Atheists are right: Christianity sounds absurd

By Darren Wilson*

Think about it. Christians believe in a man who lived more than 2,000 years ago in a series of backwater towns in the Middle East, was killed by some religious zealots, magically rose from the dead three days later, after which he floated up into the sky and disappeared, thus becoming the invisible man we now believe in and pin all our hopes on. On top of that, we believe in other unseen beings—angels and demons—who are all around, helping or hindering. Meanwhile, another invisible spirit (the Holy Spirit) is constantly at work behind the scenes around the earth, keeping the whole thing straight and intervening whenever possible.

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When put that way, even I think it sounds crazy. I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. I’m a former university professor, an author of two books, and I’ve become something of a spokesperson not just for the existence of God through my films but for the idea that this invisible God is alive and well and doing amazing things in our world today. How then can I, as a rational, intelligent human being, actually believe in an invisible man and spirits?

I ask this question because it seems that lately a good number of people have been coming out and saying that no, they don’t believe this nonsense anymore. Former Christians seem to be taking a long hard look at what they once believed, and are finding the courage to step forward and voice their opinion: that they think it’s all nuts. I have a feeling they aren’t alone in their struggles with belief, and the reasons for this crisis of faith are surely varied and compelling. But like everyone, at the end of the day I am only truly responsible for myself, and I wanted to step forward and try to explain why I will continue to believe in an invisible God-man, no matter what.

For a good portion of my life, I lived a kind of Christianity that I have a sneaking suspicion most people do as well. It was built around a set of pre-informed beliefs and its orbit was made up almost exclusively with well-meaning principles—all of which were gleaned from the Bible and were designed to both make my life better and make me into a relatively nice person. Jesus was the centerpiece, of course, but He was more of a benevolent, distant brother figure. God was relatively silent on most things—and always loomed large in my ‘Be good or else!’ mentality. The Holy Spirit was like smoke, a guiding force if you will, but one that was totally unknowable.

This was Christianity, for sure, but it was a neutered one. I simply had to believe the right things, be a good person, and not do too much bad stuff. If I did make mistakes, I had to make sure I said I was sorry, otherwise a kind of logjam of sin would start to build up, which was not good.

When your life revolves around trying to ‘be good,’ there comes a point when it all just feels fake and forced. I mean, if Jesus is real, shouldn’t my life be different? Shouldn’t I have this peace He kept talking about inside me? Should I really have to try this hard to change my behavior? And after a while, when principles are all that generally guide you, it just becomes too much and you wind up doing the Christian thing simply because you think you should and because that’s what you’ve always done.

Darren Wilson on location in Jerusalem

Darren Wilson on location in Jerusalem

But then something happened, and this is where everything changed for me. I experienced God. I am a rational person and not prone to manic episodes, hallucinations, or strange behavior. I’ve never done drugs a day in my life. I don’t ‘feel’ things spiritually, have never been ‘slain in the spirit,’ and I’ve never even spoken in tongues. But while making these films of mine, I experienced the reality and presence of God. I felt Him inside me and around me. My behavior changed, I felt peace for the first time, and my Christian walk was no longer about following principles, but about following a Person. And yes, that Person was invisible.

How do you explain experiencing God to someone who has never experienced Him themselves? It’s a lot like trying to explain love to someone who has never been in love. They can be surrounded by people in love, can see how strange it makes people behave, can understand the concept of love. They can even see the dangers of falling in love with that person over this person, but unless you’ve actually fallen in love with someone, you’ll never be able to understand the feeling it gives you or the certainty that you are, in fact, in love, and that it is very, very real.

So it is no surprise to me that, for example, a pastor who decides to ‘take a year off from God’ comes out the other side as an atheist. Honestly, it would be impossible for me to take even a week off from God, because I have experienced Him firsthand. I know He’s there, I can’t ignore Him. No one who actually experiences God will ever deny His existence. For instance, for my new film, Holy Ghost Reborn, I filmed a ministry in Colorado that provides prayer and teaching almost exclusively to military personnel. Most of the participants go into this 3 day intensive as either atheists or nominal believers at best. All of them—a full 100%—come out of these 3 days believing in Jesus. Why? Because they just experienced Him for themselves. And you can’t deny something that you have actually experienced. My guess is that the vast majority of people who have turned their hearts from God never actually experienced Him in the first place. They may have heard and believed, but the reality of His presence never took root because believing something logically is not the same as experiencing it relationally.

