Thoughts on Kingdom, Church, and Grace from an American living in Hong Kong

Friday, May 22, 2009

Saw Star Trek Last Weekend

Well, I saw Star Trek in China last weekend and …what can I say…WOW! First, I have to add that the normal travel time into downtown Qingdao is normally 1 ½ - 2 hours. Because of Friday night traffic and missing a ferry, it took us 3HOURS to reach the movie theater. When we arrived though, all became well though. For me, Star Trek has always been a group activity so I invited the boarding students in our charge as well as the school’s principal and family.

Wow, what can I say!

J.J. Abrams did what few thought were possible. He applied a couple defibrillator pads, motioned his detractors to stand back and yelled, “Clear!” as he shot about 20,000 volts into a tired, worn out franchise. And 20,000 volts is what you feel from the first seconds of the movie. Gone are the preachy utopian sermons and the annoying reminders that mankind has somehow “evolved” beyond the primitive nature found in the 20th Century. This Star Trek is gritty, faced paced, and despite being set primarily in space, remains refreshingly “earthy.” You know when the beautiful Lt. Uhura is first introduced ordering some “Bud Lights” from a bartender, this isn’t going to be your father’s Star Trek.

The story itself was the weakest element of the film. An uneven plot revolves around a distraught Romulan (Eric Bana) who vows revenge on Mr. Spock and the Federation after his world and family are destroyed. Why exactly he holds these parties guilty is never fully explored but it does allow Bana to yell and grunt a lot.

However it’s the seeing of the characters we have come to know and love, reincarnated for a new generation, that is the real element that makes Star Trek shine. Each character seems to channel the actors that made their character an icon, without becoming a parody themselves.

Chris Pine becomes the young James T. Kirk and navigates the thin line needed to embody the future captain of the Enterprise…without becoming William Shatner. Zachary Quinto fills the boots of Mr. Spock with a likeness of Leonard Nimoy that bordered on scary. Tammy and I’s favorite character though was Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy played by Karl Urban. He was the cranky, yet loyal friend who breathed real fun into the ensemble cast.

The Starship Enterprise, under J.J. Abrams expert hand, was a feast for the fan’s eye. He invoked the 60’s motif of the TV series while re-imagining it for the 2000’s audience. The colors, sounds, and heck, over all feel gave me goose bumps on a number of occasions. And all though the phrase, “Where no man has gone before”, was replaced by the boringly neutered, “Where no one has gone before, it was nice to see the mini-skirts and go-go boots of the female crew members were not sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.

The cherry on the top of this delicious sundae was the inclusion of Leonard Nimoy as the elder Mr. Spock who returns from the future to help the Enterprise crew. At various times in the past there has been a passing of the baton from the previous generation to the new. In both 1991’s Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country and 1994’s Generations, there was a farewell to the old guard yet deep down, we all knew they would return at some point in some capacity. When I saw the aged Nimoy give the Vulcan hand salute in this newest film, I thought, “This truly is the end.” With some of the original cast members having passed on, and the remaining becoming frightfully old, I sadly realized I would be seeing this generation of my beloved characters for the very last time. But the sendoff given by J.J. Abrams film couldn’t have been more respectful…or more exciting.

Final Verdict: A - This Star Trek goes where no other Star Trek has gone before.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pelosi & The CIA

Last month I wrote in a blog that U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi needed to be very careful with her talk of a "truth commission" in regards to the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" employed by our intelligence gathering agencies. I wrote:

"Many Democratic members of congress knew full well about the policies being implemented so when Speaker Nancy Polosi starts stating that she supports a "Truth Commission" to investigate Bush era policies, she better be ready to explain as George Will says, "how a 10 year veteran of the House Intelligence Committee is shocked and surprised about what was going on."

The Speaker just didn't heed my advice and now she is knee deep in controversy surrounding an intelligence briefing which occured in the fall of 2002. The Speaker said that the CIA "lied" about telling her that such enhanced techniques (like waterboarding) were being used to gather intelligence. CIA Director Leon Panetta (who is a Democrat and former collegue of Pelosi) offered her an "out" by suggesting that the CIA records show that the briefing occured but it is ultimately for congress to decide the facts.

Pelosi then switches her guns onto the Bush Administration and says:

"We all share great respect for the dedicated men and women of the intelligence community who are deeply commited to the safety and security of the American people. My criticism of the manner in which the Bush administration did not properly inform congress is separate from my respect for those in the intelligence community who work to keep our country safe"

Are you kidding me??? First she calls the CIA liars and then when it blows up in her face she say, "No, No, actually I like you guys...its the Bush Administration...its all their fault isn't it?"

