Friday, 27 March 2009

Ice Age

Ice Age is a warm hearted movie with many themes interwoven into the plot. It explores the nature of friendship, family, courage, loyalty and forgiveness. As an animation the characters, though animals, are both highly entertaining and reflect something of the real world. The film begins with various groups of animals migrating because of the big freeze – the Ice Age. Into this scenario we are introduce to Sid the Sloth, who by oversleeping has missed the big event and Manny; a huge Mammoth who happens to be walking in the opposite direction to everyone else. Sid ends up joining Manny, mainly for protection. At this point of the film we don’t know why Manny has such a chip on his shoulder. All we know is that he really doesn’t want to be around others; he’s a loner.

17.04-21.46 In the first scene I have chosen we see Manny and Sid who come to the river bank and see an exhausted mother holding her son to keep him from the freezing waters. She places the baby on a rock by the river and Manny, with his long trunk, stops the baby rolling back into the water. The next time he and Sid look up the mother is gone. This is perhaps where the first crisis of conscience comes for Manny. He tries to walk away but Sid insists they should return the child to its ‘heard’. And so begins the journey that will keep them together until the end of the film. In the movie Sid is the one with the big heart but not much sense. He has no idea what it really means to look after this baby.

This portion of the movie speaks volumes of the price a mother will pay to protect her child. It seems appropriate to look at this close being Mothers Day. This mother paid the ultimate price – her life that if her sons. And even in that sacrifice she had no guarantee he would be safe. She had to trust him to others. In Matt 23.37 we have Jesus overlooking Jerusalem and using the metaphor of a brooding hen who wants to protect and gather her chicks. It is a very feminine image; the image of a caring mother. Yet this is the one Jesus chooses to show another aspect of the heart of God. It is this strong motherly instinct to nurture and protect. “How often I wanted to gather you under my wings as a hen gathers her chicks, but you were not willing”, Matt 23.37. For the chicks to be under the wings of their mother was to be protected, secure and safe. This is because the wings provide three essential things that young chicks need;

1. Covering. To be under the wing is to be hidden. All who looked on would see a rather plump hen, but they wouldn’t see the chicks. In that environment they were safe from attack. No-one could touch them without first having to deal with mother hen – and she knows how to put up a fight. Interestingly Paul uses similar language about the believer; “For you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God”, Col 3.3. What an amazingly safe place to be; out of sight of the enemy but securely shut up with Christ in God. No wonder Paul reasoned that nothing could separate us from the love of God, Rom 8.38-39.

2. Warmth. To be under the wing of the hen was to be sheltered from the elements. The weather could not touch them there, neither the freezing snow nor the driving rain. They had the shade and warmth of her protection. In the movie the little baby needed the same kind of warmth. It is the warmth of touch, the warmth of being close. We respond to that sense of connection, we need it. Jesus constantly communicated this kind of warmth by touching people, especially those shunned by society; the lepers, children, even prostitutes. He took them, as it were, under His wing and for some of them they felt accepted and loved for the first time in their lives.

3. Being together. Under the wing of the mother hen the chicks were not only close to her they were close to each other. This sense of togetherness is important. We see it in the early church. When they got saved they had a clear sense of ‘being together’, Acts 2.44, “Now all who believed were together and had all things in common”. Because they were ‘together’ it was easier to share, easier to give. In Ice Age they had to learn to do things together. In that place they found strength in one another. Being involved in things together always makes a task easier. We know we are not alone in this endeavour.

At the end of the scene they are joined by Diego – a Saber Tooth Tiger. It is clear to us that he has another agenda for the child. Whilst being suspicious Manny and Sid let him come as he is the only one able to track the child’s father.

46.42-49.42 In my second scene we are in a cave and the three companions are looking at the primitive cave drawings. They are getting closer to each other through their trials. Now we begin to understand why Manny is the way he is. The drawings tell a story; a story of happiness, togetherness, the story of a family. Into that scene come the hunters, the grown up version of this baby boy. They kill Manny’s partner and child. He is left alone – heartbroken. It’s a touching moment.

Facing loss is always difficult. There have been people in history who have experienced great loss yet triumphed. Not by surviving but by leaving a meaningful legacy. One such person in recent history was Milada Horakova. On 27 June 1950 she was hanged in Czechoslovakia. Despite the pleas of great people like Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt the communist government were implacable. Horakova was 48 when she died. She had graduated from Charles University in Prague in 1926 where she studied law. She entered the National Socialist Party and became a strong opponent of the Nazi’s. When her country was occupied during the Second World War she became part of the resistance but was arrested by the Gestapo in 1940.

She spent time in various prisons including the concentration camp at Terezin. Her daughter was six when she was arrested. After the liberation in 1945 she returned to Prague and political life until the Communist coup in 1948. She resigned but remained politically active, refusing to leave Czechoslovakia. A year later, along with several others, she was arrested for being part of a supposed plot to overthrow the communists. The secret police used torture, forcing those arrested to sign a false confession to treason and conspiracy.

A mock trial began with a carefully written script that the accused were meant to follow. Unlike many of her contemporaries Horakova refused to follow the script. She cogently defended herself and her ideals. As a result she was sentenced to death on 8 June 1950. The night before her execution she wrote a letter to her daughter who was 16 at the time. The letter was seized by the communists and held. When the Berlin Wall came down in 1989 many documents became available to the world that revealed much about the communist regime. Along with that freedom Horakova’s letter to her daughter was discovered. It was delivered to her 40 years later! At the age of 56 she was finally able to read how her mother felt and what were her last thoughts about Jana; her only daughter. Here is a portion that shows the selfless love of this mother who has little thought for herself in her last hours.

My only little girl Jana, God blessed my life as a woman with you. As your father wrote in the poem from a German prison, God gave you to us because he loved us. Apart from your father's magic, amazing love, you were the greatest gift I received from fate. However, Providence planned my life in such a way that I could not give you nearly all that my mind and my heart had prepared for you. The reason was not that I loved you little; I love you just as purely and fervently as other mothers love their children. But I understood that my task here in the world was to do you good . . . by seeing to it that life becomes better, and that all children can live well. And therefore . . . we often had to be apart for a long time. It is now already for the second time that Fate has torn us apart. Don't be frightened and sad because I am not coming back any more. Learn, my child, to look at life early as a serious matter. Life is hard, it does not pamper anybody, and for every time it strokes you it gives you ten blows. Become accustomed to that soon, but don't let it defeat you. Decide to fight. Have courage and clear goals and you will win over life. Much is still unclear to your young mind, and I don't have time left to explain to you things you would still like to ask me. One day, when you grow up, you will wonder and wonder, why your mother who loved you and whose greatest gift you were, managed her life so strangely. Perhaps then you will find the right solution to this problem, perhaps a better one than I could give you today myself.

