Wednesday, February 26, 2014

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC PRESENTS: JERUSALEM


http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/Uploads/MediaRoom/images/Jerusalem5.jpgWhen Laura Steen of the Toronto office of Allied Integrated Marketing offered me an opportunity to attend the Canadian advance media screening of Jerusalem, at the Ontario Science Centre, I readily accepted.  Jerusalem is big in our life – my wife has gone twice, I once with http://fifthgospelencounters.com/.  In many respects, the trip galvanized my love for the city.  I regret not having done a similar trip many years earlier.  However, better late than never.


http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/Uploads/MediaRoom/images/Jerusalem6.jpgI knew the film, as advertised to the press, was not going to be about Jerusalem’s pivotal role in my Christian faith.  I could not expect that of the key players that made it possible – very capable people like Director, Producer, and Writer Daniel Ferguson who has done excellent work on previous IMAX movies (yes, the film is delivered to us courtesy of four different cameras – an IMAX 15-perf 65mm; a Sony F65; a RED Epic; and a Nikon D800E); Producer George Duffield; Executive Producer Jake Eberts (who has 65 Oscar nominations, 27 of which he won; films include Gandhi, The Killing Fields, Driving Miss Daisy, Dances with Wolves, A River Runs Through It, and more); National Geographic; local film Patrons Mohammad & Najla Zaibak and Mark & Suzanne Cohon; and of course, the very public Ontario Science Centre.  No, this film was clearly going to challenge my ‘ownership’ perspective of this much-coveted part of the world that at one time was seen and acted as the centre of the known world, being well-situated geographically where Africa, Asia, and Europe meet.


The city is presented through the eyes, thoughts, lives, and hopes of three very real lovers of Jerusalem with strong ties to their beloved place of residence as well as their respective faiths – Christian, Jewish, and Muslim.

http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/Uploads/MediaRoom/images/Jerusalem7.jpgThrough these brilliant and forthright young women, the film aims to change the way people think about Jerusalem.  It certainly does that.  It is evident, as one of the ladies said in the press conference after the screening, “the beautiful ancient wall around the Old City of Jerusalem is not the only wall in the place; while that one needs to remain, the social walls inside need to be torn down.”  The reference was to the fact that all three of the residents felt their people lived alone in the city, not knowing much about their neighbors who held two other religious and cultural perspectives.  But although the need was recognized as to what had to change, all agreed this was not “yet the time”.


Ferguson also wanted the viewer to feel he/she had actually been to Jerusalem.  He wanted to achieve that in a unique way, trying to capture over 5,000 years of history in 45 minutes by putting the camera into very special places and giving us glimpses of Jerusalem most of us would never see on our own or in groups.  Getting permission for some of those shots – low aerials over the city, underground tunnels and tombs, and even the now closed to non-Muslims Dome of the Rock – took years to obtain.  But it was indeed worth the wait.
http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/Uploads/MediaRoom/images/Jerusalem3.jpg 
It took me very little time to declare the film a success from a cinematic perspective.  It took me much longer to determine just how I felt about its purpose.  I noted a couple of things in the script.  When an American archaeologist shares some of the events that took place on the famous “rock” over which the Islamic Dome of the Rock now stands, she was very careful to state that “here Abraham was tested when he was asked to sacrifice his son” with no mention the son’s name.  For the Christian and Jew it was Isaac; for many Muslims it was Ishmael.  (You can read more on this at: http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/sacrifice.htm.)  I also noticed that even where all three religions were in agreement on a historical event that had significant religious, and often Christian implications such as the aspects of Christ’s existence and ministry, the script, otherwise handled excellently by all, including narrator Benedict Cumberbatch (you’ll remember him from his portrayal of Stephen Hawking, as well as the movie War Horse, The Hobbit Trilogy, Sherlock, and Star Trek into Darkness) often simply introduced it by saying “it is believed” or something similar.  The film could have benefitted both in its credibility as being capable of handling a religious topic – for as much as Jerusalem is a physical place, there is global agreement that it has spiritual significance – and in its purpose of trying to help us see it differently by not taking the “politically correct” or “scientific defense” of such facts.


