I was disappointed when I missed Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close at the cineplex this winter, so I was eager to catch it on DVD.
Based on Jonathan Safran Foer's acclaimed 2006 best-selling novel of the same title, the movie tells the story of a 11-year-old boy Oskar (Thomas Horn) who lost his jeweler father, Thomas Schell (Tom Hanks), during what he calls "The Worst Day"—the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, although it failed to win, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is a powerful drama that extols the bond between a father and son, family and forgiveness. A year after his dad died in the World Trade Center, Oskar, who has problems socializing and had been tested for Asperger's Syndrome, is determined to continue his vital connection to the man who playfully pushed him into confronting his wildest fears.
While looking through his father's closet one day, Oskar finds a small envelope marked "Black," with a key in it. Oskar decides the key must belong to someone named Black, and he starts a methodical search for the right person. "If there was a key, there was a lock," Oskar surmises. "If there was a name, there was a person."
His quest is an attempt to maintain his father's memory of his father, and to participate in the sort of mysterious search that his dad sometimes sent Oskar. "If you don't tell me what I'm looking for, then how will I ever be right?" Oskar asks his father. Thomas responds: "Well, another way of looking at it is how will you ever be wrong?" read more
As a movie buff, there are certain films that I consider traditional, yearly family must-sees—age and maturity permitting: Easter (The Passion of The Christ); Christmas (The Nativity Story,The Polar Express, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street, It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story); Memorial Day (Glory and North and South); and Veterans Day (Tora! Tora! Tora!, Saving Private Ryan and now I'm adding War Horse to the list).
Based on the Tony award-winning Broadway play and set against the sweeping canvas of World War I, War Horse tells the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and his young trainer, Albert (Jeremy Irvine). When they're forced apart by war, we follow Joey's extraordinary journey as he changes and inspires the lives of everyone he meets.
Some would say it's a formula movie designed to hold your heart for two-plus hours using every sort of cliche imaginable. Yeah, maybe ... fine. But it's also an fantastic story directed by the master Steven Spielberg and paired with a terrific score by another master himself, John Williams. I say it's a masterpiece that you get to watch with your kids. read more
The recipe for Wrath of the Titans: Fire. Stern looks of determination. Destruction.
Add some slimy underworld demons. Mix with an old, somewhat decrepit, dysfunctional family of Greek gods who still haven't figured out their personal differences—let alone the differences of the world. Did I say destruction?
Top it off with some loud roars of anger, more stern looks of determination, and an incredibly, unbelievable amount of computer-generated stones and rocks exploded, crushed and destroyed. Add lava and stir.
This fantasy film is a sequel to the equally destructive and surprisingly successful Clash of the Titans, released in 2010. Better CGI and 3D rendering make this installment easier to watch than the last, which was rebooted from the classic Clash of the Titans, released in 1982. This isn't a flick for those who love snappy dialogue and deep characters, but judging from the audience that loaded up the theater where I was screening, Wrath of the Titans will be a hit with the age 13-24 crowd. read more
Based on Tarzan creator Edgar
Rice Burroughs’ classic novel A Princess of Mars, which inspired
generations of filmmakers and science fiction writers, including George Lucas,
James Cameron, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury, John Carter—with its
sweeping scope and $250-million budget—touches down in more than 3,500 screens
Directed by Andrew Stanton, best known for
directing the acclaimed and popular Pixar films Finding Nemo and Wall-E,
the film comes across as a cinematic epic, seeking to rival movies such as Star
Wars and Avatar with its look, feel and storyline.
John Carter tells the story of war-weary,
former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch, Friday Night Lights),
who is an honorable and courageous man. A veteran of the U.S. Civil War, he is
broken—tired of fighting for the causes of others. His fighting spirit remains
strong, but Carter has turned to self-interest, and he is done with war. read more
Green Lantern was part of a crowded superhero line-up at the cineplex last summer along the likes of Captain America, Thor and X-Men: First Class.
After recently catching the movie on DVD, I would have to say it's all flash, but no substance. The 3-D special effects are visually stunning and mesmerizing, but the storyline and premise is convuluted and weak. With a $200 million budget, Green Lantern fizzled at the domestic box office, ending up with only $114 million.
The plot centers on pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), who is handed a mysterious ring by an alien whose spacecraft crashed on Earth. Hal soon learns that he has been selected for membership in the group of intergalactic peace officers called Green Lantern Corps, who promote peace, order and justice.
After, Hal recites the Corps' oath: "In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil's might, beware my power, Green Lantern's light."
Great setup for a good versus evil tale, right? Not quite. The movie's protagonit is Parallax, the ancient enemy of the Green Lanterns who has garnered the corruptive yellow power of fear, threatens all of Earth. So Hal must build up the moral courage to stand up to evil.
While trying to master the Green Lantern ring, Hal has to deal with his feelings of insecurity from his pilot father's fiery death years earlier, affections for fellow pilot, Carol (Blake Lively), and the jealousy of Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard), a creepy old friend who has basically been possessed by another alien.
Although the story is fairly true to the characters from DC comics, the characters don't seem believable as they might. Extras on the Blu-ray version include the theatrical version as well as an extended cut, several featurettes and a digital comic book.
