Five of Our Favorite Moments in Avengers: Endgame (SPOILERS!)

Even though the film has only been out for a few weeks, by this time, it seems like everyone in the world has seen it. Avengers: Endgame is not just breaking box office records; it’s decimating them. (Get it? Decimate? Thanos and the Decimation? Moving on…) This won’t be a review, it’s too late for one of those. Besides, this is not a movie that really needs a review. It’s the culmination of an eleven year, 22 film journey that started back with the 2008 release of Iron Man. Marvel has been building to this point for over a decade and from our perspective, they have closed out this particular chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in spectacular fashion. The movie is an incredible climax: exciting, funny, and most of all, emotionally satisfying. It’s one giant blockbuster that is 100% worth the hype. Instead of writing a review, we’ve decided to have a couple of the REO staff write about their favorite scenes or moments in the film. We hope you enjoy our take on this historic film. And if you are one of the 6 people in the country to have not seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Side note: If you want to read a wonderful exploration of the film, from a deep theological framework, read this from the good folks over at The Rabbit Room. Oh, and if the title of the article didn’t make it clear, there will be spoilers throughout. You have been warned.

Family Matters by Phill Lytle

I love that the filmmakers gave the film room to breathe. What do I mean by that? They didn’t rush the quiet, introspective moments to get to the next big action sequence. Don’t get me wrong; I loved the action sequences. They are exciting and fun and a feast for the eyes. So many big blockbuster-type films, especially films like Endgame that are the climax of a series, go too big for their own good. They incorrectly believe that fans want bigger and more insane action scenes. I’m sure some fans want that. I think most want a complete conclusion, and that is impossible if there is not an emotional payoff.

I started crying from the very first scene. If you have paid any attention to the films, you knew what was coming. The moment you see Hawkeye (Clint Barton) and his family enjoying a picnic outside, you knew the film was about to punch you in the gut. And it did. Seeing the fear, confusion, and overwhelming panic on his face when his family vanishes (he didn’t actually see any of them turn to dust) was heartbreaking. As a father, that scene put me in the perfect emotional state for the rest of the film.

The payoff is perfect as well. It’s a blink-and-you-miss-it type of scene but it’s played so perfectly by Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) that I had to force down a sob. The team gets all the stones, builds a new gauntlet, and Hulk performs the snap to hopefully bring everyone back. (If that sentence made no sense to you, you haven’t seen the film and shouldn’t be reading this anyway.) In the adjoining room, Hawkeye’s phone rings. He looks at it and you can see the competing emotions in his eyes. Hope and fear. He walks over to pick up the phone and he sees that it is his wife calling. The snap worked. It’s almost too much for him to handle. His family is back. His subtle yet impossible to miss reaction was too much for me to handle. I cried. Hard. And it made me so happy because it proved once again the filmmakers cared about these little moments. They cared about making this a complete experience and not just a lot of lights, explosions, and digital awesomeness. For this film to work as well as it did, they had to get to the very emotional core of these characters and this story. And they did.

 

Captain America Returns to His Lost One True Love by Ben Plunkett

Ever since the ending of the first Captain America movie, I have been heartbroken for the elderly yet still young superhero. (Well, I guess I wouldn’t say heartbroken, but I felt bad for the old fella). Forever would time separate him from his true love, Peggy Carter. This heartbrokenness was amped up in Captain America: The Winter Soldier after he spent a few last tearful moments with an elderly dying Peggy. In the years afterward he had ample opportunity to become romantic with other women, yet despite the separation of time, he remained true to Peggy. (Okay, there was obviously some romantic feelings going on between him and Sharon Carter, Peggy’s great-niece, in Captain America: Civil year, but it really didn’t go much further than a passionate kiss and some longing looks.).

Then we were to revisit the grief once again in Endgame after a time-traveling Captain America witnessed a middle-aged Peggy still working at a military base and the yearning returned. It was likely then that he formed his plan. In what I consider the most emotional moment in the movie, having finished helping save the universe, Captain America went back in time to spend life with Peggy. It makes his story arc so powerful that behind all of it is his undying love for her. Look at it: He meets and falls forever in love with her in Captain America: The First Avenger; after years of separation has a final heartfelt visit to a dying Peggy in Captain America: The Winter Soldier; is traumatized by her death in Captain America: Civil War; renews his longing to return to her after seeing her during his time-traveling adventures in Endgame; and ends up going back in time to join her at the end of the movie. In essence, the theme of Captain America’s entire superhero career is Peggy.

 

“Hug it out, bro!” by Phill Lytle

I realize that Tony Stark’s big moment – you know the one I am talking about – is getting the most attention. And it’s well deserved. Having Tony be the one who finally defeats Thanos, and doing it in a way that only Tony could – with style and attitude – is pretty much perfect filmmaking. That’s not the moment that stood out to me the most, though.

From the very beginning, Tony has been evolving. He began his journey a man who is only concerned about himself and ends as someone who is selfless and sacrificial. His relationship with Peter Parker (Spider-Man) has been a great example of that growth. He cares about the kid, but it took him all the way until the end of Endgame to really show just how much. Peter has been craving a father figure for much of his life, ever since his uncle died. He latches onto Tony in a way that only a young man in need of guidance and love would. And Tony is mostly up for the task, though he still holds back. Losing Peter at the end of Infinity War did something to Tony. It broke him. You can see it all over his face when he first gets back to earth and reconnects with Steve Rogers (Captain America). He “lost the kid.” But Tony is remade when he becomes a biological father. He finally has all of his selfishness, his ego, and his self-centeredness stripped away for good. He has his family, but when duty calls, and he realizes he is the only one who can make the plan work, he jumps back into the fray. This time, though, he does it as a new man. A man who will risk everything to save the universe.

