Unplanned

I watch movies to be entertained. To smile and laugh and cheer at happy endings. I don’t watch movies to be disturbed…until now.

And I’m about to encourage you to watch a movie that will disturb you greatly.

Unless you’ve recently returned from a lengthy stay on an isolated desert island, by now you’ve heard of the movie, Unplanned. Reactions have generally been along expected lines. Most Christians support it and the secular culture abhors it.

Despite an initial limited run (1000 theaters nationwide), the movie came in at #4 in box office receipts for its opening weekend. That’s despite a virtual media blackout and proactive actions by social media gatekeepers to squelch any word of support. Twitter inactivated the official movie account. Television stations are refusing to sell advertising slots.

But the reaction that concerns me most is the one from pro-life Christians who say, “I’m already pro-life, so I don’t need to see it.” Or, “I won’t see the movie because the R rating proves it’s too upsetting.” Or, “I don’t get to the movies much. I’ll wait until the DVD is released.”

This is my response especially for Christians who don’t plan to see Unplanned.

Yes, this movie is rated R for several emotional scenes. But unlike the gore of fantasy movies, this is real. And I find it especially difficult to understand why a teen girl must be protected from seeing the reality of abortion via the R rating when they are legally able to have an abortion performed on them without their parents’ consent. Thousands upon thousands of young girls are marching blindly into Planned Parenthood to subject themselves to this very act of violence. They walk out more broken than they could ever imagine. Oh. My. Aching. Heart!

Let me get this straight: they can do it, but they shouldn’t see it?

This is, indeed, a disturbing movie. But that’s why every Christian needs to see it. Many will not, yet I believe that’s exactly what Satan wants: for us to stay sheltered in our protected Christian bubbles. He couldn’t stop the movie from being made, so he’ll do all he can to stop Christians from wanting to see it.

Too many Christians say they are pro-life, but the reality is many of us don’t really understand the horror of abortion. If we stay in our sheltered worlds, we won’t be as passionately heartbroken about the horror of abortion as we should be. And the enemy will continue winning the hearts and minds of this nation.

Unplanned depicts the level of lies and evil the enemy is wielding in our culture—the very thing Satan does not want us to know.

Sadly, many Christians will not see this movie because they don’t want to come face to face with just how horrible abortion is. Of course, we don’t want to know. Who in their right mind would ever want those images seared into their memory?

Still, how can we take an effective stand unless we know what we are really standing for?

If every Christian truly understood this, organizations and ministries such as Care Net and other crisis pregnancy centers would never lack for volunteers, financial support, and prayer warriors. Support they require to provide services to women and families who desperately need to know about available alternatives.

And these are not just women outside the church. According to a 2015 study, “more than four in 10 women who have had an abortion were churchgoers when they ended the pregnancy.”

Seeing Unplanned may not be a movie Christians want to see. But it is a movie we need to see. And it’s a movie pro-choice supporters need to see, as well. Do we all have the courage of our convictions to watch the unpleasant even when it makes us uncomfortable?

See Unplanned. Better yet, take as many people as possible with you. Do it for yourself. Do it for the girls and women who will have abortions without understanding the long-term consequences. Do it for the myriad unborn children awaiting an advocate who will speak up on their behalf.

Do it because it’s the right thing to do.


 
Hard Truths Relevant to Today’s Headlines
Hard Truths

I’ve heard it over and over again. “The Bible is an ancient, mythological book irrelevant to modern culture.”

Is it? The Christian community would disagree. Those who do not follow Christ are not convinced.

We could lock horns and argue about this until Jesus returns.

But our local headlines recently exploded with the results of a months-long investigation into sex trafficking. An investigation that began in our own county and stretched across state and international boundaries.

And as I watched developments unfold—and they’re still unfolding even now—I couldn’t help but think of a hard truth from that “ancient, mythological book.”

“Be sure your sin will find you out.” ~ Numbers 32:23 (ESV)

This was a true statement when it was written several thousand years ago and it is true today. We have only to listen to the news to confirm its accuracy.

Celebrities. Corporate giants. Philanthropic role models. And of course, “regular guys.” Upstanding members of the community. Husbands, fathers, and sons. They all learned the hard way that while we may hide our sin for a season, the darkness of all sin will someday be revealed.

So what can we learn from their failures…and our own, too?

We can start with some hard truths from the Bible:

1. Start with a new nature.

“For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out….Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” ~ Romans 7:18. 24-25 (ESV)

Relying on our own strength will doom us before we begin. But when we surrender our life to Jesus Christ, His Spirit dwells within us to guide, convict, and empower us to do what’s right.

2. Don’t believe your own press.

“The heart is deceitful above all things.” ~ Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)

No one is immune to temptation. The more we try to convince ourselves that we’re stronger and better than the next person is the moment we’ll stumble and fall. And if people say enough nice things about us, after a while we start to believe what they say.

But an accurate assessment of who we are does not come from what people say about us. Rather, it is found in measuring ourselves against the plumb line of God’s Word.

3. Be accountable to at least one other person—find your “Nathan.”

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” ~ Proverbs 27:6 (ESV)

King David needed the prophet Nathan to speak truth into his life (“You are the man!” ~ II Samuel 12:7) after he sinned with Bathsheba. We also need people who will courageously speak the truth in love, regardless of how we might initially receive it.

4. Choose your friends wisely.        

 “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
~ I Corinthians 15:33 (ESV)

Sad words that describe a downward spiral of sin and defeat. A spiral that might have been halted with the right friends to encourage us in righteousness.

5. Start small and go long.

“My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.” ~ Proverbs 6:20 (ESV)

People rarely wake up one morning and decide, “Today I will schedule a moral failure.” It happens as we distance ourselves from God instead of surrendering to Him and immersing ourselves in His Word.

