Friday, February 27, 2009

Fire and Ice

We're all familiar with Revelation 3:15-16, in which God states "I wish you were either hot or cold! But because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of my mouth!" And of course, we've all been force-fed the common interpretation of this passage: that God wants us to be "totally for Him," or "totally against Him." In fact, He'd rather us be "totally against Him" than lukewarm. There is just one problem with this idea: Which of us can claim we are "totally for God?"
The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one. (Psalm 14:2-3, 53:2-3)
I think we have our answer! None of us are "totally for God". In fact, the doctrine of depravity would support this idea one step further and illustrate that everyone of us is "totally against God." So what does God mean in Revelation 3:15-16 when He says He wishes that we were hot or cold? Simply put, He wants us to be intense! Intensity is the antidote for the lukewarm church. Consider this:
Laodicea was situated between two other important cities, Colossae and Hieropolis. Colossae, wedged into a narrow valley in the shadow of towering mountains, was watered by icy streams which tumbled down from the heights. Hieropolis, on the other hand, was famous for its hot mineral springs. These springs flowed out of the city and across a high plain until they cascaded down a cliff which faced Laodicea. By the time the water reached the valley floor, it was lukewarm, putrid, and nauseating. At Colossae, therefore, one could be refreshed with clear, cold, invigorating drinking water; at Hieropolis, one could be healed by bathing in its hot, mineral-laden pools. But at Laodicea, the waters were neither hot (for health) nor cold (for drinking). . . [Christ] is not saying that outright apostasy is preferable to mediocrity; rather, He is wishing that the Laodicean Christians would have an influence upon their society.(Source)

Cold is just as useful as heat. When you sprain your ankle, do you want a cold compress or a lukewarm compress? When you've been out in the sun on a hot day, would you prefer a lukewarm glass of lemonade to a cold one? Let's face it, sometimes hot just isn't appropriate. When my brother visits me in Florida, he usually asks me to turn up the air conditioning, not double his misery by turning on the heat!

We all seem to understand that being "on fire" for God means that we are to be passionate and intense in our love for Him. But being passionate and intense is not limited to being "on fire." Have you ever had someone slip an ice cube down your back when you least expected it? What was your reaction? Did you pause for a moment of reflection and say, "What was that? I thought I felt something. Hrm. Must have been my imagination." Of course not. You jumped from your seat as soon as you felt that ice sliding down your back, and chances are you screamed! That's because the feeling of having an ice cube slipped down your back is intense!

So what does this intensity look like? What does it mean to be "on ice" for God? I personally believe that being "hot" involves having a love for truth while being "cold" involves having a love for mercy. In other words, being "cold" for Christ means that we show abundant displays of kindness, compassion, and mercy toward others. As women, this should come easy to us. We are always dubbed "the emotional ones", so why not use that to show our love for the Lord? Here are some examples from Scripture:

"A gentle answer turns away wrath" (Proverbs 15:1). Don't fuel the flames of someone's hot temper. Put out those fires with a gentle word.

"As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country" (Proverbs 25:25). When your husband comes come from a long day on the spiritual battlefield, don't barrage him with problems, complaints, or a to-do list. Instead, give him a glass of cold water in the form of soothing words of comfort and praise.

"Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding" (Proverbs 17:27). Don't be quick to argue. Hold your tongue and your composure until you have all the facts.

"For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink" (Matthew 25:35). Give to those in need. In doing so, you will quench someone's thirst for food, shelter, clothing, or even a friend.

"And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.'" (Luke 16:24). Share your faith with people who are lost and hurting. Right now, there are people who are perishing, and those who have gone before them are wishing someone would go to their loved ones with the message of the gospel. Why not you?

God can use you if you are hot. God can use you if you are cold. But He can't use you if you are lukewarm. What are some ways you can be a "cold" Christian who is "on ice" for God?

