Sunday, 31 January 2010

Hollywood Blasphemy: A Manifesto

An Open Letter to Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron

My mother forwarded me a link to your website and I’ve spent the past week in serious contemplation. Agonizing might be too strong a word, but the actual emotion is somewhat close to that.

You see, I love movies. I’ve loved movies for as much of my life as I can remember. And quite frankly, I’ve been pretty ticked off in the past couple years to find that I can’t go to as many as I used to because I’m offended by the violence, or the blatant sexuality, or the callous indifference to, if not outright blasphemy against God.

Yes, I said ticked. I can be honest about it. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t come to this point – whether it’s maturity or self-righteousness – but it’s now possible that I go months at a time between finding a movie I feel comfortable attending.

I can’t even watch some of the movies I actually own anymore and that makes me feel too much like my mother. She’s turned her nose up at the movie and television industry for as long as I can remember and I’ve always been a bit irritated by her stand.

I’ve gotten around my lack of movie options by turning to television shows. I comfort myself that at least there are still a few broadcast standards left. I became attached to Alias and Stargate SG-1 over the years and recently I started watching Lost. I really enjoyed Battlestar Galactica but had to give that up because of the blatant sexuality allowed on the Sci-Fi channel.

But I digress. I’ve already lost most of my movie options. Fewer and fewer television shows are palatable. I’ve also had to give up several truly gifted secular fiction writers because of the content they feel it’s important to include along with their good plot to make the book marketable. Now you’re telling me that any show that mentions God’s name or that of His Son in an irreverent way is blasphemy?

I’ll be honest with you – my first reaction to your video was ‘you’ve got to be kidding me!’ Followed closely by ‘what in the world am I going to watch now?’

As spiritually immature as that may seem to you, I’m completely serious. You may be absolutely correct. In fact, you made your case so well that I want to watch the video again to try and find a loophole. I certainly don’t want to be thinking about your point as much as I have been, because quite frankly, sometimes a person just needs to be entertained! To forget – if only for a couple blissful hours – this gritty, difficult world we live in. To see things work together in the end, even when we know good and well that real life rarely comes out that way .

I rarely spend my money on R-rated movies and never go to slasher films. I make it a point for myself and repeatedly pound it into friends and family that we need to go to every new “Christian” movie on opening weekend. I do this regardless of whether it’s a movie I’m personally interested in or whether it’s been savaged, rightly or wrongly, by the critics. All of this so that Hollywood ‘gets the message.’ And what has happened? Effectively nothing.

Yes, if we’re lucky, every year one good Christian movie makes a national splash amidst several pretty mediocre ones. Meanwhile, 100 horror and barely-less-than-porn movies have come out right alongside them. Hollywood’s response to The Passion has been trumpeted over and over, but in terms of total movies making it to the marketplace, the difference seems negligible.

Maybe I’m misinterpreting your point or reading more into your video than you intended, but it seems to me you’re basically calling for a boycott of Hollywood until they stop using God’s name in an irreverent manner. While this is a lovely idea, I don’t know how practical it is and I’ll tell you why. We Christians are hypocrites, and I the biggest one. I am passionately opposed to the homosexual agenda, especially where it’s being aggressively pushed forward in public schools. About ten years ago I heard that Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream was somehow connected with funding homosexual groups in high schools. Outraged, I swore off my favorite ice cream for a year. After the year was up I decided maybe the information I’d gotten wasn’t entirely accurate, and what was one pint now and then going to matter one way or the other…and if I didn’t stick my nose any further into it and find out more information than I wanted to know, well…I could live with myself and the occasional purchase.

A couple years ago word went round that AT&T was giving employee health benefits to homosexual partners of employees. Same with Ford and several other big companies. Problem was, there weren’t many alternatives for those who might disagree. I actually researched a family-friendly phone company, but it was such a convoluted process I gave up.

If you’re challenging Christians in America to walk away almost wholesale from the movie and television industry for a significant period of time, you need to accept some responsibility for filling the gap. You need to provide some readily accessible alternatives. Otherwise you get 100 million people like me thinking, sure, you’re probably right…but what will I find to watch on Saturday night if I make that stand? More importantly, what am I going to contribute to Monday morning’s coffee break conversation that doesn’t make me sound Amish?

