Why I enjoyed Exodus: Gods and Kings

exodus-poster-1Last week, I went to see Exodus: Gods and Kings. I remember first seeing the trailer for it a few months ago and being instantly intrigued and interested. I rarely ever go see movies in theaters, but I knew I wanted to watch this one. And I’m really glad I did. In fact, I really enjoyed it.

Of course, because Exodus is a retelling of a Bible story and because two other huge films have already been made on the same story (Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments in 1956 and the 1998 DreamWorks film The Prince of Egypt), Exodus has been scrutinized from the very beginning. Especially in the Christian community, people were concerned that director Ridley Scott would take way too many creative liberties with the plot and characters.

Well, Ridley Scott certainly took creative liberties. Even more than the creators of The Ten Commandments and The Prince of Egypt. In fact, Exodus really only followed the main pillars of the Biblical plot: the Israelites in slavery, Moses being called by God to deliver them, the ten plagues, the parting/crossing of the Red Sea. Many of the details were completely different from what we attribute to the real story in the book of Exodus.

But despite all of this, I enjoyed watching the film. I’m really glad I went. Here’s why:

Exodus: Gods and Kings made me think. It presented a story I’ve known all of my life from a completely different perspective. And while this perspective was inaccurate in many respects, it caused me to reconsider my preconceived notions of the Bible that I’ve developed which may not be as true as I once thought they were.

For example, Ridley Scott chose to portray God in the form of an eleven-year-old boy with a very questionable personality. I found this portrayal to be strange and concerning, but it made me deeply consider my view of God. When it comes to Biblical stories like the exodus, I think we tend to see God as a disembodied, deep booming voice without much depth to His character. So seeing God depicted in a totally opposite manner was good for me. It was a good reminder to me that God is so much deeper than we often make Him out to be.

The storyline of Exodus also includes an enormous number of details that are nowhere to be found in the Biblical story. But that made me realize: we don’t know a bunch of the details. In fact, many of the details that we do treat as Biblical fact aren’t that at all. Just as Ridley Scott filled in the holes with his ideas for the plot, so do we Christians. If you go back and read the story in the Bible, you might be surprised to find what isn’t in the story that we all assume is fact. Watching Exodus helped me to think about the human element of the story of the exodus, something I think we often forget. It provided human plot details that may or may not have been true. But either way, it made me think.

exodus-wave-posterSomething I very much appreciated about Exodus was that I never got the impression that this film was an attempt to discredit the Biblical account. Sure, it took a lot of liberties, some of which were not accurate. And yes, it did try to naturalize some of the plagues. And I did disagree with how the parting of the Red Sea was depicted. But through all of that, I never felt as if the creators were attacking the Bible story. In fact, I appreciated and respected the creativity and thought put into the film by Ridley Scott and everyone else.

Ridley Scott is a self-described atheist. But he doesn’t attack the Bible. In fact, throughout the film, despite the inaccuracies, I see respect for the original story. And that is remarkable. I think it’s neat that an “avowed atheist” would create a film of such depth based on the Bible.

After I saw the film, I was asked if I’d recommend it to anyone to see. And I had to stop and think before answering. My answer was this: If you’re looking to watch a Bible story on film, then don’t see Exodus. But if you’re looking to be challenged and to think, then by all means do so. If you enjoy movies of depth that leave you pondering and reflective, then this is the movie for you. And even if you don’t enjoy the story, the cinematography is phenomenal. I almost think it alone was worth my ticket.

I very much enjoyed seeing Exodus: Gods and Kings. It wasn’t what I expected. But it was good. It made me think hard about a lot of elements in the story. So to Ridley Scott, I say well done. I very much respect your work. Thank you for not attacking the Bible, but helping me be intentional about what I do believe.

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Just Because I Can

head buttNo one likes to argue. No one likes conflict. Or at least that’s what we think. That’s what we tell ourselves. But it’s not true. In fact, often we feed on conflict. We like to argue. We like going contrary to everyone else. Why?

God has created humans in an incredible way. We are complex, full of emotion and depth that I don’t believe anyone will ever completely understand. And one of those characteristics is our rebellious side. Yes, we all have one. Even the most compliant person has a part of them that wants to resist. Rebellion makes us feel independent and strong. We’re standing against something. And in some ways, that’s really good. If that rebellious nature is channeled right, it can make us stronger and better people.

Unfortunately, there’s a downside of our rebellious side. When we find that we have the strength and gut to be contrary to others, we then start exercising that just because we can. We feel good being different and strong and independent, so we want more.

Now, this is different from a good healthy critical mind. It’s really important that we are careful about what we believe and what we think. But sadly what can happen is we can move from healthy critical thinking to always looking for a bone to pick. This has happened to me. At times I’ve found myself intentionally looking for problems in what others are saying not because I want to be cautious in what I believe and not because I want to have an intelligent conversation with them, but instead just because I want to find something wrong just so I can be a little rebellious. I want to argue just because I can.

