Is entertainment necessary?

Over the years of writing a number of my articles have addressed issues that have arisen from within the entertainment industry. My last two articles were about the content of recently released movies, and while the entertainment industry is but one of the many influences Christians are exposed to, there is no denying that influence is both significant and pervasive.

So what should a Christian think about the influence of the entertainment industry?

Paul told Timothy, “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content,” 1 Timothy 6:8. Food to nourish us, and the coverings of clothing and shelter to protect us from the elements are all that are necessary to sustain our physical bodies and to be content.

Entertainment then is a luxury and not necessary to maintain life or contentment, at least not from a scriptural perspective. We may not like missing our favorite television program, sporting event, or new movie, but we will not die from it.

While the influence of entertainment can have a positive or negative impact on our lives, it can also rob us of productivity and serve as a distraction from the profitable practice of spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible study to name just two. And the things we watch will be a reflection of the society we live in that has all but forsaken any semblance of a Christian culture and a life of faith.

I am not advocating a rejection of all entertainment, but I am saying we as Christians should give careful thought and act deliberately in what we do watch considering its potential influence on our homes and families. If we fail in doing so then Christians risk the culture around us being more of an influence on us than we are on our culture.

Paul in writing to the Romans said “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” Romans 12:2. The idea here is the Christian is not to follow the pattern of unbelievers, but we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind.

The Greek word for “transformed” here is metamorphoo. We get the English word metamorphosis from it, and in biology it describes those living creatures that during their life cycle undergo a total transformation, such as a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, or a tadpole becoming a frog.

Similarly, we are to renew our mind through the disciplines of Bible study and prayer so that we begin to think like Christ to be transformed into His image.

Ask yourself the question, if I were arrest for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict me? And if the answer is no, then maybe you have seen too many movies or watched too much television.

What about “The Shack”

A couple of people have asked me to write about “The Shack.” It is a bestseller and has now been made into a movie. The author William P. Young is a Canadian and former hotel night clerk. His book is about a man whose daughter is kidnapped and brutally murdered, and later receives a mysterious invitation, presumably from God, to meet at “the shack” to address and resolve his pain.

While the account is purely fictional one cannot ignore the real life parallels in the story line and the godlike character is very compassionate and understanding, hence its popular appeal. But as far as I know Young makes no claims to any theological insights and the god character is a figment of his human imagination.

Ergo, critics have levied attacks on its theological inaccuracies, while supporters praise its humanitarian approach to a horrific tragedy, and the truth that no life is lived without physical and emotional pain and we all have the need to cope with it.

People read and watch movies for all sorts of reasons, but fundamentally we read and watch whatever entertains us. This is why filmmakers produce movies based on bestsellers and not worse-sellers, they think a movie is more marketable when based on a book that has a proven track-record like “The Shack.”

Knowing the secular entertainment industry is motivated to make a profit, and not necessarily bound to biblical truth, anyone would be foolish to seek theological answers in a movie theater. People are entertained, in part, because books and movies give them a respite from the realities of life. For a few brief moments they can escape into a fictional realm that is pleasant and imaginary.

This is why I encourage people to read the Scriptures, because theological truth is not found in a bookstore or movie theater, it is found in the Book of books, the Bible. It is not only dangerous to confuse what is imaginary with what is real; it is deadly.

People are not confused about the truth or truly deceived unless they want to be. They deceive themselves when they prefer a pleasant falsehood to real truth.

God told the prophet Jeremiah, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart,” Jeremiah 29:13. We will find the Father when we seek Him and His truth.

I have not read “The Shack,” but I have read some summaries and reviews of the book, and while I have not seen the movie I have watched the theatrical trailer. I do not know if I will watch the movie or not, because I already know there is no such thing as a pain-free life. The Bible teaches us we live in a broken world, and tragedies are real. But real tragedies can only be healed by a real God, not an imaginary one. Only a real God offers help for the present and hope for the future.

The list is too short

Disney’s newest live action movie release of “Beauty and the Beast” is the subject of controversy. This classic tale of the importance of character over appearance has been altered by Disney to introduce a gay character to the story line.

It seems Gaston’s sidekick, LeFou, is interested in taking their friendship to the next level, or a step down depending on your perspective. Bob Condon, the movie’s director, admits it will contain a “gay moment.”

It is a shameless and unapologetic move on the part of Disney to insinuate the idea that homosexuality is normal under the guise of family entertainment to further support the LGBTQ’s agenda. So it is understandable that within Christian circles there is already a call to boycott the movie, understandable but myopic.

