Living in Anticipation

The birth of a baby brings a whole host of emotions with it. There are all these different emotions but the greatest of these is the growing sense of Anticipation.

The birth of a baby is always accompanied by Anticipation.

From the moment it is known that a baby is on the way, Anticipation builds and sets into motion all other emotions and behaviors.

Anticipation brings Excitement and Joy.

Anticipation is accompanied by Anxiety.

Anticipation builds Hope.

Anticipation causes us to act in accordance with this Hope.

For most of us, 9 months of Anticipation is more than enough for our hearts and minds to handle.

Now imagine waiting not 9 months or one year or even a decade. Imagine anticipating the birth of a baby for hundreds, even a few thousand years.

That’s what happened to God’s people.

Ever since the Fall of Man all the way back in the Garden of Eden, God’s people have been waiting with Anticipation for God to fulfill His promise and send a Savior to rescue them from sin and bring them back into unbroken fellowship with their Heavenly Father.

Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

They had been waiting in Anticipation since the day God called Abraham and blessed him so that through his family, God would bless the entire world.

They waited in Anticipation for 400 years as slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt.

In Anticipation they waited for salvation as they entered the land God promised their ancestors generations before.

Even while God’s people moved in and out of faithfulness some continued to live in Anticipation. It seemed for every good king who led the people to righteousness there were 5 kings who led the people further away from God. When the people were scattered and taken captive because of their sin, Anticipation of God’s promised Messiah continued to breed hope in the lives of God’s faithful people.

There were leaders who continued to hold out this hope and to remind the people of God’s promise of salvation and life. The Prophets were bold men who spoke words of comfort and discomfort:

Comfort to those who longed to see God’s promised Messiah bring healing and restoration back to their world and discomfort to those who had forgotten God’s words, who had failed to live in Anticipation that God would fulfill his promises.

As time when on many of God’s people lost their sense of Anticipation. Although the people had returned from exile God had not overturned the pagan empires who defamed his name and God’s Presence had not come into His temple in power and majesty and glory. Losing their sense of Anticipation was their first step in doubting God’s love, no longer trusting in His ways, and losing hope that God would fulfill His promises at all.

The prophet Malachi, a messenger of God’s promised Savior, ended his message with this:

Malachi 4:1–6 – “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the LORD Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. And you will go out and frolic like well-fed calves. Then you will trample on the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act,” says the LORD Almighty.

“Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

Malachi’s words reminded the people that a great King was on his way and that when he arrived he would not only judge the wicked but that he would bring justice, blessing, and restoration.

However, the people had to continue to wait. For another 400 years, God was silent. The people found themselves in a place where they had been many times before. A place of decision: Would they waver and forget all that God had promised or would they live lives marked by Anticipation?

This is the place we find ourselves tonight. 

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free; from our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee. Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou art; dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King, born to reign in us forever, now thy gracious kingdom bring. By thine own eternal spirit rule in all our hearts alone; by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.

Are you eagerly awaiting to see God’s promised Messiah, The great King who brings justice, blessing, hope, and salvation? 

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

4 Reasons Why I Prepare My Preaching Calendar Months in Advance

This is a big week for me because this is the week I plan my 2014-2015  Preaching Calendar. I already have everything laid out through the end of the year but after this weekend I will have the next 12 months of my preaching calendar planned out. For me, this is huge and very exciting.

I believe that planning ahead is a great way to trust in the Spirit and allow him to move through the entire process from prayer to planning to study to execution. God blesses planning and preparation as well as faithfulness. Planning your Preaching Calendar one month, 3 months, or even a year in advance is a way of being faithful to Jesus, God’s Word, and your calling to share the Good News.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been listening to God, praying, and asking for wisdom in planning this calendar. Before I share with you the steps I take to create this calendar, I want to share with you 4 Reasons WHY I Prepare My Preaching Calendar Months in Advance:

1) Planning ahead simply helps give me DEPTH in my preaching through advanced studying and preparation. When I know what I’m preaching on and when I am preaching on it I can take more time in my reading and study. I have the time to research, interview, read, and listen to what other have said. I also have more time to think through and clarify my thoughts and understanding of topics or passages. Planning ahead helps me go deeper.

