Saving Noah

Poor Noah.

 Nobody seems to be able to get his story right

For decades he’s been imprisoned by Churches in preschool rooms, caricatured and confined to children’s ministry murals. I’m sure this great man of faith would be shocked to learn that his life’s work had been reduced to a cartoon theme about smiling animals.

We’re talking about a man who announced a message of repentance, judgment and salvation for the entire earth. God’s champion of earth’s “last days”.

And now, finally, a big movie about Noah has been released. The biggest yet, as in 130 million dollars big.


Confession time: I am a HUGE Russell Crowe fan, and I love Anthony Hopkin’s acting. I’m also a movie guy. I’ve been looking forward to this one for some time.

The story of Noah is one of the most epic tales in all of human history, demanding that any movie made about him also be equally epic.

So would somebody please explain to me how then can you make a movie this flat, given the amazing source material available?

It seems you would have to intentionally try hard to mess this one up.

In a related story, I am also not a huge art connoisseur, though I have enjoyed repeated trips to London’s National Gallery. Recently I returned from the Louvre in Paris. There, I gazed at ancient artistic portrayals and interpretations of scenes like the crucifixion of Jesus. And though there was a certain level of creativity and artistic license taken, I could still appreciate the effort of the painter to portray the spirit of the event he was painting. After all, art does stimulate the imagination.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear as if Daren Aronofsky (NOAH’s director) even tried to be artistic. And that makes me sad. Instead, he just made stuff up, as in unbelievable stuff that gutted this movie of its inherent credibility. While watching, I really tried to connect with the Noah character and the story line, but instead found myself rooting for everyone else! Noah wasn’t the faith hero the Bible portrays him to be in Hebrews 11. Nothing like you have imagined him. This Noah is pictured as a troubled soul who never really figures out the real reason for the Ark (other than saving innocent animals, obviously not affected by the fall of man and entrance of sin into the world). Again, the credibility factor was virtually nil. Because of this, I don’t expect any person, Christian or otherwise, to walk away mislead about the biblical story. It’s so unbiblical as to make it unbelievable, even in it’s errors.  

Now I definitely think non-Christians can make biblically based movies and do a great job.  That’s not an issue with me. Nor does it bother me that they have to fill in the blanks where the Bible is silent. Literally every “Bible Movie” does this, but the average viewer doesn’t mind or notice because of the allegiance and similarity to the main story. That’s necessary in adapting a book or story into movie. I get it. I have a high tolerance for adaptations of book-to-film projects, even biblical movies.

But giant rock demons? (Imagine the Ents from LOTR meet the Fantastic Four’s the Thing) Middle Earth, yes. But no matter how you slice it, fallen angels becoming big brothers to Noah to help him build the Ark? I don’t think so.

This movie’s portrayal of man’s sin seemed to be directed at what humanity had done to the planet, not so much to one another. While on the Ark, Aronofsky’s Noah turns into a psycho wannabe killer of babies. He’s a man unsure of who he is and confused as to God’s basic mission for him. Where they conjured up this portrayal I’ll never know. It’s almost as bad as what Churches have done to him over in the kid’s ministry. The writer and scholars Aronofsky consulted may have been inhaling that magic herb potion Noah used to put the animals to sleep for a year.

 I’m not a movie critic, just an average moviegoer with an opinion, but I don’t see this as one of Russell Crowe’s better roles (insert unsmiley face here). It may be that Aronofsky truly is a brilliant director but that action/history epics are not his forte. I’ll let others ultimately make that judgment.

I’m not upset, angry or going into “boycott mode”.

I’m just really, really disappointed. I wanted to cheer NOAH on. To be an advocate. I wanted it to be EPIC. To be a home run. Instead, it struck out.

There are literally too many places to mention where the movie missed the mark – biblically, historically, chronologically and theologically. It wasn’t even a good movie.


So what can we redeem from this movie? Here are a few things I appreciated about it:

It did get Noah’s name right.

The movie trailer is really awesome.

People were bad on the earth as the Bible states.

Noah thought himself a sinner (so much so that it clouded all perception of mercy).

There was a global flood.

Noah built an Ark.

People were destroyed.

A dove brought an olive branch.

There was a rainbow at the end.

Cinematically-speaking, I thought the actual flood part was pretty spot on, with tsunami-like violence (as it must have been with subterranean explosions of water everywhere). I thought the crudeness of the Ark’s construction was visually stimulating as well.

So what are we to make of all this? Does this give us more ammo to demonize Hollywood? More reasons to be skeptical, negative and critical of those who attempt to bring faith-based stories to the big screen. I hope not. Even in the midst of overall failure, I still believe in a God who allows no accidents.

While being interviewed on a radio show this week, this thought popped into my head and I remarked, “Noah’s story is one Jesus related to the last days of planet earth. Curiously, at no time in human history since Noah’s day has it been possible for his message of coming global judgment to be broadcast to the whole world . . . until now.”

