Thursday, April 28, 2016

Was Biggs Right?

"It just isn't fair! Oh, Biggs is right, I'm never gonna get out of here!"

These words were spoken by a young farm boy named Luke, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.  Luke's uncle had just revealed to him that he needed him to stay home another year to help with the harvest. Over the past few years Luke had seen most of his friends leave, including his best friend Biggs, who left to enroll in the Imperial Academy. Joining the Academy was Luke's dream. He felt alone and useless staying behind while his childhood friends moved on with their lives. 

I can totally understand Luke's frustration. I graduated from college a year ago and I had high hopes of getting a decent job and moving away from home. The summer before I graduated I had an internship in Washington, D.C., where I learned a lot and made lots of connections with people. I thought for sure, especially with those connections,  that I would have no trouble finding a job. It wasn't something that I was worried about. God's got it all planned out for me, right? Of course I'll have a job after I graduate. That's what everyone does. That's what is best for me. That's how I start the next chapter of my life. Surely God wants what's best for me! 

Well, here I am, a year later, still living at home, still working part time for a television company, and still looking for a real job. The Lord has been gracious enough to give me parents who allow me to still live with them. He also provided me with a part time job filming high school sports once a week. It is no where near the field I went to school for, nor is it the type of job I am looking for. But, it pays decent money, more than I would make working minimum wage at a restaurant. 

When I first graduated and started looking for a job, I was looking for something away from home. Not because I hate it here, I just want to see different places and start this new chapter of my life somewhere different. But after a year of searching and wanting to leave this town, I have grown accustom to the idea of staying local and getting a job near here. Even though some of my friends have moved away, I have built a solid group of friends here that I love and care about. People who have a passion for the Lord and growing His church. I help these friends lead bible studies throughout the week, we hang a lot, and just have great fellowship together. I've seen friends get engaged, married, and even have babies. It's awesome seeing God work among my friends. This has been my main reason for wanting to stay local, the established relationships and church family.

Recently I found out that my good friend, his wife, and newborn are having to move away in a few weeks for his job. Another good friend is moving away to go to seminary. Like the farm boy from George Lucas' space epic, Star Wars, I can relate to his loneliness and despair from seeing his friends leave.

Amazingly, not once in my search for a job have I ever been without hope. Ive been irritated and inpatient, sure, but never without hope. The main thing that keeps my spirits high is the fact of knowing that God has a plan for me. He's brought me this far, and I know from scripture that He will finish the good work that He started in me and bring it to competition (Philippians 1:6). It is this blessed hope and assurance that keeps me strong and optimistic. Sure, there are days that the enemy attacks me and makes me feel like I'm useless and worthless and that I will never find a job, but the Voice of Truth tells me a different story. The Voice of Truth says "do not be afraid", the Voice of Truth says "this is for my glory". Out of all the voices calling out to me,  I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of Truth.  This Voice of Truth is the same voice that spoke to me through the darkest times of my past, telling me to trust in Him and He would deliver me. He never failed me then, and He will never fail me now. He is the one constant in my life that never changes. Even though I may not know why He has me waiting so long, I still have confidence that He is working everything together for my good (Romans 8:28).

"And it may feel like 40 long days in a hard driving rain, or 40 years in a dry desert sand. But when He’s finished we will see a beautiful tapestry and know that nothing has been wasted in the end." -Steven Curtis Chapman

"I cannot tell you how long this road shall be, but fear not the obstacles in your path, for fate has vouchsafed your reward. Though the road may wind, yea, your hearts grow weary, still shall ye follow them, even unto your salvation." - Blind Seer (O Brother, Where Art Thou?) 

Here is a list of verses that remind me of God's promises to us:

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." -Matthew 11:28-30 

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for The Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave or forsake you." -Deuteronomy 31:6

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." -Psalm 23:4

"The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit" -Psalm 34:18

"God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'" -Hebrews 13:5

Thursday, April 14, 2016

God's Still Not Dead: Movie Review of "God's Not Dead 2"

As many of you have probably heard, the sequel to Harold Cronk's 2014 film, "God's Not Dead" was released a few weeks ago. The first one was decent but had many issues with it. As with most Christian films, for the most part, it didn't have good acting and it had very cheesy "christianese" dialogue. It portrayed atheist as being down right mean and aggressive, which isn't always the case, and the arguments used in the debates were fairly weak. 

