1May

Stop Believing This Lie

I’m consistently disappointed when I expect something fake to satisfy like something real.

Like the McRib. I love the McRib.

Except I don’t. But every time it comes around, I have to have it.

mcrib

Maybe it’s the clever marketing. Maybe it’s the way it only comes around every now and then. Maybe it’s how I always seem to find a friend who’s stupid/curious enough to want to embark on this culinary adventure with me.

fakemcrib

(The above picture is a real picture taken by a McDonald’s employee while unpacking cases of frozen McRibs)

But here’s my problem with the McRib: it’s wildly disappointing…every time. Every time I’ve had it, I regret it. The expectations I allow myself to build up are never met.

Why don’t I love the McRib like I love a good rack of ribs? Because I believe the same lie we all believe in some area(s) of our lives: that something fake can satisfy like something real.

But fake can be so much more convenient than the real thing…

  • It’s easier to snag a drive-thru McRib than smoke a rack of ribs.
  • It’s easier to fake a friendship than be there for someone when it’s inconvenient.
  • It’s easier to give up than endure.
  • It’s easier to blow through money you don’t have than to stick to a budget.
  • It’s easier to follow attraction into whatever bed it takes you than to honor your vows to your spouse.
  • It’s easier to slack off when given trust by a boss instead of working hard no matter who’s watching.

We’ve got to stop believing the lie that fake is better just because fake is easier.

  • Don’t settle for being a fake friend.
  • Don’t settle for being a fake spouse.
  • Don’t settle for being a fake co-worker.
  • Don’t settle for being a fake version of who God made you to be.

If you want to read more about how the Gospel can help you upgrade your life from fake to real, check out Timothy Keller’s book, Prodigal God. You can purchase the book below:

 

Question: Is there a part of your life you need to upgrade from fake to real?

Feel free to leave a comment below.

30Apr

Is Church Getting Sloppy?

You can’t love Jesus and coffee.

At least so says (implicitly) John DeBonville, pastor of the Church of the Good Shepard in Massachusetts in a recent interview with CNN.

DeBonville, and others like him, long for the days when people wear their “Sunday best” to return once again. He claims that people dress up for what they care about, from first dates to church attendance.

  • Dressing up just for Easter? – Not good enough
  • Wearing flip-flops to church? – No way.
  • Bringing coffee into worship? – Unheard of.
“It’s like some people decided to stop mowing the lawn and then decided to come to church,” says DeBonville. “No one dresses up for church anymore.”

Of the four churches I’ve served at in various roles since beginning college, two of them, through posted church signage and printed instructions in the bulletin, prohibited coffee in the worship center. The other two provide it in a coffee bar in the foyer of the worship center. At my current church we even have printed instructions in the bulletin pointing out the available complimentary coffee and encourage people to feel free to bring it into the worship center if they desire.

In the grand scheme of things, coffee really isn’t all that important but it’s very clear how the two different approaches can send two very different messages about the overall atmosphere and culture of the church.

There are potential pros and cons to both approaches:

  • A casual worship atmosphere invites people from any and all backgrounds to encounter God without added societal pressures they may not know how to or be able to afford to adhere to a more formal worship culture.
  • A more traditional/formal church culture contains people who have taken additional time and care to prepare their clothes, and hopefully their hearts, for worship. Their formal dress can be an outward sign of the inward preparation for worship.
  • Sometimes those who dress up more for church look down upon those who don’t.
  • Sometimes those who don’t dress up for church look down on those who do.
  • For centuries, Jews have gone through various cleansing rituals to prepare themselves to enter the temple for worship.
  • Jesus was a homeless, poor carpenter who met people where they were: in the market, at work, and along the way.

I currently work in a church setting where everyone preaches in jeans. I’ve also grown up in and worked in a church setting where whoever preached was expected to wear a suit and tie every week.

Last night, I asked my friends on Facebook and Twitter what they usually wore to church.

  • Answers came from Presbyterians, Baptists and non-denominational church attenders:
  • Ladies’ dress ranged from flip-flops, yoga pants, and jeans to dresses and skirts with nice tops.
  • Mens’ dress ranged from bare feet, jeans, and snapback hats to khakis, cowboy boots, and button-down shirts.

Does God care what you wear to church? Or is it all about the heart?