2) Planning ahead aids in giving me room to share the message of Jesus more CREATIVELY. Personally, I believe that it is next to impossible to go deep and/or be creative at the last minute.

3) Planning ahead makes sure that I am being faithful to the WHOLE of SCRIPTURE and not simply preaching on the flavor (issue) of the month. I would preach on Discipleship every single weekend if I didn’t have a plan. Creating this calendar will help bring balance to what I teach week in and week out.

4) Planning ahead helps me ENLIST HELP in gathering resources, help, buy-in, prayers, and fuels an excitement among the leadership about what God will be saying to us.

When all is said and done this week, I will have a guided map for my study and preparation for the next 12 months with a tentative plan for each of the next 52 weeks.  Will some of these series change or be scrapped? Maybe. What if God calls you to speak on something else? I’ll submit willingly and gladly! I estimate that with this process only about 70% (conservative estimate) of what is planned remains set.

I started planning out my teaching series years ago and it has helped make all the difference in the way I pray, plan, study, and prepare my lessons. Less pressure and more reliance on God to help and guide me means more encouragement and focus on what he has called me to do. That is a great position to be in!

Up Next: How I Prepare My Preaching Calendar Months in Advance

What I Want My Kids To Know

As a dad, I know that I need wisdom each and every day to help me navigate the wild and wooly waters of parenthood and guiding the next generation.

Leading our children and encouraging them to walk in the way that the Lord would have them go is a major theme found throughout the Book of Proverbs. One of the most inspiring chapters can be found in chapter 4. Check out what it says:

Proverbs 4:1-27

“Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. For I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me, and he said to me, “Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you. She will give you a garland to grace your head and present you with a glorious crown.”

Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble. They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence. The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

What I love about this passage is that it outlines specific issues and topics that the Father wants his kids to know.

  • Get wisdom.
  • Watch your mouth.
  • Avoid the wicked.
  • Be careful how you live.
  • Guard your heart.

With a 5 year old boy and a 2 year old girl at home I get scared and overwhelmed at the responsibility Sandy and I have to guide and teach them. It can be a huge and daunting task just thinking about everything I want them to know, when the right time to share with them is, and making sure I cover it all. The last thing that I want is for my parent teaching and strategy to become hit and miss. I want the things I teach them to be a laser beam of consistency and clarity so that my kids will have a greater understanding of who God is and what the Christian life looks like when practically lived out. So, I’ve started keeping a list of topics and biblical passages where God’s wisdom on these subjects are talked about and discussed. In order to identify these essential topics Sandy and I began to ask the following questions:

If we could permanently imprint anything we want on Hewson and Adele’s hearts and minds, what would it be?

What do they need to know about God, Jesus, and living the life of a Christ-follower?

These two questions have helped bring clarity to our prayer times with the kids, direct the Bible stories we tell them, and help guide our conversations with them throughout the week. We only have about 613 weeks with Hewson left until he graduates from High School and only about 769 weeks left with Adele. Determining and identifying specific things we know God wants them to understand and live out helps us make the most of what little time we have left with them.

Now it is your turn. Take these two questions and, in terms of your guiding and teaching your children (or grandchildren, nieces, nephews, students, etc.), begin to ask yourself what do you want to make sure that they know? What topics/information do you want to make sure that they hear about from you? Before they leave the care of your home, what is it that they need to know about God, Jesus, and the Christian life that will help them navigate the secular world outside?

My prayer for you is that you will determine to become an Intentional Parent. In the face of stress, time constraints, deadlines, and ever increasing pressure from the culture around us, may God give you the wisdom, clarity, and strength you need to help guide your children to walk in Wisdom and passionately dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ. Pray for me as well.


Breaking News Alert!

Do Not Be Afraid.

These 4 words appear over 70 times in the Old and New Testament.

Do not be afraid… when you don’t know what will happen next.

Do not be afraid… when God’s promises seem far away.

Do not be afraid… when the enemy looms large.

Do not be afraid… when armies surround you.

Do not be afraid… when you carry out God’s calling.

Do not be afraid… when rumors abound.

Do not be afraid… when discouragement is all you see.

Do not be afraid… when you feel as if no one hears you.

Do not be afraid… when you can’t understand all that is happening around you.

Do not be afraid… when you feel alone.