Content Watch: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, Green Lantern features more than two dozen profanities, several scenes that show people drinking alcohol and an implied night of casual sex. The movie's creepy villains could be very scary for small children. I watched the film on Clearplay, which filters out most of the intense violence and all of the light obscenities. I didn't watch Green Lantern with my three oldest boys, ages 10, 9 and 5. read more
As a father of two, I'm always looking for a teachable moment. If you're smooth about it, your kids won't even know that you're instructing them on life.
Based on a children's book called The Borrowers, a popular title originally published in 1952 by British author Mary Norton, The Secret World of Arrietty is one of those covert teachable moments—actually, it features several of them.
The movie was the year's top grossing film when it was released in Japan in 2010, winning the Animation of the Year award. Translated, dubbed by an American cast and distributed stateside by Walt Disney Pictures, The Secret World of Arrietty was made by legendary Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away and Ponyo).
Arrietty (voiced by Disney TV star Bridgit Mendler) is 4 inches tall. She and her family are Borrowers. They live in the recesses of a suburban garden home, unbeknownst to the homeowner and her housekeeper Haru (voiced by Carol Burnett). Like all little people, Arrietty (AIR-ee-ett-ee) remains hidden from view, except during occasional covert ventures beyond the floorboards to "borrow" scrap supplies that their human hosts won't miss.
Arrietty is 14, and the limitation of her 4-inch stature means nothing to the girl. In Arrietty's eyes, the whole world is hers to explore, even if her easily agitated mother, Homily (voiced by Amy Poehler), and her father, Pod (voiced by Will Arnett), say otherwise. "Better be careful," they would warn, relating an oft-repeated story about a long-lost relative eaten by a frog.
One day, a boy arrives at the house. Shawn (voiced by David Henrie) is a sickly 12-year-old with a bad heart who has come to rest at his grandmother's house. He is supposed to have absolutely no excitement in preparation for a heart operation scheduled the following week or so. The first day, he spots Arrietty during one of her unauthorized forays into the real world and attempts to befriend her. Over the next few days, a secret friendship blossoms between the two—putting the lives of Arrietty and her family in danger. read more
Genuine intimacy is the cry of our nation. Many individuals search through multiple marriages trying to find the vital connection their souls long for. Still louder shouts the silence of the man or woman who has been married for decades and feels alone in that partnership.
Many feel they have done everything right at home and with their spouses, yet there is little or no intimacy. Far too many partners feel like roommates—as if they are just getting by emotionally. If fulfillment is promised, then why is it that few couples enjoy that impassioned connection?
I don't think this is God's plan for your marriage. He wants you to live the abundant life and to have a marriage full of joy and love—and this is what we're going to accomplish these next thirty days. We are going to make your marriage over into what God has designed for you and your spouse.
I have lived in the laboratory of other people's marriages for many years. In addition, I myself have journeyed from the inability to be intimate to a place of deep intimacy and great fulfillment with my wife, Lisa.
Early in my married life I had the feeling that I was surrounded by walls. I desperately wanted to step out from behind those walls but could not find a way to connect to my wife. God in His graciousness drew me into the field of marriage and family counseling, where I gained much understanding. Still, no one explained, These are the steps to intimacy: The mystery of intimacy and the skills required to build and maintain it continued to elude me—as it does for so many others in my field. read more
Just in time for Valentine's Day, a true love story of a couple's Christ-centered commitment winds up shredded by Hollywood's moviemaking machine in this sign-of-our-times "chick flick."
Kim and Krickitt Carpenter's real-life story is one of sadness, true love, and God's grace and protection. The couple—whose inspirational account was first told in their 2000 book, The Vow (B&H Books), and now in a movie by the same name—never gave up on their marriage, despite tremendous obstacles thrown in their way.
After only 10 weeks of marriage, the Carpenters were involved in a life-threatening accident the day before Thanksgiving in 1993. Though Krickitt was given a less-than-1-percent chance to live, she eventually awoke from her coma. But Kim's excitement to have his wife back didn't last long: Krickitt had no memory of meeting him, getting married or going on their honeymoon. Doctors explained that the last year and a half of Krickitt's memory was gone and would possibly never return.
Throughout their struggles to restore the life they'd dreamed of sharing, the Carpenters clung to God and centered their broken relationship on Him. And through His goodness, they were able to save their marriage and push past Krickitt's memory loss and personality changes caused by her severe head trauma.
That's what happened in real life. Onscreen, however, it's a different story—literally.
The major motion picture, which hits theaters 16 years after the Carpenters signed over the rights to their story, is not only a prime example of what happens when a true story goes through Hollywood's fine-tuned moviemaking machine, it's also a tell-tale sign of our culture's modern fixation with antiheroes and not-so-happy endings.
Starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum, The Vow had every opportunity to be a heartwarming romance to the likes of The Notebook—a broken man fighting for the woman he loves, no matter the cost. Unfortunately, it hardly measures up to the Carpenter's truly inspirational story.
The film is about Leo, a record studio owner, and Paige, an art student and sculptor. From flashbacks, we see the young couple happy and in love, with Leo constantly wooing his beautiful bride. But after the two suffer a car accident four years into their relationship, Paige wakes up with no memory of her husband. And it's at this point where the movie takes a major detour from the true story.
In fact, Paige has lost five years of her memory and last remembers being engaged to another man, Jeremy (Scott Speedman). She can't recall leaving law school to become an art student, meeting her husband or even that she's been estranged from her family for a number of years.
