Spoiler Alert: Jesus Lives (A Review of “Son of God”)

Son of God movie posterAs you’re well aware, a major blockbuster of biblical proportions is coming to theaters nationwide today.  It is a movie that will be seen by millions, and is sure to have lots of people talking.

But rather than talk about Liam Neeson’s action film “Nonstop,” I’d like to spend the next 500 or so words discussing the movie “Son of God.”  There is plenty to say about the film, and plenty that has been said about the film, from tales of entire theaters filling up with mega-church parishioners to accusations of New Age themes and transcendentalism.

I had the opportunity to see an advance screening of the film yesterday, and there were definitely some positive things and some negative things about it.

On a negative note, within the first five minutes of the movie Jesus passed up an opportunity to walk on water.  I get that He didn’t always walk on water, but when He stepped out and His sandaled foot penetrated the water, I was taken aback.

On a positive note, however, Jesus didn’t look awkward when He smiled.  That puts this movie head and shoulders above most theatrical renditions.

Also, about fifteen minutes into the movie, my wife leaned over and whispered, “Jesus looks like Ashton Kutcher.”  I guess that’s a positive…?

Other things I liked about the movie:

  • Jesus was really good at guessing people’s first names.
  • Everyone spoke English, just like King James intended.
  • To compete with Michael Bay’s upcoming summer blockbusters, the director included tons of solar flares.
  • It looked like the temple guards stole their hats from the cast of the movie “Epic.”
  • Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by who I can only guess was the lead singer of Counting Crows.adam duritz aka John the Baptist
  • Vin Diesel also had a cameo as Barabbas.
  • In one of the many extra-biblical lines from the film, the High Priest said of Jesus, “This is a dangerous man,” to which I audibly responded, “You’ve got that right!”
  • When Judas betrayed Jesus, the woman next to me went, “mmm hmm!” (not technically a part of the film, but I liked it nonetheless).
  • The High Priest also had flawless hair.
  • And finally, when Jesus saved the woman caught in adultery, He actually remembered to say, “Go and sin no more”; that part always gets left out of the story, so I appreciated it being included.

However, there were also some parts that I didn’t care for:

  • For one, the last supper looked nothing like the Da Vinci painting.
  • Also, Jesus looked genuinely surprised every single time one of His miracles actually worked.
  • Thomas also did a lot of doubting throughout the movie, not just at the end.  It was to the point that I thought maybe he would end up betraying Jesus rather than Judas.
  • On the topic of disciples, Bartholomew didn’t get nearly enough face time. I get that he didn’t get much attention in the source material either, but the movie did add quite a few things to the story, and in my opinion, Bartholomew should have been one of them.

And the final thing, the thing that will probably have many Christians up in arms: Not once in the film did Jesus ever make an exclusive claim to salvation.

He alluded to it a couple of times.  He even got really close toward the end.  At the last supper, he said to His disciples, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  But then He abruptly stopped without finishing it: “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

Christianity’s exclusive claim to salvation is paramount to the gospel message.  If every road really does lead to heaven, as Oprah and Yoda would have you believe, then Jesus’ sacrifice was for nothing, and our faith and preaching is in vain.  It is precisely because no roads could bring us to God that Jesus had to come to the earth, live as a man, die for my sins and your sins and the sins of all the world, and then rise from the grave, triumphant over death.

And yet, even though this fundamental truth was clearly and intentionally omitted from the film, I still recommend that all of you support the movie.  You see, it isn’t Hollywood’s job to preach the gospel.  It is their job to tell stories.  And they told the story of Jesus, the compassionate, friendly, divisive, miracle-working, gospel-preaching, lost-reaching Son of God.

It’s easy to talk about all of the places where they missed it.  And there are definitely a few.  But they also got a lot of things right.  Jesus was portrayed as the Son of God, the Messiah sent to redeem mankind from sin and spiritual death.  And we are told repeatedly that it is through faith in this Jesus that we can be saved.

The movie will function as a great platform for you and me to spread the gospel message.  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every living creature,” as the film reminds us in the final scene.

So see the film.  Encourage your friends to see it as well.  And after you have watched it, you should all sit down together, break some bread, and discuss, discuss, discuss.  Because it’s not Hollywood’s job to get them saved.  It’s your job to introduce them to the Son of God.  

