Making It Clear

Making It Clear

I sat down last week to record my thoughts on the Bathsheba story for the composer who will create music. The actors spoke in Spanish for these stories so the composer always asks me to narrate the story explaining the ideas behind the scenes so that he can create music to accent what the action.

The idea is for me to make the story clearer for him. 

I realized that it is what we do in media and in missions. We take God's stories from the Bible and we dramatize them, we make them clear, to reach a hurting heart. Or we take a testimony in someone's life and amplify it so that more and more people will hear the good news of God's forgiveness and power at work. Or we use a drama that shines clearly the light of God's salvation in a way a person can see God  - maybe for the very first time.

God gives us all talents and abilities to bring to the kingdom. He has called our team to use media to make his story clearer and to send it across the world through satellite, internet, and terrestrial delivery methods that carry a clear message even to places where a believer can't easily go.

Standards

In our production department at IMM, we have been cleaning up old files and project folders so that everything is in order.  In this process, we found that many of our video products were kept in a format as requested by various distribution partners.  This means we had a huge variance in file quality and size. Because a large number of our older and current projects continue to be remade into new language versions, having discrepancies with these files is problematic. We recognized that we desperately needed a standard.

Many people have different standards for life.  “Be a good person.” “Go to church twice a year”. “Pray 3 times a day.” While these things seem like good practices, they represent a huge range of ideas for what is required of us.  Romans 3:23 says “For everyone has sinned: we fall short of God’s glorious standard.” On our own, we cannot reach the standard God has put in place. Knowing this standard and deciding our own human efforts are not enough frees us to accept Jesus’ help to attain it.

Back to our video files.  We decided on a standard. Going forward, we are going to keep our final video products in a format called Apple ProRes 422 (plus one that this blog doesn’t cover).  This format allows that future copies and versions will not degrade generationally.  At the same time, they are not so enormous that they become a burden. They can also easily be converted for the needs of our ministry partners.

In the end, having a standard is good for everyone.  My desire is that anyone who comes to work with IMM in the future will have a clear standard to follow that minimizes frustration and confusion.  In a greater and more important way, having Jesus as our standard of faith (see also Ephesians 4) will show us the way forward to an acceptable, glorious standard.

The Delivery

The Delivery

We got up at 6:00 a.m., took the early commuter train into the city, and boarded the long-distance train that would take us close to the international border. In a corner of the train station, we handed over a new shipment of HopeBoxes to a courier, who would carry them over the border and deliver them to the national church leadership in the destination country.

This trip had been set in motion several months ago when we had provided the church leadership in the destination country with a HopeBox to test its usefulness in evangelism in rural areas. As in many places in the world, most people in their country have cell phones, even in rural areas. But while they have cell phones, many don’t have access to data and so people are always looking for a wifi connection.

The HopeBox is a simple personal evangelism device carried in the pocket of a worker and provides a wifi connection to anyone within approximately 50 ft. (for example, in a coffee shop, or in a bus). They work anywhere in the world and no internet access is required. Loaded on the HopeBox are Bibles, a variety of video and audio content, and other material that helps to explain the Hope of the message of the Gospel within the context of the local language and culture! Anyone connecting to a HopeBox can watch, read, or download any of the content to their phone. There is also a small contact form allowing the worker to follow-up and continue to help people on their journey to faith in Christ.

The sample HopeBox, previously provided, has been used for a few months and it has been found to be helpful to them and so we were asked to provide more devices for workers in that country. Every day more phones are purchased, each one is an access point into someone’s life and another opportunity to "Put Jesus on Every Screen."

Making New Things Old

Making New Things Old

These days I’m inhaling a lot of sawdust and epoxy fumes. Not on purpose. I’ve been working in the IMM shop, sawing, drilling, grinding, sanding, painting, gluing and praying. Praying that the props being created for The Heritage Project will do the rich stories of early Christian history justice.

