Thursday, January 28, 2010

To Save a Life

(Like my blog about the peace symbol, this blog was written as a default response to all the parents, students, and other people who are asking my opinion of To Save a Life.)

By now you have probably heard of the movie To Save a Life, which opened nation-wide in theaters on January 22nd. The movie deals with so many issues that teens face today, like suicide, cutting, drinking, drugs, premarital sex, teen pregnancy, and abortion. At first glance this movie looks like an awesome resource that we should recommend for our teens, parents, youth pastors, and youth workers.

But a closer look at the movie reveals a few disturbing things. For starters, according to pluggedin.com, there are 2 uses of the “A” word, 5 uses of hell (used as a curse word), and once the “D” word is used. There are other crude terms used to describe a girl, and crude terms for referring to sexual activity. There is also a bedroom scene that shows a girl removing a boy’s shirt, then afterwards the girl putting her shirt back on.

I know the arguments in favor of this movie. I realize that the curse words are before the young man gives his life to Christ, and I know that the bedroom scene is essential to the storyline.

The movie’s writer, who is a youth pastor in California, said that he prayed over every curse word he wrote into the script. While he admitted that cussing “is not cool,” he added that those words helped to make the story real. I have to take issue with this (here comes the part where I get called a Pharisee and legalist again). Where do we read in the Gospels that Jesus used curse words to appeal to those “real people” around Him? Where do we see Him stealing to reach the tax collectors, kicking people around to reach the Roman centurions, or bragging about Himself to reach the Pharisees? Obviously He did not do those things; instead we see Jesus transcending culture and urging people to change their lives and follow Him.

As followers of Jesus we are told to be light to the darkness, salt to the earth, and a city on a hill. What will really reach people is Christians living a different life, not doing what Casting Crowns sings about, “blending in so well that people can’t see the difference, and it’s the difference that sets the world free.”

Ironically, one of the elements in this movie is hypocrisy in the church. How is it not hypocrisy to live by the Bible that says to be separate from the world, then make a movie with profanity in it? A movie about hypocrisy is being hypocritical.

About the curse words, the movie’s producer said that kids hear much worse all the time. That is a terrible way of justifying sin. The reason many people, youth pastors included, don’t have a problem with 8 curse words in a movie is they are already watching movies and TV shows that use much worse language. If you have no problem watching and talking about sitcoms that use cursing and taking God’s Name in vain and movies that will use F-bombs and gd’s, then there is certainly no problem with a few of the “lighter curse words.” The same point can also be made for all the sexual innuendo on TV.

I know the bedroom scene sets up a crucial part of the storyline, and I know that many people are praising the movie for not showing too much, but in my opinion (here comes more legalist accusations) it does show too much. Can a young man’s mind not wander and continue to play out the scene in his mind? Can the image of the young lady putting her shirt back on (while the young man says, “Let’s do it again. You know you want to.”) not cause a student to lust?

While this movie can and will be used to compel many teens to look out for the outcasts in their school, I still see it as a wasted opportunity, as the movie’s writer admitted that he did not intend to make a Christian movie, and that this movie does not “share the faith.”

I have and do endorse movies, but I will not endorse a movie that can cause a student to fall into sin. Youth pastors, just imagine that one of your students goes home and uses the “A” word in front of his mother.
“Where did you learn to talk like that?”
“It was in that movie that Pastor ___________ took us to see.”

But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.

--Jesus, Mark 9:42

To save a life, I will not endorse To Save a Life.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Church Growth 101

American churches have become obsessed with church growth and church growth techniques, which certainly sounds like a good thing. Obviously we should want our churches to grow, because, in theory, this means we are reaching more people for Christ. In many cases these techniques are filling buildings, but are they really reaching people for Christ?



A church in our area runs TV commercials that say things like, “What if church was a literacy program for homeless children…would you come?” Wow. To me this sounds like an insecure kid at school saying, “If I give you my pudding, will you be my friend?”

Now Al Gore, esteemed founder of the fraudulent man-made Global Warming hysteria, is on a campaign to have pastors “go green” and give special attention to saving the planet. As one pastor who is gung-ho about the idea put it, this is a great way for us to offer something that people are interested in (by the way, why does no one cry “Separation of Church and State” when a career politician tells pastors what to say from the pulpit?). Am I the only one that finds it sad that pastors are scratching their heads trying to come up with something that people are interested in?