Of course, you will only be able to solve it correctly and truthfully by knowing very, very much. Not only from books, but from people; learn from everybody, no matter how unimportant! Go through the world with open eyes, and listen not only to your own pains and interests, but also to the pains, interests and longings of others. Don't ever think of anything as none of your business. No, everything must interest you, and you should reflect about everything. Man doesn't live in the world alone; in that there is great happiness, but also a tremendous responsibility. That obligation is first of all in not being and not acting exclusive, but rather merging with the needs and the goals of others. This does not mean to be lost in [the multitude, but it is] to know that I am part of all, and to bring one's best into that community. If you do that, you will succeed in contributing to the common goals of human society.

Be more aware of one principle than I have been: approach everything in life constructively—beware of unnecessary negation—I am not saying all negation, because I believe that one should resist evil. But in order to be a truly positive person in all circumstances, one has to learn how to distinguish real gold from tinsel. It is hard, because tinsel sometimes glitters so dazzlingly. I confess, my child, that often in my life I was dazzled by glitter. And sometimes it even shone so falsely, that one dropped pure gold from one's hand and reached for, or ran after, false gold. You know that to organize one's scale of values well means to know not only oneself well, to be firm in the analysis of one's character, but mainly to know the others, to know as much of the world as possible, its past, present, and future development. Well, in short, to know, to understand. Not to close one's eats before anything and for no reason-not even to shut out the thoughts and opinions of anybody who stepped on my toes, or even wounded me deeply.

Examine, think, criticize, yes, mainly criticize yourself don't be ashamed to admit a truth you have come to realize, even if you proclaimed the opposite a little while ago; don't become obstinate about your opinions, but when you come to consider something right, then be so definite that you can fight and die for it. As Wolker said, death is not bad. Just avoid gradual dying; which is what happens when one suddenly finds oneself apart from the real life of the others. You have to put down your roots where fate determined for you to live. You have to find your own way. Look for it independently; don't let anything turn you away from it, not even the memory of your mother and father. If you really love them, you won't hurt them by seeing them critically—just don't go on a road which is wrong, dishonest and does not harmonize with life. I have changed my mind many times, rearranged many values, but, what was left as an essential value, without which I cannot imagine my life, is the freedom of my conscience. I would like you, my little girl, to think about whether I was right.

And so, my only young daughter, little girl Jana, new life, my hope, my future forgiveness, live! Grasp life with both hands! Until my last breath I shall pray for your happiness, my dear child! I kiss your hair, eyes and mouth, I stroke you and hold you in my arms (I really held you so little.) I shall always be with you.

These are not the words of a woman with many regrets – despite the loss she had experienced. So how did Manny and how do we, deal with loss? Here are some things that have helped me.

1. Appreciate and treasure the memory and moments you enjoyed with that person in life. They leave an indelible mark. Take inspiration from their example so that you too can face the challenges of life. Horakova taught her daughter to fight – fight for what she believed in and if necessary die for it. Manny actually fought to protect this child that had become his charge. He cared. He didn’t want to, but he did. Because at heart he valued what was pure and innocent. He didn’t allow prejudice to colour how he would live.

2. Honour their life by Living. In the words of Harokova, “Grasp life with both hands”. Giving up or giving in, is the easy option. What is needed is a new determination to face life purposefully. This requires great courage. Courage that is needed even before we feel we are ready. But that’s the point. Moving on with life is essentially a choice of the heart. Joshua had to get over the death of Moses. It was his turn to lead now. Five times in the first chapter he is told – “Be strong and courageous”, Joshua 1.

3. Give your love to others who need it. Manny lost a child and a wife – but he still had love in his heart, despite all the pain. He chose to give that love to a child that needed it. A child that ‘fate’ brought into his life. And as time went on his rough, standoffish ways softened. He cared. He came to the point where he would face the adult version of this little boy, his father. Those, like him, had robbed Manny of his family. Why shouldn’t he do the same? And herein lies the challenge. We can choose how to respond to people, to life, to hardship, to injustice, to pain and death. Will our choice be rooted in the love of God? Will we let it take us to places we do not really want to go to? Calvary love is able to do this.

I have found that when I show compassion and love to those in need somehow my own pain lessens. Life still has meaning and purpose. There is a greater good at work. And without even noticing it, I have found that the memories of those I’ve lost bring more joy than they do pain; more laughter than sorrow; more appreciation than remorse.

54.49-57.55 In the third scene we witness the baby taking his first steps and the excitement this engenders. First steps are significant because they mark the beginning of independence. A time we phrase as ‘being able to stand on your own two feet’. Despite the tottering efforts of babies we know it marks a transition – the first of many. So it is in the discipleship of believers. In Acts 2.41-42 we see some of the first steps these early believers made. After they believed on Jesus they were baptised. It was a public declaration to those in their community that they were now following and living for the risen Messiah Jesus. Jesus is Lord, not Caesar. For a first step this was a bold move. It could be interpreted by the Romans as sedition. They could die!

But this step was followed by others, just as radical. They listened carefully to what the apostles taught them about Jesus and the Kingdom of God. The reality of His Kingdom – an everlasting Kingdom, so impressed the early disciples, that they shared their stuff with each other. They liked being together and how they lived impressed the greater community. It was different.

Many times we are afraid of what mature Christianity looks like. We can feel inadequate – not up to the challenge. Take Stephen, the first martyr in the church. How many deacons would measure up to this man? But when we think like this, we are forgetting something crucial. Maturity is a journey that begins with simple steps. As an old Chinese proverb says, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”. The key thing is to take the step and then another and then another. This why the Christian life is described as a walk, Eph 4.1; 5.2,15. It requires different steps to build a life and to make an impact. Not only that, we need to keep walking. Perhaps God is challenging you to take some new steps, something that requires a new level of faith. This is how we grow, how we mature and develop. Every significant step of obedience to Christ brings us closer to a realisation of His image in us.

