Sunday, March 30, 2014

Righteously Indignant!





I wanted to see this movie today. Due to scheduling conflicts and an unusually warm, spring day in Minnesota, I opted to enjoy Creation and some of the promised seasonal changes that, I doubt, are referenced in this movie. For those whose interest might be sparked by that statement, you'll have to wait.

While I wait to see the movie, which, honestly, will take a back seat to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, if there's another scheduling conflict (just to note how I prioritize movies in regard to my walk with Christ), I am drawn like a magnet to all the reviews screaming across the internet.

The debate is furious! I was surprised at the level of dogmatic fervor that seems to rest on the side of the hard-line Muslims and Evangelical Christians ... let that sink in.

I've seen the "Judge not lest ye be judged" debate fly around, devoid of context. I've seen the whole idea of "Defending the accuracy of the Bible" issue shot across the bow. Adjectives like EVIL, BLASPHEMY, HERESY, PAGAN! and a host of allegations about people's motives, character, visual acuity, sleep apnea, memory, ability to enter the correct theater screening and so on bandied about.

It has become US vs. THEM!

Yeah for Christian love and mercy! We have linked arms with the Muslim countries and we can proceed to burn Darren Aronofsky in effigy or trample the burning corporate logo for Paramount Pictures in the streets while we shout how vile and hate-filled they are.

Then we can go door to door and lynch any Christian who says, whoa, let's remember this is a movie and not go crazy.

I'm all for people having opinions about movies. I love the Rocky movies. Pretty much all of them. Even #5. There are those that most certainly do NOT like them (though, thoughtful, well-studied and educated, refined folks will admit the first one was a work of art). I loved Sam Raimi's Spider-man films. Yes, I said "films!" I like 3 better than The Amazing Spider-man with the A&F underwear model or his chain-smoking girl-friend. Others think that is lunacy!

Movies will generate like or dislike for a million different reasons. As do books. I have some great 5 star reviews of my book The Next Chapter (an excellent thriller, by the way, which will keep you turning those pages). Someone told me they don't like "wordy" stories. I did what any self-respecting author would do, thumbed my nose at her, blew raspberries at the computer screen and went on with my life.

The point is, whether one likes or dislikes Noah, it's a movie. It's not the Bible.

But, they twisted the Bible story and undermined the message and make God out to be vindictive and evil and ... there's the whole vegan vs. meat eater thing!!

It's a movie. And it looks more like an action epic movie, to boot. You want the Bible, go to church.

Oh, wait, that opens a can of worms, doesn't it? See, here's what gets me about this whole 'Righteously indignant' crap. We've got tele-evangelists and major Christian leaders who are twisting the scripture, perverting God's character and promising God-as-a-genie theology, but ... there's no outrage. There's no adjectives of DECEIVER! EVIL! PAGAN!

Why not? Maybe because there isn't a product to sell during a smear campaign like that. The people smearing Hollywood seem to end their castigating with a product pitch or an exultant "My review is still #1" or "I have 200k views in 2 days!" Good for you! I'm glad for your success and I hope it builds up the Kingdom of God.

But the indignation has to go. If we actually believe God calls us to be railing against people who twist His word, then we'll have a 24/7 job.

On the contrary, I think we're called to love one another. We're called to treat people with respect. We're called to demonstrate the peace of God and rain down God's love and mercy on the righteous and the wicked alike.

Let's try that. Let's see if loving people (which doesn't mean you are endorsing their sin or excusing it) is how God will increase our usefulness in increasing His Glory.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Not Offended

While many Christians, Muslims and Jews have violently objected to the Russell Crowe/Darren Aronofsky Biblical-Action Epic, I'd like to just say that, regardless of what the movie ends up being when I see it, I'm not offended.

Even if it ends up departing so far from the story that I feel it is largely a story that has only borrowed character names and an overall theme from the Bible, I won't feel slandered or violated.