I recently visited Karnack in Egypt and saw a temple that pre-dated Solomon’s by a thousand years. When God gave the plans to David He was echoing a place of worship they were already familiar with. On the same trip I visited the Holy Land for a second time and was again reminded how God chose the Israelites out of a certain culture and a set way of living. When God gave Israel their legal structure He put in place a system that was so unique and different – and patently just – that it has impacted the rest of the world throughout time and history.

Though it may seem that way to you, this is not another digression. I believe God works in similar ways today. He uses cultural forms that we’re already familiar with to call out to us. He uses the shadows to speak of true reality. And, please excuse yet another C.S. Lewis reference, but once He’s gotten a hold of us, He calls us each day farther up and farther in.

Yet we live in a culture that worships entertainment. Our national conversation revolves around the finalists on American Idol and whether or not you’ve seen Spiderman 3. Everyone complains that we pay basketball stars more than teachers, but no one is going to do a thing to change that fact. That’s just the culture we live in at this point.

As Christians we should be appalled by Hollywood Blasphemy. Well, strike that. Actually, we shouldn’t be appalled because, quite frankly, what should we expect of the unredeemed? What we should be appalled by is our own complacency, compromise and complicity. What we should be doing is getting on our knees and echoing 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

So where does that leave us? Mr. Comfort, Mr. Cameron, I believe your point is valid – I just don’t think it’s complete and I’ll tell you why. First, the fact is that we are but dust. You can’t just challenge Christians to walk away from such a huge part of our culture without providing viable, easily accessible alternatives. Second, and probably more important, since we are an entertainment oriented culture, we need to be able to talk about movies and television and what we’re reading with our unsaved friends.

In my opinion, your challenge is missing out on the big picture. You need to support and defend your brothers and sisters in the creative arts and you need to challenge others to do the same. Not just because they’re Christian, but because they’re providing excellent, entertaining stories that speak about the truths of God – truths that our culture is dying from want of.

We need to be making movies that challenge Christians to a higher level of maturity. We also need to be making movies that aren’t blatantly Christian but have a good parable-message that Christians wouldn’t be embarrassed to invite their non-Christian friends to. Why aren’t we making movies like this? If it’s true that Hollywood is all about the bottom line, then the obvious conclusion is that Christians aren’t going to these movies in large enough numbers.

Challenge Christians to forgo movies that blaspheme the name of God – YES! But at the same time, challenge them to find other alternatives. Challenge them to push movies and television shows that are entertaining and moral. And for heaven’s sake, challenge them to support more than the latest ‘Parables of the Vineyard’ or ‘Purpose Driven Life’ phenomenon that sweeps the church. Those have their place – this is not a criticism of that kind of book – but where is the corresponding novel?

We only push non-fiction in church and the fact is – that doesn’t speak to the full reality we live in once we leave the pews. I dare you to issue a challenge to pastors to review a good novel once a month. Something that is entertaining and well-written; something a Christian could give to their non-Christian neighbor or coworker and have a thought-provoking discussion about.

You know good and well that Hollywood would be foaming at the mouth to make a movie out of the novel 100 million Christians were talking about. I’ve heard from numerous different sources that Hollywood is about the almighty dollar and that the reason The Passion caused such a stir was the plain and simple bottom line. Ok, let’s spend some money!

You issued your challenge, I’m issuing mine. I’ll give you six months. You seem to be well-connected Christian bigwigs – and I say that with the utmost respect, not sarcastically. If anyone can get the ball rolling I’d suspect it’d be you two. For six months, from May 15th to December 15th, I won’t spend a dime supporting Hollywood Blasphemy. Not in the theater. Not in the rental store. Not at the Target video counter. I won’t even watch a movie on free television that I know has blasphemy in it.

After six months I’ll be looking for your alternatives. A list of clean movies, and not just a “Christian” list, but one split up by genre that has something for everyone. Tell us which television shows pass muster as being both morally supportable and entertaining. Gives us a list of intelligent Christian fiction and clean secular fiction.

I’d also like to know that there are several movies of excellence in the pipeline that I can start talking up. I can think of ten novels off the top of my head if you’re lacking in content. How about Peace Child or Lords of the Earth? How about a magnificent sci-fi trilogy made out of the C.S. Lewis series? Or in true narcissistic fashion, I’ll offer to send you my novel – lots of people have told me it would make a great movie. ;)

If money is an issue I pledge $100 as the seed for a new production company dedicated to exalting the Name and the Word. They don’t even have to list me at the bottom of the credits. I’ll also promise to convince 100 other people to send money. If they’re making movies of excellence and Christians in America are responding to your challenge, they shouldn’t need us after the first couple hit the theater.

