Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Insanity or Adventure?

Guess what we did? Keep in mind that we are both 67 years old and with heart conditions. What follows may be insanity or adventure. Either way, at the end we were both extremely tired but greatly fulfilled. The cradle of Christianity in Scotland dates back to the 6th Century with the arrival of an Irish abbot and missionary credited with spreading Christianity in present-day Scotland. Saint Columba founded the important abbey on Iona  that became a dominant religious and political institution in the region for centuries. So, we decided we needed to visit this historic place.

We left our quarters in Inverness at 5 AM and drove nearly three hours south to meet a ferry that took us across very rough waters on a one-hour trip to an incredible place. But the adventure (or insanity) had just begun. Once on the ferry we enjoyed a great trip to the Mull of Kintyre at the southwestern tip of the Kintyre Peninsula in southwest Scotland. From here, part of the coast of Northern Ireland is visible on a calm and clear day. We also saw the second commissioned lighthouse in Scotland that guides the ships in the North Channel. The area has been immortalized in popular culture by the 1977 hit song "Mull of Kintyre" by Kintyre resident, Paul McCartney's band of the time, Wings.

Mull can only be traversed via a one lane narrow road. In fact, I chose the bus tour so that I would not have to navigate this road via car. After all, these Scottish people drive on the “wrong” side of the road and learning to negotiate that has been a real challenge. Early on in our trip I did run one red light and went the wrong way in traffic twice. Driving around Scotland has become for us a two-person operation. I welcome Sharon’s front seat driving. I am used to it now but did not want to chance it on Mull. Wow! What an experience. We had an incredibly gifted bus driver. We winced a few times as space was made for oncoming vehicles including 16 wheelers and buses. That’s right! The single lane road to and from Mull is a two-way road.
A big truck with his cargo on the road
This bus ride took one hour with great commentary from our “bald headed” (his words) driver.

Now, add it up. Three-hours to get there plus a one-hour ferry ride plus a one-hour bus ride and we still had not arrived at Iona. This is where it turned into an adventure. The bus dropped us off where we boarded another ferry.
The "ferry" to the left - 80 people? Not!
When I made the arrangements I chose a three-isle tour including a side-trip to a place called Staffa, a mountain island where an amazing bird comes to breed every year but then quickly leaves. Thus, we had a brief window to see the “puffins.” 

Looks like a duck and a penguin right?
But the puffins can only be viewed from Staffa. Sounded simple to me. The waters were extremely rough and at times the six foot waves covered the windows on the boat. It took another hour to get to the side trip to Staffa. The captain dropped us off and warned us to be back at a very specific time. He threatened to leave us there if we were one minute late and he meant it. I know he meant it because he did leave some folks there. So 80 of us de-boarded and we were left at the foot of a huge mountain surrounded by rough waters out in the middle of nowhere and watched our boat leave. I felt like Gilligan, we were on this three-hour tour and this was definitely Gilligan’s island.Now, the question was – “Where would we find these dumb birds?” Before we left the boat the captain told us to look for the pink flag. That is where the puffins were. Sounded easy enough, right? Wrong! To get to the pink flag we had to climb this mountain and then hike to the flag.

Guess who led the 80 up the mountain?
Can you see the pink flag? Neither could we.
Sharon, I think I am dying. Here is the last selfie I will ever take. 
See the boat leaving?

 After what seemed to be 100 steps straight up the cliff and arriving totally breathless (remember the heart issues) at the top we looked off to our right and saw the pink flag. The problem is this – that pink flag was a mile away on a very rough terrain. No problem! We can do this right? Wrong again! After getting about half way to the puffins with no guides no instructions and doing some serious mountain hiking without hiking shoes (or hiking hearts) we decided that those rare birds were not worth dying over. Never mind that I fell face first into the mud although that was the clincher. Besides I could see the boat out in the rough waters making its way back.
Where is the pink flag

That's me about to fall face first into the mud!
This is where I fell in the mud
From the top of the cliff straight down

Can you see the entrance to Fingal's Cave?

