If you haven't already seen Lord of the Rings, it brings out many classic points. The extended edition gives even more scenes and there's plenty of points that can be used with young people.
In a National Geographic Production looking at the Lord of the Rings film directed by Peter Jackson, the programmers look at many factors that inspired Tolkien but do not mention the Bible or Tolkien's faith once (funny huh?!) However, if we look at the film, the characters, the plot, the situation, we can link it to the Christian life and beliefs
Name as many characters from the film as you can. Now name as many places. Name the different peoples or tribes in the film. Can you name the actors and actresses?
THE THEMES - In alphabetical order
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Who remembers when they were a little tacker and they were out shopping with someone from your family and you got lost. Remember how scared you were? Before Frodo sets out from home he is a little nervous. The Bible talks a lot about faith and trust. In the film, the travelers reach the Kingdom of the Elves. A meeting is going on about the ring and who can take it to Fire Mountain to be destroyed. It will be a difficult and dangerous journey. It is at this moment with silence all around him that Frodo Baggins steps into the arena and volunteers to go. It is only then that his friends like Sam - and some of the warriors agree to go with him
This is very much what faith is - it's been described as stepping out and believing that either God will catch you when you fall or carry you. Often God calls us to make the step first. What is faith? Hebrews 11.1 describes it as, 'Faith means being sure of the things we hope for and knowing that something is real even if we do not see it.'
Very easy to see where this one is going. We have a struggle between darkness and light in the Lord of the Rings. The Fellowship of the Ring (the travellers such as Frodo and Gandalf) are pitted against the evil kingdom of Saruman and Sauron. In the film, the respective kingdoms are physically dark and light. We feel the oppression of the dark spiritual forces and places. We see the light, warmth, love and beauty of the Elfish Kingdom.
So we can see with spiritual Spirit-filled eyes if we choose that around us in the world a spiritual battle is raging. I know a couple parts of where I live in Exeter that are dark places. One is historically the slum area, a dangerous crime-filled world from ages past that still retains some territorial spirits of evil. Another is a slum clearance area now an estate with alcohol, smoking and drug addiction. Think about where you live.
We know that Jesus has won the victory however. On the cross, Jesus cried out, 'It is finished'. When Jesus rose from the dead, that victory over evil was complete. As God said to Derek Prince, the cross and its effect was completely complete, perfectly perfect. Through Jesus we have that victory.
We pray 'God's Kingdom come, God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven' but do we believe it, do we believe for it and are we doing something to make it happen? Are there ways that you can help God's Kingdom come and push back the forces of evil where you live and beyond? Be careful. As in Lord of the Rings, there is often a price to be paid. How was the evil one overcome in Revelation 12.11? 'By the blood of the Lamb, by the word of their (the believers) testimony and they loved not their lives unto the death.' People that were prepared to die to themselves, spiritually and often physically
At a conference of those working with young people on the fringe of society, we were given a number of words to do with our line of work and asked to put them into order of importance for us - the words were like rights, equality, nonjudgmental and all the usual kinds of words. They then asked if anyone had any other words. I suggested that integrity was one of my most important words. I described how I couldn't work with young people to or encourage them away from violence and was violent myself. Not everyone agreed but it made others think. How could I encourage young people not to get drunk if I then got drunk - imagine the effect if I was seen. (Not that I do get drunk by the way!!)
This is also true in our private or so-called 'private' lives. We must be real, transparent people 24/7. The areas where we struggle - lust, anger, frustration, pride, power, worry - MUST be submitted to Jesus, daily. Every area of our lives. It's hard. It's raw. It's where I struggle myself. But like Paul said we must try with the help of God's Spirit to beat our bodies, to control our thoughts and to check our wandering eyes.
With the ring came responsibility for Frodo. All of a sudden he became someone significant, a target. As Christians and witnesses for Jesus, as youth workers - we have teenage and many other eyes watching us, often when we don't know it. Jesus said in the Gospel (and as James reaffirmed in James 5.12), let your no be no and your yes be yes. We must live integrity, led by the Spirit - see James 4.7 again
Book 3 of the series is entitled, 'The Return Of The King'. Not without reason. The book is the culmination of the triumph of good over evil. There are many parallels we could make with the film, many points we could make but I'll let you think about it.
In the real world, one day the real King will return to the Mount of Olives, the place where Jesus ascended into heaven from (Acts 1.11). What are you doing to prepare for that day? You know, the Bible says we should be looking forward to the return of Jesus (2 Peter 3.12) because this world is not our home (John 15.19). The basis of our hope is one of the things that protects and encourages us in this world (Ephesians 6.17 and 1 Thess 5.8)
Jesus chose to assemble a crack unit of disciples, a soldier, an athlete, a lawyer, a doctor, with a good ethnic and gender mix right? Wrong. Jesus put together a bit of a rag bag bunch of fishermen. Would that have been the team you would choose?!
