Ministry and Media
group magazine: January-February, 2006
by Bryan Belknap
Music: Ashlee Simpson
SONG: “Coming Back for More” (from I Am Me)
THEME: The singer can’t understand why she keeps returning to a destructive relationship.
BACKGROUND: Ashlee Simpson can’t breathe fire into these bland pop-rock songs. Even though many upbeat cuts manage to fly (“Coming Back for More,” “Dancing Alone”), they never soar. They also don’t outweigh the huge misfires, such as the misplaced dance track “L.O.V.E.” or “Say Goodbye,” which sounds like a cheesy B-side from the Top Gun Soundtrack. Banal lyrics cover standard territory—”I want a boyfriend/I had a boyfriend and lost him/Gosh, this boyfriend is awesome!” Then there’s “In Another Life,” which promotes reincarnation. If I Am Me is meant as a bold statement about the “real” Ashlee Simpson, then she obviously needs a lot of spiritual and artistic growth.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: What’s she singing about? How is her relationship like an addiction? What are some other things people find addicting? When does a person or thing become an addiction? No one intends to be an addict, so why does it happen? Read aloud Philippians 3:17-21. Ask: How do addictions damage our relationship with God? What advice does Paul give for avoiding addiction? Why does the physical world hold such power over us? How can you keep your “heavenly citizenship” clearly in mind? Do you have any addictions in your life? If so, what will you do to fight them? If not, in what area are you most vulnerable to an addiction, and how can you gain strength against this vulnerability?
Music: L.A. Symphony
SONG: “Put Up or Shut Up” (from Disappear Here)
THEME: We must act on our beliefs.
BACKGROUND: Those waiting to buy their first rap CD should purchase L.A. Symphony’s excellent album. This hip-hop collective offers a variety of tempos, styles, and flows, from rump-shakers (“Dance Like”) and tender ballads (“C’est La Vie”) to social commentary (“Pops Song”), spiritual uplift (“Grand Piano”), and even humor (“Don’t Call Me”). Whatever the musical or lyrical target, these guys nail it every time. Every song (except “Don’t Call Me”) naturally proclaims a biblical worldview, suggesting that the rappers each possess a living, breathing relationship with Jesus that’s woven into their lives. Let’s hope L.A. Symphony won’t “disappear here” because they’ve certainly hit their stride.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: What exactly is the song encouraging us to do? Do you live this way? Why or why not? What prevents you from speaking truth or acting on your beliefs? How would the world change if more people lived this way? Read aloud James 2:14-26. Ask: Why are actions necessary to prove one’s faith? What actions do you believe best demonstrate genuine faith in God? Why do actions make it difficult for people to deny the work of Christ? What action is God calling you to take as a step of faith? What’s stopping you?
Movie: Fun with Dick and Jane (PG-13)
Dick (Jim Carrey) and Jane (Téa Leoni) are living high on the American Dream...until Dick faces life among the unemployed. To maintain their lavish lifestyle, husband and wife turn to a life of larceny—enjoying every minute of it. Though it’s doubtful your students knock over banks, more and more activities once considered to be stealing are now considered to be excusable or even acceptable behavior (for example, cheating and petty shoplifting). Use this film to strike at the heart of stealing, convincing your young people that commandment number eight still matters.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: How do people usually justify stealing? Do you think there’s any true justification? Explain. What kinds of things do people often steal without feeling guilty? Why don’t they see this as stealing? Does stealing these “little things” matter? Why or why not? Read aloud Proverbs 6:30-31. Ask: Why must a hungry man repay more than what he steals? How might the hungry man avoid this problem? How does stealing, even “little things,” tear at the fabric of society? What application do these verses have to your life? Where do you personally excuse stealing? What needs to change?
Video: Fever Pitch (PG-13)
SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 46
CLIP LOCATION: 23:15 through 24:15* (DVD Chapter: 8)
SYNOPSIS: Ben wakes up and we see his apartment, where Boston Red Sox memorabilia and paraphernalia cover every available inch.
GOSPEL FILTER: Though we don’t bow down to golden calves anymore, idols are alive and well in the 21st century. Help teenagers identify current (or potential) idols in their lives, helping them tear down those things that separate them from a close relationship with God.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: Do you have an obsession like Ben’s? Explain. How are these types of obsessions like idols? What particular idols are most venerated in our society? At what point does something become an idol? What damaging effects have you seen idols have on people’s lives? Read aloud Isaiah 46. Ask: What drives people toward idol worship? What has the greatest potential for becoming an idol in your life? How can we protect ourselves from setting up false idols? What’s one step you can take to shift your energy away from an “idol” and toward God?
Video: Ben-Hur (G)
TOPIC: Living Water
SCRIPTURE: John 4:4-15
CLIP LOCATION: Disc One 1:02:15 through 1:04:45* (DVD Chapter: 18)
SYNOPSIS: The Romans deny Judah water. He collapses, crying out to God. Hands appear, pouring water over his head and allowing him to drink. A guard shouts at the man to stop, but it’s Jesus. The guard, now speechless, waits as Jesus finishes rejuvenating Judah with water.
