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

Mar
06

judi-dench-philomena

Philomena is a film that has flown under most people’s radars. Surprisingly, it was nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards, but it was probably the least known film out of all the nominees. This is sad because Philomena is a well made film that Christians should take note of. It is a story of faith, but it is certainly not your average Christian movie. It is the project of Steve Coogan, a British comedian and atheist, who does a fantastic job of bringing this true story to the big screen.

Philomena tells the story of a woman who was sent to live in an orphanage. As a teenager living in the orphanage Philomena (Judi Dench) becomes pregnant. She is chastised for her wrongdoing and forced to work to pay the nuns back. She is allowed to see her child for only one hour a day and one day her child is taken from the orphanage without her knowing. Fifty years later she tells her story to Martin Sexsmith (Steve Coogan), a journalist, who helps track down her son. Sexsmith helps Philomena and discovers that her story is a very common one.

I hate to say it but many Christian films that are made today are shallow and lack depth. I wish this were not the case, but it is true. Philomena is not that kind of story. It is a story of amazing faith in the midst of some very tragic events. No one is perfect in the film. All the characters wrestle with something in their life. Martin Sexsmith wrestles with unbelief. The nuns where Philomena was raised wrestle with a rigid and legalistic understanding of Christianity. Philomena (Judi Dench) wrestles with guilt. Philomena is the one person who has a legitimate reason to doubt or complain and yet she is the most faithful of anyone in the film.

Philomena is a film Christians should pay attention to for several reasons. It is a story of faith in the midst of tragedy. It is a story of what happens when people are made to feel guilty for their sins and are never allowed to experience the full forgiveness of God. It is a story of how grace and forgiveness ultimately triumph. Most importantly it is a story of why unbelievers are both turned off and turned on by religion. There are characters within the film that portray two very distinct faces of religion. Most of the nuns in the abbey are rigid and legalistic. This legalistic approach to the faith causes them to do things which are unethical and wrong to the rest of the world. At one point in the film their actions are described as “evil” by those outside the church. On the other side is Philomena, a person who has been wronged and treated terribly by the church, but who still believes. Her faith makes no sense to unbelievers, but they are intrigued by it. Philomena displays grace and offers a forgiveness that both confuses and amazes at the same time. The real life Martin Sexsmith was mesmerized by Philomena, and Steve Coogan was so enamored with this story that he wrote the screenplay and produced this film. These two well-known unbelievers were drawn in by Philomena, a simple woman of faith. For this reason alone we should pay attention to this film.

Philomena is a well made film. It is one of those rare films where everything just comes together. The acting, direction, and story are all superb. There are films that are technically good made every year, but films with as much depth as Philomena are sometimes hard to find. It is rare to find an atheist devote themselves to a film about faith. This should tell you something about Philomena. This is a special story and special film. Don’t overlook this small independent film. It may look little but this film will give you something to chew on for a long time to come.

Mar
06

Origen

Let us ask the Lord to broaden our ideas, make them clearer and bring them nearer to the truth, that we may understand the other things too that he has revealed to his prophets. May we study the Holy Spirit’s writings under the guidance of the Spirit himself and compare one spiritual interpretation with another, so that our explanation of the texts may be worthy of God and the Holy Spirit, who inspired them. May we do this through Christ Jesus, our Lord, to whom glory and power belong and will belong through all the ages. Amen.

Mar
04

asphalt-crack-1

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)

In this famous passage from the book of Romans Paul informs us that Christianity is not simply about changing our actions, but that it is also about renewing our mind. Transforming our heart and mind is at the heart of Christianity. This means that not only are we to do what is right, but we are to do it for the right reasons. Our motivations are just as important as our actions.

This is a challenge. I can put on a good face. I can play the part. I can say all the right things, but am I doing it for the right reasons? Are my motivations pure? This is an important question because it helps me know whether I have truly given myself to God. Have I received that heart transplant I so desperately need, or am I simply going through the motions?

Our primary motivation should be love. We are to love God. We are to love our fellow Christians. We are to love all human beings. Love is more than an emotion. It is to truly care for others. Love is more than confession. It is showing kindness and grace. Love is listening. It is going above and beyond what we are called to do. People knew Jesus loved them because he lived it. He not only did what was right, but his motivations were pure also. Jesus was genuine and people recognized this.

