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Watching Movies and Seeing Films

I am a Baptist by conviction.  Among other things, I believe in the doctrine of Individual Soul Liberty, which holds that God may give one person different convictions than He gives to others.  I am not judging or criticizing anyone, whether they believe it’s right to watch movies or not.  Feel to weigh in if you feel that I have gone too far.

I was recently informed that a drive-in movie theater was still open not far from our home.  It brought back happy memories of a childhood when our parents would take us to see Don Knotts or John Wayne from the comfort of our Rambler.  My wife and I watched Star Wars on the outside screen, and we took our kids to see Snow White (in the rain).  All of those memories bring a smile to my face.

But there were many times during my life when I was not allowed to go to the drive-in.  The first two churches I was in taught that going to movies was a sin.  Some of the schools I taught at included clauses in the contract that forbade us from attending movies.  As a younger, less discreet (or more rebellious) person, I sometimes challenged people as to what the difference was between watching a movie in the theater, on television, or on film or videotape in church.  The best response I remember getting was when I was told that “…movies are shown in theaters, and we don’t go to theaters.  But at home or in church, it’s acceptable to see films.”  I only ever met one person whose consistency would not allow them to watch a movie even if it was aired on network television.

If people cannot watch movies confidently and to the glory of God, then they shouldn’t do it:  what’s not of faith is sin.  But for those who are not so convicted, since the Bible does not include clear prohibitions against clean, decent, uplifting entertainment, then I say go for it–provided of course that it IS clean, decent, and uplifting.

As times and churches have changed, however, so have movie theaters.  You used to be able to walk into a theater showing Muppets Take Manhattan and anyone who saw you go in knew what you were watching.  With today’s metroplexes, however, there is always the possibility that a weaker brother could see you enter and draw wrong conclusions about what you intend to see–and I think that that goes back to the origins of Christians banning theater-attending in the first place.  Before there were movies, there was vaudeville–which might or might not include bawdy or risque acts.  It made sense for Christians to avoid going to a theater where they might be unintentionally exposed to indecent and ungodly influences.  Early movies sometimes included nudity (and there were no MPAA ratings back then) until the industry was forced to censor itself.  It made sense for churches serious about holy living to preach against going to theaters or seeing movies.

Which brings us back to the drive-in.  Today, once again, a Christian who feels comfortable with it can go to a movie, knowing what to expect, and leaving no question about what they are seeing.  And those are good things for believers who want the uplift of seeing a good movie without doubts or qualms.

Just a note in closing:  I mentioned seeing Snow White at the drive-in when our kids were little.  We were attending a church that frowned on movie-going, but did not forbid it.  There was nothing in my contract saying I couldn’t go.  There was a double-feature of Disney movies–in addition to Snow White, they were showing Homeward Bound–both good family movies.  We made our plans to attend, but didn’t tell anyone because we didn’t want to be a stumbling-block to church folks who might not understand.  Imagine our surprise when another church family pulled in next to us.  And another on the other side.  And two others in front of us–by the time the movie started, it seemed like half the church was there!  Yet, no one made an issue of it, no one lost their sanctification, and the church did not split.  And we didn’t feel like co-conspirators:  we had fellowship with the other parents, and we knew where our kids were. And for me, that wasn’t a bad thing.

In order to check as to whether a movie really is clean, decent, and uplifting, you can go to kids-in-mind.com which will identify any objectionable content.  Be wise–please God.

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Lone Wolves?

Apart from the oxymoron of calling 2 men “lone,” let me observe a few things based on the items being reported:

  • The brothers read and passed on information designed and published by others, with specific instructions on how to kill and maim people.
  • One brother returned to his homeland where he received indoctrination and training from other people.
  • They hung out with and even roomed with other people who proudly identified themselves as “terroristas”.
  • They read and announced their agreement and sympathy with the writings of others (and specifically al queda).
  • They have been aided and comforted  by the words of others whom they respect and admire–especially their father and an aunt.

These two brothers may have done the bombing on their own without any direct outside participation, but the fact is that they have attached themselves to and acted with the guidance and approval of an international terror network–Extreme Islam.  There are no lone wolves among the jihadists–only footsoldiers sent on solo missions.  When will we realize that the attackers are not the threat; the real danger comes from the evil machinations of Extreme Islam?

