The Word became flesh and dwelt among us….


January 2015

Which House Will You Live In? Matthew 7:24-8:3

Do you know what your foundation is in life?

Jesus has been outlining a very clear design and calling for those who want to follow Him, and here at the end, there is a clear choice to make. 2 trees 2 gates 2 houses….The way of the flesh or the way of the Spirit. We must obey the Gospel,

Jesus is contrasting not just between obedience and disobedience, but the vast difference between fleshly liberalism and fleshly moralism and the life of faith. Be warned that we can’t just apply this need of choice only to the unbelieving, it’s for those who have professed faith with their lips, but not in their hearts.A call to the elder brothers as well as the younger. A call of repentance to those who know they need to repent ( the broken sinners) and those that don’t ( the proud). Moralists repent of sins with no issue, but they don’t see the need of repenting of doing the right thing with the wrong motive – those who say “Lord, Lord,” but are far from the kingdom…those that do things in His name, but not for His name…

If you think your own goodness will save you, Jesus might be your example, your hero even, but He might not be your Saviour. Jesus as your example alone will crush you, you’ll never be able to live up to it. Seeing Jesus Christ as the Lamb who takes away your sins will save you – Keller
We can take what He has said,believe and obey Him, or we can ignore Him.

This is the most important choice you will ever make, and there is only the two options.

Two houses, two ways of life.

Which house will you live in?
I. The House on the Rock. v 24-25.

From the outside, the two houses could look exactly the same.

They have a lot in common.They both, have walls, windows, doors, rooms. Both are designed to live in.

But there is a foundational difference between the two that is vitally important.

One is built on a rock, the other on sand.
The man who hears what Jesus has said, and follows through with “doing” and obeying is like the wise man who built his house on the rock.

James, had a bit to say about being doers of the word and not just hearers only ( James 1:22-24).

This is the main difference between the houses and the men in Jesus’ story – one hears and acts, the other hears and does nothing.

If you want to be wise, if you want to have a life that is safe and secure, build your life on the teachings and authority of Jesus and what He has done.

Foundations matter, and the only way to have a strong foundation in life is to trust in what Jesus has done, and what He said is true and faithful.

Jesus didn’t come to earth to be an ‘addition’ to our lives.He came to save us, and to be our Lord and Savior.We don’t build ourselves around Him and His teachings, we build from and in Him and His teachings and authority. We don’t ‘slot’ Him in like a jenga piece. He’s after our hearts, lives, souls, minds, strength, and spirit.

His is the Chief Cornerstone, not a rock for your mantle or a slat for your wall. Not the piece you’ve been missing, but the whole.

You don’t invite someone like Jesus into your life as an advisor, if He is Who He says He is, and has the authority He claims to have, and we believe it to be so – then He should have the rightful place of Savior AND Lord – the foundational premise of all we do our lives.

Why is this so important?

Because when the rains and storms of life come, if you have a solid foundation, your house/life will stand firm.
Storms of life expose not only your weaknesses, but who you are at the core of your being. Your hopes, dreams, faith and loves.

If Jesus is your foundation, and you trust in Him, trials in this life will only prove His faithfulness, and only make you rely on Him more.
The House on the Sand. v 26-27

What’s the other option?

What does life lived without obeying Jesus ( way of the flesh) look like?

You may well think that your life without Jesus is just fine. You appreciate He had some great teachings, and was a very loving person, but you can’t bring yourself to ‘believe’ in Him, or you don’t see His death as having any purpose or meaning at all.

You’ve heard Him, but don’t see the need to do anything about what He said.

Life without Jesus can be, well, life. You could live in this world with a sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, even blessing in a way, but there is something fundamentally wrong with treating Jesus that way.

Jesus says the person that hears His words, and doesn’t do anything about them is like a foolish man who builds his house on the sand.

We automatically say, “Of course he’s foolish! Who would do such a stupid thing?!”.

But the man’s action of building on the sand isn’t foolish because he hasn’t heard it’s wrong to do so, but because he has heard and doesn’t trust the authority of the person who told him it was wrong. His own authority has higher value than anyone else’s.

He want a beach view, and to hear the waves at night. He built a castle, but it was made of sand, so what he was really getting himself in for was a sinking feeling that what he founded his life on was susceptible to destruction at the first sign of wind and rain, and something would break down as soon as the tide came in, as soon as death came close.

When you build your life on anything you want, you will fall for anything also.
“When we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing. We worship anything.” – GK Chesterton
You may think it’s a great idea to build your life on inclusivity of belief systems. The more the merrier, right?

The worst thing we can do is to ask Jesus to co-exist with all of our other ‘gods’, or idols.

…you might think that’s it’s ok to live however you want, trying out any form of lifestyle that takes your fancy.

…you might even think that your own authority is all that really matters, and to hell with everyone else.

Another approach is to rely completely on your own interpretations and live a life that is ritualistic, controlled by rules and structures of either your making, or someone else’s
The end of it all is, whether by naivety, ignorance, arrogance, pride, or selfishness, you want to build your life by your own design. You want to be your own life’s architect, and you forget or overlook the fact that you have an eternal soul, and if your life choices and plans aren’t founded in eternal truth, then your life is founded on a lie, because you haven’t believed in the Sovereignty of God, or His love He has shown to you through Jesus.

What happens when your life’s foundation is a lie?

When ‘life happens’ to you in this house, that’s built on sand, when storms come, everything falls apart, from the ground up….

The fall of the foolish man’s house was great. It didn’t just collapse – it imploded!
How Should We Respond to Jesus? v.28-8:4

The question for everyone is, what will you do with Jesus? How will you respond? How do we avoid the destruction of a foolish life?

…you could be offended. – He’s not what you expected, and you don’t like the implications of applying His teachings to your life.

…you could be indifferent. – What He did doesn’t matter. It doesn’t affect me. Why should I care? I’d rather do my own thing.