Although the relationship breaks down after the accident, the couple's fairy-tale romance is depicted in an enjoyable way through a series of flashbacks. The little snippets into their love story pre-accident portray two kindred spirits falling in love and getting married in the beautiful city of Chicago. Leo continues to romance Paige even after they're married, and she is clearly smitten.
But when Paige wakes up, her commitment to Leo has vanished. Although she briefly tries living with the husband she can't remember, the young wife quickly escapes to the comfort of her old life—ex-fiance and all. Leo fights for her, trying to help jog her memory with their wedding video, apartment and her art studio.
His attempts to win her back culminate with him taking Paige on a romantic date. Paige keeps her promise—which she doesn't recall making—to skinny-dip (wearing underwear) with Leo in Lake Michigan, and the couple even share a kiss or two. They really hit it off, and it seems their love story is back on track. But shortly after, Leo gives up on the woman he loves.
With all of the negative elements added to the story—Paige's controlling parents, the man she almost married trying to win her back and Leo's absence of a family—The Vow becomes another case of Hollywood furthering our culture's supposed preference for depressing endings in the name of "reality." Add to this a bedroom scene that features partial nudity, a rear-view shot of Tatum fully naked and an opening sequence graphically reenacting the auto accident, and this PG-13 film clearly proves it's not family friendly.
For all its changes from book to the screen, however, The Vow's most glaring omission is also the most important part of the Carpenters' real-life love story: their faith in God. To this day, Krickitt still can't recall an important segment of her life, yet she continues to remain faithful to the vow she made to her husband as she puts all of her hope and trust in God. She and Kim place their Creator in the center of their relationship and relentlessly work on recovering what they once had.
"We don't have a story without God. And that story really is about commitment—commitment to Him and commitment in marriage," Kim told the Christian Reader.
In a recent interview with The Daily Times (Farmington, N.M.), Krickitt said: "I would love to say that I fell in love with him again because that's what everybody wants to hear. I chose to love him and that was based on obedience to God, not feelings."
Sadly, though not surprisingly, The Vow heavily focuses on the feelings and not at all on their obedience to God. In fact, the movie never even mentions God other than when characters—including the couple—take God's name in vain (along with using profanity).
Most people enjoy a movie more when they haven't read the story in a book. And that's obviously the case with The Vow, which misses out on telling a truly romantic—and yes, just as realistic—story without all the dark elements. Yet even for those who have nothing to compare it to, the movie still lacks the quality of romance (and acting) most chick flicks offer. While it offers plenty of awww moments and is sure to leave its (mostly female) audiences fawning over Leo's sweetness, this Vow ultimately breaks down in depicting a heartbroken husband winning back his wife.
Gina Meeks is an assistant editor for Charisma magazine. read more
The last few days I have been waking up thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. I kept hearing his "I Have a Dream" speech as I awoke each of the last few mornings. He is one of my heroes of the faith; a difference-maker, and a catalyst for good and for the generations. I asked the Lord if there was some further meaning to my thoughts about him. He said, "I gave him a dream, and I have given you a dream."
I decided to write out my dream in honor of one of my hero's dreams. Thank you, Lord, for Dr. King, who stood for You, stood for freedom and gave his life for the cause of that freedom. I write this in honor of him and the legacy he left for us all:
"I have a dream that one day the kingdom nation of God will rise up and live out the true meaning of Christ's all-consuming creed that fulfills all laws and prophecies with these words: 'The Lord our God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and also love your neighbor as yourself. read more
Guys who have been touched and challenged by the message of the faith-based police drama, Courageous, to become the godly influence in their home that God intended, have an opportunity to share it with others in a low-key way, starting tomorrow.
The hit movie from the makers of Fireproof releases on DVD, providing a great opportunity for men to host a small group viewing or invite non-Christians friends who may have felt uncomfortable going to see it in the theaters to watch together at home.
The makers at Sherwood Pictures—based at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga.—have reported hundreds of testimonies of husbands and fathers who have been inspired to turn their lives over to God in a new way through the movie.
Among those who have written to the producers is Aimee, who told them: "I want to thank you for what you have done to my marriage. My husband is a police officer, so the movie particularly struck close to home. Not only has he stepped up to be what God intended him to be, he has given up addictions and vices that were crippling and shattering our marriage and the relationship he had with our kids." read more
Albert Narracott loved the thoroughbred horse from the moment he saw
him. When his father purchased the animal in a moment of pride, Albert
vowed to take care of him. He named his beloved horse Joey and instantly
set to work on training him.
Set in Europe during World War I, Steven Spielberg’s War Horse follows
Albert and Joey on an incredible journey of courage and adventure.
Played by newcomer Jeremy Irvine, Albert teaches Joey how to plow his
father’s field for planting, despite tremendous opposition from his
family and townspeople who do not think the small mare has the stamina.
When Albert’s father, Ted Narracott, sells Joey to the British
military in a moment of desperation, young Albert is devastated and
pleads with the soldier who purchased Joey to let him serve alongside
his animal. Capt. Nicholls (Tom Hiddleston, Thor) refuses because Albert is too young, but he agrees to return the horse when the war is over.
Albert soon finds out Capt. Nicholls has died in battle, and he fears
Joey has met the same fate. But the brave horse makes his way through
Europe as we watch him become acquired by German soldiers and then cared
for by a young girl and her grandfather in France.
