The Most Destructive Thing about Hollywood is Not What You Think


The most destructive thing about Hollywood is not what you think


There are more objectionable elements in modern entertainment than there are movie titles, but none of them are as disturbing and destructive as this one practically invisible plot line.


For the purposes of this post, “Hollywood” will represent the companies, individuals, and organizations that create the stuff Americans are daily stuffing into their ears and eyes. Nearly all of the movies, shows (both TV & internet), books, and music that fill iTunes are the topic of this conversation. Of course, Hollywood (and the American entertainment culture as a whole) are by no means the only culprits. The most destructive force in entertainment today is the same in every living room, culture, and hemisphere.
Continue reading “The Most Destructive Thing about Hollywood is Not What You Think”

Reflections on Being Jesus


I’ve been asked to be Jesus ten times.

The first time I portrayed Him on stage was for Bethel Baptist Church’s Easter production of God’s Masterpiece in 2009. I was 28. During Easter of 2014, I played Him for the fifth time in that same production. I was 33.

imageimageBeing a pasty-skinned red-head, my yearly transformation into a dark-haired, dark-skinned Jew was always a shock to my family and friends.

But aside from the physical metamorphosis required to portray Jesus on stage, I believe I’ve changed even more as a follower of Christ. Six years later (over one hundred shows, across multiple cities, in two states, for three different productions) . . . I’d like to share some insights I believe are extremely important for everyone who professes Jesus as Lord.

What I’ve Learned:

  1. He was perfectly bold, especially given His earthly age. The first time I played Him, I was 28. In preparation for the role, I consulted many pastors in hopes of gleaning helpful insights. But the most dramatic revelation I had when conversing with them was that the men I talked to were significantly older than I. I then realized that the religious leaders in Jesus’ day would have been equally as old if not older. Then I imagined today’s pastors hearing me, an almost-thirty-something proclaiming to be God! I’d received enough condescension in my life to realize that what Jesus had to do was extremely difficult, not simply because He was turning conventional wisdom on it’s head and manifesting His deity, but because He was so young.
  2. He was perfectly wise. Jesus knew exactly what to say and when to say it. He wasn’t distracted by His audience’s rabbit trails. He always spoke directly and immediately to their deepest need. When the woman at the well tried to distract Jesus with racial/political considerations, He pinpointed her sin and need of a Savior. When Martha rushed out to Him after Lazarus’ death, His first words weren’t empty platitudes of sympathy. He replied, “Your brother will rise again.” When Nicodemus made the observation that Jesus had to be from God because of His miracles, Jesus skipped the pleasantries and said “You must be born again.”
  3. He was perfectly focused. Whether He was twelve years old in the temple or thirty-three years old on the cross, His sole goal was to fulfill God the Father’s will.
  4. He was perfectly loving. It became a running joke over the first few years that I had to make sure to touch everyone I could on stage at any given time. Whether I was placing a hand on a shoulder, picking up a child, or giving a hug, I needed to be touching someone. This desire to physically connect with people grew out of the fact that I knew Jesus would have loved these people with His whole being. It made all the sense in the world that if He loved them that much, He would connect with them . . . and gladly die for them.
  5. He was perfectly joyful. The first (but definitely not the last) criticism I received for my portrayal came after the very first performance in ’09. A gentlemen stopped me and said that though he enjoyed the performance greatly, he believed Jesus was probably more “serious” and “grave” than I had performed Him. I thanked the man for his insights, but then politely explained that as I reflected on Who Jesus was, I realized that He was not only perfectly holy and just, He was also perfectly joyful. Would someone with an infinite source of divine contentment, joy, and peace never smile? Is it possible He never joked with His disciples? I think not.
  6. He was perfectly serving. Christ’s entire ministry was one of service. Everything He did, He did for others. Coming to the earth, casting out demons, healing sickness, preaching, washing, dying, rising. It was all done out of obedience to the Father and as a sacrificial service to the people He ministered to.
  7. Lastly, and most uncomfortably, He was perfectly exemplary for us. Whether we’re playing Him on stage or not, we have the responsibility to be just like Him. Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son [emphasis mine].” The passage continues by laying out for us God’s eternal purpose for His children. He predestines, calls, justifies, and will eventually glorify us. This whole process is designed to transform us into the image of His Son. When we’re finally glorified, we’ll be as much like Him as we possibly can be, yet in the meantime, we’re to be consistently being changed into His image (progressive sanctification).

