I wanted to get the Film Reel Friday post in early this week to announce a new chapter in the 13Past1 universe. Last summer, I kicked around being able to get into a summer movie series where we can gather together and talk about the themes and narratives that shape the movies we watch. I believe that the movies we watch are not just mindless entertainment, but the movies and TV shows that we watch are preaching something to us. As a Christian I believe that every time we tune in to the big screen or small screen we can keep our minds and our hearts turned on to analyze and determine what those stories are telling us.
Martin Scorsese famously said of the silver screen, to paraphrase, that movie theaters are modern day churches. Nowadays that expands to include what we see on TV. With the dawn of HBO, AMC, USA, and other cable networks bringing us epic, movie-like shows in the vein of Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and the Sopranos, it is more like our screens, big and small alike, are the modern day church. In our expandingly de-churched society, movie theaters and living rooms are becoming the dominant place where people in American culture go to sit quietly, listen attentively, and discuss afterwards what they just saw. It is no coincidence that Sunday nights are a growing area of syndication for shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones (arguably the two most popular shows on TV). TV and movies have become our preferred form of Sabbath after a long hard week of work. The small/big screen has become our modern day pulpit.
All that being said, as a Christian, I believe it is part of our daily worship and discipleship not to unplug from media, but to engage it in order not only to see and hear what the culture at large values and loves, but also to draw what is good and what is not from movies and TV. We can gain valuable insight not only into where the good news of Jesus Christ can speak to the culture, but also where we can find the truth of the gospel in what we watch. Everything from sacrifice and love in Frozen to depravity and sin in Reservoir Dogs, there are kernels and full blossoms of God’s image and God’s truth in the stories we watch and listen to.
This is the heart behind adding the Re:View posts and section to 13Past1. Re:View’s mission is, “reviewing movies with God in view.” I am hoping this can come to fruition in movie reviews, YouTube reviews, and in the start of the Re:View podcast by the end of this summer.
In the meantime, I have begun the setup and execution with the help of my friend, Dick McCarthy, to bring to you the Re:View Summer Movie Series! We’re launching four viewings over the summer months to watch a major motion picture, eat popcorn, and then discuss said movie and how this connects to our lives, experiences, faith, and God. You can see the poster below for more details on our first event on June 13th and you can also click the poster to be taken to the brand new Re:View landing page on this sight. Thanks for the support you have shown me in this endeavor and I am really excited to be launching into the next season of fun here at 13Past1!
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The last post left little hope beyond being able to identify those lover gods, but Keller also dives deeper into Jeremiah 2 to give us good news and hope. Once we have uncovered these false gods that woos us and grab our affections, Keller offers three charges to overcoming your fatal attractions and gaining freedom from them.
Personalize Your View of Sin
So often we want to view our sin as merely a transgression of God’s law. We act in a way that we know is wrong, compare it to what God says in His word, and we scold ourselves to try and not do that again. The problem with this is that we do not recognize that sin is a power that when we scold it, it merely wants to do it more. We echo the words of Paul in Romans 7:18b-19:
“For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.”
What we fail to realize is that sin is not merely a transgression of the law and of God, but it breaks the heart of God. Keller says the language God uses in Jeremiah 2 is one of a jealous lover who has been abandoned by his bride. Verses 2 and 3 say:
“I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.
Israel was holy to the LORD,
the firstfruits of his harvest.
All who ate of it incurred guilt;
disaster came upon them,
declares the LORD.”
The people of Israel had faithfully followed God through the wilderness after being rescued from slavery and had been God’s holy, set apart people. They were the LORD’s lovely bride who he had given His heart to and they turned from Him and stabbed him in the heart.
In order to see sin for what it really is, we need to personalize it and see that our sin is not merely to run afoul in our morality or our behavior, but it is to divorce ourselves from our true love, God himself. Only then will our heart truly melt and the allure of sin and our sinful lusts can start to be overcome.
In Jeremiah 2:6, God says to His people Israel:
“They did not say, ‘Where is the LORD
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that none passes through,
where no man dwells?”
