Archives For truth

The following post comes courtesy of Grace Hill Media in sunny Southern California. As the genre, and responsible parenting/consumption of media are near to my heart, it was a no-brainer to feature their byline here.

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Lessons For Christians From Horror Movies

The popularity of horror films continue to grow, especially among teens and young adults, who flock to movie theaters on opening weekend.  This Friday, August 11, for example, the movie “Annabelle: Creation,” about a possessed doll hits theaters nationwide.  It seems difficult to believe that any movie created to frighten and give us nightmares might have a meaningful spiritual lesson for Christians.  And yet, anyone who has been brave enough to watch “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” written by Scott Derrickson, a Christian filmmaker, knows full well that horror movies can serve us with cautionary messages and, might just inspire the audience to head to their nearest church pew.
To be clear, not all horror films are the same. The genre has different versions.  
There’s no takeaway from “slasher” or disturbing “torture” movies meant to provide nothing but shock.  However, there are horror movies that depict spiritual warfare (which we know to be real) and the battle between good and evil. These supernatural films, oftentimes written and produced by Christians and based on real-life events, are filled with lessons about something we as people of faith have stopped discussing in an increasingly distracted secular world – that evil is real.

Here are a few other lessons from supernatural horror films:
1) Exorcisms are also real.  Although incredibly rare, people can get possessed by evil.  “The Exorcist” is based on a real-life possession of a young boy, and “Annabelle: Creation” is about a possessed girl.  

2) God will always defeat evil. No matter how powerful the enemy may be, God will always come out on top.  In the Bible, one of the most powerful miracles that Jesus performed was The Miracle of the Gadarene Swine in which Jesus cast unclean spirits out of a man.  In real-life and in all supernatural films that have a faith message including “The Conjuring” and “The Rite,” evil will always be vanquished.

3) Ouija Boards are a big no.  Perhaps one of the strongest and most valuable lessons to come from supernatural horror movies (which just as true in real life) is that those who become plagued or possessed by evil may have inadvertently invited those spirits or demon to come into their lives.  This is done through certain “gateways” that many priests and Christian leaders warn us about.  Christians, especially Christian parents must teach kids and teens to stay away from Ouija boards, tarot cards, fortune telling, or any sort divination.  These are all means in which evil can take hold of our lives.  In the second “Conjuring” movie the character becomes possessed after playing with a Ouija board.  This was based on a true person and event.
 
4) Prayer is the most powerful thing in the world.  Prayers protect and deliver us from evil.  In horror movies, those who are plagued by evil must often turn to a person of great faith or priest to help them.  That Christian leader is always portrayed as someone who believes prayer to be of utmost importance and is shown onscreen praying to God throughout the film.

5) Faith is the most important thing in the world.  Believing in God and being baptized in the Christian community protects and strengthens us.  It is a natural defense again evil.  In times of weakness, we must lean on our faith and turn to God.  The upcoming movie, “Annabelle: Creation,” is a cautionary tale that depicts what happens when one turns away from God and succumbs to temptation during a period of grief and weakness as opposed to leaning on God for grace and healing.  

All movies, including horror movies tell stories.  In the last century, before we had television and films, parents told stories and tales that were meant to alarm and even frighten children and youth from a certain place or course of action.

Now these stories, meant to be lessons, are brought to life onscreen, complete with sound effects and make-up.  They are terrifying and they should be – evil is something to stay away from.  But for Christians, there is a stronger message, one that should always comfort and strengthen us – that we have a savior and that he will always come to protect and fight for those of us in need.
 

The story of Ehud in Judges chapter three is a short, probably familiar, one. What follows is a poetic retelling of the events of that chapter.

