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March 2004

March 31, 2004

Dr. Mark Miravalle has written a fascinating article for the Catholic Information Network that speaks about Mary’s portrayal in The Passion of the Christ. Miravalle is Professor of Theology and Mariology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, so obviously something of an expert on the subject. Here are some interesting quotes:

In a recent interview with Mel Gibson, Christianity Today referred to Gibson as a traditionalist Catholic who “likes the Tridentine Latin Mass and calls Mary Co-redemptrix.” There’s another well-known Catholic who also calls the Mother of Jesus the Co-redemptrix: His name is Pope John Paul II. He has done so on six occasions during his post Vatican II pontificate.

In The Passion of the Christ, Gibson has accomplished a Marian feat no pastor or theologian could achieve in the same way. He has given the world through its most popular visual medium a portrayal of a real human mother, whose heart is inseparably united to her son’s heart. This mother’s heart is pierced to its very depths as she spiritually shares in the brutal immolation of her innocent son. Hers is an immaculate heart which silently endures and offers this suffering with her son for the same heavenly purpose: to buy back the human race from sin.

Mary Co-redemptrix has been given her first international film debut in a supporting role, and it’s a hit.

You can read the article in full here.

March 31, 2004

This is the thirty first and final part in this study through the book of Proverbs. The purpose of this study has been to learn wisdom and discernment from God’s Word. Yesterday I learned that limited human wisdom can never compare with God’s unlimited perfect wisdom. I also saw that though nature proclaims that God exists, it is only through His Word that I can really come to know Him. Finally I saw through several examples from nature, that God is able to overcome any weakness through His strength.

The final chapter of Proverbs was written by King Lemuel. We do not know what nation he was king over, though we do know it was not Israel. Lemuel’s writing is unique in that in that it was given by a mother to her son rather than a father as with the rest of this book. This shows that though the father bore primary responsibility for training children in wisdom, the mother also played a crucial role.

After a short introduction, the author provides wisdom about refraining from drunkenness. “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, nor for princes intoxicating drink; lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the justice of all the afflicted.” Drunkenness is not befitting for one in a position of authority, for they need to be in full control of their senses at all times. Intoxication might prevent a ruler from properly fulfilling his duties and making wise decisions. As we see in verse 6, he must especially not use it as an avenue for escape from the hardships of life. “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart.”

The bulk of this chapter is the well-known description of “the virtuous wife.” The 22 verses are in the form of an acrostic poem, though we do not see this in the English translation. A virtuous woman is one who seeks to live a life of godly wisdom, for we read “she opens her mouth with wisdom, and on her tongue is the law of kindness.” She exhibits qualities of wisdom both with her words and her actions. “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.” Though difficult to find, a wife of great virtue is not an impossible dream.

The passage goes on to describe a woman who works hard to support herself and her family. She rises before dawn to provide food for the family and spends her day running various enterprises. She helps the needy and shows shrewdness in all her dealings.

Several verses caught my attention. Verses 11 and 23 show that a wife’s virtue extends beyond her to her family. “The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain.” Because of the wife’s hard work, the husband does not need to worry about poverty overcoming the family. And not only that, but “her husband is known in the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.” Her virtue is known to the community and people admire her husband because of her.

We see that despite all this, her great reward is the praise and admiration of her family. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all.”” Though she may be proud of the work she has done, the money she has earned or the way she has cared for her family, her greatest pride should be in the admiration of her family.

The application for me, as a man, is not to compare my wife with this woman and grumble about the areas she falls short. Rather, I need to rejoice in the qualities she exhibits and ensure that I do call her blessed and praise her for the love and concern she shows for myself and my family. I need to thank God for providing me a woman of virtue.

And this ends this study of Proverbs. Tomorrow I will post some final thoughts.

March 31, 2004

I am going to approach this matter with caution and brevity, for I certainly do not want to cause anyone to stumble. Several people have inquired whether or not I can verify the claims some people are making that many of the actresses cast in The Passion of the Christ have been involved in pornography. Since the movie’s launch rumors have abounded that this is true but few have had it proven to their satisfaction. People ask this question because it seems hypocritical for a woman to play in a “Christian” film about the life of Christ when in her previous role she did pornographic work.

I did some delicate research (keeping in mind my own responsibilities for purity) into this matter and can say with absolute certainty that the following actresses have been involved in activities that constitute pornography. Monica Bellucci (Mary Magdalene), Rosalinda Celentano (Satan), Claudia Gerini (The wife of Pontius Pilate), Sabrina Impacciatore (Seraphia, the woman who offers Jesus a towel), Gabriella Barbuti (one of Herod’s Court Women). I am unable to say if they can be considered “porn stars” but can at least verify that they have all appeared in what would constitute “soft” pornography (ie nude photographs and the like). Beyond those women I do not know if any others have appeared in pornography, and frankly it does not much matter. The fact that at least five of the women on the cast of The Passion of the Christ have pornographic backgrounds should satisfy those who are concerned about this.