1.05.42-1.10.31 In the final scene we have the reunion of father and son. It is a tense moment because the boy is hidden. All the man can see is a huge mammoth. Is he hostile? Will he harm him? How should he respond? And for Manny what a choice! To get revenge or to be the bearer of returning this man’s treasure. The boy is returned and we are left with the impression that there is a new understanding between the man and the mammoth.

For me this moment reflects the Biblical truth that we only truly find freedom and happiness when we chose to forgive those who have harmed us. Further, Kingdom living requires that we take another step, that we bless them in some way. This is what Jesus taught in Matt 5.12, “Bless those who persecute you and pray for those who despitefully use you”. Only a life empowered by the Spirit of Jesus can have the strength to do this. My prayer for us is that we will truly embrace life in all its fullness; enjoying the good and working to change the bad while we take radical steps of obedience and become agents of reconciliation and restoration.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


During the Great Depression in America, when folk had lost heart as well as homes and livelihoods, people were in great need of heroic figures to help them forget their troubles. On to this scene SEABISCUIT appeared. The movie relates a moving story of acceptance, friendship and devotion in restoring the main characters' fractured lives. It interweaves the life stories of an undersized horse, an oversized jockey, a redundant trainer and a millionaire owner, who knows nothing about race horses. Each of them has experienced pain and loss and significant misjudgement by others. The film accurately portrays the real people and events of those troubled times and how, through not giving up on each other, they became more and achieve more, as a team, than they could have ever done individually. It is a truly inspiring film with top class actors, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper and Toby McGuire.

38.05 – 41.18 – Every Horse is Good for Something
The first scene I focus on is when the millionaire, persuaded by his new, younger wife, decides to invest in a race horse and so begins to look for a trainer. He ends up meeting Tom Smith, a trainer shunned by other ‘experts’ in this field. The millionaire Howard is impressed to see that Smith has taken on a horse that was going to be put down because it had become lame. Through the tender patient care of this old trainer the horse is beginning to get better. The millionaire is inquisitive. “Will he race again?” He asks. He could see the value of taking this time and trouble for a horse that would race again, but it didn’t make sense to do it for any other reason. He pushes further, “Why did you do it?” The trainers answer is telling, “Because I can!” I love this answer. The issue was not what was in the horse in terms of its’ utilitarian value or usefulness. The real issue was what was in the trainer – how he perceived the horse and what abilities lay in him to make it better.

This is similar to how God has intervened in life to save people. Like the horse in the movie we are all broken to some extent. The Bible calls the root of this problem sin. It is the choices we make in life to act independently of our creator, to our own hurt. But despite this situation God takes the initiative to step in and save us, to heal and restore us and if anyone were to ask, “Why?” We might hear the same answer, “Because I can!” God does not save people so much because of their need, even though that is great. He saves people because of who He is. He can do it and chooses to; such is the nature of His love. Like the trainer in the movie, God feels about people the way Tom Smith felt about horses. “Every horse is good for something......and that one even looks good”.

Today we live in a ‘throw-away culture’. When things get broken it is seldom worth the time, trouble or money to fix them. From disposable ink cartridges to disposable nappies we like to get rid of what is not useful. But this attitude is almost a philosophy of life in Western cultures. Only recently has our community conscience begun to take a more ‘green’ approach to life through re-cycling our throw-away goods. I was recently in India. The contrast I experienced there was very different. There everything is used and re-used and fixed many times over. They simply don’t have the abundance we in the West take for granted and so they learn to make do. Tom Smith refused to accept that a lame horse should be shot. He saw horses differently to everyone else – even most other trainers. He placed a different value on them; a value that reflected what was important in life to him. In this sense he helps us understand the value God places on people.

42.3 – 50.52 He just needs to learn how to be a Horse again
The second scene is an extended clip. It shows us the history of the horse Seabiscuit and why he was such a difficult horse to manage. Quite simply he had been grossly misjudged by previous owners and trainers until he finally did what he was taught to do – loose. This made the horse bitter and angry. The problem was that he didn’t fit the accepted mould of what thoroughbreds should look like. Winners were tall, sleek and aggressive. This horse was none of those things; and so everything about his appearance made the experts feel justified in their opinion. The millionaire Charles Howard is somewhat incredulous when Tom Smith suggests he buy Seabiscuit. “What is it about this horse you like?” “He’s got spirit” is his reply. I like this. It reminds me of people I have met who have been misjudged by others. Their anger is due to a refusal to conform to the expectations of others – yet they have spirit. Something deep within them is looking for the right context, the right connection, the right person to release the potential that still lies dormant.

The anger of this horse was matched almost equally by the jockey Red Pollard. Here is a young man who has been separated from his family as a teenager and has had to live by his wits just to get by. Eventually he takes the horse for a ride to show him off to the new owners. He runs in every direction. It’s at this point that one of the most powerful lines is delivered. “They’ve got him running in circles for so long he’s forgotten what he was born to do. He just needs to learn how to be a horse again”. And here we see a connection to another Biblical truth. Sin has had such a devastating effect on humanity that we have forgotten how to be human. We have forgotten how to live. We need to learn again this simple lesson of life.

In John’s gospel we have Jesus’ famous words, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly”, John 10.10. The book begins with Him taking his disciples to a wedding. What could be more life related. Most discipleship manuals begin with a spiritual disciplines like, prayer, Bible study, Baptism or church attendance. Jesus begins with a wedding – and then makes more wine for those who have already drunk a lot! The middle of the book is about a funeral – Lazarus’. Again this is an everyday occurrence in life. Jesus doesn’t run away from this stuff. Rather He turns up and shows He is the Lord of Life by raising Lazarus from the dead. Finally John ends his gospel with a breakfast meal! All these major events are the ordinary stuff of life. Jesus has come to show us how to live – how to be human again. Somehow in the business of surviving or succeeding we forget how to live. Many testify that they feel their lives are part of a treadmill – they feel like they have simply lost control. They have substituted existing for living.

The answer for the horse is simply to let him run, not on a race track but out in the open fields. “How far should I go?” is the jockey’s question. “Till he stops” is the response. And that is just what he did. In the gospels the disciples left everything to follow Jesus. In a sense they went for a long run; a run that for them lasted three years. They ran until they learned what it meant to live again, to really live. They remembered what it meant to be human. They learned again about compassion, forgiveness, mercy, healing, purpose; all summarised by the word life.