On the battlefield, as the forces of good fight the forces of evil, Tony and Peter reconnect. Peter immediately does what Peter does best – he talks excitedly about all that has happened to him since they last saw each other. Tony sees Peter and reacts in a way the old Tony never could have: He hugs Peter. He embraces him like a father. Peter is shocked at first because Tony has made it clear in the past that hugging is not something he is interested in. When Peter realizes the hug is real, he calms. He rests. He is at peace because he finally has a man to be his mentor and father figure. “This is nice” doesn’t even begin to describe how emotionally pure and powerful that moment is for Peter, and for Tony. They both needed that hug at that moment. We all did.

 

Black Widow’s Arc by Ben Plunkett

I think most Avenger fans correctly guessed at least one major Avenger would die in Endgame. I guessed Iron Man correctly but would not have guessed Black Widow. If I had ranked the original six Avenger’s probability of dying in Endgame, she would have been last on my list. But now that I think of it, it was an inspired choice. She, more than any of the others, was close to several: She had a romantic history with the Hulk (with obvious lingering feelings); a long friendship with Stark before they even joined their superhero forces; and very close (and totally platonic) friendships with Hawkeye and Captain America. (Sorry, Thor. We’ll just assume the two got along just fine.)

Her friendship with Captain America is what has most interested me. It is one of the finest platonic friendship arcs that began in the Winter Soldier. It has been well chronicled since that time. Captain America acted as something more than just a good friend; he was almost like a mentor. He showed her how to be a superhero of integrity and selflessness. I’d like to think during his final time traveling mission to replace the infinity stones, he had more than one secret personal mission. I’d like to think that he stopped off to keep his dear friend who has always had his back from dying at the base of that cliff. I’m sure that is just a pipe dream and probably wouldn’t be feasible. But the thought makes me happy, so back off.

Side Note: This is not the last we’ve seen of Natasha since a Black Widow movie is currently in the works.

 

He is Worthy by Phill Lytle

I have to admit, the moment that caused my jaw to drop the most was one I should have seen coming but didn’t. If worthiness is the qualification for being able to wield Mjolnir, then who could possibly be more worthy than Steve Rogers? Avengers: Age of Ultron hinted at this possibility in one of my favorite scenes of that film as multiple characters take a shot at lifting Thor’s mighty hammer. None of them does, though Steve Rogers causes it to move almost imperceptibly. Thor notices, that’s for sure. I’ve always wondered if Steve realized he could lift it at that point and chose not to follow through. Whatever the reason, the idea was planted and I am thrilled the Russo brothers chose to pay it off during the climax of Endgame. Seeing Mjolnir fly back to Captain America and then watching him use it in such a spectacular fashion is definitely one of the highlights of the film for me. I don’t get giddy very often watching films anymore. I tell myself I’m too old for that sort of thing. But this, this made me giddy. I smiled like an idiot and soaked up the entire sequence.

What about you? What were some of your favorite moments or scenes? Post them in the comment section below.




How the Church Congregation Returned to a Personal Relationship With God

There has never been a perfect church and never will be. This includes the churches of New Testament times. Churches have always been filled with flawed people working together in worship of God to fulfill His mission on earth. Nevertheless, the worship that came out of New Testament times was basically a simple, pure, and unified worship. Sadly, this form of worship did not continue through the early centuries entirely unimpeded. There were several scattered persecutions of Christians that took place during the first and second century. In the third century from A.D. 249 to 261, the Roman saw its first Empire-wide persecution of Christians. During this emperor-ordained persecution, Christians were required to save themselves by denying Christ.


Constantine Changes Things for Christianity

Early in the fourth century Constantine became Roman Emperor. He drastically changed life for Christians by converting to Christianity and making it a recognized religion. It was in A.D. 325 that Constantine first sought to battle heresy and control churches by calling the first Ecumenical Council of Nicea. Tradition says that up to 318 bishops gathered at Nicea at government expense.

Some very positive things did occur in the rest of this century following the First Council of Nicea. Two things were particularly influential to the future of church worship:

First, although the debate over the accepted New Testament canon had raged for many years and would continue for many more, this century saw the most advancement in the agreement and acceptance of canonized Scripture.

Second, the fourth century saw the popularization of hymnody.

Christianity was such an ingrained part of Roman culture by the latter half of the fourth century that in A.D. 380 the current emperor Theodosius I made it the official state religion. The Christianity that resulted throughout the years after Constantine first made it into a recognized religion and even more after Theodosius made it an official state religion was an increasingly ritualistic Christianity that put much more emphasis on human leaders both deceased and alive and less interest on God and His personal relationship with individuals.


The Centuries of Darkness

What this served to do was to help introduce several centuries of different degrees of darkness. Beginning in the fifth century, things were not bright for Christianity or for the rest of the world. It began dark and got increasingly darker. The darkest years of the middle ages is aptly called The Dark Ages because of its immense spiritual, political, and social void. While it wasn’t all bad with there being some very positive movements in the medieval Roman Catholic church, most of its timeline is characterized by impersonal worship. This sad time period in the church is highlighted by some horrible events instigated by human leadership in the name and purportedly for the cause of Christ.