Romantic composer Felix Mendelssohn visited in 1829 and wrote an overture, The Hebrides, Op. 26, (also known as Fingal's Cave overture), inspired by the weird echoes in the cave

I looked around and did not see the professor, no Ginger, no Maryann, only the skipper who already threatened to leave us! 
Leaving Staffa alive.
So, we headed back to the steps but could not find them. Somehow we had gotten turned around. But after a few breathless stops on some jagged rock benches we finally saw the steps and made our way down to the boat in time to leave Gilligan’s island. let’s see! That is a three-hour car ride, a one-hour ferry ride, a one- hour bus ride, another one-hour ferry ride and a two-hour mountain climbing fiasco and we had still not arrived at the isle of Iona to visit the abbey. Next, we decided that we should sit outside on the ferry that would take us to Iona to admire the incredible views. Big mistake! The waters were so rough with six foot sails that we got soaked and tossed every which way in that miniature ferry that was not designed to hold 80 people.
I got a real bath.
Sharon got soaked
But we finally arrived another hour later to Iona and I couldn’t help but think that thus far we had spent a total of nine hours and had not yet seen the Abbey. I also realized that the trip back would take another gazillion hours after a two-hour stay at the Abbey.
This Abbey had better be worth it and it was. Well, maybe half worth it!. We witnessed an incredible part of history as we walked the gardens, visited the chapel, the nunnery and the cloisters.
We saw a mass grave containing hundreds of female bodies, likely the nuns who died on this isle. We heard about the Viking raids where many monks were massacred and their relics and precious vessels were taken. We saw where Saint Columba wrote his many devotionals and poems, the still standing altars where baptisms took place and the many grave stones that told a story of monks and nuns who had given up everything just to worship Jesus (and sadly Mary and the icons). We sat in a church that is still in use and still holds regular services albeit headed up social gospel advocates bent on proving that the Gospel and salvation comes in the good works not the finished work of Christ. We walked the grounds looking out into the amazing waters and mountain backdrop that forms a surreal view of God’s magnificent world.

The Ruins of the Nunnery
Saint Columba's Quiet Room

Birds nesting in the chapel

Ruins of the Nunnery

Many occupants of the nunnery were wealthy women at one time

Ruins of the Nunnery

The Nunnery

The Nunnery

Half Way to the Abbey is this cross where pilgrims stopped to prepare their hearts for the Abby

Prayer Stone in front of the Baptismal Fount- the knees wore down the stone

Current Baptismal Fount
The quiet room

Rediscovered tomb stones from the 6th Century

The Saint Columba Chapel still in use
We then bought some ice cream and boarded the ferry with the captain waving us to hurry and insisting that we run. Sharon said, “I am not running!”

Seven hours later, we fell into bed.

In His Grip,

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Mute Button - Hosea, Part 4

The prophet Hosea justifies the Lord’s coming judgments with a litany of offenses that amount to the radical ingratitude of a wayward wife. But punishment is not ultimately what the Lord wants for his people; he desires that they leave their fornication and return to the One who first loved them and can indeed provide what is for their best.

Hosea is a clarion callto the sanctity of marriage.  Hosea will use life in the parsonage and his own marriage to illustrate the unfaithfulness of thenation.  But there is more in play in the study of htis great book. Hosea is about how God deals with unfaithfulness, how God suffers along with His people, how God will not always chide His people in their sins, how God will never cease tolove His own nomatter how low we stoop and how God is always the first to seek after and to reconcile sinful people.  Hosea is a love story of the best kind.