Do I just confess my love, or can people see it through my actions? Do I do a good deed so I can check it off the list, or do I truly care about the person I am helping? Why do I make the sacrifices I make? Why do I give my time, energy, and money? Is it out of obligation or is it out of love? The answers to these questions matter a great deal. How I answer these questions tell me whether or not I have a deep rooted faith that will get me through the storms of life. Christianity is about total transformation. It is about changing our lives from the inside out. It is about doing what is right, not so we can say we have done our duty, but because we truly love God and love others.

Christianity is about our hearts and lives being transformed into the image of Jesus in every way. This does not happen overnight. It takes time. Paul describes this transformation in 2 Corinthians.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

As I go through life it is helpful for me to not only examine my actions, but to also examine my motivations. Motivations are sometimes harder to correct than actions, but Paul tells us that we are not alone in this. The Lord who is the Spirit is helping to transform us into the image of Jesus. If my motivations for doing something are not right, then it is important that I turn to God. I need to turn to God in prayer. I need to turn to his holy word for guidance and direction. I need to spend time in silence. I need to spend time reflecting on my life and the character of Jesus.

If over time my actions and motivations do not look more like Jesus, then I am not going in the right direction. If over time my life does not look more like Jesus, then I need to examine my beliefs because the pure gospel is intent on transforming my life into the image of Jesus. It is my prayer and desire that I look like Jesus more and more each day. Right now I am a cracked pot that is being molded and shaped by a holy and awesome God. I submit myself to him and I hope that people see the image of God in me, and not the cracks that are in the process of being mended.

Mar
02

pen

Dear Children,

I wish you lived in a world full of grace. I wish you lived in a world where people were always kind, merciful, and treated people better than they deserve. Sadly, this is not the case and if you haven’t learned this already, then you will soon. This world is harsh and unkind. It will mistreat you and hurt you and for that I am sorry. When this world shatters your hopes and dreams I hope that I am able to be there for you to help pick up all the broken pieces. Don’t get discouraged. This is simply what it is like to live in a fallen world. Sin has corrupted God’s good creation and we now live in a world void of grace.

Even though you live in a world that is lacking grace this is not an excuse to become calloused or to be ungraceful to others. Do not allow the world to corrupt you and make you harsh. If you become hardened and choose to fight back against the world, then the world loses and you lose also. What the world needs is grace. When you choose the way of grace, you choose the way of Jesus. Grace is the only thing that has the ability to change the world. Force and hate will not change people’s hearts. They only perpetuate the lack of grace that is already in the world. When God wants to change the world he does so by the power of grace.

Grace may not seem powerful. It often does not feel like the natural thing to do. Grace is something you must practice and work on. It is a way of life you must choose over and over again. The way of grace is not easy. Jesus chose grace and he was despised and rejected by many. He showed kindness and mercy and he was hated for it. Jesus used grace to tear down walls that had been erected by others. The grace Jesus showed made some people angry, but it also touched the lives of many people. People on the margins of society turned to Jesus because he offered them mercy and grace. He listened to people who were being ignored. He shared a meal with people who were used to being told they are unworthy and unclean. He healed people who were told they deserved their sickness because of their sinfulness. Jesus’ ministry abounded in grace.

Jesus changed the world and he showed us how to do so also. It all begins with grace. If people hate you and despise you, don’t get mad. Show them grace. If someone is being ignored or mistreated by society, don’t join in with the crowd. Show them grace. If you meet a stranger on the street, then show them some kindness and grace. You never know where grace will take you, but you can be sure about one thing. Grace will change you and it will change all the people around you. Grace is powerful. Grace has the ability to cause lasting change. I am sorry there is not more grace in this world, but you can do something about it. You can choose grace and you can change the world for the better.

Love,

Dad

Feb
27

Saint_Clement_of_Rome_

May he who created everything
keep the number of his chosen people, throughout the world,
up to the strength he fixed for them
through his dear Child, Jesus Christ.
Through him he called us from darkness to light,
from ignorance to knowledge
of the glory of his name.
We have confidence in you:
you were at the beginning of creation;
you have opened our inward eyes
to give us knowledge of you,
who alone are the Most High, in highest heaven,
the Holy One, at ease among the holy.

We beg you Lord,
to help and defend us.
Deliver the oppressed,
pity the insignificant,
raise the fallen,
show yourself to the needy,
heal the sick,
bring back those of your people who have gone astray,
feed the hungry,
lift up the weak,
take off the prisoners’ chains.
May every nation come to know
that you alone are God, that Jesus Christ is your Child,
that we are your people, the sheep that you pasture.

