Sheffey

Sheffey is easily one of the best Christian films I have ever seen. Filmed decades ago, on what appears to be a budget on par with a TV western episode or made-for-TV film, Sheffey tells the life story of Robert Sheffey, a Christian preacher in Virginia.

The film — largely set in the 1800s — shows how even though Robert came from a wealthy, privileged upbringing, he knew there was more to the world than just money and seeking to acquire more of it … and after visiting a nearby church with friends (with the intention of causing a disturbance), he found his calling when his family rejected his Christianity.

I won’t spoil this excellent film for people who wish to watch it, but it is extremely touching, has great acting throughout, a wonderful score and very good pacing from beginning to end. The sheer variety of scenes and characters and events covered, with its scenes shot in various seasons (vs. just a short time filming) shows how much care and effort was put into making this film, during a time when major Christian movies were rare, and well-made ones were even rarer.

I even thought the writing was great, and I’m usually not one to shower praise universally on films unless they exceed my expectations on every level. Sheffey is one such film, and I cannot believe I never even heard of this movie until I stumbled across someone mentioning it online, in passing. Be sure to watch this.

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Left Behind II: Tribulation Force & Left Behind: World At War

Many times I review things on here not because I love the content/item covered, but rather because during my studies and entertainment consumption, I either buy or come across things for cheap, and wish to share my opinion.

I previously reviewed the original 2000 Left Behind film and the 2014 remake, and I remarked how both of those had major issues, but the original at least had a better message and presentation of the two. Because I was able to get my hands on the two Kirk Cameron sequels for cheap on VHS and via streaming, I figured why not just wrap up the series and see if anything of value was there.

Unfortunately, no. The second film is easily the worst of the three Cameron films, and has unbelievable scenes and the characters from the original (like Cameron) simply don’t do anything new or interesting. It feels like the second film was rushed and done on an even smaller budget. The third film actually seems like the first two acts are written by and done by a fairly competent writer and director … but then it too falls apart at the end. The best thing of the entire series movie-wise is the actor playing the President, while the Antichrist actor is just a joke, and the effects at the end of the third film get very bad.

So would I recommend any of the four Left Behind films? Absolutely not.

Even worse, after watching all of these Kirk Cameron films, I found out a couple years ago he publicly stated he doesn’t even believe in the Rapture anymore, and thinks Christians are using the Rapture as an excuse to basically not do anything to try and save the world (as if we have a say when Jesus returns). It’s extremely weird (and I wonder if his failed stardom in the old Left Behind films altered his position), and makes me want to avoid all his material now, regardless of age. I would say just avoid Cameron in general, as I get the feeling he is a “Church Lite” type of personality, and always has been and values popular-thinking over actual-Bible content.

Hillsong United – Empires

I’m not a huge Christian music person, and even with secular music I’m not as keen on listening as I used to be, when I was in my teens and twenties. But, I have heard a couple Hillsong United songs over the years, and wanted to give them a shot. So, I picked up their bestselling album, Zion, and the follow-up one from 2015, Empires, as well. While I did partially listen to Zion awhile back, today I listed to Empires in full, as I drove around, and I figured that would give me a good sense of whether or not the album worked, since I could listen to it in full, in a few large chunks.

Sadly, outside of the key single “Touch The Sky” the entire album is not very good. Most of the songs’ lyrics are very hard to hear, and mixed in with too many competing instruments and effects. Empires is just way too overproduced. Additionally, most of the songs seem to flow into the next one to the point where they almost all sound alike, and just two of the dozen songs are even worth listening to a second time (obviously “Touch The Sky,” and the other is “Even When It Hurts”). Even worse, the muddled vocals stretched across most of the tracks seem very generic.

I understand what Hillsong United does — it occurred to me as the album thankfully came to a close — they simply want lengthy albums that allow a large number of performers and musicians to have stuff to do on stage. Their strongest songs have always been those sung by Taya Smith, a newcomer who catapulted Hillsong United to the top of charts for years with “Oceans” and I’m just not convinced most people now would even want to listen to these albums if it weren’t for her. So I would advise to listen to this on streaming if you’re curious, and not to buy it unheard, like I did. Or just buy the two songs I mentioned.

Let There Be Light

Directed by Kevin Sorbo, of Hercules and modern Christian film fame (he’s been in a bunch over the past decade), Let There Be Light tells the story of a famous atheist author who, after a car crash, starts to believe in God. Now, all I knew going into the film was that a guy started believing in God after a car crash — that’s it. I had no idea Sorbo would be a popular atheist author (which is basically his role in God’s Not Dead a few years back, except he was a professor) and I certainly didn’t know he was supposed to be the world’s most famous atheist (on the level of, say, Richard Dawkins). That seemed like a stretch.

Not only did this make me raise an eyebrow, but he’s also on rocky ground with an ex-wife (but who apparently remained single after he divorced her), and he’s a sad, lonely drunk anytime he’s not being interviewed. Oh, and he lost his kid to cancer a few years earlier. Now, I’m not saying these things couldn’t be in a movie about a person finding God, but outside of money and popularity, this guy’s life was obviously incomplete, even to him. So whereas it would be a huge surprise if Richard Dawkins got saved — because his life has been pretty much wonderful for decades now — it’s no shock that a grieving, lonely father would eventually come to religion.

