God’s Not Dead – the movie

The new Christian film “God’s Not Dead” came in at #4 this week. That’s right–#4 out of ALL movies. It is the #1 Christian movie, of course, and that was with limited release. More theater managers will take notice, I think, and feature it in the months ahead. I usually shy away from so-called “Christian” films because they are generally ill-made, poorly thought out, and serve mostly to amp up believers rather than convince unbelievers.

At the core of God’s Not Dead is a common story line: an atheistic college professor and a martyr-complex student who feels the need to engage the teacher in a public debate over the existence of God. In a word–unwinnable. But there is an emotional twist here, however. The student is actually prepared to lose, and hence is more concerned becoming a stumbling block to other students who might be searching or at least open to the gospel.

It is this concern on the part of the student that makes this story more interesting AND realistic. Yes, it is still a bit cheesy when the professor quotes Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and most of the actors are not A-listers, and not all of the dialogue in God’s Not Dead is believable, BUT, I still say GO SEE IT. In a time when so few people in the work-a-day world express a working faith in their religion (if they have one), let alone the God of that religion, this movie could serve as a rallying point for young believers simply looking for some courage.

The purpose of this blog is to encourage people to use my booklet to find new life for their prayer time. But for some, a movie with a good lesson might be better. God’s Not Dead. Try talking to him sometime and you’ll see.

For an easy to use workbook on prayer, go see: www.therealprayer.org 

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National Day of Prayer

It seems a little strange to me to see that we still have a National Day of Prayer. Not that it’s a bad thing…it’s really needed. But an ever-increasing number of people now identify themselves as “nones” — that is, unaffiliated with any religion.

But the National day of Prayer isn’t the National Day of Religion, it is a day of prayer for all peoples of all faiths to take even just a brief moment to pray, meditate, think, or just pause to reflect on their place in the Universe.

Maybe we just want to thank the Creator, ask for something from a Prophet, ancestor, or some other Avatar. And as much as we seem to get annoyed at those who do not believe like us, we still appreciate the freedom of Religion we have here in America.

It’s the National Day of Prayer. So take that day! And PRAY.

For a great little book on prayer ideal for the National Day of Prayer, Bible School, Bible Study, or any other prayer emphasis, go see: www.therealprayer.org

Vicar of Christ

Protestants don’t ordinarily use the word “vicar” for anything, but it is the basis for the word “vicarious,” meaning something like a second-hand experience. A vicarious experience is one in which I did not physically participate, but which through the description of  it by someone else, I can imagine, or almost experience.

The “Vicar of Christ” is like that. The Pope is supposed to be “Jesus among us,” the presence of Christ on Earth. Pope Francis appears to be taking that seriously (not that the others didn’t, mind you) in many aspects of his first days on the job. His beginnings are marked by humility and a desire to be more of a shepherd than a holy ruler.

It reminds me of a poem by Oscar Wilde called Easter Day:

THE silver trumpets rang across the Dome:
The people knelt upon the ground with awe:
And borne upon the necks of men I saw,
Like some great God, the Holy Lord of Rome. 

Priest-like, he wore a robe more white than foam,
And, king-like, swathed himself in royal red,
Three crowns of gold rose high upon his head:
In splendor and in light the Pope passed home.

My heart stole back across wide wastes of years
To One who wandered by a lonely sea,
And sought in vain for any place of rest:
“Foxes have holes, and every bird its nest,
I, only I, must wander wearily,

And bruise My feet, and drink wine salt with tears.”

We should pray for our religious leaders, that they would all exercise some humility in the days ahead.

For an easy to use prayer work-book, go see: www.therealprayer.org

The World Needs a “Day of Prayer”

In his resignation speech, the Pope said he wondered if “The Lord was sleeping” throughout the trials and distresses of the Catholic Church recently. He no doubt experienced what most of us experience–the silence of God. Although Psalm 121 teaches “He who watches over Israel slumbers not, nor does he sleep,” it is easy to feel ignored sometimes. We all need a Day of Prayer.

That’s why a day for prayer seems so important now, because so many people feel ignored that unbelief is on a rapid rise. But I do know this–prayers are answered. But many today just don’t bother. They might pray once or twice and then give up. “Pray without ceasing,” Paul writes. It is the habit of prayer, or more accurately, the habit of FAITH, that moves mountains, not a knee-jerk, slot machine style of asking.

I advise beginners to start with the simple Lord’s Prayer. Once you understand its simplicity, you can use the framework for all of your daily prayers. Once you start, it becomes a habit. A habit of believing.

