“Believe Me” and Film — Blurring the Line Between “Christian” and “Secular”

There’s a film hitting (unfortunately) select theaters on September 26. It stars a relative unknown Australian named Alex Russell and features guest roles from Parks and Rec’s Nick Offerman, as well as rap artist Lecrae…

It was written and directed by guys my age. Its subject matter involves Christianity and helping the needy.

And it is the author’s opinion that this movie is going to forever change the way so-called “Christian” movies are perceived by both the faith-based viewing community and the largely oblivious secular crowds.

It’s called “Believe Me.” Here’s a trailer: http://believemefilm.com?hlr=Ez9C60_4

Now, right off the bat, one can tell that this film is made for a broad audience. It’s got professional actors and great sets and a story where the church is…not exactly being the Body of Christ, perhaps. So, what’s so great about that?

1. It’s written and directed by Christians. Will Bakke, Michael B. Allen. These guys starred in a documentary called “Beware of Christians” in which they used a trip across Europe to talk to people there about their perceptions and opinions of Christians and of Jesus Himself. They also grew as people themselves, seeing a larger picture of the world and of the church than the college town environments they lived in allowed for. These are guys who are young, who profess Jesus as more than “savior” and they’ve made a couple of documentaries about that in the past. Now they’ve made a bonafide movie? Yes, please.

2. Story VS. Message. Winner, story. A very legitimate complaint against so-called “Christian” films is that they tend to sacrifice story for the sake of giving the film’s message an over-powered exposure. With a cast of characters that can often seem alien to secular crowds, the message of Christianity doesn’t automatically get the intended reaction by the audience. With “Believe Me,” the goal was clear- tell a story with real characters and don’t saturate it with one emotional appeal or message. Imagine that- a film made by Christians that won’t talk down to its audience, no matter their faith? Yes, please.

3. It exposes the worst things about American Christianity through satire. I’ve not kept secret that I get annoyed with many of the things we Americans have done to try to morph the church (and God) into our comfortable, rich, lovable image. Here, the platform is a stage for people to act on – the lights and music are for manipulation and emotional reaction, and the offering plates are used to steal. It will convict anyone and everyone of what the main character accuses Christians of- wanting an emotional high and wanting to “feel” like they’re helping people rather than do anything of value. A movie that doesn’t pretend people who say “Lord, Lord” are guaranteed into the fold of Christ’s fellowship? (Matthew 7:21-23) Yes, please.

4. Realism. Christianity is real, and the outside world is real. There never was, nor will there ever be, a “Christian culture” here on earth that is separate. It transcends such a classification and has done so for 2,000 years. Here’s a movie made by Christians that will likely depict excessive drinking, crude humor, and a lifestyle that is nothing less than everyday living for dare I say, most people (well, minus trying to steal from people under the guise of providing wells for the poor). This movie is not about censoring what your mom finds offensive. This is about realistic people, with real sins at work, and about what will happen when Christianity as it really is, is encountered. A movie where the characters, Christian or not, are not one-dimensional stereotypes? Yes, please.

I’m callin’ it. Christians who want to make movies in the next decade (or probably longer) will look to this great experiment as an example of the closest thing to a combined effort between believers and non-believers to tell a story on film. I personally cannot wait to see it, and I hope you all will eventually too!

And as the slogan for the movie says, don’t just trust anyone with a platform. Have a nice day!

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Why I’m Not a Fan of the word “Anointing”

Happy Sunday everyone!! Been a bit since I’ve written, but I’m ready to break the silence for a bit.

Have you ever heard a particular pastor or worship leader or some type of authority figure in the church be described as “having an anointing?” I know I certainly have: I’ve heard that over and over again, growing up in the Baptist- saturated Bible Belt (not a dis, just the truth). People usually use it to indicate that the people they learn about the Bible from and are preached at are special and qualified to be where they’re at and have God’s stamp of approval on their efforts. “He has an anointing,” is a kind a quick label to identify “true” teachers and servants of God.