…or you could be astonished. – Be amazed at His authority, just like the people on the mount were. They knew the authority of the scribes and Pharisees. They taught with authority they got from studying out and interpreting the law, their experience and knowledge they gained from reading it. Jesus, on the other hand, taught with His own authority – He had a way of clearing through all the intellectual mumbo-jumbo, all the misconceptions, all the misinterpretations, He cut straight to the heart of the issue, with an authority that was without comparison. He knew more the words that made up the law – He was The Word. He knew more than what the law meant – He fulfilled it.

There was no way you could hear Jesus and not be amazed.

He made some very bold statements, claimed to be God, the Son of God.
How do we know what He said was true? How do we know we can even get anywhere near Him if He really is the Son of God, and requires obedience in faith of us? How do we act in faith?

….there is a big difference between amazement and faith.

I can be amazed at people that drive the V8 supercars around a race track, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to put my faith in one of the drivers to take me on a hot-lap.

We can’t stop at amazement. We must see what it means for us.

We must believe that He comes and interacts with us, not make us feel overwhelmed, or inadequate in the face of His authority and Deity in light of our failures, and sin alone, but to make us turn to Him, see Who He really is, not just in His words, but His actions also.

See what He does straight after coming down from the mountain ( 8:1-4).

In cleansing the leper, we see He not only has authority to speak words of meaning, purpose, and holiness that require action on the part of those who would follow Him, but He also has compassion, and is willing to take the risk of getting His hands dirty with our sin and the consequences of our sin.

He is willing to take our sickness on Himself. Thats how we know we can trust Him completely, obey Him completely, because any shortcomings we have, He takes on Himself when we place our faith in Him alone for our healing and deliverance,because He is willing to die for us.

Where will you build your house?

No other foundation

Will you live in the house built on The Rock, or in the house that rocks? Don’t be swayed back and forth by what the world offers as easy and comfortable, seek the compassionate Savior Who takes you as you are, and makes you stable, secure, and completely loved in Him…
Chose one thing….purity, Prayer, humility, giving, judging, forgiveness, worry – get someone alongside you, get accountable to God first, then another mature believer – go out and choose one thing to obey Christ in this week…ask for help with every day…Return to Christs finished work in every moment you are weak, His grace us sufficient…


Skinning Sheep, Knowing the Good Fruit & Being Known By God: Matthew 7:15-23

There’s nothing worse than being duped by something that isn’t what it seems to be.

When you buy a new car that turns out to be a lemon, clothes that aren’t quite what you had in mind, or products that don’t do what they said they would.

One of the worse disappointments is buying fruit that isn’t quite right… It’s frustrating to bite into what you think is a juicy peach, only to lose a tooth! Or worse, to bite into a strawberry that has the added protein of a grub in it!Bad fruit can ruin your day!

Jesus uses several illustrations in chapter 7, and in between roads, gates, wolves, sheep, builders and floods, we have this section on fruit and trees.

This section is not just about discernment. It’s also about our personal identity before God. It’s not just about us knowing who has got it wrong, but whether God knows us at all.

The fruit we don’t want…

False prophets, are by definition, deceptive and cunning. They are the ultimate pretenders and hypocrites. They seek to hide themselves, by presenting themselves as sheep, while they are really wolves seeking to destroy the flock.

So what constitutes a false prophet or teacher? Jesus says it’s their fruit, that you find out their falsehood by examining what they produce ( 7:16, 20)

If a prophet is meant to speak the Word of God without compromise, than a false prophet would be one that compromises or contradicts the Word.

The context would indicate to us that false teachers would not direct people to the narrow way, they wouldn’t teach people the principles of Christ’s kingdom, they would promote hypocrisy and great outward shows of self-righteousness, they would run from persecution, they would make false claims about doing The Lords work (7:22), basically, they would preach the opposite of the sermon on the mount. They would deny the truth of Who Christ is and what He did for us in His atoning death on the Cross and ressurrection.

This is the fruit of a false prophet, that their false teaching overflows into living false lives. They are hypocrites. They are pretenders. They are self-righteous and self-serving, serving mammon rather than God. Laying up treasures on earth rather than in heaven. They hate their enemies. They are impure and promote all these things and other…Their fruit is no fruit at all. On inspection they only offer thorns and thistles.

It needs to be said that although we must certainly be discerning, it has already been established that we should not judge without proper self-examination first( 7:1-5), even then, only God judges ultimately. We can discern bad fruit, but that doesn’t mean we get to skin the sheep to expose a wolf, or that we get to burn every fishy looking sheep we see.

We love a witch hunt though. We love nothing better than to cut tall poppies down. We gossip about leaders in the church, criticise them for their stand, pass judgement on them, tear them to shreds to their face and behind their back. There seems to be no better pastime in the church than a good old sin hunt that skins everyone alive who doesn’t quite come into our way of thinking on certain issues.

There is a BIG difference between having some doctrinal differences with someone’s teaching over certain aspects of how we interpret God’s Word, and openly false teaching that demotes Christ’s deity, virgin birth, atonement, dismisses the resurrection, the Trinity – the basic tenants of the faith we hold to.

We like to draw lines of difference, but we should always keep in mind that we may well be knocking down the wrong tree or skinning the wrong sheep.

If someone is teaching falsehood – it’s not falsehood based on our preferences. It’s falsehood when tested against the truth of God’s Word and what His grace has revealed to us in Jesus.

When we know the truth, the way, the life, we will recognise error – know the truth and then be free to pray for the false teachers – that they would repent before it’s too late – we should never miss the person, no matter how wrong they may be, we must reach out with the love of Christ to them. Don’t forget the gospel is for sinners.

Don’t ever be caught up in trying to find error in others either. When you spend all your time searching out the negatives, you will become what you feed on. If you feed yourself on negative teaching about how bad other Christians are, you will have feelings of superiority and exclusivity.

The best defence ( and attack) against false teaching is to know the truth, to feed on it consistently, teach it without compromise, and live it without contradiction in your own personal life.

