Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Closing Thoughts (Planting Seeds - 19)

Well, my friends, it has certainly been fun sharing these thoughts with you. I hope I’ve at least stimulated you with this small manual to go out there and seek more information. I hope you can see how the gifts God gave, the interests you have, the culture you engage in, and the time and treasures God has blessed you with can all be used in service toward our loving Father, for whom we owe everything. It’s a joy to be able to do His will. It’s an honor that God will use us to tell His message of love and salvation to others who have yet to believe.

Remember to have fun, too. God wants good things for our life. God wants everyone to come to know and believe in Him and share in His warm and loving embrace. It’s just this darn sin that gets in the way in the form of selfishness, stubborn pride, greed, laziness, and the list goes on. While you will have some challenges, no doubt, some trials and setbacks perhaps, you will also experience love, joy, and peace that passes all understanding in knowing, really knowing, you are fulfilling your purpose in this world. Big or small, it all counts in God’s book.

Go at your pace, too. If you are excited and all revved up to go and share your witness – great! Be purpose driven. Just don’t let your drive burn out your purpose. All that means is simply share your witness as you feel called. Don’t think you have to witness to X number of people per day and that if you don’t you are some how failing God. Get started, yes, but don’t torment yourself by setting some unrealistic goal. There are no set numbers of people you need to witness to. Sure, everyone you meet is a potential person to share with but at the same time don’t beat yourself up and become discouraged if you don’t witness to every person you meet. I want to encourage, yes. I want to get you started, yes. But I don’t want to burn you out either. Again, simply go at your own pace.

So go and serve the Lord in joy and gladness, my friends. And I’ll see you at the movies (or a concert, or an art gallery, or get the picture) with Bible in hand and a prayer in my heart.

We started with the Great Commission. That’s where it is for all of us. Our purpose. Our life. Don’t forget. Let’s repeat it again, shall we?

Jesus says to us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this—I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”


Your Utility Belt (Planting Seeds - 18)

Like Batman, you’ll have many pop culture tools in your utility belt to witness to the world. But what are the core, solid, and basic tools you’ll need to “go the distance?” And when you’ve opened the door with a person through engaging them in a current film or piece of music, what are you going to say from there? As I said earlier in this book, I’m not here to give you the words. The Holy Spirit can do that just fine, thank you very much. But I am going to give you a few reminders (and you know I like reminders) of stuff you already know (“Duh,” again) – but lets face it, we all need reminders. The world pulls at us in so many different directions, and you know the Devil is on the prowl to pull us away, distract us, and confound us any time he can, (“Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8) that we need to be reminded and refreshed about how to maintain, keep focused, and...“go the distance.”

So here is your own utility belt of items to keep, practices to do daily, habits to get into. You know these things but ask yourself if you really KNOW them and practice them. Know and practice them so well that they become part of your identity, part of who you are so that you cannot function properly without them.

They are that important.

1) Read the Bible daily
The key word here folks is DAILY. You say, “I know, I know.” You may even have good intentions. My friends, intentions are bunk. Remember our pal Yoda who said, “There is no try. There is only do.” Remember our Nike slogan. “Just do it.” I’m pounding these things over and over because we don’t do it. And we have to. The Bible is a living, breathing, powerful tool. It is God’s word. And that word is alive. It is inerrant. It is God-breathed. It’s not a bunch of feel-good stories or nice words of wisdom to put on a mantel above your fireplace (though it’s okay if you do). Jesus is not just a teacher or prophet or composite of good attributes, or a caricature or a metaphor. The Bible is power. The Bible is truth (not subjective but objective) – the ultimate and only truth because the Bible is God. Words are powerful in and of themselves, yes. But the Word of God is the King Kong of powerful words.

Hear His Word now:

“In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make. Life itself was in him, and this life gives light to everyone. The light shines through the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:1-5

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

“For the word of God is full of living power. It is sharper than the sharpest knife, cutting deep into our innermost thoughts and desires. It exposes us for what we really are.” Hebrews 4:12

As Christians, we need to be constantly growing, reinforcing, remembering, and applying God’s Word in our life and in our witness. It’s so very, very easy to get distracted. I try to set aside time in the evening to read four chapters – one from the Old Testament, one Psalm, one Gospel, and one New Testament. Do I do it all the time, every day? No. But for the most part I do and I continually work toward and pray for the strength to read the Bible daily. Without it, folks, we just drain away, we atrophy, and we forget. We do. But we cannot. Make it a point to work on reading God’s Word daily no matter where you are, no matter what time of day. One chapter or ten, even one verse (but come on, at least set a minimum of one chapter, it’s shorter than your average magazine article) whatever, but do it. And don’t just read it. Study it, absorb it. And, memorize it...

2) Memorize the Bible
That is, memorize verses. You’ve seen throughout this little book all the wonderful verses of encouragement, direction, and strength that I hope you take time to memorize. Spending time not just reading but memorizing will help you in your witness. When you are nervous or seeking just the right thing to say to someone, yes, the Holy Spirit will guide you, but the Word of God will be more effective in your witness when you already know it. The words just flow off your tongue as the Holy Spirit pulls them from the memory cells in your brain and plants them on your tongue. So make sure as you are reading the Bible, you are spending separate time to memorize God’s Words and make them your words.

3) Go to church
I often read about people saying they have God in their life or in their heart but they don’t need church or “organized religion.” Religion has taken on a bad connotation it seems as well as has church and that’s a shame.

The bottom line is you need church. You need fellowship. Church may be a hospital sometimes, but really it’s a gym. You need to power up and refill your battery cells after being in the world for the last week. God dwells in your heart yes, but He really dwells in His church. (“For where two or three gather together because they are mine, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20).

Christ instituted the church on earth when He sent the Holy Spirit to the apostles. Who wouldn’t want the chance to praise, pray, sing, learn, partake in Holy Communion, and dwell with God among your fellow believers? I don’t understand people who say they believe in God but do not “Honor the Sabbath day to keep it holy,” as God commands. Look at how believers acted amongst each other at the church’s formation: “And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had. They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. They worshipped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity – all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.” Acts 2:44-47.

That’s church, baby!

Unity in Christ – Working Together With One Heart & Purpose
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose. Philippians 2:1-2

And don’t be a church hopper. Yes, churches are run by humans and as humans, we sin, we bicker, we sometimes don’t get along. But that doesn’t mean you run away to a new church at the first sign of a struggle or difficulty. Stick with it. You don’t ditch your family for a new one when the going gets tough, do you? (Well, I suppose some do but is that what God calls us to do?) Why would you abandon your church then? Build something at your church – your relationship with your pastor, your fellow church members, your community. Stay with it and attend regularly and God will only continue to grow in your heart as you go out and face the world each day. I think people should be running to their church every Sunday. It’s a welcome reprieve from the day-to-day dealings of the world. And we carry the church with us. That is, we carry what God has implanted with us. We live our life for Christ daily. Remember the mindset – having a total worldview of God first in our life in all things. Church is simply the cherry on top of the sundae. And who doesn’t like Sundays (pun intended)?

So if you don’t have a current church home, find one already! Jesus is our example and He attended church regularly: “When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the scriptures.” (Luke 4:16) What makes you any different then? Remember the cowboy church. Find one that fits for you. You like rock and roll Christian music or traditional hymns? Find one that fits for you. Just don’t get too caught up in the style of your church over the substance of what is preached. Sure, you want to be comfortable, but instead of asking whether the church uses electric guitars in their service, first and foremost you should ask, “Is this church talking to me about the Gospel and the saving message of Jesus Christ?” Because, just like reading the Bible daily, you need to hear that message each and every week. Don’t tell me you know the Christmas story, you know the Lent story, you’ve heard the “Good Samaritan” or the “Prodigal Son” story a billion times. Maybe you’ve heard but have you HEARD it? Do you live it? Is it part of your being or DNA even? Make it so. We are creatures of forgetfulness and distraction and self interest. We need to hear the Gospel message as often as we can, especially if we want to be a witness of it to the world.

If all you are hearing at church are ways for life to be better for YOU, then you are in the wrong church. As Rick Warren said in “Purpose Driven Life,” It’s not about you. If the sermons you hear are all about ways to increase your financial wealth through Christian living or ways to be happier in your life – if all you hear is stuff about you, you, you – get over yourself! That’s not your purpose. Your purpose is, say it with me, serving God through sharing the Good News of salvation in Christ. And lo and behold, when you do that, you find your life is the best it can be – even if by the world’s standards it isn’t. We are not of the world as the saying goes. We are in it. And while we are in it, we need to act in it. We need to act on behalf of our loving Savior, follow His example, who served mankind His whole ministry. That’s our ministry, too. Be we can’t do it without a support group. You’ll find that support in your church.

4) Be prepared for attacks
Let’s face it, as soon as you start putting it out there and start living your purpose by witnessing about Christ, the Devil is going to jump all over you like white on rice. The Devil would rather you stay silent, go to church like a good little Christian, but keep your faith personal – that is, keep it silent, internal, and don’t share it with anyone. Sure, the Devil says, go do your church thing for an hour on Sunday, but then forget about it and get back to your real life. And keep that Jesus stuff to yourself. You have no right to force people to believe what you think. Everyone has the right to believe what they want so keep it to yourself.

Trouble from All Sides
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. 2 Corinthians 4:8

Is that your life right now? It is for so many Christians. And it makes the Devil happy. But now it’s time to shake yourself out of this soul-deadening way of life, take up your armor, and kick some Holy-butt! You know the Devil is prowling around like a lion. You know you’ll have people look at you funny or even with disdain when you start sharing the Good News (that’s one of the reasons why you’re going to be clever about doing it through culture, but NEVER diluting the message either. Never sugar-coating or watering down the message of Christ. All roads do not lead to heaven though many want to believe that. But what some people want and what is real are two different things. Christ loves everyone and makes it so easy to love Him back. He did the hard work and His loving Grace saves us – why people push that message away and treat it as narrow-minded is a mystery to me but never mind. The purpose is still the same. We need to go the distance even when it gets hard), so just expect it and then leave it behind. Christ is there to strengthen and be with you so really what do you have to fear? I know, I know, you still have to actually “talk” to people, and put yourself out there. But it’s okay, really. You are going to do fine. And believe me, once you get going, you’ll dig it and wonder why the heck you haven’t been doing it before.

Remember, the Bible is your ally: “A final word: Be strong in the Lord’s mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11)

When You Suffer For Doing What Is Right
Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t be afraid and don’t worry. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But you must do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak evil against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ. Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God wants, than to suffer for doing wrong! 1 Peter 3:13-17

Yes, there will be some tough times perhaps. Look at what happened to Jesus’ apostles. Even John, who wasn’t killed, was banished to the island of Patmos, yet God still had work for him when He gave John the visions to write the book of Revelation. Christ himself said, “Then you will be arrested, persecuted, and killed. You will be hated all over the world because of your allegiance to me.” (Matthew 24:9) We read in Romans 8:17, “And since we are his children, we will share his treasures—for everything God gives to his Son, Christ, is ours, too. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”

And Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 1:18 & 21 & 25, “I know very well how foolish the message of the cross sounds to those who are on the road to destruction. But we who are being saved recognize this message as the very power of God...Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save all who believe...This foolish plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength.”

