Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Understanding Laodicea

This church of Laodicea, is often misunderstood. The geographical context is important to understanding the message. The town was named after Laodice, who was the wife of Antiochus II in the 3rd Centruy BC. It was very important city with three major roads allowing for major trade and the movement of the imperial armies. Laodicea was located in a valley with peaks of 8000 feet to the south, and snow-capped mountains to the north. It was approximately ten miles north of Colosse. Also about 5 miles northwest was the city of Hierapolis. (Laodicea and Hierapolis are both mentioned in Colossians 4.13). Each of these towns was known for something significant.

  • Hierapolis (modern Pamukkale) was well known for mineral baths and medical remedies. 
  • Colosse – water flowed out of the side of a mount to a spring with cold water – best water in the region (reportedly, one can still drink from today).
  • Laodicea – widely known for treatments on the eyes.

The passage of Revelation 3.14-22 was addressed to the angel (messenger, likely the pastor) of the church. The letter is from:

  • the Amen (the affirmation of God).
  • the faithful and true witness (always faithful, and ever true).
  • the beginning of Creation (not the first created, but He from whom all else was created (Jn 1.3)).

The Criticism

Verses 15-16 – He states that the works of the church are neither hot or cold. And that he would rather the  church be one or the other.

This has often been construed as Christ wants to know if we are for or against Him. Wouldn't Jesus already know? YES! So, why would Christ prefer that we be cold. Hot makes sense, right? But cold?

Water is important for any society. Think about how many towns are located near a water source. Or think about when a boil order is issued. Well, if it is true today when we can transport all types of resources so easily, how much more in biblical times. So, bear with me for a minute as I set this up for you.

  • Colosse - approx. 10 miles south – high in the mountains, had a good source of cold water
  • Hierapolis - approx. 5 miles NW – in the mountains had a source of mineral baths – hot water

Archeology has uncovered aqueducts leading from warm water springs heavy with mineral deposits to Laodicea. The archeologists have noticed a heavy build up of these mineral deposits on the remains of this aqueduct. So, as the water, filled with mineral deposits, flowed to Laodicea from these hot or warm springs, to Laodicea, it would lose its temperature, but maintain much of the mineral content. Thus, it was not very suitable for drinking – and evidence suggests that Laodicea was well-known for it tepid and revolting water.

So, essentially what Jesus is saying here is: "I wish your water had value. Hierapolis has hot water springs that provide medicinal value to people there (healing). Colosse has cold water that provides refreshment for people there (life-giving). But your water is disgusting. It is lukewarm, with the taste of minerals. Like everyone else who visits here, I just want to spit this out of my mouth."

So, what are the charges against this church? Against these people?

The Charge: They are wrong in their thinking.

The people of Laodicea believe: They are rich  prospering  in need of nothing

Indeed, Laodicea was wealthy. An earthquake in the region in 60-61 AD devastated many towns who had to ask for help from the government, and many still didn't make it. Laodicea refused help and thrived.

But, the reality was they were truly wretched (same word used by Paul in Rom 7.24), in need of pity,  poor, blind, and naked.

  • They thought they were rich, but were poor in God's eyes.
  • They thought they had merit, but really needed God's mercy.

The blind is in reference to the people who would come for the powder which did wonders for people's eyes. It is a part of what made Laodicea so wealthy. But the fact that they could help other people's eyesight be improved or restored, did not mean that they were not  spiritually blind themselves.

The Counsel: They need Jesus.

  • They were rich, but their wealth was tarnished. They needed gold refined by fire. Such gold is pure and is worthy more (higher carat).
  • They needed white garments instead of the soft, glossy, & black wool was bred in the area.
  • They needed eye salve – to open their own eyes to see the truth of their church in their day.
  • They need to repent.

He reproves (rebukes) and disciplines. (The language suggests training a child).

Be zealous (either hot or cold) and repent.

But the beauty of this passage is that it shows that these people (the church) were His children. He did not approve of what they were doing, nor their attitude about it. But He loved them just the same, and was going to discipline them to return them to where they began.

But there is a problem. Jesus is on the outside of the church. They won't let Him in. This passage is often WRONGLY used in evangelism. Yes, He wants into our lives, but from an evangelistic perspective that is dealing with lost people. Here, Jesus is talking to the church. Not just people in a church, but the Church for whom He loved and gave Himself up (Ephesians 5.25) – in other words, the redeemed!

The Call:   He's standing and knocking. Outside.