GOSPEL FILTER: What a wonderful picture of Jesus as transformative, living water. (Especially the part where he stands firm to the Romans. No wimps here!) Use this scene to introduce Jesus as the perfect answer to humanity’s spiritual thirst.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: What insights did this scene give you about Jesus? What spiritual reality do the actions in this scene represent? What can water represent in the Christian faith? Read aloud John 4:4-15. Ask: What did water mean to people in Jesus’ time? In what way is Jesus the “living water”? Do you still “thirst”? Explain. How can a person draw upon Jesus as living water? What result does this have on our daily lives?
Video: Crash (R)
SCRIPTURE: Luke 15:11-32
CLIP LOCATION: 1:26:15 through 1:28:45* (DVD Chapter: 11)
SYNOPSIS: Graham finds evidence that his mother has been abusing drugs again. He brings her inside and lays her on the couch. As Graham comforts her, she apologizes and says with regret, “I was doing good.”
GOSPEL FILTER: What a touching illustration of the way Jesus cares for us after a big screw-up. It’s not the mistakes that doom us. (There wouldn’t be anyone in heaven if that were true.) It’s how we respond. Encourage your young people to stop hiding from their loving Father and, instead, to freely confess and return to him.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: How did the son display God’s love in this scene? How are we like the mother every time we stray from God? Does God have to take us back after we make a mistake? Explain. Read aloud Luke 15:11-32. Ask: What prevented the son from admitting his mistake sooner? Can you relate? Why or why not? Why do we leave God in the first place? Why does God continually take us back? What does this tell you about God? How can you decrease the time between when you make a mistake and when you confess it to God?
Bryan Belknap is media editor for group Magazine. Visit our massive online resource www.MinistryandMedia.com for hundreds of Bryan’s biblical discussion starters based on popular movies, music, and videos.
Video Game: The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction (Rated: Teen)
by Scott Firestone IV
SCRIPTURES: Ephesians 4:31-32; James 1:19-20
LOCATION: Beforehand, play through the tutorial and the first few minutes of the game, including the first mission in the city environment where you’re supposed to take out the police presence. Once past this point, the game will be ready for use in the following discussion.
SYNOPSIS: Give a few kids the chance to storm through the city as the Hulk, destroying cars, reducing a building to rubble, using a light pole as a baseball bat, and turning city buses into a pair of metal gloves.
GOSPEL FILTER: Hold onto your hat...I’ve discovered that teenagers can be moody. Too often, teenagers’ home life, school life, and even youth group life can be pressure cookers, causing kids to blow their tops. Show them that God wants us to control our anger and look to him as the “release” in our stressful lives.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Ask: What causes Bruce Banner to change into the Hulk? When you get angry do you sometimes wish you could wreak havoc just like the Hulk does? How did the Hulk’s actions affect those around him? Do you think that when you get angry it affects those around you? Do you think it’s ever okay to get angry? Explain. Read James 1:19-20. Ask: Do you find yourself being slow or quick to anger? Why do you think anger doesn’t produce righteousness? What does anger produce? Read Ephesians 4:31-32. Ask: What are some things you can do to “get rid of” rage, anger, and harsh words? How would your life be different if you got rid of these things? Is there anyone you’ve shown anger toward recently? What can you do to reconcile with that person?
Scott Firestone IV, assistant editor for group Magazine, writes our video game discussion starters.
Coming Soon to Our Website, MinistryAndMedia.com
Glory Road (PG)
Texas Western University coach Don Haskins (Josh Lucas) leads the first all-black starting line-up to the 1966 NCAA championship.
The Break Up (NR)
Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and Gary (Vince Vaughn) break up, but they continue living together because they’ve invested in an expensive condo.
Madea's Family Reunion (NR)
Wild, gun-toting Madea (Tyler Perry) decides to hold a funeral, a wedding, and a family reunion—all on the same weekend.
This 1930’s musical follows a speakeasy performer (Big Boi) and his piano player (André Benjamin) as they try to prevent mobsters from taking over the club.
The Island (PG-13)
Lincoln (Ewan McGregor) and Jordan (Scarlett Johansson) flee after discovering they’re clones meant to provide their “originals” with organs.
The Brothers Grimm (PG-13)
Will (Matt Damon) and Jake Grimm (Heath Ledger) con villagers with fantastic tales of fairies, trolls, and witches...until the brothers face the real thing in an enchanted forest.
The Dukes of Hazzard (PG-13)
Bo (Seann William Scott) and Luke (Johnny Knoxville) Duke fight to keep their farm out of the clutches of Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds).
Wedding Crashers (R)
Divorce attorneys John (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) crash weddings to take advantage of free parties and willing bridesmaids.
Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (T)
This old-school role-playing game sold 3 million copies its first week of release in Japan. During your 60+ hours of gameplay, you’ll be trying to cure a cursed king and fighting an evil jester across a vast landscape. Sixty hours is a lot of influence on a teenage mind.
Resident Evil 4 (M)
The granddaddy of survival-horror games achieves new highs—and lows. The story follows a police officer as he attempts to rescue the president’s daughter from a remote village in Spain. Unfortunately, the villagers have been turned into zombies and other monsters guaranteed to scare the whoopee-tar out of you.
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