Though not epic, the timing of this movie may not be a coincidence after all. Despite being a pretty lame movie, I still don’t believe its lack of biblical accuracy is a threat to our faith. Instead, it’s more of a gift, really.

 Should believers go see this movie? Probably, if for no other reason than to draw your own conclusions.

Some Christian reviewers and bloggers have said that it’s pointless to even use NOAH as a conversation piece to start discussions about God, the Bible or the real story of Noah. I disagree. I believe that a part of engaging our culture (as Jesus and Paul did) is discerning the times with an understanding of what to do (I Chron. 12:32). It’s always easier to be negative. Anyone can do that.

On a positive note, the movie NOAH does portray the Creator as a God who judges an evil world, while rescuing his chosen ones from the wrath to come. And that’s real truth we can take and run with.

So back to our original dilemma. Who will free Noah from nursery walls and sub-par movie portrayals? Who will tell the world the truth?

Will the rocks cry out? Or will it be you?


For more about the real Noah and how his generation relates to ours, pick up a copy of As It Was in the Days of Noah – Warnings from Prophecy about the Coming Global Storm.

Or better yet, blow the dust off your Bible and read it for yourself.

That story really is EPIC.

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I’ve been there . . . . but I haven’t done that.

I went to the beach for my vacation. But it’s not what you think.

Rather than lay out and soak in the sun, my wife and I just returned from 2 weeks in Normandy, France. We stayed at a little 18th century cottage in the country, spending our time touring battlefields, historical sites and museums, visiting villages, stopping to snack at bake shops, drinking coffee, sightseeing, riding horses and taking in the beauty of Normandy.


It was our 32nd wedding anniversary trip, and the first time we had been away as a couple in ___ years (insert “you’re a bad husband” vibes here). But it was also a “Bucket List” item for me, as since childhood I’ve been fascinated with the story of D-Day. Let’s just say, it was an epic moment for me.


I walked on Omaha Beach.

I followed the steps of the Band of Brothers.


I bought a 70-year-old Army helmet, buried in Normandy ground for over 65 years.


I walked for hours in and among German gun batteries.


I strolled with reverence among the over 9,000 white marble crosses at the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. Over 1,500 are known only to God.


To say I was overwhelmed and overcome would be an understatement.


What those men did on that day (the pivotal moment of the 20th century) goes far beyond what a book or a movie can portray. The beach sand at Omaha, now frequented by fishermen, families and tourist, was once soaked in crimson. The average age of a soldier coming off those landing crafts was 22 years old. Some were still in the teens. Many never made it off their boats. Some exited their landing crafts only to be drowned, while others were cut down by an MG-42 machine gun firing down on them from the cliffs above. Men were slaughtered, cut in half, blown apart. But those fortunate enough to dodge the bullets that morning kept moving forward – some in fear, some for survival, but most because it was what they had been trained and ordered to do.

Later that morning, they breached Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, pushing back the Third Reich War Machine, gaining ground, and ultimately establishing a beachhead. And that’s what turned the tide of World War II. That’s why we’re free.


Today, all these men are dead or dying. One of the Band of Brothers, “Wild Bill” Guarnere, passed away while we were visiting the very battlefields where he fought. Those who remain hobble with canes and roll in wheelchairs. And before long, they will all be gone. They are now feeble, frail and sometimes forgotten. But when they were young, they saved the world.

We owe a profound debt of gratitude to theirs, and any generation that fights for freedom.


Yes, I’ve been there now.

But I still haven’t done that.

Never will.

Ready for the Red Carpet?

82nd Annual Academy Awards - "Meet The Oscars" New York

Watching this year’s Academy Awards was a first for me . . . well, sort of. For the past 8 years I’ve missed the Television event watched by several hundred million (not a billion) people all over the world. The reason for this is that the church I attend meets on Sunday nights, and well, I kinda have a standing commitment to be there, seeing as how I am the pastor. But Sunday night’s “weather event” here in Little Rock changed all that, and I was forced to cancel our gathering for only the second time in 81/2 years (the other due to a tornado). I don’t like to cancel. And I don’t like to miss.

And so, just before leaving to make the long journey from the building we rent on Sundays to my home 6 blocks away, my wife and I decided to invite a few close friends over for an impromptu dinner and Oscar-watching party. I was so impressed with the overall dignity of the event, with poised and prepared acceptance speeches made by well-deserving recipients. For some of the winners, the award came as somewhat of a surprise. Of course, if you’re nominated, you already know you have a chance to win. But still, if you’re a relative newcomer to the big screen, you typically don’t expect to walk away with the 13.5 inch, 8 ½ pound statuette of a knight holding a crusader’s sword atop a reel of film.