The Heritage Project is a video docudrama series about the early Christian Church in North Africa, its great Christian leaders and teachers, and its martyrs under the Romans and the Vandals. A vibrant North African church, both men and women, were prepared to die rather than renounce their faith and had a profound influence that extends to us today.

I have an extensive list that includes Roman altars, incense burners used in the Imperial Cult, a gallows for the arena, bookcases for scrolls, Vandal shields, Optio staffs, and Lictor Fasce (I had to look them up myself). As a result, I pour over internet sites from museums of ancient history and spend hours searching through aisles of hardware, adhesives, wood, paint and even plumbing, looking for the right pieces to deconstruct and repurpose. 

Soon, The Heritage Project will be in front of the cameras, so that all can see how Christ’s story is being proven true through the lives of Christians across the ages. The stories will be targeted to the areas of the world where they occurred. Pray for wisdom and creativity as the entire team moves ahead with this historic collaboration.

BTW, did you know that old scrolls can be made from hardened linen window shades?

What Does it Take to Change a Nation [UPDATE]

What does it take to change a nation? 

In this case, all it took was a step of faith and a bus ticket. 

Earlier this month, many of the team at IMM participated in an event in Houston, Texas, called The World Missions Summit, a conference co-hosted by Chi Alpha Campus Ministries and Assemblies of God World Missions (AGWM). We were able to connect with many students who were interested in considering giving a year—or praying about a lifetime—of service to Europe and/or IMM. 

It was at this event where we premiered an 8-minute film called “21 Hours to Change Montenegro”—the story of a blue-collar couple from Montenegro who, having never met another Christian in their entire lives, heard the voice of God and spent 21 hours on a bus—each way—to meet the pastor they had been listening to on the Internet for a year. Their country, Montenegro, is one of the least evangelized in the world, with only 4 Evangelical churches and fewer than 150 known Christians. AGWM has never had a missionary in Montenegro. But God is moving. 

God is using this story to ignite a passion for missions among hundreds of young people from all over the United States. He has also given us opportunity to partner with the very first AGWM missionaries headed to Montenegro, and this film is helping to raise awareness and funds to plant a church in the city from which this couple came. We are grateful to have played a small part in a mighty work that is only just beginning of the change that will come to this country, and it all began with a step of faith and a bus ticket.

Announcing New Partnership in Vietnam

Our priority at IMM is to put Jesus on every screen. Working with like-minded partners on production and distribution efforts enhances stewardship and maximizes impact. Because we value collaboration, we seek to create high production value visual content that can be readily produced in new languages.

The Bible Stories Video Project (BSVP) is a great example of this concept. Filmed over several years, BSVP is a collection of 30 video stories about the life and ministry of Jesus. They feature dramatized visual accounts of people he met and interacted with, parables he told and highlights of his ministry path.  Each video, like the Lost Son, provides viewers with valuable historic, cultural and spiritual insights. A flexible production design allows partners to use a new native speaker host to introduce and conclude the stories and to narrate over the full-screen visuals and original music. 

Over the years, missionaries, national churches, broadcasters and numerous outreach ministries have produced BSVP video stories in scores of languages. Potential audiences for these total many millions of people.  Recent versions of the Parables in Albanian, Berber, Bulgarian, Croatian, Dari, Kurdish, Pashto, Russian and Serbian have been introduced or begun. And we’re excited to announce our newest partnership to produce these stories in the Vietnamese language!

REAP (Roever Educational Assistance Programs) plans to produce all 30 video stories and the four, thirty-minute programs of our Open the Gospels series in Vietnamese. REAP offers extensive resources for ministerial training and leadership development in Vietnam and among the Vietnamese diaspora worldwide. The new language version will be used to enhance those efforts and provide additional outreach tools for their ministry. Vietnam is one of six officially communist countries in the world with nearly 95 million people living there and almost 5 million global emigrants outside the nation. We rejoice that Jesus will be seen on the screens of thousands of Vietnamese in 2017!