The Return Begins

Then people started slowly waking up. Although the Protestant Reformation would not begin in earnest until the 1500s, there were signs of its coming for many years before its greatest revelation. In the 1300s various personalities and groups began criticizing the Roman Catholic church and fighting for a renewal of the personal worship for the common man. One of these personalities, John Wycliffe, dreamt of translating the Bible—which was at that time written in Latin so that only priests could read it—into English. Exactly 100 years before the Spanish Inquisition began, Wycliffe’s followers, called Lollards, did so. In performing this illegal action, the Lollards broke with a long-standing tradition of the church.

In the years following, translations of the Bibles would become available for many throughout Europe to read. The seeds of reformation would be planted until the flower would finally bloom to bursting. When the Bible once again became available to the common worshipper, the impersonalized worship was never the same and became personal again.

I thank God that today every one of us has full access to His Word. I am overjoyed that once again our churches emphasize an individual relationship with God. It has given us a more personal, direct worship of Him. However, there are still those in the world who do not have the knowledge nor ready access to it. We must seek to give it to them so they too can instigate a reformation of their own lives. Truly, the return is still continuing.




Five of Our Favorite Chewbacca Scenes in Honor of Peter Mayhew’s Passing

Actor Peter Mayhew died on April 30, 2019. He was 74 years old. You might not recognize that name. While Mayhew’s face did appear on screen in a few films, he is best known for helping create the character of Chewbacca for the Star Wars films. Peter was a tall man – 7 foot 3 inches at his tallest. He brought Chewbacca to life with his mannerisms, his physicality, and his presence. Through Mayhew’s impressive performance, we always knew what Chewie was thinking and saying even though we couldn’t understand the language he used. He took what could have been a mostly forgettable creature and turned Chewie into a fan favorite. Seriously, ask any Star Wars fan how they feel about Chewbacca and you won’t hear a negative word. So, in honor of Peter’s life and his work, we want to spotlight some of our favorite Chewbacca moments from the Star Wars films. We hope you enjoy reading our favorites and we would love to read about some of yours in the comment section below.


Chewbacca Reunites With a Recently Decarbonized Solo – by Benjamin Plunkett

The entire trilogy is very clear that Chewbecca would have done anything for Han Solo. So it comes as no surprise at all when at the end of Empire Strikes Back he joins Lando on a dedicated mission to rescue Han in his carbonated imprisonment. I don’t think Return of the Jedi gives the exact details of what went down between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but the beginning of Return of the Jedi features bounty hunter-costumed Leia “selling” Chewbecca to Jabba the Hut, Solo’s captor. (“At last we have the mighty Chewbecca”). Chewbecca self-sacrificially allows this daring stunt solely so Leia could have the chance to free Solo in the dead of night. But after the plan is foiled at the last minute, Solo is tossed into prison with Chewbecca. The reunion is awesome.

I kind of wonder if Chewbecca knew of or expected a plan to help him escape or if his sole concern was sacrificing his own freedom to help his best friend. Whatever the case, he took the risk because Han was that important to him. While this might not be my very favorite Chewbecca moment (ROTJ is full of my favorite Chewbecca moments), it is at least equal to the best of them.


“Let the Wookie win.” – by D.A. Speer

My favorite Chewie moment is the iconic “let the Wookie win” scene in A New Hope. R2D2 and Chewie are facing off in a game of Dejarik, and C-3PO tells R2 to be careful. R2 makes a good move and Chewie gets upset. Han says “Let him have it. It’s not wise to upset a Wookiee.” C-3PO replies “But sir. Nobody worries about upsetting a droid.” Then Han says, “That’s cause a droid don’t pull people’s arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.” Chewie leans back and puts his arms behind his head with a smirk on his face. That’s just stellar acting, and I laugh every single time. 3PO’s advice to R2, “new strategy…let the Wookie win,” is the icing on the cake.


Chewbacca’s Defining Character Trait – by Phill Lytle

I don’t have one specific scene that stands out above the rest. I have a character trait. Chewbacca was fiercely loyal. You see it repeatedly throughout the films. One of my favorite examples comes on Cloud City (Bespin) when Chewbacca finds out that C-3PO is being torn apart and destroyed. He yells, rages, fights, and somehow finds all the parts that have already been ripped off, and protectively shields them from any more damage. He then puts C-3PO back together in hilarious fashion, but he does it lovingly.

My other example happens in the final scene between Chewie and Han. In The Force Awakens, Han confronts his long-lost son, Kylo Ren (AKA: Ben Solo) who is on his way to fully embracing the Dark Side. Chewbacca watches it all happen from a distance. When Kylo strikes down Chewie’s oldest friend and companion, he loses it. He shoots everything in sight while releasing a heartbroken cry only he could make. It broke my heart to see Chewie hurt like that. But, it also solidified in my mind that it would be impossible to find a better friend than Chewbacca.


Chewie Saves the Day! – by Gowdy Cannon

My favorite Chewbacca scene is in Return of the Jedi on Endor when an AT-ST (yes I had to look that up) comes towards Han and he is sure he is caught and the top flings open and out pop Chewie! Things are so tense as the three climactic battles—Lando and his crew in the air, Han and his crew on the ground and Luke vs. The Emperor and Vader—rage on. And then this happens and for a few seconds, all the intensity is lost in laughter. That one moment in time represents everything I have loved about that character for nearly 40 years now…comedy and heroism. He is a fantastic combination of both and yet he is so much more than comedic relief or even just a sidekick. Something special is lost without his presence.


