Category Archives: Jesus

The Greatest Showman: The God Who Is a Dreamer of a Million Dreams

The-Greatest-Showman worship4

All truth is God’s truth.  Great Christian thinkers like Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, all believed it.  Whether it is spoken in Scripture or found in a Hollywood movie, truth is from God.

Recently I learned some truth from Hollywood.  I have to admit, I absolutely love the movie The Greatest Showman.  This soundtrack has replaced the Rocky IV soundtrack as my favorite.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why I made such an emotional connection with this musical.  I’m the kind of guy who would rather watch Die Hard, American Sniper, and baseball than musicals.  Yet, I cannot remember any other movie that I paid money to see in the theaters three times!  What is it about The Greatest Showman that makes me want to see it again and again?  Is it the tremendous vocals, the catchy tunes, the inspirational songs?  Is it the storyline and characters with which I identified?  Is it the triumph of love over tyranny?

Yes, yes, and yes.  But, my fascination with this movie goes beyond all that, beyond the celebration of the human experience that Hollywood was offering with this film.

Believe it or not, this movie, this product of Hollywood, an industry that is committed to secular humanism, helped me see God in a million ways, the Greatest Showman who created the greatest show just by speaking it into existence (Genesis 1:3) and breathing life into His dreams (Genesis 2:7).  Though it was probably not the intention of the director or producers, in each scene I found a little piece of an infinite God, a God of endless possibilities, a God who is a Dreamer of a million dreams.

ecclesiastes-3-11“He made everything beautiful in its time.  Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
-Ecclesiastes 3:11

I know there will be some super spiritual theologians who will point out the humanistic messages in this movie, like family is most important, or we can create our own worlds and improve ourselves through our own efforts, or that my comparisons of some of the characters to God breaks down.  I certainly do not elevate this movie to the level of Scripture.  But, even God used a donkey to convey a message (Numbers 22:22-35), and a wicked king to prophesy (1 Samuel 19:18-24), so He can certainly use Hollywood to speak His word.

Even the parables Jesus used broke down theologically at some level. For example, in the prodigal son, God is represented by the father who is a man, but a man is a singularity, not a Trinity (Luke 15:11-32).  So, the image of God in the parable of the prodigal son is incomplete.  Like Paul did at the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34) in using creations of men to point to God, with this article I am gleaning truth from Hollywood to point to God.

We were created in God’s image with the ability to “create” as well, and we were given a cultural mandate to take dominion over creation. So, in a sense, we do get to live in a world we design, under God’s sovereignty of course (Genesis 1:27-31).  Unfortunately, the dreams mankind has dreamed for himself has created an ugly, selfish world.  We no longer dream God’s dreams.

A Million Dreams
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be (Genesis 1:1-2)
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it’s gonna take
A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make (Genesis 1:26)

In the scene where the young Phineas dreams of a life beyond his poverty, he sings my favorite song from the movie “A Million Dreams.”  (To get the full effect of the impact this movie had on me you have to read this article while listening to the movie soundtrack.)  Ithe greatest showman young barnum imagined God singing these lines as a child who is excited about the possibilities of the future.  Before you think I’ve fallen into the heresy of “open theism,” hear me out.  I know God is infinite and that He knows the outcome of every possibility.  Yet, like a child, He still exults in an outcome He already knows is certain!  In Orthodoxy G.K. Chesterton wrote

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, G_K_Chesterton-208x300therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.  The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.[1]

I connected with this film in a million ways because I identified with several of the characters.  With the older Phineas Barnum because I have been pursuing my own dreams for my own sake, and the dreams that came true in front of me were never enough.  With Phillip Carlyle because I am conflicted between wanting the comforts of my own world, but yet wanting something that brings joy.  With theatre critic James Gordon Bennett because I cannot seem to find joy in the role that I play in this life.  With the freaks and oddities of the Barnum Circus because I feel ignored and kept at a distance, not invited to the party.  With Mr. Hallett, Phineas’s father-in-law, because I tend to be someone who is interested in killing people’s dreams instead of being a dreamer myself.

amilliondreamscharity.jpgI am a cynic. A realist.  A pessimist.  Even, perhaps, a fatalist.  I tend to just resign myself to endure God’s will rather than embrace it with joy because it is the best thing for me.  But, every time I watched this movie I found myself wanting to be like Charity who longs for the dreamer to carry her along with his dreams.  This movie drew me to the Dreamer whose plans were for Israel’s good (Jeremiah 29:11), whose dreams are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), who can do anything (Matthew 19:23-30).