Joey is eventually dragged back into battle and forced to haul heavy
artillery for soldiers intent on completing their mission with no
thought to the consequences the horses face. Though the thoroughbred
escapes, racing through ravaged lands, he entangles himself along the
way in barbed wire fences.
As viewers, we’re taken through a gripping journey of triumph,
sadness, hope and joy. Albert joins the war when he’s old enough in an
effort to find his dear horse. With Joey’s tenacity and Albert’s love,
it is hard not to believe these two will be reunited again—as impossible
as it may seem.
Because it is set in the middle of WWI, War Horse features
violence. Several battle scenes depict dead soldiers and horses strewn
on the battlefield. Two German traitors are executed and throughout the
film, horses are treated brutally. Albert is gassed in a battle scene,
and afterward he is badly scarred around the eyes.
Spielberg puts his own touch on the film, based on a young adult
novel that was adapted into an award-winning play. Though promoted
heavily among the “faith-based community,” War Horse doesn’t
contain overtly Christian messages beyond such elements as loyalty,
friendship and laying down your life for another—even if it’s a horse.
Characters mention God a handful of times, as when a down-on-his-luck
Ted Narracott tells his wife: “I used to believe God gave each man his
fair portion of bad luck. Now I don’t believe that anymore.” And when
Capt. Nicholls and Joey enter their first battle, the soldiers shout,
“Fear God! Honor the King!”
Though Spielberg’s latest wartime project has a heartwarming message
and contains no sexual content or noticeable profanity, the movie earns
its PG-13 rating for intense battle sequences. Families with young
children may opt to choose another movie on its Christmas Day release.
But those with teenagers will enjoy the tale of a young boy and the
incredible, unconditional love he has for a horse that is more friend
than farm animal. read more
I write this aboard a jet airliner
speeding south from one of the nation’s greatest northern cities. I am heading
home for Christmas.
How eager I am to see
the face of my wife, embrace my now-grown children who are gathering at the old
homestead, grab my little grandchildren and swing them high as they squeal:
How eager I am to sit
quietly with my dear friends, my extended family, to embrace and whisper “I
love you” in the ears of those as committed to me as they are to their own
blood relatives. We will embrace, take off our shoes, sit in front of a fire
(sipping egg nog), and feel “at home” in each other’s presence.
Home for Christmas! My
oldest son will be driving through the night after finishing his work in the
nation’s capital—joining his family in Florida. Our youngest daughter will
fight the mobs which throng the airports, winging in from college in
In all of our efforts
to get home for Christmas, we touch others—desperate, happy, lonely,
cheerful—thronging crowded terminals, all trying to make that mystical
What is it on this day
that so drives us to be among loved ones?
Busy businessmen forget
about buying and selling, creating and convincging, to lounge around the house
with the family. Things like trade agreements, real estate deals, marketing and
sales—all take a back seat to important things like carving the turkey and
opening inane but precious gifts under a tree.
professors, their cheeks ruddy and hair blowing in the wind, race up and down
sidewalks, laughing and shouting as they hold on to small children riding bikes
with training wheels.
Ranchers and dairymen
quickly finish morning chores so they can take off muddy boots and join
laughing families at Christmas breakfasts.
physicians, engineers—(all intellectuals, all degreed and pedigreed) sit
cross-legged under trees, waist-deep in wrapping paper, turned into little
children—at least for the day.
Gangsters, tax evaders,
liars, drunkards, adulterers, prostitutes, even members of the Mafia—all turn
aside on this day to kneel at altars and shed a tear in a communion cup for a
baby in a manger.
Home for Christmas!
Broken-hearted parents sit and wait by the telephone, anxiously scan the mail,
hoping memories of Christmas past will stir the heart of a runaway child and
bring word of safety.
Runaway children, some
young, some very old, walk city sidewalks, huddle in lonely motel rooms, sit and
stare in drab apartments on this, the loneliest day of the year—yearning for
some power so they can hurdle the wall of pride and reach out for home.
Soldiers in far-flung
military outposts, wet and cold, sweaty and sticky, stand lonely watch around
olive drab vehicles or shiver in isolated guardhouses at the gates—all dreaming
Airmen, cramped in the
cockpits of flying cannons high in the darkened and silent skies on Christmas
Eve, look upward for a star, then down over tilted wings at the winking lights
below Misty-eyed, they dream of the touch of a mother’s hand, the warmth of a
father’s chuckle, the squeals of little ones, cookies, candles and a choir
singing “Silent Night.”
Home for Christmas? For
many it is but an impossible yearning.
In hospitals, while
suction machines whir and monitors beep, some fight for their lives. Christmas
is but a card, a small wreath on a tray, or the gentle touch of a nurse’s hand
to say,” I am with you on this day.”
In jails and prisons,
men and women, black and white, lie on rusting steel cots facing concrete
walls, or stare upward at gray ceilings where peeling paint covers faded
obscenities written by those who walked this angry path before them. All,
strong and weak alike, finally bury their faces in the mildewed canvas of a
lumpy pillow and cry away the day.
Home for Christmas! In
nursing homes, neglected and forgotten, the grand old people of this world
reach out for a small group of strangers with cookies and carols, vainly look
for comfort from an indifferent attendant bitter over a rotation system that
forces her to work on a day when no person should work, struggle to hear a
voice on radio or see a face on television—anyone who might bring a message of
comfort and cheer.
