Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Who's the Fairest?

Hi everyone!  I have a big weekend that I need to prepare for over the next few days.  I'm going to be devoting most of my energy and time this week to that and cutting out some of the other things I regularly do.  I know some of you come here regularly for a devotional thought, so, instead of leaving you empty handed, check out this article from Dare 2 Share Ministries.  Have a great day!


Friday, April 20, 2012

Feature Friday: Discerning good and bad movies/music/tv and more

Is it OK for me to watch ________?  It swears a little, but can I listen to _________?  As a youth pastor, I get those kinds of questions a lot.

Media like movies, music, books, and television are more than just pass-times.  Each of them has messages that they are conveying whether those messages are obvious or not.  This is especially obvious when we look at movies.  Have you ever left a movie theater inspired or changed in some way.  The movie Up moved me to tears and made me want to spend more time with Christy.  The movie The Grey left me discouraged.

Movies, music, television, and other forms of media influence us.  They plant ideas in our heads.  They encourage us to emulate the characters. . . not always in good ways.  They paint a picture of what is important in life.  As Mark Driscoll says, "They preach sermons."

When I was a new Christian, I used to think music and movies couldn't influence me.  As a new Christian, I was trying to give up swearing to honor God and I was failing miserably at it.  That's when my youth pastor told me to stop listening to Eminem and ICP.  If you didn't already know, every other word in their songs is a swear word.  I gave up their music and suddenly it was easy for me to stop swearing.  That's when I realized the stuff we watch and listen to influences us, whether we admit it or not.

BUT, we can't just give up watching, reading, or listening to anything that includes bad things like immoral sex, swearing, violence, rape, etc.  If we did, we would have to stop reading the Bible!  What we need is wisdom and discernment to make sure that the things we are letting in front of our eyes and ears are not influencing us to sin. Below are some guidelines to help you make those decisions.  But first, let the spirit of this verse guide you as you think about this issue.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.  --  Philippians 4:8

What rules have my parents given me?

This is short and simple.  If you are a kid, then honor your parents' rules on this.  If they say don't listen to music that swears then honor them in that.  Follow their rules.  Its as simple as that!

What areas of sin and temptation do I especially struggle with?

Figure that out and avoid media that contains those things!  Years ago, I couldn't stop swearing and a major reason was that everyday I was listening to an hour minimum of music that swore non-stop.  Do you struggle with lust and have a hard time keeping your thought life pure?  Then let me suggest that shows, movies, and songs that talk about sex are bad for you.  That means you should probably avoid B96 and shows like How I Met Your Mother.  If you were an alcoholic, it would be stupid to go to a bunch of parties where alcohol is served.  The same thing applies here.

Does it make sin look normal, good, fun, or rewarding?

The Bible's stories and content are full of sin.  Lot sleeps with his daughters.  Judah solicits a prostitute.  Jacob is a deceitful coward.  The list goes on and on.  But the Bible shows those things for what they are.  It shows that they are sin.  It shows the terrible consequences that come from them.  It also doesn't give us every sinful detail. 

Many movies, music, shows, etc. do the opposite.  They portray people living lifestyles of sin and imply that those actions are normal, good, and healthy.  In increasing ways, they give us more and more of the lurid details.  They even go as far as claiming these things are rewarding!  Going back to How I Met Your Mother, Barney sleeps with hundreds of women in a life full of one night stands.  Is this character shown as heartbroken, disease ridden, or immoral?  Not really.  He is happy, successful, wealthy, charming, and one of the funniest characters on the show.  These are subtle messages that work their way into our thinking and influence us.

If a show is constantly telling you that sin is normal, good, fun, or rewarding, then its only a matter of time and exposure before you begin believing those lies.

Does it make righteousness look strange, boring, foolish, or unrewarding?

A show  or song can portray sin as a good thing.  Likewise, it can make a holy life look like a bad thing.  A prime and funny example is Ned Flanders on the Simpsons.  He is the go-to Christian guy on the show.  Often times, his faith is portrayed as silly and dorky.  A more serious example are the myriad of shows and movies that portray virgins who are waiting for marriage as losers.

