The Widow’s Might Wins SAICFF

 

Last Saturday was a big day for Heumoore productions, as it won the Audience Choice award, was runner-up for feature film category and won the Best of Festival award for it’s feature film The Widow’s Might.

The Widow’s Might tells the story of a young group of entrepreneurs who make a film in order to help save the homestead of widow Grace Jackson from confiscation for property taxes. In the process, there is a political message and an important theological message as well. Two generations work together as the Moore family undertakes, together with Cameron Cavillo, Jim Morton, and others to bring community attention to the widow’s plight.

The film that the group (Cinemablog Productions) makes ends up being a musical western in which the railroad is attempting to take a widow’s property in cooperation with the local sheriff, making use of governmental claims of “eminent domain.” While it is true that much of the settlement of the west came as a result of the US government giving large swaths of land to the railroads prior to the settlement of the areas west of the Mississippi River the western portion of The Widow’s Might assumes an already settled area that may or may not be receiving a railroad depot.

For many years full Bible Presbyterians have been calling attention to the fact that America’s churches have turned much of their calling over to civil government. The church has the primary responsibility to care for its own widows according to Scripture. It was refreshing to see a film in which young people, especially those who are members of one of our full Bible (i.e. Hanover) Presbyterian congregations took that message public and did it in an entertaining way. In the film, the institutional church did not involve itself directly in political or theatrical activity, but as “the widow Grace” said, because of the church she would never “want for a place to stay.”

The Reverend Kevin Swanson, a speaker and judge at the festival and an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, noted that we presently live in a toxic environment as far as film and other entertainment forms are concerned. Swanson noted that films have multiple purposes of entertaining, communicating, evoking emotions or what the Puritans would have called the affections, and giving a medium to express rejoicing and edification. All Christian film, to deserve the name, must be driven by a deep sentiment of the fear of God, according to Swanson.

While admitting that there is a certain danger in adopting worldly forms because forms are often reflective of worldviews, he also noted that in the world we presently inhabit, the shepherds of youth are no longer parents and pastors, but cultural icons. We are currently raising the third generation of “teenagers” since Elvis Presley, and the social context of much film today is rebellion.

Rev. Swanson went on to discuss how rejoicing was an important part of the biblical culture. He used the example of the Israelites singing at the shore of the Red Sea after God overthrew “horse and rider” in sea. He compared it to a modern cultural response of “a victory dance in the end zone” after a touchdown.  He pointed out also that rejoicing, as it is viewed prospectively in Deuteronomy will involve the community: the widow and the Levite as well as the individual and the family.

In a private interview, Pastor Swanson indicated that he thought the primary direction of Christian film in the future will be toward the family and the home first of all rather than toward the theater or the general populace. He sees film as edifying in that it should be watched both as an entire narrative, with a beginning, middle, and end; but also because it can be stopped and restarted with family discussion taking place in the home, which cannot happen in the theater.

While film is not significantly different from any other art form in the Christian’s arsenal, Swanson explained that the visual forms tend to intensify the aesthetic experience. The Christian film must reflect the Christian worldview, first of all. Then it must pay careful attention to method, themes, ethics and the law of God, and it must be very careful how it treats sin and sinners. On this last point, the Christian film must be careful to demonstrate that one does not break God’s law so much as God’s law breaks the sinner.

The film, workshop, and interview outlined above hardly exhaust the festival experience. To download some of the films that were shown at the festival, please visit http://www.behemoth.com. It is my understanding that CDs of the workshops will be available soon from http://www.visionforumministries.com.

SAICFF Will Host "Abraham And Isaac"

The San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival to Host World Premiere of New Film by Crown Financial Ministries Featuring Dean Jones

