John Markum

A Proper Attitude toward Faith-based Movies

MOVIESThere have been no lack of faith-based movies that have come out in recent years – from family-encouraging movies like Courageous, Fireproof, and Facing the Giants all from Sherwood Pictures, to some more recent Hollywood productions such as Noah and God’s Not Dead.

I recently posted a teaser trailer for the upcoming Heaven is for Real film based on the book of the same title, expressing my interest in the movie. For those not aware, Heaven is for Real is the retelling of the story of Colton Burpo who at 4 years old had a near death experience where he claims (as a 4 year old) to have seen God, Jesus, angels, Heaven, and deceased family among many other phenomenon. His experience seems to have some level of confirmation in what appears to be knowledge that Colton could not have possibly known apart from some supernatural happening.

Immediately after posting it, multiple well-meaning friends, all of whom were professing Christ-followers, some of whom were brothers in ministry, urged caution or misgivings on my interest in the film. Without having read the book, I’m aware of the discrepancies in Colton’s story and what we can plainly see in Scripture.

I am not writing this post as a review on any of these movies. I’ll consider doing that in a future post, probably after I watch this one…

I instead want to address our attitude as Christ-followers toward faith-based movie. From Passion of the Christ to Son of God, it seems as if there are always people who claim to believe the Bible who have something negative to say about Hollywood’s recent fascination with God’s Word. I for one, am pleased that we’re at least having these discussions. Ultimately, no matter how well done, no movie is going to express as perfectly as each of us imagine Biblical truth to be. And I suspect that the actual reality of Scripture is simultaneously ordinary and yet supernatural per our expectations.

Let me give four humble suggestions on how Christ-followers should respond to any faith based movie – and arguably any movie in general:

  1. Appreciate good stories. It was said of Christ in Mark 4:34 that He never taught the people without telling a story. Jesus was a master story-teller. Most would agree that many of the parables of Jesus were fabricated stories that He used to make an illustration. A story doesn’t have to be true to be meaningful. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve referred to Star Wars or Everyone Loves Raymond to communicate a point in a sermon. And it’s amazing to see people understand the relationship between pure Jews and the Samaritans when you talk about “mud-bloods”…
  2. Relax. Truth is never intimidated by error. While we need to be busy sharing true stories, a skewed story can be addressed without getting indignant. “The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” A defensive attitude toward anything indicates a sensed vulnerability. If I really believe the Bible is truth, I’ve got no reason to get defensive when someone questions the Bible or my faith. At least someone’s asking good questions!
  3. Share. I’ve lost count on how many times someone who doesn’t yet follow Christ has begun a conversation with me because of a movie that addressed a Biblical subject. The movie doesn’t have to be spot-on to be a catalyst for a divine appointment. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a story is worth a thousand pictures.
  4. Know God’s Word. Don’t take anyone’s expressions of faith, interpretations, or movie as the final authority on truth in your life. Look to see what God actually said in His Word. He’s quite adequate at speaking for Himself. Everything and everyone else should only propel you to looking deeper into His truth and applying it to your life. That’s why it’s important to be a part of a church family, a PTA, and to watch movies – because God speaks all around us through a variety of sources, even flawed sources like preachers and movies – but He never speaks more clearly than through His Word.

Pastor John

The Questions You Asked… Part 7

  1. Question: “What did Lucifer do that upset God so much?” Answer: He tried to be God. Isaiah 14:12-14.
  2. Question: “Why did God place the ‘evil tree of doom’ in the garden?” Answer: The tree represented choice. Don’t eat = Be with God. Eat = Be separated from God. Love is not love, if it has no choice. You wouldn’t accept a “love” like that. Neither would God.
  3. Question: What does Heaven look like?” Answer: Words fail to describe it. I’ve seen some pretty amazing things here on earth. Heaven will blows those things away! For a very limited description see Rev. 21-22:5.
  4. Question: “Are Christians justified by faith or by works?” Answer: We are justified by faith through grace (Ephesians 2). Faith is not a work, as some teachers would imply. Our works, however, are an outward expression of our inward faith. You can do good works without faith, but if you have faith, you will do good works. James makes it clear in James 2:14-18.
  5. Question: “Are deathbed confessions legit?” Answer: It was for the thief on the cross, so yes, they can be. I choose not to wait til then, though!
  6. Question: “How is evolution not fact?” Answer: You’re asking me to prove a negative. But I’ll do my best by giving you a few examples, 1) Human population growth rate; by the math of human population growth, we all have a common mother/father within “thousands” of years not millions. If our first parents were millions of years ago, the current population of earth would be well into the trillions – not billions. 2) The life cycle of the sun. A “star” consumes it’s resources over thousands/millions of years getting smaller and smaller. Eventually it gets to a point where it goes from small to massive in size, and then implodes often creating a nova, supernova, or even a blackhole. For earth to be revolving around the sun for billions of years, the sun would have been so massive its size would extend well past earth’s position. 3) Living “fossils” that have been dead for “millions of years”. 4) A distinct lack of missing links – Neanderthal man was an old man who died about in a cave in France and had a severe case of rickets and arthritis. See this interesting article for more possible explanations.
  7. Question: “What is salvation?” Answer: Salvation is putting your trust in the work of Jesus as your only chance of getting to Heaven. It requires you to deny your own self and embrace God’s grace toward you. It’s like dying to yourself to be given the life that Christ gives to all those who call on Him to be saved. If anyone reading this wants to talk to me more about this, nothing would mean more to me than to help you. Email me at: [email protected]

