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June 19, 2014 / Pastor George Fike

Cory & the Giant

My wife & kids gathered to watch Game 5 of the Finals

My wife, kids, & I gathered to watch Game 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals

It wasn’t the cramps in the calf of the “king.”  It wasn’t even the “claw” of Kawhi the Conqueror. To understand the dominating championship performance of the 2014 San Antonio Spurs, you have to look back at a low moment in the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Spurs had demolished the Thunder in Games 1 & 2 against an OKC team playing without their defensive lynchpin, Serge Ibaka – a one-man traffic jam.  Due to his defensive prowess, the Thunder had been having their way with the Spurs for the past 3 years.  But following the conference semi-final, Ibaka was declared “out for the season” due to a severe leg injury.  The Spurs carved them up in the opening games.  But lo and behold!  Ibaka was back – a seemingly miraculous recovery – and in Oklahoma City we witnessed a reversal of fortunes.  In game 3 he shot 6 for 7 and blocked 4 shots.  In game 4, 4 of 6 with 3 blocks.  So disheartened were the starters and so disgusted was Coach Pop that he benched the starters and sent in the backups for most of the 2nd half. Amazingly, the bench not only held its own against the much-heralded stars of the Thunder, they actually began to erode the deficit.  And then,…

… the unthinkable happened. Take a look.

That is correct.  Sparsely-used backup point guard Cory Joseph totally POSTERIZED “I-block-a”!  And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the moment the Spurs believed they could win it all.

I posted on facebook after that play that, if we won the WCF, Cory Joseph should be considered the MVP of the series.  The Spurs won the next 2 games handily to close out the series, emboldened by the fine showing of the back-ups – especially Cory.

As I watched the Finals come to the expected conclusion, I ruminated on how familiar that story was.  There were great similarities to the story of David and Goliath in the 17th chapter of 1 Samuel.

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span. He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.”10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.

So the army of God was intimidated and passive, enduring the scorn of their oppressors.  Charles Barkley even called their women fat. O wait… That was during the NBA playoffs.

20 Early in the morning David … loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.

26 David asked the men standing near him, “… Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.

32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

When the giant is rattling his saber, who will step up?  Will you?  This life is filled with misadventures, mishaps, mistakes, and missteps.  The Bible pictures life as a great field of competition.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.   No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.   1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

In a world that idolizes the superstars, it is natural to underestimate the underdog.  But it is simply not enough to quote Coach Taylor’s mantra: “Bright eyes. Full hearts, Can’t lose.”  It takes more than a ‘want-to’.

33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

David’s confidence was not wishful thinking; it was built on his preparedness.  As the youngest of his brothers, he was left at home watching over the sheep.  In the culture of the time, that was a job for the girls.  But David willingly took the rookie assignment.  It was the job hazards he faced regularly in the backwoods that prepared him for the big event.

Cory Joseph was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the 28th pick in the 2011 NBA draft.  He was immediately sent to the developmental team, the Austin Toros.  He would be sent there several times over the next 2 seasons.  When Tony Parker would incur an injury, Cory would be brought back up to replace him in the starting lineup.  He was always ready.  But not many realize that Cory would often petition Coach Popovich to allow him to go back to Austin to gain valuable experience in the D-League.  Most people want to leave that behind once they have made it to the big stage.  But Cory always wanted to get better, even if it meant spending time on the JV.  When the time came, he was ready.

There’s no way to really know what impact his WCF Game 4 play had on the Spurs.  I know what I felt.  It lifted me from an exasperated “how are we gonna beat these guys?” deflation to a “who in the world can possibly beat us?” exhilaration.  And I don’t think I’m alone.  Look at Manu’s expression in the video about 10 seconds in.  For the remainder of the playoffs, Cory was on the bench for all but 15 minutes through the final 7 games, scoring only 7 points.  But had he not raised up with a heart full of moxy late in game 4 of the conference finals, might we have had to sit at home, watching in disgust, as Miami repeated as champions?  We’ll never really know, but I know on Tuesday night, May 27th, in Oklahoma City, one guy was ready to make a difference. And BOY, did he!

What obstacles am I facing?  When I look at the road ahead, am I ready for the inevitable surprises that will crop up?  What preparation do I need to make to be ready to stand up in the day of trial?  

