The independent Christian movie “I Can Only Imagine” performed far better than anyone could have imagined at the box office last weekend, bringing in $17.1 million when it was only expected to sell between $2 million and $4 million in tickets.
Why? Because people of faith in this country are speaking loudly. The elitists on the left who continue to ridicule Christianity while they preach at us to coexist need to stop talking and start listening.
While it cost only $7 million to make, “I Can Only Imagine” finished opening weekend at the No. 3 spot in the box office.
“I don’t think the industry predicted this,” said Jon Erwin, co-director of the movie. “They really dismissed the film prior to opening weekend – almost called it a failure before we even got a chance to open it. The opening weekend success of ‘I Can Only Imagine’ illustrates just how large the Christian audience is, and the movie industry should pay attention.”
We continue to see this growing hatred for Christians in spite of the fact that they make up the majority of our society. We’ve just seen two more recent examples of this.
First, comedian Jim Carrey tweeted his distorted painting apparently portraying White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders with the message: “This is the portrait of a so-called Christian whose only purpose in life is to lie for the wicked. Monstrous!”
Then HBO comedian John Oliver stooped low, using Vice President Mike Pence’s daughter and her apolitical children’s book about the family’s pet bunny to target the vice president.
Charlotte Pence wrote “Marlon Bundo’s A Day in the Life of the Vice President,” an educational children’s story about the role of the vice president, told from the point-of-view of her family’s bunny, Marlon Bundo. Oliver released a parody book about the family’s bunny in which he took aim at the vice president because he disagrees with his views on gay marriage.
Once upon a time kids of politicians were off limits. Now the anti-Christian crowd has gone so far off the rails they justify using kids as well as their pets as a bullying platform to spew their personal hatred for Christianity. Apparently, anything is fair game if you’re attacking a person of faith.
Oliver’s fans also took to Amazon to troll Charlotte Pence’s book, attack the vice president and praise John Oliver.
These two are just the latest in a growing pattern of incidents where Christians have been singled out and mocked and ridiculed. They follow “The View” co-host Joy Behar’s comments that Christians who hear from God have a mental illness. The backlash was so fierce that Behar has since been forced to apologize.
Also in recent weeks, former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee was forced to resign from the Country Music Association Board amid backlash for his conservative and religious beliefs.
MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle ridiculed Larry Kudlow’s faith last week when he said, on leaving CNBC to accept President Trump’s offer to become director of National Economic Council: “However things work out, it will be God’s will.” Ruhle later apologized for being dismissive.
Christians are growing tired of this increasing trend that makes their faith the punchline of jokes and the target of public taunting by the far left, who view themselves as morally superior simply because they have a microphone.
“I Can Only Imagine” is a hopeful, uplifting story of love and redemption. What makes it so powerful is that it’s a true story.
Bart Millard had the deck stacked against him. His mom left when he was young and he was forced to live with his abusive father. But after his dad was diagnosed with cancer, Millard witnessed firsthand how the once abusive father is transformed into a believer in Jesus Christ.
Inspired by the miracle God worked on his dad, Bart Millard went on to write the song “I Can Only Imagine,” which became the bestselling Christian single of all time and launched his group Mercy Me.
The story is evidence of grace that sustains us and gives us every reason to have hope for a future, no matter how bad our circumstances.
As Christians, we can only imagine a time when anti-Christian bigots can finally understand that while they may be louder, we make up a not-so-silent, large portion of society in this country. We buy movie tickets, concert tickets, watch TV and vote.
If you observe the hatred you hear directed at Christians, in just about every instance it’s been responded to by taking the high road with dignity and class. That’s because as Christians we don’t look to Hollywood, or its high-profile counterparts for validation. They are not our hope for the future. If they truly want to coexist, they need to start listening and stop ridiculing.
I can only imagine what would happen if those who hate Christians could trade their hate for the hope this movie inspires, instead of continuing to perpetuate a hostile culture that assaults people of faith in this country. If they would start listening and stop mocking, then we could all start coexisting.
I can only imagine.
