integrity, justice, and so forth. How often it is that we ignore these things and settle for something and someone so much less.

So yeah, if you have already seen 3:10 to Yuma then watch it again, perhaps with new eyes. If you haven't, then rectify the situation immediately.

Monday, July 14, 2008


A few months ago when I had a lot of time on my hands (OK, I still have a lot of time on my hands, as if there was any doubt) I decided to do some research into The Emergent Church, and more specifically, the geeky face of the Emergent Church - Rob Bell (see above). What followed was a mini series of recaps/reviews/commentaries on the NOOMA DVD franchise.

I could only watch the ones that were streamed on Youtube (since I wasn't willing to cough up the necessary cash to do otherwise), so in all I've recapped/reviewed/commented on NOOMA's 1, 2, 5 and 6.

The style of my pieces ended up being a lot more relaxed than I had first intended. Initially I was determined to write a very serious collection of commentaries that gave an unbiased, biblically based viewpoint on Bell's teachings. What followed was actually a collection of biased, biblically unsound recaps that did nothing but satisfy my own self indulgence.

OK that last part is untrue...for the most part. These reviews quickly morphed into recaps of what Bell said and done throughout the NOOMA, and comments on various things that struck me. Some of the things are quite serious in nature, and some are just funny little things that came to my mind as I watched with my admittedly cynical hat on. With the more serious issues I tried to remain as close to the Bible as I could, and to keep my personal preferences far away. The silly remarks I make throughout the reviews were added to try and keep things light hearted and to put a bit of 'Dec' into the writing. Some of them worked, some of them didn't, but that's life.

Anyway, without further delay, here are the 4 pieces in question, with links to the actual NOOMA I wrote about. There's a lot of words to sift through (somewhere in the region of 12,000 I think) but I'd really appreciate for people to read them and let me know what they think either by comments or emails or facebook or whatever.

In no way am I standing over this work claiming all of what I've said is spot on. Far from that in fact. There will undoubtedly be several mistakes or things that I've said which were just phrased awfully, or times when I made fun of Rob Bell just because. But whether you're a Rob Bell fan or not I hope you can keep an open mind, just like I have (n't).

Anyway, without further further delay, here they are:

NOOMA 1 - Rain

NOOMA 1 Recap

NOOMA 2 - Flame

NOOMA 2 - Recap

NOOMA 5 - Noise

NOOMA 5 - Recap

NOOMA 6 - Kickball

NOOMA 6 - Recap

(I can't find the Youtube link, but since my recaps are so comprehensive and accurate you don't really need it [?])

So that's it. Let me know what you think and if I should do some more or quit while I'm behind.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Fish Out of Water

On the very first Sunday of our O-team stint in Ringsend, we decided to go to church. We were pretty holy like that. After much deliberating -- which included John ruling out St Stevens due to the boisterous front rows and me ruling out ORCE because, you know, we're just not cool enough -- Willard Presbyterian it was.

I'm not 100% certain, but I think this may have been my first time in a Presbyterian church. Anyway, whether it was or not is irrelevant, just like Willard Pres. Ooh, burn! OK that may be an over the top criticism, but its partially true no doubt. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing though. 'Relevant' churches can be dangerous thing, what with watered down gospel messages and nifty electronic gadgets either perverting or distracting people from the truth. So being perceived as irrelevant can actually mean that you're not compromising just to hold mass appeal, which is a very good thing. But that said, all you have to do is look at the average age of the congregation to see that it's not exactly the most appealing church for anyone, say, under the age of 65.

Don't get me wrong now. The content wasn't bad or unsound. We sang some hymns, there was some solid praying, the sermon I guess I just found the whole thing lacking in spiritual life. Even the use of a harmonica during worship couldn't inject that extra something, and that's saying a lot. Of course God was there no doubt, inhabiting the praises of His people. I just found it hard to connect with Him during my time there, because of my unfamiliarity with the way things were done, and my discomfort in such a rigid setting.

Of course while this kind of service is clearly not my cup of tea, there are obviously people out there who enjoy it and benefit from it, which is great. They may be mostly old people, but they're people nonetheless. In fact even some of our O-team members thought it was grand (you know who you are!). I guess I just didn't see it on that particular Sunday.