Why? Because I didn't write the original story and wasn't there to witness what really went on.

I think of it this way: When you're at an event, or witnessed something that ends up on the news, how often do you notice that they get a few details wrong. It's like that old game of password where the phrase that started the game morphs into something crazy by the end. It's funny. But if you notice that they got so much wrong and it affects you, it's irritating.

In this case, departing from the story of Noah doesn't affect me. It might be disappointing, as when someone tells a lewd joke. Or it might be funny, as in "how did you get THAT from what I whispered in your ear?" But it won't affect my life.

Some say the movie makes God to be an angry, capricious mass murderer.

That's been said before. It's been commented on with the story of the Flood, as well as countless other parts of the Bible. If someone reads into the fact that the Creator decided to wipe evil men off the planet as Him being a "mass murderer" it says more about the person that it does about God. In specific, it says that person thinks they are above God.

I don't know yet if the movie conveys that message. Actually, I suspect it doesn't matter. People already think the Bible conveys that message, so there you go.

A movie will not change the foundation of my faith, which is God as Creator and His word, The Bible. I seek to understand His word in my relationship with Christ through obedience to what it teaches and prayer. I don't do a great job at that all the time. But, it's a process. Seeing a movie that grasps at understanding absent faith (Darren admits to being an atheist) will not pierce my faith. If anything, it shows the need for more people to turn from self to repentance and faith in Christ.

The story of Noah is, after all, about a world in rebellion against God. It's about God providing a way for the salvation of humanity when it deserved wholesale destruction. In His mercy, he rescued one man and his family, allowing them to start over, populating the earth. He provided the design and materials for the ark. He brought Noah and his family into the ark along with representatives from every kind of animal. Then God shut the door.

There was no action sequence of rain falling and spear throwing. God shut the door 7 days before the rains and floods came.

I hope that Darren, Russell, Jennifer, and the rest of those who worked on the movie will, like Herod in the days of Jesus, after hearing the words of John The Baptist, be pricked with the truth of this story and realize that Christ is our ark. He's the one that, in him, we'll be safe from the judgment of God that will rightly come on a wicked world.

I love the line in the trailer where Tubal Cain asks Noah if he thinks he can be safe from him in the ark. Noah's response, "It's not protection from you."

It seems this is timely. So many people attack and kill Christians throughout the world. Arrogantly, people think Christians need protection from the world. No, we don't. But we offer the path of protection that the world needs from God's ultimate judgment that will come one day.

It's not too late. Jesus is holding back that judgment today, allowing all to enter the ark if they only repent and believe.

Friday, March 28, 2014

I Can Tell What It Is

My kids love to draw. They love playing with play dough, too. They make robots, houses, dogs, monsters, aliens, cars, houses, forts, castles, spiders, horses ... all sorts of things.

And they're getting better as they learn and refine their skill. But at first, I remember their works being more scribbles than anything. They looked like a drawing of Pig Pen from Peanuts, minus the head and feet.

When they'd proudly display these things, I'd often comment on the colors they chose, or the use of crayon technique. Soon, I was able to make some guesses as to what they were drawing. I'd often get it wrong.

Then, I started seeing exactly what it was they were seeing in their mind and putting down on paper. It was exciting to see how they were growing in their understanding of artistic representation.

I never once told them that their images were a blasphemy against the subject which God had created.

Yet, I find that some take that approach with Darren Aronofsky's Noah movie. I will see it, probably this weekend and comment further on what he got right, what I liked, disliked and what might be, as PluggedIn put it, off the flanelgraph.

I won't say that it is an affront to God, or a work of blasphemy. Because, by his own admission, the filmmaker is an atheist. He doesn't see God or the scripture with the eyes of faith that only God's grace can give. He sees things imperfectly, like a child who attempts to draw a lion or a dog.

Frankly, even those of faith seem to struggle with conveying what they've read in the Bible into an art form. Preachers get all sorts of things going off-base. Humans, in general, can't seem to do much with getting pretty far off askew at times.