As to the judgements we pass on fellow believers just because they are different in their expression of faith than us – note that you will spend eternity with some people that you have falsely accused. People you refuse to associate with because of certain alignments,associations and doctrinal preferences. Others whose teaching you dismiss as faulty because of a tag or denomination. The bible they use. The hymns they sing. The ministries they engage in or don’t. Don’t limit the grace of God or the power of God to your own personal sphere of influence. When you do, you create a culture of high criticism, where the standard is so high we create classes of believers, and we miss the greatest commandment ( 7:12) and make the Gospel a secondary issue to our own personal ideals.

A gospel that doesn’t appeal to your personal preferences may not be the gospel at all. False teaching isn’t just false teaching because you don’t like it or don’t agree with it or you don’t like the teacher. False teaching is false teaching because it doesn’t agree with Jesus, His Cross, or the Gospel truth that He alone is the way to the Father.

False prophets will be exposed in how they teach and how they live. We discern, God gets to judge.

The fruit we should want…

So we want to avoid thorns and thistles. We want grapes and figs. We want to be sustained, not devoured.

What fruit should we want and how do we get it?

Jesus said His meat, His sustenance came from doing the will of God, Who sent Him. ( John 4:34).

What sustains us and assures us of entrance into the kingdom of God is obedience to His Will, and receiving teaching that directs us to that end. ( 7:21b).

The only way to God is not by way of doing great things in His name ( 7:22), but by doing His will – submitting to His design for your life, following Christ in death to self and total trust of the Heavenly Father.

It is one thing to perform miracles and quite another to do God’s will. God wants a life of righteous obedience, not spectacular deeds.
-Grant Osborne

How easy it is to learn a religious vocabulary, and even memorise Bible verses and religious songs, and yet not obey God’s Will…Words are not a substitute for obedience and neither are religious works. Preaching, casting out demons, and performing miracles can be divinely inspired, but they give no assurance of salvation. – Wiersbe

True fruit that comes from true discipleship is not self-glorifying, it’s God-glorifying.

A true follower follows the will of the Father, lives according to the kingdom principles, seeking humility, purity, forgiveness of others, truthfulness, love, generosity, they reject hypocrisy – especially in themselves, and Christ is central to all they do.

…they practice obedience. The Father’s Will is not simply admired, discussed, praised, debated; it is done. It is not theologically analysed, nor congratulated for it’s high ethical tone; it is done, on earth as it is in heaven- DA Carson

The Question we should all ask ourselves…

The great question everybody must ask of themselves is, ‘Does God know me?’.

God knows all people, and He’s the only one that knows all the hearts of all mankind, but does He know you as His child?

Many think He does know them, but they base that assumption on what they have done. What they have said. ( 7:22)

The most dangerous position to be in is one of self-deception. When we are self-righteous and self-promoting, we may well trick ourselves into thinking that Christ is our Lord, but all along, Jesus is only the Saviour, not our Saviour. He’s Lord, but He’s not our Lord because we’ve got our own personal idea of salvation, and the Cross of Christ is secondary to our accomplishments. We profess to be Christian, but we are only nominal. It’s something we put on our census, but it means nothing to us past a trend or inherited faith.

Acting liking we don’t need a personal relationship with Jesus, that we can just ‘know’ Him and do some good works and all will be well is a delusion. That lifestyle will find us on the broad way. It cheapens God’s grace, and the cross. ( Galatians 2:22).

You can even be correct in your doctrine ( Lord, Lord ) , but far from the kingdom because your knowledge about God outweighs your relationship with Him, and for all that you ‘know’ about Him, He may not know you. ( 7:23)

Saying, “Lord, Lord, did we not…”, points to hearts that are far from understanding God’s grace. God doesn’t need ‘reminding’ of anything. Anyone who thinks they need to ‘remind’ God of all the great works they’ve done in His name, never did them for His name, they did it for their own name, and in professing only their own works, they have ignored the finished work of Christ, and will spend eternity away from God – in departing from His Will, they must depart from Him forever, they created their own law, and are condemned by it…( 7:23)

How can you know you are known by God?

Scripture makes that clear – believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

Acknowledge that your relationship with God as believer does not rest upon your good works, but on how you respond to Jesus and His work.

God’s grace calls you to come by showing you the truth of the Gospel, that Christ died on the Cross for your sins, and rose again to make all things right before God. Trusting what Christ has done, for you, is the only way to salvation. If you hear the truth, listen to it. Ask God to reveal Himself. Seek Christ.Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled.

The Two Gates – Matthew 7:13-14

Choices are hard to make for some.

We agonise over which flavour ice-cream we want to buy, or are allowed to eat! Between the aisles upon aisles of different types of bread, milk, or cereal we could buy, or the endless lineup of marketing gimmicks we see around that sell the same product in 1,000,000 different ways – we second guess ourselves all the way to the grave on some things it seems, never having made up our minds for certain about whether we made the right call in all situations.

As debilitating as choice can be for some of us, there is really only one choice we all absolutely must make…

Will we follow Christ to God, or not?

It is a choice with only two options. It sounds exclusive and it is. In this age, there is little room for “narrow-mindedness”. We are accused of bigotry, but you can’t actually use that term as a judgement of someone else without being one yourself. Also, we live in a culture where everything is tolerated but intolerance, but the intolerance of our tolerant society stinks like the the hypocrisy and double standards they loathe so much…

Every faith is “narrow”. Even the faith that says all faiths are equal excludes those who disagree. – Keller

If Christ offends you, it’s probably because He’s not Who you think He is.

Jesus is drawing His message to a close. He has given His kingdom principles, outlined the dangers of relying on our own strength, and how God supplies all we need. He now removes any possibility of being neutral and demands a response.

He gives a very specific and direct instruction – enter at the narrow gate.

2 Gates…..

There is another gate He speaks of also…

What is the narrow gate?

– it is a narrow / strait entrance
it leads to life
few find it

What is the wide gate?

it us a wide / broad entrance
it leads to destruction
many go in this way

The descriptions are easy enough to understand. Gates ( doors in Luke’s account – Luke 13:24). Ways. Entrance points.

