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Review: Disney's The Lion King (2019)

#WeAreTeamHerron LOVED our Advanced Screening last week of Disney’s #TheLionKing!

Thanks to our friends at Leading & Loving It, we were able to see The Lion King 10 days before it's release... and it is a VISUAL STUNNER.

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I had goosebumps twice: once during the first 5 minutes’ unbelievable shot-by-shot recreation of the 1994 animated hit, and again during the movie’s climactic final moments.

The writing was brilliant and director Jon Favreau skillfully slowed down the scenes you remember from the Summer of ‘94 to allow the audience more time to engage with the characters.

Also, John Oliver is an INSPIRED choice of voice’s for Zazu (I was laughing out loud).

Down-sides?

1) Scar’s ‘Be Prepared’ becomes a spoken-word mess instead of a call-to-arms for the villains.

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2) The voices of Timon and Pumbaa were COMPLETELY MISCAST.  Seth Rogan was excruciatingly off-pitch in all his songs, which disengaged the audience each time (as a parent, I also was taken out of the movie worried that Rogan’s casting would lead to an F-Bomb in front of my children).

Timon’s voice was equally unable to reach the heights of the ‘94 original; a better choice would have been John Mulaney.

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Good News, though...

James Earl Jones was EPIC as Mufasa (Beyonce voiced Nala nicely, but her duet of ‘Can You Feel...’ was raspy and her new pop song about a spiritwhose spirit I am still unclear about — came off as clunky and Disney’s attempt at a cash-grab.

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Bottom Line

All in all, The Lion King is a must-see for the moving visuals alone (plus expanded fun with ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’).

Thank you Disney for undertaking this gargantuan task and delivering the family-cinematic-sing-along of the summer!


For King and Country (plus a cameo from John Crist) on Fearlessly Engaging the Next Generation

For King & Country are critically-acclaimed two-time Grammy Award Winners with amazing Aussie accents.

Joel and Luke Smallbone recently released their third EP - Burn the Ships - and their North American Tour continues this Fall.

In Episode 6 of Fearless Leaders, Jonathan Herron grabs time backstage with Joel and Luke to receive insights on creativity, prepping to go on-stage, protecting your family from the ministry fishbowl, Lightning Round Questions about Crocodile Dundee, plus a Facetime call from Christian comedian John Crist.


Amazing Details in the Book of Ruth

Ruth is a strange and beautiful book--beautiful because of its characters’ virtues and faithfulness, but strange because of some of its literary features.

THE NUMBER TEN

The number 10 is prominent in Ruth:

  • Naomi sojourns in Moab for 10 years.

  • Ruth delivers a total of 10 speeches (1.10, 16, 2.2, 10, 13, 19, 21, 3.5, 9, 17).

  • Boaz gathers 10 elders to serve as witnesses for him.

  • Chapter 4 ends with a ten-fold genealogy, strung together with 10 occurrences of the vb. הוליד = ‘beget’.

The prominence of the number 10 is significant.

The law of Moses--which, of course, is based around the 10 words/commandments--is central to what transpires in the book of Ruth.

Ruth’s is a story about the demands of Israel’s law and the community defined by it.

Meanwhile, the name ‘Boaz’ occurs 20 times (2 x 10) because Boaz is a man who *magnifies* the law.

The law simply requires landowners not to ‘over-harvest’ their fields (to allow ‘the poor’ and ‘the sojourner’ to glean in them: Lev. 19.9, 23.22).

But Boaz goes beyond what the law requires, and leaves entire sheaves of wheat in Ruth’s path.

The law simply requires Boaz to buy back Naomi’s (recently sold) land (Lev. 25.25-30), but Boaz requires not only the land, but Naomi and Ruth to be provided for (4.5), per the spirit of the law (cp. Deut. 25.5-6 w. Lev. 25.25-30).

THE NUMBER 12

Equally prominent in Ruth is the number 12:

  • The name ‘Ruth’ occurs 12 times.

  • The vb. ‘glean’ (לקט) occurs 12 times (always with Ruth as its subject).

  • The most common conjugation of לקט is לקטה = ‘she gleans’, which has a gematrial value of 144 (12 x 12).

  • The God of Israel is referred to 24 times (יהוה x 18, אלהים x 4, שדי x 2).

  • And the root גאל = ‘redeem’ occurs 24 times (גאל x 22, גְּאֻלָּה x 2).

Like that of the number 10, the prominence of the number 12 is significant.

