Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Aug
21

school

Father of heaven and earth and all creation, I praise your holy and glorious name. I thank you for the privilege of learning. You have filled this world with things too wonderful to comprehend. You are the source of all goodness, beauty, and truth. I am amazed by the little I have come to know and understand. The design of your creation, the beauty of language and words, and the intricacies of the human body take my breath away. I give you glory for being the author of all that I have come to learn.

God above, I thank you for teachers, educators, school nurses, secretaries, principals, and the many others who have dedicated their lives to teaching others. I know that this is not an easy job, and the people who have chosen this profession are not paid what they should be paid. Thankfully, the teachers I know understand that their reward is not in a paycheck or any benefits they might receive. The teachers I know understand their position as a calling rather than a job. They understand the importance of making a difference in the lives of young people. I thank you for these special people.

Lord, you know how precious children are. You understand what it is like to send your child off to a place where they may encounter trouble or pain. I pray for our children. I pray that you keep them safe. I pray that they will make good decisions and be a light to others in their school. I take comfort in knowing that you are with them, even when their parents are not.

Be with those parents who are anxious or nervous. Calm their nerves. Grant them peace. Help all parents to be an encouragement to teachers, and a good example to their children. Give them patience in troubling times. Provide them strength when they are tired from work and they must come home and help their children with schoolwork. More than anything else, I pray all parents will live like Jesus and show Jesus to their children through their actions, words and behavior. The ways of Jesus is the most important education anyone will ever receive. May we all be educated in these ways and come to know Jesus more. I pray all this in the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Aug
13

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“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)

With the inception of social media the way we mourn has changed. When someone dies many people now choose to post tributes on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. When someone famous dies these social media sites are flooded with memories, quotes, and videos. This has become commonplace. We witnessed this just this week with the death of Robin Williams. Before I ever heard anything on the news or radio about Robin Williams’ death, I learned about it on Facebook.

Sadly, some Christians have spoken out against those who mourn. Occasionally they have objected to the attention a celebrity or famous person has received. Other times they have objected to the life of the celebrity or the way they died. I will be the first to admit that we are a nation obsessed with celebrity. We often lift people up who should not be lifted up. We glamorize people who do little or nothing to contribute to society. Our emphasis on celebrity has gotten out of hand, but does this mean we should reject anyone who has become famous? Does this mean we should never mourn the loss of a celebrity?

I cannot speak for anyone else, but when I hear of the passing of someone like Robin Williams or Philip Seymour Hoffman there are several things that go through my mind. When both of these men passed away I posted something on Facebook celebrating their talent. These men made people laugh and moved people with their acting performances. They brought beauty into this world. They brought joy to people’s lives, and they made us think, feel, and perhaps look at the world a little differently. We should be able to celebrate these things without being condemned by someone else. We should always strive to lift up what is good and beautiful.

One of the strangest arguments I have encountered is that instead of remembering a celebrity who died on Facebook, Christians should be posting about Jesus. I post about Jesus all the time. By posting about Robin Williams or Philip Seymour Hoffman I am not forsaking God. This line of reasoning is ludicrous. Would these same people stand outside a funeral and criticize everyone who attended the funeral because they should have been out evangelizing? I will be the first to admit I need to do more. I need to speak more about Jesus. I need to do more in the name of Jesus. I need to lift Jesus up more, but taking the time to recognize a tragedy or mourn the loss of a human being does not mean I am forsaking Jesus or loving him any less.

Perhaps most disappointing has been some comments regarding suicide and drug addiction. I have seen numerous comments and a few blog posts on why we should not mourn or pay tribute to people who have lost their life in one of these ways. When this is the way we respond to the death of a human life we are sending the wrong message to the world. When someone dies our first response should not be to condemn the life that has been lost or those who are mourning. The world needs to see compassion from us. They need to know we care. There are people struggling with depression and drug addiction all around us and to dismiss these diseases is to show a lack of compassion. The way of Jesus is not to condemn people who are hurting, but to come alongside them and to help them in their time of trouble. To help, show compassion, or mourn the effects of drug addiction or depression is not to approve of them. When we do these things we are showing empathy. We are trying to understand and help people escape the darkness they feel encompassed by. To fail to act in this way is to turn our backs on people who desperately need help.

