Rich Mullins

Rich Mullins

The movie Ragamuffin begins with a raspy voice declaring, “I am utterly convinced that on judgment day, the Lord Jesus will ask one question and only one question:  Did you believe that I loved you?”  The movie is about Rich Mullins, the Christian songwriter and artist who called himself a “ragamuffin.”

Perhaps you are familiar with some of these songs composed by Mullins: “Awesome God,” “Sing Your Praise to the Lord,” “Step By Step,” “Verge of a Miracle.”  You might suppose that the writer of these insightful pieces would be a person unscarred by the hardships of life.  Not so.

Mullins carried some heavy baggage, not unlike the rest of us. His hurts stemmed from feeling unloved and abandoned by people near him.  These wounds affected his ability to accept love, even from God.  Yet he relentlessly pursued a relationship with Jesus, with as many pained steps backward as strained steps forward.

He was driving in Kansas when a friend asked to play him a tape. In a few minutes, Mullins was so moved that he pulled over to weep.  It was Brennan Manning, the raspy voice.  He portrayed Jesus saying, “I know your whole life story.  I know every skeleton in your closet.  I know every moment of sin and shame, dishonesty, degraded love that’s darkened your past.  I know your shallow faith, your feeble prayer life, your inconsistent discipleship.  My word to you is I dare you to trust that I love you just are you are, not as you should be.”  Because none of us are as we should be.

Mullins later met Manning, who explained that ragamuffins “are the unsung assembly of saved sinners who are little in their own sight, aware of their brokenness, and powerless before God. A ragamuffin knows he’s only a beggar at the door of God’s mercy.”  Manning later captured his thoughts on grace in The Ragamuffin Gospel.  Mullins added the foreword to the book.

Mullins’ lyrics for “Hold Me Jesus” are his honest, but hopeful testimony: Well, sometimes my life just don’t make sense at all, when the mountains look so big and my faith just seems so small. So hold me Jesus, ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf!  You have been King of my glory, won’t You be my Prince of Peace?

Jesus Christ wants you to receive his unconditional love, even if you carry around pain and loneliness that can block your way to Him. He bore great pain to offer you his life-changing love.  Manning wrote, “Jesus is so unbearably forgiving, so infinitely patient, and so unendingly loving that he provides us with the resources we need to live lives of gracious response.”  So is Paul’s prayer that you “know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph 3:19).

Mullins passed away in a tragic accident in 1997. Manning died in 2013 at the age of 78.  But their message resonates that Jesus even loves ragamuffins.  The movie is on Netflix.

God’s Not Dead

God's Not Dead

 If you haven’t seen the movie God’s Not Dead (2014), here’s my version of a review, more a summary of the key dialogue. 

 The plot develops around college student Josh Wheaton who accepts a challenge from his philosophy professor to prove the existence of God. His arguments are from cosmology, evolution, evil, and morality. 

 Wheaton begins with the Big Bang and this from Nobel-winning scientist Steven Weinberg: “In three minutes, 98% of the matter that is or will be was produced.” Yet for 2500 years most scientists agreed with Aristotle that the universe always existed. Belgian astronomer Lemaitre said that the entire universe jumping into existence in a trillionth of a second out of nothingness and in an intense flash of light is how he would expect the universe to respond if God were to actually utter the command, “Let there be light.” So for 2500 years the Bible had it right and science had it wrong. 

 A fellow student quoted Richard Dawkins, “If you tell me God created the universe, I have the right to ask, who created God?” Wheaton countered, “If the universe created you, then who created the universe?” His point is that both theist and atheist have to answer the question of first cause. If you do not allow for God, a credible alternative is hard to find. The professor replied with a Stephen Hawkin quote, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. It is not necessary to invoke God to set the universe in motion.” Wheaton again countered that John Lennox, professor of mathematics and philosophy at Oxford, had noted three errors of circular logic in Hawkin’s statement. 

 Turning to evolution, Wheaton pointed to Darwin, who after theorizing that species evolved over long periods of time, famously concluded that “nature does not jump.” Yet if the 3.8 billion years of life (according to evolution) were a 24 hour period, in 90 seconds most major animal groups suddenly appear in their current form. Not only did nature jump, but it made a giant leap, supporting the Biblical account of creation. 

 The arguments from evil and morality are less developed in the movie. But two key points are made: (1) Evil exists in the world because God gave us free will, and God’s solution is to provide a way for us to be free from it forever, and (2) without God, there is no fixed point of morality, so anything could be permissible since there is no reason to be moral. 

 I faced a challenge to my faith in a philosophy class 35 years ago, so this movie rings true. I recommend it especially for college students. Kevin Sorbo (Herdules) plays the professor. Dean Cain (Superman), Willie and Korie Robertson (Duck Dynasty), and News Boys (musicians) all make appearances. The arguments are convincing that God’s not dead!