Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Thoughts

Being Obedient

"Jesus Christ expects to do with us as His Father did with Him. He can put us where He likes, in pleasant duties or in mean duties, because the union is that of the Father and Himself. 'That they may be one, even as We are one'” (My Utmost for His Highest).

This Chambers' writing really inspired me to pause and reflect on Christ and His submitting to the Father's will and death on the cross. In that act, one can see the great evil that is in mankind as the religious leaders plotted to kill an innocent man in an abhorrent and torturous way. They did not just desire his death, they wanted him to suffer both physical pain and humiliation. And, as I think on it - I am always and forever astounded that God decided to give His life as a ransom for my soul - for our souls. Jesus decided to have no pride, no prestige, no power - and instead He obeyed the Father. Where would mankind be today if Jesus had refused the cross because it was not a pleasant duty? We would have no hope and be hell bound. A sobering reality.

Christ's sacrifice happened so long ago that I think that it sometimes loses its divine meaning. A meaning that is directly related to me and to those I see daily. The cross of Calvary is ugly, blood stained and represents agony. I do not like to stay there in my thoughts long. I would rather think on the other stories of Jesus - his birth, walking on the water, feeding of the thousands, allowing the children to come to Him, healing the blind, the lame and raising the dead.

The cross is not the story that I want to dwell because it points out a harsh truth: my sin was part of the ugliness. My sin .... therefore, my act. I do not enjoy thinking of myself as not just one of the bystanders but one of the accusers. Therefore, I quickly push past this story. I turn away from this scene from antiquity and quickly look to Sunday and the resurrection. After all, a risen Savior is much more pleasing to to ponder. But, the harsh horrible reality is this - if the cross had not transpired - if Jesus had said, "No way, this is much too much to expect," I would still be standing alone in my sin and have no hope.    

Gratefully, Christ did not shun His Father's request. He submitted. This week, I have thought on these truths. I wish that I would constantly keep in my mind the obedience of Christ. But, Holy Week will pass and life will continue. Responsibilities, joys, sorrows, the daily activities begin to plant their presence in my mind more than Calvary. Yet, I continue in my religious actions. I read the scriptures. I pray. I sing. I worship. And, I foolishly think this is all God requires. Quietly, God makes His will known. He requests something of me. If the task is pleasing to me, I will respond happily but when it is not one that I find appealing my heart begins to harden. I have great difficulty in understanding why God would want me to do unpleasant duties. Unfortunately, I allow my pride to come between me and my obedience to God and His design in my life. I have forgotten Calvary. I question God especially when the task is painful and I do not understand the purpose and I come to a faith crisis.

Because I know the scripture I turn to James and read,

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing...  Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has [m]been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:2-4 & 12, NASB).

My prayer this passover season is that I will remember Jesus and His obedience all year long. That I will hold it in my heart as a reminder that suffering is indeed part of the sinful world. But, this knowledge holds a great promise.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:18-23, NASB).

Be Blessed,

Sunday, April 13, 2014

My Review of Noah directed by Darren Aronofsky

         The 2014 movie, Noah, has been the subject of controversy among many conservative Christian groups. I tried to limit my readings of reviews (on both sides) and basically only saw a few things linked on Facebook and heard some comments from Father Jonathan Morris on Fox and Friends. I was not expecting a great Christian epic or a true rendition of the Genesis account of Noah. This was probably a good thing. I wanted to see why I was hearing the many negative rumblings of the movie. I realized that the director, Darren Aronofsky, was raised in the Jewish tradition. I fully expected that the writer had taken liberty in the telling of the story. I imagined that I would also enjoy a good performance from Russell Crowe and Anthony Hopkins.

         First, do not go to this movie if you are hoping to see the narrative of Noah as told in Genesis. You will be disappointed. Actually, this movie has little to do with the Genesis account of the flood story. I would put this movie in the genre of fantasy. Neither the storyline nor the characters bear much resemblance to the Jewish/Christian version. Instead, Aronofsky’s movie has been cast as another one of the flood accounts that is incorporated into more than 500 civilizations’ myths or legends of it. In these accounts there are some major components that appear in most of them: 1) warning of pending storm, 2) a boat is built, 3) animals and vegetation are stored, 4) a family is spared, and 5) birds are sent out to find dry land.[1]

         Aronofsky’s Noah contains those elements. The scripture contains those elements; however, even the components in the movie are altered from the Biblical account. I need to point out that Aronofsky asserted in an interview with Christianity Today that he told this story based on the midrash tradition, in which Jewish teachers create stories meant to explain the deeper truths of the Tanakh.[2]

         Aronofsky’s version begins with Lamech, Noah’s father, being killed while Noah was a boy. By my calculations using the ages and years provided in Genesis 5, this was not the case. Genesis 5 asserted that Lamech was 182 years old when Noah was born. He lived 595 years after Noah’s birth. Noah became a father when he was 500 years old to Shem, Ham and Japheth. Noah’s sons would have known their grandfather for ninety-five years. Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah lived 6 years longer than Lamech.  In Genesis 7, it is recorded that the floods came when Noah was 600 years old. His father would have been dead only 5 years and his grandfather was still living. According to Genesis, Methuselah died the same year as the flood. We do not know how he died – whether in the flood itself or before the flood. Aronofsky had a scene where Methuselah died in the flood. This could have happened. This leads to another question: was Methuselah an unbeliever or was he a martyr?

         Genesis affirmed that God gave Noah detailed instructions as to what was going to happen to the world, how to built the ark and the numbers of living creatures that would be saved on the ark. Aronofsky’s account has Noah greatly confused and needing to find his grandfather to seek his advice.