The Goodly Wookie and His Stomach – by Nathan Patton

I’ve always felt that Chewie and I have a lot in common. We’re scruffy but lovable. Intensely loyal and brave. Intelligent. Possessing superhuman strength. Speak mostly in grunts and growls… and have a tendency, despite the aforementioned superior intellect, to do dumb things when we’re hungry.

This is why I’m quite fond of the scene in Episode VI on the forest moon of Endor when Chewie and the rest of the gang are searching for Leia. The natives so graciously left a choice cut of meat in their path, and it would’ve been quite rude to ignore it. They needed to keep up their strength to continue the search anyway.

Of course, it was a trap, quite obvious in retrospect, but that’s what happens when you think with your stomach rather than your brain as even the best of us are wont to do on occasion.





Five Reasons Why I Don’t Have Horns Surgically Implanted on My Head

This is a fictional account of how I sought to have a horn or horns implanted on my head and utterly failed. It is also how I came to realize that that was probably for the best:


1. An authentic narwhal horn, my top choice, was just completely impractical.

I briefly talked with the doctor on the phone concerning my wishes and then met with him in his office a few days later.

Doctor: Okay, your number one choice was an actual ivory narwhal horn, is that right?

Me: Yeah, that’s right. Must be authentic.

Doctor: Mm. Well, you should know its not really a horn, per se.

Me: It’s not?

Doctor: No, it’s a tusk. So basically you’ll have a big tooth sticking out of your head

Me: Oh. Well, that would be different right? How cool would it be to eat with my head?

Doctor: That’s not— Anyway, that’s just for starters. Hunting narwhal just for their tusks is illegal these days and even if it weren’t, you would be lugging a 20-pound tooth on your head. It’s just impractical around.

Me: That makes sense. All body modifications are very practical, I understand that completely.


2. My second choice, an authentic unicorn horn (with its magical powers), was non-existent.

After this bit of dialogue, I sat there dejected, mournful, weeping. All the possible synonyms of sadness, that was me.

Me: Well what about my second choice, then?

Doctor: While that might be interesting, the thing is, they kind of don’t exist.

Me: Oh…Well, that’s not very fair.

Doctor: True. We could form you a synthetic unicorn horn of silicon

Me: I was hoping for a unicorn horn with all of its magical properties.

D: A silicon one is going more of the traditional route and therefore much safer because its tried and true.

Me: That means everyone’s doing it.

D: All of the advanced individuals, yes.

Me: I want to be an X-man, too.

D: Just call me Professor Xavier. I can do anything…but I can’t do real unicorn horns.

Me: And there’s the rub.


3. I decided my third choice, Elk Antlers, was just a stupid idea.

Me: Well, I have one last idea.

Doctor: Shoot.

Me: Elk horns.

Doctors: Mm, interesting choice. I’m not sure something like that has ever been done yet, but I think we can work with that.

Me: Never been done? Hasn’t Kate Blanchett done it?

D: Uhhh, I doubt it.

Me: I don’t know if that is true. You can clearly see her in that one scene in Thor: Ragnok with elk horn implants.

D: That was the character, Hela, and I’m pretty sure that was just a headdress. Notice she didn’t have the antlers most of the time. 

Me: Bogus. That was the main reason I wanted to get them. Without that I would just look like some kind of idiot with elk horns.

Doctor: By the way, they aren’t really horns. They are closely related, but horns and antlers are technically different things.

Me: Wow, not horns. Thanks, doc, you really helped me avoid a real fashion faux pas there. No, all things considered, elk ho–antlers is an entirely stupid idea.


4. I decided I ran too great a risk of either being used as either a hat rack or being mounted on a wall.

D: And look at it this way, now you won’t be used as a hat rack wherever you go.

Me: True that. Nor–now that I think about it–will my head end up mounted on the wall above a fireplace.

D: And why would that happen?

Me: So I’m walking around in the woods, a hunter sees my gangly antlers and–BAM!—I’m on his wall.

D: Quite the woodsman are you.

Me: Me, no way, I hate the woods. Who needs all that sticky, prickly, uncomfortable mess. Why?

D: No reason.


5. In all likelihood, my dream of using said horns as puns wasn’t going to pan out anyway.

Me: (I sighed) Perhaps this is for the best. I really only wanted the horns for puns, anyhow.

D: Puns?

Me: Yeah. Like I would point to my horns whenever I said something clever like “It’s a veritable horn of plenty” or “allow me to toot my own horn.” You know stuff like that.

D: You are one wild man, you are.

Me: Thanks. But you know, Doc, I heard one time that if you’re nothing without it, you’ll be nothing with it. I’m going with that.

D: Wisdom.

Me: Thanks for helping me make up my mind, Doc.

D: Glad to do it. Glad to do it. Let me know if you ever have any other body modification needs.

Me: You can count on that. I’m seriously considering a tortoise-shell torso encasement.





Of That Day and Hour…

There are things that Christians can know for a fact about the last days of Jesus’s time on earth. We can know that Jesus was crucified for our sins, that three days later He arose, and several days after appearing to various individuals He ascended into heaven promising to one day return. We can know these things because it says so in the Bible. Do you know what else it says about this subject matter? Is says that now no one—not even Jesus or the angels—knows when He will return, that only the father knows (Mark 13:32). Despite this, there have still been those throughout history who have believed they could accurately predict when his arrival would take place.

This trend became a national American Christian craze in the first decades of the 1800s. This was in large part thanks to an individual named William Miller. His earnest study of biblical end time passages convinced him that he could predict the coming of Jesus as sometime between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844. He had a sizeable following with his many followers informally known as Adventists. But when the last day of this date range passed without Jesus arriving, his many followers throughout the country fell into a massive despondency known as The Great Disappointment.