Further to this, it would be safe to say that the bulk of the cast members, both male and female, have appeared in movies that could not be considered appropriate viewing for Christians. This includes movies based around bisexuality, homosexuality, sexual assaults and occultism. Monica Bellucci, for example, appeared in a movie called “Irreversible” which was vile beyond description, featuring a 10-minute long graphic scene in which she was brutally raped.

I hesitate to provide further information because I do not want to have my site associated with any sort of pornographic content. Unfortunately this just means you will have to take my word for it. Admittedly that may go no further towards satisfying you that the rumors are true, but at the moment I am not willing to go any further on this matter.

March 30, 2004

This is part thirty in my 31-day study through the book of Proverbs. The purpose of this study is to learn wisdom and discernment from God’s Word. Yesterday I learned that I need to keep my mouth and emotions under control lest I be proven foolish by my words or actions. I also saw the importance of maintaining moral purity when in a position of leadership, where political, church or family leadership.

Chapter 30 is one of just two chapters in this book that records the wisdom of someone other than Solomon. The proverbs in this chapter were written by Agur, a man we know nothing about, except that he was probably a foreigner (and the son of Jakeh, as mentioned in the first verse). He begins this passage in a strange way: “Surely I am more stupid than any man, and do not have the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom nor have knowledge of the Holy One.” He begins with a statement that seems to deny his own wisdom. Looking deeper, though, we see that he acknowledges the wisdom of God and these words are merely a comparison of his wisdom with God’s. He is aware that his wisdom is bound and can never be as complete and wondrous as God’s wisdom.

He continues to express God’s wisdom verse four. “Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, if you know?” His purpose is this verse is to show that we cannot attain knowledge of God merely by observing the world around us. God is so much bigger than His creation, for He controls the winds and the waters. He exists in both the heavens and on the earth, for He is present everywhere.

Verses 5 and 6 express the beauty and power of God’s Word. “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” In words that recall (and actually quote) the Psalms of David, the author provides the answer to the questions he asked in the previous verse. We cannot depend on creation to tell us about God, but must rely on His revelation through Scripture. God’s Word is pure, uncorrupted where creation has suffered so greatly through the fall. He also warns against judging Scripture by our flawed, human standards, saying that if we do so God will rebuke us for our pride.

If there is any single thing I have been learning through the past weeks and months, it is the power of God’s Word. As I come to a deeper understanding of this, my love and respect for the Scriptures increases as well. I am coming to a deeper appreciation of the priceless treasure God has given us in the Bible.

There are four things which are little on the earth,
But they are exceedingly wise:
The ants are a people not strong,
Yet they prepare their food in the summer;
The rock badgers are a feeble folk,
Yet they make their homes in the crags;
The locusts have no king,
Yet they all advance in ranks;
The spider skillfully grasps with its hands,
And it is in kings’ palaces.

This passage speaks on two levels. On one hand it shows that God has created the world with a certain order. Ants, though tiny animals, fulfill God’s purposes for them by working hard and with order. Locusts also live in an orderly manner, despite the fact that they have no king.

At a deeper level, though, we can see that the author speaks about a weakness inherent in each of these animals. Ants, badgers, locusts and spiders are all small, weak animals, yet they are able to fulfill the function God has created them for. They are able to overcome their weaknesses and glorify God. The gifts each of them has is a gift from a wise God.

The application of this passage is clear. Each of us has both gifts and weaknesses. God gives each of us gifts in order to honor Him with them. As one seeking to honor God with my life, I need to trust that the strengths He gives me will be able to overcome whatever weaknesses I may have or perceive in myself.

The objective for this study is to learn godly wisdom and discernment. Based on the thirty chapter of Proverbs, here is what I have learned:

  • My wisdom can never compare with the perfect wisdom of God.
  • Though God provides information about Himself in creation, He can only really be known through special revelation in His Word.
  • God is able to use His strength to overcome any of my weaknesses.
March 30, 2004

I’d like to get some thoughts on the following quote, pulled ruthlessly and free from all context from John Eldredge’s book Wild at Heart.

Too many Christians today are living back in the old covenant. They’ve had Jeremiah 17:9 drilled into them and they walk around believing my heart is deceitfully wicked. Not anymore it’s not. Read the rest of the book. In Jeremiah 31:33, God announces the cure for all that: “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” I will give you a new heart. That’s why Paul says in Romans 2:29, “No, a man is a Jew is he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit.” Sin is not the deepest thing about you. You have a new heart. Did you hear me? Your heart is good.

