Guest Writer Archives

Popsickle's 20 Greatest Films of the 2000s

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Contributors: Laura Culp, D. W. Hurt, Dempsey Kraft, Daniel J. Lay, Matthew D. Miller, Philip Tallman, and Emily Whelchel

The Popsickle team took a break from writing about the Significant Films of the 2000s to list what we thought were the twenty greatest films of the 2000s.

20. Taken

Taken

I view Taken as Finding Nemo for adults. It portrays the love of a father who will stop at nothing to have his child back. Liam Neeson is what truly makes the movie. He shows how talented he really is in this film. Along with his acting and fighting abilities, he shows that his voice is well trained. After watching the film, one can’t help but say “I will find you” in their best Liam Neeson-like voice. Most of all, the film does a great job of reminding everyone that human trafficking is real, and not everyone’s dad comes to save them. This movie is fictional, but what happens in this movie is not. When watching this film, don’t ever forget that fact. —P.T.

19. Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo

How far would you go to save someone you love? What would you fight to have a loved one back? One clown fish proved that he would do whatever it takes. In a humorous way, this film shows the love of a father. The main storyline of this film is so simplistic, yet it is a brilliant film. Additionally, it is treat for the eyes to watch the clown fish brave the colorful ocean. It is a beautiful sight. Anyone who has ever experienced the deep love of a father will be reminded of it while watching this entertaining movie. —P.T.

18. Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire has opened the eyes of many to the life of a “slumdog,” a person of lower caste living in India. Hope is found through the eyes of the meek Jamal Malik when he makes it onto an Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The film contains many scenes that can only create horror and anger as it reveals frightening truths about child slavery and other severe content, but the message shows without fail that love overcomes all trials and that is what attracts many to this powerful film. —E.W.

17. Up

Up

Pixar does what it does best, extolling the simple virtues in life against a backdrop of bright silliness. The real point of the story is the quiet, consistent people that love us and shape our lives and our duty to pass on that kind of kindness to others (even if they annoy us and disrupt our plans). Where this film really excels is telling the audience these things without ever saying a word. The montage sequences with only the score to guide the emotional rise and fall of the plot are stellar. —L.C.

16. Avatar

Avatar

Avatar debuted when three-hour movies had become the norm—some carry an air of being an epic, some just drag out. However, Avatar stands out, because it is an original story. It’s not a reboot, adaptation, or part of an existing franchise. Avatar also sums up the spirit of the decade. It shows our growing interest in environmental concern. It reflects vulnerability to terrorism. The destruction of the Hometree carries the imagery we saw almost a decade earlier when the World Trade Towers came down. In a time when films are revisiting the nostalgia of the 70s, 80s and 90s, Avatar reminded us of what we saw in the first decade of the twenty-first century. —D.L.J.

15. Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite

Napoleon Dynamite created a sensation that even its creators did not expect. The awkward choices in music and dress for the actors only complimented the blundering main character. The world created felt retro and yet very close to home. But perhaps one of the greatest reasons for the film’s surprise success was its quotability. The ridiculousness of the dialogue is funny completely out of context and so has made its way onto t-shirts, bumper stickers, socks, and every young person’s lexicon of randomness. But perhaps more subtly, the film knew what it was. It did not take itself too seriously. It chose its pace intentionally, its color schemes carefully, and took someone who was completely inept and made them graceful. The viewer might not say it, but they wonder, “If Napoleon can get up and dance like that, why can’t I?” —D.W.H.

14. Gladiator

Gladiator

After a lengthy absence of appropriate Roman period films, Gladiator appears on the scene and does not disappoint. Ridley Scott’s film bears real pain, real heroism, and a strong sense of justice—all while appealing to the modern taste for action and blood. The film contains all-star acting (thank you Joaquin Phoenix and Russell Crowe), epic battle sequences, and the sense that cinema is still viable to communicate the deeper truths of life. —D.W.H.

13. The Incredibles

The Incredibles

Among a group of highly talented filmmakers (there are four Pixar films on this list!), writer-directory Brad Bird outshines the rest. In my opinion, the two films he wrote and directed, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, are the two best films Pixar has produced. The Incredibles was not only a fantastic animated film but a superb superhero film too. Although they had superpowers, both children and adults could relate to the troubles the characters experienced. —M.D.M.