We express this tendency in many different situations. It may be in a dinner time conversation. Maybe a text. Maybe it’s Facebook. In fact, today I was tempted to respond to a Facebook post I disagreed with. But I didn’t. And part of the reason was because I knew that deep down I just wanted to disagree because I could. It wasn’t really because I wanted to engage in a discussion on the issue. I just wanted to be a little rebellious. I might have been right about my opinion, but my motive was wrong.

Let’s admit it, it’s fun sometimes to go against the status quo. It’s fun to shake things up. But don’t let that feed you. Don’t rebel just for the sake of rebelling. Don’t start an argument (as orderly as it might be) just for the sake of criticizing. Have a purpose. And be honest with yourself. I’ve found that sometimes I’ll create a purpose for myself just so I feel good about arguing. Basically I’m lying to myself, telling myself that I have a good reason to be critical and rebel a little, but in reality I just want to argue because I can.

calvin_arguingNo one likes people who are always correcting everyone else. No one likes people who always have to bring up something contradictory whenever they’re in a conversation. Don’t be that person. Choose your battles. Choose the ones that matter, the ones that you actually care about. The ones that don’t fuel your desire to rebel just because you can.

Be the kind of person that people enjoy conversing with because you can disagree respectfully but you’re not out to disagree for the sake of disagreement. Be uplifting. Be encouraging. Be wise in choosing to be contradictory.

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Modesty: A New Perspective

A young woman looking at clothes

Modesty. It’s an issue people have been discussing for years. A lot of years. And we still can’t come to an agreement. Maybe we never will. I’ve been thinking a lot about the issue of modesty for quite a while and want to share a completely new perspective on the issue. The focus will be modesty for women, but I believe that what I’m sharing can apply to both genders pretty equally.

So get ready for something maybe a little different than you’re used to when reading about the issue of modesty.

I’ve noticed that modesty has become an issue that’s a whole lot bigger than it needs to be. Here’s what I mean. The Bible makes it clear that purity of heart and mind is just as important as purity of body (Matthew 5:27-28). But a mistake that Christians have made is that they’ve inadvertently employed the power of suggestion to make things a problem that aren’t really a problem at all.

Let me explain. Throughout history, clothing fashions have changed a whole lot. It’s interesting to note that some of today’s styles would have been considered horribly inappropriate a hundred fifty years ago, and styles that were totally fine a hundred fifty years ago are today considered immodest. Why? Just for the simple reason that what society deems acceptable changes over the years. It’s how culture operates. And for us to say that the standards for styles today are better than those from a hundred fifty years ago just doesn’t make sense. For example, at one time in history, exposure of ankles was considered immodest and provocative, while exposure of additional skin elsewhere was completely acceptable. Today it’s the opposite. What was once considered immodest is now considered modest, and what once was considered modest is now considered immodest.

My point is this: it’s not how much skin is shown. It’s not where that skin is. It’s not about the tightness of the clothing. It’s not about any of the things we typically talk about in the “modesty talk.” Here’s what it is about. It’s about attitude and heart. The attitude and heart of both the girl wearing the clothes, and the guy looking at the girl.

In fact, I’m much more inclined to put more responsibility on the guys than the girls. When I see a girl and my mind goes in a direction it shouldn’t, my reaction is to change my thoughts and apologize to God for those thoughts, not to immediately think “wow, her clothes are immodest.” Why?

Because I chose to have those thoughts. I allowed my mind to go that direction. My attitude and my perspective is my choice and my responsibility. I control it. I can make a decision when I see a girl to either think things that are inappropriate and objectify her, or to view her as the beautiful woman God designed. And it’s completely up to me. My thoughts and my mind are controlled by me, not by anyone else.

A challenge I face, though, is that for much of my life I’ve had the impression that certain clothing or styles are “sinful.” But what that did was sensationalize them. The power of suggestion and curiosity is huge. Because I was led to believe that a certain style was sinful, my mind would go there. But as I’ve trained my mind to move away from those thoughts, I’ve been able to view styles not as “sinful” or “not sinful” but instead simply as a style. Guys, our minds are our responsibility. But removing the stereotypes sure would help. As I’ve been able to remove my preconceived beliefs about certain types of clothing, I’ve discovered that they are no longer a stumbling block. The style hasn’t changed. How much skin it reveals or covers hasn’t changed. How tight or loose it is hasn’t changed. But my mind has.