Even worse was how tone-deaf the entire story was, with cringe-inducing kid actors, a horrible smartphone app subplot and a laugh-out-loud seizure scene that then flowed into a cancer diagnosis and then ultimately a chemotherapy story. The lazy filmmakers also made the actress look bald by putting a handkerchief around her head. They forget to shave her eyebrows, though (they didn’t care). The worst scene though was the key scene in the film — a low budget, cheap special effects afterlife setting — which had a kid delivering some of the worst acting ever filmed.

Very little was shown about Sorbo’s character changing outside his family, and wasn’t that the whole point … to show how the world reacts to the most popular atheist becoming a believer? Let There Be Light is one of the worst Christian movies I have ever seen, and I would be embarrassed to show this to not only unbelievers, but Christians as well.

A Lamp In The Dark – The Untold History of the Bible

Wow. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen a good Biblical documentary that I can’t recommend enough, but here is one that is not only lengthy, informative and well produced … but is very affordable for most people out there.

A Lamp In The Dark gives the viewer an overview of the Bible from the time of Jesus until the modern age, over the course of three hours of content. The film covers dozens of topics, a variety of notable people and events and details all the major translations and historical events that shape both Catholicism and Protestantism to this day.

It’s extremely interesting how the film expertly tackles so many ideas — some of which have overlapping and otherwise confusing timelines — in a way that gives the viewer not only access to many things they may not otherwise be aware of, but can also allows them to comprehend, for further study. For example, while discussing the events leading up to the creation of the Tyndale translation, many people (who eventually became martyrs) were talked about … when in the past I had only seen brief, vague references to them in Church history materials.

If you can only site and watch a few documentaries each year, I would say pick this one up and prepare to be amazed. It’s not only a great historical film that even unbelievers can enjoy and find educational value in, it’s an excellent tool for sharing the truth of God’s Word and His intention for it throughout history. It’s a pretty amazing find too, considering it’s free to rent on Amazon Prime — but earlier in the year I was thinking of buying the DVD for $15 … which definitely would have been worth it, for so much material in one documentary.

LibertyU Blog – Semester #1 Done

Well, it’s over! Last Friday marked my final day of classes for the Fall semester, and as of today, I have my final grades. In my Theology Survey I class, I ended up getting an A, and in my Hermeneutics I class, I earned an A- … overall, I’m pretty pleased with the way my first official Bible classes have gone, and I’m looking forward to starting the next class in January.

Now, to be completely honest, I will admit that taking (2) classes at once — while working full-time — was not a brilliant move at all. The work load is exactly like a normal course’s work, except that you only have 8 weeks, vs. 15. So while I would have had no problem juggling 3-4 classes simultaneously if I was a [full-time student], the harsh reality is that if you [work full-time], you simply lack the time, energy and drive to do a consistently good job. For example, for the first 3 weeks or so I stayed on top of all the reading assignments … but by week 4 onward I had converted over to a “skim what’s necessary” approach. As a result, I didn’t fully grasp what was being covered in each lesson, and ultimately, I need to read what I missed between now and January, to ease my mind/get the full class value.

Of the two classes, the Hermeneutics I one suffered the most, mainly it relied the most on reading. Now, on a more positive note, everyone in class was friendly, and talking to the teachers was easy to do via email and the class discussion forums were nice. I think next semester will be better, when I take just 1 class at a time, over the span of 16 weeks.

Bad Theology — John MacArthur, Got Questions and Calvinism

Well, this post bugs me. Earlier tonight, I was searching online, and just reading some random Biblical sites … and I came across a mention of “Calvinism.” Now, I had heard of this before (the term) and had heard some people mention it before, in various sermons … anyways, decided to finally look into the topic more … and I cannot believe what it is.

First, I had a look at Got Questions, a very popular site I’ve relied on many times to explain all sorts of Biblical things: What is Calvinism?

Now, if all they did was explain it, that’s one thing. But upon further reading here, I found this shocking statement: “Four-point Calvinism (the official position of Got Questions Ministries)…” Um…

Now, what makes Calvinism absolutely crazy, without writing paragraphs about it in detail? Basically it can be summed up like this: God predestined (selectively chose) everyone who will ever get saved, before they were even born. Anyone he didn’t choose will NOT get saved, and cannot, even if they want to. Period. End of story.

So let that sink in. Calvinism says the overwhelming amount of people in the world not only will go to Hell (which is honestly true), but that they have no choice but to go to Hell (that’s where it falls apart). Forget being told about Jesus Christ or Him dying for the sins of the world, or asking Him to be your savior and repenting. Nope, if you are saved, you basically hit the eternal jackpot, and almost no one else did. Pure luck of the draw. Calvinism is pure, clique-ish, elitism.

What bums me out also is that now, I can’t even listen to people like John F.  MacArthur either, who is a well-spoken pastor and was my go-to for sermons as I commuted. Turns out he’s a hardcore Calvinist.

Live and learn I guess, but how Calvinism has survived 500 years and still pollutes peoples’ mind is insane. I guess elitism finds a way. Even worse, now I have to start being extremely picky about who I read and listen to, because if they can be so off about this, what other false teaching are they spreading, deliberate or not? Be on guard. I was wrong for years about MacArthur, apparently. Fool me once…