A Call to Deeper Holiness

reclinerContinued from here.

Most of you reading my blog this week might believe I’m being overly radical in walking away from viewing television (and movies), but I am doing this because I love God more. I am tired of this medium being used to influence how I view God, myself, and other people. I want my worldview shaped by truth, not by people with an agenda. I find truth by spending time with the God I love, praying, studying His Word, praising & worship Him, and reading books written by Christian authors, such as C.S. Lewis, who encourage me to get to know God better rather than seeking to entertain me with watered-down versions of the same messages the World offers. I haven’t had much time for reading books lately, but removing television viewing from my life will free up the time to do so.

I know this sounds radical, and it’s sure counter-cultural, but so is being a disciple of Christ. I don’t need the same worldly messages of disunity, darkness, etc. packaged between a couple of Bible verses to promote the same propaganda as the World. I’m not looking for entertainment with less violence and sex, seemingly “pure” just because it’s reined in more than in the secular realm. Christianity is not a diluted version of the World – it’s a completely different mindset, and I’m tired of allowing others to shape and mold my mind. Only God has the right to do that. I will no longer allow others to have the power to do this to me.

When I spend time with God, I never risk walking back into bondage. I never experience flashbacks or nightmares after praising & worshiping Him. I never walk away from studying His Word feeling guilt, shame, or tension. I never put down a C.S. Lewis book thinking about how much I have suffered and how others have wronged me. So, why have I allowed this dynamic for so long in what I watch, even through allegedly Christian programming? No more. It’s taken me decades to get here, but it’s time to turn that television OFF, and that is what I am doing.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace asleep on a recliner, holding a remote control. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Be Mindful of How God is Represented in Christian Movies

alternative_factsContinued from here.

My other beef with many Christian movies is that I do not believe many are written by people with a close walk with God. You cannot communicate well what you, yourself, have not experienced, and (sadly) many script writers do not appear to have a close relationship with God. I’m sure they mean well as they try to convey that God, in His mysteriousness, can work things out even when we don’t get it, but that’s simply not the God I know. When I allow myself to watch Christians movies that portray God as this confusing, standoffish being who I am to keep serving no matter how badly He allows everyone else to stomp all over me, I’m allowing others to influence my perception of the God I love. That’s not who He is!

Before I continue, let me say that I have seen some wonderful Christian movies, so I don’t mean to paint with such a broad brush that I sound like I am slamming all of them. My concern with a movie is that I don’t know what’s coming until I am already invested in the characters, and I find it difficult to turn the program off when I get slammed by what didn’t see coming. Perhaps the answer for me is only to view Christian movies that others have seen so I know what to expect.

Back to the point – The God I know is a loving, relational God who treats me like a beloved daughter. He is kind and compassionate. He deeply cares about every aspect of my life. Yes, it is true that I have suffered much while in a relationship with Him, but that suffering has persisted not because He is so “mysterious” that I must live a martyr’s life as I wait for Him to get off His haunches and actually do something about the situation. Instead, when the pain persists, He is either waiting for me to do my part first (such as to forgive my enemies to pull in the healing), or He is developing fruit in me (such as perseverance) and provides many oases along the way if I will simply rest in them.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing behind a podium in front of a chalkboard that says, “Alternative Facts.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Violence in Christian Movies

scared2Continued from here.

When I decided to obey God to become more holy in my television viewing, I started a subscription with a company that streams Christian and family-friendly movies. While this subscription service certainly provides more positive options, even those have been less tolerable for me as my relationship with God has deepened. This came to a head over the weekend, and I just canceled my subscription to this service as a result.

On Friday, which is when I observe my Sabbath, I scrolled through the faith-based options and selected a movie that sounded promising. It opened and closed with Bible verses and told the story of a young man who got a raw deal in life and lashes out in anger toward God, and then God rights the wrongs with a happy ending. I’ll get into one aspect I didn’t like in my next blog entry, but I want to focus on the one that caused me to pull the plug on watching television for the foreseeable future – the violence.

