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MOVIE REVIEW: GOD’S NOT DEAD 2

God's not dead 2

 

“I’d rather stand with God and be judged by the world, than stand with the world and be judged by God” – Grace Wesley

God’s Not Dead 2 introduces us to Grace Wesley, (played by Melissa Joan Hart), a high school teacher, who refuses to apologize for her faith, even when the school board takes her to court after what they consider to be be proselytizing.

The incident that started it all was her response to a question from a student, Brooke Thawley, (played by Hayley Orrantia), in regards to how Martin Luther King and Gandhi’s non-violent approach to peace can compare to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Much like God’s Not Dead, (which I reviewed here), this sequel revolves around the theme of standing strong for one’s faith and convictions. This time, instead of the teacher as the antagonist, the teacher is the persecuted. Instead of the class as jury, there is a real jury.

As we hear the arguments from both the plaintiff’s attorney (played by Ray Wise), and Grace’s attorney (Jesse Metcalfe), we are asked to consider one question: Is it faith at trial, or is our heroine?

Takeaways from the movie:

  1. I think it is a timely movie with a timely message. Religious civil rights and freedoms are a big battleground right now. As such, God’s Not Dead 2 has been criticized as catering to a “persecution complex”, and in all honesty, I can see why people would say that. It is true that we as believers in the U.S. suffer very little for our faith compared to those in the Middle East. And yet, I believe that any awareness of the growing intolerance (as evidenced by 50 real life court cases at the end of the movie), is not crying wolf, but simply acknowledging written prophecy. (Matthew 10:22). It’s not as much about any present level of persecution, it’s about the gradual trend that society is taking, and recognizing it from the frame of reference of a Christ follower. Pastor Dave (played by David A.R. White) refers to this awareness when he said “If we sit by and do nothing, the pressure that we’re feeling today will mean persecution tomorrow”.

  2. I found the real-life witnesses used for the defense to be quite compelling, especially that of J. Warner Wallace, (Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University) who wrote “Cold Case Christianity”. In this work, he provides readers with ten principles of cold case investigations and utilizes these principles to examine the reliability of the gospel accounts. The approach of the defense was to prove the historic Jesus, logically and factually. Much was left with to audience to ponder, at least for this viewer.

  3. I could relate to the underlying theme of doubting one’s faith. Trisha LaFache is back to play the role of Amy Ryan, a reporter diagnosed with cancer. She is in remission now, but begins to wonder if her faith came about only because she was in crisis. There are two other characters in this film (played by Martin Yip and the aforementioned Hayley Orrantia) who are full of questions about faith. In light of the overriding courtroom drama, a parallel is drawn: Christ once asked the question, “who do you say that I am?”, and we must all answer it, both individually and as a society.

The weaknesses:

  1. I found the classroom conversation that brought the matter under question in the first place to be a bit far-fetched. A teacher gave a factual, historical answer to a student’s honest question. Even the scriptures quoted were done in context of a historical speech, and none of it even remotely sounded like proselytizing. It would have been more interesting to create a circumstance with more gray area, but I think we just need to take this movie as a caricature that was written to make a point; a simple sketch of real-life situations.

  2. At times, there were story lines that were incohesive and could have been developed more, or otherwise seemed to drop off for no reason. In one scene, Pastor David is threatened for not turning in his sermon transcript to city authorities. We never see what happens with that. God’s Not Dead 3 perhaps?

  3. While I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I will say that I found the closing argument to be confusing, in light of the no-nonsense approach of the previous arguments of the defense. It didn’t seem to fit into their decided strategy, and in my opinion unnecessary and probably not likely to be successfully had this been a real courtroom.

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Have you ever been put in a position to defend your faith, even at the cost of your job, friends, or family?

 

 

 

JIMMY NEEDHAM’S “CLEAR THE STAGE”: A MUST HEAR

Dear Friends,

We have heard so much about how this country is running from God lately. We’ve seen blatant examples of that in this past week, but can we stop long enough to admit something?

We, as believers, can run from God too. I think we’ve all been there – We run from God when we ignore prayer and let our unconfessed sin fester within us. We run from God when we disregard our nagging conscience, knowing that our fellowship with God suffers for it.

We may try to cover it up by living as if all is well…or will be well, if only we work harder, do more, or have more fun. Our lives can become blinded with busy-ness and frivolity. There’s no sense of urgency to what is important, and no honesty to ourselves or anyone else. Our souls cry for a time-out, yet our pride yells to keep going. Our pre-occupations become idols that have taken the place of God in our lives. What is revival if we, ourselves, aren’t humble and real and broken before the Lord?