Intention-MattersI do have a few thoughts for girls as well. Because the issue of modesty ultimately comes down to attitude and heart, I think there is some responsibility on the side of the girls as well. I would encourage ladies to consider their motive and attitude for what they wear and how they wear it. Because it shows. I know that might sound strange, but normally it is pretty easy to tell why a girl is wearing what she’s wearing. I can typically tell if she’s looking for attention, if she just wants something comfortable, if she wants to look pretty, if she doesn’t care, if she wants to appear provocative. And that most certainly does factor into the equation. Guys are definitely going to have a tougher time keeping their mind pure if the girls around them are wearing clothing with the intention of getting the wrong kind of attention. So it is helpful for girls to be aware of their attitude and what they might be communicating through what they wear and how they carry themselves.

Also, ladies, it’s good to be aware of the kind of guys you’ll be interacting with. In Romans, Paul talks a lot about being aware of what could be a stumbling block to some. Depending on how guys have been raised and their background (among other things), certain styles could be a stumbling block. That doesn’t mean you should never wear that style, but it may mean not wearing it in certain situations.

Notice that in this entire post, I haven’t said anything about amount of clothing or how much skin should be allowed to be shown or how tight or loose clothing should be or whether one-piece swimsuits are more modest than two-piece suits or how skirts need to be a certain length or anything about necklines or anything like that. That’s because rules just don’t work. The Bible doesn’t make rules. In fact, it has very little to say on the subject of modesty. And when it does address the issue, the focus is primarily on attitude and heart. So who are we to make rules? Also, rules are made to be broken. Someone playing by “the rules” can be super immodest but get away with it and someone “breaking the rules” could be totally modest but restricted by the rules. It’s not about rules; it’s about heart.

To wrap this up…

Ladies, as a guy I would ask you to analyze your heart and your attitude as you choose what to wear. But don’t allow the stupidity of guys to limit you. You are beautiful. You are attractive. And that’s good. That’s what God intended! Guys, let’s take responsibility for our mind and our thoughts. Let’s get our minds out of the gutter. We control what we think. We control our attitude and our heart. It’s up to us. Let’s take some responsibility for what belongs to us and not shove it onto the girls. We are men. Let’s act like it.

If you’re interested in reading another man’s perspective on this, check out this blog post. I can’t speak for anything else on the blog, but thought this post was excellent.

Thoughts on this topic? Share in the comments below!

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Don’t Wait to Be a Hero

I think this is my favorite TED talk out of all the ones I’ve ever watched.

As I re-watched this video, I got goosebumps at the end. This message really hits home for me. How often do I not do something because I think it won’t matter or because I don’t think it’s big enough?

Don’t wait. I love what Mark Bezos concludes with:

Not every day is going to offer us a chance to save somebody’s life, but every day offers us an opportunity to affect one.

It’s not the accomplishment that matters. People matter. It’s not the size of what we do. It’s that we do.

Don’t wait to be a hero. Who can you be a hero to today?

Social Media and Loneliness

This video is quite profound:

Does this mean that social media is a bad thing? Not necessarily. You see, social media is a tool. And just like any other tool, if it’s used correctly, it can be very beneficial and build up society. But if it’s used incorrectly, it can be an amazing tool.

I think it’s time that we re-evaluated our views on social media. Instead of viewing it as a separate world, what if we viewed it as part of the real world, and then treated it as such? I’ll be examining this concept in future blog posts. But for now, I challenge you to think about your use of social media. If you don’t already, start treating your interactions on social media like you treat real-world interactions. A new perspective could cure our society’s issue of loneliness.

You Never Know

Recently, a friend on Facebook shared this true story that is powerful, thought-provoking, inspiring, challenging, and fits perfectly with the purpose of my blog.

I went to the store to buy ammunition for my airsoft gun. When I reached the aisle that carried airsoft guns and supplies, there was a man standing there looking at the various guns that you could buy. He asked me a few questions, and we started talking about gun rights here in the U.S. As soon as I had finished giving him my opinion on the matter, he turned to me and said, “Wow, how old are you?” I replied, “I’m 16.” He looked at me for several seconds without saying anything, then he proceeded to say, “There’s no way you can be 16 and speak that eloquently and actually know what you’re talking about.” I was slightly taken aback, in a pleasant way, but nevertheless I had difficulty thinking of how to reply other than with a “Thank you.” He went on to tell me that he was a lawyer that worked for a huge law firm in my hometown…. He told me that he had never met a person my age that could communicate their stand on a certain issue with the same level of understanding and professionalism that I had when I spoke to him. I thanked him multiple times, and the last thing he asked me was, “Where do you go to school?” I said, “I’m home-schooled actually.” Again, he looked at me for several seconds and said, “If homeschooling produces such well-educated, polite, and professional students, then I am absolutely going to home-school my children.” It was the ultimate lollipop moment… I thanked him several times… We finished the conversation, and he told me that he was very impressed by what I had said to him. He soon left, but he left me with a thought that keeps reverberating in my mind: people pay attention to the way we behave, both inside and outside of our education. The image we portray in such circumstances either promotes God or degrades Him, and as Christians, we are to glorify God, not only in what we say, but also in what we do. I knew this already, but it carried so much more meaning after my experience in talking to this man. I’m not boasting about my accomplishments, but I am pointing out that even the smallest things we do can have a huge impact on others…