Let’s stop talking about lone wolves and home-grown terrorists.  Let’s stop talking about the Chechnyan revolution against Russia.  Let’s stop expressing outrage that they attacked us after all our country had done for them.  They are terrorists serving a foreign cause.  They are puppets in the hands of a wicked puppeteer who needs to be acknowledged, opposed, and eradicated.

We don’t need to see al queda around every corner, but we do need to see them when they attack us.  I know governmental official warn us not to jump to conclusion; but the fact is that all but 1 act of terror in the US in the last several years have been conducted by young male extremist muslims.  Homeland security has access to my library records; I vote that we allow them to do some ethnic profiling, and go after the real danger to me and my family. 

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Manipulating Medicare

Check out and consider this news report.  Did you hear about it anywhere else? Even Drudge posted it for only one day.

So in addition to the $200 Billion cuts that the Affordable Health Care Act is making in Medicare reimbursements to doctors beginning in 2014, now the administration is cutting an additional 2.3 percent from the Medicare Advantage cooperating insurance plans.  These are the private companies that work under Medicare’s umbrella to provide services for a set rate.  And what is the justification?

The medical providers in question have managed to keep their costs down while everybody else is increasing premiums.  That’s right:  efficiency and thrift have allowed these companies to run fairly profitably, even under the strict government regulations. 

But profitable companies might compete with the government’s own unprofitable programs, so we have to penalize them, lest their consumer base get the idea that private is better than public when it comes to health care insurance.

Note:  these cuts, designed to take place next year, were not proposed by the GOP or voted on by either house of Congress.  They are purely regulatory decisions coming from the Obama Administration, with word released in February and reported on by limited news outlets for one day in March. 

Bad policy + Bad media = increasing Executive power. 

Remember the Second Amendment.  We might really need it some day.

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Dear Facebook Friends: Please Assume the Best

An Open Letter to My Facebook Friends and Acquaintances:

I hope you enjoy your games.  We all need recreation, and I am glad that you have found a safe and inexpensive way to relax.  However, it’s not my thing; so if I don’t respond to your request to help you win points or chickens or whatever else you need, I’m still your friend.  Assume the best.

If you post beautiful pictures for everyone to see, you are sharing God’s handicraft across the cold and invisible ethernet.  I look at them and like them, but I don’t comment on them.  It’s OK–I don’t write to artists or photographers who do a good job; I see no need to praise their salespeople.  Keep the scenic vistas and dog pictures coming, but don’t expect me to forward them.  (P.S.  I have my security settings programmed to block pictures of cats, so I won’t even know if you are showing poor judgment.)

If you send me a block of letters and want me to comment on the first word I see, don’t expect an answer.  I can read and I can find hidden words.  But you need to realize that my wife has beaten me at Boggle so many times that I refuse to play with her any more.  If I won’t play the game with her, don’t expect me to play it with you.

If you send me any links to YouTube or other video sites, you should realize that my computer is slow enough that it can only show two seconds of a streaming video before it has to stop and catch its breath.  I assume that what you sent me is funny, or spectacular, or cute, and I send happy thoughts your way.  But don’t ask me if I’ve seen it, because I haven’t.  (Believe it or not, I’ve never even seen the “Gangnam Style” video that over 2 billion people have watched.  Does that make me a bad person?)

Please assume that I love Jesus, Salvation, my wife, my kids, my grandkids, America, the Second Amendment, etc.  You’ll have to assume it, because I won’t “like,” “comment,” or forward your post.  And if you send me a post telling me that I am somehow not brave or caring if I don’t re-post your status, I really don’t think my courage or compassion are any of your business.  Stop trying to “guilt” me into doing what you want!  I could say that such behavior says more about you than it does about me, but I choose to assume the best of you and your enthusiasm.

I appreciate the fact that you are posting your daily devotions on line.  Thank you for being faithful in scattering the seed of the Gospel to hundreds or thousands of people.  When I see it, I smile and pass over it.  I am currently using Morning and Evening by Spurgeon, and I really don’t think I am being sinful for not reading every spiritual note posted in this forum.  (I liken it a little to hearing someone praying aloud on the radio or TV.  Is it wicked or disrespectful if you don’t stop, bow your head, and pray along with them?  I don’t think so; I am happy to see others worshiping, even if I don’t join in.)