What do you think? Leave a comment to join the discussion.

29Apr

Tough Text Tuesday: Matthew 7:21-23

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:21-23

In today’s tough text, Jesus is a just a few verses away from wrapping up the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus’ words can seem confusing and deeply troubling, especially if we find ourselves in the wrong group. There are in fact two distinct groups on this judgment day Jesus warns us about. And while we’re not quite sure yet what separates them notice what unites them: They all call Jesus “Lord.”

The Greek word for Lord is “kurios.” It literally means: master, boss, lord, savior. Sometimes we miss out on the true power of this word. Every time we call Jesus LORD, we’re saying he is the boss. He is the master and we are the servants. He has that kind of authority over our life, and all he wants is the same thing for each one of us: to realize that we are known and loved by God, solely by grace through faith, and by no works of our own.

So of all those that come to Jesus and call him Lord, why do some enter the kingdom of heaven and others don’t?

The answer might be too simple for the present way we view ourselves: Saying Jesus is Lord isn’t enough. We must believe that we’re bad enough to need saving and that God loves us enough to do just that.

  • Simply saying Jesus is Lord of your life doesn’t save you.
  • Religious activity doesn’t save you.
  • Church attendance doesn’t save you.
  • The faith of your parents doesn’t save you.
  • Baptism doesn’t save you.
  • Walking a church aisle doesn’t save you.

Faith in JESUS to be good enough because we know we’re nothing on our own saves us.

There must be CHANGE. There must be TRANSFORMATION.

Notice what those who ultimately don’t enter the kingdom of heaven say as they try and negotiate their way in…”Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’

Notice what they’re hanging their hat on: their own good works.They come before Jesus in bold arrogance claiming that they don’t need a Savior because they have this running list of all their good deeds they’ve done for Jesus. Tragically, they claim they don’t need the accomplished work of Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection because they mistakenly believe they’ve already accomplished enough themselves.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg illustrated this thought process so clearly in a recent interview with the New York Times. At the end of the interview Bloomberg addressed his work with gun control, smoking cessation, and obesity curbing programs:

“I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I’m not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”

While Bloomberg’s comments may have been made somewhat in jest (I’m trying to give him the benefit of the doubt), they echo an intrinsic belief crouching at the door of the hearts of all who claim Jesus as Lord: Sometimes we want to be our own Savior. Sometimes, if we’re honest, instead of admitting our own desperate need for grace, we want to rely on our own accomplishments and morality as functional saviors because then we don’t have to let other know we’re not okay apart from Jesus.

So how do you ensure you’re not one to which Jesus declares, “I never knew you, depart from me”?

How do we do the will of the Father in heaven? Repent and believe in Jesus. There’s no checklist. No moral to do list. We change because we’re saved not so that we can be saved.

I’m not sure what you’re hanging your eternal hat on today, but if it’s anything but the grace of Christ you’re foolishly clinging to yourself. I did that for a long time and it’s exhausting. Instead, cling to the good news of the gospel:

“We can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time.” – Timothy Keller
28Apr

The 1 Thing We Fight About

Does your marriage ever feel more like a UFC fight than a love story?

My wife and I have never really fought that much but when we do it’s always about one thing: money.

We also have one rule when we fight that we’ve both come close to breaking: Nobody can leave. No storming out of the house. No going for a walk. No friend’s house. Everybody stays. We don’t have to be in the same room and we don’t even have to finish the fight right then but nobody leaves.

We’ll celebrate 4 years of marriage together in less than a month. Even though I can count on one hand the times we’ve had fights where we’ve had to remember our one rule, they were all about the same thing, money. All the medium-level fights we’ve ever had have been about the same thing, money. In fact, basically every time we’ve argued about something other than money, we quickly realized that we were really arguing about money.

But that all changed about 6 months ago. Hayley and I went through Dave Ramsey‘s Financial Peace University at our church. We haven’t had a fight about money since. Long story short, we know where every single dollar of our money goes because we have a plan and we work the plan, together. As followers of Jesus, we realized that proper money management was more than just wise marriage advice; it was a discipleship issueClick here to find out where FPU is offered in your area.

I don’t know where you’re at in your marriage or what your financial situation is. But I do know there are tremendous benefits from being on the same page financially. It’s an absolute must.