I should note that the reason I saw it as weak was because I had been thoroughly trained in Christian apologetics at Summit Ministries. The counter arguments used by the Christian protagonist to defend his faith were elementary, and I have witnessed those arguments be easily struck down before. But, I suppose that if you are not well-versed in Christian apologetics, then the arguments posed in this film were pretty awesome. 

As I stated, the sequel, "God's Not Dead 2", was released a few weeks ago. After seeing the previews, I was apprehensive about seeing this one for two reasons: I was afraid it would be simply a repeat of the first film with bad acting and cheesy dialogue, and because it covers a much more realistic issue than the first one. 

The issue in this film is dealing with Christians being bullied and attacked by the government for their faith. This is something that is becoming increasingly popular in America. It seems as if all the tolerance and equality spouted by the left applies to anything BUT Christianity. And that is exactly what is shown in case brought against Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart) in this film. 

In the film, she is an AP History teacher at a public high school. She is teaching a lesson on non-violent protest and historical figures that utilized that tactic. She cites Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi as examples. A student raises her hand and asks if that is similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:43-44. The student then quotes that verse "You have heard it said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." The teacher then nods her head and responds by saying that that is exactly the same attitude and concept that Matthew describes Jesus as teaching. That doesn't sound harmful or malicious does it?
Well, it was this very brief exchange of dialogue that gets the teacher put on suspension and taken to court as a violation of the Establishment Clause in the Constitution, also known as the Separation of Church and State. 

This incident was probably the biggest thing that I didn't like about the film. Of all the verses in scripture, the filmmakers chose this one to have the government come down upon her like the four horsemen of the apocalypse for. There are tons more verses that they could've had the student state that are much more controversial, but using this verse was silly. It wouldn't have made it that far in the courts. The courts and school board would have struck it down early on in the process simply because the nature of the verse in context with the lesson and the teacher was not sharing her faith. It was unrealistic, even in the messed up society we live in. 

That verse was the biggest complaint I had about the film, but as the story progressed, I began to really like it. While on trial in court, the teacher's lawyer sets out to prove that she was simply answering the question asked by the student about a historical quote from a historical figure. They use the angle that it wasn't about her faith, it was just about the historic accounts. But the opposition insists that because it was about Jesus, then it was about faith, because, as they claim, Jesus's existence can't even be proven. So, the lawyer sets out to prove the historical existence of Jesus to make it not about faith or religion. 

Here is where it gets good. The lawyer brings several witnesses to the stand. The main witnesses are Christian apologetics authors Lee Strobel (The Case For Christ) and James Warner Wallace (Cold Case Christianity). 

I immediately recognized these two men, having read their books and listened to their podcasts. These two men bring a very unique insight to the defense of the gospel. Both men started out as atheists and set out to disprove Christianity. 

Strobel was an investigative reporter with the Chicago Tribune who spent several years using his skills as a reporter to investigate and try to disprove Christianity. After years of investigating, he found that the evidence in support of Christianity and the Bible as being true was overwhelming, and thus came to faith in Christ. 

Wallace was a Cold Case Homicide Detective in California and set out disprove Christianity by using his job skills. He applied the same amount of scrutiny to the four gospel accounts as he would to actual witnesses in investigations. He found that all of the accounts in the gospels fit together just like witnesses to a cold case. He sates " I'm not a Christian today because I was raised that way or because it satisfies some need or establishes some goal. I'm simply a Christian because it is evidently true."

Both men indisputably prove that Christ and His Word are proven history and most famous historians, both Christian and non-Christian, agree that Jesus existed. 

Elsewhere in the movie people are watching TV and former talkshow host, governor, and presidential candidate, Mike Huckabee is interviewing Christian apologist Gary Habermas about this court case. Habermas cites his famous "Minimal Facts Approach to the Resurrection". 

As someone with a background in Christian apologetics, I ate this stuff up. FINALLY, they brought in the real guns. Real, legitimate and sound arguments for Christianity from former Atheists who came to Christ by trying to disprove the faith. This is the real deal Holyfield!  

The courage of the teacher in the film to stand up for her faith reminds me of the teachers I had in high school that weren't afraid to speak the truth. People like my art teacher Mr Lark and my choir teacher Mrs Weeks. As well as my friends that are teaching now, like Joel Barron, David Nicholson, Renee Young. They are courageous and I greatly admire them for doing what they do. They are not teachers who happen to be Christians, but Christians who happen to be teachers.

This film is very much a court room drama mixed in with several Christian apologetics lectures. It is 100 times better than the first film and I highly recommend seeing it!