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Saturday, May 31, 2014

On a Guilt Trip?

Photo by: anankkml

If you’re a sensitive person, at some time or another you may have felt guilty—whether or not you were guilty.

When I was in the sixth grade, the teacher at school spoke at length about someone who had cheated on a test. She said she knew who had done it, and that it would be better for that person if he came to her before she went to him. I remember feeling guilty, even though I’d never cheated. I had that kind of a conscience.

  • Some people mentally review their life scenarios and pick them apart, saying to themselves, “What if I had . . . ?”
  • I knew a man who was a soldier in Vietnam. He felt survivor’s guilt over some of his horrible wartime experiences. Why did his buddies die, and not him?
  • Emergency personnel sometimes feel that they have not done enough to help accident victims.
  • Some people blame themselves for hurting another person—whether or not they actually did.
  • Others feel guilty for entertaining sinful thoughts, even if they never actually do the act. (Entertaining sinful thoughts is sin. Matthew 9:4; James 4:5)
  • And then, there are those who are culpable and know it.
  • There are sins of omission—not doing what they know they should. (James 4:17)


God doesn’t want us to feel guilty—for long. The Lord has provided a way for us to deal with guilt and live joyfully.

Let’s explore several scenarios.
  • You know you did wrong. No doubt about it, you did it. You did it on purpose. You have sinned. —There’s forgiveness in Christ. If you are not yet a Christian, you need to turn from your sin and accept Jesus’ payment for your sins on the cross. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Ephesians 1:7). If you are already a born again Christian, you need to confess your sins and forsake them. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
  • You think maybe you might have offended someone or not worded something in the right way. You think you might have sinned.—Get a clear conscience by talking to the Lord. (See 1 John 1:9, above) Once you’ve confessed what you think you might have done wrong, leave it with the Lord, Who promises to cleanse us. Rest in His forgiveness. Do not go back over that scenario in your mind again. (Philippians 4:8)
  • You really did offend someone. —Make it right. Confess to the other person and ask him for forgiveness. Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). Also see Matthew 18:15 which speaks of the offended person getting things right with the person who offends him. Once you are right with your friend, go on in the joy of the Lord.
  • The preaching was hard. It made you remember all the things you did when you were younger. It made you feel guilty and horrible inside. It even made you feel guilty about things you never did. —Do not let yourself feel guilty about sins that are already forgiven: those committed before you accepted Christ, those you’ve already confessed. Don’t lie to yourself about things you never did. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more (Hebrews 8:12, also 10:17). If God has removed our sins, and if He doesn’t remember them, then there’s no reason for us to go back to them—ever.  
  • You imagined a sinful act in your head. It could have been lustful or about doing something you know is wrong. It might have been ugly thoughts about someone. You enjoyed thinking about it. You didn’t act on your thoughts, but it was definitely a sin in your mind. —I once heard a pastor’s message about what a person should do in this case. He said, “Public sins should be confessed publicly. Private sins should be confessed privately.” If the sin is in your mind only, it’s still sin, and you should pray and ask the Lord for forgiveness. You should also repent (turn away from that thought process.) You do not go to the person you thought badly about and say, “I thought ugly thoughts about you, and I want you to forgive me.” That hurts the other person, someone you hadn’t offended before. Yes, your thoughts were wrong. Go to the Lord and confess your sin. He will forgive you. (1 John 1:9)
  • You have sinned publicly. It could be anything from a bad testimony, such as public drunkenness, to immorality.—Confess your sin to the Lord, and ask for His forgiveness. Turn from your sin. Change your ways. Confess your sin before the church body. Public sins cause shame to the Name of Christ, and they must be confessed and forsaken. There may be consequences of your sin. Thankfully, God forgives and restores. If you are in a church congregation where someone has confessed a public sin, the Bible says, Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (Galatians 6:1).


The Apostle Paul is perhaps the best biblical model about how to deal with past sins and guilt. Remember, when he was named Saul, he was persecuting the true church in the name of religion. He calls himself a Pharisee and was the son of a Pharisee—someone trying to be so good as to merit heaven. He was Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless (Philippians 3:5-6).

How did Paul handle his past?

But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith . . . .

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:7-9, 13-14).

It wasn’t easy, but Paul put his past behind him. He put Stephen’s death and the responsibility for putting people in prison out of his mind. Oh yes, he knew he did those things. But he accepted God’s beautiful forgiveness and set goals. He wanted to know God, to serve Him, to get the prize!

