Movie review of “The Song”


I hope I don’t come across as the guy who can criticize everything that other people are doing for the Kingdom because it doesn’t match up with all my pet beliefs and peeves. However, I can find no justification in endorsing the new faith-based movie, “The Song”.

After viewing it, I was left with one question that haunted me the rest of the night: “Where was Jesus in this?”

The story line of the movie, based upon the life of Solomon in Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, follows a modern day musician struggling to make his mark in the music world. He was the son of a famous musician (David King), but was told he lacked the passion his father had in delivering a moving song.

While booking small venues in order to work in his craft, Jed King meets a lovely young lady (Rose), and eventually wins her heart. The love story in the first half of this movie is sweet, with biblical wisdom and morality sprinkled throughout. Humor is well placed, and after about half the movie, I was glad I had gone.

A song that Jed wrote for Rose shoots him to the top of the charts and he is soon flying off for concert tours across the world. His opening act, a rebel-hearted girl (Shelby Bale), is attracted to Jed and soon tries to seduce him. Rose will not travel with Jed because she has to tend to their son and her father’s health is failing.

Jed predictably falls to temptation. Rich, successful, with no moral restraints, he finds himself well over his head in sin.

The story of redemptions could have been so beautifully portrayed here, had it been based upon Jesus Christ. Instead, the writers tried to squeeze that in as if greater character and the futility of the sinful life would be enough to restore one who has fallen.

I certainly cannot recommend this movie as an evangelistic tool, or to any unsaved friend. I do find this movie harmless to the believing couple who are looking for an evening of entertainment, and maybe can use a little spark in the relationship.

That is where my disappointment rests. Half of the faith-based movies that I have seen recently try to sneak just enough Jesus Christ in to get our approval, but not enough to challenge one who is seeking real answers in a lost world. Another group of movies are designed to be just a “perfect cheer” to fire up the home team of believers who have already settled the issue of salvation.

Some will say that movies like this are needed to open up dialog between believers and non-believers. Did God not give us enough to begin the dialog? Truth is, we simply are not comfortable getting into that conversation. Unfortunately, neither are most of our movie makers.

Truth is, there is ton of wisdom found in Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon, but it is meaningless and unhelpful apart from the redemptions found in Jesus Christ through His death, burial and resurrection.

Dealing with Ghosts in the Church


Let me begin by clarifying something. I don’t believe in ghosts as taught by historical or cultural fiction. I’m referring to those bothersome complaints or untraceable rumors which plague a church and the ministry of a pastor.

Concerned Church members are bothered by these complaints because if they are serious enough of an issue, the Church will decline. The fear is, before the declines ruins what we have here, perhaps we need to make changes to preserve the Church.

Often, the complainers talk to carriers. The carriers, who are not as bothered by the complaint as much as they fear the changes in the Church, either take the complaints to other carriers or to Church leaders. Often these leaders are the deacons.

By this point, the problem is affecting the Church. It is affecting its ministries, message, unity and fellowship. To deal with the problems at this point is tantamount to putting handcuffs on a ghost.

Let me also be clear about something important. If the allegation are due to a moral or doctrinal issue with the pastor, it should be dealt with aggressively, but with caution. The pastor must be accountable to the congregation for his moral life and the accuracy with which he handles the Word of God. However, whispering and spreading discontentment through the congregation is not how we are instructed to handle this.

Most major issues can be handled easily if the deacons or leaders would meet with the pastor, question him, investigate the charges, and either deal with the error or dismiss the charges publicly.

As far as other complaints, often the deacons or Church leaders are called, or reached through their wives, to address the discontentment about which members are hearing. And often the deacons choose to take action, but they attack the wrong end of the problem. A split frequently occurs in the deacon body between those who are committed to be led by the Truth of the Bible and those who would defend the Church at all costs.

Often, appeals and pleas for those who have complaints to come forward are met with silence and inaction. The word gets around that those who have a problem with the pastor will not, under any circumstance, come forward. The problem with untraceable, unsubstantiated complaints is the spiritual reason they stay hidden.