Everyone warned Pelosi not to stir this up because she was a culpable as anyone. The dilemma she faced though is that there are those out there that want to see George Bush and the gang punished and have been pressuring those with the ability to do so to press the issue.

Personally, I'm just enjoying watching a Democrat in the hot seat for a while.

A little Update

Hi all,

Sorry for the delay in posts but as of 5 days ago, the country where I currently reside has censored Google Blogger. Two months ago said country shut down Youtube which limited some of the fun things I can add to the posts...and now this.

It is very frustrating not being able to access your own blog. I am currently using a proxy server to submit this post but do not have the option to post any pictures or media. My brother is going to make some posts on my behalf so I can include some pics.

I'm hoping this is a short term measure in response to a certain book being published so close to the 20th anniversary of a certain event. If you don't know what I'm talking about, thats OK, you probably don't follow the politics of the country I am living in :)

Anyhow...we'll see how this "text only" post looks...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More Star Trek

Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'

Yes, I know after a stream of postings that have been umm..on the lighter side, you have all been anxiously awaiting the latest entry loaded with cerebral delicacies.

Sorry, but you'll have to wait a bit longer...I've been busy.

Until then, here is a REALLY funny video from "The Onion" for all you Star Trek fans out there.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Star Trek

I can't believe Star Trek is coming out today in the States and I'm not there to see it. I've been reading the news and watching some of the reaction clips on CNN and am SO happy that it has been positively received. Such strong response signals a successful re-birth of a franchise that was, frankly, intertwined with my family and friends growing up.

Nearly every Saturday and Sunday evening in the 1970's Hackman household found my brothers and I (and quite often Mom & Dad) watching the crew of the Enterprise exploring strange, new, worlds. My geekness extended to:

* making lego phasers which were displayed on my bookcase and kept "at the ready" in case of a Romulan sneak attack of my bedroom
* reading every Star Trek novel that came out in the 1980's
* heaping abuse on the first season of The Next Generation
* endless hours of discussing with friends every nuance of the show
* and Yes, I did go to a convention

Seeing Star Trek movies have been sort of a group activity with me and my friends over the years. Living in Qingdao China has made that difficult. I had floated the idea of flying down to Hong Kong to see the new movie but, although my wife has become an amateur Trekkie over the years, the expense of flying to another country to see a movie was quickly nixed by her. :)

Thats when good news arrived! I read online that the cinema here in Qingdao will be showing the new Star Trek movie starting next week. The information is all in Chinese so I printed it out and took it to our Chinese staff to interpret. They were kind enough to call the cinema and discover that although they couldn't confirm it yet, believed they would have some screenings in English!! Hurray!!

I was so excited I invited the whole office staff to join me and I would spring for the tickets of any person that would come with. So, we'll see if next Star Trek comes to English so I can once again join the crew of the Enterprise boldly going where no man has gone before.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In Memorium: Dom Deluise 1933-2009

I had not intended to write so many "in Memorium" blogs but when someone passes who has had an impact on my life, I feel I need to pause for a moment, reflect on that person's life,...and then I write.

I woke this morning to hear of the passing of actor and comedian, Dom Deluise. Deluise is best known for his work in such Mel Brooks movies such as Spaceballs & Silent Movie as well as his collaborations with real life friend, Burt Reynolds. Its in latter that I will most miss him. Whenever Deluise and Reynolds would team up, I would just laugh. Deluise coming out in his infamous "Captain Chaos" costume to his familiar "Dunt ...Dunt...DAHhhhhhh!" intro was parodied by my brothers and I for years growing up. (I wanted to include a clip from Youtube of one those scenes with Reynolds, but China is still blocking access to Youtube)

Burt Reynolds says of his friend,
I was thinking the other day about this. As you get older you think about this more and more, I was dreading this moment. Dom always made everyone feel better when he was around. I never heard him say an unkind word about anyone. I will miss him very much.

Dom Deluise comedy was often not the type to make me laugh outloud. His humor was of a different brand. What he gave me was a different feeling. Thinking about it now I think, "Yes, when I watched Dom Deluise, he gave me joy."

And with the passing of Mr. Deluise, the world has now, sadly, just a little less joy...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Goodbye Mr. Kemp

Former Congressman, HUD Secretary, and 1996 GOP Vice-Presidential candidate Jack Kemp passed away on Sat. of cancer surrounded at his bedside with both family and minister.

For many of us who were politically honed in the 1980's, Jack Kemp was the natural successor to the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan. It was only a matter of time before America had President Kemp at its helm.