So you may get labeled as “narrow-minded,” “naïve,” “simple,” “intolerant,” or “foolish,” as Paul says. Not to sound glib but again, so what? “O God, I praise your word. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?” (Psalm 56:4)

But on the other hand, what will happen to your neighbor if you never say anything? What if God had you in mind to talk to your co-worker and you never did for fear of being labeled “the religion guy?” What will you tell God when He asks what you did with the talents He gave you? Did you bury them or did you put them to work? So don’t worry so much about yourself but instead be concerned with the things of God. Be concerned with sharing His Good News so that ALL might be saved.

By the way, this is another reason to get your butt into church and build a family of fellowship there in one place. The world will get colder and colder as you put on your armor daily to battle the Devil to save souls. You need the love, kindness, and support of a church family to back you up, power you up, and keep you up.

5) Keep Learning
As you start your witness, we’ve talked about keeping it simple. Share the Gospel. John 3:16. And that’s good. Practice your witness, your personal story, in the mirror or with another Christian friend. Write it down. You’re not trying to create a canned-speech here, but in the beginning, it’s good to get your foundation down. You prepare for job interviews. You have cue-cards when giving a presentation at work. Prepare what you want to say and as time goes on, you’ll add to your witness and be speaking off the top of your head with the Holy Spirit there priming the pump all of the time.

As you read the Bible, read other books on faith, the history of Christianity, witnessing, and of course all those great books on finding God with pop culture that I mentioned in the last chapter. The point is to keep growing in wisdom and knowledge. I think everyone should have a basic course in apologetics (that is, the ability to make an intelligent argument for the truth of Christianity and Jesus Christ as our savior). This ties in with having a “worldview” of your beliefs which permeates everything you do and not simply keeping your faith in a box on Sunday that you keep separate from the rest of your life. People like to complicate things and as we just read in 1 Corinthians, they look at Christianity as simple-minded and foolish, an out-dated belief system that worked in days of superstition but doesn’t work in today’s enlightened, science-driven, post-modern society. The message of the church and the invitation to Christ’s grace will always be easy and open to those who believe it. As Christians, God calls us to keep growing in our knowledge of Him, as He speaks to us in Hebrews 5:12 – 6:3:

“You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. And a person who is living on milk isn’t very far along in the Christian life and doesn’t know much about doing what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right. So let us stop going over the basics of Christianity again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely, we don’t need to start all over again with the importance of turning away from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.”

Amen. And don’t call me, Shirley. :-)

6) And last but not least: Prayer
In the movies you often hear the over-used line during some moment of crisis: “All we can do now is pray.” I saved prayer for the last in this list not because it’s the last thing you should do – no, it’s the first thing. I saved it till now because it’s the most important thing you can do. Again I hear you saying, “I know, I know.” But, like reading the Bible daily, I have to ask, “Do you?”

Prayer is the best maintenance tool you have on your utility belt to call on God for strength, wisdom, endurance, joy, you name it. As you live your life, as you give your witness, pray unceasingly. I mean it. Get a little chant going in your head throughout the day. You know the Jesus Prayer? It goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” It’s a tradition for the Greek Orthodox church and what a great tradition. Start saying this little prayer throughout the day and soon it will be running through your head on auto-play.

Jesus Prays for Us
I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They are not part of this world any more than I am. Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth. As you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. John 17:15-18

The point is to call upon God, always. He is our strength, our wisdom, our source for everything, especially for being an effective witness. Here’s some good advice from God as He spoke through the apostle Paul: “Always be joyful. Keep on praying. No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. And Jesus said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Matthew 21:22. How powerful is that, huh? And, this: “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” (Colossians 4:2).

Just go back to step one – Read the Bible, and combined with prayer, you have a powerful combination. Top it off with the strength and support of fellowship through your family church and your continued drive to learn more – God will certainly bless your efforts.

Go the Distance (Planting Seeds - 17)

Maintenance Mode
In the movie, “Field of Dreams,” Kevin Costner keeps hearing a voice in his cornfield. And though he doesn’t really understand it, something in him trusts that voice and he ends up plowing most of his cornfield under to build a baseball diamond, at the risk of losing his home and alienating himself and his family from the neighborhood. Partway through the film, after having listened to the voice though it’s been hard, he hears the voice now say, “Go the distance.”

Ripe for the Pickin’
These were his [Jesus’] instructions to them: “The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. Pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest, and ask him to send out more workers for his fields. Luke 10:2

That is just what you need to do. You might be excited to try and engage the world with your witness using the tools of the pop culture that surround us and that’s all good. You’ll probably hits some snags, maybe get discouraged, maybe embarrassed or frustrated. On the other end, you’ll experience the power of Christ working through you and see how coming at your witness from the side instead of directly head-on actually works, and makes the person you’re talking to comfortable and at ease enough to open up with you over time. You may plant seeds and never see them flower, but flower they do through the power of the Holy Spirit. The point is, no matter what happens, don’t give up, don’t get lazy, don’t get distracted, don’t stop.

Go the distance.

Don’t Get Discouraged
So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time. Galatians 6:9

If you stayed with me so far (thank you, first of all) I want to make sure we are crystal clear about something. Obviously, I have a love of film, music, art, literature and other aspects of the culture we live in today. Like most people, I have an appreciation for beauty, for fun, for entertainment and enjoyment. But make no mistake. The goal of planting seeds is NOT to create a justification for spending all your time engaging in a life of leisure and entertainment. There is a time and a place for everything. God expects us to have time to rest, to take enjoyment from the things mankind creates, and to bask in the beauty of the world He created. (“And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.” Then follows the next verse. “And I know that whatever God does is final. Nothing can be added to it or taken from it. God’s purpose in this is that people should fear [respect, stand in awe of] him.” Ecclesiastes 3:13-14) But our purpose, our calling, the first thing we should always be doing is looking for ways to serve our generous and loving Lord by sharing the Good News. Because that is, after all, where we find our true joy.

This is not a blog about putting movies and books and arts and music above God. These are merely tools God has given us to use in our utility belt to witness to the world. We take those metaphors, myths, and messages found in the culture of film, music, art, etc. and direct them towards a new life in Christ from the existing life in the world. I know you get that but sometimes it’s good to put things plainly, in black and white, ink on the page (or bytes on web), you know, so that we’re all on the same page.

Go ahead, you can tell me, “Duh, dude,” if you want.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Yet a Few More Seed Planting Examples (16)

Digging Up the Past and Finding Jesus

You’ve probably at least heard some news every now and then about an artifact being found that supports a section of the Bible. The Shroud of Turin; the ossuary of James, the brother of Jesus, and the inscription on the side, which reads “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus;” Noah’s Ark; the real Mt. Sinai – all of this and more has been discovered and discussed for their authenticity, plus a whole lot more. Biblical archeology is a field for many, experts and novices, which allows for some great conversations and debates as faith and science again mix together. The Biblical Archaeology Society publishes several magazines, including “Biblical Archaeology Review,” ( for those who are fascinated with finding God through the past.

Some lighter reading on Biblical archaeology can be found in the books of Bruce Feiler, such as, “Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses,” and “Where God Was Born : A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion.”

I dig this stuff.

Thoughts to Inspire and Ponder

“Serve God in the Miraculous and the Mundane.”

“We are called to fulfill the Great Commission and the Cultural Commission. If Christians don’t act to engage in culture soon there will be no culture left worth engaging.”

“If you can’t take people to God, take God to the people.”

“Worrying is simply praying to yourself.”

“Few things are as encouraging as the realization that things can be different and that we have a role in making them so.”

Educating Christians (and Non-Christians)

The “Bible Literary Project” (BLP) is an interesting idea. The Bible Literacy Project, Inc. is a non-partisan, non-profit endeavor to encourage and facilitate the academic study of the Bible in public schools. The basic idea is to offer a textbook in schools so that children can study the Bible as literature. Because the Bible is quoted or referenced in so much of the literature that children study in school such as “Hamlet,” “Great Expectations,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” the scholars behind this textbook feel that children should have a better understanding of the Bible – the characters, stories, historical information, style of writing, etc. They’ve created a textbook called, “The Bible and Its Influence,” and are working hard to put the book into high school literature and English classes. Their intention is not to present the book as a hidden form of witnessing, but simply to make kids aware of what is inside probably the most known book ever written.

I think it’s a great idea – making teenagers aware of the great literature captured within the Bible. And who knows where the Holy Spirit can take it from there? Read more about this project on:

Bibles, Bibles, and More Bibles

If you haven’t taken a look lately, there are all kinds of really great versions of the Bible that focus on different types of people, lifestyles, and study patterns. For example, there’s a “Policeman’s Bible,” an “Adventure Bible,” a “Super Heroes Bible,” and a “Chicken Soup for the Soul Bible.”

But wait, there’s more! Life Application Bibles, Read-the-Bible-in-a-year Bibles, children’s Bibles, Teen Bibles, you get the picture. Maybe there’s one for the person you are trying to witness to – make a nice Christmas gift, huh?

Gaming for Christians

I’ve seen some of the Christian video games out on the market and most wouldn’t hold the attention of a kid used to the Kabooey-POW-Kablam factor found on most of the popular X-Box and PlayStation games. But there’s at least one company out there (and I know there are more) called Crave Entertainment that has a few games worthy of holding the interest of the fast-food generation, and maybe planting a few seeds along the way.

Crave’s “The Bible Game” is an interactive adventure that combines action and quiz challenges for “players of all ages” though it really targets a bit more toward the younger ages. It has some good music by contemporary Christian artists and is a nice way to introduce kids to the Bible. Check it out on “”

Checklist & Summary

What you’ve just read is only a small sample, the tip of the iceberg as the saying goes, of seed planters out there using their talents and interests to reach people with the Gospel message. I hope this little sample has given you some ideas and inspiration. Now it’s your turn. The first thing to do is simply, do something first.

1) Keep it simple. Ask questions. Be available. Be aware of opportunities.

2) Put God first in your life, that is, in fulfilling your purpose in life. And what is it? (pop quiz again) – Tell others about the Good News of salvation in Christ.

3) Keep learning and growing as a seed planter. Read books. Talk to others. Go outside your comfort zone and see where God takes you. It’s bound to be exciting.

4) Be open to inspiration as you see how others are being seed planters.

5) Start today!

More Examples on Planting Seeds (15)

Unleash the Inner Prayer Warrior and Christian Barbarian

We spoke in chapter one a little bit on the fear you might have in attempting to witness for Christ, whether to strangers or even people you know. Here are a few books to help empower you on your way to becoming the Über-Witness that you really are inside.

“Waking the Dead,” by John Eldredge.

“Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity,” by Nancy Pearcey.

“The Barbarian Way: Unleash the Untamed Faith Within,” by Erwin Raphael McManus.

“The Holy Wild: Trusting in the Character of God,” by Mark Buchanan

“The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think like Jesus,” by Brennan Manning.

It’s All on the Web

“CultureWatch” - Another interesting website that brings culture and faith together is which is about “Equipping the Culturally Savvy Christian through insight, quotes, and articles from the intersection of faith and culture.” The site provides commentary on faith and culture covering movies, music, books, and contemporary issues.

