Why Chariots of Fire Remains One of My Favorite Movies


Bring me my Bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
-William Blake, “Jerusalem”

I was a single seminary student in 1981 when I passed a bulletin board poster for the film Chariots of Fire. Rex Reed called it “A masterpiece.” Vincent Canby described it as “an exceptional film. Unashamedly rousing, invigorating.”

I figured it was on the seminary bulletin board for a reason, so I bit.

I’ve been smitten ever since. Through 32 years of marriage, three kids, 8 grandchildren, and various twists through life, that movie with its iconic 80s soundtrack and cast of young dreamers still captures my imagination. But only recently have I stopped to consider, at the urging of counselor and life coach Dwight Bain why this film still resonates nearly 35 years later.

I don’t care whether you love it, hate it, or have never even seen it. Behind the partly-fictionalized story of Great Britain’s 1924 Olympic team lies the epic question that challenges anybody who ever aspired to anything:

Why do you do it?

I won’t rehash the details of the plot which you can easily find here or here. I’ll just say that four characters in the film reflect four driving motivations. At any given time, any of these characters can represent my driving force for what I do, and each has its place. These motive checks allow me to consider whether my “why” is useful to my life purpose and goals.

In other words, I may be doing the right things, but for impotent reasons.

Why do you do what you do? [click to continue…]

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old deflated soccer ball isolated on white

Somewhere near you there’s a frustrated pastor whose tried-and-true methods for leadership or church growth he has spent much of a lifetime developing aren’t working anymore.  He’s too passionate to quit, but too tired to start over.

Somewhere down the road is an organization that once was the hallmark of success because of its ways of doing ministry or business.  The strategy it perfected was brilliant and worked when others failed.  Until it quit working as effectively.

Somewhere nearby a young man is giving up on everything he knew of the Faith as a boy.  Why? Because his boyhood faith doesn’t give him answers to his adult realities and temptations.  The problem is, he doesn’t yet have a man-sized faith to take its place.

In all three of these scenarios, as described in the previous post, somebody’s system was breaking down… And God has them right where He wants them. [click to continue…]

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(A Conversation)

GrouchI don’t know.  I just don’t get it.

Get what?

Why I feel so… I don’t know… alone, I guess.

Alone?  You’re married.

Yeah, she’s stuck with me, I suppose.

You’re a leader in your church.

Well, even there I more on the outside looking in.  It’s like people see me coming and turn away.  One time I smelled my pits to see if I had B.O.

I think I can help you.

Oh yeah?

I think so.

So what?  There’s some big secret that everybody knows but me?

It’s no secret.

Well what is it? [click to continue…]

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Q – Can you please define righteous anger as opposed to sinful anger? How do I handle it?

What?  There’s a such thing as righteous anger?


In my head and my Bible, I knew better.  But for years emotionally I dismissed all anger as inherently sinful.  After all, when it’s described with words like “bitterness,” “wrath,” “malice,” “evil speaking” and the like, where’s the “righteous” in that?

I also spent many years feeling guilty for feeling or acting angry.  Know why?  Because I was guilty.

I learned a long time ago that when somebody spews, “I have a right to be angry,” they don’t know much about rights – which Christ-followers surrender completely at the point of salvation.  And there’s little chance that they’re describing righteous anger, either. [click to continue…]

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Yes, this is me mocking my grandson. Or maybe Cason's mocking me. Hmmm.

Tucked away in the third stanza of a familiar hymn, Fannie Crosby penned these lines that were years ahead of her time:

Down in the human heart, Crushed by the tempter,

Feelings lie buried that grace can restore.

Except for the grace of God, every single one of us will go to our graves feeling guilty about our feelings.  Can you relate to any of these?

  • “I didn’t love my mother enough.”
  • “I hate my father.”
  • “I don’t like being a mother.”
  • “I will never forgive her as long as I live.”
  • “I love one of my children more than the other.”
  • “Why can’t he just die?”

One person has said, “Emotions are what we have the most of, and know the least about.”  One of the longest, and most frustrating searches that many people have is why do I feel the way I feel, and what can I do about it?

On the other hand, some people (stupidly) dismiss all that and passively allow themselves to be led around by their feelings as if they are helpless to do anything about them.  Ever hear something like this? [click to continue…]

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It was a new day at Grace Church.  A new pastor was coming, and this would be his first weekend.  People were excited, and they needed to be.  Grace had gone through an ugly split that had left a lot of angry, hurt, and confused people in its wake.  A pretty solid plug of people had started Faith Church down the road and had contacted the outgoing pastor from Grace to help them get started.  Some people had left for other churches.  Some people had quit attending anywhere.