The church at Laodicea had become self-sufficient. They no longer needed Christ. They could do this  “church-thing” on their own. But Jesus says let me in to dine with you (the meal was a place of bonding).

The Commitment: Whomever conquers, will reign with Him.
Like family, we will be with Jesus for eternity. His disgust and anger has not precluded the Laodicean church from being with Him, but they do need to get their act in order that others may want to be with Him as well.

Regardless of whether one chooses to interpret Revelation from a past, present, or future perspective, the letters to each church can serve as a word of warning to churches today. This is certainly true of the church at Laodicea. Ultimately, how a church operates is dependent on how the people respond to Christ. Do we give Him control of our lives? Only then, does it matter at the level of the church. If we are unwilling to give Him our individual lives, then how can we come together to give Him our lives as a congregation?

DL Moody once said,  “Out of 100 men, one will read the Bible, the other 99 will read the Christian.”

Important to note that this statement was made over 100 years ago when there were far fewer distractions in life. If the statement is true, then we need to do two things:

  1. Somehow increase the number of men reading the Bible.
  2. Become more open ourselves so that others can read us more easily.

Now, more than ever, we should strive to remain a church that has Jesus in it, become members that serve Jesus for it, and become the people of His Kingdom that He wants us to be.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Common Sens...uality (Part 3 of 3)

In the first two entries, the nature of sensuality was defined (Part 1), and examples were given (Part 2). In this entry, we must determine what we are to do in similar situations. Thankfully, Jude provides answers.

What are we to do about the false teachings, the abuse of grace, the sensual nature of life today? First, we must remember the 21st Century does not have a monopoly on these aspects of life. They were prevalent 2000+ years ago, which is why we have biblical instruction on dealing with these, and other, parts of culture.

Jude simply gave three ideas.

A.  Keep yourselves in God's love. How?
  1. Build yourself up in holy faith (from the Father)
  2. Praying in the Spirit.
  3. Waiting for Jesus to return.
B.  Have mercy on those who doubt.

C.  Lead others to salvation.
  1. Snatch them out of the fire – means we have to reach in – they are not lost yet
  2. Show mercy with fear – be merciful, but be on guard lest you be defiled

These last two statements seem to be contradictory. How can one snatch someone out of the fire while showing mercy? Moving back briefly to the Michael Sam story, David Letterman, this week made a statement while interviewing a guest. He said that much of the atrocities of this world are because of religious beliefs. And he is right. Of course, some might say Islamic terrorists are at fault. But Christians who say, "God hates ____," are no different.

The Bible tells a story in Luke 7 of a woman with an alabaster box. She is a complete outcast in her culture, and yet she shows up uninvited to a pharisee's house to see Jesus.
And Jesus did not pull away even as she rubbed ointment on him, washed his feet with her hair, and even kissed him on his feet.

Is that offensive? It should be! Why? Because the gospel is offensive! Even those of us who claim the truths of the gospel are blown away by how far reaching it really is! We want to take what we need, but likely none of us understands just how far it can go.

Jesus offered grace to the least deserving person. But grace is for everyone! Simon invited Jesus over and felt good about it for whatever reason. Whatever Simon may have thought beforehand was drastically changed. In fact, everyone there that day would have their world turned upside down by the uninvited, and unnamed guest. Not because of what she did. Not even because of who she was. But because of how she was received. By Jesus!

What Jesus did was offer grace. He told her her sins are forgiven. He didn't want to see her return to the lifestyle she lived, but Jesus had already seen the expression of her gratitude because she was forgiven – even before He said the words. As the phrase goes, grace is free, but it isn't cheap. Grace costs Jesus everything, but because of that He can offer it freely however, and to whomever, He chooses.

And everyone of us needs that grace today.

Perhaps you are like the sinful woman. People don't want to know you by our name, but only by what you have done. You are down so low that we have no where left to turn. I encourage you, be like the woman in this story – turn to Jesus. We still don't know her name, but He does. She found her true identity in Him.

Perhaps you are like Simon. We would welcome Jesus into our home to show off what good people we are. I think that describes me sometimes. What about you? How would you feel if Jesus decided to go home with you? Would we like who might show up, and invite themselves in just to be with Him? We aren't told what happened to Simon after that day, but I can't help but think it changed him. I would hope if I were there it would have changed me.

We all need grace because none of us are like Jesus. We may be working towards it. But I would be hard pressed to believe that we would let a prostitute waste that kind of kiss us wipe her dirty, grimy, hair all over us. But Jesus did.