Israel, God’s people, goes after false gods because they were not remembering the grace that He had for his people when we brought them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. When we fail to remember God’s grace through us through Jesus Christ, our natural inclination is to turn to those things that we think will rescue, aka our lover gods.
We remember our salvation not by just calling God’s salvation to mind, but we remember through intentional times that are a picture of grace. We can remember His grace every time we take the Lord’s Supper and remember Jesus’ body and blood shed for us. Also, when we gather together on Sunday mornings we can take that time to sing and preach about the grace of God. Opening our Bibles and reading about God’s grace is another way that we can remember His grace every day. We need to have those times where we are actively remembering God’s grace collectively and individually in order to overcome the wiles of our lover gods.
Look in the Mirror
God constantly compares his people to his bride and Keller embraces that comparison to drive home that we are to combat and overcome our lover gods by looking in the mirror. In verse 32, Jeremiah prophesies, “Can a virgin forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me days without number.” Again, God compares Israel, his people, to a bride and compares Israel forgetting God to a bride forgetting her wedding attire?
Why would he do that? Think about it. Does a bride forget what she was wearing on her wedding day? Or as Tim Keller asks, does she suddenly get up to the altar and remember she forgot to put makeup on? Of course not! A bride is looking in the mirror all day on her wedding day. She is constantly adjusting and adorning herself as she prepares to walk down the aisle. Our flight to lover gods is tantamount to a bride forgetting to take a look in the mirror before her wedding day.
But is that not what we are constantly trying to do? Keller astutely points out that our hearts are always trying to ornament ourselves to look spiritually acceptable to God. But the point Keller is making is not to be looking in the mirror in order to make sure our own ornaments and makeup look good, but to look in the mirror and see who we are in Christ.
Ephesians 5 says that Christ came to perfect us in order to make us spotless and presentable before God. When we look in the mirror we can see that we have been adorned with the perfect and righteous life of Christ. We can join Paul, after his rant in Romans 7 about sin and our flesh, by saying, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” It is through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we are able to remember his stunning grace and to look in the mirror and see how beautiful we are in Christ.
The poisonous charms of our lover gods will be harmlessly neutralized when we can see the beauty of Christ before us and clothing us, and we run down the aisle into His amazing grace.
Make sure to follow 13Past1 on Facebook or follow Josh on Twitter to get updates on all the posts! Gracias!
Last week I posted, 5 Movies to See With Your Sweetie, which is a wonderful quintet of movies to see with your significant other. Today I am charting a brand new course on the Oregon Trail of “5 Summer Movies” and exploring 5 movies to see with your “brosephs” during the upcoming summer months. So grab your homies and a box of 44 ounce popcorn and tune your collective minds to these 5 highly anticipated moving pictures coming soon to a theater near you.
Sending Wolverine into the past? Awesome. Sentinels? Yes! Jennifer Lawrence as Raven/Mystique? Cool and great actress. Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) as Dr. Bolivar Trask? Awesome choice! Very excited for this movie and it comes out today! The dudes will come for the X-Men awesomeness and stay for the fantastic cast of actors/actresses and a movie based on one of the better story arcs from the X-Men comics. This gets a full 5 points on the dude scale and another 5 points for acting cred. Really good early reviews for this film are great and this movie will definitely start conversations about community, survival, and Hugh Jackman.
This movie was actually released in South Korea last year, apparently, but is coming to theaters in America this summer. The early reviews are quite positive, and if it gets one more review from a critic on Metacritic it will jump to the top of the list of movies already released. This film is a dystopian reality where the only people left on earth live on a train named “Snowpiercer”. It looks to be an awesome mix of action and pathos that explores morality, social division, and the struggle for survival amidst social and environmental chaos. Gets a solid 4/5 on the dude scale.