What Does it Take to Change a Nation?

When I think about people who are used mightily of God, I usually think about people who are well-known: Billy Graham, Keith Green, Francis Chan. People like this have a platform from which they can encourage and mobilize others, increasing their impact far beyond that which one person can do. 

But this month, we are telling the story of a normal, run-of-the-mill couple who heard God's voice and took a step of faith that will change the state of the Gospel in their country forever. These people had come to Christ, but had never met another Christian before. Their country, Montenegro, has only 150 known evangelical Christians, and 4 churches, none of which are within driving distance of their city. One night, they heard the voice of God, and got on a bus to travel 21 hours to Vienna, Austria, to meet the pastor they had been listening to on the Internet for a year. 

Pastor Larry Henderson, of Vienna Christian Center, was so moved by their story that he had to help. So after some research and planning, we are preparing to help accelerate the work in Montenegro, a country that has never had an Assemblies of God missionary living there. And we are only a piece of what God is doing--several other national fellowships in Italy, Albania, and even the Pentecostal European Fellowship, are simultaneously focusing on Montenegro to accelerate the Gospel there. 

God is moving here in Europe. Things may be dark at times, but the dawn is coming. Please watch and enjoy this clip from our forthcoming January 2017 release of the film, "21 Hours to Change Montenegro."

Tell Me and HopeBox

Recently, we did a short video entitled 'Tell Me'. This video illustrated how we can communicate the Gospel with Europeans. We believe that media is key in reaching people here in Europe and, ultimately, worldwide.

Many refugee camps and sensitive countries are using our HopeBox. The HopeBox is a wifi hotspot that is battery-operated and smaller than a cell phone. It is loaded with tons of content like videos that share who Jesus is and copies of the Bible in text and audio formats.

Not only is the HopeBox being used in refugee camps, but it is also being used by missionaries in cafes all over Europe. We have the content translated into six languages so all can hear the good news.

These days people use their phone for everything from communication to planning, taking pictures to playing a game. The use of media is at an all-time high. I am especially proud of the 'Tell Me' video and the HopeBox. The video demonstrates the unheard cry of someone who is seeking answers; the HopeBox is a way these questions can be answered.

Thank you for supporting us as we strive to put Jesus on every screen!

Be blessed,

Luke

 

Time Lurches On

Hey slow down!!! I just read an alumni update from my university and see that it’s been ____teen years since I pulled an all-nighter to rectify the procrastination with which I constantly fought in my Greek Mythology class. And then, as if all in the same string of thoughts, complained to myself why the game I want to watch on TV doesn’t start for 5 more hours! (This dilemma is exasperated in Europe where I’m adding 6 hours to the announced ET start times.) What I’m realizing is that time moves much more quickly than we would like, but also, somehow, simultaneously too slowly.

In the Bible, this sense that time ebbs and flows exists as well.  Moses recognized that passing time is a relative matter when he psalmed, “For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours.”

David, on the other hand, groaned during a trial in his life, “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?  How long will you look the other way?” David, who is remembered as constantly triumphing over giants, armies, and his own waywardness still felt like you and me waiting on our next vacation to arrive.

Over the last few years (which in some senses have flown by), I’ve done a lot of petitioning to God for things to happen more quickly than they do. More specifically, I’ve been frustrated with my own personal progress and seeing results in my ministry. I regularly catch myself comparing myself to others, thus surrendering my joy. At other times, I give up projects just before the point of breaking through.

So what do we do with a life that speeds out of control at the same moment that it also stands still? I submit that we don’t lose heart or give up, and that we turn to the one who is unaffected by time and surrender our lives to him.

After David agonized about the duration of his trial, he penned,

“But I trust in your unfailing love, I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.”

Amen.