This “Disappointment” resulted in much disillusionment. Some of these people eventually got past these low feelings and surprisingly maintained their zeal for specific end time predictions. The result was an eschatological obsession among these people in order to form their own predictions. A group of these individuals were led by James and Ellen to found the Seventh-Day Adventist denomination, which was largely based on the study of end time predictions.

Studying what the Bible says about the end times is a very good thing. We absolutely should study it as much as possible. However, we should realize that there are some things within Scripture we most likely won’t know until the very end of time. And we should not be so proud as to think we can accurately pinpoint exactly when Jesus will return. As mentioned, Jesus Himself says that this is impossible for us. However, he also says in Mark 13 that since we don’t know when He will return, we must constantly wait in anticipation. He also told His disciples that the specific date was really none of their concern, that while we don’t know the date, God has already long ago scheduled it and will handle it (Acts 1:7). Yes, it is not necessary to fully understand a whole lot of things about God. In this case, we just need to know that our risen and ascended Savior is returning and that we need to be ready when He does.




Five of Our Favorite Easter Themed Songs

It has long been our contention that Easter does not get the kind of attention it deserves. At least, when compared to another religious holiday like Christmas. Specifically, Easter-themed music feels like an afterthought a lot of the time. We think that is sad and unfortunate. Easter is the moment our faith became a reality – the specific moment in time when God defeated sin and death and made our redemption possible. It is a time of reverent contemplation and passionate celebration. So, as is our way, we have to chosen honor this season by highlighting five of our favorite Easter-themed songs. We hope you enjoy the list we put together.

♦ “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin

Chris Tomlin may need to leave old hymns alone or “stay in his lane” (I disagree with statements like this but I won’t fight about it), but I don’t think I can stand for people besmirching him over a song like this. This song isn’t a theological essay like many great hymns but the one point it makes is extremely important and it makes it well. Christ’s resurrection isn’t just an empirical fact in history; it means everything for us as far as what happens to our bodies and souls for eternity. 

And it is rife with biblical phrases and allusions. Look at just a few from the very start: 

There’s a peace I’ve come to know (Reminds me of John 16:33) 
Though my heart and flesh may fail (Taken directly from Psalm 73:26 but also reminds me of Job 19:26 and 2 Corinthians 4:16) 
There’s an anchor for my soul (Sounds like Hebrews 6:19) 
I can say It Is Well (Not Scriptural as much as it was clearly taken from the H.G. Spafford hymn, which is entirely appropriate) 

And as he gets to the chorus the number of citations or allusions to how Jesus beat death are multiplied. No, this song isn’t as deep or complex as 1 Corinthians 15’s take on the resurrection. Clearly, this theme can fill thousands of pages of doctrinal discussion. But we rejoice in the mere fact that resurrection wasn’t a one-time isolated event for one man, but the firstfruit of the resurrection of everyone who trusts in that man. I have played this song overlaying an iMovie of Scriptural references, many of them above, the last three times I have preached at Easter at my church–2009, 2013, and 2017. I cannot say enough about how much it floods my heart with the joy and hope of what matters most—how the Bible answers the problem of the vilest, most despicable, unforgivable villain there is: Death. Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. –  Gowdy Cannon

♦ “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” by Charles Wesley

“Christ the Lord” was written by Charles Wesley, brother of John Wesley and 17 other siblings.

Interestingly, Charles and John didn’t enter into a personal relationship with Jesus until right after they finished serving as missionaries to Georgia. On the boat ride back home to England, they met a Moravian constituent. Once back in London, he introduced the Wesleys to fellow Moravians who led them to Christ. From them, they learned what it really meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Wesley’s conversion experience took place in 1738 and he wrote this hymn almost exactly one year later. It was written and played as one of the first hymns of the brothers newly founded Wesleyan Chapel in London. This was just the beginning of his hymn-writing career. He would go on to write well over 6,000 more hymns. I have not read or sung all of these songs but I have heard that many of them are mediocre at best. But those that are great are considered the best of the best in all of hymnology (many consider his “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” the most theologically rich Christmas song). And “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” is one of the most theologically rich Easter songs. It has certainly been one of the most popular Easter songs since it was first published in 1739.

Christianity celebrates the entry into new life by dying and that new life through the death and resurrection of Jesus is what this hymn clearly celebrates. It is via our acceptance of this sacrifice that we truly live. I Corinthians 15:19 tells us that if this life alone is all that we can expect, we are of all men most pitiable. But for Christians, it isn’t all we expect. We have a hope of life with Christ after we die. That is why we can confidently say, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55). This truth is at the very center of Christianity. That Jesus died and rose again so that we too may die and rise again into everlasting life with Him. 