Satan and His minions know that as long as a complaint is un-addressable, it will appear larger than it really is. It can create more damage in the Church if it remains under the surface so it can eat away at the fellowship like a cancer. That is Satan’s purpose for these kind of problems. Removing the pastor will not correct this problem.

A targeted pastor is handicapped in dealing with the problems because he cannot get to the source to correct any misunderstanding, as forgiveness for any mistake, or address any error in the source.

As a son of a pastor who battled this problem faithfully for over 50 years and now a pastor who sees this continually arising, and as a counselor who sees this particularly plaguing new pastors in established Churches, I have considered this, prayed about it, and spent sleepless nights over it, all the while asking God for wisdom to negotiate these trouble waters. How do you deal with the ghosts in a Church?

  1. Bathe everything in prayer.

Of course, that is a given. “The prayer of a righteous person (or a person made righteous) has great power as it is working (James 5:16b).

It is important to remember that our enemies do not bear flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12). The real opposition behind the ghosts is demonic influence which can best be battled, and defeated, through prayer.

  1. Keep the leaders focused on the proper end of the problem.

If the Church leaders/deacons choose to pick up the task of dealing with ghosts, keep them focused on the rumor mongers, both those who whisper and those who welcome and repeat the complaints. The Bible, the only instruction manual for the Church, gives clear directions in dealing with these issues. Any target of a complaint should be able to face his accusers without the shrapnel of gossip (Acts 25:15).

  1. Be sensitive to, and proactive towards, the cold shoulder.

Although the ghosts prefer to remain anonymous, they really point themselves out when they display coldness and dismissal when you try to greet them. Either these are the complainers or the ones who have picked up an offence.

When you observe coldness and dismissal, if you follow the clues, you are closer to the source, and therefore closer to the resolution. You may attempt to address it immediately by asking, “Would you like to have a private word with me?” The response to this question will certainly give you direction in what seemed to be uncharted waters.

Our you may wish to contact the person who is cold later to set up a meeting. Either way, they are no longer hiding in anonymity, and may be more willing to deal with the issues.

  1. Consider that every complaint could have some legitimacy.

Humbly hearing complaints can polish your ministry, alert you to blind spots, fortify your shortcomings and clear up any misunderstandings. Listen humbly and take the complaint to God in prayer for His enlightening direction before you respond.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).” Opposition sharpens us for further battle. Resistance creates strength and endurance.

Iron never enjoys being sharpened. But we were never promised that we would enjoy being sharpened or being shaped by what the potter allows to pressure us (Isaiah 64:8).

I am eager to hear your comments about this topic.

 

Tim White is pastor of Second Baptist Church of Lamesa, TX. He is a published author and journalist. He can be reached at pastortimwhite@gmail.com.

The Hustle and Bustle of Christmas is Intentional


(Pastor Tim White, Reaching Upward radio transcript, Dec. 22, 2013)

Image

Is it no wonder that for many people,

Christmas is too busy? Is it no wonder that the celebration of the Messiah’s birth becomes lost in 

the rush and hurry of the world? If Jesus’ mission to come to the earth involved defeating a spiritual enemy who is stronger than us, doesn’t it make sense that this spiritual enemy, Satan, would encourage such business that the reason for the season is easily lost?

I believe we can see it was that way from the beginning. Here was a young couple, planning for a wedding. The groom, Joseph, was probably working hard to establish his business to support a family. Mary, the bride, was probably organizing the household needs to start a new family.

It was probably one of the most exciting, and busy, times of their lives.

Then the Angel delivered the messages. “Mary, you are going to become pregnant before the wedding, but the child you will carry is from God.”

I’m sure Mary could have voiced some concern, “Mr. Angel, your timing for this announcement is rotten. I have too much to do. Can’t this wait a few months?”

I’m sure Joseph could have voice the same complaints. But as they realized the work of God happening in their lives, they adjusted and accepted His plan.

And when things really got busy, another schedule changer hit.