From Fox News Broadcasting
Jerry Falwell Jr.’s political advice falls somewhere between President Donald Trump’s and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s when ranked by evangelicals—and Americans overall—in a new poll of registered voters.
According to Morning Consult, endorsements by prominent religious leaders hold more clout with self-identified US evangelicals than those by other celebrities, but still aren’t as impactful as endorsements by other politicians themselves.
Evangelicals were most likely to heed recommendations by top leaders from recent administrations; nearly half (49%) said Trump’s endorsement would make them more likely to vote for a particular candidate, more than any other figure.
Vice President Mike Pence (46%), President George W. Bush (43%), House Speaker Paul Ryan (34%), and President Barack Obama (33%) made up the rest of the top five for evangelicals, while a few spiritual and religious leaders ranked among the top 10: Oprah (31%), Joel Osteen (28%), and Jerry Falwell Jr. (27%).
Pope Francis, Osteen, and Falwell Jr. were the only religious figures in the poll. During the 2016 campaign, Osteen called Trump “a friend of our ministry” and “a good man,” while Falwell Jr.—president of Liberty University and son of the late Moral Majority leader Jerry Falwell—was among the first evangelicals to officially endorse him.
Trump—who according to Morning Consult/Politico currently holds a 59 percent approval rating among evangelical registered voters, compared to 43 percent among voters overall—has pledged to repeal the Johnson Amendment and give US pastors more freedom to address candidates from the pulpit.
Among voters overall, politicians held the most clout (either positive or negative), followed by a few pundits, business leaders, and certain celebrities. Americans pay more attention to what Osteen or Falwell Jr. says than the Pope, but the two still aren’t as influential—for better or worse—as Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, or Kanye West.
Morning Consult reported that 39 percent of Americans said Pope Francis’ endorsement “makes no difference” on how they vote, compared to 33 percent for Osteen and 31 percent for Falwell Jr. Meanwhile, just 27 percent said Oprah’s endorsement didn’t matter, compared to 30 percent for Ellen or Kanye.
In the recent poll, evangelicals felt even more strongly about not voting for candidates backed by prominent figures they oppose than about voting for candidates backed by those they trust.
Half or more said endorsements by Hillary Clinton (54%), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (50%), or President Bill Clinton (50%) would make them less likely to support a candidate. They came down about as negatively on endorsements by Kim Kardashian (51%) or Kanye (49%).
Fellow entertainers Beyoncé and Ellen also fell among evangelicals’ 10 most damaging endorsements. Only about 1 in 5 evangelicals cares what The Rock had to say either way; celebrities such as Tom Brady, LeBron James, Mark Zuckerberg, and Taylor Swift also fell relatively low on their lists.
A few liberal politicians were polarizing enough to rank among both the best and worst endorsements for evangelicals: Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and Senator Bernie Sanders. About a third of evangelicals see endorsements by the Obamas as a plus, while just under half view them negatively.
Outside of individual endorsements, evangelicals—like most voters—put clout in what their partner or party has to say about a candidate. Nearly half of evangelicals said their spouse’s endorsement (49%) would make a positive difference, as would a boost from the Republican Party (47%). On the other hand, more than 4 in 10 evangelicals said endorsements from the Democratic Party (42%) or the Democratic Socialists of America (47%) would be a turnoff.
Only 22 percent of evangelicals said an endorsement by their local newspaper would make them more likely to vote for a politician, while 25 percent said it would make them less likely. In comparison, only 25 percent of evangelicals said Sean Hannity’s endorsement would make them more likely to vote, while 17 percent said they would be less likely.
A LifeWay Research study released last year similarly found that despite the popularity and political activism held by celebrities, Americans continue to look to politicians to lead conversations on important issues.
A plurality (21%) said the President had the best chance of fostering healthy conversations among the American people, with 1 percent or less turning to other famous folks to do so. “Musicians or athletes get a great deal of attention for their public statements about the issues, but few Americans seem to look to them as thought leaders,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.
Under the Johnson Amendment, which Trump still hopes to repeal, certain political speech by nonprofits including churches could lead to them losing their tax-exempt status. Only 33 percent of evangelicals by belief want churches to face punishments if they do endorse candidates.