Yes, believing in someone who is invisible seems, on the surface, a little crazy. But just as Billy Graham once pointed out, we believe in the wind not because we can see it, but because we can see the effects of it. We can feel it on our faces, see it whipping through tree branches. I believe in an invisible God not because I can see Him, but because I can see the effect of Him on my life, and on countless lives around the world. I can feel Him inside me, around me, even working through me.

I’m not sure people leaving the faith is an assault on Christianity as much as it is simply showing the danger of building faith on principles instead of relationship. As good and as important as principles are, nothing will ever compare to the vibrant, healthy, Biblical relationship that we were all created for with a God who is more real and more alive than many of us realize.

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*Darren Wilson is the Founder and CEO of WP Films, a media company with the mission to ask questions about God that no one else will. He has traveled the world since 2006 creating various feature-length documentaries, including Finger of God, Furious Love, Father of Lights, Holy Ghost and Holy Ghost Reborn. He has also written several books, including Filming God and Finding God in the Bible. The company now also has an online channel called WP TV.

Journey with Jesus begins as Middle Eastern women visit London

Perhaps you’ve heard of the highly effective Jesus Film, first released in 1979. Those behind the project explain they have always and ever been about one thing: everyone seeing Jesus. Teams visit areas all over the world, sharing the ‘greatest story ever told’ in more than 1,400 languages. They report that more than 490 million people have come to Jesus after watching their films.

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A project team member recently shared a wonderful story that began on a recent Jesus Film mission trip to London. 

While walking through a beautiful rose garden in Hyde Park, this fellow and his team talked and prayed about whom they should approach. Who was waiting to hear the good news?

As they prepared to sit down on the grass, a group of young Middle Eastern women not far away suddenly motioned to them to come and share their park bench. As if that weren’t surprising enough, it turned out the women were visiting from the very country the team had just been talking about ... a country the team ‘reporter’ had never ever met anyone from in England.

God was so clearly guiding and working through all of them. You can read the whole story here … a story which continues months later when the team member visits the Middle Eastern country and re-encounters one of the young woman. God's ways never cease to amaze!

A miracle meeting with Middle-Eastern Muslim women in London — The Jesus Film Project

Thanksgiving: great when it’s easy, an awesome antidote when it’s not

By the Rev. Canon Anne Moore
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The writer of Psalm 34 wrote, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips.” Billy Graham once wrote, “If I were to list all the things for which I’m thankful, I’d never have time to eat my turkey dinner!”

Can you say the same? Sometimes when I am the leader for a ‘quiet day’, I will hand participants a sheet of foolscap and ask them to write down as many thanksgivings that they can think of. The thoughts often start quite quickly but then begin to slow. Then, after more thought, the list becomes easier and easier and longer and longer. And that is the way it ought to be: what a wonderful world God has given us to share.

If you are feeling blue, give thanks. If you are feeling overwhelmed, give thanks. If you are on top of the world, give thanks. If you can’t sleep, don’t start worrying about your present situation or worrying that you will be tired in the morning. Instead, give thanks.

At all times and in all places, giving thanks is the way to change our mind-set, and then our behavior.

Billy Graham also said, “We live in a confused and chaotic world, and at times we might be tempted to give in to despair. But God loves us, and only Christ can transform our hearts and turn our despair into hope. Is He the foundation of your life? If not, make this a day of true thanksgiving, as you invite Christ to come into your life and save you.”

If you have done that, you will know true joy. You will hardly be able to stop praising God, especially for sending Jesus to save us by His death on a cross. Please don’t expect that your troubles will suddenly leave, but, with God’s Holy Spirit working through you, you will discover that you have clearer direction and an expanded capacity to deal with them.

