Saturday, September 29, 2007

Independent Film Festivals

One of the most important developments of our day is a resurgence in a Christian perspective on the Arts. Storytelling is an ancient traditional that was utilized by Jesus Christ himself as an effective means of translating spiritual truths.

In the past few years, there are a number of independent Christian film festivals that have given a platform for talented new filmmakers to exhibit and launch their works. One of the most notable of these is the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival (SAICFF) and the Jubilee Awards which is hosted by Vision Forum.

As the ministry's founder, Doug Phillips correctly observes: "More than ever before in the recent history of our nation, we have access to the tools for waging a new form of cultural guerilla warfare against the elites who would redefine the biblical family out of existence and present a dark and nefarious vision of reality to the future. We need Christians to challenge the present culture of death, infidelity, perversion, and ethical malaise by boldly proclaiming the crown rights of Jesus Christ over every sphere of life and thought — including film."

The Georgia Christian Film Association, founded by "Captain Bret" Smith, also conducts the Georgia Christian Film Festival which allows independent filmmakers to submit their productions for to be considered for broadcast on national satellite television.

LifeWay, a large Southern Baptist organization, has launched the Gideon Media Arts Conference & Film Festival. This event features many industry professional including Ken Wales who you may know from the hit TV series, Christy written by Catherine Marshall, and more recently the box office faith-film, Amazing Grace on the life of William Wilberforce.

Other experts featured at the Gideon Media Arts event are Paul McCusker who is well-known for his professional touch given to Adventures in Odyssey and other Focus on the Family radio theatre productions, and Dr. Ted Baehr of MovieGuide. Many other talented experts will often be on hand to offer their expertise and provide direction and insight into film-making.

All of these organizations, and a number of others, are providing a wonderful service in helping to bring a truly Christian worldview to bear in the film industry. We should support these efforts and buy good films that promote a Biblical worldview.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Come What May

Every now and again something happens that is truly important on many levels. Such is the case with a new film produced by the Advent Film Group entitled, "Come What May."

"Come What May" is a film produced primarily by the homeschooling community, features Patrick Henry College (PHC is a privately-funded college in Virginia), and is a story about a moot court team who argues for the overturning of Roe v. Wade. This film stars homeschooling parents Kenneth Jezek and his wife, Karen Jezek, who I enjoyed watching in a movie on Karla Faye Tucker entitled, "Forevermore." Michael Farris also makes a starring appearance.

The story is focused on Caleb, a young man who is struggling to discover his own convictions. Caleb is torn between the values of his Christian father and his unbelieving mother who is a trial lawyer arguing in favor of abortion before the U.S. Supreme Court. Caleb is helped by his relationship with Rachel, a moot court teammate, his roommate Dave, and other friends and PHC professors to internalize his faith and stand on Biblical absolutes.

This film is co-produced by Ex-Discovery and AOL executive George Escobar and my friend, Manny Edwards. Hopefully many of you have seen Manny's first full-length film, "Mysterious Ways: It's How God Works," which is one of my favorite Christian films.

While the film is not scheduled to be released until Spring 2008, I have had a chance to watch the story develop and to see the trailer teaser which will be released next week in New Mexico at HSLDA's National Conference for Christian Homeschool Leaders in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I wanted to give you a heads up about this film and encourage you to help promote it and make it a smashing success. It is an independent Christian pro-life film, that is produced by homeschoolers and promotes a Biblical worldview. What a package! To learn more about the exciting new film, watch this promo video that explains more about AFG and their goals and vision.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Southwest Airlines Takes A Stand on Modesty

In an age in which we are bombarded with sexually charges images and behavior, Southwest Airlines has apparently drawn a line in the sand. In the past week, two young women (one of whom works for "Hooters," a food establishment which flaunts its immodest waitresses) have been asked to either cover up their bodies or leave the airplane. (A decision I support.)

While this is certainly being examined as a legal issue, and I'm sure that Southwest Airlines is in close communication with its attorneys these days, there is also the question of modesty and public decency. Where did the idea come from that we should clothe our bodies? It goes all the way back to Genesis 3:21, "And the Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and He clothed them."

