Saturday, January 30, 2016

War Room: Praying for Marriage Permanence

2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

I have not really appreciated the effort from many “Christian” movies. I have a very clear understanding of the spiritual influences of the entertainment industry and how Hollywood has done more to discredit and deviate from the truth of God’s word than it has in telling the truth. These movies tend to water down the message and provide a surreal view of God. That is not to say that the Holy Spirit cannot work in these artistic dramas, because I know God can work through all things based on the fact that He created all things. But even though it can be draining to “correct” these artistic renditions, it is important to correct these movies for the sake of the Gospel.

That being said, I must say that the efforts by the Kendrick brothers lead more to the truth than most movies. War Room is the latest movie produced, written and directed by Alex and Stephen Kendrick and I would have to say that it was their best work so far. Perhaps the secret to this “success” is due more to the fact that the Kendrick brothers would never take credit for the content of the films. These two men would claim that God has worked to make these movies possible. They will both tell you that prayer is significant in making these movies work and War Room typifies their efforts.

If you ever buy the Blue Ray/DVD’s of these movies, you need to watch these movies with the commentary selected. The commentary “on” includes Alex and Stephen explaining the movie from a Christian perspective. You can find the commentary section in the special features portion of the menu. This commentary is very important as both Alex and Steven offer biblical truth to why they created these films. 

The reason I really loved War Room is the fact that a lot of what you see in the movie really does happen. I have seen marriages restored through the prayers of one spouse. I have seen God’s hand in marriages that seemed beyond all repair. Yes, even in the case of sexual immorality, adultery, or whatever your Bible "commentary" says in Matthew 19:9. All things are possible with God. Even though I listened to the commentary and was blessed by all the stories surrounding the making of the movie, I already had a clear understanding of how prayer works in the lives of God’s children. Prayer is an essential part of the Christian walk, and God is ready to be glorified through our prayer life. However, just like the movie accurately depicts, God is not ready to work in us until we have surrendered to Him.  

You may ask what does this movie have to do with marriage permanence?

This movie was mainly about the awesome power of prayer, yet the direct prayers in this movie were centered on relying on God in the midst of a struggling marriage. If you watched this movie with the hope that Elizabeth and Tony would get divorced, then you need to ask yourself if you are still in the faith. Maybe you watched this movie and were convicted by your own failed marriage. Perhaps your marriage is on the verge of divorce.

The fact is, everyone is directly or indirectly affected by divorce, and this movie makes it clear that restoration to God, and the restoration of marriage is centered in prayer. Divorce is not the option in this movie. Miss Clara makes it crystal clear that marriages are under attack in the spiritual realm and the pervading message in this movie is that marriage is one man and one woman for life.  Every one of the Kendrick films is centered around a marriage in the midst of turmoil, and every one of the movies centers around seeking answers of this turmoil through the Lord Jesus Christ.

"This marriage covenant gives God the glory. In other words, marriage is more about God’s plan then it is about our desires."

What is so special about War Room is that it places marriage ABOVE those in marriage. A husband and wife enter into a covenant that binds then together as one-flesh and this was God’s plan and desire from the beginning (Gen 2:24; Mt 19:4-6; Mk 10:6-9) This marriage covenant gives God the glory. In other words, marriage is more about God’s plan then it is about our desires. The wife (Elizabeth) in the movie surrenders to the Lord and seeks His will for herself and her marriage. She then through prayer, seeks to be the wife He has called her to be so that through her actions, Christ can make her husband (Tony) see His light shine through her.

 Certainly The Bible says we are to seek God with all our hearts, minds, strength, and soul. The Bible says if we seek the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart. Well, if we are seeking to desire the Lord with all our heart, we get Him! This is where this movie goes. Prayer is for those who have the desire of the Lord.

One particular section of scripture expresses Elizabeth’s actions after she gave all she had (including Tony) to the Lord.

1 Peter 3:1-6 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.

This scripture goes against what a woman really desires in her heart apart from Christ. Sin entered the world AFTER marriage and the desires of every woman is not to be in subjection of her husband, just as it is equally reluctant for a man to love his wife. Tony did not love his wife, and it was through his wife’s prayers and her transformation in the likeness of Christ that changed his heart.
The effects of sin have brought sorrow to the world and the first part of this movie shows the road which leads to divorce to those husbands and wives who live apart from Christ. Elizabeth was only adding fuel to the fire and she was falling into the hands of an enemy who seeks to devour and destroy. This road is centered on the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. This fall into sin leads to death.

