Saturday, September 30, 2006

movie ratings

I came across this article on the new movie “Facing the Giants”:

The Motion Picture Association of America is crystal clear when it describes why its "PG" rating exists -- it's a warning flag.

"The theme of a PG-rated film may itself call for parental guidance," the online explanation of the rating system states. "There may be some profanity in these films. There may be some violence or brief nudity. ... The PG rating, suggesting parental guidance, is thus an alert for examination of a film by parents before deciding on its viewing by their children. Obviously such a line is difficult to draw."

Disagreements are a given. The Christian moviemakers behind a low-budget film called "Facing the Giants" were stunned when the MPAA pinned a PG rating on their gentle movie about a burned-out, depressed football coach whose life -- on and off the field -- takes a miraculous turn for the better.

"What the MPAA said is that the movie contained strong 'thematic elements' that might disturb some parents," said Kris Fuhr, vice president for marketing at Provident Films, which is owned by Sony Pictures. Provident plans to open the film next fall in 380 theaters nationwide with the help of Samuel Goldwyn Films, which has worked with indie movies like "The Squid and the Whale."

Which "thematic elements" earned this squeaky-clean movie its PG?

"Facing the Giants" is too evangelistic.

The MPAA, Fuhr noted, tends to offer cryptic explanations for its ratings. In this case, she was told that it "decided that the movie was heavily laden with messages from one religion and that this might offend people from other religions. It's important that they used the word 'proselytizing' when they talked about giving this movie a PG. ...

"It is kind of interesting that faith has joined that list of deadly sins that the MPAA board wants to warn parents to worry about."


One thought that comes to my mind: How many movies for children have we watched that contained no such rating warnings? We have seen many movies that taught about witchcraft or nature worship or athiestic humanism/evolution... and these movies were not considered dangerous by the ratings board. Or maybe I'm missing something.

I'm not opposed to there being some disclaimer that admits a film-maker's bias. It's just that we are subjected to anti-Christian bias all the time. It often seems that everything is acceptable...everything except that which brings honor to the name of Jesus.

Friday, September 29, 2006

pink vader

Who would have guessed it? The bad guy gets in touch with his softer side.

My kids think this is one of the funniest pictures ever...ever!!!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

is "preaching" relevant?

This Sunday @ Faith Church we did something pretty unique in our worship services. Normally I try to take a topic or passage of Scripture and explore all the implications and provide life applications from the truth of God’s Word.

However, Thursday afternoon of last week I felt the distinct leading that we were to do something different this Sunday. In relation to the finish of our series “Better Together” and the Pledge that we are taking with one another (2 posts below)…we looked at 3 detailed passages of Scripture that have very specific instructions on how to deal with conflict, forgiveness, confrontation and giving grace and mercy to others. And instead of me doing the teaching, we allowed everyone to meditate for about 4 minutes (a piece) on each passage. We were to write out the main principle of the passage and then listen for direction from God in terms of how to carry out those principles in our lives.

It turned out to be a beautiful time of meditation. For many (new to exploring the Scriptures for themselves) it was an enlightening experience to really dive into a passage and chew on it without getting interpretation from some outside source. We finished with communion, and it was an experience that I will forever remember.

But it got me to thinking, why do we need to have preaching and teaching? The Word of God is available to everyone. Is my role even necessary (as a “middle man”) in communicating the truths of Scripture?

And YET the Bible says that there is something mysterious and powerful about a man or woman who stands before a crowd “preaching” (even as outdated as it might seem). At Faith we even intentionally avoid the word “preaching” because it has such negative connotations in our society. To “preach AT” somebody is not generally viewed as a positive thing. So we use the words “teaching” or “speaking” or “giving a message”.

But whatever you call it…there is still something powerful about this ancient form of communication. When I sit and listen to a gifted communicator (under the direction of the Spirit)…it can still rock my world and open me up to new and life-changing truths.

The following words are aimed more directly at missionary endeavors, but the preaching/teaching/speaking principle of power still applies:

(Romans 10:14-17) “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’ But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord who has believed our message?’ Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”

I guess those of us who feel it our calling won’t be out of a job anytime soon.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

anyone feel a draft?

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Sunday night (9/17) at Faith Church we had an all church conference. We updated everyone on property issues, construction timelines, and building design. We answered questions concerning financing and logistics. The end result, we don’t have enough data in place to recommend a final decision…yet.

But really the business and property issue was not the centerpiece of what happened last night. The main event last night was the moving of God’s Spirit.

Faith Church has developed an identity over the last 10 years as being a positive and encouraging place. We have become a people that finds joy in building each other up, rather than tearing others down.

However, in the midst of our conversations and communicating opinions and jockeying for position on decisions…over the last few months it seems that an unhealthy spirit may have crept into our midst.