For a good little e-book on prayer, go see: www.therealprayer.org

Published in: on February 27, 2013 at 12:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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King of Israel

On my morning commute during the holiday season, I listen to Christmas carols. With the exception of some new R&B almost-quasi-emotive-christmas-ish-sounding song from the last few years I know nearly every Christmas song there is. Whether pop, jazz standard, ancient carol, up to and including the Kinks “Father Christmas,” I can sing along.

This morning I was singing “The First Noel” along with some new pop star and actually admiring how heart-felt it all seemed. Then I sang the words “Born is the King of Israel” and suddenly felt distracted. There is no king in Israel. A president, yes, but no king. There is no pharaoh in Egypt,either. There is a president in Syria and also much political strife and killing, but no king.

The last King of Israel was a guy named Hoshea who ascended to the throne by killing his predecessor and who surrendered his throne to the Assyrians when Israel was conquered in c. 728 BC. Israel remained a non-nation until 1968 or so. Since then the strife continues, wars threaten, unrest is the daily bread, but no king.

Even when Jesus was born and eventually proclaimed King by the prophets, priests, and followers, it was not official. Jealous rulers, both church and state, vowed to silence him and squash this kingdom, even if it was only a spiritual kingdom.

It makes me ask–“Who would I have been?” Would I have been his defender, his supporter? Would I have made my aim the promotion of his teachings, a propagator of the faith? Or would I have simply gone on my way, ignoring one more in a long line of rabble-rousers, knowing what his end would be, knowing that if I ignore him, he’ll go away.

I hope somehow, one of these Christmases, we’ll remember Jesus. Whether we remember him as a king, babe in a manger, prophet, teacher, whatever, will not matter as long as we remember him. And maybe, with a little practice, we will recall, and perhaps reclaim, his true mission–to be King of Israel and Savior of the World.

It could be the start of a great conversation.

For a great little workbook on prayer, go see:  www.therealprayer.com

Mayan Apocalypse-End of the World?

In the famous words of Dr. Evil–“How about ‘NO’?” As the end of the final cycle of the Mayan Calendar approaches, the media is beginning to stir the pot a little. After a bit of a hiatus from the chaos of the initial revelation about the Mayan calendar, we are now hearing about believers running to gather on a mountain in France to await the end. Some clever entrepreneur is selling shelters from the cataclysm and many others are telling of suicide scares.

What at first was just a bit of an annoyance for most Christians is quickly becoming an issue with society as a whole. And the more we talk about it the worse it will become. I’ve quoted news sources and even scientists: “Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than four billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012,” NASA researchers write in an apocalypse-debunking FAQ.” (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/50202547#.UM0a5-T7KSo)

The final words on the issue come from the final authority on all things cosmic–Christ, who said

“Now concerning that (final) day and hour no one knows–neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son–except the Father only. Matthew 24:36

As I once heard a wise old preacher say “Trust the red letters.” If you’re old enough you’ll know what that means. If you’re not, find an old Bible and look around.

Then pray.

For a great little book on prayer, go see: www.therealprayer.com

Published in: on December 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm  Comments (1)  
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Christian Influence Waning? Election numbers say Yes.

The influence of Christianity in America is waning. There was a time, let’s say in the fifties, that America was just like the movie Pleasantville. We remember people being honest, devout, loyal to their church, job, and even brand names! Then the tumultuous 60’s arrived and no one was happy, but the church seemed to be an oasis of stability and comfort. The 70’s floated through with America sick of Viet Nam, rising gas prices, but with a host of baby-boomers in their teens looking for colleges, jobs, and even-yes-even churches.

Then the numbers began to slack off. I remember hearing that the post-boomer generation was looking for something different–more substance maybe-in everything they experienced. Brand name loyalty, employer loyalty, and even church denomination loyalty was becoming a thing of the past. By the time this generation was sending their own children off to college Americans had regrouped around causes other than brand loyalty.

Issues like healthcare, immigration, climate, and the economy separate Americans like they never have before. Whether a person is a Christian or not, church-going or not, or pretty much anything defined as old-school theist or not, has little influence. Oh you’ll hear some Christian objection to a candidate over the abortion issue, but that same Christian will say that they would vote for a conservative candidate even if they are a Mormon, or Atheist, or …(fill in the blank.) The late 20th Century brand of Christian influence may have seen its day.

Jonathan Merritt, writing for The Atlantic, quotes Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary as calling the election an “Evangelical Disaster.” He’s right. American Christians have slowed or maybe even reversed their move toward a hard-line-right-winged conservatism over the past few years. As a result, even though 79% of white evangelicals voted for Romney, it was not enough.