~Photos of the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival, Harbin, China~

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Total Transparency

Faithful are the wounds of a friend Proverbs 27:6

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness 1 John 2:9

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
1 John 3:14,15

If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 1 John 4:20

Many of us have gone through the most painful situations where we have been wronged by fellow believers. What the other party did was unthinkable and unbecoming of a Christian. You feel hurt, wronged, angry (that they could do such a thing) and even sorry for yourself. You begin to ask yourself questions, questions you feel justified to ask, such as “why me?” You consider yourself to be a good friend and brother/sister to the body, so it can't be any fault of your own that this thing has happened. The fact it is not your fault may be completely true. So it's a good thing you have your inner circle of friends/family to support you at this time to share your feelings, right? WRONG!Light begins to shine within, just as the sun rises at dawn, the light gently creeps over the earth, and what you see horrifies you!

Ok, you're nursing raw wounds as you try to put things right. You want to glorify God. You feel you're doing all the right things when suddenly even your friends and loved ones seem to be against you. For completely different reasons they are not being themselves. They highlight things about you that are just not true. This may be in the form of an argument with one and reproof off another. Great! Just when I need them the most. You can feel yourself becoming more and more isolated from people in general as if you have no one left to turn to. Suddenly you feel a revived sense of longing to be with God in prayer. Time with Him is bliss until you see what God shows you in the most gentle and loving way in which only God can do.......light begins to shine within, just as the sun rises at dawn, the light gently creeps over the earth, and what you see horrifies you! “I'm telling my daddy of you!”

Suddenly, being in God's presence is not about seeking communion but forgiveness and repentance. You cannot believe how long you have been walking around completely unaware of the many sins hiding in the darkness of yourself. “Oh!” You cry, “I feel such a fool!” Those reproofs and painful words from the ones you dearly love begin to make sense. They were like signposts pointing the way to that which was true about yourself only pride would not acknowledge them. Instead the hard, unyielding self stood up for itself and like a child said, “I'm telling my daddy of you!” Only as you went to The Father you found yourself being lovingly and tenderly corrected. You see now that you are totally and utterly powerless to change yourself. You beg God to cleanse and change you.

After confession and repentance, making the point of now keeping daily accounts with God, the stiff-necked proud I know bows the head in humility and embraces loved ones with a grateful heart. You realise that they have done you the greatest favour a friend could ever do. To be known as we really are-that is true fellowship!

The importance of being transparent with others cannot be underestimated. C.H.Spurgeon in one of his sermons defines it as “The willingness to know and be known”. To have at least one friend we can trust to be honest in the must loving way with us and us with them, is infinitely priceless. To be known as we really are -that is the true fellowship!

Going back to the original offence where you felt innocent, you now see that you had been all this time justifying self. You were unaware of it but you became just like the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-14. Ok, so you may have been wronged but when you cry out to all who are willing to listen the wronged been done to you and justifying yourself by admitting you seek reconciliation is nothing other than sin. You can be seeking reconciliation yet without acknowledging the massive beam of wood in your own eye. Suddenly, after seeing the huge beam in your eye that speck in your brother's eye doesn't seem as big as you thought it was! Now you can work on overcoming the sins in your own life as well as being reconciled with your brother. No longer will you feel the need to justify yourself. You will approach the whole matter no more proud and stiff-necked but with head bowed in humility. That way, even when the other person denies doing you any wrong you can still walk in forgiveness praying for and blessing them, hoping that in time the Holy Spirit will shine light in their hearts. Certainly God will be most glorified this way!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Another Modest Proposal

As a high school student you may have read Jonathan Swift's classic work of satire, A Modest Proposal, in which he suggested that the solution to ending poverty in Ireland was cannibalism. In his article, Swift proposes several benefits to society that would result if the poor would simply sell their children as meat to rich landowners. By placing children on the meat market, Ireland would combat social problems that contributed to poverty, such as overpopulation and unemployment. The sale of children would relieve the poor of the financial burden that comes with raising children while simultaneously providing them with a source of extra income. Naturally, the entire essay is intended to prove a point. Swift used the piece as a means of expressing his contempt for the British government which he deemed responsible for Ireland's predicament. The title itself is ironic in that his proposal is far from what one would call "modest." Yet, the entire essay reminds me of a similar but more recent scenario.