After Othniel, all Israel sinned–
handed over into the hands of their enemies (again)
When 18 years had gone by,
with one voice they cried
(in wailings not to be denied):
Restore, renew, revive
Deliver us once more–
do not ignore our pleading
God had a plan:
Raising up Ehud, a left-handed man
Who by the word crafted a sword,
Strapping it to his right thigh
Eglon the king’s time was nigh
Bringing tribute to the king,
Ehud left, but returned again
With a word from the Lord
(sharper than the two-edged sword)
Locking the chamber, not knowing his danger,
Eglon arose with expectant ear
Not at all knowing his end drew near
Reaching over, with nary a swagger,
Ehud unleashed his mighty dagger
Plunging it into the belly of the king
In it went, past the hilt, sinking
Past layers of blubber
Eglon was done, his bell rung
And out of his belly came the dung
Falling upon the floor
Ehud escaped, the king’s servants
Waiting, anxious, outside the chamber door
After some time passed, and then some more
Unlocking the portal, upon entering
What did they see?
But the slumped Eglon, cooling upon the tile,
Blood and excrement mixt all the while
Whilst the Lord, through Ehud, gave the victory
10,000 Moabites slain, Israel now free

What I love about the Old Testament is that it is full of stories like this one. Stories of regular people used of God at just the right time. What I also love is that there are layers upon layers of meaning. For instance, the account here gives us enough to go on. Just as telling is what it doesn’t say. The events described have been going on for eighteen years. Likely, as Josephus says, this is not Ehud’s first rodeo; he has been there before. To be able to hide the sword as he does folks would have already had to know he was left handed (else his ruse wouldn’t have worked). Moreover, to get a private audience with the king he had to have been someone known, i.e. a trusted entity. Ehud was known to Eglon and his court.

Beyond the mere happenstance, the events themselves, scholars have used the phrase “types and shadows” to describe much of the Old Testament. Types of Christ, of sin, and shadows of things to come. For instance, in the story of Ehud, what is he called in verse five?

Deliverer.

Who else do we know by that name–deliverer? Jesus, of course.

In this passage, Ehud is a type of Christ. What does he do? In verse twenty-one, he puts to death Eglon–that is to say, sin. Eighteen years the Children of Israel lived under the oppressive yolk of Eglon, finally crying out to the Father. God raises up a deliverer to put an end to the oppression. Judgment came by way of an eighteen inch sword.

In Revelation 19:15, it is said of the Lord Jesus that “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.” (ESV)

The sword is also symbolic, for now in the church age God has put to death sin once and for all in the body of the Lord Jesus, e.g., He is our Ehud. Yet, we have to want to be free. Like the Children of Israel, we often turn away, cry out for deliverance.

God always answers. Now, however, instead of putting to death the enemy outside (for whom He call us to pray), He calls us to look inward–in a way handing us a blade called candor, asking us to plunge into our own bellies, our own hearts. To get to the freedom offered us in His grace we must take that painful look inside ourselves at the ugliness which often lay within, exposing it to the light. This is why Jesus counsels us to remove the log from our own eyes before we take our brothers and sisters to task for the specks in theirs.

What is God asking you to look at today? Are you avoiding it? Denying it? Do you want to be free? In light of verses 21-22 (“Ehud stretched out his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh and thrust it into his belly. The handle also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the refuse came out”), is there anywhere in your life where the sword called truth needs to penetrate that the filth may come out?

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I don’t normally roll this way, but where Silver Linings Playbook is concerned, I watched the movie before I read the book. The film was intriguing enough, was messy and real enough, that I wanted to read the book.

Then I came across the line highlighted in the picture above. And it wrecked me. You may not think it particularly significant, but the mere notion of a man deliberately, intentionally trying to be kind, instead of just right, fired up the synapses of my tired mind.

It made me sit up in bed.

It made me think of Jesus.

You may not see the connection, but this is un/fortunately how my brain works. On the surface, what does a novel ostensibly about a man with bipolar disorder and/or traumatic brain injury have to do with Jesus?

It’s Pat’s (the protagonist) commitment to try to be kind instead of right–to live differently from the norm–that put me in mind of Jesus. For how did he (Jesus) live?

John chapter one tells us that “the law came by Moses, but grace and truth by Jesus Christ.” Grace.And truth. Not just truth (law), but grace, too. Not either/or, but both/and. Moreover, Philippians tells us that Jesus ” who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6). Meaning he didn’t assert his rights to his own godhood, but instead “humbled himself, taking the form of a servant.”

He lived rightly, but didn’t assert his rights to be right. Instead, he was kind to those [us] who needed his kindness: sinners. Remember his words to the woman caught in adultery (by the way, where was the guy?): “Neither do I condemn you. Now go and sin no more.” (John chapter 8).

