Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Oscars Are Not for Film Fans

World Magazine has a wonderful article in its most recent issue. The article explains that the Oscars are no longer for the average film fan. Those who simply love good movies and good stories have repeatedly found the Oscars to be disappointing and frustrating. The reason? Since 1998 those films winning Oscars have increasingly been indie films with political and controversial agendas.

Megan Basham writes, "A quick perusal of the nominated films of the last few years reads like a checklist of the liberal platform. Validates same-sex couples- check (Brokeback Mountain). Endorse transgendered lifestyles- check (TransAmerica). Repudiates immigration law enforcement- check (Babel). Promotes euthanasia- check (Munich). Advocates class-action lawsuits- check (Erin Brochovich). And the list goes on to cover everything from the president's supposed scheming with oil companies (Syriana) to the constant implication that being married in the suburbs is a miserable way to go through life (American Beauty, Far From Heaven, Kinsey, Closer, and others)."

Basham has given a thoughtful analysis to the Oscars and as they are fast approaching (this Sunday) I recommend that we all give some thought to them. See my article "Theology at the Movies" over at Pastor Dave's Articles. I've tried to write a thoughtful piece of the Christian understanding of movies and the right way to view them. If you're a movie fan at all give sometime this weekend, before the Oscars, to give thought to this subject.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Sin of Israel, the Sin of Me

The Book of Judges is repeatedly clear on just how sinful man really is. The heart of man is inclined towards sin, and towards offending God. The New Testament makes this all more clear. The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 1 just how vile man can become. In Ephesians chapter 2 the Apostle says very plainly that man is by his very nature an enemy of God, a child of wrath. But these writers were not composing some sort of new found theology for the Christian faith. They were carrying over the truth which God had revealed through the Old Testament. Originial Sin begins, not in Matthew 15, but in Genesis 3 and it is carried on throughout the Old Testament.

Judges chatper 10 begins with the listing of two judges who arose in Israel's history to "save Israel". First Tola, who judged Israel 23 years and then died. Then Jair the Gileadite judged them for 22 years and then died. Immediately following this historical sketch we read, "Teh people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord..." Amazing! After God's kindness and mercy is displayed in granting a them these two judges, which came after others, they Israelites turn around and reject God. At the end of Chapter 12 we read the same thing, but even more condemning. We read that Izban judged seven years, and Elon judged ten, and Abdon judged eight. And then at the beginning of chapter 13 we read, "And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord..."

What a mass of sin is the human heart. What a pool of idolatry and self-worship! God displays His mercy in sending repeatedly to Israel a savior and they listen to him for a while, but when he dies they return, like a dog to its vomit, to their sin. This too is us. We cannot simply read of Israel's history and wag our finger at them. This is our history too. God sent His Son, even greater than a judge or prophet of Israel, and He is our savior. Yet even for the Christian how often do we find ourselves listening to Jesus for periods of time and then doing exactly what we want contrary to the Lord's command. We know anger is considered murder in the Sermon on the Mount, but we justify ours. We know that we cannot serve God and money, but we try. How foolish. Let this passage from Judges 10-13 awaken in you a fresh realization of your sinfulness and drive you to humiliation before God. What a great God we have, for though He is angry with sin He is merciful to His people. Jesus has paid the penalty for our sins and if we confess it, we know God forgives us on His account.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

When Victory Becomes an Idol

In Judges chapter 8 we read of the great victory which God gave Gideon over the Midian army. It really is an amazing account as 300 men decimate a thousand. But there is this seemingly unimportant parenthesis to the discussion of Gideon's victory in verses 24-27. Here we read that Israel wants Gideon to become their king, a position the judge respectably turns down. But he follows up his refusal to be king with this odd request that they give him all the spoils of the war in order that he might make a magnificent ephod (high priest's garb). See if you notice something very disturbing about what the text says, however. It reads:

(Judges 8:26-27) 26 And the weight of the golden earrings that he requested was 1,700 shekels of gold, besides the crescent ornaments and the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian, and besides the collars that were around the necks of their camels. 27 And Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his city, in Ophrah. And all Israel whored after it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.

What was a victory soon becomes a trajedy. What was Gideon thinking? How could he see this victory and turn around to create such an idol? Perhaps he didn't intend for it become an idol, perhaps this was a seemingly innocuous deed. But Israel corrupts it and it becomes a "snare" for Gideon's family. This happens time and time again in Israel's history. We read in 2 Kings 18:4 how the bronze serpent that Moses had lifted up in the desert has become an idol.

It is so tempting for us to turn what God does in our lives into idols. It is especially tempting for me now as I think of the wonderful child that God has given to Krista and I. How tempting it would be for us to turn and love this child more than God. To love the gift over the giver, the victory over the true victor. When God does a good work in our lives we should enjoy it, but we should glorify God for it and not turn His granted victories into occassions to sin against Him.

The victory over the Midianites became an idol and a snare to Gideon's family, is there something in your life that is displacing God? Check yourselves, friends, and beware that victory does not become god.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Childhood Conversion Conference

This weekend in Portsmouth, OH Christian Communicators Worldwide is having a conference on Childhood Conversion. This is such a crucial topic in our churches today as it touches on a number of related issues: what is true conversion; when should a child be baptized; how do churches and parents relate their faith to their children; etc. Come out to Bigelow Baptist church this weekend and here as Steve Burchett leads us in a great discussion.

(See link for Bigelow Baptist to the left under the churches heading)