Tag Archives: Religion

Fireproof – The Movie

This weekend my wife and I had the opportunity to go see Fireproof, the latest movie from the makers of Facing the Giants.  Facing the Giants did well when it came out but Fireproof has already beaten it.  In fact, Fireproof made an estimated $4 million this weekend and over $12 million since its release two weeks ago, despite showing on only 852 screens, roughly 1/3 to 1/4 of other big Hollywood movies.

Set in Albany, Georgia, Fireproof tells the story of a young married couple whose marriage is more than on the rocks and the struggle of Caleb, at the encouragment of his father, to win back the heart of his wife Catherine who wants out.  The writers manage to faithfully paint the picture of what’s surely happening in homes all across America since half of all marriages end in divorce.  Who can watch the film and not find something that reminds them of themselves, their friends or their family?  The intensity is there, the sadness is there, the hope is there, the fighting is there and the love and romance are there. 

While Facing the Giants is a great movie with a great message, the acting was notably mediocre.  But Fireproof blows past mediocrity this time with very good acting by most of the characters, especially the two leading actors, Kirk Cameron and Erin Bethea.  Both played their parts well and, like any good movie, brought to the big screen what many live in the common life out here in real America.  There aren’t any lotteries won (well, not million-dollar lotteries though you’d might say both won in the lottery of relationships). There are no prince and princess fairytales and everyone is just like us.  I see all of these people everyday, right here in Mississippi.  And that’s part of what makes this film special.  There’s no “Pretty Woman” storyline though I’d say Erin Bethea is much prettier than Julia Roberts.  There’s no elitism.  These are regular people.  It’s the story of real people, struggling in life and relationships.  And it’s the story of facing head-on all the faults that make us so human, but working hard to overcome them.

While some would argue that this film is made by an Evangelical Church in Georgia and that it talks about Christianity, I’d say it’s worth it, even to the atheist, to see this film and there’d be few Christians that would argue that you don’t need God in your marriage.  Despite the religious arguments and complaints that are out there, the film can still be enjoyed and appreciated as well as challenging to any person from any worldview.  I’d especially encourage giving it a shot for any of you out there whose marriages are on the rocks.

Fireproof is proof that a low-budget movie ($500,000) can be made that is satisfying to watch and challenging at the same time, all the while avoiding the sex and promiscuity and foul language that pervades most films out of Hollywood.

Watch the trailer below.

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2 Corinthians 5:16

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:16 NIV).

I don’t know about you, but I get in trouble when I’m looking at life and people from a worldly perspective.  I have a tendency to get caught up at looking at the worldly side of things and getting my eyes off the idea that we are spirtual beings.  I look at how much someone makes or what sized house someone owns or what one does for a living.  I look at all the big buildings and all the great manmade things and get enamored by the things, the material stuff, that so preoccupy our minds and life.  Sometimes, that leads to jealousy, to bitterness, to anger, to pride, to all kinds of feelings or emotions that aren’t healthy.  Sometimes, take this political election season as an example, I just get discouraged.

But what if I looked at life and people, not from a worldly perspective, but from a spiritual perspective?  I’ve tried it, actually, and it’s amazing the change I see.  Not in other people, but in me.  When I realize that all of these worldly things, be they money, fame or even sex, it will all pass away and what we will be left with is a spiritual being.    The resentment, the bitterness, the discouragement all fade away into a sense that something much bigger than my little worldly vision can see. 

Maybe Paul was on to something.

Prisoner of Our Thoughts

For the rest, my brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things have honour, whatever things are upright, whatever things are holy, whatever things are beautiful, whatever things are of value, if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, give thought to these things.  (Philippians 4:8, Bible in Basic English)

A few years ago I saw a diagram that looked something like this:

Thoughts -> Actions -> Habits -> Character

The explanation goes something like this.  Those thoughts that fill our minds often cause us to act upon them in certain ways.  Being creatures of habit, we often repeat those actions.  If we repeat certain actions, at some point they become habits for us.  Those habits that we continue become the basis of our character.  So our character, who we are, is based on our habits that are developed out of our actions that are based on our thoughts.

Whether or not you believe the Bible, it’s hard to argue with the truth in this verse.  Paul must have had times where his thoughts bothered and concerned him.  He realized the importance of our thoughts and encourages us to think on good things.  I know it’s helped me many times.

I remember a particular religious person that just always seemed to bug the stew out of me, always seemingly creating strife, being dishonest or just not being what I thought was “real”.  Not that I’m perfect, I’m not.  Should have I been bothered? Probably not.  But I was.  And I found that as I focused on good things, on holy things, on beautiful things, then those bad thoughts would be crowded out and overcome by the good.

Even now, I struggle with my thoughts.  I’m sure you do too.  They often hold us prisoner and make us slaves to act upon them, which ultimately, whether seen or unseen, becomes the basis of who we are, our character.  Think of the one addicted to pornography, I have heard many say how they’re tormented, held prisoner to their thoughts.  Think of the one who constantly thinks the world is out to get them.  They’re captives to what they think.  Or how about those who just always think they’re right?  They, too, are a prisoner of war.