The words echo from the
centuries: God rest ye merry, gentlemen.
God rest ye merry? How can there be any merriment if we are not home
Why all this homesickness? Why does a cup of cold water seem so blessed
on this day when loneliness sweeps the world like an epidemic?
Why do the Salvation Army lassies take on an almost saintly hhue as
they ring their little bells? They, even if you do not, will try to provide a
home for those not home for Christmas.
Could this homesickness be from God himself?
Is it possible that Jesus, lying in a bed of straw on Christmas Day,
was homesick? Could it be the memory of heaven still lingered? Were some of
those infant tears the same tears lonely men and women shed today—tears in
memory of home?
This Christmas, missionaries will gather their families about them in
heathen cities, will hang red and yellow decorations on banana trees, will walk
through maddening Orient markets where the world roars by without even knowing
the name of their baby. They are followers of Him—men on a mission.
So He came, to bring heaven to earth, to make the kingdom He had known
and establish it on this planet.
Because of Him, men and women in many sectors of earth no longer throng
taverns, no longer blast their brains with ungodly sound, no longer fill their
bodies with chemicals. Because of Him children do not run away. Because of Him,
no matter where we find ourselves on this Christmas Day, we will be home.
O tidings of comfort and joy!
Jamie Buckingham was
senior pastor of the 2,000-member Tabernacle Church in Melbourne, Fla., a
nondenominational church he founded in 1967. The former editor of Ministry
Today magazine, he wrote dozens of books, including autobiographical works for
Nicky Cruz (Run Baby Run) and Pat Robertson (Shout It From the Housetops). He
died in 1992. read more
It has been said that the New Testament
is concealed in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is revealed in the New
Testament. This is certainly true of the birth of the Messiah, which we
celebrate this month. One need only turn to the pages of the Old Testament to
discover where, when, how and why Jesus of Nazareth was born.
Where would the Messiah
be born? When Herod the Great sought to find the Messiah, he asked the Jewish
religious leadership to discover where He would be born. They, of course, had
the answer immediately: Bethlehem.
How did they know this?
Because the prophet Micah had recorded this revelation hundreds of years
earlier. "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the
clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old, from ancient times" (Micah 5:2, NIV).
There are two interesting
points to this prophecy. First, the word Bethlehem is formed from two Hebrew
words, bait ("house") and lechem ("bread"). It is no
coincidence that Yeshua, the Bread of Life, was born in the town known as
"house of bread."
Second, this verse has
the fascinating statement, "Whose origins are from of old, from ancient
times." This prophecy reveals the amazing paradox that the Messiah would
be born, yet He already would have existed! Only Yeshua, who John reveals was
in the beginning with God and is Himself God (see John 1:1) could have
When would the Messiah
be born? To answer this, we have to turn to Daniel 9 (for further study on this
chapter, I recommend Daniel's Prophecy of the 70 Weeks by Alva J. McClain,
Zondervan). "The Anointed One will be cut off but not for Himself. The
people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary"
(see v. 26).
This clearly states the
"Anointed One" (Mashiah, Messiah) would be "cut off," or
killed, and that after this the city and the sanctuary would be destroyed.
Daniel 9:26 foretells that the Messiah would die before the city of Jerusalem
and the temple would be destroyed. It wasn't until A.D. 70--after Yeshua's
crucifixion--that the Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.
How would the Messiah
be born? One of the great signs of Messiah's birth was that He would be born of
a virgin. This concept comes from the Old Testament and ancient Jewish
expectation. As Isaiah 7:14 promised us: "Therefore the Lord himself will
give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son,
and will call him Immanuel."
Those who argue against
the virgin birth point out that the Hebrew word used here, almah, and
translated "virgin" simply denotes a woman of marriageable age and
not a virgin. Two things should be mentioned in response to this.
First, in the
Septuagint--the translation of the Old Testament into Greek in 250 B.C.--the
Jewish scholars chose to use the Greek word parthanos (the clear Greek word for
"virgin") when they translated this passage.
Second, the origin of
the virgin birth actually dates back to Genesis. Here, the Lord gives us His
first promise to redeem mankind and informs Satan that at some point in time
"the seed of the woman would crush his head" (see Gen. 3:15). He says
"seed of the woman"--a strange phrase because "seed" is
usually referring to the man.
Why would the Messiah
be born? Again, the Old Testament has the answer. "He was pierced for our
transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought
us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed" (Is. 53:5)
Yeshua was actually
born to die. He came to this earth, set an example for us of how to live, and
then gave His life as an atonement for us.
What is most important
about Christmas? That we remember the "reason for the season." This
is a celebration of the Son of God. The incarnation of God Himself into human
form has transformed time itself and has begun the process of redemption for
Bernis is president of Jewish Voice
Ministries International and has worked on the forefront of world
evangelism since 1984, taking the good news of Israel’s Messiah worldwide and
to the Jewish people. He is the founding rabbi of Congregation Shema Yisrael in
Rochester, N.Y., where he served as senior Messianic rabbi from 1984 to 1993.