There is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4). When someone dies, no matter how they die, it is a time to mourn and weep. For me, the tragic deaths of Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman are more sad because of the demons they faced. No one knows how they felt or what they were facing, and we should never pretend like we do know. In the midst of tragedy our response should be to mourn and weep. It is not a time to lecture. It is not a time to criticize. It is not a time to condemn.

So, if you have a favorite memory, share it. If you would like to mourn or weep, that’s ok. If you want to show compassion, that would be a welcome response in a world that often lacks it.

Aug
11

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Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10)

When times are bad where do you look for hope? When evil is all around and pressing in where do you long to be? These questions are important. Although they may seem simple, there is disagreement as to which way we should look. Some Christians look backward and long for days of old, whereas others look forward to a time when God will make all things right. Does it matter which way we look? Is it ok to look one way or the other? Yes, it does matter. Although most people mean no harm, these are two fundamentally different sources of hope.

Many people remember the past as a pleasant time when things were better and problems were fewer. There are several reasons for this. We often remember back to our childhood when we were sheltered from many of the problems of this world. Our parents kept things from us. We did not spend a vast amount of our time watching the news or listening to talk radio. Times were good, or at least that is the way we remember it. We also tend to remember the good things over the bad. We reminisce about the good ol’ days, which really weren’t that good at all, but that is how we remember them.

There are some major flaws with looking backward rather than forward. The first is that it is impossible to go back to those days. No one can turn back time. Society and Culture does not regress, it progresses. Progress is neither good or bad. Progress is what we make it. If the times are bad, we should not long for what is behind us, but instead work to make what is ahead of us better.

We should refrain from longing for former days because those days may have been good for some people, but they may have been terrible for others. There is a myth circulating among some American Christians that the 1950’s were a time of bliss. These Christians long to go back to this time period when they believe things were better. The problem is that there were many problems in the 1950’s just as there are today. Some things may have been better in that time period, but some things were worse. What does it say to people of color when they hear Christians say, “I wish things were like they used to be back then.” This was a time when segregation was still in place and racism was rampant. In the 1950’s people lived in fear of a nuclear holocaust, women were limited as to what they could do in society, and poverty was a problem in the South.

Followers of God in the Bible did not look to the past for hope, but consistently looked to the future. The psalmists who often took their problems to God longed for God to act. They looked forward to God coming and judging the world. The prayer of the early church was not to go back to days of old, but was “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20) Our longing should not be for a time when things may have just been a little bit better. We should long for a day when all things will be made right. Wishing to go back to the 1950’s or any other time is not hope for the world. There are some people who would probably like to go back to the 1950’s, but there are many more people who would not want to go back. Going back will not solve our problems. Going back will not alleviate pain, hatred, violence, disease, and death. All the problems we face on a daily basis will still exist if we go back to another time.

Our hope is in the future. Our hope is in a day when Jesus will return and make all things right. Our hope is in resurrection and new heavens and new earth. We long for new creation, not simply a slightly better version of what we already have. God has made us promises better than anything we have ever experienced in the 1950’s or any other time. God will wipe away every tear. Death will be no more. There will be no mourning, crying, or pain. Darkness will vanish. All evil will be done away with. We will receive new bodies and we will live with God forever.

Confusing the past with the future is a big mistake. We can learn from the past. We can get ideas from the past. We can remember the past with fondness and talk about it with others, but we long and hope for the future. We do not pray to go backwards. We pray for what is to come!

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

“Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)

Jul
31

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I have asked a few of my friends to write posts on the labels Christians use. This post is by Peter Horne.

Confession: I like to use labels.

Labels break the world down into bite sized chunks. If you’re from a particular state, or city, I feel like I know certain things about you. If you’re from a particular church with a particular label outside its building, I don’t need to spend a week getting to know you, the label provides me a huge amount of theological information that I can attach to you as an individual.

Labels are natural.