I can promise you this...whichever person you are in this story, God welcomes you. He welcomes you completely. I can't promise others will. I can't promise I will. I don't always welcome myself. But God does. And if you want to receive His amazing grace, read the prayer that closed Jude's letter.

Jude 24-25
24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 

25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

If you will receive this grace – God's amazing grace, you are truly free. You will experience freedom in ways that you have never imagined. But when you truly realize what that freedom means, you won't mistreat grace as a means to do what you want. Like Jude wrote in v. 4, grace is not a matter of sensuality. It does not give us license to ignore Christ Jesus, our Master. Rather you will find yourself wanting to express your gratitude to God and serve Him out of that thanksgiving.

Enjoy God's grace - by living for Him!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Common Sens...uality (Part 2 of 3)

In Part 1, the idea of sensuality was introduced, noting that Jude was writing to believers to contend for their faith because of the false teachings to abuse the grace of God (v. 4). Jude then provided a series of examples for his readers.

The first of these examples was the Israelites who were saved out of Egypt (Jude 5). Although this group of people were saved, the text says that some were destroyed because they did not truly believe. They were offered God's grace (salvation from the oppression of slavery in Egypt), but either complained of their freedom (desiring to return to Egypt) or continually desired more despite all they had been given.

The second example regards the angels (v. 6).  The angels all began with God, yet like the Israelites, some destroyed. Their destruction was the result of rebellion. Specifically, theirs was rebellion against God, but also their mixing with the human race as described in Genesis 6 (in some way that I can never understand).

The third example of this triad involved the cities of Sodom & Gomorrah (v. 7). Unlike the previous examples were some were destroyed. In this instance on a handful were saved. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of the sensuality (Genesis 19), their pride, and their lack of concern for the poor (Ezekiel 16). But even those were saved (Lot and his daughters) could not overcome the temptation of sensual pleasures that were so prevalent in the towns recently each of his daughters took a turn sexually with their drunken father to carry on the family name.

In verse 8, Jude ties these examples of the past with his present day opponents saying that the people of his day rely on dreams for their divine inspiration. But more than inspiration, these dreams are a means to justify their lifestyle. This lifestyle:
  • defile the flesh (their sexual pleasures)
  • reject authority (specifically the authority of God - like the end of v. 4)
  • blaspheme the glorious ones (both good and evil angels)

While it is true that these acts may represent various aspects of sensuality, the Christian must take our queue from v. 9 - meaning don't condemn, but rather to leave it to God. Michael, and archangel of God, would not rebuke an evil angel (the devil) directly, realizing it is for God to do. Jesus commanded that we make disciples by teaching others to observe all that He commanded, not by merely condemning others for wrong-doing. The reality is that none of us, apart from God, understands the full picture. We are to correct, to speak truth, and to show an example - but it is all to be done in love, and in the realization that the authority belongs to God.

Jude continues his letter with a similar stream of thought. Jude says that people blaspheme what they do not understand – living instinctively, like unreasoning animals (v. 10). This thought parallels Paul's thoughts in the last half of Romans 1. Jude then provides another set of examples which tie into this:

The first example is Cain. Cain's offering was not accepted by God. Yet God did not condemn Cain. In fact, God told Cain he would be accepted if he did well (Genesis 4.7). But Cain chose wickedness over goodness. Even when Cain heard from God Himself, Cain did not repent, instead he killed his brother.

The second example is that of Balaam. (Numbers 22-24). When reading this account, one might think Balaam is an honorable prophet - speaking good of God and His people. And, indeed, the blessing Balaam delivers is for Israel (not against, as those who hired him wanted). However, if Balaam was a good prophet, then why would the donkey have needed to stop? Balaam was a prophet, but mainly for profit! In the end, he met his doom, and the New Testament speaks ill of Balaam in multiple places.

The final example from this section is that of Korah (Numbers 16). Korah may not have heard directly from God, but he did hear from God's chosen leaders - Moses and Aaron. Korah, and his clan, were priests who defied the authority of God, rejecting God and like Balaam met their demise soon afterward.

The problem, as Jude relates, is that false teachers are not always easy to spot. Like Balaam and Korah, such teachers are in our midst, but are hidden like reefs under water that wreck ships coming in and out of port (hidden reers at your feast - v. 12. Such people eat shameless at the love feasts though love is nowhere to be found in their hearts. They feed only themselves (see Ezekiel 34 for a picture of how God views "shepherds").

