Monday, December 29, 2014

Christian, Stop Sharing John Pavlovitz's Articles

Before this month, I'd never heard of John Pavlovitz. Suddenly I started seeing his editorials popping up on Facebook and Twitter. They were being posted by Christians, but the substance of the articles appeared quite off. As a pastor committed to sound doctrine and also rebuking those who contradict it (Titus 1:9), I wanted to know who this guy was. So I looked him up.

It took me about 30-seconds of scrolling through his blog before coming to the conclusion that he is not to be considered any kind of biblical authority. He claims to be a pastor. His Facebook page says that he's a "rogue pastor," formerly of a Methodist church in North Carolina. But he is no friend of the church.

The following are three of his articles that have been published through external sources. I'd like to point out some of the problems with the stuff he writes so that you, Christian, can understand why his articles should not be shared.

5 Things I Wish Christians Would Admit About the Bible
The intended purpose of the article is Pavlovitz wants readers to "free themselves" (his words, not mine) of the burden of having to understand the Bible. Yet it is imperative that we do our best to present ourselves to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, and who rightly handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

For an article about the Bible, he makes no attempt to reference it. The closest he gets is a link to 2 Timothy 3:16, which he takes out of context to say that scripture being "God-breathed" means that it's just as inspirational as a person's own experiences. What that passage is really saying is that God's Word is so authoritative, we are to teach, rebuke, correct, and train ourselves and others by it, so that we're properly equipped for every good work.

But that doesn't matter to Pavlovitz. He holds the Bible in no high regard, waving his hand as he equates it to "most great works throughout history." His final point in the article is the worst, claiming that "God is bigger than the Bible."

He tells a story about the time he experienced the ocean, and how this is like experiencing God. "I wish more Christians would admit that the Bible, at its most perfect and inspired, is a collection of words about the ocean," he writes. "They are not the ocean itself. God is the ocean." Oh, brother.

Christian, it should go without saying that the Bible is not a collection of words about God. It is the very word of God. You cannot separate God and his Word. Psalm 138:2 says, "I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word."

Bam.

You remember John 1:1, right? In the beginning was the Word "and the Word was God." If Pavlovitz was any kind of minister of God's Word, he'd know that. He claims to be a teacher, but he doesn't understand either what he's saying or the things about which he makes his confident assertions (1 Timothy 1:7).


Dear Church, Here's Why People Are Really Leaving You
Now, I'd be able to agree with some of Pavlovitz's points if they stood on their own. For example, his first criticism for show-and-tell churches is, "Your Sunday productions have worn thin." Sure, I've chatted with many folks who have visited a church and came away feeling like it was more of a concert than genuine worship. I've experienced that myself.

But Pavlovitz's intention here is not to spiritually admonish fellow Christians. He'll rope the reader in with a few decent points, but the heart of his article is nothing but carnality. To go through the article point by point would be, well, pointless because it's all wrong at its base. In the previous article, Pavlovitz didn't understand the Bible. In this one, he doesn't understand the church.

The church is not just a bunch of people getting together and loving each other despite their sin or their differences. What is the church? If you said, "It is the body of Christ," congratulations, you get a gold star. So who gets to be in the body of Christ? According to scripture, those whom Christ has reconciled to God by his death (2 Corinthians 5:18); those who have been predestined for adoption into the family of God (Ephesians 1:5); those who are being shaped in the image of the Son (Romans 8:29). (For a deeper, scriptural explanation, watch this video.)

In other words, the body of Christ is made up of those who are followers of Christ -- only. Following Jesus doesn't mean you simply believe he exists or that he's the Son of God. Even the demons believe that (Mark 5:7). It means that because you've been saved by his finished work, you obey his commands (1 John 5:1-2). Those who do not obey him don't get to share in his life but remain under the wrath of God (John 3:36).

If there is someone attending church who is practicing unrepentant sin, the church should do what the Bible dictates needs to be done to offer correction (Galatians 6:1). If they remain unrepentant, the Bible is clear that anyone who calls themselves a brother or sister but persists in sin should be purged from the church (1 Corinthians 5:9-13). The unsaved friends we invite to church are also in unrepentant sin. They are not in the Spirit and incapable of worshiping God (Romans 8:9, Philippians 3:3).

During the week, members of the body can be out in the community being the hands and feet of Christ. While doing works of service, they should also be sharing the gospel. Those whose hearts are truly transformed in Christ when they hear the gospel should then begin attending church as a growing member of the body. Those who remain resistant to the gospel should not be in church because they are not part of it.

To bring this full-circle, people who leave the church do so because they were never part of it (1 John 2:19). The outright arrogance of Pavlovitz's article is that he presumes the spiritual man doesn't actually understand why people are leaving the church, and he's just the dude to enlighten us. On the contrary, the spiritual man knows exactly why a person leaves the church, and also knows Pavlovitz has no idea what he's talking about.

What the Continued Crucifying of Rob Bell Says About Modern Christianity
Another article courtesy of Relevant (which really isn't all that relevant). Like Pavlovitz's previous articles, the premise is flawed from the start. Pavlovitz writes the following: "It's often been said that we Christians eat our own. This unsettling expression is all-too true, and apparently Rob Bell is on the menu yet again."

Um, Rob Bell isn't "our own." He's a false teacher. He was a heretic long before he wrote Love Wins. Some folks just took a little longer to realize it than others. At one point, I too was ensnared by Nooma and other teachings of Bell. Thanks to the sound counsel of faithful men of God, I was able to repent of that heresy and follow in the truth. Others need to be warned of Bell's lies so they also won't be led astray.

But come on, Bell is not being eaten and he's certainly not being crucified. Good grief, how dramatic can you get? A few sound teachers are exposing Bell as a fraud, but the church is not doing the devouring. That would be Bell (2 Timothy 3:5-6, 1 Peter 5:8) who now has his own talk-show produced by none other than Oprah. Clearly he's doing fine.

"Okay, audience, chant with me now: Oooooo-praaaaaaahh"
In Conclusion
Pavlovitz's blog is called "Stuff That Needs to Be Said." No. None of it does. It's empty often morose droning that slanders the church. It makes no effort to elevate Christ and therefore provides no edification for the believer. Please, Christian; with a discerning heart, realize that Pavlovitz is blogging for his own benefit and no other. Stop sharing his articles.

Assessing Pavlovitz's teaching over a year later, a follow-up article can be found here.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Exodus: Gods and Kings -- A Pastor's Review

Our local theater recently did a huge remodel. Last night was the first time I've had the chance to go see a movie in the new digs, and they are really something. It's like a brand new building -- new carpet, new lighting, new sound. Even the outside of the building is totally different.

And let me tell you about the seats. Recliners. I'm talking full-on leather La-Z-Boys with cup-holders and an electronic recline feature. Okay, they're not actually La-Z-Boys as in the brand, but they might as well have been. As far as a theater experience goes, it's the most comfortable I've ever been.

I sat in a single seat. They also have recliner couches. You can lift the arm-rest and stretch out if you want to. I'd love to go back and take my wife with me so we can cuddle up and watch a movie together. The B&B Gem in Junction City has become a really great theater.

And that's the most positive I'm going to be with this review because the film I went to go see was a turd. Exodus: Gods and Kings is a pointless film for any movie-goer. Comparing the movie to the story of Moses straight out of the first 14 chapters of Exodus, it's even worse. In every way that atheist director Ridley Scott could manipulate the story, he did.

What we have are a bunch of characters that share names with the Exodus narrative but only barely match any of the events and don't share any of the dialogue whatsoever. It's almost so far from Exodus, they could have changed the characters, called the film something else entirely, and someone would have watched it and said, "Hey, this is kind of like the story of Moses," yet knew that it wasn't.

This? I'm not so sure the average church-goer will know the difference, nor will they care. Why do I think that? For two reasons: 1) Because the film is called Exodus, and 2) Because they haven't actually read Exodus. I pointed out in a blog a few weeks ago that although the average American has at least 3 Bibles in their home, only 37 percent claim to read it regularly.

Most Christian leaders reflect the church's increasingly blase attitude about God's Word. Do you remember earlier this year when Noah came out, also directed by an atheist (Darren Aronofsky)? That story was just as far from the biblical narrative. Yet Brian Houston of Hillsong church fame called the movie "Brilliant," Jim Daly of Focus On the Family put his stamp of approval on it, and even the American Bible Society said they enjoyed it.

Let me tell you a personal experience story here, and then I'll get back to the review (if you actually want to know more than just it being a "turd"). In May, I participated in a National Day of Prayer event with about a dozen other pastors in my community. Each one of us was designated to pray before the congregation over a particular subject or issue. (Mine was for the media. I was appointed that because of my background in radio. I posted my prayer here.)

Before taking the stage, we realized that a pastor had not yet been appointed to close with the Lord's Prayer. One pastor was approached, and he declined: "No, I don't have it memorized," he said. He straight-up admitted that like it was no big thing. Another pastor was asked. Same thing. "I don't do anything without a script," he said. Open your Bible then? Another pastor said, "There's just so many versions of it -- you know, trespasses, debts and debtors -- I'd rather not."

Pastors. Who either couldn't or wouldn't recite the Lord's prayer. And that was funny to them. They stood in their circle and laughed about not having it memorized.