Some lukewarm voices have suggested going to watch the movie to encourage dialogue about the issue of homosexuality. Seriously, do we need to watch a movie to talk about an issue that is being promoted and introduced to every area of the public forum at every possible opportunity?

On the other hand I do not support the call for a boycott, because it is a sheer act of hypocrisy. There are many movie production companies making thousands of movies inundated with gratuitous heterosexual fornication and adultery, introducing audiences to sorcery and witchcraft, filled with senseless violence and gore, and the unbridled use of vulgarity and profanity.

But we are encouraged to boycott one movie, produced by one studio, because of the portrayal of one type of sexual sin. Are we to smugly assume by doing so we are taking a stand for righteousness? I wonder what has happened to the conscience of Christians in America.

I do not need anyone to tell me what I should or should not watch because I have enough of the Holy Spirit in me to know, like David, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes,” Psalm 101:3. No one needs to tell me what to boycott because I do not intend to spend the money I worked so hard for on any movie that assaults my Christian sensibilities and mocks the biblical morality I hold sacred.

It is difficult to believe that I live in a nation where the evangelical vote was enough to sway the outcome of a Presidential campaign, but is not enough to stem the flow of filth from the entertainment industry. We fail to understand that any sexual act outside of one man with one woman within the covenant of marriage is a perversion of the sex act, and is an abomination in the eyes of God.

So I do not support a boycott of one movie, produced by one studio, containing one form of sexual sin. That list is too short for me.

Evangelism and Politics

The Festival of Hope is a Billy Graham Evangelistic Association event scheduled for next week in Vancouver, Canada. Franklin Graham following in the footsteps of his father, Billy Graham, as the heir apparent to his father’s evangelistic association was to share the hope of the Gospel with the city of Vancouver.

A group of church leaders and pastors claiming to represent “over 60% of the Christians in the metro area” have published a letter opposing Franklin Graham coming to Vancouver. Despite assurances that he would “avoid controversial topics while in Vancouver” and preach the “simple Gospel,” these leaders were adamantly opposed to him coming because of statements he has made about the LGBTQ community, Muslims, and his support of Donald Trump’s Presidency.

I would think any man of conscience who believes the Bible is the Word of God should hold convictions on social and political issues that are controversial, especially with those who hold very different views on the same issues.

For me, politics are about issues, not personalities. This is why I never endorse candidates, because when it comes to politics, politicians’ personalities are unpredictable. Franklin’s father learned that when he supported Richard Nixon throughout the Watergate affair until Nixon resigned the Presidency in disgrace.

To the best of my knowledge Franklin never endorsed Trump prior to the election, but in its wake has said his victory was the “hand of God.” Without further clarification I cannot say what Franklin means by that statement, but I too believe it was the hand of God. Not because I prayed for Donald Trump to be the President, but because I prayed for God’s will to be done, and I believe God is in control of human history.

I think these leaders who oppose Franklin Graham coming and sharing the Gospel are allowing politics to interfere with the preaching of the Gospel, and like politics the Gospel should not be about personalities.

Paul wrote, “I have been informed…there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” I Corinthians 1:11-13.

The believers in Corinth had developed preferences for a particular preacher or teacher of the Gospel, and it had reached the point it was causing divisions within the church. Paul was making the point that the Gospel is not about personalities, it is about Christ; it is not about the messenger, it’s about the message.

It is not clear to me why Canadians are so interested in American politics, but it is clear they are making a political statement, not a Gospel statement. Franklin Graham is proving to be as articulate and effective at preaching the Gospel as his father was, and those opposing him in Vancouver would be wise to leave politics out of his coming.

Faith and Works

I read a question that a homosexual man raised while commenting on a biblical issue. He asked wouldn’t it be a denial of saving faith for him to forsake his homosexual lifestyle to marry a woman and begin a heterosexual life? Wouldn’t that be conceding that salvation is by works and not by faith?

His question raises a serious theological issue and two thoughts crossed my mind when I decided to answer his question. My first thought is the heightened emotional feelings that typically accompany any discussion of homosexual issues will overshadow the biblical answer. My second thought is that it is a significant matter and a timely issue in our current cultural climate, and my readers deserve an honest, scriptural response.

The fallacy in his question is the assumption that there is a difference between what we believe and what we do. It is the idea that faith is something we lock up in our own personal, private little box and should never be let out. It is a denial of the genuine transformative effect of saving faith.

The transformative effect of faith is seen repeatedly and clearly in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews where the actions of Old Testament saints are prefaced by the phrase, “By faith…” We read, “By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain…, By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death…, By faith Noah…prepared an ark…, By faith Abraham…went out not knowing where he was going.”

These are just a few mentioned in Hebrews chapter eleven, and the faith they possessed resulted in corresponding works of faith. Their faith changed the direction of their lives.