March 29, 2004

This is part twenty nine in my 31-day study through the book of Proverbs. The purpose of this study is to learn wisdom and discernment from God’s Word. Yesterday I learned that confession is a critical aspect of having a deep, intimate relationship with God. Failing to confess sin to Him will build barriers in our fellowship. I also saw the value of trusting God to guide me through life rather than depending on myself.

Chapter twenty nine is the final chapter containing Solomon’s proverbs, for chapter thirty was written by Agur and the final chapter by Lemuel. Today’s passage repeats many of the themes we have seen in previous days, so I will try to focus on a couple of other key messages.

Verse nine reads “If a wise man contends with a foolish man, whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace.” It is generally not wise to have a dispute with a foolish man, for he is incapable of allowing himself to be chastened. He will react either with rage or with scorn, but never with humility. As one seeking wisdom, I need to choose carefully when I will take a stand. If I perceive foolishness in someone who has wronged me or in someone exhibiting foolish behavior, it may be better simply to let the matter pass than to make that person my enemy.

The eleventh verse tells us “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” The principle exhibited here is that those who are wise will know the value of maintaining control of their emotions. To speak whatever comes to my mind at an emotional moment violates much of the wisdom I have learned through the first twenty eight days of this study. For example, I have learned time and again that often the best display of wisdom is silence, for in some situations anything I say or do will be foolish. I have learned the importance of keeping my emotions in check, whether it be refraining from fighting with fools or from saying something jovial at a moment of sadness.

Similar wisdom is found in verse twenty. “Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” In this case we see that not only do I need to keep my emotions in check, but my words as well. If I speak hastily without first applying wisdom to my words, I have less hope in life than a fool. I need to control both my emotions and words.

Verse 24 speaks of the predicament I may find myself in if I am an accomplice in a crime. “Whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own life; He swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing.” If I help someone commit an evil deed and am found out, I will be forced to testify, but anything I say against him will serve to implicate myself as well. The lesson is clear: avoid putting myself in such situations. I need to live a life of moral purity, adhering to God’s laws.

I will close today with the twelfth verse. It says “If a ruler pays attention to lies, all his servants become wicked.” Societal corruption tends to begin at the top. When the rulers forsake wisdom it seems that it will not be long before their evil begins to pervade society. Certainly there are many examples of this in the Old Testament, for often a king would turn his back on God and begin to honor false gods. Very soon the whole nation would have turned their backs on God. As a modern-day application I thought of Bill Clinton and the way his evil, adulterous deeds came to light. Suddenly the whole nation was using words and phrases that before had been considered taboo. Society immediately began to change its view on what acts and deeds actually constitute sexual relations. Truly corruption at the highest levels affects everyone.

To take this proverb further, we can apply the lessons to any authority structure. Just as God has determined that society demands rulers, so He has placed authority structures into the family and the church. If there is corruption in the leadership of the family or the church, we can expect similar corruption throughout. As a father I need to maintain moral purity so that I may pass purity to my children rather than evil. If my children exhibit folly I need to examine myself to see if I have been corrupted and allowed my corruption to affect them. In a church setting, a pastor must maintain doctrinal purity, for if he turns to false teachings, his church will surely follow.

The objective for this study is to learn godly wisdom and discernment. Based on the twenty eighth chapter of Proverbs, here is what I have learned:

  • I need to keep both my words and emotions under control, for losing control is a mark of foolishness.
  • It is often better to let a matter pass than to contend with a fool.
  • Any time I am in a position of leadership I have greater responsibility to maintain moral purity.
March 28, 2004

This is part twenty eight in my 31-day study through the book of Proverbs. The purpose of this study is to learn wisdom and discernment from God’s Word. Because today is Sunday this will be an abbreviated look at the chapter. Yesterday I learned that since God is in full control of the future I need to ensure I am not presumptuous about what is to come. I also read powerful words that described the heart as being like a mirror that reflects who I really am.

“Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but such as keep the law contend with them.” Several days ago a similar proverb made me think about the people of Hollywood and this verse did the same. When I read it I thought of the celebrities in Hollywood who love to use their fame to spread folly. They continually spread godless philosophies and incredibly our society looks up to these people as role models, praising them for their wickedness. Christians meanwhile find themselves contending with these beliefs, trying desperately to hang on to some sort of orthodoxy. Those who espouse the world’s wicked “wisdom” will always contend with believers who hold dearly to God’s true wisdom.