Hosea's personal marraige is the mirror reflecting the Lord's compassion.  It is an incredible story of grace under fire.  It is a story about how God used isolation and exile, the greatest fear of both Israel in the North and Judah in the South as the means to restoration (1:6-7; 2:14 - 23; 3:1-3; 5:6 - 6:3; 11:8 - 11; 12:9).  Yes, God can and does isolate us when we are bent upon sin.  He often mutes His own voice and delivers us into the abyss of divine silence to get our attention.  This discpline is actually an act of His love.
Has God hit the mute button in your marriage?  Is life behind the closed doors of your sacred bedroom razed by the myth of the greener grass?  Do you really believe God winks at our lusts and covetousness driven by the lie that insists your spouse is not enough? The message of Proverbs 5 is eternal:

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. [16] Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? [17] Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. [18] Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, [19] a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love. [20] Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? [21] For a man's ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths. [22] The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. [23] He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray. (Proverbs 5:14-23 ESV)

There is so much more to this little book that is rich with repeated judgment warnings, but even greater is the powerful description of God’s broken heart and unending love for His people.  You can join me in my verse by verse exposition of this passion-packed story by accessing my current preaching at In His Grip on Lightsource.com

In His grip,

Digging Deeper: Hosea1:6–7; 2:14–23; 3:1–3; 5:6–6:3; 11:8–11; 12:9; Proverbs 5:13 – 23

Monday, September 29, 2014

Name Calling, Hosea, Part 3

Hosea depicts Israel’s unfaithfulness with a number of images from family and nature. Israel is like: a promiscuous wife, an indifferent mother, an illegitimate child, an ungrateful son, a stubborn heifer, a silly dove, a luxuriant vine and grapes in the wilderness. Hosea’s major concern was the worship of Baal—an apostasy that he understood to be the reason for Israel’s dilemma. Baal was the weather-god worshiped in Syria-Palestine, who had control over agriculture and fertility, rainfall and productivity. Since ancient Israel was always an agricultural society, Baal worship was of unrivaled importance.
However, Baal religion’s major appeal to human sexuality, drunkenness, bestiality, human sacrifice, mutilations, and incest are clearly discerned in the book. Hosea understood the strength of Baalism’s appeal to the sex drive by way of ritual prostitution. This amounted to sexual intimacy at one of the pagan shrines. Sexual behavior at these shrines was expected to cause the Baals to respond in like manner—to follow the worshipers by producing for them fertile seed and rain for a good crop. This intimacy took place with cult prostitutes.  It is likely that Gomer, Hosea’s wife was one of these sacred prostitutes. When a worshiper selected a prostitute, he prayed, “I beseech the goddess of Astarte to favor you and Baal to favor me.” There was also eating and drinking at shrines as an act of worship.
Hosea’s approach was to drive home the point that Israel as the people of God were to be joined to the Lord. Hosea makes a number of references to Israel’s past to remind them of that. Israel, like the church was to be the Lord’s bride, but Israel has instead become joined to the Baals. Worship of Baal is not just a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments but a betrayal of that intimate and endearing union that God made with his people. Idolatry, therefore, is depicted as spiritual adultery, transgression against the marriage between the Lord and Israel.
With the sexual revolution is full swing. Many of our culture’s beliefs concerning sexual relationships have come full bore into the church. More and more people are showing up in churches all across America who are living out of wedlock with their partners (notice I did not say husbands or wives given the nature of the homosexual movement) and who see absolutely nothing wrong with their choices. How archaic does Paul sound? How has the following truth been abrogated in our churches today?
[13] “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. [14] And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. [15] Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! [16] Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” [17] But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. [18] Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. [19] Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, [20] for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:13-20 ESV)

There is so much more to this little book that is rich with repeated judgment warnings, but even greater is the powerful description of God’s broken heart and unending love for His people.  You can join me in my verse by verse exposition of this passion-packed story by accessing my current preaching at In His Grip on Lightsource.com