The church had barely existed more than a few years before the world needed a handle to refer to this group of people with a new set of beliefs. Acts 11:26 tells us that the name “Christian” originated in Antioch and has stuck for 2,000 years. Perhaps it started out as a derogatory label, but these followers of Jesus took pride in that label and claimed it as their identity.

Labels Lie.

When the followers of Jesus were first designated as Christians this label distinguished them from particular sects of Pagans and Jews. It seemed that one label was all it took. After all, unlike the Pagans who gave varying degrees of loyalty to a diverse array of gods, these Christians just worshiped one God.

1 Corinthians 1 reminds us of how quickly people seek to establish independence as Paul accuses some in the church of identifying themselves with Peter, Apollos, or Paul rather than giving primary allegiance to Christ. On the big picture it only took a few hundred years for different expressions of Christianity to arise and different groups desired their own distinct labels to distinguish themselves from others. The label “Christian” no longer adequately described each of these different groups.

Over the years the segmentation of Christianity has only increased. The Lutherans have a variety of Synods. Baptists have a plethora of conventions. And Churches of Christ have a secret code that distinguishes congregations from one another while maintaining the same label at street level.

Among Churches of Christ we use some belief-based labels such as “one cuppers” or “non-institutional” or increasingly “instrumental” churches. Sometimes we use descriptive labels including “black”, “Hispanic”, “older”, or “college”. But we also revert to subjective labels like “progressive”, “liberal”, “conservative”, and “traditional”. The lie in these labels is that we think we know everything that church stands for because we’ve determined the most appropriate label to stick on it.

Labels are Impersonal

The greatest deception of labels is that they remove a person’s individual identity. We think we know a person because they associate with other people that we’ve labeled. People find themselves guilty by association with no opportunity to differentiate themselves because they’ve been labeled and now no one is listening.

Lastly, labels are inadequately equipped to address the complexity of humanity. Very few people are completely one thing or another. If I worship in a Church of Christ but believe instrumental worship is ok, I might be labeled a “liberal”. But if I hold to a traditional view of male elders and teachers in the church, I’m obviously a “conservative”. If I agree with the majority that the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated each week and that individual cups are okay, I’m “mainline”. I also look for the church to grow in certain areas, so the label given to my church may or may not describe my theological bent. How should I be labeled?

Yet how quickly we tend to slap a label on others as though we now know them.

I learned this lesson a few years ago when the preacher and his wife from [what they would have claimed] was the most conservative and Bible-based church in the state came to visit my parents. My dad is a minister and they were trying to get my parents church to support their annual retreat. This couple talked about how “sound” they were and how the camp ran and the modesty guidelines they put in place and how they don’t allow mixed swimming.

The whole time my Mum, who has worn dresses almost her whole life, is looking at this preachers wife thinking, “You came to make a formal visit wearing pants?” For many reasons, including the pants, my parents never attended that camp.

Peter Horne is the minister for the Lawson Rd Church of Christ in Rochester, NY. Born and bred in Australia he moved to the United States in 1999. You can follow more of his writing at any of his 3 blogs: www.ozziepete.wordpress.com (sermon related Bible study); www.GodMeetsBall.com (God and sports discussions); and www.CulturalMosaic.com (promoting multiethnic churches).

Jul
30

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I never got into the WWJD craze a few years ago. I never had a bracelet or a t-shirt. At the time I thought it was a little simplistic and I never have liked the idea of commercializing parts of the Christian faith. Putting the consumeristic aspect aside, WWJD is a helpful practice. Sometimes questions arise and they deserve more thought or contemplation, but often WWJD is enough. Often all we need to do is simply ask, “What Would Jesus Do?”

This is helpful when it comes to the topic of labels. Christians love to label one another. Some of these labels begin as a derogatory term (e.g. Campbellites, Quakers, Methodists, etc.). Sometimes Christians embrace a label and proudly wear it to distinguish themselves from other Christians. There are premillennial Christians, postmillennial Christians, feminist Christians, fundamentalist Christians, and on and on it goes. There is a never ending ocean of Christian labels. This is not something new. The Christians who began the restoration movement recognized this and sought to throw off their labels and be Christians only.