When the giant raises his ugly head,…

           … will I be ready?

… will YOU be ready?

 

April 4, 2014 / Pastor George Fike

Flash Flood – A Quick Guide to The Good and Bad in Aronovsky’s Noah

noahapBy now, you’ve either seen or boycotted Noah the movie.  You’ve no doubt heard everything, good or bad, on the subject.  But just in case, I thought I’d throw in a few parting shots.

First of all, what does the Bible even tell us about Noah?  Here’s an idea: read it HERE.

Noah Bad! – One biblical scholar not only suggests Noah is not biblical, but goes as far as to say it promotes the religion of Kabbalah (a la Madonna) and gnosticism.  This based on research.  He also suggests Christian leaders who have not picked up on it are heretics and should renounce their ordination.  You can read it HERE.  As you read through this I want to remind you: as a youth pastor, I once rigged my turntable to play in reverse so I could prove Stairway to Heaven had Satanic messages in it.  Just sayin’.

Noah Good! (mostly) – Andrew Heard said some of the things I posted last time, and actually said some things I would have said here.  Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, read his blog HERE.

A few things were disappointing to me, but still did not dampen my enthusiasm for the movie:

  • The magic rocks they used to light fires. For Pete’s sake, WHY?  There were a few elements that made me feel like we were watching reruns of Charmed.  Some have pointed out its sources in Jewish mysticism.  No doubt.  But I think the producers simply needed a little bit of modern CGI to be marketable.
  • One of the scenes I most anticipated when I saw the trailer ultimately let me down:   I was expecting a rumble of thunder and a startled crowd. Instead the rocks behind him suddenly stood up like his personal SWAT team of rock creatures.  Some manifestation of the power and presence of God would have been a nice touch, without resorting to a “Hollywooden” Deus ex machina appearance of the “Transformers.”  A dvine intervention perhaps like this.  Our expectations can certainly set us up for disillusionment.   This may account for the many believers who have expressed disappointment in the movie: it wasn’t what they had in mind.

From the Horse’s Mouth: A lot of people have made a big deal about Aronovsky’s avowed atheism.  Whereas, he has called himself and “irreligious Jew,” agnosticism would be closer to the mark than outright atheism.  But why not read what he actually said in an interview with Christianity Today  HERE?

Reviews in social media continue to be mixed and mired in controversy.  No less an authority than my beloved cousin posted:

I just saved $22….by NOT seeing the movie “Noah.” (I already know the real account, and don’t need an atheist to pollute it for me). I’d rather give that $$ to my missionary friend…

On the other hand, one of my good friends and former roommate, a pastor and Bible college professor posted:

As for those of you all unravelled by the Noah flick–“I went to church on Sunday to hear a sermon, and then on Friday I went to the theater to see a movie.” There is a huge difference between the two.

I stand by all I said in my previous post, but I wanted to elaborate on a point I made there. Darren Aronovsky and his co-writer Ari Handel included many Biblical themes in the script; they didn’t just go wacko with Jewish mysticism.

Examples?

  • Methuselah’s “magic tricks” borrowed from the miracles we read of Elisha in 2 Kings.
  •       Remember when he stood before the army and called down fire?  Read these two passages.
  •       Remember when he touched Ila and she was healed of her barrenness? Read this.
  • Noah’s “acid trip” vision of the Ark was not any stranger than Abraham’s vision of a walking fire pot and torch in Genesis 15.  A lot has been made of Methuselah giving Noah a “roofie” to induce a hallucinogenic vision, but you will recall before he got to Methuselah’s mountain, he had already had the vision of the flood – without drugs.
  • The exchanges between Noah & Tubal-Cain bore out that God had given man dominion over the earth.  Noah rightly knew it meant stewardship; Tubal-Cain chose to interpret it as domination.

Ultimately, the theme of the movie was to do justly, but love mercy. (Micah 6:8)

  • All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
  • The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

Let me leave you with this.  I think the timing of the movie has a lot to do with what God is going to do soon.  As believers, we need to realize we’re living on borrowed time.  The house is on fire.  And God is giving a sneak preview to the world through the medium it understands: the entertainment industry.  Will the world listen to the message?  Or ignore it, as the whole world did while Noah preached God’s righteousness?  Who will you try to get into the Ark?

