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Posts from December 2012

The Most Important Scene in "Les Miserables"

Last night, our family sat in a sold out theater enjoying the opening day of the newest incarnation of Les Miserables. The story of Jean Valjean and his journey from prisoner, to mayor, to rescuer, to father and hero has captivated audiences for decades.

The original story by Victor Hugo was first published in the mid-1800s and was considered by many to be the greatest novel of the nineteenth century. The story is set in the midst of the French Revolution and introduces numerous memorable characters such as Valjean, Inspector Javert (the officer who is bent on re-capturing the escaped convict Valjean), Fantine, Cosette, and Marius.

The novel holds its place in history as one of the greatest written. However, it is the musical adaptation, first presented on stage in 1980, that has captivated audiences worldwide.

My wife and I first experienced the musical in London in 2002. Having never read the book nor seen the musical before, we were taken in by the beautiful music and the production quality.

Perhaps the most famous musical numbers is "I Dreamed a Dream" as sung by the character Fontaine. The story of the desperate mother who has been pushed into prostitution in order to provide for her daughter is heart-wrenching and powerful. Many remember Susan Boyle's performance of this song on the British talent show "Britain's Got Talent" that propelled her to international fame.

There have been a few film adaptations of Les Miserables. In 1998 Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush starred in a quality film version. Though not a musical version, the retelling of Valjean's story was done well.

Les_miserables_ver11Yesterday, a star-studded film adaptation of the musical hit theaters. With such names as Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe and Hugh Jackman headlining, this version was set to be a hit. It does not disappoint.

As my family and I were leaving the theater, we were talking about the film. I said to my daughter, "There's one scene in the film that is the most important. It is the key. Without it, the rest of the film and story does not work."

While there are many memorable scenes, this one, though early in the story, is vital.

It is the scene where Valjean is arrested for stealing silver from the priest who has offered him sanctuary. The priest's response is vital. It is a scene that shows what grace and mercy truly are.

This is the scene where we can all relate.

Deserving nothing, we are shown grace by our Heavenly Father.

That's our story.

The priest echoes that to Valjean and it changes the man.

As I think of the crowded theater, all caught up in the musical numbers and the story of adventure, love and rescue, I pray that those in the crowd, and the millions others who will see this film over the next few weeks will "have ears to hear" how God so deeply loves them and reaches out to each of them with love and grace.

Hugo was wise to include this scene. It's elemental to the heart of man.

Ephesians 2:8-9(ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 


REAL Manhood: The Story of George Haley

A real man "expects the greater reward."

George Haley had begun to believe Christ's teachings had no validity in this world. While walking the campus of the University of Arkansas School of Law on one of the first days of school in 1949, a car full of students slowed down and waved him across an intersection. When he stepped in front of the car, they gunned the engine, knocking him to his knees in the gutter. He was then showered with mocking laughter and these biting words, "Hey, missing link, why don't you walk on your hind legs."

Living with expectations of a greater reward many times feels like a lonely affair, which unfortunately is why so few men choose to do so. In Psalm 22, King David, “a man after His own heart,” cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish?”  As he hung on the cross, Jesus himself repeated David’s words, Elí, Elí, lemá sabachtháni? that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” All human beings feel abandonment during their lifetime. However, in order to live expectantly, we must realize that it is not God who moves far away from us, but we from him.

George HaleyBeing one of the first African-American law students at a southern university before the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, George Haley was more of an experiment. George’s father bravely challenged his son with these words: “Segregation won’t end until we open beachheads wherever it exists. The governor of Arkansas and educational officials have decided upon a quiet tryout of university integration…I can arrange your admission if you accept this challenge.”

What was this challenge and “quiet tryout?” George was relegated to a basement room between classes and told not to wander around the campus. He was told to bring sandwiches to eat in the basement and to enter and exit the campus using a secret route. His room became known as the “Noose Room.” One day, because of bitterness at his use of a shared toilet, his door rapidly opened and he turned just in time to catch in the face a bag of urine. Later, eyes flooded with tears of anger, George confessed his own psalm: “I’ve drawn on every spiritual resource I have to fight off this hatred, but I am failing.”

George stated these words to a small band of white Christian brothers and sisters at a student foundation meeting.  A dam of words and emotions was released and met with silence. “What can you do?” he blurted out. “You can speak to me!” Suddenly a roar of applause and cheers erupted and only the chairman’s gavel restored order.

George’s unanimous nomination to become a member of Westminster House did not end his trials at the University of Arkansas—the taunts and challenges followed him for his entire three years at the school. However,  George learned a valuable lesson from his father and from courageous leaders like Miller Williams, who bravely sat with Haley in the school cafeteria after a confrontation with three other students and stated, “What’s happening here just isn’t right and I’m taking my stand with you. “

George learned that we are all part of a grand story and that we never, ever fight alone.

Later in Psalm 22 David praises, “For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.” As you choose daily to live as a real man, there will be moments of fear and doubt and frustration—this is one of the enemy’s most effective tactics. This is why so many men turn away, walk away, and even run away. A real man  has the vision to see what isn’t and the courage to stand, even if seemingly alone. He also has the wisdom to know that he is not alone.