I made the observation that first year that everyone should have the opportunity to portray Christ on stage, because that’s exactly what we’re supposed to do in real life anyway. We’re supposed to say what He would say, the way He would say it, for the reasons He would say it . . . all the time.

What this Means for Us:

    1. What if we were bolder in our proclamations? We would be far more passionate about our Lord regardless of the age of our audience or the situation we found ourselves in. Whether posting on Facebook or conversing in the office, boldness would radically change our interactions.
    2. What if we thought and analyzed in line with Christ’s wisdom? The rabbit trails and worldly philosophies wouldn’t distract us or cause us to stumble. God’s wisdom would perfectly answer each situation, and, if we plumbed its depth, we wouldn’t needlessly flounder in our culture’s Disney worldview and pre-pagan mindset.
    3. What if we were focused on the mission of our Father instead of being distracted by the temporary and sinful foolishness of this life? If Christ’s one goal was to fulfill the will of the Father, why are sports and relationships and diplomas and careers so all-consumingly important to us? With a sanctified life-goal like that, we could continue the apostle’s ministry of turning this world upside down!
    4. What would change in our relationships if we loved like Christ? Goodbye arguments, gossip, bad advice, and weather-casting small talk. Hello prayer, intentional edification, wise counsel, significant discussion, and life-changing intimacy.
    5. What if our lives were categorized by joy? Imagine the griping, complaining, whining, and general discontentment that would disappear! Imagine now what would necessarily have to take it’s place.
    6. What if we served our family, friends, and foes as Christ did? Think of the bridges that would be built. Consider the example that would be shown. Imagine the work that would be accomplished!
    7. What if we were the same example to others that Jesus was to us? Spiritual multiplication produces faster than any math equation! We have countless peers, coworkers, children, parents, friends, and strangers who would benefit from seeing Christ in us.

I don’t know if the Lord will afford me the opportunity to portray Him again, but whether He does or not, I purpose to be bold, wise, focused, loving, joyful, serving, and exemplifying just like He was . . . and I suggest you do the same.

#Evermind #MoreOfHimLessOfUs

For Your Consideration:

As a writer, I’ve dabbled in many forms of communication. I’ve written short stories, books, stage & screenplays, articles, etc. But my most prolific genre is poetry. I wrote voraciously in high school and college and have recently decided I need to start scrawling again. I also figured the best writing prompts are the topics I discuss here. So, please accept this as my first poetic submission on Taking Back the Bible. Others will be appearing shortly as I write new articles, but I also plan to write poems for previous posts.

To Show the Christ

I’ve worn the mantle Jesus bore
Upon His frame.
I’ve shod my feet with sandals torn
From distance traveled to a score
Of unbelieving plains.
I’ve burned my skin with suns that scorch
My head. But despite the marks
They’ve left on me, my Lighted torch –
That leads men north –
Fades all their beams to dark.

I’ve spoken with the Pharisees who understand the law
So well they thought that they could trap
Within their tangled scrawls
The One Who sounded Sinai’s calls.
Their pride exposed their wisdom’s lack.
I’ve called the men who all
Left home and ship to follow Him.
I’ve washed their feet. I saw
Them preach, and fall,
And return again, lost souls to ever win.

I’ve preached the sermons, cried the prayers,
And healed the chosen nation’s
Pains. Their stares
I’ve met with His great love, and shared
Each word our Father gave to lead them to salvation.
I broke the bread and felt the glare
Of Satan in the garden.
I’ve watched as one who cared
Too much for silver dared
Betray the One Who’d pay his pardon.

I’ve even felt the tear of thorns and bite of flail
Announce that He would die.
But deeper still than piercing nail
Can drive, I’ve felt the bitter, ugly wail
That must have coursed when palm’s cried “Crucify!”
The cross is all too home to me. I fail
To justly tell its horror.
And though His death I’ve never shared
In truest form, I’ve experienced a measure.