As we mentioned earlier, Frodo Baggins has a bit of a rag bag team when he steps forward to carry the ring. There's him, his 3 friends, Sam, Merry and Pippin. Then there's a dwarf, an elf, an old magician Gandalf. A bit of a hastily assembled team and not exactly the team you'd look for? Or is it?
1 Corinthians 12 talks about spiritual gifts and about the body of Christ working together in unity. Let's go see what some of the gifts are - wisdom, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues.. not exactly the gifts that the world would look for are they?
1 Corinthians 12 also talks about the parts of the body working together. In Lord of the Rings, Sam Gangee feels a bit inferior to some of the people around but he is just as valuable. It is he who looks out for his mate Frodo and does all kinds of other things to serve the team. So it is in the body of Christ. The supposedly least valuable member of the team is just as significant as the others. Sam, Gandalf, Frodo. All with different but equally important roles. What about you?
The Ring has a powerful hold of the bearer. We see this with Bilbo Baggins near the start of the film. He is reluctant to let go of the ring to the extent that his eyes turn evil when confronted, Gandalf has to frighten him and even then, he almost 'forgets' to leave the ring behind. Later in the sequels we see the effect it has had on Gollam and then on Frodo
Below we see some areas where we struggle - lust, anger, frustration, pride, power, worry. In Matthew 6.3 we read part of the Lord's prayer that says, 'Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.' I try to pray that every day for myself. I don't want to 'fall' away from God ever in my life. It's hard but God has promised to help us when we are tempted (Hebrews 2.18) and that God won't let us be tempted beyond what we can cope with (1 Corinthians 10.13). So what are our weapons? Well for one, the armour of God described in Ephesians 6. Secondly, James 4.7 sums it up perfectly, 'So give yourselves completely to God. Stand up against the devil and he will leg it from you!'
Frodo Baggins and his little crew set off on a journey. The Bible talks about keeping going in our Christian lives - for example Ephesians 6.13 talks about standing when you have finished the fight (of a lifetime against evil). We also read in 2 Timothy 4.6-8 that Paul feels he has come near the end of his Christian journey and is awaiting the return of Jesus. We all have a Christian journey to face, with hills and valleys, cool stuff and bad stuff. If we have our roots grown down into Christ then with his help we will stand. Make a decision to be like a tree planted by the river, strong in the faith and bearing fruit - read Psalm 1.1-3
The posh name for this is 'eschatology' and it can be kinda interesting, though many boffins get themselves too bogged down in what it all means precisely! For you and me it means the future, looking at Bible prophecy and Bible verses to make sense of what is to come before, up to and beyond the return of Jesus. It's worth looking at because we need to be aware, we need to be prepared and we need to be encouraged that Jesus has something absolutely wicked for his followers beyond this world and its difficulties. It also makes us make the most of every opportunity, knowing that we have a clear responsibility to preach the gospel, love one another and work with the marginalized to bring God's Kingdom on earth AND to turn people away from the dark gates of hell.
Hell - a place without God or a place where God's anger and justice burns? I'd plump for the second of the 2 options. Whatever modern 'experts' may waffle on about, it is real, it does exist and people will go there. We see the righteous anger of God burn in the Old Testament and it is an anger that we should fear in awe of our Lord God. It makes us grateful for what Jesus has done in our lives and encourages us to make disciples and get out there are do the business for God.
The dark kingdom in Lord of the Rings is a terrible place to be. It is physically dark, there is a heaviness that comes from evil and there is death and lawlessness all around. Want some small idea what hell will be like, this is close. So are some of the parts of our world today where the influence of Jesus has been pushed out.
Good parts of the Bible for looking at the end times are Revelation and parts of Matthew such as Matthew 24. I am definitely no expert on all this. I don't know what order things are going to happen in. What I do know is that the Bible is absolute truth and I want to be able to stand before Jesus and hear him say, 'Well done good and faithful servant.' What about you?
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In the movie itself, there is a lot of humour, not always found in the book but very funny. Clips you can use are of the conversation on the walls of Helm's Gate between Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas. It's where the wall is taller than Gimli who can barely see over. 'Shall I get you something to stand on?' asks Legolas, 'Or shall I just tell you what's going on?'
This is one of the funny scenes that usually involve the (Welsh) Gimli. If you can, edit out these scenes and put them together.
Does God have a sense of humour? Do we? There's your answer then. A good Bible example I like to look at is Jesus in Matthew 17.27 where we see Jesus paying his taxes via a fish-related money disorder.