SAN ANTONIO, Texas, Dec. 17 /Christian Newswire/ — The San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF) has announced plans to host the World Premiere of “Abraham and Isaac,” a new film starring Dean Jones, as part of its fifth annual festival. The special feature — which brings to life the biblical epic of Abraham’s call to give up his own son — is part of “Hope and A Future,” a short film series produced by Crown Financial Ministries (www.crown.org) to be used in visual media teaching solutions launching in 2009. The premiere will be held at 7:30pm on January 9 in the Lila Cockrell Theatre in downtown San Antonio.
“We are pleased to welcome Dean Jones and the leadership of Crown Financial Ministries to our festival for the launch of this powerful new film,” noted Doug Phillips, founder of the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival. “The forging of Dean Jones’ great acting with Crown Financial Ministries’ bold vision to bring to the screen key stories from the Bible has resulted in an exceptional film. ‘Abraham and Isaac’ is a real treasure, and we are honored to be featuring it as part of a special evening that will introduce Crown Financial Ministries’ labors in filmmaking to a broader audience.”
Dean Jones, who has headlined numerous Broadway productions as well as six of Disney’s biggest box- office hits (including ‘The Love Bug’), stars as the patriarch Abraham in the new film.
“Dean Jones has captivated Broadway and Hollywood audiences for years through his celebrated performances,” observed Phillips. “He is a real class act whose faith in Christ has led him to take on biblical roles in such films as ‘St. John in Exile’ — and now the lead role in ‘Abraham and Isaac.’ We look forward to having Dean with us as our guest as we premiere this project at the festival.”
“Abraham and Isaac” is part of Hope and A Future: A Crown Financial Ministries Short Film Series. Crown Financial Ministries, formerly led by financial author and radio host Larry Burkett, who passed away in 2003, got involved in filmmaking in 2007 after witnessing how many third world countries learn through storytelling. Chuck Bentley, Crown’s CEO, explained:
“Our goal for the films in the Hope and A Future series is to engage hearts worldwide through the tool of visual media storytelling, sharing God’s financial principles with the world’s population who cannot read as well as visual learners in the most modern parts of the world,” Bentley remarked.
“‘Abraham and Isaac’ is an integral part of our new teaching series, and we are honored to be coming to the Alamo City to introduce this film as part of the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival.”
The San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF) will be held January 8-10 at the Gonzalez Convention in downtown San Antonio. The SAICFF is host to the largest single film festival grand prize of its kind in America — the $101,000 Best of Festival Jubilee Award — and will be screening 50 film finalist and semi-finalists over the three-day event. Other special guests at this year’s festival will include ‘Fireproof’s’ producer Stephen Kendrick as well as actor, Kirk Cameron.
To interview Doug Phillips regarding the SAICFF’s vision to offer hope outside Hollywood by promoting an independent Christian film movement, contact Wesley Strackbein by e-mail at wesley@visionforum.com or by phone at (210) 340- 5250, ext. 222. To learn more about the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, visit www.independentchristianfilms.org.

So Far Just Literature

Members of Burma’s battered and disparate opposition are growing disillusioned with the old methods of the pro-democracy movement and are seeking ways to escalate their armed struggle.

“There is a very real debate among us about how to begin a more sustained armed struggle,” an organizer of last September’s failed uprising told the Guardian. “We are ready for that kind of action, if we can get the supplies and training that we need.”

Speaking from exile in Thailand, Soe Aung, the chief spokesman for the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB), an umbrella group representing nearly all facets of Burma’s disparate opposition, said he was witnessing a significant shift in the public attitude across Burma.

“After the September uprising and then the terrible cyclone response, the anger is surging. Some are considering violent means … the Burmese people are not that kind of people, there has been a real change.”

Soe Aung spoke openly of how covert Western support, primarily from the US state department-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its subsidiary the International Republican Institute (IRI), had been fundamental to the success of the uprising.

“The US is certainly doing the most for the opposition. There has been real success in training and forming an underground movement through religious organizations and monastic organizations. These provide the best cover inside Burma. The monks can spread their training very effectively.”

The NED describes itself as a private organization but was created by, and remains accountable to, the US Congress. Set up under the Reagan administration in 1983, it has since played a leading role in influencing civil society and electoral processes in countries around the world unfriendly to US interests.

According to Brian Joseph, the man in charge of the group’s Burma project, the NED gave $3million to Burma in 2007. “We would send more, but there is a limit to what you can do in Burma,” said Joseph.

Opposition activists both inside and outside Burma largely describe the improvements in political awareness and spread of information as a result of NED-funded projects, but also attribute them to the introduction of the internet to Burma in 2003.

“We could see in September how the advances were utilized. It wasn’t just the monks but a massive increase of awareness among Burmese of all types. This was thanks largely due to media organs, the Democratic Voice of Burma, satellite TV, and, of course, the internet,” said Soe Aung.

REB

Health Insurance and Universal Health Care

As the 60 something pastor of a small church in what some have described as an “anti-denomination,” group health insurance is pretty much out of the question for me and my wife. Not only is it out of reach for us financially, I’m increasingly convinced I would not buy any if it were nearly “free.” I don’t have it, I don’t want it, and I refuse to buy it. So what is available to someone in my situation?

Not much, if one is looking for traditional health insurance; but then traditional health insurance is exactly what I’m not looking for. With a typical health insurance policy, one has no control over how the premiums are spent by the company that “insures” his health. They may be using it to treat STDs, fund abortions, teach “sex education,” or any number of other problematic health issues that have definite ethical concerns.

At the outset, it is pretty important to recognize that health is not the same as disease treatment. Virtually all health insurance of which I’m aware concentrate their services in the area of disease treatment rather than health maintenance. That is probably not the best approach. So, the first counsel I give myself is to take charge of my own health. I shouldn’t do things that have a statistical record of harming my health. So, I don’t smoke; I don’t take recreational drugs; and I avoid a lifestyle that is likely to end up giving me AIDS or some other disease.

Proactively, I attempt to exercise. Admittedly, that is not as easy for me as it was when I was in boot camp back in my teens; but I can still walk without my knees giving way (though they do complain from time to time). So I walk. I try to eat things that are healthy (yes, I like cake and pizza, but that is a smaller part of my diet now) and drink beverages that sustain my health rather than put it at risk.