In His Grip,
Digging Deeper: 1 Corinthians 6:13 - 20

Free Download at www.markinc.org

Monday, September 22, 2014

Redeeming Love, Hosea

Recently I read a book genre that I admit I had never read before – a romance novel -  Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. [For more info or to purchase]
For more info or to puchase

is based upon the book of Hosea though framed in the western movement in America. It is a book about the unconditional love of a man for his prostitute wife. Much of it takes into account Sara’s (the prostitute) horrible life as a child prostitute, a life she was introduced to at the age of eight. She was abused and victimized by one horrible person after another and could not see herself as anything but un-loveable and incapable of loving. She experienced one bitter betrayal after another, that is, until she met Mr. Hosea, a man who received from God a mandate to marry her and to love her with no strings attached. must say it grabbed me given the fact that I was in the throes of studies in Hosea for my new sermon series “The Marriage from Hell Made in Heaven.” As the novel unfolded I was struck by how conditional my love is for the unlovely. Could I do what Mr. Hosea did in the novel or better yet what the real Hosea did for his wife Gomer? Sadly, I had to conclude that I have a long way to go in the practice of that kind of love.
Yet, that is precisely how God has loved me – unconditional love based not upon my love for Him but upon Christ’s love for me. In John 21:15 and following Jesus confronts Peter on the breadth and depth of Peter’s love. Three times He asks Peter if he truly loved Him. On the third time Peter is distressed…

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 
(John 21:17 ESV)

Why did Jesus ask Peter the same question three different times? There can only be one logical answer to this question. Peter denied Jesus three times and three times Jesus would restore Peter. That is why Peter was “grieved” by the third question. He knew exactly what Jesus was doing – bringing out the depth of depravity in Peter’s sin in order to lavish upon Him that “agape” God-love that transcends human failure. How great is the love of God. You and I have never sunk so low that God’s grace and mercy hasn’t stooped lower to raise us up.
There is so much more to this little book in the Old Testament that is rich with repeated judgment warnings, but even greater is the powerful description of God’s broken heart and unending love for His people.  If the idea of marriage to a prostitute intrigues you,  join me in my verse by verse exposition of this passion-packed story by accessing the messages  at In His Grip at Lightsource.
In His grip,
Digging Deeper: Hosea 1 – 2; John 17:15 - 17

Free Offer:  Adultery, Forgiveness and Redemption.  A two part interview, one with a couple who experienced the redemption of their marriage after adultery and one with a woman whose husband did not repent of adultery.  Free Download at MARKINC Ministries

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Marriage from Hell Made in Heaven - Part 1

