So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

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First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

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In the Midst of Azusa, Forgiveness Was Found

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First, just in case you don’t know what AZUSA is…. 110 years ago, on Azusa Street a revival began. On the 110th anniversary, many church leaders, congregations, believers, musicians, etc came together to pray for a new revival.  The church is calling out for a third great awakening.

I have never personally witnessed an event of this magnitude, in fact the only revival I have ever attended was a community one held at a local church.  I was in middle school.  There were a LOT of people, but nothing like Azusa on Saturday, April 9 2016.

First, I want to comment on the diversity of those who came to worship together.  I was not their live, but watching online as much as I could throughout the day.  When the camera would pan the audience and the stage, there were so many colors… ages… genders… just, people.  God’s people.  Together.  In one accord.

I found myself brought to tears each time I heard the Word of God spoken, prayers, or songs of Praise… in a language that is not my own.  English. Spanish. Native American. Hebrew. Arabic. Latin…  it was just beautiful.

Second, I want to point to the overall theme of the event… while the church was calling out for revival… they were acknowledging that we have to get ourselves in order before it can.  There was so much emphasis on getting our own houses in order, so that the spirit of revival can be unleashed.

If we want to usher revival in we have to clean our house first. 1Tim3:5 If anyone can’t manage his own family, how can he manage the church

If you look at the great revivals of the past, those who witnessed it would tell you that there were small pockets of revival happening at the same time in various locations.  Small movements that grew into great movements and spread like holy wild-fire!

What was the core issue that Azusa pointed to, that the church needed to get in order?  Unity under Christ.  We’ve been divided too long, doing what seems right to men and our own minds.  We have allowed man’s notions of what is “godly” to divides us against each other.  Denomination vs. denomination.  Christian vs. christian.  In order to unify under Christ, we must begin with forgiveness.

We must get our house in order as a church, to be a vessel of revival into the world. Forgive and seek forgiveness

Division is one of the things that breaks my heart about the current day church.   We have put ourselves first, our way of thinking… interpretation… worshiping… praying… studying… etc.  We hold people to our “standard” of what righteousness looks like and quite often we are incapable of living up to that standard in the first place.  We allow pride to take root, and then we elevate ourselves about other believers because they are not as wise or knowledgeable as we are.  And then we see friendships divide, churches divide, denominations divide.

We watch our family crumble.  Then a bitter root takes hold, because that bitterness helps us justify our choose to separate, judge, and criticize our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We justify our sin of division, when Christ has called us to reconcile to each other and be one body, one church, under Christ.

We wonder why our prayers are not answered, yet we are in active sin while bitterness, pride, and unforgiveness are sewn into our hearts.  We wonder why our ministry isn’t moving forward, when we have become our own stumbling block.  We wonder why God is not blessing us, when we are constantly building up a wall between us and Him.

If you are holding bitterness, a bad word about God’s anointed, anger toward someone, hate… we are in sin.

When we allow that bitterness to take root, we can speak and act terribly about those God calls His children.    We are criticizing God’s creation, the work He is doing in a person, the mission He has put on their heart, and even God himself!  Because, we are created in His image.  This doesn’t exclude the moments when we are holding unforgiveness, bitterness, or critical thoughts about our own selves.

Every time we criticize our sister/brother in Christ, we are being critical of Jesus who lives in them. God help us.

If it goes unchecked and that bitterness takes root, it can make itself a comfy home in our heart and lives, and it will choke out everything good that tries to come into our life. We can become so focused on the root and it’s offshoots… we miss what God is doing around us.  We become wrapped up in it’s vines and become slaves to it, unable to serve God because we are bound to anger and hurt.

Holding unforgiveness in your heart toward someone, you both are slaves in bondage to it. Free your slaves. Jer34:8

We will keep adding to the weight of the baggage we carry, and we will carry that baggage far longer than God would have us.  It will become heavier, slowing down our walk, weighing us down, stealing our energy, our hope, and our future.  We can’t reach the blessing, when we are dragging dead weight behind us.  Eventually it will win, and break you down until you just give up.

What is the baggage you have been carrying for TOO LONG, that is slowing you down & holding you back from blessing?

We are told in the scriptures that if we have an offense between us and our brother, we are to put our offering down and go handle that first.  We are not to bring our offering into the temple until we have reconciled.  So, until then, every offering you make is empty.  Who is it that you need to forgive?  A friend, relative, church… yourself?  Are you carrying the weight of your own sin?  The sin Christ died for, and cast to the depths of the sea… did you fish it back up?  Are you taking it back from the foot of the cross?  Are you saying… “everything but this Lord, this sin is too big for you.”