Then there is the famous Rick Warren method of knocking on every door in the community, asking why people don’t go to church, then tailoring his church to their desires. That is what has led these churches to remove the cross, stained glass, songs about Jesus’ blood, and messages about sin. This has led to “bless me” music and feel good messages. Pastor Warren, do you really want to know why people don’t go to church? They don’t love Jesus! Tailoring church to the lost is doing them a disservice.

Why? Because church is not for the lost. “Church” means “called out ones.” Instead of making church comfortable for the lost, get the lost saved, then bring them to church!

If people love Jesus they will go to church. This is the same concept that makes a person who loves sports go to games, a person who loves to shop go to the sale, and a person who loves a musician go to the concert. A person who loves Jesus will gladly go to any church that lifts up the name of Jesus; after all, Jesus said where He is lifted up He will draw men to Himself.

So to all my pastor friends, please just lift up Jesus. Enough with the programs, the competitions, the brainstorming, and the idea-stealing. Preach the Gospel, the whole Gospel, and nothing but the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation. Remember, what you reach people with is what you keep people with.

If you reach them through a literacy program, going green, or removing the “religious relics,” then as soon as your program ends or another church develops a better program, those folks will be gone. But if you reach them with Jesus, as long as you continue to preach Jesus you will be OK.
Some people will be offended by this blog, I know. I’m not worried about that. I will just stick to preaching Jesus, but just maybe,

If I stop blogging…would you come to church?

Don’t bet on it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Peace Symbol

The peace symbol has re-emerged into our culture, but this time around it is not being used in the same way that the anti-war crowd last used it. Today we see the peace symbol primarily on clothes and jewelry marketed towards junior high girls. It has become a fashion symbol instead of a peace symbol. But was it always a symbol of peace?

If a person were to do a basic study on the origin of the peace symbol, most people would conclude that the symbol was birthed for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in 1958 by the British artist Gerald Holtom. However, Holtom was an anti-Christian artist who was fully aware that the symbol was not original to him.

Most people believe the peace symbol to be a harmless relic from decades ago, or at worst, simply a symbol of world peace. Unfortunately, the symbol means much more that.

The “peace symbol” can be found etched into the gravestones of Hitler’s SS officers
and it was engraved into the shields of the Saracens in A.D. 711, used to symbolize the “breaking of the Christians.” There is no denying the fact that Hitler was certainly not a peace activist.

The symbol did not originate with Hitler though. It actually has its origin in ancient Rome. In fact, the famous emperor Nero himself is credited with having developed this two thousand year old symbol.

Who was Nero? He was perhaps the worst Christian killer of all time. Nero made a decree that anyone who claimed to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth would be put to death. The emperor, who believed that he was god, used Christians to light up his parties…literally. He had them dipped in oil, tied to a stake, and burned alive. These Christian street lights lined his garden for his outdoor parties.

The most famous of all of his executions was Simon Peter, the apostle and disciple of Jesus. Have you ever heard a Christian suggest that the peace symbol is an “upside down broken cross”? Consider the fact that Nero crucified Peter upside down, on a V-shaped cross. Instead of the traditional method of affixing the arms outstretched and the feet overlapping, Nero developed the upside down V, with the arms over the head. The symbol was used back then to refer to “the broken Christian” or “the broken Jew.”

Those who opposed Christ were supposed to be responsible for all the violence and problems in the world. By eliminating the Christians, it was believed, there would be peace.

It is obvious that the peace symbol is anti-Christian in its origin, so why has it become a fashion symbol? This too is obvious. It is for the same reason that saving the planet, evolution, abortion, homosexuality, and whatever else the Left will cook up are shoved down our children’s throats. Adults who can think for themselves are smart enough to realize there had to be a Creator, so our children are indoctrinated in the public schools.

As parents, we need to realize that Satan is after our children, and he will use whatever avenue it takes to get them. Whether it is in the science book, on the Disney Channel, or sewn into their clothes, he is trying to brainwash them on to his side. This is why we have to pay attention.

Peace out.