In the movie, the protagonist’s rival is jealous over a love triangle and puts a drug into the woman’s drink. This triggered my post-traumatic stress, and I had a flashback/nightmare about being attacked in a dark room as my attacker drugged me, and I could feel my mind and body disconnecting as I sank into darkness, knowing that he was going to rape me. I awoke shaking and filled with fear. I don’t need this drama. I have spent enough years of my life reliving my traumatizing past. I don’t need a Christian movie, of all things, resurrecting those dark places and walking me back into bondage. The Bible says,

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” ~ Gal. 5:1

When I watch a movie, even one promoted as Christian, that resurrects the darkness in me, I’m allowing myself to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery, which tramples over all that Christ did to free me. Jesus paid a heavy price to free me from my childhood abuse, and I’m trampling that freedom as I walk right back into the bondage simply because a movie claims to be Christian. I won’t do that anymore.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace and an emoticon looking frightened. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Violent Television Shows Feed the Darkness

brutalContinued from here.

It might amuse you to learn that by my early thirties, I was leading Bible studies and then watching very dark television programming in the evenings. The more violent the television show, the more I was drawn to it. Torture, rape, and betrayal were constant themes in the shows I chose to watch. I would pray for God to heal my pain from the childhood abuse and ask others to do the same while I fed my mind with violence and pain as I “entertained” myself in the evenings. The darker the show, the more I obsessed over it. It was a huge deal for me to miss an episode. I simply had to travel down those dark paths with characters who were as flawed as I was.

I have shared several times that while I became a Christian at age 8, I did not become a disciple of Christ until 2013. What I mean by this is that I wanted his salvation to avoid going to hell, but I did not embrace his lordship over my life until 2013, and that changed everything. Fairly soon after embracing God’s lordship, He called me to a deeper level of holiness. He placed heavily on my heart that I needed to stop watching any television show or movie that is violent, pornographic (I did not watch pornography, but many television shows aired during prime time are pornographic from a biblical perspective), or filled with profanity. Obeying this one instruction dropped my recording queue from 30 shows to 7, leaving behind mostly comedies. Even those were far from “pure,” but they did not include those three elements.

Within a few months of removing dark, violent television shows (and movies) from my life, I became sensitized to violence again. I went to see a PG movie that few would consider violent, and I had to keep looking away from the screen because what did not even hit the radar on even young children’s violence scale had become quite uncomfortable for me. I even found many Christian movies to be too violent for me to watch the screen during particular scenes.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace grimacing under the word, “Brutal.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

How is Television Influencing You?

tv1This week, I’m writing about a topic that probably won’t be a popular one. I know it’s one that I would not have received well for most of my Christian walk. It’s about the television and the way the World uses its propaganda to lure us away from godliness and holiness. I can see you rolling your eyes now, just as I used to do whenever this topic came up in my church as a teenager. Let me tell you what led me to take the plunge and walk away from viewing the television.

Let’s start from the beginning. I used to be OBSESSED with watching television, and I do not use the word “obsessed” lightly. As an abused child, the television offered me an escape from my pain. I also learned things through the television that I needed. As corny as it sounds, watching the love of the Bradys, the Seavers, the Keatons, and the Cleavers helped me view families in a different way because they were so different than my own family. They gave me hope that a family unit could be different from what I had grown up with. There were families where the parents loved each other and their children, the siblings loved and supported each other, and the families truly seemed to enjoy spending time together.

As I moved into young adulthood, my taste in television shows became less about meeting an unfulfilled need for family unity and more about sheer guilty pleasures. I knew exactly what to watch from 7:00 a.m. through 3:00 a.m. every day, and most of it was pure trash … entertaining, but trash nonetheless. It certainly was not moving me toward holiness and godliness, but I was in rebellion against God at that time in my life, so I did not care. What mattered is that I was distracted and entertained. I had no appreciation for the degree to which all I was viewing was influencing and changing how I thought about myself and the world around me.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace caught inside a black & white television. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Growing in Holiness

lightI am currently taking a class on family discipleship toward my divinity degree. This class is challenging everything I have believed about the structure of the family and its role within the church. I feel like Josiah after finding and hearing the Book of the Law:

Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD.’ He gave it to Shaphan … Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, ‘Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.’ And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king. When the king heard the words of the Law, he tore his robes.” ~ 2 Chron. 34:15, 18-19

Josiah tore his robes because he realized how far off course his kingdom was, and that is my reaction to what I am learning in this class about family discipleship, all of which is soundly biblically-based. As Josiah might have asked, I wonder how I could have been so blind when God’s ways are quite clear.

