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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Let YOUR light shine

In Galatians 2:20, Paul says this: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” Through the blood and the cross of Jesus, our very being, our identity, is intrinsically linked to God. Romans 8:16-17 puts it this way, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.” At the surface, this is incredible. And when we dig even deeper into understanding our identity in Christ, it is overwhelming and empowering. Being a Christian isn’t simply about getting right with God. God has made us a part of furthering His kingdom. He has created each of us the way we are for a purpose.

lightbulbRecently, I was thinking about Matthew 5:14-16, where Jesus talks about us being the light of the world. And I noticed something I’d never thought about before. In verse sixteen, He says, to let your light shine before men. And I got to thinking about what that really means, specifically the phrase “your light.” I believe that Jesus here is commanding us not only to bring glory to God, but He’s also implying something deeper. And that is that each of us have a different kind of light. He didn’t tell us to let God’s light shine, but rather our own light. I think this is a reference to our own identity. Each of us are special. Our identity is part of our light. The idea here is that each of us brings God glory and furthers His kingdom in our own special way. God’s work for each of us will be different. But it all matters. Think about your personality, your ideas, your passions, your dreams, your talents, and your gifts. All of that was given to you by God. All of that is your light. Jesus is telling us to let ourselves, who we are, our very identity, be what points others to God. So letting our light shine doesn’t only mean sharing the gospel. It also means honing our talents. Pursing our dreams. Developing our gifts. Embracing who God has created us to be and striving to become that in the best way we can. That is what it means to let our light shine. Because that is when God is glorified – when we use what He has given us to its fullest potential.

Now, how do we achieve this practically? I know for me this is a kind of radical concept that goes against the current of much of what I’ve believed for so long. Here are a few ways we can begin to incorporate this lifestyle into our lives. First, identify your gifts and interests. Are you gifted in biology? Or music? Or acting? Or accounting? Or pastoring? Next, identity what you’re passionate about, what your dream is – what it is that fires you up. Maybe it’s working with kids. Or maybe it’s equipping your fellow believers. Maybe it’s studying and learning more about the world around you. And then find where your gifts and your passions intersect. And then pursue that. As long as you are seeking God’s wisdom and counsel along the way and letting Him direct your thoughts, you can’t go wrong. That intersection is how you can let your light shine.

Is this easy? No. But that’s okay. Because your identity also tells you that God has empowered you to rise to the occasion, to be the person He created you to be. It might be hard, but it’ll be worth.

God created you for a purpose. He created you the way you are for a purpose. He gave you your gifts and talents for a purpose. He gave you your dreams and passions for a purpose. So use them. Puruse your dreams. Develop your gifts. Because through that, you are furthering Christ’s kingdom. Let your light shine!

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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Decision Time

Making decisions is just a part of life. Some decision will be bigger, some smaller. But they’re all important. Here are a few thoughts on making decisions and not regretting it later.

  1. Be practical. Take a look at the facts and be honest. Facts aren’t everything, but they provide a whole lot of insight into situations. By viewing the issue from a pragmatic perspective, you’ll be able to weigh the facts and look at the pros and cons from a balanced view.
  2. Get advice. Don’t try to make decisions on your own. Proverbs 15:22 says that “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” Talk to others to hear their thoughts. You may not necessarily take their advice, but talking to them helps you think through the issue and also see things from perspectives that aren’t your own.
  3. Feelings do matter. Just like facts aren’t everything, neither are feelings. But it’s true that gut instincts are important to pay attention to. How do you feel about each option? What does your gut tell you?
  4. Talk to God. Ultimately, a decision isn’t really your own. It’s God’s. Read His word and talk with Him. I recently spoke with my uncle to get his advice on a decision I needed to make, and he told me that God will not hold me accountable for the results if I follow what God tells me. If you make the decision God tells you to make, you’ll have no regrets.

Once you’ve made the decision, stand confident in it. If you’ve chosen the path that God has directed you to, go forward knowing you’re doing the right thing.

Decisions are exciting and challenging at the same time. But don’t view them as obstacles; view them as part of the journey!

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Image courtesy of jev55 on Flickr – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jev55/

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Willing to be Wrong

I’m a very different person today than I was five years ago. And much of that I can attribute to one factor: the willingness to be wrong and the willingness to change. You see, I used to be extremely closed-minded. But I never would have considered myself as such. I thought I was a good Christian who was willing to obey God and follow Him wherever He might take me. But that wasn’t really the case.

I limited God. Not consciously. But I did it nonetheless. I held strong opinions and thought I was right. And I firmly believed that the Bible was on my side. And for a lot, that was true. But my view of the world was small, extremely limited. And so I limited God to the world I saw when in fact I was missing so much.

So when God started shaking things up in my life, I was really stubborn. I thought I was right because I looked at the world so narrowly. But slowly my perspective began to broaden. I began realizing that life was so much bigger than just me and what I could see. I started realizing that my life was just one piece in God’s amazing kingdom. And as my view of the world began to grow, my opinions on issues began to change.

I’m still in the process of realizing how much bigger life is than just me. And when I try to look at the world through God’s eyes, I see things so differently. When I look at issues from other people’s perspectives, I see things so differently.

I’m learning not to allow my perspective to make the rules. Because my perspective is just that. A perspective. It’s one way to see something. I can’t base my beliefs merely on what I see. Everyone has a perspective. And I have to recognize that.

Try it out. Look at life from another perspective. Try to see the world the way God sees it. It just might change your opinions on some things. It’s an uplifting feeling, though, because you start realizing life is so much bigger than you ever could imagine! Be willing to be wrong. And be willing to change.

 

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What’s Your Standard?

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For everything in life, we have a standard. Whether it be a tape measure to determine the length of a board or a rubric to determine the quality of an essay, we use standards all of the time in every area of life. Some standards aren’t as obvious as a tape measure or a rubric. When we eat food, for example, we determine its quality by taste. We probably wouldn’t be able to explain how exactly we determine whether or not a certain food tastes good or not, though. Nevertheless, we still measure the quality of food against some sort of a standard.

What standard do you have for your life? How do you determine what’s a good choice to make and what’s not a good choice? How do you determine the path you’ll take in life? What do you use to measure how successful you are?

Whether we realize it or not, we’re using a standard to measure our lives against. Therefore, it’s really important that we choose our standard, that we have a standard we can point to. As Christians, the standard we should have ought to be pretty clear. God’s Word is the only standard we should abide by and measure our lives by.

Sadly, many Christians say that the Bible is their standard, but don’t actually practice it. I know it’s hard to recognize Scripture as my standard sometimes, when the Bible’s instructions are in conflict with my own opinion or desire. But it’s just a fact that honoring God isn’t easy. However, although it might not be easy, honoring God’s truth as your standard brings joy, peace, confidence, and satisfaction! What do you say your standard is? What really is your standard? The answers to these questions may not be the same. They should be though.

I pray that you will trust God and make His Word the standard for your life. Always. Regardless of how hard it gets. Regardless of what might have to change in your life. It’s absolutely worth it! Because when the Bible is your standard, you are on God’s side! “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31, NKJV)

What’s your standard?