Magnum Opus

Richard DreyfussI love the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus with Richard Dreyfuss as a high school band teacher who dreams of the fame and glory of becoming a famous composer.  He never really gets his wish fulfilled, but feels he wastes his life teaching acne-faced, uncoordinated and un-rhythmic teenagers how to play musical instruments.  On the side he continues to write music, working on his “Opus” masterpiece throughout his lifetime.

At the end of the movie, after decades of teaching, Mr. Holland is forced into early retirement because of school budget cuts.  He’s older now, walks with more of a slouch, and we see him shuffling down the school hall after clearing out his desk for the last time.  And then there is this climatic scene that reminds me of a coming day in heaven.   He opens up the door to the school auditorium with his family and there is this huge surprise retirement celebration for him.  Past and present teachers and students are there, cheering like crazy as he walks down the aisle.  He takes his place at the front and is publicly honored by his former students, including the governor of the state whom he patiently taught to play clarinet.  Afterwards a wide-aged range of former students play for him his lifelong masterpiece, his Opus, and tears stream down his shocked face.  He realizes all of his sacrifice was worth it and that “life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”  His life really mattered, really impacted people, and now he is being celebrated with joy. (See the clip at

That coming celebration, what the Bible calls the Judgment Seat of Christ, awaits those who have poured out their lives for God and for others.  Although our salvation is 100% dependent on God’s grace and not our good works (see Ephesians 2:8-9), we are going to be rewarded in heaven on that day for how we lived our lives:

So we make it our goal to please Him…For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.[i]

Your life really matters.  You are impacting people.  You are making a difference.  And one day He will celebrate you— with great joy.  It’s all going to be worth it.  Let that coming joy be your strength today.

[i] 2Corinthians 5:10

In my town there lives a king who is building a castle. 


We usually think of castles as ancient European fortresses but this one is newly being built from scratch in the hills of Malang, Indonesia.  The rocks for the walls and ramparts are being brought in from a quarry out of a volcano about an hour away.

The castle is huge and imposing, frightening the townsfolk who live in the upscale neighborhood that surrounds it.  In a curious sort of mood one day, I strolled onto the unique property and the architect in charge was kind enough to give me a tour.  He walked me up the long staircase of the tallest tower, and from there I could see our entire city. Impressive.

That day I also met the king of the castle, the owner, and he was also proud enough of his work in progress that I got a second tour.  The king told me he made his fortune in the energy industry, winning many lucrative contracts with the government, and is now enjoying the spoils of his labor.  He’s half Indonesian and half Yemenese, and spent a large portion of his life in Germany.  Maybe that’s where he got the inspiration to build himself a castle one day, right from the birthplace of the famed Castle Neuschwanstein, which was the model for Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

He’s not a real king of course, but as I walked around his property people sure treated him like one.  After the tour, the kind king invited me to get into his Mercedes Benz and take a ride to his daughter’s private school, which was in preparation mode for an upcoming event.  I did so and tried to get to know him better through the load blasts of his hi-fi stereo belting out Elvis Presley tunes.

Whether we were inside the castle walls or outside in his kingdom, I noticed something.  When he walked into their space, people stopped what they were doing and listened to him.  In his presence everyone—important or inconsequential—oriented themselves toward the king.  On all of their facial expressions was written the question, what can I do for You, Your Highness? Not one person ignored him and went busily about their work.

It got me thinking about the kingdom of God.  We are charged as the king’s servants to advance His kingdom, to bring his life and rule and joy and peace to the broken and dying and hopeless still shackled in enemy territory.

Yet even as we go about that noble purpose, it’s easy to forget all about the king.  We don’t live in a kingless kingdom, to quote a phrase from my friend Steve Hawthorne, but we can sure act like it sometimes.  We go about our Christian work, dutifully building the kingdom of God, yet forgetting there is a king in the center of the kingdom.  The king of Malang gets more respect and attention from his workers than the King of the universe gets from me a lot of times.

Are we orienting ourselves toward the King?  On our facial expressions is the question written, what can I do for You, Your Highness? Do we welcome the King’s interruptions into our lives?

Maybe that’s why I feel so frustrated sometimes.  I see assignments that the King brings into my lives as things that block my goals and clutter up my agenda.  I am too busy with the work of the Lord and completely forget about the Lord of the work, as I’ve heard it put before.  That’s crazy.
Advancing the kingdom AND loving the king.  That’s what real kingdom life is all about.
Forgive me My King.  Re-orient my life toward You. I open myself to your interruptions.  I want to stop what I’m doing when you enter the room and see your face, hear your voice and do Your will.  I once again open my life to Your Kingship.  I love loving You.