And just to show that I believe in what I’ve challenged you to do, I’ll do my part. Every Friday for the next six months I’ll publish a Hollywood Blasphemy Alternatives entry on my blog featuring a couple movie or book suggestions.

You gentlemen have made an excellent point. You’ve convinced me. However, I hope that I’ve been able to show you a couple key areas you’re forgetting. I’m sending this open letter out into cyberspace to see if six degrees of separation works in the Christian world.

With respect,
Jodi Cowles


Friday, 29 January 2010

Is the Reformation Over?

by R.C. Sproul
September 1st, 2009

Is the Reformation over? There have been several observations rendered on this subject by those I would call “erstwhile evangelicals.” One of them wrote, “Luther was right in the sixteenth century, but the question of justification is not an issue now.” A second self-confessed evangelical made a comment in a press conference I attended that “the sixteenth-century Reformation debate over justification by faith alone was a tempest in a teapot.” Still another noted European theologian has argued in print that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is no longer a significant issue in the church. We are faced with a host of people who are defined as Protestants but who have evidently forgotten altogether what it is they are protesting.

Contrary to some of these contemporary assessments of the importance of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, we recall a different perspective by the sixteenth-century magisterial Reformers. Luther made his famous comment that the doctrine of justification by faith alone is the article upon which the church stands or falls. John Calvin added a different metaphor, saying that justification is the hinge upon which everything turns. In the twentieth century, J.I. Packer used a metaphor indicating that justification by faith alone is the “Atlas upon whose shoulder every other doctrine stands.” Later Packer moved away from that strong metaphor and retreated to a much weaker one, saying that justification by faith alone is “the fine print of the gospel.”

The question we have to face in light of these discussions is, what has changed since the sixteenth century? Well, there is good news and there is bad news. The good news is that people have become much more civil and tolerant in theological disputes. We don’t see people being burned at the stake or tortured on the rack over doctrinal differences. We’ve also seen in the past years that the Roman communion has remained solidly steadfast on other key issues of Christian orthodoxy, such as the deity of Christ, His substitutionary atonement, and the inspiration of the Bible, while many Protestant liberals have abandoned these particular doctrines wholesale. We also see that Rome has remained steadfast on critical moral issues such as abortion and ethical relativism. In the nineteenth century at Vatican Council I, Rome referred to Protestants as “heretics and schismatics.” In the twentieth century at Vatican II, Protestants were referred to as “separated brethren.” We see a marked contrast in the tone of the different councils. The bad news, however, is that many doctrines that divided orthodox Protestants from Roman Catholics centuries ago have been declared dogma since the sixteenth century. Virtually all of the significant Mariology decrees have been declared in the last 150 years. The doctrine of papal infallibility, though it de facto functioned long before its formal definition, was nevertheless formally defined and declared de fide (necessary to believe for salvation) in 1870 at Vatican Council I. We also see that in recent years the Roman communion has published a new Catholic catechism, which unequivocally reaffirms the doctrines of the Council of Trent, including Trent’s definition of the doctrine of justification (and thus affirms that council’s anathemas against the Reformation doctrine of justification by faith alone). Along with the reaffirmations of Trent have come a clear reaffirmation of the Roman doctrine of purgatory, indulgences, and the treasury of merits.

At a discussion among leading theologians over the issue of the continued relevance of the doctrine of justification by faith alone, Michael Horton asked the question: “What is it in the last decades that has made the first-century gospel unimportant?” The dispute over justification was not over a technical point of theology that could be consigned to the fringes of the depository of biblical truth. Nor could it be seen simply as a tempest in a teapot. This tempest extended far beyond the tiny volume of a single teacup. The question, “what must I do to be saved” is still a critical question for any person who is exposed to the wrath of God.