You have shown by what you have made and done
how the world has been planned from eternity.
The earth is your creation, Lord,
yours that are true to every generation,
just when you judge,
your strength and splendor a marvel.
Such competence yours in creating,
such skill in setting firm the things you make,
your goodness apparent in this world we see.
You are loyal to those who trust you,
merciful, compassionate.
Forgive us our sins, our injustice,
our falls, our jarring deeds.

Do not count every one
of your servant’s sins,
but cleanse us with the cleanness of your truth
and guide our steps in…inward holiness,
that so we may do what is just and pleasing
to you and to our rulers.
Let us see your face, sovereign Master,
and we shall peacefully pursue what is good,
protected by your strong hand,
kept from all sin by your mighty arm,
preserved from those who hate us without cause.

Give concord and peace
to us and to all living on the earth,
as you gave them to our fathers
when they prayed to you, believing truly,
ready to obey the All Powerful, the All Holy.

You alone have the means to do this for us,
this and more than this.
We thank you for it through Jesus Christ,
the High Priest, our souls’ Protector.
Glory and splendor be yours through him,
now at this moment,
in every generation,
age after age. Amen.

Feb
24

angry-natural

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27)

Fear is, somehow or other, the archenemy itself. It crouches in people’s hearts. It hollows out their insides, until their resistance and strength are spent and they suddenly break down. Fear secretly gnaws and eats away at all the ties that binds a person to God and to others. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

What is the greatest threat to the church? It is fear. Fear is debilitating. Fear is the opposite of faith. Fear will destroy a church, and yet decisions are often made based upon fear. The most frequent command that appears in Scripture is “Do not be afraid!” God understands the danger of fear. Throughout the history of God’s people they had to continually be reminded to not be afraid. Nothing has changed. We still struggle with fear.

Fear is a powerful weapon. It is easy to generate fear in others, and once it takes off it spreads like wildfire. People bond over fear, but this cohesion is for all the wrong reasons. Unity in fear is not for the betterment of the church. Fear causes us to circle the wagons and fend off anything that comes near. The problem with this is that while we are continually circling the wagons we are not moving forward on our journey. While we are fending off any and all so-called threats we often end up taking out things that are good. Fear causes a church to become stagnant. The church does not grow or mature, nor does it reach out. It simply lives in fear.

What causes this fear? This is an important question. This is the question we should be asking ourselves. We all struggle with fear. We are all afraid of something. What we cannot allow is for fear to take over. We cannot allow fear to control our lives. We cannot allow it to control our thoughts and decisions. We must be aware of our fears, and we must act based upon faith. The more we rely on our faith in Jesus Christ, the more our fears will begin to diminish.

What are we afraid of? There are many fears that fill this earth, but I want to consider some of the fears that directly affect the church. Most of these fears are not ones we would confess to, but they are evident in the way we live our lives and the decisions we make.

People – Sadly, Sunday is still the most segregated day of the week. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is because we are afraid of people who are different from us. We are afraid to step out of our comfort zone and get to know someone that we do not easily relate to. We are unsure about the people on the margins of society. They look different. They dress differently. They talk differently. Part of the job of the church is to tear down the barriers within society that divide us. Jesus did this and some people didn’t like it, because they were afraid.

Change – Most humans do not like change. We like to have a schedule. We like to be able to rely on certain things. We like things the way they are. We are afraid of change. The problem with this is that change is inevitable. The gospel never changes, but everything else does. There are certain parts of the church that have not changed in 2,000 years, but there are other parts that have changed drastically. We still observe the Lord’s Supper, but how it is observed has changed over the years. The early church observed it during an actual meal, whereas many congregations today drink grape juice out of little plastic containers and break off a piece of unleavened bread from a plate that is passed around. Most people in the ancient world were illiterate. They could not read the Bible for themselves and they came to worship on the first day of the week to hear the Word of God read to them. Today, nearly all people can read and we have multiple versions of the Bible translated from Greek and Hebrew texts. Changes happen, and sometimes it is necessary to consider our traditions and practices and make changes that will be best for the church.

