The End of the Spear

My wife and I hosted a party last night for my daughter’s sixth grade class (in our homeschool program).  My wife is leading the sixth grade book group and will be reading missionary biographies, starting with Rachel Saint.  She is the sister of Nate Saint, who together with Jim Elliot and three other missionaries were famously killed by the Waodani (also called Waorani or Auca) Indians in Ecuador in the 1950s.

Partially to kick off the book club, we showed the movie The End of the Spear, which tells that story.

Those who know the story understand that after the death of their husbands, one of the widows (Elizabeth Elliot) and Rachel Saint went to live with the very group that killed their husband and brother.  Why would they do such a thing?  “For Christ’s love compels us…

The movie is told through the lens of Steve Saint, Nate’s son.  Upon the death of Rachel Saint nearly 40 years later, Steve returns to the Waodani (he had lived with them briefly as a boy) to bury his aunt.  By this time the Waodani have come to Christ and the killer of his father confessed his act to Steve.  Steve forgave and embraced him, and came to live himself among them.  His father’s killer becomes a grandfather to his children.  At the end of the movie, he says “my father would have liked that.”

And then he says this:

“Through the years people could always identify with our loss, but they could never imagine the way in which we would experience gain.”

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  It’s a paradox, a mystery in God’s kingdom.  We so often must have tremendous loss to experience tremendous gain.  The more we give up control and surrender ourselves to him, the more blessings flow.  So often this process is painful because so often that’s the only way we surrender.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”  (Matthew 16:24-25)

Father, may be found faithful in giving up my life to you, that you might take it and make it something beautiful for your glory.  May I learn to do it quickly each time.

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Fireproof review

I took Elizabeth to see Fireproof last night.  It was wonderful, painful, joyful,…emotional.  Similar to their previous film, Facing the Giants, it was well done, had limited cheesiness (those who have seen a lot of Christian films know what I mean) and was so powerful.  

When you see the film, I would encourage you to pray beforehand this way:  “Lord, I pray that you would open my heart to what you want to teach me, even if it’s painful.  Quicken my spirit to scenes and characters that you want to use to instruct me, correct me, bless me, or bring up wounds that need healing.”  

If you have been married, and likely even if you haven’t, God will bring stuff up in you.  I ended up deeply connecting with the father of the lead character, and I think God used this movie to help me grieve wounds in my own life and to surrender more fully to the Lord for healing.  (sorry if I sound like a therapist!)

Men in general are going to have a tough time with this movie, as it so widely exposes many of the sins we so often fall to.  Wives, this isn’t a movie to manipulate your husband into seeing you with you.  It may just exacerbate his feelings of failure (“My wife already thinks I’m a failure, and now she brings me to this movie to prove it!”).  The change portrayed in the lead character doesn’t happen quite so fast in reality (try a lifetime!), but that’s a movie for you—everything wrapped up in a couple hours.  Instead, pray fervently for him!  

Husbands, initiate with your wives to see the movie and then plan to spend time with her afterwards.  It will raise issues. Don’t get defensive. Love her by identifying with her emotions. You might want to see it before so you are prepared.  Seriously.  

Bottom line: almost everyone is going to be challenged, but also encouraged, if they don’t get defensive.  That’s why seeking the Lord and going in with an open heart may be so important.  It will be easy to hear the voice of the accuser, “see, you’re just like that, but worse!”  But remember, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).  The Lord does not condemn you if you are in Christ.  He doesn’t pile on and call you names.  The enemy does that.  The Lord is gentle, and draws you closer to Him.

And every Christian teenager or single adult needs to see this.  I don’t know of a better spent two hours to prepare one for marriage and to dispel the Disney Romance understanding of it.  Most teenagers do not understand that love is not an emotion that you fall into or out of (though often wonderful emotions come with it!), but a commitment to act—to choose to love even when we don’t feel like it.  When two people understand this and love each other this way, something beautiful happens.  We get to experience a taste of heaven on earth where we are loved for who we are, not for how we perform.  

Praise God for this movie and may it bring restoration, repentance and revival to our marriages, our churches, and our nation!

A thankful heart

J.P. Moreland’s message last Sunday (9/14) had a tremendous impact on me. (It’s not there yet, but look here to listen.)  It was not really new information for me, but it came at the right time.  He talked about how the spiritual discipline of practicing Philippians 4:8 can actually change our brain structure and help transform us from “glass half-empty” people to “glass half-full” people.  This is a bit of an oversimplification, but I was determined to try what he described.

He said to wake up each morning and find things to be thankful for, even if it felt phony and contrived.  Spend several minutes in the shower or wherever just expressing thanks to God, even for things like hot water and coffee.  If you keep at it, this has the power to transform your attitude and increase your energy.  So, I tried it.  Monday morning, even though I was waking up over an hour before sunrise (that is so depressing), I chose to try to be thankful for whatever I could think of.  It began to work.  My spirits began to lift.  I kept at it, and It’s been fun to walk around with a smile on my face all week.

That evening, wouldn’t you know, our small-group leader called me and asked me to teach our group Wednesday night.  The topic would be JP’s sermon from Sunday.  =)  Part of the sermon was putting to death the influence of the flesh (bad habits that reside in our bodies) and using spiritual disciplines like fasting to train our bodies toward righteousness.  The lesson called for small group sharing about what spiritual discipline we felt the Lord possibly calling us to try.  I knew for weeks that the Lord has been calling me to an internet news media fast.  The election has seriously brought back my news-junkiness.  Now, as the leader of the group, of course I had to set an example and promptly announced that I would try it for a week.  And amazingly, I don’t miss the news, being stressed out about the election, etc.  God’s peace is much more real. And he is using me in the lives of others even more.  Thanks JP, and thank you Lord for your enduring mercy toward me, being willing to teach me the same lessons over and over again.  Hopefully, this time I will learn it longer.  =)

Mind dupe of heart

“The mind is always the dupe of the heart.”
– Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld

This was the journal topic in class today.  I love this topic because it so accurately diagnoses the romantic emotionalism that drives teenagers (and most adults) in search of their significant others.  We believe that love is an emotion and something we fall into or out of.  But rather, love is a commitment, and that commitment often calls us to sacrifice even when we don’t feel like it.  I didn’t read the book, but the movie “The Notebook” was so beautiful because it demonstrated this kind of love.  The male lead character lovingly retold their love story every day to his Alzheimer’s-stricken wife in the hopes that she will remember their love, just for a few minutes.  He loves and loves and loves her, even though his needs are not being met.  Oh, that I would be this faithful!

I talked to students about how much more important character is than romantic fireworks.  The fireworks are wonderful, but the only way to have them keep returning regularly is to love sacrificially.  And that takes character.  I said “If your boyfriend is lying to his parents to see you, then the day will come when he will lie to you to see someone else.”  This is because he is willing to lie to selfishly get his needs met.  When the current girl no longer meets his emotional (or other) needs, he will move on, because his needs are ultimately what matters.

So I have a great time sounding wise and making the students squirm as they examine their own relationships, but am I doing this?  I hope at least to some extent I am.  But it’s certainly a process.  May the Lord grant me the grace to die to myself more and more, and to take the risks of engagement rather than passivity.

And man, I love my job.

Powerful

Very powerful.  Watch this.

HT: Morgan Bolah

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