I should begin by saying that the people using this term are not the target of my criticism here. My criticism is rather of the term and its use and why I believe it to be unnecessary and even somewhat dangerous.

First of all, the origin of an anointing has to do with identification, and it was often used by shepherds. The term is found frequently throughout scripture too. Jesus Christ is called the “Anointed One” (Acts 4:27, 10:38).

John describes the audience of his letter as anointed too, in 1 John. It has connotations of special protection and immunity from some types of problems and pains, which are not specified.

I believe that today, and probably for a long time, long before the book came out by Benny Hinn (it’s called The Anointing), we have taken this term entirely out of it’s proper context and used it not to indicate talent or ability in others to proclaim to Gospel, but rather instead to insulate our leaders from scrutiny and protect them from criticism which is frankly necessary. About half the time when I hear that term used to describe someone, this person is being attacked in some way, but because he or she possesses “anointing,” this automatically means the attack is both wrong and doomed to fail.

First of all, none are righteous. Romans 3:10. Our starting point in relation to “God’s favor” as prosperity teachers like to call it, is grim indeed. Out of God’s mercy and love, we can be spared what we deserve. Sometimes we can be saved from physical calamities, sometimes from financial ones, but no scripture, especially in the New Testament, excludes a “righteous” man or woman from hardships of any kind. The book of Job is one giant slap in the face to the idea that God wants us to be rich, comfortable and free from difficulty. Protected, as it were, from problems in those areas.

Secondly, I’m extremely hesitant to claim a title for myself that Christ had. He was and is the Anointed One, who proclaimed “good news to the poor” and came to seek and save the lost, to give us true, lasting life. I did not do those things, nor could I if I wanted to. I am but a mere recipient of His grace, a receiver of his gift of salvation from my sin. If I were to preach the Gospel, I would only be reacting in an appropriate manner to bring glory and honor to Him who saved me, irrespective of some kind of “anointing” or not.

Thirdly, your pastor/leader is not immune from scrutiny, and frankly, should be scrutinized to an extent. We live in a time where ears are being tickled all the time, probably more so in this prosperous country now more than ever before, anywhere. The apostles foresaw this, as did Christ. Few sermons go without some self-help advice, or appeals to the materialistic desires of our hearts. Instead of defending one’s pastor or teacher by use of the “he’s got an anointing” trump card, perhaps the better answer is “He preaches the Word of God and doesn’t care about his title, and he freely acknowledges his imperfections and has humbly accepted this role as a pastor/teacher.” Also, why would a pastor call himself anointed, instead of just a preacher or messenger of God? I think it might be pride.

Benny Hinn wrote the book on this. He is the man who said that in order to do ministry, he must have a private plane and that without the help of modern technology, it’s impossible to do ministry. He hits people on a stage and pronounces them healed while failing to allow any medical examinations or records to be released to confirm that healing has taken place. He doesn’t do his work in hospitals, where the sick are, but where money is thrown at him.

So, “anointing” is not a phrase I’m willing to throw  around.

I’m going to ask several people I know about what the word “anointing” means and share a post comparing responses, in an attempt to better understand  this particular church-ese language. Not sure when that’ll be up, but it’s a little project!

Acts 4:27
Acts 4:27
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Star Wars and Me

Hey!! It’s May 4th!! May the Pun be with you! Yeah. We also recently were told that the main three stars of my favorite film of all are going to be returning in some way to the saga in 2015, when Episode VII is supposed to be hitting theaters.

So!! I thought it’d be appropriate with the Star Warsiness of late to write on it, in a unique kind of framework. See, as a kid, I just ate up anything and everything Star Wars…from the VHS tapes to the lightsaber toys, to the LEGOs which still inhabit my attic and various display shelves in my home to this day…man, I was nuts for the franchise as a child. Much of these memories embarass me somewhat, as I’m sure I came off to many of my peers growing up as “that kid” who, you know, spoke in alternating R2 beeps and Wookiee language…nah, I didn’t go THAT far with it, but again, video games, toys, books, books and more books…man I loved that stuff.