A great website, basically a blog, is which contains the collected writing of Andy Crouch who explores the ways that culture shapes faith, and the ways followers of Christ respond to culture. Worth a visit or two...or three...

Mars Hill Media is a non-profit media ministry whose goal is to “stir up cities with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through thought provoking, impactful media messages.” They are tuned in to using today’s culture and media sources to get their message out. And they offer some free resources, including an online version of their pamphlet, “Good News for the Religiously Tired,” (you can also purchase a hard copy). Go to:

The last I checked, there were over a thousand Christian weblogs (source: and that number will undoubtedly be bigger when you check. Remember we talked about those who like to share their faith through writing? Well here’s a way get going immediately (if not sooner!). You can create you own blog for free and there are templates to chose from so you don’t need any design skills to create and format your blog. Just the will to do it and tenacity to keep it up. Go to it, writers for God!

Nothing but the News
For those news junkies out there who like to talk about current events, you might want to check out the “Religious News Service,” which bills itself as “the only secular news and photo service devoted to unbiased coverage of religion and ethics – exclusively.” Find them at

Top Film Lists publishes a list of “Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films.” You’ll find many films listed there to stimulate your faith and get you thinking.

Writing Out Your Faith
“I was a Christian before I started writing,” said Bret Lott, author of many novels, including “Jewel.” So he’s a writer who is a Christian, not a Christian writer. His goal in writing is to teach and evangelize through fiction but his work in not preachy. (Source: “A Jewel of a Writer,” by Lauren F. Winner, published in “Christianity Today,” June, 2005)

Christian film critic, Matthew Kinne, loves movies so much that he wrote a devotional book, “Reflections for Movie Lovers,” which includes 365 musings on the power of cinema from a spiritual perspective.

Though we’ve already mentioned Stephen King, there are a few other works of his that bear mentioning. King has said, “While I believe in God, I have no use for organized religion.” Be that as it may (who knows how God may be working through people – Christian or non-Christian? He does, though. We know that from the Bible.) Stephen King has certainly featured God directly or indirectly in much of his work, offering you a wealth of material to draw from in those discussions with the fans of scary novels/movies (or not-so-scary, as it turns out, too). Here are a few to explore if you haven’t read/seen them already:

“The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon” (book)

“The Green Mile” (serial book and movie)

“Dreamcatcher” (book only, forget the movie)

“Desperation” (book)

Christian Fiction (Yes, It’s out there and doin’ fine, thanks)
“Struck by Lightning,” by ME. Yep, Mike Curley. Okay, another shameless plug, but it’s a pretty decent little Christian supernatural-horror type book so if that’s your thing, give it a spin and let me know what you think. Be kind, though.

Like a good mystery? Ted Dekker has written several suspense novels with Christian themes woven throughout his stories. “Red, Black, White,” and “When Heaven Weeps” are just two you might want to check out.

“Shadowmancer,” by G.P. Taylor. More darkness and evil stuff in this fantasy novel. Also, “Wormwood.”

“This Present Darkness,” a classic by Frank E. Peretti. Check out his other novels, too, like “The Visitation.”

“Girl Meets God,” by Lauren F. Winner – a year in the life of a young Christian woman’s life whose father is Jewish and whose mother is a lapsed Baptist. See, I’m not all about the evil, spooky stuff.

“Dinner with a Perfect Stranger,” by David Gregory, about a guy who gets an invitation to dinner with Jesus and gets to ask all the questions one might want to ask our Lord and Savior.

“Comes a Horseman,” by Robert Liparulo. “Christianity Today” sums up this spiritual thriller with: “Take ‘The DaVinci Code,’ throw in a dash of ‘Left Behind,’ pair it with the intrigue of a Tom Clancy thriller, and you’ve got this chilling debut novel.”

"Christ the Lord," and "Road to Cana," by Anne Rice. Yes, Anne Rice, the writer of all those vampire novels, has written a compelling fiction of Christ’s life as a young boy. The story of Ms. Rice is also compelling – her journey to re-discover and re-confirm her faith is worth reading about and is certainly a great example to share in your witnessing for someone who is struggling in their own journey. Think of the many fans of her vampire tales who don’t have Christ in their life. What a wonderful chance to share the Gospel through this novel.

Again, there’s more Christian fiction out there than you can shake a stick at (but why would you anyway and why do you have a stick?) so give these a taste for that whetted appetite then go for seconds, and thirds, and...

John Eldredge – The Message in the Movie (14)

If you ever get a chance to attend one of John Eldredge’s seminars or workshops, I highly recommend it. He’s written several books you might want to explore, some of them listed elsewhere in this book. Probably a good place to start is his website:

The reason I like this guy so much is that he’s very down-to-earth and easy going. He’s a blue jeans kind of dude that just loves Jesus and wants to share, to heal, to help. And he was one of the first people I saw who integrated a lot of popular culture to help illustrate a spiritual point – both in his books and seminars. He’s big on the idea that we are all in an epic adventure in life, so movies like “Braveheart” (what a great Christ figure character), “Lord of the Rings,” “Last of the Mohicans,” are movies he often pulls from. I could go into each of his books and tell you what I liked or responded to but instead I’ll just say, check his stuff out. I’m sure there’s something you’ll respond to there, but he is well worth the journey of exploration. Here’s just a taste of what he’s about from his book, “Epic.”

“Christianity, in its true form, tells us that there is an Author and that he is good, the essence of all that is good and beautiful and true, for he is the source of all those things. It tells us that he has set our hearts’ longings within us, for he has made us to live in an Epic. It warns that the truth is always in danger of being twisted and corrupted and stolen from us because there is a villain in the story who hates our hearts and wants to destroy us. It calls us up into a Story that is truer and deeper than any other, and assures us that there we will find the meaning of our lives.”

You’ve got your own part of the “Story” to tell, too. Whether a page, or a chapter, or your own volume – Part One, and it’s all important in God’s eyes.

Play your part.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Inspiration, Resources, Examples, and Ideas (13) - Making Music, Career Paths, & More

Making Music
Bono - Evangelist
Bono, the lead singer for U2, has much to say about his faith that’s worth reading if you’re looking for examples of popular musicians who aren’t afraid to share their belief. In the book, “Bono: In Conversation with Michka Assayas,” by Michka Assayas, Bono has this to say about Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sins: “I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled... It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.”

If music is your passion, and your friends as well, it couldn’t hurt to start a conversation about your faith using one of the biggest bands in rock n’ roll history as an example. Wouldn’t hurt at all.

Rock Opera!
You may have heard of (or seen) the musical “Godspell” and for sure have at least heard of “Jesus Christ: Superstar,” but there’s another rock musical that tells the Gospel story with a mix of hard rock, hip-hop, pop, along with a full-on multi-media blast called, “!Hero.” I haven’t seen it but I like the idea of it to reach the MTV generations out there. I’ve read some good reviews, mixed reviews, and there’s a double-CD of the musical you might want to check out as part of your musical witness. The rock opera was written by Christian music veterans Eddie DeGarmo and Bob Farrell. Their idea was to be seed planters by witnessing to the youth raised on music videos, computer games, and changing musical styles through a musical presentation of Jesus in a modern-day New York City where Christianity never existed and by playing out a Gospel message.

I say, rock on!

Your Career Path
Struggling with what career direction you should take? Try a Jesus Job. Looking at the life of Jesus, what types of jobs do you think He’d be suited to in our day? How about:
· Teacher
· Preacher
· Healer (Doctor)
· Professional speaker
· Public relations
· Sales person

I always thought Jesus would be the best sales person ever because He is honest, compelling, loves talking, sharing, and helping other people, is outgoing and personable, highly motivated, and truly believes what He is saying. I bring this up to you if you are the kind of person who is shy and uncertain, or even intimidated about how to share your faith – which is what this whole book is about. Try a career direction that challenges you, perhaps even frightens you, but you feel compelled to do (just as you do in wanting to share your faith). As they say, practice makes perfect and the more you get out there in front of people – in front of strangers – the more comfortable you’ll be, which in turn, will make you more effective and self-assured in sharing your faith.

That, and the commissions aren’t bad, either.

Combining Interests, Passions, and Faith

Motorcycling for Jesus!
Ever see groups of motorcyclists go by on the freeway? I read about this one group of Christian motorcyclists who have their group motto boldly displayed on the back of their jackets, “Born to Die.”

Christians in leather jackets – kinda cool.

Skateboading for Jesus!
Luis Palau is known for putting on these massive festivals that include cool Christian bands, skateboarders, and BMX bike riders – all in the name of spreading the Gospel to the younger generation. Sounds pretty cool.

Go to his website: for more information.

One of the dudes I read about that performs at these festivals is a guy by the name of Paul Anderson, who runs the Skate Church in Portland, Oregon. He is a neo-preacher with a groovy haircut who shreds on his skateboard and then tells the crowd of youngsters in attendance: "The Bible says that if you sin, you will die."

Whoa. Preach it, brother!

Boating for Jesus!
Another article I read spoke of a pastor who noticed more and more of his congregation taking Sunday off to go out on the local lake for some boating. So instead of being frustrated or upset about it, he decided to take Jesus to them out on the lake. Now he goes out on his own boat Sunday mornings and the congregation anchors themselves out on the lake in front of the pastor as he gives his sermon. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. The Word shall be heard!

Cowboys for Jesus
Ever hear of a Cowboy Church? There are a bunch out there, from Nashville to Texas and many other states, plus Mexico and Canada. The basic idea is to create a relaxed, western culture style church where the folks can wear coveralls and muddy boots if they want, and enjoy country and gospel music instead of hymns – creating a place to hear the Word of God but in an atmosphere for those not comfortable with the style of a traditional church. Instead of a pew, you might sit on a bale of hay. You’ll also see church services at rodeos, horse shows, and other western events through traveling rodeo ministries.

Bringing the saving message of Christ is the goal – whether sitting in a pew or sitting on a wool blanket covering the dirt floor of a barn, they are planting seeds – country style. Yee-haw!

The “Word” In Art
From Michelangelo to icons to animated films like “The Prince of Egypt,” art can express our faith in one image as opposed to a thousand words, just as a picture is worth a thousand words, as the saying goes. Going to a museum full of religious art from the medieval times might be a great way to explore faith with a fellow art lover.

For those with the artistic talent, here are just a couple of examples, past and present, of people using their skills to share their faith:

Drawing for Jesus!
Pixar artist Matthew Luhn has helped create many of Hollywood’s big-ticket animated flicks (such as “Finding Nemo,” “Toy Story 1 & 2”, and “Monsters, Inc.”), but he’s also interested in creating Christ-centered messages through his work. When he is on a project, Luhn tries to help craft good, entertaining stories that are consistent in theme to his Christian faith. (Source: “Drawing the Big Picture” by Frederica Mathewes-Green in “Christian Reader,” July/August 2003, Vol. 41, No. 4).