God help us.

We can’t bring our offering to the table if we are holding a grudge against someone. Who do you need to forgive?

When we are focused so much on our own pain, bitterness, anger, and what we see as unfair… we miss the fact that our world is mourning and crying out in pain.  Instead of crying out on their behalf, we say:  WHAT ABOUT ME?  What about my pain?  What about my situation?  What about my hurt?  Where is my help?  Where is my blessing?

People groups around the earth are crying out in pain, will you cry with them. Will you mourn with them?

We can not unite under Christ when we are too focused on our own selves.  When we are seeking my own needs or blessings first.  The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

If Christ can call out to the Lord to forgive those who stood against him, accused him, crucified him… why can we not say of our oppressors, “Lord… forgive them… they know not what they do.”

We need to get on our knees and pray.

Lord, let there be a sweeping release of forgiveness across the country between all people, unite us seventy-seven times seven!

We need to forgive others, and ourselves.  Our past, is our past. It was washed clean and we need to stop picking that back up.  We need to take that stronghold of shame, and let it go.  We need to believe that we are that new creation in Christ, a new thing… a new work, where we are continuing to grow in our pursuit of holiness.  A good work He continues in us until the day of fruition when we are united with the saints in Heaven.

Lord, free of us of our bondage to sin… our wayward steps… our critical words… and our flesh. Spirit come.

Lord we repent of our attitudes of separation and division, let us reunite under you! Amen.

Lord, set the captives free! Spirit, move us to mourn as one body & move us to unite under Jesus

And, we need to pray as if we are the only ones praying.  We need intercessors who are standing in the gap for those who are too weak to pray, or too broken.  We need intercessors to pray for the lost, the prodigals, the ones who have gone astray.  We need to pray fervently, as if everything depends on our pray.  Then when we are all praying, as if we are the only ones, there is a complete community of intercessors praying on behalf of YOU too.

Pray as if no one else is praying. If we all pray, as if no one else is praying we will all be intercessors.

As forgiveness and healing sweeps across our body, and we unite we become a city on a hill, shining the light of the Son, for the lost to find their way home.  We begin to look different from the world, not because of our dress or the words we speak. Instead we look different because we love differently, we forgive even the unforgivable.  We will not be divided but united under the Truth.  Standing in agreement of His Word, and let by His Spirit instead of our own thoughts and our own flesh.

— John 16:13 —

When the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.

In our brokenness HE is magnified because in our healing HE gets the glory.

We must pray that the Holy Spirit will flood our hearts & compel us with your Word, let it pour out of our mouths, a sweet song to a weary world.   So that we can go out and disciple the nations, starting here in our country.  One person, one family, one community at a time.  The mission field is here, in our own back yards.  We still have unreached communities here.  We have missionaries coming INTO the United States in order to preach the gospel!  We must get our house in order, and then we go… we go out beyond our backyards, into the unchurched communities, and then into the world.   Sharing the gospel, baptizing the people, making disciples, and building up leaders to continue the good work.

Lord, send a fire of revival into the hearts of your people. Let us touch the communities around us in a mighty way.

Praise God for what is about to come.

This brings me to my third point, what I took away from Azusa.  I watched church leaders…. catholic, messianic, denominations, cultures/ethnicities… forgive each other.

If others can forgive, so can I.  And, so can you.

Bridging the Way – Fellowship & Small Groups

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One of the things we can struggle with in ministry service is creating a ministry that is balanced between social activities and discipleship opportunities.  This struggle is not unique to women’s ministry, but it does seem to impact women’s ministry more.

In speaking with women’s ministry leaders across the country, I’ve seen the struggle played out in many different ways.   The women’s ministry team may be divided, some wanting social events, and others wanting more studies and workshops.   The church may want less fellowship, and more small groups.  Even the women in the congregation want more of one thing, and others would prefer something else.

We seemingly keep coming to the same place…. and all or nothing stance.  Either we have a women’s ministry that is all studies, workshops, mentoring and discipleship… or a calendar of events that is centered around relational fellowship events. 

Can’t we have both?

Can’t we have a fellowship event that turns the women’s gaze toward Christ?

Can’t we have a small groups that encourage building relationships?

Do we have to chose one or the other, or could we not have the best of both worlds?

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In church leadership, most of our Pastors and Elders have been raised in the church.  They understand how we do things as a church, and there is an expectation that others will fall right into that line.  However, when you haven’t been raised in a church… it’s not the same.  You won’t automatically thrust yourself into a small group setting.   You will need time to build confidence in yourself, get to know people in the church to build relationships, and to ultimately find the small group that you feel best suits you.

