Islam – Charlie Campbell

In this video Charlie gives a lecture on the foundation of Islam, what some of its core teachings are, how it differs from Christianity/Judaism and how you can possibly evangelize to them.

Unlike his films about Mormonism and Jehova’s Witnesses, I almost feel like this one wasn’t as useful, because it seemed flawed in two key areas:

1) While the history of Muslims is covered to a certain degree, I get the sense that Charlie didn’t want to issue blanket statements about them, with him roughly saying, “They’re not all bad or all radical in ideology.” I understand why he’s possibly saying that as a Christian who’s supposed to love thy neighbor, but the very core belief of Islam is that non-Muslims aren’t just wrong about their beliefs — they are to be annihilated. Christians can evangelize to anyone, no matter how bad they are to them … but Muslims genuinely want the eradication of all infidels, no matter how nice they are.

2) At the end of the video Charlie sadly makes it clear that you can’t really discuss the Bible with Muslims … at least not until they’re good and ready. Why? Because early on they cannot tolerate any questions about their faith at all. None. So, Charlie’s suggestion is to live a Christian life and have them see it. Again, I understand what he’s saying, but this just shows how hard it is to reach Muslims and I just wish Mr. Campbell sorta made it very clear that unlike other religions, Muslims are likely the most intolerant of others’ views, and that makes interaction with them dangerous.

Overall, not a bad video, but not a great one either. His outreach message simply didn’t hit all the right notes, unfortunately.

The Mark and The Mark 2: Redemption

As I’ve said before, traditional movie offerings for Christian viewers are somewhat limited … so I was more than willing to check “The Mark” and “The Mark 2: Redemption” despite having just seen Revelation Road a month or so ago. In these movies you see what happens when a soldier-for-hire is unwillingly implanted with the first working version of a chip that will ultimately be used in the last days.

The first film mostly takes place on a plane — like the recent Left Behind movie — and centers around a competing company trying to apprehend the man (so that his one-of-a-kind implant can be used to spur mass production of the one used by a new leader, the Antichrist). The second film then takes place in Thailand, where the same man and a stewardess friend (from the first film) continue to avoid people trying to catch him.

Unfortunately, unlike Revelation Road, which starts off with a pretty weak first act but finishes strong, this film series never finds its footings. The highlight of the films is Eric Roberts (by far the most recognizable and best actor in it) but the many plot issues, odd casting choices and very underwhelming visual effects make for a mostly so-so experience.

You also get the sense that the film creators fully expected a third film to be made — but unlike Revelation Road which told a pretty wrapped-up story in the first two films — this one seems very incomplete.

It also is very weak in terms of Biblical messaging, and likely wouldn’t make a non-believer pick up the Bible afterwards. That’s really the two films’ biggest issue, and is ultimately what keeps me from recommending it at all … even moreso than the previously mentioned poor casting and special effects.

The Secret Of Power

The Secret of Power is a short book I received for free when I subscribed to the Sword of the Lord newspaper, but normally sells for $6.99. It is a very short book indeed — a little over 60 pages — and is a great, concise overview of the Holy Spirit, and how He differs from Christ Jesus and God the Father.

I have always been interested in knowing more about the Holy Spirit, because of all three persons of the Trinity, He seems to be the one I (along with most people) have the hardest time wrapping my head around, and is often the least discussed in sermons.

Luckily, this great, simple-to-read book covers the topic in a surprising amount of detail for its length, and starts with differences between the persons of the Trinity, moves to verification of the Holy Spirit’s existence, explanation of the spiritual nature and assistance He provides, and wraps up with a pretty thorough look at the twelve disciples and Paul, and their spiritual and personal changes after being filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

I only saw one minor typo in the book, and the author was excellent about quoting scripture in a very straightforward and easy-to-digest manner. Now, I do wish the book was another 20-30 pages long to dig deeper into the topics discussed, but what I love about this is how anyone could easily pick this up and read it in a couple sittings, on any given day or two.

If you want a nice overview of the Holy Spirit and how He can help in people’s lives, I would say either subscribe to that newspaper like I did and get this free, or just seek out a copy and buy it directly. It’s worth reading.

Dollars And Sense – What The Bible Says About You And Your Money

I had received this 20+ year old book this past Christmas from my parents, as part of a small finance-planning organizer bundle they gave me and initially I figured it’d be a quick-read.

Written by Larry Burkett — a Biblical finance radio host from years ago — Dollars and Sense was only a couple hundred pages long, with each page covering a new keyword, and a related verse supporting the subject matter above. The main point of it was to give Christians a solid overview of key, wealth-related Biblical ideas.

Originally I planned to finish reading this book and review it nearly two months ago, but this title — unfortunately — was so unpleasant to finish that I had to push myself to get through it at least a dozen times. The way the content was presented and the “tone” of the author made me dread even opening the book. But, since it was a gift — and should be easy to finish — I felt obligated to read it.