God, help us.

So no, the average three-Bible carrying church-goer is not automatically going to understand the difference between Exodus and Exodus. Not when Christian leaders are calling the Bible movies of atheist filmmakers "Brilliant." Take my word for it though and avoid this film. Do not waste your money. (Fortunately, I didn't waste mine, either. I'll share how that worked out at the end.)

The Burning Bush

The first third of the movie really wasn't so bad. There were a few historical inaccuracies and the writers took some liberties with the story, which was to be expected. According to the film, Moses didn't actually know he was a Hebrew, he never knew his mother or that Miriam was his sister, and he killed two Egyptians because they thought he was a slave. None of that is biblically accurate.

Also according to the movie, Moses ended up in the house of Pharaoh because a prophesy was made about a savior who would rise up from the Hebrews. In order to prevent that from happening, Pharaoh ordered that every Hebrew baby be killed. Except that's not in the Bible. Pharaoh ordered Hebrews to be killed because they were growing in number and he feared an insurrection. But whatever. Dramatic liberties. I get it.

As with most tellings of Exodus, Moses grows up a buddy of the future Pharaoh he would eventually have to oppose. In this case, they're cousins. They're also both agnostics making fun of the weird polytheist and omen-ways of their fellow Egyptians. Though Moses eventually comes to faith in the Hebrew God, Pharaoh maintains his agnosticism throughout. (It's kind of hard to overlook that Scott considers him a sympathetic character.)

One way that's inaccurate is that Pharaoh considered himself a god. He does make that claim at one point in the movie, but it's in a moment of contestation -- as if to say he's a better god than God himself. He's not actually claiming to be a god. The movie emphasizes his agnosticism further when it's revealed that Pharaoh had not yet begun work on his own tomb which was an utmost priority for an Egyptian king, establishing himself in the afterlife.

After Moses is banished from Egypt, he finds himself in Midian, marries Zipporah, and that's when things get really off. First, the movie suggests that only 10 years have passed between Moses's banishment and the events that took place at the burning bush, but that number is actually 40 years. Moses was 40 when he fled Egypt, and 80 when he was told to go back.

And let me just be straight about that burning bush sequence -- it's really stupid. Seriously, it's the worst burning bush scene ever. The only thing remotely close to the movie and the actual story in Exodus 3 is that there's a bush on fire that isn't consumed. That's it. Everything else is stupid.

God is portrayed by a 10-year-old boy. No, not the voice of God. No voice comes from the burning bush. There's this little boy who shows up and identifies himself as "I am," though he never actually calls himself God. He does in Exodus 3:6, but not in the film, which makes Moses out like he has mistaken him for God but he's not really God. And (g)od never tells Moses what to do. He just suggests that he should go check out what's going on with the Israelites.

Moses then abandons his family, which also isn't how that goes in Exodus. Moses's family went with him. In the film, Zipporah even says, "What kind of (g)od tells a man to leave his family?" Not the Great I Am, that's for sure. See 1 Timothy 5:8. (I really pray that any Christian who sees this knows that none of the crap in the movie is actually in the Bible.)

He gives up his staff to his son to remember him by which is also inaccurate. The staff is the thing God told Moses to use to show all of his signs and wonders in Egypt (Exodus 4:17). But like I said, Scott tries at every turn to change the story, even relieving Moses of his staff.

Moses goes back to the Hebrews and trains them to start an uprising. Yup, not how that goes in Exodus either. He sneaks up on Pharaoh one night, puts a knife to his throat, and says that the Hebrew people are going to be free. Pharaoh calmly and rationally asks Moses who he's been listening to, and then a wild-eyed, delusional Moses (yes, the movie suggests that Moses might be delusional) says that he's listening to (g)od. To which Pharaoh replies, "Which one?"

The Plagues

Okay, on to the plagues. First of all, there's no clear indication, even to Moses, that the plagues are from (g)od. They could all be explained naturally. The Nile turning to blood is just a bunch of crocodiles that show up to kill Egyptians and each other filling the Nile up with blood. Then the frogs rise up out of the Nile, then they die and from them come the flies, and from the flies come the boils.

It's all just one plague after another. Moses never goes to Pharaoh and says "Let my people go." In the Exodus account of the burning bush, God tells Moses that he will be like God to Pharaoh and the people of Israel, and Aaron will be his mouthpiece. Well Aaron plays no role in the story whatsoever. It's all a very psychologically unstable Moses who was hit in the face by a rock.

The (g)od of Ridley Scott's imagination is a self-centered brat. Listen, it's downright blasphemous the way this film portrays God. And Moses never has any idea what (g)od is up to. He tells (g)od at one point that he's unimpressed. When (g)od is ready to unleash the last plague, which is the death of the firstborn (I don't think they ever actually specify that though), Moses tries to talk him out of it.

It is only then that Moses finally appears before Pharaoh amidst all this plaguing, and it's more to warn him rather than command him to release the Hebrews. Then he goes to the Hebrews and tells them to slaughter a lamb and smear the blood on the door posts. When asked why, Moses says, "Pity the lambs if I am wrong. If I am right, we will bless them for all eternity." (Is it really worth going into how off all these inaccuracies are? Each one could be an individual blog post.)

After Pharaoh's son dies, he brings him to Moses and says, "Is this your (g)od? Killer of children? Who would worship such a (g)od?" Moses doesn't bring up how many Hebrews Pharaoh has killed. Rather, he just looks a little messed up having been a party to the death of "innocent" children. Pharaoh then demands the Hebrews leave Egypt.

The Red Sea

Moses shows the Hebrews where they're going to go based on a map that he drew. God doesn't tell him where to go. There's no pillar of fire or cloud guiding their way. Moses just knows where they need to go to escape. And when the Hebrews leave, it's like they really don't care. There's no joy having just been released from 400 years of slavery. They also get wrong the number of slaves in the Exodus.

During their flee, Moses gets confused about which way to go. One of the Hebrews asks him, "What does (g)od tell you?" And Moses says, "That way." The movie means to suggest that God really wasn't telling Moses anything. Moses was just guessing. He ultimately gets lost and has to pray, "Show me where to go." Of course, (g)od doesn't answer, and Moses blames him for not caring.

They come to the Red Sea and are trapped. The people bicker and Moses has no idea which way to go. They camp out that night and the next day, the water has begun to recede. The Bible actually says Moses raised his staff (oops, the script-writers took that from him already) and a strong east wind blew all night long and divided the waters.

The scripture then specifically says that when they crossed the Red Sea on dry ground, there was a wall of water to the left and to the right of them (Exodus 14:22). In the movie, the waters have completely receded and disappeared. The Hebrews cross on this huge plain that's basically the dry bed of the Red Sea.

But honestly, I didn't get to see the rest of the movie from that point on. No, I didn't get up and leave. Rather, the movie froze. The manager came in and told us that the projector locked up and we would have our tickets refunded. Thankfully, I didn't actually have to pay to see this atrocity of a Bible epic -- with anything other than my time, anyway.

The last line I heard Moses deliver was right before he led them "through" the Red Sea. He said, "You have honored me with your trust. Now I honor you with my faith." Oh, boy. Your faith which you use to talk to ten-year-old boy-gods. Thanks, crazy Moses.

I'm sure there was a Ten Commandments sequence, but thank heavens I didn't have to stick around and watch the filmmakers show how Moses went up to Mount Sinai and started tripping on some burning bush weed before he slipped and fell into a piece of rock and chiseled out ten basic laws for this new nomadic government he was going to establish with his Egyptian knowledge.

Conclusion

Have you ever seen Jesus Christ Superstar? If not, don't watch that one either. Anyway, in that movie/musical, Andrew Lloyd Webber's version of Jesus, who actually isn't the Son of God in his script, also gets mad at (g)od because he won't tell Jesus exactly what he wants him to do.

This is how atheists believe God to be. And yes, every atheist believes in God (Romans 1:19-21). Scott, Webber, and Aronofsky's version of God is exactly the same -- he's a magic sky-dude, a self-indulgent megalomaniac, who doesn't properly communicate with anyone who he is or what he wants. But they only see God that way because their foolish hearts are darkened, and they think they know better than God.

Our Lord has told us exactly who he is, just as he told Moses. We know through his clear and consistent Holy Word that he loves us having displayed that love first by creating us in his image, then when we desecrated that image with our sin, he died for us so that we might be reformed in the image of the Son (Romans 8:28-30).

Moses was supposed to be a foreshadowing of Christ. Just as Moses interceded for Israel, Christ Jesus intercedes for us before the Father. It's ironic that Scott's version of Moses is a picture of Webber's version of Christ. I saw them as being exactly the same. They're even both musical (Christian Bale, who played Moses, was in Newsies).

Alright, so in conclusion, just read your Bible. And no more Bible movies made by atheists, okay?

Monday, December 1, 2014

VeggieTales In the House Review

I saw my first VeggieTales episode when I was a freshman in high school, and I was instantly hooked. By that time there were already several videos (really -- they were VHS tapes). Me and some church friends loved them so much, even as teenagers, we put together VeggieTales parties. We even had unsaved friends that came and could sing the songs with the rest of us.