Even more critical than the question is the answer, because the answer touches the very heart of gospel truth. In the final analysis, the Roman Catholic Church affirmed at Trent and continues to affirm now that the basis by which God will declare a person just or unjust is found in one’s “inherent righteousness.” If righteousness does not inhere in the person, that person at worst goes to hell and at best (if any impurities remain in his life) goes to purgatory for a time that may extend to millions of years. In bold contrast to that, the biblical and Protestant view of justification is that the sole grounds of our justification is the righteousness of Christ, which righteousness is imputed to the believer, so that the moment a person has authentic faith in Christ, all that is necessary for salvation becomes theirs by virtue of the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. The fundamental issue is this: is the basis by which I am justified a righteousness that is my own? Or is it a righteousness that is, as Luther said, “an alien righteousness,” a righteousness that is extra nos, apart from us — the righteousness of another, namely, the righteousness of Christ? From the sixteenth century to the present, Rome has always taught that justification is based upon faith, on Christ, and on grace. The difference, however, is that Rome continues to deny that justification is based on Christ alone, received by faith alone, and given by grace alone. The difference between these two positions is the difference between salvation and its opposite. There is no greater issue facing a person who is alienated from a righteous God.

At the moment the Roman Catholic Church condemned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, she denied the gospel and ceased to be a legitimate church, regardless of all the rest of her affirmations of Christian orthodoxy. To embrace her as an authentic church while she continues to repudiate the biblical doctrine of salvation is a fatal attribution. We’re living in a time where theological conflict is considered politically incorrect, but to declare peace when there is no peace is to betray the heart and soul of the gospel.


Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Greg Koukl - God, Time and Prayer

"If God is not temporal He cannot do anything...."

This is new to me. I have often heard that God exists outside of time. And in order for there to be finite things (things with a beginning and an end) God must be infinite and without a beginning and an end. God says He is the I AM. He has always been and always will be. I'd have to disagree with Koukl on this one. Is there any reference to God creating time in the bible? Does creation only exist in time? Does John 1:1 support the argument of God having a beginning? How could God have a beginning? Would He have to be created? (No). Wouldn't it make sense that He has always existed, even if that's hard for us to grasp?

Source: YouTube

Friday, 22 January 2010

Deep Church: Just a Chip Off the Old Emergent Movement

Jim Belcher, Author and Pastor from the faded Emergent movement is looking for a third wheel to emerge from the failed development. Deep Church calls itself a "missional church" committed to both tradition and culture, valuing innovation in worship, arts, and community but also creeds and confessions. "Plumb the depths of Christianity in a way that neither rejects our postmodern context nor capitulates to it. Instead of veering to the left or right, go beyond the extremes and go-deep."

Author & "Pastor" Jim Belcher

Emerging authors, fed up with contemporary pragmatism, have offered alternative visions for twenty-first-century Christianity. Traditionalist churches have reacted negatively, at times defensively. In Deep Church, Belcher brings the best insights of all sides to forge a third way between emerging and traditional. He offers measured appreciation and affirmation as well as balanced critique. Moving beyond reaction, Belcher provides constructive models from his own church planting experience and paints a picture of what this alternate, deep church looks like--a missional church committed to both tradition and culture, valuing innovation in worship, arts and community but also creeds and confessions.

Yikes! And that's quoted right off the Deep Church website! Looks like there's some left-over leaders lingering around from the failed Emergent movement looking for a place to plant their new philosophies and wish-washed theology to veer Christians off the path.

The Book of Eli

I just hope that Denzel delivers the Gospel correctly.

Calgary Church Loses Charity Status

By Patrick B. Craine

CALGARY, Alberta, January 21, 2010 ( - The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has revoked the charitable status of Kings Glory Fellowship (KGF), a Christian church in Calgary. CRA cites a number of issues with KGF's application, but the decision is based, in part, on the ground that certain KGF Board members have spoken out strongly against abortion, and other moral issues.

"The members of the Board of Directors espouse strong negative views about sensitive and controversial issues, which may also be viewed as political, such as abortion, homosexuality, divorce, etc.,” wrote CRA agent Dian Prodanov in an October 29th letter.

These “political” views make the church ineligible because, according to the agent, a registered charity “may only engage in non-partisan political activities as long as it devotes substantially all (usually 90% or more) of its resources to charitable activities."

KGF's pastor, Artur Pawlowski, is also the founder and pastor of Street Church Ministries, which has made headlines because of its battle with the city of Calgary to uphold its right to preach to and serve the city's poor.