Since July of 2008, both local and national news stations alike have been closely following the case of Casey Anthony, the 22-year-old Orlando woman accused of killing her 2 year old daughter, Caylee. (For details on the case, including a timeline of events, click here.) Camera crews captured many of the locals who made it a regular practice to scream and yell accusations while standing at the edge of the Anthony property. The most frequent insult coming from the angry crowds was, "BABY KILLER!"

Watching the drama unfold night after night in front of the Anthony home was almost like watching a modern day witch hunt. It's not that I don't believe Casey is guilty. I believe beyond the shadow of a doubt that she killed her little girl. But what struck me was the dedication by which some of these people came out to proclaim their anger with this woman. It just didn't make any sense to me. Why would people be so angry with Casey Anthony? All she did was kill a child!

For the past 35 years, women have been killing their children by the millions through legalized abortion. No one is standing across the street from their homes, yelling, "Baby Killer!" Truly, the only thing separating Casey Anthony from all these other women is the age of the child when it was murdered. Had Casey Anthony simply aborted little Caylee when she was still pregnant, none of this would be an issue.

It just seems unfair, that poor Casey Anthony is sitting in prison right now, singled out for exercising her right to choose. But because of the age of the child at the time of the abortion, her choice is viewed as a crime. Does not anyone see what a crime has been committed against Casey? Does not anyone realize that we are discriminating against this young woman, simply because she chose to abort her baby after it had been born?

In considering this terrible injustice to a woman who is merely trying to exercise her right to choose, I have been inspired by Jonathan Swift to offer yet Another Modest Proposal, that being, that we legalize the performance of abortions on dependent children up to 16 years. Think of all the social problems we could resolve if we continued to abort children well into the third trimester, and even well into the third grade!

As Swift suggested in 1729, the consumption of children would eliminate poverty, control overpopulation, and alleviate unemployment concerns. Today, the same results could be achieved through legalized abortion. Between 1973 and 2005, an estimated 45 million children were murdered by abortion. Had those children been allowed to live, they'd be between the ages of 3 and 36 this year. I for one am grateful that these children were exterminated when they were, in light of the international economic crisis we are now facing. The right to choose has eliminated several million competitors within the job market, which is beneficial to us at a time when unemployment is at its peak. In the state of Florida, where Caylee Anthony was exterminated, there is a growing shortage of public schoolteachers. The abortions that were performed within the last three years alone have undoubtedly alleviated the pressure to accommodate these children in already over-crowded classrooms. Surely, thousands of dollars in federal financial aid have been spared as well, as none of these children will be going to college.

If we legalize abortion up to 16 years, we will essentially be eliminating all those in our country who are basically free-loading off hard working, productive adults. Adults like Casey Anthony, who can barely get anything accomplished, let alone have a little fun once in a while, because they are burdened with a needy child. Welfare would be greatly reduced, as single mothers would not have to stretch their monthly funds to cover the cost of raising these children. Finally, by allowing a woman to abort a child up to 16 years, the state of Florida itself would be saving millions of dollars because it would no longer have to pay to keep Casey Anthony in jail, as killing a two-year-old would no longer be considered a crime. The "search for Caylee" that cost us thousands would likewise never have occurred, because Casey would have been free to kill her child openly. She would not have had to go through all the trouble to mask her actions and hide her decision as if it were something to be ashamed of.

I realize others have tried similar attempts at population control by eliminating "undesirables" in society, however these previous attempts were not well received. The genius of Adolf Hitler, for example, is still sadly misunderstood decades after his tragic death. However, as a woman who writes a women's blog, I'd like to humbly request that my readers seriously consider this modest proposal, as it promises to open countless doors of opportunities for women everywhere. In closing, I'd like to say one final thing, in case it was not painfully obvious:

THE PRECEDING WAS A SATIRE.


I admit I'm no Jonathan Swift. But I'm no Hitler, either! Therefore, I have an alternate plan, and that is this:

He who is without sin, cast the first stone. The reason we love to hate Casey Anthony is because we love to compare ourselves to her. She makes the rest of us look like perfect little angels. Yet who among us is innocent before God? Which of us can say we have never murdered someone in our hearts out of hatred? Which of us can say we've never committed an act of malice out of pure, unadulterated selfishness? Truly, all of us are depraved. Deep down, we are no different than Casey Anthony.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is Headcovering Distracting?