Lucas Cranach, 1472-1553
Lucas Cranach was one of the most important artists of his day as well as being a good friend of Martin Luther, even painting several portraits of the man. While his art was not exclusively religious, he represents a great example of a man who applied his faith within his career, impacting the culture with his Christian worldview captured on canvas. A fine example of Cranachs art is his “Rest on the Flight into Egypt” (housed at the Staatliche Museum in Berlin), which shows the Holy Family resting in the glade of a German pine forest.

Some Books You Might Want to Check Out

Revisiting Harry Potter
A lot has been written concerning the Harry Potter series about magic and occult, etc., etc., yada, yada. Fact is, the Harry Potter series can be used as an excellent source to bring in a conversation about your faith.

In an excellent article on “Christianity Today’s” website, the subject is brought up and opened up:

On magic, the article says, “In explaining his beloved “Chronicles of Narnia,” and in reference to Merlin in his sci-fi novel, “That Hideous Strength,” C. S. Lewis differentiates between two kinds of magic. Invocational magic is the dangerous kind that's warned about in the Bible, calling upon dark forces and ancient spirits to serve our selfish desires. Incantational magic, by contrast, is about harmonizing with the will of our creator—and that's the sort of spells we find in the works of Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein, two of Rowling's favorite authors.”

On good and evil (one on my favorite subjects in the horror genre as you know), the article says, “One of the greatest strengths of the Potter series is its treatment of right and wrong. Rowling loves playing with duality in the characters, showing that we're all capable of good or evil, yet always clearly distinguishing the two. Things aren't always as they seem in Harry Potter, but we're always clear on right and wrong... Throughout the series, Rowling uses her heroes to champion the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And conversely, evil is characterized by common sins like pride, wrath, and selfishness—all things that Harry faces and learns to overcome.”

(Source: “Redeeming Harry Potter” by Russ Breimeier posted on on 11/15/05).

And of course, there is much in the Potter series concerning the idea of sacrificial love—the quality that Christ exemplifies perfectly. So take another look at the Potter series. Don’t let the story context of witches and wizards keep you from a hugely popular book series that both children and adults love to talk about. Just remember to talk about it in terms of your Christian faith. Read the rest of the Potter article by searching on “Christianity Today” using the story headline.

(Another resource to explore on this subject is the book, “Looking for God in Harry Potter,” by John Granger).

Magazine Subscriptions
Okay, so this isn’t a book but it’s a magazine about books – and culture. Check out “Books & Culture: A Christian Review.” You can get a free issue to try it out so what are you waiting for? And don’t forget to renew your subscription to the excellent magazine, “Christianity Today.”

Heavier Reading
For those who really want to dig into the meat and potatoes of how Christianity and culture can both clash and complement, here is a list of books (some are textbooks but there are no tests or finals at the end so don’t be afraid to check them out) to explore:

“Selling God: American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture,” by R. Laurence Moore.

“Material Christianity : Religion and Popular Culture in America,” by Colleen McDannell.

“Christ & Culture,” by H. Richard Niebuhr.

“The Christian in Today’s Culture,” by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey.

“The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live Our Faith,” by Alan Wolfe. While we want to use and tap into the popular culture that surrounds us in an effort to reach out to people with our faith, we need to be careful to not let that same culture transform our faith. In this book, Wolfe makes an argument that in the United States, “culture has transformed Christ, as well as all other religions found within these shores. In every aspect of the religious life, American faith has met American culture—and the American culture has triumphed.” Another observation of Wolfe is that Americans tend to withdraw from bearing witness to their faith if doing so might “make them seem unfriendly or invasive.” It’s an interesting and eye-opening read whether you agree with his analysis or not.

“Pop Culture Wars: Religion & the Role of Entertainment in American Life,” by William D. Romanowski.

Of course there are a lot more out there, but this will get you started on your way to expanding your brain cells. It’s good exercise. Take two chapters a day and call me in the morning.

Lighter Reading
Okay, you’ve done the textbook and heavy theory reading. Or not. Here are a few lighter titles that also dig into chunks of pop culture and turn it over for your inspection. Check ‘em out, yo.

“Taking the Red Pill: Science, Philosophy and Religion in The Matrix,” by Glenn Yeffeth (Editor), David Gerrold (Introduction). There are a bunch of books out on “The Matrix” and faith. Check ‘em all out if you’re a Matrix nut but this one is good if you just want one.

“Everyday Apocalypse: The Sacred Revealed in RadioHead, The Simpsons, and Other Pop Culture Icons,” by David Dark.

“The Gospel According to The Simpsons,” by Mark I. Pinsky. There are many “The Gospel According to...” books out there if you want to check them out, but I was always partial to Bart and Homer. Doh!

“Behind the Screen,” edited by Spencer Lewerenz and Barbara Nicolosi presents a look at the film and television industry through the eyes of Christian writers, producers, and executives.

“Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture,” by William D. Romanowski. You can also download a wonderful study guide for free on the publisher’s website that goes through discussion points on each chapter of the book. Did I mention it is free? This is a great book for those who really want to get into the use of film in their witness. From the study guide: “Eyes Wide Open is a call for Christians to become more involved in God's good but fallen world as Christians, seeing with the eyes of your heart (Eph. 1:18), that is, from the perspective of faith.” (page 2)

In an interview by “Christianity Today,” Romanowski comments on four central features of the Christian cultural landscape in his book: “One, God is at work in the world; an invisible realm exists. Two, believing people inhabit this landscape, and faith is integral to all of life. Three, human sin is real, and evil exists. Four, God offers forgiveness and the possibility of redemption. These are the basic ways Christians look at the world, and any in film in which they are embodied, I’d say, is undergirded by a basic Christian worldview.” (Source: “The World Behind the Movie,” “Christianity Today,” February 5, 2001)

Inspiration, Resources, Examples, and Ideas (12) - Getting Down to Business

Business Idea: Create a T-Shirt company
I always thought putting messages on T-shirts would be a great way to get people to come up to you rather than you going up to them. Once they read some crazy saying on your T-shirt and ask you, “What the heck does that mean?”, then there’s your open door. I’m too busy writing to start my own T-shirt company so feel free to use any of the following sayings to make your own shirts:
· Saint & Sinner
· Want to Join the Acts 1:8 Club?
· Truth + Love = Jesus
· Epaphroditus In Training (See Philippians 2)
· God is Not a Salad Bar (my favorite)
· Spirituality without God = Self Indulgence
· Don’t Be a Sardis (See Revelation 3)
· Look Straight Ahead (See Proverbs 4:23-27 on guarding your heart and concentrating on desires that keep us on the right path)
· Jesus Wept
· #1 Sinner -or- Chief of Sinners
· Jesus was Homeless
· Nothing New Under the Sun (See Ecclesiastes)
· Hope Now...Heaven Later
· Letting My Light Shine (bright yellow shirt)
· A Time for Everything (See Ecclesiastes)
· If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done. Eccl. 11:4
· Ask not how Jesus can serve you. Ask how you can serve Jesus.
· We may throw the dice, but the Lord determines how they fallProv. 16:33
· We All Believe In Something
· Be the one! Luke 17:11-19 (This is in reference to the ten lepers whom Jesus healed but only one came back to thank Jesus. Be thankful!)
· Not in Charge

Okay, so if you’re going to do something like this, be bold. Pick bright, vibrant colors for your shirts like canary yellow and lime green and use solid, block letters in bright colors too. Just make sure your eyes don’t hurt when you look at the shirt. And if you are not sure what those slogans above really mean and want an explanation for any of them, good! The idea is to get people talking and we might as well start with you. Think about them, though, and make your explanation your own.

A Merger Between Business and Faith – Books to Explore
“Jesus, CEO,” by Laurie Beth Jones and others in her series talk about applying the teachings of Christ in your work (and in your life).

“God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life,” by Gene Edward Veith, Jr., goes beyond just work and addresses the Christian’s total calling: in family life, church, citizenship, and vocation.

“Great Commission Companies: The Emerging Role of Business in Missions,” by Steve L. Rundle and Tom A. Steffon.

The Facts on Witnessing at Work
Can Christians get busted for witnessing at work? There are certain guidelines for you seed planters out there gearing up to share your faith with your co-workers. Go for it, but take a look at this article by David C. Gibbs, Jr., President of The Christian Law Association, for some tips on what to be aware of concerning, “The Legal Implications of Witnessing at Work,” (Source – “Christianity Today,” October 29, 2004).

Go to “Christianity Today’s” website (or and do a search for that title to find the article or try the following URL:

Combining Your Business with God’s Business
Do you own your own business? What might be some ways to integrate your faith and let your light shine while serving both the business needs and spiritual needs of your customers? Many businesses proudly display the “fish” symbol for Christ in their signage, business cards, and other forms of identity.

In one business, the owner takes their outreach a step further and offers prayer along with a cup of coffee. The “Chit-n-Chat Coffee House” in Waukee, Iowa often receives prayer requests from their customers as they place a coffee order. Kate Boettcher looks at her coffee house as “a way to bring Christ to our customers without being preachy.” She has a Bible verse-of-the-day on the chalkboard for people to ask questions about, and, through word-of-mouth only, has become a place known for good coffee, friendly people, and an offer of prayer for those who want it.

Turns out, many people do.

(Source: “Would You Like Prayer with that Latte?” in “Today’s Christian Woman,” March/April 2004, Vol. 26, No. 2, by Jared VanHorn.) Read the full article at:

Changing the World, One Cup at a Time
Here’s a great idea – create a business whose purpose is not to make money for itself, but whose sole purpose is to use its profits to fund charitable projects.

That’s just what founders John Sage and Chris Dearnley did. As it says on their website: “Believing that the principles of capitalism could be applied to the non-profit sector, they developed Pura Vida Coffee as a "funding engine" to support the charitable programs of Pura Vida Partners, a non-profit organization. Pura Vida Coffee sells Fair Trade, organic coffee throughout the United States and uses all of its resources for charitable purposes. Through this model, our co-founders sought to bring hope to at-risk children in Costa Rica – where Pura Vida’s charitable activity began – and to inspire a new generation of consumers and business leaders who believe that capitalism can be used as an engine for social good.”

If only more businesses operated on that principle. If you like coffee, and I know a lot of you Starbucks junkies out there do – check out the Pura Vida website and even buy a few bags of coffee. They support “fair trade” coffee so that you know the coffee growers are getting a fair price for their coffee beans and you’ll also be supporting the Pura Vida efforts to help the children of Costa Rica while enjoying some darn good coffee. Read the rest of the mission and goals at:

Inspiration, Resources, Examples, and Ideas (11) - What's on TV?

A Charlie Brown Christmas
Probably one of the best seed planting TV specials ever is one I’m sure you’ve seen many times, and have shown to your children many times. Remember when Charlie Brown asks if there was anyone out there who could tell him the true meaning of Christmas? And then Linus walks up casually and says, “Sure,” and proceeds to quote from the Gospel of Luke the entire birth of Christ. And then they end with singing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” Wow. What a message. And at such a good time in your life to hear it – as a child. This is a message many hear at a young age and remember all their life. Charles M. Shultz was a Christian and often you’ll see references to Bible verses in the Peanuts® columns he wrote.

What a tremendous seed planter.