And we're all so good at lambasting each other, tearing one another down. It comes easy to me, too. So, I'm thinking we need to stop the things that come easiest and do the things that might be a bit harder to do.

Perhaps we should look at an atheists Biblical movie like we would a child's work of art. We might show more love by saying, "I can tell what it is."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

God or Mammon

"Many would have tried to retain the proud position and to benefit their enslaved brethren at the same time; to temporize between an outward recognition of Osiris, and a heart-loyalty to Jehovah; to keep on good terms with the court and brick-kiln. But there was no trace of this in the great renunciation which cut Moses off from the least association with the fond and fascinating associations of early life." --F.B. Meyer "Moses--Servant of God"


I find it interesting that F.B. Meyer, who passed on to Heaven in 1929, saw the same tendency that runs rampant among Christians today. Nothing is different. So many think they can be friends with the world and devoted to Christ inside.

We must renounce the pleasures that would have a grip on our lives, denying the flesh and embracing the apparent lowly status of one of the chosen people of God.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Celebrity Gospel

Did you hear the testimony of John Jones, the guy down the street? Wow! Just, wow! How about the 65 year old woman who sets out the juice cups for the kids on Wednesday night Bible clubs? Amazing! Look at Bill Smith, the guy who works at the dump or sorts the recycling on weekends. He put his faith in Jesus as Lord. He never became a rock star, never attained Klout on Twitter, never hit record-level followers on Facebook and never was quoted in the newspapers. What he did do was turn away from the selfish pleasures of the flesh, often looking like a fool to his co-workers, cast his cares for his family, job and goals on God, his Father and lived a life of devotion to a reality that no one else could see. He never traveled outside of his state, let alone the world. He never had a hit song or a critically acclaimed work of art. He never met with the Pope or any other world leader. Yet he shared his faith with his 45 year old neighbor at a barbeque and led that man to the Lord the following summer. And no one knew about it.

Except God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Oh, and myriads of angels who put on a concert unmatched by the filthy, discordant attempts at music done down here on earth.

Of course, we don't hear Christians talk about the testimony of quiet Christians who live peacefully and devote their lives to holiness out of humble gratitude for the Grace of God that has visited them. We don't tell each other about the way someone denies the flesh and never seeks recognition or acclaim.

No, Christians today and throughout time celebrate the celebrity who steps forward with nothing to lose and states that Jesus is Lord. Or that prayer is powerful. Or some other statement of truth. Truth is easy to state.

It's much harder to actually live.

See, belief is all it is when someone says something. Like, "Donuts and cake are bad for my health." That's a true statement of belief. Changing my life to only eat healthy foods, however, is putting that belief into action.

How many celebrities, having all the things of this world have come and gone with Jesus is Lord falling from their lips. And how many of them have actually sold all that they have, given to the poor and followed Christ?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ken Ham & Noah

I like Answers In Genesis. I own a number of their books. I applaud their sturdy stand for Biblical truth. I like many of the ways they frame issues.

But lately, there are things that concern me. It's not that I doubt Ken Ham's sincerity as a believer, or his earnestness for the Gospel. I believe he prays for others and deeply yearns to get the truth out in the best way possible.

What I see, though, is something that happens a lot ... to everybody. When you get attention for a message you're delivering, you stop letting it be about the message and suddenly find yourself inserted instead.

One might call it the Talk Show Host Syndrome. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly ... who cares what their message is, they are the topic! In the same way, big name preachers who started out at one point with a fervent desire to spread God's word find themselves on a much larger stage with high levels of Twitter followers, Facebook fans and news media coverage.

Ever so slightly, the message takes a back seat to the personality. It's no longer a debate over science vs. religion, but it is a landmark debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye! It's not about the message of Noah in the Bible vs. what Hollywood is presenting, but a high-stakes Us vs. Them!

