Five awesome quotes from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”

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If you’ve never had the opportunity to read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, I want to encourage you to do so this Christmas season.  We’ve all seen this story in one form or another on TV (my favorite version features the Muppets), but there are corners of the heart books seems to touch that films simply cannot.

Here are my five favorite quotes from the book:

1.

but-i-am-sure-i-have

That last part really hits me in the gut.  It’s both sad and encouraging.  We’re all “fellow-passengers to the grave,” so why show favoritism toward one person over another?

2.

they-were-not-a-handsome

One of the things I’ve been really learning from the Bible lately is that it is better to be content with what you have than to constantly want something else.  I mean, if you’re happy with what you have, why spend so much time and energy struggling after something you don’t need, something that won’t bring you satisfaction?

3.

i-wear-the-chain

This one’s all about personal accountability.  We can choose what we want our lives to be, and what our lives consist of in this life will ultimately impact what our lives are like in the next.  We’re either building chains for ourselves, or breaking them through the power of Christ.  Which are you doing?

4.

mens-courses

I love this thought!  As long as we have breath in our lungs, it’s not too late to change.  It’s not too late to become a better parent.  It’s not too late to change how we treat our spouses.  It’s not too late to put your faith in Jesus.  It’s not too late, and though you may have built up many chains for yourself, if you change course and turn to Christ you can leave all of those chains behind, forever!

5.

some-people-laughed

This is an attitude I aspire to have.  Who cares if people laugh at you for doing good?  Who cares if people mock you for turning down a better path?  Do what is right, what is best, and let men chatter while you live at peace.

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Destiny, David, and Kung Fu Panda

Po_Kung_Fu_PandaWhen I think of the concept of destiny I think of Kung fu movies, and one of my favorite Kung fu movies is Kung Fu Panda (yes, I’m still a kid at heart). The movie’s main character, Po, is a fat and clumsy panda who dreams of being a Kung fu legend but is stuck working in a noodle restaurant with his father.  One day, through a series of funny and strange events, he is identified as the legendary Dragon Warrior by a Kung fu master named Oogway.

Once identified, the characters express three different beliefs about the situation:  Po seems to think he was chosen by accident.  The other Kung fu warriors seem to think he was chosen by mistake.  But Master Oogway, the wise, old tortoise of the bunch, believes that which looks like an accident or mistake is actually destiny intervening.

The rest of the story (spoiler alert) is a familiar one.  A great enemy — Tai Lung the snow leopard — escapes from prison and will surely destroy everything the other characters know and love, and Po the Dragon Warrior is expected to stop him.  But for the longest time it seems the panda will never amount to anything, and the situation seems so bleak that the other warriors try to stop the enemy before he can reach their town.  They’re defeated, of course, and Po becomes the town’s only hope.

Fortunately, he realizes just in time that the things he thought were holding him back (namely, his size and weight) are actually assets when used properly.  The things that make him different from the other fighters are actually to his advantage, and he eventually fulfills his destiny in dramatic fashion (don’t mess with the wuxi finger hold).

Destiny is a powerful idea because it is a guarantee on something that hasn’t yet been delivered.  In movies and literature a character who is fulfilling his destiny is one who is not only accomplishing the task he was created to accomplish, but he’s also becoming the person he was created to be.

But just as there was a period between when Po was announced as the Dragon Warrior and when he began to act like the Dragon Warrior, so there is often a period between when we learn of our destinies and we actually experience them.

For example, after King Saul disobeyed God a number of times, God finally rejected him as king of Israel and decided David should become king instead.  In fact, according to 1 Samuel 16, Saul was still on the throne when the prophet Samuel anointed David as king!  For a long time the newly anointed king of Israel lived like an exile, fleeing from place to place in order to avoid being killed by Saul.  But all the while he knew it was just a matter of time before he took the throne.

Here’s the principle: Often you’ll be anointed long before you’re appointed.  God calls things that are not as if they are, and in David’s case he called him king long before David actually took the reigns to the kingdom.

