Why West Side Story Resonates

The original West Side Story ranks as the greatest musical film production of all time, and Steven Spielberg’s 2021 version updates the classic production for new generations.  Derived from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and created by Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins, the original film captured ten academy awards including Best Picture in 1961.

But what makes it so compelling? The plot conflict is universal, deep and timely: love and sin. It is universal because as human beings we are made to love and be loved. But as fallen human beings, there is a power that often keeps us from loving and being loved: sin. In this case the sinful obstacle that plagues us to this day: racism. The mutual hatred born of sinful pride divides the Puerto Rican and white gangs.

Yet, as they sing Somewhere together,  Tony and Maria long for a better way:

There’s a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air wait for us.
There’s a time for us,
Someday there’ll be a time for us:
Time together with time to spare,
Time to learn, time to care.
Someday, somewhere,
We’ll find a new way of living,
Will find a way of forgiving.
There’s a place for us,
A time and a place for us.
Hold my hand and we’re halfway there,
Hold my hand and I’ll take you there.
West Side Story (8/10) Movie CLIP - Somewhere (1961) HD

This longing is in every one of us. It is a longing for a better way, not the way of this world, not the way of the first Adam, who fell from his created perfection into corruption. It is the way of the Second Adam, the way of love, the way of forgiveness, the way of God:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6)

Which is Better: Taking a Few to Space or Many to Heaven?


Yesterday Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon took his brother and two others with him into space aboard his Blue Origin spacecraft.

Bezos’ flight marked a milestone in the quest to make space accessible to more people.  The flight was unique in a number of ways: it featured the youngest astronaut, the oldest and it was guided by AI (artificial intelligence) instead of a pilot. Conscious they were making history, the crew took with them a bronze medallion made from the first hot air balloon, canvas from the Wright brothers’ plane and Amelia Earhart’s flight googles.

Many on social media expressed their displeasure in that the billionaire’s money could have been spent on improving things back on earth. But new innovations always provoke naysayers.  Some rejected those new fangled automobiles on the grounds that they would scare horses, they were too noisy and besides, there was no place to find gasoline anyway!

The truth is that the conquest of space is part of the quest to extend global mastery implied in the cultural mandate to “fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Furthermore the conquest of space will improve life on earth through such things as improved communication, transportation, weather forecasting, understanding of climate change and national security.

The whole world seemed to watch the spectacle and the shared sentiment seemed to be “What could be better than taking some folks into space?!” The four newly minted astronauts were euphoric after their historic 11 minute flight.

So what could possibly be better than taking some folks into space? Unnoticed by the world, another event took place a few hours later on July 19, 2021. Don McCurry, founder of the Samuel Zwemer Center for Muslim Studies, who devoted the past 70 years to reaching Muslims for Christ was donating his library to the Assemblies of God Global Initiative. The group used the occasion to honor Don and his wife for their 70 years of faithful service in helping to lead Muslims to faith in Jesus Christ.

It made me reflect on the two events from the perspective of eternity. To be sure, taking ordinary people into space is a wonderful thing. It is potentially as revolutionary as mass producing the automobile. Yet, from the perspective of eternity, helping to take many to heaven for eternity is far greater than taking a few to space for 11 minutes.

Few of us at this point in history will likely have the chance to go into space or to take others there. But every Christian has the opportunity to do something far more consequential from the perspective of eternity. He or she can be participate in fulfilling the Great Commission and so help take many people to heaven for all eternity. This is the amazing privilege of every Christian.
Few of us at this point in history will likely have the chance to go into space or to take others there. But every Christian has the opportunity to do something far more consequential from the perspective of eternity. He or she can be participate in fulfilling the Great Commission and so help take many people to heaven for all eternity. This is the amazing privilege of every Christian.

And which is better: taking a few to space for 11 minutes or helping to take many to heaven for eternity?

The Way to Be Good Again

There is a way to be good again…  -The Kite Runner

Run, John, run, the law commands but gives neither feet nor hands. Better news the gospel brings; It bids me fly and gives me wings     –Attributed to John Bunyan

Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul wrote:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17).
The Good News of God’s Kingdom is that because of God’s love and grace and because of the cross of Christ, we who justly deserved eternal condemnation have now become heirs of eternal life through faith in Him. Read more

The Greatest Truth in the World

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve (I Corinthians 15:3-5).

There is a truth that far surpasses any other. It is like the pearl of great price, for which a man sold that he had. It is a truth that kings, prophets and holy men and women of old would have given all to posses, but they never had access to it. But this truth can be ours. It is the truth that sets us free. It is the truth about what God is really like.   I’m speaking about the Christian gospel or Good News. In our passage, the great Apostle Paul says it is “of first importance.” In the Greek text, this is the same word the teacher of the law used when he asked Jesus which command is “most important” in Mark 12:28. Read more

The Truth That Sets Us Free

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32).    
Freedom is a paradox. Jesus teaches us that only by being in a right relationship with him can we have freedom. This flies in the face of all common sense ideas about freedom. We think that freedom means being able to do whatever we want. That idea of freedom is an illusion. It is slavery waiting to happen.   The reason the common sense idea about freedom is false is that real freedom is essentially spiritual in nature. God created man to be like himself and for himself. This means that we are essentially spiritual. We are worshippers by nature. And if we don’t worship the living God who alone is worthy, we will worship some false god by default. Since Jesus Christ alone can bring us into a right relationship with the Father, knowing him and holding his teaching are indispensable for real freedom. Whether we are free or not depends upon the character of the one we worship. Read more