I'm dismayed when I see blogs by Ken pointing out Comedy Central skits that poke fun at him or articles that got something wrong about the Creation Museum, etc. Or how Hollywood is out there "deceiving" Christians ... evidently into buying their product over Ken Ham's.

If I were able to talk to Ken, I'd like to point out there is a growing blind spot for him and Ray Comfort. They've let themselves become the topic, rather than point people to Jesus Christ. Who cares if Comedy Central is mocking you. They mocked President Bush and countless others, too.

I'd point out that when every post seems to carry disparaging comments about non-Christians, your admonition of prayer for them looks more like self-righteous spite.

I'd mention that if every article ends with a sales pitch about your products, or blatant fund raising for your Biblical attractions, it smacks of sanctified profiteering.

The point isn't to tear Ken Ham and Answers In Genesis down. As a Christian, I hope, if anyone at AiG sees this, they'll feel encouraged in the proper direction to re-evaluate the tone of their blogs and communications.

I said this in another blog about the Noah movie. If the world is interested in Noah to give his story a real-world treatment in an epic movie, that's great! They may be seeing it as a story full of pathos and human struggle, environmentalism vs. human greed and wickedness, but ... they're taking the time to read the story and to tell it. Like any other story that Hollywood does, they'll mangle it. They can't leave anything alone. We know this.

What every Christian should be doing right now is praying for Darren Aronofsky, Russel Crowe, Emma Thompson and the rest of those who worked on the movie. We should pray that God will use this for good. After all, God prophesied through the high priest who was plotting to murder Jesus. God used evil men to carry out his plans.

From what I've seen of the Noah movie, I'm glad they got 2 things right: The flood was world-wide and it was sent by God as judgment for mankind's wickedness. Kudos! Now let's tell people about what the ark symbolizes (Christ) and let's encourage people to talk about this and how Noah's day is like today.

But let's do it without selling stuff, okay?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Noah - Before the Flood


I've been seeing a lot about the new Noah movie. The debate seems to center on whether the movie will be about the “real” Noah, or be a cinematic slap in the face to those of faith (since Noah appeals to Jewish, Muslim and Christian alike).

The studio claims they are largely accurate to the Bible, but to be safe have made a disclaimer pointing people to the pages of Genesis for the actual account. Evangelicals, meanwhile, are saying the movie will be blasphemous and see any 'disclaimer' from the studio to be shrewd marketing. Answers In Genesis has its own video about the REAL Noah, complete with a hefty price tag.

I don't want to take sides in this because I think we need to remember a few things: First, the director, Darren Aronofsky, is a self-proclaimed atheist. The studio makes no effort to claim they are doing this movie for evangelical reasons, though they are pointing people to the book of Genesis on their web site. I also understand that they have a Christian on staff who gave feedback on the script. But they are not coming out saying that their movie is the REAL NOAH, just an interpretation of the events mentioned in a couple chapters in Genesis.

Then there's the evangelicals. Ken Ham's AiG along with Living Waters' Ray Comfort seem to have no problem capitalizing on the movie's marketing to sell videos about the true Noah. And while they are trying to teach the truth from scripture, there's something kind of cloying about their tactic. I don't know that they've seen the final cut of the movie, yet they have condemned it. And they condemn the director, too, impugning his effort on the basis of his atheism. And with broad strokes dipped in that paint, they slather the movie with nothing but hate and righteous disdain, as if they're taking up an offense for God.

I don't think God needs their outrage to defend His account of Noah. And I think we might be wise to applaud the world's interest in Noah and the story of the Great Flood. We should point out where they get the story right and pray that the Holy Spirit will work in the hearts of Darren, Russell Crowe and others on that movie to realize their need for an ark—Jesus Christ!

Taking a look at the criticisms, though, I wonder if they're even warranted. It's a pretty bold statement to claim that you know the REAL Noah. Who, exactly, was the Biblical Noah? What does the Bible actually say? What's the deal with the world before the Great Flood?