I’m 22 now, and graduating college this Friday…I’m starting law school in the fall, which will be the most rigorous and challenging years of my academic life thus far. I’m also engaged to the girl of my dreams, and I’m taking that additional step in transitioning into the real world, as an adult.

I find myself looking back and thinking: why did I like it so much? Why did I just love the spacecraft designs, memorize all those planets and character names, and just dive right into that fiction?

The answer, I’ve come to discover after having grown up (well, a little, at least) is that Star Wars and its’ storylines and tales are really, truly, nothing at all different from the struggles and passions and adventures that real life has in store for all of us, of course, with a huge science fantasy twist. When I was a child I loved the mystic powers of the Jedi, and the technology and the action that the films and games and other forms of media provided me. However, I loved something even more about the whole saga. Star Wars was, for me at least, all about decisions and doing what’s right and good over what’s easy or convenient. It’s about staring a giant evil, whatever that may be, right in the face and saying “NO!” (Like someone does in every movie, notice that?) That’s a somewhat subtle but very, very common attribute to GOOD stories and GOOD morality plays, and Star Wars is a great example of that.

So, Star Wars, or Episode IV: A New Hope (just trying to give both titles to be fair) is my favorite film because, ultimately, everything I love about life in general is portrayed in some form or fashion in this movie. A somewhat lonely kid discovers a great purpose and goal and sets out to accomplish it, under the guidance of an older, wiser hero. There’s a cocky rogue with a heart of gold who, at the end of the day, won’t leave his friends behind. There’s comic relief in the form of minor characters with surprising levels of importance, and a smart-mouthed industrious princess that needs rescuing. Lastly, a powerful villain who can and is ultimately redeemed by love. So many things about this film stem from things we all love and have seen in great epics and tales going back as far as civilization does.

So, growing up and older, my love for Star Wars has really become a reflection of my love for what makes amazing, breathtaking stories and tales. Star Wars revolutionized the way movies are made. It was done on tight budgets and constrained by Union regulations, with problems ranging from props breaking to weather demolishing sets in Tunisia. It was lucky to be made at all, thanks to someone who invested in George Lucas, and the cast were all virtually unknowns when work on the film began.

However, it captured the imaginations of so many and inspired so many. It did so because of it’s formulaic and brilliant approach to storytelling. It was a very optimistic and fast-paced FUN type of film, at a time when theaters were dominated by darker movies with darker characters and stories.

And so, ultimately, that’s what I love about Star Wars: all the classical motifs and effort that was put into it, the pace of the film, the adventurous and visually poetic and stunning style of it. A New Hope was not the first film in the franchise that I saw, but fourteen years later, it remains my absolute favorite film, and I hope that the continuation of the saga does well!

Notice I tried to not get into the controversial special editions or prequels…..

…….saving that for Revenge of the 5th…..but until then,

May the 4th be with you! Always.

And stuff.

Image
(The Logo. Owned by……Disney)

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Manipulation

I realize that I have hitherto used this blog for explaining things I do not like, agree with, or want to tolerate. I realize this might give the impression that I’m the most grumpy 22-year-old alive.

Sorry, it’s gonna happen again.

Hopefully it’ll be cathartic, and hopefully my thoughts may conceivably aid others who have suffered in this way…and  “So that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs…” (2 Corinthians 2:11).

We human beings are capable of some terrible deeds when we decide we’re right about something, or want something desperately, or both…

I hate sin, and I hate it in all it’s forms and I shudder to think I participate in it still. I hate slapping God in the metaphorical face by my actions and I hate hurting others. I also don’t like to be hurt, just like all of you.

The thing that ultimately infuriates me more than most of these various manifestations of sin is one particular inclination that we human beings possess- that of manipulation.

Manipulation is perhaps the sin I have the hardest time forgiving…

Manipulation is different than lying. Lying is simple- it’s falsehood. Manipulation is broader, deeper and always with a goal. It’s not even simple when comparing it to deceit- deceit can exist as a passive avoidance of the truth while manipulation is always there and always at work.