Jude concludes this section by stating these individuals are like:
  • clouds without water.
  • trees without fruit.
  • waves of the sea that leave a foamy residue behind.
  • stars without light.

In Part 3, we will discover how Jude suggests to deal with such people.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Common Sens..uality (Part 1 of 3)

A lot of debate has occurred last week regarding a kiss by an NFL hopeful Michael Sam kissing his boyfriend after he was drafted last Saturday. Some have been outraged. Some of those outraged have been silenced. Others are celebrating and welcoming in a more accepting culture.

But understand, a kiss between two men (or two women) is not the issue. Perhaps the issue is how pervasive sex has become in our culture. Of course, it must be understood that God ordained sex. Sexual relations between a man and woman can be a beautiful representation of the love that a couple has for one another. In fact, within this context, realize the first command in the Bible specific to humanity is to be fruitful and multiply. That is impossible without sexual activity. So, in a real sense, the first command God gave was to engage in sexual activity. Last week, we celebrated Mother's Day. Next month, we will celebrate Father's Day. Now I don't want to be crass, but understand a person cannot naturally become a mother or a father without sex.

But as pervasive as sex is, we can actually dig even a little deeper and see sensuality as the issue. Sensuality is being preoccupied with the gratification of the senses. This has to do with all of the senses. It has to do with being pleased or aroused by the senses. We don't often think of it this way, but steak and potatoes can be sensual. Again, God gave us our senses, and they allow us to enjoy life. When our senses are dulled, life is not always so pleasant. Consider lack of hearing, loss of eyesight, numbness, etc. Again, the issue isn't with finding pleasure in our senses it is being PREOCCUPIED – as the definition I just gave stated.

And, in our culture today, there is a great deal of preoccupation with gratifying the senses – and a large part of that is through sexual pleasure. And the boldness with which this is expressed continues to expand. Yet, as bad as some consider our culture today, we have to realize that we do not have a monopoly on sensuality. The Bible is filled with examples such as Tamar's deception of Judah, David's lust of Bathsheba, the idea of temple prostitutes, etc. In fact, in many ways, our culture isn't nearly as bad as previous cultures. Granted, the scope has changed because of television, magazines, romance novels, the internet, etc. But the nature of sensuality that is, has also already been.

Jesus' brother, Jude, wrote his letter about overcoming false teachings, but especially related to the sensual activities of his day. In fact, if a few of the examples were changed, such a writing could show up in the editorial page of a newspaper today and people might think it had just been written. In verse 3, Jude indicates his original purpose was to write about their salvation. But the issue of contending for their faith was more important. Why? Verse 4 says that people have come in and perverted the grace of God into nothing more than sensuality, denying Christ.  The idea is that God wants us to find pleasure, so let's seek all the pleasure we can. There is a fine line here. One of the most prominent pastors of our day is John Piper. Piper speaks of Christian hedonism. His thought is that we should have our pleasure in God. He does not mean this in a bad way, and I think he is right, but it does run right to the edge of overstepping our bounds. It is as Paul wrote in Romans 6, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace abounds. Absolutely not.” The point is that grace frees us not just from our sin, but from seeking the pleasure that comes from it. Grace frees us to enjoy God for who He really is.

Next Jude provides some examples of those who have taken advantage of God's grace in the past. These examples will be explored in Part 2.

Monday, May 12, 2014

What Will Be Said of Us

The letter called 3 John was written to an individual arguably about the same time that 2 John was written to the church. While 2 John was general in nature, 3 John specifically mentions three individuals. Two of the individuals were commended by John, but the other was not.


Working the text in reverse, the the first person mentioned is Demetrius. Verse 12 says he received a good testimony from everyone. John adds his endorsement as well. While there is little information as to who Demetrius really was, it is likely he carried this letter to Gaius. In verse 11, Gaius is exhorted not to imitate evil, but to imitate good. To help Gaius, John sent Demetrius to provide an example, as well as encouragement, to continue to walk in the truth.


John's exhortation for Gaius to imitate good in verse 11 comes immediately after John provides a warning against Diotrophes. Diotrophes was one who put himself first, not recognizing John's authority. He talks wickedness about John. This warrants a reminder that John was one of the Sons of Thunder. While spending three years with Christ, and decades of transformation had followed, such a challenge against John could not have made him happy.

