The Noah Movie: Storytelling

NoahLet’s begin where the Book does…

5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. 7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Genesis 6:5-7 KJV

Let’s allow the movie to begin where it desires to as well (these are the first words at the top of the movie’s website)…

The film is inspired by the story of Noah. While artistic license has been taken, we believe that this film is true to the essence, values and integrity of a story that is a cornerstone of faith for millions of people worldwide. The biblical story of Noah can be found in the book of Genesis.

 Since its March 28th release (and before, really) I have had the advantage (and in some cases, disadvantage) of reading many passionate reviews… all before I had seen the movie. I was reminded that some of us actually read reviews to decide whether or not we will go to the theater to see a movie. So reviews have their place. As usual, I come to this evaluation process from a bit of a different angle. For the last 20+ yrs. I have been a professional storyteller. You may look at my resume and wonder why a pastor would call himself that, but that’s exactly what we who deliver sermons are doing… we are telling and retelling the stories found in the Scriptures.

If you were/are looking to the Noah movie to retell the story word-for-word as the Scripture does, I am nearly certain that you will walk away as many have… disappointed. However, most of us who attend Christian churches would be equally disappointed if we showed up to a worship service and the sermon for the day was solely the reading of Scripture. We want to know some perspective. How does that text apply to my life? What am I supposed to do or be because of what the Scripture teaches? I think this movie does both masterfully. Here a few of the high points that stood out to me:

  • total ownership of why God was destroying the earth… the wickedness of man… sin
  • acknowledging God as Creator
  • even enumerating the very acts of creation day by day
  • showing Noah as the righteous yet fallen human that he was
  • even the weird stuff (you already have your list) does not diminish the power of the story

So even if you don’t end up liking the movie, let’s be the ones that are known for what we are for instead of what we are against. May this retelling of the story of Noah cause audiences to consider the greatness and grace of our God.

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Why I Read

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Unless you don’t know me very well yet you probably know that I am a book geek… no, really… I am. It has always been that way. For the last 9 years or so I have upped the ante even by my own standards. I’ve been reading at least a book each week.

An honest and fair question would be… why spend so much time reading? I have asked myself that question repeatedly of late and thought I’d share some of my thoughts here. This is why I read:

  1. to practice humility… learning from others indicates I don’t know everything
  2. to make spiritual progress… I want to keep growing
  3. to understand divergent viewpoints… this year Atheism & Buddhism
  4. to hone my teaching gifts… learning to speak in a way that is understandable
  5. to learn from great people’s stories… this year Obama & Billy Graham
  6. to stimulate myself intellectually… my reading grandmother lived to 99

In closing I share my favorite quotation on the subject. It is written on the bookmark I use to keep my place in whatever book I may be reading each week. Erasmus said, “When I have a little money I buy books… if any left over I buy food and clothes.”

Obstacles Welcome

First I must include a disclaimer: I am a rabid fan of AT&T as I, my wife and all 3 teenaged kids are more-than-satisfied AT&T customers. That said, when I selected this book for review I did so almost exclusively because of its title. My family and I are in the early days of starting a business and have had more than our share of obstacles. The fact is that I have spent much time trying to avoid them. So the idea of welcoming obstacles caught my eye.

The book did not disappoint. What I appreciated most about Mr. de la Vega’s writing was his honesty. Many leaders of his caliber have been so far removed from even their own history that they fail to connect on important levels with those still developing. The most compelling part of this book was Mr. de la Vega’s willingness to explore his journey. I felt like I was walking with him as he went through different personal and corporate obstacles on his way to leading one of the wireless industry’s leading companies.

Along with a great personal story, Mr. de la Vega has a winsome leadership style that is easy to imitate. This humble offering forced me to ask myself why I had for so long been trying to avoid obstacles instead of learning from them. With this book’s prompting, I am now doing the latter.

Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith … and How to Bring Them Back

ex-christianLast week my book-of-the-week was right up my alley. In the last 7 years or so of my ministry God has steadily enlarged my heart for those who are far from Him. This volume dealt with an unfortunately rapidly-growing segment of those far from God… those who once believed. Of course this raises all the ancient arguments about whether or not said individuals ever really believed, in the first place. But for the sake of everything that follows we will assume that they are not just leaving more than just a building. They are leaving their faith.

After almost 20 years in youth ministry and now in a ministry that deals especially with those who are far from God, I think Drew deals with the reality very even-handedly. Sadly I think his numbers are correct. I also agree with his conclusions that unless we find a way to solve this problem, anything we do will be equal to or less than putting a bandaid on a gunshot wound.

Because we live in a sound bite culture I like to reflect on books I read in similar fashion. Here are some of the biggest takeaways for me:

  • not every young adult has the same issue(s)
  • there isn’t a singular solution to the problem… one size does not fit all
  • listening to people is not optional
  • loving people as they are is not optional
  • BE one of the reasons they stay
  • I must live out a faith that is vibrant & reasoned

My only (very slight) difference of opinion came with something that the author almost admits to. It would seem that some of these interviews were done with people whom the author was not previously acquainted (i.e. the story about the Meetup Atheists Group in the bar). My only charge to those of us that currently are attempting to follow Jesus is that we would already be in relationships with people who have left the faith. Then out of and into those relationships have opportunities to administer the strength of the gospel. As God gives us these kinds of friendships, may we be part of the solution.

A New Kind of Big: How Churches of Any Size Can Partner to Transform Communities

A New Kind of BigFirst a disclaimer… I am proud to call Chip Sweney my friend. That said, if his book sucked there is no way I would write a review. I would just quietly say, “Wow, buddy, that sure was interesting.”  I am writing this review because I believe its content is true and I seek to emulate this approach in what we do as a church in partnering with others for common causes of justice in our community.

Further, I see it as a template for other facets of ministry reproduction as well.

I loved this book for so many reasons. To make the review (hopefully) easier to read, I’ll bullet-point them here:

  • this book is NOT about an individual church’s “do it like us” perspective
  • this book is NOT a “wait ’til you become a megachurch” perspective
  • this book IS humble yet honest
  • this book IS valuable for the stories it tells
  • this book IS valuable for the questions it answers
  • this book IS valuable for the questions it asks
  • this book IS valuable for the space it leaves for dreaming what BIG can be
  • this book IS a potential template for all kinds of trans-denominational ministry
  • this book SHOULD be a required reading textbook for anyone seeking justice for their city
  • this book WILL become a modern classic

If you read only one book in 2011… this is your read. Thanks for sharing your journey, friend.

Week #2: Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

I like books that challenge norms. That says alot about me I know. Facts are facts. This book definitely challenges the conventions of Christianity. Donald Miller tells us his personal story of faith and his journey with God from childhood to the present.

His honesty is refreshing and… well… honest. He says things that most of us have only ever thought but were afraid to say. I did feel a time or two that he was letting us in on things for their shock value. But what kind of an author would he be without a little drama?

Read the book! You won’t agree with everything he says. But it will definitely give you fresh eyes to see those who are objecting to the gospel and a new perspective of how we can reach them.

Negatively I think Miller commits the cardinal sin of calling for everyone to love each other and then shooting at people who are more conservative than he is. True love extends both ways and uses truth as the basis for comment… not personal preference. There are many people – on both sides of the discussion – who have misunderstood Christian liberty. This book reminded me to extend grace both ways while applying truth in love.