2 Peter 3:

3 Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?

March 31, 2014 / Pastor George Fike

Swimming Against the Flow – Aronovsky’s Noah

russell-crowe-noah1    Ok. So I blew my movie money for this quarter to see Aronovsky’s “Noah.” That means I’ll have to wait for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” to come out on DVD.  Do I regret it? Not in the least! Money well spent. As I pondered how to express my thoughts and feelings about this movie, I have become painfully aware that many of my fellow believers are very offended. People I love and respect. Most of them are offended because of something one well-meaning “holy man” or another has blogged. I thought about writing my thoughts in a way so as not to give away too many plot points. Unfortunately, a detractor has already taken it upon himself to spoil the movie to convince Christians not to see it. So I will include points that will reveal much of the movie’s plot in order to bring some balance to the discussion. Sorry. If you plan to see it without bias or preconception, stop reading.

One young blogger was very biting. It has been shared by many on facebook. Here’s an excerpt from his conclusion:

Watching this movie left a chilling effect on me as I left the theaters. I was outraged, upset, and simply mortified that a story of such epic proportions could be twisted around and retold in a way that leaves audiences completely void of the truth. I shouldn’t be surprised though, the film’s director Darren Aronofsky is a self-proclaimed Atheist and yet this man directed the film! But as I researched more to find out the truth I found his self-proclaimed goal was to make Noah the “least Biblical Biblical movie”. Aronofsky seems to have done the impossible, he took a Biblical story and made it into a secular film that does not mention God once.

This is just one glaring example of the diatribes that confronted me when I logged onto facebook Saturday after the movie came out. The blogger was passionate, but also distorted. But thankfully, he gave me an outline to discuss my observations about the movie. His outline points (in italics) will be followed by my comments. And understand me: I mean him no disrespect. I admire his convictions and the passion with which he writes. I simply believe he was wrong that this movie had no value for believers.

Was “Noah” true to the biblical account? Not really. But it was true to the Bible itself in a few very important ways. That’s right- the Bible. As I told my wife: “If they are limited to using the biblical account of the Flood, the movie will last about 25 minutes.” I knew from the get-go the writers would have to embellish the story in order to enthrall the audience for two hours.  So they included Biblical and a little extra-biblical material. Yet they never lost sight of the story’s hero. I’m not talking about Noah. I’m talking about a misunderstood individual who is mentioned throughout scripture, yet whose character cannot be completely comprehended even today. That person would be… God.

Let’s put 10 people in a room. There will be 10 different iterations of the God whose name is Yahweh or Jehovah or Elohim – the One True God. And none of those opinions will be 100% correct- whether they be corrupted or simply incomplete. One thing I appreciate about this movie: they refused to compromise with the nature of our paradoxical God: He is just, but He is also gracious. He is not “either or”; He is “both and.” Sometimes we cannot wrap our minds around that. Of course, the producers were no more successful in displaying the whole, unfettered nature of God than anyone else has been… or can be in this fallen world. Do you know the old story of the four blind men who encounter an elephant? Each man argues based on his own experience. One holding the trunk says, “It’s a snake!” Another grasping a leg shouts, “No! No! It’s a tree!” Still another pressed against the animal’s side says, “You’re both wrong! It’s a wall!” The last man grasping the tail says, “You fools! It’s obviously a rope!” We sighted people look at the picture and think, “How silly! None of them see the complete picture.” Well, neither do we. No matter how many people might follow our blogs.

Let’s talk about the movie now.

1. The film’s cast wears clothing that would have been considered modern in the early 19th century!

C’mon! Get real! You have no idea what they might have worn. What a stupid reason to be turned off! Did it bother you that none of the attire in 300 was accurate? And by the way, do you seriously believe the Ark is still up on the mountain where they landed? Wouldn’t they be smart enough to use the dense wood of the Ark to begin building their new homes?