1.17.48 – 1.19.25 – Handling Weakness in Others
In the third scene we catch the end of the Santa Anita race where for the first time Seabiscuit loses. The trainer is livid with the jockey and demands an answer, especially as this was the very competitor that he warned him about. In this heated confrontation the truth emerges – the jockey is blind in his right eye and simply didn’t see the competition until it was too late. Tom Smith is mad. “He lied to us”, he says to Charles Howard, the owner. This is hard for Tom. When he and Howard first meet each other in that first scene Howard asks him, “Do you always tell the truth?” “I try to”, is his response. Truth for Tom is an important value. He has many weaknesses but this is not one of them. But it is Red’s.

This young jockey knows he has a lot against him without disclosing his blindness in one eye too. So he keeps it hidden until it costs him the race. People lie for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes the intension is to deceive – to get one over on others. But many times it is out of fear; fear of what people will think; fear of what they will do or not do; fear that things will never be the same when others find out the truth. And so they remain imprisoned in their world of secret pain. Howard’s response is full of grace, “It’s OK Tom”. And then he quotes back to this trainer the very words he used when they first met, “You don’t throw away a life just because it’s beat up a little”. His words have come back to him; the grace that he so desperately wanted in his own life is now needed by someone else. And he is being challenged to be the channel for that grace. The challenge is that the young jockey Red needs grace in an area where Tom is strong – telling the truth.

The ultimate test of maturity as a believer is when we are able to give people the same measure of grace and forgiveness we have received, Matt 18. It’s easy to have compassion on those who share our own weaknesses, but what about those whose weakness happens to be our strength? What do we do then? The temptation is to become judgemental, to be angry, to hold a grudge. Jesus commands us to forgive – up to seventy times seven.

1.56.00 – 1.59.05 – Just let him Ride!
Just before our final scene both the horse and rider have become lame. Yet through the patient care of the trainer, once again Seabiscuit recovers and rides in races again. The road to recovery for his jockey, Red Pollard, is longer and so Red allows an old friend to take his place as the new rider. The horse goes on to win. But then the opportunity comes to enter Seabiscuit into the Santa Anita race. The very race that Red lost. The young jockey wants a chance to ride again – especially in this race. He wants to prove himself. Howard is reluctant to agree. He takes Red to see a doctor. The doctor says the slightest knock could break the leg and do irreparable damage. Howard is scared. He talks to the replacment jockey who makes an insightful comment, “It’s better to break a mans leg than to break his heart”. He talks to his wife who says, “Let him ride”. Desperately he tries to find someone who’ll agree with him – but he can’t.

For the real issue for this wealthy millionaire is his fear of losing this young man. It is his own loss he finds hard to handle. He has already lost a son. The pain is still present. Can he really face that kind of loss again? This is the agonising question of his heart. And so his reluctance is not really about Red’s well being, it’s about his own. Sometimes in life we hold back from allowing those we love to adventurous, even dangerous things, not because of what we truly fear will happen to them but because of what we fear will happen to us. This is no way to live. It is fear based, not faith based. We have to learn to let go of people we love and trust them into God’s care. Not to do this is to choose a path of fear, control and manipulation. This doesn’t build trust. It tears it down.

Howard faces his fear and agrees. And Red and Seabiscuit go on to win the Santa Anita race. Despite the brokenness of all these people they achieve greatness together. It’s a truly inspiring story. For like them we too are broken people. But this does not disqualify us from being used by God. Rather we become a testament to the grace of God; for He always chooses the despised and weak things of this world to confound the wise and bring to nothing the things that are, 1Cor 1.27-28. Watch this movie and be inspired!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Chariots of Fire

Chariots of Fire was released in 1981. It won four Oscars for; Best Original Music Score, (Vangelis), Best Costume Design, Best Original Screenplay (Colin Welland) and to the surprise of many Best Picture. It is one of my favourite movies. The picture centres on the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, focusing on the lives of two of the British competitors; Harold Abrahams, a Cambridge undergraduate with Jewish ancestry and Eric Liddell, a Scottish undergraduate studying in Edinburgh who was born in China to missionary parents where he spent the first five years of his life. The film focuses on the lives of these two men leading up to the Olympic Games. We learn something of what drives them, who they allow to influence them and ultimately the impact that their success has on their lives.

The contrast between the two men is captivating. Abrahams is ambitious, driven and highly talented. He has a fine intellect, is a superb athlete, sings and is well able to charm the lead singer from the latest production of Gilbert and Sullivan. Yet beneath all this confidence we discover a man desperately wanting approval, on his terms. He is convinced success will give this to him. He adopts a professional attitude to his training and regularly promotes his athletic achievements through newspaper articles written by a ‘special correspondent’, Abraham’s no less.

Liddell on the other hand is polite, shy and a deeply committed Christian. He too wants success but only within the framework of what he believes it means to honour God. The first scene in the movie I want to focus on is a talk between Eric Liddell and his sister Jenny. He has turned up late for a meeting and is scolded by his sister who feels he is living with a divided heart. She perceives the conflict to be between his love for God and serving Him and his love for Sport. By this time Liddell had achieved huge notoriety in Scotland as a famed winger who regularly played in the Five Nations Rugby Championships and achieving a time of 9.7 seconds for the 100 yard dash – a record that would stand for the next 35 years. The expectation from the country was that he would represent Scotland in the Olympics 100 metre race.

46.53 – 49.47 – What do I aim for now?
The first scene I have chosen is where Abraham’s and Liddell face off one another in a 100 metre race. For the first time Abraham’s is defeated. He is shocked and sits mesmerised going over the race again and again in his mind trying to understand what went wrong. He sweetheart draws alongside to comfort him. She is astonished that his reaction seems disproportionate to what has taken place. He has lost a race not a friend! But Abraham’s is inconsolable. “I don’t run to take beatings”, he protests, “I run to win and if I can’t win I won’t run”. Her response exposes the foolishness of his logic, “Well if you don’t run you can’t win”. Abraham’s is at a point of crisis. He has given everything and still lost. “What do I aim for now?” is his anguished cry. Again she brings him back on track in his thinking, “Beating him next time”.

And as Abraham’s ponders these words the skilful trainer Mr Massabini turns up on the scene declaring, “Mr Abraham’s, I can find you another two yards!” Sometimes in life we go as far as we can with our own knowledge and skill. It takes us to a certain place. But the Bible tells us that many times we need others to help us go further. People who have life experience, who know what to look for; people who can train and mentor us to reach our full potential. For Abraham’s to go to the next level he needed to put his trust in a trainer.