This all came to a head at our church board meeting Wednesday night (this past week). God’s presence fell on us in a powerful way and our hearts were broken. Our arrogance was crushed. Our love for one another was renewed. We confessed and apologized, offering forgiveness and a fresh started to one another. It was a beautiful and amazing experience. We declared war on the spiritual enemy who would seek to divide. And we committed together to turn a corner and create a new culture at Faith.

We are committed to restoring a culture where:
- Matthew 18 principles of confrontation are mandatory
- We will confess and apologize for entering into destructive conversations
- We will address any tension that may seem to have arisen in personal relationships
- We will make a new phrase part of our common vocabulary. At times when one of us slips into destructive comments, we will gently remind one another: “We don’t talk about family like that.”

As a church, we took that pledge last night. We renewed our commitment to one another. We pledged to willingly trust, value and respect one another.

And we all walked away with our assignments to begin having those beautiful conversations where we apologize and try to build bridges of love…choosing to believe that we truly are “Better Together”.

I love the people of Faith Church. And today, with fresh eyes, we have a renewed:
- love for God
- love for each other
- love for the people of this world who don't yet know Jesus

Thursday, September 21, 2006

complaints at work?

Whenever you start complaining that your job is bad...just be thankful you don't have to switch jobs with this guy!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

power of confession

(James 5:16) “Admit your faults to one another and pray for each other SO THAT you may be healed.”

Have you ever considered the power that can be found in confession? (James 5:16) is saying that you will NEVER find the healing you need in your heart, if you aren’t willing to admit your faults and begin to pray for those you’re at odds with.

Maybe it is time to go and apologize to someone. Then begin a regular practice of praying for that person who really just ticks you off.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Celebration of Hawk & Jesus

This blog has only been up for a little more than 2 months. But in that time, I have given you updates on the journey of our precious little guy @ Faith who has been battling Leukemia. Sunday morning God finally gave him rest and brought 3 year old Thomas "Hawk" Maier home.

Tomorrow I will have the honor and tremendous responsibility of leading the service for his farewell. We're preparing for a packed house at Faith, and I am praying for wisdom in providing comfort and hope from the truth of God's Word.

Tomorrow I hope that we will accomplish 2 purposes:

1) to share our sorrow (yes)…but ALSO
2) to share hope (to share encouragement)

It’s true, we’re going to cry together. But we’re also going to laugh together. We’re also going to find hope and reasons to rejoice.

You see, for the Maier family, they believe in a loving God. They believe in a higher purpose.

And let me tell you…tomorrow, we ARE going to wrestle with the questions of "WHY?" I mean, you can’t avoid those questions. There are things about the death of a child that we can’t explain or fully understand.

But I pray more than anything that we will help people move BEYOND that. As we push through those questions...some are discouraged to the point of turning away from God. But others choose to run into the arms of God.

How we choose to respond to this type of pain makes all the difference. Within the love of God, there is a sense of peace that can be found that this world simply cannot expain.

A 3 year old can be the one to show the way.

Friday, September 15, 2006

disrespect (bulverism)

I find it sad how often we approach people with the predetermined assumption they are wrong. I’m not attacking anyone on this…because I’m just as guilty as anyone else.

How often do we “throw out the baby with the bathwater”? Just because we don’t like or respect the person, we discount their opinion or perspective as silly and unworthy of consideration.

C.S. Lewis made up a word for this tactic, calling it “Bulverism”.

He said, “[In debate], you must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it Bulverism.”

“Someday I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father – who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than the third – ‘Oh you say that because you are a man.’ “

“‘At that moment’, E. Bulver assures us, ‘there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and then explain his error, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism our age will thrust you to the wall.’ That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century.”

(C. S. Lewis, “Bulverism,” in C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970, 271-277. p. 273.)

How often our "bulverism" leads to disrespecting other people and dishonoring God.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

our reward

Because God has been doing some incredible things (heart-changing things) in my life this week, this quote means more to me today than it ever has before:

"The highest reward for a person's work is not what they get for it, but what they become because of it."
- John Ruskin

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

americans' concept of God

Interesting article in USA Today. A new study by Baylor University determined that 91.8% of the American population believes in some kind of God.

This study basically attempted to categorize people's concept of God in the form of 4 basic images:

-Authoritarian (31.4%)
-Benevolent (32.1%)
-Critical (16%)
-Distant (24.4%)

Baylor's Christopher Bader says, "You learn more about people's moral and political behavior if you know their image of God than almost any other measure. It turns out to be more powerful a predictor of social and political views than the usual markers of church attendance or belief in the Bible."

While I disliked the labels that Baylor placed on these 4 images of God, I do think there is a powerful truth that is confirmed by this study:

Your view of God influences every other area of your life. Developing an accurate picture of the world through the lens of scripture is essential. When your biblical compass is faulty, you're bound to get lost in the forest. And before long we wonder, "How and when did I end up on this path? I never intended to be here."

Truth. If it is absolute, than we should be doing everything possible to uncover it in our lives. Because the discovery of changes everything.

Monday, September 11, 2006


This month we're in a teaching series at Faith called "Better Together". Yesterday we talked about a striking concept.