The book had many core issues, which I’ll briefly touch on, including: 1) The book used the same verses over and over, for multiple topics. 2) The author merged verses together, without context, to support his message above them. 3) The translations used (TLB and NAS) are questionable in their accuracy, given so many context issues already present. 4) Sometimes Larry referenced parts of the Bible in support of his opinion, but the verse(s) below would then be something totally different. Confusing! 5) A few times words were clearly mentioned as being opposite — like “strength” and “cowardice” — even though they aren’t, just so a specific verse could be used. 6) Another issue was that often the verse used for a topic had nothing to do with the content above it at all, or was too generalized to make a connection. 7) Lastly, Burkett’s a guy who nags about modern-day tithing — multiple times — without giving the subject its proper, historical context.

Long-story short, I would say avoid this book at all costs. For it being so simplistic in style and so short, you should be able to get through it quickly — but instead you’ll likely be like me, and find it to be an absolute chore. Spend your precious time studying with God, using more valuable materials.

Left Behind – 2014

I had heard unflattering things about this film before I ended up renting it, but when the price dropped temporarily to less than a dollar, I decided I couldn’t pass up the chance to see it. After all, Christian films often get negative reviews –in spite of overall decent stories and acting, simply because of their Biblical message — so reviews could be wrong.

Well, in the case of Left Behind (the 2014 remake of the 2001 Kirk Cameron-led film), the criticism from audiences and critics alike was well deserved. The movie stars Nicholas Cage as an airplane pilot who is flying from New York City to London when the Rapture occurs, which results in a lot of the passengers disappearing instantly, thereby causing all sorts of chaos.

I actually had no problem with Cage’s character or his acting in the film — of all the people trying to take the film seriously, it’s clear Cage at least gave it a shot. Everyone else, however, seemed like a strange caricature of normal people, from all walks of life (particularly the Mom). The film also has very odd casting, music and dialogue choices that will make audiences groan and scratch their heads.

The biggest offense of the movie though is how little it actually speaks of Christianity. It mentions “the Rapture” a couple times, and a few times a generic “God” is mentioned, but that’s about it. I don’t recall hearing one mention of Jesus Christ, and near the end when people were faced with death, they were just told to pray. Not to Jesus Christ, asking for forgiveness of their sins … but just to “pray.”

By the end of the film you don’t really like any of the characters (especially the unbelieving daughter, who never does repent) and the film ends abruptly, setting up a sequel. Thankfully, no sequel is being made.

Revelation Road, 2 and Black Rider – Triple Feature

I’ll admit, I was a bit hesitant to watch this series at first, only because acting and production in values in Christian movies have largely been so-so for me over the years. However, after finishing the latest film — Black Rider: Revelation Road — I can say now that I was pleasantly surprised.

This is good deal on three movies in the same series — only $15 or so — and I’m looking forward to the fourth installment, if and when it ever gets made.

The first movie is a tad hokey in places, from a cinematic standpoint, but shows promise. The second one is better, and fleshes out the characters more, and is where the bulk of the “good news” message is in terms of the main character finding redemption. The first two films are basically one, at made-for-TV quality. Not bad, but not great.

The third one, however, shows real signs of quality shining through, and is a very good follow-up film overall. It also places a heavier, more obvious focus on end time prophecy playing out, and I think that was a welcomed addition, where the first two films were a bit more vague, up until the very end.

The acting, pacing, soundtrack, editing and plot structure are pretty good across all three, considering their small budgets and limited casting choices … and have a very Christian message to spread throughout, despite the depiction of violence. I would say, if you’re looking for an interesting end-time scenario film series to watch, you should give the Revelation Road series a chance. You’ll most likely be like me, and find yourself glad you watched them by the end of the third film.

The Theory Of Everything – Trey Smith

Wow — I just finished up my first, full-length documentary of Trey Smith’s … and it was great! The Theory Of Everything summarizes exactly what Trey practically attempts to cover — just about everything!

This film covers so many topics via Trey’s unique “vlogging-style” film-making approach (quick cuts and bits of information thrown at the viewer) it’s actually challenging to pinpoint exact talking points at specific times … but the overall topics covered include the complexity of life, DNA, evolution, metamorphosis, dinosaurs, the flood, etc.

In short, this very lengthy documentary covers about a hundred different talking points, at the very least.

In fact, if I had one criticism of the entire film, it’s that it is a very long movie (about 2 hrs. 45 min. long!) and there are no titles or indications as to where you are in the documentary or how much content is remaining. During the segment when Trey was describing things he wouldn’t hold against evolution in a hypothetical debate (“to make things fair”), I was convinced he simply had moved on to the next topic — but nope — about 15 minutes later he was back on track.

Still, Trey is great to watch, and you can see the improvement in style and approach over the original documentary he released (“Enoch: It’s Real”). I also liked how he spent a good deal of time talking about Jesus and what He did and how important He is to everything … when a lot of filmmakers would have skimmed over that topic (assuming watchers already knew about Jesus) and focused purely on the science-related content.

Apparently this documentary is still available on YouTube, so there’s no need to buy it on DVD (but buying does support the God in a Nutshell project). If you’d like a nice overall primer to what Christians believe in regards to many scientific areas or you just enjoy Trey’s work, be sure to check this out.