Timothy went to a whole new level in his ministry because Paul took him under his wing – and Timothy agreed. To say no to this kind of help is often to condemn yourself to a limited level of success, which leaves a gnawing feeling that you know you could have done more. And while others sing your praises for what you have achieved, you live with this inner feeling of discontentment. It’s a sad place to be. Like Abraham’s we need friends who will remind us of what we are capable of; rebuke our self pitying episodes and encourage us to receive help from those who can take us further.

56.00 – 57.58 – God made me fast!
Liddell walks with his sister along the hills overlooking Edinburgh. His appreciation for how his sister feels is touching, but with a characteristic firm and gentle spirit he reminds her that even though he knows he is made for a purpose and called to China he also knows that God has made him fast, “and when I run, I feel His pleasure”.

Many of us grow up in church traditions that do not understand this important point that Liddell is making. We often grow up with a sense of what is truly spiritual and what is worldly by the approval or censorship we encounter when we do things. Meetings, prayer, witnessing, these are all perceived as spiritual activities. But sport, theatre and many of the arts are perceived as worldly. The tide is turning today, but remember, Liddell understood this way back in the roaring twenties. For him it was not a case of either/or, but and/both. The only question in his mind was about ordering his priorities – and for this season in his life sport and running came first. Not before God, but before study and missionary service.

“Not to run would be to hold him in contempt...... to win is to honour Him”. These words reflect a world view desperately needed in the church. All of life belongs to God and no part is beyond the touch of His grace. As my old brethren elder used to tell me, “He is either Lord of all or not at all”. Jesus said in John 10.10, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly”. The word for abundance there means more than is sufficient or necessary.

The very first miracle Jesus performed was turning water into wine at a wedding. Some religious people are almost embarrassed by this miracle. Over 180 Gallons of wine at a wedding where they had already drunk a lot! The wedding was one of the most common events of day to day life. There is nothing especially ‘spiritual’ about it. It isn’t about a great message or a significant healing. It’s about running out of drink! Each of us needs to consider the gifts we have been given to steward. Not just the obviously spiritual ones we can easily identify with ministry, but the ones we often discount because they have been abused in more worldly contexts. Liddell saw his speed as a gift; a gift that could honour God and become a means of making him known. And that is exactly what happened. Liddell’s success made him a sought after speaker and he used every opportunity to speak of Jesus.

1.22.14 – 1.23.19 – A Confrontation with Conscience
The third scene is where Liddell meets Lord Birkenhead, one of the British Olympic Committee members. Liddell has discovered that the heats for the 100 metre race will take place on a Sunday and he refuses to run. (In real life this actually happened some months before the Games and for a period Liddell was one of the most despised men in Scotland, until he managed to get his race changed to run in the 400 metre race). For dramatic purposes the film portrays all this happening while in France days before the race.

Liddell is about to face the future King of England where he and others will try to persuade him to run on Sunday. He stands firm and is resolute despite the amazing pressure when another runner offers to swap races with Liddell. But the encounter with Birkenhead gives us a key insight as to the attitude that Liddell had when he walked into that meeting.

“My arrogance sir extends just as far as my conscience demands”.

Many times our convictions will be misunderstood as arrogance. The watchword for today is tolerance which has become a synonym for compromise and lack of conviction. Those with convictions today are labelled bigots, prejudiced or marrow minded. Liddell did not much care for the approval or endorsement of others. He cared about honouring God and living out from his deeply held convictions. For him choices like this were an issue of conscience. If it meant being labelled arrogant for doing so then he was prepared to live with the label.

I think of Biblical characters like Paul he often suffered false accusation at the hands of Judaizers who followed him around. Yet his testimony was that he strived to live his life with “A conscience void of offense before God and men”, Acts 24.16. Arrogance and conviction can appear similar at first sight but they are vastly different animals. Arrogance parades itself as the arbiter of truth. Conviction on the other hand gives reason and explanation to its stand. Arrogance sets up judgments of others and uses intimidation to cause their will to yield. Conviction refuses to judge but appeals to history, experience truth and conscience to persuade others. It has an altogether meek interior whilst its voice is bold and certain.

Such were the convictions of Eric Liddell. A man who was the easy favourite to win the 100 metre sprint yet was prepared to forgo this glory to honour God. And when he did accept the change to run in the 400 metre race he was accepting a monumental challenge. It was not his main event. The chance of a Gold medal must have seemed remote.

1.30.40 – 1.32.55 – Isaiah 40
The fourth scene almost speaks for itself. While all the other runners are performing and in most cases failing, we see Liddell speaking from Isaiah chapter 40 in a Church of Scotland service in Paris. It is a Sunday. Crowds attend the service. He is literally living what he is preaching – waiting on God, renewing his strength, now ready to mount up with wings as eagles. And on the day of the race that’s exactly what he does.

I’ve learned in life and ministry that there are times when we need to pull back and take time out with God. We may take issue with Liddell about Sunday being the ‘Sabbath’, but we dare not take issue with the principal of Sabbath rest – God’s rest. Life has its rhythms and we do well to discern what they are. There is a time for everything says the Preacher in Ecclesiastes 3.1-8. When we work yoked to Christ we don’t have to strive. Psalm 127 says that those who build the house do so in vain if God is not in it. A similar warning is given to the watchmen. Nothing is meant to be done in our own strength. The Psalmist goes on to say, “He gives his beloved sleep”, Ps 127.2. The issue is not the hours we put in. It is about working smarter not faster. Like Liddell we need to learn when to step back and trust God to take care of building and watching!

1.48.0 – 1.52.44 – Victory!
In the final scene we see the 400 metre race. The record for the 400 meters was 48.2 seconds. In a qualifying heat on July 10th, the day before the big race, J. Imbach of Switzerland set a new record of 48 seconds flat. In the semi-final run on Friday morning, July 11th, Horatio M. Fitch of Chicago broke the record again, bringing the time down to 47.8 seconds. Everyone expected the 400-meter race to be a battle between Imbach and Fitch.