Yet all these shared events can no more
Messiah of me make
Than simple dirt could form
The mirror of the world . . .
For I cannot pretend to save.
So, in the end, all I can hope
Is barely point back to the Light
Who stooped to earth, was born,
And lived, and died, and destroyed the thorn
Grown up from Eden. This is my goal – to show the Christ.


The New Me: Part 2, “Theater with a Difference”

Shortly after arriving in Illinois in ’07, I was cornered by two different people about checking out Overshadowed Theatrical Productions. I appreciated their invitation as I had spent some time on stage and enjoyed it immensely. Unfortunately, I had to postpone my introduction. I wanted to make sure I was doing my new job well and I knew I didn’t need any distractions.

But it didn’t take long before my 6th grade class was well in hand and the drive to revisit the stage started to simmer in my limbs. I saw one of the Bible plays they produced and enjoyed it immensely. Shortly thereafter I found they would be performing Arsenic and Old Lace. I loved the movie growing up, the main character shared my namesake, and I wanted my introduction to this theater company to be fun and light-hearted. I auditioned. I got the part.

This post is not going to be a retrospective of the shows I’ve done at Overshadowed, but I need to mention this segment of my life as it has opened countless opportunities for service that I would never have had. Theater is a powerful medium because stories are one of God’s chosen ways of revealing truth. Just like books, movies, and television, theater has the potential to mold a generation. Any time the Lord hands you such a powerful tool, you’d better use it! Overshadowed’s (OTP) goal is to offer family friendly entertainment. Half of the shows they do are classics and the other half are Bible based. Most of the productions that I’ve been on stage for were stories straight from the pages of Scripture or scripts with a biblical theme. We have performed the same shows multiple times over the course of a year both in-house and as a travel team to churches.

Acting has always been a passion of mine because communication is so seminal to relationships. I teach speech for this very reason. As a side note, Christians must be very careful what theater companies they work with. The World and the flesh are both alive and active in their allegiance to the “roaring lion” who wants nothing more than our destruction. A cast builds such camaraderie that sinful relationships can easily sprout in such an environment. But performing with Christians (though not a sinless environment) definitely has its accountability.

During my years performing for OTP I have had the glorious opportunity to depict our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The first time was for a Passion play called God’s Masterpiece. I tore apart the gospels like never before in an attempt to understand Who He was. Playing Jesus is IMPOSSIBLE. I might accidentally play George Washington correctly. We are both finite, created beings, but it is completely impossible for a mortal to perfectly portray the God of the universe. It is the “impossible role.” Not improbable. Impossible. But I endeavored to do my best. People would stop me and almost offer their condolences that I had to undertake such a weighty part. My wife told me (had she been a man) that she would never have accepted the role. It was grueling. Not only were there those excited to see the play, but I had a contingency of people who thought that having anyone play Christ at all was unwise at best and sinful at worst.

It was a challenging time to say the least, but the watershed arrived during a cast meeting when I shared the following with my fellow actors: I told them that I had been spending so much time “getting inside Jesus’ head” through my study of the gospels – trying to grasp why He did what He did, said what He said, and discern the way He did it all – that I stumbled upon a realization. I’m a Christian . . . that’s my job anyway! What man or woman who claims to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ does not have the responsibility to walk like Him, talk like Him, and love like Him? It was so extremely refreshing! I say this tongue in cheek, but I think everyone should have to play Jesus at least once in their life if that’s what it takes to waken them up to their responsibility for divine-immitation.

Playing Jesus has helped me see many things about my Lord I never really noticed before and I believe it has better suited me to the tasks He has for my life. His compassion was perfectly balanced by His passion. His love was perfectly balanced by His justice. He was just that . . . balanced. He knew exactly what was perfectly necessary in every situation. I cannot be omniscient, but I can study and look and observe in an attempt to respond correctly to the situations I’m presented with.

This slice of my life is being called “Life with a Difference” and it has a large part to do with my experiences at the Theater with a Difference. We must live deliberately like Jesus Christ. If we do not live differently we cannot make a difference.