[ your turn: What did you think of the flick? Is it worth seeing, or should we all see “The Lego Movie”… again? ]

God Doesn’t Have a Plan for Your Life

game of lifeTruth is, He has millions of ‘em.

The oft-quoted scripture concerning God’s plan for your life, which has been emblazoned on T-shirts and bracelets and youth ministry websites for centuries, is Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

What does God have for you?

Plans.  Plural.  As in, more than one.

And notice what those plans lead to.  “Hope and a future.”

All of the individual plans that God has for you culminate in one grandiose future.  The ultimate “plan” that youth pastors have been talking about for years is only reached when we purpose to learn and execute God’s specific plans for each and every one of our days.

As Paul told the Ephesians,

We are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Don’t get so distracted with what God wants you to do in thirty years that you miss all of the things He wants you to do today.  Just spend every single day growing closer to Him, instantly obey everything He tells you to do, and you’ll reach that hopeful future He promised you.

After all, you’ll be walking with Him.  Where else would He take you?

“Each moment of the day is a gift from God that deserves care, for by any measure, our time is short and the work is great.” [J. Oswald Sanders]

Breaking Bad Ruined My Relationship with God


I’ve really been wanting to start a bible study with my wife.  I have the DVDs, I have the study outline… all I’ve needed is the time.

Yesterday was going to be the night.  I was planning on coming home, popping in the DVD, and growing closer to God with my wife by my side. 

But then something happened.  I received a text message from my wife:

“We got invited to go to dinner for Lauren’s birthday.  Can we go?”

I get it.  Stuff happens.  Things come up.  Interesting that they usually come up when you have a prior engagement with God, but still, it was important for Cheyne.  So we pushed the bible study back a day to (soberly) celebrate Lauren’s 21st birthday. 

Today is Tuesday.  And my plan is to study God’s Word with my wife tonight. 

But then something happened. 

I found out that Breaking Bad season six was just released on Netflix.

And I really want to know what happens to Walter White and his ragtag team of hooligans. 

Looks like I need to push the bible study back a few weeks.  After all, what’s a guy like me supposed to do?  God knows I love Him, but He also knows I love Breaking Bad.  And Breaking Bad is so good.  God can’t expect me not to watch it.  Really, it’s not even my fault, either.  It’s Netflix’s fault.  God’ll understand.  I mean, He can wait.  Walter and Jesse can’t.

Jesus addressed similar excuses in Matthew 5.  There was a group of religious people walking around, saying things like, “It’s not my fault I am filled with lust.  It’s my hands’ fault.  My hands have a mind of their own.  They just do what they want, and I can’t control them.”

Jesus’ response?

“If your hand is really causing you to lust, then chop it off.”

Immature people make excuses for things beyond their control.  Godly people do everything within their power to glorify God.  It’s that simple.  It’s not Netflix’s fault if I choose not to study the bible.  It’s my fault.  Because even if Bryan Cranston has the power to mesmerize me with his flawless acting, I have the power to turn off the TV.

People say temptation gets us off-course.  That’s not entirely true.  Temptation shows what is already in our hearts.  It shows what our priorities truly are.  And I guess we’re going to find out tonight what mine truly are.

Boys Don’t Giggle: An Essential Lesson in Christian Identity


“Boys don’t giggle,” he told me.

This was the advice an author gave me upon reading my book Unfair Advantage.  In one of the many fascinating and metaphorically stunning stories I tell in the book, I make reference to something that had caused me to giggle.

“Boys don’t giggle, they chuckle.”

He may have been splitting hairs, but it was sort of true.  Chuckling is a tad bit more masculine than mere giggling.  You wouldn’t expect to hear a giggle emit from Chuck Norris’ bearded mouth.  No, your ears would be pleasantly assaulted by the soothing sounds of a chuckle from the vocal chords of Mr. Norris.  I hear that’s why they call it a CHUCKle.

“Well, are girls allowed to chuckle?” I asked him.

“Absolutely!” he exclaimed.  “Girls are allowed to do both.  They can chuckle and giggle.  It’s actually quite unfair.”

That got me thinking.  In today’s world, there is a lot of talk about inequality.  And yes, there are certainly things in life that are unfair.  But don’t allow the limitations that statisticians and politicians talk about to hold you back from the greatness that is within you.