Manipulation is an active use of deceit, lies, AND a twisting of the truth to bring about whatever the manipulator would have.

Manipulation is a kind of foundation for so many horrible crimes we associate with force or coercion…gang members manipulate others into believing their way of life is full of glory or that it is the only option for many…rapists manipulate their victims in order to commit their atrocities (as most cases of rape are found to be between people who know each other to some extent). Abuse in the home is so saturated and overflowing with manipulation that it can be argued that the dysfunctional family is the place you’ll witness this the most.

Lots of things may annoy me, several things may make me angry…this is one of the few things that makes my blood begin to boil and causes my fists to curl and my lip to quiver when I can see it done, and see the damage it produces in people.

Manipulation doesn’t limit itself to mind or body but crosses the threshold of both. It’s committed by people supposed to keep us safe, protect us, support us…it doesn’t like questions, doesn’t like challenge, doesn’t like dialogue. It is not open to reason. It is not open to fairness or defending itself.

Perhaps my somewhat vaguely-stated hatred of this particular…deed…stems from my perception of truth. Truth is beautiful. Truth is aligned with reality, and it’s open to testing and verification. It works with us, without conforming to our every whim, and when we adjust ourselves to the truth, painful as that can be, it’s the only way to progress.

The only way to salvation.

Manipulation always was and is entirely 100% of Satan. Of the Devil. Lucifer. The being responsible for deception, lies, and even using the truth for his own selfish purposes. The Devil knows scripture better than me, and better than you.

Matthew 4:1. Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

The Devil looked at Jesus Christ in the early parts of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke and told Him what HIS scriptures said, to His face, to manipulate Him. THEN he said everything would be okay if only Christ would worship him.

2 Corinthians 11:14. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

Ephesians 6:11-12. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Jesus Christ was direct, clear and concise. He did not trick anyone, nor did he offer false promises of reward or sanctuary to those offered. People turned away from Him often, because of how clear He was…

I’m no saint. I’ve done wicked things. I’ve lied, I’ve deceived, I’ve even manipulated. Would that that never happened…and I am dumbfounded and awestruck that the one true God, in whom there is no variation or shadow due to change, who is the author of reality and author of the laws we believe in our hearts, has decided to forgive me and many others for our heinous acts of manipulation…

If you love control, and if you love exercising power over human beings’ minds and bodies for your own sake…mixing a cocktail of lies and truth to get your way, promising help but delivering harm instead…

May you flee as fast as you can to the scriptures to learn of the God who loves and cares and sacrifices Himself for you, that you may be freed from these desires and know Him and know love…

And if you will not, may the Lord rebuke you, as He will rebuke the true father of this abominable behavior.

I apologize for the gloominess of this post and the somber nature of my words…but seeing this very behavior occur in the church of all places repeatedly…well…I just wanted to present an indictment of this kind of act and remind believers and non-believers alike that manipulation is wicked in all it’s forms…and to remind us of who we are imitating when we do it.

May you have a blessed weekend, and I’ll be back later with hopefully happier things to say!

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My Story (A.K.A. Farewell, Ratio Christi)

The following is what I said at my final meeting of the University of Georgia’s chapter of Ratio Christi as it’s outgoing President.

Good evening!! Thank you all for coming out. It has been a great honor to host you all and to learn alongside all of you over the course of this semester. This organization, still fledgling but very much alive and well, is probably the single thing I’m most happy and proud to have been involved with in my rather quick two years at UGA.

Over the course of the semester and more generally over the past year, it’s been my hope and objective that this chapter of Ratio Christi would plug neatly into the mold of this university. What I mean by that is, this campus has a number of nonbelievers that vastly dwarfs those of us who call Christ Lord. Even more pressing, is the number of Christians who are students here who have probably never shared their faith, let alone defend it. Knowing this, with the support of my fellow team members and the two chapter directors we’ve had since our inception, we decided this organization wasn’t going to be just a discussion club or a lecture series with nothing but information. It was on all of our hearts that we needed to communicate why this was necessary and important in the grander, broader picture of witnessing for Christ to our friends and colleagues here.