More churchgoers heard endorsements for Clinton in 2016 than Trump, according to Pew Research.
Our modern-day, psychological “jitters” confront us on a daily basis; sudden, random gun violence and shootings, domestic terrorism, headline news stories of ongoing, new crimes in our community, the stress of living in a frenzied world with crazy drivers on the road next to you, the troubling concerns of making financial ends meet in an unpredictable job market, aging and health worries, the moral issues our children or grandchildren are dealing with, the list goes on…..nothing is as ‘easy or simple’ as it used to be.
Even, trying to get some kind of timely customer service assistance with an issue from a product or service we have purchased and paid for can try even the most patient of souls. Ironically, it appears our culture is getting even more complex as we speak in spite of all our impressive, technological advances designed to “simplify our lives.” Remember how many passwords you used to have to know?
“Do you think we need peace of mind today?” I doubt you will find anyone anywhere who will disagree with that. The question is ‘where?’
Here’s one kind of peace: the world does offer a “temporal fix,” a type of transitory “peace” usually in the form of a pill, a drug, the bottle of some kind of exotic experience designed to boost our emotions and make us forget about life for awhile. Here again, the problem is that it doesn’t last. It is fragile and it always depends on something we must do to get it. We become dependent on it and sooner or later we have to do more of it, pushing the boundaries of our health, in order to feel the same experience. A vicious, no-win cycle.
Additional, this peace depends on the “absence of conflict.” The world says, “if you make enough money, achieve all your goals, find your dreams all coming true, then and only then will you finally achieve your nirvana.” Change your environment and then you’ll have peace of mind.
And, then we wonder when hear about those very fortunate few who somehow achieved all of these things, yet are still miserable inside and eventually implode, famous celebrities and just normal folks. Another dead-end street.
“So, what is answer?”
Friends, I have personally discovered one of the many, wonderful “perks” of the Christ-centered life; the dynamic, powerful work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. When we seriously submit our lives to the Lordship of Christ, seeking to sincerely obey His Word in everything, a remarkable thing happens; His supernatural peace stills and smooths the sloshing sea of turmoil, frustration and anxiety deep in our hearts.
This may sound like I’m saying that God’s peace is more or less something we generate, based on our relationship to Christ. Nothing could be farther from the truth, however. God’s peace is totally an unmerited, undeserved, unearned “gift of God’s grace” alone, based on what Jesus did for us at the cross, “God made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. He made PEACE with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross” (Colossians 1:20)
Much like the story of the raging sea, threatening the life of the disciples in the boat with Jesus, He speaks to that inner spiritual sea in our soul and commands, “Peace, be still!” (Mark 4:39) And, the result? Perfect calm.
“But, really all this sounds too good to be true?”
I actually once thought that myself. I was once a skeptic who somewhat dismissed these promises of peace for everyone. In my mind, I assumed God’s peace is reserved only to those “super saints,” those pious souls who mediate like monks or nuns all the time. Furthermore, I reasoned God’s peace was “psycho-somatic” — if you think about it enough, it will come true. You just have to “psych-yourself-out.” You know, mind over matter. But, who in the world has time to climb the top of a mountain and chant to Buddha or somebody else all day long? Forget that.
The truth is when we open our hearts to God completely and allow Him to control our lives, then all of our problems will magically disappear. Not! Unfortunately, some well-meaning people today try and paint the Christian life in those flowery terms. But, to those of us who have walked with Jesus long enough, we know that is simply unrealistic. Jesus even promised there would be trouble for all who follow Him because the world is in direct conflict with the truth of God, where we stand; “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)
The peace of Christ is the confident assurance that in any circumstance we find ourselves in, we can really live fearless lives where the unknown present and future is in God’s hands, not ours. The peace of God “umpires” our heart and controls the worry, uncertainty, doubts, frustrations and fears at war within us. These hostile forces become restrained and are not allowed to dominate our thinking because Christ is on the throne of our hearts, not ourselves. But, we have to relinquish control of our lives to God IF we want God’s peace. And, that only comes from a daily decision on our part to “surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
For many years I did my very best to avoid turning my life over completely to Christ. I was a professing Christian, but I still wanted to be in control. I honestly thought if I let God be God in my life, I’d miss out on my definition of peace and fun. I now realize how much I really missed, going my own way, and how wrong I was in doing that. Don’t make the same mistake I did. If real, lasting peace means anything to you, please consider what I’ve shared here from my heart. It’s God’s promise and gift to you, if you will receive it on His terms. It’s yours for the taking;
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And, the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid,” (Jesus in John 14:27-28)
“The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.”