Giving thanks for all of you.

The Way family heading back to Zimbabwe!

This is exciting news from Jeff and Carole Way, missionaries to Zimbabwe who recently returned to Canada due to difficulties fullfilling visa requirements. You can read our earlier stories here: Love in action: the Way family's adventures at Eden Children's Village, Zimbabwe and Update on the Way family and their mission in Zimbabwe.
Special report by Jeff and Carole Way

Here’s our plan

We are aiming to be back at Eden Children’s Village by January 2018. We had been living there over the past two years on temporary visas; to live there long term the government requires that we bring US$100k in assets with us. Our plan over the next six months is to raise these funds (in the form of a truck (that we desperately need there anyway), plus our regular monthly living expenses.

Why we are going back

Zimbabwe has just been declared the poorest country in Africa (it was one of the richest in 2000!) and this is having an impact on Eden as more and more children are abandoned by parents who are unable to care for them.  The need for more homes is urgent. Eden really needs Jeff’s help to build them. As a licensed practical nurse, Carole plays a vital role at the medical clinic, especially helping with baby delivery. More and more people arrive daily at the clinic looking for medical attention. Eden is desperate for Carole to return.

Not only is the need great, we just can't wait to get back! The goal to serve at Eden hasn't changed: God has called us to be there, so we will do everything we can to return. God is so much bigger than the many issues plaguing Zimbabwe and we are trusting that He will work on our behalf to get us back there, where we will work on your behalf to serve the poorest of the poor, the abandoned and orphaned children. If the situation is too dangerous for us to return in January we will pursue a partnership with Eden and other orphanages outside of Zimbabwe until it is safe to return.

Get a glimpse of daily life in the bush

Have you wondered what life must be like in rural Africa? We’d like to show you! We want you to feel connected to us and our life in Africa so we’re going to tell you some true stories, African style.  Every other day over the next few months we’ll be offering one-minute snapshots of real-life living in the poorest country in the world.

You can check out our first installment, A Noseful of Goat, on our brand new blog on our brand new website: zimbabways.org

Be part of changing the lives of the poorest of the poor in Zimbabwe

Over the next few weeks we’d love to invite you to join with us as we make our way back to Zimbabwe. Perhaps you have heard the African proverb, 'If you want to walk fast, walk alone.  If you want to walk far, walk together.' We want to walk far with YOU. We want to share this experience with our friends in North America.

  • Sign up to get our one-minute snapshot stories in your inbox here.
  • To find out what Lia and Naomi think about going back, click here.
  • To get more information about our fundraising goals and how you can help, click here.

True worship as true hope

By Karla Iyonmahan, DDS

It is a word that should bring to mind a kind of lifestyle, a way we go about handling our affairs, our relationships with people and with Him. Without question it must be undefiled, pure, and give glory, honour and reverence to our most merciful, adoring (of us) God.

You know, the God who went out of His way to sacrifice living in His heavenly realm, to enter ours, in order to set us (‘the captives’) free. The One who, no matter what, keeps us as ‘the apple of His eye’.  The One who has stated, repeatedly, in His Love Letter to us, that He will provide for us, will never leave us stranded, never forsake us.

If it is still not clear, He is the same One Who stated that He will deliver us in times of trouble, because we have set our love on Him. (Psalms 91: 14, 15). You DO remember Him now, right?

So there is no reason to be callous. No reason to not give Him your whole-hearted worship; a humbleness, a grateful, ‘bowing down in the heart’ kind of unwavering adoration that exhibits your utter amazement and awe for all that He has done, and for the Love He held for you even when your back was turned toward His outstretched hands.

One should never attempt to simply ‘bandy about’ when it comes to the worship of a God that has given literally everything, including Himself, to YOU.  

Is there an ounce of pure worship in you?

A little Muslim boy + a friend’s invitation to church + a Christmas box = a new Christian family

“I just had to meet these people who gave him this box,” Mary said. “And I had to find out who would send a box full of gifts from another continent and not know where it is going to show love to people they would never meet. This kind of love does not exist in Islam. I knew these must be God’s people.” —Mary Mutumba

Clinton Mutumba didn’t like it when his Koran instructors at the nearby mosque caned his legs when he mispronounced the Arabic words.  So one day he announced to his mother Mary he no longer wanted to go.