In December, a provincial court judge sided with Pawlowski and SCM, striking down several city infractions against them. Further, the judge found that "the City's attempts ... to limit the scope of the efforts by the accused to minister to his congregants, fall precariously close to being excessive and, to any reasonable observer, an abuse of power."

Prodanov cited numerous problems with KGF's application, such as a lack of detail about various expenditures, but Pawlowski called these other reasons “smoke screens.”

“The main point is that they don't like my opinions about different controversial issues, and I speak about them openly on radio, in paper, and on TV,” he said. “So that's what happens when you express your views as a pastor.”

“If they take the charity status away from a church, they are hoping that they are going to starve us to death in Canada, and therefore we will not be able to influence anyone,” he continued. “That's basically what happens. That's what they want to accomplish. They want to muzzle us up.”

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Lessons from Lady GaGa

First of all, she ain’t no lady.

Second of all, it is a testimony to the depravity of our world that tens of millions of GaGa lovers purchase her filthy songs and watch her dirty videos on YouTube. If indeed the kind of records she sells tells us something about the heathens, is it fair to suggest that the type of records sold to Christians tells us something about ourselves?

This is by no means a scientific poll, but I just clicked on the song sample that Amazon offers so you can hear an album highlight. These are the random highlights from five songs from the top ten Christian downloads; see if you notice a theme.
  • I don’t know what makes me so afraid.
  • You will be safe in His arms.
  • You bring me through.
  • How you gonna fix it with nowhere to turn?
  • You're crying on the floor cuz you can’t take no more.
If this is any sort of mood barometer, Christians are very scared these days. That really isn’t a shocker; the economy is shaky, unemployment is high and there are people willing to blow up their underpants to kill us. Christians are not immune to these concerns and the contemporary Christian music industry has tapped into this zeitgeist.
What is interesting (and troubling) is how

Story Time

Imagine you are at the park when a child falls and gashes her knee. You and her father run to rescue her. Right before you reach her, you both stop short and hold out your arms so she can choose who she wants to help her. Dad does not say a word while you beg her, “Let me hold you. I want to hug you. I will help you.”

Who is she going to embrace? Instinctively she will run to the arms of her father because she KNOWS that he will take care of her. She KNOWS this because he has proven himself faithful to her for years. You can plead and beg all you want, but the child will only find comfort in the one who has proven his faithfulness and ability.

That is precisely where most contemporary Christian music and preaching fails. An artist can sweetly sing that God wants to hug you, and that may make you feel better while you listen, but these lyrics are placebos at best. In order to find true comfort and true healing, you need to KNOW that God is in capable of protecting you. You need knowledge of his abilities, power and past performance. In other words, you need theology.

It does not help to be told over and over, “Let God hold you, He wants to protect you, fall into His arms.” What comforts us is when we see God’s strength demonstrated over and over again in the Bible. We don’t need tunes that tell us to let God embrace us, we need theology set to music that proves that God is strong and is in control over every detail of our lives.

Experiment time

Here are three actual CCM lyrics that I discovered when I Googled, “God wants to hold you.”
I was wondering can you hold me now
You are the only one that's patient when I fall.

Father, I want You to hold me
I want to rest in Your arms today
Father, I want You to show me
How much You care for me in every way

All that I ever wanted was this peace as you
Hold me now, as you hold me now
All that I ever needed was this love as you
Hold me now, forever hold me now

Contrast those gems with these theological statements from the Bible.
  • God spoke the universe into existence in six 24 hour days.
  • God parted a sea so His children would be safe.
  • Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven.

You don’t even need to be told to not worry when you KNOW that God is the Creator, Controller and Conqueror. Knowledge of who God is and what He has done results in comfort.

While I am terribly tempted to plug Exalted Worship (available at, I am not going to. Instead, let me encourage you in these challenging times to not reach for sugar pill music, but to fill yourself with songs about God’s unchanging truths. Don’t listen to pep talk preaching, but gorge yourself on solid sermons filled with truth.

It is OK to need comfort, God is happy to provide it. God will feed you when you flee to His Word. It may not be as catchy as breathy Christian pop tunes, but it is sweeter than honey, more valuable than fine gold and it (and it alone) will comfort you.

