Husband. Dad to 5. Student Ministry Pastor. Follower of Jesus. Yatta yatta.


I confess, I’m not really much of a movie man.  

They are expensive (especially if I take all 7 of the Berrytribe like we do every Christmas). It’s mostly a blind gamble as to their quality, which I can’t afford the time or money to risk too often these days.  And, for the most part, they make lousy dates with my wife because you walk out 3 hours later, $30 poorer and not knowing one another any better by the investment.  I’d rather go for a walk and grab a meal together. 

But that said, I do have movies that I love.  Without tainting your opinion of me with those titles, I think their common threads are some combination of these: 

  1. They have a character I want to emulate or be like.
  2. They often are “based” on a true story or a book that I have read
  3. They often have at least some comic relief in the drama of the narrative.


So, when I went to see Noah on opening day last Friday with some friends, I think that without saying it, that’s kinda what I was expecting.  I’ve read the book and even memorized a few lines from Noah’s story.   My favorite is Genesis 6:9.  It reads, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, Noah walked with God.”  I wanted that to be true.

I wanted to walk out of the theatre appreciating some of the creative license on plot twists and concepts that might have been true or were within the realm of possible.  I wanted to laugh a little.  But mostly, I wanted to walk out wanting to be Noah.  I wanted to leave the theatre like you do when you leave a great funeral, wanting to emulate the one in whose name we have gathered.  I know I didn’t walk the Earth with Noah, but I wanted to feel like I wished I could have been in his family or at least have known him.

But on those notes, this movie fell flat.  It left me with a distaste for the character Noah, a silent/ angry/ distant God, and a sense that what I just watched was mythology, not a remake of an ancient truth.

Yet, in spite of that, here’s a few reasons I’d tell you to see it and why I’ll eventually watch it with my own kids so we can wrestle with it:

(warning… might be a movie spoiler or two down here)


I was the one who decorated our kid’s nursery with cute little animals walking 2 by 2 into the ark.  We had several toy play sets and all kinds of stuffed animals for kids to remake the scene with as they moved through their toddler years.  I wouldn’t change that…

… but all the Bible stories we tell little kids are age-appropriately edited.  At some point, faith development requires you undo that censorship and pull the covers back on the rest of the story.  The kids Bible you grew up with was missing some verses to say the least.  Think about it:  David and Goliath ends with David decapitating Goliath and then carrying his head around all the way to Jerusalem and then displaying Goliath’s weapons like a treasure in his tent.  Can you imagine the uproar if the U.S. soldiers did that with Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden?  Not exactly what we would even call humane treatment of even your enemy.

When the walls of Jericho come down by the power of God, they devote the city to God and then ALL the inhabitants and ALL their livestock are killed by the Israelites.  After Elijah defeats the prophets of Baal in an epic showdown with fire from heaven, he has his opponents captured and then slaughtered.  Yes, that’s the word the NIV uses to describe it… slaughtered.   That definitely never makes it in the picture pop-up Bible.

The truth is: Noah and his family and some animals live, but everyone else dies.  EVERYONE else dies.  Neither the Bible nor this Movie leave that fact ambiguous.  Much like The Passion of the Christ did not hide the blood on the crucifixion, neither does the Noah story hide the death and destruction the flood caused.  In fact, Noah’s kids even wrestle with it as they hear the screams of the last few survivors as they sit inside the safety of the boat, begging Noah to do something.

You can’t bury this in faith.  If you’re going to follow Jesus or claim that God is loving, you’re going to have to come to terms with this text.  Keep reading…


Despite the horrific reality of a world that drowns to death, as the viewer, you actually never feel guilty about those who die because the movie depicts them as horribly evil.  They rape women and abduct children.  They kill animals and eat their meat raw and bloody.  Sin has literally ruined the world.   I kind of saw God’s reason for the flood in a new light.  I almost wanted to rid the world of them myself.  Genesis 6:11-12 says, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. ”  I thought the film did a good job of depicting this reality.


For example, when Noah finally lands on dry land, he has survivors guilt and tries to drink his worries away like an alcoholic.   The Biblical Noah story does in fact have Noah naked and drunk near the end of it.  I never quite understood this in the text of the Scriptures and seems to be a backward move from “Noah was a righteous man” who was blameless and walked with God.  The movie made me wonder if in fact Noah was dealing with “survivor’s guilt” on a level that was literally almost unbearable.  I was moved to compassion for his response and reminded how quickly sin creeps back into the human condition, even after given a clean slate to restart.


