Monday, August 27, 2007

God @ the Movies: Evan Almighty

In a recent article of Scientific American Mind, a magazine about research on resolving bad situations, Katja Gaschler writes about psychologist James W. Pennebaker’s work with a large group of people who’d been suddenly terminated from their company with no warning. The group exuded a lot of bitterness. Pennebaker’s instructions were simple. All were to write in a diary for 20 minutes a day for five days. One-third were told to write the events of the day, one-third were asked to specifically journal their feelings about losing their jobs, and the final third were given no specific instructions. The results were significant. One-fourth of the second group found new jobs after three months, but only a small percentage of the other two groups had found new employment, a sign that they were still battling their setback.

The researchers discovered that through expressive writing people could let go of the pain they felt from a difficult situation. By focusing on their deepest feelings for at least 15 minutes, not worrying about word flow, spelling, or grammar, people experienced healing.

This practice is helpful for any painful experience or memory.

Reflective thoughts, long after an event, usually will highlight the essential and most important things that remain influential in one’s mind.

The Bible is a deeply reflective book.

John 21:25
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Paraphrase: Of the many, many things I could have written, I have carefully selected in order that you might see what I want you to see about Jesus.

John reflected on the life and ministry of Jesus as guided by the Holy Spirit to produce the gospel of John. We are to be a reflective people, too. God @ the Movies helps us to learn the discipline of reflection.

Two weeks ago at The Leadership Summit Bill Hybels interviewed Richard Curtis, the writer of "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Notting Hill," "The Girl in the Cafe," and the "Mr. Bean" television series. Curtis has used his comedy writing to rally millions of dollars to alleviate the poor.

“This was a very disturbing interview for me to do because I'm interviewing a guy who doesn't even have his faith figured out and he's doing 100 times more work than I am to alleviate the suffering in this world." Bill Hybels

Part of Curtis' inspiration to fight poverty came from the Sermon on the Mount, one of the best-known teachings of Jesus, Curtis told Hybels in the interview. But he did not indicate that faith was the driving force behind his passion to care for the poor.

"All I know is that a guy over there should not be dying when I have so much. I can only really do one thing well. I can write comedy. But I'll ruthlessly do the thing that I do to try to rectify this general injustice."

Curtis is co-founder of the Make Poverty History campaign and the United Kingdom's Red Nose Day, a comic relief campaign which last year raised $130 million in one day and has become a national day of giving for the poor. His latest effort was "Idol Gives Back" on the popular TV program "American Idol" in the United States. The American public contributed some $73 million during campaign.

"You can't just pray for people. You've got to do something now." R. Curtis

We change-agents need a simple virtue: faith, and a listening ear to what God may be asking of us.

Do you want to change the world? Or at least a small piece of it?

Are you on this planet to do something, or are you here just for something to do?

If you’re on this planet to do something, then what is it? What difference will you make?

Scene 1 Evan Almighty trailer 2

Do you want to change the world?

God has some very interesting ways of bringing about His will. We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, Your will be done on Earth as it is in heaven”.

We’re all for this, but we’d prefer to do it in ways that glorify ourselves when we’re really honest.

Evan Baxter is a former news anchor that runs for Congress with a desire to change the world. I love the mantra he recites every morning, in the hopes of creating a reality that he can live: ‘I am successful, powerful, handsome and happy.’

I just don’t see Jesus saying that when he’d wake up in the morning. Maybe more along the lines of, ‘I am loved and I love others. Not my will but yours Father.’ Why not even something like, ‘Create in me a clean heart Lord.’

At the conclusion of the message on July 8 everyone had the opportunity to come to one of the crosses and select a sin of the flesh and a fruit of the spirit. The sin of the flesh I lifted from the basket was ‘selfish ambition.’ That’s the equivalent of ‘I am successful, powerful, handsome and happy!’

All of us who want to see the world changed, or more appropriately put, ‘your will on earth as it is in heaven’ face the temptations that Jesus did:

Us would-be world-changers must face the same three temptations as Jesus before we can really minister to others. The first temptation of Christ, to turn stones into bread in Matthew 4:3, is the need to be effective, successful, relevant, to make things happen. You’ve done something and people say, “Wow! Good job! You did it right. You’re OK.” When the crowds approve, it’s hard not to believe that we have done a good thing, and probably God’s will.