God's Words and Our Responsibility

Over the past few months I have been reading from the prophets in the Old Testament. I have been challenged by much of what I have read, but this passage from Ezekiel chapter 3 really hit me between the eyes: 

17-19 "Son of man, I’ve made you a watchman for the family of Israel. Whenever you hear me say something, warn them for me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You are going to die,’ and you don’t sound the alarm warning them that it’s a matter of life or death, they will die and it will be your fault. I’ll hold you responsible. But if you warn the wicked and they keep right on sinning anyway, they’ll most certainly die for their sin, but you won’t die. You’ll have saved your life." (The Message)

This is a huge responsibility that God laid on Ezekiel. He was commanded to not keep anything that God had revealed to himself. If he did, he would be held responsible for the death of the people. 

What is our responsibility with the words of God that we have been freely given? What are we to do with the information we have about the love of God and his Son, Jesus? If we have heard and have experienced it, can we keep it to ourselves? Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 28:18-20: 

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (The Message)

People all around us are dying in their sin. And, like Ezekiel, God has asked us to share with the dying people around us the information that can keep them from that death. 
WOW! Am I doing that? Am I truly proclaiming life? 

Here at IMM we are proclaiming life to those that watch or listen to our programming. I feel it is such a privilege to be a part of this proclamation, but what about me personally, in my relationships with others, as I interact with people on a daily basis? 

Please join with me in this prayer as we rub shoulders with people who look like they are alive on the outside, but yet their souls are dying on the inside: 

Jesus, use my words and my life to proclaim life today. Give me discernment and wisdom as I encounter people today who need to know the love and life you want to freely give them. Holy Spirit, speak through me! Amen. 

The Roman Era and the Christian Era

Living near Madrid has given me the opportunity to go to the National Archeological Museum of Spain. When I looked at the artifacts from the time of Roman rule, there were metal idols that homeowners placed in their gardens for good luck. Sculptors made stone idols to position by the streets in hope that they would bring good fortune to the passersby. Parents gave an amulet to their young son to wear around his neck for protection.

The next display after the Roman era was from the Christian era. A plaque by a table said that type of church furnishing often had a shelf for holy relics. An object from an ancient church had an inscription intended to protect Lucius and bring him prosperity. I marveled at the similarity between the Roman era and the Christian era. In place of the gods, artisans began to make images of saints. I gained the impression that in general during both eras, a relationship with God did not count but, rather, the convenience and prosperity of individuals and families.

We can smugly say we know better than that, but Jesus said to take up our cross daily because as humans who forget, we need to continue to evaluate our priorities in light of the cross.  Have materialism and the quest for entertainment, comfort, and pleasure become our idols? As we consider our priorities, these statistics from Bible.org give us food for thought:

  • Ninety-five percent of all Christians have never won a soul to Christ.
  • Eighty percent of all Christians do not consistently witness for Christ.
  • Less than two percent are involved in the ministry of evangelism.
  • Seventy-one percent do not give toward the financing of the Great Commission.

The Cutting of the Tsiiyéél--Triumph Over Trauma

I recently finished editing the documentary entitled, “The Cutting of the Tsiiyéél - Triumph Over Trauma” and it is now available for you to view at: https://vimeo.com/171600705. (The password is: Susie)

What’s it about? In 1879, the Indian Boarding School system was founded. Here was their stated purpose:

“...that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man . . .”

"Strip children of their culture and remove them from the influence of their families and nations.”

Pretty brutal, but not only was this the United State's policy, Canada and Australia also followed this flawed line of reasoning.
           
Susie Silversmith went through the often horrendous Bureau of Indian Affairs residential school system. Susie’s story will be used to help others, who went through the same system, come to grips with their experiences and find faith in God, who has given Susie eternal hope. In addition, it will help Native American young people understand what many of their parents and grandparents went through. 

Please pray for God to use Susie’s story to bring hope, forgiveness, and healing to those who went through the boarding school system. May it also bring understanding to the children and grandchildren who suffered their own forms of neglect and abuse because of what their parents and grandparents went through.

http://www.10xproductions.org/