I remember falling on the floor in fits of laughter with my siblings when we first heard Song of the Cebu. Then we watched it over and over until we had it completely memorized. I can still quote almost entire episodes, including one of my favorites, Tale of Two Cities, based on the parable of the Good Samaritan. I was a VeggieTales kid when I was too old to be called a kid.

Though the Bible-based program has steadily diminished over the past decade (creator Phil Vischer lost the company in 2003), I was willing to give the new Netflix-exclusive series a taste. That series, called VeggieTales In the House, is fresh in terms of animation quality, but the Bible is more like dressing, and very little of it, compared to being the platter on which these Veggies were once served (okay, that's the only pun I'll attempt, I promise).

By definition, they've always been just an animated salad.

In that first golden decade of VeggieTales, they did lessons on being friends with those who are different than you (Are You My Neighbor?), relying on God to tame our fears (Where's God When I'm Scared?), being truthful and not lying (Larry Boy & the Fib from Outer Space), and forgiving others (God Wants Me to Forgive Them?), all rooted in scripture (that wasn't a pun).

They've done Bible stories like Joshua and the battle of Jericho (Josh and the Big Wall), Daniel and the lion's den (Where's God When I'm Scared?), Daniel's friends in the fiery furnace (Rack, Shack, and Benny), David and Goliath (Dave and the Giant Pickle), Esther (Esther, the Girl Who Became Queen), and of course the feature film, Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie.

The first episode of VeggieTales In the House is about how to care for a pet.

Yeah.

There's still a Bible verse wedged in there, but it's more eisegetical than ever -- meaning that a verse was just randomly picked to fit a story rather than trying to write a story to fit a Bible lesson.

Admittedly, VeggieTales has always been this way. In an interview with the Gospel Coalition, Vischer said, "[Christian] entertainment products typically follow the VeggieTales model: tell a story that illustrates a value, then wrap it up with a Bible verse to show the biblical basis for that value. We certainly need to teach kids biblical values, but biblical values aren't the gospel. Introducing a child to 'kindness' isn't equal to introducing him or her to Jesus."

But while the original VeggieTales was clearly Christian (WWUTT video plug), VeggieTales In the House is closer to moralism. In watching the five half-hour episodes that Netflix has introduced (which is basically ten 15-minute shorts), "God" is mentioned just a few times, and sometimes not at all. I heard "Lord" said in an episode, but "Jesus" never comes up. I don't think the word "Bible" was ever said either.

In one episode, Petunia says, "I'm pretty sure I read somewhere not to let the sun go down on your anger." That would be a reference to Ephesians 4:26. Why can't she just say, "The Bible says not to let the sun go down on your anger"? The script-writers are intentionally avoiding the use of that word.

In another episode, Bob says, "Remember that old chestnut from Ecclesiastes, 'Two are better than one, for they have a good reward for their work.'" Then Larry chimes in, "For if they fall, one will lift up the other." That's Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. Notice that it's a "chestnut" and not a "verse." How many kids know what an "Ecclesiastes" is or where it's found? And what kid says "old chestnut" to describe a saying?

Of the ten 15-minute toons, I think only three complete chapter-and-verse Bible references are made. A couple episodes don't use the Bible at all. One was just a lesson about having a good attitude and also good breath. Not kidding. Another episode I thought was going to skip the Bible verse entirely, but they managed to slip it into the last 20 seconds.

Every episode ends with Bob and Larry's trademark, "Remember kids, God made you special, and he loves you very much!" That's something, to say the least. When the VeggieTales cartoons aired on NBC a few years ago, the network edited that closing out.

Strengths

It's still pretty cute and there are laughs to be had, including a few throwback jokes to some of the earliest videos. As I said, the animation has improved. I also appreciate that VeggieTales In the House has attempted to keep the original voices of the characters long-time VeggieTales fans have come to recognize (except for Junior Asparagus, replaced with voice actress, Tress MacNeille).

The new Junior Asparagus! Er, wait...

Also, this is not just a pointless cartoon. They're actually trying to share more than just a comedic half-hour, even if the lesson is on the weak end of biblical. An episode about caring for a pet still places an emphasis on personal responsibility.

Weaknesses

So far, the songs. Which is unfortunate. I can still sing God Is Bigger Than the Boogie Man, I Can Be Your Friend, or I Love My Lips -- and who doesn't know the name VeggieTales and can't sing Oh, Where Is My Hairbrush? -- all songs from the VeggieTales of yesteryear. Yet I can't remember a single song I heard from the VeggieTales episodes I just watched a couple hours ago.

That includes the opening theme. It's not the waltz-with-potatoes-up-and-down-the-produce-aisle tuba song anymore. The song-breaks in the middle of episodes are even kind of awkward. VeggieTales was once iconic for its musical numbers (Phineas and Ferb totally copies the VeggieTales formula). The music has lost that luster. I hope that gets better.

Then there's the matter of there being no gospel whatsoever. It could be argued that VeggieTales never had the gospel, but even the original quoted John 3:16 and talked about Jesus. Not a single one of the five new episodes contains any Bible story. We're disappointed with the reduction in biblical content only because we've come to expect it of VeggieTales. Without the Bible, they're just talking vegetables -- which by itself is not such a Big Idea. (Okay, that was a pun.)

In case you didn't get the joke.

Final Verdict

Despite the obvious spiritual decline, it's still a good show for kids. Sure, it contains less Bible than it once had, but that shouldn't keep parents from letting their kids watch. It's an edifying cartoon from a Christian worldview. If you let your kids watch talking ninja turtles (mine do), then, yes, feed them some VeggieTales. Just don't expect this kind of cartoon to tell your kids about the Bible.

That's your job anyway, mom and dad. And when you teach them, make sure you teach the whole Bible. Help your children understand it's not just a book of moralistic quotes -- which is what Netflix has reduced it to with VeggieTales In the House. The cartoon contains just enough Bible to be wholesome, but not enough to be biblical.


For something that's more biblically educational for your kids, and entertaining for you as well, check out Phil Vischer's latest creation, What's In the Bible? The complete series would make a great Christmas gift!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Responding Again to the Documentary, "Holy Ghost"

It was brought to my attention recently that filmmaker Darren Wilson, who created a blasphemous documentary entitled Holy Ghost, wrote a blog that seems to respond to the critical review I wrote of the film. Whether or not he had my review in mind, many others have made some of the same accusations that I first made, pointing out the film falls far short of presenting the truth of the Holy Spirit. It is false teaching.

Rather than listen to sage counsel, Wilson tries to explain himself be responding to three of the most common questions (criticisms?) about the movie. I present those questions below as well as my own response, once again warning everyone reading to stay away from this wretched documentary. If you haven't yet, please read my review by clicking here. Wilson's comments from his blog are indented in italics, and my response follows...

1. Why is the Gospel not presented in the film?
I find this one interesting, as it seems to me that a large portion of the Korn concert is given over to Todd White doing just that! He explains at length about the saving work of Jesus, the need to repent of your sins, and the need to have a relationship with Christ.
No, he doesn't. Todd White is a liar. At the same Korn concert, he talks to an atheist who says he has a bad back. White convinces the atheist that he's able to make one leg grow longer than the other to even his back out. They "show" this on camera. It's a gag, and White knows he's not actually making this guy's leg grow longer. He is not of God. He is of the devil (John 8:44), and the "gospel" he preaches is not leading anyone to eternal life.
Many people, it seems, prefer their gospel to focus on God's coming judgment and therefore want to push people to repentance right there on the spot. I much prefer to focus on God's love for people, and the offer He is making to save them from their sins and His desire for a relationship with them.
If that statement is not heresy, it is dangerously close. Wilson has drawn a distinct line between talking about God's judgment and talking about his love as if the two things are diametrically opposed to one another. Though Christ spoke heavily on the subject of God's righteous judgment, Wilson considers the topic one of God's "bad" qualities that we just shouldn't talk about.

What Wilson and the Holy Ghost team at large do not understand about the gospel is this: God is a good God, and as a good God, he cannot pardon sin. He is that holy and that righteous that blasphemy against his name, which is what we do every time we sin, cannot merely be pardoned. It must be paid for.

The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). Jesus Christ died on the cross and took the full wrath of God upon himself in our place. If we are in Christ and his Spirit dwells within us, we are righteous in the eyes of God. He doesn't avert his eyes at our filthy sin (Habakkuk 1:13), but rather looks at us with the same love that he loves his own Son. And instead of the death we deserve, we get to inherit his eternal life.

We are justified because of Christ. We are forgiven because of what Christ did in our place. And THAT'S THE GOSPEL!!! Oh, with all my heart, soul, and being, that's the gospel! If I could grab Wilson by the shirt collar and preach to his face until he understands it, I would. He just doesn't get it! And neither does anyone else in the film. They will drag people to hell before they ever care to end this stupidity and receive discipline and knowledge (Proverbs 12:1). God, bring them to repentance.

