Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Friendship or Therapy?

On a recent "Generations" radio broadcast Kevin Swanson, Pastor and leader of the Colorado Christian homeschool association, made some great points about the modern state of friendship. His basic point was that for many modern people therapy or counseling has taken the place of friendship. See also Christian Hoff Sommers and Sally Satel's One Nation Under Therapy: How the Helping Culture Is Eroding Self-Reliance (St. Martin's Press, 2005). In our day of hyper-isolation, we have to pay people to talk to us about our problems! Some large churches have even set up counseling services where the church members are treated as counseling clients. This mindset was all the rage while I was at SBTS (1987-1990) and the "clinical pastoral education" model of Wayne Oates was in the ascendancy (it isn’t any more thanks to the conservative resurgence in the SBC).

When I meet people in and outside the church who are struggling with problems in their lives—whether it be addiction, depression, family troubles, etc.—one of my first suggestions is simply that they begin the discipline of attending the meetings of the church. Why? Because I am convinced that if they will come frequently to our meetings they will begin to be immersed in the Word of God. They will sit under the reading and preaching and teaching of the Word. The Holy Spirit will counsel them through his Word (see John 16:13-15). And they will also begin to make friendships and relationships with believers. I am convinced that any believer who makes the effort to come to our church’s meetings will find a place where he will fit in. He will find people to talk to and share his life with. This will do him such an immense amount of good! Unfortunately, many times it seems that this very simple spiritual prescription falls on deaf ears. Some, it seems, would rather complain of their malady than commit to the cure.

Speaking of friendship, Al Mohler recently offered a great commentary on the damage done to male friendship by movies like "Brokeback Mountain." One of the best ministries our church offers is our men’s Bible study (each Thursday morning from 6:30-7:30 am). It is not "group therapy." Nor is it any sort of John Eldridge inspired "Wild at Heart" experience. We eat a big breakfast, talk sports (usually ACC related), politics, and current events for half an hour and then spend another half hour reading and discussing a passage from Scripture (we are currently slowly working our way through Hebrews). Each session usually ends with a circle sentence prayer as each brother lifts up the man on his right. This is usually little more than a prayer for each brother to be a committed and faithful husband and father and a faithful follower of Christ. No. There are no group hugs, no tearful confessions, no deep "sharing." There does not need to be. Along the way something better has happened. We have become friends, accountable to each other, and closer brothers in Christ.

Monday, January 30, 2006

You shall not pervert the judgement of your poor...

The front page of the Sunday (1/29) C-ville Daily Progress featured an article titled, "Lawyers help nab credit scammer" and profiled the work of several local lawyers in shutting down a scam non-proft debt counseling business (Debtworks, Inc) run by a man named Andris Pukke. One of the lawyers on the case is Greg Duncan, a regular attendee at JPBC.
Reading this reminded me of all the laws we've read in the Book of the Covenant in our Sunday evening study of Exodus about not taking advantage of the poor (Exod 22:25-27; 23:1-9).

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"End of the Spear" follow up

Two updates on last week's article. First, I gave a recommendation to the "End of the Spear" movie (a review appeared in Saturday's "Daily Progress"). I also noted it was based on Elliot's book. I should have said that it retells the same story as is told in Elliot's book about the death of five missionaries in the 1950s. The movie project is apparently more closely related to the family of Nate Saint than to Jim Elliot. See also the not so glowing review given by Tom Ascol on his blog.
Second, scandal has also broken over the fact that the actor who plays Nate Saint, Chad Allen, is a homosexual activist who believes his homosexuality is "a beautiful gift from God" (see the Baptist Press article). This movie is being heavily promoted by many evangelical churches. Some are renting out theaters or taking groups, as they did with Gibson's "Passion." Ethical questions raised by churches promoting movies are multitudinous and that, likely, precludes us ever doing so at JPBC.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

2006 Golden Globes: Hollywood and the Homosexual Agenda

There was a definite theme at this week’s 2006 Golden Globe Awards. As the Associated Press put it: "It was a triumphant night for films dealing with homosexuality and transsexuality." The gay cowboy romance "Brokeback Mountain" won four awards, including best dramatic film and best director (for Ang Lee). Best actress went to Felicity Huffman for her portrayal of a man preparing for sex-change surgery in the film "Transamerica." Philip Seymour Hoffman won the best actor award for his portrayal of gay author Truman Capote in the film "Capote."

Movies are usually not made merely for mindless entertainment. They are made to shape values. In his acceptance speech, Ang Lee noted the power of film to change people’s worldviews. The agenda that is being pushed is that we should uncritically accept homosexual practice as morally acceptable. These films and actors were not being recognized primarily for their artistic merit but for their messages.

What is a Biblical Christian to do? Sadly, many nominal Christians will be unknowingly influenced, not just by films like these, but by the constant barrage of "Gay is OK" media messaging. Each tv sitcom these days seems to have the standard gay character. Some shows like "Will and Grace" make it their main theme. New lows are reached for pushing the envelope of taste and sobriety.

How are Christians to respond? Some suggest that the thing to do is support films that carry good messages. These suggest that we should go see "good" films like "Because of Winn Dixie" or "The Chronicles of Narnia." The problem is that money made on these movies goes to the same people who promote the movies with "bad" themes. A few Christian production companies are trying to break into the closely guarded movie industry by making and marketing their own independent films. An example of this is Every Tribe Entertainment’s "End of the Spear" (www.endofthespear.com) which opens January 20, 2006. This movie is based on Elisabeth Elliot’s Through Gates of Splendor, recounting the death of her husband Jim Elliot and four other missionary martyrs at the hands of an Ecuadorian Indian tribe they were attempting to evangelize. Another example of this effort is an independent Christian film festival held each year in San Antonio, Texas, sponsored by the Vision Forum (www.visionforum.com).

Others would suggest a more radical approach. Namely, they would recommend that we simply unplug our televisions and cease attending movies.

A Christian must be led by his conscience to live a godly and Biblically faithful life. The first step in making an informed decision is to take a step back and scrutinize the messages that we are receiving in the media we consume. Does it edify us or tear us down spiritually? We are fast approaching a time (if we’re not already there) when the Christian moral position on sexuality will be the minority position in our culture. Do we have the strength to hold to Biblical positions?