God doesn’t want us to walk around feeling guilty. He wants us to deal with our sins by confessing them to Him (and others, if necessary), turning our backs on them, and then putting them behind us. God does!

Let’s live in victory!
  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Books and Movies Survey: Wrap-Up

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(If you missed the first two parts of the Survey, I know you’ll want to read them. You can scroll down after reading this one.)

Here are some more participants’ quotes. Enjoy!

“I think parents ought to be involved in what their children are reading and watching, without censoring it directly. Parents should talk about the attitudes and philosophies that are presented, of course, and compare that with what the Bible teaches. It teaches them to be discerning on their own, instead of just reading whatever the parent wants them to read. He should recommend a few good books from time to time, and talk about those, too, just to make sure they’re getting some good stuff.”
“With both books and movies, what we allow our eyes to see, ears to hear, and minds to think about greatly influences how we think, feel, and act.  Since we are instructed to be careful about what our minds think about, we need to be cautious about what we ‘feed’ them.”
“I do believe books and movies influence our thoughts and viewpoints. I think that is why society is what it is today. I believe that thinking that we are not influenced by media is one of the biggest lies that we Christians believe, especially girls.  I think too many young girls dream of the fairy tale ending and prince charming and when our lives don’t end like they do in the movies, we think that we made a mistake and that there is someone out there that will make us happy. I think this mentality contributes to the rising divorce rate in our culture.“  

“In my opinion it is important to have well-defined and consistent standards for all forms of entertainment. All media has a variety of genres and purposes, and I believe we should make wise choices based on principle, not ratings or categories. There can be damaging G movies, and there can be edifying fiction.”

_________________________________

What can we take away from the Survey results? There were many positives, in my opinion. Let me list a few of them:

Books
  • Overwhelmingly, the participants read a variety of books.
  • They generally do not limit themselves to only Christian reading. I find this positive, because we are in the world—though not of it. (1 John 2:16) There’s a lot of great literature and information out there that’s written by secular authors.
  • The participants read fiction.
  • They value classical literature.
  • The respondents are careful about a book’s content—morality, language, etc.
  • They are careful about what their children read.
  • Every single participant believes reading influences thoughts and viewpoints.


Movies
  • Participants judge each individual movie for its content.
  • Quite a few consult a website before family viewing.
  • People are careful about recommendations from friends. They will trust friends with similar tastes and values.
  • Parents are sensitive to all their children’s viewing needs and are careful with differing ages and maturity levels. They are especially careful about violence and thematic elements.
  • Every single participant said they believe movies influence thoughts and viewpoints.


________________________________

Biblical Guidelines for Books and Movies

The Apostle Paul was well-schooled in the classics of his day. He quoted the philosophers Menander, Epimenides, and Seneca, as well as the poet Aratus.*

Even though the Bible was written about two to three-and-a-half thousand years before movies, several biblical principles apply to our entertainment choices:
  • I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid? (Job 31:1)
  • I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me (Psalm 101:3).
  • Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  • Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things (Philippians 4:8).
  • For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1 John 2:16).


You can judge what you read and the movies you watch by asking yourself: if Jesus were to choose a book to read, would He choose this one? If Jesus were sitting right beside me on the sofa, would He be fine with the movie I plan to view?

I understand that “what would Jesus do” is a hypothetical, and that we can’t really know His mind about Disney, Gomer Pyle, or John Wayne. But, we can analyze content and language and make wise decisions.

And be not conformed to this world:
but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind,
that ye may prove what is that good,
and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:2).

________________________________

A huge thank you to everyone that participated in my Books and Movies Survey. May God bless you!

(If you missed them, you can scroll down to read the first two posts of this series.)


*http://biblethingsinbibleways.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/paul-and-his-use-of-greek-philosophy/
  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Books and Movies Survey: Movies

Photo by: ponsulak

If you missed Part One of the Books and Movies Survey, on Books, please scroll down after reading this post. You’ll enjoy it!

Movies

1. I have a year limit for the movies I’m willing to watch. (For example, I don’t watch anything made after 1970.)  True 0  False 35

2. I only watch G and PG.  True 6  False 29

“If possible I try to find out why a movie is given a particular rating. As an adult I don’t feel I have to limit my viewing to things that are suitable for children. Even some Christian films are rated PG-13. For example, “Courageous” is a terrific movie and also provides many teachable moments for older kids. On the other hand there are G movies I don’t think kids should see such as “The Princess and the Frog” (Disney, 2009). A few years ago I watched it with a family I was visiting. It had a rather dark side, and I thought it was downright creepy! It’s not one I would have chosen to watch even without children present.”
“Depending on why it is rated. The rating system is so messed up!!! There are some G and PG that are filled with inappropriate things!”