4 Thoughts on Being Financially Unified in Marriage:

  • You build trust and intimacy when you work toward a financial goal togethedavestip_marathonr. This is true regardless of what age and stage you are in your marriage. Right now, we’re in the debt payoff stage. We’re gazelle intense, as Dave would say. You might be in a different spot. Maybe you’re saving for a house. Maybe you’re looking to give more than you ever have or trying to retire early. Whatever it is, working hard at it together will make anything in your marriage seem possible. Unfortunately,the opposite is also true. Doing it apart makes everything in your marriage seem impossible.

 

  • davestip_budgetDisagreeing isn’t always fighting. After several half-hearted attempts that fell apart over categories like shopping, eating out, and…baseball tickets, we finally sat down and made a full budget. We told every single dollar that comes in the front door where it goes. (You can download the same budget template we use every month here). As we wrestled through the budget-making process we were tempted to quit because we mistook disagreements for arguing. It’s not a fight when one spouse wants to spend less per month on clothing or more on entertainment than the other. It’s just something you need to work through…together.

 

 

davestip_marriage

 

  • When you fight with your spouse about money you’re really losing a fight against your own selfishness. Don’t be mistaken: it takes 2 people to fight. Even if you feel you’re only 3% wrong, you’re still 3% wrong. Focus on serving and loving your spouse and let them focus on serving and loving you.

 

 

davestip

  • Being on the same page about money helps you dream together. Clearly communicating about money means you’re clearly communicating about your dreams. Before you know it, your love for each other is growing in the trenches of life, fighting and scratching toward your dreams…together.

 

 

How do you and your spouse make sure you’re on the same page about money?

26Apr

Easter’s Over…Now What?

No more candy. No more bunnies. The Easter lilies may not be wilted just yet but Easter weekend has definitely come and gone.

crossThere were people at your church and mine that had not been seen since Christmas. Numbers were high. Energy was awesome. But no matter how great Easter was at your church, Monday morning rolled around just the same and it was over.

Whether or not pastors have arisen out of their post-Easter comas, another Sunday is just around the corner.

I don’t assume you’re a church member or a regular attender. Maybe you swing by just enough to make sure you don’t miss the vote to change the carpet color. Maybe you’re the Easter-Christmas attender, coming largely to make someone in your family happy or because that’s just what polite people in the South are “supposed to do.”

Regardless of where you stand on the church spectrum (contrary to my 1st grade Sunday School teacher there won’t be prizes in heaven for perfect attendance) here are 3 tips for going to church after Easter:

1.)  Go.

This might sound silly or self-explanatory but it really is important. Church isn’t a place you go, it’s a people you ARE. This is why the author of Hebrews pleads with Christians, “And let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25). While we all need the Church, the Church also needs YOU, to encourage and challenge one another. It probably doesn’t matter where you go, just go.

2.)  Come expectant.

Do you remember how you came to church last week? I don’t want to assume too much about your faith journey, but I know a lot of Christians, myself included, come to church on Easter significantly more excited to meet with God than normal. I think we can all agree there’s just something special about the way we prepare our hearts for Easter. Tomorrow, come ready and excited to worship God with your church family just like on Easter.

3.)  Don’t judge who’s missing.

It’s the great temptation of the regular attender. You’re there almost every week so you know your church well. Tomorrow you will notice that the wife who somehow convinced her husband to come with her on Easter is back to attending by herself this week. You will notice that your friend’s co-worker who he invited to Easter a month in advance did not come back to church this week. You will notice that your favorite toddler has returned to church with his grandparents instead of the single mom you finally got to meet last week. Whatever the situation, don’t judge who’s not there. Seek them out like Jesus does, as someone just like you and me, in desperate need of grace.

What tip would you add?

24Apr

Are You Living in the Past?

Some things are just old. Crusty. Smelly. Kinda saggy.

At best these things are historic, but at worst they’re outdated and ineffective.

Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, is one of those things. Disclaimer: I LOVE Wrigley Field and have spent the last two days there. I’m going to a White Sox/Rays game tonight on the other side of Chicago which will be far superior in baseball quality but will pale in overall comparison to the Wrigley experience.

The first day I was at Wrigley this week, they celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first professional baseball game played within the Friendly Confines. The fanfare was awesome. The ballpark was decked out like you wouldn’t believe. It was almost like Theo forgot the Cubs were in last place and decided to just throw a party anyway.