Since I became a follower of Christ, I have always believed that apologetics is something the world needs more of, not less. It’s the kind of thing that we as Christians must be familiar with on some level because scriptures like 1 Peter 3:15 and Colossians 4:5-6 command it. However, let’s not forget that apologetics DOES win souls over to Christ. Apologetics, like any other tool or method of communication, can be used by God to win human beings, friends, enemies, relatives, teachers and students, to faith in Christ- not a blind, unthinking ignorant form of faith, but the kind Christ calls us to- intelligent cooperation and trust based on His perfect track record. Some of the faith’s greatest thinkers throughout history have been affected by as well as used apologetics to minister to others all over the world. Consider the origins of the cosmological argument from Aquinas, or C.S. Lewis’ very powerful writings dealing with the problem of evil, or even the influence on philosophy and science that we have today from the likes of Ravi Zacharias, born Hindu, Josh McDowell, an atheist and mocker of Christians, and Francis Collins of the Human Genome project, also an atheist, for nearly 30 years of his life.

Today, I’m going to share with you how this field of ministry has impacted me, because I’m convinced that without it, I’d never have become a Christian.

I grew up in a very southern Baptist congregation in the woods among noble, lovely, kind people. Both my father and mother were Christians and had me enrolled in Sunday school from the time I was a small child. When I was ten years old, I suppose that that was the first time I contemplated death, really contemplated it, and I was baptized a short time later, more or less out of fear of dying and ending up with nowhere good to go to. Later on that year, two weeks before my 11th birthday, my father died of a heart attack prompted by clogged arteries on a couch in front of me. I had begun to think on death and understand it as a reality, and now was seeing it happen first-hand. I knew from looking at him and cradling his head and seeing his eyes go blank that something departed from him- and as paramedics arrived, I suspected the worst. My mother, who was not at home, eventually found me later, at a friend’s house. She sat me down and used these words to explain to me what had happened: “Your daddy’s gone to heaven.”
I liked the idea, sure. I wanted that to be the case. But as time went on and I moved into adolescence, it would be a lie to tell you I believed in that. It would also be a lie to tell you I was interested in following Christ. I had certain ideas that matched up with my church in terms of political ideas and behavioral norms…but I didn’t call Christ Lord and mean it.

I started asking questions. Why would a God who I had been taught as a young boy was really no different in temperament than Santa Claus, allow my father to die, in my sight?

My father had been a very active, strong man who ran often and lifted weights and stood on his feet all day teaching history and coaching wrestling. My mother was widowed. I was fatherless at 10, no less. None of this made any sense to me, and I could not bring myself to accept the idea that God was there at all, let alone had “plans to prosper and not to harm” as Jeremiah says.

For my 7th and 8th grade years I was at a place called Calvary Christian School, and a few of my teachers there planted the seeds of belief in my life by explaining why Christianity not only “felt good” some of the time but ultimately made sense, all of the time, why the facts of life, scientific and personal, point to its truth. They took my questions, and at a time when I was fatherless and needed guidance, they behaved as Godly men and took me and my situation seriously. They helped me.

Later on in high school, as I began to take an interest in logic and argumentation through activities like debate and mock trial, I had yet another mentor in my life who took my newfound teenage questions about God and actually did his best to answer to them, and to dialogue with me on my own level. At 18, on a retreat with the student support group known as Teen Advisors, I spoke with this mentor of mine about the loss in my heart. Everything I believed at that point seemed to point to Christ and seemed to make sense, but it was really a sense of rage and bitterness that kept me from submitting and acknowledging his authority over my life. I gave up that struggle and gave my life to Jesus Christ.

Apologetics was laced throughout my story, can you see that? It’s more than debating and citing data and putting charts on a powerpoint, so much more. It’s communicating a reason for the hope that we have, knowing how to respond to people, and taking their thoughts and pasts and doubts seriously. Those teachers I had, Godly men who had answers I needed, the Teen Advisors President who also mentored me and is now happily living in Africa on a hospital ship as a missionary, God used those people and their skillful answers and conversations with me to pull me out of my unbelief.

