I love, love, love that recent Hollywood productions include several Christian movies. Equally important, I’m thrilled that movie goers are buying tickets to these movies. But to be honest, the plots and characters are often flat and predictable. I want more from a movie. This is my wish list for a Christian-themed movie:
1. Dynamic characters portrayed by good actors: If I’m going to give away two hours of my life to watch a movie, I would like to see a character change for the better (or even worse) over the course of a story. It drives me crazy when I can predict exactly how a character will react in the next scene.
2. A complex, unpredictable plot line: Yes, I realize in the end everything will probably work out, but please make it less of a straight line. Also, don’t complicate the story with unnecessary subplots (God’s Not Dead, for example). If subplots are going to be used, please, please, please make the connection to the main story line. Please.
3. Don’t vilify any group: Although I agree our culture is marching away from godliness, alienating those who need God the most just isn’t a good idea. I’m certain the upcoming movie Persecuted is doing this very thing (Disclaimer: I haven’t viewed the movie, yet. I have watched the trailer and I am highly suspicious). I understand left-wing liberals don’t agree with many foundational, evangelical values. However, making a person or a group of people the enemy is just wrong. Our battle is not against flesh and blood; remember this. Sin is sin and should be recognized as such. But demeaning people isn’t just worth it.
4. Spend some money: Recent box office trends have shown that people are willing to buy tickets to Christian-themed movies. Dump the cheesy sets and special effects. Make the movie visually stunning and worth watching.
5. Hire some apologists: Please, please, please get the story right. Make sure the statement made through the film is biblically sound. Just because twisting Scripture may make the story work better, in the end the Word has been twisted. Just don’t.
6. Make it redeeming: The end result should, in some way, show the power of God to redeem. I want to walk out of the theater having shed some tears over how great our God really is. What is on the screen should lead the audience to a place of worship.
7. Dump the platitudes: Really, who wants to hear, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.” People in this world deal with real issues. Don’t minimize hurt and desperation with trite statements.
8. Make it appeal to a wide audience: I like a great, feel-good movie. I despise rah-rah, yea, church! kind of movies. It comes across as prideful and insensitive. And, here’s a hint: it drives unbelievers away. The very audience I’m sure the producers say they want to reach in their preproduction meetings will not come through the doors. At the very least, be honest and admit that most of the ticket-buyers will be Christian and gear your film toward that audience.
“I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments.” Psalm 119:7
How many times do we respond with thanks when we are given rules to follow? As a teacher, I seldom hear, “Mrs. Amy, thanks so much for giving us your rules and procedures.” It just doesn’t happen. We approach rules as burdens of necessity. We follow them (sometimes), but we don’t enjoy them and for certain we are not thankful for them.
But the writer of Psalm 119 does give thanks. Not only does he say thank you for the rules, but he does so with a heart that knows God’s rules are right and for his benefit. Before we surge onward to the next verse, there is a nuance to this one that I think is good for us to understand. The verb learn means to chastise, beat with a rod, to discipline, to train (Gesenius’s Lexicon). The learning that is taking place here is not the kind of learning we receive in a schoolroom. In this case, it is more like the instruction we receive when we sin or step outside of a clearly defined course. Think of this being similar to the learning that takes place in the principal’s office after a student has clearly broken the rules and is facing suspension. It usually isn’t pleasant or fun.
Despite this unpleasant learning environment, the Psalmist says he will give thanks for it. I think he understood that God will discipline us because we are His children. Revelation 3:19 states, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” FYI, this is in the midst of Jesus’ statement to the church in Laodicea – the church that was neither hot nor cold. His desire is for us to follow Him whole-heartedly. Because he loves us, He will discipline us when we stray from following His commands. The result of His discipline is godliness and stability. Therefore, when we view God’s discipline in a positive light, we can, like the Psalmist, have a thankful heart. We can even say, “God thank you for your commands, because I know they are good.” What about it? Are you at the point in your journey that you can say thanks?
“Then I shall not be ashamed When I look upon all Your commandments.” Psalm 119:6
I would love to live a life without shame, which would also lead to a life without guilt. How many hours have I wasted dwelling on my shame? This verse follows the Psalmist’s statement, “Oh that my ways may be established To keep Your statutes!” (Psalm 119:5). As I discussed earlier, there is a blueprint for living. When we follow that blueprint, we can live a life free from shame.
