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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The Real Jesus

It used to bother me when I would hear of people researching the “historical” Jesus. Different “Jesus” projects seemed just insulting when all (as I thought) we needed to know about Jesus was in the Bible. Lately I’ve even heard some talk about the “Jesus myth” as if he didn’t really exist at all. Really? I can’t imagine setting the calendar by someone’s birth who was totally fictitious.

Over the years, I have learned to value these various searchings as a trend. A valuable trend. People in the 21st  century are still interested in Jesus. Even attempts to discredit him must begin with someone, somewhere, looking at the available information. That’s a good thing. I tell believers and unbelievers the same thing: don’t bring your own agenda to the Bible. Just let it say what it says and make your decision.

Today I ran across an interesting article about the many images of Jesus in the world. Sometimes we stop searching and just try to make him in our own image, but sometimes it’s just an attempt to make some type of connection with him. Read it and look at the pictures: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/03/15/five-things-you-didnt-know-about-jesus/?hpt=hp_c3 .

If you or someone you know really wants to find Jesus, start by talking to his “Father.” Go see: www.therealprayer.org 

Published in: on March 17, 2014 at 3:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Bible

I recently began reading a book on the New testament. It has, unfortunately, been a long time since I have tried to “study” The Bible. Since I studied it for years, and ministered with it for years, I had convinced myself that I pretty much knew anything I needed to know about The Bible. Looking at this book, however, has reminded me of how easy it is to assume that what we think we know about The Bible is correct, and that what we think (right or wrong) informs our daily lives and interactions.

We praise things in one decade we would never allow in another decade. We laud one political party in one area of our lives and denounce them years later. We either assume everyone thinks like us, or we revel that we’re the outlier.

The Bible, however, never changes. Our interpretation of it does, and that’s the danger. If we are not careful, we simply use The Bible to prop up something we already believe, rather than let it say what it says. We proudly brag about feeding the poor, but gripe about food stamps. We boast that we ought to heal the sick, but scream about health care entitlements. I get so weary of reading social networking post by those who agree with me theologically, but get smug, dismissive, and demeaning about helping their fellow man. Remember how the prayer begins–Our Father.

I’m not holding my breath, but someday, I’m going to meet someone like Jesus, a real Christian, and I just may not know how to react.

For a handy little booklet on prayer, go see:  http://www.therealprayer.com 

Published in: on October 23, 2013 at 9:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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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

Remember Me

Back in the 80’s, MacDonald’s restaurants launched an ad campaign called “Mac Tonight.” The commercials featured a singing crescent moon who crooned like a lounge singer in the style of Bobby Darin’s famous Mack the Knife. An injunction by the late singer’s estate later caused MacDonald’s to pull the ad.

It was, however, a brilliant idea. Millions of children across America, on nearly any summer night, could look up into the sky, see the real moon, and say “Hey, It’s Mac Tonight! Daddy can we go to MacDonald’s?” What a great reminder that some family time could be had down at the corner MacDonald’s! (And, inexpensively, I might add.) In effect, every crescent moon was FREE advertising!

The idea was to take something free, normal, routine, easily connected with, and turn it into a reminder of something important–in this case, hamburgers and fries with the kids.

Imagine someone taking something you do anyway, everyday– say, sitting down to dinner– and telling you “Every time you sit down and have some bread and wine…remember me.”

Get it? Gives a whole new meaning to your daily bread.

For a neat little book on the Lord’s Prayer (and prayer in general) go see: www.therealprayer.org

Published in: on March 6, 2013 at 12:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Imagine there’s no heaven…

When I was a teen, I could not understand why John Lennon’s great song Imagine could create such a stir. It was, I was later informed, a subtle introduction to atheism. Just imagine–no heaven, no afterlife, no judgement, no judge, no need for a savior, no Jesus…nothing that most baby boomers had been raised to believe.

Now, thirty years later, we hear that the fastest growing religious group in America is the “Nones.” These are the people who, when asked about matters of faith and religious affiliation in surveys and censuses, select the answer “none.” More and more people are simply dismissing ideas of a supreme being, higher power, faith, etc.

While many people appear to be newly interested in things spiritual, they are not interested at all in an all-powerful, all-knowing, father-figure on a throne away off in “heaven” somewhere. NPR recently ran a series on the “nones” discussing everything from young believers/non-believers to how atheists grieve. One person in the interview, and I’m not quoting here, just gisting, said that her husband who was killed in an accident was not in a better place, but was in the ground.

When I read this, I Thessalonians 4:13 came immediately to mind: But we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, about those who have died, so you will not grieve, as those who have no hope. And even though Paul is speaking about death, I also would add that we should not grieve as those who have no hope in life, future, finances, health, God’s will…anything.

I have to agree with the Psalmist: In you oh Lord have I put my hope. (Ps 71)

And the more I pray, the more hope I have.

Go see: www.therealprayer.org

Published in: on January 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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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

Grilled Cheesus

For centuries people have claimed to see image of deity in the most common of places. The most amusing to me is the image of the face of Christ in a grilled sandwich some time ago. That was followed by a sandwich griller that will burn an image of Jesus in your bread. Latest of all is the October 5 episode of Glee called “Grille Cheesus.” The story is a bit banal, but it depicts a young man who believes the image is a sign, puts his faith in the sign, and then thinks he sees miracles coming to pass because he prayed to the image.

The satirical approach is immediately funny if you’re not religious, but a bit offensive if you are. If Jesus is who he said he is, then as a deity he is above humor.

But I am a believer and I think Grilled Cheesus is a clever play on words and hence a bit funny. Where the real humor lies for me, however, is how it points up they way in which we come close to deifying just about anything that comes down the highway of religion. Sometimes we believe some things that just have no basis in our writings or teachings or the words of our prophets.

As we are bombarded with more and more things which call themselves religious, I think what we really need is a return to personal piety, meditation, and prayer. In there, somewhere, we will find our true beliefs. And once having found them, we can rebuild our lives around them.

For an easy to use e-book on The Lord’s Prayer, visit: www.therealprayer.com .

Published in: on October 6, 2010 at 11:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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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