So, what would Jesus do? Would Jesus welcome and embrace a label? Would Jesus call himself a ________ Christian? We get a good idea of what he would do simply by looking at the gospels and understanding a thing or two about the culture in which he lived. The Jews of Jesus’ day were just as guilty of dividing themselves and using labels as Christians are today. We read about some of these groups in the New Testament. There were Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, and Essenes. Jesus was aware of these groups. He interacted with them. Simon, one of his disciples, was a Zealot, but Jesus also invited Matthew, a tax collector, to follow him. Jesus did not choose sides. He did not pick one group over another. He did not identify with any of them, but instead worked to tear down the walls that divided. No one would have included a Zealot and a tax collector in the same group, but Jesus did.

There are no longer any Pharisees, Sadducees, or Essenes, but Christians have managed to continue this tradition of division. Two of the most popular labels used today are conservative and liberal. There were conservative and liberal Jews in Jesus’ day, but because these terms are so vague it is sometimes hard to identify exactly who they were. Most people assume the Pharisees were the conservatives since they were strict and rigid when it came to following God’s law. They went beyond the law in order not to violate it. I have also heard people make the case that the Sadducees were the conservatives since they accepted the Torah, God’s true word, and did not add anything to it. Who was really conservative and who was really liberal? It depends on who you ask. It depends on their perspective. The labels we use often cause confusion and stymie meaningful conversations.

Jesus had the opportunity to choose a label. He could have identified with one group over another, but he did not. Jesus sought out people who had been rejected by others. He challenged Jewish prejudices regarding Samaritans and Gentiles. He questioned the legalism of Pharisees, a practice that separated them from others. He defended the resurrection before Sadducees who saw it as a point of division. Jesus showed us how to follow God without labels. Instead of worrying about what to be called or what to call someone else, he was willing to talk about issues, prejudices, and beliefs that hampered a person’s relationship with God.

Some say you cannot avoid labels and that may be so, but Jesus did. He never once embraced the labels within his culture that divided so many. What label would Jesus wear? The answer is none. Jesus was neither a conservative, nor a liberal. He was not this or that. He was a follower of God and that is what we should all strive to be.

Throwing off our labels will not solve all our problems. It will not even fix all the divisions within Christianity. Christians will continue to be divided. We will continue to find things to disagree upon. Refusing to be a hyphenated Christian is not about ignoring doctrines. It is about imitating Jesus and this is what we are called to do. Instead of writing off another human being because they have been given a label we do not like, we must now get to know them. We must begin a conversation with them and hear their story from their own lips. Refusing to use labels means we give up on assumptions. We begin each introduction with a clean slate. We start each meeting with a belief that is central to Scripture. Every human being is a person created in the image of God. Everyone is somebody. Each person I meet deserves to be treated with respect and dignity, rather than just assigned a label.

What would Jesus do? I think you know. Let us throw off the labels that divide us and often get in the way. Let us refuse to label others and make assumptions about them. Instead, may we follow in the footsteps of Jesus who did not concern himself with labels or groups, but rather devoted himself to simply following God.

Jul
17

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“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Eccl. 4:9-10)

Everyone needs a friend. Friendship is a valuable thing. It is something that cannot be purchased, but must be earned. A friend is someone who can be trusted. A friend gives true advice (Prov. 27:6, 9). In order for trust to develop we must spend time building relationships. Trusts involves vulnerability. We must be willing to open ourselves up to someone who has proven trustworthy. A friend is there for you in good times and in bad (Prov. 17:17). A friend is someone who loves you by seeking your best interest. The greatest love one friend can have for another is sacrificial. This is the kind of love Jesus had for us and he calls us to have this same love for each other (John 15:12-13).