Far and away the best moment of the celebration was just before the game started. The Cubs brought back all these iconic legends from past Cubs and Chicago Bears teams. (The Bears played 50 years of football games at Wrigley).

I was 30 rows away from the real life versions of the statues that reside outside the stadium.

Cubs Legends included “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks, “Sweet Swingin'” Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and Andre Dawson.

Bears Legends included Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers.

dempsterThen the Cubs announced someone as a “legend” who absolutely baffled me: Ryan Dempster.

Dempster pitched for the Cubs for parts of 9 seasons, sometimes as a their closer, other times as the staff ace. However, he was an underwhelming 67-66 as a Cub. An above-average MLB pitcher? Yes. A Cubs all-time legend? NO.

I actually got to meet Ryan Dempster yesterday. He was a Ranger for a few months in a playoff push down the stretch so I was excited to get to talk with him for a brief moment. He lived up to his potential as one of the “good guys” in baseball, a fan favorite even. But he’s not a Cubs legend.

Then it hit me as the Cubs choked away a 3-run lead in the 9th: This day was about past successes.

The Cubs are doing in baseball what so many of us are doing in our relationships, work lives, and faith: living in the past.

As the Cubs legends announced got closer and closer to modern day, they got less and less impressive.

Is the same true for you?

In your marriage: Are you living off past successes? That one great anniversary date instead of a regular date night? Have you stopped presently investing in the most important relationship in your life? It’s true: You May Never Get Married, and that’s okay. However, if you are married you have a great responsibility to your spouse to work toward cultivating a thriving marriage. Remember: Nobody Owes You Happiness. Don’t live in the past.

In your work: Are you living off past successes? No matter who you are, people are depending on you to succeed in the work place. If you’re married, your family’s livelihood depends on you doing well and working hard in the present, not in the past. If you’re single, there might be a future family depending on your present success sometime in the future. If you’re a Christian, the Gospel can greatly benefit when you succeed in the present, not just in the past. Can you imagine what the global Church could do if all of its members got a raise? No matter what age or stage of life you presently find yourself, don’t live in the past. Work hard in the present. See: Chop Wood, Carry Water.

In your faith: I realize this one doesn’t apply to everyone, and maybe our “living in the past” attitude as Christians in part of the reason why. Who would want to be a part of something that’s not actively a part of your life? Churches should never say…”Well this is just always the way we’ve done it in the past.” Christians should always be able to give a reason for their present hope in Jesus, not just something that happened at camp one time a bunch of summers ago. Is your faith stuck in the past? Do you need to reconnect with a local church? Do you need to shake up your own pursuit of God? Do whatever it takes. If you don’t know what it takes, ask someone you trust. You can also start here: 6 Questions Every Christian Needs to Answer.

Don’t be like the Cubs. Don’t get stuck in the past, only celebrating past successes.

How are you tempted to live in the past?

20Apr

3 Reasons I Got Married

I married Hayley 17 days after I turned 21. She was almost 24. The national average is significantly higher (27 for women, 29 for men). We were engaged 6 months and one day (because her mom called me one day kindly reminding me before I proposed that it takes 6 months to plan a wedding).

When I was praying about my desire to marry Hayley, I kept a running list of the reasons I wanted to marry her. Here are 3 reasons I got married to the greatest girl in the world.

1.) I knew God was calling me to die to the idea of someone else.

One could easily argue the #1 reason people don’t get married is centered around commitment. Some may fear it. Some may simply refuse to commit to a life devoted to one person. When I first met Hayley in college, I knew something was different about her. And while I didn’t pursue her perfectly, I remember this moment where I stopped comparing her to some immature idea I had of someone else. And honestly, she made it really easy to. I never ever considered cheating on Hayley, but I remembered, even when we were dating, that I liked the idea that there could be someone else. That if this didn’t work out or got too hard that I could always find someone else. Let’s just call that what it is: stupid.

She’s incredible, and marrying her will be my life’s greatest decision next to following Jesus.  Far too many people never taste the joys of marriage because no one seems to quite measure up to their idea of a perfect spouse. While you obviously shouldn’t marry just anybody, marry the one who makes the idea of someone else look silly.