Edge of Tomorrow – Out in theaters June 6th
I’m up in the air about this one. I put it on here because I don’t think Transformers: Age of Extinction is going to be very good. Tom Cruise (summer popcorn movie veteran) is a soldier in a war with aliens (in the synopsis they say “with aliens”, so you are not really sure if it is against aliens or he is in the alien army) and he finds himself reliving his last battle over and over. Apparently, it is Groundhog Day meets Star Wars, but probably not nearly as good. It’s a dude movie because of all the “shoot em’ up, tear em’ up” action, but may be intriguingly different due to the unique premise. Stay Tuned on whether this is any good, but I’m sure the action will not disappoint. 3 out of 5 on the dude scale.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – Out in theaters July 11th
I honestly can’t remember if I have seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I don’t think I have, but I remember seeing the terrible remake of Planet of the Apes in the theaters. I am hesitant on reboots, especially of already classic films, but technically this is not a reboot. I heard good things about Rise of the Planet of the Apes and I continue to hear a building anticipation surrounding this film. It’s not in my “Must See” category, but this is definitely one to hit up the theaters for the action and the dialogue it can create. Like Snowpiercer, it explores social division in the midst of dystopia, as well as war and conflict in that environment. A probably less desirable topic is addressing humans care of earth and our proclivity towards being fearful or anything different from us. I give this a solid 4 out of 5 on the dude scale.
Guardians of the Galaxy – Out in theaters August 1st
Yes! THIS is the movie I will be waiting all summer to see. Not only does this movie look incredible, but it is the latest offering from the Marvel Universe that has already brought us one of the best films of this year (Captain American: Winter Soldier). So much I could write about this film and why I am looking forward to it, but lets leave it at witty and hilarious dialogue, five heroes who are not super-humans or super-aliens, and tons of space action. Explores themes of community, law and morality, and second chances. Think of these five guardians as five Han Solos who, despite their criminal pasts, are thrown into a galactic battle to save the galaxy from evil and do good for a change. I give this 6 out of 5 on the dude scale for awesome movie plus sheer excitement. If you see one movie this summer, see Guardians of the Galaxy.
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In the sermon, “How Sin Makes Us Addicts,” Tim Keller preaches on Jeremiah 2 and the language of sexual desire and idolatry addressed by God, through the prophet Jeremiah, to Israel. Keller expounds that idolatry, when we find our own life, meaning, security, and joy apart from God, is our soul getting in to bed with something else spiritually.
Jeremiah expounds that the people of Israel, like we do today, have replaced God with other gods that become like an addiction. As Jeremiah 2:25 says, “But you say, “It’s hopeless; I love strangers, and I will continue to follow them.” When we follow after these replacement gods, what Keller calls “lover gods”, we become addicted to them as our source of security, joy, and pleasure and we continue to throw ourselves back into their arms.
All humans, regardless of whether we follow Christ or not, are susceptible to the trappings of false, lover gods that entice us to be in bed with them. John Calvin famously said, “Man’s nature…is a perpetual factory of idols.” Jeremiah sees this in man’s nature and quips, “[They] say to a tree, “You are my father,” and to a stone, “You gave birth to me,” (Jeremiah 2:27). Our hearts take objects, like we would stone or wood, and we carve them into a image of worship and attest to their value and worth by assigning them worship (“you are my father”) and identity (“you gave birth to me”). We not only do that, but God’s language in verse 20 literally says that when we go to worship these false idols we spread our legs before them. We enter into spiritual, sexual intercourse with the false idols. Shocking but true imagery of how the relationship with false, lover gods entices us and makes us addicts.
However, we cannot always see and identify the lover gods, since the spiritual attractions or our hearts are not clearly visible to us, but they are just as strong as physical attractions and can be just as or even more deadly. Keller proffers two ways for us to be able to pull the sheets back on our lover gods and find out where we have been turning for love, joy, security, and happiness other than Him.
1) What is it that I feel I have got to have or I am dead?