2. The film promotes Evolution instead of Creation!!!

This stylistic piece of CG was placed over Noah’s recounting the story of creation from Genesis 1. It did not necessarily promote evolution. It simply revealed the introduction of new creatures in a creative time lapse. Evolutionists could see it as evolution, but creationists such as myself just see the increasing introduction of new species. The film deliberately marks a distinction in the introduction of man. He is not introduced as a development from the monkey. He is distinctive – one man and one woman – as Noah tells the story of the fall in Genesis 3. They are glowing with the spark of God’s image within. It was very creatively told and completely faithful to the Biblical account. I find it preposterous for the blogger to claim that there was no mention of the image of God. It was very clearly presented in this section.

3. The main builders of the ark are angels who fell from heaven and became giant rock creatures!

Of course this is not part of the Biblical account. And this is where great creative license was taken. But it was very inventive. The only purpose for these creatures was to move the plot along so the Ark could be built quicker than it actually was. As an aside, there were a few other “ooky, spooky” elements in the story beside these primeval “transformers.” There was a magic bean that miraculously grew the forest providing the wood and sustenance for Noah as they worked on the Ark. (Much cooler than Jack’s beanstalk!) Noah’s grandfather, Methuselah, seemed to borrow from JRR Tolkien’s Gandalf the Grey. But I saw these as shortcuts to move forward the story in a more entertaining way. This is kind of fascinating, really. These creatures – the Watchers – are an element, not from the Bible itself, but from a pseudepigraphical work entitled 1st Enoch. But they flipped the characters from the original to make them more heroic. These fallen angels in the interpretation of the 3rd century (BC) writer were the “sons of God” referred to in Genesis 6:4 –

“The Nephilim (fallen ones) were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

The book of 1 Enoch was a fanciful expansion of the story of these angels who rebelled against God – probably in Lucifer’s rebellion – and having lost the intimacy of heaven decided to steal it from mankind. They sired children who were giants and conquerors. In this work, they were not well-meaning benefactors of Adam; they were evil, self-seeking beings that taught man to make war. For punishment, God buried them in rock in valleys. So, no. Rock creatures did not help Noah build the Ark. He built it the old-fashioned way – by the sweat of his brow and that of his three sons. And not in ten years, but 100. But one thing I appreciated was that these creatures demonstrated repentance and were forgiven by God (only in this historical fiction, of course). But that is a truth for “we the people” – not for angels. Choose against your self-indulgent life and return to God; He will receive you. Subliminally, repentance and grace were preached. If CS Lewis can use satyrs and a talking lion to preach Christ and salvation, why not use a rock creature? More on the Watchers and Nephilim in an upcoming post.

4. Noah decides that God actually meant to kill everyone. While on the ark, Noah decides to end the human race by killing his family.

Actually, he interprets the flood of God’s judgment as a judgment against all of mankind. His intent was not to kill his family, but that they would help the animals get acclimated to the newly cleansed earth, and then die off, purging the earth of man’s evil. As Noah stealthily infiltrated the camp of the ungodly, he had a vision of himself as one of the evil participants in the camp. He hastily left, very much shaken, the experience causing him to see himself and his family, not as righteous, but as infected with sin as anyone else. In this, he apprehended something that we don’t like to see in our Bible heroes: “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) He recognized he was just as undeserving of God’s mercy as any of the ungodly men in the enemy’s camp. Even though the Bible differs from other “sacred” writings in its honest portrayal of fallible men and women, we have this romantic notion that they were all a cut above Average Joe. After all, “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD,” we read. But remember: this does not mean that God was impressed with Noah. God made a choice that He could work with this sinful man, despite his sinful nature. After all, one of the last portrayals we have of Noah in Genesis is his drunkenness followed by his estrangement from his son Ham. The horrible moral dilemmas that ruled the final third of the movie were not really Noah’s… they are ours. Or do you really think the threat of killing unborn children is reprehensible? You can’t prove that by our society!

In so doing, Aronovsky actually put us in the biblical hot seat with Noah. We all have to make hard decisions at times in our lives, and face it: sometimes the heavens are brass. Have you seriously never guessed wrong? The story of my present predicament is: Did I hear God right? We are just fortunate that God is still willing to walk with us, even after we have gotten it wrong. But often God reserves the answer for the exact moment it is needed.

Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time. Hebrews 4:16 HCSB

5. The film’s villain successfully sneaks onto the ark…

Yeah. Didn’t really happen. This was another scene which Aronovsky borrowed from Galaxy Quest. (The other was the death scene of the Rock Creature.) It was simply a plot device used to widen the chasm between Ham and his father. I tend to agree with most people: it would have been more prudent to stick with the Biblical text from Genesis and 1st Peter and make sure the boys each had a wife. When Ila (Shem’s wife) gave birth to her twin daughters on board prior to the Ark hitting ground, technically that would qualify as the eight people. But why so messy? We would have been much happier had Tubal-Cain met his end as goo underneath a rock monster’s foot.

I think the scenes aboard the post-flood ark were somewhat discomforting, but they did inject important moral conflict in this tale. I see this final third of the movie as a mirror that we would rather not look into. There’s a scene I mentioned earlier where Noah was “cruising for chicks” (for Ham and Japheth) in Tubal-Cain’s camp. He fixed his eyes on a man wandering through the havoc, his gaze following him until the man looked back at him, and suddenly Noah recognized his mirror image. As that realization hit him, the man’s face grimaced into a menacing growl. Noah turned and fled back to the safety of the Ark, shaken to his core. At this point, he became oppressed by the thought that evil was in himself just as surely as it had been in that man. This shaped the plot direction that most people have objected to so vehemently – his genocidal streak, his willingness to kill his own granddaughter if that were to be the product of his daughter-in-law’s pregnancy, his drunken despondency.

We don’t like our Bible heroes to look like this. But I would urge you to check out the ending of Noah’s story in Genesis 9:20-27. I’m not even going to print them You owe it to yourself to read it. See if you can’t visualize the Noah of the movie in these verses. God doesn’t owe you a Sunday School story. Real life can be messy. Your friend, your neighbor, your brother-in-law, your babysitter (without hope and without God in this world) are going to the theater. When they ask you if you’re going and you say, “no” because it’s not “biblical,” and they say “whadaya mean?” are you going to show them this?

family_ark

Because what happened in the movie may actually be much closer to reality.

Do we dare come alongside our friends and allow Noah to be a man who is nothing without the grace of God, or do we cling to our romantic notion that he should look and act like Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments? I wager your friends will be helped more by discussing how faith looks with dirt on its face, instead of polished up and sitting on your shelf.

Attention, parents of young children… DO NOT TAKE THEM TO THIS MOVIE!  Save that for a DreamWorks or Disney version if that ever happens. Instead, take your co-worker. Watch it together, even if you’re squirming in your seat throughout it, then take them to Denny’s afterward and tell them how you had to struggle with your faith when the answers weren’t clear. You might even have to get down and dirty and tell them you are concerned for their salvation. Another flood is coming – just not water this time.

COMING SOON: A Comparison of What was Right and What was Wrong in the movie Noah

COMING NOT QUITE AS SOON: a series on the first 10 chapters of Genesis

AVAILABLE NOW: some websites for your investigation

This is the blog post that I used to organize my comments

Don’t let the title fool you; the author did not like the movie one bit. In fact, it was his “spoilers” that prompted me to go ahead and reveal some of details of the movie.

From Dr. Albert Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Although he did not view the movie in the same positive light that I did, he made some of the same points that I have, and is not as histrionic as the other guys. Must be the wisdom that comes with age (hint, hint).

I highly recommend his commentary on Genesis 1 – 11 from a scientist’s perspective

A study resource to help you prepare for the movie Noah.

March 27, 2014 / Pastor George Fike

Anticipating Aronofsky’s “Noah”…

I don’t go to very many movies.  Don’t have time, and with the cost of tickets today, don’t have money.  I’m VERY selective about what I see in the theater.  My friends know I shiver with expectation when the latest Superman, Lord of the Rings, or Avengers movie is about to come out.  I save my pennies for the 1 movie that I just have to see, because I can’t see another one for probably 2 months.

All that to say: I am salivating about the opening this weekend of Darren Aronofsky’s noahNoah.  Yes, I am Captain America: The Winter Soldier-level excited!  Unless the previews have been cleverly contrived to veil the substance of the movie, I am expectant, as a pastor and a Christ-follower for the impact it can have on our society.  I believe it will be a tool that believers can utilize to speak hard truths in love to our prevalent culture.  I’ll outline some of my reasons for this hope below and others in a later post.

