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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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 fulfilled this.
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 all mankind.
Jonathan 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.
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: “PaPa’s home.”
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 middle-America.
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 deadline.
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.
Dignified college 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.
Computer experts, 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 of home.
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 for Christmas?
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.
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.
Not since the first Spider-Man hit the big screen had I been looking forward to catching a superhero at the cineplex as Captain America this summer.
After all, I remember as a small boy being hooked on the alter ego of Steve Rogers, a frail young man who was enhanced to the peak of human perfection by an experimental serum in order to aid the United States' World War II effort.
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.
How 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.
Go out in life thinking that winning does not matter and you will be very disappointed. Winning matters a lot.
Winners 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.
You 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.
You 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.
It 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.
When 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.
Great 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.
You 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.
It 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.
I 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 willingness.
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 to God.
Proverbs 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.
Over 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.
You 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.
Once 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.
The 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.
The 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.
Then, 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.
You're 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.
Joseph 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).
So 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.
In 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.
Now, 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).
You 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.
You 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.
Perseverance The 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.
Too 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.
Here 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.
But 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.
I 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.
Had 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 do alone.
Perhaps 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 there.
Stand 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.”
No 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.
Rather 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.
Romans 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.
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 simplest form."
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.
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, perceive them?
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.
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 season.
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.
Content Watch: Not for the kids. The movie features pervasive language. There is no nudity, but the film deals with mature subjects, including abortion.
If Spider-Man's creed is "with great power comes great responsibility," the mantra of Thor could easily be "with great power comes great arrogance."
The latest superhero movie from Marvel Studios, Thor features an out-of-this-world arrogant, reckless and selfish warrior (Chris Hemsworth), who is about to be named king of the mystical kingdom of Asgard by his father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins). But Thor's reckless actions reignite an ancient war with the frost giants—a provocation that runs counter of Odin’s advice: “a wise king never seeks out war, but he must always be ready for it.”
Odin justly calls Thor a "vain, greedy, cruel boy," but the son fires back with, "You are an old man and a fool!" Bad move, as his father removes Thor’s power, and casts him and his mighty hammer Mjolnir to Earth—forcing him to live among humans. Speaking of Thor’s hammer, it can be thrown like a boomerang, spun like nunchucks and can alter the weather—"a weapon to destroy or a tool to build," according to King Odin.
From a celestial sword-and-sorcery fantasy ala The Lord of the Rings, the film then becomes a fish-out-of-water action/comedy as Thor must adjust to the new world around him, while earthlings are dumbfounded by his Viking ego and mannerisms. For example, he storms into a diner and yells “I need SUSTENANCE,” and “I need a HORSE” as he stumbles into a hamster-and-hound-packed pet store.
The best parts of the movie are when Thor is banished to Earth, and he must find out what it takes to be a true hero when his crafty half-brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), threatens the whole planet. After he crash-lands in a New Mexico desert, Thor literally runs into astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), and he must learn to embrace a humble attitude to become heroic.
Despite earning more than $440 million at the global box office this summer, I was leery to watch Thor largely because the character was heavily promoted in the box office as the “god of thunder.” Getting over my trepidation, I decided to catch the movie's recent release on DVD and Blu-ray. After all, I recall as a youngster reading about the Mighty Thor—a superhero who doesn't have a costume to be the hero when he was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Marvel Comics back in the 1960s.
Thor, Odin, Loki and other denizens of Asgard are "gods," according to Norse myth and in Marvel's original comic books. In the film, the inhabitants of Asgard don't see themselves as gods, although they acknowledge that they were taken to be such when they came to Earth about a thousand years ago. Although they possess god-like powers and reside in a heavenly place, the movie portrays them as aliens from a faraway world—a realm where science and magic are basically one and the same.
By getting around this cloudy spirituality, the film does offer a nod to Christianity, turning Thor into a Christ-figure when Loki sends a robotic Destroyer to eliminate his stepbrother and Earth's inhabitants.
Best known for film adaptations of several plays by William Shakespeare, director Kenneth Branagh deftly handles direct this large-scale superhero drama as he wisely sets the stage for a Shakespeare-like fallen hero who must find humility in order to rise to greatness. Thor is a worthwhile summer flick, offering plenty of hammer-wielding action, but it's not exceptional as Captain America—which I'll save for another review.
Besides deleted scenes, featurettes and teasers for next summer's The Avengers, the next superhero movie from Marvel Studios, the DVD and Blu-ray features the first "Marvel One Shot"—short films that are meant to link The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and Thor, members of the Avengers. The short stars S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division) man-on-the-ground Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg).
Content Watch: The film is rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and brief, light foul language. It features some family-friendly content, although I wouldn't recommend the film for children 10 and under because of the scary frost giants and relentless battles. Although there's no sex or profanity, Thor is seen out-drinking another character. Parents should discuss with youngsters the difference between the gods of Norse mythology and the one true God.
My three young boys were not Jim Carrey fans, but that changed this summer when Alex, Andrew and Chase saw trailers of the rubber-faced actor in Mr. Popper's Penguins.
After reading the 1939 Newbery Award-winning children's book with my wife, Tammy, last year, the brothers were excited to watch the “loose film adaptation” of Richard and Florence Atwater's classic in 1938. In the book, Popper is a house painter who starts breeding trained penguins and takes his animal act on the road, creating a national sensation.
In the 2011 contemporary movie version, Carrey plays Popper, a successful Donald Trump-like real estate mogul, whose cold relationship with his family warms up after he “inherits” six cute but trouble-making penguins from Antarctica from his recently-deceased father.
John Wooden is someone I have always looked up to as a role model and a hero. Coach Wooden, who was nicknamed the "Wizard of Westwood," led the UCLA Bruins basketball teams of the 1960s and 1970s to a never-since-equaled 10 NCAA National Championships.
All those titles came during his last 12 coaching seasons, including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. His UCLA teams also had a record-setting winning streak of 88 games and four perfect 30-0 seasons, and won 38 straight games in NCAA tournament play.
With four comic-book movies coming out this summer, X-Men: First Class seemed to draw the least amount of excitement. “Another X-Men movie?” seemed to be the common thought. However, X-Men: First Class surprisingly turns out to be the best movie about Xavier’s mutants so far, and it may turn out to be the best comic movie of the summer.
Set mostly in the '60s, the film details the story of the beginning of the X-Men, and, more importantly, the beginning of the relationship between Charles Xavier and Magneto. It’s this relationship and the two actors, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, that bring it to life and really set this movie above your normal comic action-fest.
The plot follows Xavier and Magneto as they grow up in very different childhoods, one with a privileged upbringing and one in a Nazi concentration camp (guess which one ends up turning into a bad guy). As they grow older, they cross each other’s paths in search of the movie’s villain, a mutant who is arranging the Cuban Missile Crisis in hopes of starting World War III. They form a team to deal with the threat, and the first class of X-Men is born.
With Father’s Day coming up, we took some time to speak with David Horner, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, N.C. Horner is the author of When Missions Shape the Mission, which examines America’s role in world missions. Passionate about spreading the gospel abroad, Horner also took his three sons on mission trips as each turned 16 and had memorable and life-changing experiences with them. He details these accounts to us and recommends other ways fathers can give their children a heart for missions.