If you send me a picture with instructions to hit “comment” and see what happens, please assume that I am smart enough to ignore it.  Facebook postings are not interactive, and nothing can or will happen by clicking any of the buttons or writing anything in the comment space.  All it does is make your Facebook identity known to the 100,000 people who haven’t figured that out yet–and to the phisherman who started the post on its deceitful journey.

I don’t “friend” everyone who asks me to do so.  It may not be that I don’t like you; it may just be that I already have too many “friends” to keep up with.  Until enough people have been blocked or have otherwise “left the room,” I just can’t manage any more friends, even ones as close as you are, Gentle Reader.

If you start sending me posts or comments with profanity or ungodly language, activities, or comments, expect me to remove you from my list of friends.  You have the right to say or write what you want; and I have the right to limit what comes into my house.  On the other hand, if you have included naughty or nasty things in a post and I haven’t “unfriended” you yet, that’s probably because a)I thought it was a mistake, or b)I didn’t read your post that day.

I used to say I don’t “do” Facebook; in a very real sense, I still don’t.  Think of it with the help of this analogy:  I may be on the fairgrounds and walking through the midway, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to ride the roller coaster or try to win a goldfish.  I don’t feel like I need to apologize to the hucksters who try to lure me into their booths; and my lack of participation should not be construed as a bad thing.  I’m there; I enjoy seeing other people throw the darts and ride the rides; and I’m OK with that level of involvement.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want to be judged by my reluctance to respond to everyone who asks me to do so.  Please assume the best of me, even when I don’t answer the invitation to join your party. 

 

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The Christmas Story in the Gospel of Matthew (Part 2)

Last time, we read between the lines and used Scripture, history, and our sanctified imaginations to examine Matthew chapter 1.  This week we look at chapter 2.  Answers to follow in a few days! 

WARNING!  THIS POST MAY CHALLENGE WHAT YOU “KNOW” ABOUT THE CHRISTMAS STORY!

The Christmas Story in the Gospel of Matthew  Part 2

1.  Matthew 2:1 When were the days of Herod the King?

2.  Who were the Wise Men from the East?  How many were there?

3.  Why did they go to Jerusalem instead of to Bethlehem?

4.  v. 2 How did they know about a star, and why did they associate it with a King of the Jews?

5.   v. 3 Why would Herod, the “King of the Jews,” NOT know the prophecy about Bethlehem? 

6.  v. 6 How does Micah describe the Messiah?

7.  v. 7 What one question does Herod ask the magi?  What is their answer?  (Compare v. 16)  What is the significance of their answer?

8.  v. 8 Why do you suppose Herod sent the magi alone to Bethlehem, instead of soldiers?

9.  v. 9 What evidence is there that the star was miraculous and not merely an astronomical oddity?

10.  v. 11 Where did they find the Christ?  Who was there?  How old was Jesus?

11.  v. 11 What is the significance of the gifts?

12.  v. 12 Why do you suppose God spoke to the magi in a dream, instead of using the star?  How did they respond?  What does this say about the spirituality of these scientists?

13.  v. 13 Where was Joseph told to go, and for how long?

14.  v. 16 When did Herod send his soldiers to Bethlehem?  What were their instructions?  Why do you suppose that this episode is not recorded in history apart from the Bible?

15.  vv. 19-22 How did Joseph know when to leave Egypt, and where to go?

16.  v. 23  Where does the prophecy regarding the Nazarene come from?

 

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Christmas in the Gospel of Matthew–Answers

The Christmas Story in the Gospel of Matthew (Part 1)

 

Can you answer these questions?  Here are my answers from Scripture.

 

  1. Why does the genealogy in Chapter 1 start with Abraham instead of Adam or Noah?

          Matthew is writing particularly for the Jews.  He makes this clear by the way he divides Jewish history into 3 time frames, and his use of Old Testament references.  Abraham is the first patriarch of the Jews.

 

  1. It claims to be the genealogy of Joseph.  What historical evidence does it contain that confirms this?

          Matthew 1:11.  Jer. 22:24-30 declares that no son of Coniah would be a lasting king over Israel; therefore, this must be the genealogy of a parent not related to Christ by blood.