Wilson doesn't know what "save them from their sins" means. He thinks talking about God's love means avoiding anything that points to his judgment. But the Bible says that God showed his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us to save us from the wrath of God (Romans 5:8-9). If Wilson is not willing to share that, if he's deliberately against talking about anything related to God's judgment, then he's only sharing his own version of what he thinks love is. He's not sharing the gospel.
I prefer the let the Holy Spirit convict them of their sin (which is what the Bible says He will do, by the way), and am fully confident that He will do what He says He will do. I think many people don't trust God to do God-type things in people's lives and hearts, so they feel the need to do it all themselves. This, in my opinion, is a mistake.
Not only can I not convict a person of their sins, I go as far as preaching that a person on their own can't repent of their sins. It is God who grants repentance. Unlike Wilson's vague "what the Bible says" references, I'll quote chapter and verse on that (Acts 5:31; 2 Timothy 2:25). Wilson is making excuses for not having to know or share the gospel. That's all. And he shrugs it off by saying, "Oh, just trust God to do God-type things." Well God-type things would be to teach what Jesus commanded us to teach (Matthew 28:20).
2. It seems like Will Hart and Jamie Galloway in the Salt Lake City scene are just doing what mediums do, and it's all about the experience with no gospel message. Is that accurate?
I will agree that there is definitely a skew towards "experiencing" the Holy Spirit in the Salt Lake City portion of the film...
Like White, Hart and Galloway deliberately con people with goosebumps and cold readings and tell them it's the Holy Spirit. Whatever "gospel" they preach (Wilson assures us it happens though we don't see it on camera) is given under false pretenses. The ends do not justify the means -- which, ironically, is how a Mormon preaches. They will straight up lie to your face if it means you'll become a Mormon, just like Hart and Galloway do with Christianity.
I have also heard many people criticizing that we don't present the gospel in this section at all. Maybe they missed the four boys getting saved? Again, while it may not be on camera, it was certainly discussed with people, which is why those four boys prayed for salvation.
We've already established that Wilson and company don't know what the gospel is. The viewer has every reason to believe that those boys (whose faces were blurred out) didn't actually know what they were praying for, and at least in the context of the documentary, they are not saved.
3. How can Brian "Head" Welch call himself a Christian and be a member of Korn at the same time?Okay, so this seems to be the big one. There are a few things going on here, so let me deal with them individually the best I can.
Uh huh...
Regardless, it's a great question, and one that I have posed to Brian directly. While you may not agree with the answer, hopefully it will help ease your mind a bit. The first thing to note, especially if you are not a fan of Korn's music or that style of music, is the music they make is not Satanic. While it is true that a few of their songs glorify things that are truly dark and horrific, Brian and Fieldy have both stated that they will not play those songs onstage anymore, and the band has acquiesced.
Meanwhile, lead singer Jonathan Davis is singing from a custom-made microphone stand of a nude woman. How disgusting that Wilson is defending this. And yes, Korn is satanic. Not meaning that they openly worship Satan or wear pentagrams and conduct ritual sacrifices. Their music is godless with vulgar and violent lyrics containing multiple drug, suicide, and demonic references. I'm just basing this on their newest record. I'm not considering anything older than that.
Brian and Fieldy are the only Christians in the band. The others are decidedly not believers, especially the lead singer, who is the one who writes all the lyrics.
Oh, THAT MAKES IT OKAY!
That being said, this is the culture that Brian and Fieldy came out of, this is their 'tribe' so to speak, and them playing these songs -- the ones about pain, struggles, and anger (which, honestly, is found in many of the Psalms) -- is simply them relating to the ones they are trying to reach with the gospel.
That was so blasphemous, I can't even begin to explain. In every single Psalm of pain and anguish, the psalmist is crying out to the Lord. Korn is godless. Wilson is so utterly careless with how he handles scripture, I fear for his soul if he doesn't stop this and repent. And Brian and Fieldy did not come "out of" that culture. They're still in it.
The other point to note is, what is the alternative? Would you prefer there to be no Christian in the band at all? Is it worth it for the kids who are getting saved at every show for Brian and Fieldy to be a part of this band? For you, maybe not. For the kids getting saved, absolutely.
Wilson is attempting to defend his movie by appealing to his own human-based logic, and even then, his logic is inconsistent. Earlier he said, "Many people don't trust God to do God-type things in people's minds and hearts, so they feel they need to do it all themselves." Now he's trying to convince the reader that Brian Welch and Fieldy need to be in Korn in order for God to do God-type things.

There is no "Christian presence" in the band, and kids are not getting saved at every show. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles (Matthew 7:16)? What fellowship does light have with darkness (2 Corinthians 6:14)? Scripture says to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Wilson cannot give one scriptural reference to justify two supposed Christians in a satanic band.

The alternative is that the entire band repents, they confess that their music has been demonic this entire time, they encourage everyone to stay away from it, and they leave it all behind and follow Christ. Yes, Brian and Fieldy, too, who have yet to repent. If the whole band doesn't repent, they should still leave it. Today. Right now.
My prayer is that the Body of Christ will stop judging them and stop throwing dirt at them, and instead start lifting them up in prayer so the Holy Spirit might do even more in and through them!
The Bible says to judge anyone who bears the name of brother and yet continues in sin (1 Corinthians 5:11-13). The natural person -- Wilson, White, Hart, Galloway, and the band members of Korn among them -- does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. (1 Corinthians 2:14-15)

Speaking to the crew of Holy Ghost, repent, you guys. Destroy the remaining copies of your film and count it all as loss. You have no idea the souls you're destroying with what you're doing.

EDIT
Our church has been blocked from the Holy Ghost Facebook page. Other members from our congregation have also been blocked for linking to this blog. They're now forced to have to see Holy Ghost ads in their feed, but are unable to comment on or respond to them.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Review of the Wanderlust Film "The Holy Ghost"

Acts 2 begins with the day of Pentecost. The apostles receive the Holy Spirit and are able to speak in whatever languages were necessary for communicating the gospel in Jerusalem. "Men from every nation under heaven," as it says in the text, understood the message in their own language. Some of the Jews thought the apostles were drunk. But Peter stood before them and delivered the good news of salvation.

He shared prophesy from the Old Testament concerning Jesus Christ, the Son of God put to death by lawless men, and rose again from the grave. This was preordained by God, but that did not absolve the guilty of their sin. Peter's hearers were "cut to the heart" and asked the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" To which Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

I wish I could say that filmmaker Darren Wilson and company had at least this much understanding of what it means to present the gospel when they made their movie, The Holy Ghost. But they do not show any hint of knowing, even at a basic level, what the gospel is or even who the Holy Spirit is. This documentary is a travesty that reduces the Spirit of God to sidewalk parlor tricks, salvation to magic words, and evangelism to guitar songs no one knows or understands.

If you don't read anything else of the review that follows, just know that the Wanderlust produced documentary entitled The Holy Ghost is heresy. It is a false gospel (actually, it's no gospel at all) that will lead a person to hell. It will not lead anyone to salvation in Christ. If the Holy Spirit does indeed save a person who watches this documentary, it is in spite of it, not because of it.

This costs $25 on DVD. Don't buy it.

I've watched this movie having taken advantage of the free world-premier online (which is still going on today). I am offering this review not just so you can save a few bucks on buying the over-priced DVD, but so you won't get bamboozled by this nonsense doctrine.

In the Beginning

The documentary begins with Genesis 1:1-3 -- that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the waters. Not including this passage, there are ten scripture references in the film overall: 1 Corinthians 2:4, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Titus 3:5, Isaiah 59:21, Psalm 139:7, 1 John 4:7-8, Psalm 81:10, Psalm 138:1, Psalm 95:3, and Matthew 28:20. I wrote them all down as they came up. Pretty sure I didn't miss any.

I also tried to keep track of when the words "sin," "repent" (or repentance), or "salvation" were mentioned. I didn't start doing this until about 15 or 20 minutes in, so this is given that I didn't miss any early on. The word "sin" is mentioned 5 times. Not any single one of those times is it ever explained. Sometimes the word "junk" or "stuff" is used as a substitute, but that's not an explanation of what sin is or what it does to our relationship with God.

Lists of sins are given many times in the New Testament, but here are just a few of those thorough references:
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be decieved: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) 
"Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21) 
"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth." (Colossians 3:5-8)
That's my sin. That's your sin. The Bible says that before we come to Christ, we are dead in our sins and the objects of God's wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). God loved us so much that he didn't leave us in that state, but sent His Son to die in our place. This means he became the atonement for our sins. Christ then rose from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit showing that in him is power over the grave. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). Only those who follow Christ will enter into his life.

Romans 8:9-11 reads, "You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you."

Without the Spirit, one will not accept that Christ is the Son of God who takes away sin. It is the Spirit who testifies about the identity of Christ Jesus (1 John 5:6). The Spirit is not some mystical force. He is the third person of the Trinity. He is the very power that brought Christ back from the dead. He is working the same miracle in us to give us life though we were once dead in our trespasses. If a person is not in Christ, they don't have the Spirit of God, and they're still dead in their sins.

That message is never spoken about in this documentary. Given that "sin" is never defined, there's no call to turn from it. Therefore, the words "repent" or "repentance" are not heard a single time. If they came up early in the film, I missed them. The word "salvation" is heard only twice, but like with "sin," it's never defined. Salvation? Salvation from what? If you don't know what Jesus is saving you from, then he is not your savior and no salvation has occurred.