We know his father was Lamech, the son of Methuselah. We learn that Methuselah was the son of Enoch, who belongs to an exclusive group who never died. The Bible records that Enoch “walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” (Genesis 5:24). Another was Elijah who was taken up by angels in chariots of fire.

The only thing remarkable mentioned about Methuselah, however, was the fact that he lived longer than anyone else … ever! He lived 969 years, beating out Adam by 39 years. As far as his righteousness, we know nothing.

Lamech, Noah's father holds no distinction of holy living, either. Lamech was 182 years old when he fathered Noah. At that time, he prophesied, “This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed.” Taking just those few verses about Methuselah and Lamech, I can't make a good call on the content of their character. Neither of them show up in Hebrews' Hall of Faith (Hebrews 13).

We also read in Genesis 6:5 that the “Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Did that include Methuselah and Lamech? Did it include Noah's many brothers and sisters? His children, too?

Yes!

It includes all of us on a spiritual level. The question is, did they recognize this and turn to God for His grace?

What about Noah? Genesis 6:8-9 tells us “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord … Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.”

Then we read the story of Noah obeying God, building the ark and then entering in. He stayed in the ark, a dark, wooden tomb, essentially, for a full year. During that time, he and his family had to shovel poop, cook food, and feel the constant rocking and creaking of the ark as it rolled on waves they couldn't see.

The Bible then accounts for Noah checking for a sign that the world could accept people and animals again by sending out birds. Finally, the ark hits dry ground and the waters recede. God opens the door and Noah and his family and all the animals leave the ark. God makes a covenant with Noah and his family to never destroy all life with a flood again.

Then, Noah starts to farm and gets drunk. His son Ham sees his father drunk and naked, goes and tells his brothers, who don't find it amusing, and then gets cursed by Noah for his disrespect toward his father.

That, in a nutshell, is what we know about Noah from Genesis. We learn in Hebrews that he was a preacher of righteousness while he was building the ark for 120 years.

Other than those things, we know nothing about his struggles during those 120 years. We don't know how he got along with his brothers, sisters, father, grandfather, cousins, and other relations. We don't know if he fought in wars that raged. We do know that there were Nephilim, great warriors and warlords. We know that Cain's descendants, such as Tubal-Cain who formed tools (weapons?) of bronze and iron.

We know that people before the flood lived for centuries. Think about that. How much evil is limited because of our aging bodies and death. The lecherous predator can only go on for so long before health and death stop him. Likewise, a wicked politician, business man or other emissary from the halls of worldly power are kept in check by death, limiting their influence. Our harsh words, bitter thoughts and rampant selfishness are all worn down into silence by sickness and death.

But in Noah's world, men had scores of children and everyone lived so long to believe they were immortal. Perhaps Adam thought the curse was not as bad as he thought. Maybe he believed he would go on living. But they continued with dark hearts that reviled God and intellects that devised any manner of oppression on others. Genesis 6:4c: “Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.” Warriors and kings, building empires and crushing those who don't bow down.

It's reasonable to believe that Noah was surrounded by a world of ravaging lusts and bloodthirsty government. The evil was so bad that God saw it as being the “end of all flesh.”

That was the world of Noah. A world that deserved God's judgment for its wickedness. Only Noah turned to God. Only he was considered righteous.

Now, speculating, I wouldn't be surprised if Noah had his doubts. Moses had doubts. Elijah had doubts. David fell to sin. Peter denied Christ! Why wouldn't we expect Noah to face a struggle with his faith?

I won't be bothered if the movie shows that. It might be more accurate than trying to portray a Noah that never sinned. Because that's not what happened. Noah was only righteous on the basis of his faith, not his works. He was found blameless because he knew God was the judge and deliverer. He was saved only because he had the faith to enter the ark, which was a type of Christ. That's how it was back then, and that's how it is today.