This month marks one year that I have been covering my head in observance of 1 Corinthians 11. (For a detailed look at my reasoning through this process, please click on the headcovering link in the sidebar.) After a year of study, I have been asked several questions surrounding the opposing viewpoint, namely, that headcoverings are not for today. One of these views which I have not yet addressed is the idea that headcoverings are a distraction in today's culture. The reasoning is that since there are not many women who cover in the church today, a woman who does choose to observe this practice will be considered such an oddity that she will be a distraction to others during the worship service. Some have gone as far as to suggest that the woman might be doing it to purposely draw attention to herself, because she has issues with pride.

I've been approached with this scenario twice in the past month: once online, and once in person. And at the risk of sounding callous, my short and simple response to this objection is, "So what?"

It is insufficient to protest with a mere reply of, "Yeah, but it's distracting to others." I will admit that my reply is a bit cocky. After a year of study, I am sure that headcovering is for today. I am confident I can provide a solid argument for this position and that the opposing viewpoint is nothing more than a mere expression of one's personal opinion. Therefore, if there is scriptural evidence that God has ordained something, it is insufficient to protest with a mere reply of, "Yeah, but it's distracting to others."

I will also admit that in spite of it being a personal opinion, there is truth to the objection. Headcovering is a distraction to some people, which further warrants my response of, "So what?" In other words, if it distracts you, what are you going to do about it?

Let's be honest. The word "distraction" is more often than not a thin disguise for what is really going on: we feel irritated with a sister in Christ after we've passed judgment on her. In my experience, people who are distracted by headcovering are those who do not think it is for today and as a result are quite annoyed that some women choose to do it. If we are annoyed because of what someone else is doing, the problem is not with the other person. The problem is in our own hearts.

I am sure there are those who are offended by what I'm saying. But let me flip the scenario because I've actually been in this position myself.

You see, there are two men in my church who persistently wear hats during the service. One wears a knit cap and the other wears a newsboy-type cap. It is the most distracting thing in the world to me. I think, "According to scripture, they should not be doing that!" I find myself irritated throughout the service, grumbling against them in my heart: "Ugh! Look at those two! Don't they realize that they are disgracing their head? How on earth can anybody concentrate on the service when they are wearing that?! They are so distracting!"

Now I am confident that according to 1 Corinthians 11, I am right, and they are wrong. But I ask you, who do you think God is more displeased with? These two men who are wearing headgear when they shouldn't be (and most likely oblivious to what they are doing), or this woman who's got a prideful, holier-than-thou attitude about being right?

I think whatever someone is doing or not doing is trumped by our attitudes toward those people. If a man covers and I'm distracted by it, what are my choices? My first option is to approach the man, tell him he's bothering me (as if I am a poor innocent bystander who has suffered a deliberate assault on my ability to concentrate) and ask him to remove his hat. Funny, I never take that option. Maybe it's because deep down, I know that if I am irritated over something that is really none of my business, it is my sin and I have a responsibility to deal with it.

We love to point the finger at others and say, "Oh, Lord, what about this person? This person is distracting me!" but honestly, if I was truly focused on the service I wouldn't be concerned over who is covering or not covering:
Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?”
Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” (John 21:21-22)
When I find myself annoyed with a man who chooses to wear a hat, I am only left with the second option: I can choose to ask myself, "So what?" I imagine the Lord would ask me something similar: "So what, Jennifer? So if he covered his whole face, what is that to you? You follow Me!"

Friday, February 13, 2009

Respectable Sins

One way we can best support the doctrine of depravity is to look at the sin that continues to remain within us as believers, even long after we are saved. One of the best resources on the subject is the book, Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, by Jerry Bridges. The preface of this book makes a statement that I could not agree with more – a statement that serves as one of the pillars of this website:
This book, as the title announces, is about sin – not the obvious sins of our culture but the subtle sins of believers . . . The motivation for this book stems from a growing conviction that those of us whom I call conservative evangelicals may have become so preoccupied with some of the major sins of society around us that we have lost sight of the need to deal with our own more “refined” or subtle sins. (Bridges, 2007, p. 9).
To Mr. Bridges I say a hearty hallelujah and amen! Bridges asserts that every believer is a saint – regardless of their level of maturity (just look at the Corinthian believer). This is essential to understand for several reasons. First and foremost, it supports the doctrine of perseverance of the saints. Secondly, and more importantly to our own sanctification process, it renders us guilty of judgmentalism without excuse when we claim to judge fellow believers as a “false convert” based upon some man-made standard of behavior.