It may be true that the average woman makes less than the average man in our country.  But you are not an average woman.  You are a child of the Most High God Your particular ethnicity may be expected to act, talk, or vote a particular way.  But regardless of your race, skin color, or country of origin, this leather-bound book I’m holding in my hands says your true citizenship is in heaven.

The world will give you an exhaustive laundry list of reasons why you can’t do something and why you shouldn’t even try.  And sometimes it can be pretty tempting to buy into the lie.  But if you make a decision to find your identity in what God has spoken about you instead, there is literally nothing you can’t do.

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

[ your turn: If I want to giggle, I’m going to giggle!  I’m sure you’ve been told there are just some things you can’t do. Which ones are you going to do anyway? Let me know in the comments! ]

Four Important Lessons Jesus Taught Us about Judgment

judgmental_bag_grants_passIf there is one word that the church doesn’t understand, it is the word “judgmental.”  Christians are terrified of this word, and the mere mention of it causes the average believer to crumble to the floor and play dead (much like an opossum).

Ironically, most of this stems from a terrible misunderstanding of Jesus’ teachings regarding judgment.  So let’s consider the story of the woman caught in adultery (from John 8) to glean four biblical lessons regarding judgment.

1.     Jesus called her behavior “sin”

Jesus didn’t shy away from questions regarding morality.  He clearly identified her adultery as “sin” in verse 11.  And He said it right to her face.  This wasn’t the only time he voiced His opinion regarding sin, either.  In Mark 7:20-23, Jesus gives a laundry list of sins (including lying, stealing, and homosexuality), which He says “defile a man.”

There is nothing wrong with calling sinful behavior “sinful.”  Jesus did it all the time.  You don’t get people saved by telling them they aren’t really sinning.  All that does is justify their belief that they aren’t desperately in need of a Savior.

Sin is sin.  And the reality of sin in our lives is what prompts us to find the One who can deliver us from our sin.

2.     Jesus told her to stop sinning

Most people stop reading the story at verse 10.  “And all of the mean, judgmental Pharisees left, and Jesus gave the woman a big hug and said, ‘It’s all going to be okay.’”

But what does Jesus say to her in verse 11?

“Neither do I condemn thee.  Go and continue living in sin.”


“Go and try really hard not to sin.”

That’s not it, either.

“Go and read My latest book, Ten Ways to Overcome Sin.”

No, He told her to stop sinning.

“Go and sin no more.”

We often hear people say that Jesus spent much of His spare time with sinners.  That’s only a half truth.  He spent His time converting sinners into saints.  It was time deliberately spent, and while the people He congregated with usually started off as sinners, they soon left their life of sin to follow Jesus.

We hinder someone’s relationship with God when we allow them to continue living a life of habitual sin.  Let’s not forget it was sin that separated us from God in the first place.  Grace doesn’t free us from the consequences of our sin; it frees us from sin itself.

3.     Jesus didn’t condemn her for her sin

These are the words that most of us remember from the story, and we’d do well to remember them.  “Neither do I condemn you.”

Jesus draws a line in the sand between two words that the church thinks are synonymous.  Judgment and condemnation are different things.  Jesus clearly judged her sin.  He told her right to her face that she was sinning, but He didn’t chuck a rock at that face.  He told her the truth (in love, I might add), told her to stop, and then walked away.

I’m not someone’s executioner.  I’m just a guy who is filled with God’s life and knows God’s truth.  My responsibility is to make that truth known and make that life available.  Because the truth is, we all have sinned, and therefore deserve death.  But God graciously gave us His life instead.  Shouldn’t we do the same?

4.     Jesus gave her a way to stop sinning

The big difference between judgment and condemnation is your willingness to lead someone out of sin.

Matthew 7 is where we find the oft-quoted verse, “Judge not, lest you be judged.”  Jesus follows this up with a metaphor, saying,

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’ when you have a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4)

But then He says something we often overlook.

“First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

The point in this discourse isn’t, “Don’t judge another man’s sin.”  His point is, “You both have sin in your life.  Deal with your own sin, and then help your brother deal with his.”

And Jesus called this process, “judgment.”

The point of judgment isn’t to throw rocks at someone else.  The point of judgment is to get all of the planks, specks, and sins out of our lives, so we can effectively serve God.  And if the church was more willing to deal with sin rather than avoid it, we’d be a heck of a lot stronger than we are.