Two entries, both lead to eternity, but only one leads to eternal life.

One is narrow and strait. Hard to find, sometimes constricting to follow, and only for the few.

The other is wide and broad. Easy to find, lots of room, and plenty of company.

The choice would be easy if we were to base it solely on this life. But this eternity in the balance, not your own personal comfort. This is more than life and death. This is eternity, and we should make not mistakes about what is needful, what is Godly. What is true and what we simply want to hear…

Life. Destruction. There is no missing there is a clear personal accountability for the path you choose to follow and what you trust in.

2 Kinds of people…

We look at all the various races and cultures we are surrounded with. The diverse ethnic practices, structures and even worldviews, and we would say the world is full of all kinds of people.

We may well look at the church and see it the same way.

There are many different looking people in church as well!

But there aren’t that many ‘kinds’ of people in God’s eyes. Before Him, all are sinners. All are unrighteous.

The only distinction God makes between people is whether they are in Christ or not. Whether they have the righteousness of Christ or not. Whether they have submitted themselves to His grace or not.

There are two kinds of people, who in the end, at the judgement, will prove what path they chose in life. Those to whom God will say, “ Your will be done” and those who will say to God, “Your will be done”. – CS Lewis

In the average church, we might be able to find six groups:

1 – those who want little to do with Christianity but are there due to family or peer pressure
2- those who are neutral and somewhat open but have different priorities
3- seekers, who are interested and searching, but not yet ready to convert
4 – faux-Christians who attend regularly and seem to be believers, but have not entered an authentic relationship with Jesus and are not genuine in their activities in the body of Christ
5- young Christians who are open and starting to to grow
6- mature Christians who are earnestly seeking to follow Christ.

Although we may categorise people this way, for Christ, there are really only two groups.

those on the path of obedience
those on the path of disobedience

If you find yourself in the middle categories ( 3 & 4), you have are very mistaken if you think it’s ok to be neutral. That it’s ok to want to go to heaven, but do anything you want while on earth. That is not the will of God for your life, and you cannot pray for God’s Will to be done on earth when you don’t even follow His most basic of principles for your life.

If you hold on to anything in this world as having more meaning than Jesus, you will be destroyed by the very thing you thought would fulfil you.

If instead, you feel Jesus is out of date. Just a crutch for your parents, then in the end, you must truly examine what you are holding onto, and whether it will last as long as your soul will.

If you think Christianity is tiresome rules and rituals, and you despise anyone who tries to control your life, chances are you are living a life where you are desperate for the approval of the world, and you do anything to have moments of pleasure, while emptying yourself of any form of control, including self-control.

Jesus here was speaking to people who heard Him… He will go on to give further instructions about what to do with His word ( 7:24-27), but needless to say, if you listen to Jesus and don’t do anything, you are foolish and you have no foundation in life and there is danger and destruction lying ahead for you…or there is life…

2 Different Ends…

Roadworks are everybody’s favourite gripe…we would detour half an hour out of our way in order to not be stuck for 10 minutes in roadworks. So long as we’re moving, we feel like we are in control.

Come to think of it, it’s not just roadworks that bug us. Other people on the road at all is annoying for some.

The expression “they think they own the road” offends those of us who actually think we own it!
In life, we think we can make our way. So long as we’re moving, we feel like we are in control…but we may be completely unaware of our predicament or destination for that matter, because we have become so invested in “owning” our road.

There is a reason Paul urges us to examine whether we are in the faith, ( 2 Corinthians 13:5), and so we should.

We can delude ourselves into thinking we ‘own’ the road we are on. We’ve earned our place. We’ve done all the right things, made all the right turns, and we are blazing a trail for those behind us to follow…we’ve paved and paid our way.

By our own understanding, by our own reckoning, we assume many things when we look at where we are with any sense of pride in our own accomplishment.

But if you are in the narrow way, you have not paid the price for your place there, it is only by God’s grace you have access to the path and way of life.

You do not get onto the path by your own understanding. You do not get through the strait gate by trusting your own heart. You can’t make your path straight.

So how do you get through the narrow gate? How to you get on the narrow way? Proverbs 3:3-8.

God makes our paths straight when we surrender completely to Him. That is the only way to life, by death to self.

The only way to glory is by the Cross, just ask Jesus about the way He had to go.

If, on the other hand, you are under no illusions that you are on that broad way. You know the direction of your life is not pleasing to God, but you’re not sure about whether you can be forgiven, if there is a way back to God from where you are, or maybe you just don’t care.

If that’s the path you are on, think about where you are going. Right now is easy to think about. You’re enjoying life. You have plenty of company, you fit in. It’s an easier life, a life of least resistance. But what about where you are going?

What joy do you have in your life that lasts?

What is your most desperate need? Relationship? Success? Riches? Comfort? Pleasure ? Fame?

They’re the kind of things everyone is after, and the exact things that will destroy you if you follow them through to their natural conclusions.

One question you may have above all is when can I make the choice? When will it be too late to change paths, to surrender and trust in Christ’s finished work?

If you are wondering how far you can wander away before you have to come back, you are on a very dangerous, destructive path…a path that very nearly destroyed me, but for the grace of God.

God will accept you, from wherever you are coming from. There is always opportunity for repentance before God.
The question remains, when?

The single most important moment of your life before God is right now.

Whether you are on the narrow path and trusting in Christ and being lead by the Spirit, or if you are searching for answers and wondering if there is really a way back to God from the dark paths of sin, this moment will define you…will you obey the Word of God?

What will you choose? There is a definite and hard choice to be made, but the way is clear. A path to God has been outlined for us. It is narrow, it has it’s share of dangers, but it is the only path that leads to life that will last.

“Noah” movie review

Yesterday I went and watched “Noah”, and thought I’d share a little about it. Not that you probably want to read another review about it, that was one reason I went in the first place, I was sick of reading about what it was like and should’ve been like, with scathing and vitriolic reports and mixed reviews from anyone and everyone, all of which just made me want to see it for myself!