But thank God through the Lord Jesus Christ that sin and death is forever defeated at the cross of Calvary. The temptations of the devil dissipate at the mention of the work of Christ. It was through the sins of man that God entered earth as a man and delivered us from our sins. The plan of salvation started in the beginning and was beautifully displayed through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of the Lord. If you really think about it, this salvation is not possible without the covenant of marriage.  

"Marriage was attacked from the beginning, and is continually attacked in every area of life today. This should not be a surprise as marriage by definition is a representation of the Gospel."

Spiritual warfare is evident in this movie as well. The enemy has successfully entered into the church, courts, and education system by dismantling the idea that marriage is anything other than one man and one woman for life. Marriage was attacked from the beginning, and is continually attacked in every area of life today. This should not be a surprise as marriage by definition is a representation of the Gospel. If the enemy can make marriage insignificant, he can destroy whole societies and cultures. This is happening in the United States today. Cohabitation and “one night stands” have precedence over committed monogamous relationships. Pornography is the glorification of fornication and adultery. Divorce and remarriage was once viewed with shame and is now celebrated and glorified. Abortion is “final solution” to those who choose to do what seems right in their own eyes based on their selfish sexual appetites.

The fact is that this debauchery leads to misery, enslavement, hopelessness, and death. The effects of fornication, adultery, abortion, divorce, and remarriage have cost the lives of millions. Sexual fulfillment outside of marriage has destroyed individual lives, marriages, families and societies. The truth is that many unbelievers are starting to see the effects of this debauchery. They are starting to ask questions, and when they see movies like War Room, they want to know more about this Jesus.
That is the wonderful thing about God. He is readily available to everyone if they would just acknowledge that apart from the finished work of Christ, they are far apart from Him. The Gospel is for all men, and a big part of salvation in Christ revolves around communicating to God that you are a sinner who needs saved. Prayer is talking to God, and this movie not only shows how we need to talk to God, it shows how God answers those prayers.

In conclusion, War Room was a great reminder to me that marriage is as God said it was from the beginning, one man and one woman for life. War Room also makes is very clear that prayer is essential to anyone seeking to do the will of God. Combine marriage and prayer, and it is clear to me that divorce is NEVER an option to those who are in Christ. In the commentary, both Alex and Steven also make this point very clear that they have provided a way for us to see hopeless marriages having hope again through the Lord Jesus Christ.

My prayer is that the Kendrick brothers would consider the truth that God has provided a means in which to save every covenant marriage and that the Lord would lay it on their heart to consider making a movie that there is no scripture that provides loopholes to divorce and remarry. I have no doubt that both these men have heard the call from the voices for repentance from divorce and remarriage. Marriage permanence makes sense from a Gospel standpoint, and War Room takes divorce and remarriage out of the equation.

The last and most difficult step is repentance from unlawful marriages, of which all remarriages after a divorce of a living covenant spouse are unlawful.  It is eternally dangerous to design a War Room to save your adulterous union and expecting God to save your adultery. The pains and trials you have in unlawful unions and blended-families is directly related to the Holy Spirit nudging you to repent from the adulterous union. If the Kendrick brothers seek to give glory to God, then it is imperative that they make it clear that War Room is for one-flesh covenant marriages and not unlawful marriages related to a divorce of a living covenant spouse. 

I am a biblical realist with a biblical worldview, and I understand there must first be a falling away for the Lord to return. Dear brothers and sisters, there is a “falling away” from biblical marriage in the church. Divorce and remarriage is predominant in the church as it is in the world. If this married redefinition (Divorce and remarriage HAS redefined marriage) is the first sign to the end of the age, then I pray that movies like War Room, Courageous, and Fireproof would turn many back to the biblical truths of the Gospel. If we can rightly understand the Gospel, then we can rightly understand that marriage is until death do us part. 