Why was this necessary? Sin entered the world because of the original couple's rebellion. With that sin came the corruption of sexuality, which God created to be "very good." There is nothing sinful about the human body, and there is nothing sinful about sex, but there is something sinful in lusting after something that doesn't belong to you.

As corporations know, "sex sells." American Family Association recently emailed their members regarding sexually provocative TV ads by Hardees. Imagine that! Hamburgers are being sold by showing scantly dressed women seducing men (and in some cases minors). On a side note, I ate my first Hardee burger last fall on the way to a Christian book convention (against the insistent warning of my wiser younger sister) and I mean to tell you, it was anything but sexy!! Greasy...definitely! Sludgy...for sure! But marketing can only take your weekly allowance of fat and cholesterol on one sesame-seed-bun so far!

None of us are exempt from the pull of temptation. The stronger you think you are, the harder you might fall. There is something within all of our hearts (including mine) to take the forbidden fruit and want what does not belong to us. We each have our areas of weakness. For some it may be sex, for some money, for some self-glory in personal accomplishment. Whatever our propensity toward vice, we need a savior who is stronger than our flesh. Taking what does not belong to us leaves us with a leftover taste in our mouth and a sour feeling in our gut that is very similar to my Hardee burger experience.

I'm so thankful for my dear friends at Pure Life Ministries (PLM) who uncompromisingly call believers back to repentance and holiness. I know these brothers and sisters personally and they walk the talk. What a blessing they have been to so many of us! The problem in our culture is not merely sexual sin, it's the pervasive cult of self. Our narcissistic infatuation with ourselves is at the root of many of our personal, social and moral problems. PLM constantly chops at the roots of sin issues, and doesn't merely trim the branches.

Steve Gallagher and his wife Kathy Gallagher do most of the writing of PLM's books, while Jeff and Rose Colon run the Live-In program and the "Overcomers At-Home" (OCAH) program. My friend Justin Carabello is doing much more speaking these days, including traveling internationally with Steve to minister in Latin American, and other, countries. There are many other wonderful counselors and other staff whom we have come to love as family. I can't speak highly enough for this powerful ministry that God is using to truly change hearts and lives.

Even if you have been to their website in the past, you need to visit again. They have a wonderful new podcast, and tons of articles and free audio files.

The world is always going to be the world, but the Church must be different. May God bring us into a place where Christian women don't dress to be lusted after by men, and where Christian men don't lust after women. May we "each learn to control our body in a way that is holy and honorable." (1 Thess. 4:4)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Korean Hostages Told Convert to Islam or Die

The following is a news excerpt from Voice of the Martyrs:

On September 12, 2007, South Korean Christian aid workers held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan for six weeks, reported being beaten and ordered at gun point to convert to Islam, according to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

According to the BBC, the former hostages told a press conference they were made to work like slaves while in captivity. Jae Chang-hee told reporters, “We were beaten with a tree branch or kicked around. Some kidnappers threatened us with death at gunpoint to force us to follow them in chanting their Islamic prayer for conversion. I was beaten many times. They pointed a rifle and bayonet at me and tried to force me to convert.” Jae Chang-hee added, “We lived like slaves. We had to level the ground for motorbikes, and get water and make a fire.”

BBC reported that Yu Jung-hwa said she thought she was going to die. “The most difficult moment, when I had a big fear of death, was when the Taliban shot a video. All 23 of us leaned against a wall and armed Taliban aimed their guns at us, and a pit was before me. They said they will save us if we believe in Islam. I almost fainted at the time and I still cannot look at cameras.”

On July 19, the Taliban kidnapped the 23 South Korean Christian aid workers when they were traveling by bus from Kabul to Kandahar. The group’s leader, Pastor Bae Hyung-kyu, and another male hostage were killed. Twenty-one members of the group were released last month following an agreement between South Korea and the Taliban.

Recalling how Pastor Bae Hyung-kyu was led away to his death, the BBC said Han Ji-young, in tears, added, “Bae didn’t even look at us when he was leaving the room. He only said, ‘Overcome with faith.’”

Continue praying for God to touch the lives of these believers as they deal with their experience in Afghanistan. Pray God comforts the families of the two that were killed. Pray the testimony of these Christians will draw non-believers into fellowship with Him.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Kathy Griffin says, "Suck it, Jesus!" at Emmys

Comedian Kathy Griffin, a self-proclaimed militant atheist and a deconverted Roman Catholic, Griffin made provocative remarks about Jesus at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. Her comments will be cut from a pre-taped telecast of the show, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences said on Tuesday.