Think about a dirt road. If the road is not graded regularly, two ruts will appear from the repeated path of the car tires. By nurturing a habit of obedience in seemingly inconsequential areas, we create ruts or paths of obedience. This builds our self-control little by little until we’re able to withstand bigger temptations.

The Bible was relevant when it was written, and it’s relevant now.
What will you do with the hard truths of God’s Word today?


 
The Trouble with Anonymity
Anonymity

Anonymity can bring pleasant surprises.

Someone ahead of you pays your bill in the drive-thru.

  Or you receive a card or gift in the mail from an anonymous friend.

 But anonymity can create problems, too. How many times have you been the victim of anonymity?

  Robo-calls trying to sell you something.

  Emails trying to scam you.

Annoying at best, harmful at worst.

And how many times have you victimized someone else under the cover of anonymity?

You haven’t?

Maybe you have and just don’t realize it.

Ever been on Facebook or other social media and said something you would never say face-to-face to your neighbor or a family member at Thanksgiving?

There’s something about typing and posting a comment that makes us forget the actual people who will read what we write. Seeing the words appear on our computer screen makes us feel good as we vent and rail against the apparent loss of common sense exhibited by “the other side,” regardless of which “side” we’re on.

Do we really think we’ll persuade anyone to agree with us if we resort to the kind of language we would never think to use face-to-face?

  • Obscenities tossed around by articulate, educated people, Christian or not.
  • Name-calling by professing Christians.
  • Words that roll off our tongues onto our keyboards, without thought of how they will be received.
  • Intelligent debate discarded in favor of personal attacks.
  • Disagreements that no longer even attempt to be civil.
  • Friends “unfriended” because we no longer tolerate hearing an opinion different from our own.

The antidote? Here are a few timely reminders:

  • Psalm 19:14 “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
  • Proverbs 10:19 “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
  • Proverbs 12:18 “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
  • Proverbs 13:3 “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”
  • Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
  • Proverbs 16:24 “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”
  • Proverbs 18:21: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”
  • Proverbs 21:23 “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
  • Matthew 12:36 “On the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak…”
  • Matthew 12:37 “By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
  • Matthew 15:18 “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart…”
  • Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
  • Colossians 4:6  “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt…”
  • James 1:26 “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

What would happen if we applied these verses to our lives and to our relationships?

Let’s try it and find out!


 
Are All World Religions the Same?

The beginning of a new year is often a time for introspection. A time for new year’s resolutions. Even a time to explore religion and spirituality as a way to start the new year “right.” But are all world religions the same?

Some people think so. And if all religions carry equal weight, then it’s easy to cobble together aspects of various religions to satisfy their preferences. They view religion as menu items on an old Chinese take-out menu—pick one from column A and 2 from column B and you’ve got a version of religion that meets your inclinations.

So let’s take a look…are all religions really the same? Of all the current world religions:

…how many of their founders were prophesied to come?

It doesn’t take much for someone to appear on the scene without any warning and make authoritative claims. It’s an entirely different situation for hundreds of prophecies over thousands of years to point to one person…and have this one person fulfill them.

Only Jesus Christ was prophesied to come. Through His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus fulfilled more than 300 prophecies—a statistical impossibility by human standards.

…how many founders of world religions have died and remain buried or cremated?

All of them…except one. The founder of every world religion has had their death documented. Their burial sites (or cremation) have also been documented.

But Jesus Christ is the only one whose tomb is empty (Mark 16:6). Multiple historical evidences prove the resurrection. For more information, please check out The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel.

…how many founders not only claimed to be God, but proved it by miraculous acts documented by eyewitnesses?

Jesus Christ performed miracles attesting to His claims and authority—miracles documented in the Bible (Matthew 9:5-6). Now before you dismiss the Bible as a biased book written by His followers, remember there were thousands of unbelievers present at the time the New Testament scriptures were written. Any of them could have refuted the documented events included in the Bible if those events were not true.

…how many world religions require a life of good works to achieve heaven?

When religion requires a life of good works, it creates a conundrum. In simple terms, how many good works are enough? How do you know when you’ve met the minimum requirement? Do you even know what the minimum is?

Christianity is the only religion that starts by saying we cannot do enough good works to be accepted by God (Ephesians 2:8-9). It’s impossible for sinful humanity to clean itself up to meet a holy God’s standards. Instead, God came down to us—He became man in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only person to live a perfect life, die a sacrificial, substitutionary death on our behalf, and be resurrected (I Corinthians 15:1-4).

No one else offers this grace. Grace gives us what we don’t deserve: God’s love and acceptance. A good thing, too, because we could never earn what God gives freely.

…how many world religions provide you with a divine Helper to assist you in living a life honoring the One in whom you believe?

Only one: Christianity. Before Christ’s death, He promised to send the Helper who would indwell every believer (John 14:16). While our good works cannot earn us a place in heaven, they are our way of showing our gratitude for the gift of salvation. If I have been saved from eternal death, how could I not want to live a life honoring the One who saved me?

The Holy Spirit lives and works in every believer (I Corinthians 3:16) to prompt, convict, encourage, and empower us. This enables us to live in a way that testifies to the power of God in the life of His children.

Religion or relationship?

Christianity may be characterized as a world religion, but in reality, it’s more of a relationship than a religion. Christianity, in its truest, biblical form, is personal. It’s an individual choice to surrender to the God who created you, loves you, and saved you.

Before you dismiss it as just another world religion, you owe it to yourself to explore the claims of Jesus Christ. Read the Bible and ask God to show you the truth.

If you do, your life will never be the same.


 
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