Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER (Movie Review and other thoughts)

Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER clearly illustrates historical revisionism at its subtle best. The cast, a Who’s Who of Hollywood knee-jerk liberalism, performed brilliantly.

I say political revisionism because this film made President Obama’s election appear to vindicate the entire civil rights movement. In truth, his presidency only deepened the subjugation of the poor and minorities, for the single purpose of perpetuating the welfare state and the political party that supports it for its own political ends.

As I gaze into the past, I hate the fact that white America made the civil rights movement necessary, when respect for all is an expression of Christ’s love for all, and our responsibility as Christ-followers (1 Corinthians 13). I also hate the fact that left-wing politicians have co-opted the righteous quest for equal human rights, with President Obama standing at the pinnacle of that self-serving agenda.

God gave me a love for all of humanity, and that includes people of all races, even though I struggle to love those who pursue anti-Biblical ends. He loves militant atheists and secularists. God even loves racial, sexist, religious and sexually perverse bigots, just as much as He loves those who follow Him in love through Christ Jesus. He is not the Father of the faithful only, but of all creation. I, as a father, know something of His love for us. I know how my heart breaks when one of my children is in danger of pursuing a destructive path, and my love for that child holds as firmly as for the compliant one.

We focus on our concept of civil and human rights, and the list of those “rights” grows constantly as ungodly people insist on governmental and societal sanctions for their personal preferences. As Christ-followers, however, all of our rights derive from just one responsibility: to follow His commands, as best we can in our human frailty, without bowing to the world system. We have the right to be discriminated against, to be hated, and to be martyred. In Christ, our right to “freedom of speech” does not include the right to belly-ache about schools prohibiting prayer, gun control, abortion, or even the homosexual agenda. We must limit our speech to words of love and affirmation. In fact, such speech must be so proactive that our conspicuous love, and conversely, our lack of apathy, becomes the moral light in this dark world (Ephesians 5:6-12). Please note: I said, “proactive,” as opposed to passive. There is nothing passive about Godly love.

THE BUTLER mentions social heroes such as Gandhi, King and Kennedy, and in their own ways they were great men. But idealizing them is no substitute for loving and obeying our Lord Jesus Christ.

Deathbed Repentance

R.C. Sproul dealt with that question here, but of course I have to add my own spin to his sage words. Deathbed, or foxhole, conversion is a sticky wicket. God knows our inmost motives, the thoughts and intents of our hearts, and if a last minute conversion is genuine in His sight, He is the Judge.

That said, I would venture that the vast majority of such “conversions” amount to trying to cop a plea with the Big Guy upstairs. They want to gorge themselves on the world’s cake and still have it for eternity. That’s called presumption, and the all-knowing God won’t buy into your little con game.

The bottom line is really quite simple; if you know you’re a sinner, and that Jesus is the way to the Father, don’t wait to do what you know you have to do. 2 Timothy 3 has something to say about that:

1 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

That’s called loving the world more than God, and refusing to give it up.

Only God knows which breath will be your last, and because of our human need to practice denial, it always comes by surprise. So don’t be a fool. It’ll bite you in the end.

C.S. Lewis on Immortality

Once again, Uncle Jack gave me pause to think. And what I think will follow what He thought.

I think that Resurrection (what ever it exactly means) is so much profounder an idea than mere immortality. I am sure we don’t just “go on.” We really die and are really built up again.

He was right about our really dying and being really built up again, but what kind of death do we face? Obviously, we all die physically, suffering the corruption that our Savior was spared. That is the death of the flesh. But there is another death that must precede physical death, in order that we might gain the resurrection to which Lewis referred. That is the death to the flesh, referred to in the Bible as death to sin (Romans 6).

Honestly, I struggled with the whole “dead to sin” thing for years after I came to Christ, not because I didn’t want to die to sin, but because my actions told me that I had not yet achieved it. Every time I opened the New Testament I stumbled into it; if I was saved I was dead to sin, but I wasn’t, or at least I didn’t seem to be. But, praise God, I also stumbled upon Romans 8:1-2, Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”

Of course, that begged the question of how I knew I was in Christ Jesus. My first answer to that troubling question was, before my rebirth I sought every opportunity to sate my carnal impulses, but was never satisfied. After my rebirth I wanted to be in Christ, and my sins grieved me terribly.