John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, and whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life." Twenty verses later, in John 3:36, it says, "He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son does not have life, but the wrath of God remains on him." So what has Jesus saved us from? The wrath of God burning against our sin.


That message is vital to the presentation of the gospel. A person cannot be saved without knowing what their sin is and that it has separated them from God. Furthermore, a person who is not saved does not have the Holy Spirit. And that totally usurps everything about this documentary!

These filmmakers lead people not to the way of eternal life, but to a path of false assurances. It's a road that leads to hell. That is why this documentary is heresy. The truth of God's Word, the realities of his love, are never proclaimed. The filmmakers will say that they are declaring it. But they're lying. Whether or not they're charlatans, I don't know. Are they deliberately conning people with this stuff? What is evident is that they reduce the power of the Holy Spirit to street magic.

The Holy Spirit In the Mormon Temple?

After a few strange interviews at the beginning, the filmmakers get admittedly bold by visiting the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City. Outside they encounter a young man and introduce the "Holy Spirit" to him. This team of sidewalk missionaries consists of Tommy Green, Jamie Galloway, and Will Hart. One of them puts their hands over this young man -- not on him, but hovering over him -- and makes him feel goosebumps.

They assure him that's the power of the Holy Spirit. The young man claims to feel chills. His armpits get cold, he says, and goes as far as saying, "My nipples got hard." I'm not making this up. The team of Green/Galloway/Hart would say things like, "Whoa, do you feel that?" then go, "Double it, double it," as if they're summoning the power of the oh good grief I can't even finish this sentence it's so ridiculous. I was done with the movie at this point.

Double it!

This is the first "Holy Spirit" encounter in the documentary, and apparently inciting the Holy Spirit means walking up to people on the street and dropping their body temperature. This is the kind of things you see on those ghost shows, right? Someone investigates a dark, haunted room and goes, "Whoa, did you feel that? The temperature just dropped!" Perhaps the documentarians know that, and that's why they chose to title it The Holy Ghost instead of The Holy Spirit?

In addition to being ghost hunters, they're also psychics. They ask another young man, "Am I detecting metal in your body?" It turns out he has screws in his wrist, but this is already after he told them he had joint trouble. They ask another youth, "Am I detecting something about your intestines?" Yes, he had a mass in his gut removed. Yay. Good job, guys. You know how to do a cold reading. Maybe you could team up with Theresa Caputo in the next movie (yup, they've already planned a sequel).

As they walk up to the temple gate, they encounter a street evangelist preaching against the lie that is the Mormon faith. As far as I could tell, this man was teaching gospel truth. In talking to him, he reveals himself to be a cessationist, meaning that certain spiritual gifts were given during a certain period of time to authenticate the message declared by the apostles. When the last of the apostles died, those giftings "ceased."

Some element of cessationism is necessary to believe, otherwise there would be no reason to close canon. The New Testament will never be added to. It's complete. To believe that the gifts of the Spirit still exist today in the same measure that they existed in the apostolic era is to say that there will be another Apostle Paul or John. And there will never be another Paul or John. The Apostle Paul said he was the last to ever be made an apostle, and that is exactly how 1 Corinthians 15:8 is to be understood.

A cessationist does not necessarily believe that God no longer performs miraculous healings. Some probably take cessationism that far, but most are not closed to the idea that God still may work some kind of miracle in a person's life -- according to his good purpose, of course -- or give a foreign language to a missionary in order to communicate the gospel, which is what the gift of tongues really is (the subject of speaking random gibberish never comes up in the movie, thank heavens).

Unfortunately, this movie gives a very biased view of cessationism. They reference pastors Chad Norris and R.T. Kendall, and how these two experts explain cessationism is not only inaccurate, it's delivered with a bitter tinge. The direction of the movie very deliberately makes the evangelist in front of the Mormon Temple out to be a buffoon who does little to nothing to advance the kingdom.

As that evangelist's wife reveals, they've only seen about 4 or 5 people become Christians in the 30 years that they've been evangelizing in front of the temple. The filmmakers treat this as ludicrous. They then walk up to a group of teens, perform a little more street magic, and lead them in a prayer of "salvation." Except that it's not. They make it look like they're leading people to Christ, but it's as legitimate as their body-temperature-dropping Holy Ghost parlor trick.

The Sons of Sceva didn't fare so well doing this. (Acts 19)

The whole thing is a scam. Perhaps they're in on it, or perhaps they're being manipulated by a dark spirit themselves. They present their mission as being able to accomplish more in a few minutes than their contrasting evangelist has done in 30 years. While they're "praying" (it's more like chanting magic words) with the teens, they let the voice of the evangelist be heard preaching in the background. He's made to look like a fool while they make themselves out to be heroes of the faith. That's prideful and manipulative. It's slanderous. It's sinful.

Not once in any of their street encounters do they share the gospel. They don't talk about sin, they don't talk about repentance, and they don't tell their hearers that they're under the wrath of God unless they come to Christ. Though they're outside the Mormon Temple, they never tell anyone that the Mormon Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible. If a person worships a different Jesus, they're under a different atonement. If they're under a different atonement, they will go to hell unless they repent and believe in the true Christ.

But the Green/Galloway/Hart street missionaries do not care about heaven and hell. The reason why they don't tell people these things is because they're ministers of the flesh, not preachers of the Word. They are sensuous appeasers, the kind that Jude specifically rebukes in his letter (Jude 1:4). It's very likely that the Jesus worshiped at their churches is also a different Jesus. God, help them if that's true. I hope they come to understand this and repent of their false gospel.

The Holy Spirit At a Korn Concert?

Todd White -- a motivational speaker in dreadlocks who claims to have been an atheist and a drug addict for 22 years until Christ set him free but he doesn't actually know what that means -- teams up with Brian "Head" Welch and Fieldy of the band Korn. They go out to the lobby area of the arena where scores of people are waiting to get into a Korn concert.

Both Welch and Fieldy claim to be born-again Christians, but that has to be called into question. First of all, their testimonies basically sound like they substituted the Holy Spirit for their former drug addictions. The Spirit is just their new trip. They talk about how God's Word is amazing, but don't quote any of it or what it revealed to them about their sin. Secondly, they've not actually repented of anything. They're still in Korn. Are you familiar with Korn's lyrics? It's filthy stuff. Lead singer Jonathan Davis has a custom-made HR Giger microphone stand so lewd, I can't post a picture of it.

So here's a picture of a real mic stand.

The filmmakers actually show people at that concert throwing their bras on stage, flipping off the camera, and acting like animals. It's hard to believe if Welch and Fieldy truly were born again and had the Spirit of God inside of them, they'd continue to associate themselves with such things of the flesh.

So anyway, White uses Welch and Fieldy before the show to attract people. Of course they're going to come over: "Dude, it's Head and Fieldy!" White then proceeds to do miraculous healings. For example, he demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit by making a professing atheist's leg grow longer to even out his back (edit: fake). They get a group of several dozen to gather around them and pray them to salvation. It's one of those magic-word/repeat-after-me/sinner's-prayer incantations that don't save anyone. Again, no gospel, no Word of God, and no understanding of sin is ever presented.

While words like sin, repentance, and salvation make seldom appearances, the words "dude," "bro," and "man" are heard a lot. There's another word the movie commonly associates with the Holy Spirit: "Risk." Yeah, apparently a person first has to have "risk" in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. But Wilson and company's version of risk turns out to be not so risky.

The Holy Spirit In a Hindu Temple?

The last adventure in the movie takes the film crew to the oldest city in the world. Damascus? No. Varanasi, India. Yeah, that was new to me, too. Throughout their visit, the documentarians are constantly emphasizing how dangerous it is for them to be there. They could literally be torn to pieces just for talking about Christ. So they don't! What they do is just as much a gimmick as their street-magic bunk.

They get Jesus Culture musician Jake Hamilton to strap on a guitar and sing praise songs throughout the city. Of course this attracts masses of people. One of his audiences looked to number over a thousand. But this has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. It has to do with Jake being a talented musician and singer.

Yes, he's singing Christian songs, including a version of Amazing Grace called Freedom Song. So why is it that he's not being torn to shreds in a Hindu city that heavily persecutes Christians? Because he's being protected by the power of the Holy Spirit, right? No. It's because no one can understand a word he's singing!

Missionary Mark Marx who is with the crew will walk among the people Hamilton attracts. He will pray for them and gives them the "Holy Spirit." It's the same trick as before -- it's just giving a person chills. You know, they probably get chills because someone is invading their personal space, putting their hands on them, and murmuring "spiritual" words in a low voice. Just a guess.

In none of these encounters Marx has with anyone is Christ ever mentioned. Okay, I take that back. In one of the biggest crowds, he pretends to heal a man's knee and says something to the effect of, "In the power of the Lord Jesus." But it's clear the man he's healing doesn't speak English. Christ is never proclaimed. He's never preached. No one is ever told to turn from their sin. So much for "risk."

By far the most spiritual board game I've ever played.

After singing to a poor district in the city, Hamilton addresses the crowd through a translator. This is it. Here's his golden opportunity to tell them about Christ in words they will understand, right? No. Here's what he says: "I came to India for one reason. I'm only singing in the streets to tell you that no matter where you're at, no matter what you do, no matter how rich or poor, you are loved. You are loved. You are loved." Oh, Jake. You forgot to tell them to just believe in themselves.