However, politics is all about timing, and timing never quite worked for Jack Kemp when it came to pursuing the presidency. He lost the 1988 primary to George H. W. Bush and when the next good opportunity came in 1996, the seniority of Bob Dole demanded that he be the Republican candidate with Jack Kemp as the VP. We all know how that ended.

I've often wondered what would have happened if Jack Kemp had been allowed to lead the Republican charge. As George Will said on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, "He was a big hearted man with very strong convictions, who didn't know how to make an enemy, and never held a grudge."

Qualities that the Republican Party are, at least perceptively, in short supply of these days.

Goodbye Jack, I look forward to meeting you one another Land...

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Todd Bentley Fallout

I was first given an MP3 of one of Todd Bentley's teachings about this time last year just as the Lakeland Revival was getting started. For those of you who don't know what that is, the Lakeland Revival was a series of revival meetings led by Canadian evangelist Todd Bentley in Lakeland Florida. What started out as a 5 day conference in April 2008 turned into 6 months of revival with as many as 10,000 people descending on the meetings every night.

Although there were many people whose lives were changed, healed, and impacted through the ministry, things began to sour when the married Bentley abruptly left the revival citing an "inappropriate relationship with a ministry staffer" as well as "crossing the line" in alcohol consumption.

Bently has since divorced his wife and has married the woman with whom he had the relationship and is now soliciting funding to relaunch his ministry.

I truly believe in God's forgiveness and that we can, when we repent, be eventually restored to any position including Christian ministry; but to be even discussing involvement in ministry less than a year after committing adultery, leaving your wife and kids, and marrying a co-worker is a mockery.

J. Lee Grady in his recent article sums it up when he says,
Many Christians today have rejected biblical discipline and adopted a sweet, spineless love that cannot correct. Our grace is greasy. No matter what an offending brother does, we coddle him and nurse his wounds while we ignore the people he wounded. No matter how heinous his sin, we offer comforting platitudes because, after all, who are we to judge?

When the apostle Paul learned that a member of the Corinthian church was in an immoral relationship with his father’s wife, he did not rush to comfort the man. He told the Corinthians: “You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst” (1 Cor. 5:2, NASB). Sometimes genuine healing requires a ruthless, exacting love.

Most Christians though today reject any form of church discipline despite many Biblical edicts which require it.

As a pastor, I am constantly amazed at the response many Christians have towards correction. When we first moved to Colorado I was the Community Pastor at a small church plant outside Denver. One of the guitarists on the worship team took a trip to Las Vegas with his girl friend and admitted that they shared a room together. The senior pastor of the church addressed the issue with him and essentially said that he could not do that type of thing and continue in a visible ministry position. The guy agreed but then snuck off and did it again. When he was confronted with it, rather than repent, he got angry and left the church.

It used to be that when you caught Christians in their sin, they would be cut to the heart and repent. Now they often just get upset, cry "Who are you to judge", and then go on to another church where their sin can remain hidden. I could go on with the stories. I had one guy I had to deal with who thought it was OK to sleep with any girl he wanted and take drugs with them as long as he ended the time together by "sharing the Gospel." I'm not kidding!!

A pastor / mentor friend a few years back told me, "Steve, it would be great if the giftings of God and a person's character were on a 1 to 1 ratio, but we can see from even the Bible, that is not always the case." Particularly in the Charismatic stream of Christianity, where the giftings of God take a higher profile, there has been a horrible track record of putting people's gifts before their character.

Gone, it seems, are the days when a man of God lived in obscurity while character issues were hammered out. Moses was called to be the deliverer of God's people, but he spent years in the desert before confronting Pharaoh. Paul the Apostle saw Jesus Christ himself call him into service; and then he spent 14 years in Arabia without any visible ministry, preparing (I believe) his heart for "the things he would suffer" in the cause of Christ.

1 Timothy 4:16 says: Watch your life and teachings closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourselves, and your hearers.

I pray for Todd Bentley. He is a brother in Christ who like myself is in desperate need of savior. But church leaders need to have a higher level of accountability. The more visible the ministry, the greater need for transparency, if for no other reason than to protect the speaker and those that would listen.

Time and time again I have heard pastors and ministry leaders falling in areas of sin but had no one to turn to because they were afraid of the response they would get. What if the door had been opened for a apostolic father to draw alongside Todd during the intense revival time and said, "Hey friend, How is the marriage? How are the kids? Do you need to take a break and take the wife to a beach somewhere?

I don't know what the answer would have been, but it's possible the both a marriage AND a ministry could have been saved.