Televised Missionaries
Combining “reality” television with a drive (literally) to do missionary work, two young Christians, Tim Scott and Will Decker, came up with an idea to record their adventures in missionary work as they traveled through the continents and countries of the world, and then present them back to the world in the form a reality TV/documentary style show.

Showing on Trinity Broadcasting Network and available on DVD, “Travel the Road” is an ongoing series of 30-minute episodes. Their purpose? To provide a “unique look into the world of frontline mission work” – sharing the gospel with the world – “from the deserts of Ethiopia to the island villages of Papua New Guinea they travel from country to country with one backpack, a change of clothes, and a message of hope that pushes them deeper into the unknown.”

What a great idea. There are many opportunities to go on short-term mission trips for a week or two. Even in such a short period of time God can use you in many wonderful ways to bring the Gospel to others – and it always ends up that you’ll probably get more out of the experience as a blessing than you give. These two missionary adventurers have taken the idea of mission and really ran with it – why not you, too?

Or at least bring some friends over tonight to watch a few episodes on DVD and talk about it afterward. For more information, visit their website at

Inspiration, Resources, Examples, and Ideas (10) - More Movie Messages

Movie: Constantine
Okay, I know there’s a lot wrong with the movie from a Christian standpoint. I mean, who calls the chapters of the Bible acts? But there’s a lot there to unravel, and it’s a great film to start a conversation about what God is really like. Check out the angel Gabriel’s speech to Constantine where he/she talks about having faith. Not a bad opener to use when talking about this film in terms of your witness. Redemption is a big theme in this movie.

(Side note: In the world of TV, the series “Angel” (spin-off of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) about a vampire whose soul has been returned to him and now his life is one focused on seeking redemption for his past vampiric-sins, is a worthy show to pursue concerning this topic, too. All five seasons are available on DVD.)

The Power of Film
Still not sure whether film can be a powerful tool as a witness? In India, several Christian organizations have shown the movies “Dayasagar (Ocean of Mercy),” an Indian-produced film about Jesus, and the “Jesus” film. According to one of the organizations, Dayspring, 19 million Indians have seen “Dayasagar” since 1979 and 7 million have made public Christian commitments. This fact was recorded in 2003 so just think how many more might have been led to Christ since then. Yes, film is a powerful tool for witnessing. (Source: “Christianity Today,” December 2003).

Movie: The Exorcism of Emily Rose
This film presents two sides of a court case over the death of a young woman, Emily Rose, during the course of an exorcism. One side gives all the medical and psychological facts as to the behavior of the girl, all logically laid out, in an attempt to make the priest involved with the exorcism guilty of directly contributing to her death. The defense points to the spiritual side in what is shown as a true demonic possession and the attempts of the priest to exorcise her.

This film did pretty well at the box office and presents an interesting format for a discussion on faith vs. science in a courtroom setting. The attempt of the director, Scott Derrickson, was to get people thinking about God, to consider that a spiritual realm does exist, and use the horror genre to connect Christianity with mainstream culture. (Source: “Devil in the Details,” “Christianity Today,” November 2005)

The Passion of The Passion
Much has been written about Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ,” so I’m not going to say much, except that it is an excellent film and truly shows us Christ’s humanity like no other film. But how successful was it as an evangelist tool? How passionate were people to get the Word out? If you go back and read the reports, some churches talk about several conversions while others say maybe a few. And that’s fine, right? It’s not a numbers game. The film provides a foot in the door for an open discussion about Jesus Christ – who He is and what He stands for – and will always remain a great outreach tool as well as a resource for Christians to reaffirm and deepen their faith by experiencing Christ’s sacrifice on the cross in a real and visceral way.

Maybe it’s time for you to revisit this film again – for yourself and for others.

If you’re really interested in using this film as an outreach tool, many resources exist online. Here are a few:
And, of course, “Christianity Today” offers many resources at:

Movie Articles That Are Moving
I know, I talk so much about how I like “Christianity Today” that you might think I have stock in the company. Of course, it would have to be a public company for me to have stock, but that’s beside the point. The point is, there’s a ton of good information on their website. Like W. David O. Taylor’s four-part series on “What Is a Good Christian Movie, Anyway?” Check it out at:

Another great series provides a commentary discussing the question of how explicit, in themes related to faith, should a Christian film be? Subtle or hit-you-over-the head? The first of a four-part series can be found at:
The other three parts can be found once you go to the website link.

I’ve referenced this article earlier but it bears mentioning again in case you missed it. Can horror movies and Christians co-exist together? Sure they can. At the core of every horror film (pretty much every one, that is) is the theme of good vs. evil. Take that theme and run with it in many directions in your Christian discussions involving film and faith. For a more in-depth discussion, check out “The Horrors!” by W. David O. Taylor at: Also read the interview with the director of “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” Scott Derrickson, who believes that horror movies are a great way to address issues of faith. Check it out at:

Myth, Faith, and Spirituality in the “Star Wars” Saga
Like “The Matrix,” much has been written on the spirituality of “Star Wars.” The themes of good vs. evil with good triumphing as well as redemption are at the heart of these films but there’s a lot more to unpack, too (including nods towards Hinduism in the films). If you’re a “Star Wars” junkie, you’ll find much on the web, but here are a couple of book resources to get you started:

“Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters,” by Dick Staub

“Catching Light: Looking for God in the Movies,” by Roy M. Anker, which includes analysis of many other films, too. (You can also find an adapted series of the “Star Wars” chapter from Anker’s book on “Christianity Today’s” website at:

Movie: Kingdom of Heaven
Here is an interesting film by Ridley Scott that takes place between the time of the Crusades, culminating in a battle between Christian and Muslim sides. The film presents some interesting discussion points – the differences and relationship between God’s will and humanity by using the idea of “God’s will” for humanity’s own purposes – how do we know which is which? Have you ever had a crisis of faith, doubted God’s existence, or wondered if you are really doing God’s will? Probably most of us have. This is a film you can use to start a discussion on a topic that every person who struggles with what they believe has had at some point: doubt. And where do you go from there?

That’s where you come in with the message of Christ’s love and assurance. We don’t have to always have all the answers. Just the one that counts the most.

Which one is that, you ask? Read John 3:16 again.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Inspiration, Resources, Examples, and Ideas (9)

Originally, I was going to add an appendix of books, movies, websites, and other resources for you to use as tools to give you ideas on how to utilize and integrate the culture of our world into your witness. But as I started stockpiling these books, articles, and websites, I realized I was becoming more and more inspired, more and more excited to start writing Planting Seeds because I was seeing all these wonderful examples of people using their talents and interests to share their love of Jesus. And I was reading all of these great books from people who are really digging deep into the significance and meaning of finding God in popular culture. A simple laundry list appendix wouldn't do justice to the joy of discovery I felt as I collected and read through all this material (which really only scratches the surface of what is out there). And so, I present this next section as kind of a snapshot of my journey in researching some of the content for this book. The collection of material you will read next I hope will inspire you, give you ideas, set you off in a new direction for how to share your faith, and confirm in you the talents and interests you have to use, as well as let you know that you are part of God’s family, that we are all together in Christ, and that you are not alone.
Are you a Planter or a Harvester?
Look around you! Vast fields are ripening all around us and are ready now for the harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!
You know the saying, ‘One person plants and someone else harvests.’ And it’s true I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and you will gather the harvest. John 4:35a-38

You have a purpose, as we all do, to share the message of salvation in Jesus through His ultimate sacrifice on the cross. It’s an exciting message to share and, as I hope you’ve seen already, and will see even more as you read on, there are many ways to share that message. I also hope that the snipets you read here will inspire you to seek out the full article or pick up the book, see the movie, listen to the music, and dig deeper within yourself as God’s will for your life continues to unfold in its many faceted ways.

So skip around, poke here and there, and enjoy, be inspired, and go plant some seeds.

Guerilla Christianity – Seed Planters Among Us
As you read on, you’ll see I’ve created general categories such as Movies, Music, Business, Books, and so on, but it’s no so tightly organized that everything is separated and swept off into their own little corner. Take this chapter as a whole, sure, or skip around, but make sure you sample a little bit of everything. I mean, when you go to the salad bar, you’re not just dumping lettuce and dressing on the plate. No, try a little pasta, some cheese, perhaps a bit of coleslaw, and don’t forget to go back for some fruit. You never know what might catch your eye. Ready? Go fill your plate.
Everybody Has Something To Offer
God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well...Never be lazy in your work, but serve the Lord enthusiastically. Romans 12: 6a & 11

More on “How do I Get Started Planting Seeds?”

Ask Questions
Sometimes the best response to a question about your faith is not an answer but a question back. Take a cue from Jesus, He was a pro at it. When religious leaders asked Jesus if it was right to pay taxes, Jesus referred to a coin and asked, “Whose portrait is this?” (Matthew 22:17-22) – just one example.

Responding to a question like, “Are all people but Christians going to hell?” with a question such as, “Do you believe in hell?” instead of just giving a flat, “Yes,” will allow for a more open, non-defensive dialog, and open up areas of discussion both of you might not have considered. The style of asking questions to questions makes both sides better listeners, too, rather than having one-sided conversations, or conversations where the other person is not listening but instead is just waiting for their turn to speak again.

To learn more about this style of evangelism, check out the book, “Questioning Evangelism: Engaging People's Hearts the Way Jesus Did,” by Randy Newman.

Responding to Basic Objections
For anyone who has shared their faith with the world, there’s always the objections that come with it – “Christians are narrow-minded,” “Being good is all that matters,” “What about those who have never heard about Jesus?,” etc., etc. These scary questions are probably part of the reason that people either, a) stop trying to be seed planters, or b) don’t even try in the first place for fear of getting a question they can’t answer. Just know this, IT WILL HAPPEN. But you know what? It doesn’t matter if you really think about it. We are all works in progress. We are all continually learning and growing in our faith. And that is just the point. Keep learning. You WANT those questions so that you can go back and learn how to respond. It’s okay to tell your potential witness-ee that you don’t understand everything but at least you’re open to learning about it and maybe together you can both explore what the Bible says on those tough questions. So let ‘em come, that’s part of the growing and learning process. And you know Jesus is always at your side. Even when your tongue gets tied He’ll reach over and unknot that slippery mess for you.

And never fear, there are always additional resources out there to help you (but why not start with your pastor and have him put together a little cheat sheet for you to study). Plenty of books address the issues of how to answer those tough questions. And there’s plenty of free information on the web, too (I always start there, why not, it’s free?). There’s a great little article on the web (Where? “Christianity Today,” of course) called, “10 Objections to Christianity and How to Respond,” and the author (Frank Harber) also lists several books and websites at the end of his article for further exploration.

Follow the link: (Source – “Christianity Today International/Today’s Christian Woman” magazine, March/April 2000, Vol. 22, No. 2).

Right In Your Back Yard
Well, maybe not your back yard, but at least your surrounding neighborhood is a great place to start sharing your faith. You don’t want to start off going door-to-door like a salesman selling Jesus and salvation for only $19.95, but you can look for opportunities to strike up a conversation.

The key to doing it is pretty simple.

