Movie Report: Paul, Apostle of Christ

Went to see the above-named movie with several Paul_387x580banner_nowintheaters-387x580friends from church Saturday evening.  It’s well worth your time and the price of admission.  A caution: much like the movie Passion of the Christ, this is not escapist entertainment.  It makes you think.  As with that other movie, I noticed there was very little conversation as people left the theater.

Several things impressed me about this production.  First, much of what Paul says is drawn from the various letters he wrote in the New Testament — either verbatim or by paraphrase.  You get the sense his dialogue is intended to be close to the spirit and heart of the man being depicted.  Second, while the movie is nowhere near as graphic as the Passion of the Christ, it does not shy away from highlighting the very real persecution and martyring of the Church in the time of Nero.  (The PG-13 rating is a good guide for age appropriateness.)  But it does so in a way that provides a reminder of the encouragement we have in Christ even when facing death at the hands of others.  A closely related third, the Christians of Rome are not cardboard saints.  They wrestle with how to respond to such wanton evil being inflicted on them.  Without giving spoilers, I’ll say it was refreshing to see that not everyone made perfect “Sunday School” choices.

Which brings me to a final point.  A pitfall of many “Christian” movies is a desire to tie everything up neatly: the antagonist repents, there is miraculous deliverance, and so forth.  This movie manages to avoid that.  I won’t get more specific so as not to ruin it for others, but suffice to say while the film concludes in a very appropriate manner for the story it is telling, it leaves open the question of how some characters’ futures resolve.

The best compliment I can give the movie is to note that before we went separate ways Saturday evening, our group agreed it could drive some discussion in our Bible study Sunday morning.  (I should note we’ve been in Paul’s letters for a while now, so the movie’s release was very timely).  Much like the Visual Bible films of a few years ago, this movie provides a way to look at familiar scripture through a different lens than the written word alone.  I find myself hoping more such thought-provoking films will be made — movies that demonstrate a respect for scripture even while carefully filling in historical blanks.

This one is worth your support.

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Gone home

“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it!  I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”  — Billy Graham

And so he has:

The world’s best-known evangelist, the Rev. Billy Graham, has died. He was 99.

From the gangly 16-year-old baseball-loving teen who found Christ at a tent revival, Graham went on to become an international media darling, a preacher to a dozen presidents and the voice of solace in times of national heartbreak. He was America’s pastor…

Presidents called on Graham in their dark hours, and uncounted millions say he showed them the light. He took his Bible to the ends of the Earth in preaching tours he called “crusades.” Even now, anywhere a satellite, radio, TV, video or podcast can reach, his sonorous voice is probably still calling someone to Christ…

His reputation was untouched by sex or financial scandals. When anti-Semitic comments came to light as transcripts of conversations with Richard Nixon surfaced, Graham was promptly and deeply apologetic.

He never built a megachurch, set up a relief agency, launched a political lobby or ran for office. Yet he redefined American Protestant life by popularizing Christianity’s core message — Christ died for your sins — downplaying denominational details and proclaiming the joys found in faith…

In 1996, when he and Ruth were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, he once more shared his faith in God with some of the most powerful men on Earth:

“As Ruth and I receive this award, we know that some day we will lay it at the feet of the one we seek to serve.”

That day is today.  I can only imagine the joy of him hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

“You sure keep it simple
And you sure preach it plain
And, Billy, I just wish
More would preach it just the same

The “niceness” handicap

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this article is very much worth your attention:

I have long observed that an alarming swath of public evangelicals seems to be driven by a consuming desire to be liked by the world. ((note: link added to excerpt by me))

Now, that is my characterization, not theirs. To their minds, they are trying to be good representatives of Jesus. They are focusing on “kingdom” issues. They eschew evangelicalism’s past mistakes of tying itself to various moralistic fads such as outlawing alcohol or opposing nylons and lipstick. They want to be sure that unbelievers know that they love them, that the GOP is not the Kingdom of God. They want to be seen as scholarly, cautious, nuanced, careful, measured, and helpful. They shrink from the thought of being seen as dogmatic, triumphalistic, or narrow.

Are those bad motivations? As stated and as far as they go, most of them are not.

However, I’ve come to fear that they mask fatal flaws. For starters,  these sorts are willing to let their motivations be judged and dictated by the reactions of unbelievers…

I can’t say it any better.  Read the whole thing here.

The Master and His servants

As we contemplate the events of Good Friday, and celebrate the Resurrection, we should recall the Master’s words:

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.”

In addition to this caution, though, we are given encouragement:

“So have no fear of them (emphasis added), for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (emphasis added). Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Christians in America have been so comfortable for so long we’ve forgotten it is not the state of things we should expect in a world under the sway of our Enemy.  While giving thanks to the Father for the blessings we have been allowed during the time our civilization was largely aligned with the Faith, we should also realize that this time was an exception, and appears to be coming to a close.  Many of our brothers and sisters around the world have never enjoyed the freedoms and latitude we’ve known — and their faith is stronger because of it.  We need not fear the rise of hostility to Biblical Christianity at home.  Rome, the French Revolution, Naziism, communism in Russia and China — none of these succeeded in stamping out the message of the Gospel.  With the exception of China (which is itself not immune to the Spirit’s movement) those regimes are in the dustbin of history, but God’s Word will never pass away.

Neither today’s acolytes of aggressive atheism nor the latest surge of violent Islam should expect to succeed any better!  How frustrating it must be to the Enemy to realize that no matter how many of Christ’s followers he kills or materially ruins, that the Word of God endures forever!  We should not only take comfort in that — it should remind us that we are not here on this earth to wring our hands nervously, play defense or make this world our home.  We aren’t supposed to be waiting around to be attacked because we might have let it slip that we take the Bible as authoritative Truth.  No, with the power of the Spirit we are supposed to attack the gates of hell itself, in order that as many who will receive Him may have eternal life!

To quote C.S. Lewis yet again:

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”

 

The Master died for us, was raised by the Father, and has gone to prepare a better place for us.  What are we doing to spread His invitation?  What cost are we willing to pay, that others may know Him?  Are we, like Him, prepared to be crushed if that will advance the glory of God and the salvation of others? Do we realize that even if He allows that, we can be assured that one day He will say to us, as He did to His Son, “Arise, my love!”

He is Risen!