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Friday, June 15, 2012

Medieval Ages, Movie Plots, and Mind Games


  I had the opportunity to see a movie last night. No one went with me because I needed personal space after having people at my house for the last two weeks. Being just one of two introverts in my house right now, space was a necessity for me. Three of the other people in the house are extreme extroverts and all that brings with it. Anyway, I looked at the movie listings and read the reviews and the bios on the movies. None really tempted me; however, one had reviews from people I know so I thought, “Why not, let’s go.” Off I went to what was supposed to be a remake of a popular fairy tale. I had seen the other director’s version of this same fairy tale last month, which left me enchanted (both meanings apply). The movie started, blood dripped from a finger, a child was born, a parent died, a father became enamored then killed, and a child was orphaned. So began this fairy tale. Next, enter the darkness. 

        What ensued next was a plethora of all the dark images moviegoers have faced over the last 12 years at theatres and on DVD. Witches made an entrance. Battles began. Blood spilled. Nature turned dark. Manhunts took the viewers on an escape or capture of the “good” person, and life after escape and capture began. Moviegoers then were taken on a journey in the view of the “hero” to see how life for them was now that they were embroiled in this battle of good versus evil. Would the heroine/hero escape and win the day (the battle) or would the witch/wizard rule the kingdom (the watcher’s universe) for eternity? This particular fairy tale, the director’s version, was about 1 ½ hours of evil and battles by an unbeatable army - fear and death. The story was not about a happy-ever-after event but about the time between beginning and end.

            This plot has been played out repeatedly and increasingly since the beginning of the Harry Potter series. The fascination people have with “darkness” and witches/wizards has led readers and moviegoers to be drawn toward this genre. Back when the above series first began, some people said, “Allowing our children to read these books promotes witchcraft and wizardry.” Many people bellowed back, “It did not.” Many people laughed at them that nothing of that kind could happen. Yet I have seen the fascination of these dark stories with evil, wizards, and witches become very important in the lives of people throughout the world. Yes, evil has existed on earth since the fall of humankind in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). My point is that our fascination by these genres and stories has made people seek them out. It has made dark stories more acceptable (what Satan wants) and, thus, allowed it to make inroads into our lives. Preteens, teens and adults read vampire and witch stories and are fascinated by stories set in medieval times, times when sorcery was prevalent and where Christianity was not taught to the masses. Christianity was kept to the priests and performed by the priests for the congregants’ sakes. Witchcraft and sorcery were strictly prohibited by the LORD God. These and worshipping false gods God called an abomination. You can read it in Deuteronomy (12:2, 16:21, 18:9-14), Leviticus (19:31 & 20:27), and Galatians 5:19-21. God abolished them because they were detestable and would distract and lead the children of God from worshipping Him exclusively to worshipping other gods (those manufactured by Satan).
The medieval times were called the Dark Ages for a reason. Satan was working hard amidst humanity to lead it astray before the Gospel became prevalent and spread worldwide. Fascination with wizards, brought about because of books with characters who were witches and wizards, has intrigued humanity so much they began delving into the Middle Ages. Should we not learn that foremost what occurred during the medieval ages should be a lesson to us? We should not to go backward but forward into the future with hope and with the salvation plan God has given us? We should be stronger in our faith than the people of the Middle Ages by now. We have had the opportunity of over 500 years distance to learn how to be strong against evil and how to have a relationship with Jesus, not to allow the priest to be the “go-between” for us. We should not allow Satan to distract us from the LORD with fascination about witches and wizards. Yet we are drawn to this age, to the darkness, maybe under the ruse we are studying it, but we are drawn to it. Shouldn’t we think that Satan would love to use our curiosity against us to plant ideas in our minds. These ideas then would make us start accepting the culture of the people of the Middle Ages again under the pretext that all people have a right to live according to their will. Curiosity about the gods of Canaan by the Israelites was why the LORD God told them to destroy the places of worship they found in the Promised Land when they entered it to possessed it. The curiosity of humankind and then rationalization are what leads us to probe and consider the ways of others that do not follow the Lord.