 

  1. What is significant about vv. 3, 5, and 6?  What do they tell us about God?

          They mention women; women with weaknesses and sins; even gentile women.  God loves all people and includes them all in His grand design—not just Jewish males.

 

  1. Verse 17 breaks the genealogy into three groups of 14 generations; but the first group covered about 1000 years; the second about 400; and the third about 600.  Is Matthew being literal, or is there some other explanation for his divisions?

          The Greek word for generation can be translated as a period of time, a nation, a rank of descent (genealogy) or even a group of men sharing something in common.  Matthew mentions 14 men in each grouping—the time of Theocracy, the period of Monarchy, and the post-monarchy period—in order to show the divisions of Jewish history.  He well may have left out fathers or sons in order to standardize the pattern of 14 cited in the first division.

 

  1. What does espoused mean in verse 18?

          Engaged, but with the legal force of marriage.  During this period, often a year, the couple lived separately and maintained chastity, but were each other’s heirs; and the arrangement could only be broken by divorce or completed by the marriage supper.

 

  1. What is the significance of Jesus Christ being “of the Holy Ghost”?  What major doctrines does this relate to?

          Miraculous conception without participation of a man—therefore, no sin nature, allowing Jesus to die for the sins of others, since He had no sins of His own.  This relates to doctrines regarding sin, salvation, the Trinity, prophecy (remember “the seed of the woman”) and others.

 

  1. Did Joseph love Mary?  What does verse 19 indicate on this topic?

          Probably, but this verse does not prove it.  His motives are first to protect his own honor, and secondly to prevent her from experiencing unnecessary humiliation.  Any decent man would have done the same—it does not prove his love for her.

 

  1. Does verse 19 justify divorce?

          Yes—under the specific allowances set out by Moses.  Because Joseph had proof of Mary’s “fornication”, he was justified (though not commanded) to divorce her.  Compare Matthew 5:31-32 and 19:9.

 

  1. Verse 20 says that “the angel of the Lord” appeared to Joseph.  That term usually refers to the pre-incarnate Christ; did Jesus Himself appear to Joseph before He was born?

          It is possible, but unlikely.  It is an unproven assumption that the term “the angel of the Lord” always means a Christophany.  Apart from the irony of the situation, this appearance does not use “the angel of the LORD” as we find in several other places; also, the Greek language does not use the definite article here so it could just as well be translated as “an angel of the Lord”.

 

  1. Why did the angel appear in a dream, instead of face-to-face, as with Mary?  Does this tell us anything about Joseph’s spirituality?

          We may never know for sure, but perhaps Joseph was more receptive to dreams and visions than he was to direct prophetic announcement.  He might have responded in disbelief if confronted by an angel face-to-face, just as Zechariah did.  Regardless, he believed God’s message and responded to it, as a spiritually receptive person should always do.

 

  1. Joseph was told the sex of the baby before it was born.  Is that indirectly a justification for all the prenatal testing and scientific procedures we use today?

          It was a special case, confirming prophecies to him.  It neither commends nor condemns testing for or knowing your unborn child’s gender.  (Obviously, if the knowledge is to be used for the wrong purposes, as it is in China or India, then the wrong motive and subsequent actions would be sinful.

 

  1. In verse 23, does the word “virgin” mean a virgin, or a young lady, as some translations have it?  What doctrinal significance does the answer make?

          When God told Isaiah to write Is. 7:14, He used a Hebrew word that could mean lass or young lady, or possibly virgin.  The Jews did not hold to the tradition of believing that Messiah would be miraculously born of a virgin—but of a young lady.  However, when the Holy Spirit guided Matthew’s writing, He used a Greek word that can only mean virgin.  By using that word, God was establishing the truth of Holy God taking on the form of sinful man, but without the sin nature, so that He could be the sinless sacrifice for the sin of the world.  A man born of an unchaste young woman would have had the stain of Adam’s sin about him, and could only have died for his own sins.  The doctrine of the virgin birth and all that it implies is strictly a New Testament teaching, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy in a particularly specific and powerful way.