You can imagine Joseph approaching Mary, who was days away from delivery, with the news. “Mary, I know this is not a good time, but we need to travel 80 miles to complete the Census ordered by Caesar.”

Her response could have been, “Joseph, have you lost your mind? Not only am I trying to prepare for a wedding. I am trying to prepare for a child. And I am more than 8-1/2 months pregnant. What are you going to do? Borrow the neighbor’s RV?”

I remind you, they had no RVs in those days. Mary would have to walk or ride on some ancient form of transportation. She could ride on a horse or donkey, or a wagon (if available).

Despite this being the most inconvenient and busy time of Mary and Joseph’s life, it was the perfect time for the Messiah to come. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman…” Galatians 4:4. Translated into Texan, that verse says that, when things were just right, God sent His Son to be born.

Why? Why in such a busy season?

It seems with all the government activity, travelling, tax collecting, motel room letting, and complaining, the birth of the Hope of mankind was easily lost. His birth was shoved away from the busy Hostel to the isolation of a feeding trough in the middle of a sheep ranch.

When it came time for Jesus to purchase our salvation (What Jesus had called “my time”), the largest assembly in Jerusalem had gathered. They had come for the Passover celebration, increasing the population of Jerusalem from 200,000 to an estimated 4 million. With that kind of increase, the bustle of restaurants, sleeping arrangements, stables for the animals, and the carnival-like atmosphere, the temptation would be for the businessmen in Jerusalem to make the most of Black Friday. The crucifixion of three criminals could be lost.

Again, it appears that God chose a time when everyone’s attention was being torn in every direction to do His greatest work. That teaches me so much.

God was not satisfied with the times when Jesus was the most popular. He was not seeking a moment when Jesus’ only detractors were the religiously jealous and zealous.

In other words, Jesus was not seeking those who would focus on Him when it was easy to do so, but those who sought to honor Him at the worst possible time, when remembering Christ is the most difficult, and, as far as that goes, the most costly. He is not building His kingdom with those who sing “Hosanna. Glory to God in the Highest” on one day, and scream “Crucify Him” the next.

He is doing two things this busy Christmas holiday. One, He is calling out those who stand by Him when the activities of this world are trying to drown Him out. Are you one of those, who will face every distraction of life while keeping Jesus Christ as the filter in which you see these activities? Are you one of those who this Christmas will pause often to simply say “Happy Birthday, Jesus, and thank you for your matchless gift”? He is calling for the “Johns”, who would even attend the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, and remain faithful.

Second, He is trying to get the rest of us to that point. God, in His providential care, is nurturing Jesus’ followers for more strength.

Maybe last year we failed to pause often and truly celebrate the coming of the Savior of the World. Maybe in years past, we got caught up in culture to the point of minimizing the Reason for the season. But, through God’s nurturing and gentle discipline, this year we will do better.

You see, He is also calling the “Peters”, who may have ran and hid, folded to popular opinion, and even drifted towards the fishing way of life from which he was call us. This calling truly represents the grace of God, and it was in grace that Jesus came to mankind.

Do you sense the grace-call of God today to forgive you of your failures while calling you to live in victory? That is what the Christmas season is all about.

Bridging the Barriers to Love


I remember preparing for a funeral for someone’s mother. The family told me stories of what a rich example of Christianity this lady was in the lives of her children and grandchildren. She had a special way of uniquely treating and spending time with each child, making each one feel special. This was truly a great family member.

However, when I asked the family member how this one interacted with her neighbors, one of the children flatly said, “Oh, she didn’t like anyone else. Just family.”

It has occurred to me that the marks that Christ makes in our lives are not measured by how we love our family and friends, but how we love across the boundaries of love. How do we love the difficult to love?

Jesus taught this clearly. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

Truly, the difference that Jesus makes cannot be fully imitated over an extended period. The imitator, under stress, will reveal his true heart. The problem is that when we, the ambassadors for divine love, fail to endure over extended periods, testing trials, unfair treatment, disrespectful attacks and extreme stress, we excuse any imitators. What we show in love and withholding love can too easily be imitated by a pretender.

