Monday, May 30, 2011

Review: "The Encounter"

I remember the first time I saw Bruce Marchiano in a movie - the epic, word for word production of The Gospel of Matthew. I'll admit, I wasn't sure how to take his portrayal of Jesus at first. He was happier, more humorous and more human in his portrayal of Christ than any other actor I had watched. Not long into the movie, I fell in love with this unique portrayal. I remember thinking to myself, "That's how Jesus was. That's how my Savior related to people." Some have criticized it as too American. I guess many folks have a hard time letting go of the stoic, long faced Jesus we have become so accustomed to through movies like "The Greatest Story Ever Told." It's not that these are bad movies, but are they leaving out something about Jesus that has not yet been captured on film?

I can recall watching one of these movies once and thinking, "Something strangely familiar about Jesus." It wasn't that I saw something from the Bible, but something that reminded me of another character. Finally it struck me: Mr. Spock! That's right, Jesus had all the traits of a good Vulcan. The only thing missing was for him to put one of the Pharisees in a nerve pinch and drop him to the ground. Or maybe do a mind meld with Nicodemus so he could really get this "born again" thing. Is that how Jesus really was, or was he more "down to earth" and more conversational in his style?

When I saw Marchiano had a new movie out called "The Encounter" where Jesus shows up in a modern day setting I had to check it out. I'll admit, at first again I was a little taken aback. Jesus is in a diner with a nametag that says "Jesus." Wow, what was this going to be like? Unfortunately I was unable to finish the movie on the first time through, but I watched enough to know it was good for my weekly movie night on Thursday night.

God has blessed me with the great privilege to minister at our local Juvenile Detention Center (JDC). I'm always on the lookout for good Christian movies to take. Most of the time I have thoroughly previewed the movies and many of them I have shown so many times I could just about recite them line for line. It's always nice to get a new movie, and I enjoy the times I actually feel comfortable watching them for the first time with the youth at JDC. They are also a good litmus test for a movie. They can be a tough and discerning audience.

The Encounter kept them captivated for its entire 90 minute running time. They shouted at some of the characters that made bad decisions and derided some of them for their behavior. They wondered if the Jesus character was the real deal or some lunatic. They also got a kick out of Officer Deville especially when his true nature was revealed. The Holy Spirit impressed upon me to give a no compromise presentation of the Gospel after the movie, and four young men gave their lives to Christ that night. It just does not get much better than that.

I give The Encounter my highest recommendation. For believers it is an encouragement about the love of Christ. For unbelievers it is a clear presentation of the Gospel message and the love Jesus has for each of us. One of the characters, a businessman named Nick, asks Jesus several hard questions. Jesus does no soft pedaling in answering, but replies in biblically grounded, solid answers. That was one of the things that impressed me most.

The basic premise of the movie is that a group of people are stranded in a diner on a stormy night with Jesus. In a face to face encounter with Christ, they each have a decision to make. Bruce Marchiano gives a powerful portrayal of Jesus, and the other actors do a fine job as well. In perhaps the most powerful part of the film, Jesus looks each of them in the eye and says, "I love you." I found my eyes misting with tears as I remembered how the real Jesus loved and saved this knuckleheaded atheist. I pray that this movie will reach many people with the power of the Gospel message. We have a generation of young people that are more open to visual presentations like this, and it's nice to find a movie that presents a solid, biblical presentation of the message of Christ. Be sure and check it out.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Harold Camping and May 21, 2011

Just a couple notes on Harold Camping and May 21:

(1) Camping was wrong, not the Bible. The Bible is clear we can NOT know the date of the end. Despite his statement contrary to this, if Jesus says he doesn't know when, then Camping doesn't know when.

(2) Read Deuteronomy 18:22 - he is a false prophet by the Bible's definition.

(3) Pray for Camping to repent and stop leading people astray. I held out hope he would offer an apology in his address yesterday but he just offered a senseless explanation and set a new date.

(4) Pray for Camping's followers that are financially ruined by investing in billboards and advertisements for the May 21 date around the world. He is offering no refunds or financial aid to them despite the fact that he is the head of a multi-million dollar non-profit ministry.

I am angry about this, and as Christians we should be angry that this man has used the name of Jesus to bankrupt people and lead hundreds if not thousands down a path of lies.


Friday, May 20, 2011

The Truth About the Rapture?

I’ve been somewhat obsessively following news and blogs on Rob Bell since “Love Wins” exploded on the market. I do agree with those folks that say you should not make comments about things (such as books) without reading and studying them. I have read “Love Wins” and I have followed Rob Bells teachings (via podcasts, “Noomas” and blogs) for years now. So I’m not just some sudden, casual observer. I have been disturbed by him for years. Each year seems to be more disturbing to me in the evolution of Rob Bell. Check out what I picked up about him from an interview he recently did with The Phoenix. He was discussing the Rapture (in light of all the May 21 gloom and doom stuff). He takes a straight shot at the way traditional evangelicals have defined the Rapture:

I was in Asia Minor, traveling around in some of the first church sites, and the guide said, 'Oh by the way - there were a whole bunch of earthquakes that happened in the first century in Asia Minor, present-day Turkey, the guide said it was in the city of Thessaloniki, the earthquake happened the city was flattened and everyone moved into tents outside of the city. And the Roman Emperor, a Caesar, funded the rebuilding of the city. And when the Emperor announced, 'I'm going to come see the city that you rebuilt with my resources,' everyone got very excited, and when the Emperor was in the distance there was a blowing of the trumpets and everybody rushed out of the city, to greet the Emperor and welcome the Emperor, and then everybody went back into the city to show the Emperor the city they rebuilt with his resources. So, it's to THAT city, that in the one verse that is used by the Rapture folks to say 'Ok, we're all going to go somewhere else,' in the historic context of the story, it's about everybody going BACK into the city, not going somewhere else. For me as a Christian, then, perhaps that particular passsage -- whch is pretty much the only passage (on which) Christians who built the whole 'Left Behind' thing -- perhaps it's much more about being the kinds of people who rebuild and repare and restore THIS world. We care for the environment, we try to help the poor, we're interested in rebuilding the city that was destroyed. (Cackles) Oh boy, that can upset folks. But there are lots of people who go, "Yeah, I always had a problem with that. I'm a person of faith, I'm all about Jesus, etc, I want to make a difference in the world, and with that sort of Left Behind stuff, I can't do it,' -- and when they find out, 'Hey, there's another way to read these stories, it doesn't have to be about evacuation,' People get very excited.

I have to ask you, can you truly believe the arrogance of this one man? He has greater insight on the truth of Heaven and Hell than hundreds of years worth of great theologians that have preceded him? He has greater insight and understanding on the Rapture than hundreds of years worth of great theologians that have preceded him? Can you put your finger on the problem here?

I dare ask, if you review this passage in 1 Thessalonians can you even remotely see Bell’s view?

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NASB)

Bell has a tendency to turn everything into a “social” gospel that is all about reform here and now with little focus on eternity. Can you really reconcile the words of the Apostle Paul with those of Rob Bell? I am greatly disturbed and concerned that Bell is leading a whole generation of folks away from the truths of Scripture. Pray for him. Be wise and seek the discernment of the Holy Spirit.