When I read this, I was amazed. Think of the influence and impact this young man had on that lawyer, just because of how he communicated! Let this sink in for a moment – this lawyer determined the style of education for his children based off of the actions of one individual! This just goes to show the influence, the power, that each of us have in our communication.

Will you be intentional and purposeful in your communication? How are you going to use your influence? You never know who you’re impacting.

Lollipop Moments

This is one of the best TED talks I have seen. The six minutes it takes to watch it is a valuable investment of your time.

I came away from watching this video with two main observations:

Tell people that you appreciate them.

“How many of you guys have a lollipop moment? A moment where someone said something or did something that you feel fundamentally made your life better? How many of you have told that person they did it? See, why not? We celebrate birthdays where all you have to do is not die for 365 days, and yet we’ve got people who have made our lives better walk around without knowing it.”

Drew Dudley hit the nail on the head with this quote. Imagine if someone came up to you and told you that you’d had a profound impact on their lives. Think about the impact that would make on you. I know it would make my day, or even my whole week! Some of you may have had that experience already – you know what it’s like. Go do that for the people in your life who have profoundly impacted you. Show appreciation to the people you appreciate.

What kind of influence did you have when you don’t remember what you did?

Drew Dudley said that he didn’t at all remember the entire situation. In this case, something he had no recollection of ended up positively impacting someone. But he didn’t remember it. What about the times we don’t remember? What kind of impact have we had that we aren’t aware of? It could have been a positive impact, but it could also have been negative. This is why purposeful communication is so important. Apparently the scenario didn’t stick with Drew Dudley because his brain for some reason didn’t recognize it as important. But it was important. We can never let our guard down. We’re always communicating, so we always have to be intentional in what we communicate.

People have changed our lives, and we are changing other’s lives. Don’t let opportunities slip away, both to thank people and to be a positive influence.

Who’s In Control?

“‘Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? … Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” … But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.[‘]” – Matthew 6:25-27, 31, 33 (NKJV)

I love this passage of Scripture! Here, Jesus states quite clearly that we are not to worry. But although we all know we’re not supposed to worry, actually not worrying is a whole other story. I want to share with you a few thoughts on worry from the perspective of God’s sovereignty, in the hopes that it will encourage you to truly not worry and trust in God.

Why do we worry? I recently realized something very interesting. Normally, when we worry, we’re worrying about something that we don’t have any control over. If we can control it, then we don’t typically worry about it. For example, I may be stuck it traffic, worrying that I won’t get home in time for something. I can’t control anything about the situation. But if I had left late, not giving me enough time, I wouldn’t be worrying. I’d probably be irritated at myself, but not worried. If we have an alternative course of action, we normally do that instead of worry. So when we have no control, we start worrying.

But what does worry communicate? If we want to be purposeful in our communication, we ought to identify what we’re communicating when we’re worrying.

To be blunt, worry communicates a lack of faith in God. You see, since we worry about things that we can’t control, in essence we’re saying that we think we should have control in that situation. But clearly we don’t. That means it’s in God’s domain. So if we’re worrying, then we’re saying that we don’t trust God enough for Him to take care of the situation and we think we should have control instead of God.

But here’s the good news. God is in control, regardless of whether or not we see it or understand what He’s doing! Remember, God sees the big picture; we don’t. We’re humans; God is perfect. God is sovereign! He holds the world in the palm of His hand. This is where faith enters. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” We can’t see the big picture, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It just means we have to have faith. We must trust in God and His sovereignty.

So when you’re tempted to start worrying, remember this: you’re worrying because you’re not in control, which just means God is in control. That’s actually a really good situation to be in!

Speak with Conviction

When we desire to speak with purpose, to communicate with purpose, we must have conviction. This video is definitely worth three minutes of your time.

Do we speak like we believe what we’re saying? Or are we afraid to speak with conviction when speaking on what we believe? As communicators for Christ, we are communicating messages that are grounded in God’s word. We must speak with conviction, with passion, with authority. It doesn’t matter how others view us as long as we speak with grace in addition to conviction. Because our message is grounded in the greatest Authority, the strongest Foundation.

Disclaimer: While this video is completely appropriate for all audiences, I understand that other content from Taylor Mali is not. I don’t at all endorse anything from him, except for this video, which is excellent.