Our very forgiveness and eternal survival is dependent upon this supernatural love. “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die– but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7-8)

The next challenge to your love will be your next test. Does Christ really make a difference in your life? Do we really have the ability to surrender in dependency to Him, even in our hardest test for Him show Himself mighty through us in love? Or is it just rhetoric? Have we watered down love to be the same as a pagan’s ability to love his dear ones? Do we simply believe that our ability to love our dear ones is just deeper because of Christ, and that is enough? Or through Christ, can we love the unlovable, reach the unreachable, touch the untouchable, heal the unhealable, and bridge the unwhat is lovetraversable, even when it is our own barriers to love?

Harvest Surprise


Do you see something surprising in the following passage of scripture?
“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering– since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” 2 Thessalonians 1:3-8.
There are some things that I am certainly sure about. There are more things that I am not so sure about. I understand what Galatians 6:7 says in context. What one plants, he will have to live with the harvest. I also understand 1 John 1:9, that confession (or agreement with God about our sin and its harm) helps us to accept forgiveness and cleans us from the entrapment that led us away from God. However, I have not fully reconciled the two.
Specifically, I am not certain about those Christians who oppose other Christians in ministry. On one hand, I know that as the passage states, it is righteous for God to afflict those who afflict the ministry of God. But I also know that believers, regardless of how deceived they may become, have a standing forgiveness.
The surprise to me is that the affliction and rest that Paul promises is not affliction in form of temporal consequences of bad choices, as I have often taught, which end at death and stand in forgiveness for eternity. Paul specifically uses the phrase “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”
Two groups are listed as those who will receive affliction at the judgment: Those who do not know Christ and those who oppose His ministry (specifically, those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” One group is undoubtedly the lost, and the other could include the saved who oppose ministries and ministers of sincere surrender.
Perhaps the resolution is found in two judgments: The Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9-11), where the works of believers will be evaluated, and the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15), when the souls of each person will have to answer for what they did with the Christ.

Image

Powerful Prayer in the Church


James 5:16 – “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”

I am learning to be cautious about teaching things that we can do to make our prayers more effective and powerful. To focus on what we do distracts us from what Christ already did to empower and make possible an effective prayer life. The redemption of Christ is sufficient for all we need. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence… (2 Peter 1:3).”

However, every passage on prayer directs us, as does James 5:16, to be clean vessels. Often we quote the last portion of this verse; that people made righteous have great power in prayer.

We miss a point, however, when we exclude the first portion of the verse. Although all power in prayer is purchased and granted by the complete work of Christ (His death, burial and resurrection), and no works of ours can create for us more power than that available, sin can block the power made available to us.

As James points out, sin in our lives can most often be seen in our horizontal relationships. Sin is not dealt with vertically (between us and God) until it has been dealt with on the horizontal level (between each other).

The delusion that we can be right with God and not right with fellow Christians is never promised in the Bible. John reminds us that “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen (1 John 4:20).”

This is why James encourages us to clean our earthly relationship (through confession) and pray for each other (demonstrating love and proper relationship) so that our prayers not be hindered. One who is right with God, as evidenced by his clean accounts on earth, has the powerful prayer life delivered by Jesus Christ.Image

The Basis for Our Forgiving


ImageLuke 4:17-21 – “And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’

“And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Those who have hurt us in the past were bound by a cruel master. Those in the most desperate spiritual, emotional and mental conditions are capable of doing the most inhuman deeds. However, we must remember that they are not the enemy. Our enemy does not bear flesh and blood.

Those who have offended, hurt, abused, mistreated or disregarded us are bound, blind, and oppressed. They are deceived and to be pitied, not hated. We are to seek their freedom from the enemy, not their eternal unity with him.

I am certain that some of the offenses and abuse that has come our way was allowed by a sovereign, holy God who wanted to present an opportunity for us to model the love, forgiveness and redemption of Jesus Christ. If the abuser cannot receive this redemption, there are plenty of other observers of our life who can see the glorious difference Christ makes in one who has suffered.