“Where will you go?” she asked him.

“I want to go to church,” he told her. “The Lord will tell me where.”

Mary recounts being surprised by his response, but agreed to let him go.

Shortly afterwards, one of Clinton’s friends was told by his pastor to invite a friend to a special event at their church. So he invited his buddy Clinton who of course said yes, figuring that had to be God telling him where to go.

Clinton stands at the gates of the church where he received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox

Clinton stands at the gates of the church where he received an Operation Christmas Child shoebox

When he got there, he received a free gift-filled shoebox from Operation Christmas Child, a present that had traveled by sea all the way from the United States to Kenya—a fact he would later learn and tell his mother.

A Journey from Islam to Christ

When single mom Mary and her son Clinton moved to the town they now live in, all the people in the neighbourhood were Muslim. Hoping for a community that would help her, they became Muslim too. It turned out to be different than she’d expected.

After the shoebox distribution, mother and son attended their separate places of worship for months. Clinton began weekly classes of The Greatest Journey, a 12-lesson discipleship program designed by Samaritan’s Purse for shoebox recipients. The Jesus he learned about there wasn’t just the prophet Muslims call ‘Isa”, the one he’d been taught about by the imam and in the Koran. Each week he’d return home and tell his mother what he’d learned during class, and each week she became more curious. 

“Who are these people who didn’t even know him who gave him a gift and are taking time to teach him?”  she wondered. More important, she became curious about the Jesus who compelled them to do this.

First Clinton, then his mother, came to know and trust Jesus as God’s Son, and their Lord and Saviour.

“I decided since that time that I would serve the Lord,” Mary said. “That love I received, I want to express that same love to other people.”

(Clinton’s story appeared originally here)

The lambs of God: paschal and Paschal

Easter Sunday is, of course, the pivotal and most triumphant day in the calendar of the Christian Church. Interestingly however, no trace of an Easter celebration as we know it exists in the New Testament.

The celebration of Easter actually began with the early Jewish Christians who continued to celebrate the Passover, regarding Christ as the true Paschal Lamb. The original and prophetic sacrificial lamb had been the one eaten by Hebrew families their last night in captivity in Egypt.

An examination of rabbinic evidence from those days suggests that the paschal lamb, which had to be a perfect specimen, was arranged in the form of a cross before roasting. One spit went through the lower parts up to the head, and another across the back, to which the legs were attached. Furthermore, none of the bones were to be broken.

Sound familiar? To see the remarkable resonance here, compare the reading in Exodus 12:46b (“Do not break any of the bones”) with that from John 19:31-33:

Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

For early Christians then, the Passover event naturally passed over into a commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

You can read an excellent related story by Rabbi Evan Moffic here: How Lent started with Passover.

Angst or peace: it's your choice

Based on a sermon by the Reverend Canon Anne Moore

“We live in a culture where snipers live behind laptops and smart phones. Fewer people are interested in debate and more are looking for enemies to eviscerate. Some have become unhinged and others are on the ledge.”

Anne quoted these words from a blogger (whose name she hadn’t taken note of) in a recent sermon. Do you feel you are among the ‘unhinged’? She confessed to the same feelings she sees affecting so many others these days: anxiety, despair, anger, fear, disgust, frustration, embarrassment, hostility, and panic. Perhaps angst best sums it up.

Upsetting and unsettling information bombards us from all directions, and as Christians we know we really can't, really shouldn’t, simply turn off the news. We need to be aware of what’s going on firstly, to pray, but also to be able to engage others in conversation.  

While we can never understand ‘what in the world is going on’ or how to fix it, we must refuse to be bent out of our Christian shape by it. None of the mess is of God, who is still in control and who alone has the solutions. Earthly governments can only put band-aids on people’s problems, Anne reminded the congregation. But the gospel can bring healing to souls.

Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save.... Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD their God.” (Psalm 146:3,5)

“We want and need hope here,” she made clear after reading the above scripture. “Hope is not dreaming or a vague aspiration. It’s not simply wanting things to turn out well while remaining uncertain whether they actually will. Hope is the absolute certainty we have that God is good and that God’s promises are true.”

Further, we can use the hope we cultivate in ourselves to help the troubled around us. “The despair, anxiety and fear we see in people around us is the very opportunity we have to share the hope and good news of Jesus with them.”

The Almighty will accomplish His purposes, no matter the political leaders and disasters cramming our newscasts. We see in scripture how God has been able to use some exceptionally evil rulers such as Cyrus, Nebuchadnezzar, Caesar and Nero to fulfill His will. He has worked out His purposes under every condition imaginable, from Egypt through Babylon and onto Rome and beyond. We must keep the hope, and cultivate peace.

“We don’t need to pray for peace, we have it,” she concluded. “It is in us. We have that peace but must use it and share it.” 

Seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter: 3b)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” (John 14:27)

Miracles from Heaven: extraordinary true story now a movie

The remarkable true story of a young girl’s faith, hope and healing, this movie may well be the first faith-based film finding critical acclaim and a mainstream audience beyond church-goers.

Little Annabel Beam had not been well for most of her early years. At five, doctors finally diagnosed her with two rare life-threatening digestive disorders.* 

“She would pretty much live on the sofa, with a heating pad on her stomach,” her mother Christy explains. As Annabel’s health continued to deteriorate, she lived with chronic pain and spent far too much time in hospitals. The darkest moment came one day as Christy sat by her nine-year-old daughter's hospital bed. The little girl turned to her mother and said, “Mommy I just want to die. And I want to go to heaven and live with Jesus where there's no more pain.”

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Annabel had stopped fighting, and Christy felt she had nothing left to give.

“However much my faith had been tested and I'd questioned Him,” she says, “at that point I just turned it over to God.”

They needed a miracle. One week later, on December 30, 2011, they got one.

While the majorly crazy miracle of Annabel's healing drives the story, the everyday miracles—and the stellar performances and direction revealing them—transports viewers raptly along to the faith-affirming conclusion of death bringing capital-L Life. Perhaps especially if you, like Christy, find your faith wavers in the dark gorges of our journeys.

Master’s Book Store in Haliburton carries both the movie and book, as does Amazon and other retailers.  
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*pseudo-obstruction motility disorder and antral hypomotility disorder

Jesus rescues Christians AND Muslims: an astonishing tale from the Middle East straight from the book of Acts

Little did the Bibles for Mideast organization know of all the coming connected miracles when they published a story on the Arabian Sea baptism of 24 new believers early last October (you can read that here).  

The fact 24 Muslims had converted to Christianity at the risk of their and their families’ lives alone attests to a miracle-working God. As the baptismal service ended, the new converts and workers—50 in all—boarded a bus to return to their house church for worship and communion. 

A small convoy of militants suddenly appeared behind them and opened fire. All they knew to do was pray to the Lord for protection as they sped away, the gunmen in hot pursuit.

When a massive dust storm formed behind them, they now feared being trapped in the dark, churning grime and becoming easy prey for their pursuers. 

Then, just as suddenly, Jesus materialized in the storm clouds and dust.

“He appeared as a mighty and wonderful man showing his protecting and lovely hands towards us with a sweet smile,’ exulted newly-baptized Rizwan. “Jesus saved us! He himself blocked the road of militants in the form of a dust storm.”

The gunfire slowed and stopped, enabling the bus to drive safely back to the church.

Two months later, the same mission organization released a story of how an Arab woman from a prominent Muslim family (her father a top religious authority in the region) found herself near death after being bitten by a highly poisonous Saharan snake. While her sharp-shooting brother Haroon (not his real name) managed to kill the viper, it nearly killed her (that story in full here).

Hajira (not her real name) spent the next four days near death in a coma. In a few minutes of wakefulness, she heard doctors discussing the renal failure and increasing fibrinolysis certain to take her life. Losing hope, she turned to the wall, weeping, and tried to prepare herself for death.  She fell asleep hoping to never wake up.

