Should I Watch This Movie? (Part 2)

This is a continuation of a previous post entitled Should I Watch This Movie?

Here are a few more questions to help you check your current cinema consumption:

Does This Movie Tempt Me to Sin?

This category is broad, so let me break it down:

  • Am I tempted to lust after the images on the screen? Not much explanation needed here.
  • Am I tempted to be discontent with my current stage of life (single, married, young, old)? Movies are like circus mirrors – they distort every stage of life. Singleness is only freedom. Marriage is solely intimate love. Youth is full of adventure. Old means retiring comfortably. These inaccurate, unbiblical portrayals often tempt us to be discontent with our current stage in life.
  • Am I tempted to believe lies about God, myself, or the world? Movies make excellent liars. They tell us that self-fulfillment matters more than serving others. That sexual love is more important than marital faithfulness. That finding myself is more important than taking up my cross. That “spirituality” matters more than knowing the truth. Beware of lying movies.

Does This Movie Edify Me?

This is where things can get a bit blurry. A movie that doesn’t glorify sin, that I can thank God for, and that doesn’t tempt me can still be unedifying. What do I mean by unedifying? I mean that it doesn’t build me up, doesn’t cause me to love Christ, makes me uneasy, etc.

Jen and I recently stopped watching a particular show. We loved this show. It was an intense, good against evil, crimebuster type of show. But things started to go south. The violence became increasingly gruesome. Disturbing images were planted in my mind, and I was increasingly tempted to fear. I would imagine myself walking into my darkened house and being attacked by a hidden assailant.

Was the show itself sinful? I don’t think so. But it certainly wasn’t helpful for me. So we stopped. Let Philippians 4:8 guide you in this area:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

This list isn’t exhaustive. It’s meant to get you thinking, and praying about the movies you watch.

I would love to get your thoughts. Are these questions helpful? Are there any other questions you would add?

+photo by eye of einstein

Centerpiece

?The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone? (LK 20.17)

“Jesus is the foundation stone of God’s plan. Though some may reject him, God will make him the centerpiece of his plan. Rejection by the Jewish nation is not the end of the plan. There is no replacing this precious and chosen stone.” — Darrell Bock

Jesus is the centerpiece of God’s plan.

All God’s purposes in the earth begin with Christ, are centered on Christ, and end in Christ.? And Christ is the center of all God’s purposes for us as believers as well.? Being a Christian isn’t primarily about keeping rules, but being made one with Jesus Christ, delighting in him and knowing his love.? It’s Christ living through us.? It’s enjoying fellowship with the Father through his Son.

God chose believers in Christ before the foundation of the world.? We’re forgiven by the blood of Christ and clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ.? We’re blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.? We’re adopted as sons and daughters through Christ.? The Father receives our worship, prayers and works as acceptable and pleasing through the mediation of Christ.

We are being transformed into the likeness of Christ as we put on Christ and walk in Christ.? We’re to imitate Christ, pursue Christ, proclaim Christ, hope in Christ, and rest in Christ.

Christ is our Shepherd, our King, our Lord, our Lamb, our Lion, our Wisdom, our Righteousness, our Sanctification, our Deliverer, our Savior, our Great High Priest, and our Hope of glory.? Apart from Jesus we can do nothing but through him and his strength we can do all things.

To live is Christ.? And to die is gain because death ushers us into the immediate presence of Christ.? The hope of our calling is that someday we shall see our Savior face to face as he is in glory and be fully conformed to him.? The hope of heaven is unhindered perfect worship and enjoyment Christ, the Lamb of God on the throne – the centerpiece of heaven.

What other glories of Christ would you add?

photo by Daniel HurstPhotography

Should I Watch This Movie?

You bought your ticket. You spent seven dollars on a four quart soda and a tub of butter-soaked popcorn. Your pockets are lined with Mike & Ike’s, Jujubes, and Milk Duds. You’re jazzed out of your tube socks to see the first summer blockbuster.