Right from the outset, when I knew who the director was when I knew the movie was being made, I knew it would not be a faithful depiction of the biblical account, and if anything, would be slightly ‘weird’. A couple of Darren Aronofsky’s other films, ‘Requiem for a Dream’, ‘Black Swan’, were films I haven’t seen, but knew enough to know his work is a little ‘out there’ and bit too ‘arthouse’ or just plain immoral for my liking.

In interviews regarding Noah, he quite clearly stated that this would be ‘the least biblical movie ever made’ and went to use an expletive about what he thought about what people thought about that fact. And again, another expletive in telling people to put aside their expectations of what the film would be like. ( Huffington Post 11/3/14).

This made my mind up about the kind reverence he would be giving to the biblical account, and I decided I probably wouldn’t be watching it in the cinemas…

What changed my mind was another interview I read. In this interview Aronofsky stated that a big part of the movie was he and his co-writer trying to narrow in on the term used in Genesis 6:9 that Noah was a righteous or just man. They set out in writing the script trying to answer that question. They came up with the ‘idea’ that to be ‘righteous’ is a perfect balance of justice and mercy. For them it was a story about finding the balance between God’s justice and His mercy. ( Christianity Today 25/3/14)

With that in mind, I wanted to see this played out from the perspective of non-believing directors, actors, and Hollywood in general. How does the world see God’s righteousness? And do they think it’s attainable? This was the question on my mind as I went to watch it. Not to critique the obvious and blatant misinterpretations of the biblical account. I’m not sure why we would expect non-believers to accurately portray what the Holy and Inspired Word of God says. They don’t believe, and are only interested in making art of a story they see as myth. It is not true for them, so they are not held captive to It’s ( The Bible’s) inerrancy, and we cannot hold them to what they are not convicted by. I think the criticisms leveled against it not holding to the biblical account, although true, are pointless arguments against people who couldn’t care less what the Bible actually says. So we take it for what it is, a movie made by secular Hollywood for secular entertainment, not for the edification of saints or upholding of biblical truth. That in mind, I also think some the critics have even been too harsh in that respect – it wasn’t a boring movie at all. The characters were well cast, and the script and plot were well written from an artistic perspective. It was well directed, and the best Aronofsky work I’ve seen – not that I have that much to compare it to admittedly! The special effects were spectacular – the ark is wonderfully ( & biblically!) depicted in it’s size and scale. The arrival of the animals is very well done, I loved that part especially.The flood itself ( clearly presented as global!) was visually enthralling, especially with the ‘fountains of the deep’ breaking forth. If I were scoring it as a ‘normal’ movie it would be 6.5 out 10, just purely basing it on quality of acting, directing, and effects without considering the contentious content!

Do we as Christians have to watch this? No, but we don’t have to watch any movie, but that’s another subject entirely! I think the main point to this whole thing is – how should Christians react to the movie’s message itself, seeing as it is portraying a biblical character, biblical themes, and God? Do we dismiss it entirely on the simple basis of it’s lack of reverence with handling the Word of God, or do we engage with it, seeing this is an opportunity to have discussions with those around us that are talking about it? People are talking about this movie. Non-Christians as well as Christians. I think this presents a unique opportunity to be honest, in being able to dialogue with unbelievers about not only the facts that are misrepresented, but even the themes that are clearly underlying the whole movie’s premise, that we are seeing the unbeliever’s perception of God’s righteousness, and to be honest, the writers/director did follow through with both ‘promises’ and premises mentioned in the articles above. It was an unbiblical movie about a character and story in the bible, but they also presented ( from an unbelievers’ perspective) a view of God’s justice and mercy.

***Spoiler Alert!!! Spoilers will follow for those who haven’t watched the movie & would like to!!******

Man’s wickedness and perversion is clearly presented. There is never any doubt left in your mind as to why mankind is being destroyed/punished. God’s judgement is clearly presented. They do not back down from either of those themes in the movie.

Noah is called by God build an ark {-with the help of ‘The Watchers’, because, apparently, it’s much more believable to have fallen angels who are effectively rock monsters aiding Noah and his family to build than to have Noah taking 120 years to build it….} to save the innocent. His struggle throughout the rest of the movie is in his definition of who/what is really innocent. Part way through you would think Noah was model for all modern green activists, ‘Save the animals = saving the planet’. Further along you will become increasingly disturbed as he takes a position of saying his family’s only responsibility was to protect and care for the animals in their care, then they would die out also.To the extent, when Noah discovers Shem’s wife is pregnant, he vows to kill the child if it is a girl. It’s twin girls***, which leaves him with quite the dilemma, and makes the climax of the whole movie, and the climax of Noah’s struggle of figuring out the balance between justice and mercy, and defining innocence and love.

***The wrong number of people get on the ark, ie, Noah, his wife, Shem and his wife ( who is barren but ‘grandfather’ Methuselah works some ‘healing’ for her and she conceives), Ham, Japtheth, and of course, appearing with full poetic license – Tubal-Cain, who smuggles his way into the ark and plots with wifeless and bitter Ham to do away with Noah out of revenge…Ham helps him survive and he eats some of the animals – one of which looks like a small reptilian creature ( dinosaur anyone?? -credit to one of the guys I watched it with picking that up!), but the right number get off the ark in the end.The manifest on the ark at arrival at destination listed – Noah and his wife, Shem and his wife, their twins daughters, and Ham and Japtheth.***

The perception I gleaned from their perceptions was that they seem to portray God as distant, inactive, and silent to questions and doubts and cries for Him to reveal Himself. They paint a picture of God being made up of mostly judgement and justice, and just a little hint of mercy thrown in. In the end of the movie, I would say that mercy does indeed triumph over judgement, but there is so much left open for interpretation and misinterpretation in this also, but again this is only because these are unbelievers presented God through their lens of unbelief.