        If we find ourselves saying, “We must be tolerant of all,” does that include people who choose a lifestyle from that dark time even though we see by hindsight what it did to the people of that age? That lifestyle is counter to the one the Father has taught us since that then. How much can we challenge people about that lifestyle they are trying to live for themselves? Wicca and pagan cults have seen a large increase in their numbers over the last 15 years. From 1990 until 2001, the membership of Wicca and pagan cults more than doubled in the US and around the world. Wicca was the seventh largest organized religion in the US as of 2001. Another survey in 2008 found this number had doubled again[i]. Wiccans do not stay in hiding much anymore but are becoming more visible. We must challenge these beliefs and then stand up for ours and teach ours to our children and the next generations.

In the Crusades of the Dark Age, this religious battle occurred as Christian against Muslim and Christians against witches and wizards. Alternative religions continuously juxtapose to Christianity and people today consider them acceptable religions. “All religions are thought to be right for everyone because all people will eventually get to heaven,” some people say. Others say the contrary, “Only one religion is right so each religious group must fight for the right to be the “true” religion.” When do we step out and say, “Stop, this is going backwards in our religious growth and maturity?” When will we understand that this fascination with medieval times, wizards and witches, and religious warfare actually opens the door to bring the thoughts and actions of the Dark Ages back into existence? At what point do we realize we have opened a door that should have remained closed? This is no longer a fascination we are feeding, but a battle we are waging for the minds, hearts, and souls of those who live today and of our descendents.  We must be accountable to our future generations.

This story could be about a “happily-ever-after” if we would open our eyes, which Satan wants to be closed and darkened, and see that history is repeating itself. It is not futile and hopeless. We have a Champion of the historical story, of the plot of humanity. We must let Jesus Christ become our Savior and Champion. He will not come to our aid unless we allow Him; He does not storm in. Yet if we can see beyond the darkness in which Satan has enveloped us by the ruse of fascination, we can open the door we have allowed Satan to shut. We can open the door to Jesus, our Champion. We do not have to walk backwards in time and re-live the darkness of the Dark Age. We can walk forward knowing the battle is won. There is a Champion. The days and times do not have to be dark. We can live in victory today. Because Jesus is the conqueror of death and Satan, we can also be more than conquerors through Him (Romans 8:31-39). Jesus is our “happily-ever-after.”

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A King, A Protector, A Commander

