Friday, March 28, 2014

A Flood of Opinions About Noah

The movie Noah by Darren Aronofsky debuts today. There are a wide range of opinions among evangelicals. Eric Hovind of Creation Today offers up 7 reasons NOT to go see Noah. If you follow the logic of the first 6 reasons he gives then you will probably stop seeing movies all together. Living Waters which is a ministry I really like and support most of the time has a real dilemma. They have released their own Noah documentary. They clearly want to capitalize on the movie. So they have a conflict of interest because they want you to watch their movie (Which I would encourage you to take the time to watch). But they have taken a strong stance against Aronofsky's Noah as well. In their most recent post about it they cite Glenn Beck. Glenn Beck is a Mormon. That does not mean that he cannot speak truth but there are good solid Christians who hold a radically different view of this movie then Glenn Beck does.

Answers in Genesis has taken a don't go see it position but they have moderated that with information about how to talk to people who have gone to see it. I think that if you are not going to see it that this is a good position to hold. Perhaps go to their site and learn what you can about the movie so you are equipped to engage people in the culture. Another place to go if you want info to share with friends who have watched the movie is they have a Bible study posted for Noah. Perhaps you could get some friends to go through it with you. If you really want to boycott the movie I think Movie Guides suggestion of Othercotting is a good idea. After all the reason Hollywood makes movies is to make money. What you spend your money on is what you are voting for. If the thought of Noah offends you go see God's Not Dead or Son of God. You actually have options this time around unless you are boycotting those as well.

Now all of that being said perhaps the other side of this issue should be considered. Grace Hill Media is a Christian Marketing company that has worked really hard to get Hollywood to open its eyes to the Christian Marketplace. Here is a link to an e-mail they sent me today. It is particularly interesting how many Christians have viewed the movie and endorse it as a worthwhile effort. There is an endorsement video link at the bottom of the e-mail. It is worth watching because you will actually hear from people involved in making the movie. They claimed that the Noah story arc is about judgment and grace.

Movie Guide which I almost always consult when it comes to movie content has 9 articles related to this movie. They point out in one of the articles that Paramount has listened to Christian criticism of the movie. They have added a disclaimer stating that some “artistic license” has been taken with regard to the story, but that the movie is “true to the essence, values, and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide.” The disclaimer also adds, “The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.” Here is a pagan company pointing people to the Bible. Of course Hollywood invest in projects like this in order to make money. Their goal is not to offend everyone. If movies based on the Bible do not make money they simply will not make them.

I am personally not sure that I will see this movie. So why write this article? It seems to me that often there is an unrealistic demand placed on the unsaved world to do Bible things or Christian things in a Christian way. Yet how many of you went to see either of the Thor movies or the Avengers which had Thor in it? Christians will go see Thor, which is a pagan god, but they won't go see Noah? It seems odd that we hold such double standards.

Aronofsky is a Jewish atheist. For some that is enough to not see Noah. But in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 we see God moving in Cyrus the king of Persia. He was a pagan idol worshipping king. God used Cyrus to send the people of Israel back to the land to rebuild the temple. You could say that Cyrus ignited a new conversation with God and about God. I think that there are many people we come into contact with every day who would be interested in having a conversation about God. Noah could be an opportunity to have that conversation. If we turn our backs on a movie like this and only have negative things to say that conversation is never going to happen. Maybe Aronofsky is a type of Cyrus. He could be a man that God is using to open up opportunities for real and important conversations about Jesus our ark of salvation. Perhaps it would be better if we focused less on man and more on our God who moves men - even atheist men - to bring glory to His name in spite of their own plans.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The New Athiest have it Wrong...God's Not Dead

Every now and then you run across something that you just wish everyone could see. I ran across one of those items just the other day. Ravi Zacharias ministries posted a video that is around five and a half minutes long and worth every second. Why? Because in the video we get to hear from a teacher at Oxford in the philosophy department. He talks about how God is moving more then ever around the world and in our towers of higher learning. It is a great video.

But why is this important? Simply because of this. We always need to be encouraged to keep our eyes on our King. He is sovereign and He is active all the time in all areas of everything that is going on everywhere around the world and throughout the universe. Our God is all powerful and He is doing exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ask or think. So be encouraged to live with your eyes firmly fixed on our God and King no matter what may happen to you. Because the relationship that is found in Jesus is eternal and magnificent.