Griffin took the stage of the Shrine Auditorium on Saturday night to collect her Emmy for best reality program for her Bravo channel show "My Life on the D-List."

Holding up her statuette, she declared, "A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus...Suck it, Jesus. This award is my god now."

Asked about her speech backstage a short time later, an unrepentant Griffin added, "I hope I offended some people. I didn't want to win the Emmy for nothing."

That is one of the most self-obvious statements I've heard in a while! I'm sure she has offended a number of people with her statement, especially Catholic leaders who are taking this as a direct attack on their church (for some reason).

I have to say though that I thought she made a very accurate statement (minus that personal insult at the end). Jesus has very little to do with anything regarding the Emmy Awards or network television in general. The shows represented by the Emmy Awards promote a hedonistic, atheistic, humanistic, anti-Christ worldview. I'm not sure why so many people are surprised when someone in their ranks finally let's the cat out of the bag. She's merely revealing something that astute Christians have known for a long time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Legacy of 9/11

September 11, 2001 has forever been etched into the consciousness of the American mind. Nearly everyone alive at that time recalls where they were and what they were doing when the twin towers of the World Trade Center were attacked.

It was a very typical day at the office for me. We get breaking news reports via email at our office and one of my co-workers interrupted my concentration by announcing, "The news says that an airplane just hit one of the World Trade Center towers." Just that week there had been a story of a man in a hang glider that had gotten stuck and was hanging suspended from a skyscraper in Florida.

"That's a hoax," I announced. "That's typical of news networks. They like to be the first with a breaking story. They'll recall the story in a few minutes. It's definitely not an airplane. Air traffic controllers would never allow a private pilot to be flying that close to downtown New York City, and the commercial airliners know better."

After what seemed like just a few moments they announced again, "A second aircraft has his the other WTC tower." At that point we were all out of our seats clamoring to turn on the office television set. We sat glued to the set, realizing that this nation, and the rest of the civilized world, would never be the same.

I believe that 9/11 has provided a sociological turning point into a new era. It was, in my opinion, the beginning of post-Postmodernism. While I don't have space in this posting to discuss all that entails, I believe that we are on track towards the next natural and logical succession to a Postmodern culture. When a civilization is embodied by relativism and hedonism, history tells us that it falls apart from within. Francis Schaeffer told us that there are only two things that can keep a nation from sliding into the abyss of pleasure:

1. The gospel of Jesus Christ as preached by the true confessing church. The gospel exerts its restraining influence by means of the Holy Spirit working in someone's heart to convict them of sin, empowering them to live righteously. (i.e. Self-Government)

2. The arm of a totalitarian state. We can experience the assault of totalitarianism from within or the invasion of our nation from without. Neither one is very desirable.

We can be part of the solution by believing, living and proclaiming the unchanging truth of the gospel. As Schaeffer said in his excellent book, The Great Evangelical Disaster, "There must be confrontation. Loving confrontation, but confrontation nonetheless."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mennonites Being Forced to Move

A group of Mennonites in Quebec are moving away from their homes because of an attempt to shut down their private Christian school. The Quebec Education Department insists that all teachers working in Quebec be certified under provincial guidelines and that they follow provincial curriculum in the classroom.

According to Ronald Goosen, one of the founders of the Mennonite community, "It boils down to intolerance to our religion."

At the moment, the school has been closed and the families are moving to Ontario, where teacher certification standards are not as strict against private schools.

Mr. Keith Wedel said, "For us, it's very important that we have our own teachers, of our own church and of our own faith, that are teaching our children. We think that having freedom of religion grants us the right to have our own school. Across the rest of Canada and the U.S., it's been granted to us. So we're hoping to receive the same thing here like we have in other provinces. If the right is granted to us to continue having our own school, then we'll move back.

A World Net Daily article states that if these Christian parents did not subject their students to learning that evolution is a fact, then the children would be taken from their parents' homes and placed in foster home situations. That is, understandably, something these parents couldn't just stand by and allow to happen.