Source: Wretched Newsletter - Burning Bush Communications, Inc.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Believers Never Die

"He removes the scars because He builds from the inside out. And when God steadies a faltering life He puts you on His sure-footing. "

Ravi Zacharias

Canada and Finland; These two countries have become home. I am so grateful to God for having the privilege of living here. Beyond my residences my heart has found my faith and love in Jesus Christ. If I had stayed in Canada and had never come to Finland in the Fall of 2008 I would have never had gone back to Canada to find my new love for my country and above all my new love for the Lord. God had been in the shadows all along guiding me along the way putting my life together with His unerring hand. It is as if God had taken me here to discipline me—He had shown me who I really am.

There is one thing I want to share with you; Keep your faith and remember that God is by your side. You hear a lot of talk about the way God wants you to live, otherwise stated, God's Call. But don't get hung-up worrying about what you are doing. There is no doubt that God prepared me for this life that I now lead connecting the varied and ironic threads of my experience into a beautiful tapestry as He would see fit. I truly do feel that God has framed me for a specific purpose and I believe that for you as well.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Tampere Police Suspend Deportation of Christian Iranian Kurd

In Iran, men converting to Christianity could face gallows

Iranian Kurd Ibrahim Mahmud Ali Palani, 27, who has spent almost his entire life as a refugee, could breathe a sigh of relief on Tuesday after the police in Tampere suspended the enforcement of the deportation order issued by Finland’s Directorate of Immigration.

An appeal against the Directorate of Immigration’s decision from last spring was filed with the Helsinki Administrative Court, which dismissed the appeal on September 17th. The Iranian Kurd, who had set off from Iraq to seek asylum in the West, was to be returned to the country of his birth, Iran.

The administrative court justified its decision by Palani’s lack of political activity. In the court’s view it was unlikely that the officials in Iran would have found out about Palani’s conversion to Christianity while in Finland.

Representatives of the Lutheran Church, the Pentecostal Church, and the Christian Democrats appealed for the suspension of the deportation order.

The new asylum petition refers to a motion being considered in the Iranian Parliament, in which the death penalty is suggested for those abandoning the Islamic faith.

In the first reading, the motion of introducing the death penalty for converts received 196 votes. Only seven individuals voted against it. The ratification of the law still requires another reading.

For Ibrahim Palani, the law would mean mortal danger in Iran.

As a small boy, Palani and his parents escaped the persecution of the Arab population, fleeing from Iran to Iraq.

For the Kurds life also in Iraq soon became dangerous, and Palani set off to seek asylum from Germany and England in 2001.

In England a girlfriend led the man to a Christian congregation. Palani was deported before the renegade Muslim managed to receive baptism into the Christian faith.

In April 2007 Palani arrived at a refugee centre in Tampere, from where he found his way to the Tampere Pentecostal Church later that spring.

Since the closing down of the Tampere refugee centre, Palani has resided at the Kotka refugee centre.

Life seemed to stop and anguish, nightmares, and fears of death started to torment him when he heard of the deportation order, said Palani through an interpreter.

Palani justified his decision to change religions by saying that within Islam so many wrongdoings take place.

“I have familiarised myself with Christianity and I feel it is the right way for me.”
Palani is hoping for a new beginning for his life.

Source: Helsingin Sanomat

Monday, 4 January 2010

Do You Feel More Carnal?

Do you feel like you're more carnal and sinful now than before you became a believer? Well don't be afraid! You're just becoming more aware of your sins.

Now I'm not talking about backsliding. But if you are sinning and don't feel bad about your sins then you haven't received the Holy Spirit, and you have to repent(say you're sorry and stop sinning) and ask God to reveal your sins. And if you're sinning and not in battle with your sins then you are not regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Once you hear the gospel and believe it, the Holy Spirit will come and rest in you(Acts 19:5).

Don't worry! Just because you feel more wretched than you did before you surrendered your life to Jesus it doesn't mean that you are backsliding from faith. You just have an awareness of your sins now and God is revealing them to you. This is what is called sanctification. You see one part of yourself you might not have seen before or have not hated. You're growing in holiness and understanding about your sinfulness and you want to get rid of it from your life. And don't just believe it but apply the Word to your life.

James 1:22-27 (ESV)
Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, othe law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless. Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (Romans 12:2)

God's Call

In 2 Corinthians 5:20, scripture says "we are ambassador's for Christ." Word Faith and Prosperity gospels tell us that God is calling us to do a certain job. But is this God's call, as it were?