2.) I felt this irresistible pull to lovingly serve my wife. 

Marriage isn’t ultimately about your happiness. It’s a wonderful bi-product of a healthy marriage but the joy in marrying Hayley came primarily from my desire to lovingly serve her. It’s still the most accurate measure for how healthy our marriage is. When I’m desiring to serve her more, our marriage is more healthy. When I’m selfish and want to focus on me instead, our marriage suffers. There’s a undeniable, direct correlation there.

Are you dating someone you feel a similar desire to lovingly serve? If so, you should begin to think, pray, and at the right time, talk about marriage together.

Maybe you’re already married but lack the desire to lovingly serve your spouse. You might explain this away because you believe there’s just not much serve-worthy about your spouse. However, this exposes this sin in your own heart more than any fault in your spouse. I’ve found that the more you lovingly serve your spouse, the easier it is when you don’t feel like it and the more and more you want to lovingly serve them.

3.) Why waste time missing out?

Ted Mosby wanted those 45 extra days.

When you know, you know.

Whatever you want to say about it, and all cliches aside, there was a point in our relationship when I just knew I would marry Hayley. While love is definitely a choice, and so much more than a feeling, there was this overwhelming feeling that I knew I wanted to be with her. I could not imagine life without her and realized I didn’t have to.  When we got married, we were young but prepared. We had jobs and life plans in place that we wanted to pursue together and we knew matched up well. We didn’t want to waste any time once we decided to commit our lives to one another in marriage.


 

I’m not sure if there are 3 universal reasons to get married, but I hope our 3 can help you.

If you’re stuck in a marriage rut, consider making a similar list. Remember what it was like at the beginning? What made you first decide to want to marry your spouse? What’s one thing you can change/do today to recapture that?

If you’re dating someone, do you have a plan? Are they marriage potential? Are you? Consider keeping a running list of all the marriage-worthy traits of your significant other. If you can’t find any, it’s time to move on.

Are you single? If so, can I encourage to hold a high standard for your future spouse? Think and discover what reasons are worth marrying someone and what aren’t.

If you got married before the national average (27 for women, 29 for men), why did you?

4Apr

HIMYM

The series finale of How I Met Your Mother aired on Monday night and regardless of how you felt about the conclusion (after Breaking Bad, everybody’s just fighting for 2nd place in series finales), it’s always impressive when a television show survives for 9 seasons.

I didn’t really get on the HIMYM bandwagon until the show was almost over but I’ve watched the whole series a few times in the last two or three years. As a television show, How I Met Your Mother has done what only a few others have (The Office, Friends, etc.), make you feel like these characters on a show are actually your friends. Maybe it’s because the character development has been consistently good over a long period of time. Maybe it’s because the characters remind me so much of real people and real relationships in my life, both past and present.

I got to watch the finale late Tuesday night after our home group and I’ve been reflecting on the show as a whole since then. I realized that Christians can learn something from each one of the five characters.

Robin Scherbatsky

robin Your career is not what’s most important and won’t make you happy if you sacrifice relationships to be successful. An old pastor once told me “Everyone’s replaceable.” This simple truth is profound – often when you overwork, obsess, and consume yourself with work, the day comes when you leave, or are told to leave, and you find yourself wondering what you have to show for it. Sure, you might gain some success, money and social status.

In the season finale, Robin has achieved all her wildest career dreams…and finds herself terribly alone and unfulfilled. You should work hard. You should get ahead. You should be excellent at your job. But don’t lose track of what matters most in life.

Ted Mosby

tedWithout a doubt the main character of the show, the HIMYM faithful have rooted for Ted for 9 seasons now. If Ted has taught us anything, it’s this: never give up hope. While Ted eventually leads a very happy life, his life is pretty good even while he’s pursuing the ever elusive “the one.” Ted lives his life in between where he is and where he wants to go, like so many others. Throughout all the confusion and disappointment, Ted never lost hope.

 

 

Marshall and Lily

marshall

 

Put your spouse first. Friends come and go. Kids are born and life gets crazy, so I’ve heard. Your marriage should be a source of consistency in your life that weathers the storms of moves, changing friends, heartache, new jobs, etc. A great marriage doesn’t just happen overnight and it takes both people being all-in. (See: Marriage Monday: Nobody Owes You Happiness).