Do not be afraid… when all you experience is pain and turmoil.

Do Not Be Afraid.

There is a lot going on right now in our world. Hospital visits. Illnesses. Cancer. Layoffs. Stress. Pressure to conform. Planes being shot out of the sky. Ground wars. Work place drama. Hurt feelings. Confusion. Loneliness. Depression. Anxiety.

When fear grips us, often times we react in ways that are contrary to how God would have us respond. We may lash to at those closest to us or retreat back to the relative safety of our own homes. We may look for blame or we may begin to resent a particular people group. We respond to the things that scare us in fear rather than in faith.

Paul tells us in Eph 5 to “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1–2)”

If you want to overcome fear, look to Jesus. His example of facing fear and standing firm didn’t come from a cereal box. If didn’t come from his strong backbone or situational ethics class. This ability to overcome fear came to him through the Holy Spirit and faith in a God who keeps his covenant of love.

So today, before you look at another news article… before you read another headline or watch another breaking news alert…

Remember, our Savior faced the cross for you. Remember, our Savior died for you. Remember, our Savior, conquered the power of sin and death for you. Remember, our Savior is still firmly in charge and is coming back for you.

Do Not Be Afraid.

Bringing the Heat

This Summer, I’ve been preaching out of Proverbs for my Summer Sermon Series: Wisdom for Living. Since it’s 4th of July weekend I decided to stick with the fireworks theme and talk about what God’s Word has to tell us about handling Relational Conflict. Light that fuse!

Where there are relationships, you will find conflict. When people interact and bump up against each other there will be conflict – big and small. Our culture loves to disagree over so many things: race, religion, family issues, politics, world views. You name it and people are fighting over it.

Now you might say, “Micheal, surely those of us who love Jesus don’t have to worry about conflict in the church!” After you’ve stop laughing and finished wiping the laughter-tears away, read this story:

In 1995, a man named Chuck Noland was stranded on a desert island after a horrific crash. He was alone on the island for nearly twenty years until a passing freighter spotted him on the beach last February. When his rescuers told him that they were there to take him home, he was overjoyed. Noland asked them if they would accompany him to the shelter he had built so that he could retrieve some of his belongings. When the group arrived at the shelter, they were amazed at how big and beautiful his island home was. Then someone noticed another structure to the right, larger and more grand than his home. When they asked Nolan what the other structure was he told them that it was his church – the place where he worshipped. Amazed at what Nolan had been able to build there in the jungle all by himself, the group turned to head back to the rescue ship. That’s when the saw a third building just as large and grand as the other two. They asked what this was and Nolan said in a hushed tone, “That’s the church I used to go to.”


The truth is that there is no perfect church because there are no perfect people. Churches split and relationships crumble, not due to conflict, but though the way we handle conflict. There are ways to approach conflict that can be life-giving and there are ways that can be soul-crushing. The number one reason that the church is irrelevant, ineffective, and gasping for air can be tied back to our unwillingness to deal with and work though conflict biblically.

As followers of Jesus Christ we must learn how to effectively deal with conflict when it arises. It is my hope through this lesson will help us, in light of our relationship with Jesus, RETHINK conflict and RELEARN how to effectively and positively deal with it in your life.

Here is what I truly believe: when we learn how to biblically handle conflict we will REVEL in our relationship with Jesus, experience RESTORED relationships with one another, and we will better REVEAL to the culture around us the God who pursues and redeems relationships broken by conflict.



Lessons from the ER

As I was changing clothes after church service on Mother’s Day, I noticed what I thought was a small fire ant bite on the inside of my knee. It was red and irritated but I didn’t think another thing about it until I woke up on Monday to discover that the bite had more than doubled in size and was an angry red. By the end of the work day the pain was getting pretty unbearable. At the clinic, they diagnosed me with an infection and put me on some antibiotics. They told me to watch the infected area and to go to the ER if it got worse. Fast forward to Wednesday afternoon… The infection was spreading around my knee and up and down my thigh, the pain was not subsiding, and my anxiety was through the roof. I didn’t hesitate, I drove straight to the ER where they cut me open, drained all that junk out, and shot me up with a high dose of medicine to knock out what was remaining inside me. The doctors told me I had made the right decision to come in and get it all taken care of. They told me that the damage would have been much greater had I waited even a few more hours. The consensus is that all of this probably began as a spider bite. At the end of the day, whether it was a bite or some sort of staph infection, I needed to be treated immediately and aggressively in order to put a stop to the damage the infection was wreaking on my body. Which got me thinking…

