Saturday, March 29, 2014

Noah - the Movie

What a beautiful sunset God sent as we sailed away from Northern Ireland.  I love the way the water shimmers like molten gold reflecting equally rich colors of the sky glowing above the dark range of mountains along the shore.  A similar view of land, sea and sky might have been seen by Noah and his family when they spotted land from the ark.  Imagine their joy as they realized God's goodness and mercy in saving them and bringing them to begin a new world for His glory.

This is the sort of truth we should be visualizing when we think of Noah and all God did through he and his family.  This is not the visualization put forth in the new movie Noah that just opened today.  I'll warn you with a spoiler alert here.  If you plan to see the movie and want surprises, you might want to wait and read this post after you've seen the film.  Not that we don't know how the story of Noah ends, but there are a number of surprises in the movie that no Biblical scholar has ever read, seen or imagined and are so inaccurate that I am heartily disappointed!

Where to begin??  First of all, I knew there would be some inaccuracies in a depiction of the story they say is "inspired" by Noah.  Hollywood is not known for its sensitivity to truth in holy scripture.  I was ready to overlook a bit here and a bit there, but when 80% of the movie is inaccurate and a portion of it is downright ridiculous - well, that's where I draw the line and feel there is next to no redeeming value in this particular movie.  In fact, contrary to what some Christian film critics are saying about, oh, at least this gets people thinking about the Bible.  I believe this film is so far off track, it makes the story of Noah look like a farce.  I guess you can tell, I'm annoyed.

You might ask, what is redeeming in the film?  Well, there is an accurate telling of the story of creation, which takes perhaps two minutes; the scene of the waters breaking forth and the ark floating up and people clinging to a mountain peak was powerful, perhaps one minute; seeing the wickedness of men of that time, perhaps two minutes -- for a grand total of five minutes of redeeming value in this inaccurate depiction of what is actually a powerful and very true story of Noah as told in the Bible.

About 15 minutes into the film, the most ridiculous part of this film writer's story pops up -- in the form of giant rock formations that walk and talk and often kill people.  They are suppose to be fallen angels who were sent to be Watchers of mankind and were turned into these rock creatures that end up helping Noah and his family.  In fact, these rock creatures end up doing most of the work in building the ark -- as you might imagine, they are very strong!  It reminded me of the giant trees that walked and talked in Lord of the Rings.  In fact, I wondered if their scripts somehow got mixed up.  Not only that, but these rock creatures got the credit for helping and protecting Noah instead of God.  That whole aspect of the film is absolutely absurd and looks ridiculous!

A few other obvious inaccuracies are: 
--one young wife and three very young men getting on the ark with Noah and his wife.  Truth:  We know that not only would these three sons have been around 100 years old when the flood came, but scripture tells us: "...Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark" Genesis 7:13.
--Methuselah was drowned in the flood.  Truth:  Methuselah was 969 years old when he died -- one year before the flood covered the earth.
--Tubal-Cain, a wicked tribe leader, sneaked onboard the ark just before the flood and ... I won't tell you what happens to him - it's fiction anyway.  Truth:  Tubal-Cain, who is mentioned in Genesis 4:22, did not get onboard the ark.  He may or may not have been alive at the time of the flood.
--a seed dropped into a hole in the ground by Noah, sprouted into a tree and within seconds had multiplied and grown into a vast forest.  Truth:  This could never happen.

Another disturbing aspect of this film is the way it portrays Noah himself.  Although I can well imagine that Noah had doubts and times of depression during the long years of building, I don't believe that a man chosen by God would become as unhinged as this movie depicts.  The Bible says of Noah, that he was "a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God" Genesis 6:9.  A man who walks with God, hears from God.  God spoke to Noah, telling him in detail how to build this large boat and then what to do to prepare for the upcoming flood.  When it was time for the rains to come, God said to him, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation."  There is a beauty, a dignity and peace in that statement from God.  There is no dignity in what the movie shows us.

