Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Amazing Place

Today is a beautiful day here in Hartford, Connecticut. It is presently 42° and may even reach 50° in some places later. I hesitate to rejoice too much, because, as everyone knows, the weather in New England can turn on a dime. Nonetheless, that does not stop me from appreciating the amazing place where we live – planet earth.

Really. Have you ever stopped to think about it? All other planets and moons are barren. Extremely cold or hot or gaseous. We are the only one with magnificent mountains and valleys. Lakes, ponds, and oceans. The trees and flowers that are about to burst through in the next couple of months is extraordinary. The sunsets we are blessed with. Yes, even the occasional lightly falling snow can be beautiful. One planet in our solar system has life – ours. We continue to look for evidence of other life out there in the cosmos, but, so far, it’s just us – earth. What if we were it? In all of the universe, just us – earth.

Have you ever watched any of those programs like David Attenborough’s A Life On Our Planet on Netflix? I know growing up I used to enjoy Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and other National Geographic nature specials. We live on an astonishing planet.

Do you think it is all just chance? Of all the planets in all the solar systems, so far, as far as we know, we’re it. Why? Is it just luck? Chance? Accidental? That is not what the Bible says. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Yes, we know our earth is not an accident, and we know who created it. Simply by looking around. Why just us? One tiny planet in the entire universe. Does that make any sense to you? Of the billions and billions of possibilities, thus far, it’s just us.

By observing the reality right in front of our eyes, we have to know that God is real. As Romans says, “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” (Romans 1:20).

There is no excuse for not knowing God. It’s true. Just look around. Open your eyes and witness the wonder of this world and all of the incredible life that lives upon it. How can anyone do that and still deny God exists? If there is no excuse for not knowing God, there is also no excuse for not knowing what He says. We have His Word.

So, why do so many people deny? I believe a lot of people deny the existence of God so that they can be free of consequences. Live however they choose, and not in a way that brings glory and honor to the Lord. It is not new. In the Book of Judges, the prophet Samuel laments at how the Israelites had deteriorated as a people in so many ways. He writes, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25). I find that to be such a relevant Scripture today. Too many people want what they want, and not what God wants. They have rejected the King – the King of Kings – and even go so far as to claim He does not exist. That way they can do whatever seems right in their own eyes. 

I don’t understand how anyone can one look around and not see, “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship” (Psalm 19:1).            

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Movie Ministry

Those who know me, know I enjoy a good movie, and we have certainly had the opportunity to watch some over that past twelve months during quarantine. Have we not? I have a wide range of taste in films. Primarily, it has to be a good story. Special effects are awesome like in Star Wars or Avatar, and action is exciting as in the Jason Bourne series of films. However, I like a good love story too, like in The Notebook or I Still Believe. I am not generally a big fan of musicals, yet, my favorite movie of all time is The Sound of Music, so, go figure.

I mention this today, because I am waiting with great anticipation for the next installment of The Chosen, a crowd-funded TV series, by Dallas Jenkins that came out in 2017. Season One was absolutely incredible, and I cannot wait for the release of Season Two. In addition, just last week, I watched the TV miniseries AD: The Bible Continues again. This 2015 miniseries is the sequel to Roma Downey and Mark Burnett’s 2013 The Bible. AD begins with the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and continues with the first ten chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. This series is truly amazing as well.

Now, I love to read, and as they say, “the book is always better.” That is true and no less so when it comes to the Bible. We should regularly be reading our Bible. However, watching the stories of Scripture come alive on film can be really moving. Inspiring. To see how the Apostles may have struggled with the loss of Jesus, His return, and the mission He called them to fulfill, makes them so real. So approachable. To see how much of a persecutor Saul was before his conversion is tough. You learn to hate him, and can fully understand why there must have been great suspicion in accepting him. Yet, eventually you are captivated by his candor and boldness, and soon find yourself cheering him on! 

There are other really good biblical films worthy of your attention. First, of course, is the classic The Passion of the Christ. Every Christian should see this 2004 film. There are also 2006’s The Nativity Story, One Night with the King, and 2018’s, Paul, Apostle of Christ. I still love the 1977 Jesus of Nazareth miniseries. It stands up today! Even some not exactly biblical movies like 2014’s Noah starring Russell Crowe and Exodus: God’s and Kings with Christian Bale are great fun. As are 2016’s Risen and The Young Messiah. There is a 2003, movie Luther, which tells the story of the German priest and “father of the reformation” Martin Luther. It stars Joseph Fiennes and is a wonderful, historically accurate portrayal of Luther’s story. I have not even touched personal stories like Heaven is For Real, War Room, Miracles From Heaven, The Case for Christ, and Breakthrough. All wonderful films.

My point is this. There are plenty of good movies available to watch. Choose wisely. Pick films that honor and glorify God. Additionally, remember, the Apostle Peter reminds us, “…if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way” (1 Peter 3:15-16). The book (the Bible) is always better, but there are also movies out there that can inspire you and even perhaps help you explain your hope as a believer to someone else. They can be great evangelism tools. Use them as resources. During this quarantine time, when everyone is binge watching, and on the lookout for something good, recommend these movies to your unsaved family and friends. Most of them will watch a movie long before they will read the Bible. If they happen to still own a DVD player, buy them the movie or invite them over for a movie night and put in 2018’s I Can Only Imagine. Jesus told us all to, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone” (Mark 16:15), to “…go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:18). Could evangelism be any easier than popping some popcorn and watching a movie with someone who has not yet accepted Christ?              