“Concerning movie ‘ratings’, I would not watch or allow my children to watch many movies with a “G” rating, but have watched movies with ‘higher’ ratings depending on the movie and why it has that rating. I believe not all ratings are the same. A movie rated higher 10-20 years ago would be rated lower now (I have no proof of this, it is just how it seems to me). What the world does not view sees as ‘questionable’ content differs from a biblical view. The world has little problem with ‘adult’ humor and innuendos and ‘mild’ language and might label a movie “G” that is filled with unbiblical content.” 
“We use Clear Play to filter out words and scenes that would be offensive, and we look for a good moral tone and positive family values (hard to find these days). And, we really watch for rebellion that ends up being rewarded and authority cast in a negative light in the G and PG movies. G and PG movies can be very damaging. It's easy to bleep out bad words. We view every family movie as a teachable moment to guide our children's discernment and ability to identify the more deceitful sins: dishonoring parents/authority, covetousness, etc.”

3. I check ratings and reviews before watching.  True 32  False 3

“We read PluggedIn.com reviews, a ministry of Focus on the Family. They outline every word, oath, minced oath, and sensual or sexual content no matter how minute or suggested, etc. (Never trust secular reviews.)”

“Yes! And doubly so if I am asked to watch the movie with anyone other than my husband. I always check out a Christian movie guide site that discreetly reveals the nature of any potentially objectionable material before watching an unknown movie. There are lines I will not cross—especially if the movie is being watched strictly for entertainment purposes—so, why start a movie and get interested only to discover that it crosses the line. Then you risk playing the “as long as it doesn’t happen again” game. It is so easy these days to know before you even hit play if objectionable scenes exist.”

Recommended movie review sites: kidsinmind.com; pluggedin.com; and tvguardian.com. TVGuardian also sells filtering devices to get rid of profanity.

4. I watch what friends recommend.  True 25  False 5  Sometimes 5

“I watch what friends recommend, but it depends. If I wouldn't watch it with a pastor’s wife, I won't watch. We are more Disney movie people.”

“Well, yes and no! I have some friends who watch things I would not be interested in for various reasons and probably vice versa. I have also learned that just because I purchase a video at a local Christian bookstore doesn’t mean it is squeaky clean! I got one at Christmastime that would have been great if only a couple words had been omitted. Another one made subtle references to homosexuality in a somewhat neutral way. [I actually took it back to the store and voiced my complaint although since it had been opened they would not refund my money!] In any case, I have learned to preview anything I plan to invite friends over to watch with me!”
5. I feel I can watch any movie with a discerning eye.  True 12  False 23

“Usually. I have sat down to watch a movie a second time and thought, What is this?!? How did I miss that? And that?!? And THAT?!?!? LOL”
“Not ‘any’ –With everything we see and read (or hear) we need to be discerning!!”
“Movies do affect me. I don’t watch horror movies or movies that are too sexual or have bad language. I also am affected by movies that don’t end well. I become uneasy and irritable. I need closure.” 

“You put the word ‘any’ in there. If you had used the word ‘most’ I may have answered T. But in reality, I honestly think we need to be almost more aware of many so-called ‘family friendly’ movies, because it is easier to let our guard down when we have been led to believe the movie is ‘safe.’ I specifically remember recommending a ‘family friendly’ movie to a pastor one time because it was rated G. I had seen it more than once and it was one of my favorites. We even gave the pastor our DVD copy. I was horrified the next time I watched the movie and an expletive jumped out at me like a slap in the face. I realize to some that would be no big deal, but it was to me. I had never noticed it in the movie before, yet there it was. After a more critical viewing of the movie, I later discovered a couple other things that I was suddenly aware of after I had already given the movie to the preacher.”  

6. I am concerned about language, violence, and sexual content.  
    True 35  False 0

“The Bible warns against these issues in every day reality, so I don’t really see that we can justify watching it as entertainment.”

“Many Christians today feel like they can ‘handle’ the foul language and sexually explicit scenes without it affecting their Christian lives. I think that is totally false. Besides, we have the command in Scripture to think on those things that are pure.”

7. I watch some movies that I wouldn’t let my children view.  
    True 28  False 6

“Under certain circumstances I watched movies that my children were not allowed to, especially when they were younger. I know that many believe that if you would not let your child watch it, then you shouldn’t either. However, there are many historically based movies about events that would be just too scary for younger children. Even some Christian movies can be scary for younger ones who may not understand how or why people do such cruel things to one another.”