The Bible tells us a beautiful story of Noah, his faithfulness in a horribly difficult situation.  It tells of the labor he and his three sons put forth in building this huge boat -- cutting down trees, transporting them to the building site, and putting them into place.  This was hard, hard work, day after day after day, for year after year.  Yet, this family was faithful to God and praised His name with sacrifice after once again standing on dry ground.  I applaud Noah for his faithfulness to our heavenly Father and the testimony he leaves, and the mercy and love God showed to mankind -- according to scripture -- not according to this erroneous film.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tumbling Down

And the walls came tumbling down....
My granddaughter Marisa very carefully built this pyramid out of red plastic cones.  She'd done this enough times to know how fragile the structure is and how the slightest wrong move would send them tumbling.  I like her feigned expression of "Yikes!  I've created a pyramid taller than I am, but it could crash at any second!"
This reminds me of the examples of two builders Jesus spoke about in Matthew 7.  Jesus had been teaching a large crowd of people and He told them how wise it would be if they put into practice the things He taught.  He compared a man who built his house on a rock with a man who built his house on the sand.  Most of us are familiar with the story and the children's song we used to sing about them.  In the song, when the rains came down and the floods came up and the house on the sand went splat, we'd happily clap our hands together for sound effect and dramatic emphasis.
If you had been the man (or woman) who'd built a house on the sand, however, you'd be devastated when your house went splat and came tumbling down (I know the "tumbling down" reference is from the walls of Jericho, but it fits here too - so, we're borrowing it).  Now, no doubt you'd been warned by others that building a house on the sand was unwise.  Such a foundation was destined for destruction - sooner or later.  But, you thought you'd take a chance -- perhaps the naysayers were wrong, perhaps you'd be an exception, or perhaps you just thought you knew best and it would all work out in the end.  You just couldn't accept the Truth.
This concept of not listening to Truth reminds me of a song by Nicole Nordeman, What if You're Wrong. The first two verses talk about -- yeah, what if you're right and Jesus was just another nice guy who takes his place in history as being a really great prophet, but that's all?  Then, she turns it around and the third verse is the clincher:
   "But what if you're wrong?
   What if there's more?
   What if there's hope you never dreamed of hoping for?
   What if you jump?
   And close your eyes?
   What if the arms that catch you, catch you by surprise?
   What if He's more than enough?
   What if it's love?"
The song ends with this question:
   "You've been running as fast as you can
   You've been looking for a place you can land for so long
   But what if you're wrong?"
It's a powerful song that speaks powerful Truth.  Jesus speaks of Truth in John 8:32, 35-36:  "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.... a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."
So, what is Truth?  Truth is that if you build your life -- which is represented by your house in this instance -- on the wrong foundation, like sand or like your own idea of right and wrong, then sooner or later, it's going to go splat and come tumbling down.  It's a fact that your life/your house will someday come to an end.  What's going to happen then?
If you listen to the voices of warning and build your life/your house on a firm foundation, one that is founded on the Truth of the Word of God and the sure Rock of Jesus' gift of life, then your life/your house will remain firm and unharmed.  You will survive that final storm and be in a place where no storm will ever blast you again.  Jesus said, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them.  I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock...that house did not fall for it was founded on the rock"  Matthew 7:24.
The tower of red cones Marisa built tumbled down not too long after I snapped this picture.  It was no surprise, it was inevitable.  A tower of red cones -- no big deal.  Your life -- a very big deal indeed. 


Saturday, March 22, 2014


"No eye has seen, no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived what God has
prepared for those who love Him"
1 Corinthians 2:9

Have you ever wondered what colors will look like in heaven?  The luminous colors of these hand blown glass flowers created by Dale Chihuly are exquisite.  A huge bouquet of these flowers are suspended from the ceiling in the lobby of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.  The design is striking and even though I couldn't fully capture their beauty in this picture, you get a glimpse of how beautiful they are.

I think that's a tiny bit like the glimpses on earth that we get of how beautiful colors will be in heaven.  When we see a magnificent sunset blazing with indescribable color or an iridescent butterflies shimmering wings, I think God is giving us a glimpse or foretaste of what He has in store for us in heaven.  By that, I mean the real thing will be so much better than what we've seen on earth that it will be sort of like you seeing this picture instead of the real glass flowers and their brilliant colors.

I'd never really thought about this particular aspect of heaven until I did a Bible study some years ago by T.W. Hunt, From Heaven's View.  He had a very vivid dream of heaven one night and believed it was a message from God.  He talked about how amazingly beautiful everything was there, but I was especially struck by his description of the colors.  He wrote, "The most physically unusual aspect of the experience consisted of the colors - colors that did not exist on earth.  I saw flowers in colors far more dazzling than any crimson I had ever seen in this world.  Others were pastels more delicate than any pink or violet we see here.  In spite of the wide range of colors, the ensemble blended into works of art unlike any I had seen in the Louvre or the Prado."

