"It's a story made up of many stories, told by many voices, no individual voice any more or any less important than any other, yet every voice working together to ultimately tell the one story—a story that involves everyone; that captures our collective and idiosyncratic purpose in one." read more
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Even with the box office success of Passion of the Christ and Fireproof, Christian films still conjure thoughts of bad acting, flat storylines and syrupy Sunday school lessons. But the producers of a new Christian horror film say they have created an atypical thriller that is genuinely scary.
Some 2,000 intercessors are expected to participate in Reformation Day, a prayer event sponsored by Generals International. Ministry co-founder Cindy Jacobs said the meeting, to be held at Christ for the Nations Institute (CFNI) in Dallas, is a response to what she sensed was an "urgent" call to pray. read more
Man vs. Wild star Bear Grylls stopped by a Florida prison this week to tell inmates about the one survival tool he can't live without: his faith.
During a visit Thursday to the Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach, the British adventurer, who has eaten animal eyeballs and camel intestines and confronted some of the world's most poisonous snakes on his popular Discovery Channel show, said his relationship with Christ is what gives him strength.
"I risk a lot to do this stuff, but I've been given a really privileged platform where people know the show. I want to do something good with that," he told roughly 160 inmates gathered for a chapel service. "And that's really why I'm here. I want to say this [faith], deep down, is what strengthens me. It helps me in the difficult places. [And] it's not exclusive."
The talk is one of two appearances he made this week as a spokesman for the Alpha course, a Christian discipleship program developed at the charismatic Holy Trinity Brompton church in London. Grylls also spoke Wednesday night during the annual conference of the ministry's U.S. branch.
Grylls said attending an Alpha course several years ago with his wife, Shara, gave him a chance to ask some big questions about God and His plan for humanity. "Alpha was a really good excuse to ask these questions," he said. "It was kind of low-pressure and easy and it was fun."
As a child, he said he never questioned the existence of God. "I had a really natural faith in God," he said. "I knew God existed. I never asked. I just knew. I felt loved, and it was there. But I lost it."
He met Christians as he grew older, but they seemed judgmental and boring. "I thought, I don't want that," he said. "And I walked right away from it."
He thought his life was OK until his teen years when some close friends suddenly abandoned him. "It's so easy to be brave when everything's OK," he said. "That's another big lesson I've learned. Real bravery is about when it's not going OK."
Sitting alone, he wondered where was the God he knew as a kid, and he began to pray. "I want that same faith and that same friendship and that same relationship and that same freedom again," he said. "If You're there, will You be that friend to me again? Amen."
"And then that was the end of the prayer. Little did I know, actually, that is the prayer. Everything else, really, is academic. That's the prayer: Be my best friend."
Grylls said he always loved climbing and living adventures, so he eventually joined the military and became part of the British Special Air Service, where he served as a trooper, survival instructor and Patrol Medic.
But while on a mission in Africa in 1996, his canopy ripped at 1,600 feet, and Grylls fell to the ground and broke has back in three places. He spent the next 18 months in a military hospital strapped in plaster and braces, not sure if he would ever walk again.
"Suddenly everything you've taken for granted in your life, like your movement and your freedom, is ripped away from you," he said. "It was a dark road of not knowing whether I'd be able to walk again let alone do this one thing that I could do well, which was to climb."
But in 1998 he fulfilled a lifelong goal by climbing Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. The journey is so dangerous one in six climbers die; four of the climbers who journeyed with him lost their lives.
When he reached the summit, he took some snow that eventually melted into water he stored at home. He and his father, British politician Sir Michael Grylls, who died in 2001, would occasionally drink from the water. Grylls said he also christened his children with it.
"It wasn't about the water," he said. "It was about believing that dreams are worth fighting for and they're worth risking a lot for. You've got to. Everything has a price. Things don't come easy ... whether you're climbing big mountains or you're surviving prison."
Grylls said his faith journey remains a rocky road, "full of struggles and doubts and challenges." But he said he clings to two Scriptures: Psalm 73:23, "You hold me by my right hand," and Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (NKJV).