My second answer was what the Bible calls, “the witness of the Spirit,” (Romans 6:16-17) in which we suffer with Him that we may be glorified with Him. Suffering with Him includes the grief over sin that I mentioned above. When Jesus fell on His face praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, His sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground. Was He grieved because of the physical suffering ahead of Him? While that would worry me terribly, I think His grief lay in the fact that He, the perfectly righteous, eternal Son of God, would shortly bear upon His body God’s righteous judgment for all the world’s sin. And that judgment would separate the man Jesus from His Father God, resulting in Jesus’ anguished cry from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

And my third answer (Do you remember the question?) is my absolute certainty about my eternal fellowship with my Savior. That certainty grew from the most fragile of faith-seeds to a confidence that surmounts even my, at times, shaky faith due to my tendency to rely on the seen, rather than the unseen (Romans 8:24-25). I can’t praise my Savior enough for that assurance, and I can’t wait to do it in person, for eternity.

Be Careful What You Say

Thumper

Zack Locklear posted an excellent statement about Christians judging those of the world, and it describes a general principle to which all who claim Christ’s name must adhere: Jesus died to save sinners, not to condemn them (John 12:47-48). The most telling part of that passage is verse 48, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” Jesus’ statement here couldn’t be more clear; it tells who will be judged, and by what standard.

So, who will be judged? Not adulterers. Nor thieves. Nor liars. Nor murderers. Not even homosexuals or pedophiles. On the last day, God’s Word will judge all who reject Jesus and refuse to receive His words. All other sins are only symptoms of that damning sin.

But, what of those who claim to belong to God through our Lord Jesus Christ? Can they get away with sinning, “that grace may increase?” Apostle Paul emphatically answered (Romans 6), “May it never be!” Then, in Romans 8:29, the apostle wrote, “For those He foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn of many brothers.” Predestination and eternal security controversies aside, those who prefer habitually sinning to seeking Christlikeness are not God’s chosen people.

Finally, Apostle Paul told us what attitude we are to display toward non-believers: Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. (Colossians 4:5-6) If you don’t have anything redemptive to say, don’t say anything at all (apologies to Disney’s Thumper character).

Uncle Jack on the Death of His Wife Joy

Obstacles to healing

With the death of a loved one, all reason, all preconceptions, all pat answers fly out the window. So it was when C.S. Lewis lost his beloved wife Joy after such a short time with her. Here is a brief excerpt from A Grief Observed, where he reexamined all he had come to believe about God. It’s not pretty, but it’s honest.

How often are you and I totally honest with God? Do you ever feel the urge to castigate God with every unkind adjective at your command? Do you ever find yourself doubting all the neat, Sunday school answers you called out while waving your hand in class? If not, you are living a synthetic life with your eyes tightly closed against all the temporal cruelty and pain this life deals us.

Lewis longed for assurance that Joy no longer suffered as she had in her life on Earth. And at the same time he needed to know that she missed him as much as he missed her. If you’ve ever lost someone you cherished, you’ve asked the same questions.

My council to anyone going through loss, whether it’s the death of a loved one, or the death of a relationship resulting in divorce, is not to just shut up and trust God. That’s the surest way of cutting off all communication with someone in that circumstance. I compare loosing a loved one with having a limb amputated; you never knew how much you valued that member until you lost it. Initially, you feel phantom pain and itching that you can’t scratch. You feel like it’s still there, but your heart sinks whenever you see that it’s gone. Leaning on its memory only keeps you immobile, but you don’t want to adapt to life without it.

Such grief is entirely natural, but that doesn’t make it any easier, and you want to slug anyone who tells you that you’ll get over it. You will never get that leg, arm, hand, finger, or loved one back, and you will never completely get used to their being gone. In time, though, God will broaden your perspective to include His view of your grief. You will realize how much He hates to see any of His loved ones lost to perdition because of our insistence on living our own way. You will come to appreciate His pain when He gave His only begotten Son over to sinful men to be ridiculed, tortured, and murdered to save you, because He loved you all that much.

Uncle Jack grew from his profound grief to become an even greater giant of the faith that gave him peace in his loss. If you haven’t experienced such loss, brace yourself; it’s coming. But also, prepare yourself for the unspeakable blessing to follow.

My Infinitesimal Understanding

A few minutes ago I let my mind wander to God while relaxing on my bed, and I thought about how much I’ve learned about God over the past few years. As I lay there contemplating my infinite, eternal Lord, I realized that my vast knowledge <(8-P) amounts to nothing compared to all that He is. Yes, His Word tells us all we need to know about Him. And yes, His Holy Spirit reveals His personal message of truth to each of us. But my pea-brain is woefully ill-equipped to grasp even the most elementary understanding of His infinite Being.

In view of that humbling truth, I wonder how other Christians can boldly stand so cock-sure of their ideas about God and His Word. Face it, any embellishment of God’s Word, such as commentaries and systematic theologies, are only some human being’s conclusions, regardless how carefully they’ve studied it. So taking Luther’s, Wesley’s, or Calvin’s statements as tantamount to Holy writ is foolish in the extreme. Remember the two builders that Jesus mentioned in Matthew 7:24-27? The wise builder built on the Rock, not on his ideas about it. Our understanding of anything is nothing more than shifting sand.