Friday, January 24, 2014

How can a sinful cultures fascination with zombies point us to God?

At church we are currently in a series on Romans. In Romans 11:33-36 Paul talks about how all things are from Jesus and through Jesus and to Jesus. Which makes me ask "all things?" Now I am not a fan of horror movies or books or anything of that genre. As a Christian I think I can justify that by pointing to God's call for us to dwell on things that are beautiful in Philippians 4:8. But I can't help but think that even in the culture's fascination with zombies there is a great reminder for us. I don't know much about zombies but I do know they are the living dead. How can that point us to God. We live among a people that the Bible tells us is spiritually dead (Rom. 8:10, Eph. 2:1). Even though they are spiritually dead they continue to live physically in this world. If nothing else I believe the world embraces the idea of zombies because they are in a spiritual sense like them. And like zombies moving together, they serve their father the devil without even being conscious of it. Rather than simply being repelled by the things in our world perhaps we should ask if the base things we see are perhaps a reflection of what is already in the heart of men. This should make us grateful that we have been made alive in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:11). Perhaps even this could be an entry into a conversation that could help someone come to new life in Christ. This is one more backhanded way our sinful culture can remind us to live a life focused on God. What are some other ways our culture's fascinations point out their fallen state and remind us to look to God?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Super Sins and their Power to Separate us from God?!?

New Year's day and we are setting around discussing how things seem to come between us and God. The problem is not that things come between us and God. Paul asks in Romans 8:35-36 if anything can separate us from the love of Christ. Then he goes through a short list of physical trials and dangers including death. In the next three verses (Romans 8:37-39) Paul declares that nothing can come between us and God. If there is really nothing that can separate us from God then why do we seem to struggle with that feeling of separation?

The reality is that we are really quite prideful. We think of ourselves as somehow needing to do some kind of penance in order to make ourselves right with God. The only problem with that is it makes our standing with God dependent on our ongoing work and not on Jesus finished work. We are living as if our sins are somehow super sins that require more than Jesus' atoning work!

King David in the Bible is called a man after God's own heart. Here is a guy who had big public sins and rebellion within his household. He was so bad he probably would not be accepted at a lot of our churches. Saul his predecessor might not have been a man after God's heart but his house was orderly and his children were loyal to him. Contrary to David, Saul would probably be accepted at a lot of our churches.

What seems to define David being a man after God's own heart is his continual dependence on God. Nothing seemed to be able to separate David from God. When Nathan confronted him with his sin we see repentance and Psalm 51 as a result. When Absalom drove him from Jerusalem he was mocked and cursed by Shimei one of Saul's descendants. In 2 Samuel 16:9-12 his response is one of acceptance of this cursing as if it were from God. In the next breath he sees in the cursing hope that God will repay him good for the cursing he received. Instead of getting defensive at being kicked when he was down, David hopes in God's blessing. Earlier in David's life Saul was hunting him down to kill him. Twice David could have killed Saul (1 Samuel 24:9-12, 26:8-11). In both cases David shows dependence on God to be the one who would avenge him. David's heart seems to always turn to God and cling to Him even if he has sinned. David is dependent on God. In contrast Saul continually did things in his own strength and did rarely showed repentance or dependence on God.

Perhaps the problem when things seem to separate us from God is that we pridefully refuse to depend upon the grace found in the finished work of Jesus. Our actions declare that we really don't believe that Jesus' work was powerful enough for us. Brothers and sisters you are not that great of a sinner, no one is. David really demonstrates what it means to live a God focused life. It might be broken but it is utterly dependent on God. Better to be a broken vessel in my Savior's hands than to be standing on my own in insufficient penance. Let your sin drive you to repentance and your Savior's embrace.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Reflections on Giving Thanks at Thanks Giving

Thanksgiving really is a remarkable holiday. It is a day that the entire country observes. A day that reminds us to reflect on the great ways that God has blessed us as a people. God has seen fit to preserve this day on our calendar. We should thank God that He has preserved this day. It is easy to think about all the ways that things are bad or wrong. Certainly those things often need our attention. But God has also blessed us in many ways and this day of Thanksgiving is one of them. Giving thanks is important for us. It is so important that there were guys in the Old Testament set aside for the whole purpose of giving thanks. You can read about them in 1 Chronicles 16:41. Giving thanks to God specifically causes us to look to God. It is always a healthy thing for us when our gaze is cast heavenward. To think of Jesus and the work that He has done for us should fill our hearts with gratitude. Perhaps you did not take the time to think of all that God has blessed you with this Thanksgiving. Take the time right now and turn your eyes to Him in thanks. One more way we can be reminded to live a God focused life.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Degrees of Respect???