Eric Liddell had drawn the worst starting position in the race, way out on the rim of the curve. His would be the last spot to hear the starter's gun and with no visible competitor it would be difficult for him to judge his own progress throughout the race. As Liddell went to the starting blocks, he was slipped a piece of paper with a quotation from 1 Samuel 2:30, "Those who honour me I will honour." Liddell ran with that piece of paper clutched in his hand. Shortly after the gun fired, however, Eric took a lead that he never relinquished. When he broke the tape at 47.6 seconds, the Olympic record for the 400 meters had been shattered three times in twenty-four hours. He won by a lead of 5 meters in a race that, until that time, was not considered his greatest strength.

Liddell went on to achieve more fame as a sportsman but true to his word he went to China where he served as a missionary from 1925 to 1943. When the Japanese invaded China he was interred with others while his pregnant wife and two children escaped to Canada. He died two years later. All of Scotland mourned. Such was the calibre of this great athlete. Would to God that more of us could have such an impact on our generation and leave a lasting legacy of a life lived to the full for the glory of God.

The Lion King

This message is based on four clips from the Movie “The Lion King”

0.20 - 4.19 – Born to Reign
The opening scene of the Lion King is awesome. It reminds me of the anticipation that Paul writes about in Rom 8 when he describes the whole of creation travailing in birth, waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God. At that moment creation will break forth in worship and wonder as the New Creation breaks free from the bondage of the curse and experiences the ‘glorious liberty of the sons of God’. This opening scene captures something of the response of creation at that time. The entire animal kingdom responds in adoration to the presentation of a new King – the lion cub Simba. It even has a prophetic moment as the old Baboon Rafiki (which in Swahili means friend) ‘anoints’ young Simba and presents him to all the other animals.

In process of time the young lion cub grows up living with an eager anticipation of being the future king. Yet at this point in his journey he doesn’t realise what it truly means to reign. For him it all appears to be about who calls the shots. Into the world of this naive lion cub comes his wicked uncle, Scar. Through careful scheming he places Simba in harm’s way and it falls to Simba’s father Mufasa (the Swahili word for King) to save his son. But he does so at the cost of his own life. Scar manipulates Simba into taking the blame and so the young lion cub runs, living in exile for many years.

Here lies the parallel with the Biblical story. Mankind was made and destined by God to rule and reign on the earth; to be His vice-regent no less. But through the scheming and plotting of an enemy, who is a master of manipulation, mankind has forfeited that privilege. Trapped by sin we are left exiled, driven out of the garden, we no apparent hope of return. In the mean time everything in the earth tends towards death and destruction. Just like the Pridelands of the movie, when the true king is not on the throne then selfishness reigns and the land and creation suffer.

So Simba gets on with life meeting two new friends and learning to have a carefree attitude summarised in the phrase, Hakuna Matata – meaning no worries. But this carefree attitude is a cover that hides a deeper reality of fear shame and guilt. In the next scene Simba will be confronted by an old friend. Someone he values, who will challenge his lack of involvement. In the dialogue we can see four lies that Simba has bought into that keep him back from moving into his destiny.

59.00-100.30 – 4 Lies That Hold Simba Back
The first lie is in the statement, “No-one needs me”. In fact the opposite is true. Simba is desperately needed. But he feels a failure. He feels responsible for all that has gone wrong. He cannot see how important his role is to the future of the Pridelands. Believers can often be caught up in a similar way of thinking. Paul encountered this with the church in Corinth. He wrote to them in 1Cor 12.14-22, reminding them of the uniqueness and importance of every member.

The second lie is when he says, “I’m not the King, Scar is”. In reality Scar was a usurper. He had no right to the throne. It belonged to the true son of the King – and that was Simba. Similarly believers need to recognise that in Christ we are restored to our true destiny. Rom 8.17 says we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. 2Tim 2.12 says that if we suffer with Him we will reign with Him. As long as we believe the lie that says we are not ‘kings’ we remain trapped in a self made prison. Simba will have to face a vision that reminds him of who he truly is. For now we see how much effort he has put into living in denial.

Lie number three is powerful, “I can’t go back”. Simba has convinced himself that what has happened in the past is too difficult to face. He is too ashamed. What will people say? The prodigal son in Luke 15 was in a similar predicament. Yet after months of hunger with nothing left, he realised that even the servants in his Father’s house were better off than he was in that moment. He dared to go back, expecting very little. His only ambition was to be a servant in the Father’s House. But to his surprise the Father fully restored him to the full status of a son. I’ve learned in life that many times God will take us back to our place of disappointment, back to the place where we failed. And in going back we actually go forward; for we go with a new attitude that enables God to do something to bring about His purpose.

The fourth lie is almost a philosophy, “Sometimes bad things happen and there’s nothing you can do about it – so why worry?” It’s true that sometimes bad things happen but the good news is that there is always something you can do about it. That doesn’t mean we can undo what has happened. It means we have an opportunity to work in the midst of disaster to bring God’s love and mercy to hurting people. This is what the Good Samaritan did. While others crossed over to the other side he got involved – he made a difference. Rom 8.28 shows us that God is always waiting to get involved – but He needs a willing channel. This is what He found in Jesus – someone perfectly yielded to work together with Him to bring about His good purposes in the lives of others.

So how will Simba break through the power of these lies? The old prophet Rafiki realises that Simba is alive and finds him. He helps him to have a prophetic vision of his Father that begins to change him. In that encounter he is reminded of four truths that will help him to break free and follow his true destiny.

104.03 – 106.30 – 4 Truths He Must Embrace
The first truth is this, “He lives in you”. Old Rafiki declares this to Simba. This resonates with a wonderful Biblical truth for the believer expressed by Paul in Col 1.27, Christ in you, the hope of Gory. He lives in us too. Jesus said to His disciples, “I will not leave you orphans”. He has sent the Holy Spirit to fill us and be with us. He is the other comforter – just like Jesus. Through the Spirit we can have a relationship with God whereby we can Abba – Father, Gal 4.6.

The second truth is expressed by Mufassa, “You are more than what you have become”. Many of us have yet to reach our real potential in life. Churchill’s finest hour in life was at an age when most people retire! It literally changed the course of history. In one sense there was nothing wrong with Simba’s life. But there was one essential problem – he was destined for more. More was in him and he had not yet fulfilled that potential. When we chose to live below our capacity for life, we are choosing a life of mediocrity. We are cheating ourselves. Paul said in Phil 3.12-14 that even he had not yet attained. His attitude was one of pressing forward, keeping his eye on the prize and forgetting the past. Good advice for anyone wanting to move ahead into their destiny.