One question remains: should you watch it?

The fact is, you’ll be a different person when you walk out of the theater. Movies effect us. They make us laugh and cringe. They plant images in our mind. Sometimes they make us more like Christ.

As a Christian, how do you determine which movies are good and which are trash?

Here are several questions that I have found helpful to ask myself before and during a movie. (Note: These questions are the result of conversations with my dad and a sermon by Joshua Harris.)

Does the Movie Glorify Sin?

Have you ever found yourself hoping that a character will leave their unhappy marriage and run away with their true love? I have.

In essence, I’m rooting for adultery. I’m rooting for wickedness. For sins that crucified Christ.

Hollywood often portrays sin as good. We want Jonny Main Character to have a happy marriage, to get revenge on the man that killed his brother, to successfully rob the wealthy, snobbish banker.

Our emotions are manhandled to the point where we no longer root for righteousness.

Can I Thank God For This Movie?

Colossians 3:17 says:

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Can you genuinely thank God for the movie you just watched? Can you thank God for the content of the movie and for the way the movie affected you?

If you find yourself cringing rather than thankful, you may want to reconsider.

TO BE CONTINUED…

+photo by Jessica

Dear Tech Support

Dear Tech Support,

Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and noticed a distinct slow down in overall system performance — particularly in the flower and jewelry applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.? In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5 and then installed undesirable programs such as NFL 5.0, NBA 3.0, and Golf Clubs 4.1.

Conversation 8.0 no longer runs, and Housecleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system. I’ve tried running Nagging 5.3 to fix these problems, but to no avail. What can I do?

Signed, Desperate

————————————-

Dear Desperate:

First keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an Entertainment Package, while Husband 1.0 is an Operating System.

Please enter the command: ‘I Thought You Loved Me.exe’, try to download Tears 6.2 and don’t forget to install the Guilt 3.0 update. If that application works as designed, Husband 1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewelry 2.0 and Flowers 3.5. But remember, overuse of the above application can cause Husband 1.0 to default to Grumpy Silence 2.5, Happy Hour 7.0 or Beer 6.1. Beer 6.1 is a very bad program that will download the Snoring Loudly Beta.? Whatever you do, DO NOT install Mother-in-law 1.0 It runs a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of all your system resources. Also, do not attempt to reinstall the Boyfriend 5.0 program. These are unsupported applications and will crash Husband 1.0.? In summary, Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly. You might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance. We recommend Food 3.0…

Good Luck, Tech Support

………..

My friend Dave Harvey used the above humor in his introduction to an incredible teaching he did called “God’s Mercy and My Marriage,” which is available here.? I recommend it for all believers, not just married couples.? The truths about the mercy of God in Dave’s message are life-changing and have application far beyond marriage.

photo by tim caynes

Finding Christ in the OT

Leviticus. The final frontier. Or so it seems.

This book has often been the demise of wide-eyed Bible-plan readers. Things start so well in Genesis, with the recounting of creation, Noah?s ark, the tower of Babel, Abraham, and Joseph. It?s engaging, fascinating, and fast paced. Then comes Exodus and the jailbreak from Egypt, the splitting of the Red Sea, and Mount Sinai.

Then comes Leviticus. Sacrifices, blood, detailed laws about cleanness, five separate descriptions of offerings. It can seem confusing and irrelevant.

So what are we to do?

Jesus himself gives us the starting place. In Luke 24:27 we read:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

All the scriptures point in one direction, to one person. Ultimately, all scripture (including Leviticus) points to Jesus Christ. Bryan Chapell explains it this way:

In it’s context every passage possesses one or more of four redemptive foci. Every text is predictive of the work of Christ, preparatory for the work of Christ, reflective of the work of Christ, and/or resultant of the work of Christ.