A King, A Protector, A Commander
Saul was God’s appointed king of Israel at the request of the Israelites. The Israelites wanted to have a king like the nations that surrounded them. They wanted a man who was a ruler of men, who stood a head above the others (1 Samuel 9:2). The Israelites wanted a military man. Though God had been and was the Israelites’ protector, they requested a protector. Saul was those things and strove to follow Yahweh. He made decisions after consulting God through Samuel. During times of decision-making, Saul often disobeyed God. God eventually withdrew His hand from his kingship (1 Samuel 15:11, 23). From the time He withdrew His hand from Saul, Saul chose his own way. He refused to repent and ask forgiveness from God.
            God chose David to be the succeeding king of Israel after Saul and his sons died (1 Samuel 16:12-13). Samuel anointed him while Saul still reigned. David was a well-equipped shepherd. His family had no experience of being kings. David learned quietness of spirit and listening for God’s voice while he was a shepherd. He learned the arts of protection as a shepherd. God would prepare David to be king of His nation and to be a leader of men. He taught him about the sanctity of His decisions, too, i.e. Saul was God’s anointed; Israel was God’s chosen people.
            While Saul chased David in the wilderness in 1 Samuel, David had an opportunity to kill Saul in a cave (1 Samuel 24). He chose not to harm Saul, but instead showed Saul his fidelity to him (1 Samuel 24:8-10). David taught his men and Saul he followed God by choosing not to kill His anointed king. He recognized the sanctity of Saul’s life. Saul epitomized the idea of a human king. He followed his own will instead of God, who anointed him. Notice David kept his sword and knife from Saul’s body. He would not harm God’s anointed king even though the king did not follow Yahweh. Saul was like the people who heard about God - His love and desire to be in relationship with them - but who chose still to follow their own paths. David was like people who responded to God’s message of love and choose to be in a relationship with Him, striving to follow His will in their lives. David could not harm Saul because he was God’s chosen leader for His people. Saul was David’s king.
            Saul’s armor-bearer was with him in the last moments of his life. He asked his armor-bearer to finish his life so he would not fall into the hands of the Philistines (1 Samuel 31:4-6). Saul feared torture by the enemy who beleaguered him most throughout his reign. He knew the Philistines would delight in claiming they killed the mighty king of Israel. Saul feared the pain he would experience from a slow death, too. He knew God removed His hands from him and this punishment fell on him and his sons because he did not obey God and kill king Agag of the Amalekites. Saul’s armor-bearer could not kill the king. He feared people of higher rank would learn of it. The armor-bearer was aware Saul was the king. He could not kill the king, his master, and the commander of Israel’s army. The armor-bearer would not seal the fate of death upon Saul. He honored Saul in death just as he did in life. Saul was his king and military leader.
            The men of Jabesh-Gilead learned about the death of Saul and his sons on Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 31:11). They heard of the Philistines hanging their bodies upon the wall of Beth-Shan, a major crossroad within Israel. The name Beth-Shan means house of ease. The people named the city this because it was a place of tranquility and a refuge for travelers. With the nailing of these corpses upon the city wall, the tranquility left Beth-Shan and Israel. The previously anointed one of God was dead; the anointed sinful man met his judgment. Jabesh-Gilead was a town/village that Saul and an army of Israelites protected from the Philistines. The men felt indebted to their protector and savior, Saul. Their final act for him became a means of thanking and honoring Saul and his sons. The men of Jabesh-Gilead made their way by night to Beth-Shan and took the bodies off the wall (1 Samuel 31:11-13). They took them to Jabesh-Gilead to receive a proper royal burial and warrior’s remembrance. Saul was their savior-protector.
            Each of these men experienced Saul in different ways. Every one of them experienced him as king. The armor-bearer experienced him as the military chief, one who commands respect. He gave tribute and honor to Saul by not killing him and by killing himself when Saul died, which was common in that time of the relationship of servant to master. The men of Jabesh-Gilead experienced him as protector-savior. They honored Saul’s memory by giving him a king’s tribute – removal from the wall of shame in Beth-Shan and a proper burial. David experienced him as God’s anointed king for Israel, his first acquaintance to royalty, and the father of his best friend, Jonathan. He gave honor to Saul in his death and life. In life, David spared Saul on occasions when he could have killed him. In death, he honored him by killing the Amalekite who claimed to have killed God’s anointed one (2 Samuel 1:1-10). David honored him by writing one more song of loss and glory for the king and his best friend, Jonathan, Saul’s son (2 Samuel 1:19-27). Each of the men remembered, gave praise, and honored the man, Saul, whom God anointed for Israel.
Though God chose Saul to be the leader of the Israelites, He did not force His will upon Saul. He allowed Saul to choose whom he would follow, Yahweh or his own self. Saul chose his own way most often. God left him to his own demise since he followed his own will. God chooses humanity to receive His love and mercy through the salvation Christ offers. Many people, like Saul, will choose to walk their own way and make their own decisions. They fall into pits of their own demise like Saul. We remember these people with honor just as the men did of Saul.
God blesses the people who choose to follow His will. Those who choose to follow God’s will are they who accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. These people receive His mercy and grace. The loving Savior and strong King leads them. Jesus is the mighty Warrior who fights for the souls of everyone. The heroes of the faith - God’s forgiven children - are the ones remembered by men on earth. God will remember them in heaven, give them reward, and praise them for their works on earth. God will remember them throughout eternity. Jesus is the only true Savior, Warrior, and King. He is the One who saves from sin and death and battles the forces of evil for us. We make Him our King when we confess our sins, believe He is the Son of God, and follow Him.
We each must decide for ourselves whose will we will follow and
abide by the results of those decisions,
be it to death or life everlasting.
What is your choice?