The third truth speaks to our insecurities, “Remember who you are”. This is one of the greatest challenges to us as believers. There is the truth of who we are by birth, education vocation and achievement. Then there is the truth about who we are according to God’s call. By embracing who God has made us to be in Christ we bring a new confidence to all we put our hand to. This is what made Paul so confident. He did rely on his education or Jewish credentials. These where not what gave him a sense of self assurance; rather it was the knowledge that he was a chosen vessel. All of his past achievements were seen by Paul as rubbish in comparison to knowing Christ, yet he also used these things to serve into God’s purpose for his life, Phil 3.4-8; 2Cor 11.6. In terms of his identity they were rubbish, in terms of being used to serve God’s purpose they had value. We need to remind ourselves often who we are.

For the first century Christians this was a radical teaching. Slaves now had equal status with Masters in the church. Women now had equal status with men. Children where the model of what it means to trust in order to enter the Kingdom. The lowly were being exalted and the lofty were being humbled. Gal 3.28 was a dangerous message that was subversive to the status quo of Paul’s culture. Yet it was this reality that empowered the early church to turn the world upside down!

In the fourth truth that Simba must embrace old Rafiki reminds him, “Ah yes the past hurts. You can either run from it, or learn from it”. This is a liberating truth. Paul Billheimer once wrote a book entitled, “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows”. It speaks to this very issue. He had suffered great loss in his life including a son who died in the prime of life. But Billheimer chose to respond to God in those times of loss and learned great lessons that he was able to pass on to others. It was not wasted in self-pity or regret. We too need to learn from the past rather than being trapped by the shame, guilt or grief of the past. Only as move ahead in life do we really gain the benefit of lessons learned through what my old pastor used to call, “the school of hard knocks”. Moses had to learn this lesson about his own shortcomings and embrace who he was as a servant of God rather than a son of Pharaoh!

118.49 – 120.32 – It is Time!
The final scene I have selected is the closing part of the movie. We here Rafiki speak almost prophetically again to Simba, “It is time”. These are powerful words. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because, in His words, “you did not know the time of your visitation”. Timing is everything. God has a time for all things – a Kairos moment to use the Greek term. When John the Baptist appeared on the scene in Judah, he declared, “The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is at hand”, Mark 1.15. John’s time had come. But he also knew when his time was over declaring to others, “He must increase, but I must decrease”, John 3.30. He was of course speaking of Jesus. His time had now come. Paul tells us in Gal 4.4, "But when the fullness of time had come....." The Greek word for fullness is pleroma and in this context its meaning is similar to what happens when a glass is filled to the brim.

Simba had to seize the opportunity that was before him. In the movie the return of the King is represented by him standing in the place where his Father stood and letting out a roar – a mature lion’s roar, very different to how he practised in the early part of the film. And with that roar comes a transformation of the Pridelands. A restoration into plush green lands filled again with life. This is what the gospel has secured for us. This earth will be transformed and restored. Right now we have the opportunity to begin that process, redeeming what we can as a prophetic sign to the world that this is our true destiny.

Jesus lived with this sense of destiny. When others tried to push Him forward to reveal Himself as the true King He responded with, “My time has not yet come...” John 7.6-8. Yet when we get to Mat 26.18 he declares, “My time is at hand”. This sense of timing is crucial for us. And like Simba, sometimes we need a prophetic voice like Rafiki to provoke us. My spirit is stirred by this truth. It is time for the church to “Arise Shine”, Isaiah 60.1. It is time for God’s people to stop hiding in the shadows. It is time to see that the church is the hope of the world. Dare to move ahead into all that God has spoken over your life. Get all the training you can. Receive all the wisdom you can. Learn all the lessons you can. It is time!

Monday, 9 March 2009

How Teaching Builds & Restores Faith

Heb 11.1 tells us that faith is ‘the substance of things hoped for...’ Hope is therefore the blueprint of faith. And hope deals with our expectations, our expectations of God, of life and of each other. When those expectations are not met we get disappointed and our faith takes a knock. How do we deal with those kinds of scenarios? Is there a way to move forward? Further how can we position ourselves to help others that are struggling with disappointment and unfulfilled dreams?

In our series on how people come to faith we have come to see the power of sharing a personal testimony and awesome impact of moving in prophetic revelation. But remember that these things seldom work in isolation. More often they work together and we can find ourselves flowing from one to the other, almost unconsciously. We now come to the point where I would like to unpack how teaching can be a powerful means of building and restoring faith.

Luke records a wonderful story in chapter 24 of his gospel. Two disciples are on a journey to a town nearby to Jerusalem called Emmaus. It is seven miles away. It is Easter – resurrection day, but their minds are in a bewildered state. They are in a downcast mood as they rehearse to one another the events that have just transpired that weekend. Suddenly a stranger draws near. It’s Jesus. But somehow they don’t recognise him. In fact Luke makes a point of saying, “But their eyes were restrained so that they did not know Him”, Luke 24.16.

Disappointment always affects our vision. It has a restraining power that stops us seeing clearly. It clouds our understanding so that we don’t really comprehend the truth of a situation. Such was the case with these two men. I want to use this story to show a process that Jesus used to bring them back to a point of faith. It has seven steps to it.

Step 1 – Jesus drew near
One of the greatest gifts we can give to another person who is downcast or going through inner turmoil of any kind is the gift of our presence. Jesus did not demand anything from them. He didn’t even care at this point that they didn’t recognise him. It is phrased beautifully by Luke, “Jesus Himself drew near and went with them”, Luke 24.15. We often speak of discipleship in terms of following Jesus. That’s great when we are in a place of faith or faith has been awakened. But here Jesus went with them. Sometimes in life we have to follow others in order to understand their world, their situation – their pain. Jesus did that. It allowed Him to see that they were sad and needed help.

Step 2 – Jesus asked questions
Asking questions is a great way of understanding another person’s perspective. It gives them the opportunity to explain themselves further. It gives us the opportunity to listen. This too is a great gift to give another person. Listening to another person tell their story requires concentration and openness on our part. It would have been so easy for Jesus to just ‘tell them straight’. Instead He goes on a journey with them. He plays ignorant of the events that He has been the centre of in order to help these men come to a new place of understanding – a new place of faith. Notice too how open ended the questions are. They require more than a simple yes or no response. The questions invite dialogue, Luke 24.17-18. They are free of any pre-judgement, criticism or censure.