So when you?re reading Leviticus and finding yourself lost in a maze of details, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How is this passage fulfilled in Christ?
  • Does this passage predict the coming of Christ?
  • Does this passage demonstrate man?s need for Christ?
  • Does this passage in some way prepare God?s people for the coming of Christ?
  • Does this passage reflect the work of Christ?
  • Is this passage a result of the work of Christ?

This list is not exhaustive, only meant to get you started.? When you read the OT (or any portion of scripture), look for Christ. It?s all about him.

What questions would you add to this list?

Expect Nothing

They’ll get you every time.

They’ll bring you grief and aggravation, and make you gnash your teeth in frustration. I’m not talking about Barry Manilow songs. I’m talking about something far more subtle and subversive – your expectations.

“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (LK 6.35-36).

We live in a world of payback. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. But Jesus says do good to others without looking for payback from them. Love your spouse, your kids, and fellow Christians, even your enemies expecting NOTHING back from them, not even so much as a “Thank you.”

We parents say things to our kids like, “After all I’ve done for you, how could you do this to me”? In other words, “Since I’ve slaved for years providing for you, I EXPECT you to always be grateful, respectful and kind to me.” We want them to fall at our feet crying, “How can I thank you again today for all the food and clothing you provide, all the ball games you drive me to, and all the wisdom you give me?? Thank you, thank you, thank you! Is there anything I can do for you? Clean the kitchen? Make my bed?” Ain’t gonna happen.

Our subconscious expectations of others are usually dashed.? We clean the house and our spouse doesn’t notice. We take the kids to Disney World and the whine about not going to the beach.? We loan a brother $500 and he never pays it back. And when our expectations don’t materialize, we get bitter.

So Jesus commands us to love “expecting nothing in return.” After all, this is what God is like.

He’s kind to the ungrateful. He lavishes blessings on committed rebels. And he dispayed his mercy most starkly on the cross when he crushed Jesus for us while we were his enemies. And Jesus himself healed lepers who never returned to thank him, fed thousands who didn’t believe in him, and prayed for those who nailed him to the cross.

Hoping others will repay the good we’ve done them will make us bitter, because they will rarely return the favor.? But Christ can empower us love others without looking for anything in return.

And don’t worry. God is watching.? Your reward will be great.

photo by Darwin Bell

Where’s Stephen?

So you may have noticed that in recent days I have been re-posting some early blog posts. Try and guess why:

  • I’ve joined a Swedish scooter gang and now spend most of my days wearing trendy Euro clothes, zipping around town, and listening to music by Steppenwolf.
  • I’ve taken up professional wrestling and have desperately been trying to come up with a ring name. Possibilities: Croc Rock, Smooth Like Butter, Skooter Skeeter, or Timothy.
  • I’m getting back to nature. I no longer use a computer. I eat strictly organic foods, wear pants made of organic cotton, and drink lots of soy products.
  • My time at the Pastor’s College is coming to an end. I’ve been spending my time furiously writing, reading, and starting revivals. Kidding about the last part.

Life is at full tilt right now. I’m rounding third base. I can see the finish line. It’s the fourth quarter. Round twelve. Mile twenty-six. The ninth inning. I can’t think of any more sports analogies. You get the point.

Back in action soon.

In The Nick Of Time

Saul went on one side of the mountain, and David and his men on the other side of the mountain. And David was hurrying to get away from Saul. As Saul and his men were closing in on David and his men to capture them, a messenger came to Saul, saying, ?Hurry and come, for the Philistines have made a raid against the land.?? So Saul returned from pursuing after David and went against the Philistines. Therefore that place was called the Rock of Escape (1 SA 23.26-28).

In the above passage, things aren’t looking good for David and his ragged band.? Saul and his army are in hot pursuit, and this isn’t laser tag.? David had eluded Saul’s spear in the past, when the deranged king tried to pin him to a wall, but this time Saul is determined not to miss.? David tries to put a mountain between himself and his pursuer, but Saul divides his force into two flanks that make their way around both sides of the mountain to encircle David (ESV Study Bible notes).? Saul is tightening the noose, and David’s only option will be to flee east into open country toward the Dead Sea – open country that means certain capture.? David is out of options.