The presence of sin is not indicative of one’s status with God. You and I, although chosen and sealed by God, continue to live in sin, as explained in the prior post. We love to deceive ourselves into thinking we are no longer “living in sin” because we’ve repented of the obvious ones. But Bridges lists a number of sins that many believers, myself included, continue to make a lifestyle of, despite our status as born again believers. Look over this list carefully. Where on the list do you see your heart represented?

Ungodliness
Anxiety and Frustration
Discontentment
Unthankfulness
Pride
Selfishness
Lack of Self Control
Impatience and Irritability
Anger
Judgmentalism
Envy, Jealousy, and Related Sins
Sins of the Tongue
Worldliness

We may not be fornicating, we may not be shooting up drugs, embezzling money, or worshipping Satan. But if any of the above sins are a way of life for us, then I think it would be fair to say we are living in sin. This is our lifestyle. And as a born-again believer, I too am forced to admit that my name belongs right beside every single one of these sins.

Does that make me a false convert? No. My salvation is not based upon my ability to overcome these sins on my own. My salvation is the result of Christ dying on the cross to pay for these sins that I continue to cherish in my wicked heart. I am a sinner saved by grace. But I am still a sinner, and for this reason I still need the gospel. Bridges claims that believers still need to preach the gospel not only to unbelievers, but to themselves as well.

Think about what Jesus said in Mark 16:15. Did He say, “Go and preach the gospel to every unbelieving creature?” No. He said “Go and preach the gospel to every creature.” Every creature needs the gospel. Those of us who are already saved are no exception.

Total depravity can be defined as the absence of purity. When we consider how much sin is still residing in our heart, even long after we’ve given up the “obvious” sin, can you see how hopeless our case is? For 13 years after I was saved, I was astonished to learn that I was still embracing these sins as a lifestyle. The realization helped me to understand how incredibly depraved I really am, and how much I truly need the Lord every day.

A friend once explained it to me like this: Have you ever tried to wash out a jar of peanut butter? After the jar is empty, and there is no peanut butter left, the scent of peanut butter still remains. You can scrub and soak that jar for hours, but somehow, that stubborn peanut butter smell lingers. You and I have been scrubbed clean by the blood of Christ. But the stench of sin still lingers in our hearts.

Bridges' book discusses each of the "respectable sins" which we tolerate chapter by chapter, and provides practical, sound advice for mortifying these sins. This is a great book that belongs in every Christian's library. You can purchase Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

White Collar Criminals

For many years, I did not understand that I was depraved. I knew I was a sinner, but I didn't think I was that bad. After all, there were many people out there who had sinned far worse than me. I understood that Christ had died for my sins, but they were only "white collar crimes." I wasn't depraved. At least I didn't think so.

Depravity, as far as I was concerned, was something one measured on a sliding scale: Serial killers on one end, Mother Teresa on the other. Perverse, evil, morally corrupt, wicked - these were all words to describe depraved behavior. But depravity is something much more compelling than this. Depravity is not something we measure by our behavior, because depravity is a condition that affects the human heart. Depravity is the complete and total inability to stop sinning in one's own power.

There is sin in your life. You may be aware of it, you may not. But it's there. Think about it. Right now, there is some sin in your life that you have not repented of. I'm not talking about the obvious examples, like drugs, alcohol, sex, lying through your teeth, shoplifting, etc. I'm talking about whatever it is that renders you, at this very moment, less than perfect.