Reading the Prophets in the Old Testament can become a very painful place if you are looking for hope and the sentimentalism of a God of love and mercy. As I began studies in Hosea I was quickly reminded at how the love of God can get lost in the muck and mire of His judgments upon a nation steeped in idolatry. Chapter after chapter reverberates with the message that God is ticked at the nation of Israel that had bowed its knee to Baal. Verse after verse, like a dripping faucet warns of the wrath of God where He says in essence, “Because you have done that I will do this.” Is there anything in this little book that gives hope?
Hosea was a northern prophet where he spent anywhere from 30 to 50 years preaching to a nation that only had a short time to live. In fact, at the close of Hosea’s ministry Assyria invaded Israel and deported most of them and then intermarried with the rest to dilute any vestiges of Israel’s monotheism. They became the Samaritans of the New Testament so despised by the Jews and were considered to be half-breeds and were called “the dogs.”
Hosea’s Israel can be described as Charles Dickens did in “The Tale of Two Cities” - It was the best of times…it was the worst of times. They had a booming economy, a powerful army and had secured many of the lands around them. But, they had a deadly flaw – they sought to merge their faith in Yahweh with the religions of their neighbors who worshipped Baal, the nature god who promised them good crops, bountiful food supplies and material prosperity. Israel bought into that lie and eventually melted into the slime of idolatry.
In order to preach his message Hosea was ordered to become a living sermon illustration of God’s infinite love by marrying a whore named Gomer. This woman would devastate Hosea’s life over and over again by rejecting his love and returning to her role as a sacred prostitute. She and Hosea conceived one child together while she and other men conceived two others. The names she gave them serves as a backdrop to the rest of the book, a son named “God will judge,” a daughter named, “no mercy,” and a son named “not my people. ”  Now that can be very depressing!
Loose living abounded. We read of drunkenness (7:3-7), armed robbery, adultery and murder. The leadership of the nation was corrupt (4:1-25:1-26:697:16-7). The underlying cause of all of this was corrupt religion. People worshipped the Baals. This meant sexual deviance cloaked in the worship of Yahweh. They consulted spirits (4:12) and imbibed drugs. The people must repent and turn to God (6:1-6), said Hosea, and live in mercy and righteousness (6:6). But they will never do so voluntarily. They must be chastised and then there will be a way of their returning and finding salvation (2:163:5; chapter 14).
The age was characterized by violent crime, religious compromise and hypocrisy, ungodly alliances with heathen nations, open acceptance of sexual sin that called evil good and good evil, social injustice, political division and selfish arrogance that marked them as a nation in love with idolatry, Social injustice where the faithful were the persecuted ones.
Can you see the parallels to our own nation today? How have we allowed the pagan culture around us via spiritual osmosis to slip into our churches? This is a warning to believers today. We must never allow the teachings of the Bible to pass through our minds without allowing them to change our lives. Otherwise, if we permit these teachings to hit against our hearts but not to change our lives, we develop spiritual calluses. The end would be as inevitable as Israel's. Our enemy — Satan — would soon sweep into our lives and entangle us in the chains of this world. As was true for Israel, we have a way of escape. It is through repentance and the applying of God's Word to our lives.
There is so much more to this little book that is rich with repeated judgment warnings, but even greater is the powerful description of God’s broken heart and unending love for His people.  You can join me in my verse by verse exposition of this passion-packed story by accessing my current preaching at In His Grip on Lightsource.com - In His Grip  
In His grip,
Digging Deeper:  Hosea 1 – 3; Hosea 4:1-25:1-26:697:16-7
Special Offer:  Adultery, Forgiverness and Redemption  A two part interview on the power of the gospel to redeem broken hearts. One is with a couple who found healing in their marriage.  The other is with a woman who found healing even though her marriage broke apart.  Free download.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Noah, Son of God and God is Not Dead

We just finished visiting the 6th floor museum of the Texas Book Depository where the assassination of JFK was historically depicted. I stood next to the window where Lee Harvey Oswald shot the president. We stood on the infamous grassy knoll where conspiracy theorists believe a second shooter took aim and shot at the President. As I stood by that 6th floor window and on that grassy knoll, I was emotionally moved. After all, my generation lived through it.  But the theories still abound as to what really happened. Of course, we will never know. But it did make for another Oliver Stone movie.  Speaking of movies that create confusion through implication and conspiracy theories, Noah takes the spotlight this month.


I'm a little late to the party, blog posts on the movie “Noah,” abound and conspiracy theories are everywhere. For example, many Christians have taken offense at the liberties taken by Darren Aronofsky in the blockbuster “Noah.” Is he trying to change the way people view the Noah story or just taking innocent creative license with the biblical account? I am not a movie critic so my thoughts are pushed through the grid of my calling as a preacher.  The movie only resembles the Biblical account of the story of Noah in that there was a flood, Noah existed and God destroyed the world and saved Noah and his family. But what did you expect given the fact that Aronofsky is not a believer? Besides, how can one possibly portray this event given its magnitude without taking creative license when there is very little in the scripture about Noah? 
What disturbs me most about Noah is not that it took liberties with the Genesis account and pawned it off as the Biblical story of Noah. However, to my knowledge, Aronofsky never said it was a reenactment of the Genesis account. I would have been happier if he had included a disclaimer, as in, "Any similarity to real people or events is purely coincidental!"
What disturbs me most is Christian leaders were used as pawns to “get out the vote.” The foundational text for the movie was not the Bible but the 2nd Century apocryphal book 1 Enoch. In fairness to Aronofsky, he never said he used the Bible as his text. He implied it but he never said it. Enoch is (pure and simple) rooted in the theology of Gnosticism, one of the greatest threats to the theology of the early church and the theology of the modern church. A simplified outline of the tenets of Gnostics looks like this:

·                   Gnostics believe that all flesh is evil and the spirit is good. The flesh must be escaped via greater and greater levels knowledge (gnosis).
·      Since all flesh is evil, the “Creator” of the world, the god of the Old Testament was vindictive, harsh and judgmental. After all, he created this evil world of flesh. In the film this god is always referred to as the “Creator,” but never as the covenant God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is why Noah felt a need to kill his grandchildren. This evil god, the Creator, must be appeased. With this as his premise, Noah concluded that ll flesh, including Noah and his offspring must die.
·      Redemption comes as one escapes the flesh via the acquisition of deeper and deeper spiritual knowledge. In the film the lava monsters, which are really the fallen angels or demons, actually are redeemed after serving their penance as lava monsters. Their spirits soar into heaven at the end because they aided and defended Noah. Noah chooses not to murder his grandkids and thus he too begins to escape the curse of the flesh with greater gnosis. This is the heresy of Gnosticism.
·      The early church had to combat Gnosticism (the root of Aronofsky’s movie). Two forms of Gnosticism as it pertains to the identity of Jesus emerged in the early church. The first taught that, since Jesus was God, and God is spirit, and the spirit is good and the flesh is evil Jesus could not have really died on the cross. His death was a mirage, an illusion. This meant that Jesus was not really a man since nothing good dwells in fleshly form,. The second taught Jesus was not really God but a sinner whose flesh had to be destroyed so that his spirit could be released to his Father. This is why the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 affirmed in their Creed (see http://www.creeds.net/ancient/nicene.htm) that Jesus was and is both God and man, that He lived a sinless life as a man and that He truly physically died and was buried and rose from the dead, thus affirming both His deity and His humanity.

If one were to carefully assess the various plots of “Noah” you will see that the film is rooted in the 2nd Century heresy of Gnosticism. As we sat in an Outback restaurant after visiting the JFK museum, I asked our 20-something waitress if she had seen Noah. Her response was that she had not seen it but wanted to. I asked her what she expected to find in the movie. She said, “I expect to see the account of the story in the Bible.” I then asked her if she thought that the movie would accurately represent the Bible and she responded, “Oh no.” And then she laughed. That is what you should expect when you see Noah. I highly recommend that you not waste your money UNLESS you attend in order to visit the themes of Gnosticism and thus to become better informed as to how the media truly sees our faith. If you go expecting a biblically based movie, you will be disappointed.
For those of you who are not afraid of some deep thought on the relationship between Noah and Gnosticism visit this blog. It is outstanding.

Son of God

Now lets move on to the “Son of God” movie. Producing any movie about Jesus is doomed to come up short. After all, Jesus is God. How can one accurately portray God? This movie is a two-hour edit of what the producers aired in eight hours on TV under the heading of “The Bible.” I am not a movie critic. Certainly, there were some good features and some bad ones. It would have been more realistic for this Jesus to be anything but the Euro image they made him out to be. Jesus was dark-skinned and spoke Aramaic or Hebrew. Sub-titles would have been nice. But a British Jesus with blue eyes and handsome as can be is not what Jesus looked like. Isaiah tells us he was ordinary (Isaiah 53:1-6). He would not have stuck out in a crowd. He was a carpenter, rough and rugged not weak and soft. Some other glitches include the Lazarus scene and the visit of the Magi. Other scenes were borderline Biblical as well.
The crucifixion scene is vivid and hard to watch. Although Pilate ordered 40 lashes, it is likely Jesus was beaten with more since Roman executioners whipped according to how long someone was to remain on the cross. They knew Jesus would be there until 3:00 PM to appease the protocol of the Passover. A body could not be on the cross once the Passover arrived at 3:00 PM. So Jesus would have literally been beaten to within a few hours of his life. Not a big point but please note it. Also, there is considerable Catholic tradition in this movie. The stations-of-the cross, although not specifically Biblical, are included. Thus, Jesus falls three times. Some woman, allegedly Veronica, wipes His face. He carries the entire cross and not just the cross bar. These are not major concerns but I found them interesting.
My greatest concern with the movie was this – the Jesus of the movie is never declared to be the Creator God of the universe. A Mormon and even a Jehovah’s Witness would be happy with this movie. In other words, it is not Christo-centric. In fact, the first half of John 14:6 is quoted no less than 3 times in the movie. That passage states…

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.