Social Fellowship Events are the bridge to making this happen.  It provides an environment for women to meet each other, and set the foundations for future relationships.  It also serves as a great avenue for sharing information about the women’s ministry and church with the larger body of women.

Historically, women had many opportunities to gather with each other as a community.   They would work along side each other in the fields and in the market place.  As times changed and people became more transient, they moved away from the from their close knit families and communities.  When the Industrial Revolution took men from the home, and brought in modern conveniences, women spent more time IN the home than gathering the public spaces.  They became more detached from community with every passing generation.  Even today, in 2015, despite the endless social media communities… women are complaining more about being alone than ever.

We miss community and fellowship.

While “women’s ministry” was present even in the Old Testament days, it looked very different than what we see today.  Because, in the OT and NT (and early church) women’s ministry was active in the daily lives, as we lived together and worshiped together daily.   In more modern times, we created women’s ministry programs that would fill the community void, but lost purpose.  We allowed women’s ministry to become more of a social club atmosphere.

The good news is that women’s ministries around the country are trying to take it back to it’s roots.  Doing life together, ministering to each other, building relationships and community are all in addition to deeper scriptural study and knowledge.

In order to do this, we need to find the balance between the activities that are warm and inviting, and the ones that are deeper and challenging.

A women’s ministry team should be looking at the vision of the church, and then asking how each and every activity they propose to do supports that mission.

It is being more intentional and purposeful over the planning choices that we make, clear communication with the Pastoral Team, and in submission to God’s will for the ministry over your own.

The Ministry of the Unnoticed (Oswald Chambers, “The Love of God”)

cpiece

Currently, I am in the midst of writing a college level course on Women’s Ministry.  As part of my research, I’ve been entrenched in statistics regarding women in the church.  What percentage of the church is made up of women?  What percentage of the church volunteers are women?  A result of that research is that I have also come across articles that address the fact that women are leaving the church.  It took me to pause for a moment, because if the statistics show that women are 55% of the church body… and this with women leaving… how much higher was that number in previous years, decades????

Scouring through these articles, I noticed a fairly common thread amongst the women who were interviewed about why the left the church… they didn’t feel valued in the church.  In other words, they didn’t feel they had a place in the church.  Or, a voice in the church.  Or, that they had anything of value to offer the church.

They felt unnoticed.  Not only when they were attending, but in their absence.  No one noticed they were gone.

I’ve been there, myself.  When we moved to our current city, we knew absolutely NO ONE.  A church came highly recommend to us, and we attended there for over a year.  Every Sunday, when we would enter the church… we were treated like it was our very first visit.  Over 52 Sunday’s would pass… and this bright haired red head was given directions to the children’s Sunday school rooms.  Even the Sunday school teachers didn’t seem to acknowledge us as familiar faces.    We attended faithfully, every Sunday.   The only break we took was the few weeks after our third child was born.  We attended the social events too.  We were present in the church, very present.  We tithed every week, faithfully.  Yet, we never felt at home.  We never felt like we belonged.  And, when we made the decision to leave and find a different church…. no one noticed we were gone.

There was no Pastor call, or card form the children’s ministry director… wondering where we had gone.  No one was concerned for our welfare, and they didn’t even notice when the tithing checks stopped coming in.  We were literally invisible to the people we worshiped with every Sunday.

This morning I was reading through Oswald Chamber’s book, “The Love of God”, and a title chapter jumped off the page at me:

The Ministry of the Unnoticed

Chambers writes:  “Our Lord called twelve disciples – but what about all those other disciples of His that were not specifically called?  The twelve were called for a special purpose, but there were hundreds who followed Jesus – sincere believers in Him – who were unnoticed.”

Oswald Chambers first wrote about “The Ministry of the Unnoticed” in 1936, this is not a new phenomena in the church… of feeling unnoticed.  Chambers not only recognized it in his writing in 1936, but pointed it out in the very scriptures written about the foundations of Christianity.  There were thousands of people, serving Christ, who were unnoticed.  They were not written about in the scriptures by name, but referred to as “the crowd” or “the many”.  People, who were fully devoted followers of Christ… just like you and me, and history would never know their names. Yet, they were just as important in the forward movement of the church as any named disciple or apostle.

Chambers points out that those who were named were exceptions, the first or the most extraordinary conversions.  And as extraordinary as they were, they were still exceptions… not the rule.  He points out that, “The majority of us are unnoticed and unnoticeable people”.  He cautions, in his writing, that if we take these exceptions and make them our standard, we are going to create a big problem, producing the spiritually proud… departing from the good news and building on religion.