2 Corinthians 10:5 reads, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (NIV).

Paul was on to something.  Our thoughts hold us captive.  Like a prisoner of war, we’re destined to bow to the whims of what rules us, of what our thoughts tell us.  We’re captive, we’re chained and we’re not free.  It’s time to turn the tide on our thoughts.  Instead of being held captive by our thoughts, isn’t it high time we take our thoughts captive?  Shouldn’t we do as Paul suggested and take our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.  Shouldn’t we dwell on those good things, those beautiful things, those things that are commendable?

Lipstick, Old Time Religion, Color and Sex

How Race, Religion, Gender and Sex Are Stealing This Year’s Election

Hold on to your breeches, it’s gonna be a wild ride to the finish.  If you haven’t gotten caught up in the election this year, one side or the other, you’re doing good.  Me?  I have to admit, with the emergence of Sarah Palin on the scene, I’ve gone from seeing McCain as a stale, boring old man to feeling a bit of excitement about this year’s election for the first time in a while, purely because of Palin.  Am I wrong for that?  Democrats might say yes and Republicans would say no.  But no one can argue that this election has a certain dynamic that is really unprecedented.

This year’s election is different from all the others.  Oh it’s the same, in that you have both parties claiming they’re the agents of change that will finally set the country straight and on a path to restoration and greatness, the likes of which we haven’t known for a long time.  Both parties adamantly declare they are what America needs to cure what ails us though they’ve appeared the same old status quo political machines they have always been.  For the most part, the issues that most Americans worry about, the economy, national security, immigration, welfare and healthcare are all pretty much the same and the parties’ responses predictable. 

But there’s one problem.  This year, it seems like the election is getting hijacked by lipstick, old-time religion, color and sex.  Okay, make that four problems.  Or nicely said, four  things are dominating the election news this year.  Gender, religion, racism and procreation are stealing the show and taking our eyes off the main issues.  But is that bad?  At least highlighting these four issues nonstop seems to have put it all out on the table with regard to what the politicians really think, people’s personalities and deeply or shallowly held beliefs.  But even so, we are held captive to an intriguing quartet of distinctions.

Woo Pig Sooey! 

Here we go.  Ever since Sarah Palin said in her convention speech that the only difference between hockey moms and pitbulls is lipstick, the nation has gone crazy, energized for or against the high-heeled sweet-but-sharp talking barracuda from Wasilla, Alaska.  What once was a race with three men in a man’s world, and probably a fourth, turned into a contest finally involving both genders.  Since naming Palin his running mate, McCain has seen an infusion of energy and money into his campaign that no one saw coming.  Palin now has dolls made in her image and the Democrats are scratching their heads about how to respond.  Add to that the appearance that they’re being shown up by a female and all you-know-what seems to be breaking loose. 

Now, gender of the candidates, for the first time, has really become a driving force in this election.  Not taking anything away from Geraldine Ferraro who began tapping on that glass ceiling a few decades ago, or Hillary Clinton whose voters added 18 Million more cracks, but how do you handle a woman in this election?  Well, it’s clear you shouldn’t say, “you can put lipstick on a pig, but you still have a pig,” as Obama did recently.  The backlash, warranted or not, has been pretty stiff.  You can’t question a mother running for V.P. and you can’t talk about teen pregnancy or disabled children without thinking really carefully about what and how you say it, fearing the oversized media maelstrom it creates.  You sure don’t want to refer to a V.P. candidate as a pig, intentionally or not.

Old Time Religion

Fairly or not, Obama can’t seem to escape the dogged innuendo and rumors about his religious preferences.  I’m sure most of you have seen the pictures of Obama in a Muslim outfit that created such a stir and caused many to people to wonder if Obama really is or was or might be Muslim.  There has been “proof” that has been “proven” false.  There have been pictures, emails, school records and questions to the extent that Obama’s alleged Muslim past is still an issue for many people, regardless of the truthfullness of said “evidence.”  The issue with many folks goes straight back to the Bible.  It seems it is an age-old issue between two world religions,  Islam and Christianity.

And can anyone forget the right (make that left) Reverend Jeremiah Wright and his inflammatory remarks that pummelled Obama earlier this year, and continue to leave their mark well after the primaries?  With his Black Liberation Theology, the pot has been stirred and seems to be swirling still as many question, “If Obama is not Muslim, does he espouse Black Liberation Theology?”  Throw in Sarah Palin’s Pentecostal roots and reports on CNN of speaking in tongues and there is still more fodder for the religious right and the liberal left and anyone else willing to jump in the melee.  An army of 30 lawyers and investigators has apparently invaded Alaska and I’m convinced Palin’s religion will be near the top of their investigative list.