It is very good to laugh. Ecclesiastes tells us there is a time to laugh (3.4). Sarah laughed (with joy) in Genesis 21.6 when Isaac was born. I have no doubt that Jesus and his disciples had times when they had fun. God was having a laugh when he created some of the creatures on this planet surely! The duckbilled platipus!!
Laughter is not about seeking to humour yourself but part of what makes us human. In terms of health and well-being, it is absolutely vital. As is an attitude of relaxation, peace and felling stress-free. No matter how unrealistic it may seem, God has built this into us for our own good. Remember, it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown!
If we look at the New Testament especially we see disciples and apostles encouraging people and getting them to encourage others. A smile, a laugh, a positive word, a note of encouragement, a touch on the shoulder. All this is about being God's people together.
As Frodo walks on, the weight of the ring weighs ever more heavily on his heart, mind and physical body. Again, you can edit together many clips, like the example where Sam and Frodo are fighting with Faramir against their enemy and Frodo comes close to killing Sam when Sam tries to stop Frodo putting on the ring.
Romans 6.20-23 talks about the price of sin. Verse 23 reminds us that the fair price or consequence of sin is death. In life we generally get what we pay for. If we buy a cheap car we get a cheap car. If we commit a crime, we usually get caught. It is the same with God. Our sin deserves death.
But there is good news as we know! Through accepting Jesus we can have Jesus pay the price for us. He becomes our substitute because he died on the cross and paid for our sin. In the Old Testament a priest would offer a lamb as a sacrifice to God to make people right with God again. Jesus was the lamb who died as a one-off all-sufficient sacrifice to enable us to get right with God, if we choose to.
So we must choose to lay down sin, admit we've sinned and get right with God through Jesus.
But it doesn't end there. We are all sinners (Romans 3.23). We may be shaped more and more by Jesus but as humans we will always be sinners. That's why God offered a new way. He said, I'm not going to make the person better, I'm going to give birth in them to a new creation, a creation that will one day be with me in eternity, a creation that will be holy becaue God is holy.
In the meantime we all struggle with sin. We know that sin is a burden. If you lie, it can lead to another lie and so on. Our hearts become clouded, our minds dullened, we can become bitter. Lack of forgiveness hurts the one who doesn't forgive. Sinning sexually with Bathsheba caused David internal mayhem..
So, unlike Frodo, we have a God who is kind enough to allow us to come before him, lay down our sins, confess and make a change. Like he did with the woman caught in adultery, Jesus does not accuse, he identifies the problem and asks us to sort it out. He then helps us by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes God forces the issue out into the open. His Kingdom is more important than our dignity!
So where do you need to make a change today? Where do you need to come to Jesus for rest. Read Isaiah 40.28-31. The place of rest, of power and strength is usually alone with God in the stillness of life and in our hearts and minds.
Treachery comes in all shapes and sizes. It's not the zone of the poor or the rich. Its temptation can afflict all. In The Lord Of The Rings, we see it affect Gollum and Theoden, King of the Mark of Rohan.
We see it is Gollum, once a hobbit but now changed into a schizophrenic mess. How messed up people become physically when under curses, evil and the power of sin. What a change in physical, spiritual, even mental states are caused by Jesus and his light as Jesus looses evil from people's lives. Look at the faces of some saints of God whose eyes and features glow the glory of God.
Imagine what Moses must have looked like when he'd spent 40 days and nights shining with God's presence in Exodus 34.29-30!
But Gollum goes on to betray Sam and Frodo because he feels they have betrayed him. Gollum wants the ring and will do anything to get hold of it. The price of lust, power, money, consumerism is incredibly powerful. People have and do go to extreme measures to get things and keep hold of them. Murder, crime, distortion, character defamation, violence, lies, betrayal and more. Judas is a prime example of this in the Bible - trading money for the life of Jesus. (Luke 22.1-6 and 22.47-48)
We need to really put God first in all things, we need to deal with our sin, be open to the Holy Spirit searching us and revealing bad stuff we've got going on. We must lay down pride, be submissive to those in authority or looking out for us, be accountable, read our Bible and pray constantly that we will not fall from God. It's a war we're in and we don't want to let our defences down.
Obviously, we have to be careful around this topic. We don't want to make something that is extremely evil and dangerous sound interesting or cool. Like Frodo, we'll tread carefully here!
Theoden, King of the Mark of Rohan is under the influence (curse) of Saruman. Only Gandalf is able to break this stronghold over the King and turn back the years, the age, the darkness and the curse.
Again, we find that there are parallels with the ministry of Jesus and Paul. Jesus spent much of his time healing people and delivering them from demons. There is no doubt that demons are active in the world today. So is the power of the occult and evil. So we need to be armed with the full force of God's protection (Ephesians 6) and need to realise the power in proclamation (speaking the Word of God out loud) which is a weapon of attack.