My request is that you join me as I continue to pray that the Lord moves hearts and minds to this truth so that God be glorified, and I will be the first to quote Miss. Clara: 

“You’ve done it again, Lord! You are good, and you are mighty, and you are merciful… You are Lord. … Raise up a generation that will take light into this world”

In Christ’s love,

Friday, January 1, 2016

Fireproofing The Movie Fireproof

I first watched Sherwood Pictures Fireproof nearly eight years ago through the lenses of a person going through a separation of what I believed to be my wife of 18 years. I cried throughout the whole movie. It was as if the movie was directly related to my life and the circumstances surrounding the separation. I was waiting on my spouse, believing, hoping and praying that we could restore the marriage. I believed I was doing all the right things to change my heart to be more like Christ so that she would see that I was a new person. That was eight years ago…today I view Fireproof much differently.

The movie Fireproof is the third movie from Sherwood Pictures written by Alex and Stephen Kendrick. The movie is based on Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron), a respected Captain fireman who is facing the possible separation and divorce from his wife, Catherine (Erin Bethea). Caleb is approached by his Christian dad John Holt (Harris Malcom) to save his marriage by spending 40 days in what is known as the “Love Dare”. In the process of saving his marriage, Caleb faces the fact it is he who needs to change. 

Apart from the cheesy comedy and less than spectacular acting, the movie makes the point that marriage is holy. What the writers intend to show is that marriage is God’s plan and that apart from the love of Christ, one cannot truly love his or her spouse apart from believing the Gospel. The center theme is that marriage is a representation of the Gospel and the writers make it clear that the Lord Jesus Christ is the foundation of what it takes to love a person even when they do not deserve that love.

The Lord Jesus Christ loved us while we were yet undeserving sinners. When we by faith believe that Christ redeemed us from our sins, we enter into a covenant relationship with Him.  Marriage is a reflection of that covenant love that Christ has for His bride, the church. I believe that Fireproof does a very excellent job in conveying the grace, mercy and love of a husband for his wife. 

The concept of the marketable “Love Dare” is to show unconditional love to a spouse for a period of 40 days. In a pivotal scene, Caleb attends to his sick, but very reluctant wife Catherine. Up to this point, Catherine has all but made up her mind to leave Caleb, but Caleb has persistently shown unconditional love despite her lack of trust in him. In this pivotal scene, Catherine discovers the Love Dare booklet from Caleb’s dad, and asks Caleb what day he is on. Caleb tells her 43, and a curious Catherine replies, “There’s only 40”, in which Caleb responds, “Who says I have to stop?”

The idea that a husband should pursue his wife is wonderfully displayed in the movie. I do not question the intent of this movie and the intent of Sherwood Pictures in providing an accurate description of what loving your spouse looks like. Nor do I question the intent of showing people that apart from the love of Christ, we are dead in our sins. This scene ends with a tearful Caleb convincingly apologizing (repenting) to tearful Catherine for his awful ways.  

The key scene (Scene 16) the writers will tell you revolves around Caleb making a decision of salvation by accepting Christ as His personal Savior. This key scene involves Caleb’s dad asking Caleb to make a decision about his life. It is after this eternal decision that we she a change in Caleb and that he is determined to love his wife like Christ loved us. There is no mistaking this point of the movie. We as the viewers begin to see that Caleb is a new person.

The next scene (Scene 17) involves Caleb telling his lieutenant Michael Simmons (Kevin Bevel) that he is “in”. Michael is Caleb’s friend and reliable lieutenant, and throughout the movie we learn that Michael has a strong foundation in the Lord. Prior to Caleb’s conversion, Michael was known as a Christian by his fellow firefighters. Caleb wanted Michael to know of his new found faith and this scene depicts the kinship of those in Christ.  As stated, the prior scene is the key scene in the movie, and I believe this follow-up scene is equally important on many levels.  

The importance of this scene is reflected in Caleb’s response to Michael’s marriage to Tina (Carla Hawkins). Caleb says to Michael, “At least you haven’t had to face divorce.” In which Michael responds, “I wish that were true.”

Michael proceeds to tell Caleb that he is in his second marriage and that he married and divorced from his first wife (no mention of her name) for all the wrong reasons. Michael said he was just “following his heart”.