Yep, I’m going to bring up the Nike ad again: “Just do it.” Nothing will happen unless you try. Being an example to your neighbors is a good start but talking to them is where the witness really beings. Consider throwing a party in your neighborhood. We’re not talking a big blow-out Hawaiian BBQ and kegger party, but maybe a Get Acquainted party, or a Christmas party (you’ll want to make sure, of course, that you do this around Nov.-Dec and not in July. Though, a Christmas-In-July party might be kinda fun.) Whatever the type of party, you might have the opportunity to share a little bit about your faith – something that’s important to you – instead of how the local baseball or football team is doing currently.

Like any type of witnessing, getting over the fears is the first part – “I’m not an evangelist,” “I don’t know how to talk to people I don’t know,” “I’m not outgoing,” etc.


Remember, Seed Planter, find a common interest with your neighbor. Movies, music, sports, whatever, – think of ways to bring up your faith within these conversations. Neighbor, stranger, partner, friend, co-worker, etc. All need to hear the saving words of Christ’s salvation.
Why not start with the person next door?

(Source: Witnessing to Neighbors, by Jim Killiam, in “Christianity Today International/Marriage Partnership” magazine, Summer 2002, Vol. 19, No. 2).

Also check out: “Neighborhood Ideas for Caring,” by Naomi Frizzell and “The Complete Handbook of Everyday Christianity,” edited by Robert Banks and R. Paul Stevens.

Tell Everyone!
But Jesus said, “No, go home to your friends, and tell them what wonderful things the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to tell everyone about the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them. Mark 5:19-20

Little Things
Earlier we talked about some of the simple things you can do in fulfilling God’s purpose to spread the Good News. I don’t know about you, but I forget half of what I read about, so before we jump into the examples of others, I just wanted to present a list of “little things” you can do to get started. Whether you are shy, a procrastinator, unsure of how to begin, here are some things anyone can do – immediately.

1) Remember, we talked about using your Time for God first and for others, and lastly yourself. It bears repeating. Whether in your church, with a volunteer group, or simply praying for others, use your most precious commodity – time (which you can never get back), for God. Get into the habit of thinking each morning, How can I serve God today?, before thinking of work, chores, family, bills, entertainment, etc. (It goes without saying the same applies to using your Treasure, not to mention your Talents, for God first.)

2) Leave Behinds. You can pick up Bible tracts from your church or various ministry websites and Christian bookstores. You can also pick up a box of little crosses that have a Bible verse on them or that simply say, “God Loves You.” When you’re out at a restaurant, leave a cross with the tip. When you’re out shopping, leave a tract on a shelf. Sure it may be tossed, but God can also lead a person to come by after you and pick it up casually to see what it is. Who knows? Don’t limit the Holy Spirit. Be His messenger. Start leaving that paper trail.

3) Volunteer. This falls under the “using your time” category, but I want to ask you – do you go to church on Sunday, maybe attend a Bible study (or not), and then go back to your life? Do you volunteer your time in a church activity? You say no one asks you to do anything? My next question to you then is, why are you waiting for someone to ask? Bring something to the table. Tell the church leaders you have a desire to serve the Lord in...whatever. Lead a Bible Study. Be a greeter before the service. Start a prayer circle. Bake some goodies to munch on after the service (we Lutherans love doughnuts, but cakes and cookies are just fine, too). And not just at church. Volunteer in a Christian organization. Or better yet, a non-Christian organization where you can be that light to share God’s word as you get to know people in your group. The bottom line is, don’t wait to be asked to do something. Be proactive and act first. Just do it.

4) Be available. Next time you are on a plane, be friendly and open up a conversation with the person seated next to you. Bring up the latest movie you saw, see where it takes you and how the Holy Spirit will make an opening for you to share your story. Get to know your neighbors (See, “Right In Your Back Yard” above). Do you know them – one or two houses down? Bring over a plate of cookies and just say “Hi.” See where it takes you. How about visiting the sick or elderly? There may be programs or groups that organize visits, but how about just showing up? What about handing out Bibles or giving them as gifts to people you know? Look for ways to available, and pray for direction and strength for God to lead you. He will.

5) Check Please! Here’s another little seed planting idea I thought I’d toss in to get you started. It’s kind of like a “leave-behind” but not quite. Next time you pay a bill with a check or buy something at the local store with a check, use the “Note” section at the bottom left and write in a Bible verse, like John 3:16, or just leave a note that says, “Jesus Loves You.” Most of the time we leave it blank, unless you’re writing in your account numbers, but why not leave a note for the receiver, whoever that is, and let the Holy Spirit work it from there!

6) Public prayer. No way, you say! Yes way, I say. Prayer is powerful. You know that. By simply doing what you do anyway, but in a public forum, the power of the Holy Spirit will spill over into all who witness you speaking to your Holy Father. Am I talking about walking out into the middle of a busy intersection with a bullhorn and letting it rip? No. But what about simply praying a prayer of thanks the next time you are in a restaurant and the food is delivered? Bowing your head, taking the hand of the person you are dining with, and speaking in a normal, regular voice a prayer of thanks. You will send a powerful message to those sitting around you and again, the Holy Spirit is at work. Just give Him the opportunity.

Whatever Is Good, Think About Those Things
(like art, music, literature...)
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about those things. Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Seed Planters from Yesterday & Today (8)

Finding Christ in Culture

Pop quiz. What is one of the biggest, one of the most universal forms of entertainment (dare I say, artform? Yes, sometimes) in our culture today? Television? Music? Film? I suppose you could make an argument for all three. And that’s really the point. There are so many ways to introduce a discussion on faith through today’s popular forms of culture. It’s a safe bet to say everyone is familiar to some degree with television, music, and film and that everyone has some favorites in each area. But what about other forms of culture like art? Paintings, drawings, photography, and computer graphics. And what about writing? Fiction, drama, poetry, screenplays, journalism. And what about...well, you get the picture.

So what do YOU like? Are you a movie nut like me? Does music speak to your soul? How about television, everyone’s guilty habit? Come on, admit it, you have a few shows you like to watch every week. And yes, there is a lot of great television out there beside public access. So take your pick. While you’re deciding, let’s take some time to explore some of the seed planters out there already and see how they are planting the message of Christ in their chosen medium.

Movie Messages
You knew I’d start with movies, didn’t you? Hey, it is my blog after all. I’m sure if I asked you to come up with five favorite movies – ones you don’t mind watching again and again – you could easily do it. Probably ten movies or more even, huh? Movies you’ve seen so many times you can recite the dialogue in your sleep, yeah? But could you take those films and use them as a diving board to jump into a conversation about your faith? Probably.

Christianity Today Movies
The magazine, “Christian Today,” has been around for awhile but their official “movie” section started in February of 2004. While they may have come a little late to the game in developing an online forum for discussing faith in film, they’ve certainly made up for it in content, which is why I’m beginning with them as my first example.

Run the Race – Don’t Quit
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. Hebrews 12:1-2b

Not only do they review every movie that comes out – and archive them for future reference – but they provide a few “discussion point” questions to help start a conversation. So if you don’t know how to get started in tying a film to your faith, start with these questions. It’s a great way to begin. The site includes reviews from other Christian reviewers, downloadable Bible studies for about five bucks on lots of films, interviews, articles and commentaries about faith and film, and even a parental barometer for deciding whether your kids should see a certain film or not.

“Christianity Today” has done a really wonderful job with this website. If I had to recommend one source for you to go to for information on film and faith, this could very well be the one. You’ll see throughout this book several references to source material from “Christianity Today,” so you know I’m a big fan.

Check it out for yourself:

Christian Movie Review Websites
There are many websites out there in cyberland to provide you a wealth of Christian movie review material. Remember I asked you to pick out five of your favorite movies? Take those five movies and explore the reviews of them on these websites (including “Christianity Today”) to help you in formulating your message. Film is a very powerful medium for expressing a theme, a message, a mood, or idea. It’s a good idea to research what others have already said about a film you’re interested in discussing, not only to confirm what you want to say but also to provide additional ideas as well as possible critiques on your message – and how to respond.

The Film Forum – now called, The Joy of Movies
This was one of the first Christian movie review sites I came across when I first started looking into using film as a tool to share my witness, and it remains a favorite of mine. Editor Steve Lansingh has a wonderful way with words and is able to find a spiritual message that really hits home in every review he gives. On his website, part of his bio reads, “Steve is a spiritual sojourner whose encounters with God are usually found in everyday, ‘mundane’ moments like watching movies, preparing food, holding hands, waiting in line, and laughter. He believes that since life was created as a gift, and human beings were created in love, then the purpose of Christianity is not to withdraw from our surroundings but to know God more fully through experiencing this world.”

Sounds like a seed planter to me, doesn’t he?

I read an article of his called, “Ten Films of 1999,” which included a discussion on a few challenging films from a Christian standpoint such as “Fight Club” and “American Beauty.” At first glance you might not think there was any kind of message a Christian could use from these films to give context to their faith, but read what Mr. Lansingh had to say in one of his columns:

“There’s a scene in ‘Fight Club’ in which Tyler Durden forces a store clerk at gunpoint to follow his dream of becoming a veterinarian. I identified with this clerk; sometimes I need the gun to the head to make the bold choice rather than drift along with the rest of society. To me, this scene make the movie’s point: Choose this day whom you will serve. It also got me thinking: If I was forced to name what I wanted to do with my life, could I identify one particular thing I hope to accomplish, without which the trigger might as well have been pulled? So I decided to write, in essence, a mission statement. My mission is ‘to look for God’s hand in the everyday and help others see it.’ The question ‘Fight Club’ asks me, and that I will probably constantly struggle with, is why I’m afraid to leave behind what makes me unhappy in order to pursue that goal wholeheartedly.” (Source: Ten Films that Made my Year, by Steve Lansingh, “The Crossing.”)

After I read that, I was hooked. What a powerful statement. And what a powerful tool films are to share your faith. And not just “spiritual” films either. Challenge yourself to find a message in the films that the people you plan to witness to like the most. Don’t gravitate only to the obvious Christian message films like “The Passion of the Christ” or “The Ten Commandments.” Odds are you’ll have much better success in your witness by coming at Christ through films seemingly devoid of any Christian context.

Films, good films, deal with the total human experience and that experience includes a relationship of some kind with the spiritual side of humanity. It’s your job as a Christian to tap into the broad subject of spirituality which we can find in almost any film and focus it in tightly on the message of salvation in Christ. Take some time to see how Mr. Lansingh and the staff of “The Joy of Movies” do it and learn from them.

Then go do it yourself.

Check it out for yourself:

Like “Joy of Movies,” there are a ton of website resources for you to explore if movies are what you like and you feel comfortable discussing them with your friends and acquaintances in relation to your faith. The few I’ll mention here are just the tip of the iceberg, but worth exploring as resources as you develop your own way and style of “movie witnessing.” (Note: websites come and go. Hopefully the ones listed here are alive and kicking as you read this, but if not, put those fingers to work on a Google search for “Christian movie reviews,” or “Christian movie critics,” or “film, faith, witnessing,” or other phrasing that you come up with. And then you’ll “come up with” a lot, trust me). Some sites are better than others and some focus on the message of Jesus Christ in their reviews more than others. But all of them have something to say. Take a look and see for yourself and decide what works best for you as a resource.