In the Gospels, Jesus asks one of His close disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  That’s a question that everyone ultimately answers, even by totally refusing to answer it or ignoring it.  As I watched Jerusalem I wondered how many might be facilitated in their attempt to provide an answer if they first considered the question, “What then is Jerusalem?”  The film goes a long way to answer that comprehensively.

http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/Uploads/MediaRoom/images/Jerusalem9.jpg
Jerusalem opens March 7th at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto (http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/imax/film/40/), but hopefully will be seen elsewhere in Canada soon.  It has already opened in other countries.  See it.  Go there.  Better late; never is not an option.
http://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/Uploads/MediaRoom/images/Jerusalem2.jpg 
-- Ken B. Godevenos, Toronto.   February 26, 2014

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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Thanks for the Manna, But Our Throats Are Dry -- Exodus 17:1-7


Then all the congregation of the sons of Israel journeyed by stages from the wilderness of Sin, according to the command of the Lord, and camped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Give us water that we may drink.” And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and they grumbled against Moses and said, “Why, now, have you brought us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “What shall I do to this people? A little more and they will stone me.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Pass before the people and take with you some of the elders of Israel; and take in your hand your staff with which you struck the Nile, and go.  Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.  He named the place Massah and Meribah because of the quarrel of the sons of Israel, and because they tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us, or not?”
 