Keller points to the connection between the Bible’s use of animal biology and our idolatry. In verse 23-24, the idolatry of Israel is compared to a camel or a wild donkey in heat. We restlessly pursue those idols as a female animal will seek out a male to mate with. They do this not out of some complicated need to have their emotional needs fulfilled, but it is literally to survive and perpetuate their species. They need to mate in order to live.
This is the first thing we can look to when we are seeking to find what idols we are getting in bed with. What is in our lives that we have to have or we feel we will die? What is so important to us that if we do not have it, it will cause our very being to feel like it has wasted away and perished? It may the approval of other people, or one specific person. It could be more money because it makes us feel secure and safe from the instability of day to day expenses. We are challenged to find what will cause spiritual death if we cannot have it.
2) What is functioning more as the savior of my life than Jesus Christ?
The second question is to root out what we look to when everything goes bad. What do we go to when the wheels have fallen off and what is standing in place of Jesus Christ as our functional savior? These may be good things, such as wine, food, friends, spouses, etc., but we turn them into God things that rescue us from our times of trouble and deliver us into the Promised Land of whatever we need to feel alive (Jeremiah 2:27-28).
When addressing those behaviors or attitudes in your life that seem to be like the old boyfriend you just couldn’t live without or it feels like an addiction you just can’t shake, ask yourself these two questions to pull back the sheets on your lover gods and expose who you are spiritually sleeping with. The language may be shocking for those who didn’t think your Bible could say things like this, but God wants you to see our sin for what it really is, spiritual sexual promiscuity.
I would feel amiss if I did not leave you with more hope. I will have the follow up three points on how we avoid being enticed by these lover gods and find freedom in Christ. I’ll make sure to link it here after it is posted.
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Needless to say the differences in reception played out when my wife and I saw this movie. We both agreed that the movie was not that good. However, we differed on what the message of the movie was and what kind of effect it will have on audiences. In the interest of fairness, I dug deep to come up with 5 pros of this movie and also 5 cons, which was much easier, and present them here in tweet form (140 characters or less for the unfamiliar).
THE FIVE PROS
Kevin Sorbo stands out by having the most developed character and a strong acting presence in the midst of inferior characters #Hercules
Dean Cain’s Mom’s Quote
Sin is like a jail cell except its nice&comfy & there doesn’t seem to be any need 2 leave. The door is wide open. Until 1 day it slams shut
Rev Dave & Missionary
The comedy is a bit silly and over done at times, but I thought those two characters were genuinely funny and entertaining
“That guy” who didn’t stand up
In the penultimate scene, Josh convinces everyone in his class to declare, “God’s Not Dead.” *groan*… Except one guy. Hilarious!
An “A” for effort
The Cinema Kindergarten teacher gives “God’s Not Dead” an “A” for really trying its best
Bad acting probably made so bad by terrible, paper-thin characters with no meaningful development. Lazy writing #nostory
Cheesy and poor plot developments
More bad storytelling and rushed sub-plots make for terrible pacing and wretched plot development #morelazywriting
“Us” versus “Them” mentality
Movie seems to thrive off of the “Christian good, Atheist bad,” mantra that permeates the oft-annoying culture wars #Foxnews
Don’t try to save people with movies, tell a good story!
When you tell a good story, it creates dialogue about the message and plot depth. Please refer to your Bibles for proof of this #seriously
THE FINAL SKINNY
The movie was so agonizingly bad at times and the story was so contrived it felt like a propaganda film. My wife says I am being way too critical of the producers/directors/writers, but I feel I am merely doing my due diligence to let you know that this movie is worth seeing, but is overly ham-fisted and poorly done to warrant any staying power.
I feel a movie like the Matrix, which borrows from many faiths, has a better and more enduring message than God’s Not Dead. It’s because the story is good and the dialogue raises so many good questions about faith, eternity, destiny, life, pain, progress, humanity, etc. As my last point said, you don’t need to save people with movies. Tell good stories!
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I love movies. I live and breathe the narratives, stories, and themes of the movies that I see. I am the nerd that brings a notebook to the movie theater because I want to write down good lines, important themes, and general notes about the movie I am watching. My wife, however, does not share the same sentiment. She goes to movies that she wants to see and she is the one who called me a “nerd” when I bring my notebook.