But the biggest issue was more than the challenge against John. Diotrophes was charged with not welcoming the brothers (followers of Jesus who came to the church). But not only did he not welcome them, he prevented others from welcoming them, tried to kick people out of the church who did welcome the brothers. In 2 John, John wrote not to welcome false teachers, but Diotrophes was not welcoming true believers.

This is why John is telling Gaius not to imitate Diotrophes. This man is not out to help the church, but to help himself. He is not trying to build God's Kingdom, but his own. And anyone who gets in his way will be trampled. Notice in verse 9 John says Diotrophes.– he wants to be first – the word here really drives at preeminence. This isn't about being first in the church, this is (in a sense) about being the reason for the church. Colossians 1.18 says that Christ is preeminent. But Diotrophes wants to be. He wants to usurp Christ's place in the church! (Consider Christ's invitation in Matthew 11:  All who are weary, Come. And Jesus command is, Follow Me....Diotrophes sends a very different message. If you want to follow Christ, get out of “my” church.)

There are several theories as to what the issue between Diotrophes and the elder (John) were, but plainly, there was substantial disagreement and Diotrophes had an arrogance about it.

So, John wrote that Gaius should not imitate Diotrophes, but he should imitate Demetrius. Working our way back to the earlier portions of the letter, what can we learn about Gaius?


Gaius was called beloved (dear friend) in verses 1, 2, and 5. In verse 3, he is walking in the truth. He believed well. He lived what he believed. Verse 5 says that he was hospitable to the strangers (missionaries). Gaius may not have known these people, but knew they were from John, so he received them. In fact, it was these “strangers” who took the word back to John as they testified before the church (v6).

One thing we can conclude from these statements is that Gaius had a good soul. This is good because John makes his prayer in verse 2 tied to Gaius' physical health. John's prayer was that Gaius physical well-being would be like his spiritual well-being. We don't know what may have been wrong with Gaius, but one possibility (and this is a bit speculative), is that his ailments might have come at the hand of Diotrophes, because Gaius was one that welcomed these brothers in.

You and I

Of course, our names are not in Scripture, but people say good and bad things about us. Some things will be true (both good and bad). Sometimes people will say good things about us, even though we know they are untrue. But we don't want them to know the truth. Sometimes, people will say bad things about us that are untrue as well. But how do we respond?

Given the text of 3 John (and 2 John), this is about protecting the truth, and God's place in the church. As such, we are to seek unity – amongst ourselves, and among those who believe. We must stand together to guard the truth, and stand strong defending it even from those in the church who wish to refute it.

But what would be said of you?  Well, frankly, a part of the equation is who is doing the talking.

What if it's your closest family?
What if it's your boss, or coworker?
What if it's your “online” friends?

What if it's your biggest enemy? You know, the one who speaks badly about you to everybody.

The one who reminded your best friend, “Do you remember when ______ did that to you? That was so cruel! It's time to get even.”

But more importantly, imagine what this same enemy tells God.
”God how could You love that person? God, that person is such a sinner. He deserves death. She deserves hell. Yeah, God, send them all to hell."

Of course your greatest enemy isn't a person. It is Satan. And this enemy is definitely real. But...who else might say something about you. Well, if you have received the gift of salvation made possible through the blood of Jesus, then...

What if it's your Savior? “Father, forgive them for they know what they do. That is why I died for him/her.”

We may not be able to control what others say about us (our reputation). But we can control what is true about us (our character). The chances that someone reads a few lines about my life or yours in 2000 years is pretty slim. But the chances that our character will be known throughout eternity is definite. Why because it is ultimately Christ's character that we take upon ourselves...or not.

Our reputation is important, but it is as fleeting as other people's opinions. And, if we know anything today, it is that people's opinion's can change with the drop of a hat. But God looks at the heart. He looks at who we really are. After all, He made us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And while that is scary at times, it is also a blessing, because, too often, we begin to measure ourselves by what others think, instead of what God knows.

We might not know exactly what will be said of us. But we can strive, by the grace of God to be people like Gaius and Demetrius. We can do so by being people of integrity, control our actions, guard our character, and encourage others to do so as well. As we do, we honor God, and that is something for which it is worth being known.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Walk in the Truth

2 John is one of two "postcard epistles" (3 John is the other). These are the two shortest books in the New Testament. But just as the receipt of a postcard means someone is thinking of you (and remembered your address while traveling), a postcard from John meant he was thinking of the church to which he wrote.

Well, this week and next, we are going to look at these two “postcard epistles”, beginning with 2 John.