We all want friends, but how does one go about making friendships? It begins with us, not others. If we want friends we should not sit around feeling sorry for ourselves because we have none, but instead we should be a friend first. We should take the first step. We should invite someone out to eat. We should pick up the phone and make a call. Friendships are not created overnight. They take time. Once we have made the first move, we must then prove ourselves trustworthy. There are certain characteristics that will destroy a friendship. Anger or a short temper is not something that fosters lasting friendships (Prov. 22:24-25). The author of Proverbs informs us that “gossip separates the best of friends” (Prov. 16:28). The psalmist warns about “taking up a reproach against a friend” (Psalm 15:3). We are not to be accusatory toward our friends. Instead, we should seek to encourage others. No one wants to spend time with someone who is constantly finding fault with people. As Christians we seek to lift each other up, not bring them down.

The idea of sacrificial friendship that Jesus calls us to means that we must constantly be contributing to the friendships we have created. True friendship must be an endless cycle of give and take. We do for others and we allow others to do for us. If we are unwilling to give or receive, then our friendship will become out of balance and it will likely not last. This begins in our conversations with one another. We must both talk and listen. If we notice we are doing all the talking in a conversation, then we are not being a good friend. We must learn to listen. We must learn to ask questions. This give and take should continue in other areas as well. Someone who always takes, but never learns to give is a burden on others. A healthy balance of give and take will lead to a lasting friendship.

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13)

Jul
14

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I am a fan of the Planet of the Apes series. I believe the original with Charlton Heston is a classic. Even if the ape costumes are dated and it is a little corny at times, it still holds up very well. I enjoyed the Tim Burton remake even though it was a flawed film. I appreciated seeing an updated version of something I loved. I was pleasantly surprised by Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I was glad to see the franchise was starting at the beginning with the promise of more to follow. These were all entertaining films that I would still watch today, but nothing prepared me for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The newest film in the series takes it to another level and is the best one yet.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes picks up several years after Rise of the Planet of the Apes left off. A disease that is carried by apes has wreaked havoc on humanity. There are very few humans left on the planet and apes have become the prominent species. The apes continue to evolve. They build communities and places to live. They have developed laws and they teach them to their children. The apes are happy to just enjoy life, but one day the community led by Caesar encounters some humans who have begun their own town not too far away. There is tension between the humans and the apes. Both groups wrestle with whether or not they should trust each other. The humans need to get into the ape’s territory so they can fix a dam and restore power to their town. The apes are hesitant to allow them access. Both communities are divided over how they should treat the other.

The CGI in this film is impeccable. For much of the movie you are watching apes converse back and forth and it looks real and believable. Although there are many similarities between this film and the original Planet of the Apes I believe it is unfair to compare them head to head. They are both great films for different reasons. One big difference is in the portrayal of the apes. With the early film you were always aware that you were watching humans in ape costumes, but in this movie the apes come to life. They have personalities and facial expressions to go along with them. It is truly a remarkable thing to see how far special effects have come in just a few years.

This film probably takes itself more seriously than any of the original films, but that does not mean it cannot have some fun. There were a couple of great shots in this film and one of them was of Koba riding a horse with a machine gun in each hand.

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Some may dismiss this as unbelievable or silly, but I saw it as an ode to B movies who do crazy stuff like this all the time. It sort of looked like a scene Robert Rodriguez would throw in if he was directing a Planet of the Apes film. One must remember that this is a film about apes who have taken over the planet and the bending of the imagination should not be a problem.

Why is this film different? Why is it so much better than the others? Other films in this series have made points about this or that, but not like this one. This is a film with a message. It is a critique of how we love to divide ourselves into groups, and how fear and hatred play out in the divisions we have created. This is most obvious toward the end of the film when Caesar’s son exclaims, “Fear makes others follow.” When we divide ourselves into groups we almost immediately demonize the other side. We make it about us and them. Throw fear and hatred into the mix and it can become deadly.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes plays out like a parable of what happens when we create divisions and allow fear and hatred to take over. The movie brilliantly does not define the groups for us. It could be any group, and maybe it doesn’t even matter. People have turned such meaningless divisions as what sports team a person roots for into reasons to harm and even kill another individual. It could be anything, and this movie asks us to take a step back and examine ourselves. Where have we drawn lines and created divisions? Is there fear or hatred in our hearts? Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is an entertaining and enjoyable film, but it is also much more. Go see this movie, but don’t just see it for the action and special effects. Pay close attention to the lesson this modern day parable has to teach us.