         In Aronofsky’s account Noah decided that man would die out with his family. Supposedly, a girl that Noah rescued and raised as his daughter was barren. She was to be Shem’s wife. Noah did not allow his other sons to have wives. They were not on board the ark during the flood. This created a conflict between Ham and Noah. Ham became aware of an intruder on the ark (the man in the movie who had killed Noah’s father when Noah was a lad) and he nursed him and allowed him to live.

         The barren wife becomes pregnant and gives birth to twin girls; therefore, Noah decided that he needed to kill them in order to obey God. However, at the last moment he spared his granddaughters because “love wins out.” There is no mention of Shem having twin daughters while aboard the ark in the Genesis account.

         Finally, one the oddest parts of Aronofsky’s movie were these giant stone monsters with lights shining forth from their eyes. According to the rock beasts, they were the fallen angels who (unselfishly) came to help Adam and Eve after they were evicted from the Garden of Eden. Because these fallen angels had compassion on Adam, God punished them and covered them with rock. These creatures were shown throughout the movie as helping Noah and his family. They were also portrayed as the major labor force for the ark. Right before the flood, they were shown as being repentant and were freed from their rock prison. Where each was emancipated a powerful light left the earth. Everywhere they had stood – the floodwaters from below the earth were released.

         I have no problem looking at this movie as fantasy. My complaint with Aronofsky is that he used the name Noah and then tried to incorporate sections of the Bible into this story. Clearly, this movie does not portray the biblical Noah. However, that is not my issue. This story comes across as fantasy and myth while pretending to tell a Jewish and Christian story. The ridiculous nature of the events in this movie will serve to alienate non-believers who see the movie. My fear is that Aronofsky has helped to promote a world that was once ruled by superstition but that Noah’s sense of love and morality over-ruled God’s design to kill out mankind. Noah is cleverly designed, New Age propaganda that promotes man’s version of righteousness as superior to God’s, thus allowing mankind to continue after the flood.

            [1] “Flood Legends from Around the World,” NW Creation Network: Defending Biblical History, April 13, 2014, accessed April 13, 2014,
            [2] Peter T. Chattaway, “Darren Aronofsky Talks to CT About 'Noah'”, CT: Christianity Today (March 25 2014): 1, accessed April 13, 2014,

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Does God Always Bless His Children?

           When good things are happening, it's easy to see the blessing of God... but what about when bad things are occurring? Are God’s blessings evident during those tough times? Personally, I believe that God is ALWAYS blessing his children.
            I say this with deep faith. Mark and I have walked and are still walking in heartbreak in regard to Christi and Bobby. Yet, I know that God has been in the midst of our lives during these many years. I have waited for my storybook ending that has not come. However, life moves forward - there are daily joys and sorrows. We have been blessed with precious friends and those who would be our enemies. Sadly, often those enemies have come in the form of men who would call themselves brothers in Christ. The works of Satan have been evident. Through it all, our hope has remained in Christ. Bad things happen in this life. But, when one looks closer past the evil that accompanies life in this world a great truth is revealed.
            God is present. And, more importantly his presence is abiding. He is the underlying anchor that holds my heart and mind. He is whom my mind lingers on in the still of the midnight hours. All my hope, all my longings rest in the truth of the scripture, which was fulfilled in the living Christ. This world is fading. It is fallen. It is not my home.
            But, in my despairing moments, I can succumb to self-pity. I can compare my life to others - others that have not seen the suffering I have endured. Others who never knew anything but their parent's love or their siblings warm embrace. Others who were able to watch all of their beloved children grow and mature. Others who never watched a husband's career put to ruin by lies from adulterous pastors. Others who seem to have it all: all the financial security, all the praise from men. Even now I as write these words, sorrow and pain swell up in my heart. So, I push past the hurt, the anger, and the ugliness.
            I have sat with Job in the ashes and begged for God to remove me from the earth. I have wished that I had never breathed my first breath. I have paused in the deepest darkest places in my heart and wished for some semblance of revenge - of payback - of shame for those who have hurt me and those I love. My thoughts have not always stayed on Christ.
            Still, I find that I return to Him. I return to the Word. I pick my Bible up and challenge God to comfort me in my anguish. Often, my eyes are not able to focus on the letters but God prevails. His Spirit within me begins to beckon my wounded soul with long remembered verses.... "Be Still and Know that I am God." "I will never leave nor forsake you." "In my Father's House are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you." "You are the apple of My eye and I will hide you under the shadow of my wing.".... Finally, His words transport my heart, my spirit to Him and his loving shadow. And, I see Him.
            I see my Lord. Not the Lord from paintings - of the Jesus in a flowing white robe with the sad eyes holding out His hands to me. I see Jesus. I see Him beaten, bruised, weary.... and joyful. I see Him strong and not simply holding out his hands to me but seeking me and calling out my name. And finally, I feel His Spirit within me reminding me of a single simple truth, "I died that you may have life abundantly. I died to pay the price that sin requires. I died for you because I love you."
            Jesus is always blessing me through this one eternal act - He died to save me. He starts in my spirit. He assures me of His love and He takes the blinders off my heart so that I can see His goodness in the midst of the pain of this world. I see my husband's face. I hear Michael and Paul's voices. I am reminded of precious friends who are better to me than family. I remember that I was born in a free country. I remember that blessings in this world are mixed with the sorrow.
            But, there is one blessing, one truth that is not mixed with any sorrow. I will never experience eternal damnation. I will never be separated from my God. I have instead been made into a new creature that I might see God's face and abide in His presence.
            Romans 8:18 asserted, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (NASB).
            My blessing is far greater than I deserve. My blessing is the privilege of a relationship with the Son, the only Son, of God.