This scene is where I believe that Sherwood Pictures, the Kendrick brothers and the whole production subverts the word of God. Up until this point, we can understand that the Gospel is unconditional love to a fallen world and that marriage is a perfect example of unconditional love. We can also understand that apart from salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ we are dead in our sins. We can also understand that marriage is God’s design and not susceptible to man’s definition or the “following of one’s heart.” 

The Bible clearly paints a picture that every living person is without excuse to know God (Romans 1:18-20) and they are fools of they say there is no God (Psalm 14:1). The Bible says that man’s heart is corrupt and to follow our hearts is desperately wicked. When we say we do not know God, we are saying we do not fear God. If a person dies without knowing God through the finished work of Christ, they will be without excuse. They cannot say, “I never knew you God, so I must enter your kingdom based on me believing that I never knew God.” 

If this is true of salvation, what does it say on the things of God? If marriage is God’s design and is an outward sign of His creation and a reflection of the Lord Jesus Christ’s love for us, does one have the excuse that marriage is anything other than God’s design? 

Sherwood Pictures wants the viewer to believe that a marriage is worth fighting for and that the right circumstances can lead to a restored marriage, and more importantly, a new life in Christ. Sherwood Pictures wants the viewer to have a clear view of God and His love, righteousness, faithfulness, and His truth, yet they want us to believe that a divorce can end a marriage and that a “remarriage” is a marriage in the Lord? 

On two occasions in God’s word we see the Lord Jesus Christ say that marriage is from the beginning (Genesis 2:24) and that what God has joined let no man put asunder. (Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10:6-9) There is two very important concepts in these passages. The first is that the law of marriage (see Romans 7:2,3) came before the fall of man into sin and the second is that the law of marriage has precedence over the “idea” that a divorce can end a one-flesh marriage covenant bond. If man is without excuse to know God, then man is without excuse to know that a marriage covenant cannot end until death of one or both spouses.

The whole length of the Bible is about God’s love for His creation and the pages unfold into the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Marriage is the clear picture of the Gospel and represents the Creator’s reconciling to His creation. You cannot separate marriage from the Gospel. (Eph 5:31-32)

In this scene 17, Michael explains that he married and divorced before knowing the Lord, and that when he tried to “reconcile” the marriage it was too late because his first wife had already “remarried”. Here are some rhetorical questions:

If Michael’s wife “remarried”, who remarried her? God, or man?

1 Cor 7:10,11 says, And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11 But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.

A wife (Michael’s wife, not his “current “remarried” wife), if divorced (Michael claims he divorced) is to remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. 

Who “remarried” Michael’s wife, and is this marriage a marriage “In the Lord” (1 Cor 7:39)?
It is most likely Michael’s wife went to a church that accepted her story that Michael was a loser and an unbeliever, and that her state accepted divorce decree “freed” her into remarrying another man. Based on the widely popular and readily acceptable Westminster Confession of Faith of Divorce and Remarriage, it was fairly easy for Michael’s wife to attend a few marriage classes, become a member at this particular church, and pay the necessary fees to get a “remarriage”. 

The most unlikely scenario (and least talked about) is that she went to a Justice of the Peace and remarried without the consent of her pastor who told her to remain “unmarried” should Michael come to know the Lord. She disregarded the pastor’s warnings that her “remarriage” is not a marriage in the Lord and that she will remain in adultery if she remains in a remarriage. 

We know Michael repented of his sins and accepted the Lord Jesus Christ, and we also know that Michael believed that his marriage ended in a divorce.  Unfortunately, the word of God says that a marriage cannot end in divorce and Michael’s second marriage places him in an adulterous union as well. 

If Michael is in an adulterous union, why does Sherwood pictures present the idea that his remarriage is acceptable? 

Great question. If I were to write, produce, and direct a movie called Fireproof, it would include a man (Michael) who unilaterally divorced (no-fault divorce) his wife against her will. His estranged wife knew Michael was exactly like Caleb (A rude, conceited, sexually immoral jerk.). After the divorce and before his conversion, she went to another accepting, all grace, no truth mega-church (not the same one as Pastor Strauss’s (Alex Kendrick) church). There she found another divorced man who asked her to marry him. They both went through all the right steps and loops to ensure that their second marriages were “for life”, and that divorce was out of the question…

Michael tells Caleb that he will remain in covenant with his wife despite her actions and the actions of the other mega-church.  Michael explained to her and the pastor who remarried her that he is a new man in Christ. Michael also explained to her and her pastor that they had no right to sanctify her adultery and that her new church subverted the word of God to allow her to believe that God honored her “remarriage” vows while he is still ALIVE.