The film crew get to go inside the Hindu Temple of Shiva, even to the holy of holies -- which, again, they heavily emphasize is very, very dangerous for them to do and foreigners just don't get to do that. It's only because they are protected by the Holy Spirit, they say. But like with the Mormon Temple, the gospel is never shared. No one is ever told they worship a false god and need to repent and follow Christ. We only get to see the inside of the Temple of Shiva. That's all.

As Jake Hamilton would go on to say, "We're not trying to convert thousands of people." Right, they're not even trying to convert one. Another said of their experience in India, "We openly proclaimed Jesus as Lord." Far from it. It is director Darren Wilson who closes the film by saying, "The Holy Spirit is here on the earth so that people might see and believe that God is good, God is here, and with God all things are possible."

That last statement, that with God all things are possible, was something Jesus said to his disciples when they asked, "Who then can be saved?" This was right after Jesus addressed the Rich Young Ruler who asked, "What must I do to have eternal life?" The disciples were so baffled by Jesus's response that salvation seemed impossible to them. That is why Jesus says, "With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible." (Mark 10:17-31)

Unfortunately, salvation is a subject that Wilson and company just don't understand. It's the blind leading the blind -- right off the cliff into the abyss that separates us from God because of our sin. The cross of Christ is not the bridge they use to get to eternal life. They're trying to get there with cheap tricks and magic words. God help them and call them to repentance.

Is There Anything Good That Can Be Taken From This Film?

No.

Okay, I give. One of the things that I will say the movie made me think about was this: Am I as bold to go into the streets and share the true gospel of Jesus Christ with strangers as these false teachers were with doing magic tricks and spreading lies?

That seems like a back-handed question, but it's a legitimate one. If I'm not bold enough to step out on the street and present the true gospel, then I'm leaving the streets to false teachers and soothsayers who claim to be from God but present a different gospel. If I truly believe the Word of God to be true and desire all to come to repentance as the Father does, then I need to step out and proclaim the gospel of Christ in all places.

The only other redeeming quality I can say this movie has is that it's a telling guide as to how messed up much of the American church has become. The filmmakers unintentionally reveal our growing biblical illiteracy. The Sinner's Prayer from a generation ago is alive and well and continues to offer false assurance of salvation. The movie also exposes how warped Bethel Church, Jesus Culture, Willow Creek, and similar churches are in their understanding of the gospel.

And what are Meredith Andrews and Michael W. Smith doing offering their opinions about the Holy Spirit along side musicians like Korn and Lenny Kravitz? The latter pair are not to be considered authorities of the Spirit. Smith and Phil Vischer, who's also in the film, are both men that I have admired and contributed to my growth as a Christian. Their appearances were very minimal, probably not even two minutes of screen time combined. I hope that they didn't actually know what they were getting into when they agreed to be interviewed.

The movie claimed to put God in the dirctor's chair. It did not. Where the gospel of Jesus Christ is desperately avoided, the Holy Spirit cannot be present. Where the Holy Spirit is not present, God is not either. This documentary can only deceive. It will not lead anyone to Christ. It tells the viewer little to nothing about the film's title subject -- the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It Pleased God to Crush Him

Recently I was witnessing in a park. There's a question I get asked that comes up every once in a while, and I heard it again: Why does God allow all kinds of false religions in the world to fool people away from believing in Jesus?

There are some solid, biblical answers to that question. First of all, false teaching is a judgment. We often don't think about it that way, but the Joel Osteens, the Joyce Meyers, and the Rob Bells of the world are a judgment of God. They are heading up false religions as much as any other kind of pagan worship.

In 2 Timothy 4:3, we read, "For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions." We know from Romans 1:26 that God will give up a rebellious people in judgment to be consumed by their passions.

A person gets "fooled" into following a false religion not because the false truth was more convincing to them than the truth of the gospel. It's because the condition of their heart had already turned them away from God and toward that kind of thinking. God allowed them to be turned over to a debased mind.

The other thing we come to understand by the existence of many false religions is the genuineness and the authenticity of what Christ did on the cross. Look at the pagan religions of the world and you'll see a god (or most likely gods) that demand that the people do something in particular to appease their wrath. But in Christ, God appeased his own wrath.

Part of God being a righteously just God is that he cannot pardon sin. When you ask forgiveness of your sins, God doesn't pardon you. He can't, or he wouldn't be just. If a man who was found guilty of murdering children asked the judge to be pardoned, we would not call that judge a just judge for letting that man go without paying seriously for his crimes.

So how is it that we receive forgiveness of sins? It's because Jesus Christ died in the place that we were supposed to die, taking the penalty for our sins upon himself. In Isaiah 53:10, it says that it pleased God to crush him. The wrath of God was satisfied not because Roman soldiers killed Jesus. It's because it was God himself who killed him, pouring out his wrath on his perfect Son.

When the Bible says that we are "justified," like in 1 Corinthians 6:11, it's because our sin has been paid for, and now it's just for God to grant us forgiveness of sins when we ask. We receive mercy and grace not because we simply ask for it, but because we ask according to the blood of Christ who paid for our sins.

God's love doesn't override his justice, otherwise God would be unjust. It's because he's both loving and just that Jesus Christ died. These are some things we'll talk about more as we continue our study of 1 & 2 Timothy.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Following Today's Hobby Lobby Decision

Remember the debate over government funding for embryonic stem-cell research a decade ago? Early in George W. Bush's presidency, he nixed government funding for embryonic stem-cell research, though he allowed for research to be conducted on existing embryos. A ridiculous outcry rose up from the left calling Bush anti-science and accusing pro-life conservatives of being stuck in the stone age.

The thing about their explosive response is that the Bush administration did not make embryonic stem-cell research illegal. All he did was cease government funding toward a practice with many ethical questions attached. Embryonic stem-cell research continues to this day (though it's not necessary). I'd rather it have been deemed illegal altogether, but at least our tax dollars didn't have to pay for it. That was it.

Fast forward to today's decision by the Supreme Court, granting victory to Hobby Lobby who contested the ObamaCare mandate that would have required businesses to provide their employees with abortifacient drugs. Welcome to the Embryo Wars, Episode 2 (or episode 17,485, but who's counting).

Once again, dissenting voices are decrying the decision made by the Supreme Court, who are allowing for-profit employers to opt out of having to provide abortifacient drugs in their healthcare plans for their employees. It was a close vote, but the Supreme Court ruled that ObamaCare overstepped its bounds in trying to enforce life-ending, abortifacient drugs on employers.

Why is this like The Embryonic Stem-Cell Research Debate of yester-decade? Because just like how the Bush administration's ruling didn't make embryonic stem-cell research illegal, the SCOTUS ruling doesn't knock out contraception coverage for employees. You would think SCOTUS just made contraceptives illegal altogether the way some are weeping over it.

Out of 20 available contraceptives, 4 of them are abortifacients. Those are the contraceptives Hobby Lobby filed suit over. That leaves 16 other contraceptives that even a business like Hobby Lobby will pay for its employees to receive. As Justice Alito has said, employees still have access to contraceptives. Their employers are just not required by government enforcement to provide the ones that could potentially, you know, kill someone.

Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition tweeted, "Serious question: Is there a medical reason a woman would require 1 of the 4 abortifacients rather than the other 16 covered contraceptives?" Hmmmm. Darn it, I just can't think of one.

Meanwhile, Rachel Held Evans tweeted that the decision, "sets the stage/precedent for corporations to get out of paying for healthcare by claiming religion." No, it doesn't do any such thing! (Denny Burk has already written a champion response as to why Rachel Held Evans is wrong, which is a title the belongs at the top of her blog.)

On the contrary, the SCOTUS ruling affects Catholic institutions like the University of Notre Dame and Little Sisters of the Poor in a less favorable way. The Catholic church is opposed to all contraception, not just abortifacients. They can opt out of providing contraception, but they have to fill out a Labor Department form, and by signing the form, they're designating the provision of contraceptives to someone else. They'd rather not have their hands in anything to do with contraceptives at all.

It should not be the requirement of a business or an employer to provide any kind of contraceptives for their employees. Nor should it be upon the American people to dump money in some kind of public trust so that others might have access to free or "affordable" contraception. The whole issue removes personal responsibility and places the decision in the hands of the government. So many people want that to happen. And that's scary. That is not freedom.

Just like all of the semantic arguments that came with the embryonic stem-cell research debate, be very cautious about how Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby is talked about. The ethics of Hobby Lobby or any other corporation are not the point. Don't get suckered by Pharisaical catch-22's like, "Now who gets to decide what religion a corporation is?" That's a stupid argument which distracts from the much bigger issue.

That issue is what 5 of the Supreme Court's 9 members determined today -- that our government is far overreaching its bounds. We would not even be talking about this if the Obama administration was not venturing into territory where it doesn't belong. Today was a victory for life. Continue to pray for kings and those who are in high positions that they will respect and fight to protect that life (1 Timothy 2:1-4, Proverbs 31:8-9).