He is holding on to you with His righteous hand. Don’t let go.


REAL Manhood: Jabez's Expectation

A real man "expects the greater reward."

When Dr. Bruce Wilkinson published his little book, The Prayer of Jabez in 2000, it shot up best-seller lists. People were introduced to a little known biblical character named Jabez who prayed boldly and expectantly.

The man known as Jabez is not spoken of much in the Bible. In fact, he’s just mentioned here in this one passage. Names were descriptive in those days and his parents named him Jabez, which is Hebrew for “pain.” Not a very nice name. It makes one wonder what was going on in the lives of the mother and father to give him such a name. Perhaps his birth was a struggle. We will never know. What we do know is this man grew up known as “Pain.”

Only God knows what caused so much pain in his parents’ lives. By far, the heaviest burden of this young man’s life was how his name defined his future. Names were not just coined because they sounded good, were popular or made for interesting monograms. Names were descriptive and strategic. To have the name “Pain” didn’t bode well for Jabez. Yet, even with this name, Jabez grew up hearing of a God who had rescued his forefathers from slavery, had provided food and water for them in the desert, had given them land and hope and freedom. Jabez did not let his name nor his circumstances define him. Consequently, his prayer life deepened.

PrayerJabez was obviously a man with great faith. He was one who prayed boldly and expectantly. He sought God’s blessing upon his life as well as his protection in life. According to the passage, God granted his desire.

I’ve noticed that many times our prayers are weak. Even when we get beyond the laundry-list prayer requests for the sick and destitute, our requests seem lukewarm and powerless. Jabez was a real man when it came to prayer and his authenticity shines through.

A real man always expects the greater reward. Real men understand that this life is not all there is. There is more offered by the Creator of the universe. The life eternal with God is beyond our comprehension. Yet, eternal life does not begin when we die. It begins when we start living. The born-again child of God has been given the great privilege of approaching Him with requests. The communication between Creator and the created is intimate at this level of prayer. Despite what many feel, a man’s desires are even welcome. Jabez’s prayer shows this.

To expect the greater reward means we understand that God’s story is larger than the here and now. To look forward without missing the present is a sign of a real man.

REAL Manhood: The Wealthy Fool

The real man "expects the greater reward."

Everybody has treasure. It may be money or simply a pair of shoes, but thre reality is we treasure what we possess, because it is our stuff. Since we have these treasures, we end up feeling responsible for guarding them. Biblical scholar Garry Alley writes of the time when an arrogant individual approached Jesus and insisted he settle a family dispute regarding inheritance. As is the case often in the New Testament, Jesus told a story, a parable, to answer this request.

Jesus tells of a wealthy man who was blessed with a great crop on his land. This man debated in his own mind as to what to do with the overage. He decided to tear down his barns and build bigger ones in order to hold the surplus.

BarnMost likely, the listeners were thinking that this wealthy man was a God-fearer and pious. This is due to the fact that many Old Testament passages speak of God blessing one’s crops if they obey His commandments.

They may have thought the man was a great administrator like Joseph of the Old Testament in that the story reflects some of that story as well.

Perhaps the listeners thought the man was righteous because God had blessed him with great wealth.

However, just when the crowd has developed their ideas of how godly and righteous the wealthy man was, Jesus reveals his disapproval.  The wealthy man speaks of his plans and God says to him “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”[i]

This is a shocking statement. What makes a man like this a fool? Does this mean not to plan ahead and save for rainy day? Is this a financial planning lesson? What is Jesus’ point?

Notice that the wealthy man’s focus was on self. He was thinking about what he would eat and drink and how he would have supply for the future. Jesus teaches of the fragility of life and that tomorrow is never promised. The fatal flaw is what the man did with his stuff, his treasure. Instead of loving others and showing that love, he intended to use his wealth for his own sake in order to enhance his own life. The real man understands that being “rich toward God” is using what God has blessed him with for the sake of others. This is the man who expects the greater reward.[ii]



[i] Luke 12:21 (ESV)

[ii] Alley, Gary. "Where Do You Store Your Stuff?" June 2012. Jerusalem Cornerstone Foundation, June 2012. Web. 10 June 2012. <http://www.jerusalemcornerstone.org/news/june-2012?utm_source=Jerusalem+Cornerstone+Foundation+List&utm_campaign=a286c9675a-December_20116_27_2011&utm_medium=email>.


His Name Is Immanuel

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In Isaiah, the prophecy was given that the virgin would give birth to a child and name him Immanuel (meaning "God with us.") In the Gospels, he is called Jesus (meaning "God is our salvation.") These titles are descriptive of the one who was born that evening in a cave in Bethlehem.

The name "God with us" is vital.

In times like these, with all the fear, worry, frustration and anger abounding, we often wonder if we are God forsaken?

The question is "Who are the 'us' described in this verse?"

Listen to the attached audio file here, in iTunes or through our online app for answers to this question.