Shem’s wife and Noah have one of the closing scenes about him not choosing to kill her daughters because he looked at them and ‘only love filled his heart’. He feels he has failed God in not fulfilling all He desired, allowing them to live, and having his family hate him for even thinking of doing such a thing. This burden of thinking he has failed, but also that he built an ark that ultimately only saved himself and his family while so many were destroyed for nothing because wickedness is in all men, and would now live on because he has had grandchildren, this leads him to the drunkenness ( here the movie suddenly gets ‘slightly’ biblical! the only way to work in the nakedness into a hollywood movie I guess! Genesis 9:20-23). Shem’s wife points out to him that God clearly chose him, knowing he ( Noah ) would complete the task, and knowing he would choose innocence and love over destruction and personal vendetta. That God has meant for the only beings made in His image to continue as a race and to start again with them.

All these themes give us a unique and timely insight into our ( western) culture’s perceptions of God and how He relates to mankind. If you watch this movie, watch it for these themes alone if you must, and you will glean some helpful insight.

It’s an opportunity I believe for us as believers to dialogue with this starting point they have given us, a way to speaking into the questions people have in regards to God and answering them in Jesus. Here is a ‘blockbuster’ movie that people are going to watch in great numbers that explicitly speaks of God as Creator, as mankind being accountable to Him, and that He requires righteousness of His created beings in order for them to be accepted into relationship with Him.

A great conversation you could have with someone in regards to this movie, or even for your own heart, it to ask….Do you really think God is silent and inactive, just a distant judge who doesn’t interact with His greatest Creation? Both Noah and Tubal-Cain plead with God to answer them, and act based on their own drive for power and control ( Tubal-Cain), or on their own instincts and interpretations of personal righteousness ( Noah) when God doesn’t answer. Even ‘The Watchers’ are on earth because they thought God wasn’t involved enough with mankind and they wanted to ‘help’, but they were cursed by God and they were bound by the very earth they came to ‘save’.

Well,the God of the Bible, and the God of our own lives, has revealed Himself. He is not inactive or silent. He has spoken. We have His Word. He has acted. He did get intimately involved with His Creation. He saw it’s predicament, and provided a way for it’s redemption. For perfect righteousness to be attained by all those made in His image. He sent Someone to help and to deliver, Someone Who came willingly, and couldn’t be cursed by what He what He would encounter, but at the same time, would become the curse for all who would look to Him. A Saviour. A Deliverer, Who not only saves us, but buys us back to make us what we were made to be, children of God, living in His mercy and love, declared innocent despite our guilt. How? Who? Jesus Christ is the Son of God Who came down for us. More than this, we don’t just have the Word of God, we don’t just have stories about God, we have The Word of God made flesh. His truth came and lived among us.This is another story in the Bible, but it is THE story that all the other stories point to. We know Noah’s story is true because the story of Jesus and the Gospel is true, and Noah’s Ark points us to the Cross of Jesus, and the new life of mankind after the flood points us to the new life we can have when we place our faith in Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God, who died for our sins, and rose again from the dead to grant us redemption and peace with God.

God’s judgement is a sure as His mercy. There is not just a ‘little bit’ of mercy with God. It is abundant, steadfast, immeasurable. The truth of it all it that God’s justice and mercy meet perfectly in Jesus Christ, and the result is righteousness for those who believe in Him and profess Him as Lord.

“Surely His salvation is nigh them that fear Him; that glory may dwell in our land. Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness shall look down from the heaven. Yes, the Lord shall give that which is good; and our land shall yield her increase. Righteousness shall go before Him; and shall set us in the way of His steps” Psalm 85:9-13 KJV

Yes, as many have said, rightly so, that good old line when it comes to movie adaptions of books, – “ The book was much better”. It is certainly true with Noah. But Noah’s story is more than just in Genesis, and we shouldn’t leave people there either. Not only can we lead them to considering the Gospel of Jesus, but the direct testimony of Noah in another New Testament scripture – Hebrews 11:7.

“ By faith, Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” ESV

We can follow Noah’s example. (The biblical Noah, that is!) Listen to what God has said and revealed to you through His Word, and His action in your life. Listen to His warning. Be reverent in fear and awe of Him, and choose to accept His salvation that is available rather than following the world to destruction and condemnation. Noah was made righteous by His faith in God and God’s Redeemer. We can also have that kind of righteousness. Not by spending our lives trying to figure out if we are living the right way, making the right choices, and constantly second-guessing ourselves as to whether we have the right balance of justice and mercy in and of ourselves. Just believe that Jesus has provided all that you need for access to righteousness that doesn’t need your own efforts.

“Exodus: Gods & Kings” movie review

I recently went to see “Exodus: Gods & Kings” , and although much has already been said about this movie, and other recent and upcoming attempts by Hollywood to interpret Scripture, I thought I’d note a few thoughts, not just as a review, as you can get one of those anywhere, but as more of an observation of the movie and the ongoing way we as Christians can engage with a culture that still has an interest in the Bible, and also for those who have seen the movie, and either wondered what the fuss is all about, or whether any of the Bible is true at all..

Unlike the recent “Noah” movie, with Russell Crowe, rock monsters, and the like, I purposely approached this movie quite differently. (  I did not read any reviews of it, and didn’t get around to watching until several weeks after it had been released. There didn’t seem to be as much uproar about this Exodus movie, but then again, I think a lot of people had fired all barrels at Noah, so nothing was left to say.

Both Noah and Moses deserve much more attention than we give them in our society, and church would do very well to actually study out their impact and importance in God’s plan for human history. Both accounts deserve to be preserved as they are recorded for us in God’s Word. They are there for our benefit, and we twist, ignore, or dismiss to our peril if we are to fully understand God’s revealed Word and truth.

Going to watch Exodus, I was not expecting a biblically accurate story, and my expectations were met.

I also expected a “better” movie than Noah, simply because of the cast and director involved. I expected a very entertaining, action-packed, suspenseful movie that was well directed and a cast that would play their roles extremely well. ( The moment I heard Batman would be playing Moses, I was keen to see how that would go down…) On that point, my expectations were also met.

I like Ridley Scott’s films. Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men, Robin Hood, would all be among some of my favourite movies.