"We make everything so complicated and so theological and so smart and so together and so confusing," he said. "Actually, all that matters is, I'm holding you by your right hand, and I can do everything with Christ. And that's, for me, is what holds me a lot on mountains when things are going wrong. ... It's what holds me when I'm struggling with my faith and doubts."
An Alpha course will soon launch in the Tomoka prison, and Grylls asked inmates who participate to e-mail him their stories.
"Because that's what motivates me," he said. "It's amazing when I hear the stories. It happens all the time-amazing stories of lives turned around, people finding that simple, simple faith that says, â€˜I'm home and I'm held and I'm forgiven.' I've seen the toughest people in the world have their lives turned around."
Grylls said his family is his priority, and he struggles with being away from wife and children—ages 6, 3 and 9 months—to film the show.
In 2007, London's Sunday Times criticized Grylls for reportedly exaggerating the dangers he encounters during filming and staying in hotels during overnight camping trips. He said Thursday that he takes a small crew of four on expeditions—a cameraman and sound engineer and two ex-Special Forces troops for safety. He said he stays in the wild, while the others are picked up by helicopter and flown to hotels.
He admits, though, that his show is more of an adventure program and that the Discovery Channel's other wild man, Survivorman's Les Stroud, takes a more textbook approach to survival. Stroud travels into the bush alone and films his own adventures.
Grylls said his worst journey is always the most recent. Last week he returned from the jungles of China, where he had to ride out a hurricane, and before that he was in Indonesia's black swamps, where crocodiles have been feeding off the corpses of 65,000 people killed during the recent tsunami.
He says he doesn't love being in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat but, perhaps, bear poop. "You have no idea," he said. "I love being home. I don't like eating scorpions and snakes. But we've all got to earn a living, you know?"
Does he ever bargain with God when he's caught in a sticky situation? one inmate asked. "I'm a heavy bargainer," he said. "That's all right. The great thing is we have a God who doesn't tire of that. The more He gives, the more He likes to give, so keep asking."Add a comment read more
A recent Barna Group found that many young adults are skeptical about the Bible.
In a study exploring how attitudes toward the Bible are changing from generation to generation, the California-based research organization found that only 67 percent of adults ages 18 to 25 viewed the Bible as a sacred text. More than 80 percent of 26- to 41-year-olds and 91 percent of those older than 42 held that view.
"[The] central theme of young people's approach to the Bible is skepticism," said David Kinnaman, the director of the Barna study. "They question the Bible's history as well as its relevance to their lives, leading many young people to reject the Bible as containing everything one needs to live a meaningful life."
Only 30 percent of adults under age 25 said the Bible is totally accurate in the principles it teaches, while 58 percent of those over 64 agree with this statement.
The study also found that 56 percent of young people were likely to have a universal perspective on the Bible. Only 30 percent of those over age 64 believed the truths found in the Bible could also be found in other religious texts.
Young adults were also less likely to read the Bible, with 40 percent claiming to have read it in the past week compared with 53 percent of those in retirement age. The study found that young people are less likely to read the Bible, but it notes that a majority of all respondents said they'd read the Bible for at least 15 minutes in the last week.
Kinnaman said the silver lining in the study is that 19 percent of those under 25 expressed a desire to grow in their knowledge of the Bible, as opposed to only 9 percent of those older than 64 who expressed the same desire.
"Perhaps young people want to participate more in the process of learning, not simply attend Bible lectures or be trained in classrooms," Kinnaman said.
"[Those ages 18 to 41] have come to expect experiences that appear unscripted and interactive, that allow them to be open and honest with their questions, that are technologically stimulating, that are done alongside peers and within trusted relationships, and that give them the chance to be creative and visual," he continued. "Their expectations may or may not be entirely healthy, but without considering these issues, the Bible will continue to lose hold on the next generation."Add a comment read more
Chynna Phillips' mother and father were members of the 1960s successful singing group The Mamas and the Papas, and she herself achieved fame as a member of the pop sensation Wilson Phillips. She went on to become a household name in the 1990s with such hits as "Hold On" and "You're in Love."