If you haven’t read Genesis chapters 6-9 in a while, then this movie will cause you to do that.  It will also present an opportunity for you to do that with your friends.  My guess is that there’s a lot of people who went to this film who even go to church and didn’t know where the line of truth and stretching the truth actually was on this film.  Sure, they weren’t fooled into thinking that Rock People built the Ark, but I would bet that most asked, “Is that in the story? Does the Bible say that? I’m confused, I think I need to go re-read this story again.”

If the movie did that, even a little, in our Biblically illiterate culture, then I guess that’s a success on some level.

I mean really.  I should be walking in thinking, “It’s a Hollywood movie produced by a self-proclaimed atheist with a primary function of making money, what did you expect?”


In the most extreme sense, if you sell illegal drugs in CA. and use the money to sponsor hungry kids in poverty around the world, does that make the drug deal right and good?

On a more normal level, does the error on the part of the check-out teller in the store turn your now “free/stolen” goods in your cart into a blessing from God or a flaw in your integrity?

I most recently slammed into this question head long surrounding a TV show that I HATE. Yup… HATE.   I have said before on this blog, I hate both the Bachelor and the Bachelorette TV series.

I hate what they stand for.  I hate the lies they not-so-subtly tell the viewers and the participants about the essence of love, marriage, intimacy, and relationships.  I hate the false hope it gives, the gossip it inspires, and the way it dishonors marriage and turns it into a game show conclusion.

I hate it.

But then I ran across this video…. and now I hate it and have to at least admit… that somehow, God grew a rose in the fertilizer of this show.   Seriously, watch it.  It’s maybe the most inspiring and head scratching 12 minutes I’ve seen in a long time.


So…  it begs the question: do the ends justify the means?



I mean at least 2 people were trying to honor God, remain sexually abstinent toward each other before marriage , and somehow create a real marriage – performed on national television by Sean’s dad who is a pastor- in the midst of a game show that mocks marriage season after season.

Think about it.  Sean even admits that this is a crazy means to this end.  He says, “It’s unnatural to date 25 women at the same time.  It felt wrong.  A lot of the time it felt wrong.”  But… does this wedding change everything and make it right?


Last week, after the most recent season of the Bachelor aired with a new bachelor (Juan Pablo) as the star, I was driving to work when I heard… and I’m not joking… I heard the secular radio show host turn on the joke bit they were doing and begin to rip into this show.  I couldn’t believe it.  I even pulled over my car just to stop and write down what he said on Star 94.1 in San Diego, CA.  In part, he said he didn’t understand what women found so amazing about this show- which he and his fiancé are faithfully following.  As evidence, he said that that last night he watched Juan Pablo dating the final four women, making out and shoving his tongue down their throat, and then he said this…

 “if we changed the name of the show to ‘the pimp daddy’ nothing would be different except women would not get behind the show and think it’s the most amazing romantic thing ever.”


So… if you want a really GREAT conversation starter for you and your teen  or friends or whoever about sexuality, love, marriage, and striving to Honor God in all of it… then go ahead and do this. 

1. Go to youtube and watch several clips of the bachelor together.  Here’s one gossip channel’s recap of a recent episode from this season with Juan Pablo.   Ask them if they’d be a contestant on the show and why or why not?

2. Watch this 12 minute I am Second video with Sean Lowe and then don’t give simple answers to the complex questions it wrestles with.  Just wrestle with them.   Play the role of Devil’s advocate and push them to think deeply about this.

3. Watch this video of Jimmy Kimmel giving them the lie detector test to see if they were abstinent.

4. Then wrestle with what causes love, sex, and marriage to be good and if they ends justify the means.

5. The read the story of the woman caught in Adultery in John 8 and see if Jesus agrees.

Or.. just come on by our dating series this may in Encounter HSM and you can join us as we do it on the weekend.

Either way, let’s agree that we won’t settle for teaching people WHAT to think.  Let’s teach them HOW to think… and regardless of where you land, these videos are a perfect opportunity to do just that.  

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT? -the shortfalls of raising “good kids”

Yesterday one of my sons pitched a fit and threw a cup in the sink and yelled at his mom in angst.

Last weekend another one of them kicked a friend out of our house because they were “being mean”.

I recently had a conversation with a parent who was upset that their teen was choosing to ditch “good friends” for troubled ones.

Surely we all know what we want to tell them.  We know how to fix their choices and get them set straight. I get it.  In fact, the truth is, I’m not upset with my kids who didn’t throw cups, showed grace and forgiveness to their friends, and have essentially chosen to make some solid choices.  So it makes sense that the dominant response, especially when we’re dealing with children making bad choices, is to tell them to “change your behavior.”