In Matthew 5:3, Chambers points out, the scriptures read “Blessed are the poor in spirit”; clarifying that in this reference we are not talking about the economically poor… but those who are spiritually poor.  And in the history of time, poor people are fairly common.  They make up the largest percentage of many populations around the world.  Chambers suggests that it is in this poverty of spirit, that we are able to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, not on our good deeds… but in humble love, adoration, and faith.  The every day people, living lives for God… seemingly unnoticed people, who carry great amounts of influence.

If you have ever had a chance to talk to someone who serves in missions, particularly in the third world countries, you can get a glimpse into what joy looks like despite poverty.  People, who in comparison to us, have nothing… yet they give everything they can.  They share the burdens of the community, with smiles on their face because they are full of love.  Kids who don’t have many belongings, running around kicking a soccer ball in their village.  It may be the only soccer ball they have in the entire village, but you don’t hear complaints… instead you hear laughter and see the smiles on their face as they pass the ball back and forth.

These are people who go unnoticed, just like many of us feel, but they do not wallow in it.  They are thankful and joyful for what God has given them.  They find joy in Him, in their community, and in the fact they woke up that morning.  We like to call those simple pleasures, but  think they are more like profound pleasures.  Finding joy in the everyday, TRUE JOY, is profound.

We encounter people like this stateside too.  It’s the woman in the projects who gives everything to make sure kids in her neighborhood have a full belly and a place to sleep, taking the prodigals into the safety of her home.  It is the homeless man, who has nothing but a cart full of what looks like trash, who sits on the corner sharing Jesus with those who pass by.  He has a smile on his face, that we can’t explain.   It is the mother who takes a house and  makes it into a home, welcoming in the neighborhood kids every day.  The husband who toils hard every day to provide for his families needs, but turns down the overtime because he’d rather be home with his family than own that new piece of technology.   It is the child who keeps a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter in his locker, making sandwiches for the kids in his school that don’t have lunch (true story).

Every day people, doing every day things.  Unnoticed.

Or, so we think.

Jesus notices.  It doesn’t matter what man sees or doesn’t see.  We shouldn’t be doing anything for the approval of man.

I love how Oswald addresses this point, when he states:  “The true character of the loveliness that influences for God is always unconscious.  Conscious influence is always prideful and un-Christian.   When we begin to wonder whether we are of any use, we instantly lose the bloom of the touch of the Lord.  …  If we begin to examine our outflow, we lose touch with the source.”

What Chambers is identifying here, is that when we become so focused on what we are doing “for God” we end up having more concern about our deeds.  We are paying more attention to the results.  We are focused on what we are doing.  Then our sin nature takes over because we want credit for it. We want to be noticed for our deeds, by others.  We want to be noticed that we are different, by others.  When we care more about what others are thinking about us, than God… we become prideful.

“Look at me!”, we shout.  “Look at this good thing I did for God!”

Dangerous grounds.

Don’t get me wrong, we are called to be different.  But, the only thing we are called to shout from the roof tops is the GOSPEL!  When we starting pointing out or making a spectacle of our good works, we are taking credit … not giving credit.  Every good deed should be done with the point of proclaiming Christ, of turning the gaze off of us toward God.

When we want accolades and adoration, when we want someone to praise us for being “godly women”, and when we need affirmation of man… we are doing these good deeds for the wrong reason.

Instead, if we are people who are changed by Christ… our “goodness” is just a part of who we are.  We don’t need to draw attention to it any more than the lilies of the field need to get your attention.  It is their fragrance that will cause you turn your head toward them.  They don’t work hard to create that fragrance, it’s just part of who they are.  They don’t fight against each other, so you pick one lily over another.  You catch the smell on the breeze, and your head turns the field… and what do you see?

Hundreds of lilies, waving the breeze.

Doing nothing out of the ordinary.

They were there yesterday, here today, and will be there tomorrow.  They are not shouting for you too look at them, they don’t need your affirmation.  They are just simply being the very thing God called them to be.  They don’t care that there are hundreds of lilies just like them, they don’t try to change their fragrance to stand out from the rest.  They are one part of many, and that is what makes the field so beautiful.

Once, I was in Europe, as we were traveling to our next destination…. something caught my attention.  As I looked out the window of the bus, I saw a sea of golden flowers.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  When I had a chance to get a closer view, I realized they were marigolds.  THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of marigolds.  You know, those yellow and orange flowers… that we consider “weeds” in some parts of the country, “cheap filler” for garden beds in other areas.  Something so simple, so ordinary and virtually unnoticed in my neck of the woods… was absolutely STUNNING.

