Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker
Jessica Chastain did a great job capturing the depth and soul of both Tammy Faye and Jim Bakker in the latest movie, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Expecting a sound thrashing and bashing that the secular world inflicts on those self-proclaimed Christians who live like the devil, I was amazed at how Chastain captured the life path and process that started with the innocence of faith and loving the Lord, led to fame and fortune, that all finally crashed and burned.
The sweet faith of these two who would later found PTL (Praise the Lord) was evident from the beginning of the film. Young and new in the Lord, both Tammy Faye and Jim sought an audience among the children, using puppets to proclaim the power of the Gospel. They went on the road and their fame quickly grew.
But as the tens of millions of followers all over the world fawned over PTL and the two witnesses, the temptations that come with money and fame led to sexual sin and corruption and finally jail time for Jim, and later the collapse of the entire empire. Jerry Falwell tried to salvage PTL, but to no avail. And somewhat interestingly his son, Jerry Falwell, Jr. later would fall just as hard, as he was accused of watching the pool boy have sex with his wife in some sort of sordid sexual sport.
Trashed and broken, Tammy Faye and Jim became persona non grata in the Christian world, unable to get anything new and significant going for them. The film ends with Tammy Faye ultimately invited to sing at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma. We watch as the audience looks generally perplexed and skeptical, but as the Lord carries her song, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, the audience is clearly moved by the Holy Spirit. They begin to slowly stand, bow their heads, and reach their hands toward heaven in worship.
Though Jerry Falwell was strident in his stand against sin, Tammy Faye showed love and acceptance to homosexuals and excluded no groups. None. She sought to love on everyone. And the takeaway of the film is that although another human being who represented the God of all Creation fails and falls hard, her legacy will be the message of the importance of loving people, regardless of who these people might be.
Job was a good man, loved the Lord, trusted and obeyed, and did his best to live a life of faith and to please God. Unbeknownst to Job, Satan, a fallen Cherub, sought to put Job to a real test, telling God that of course Job would trust God, for he had been so incredibly blessed.
The test was tougher than anything you and I will ever face. His children were all killed, his possessions stolen or destroyed, and he himself was stricken with painful, bleeding boils from head to foot. He scraped the boils with a shard from broken pottery. The picture is grim.
Job’s friends were of the ‘health and wealth Gospel’ variety, and insisted Job must be hiding some sin or his life would not have taken this turn for the worse. He spent a great deal of discussion trying to convince them that he had nothing amiss. They weren’t buying it, but finally gave up and accused Job of trying to justify himself before God.
Interesting that though Job lost everything, though his wife was spared. As she watched his suffering she just shook her head and concluded with this disparaging remark, “just curse God and die.”
In the end God honored Job’s integrity and rebuked Satan. He restored more than Job had lost earlier, and the takeaway for us is that suffering does not mean we have some unconfessed sin in our lives, that is simply untrue. The lives of people like Jesus and Paul are a testimony to the difficulties that Christians will face if they choose to walk with God. Except for John, all the apostles were hideously executed when they could have saved themselves. All they needed to do was to deny that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Lot was the nephew of Abraham and a good man. But he was drawn to a prosperous town called Sodom, and became one of the respected leaders there. Sodom had been judged shot through with evil, except for Lot, no upstanding and upright righteous people lived there. It would be destroyed just as a pack of rabid dogs need to be put down because there simply is no means of saving them. Nations can cross a line when their sin is so dominant in a culture, that the suffering and sin prevent anyone from breaking out and calling on the Lord for His help. An entire nation can give themselves completely over to sin and darkness and will suffer terrible lives, the consequences of sowing to the flesh and following Satan rather than God.
Two angels led Lot, his wife, and two daughters out of the city as fire and brimstone rained down and utterly and completely destroyed lives and property. Though the four were warned, “don’t even look back,” Lot’s wife stopped, turned, and looked back at the holocaust that was occurring. She became encrusted in salt, and the archeologists have today found such large quantities of salt in this area that they suspect either a meteor or volcanic activity accounts for such massive devastation on such a large scale.
The boyfriends of Lot’s daughters, and Lot’s wife, had succumbed to the lure of sin city and found they could not extract themselves nor free themselves from the bondage of the sin that dominated the culture. Sin blinds. Sin numbs. In the end it destroys.
Balaam & Balak
Balaam was a prophet of God. Balak was the King of Moab. Moab had become surrounded by Israel, which had grown in numbers and military might. Balak heard about Balaam and was convinced that if Balaam would pronounce a curse on Israel, the nation of Israel would suffer as a result. Balak sent a contingent to Balaam’s home, offering him a lot of money.
God did not approve of this, of course, but the smell of so much money put Balaam on his donkey and off to Moab he rode. But when he tried to curse Israel as Balak watched, the Lord put in the mouth of the prophet only blessings. He tried several times, but always blessings.
But as we see many times, the determination of man, when it comes to his own will versus the will of God, finally leads man to get his own way, a seemingly successful result, but ultimately ends in destruction. Balaam moved into the Moab neighborhood and counseled Balak how to get the beautiful Moabite women to intermingle, marry and lead the Israelites into their own rites and rituals of idol worship. This finally led to the weakening of Israel as a nation and their own defeat and destruction.