As I write this post, there is a maelstrom of controversy surrounding this production.  Some of the criticism has come from individuals I respect.  Yet, very few of them have even previewed the film.  One radio personality who claims to have previewed it said it portrays Noah as a murderous, merciless man.  And I know many people have criticized it that it embellished the story beyond the Biblical material.  As I told my wife, “If they used only the Biblical material, the movie would last 25 minutes!”  Give me a break! None of these people criticized the additional material used in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ.

Perhaps in our politically correct world, we are now afraid of a movie that depicts a God of judgment, rather than a God who has finally grown up and has no problem with the ways we choose to live our lives.  In a world that suddenly “knows better than God,” it seems there is no longer a credible voice willing to speak up and call a chaotic world to repentance.  Perhaps Darren Aronofsky, through Russell Crowe, has dared to yell “Fire” in a crowded theater.

——————–

The events that take place in the story of Noah are pre-historic.  In that time, people no doubt were orally-linguistic.  Whether you date the flood at 11,000 BCE or at 3000 BC, those who lived at the time of Noah were certainly not more advanced.  There are no writings from that time.  But it is certain that there was a large-scale flood that severely impacted the world of that day.  It was so catastrophic that civilization had to be rebuilt.  Whether it was worldwide, with God supernaturally correcting the ecology in the aftermath, or confined to the Mesopotamian region, the Fertile Crescent from which all humankind began spreading throughout the earth, there is no doubt that there was a Great Flood.  Every culture has legends of it within their ancient writings.  Interestingly, the farther one travels from the Fertile Crescent, the more exaggerated and mythical the stories become.  The gods of those tales become more anthropomorphised and petty than the story presented in the Bible.

The villain of the movie is Tubal-Cain.  He was a descendant of Cain, and could very well have still been living in the time of Noah.  If the genealogies are strictly complete, he would be Cain’s great, great, great grandson. Genesis 4 outlines the significant descendants of Cain.  I have no doubt that Tubal-Cain was every bit as ambitious and murderous as the movie will portray him.  As we read the preliminary state of the world in Genesis 6, the leading cause of death in the antediluvian world was murder.  When you read the ages of the prominent men in Genesis chapter 6, you can see that longevity helped accelerate technology, but also gave powerful men a longer window of time to victimize others.  Because the ungodly had no doubt tipped the scales toward sin, God put in place a life-shortening measure (120 years; read Genesis 6:3) and ultimately decided to start humankind over.  It is my belief this drastic action was warranted, and serves as a warning for us today:

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.  People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.  It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.”  (Luke 17:26-27, 30)

Anthony Hopkins will be portraying Methuselah, the oldest man recorded in scripture (969 years!).  Methuselah’s “father” was Enoch, the prophet who was taken directly to heaven.  Prophetically, he gave his son a name that translates to “his death shall bring.”  It appears Methuselah died the year the flood came.  Perhaps, his murder at the hands of the ungodly is the remote detonator?  Hmmm?  We shall wait and see.

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I will write my review of the movie after I see it this weekend.  Keep an open mind.  Below are some links to get you thinking.  I believe there is a definite reason this movie is coming out right now.  I will share more of my thoughts after I write my review.  See you later.

No Pope meeting for “Noah” makers

Will Evangelicals Miss the Boat?

Christians angered over “Noah” movie – warning: this is from an atheistic site and an f-bomb is dropped toward the end.

And here’s the trailer:

February 17, 2014 / Pastor George Fike

Happy Cows

HappyCow

But for you who fear My name,

George_right

the sun of righteousness will rise

with healing in its wings, 

and you will go out and playfully jump

like calves from the stall.

Malachi 4:2 (HCSB)

Grace is like a sandwich.  The first slice of bread is justice: recognition that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23a), that I am worthy of punishment for my sin.  I need look no further than myself to see ungodliness. But the meat that covers that slice is mercy:  recognition that the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus my Lord. (Rom. 6:23a). God gave me what I needed, rather than what I deserved.  And of course, the top slice is also justice: recognition that God will deliver me from evil (Matthew 6:13) – its penalty now by faith, its power now as I cooperate with Him, and its very presence someday when He comes for me.