One of the walking wounded was a former associate pastor – Chris Naylor.  Chris had received “the right foot of fellowship” from the previous administration.  Though he had found other opportunities for Kingdom service, Chris was still a member – at least on paper – at Grace.

That’s why I was a little surprised when I asked Chris and his wife Rachael if they were going to hear the new guy that weekend, and both immediately, categorically said, “No.”

Ooh.  Sorry I asked.

“My friends think I’m bitter,” Chris added.

“Are you?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied honesty.  “How do you balance the fact that on the one hand I love the church and wish nothing but the best for them, but on the other hand, have absolutely no respect for their system of leadership or the choices they have made?”

“I don’t know.”

Chris was just getting warmed up as Rachael was tearing up. [click to continue…]

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Like Mysteries? Try This One

by Andy Wood on March 21, 2011

in Gamblers, LV Alter-egos

Do you like mysteries?  The kind that lead you through twists and turns, only to score with a surprise ending that makes you say, “Whoa!”?

I have one for you.  It’s all about a man named Ahithophel.



If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never heard of him.  But he’s right there, in high-definition, during the reign of King David in the Bible.  In fact, the Bible says something about this man that I don’t recall ever having read about anyone else, except the Lord Jesus:

Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David and Absalom regarded all of Ahithophel’s advice (2 Samuel 16:23).

Get this.  Both David and Absalom assumed that if Ahithophel spoke it, it was as if God was doing the talking.  That’s pretty high praise and respect.  I don’t remember hearing that said of Moses,  Jeremiah, or Daniel – as wonderful as those men were.  Ahithophel must have been some kind of man of God.

Now… fast forward exactly one chapter, and you’ll read this: [click to continue…]

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(A Turning Point Story)

On Highway 43 North in Jackson, Alabama, the  Joe C. McCorquodale, Jr. Bridge crosses the Tombigbee River and lands at the base of a mile-long bluff or hill that probably has some name I don’t know.  All I knew at the time was that Ed’s Drive-In (formerly Troy’s) was at the top of it, and that’s where we stopped for a couple of cokes for the road.  Next stop:  Mobile.  A hospital visit or two was surely on the agenda.  Most likely a stop by Bel Air Mall or the Baptist Bookstore as well.

We turned south and started down the monstrous hill.  Highway 43 is a nice, wide, divided highway, and the view south toward the river is really nice.

And long.

Which explains how ridiculous it was that just as I approached the Highway 69 intersection, a lady pulled out in the left lane, right in front of me.

Good.  Stinkin’.  Grief. [click to continue…]

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Brad is a living legend… at the local bar.  At first his mostly-daily trips were his way of unwinding after a stressful workday.  But over the years, one painful situation after another brought Brad to the point where he lives pretty much continuously between buzz and stupor.  Offering the standard denials and predictable claims that he can quit anytime, Brad has long ago crossed the line between soothing his nerves and declaring war on his soul.

Sandy is a shell of the girl she once was.  The once-vivacious high school and college student now sits in her immaculate apartment, trying to stay busy enough to avoid the reminders of how alone she is.  Estranged from her family, deeply disappointed by marriage and even motherhood, Sandy has never let go of the bitterness that ultimately seeped into every corner of her life.  To a stranger, Sandy is a hard-working professional with impeccable taste in decorating and fashion.  But the excellent exterior hides a war-ravaged soul. [click to continue…]

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Formula 432

by Andy Wood on June 29, 2010

in Conversations

(Forgiveness Laboratories, Inc. – Part 2)

In our last episode, we were left in a place called Forgiveness Laboratories, Inc. where Joe Jacobson, the owner and founder, was explaining some of their findings.  And he was about to share something about forgiveness that I had never seen before.  If you haven’t read the previous post, I would encourage you to do that first…

Joe said, “Our greatest discovery happened when we combined what we call Formula 432 with Element 118.”

“Sounds very chemical,” I said.

“Aw, just lab talk,” Joe said with a smile.  “One of our guys used to be a youth pastor.”

“Say no more,” I said.

“Formula 432 is actually Ephesians 4:32.  We learned it as kids in church:

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

“I noticed that on the wall in your lobby,” I said.

“Then you probably also noticed Element 118 on the other wall,” said Joe.  It’s from Isaiah 1:18:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.”

“When our researchers combined these two truths, we made a breakthrough discovery about forgiveness.”

“What’s that?” I asked, intrigued. [click to continue…]

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