Balaam became a wealthy man, just as was Lot, but was ultimately killed when Moab fell.
Samson & Delilah
Samson was a Nazarite, set apart from birth to serve God as a ‘judge’ over Israel. His strength was legendary and unrivaled, and on several occasions the Philistines learned some pretty tough lessons as he could stand against a great number of them all by himself, holding his own and taking his stand, while thrashing scores of Philistines with nothing more than the jawbone of a donkey.
He did not heed the Word of his Lord when it came to his choice of women however, and missed the opportunity to select a wife from among his own people. This led to the enchanting Delilah, whose fealty was first and foremost to the Philistines. They paid her to learn the source of Samson’s strength.
Samson tired of her constant nagging and finally confessed that as a Nazarite he could not cut his hair. So the time came when he was sleeping; she snuck up close to him and cut his hair. It wasn’t the hair itself that gave him power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit working through the obedience of his people that was the source of the power. Nevertheless, the disobedience meant his strength was sapped, and the Philistines gouged out his eyes and imprisoned him.
Yet just as the anointing on the final song sung by Tammy Faye at Oral Roberts University, the final act of Samson was to wipe out more Philistines in one fell swoop than all the others he had killed when his strength was with him. What today media might call a ‘suicidal religious terrorist attack,’ the Philistines were gathered together to celebrate their god Dagon. After bringing out Samson for entertainment, Samson though blind, felt the large pillars of the temple within the reach of his arms.
Samson prayed to his God and God returned the strength he needed to push mightily against the pillars and collapse the temple, killing 3,000 Philistines, along with Samson that day.
David & Bathsheba
David was loved by God and called ‘the apple of His eye.’ Wherever he went, whatever he did, the Lord gave him success and victory. Though he had been hiding in caves and running from the former King Saul, the Lord protected David and always helped him escape the wrath of Saul.
Once David was finally anointed King after Saul’s death in battle, peace and prosperity prevailed and all the nations feared the power of mighty Israel. But just as in peacetime and prosperous times we may finally relax and enjoy, that is when testing and temptation take their turn at trying to topple the child of God.
Joab, David’s military leader, was off in battle while David stayed home. One evening as David walked about on his roof he saw a naked Bathsheba bathing on her roof not far away. He was smitten and had his servant fetch the beautiful woman. He slept with her and she became pregnant.
David instructed Joab to setup Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, to be killed in battle so he could marry Bathsheba and raise the baby. Needless to say, the Lord was displeased. And consequently the seeds of violence that were sowed brought a whirlwind of violence into David and his family’s life after this. And the baby died soon after being born.
Yet David loved the Lord and continued walking in faith, making plans to build a great temple dedicated to God. With his bloody track record, God forbid that David should build this temple, but was touched and pleased that David had this in his heart and mind to accomplish.
So it was Solomon, another son of David and Bathsheba, that took the plans for the temple and later completed this amazing architectural wonder, filled with gold and silver and so awesome that leaders from all the nations would visit just to see it and to meet Solomon.
God spoke to Solomon, instructing him to avoid mixing with nations whose gods were counterfeit gods and whose practices would lead the Israelites astray. But much like Samson, Solomon was tempted through his power and riches, and slowly but steadily lost his anointing and close relationship with God as a result. He married 700 women and enjoyed the company of another 300 whom he didn’t marry. He became involved in business with nations that God had forbid him to trade with. Though he was once intimately close to the Lord, and his prayer dedicating the new temple is one of the sweetest odes in the Bible, he became depressed and despondent in the twilight of his life.
His later writings would declare that all of his knowledge, all of his accomplishments, everything that he had done now seemed to him empty and meaningless, as he would die just as any other man, and would never know what became of all that he left behind. This failure led to a national fracture, and Israel would become separated during the time of Solomon’s son, King Rehoboam. Yet the Lord continued to bless the Israelites and kept for himself a people he loved and had promised through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to shepherd and protect.
Reverend David Hocking, Calvary Church, Santa Ana
Locally here a popular pastor fell into an adulterous relationship and was drummed out of his church. Humbled and broken he approached Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel for work. Many people at Calvary Chapel were appalled and preferred to prevent David Hocking from ever becoming a part of Calvary Chapel.
But Chuck Smith had pastored a long while. He used to say that as time went on he found himself less and less judgmental, and more and more willing to forgive, even some of the more egregious sins. Christians are “becoming” more like Jesus as they grow in faith. Their strident and judgmental posturing gives way to softening and tender, forgiving hearts that see that the truth is we all have a sinful nature. All of us want to love and be loved, but none of us measures up to a standard of “deserving” such love, as we all fall short in some areas of life.
These stories are to demonstrate a common thread. Christians will find themselves on a road that includes many of their personal and inevitable faults and failures. But these are meant to strengthen us, to humble us, in order that we seek God with all our might, knowing that we are incapable of becoming good people with loving hearts through our own efforts. Only by seeing the sinful nature of ourselves can we love others in spite of their shortcomings. After all, everyone is an image-bearer of their Creator, and truth be told, we want to take as many to heaven with us as we possibly can.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18.
But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.