It’s the same with us. We’ve been exposed to a lot of knowledge over the past year and a half, and thought about issues from multiple perspectives and had a good mix of lectures with round-chair discussions. But this means virtually nothing if this is where it stops. My hope is that all of you take what you’ve learned and bring it to bear on those you love, see often, or happen to be in conversation with sometime. I certainly hope that everything we’ve done and I’ve done thus far has been conducive to that end.

As I say my goodbyes to you, know that my heart and prayers stay with you and this endeavor we’ve undertaken together. I’ll keep in touch and give you a shoutout every now and again!

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The One About the Bible

So since today’s been a very low-key day for me, and because I’ve gone for nearly two months without posting anything, I figured it is about time I blogged  about something.

Yes, I realize I rush into controversy and enjoy verbally exploring “where angels fear to tread” so to speak. I promise that I write this with the best of intentions and with a heart and mind geared toward scripture.

Do not use the Bible incorrectly, improperly, or out of context if you can help it.

Please. This drives me up the wall.

And look, I get it!! There are worse things to be upset about!! Of course!

But do keep something in mind- either the Bible is the Word of God and merits our accurate attention, or it is just another book that we can pick up and put down when we like and have that be the ultimate end of it.

Which one is it to you?

If it’s just a piece of literature, just a collection of ancient writings with no reflection on reality, you can treat it as such, and should.

If it’s the Word of God, it demands our attention.

I hear many say “You can’t take the Bible literally. There’s all kinds of metaphorical language in it.” That’s true!! You’re absolutely correct. From Hebrew poetic structures in Genesis to the wisdom literature of Proverbs to the poems and songs of Psalms and Song of Solomon, to the prophetic writings…much is ambiguous! Yes. However, what about the groupings of Kings, Samuel and Chronicles? What about the genealogies and histories and records in the Old and New Testaments, the stuff most Christians skim over out of boredom (yes, confession from me too)? What do you do with text that tries to present itself in the real world, with real people in history mentioned within? Clearly, we must take these parts of the Bible literally because they’re passages and statements about reality, not perception.

I’ve also heard others say “If you don’t take the Bible literally, all of it, every passage, you have a problem with it.” This is equally absurd to me. In my experience this has come mainly from very fundamentalist camps and denominations deep in the woods who can barely read English translations, let alone Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. The aforementioned passages confirm that no, the Bible is not entirely meant to be taken literally. Much of it is, but not all.

Context, context, context. I’m getting a bit annoyed by the persistence of Philippians 4:13 and Jeremiah 29:11 to pop up where they don’t belong. That Philippians verse, about being able to do all things through Christ who strengthens you, was written by Paul to explain his contentment with being dirt poor, hungry and behind bars. It has nothing to do with your athletic ability or confidence in yourself. The Jeremiah passage applies to the Israelites, and I know this because that’s to whom God Himself is speaking in the passage when he promises plans to give them a hope and a future. Sure, God wants that for us today on an individual level more or less, but why pick that verse when many more, closer to our era, are accessible to us? Because it sounds pretty. No damage, no injury, no difficulty is found there.

I want to offer a challenge to those of you who believe the Bible’s authority and status as the inspired Word of God provided to us for the purpose of knowing and learning about Him and His relationship throughout history with human beings.

The challenge is: research a passage and its context and original language before applying it to your life or others’ lives.

Does this take a bit more work than finding a passage that’s easy to remember or that sounds pretty? Sure.

But at least you won’t be lying to people.

Think about it. How does this Prosperity gospel-drenched manipulative scam-ridden foolishness seep into the fabric of our Americanized Christian culture?

We don’t know the Bible.

So, learn the Bible, if you consider it your Holy Book! Learn about the languages, the nuances, the times, the cultures, and especially the things that do not apply to us today and the things that do. You don’t need to be a scholar or an expert or have all the answers. You just need to know something more than nothing at all.