Barney Stinson

barneyAfter all the legendary nights, high-fives, and slap bets, Barney Stinson teaches us that everyone can change. Barney eventually matures past his endless string of one night stands and settles down in marital bliss…only to find himself divorced and alone after 3 years. He learns that money, sex, and power are broken cisterns that can’t hold true happiness. However, Barney doesn’t end up alone and he doesn’t end up as the same old Barney. It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or how much baggage you’ve brought with you; everyone can change.

 

 

 

What else can we learn from the HIMYM characters?

31Mar

Noah Movie Review

This Friday I got to go check out the Noah movie with my friend, Kyle. Before the movie started, we talked about how the mixed reactions of Christians in general leading up to the film had been so interesting, all before most of them had ever seen it! Overall, we both really enjoyed the film.

The Good:

  • This movie has Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, and Anthony Hopkins in it. Stars. It’s directed and co-written by critically acclaimed director Darren Aronofsky. In other words: This is a legitimate, Hollywood blockbuster movie with a big budget and excellent production. If you’re tired of the corny, poorly-made, low budget Christian films, this is the film for you.
  • Noah follows the general Biblical story. Key word: general. There’s this dude Noah. He’s supposed to build this crazy big ark. He obeys. Animals come. God floods the earth to start over and Noah’s family members are the only ones to survive.
  • Noah is a dark character. He’s conflicted about the task he’s been given, willing to obey but sorrowful for what it means (the destruction of the earth and all inhabitants outside his family). To me, this seems to make a lot of sense, as the pathos of Noah is not something that’s usually explored in the kids Bible story time.
  • The movie takes parts of the biblical account very seriously. Like the part where everybody but Noah’s family dies. There’s this chilling scene in the movie where the floods start to rise. A lot of people have already died. The ark is floating as the waters rise up the mountains and Noah’s family gathers in the ark to share their first dinner…in complete silence. There’s one last mountain peak for the water to conquer and people are clinging to it for dear life. You can feel the tension as Noah’s family sits and eats in silence as the last remaining people cry out for help only to receive none.
  • Sin and judgement are very real. God is trusted fully, in spite of the radical nature of his command for Noah and his family. God is referred to as “the Creator” consistently, as the author of all life as well as the standard of holiness humanity has failed to achieve. The film clearly communicates the Christian doctrines of original sin (we’re all born into a state of sinfulness) and total depravity (all of us need to be reconciled back to God yet we’re unable to do this on our own).

The Bad:

  • The not so subtle environmental agenda is overwhelming. More than violence (the main reason given in Bible), the main reason for God bringing the flood seems to be that people haven’t cared for the earth. The result is the Genesis 6 world we see Noah in looks a lot more like an apocalyptic, scorched-earth, sci-fi wasteland. One of his main concerns in the first 20 minutes is teaching his son to not pick too many flowers. Ridiculous. However, the environment does matter. It’s something God has entrusted to us to care for. Creation care needs to be a bigger concern for Christians. You don’t have to be a hippie to affirm that.
  • None of Noah’s sons are married. This presents an awkward problem…how are they supposed to repopulate the earth afterwards? This leads to an unexpected plot twist at the end.
  • The rock giants are weird. They’re loosely based on the “Nephilim” concept from Genesis 6:4 but come across as comical, rock versions of the Ents from Lord of the Rings. The “Watchers” tradition stems from the first 36 chapters of the Book of Enoch, an apocryphal book universally rejected as Scripture.
  • Where is God? While God is far from absent in the film, he is silent. He never speaks with Noah. Noah discerns God’s call through a disturbing dream cycle and a pilgrimage to see Methuselah for wisdom. God is portrayed only as a dim light from heaven, not the active, covenant-making God from the Biblical story.
  • Noah’s family drama is unbelievable. A son conceives twin girls with his adopted sister…who was supposed to be barren. Another son finds a potential wife in a grave full of dead bodies, but then she gets caught in a bear trap and trampled to death while he tries to get her back to the ark. One son tries to kill Noah with the evil king who’s also a stowaway. Then Noah gets all homicidal toward his twin grand-daughters because he feels the entire human race, including his family, needs to be eradicated, even after the flood. The family drama is a double edged sword in the film because it’s where the movie strays most from the Biblical text but ultimately where all the suspense and plot development arises.
  • Christians are being duped. Noah is a good movie. But Hollywood is on to us! They know they if they hype a movie from the Bible we will go out in droves to see it. I would actually suggest you GO see Noah but don’t go expecting to see a shot for shot remake of the Biblical story. Don’t be fooled. The truth is, Hollywood movie execs only care about one thing, money, and they’ve figured out how that Christians are cash cows.