Ruth is the story of a woman who comes to glean in Israel and is ultimately incorporated into Israel’s 12 tribes.

And, appropriately, the person who facilitates her incorporation is Boaz, Eli-Melech’s מוֹדָע--a word with a gematrial value of 10 x 12 = 120.

HEBREW WORDPLAY

The text of Ruth is also full of wordplay and pleasant literary touches.

For instance: at the book’s outset, Naomi’s sons are said to ‘take’ (נשא) themselves wives (1.4), which is an unusual choice of verb. (לקח would be more common.)

But our author employs the verb נשא because he wants to tell a story with it:.

  • Ruth is ‘taken’ (נשא) in marriage by one of Naomi’s sons (1.4).

  • When Naomi decides to head back to Judah, Ruth ‘lifts’ (נשא) up her voice and weeps (1.9, 14) and pledges to stay by Naomi’s side.

  • Ruth eventually becomes a provider for Naomi as she ‘carries’ (נשא) an ephah (אֵיפָה) of barley back to her.

Note: When Ruth gets home, Naomi wants to know ‘where’ (אֵיפֹה) she got an אֵיפָה of barley from.

The verb עזב is employed to tell a similar story, and is a significant root since עזב is an anagram of בֹּעַז = ‘Boaz’.

  • Ruth chooses to ‘leave’ (עזב) her family rather than ‘leave’ (עזב) Naomi (1.6, 2.11).

  • In response, Boaz tells his men to ‘leave’ (עזב) sheaves of barley in Ruth’s path (2.15).

  • And the God of Israel does not ‘overlook’ (עזב) Ruth’s kindness to his people (2.20).

A CRAZY FAMILY TREE

The Book of Ruth ends in chapter 4 with a long family tree that, at first glance, doesn’t make sense to the reader. Let’s dive deeper into what’s happening in the text.

Boaz is a man who not only has a history, but has a rather complicated and unsavory history (Genesis 38).

Ruth’s history is little better (and possibly worse). Ruth is a Moabite. As such, she is a descendant of Lot, and hence (like Boaz) the product of an incestuous relationship (Gen. 19).

Unsavory though they may be, our text deliberately highlights both of these details: 4.18-22 explicitly traces Boaz’s ancestry back to Perez, and 4.12 explicitly describes Perez as the son ‘whom Tamar bore to Judah’.

Meanwhile, Ruth is repeatedly referred to as ‘the Moabite’ (1.22, 2.2, 21, 4.5), which is quite unnecessary.

The encounter of Boaz and Ruth is not an encounter of two isolated individuals; it is the convergence of two long and complicated histories and lineages--the re-association of a rejected family tree within the line of promise.

It is also an incident which shares remarkable similarities with the incidents at the top of Boaz and Ruth’s respective family trees, namely the encounters between Judah and Tamar and between Lot and his older daughter.

Consider some of the parallels between Boaz and Ruth, Judah and Tamar, and Lot and his firstborn daughter:

  • In all three cases, people leave the land to which God has appointed them.

    • Judah leaves Egypt to return to Canaan (Gen. 38 is chronologically out of place)

    • Lot departs from Abraham to reside in Sodom and Gomorah

    • Naomi leaves Israel to sojourn in Moab.

  • In all three cases, two men on whom the family’s future is dependent die at a young age (without children).

    • Judah’s two sons (Er and Onan) are smitten by YHWH

    • Lot’s sons-in-law are swept away along with Sodom and Gomorrah

    • Naomi’s two sons die in Moab.

  • In all three cases, a crisis looms. A family line seems unable to continue, and an ancestral name is endangered.

    • Judah is reluctant to give his third son to Tamar in marriage since he sees Tamar as a ‘black-widow-like’ character and is fearful for his son’s life (Gen. 38.11)

    • Lot is scared to intermingle with the inhabitants of his new locale in Zoar (Gen. 19.29-30)

    • Naomi and Ruth have little to offer a potential husband in light of Naomi’s age and Ruth’s status as a Moabite, which clearly has a stigma attached to it (cp. 4.6).

  • In all three cases, a woman decides to take matters into her own hands in order to preserve her family line; put more specifically, a woman seeks to conceal her identity and approach the nearest ‘eligible’ male.

    • Tamar covers herself with a veil and waits for Judah to pass by

    • Lot’s daughters approach him under cover of darkness

    • Ruth follows the lead of Lot’s daughters.