Overall, 2 John has a few key terms that repeat many times. He mentions truth five times, love and commandment four times each, and teaching and children three times each. He commends the church for walking in the truth in v. 4 and gives a couple of warnings in v. 8 and then v. 10.

Although John was an apostle and could have demanded the church to follow, he opens the letter with a more endearing term instead. The word "elder" does mean an aged or older man (especially). But biblically, this term means a leader of the church, and according to 1 Peter 5.3, should set an example to the flock.

The letter is addressed to the "elect lady". This designation is almost certainly a reference to a local church, not an individual woman. Interestingly, the Greek word for lady is "kuria" which is the feminine form of the word "kurios" which mean Lord. Is this possibly John pointing to the lady being the bride of Christ?

After passing a triple blessing (grace, mercy, and peace), he gives a commendation for their walking in the truth. It must be noted that to walk in the truth, one must know the truth. And then, John wrote they should love others. It is not enough to know...we must also show!

Two warnings soon follow. Verse 8 says to "watch yourselves". Watch out! John mentions the deceivers in v. 7, and in v. 9 he says these deceivers are not abiding in Christ's teachings - which is to love one another. Jesus gave this "new command" in John 13.34. It is ok for Jesus to give new commands. It is not for us. Perhaps new commands are made because people are unwilling, and certainly unable, to follow all that Jesus commanded. This is the very reason we need God's grace.

The second warning is not to receive these people who are teaching falsely. Most people like to have their ears tickled, but the reality is that most ear tickling is due to half-truths or worse. But welcoming such teaching destroys the church over time, if not immediately.

What should we take from this letter?

Well, like the original recipients, we must walk in the truth. We must love one another. The we, is each of us individually, and then collectively. The overarching command of Jesus is, "Follow me."

Where is Jesus asking you to follow? Consider your life today...consider it a year from now. Where do you want to be in your relationship with Him? More importantly, where does He want you to be in your relationship with Him?

Make a commitment to walk with Him in truth (Jesus is the truth - John 14.6), and see where He leads you. It may not be easy. It may not always be fun. But it will definitely be worth it?

Saturday, May 3, 2014

A "Christian" Movie Tetrad

This post is two weeks overdue, but time has not allowed. Even if I had posted two weeks ago, I would not be able to do justice to this subject, but I want to put a few of paragraphs together regarding each of the four "Christian" movies that have come out over the last two months. That said, please note this post is longer than my usual posts.

Before I proceed, let me say I do not claim to be a movie expert. In fact, having been to these four movies probably exceeds the number of movies I went to in 2013 and maybe 2012. I like movies, and often watch them from a critical standpoint, at least theologically. Movies have an enormous impact on our culture and well-written movies can truly "stir the soul". Unfortunately, during this season of my life (now working on my dissertation), time and money don't allow for much movie time.

So, a few thoughts on each of these four movies follows. My intention is not necessarily to give anything about each movie away, yet I am not intentionally avoiding plot spoilers. Therefore, read at your own risk.

The Son of God

This movie should have the highest expectations as it relates to being biblically correct. After all, it is about the "author and perfecter of our faith." (Hebrews 12.2)  Personally, I have no problem with scenes that include possibilities that are not a part of the text. For instance, Barabbas is standing nearby as Jesus refutes attempts to discredit Him (Barabbas cries out "No taxes" when Jesus says to pay to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's). However, when the Bible does speak, the film should be accurate. The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus is at night, but Nicodemus comes during the day (see John 1). This may be insignificant to some, but subtle differences elsewhere might be considered insignificant, yet are much bigger. For instance, Peter's great confession is that Jesus is the Son of God. Yes, but Scripture reveals even more - He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Ok, the movie is called the Son of God, but the distinction here is great. I could (perhaps should) say more, but for now, I leave it at this. I will give kudos to the producer for one thing regarding this movie (and the entirety of the Bible mini-series). Seeing the emotions of certain characters such as Barabbas was quite intriguing. Whether real or imagined, this did bring the Bible alive (I especially remember Lot in the mini-series). The highlight of the movie though was the end. After seeing the entire movie the conclusion goes back through a series of flashbacks from the movie...but whereas the movie begins with the Jesus' question, "Who do you say I am?" being directed at the disciples...the second time (at the end), it is directed at the audience. The audience must deal with this issue.

So that is the highlight...the lowlight is that there is no discussion of repentance.