Agreeing to disagree is not compromising on God’s truth. Standing, immovable, on ones personal understanding smacks of personal pride, and remember, “I” is at the center of both pride and sin. So, if you’re absolutely convinced that your personal understanding of God and His Word is spot on, you’d better dig down to the Rock for your foundation, or great will be your fall.

Building a Glitch-Free Christ-Follower

A few years ago I made the mistake of offering to build a computer for a friend. I bought all the components and assembled them carefully, routing the connecting wires for a neat appearance and efficient air flow. But that was the easy part. Correctly installing and configuring the CPU and motherboard required a careful reading of the Instruction Manual.

But even that was easy compared to the task of building and equipping effective disciples of Christ. Unlike building a computer, much of the hard work falls to the one being built. We absolutely must study God’s Instruction Manual to achieve our most glitch-free performance. Contained in that Instruction Manual are sixty-six books, ghost-written by forty people from three continents over roughly 2000 years. Maybe I should say, “Holy Ghost-written,” as God’s eternal Word is the one true Author.

If the Bible seems too daunting as life’s Instruction Manual, God’s New Testament offers some concise summaries of how Christ-followers should behave. One such summary is contained in chapter twelve of Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman church. Here are a few key verses:

Rom 12:9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.

The apostle refers here to his brief essay on genuine, spiritual love in 1 Corinthians 13, with emphasis on verses four and following. If you haven’t read it in a while, it’s time you prayerfully review. As far as the second half of this verse, remember what Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.

Rom 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;

 I’m afraid that doesn’t leave much room for factions, jealousy and power-plays. The practice of showing deference to others, especially to those with whom we don’t click, has largely gone out of style. Our lives and interactions today are all about our personal rights, while we leave our responsibilities flapping in the breeze.

Rom 12:11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;

The Christian life is necessarily proactive. Maintaining that diligence, fervency and servant spirit takes constant effort.

Rom 12:12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,

These are three essential works of faith, without which we will die on the Vine.

Rom 12:13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Everyone loves to hear preaching on generous giving (NOT!). The saints’ needs are as critical today as when Apostle Paul wrote these words, so where is our joy of giving? It has disappeared in our desire to accumulate things and live comfortably. I dare say we could all give much more generously if we would just deny ourselves a few nonessentials. Do we really need frequent dinners out? Does every driver in the family need their own car? Is that home theater truly an essential possession? And what about snow cats, motorcycles, RVs, and vacation homes? Nothing is wrong with having such things, as long as having them remains secondary to helping the needy.

As for practicing hospitality, I stand as guilty as anyone for neglecting it.

Rom 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

We’re emotional beings, so when some jerk cuts us off in traffic our fleshly impulse is to think or say unkind things about them. Does that not sound like persecution? Just because it’s not an overt challenge because of our faith doesn’t mean it isn’t.

Rom 12:15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.

Let’s keep these actions in their appropriate places. We must feel with people, and certainly not tell them that what they are feeling is unnecessary, wrong or inappropriate. Simply sharing their joy or grief seems like it should be a simple thing. Why then do we always think we have to fix it?

Rom 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

The same mind as whom? Obviously, that refers to Christ Jesus, because He was never haughty and always associated with the lowly. We church people too often offend in respect too esteeming our personal wisdom too highly, so anyone who disagrees with us is just wrong, pure and simple.

Rom 12:17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.

This reinforces verse fourteen’s difficult point. Today’s worldly doctrine tell us that we must fully vent our emotions and let our heart lead. God’s word doesn’t prohibit emotional display, but we must keep a positive, uplifting and redemptive bearing. Of course we won’t always feel that way, but that doesn’t mean we can shoot off our emotional mouths when the impulse hits.

The second half of this verse refers to Paul’s statements in Romans 14, about respecting the weak brother’s beliefs for his sake, and not your own. You can’t please everyone all the time, so this is calls for spiritual discernment.

Rom 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

Disclosure time: Here is my personal weak area. When I cause a grievance, especially with a brother, the resulting guilt crushes me, stealing my peace and leaving me in a general funk. That’s not what God calls for here. We must not take too much relational responsibility upon ourselves, but accept, and repent of, what falls to our account.

Follow these instructions and you will find yourself more closely resembling Christ’s attitudes of love for others.

Solution

Thanks to my good friend Andy, I see the need to expand on my previous post, “Critique.” While the title reflected only a movie review, it included the question, “Do you ever wonder why so many good church kids graduate from college as lukewarm Christians, or even atheists?” What follows is my answer, in the form of a scathing indictment of Christian pulpits and parents, including myself.