Having finally understood how God intended to provide for their nourishment daily, and for their physical renewal on each Sabbath, the Israelites continue their journey across the desert “by stages”.  Several Bible versions use this phrase.  The King James Version (KJV) talks about the fact that they “journeyed . . . after their journeys”.  Some translate it as “from place to place”.  Whatever the pace, the people were moving away from the wilderness of Sin where God first gave them the Manna.
And the text says all the moving about of the Israelites was “according to the command (or literally the ‘mouth’) of the Lord”.  There comes a point in time when a people as a whole realize they must live according to the command or instructions of the Lord.  Usually, but not always, that happens, if it is to happen at all, when two things have occurred.  First, the group or the individual have tried their own ways repeatedly and failed.  Second, they have seen God provide in their lives and realize that He can be depended on.  You would think that having undergone both these experiences, the people of Israel would have settled this matter once and for all.  But with them, as with us, it was not to be the case.  We will return to this later.
And again, at the “command of the Lord” the people camped at Rephidim.  This literally means "rests" or "stays" or "resting places" and this is its first mention in Scripture.  So they leave or go from the wilderness of Sin, and they go to Rephidim, all according to the command of the Lord.  You would think, as a result, things would go really well for them there.  But the next phrase says otherwise.  Whereas our NASB text connects the next phrase to the previous one with an “and”, the NKJV, NLT, NIV, and ESV versions connect them with a “but”.  Even though the people did all according to what God wanted them to do, they were taken to a place where there was “no water for (them) to drink”.
Have you ever been there?  Have you ever been at a place in your life where you believe you are doing all that God wants of you at that point in time?  And you allow Him to lead you to where He wants you to be as part of His will for you – to your Rephidim – “but” there He provides “no water” for you.  There your troubles double.  While your stomach is full of His Manna, your throat is dying of thirst.  Just when all was falling into place nicely in your life, tragedy strikes.  I have been there.  It is not the most inspiring place for a Christian to be.  Yet, if God calls us out of a place, and He calls us into another place, we must realize that He does it for a purpose.  It is there we must wait on Him and discover that very purpose.
In the case of the Israelites, it seemed to be a continuous need for them to trust in the Lord and to recognize His Almighty power.  They had been hungry and He provided them with Manna.  Now they had no water.  Do you remember when you wanted something of God and He gave it to you?  Was it a spouse?  Was it children?  Was it a job?  Whatever it was, God may have given it to you.  But now, you want something else.  Do you rely on Him as knowing what is best for you or can the old adage, “What have you done for me lately (God)?” apply to your attitude as it did to the attitude of the children of Israel?
So what did the people do?  The text says they ‘grumbled’ against Moses.  I looked up some synonyms for that word to give us a better picture of what form grumbling may take.  I came up with complained, moaned, groused, protested, griped, objected, muttered, and I love this last one, bellyached.  Do any of those verbs describe our actions when we are unhappy with our lot in life; when we want something more from God?
And notice, one does not have to direct his or her frustration to the Source or Giver of all things, but instead we can take it out on one or more of those in our lives that He has put there – our pastor, our boss, our spouse, or parents, friends, and even our children.  At times like this, we can forget about God in our lives, but God does not forget about us.  While we focus on others as the cause of our problems, God sees this as our testing of His provision for us.
For the children of Israel in the wilderness, it was all Moses’ fault.  To them, they knew what was causing their troubles; they felt so confident so they could have easily won the game of “Clue” had they be playing it: “It was Moses, in the Wilderness, with Thirst!”  They were convinced that he was intent on killing them off along with their cattle and this was entirely his plan.  They demanded water now.
Now what do you do when you are the leader and you are misunderstood, falsely accused, and have been given a demand you cannot meet on our own?  May I suggest that you do what Moses did.  You cry out to the Lord.  You ask for His guidance and His protection, admitting your fear as a human being.  And you do it not just for yourself, but for those you are leading, that is, you do it selflessly.  Here is what I have discovered albeit later in life than I should have: Total and utter unselfish dependence on God is the ‘living password’ for Him to come to your rescue.
And God did just that.  He now acts through Moses.  He gives him precise instructions on what he must do, how to do it, where to do it, and in front of whom to do it.  One could not ask for anything more.  And Moses knew that.  He knew that if he totally and utterly depended on God unselfishly, God would provide the solution to his need.  And God used the equipment that He had earlier provided and taught Moses how to use – his staff – as part of that solution.  Never forget what God has given or taught you in the past, He will use it again for His glory.
Moses was to strike a particular rock; the one at Horeb, and it would give forth water for the people to drink.  Do you remember Horeb?  That is the place that Moses had led his father-in-law’s flocks to in the wilderness after he had killed an Egyptian and had fled from Egypt proper.  Its direct translation is “dessert”.  It is referred to as the “mountain of God” and is also known as Mount Sinai.  God often takes us back to His mountain when He wants us to accomplish something for Him.  And sometimes that means, we have to go through or to a “dessert” to get there.   
And Moses did just what God had told him to do and the rock did just what God said it would do.  But let us not miss a very important phrase in this whole account.  God had said the following, just prior to giving Moses his instructions: “Behold, I will stand before you there” on the rock at Horeb.  That is critical to our success.  God must be in it.  God must be there.  And the ‘there’ is where He wants us to be, not anywhere we go or want to go.
So the water comes and Moses names the spot in that mountain of Horeb, Massah and Meribah.  Massah is translated “temptation” and Meribah is translated “strife” or “contention”.  He names it such, with two names, because there the people quarreled with him and tested God, their Lord.  As we end our study of this short passage, we may finding ourselves asking the same question the Israelites asked here, “Is the Lord with me, or not?”  But unlike them, we must answer it with confidence, knowing as Believers that He indeed is, and we can rely on Him fully to provide not only for our hunger, but for our thirst.
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[Are you looking for a speaker at your church, your club, school, or organization? Ken is available to preach, teach, challenge, and/or motivate. Please contact us.]

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Sign up (on the right) to receive free updates. We bring you relevant information from all sorts of sources. Subscribe for free to this blog or follow us by clicking on the appropriate link in the right side bar. And please share this blog with your friends and while you’re here, why not check out some more of our recent blogs shown in the right hand column.

Also, I’ve read some good books and make some great recommendations for you at http://astore.amazon.com/accorconsu-20 which you can purchase right from there.

Check our firm out at Accord Consulting.