When Jesus was tempted by Satan (Luke 4.1-13) we see Satan misuses God's Word but Jesus sees him off by effectively using the Word of God. By God's Word, the world was created. That same power is available to us today through The Bible, proclamation and prayer.
In Exodus 7 we see the power of the occult. Three times Jannes and Jambres are able to copy the supernatural actions that the power of God enables Moses to do. However, God has the last laugh. While evil power is immensely powerful, God's power is totally off the scale compared to this! When Aaron threw down his stick in front of Pharoah and it turned into a snake, the magicians did the same. However, Aaron's stick/snake then ate up their sticks/snakes. Now they had no sticks and Aaron's was presumably three times the size! That's God in action!
In Chapter 5 of the book, 'The White Rider', we come across Gandalf - once Gandalf the grey, now Gandalf the white. Does this white represent holiness? In a way, yes. Jesus rose from the dead and his resurrected body saw him throw off the limits of the human body for a spiritual body. His power and victory over Satan displayed for all to see. Is this not a little like what we find with Gandalf?!?
Secondly, when Gandalf comes across Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn, he is cloaked, hidden. Again, I see parralels with Jesus in the Garden talking to Mary Magdalene - and Jesus on the Road to Emmaus, only revealing himself at the end of the journey. As well as the that the 2 disciples were too busy talking to recognise Jesus!
Finally, we see a strange parallel to Jesus confronting Peter asking, 'Do you love me?' In this bit of Tolkien's classic, we find Gandalf saying, 'Well met indeed, my friends' 3 times before it begins to dawn on them that this is Gandalf.
The title of the book is a clue to a theme.. the second coming of Jesus - the return of the real 'King' !
Here are some examples of Jesus as King -
In the Psalms (see 24, 44, 47, 118 for example) we find that the Lord is referred to as 'King'. In Isaiah 32.1 we find the prophet prophesying regarding Jesus saying, 'A King will rule in a way that brings justice..' Moving onto Zechariah 9.9 we find the prophecy of Rejoice greatly, people of Jerusalem! Shout for joy, people of Jerusalem. Your King is coming to you. He does what is right and he saves..'
In John 1.49 we read Nathanael saying to Jesus, 'Teacher, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.' In Acts 17.7 we find Paul and Silas in trouble for preaching that there is another King, not Caesar.
Titles of Jesus we find involving the word King -
'To the King that rules for ever, who will never die, who cannot be seen, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.' (1 Timothy 1.17).
'He is the blessed and only Ruler. The King of all kings and the Lord of all lords.' (1 Timothy 6.15)
In Revelation 15.3 we find Jesus as 'King of the ages' (or 'nations') quoting from Jeremiah 10.7.
In Revelation 17.14 we again find Jesus is called the 'Lord of lords and King of kings'.
Finally, in Revelation we find the Rider on the White Horse has 'KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS' written on his robe and upper leg.
We see parallels here (on one level) with Gandalf in Lord Of The Rings. Gandalf rides a white horse and comes as a saving power on more than one occasion.
The defeat of evil
The most significant moment in the Bible in many senses is found in John 19.30 with 3 seemingly simple words from Jesus on the Cross as he died (before rising again - woohoo!). 'It is finished.'
Was Jesus finished? Was this the end? No.
Quite simple. Jesus had won the victory. Jesus knew he would rise from the dead in 3 days. Jesus also knew that God's plan for saving mankind through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross had been fulfilled. As God said to Derek Prince this plan was 'perfectly perfect, completely complete'
Jesus had satisfied and was substitute for the sin of the world. Now people could be saved through believing in Jesus. So Jesus had won The victory was complete, The plan hidden for centuries to the prophets, Moses and the Old Testament characters was revealed.
Read Ephesians 1.3-14.
This is a summary of God's plan and of our lives as God's people. Read it again. And again. I think it's awesome..
1. God had Christ choose us before time.
2. This was because of God's love for us.
3. We become God's children through Christ.
4. This is what God wanted and what pleases him!
5. This brings praise to God.
6. It is a free gift, through God's grace alone that we are saved.
7. God has revealed this plan to us!
8. God has given us understanding and wisdom.
9. In the right time, all things will be joined with Christ as head of all - yeh!
10. God does what he promises. God alone decides.
11. God has chosen us to share in his work of spreading the Gospel.
12. When people hear this true teaching they believe in Christ
13. When you believe, God puts his special seal on you, the Holy Spirit.
14. The Holy Spirit is God's promise - looking to the day of full freedom when all things are made new by God - to the glory of God