Now, if you don’t believe the Bible, that’s a different story altogether.

If I need to go into this I will, but for now, I’ll leave you with a thought from Voddie Beaucham.

“I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetimes of other eyewitnesses. They recorded supernatural events in fulfillment of specific prophecies and make the claim that their writings are divine, rather than human in origin.”

Read any other book and tell me you get the same thing.

Have a pollen-free springtime everyone, God bless ya 🙂

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Thoughts on the Letter of Jude

Stayin’ warm? Good. Be safe, people. It’s Snowpocalypse in Athens, GA (Part II of hopefully a solid trilogy).

It’s always nice to take time away from school to comment on God’s Word.

I…think? Anyway, here we go!!!

The second book of the Bible on this reading plan I’m using (you pick a book, any book, read it 20 times and repeat throughout the year) was the penultimate book in the canon, the letter of Jude. It’s a great little nugget in my opinion, not simply because it’s written by a man believed to be an actual brother to Jesus Christ, but because it was fairly easy to knock out daily (my confession). So, like the previous similar post, here are four thoughts!

Side note: As I do these, I try to limit these four points to stuff you don’t need to look to commentaries or outside sources to grasp. This part of these posts will be strictly exegetical (word of the day, LOLZ).

1. Change of tone. Verse 3 always strikes me a little. It reminds me in many ways of modern preaching that I witness, with a distinct twist. In this verse, Jude says that he wants to write to his audience about the common joy that they experience, lending one to believe he wants to write happy, loving, and uplifting sentiments. Yet, he changes the tone of the letter entirely. On the whole, the letter gives its reader a rather somber and gloomy impression as opposed to an uplifting feel. It makes me think of how many preachers I hear today who refuse to do what Jude does in this letter- that is, go from wanting to emphasize the beauty and wonder to emphasizing that this faith, “once for all delivered to the saints,” must be contended for.

2. Connection to the Old Testament. Remember God, who hardened Pharoah’s heart and led the ancient Israelites out of Egypt? That was Jesus Christ. Verse 5. The subsequent verses make it clear that whatever our impression of Christ is, he will come to deliver justice to the wicked world. Think Jesus is kind and forgiving? True. Think he’s not gonna step in to clean up this mess we’ve made at the end of it all, in what appear to be rather violent means? Think again. It should surprise no one. Christ is Lord. This passage makes that connection- the sovereignty and power of God, to the name of Jesus.

3. Don’t judge the world. Judge the church. What do I mean? Well, verses 12-23 give the impression that many of these wicked people who will be dealt with by the Lord’s justice will be found among “church folk.” They’ll be good at lying and deception. They’ll be good at appearing noble and honorable and they’ll make the best case they can for why they should be allowed to do whatever it is they want to do. Jude describes it in that day and age as “perverting the grace of our God into sensuality” (v. 4). Sound familiar to anyone? Jude goes on to say that these people are just doing what they were always gonna do. In other words, expect this (verses 17-19). Expect hypocrisy, expect scandal, expect problems, and remember that it’s not of God. A little more scrutiny of ourselves and of the body of Christ might go a long way to bringing others into our faith. You’ve heard it before, I know you have. “Tired of hypocrites, tired of drama…” Verse 19.

4. Don’t be afraid of doubters. Now, I know verse 22 is just six words in my ESV (have mercy on those who doubt) and that it’s nothing more than the first clause of a three-clause sentence, but I want to ask you something. When people express doubts about Christianity, how do you react? Probably with a little bit of bewilderment, especially if they’re friends or family, right? What? You mean you aren’t an unwavering solid unmoving perfect example of faith the way I sometimes try to appear to be?  What would Jude, Christ’s human brother, have to say about that? Have mercy. I was like that once, a doubter I mean.

Next post like this should be on James (Jesus’ other brother), which has a TON more meat to it. Hope you got something out of this little attempt at Biblical discourse ;). Have a nice day, Lord be with ya!!

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