However big, however small
Let me be part of it all
Share your dreams with me
You may be right, you may be wrong
But say that you’ll bring me along
To the world you see
To the world I close my eyes to see
I close my eyes to see

These few lines from “A Million Dreams” have become my prayer.  They sum up why I so emotionally connect with this movie.  I want to be swept up in God’s dreams.  I want to share in them, whether my part in it all is big or small.  My realism does not seem to be real anymore.  I have been living in a gloomy fantasy world of my own design.  This movie helped me see that I am tired of my pessimism and now I long for something real.  Just like Phineas, I have been dreaming my own dreams for my own glory.  I am finding out, like Phineas, that these dreams will never be enough for me because I’m dreaming the wrong dreams.

I want to hope in something bigger than my own dreams.

The kind of faith found in Hebrews 11 is about an irrepressible hope in God’s dreams for a world that right now we close our eyes to see!  I may not know what God is doing. (You may be right, you may be wrong.)  What he does may seem right or wrong to me, but I trust that His dreams are the best, and that He never makes mistakes.  I want to be likehebrews11-6-1 those listed in the Hall of Faith, trusting that God will fulfill all that He promised even though I cannot see it. (To the world I close my eyes to see.)  “…for we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7.  Walking by faith is not about blindly going through life avoiding evidence.  Faith is about trusting in Someone who is trustworthy, who will do all that He promised.  With man, salvation is impossible, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

For fame and fortune, Phineas creates a show to shock his customers, something that’s hyperbolic.  A show that isn’t real but brings joy to the dull, even banal lower class life.

The Greatest Show
Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for
Been searching in the dark, your sweat soaking through the floor
And buried in your bones there’s an ache that you can’t ignore
Taking your breath, stealing your mind
And all that was real is left behind

He even compares himself with a preacher who hoodwinks congregants to believe in something not real.  The comparison of religion to fantasy is troubling, but it doesn’t ruin the movie.

It’s fire, it’s freedom, it’s flooding open
It’s a preacher in the pulpit and you’ll find devotion
There’s something breaking at the brick of every wall it’s holding I’ll let you now, so tell me do you wanna go?

Phineas succeeds, but his success is not enough.  He wants to gain acceptance in the upper crust of society.  The only way to do that is to bring the social elite something phineas jenny share stage“real.”  He pursues this dream of joining the upper class, but he walks over all those who helped him succeed.  Phineas ultimately discovers, after all his success burns to the ground, that family is all that is true.  This “truth,” however is incomplete.  We might find contentment in family, but family will never satisfy us because God has placed eternity in our hearts.  We will never be satisfied until we become part of His family.  C.S. Lewis affirmed this principle when he said in Mere Christianity “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”[2]

I saw a song of redemption and reconciliation in “Rewrite the Stars.”  The Groom wooingrewritethestars His bride, declaring His desire for her.  The bride feeling hopeless and unworthy.  The Groom gently reassuring His bride that she is His destiny if only she would believe in Him.  He has given His all for her, and wants nothing less than all of her.

Rewrite the Stars
All I want is to fly with you
All I want is to fall with you
So just give me all of you
[Bride] It feels impossible
[Groom] It’s not impossible
[Bride] Is it impossible?
[Singing together][Bride sings] Say that it’s possible [Groom sings] See that it’s possible

This movie awoke something in me that made me come alive.  Dare I say “resurrected” something in me?  After years of praying for a tender heart, watching this movie made me realize how long I have been living for my own dreams.  Chasing accolades from my vocation and my writing, estimating my value on the number of Facebook “likes” and favorable blog stats.  I’ve always lived in the future, always seeing my life as a stepping stone to something else.  Never satisfied with where I am at.  Never giving all of me in the moment because I have been saving some of me for the future version of me.

My dreams for me, I realize now, will never be enough.  These temporal dreams cannot fill the longing for eternity.

From Now On
For years and years
I chased their cheers
The crazy speed of always needing more
But when I stop
And see you here
I remember who all this was for

My pessimism made me believe that everything I wanted for my life would satisfy.  I just had to keep worshiping myself, reaching for more for me.  This movie made me “remember who all this was for.”  And from now on, I want to be all in, through the highest heights to the lowest lows.  I want to give my all to God because He has given all to me.