I won a state-wide football competition as a boy. I got this (back when trophies were made of the heavy stuff).Oscar

Some films and actors are recurring nominees, while others burst on the scene out of nowhere, and writing their own version of the Cinderella Story. Good for them. To be recognized as the best in your field, even if only for a brief moment, has to be one of the most satisfying experiences in life.

Some actors have to wait and receive that “Lifetime Achievement Award” while others are honored “In Memoriam”, given a posthumous recognition. But we all long for validation and confirmation of knowing that our lives and contribution to the world have had some real meaning. For actors, you can’t receive any higher honor than an Academy Award. Congratulations to all those who make it look so easy, and whose performances truly inspire, challenge and change people’s lives.

As followers of Jesus, that moment for us comes at another awards ceremony, one the Bible says will occur when we meet the Lord at death or rapture (2 Cor. 5:10-12; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). Earthly accolades given by people are affirming and meaningful, and God certainly gives us His approval along the way. But nothing will compare to the Day when Jesus Christ Himself hands out the “imperishable wreaths” (1 Cor 9:25) to those who have brought Him fame during their brief stay on the earth. It will be the one ceremony where the Presenter outshines the award itself.

Don’t ever stumble into the lie that your life is a failure just because people aren’t telling how great you are or how much they appreciate you. Just keep being faithful, moving forward with the confidence that nothing you do for Him will ever be in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).


I have a feeling that one day you’ll be glad you did.

Some Who Wander Really Are Lost

July 13, 2001, will be a day 13-year-old Cody Clawson will never forget. The Utah Boy Scout and his buddies from Troop 241 headed out for a few days of hiking in Targhee National Forest, near the Yellowstone National Park boundary and about 40 miles north of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. But while the scouts were setting up camp, young Cody lost his sense of direction while carrying supplies from a vehicle to the campsite. In a matter of minutes he was completely lost in the thick forest. Around 2 p.m. on that day, Cody was discovered missing by his troop leaders and fellow scouts. Four hours later they finally contacted search-and-rescue personnel from Idaho and Teton County in Wyoming. Night fell, and the search was postponed until morning. A bitter cold blanketed the dark, secluded Yellowstone forest that night. Making matters worse, it rained that evening, washing away any tracks of evidence where Cody had been. Wearing only a T-shirt, shorts and sandals, the young Boy Scout took cover under a rock outcropping and waited for morning.


As dawn came that Tuesday, a Wyoming Air Patrol plane along with several private aircraft had been employed in the operation. Though family and friends feared the worst while hoping for the best, anxiously waiting for any news regarding the boy’s whereabouts. At about 8:30am, after over two hours of flying, a diligent and skilled helicopter pilot finally spotted Cody. Swooping down, he carefully maneuvered the aircraft, landing nearby. Tired, cold, hungry and soggy, 13-year-old Cody Clawson climbed to safety inside, surprised to learn he had wandered 10 miles away from the Scout Camp. He had been separated from his Troop for over 14 long hours. But that wasn’t Cody’s biggest surprise that summer morning. Imagine his astonishment upon discovering the man flying that helicopter was Harrison Ford!

A part-time Jackson resident and proficient pilot, Ford regularly volunteers his helicopter flying skills for rescue missions. He had spent two hours that morning scanning the landscape for any sign of the lost boy. Happy to finally be rescued, Cody’s gratitude turned to amazement upon recognizing the Hollywood superstar at the controls.

Okay, if you’re gonna get lost in the wilderness, who better to rescue you from danger than Indiana Jones?! Flying back, Ford glanced over at Cody through his aviator sunglasses. “Boy, you sure must have earned a merit badge for this one,” no doubt flashing his trademark half-smile.

“I already earned that badge last summer,” Clawson replied.

“Did you get an autograph?” his fellow Scouts later asked.

“No,” replied the grateful 13-year-old. “I got something better than an autograph out of the deal. I got a hug and a handshake.”

Maybe he should get a compass on his next birthday.

Actor Harrison Ford

 You’ve probably never been lost in the Wyoming wilderness, OR been rescued by Indiana Jones. But we all possess a proclivity to lose a spiritual sense of direction. An inherent inclination

Doing this regularly helps you know where you are (and more importantly) where you’re“wander off the path”, if you will, straying off course – personally and spiritually. In a culture given to radical extremes, we trivialize the essential things in life (family, faith, spirituality) while making icons out of the relatively insignificant ones (career, image, obsession with self). In the process, we lose not only our direction, but also our perspective as well. We develop spiritual “vertigo”, forgetting which end is up. Our vision gets fuzzy, and we eventually overemphasize all the wrong issues. We even take good thingsand elevate them to a place of unhealthy importance. Because of this, every now and it’s a good idea to pause and do a “self-diagnostic”, checking ourselves to see if our life vision is still 20/20 and directed at our True North.

You know?