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One of the most moving passages in English literature comes toward the end of Charles Dickens’ "Tale of Two Cities", a story of the French revolution. Each day there was a grim procession through the streets of Paris of prisoners on their way to the guillotine. In one of the processions was Sidney Carton, a brave man who had once lost his soul but had now found it again and was now giving his life for his friend. Beside him there was a young girl. They had met before in the prison, and the girl had noticed the gentleness and courage of the man’s face. She said to him "If I may ride with you, will you let me hold your hand? I am not afraid, but I am little and weak, and it will give me more courage." So they rode together, her hand in his; and when they reached the place of execution there was no fear in her eyes. She looked up into the quiet composed face of her companion, and said "I think you were sent to me by heaven". In all the dark valleys of life, God our Father, the God of all comfort, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, is at our side.
On the TV show called the X-Files, they had a story about a family that used to keep an ugly looking creature in their basement. And what was even stranger was that people would bring their sick and dying family members over to see this creature and they would come back healthy. When Scully and Mulder went to see what was happening, they found out that this creature was able to take people’s infirmities on himself. So if they came to him and had cancer, he was able to take the cancer and his body, suffering a few days, and then vomit the cancer out. So as this creature lived on, it became uglier and uglier as it was contaminated with diseases, until it finally took on the disease of death and died. It was a strange story, but I thought it was a good illustration of what Jesus does with our sins. He doesn’t just heal us up our guilt and sin by giving us some medicine. When Jesus went to the cross, he had to take on our infirmities, our sins, our guilt, and our punishment.
In most any movie everyone has his or her favorite part. Pearl Harbor was no exception. To me it was rather obvious that the writers wanted our favorite part to be towards the end when the two heroes of the movie, played by Ben Afleck and Josh Harnett, are involved in the American retaliation with a bombing run over Tokyo. It was a moment when the good guys strike back.
While that part of the movie was good, it was not my favorite part. The part I liked best was not particularly entertaining, but it really spoke to me. Being a former Navy guy that spent several years aboard ship, the bombs landing on all of the ships with all of the loss of life and damage was very powerful. It hit close to home. Then, in the middle of all of this carnage is a priest, standing in waist deep water with dead bodies floating all around him. He was pronouncing last rites on the dead. Then this voice in the background says three words. If you weren't paying attention it would be very easy to miss, "Where was God?"
Dr. Bruce Emmert
Indian Jones and the Last Crusade is one of my favorite movies—it’s great entertainment but it packs a powerful punch of a message about finding happiness and joy [Show the clip toward the end of the movie when Elsa has fallen to her death grasping for the grail and then Indiana nearly dies as he reaches for the Holy Grail even as his father is trying to save him.]
Indiana Jones is grasping for the Holy Grail even as he is about to plunge to his death. His father implores him, “Indiana, let it go.” All too often it is not what we lack that inhibits us from experiencing abundant life: what keeps us from experiencing life abundant is the stuff of earth that we do not want to let go of or to lose. Jesus said that he came to give life, and give it abundantly. If that is the case, then...
One of the characters in the movie, Toy Story, is Buzz Lightyear, a new toy to Andy’s room. Buzz is an astronaut, with a lot of neat things attached to him.
Buzz comes into the other toys’ lives thinking that there are no other Buzz Lightyears around. He is the only one.
Woody, a cowboy toy, and Andy’s favorite tries to convince him that he is only a toy not the character that he says he is.
Well in the course of the story, Buzz and Woody find themselves next door at Sid’s house, a little boy who likes to blow-up toys. During an attempted escape Buzz runs into a room in which we find Sid’s dad sound asleep in a chair with a beer in his hand and the TV on.
Buzz walks into the room at the very moment an Al’s Toy Barn commercial comes on about Buzz Lightyear’s on sale! As he watches the commercial he begins to realize that he is not who he thinks that he is.
He walks out of the room in a state of shock and dismay to the top of the upstairs landing. He deploys his wings, and in what turns out to be a final attempt at trying to prove that he is Buzz Lightyear by trying to fly.
He sails into the air, at first thinking he can, and then as the action is placed in slow motion you watch the expression on his face change to a grimness that fades as he does to the bottom of the landing.
As he lands, one of his arms comes off and the camera pulls back to a shot of Buzz lying there on one of the bottom steps and looking at this other arm on another step. He is broken and he cannot fix himself.
One of the painful realities of life is that we cannot fix ourselves nor, despite the illusion that we can, fix one another. We are broken; we are in need of a repair that we cannot make.