Jesus says, Go deeper. What’s the real question? What are you really after? What does the heart really hunger for? What do you really desire? “It’s not by bread alone that we live” (Matthew 4:4).

The second temtation is about trust- Jesus says, “again it is written- Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ In other words, trust Him and His plan- don’t do it at your whim. Mother Teresa said, “We were not created to be successful but to be obedient.”

The third human temptation, or addiction, is the need for control or power. So the devil tells Jesus to bow down before the systems of this world: “All of them you can have” (Matthew 4:8). Just buy them. Believe in them. Jesus refuses to bow down before the little kingdoms of this world, the corporations and the nation-states, the security systems. The price of this love of power is to “fall at Satan’s feet and worship him!” (Matthew 4:9). That’s a very heavy judgement on “all the kingdoms of the world.” In all these systems, self-interest has to dominate. For Kingdom people, self-interest cannot dominate.

Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Security is such a deep need in us…What will happen to me if I let go? Will I have enough—enough time, enough money, enough provisions for old age, enough people to care for me, enough intelligence, enough health…? And so I hold on tightly to my security banisters. They make me feel safe but they keep me stationary. They are an obstacle to grace. John Powell

Washington, DC is the epitome of these struggles, addictions, and here Evan Baxter is set to change the world. In the midst of this God appears and gives him a new task:

Scene 2 Evan Almighty - An Ark to Build

As you can imagine Evan is shocked by the appearance of God- especially a black God!

Scene 3 Evan Almighty - Carjacker

I love this little scene because it just highlights a couple of key ideas: God speaks. He still speaks today to you and I. And that he’ll use a variety of circumstances and situations to get out attention- if we’ll let Him.

As God makes His desire more clear, Evan begins to release control and his model of success, bowing before the vents that God orchestrates. In this next scene he isn’t surprised that God is clearing the way for him to make an ark. He’ll obviously need some space, some land to build it on:

Scene 4 Evan Almighty - Eight Lots

Understanding and accepting what God is saying doesn’t come easy to Evan or to us for that matter. As it becomes more apparent Evan is becoming a modern day Noah, he experiences some physical changes:

Scene 5 Evan Almighty - Mountain Man

Evan’s family is experiencing great distress while he exhibits all the strange behavior. It had been his wife’s plan that they be drawn closer together in this move to Washington, but it clearly isn’t happening. They finally get over the hump and dad puts his three boys to work helping out:

Scene 6 Evan Almighty - The Construction Project

‘That’s easy- just don’t’. The easy way out is not always God’s option for us.

There comes a time in God’s leading with us that we begin to see it as His plan. Watch as it comes together for the Baxter clan:

Scene 7 Evan Almighty - The Animals Arrive

It really is humbling to realize that we are a part of something so big as helping God bring His kingdom to earth, and yet that God is so tender in His care for us as a person.

It’s also amazing to think that while God moves on a grand plan, He does so through the most simple, small yet powerfully life-changing opportunities. In the movie we discover that building an ark actually means accepting our mission of ‘Acts of Random Kindness.’
Otherwise known as servant outreach. In building the ark Evan was able to help many people in simple and small ways, but they were nonetheless life changing.

Way too often this is what we think of when it comes to reaching out to others:

Kenny the Krusader: Evangelism Linebacker

“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead

We can do no great things, only small things with great love. Mother Teresa

We are willing to do ‘Acts of Random Kindness’ because we realize God presents the opportunities; it is God who we’re serving; it is His kingdom we’re building, and not our own; it is something we’re not in control of, and it creates relationship now and for the future; it helps us to see that we walk in love with God daily and must do so with others as well. I could go on.

We’re all a version of Bruce Almighty, of Evan Almighty, a Ruth Almighty, a Dave Almighty, a Titus Almighty, not because we are a god but because the real God loves us and empowers us to love others! We’ll do some of that today as a community and God is asking all of this week to be ark building in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces, in our schools, wherever we travel.

The church has left the building!


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