And from now on
These eyes will not be blinded by the lights
From now on
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
It starts tonight
And let this promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on

God’s dreams come true over and over again (Lamentations 3:22-23).  This theatrical encore of God’s dreams makes me want to stand and applaud, wanting more.  This movie drew me towards this Greatest Showman that I just can’t help but worship.

We were all created to worship.  All of us.  The secular humanist along with the most devoted Christian.  All of us have eternity inside of us, a longing for Someone that nothing in this life can satisfy.  The following video is a good illustration of this point:

We were all created to worship.  When the music picks up in the video above, the ensemble in the room couldn’t help but do what they were created for.  Something in them was stirred when they sang about coming back “home.”  Worship is infectious!  Didfromnowonworship you see how even those who were not there to sing this song just wanted to be part of it too?  Did you wish you could have been there, too?  They all may not have known that they were worshiping or whom they were worshiping. They may not have realized that the “eternity” God has placed in their hearts was yearning to worship the Greatest Showman who dreamed each one of them into existence.  But, they worshiped with gusto, longing to “come back home again.”  Deep was crying out to Deep, longing for the world for which they were made.

How much more, we who are redeemed should worship because we know of whom we worship and why we worship!  We know of the world we were created for that is promised to us, made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We know where home is, and we know He is enough!

Like a child that exults in the monotonous, I want to watch this movie and listen to this soundtrack over and over again.  Never tiring of dreaming of God’s dreams that keep me awake!  So, thanks to Hollywood, I have awoken to the dreams God has for His world, a world more real than the one we see with our eyes, and His dreams include me.  I’ve renewed my covenant with God and it sings like an anthem in my heart.  From now on I want to exult in the million dreams God has for me.childexultinmonotony

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (London: John Lane Company, 1908), reprinted (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 65-66.

[2] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (London: C.S. Lewis Pte. Ltd., 1952), reprinted (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001), 136-37.


Impetuous Peter Walks On Water

peter walks on water.jpg

Today’s post is about the impetuous Peter.  The disciple who refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet, then wanted Jesus to wash his whole body which garnered a double-redirection from Jesus (John 13:6-10).  The disciple who rebuffed Jesus when he spoke of his death, earning him a stiff reprimand from Jesus (Matthew 16:22-23).  The disciple who cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest, which Jesus rebuked firmly (Luke 22:49-50).  The disciple who returned to his profession of fishing when he had been called to be a fisher of men (John 21:3).

The same disciple who professed that Jesus is the Messiah, God the Son (Matthew 16:16).  The same disciple who continued to follow Jesus, if only from afar, after Jesus’ arrest (Luke 22:54-62).  The same disciple who immediately ran to the tomb after the women told him it was empty (Luke 24:12).  The same disciple who jumped into the water to get to shore faster in order to see Jesus sooner (John 21:6).

Peter was impetuous, often doing things immediately without thinking things through.  After the miracle of feeding 5,000 men plus women and children (Matthew 14:13-21), Jesus sent his disciples on a boat to Bethsaida.  Jesus went to pray alone.  In the early sea-of-Galileemorning hours (between 3 A.M. and 6 A.M.), the wind had prevented the disciples from making much headway on the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus began walking on the water, intending to pass by them in order to make a demonstration of his deity.  Instead of being impressed by the power of Jesus over the fluidity and instability of water, they imagined him to be a ghost and became afraid.  You cannot really blame the disciples, though.  They had been in a boat all night on a lake that is only 64 square miles large, roughly the size of Liechtenstein.  There was a tremendous headwind preventing the sea-of-Galilee-2000px.jpgboat from making much progress.  Waves were buffeting the boat.  It is quite possible the disciples saw some supernatural force at work in the wind, preventing them from getting to where Jesus had sent them.  A mysterious image walking on the water must have confirmed their fears.

“But when tjesus_walking_on_waterhe disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ and they cried out in fear” (Matthew 14:26).  How soon the disciples forgot that Jesus had calmed the wind and the waves before.  “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41).  They had just seen Jesus demonstrate his power by feeding 5,000 men with just five loaves and two fish, yet now were trembling in fear at the sight of a ghost.