 

Jul
08

It’s important to listen to the poets. They move and motivate us. They have a pulse on the culture that we often do not have. Good poets are aware of what is going on but don’t acquiesce. They are voices calling attention to what is good, beautiful, and true. Here are the voices I have been listening to in 2014.

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The times they are dark, darkness covers the earth
But this world’s filled with the beauty of God’s work
Hold tight to your promise, stay righteous, stay strong
For the days of miracles will come along

From the song This is Your Sword

Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan both have a knack for dropping an album of so called extras and outtakes that didn’t quite make it onto an album and it being just as good or better as anything released in a given year. This is the story of High Hopes. It is an album of songs that had previously been passed over, covers, and a few others that Springsteen recorded while on tour. Amazingly it doesn’t feel like an album that has just been thrown together. It fits nicely in the body of work Springsteen has put out since reuniting with the E Street Band. Bruce’s songs have always contained Biblical references and this album is no different. He mentions figures such as Gideon, Saul, Abraham, and Jonah. He sings about walking into Canaan land and mentions an ark of gopher wood. Springsteen also comes off as prophetic in several songs where he is not afraid to speak truth to power. He becomes a voice for the voiceless in American Skin (41 Shots) where he speaks for the unarmed individuals who have been brutally murdered in our country. He speaks up for those on the margins of society in The Ghost of Tom Joad, and calls out politicians who apologized for mistakes that cost many people their lives in The Wall. One can only hope that Springsteen has a lot more songs that didn’t make albums hidden away in storage somewhere.

henry

This is my body
Already broken for thee-
The black coal at my soul not a diamond
But cracked open and free.
The dark rushing river sweeps
Pushing away and along,
Like light through the pines
And I want you to lead me on

From the song Lead Me On

Joe Henry’s Invisible Hour is an album that can be listened to over and over again, and you’ll probably discover something new each time. It is slow mellow and jazzy. It is full of deep and meaningful lyrics that sometimes sound like modern day psalms. The music is great but the focus is clearly on the lyrics. Henry sings of love but he is not afraid to reveal all the blemishes that go with it. This is a deeper love one associated with covenant and commitment, rather than lust and sex appeal.

Rosanen-Cash-The-River-The-Thread-300x300

When you’re like a broken bird tell heaven
Battered wings against the dark and day
When your worries won’t let you sleep tell heaven
When the tears won’t ever go away

From the song Tell Heaven

Rosanne Cash has given us a beautiful ode to the South and her best album to date. One can simply put this record on and be whisked away to places like Memphis or Biloxi. It is a near perfect album of storytelling, soothing vocals, and musicianship that wonderfully compliments the songs.

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May your nights be filled with laughter
And your days with honest work
May you wake up smelling roses
When you’re facedown in the dirt

From the song The Flyboy & The Kid

Tarpaper Sky by Rodney Crowell may not compare musically and lyrically with some of the other albums on this list, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. Crowell has returned to his roots and made possibly the best country album you will hear all year. Frankie Please begins with one of the greatest opening lines I’ve ever heard in a country song. Crowell sings, “You tore through my life like a tornado looking for a trailer park.” If you are looking for a solid album that you can return to time and time again, this is it.

sisters

‘Go to the river Jordan’, said the prophet to the king
‘Wash in that murky water seven times and you’ll be clean’
Yeah, that deep rollin’ river’s gonna make you new and whole
And the faith acquired in you will save your soul

Let’s go down to the river, raise our voices and pray
And get ourselves a snow white robe to wear
Take away all the stains, remove each and every one
In the name of the Father and the Son

From the song River Jordan

Put Your Needle Down, the second album from The Secret Sisters, is quite different from the first. I listened to it a couple of times before I warmed up to it. I was such a big fan of the sound on their first record that I hoped it would be repeated on this one. Instead you can clearly hear T Bone Burnett’s influence all over this album and that’s not a bad thing. The harmonies are still intact but there is an edge to this recording that wasn’t present on the first. I hope The Secret Sisters stay true to their roots while continuing to evolve as they have done on Put Your Needle Down.