Since you might suffer the same dilemma as me and will be unable to see the new Godzilla movie with your significant other, as a public service to you, I offer five movies that you and your sweetie can enjoy this summer.
It seems to come around every year that someone declares that the Rom-Com is dead. This summer might see a bit of a resurrection of sorts with What If and They Came Together coming out. Both of them look really solid but this one I really want Tina and I to go to. Starring Daniel Radcliffe (aka Harry Potter), Zoe Kazan (The Pretty One), and Adam Driver (Girls and STAR WARS!!!), this movie is about friendship, relationships, and the tension of wondering what if the love of your life is your best friend. Consider Tina and I there. And you can’t go wrong with a movie starring Harry Potter and the rumored bad guy for Star Wars: Episode VII, can you?
Everything is lining up for this movie to be disney’s big splash of Summer 2014. Angelina Jolie is a crazy spot on match for the Maleficent of Sleeping Beauty fame. A quick two minute trailer shows the story we are all familiar with (and they even say so in the trailer, ugh) and shows battle scenes between Aurora’s kingdom and Maleficent’s magical forces (including some serious Ent ripoffs, but who doesn’t do that? I’m looking at you Aronofsky!). I can see lots of people lining up to see this and being a great movie to take the wonderful Mrs. to go see, but I ultimately think the movie will be little more than Angelina Jolie and some CGI battles. I’ll see it for the ent ripoffs and battle scenes but stay because I will go on free popcorn night.
Besides maybe Guardians of the Galaxy, I am super excited for this movie! How to Train Your Dragon was an incredible success and my whole family, myself particularly, loved the first movie. Needless to say, the second installment looks like it will not disappoint. Dreamworks is not going for a terrible re-hash (*cough* Shrek 2 & 3) but is telling a whole new story with our characters all growed up! This is one I am sure I do not need to convince Tina to go see, and we can take the kids! +4 Awesome Sauce!
That tagline is just pure awful. Aside from that, this movie, despite an early critical collective “meh”, looks like the perfect movie for my wife and I. It stars two of the funniest people around (Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd) and that is pretty much good enough for the both of us. If Paul Rudd can channel any of his Mike Hannigan-esque energy for this role I will be more than satisfied (seriously, he was hysterical on Friends).
This might be the wildcard in all this. Richard Linklater is a weird dude, but he has made some great movies (Dazed and Confused, School of Rock, Waking Life) along with some not so memorable titles. However, this concept is incredible and is worthy of a view for its content and unique story. It is filmed over the course of 12 years and follows a young boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane) from age 5 to 18. It explores the travails and life of a family and raising a boy in the 12st century. This concept and story is so cool and has received some early high critical acclaim and could get Linklater some serious accolades. Definitely worth the ticket and you may just shed a tear or two together.
The Gospel Coalition is one of my favorite websites on the big, wide interwebs. I have never had the privilege of attending one of their conferences, but the countless helpful articles by great writers, pastors, theologians, missionaries, and smart people have been a huge help to me, my wife and countless others.
I really enjoyed Richard Clark’s article from Monday’s posts talking about celebrities as not being commodities. Richard Clark continued that conversation on Wednesday’s podcast at Christ and Pop Culture where he is the editor-in-chief and discussed a little more about our culture’s obsession with celebrities and particularly the Christian culture obsession with pastors, theologians, professors, writers, etc. I would suggest checking out that podcast for the whole thing and enjoy Nick Rynerson’s story about being rebuked at the Gospel Coalition Conference.