But today Phillips is singing for Jesus as part of the new duo Chynna & Vaughan, whose debut project, One Reason, released Tuesday.
Photo: Chynna Phillips (left) and Vaughn Penn
"This is such an important time in my life," Phillips said. "Although I did accomplish a lot of the things I wanted to ... as a member of Wilson Phillips, nothing compares to what I'm doing now. Nothing is more gratifying as a Christian believer than being able to thread my faith and love for Jesus into my music."
"We are doing this because it's our calling," added singer-songwriter Vaughan Penn, whose music has been featured in more than 100 films and television programs, including Grey's Anatomy, Criminal Minds, Numb3rs, Boston Public and The Hills. "We want our music to bring light to dark places and offer healing for listeners."
Although both women had experiences with God as teens, they drifted away from faith as adults. Phillips says as a teen she got involved with the wrong crowd but turned away from a harmful lifestyle at age 19. Penn said she got confused "not about Jesus but what does it mean to have a Christian life, to walk a Christian path."
But in the last several years, the women each had dramatic encounters with God that they say restored them to the plan He had for them.
Despite a successful career, marriage to actor Billy Baldwin and three children, Phillips said she began to feel something was missing in her life about six years ago.
"There was nothing to complain about, but I was just feeling empty," Phillips said. "I thought, I know there's more."
Phillips says she cried out to God. "I got on my knees and I said, 'OK, whoever You are, wherever You are, I need You to reveal Yourself to me because I'm ready to commit my entire life to serving You."
A week later, her brother- and sister-in-law Stephen and Kennya Baldwin were at Phillips' house praying for a niece who was going through a difficult time. While the group was praying, Kennya suddenly told Phillips: "The Holy Spirit is telling me that I need to pray over you, Chynna. Would that be OK?"
As soon as Kennya Baldwin laid her hands on Phillips, the floodgates opened. "I just cried my eyes out," Phillips said. "I started to shake a little bit and I knew I was home. I was like, 'OK Jesus, You have confirmed. That's it. I am home. You are God. I will never worship or adore any other God. You are the God; there is no other God.'"
Penn had been a Christian for years but says a life-threatening illness deepened her faith. Doctors told her she needed to have surgery, but she sensed God telling her not to undergo the procedure and that He was going to heal her. "This was a very, very definite, 'Tell them no'" to surgery, she said.
While she was in the hospital, Penn says a Christian friend introduced her to the band Casting Crowns. "The Holy Spirit jumped off the music into me," she said. "It lifted my spirits and told me everything was going to be all right. God grabbed me, and He also grabbed my fever and started bringing it down."
She began to listen to as much contemporary Christian music as she could. "I couldn't get enough," she said. "I was like, 'Lord, I love writing songs. I love using my gifts for Your glory. And when I get well, I just want to do music like this, to praise You and help others to find hope and healing like I've found.'"
She left the hospital, still undergoing treatment, but says God miraculously healed her and gave her a passion to use her talents to glorify God. "It's not about me," Penn said. "It's about the Lord and having the confidence in God to do this work. And as soon as I really embraced that and after I was sick and got healed then I had the strength to do this the right way."
Penn and Phillips met in 2007 and quickly began writing songs. The duo say they've found true joy, peace and fulfillment when they dedicated their lives and talents to God, and now, as Chynna & Vaughan, they desire to share the hope they found in Christ with those who are hurting.
To preview songs from One Reason, click here.Add a comment read more
Fashion photographer Michael Belk has done shoots for Calvin Klein, Nautica and J.Crew, with his images appearing in Vogue, GQ and Vanity Fair. But the longtime Christian says his best work by far is a new collection of photos that feature Jesus at the center. read more
They'll pass out food and ministry information, witness to hundreds, and invite each young person to return and enter their one-year discipleship program. read more