If a show constantly portrays what the Bible says is right as strange, boring, foolish, or unrewarding, then its only a matter of time and exposure before you begin agreeing with those messages.

Am I being entertained by something that grieves God?

For this one, you have to look at what portion of the show or song you are enjoying.  Be honest.  When you watch Saw 4, what is it that is entertaining you?  For most people who enjoy those movies, its the gore.  So the entertaining part of the movie is watching a human being get tortured.  Does that sort of thing entertain God?  Nope.  We have a problem here.

You can argue that  you know its fake and would never really be entertained if this happened in real life.  I would argue that the fact that you draw entertainment from pretending a person is being tortured reveals something sinful within your heart.  I would also argue that if you keep feeding that sinful corner of your heart's weird and perverted desires, you will end up stepping closer and closer to that sin in real life.

On a similar note, I honestly can't understand how Christians can listen to music that swears nonstop and talks about sex and violence.  What profit is there in that?  What are you training your mind to think about?  Why are you OK with being entertained by sinful things?      

What is my personal level of maturity?

If you show a five year old a movie that has one joke with a swear word in it, they will likely be repeating that word for days trying to get a laugh.  If you show a fifty year old Christian who doesn't swear that same movie, he probably wouldn't be tempted to go around swearing in the slightest.

Part of this comes down to the very tricky issue of knowing your own maturity level regarding various issues.  Are you mature enough to hear a swear word without repeating it?  Are you mature enough to watch a movie with a person dressed immodestly and not have lustful thoughts?  Are you mature enough to look away from that movie when you need to?  These are tough questions to answer honestly.  I'd encourage you to error on the side of caution.


Those are questions I tend to ask myself when I'm considering a questionable movie or song.  Its a tricky subject because its not an issue we can address legalistically.

The movie Crash, for example, is filled with bad language, racism, violence, and even has a scene where a woman is sexually abused.  Yet I fully recommend that movie to Christian adults mature enough to handle it.  Why?  Because that movie leaves you disgusted with racism and disgusted with the way the characters are treated.  It causes you to hate the sin you see in it and that is a very good thing.

In the end, we Christians need to realize that everything we spend time watching, reading, and listening to has an influence on us.  We need to weigh the value of it all.  We need to make sure we are not sticking temptation in front of our faces to do its worst.  We have to be careful to discern the messages in media to take what is true and reject what is false.  I hope these questions will prove helpful for you as you process through the things you watch, read, and listen to.  Let's be careful what we allow to influence us.

PS. Pluggedin.com is a great Christian website that reviews tons of movies, shows, songs, and more.  Check it out.  I tend to visit it before going to see a movie I'm not sure about.  You may find it helpful.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sins of Omission

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."  --  Edmund Burke

I don't know if you've heard that one before, but its a pretty famous quote.  Movies that aim to inspire us to courage often throw this line in somewhere.  Books that cover the horrors of the holocaust, wars, and other injustices often use this line right at the beginning or the end.  Its very common for this quote to be used for the larger than life type of situations where it is clear to us all that good men and women need to stand up and do something rather than just let the world be as it is.

But does that apply to everyday life as well?  On Tuesday, I wrote about the way Jesus would bravely defend those in need and fight against those who would oppress them.  So what about the person who gets bullied at our school or the guy at work that nobody treats well?  What about the shouts we hear outside our house of an angry man yelling at his wife?  What about the person on the bus or train in front of us who looks so depressed?  All throughout the day, are we the kind of people who do nothing?  If we do nothing, can we really call ourselves good?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Theology Tuesday: Passive or Agressive?

Turn the Other Cheek?  

Its one of the most quoted verses in the entire Bible.  But what does it look like in real life?  Should Christians never stand up for themselves?  Should we allow others to harm us and take advantage of us?  Should we let people cut us in line, cheat off of us at school, and bully us?  Is it ever OK for a Christian to fight back with words or fists?  Must we always be pushovers?  What does the Bible say about this?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Feature Friday: Halfway. . . Mansion?