Inside of each of us emotional junk infects our hearts and minds each and everyday. What begins as a back-handed comment or a bit of self-consciousness or even self-doubt can begin attacking our hearts and spreading the negativity all over our lives. Left untreated, the virus grows and threatens to kill our joy and effectiveness. Over the course of dealing with this physical infection, I observed 3 things that I believe can help us deal with negative emotional infections in our lives.

1) Get Help
I quickly realized that whatever was happening to my leg was something that I couldn’t handle on my own. No OTC cream or medicine was able to treat the pain and heal me. I had to get someone who could help me to look at and diagnose my problem.

When it comes to emotional pain and hurts, we need to be able to go to family, friends, or mentors and tell them what’s happening inside of us and what kind of pain we are dealing with. It is also ok to take what’s bothering you to a professional counselor. If you are hurting emotionally or spiritually, the infection has taken root and it needs to be identified. Don’t believe the lie that all pain will eventually heal on its own. Don’t ignore the fact that you are hurt. Get some help, even professional help, if you are struggling with emotional pain in your life.

2) Cut It Out
This was the hardest part of dealing with my infection. On the first night that I went to the doctor, they attempted to cut open my infection. Without numbing my leg, the doc pulled out the meanest, ugliest Exacto-knife looking scalpel and pushed it into my leg. Yowza! Nothing came out. The infection was there but wasn’t ready to give up the fight just yet. Over the next 2 days, the infection grew and spread. When Wednesday came, I had one thing on my agenda. I wanted that junk out of my body. The ER doc gave it her best shot and with another mean scalpel, a lot of pressure, and her body weight on my leg we got that infection out of my body. It had to go!

Too often, when it comes to emotional pain and infection, we want to hang on to it rather than getting rid of it. May it never be!

Whatever is hurting you emotionally or spiritually, get it out and away from you. If it is a person whose spews their negativity all over you, remove that person from your life. If it is a hurt from years ago, find some way to forgive and let go. This process may hurt, it might take a few tries to make it work, or it just might take a whole lot of focus and pressure but you can’t get healthily unless you remove the infection from your life.

3) Take Your Medicine
After it was all said and down, I was on two sets of antibiotics. One I took 2 times a day and another I had to take 4 times a day. Every one I know who cares for me told me that same thing: Take ALL your antibiotics! If I heard that once, I heard it 50 times. This was a crucial step in regaining my health and working to prevent a recurrence of the infection in my leg.

When it comes to getting emotionally healthy and avoiding a recurrence of the infection you have to take all your medicine too. Surround yourself with those who love you and who lift you up. Avoid contact with whatever causes you emotional pains and hurts. Choose to believe the best about yourself and stop believing the worst that others say about you. Do these things and other things that bring you joy consistently and you can begin to stave off another infection that seeks to damage your heart and mind.

I am happy to say that one month out, my leg is almost completely healed. I followed my doctors advice, took all my meds, and rested well. Unfortunately, I know that emotional wounds don’t heal as fast as our physical ones do.

My prayer for you will be that God will guide you to seek help for what may be infecting you emotionally, that you will let go of and seek to remove the infection in your heart, and that over time He will send you positive and life affirming people to help you find emotional health.

Noah: What Works


In Part Two of our look at the movie Noah, I want to talk about what I liked about the film. In the next post, I’ll hone in on some elements that didn’t work- didn’t work for a movie based in scripture, didn’t work in a movie period, didn’t work from a storytelling position.

There are some good things about the movie. There are some elements that I really liked. So, here are 6 things that worked in the movie Noah.

The Acting
Russell Crowe is fantastic. Emma Watson is wonderful. Ray Winstone, a fine character actor, brings evil to life. Jennifer Connelly, the Rocketeer’s ex-girlfriend, plays the part of Noah’s wife with grace. Some role their eyes at Crowe as a casting choice but I think it was spot on. Russell Crowe is an everyman and that’s what was required of this role. We needed to see pain and sorrow and grief and joy and determination and integrity. Crowe delivered.