Conclusion

Personally, I loved Noah. The acting, for the most part, is incredible. Russell Crowe is awesome (duh) and I was blown away by Jennifer Connelly’s performance as his wife. It’s a dark movie, in typical Aronofsky fashion, but a fascinating and creative one. I loved going with my friend because it sparked a great conversation as we left about what was similar and what was different from the Biblical story.

Some Christians should go. Others should not. I hope this review is helpful for you as you make your decision. Whatever you decide, don’t ridicule fellow Christians who may choose differently than you. We’re all on the same team.

If you could make a movie based on someone from the Bible, who would it be?

31Mar

Tough Text Tuesday: Matthew 18:20

This is the fourth installment in the “Tough Text Tuesday” series. You can check out previous posts on Philippians 4:13, Judges 11, and Titus 2 if you want to catch up. My prayer is that God would use these posts to deepen your love for the Bible and help us all read the Bible better and ultimately encounter God more clearly.

A word of caution: Most people, myself included, who misinterpret Scripture, are not doing so maliciously. They sincerely believe they are being helpful and their desire is ultimately to encourage others with words greater than their own. They may simply be passing on what has been taught to them by their pastors, parents, or friends. It is not your job or mine to go picking fights with other Christians (you know…people on our team) about what verses they want to stitch on pillows or slap on the sides of coffee mugs. Be gracious to one another.

Today’s tough text is Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

This text seems simple enough. Within the context of Christians gathering together for prayer or worship, Jesus is there. Sounds good, right? But what about the woman who faithfully arises before dawn to read her Bible and pray, just as she does every day, at the kitchen table before her family awakes? As she so faithfully meets with God every day, is she mistaken? Is Jesus not with her in those holy moments because she doesn’t have another person or two with her?

Additionally, what happens when four or more people gather together? Every time a worship leader quotes this verse to kick off a worship set, I look around and start to panic a little when I realize we have more than two or three gathered together. As the saying goes, “Two’s a party, three’s a crowd.” Does Jesus live by the same axiom? Imagine: four people start gathering together and Jesus starts feeling cramped so he’s gotta jet to an even smaller small group?!?

Obviously these concerns are unfounded and illogical. So what does this text mean?

Context

As always, context is imperative. Our text today comes in the middle of Jesus’ teaching on church discipline. Surprising? He’s talking about what Christians should do when they have been wronged by a brother or sister in the faith who refuses to acknowledge the fact that they have sinned against a dear friend.

  1. First, you are to approach the one who sinned against you (“go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” – v. 15).
  2. If that works, great! If not, “take one or two others along with you” to confront him again (v.16). Notice that one or two additional people add up to the “two or three” total mentioned in v.20.
  3. Last step, if none of that works, take it to the church. If the offending party won’t even listen to the church, he/she should be excluded from fellowship (v. 17).

This is the context from which today’s text arises. Someone has wronged someone else. We’ve all been transgressed and we’ve all been the transgressor. So forget about this text being used in a prayer meeting. Forget about it being quoted from a worship stage.

Instead, imagine this scenario. Someone in the church hurt someone else in the church. Instead of recognizing their own hurts, habits, and hang-ups, they have lashed out against one of their friends. Even worse, they refuse to acknowledge their sin when the one they hurt confronts them in love.

But then everything changes. They’re confronted in love by a group of their friends, all from within the church. They’re in home group together. Their kids all play together. They have listened to endless sermons together and sung countless songs of praise to God together. It is this setting for which our text is written; when these two or three close friends, who have grown close not only to each other but to God, gather for reconciliation.

The offending party recognizes their sin and seeks the forgiveness of the group and of God. They agree in their desire for reconciliation because they know they have all first been reconciled to God. And they can now take confidence that Jesus is in fact among them, as they seek to recognize his accomplished work in their own lives…together.

We’re better together. We > Me.

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