12. Serenity

Serenity

About a decade ago there was a short-lived television series that got abysmal ratings, aired for only eleven non-consecutive episodes, and partook in improbable genre mixing (Chinese Western! In space!). This sounds like a lost piece of obscure trivia except for the fact that it went on to garner so much attention that Universal Studios made a feature film based on it. Why? Because it was that awesome. —L.C.

11. Identity

Identity

An updated and more labyrinthine take on the classic Agatha Christie Ten Little Indians structure. A film for those of us who lament that horror films have become gory and plotless things and wonder why we can’t have more Hitchcockesque suspense. The final twist is what most films fail in, but this one gets right. It makes perfect sense within the constraints of what we know about the characters and yet is still hard to see coming for first time viewers. —L.C.

10. Juno

Juno

Director Jason Reitman was just thirty years old when Juno, his second feature, came out. The young director, who now has three feature films in his filmography, has proven one of the freshest, most original talents working in Hollywood today. Hopefully he will become an auteur on the scale of Woody Allen in the decades to come. Juno was also the feature film debut of stripper-turned-screenwriter Diablo Cody. The story affirmed life and became a cultural phenomenon. —M.D.M.

9. Batman Begins

Batman Begins

Batman Begins brought much needed new life back to the Batman franchise. With its gritty real world take on Batman, it allowed us to believe in this superhero again. For so many years, Batman was portrayed as a cheesy colorful superhero. Batman Begins brought in the “dark side” of Batman and the insanity of the villains he faced. Batman is a hero of the night and a man without any real superpowers. He makes us believe that we might even be able to be a superhero some day. Batman Begins brings a whole new level of greatness when it shows us that a hero can be born out of the worst situations possible. Bruce Wayne was stuck in a prison when Henri Ducard sought him out to train him. We need to always be reminded that no matter how bad our situation may appear, God is always seeking us out to become his heroes on the earth. —D.K.

8. Spider-Man 1 and 2

Spider-Man

Spider-Man 1 and 2 relaunched superhero movies and did it in a way never done before. After an era where superhero movies were so far from the comics that even die-hard fans avoided them and so cheesy that the normal moviegoer couldn’t stand them, Spider-Man 1 and 2 reinvigorated the superhero movie industry. Full of action, good versus evil, and drama, these movies draw us all into them. One of the best things about these movies is that the heroes and villains are not one-dimensional. Peter Parker has to try to reconcile his feelings for Mary Jane while understanding the dangers she will face if he pursues her. Even Doctor Octopus ultimately wanted to help the world but fell victim to his ideals when they clearly would not help the greater good. These movies at the very least remind us to reevaluate what our priorities really are. Should we sacrifice everything we are and the people we love for the greater good, or should we seek what is best for others even to the point of laying down our lives? —D.K.

7. Pan’s Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth

Pan’s Labyrinth, like Stranger than Fiction, presents the viewer with a film where the lines between reality and fantasy blur. But the similarities end there. The strength of Pan’s Labyrinth comes in the contrasting worlds it presents. The violence and brutality of the Spanish Civil War strongly contrasts with the fairy tales of a young girl. Ultimately, the director uses the mixture of the real and the fantastic to dialogue with the audience. The film’s ending is either happy or tragic. The choice belongs to the viewer. —D.L.J.

6. WALL-E

WALL-E

WALL-E carries an underlying message of hope amidst devastation. The film begins with a desolate image of a lifeless earth that has been destroyed by waste that humans left behind. Throughout the film viewers actually find themselves becoming endeared to a rickety robot whose job is to attempt to clean up the abandoned garbage and make earth habitable once again. In a world where life or hope cannot seem to be found, WALL-E experiences new life and true love, and the hope that follows is what makes a beautiful film by Pixar. —E.W.

5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl

Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean was based on a theme park ride. No one realized that the film would become such an obsession for viewers across the nation. Each of the characters are engaging and memorable even though most of them are swashbuckling, undead pirates. This film caters to a wide audience as it carries scenes of tender romance, action that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and a factor of genuine humor. Perhaps the most appealing aspect of Pirates of the Caribbean is the sense of adventure and excitement its viewers feel long after they leave the theater. —E.W.

4. Stanger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction

The key quality that makes Stranger Than Fiction stand out among all the films of the past decade is its use of a frame narrative. Lots of great stories are framed narratives, that is, a story within a story. Heart of Darkness, The Princess Bride, Forrest Gump—none of these framed stories mix fiction and reality quite like Stranger than Fiction. But a framed narrative is only a gimmick without a strong story. The journey Will Ferrell’s character takes to discover his creator and then knowing his fate is in the hands of another mortal serves as a catalyst for many discussions on the nature of choice and free will. —D.L.J.

3. Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead introduced the filmmaking trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost to the big screen (previously the three had produced the great TV series Spaced). This zombie romantic comedy set the standard for horror comedy that decade. Zombieland, another zombie romantic comedy later in the decade, came closest but still paled in comparison to Shaun. —M.D.M.

2. The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

Sequels tend to be hit and miss. The Dark Knight is definitely a hit! Drawing much of its material from countless comics, this film brings Batman to life. Unlike the majority of superhero films, this film takes place in a realistic world where men can’t fly, bullets kill people, and sadistic criminals kill for no reason other than their twisted pleasure. The plot of the film is excellent, but the cast is what really sells the film. Of course, Health Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker was Oscar-worthy, but the supporting cast really brought the film together. The performances of Gary Oldman, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine were superb. Overall the film presents itself to be not just an incredible comic book film but a great action/crime movie. A must see for all comic book readers. —P.T.

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Lord of the Rings

These cinematic masterpieces directed by Peter Jackson and adapted from the books by J. R. R. Tolkein represent the most well-loved fantasy series in the world. What once was esoteric and vehemently discussed in bookstores and literature classes firmly rooted itself to the most mundane levels of popular culture. The films made huge advancements in digital effects technology and established a relentless design ethic to be challenged by few. Besides this the films earned an enormous sum of money, established acting careers for many, received a host international awards, and created a renewed interest in fantasy as a seductive, lucrative, and entertaining genre of film. —D.W.H.

Intergenerational Ministry: God's Plan for the Most Effective Evangelism and Discipleship

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Editor’s Note: This week’s guest writer is John Vincent. He is the state director of Child Evangelism Fellowship of Oklahoma. As you will see from the following article, he has a heart for all ages.

Girl Eating a Peach Children often grow up too fast and too soon today in our society. David Elkind’s book, The Hurried Child, has the subtitle “Growing Up Too Soon.” He states that the influences of music, books, films, and television portray children as precocious and seductive. “Such portrayals force children to think that they should act grown up before they are ready.”

God has designed two loving, caring family units to forge security, value, and significance in the lives of children. His two family designs are the core and extended family (husband and wife, children and grandchildren, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins) and the spiritual family, the local and universal church.

Both family units can provide exactly what the modern, hurried and harried child needs: rich relationships across the ages. Age segregation leads to isolation. When children primarily have close relationships only with other children their age, they are robbed of meaningful intergenerational relationships.

Batting Practice When children are shown God’s caring, personal, focused love, they bloom and blossom as they experience his acceptance, security, and significance. Family reunions enriched me personally as a child and teenager. Caring adult men of our family not only played baseball with me, but they also talked personally with me. I was drawn to them by their “life stories.” As they shared past personal experiences and events, I learned lessons about life.

Children need to feel fully accepted, secure, and important. There are many children who suffer from loneliness. Surrounded by others their own age, they can still feel isolated and alone. These feelings become even stronger when they also have no contact with other age groups. The Lord designed marriage and families to counteract loneliness. “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18).

The Lord also designed the family to provide for the lonely. “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land” (Psalm 68:5, 6).

God’s parent-child relationship is to be one of intergenerational mentoring. Parents are to model the message of whole-hearted love for God both by their lifestyles and verbal teachings.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:4-9).

Intergenerational relationships benefit both the younger and older generations. The older adults can pass on the heritage of teaching God’s character and works to the younger generations.

Since my youth, God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come (Psalm 71:17, 18).

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness (Psalm 145:3-7).

Donald Keene Intergenerational ministry becomes a purposeful priority to older born-again Christian adults. Gerontology, the study of aging, defines this intergenerational purpose of life by the term “generativity.” Generativity is the growing conviction and desire of older adults to pass on what they have discovered to be the most important issues of life to the younger generations. The Psalmist Moses shared the brevity of life and the importance of using each day wisely for God.

Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90:10-12).

King David reflects on God’s faithfulness as he passes this on to the younger generations:

The LORD makes firm the steps of those who delight in him; though they stumble, they will not fall, for the LORD upholds them with his hand. I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing (Psalm 37:23-26).

Father and Son Surfing King David also teaches children to fear the Lord. “Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD” (Psalm 34:11).

The Lord Jesus described his genuine believers in terms of his spiritual family. He called them children of God. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). He stated that his believers (children) are his spiritual family and closer to him than his natural family.

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:46-50).

