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'Spectre': a movie review

Spectre, the twenty-fourth movie adaptation of Ian Fleming's James Bond (there was a twenty-fifth that is thankfully not considered part of the official series), was released in American theaters on Friday after spending a week generating headlines and raking in revenue overseas. It opens with a traditionally exciting and exceptionally well-filmed sequence during Mexico City's Day of the Dead parade. We find James running through crowds and across rooftops on his way to foil a terrorist plot and uncover information on the shadowy organization he has pursued since 2006's franchise reboot Casino Royale.

From there the film proceeds in the same fashion as recent iterations with Bond going rogue-agent in order to do what's necessary despite the objections and orders of those nominally in charge. The entertaining journey is full of beautiful scenes, captivating action sequences, and homages to the previous films. In fact, those allusions to the franchise's history feel, at times, like the primary goal of the film and often come at the expense of crafting a more coherent plot. While they are likely to provide great enjoyment for fans of the older films (guilty), they leave Spectre feeling a bit incomplete and jumbled.

Don't get me wrong, the movie was still a lot of fun, and Christoph Waltz does a fantastic job with what he's given as the film's delightfully wicked antagonist. However, I still left the theater feeling like the movie could have been much more if its writers had been more concerned with making a quality film than with tying together the previous three. Scott Mendelson put it well in his review for Forbes: "Pretty much everything Spectre has to offer amounts to something that a previous Bond movie did better. And that's the trap of doing a Bond movie in the 'generational nostalgia' sandbox. You end up replaying the best parts of other films and reminding audiences that prior 007 adventures did it better."

If we're not careful, we can make the same mistake in our walk with the Lord. One of my greatest spiritual struggles has been allowing a few moments where I experienced a closer relationship with God to serve as the foundation of that relationship instead of a continual pursuit of his presence. Whether it was a church event, a sermon that seemed to resonate, or a powerful time alone with the Lord, it can be far easier to hold onto those moments than seek after new ones. I tend feel closer to God in the present when I focus on those times of closeness from the past.

Thinking back on past experiences with the Lord can be a helpful part of a growing relationship with him. Reminders of his faithfulness and the peace of his presence can help sustain us in times of difficulty or trial. However, when the past becomes sufficient for the present, when we no longer feel a continual need to meet with the Lord, then we are crossing into dangerous territory and our relationship with him can stagnate as a result.

In 1 Chronicles 16, David had just led the Israelites to return the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. After doing so, he led them in a song of thanks for all God had done that, a song that also served to remind the people that the Ark alone would not guarantee a closer relationship with God. As part of that song, David encourages the people to "Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Israel his servant, sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!" (1 Chronicles 16:11-13).

Essentially, David wanted the people to look back on all that God had done for them in the past and use it to fuel a never-ending desire to meet with him in the present. That was a lesson the Israelites failed to follow throughout their history, and it had disastrous results for their relationship with God. The same will be true of us if we make their mistake ours.

The past can be a powerful motivator for the present, but it can never serve as a sufficient replacement for a continual pursuit of God's presence. So don't settle for less than the abundant life that can only come from a relationship with the Lord that is new each day. That's what God wants. Do you?

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