What a firestorm this movie created. Of course, it is a biblical story, and one I believe to be true. But thankfully, I was asked to go in with an open mind. And I did. (This served me well in Heaven is for Real as well even though I was not asked to do so for that movie). At the outset of Noah we are introduced to The Watchers. Wait, what? That isn't in the Bible. Ok, well some might say it relates to the Nephilim, but the term Watchers is specifically from the book of Enoch. This book is not considered a part of the Bible (the Canon) except by a couple of groups in Ethiopia and Eritrea (both in northeast Africa).

Having this little bit of information from the outset allowed me to watch the movie from an entirely different perspective. Frankly, I enjoyed the movie, and moreso knowing I wasn't going to have to defend a Christian aspect to it. Yes, Noah is a biblical account, but if the movie had been named after another well-known account of a flood (Gilgamesh) would we care? I understand that liberties were taken as far as Noah's daughters-in-law, but again, the idea of a biblically accurate story was shot minutes into the film after The Watchers were introduced.

As for the stowaway on the boat, well, that was too much...except what if the man was a metaphor for sin? This thought was prompted by Devon Sons. Of course, sin is in the hearts of mankind, but this thought is interesting as we certainly see how the impact of this "sin" (man) grew on the son (by deception) had over time. (Thanks Devon.)

In reality, the perception many people (including myself) have of the account of Noah is usually based upon some picture painted for us in Sunday School, or in a mobile above a crib (with a boat that looked nothing like what the Bible describes). In fact, one aspect of the movie I liked the most was the destruction of the land (due to sin), and the miraculous growth from the seed from Eden. True? Probably not, but I wasn't there, so I can't be 100% sure since it isn't mentioned in the Bible either way.

Unfortunately, most of us think we know more about the Bible than we really do. And our presuppositions often lead to criticize others when we don't know the whole story (Quick, how many pairs of animals and birds were on the boat? - see Genesis 7.2-3 for God's idea on "clean animals").

So, again, I am grateful that I entered with an open mind. And I am more thankful that The Watchers were introduced so early. It changed the dynamics of the movie for me. While the movie had many components present in the biblical account, it certainly was not a Bible story.

God's Not Dead

This was another movie that had a lot of hype - at least among Christians. As a former youth minister, I warned former students against the issue that was the basic premise of this movie - your faith will be challenged in college. But challenge is not all bad because too many kids leave home with their parents' faith, not their own. The challenges faced can help their own faith be forged if a foundation has been established. Unfortunately, as the rest of this part of the post discusses, many (most?) parents are satisfied if/when their child "asks Jesus into their heart" (which really isn't a biblical concept). We are to follow Jesus.

The movie certainly showed the courage of the protagonist and the impact it had on others (the Asian classmate). But, as others have pointed out, each of the main "non-Christians" were depicted in such a way that we were meant to hate them. Wait? We, as Christians, are to hate them? Maybe that is somewhat of a reach, but let's face it, the movie certainly did not want us to like these people. Maybe your world is different than the one I live in (and some parts of the world are), but in my world, it can be difficult to distinguish those who are "saved" from those who are "lost". And while America (my "world "& the setting for this movie) is becoming increasingly hostile to living our faith openly, not everyone is out to destroy Christians - yet!

Unfortunately, the movie was so predictable that when the young blogger got cancer, the only question was who would lead her to the Lord. In fact, of all the main antagonists, we are supposed to believe that only one did not "get saved". This is somewhat the problem with Christianity today, we focus on getting people saved, rather than promoting eternal life (not just a moment - a life that begins now) and making disciples. This movie showed the challenge of "following Jesus" (at least for one student), which is what we are to do. Getting "saved" is a part of that process, but too many people consider that the end, when, in fact, it is the beginning. I do not fault the movie for not showing how these newly "saved" person's lives were different afterward - that wasn't the purpose of the movie. Yet, while we should celebrate when people do come to the Lord, we must not be content. My first thought was what is the next step for them. I hope if it was real life, someone would have picked up the ball.

God certainly is not dead. And this movie was not a dud (for a believer). The movie may have shown some Christians what challenges may await college freshman, but it was likely less effective than these other movies for generating quality discussion - partly due to its predictability, and partly due to its caricature of all unbelievers.

Heaven is for Real

First, I have not read the book. I repeat, I have not read the book. What I am writing is based on the movie only - and only on one viewing. Some of what I have heard from the book might drastically change this post. However, I have not read the book, and do not plan to do so - at least, not anytime soon (dissertation takes priority). Truly, as I drove to this movie, I had both guns loaded ready to tear it apart, but remembering I went into Noah with a more open mind, I decided to tone down my attitude a bit.