I loved having a villain to stand in stark contrast to our main character. Whereas Noah was righteous and earnestly seeking to hear from God, Tubal-Cain embodies the wickedness, ruthlessness, and selfishness of mankind. One of the criticisms surrounding the movie is that the name of God isn’t mentioned. While the film talks mainly about “The Creator” there is a scene where Ham meets Tubal-Cain in the forest for the first time. Tubal-Cain asks Ham, “Don’t you recognize your King?” Ham responds by saying, “Father says there is no king. The Creator is God.” The look of disgust on Tubal-Cain is priceless. There is a huge extra-biblical element with this character that on one level is hard to swallow. Tubal-Cain makes it onto the ark. Yeah, I know. I missed that flannel graph story too. However, this kinda works because the character serves to undermine everything that Noah stands for and has been seeking to instill in his sons. In this case, the tension is very good. Tubal-Cain adds an element of chaos into the new ordering of things. He represents the depravity, duplicitousness, and evil of mankind. Evil will stop at nothing to tear apart what God is doing. It is a major plot element that isn’t in the source material but it works because it serves the ideas of Chaos, Covenant, and (Re)Creation.

The Ark/The Flood
I loved the Ark. It definitely represented a structure that was 300 by 50 by 30 cubits. The Bible mentions that it was held together with tar as well and the whole thing looks cover in pitch. The filmmakers totally nailed the look in my mind. Also the flood is how I picture it as well. Not only was there rain but Genesis 7:11 tells us that “all the springs of the great deep burst forth.” In the film, giant spouts of water shoot up toward the sky just as I see it described in scripture. One thing that I have not seen anyone talk about is that the film is clear that this judgement is from The Creator. This isn’t a weather phenomenon that our main characters are too primitive to understand. This isn’t water coming from a broken dam. The flood is presented as a miraculous wonder/righteous judgement sent from above. Same with the animals arriving to the ark. They aren’t fleeing from a national park because of a dormant volcano. They miraculously appear while Noah and his family watch with wonder and amazement. The miracle isn’t written off as junk science or explained away as some animal ecological ESP.

Survivor’s Guilt
Throughout the film, Noah is depicted as a man who feels deeply about what is happening around him. He earnestly seeks to understand what God is calling him to. He loves his family. He is disgusted by the wickedness of humanity. He is sober-minded about what will happen when the flood comes. He feels the burden and the responsibility of his great task. There is one scene that takes the story of Noah and puts flesh to a man we’ve only read about. After the storm begins and Noah’s family is safe aboard the ark, Noah sits, covered with a blanket and he listens. The wind and the waves are howling and crashing against the ark. Amidst all the noise, Noah can hear screams of the people perishing in the flood. There is not victory in Noah’s eyes, only pain. Scripture tells us that God doesn’t send a flood because he is angry. There is grief in the heart of God and the film make that grief palpable through Noah. Noah wrestles with survivor’s guilt to a certain extent and his element is explored near the end of the film as Noah gets drunk in a cave cut off from his family. When i have talked about this element with others who have not yet seen the movie, there is instant connection with it.

The Redemption
In Part 3, I will discuss the reasons behind Noah separating from his family in more detail (because it doesn’t work) but I do like the way Noah returns. There is redemption as Noah is welcomed back to his family. Without words you see forgiveness, love, and grace- the same forgiveness, love, and grace God’s gives us- on the big screen for all to see.

The Blessing
At the end of the film, as The Creator sends a rainbow over this new creation, Noah recites a blessing over his family (Including Ham. Oh-oh! Genesis 9:22-25). Noah proclaims, “Be fruitful and increase in number!” A huge rainbow radiates from the sky, filling the screen with ROYGBIV. Then Kermit begins the opening chords to “Rainbow Connection” as the screen goes black (That would have work brilliantly.). The film ends on a note of hope and grace.

Get ready for Part 3: What Didn’t Work. I’m not a huge fan of director Darren Aronofsky and there are as many Aronofsky signatures in this film as there were animals on the ark. Many of his choices take the viewer out of the film or cause the viewer confusion or frustration. I’m going to suggest that by merely changing or cutting some of these things from the film Noah would have been a great movie instead of merely an Aronofsky movie.