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Obvious Child

A couple weeks ago, Beki and I had a night to ourselves, so we decided as part of our evening we would go out and see a movie. It was just a PG film, supposed to be family-friendly entertainment. We could have taken the kids. But as early as the previews, we were glad that we didn't. What was supposed to be a mild Disney film started with a joke about abortion.

One of the trailers was for an upcoming film called Obvious Child. A better name for it would have been "Oblivious Child." It's the fictional story of a comedienne who had a one-night stand, got pregnant, and decided to get an abortion. This is all in the two-minute movie preview, complete with the character getting drunk and taking her clothes off. Preceding a PG-rated movie!

Two of the critical praises for Obvious Child went like this: "Hilarious, heartbreaking, and totally genius." I don't know whether to laugh or cry, but I guess that's the point. "The most winning abortion-themed rom-com ever made." Good heavens, that's a genre? How is a one-night-stand romantic, an abortion comedic, and what on earth are those subjects doing at the beginning of a Disney movie?

Afterward, I approached the manager of the theater and told her what had just played during the previews of a PG-film. I came to her very peacefully, taking it on good faith that she didn't know about the trailer. I was relieved when she shared my surprise. Appalled and embarrassed would be apt descriptors. And she assured me she would take care of the mistake right away.

Nonetheless (and I didn't tell her this), the damage was done. I mean on me. I'm damaged goods now. How much can I trust a movie theater to not show my kids adult subjects? Even when I've watched a movie or read up on it enough to know that the content is okay, can I believe the theater isn't going to throw in some random preview to, say, I don't know, a movie that makes a joke out of drunkenness, one-night-stands, and abortion?

(Is it intentionally ironic that the movie is called Obvious Child? It seems like the film's producers are deliberately taunting those who hold the pro-life position. "Oh, yeah. We agree with you. It's obviously a child. We're going to have our character murder it anyway and get the audience to sympathize and laugh about it.")

It's another reminder that the world cares nothing for my children. No matter how good a person's intentions might be, if they're of this world and they do not worship the Creator of all things, they see no eternal worth in my kids. They don't see the image of God my children were fashioned after. They don't even see the marks of the loving Creator upon themselves. Why would I expect them to see my kids that way?

I once said to someone I was witnessing to, sharing the news of Christ with him, that I cared for him more than he did. That seems like an offensive thing to say, but he wasn't offended. By his demeanor, it almost seemed like he agreed with me. Perhaps he understood that because I saw him as eternally significant, created in the image of God, I actually did love him more than he loved himself.

I don't really know what was going through his mind, so I'm only speculating, but maybe he saw himself as nothing more than a blip on the radar. Here today, gone tomorrow. A product of a one-use-and-then-dispose-of culture. It's of little wonder one-night-stand-and-then-abort is expected to be a relatable and ha-ha funny plot point. It would be only to someone who might find value in moments of life but not life itself.

A week after sitting in a movie theater getting a two-minute promo for an abortion comedy, we were at a clinic watching a 3D ultra-sound of our baby girl. The kids oo'd and aw'd at seeing the image of her face for the first time.

Preview of coming attractions: Baby Girl Hughes! Coming November 4th.

On Sunday, I shared a picture from the ultrasound with the congregation and introduced them to my daughter. That's quite a contrast -- from the "Obvious Child" on a screen in a theater to the "Obvious Child" on a screen in the church.

And that's the way it's supposed to be. This world is fallen and will be until Christ returns. We're to be the light of the world, shining the hope of the gospel into dark spaces. The world doesn't care about a person's eternal significance. We do. We are obvious children made in the image of God. That is why we must desire as God does that none should perish but all should come to repentance (1 Timothy 2:1-7).

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Message For Our Graduates (2014)

This is a message shared with our 2014 graduates at our church this past Sunday, May 18. The full video of the sermon can be found here. Links to various videos and scriptures are made throughout the transcript.

Since my senior year of high school, I’ve spoken at baccalaureate services. My first baccalaureate was my own, and then I was the keynote speaker at a Christian high school baccalaureate my freshman year of college. However, I’ve come to terms with accepting that I may never be asked to speak at a high school graduation – at least not at a public school. I am a pastor, after all. I use words like propitiation, sanctification, and abomination. I use offensive phrases like “the wrath of God” and “the cross of Christ.” So a public high school graduation speech may not ever be in my future.

I’ve always wanted to speak at one. In fact, I’ve had dreams of doing a high school graduation. My youngest sibling, Anna, is 13 years younger than I am. I had fanciful expectations of becoming someone of recognition by the time she graduated, and I would speak at her high school graduation. However, her graduation came and went and I received no such invitation. I would receive the call to become a pastor, and in both graduation seasons that I’ve been a pastor, I’ve looked forward to being able to address our graduates, congratulate their successes, and send them on to the next chapter of their lives with the words of Christ.

This is a message to the graduating class of 2014. Here at First Southern Baptist Church of Junction City, our graduates represent three high schools: Mikayla Fernandez, Denara Gaub, Austin Karr, and Jaron McCall are graduating from Junction City High School, Kory Gyuran is graduating from Council Grove High School, and Faith Janicki, whom we recognized last week, is graduating from Manhattan High School. Y’all will walk your respective stages and receive your respective diplomas and then go off to your respective callings. But if you have committed yourselves to a life in Christ, you are bound together in the common bond of His love. It is in the name of Christ that I wish to exhort you with these words.

We just finished up 1 Timothy chapter 1 last week, and my main scripture today is going to be all of chapter 4. We’ll come to this chapter again later, but the instructions here are particularly relevant to you graduates, and I want you to remember them. Everyone please turn in your Bibles to 1 Timothy 4 and follow along. If you are here today as a guest and you do not have a Bible, there’s one with a teal cover under the seat in front of you. 1 Timothy 4 can be found on page 643. If you see a guest in your row looking for a Bible and can’t find one, but you know there’s one under the seat in front of you, please take it out and pass it down. Again, that page number is 643.

1 Timothy 4:1-2 begins:

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and the teaching of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared.”

This idea of having a “seared conscience” means that they have been desensitized and rendered ineffective by their rebellion against the gospel. This is exactly the kind of culture you are stepping into, out of the home and guidance of your parents and into a world full of demonic teaching. Their seared consciences mean that they’re incapable of understanding or teaching the truth.

An example of a seared conscience would be someone who makes a statement like, “There is no such thing as truth.” Is that a true statement? Then you’ve just asserted truth. Or how about, “There is no right or wrong.” Is that statement right, or is it wrong? Either way, it’s false. Another statement might be, “No one can be sure about anything.” Are you sure about that? See, their conscience is so seared that they don’t realize their beliefs contradict themselves. And even after you show them their fault, they’ll still go right on believing the lie.

But when you confront these individuals with the truth, don’t forget that 2 Timothy 2:24 tells us that the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting opponents with gentleness. Contrast this command with the behavior of Westboro Baptist Church who will be picketing Junction City High School’s graduation this evening.

There's an image from yesterday when Westboro protested at Fort Hays State University. We were talking about a seared conscience and ideas that contradict themselves? WBC is no better. The image shows an individual holding up a sign that says, “Repent or Perish.” Then someone right next to them is holding up a sign that says, “Too Late to Pray.” So which is it? They can’t even get their own message straight! Why? Because of a seared conscience. They’re removed parts of the Bible that talk about patience, love, and gentleness, and filled themselves with strife, hate, and maliciousness.

But you, Christian – do not respond in such ways. Correct opponents with gentleness. The love of Christ will be displayed through patience, as Paul writes about in 1 Timothy 1:16. Now, I don’t want to overlook that 1 Timothy 4 begins by saying that in later times, many will depart the faith. Don’t be one of them. Whatever it takes, hold on to your faith. And that’s something we’ll talk about more here with this next verse.

Verse 3:

“They forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”

So here’s what you need to understand about our culture now. They’ll tell you marriage is not important. A couple years ago, a Memphis, TN, Fox affiliate opened a news piece about marriage with these words: "There was a time when men and women married in their 20s, had a couple of kids, and bought a new house. For a lot of reasons those days are disappearing, and many of us are okay with that."

One of the major issues we often debate about is the effort to legalize same-sex marriage, which has nothing to do with love or equality or any of the bumper-sticker rhetoric we most often hear. In fact, it’s an attempt at breaking down the very structure of the family, the way God made it to be, and there’s all the evidence in the world to prove that’s exactly what’s going on. We went through many of those evidences a year ago. The redefinition of marriage has been successful, since same-sex marriage isn’t even marriage, but the term has made it into our cultural lexicon and is spoken with normalcy. But no matter how normal any sin gets, do not waver from the true Word of God. No matter how dangerous it becomes to believe in Christ, you must not be willing to sacrifice the truth. Even if it might cost you everything you have.

Perhaps you’ve heard about the Benham Brothers who were about to have their own show on HGTV, but the network cancelled it when they found out the Benham Brothers opposed same-sex marriage. The show was going to be about these brothers helping the less fortunate acquire a desirable home. But HGTV would rather stand on the side of same-sex marriage than help the needy. It went as far as even the Benham Brothers’ bank dropping them as clients because of their beliefs. When asked about the situation, they said, “If our faith costs us a television show, then so be it.”