“Clarification, I wouldn't let a 5-year-old watch ‘Indiana Jones’ nor a 10-year-old watch ‘Les Miserables.’ I enjoy both movies in their own right, but simply would not allow children of particular ages to watch, based on difficult themes (especially ‘Les Mis’) or scary content (‘Indiana Jones’).” 

“We are very particular what we allow our children to view, but do preview things that sometimes don't make the cut for the kids. Also, my husband and I enjoy some down time of our own and not everything we watch we consider appropriate for our children. For example, right now we're watching ‘Matlock,’ and while some episodes would be okay for our older kids, there is some subject matter in some episodes that we don't want to introduce to our kids right now.”
8. I believe movies influence thoughts and viewpoints.  True 35  False 0

“I do believe that movies influence our thoughts and our viewpoints, however, a discerning and mature person can watch things (being aware of the worldview it presents) and not be affected by them as an undiscerning person would. For example, I don’t think that the ‘Hunger Games’ is the best choice for an undiscerning, emotional teenage girl). But studied as literature, by a discerning person, it has value. I also may watch or skim or read reviews about things that I wouldn’t watch for entertainment because I feel it’s necessary to be aware of what my students are reading and watching (and writing papers about)!”
 “As with books this is also true, and perhaps more so since not much imagination is required—everything is ‘out there’ in living color.”
________________________________
“It is sad to me how many people ‘like’ or share videos or music (even just You Tube videos) on Facebook. To me, that is the same as putting their endorsement on it. When ‘friends’ know you profess Christ, and then you like something that a Christian ought not to be watching (or even questionable material), it is confusing and brings shame to the name of Christ. I also see the influence of friends and their media choices as a major influence on others.”


There's one more post in The Books and Movies series. If you missed the last one, you can scroll down and read it, now.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Books and Movies Survey: Books

Photo by: amenic 181

Thirty-five Christians answered true/false questions about how they choose books and movies. Participants were two men and thirty-three women. Enjoy reading their responses. Quotations are random and may or may not express my own personal viewpoint. All quotations are used by permission.

Books

1. I read a variety of books.  True 33  False 2

2. I only read Christian books.  True 3  False 32

"I do read secular books, but mostly non-fiction. (History/Biography, Health/Fitness). I used to read thrillers as long as they didn't have any sensual or sexual content, but in time realized that the language (even sparse) and worldview did affect my thinking. I haven't read one in years.”

3. I only read non-fiction.  True 2  False 33

“I only read (some) Christian fiction. Over the years, I have become more picky about the authors I read. I see a danger in getting lost in a love story that does not truly 'seek first the kingdom of God.' Biblical principles meant to protect the Christian are often broken and then magically rewarded with a fairy-tale-of-grace 'Christian' ending. This is dangerous, because it can leave us either dissatisfied with what God has given us or deceived into thinking we can handle something outside His walls of protection. Reading is my favorite form of relaxation, so when I can carve out the time, it's important to me to know I'm not going to waste my time. For light reading, I enjoy mostly male authors, historical fiction and suspense whose theme is character building or spiritually challenging. I especially enjoy biblical allegory.”

4. I value the classics.  True 31  False 4

“I only bought my child well known classics or Christian books to read.”
5. I look for good moral tone. (The good guys win; the bad guys lose. No sleaze, immorality, etc.)  True 31  False 3  Sometimes 1

“This was not true when I was a teenager and read some books that my parents didn’t know about. It caused me great harm spiritually.”
6. I care about bad language.  True 34  False 1

“The only time I would ever give it a ‘pass’ is if I am reading a true life story about an unsaved person and they use it in their life.  However, I don’t want to see much of it in those books, either.”
“If I find bad language or something against my morals, I will not finish the book.”
7. I read books before I let my children read them.  True 23  False 7

"I read or at least speed read all books by unfamiliar authors. If an author has proven trustworthy in other books, I do not read all their other books prior to allowing my children to read them."

“I would definitely proofread books for my kids (or take the word of trusted friends who had already screened them). If my kids were in public school I would insist on seeing the list of required reading and check things out. I just read an online article about a book assigned to a HS class that had some very graphic descriptions of a sexual nature. An upset parent was quoted as saying he would have been arrested for distributing pornography, if he had stood on a street corner passing out materials with such content!”