I was reading the news this week and came across THIS news article.  A beautiful mansion right on the water in a luxury neighborhood in Florida might be getting turned into a drug and rehab clinic.  On top of the fact that its a mansion on the beach, this place also has a full-time professional chef, an on call staff, a private pool, a baby grand piano, a home theater, and who knows what else!

Let's be honest, that's the kind of place most of us dream of living in someday.  But we know its only a dream.  There's only two ways to get a home like that.  You can be a genius or savant who works hard and gets rich.  Or you can get lucky and hit the lottery, either by being born into the right family or by landing the magic megaball ticket.

But apparently, now there is a third option.  You can become a drug addict and go to rehab.  This has actually been causing a bit of a stir in the neighborhood and in general.  People have cried out that this will make the wealthy neighborhood unsafe and hurt its value.  Let's be honest, that's very possible.  In addition, some of the neighbors simply don't want to be near those who need rehab.  Others have argued that drug abusers should not be rewarded for their mistakes with such luxury as it sends a very confusing message.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Excuses, Excuses

I love my wife.  Even when she has a problem with something I'm doing, she doesn't yell at me or criticize me.  She lovingly expresses what she'd like me to do differently.  What a godly example.

So this week, she had asked me to start cleaning up after myself more around the house.  I used to do this pretty well, but lately I've been slacking and she's been picking up after me.  As we were talking, I found myself trying to excuse my behavior.  But when I look at what these excuses are really saying, they just fall apart.

Excuse:  I'm at work all day, when I get home I want to relax a bit.
Implication: So I should be able to sit around from 5 PM til bedtime without lifting a finger around the house.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Theology Tuesday: Does Prophesy Happen Today?

 What is Prophesy?

This is a huge part of answering this question because there are actually two different categories when speaking of prophecy.  There is "Prophecy" and there is "prophecy".


In the Old Testament, there were men called Prophets who spoke the very words of God.  They would say things like "Thus saith the Lord..."  In fact, they wrote down the words that they spoke and their writings became part of the Bible and we treat them with God's authority to this day.  These are men like Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and others.  In the New Testament, we see men who did similar things.  We call them Apostles.  This includes Peter, James, John, Paul, and others.

This kind of Prophecy (upper case P) is fully authoritative, 100% accurate, and always to be obeyed.  This kind of Prophecy produces Scripture.  This kind of Prophecy can be defined as "Declaring the very Words of God."

Friday, April 6, 2012

What Jesus Endured and Accomplished on the Cross

Today is Good Friday.  Its the day that we remember the death of our Savior as a sacrifice in our place.  But do we get it?  The only place I've ever seen any really violent deaths is through the television.  When I hear that Jesus was crucified, I don't have any experience to draw on to fully understand what he went through.  My guess is that most of you are in the same boat as well.  A crucifixion is so far from reality to us that its hard to comprehend.  So let's look briefly at what our Savior endured for us.  This will be detailed and may make some readers feel uncomfortable.  It should.  The goal here is not gore, but the truth of what our Savior went through for us.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Thursday

Today is Holy Thursday.

Today is the day we remember the Last Supper, Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, His betrayal and arrest, and the beginning's of His false trials. 

One thing that tends to get missed is a message that Jesus shared with His disciples right after the Last Supper.  He shares with His disciples some of the most beloved and powerful pieces of the whole Bible.  I believe He wanted these ideas to guide them through His coming death and resurrection.

So as we prepare for Good Friday and Easter Sunday, lets take a look at what Jesus said to His disciples in preparation for the most significant weekend in all of history.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Theology Tuesday: Women and Head Coverings

Did you know that in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, Paul says that women should wear head coverings, like hats, in church?  If you had never heard that before, you may now be wondering why we don't do that in most churches these days.  If its in the Bible, why don't we follow it?  Somebody recently asked me this question and my honest answer was that I hadn't studied this issue a whole lot.

I asked Christy for her opinion and she said she wasn't sure.  We decided we would have to look into it and we both decided that whatever the Bible convinced us that it was saying was what we would do.  With a smile, Christy said, "Cool, I may get to go buy some cute hats!"  So, as I lay out what I've found, please have that same attitude.  Be willing to follow whatever the Bible says, rather than making up your mind first and trying to excuse away what the Bible is saying.