Teacher certification and control of the curriculum are methods that are often used by over-reaching governments as a way of controlling private education. In essence, you really can't have truly private education if the teachers and the curriculum are controlled by the government. Private schools at that point become another extension of the "arm of the State."

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The President comments on D. James Kennedy's passing

Statement by the President Regarding the Death of Dr. D. James Kennedy

SYDNEY, Australia, Sept. 6 /Christian Newswire/ -- The following text is a statement by President Bush regarding the death of Dr. D. James Kennedy:

Dr. D. James Kennedy was a man of great vision, faith, and integrity. Under his leadership, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church of Florida developed from a small group of worshipers in an elementary school cafeteria into one of America's most prominent congregations. Dr. Kennedy's message of love and hope inspired millions of Americans and others worldwide through the institutions he founded, including Coral Ridge Ministries, Knox Theological Seminary, and Westminster Academy. He was also a student of history and successful author who encouraged Americans of faith to exercise their democratic freedoms and put their values into practice. His legacy of grace and personal humility will continue to influence hearts and lives.

Laura and I pray for Anne, his wife of over 50 years, and the rest of the Kennedy family.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Who Wants More Children? I do!

I wrote this today in reply to a question about why I believe it is God's desire for us as Christians to have many children.

Mal 2:15a "Has not the Lord made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring."

Jer 29:6 "Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease."

Ge 1:28a "God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it."

The American mindset is nothing like the mindset of God's covenant people in the Bible.

Listen to this admonition to Rebekah from her friends when she was getting married:

Gen. 24:60 "And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, "Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies."

If someone told a typical American young woman something like that she would likely be very offended. "Why would I want thousands of offspring?"

This is a worldview issue. It all depends on your goals and perspective. The Biblical mandate is that believers are supposed to have children and grandchildren who take dominion of the world around them.

What are the "gates" referred to in that passage? To possess the gates meant that you controlled the channels of influence and authority in that culture. The gates were where law, commerce, government and general influence took place. To take the gates of your enemies you'd have to have a powerful arsenal. You need a lot of arrows to conquer a city. It may not happen in your lifetime, but eventually if you trained your children well, and taught them to train their children well, your descendants could overcome the evil culture around you.

Jesus said in Matt. 11:12 "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force."

I'm not talking about flesh and blood struggle here.

Eph 6:12 "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

In Biblical days, God's covenant people weren't content to sit back and allow evil to triumph. They waged war against evil. I'm intent on doing the same.

Psalm 127:3-5 "Sons are a heritage from the Lord, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed (note: what is the opposite of a blessing?) is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate."

Arrows don't do wimps any good. They are only useful to warriors.

Wimps shouldn't have arrows. They'll probably just injure themselves.

For myself and my wife, we're sharpening a whole quiver (the bigger the better) full of deadly arrows that will penetrate the darkness and bring liberty to the captives. We're training children who will love God will all of their hearts and train their children to do the same. We're training children who will use their gifts and talents for the kingdom of God to see righteousness prevail and evil run and hide. We're planning on owning the gates of our enemies.

How many arrows do you want? It all depends on your worldview.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bipolar or Sin?

It seems like everybody and their dog has been diagnosed as being Bipolar these days. It's the trendiest of the smörgåsbord of mental illnesses, and according to a recent New York Times article, it is increasingly becoming the diagnosis of choice for children as well. Time will tell if it will surpass ADD/ADHD as the favorite school-counselor armchair diagnosis.

As with ADD/ADHD there is no biological test to confirm or deny the disorder, and no genetic connection has ever been proven. The diagnosis is mainly determined by looking at behavior and emotional symptoms. People who are labeled with Bipolar Disorder often have huge mood swings and pendulum from emotional high to low, with little or no apparent cause.

A couple of years ago, Christian pop singer, Michael O'Brien announced that he and his wife were diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This week I heard an updated testimony from Michael and his wife Heidi on Billy Graham's website, where they shared about Michael's life-long pornography addiction. I am so thankful that Michael has confessed his sin and is walking on the path to victory. I'm sure this has been a difficult thing for them to discuss in public but I pray that their honesty will help many other hurting couples/families.