The Questions You Asked… Part 5

  1. Question:Romans 8:30… predestination?” Answer: Yes. But your question is incomplete. Predestine to what? Verse 30 is based on verse 29 where it says, “whom He foreknew, He predestined…” God’s “election” is based on His foreknowledge of who would receive Christ. Scripture interprets Scripture. John 1:11-12 puts several huge holes in the idea some have that God chose some people to salvation and others for Hell based on anything other than receiving Christ.
  2. Question: “Does Pastor John have ADD?” Answer: Beavers and Ducks. I mean, yes.
  3. Question: “Why does God want us to save sex for marriage?” Answer: Because God created sex, and He knows that the vulnerability that true sexual intimacy requires is only safe in a committed marriage relationship. There is a trust that a couple builds together when they wait that is absolutely irreplaceable when sleeping together before marriage. Sex outside of marriage ruins good relationships and prolongs bad ones. I said more on the subject here.
  4. Question: “In Heaven, are we completely sinless?” Answer: Yes. Revelation 21:27
  5. Question: “What is the ‘Unforgivable Sin’?” Answer: Rejecting the Holy Spirit prompting toward Jesus (Matthew 12:22-32). And it’s only “unforgivable” in the context of John 3:18. At what point has a person hopelessly rejected Christ? I don’t know. Not my place to know. Only my place to speak in His name and draw others to Him (that’s your job too, by the way).
  6. Question: “Would God forgive the most awful repeat sinner?” Answer: He already did… me. That’s how big God is, and how small we are. He can forgive the most vile human being and make them like His Son. “Where sin did abound, grace did much more abound.” Romans 5:20.
  7. Question: “Who is God?” Answer: “God” is the single, all-powerful Being possessing all knowledge and existing outside of time and space. Therefore, all things created are per His authorship, and nothing has ever happened apart from His knowledge and foresight. From His perspective, the future is just as much a matter of fact as the past. As the greatest “thing,” all good is measured by His standard, and all things short of His standard are utterly short and wicked. His standard of perfection can only be compared to His standard of love. The cross of Christ is the perfect example of both. That’s as good as I can do for a reasonable human description of an infinite Creator.
  8. Question: “Where is the love in creating Hell?” Answer: Questions like this are lop-sided. I would counter this with the question, “where is the justice in letting every drunk, pedophiler, adulterer, serial-killer, and white-collar criminal go to Heaven?” The truth is, we can’t have it both ways: a God who forgives our sin, but has no sense of indignation toward it. If God would simply overlook sin without destroying it, then why overlook it? Just let it be!  But God is loving and holy. The love you find in a God creating a place like Hell is two-fold: 1) That He loves us enough to destroy all wickedness that separates us from Him, and 2) That He would provide a means of not going there ourselves by trusting in Christ as the payment for our sin.
  9. Question: “Can prayer change God’s mind?” Answer: Good question. If God knows everything past, present, and future per our definition of God in question 7, then technically God already knows everything He is going to do (from His perspective, He already did it). But His motive for why He does what He is going to, is often because His people pray. The Bible is full of examples (2 Cron. 7:14). In other words, God already knows what He is going to do, and why He’s going to do it, because He knows our prayers before we ask them (Matthew 6:8).
  10. Question: “What is grace?” Answer: Grace is God blessing us with something we did not earn. I like the acronym: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

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