However, as I met with my cup throwing son in our one-on-one today, our conversation was not about “not throwing cups”.  Yes, we talked about it.  But no, my ultimate goal was not to get him to stop doing it.  I mean if I get my kid to find a different outlet for his anger, that’s great.  But not throwing cups is not what i’m after.  I’m not trying to raise a “good kid”, I’m trying to raise a “Godly one” and they’re not the same thing.

In fact, just last week I met a parent who told me that their kid loves the 5th and 6th grade ministry at our church, but they often can’t make it because they go to the early service and their kid is too tired from sports to go.  I promise you, the reason it’s not a big deal to them is because their kid is “making good choices”.  But if and when the tide ever turns, they’ll be wishing the foundation was deeper than “good kid”.  

On a similar note, I once had a parent tell me their daughter didn’t need to be in our “dating series” in youth group because “she wasn’t allowed to date anyway”.   In other words, she can’t date now so she doesn’t need it.  She’s not making bad choices with a boyfriend so the issue is null and void.  The only problem is, when she eventually is out of the house and chooses to date- regardless of the rules set up for her at home- the real question will be, “Upon what foundation will she make her choices and at what point will ‘because my parents said so’ no longer cut it?”

If our goal is merely “behavior modification”, then good choices is what we’re after.  However, if our goal is raising kids who reflect the Image of their Creator, then good behavior is a response, not an end in and of itself.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m pro good behavior and I’m not happy when I or my kids make bad choices.  However it’s a subtle lie that if someone’s life “looks good” that all is well.  My experience says that, “It is totally possible to be morally right and spiritually dead.”  In fact, Jesus famously said that you can even be used by God to perform miracles, and still not be in connection with God.  If that doesn’t freak you out, I don’t know what will.

If you want to know the bottom line for me, it is this:  More important than making good choices, is knowing why their choice was good in the first place. I want my kids to own why they make the choices they do, more than know what they should be doing.  That is why my one-on-one today was not about what my son should do different, but about why it matters in the first place.  Once we understand that our goal is honoring God, then our behavior can be applied accordingly.

To that end, I want to model a life that asks this question at ever turn: “How can I honor God in that?”   My prayer is my own kids and the students I work with in youth ministry will learn to filter everything they do through that one question.  I’m not trying to raise up “good kids”, I want to raise Godly ones and that is less about the choices they make, and more about their heart that motivates them.

Oh that God might grant me the grace and wisdom to know how to do that.


If you want the main thing to be the main thing, then you’re going to have to say no to a lot of minor things that all have an inferiority complex.  Those things are the ones that fight and beg and push and demand to matter most.  If your main thing, like it is for me, is following Jesus, then there’s a lot of things that try and edge Jesus out.

  • As an American citizen: this means I must say no to consumerism as the essence of happy life as the definition of success.
  • As a parent: this means I say no to raising good kids in favor of Godly young adults.
  • As a spouse:  this means I say no to raising kids and paying bills as the primary subject of my marriage.
  • As a pastor: this means I refuse to accept short term victories in exchange for long term fruit.

More recently, I’ve been reminded through a variety of venues that this is no sideline issue in life. Regardless of what you want to be the center of your life, there is always something there to compete for that position. In the case of my life as a youth pastor and more recently as a father of teens, I’ve learned the hard way that there are some very specific things that are on the goal I’m aiming for because quite simply, they do not last.

  1. The goal is not behavior modification because its possible to be morally right and spiritually dead.
  2. The goal is not increased involvement in the church and “spiritual” things because a life that looks good does not equal a heart that is devoted.
  3. The goal is not to get a covenant signed a a commitment made because talk is cheap and transformation is hard.

I decided while writing this that each of those is worth a post, so I’ll flush each one out next week on 3 separate posts on this blog.  But the truth is, these 3 do not create the legacy I yearn for and the ownership I’m praying will develop in my own kids and the teens i’m pouring my life into.  They are not bad, they are just not ultimate and when I settle for them as the goal, they always disappoint.

katie, jd, jill, me, max & kevin

katie, jd, jill, me, max & kevin

The goal is however a faith that lasts a lifetime.  It’s the kind of thing I was reminded of as I shared a weekend with some former students who are now youth workers in their own churches as a adults.   I had the privilege of performing several of their marriages, doing tons of life together in high school, and walking with them through literally years of highs and lows of life and ministry.  It was such a joy to do life with them in the context of a winter snow retreat again with several churches. What a joy.  As I snapped this pic this last weekend I was reminded that while I cannot always control the paths people go on to get to where they are… I can be clear… this is the goal.  I’m aiming for ministry that lasts a lifetime.