I need to ponder and pray over the specifics of my challenges before blogging about them, but I wanted to write about the dynamic of learning through God’s Word that you have been living in unholiness while serving a holy God. I have been through this process several times, and it doesn’t get any easier. However, because I have repented and redirected my life in the past with amazing results, I have the hope that I can change direction in this area of my life as well and experience God’s blessings as a result.

One purpose of the law was to awaken the Israelites to their unholiness. Being awakened to unholiness, as I have been this week, is not a fun process, but it is a necessary part of spiritual growth. I liken this dynamic to being in a room with a dimmer light switch. When I became a Christian, God turned the light on, but it was at the lowest possible dimmer setting. The very dim light illuminated big issues in my life that needed to change. It was overwhelming to see the mess, but God gradually led me through the process, and by the time He was done, my life in the very dim light looked much improved.

Then, God made the light a little brighter. What had looked somewhat tidy in the dimmest light now looked like a great big mess. I felt convicted and wondered how I failed to see this mess before. I worked with God to gradually clean up the mess until it looked good again. And then, God made the light a little brighter, and the process started over again.

This is what spiritual growth looks like. I’m not “backsliding” into my prior messes. Instead, God is inviting me to new levels of holiness.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a blanket over her head and shining a flashlight at her face. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Promised Land Living Broken: Separation from God

02_separation_from_godContinued from here.

If only the Fall in the Garden of Eden had not happened … but it did. From Eve’s perspective, all she was doing was eating a piece of fruit, but this one choice to allow Satan to push an unholy thought into her head (that God was not truthful) had HUGE consequences that separated us from God! Let’s walk through the graphic to understand how.

God still offers holy energy, such as His love, joy, and peace. This is why Jesus told us that…

[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” ~ Matt. 5:45

However, now Satan has entered the equation, and he isn’t a gentleman like God. While God freely offers holy energy that Grace can freely draw, Satan pushes his unholy energy. This is why 99 people can compliment a job well done, but we will instead fixate on the one person who criticized us. Compliments are freely given, waiting to be invited in, but criticism is pushed in, which takes no effort on our part to receive. As a result, our natural state is for all sorts of negative garbage to be pushed into our thoughts (requiring no effort on our part) while we choose to draw in very little of the good.

Whatever enters our thoughts gets digested and becomes a part of our soul. When we make no effort to control our thoughts, the negative (unholy) energy gets pushed in, causing us to digest the poison, which sickens our soul. The more unholy energy we digest, the sicker we become, such as through self-hatred, anger, bitterness, pride, and selfishness. Sadly, because our natural state is not controlling our thoughts, mostly negative energy pushes into us. The same holy energy is still available to us, but it requires effort to draw in, and most of us don’t make the effort. So, we live our lives feeling more and more miserable but don’t know why.

It gets worse.

The unholy energy we allow to be pushed into us also gets pushed out. So, the more negative energy you allow to be pushed into your thoughts, the more you will naturally push out to the people around you. As your toxic energy is pushed into them, they digest it, poisoning their souls further and then pushing even more unholy energy back onto you. This dynamic brings about disharmony and disunity in our relationships and fuels even more unhappiness in lives.

Our Holy God can have no part of this unholy cycle, so he enforces a boundary not to receive this unholy energy, which breaks the Cycle of Holiness. This is the “Old Testament God” who people frequently accuse of being “mean.” He’s not “mean” – He’s holy. So, now Grace … and all of us … are separated from God.

Who will save us from this wretched state?

Continued here.

[Graphic: “Separation from God.” A Holy God freely offers energy to Grace, but Satan also pushes in unholy energy. She receives some holy energy through free choice, but unholy energy is also pushed in. Both funnel into her head. She digests the unholy energy and pushes it out onto other people. God enforces a boundary not to receive the unholy energy, resulting in Grace’s separation from God. Courtesy Bitmoji and Grace Daniels.]