The noble opossum

When I was younger, I had a terrible speech impediment.

At the age of five, I couldn’t properly pronounce thirteen of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet, and 60% of my language was deemed unintelligible.  My parents, of course, could translate my cryptic communication, but they were about the only ones.

My difficulties occasionally made for humorous interactions.  When asked about my father, I’d respond, “My dad is gone.”  This was usually met with sympathetic glances and awkward attempts at comfort, rather than a realization that my dad’s name was “John” and I just didn’t know how to talk.

Because of my speech impediment, I went to speech therapy every day with (I kid you not) Dr. Lipschitz, whose name I ironically had no problem saying.  And rather than practicing vocal exercises or discussing that one girl’s seashell business located down by the beach like most speech therapists would do, we set our sights on something a bit more relevant: Australian fauna.

As a result, I have a somewhat extraordinary understanding of marsupials, monotremes, and all of the other abnormal animals that God no doubt let Adam design.  And one animal I find particularly interesting: the opossum.

The opossum (not to be confused with its poser cousin, the regular possum) is one of the few marsupials native to the United States.  And when threatened, it does a peculiar thing.  It plays possum.  This is a defense mechanism where the opossum will attempt to imitate the appearance of a dead carcass, basically “playing dead.”  When it senses danger, the opossum will black out, and then involuntarily sprawl out as stiff as a board, draw its lips back and bare its teeth, start drooling, close its eyes (or partially close them for extended periods of time without blinking, depending on how committed he is), and emit a foul stench from its anus.  The goal is to ward off predators with this little charade, hoping the hungry animal will be grossed out and look for a more conscious, better smelling marsupial to consume.

As I reminisce about my childhood therapy and remember the magnificent qualities of this noble creature, I can’t help but see the opossum as a perfect metaphor for the church.

The defining characteristic of the born-again Christian is that we are alive.  The rest of humanity roams the world in darkness and spiritual death, but we have been given God’s divine life.

And yet, we spend our lives trying to blend in with the world.  We hide this life we have been given under a bushel, hoping that everyone else will think we are just like them:  Weak.  Confused.  Lost.  Dead.

But the truth is, you are not like them.  You are different.  You have something they don’t have.  Something they need.  You have the life of God within you.

So quit playing possum, Christian soldier, and rise to your feet.  Live the life you have been given.  Let your light shine out into the darkness.  Let that life transform the world.  It’s the only thing that can.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1)

Your Turn: Many of God’s majestic beasts make for great sermon illustrations.  I mean, why else would he invent the wildebeest?  What animals do you think make for great analogies concerning Christians or the church?  Let me know in the comments! ]

Identity Crisis of the Seven Sons

seven sons of sceva and the demon-possessed man

The seven sons of Sceva getting their butts handed to them by a demon-possessed man. To be quite honest, it was a little embarrassing.

In Acts 19, a band of misguided Jewish brothers went on a stroll through downtown Ephesus when they were approached by a demon-possessed man babbling in the streets.  In an attempt to make a name for themselves, they recited their obviously rehearsed exorcism routine:

“I command you in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, to come out!”

Normally you’d expect some flailing around and a bit of green pea soup, topped off with an evil spirit vacating the premises… but not this time.  No, the man just started at them.  Then he simply asked:

“Jesus I know, and Paul I know.  But who are you?”

The brothers didn’t have an answer.

The tale ends with the devil chasing them down the street, stripping them of their clothes, and winning the battle.  Now, the problem wasn’t that Jesus wasn’t powerful enough.  It also wasn’t that Paul’s preaching wasn’t good enough.  The problem was that those wannabe-exorcists didn’t know who they were.

This is where I come in.  My job is to teach Christians who they are so they can do what God has called them to do.  Or, as Paul so beautifully put it,

“His responsibility is to equip God’s people to do His work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” [Ephesians 4:12]

Too many Christians aimlessly wander the earth without knowing who God created them to be.  We are a church in the midst of an identity crisis, not sure where we came from, what we are here for, and what we are supposed to do.  So that’s what you can expect from me.  That’s what you can expect to find in my blog, my books, my videos, and my sermons.  To learn who you are, how God feels about you, and what you can do to advance God’s kingdom on the earth.

Enjoy the ride.