Religion has been injected, for better or worse, into this race like no other in my lifetime.  Religion has been important to Americans ever since the first ship left the homeland in search of religious freedom.  We have religious freedom now but we’re sort of held hostage to all those folks, especially on the web, that throw around all kind of information, misinformation and disinformation. 

Funny Looking Man

It’s obvious that Obama has darker skin than my pale easy-to-burn fair skin.  But just in case, he’s reminded America on several occasions, warning them to be wary of the Republicans who will constantly remind us of what we can already see.  Not that the Republicans have reminded anyone, mind you.  Why should they when Obama does so whenever he can?  Oh, he’s got a funny sounding name, too, but that’s not the same as the man that look’s different than all those guys that pose on all of our money.  Which brings me again to the obvious.  Those other three in the race all happen to look more like me than Obama. 

Just like gender and religion, it looks like the issue of race in this election has also staked its tent and is here to stay until Wolf Blitzer calls the election.  Even so, who can deny that many people will be pulling the handle for Obama or McCain based on race alone?  From those white bigots that will refuse to vote for a man with darker skin to those of color who will turn out in droves to vote for a man solely on the basis of race, the issue of color in this race will remain on the table.

Hanky Panky

Sarah Palin paraded her family in front of the camera, much to the joy of Republicans and much to the glee of Democrats.  Huh?  Unity between the parties?  Not so fast my friend, as Lee Corso would say.  When word got out that Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol got pregnant, the boxing gloves came off.  Republicans rushed to back up their newly promoted beauty queen as vicious attacks, rumors and innuendo cluttered the cable and network news and Democrats gloated that the abstinence-promoting goodie-twoshoes couldn’t manage her own household. 

It really started earlier when bloggers accused the Palin’s Down Syndrome baby, Trig, of really being teen Bristol’s baby.  Of course, that’s pretty much been proven false.  But still, hanky panky never seems to go away in any election and it looks like there’s plenty to think about this time around.  I doubt it will go away anytime soon in this cycle, either as rumors and tabloids hint at an affair by the right’s new posterchild for all it’s held dear.  And that’s not to mention Obama kissing Biden’s wife on the lips and McCain with those “fatherly hugs” of his veep candidate.

Obama Versus Palin

When it comes down to it, those issues that are hijacking this election and taking us by the neck, gender, religion, race, and sex are the very issues that have to a great extent determined the course America has followed over the last couple of hundred years and molded us into the country we are today.  What makes it intriguing is the stark contrast between two candidates.  Obama, the Democratic candidate for president and Palin, the Republican candidate for vice-president.  We’ve almost all but pushed McCain and Biden aside as we put our attention squarely on the faces of Palin (and her lipstick) and Obama (and the color of his skin).  This election seems to come down to a contest between a white female, Palin, and her religion and a black male, Obama, and his religion.  You almost couldn’t get anymore polar opposite if you had tried. 

Maybe the tickets should be Obama/Palin vs. McCain/Biden.  Now that would be a funny turn of events and that would be a change from the partisan politics and divisive rancor we’ve seen and of which some of us have even partaken.

Grace Versus Works – Galatians 3:3

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Galatians 3:3

The topic of grace and works is something that we don’t completely grasp. I’ve seen in my own life and in the lives of others a skewed picture of grace. Paul saw it too as he was writing to the Galatians. John Piper sees it in today’s world and wrote a great book about grace entitled “Future Grace”. It’s a little deep for me and I had to read it twice just to begin to understand it.

Here’s the problem. We believe and say that it’s God’s grace that saves us. We generally believe this, at least in Protestant churches (I can’t speak with authority on other denominations) and we can quote the verses like Ephesians 2:8,9 and others that remind us that it’s God’s grace that saves us. So, when we first come to Christ, we’re pretty good at recognizing that there’s really nothing of our own merit that can suffice to earn eternal life. It’s God’s grace.

Where we have trouble, I think, and Paul and John Piper seem to teach, that after we’ve accepted God’s grace, we kind of forget about the grace and begin to rely on our works, the things we can to do, to obtain God’s favor. Yes, it’s true, that a faith without works is a dead faith. However, after coming to Christ, we often start living a life sort of thinking that “If I do this….”, “If I can pray more…”, “If I teach this class, if I be this leader…” then that will grant me more favor in God’s eyes. That is, we begin to try to rely on our works and all those things we do and say to earn what God has already given us, free and clear, with no debt to repay. Yet we continue living as if we can somehow pay down that debt like a run-up credit card.

God’s grace is enough. Of course, we need to work out our faith and let the fruit of that faith and God’s work in our lives and hearts be visible and multiplying. But God’s grace was enough to save us and it is enough to keep us. God’s grace is enough to live and respond to all of life’s circumstances. God’s grace is enough to help us overcome all those issues we deal with. It’s foolish to think otherwise. It’s foolish to start with grace but finish with works. God’s grace is what saved us and God’s grace, as the hymn “Amazing Grace” goes, “will lead me home.”

I had a link to a great version of Amazing Grace in another post that you can hear here.