I have to admit: I spent way too much time this past year waiting on God to give my enemies their comeuppance.  I believe God ultimately will make all things right.  But it doesn’t have to be under my nose.  In fact, what am I even doing turning my nose up?  Have I forgotten what lies beneath that delectable and nutritious layer of amazing grace?

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.  (Ephesians 1:7-8 NIV)

God WILL build the perfect sandwich.  I will enjoy His craftsmanship while I await the wedding feast!

For behold the day of burning will come, smoldering like a furnace. The arrogant and the evil will be set ablaze like the worthless chaff of grain. Neither roots nor branch will remain. I, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, promise this.  But for you, the ones who tremble at the sound of My name, a warm sun of righteousness will come forth with healing in its rays, and you will go out, springing from the stalls like calves in open pasture. Then you will trample the criminal; your feet will make them ash on the day I am preparing. I, the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, promise this.  Malachi 4:1-3 (The Voice paraphrase)

Enjoy the following clip and get your dancing shoes on!

YouTube Link

January 8, 2014 / Pastor George Fike

Thoughts on Our Desert Places

An Etchings App PhotoI ponder my life’s journey.  I received tragic news yesterday.  A friend from my youth, Mark O’Pella, passed away this last weekend – not from the cancer he had been battling, but from the swine flu that has claimed so many lives the past few months.  I had lost touch with him for several years.  He had moved to Houston decades ago, while I had spent a decade and a half in Illinois.  He was my neighbor in Kirby, Texas. He was my good friend, sharing meals and hijinks.  We were in the same class (’73) at Judson High School.  After high school, we wasted precious hours at San Antonio College learning how to cheat at spades rather than study, risking our lives as he drove his Opal GT at 90 MPH down Crown Lane, rooming together at Southwest Texas State in San Marcos for 1 semester and 2 weeks of another before he decided he’d rather hang out with this cute girl in Houston.  (He had sure decorated the dorm room nice for me, though!)  We played guitar together, even writing a song or two.  I stood beside him as he married his first wife (same cute girl).  Then we drifted, as young adults inevitably do.  Another friend and fellow childhood neighbor posted the news yesterday.  The reality of our mortality deadens us to all else but the obvious: the stuff of this life is transient.  All of it.

So I awoke this morning to catch the facebook post of another old friend.  A military brat, who by nature of his dad’s mobility, only lived in San Antonio 2 years, but tremendously impacted my life.  His facebook blog spoke to my soul so profoundly I had to share it with you:

 

OUR DESERT PLACESChristopher Kearns

I find myself waking to check the dropping temperatures of the polar vortex which grips us for one last day. I see that it will be 19 below zero when I go to the bus stop; so we are already in a warming trend.

I think of deserts.

Although he lived much of his monastic life in Kentucky, Thomas Merton was long attracted to deserts and wilderness and their transformative power. The need for renunciation, a term not much in vogue in consumer culture, is the reason the Desert Fathers – the monks Merton so revered – believed the desert was created as a holy place in the eyes of God: it held no value in human eyes. 

Merton writes that we cannot find God until we are willing to enter our own wilderness. I read this and recall Nietzsche’s caution that if we go into our desert, we should remember that our demons will follow us there.

Consider Las Vegas.

Nonetheless, Merton, who read and understood Nietzsche, says we cannot build a meaningful relation with what is holy until we are willing to let go of our ego, our devotion to self, and open ourselves to the value of creation on its own terms. 

It is not easy, though, to care about the world as it actually is rather than the world as we want or dream it to be. To start with, we have to discover this world for ourselves. And we also have to discover who we might be, if we could summon the courage, in a place that is only itself, only here and now, from breath to breath.

If we take Merton’s perspective seriously, our prospects begin to look very different from the lives most of us are used to wanting. A life of discipline and significance, Merton holds, cannot be crafted through devotion to a world of manufactured things and imaginary values. The consumer paradise kept before us through the siren song of advertising and popular media can only draw us deeper into its mirage. To be pulled toward the shimmering dream of endless consumption-as-happiness is to exchange the human spirit for the embossed plastic of our credit cards. 