In no particular order: – Pop culture from a spiritual point of view. Lots of great resources on this site. - Reviews and spiritual commentary of film critic Michael Elliott. - Looking for truth, beauty, and meaning in the arts (includes music reviews, too). Read Jeffrey Overstreet’s “Purpose of Looking Closer” statement. Here’s a bit from it: “To glorify God in the discipline of art, one must pursue beauty, truth, and excellence. All beauty belongs to God. All truth. All excellence. Movies, like any art form, can reveal for us pieces of the truth, no matter who directed the film, who starred in it, or what it is about.” Pretty good stuff, don’t you think? – Based on the publication of the same name from Focus on the Family. Also includes reviews and commentary on music and television. - Encouraging Christians in the arts and impacting culture through the arts.

Like I said, there are a ton out there, but these will get you started.

Movies to Ponder
The following list is by no means a definitive list of movies to use as your entrée to sharing the message of Christ. No doubt, some of them will not be to your liking for a variety of reasons. All I ask is that you do not dismiss them outright. If you haven’t seen them, take a peek. If you have and wonder what the heck I could be talking about in terms of using a film like say, “American Beauty,” as a witnessing tool. Be open, pray about it, then go with something you like. That’s the real key – being passionate. In the first place, what we are really doing is being passionate about Christ. Then we tie that passion into a movie that really touched us in some way. In some way the movie was exciting, moving, thrilling, thought provoking, etc. to us. Put it all together and take your passion and excitement to your friends so that they pick up on it and catch fire, too. That’s what it’s all about, right?

So take a look, see what you think, then maybe explore some of the reviews of these films on the Christian movie review sites above, and see where God takes you the next time you’re standing around the water cooler with your friends and co-workers. Strike up a conversation: “Hey Bob, did you ever see the movie, American Beauty? That scene where the kids video-taped that plastic bag floating in the air was really interesting. It reminded me of...” And you’re off!

In no particular order:

American Beauty – perhaps a challenging movie for some Christians, but at the heart it speaks to finding God’s beauty in the everyday and to a hope for a happier life by just being who you really are because life is worth living even though humanity has its flaws. How might we as Christians speak about hope and offer that message to those trying desperately to hold up appearances while feeling completely lost inside?

The Stand – One of my favorite Stephen King books and a pretty good mini-series. Like many stories in the horror (and sci-fi) genre, this one speaks to the ultimate struggle between good and evil. Here, King gets pretty direct in defining that good and evil as God vs. Devil. I love the horror genre (and sci-fi) for exactly that reason – at the core of almost every horror movie is the good vs. evil theme. Who will win? “Aliens,” “Dracula,” “The Wolfman,” “Independence Day,” “The Exorcist,” “Star Wars,” – just a few examples where you could take the idea of good versus evil and get into a conversation about the ultimate good, that is God, and the ultimate evil, that is, the devil.

An article on has this to say about horror movies and the Christians response:

“ the hands of a sanctified imagination, the horror form...can become a vehicle for redemption. . . True horror treats good as good and evil as evil. . . True horror reminds us how profoundly moral our universe is. It reminds us, refreshingly, of simple things like good and evil, justice and mercy, courage and cowardice. . .True horror, finally, makes possible an experience of grace. It suggests that we too are misshapen, we too are duped by evil. There is in us all a Mr. Hyde. . .The horror story, in the end, is a reminder that our present reality is disturbed and distorted. In the hands of the Christian, that reminder can become an invitation to redemption. . . The horror story is not an escape from life, in all its wildness and terrible beauty; it is rather a way of walking through it, and as such a reminder that there is meaning, thanks be to God, in the middle of all the horror.” (Source: “The Horrors!” by W. David O. Taylor;, posted 4/05/2005)


The Matrix – Okay, a ton of stuff has been written about this film and the series. I even mentioned it earlier in this book. But it’s worth talking about again. Themes of Christianity and Buddhism abound in the film but one of the most obvious and simplest-to-grasp character types in this film is Neo as the Christ figure. This is a common character type in many films but is so very clearly presented in Neo as the “one” who will save humanity from the machines and free them all to live freely in Zion. To do this, he has to sacrifice himself so that the other humans can live. Neo’s character, that is, his purpose, reminds us that a fallen world of people is still worth saving. Both in the first film and most definitely in the last film we see these themes played out (sorry if I’m spoiling the end for some of you but if you haven’t seen “The Matrix” by now – what planet are you from. Just kidding. Relax, have some fun). This series can create many long conversations and debates for you as you witness, and you can have fun along the way because aside from the message, it’s a very entertaining film, too.

Fight Club – I resisted this movie for a long time because I thought it was a film about gratuitous violence. How wrong I was. Yes, like “American Beauty” it is a challenging film. There is violence in it but this film is a dark comedy. Did I say comedy? Yes, one that bites. But as you read in the quote from Steve Lansingh, there’s a lot to unpack in this film—it’s about not sitting by and wasting your life. Finding purpose, being yourself, not letting the world and its drive to acquire material possessions define who you are. (There’s a great sequence where the main character sees his apartment through the eyes of an IKEA catalog and wonders what kind of dining set defines himself as a person). What a great opening to talk to others about where to find your real purpose for living – in Christ. Give the movie a try. See if it fits.

The Truman Show and Bruce Almighty – interestingly, both starring Jim Carrey, but both films speak, in different ways, to the consequences of when humans try to play God and runs things on their own. Not good. But how many people do you know who try to live life on their own terms, who don’t need God, and like the family in “American Beauty” are living a miserable life on the inside while pretending all is well on the outside?

Ben Hur – we could put many of the openly religious movies in this category, like “The Ten Commandments,” “The Passion of the Christ,” and even the excellent (though slightly more veiled) mythological take on the Gospel through the movie version of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” as wonderful and very direct tools for witnessing, but I want to focus on just one scene in “Ben Hur.”

Ben Hur is in chains as a slave and is being whipped and harshly moved along by the Roman soldiers. They stop for a moment and, as Ben Hur is collapsed on his knees, a figure bends down to give him some water, which he readily drinks down in gratitude. The soldier tells this “person” to stop but he doesn’t. Finally, the soldier comes forward to whip the tar out of this guy who won’t listen to him and the “person” stands up. We only see him from the back but it’s clear that this person is Jesus. Jesus stands there calmly, not moving as the guard looks upon his face (again, we only see the soldiers reaction, Jesus’ back is to us the whole time). The soldier is about to strike and pauses, looking into Jesus’ face. His anger becomes confusion, then perhaps embarrassment or shame and guilt, and he quickly looks away and walks off.

What a very simple scene but what a powerful one to show the love, compassion, sympathy, strength, and power in our savior. I cry every time I watch that scene which becomes even more powerful later on as the roles are reversed and Ben Hur tries to give Christ water as he carries his cross to Golgatha.

Sometimes it’s the simplest of scenes that we can draw on to share our message and not necessarily the whole film. Look for the scenes that speak to you. They may not even have much to do with the movie’s main story line, but you can use them in your witness.

Leap of Faith – A film that didn’t get its due in the theaters because of mis-marketing. It stars Steve Martin and Debra Winger and the story is about a slick talking preacher who goes around scamming people out of their money with flashy talk and fake miracles. But he arrives in one small town and is confronted with an honest-to-God miracle on his very own stage and is forced to deal with what he really believes. This is a great little film about redemption and the power of faith.

Shawshank Redemption – A wonderful movie based on a Stephen King novella (not a horror story, either) with its core message of holding on to hope even in the most terrible, bleak, and unjust situations. A powerful tool to witness for speaking to our hope and trust in Christ even in the most dire situations we find ourselves in – and to not giving up.

Lord of the Rings – Like “The Matrix,” a lot has been written about Christian symbolism in this trilogy. You’ll find many resources on the Internet and in various books, but here are some themes to think about in terms of your witness – a journey to save the world from destruction (we’re all on a journey, aren’t we? Every day, fulfilling our purpose to help Christ “save the world”), about not giving up (that theme of hope again), sacrifice, and faith, are but a few of those big, universal themes we find in epic stories like the Ring series – and don’t they all tie into the biggest story of them all? The story of salvation in Christ in the Bible. And unlike the Ring series, this “story” is true. What a powerful message.

The Apostle – Christians aren’t perfect. We sin like everyone else. The difference is that we recognize that we sin and seek Christ’s forgiveness daily and strive to live the best we can in a sinful world. In “The Apostle,” Sonny is a Southern preacher who loves the Lord and is filled with the spirit. But in a moment of rage, he gives into the darker side of sin and commits murder. Hiding out from the law, the film is about Sonny finding the road to redemption and walking it. This is a powerful film showing the dual nature of man – fighting against his sinful nature and continually seeking Christ’s righteousness, and the struggle of it all. To those you witness to who take the stance that all Christians think they are better then everyone else (you’ve heard that one before, right?), this might be a good film to lead into a discussion on the frailty of man (all humanity) and the need for having Christ in our life.

Okay, we’ll stop there – in just these few films I’ve mentioned, think about how many different directions a discussion on your faith could go. Explore for yourself. You may have no interest in the films I’ve just mentioned, but I hope I have whet your appetite to see how films can be a powerful tool to lead into a discussion of sharing the Gospel message of salvation in Christ – which is our ultimate goal. There are many ways to get started, and films are just one way.

But a fun way, I think. See you at the movies.

Moving Music
What kind of music do you like to listen to? Rock, heavy metal, country, punk, rap/hip-hop, acoustic? Christian music covers all styles of music. At one time Christian music was solely identified with the gospel-quartet-flowery-worship-type of music that it, well, kinda was in the beginning. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. It’s just that musical tastes are so varied and Christian music has expanded beyond what it was to reach those other tastes by artists who have a passion to share their witness through a certain style of music.

There are many Christian concert festivals today that share a diverse range of music styles but one of the first ones that I heard of was the “Cornerstone Festival.” As I dug into what Cornerstone was all about, I hit the motherload. They also have sister sites ( and that showcase art and film in a Christian context at the festival. I encourage you to explore their websites and magazine and if sharing your faith through music is your thing, start saving your dollars for a road trip to their next annual festival.

Here’s a little bit of what you’ll read on their website for what Cornerstone is all about:

“This event called Cornerstone Festival is far more than a massive musical experience. It is more than a collection of hundreds of solo artists and bands representing every style and sub-genre on the current musical landscape. It is more than a gathering of expert thinkers and speakers offering over twenty separate seminar tracks on an amazingly diverse range of subjects. It is more than the sum of its parts, as is the body of Christ.

“Cornerstone Festival is the annual gathering of a community of believers that is spread out all over the world. From young children to senior citizens, Christians of all ethnicities and backgrounds migrate to a patch of 500 acres in central Illinois for four days of fellowship, entertainment, education and edification. One way of looking at Cornerstone is to see it as a continuation of a Jesus movement that began in the first century and remains a beacon of joy and spirit as we move into the next millennium.”

Rock and roll – Jesus style.