I like Christian Bale as an actor.The Dark Knight Trilogy, The Prestige, The Fighter, 3:10 To Yuma, The Machinist,… He was also very, very, very good as Batman…if I hadn’t already said so…

That said, no matter how good I think the director will be, or how much I like Batman, this is a biblical story we are dealing with here, and none of these people ( that I’m aware of ) are believers.

This is a bible story, one of the most pivotal ones at that, being told by Hollywood. It’s not going to be all that great, no matter the other factors. It will be irreverent, even blasphemous in some way…it will be human, in other words, and very uninspired, even if it is artistic expression.

When non-believers tell a story that is so integral to Christian faith, we cannot expect them to get it right. Someone I saw it with summed it up well, “We cannot expect them to portray the appropriate glory and reverence for our God.”

So what happens when you have a non-Christian tell the story of one of the greatest and most influential biblical heroes we have?

Many things happen. Some surprising, some almost predictable…

Some of these things you can expect when Batman plays Moses, there will be a lot of good action, some clever character development and deeper themes that leave you guessing what the director really intended all along…

Moses in this movie is not the Moses we read of in Scripture. There are some similarities, but the real Moses appears about as much Bruce Wayne’s parents do in The Dark Knight series…

He is raised by Pharaoh’s daughter, after his sister Miriam brings him to her attention, and is a prince in Pharaoh’s house.

The relationship between Moses and ‘Ramses’ ( excellently played by Joel Edgerton), his cousin, who becomes Pharaoh, is by far the most interesting plot line in the movie, which says a lot for the rest of the material…

The journey they both take through the movie, from scepticism to faith ( Moses) and from integrity to depravity ( Ramses) is well portrayed.

But we’re here for Moses…

He kills a couple of Egyptians guards, and flees to Midian only when Ramses, in an act of mercy, banishes him for being a Hebrew rather than killing him.

Off in Midian, Moses gets married, has a son, and is a shepherd, and all the way along, from the courts of Pharaoh, to the desert of Midian, Moses is an ardent skeptic, atheist even. He mocks the priestess of the gods in Egypt, and pokes fun at his wife’s faith also. It’s all unreasonable, and foolish to him.

That all changes one day on the mountain when he falls and is hit on the head by a rock.

This leads to him seeing a burning bush, and having God speak to him, manifested as a young boy with a very serious and even petulant demeanour…

No staff, no leprosy, no assurances of God going with him and Aaron speaking for him, just a command to go back and see his people because “ I am” said so.

After some recovery, Moses sets off back to Egypt, much to the disgust of Zipporah ( his wife), who asks what sort of god would demand he leave his family behind…he sets off very begrudgingly, and with his weapons of choice, quite pointedly leaving his staff behind with his son, Gershom, taking along his ever present sword…

Back in Egypt, he sets about trying to release the people of Israel by training them in guerrilla warfare and then raiding Egyptian supply ships and generally trying to lead a revolt.

This doesn’t turn out so well, as Pharaoh cracks down and Moses is left to question God in one of many encounters, he airs his frustration about leaving his family behind while God does nothing to help, and that Moses is sick of “ Dealing with a messenger” , which for me may be an indicator that this manifestation of God was not really meant to be God, just a messenger. Another theory about why God is portrayed as a young boy becomes more poignant after the Passover, but maybe I am reading too much into it…

God then tells Moses to just “watch”…(which is disappointing for those of us waiting to hear Batman say “ LET MY PEOPLE GO…!” to which we would hope that “joker” Ramses would respond “ Poor choice of words!”…..) and what follows with a depiction of the plagues is the highlight of the movie for me, being the most biblically accurate part of all.

The climax of the passover is extremely well done, portraying the very human loss and reality of it all, while depicting the obedience of the Israelites…

Moses, still somewhat skeptical, but now a little believing, has a bet both ways in maybe the most poignant line of the movie, “Pity the lambs if I am wrong. If I am right, we will bless them for all eternity.”

I’m not sure if the scriptwriter knew just how deep that line really was, but it summed up the movie well for me. “ This God-stuff could be right or wrong, but there’s no harm in trying, and if it goes pear-shaped, we’ll blame Him. If it goes right, we’ve done well!”

There is also something else underlying this very important Passover scene, where the people of Israel are indeed saved by the blood of the lamb, and when Moses informs a grieving and very mad Ramses that no Hebrew firstborn died that night, all seems to come to a point of final climax.

Moses now, it seems, truly believes, and Pharaoh and all of Egypt are truly judged by a just God.

God had not forgotten His people, and He had heard their cry, as the opening credits note…He delivered them from slavery, by bringing justice in an unimaginable way.

Pharaoh asks, along with all those who have ever questioned God, why would anyone believe in a God Who does such a thing?

We wonder at injustice in the death of the innocent, but just as Pharaoh ignored his own errors and the injustice subjugating a whole people and race for 400 years in slavery, we ignore the depraved nature of our own hearts, what we are capable of and what we have done.

We’re not as bad as the next person, we say in defence, and we would say we are better than God, because at least we don’t kill innocent babies and children for crimes others have committed.

We want a God who is truly just, but completely forgiving at the same time. If He is not, they we cannot and will not believe in Him, in fact, we would pit ourselves against him, as Ramses does in this movie – calling himself a god.

We want to be God. We want to decide what is right and wrong, but we can’t be God anymore than Ramses could, even with all his power and control. We can’t be God because we cannot die for our own sins, let alone for the sins of the whole world.

But this God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, Israel and the real Moses, is not an unjust, cruel, petulant bully who seeks revenge on anyone who gets on His bad side.

He is not a grumpy child who stamps his foot when His feelings get hurt.

He is the One and Only God. Creator, Sustainer, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Eternal, Omni-Presence One. The Sovereign Ruler. The Everlasting Father, Who gave His Only Son, The Lamb of God.

It’s hard to be objective when we look at injustice of any kind. When we perceive God as being unjust we not just lacking objectivity, we are lacking a correct understanding of Who God is and how He operates.

