And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.  He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man.  And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’  For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man,  yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”  And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says.  And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?  I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” Luke 18:1-8 ESV


Praying-HandsI have to admit, I’ve struggled with the concept of prayers of petition. I’ve always fallen more toward the “God’s will” side of prayer than the “ask and receive” side.

Think about it. The God of all creation, maker of everything. The omniscient and omnipotent Lord of the universe is who we pray to. He knows what I need and want and will pray before I ever ask it. Why, then, do I need to ask anything? I always felt it was better to seek God’s will in decisions and circumstances than to ask for specific things. If God is good and just, and has a perfect plan for my life, ought I not seek that plan rather than try to figure out my own path and drop a couple prayers into some sort of divine vending machine?

But then you run into this parable. Right out front the reason it’s told is laid out: So you will always pray and not lose heart. It’s the story of a woman’s persistence over whelming a judge, who didn’t even fear God or respect men. But here is God, who loves us as opposed to a judge who tolerates us, will he not give justice? There is a similar story in Luke 11 about a sleeping neighbor’s bread.

It’s clear that prayers of petition are encouraged here.

Now, let’s not go crazy. Obviously God says no all the time. He won’t do something against his nature. He will often allow us to go through hard times for his purposes. He heals some, and allows others to die. He is God, we are not.

And many times when the Bible talks about asking and receiving, there is a second part of the concept that reminds us that this works not because God has to agree, but like John 14 says, we receive so “the Father may be glorified in the Son.” So don’t expect God to agree to give you a million dollars just because you add the words “in Jesus name” at the end of your request.

So let’s assume that you are asking something of God, something within the calling he has placed on you, something that could be within his will for your life. Something that will either bring him glory in itself or through some result of the request. Wouldn’t a prayer of petition like the widow’s be not just OK, be welcomed and encouraged?

But wait, If God knows my heart, and everything I will say before I say it, why do I need to pray?

It’s the act of praying, of asking for something that acknowledges that this thing is out of your power. You are bending your will to God’s. Prayers of petition aren’t about what God learns of our desires. They are about us learning to rely and depend on God for everything. Even if he says no.

So bow your head and bend your will. Do not be discouraged. Keep asking. Don’t lose heart.

This is my petition: I need a job that allows me to provide for my family and still do what You have called me to do. I am going to be as persistent as the widow. I believe that you can give this to us, and you will.


Parables of the Talents and Bad Christian Film

I recently was trolling, ah, lurking? No, perusing an online group for religious filmmakers. One member very passionately made the argument that we (believers) shouldn’t make Christian films until we have all the resources in place to do as good a job as our secular counterparts.

On the one hand I can totally see his perspective. The last thing we need is more bad Christian movies. We’ve got enough of those.

In his argument we should wait until we have the resources, the technique, the ability to create something that isn’t sacrificing quality.

I agree with quite a lot of that. But I didn’t do what he suggested. I made a series for stupid cheap money, and even wrote an ebook encouraging others to follow suit. Obviously I’m not on the wait-until- you-have-everything bandwagon.

Am I wrong? Should I have waited until the show could have been done for $50,000 an episode? Or maybe $25,000? What is the magic number, anyway?

It shouldn’t be bad Christian vs good secular, it should be bad vs good.

Is it fair to compare low budget Christian films to blockbuster hits and Oscar winning secular films? Are bad Christian themes movies really any worse than bad secular films?

There’s plenty of bad non Christian film made. Lots of them. Tons of low quality short films and even a feature length products that friends and family watch, but almost no one else. In our case, Christian audiences are more accepting of lower quality because of the message. That may say more about Christian audiences than Christian filmmakers.

But bad films are bad films. Period. Our problem is that we, as believers, excuse the flaws, and allow bad religious fare to become widely known. Bad secular films just fail.

Regarding the original argument, I agree that any filmmaker should do their homework. If you have not bothered to learn basic script structure stop read this right now and go buy Save the Cat by Snyder and Story by Mckee. Immediately.

Don’t rush into production because you don’t want to take the time to learn how to be good. There are too many resources out there to learn how to be a better filmmaker.

But there are not as many resources of a more tangible sort. To make a film or show you need gear and people and places. I believe that if God has placed a burning desire to tell a story in your heart, he has also put the resources to accomplish that vision around you.

But most of the time that does not mean you can pull off a movie with a $2 Million budget. Most of the time you won’t have big name actors in your film. Does that mean you should wait, and not work on your dream?

I keep thinking about the parable of the talents in Matt 25:14ff. If the talents symbolize the resources and abilities God has given us, this parable seems at odds with not moving forward because you don’t want to disappoint God.

Imagine, the master returns and asks what I did with the talents he has given, and I say that I knew he was a hard master so I didn’t take the small amount he gave me and create something more, instead I waited. I hid it away and wished I had been given more. Will his reaction be different than the parable?

What if instead I took what small amount if resources I was given and used them to the very best of my ability (which he also gave me). And while we may not have seen five talents in return, we did see one come back.

If you are interested in religious films then you have surely heard of a church called Sherwood Baptist in Albany, GA. Have you ever watched their first film, Flywheel? This is a prime example of small amount being used to great effect, and God returning more and more throughout the cycle. Are any of their film Oscar worthy? No, but they get better each time, and people watch them.

At the 2014 NRB convention I heard one of the producers, David Nixon, say that their film Fireproof has been credited with helping to save 1 Million marriages. (They know this from messages they have gotten from people who were affected by the message of the film). What if they had waited to do Flywheel?

I’m reminded of this phrase, repeated twice in that passage: “You have been faithful over little, I will set you over much.”

So when I think about the argument that we should wait until we can make something amazingly good, I want to agree. But mainly because I am afraid. I am fearful about doing something so big. If only I could be content to wait. That would be easy. I’d be working a job that paid decent, and quietly pining for the moment what all the pieces fall together and I can make my magnificent movie. Dreams are safe if you never do anything about them.

What if God has given me a story to tell. And I wrote the best script I can, and then get the best gear and best cast and crew, and we make it. And it’s not 100%, more like 80%. But people see it.

Or what if God gives me a story to tell and I spend years waiting until I’m ready to deliver 100%.

Which one has more impact? Which one will allow me to gain experience and knowledge so the next project can be better?