The first three stanzas of this song remind us that Jesus rose three days after His death, rose to heaven to reign as a glorious king, finalized his work of redeeming grace, and opened paradise for all. But the song also reminds us that this was not just something that happened and finished up over 2000 years ago. The fourth stanza is clear that this is still true for us and that we have reason to sing praises to God above for His great work of love all the world. He, all three persons of the Godhead, did this for us. The last two lines finalize: “Praise Him, all ye heavenly host, alleluia! Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” – Ben Plunkett

♦ “Grave Robber” by Petra

This is not an Easter song. It is a song about what Easter made possible. One thing that Petra (mainly Bob Hartman writing the lyrics) excelled at was incorporating Scripture into their songs. This one is filled with allusions, direct quotes, and paraphrasing. This song, more than almost any I have heard, is entirely focused on the hope the resurrection of Jesus brings to believers. The lyrics are powerful, encouraging, and triumphant. As the chorus of the song so aptly states:

Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite
When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night
Where is the victory, where is the prize
When the grave robber comes
And death finally dies

In the here and now, we still struggle and fight with death, but one day, death will be no more. Death will finally die. That is our great hope, provided to us by the death and resurrection of our Lord. This classic song, by the preeminent Christian rock band of the 1980s, is the perfect reminder of this truth. For my money, few songs can match it in melody, structure, sound, and message. Every year around Easter, this song makes its way into my music rotation and I never regret it. It moves me every time I hear it. I hope it will move you as well even if the style is not your preference. Focus on the lyrics and the truth they convey. One day, the Grave Robber will “wipe away our tears – He will steal away our fears. There will be no sad tomorrow – there will be no pain and sorrow.” That is a truth worth singing about. – Phill Lytle

♦ “Remember Me” by Ben Shive (Performed by Andrew Peterson)

I’ve been listening to Andrew Peterson’s music a lot lately, especially his latest album Resurrection Letters: Volume I, released just in time for Easter last year. I heartily recommend the entire album (along with the Resurrection Letters, Prologue EP and the Resurrection Letters, Volume II album released 10 years prior[1. Yeah, I don’t understand volume two being released 10 years before the prologue and volume one either. ]), but I am supposed to write about just one song.

I strongly considered the modern congregational hymn “Is He Worthy?” (which Chris Tomlin borrowed for his latest album Holy Roar) and my personal favorite “His Heart Beats” which focuses on the actual moment of Jesus’s resurrection. In the end, I chose “Remember Me”.

“Remember Me” was written by Ben Shive (with whom Andrew Peterson collaborated on all of the Resurrection Letters albums) who, in his words, “wrote these songs [“Remember Me” and “Into Your Hands”] to help myself and the folks at my church remember Jesus this Good Friday.”[2. Link] I love that this song wasn’t written primarily to be published and recorded (though I’m glad it was) but was written by someone to help himself and his fellow church folk to remember Jesus.

I chose this song mainly because the lyrics cover the full story and meaning of Easter from our part as “wayward sons” and “prodigal daughters” in need of a redeemer to “ascend that hill” for us, through the story of Jesus during his last week from triumphal entry “as a King” to death on the cross to resurrection, to the resulting hope we have of our eternal life with our Lord when Jesus returns.

Secondarily, I chose the song because of the groovy pop tune atypical in Easter songs. It’s refreshing. – Nathan Patton

♦ “Arise My Love” by NewSong

I love a good power ballad. I love Easter Sunday. Put them both together, and you get “Arise My Love”. 

It is, formulaically, every bit 80s power ballad. A slow build, synth, echoey drums, it’s all there. Stryper could have done this song, and they would have killed it. If they added in a screaming guitar solo, it would be icing on the cake. (I’m still holding out for a Stryper cover BTW).

But this song is so much more than just an epic build. This song is a freight train of theologically sound emotion that is focused on the most victorious moment that humanity has ever witnessed. When you listen to this song, you get the sense that all of creation, all of Heaven and Hell, has been moved to contemplative silence at the tomb. Then you get to the chorus, the airy, heavenly “Arise, My Love! The grave no longer has a hold on you! No more death’s sting, no more suffering! Arise! Arise, My Love!”

I cry every time I hear it. I’m tearing up right now as I write this. It takes a lot to move me to this kind of emotion, but this song captures that most epic moment of all time so very well. Jesus is blazingly glorious, and this song gives just a tiny, minuscule glimpse into that reality. 

“Sin, where are your shackles? Death, where is your sting? Hell has been defeated! The grave could not hold The King!” – D.A. Speer

Hopefully, a few of your favorites were included in our list. We welcome you to share some of your favorites with us in the comment section. Let’s celebrate, through music and song, the resurrection of our Lord together.   





Regarding God’s Animal Kingdom

“Then God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.’ So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird–each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.’ And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day.” Genesis 1:20-23

“And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.” Genesis 1:24

I wonder, do cats and dogs and fish and all the other creatures in God’s vast animal kingdom feel the same emotions we feel? How do they experience them? How does God relate to those feelings? Do they process anger in the same way that humans do? Pain? Happiness? Boredom? Animals and humans might function in profoundly different ways, but I do know that He values them and wants us to cherish them as well. He even brought them to Adam so he could personally name them. God apparently did so in order that they might serve as companions, but Adam indicated that none of them was suitable. Thus, God creates the first woman Eve to be this companion (Genesis 2:19,20).

God commanded man to rule over all of the earth and over all of the animal kingdom (Genesis 1:28). Later on, humans are also commanded to eat the flesh of animals for sustenance (Genesis 9;3) and to use select animals as burnt sacrifices to Him (In Genesis 3:21 Abel brought the first recorded animal sacrifice before God). The Bible also tells us that while the spirit of man will rise in the end, the spirit of animals will go down into the earth (Ecclesiastes 3:21). This indicates that when animals die, that is it for them. When the animals of this present world die, they remain in the earth.