  • In all three cases, the situation is referred to as the preservation of a ‘seed’ (זרע cp. Gen. 19.34, 38.8-9, Ruth 4.12), and is helped along by the consumption of wine.

    • Judah has been at a sheep-shearers’ festival, where an abundance of wine is likely to have been drunk

    • Lot has been plied with wine by his daughters

    • Boaz is merry with wine at the time when Ruth approached him.

       

As a result, none of the male procreators-to-be are aware of who has approached them.

  • In all three cases, the male involved is a member of an older generation.

    • Judah is Tamar’s father

    • Lot is (obviously) the father of his daughters

    • Boaz is considerably older than Ruth (2.5-6, 3.10-11).

 

FINAL THOUGHTS ON RUTH

Ruth is a story about major sins, but it is also a story about the significance of what may seem (in the grand scheme of things) to be minor details.

The failures of two great patriarchs--Judah and Lot--are not put right by means of some epic mission or military triumph, but by means of the faithfulness and sense of covenantal duty of three apparently insignificant individuals--Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz--, and, as a result, their names will be forever remembered in history, and for all the right reasons.

These three individuals could never have dreamt of the eternal consequences of their actions, but Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz allowed the line of Perez to take root in Bethlehem (1 Chr. 2) which would ultimately turn out to be the line from which both David and the Davidic Messiah would be born (Matt. 1).

In the dark days of the Judges, faithful men and women could still be found in Bethlehem (despite Judg. 17-21!), and such people allowed God’s line of promise to survive.

May we, therefore, take Ruth’s lessons to heart.

Plain old-fashioned faithfulness to our families, to our duties, and to the foreigners in our midst may not gain us too many applause here and now, but is of great value in the eyes of our Lord.

 

The Fierce Urgency of Now

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once famously said,

“WE ARE NOW FACED WITH THE FACT THAT TOMORROW IS TODAY.

WE ARE CONFRONTED WITH THE FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW.

IN THIS UNFOLDING CONUNDRUM OF LIFE AND HISTORY, THERE "IS" SUCH A THING AS BEING TOO LATE.

THIS IS NO TIME FOR APATHY OR COMPLACENCY. THIS IS A TIME FOR VIGOROUS AND POSITIVE ACTION.”

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This is how I felt when I snapped this photo 14 years ago today.

I was the High School Pastor for a fast-growing church, leading a team of teenagers on a three week journey through Africa.

We were teamed up with 50 other professionals — mostly doctors and nurses — setting up free HIV Clinics and Medical Treatment Centers to serve the poorest of the poor.

The poverty, the desperation, the heartache… If you were born in America, you have NO IDEA what POVERTY IS until you go serve in a third-world country. Seriously, what we call “poverty” in America is not really poverty.

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Amber and I were struck by the strikingly high numbers of orphans we encountered in Zambia.

HIV has wiped out nearly all the adults and a generation of young people are playing soccer in the dusty trash without help, direction, or supervision.

It was absolutely heartbreaking.

That’s why our students would not only pray over patients but would also share the Gospel through large event rallies with Zambian students.

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I was standing behind our teens as they lead songs of worship and in the midst of the thundering echo (bad acoustics) and sticky heat, I snapped this photo.

Over one thousand Zambian children and orphans were laughing, having fun together, and discovering the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.

Seeing this photo come up on my TimeHop reminds me that the work is not finished.

God used our summers in Africa to give my wife and I a tremendous burden and passion for adopting orphans and reaching people far from God.

14 years later, we’ve adopted five times and planted 4 churches (one in Ohio, three in Michigan).

And my heartbeat remains the same: I want to reach the lost at any cost.

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I’m not here to play games.

God hasn’t called me to a life of comfort and tiddly-winks.

As Dr. King said, “This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

The advancement of the Gospel is always urgent.

The love of God compels us to move forward with compassionate service and bold proclamation.

There is a fierce urgency right now.

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For you see, even though I proclaim the good news, I can’t take the credit for my labors, for I am compelled to fulfill my duty by completing this work.

It would be agony to me if I did not constantly preach the gospel! 

Now, even though I am free from obligations to others, joyfully make myself a servant to all in order to win as many converts as possible. 

I have adapted to the culture of every place I’ve gone so that I could more easily win people to Christ

I’ve done all this so that I would become God’s partner for the sake of the gospel.

(Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:16, 18, 19, 22, 23 in The Passion Translation)