Where the slight irony comes in is that two days later The Gospel Coalition posts a baker’s dozen of pictures from Day 1 of their TGC Council Meeting which includes a good spread of photos of who many of us would consider to be the celebrity pastors of our day. Right out of the gate, “Hey! There is Tim Keller with a red pen!” “Look, there is John Piper typing something on his computer! Mark Dever talking! D.A. Carson praying! I bet a mountain just moved! Al Mohler with a bow tie!” (BTW, well done, sir)
I see this juxtaposition as a microcosm of our own hearts. One day we can be very aware that our hearts are sinfully lusting to make a connection with the people that we look up to and admire and then two days later we indulge in that by drinking in pictures of the famous people we admire doing very ordinary things. AND it is worthy of its very own blog post to share with everyone!
“We look to the celebrity pastors as our example to emulate and that turns from a healthy admiration into an obsession that borders on weird and ends with us having them sign our Bibles.”
That is the amazing and terrifying power of our internet age. Celebrity is not something new, heck, Jesus was a celebrity in his day and had to steal away in the early morning to pray without being interrupted. However, the internet allows us to look at those pictures, listen to a sermon, read a blog post, listen to music, or read a tabloid and soak in a one-sided, nonreciprocal relationship with that person we are holding up. What we fail to realize, and what Clark points out in his article, is that we merely capture moments of these people’s lives that we can live over and over again and dehumanize them by either putting them on a pedestal for their exemplary or fascinating lives, or we do the opposite and we demonize them for their non-exemplary lives or views we don’t agree with.
In Christian circles this can be particularly dubious. We look to the celebrity pastors (i.e. Tim Keller, John Piper, Mark Dever, etc.) as our example to emulate and that turns from a healthy admiration into an obsession that borders on weird and ends with us having them sign our Bibles. It is even worse when we turn our sights on them for doing something or writing something that we disagree with and our obsession turns to revulsion. I can’t help but think of the slow about-face many have done to Mark Driscoll as a result of some recent “journalism” in the past calendar year.
The bottom line is that these pastors, and celebrities as a whole, are not a good or service that we ship out to consume and rate on Amazon. They are people, with real feelings, real families, real ministries, real needs, real fears, and real lives. I think the toughest part for celebrities has to be that they face a battle that comes from within and without. Just think about pastors who are famous and well-known. These guys have a church in their own city with people who criticize them, idolize them, and listen to them and they need to address those needs within their own church context. Add on top of that they have people outside who criticize them, idolize them, and listen to them, as well. That adds up to a lot of pressure that I don’t think we, as normal, not famous people, don’t really understand. In the same situation that you and I put those famous people in, would we react like they did? Or would it be a lot worse? Makes you think, doesn’t it? I think we could all benefit from a little more thought experiment when it comes to our celebrity obsessions and take a few moments to humanize those who seem very inhuman (both in a good and bad sense) when we listen the to them, watch them, or obsess over them.
One final word on this. I come out of this knowing and sensing the irony in this very article. I don’t mean this as a way to say, “I have it figured it out and I don’t obsess over famous people ever.” I do, and when I stop and think it makes me cringe and get on my knees and pray. I get that writing about observed irony can itself be ironic and hypocritical. I get that it is slightly ironic I write this and one of my first posts ever on this blog was an oozing ode to John Piper as he stepped out of the pulpit at Bethlehem Baptist. I get that the fact I know when John Piper was retiring from preaching at Bethlehem Baptist can be considered obsessive. I get it and I want my heart to avoid falling into the trap of having an unhealthy view of people who are completely normal but are in a position of power and influence because of their talents.
My point can probably be best summed up by what Richard Clark said to close his article:
“We’re entirely too comfortable with the morally meticulous games we play with celebrities and other renowned personalities. Celebrities aren’t commodities who give us a break from loving our neighbor. Despite what we’ve been telling ourselves, Brangelina, Bieber, Obama, Piper, and Keller are as worthy of being treated with dignity as our neighbors or friends.”
Thanks friends. Listen to those podcasts, songs, and sermons and watch TV, movies, and YouTube videos with discernment and remember that, “The heart [that means my heart and yours] is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable–who can understand it,” (Jeremiah 17:9), but, “since we have a great high priest [Jesus Christ]over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold on to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful,” (Hebrews 10:21-23).
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