I heard something the other day that struck me in a new way. I heard a man referred to as having a ThM. That degree is a recognition that he is a Master of Theology. If he continues his study he could become a Doctor of Theology. These degrees are often the criteria that churches use to determine who they will consider for a teaching elder (or Pastor) position in their church. Here is the irony and the corruption that is seeping into the thinking of the members of the church. This man after 3 or 4 years is said to have Mastered Theology or be a Doctor of Theology. Really? The not so subtle implication is that this man has mastered the important aspects of the knowledge of God. It is really a ridiculous assertion that a man in four years or less could have mastered the infinite. Yet this degree becomes the criteria that determines for many churches who they will even consider. The larger the church the more a masters or doctorate becomes the gatekeeper for determining who is qualified. Some churches are even handing off the gatekeeping to what is little more then a headhunter for pastors.

The Bible has a very different view on qualifications. Paul in Timothy and Titus encourages his disciples to establish elders to lead the churches. Their main responsibility was teaching and that they were governed by the Word of God and faithful to it. In other words they were not the masters of Theology but rather they were mastered by theology. Their souls were being doctored by God. The main thing was that they were faithful to God's word. There was also a list of criteria Paul said you needed to see in their life. You can find them in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9. The criteria was not about business acumen but family acumen. Why? Because the church is not a business but really the family of God. But doesn't a lead elder or pastor need to have instruction and experience in managing a large group of people? Maybe or maybe not. Do we trust God to provide a man with the wisdom he needs? The reality is that when we look to man made criteria and trust non-biblical qualifications set up by men, aren't we really trusting in the wisdom of men. Wouldn't it be better if we followed the guidelines in scripture. This means that we trust that the Holy Spirit will lead us to a man who will trust in God and be mastered by God. If we did that we may find that God has raised up a man in the congregation to become the next teaching elder. So what if he does not have a degree. If he meets the criteria in God's word then he is qualified as far as God is concerned. John Piper in a sermon on Hebrews 5:11-14 said, "There are many Ph.D.'s who choke in their spiritual immaturity on the things of God. And there are many less-educated saints who are deeply mature and can feed with pleasure and profit on the deepest things of God's Word." What is better to have. A man who is qualified by men and can add numbers to the church or a man who is mastered by God, is forced to depend on the Holy Spirit and leads people into a more passionate pursuit of Jesus?

This does not mean that a man cannot grow in seminary. The point is that the criteria of a seminary education is not a good standard to limit your search with. We should be more concerned with God's standard then those set up by men.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Is God surprised by...evil...uh I mean Obama care?

Obama care is the prevailing thing in the news. There seems to be a lot of stress and concern about it. Anytime something like this comes along I get the feeling that people especially Christians forget that God is in control. I was reminded of this last night as we discussed the issue of evil at an apologetics class one of my sons is a part of. Romans 9:22-23 says, "What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— " (ESV) In this passage we see that God is far from being surprised by sin and evil. As a matter of fact He uses that very thing to reveal more about Himself to the vessels of mercy. Think about it. What if there had never been any sin and everything was perfect? We are walking with God in the garden in the cool of the day. God is revealing what He can about Himself to finite beings as we commune together. He mentions that He really hates sin. He tells us that even though He hates sin that He is a God of mercy and grace. He says that He is long-suffering and patient. Remember there has never been any sin in this scenario. How could we begin to understand what God means by hate and sin if we have never experienced it. We would have no framework for understanding mercy and grace if we never needed it. Who could comprehend patience in a world that is perfect with everything happening according to God's perfect plan.
You see because God allowed Adam to fall and allowed sin to enter into the world we will know God far better for all of eternity. Because Pharaoh refused to let the enslaved children of Israel go we saw the power of God to change the course of history. God was not surprised by evil. He could have stopped it but then there would have been less revealed about God's nature to those who come to know Him. Obama care is no different. I don't know what God is doing. But I do know that He is not surprised by it. I am praying for Obama that God will use him to magnify His name and exult Jesus. He may use Obama like He used Pharaoh. I don't know His plan, but I know that Obama care is not outside of it. We can trust God in the midst of this. My prayer is that I will come to know Jesus better because of it.