Jesus immediately calmed their fears by identifying himself “Take heart; It is I.  Do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27).  Here is where Peter does something impetuous.  He insisted that he walk on the water with Jesus.  “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you onpeter-jumps-john-21 the water” (Matthew 14:28).  Now, I wonder what was going through Peter’s mind at that moment.  Wasn’t he afraid that some ghost imitating Jesus could have bid him to get out of the boat to his death?  Even though his eyes saw a ghost, his ears heard the voice of his Master.  His Master bade him “Come.”  So Peter got out of his comfort zone and walked on the water.  No other man on earth (who was not also God) can make that claim.  Peter was walking on water.

Then Peter took his eyes off of Jesus. “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out ‘Lord, save me!'” (Matthew 14:30).  “When he saw….”  To see.  The Greek word for saw is βλέπω (blep’-o) which means to look at, behold, beware, peter waterlie, look (on), perceive, regard, see, sight, take heed.  As impetuously as he was in leaping out of the boat at the voice of Jesus, Peter now was just as impetuous to regard the wind, and the way it made him feel emotionally.  Instead of regarding the one who commands the wind and the waves, his eyes told him “Beware of the wind and waves.”  He began to walk by sight and not by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).  He trusted what his eyes were telling him and not in who Jesus is.  Jesus reached for Peter, lifted him up.  Jesus labeled Peter one of little faith.  “Little faith” is translated from one Greek word, όλιγόπιστος (ol-ig-op’-is-tos), meaning incredulous, lacking confidence.  Taken from two Greek words, όλιγόπιστος implies “puny conviction.”

“Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).  “Doubt,” διστάζω (dis-tad’-zo) meaning to duplicate, to waver (in opinion), to doubt.  Peter doubted the power of Jesus.  Instead he believed the lie of the wind and waves.  Peter’s little faith was not that he required evidence in order to believe.  Jesus did not demand blind faith.  Faith is not believing in something without evidence.  Faith is putting trust in someone who is trustworthy.  Jesus, in fact, gave the disciples (and us) evidence of his power by calming the storm, feeding the 5,000, walking on water, resurrecting from the dead. 

Trust.  That is what faith is about.  Is Jesus able to make me walk on water?  Has he bid me “Come?”[1]  Then what am I waiting for?  Do I trust him?  Imagine if Peter had not lost confidence in Jesus and kept walking by faith instead of by what his eyes saw.  Which disciple would have been next to step out of the boat?  Andrew?  John?  Philip?  Could Peter’s demonstration of faith have inspired the rest to step out in faith?  They weren’t getting anywhere fast inside the boat.  Jesus seemed to be getting along just fine walking on the water.

Peter missed the opportunity to inspire his fellow disciples because he regarded what his eyes saw, instead of the one who bade him “Come.”  His impetuous nature led him to a place where he could have demonstrated great faith.  Instead, he exhibited little faith.  Thankfully, Peter’s story of faith did not end here.  The power of the Gospel transformed him.  He became a man of great faith, even to the point of preaching the resurrection of Jesus though he knew it would lead to his death.


[1] Although I am not one who believes that miracles ended with the Apostolic age, I do believe that they are less frequent.  God used miracles as evidence for his authority and power. Now that his Word is complete, there is no need for miracles to demonstrate his authority and power.  Do we really trust God who has already spoken, or are we like the Pharisees who constantly sought signs, doubting, wavering?  Though Jesus has the power to make us literally walk on water, he has not bid us “Come.”  My point above about us walking on water is metaphorical, not literal.  Let us be careful not to turn Jesus into a glorified magician, who can wow people with parlor tricks.

Is the World Going Insane, or Am I?


I came to a realization last night after the Republican Party booed conscience, and cheered “I’m proud to be gay.”  Either the world is going insane, or I am.  That question is what I’m going to ponder over the next month while I avoid social media.

mad-worldI know that the Scripture says not to announce your fast to avoid self-righteousness.  My announcement of my fast of social media, however, is not to promote myself as a “holier-than-thou” person.  For those of you who still read my writing (and by the look of my blog traffic, few of you still do) I want to explain my absence.  I’ve been accused of dropping judgmental bombs and then flying under the radar for a time in order to let the uproar die down only to swoop in and drop more.

Before I go any further, I want to say how much I love and appreciate my wife, Dawn.   God has used her to help center me and keep me disciplined.

Dawn, I used to think that God doesn’t have just one person for someone to marry, but that the person you marry becomes that one person.  Now, I see God’s orchestration in brining us together to be the perfect spouse for my perfection and sanctification.