 

  1. What comfort can we take from the fact that all this was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah?

          God has had a plan all along; He has revealed it little-by-little to His servants, and what He has said has come true.  By seeing that God was faithful yesterday in fulfilling His promises, we can trust Him to keep doing what He said He would do today (and tomorrow).

 

  1. If His name is Jesus, why does verse 23 say He will be called Immanuel?  Did anyone in the Bible ever call Him Immanuel?

          No one ever called Him “Mighty Counselor” or “Prince of Peace” either.  These are descriptive terms, not proper names.  All Scripture writers who taught that Jesus was God in the flesh were indirectly calling Him “Immanuel”.  This can be seen in John 1:14, I Tim. 2:5, and many other places.

 

  1. What do we learn about Joseph’s character from verses 24 and 25?

          He was obedient to God’s revealed plan for him, even though the new revelation superseded his Old Testament teaching and sense of honor.  He valued Mary and her condition, and voluntarily refrained from consummating the marriage, though that would have caused consternation among many in the community.  He took on the role of protector and foster father throughout her pregnancy, and only later “knew her as his wife” after the prophecy was fulfilled that “the virgin shall give birth”.

 

  1. If Joseph didn’t consummate the marriage, were he and Mary really married?  Hypothetically, could they have had the marriage annulled?

          Sex does not make a couple married.  The official ceremony (in this case, Joseph’s taking Mary into his home and giving the marriage feast) finalized and solemnized the marriage.  The consummation traditions of the time were more a test of purity than the sealing of the relationship—in fact, the consummation could provide the evidence for a husband to reject his wife and annul the marriage.  The idea that a marriage is not official if not consummated is a medieval tradition intended to justify some arranged marriages (and the related treaties) to be cancelled without a church-forbidden divorce.

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The Christmas Story in the Gospel of Matthew

One of my favorite topics to teach about is the Biblical Christmas story.  We all have heard it and read it so often, that we think we know it–and maybe some people do.  But my experience is that when we start to read with a questioning eye and with our sanctified imagination turned on, there is a lot that we can learn about our Savior and His first coming to earth.

This month I will be working through the Christmas story in the Gospel of Matthew with my Sunday School class, and I thought I would post some of the teaser questions here today; next week I will update it with the answers as I understand them.  Remember:  I always start with the assumption that the Word of God as preserved and delivered to us is absolutely, literally true and free from contradiction.  My favorite historical source is Edersheim’s Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah.

Can you answer these questions?

  1. Why does the genealogy in Chapter 1 start with Abraham instead of Adam or Noah?
  2. It claims to be the genealogy of Joseph.  What historical evidence does it contain that confirms this?
  3. What is significant about vv. 3, 5, and 6?  What do they tell us about God?
  4. Verse 17 breaks the genealogy into three groups of 14 generations; but the first group covered about 1000 years; the second about 400; and the third about 600.  Is Matthew being literal, or is there some other explanation for his divisions?
  5. What does espoused mean in verse 18?
  6. What is the significance of Jesus Christ being “of the Holy Ghost”?  What major doctrines does this relate to?
  7. Did Joseph love Mary?  What does verse 19 indicate on this topic?
  8. Does verse 19 justify divorce?
  9. Verse 20 says that “the angel of the Lord” appeared to Joseph.  That term usually refers to the pre-incarnate Christ; did Jesus Himself appear to Joseph before He was born?
  10. Why did the angel appear in a dream, instead of face-to-face, as with Mary?  Does this tell us anything about Joseph’s spirituality?
  11. Joseph was told the sex of the baby before it was born.  Is that indirectly a justification for all the prenatal testing and scientific procedures we use today?
  12. In verse 23, does the word “virgin” mean a virgin, or a young lady, as some translations have it?  What doctrinal significance does the answer make?
  13. What comfort can we take from the fact that all this was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah?
  14. If His name is Jesus, why does verse 23 say He will be called Immanuel?  Did anyone in the Bible ever call Him Immanuel?
  15. What do we learn about Joseph’s character from verses 24 and 25?
  16. If Joseph didn’t consummate the marriage, were he and Mary really married?  Hypothetically, could they have had the marriage annulled?

Do you get the idea?  There’s a lot more to the Christmas story than a baby in a manger.  Visit me throughout the month of December for more questions (and eventual answers) to make this Christmas season a little more Biblical and blessed.

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