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I recently wrote a short article that was published in a community book project. It was on the subject of gratitude. The thesis of my piece was that there is always something to be thankful for even if you are going through tough stuff.  And we all go through tough stuff. 

There is a man in the Bible named Paul, and he said, "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. And what you learned and received and heard and saw in me, do these things. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

It's a recommendation with a promise. He says, "Follow my example, and the God of peace will be with you." Paul didn’t have an easy life either. (II Corinthians 11:23-27) He had been imprisoned, tortured, stoned, shipwrecked and left adrift on the open sea. He had faced all manner of danger and discomfort, and he had been struck blind. And yet, somehow, he had learned how to be content in any circumstance. (Philippians 4:11) So when he gives us the advice to focus on the positive, I’d say it’s worth a try.

If you would like to read the rest of my article and over 100 more, you can get The Community Book Project: A Gift of Gratitude on Amazon Kindle. It is free until Friday.

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Today's post was written by and used with permission from Rusty Wright.
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OK, how would you feel if you thought you heard God telling you he was going to destroy every living thing on earth with a great flood?

Except he wanted you to build a boat to survive the tumult with a few relatives and a slew of creatures.

Would you jump at the challenge? Run and hide? Ask – as Bill Cosby did in his classic comedy routine portraying Noah – “Right! Who is this really?”

Perhaps you’ll sense how the biblical Noah felt. Paramount Pictures and director/co-writer Darren Aronofsky bring Noah to the big screen in North America and worldwide throughout late March and April. The cast includes Russell Crowe in the title role, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins.

With breathtaking cinematography, this film imagines some intense struggles for Noah and his family. We see sorrow for lost masses, interpersonal conflicts, and practical realities of living on a creature-packed craft.

Taking Liberties

Paramount says Noah’s story “inspired” the film, but that “artistic license has been taken.” Too much license, feel some. I’m reminded of TV’s iconic psychiatrist Frasier Crane, concerned that an employee was “taking far too much liberty with the liberty-taking!” Readers of the biblical Noah story won’t find there, for instance, the film’s multi-armed fallen angels, its pronounced environmentalist message, or hordes of people fighting to board the ark.

The biblical account is short – mostly Genesis 6-9 – with little detail about ark life. So, yes, the filmmakers took liberties – many. Aronofsky recently told The Atlantic he views the story “as poetry and myth and legend” that helps us understand the world and ourselves.

But the essential framework of the biblical flood story – human evil, divine judgment, hope and salvation – remains in Noah. Consider these facets of that story and their modern implications.

Human Evil; Divine Judgment

Genesis says humanity was a mess: “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. … It broke his heart.”

Human corruption prompted him to “destroy every living thing.” But “Noah was a righteous man … [who] walked in close fellowship with God.” God told him to build a large boat, specifying precise dimensions and design.

Filmmakers took pains to follow biblical specs for their ark. The production designer had many ideas for the ark’s appearance, but Aronofsky, who is Jewish, insisted, “No, the measurements are right there.”

Salvation, Hope, Promise

Noah built his ark and took aboard his wife, their three sons with their wives, plus pairs of animals, birds and crawling creatures. Elaborate computer-generated imagery portrays the animals for film.

Rain poured, underground water erupted, and floodwaters covered the earth. Every human, bird and land animal not in the ark perished. The waters receded, the earth dried, and the ark inhabitants disembarked. God promised never again to destroy the earth by flood, offering the rainbow as a pledge reminder.

Faith; Future

If you attend the film, I suggest reading the biblical account first, then again after the screening. Noah’s story has much for a 21st–Century audience, including two nuggets about faith and the future.

The New Testament lauds Noah for his faith. He was not perfect. “Wickedness is…in all of us,” he tells his wife in the film. His own drunkenness – depicted in the film – led to embarrassment and family conflict. But his faith in God mattered. I came to faith as a skeptical university student. It has made all the difference in my life.

Concerning the future, Jesus indicated his second coming would be “like it was in Noah’s day” with people carrying on their routines and unaware of impending peril. “You also must be ready all the time,” he continued, “for the Son of Man will come when least expected.”

I want to be ready.
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Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively. www.RustyWright.com
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This movie is rated PG-13 (USA) for "violence, disturbing images and brief suggestive content"

Well here we are again December. Sometimes the days and months seem to fly right by, and sometimes they seem to move so slowly. The fact is the length of a minute, day or week doesn’t change; it is all about our perceptions and expectations. Do you remember when you were younger--or maybe not so much younger--waiting for Christmas? You had asked for something you really wanted, and you could hardly wait until Christmas morning to see if Santa / a parent / a sibling… had listened to your request.

The Israelites had been waiting for not weeks or months, but years, centuries even, for the Messiah who had been promised to them. As a matter of fact, God gave them a hint in Isaiah 7:14, and it was still about 700 years before the promise was fulfilled. As I said in my last post, waiting can make you doubt. Some of the Israelites may have even forgotten what they were waiting for. But a man named Simeon didn’t. (Luke 2:25-32) He was very devout, and he was waiting patiently for the Lord to reveal His gift, the Messiah. He had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah before he died. (Luke 2:26) Just as an aside: isn’t it a good thing that Simeon recognized when the Holy Spirit was speaking and then listened to Him? That is what brought Simeon to the temple the day that Mary and Joseph arrived with Jesus. The Bible doesn’t tell us how old Simeon was, but it does tell us that now that he had seen the Messiah, his life purpose had been fulfilled. He was ready to depart from this world. (Luke 2:29)

The people of Israel had been waiting an incomprehensibly long time for their Messiah to be revealed, and many of them, like Simeon, remained faithful to the task. The very same Messiah is here knocking at our door, and all we have to do is open it and let Him in--no waiting required. (Revelation 3:20) It can be Christmas morning for us at any time. All we have to do is accept the gift.