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REAL Manhood: "More To This Life" - The Chapman Family

An authentic man, a "real man" expects the greater reward. This life is not all there is. Years ago, music artist Steven Curtis Chapman released a hit song titled "More to This Life." The song garnered awards for Chapman, but more importantly, the lyrics hit on a subject all too often ignored by people today, even Christ-followers.

This is about living with the bigger picture in mind. This life does matter. It is during our life here that we are given the opportunikty to respond to God's calling. It is now when we are shown the reality of the Gospel and the grace of the Father. So, yes, this life is vital. What we do and how we live now matters. However, this life is about much more than just managing our sin for the day.

While some believe the common lie that by managing one's sin and being an overall "good guy" they can "live their best life now," the truth of the matter is that regardless how good it is here and now, it pales in comparison to what is to come for the child of God.

ChapmanSometimes in life, the here and now is terribly tragic. In 2008, Chapman’s five year old daughter Maria Sue (the youngest of his daughters and one of three adopted from China) was killed when his 17 year old son Will Franklin ran over her in the family’s driveway. The pain for Steven, his wife and especially his son was, and is, intense. Will Franklin recounts that he began running away from the house immediately after the accident. He was in shock. He was scared. He “just wanted to get away,” but his siblings ran after him, hugged him and held him. He said his family’s faith has been key to helping him grow through this.

Mary Beth Chapman, Steven’s wife and the children’s mother, said “Because of my faith, I know that she’s completely whole and completely OK and I’m going to see her again.”[i] Still it’s not easy. In fact, it’s very difficult, but the reminder is that this life is not the end. There’s more to this life.

An authentic man understands that all that we see around us is temporal. Some men have forsaken that which truly matters to gain notoriety among others. Families suffer. Father wounds increase. Yet, men continue to climb the “ladder” of success while often ignoring that which truly counts. Jesus asked the question “What good is it to gain the whole world and forfeit one’s soul?” In case you haven’t figured out the answer, it is simply “Not good at all.”

While often chastised for not recognizing the moment and living either looking toward the future or lamenting or overly celebrating the past, we must not forget that the authentic man always lives with the greater reward in mind.



[i] Kimball, Josh. "Steven Curtis Chapman in First Interview since Daughter's Death." Christian Today. N.p., 7 Aug. 2008. Web. 26 Sept. 2012. <http://www.christiantoday.com/article/steven.curtis.chapman.in.first.interview.since.daughters.death/21170.htm>.


Celtic Language Speakers

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Thecelt copyJohn Robinson of The Celtic Languages Teams shared with us yesterday. John shared information regarding the evangelical church in Western Europe and the reality and challenge of reaching those who speak a Celtic language as their heart language.

John also shared a word from Scripture regarding how we, as believers, are to be on mission for Christ at all times. His message is attached above as an audio file (also available on our app and on iTunes for free.)

 

The Celt from David Tarkington on Vimeo.


REAL Manhood: The 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team

REAL Men Expect the Greater Reward

The film “Miracle” is the re-telling of the story of the 1980 United States Olympic gold medal winning hockey team. The epic battle of the overmatched US Hockey team goes down as one of the most incredible sports moments of the previous century.

The coach for the US team was Herb Brooks. Brooks was a no nonsense college coach from Minnesota who desired to change how the Olympic team trained and prepared for the world stage. Though many in US Hockey questioned his abilities and motives, he became the coach. His style of coaching resulted in three NCAA Championships for the University of Minnesota but was not initially embraced by the members of the national team.

Herb instituted extreme “line” drills, soon to be known as “Herbies” for the team. Players lined up on one end of the ice and skated out to each line on the ice and back as quickly as possible. As quoted in the film, Brooks describes the purpose of these drills this way.

Red line, back. Blue line, back. Far blue line, back. Far red line, back. And you have 45 seconds to do it. Get used to this drill. You'll be doing it a lot. Why? Because the legs feed the wolf, gentlemen. I can't promise you we'll be the best team at Lake Placid next February. But we will be the best conditioned. That I can promise you. – Herb Brooks[i]

One memorable scene in the film follows a game against Norway. Brooks is not pleased with the performance of his team and he refuses to allow them to leave the stadium. Instead, following three periods of hard fought hockey, he lines them up on one end of the ice for a series of “Herbies.” This scene is pivotal, for it is here that the team begins to understand the purpose of their hard work.

1980-US-Olympic-HockeyThere is an end game in mind. It was not to just arrive at the Olympics. It was to win the gold medal. No one really thought the US team had a chance. Well, no one except Herb Brooks. The team began to believe.

Al Michaels said it so well when the US team defeated the highly favored Soviet team, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” and the world agreed. The US team went on to win the gold medal.[ii]

The hard work in practice was essential. Do the hard work now and expect the greater reward.



[i] "Famous Miracle Quotations." Miracle Quotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 June 2012. <http://www.quotes.net/mquote/62531>.

[ii] "Miracle on Ice." Miracle on Ice. N.p., 15 Mar. 2009. Web. 10 June 2012. <http://1980miracle.blogspot.com/>.