I came to this crossroads last night.  The world seems to be falling apart.  Even the Republican Party is celebrating the sin of homosexuality.  The party that used to be dominated by conservative Christians is now dominated by godless conservatives.  The opposing political party, the party that booed God at their national convention in 2012, enthusiastically cheers on and supports a hypocritical, godless criminal as their pick for president.

My life’s goal has been to speak the truth in a world that loves lies.  Lately, even those of my spiritual family, however, seem to be tone deaf to the message I bring.  Whether it be the Church’s idolatry (of sports, coffee, entertainment, family, tolerance, self-esteem, etc.) or on what truth is to be spoken and how it’s to be spoken.  I’ve been harping on a Church filled with people who appear to me to worship college football, the NFL, the NBA alongside of their worship for God.  I see more enthusiasm for things of sports than things of God, nobody seems to think that this observation applies to them.  The usual retort is to say that sports is not inherently evil, and so the idolatry goes on.

I still have a sports idolatry.  Not when I play them as recreation, but when I root for my teams.  I have decided to completely tear down this idol.  It’s an idol that is working against God anyway.  Besides taking my heart away from worshiping God exclusively, it is trannyworking against God in our society by taking stands for unrighteousness.  The NBA just announced that it is moving the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, NC because of the law that protects young girls from being forced to shower with grown men.  The NFL threatened to move the Superbowl.  Disney, the rock band Boston, and other entertainment companies have vowed to boycott places that protect religious liberty.

Even after Christians are made aware of this, they continue to vociferously consume this entertainment as if nothing is wrong.

I’ve been trying to get to know who God is and how I am to worship him.  I see silly “worship” songs that seem to get Christians motivated emotionally but are devoid of anything theological.  I think I am speaking the truth, but I keep getting push back from people, or worse, they completely ignore me.  It seems people are afraid to have a discussion because it might get unpleasant.  So, they avoid the exchange of ideas and are never exposed to a true idea that might steer them to the truth.

I am not saying I always have the truth.  Being confident in your opinion and insisting on it being the truth is not self-righteousness nor is it arrogant. Of course I think I’m right, otherwise I would not have voiced or advocated a position. Others think they are right, otherwise they wouldn’t challenge my position. But the debate needs to happen because it is in that discussion that we work toward what is true.

The truth is sometimes presented in an arrogant way (of which I know I am sometimes guilty).

“…’Sometimes’ you say?”

OK, enough from the peanut gallery. I try not to be arrogant.

“Maybe you need to try harder.”

Are you done? I have a serious point here.

People tend to read emotions into social media posts that simply aren’t in the minds of the authors. Then the authors get accused for the way they made the readers feel.

Boys and girls, it’s time to put down those participation trophies, leave your safe spaces, and grow into fully functioning adults.

First of all, don’t assume offense was intended. We probably are not as clairvoyant as we think. Secondly, we are not required to carry offense, real or imagined. This situation is the kind for which Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek.

Social media is a place of human communication. Wherever humans interact there are bound to be miscommunications, misunderstandings, and mistakes. There will also be malevolence. The solution is not to shut down the forum or to limit it to light-hearted, soft-headed discussions. To do so would simply yield the forum to banality and lies.

Social media is full of truth claims that compete and clash. Sometimes this conflict produces more heat than light. For Christians to avoid the conflict altogether is not what God has called us to do. The Church has largely avoided conflict with the secular humanists in our culture and now all of our institutions are run by secular humanists.

We must be willing to cross swords with wicked and vain philosophies without cowering because someone might be offended, even on social media. We must speak the truth in love. But speaking the truth in love still requires speaking the truth.

Because I want to be on the side of truth and not promoting lies, I am open to having my mind changed.

hqdefaultThere is something wrong.  It is either me, or the world.  I know my fellow believers do not want to be on the side of lies, but I’m not convinced they are courageous enough to seek the entire truth.  Then again, am I deluded in thinking that I have the truth that no one else has?  Am I pompous, condescending, arrogant?  Am I speaking the truth, but people are turned off by my personality, or the manner in which I present the truth?  Are people so engrossed in postmodernism that any presentation of the truth is offensive to them?  I want to find out the answers.

I intend to avoid social media to free up more time to seek God, and pursue the truth.  I hope to offer to you what I have found.  I am jealous for the glory of God, and ardent in my defense of the truth.  I just don’t want to make my ministry an idol.

See you in a month.