That’s why I wanted to share this song with you. It isn’t often that I run into one that cuts to the chase so well. It expresses the great need we all have, that moment we realize that the charade has to end, and we find ourselves before the Lord in honest confession of the condition of our hearts. I think it will be well worth a listen:

*Jimmy Needham, “Clear the Stage” Inpop Albums, 2012

 

I’ve thought of the lyrics many times. Here they are with my commentary, and questions that I have pondered:

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that’s the measure you must take to crush the idols

How am I in the center of my world?

What is the measure I must take to crush the idols in my life?

Do I dare to take that measure?

Jerk the pews and all the decorations, too
Until the congregation’s few, then have revival
Tell your friends that this is where the party ends
Until you’re broken for your sins, you can’t be social
Then seek the Lord and wait for what he has in store
And know that great is your reward so just be hopeful

It’s not about the beauty of our worship centers, is it?

Is there ever a time when it’s more beneficial to retreat, alone?

When we meet together, is it just about the hellos, and the niceties of polite greetings?

Are church gatherings and programs about true fellowship or do they serve as just another distraction?

 Is it right to ignore the desperation we should have to meet with God, in this day and age?

 What brings revival?

What will God impress upon me if I pray earnestly, if I am still enough to sit in silence?

 Are you encouraged of your reward for sober-minded, serious reflection?

‘Cause you can sing all you want to
Yes, you can sing all you want to
You can sing all you want to
And still get it wrong; worship is more than a song

What is true worship before God?

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper

He said, “Be still and know that I am God.”(Psalm 46:10)

Beg him please to open up his mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open

How do we hide from the Lord?

Where is our sense of urgency in prayer?

Are we as aware of our spiritual condition as we think we are?

What will we see if we are honest before Him?

What is the result of confession and repentance of sin?
Then read the word and put to test the things you’ve heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken
I don’t know where you are in your faith.

 Is there something you haven’t trusted to the Lord?

Have you read His word?

Do you dare to put apply it to your life?

Do you believe at all?

If not, have you ever cried out to God to make Himself known to you? I beg of you, Read His word, and with an honest heart of faith, confess your sin and repent. I dare you to then walk in faith, study it earnestly, and see if it does not ring true.

I dare you, and I dare myself.

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King David cried out, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

 

ON THE RECENT DUGGAR CASE

Duggars

Like many “19 Kids and Counting” viewers, I’m saddened to hear of Josh Duggar’s confession of sexual molestation of 5 girls, 4 of which were his own sisters. Over the weekend, I’ve read many articles and comments that either sweep it under the rug by saying “forgive, it was a mistake”, to downright glee at his downfall. Both are disturbing to me because they represent reactions written from emotion and bias. Yet, with as much talk about this right now, I can’t be silent not to address this issue. It’s a very public, real-life  circumstance that has generated a windstorm of assumptions. It’s brought up questions concerning forgiveness and accountability, honesty and moral dilemma. How do you and I, as Christians response to such a crime committed by a professing brother in Christ? This story seems to beg the question. I’m writing today in hopes to offer a clear-headed, balanced response.

I don’t know Josh Duggar nor anyone in this family. I don’t know all the details and I never will. I can’t read anyone’s heart or mind. What I have pondered are some general thoughts and principles I believe are to be considered:

  • First and foremost, Josh Duggar committed a horrific crime. It was committed deliberately and repetitively. You cannot shrug it off simply by saying “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Are you saying that because he professes to be a Christian? Would you say that about anyone in his shoes? He wasn’t a “child” at the time and knew exactly what he was doing, and was NOT just a “mistake”. For that, he needed (or still needs) extensive help, and needless to say, a punishment worthy of the crime. Accountability and Forgiveness are not the same thing. 
  • Josh Duggar is a sinner. He possesses the same origin of sin as any other child molester, any murderer, any thief. Let me ask you this—(because I see it in myself also) —have you ever noticed that our jails are full of such criminals that most Christians never evangelized, nor visit with the gospel? Yet when, and if, they show an interest in God are suddenly extended a hand of fellowship or a pat on the back? They are suddenly humanized because they have stepped over on our terms. Why aren’t we seeing the same potential of repentance in them as we think we see in Josh Duggar? Why is there such a double standard? 
  • Don’t trust appearances. Even the most pristine family may not always be what they seem. Now, I admire what the family and their show stood for; I share their values and I definitely rooted for their success and witness in the middle of a world waiting for them to fall. Yet, even before this came to light, I never thought it was wise to publicly hold anyone up on a pedestal.  On a large or small scale, men will fail us. Whether they are reality show stars, Sunday school teachers, or family. I’m not saying to throw trust out the window, but that our standard and confidence is ultimately only One, and that is Jesus Christ. 
  • I’m grieved that this very public incident has hurt the body of Christ as a whole. By being so much in the public eye, this family was under a microscope. As such, their credibility is under question. I support TLC’s decision to take them off the air, at least until some restoration or restitution can be made. I cannot speculate on this point, but if the parents knew the history with Josh, I question the wisdom of the decision to have a show, knowing the damage this revelation would do in the long run. 
  • I believe in restoration of the sinner. I believe that if Josh Duggar is truly repentant, if he has truly mourned over his sin, if he has dealt with it in his heart and before his victims, that God has forgiven him. I believe that about anyone in his shoes. Does that mean that just because someone is repentant that there are no consequences? No. Otherwise, we might as well let everyone, even those who are truly repentant out of jail. Additionally, even if this repentance has already taken place, as someone in the limelight, he has a responsibility to his viewers to prove that repentance. I don’t know what that looks like, God does. 
  • Our job is to pray…pray and understand that all things work together for the good for the Christian. (Romans 8:28). Pray that their eyes would be open to any false doctrine or wrong teaching, and any dysfunction in the family would be corrected if there are any. Pray for the victims, that they have healed and will heal from this present crisis. I think it’s wishful and probably unlikely that all is well across the board, but who knows – maybe God will choose the right means of restoration to create an honest and even more transparent witness for Him. Otherwise, pray that He would use this in the individuals that were more directly effected in ways that we will never know.

MOVIE REVIEW: “GOD’S NOT DEAD”

God's not dead
You might want to think about a different instructor.”

The registration assistant glances down at the cross around Josh Wheaton’s neck, looks down at his class choice, raises an eyebrow, and adds, “Let’s just say you’re wandering into the snake pit. … Think Roman Coliseum. Lions. People cheering for your death.”

 Can’t say he wasn’t warned.

 While not exactly the Roman Coliseum, the movie “God’s not Dead”, certainly sets the stage for this poor guy to be eaten up alive.

The main character, Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper), is a college freshman who finds his faith and courage immediately challenged by his atheist philosophy professor. It all starts when Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo), demands that everyone turn in papers saying, “God is Dead” so that he doesn’t have to waste time arguing that point. His class, his rules. And what he says, goes.

When Josh refuses, (and he is the only one who refuses) he is given an ultimatum. Either agree that god is dead or take the podium and try to convince the unsupportive class that God is not dead. (Funny, I thought the professor said he wasn’t going to debate that topic, but apparently he changed his mind).

Throughout the movie, Josh is bullied by the professor, cornered and threatened in a hallway, and nearly humiliated in front of the class. Despite losing his girlfriend and the mounting pressure to give in, he continues to stand firm in his conviction, drawing upon what I think is the scripture theme of the movie:

“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:23).

Some good takeaways from the movie:

  1. “God’s not Dead” does not leave room for interpretation or symbolism. It comes right out and speaks the name of Christ and His Scripture. It professes Jesus as Lord and Savior, which is huge in this world of relativism and vague universal-all-is-god-love-peace-mumbo-jumbo.

  1. It did a good job of portraying the theme of standing up for your beliefs by weaving several more characters who ended up doing just that, in their own ways.

      • A Muslim girl (Hadeel Sittu) is beaten and kicked out of her house by her father when she professes Christ.

      • A Chinese student (Paul Kwo) shocks his own father (who lives in Communist China) when he texts “God’s not Dead”

      • Professor’s Radisson’s girlfriend, who we find out converted to Christianity, finds the courage to break up with him.

  1. By allowing the audience to see past the hardened exterior of some of the characters, I was reminded that I can’t assume that anyone is beyond conviction, beyond God’s love.

  1. It drew an interesting parallel in showing how people can react differently to the same circumstance (dying of cancer). While one character became bitter at God, another one turned to God.

The weaknesses:

  1. This movie has gotten criticism for being overblown in its portrayal of Professor Radisson, and I agree. Maybe I’m naïve, but to have a professor demand signed papers saying “God is Dead”, and (on top of that), not having more than one student object to it seems implausible. At least not in the country…at least not yet.