Check it out:

Christian vs. Non-Christian
Just like films, you don’t have to stick to only “Christian” music in order to share your faith. Music speaks to us on a universal level through themes of love, hope, faith, anger, fear, that we as Christians can speak to. Of course, groups like Jars of Clay, DC Talk, Jennifer Knapp, Lost & Found, and other Christian groups not only have great music but a great message to share. But if those you are trying to witness to are immediately turned-off or suspicious when you bring them up, find out what type of music they like and see if you can’t find some themes in that music to tie your faith into.

Look at some of the mainstream rock groups out there that also have spiritual themes in their music like U2 and Creed. Let’s not stop at rock music, though. What style of music do your friends like?

Country? I love two songs by Garth Brooks, “The River,” and “Unanswered Prayers,” that speak, on some level, about finding your faith and trusting in God. Country music is full of themes concerning loss, grief, love, hope, and redemption.

Like Jazz? Music that speaks to your soul, not in words, but in your heart. One of my favorites is John Coltrane. Ever listen to his piece called, “A Love Supreme?” If you haven’t you should. Coltrane saw this work as his gift to God, his thanks to God for giving him the gift of music, something he wanted to share with the world. This is probably his most known piece of work, and arguably his most influential as a jazz artist. But what about as a seed planter? I think it’s a safe bet to know that many a person who has searched his or her soul in search of God was helped along the road through Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.”

Here’s a little bit of what Mr. Coltrane himself had to say about his masterpiece:

“During the year of 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through His Grace. ALL PRAISE TO GOD. . . He is gracious and merciful. His way is in love, through which we all are. It is truly – A Love Supreme.

“This album is a humble offering to Him. An attempt to say ‘THANK YOU GOD’ through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor.”

Wow. What a witness. Could you use this jazz masterpiece as part of your witness to carry forward the message God gave through John Coltrane?

Oh, yeah.

Classical music? Another form of music that speaks to and touches the soul. Much of Johann Sebastian Bach was played in the churches of his day. One of the most prolific composers of his day and whom many would consider The Greatest of Them All. A skilled organist, he was the ultimate church organist. As cantor at the church of St. Thomas in Germany, he wrote at least 215 cantatas (choral pieces) for his church. Just a couple of his many works that reflect his faith include “Magnificat,” and “Passion According to St. Matthew.” Worth checking out.

What about George Frideric Handle? Everyone has at least heard the Hallelujah chorus from his most famous work, “Messiah,” right? Known to be a bit of a hot head himself, but his music spoke for itself. In “Messiah,” we have a musical story in three parts depicting Christ's birth, death, and resurrection with each part breaking down into a series of arias and choruses, using a Biblical passage as their basis. When Handel was writing “The Messiah,” it is said that he saw visions of God and Heaven and, while composing the Hallelujah chorus, “saw heaven opened and the host of it worshipping the Glory of God.” What a great way to talk about Christ for classical music lovers, or any lover of music. What can one say to that except, “Hallelujah!”

Just as King David used music to express his praise and love of God, so too, you can do the same by sharing your passion and joy of Christ through the music you love with others.

Writing Your Witness
Do you like to write? I do. As a seed planter myself, writing is a gift that God has given me to share my witness. I published a novel called, “Struck by Lightning.” It’s an interesting tale in the horror and supernatural genre that is a story of good vs. evil (God vs. Devil). The basic premise is, what if the demon Legion, which Christ himself exorcised and sent into the herd of pigs and over the cliff to their death, what if Legion had managed to scratch and claw its way back to earth in our time, and now was looking for a little revenge? My goal was simple: write an entertaining story while also planting a few seeds that God could water. After reading my book, perhaps a person might ask, “What do I really believe will happen to me after I die?” “Am I really willing to take the chance that all this Jesus-stuff is not true? What if it is true and there really is a hell?” And by asking those questions, then start to explore what they really believe in hopes that their journey leads them toward finding the answer in Christ. (Shameless plug: “Struck by Lightning” is available on and ). To date, it certainly hasn’t been a blockbuster, but people have bought it. And if only one person is directed to Christ through reading my book, then I say along with Handle, “Hallelujah!”

One of the things that’s so exciting about writing is the many forms it takes. There’s a group of entertainment professionals out in California (though they’ve since spread across the country) who got an idea back in 1999 and created a training program to train people of faith for careers as TV and film writers. Called, “Act One, Inc.,” they’ve since grown their program to now include an Executive Program for aspiring entertainment executives. What a great idea. When you get a chance, read their mission-vision statement on their website,, which reads in part:

“Act One, Inc. exists to create a community of Christian professionals for the entertainment industry who are committed to excellence, artistry, and personal holiness, so that through their lives and work they may be witnesses of Christ and the Truth to their fellow artists and to the global culture.

“Stressing artistry, excellence, professionalism, and spirituality, Act One prepares students to be salt and light in writers rooms, on sets, and in studio and network offices. Our goal is not to produce explicitly religious entertainment, but movies and TV programs of unusual quality and depth.”

Think of some TV shows from the past that can be used today in your Christian witness: “Touched by an Angel,” “Highway to Heaven,” “Joan of Arcadia,” “7th Heaven,” to name a few.

Stepping aside from the world of fiction writing, what about the other “writers” out there? What are they doing with their talents to plant seeds for Christ?

Photojournalists write with their pictures. They see the world, that is, they pause and take notice of it. And then they record it for others to see. Here’s another great website to check out: Christians in Photojournalism started out as a support group, and their basic belief is that all Christians should develop a keen sense of visual literacy. See the world around you and be prepared to talk about it, and to witness both to it and through it. In a “Christianity Today” article (October 2004, Vol. 48, No. 10), Denise McGill interviews five top Christian photographers about their work. Here are a couple of quotes from those interviews:

“[Joanna] Pinneo says photojournalists are privileged to be allowed into people’s lives. ‘God has chosen us to be communicators,’ she says. ‘If we see people, or even touch them, it’s kind of like touching the hem of Jesus’ robe.’”

“He [Greg Schneider] makes no apologies for bringing his strong viewpoint to work behind the lens each day. ‘I’m truly trying to make the kind of picture that will move people to invest in God’s kingdom in different ways.’”

Isn’t it amazing how God uses so many different people with so many different talents to share his message of love and salvation? Are you starting to see it yet? You know your purpose, yes, but are you starting to put together all those talents and interests you have stirring inside yourself to see how they can be directed, or channeled, I should say, toward fulfilling that purpose?

Oh yeah, I knew you could.

Even if you are not a writer (or a photographer), certainly you could use the works of other writers – of novels, plays, poems, and so on, as a tool for witnessing just like we’ve discussed in film and music. And of course, what book is your best tool for witnessing? The Bible! Duh. I know, you knew that one.

But what else is out there and what are some examples of other writers using their gift to witness for Christ?

Some of the obvious ones you may remember are, “The Prayer of Jabez,” “Purpose Driven Life,” and how about the “Left Behind” series? Maybe a little heavy-handed in its approach to a tale of the end times as recorded in the book of Revelations, but still a great discussion topic. Ever read any books by Frank Peretti? One of his most famous is “This Present Darkness.” He’s a Christian fiction writer for the most part, sharing his faith in tales of the supernatural that he weaves. You may know about C.S. Lewis and his Christian novel series, “The Chronicles of Narnia.” (And the film version of the first book in the series, “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe,” is another great witnessing tool). But C.S. Lewis is known primarily as one of the great Christian thinkers, who, along with G.K. Chesterton, and a host of other Christian thinkers and theologians, provide a wealth of information for you to build upon your skills to witness or even engage in a healthy apologetics debate.

Start off small, of course, get your feet wet as you witness more and more with the tools you find most comfortable and accessible but be open to growing in your knowledge and your witness. As you grow in confidence, knowledge, and ability, be open to expanding your level of witnessing.

How about the classics? Certainly John Milton’s “Paradise Lost” and his description of Hell, Eden, and Heaven or even Dante Alighieri's three part epic, “The Divine Comedy” with his description of Hell could offer some stimulating conversation. Don’t want to go that deep? Then how about Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” that toe-tapping musical depicting the life of Joseph in the Old Testament?

The beauty of writing is in the varied forms it offers to readers – from prose to poetry, plays to screenplays, journalism to all the many non-fiction books we have in the world to enjoy. So much of it can be used by you in your seed planting efforts whether as a writer yourself, or in using the works of other writers to open that conversation up.

And remember, too, like we talked about with film, the writing you use may be Christian in nature, may be “spiritual” in nature, or may just be plain ol’ secular entertainment. It’s how you use and apply it that matters. For example, one of my favorite writers happens to be Stephen King. Is he a Christian? I don’t know. Personally, I see in his work a man searching for answers about what is out there and what he believes. In an afterword in his book, “The Colorado Kid,” he asks the questions of where do we come from and where are we going. He doesn’t know and possibly has a “sneaking suspicion all that might be a con-job laid down to fill the collections plates.” But I know where we are going and you do, too. That’s the message we need to tell, to share (and I’d be happy to share it with Mr. King if he would like J). But whether or not Mr. King is a Christian, could I use his work as a launching pad to start a conversation with a non-Christian friend about Jesus? You betcha. As I said before, one of my favorite King books is, “The Stand,” which boils down to your basic good vs. evil story (like we discussed earlier concerning the TV mini-series version). King even goes so far as to use the character of God (which he has in other works, too) as the “good” in the book. So, my friends, it’s all fair game. Don’t be afraid of the so-called secular material out there. Whether or not the original author/creator intended a different message than the love of salvation in Christ, you can use it in your witness. Remember what our lad who once owned a technicolor dreamcoat said to his brothers who almost killed him then sold him into slavery, “As far as I’m concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil.” (Genesis 50:20a). Now, I’m not saying anything that doesn’t have a Christian stamp on it is evil. By no means! All I’m saying is – it’s all out there. The good, the bad, and the ugly. God uses all things towards His will. Whatever you use, use it to God’s glory.

Can I get an “Amen?”

That’s right!

Checklist & Summary
1. Use the world around you, everything, that is – EVERYTHING – if it can help you in the goal of fulfilling your purpose to tell the world that Jesus loves them and died for their sins so that by simply believing in Him and living the best life we can in that faith, that one day we’ll be with Christ in paradise and oh what a par-ty it will be!

2. The arts of the world are a good place to start. Everyone has a favorite movie, song, play, novel, work of art, etc. and odds are you can find a way to bring up a conversation about your faith through your mutual love of those arts.

3. You may have the skills of an artist (writer, painter, musician, photographer, etc.) and can use that talent to witness for Christ.

4. Or, you may not have those skills but you have the love for an art form. So get out there and talk it up.

5. See item #1. It doesn’t have to be a “Christian” item in order for you to use it as part of your witness. Just know what you want to say and how you want to use it in your example as you share your message.

6. Have fun! This is not a chore, not something to be afraid of (yes, I know there is fear involved but once you start doing it, you won’t be able to shut up. Just get started. Go slow, go steady, but go!), not something to be “checked off” as in, “There, I did it, now I’m done.” No, this is your life! This is your purpose. This is number one on the list. It’s what you live for and can’t wait to start doing. Right? Right. So have fun. That’s why God invented smiles, belly laughs, and people who snort when they hear something funny. Life is meant to be fun. To be enjoyed. We become completely fulfilled and know who we are when we have Christ first in our life and foremost in our minds and hearts to share with others.