Saul is gleefully rubbing his hands together anticipating his certain victory, when he hears the hoofbeats of a messenger riding into the camp.? The Philistines have raided the land.? Cursing, Saul hurls his spear to the ground.? He’ll have to tend to this invasion.? Once again, David has eluded him.

God rescued David “as Saul and his men were closing in” – in the nick of time.

While David was hotfooting it around the mountain, God was stirring up the Philistines to attack the land.? While David was scanning the horizon in vain for an escape route, God had an escape already worked out.

“While we were still weak, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly” (RO 5.6).

When God’s wrath was bearing down and closing in on us, Jesus stepped in and took it in our place.? In the nick of time, Christ became the lightning rod that absorbed the judgment of God that was bearing down on us.

And God in his providence continues to meet our needs in the nick of time all our days.? When Corrie Ten Boom was a little girl, she and her father were waiting for a train and she asked him for her ticket.? But he told her he would give her the ticket just before they boarded the train, not a minute sooner.? That’s how the Lord works.? He gives us strength right when we need it, not a moment sooner.? He gives us wisdom, grace, and provision in his perfect timing.

Jesus has a perfect timing for everything in your life.? He’ll give you your ticket just before you board the train.?? In the meantime, keep praying, trusting, and thanking him for the grace to come.

photo by *Cati Kaoe*

Worriers Live In The Future

Storm

Since I was a little kid I’ve struggled with the sin of worry. Some of my fears were normal little-kid fears like, “What if my mom and dad die?” But I was afraid of some pretty strange stuff too. When I was three years old I was convinced that Cookie Monster from Sesame Street was under my bed, which pretty much scared the pajamas off me. When I got a older I was terrified that a storm might arise during the night, causing a lightning bolt to come rocketing through my bedroom window, which would in turn electrocute me. I was also afraid that at some point a tornado might hit our house, even though the odds of that happening are about the same as Mr. Rogers getting into a fistfight. I admit, I had some strange fears.

Unfortunately, worry doesn’t go away when you grow up. It just takes on different forms. Now I fear for the safety of my daughter Charis, and my wife Jen. Sometimes I go into Charis’ room at night just to make sure she’s still okay. I worry about paying the bills on time, and being successful at my job, and the health of my parents and siblings. I’m a grownup now, but I’m still a worrier.

That’s why I’m so grateful for the book Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest by Ed Welch. This book was written for sinful worriers like me. At one point in the book, Welch says that worriers live in the future. He says:

Fear can be triggered by the past, react to crises in the present, or anticipate them in the future. It’s preferred time zone, however, is the future. Dread, panic, nervousness, worry, and anxiety all speak of our potential future vulnerability…Anxiety and worry are less oriented to the present. They say, “I think there will be a danger;” “Something or someone I love might be threatened in the future.”

These words spoke to me. Generally, my worries are future oriented. Will my daughter be safe? Will I have enough to pay the bills? Will I preach well next Sunday?

As I pondered my fears, God gave me a particularly helpful insight. When I worry, I’m imagining a future apart from the grace of God. For example, I worry that Charis might become seriously ill at some point in the future. I vividly imagine doctor’s appointments and doctor’s appointments. And yet in all my imaginations, God and his powerful, loving, sustaining grace is nowhere to be found. If Charis became seriously ill, it would be a trial beyond my imagination. But I also know that God’s grace would be present each moment, sustaining me, encouraging me, and refreshing me. The Lord would carry me through the trial.

When I worry about the future, I’m essentially functioning as an atheist. I’m envisioning a future devoid of the almighty God who sustains me and carries me through trials. When I ponder the future, I must remember God.

What are you tempted to worry about? Today, as you consider these things, rejoice in the grace of God that will sustain you through every trial!

__

Originally published April, 2008