Perceptions – We are often afraid of how something will be perceived by others. Sometimes congregations will refuse to implement a new program or make a new change because they are afraid of looking liberal or progressive. God does not care how others might perceive us, if we are acting on faith and doing his will. Sometimes we are afraid of offending others. Certainly, we do not want to be offensive if we can avoid it, but sometimes people are going to be offended even though the church is doing what it is supposed to do.

Future – People are afraid of what will happen in the future. Often people will try and make decisions now that will prevent other things from happening in the future. People try to control what they have no control over. We cannot worry about what people are going to do 10, 20, or 30 years from now. We need to only worry about what God has placed in front of us. God will not hold what the next generation does against us, but we are responsible for what he has placed under our control. We are not promised tomorrow. We must only worry about today.

Failure – Some ideas and projects fail before they ever get off the ground because people are afraid of failure. I know how ironic that sounds but it is true. We are afraid of failure, and because of this certain ideas are doomed from the start. God does not hold it against us if we try something and fail. Noah was a failure, but in God’s eyes he was a faithful man. We fail as Christians when we choose to do nothing at all. We fail when we are so afraid of failure that we never take the first step.

The danger of fear is that it often prevents us from doing God’s mission. Fear is a tactic Satan uses to keep us from reaching out and helping others. Satan wants us to be afraid, so that we do nothing. He would be happy if churches all across the world kept on circling the wagons and never moving forward to do God’s will. We must fight back. We must fight fear with faith and put our trust in Jesus Christ.

You of little faith, why are you so fearful? In the midst of the storm, Christ is in the ship. Away with you, Fear! Let us see you, Lord Jesus, strong helper, Savior! – Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

Feb
20

Origen

The Lord grant that we may believe in our hearts, declare with our mouths and prove by our deeds that his covenant with us has been sealed in our flesh. May men see that what we do is good and praise our Father in heaven for it, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom glory will be given throughout eternity.

Feb
18

film-background-1334067869u9d

Entertainment is big business. We spend billions of dollars each year on entertainment. The Lego Movie made 69 million dollars in one weekend alone. I contributed to that 69 million dollars and the next weekend my son and I went again. Entertainment is one of the biggest industries in our society. Companies are constantly vying for our attention, time, and money. While we are going through our daily routines experts are studying and trying to figure out how best to grab our attention and keep us watching or listening. We are outmanned and outgunned. We come home worn out from work and sit down to enjoy a few moments of relaxation in front of the television, not realizing that we are being manipulated. Some of this manipulation is harmless. An advertiser may try and manipulate you into buying their brand of dish soap. There is nothing inherently wrong with making a dish soap seem appealing, but there is something wrong with manipulating a person to stay in front of a TV when they need to get up and spend some time with their children. We live in an entertainment culture and it is important that we think through how we should use entertainment and how it ultimately affects us as human beings. Here are a few thoughts I have concerning entertainment. I would like to hear yours also.

Reactionary or Engagement? – What is our response towards entertainment? Some Christians have a reactionary response towards entertainment. They hear about something and they react. I have seen this happen recently with the film Noah. There are Christians posting about this film and reacting to it even though it has not been released yet. This is a reactionary response. Reactionary responses do not accomplish anything except maybe rally the base. Outsiders do not even pay attention. They think such a response is silly. Reactionary responses do not cause a person to think or examine what they are watching. A better way to respond to entertainment is to engage it. We can use entertainment to reach people and begin conversations about deeper things, just as Paul used pagan poets to reach people in his day and age. Engaging a film or song means we seriously think about the purpose and meaning of it. We point out the positives as well as the negatives. We are free to critique it because we have sought first to understand it, rather than simply react to it. People take engagement seriously even if we find little or nothing good in a film or song.

Mindless Entertainment – There are forms of entertainment in our culture that contain no objectionable material, but are very dangerous. Most often they come in the form of games on our phone. A few years ago I was addicted to Angry Birds. I had it on my phone and I took my phone with me wherever I went. Whenever I had a few minutes of free time I would whip out my phone and begin to play. As I became more addicted I would play at home or while I was with friends or family. There are tons of games available that have no purpose or point, but are simply created to be addictive and to waste our time. I still have a smart phone, but I took all the games off of it. I have a few games for my son that I rarely let him play, but they are all educational games that have a purpose. I think the idea of play is an important one. There have been recent studies that show how playing certain games benefit people. They can help us become better problem solvers. They can help us hone certain skills, but we must be careful of becoming addicted to games that have little or no purpose.