Merritt says there are several reasons, but here are the most interesting to me: 1) White middle class American Christians are now a minority. 2) Christian influence on America has weakened. 3) There are no “old-days” figureheads like Graham, Falwell, and Kennedy around anymore.

This one quote from Merritt should be a wake-up call for us:

Conservative Christian ideas are failing to shape the broader culture. More than 3,500 churches close their doors every year, and while Americans are still overwhelmingly spiritual, the institutional church no longer holds the sway over their lives it once did. The sweeping impact of globalization and the digital age has marginalized the church and its leaders.

If Christianity is going to have any influence on the America of the future, we are going to have to start with each of us as Christian Individuals. We have no influence because we have no power. We have no power because we have so little faith. We have so little faith because we have so little contact with our source.

Is Christian Influence waning in America? If so, it’s our own fault.

Pray.

For a great little e-book on the Lord’s Prayer, go see: www.therealprayer.org

 

Published in: on November 15, 2012 at 8:23 am  Leave a Comment  
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Prayer Banned at High School Graduation

Prayer has been banned at the graduation ceremonies of  a high school in Castroville, Texas by Chief U.S. District Judge Fred Biery. His ruling came in response to two parents who thought prayer at a school ceremony would cause their child “irreparable harm.”

It became illegal to say prayer, pray, invocation, amen, or anything other words and phrases associated with Christianity. Talk about stepping on someone’s rights!

So we spend a full semester teaching them about freedom of speech, freedom of religion (not freedom from religion,) constitutional rights, etc., then take away these rights through the smoke screen of a misappropriated civil liberties argument. It’s kind of like the way we teach them basic science and the scientific method, then flush it all down the drain by telling them life spontaneously generated and developed through evolution in some magical way we can’t really explain.

I like to quote the words of song writer and producer Steve Taylor in his song Lead the Way, “The more I chew the less I swallow.”  Great line.

Later, more rational folk lifted the ban and the school’s valedictorian can at least say “amen.” See the article at http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/06/03/texas-senator-blasts-judges-decision-to-forbid-public-prayer-at-high-school/?test=latestnews 

And though I’m happy at the students’ restored rights to open or close their ceremony with prayer (or not to –if it is their collective choice) it saddens me that the argument ever lifted it’s head to begin with.

Pray everyday.

Go see: www.therealprayer.com

National Day of Prayer

The National Day of Prayer is at risk. When our founding fathers came to this country, they were looking for freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. They simply did not want government enforced church, tax, labor, and many other things. Being a part of the Christian tradition myself, it is easy to forget that times have changed. 

But changed they have. If it is the case that many no longer embrace the “faith of our fathers” then so be it. Religious freedom is a two-edged sword. While it does bother me that some legislators wan to abolish the National Day of Prayer, I might feel differently if I were not “religious.” It saddens me a bit that we a drifting further from our roots, but if government supported religion is our strength, we have gotten off track more than we know.

The strength of prayer is not the state, but the individual. I will continue to pray or meditate or study or whatever I want whether the government recognizes it with a “National Day” or not–it is  a personal affair. The National Day of Prayer is just an accommodation for those of us with faith which allows us to feel a part of something bigger as we stop to ponder the impact of all people of prayer doing their thing at the same time on the same day.

I may not have the latitude to take off work and enter my prayer closet, but sometime during the day, I can step off the treadmill and say…

Our Father…

For an easy to use prayer guide, visit www.therealprayer.org

Noah’s Ark found (again)

A group of explorers has claimed that there is a 99.9% cahnce that the massive structure underneath the snow on Mt Ararat in Turkey is what’s left of the famous Noah’s Ark. I remember a similar find back in the 70’s, but the Turkish government wouldn’t let the finders be the keepers. In spite of the  strange fact that a ship could be found this high in the mountains, many are more interested in the banter between the touters and doubters than in any possibility of truth.

Is it the ark? Who knows? Whether a person is a believer or not, finding a huge wooden ship this high in the mountains from 5000 years ago is still quite a find! Unfortunately, however, this find is tied to a story which is in the Bible which has of late become a fashionable target for slamming and ridicule. Just think: If this vessel had been found independent of any religious reference at all, it would be on the cover of National Geographic.  Instead, it is simply comment fodder for news blogs.

Believers can never let any late-term discovery turn into an attempt at validation for their faith. You either believe or not–ark or not. The kingdom is ever and always the creator’s. We are just along for the journey and not to wage some kind of belief battle with doubters. Everyone must find their own way in their own time. Just like you did.

For an easy to understand prayer guide, visit: www.therealprayer.org

Published in: on April 27, 2010 at 2:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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