Romans 1:18-32 discusses the depravity of humankind. For the first 13 years of my walk with God, I never saw myself in this passage. But one day God compelled me to look closer -- and I was stunned by what I saw:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
Have you ever suppressed the truth? Have you ever insisted that words like "submission" are outdated and certainly not meant for the modern woman?
19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
Have you ever made excuses for your "preferred doctrines," even though God has made the truth evident to you? Have you ever made excuses for why it was okay for you to usurp the leadership role from a man to whom it was rightfully given?
21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
How many times did I profess to know something by looking to psychologists and sociologists for answers when it came to relationships between men and women? How many times did I look to stupid secular magazines for advice, rejecting the Word of God, exchanging it for a lie, and profess to be wise by doing so?
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;
I thought this passage was not about me. I am not involved in homosexual behavior. Remember, I am just a white collar criminal. But the only difference between me and the person in this passage is that God did not give me over to my debased mind. For whatever reason, He chose to save me from it.
29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,[a] wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving,[b] unmerciful;
Can any of us deny that this is an accurate description of us, even now? When was the last time you had a covetous, malicious thought? Have you whispered lately? Are you proud? Untrustworthy? Unloving? Unforgiving? All of these describe the condition of my heart even now, after sixteen years of knowing the Lord.
32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
How many times did I cast this passage off as an indictment of the sexually perverse? Meanwhile, I clung to my man-bashing habits, my "girl-power" attitude, my admiration for the "independent woman." Oh, not only did I engage in these behaviors, there I was, giving hearty approval to others who practiced this as well.

I was a Christian for 13 years before God had revealed to me that I was living in sin. I had an idea that my attitude was not pleasing to Him. But depraved? Certainly not! Remember, I am just a white collar criminal.

But white collar criminals are still criminals.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ace in the Hole

In an effort to spend some time acknowledging the reformed side of Reformed SHEology, our chosen Film of the Month is Ace in the Hole, starring Kirk Douglas. This is a tale of human depravity like no other!

Kirk Douglas stars as Chuck Tatum, an overly ambitious journalist who will do anything to get the big story - including manufacturing details that would turn an ordinary story into a news sensation. Chuck's "ace in the hole" brings out the worst in everyone . . . with tragic consequences.

STATS
Year: 1951 (Not Rated)
Directed by Billy Wilder
Starring Kirk Douglas and Jan Sterling
Setting: Albequerque, New Mexico, 1951.

Content warning: None, other than the fact that this film is considered to be an example of "Film Noir." (That basically means it is a dark story that will probably not leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling in the end.) If you are anything like me, you will be sick to your stomach about halfway through this story and feel incredibly saddened when it is over. Yet, this is a stunningly accurate illustration of the human inclination to center the universe around our own needs, desires, and comforts.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. The growth of lies. When we lie, we often need to manufacture more lies in an effort to protect the original lies we told. From the beginning of this film, we are met with a stern warning: "Tell the Truth." We will see in this film that lying to get ahead has its consequences.

2. The god of self. We see selfish ambition manifest itself in Chuck Tatum, but pay special attention to Lorraine Mimosa (Jan Sterling), the ungrateful, disrespectful wife of Leo Minosa. As her husband's life hangs in the balance, all she can think about is how much better off she will be without him.

3. Everyone is infected by sin. One of the greatest spectacles in this film is the masses of people being dropped off by the trains, rushing to the mountain site where Leo Minosa is trapped. As he gasps for air and struggles to stay alive, we see literally thousands of people enjoy cotton candy and carousel rides as they wait for news of Leo's rescue. The insensitivity to the needs of another human being in this film is off the charts.

4. The power of the conscience. Guilt sets in finally for Chuck Tatum as he realizes that his depraved desire to worship self has resulted in tragedy. The conscience is the only thing that sets a standard for Chuck and alerts him to the fact that his actions are sinful.

5. The bias in the media. Even in 1951, we see a scathing indictment of the media: that their real agenda is not to tell the truth, but to align themselves with successful corporate giants for personal and professional gain.

TRIVIA
The film was originally titled, The Big Carnival.

"Ace in the Hole" is a slang expression meaning a secret or extra asset to assure success, referring to the ace playing card a player has as a hole card (or face down card) in a game of stud poker. It is also a play on words, as in this film, the "ace" -- the thing that is going to give Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas) his big break as a journalist -- is a man who is literally trapped in a hole.

Thank God there is hope for the human race through Jesus Christ our Lord!