I think that is how God sees his people, when He looks down upon His creation.  A sea of his children, moving about, creating a beautiful mosaic of every day love, care, compassion, and service.

And, that … is STUNNING.

If you are interested in reading more about “The Ministry of the Unnoticed”, you can find it the book “The Love of God” by Oswald Chambers.  There is another booklet by this name, so you’ll want to look for this cover:

theloveofGod

It contains reprints of several of his booklets, which were written in the 1930’s and are just as relevant to today. 

Movie Review: Holy Ghost

Recently I was given the opportunity to watch this movie for the purpose of reviewing it.   It made me very uncomfortable.  I’m going to break the movie down into 4 very specific sections, but first let me explain the purpose of the movie.

The concept of the movie, is the director wants to film a movie (documentary style) completely led by the Holy Spirit.  Going where the spirit leads him, encountering those whom the spirit wants them to encounter, and doing what the spirit leads them to do.

In essence, that is not necessarily a bad thing.

There are 4 sections in the movie’s progression:

Section 1:  2 Men head into a city which is predominantly Mormon.  They are claiming to heal people, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Section 2:  We head to an interview with Brian Head Welch from the band Korn, who became a Christian.  We get some personal testimonies of God healing people from addictions.  As part of this portion, they head into the crowds before a concert to perform healings, again through the Holy Spirit.

Section 3:   The team heads out of the country to Italy, where they are to have an adventure with a boat.  While there, there are are some prayers for healing (physical and emotional).

Section 4:  The team heads to India, to an incredibly dangerous area for Christians.  To share the gospel.  Healing prayers occur, but not as much of the main focus.  In fact, most of the focus here is simply that they are doing something dangerous and being protected by the Holy Spirit.

We are called to test the spirits, to discern false spirits.  We are told to test the word, to discern lies and misrepresentation.  I also need to acknowledge that I am a very skeptical, skeptical person.  It’s not that I don’t believe that divine healing is possible, or that God doesn’t still give us the gift of healing today.  However, I also don’t believe every instance we see proclaimed on television is real.  In part, because we have seen this exposed in the past.

In the end, after reflecting on the movie, doing some research, and prayer… I can NOT recommend this movie.  Let me explain why, section by section.

Section 1)  I am very suspect of the “healings” we see her, but rather lean toward these are tools of the power of suggestion.

  • There is no sharing of the Gospel in this portion.  In the scriptures, every healing was a tool to share the gospel.  Jesus revealed in the healing, and in ministry after Jesus final ascension into heaven… healings were a tool of the Gospel. Additionally there were instances were people were not healed, Peter, for the glory of God.
  • In their “prayers” for this healing they Command the Holy Spirit to heal, they are not asking.  In fact in one of their prayers, the person praying said “Holy Spirit, I give you permission to enter this man’s ministry.” – At what point do we as humans give the Holy Spirit PERMISSION to do anything?
  • In their prayers, only one did they ask for the healing in the name of Jesus.
  • In the actual acts of healing, the men are essentially having to convince the person they are being healed.  This is a power of persuasion.  In all but 1 account in the scriptures, was healing not instantaneous.  A woman was completely healed of her illness by touching the hem of his garment.  In this movie, the accounts of healing take repetitive suggestion.  Do you feel a difference?  No.   — pray again— How about now?  Do you notice any difference?  A little. — pray again— How about now?  A little bit?  — pray again — How about now?.      In scriptural healings it was that miraculous total healing that got the person’s attention.  Jesus and his disciples didn’t have to coax a healing.  Not one time.

Section 2)  Section two really started out well done.  We get an opportunity to hear the personal testimony of someone who was rescued (instantly) from a life of addiction.  Brian Head Welch’s testimony, and that of his bandmate, could have stood on it’s own.  It would have been a big redeeming from Section 1 of the movie. Unfortunately, the directors toss in another “healer” and they begin the same tactics as Section 1, but in the crowd of people at one of the concerts.