In order to be committed to anything, it requires that I be willing to say "no" to other things. To have a relationship or be committed to anything (marriage, parenting, friendships, church, work, a hobby, etc.)... means that I must willingly limit my options in life. I can't just do whatever I want to do anymore. I have to take into consideration how my choices affect the commitments I've made in life.

I think this is one of the primary reasons we (self included) tend to resist commitment. We want to keep our options open. Maybe something better will come along. And when the going gets tough it seems so much easier to just bail out and be freed from those commitments.

And yet, as you consider life...doesn't it seem that the less committed we are, the less fulfillment we find? As we spread ourselves a mile wide with options and choices, our depth and effectiveness in any of those things seems to diminish. Maybe the key is finding a few things in life that are really important and committing to give my best to those things.

And maybe Charlie Brown (in the comic above) has to make a choice. Is he more committed to his shirt or to his friends...cause that shirt looks like it's getting a little smelly!

Friday, September 08, 2006

dental truth

This morning I had to go for my annual dental exam. This is not a voluntary ritual. It's one of those things that married guys do...because they're married. Without a wife I would probably sit among a pile of empty pizza boxes and only visit the dentist on occasions of extreme pain. Probably the kind of pain that only pliers could remedy.

Not that my dentist isn't a great guy. He's a good friend and an excellent doctor. But c'mon, he's a dentist! Getting your teeth poked and prodded ranks right there at the bottom of the list of "things I look forward to".

But it made me think of how often we lie to people in subtle ways. Have you ever noticed that when the dentist asks you, "How often do you floss?" We tend to say, "Oh...about once a week?" When in reality, you've had the same roll of floss in the medicine cabinet for the last 7 years.

Why do we do that? Why do we have the tendency to say what other people want to hear? Why do we worry so much about what others think of us? Why are we afraid of being scolded by a dental hygenist? What's she going to do...floss you till it hurts? (uh...YEAH, that's exactly what she'll do!)

And yet, we so often have this tendency to bend the truth, so as to protect our image. This is not good because God calls us to a life of complete honesty.

Fortunately on this trip to the dentist, nobody asked how often I I wasn't even tempted to lie!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

proverbs 21:31

Proverbs 21:31
The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.”

On the one side it says, do the work, make the preparations...try try try. But then it says that ultimately victory is more a matter of prayer and depending on, trust, trust.

So which is it? How do we do we do both at the same time? I think this paradox really provides for us the formula that we so often get out of balance in our lives. Following Christ is not a matter of just one or the other…it’s a matter of both sides of this equation:

The horse is made ready for the day of battle.” Do the work, put in the effort, TRY, TRY, TRY.

But ultimately “victory rests with the Lord.” Pray more, wait more, TRUST, TRUST, TRUST. Rely on God. Stop trying to do it on my own.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

new classes @ midweek

Next week we start a whole new run of adult growth classes (at least 6 offered on Wednesday nights alone). I don't thing we're going to be doing "Hot Chicks of the Bible". But there are going to be great choices for everybody. I love seeing people grow together as they make connections in Bible classes!

Monday, September 04, 2006

hollow pursuit of knowledge

Here's a recent story from an article by Erich Bridges:

Kareem Elnahal is a young man with brains and guts. He also has a grasp of life's most important questions – something his elders seem to lack.

Elnahal graduated in June as the top senior at Mainland Regional High School in Linwood, N.J., an institution ranked among America's best high schools by Newsweek magazine. He's headed for Princeton University in the fall. His future looks bright.

In his valedictorian's address at the commencement ceremony, however, Elnahal didn't exactly blow kisses to his teachers. Instead, he lambasted the school for offering an educational experience devoid of meaning.

"[T]he education we have received here is not only incomplete, it is entirely hollow," Elnahal told a stunned audience, according to a report by Cybercast News Service. "Ladies and gentlemen, the spirit of intellectual thought is lost. I know how highly this community values learning, and I urge you all to re-evaluate what it means to be educated ....

"Is there a creator? And if so, should we look to [him] for guidance? These are often dismissed as questions of religion, but religion is not something opposed to rationality. It simply seeks to answer such questions through faith."

School administrators were not amused, but many of his fellow graduates apparently agreed with Elnahal. They reportedly stood and applauded his words.

"I felt like the most important questions were not asked," Elnahal later told Cybercast News Service, reflecting on his high school years. "Things like ethics, things that defined who we are, were ignored. So in that way I thought it was hollow."

So the question:

Should public schools teach morality and religion? That makes me really uncomfortable. I'm not sure that we would like the result of teachers and administrations pushing a moral agenda (in some places that is probably happening too much already).

However, I think this student's speech makes a valid point. Far too often academia has devalued the legitimacy of religion. Students today are looking for answers that cannot be answered in a text book or a science class. Are we, as Christians, ready to engage with highly intelligent seekers as they ask these deeper questions?