Verse 13 contains wisdom that is absolutely crucial to the Christian life. “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” To live a life that pleases God, I must draw intimately near to Him. To do this, I first need to confess the sin that has dug an insurmountable pit between a holy God and a sinning man. Until I confess my sin I can have no part of a relationship with God, but after confession I can look forward to knowing Him deeply and intimately. Even after I have become a believer, unconfessed sin will devastate my relationship with Him. Solomon must have been well aware of this for his father learned this lesson many times. I am sure Solomon spent many hours on his father’s knee learning this very lesson. Consider Psalm 32:3-5 which reads:

When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin

Sin is not a minor problem and is not something to be downplayed, for it is the one thing that can and will destroy my fellowship with God.

The application from this verse is clear. I need to continually examine my life to see where sin has taken hold. I need to pray that God will reveal the sin in me that may be hidden to my clouded eyes. I also need to surround myself with wise and trusted friends who will love me enough to rebuke me for the sin they may see in me.

I will end today with the twenty sixth verse which reads “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.” To trust in my own heart is foolish, for I know that my heart is wicked and untrustworthy. The path to wisdom is in trusting in God and walking in the paths of His perfect wisdom. All the way back in the third chapter of this book we read “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” In all I do I need to seek and trust His will, for He alone can guide me in wisdom’s ways.

The objective for this study is to learn godly wisdom and discernment. Based on the twenty eighth chapter of Proverbs, here is what I have learned.

  • Confession leads to a deep, intimate relationship with God. Failing to confess will destroy my fellowship with Him.
  • I need to trust in God as my guide rather than depending on my own abilities.
March 27, 2004

This is part twenty seven in my 31-day study through the book of Proverbs. The purpose of this study is to learn wisdom and discernment from God’s Word. Yesterday I learned that no proverb will apply to each and every situation, so I need to be careful in their application. I also saw that I need to be wary around foolish men for they are, because of their foolishness, untrustworthy. Finally I saw examples of how folly breeds delusion so that foolish men are unable to see or understand their own folly.

Chapter 27 begins with these words: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” There is evidently wisdom in knowing that as humans, it is folly to believe that we have any control over what tomorrow will bring. I grew up as part of a Christian culture that believed one should never make presumptions about the future. As a matter of fact, it was so ingrained in people’s consciousness, that anytime they spoke about the future they would say “Lord willing.” At the end of a church service, for example, the pastor would say “we will meet again, Lord willing, next Sunday.” I found that it became almost a superstition, so it seemed that if they spoke of the future with any sort of confidence, they felt they were making presumptions about God’s sovereignty. I do not believe we need to go to such lengths to heed the wisdom of this verse. However, it is wise to remember that God is in full control and His ways are not always our ways. We are wise to know that His plans may at any time trump our plans.

Verses 5 and 6 are similar to each other. “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” The first verse shows us that it is better for me to lovingly, respectfully rebuke a friend than to withhold necessary correction, thinking that this is an expression of love. If my friend desires to be wise, I owe it to him to correct him where I see him deviating from God’s will. This theme carries to the next verse, for there I see that hurts inflicted by a friend are faithful. If a friend corrects me out of love and in order to help me stay on the path of wisdom, the pain is valuable, for it has helped me stay close to God. An enemy, on the other hand, may say nice things, but what he says will be laced with his folly and will serve only to guide me away from God.

“A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.” This proverb reminds me of the words “he who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it.” A mark of wisdom is that I will have discernment to show right from wrong. I will learn from what I have done wrong in the past and from what others have done wrong in the past and will be able to see when those events begin to repeat themselves. Wisdom will allow me to see and avoid evil before it overtakes me, rather than being blind to it and having it destroy me.

Any person who seeks to be wise must read the words of verse nineteen with fear. It says “As in water face reflects face, so a man’s heart reveals the man.” Just as a clear pool of water provides an accurate representation of my face, so my heart provides an accurate representation of who I am. My heart – my thoughts, feelings, desires – provides an accurate depiction of my character. If that is true, it should make me, as one seeking to be wise, to stop and consider my heart. What do I think about? What do I desire? What images do I continually pour into my mind? Are my thoughts focused on God and on obedience to Him, or are my thoughts filled with sin and rebellion? I need to examine my thoughts, for by these I will be able to learn much about my character. Where I find my thoughts are evil I must repent and seek to fill my heart with goodness, knowing that a godly heart is a reflection of godly character.

The objective for this study is to learn godly wisdom and discernment. Based on the twenty seventh chapter of Proverbs, here is what I have learned:

  • God is in full control of the future and I need to ensure I am not presumptuous about what will come.
  • Rebuke, when done lovingly and for proper motives, is often a better display of love than is silence.
  • My heart is like a mirror that shows who I really am; it provides an accurate representation of my character.