As for the sermon, it was a little shallow for my liking. As Ryan and I commented, that kind of preaching couldn't take more than half an hour to prepare. Of course this was only one sermon, so I'm not going to drag Rev. John Plate through the mud. Apart from being a 'nice man', there was something likable about him, while his prayers were clearly those of a man who knows God. But for me, his sermon was void of real incite, and more importantly, rich biblical exposition.

That's not to say it wasn't Bible based. He took Ecclesiastes 5 and connected it with Hebrews 10, which obviously worked well. I guess I just felt there was more to be said than what was said. He did say the word 'encounter' a few times though, which I think made a few people on our team think fondly of the message. Well, maybe not, but that's my theory and I'm sticking with it. And yes, I did fall asleep during one of several prayer times, but in my defence I was very tired.

So over all, Willard Presbyterian is a horrible excuse for a church and bad things will happen to he who goes there. OK that's not true at all. Willard Pres serves a purpose within the Body of Christ. I had problems with it -- mostly just personal preference issues (as I will have with every church I attend) -- but that's the nature of Church. To paraphrase Phillip Yancy, the very failings of the church prove its doctrine.

The comforting thing for me was to know and experience that my home church, Galway Christian Fellowship, is not alone in it's struggle. We visited 3 churches in total in the Dublin area and each of them were not without their difficulties. But that's OK. Not that we just settle for less, but that we strive towards something better, acknowledging our failings and our utter dependance on Christ, the Head of all these imperfect churches, who is in the business of making them perfect and making them one.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Let's Just See How Long This Lasts...

Will anyone read this? Possibly not, but if I can even change the life of just one person through the content of this blog then....bah, who am I kidding? This blog will most likely become a tool which I shall use to make fun of the people I know and complain about the things I don't like. For now though I'm going into this with the best of intentions. You know, posts about Bible passages that I read, comments on sermons (Charles Price sermons to be more accurate), encouraging stories from life, and general reflections on all that I experience in the weird and wonderful world of the living.

However, I must warn you - don't become too attached to this blog. I know, I know - I'm asking for the impossible here, but I just don't want to see hundreds and thousands of people getting agitated and upset over the fact that "he's not updating it like he used to." With these things (that is, anything) I tend to start off strong and then quickly fade away. It's all part of the whole me being lazy thing that I've got going on. I'm not condoning it, mind; just stating it for those who may not know.

Anyway, to the business end of this entry. I'm back from Encounter, which was a 4 week Christian program filled with lectures, outreach, and chippers. Being back isn't nearly as strange as I thought it would be, which is both good and bad. Good in that I'm not horribly depressed and wishing I was back in Greystones again. Bad in that I seem to be fitting back into my normal life a little too easily. With that said though, my last few days have consisted of me talking about Encounter, thinking about Encounter, keeping in contact with people from Encounter and posting pictures from Encounter. Needless to say, that's not exactly my normal life, so the reality of Encounter's end probably hasn't fully hit me yet.

There is still a sadness attached to it all of course, even if it hasn't fully sunk in. I think what I find the hardest is that I met and befriended people that I may not even see again...ever. You may think that only applies to Americans, but for me it can just as easily apply to us Irish too. Of course it's not like I don't have a choice in the matter. I mean if I wanted I could fly over to the East Coast no sooner than August and see everyone again. That's right people - if I fly over to America you will be forced to spend time with me, whether you want to or not. In fact my boy Rye-Rye has almost arranged the whole thing so all I have to do is say the word. And then it's not like a trip to Dublin to catch up with people is the hardest of things, but all you have to do is ask my brother how many times I've visited him in Dublin to know how big a deal such a small trip is for me.

That said, I could always just make a guest appearance at DPC next week and see everyone again, but then the content of this blog will just apply after that cameo. Anyway, I think the conclusion that's coming to my mind as I type is that I need to get better at keeping in contact with people and making an effort to continue relationships. Whether that means plane journeys (just like B.A., I also hate flying) to the States, train journeys to Dublin or automobile journeys to...err...somewhere else, each of these areas needs improvement, lest Encounter and the people I met there become another distant memory in the years to come.

Anyway, apparently my mother needs me, which means one of three things - 1) She doesn't need me at all but she just wants me to get off the computer and "do something constructive". 2) My clothes need to be hung out to dry or 3) She needs me to help move something that she could clearly move without my help. (That last one is the one that gets to me the most.)

Okay well that's all for now. Will there be a second entry? I'd like to think so, but we'll see. I'll also have to see about adding some glamour to this blog - like pictures, videos etc. All in good time my friends.