Winning Ways - from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas  Contact Tom Goodman, Pastor
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“The Gospel According to Frodo”
Hillcrest Church Office
December 17, 2003

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Here is this week's WINNING WAYS . . . .

“The Gospel According to Frodo”
by Tom Goodman

As your new pastor, I’m getting introduced to the Hillcrest Christmas traditions.  I’ve enjoyed the “Dessert Theater” and the Adult Choir musical this past weekend, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the “Living Nativity” is all about this weekend!  Thanks to all the folks who make these annual traditions happen!

This Wednesday, hundreds of thousands of movie-goers will line up at theaters for “The Return of the King,” the final installment in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  New Line Cinema committed $350 million for the entire project, and it is predicted they will reap $3 billion for their gamble.  Even before the film series, the book that inspired it had become the most popular book of the twentieth century, selling more than 50 million copies by the year 2000.

I’m glad so many people like this profoundly Christian work.

The author, J.R.R. Tolkien, was a committed believer.  He was a friend of C.S. Lewis, a name better-known to American Christians.  In fact, it was Tolkien who helped Lewis move from atheism to become a believer himself.

Tolkien’s many stories of Middle-earth reflect his deep love of ancient Nordic and Germanic stories, but he infused his writing with elements of his Christian worldview.  Good and evil are “fixed” categories in Middle-earth, as opposed to the naïve relativism of our age.  His characters are tempted by evil but can choose what is right because they have free will.  In fact, in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, no free being starts out evil.  The loathsome Gollum, the prideful wizard Sauruman, even the fallen maia, Sauron himself:  each became evil through a series of choices.  They could have just as easily made choices that would have made them heroes like Frodo, Gandalf, and Aragorn.  Still, even freely-made evil choices cannot thwart the plans of the perfectly-good God (Eru, or Illuvatar, in the language of Middle-earth).  This is profoundly biblical stuff!

If you want to learn more about this Christian work, make plans to join us for a special study on Friday, January 9.  I will teach a workshop called “Finding God in The Lord of the Rings” from 7-9 p.m.  We’ll spend about 45 minutes on a quick tour of the story’s key characters and places.  Then we’ll spend the last hour on the key themes.  Clips from the first two films will illustrate the lessons.  The next day, Dave Haralson will host a back-to-back viewing of the extended edition of the first two films, followed by a trip to the theater to see “The Return of the King.”

I’m making this announcement early so you can tell your friends about it as they line up for the movie in the next couple of weeks!  Just forward this edition of Winning Ways, along with an invitation to join you for this event.  We’ve also prepared an e-card that you can send to your friends.  Log on to and select the “Rings” card.

The “Rings” series is a story of Christian faithfulness.  Even though we may be insignificant in the big scheme of things, no decision for what is Good is insignificant . . . nor is it hopeless.  As Lady Galadriel said in the clip I showed you this past Sunday, “Even the smallest person can change the course of history.”

That’s the way God has always preferred to work.  You just have to look in your Christmas manger scene to discover it.  The God who chose to come to us through a peasant girl in a stable can use hobbits like you and me, too.

Merry Christmas!

Winning Ways will not run next week while our webmaster and I take time to be with our families.

Christmas Events at Hillcrest:  Log on to for information about this weekend’s “Living Nativity” and the Christmas Eve service.

Matt Mosler will lead the morning service Sunday, December 28.  There will be no Sunday School, one morning service at 10:45 a.m., and no evening service.  Log on to or to learn more about Matt.



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