This does not suggest that these animals are not important to God. They might not relate to God in the same way we do, but He still cares deeply about them. On the fifth day, He began the process of filling the earth with animals. On this day, He created all animals that are found in the sea–fish, whales, porpoises, aquatic reptiles, etc.–and all kinds of birds. (Scholars who have studied this passage extensively say the command to create bird life also included insects.). Then on the sixth day, he finished off the creation of the animal kingdom by creating all of the land animals. We know that He cared about His animal creations in part because Psalm 50:10-11 God tells us that “…every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine.”

The creation account records Gods first three blessings. It is interesting that one of these should be to bless aquatic wildlife and winged creatures. It is also noteworthy that these creatures are the first things God blessed. Curious that God did not give a blessing to the land animals. I think that although God does not use the word “bless” for them, it is clear His blessing was on all the animals in every form. He blessed and sanctified them by both creating them and commanding them to multiply. Yes, God blessed them and prepared them as aids to the coming pinnacle of His creation. He loves them and cares for them. While we should not forget we are their superiors, we should remember that they are valued in the eyes of God. We should also not forget that God’s Word tells us that the life of one’s animal is regarded in the eyes of the righteous man (Proverbs 12:10, NIV).




The Thundering of Chariots

Awed and confused we watched
beneath the elders of dawn,
distracted by the sudden darkness and mad clatter
of the terrible chariots of rain
thundering down our rooves and onto the terrain,
trees buffeted and bowed by the wind’s wet whips.

The rain rained its blows
within the storm’s sudden throes.

The awe and sound in our dawn
was distracted by the rain
racing down our rooves to its uttermost end
where the splayed leaves tumbled in the wind.

And I heard the screeching singer in this wind
within the tree’s bantering branches
and I saw the helpless dawn
rise like a watcher of the land,
sadly aware of the thundering on our skinny rooves
and rain-torn earth where the waters rose,
where trees bowed beneath the storming hooves.

I feel the Lord in our land;
There is no cleverer One in the branches of the universe.
Yes, I hear the sound of His chariots thundering our land.

And here within the
elders of time, He hurls the dawn;
He rises before us in our awe;
He walks through our
rains and winds surveying the land.

I hear the Lord; He thunders Himself through our skinny rooves,
throughout our stormy earth, through the darkest of our dawns
that remain strapped to the raging waters of our now.

And when we call to His will,
our fears and storms are calmed.

Listen,

I Hear God’s mighty chariots thundering
throughout the earth so buffeted and bowed
by its wind-blown sundering.




A Cornucopia of Words: My Top Five Favorite

Today is the second to last day of National Words Matter Week. And they do so matter. Sometimes we take that for granted and start making up a lot of acronyms so we don’t have to use actual words to communicate. Sometimes we revert to just grunts and charades. I for one value my words. To the death! Who’s with Me!

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Sorry. Got a little revolutionary there. Anyway, here are my personal five favorite words and why I love them (or something along those lines).

1. Cornucopia – This has been somewhere in my top five favorite words for many years. I used to say things like “a cornucopia of things” and “a veritable cornucopia” quite a bit. It was my “smart keyword.” (For more about “smart keywords” check this out.) However, I got to the point where I figured I had used it up like an overused semi-colon.

2. Ellipsis – The dot, dot, dot is just fine, but although it has its practical uses, I’m not infatuated with it or anything. What I love here is the word that describes it, Ellipsis. So elegant. It has a classic Greek name ring to it. I have decided that if I were ever to own a horse, I would name it Ellipsis. The Great Ellipsis. (Side note: In that imaginary scenario, I’m thinking about purchasing three more horses and naming them Interrogatory, Exclamation, and Declarative.)

3. Vengeance – There are some words that are just super fun to use in a sentence. They kind of flow off the tongue. This is one of those. And how! Like when we’re playing a game of Risk and you’re talking smack: “I shall plow through your pathetic Mongol hordes with a mighty VENGEANCE!” But that is just one example. I love it equally as well in other non-Risk related situations. Sometimes I just like to randomly point at people and yell, “Vengeance!”

4. Bulbous – This is so nostalgic a word for me. When I was young my brother Daniel and I latched on to the word “bulbous” with all our might. We loved it because it made everything funnier. Everything was “bulbous.” A bulbous head, a bulbous rock, a bulbous tree, etc. Sometimes we even said someone was The Bulb. Although I have matured in my usage of bulbous, it remains one of the funniest adjectives in the English language. Bulbous. Hilarious.

5. Moist – My relationship to this word is a little different than the rest of the words on this list. In fact, it is a word I most recently put on it because it is a word I truly love to hate it. Pretty sure a lot of people either love to hate it or just flat out hate it with every fiber of their being. And that also makes it a funny word to me. You know that slimy bespectacled Nazi dude in “Raiders of the Lost Ark?” So you’re eating dinner, say something using “Moist” like he might: “This cornbread is very….moist.” Do this and watch them squirm.

So there are my top words. tell us some of your favorite words and why they have this exalted position.




Five of Our Favorite “Mad Scientists” From Film and Television

What constitutes a “mad scientist”? Single-minded focus? Crazy, sometimes dangerous inventions? Wild and unruly hair? A white lab coat? If those are the qualifications, we think the five we came up with fit the bill almost perfectly. This is not a best-of list. (We give official REO Top Ten rankings when we post stuff like that.) No, these are simply some of our favorites that we felt would be fun to write about. We hope you enjoy the list and feel free to add some of your own favorites in the comment section below the article.