To give up God’s Word, to compromise the truth, would be a far more dangerous sacrifice. As we are told in 2 Timothy 3:12, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” And graduates, it just might actually be this specific issue you get persecuted for. Believe and know the truth.

Verse 4:

“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the Word of God and prayer.”

Do not forget to read God’s Word. And do not forget to pray. Practice both every day.

Verse 6:

“If you put these things before the brothers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, being trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine you have followed.”

As we studied through 1 Timothy 1, the theme that came up most often is sound doctrine. What is sound doctrine, but that which flows from the gospel of Jesus Christ. What is the gospel, but the good news that the cross of Christ saved us from the wrath of God. Romans 6:23: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Continue in the faith with other believers. Find good Christian groups and a gospel teaching church that is rooted in sound doctrine.

The next two verses have been kind of a theme for us as we study through 1 Timothy:

“Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather, train yourself for godliness. For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”

What happens when we listen to teachers who don’t teach sound doctrine is we get is irreverent, silly myths. It’s speculative teaching. It’s using the Bible as a self-help book. Sure, the Bible says lots of things about romances, finances, and circumstances. But when you start with the self, your focus is on the self, rather than on Jesus. Focus all your attention on Christ and He will supply for your every need. As it says in Luke 12:31, “Seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.”

So while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way. Look beyond just meeting your physical needs, and focus entirely upon Christ. When we studied through Colossians last year, we spoke of this as making Christ pre-eminent above all things. In other words, you don’t need anything else. Christ is everything. Colossians 3:1-4 reads, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Verses 9 and 10:

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance [referring to the value of godliness]. For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things.”

The goal, graduates, is to attain godliness and its eternal value. We also see in the context of verse 10 that Christ has been offered to all people. But as you know, and as we’ve taught here, not everyone will receive Christ. Again I caution you to beware of those whose consciences are seared. Some of them may present a form of godliness, but deny its power. Avoid such people. (2 Timothy 3:5)

Verse 12 tells us:

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”

Graduates, you are not children anymore, and do not let anyone look down upon you as if you are. In fact, when you get to college and take on more responsibility, you may look back on the years that you had here in this church as youth – as high school students – and wish you had done more. I simply charge you to learn from that, so that you realize and take hold of the responsibility that is upon you now. Step up and be an example to others in Christ, whether they’re older than you or younger than you. Believe it or not, you can be an example to a superior, a teacher, or an employer. It is just as much upon you to be good examples – in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Mark this verse in your Bibles. Hang it on your mirror or post it in your car. 1 Timothy 4:12. Memorize it. Don’t forget it.

In verse 13, Paul says:

“Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”

Now, Paul is talking to a pastor when he says this, but there’s still an important instruction to take from this graduates. And that instruction is this: Go to church! It is actually mandated in scripture that you attend church. You’ll possibly have many friends, and you may have used this excuse yourself, who will say, “Meh, I don’t have to go to church to show I’m a Christian.” Oh, yes, you do! Our Lord Christ commands it. If you are in Christ and part of the body of Christ, then desire to grow with His body – in fellowship, in love, exhorting and maturing one another in the faith, listening to the public reading of scripture, and being taught by it.

For some of you, enforcing this discipline might be more difficult than others. But you have to do it. You must consider in the eyes of God it is more important that you remember to attend church than it is that you remember to attend class. Because, again, while college might be able to prepare you for some things, the pursuit of godliness has eternal value. Hebrews 10:25 instructs, “Do not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you the Day drawing near.”

1 Timothy 4:14:

“Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.”

And here when we finish up, the church is going to lay hands on our graduates as you are being sent into the world. Do not forget that moment, and do not forget the words that are being spoken to you.

The last two verses:

“Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by doing so you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

Before closing, there are three pieces of advice I want to give you. First: Do not forget whom you were before Christ.

Since Easter Sunday, we’ve considered 1 Timothy 1:15 where the Apostle Paul says, “The saying is trustworthy, and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came to save sinners of whom I am the foremost.” The nature of this verse is that Paul remembers whom he was before Christ transformed his life. He went from being Saul of Tarsus, Pharisee and murderer of Christians, to the Apostle Paul, preacher of God’s Word and lover of Christ. The love of Jesus was displayed in God’s perfect patience toward Paul, he wrote, and because of this testimony, many others came to know Christ as he did.

Paul reminded the Ephesians who they were before Christ. In Ephesians 2:1-10, he wrote, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is at work in the sons of disobedience – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Former NFL athlete turned preacher, Derwin L. Gray, once said, “My heart is tender towards the lost because I remember what it was like to be lost.” So again, never forget who you were before you came to Christ. It not only enhances your worship of Christ, it energizes the church to reach others for Christ.

The second piece of advice I mean for you to receive: Do not forget whom you are now in Christ.

Coming back to that passage in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We later read in Ephesians 4:17-24, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord that you must no longer walk as the pagans do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! – assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Graduates, never forget that you were made in the image of God. You are about to step into an arena where your teachers look at you as an accident. I’m sure you’ve already had experience with this, but it’s about to get worse. They will tell you there is no God in whose image you can be made. Instead, you are the result of purposeless processes in which lifeless material in some primordial pool became alive with no explanation, and then through spontaneous generation became microorganisms which eventually became fish which turned into dinosaurs, and you’re an idiot if you don’t believe this. “From goo to you by way of the zoo,” as said by Christian author, Frank Peretti.

Extra-marital affairs, children born out of wedlock, fatherless homes, massive debt, filling ourselves with things that don't matter -- all of this is sin born out of rejecting our creator and our created purpose.

It’s of little wonder why we desecrate our bodies, giving up natural relationships for unnatural ones, insisting that homosexuality is perfectly fine and you’re an intolerant bigot if you don’t agree. It’s because we’ve devalued our purpose in Christ, in whose image we were made, bowing at a different altar, and rejecting the intention for which we have been specifically designed.

It’s of little wonder why we think it’s perfectly fine to kill a child in the womb at a rate of over 3,200 children per day. A third of your generation, graduates, and mine has been wiped out by this holocaust. A third. However large your graduating class is, there should be a third more of them. For example, Junction City High School’s graduating class is about 300. It should be about 400. It’s not, all because we’ve been told that we’re accidents, and you’re just one of the lucky ones to be here.

The band Switchfoot recorded a song called Needle and Haystack Life. And in the chorus they sing, “In this needle and haystack life, I found miracles there in your eyes, it’s no accident we’re here tonight. We are once in a lifetime.”

David wrote in Psalm 139, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” You are one of those works, graduates. You were made in the image of God. The questions you will hear some of your peers asking – things like “Why are we here?” and “Where did we come from?” – you already know the answer. Teach them the answer as well. You know you’re made in God’s image. So are they. So treat them as fellow image-bearers, and lead them to the life-saving knowledge of Christ.

And the third piece of advice I share with you: Do not forget whom you will be in Christ.

In case it needs to be said, you haven’t arrived yet. Remember the things you’ve been taught, and continue to walk in them. God our Father says in Proverbs 4:2, “I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching.” Read your Bibles every day. Whatever institution you are heading to next, there is no greater teaching than what you will receive in the Good Book. You do not know it all. Don’t act like you do.

There’s a big, churchy word we use to describe this ongoing process of growing in Christ, and that word is “sanctification.” As long as our souls remain in this flesh, walking this earth, we must continue to strive toward maturity in Christ. Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom He foreknew,” and that’s you – remember He knew you even before you were formed in your mother’s womb. “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Couple this with Romans 12:2 where we are told, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

And what is God’s will for you? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is a good start: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Later in verse 23, Paul writes, “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Do not forget that the Day of the Lord is coming. Continue to look forward to that day, and don’t be so wrapped up in the concerns of this world that you are not ready to let them go for eternity with Christ.

Before that day arrives, though, you’re going to make mistakes. We’re still sinners in need of God’s mercy and grace. Don’t forget 1 John 1:9 which says that if we are faithful to ask forgiveness for our sins, God is faithful and just to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

It was once said to me that sanctification is a community project. We were meant to worship, grow, and hold each other accountable as the body of Christ. I remind you again that wherever you’re going next, find a gospel teaching church, and grow with them. It’s not enough to simply be a part of a group of other college-age students. A functioning body of Christ, the way we see it described in scripture, is multi-generational. Be cross-generational and get to know people older and younger than you are. Be ready to receive their counsel. And again, I charge you, be examples yourselves.

Christian musician Michael W. Smith wrote a song called I Will Carry You. The lyric goes, “We were never meant to walk this road alone. I can always trust you when you say, ‘I will carry you, be your strength and pull you through. Reach for me, take my hand, we will pray and we will stand. In a world crying out for peace, let your heart be strong, for when I am weak, you will carry me.”

Never forget, graduates, no matter what the world tries to tell you, no matter how foolish they might think this belief to be, that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, and whoever believes in him will not perish, but will have everlasting life. Rejoice in the good news of the gospel of Christ. Be filled with thanksgiving.

In Closing...

When Jesus sent his disciples into the world to preach the gospel, he gave them what is called the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” he said. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” And the last words He spoke to them were these: “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Our Lord Jesus will be with you. In the words of Charles Spurgeon, “Child of God, you cost too much for Him to forget you.”