I had to think though that living a double life, being in Christian ministry, and hiding a lurid secret sin, would cause you to exhibit some Bipolar tendencies. While medication can help sedate you so you don't think about your problems, and therapy can help you believe that nothing you do is your fault, only the redeeming power of Jesus can deliver you, and me, from our sins.

A great example of the healing power of Jesus is demonstrated in the life of another popular Christian singer, Russ Taff. Listen to Russ' testimony of God's deliverance from many years of emotional bondage in this interview with Bill Gaither.

In Deut. 28:28, mental disorders are promised as a consequence to disobeying God. However, if you read the entire chapter, you will see the vast promises that are given to those who live pure and obedient lives. God has set before us this day life and death, blessings and cursings: Choose Life!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Passing The Baton

This past month we saw the announcement of Dr. D. James Kennedy’s retirement from Coral Ridge Ministries. Kennedy suffered cardiac arrest back in December of 2006 and hasn't fully recovered. Since 1959 Kennedy has served as the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in FL.

Kennedy’s retirement is a reminder of how a whole crop of Christian leaders have run their race and are finishing their course. Jerry Falwell passed on earlier this year, leaving his ministry including Liberty University, Liberty Council and Thomas Road Baptist Church in the hands of sons, Jerry, Jr., and Jonathan, and others.

Pat Robertson, R.C. Sproul, Dr. James Dobson, Brother Andrew, David Wilkerson, Charles Colson, and many others have led defining Christian ministries that have inspired others and spawned similar works in various parts of the world. Each of these men are in, or quickly approaching, their 70s. One has to wonder if there are enough capable young leaders to grab the baton and continue the work once these men step off the stage.

It is clear that Christian ministry cannot simply be about personality and charisma. I’m reminded of a popular televised preacher in Atlanta who desired to step down from leadership a few years back when his wife filed for divorce. His church board informed him that he was the ministry and the church would simply shrivel up and die without him at the helm. That is not a sign of a healthy ministry.

The goal of the Christian leader is to work yourself out of a job. As Dr. Francis Schaeffer said, there are “No little people” in the Kingdom, but at the same time there are also no irreplaceable ones. At the point that a leader has become so self-important or so despotic that he cannot turn over the reigns of control when the time comes, he has ceased to do true Kingdom work. The Kingdom is all about serving, not about ruling.

I was encouraged to hear the results of Franklin Graham’s recent Festival in Ecuador. The event set an attendance record for the nation by packing in more than 185,000 people and seeing 15,800 make professions of faith in Christ. It is a blessing that Billy Graham, who defines Christian ministry in the 20th century more than any other man, has found a more than able successor to take the baton and carry it into the new millennium. It is even more encouraging that Franklin's son, Will, is also involved in ministry.

May the Lord raise up a host of Joshua’s who are trained, willing and able to lead a new generation into a better understanding of the Lord and His ways.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Relational Redemption

This week has brought us the sordid story of Idaho Senator Larry Craig (R). If the allegations against him are true (and I have no reason to doubt the policeman's report, especially when Craig plead guilty when arrested), this is an example of how deviance and sexual perversity has infiltrated all levels of our culture. It used to be claimed that anti-social behavior was caused by lack of education or poverty, but that is being proven wrong time and time again.

From Brittany Spears, to former President Clinton, to millionaire socialites like Paris Hilton, sexual promiscuity, unfaithfulness and perversion are a part of the fallen human nature, not the result of social class-struggle or economic under-privilege.

The solution to this problem is not more social programs, more money spent on governmental education, or socialistic economic theories. The solution is in taking responsibility for one's actions, recognizing that we are sinful at the depths of our being, and accepting the payment for our sin and the promise of deliverance from our depravity by the redeeming power of God's Spirit. Only in Jesus Christ can we overcome sin and see healing to damaged relationships caused by our sin.

A good example of the redeeming power of God to repair a marriage marred by sin and unfaithfulness is the story of Denise Jackson, wife of country music superstar, Alan Jackson. Denise has written a new book, It's All About Him: Finding the Love of My Life, which tells their story of struggle and eventually victory through the power of God. I haven't read the book yet, but to me it stands in stark contrast with Sen. Craig's refusal to take ownership of his actions. The Jackson's story is a great example of how God will heal us when we admit our sin and seek forgiveness.