Michael would lovingly tell Caleb that his marriage is for life and that even should Catherine divorce him and shack up with Dr. Keller (A flirtatious “other man” who tries to win Catherine from her husband), Caleb is responsible to honor the marriage vow he made before God. Michael would tell Caleb that he is not responsible for Catherine’s vow to him, he would tell Caleb that she is responsible before God with her vow to him. Michael would continue to tell Caleb to speak truthfully about marriage to Catherine and to remain in the “Love Dare” even until his or her death.   

Why did Sherwood use the “divorce and remarriage” scenario for Michael if it wasn’t the truth of God’s word?

Mostly they believe that the Westminster Confession of Faith has precedence over the Bible in the case of divorce and remarriage. Never mind that over the years that many theologians and men of God have believed that scripture points to marriage permanence and that divorce (A true reflection of a hard heart) was a means to reconcile the marriage or remain unmarried, rather than a loophole to remarry another. 

Perhaps it is because so many are divorced and remarried at Sherwood, and it is less stressful, less threatening, and financially appropriate to accept the idea that grace trumps truth then to accept a perfect combination of grace and truth pointing to marriage permanence. The easy way out is to exit the marriage and start over. It is far too problematic to save a marriage as a body of Christ then it would be to mind your own business and send the divorcee off to DivorceCare. The problem with this is that it sells marriage as anything other than God’s design. This idea takes away the power of God and places the power in the hands of men. 

Then there is the idea that culture and the ways of the world have precedence over God’s ways. Same-sex marriage is old news, and even older than that is unilateral divorce. If the institutionalized church has already succumbed to state issued divorce and marriage redefinition, it is only a matter of time when marriage is not even necessary.   

If Sherwood presented the truth of marriage, then would this not convict the divorced and remarried that to remain in their remarriages is sinful? 

I like to compare “remarriage” with kidnapping. If I know kidnapping is wrong and kidnapped your child, what would “repenting” of kidnapping look like? If I repented and kept your child, did I repent? Remarriage is “spousenapping” a spouse from a covenant marriage and not giving that spouse back. You may say: “Kidnapping is against the person’s will, remarriage is most likely the willful result of a person’s consent to divorce.” Unfortunately, a one-flesh covenant marriage vow gives up the right of individualism because God joins two to become ONE. God cements a couple to become one flesh until death. It is adultery and remains adultery the moment a spouse ‘thinks” (Not just acts…) he or she can leave a covenant marriage and join to another while their spouse is still alive. A “remarriage” is sanctifying that adultery. Repenting of adultery is exiting the thought that a “remarriage” is anything other than adultery.   

Imagine if the modern church had a spirit of Ezra and today she stated that no longer will she recognize divorce as a means to end marriage covenant and that all “remarriages” were null and void. Would there be a revival, or would there be chaos? I believe there would be both, but only for one generation. Sin always has consequences, and the consequences of “remarriage adultery” would be substantial. However, the succeeding generations would benefit greatly from the dissolution of present remarriages. Here are my previous posts on convictions of dissolving remarriages and solutions of preserving marriages.

In conclusion, Fireproofing the movie Fireproof would be a rather simple task. It would include rewriting the script on one character (Michael). Only time will tell of the eternal implications of continuing to endorse the movie under the current definition of marriage. I pray that Sherwood Pictures and all those involved with making this picture possible would reflect on the content of the Gospel in light of their understanding of divorce and remarriage. 

A hypothetical “Love Dare” is trusting in the Lord regardless of the outcome. Forty-three days is whole lot less than eternity, and once the Church has an understanding and an irrevocable commitment to display and define committing to a vow of marriage, the world can truly understand the love God has for us. I pray that those who read this are convicted by the Holy Spirit and that we can know that marriage means so much more to God than we have ever thought possible.
When we see marriage do we see the love of Christ?...and to echo the words of John Holt (Caleb’s dad) as he leans up against a wooden cross right after Caleb’s self-absorbed tirade.

“That’s a good question.”

In Christ’s love,