When I chose to come back to Finland I decided against something important because thinking about it made me feel confused, and "God is not the author of confusion" (1 Corinthians 14:33), so it could not be of God. I left Finland due to feelings. I was feeling depressed and missing home. I thought that going back to Canada to do seminary was God's call for me. I based this decision on good feelings.

In Mark 6:45-50, this passage strikes me fatal to view. In verse 49—"they all saw him and were terrified." What was it they saw? It was in fact Jesus. They actually were looking right at Him, they saw Him on the water. And He was there to do them good, with nothing but love in His heart for them. But they misperceived Him, they did not see Jesus as Jesus, and they mispercieved the significance of what they did see. Instead, they saw Him as a ghost, a being that struck horror in their hearts. The emotions that seeing Jesus stirred in them were not peace, joy, love, and closeness to God. They were terrified, they were filled with alarm and fear at the sight of Jesus.

It was Jesus they saw; it was not Jesus they perceived. What they experienced did not mean what they thought it meant.

I thought I was doing God's will by studying seminary. But God doesn't ask us to play certain roles, does He? He calls us to bare witness to the world, to love on another like Christ loves the church, to speak the gospel to the unsaved, and to keep his commandments. But does he call me to be a fireman, a news reporter, or a paediatrician? How can a Christian discern that? If we are to take this logic seriously a Christian would be so confused and ask him/herself questions like, "Am I doing what God wants me to do? Was I supposed to marry this person? Were these kids supposed to be mine?"

We are constantly told, "Do what makes you happy." Is this what God asked us to do? Do what makes us feel good? Or should we live a life that glorifies God! I was looking at feelings as a good sign for a calling (as we are told) for me. Our faith must rest on scripture, not on feelings.

God's hand, His presence in an event, is discerned (we're told) by the feelings of serene peace, joy, love, and/or closeness to God that we feel. If it makes us happy, if it makes us feel close to God, then it is of God. If it's frightening and repellent, God cannot be in it. It sounds disconnected with scripture, yearning for something God never promises, countless Christians read feelings, circumstances, events, hoping to discern God's personal coded messages in them.

We are told that we should find out what God wants us to do and if it feels good and brings you closer to God, then do it. But is it biblical? I just lately had to ask myself this. Why do I feel so confused and frustrated? That's not God! And it's not aligned with scripture from what I know. I by-no-means am saying I know better, but I'm sceptical about this. And I am in no way saying that you shouldn't do what makes you happy. But is it scriptural?

We live in a self-esteem generation with a lot of self-help books. I am concerned that it has seeped it's way into the church and it just doesn't align with what scripture says. What do you think?

Friday, 1 January 2010

Your Challenge

I want to challenge you to find the reason why you believe. It will be a miserable journey but well worth it. Some people may say they believe because, "It makes me happy," or "That's what my parents taught me."

Faith is not a blind leap in the dark. It is not knowing something is true because the evidence leads to it. Faith represents a type of evidence. It is the evidence of the unseen. We have faith because we have good cause to trust God's Word. In light of this, R.C. Sproul said,
"That trust may be provisional until I find that it is not based in substance or evidence. But in the meantime, to trust what we do not see is not necessarily a matter of being irrational. Without reason, the content of biblical faith would be unintelligible and meaningless. So we say that biblical faith is not the same as reason, but that faith is rational and reasonable. The first assertion that faith is rational means that faith is intelligible. It is not absurd or illogical. If biblical revelation were absurd and irrational, it would be utterly unintelligible and meaningless."

By faith we understand the world was formed by the Word of God. None of us were eyewitnesses of the creation. Yet we trust that the universe has come into being by the act of God’s divine work of creation because we have come on reasonable grounds to believe that God’s Word is trustworthy. We can trust God’s Word even for those things that we cannot see because we are convinced that God’s Word is trustworthy and that conviction is a reasonable conviction. John Calvin also argued the point that true faith is not believing against evidence. Rather, true faith involves trusting in the evidence that God has amply provided in and through His Word. That faith is not without what Calvin called evidences; rather, it is a faith that surrenders to or consents to the evidences.

I want you to dig deeper into the New Testament documents and find the facts for yourself. You don't need to have a philosophy major. There are many reliable resources online and at your local Christian book store. Get informed and be prepared to share your faith! Christian apologetics is an important tool for convincing others of your faith. It's also strengthens your confidence. 1 Peter 3:15 says, "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."