This is the point James made so well in his letter. “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?” James 2:14. James is not saying our works save us; he is merely making the point that genuine saving faith will have a life-changing effect seen in the believer’s works.

The faith that inspires trust in Christ as our Savoir is the same faith we rely on to obey Him as Lord. The teachings of the apostles and testimony of believers throughout the Scriptures do no recognize a dichotomy between faith and practice. What they believed is what they lived even at the cost of their lives.

This is why John said, “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him,” 1 John 2:4. Claiming to be a Christian while practicing immorality is a lie.

So the answer to the question is no, forsaking an immoral lifestyle for a moral one will not save anyone, it will not save the homosexual, the adulterer, the liar or the thief. Only a genuine life-transforming faith saves.

Science and Superstition

One of the meanings given for the word superstition is “any blindly accepted belief or notion.” I was thinking about this when I began reading through my Bible again this past January. Let me explain.

Theoretical physicists like Lawrence Krauss, who is Foundation Professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, and director of its Origins Project, and Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center, theorize the universe and all the matter that would ever exist, came into being from nothing, and was dispersed throughout the universe within the first three minutes of the Big Bang.

This means the matter that formed distant stars got to their current location in less than three minutes, but these scientists tell us energy in the form of light took millions of light years to make the return trip. Kaku explained this by saying matter can move through the vacuum of space faster than the speed of light. So I guess matter can move faster than the speed of light, but light cannot move faster than the speed of light. We call this science.

The Scriptures declare, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” that is to say, the universe. He did that during the first day; He created everything from nothing. And I believe He did that in less time than it took for Him to say, “Let there be light,” which was much less than three minutes or even twenty-four hours for that matter. He probably took the rest of the day off to enjoy His handiwork.

But some scientists would call me superstitious for believing the universe was created by God, while based on a “blindly accepted belief or notion” they claim the universe came into existence without God. It left me wondering what is the difference between science and superstition when it comes to the origin of the universe?

Then it struck me; theirs is an educated guess. Then I thought, what makes an educated guess better than just a plain everyday guess? Maybe an educated guess is made by educated people using educated language, I guess. And maybe they make an educated guess because they think they must have an answer for things they don’t have any evidence for, I guess.

And while we are guessing, I guess scientists invent some theories to explain things they have no evidence for in the same way they accuse believers for inventing God to explain things we have no evidence for (of course, we maintain we did not invent God, it was the other way around).

So we have come full circle back to my original thought, what is the difference between what science says about the origin of the universe, and superstitious believers say about the universe’s origin? It is a question of faith; some believe in an educated guess, and some believe in a Creator.

Reading through the Bible

I read through my Bible about every eleven months. On February 25, 2016, I started my fifty-first reading of the Scriptures and finished this past January 26, 2017. I promptly started my fifty-second reading the next day January 27, 2017, and I anticipate finishing around December of this year.

I am not bragging or trying to set a record. George Mueller said he read through his Bible over 200 times in his lifetime. I am an avid reader because I like to read, and the Bible is the book I like to read most. The reason I am writing about this is I want people to know reading through the Bible in a year is doable.

I read about five chapters every morning Monday though Friday. My longest time reading is when I get to Psalms 116 through 120, because Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible with 176 verses. It takes me a little over twenty-two minutes reading leisurely. My average daily reading time is only about twelve minutes.

My point is it does not take a great commitment of time to read through the Scriptures. It only takes a little discipline. So why do I continually read through the Bible? That is a fair question.

First, I do it for me. Paul told Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth,” 2 Timothy 2:15. I like knowing firsthand what I believe and why I believe it. I do not like to depend on hearsay for something so important.

Like most of us I’m forgetful. I have heard enough people replace their memory of what the Bible says with their imagination, and I don’t want to be one of them. My memory needs refreshing probably more than most so my daily reading is a great reminder of what is true.

I also find my attention drawn to details or specifics in my reading that I overlooked before. And as I mature in Christ passages that were once difficult to understand become clearer. Thinking about what I read helps me to slow down life’s pace, because reading and thinking breed patience.

Reading the Scriptures daily helps me keep a divine perspective of life and history as events unfold. We so often see events through the lens of time and God sees all things through the lens of eternity, and we need this eternal perspective so that we do not lose our way in time. We can become baffled if we fixate on our own snapshot in time unless we see it blended into the backdrop of eternity.

I have said that common sense is not as common as it once was. Common sense is in a manner of speaking another term for wisdom, and the Word of God is loaded with sensible wisdom.

And last, but I am positive is least, I am a real whiz at Bible Trivia.