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Are We Snowflakes?

In 2008, Disney/Pixar released an animated movie called WALL-E. Because of rampant consumerism and environmental neglect, people turned Earth into a garbage-strewn wasteland. Humanity had to be evacuated and now lives on giant spaceships. Part of the storyline is the sad reality that in the centuries since leaving Earth, passengers onboard the starships have degenerated into helpless corpulence (that means really fat) due to laziness and microgravity. You see, people didn’t have to do anything, because their every whim is catered to by advanced machinery. Now, that doesn’t sound familiar at all, right? I mean, we don’t walk because we have scooters, cars, buses, subways, trains, etc. We don’t cook because we have Uber Eats and Doordash. When we do “cook,” we mean throwing something frozen into our microwave, slow cooker or air fryer. Hey, we cooked it, right? We sit behind a computer all day at work and then take the elevator down to the car garage and hop into our car. Soon, it will be a self-driving car, and we won’t even have to bother ourselves with that distraction. Pssshhh…driving. That’s so banal.

Let’s face it. We have become soft. Our grandparents and great grandparents would be so confused. What? You don’t have get ice from the ice guy to put in your ice box? You don’t even have to get up to change the channel on the TV? 

I mention this because it snowed again yesterday, and it seems today that whenever it does snow the populace panics! All the bread and milk at the grocery store is wiped out. I don’t know. I guess people really love to have French toast during snowstorms. The level of general alarm that our newscasters and weathermen foster is extraordinary. Every time there is a chance of snow it quickly becomes the storm of the century!

I am not that old, and I remember walking out to my car after work and clearing six inches of snow off my car and slowly creeping my way home. I served a church in Maine for nine years. We never closed once. Not on a Sunday. Not during the week. We lived in New England! This just in…it snows in New England in the winter. Always has – always will. Can you imagine if everything shut down when it snowed in Alaska? Or Newfoundland? They wouldn’t go to work or school from October to May! Look, I want everyone to be safe, but I believe we have become soft. Snowflakes if you will.

My concern is that our laziness may now also include our faith. Do we read our Bibles like our grandparents did (even the YouVersion app on our smartphones)? Do we attend church with the regularity they did? Do we share the gospel with others or are we afraid to offend? Do we hide our own faith from friends and coworkers because we fear being teased, mocked, or excluded? Has our version of Philippians 4:13 become, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. [Except those things which are hard and demand something of me that I don’t really want to do].”

I hope none of us find ourselves standing before the Lord one day (someone who walked everywhere He went, ate whatever was available, was beaten and crucified), saying, “I was going to go on that mission trip, Lord. I was going to teach Sunday School. I was going to share the gospel, but it was too hard.”

I leave you today with a couple of verses to encourage you not to be a snowflake. Remember, 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “…God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” So, 1 Corinthians 16:13 reminds us, “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.”

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Pray for More Love

I have a passion for the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) organization and the persecuted church they support all over the world. I downloaded their app onto my phone, which invites me to pray for brothers and sisters in a different country every day. You can find it in your app store. It’s called VOM Pray Today. I am praying believers in Nepal today. According to Christian leaders in Nepal the government is taking a stronger stand against religious conversion. The Nepalese Parliament passed a bill in 2017 criminalizing conversion to Christianity. Imagine breaking the law for accepting Jesus as your Savior. In 2018, the prime minister and other government officials publicly said anyone found changing their religion would be expelled from the country. In addition, any charity organizations engaged in preaching would be shut down.

We are so blessed to live in the United States. Our freedom to speak and to worship is guaranteed by the first amendment to our constitution. Nonetheless, although we have the freedom to share our faith, we simply do not do so. Studies have shown that only 2% of Christians here in the US, have ever shared the gospel with anyone. That means 98% of us do not. It’s not that we cannot. It’s not that we are at risk of arrest or imprisonment. We choose not to. Why is that? 

I know, we feel uncomfortable speaking to strangers. I understand. I do too. We are scared of what their reaction might be if we possibly breach some potentially offensive issues. So, we don’t do it.

In my devotional reading a couple of days ago, I am using My Comfort is Jesus by Ray Comfort, the author offers an analogy. If there were an icy pond that was so cold that falling into it would mean death within minutes, none of us would want to jump into that water. But, if a little child fell in and began to drown, we would not hesitate to jump in and save him or her. You see, love overcomes fear. The waters of personal evangelism are icy indeed but love for the lost will overcome fear and inspire us to jump into those cold waters. Actually, if we struggle with sharing the gospel because of fear, we shouldn’t be praying for less fear. We should be praying for more love. That’s the answer, because love overcomes fear. 

Today, I pray for my brothers and sisters in Nepal and all over the world, that they would be safe from those who would try to silence their witness. I also pray for those of us who remain silent by choice. Jesus told us to, “Go and make disciples of all the nations” (Matt. 28:19). That was not a suggestion. Go! Here in the US, we have the freedom to try. We should try. Please think about sharing the life-giving truth of the gospel with someone today, tomorrow, and the next day. Pray for Nepal, the persecuted church all over the world, VOM, and for more love.           

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Remember to email your praises and petitions to southchurchprayer@gmail.com. We lift them up every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 4:00 pm on Facebook Live.