I love beautiful colors and I'm excited about what lies ahead of me when I step into my permanent home of heaven.  The scenery is going to be beyond amazing.  But, this most amazing thing of all will be seeing Jesus face to face.  In his dream, Hunt said, "the strongest impression of the dream came through the eyes of the Lord Jesus.  The expression in His eyes overwhelmed me...His eyes poured forth the mightiest and yet the most tender love I had ever imagined."

Our lives are colored by the love of Jesus in this world and it will be even more evident in the next world -- a world without end. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


     "He chose the lowly things of this world and the
        despised that no one may boast
            before Him" 1 Corinthians 1:28-29

I find this old rusty hubcap intriguing.  It was set into the wall as part of a window by an eccentric builder in Phoenix, Arizona back in the 1930s.  The house, called the Mystery Castle, is a quirky place created from "found" materials such as native stone, old dishes, recycled bottles -- and old rusty hubcaps.   I found the rambling, creative house to be fascinating.

How many people would pick up an old hubcap like this one and believe that it had any value whatsoever?  I've no doubt that most of us would leave it on the trash heap and not want to dirty our hands with even picking it up.

Aren't you glad that God is not like that?  God takes people others consider worthless or ugly, people that no one wants to touch, and He creates something beautiful with their lives.  Little ole Zacchaeus might be considered one of those ugly people by his neighbors.  He was considered dirty - a "sinner" who cheated people, yet Jesus singled him out for divine attention and chose to use him in a creative, beautiful way that brings glory to God.  It also offers a sweet song for children to sing about a "wee, little man" who had the honor of having Jesus visit in his home.

Finding people who are unwanted and unlovely in some way is one of Jesus' specialties.  He chose to reveal Himself and provide living water to a pagan woman who was a known sinner, rejected even by her own people.  He found her, valued her and created something beautiful in her life. 

History is full of stories of people "found" by God and made into new creations.   God is building His kingdom bit by creative bit and we who have been changed from sinful creatures into children of God are part of that glorious building.  It's a house not made with hands, but rather living stones picked up by Almighty God and fashioned in His own special way.

God makes everything beautiful -- even that lowly thing that the world despises.  And as the verse in Corinthians reminds us, none of us can boast because of what He has done, because it is He that has done it.  All glory to God!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Rough Places

           "I will...make the rough places smooth" Isaiah 42:16

Here you see me walking through a vast field of lava rocks.  Thankfully, someone has paved a path through the tumbled rocks and made the rough place smooth -- otherwise I'd either not be able to walk through this field, or it would be exceedingly treacherous and extremely slow-going.

"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.  These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them" Isaiah 42:16.

Aren't you thankful for all those who have gone before us in this journey of faith -- saints who have made a lot of rough places smooth -- sometimes at the cost of their own lives?

I think of Martin Luther, who way back in 1517, took a big risk by standing up against unbiblical practices of the Catholic church.  He knew it was wrong to sell forgiveness, which only God can give and He gives it freely, so Luther made a stand.  As a result he was tried, found guilty and excommunicated, but more importantly -- the Protestant Reformation was begun and our road to freedom of true biblical religion was begun.

Even before Martin Luther made a stand for gospel truth, a man named John the Baptist shook the status quo of the religious community of his day.  He preached repentance through faith in the Savior Messiah and salvation by way of grace rather than works of the law.  The Jewish landscape of that day was a rocky field of laws and hypocrisy, but John himself said he was "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him...The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.  And all mankind will see God's salvation'" Luke 3:4-5.

When we look at the saints listed in Hebrews 11, we see men and women who are basically just like you and me.  They were considered by our heavenly Father as examples for us to follow.  None of them was perfect and all of them had struggles, yet God cherishes every one of them -- just as He cherishes you and me.  These men and women glorified God and smoothed out the path in their little corner of the world and ended by making enough impact to be listed on the pages of scripture for the whole world to see. 

How about us?  Are we glorifying God in our little corner of the world?  Are we helping to make rough places smooth for generations to come?  I love the song by Steve Green that says, "May all who come behind us find us faithful; may the fire of our devotion light their way.  May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe and the lives we live inspire them to obey." 

History is full of stories of men and women who helped make our 2014 way smooth as far as religious freedom and the knowledge of the Truth is concerned.  I shudder to think what the future might hold along this path and how many rocks and roadblocks may spring up, but this I know, God will always make a way and He has promised not to forsake us.  He can and will use you and me to complete His purposes.