As she slept, an angel appeared before her. “Call on Jesus, the son of the Most High, who was crucified for you, died and rose from the dead.”

“Prophet Jesus, the son of Mary?” she asked with irritation. “He was not crucified; and he was not greater than my prophet.”

“You are wrong,” the angel replied.  “Jesus is the Lord of the prophets. He is the true saviour. He can heal you from all sickness and save you from sin and death. Call on him with your heart and mouth.”

The angel disappeared. She awoke to see her brother Haroon standing beside her. “Were you dreaming?” he inquired. “I heard you say something about the prophet Jesus.”

She dreaded his anger as she told him about the angel and what he’d said. To her amazement, Haroon then related his own experience in a dust storm several months earlier. Yes, THAT dust storm!

He’d received information at dawn one morning that a Christian group planned a baptismal service in the Arabian Sea that day. Alerting his wing of 18 armed militants, the gang rushed to the seashore. Planning to kill everyone in the sea during the service, they aimed to terrify the world into realizing death awaited any Christians attempting to evangelize in their region.

But the service had already ended when they arrived.  Seeing a bus leaving the scene, they opened fire and the chase began. As they fired away, he explained that within seconds a giant dust storm formed directly in front of their vehicles. Unable to see or move forward, they climbed from their cars and kept shooting into the dust.

To their astonishment, the angry face of Jesus appeared in the swirling sand, eyes ablaze. “Why are you persecuting me?” his voice thundered. “It’s hard for you to kick against the pricks.” Jesus’ voice literally blew the fighters over and sent their guns flying.  Haroon explained they somehow managed to get themselves back on their feet, but couldn’t utter a word. 

[Note the similarities to the story from Acts 26:14, where Jesus appears to murderous Saul—equally intent on killing Christians and eventually to be the Apostle Paul—with the same plea and the same results.]

Jesus' voice thundered again. “I came to the world not to destroy anyone, but to save you. Go in peace.” He then vanished, the dust storm disappearing with him.

Haroon tried to explain the dreadful fear, yet abundant peace, they all felt simultaneously—nothing like anything he or they had ever known.

When their voices returned, all but two of the men praised and thanked God. The two argued it couldn’t have been from God, and all left the place confounded.

Haroon shared the story with their father, who warned him not to tell others. His own band of militants, however, laid down their arms. "This all happened a few days before you were bitten!" he shared with Hajira. Overwhelmed and overjoyed, brother and sister joined hands in prayer. 

“Lord Jesus, if you are the true saviour, show us the way,” prayed Haroon. “Jesus, if you are the true saviour, forgive our sins. Jesus, if you are the true saviour, heal both our physical and mental sickness. Jesus, if you are the true saviour, send someone to us for further guidance. Amen”.

The siblings wept in joy and gratitude. A couple of hours later, Hajira still at his sister’s side, two strangers arrived in her room unexpectedly. While neither had seen them before, the elder man addressed each by name. 

“The Lord Jesus heard your prayers which you both prayed together,” he began. “The angel who visited you appeared before me also, and asked me to visit you, guide you to salvation, and pray for you. So I left my house at once to come see you.”

He introduced himself as Pastor Paul of the Bibles for Mideast organization, and then explained to them who Jesus is, and why he was crucified and died. 

Hajira and Haroom repented of their sins and accepted Jesus as Lord and saviour. As Pastor Paul put his hands on Hajira’s head and prayed for her deliverance and healing, tremendous power flowed through her body. She rose, completely healed.

Hospital tests proved her healing, and doctors could not help but acknowledge a miracle had happened. Neither could the siblings’ family, who soon all came to Christ. They now ask our prayers for protection and strength to survive the persecution sure to come.
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You can visit Bibles for Mideast here and read more remarkable stories of rescue and salvation. They work secretly in highly restrictive areas, evangelizing, distributing bibles (free of charge), and establishing house churches. Many on their teams have converted from Islam.