Chaos, Covenant, and (Re)Creation

part 1

Welcome to Part One in our series looking at the movie Noah. Today the focus will be on the story of Noah as found in Genesis 6-9. As I argued in the introduction, there has been a lot of discussion about whether or not the movie Noah lives up to the theological narrative in Scripture and even more discussion about whether or not that even matters.

Last week, I saw a tweet that said, “All these Christians arguing that Noah isn’t theological enough… where’s their outrage about Capt America or Sabotage.

2 Points on this line of thinking:
1) You’re right. As Christians we are called to a higher standard when it comes to the media and entertainment that we consume. I’m the guy who takes a notebook or I sit where I can open up Evernote on my phone in order to jot down thoughts or ideas I have during movies I go to. (Next Week: 10 leadership Lessons from Saving Mr Banks!) So yeah, as Christians we should be ready to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) We should engage with all media rather than passively allow it to wash over us unfiltered.

2) What a misguided comment. This is a huge false equivalency. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Conan the T-800’s action-drama about dirty DEA agents and Mexican cartels never claims to be a story rooted in Scripture. And while Cap finds finds himself caught up in a larger universe of mythology and storytelling, S.H.I.E.L.D. is a long way from the T.O.R.A.H. When a movie claims to be  rooted in “research and biblical scholarship” you are inviting people to judge your film, not on your artistic interpretations, but on your “research and biblical scholarship.”

In Part 2, I am going to dive into some of the cinematic flourishes, inventive storytelling, and artistic licenses that the filmmakers gambled on that actually worked in this movie. It is completely understandable that in order to fill a 2 hour movie you might need to rely on elements that may not be found in a 3 chapter narrative with only one speaking part. It really isn’t fair to judge a movie completely by how literal it sticks to the source material. If that were true than we would have to critically reassess every movie from Disney fairy tales to Braveheart to The Ten Commandments to Son of God. Every one of these films, including those based on Scripture, contained something different, added, or artistically created in order to movie the story along.

So then, I’m not interested in arguing the merit of Noah based on it’s factual, literal accuracy. My concern is whether on not the film connects the audience to the overarching theological narrative we find in scripture, particularly how the story of Noah connects with redemption and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

To show you what I’m talking about, read at what director Aronofsky said in an interview about his goal of adapting a story from the biblical source and bringing it to life on the big screen.

“I think it’s more interesting when you look at not just the biblical but the mythical that you get away from the arguments about history and accuracy and literalism. That’s a much weaker argument, and it’s a mistake.

Because when you think about Icarus, you don’t talk about the feathers and the wax and how the wax attached to his body and how is it physically possible that he could fly with feathers on his arms. No. You’re talking about how he flew too high and was filled with hubris and it destroyed him. That’s the message and that’s the power. That’s power to have that idea. 

It’s impossible to understand what these times are because there are four chapters in the Bible. It’s just important that you don’t contradict any of it and that you study each word, and study each sentence, and try to use and extract as much juice out of that to be inspired to turn it into a vision that represents the spirit of it all. That’s the goal.”

So, that’s the bar we’re working with here. Does the movie Noah capture the essence and the grand narrative of its biblical source?  I actually love the connection to making a film about Icarus and making a film about Noah.

He’s right, in a film about Icarus, an audience isn’t going to care or want to connect with a lengthy explanation about which feathers cause the greatest lift or whether or not Daedalus used a running stitch or a hemming stitch. No one’s going to miss these scenes when they land on the cutting room floor and they really do nothing to serve the story.

In a movie about Noah, the audience would have been ill served by a 45 minute scene of exposition about the wood used to build the ark, the carpentry involved, or a roll call of all the animals. All of which you could point to as proof of a biblically accurate film. I myself was glad to see that the ark only had one opening, all though I was disappointed that God Himself didn’t shut Noah and his family inside. I’m kidding. Or am I?

The power of the film doesn’t come from small literal details but in the larger narrative that the story is trying to tell. In evaluating a film like this, one has to wrestle with the question, “Is the film true to the message of the source material?” Aronofsky, himself, says that for the film to succeed it must “represent the spirit of it all.”