Jul
05

Lego

The Lego Movie

I cannot recall the last time a major Hollywood studio put out a movie this funny and original. The Lego Movie is visually stunning, meaningful, and a great time. The film invites you into the creative world of Legos (Transformers take notes) and makes you feel like a kid again. It has some of the best lines in a film that you will hear all year, and a creative screenplay that will surprise you in the final act. My five year old loves this film, but its not just for kids. The Lego Movie is a great film for all ages.

Ida

Ida

This is a beautiful film and is visually pleasing in a much different way than The Lego Movie. Ida is shot in black and white and is not afraid of long takes. It is a reminder of films of the past and what the beauty of film can be. Too often nowadays films do not allow the viewer to stay in a shot long to enjoy the aesthetic beauty of the image on the screen. Films are shot to entertain the masses who have very short attention spans, instead of being shot as a work of art. Ida is a work of art. It is also a brilliant film about a young girl’s journey into the outside world and her allegiance to the faith she has grown up with. It is an intriguing movie about faith that should not be missed.

Snowpiercer

Snowpiercer

I saw Snowpiercer the same weekend Transformers: Age of Extinction opened and I wanted to stand out in the lobby and usher everyone into this film rather than have them watch a two and a half hour commercial. Snowpiercer is the summer action movie that we deserve! It is smart, action-packed, and full of great performances. Tilda Swinton, in an Oscar-worthy role, plays one of the best bad guys you will see all year. Snowpiercer will have you on the edge of your seat, and after all is said and done you will be wondering why they even make something called Transformers when there are films as good as this.

Mistaken

Mistaken for Strangers

I love rock & roll documentaries and I have seen a lot of them, but I have never seen a film like this before. Mistaken for Strangers is one of the funniest films you will this year. It’s Don’t Look Back meets This is Spinal Tap. I love The National and would have watched a documentary just about them, but this is so much more. It is the story of two brothers who could not be more different. Matt is a good looking successful lead singer of a critically acclaimed band. Tom is a train wreck waiting to happen. You know this from the beginning. It is obvious what is going to happen, and yet you cannot take your eyes off the screen. There were times I was literally laughing so hard I could not stop.

Fault

The Fault in Our Stars

I did not know anything about The Fault in Our Stars going into this film. My wife had read the book and I know many other people had as well. I was a clean slate and I loved it. It reminded me of some of the great teenage films with great music that I have come to love. There are plenty of bad teenage films that come along every year hoping to make money off of this profitable viewing market, but I’m talking about the good ones. Films like John Hughes used to make. The Fault in Our Stars reminded me of these films. It is a story about kids with cancer (How they sold this to a major Hollywood studio I’ll never know), but it quickly becomes more than this, even though this remains the focal point of the film. It is a funny and engaging movie about mortality and the deeper questions of life. Shailene Woodley is absolutely brilliant once again. She carries the film and that is not a bad thing.

Noahfilm

Noah

Noah has easily been the most controversial film so far. I understand some of the backlash. Some of it was just, but much of it was completely uncalled for. I wish Christians would take a deep breath and watch this film again. If they did I think they would discover two things. It is a really good film, and it is a film that takes God and sin seriously. Noah is not Scripture and it never claims to be. It is good midrash. It takes a story from the Bible with very few details and attempts to fill in the gaps. People of faith have been doing this for thousands of years. I hope major Hollywood studios are not put off by the reactions of some Christians. I hope they don’t wait another 60 years to make a Bible based movie. If we could get some more films like Noah, that take a seriously look at sin instead of simply celebrating it, then we would be better off.

Ernest&Celestine

Ernest & Celestine

This is the second “kids” movie on this list, but they could not be more different. Ernest & Celestine is a wonderful film about friendship. I enjoyed it because it reminded me of some of the movies I saw growing up. It was more invested in the story it was telling than the flashy visuals displayed on the screen. In fact, there are no flashy visuals in this film. It looks more like a children’s book than the latest computer generated attention grabber. It was nice to see a children’s movie slow down and be something different, and my five year old was entertained just the same.

