Better Than Hollywood

Daily Readings: Exodus 5-6, Psalm 58-59, Romans 10-11

One of my all-time favorite scenes in a movie is found in the final scenes in Wall-E – a Disney/Pixar film that was released in 2008. In this computer-animated sci-fi scenario, robots have made humans redundant. People sit in motorized lounge chairs “having become obese and feeble due to microgravity and reliance on an automated lifestyle,” – their every desire fulfilled at the touch of a button. It is a poignant scene because it has transported out of the imagination-realm and into reality more and more with each generation. I believe we have far too much instant, mind-numbing, fruitless entertainment at our fingertips. And we are highly susceptible to its constant siren song. In America (and probably other wealthy nations as well) many of us are doing-ourselves-in by our Wall-E lifestyle choices. This is increasingly obvious when it comes to physical exercise and personal eating habits. Perhaps the direct link to time spent in lounge chairs in front of entertainment is not as obvious. These concepts are bound up together, however, aren’t they? Even the experts are constantly reporting new studies tying degenerating health and cognitive abilities to lifestyle choices. Is the world of Wall-E our final destiny? God’s word gives us a far more hopeful scenario.

I would submit that this is simply an age-old human problem – one that is merely clothed in the modern attire of technology. We look to fill the place inside us that only God can fill with things other than God. In Bible terminology this is called idolatry. It comes from our sensual, selfish desires but trying to fill these impulses never helps or satisfies. It is instant gratification mode rather than the patience and diligence necessary to seek the life offered in Christ.

The wisdom of Ecclesiastes tells us that God has “set eternity in our hearts” and if we do not fulfill that part of our nature, we, too ultimately become redundant (to God). So it is valid to ask ourselves how we fill our time. Do we have satisfying relationships? Are we in optimal health? Do we have peace with God and man? If we are still seeking any of these things, God claims He, and only He, can truly fill our gaps.

In my quest to help whet your appetite for God – His character and His Word – I want to guarantee that it will still afford you intriguing entertainment and action. Only this type of input is the real deal – and it will have eternal fruit for you and for generations after you. The Bible relates graphic stories of mystery, other-worldly occurrences, political maneuverings, sexual exploits, and espionage that outstrips Hollywood any day. In fact, if you did your daily readings today, you saw some for yourself.

You see the Bible is full of exciting and captivating stories if we will just “get our heads around them” and picture them in our imaginations. The cool thing about the Bible stories, however, is that they really happened to real people and the real God of the Universe wants us to learn real lessons from them.

So I submit to you Psalm 58 & 59. One was written when struggling with powerful enemies whose lies were like deadly serpent venom in David’s life. The other was penned “when Saul sent men, and they watched the house in order to kill him (David).” I advise you to consider or read the stories of David’s life found in 1&2 Samuel, to fill in some of the blanks as to what he might be talking about in these particular Psalms. Think of the enemies he had lurking around many corners throughout his life – starting with his own brothers and ranging up through the leading superpower rulers of his day! Think of being pursued by a mentally unstable but powerful king, and hiding in caves or fleeing to enemy countries to avoid being assassinated by him! Think of the political climate when those who favored Saul and his lineage even after his death, did not want David to be king! Think of the ruthless and bloodthirsty Israeli Army Commander, Abner, and trying to deal with him in a righteous way! Think of marrying Saul’s wily daughter, Michal, who eventually fell out of “lust” for him – and scorned his zeal for God! Think of the lewdness of David’s depraved thinking to take another man’s wife and then try to frame his murder as though it was a heroic military death! I’m telling you folks; you don’t need Spiderman, Sherlock, or James Bond for interesting plots or curious mysteries!! And unlike Hollywood, these Bible stories have a spiritual message of encouragement or warning to help us be wiser and to glorify the Father better.

The Psalms are a guidebook for understanding how a righteous person (David in the big-picture) dealt with the wiles of the world, the temptation to sin and the physical and psychological anguish inflicted by enemies. These are all insights that we each seek in some form or other. It is hard to over-rate the value of reading them with this in mind. We must read between the lines to see someone who was struggling like we struggle, someone with issues like we have, and to pick his brain for how he handled them. His conclusion is always; Back to God. Back to the future (of hope and righteousness in God’s Kingdom.) Back to centering on what is important in the big picture in the middle of current distress. And most of the Psalms were indeed written in the middle of distress – songs of praise and thanks that remind him of his Source of Deliverance:

But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress. O my strength, I will sing praises to You; For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness.

– Psalm 59:16-17

They are songs of a heart comforted by a Being far larger and more powerful than himself or his problems.

So today, I encourage or remind you to research the introductions to the Psalms before you dive into the meat of them. To look up or meditate on the circumstances of David’s life as he wrote the Psalm you are reading. To put yourself in his shoes and be terrified and exhilarated in turn as you see his spiritual side overcome his fearful, fleshly thinking. Perhaps you even want to write some of your own personal Psalms that detail your struggles to lead to the same conclusions as David – God is a refuge in times of trouble. In Him we find rest for our souls.

My overall point then, is that we should be hungering and thirsting and filling our moments with the things of God. We must not succumb to our spiritual laziness in pushing the closest button to the closest media in order to entertain our thoughts away from things that matter. Because the things that matter, matter eternally.

And, ultimately, if we make the things of God our “bread and butter” we will be happier. Guaranteed! Go ahead and give it a try and see if I’m right! I challenge you to keep a record of how much time you spend with the media and make yourself spend an equal amount of time with God. Then slowly wean yourself away from your media pursuits until communion with God becomes the desire of your heart when you have some spare time. This is how David, a mighty, and mighty busy King, spent much of his free time.

Let us determine not to become citizens of Wall-E World. Here is the way the writer/director of Wall-E, Andrew Stanton, characterized his film. I think it fits this discussion quite well:

“irrational love defeats life’s programming”:

I realized the point I was trying to push with these two programmed robots was the desire for them to try and figure out what the point of living was … It took these really irrational acts of love to sort of discover them against how they were built … I realized that that’s a perfect metaphor for real life. We all fall into our habits, our routines and our ruts, consciously or unconsciously to avoid living. To avoid having to do the messy part. To avoid having relationships with other people or dealing with the person next to us. That’s why we can all get on our cell phones and not have to deal with one another. I thought, ‘That’s a perfect amplification of the whole point of the movie.’ I wanted to run with science in a way that would sort of logically project that.

Andrew Stanton

Friends, let us determine with all our hearts to become citizens of the Kingdom of the One God of Heaven and Earth who wants to shower us with His great love. He tells us very clearly to:

Redeem the time for the days are evil.

– Ephesians 5:16