The verb look in this verse means to behold, respect, consider, to look as to see. In other words, look with attention. This is not a casual glance and acknowledgement of the existence of God’s commandments. Rather, it is a purposeful dwelling on and understanding with the intent of following them. And it makes sense: if I follow God’s commands, I won’t have shame in my life.
Inherent in that statement is the belief that God’s commands are good and for my benefit. If this is true, then why do I choose to not follow them? Yes, I said choose. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I have surrendered my life to Him; I am dead to sin’s power in my life. Before I entered into a relationship with Jesus, sin held me as it’s prisoner. I was sin’s slave. According to Romans, I am now freed from sin’s power and made alive to Christ. I am now Jesus’ slave (Romans 6). By the power of the Holy Spirit, I can choose to carefully consider the commandments of God and choose to follow them. And when I follow them, I will live a life freed of shame. Hallelujah!
“Oh that my ways may be established To keep Your statutes!” Psalm 119:5 NASB
What an amazing request to place before the throne of God! Sometimes I feel lost, wandering aimlessly through life. Sometimes I even feel like I am banging my head against the wall, trying desperately to overcome sin. I want to live a life of purpose and direction free of blame and shame. James 1 tells us that anyone who asks God for wisdom will receive it. Here, the Psalmist pleads for that wisdom and the ability to keep God’s statutes.
I would like to unpack this verse a bit. In the original Hebrew, the word translated “ways” means direction, journey, manner, course of life, moral character. Established means firm, stable, fixed, secure, fastened. In other words, the Psalmist desires to have his life’s direction, his moral character, to be stable and secure. Most of us would love to no longer waver between making good and bad life choices. The author of this psalm must have felt the same way. We all long for stability and security, to be fastened down and not blowing in the wind. The writer sees the cure to his unstable ways: keeping God’s statutes.
Keeping God’s statutes basically means to do all that has been appointed for us to do. Follow the rules. Obey. Accomplish the tasks set before us. Easy, right? Not really. The Old Testament proves that we cannot do this in our own strength. God knows this and has provided Christ-followers a helper: the Holy Spirit. As we become more and more like Christ, the more and more we listen to His voice. Our love for Him compels us to obedience. We obey because we want to, not because we have to do so. It is an issue of the heart, our innermost being. The Psalmist has come to the place where he can cry from his heart, “Oh that my ways may be established To keep Your statutes!” Have we?
You have ordained Your precepts, That we should keep them diligently. (Psalm 119:4 NASB)
Ordained is a very churchy sounding word. To ordain something, or someone, is a picture of a superior giving a verbal communication to a subordinate. The word itself includes the content of what was said. It is focused on the action itself where God set down the rule. . . His commands are unique, requiring an inner commitment, not a mere external superficial obedience (Baker 2358). In essence, God gave His rules and expects nothing less from His people than total, inner committment to follow them. Precepts is another synonym for God’s Word and basically means that which has been mandated by God.
According to the last half of the verse, we are to keep them diligently. How does one keep rules diligently? First of all, it has to come from a heart committed to pleasing God. Diligently means exceedingly, much, to abundance, with might or force. Think of the charge in Deuteronomy 6:5: to love God will all our being. To a great degree, this encompasses the thought that our obedience to God is our way of showing our complete, sold-out, abandoned love for Him. And it isn’t an external following of the rules because we have to do so, rather it is a faithful following because we it is what we desire from deep within. This song, “More Like Falling In Love,” by Jason Gray pretty much sums up the idea I’m trying to convey here.
Baker, Warren, editor. The Complete Word Study Old Testament. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1994. Print.
Today my teen daughter and I are starting to re-do her room. We have lived here for almost five years. Before we moved in, we primed her room, covering a Sponge Bob mural. The intent was to update the room. The problem: she couldn’t decide what she wanted. This is a common theme in her life.
Me: What would you like for dinner, this or that?
Teen:I don’t know; I can’t decide.
Me: Do you want to buy this outfit or that one?
Teen: I can’t choose.
Me: Which movie would you like to see?
Teen: I can’t make up my mind.
Miracles of miracles, she finally made a choice. She found this at HGTV’s website:
I really like this idea! We may not be able to do everything here, but we can do the branches and the floating shelves. We found a great bedding set that will be perfect for the room. It arrived last week. Hopefully, by the end of the week, I can post some pics of how it turns out.