He also founded and pastored the Messianic Center of St. Petersburg, Russia,
where he lived and ministered from 1993 to 1996. read more
Dr. Doug Weiss is all about healing. He has devoted his life
to healing the sexually broken. Through his work as a counselor and clinical
psychologist as well as his many books, public speaking and numerous media appearances,
Dr. Weiss has been able to help rescue thousands from sex addictions and other
problems. He claims an 85 percent success rate. He personally understands
sexual addiction, and has been successfully sober for more than 24 years. read more
C. S. Lewis wrote in The Problem
of Pain: "If God were good, He would wish to make His
creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty, He would be able to
do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore, God lacks
either goodness, or power, or both. This is the problem of pain in its
Of the many questions raised by suffering
and evil, these four capture most of the heart issues:
Does God know? (the issue of His omniscience)
Does God care?·(the issue of His benevolence and love)
Can He do anything about it? (the issue of His omnipotence)
If He knows, cares, and can do something about it, why doesn't He?·(the·issue of His purposes and will)
So much about suffering and evil remains opaque and impenetrable. On the other
hand, a lot is knowable. read more
You've tried it your way and failed.
Don't give up! Choose to stay in the game and see how God even takes our
mistakes and builds them into our greatest victories.
many times have we heard this one: “It doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's
how you play the game that counts.” Some of us realized winning meant a lot
when we noticed that the guys who got the girls were the ones who won the
starting positions on the team. Even if how they played the game was anything
but nice, they still won and got the girls.
out in life thinking that winning does not matter and you will be very
disappointed. Winning matters a lot.
get the best stuff. The world talks about and celebrates winners, while it
shuns the loser who seems to not have what it takes or has it for a while and
then loses it. Few can tell you who raced in the Indianapolis 500 in any given
year. The winners are the ones that count.
Your Personal Battles Everybody
struggles with something and battles it day after day. Your main battle might
be overeating, pornography, drinking, anger, depression or one of many other
things that could have been tripping you up, perhaps for years.
have made two choices that most everybody else has made: (1) You have tried
real hard to fix it yourself; (2) You have asked God to take the battle from
you and just heal it right now.
may have begged Him and even questioned whether or not there actually is a God,
or whether or not He loves you based on the fact that your battle has
continued. You may have even defended your problem, saying it is just the way
God made you since He hasn't seen fit to change it for you.
is always good to ask for God's healing, but if you are still struggling, still
losing the battle, now is the time to make some different choices that will
turn your life around.
dealing with your innermost battles, keep in mind that winners are not just
those men who develop a plan for their life, go out and execute it and then
watch everything fall perfectly in place. Winning also comes from the response
we choose when things don't go so well.
coaches train the team to go out and win. But championship coaches take it a
step further: They train their teams to respond when the other team scores
first. Great teams know how to come back when they are behind. It is the
response to things not going well that often determines whether or not a team
wins or loses. The same goes with individuals.
have a choice of how to respond when things go wrong. Most likely there is some
area, some battle in which you have experienced defeat over and over again. Now
you have choices before you that will either turn your life into a succession
of loss upon loss or a life defined in every way by winning.
Giving Up Old Choices One
choice in response to mistakes and personal failures is arrogant defensiveness.
This is the choice to justify, rationalize and stand your ground. It is the
choice down a path of repeated failures and stunted growth. I have used this
response often and have to surrender it up every day.
always feels good for the moment to exercise my right to defend what I did and
stand my ground. But it never helps me move forward, and, eventually, I have to
acknowledge my arrogance and let it go.
have to replace the choice to remain stubborn, resistant, arrogant and
defensive with the choice of a winner. It is the unattractive choice of humble
The Choice of Humble Willingness Those
who are both humble and willing realize they do not have all the answers, and
they are willing to do whatever it takes to find them. This place of humility
allows them to seek help from others and shift their reliance from themselves
3:5-7 tells us to not lean on our own understanding and to not be wise in our
own eyes. A humble willingness to do whatever it takes, to reach out and get
the help that is needed is a sign of character and strength. It is the
beginning of the path to the victory circle. But to get there you have to allow
God to use your struggle to teach you to rely less on your own resources and
totally on Him.
the years I have watched people reach this crucial point where they are willing
to do whatever it takes, and I have watched everything in their lives turn
around. I have also seen those who reach the point and turn and run in the
opposite direction. The biggest reason is that they are unwilling to make a
bold move toward healing.
can't just declare yourself a winner. You have to heal the things that are
preventing you from having victory. The biggest reason you have lost the battle
is that you have relied on your own strength, trying to win on your own.
you are humbly willing, you can move to connect your life with others who can
help you. This means that you are willing to call someone or get in the car and
go to a meeting or find a counselor to help you. In humble willingness, tell
your wife or close friend that you are finally willing to look into getting
some help that they suggested. Humbly acknowledge that you are only as sick as
your secrets, and you must break out of secrecy and into connection that heals
and helps you to win whatever battles you are facing.
winning life starts by moving beyond trying harder and merely asking for
healing. You give up the old ways and defending the old ways, and you are
willing to become involved in the healing by reaching out and connecting.
connection begins the healing process that will include several difficult processes,
such as grieving your past losses so you can move forward. It may involve
forgiving those who have hurt you, and giving up old resentments and grudges.
And rather than numb your feelings or deny they are there, you will need to
acknowledge them and feel the depths of your emotions.
as the reality of your situation becomes clearer, it will require that you
embrace your life, the good and the bad of it all, and allow God to do with it
what only God can do.