The Problem

Can we prevent our children from going astray? Of course not. They are as individual as we are. Without starting battles we can’t win, though, we must prepare them for their inevitable interaction with this corrupt world system. But how?

The Solution

Desensitizing our youth to the world’s lies begins with the pulpit. And the fault for failing to do so also begins with the pulpit. Parents must understand that allowing our children to face the world unprepared is the worst kind of sin, predisposing them to stumble when faced with life’s inevitable faith-challenges. The fault also lies with us parents, who choose to remain weak in God’s Word and prayer, often demonstrating before our children the worldly attitudes that the Bible prohibits. We also cause them to stumble through our example of self-indulgence, enjoying the very entertainments that weaken their fledgling faith.

The popular church cliche is none-the-less true for its overuse: Sitting in church no more makes you a Christian than sitting in a car lot makes you an automobile. We make our kids attend church and Sunday school, which are good things, but good things aren’t necessarily the best things. Our best and most important work is not drilling Bible passages or catechism answers into them, but modeling Christ’s love when life seems to bury us in its refuse, and we can only do that by maintaining an intimate and teachable relationship with our Father God. As with any relationship, that requires constant, proactive maintenance, and is what following Christ is all about.

Click here for a commentary on Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter twelve, wherein he outlines some essential principles for authentic, Christian living.

And remember, discipling our children in Christ’s love is not optional (Proverbs 22:6).

Critique

Capture

On sitting through a TV movie called, MELTDOWN: DAYS OF DESTRUCTION, my only choice for redeeming an otherwise wasted ninety minutes is to draw a spiritual object lesson from the experience.

The scenario has fat, bald, money-grubbing Republican (my surmise – not stated in the movie) Jared Olsen insisting on executing an experiment against the advice of good-guy Nathan. The experiment? Nuke a perfectly innocent asteroid that wasn’t even in danger of crashing into Earth. You know, target practice. You can see the story coming, just like I did; the nuke split the asteroid, with the biggest piece—roughly the size of Iceland—heading Earthbound. When it ricocheted off the atmosphere, all the scientists thought we had dodged a major bullet, but they soon learned that this close encounter of the worst kind had nudged our garden-planet closer to the Sun. Of course, all the flowers, as well as billions of people, began wilting forthwith.

At the top of my list of technical blunders in that flick stands the fact that any change in our solar orbit significant enough to cause temperatures to climb so quickly would have generated such catastrophic, worldwide earthquakes that everyone would have died long before we could develop a corporate sunburn. Add to that, a moon that would have either crashed into earth or set off on its own interplanetary voyage, and you can see that would have been a bad day indeed for everyone concerned.

Don’t worry, the first two blunders of my list are enough to demonstrate the producers’ scientifically careless attitude, so I won’t belabor the point with the rest of my long and boring list. Said careless attitude illustrates the superficial approach that characterizes naturalistic scientists’ observations of the physical universe. Simply put, they make the best observations they can, given technology’s developing state, run a few explanatory theories up the flagpole, shoot down all but one, and reap a Nobel Prize for it. Of course, all scientists are not atheists, but academia pretty much ignores those who refuse to toe the naturalistic line.

Do you ever wonder why so many good church kids graduate from college as atheists? Most of the blame goes to the fact that state-funded higher education is misnamed; it’s not education, but naturalistic indoctrination.

Another great portion of blame falls at the feet of Christian education, which fails to teach church kids how to think critically. The religious establishment believes that the best response to public education’s naturalistic indoctrination is to simply tell kids not to believe it. They’re afraid that teaching our youth critical thinking will cause them to question what they’re taught about God. But guess what; they will anyway. Wouldn’t we be better off teaching young people the correct use of logic? To fear that is to doubt God’s credibility.

Yes, this is a critique, but not of a movie. It’s the church that deserves healthy criticism.

(For a follow-up post, see, Solution.)

Not Me!

1 Corinthians 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?

I often wonder if church-goers can actually read. Here, in the plainest language possible, Apostle Paul warns the Corinthians, and all of us, to avoid the drama of prideful attitudes. Yet, isn’t that well-earned reputation one of the things that keeps people out of church? Lousy attitudes have burned uncountable people, turning them away from the fellowship of believers, and often, from Christ. Uncountable preachers have delivered uncountable sermons on the subject with precious little response from the pew-sitters. I think the astute observer would admit that any response to such messages comes mainly from already committed Christ-followers whose hearts are tender to conviction about any un-Christlike attitudes or behaviors in themselves. The balance of listeners think they aren’t really all that bad, or apply the message to “those who need it.” My prayer is that this won’t cause you to point your finger at anyone but yourself.