  • I question the legitimacy of the prayer healing tactic, because in the case of celebrity status… these are fans, and they’d say just about anything to be close to the two members of the band.
  • The “healing” tactic used on the atheist man’s is a well known deceptive technique.  He is positioned in such a way to give an illusion of healing (known as leg pulling).  Fact is, if the Holy Spirit wanted to heal this man… sitting was not required.
  • Again, the Gospel was not shown.  Instead we heal a bunch of people, and because you buy this… let’s accept Christ as your savior.   While I can hope that this illusion would at least plant a seed, to make any of these people dig deeper into belief.   I’m suspect.  And, when the atheist finds in a matter of days or weeks that he isn’t healed… this show did more harm than good toward leading him to Christ.  It becomes further evidence that we are just another bunk religion.
  • I also believe that this takes some of the creditability away from Brian Head Welch’s testimony, being associated with this production.

Section 3)  So, this big “boat adventure” is nothing, really.  They see the boat, they get on the boat, and then almost immediately leave the boat.  The rest of the section takes place elsewhere in the city. On the docks, in a restaurant, in a bar.  If the Holy Spirit tells you directly, that you are going to have an adventure on a boat, you have an adventure on a boat.   You don’t visit a boat.  The Holy Spirit didn’t tell them you will encounter someone with a boat.  Or, you will know them by their boat.  Their clear “divine” instructions were that they would have an adventure on a boat.

  • The boat, the whole inspiration for this trip, is totally inconsequential.
  • The boat owner, becomes their shift to explain the deviance from their original mission… is also really inconsequential.  I felt more like what I was seeing was a make shift therapy session & not a spiritual divine appointment.  People, have problems. It isn’t hard to find a person who doesn’t have some sort of struggle.
  • The other encounters (3) on this “adventure” were also inconsequential, and we are given no real explanation of how this was important to the Gospel.
  • There was no sharing of the Gospel message.

Now, before I move on to the 4th section, I also want to point out that there was ZERO follow up with any of these people who they “healed”.  They showed us only their initial encounters with these people, but not any follow up with whether or not these healings lasted.  In the scope of a documentary, they had to get permission (legal contract) to show this… so, there is no reason for them to NOT have contact information to follow up with these people.

This creates a feeling of suspicion in me, because if you were trying to PROVE something… you need evidence.  There is NO evidence.  No interviews later to see if the person was still healed, no interviews with their doctors to see if the doctors could explain it, etc.  This calls us to get caught up in the emotions that sensationalism evokes.

We want miraculous healing.  We want to believe it to be true.  We HOPE that it is.  As, believers, we also KNOW it is possible.  And because of all of these wants, hopes and belief… we are susceptible to the power of suggestion.

Jesus and his disciples healings had hard evidential proof.  A man born blind, that the entire community knew, healed… instantly.  This was not some random stranger that everyone had to simply believe his word that he was healed.  They knew him, they knew him since childhood.  They knew he was blind, without a shadow of doubt.  And he was healed.   In this particular case, there is evidence that the healing stuck, because a week later he was questioned by the Jewish Leaders.

This movie offers not a SINGLE evidence of proof toward of their healings.

Section 4)  The trip to India… this could have been the ENTIRE MOVIE for me, and done much more toward evidencing the proof of the Holy Ghost than the rest of the movie.   Overall, I agree with the amount of protection this DIFFERENT team had in their trip.  I cannot explain how they were not harassed, or how they were allowed into some of the areas they accessed.  Even the on the ground missionaries were shocked and didn’t believe them until they noted they had video of it.

  • Healing prayers were a very small amount of this portion of the film.  Only once, was there even a claim of immediate healing.  The difference, between the previous healings… it was IMMEDIATE, the reaction of the man was total shock and surprise.  Of all the healings in the movie, this is the ONLY ONE, that had at least some credibility.  The man’s response seemed genuine and it got the attention of those around him.
  • There was SOME Gospel introduction here, a stark difference to the rest of the movie.
  • While they exalted some of the moments were an local temple high priest was singing along with their worship music… I can’t ignore my skeptical side that wondered … did he know what he was singing, or just repeating words?  There are plenty of songs in Spanish that I enjoy and sing along to… but I have no clue what they are saying.  (I should probably look into that, ha.)
  • There was one point, where the crowd grows pretty big & at least someone from the crowd gets a bit aggressive.  They leave.  I don’t know if this counters that they were “protected by the Holy Spirit” or part of the protection, knowing that it is time to leave. So I can’t really give a solid opinion on that scenario.

When I watched the movie… at first, I was caught up in the emotions of it.  Even a skeptic like me.  However, as time passed, and I was detached from the emotional response… reservations begin to settle in.

Even when I searched for the youtube trailer, I began to find a LOT of videos and articles that debunked the movie.  These were well documented, well researched, and biblical sound arguments against the claims and behaviors in the movie.