Doc Brown – The Back to the Future Trilogy

You know you belong in this group when actual dialogue from your movie describes you as “a crazy, wild-eyed old man who claims to be a scientist.” Michael J. Fox may have owned the 80s in some sense, but he would have just been an average teenager in these films without its other crucial piece, Doc Brown. He had some timeless catchphrases that my brothers and friends and I still quote today: “88 MILES PER HOUR!!!” and “ONE. POINT. TWENTY-ONE GIGAWATTS!!” He was, to me, the brightest star of these movies.

And we loved Christopher Lloyd for it. I was young and naive when Back to the Future was new and so I thought he looked just like Doc Brown. I remember reading in TV Guide that he was going to do a guest spot on Cheers once and I watched the episode and was stunned at how he looked. Because the crazy wild-eyed (and wild-haired) scientist was nowhere to be found. And that’s how he will always be to me, even though he had a great career outside of this trilogy. Doc Brown is an icon of the 80s and an absolute treasure of a role. (Gowdy Cannon)


Flint Lockwood – Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

Flint Lockwood is different. Always has been. His entire life he has cared about only one thing: inventing things that will help others. Most of the time, his inventions end up causing more problems than they fix, but that doesn’t deter him in the least. At a young age he invented spray-on shoes that unfortunately he was never able to take off. He also invented rat-birds for some unknown reason and they have harassed his home-town (home-island?) of Swallow Falls ever since.

When we meet him as an adult near the beginning of the movie, he is working on the greatest invention of his life – a machine that will convert water into food. Any kind of food imaginable. Through some happy accidents, his machine actually works and things start to look up for Flint. He meets a girl. The town loves him – a big change from their usual annoyance. Of course, being a movie, things go wrong, Flint has to save the day and learn a few important life lessons along the way.

What makes Flint Lockwood so memorable is that he is not at all like any other heroic lead I’ve ever seen in a film. He is weird. He has very few social skills. He narrates all of his actions in his laboratory as he performs them. He has a pet monkey named “Steve.” Flint is odd, funny, unpredictable, and full of unexpected humor and heart. He stacks up with the best of the mad scientists out there. (Phill Lytle)


Doc Heller – Mystery Men

Doc Heller fits right in with his clientele, the oddball wannabe superheroes on the 1999 superhero comedy, Mystery Men. Doc Heller has a genius mind which he uses for all manner of insane inventions for things such as aromatherapy, laser hair removal, carnival rides, and a chicken rental business. He’s also an inventor of non-lethal weaponry for The Mystery Men team. This includes things like Canned Tornado, the Blame Thrower, the Shrinker, the Hair Dryer, and Glue Grenades.

Heller first garners the patronage of the Mystery Men after they fail to stop the Red Eyes from robbing a nursing home. Fortunately, Doc Heller is there on the scene romancing a resident and witnesses the whole incident. It is then that he tells The Shoveler that he has the non-lethal weapons they need to come out on top. Good ol’ Doc for the win!

While Heller is never actually made an official part of the team, his mad scientist-ery is instrumental in the final defeat of the archvillain, Casanova Frankenstein. (Ben Plunkett)


Doctor Heinz Doofenshmirtz – Phineas and Ferb.

You could argue that the appropriately named Heinz Doofenshmirtz is only one of three “mad scientist” in this fantastic Disney television show. Both Phineas and Ferb are master scientists in their own right. I would not classify them as “mad” as they don’t seem to be consumed by their work. Heinz, on the other hand, is completely consumed. His tragic (and hilarious) backstory sheds some light on how he turned into the crazy and power hungry inventor we see in the show. His inventions (“inators” of various kinds) are always far too convoluted for their own good and his end-game goal of conquering the entire “tri-state area” is incredibly limited in scope, which only adds to his charm.

Doofenshmirtz is full of one-liners, comic pratfalls, and running gags. His epic fights with Perry the Platypus are a thing of legend. (Seriously, if this doesn’t qualify him for iconic status, I don’t know if anyone qualifies.) While his failures are numerous, he keeps on trying, giving all future mad scientists a perfect role model. There are very few TV characters that make me laugh more than Dr. Doofenshmirtz, and that is enough justification for including him in this list. (Phill Lytle)


Frederick Frankenstein – Young Frankenstein


Frederick is of this infamous Frankenstein family line. He is so ashamed of his mad scientist ancestry that he pronounces it Fronk-en-steen in order to hide this embarrassing fact. At the beginning of the movie, Young Frankenstein (directed by Mel Brooks), Frederick has successfully spent years in adamant denial of his mad scientist family lineage. All of this changes after he inherits the castle of his great-grandfather, Baron Beavort von Frankenstein, the father of the infamous Victor Frankenstein, the creator of the even more infamous monster. (Many incorrectly know this monster by the name of Frankenstein when it was really Frankenstein’s Monster. Come on!)

In the end, Frederick (played to comedic perfection by Gene Wilder) returns to his family home, to his grandfather’s laboratory, and learns to embrace his inner mad scientist. With Wilder’s perfectly disheveled hair and mad eyes, one truly believes he has transformed into the mad scientist role. Verily, it is his destiny. He is assisted by the buffoonish yet well-meaning Igor (pronounced Eye-gore), a descendant of a long line of hunchbacks who have served the Frankenstein family; the beautiful Inga (Teri Garr) and Frau Blucher (Cloris Leachman), the Frankenstein castle housekeeper and possessor of a number of dark family secrets.

Frederick’s mad scientist antics do not end with the famous “It’s Alive!” moment. Oh no. Indeed, he is so obsessed with his creation, he loves it so deeply that he takes it to the stage where the two perform “Putting on the Ritz” for the masses. (Ben Plunkett)