But, the second half of the verse, No one comes to the Father except through me is never quoted. That is problematic. Jesus is the ONLY way one can be saved.
I did appreciate that the movie did not sugar coat the miracles. It took them literally, such as the feeding of the 5000, the healing of the lame man, the miracle of fish catch and Jesus walking on water. The raising of Lazarus from the dead left out many pertinent Biblical details such as a decaying stinky embalmed body and the fact that Jesus did not work this miracle behind closed tomb doors. He shouted it so that everyone could hear. The Lazarus of the movie came out of the tomb looking like he just came out of GQ magazine.
All in all it is a movie that has to settle for mediocrity. After all, how does any movie accurately portray God?

God is not Dead

The “Answers in Genesis” organization has a great assessment of this movie and the apologetics used by the freshman. Take the time to read it. Here is the link.

While I am not a film critic, I found this movie at times over dramatized. The creators seem to go overboard to demonize the opponents of the Gospel. Some of the scenes rubbed me the wrong way. For example,

·      The main character’s girl friend comes off as snobby and unreasonable.  I was thinking he was well rid of her!
·      The profession of faith of the daughter of the Moslem while being hit by her dad is forced although I appreciated that the dad was portrayed as broken hearted over his daughter’s conversion.  A good reminder of the humanity of those who oppose the gospel.  They genuinely believe their faith.
·      The deathbed profession of faith by the professor is a little hokey although God can and does soften the hearts of His elect.
·      The rental car problem, although a little forced, does illustrate the sovereignty of God who orchestrated the many delays so that the pastor would be on the accident scene the moment the professor is hit by the car. 
·      The reporter with cancer is played very well. Her conversion via the News Boys is a little forced.
·      The cameo appearance of the Dynasty Duck dude and his gorgeous wife is totally unnecessary but entertaining.

Having said all of this, the absolute BEST part of this movie comes in the credits. That’s right, I said the credits. There is where the reality of what the movie intends to portray comes into vivid focus. The world does hate us for what we believe. I witnessed this first hand when I stood before the legislature and gave testimony of why I am opposed to same-sex marriages. The balcony was packed out with the Gay community and the legislators on the floor were laying for me. I could only smile as I thought about Jesus telling His disciples, “If they hate you, you know that they hated me before they hated you.” (John 15:18)
In the credits at the end are page after page of pending and settled lawsuits that involve universities from all over the country persecuting Christians for their faith. This movie encourages students to stand for their faith, rightly portraying the price they might have to pay. And for a student in this situation, it is a crisis.  However, I also thought about persecution around the world where the persecution of believers makes this American problem seem like Disney World. Believers are being hanged, imprisoned, beheaded and even crucified for knowing Jesus. God is Not Dead in our culture speaks to the educational crisis in America, but really in comparison, we should think twice about calling it persecution.  On the other hand, I'm grateful for the "watchers" who are standing guard over our liberties, those legal organizations that are ready and equipped to support and argue in court that our rights are trampled when professors and any educational institution tries to limit expression of our faith.  The right to speak freely must be protected.  And this movie demonstrates in the credits how critical it is to be on guard.
Supporters have touted all three movies as tools to engage the unbelieving world. They say we are to be thankful that Hollywood is hearing our cries. Really? Or, is Hollywood using believers as a means to an end – MONEY?  I wonder how many Christians will engage their unbelieving friends with these movies. Or, are we more interested with pontificating on FB or Twitter. After all, where have we been the other 11 months out of the year and where will we be when these movies go the way of “The Da Vinci Code” into the dust heap of memory?

In His grip, Chuck