It’s a bad bargain.

Hence the need for what consumer culture (and most of us) would call renunciation.

The Desert Fathers thought the decision to live in the wilderness was the logical choice for anyone wanting only to be their truest selves. Such, they believed, was the lesson of the Chosen People’s 40 years of wandering. They were to remember this time with reverence, from generation to generation, as the age when they were alone with their creator.

Although Merton reveres the desert monks and what they were trying to do through their withdrawal and renunciation, he knows that conditions have changed in the modern world. Today the desert is where we test our most destructive weapons rather than offering our sincerest prayers. It is where we build our citadels of instant wealth rather than our cities of God. 

The desert of the Desert Fathers, in other words, is nowhere in the contemporary world — or at least it is nowhere physically. But, says Merton, this means that our deserts are everywhere psychologically. He writes: “This, then, is our desert: to live facing despair, but not to consent” (Thoughts in Solitude).

I read this and think it might be something to hold on to as I wait between buses in the hour before dawn.

Chris Kearns

Assistant Dean at College of Liberal Arts, University of Minnesota

As I read his words, my life transfigured before me.  The landscaping I have done, the buildings I have erected – my ambitions, my shames, my hopes, my fears – are not the reality of who I am.  As I have sought to dress up my own life, have I inadvertently covered up the perfection of Who God is?  Have I scarred the landscape of the life He gave me by erecting crass billboards, thus hiding a beautiful vista?  After all, I am not what I have done; I am, ultimately, who He made me to be.  One day my personal accomplishments and humiliations will have vanished like the ruins of the ancient world.  Just as the forest reclaims a long-abandoned shack, God’s work will remain when my history is forgotten.  Therefore, I will gaze at His beauty, not my own gaudy adornments, and make that my mirror view.

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. – 1 John 3:1-3

george-chris-webMe (left) and Chris (right) singing our song, Listen to the Rain, Judson High School talent show, 1971.

January 7, 2014 / Pastor George Fike

What I Wish I’d Known…

GVcruiseThis is a great article for any pastor to read.  A list of 10 things.  But the last is the most significant: insecurity.  It has stunted my own growth.  But I have witnessed firsthand how senior pastors have destroyed other staff pastors or driven their church into financial disaster after disaster because they feared listening to ideas that didn’t jive with their own:

I wish I’d known about the destructive effects of insecurity in a pastor. This is less because I’ve struggled with it and more due to its effect I’ve seen in others. Why is insecurity so damaging?

          • Insecurity makes it difficult to acknowledge and appreciate the accomplishments of others on staff (or in the congregation). In other words, the personally insecure pastor is often incapable of offering genuine encouragement to others. Their success becomes a threat to him, his authority, and his status in the eyes of the people. Thus if you’re insecure you likely won’t pray for others to flourish.

          • Insecurity will lead a pastor to encourage and support and praise another pastor only insofar as the latter serves the former’s agenda and doesn’t detract from his image.

          • An insecure pastor will likely resent the praise or affirmation other staff members receive from the people at large.

          • For the insecure pastor, constructive criticism is not received well, but is perceived as a threat or outright rejection.

          • Because the insecure pastor is incapable of acknowledging personal failure or lack of knowledge, he’s often unteachable. He will resist those who genuinely seek to help him or bring him information or insights he lacks. His spiritual growth is therefore stunted.

          • The insecure pastor is typically heavy-handed in his dealings with others.

          • The insecure pastor is often controlling and given to micromanagement.

          • The insecure pastor rarely empowers or authorizes others to undertake tasks for which they’re especially qualified and gifted. He won’t release others but rather restrict them.

          • The insecure pastor is often given to outbursts of anger.

          • At its core, insecurity is the fruit of pride.

In summary, and at its core, insecurity results from not believing the gospel. The antidote to feelings of insecurity, then, is the rock-solid realization that one’s value and worth are in the hands of God, not others, and that our identity expresses who we are in Christ. Only as we deepen our grasp of his sacrificial love for us will we find the liberating confidence to affirm and support others without fearing their successes or threats.

Great article and great insights from Sam Storms, lead pastor for preaching and vision at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

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John 8 24

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