I used this same photo in February 2013 with an entirely different message and didn't realize I was using it again until I looked back at some posts and saw it.  This is just one of those examples of how God is constantly using bits and pieces of His creation to offer messages to us on a daily basis -- sometimes from the same bit of creation He used before.  I've no doubt this path through the volcano fields at Craters of the Moon National Park in Idaho holds a number of truths God wants us to see.  Try your hand at coming up with what you see in this photo.  Ask God to show you a message geared specifically to your own needs.  May God bless you today!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Running with Horses

If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you,
then how can you contend with horses?
And if in the land of peace in which you trusted, they wearied you,
Then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?
                               Jeremiah 12:5

When Pastor Frye quoted this verse at the beginning of his sermon on Sunday night, he immediately captured my attention.  What a powerful verse!  And -- I don't remember ever hearing it or reading it.  When I discover a powerful verse in scripture that I've never noticed before, it's always cause for celebration because it's as if I've heard a new word from the Lord (even though the verse was there all the time).  I believe God brings these verses into our lives at the time we are ready to receive them -- and be properly awed and delighted by their truth (:

When I heard this verse, tears welled up in my eyes even as they do now as I consider the great truth in these few sentences.  Oh, how often do we complain and whine when even little things don't go right in our lives.  We sometimes become weary with our day to day routine at the workplace, at school, or at home and family responsibilities.  Then there's times we become weary in the work of the Lord in our local church and Sunday School.  Sometimes we feel like we're swimming upstream and our labors are in vain because we see so little results.  These are all among the "weary in well-doing" category and we're all guilty of it from time to time -- and, they all constitute "running with the footmen."

If we find ourselves whining about "running with the footmen," we need to give ourselves a good shake, square our shoulders, and look up to the Lord for forgiveness and for added strength and encouragement in the work He has given us to do.  And be oh, so thankful that it's just footmen we're running with -- it could be horses that we're contending with, and that is far more difficult.

God forbid I should complain about anything while I am dwelling in a land of peace.   If I cannot rejoice in the Lord during a day that might hold some mild annoyances, unpleasant tasks and less than encouraging circumstances, what will I do when the Jordan floods its banks and I am inundated with floodwaters of difficulty, sorrow and/or pain? 

This verse speaks to my heart as if God had reached down and wrote it on a note addressed to me.  I have a feeling that many of you could say the same.  I could have entitled this post, "You're Whining Again?  Really?"  If you, like me, find yourself living in the land of peace and running with the footmen from time to time, let's put our circumstances into perspective.  Instead of whining, let's be thankful for those footmen and pray that the horses keep their distance.  If the horses come, no doubt God will give us strength to contend with them, but for now, thank you Lord for the footmen in my life.

Photo note:  I was standing on a hillside when I spotted this herd of wild horses in a canyon at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota.  I zoomed in and got this neat shot.  Running with these guys would be a real challenge!

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Do I look suitably scared in this picture?  You may have noticed, I love to mug for whimsical shots.  If this had been a real-life situation, however, I would have been in a dangerous place.  Notice the two hungry critters, sharp teeth bared, ready to leap down and devour me as they had apparently done with this massive mastodon.  The well-cleaned bones of the ancient elephant attest to an earlier buffet of huge proportions with many a hungry critter in attendance.
Whew!  So glad this was just a neat photo op at one of the Disney hotels in Kissimmee.  Otherwise, "Scary" would not have begun to describe the emotion I'd be feeling!
What scares you in life?  Some people are scared of spiders or snakes, others of heights or tight spaces, while other people are scared to death -- of death itself.
While I'm not eager to die and I hope it won't be painful when it happens, I'm not afraid of death. 
One big reason people are scared to die is that they are unsure where they'll go when it happens.  They either fear hell or, in the case of atheists, extinction; or they just don't know what will happen and fear of the unknown is a biggie too.  Even Christians can be afraid of death for a variety of reasons.
Certainly the ideal death would seem to be at a ripe old age -- in your sleep.  I'd vote for that one, but since I don't have a say in the matter, I'll just trust my beloved heavenly Father who has my days planned to the minute and holds my very breath within His loving hands.  I trust that powerful verse in Timothy 1:12:  "...for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."
With Christ as my Savior, God as my Father, and the Holy Spirit as my Comforter, and the promise of heaven as my ultimate home -- what's to fear?  "If God be for us, who can be against us?"
Be sure of your ultimate destination and you won't have to fear death either.  It was always Satan's plan for the death of men to be a victory for the dark side since mankind was under the penalty of eternal death after the fiasco in the Garden of Eden.  Then, when Jesus Christ paid that penalty on the cross with His own perfect blood, Satan's hopes of victory were dashed to pieces and God's ultimate plan of salvation was put into place.  Therefore, we say with the apostle Paul, "O death, where is thy sting?  O grave, where is thy victory? ... Thanks be to God, which gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" 1 Corinthians 15:55 & 57
See you up in heaven some day!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Yes, Lord, Yes!