“Generally. I do let them read certain books if I've read enough of that author to know they are trustworthy (biographies by Christian authors, for example).  I also let them read books recommended by a very small handful of people with the same standards as I have, and books on certain homeschooling reading lists.”  

“I was probably more lenient in this area than some, since there was no reasonable way that I could read every book my children wanted to read. (I had a couple with voracious book appetites!) I would tend to read a book or two by an author and if I had no objections, I would give the thumbs up for that author. My eldest child knew my standards, and I learned to trust his judgment on books appropriate for my younger ones. I would, on occasion, check up on the eldest and read a book just to be sure he was staying on track.”

8. I believe books influence thoughts and viewpoints.  True 35  False 0

“This is definitely true, especially for young, impressionable minds. However, as (what I consider to be) a mature adult with a fairly well established worldview, I don’t necessarily avoid books that might hold a different position from mine, say politically or theologically. On the other hand I would definitely stay away from other topics, like the occult, for example.”
“Definitely! In fact, at one point of my life, I was reading mostly secular fiction and I noticed myself having sympathy for totally anti-biblical attitudes and lifestyles. I have also noticed that if I read books with bad language I find that language popping out without even realizing it. So I changed what I was reading. ‘I will set no wicked thing before my eyes’ does not necessarily mean just an image!”

“I also believe some of what you choose to see or read depends on your emotional make-up. For example, some people are more imaginative/emotional and more easily affected by what they see and read than others.”
“Absolutely! One of the reasons reading the Bible—first and foremost—and then other good Christian books is so important!”

________________________________

“You can often know that an author is good, a publisher can be trusted, or you can flip through the book to get the general tone of the book. Also, often the first chapter, a few pages in the middle, and the last chapter will tell you if the book is worthy of reading.”

You won't want to miss the next post, about movies. 


Friday, May 23, 2014

How Can We Possibly Love As God Commands?

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Jesus told the Pharisees, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37b-40).

And, it’s true. If you read the Ten Commandments, the first four are about loving God, and the last six loving others. (Exodus 20)

We read in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 the characteristics of love. 
Love:
  • Perseveres (verse 4)
  • Is kind (4)
  • Isn’t envious (4)
  • Doesn’t boast (4)
  • Doesn’t behave badly (5)
  • Isn’t selfish (5)
  • Doesn’t get easily angered (5)
  • Doesn’t think ugly thoughts (5)
  • Doesn’t rejoice in evil (6)
  • Rejoices in truth (6)
  • Forbears (7)
  • Is committed and trusting (7)
  • Hopes (7)
  • Endures (7)
  • Never ends (8)


Jesus also gave The New Commandment: A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another (John 13:34).

God instructs husbands to love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). Also, Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them (Colossians 3:19).

Older women are to teach younger women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children. (from Titus 3:4)

So, how can we do this? How can we love each other as Jesus loved, as God wants us to love?

I believe it’s possible for men to love their wives and for wives to love their husbands and children. God doesn’t command us to do the impossible. (The impossible is His job!)

A lot has to do with our approach to love and understanding of love. God’s love is our model. It’s an active love, a giving love, a sacrificial love. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

Love is viewing others as having more value than we do. It is totally unselfish. It’s being willing to yield rather than fight. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves (Philippians 2:3).

So how do we practice love?

Here are some ideas:
  1. Get an accurate view of self. You are a sinner saved by grace. You are not better than anyone else.
  2. Be humble. (Philippians 2:3, above)
  3. Value others as very important. Jesus gave His life for them. They should be important to you, too. (Romans 12:10)
  4. Work on specific 1 Corinthians 13 goals. (For example, if you tend to think negatively about others, ask the Lord to help you think good thoughts and give others the benefit of the doubt. Ask God to help you love those who have very real and obvious issues.) Develop 1 Corinthians 13 love in your daily life. You might want to concentrate on one at a time, maybe one a month. In a year, you’ll be a different person!
  5. In the family, show love with concrete, practical actions. Say “I love you” often and sincerely. Show your love in hugs and sincere compliments. Build up. Work on controlling anger. Work out any issues instead of letting them simmer. Help your children show courtesy and love.
  6. In your church, determine that you will be known as an encourager. (Barnabas is a great biblical model. See my post about Barnabas here.)
  7. Look for ways to show love to others. Become conscious of others’ needs.
  8. Pray for love for the difficult people in your life. Remember that the action of love depends on you, not on the objects of your loving actions.
  9. Let Jesus’ love shine through you. Get close to the Lord yourself, and you will freely love others, naturally.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 
(1 John 4:7)