Many have argued that the film fails to represent the theological narrative of the story of Noah but few have written concerning what they believe to be the true theological narrative. That’s what I want to do now.

I believe that if you’re going to make a movie about Icarus, it has to be about man’s hubris and failed ambition. If you make a movie about Nineteen Eighty-Four, you’re going to want to include themes about government surveillance and freedom. If you make a movie about Rosa Parks, you’re gonna need a bus so that lady can make a stand for equality.

In a movie about Noah, it is essential that your narrative focus on ChaosCovenant, and (Re)Creation.

Genesis 6:5–7
“The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.”

In the Genesis narrative there are two forces at work against one another: Chaos and God. This isn’t a ying-yang, can’t-have-one-without-the-other kind of thing. This is a cosmic battle. Chaos brings confusion, death, destruction, pain, anguish, frustration, and sin. God brings order, light, life, and relationship. Notice that God isn’t angry with man’s wickedness. God is grieved and his heart is deeply troubled. Chaos has taken what God created, what God established, what God loved and plunged it into darkness. Walter Brueggamann writes that the flood isn’t sent in order to take care of a moral problem but a theological one. Sin is an affront to Almighty God first and foremost. This is why God must reign in Chaos so that His beloved creation can survive. Man’s inhumanity to man (a symptom) flows from a people who have cut themselves off from the God who created them (the disease).

Genesis 6:8–9 
“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.”

Genesis 6:11–14
“Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.”

Genesis 6:17–19 
I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish.But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you.”

Genesis 6:22
Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

Covenant is an overarching theme throughout all of Scripture. Here, God establishes the Noahic covenant with a righteous man who walks faithfully with God. That’s all we know about Noah. In a world caught up in unspeakable wickedness, this family man embodies hope and redemption. Covenant is much more than a contract. It is the establishment of a relationship between two parties. When God establishes a covenant with Noah, he is in essence establishing a covenant with humanity promising that it will survive, not through saving itself, but by His own grace and mercy.

Genesis 8:15–9:17
“Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives.Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.”

So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives.All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another.

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands.Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

“But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it.And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

“Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.

As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”

So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

Covenant leads to (Re)Creation. God is faithful to Noah, his family, and His creation. He has not abandoned His grand experiment. He has given it a grand do-over. We get to begin again. Wrath gives way to Grace. Death gives way to Life. Curses give way to Blessings. God re-creates the world and again establishes his covenant with man. Instead of Adam, God established a new covenant in this re-creation with Noah telling him to “be fruitful, multiply, and increase.” God has reigned in Chaos once again and has established order and relationship with His creation. Man has been redeemed and forgiven.

ChaosCovenant, and (Re)Creation –  three foundational rocks that any retelling of the story Noah should rise or fall upon. These ideas are what give this story its power. These are what make this story timeless and should seek to connect an audience to the overarching theological narrative we find in scripture.

So, does Aronofsky’s Noah deal with these ideas? If the film does deal with Chaos, Covenant, and (Re)Creation, does it succeed in creating a vision that represents the spirit of this biblical narrative?

Grab a cup full of herbal tea, call your Fallen Angel sidekick, and get ready to embark into the magical forrest from Eden. There’s a storm coming.

Come back and check out Part 2: What Worked and Part 3: What Didn’t Work later this week!

A Flood of Outrage

a flood of outrage noah 2014

It has been one week since the film Noah hit theaters. The film grossed well over 43 million dollars in its opening week all while riding a giant wave of controversy. Unless you’ve been living alone on a lush green mountain in a cave without berries, you have been well aware of the debate surrounding director Darren Aronofsky’s dark, brooding biblical epic. Or Athiest director Darren Aronofsky’s anti-biblical, ecocentric, fairy tale. Or Hollywood’s latest attack on Christianity. Or the movie that Christians should embrace in order to start a dialogue with our culture. Or whatever that last blog post you read called it.

The truth is Noah is all these things and none of them at the same time. More digital ink has been spilt and more unrealistic expectations have been placed on this piece of celluloid than any other movie in recent history. The culture seems divided into a thousand different camps all defending their personal stake in their beliefs, feelings, and emotions surrounding this 2 hour tale starring General Maximus Decimus Meridius and directed by the guy who turned Natalie Portman into a literal Black Swan.