From the exaggerated stare-downs and seething, disgusted “I loathe you” glares, to his red-faced outbursts, the character of Professor Radisson comes across as a one-dimensional caricature of the angry atheist — if not a little creepy that he has nothing better to do with his time than stalk his student.

I’m not sure how convincing this film is to anyone who isn’t faith-minded, simply because of the way the opposition is handled. Had the filmmakers been fair to Sorbo’s character and created him to be more reasonable and open to a thoughtful dialogue (i.e. more realistic), it may have evened out the playing field and drawn more viewers to honestly consider the question of God. As it was written, the atheist stereotype forces a shallow approach to the movie and probably puts outsiders on the defense. Think of this way – Christians are always poked fun of. Are we to do the same to our enemies?

  1. The aforementioned scene of a Muslim student being slapped and dragged out of the house by her strict father when he discovers that she is a Christian can be taken as a stereotype against Islam. I don’t believe it was intended to be, but it just shows the reality that has happened to some.

  1. In one of Josh’s lectures, he implied that God worked through the process of evolution to create man, which is a lie. My Bible says that God created man through Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis (Genesis 2:7, 2:22). Additionally, when Josh was asked why he was willing to risk so much to defend his faith, he answered “because Jesus is my friend, and I don’t want to let Him down.” While there is a sense that Jesus is our Friend, this answer alone is incomplete and weak. How about, “I’m doing it in obedience and love for my Lord and Savior”? It seems that we as Christians have become far too casual with God, using terms we could also use for a roommate we’re helping with a mid-term.

Despite these weaknesses, I am happy to hear the Gospel proclaimed in this movie and especially the story of redemption in the end. It has an especially fitting title as we come up to the Easter season. We may even add a line to our typical greeting:

“He is Risen”

“He is Risen, Indeed”

“Our God’s not Dead”

“He’s surely Alive”

Has anyone seen this movie? What are your thoughts? What would you do if you were in a similar situation? Would you step up to the challenge despite the cost?

MY THOUGHTS ON MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY’S OSCAR SPEECH: IT’S NOT WHAT YOU THINK

I don’t know how one little Oscar speech has gotten to be such a study of social and spiritual dynamics for me, but the more I pondered Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar acceptance at the Academy Awards last week, the more I began to make some interesting observations about what was said, both on stage and in the media.

I don’t usually last through awards shows. I tune in here and there for the fashion, and I didn’t hear that Mr. McConaughey happened to mention God in his speech until it was online the next day.

“First off I want to thank God, because that’s who I look up to,” he said. “He’s graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand.”

That’s the clincher line, but here’s his whole speech:

Matt M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7nsR3SJMc8Q

I don’t care for the spoof on heaven and I don’t get the whole “chasing me” thing, but overall it is an articulate speech from an actor who is obviously very comfortable in the spotlight. I’ll get to more about his words in a minute, but what I find intriguing are the comments that Conservatives and Christians have made in light of his nod to deity. They are mainly two:

1)    They suddenly want to praise and thank Matthew for being the light in a dark world.

2)    They are saying how Hollywood is shunning him and almost took his award away, how they were so confused that you could have heard a pin drop when he mentioned God.

Really?

Now, I think it’s great that he mentioned God. I think it shows a deep-set awareness that there IS a higher power, an awareness that God Himself put within each of us. (Romans 1:20). I believe acknowledgement of that awareness is commendable and it shows humility.

However, that is about as much as I can commend him for his statement. I can’t say much more because he didn’t tell us who His God is. Is it Allah? Is it Buddha? Is it the Great God only summoned with bongos while dancing in the buff”?

I’m even more confused as to which god he is thanking for the opportunity to star in a movie, which (according to pluggedin.com ) contains explicit sexual material, heavy drug & alcohol use, violence, and over 100 f-words.

In this world of relativism and tolerance, the mention of god can be nothing more than the nebulous accolade to the wonders of the Universe. Anything or anyone can be “god”, and any god can fit what you want him to be.

As a Christian, I have a different perspective. Christianity cuts through the fog by defining God as the God of the Bible. He is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and makes the specific and exclusive claim that Christ, and Christ alone can save and is the only way to eternal life.

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

When you say that to someone, you get disagreement. You get defensiveness. It may be divisive, but it is what the Bible says. This exclusivity is why so many are not vocal about the full gospel story.