Elsewhere in the Scriptures, we are told that it’s “your kindness which leads us to repentance,” and that “mercy triumphs over judgment.”

Yet why do we so often get it ass backwards? Oh, we say we believe and teach the Gospel, but where is the kindness of Christ in our message of “sin no more, then come.” There may be truth, but where is the grace? The fact is, our Lord reserved his harshest rebukes for the outwardly religious, but extended his greatest kindnesses to the messed up.

To sinners. Of some such were we. Yet how is it that we get it exactly backwards, and have become so adept at shooting our wounded?

Brothers and sisters, this ought not to be. Let me ask you (let me ask me):

Are you known as a friend of sinners (like Jesus himself was)? Can you imagine with me a world where we were (as Jesus was) very intentional about being kind–instead of right?

Wouldn’t that be an amazing place to be?

Let’s Get Political

randomlychad  —  October 5, 2012 — 8 Comments

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Today’s post comes to you via the irrepressible Ricky Anderson. He’s an IT guy by day, husband to his wife, Jana, and daddy to their miracle son, Evan. You can follow him on Twitter @Arthur2Sheds (ask him there about his “2 sheds”–he likes it!). I would direct you to his Facebook page, but he doesn’t have one! So come like mine instead: Randomlychad. (Ricky won’t mind).

Let’s Get Political!

It’s happening, whether you want it to or not.

The elections are just around the corner. First, we’ll dress up like idiots and send our blood sugar levels to the moon, and then we’ll shake off the carb hangover by electing the free world’s next leader.

I have a challenge for you during these elections -speak the truth in love.

I can’t count the number of vile, hateful and flat-out lies I’ve received in my email inbox from fellow Christians.

Ephesians 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love.

You may not like that certain candidate. You may disagree with him. But you must not slander him. If you tell lies about him, you are wrong.

And even if he does eat puppies, kick babies and cheer for the Yankees, you must only speak the truth about him in love.

Truth without love is meaningless. 1 Corinthians tells us to speak without love makes you only a clanging cymbal. You’re just noisy…and obnoxious.

So for these elections, go ahead – vote for your favorite politician. Get involved, watch the debates. Just make sure to check your facts, and check your tone.

And whatever you do, don’t cheer for the Yankees. They cause global warming. Which, were he yet among the living, even George Steinbrenner would acknowledge is An Inconvenient Truth.

In writing this post, I’m looking at the popular T.V. show The Walking Dead through the lens of a Christian worldview. You may ask what does a Christian worldview has to do with a zombie show?
Fair question.

I’ve long held that fiction in general, and horror/supernatural fiction in particular, owes its popularity to the often unacknowledged longings of the heart. As Pascal said, “the heart has its reasons that reason knows not of.”

In this context, take that to mean that our hearts acknowledge, even long for, the supernatural despite our scientific reason decrying it. There is a reason that the novels of Stephen King have been perennially popular; aside from writing crackerjack stories, believable characters, and often white-knuckle plots, his stories are replete with the supernatural.

This resonates with our deep hearts. And horror stories in particular are often morality tales–a sort of What Would You Do? (ABC show with John Quinones) from hell. The point is that horror stories acknowledge the reality of an often supernatural evil.

In fact, I would venture to say that all of the stories we love have a villain we love to hate. Why is this? Because our story has a villain.

Which brings me to The Walking Dead. The shows creators/writers don’t necessarily intend to present things from a Christian worldview (probably quite the opposite–that the living are now in a hopeless situation); however, they live in the same world as you and I. As such, they can’t escape a fundamental fact of reality: we live in a world at war.

Like Rick Grimes in the pilot episode, we are all of us born into a world at war. And like him, we are often dazed, confused–comatose, even–until Christ bids us wake. The zombies in the show are, to me, a physical manifestation of a spiritual reality: demons are real (they also serve as adroit social commentary on unchecked consumerism, unrestrained id, the sin nature let loose).

But we don’t like to talk about that in this enlightened 21st century, do we?

Folks, all I’m saying is that there is a spiritual reality that we often poo-poo to our great detriment. And this reality is the truth behind the books, and shows, we love.

How about you? Do you read horror, or watch The Walking Dead?

Sound off in the comments.