At the cross he declared to his disciple John that Mary was to be his spiritual mother, and he was to be her spiritual son in a family relationship. “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (John 19:26-27).

The Apostle Paul also taught that the local church is an intergenerational spiritual family. He viewed himself as a spiritual father to the churches.

I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:14, 15).

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children (1 Thessalonians 2:11).

He also practiced being a spiritual mother. “We were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children” (1 Thessalonians 2:7, NIV).

Portrait of a Girl He organized the church as a spiritual family with adult believers practicing family roles.

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Timothy 3:14-15).

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity (1 Timothy 5:1, 2).

You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us (Titus 2:1-8).

The Apostle James viewed the church as a believing, obedient spiritual family ministering across the generations to both orphans and widows. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).

The Apostle John taught the process of spiritual growth in terms of the church’s family roles.

I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young people, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young people, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one (1 John 2:12-14).

The church as Christ’s spiritual family has a tremendous purpose in reaching children and their families with the Gospel. Just as families grow and multiply, so the church is to grow and multiply. There are many spiritual orphans (James 1:27) without believing parents and families. The church can reach these spiritual orphans with the Gospel and then incorporate them into the loving, caring spiritual church family. The intergenerational relationships of the church family befriend, mentor, and develop these children. The church can influence their unsaved parents who can then be saved and brought into the church family. The children will receive God’s love and acceptance, security, and significance through intergenerational relationships in both their family and the church family.

This type of purposeful ministry can give a local church great joy and satisfaction. Adults are encouraged to continue to grow and to serve in reaching children and their families and to invite and welcome them into the church family.

At eighty-five years of age, Caleb led an intergenerational ministry to claim his portion of the promised land. Older adults can serve to reach children by serving as loving spiritual grandparents. Charles Swindoll describes Caleb’s challenge and satisfaction:

Remember Caleb? He was eighty-five and still growing when he grabbed the challenge of the future. At a time when the ease and comfort of retirement seemed predictable, he fearlessly faced the “invincible” giants of the mountain. His story is told in Joshua 14. There was no dust on that fella. Every new sunrise introduced another reminder that his body and a rocking chair weren’t made for each other. While his peers were yawning, he was yearning (Day by Day, 218).

Bored Ballerina A mother wished to encourage her small girl’s interest in the piano and so took her to a local concert featuring an excellent pianist. In the entrance foyer, the mother met an old friend, and the two stopped to talk. The little girl wandered off unnoticed by her mother. The girl’s mother became concerned when she entered the hall and could see no sign of her daughter. Staff was notified and an announcement was made asking the audience to look out for the little lost girl. With the concert due to start, the little girl had still not been found. In preparation for the pianist’s entrance, the curtains drew aside to reveal the little girl sitting at the great piano, quietly picking out the notes of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

The audience’s amusement turned to curiosity when the pianist entered the stage, walked up to the little girl, and began playing. The pianist sat down beside her, listened for a few seconds, and whispered some words of encouragement. He then began quietly to play a bass accompaniment and then a few bars later reached around the little girl to add more accompaniment. At the end of the impromptu performance, the audience applauded loudly as the pianist took the little girl back to her seat to be reunited with her mother. The experience was inspirational for everyone, not least the small girl.

Intergenerational ministry in the family and the church family can guide and encourage children to trust in Christ, grow spiritually, and to serve Christ for a lifetime. Let’s get involved in intergenerational ministry that counts for eternity and God’s glory. The benefits abound for both the children and ourselves.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is there a need for intergenerational ministry to children today? If so, what are the needs of children that this ministry can meet?
  2. Have we become too age-segregated in our churches? Do we meet, fellowship, and serve too much only with our own age groups? Why or why not?
  3. What motivates you about this kind of ministry?
  4. What hinders you from becoming more involved in this type of ministry?
  5. What is the next step you feel the Lord is leading you to take concerning intergenerational ministry?

Credits: Girl Eating a Peach: Bruce Tuten / Creative Commons, Baseball: Mike Baird / Creative Commons, Donald Keene: Aurelio Asiain / Creative Commons, Surfing: Mike Baird / Creative Commons, Girl: Rolands Lakis / Creative Commons, Ballerina: Rolands Lakis / Creative Commons

John has served as a pastor for thirty-five years in the Midwest. His heart for strong intergenerational relationships began through close relationships as a child and teenager with his grandparents and their older adult friends. He has developed and led Heritage Family Groups of mixed ages in churches he has pastored.
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