May God grant us all the wisdom, discernment, grace, endurance and patience that it takes to keep the main thing the main thing.


maths and science formula on whiteboard

Straight up, formulas don’t work in real life.

If you’re baking a cake, you can use a formula.

If you’re mixing chemicals, I’d recommend you get a formula.

If you want to know how big to make the beams on your floor so the second story won’t collapse onto the first, by all means, please use a formula.

But once you start planning for college entrance, trying to win a sporting event, thinking about getting married, finding a job, or anything else involving the variables called “real people and real life”, then go ahead and dump your formula, it won’t work.   You just entered the world of probabilities and formulas are now all qualified with words like usually, often, and most.

When we assume we can use a formula to make the future what we want it to be, we end up with a bucket full of regret and a feeling of being betrayed by the system.   I wish I could list the number of formulas I thought would work that did not.  I was all but promised a set of things would happen when I blogged consistently, when I did xyz as a dad or husband, when I wrote a book, when I graduated from high school got a bachelors degree and again when I got my Mdiv…and a whole lot more.  You name it, all of them had promises of what they would lead to.  But they rarely and sometimes never did.

But this truth doesn’t seem to stop people from trying to sell me on their formula.  The other day someone did it with the “key” to writing.  Another guy told me the “key” to getting volunteers.  A lot of times, people try and turn the Bible into a formula too.  They see it almost exclusively as an “If you do this, then this will happen… either for good or bad” kind of resource.  While there are certainly some “if, then” truths in the Scriptures, it is also equally true that the Bible is not a book of formulas.  The most famous of these being the entire book of Proverbs.  It’s filled with “if, then” statements that are “wisdom” for living, not formulas you can plug and chug through.

The one that bugs me the most is Proverbs 22:6ish.  “Train a child up by [insert your own list of good behavior, ideas, and a litany of christian ideas here] and when they grow old, they will not depart from it.”   Right.  So every kid that goes astray can be traced back to a failed ingredient in the formula.  Mom didn’t read enough scripture to them, dad didn’t come home from work early enough, their church wasn’t ______ enough…. and on and on it goes.

But if you have ever taken a seminary class on the book of Proverbs, then you know that all good scholars will tell you “proverbs are not promises”, they are “wisdom literature filled with probabilities”.   Yes, if you hang out with people who do “x”, you’re more likely than not to do “y” with them.  Maybe A LOT more likely to do that.  But, we all can give evidence of the exceptions, cuz for better or worse, people are always screwing up the formulas.

Knowing this, there are a few options from here:

IGNORE IT AND DESPERATELY SEARCH TO PROVE THE FORMULA WORKS.  These people will do anything and everything to try and convince you that the reason your business didn’t work, that you didn’t get into that college, or that your marriage failed was because you didn’t play the formula right.  They know what’s wrong and they are out to prove the formula. They will use the formula to get you to change your behavior, buy their product, or invest in some service.  All of it based on statistics and facts that “prove” the formula works.  It’s the tongue-in-cheek truth behind all the Direct TV commercials these days.

GIVE UP AND DO WHATEVER YOU WANT, IGNORING BOTH THE FORMULA RULES AND THE WISDOM BEHIND THEM.   These people are the embodiment of the proverbial “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”  They agree that formulas don’t work and live by the wisdom of whatever feels right to them. They often site examples of those exemptions to the rules who managed to find extreme financial success without formal training, make their marriage work for 50 happy years even though they got married 3 weeks after meeting each other, and do all kinds of stuff in the face of the “proverbs”.   They essentially play the lottery of life every day saying, “Someone’s gotta win against all odds.  Might as well be me.”

LIVE WITH WISDOM, BUT KEEP FAITH IN GOD’S WILL, NOT THE FORMULA EVERYONE MAKES IT INTO.   There is a third option.  In this case, these people refuse to buy the formula but also refuse to bet the farm on foolishness. They walk a daily dance between what is wise and what is living by faith, at times living in the face of conventional wisdom for sure.  These are people who know the formulas are about likelihood, not guarantees.  If they go to college, they don’t believe the lies of what it will surely produce in 4 years.  Instead, they enjoy the journey, invest their life as wisely as they can, and leave some mystery in the process.

So BE WARNED: a lot of lies masquerade as a wisdom formula.  The wise learn to discern the difference.