Step 3 – Jesus allowed them to speak out of their disappointment
I am a great believer in the language of faith – so long as it reflects the reality that is in our hearts. If that is absent we become parrots. We become echoes with no true voice of our own. The language of faith is ultimately the language of the heart. It must be real there – for with the heart one believes, Rom 10.10. These men were in a crisis – a faith crisis. Before beginning to teach them, Jesus listened to them. He understood where they were coming from. He did not presume to speak into their situation before He understood their need. They were disappointed, they were sad. He could see that. But why were they sad? I have no doubt He already knew the answer to this question, but it is a wonderful lesson for us that, in humility, Jesus took the time and trouble to let them speak, to share their disappointment. Luke 24.21 is the crux of the matter for them, “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel...” Having heard their story, listened to their perspective and understood their dilemma Jesus now moves to the next stage.

Step 4 – Jesus challenged their unbelief
“Oh foolish ones and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Messiah to have suffered these things and to enter into His Glory?” Luke 24.25-26. This is a full on challenge, which He then unpacks. Notice His assessment of them – they are ‘foolish’. They had not understood the wisdom of God demonstrated through a crucified and risen Messiah. Further they were ‘slow of heart to believe all that the prophets had spoken’! It wasn’t that they didn’t believe; it was that their faith was selective. They believed some of the words of the prophet’s words, but not all that they had said. The prophecies about the glories of the coming Kingdom and the Messiah putting an end to all rule and authority – these were popular in the time of Jesus. But Is 53 – the song of the suffering Servant, that was a different matter. It didn’t quite fit their vision of a victorious Messiah. Finally Jesus asked His own question which is highly rhetorical. Once you see God’s wisdom and understand the full council of God it all makes sense. It couldn’t have happened any other way!

Step 5 – Jesus explained the scriptures
Notice that it is only now that Jesus begins to teach. Like a good farmer He prepares the ground first. I confess to being slightly jealous of these two men, (later I’ll explain why I think we can have the same experience today!). To have the resurrected Jesus take such a Bible study where He is no longer instructing His disciples to keep things secret until after the resurrection must have been awesome. He begins at Moses and all the Prophets. Later in the same chapter He reminds all the disciples, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me”, Luke 24.44.

This represents the threefold Jewish division of the OT books. They were; the Torah, the first five books of Moses. The Prophets; made up of Joshua, judges, 1&2 Samuel, 1&2 Kings, Ezra, Nehemiah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the Twelve Minor prophets. The Writings, of which the Psalms was the first in that section, consequently it became a synonym for it. This also included, Ruth, Esther, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, 1&2 Chronicles and Daniel. Jesus in effect covered the entire OT as we know it today showing how He fulfilled prophecy through shadows and types in the sacred text. He wanted these two disciples to have their faith grounded in God’s word. Jesus would be leaving them, but under the guidance of the Spirit, they would have the means of continuing to grow in wisdom and faith through the scriptures. Further Luke says, “He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the scriptures”, Luke 24.45. And this function has now been given to the Spirit – so that even today we can encounter what these two disciples experienced on the Emmaus road, John 16.12-15.

Later in the story they relate what happened on the inside as Jesus taught them, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road and while He opened the scriptures to us”, Luke 24 32. Truth explained has a powerful way of igniting the heart. Whilst the events of that weekend where totally out of the ordinary they were not unforeseen. This restored their Hope and galvanised their faith.

Step 6 – Jesus tested their hunger
This is a fascinating part of the story. They finally arrive at Emmaus and Jesus indicates that He is going farther. What will they do? Thank Him? Say goodbye? Carry on as before? The encounter for them has been life changing. They cannot simply let this ‘stranger’ go further without offering hospitality. “They constrained Him....” Imagine that. Jesus is constrained by their words. Why is this? I believe He was testing them to see if they had a deeper hunger. Despite the fact that He is still hidden from them they know something is different about this man. And in asking Him to stay they open the way for a deeper encounter to take place.

Step 7 – Jesus vanished when their faith was restored
Luke’s simple record of what took place next reminds us other times when Jesus did this. The first time was with a crowd of 5,000 men, Mark 6.41. The last was when He celebrated communion, when Jesus broke bread with His disciples on the night of His arrest, 1Cor 11.23-26. This simple fourfold act; He took bread, He blessed it, He broke it and He gave it to them; is like a mini parable in itself. Like Jesus we take what is available, what is insufficient for the needs around us and we give thanks. We do not look at what is in our hands; we look to the one who can multiply what we hold. Our confidence in Him is expressed through thanksgiving. We break it. And in breaking it we are reminded that He was broken. Yet His brokenness was enough for the whole world. All can be fed. All can be satisfied. Finally He gave. This is the ultimate proof of a loving God; for He is a giving God. He holds nothing back, not even His dearly beloved Son. So in giving we touch the very nature of God. We give out of what we have received, given thanks for, because it is now surrendered to God and allowed to be broken. It is often in brokenness that the needs of others are met.

I’m sure as Jesus stretched out His hands to offer them bread they would have seen the nail-scars. Two remarkable things happen in a moment. In an instant their eyes are opened and they know Him but before there can be any exchange or further dialogue He vanished from their sight, Luke 24.31. And that is the point of the story. Faith has been rekindled and they don’t need to see Him. For faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, Heb 11.1. His truth is burning in their hearts. The word has taken root. Immediately they arose and travelled all the way back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples of their encounter. Imagine that! The day is almost over. They are tired. They eat with Jesus but then they suddenly realise – it’s all true. Their faith is reignited and they are re-energised. So off they go.

When the truth takes hold of us it has a way of ordering and re-ordering our steps. What once seemed difficult can become a joy. What once appeared hopeless can become a new opportunity for the Kingdom of God. This happened to these two men. They couldn’t wait to pass on the Good News; “The Lord is risen indeed....” Luke 24.34.

The beauty of this story for me is the gracious way Jesus handled them. He knew when to draw close and He knew when to leave. His intervention was just long enough. Too short and they would have been left with only stirred hearts. Too long and they would have become too dependent on His personal presence. He was showing them how to truly live, rooted in the promises of scripture; a pattern that every disciple since then has to learn. My prayer is that we will grow more and more to be those kinds of disciples and that, in turn, will help along the way those who have hit disillusionment; teaching Biblical truth to them with the same sensitivity Jesus showed.