The one thing that everyone seems to agree on is this:

Everyone is OUTRAGED by Noah.

That’s right. Outraged! Everyone is expressing their outrage and calling for everyone within newsfeed or timeline eyeshot that they, too, must be outraged by this film, its production, the way it was marketed, what it takes literally, what is said subliminally, what it leaves out, and what it gets wrong.

One group says that you should be outraged because the film fails to be a literal interpretation of Genesis 6-9. They argue that anything less than a word for word, direct adaptation of a film is not just a disappointment but a detriment to society as a whole.

Another group tells you to be outraged at Christians who are outraged because the film fails to be a literal interpretation of Genesis 6-9. They tell you it is absurd to not expect filmmakers to add artistic flourishes or inventive story lines in order to make a movie palatable for audiences worldwide. “Get with the times and quit getting your spiritual underwear in a bunch,” they say.

One group says, “Embrace it!” Another, “Burn it!

Further, others claim outrage over the idea that anyone on any side would be upset over anything contained in a movie. After all, it’s only a movie.

Blog post after Facebook comment after tweet all telling you and me what to think about Noah and what to think about what others think about Noah.

The problem is I’m not outraged by Noah. I’m also not outraged by those outraged by Noah.

The movie and the whole conversation surrounding it has me feeling a bunch of emotions but outrage isn’t one of them.

The movie stirred emotions in me that ranged from confusion to inspiration, disappointment to frustration, and boredom to being nonplussed.

The reviews, conversations, and warnings have had me experiencing many of the same emotions.

Over the last week, I have had conversations in persona and online about my opinions on Noah. Some have asked me if I liked it. Some have asked if they should see it. Some want to know my thoughts on whether or not Christians should see this film. That’s why beginning next week, I am planning to post a series of thoughts on the movie and the biblical story of Noah.

I want to come at this a bit different than the other blog posts or reviews that I have seen over the last few weeks. In this series, I want to cover the following issues:

Part One: The Story of Noah. While some have addressed the fact that the film veers wildly from the biblical account and have argued that the film fails to live up to theological narrative of Noah as found in the Book of Genesis I haven’t seen anyone speak to what they believe the true theological narrative to be. In Part One of next week’s series, I want to attempt to address this theological understanding of Noah, the flood, man’s wickedness, and God’s righteousness. A film’s biblical accuracy isn’t judged on rock people but on whether or not the film connects the audience to the overarching theological narrative we find in scripture, particularly how the story of Noah connects with redemption and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Part Two: What Works. Believe it or not, there are elements of this film that work, both from a storytelling standpoint and as a biblical meditation. Many of the performances are top notch and the cinematography, at times, can be quite breath taking. Even some of the extra-biblical story elements work in order to point the viewer to a theological understanding of the nature of man, sin, and redemption.

Part Three: What Doesn’t Work. There are things that visually don’t work. There are storytelling elements that don’t work. There are additions to the biblical account that don’t work. There is a lot that doesn’t work. I want to share what I believe doesn’t work and discuss how some of the missteps and baffling choices mar the film.

Part Four: What’s Next. While all of the Noah debate will die off in an overwhelming deluge of Captain America this weekend, of which there will be no other box-office survivors, Noah will again resurface in a few months at Redbox and other studios are releasing big budget biblical adaptations later this year (Batman is Moses!). I love great stories and I love going to the movie house! I agree with Pastor Mark Batterson- Movies are the Literature of today. As believers, how are we to react or respond to movies and their attempt to produce stories based on holy scripture? What expectations should we have? What standards should we call for? I want to wrap up the series with a few suggestions on how you can engage cultural adaptations of biblical truths in ways that build bridges and are in line with the theological narrative of Scripture as a whole.

See, I don’t want you to be outraged at Aronofsky, Russell Crowe, Paramount, or the film Noah. I don’t want you to be outraged at those who are outraged. I’m not even going to argue wether or not you should even see the movie.

I am writing this series of posts because I want you to be discerning. I want you discern what God’s glorious story of redemption is all about and I want to intellectually and theologically recognize the real deal from the cheap imitation.

The Real Deal brings life and the other, at the very least, takes $12 out of your pocket.

See you next week!

Join the conversation: Add your thoughts or questions to the comments section.