I saw this movie on the afternoon the day after it was released. Students would have still been in school, but there were many school-age children there - with their mothers. In fact, just moments before the previews, there were about 30 people in the theatre - aged 8 to 80, but only two males, including myself. It evened out a little through the previews, but probably 60-70 people and maybe 15 males. It made me wonder, do only women care if heaven is real?

Two major points from this movie stand out - first, the boy had a vision...he did not die. I believe near-death experiences are possible. I also believe that people have died and returned (Paul). But I will take my theology from Paul before I will a 4 year old boy. Yet, when it is determined that the boy did not die, this softened my stance (remember, above I said I tried to go in with an open mind - as difficult as it was). In the Bible, we know Isaiah, Ezekiel, and John had visions and what they described is difficult to understand (read Ezekiel 1)!

It should also be noted that much of what was seen was unmentioned (e.g. Paul didn't describe what he saw, Daniel had to seal up his visions, etc.). I have a hard time reconciling what I think about heaven with what was described in the movie. But it is hard to definitively refute anything in the movie - at least what I remember (Again, I have only seen it once, and purportedly the boy says he had wings - although this may be from the book. I don't remember that phrase mentioned in the movie. I certainly don't believe that humans become angels - they are two separate creations).

The other major point is that the father is a pastor. Having not read the book, I did not know this, although it becomes evident early in the movie. Personally, as a pastor, I love the humanity of this character. He is a real person - so am I. Our calling as pastors may set us apart in one sense, as humans we have the same struggles as others - although these struggles are often intensified because of directed attacks by the enemy.

The reason for the importance of the father's profession is that he obviously struggles with what he believes against what his son is saying. The down side is that his knowledge is inferred. A couple of scenes from the pulpit show a Bible, and in one I believe he reads from it. But to the best of my memory, there is no direct reference to the foundation for his beliefs. What verses cause his issue? Again, if my son were to tell me he had such a vision, I would want to believe Him. I would wrestle to reconcile the matter much as this father/pastor did. But I also believe that my conversations would be laced with Scripture (1 Corinthians 15, 1 Thessalonians 4, etc). Instead, we never see him pick up, or carry a Bible apart from at the pulpit. Yes, it is a movie, but wouldn't that make it more realistic - to see or hear, specifically why he is struggling rather than just inferring it.

Do I believe the events of the movie? Honestly, that question doesn't matter. I do believe heaven is for real, but I am not worried about being in heaven...a new heaven and earth awaits (Revelation 21), and my desire is to be with Jesus, not to be in heaven. My desire is for life eternal, a life that I can experience now, not just waiting for a future time in heaven.

I do believe that God can do, and does, things I will never understand. Not only that I don't understand why they are done, but not understand what is done. Thus, is it possible that a young boy had such a vision? Yes, it is possible. But I will not build my theology on a book other than the Bible. Is this narrow-minded? Maybe, but Jesus said enter by the narrow gate. The wide gate leads to destruction. (Matthew 7.13). My reason is that there are many books that are meant to deceive. This book may not be one of them, but only the Bible has been able to withstand the critics for nearly 2000 years. Why? God does not lie (Titus 1:2). People might - especially when profit is involved.

In conclusion, I want to point to one overwhelmingly positive aspect to these movies. People are talking about matters of faith. Yes, there are errors, but before errors can be corrected, discussion needs to be possible. If nothing else, these movies have opened the door for a great deal of discussion. There are accounts that online sites/apps have seen an increase of reading from Genesis 6-9 of 250-300% . Reading the Bible is a good thing. If people are reading, discussing, learning, discovering truth, etc from having seen any, or all, of these movies, that is a positive thing. Should these movies be trusted as the truth? No! Jesus said He was the truth (John 14.6). Jesus is the Word (John 1.1). Thus the Word is truth. And we should find our truth from the word not from Hollywood, not from our own thoughts, and not even from a preacher (or blogger). Each of us should examine Scripture for ourselves, with guidance from the Holy Spirit and others who seek God's truth to learn not only what God's Word says, but how to apply it to our lives.

When we do this, God can use us to show others that even Noah, though a righteous man, needed a Savior. That Savior, the Christ, the risen Son of God is not dead. He defeated death, not only showing us the way to a real heaven, but granting eternal life to all who truly believe.