In my own research in the scriptures, what they do here is not in alignment with how healing occurs in the scriptures.  It is also not in alignment with WHY healing was used in the scriptures.

You may ask… was there ANYTHING redeeming in the movie?  A little bit, but it is outweighed by the things that concerned me.  Which is what concerns me the MOST about the movie.  A little bit of truth can make a lie, misrepresentation, con, or manipulation seem TRUE.

I actually think this is a very dangerous movie.

That said, if there is anything positive I can pull from it is this…. THESE PEOPLE WERE BOLD.  They may fully believe that they are doing these things under the spirit, they may not be intentionally trying to scam or manipulate people.  But, there tactics are easily debunked.  The gospel is excluded from their mission.  There is no part of what they are doing that is in full concert with the scriptures.

But, they were bold.  I was very convicted by my own lack of boldness.  When those who are doing things outside of the scriptures are THIS BOLD… we as Christians need to be BOLDER.  Jesus was not timid when it came to calling out false teachers, false prophets.

If you are person strong in your faith, I think you could watch this movie and not be persuaded by it.

However, if you are a new believer, weak in your faith, or a long time believer who is not well versed in the scripture… this could be very damaging to your walk.

* The movie Holy Ghost was given to me by Family Christian for the sake of the review.  The opinions in this review are entirely mine, and not influenced by Family Christian or those who are involved in the making/production of this movie.  I received no cash payment for this review.

BOOK REVIEW: The Whole Bible in 16 Verses!

Family Christian offered me the opportunity to review the book “The Whole Story of the Bible in 16 Verses” by Chris Bruno.  While Family Christian did gift me the book for the purpose of the review, the opinions in this review are entirely my own. 

16verses

If someone came up to you, and asked if you could summarize the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, could you? What would be the key points you would want to include? What is the most important scriptures that you would want to convey? Those are some tough questions.

However, they are important questions for anyone serving in ministry. If we are teaching children, we need to understand the overall theme of the Bible. If we are leading a ministry or teaching bible studies, we should have a basic grasp of the overarching story line.

If you could only have twenty minutes with someone, to share the structure of God’s Word, there is a lot of text to shuffle through. Everything is important, it is the life breath of God in written word, that allows us to commune with Him. How do you cut anything out?

The good news, you don’t have to. Until you are at a place where you are an expert theologian, someone else has stepped up to the plate to identify the entire story of the bible, in just sixteen verses.

Chris Bruno tackles this task perfectly, but writing a concise and to the point guide through the scriptures that best represent that over all theme of The Word. The chapters are short and easy to tackle, making this book a perfect addition to your morning devotions. His organization of the selected scriptures covers everything from creation, biblical prophesy, fulfillment in Jesus Christ and the end of days, still to come. Bruno also takes care to help guide the new believer, or new Bible reader, on the next steps to take after finishing this book. Bruno points the reader back to the original text, God’s word. This clearly indicates this book is not a replacement for the true word of God, “read this and you’ll have all you need to know”. NO! Instead, Bruno gives us the prompting to learn more on our own and fill those gaps between the sixteen verses.

The chapters are structured in a manner that helps you not just understand the scripture, but how they each fit into the story over all.

If you are a new believer, or wanting to read the bible for the very first time, this is a great book to start with. It is also a great option for evangelism, have a few copies on your bookshelf to share and give away. It’s simple, easy to read and to the point; this book will not overwhelm someone who is encountering God for the very first time.

#FCBlogger

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How Does This Scripture Apply to Me? – WRONG QUESTION

beforeamen2

Early in my Christian walk, I read the bible to understand what Christianity was about.  I saw it as a collection of stories & history that explained how we (gentiles) came to believe in God, who Jesus was & why the crucifixion was needed, and to understand what awaits us in the future.  In time, as I would mature in my walk, I would begin to see that this was more than just a collection of information that justified or explained my faith.  It was the true Word of God, it had an enormous amount of value.  The scriptures are filled with stories of people, just like me, who failed miserably but that God could and would redeem.  It became a book of Hope for the weary, Faith for those who love Him, and Promises of an eternal heavenly future.

Under the teaching of some very respected bible teachers, study authors, and church leaders… I began to read the scriptures differently.  I was taught to read the scriptures and ask “How does this apply to my life?”. Now, in some cases of scripture, that is a really easy question to answer.  The Proverbs are full of wisdom that can be applied to every day life.   But there would be times, when I would read a passage of scripture, that I was left scratching my head.  It just didn’t seem to apply.  I wasn’t like the person in the story, the situations I was dealing with in life were different than the point of the story.  I just couldn’t figure out how it applied to me, at all.  In those cases, I would cast it aside for the time being.  My reasoning was that it just didn’t apply at that moment.  But, I figured God revealed it to me because at one point it will.  I will recall reading it, and at that point in the future, I will know where I can return to find the wisdom and encouragement I need.