Even for the things that we don’t understand about God and His actions, we can be confident that God will never do wrong, never be unjust.

The guarantee we have of this is the Cross, the greatest act of injustice that ever occurred.

Pharaohs son’s death may have been an innocent death, but his father’s sins condemned him to death, and the death of God’s Son proves it was anything but unjust.God the Father gave His Son freely, without price, just all of grace. The suffering and death of the Eternal Son of God answers the questions we have no words for. Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God offered for the sins of the whole world is the Lamb we will bless and praise for all eternity…

Back to the movie…

The culmination at the Red Sea only raises eyes in disbelief where it strays from the original, which if they had stuck with that, it would’ve been far more believable and awe-inspiring.

The “parting” is “kind of” miraculous and “mostly” supernatural, and Moses’ faith leads the people through on “mostly” dry ground…

When all are safely across, and Pharaoh has charged after them, we are left to wonder why Moses and Ramses need one final show down while the massive waves build again to wipe them both out…

As dramatic as it is, is seems very unbelievable that anyone would survive the deluge…but it wouldn’t be Hollywood without a suspension of disbelief…

There’s a brief glimpse the tablets and some instructions being given by God on the mount, and Moses dutifully being a scribe to record the laws that will guide the people of Israel after Moses dies, which was an interesting note to finish on, but it does close on the truth Moses spoke to God as man speaks to his friend.

Moses was a friend of God, a prophet of God, and the meekest man who ever lived.

Moses was many things, but he was a man, and that fact is something the movie portrays well. It doesn’t portray his faith all that well, until the end…Scripture summarises better for us who he really was and what really happened.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.
29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. Hebrews 11:23-29

If we are left with any impressions about what kind man Moses Hollywood thinks we should believe in, we may be a little confused, but we would have the biblical hero we deserve.

At the end of ‘The Dark Knight’, Gordon tells his son that Batman has to take the blame for Harvey “Two-Face” Dent’s errors and be a fugitive, because he is the hero Gotham deserves. Someone misunderstood, hunted, hiding in the shadows.

With Moses in this movie, the bottom line will be that we will get the ‘biblical’ hero we as a entertainment – obsessed, post-Christian society deserves. A selfish, some time atheistic, mostly agnostic doubter, who leans on his sword rather than his staff, who relies on his own understanding, experience and ability rather than the revealed Word of God.

We are left with the kind of Moses you would expect when we let someone tell a story they don’t really believe. When what has been recorded isn’t enough. When God’s Word isn’t enough, we will have a society that reinterprets the bible to suit itself.

A bible with a God whose love is separated from His justice. Whose mercy is moody.

A bible with human heroes that need a knock on the head so they can start a journey of faith rather than being chosen by God’s grace.

“Exodus:Gods & Kings” is a movie that misses the real God and substitutes with our perception of God. We are left with a fickle, moody, and confusing God rather than an Eternal, Gracious, and Mysterious One.

At one point, Pharaoh declares himself to be god, hence the plural title. But even Pharaoh with all his glory and vindication isn’t great in the end of this Hollywood movie. Even a skewed version of our God trumps pretenders.

We would do well to stop and consider what offends us as believers about this Hollywoodising of God and His Word.

It is right that we would be offended, it is a very twisted and wrong portrayal, but I’m not entirely sure all our energy should be spent on simply calling fellow Christians to boycott movies such as this. There are many more to come in the not too distant future. ( Cain & Abel with Will Smith is in the works, along with Brad Pitt doing Pontus Pilate, and Ridley Scott is rumoured to next take on biblical character, King David ).

Telling other believers not to watch these is all well and good,and they certainly aren’t edifying, especially for new believers or immature Christians who don’t have a full understanding of God’s Word, but Hollywood will still make these movies, because there are more people out there than just Christians who are watching them.

The world is watching them, and the world is also watching us for how we respond.

How will we answer?

Not watching is a valid response. You certainly won’t missing anything if you don’t watch them.

Watching with understanding, being wise as serpents and gentle as doves is another response.

How can a believing Christian go and watch a movie that undermines the Bible, whether directly and purposely or indirectly and by mistaken poetic licence you may ask?

Its easy, we should already know that God has already had the last word. His Word will endure forever, and not one iota, not one dot, will pass away.

Hollywood can really do nothing to the eternal Word of God, and I am of the opinion, rightly or wrongly, depending on your individual context and conscience, that we should seek to redeem these opportunities to speak out truth with love to a world that entertains itself with half-truths and outright lies.

If we can’t engage with a post-Christian culture that is feeding itself on modern interpretations of biblical stories right here and now in the moment, then when else can we?

The greatest truth of God’s Sovereignty over all things, including satan and evil, is that evil is only ever allowed to the extent it will defeat it’s own purpose.

Satan sought to get Job to curse God, so he attacked him ( within God’s boundary and with His permission ), and took all he had. In the end, Job praised God and satan’s intentions were defeated.

On the Cross, no doubt satan rejoiced as he saw the Son of God being killed by men. But that was satan’s greatest defeat.

Why would we think this is any different? I have no doubt that satan intends evil with the propaganda of Hollywood twisting Scripture, but we should know, if we are trusting in a Sovereign God, that anything satan intends for evil, God will work for good to those who are called according to His name.

As believers, the only thing we have to fear about movies like this is that we ourselves may have made the same mistake of Hollywood. That we would think God’s revealed Word is not enough, that we need to “do” something to make sure God will not die and His Word will endure.

We do need to preach the Word, and we must do it faithfully. But we are called to so in season, out of season. Becoming all things to all men that by any means, we might reach some. It’s a high and costly calling, one that may mean we will go places we would rather not, but in knowing that our God is greater than whatever lies are out there, we seize opportunities to spread the truth of the Gospel.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love…the former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely… What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that, I rejoice. ( Philippians 1:15-18).

Point out the error, by all means. But be sure to know the error, the full error, in it’s context, so you can more accurately direct people to the truth.

Give them the hero they don’t deserve, but by God’s grace, have access to all the same…

Give them Jesus.

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