How Do You Use Entertainment? - This is an important question. Some use entertainment as escapism. It is like a drug. They may be stressed out at work and cannot wait to get home to watch their favorite TV show or play their favorite game. Entertainment can give us a high. It gives us a form of happiness or pleasure. This can be dangerous. There is nothing wrong with taking some time to relax and be entertained, but when we use entertainment to continually escape reality then we have a problem. If we spend a majority of our time being entertained, then we need to rethink how we are using entertainment. We need to learn how to control entertainment. My family no longer has satellite, cable, or even an antenna in our home. We still watch shows like Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead after our son goes to bed, but we have to consciously choose to get up and put a disc in the DVD player. It is not available to us 24/7 with the push of a button. This may not work for everyone, but it has been a blessing in our life. We find ourselves watching much less TV and spending more time with our son.

Art vs. Entertainment – Some entertainment is art, but not all of it. Art is something we need. We need to be moved. We need to be made to think about humanity, justice, grace, beauty, and truth. Good art helps us to do this. Scripture contains art. It is full of the best poetry, prose, and song this world has ever known. Scripture contains stories of love, lament, courage, and sacrifice. It contains beautiful songs that move us and lift us up. Without art this world would be a dull place. Poetry, song, and story are as old as humanity itself. We need these things. Art is a necessity, but entertainment is not. It is nice to be entertained, but it does not have the same purpose as art. It is important that we do not exchange entertainment for art. We need stories and music that move us and make us a better person. We do not need stories and music whose only purpose is to occupy our time and make someone rich.

Feb
14

croissant-newspaper-and-tea

Social Media

I have read several great posts regarding social media lately. In Seductress or Servant: Managing the Addictive Power of Social Media Dan Bouchelle tells his story regarding the dangers and addictions of social media. In I Tweet, & Apollos Blogs, But God… Michael Whitworth asks us to consider why we are using social media and what are our ultimate goals. He writes,

Do it for Christ’s glory and not your own. Be a sharer, a collaborator, rather than a selfish competitor. The end of the road for us is not riches or fame or glory, but reclaiming a lost world for Jesus and deepening faith in the Crucified One.

Richard Beck writes about why we sometimes get frustrated with social media, and what we can share online that will really make a difference. He writes,

The goal is to use social media sacramentally. To be a sign, a sign of life and grace…True, sacramental isn’t all that viral. But maybe it could be. Slowly and quietly. A flicker here and a flicker there. Signs and sacraments. Eventually. Everywhere.

Check out Social Media as Sacrament: A Thought For Rachel

The Words We Choose to Use Are Important

Bob Russell has written an outstanding post on how Christians respond to people whom they disagree with. This is an issue I have dealt with and been bothered by since I began my ministry. Christians can sometimes be the ugliest and rudest people there are. I have seen Christians write a nasty letter and then sign it “In Christian Love.” Really? Bob Russell challenges us to pay attention to our words and tone. We can disagree without being disagreeable. Check out Why Can’t Christians Disagree Without Being Nasty? (Galatians 6:1)

Dealing With Pain

I do not like pain. Thankfully, I have never had to deal with much pain. I have never had a surgery. I have never spent a night in the hospital. I do not know what it is like to constantly wrestle with pain. Tamie Ross knows pain all too well. She wrestles with it on a daily basis and she has written a powerful post on what it is like to live with pain. I thank her for her courage. I thank her for helping me to understand. Check out Pain and Choices

Why Our Past Matters

Two Southern Baptists have an important conversation about why we need to remember the racial injustice that happened here in America. I continue to be amazed by the work Russell Moore is doing. Check out this brief video.

The Haden Triplets

This week I have been listening to the mesmerizing sounds of The Haden Triplets. The harmonies and vocals alone make this a great album, but when you add musicians like Ry Cooder and Ricky Skaggs it makes it even that much better.

Feb
13

Kierkegaard

Father in Heaven! Our thought is turned toward Thee; again it seeks Thee at this hour, not with the unsteady step of a lost traveler but with the sure flight of a bird homeward bound. Grant then that our confidence in Thee be not a fugitive thought, a momentary leap, a mistaken appeasement of the heart and flesh. Grant that our aspirations toward Thy Kingdom, our hopes for Thy glory, be not unproductive birth pangs or waterless clouds, but that from the fullness of our heart they will rise toward Thee, and that being heard they will quench our thirst like the refreshing dew and satisfy us forever like Thy heavenly manna.

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