Sunday, August 10, 2008

We value your prayers

I'd appreciate your prayers for our upcoming trip to Africa. I'm going with two traveling companions, Aken (originally from S. Sudan) and Carlos.
On August 11, we fly to Uganda, and then on August 18, we plan to fly to Juba, Sudan. Then we will catch the first available flight to Aweil, Sudan (see July 21 posting below). We plan to be back in Winnipeg on Saturday, August 30.
Please pray for safety during all our travels, and that no luggage is lost along the way.
And please pray for our time in Uganda to be fruitful. We hope to meet with some specific church leaders there to discuss the possibility of partnering with them in the planting of a school in Aweil of southern Sudan.
Please also pray that God will give us divine appointments in Aweil. In order to properly assess the situation, we will need to meet with local government authorities as well as with church leaders. We will need God’s wisdom to be able to see if, where and how we could plant a school in the Aweil area.
A good deal of the time will also be spent re-connecting with Aken’s relatives, as he has not seen them for about 25 years. It will be quite an emotional reunion, and will likely be quite a celebration! Please pray for grace for Aken regarding any unexpected news he may receive as he gets reacquainted.
We’d also appreciate prayer for our health. Food and water, heat and mosquitoes will all be issues for which we’ll need the Lord’s protection. We don’t want to lose valuable time due to travel-related illness.
And finally, please pray for our families here in Winnipeg. Please pray for them to experience a very real peace while we are away, and for protection from any hassles that could come up.
Thank you for all your prayers! I'll try to update the blog from Africa if I have opportunity! And I'll let you know how it all went once we're back home.

© 2008 by Ken Peters

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Movies that bug me

I haven’t seen the latest blockbuster, “The Dark Knight,” but it has nevertheless stirred up in me a familiar agitation regarding a certain belief Hollywood peddles. I’m not thinking of the usual ungodly themes of wanton sex and violence which, of course, are far too easily accepted by far too many as harmless entertainment. No, the thing on my mind, and what often gets my goad, is the difference between a film that acknowledges that we need to be rescued and a film that calls on us to find all that we need “within ourselves.” This latter theme is nothing less than an idolatry of self that is viewed by the general public as simply a harmless self-affirming “You’ve got what it takes!” kind of can-do thinking. Nothing wrong with that, right? But when such films are imbibed in regular doses, even by those who believe in God, I believe they sow to a societal attitude of “Who needs God anyway?” Is that the message we want to get a good feeling from at the movies? And what makes me particularly troubled is that these movies are often aimed directly at our kids, “Kung-Fu Panda” being a recent animated example.

I’ve grit my teeth at so many movies that have majored on this humanistic theme as time after time, main characters were called on to look within themselves to find whatever they needed to save themselves. It’s not that I expect to see prayer meetings and personal devotions appearing in every movie as Hollywood suddenly starts to churn out stories in which people turn to God for the help they need. It’s more that I’ve come to prefer a story that draws from the “We need a Saviour” theme of the Gospel so that people can see that they actually don’t have what it takes, never will, and desperately need to be rescued!

My angst at the steady diet of humanistic drivel fed to countless movie-goers leaves me encouraged even when movies offer imperfect saviours, especially if they are portrayed with self-sacrifice and humility rather than with the same vain humanism of those trying to save themselves. This is what made Neo in “The Matrix” somewhat appealing to me. Certainly imperfect, and initially uncertain about his destiny, he chooses to leave behind all that is familiar and comfortable in his world to then find his capacity to save others through his dependence on others teaching him. Though I never saw the sequels to “The Matrix,” as sex and violence seemed to become more the dominant themes than the original premise of a search for a messiah, I did find in the original a desire in the characters to look beyond themselves for the help they needed and a self-sacrifice in the hero they found.
“The Lord of the Rings” goes even further. It is an example of a movie in which the heroes were not only those whom the world saw as small and easily overlooked, but made regular mention of an overriding Providence that helped them to find their way. And throughout all three films, there are many examples of how the characters saw that they needed others to help them and how characters made great personal sacrifices to offer such aid. Then in the end, the ones who clearly overcame the great evil of Sauron were the humble hobbits who didn’t even know what to do with the notoriety they received when their mission was accomplished.

Even though “The Dark Knight” offers similar fare as good battles to triumph over evil, we know from the previous movie, “Batman Begins,” (which I saw) that it is with more of a nod toward the hero finding what he needs “within himself.” In that initial film, Bruce Wayne finds his wisdom and guidance and inspiration to become the guardian of Gotham City through the inner reflection of an eastern religion that promotes the same self-oriented self-effort that humanism would endorse. I’m as troubled by this overriding theme in “The Dark Knight” as I am by the violence that I understand to be so well choreographed throughout it.

But even with its flaws, “The Dark Knight,” like many other movies, is a distorted copy of the greatest story ever told – the Gospel, in which Jesus laid his life down to take the rap for a sinful race and to save all who put their trust in Him. And the most common distortion that these copies fall prey to is that the heroes typically save others by overcoming enemies by their strength. The original story tells of a Hero who meekly laid down His strength to save others through His death.

There are certainly films out there in which we can find encouragement in the self-sacrifice portrayed by its heroes and by good triumphing over evil. My concern, though, is that we should be as eager to avoid a film that affirms a looking within ourselves for all that we need as we would be to avoid a film full of gratuitous sex or violence.

© 2008 by Ken Peters