And about two years ago we did something else. We joined something called “Samaritan Ministries” (SMI). We do not pay a health insurance premium, but we do send a check each month to somebody in the country who is having health issues. But we do far more than simply send a check to a family somewhere. We have a name of someone who needs our prayers and for whom we pray day by day during the month. SMI also also includes a monthly prayer list for people to whom we have not sent money, but who have asked for our prayers.

Important notice: SMI is not health insurance and I’m not a broker for them.

Here is what happened with them last month (July 2008). There were 12,248 member households as of June 30, and needs submitted of just under $3,000,000. A quick trip to the calculator indicates that the total family share for the published needs comes to just under $245 per family for last month. But more importantly, there were 12,000 households praying for those needs to be eliminated by the powerful hand of God.

How great is that? Instead of paying hundreds of dollars per month to support an insurance industry that has dividends in mind as much as the health of policy holders, here are over 12,000 families throughout the US that are actually helping one another and praying for one another. When was the last time your insurance agent promised that there would be people praying for you if you got sick?

There is another solution out there for God’s people. We don’t need overpriced “health insurance,” and we certainly don’t need universal health care (translation: socialized medicine). All we really have to have is the will to help a brother or sister in need and the humility to accept their help should we ever need it.

REB

ServiceMaster: Sounds Like An Oxymoron

The following excerpt is taken from Rabbi Daniel Lapin’s book, Thou Shall Prosper, preview available at Google.

“ServiceMaster Corporation in Illinois was founded by an evangelical Baptist, Marion E. Wade, in 1947. Its primary mission was always “to honor God in all we do.” Wade asserted that running a profitable business was not inconsistent with serving the Lord. He spelled out his notion of using the Bible as a guide to business in a book that for decades was given to every new manager. Yet in spite of and many would say because of its linking of God and profits, ServiceMaster quickly grew into a $6 billion Fortune 500 company that did well by doing good on everything from Merry Maids house cleaning to Terminix pest control and TruGreen lawn care. Early in 2000, ServiceMaster opened its web site on which customers could select, purchase, and schedule any of ServiceMaster’s services directly.

“During 2001, ServiceMaster brought in its first chief executive officer (CEO) from outside the evangelical fold. Nonetheless, new CEO Jonathan Ward was rightfully reluctant to modify the corporate culture that had worked so well for so long in this service-oriented company with its fleet of 23,000 vehicles. For instance, he retained the custom of calling corporate meetings to order by quoting from the biblical book of Isaiah. That may seem irrelevant to modern business, but this company schedules thousands of visits to customers’ homes. If ever a company needed to radiate a message of true commitment to service, this is that company. Even the company’s motto is “We Serve”; and this, coupled with its unabashed embrace of Christianity with its own tradition of service, has certainly played a role in its success. ServiceMaster’s very name proclaims its eagerness to serve.

“In 1989, Fortune magazine listed ServiceMaster among the country’s top companies, and in 1998, the Financial Times was quote in the New York Times as calling ServiceMaster one of the world’s most respected companies. [David Barboza, “In This Company’s Struggle, God Has Many Proxies,” New York Times, November 21, 2001, C1] I hope it continues to prosper because it serves as a useful reminder that to truly excel at service, some form of inner belief is necessary. If you cannot wrap yourself around the notion that other humans are worthy of your committed service and that you are not diminished but are instead elevated by providing that service, you will never really excel at what you do.”

Is this so different from what Jesus was teaching his disciples the very night he was betrayed and set about ransoming us from the penalty and power of sin? It was when Jesus knew that the Father had put all things into his hands that he then proceeded to give what may be the most excellent example of service in all the New Testament. “He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.” Why would Jesus do something like that? Maybe it was simply because his disciples’ feet were dirty and needed to be washed? But how could he do such a thing? He could do it because he knew that the Father had put all things into his hands. He could do it because of the confidence that he had in God’s ability to conquer the world through service to others. He could do it because he understood what he taught in Matthew 18, “whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

REB

Independence Day Webcast on July 6

This coming Lord’s Day, 6th July, 2008 will be a special webcast of FPCR’s afternoon worship service along with the standard morning service of that day. The webcast will begin at 2:00 PM Central time and continue for approximately two hours.

Dr. Richard Bacon will preach from Luke 22:38 and other Scriptures on the topic “Thanksgiving For The God-Given Right To Bear Arms.” This topic is in celebration both of the Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller and the fact that Friday is the 232nd anniversary of the Declaration of American Independence from Great Britain.

Find out why the 2nd amendment to the US Constitution is at least as important as the 1st amendment and how the 1st becomes meaningless without the 2nd.

REB

More News From Our Churches

I received emails from Rev. Hniar Ling Thang yesterday (11 May). He attached pictures, which I shall do my best to upload. Literally dozens of churches were simply “washed away” in the flooding around Bogalay and Laputta. Six families in his congregation in Yangon lost their homes and are now staying with him and a friend.

I shall attempt to get the pictures up and at the same time explain our relief efforts, but not before next week.

REB