Embracing Rather Than Rejecting Life God
takes our mistakes and blends them and builds them into our biggest wins. I
know that may sound strange, but it is true.
probably familiar with the Old Testament story of Joseph. The guy went from
being the favorite son in his father's house to the depths of an Egyptian
prison. Some would say that he had it coming.
was so arrogant that he was not smart enough to edit what he tells his brothers
about God's plan for his life: “One night Joseph had a dream and promptly
reported the details to his brothers, causing them to hate him even more.
'Listen to this dream,' he announced. 'We were out in the field tying up
bundles of grain. My bundle stood up, and then your bundles all gathered around
and bowed low before it!' 'So you are going to be our king, are you?' his
brothers taunted. And they hated him all the more for his dream and what he had
said” (Gen. 37:5-8, NLT).
Joseph's brothers decided to kill him, but they changed their minds and sold
him into slavery instead. He found favor with his new master only to be thrown
in jail after the lady of the house lied about Joseph, accusing him of an
impropriety. At some point, I'm sure Joseph was kicking himself for the way he
had bragged to his brothers, which started the chain of events leading to his
imprisonment. But he didn't give up.
prison he connected with his fellow inmates, telling them what their dreams
meant and that eventually led to his release. Once again, he gained favor by
telling Pharaoh what his dreams meant and ended up running the country,
enabling him to save his family and, ultimately, an entire nation.
I don't think God meant for those mean brothers to sell Joseph or for him to be
falsely accused and thrown in prison. But, somehow, God worked out a big win in
the end. As Joseph notes, “God turned into good” what his brothers meant for
evil (Gen. 50:20).
may feel like you are living in your own self-constructed prison. You may think
your life is wasted and you are the loser of all losers. But it is not true. If
you will stay true to God, God will work with your circumstances and weave them
into a wonderful win. But you must humble yourself and become willing to do
whatever it takes to heal.
must reach out and connect with others, getting support, accountability and
even treatment for the character defects within you. You must open up your life
to others and allow God to manage the outcome. Then you must embrace the
reality of your life and allow God to use the things you are most ashamed of. Allow
God to weave them and wind them into your future.
final element to win at anything is perseverance. Whether it is a personal
battle or a new project, be in it for the long haul.
often, we want the quick fix and the instant solution. We want the big win now
and when it does not happen, we give up, throw in the towel and walk away a
loser. But if we persevere, hang on and hang in, the win we so badly want may
be just around the corner.
is how perseverance worked for me. One of the things I feel best about in my
life is the creation of the Women of Faith conference. God gave me a vision for
discouraged and disappointed women, and we began conferences for women in 1996.
Now, almost 15 years later, they are stronger than ever with more than 3
million women having attended, more than 400,000 attending each year. Nothing
has ever made me feel more like a winner than the success of Women of Faith and
the hundreds of thousands of lives that have been changed by it.
in 1995, the year before the conferences started, I felt like the biggest loser
around. It was then that I created a traveling conference that toured the
country in 12 cities. That year, my efforts at creating conferences resulted in
a grand total of less than 1,000 people showing up … total.
remember the grand ballroom in Chicago where we had less than 30. No one looked
like or felt like a bigger loser than me. But I did not take the loss as an
indictment on who I was. A losing idea and the mistakes I made in implementing
it did not make me a total failure. So I persevered with conferences, and it
was the next year that Women of Faith started filling every seat available.
I given up, I would have never experienced the joy of seeing Women of Faith
become the ministry that it is today. The win was not in pulling it off. The
win was persevering with God and watching Him do what I had proved I could not
you are about to give up. You don't feel there is any hope for you. If I were
sitting there with you, I would encourage you to look for the big win just
around the bend or just over the next hill. You may not see it, but it is
strong in God's Spirit and resist Satan's lies that you will fail. Take Paul's
encouragement in Ephesians 6:10-13 to heart: “Be strong with the Lord's mighty
power. Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against
all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people
made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the
unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and
against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms. Use every piece of God's armor
to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will
still be standing firm.”
matter how low you feel or the degree of humiliation you have experienced, you
can choose to keep going and stay in the game rather than quit right before you
see what God is about to do. Your loss could actually be the springboard to
living the life of a winner because of what you have experienced and what you
have learned in the heat of battle. But to experience the life of a winner, you
must have a willingness to wait on God and to persevere.
than give up on life, I encourage you to give up your old ways of handling your
battles and turn your life over to God. Trust in Him and those He chooses to
use to help you. You will heal, and you will win. And, you will find purpose
for your life that you never dreamed possible.
8:28 will unfold before your eyes over your lifetime: God really “causes
everything to work together for the good.” But first you must choose to win His
way and not your own. And once you experience winning God's way, you will want
to share the message with others and help them understand the path toward
creating a winning life.
KEYS TO WINNING ANY BATTLE
Give up your old ways of trying to win.
Give up arrogant defensiveness and stubborn resistance.
Humble yourself and become willing to do whatever it takes.
Reach out and connect with those who can help you heal.
Heal old wounds by grieving your losses, forgiving those who hurt you and
feeling the depths of your emotions.
Embrace the reality of your life, including the past you want to forget.
Persevere and watch God create something amazing from it all.
Reach out to others who need to find the way to win.