I am certain many of you who are reading this, are shaking your head in agreement.  But, what if I told you … we are totally wrong.  What if I said that is not the right question to be asking?  Hold on to your hats, if you are, because I am about to rock your socks.

I had an opportunity to attend an amazing conference that would forever change how I viewed the Bible.  I have never looked at a passage of scripture the same.  I study the Bible in an entirely different way.  It came from a group of very well known teachers, that a new question was posed.

You see, the scriptures are not about you and I.   The Bible is the collective story about God’s ultimate plan of redemption.

The Old Testament serves as a witness, or testimony, to how fallen God’s people are.  God gave us everything, perfect and in union with Him.  Man’s choice to go against God’s wills happened in the very beginning… when Eve and then Adam, took a bite of that forbidden fruit.  As the Old Testament unfolds, we illustration after illustration of a repetitive cycle of sin and redemption.

God sets rules.

Man breaks or can’t keep rules.

Man should be punished.

God ultimately saves them from themselves.

They thank God, renew promise to follow his rule.

They do for a while.

Then the cycle repeats itself… again and again…. and again.

Because man continually repeats this cycle, atonement has to be made for these sins.  The Gospels of the New Testament deliver to us a Savior, who will be the final lamb sacrificed for sins of a stiff necked people.  The New Testament continues, with the Good News spreading to new areas, the real life experiences believers faced, and leads us to the end… when Christ comes back for His church.

The Bible from start to finish, isn’t about you… or me… it is about Jesus Christ, our Savior.  The question we should be asking, first and foremost, when we study scripture is:

How does this passage reveal Jesus Christ to me?

Does it reveal the promise of his coming, his birth?

Does it parallel his life to death, on earth?

Does it reveal the need & promise of his sacrifice?

Does it reflect the call He puts on those who follow him?

Does it establish his person-hood, his divinity, his character, his love, his compassion, his mercy, his grace, his obedience… his example?

The Bible was written about Jesus Christ, for you. For you to see that you are not alone in your failures, that just like others in the scriptures you can be redeemed.  But that comes by first KNOWING HIM, and you will get to know Him best when you look for Him in God’s word, before you look for yourself.

I am not suggesting we don’t ever ask how it applies to our life, if that were the case there would be no need for the wisdom scriptures.  I am suggesting that before we can understand the wisdom & themes of scripture (as they apply to us), we have to understand the ONE whom the wisdom originates.  We have to understand how these pieces of scripture, stories and history relate reveal Jesus, first.

I understand that for a good portion of my readers, this a “DUH” moment.  Either because you already know it, or you are simply trying to figure out how you missed it.. it should be a given.  It is very easy for human beings to get so wrapped up in themselves or the situation they are seeking guidance through the scriptures for, that they forget to start with Jesus.

This past summer, I had an opportunity to do an in depth study of the book of Nehemiah.  It was conducted by a panel of biblical scholars; who worked independently on their assigned sections of Nehemiah, while making sure they stood in agreement as team under the Word of the scriptures.

On the surface, you could easily pull out some very “me centered” themes.

* It’s a story about a man who chose to make a difference in his community.

* It’s a story about a man who brings his community back together, back to God.

* It’s a historical point of time, regarding the city of Jerusalem.

* It’s a story about what we can accomplish, when we work together, for the glory of God.

On their own, none of these things are bad.  However, they do not truly reveal the point of the book of Nehemiah.  They don’t get to the heart of the story.  They don’t get to Jesus.

If you really take time to look through the scripture in Nehemiah, you will find that is parallels the ministry & purpose of Jesus.

The city is in ruin, the people are far from God.

Nehemiah leaves his comfortable position, with the king to go to the city & restore it.

While Nehemiah is present, restoration begins.

Nehemiah sets the example & standard.

Nehemiah returns to the king, leaving the people to continue on their own.

The people fail miserably in his absence.

Nehemiah must return.

When you look at the book of Nehemiah, with intention of revealing Jesus… it’s right there, plain as day.  You just have to get yourself out of the way to see it.  This is why, we must come to the scripture first, seeking to reveal Jesus.  It’s not about us, it’s about Him.  Always has been, always will be.

I challenge you to start looking for Jesus, when you study the word.  You will find him. 

In the next installment, we will address what the second question you should be asking is.