"His mother saith unto the servants, 'Whatsoever He saith
unto you, do it'" John 2:5
Recently our choir sang the song, "Yes, Lord, Yes!" which offers a message of obedience and willingness to be open to whatever Jesus might ask of us -- the same message Mary was giving to the servants when she told them to do whatever her son Jesus asked of them at the Wedding Feast in Cana of Galilee.

By their obedience, they received and the need was met -- water was turned to wine.  But, what if when Jesus told them to fill all the jugs with water, the people in charge of filling the vessels had thought to themselves, "What a silly request -- water?  Really?"  If they'd disobeyed and only filled one or two jugs with water, the blessing of an abundance of fine wine would have been greatly reduced.

Instead, these servers obeyed Jesus and reaped an abundance of the finest of wines created by the Maker of the vineyard Himself.  What an amazing blessing!  These people were blessed not only with jar after jar of high quality wine, but of even greater impact, they experienced a mighty miracle.

Have you ever experienced a miracle?  There are degrees of miracles that God supplies -- some small, some big.  This was a mighty miracle of first degree.  I'm sure the servers who were involved in the entire process never forgot what Jesus did that day.  Their lives would be forever touched by the wonder of what they witnessed.

I love the old hymn whose message never grows old or out of date:  "Trust and obey, for there's no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."

This beautiful stained glass window graces the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, South Carolina.  How interesting that it is the gospel of John that holds this story of Jesus.  When I took the second photo close-up of the water to wine, I wasn't sure what I would do with it, but I was intrigued by the beauty of the message.  The brownstone Catholic church is in neo-gothic style and was completed in 1907.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Which Direction?

Even though I took this photo in the white town of Caesare in Spain, it reminds me of an Irish song -- the one that begins, "You take the high road and I'll take the low road..."  Here, in this town perched on a hillside, we had a choice -- veer to the right and take the steep upward roadway, or continue walking straight along an easier, slightly downhill roadway.  Which would you choose?

Then there's the line from the famous poem about a road that diverged in two directions by Robert Frost who wrote, "I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference."  The poem reminds me very much of a verse in Jeremiah:  "This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls" 6:16.

We all want rest for our souls, but directional decisions can stress us out and rob us of that restful spirit.  We frequently come upon crossroads in our lives where we must choose which direction we are going to take.  Teenagers and young adults seem to be faced with the greatest number of crossroads, but they continue to pop up at any age -- and they are usually much harder to choose the wisest direction than the choice of roadways in this photo.

While there are many important decisions and directions we must choose in our lives, there is one decision and direction that is the very most important -- that is the decision whether to accept Christ as Savior to forgive your sins, which directly affects the direction you will take when you expel your last breath (that would be, upward or downward).  There is a verse in Matthew that speaks of that particular crossroad: "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it" 7:13-14.

This is such a vitally important decision that, from time to time, I feel compelled to include a bit about the way of salvation and the necessity to choose that way.  "Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father but by Me.'"

Here are the simple steps to find that way and choose that right path: 

--Confess that you are a sinner unable to save yourself and in need of a Savior.
--Accept the fact that Christ died for your sins and offers you the free gift of salvation. 
--Ask Christ Jesus to forgive you from your sins and save you through His shed blood.
--Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.
--Thank Him for His amazing gift to you and know that you are now His child and are assured a home with Him in heaven some day.

After you've been born again through the gift of salvation through Jesus, you should begin to seek Him and His will for your life.  The more you learn about your amazing Savior, the more you will love Him and learn from Him.

Choose the right path and you will never, ever be sorry.  It will be the best decision you ever make!  As Robert Frost wisely said of choosing the right path, " has made all the difference."