Steve Arterburn is the founder and chairman
of New Life Ministries and hosts the nationally syndicated Christian counseling
talk show New Life Live. He also serves as a teaching pastor at Heartland
Church in Indianapolis and is the author and co-author of more than 60 books,
including Every Man's Battle. Contact him at newlife.com. read more
The Ides of March is a
well-executed but unoriginal drama that features an incredible cast and serves
as a coming out party for Ryan Gosling’s status as a major leading actor. What
this movie lacks in originality and creative writing, it more than makes up for
in the acting and directing, making it one of the best dramas of the fall movie
Gosling (pictured here with actor/director George Clooney) stars as an
up-and-coming political staffer who gets corrupted while trying to win a
presidential election. Again, there’s nothing groundbreaking about the plot
(really, politics can corrupt people!?), but when you throw in George
Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright and a
surprisingly good Marisa Tomei, every scene becomes a pleasure to watch.
Gosling is in every
scene, and he’s magnetic. There’s no overacting here. When he starts having to
make the morally questionable decisions, you can tell he’s torn, but it’s
underneath the surface. He knows his character and makes him believable in
every scene. After breaking out with The Notebook and then working his
considerable talents on a number of indie films for the last six years, it was
time for him to step up to the plate with a leading role in a mainstream
Hollywood movie. Combined with his charismatic, hilarious performance in Crazy,
Stupid, Love, it feels like Gosling is finally hitting the big time in
2011, and it’s good to have him.
The funny thing is that
Gosling is overshadowed in a number of scenes by Hoffman and Giamatti, who
absolutely kill their roles as rival political campaign bosses. Watching these
guys chew cigars while dishing political barbs is an absolute joy. Tomei and
Wright get limited time but make the most of it, and Evan Rachel Wood gives a
compelling turn as an intern on the campaign.
I haven’t even
mentioned Clooney yet, and that’s because his role as the seemingly perfect
politician almost comes as an afterthought in this movie. Clooney actually did
much better work directing The Ides of March than acting in it. He plays
down the glitz of politics in favor of the gritty details, which works well
given that the film takes place almost entirely in Ohio. This is not Mr.
Smith Goes to Washington, and that’s a good thing. If you’re looking for
solid, well-acted drama to see, you can’t go wrong with The Ides of March.
Not for the kids. The movie features pervasive language. There is no nudity,
but the film deals with mature subjects, including abortion. read more
When CNN posted an article on its Belief Blog asking, “Do you
speak Christian?” author John Blake looked into the various phrases that
Christians use to describe things, like being “born again,” that may be
confusing to those outside the Christian culture. It’s actually a pretty poor
article that merely catalogs a bunch of phrases the author seems to find amusing,
but it brings up an important point. Are you aware of the words and phrases you
are using in your everyday life and how others, especially nonbelievers,
This is a debate that goes on in many churches and
ministries across the country. Our culture is less Christian and less
knowledgeable about Christian ideas than at any point in its history. We can’t
assume that our co-workers and neighbors are going to understand a lot of words
and phrases that we take for granted, especially those of us who have grown up
in the church.
If I tell my co-workers that I have been “saved by grace,”
many of them would have no idea what that means. Terms like that are so common
to Christians that we don’t even notice when we’re using them. But it is
important to be aware; because if we use phrases like that with people who
don’t understand, it can be off-putting. It hints to them at a special group—a
special language that only insiders understand.
Unfortunately we are not talking about something as tangible
or simple as what we had for breakfast. In Christianity God reveals himself to
us, and we are dealing with ideas and concepts that aren’t normally discussed
at the water cooler. We have to be able to describe these ideas; and so,
naturally, we are forced to use words that many people do not use in their
everyday lives. The word justification explains a very important,
essential Christian idea, but it’s not exactly trending on Twitter right now.
There’s nothing wrong with having words and phrases that
explain important concepts, as it allows us to discuss our faith intelligibly.
The issue lies in how and when we use these words and how comfortable we get
with them. It’s all about knowing your audience.
I remember when I was in college leading a Bible study of mature
Christian guys. We were studying Romans and throwing around a lot of these
words and phrases because everyone understood them and was comfortable using
them. Then in the middle of the semester, one of our members brought a
non-Christian friend with him. Immediately we had to change the tone of the
study so he wouldn’t feel left out or ignorant. My co-leader and I kept
catching ourselves saying things he might not understand. We started
re-phrasing. We still studied the same material and discussed the same
subjects, but we had to be mindful of our new audience. read more
Men who are growing spiritually, emotionally and relationally know the
importance of having other men in their lives who can hold them
accountable. They also recognize the value of helping other men.
Proverbs 27:17 says it well: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man
sharpens another” (NIV). We need one another in order to be sharp. We
also need to realize that every man is sharpened differently.
Accountability is not about asking a list of questions. It’s about
being involved in another man’s life. It’s coming alongside other men.
Godly men know they need to be accountable, but they don’t always know
what that looks like. I’ve been in good accountability relationships
and bad ones. I've noticed that the accountability partner has four key
responsibilities. read more
Start saving for emergencies today with the $500 Savings Challenge by brightpeak financial. It's chock-full of inspiration, great savings tips and the motivation to make a dent in your savings—for real! Go to 500savingschallenge.com to sign up!
Start saving for emergencies today with the $500 Savings Challenge by brightpeak financial. It's chock-full of inspiration, great savings tips and the motivation to make a dent in your savings—for real! Go to 500savingschallenge.com to sign up!