Jimmy Stewart in the movie Shanendoah plays a farmer who has a bunch of sons. The Boys are of fighting age and the father will not let them go off to fight. The family gets the reputation of sitting out the war. There is a scene where they are all around the dinner table and they bow their heads for prayer. Jimmy Stewart says “Lord we planted this seed, we watered the plants, we picked the food and we cooked it, we did it all ourselves, we worked dog bone hard for this but we thank you just the same amen”
People who give sacrificially know that they worked hard for what they take home, but they also know that God blessed them and provided for them.
For thirteen extraordinary days in October of 1962, the world stood on the brink of an unthinkable catastrophe. Across the globe, people anxiously awaited the outcome of a harrowing political, diplomatic and military confrontation that threatened to end in an apocalyptic nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union.
There is an interesting late night scene in “Thirteen Days,” the movie that chronicles the events. Kenny O’Donnell, an advisor and friend of President Kennedy, is walking down the street and passes a Catholic church, when he sees a long line of people in front of the church. He looks to see why people are lined up when he sees a sign that says, "Confessions 24 hours. Pray for peace."
Kenny stops. Pauses. And then gets in line.
God’s ear is always open when we come to him in prayer. We don’t have to wait in line, and we don’t have to wait for catastrophe. Under any circumstance prayer is always the best thing to do. (Fresh Illustrations, http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html )
Steven Simala Grant
A few weeks ago I rented the movie AI. It is set in the future, where a company has created a human robot child with the ability to love unconditionally. In many ways it was a disturbing movie, posing a number of difficult questions about what it means to be human and what the limits of our dependence on technology should be. But probably the most poignant question that came to mind watching the movie is, ˇ§to what extent will we go to find love?ˇ¨ I wonˇ¦t give away the plot of the movie, but the thread that runs through it from start to finish is capsulated by a question this robot-boy asks repeatedly: "Then will mommy love me?"
It is perhaps the deepest longing of our he...
Rocky and Spiritual Victory
When I think of training, my mind often wanders to almost every underdog movie from the 80's and early 90's. Maybe you know what I mean.
Think of Rocky...any Rocky, really. Have you seen that movie? Yea, I thought so. If you're not familiar with the movies, let me bring you up to speed with Rocky III...the greatest Rocky movie of all times. Rocky Balboa is the champion of the world. He beat Apollo Creed for the world title. He is then challenged by the newcomer Clubber Lang, played by the illustrious Mr. T. After avoiding him for months, the two finally meet in a showdown that ends in tragedy for Rocky. He is beat. Really, he is creamed by Clubber Lang. Defeated, Rocky falls from grace, depressed and angry with himself. But encouragement comes from an unlikely place: Apollo Creed, his old opponent. Creed pushes Rocky to get back on his feet and reclaim his title.
What follows is a staple of underdog movies of this era: the classic training montage to the classic theme song. The montage lasts three minutes and shows Rocky go from down and out to the hardened warrior. In the climax of the film, Rocky defeats Clubber Lang and is once again the champion of the world.
What Rocky knew is that to defeat his formidable opponent, Clubber Lang, he had to train hard. He had to work hard to be able to overcome the odds and defeat his enemy. Do you see where I'm going with this? Now, I'm sure Sylvester Stallone didn't intend to have such strong spiritual parallels, but we can get so much out of that.
As spiritual warriors, we cannot simply go into battle against our opponent. What we need to realize is that our enemy is fierce and strong and on our own merits, we cannot beat him. But we have been given help. We are not alone in our fight. God is with us and he has given us tools to help defeat the enemy.
Do you remember the movie called "Crocodile Dundee?" It was a good one.
Crocodile Dundee comes from the land down under. He is completely out of his realm when he came from Australia to New York City. Crocodile Dundee and his girlfriend are out for a walk at night, when all of a sudden some guys, which we would have called a thiefs or a hoods all a sudden appeared out of nowhere. One of the guys pulled out a knife and demanded, "Give me your money!" And Dundee’s girl screams, "Oh, he has a knife!"
But Crocodile Dundee, the cool character that he is says, "That’s not a knife." And he coolly reaches behind his back and pulls a huge knife out of his sheaf and says, "This is a knife." The thieves take one look at Dundee’s knife and takes off.
What would normally bring fear did not bring fear to Crocodile Dundee, because he had something bigger and better. Believer friend, we have someone bigger and better working for us this morning. God does not want you or me to be intimidated out of being the person He has saved us and sanctified us to be.
If you are doing the powerful kingdom work that God has called you to do then you have the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit and you and I are spiritually powerful persons.