— Psalm 138:8
I like the idea that God only made me once. And, He did it right the first time.
God made you once. You were worth the work that first time. Then He threw away that mold because one of you is enough for Him. You’re enough. You are the sacred painting, the original.
God made us this way on purpose. It’s no mistake that we are formed the way we are. But why?
“Why did God make humans in the first place?”
Look at Isaiah 43:7:
“Everyone who is called by My name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.”
God created us for His glory. Hang with me for a little Old Testament lesson. The word “create” in the original Hebrew is “bara.” When this particular word is used, God is the only subject — He does all the work. Only He can create in this particular way. We may be able to create a painting or create chaos, but as humans, we cannot “bara.” So when God made you, He did something that only He can do, and He did that for His glory.
This short (Hebrew 101) lesson does have a point. We look at the original language of the text to see, according to Scripture, that we were made especially by God to promote Him, glorify Him, and worship Him. Nothing on earth is more important, for this life and eternity, than knowing this and fleshing this great truth out in our daily lives!
If we are each as unique as the Bible says we are, then our calls to courage are each equally unique.
So what does this have to do with being brave?
KEY THOUGHT: We each have to be brave in our own ways.
The painting of your life is a masterpiece that will never be replicated, and there’s a brave brush to use in this painting that will change everything for God’s glory and for your good. Maybe you want to move to another country to live and share about Jesus. My friend, that is brave. It really is. But so is being a stay-at-home mom. And so is being a cable technician. So is being an author or a baseball player or a chef or a retired, volunteer worker at your church.
Courage looks different for each of us. Courage plays itself out daily in the beauty of who we are spiritually, not what we look like physically in Christ.
For some, being brave is facing a chronic health problem, yet determined to overcome it’s discouraging effects by keeping a spirit of joy as a witness to God’s power in Christ working through you that others see.
Perhaps for others, being brave is facing a difficult job situation, that isn’t your first choice, where you are surrounded by those who don’t share your views on God. But, you believe rightly God has you there for a special purpose and that is to be a courageous witness for the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is God’s bravery at work in and through you.
God made you on purpose and unique. God has called you to be brave. And God will equip you to do it. Your beauty will be fully seen when you face the music of whatever your circumstances are with the confidence that God is not only with you, but He will lead, guide and direct you to do whatever it is He desires you to do for others, as you totally depend on Him.
Be Very Brave: In your journal, list some ways you feel your life is unique. What do you love? How do you like to spend your time? What ways do you see your life as different from anyone else’s? How can you better re-envision your immediate circumstances to see how God can use you to make a difference in the lives of others?
You may find it helpful to talk with your Pastor this week and ask him the areas of need in your church because when we make ourselves available to serve God, our Christian lives will experience a joy and abundance that we can’t have if we are always sitting on the sidelines.
Billy Graham: An Extraordinary Journey
On FOX, 7–8 p.m. ET, THIS Sunday, March 4
Tune in to FOX for the premiere of a special broadcast about Billy Graham. Never-before-seen footage reveals this remarkable, yet humble, man and how God worked through him on the grand stage of history—and touched millions of lives around the world. We pray you’ll be inspired as you see what God can do through an ordinary life yielded to Him.
We encourage you to watch the broadcast with your friends and family who need to hear the Gospel message, and please pray that people across the nation will come to faith in Jesus Christ.
Will you share this special broadcast on social media? Thank you for your partnership and may God bless you!
P.S. Did God use Billy Graham to minister to you or your family? We’d love to hear your story, which you can share here.
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord … that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” —Revelation 14:13