My point is, let’s have some discernment and not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon and praise anyone and anything that happens to mention God if we believe Christ is the only way, especially if the speaker’s work or representation doesn’t match Biblical values.

I’ve also read other Christians and Conservatives getting on the bandwagon, all up-in-arms saying how Matthew McConaughey was “shunned” by Hollywood by the lack of applause he received.

While I definitely believe there are many who seethe at the mere mention of God, I also believe there’s more “tolerance” for this vague god, based on his speech alone. I doubt that he is going to be singled out for persecution in Hollywood. I wasn’t in that arena so I can’t say, but I’ve played the video a few times and I did hear (and see) applause.

My second point is this: Could it be that Christians and Conservatives can (at times) be quick to cry “oppression” at the first opportunity?

But let’s just say, hypothetically, that he was “shunned”, left to play in the Hollywood sandbox all alone.

Why are we surprised? Is it really a shock that maybe you might not get a standing ovation at the mention of God in a room full of people that work in an industry that celebrates running from God?

Yes, we live in a world that mocks and attacks the Christian faith. I cringe at what I hear on TV and yes, I believe in standing up for Godly values.

But am I supposed to whimper and cry because godless men don’t applaud the mention of god?

Ok, I should get off my soapbox now… really ya’ll, I just tuned in for the fashion!

* related blog:  http://yourmomhasablog.com/2014/03/03/matthew-mcconaughey-is-not-my-hero/

CANDACE CAMERON BURE – ON SUBMISSIVENESS AND MARRIAGE

candace-cameron-bure-and-valeri-bure

“Okay, everyone, just calm down”.

Those words came from former “Full House star Candace Cameron Bure, during an interview with the Huffington Press last week.

She was talking about the buzz created when she described her role as “submissive” in her marriage to former hockey player Valeri Bure.

My sentiments exactly. Everyone take a chill pill.

The term “submissive” from a Christian viewpoint does not mean we are ready to  “throw away our right to vote“  (As one irate feminist host concluded).

Of course, not understanding the Christian view, I can see why women do get up in arms about the word “submissive”.

Let’s face it, we are the physically weaker sex. This puts us in a vulnerable position to men, and some may abuse it.

Then you get the backlash…the desire on the part of the wife to control and cut down her husband by nagging and bickering, rising up against him. Can you hear it now…?

“Ain’t no man gonna tell me what to do…” Snap.

Of course, the husband may not have that attitude initially, but he may grow resentful and oppressive as a reaction to the wife’s overbearing desire to dominate.

See the cycle?

But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. In Candace’s words, just calm down.

Let’s put down our defenses and take a look at a much misunderstood scripture passage about the roles of husband and wife:

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior (Eph. 4:22-23).

This scripture is saying that a wife should submit to her husband, not because women are inferior, but because that is how God designed the marital relationship to function.

The original design was a leader/helper role to make marriage function in harmony. Look at it this way: In every organization, there are levels and positions, from CEOs to Receptionists, Generals to Privates.  Everyone has a role, or they would have a dysfunctional organization. Now take a look at what follows this verse, a verse that I’m not sure many feminist know is even there:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Eph 5: 25-27)

Did you get that? Yes, wives are to submit to their husbands, butlet’s be very sure to remember that the Bible has outlined what type of man this is! He is not one to take advantage of that leadership in a selfish way. This type of man doesn’t flaunt his leadership or provoke his wife to anger.

A true leader recognizes the honor God has given him and is humble to use that leadership with care. He is grateful to God for the grace and love he himself has been given and loves his wife in the same way. An honorable man tempers his authority with love, and in so doing, will find that his wife is glad to submit to his leadership.

Each ordinance smooths over the rough edges of the other.

What woman would not want to respect a man that loves her? What man would not want to love a woman that respects him?

See the difference?

I guess I get a little weary and sad about the typical way I hear men and women relate to each other. There are so many power struggles, so many fallen attitudes that we see around us and take as par for the course. Turn on daytime TV and just hear all the “advice” on relationships and mind games that go along with it.

Better yet, cut out the static and don’t even turn it on at all.

There is a better way. Jesus came to bring healing to our souls by first laying down his life for us. We can then be given the capacity to love beyond ourselves as an expression of obedience and faith in Him.

I wonder if there’s anyone in the trenches right now. Maybe you’re on the verge of giving up. Maybe God would have you read this as an encouragement.

I also can’t help but wonder if there’s anyone who has come full circle.  You know God’s word on marriage is true because you’ve lived it. You would be a blessing to share your story!