BeginAgain

Begin Again

Begin Again is the latest from Once director John Carney. This time Carney has a cast full of well known actors, actresses, and musicians. Like Once he has made a modern day musical that feels natural and has a flow that does not feel forced by the music within the film. The movie takes a look into the problems with the music industry and some of the issues they face, but more importantly it is a human story about two down and out people who choose to press on. This charming film is not perfect, but it is better than most of the cookie cutter productions that are spoon fed to us by Hollywood. Begin Again is like a breath of fresh air in a smog filled city.

Life

Life Itself

Roger Ebert is the reason why I review films. He was an important voice in American society not just on film, but on many things. Since his passing there has been a void in movie criticism. Ebert, whether you agreed with him or not, was the source everyone went to first. Still to this day if you click on critic reviews on IMDB Roger Ebert’s link always pops up first. Life Itself is a wonderful tribute to a man who inspired many. It is an insightful glimpse into the life of a man whom many people read, but few knew. Life Itself explores Ebert’s entire life but especially gives the audience a revealing look into his last days. Roger Ebert instilled in many people a love for movies and it is only appropriate that he is given a film tribute as fine as Life Itself.

Jun
29

cross-and-rooster

And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mark 8:27-34)

I have read this passage many times. When I was younger I used to focus on what it said about Jesus. Now that I am older I have often focused on what it said about Peter. As I heard it read recently I began to focus on what it says about me. This passage has much to teach us about Jesus and Peter, but we must not miss out on what it has to teach us about ourselves.

This text invites us to consider the question, “What kind of messiah are we looking for?” Jesus was one of kind of messiah and Peter was expecting another kind of messiah and these two ideologies meet head to head in this passage. Jesus is so put off by the kind of messiah Peter is longing for that he says, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” This is some of the strongest language Jesus uses in the four gospels. He calls Peter Satan and suggests that his idea of what a messiah should be does not come from God.

What kind of messiah was Peter looking for? He was looking for a messiah that would not suffer and die, but would lead his people to victory. He was looking for a messiah that would pick up the sword and march on Rome. He was looking for a great military and political leader, someone who would parade through the streets and make his presence known. Jesus was not this kind of leader. Jesus was a teacher who did not care about riches or fame. He connected best with those on the margins of society. He did not seek power over people, but instead humbled himself and served others. Jesus lived a sacrificial life. He looked to the needs of others and he willingly laid down his life for everyone.

The type of messiah Peter expected and the type of messiah Jesus came to be could not be more different. Peter expected the messiah to conquer and take lives, but Jesus came to humble himself and give his life. It is important that we understand this because he asks us to follow in his footsteps. Immediately after Jesus rebukes Peter he says to everyone present, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus expects us to imitate his version of messiah and not Peter’s.

The question comes around to us again, “What kind of messiah are we looking for? What kind of messiah are we trying to imitate?” Are we looking to conquer everything and everyone in our sight? Are we looking to overcome people by strength and power? If we don’t get our way are we going to fight and rebel until we make it happen? If so, then we are following the messiah Peter envisioned, a messiah Jesus associates with Satan. Instead, Jesus calls all of us to pick up our cross and follow him. He calls us to lay down our life, so that we might save it. He calls us to deny ourselves and to look to the needs of others.

This text has more to do with ourselves than we might have realized. When we come to this passage we are forced to choose between two messiahs. One is a worldly messiah that seeks fame and fortune and rules by power. The other is a humble messiah that thinks of others first and rules by serving. Which messiah do we want? Which one will we follow? We must choose and people will clearly see what we choose by the way we live our life.

At times in my life I have been like Peter. I have wanted fame and fortune. I have wanted to use power to get my way. In many ways I am a lot like Peter, but I have encountered another way of living. I have seen the ways of Jesus and I know there is no going back. I still wrestle with temptation. I occasionally have grandiose visions of what could be, but I try to quickly put them away and pick up my cross and keep following in the footsteps of my Savior. Although the world may not see it the same way I do, I know that the ways of Jesus lead to life and I have chosen to follow this Messiah.

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