What is God saying about you?  What is he telling you to do?  What is he saying you should become?  If there seems like there’s a gap between you and where he wants you to be, maybe it’s because there is.  Just because he’s anointed you doesn’t mean he’s ready to appoint you just yet, probably because he wants to develop patience and trust within you.  The same is true of our salvation.  He calls us children long before we receive our promised heavenly inheritance, but we don’t have to worry about whether or not he’ll deliver on his promise, because it’s guaranteed thing.

God calls out our potential long before we ever see it achieved.  Has God called you to something?  Don’t be discouraged; be patient.  He will see you through in his own timing, and the wait will cause you to praise him even more when he delivers.

Obstacle, or opportunity?

GladiatorOne of my all-time favorite movies is Gladiator.  It’s about a Roman general named Maximus who is loved by his army as well as the emperor.  And Maximus has a dream — he wants to return the power of government to the Roman people.  But things go south when the emperor’s son, who is jealous of Maximus’ special relationship with his father, takes over the throne, kills Maximus’ family, and tries to kill the general himself.  Fortunately the assassination attempt fails, but Maximus is captured and sold into slavery.  Despite doing his best to serve his country faithfully, Maximus draws the short straw.

Many people would have given up at that point.  What’s the point of trying when the most powerful man in the world is against you?  But as a slave he becomes a gladiator and is such a skilled fighter that he quickly rises through the ranks until he has the opportunity to fight in the Coliseum in Rome.  

The emperor, once he recognizes Maximus, makes sure the general-turned-slave is faced with impossible odds, hoping one of the other warriors will kill him on the field of battle, but time and time again Maximus perseveres.  Finally the emperor, a skilled swordsman, decides to fight Maximus himself, but he rigs the match by stabbing Maximus before the fight even begins.

In the end (spoiler alert!), the two dual on the Coliseum floor and Maximus kills the emperor.  As a result, the wounded Maximus orders that power be returned to the Roman people — and sees his dream fulfilled — just before he dies.

Gladiator is a powerful story of perseverance in the face of everything that’s “not fair.”  It’s been said that 90 percent of our problems are self-inflicted, and we expect life to be difficult to some extent, but when we’re doing our best and our plans still seem to keep falling through, that’s when we really want to give up.  When the system is working against us.  When we feel our boss is incompetent.  When we get passed up for a promotion.  When we see other people getting special treatment.  When people are out to get us.  When we’ve been faithful to God but things still aren’t going our way.  These are the times when perseverance matters most.

Perseverance is like a fire extinguisher: It’s something we hope we never have to use, but we need to keep it around just in case.  We need to ready our hearts and minds to deal with the speed bumps that slow us from reaching our God-honoring dreams.  

For a long time I’ve felt the story of Maximus was just a knockoff of the story of Joseph.  Joseph was a guy who had everything going for him until his brothers’ jealousy caused them to do something terrible to him — sell him into slavery.  Over and over again Joseph got the short end of the stick, but despite the unfairness he experienced he persevered faithfully until God took him to a place of authority and used him in a way he could have never imagined.

Joseph couldn’t have anticipated the path he would take to becoming a ruler of Egypt.  He couldn’t have guessed his brothers would betray him.  He couldn’t have known he would become another man’s property.  He couldn’t have predicted he would be falsely accused of attempted rape and thrown into prison.  He couldn’t have foreseen that, even after miraculously interpreting the chief cupbearer’s dream, he would be forgotten for another two years before finally ascending to authority in Egypt.  No matter how unfair things seemed, Joseph always stayed faithful to God, and God showed his faithfulness to Joseph.

Developing perseverance requires us to identify obstacles as opportunities to recognize God's faithfulness and prove our own.Joseph seems to have understood something we need to learn for ourselves: developing perseverance requires us to identify obstacles as opportunities to recognize God’s faithfulness and prove our own.  We have to keep life in perspective and remember that going through hard times doesn’t mean God is done with us, it just means he’s building our character and testing our faithfulness.

Not all obstacles in life are dead ends.  Sometimes they’re just toll booths where God wants us to pay our dues so he can prepare us for what’s ahead!  Don’t lose heart, and don’t quit.  Stay faithful, and persevere!