The skeptic inside of us may knee-jerk away from going to see "Heaven Is for Real." However, may I suggest fighting that impulse and instead, taking yourself to see an extremely powerful movie that, in the end, is a movie about our own questions regarding life and the life-after.
The movie is about our humanness because nearly all of us question where it is we go when we die. We may not be part of a pastor's family, and surely most of us have never had a near-death experience, but we go about our lives doing much like the Burpo family portrayed in the movie, doing the best they can at making sense of things in day-to-day living, until the unexplainable happens.
Whether the real life, 4-year-old Colton Burpo went to the actual heaven during his emergency surgery in 2003, has not really been my concern since I caught a pre-release screening at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Nashville last Sunday. What I was impressed with most, and still marvel at, is that the life of an ordinary pastor and his family living in Nebraska were so authentically captured in a Hollywood film. That's not a given. more >>
I don't venture too much into politics in my writing… or even in my own personal thought life. I really just don't care; which is probably due to my young age and my ignorance about the political terminology being thrown around in the news. But the recent talk of Arizona's SB1062 and other changes in legislature regarding gay marriage (and the twitter warfare among a few high profile Christians surrounding them all) has finally got me thinking on these things.
As I've seen people (Christians) like Kirsten Powers and Jonathan Merritt advocating against SB1062, and others advocating in favor of SB1062 (the more popular Christian response to these issues), I've tried to step back and objectively see things from both perspectives. And as I've done that, I've found that I sympathize with both sides.
From a secular worldview, which does not adhere to Christian doctrine or Christian morality, it would most certainly be discriminatory to be denied service based on sexual/relational gender preference. Because based on this worldview, sexual/relational gender preference is morally neutral. more >>
As someone who is often asked to speak my opinion on radio or television, I know that sound bites can bring powerful results, either positive or negative. Take for example the words of Rev. Fred Lucas Jr., the chaplain for the New York City sanitation department, which he prayed at the recent inauguration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, "Let the plantation called New York City be the city of God, a city set upon the hill, a light shining in darkness."
The imagery of New York as bastion of modern slavery shocked people from both sides of the political aisle. Democratic leader Betty Ann Canizio of Brooklyn tweeted: "I find these speakers offensive. Didn't know we had a plantation."
I am very familiar with the rhetoric that Rev. Lucas employed, and let me say first that I agree with what I believe to be the sentiment of his prayer. Of course we all want our cities to become beacons of light to others. Still, I think it does a disservice to our ancestors who lived through actual chattel slavery (and to those who are living through it now in various parts of the world) to compare life in modern America to what they suffered. more >>
Gathering under the vision of impacting a generation for justice, the third annual Justice Conference convened this weekend in Los Angeles. Filling the beautiful and historic Orpheum Theater and simulcast around the country, this gathering brought organizations, activist, business leaders, and students together to encourage one another to soldier on in their fight for the vulnerable and oppressed. Conference speakers consistently offered a solid and ordered definition for justice. Defining it as right relationship with self, others, and creation which is rooted in scripture, core to the gospel, and at the heart of God. The application of justice was more varied. Ranging from largely apolitical issues like trafficking and the exploitation of women to the explicit political advocacy of comprehensive immigration reform. Same-sex marriage, abortion, and persecution of Christians around the world were left for "those other conferences."
In a pre-conference session, Justice Conference founder Ken Wytsma offered a refreshingly biblical and philosophical understanding of justice. He noted the distinction between primary justice, when things are as they ought, and restorative justice, when things are brought back to how things ought to be. Highlighting the words of Jeremiah concerning justice, Ken warned against rejecting the term social justice, "Just because we don't like how the social justice has been use doesn't mean we can just hate and reject the phrase. People misuse the word love too."
After nearly a half dozen speakers spoke on a variety of issues Eugene Cho, pastor of the self-described "multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual" Quest Church in Seattle, offered a word of warning to those doing "the work of justice." Eugene asks, "The question isn't just do we do justice, but how we do justice? Are we open to the idea that justice must do us…cause if not, we are just peddling things. If we are not pointing people to the gospel or the savior named of Jesus we are elevating our own savior complexes." more >>
Christians in the church today are witnessing what may be described as "truth decay." Instead of being faithful to God's Word, many Christian leaders take a pragmatic "whatever works and will get people to come" approach. Pragmatism has its merits, but today it is undermining authentic Christianity and our call to biblical faithfulness.
In the quest for more nickels and noses, many church leaders lean more toward political correctness, cultural relevance, image promotion and the notion that size equals success in the eyes of God.
Charismatic sideshows parade preachers of imbalanced material prosperity, self-promotion and embarrassing flashy lifestyles, which both the world and the younger generation see through as hype. more >>
While "Noah" may or may not be having a hard time winning over Christian audiences, "Son of God," in theaters this weekend, appears to be enjoying the favor of the faithful nationwide. But can the new PG-13 Jesus film unseat 2004's "The Passion of the Christ" as the top-grossing Christian film of all time?
Christian producers Mark Burnett ("Survivor," "The Voice") and Roma Downey ("Touched by an Angel") have rallied the same network of powerful and influential Christian leaders that in 2013 got behind their History Channel miniseries, "The Bible," for a "Theater Take-Over" campaign in anticipation of the nationwide release of "Son of God," a pared-down theatrical version of the series' Jesus narrative.
A who's-who of evangelical Christian leaders, like Joel Osteen, Craig Groeschel, Miles McPherson and T.D. Jakes to name a few, have signed on to support "Son of God," buying out theater screens and distributing nearly half a million tickets. Archbishop Jose Gomez, whose Archdiocese of Los Angeles represents 4 million Roman Catholics, has also signed on to help promote the film, which stars Downey, also a Roman Catholic, as Jesus' mother, Mary. more >>