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

Oct
17

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)

It would be difficult to pick out the most neglected command in the New Testament, but I believe Ephesians 5:21 would be near the top. This is the command to submit ourselves one to another. The purpose of Christians submitting to one another is so we will be unified. It doesn’t mean we will all agree. If we agreed on every issue, then there would be no reason to submit.

The act of submitting involves yielding to someone else. It means we consider their cause or position. We might try to put ourselves in their shoes. Christians are a broad group of people who hold many different views. Obviously, we cannot submit to all Christians all around the world at the same time, but we should begin with the Christians we worship with and the Christians we interact with in person or on social media. These Christians are black, white, and brown. They are Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents. They are conservative and liberal. They are NRA members and people who are calling for stricter gun control laws. They are citizens and illegals. They are people who stand for the flag and people who kneel. They are people who vote and people who don’t.

The commands regarding submission and considering the interests of others are commands to act. This means we cannot wait for someone to submit to us. We must take the first step.

The division in our culture is not something new. People have been divided since the beginning of time. Churches were divided in the first century. Jews and Gentiles did not get along. There were strong opinions about issues we care nothing about today. We no longer fight over meat sacrificed to idols or other things. We have our own issues, but the solutions are the same. We submit. We consider the interests of others, and we do this so that we remain united in Christ. Ultimately, there are things that matter a whole lot more than whether or not a person stands for the flag or votes in the next election. We must be committed to listening and understanding our brothers and sisters in Christ even though we may disagree because issues will come and go but we will spend eternity with one another.

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Oct
12

marshall

Marshall is the true story of Thurgood Marshall, a NAACP attorney who would later become the first African American justice of the Supreme Court. Marshall focuses on Thurgood’s early life and one case in particular. At the time Thurgood Marshall traveled all over the United States defending clients of color who had been falsely accused of a crime. The film hones in on a particular trial in Connecticut, and it quickly becomes apparent that racism is not a problem unique to the south.

Director Reginald Hudson assembled a stellar cast of actors. The chemistry between Chadwick Boseman who plays Thurgood Marshall and Josh Gad who plays Sam Friedman drives the movie. Marshall and Friedman are a real-life odd couple. One an African American defense attorney who is used to seeing his name in the paper, and the other a Jewish attorney who tries civil cases and enjoys swimming alone. Although they have little in common, Friedman and Marshall are forced to work together to try and save the life of Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown) who has been accused of rape by Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson).

Marshall is about race in America and the injustices that people of color have faced for many years. It is an important reminder of our past and a call for us to continue to fight injustice as we work towards racial reconciliation. Although it is a film set in the past, most viewers will be reminded of the current racial tension in America. Thurgood devoted his life to helping people who were being oppressed because of the color of their skin. Great strides have been made since the time Mr. Marshall was an attorney for the NAACP, but we would be naive to believe that we have arrived. There is still much work to be done.

Marshall is a solid drama well worth your time. If there are any negatives, it is that the film follows the familiar pattern of other courtroom dramas and recent movies dealing with race. The ending is predictable, and yet it is the ending that most people want to see. One word of caution would be that there were many cases like Joseph Spell’s that did not have a happy ending. Countless innocent black men were convicted and hanged simply because they were accused by a white person of doing something wrong. There is nothing wrong with leaving a film feeling good on the inside, but I would hope that we would remember there was only one Thurgood Marshall and there were many cases he was unable to accept. We should be greatly appreciative of the work of Thurgood Marshall, but we should also all be devastated by the fact that innocent men were imprisoned and put to death just because of the color of their skin.

Sep
28

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“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense…” (Proverbs 11:12)

We have a problem in our country with communicating with people who are on the other side of an issue. Rather than listen and respond politely, we see people calling names, degrading others, belittling their neighbors, or worse. Before we can discuss our differences, we must first address how we are to treat one another.

We are heavily influenced by the people we surround ourselves with. This is not limited to one’s group of friends. It also includes the radio, tv, and social media personalities we listen to each day. There are some very unhealthy voices in our society, and if we read or listen to them on a regular basis, then it is very likely we will adopt their unhealthy ways.

Conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, we should seek to only listen to people of character. We should avoid people who call names or degrade other human beings. We should not listen to people who are constantly angry and want us to share their anger. We should turn off anyone who makes fun of others or is disrespectful to human beings created in God’s image.

Instead, we should surround ourselves with people who display the fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Character matters, and it is important that we find trustworthy voices who treat other human beings with dignity and respect to listen to and learn from. In so doing, we will imitate what we digest and begin to treat our neighbors as God would have us to do.

Sep
03

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“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2)

Now you might be wondering what this passage has to do with what we have experienced this past week. The text says that the earth was without form. The Hebrew word for without form means chaos. In the beginning there was chaos. I don’t know of any better word to describe the events of last week. It was chaos. We endured a historical storm that dropped more than 30 inches of rain on us in just a few days. We saw the Colorado rise to nearly 55 feet, the third largest flood on record in this area. We saw devastation. People lost their cars, homes, belongings, and more. We saw people not knowing what to do. There were people crying and people in shock. Many of us who came to volunteer had no clue what to do in a disaster situation. We just did what we could and tried to go where we were needed. It was chaos. Chaos in the form of a storm. Chaos in the form of a flood. Chaos in the form of people in crisis.

In the beginning there was a watery chaos and that is exactly what we have witnessed. We saw a watery chaos cover Fayette County, but that’s not the end of the story. In Genesis 1:1-2, we are told there was a dark watery chaos in the beginning, but then the Spirit of God began to hover over it. The Greek word for order is cosmos. Out of chaos God brought order. I’m not sure we have seen order yet, but what we have seen is the Spirit of God working among the chaos. We have seen beauty in the midst of destruction. We have been ravaged by the storm, but it has brought us closer together and made us stronger. God is working in this mess.

We have been the body of the Christ. We have been the hands and feet of Jesus. We have fed the hungry. We have helped the needy. We have gone out into the community and done what is needed. The church is not a building. The church is people. Last week, the people of La Grange saw the church and it’s not because they stopped by this building, although many did. It is because they saw us here and in other places doing the work of Jesus.

I saw lots of amazing things last week. I saw people drop what they were doing to help others in need. I saw people sacrifice time, energy, and money. I saw countless selfless acts. People were not thinking of themselves. They were only thinking about others. We never ran short on man power. There were always plenty of volunteers. We started collecting items on Monday. By Tuesday, our building was completely full. There were donated items in every pew. On Wednesday evening the building was empty and by Thursday afternoon it was full again. I know God was working in the chaos because we always had what we needed. He did not allow this building to set vacant.

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One of the most amazing things I saw this week was a father and daughter who were folding clothes on our communion tables. We ran out of room. We kept filling up pews. We ran out of tables to work on. Finally, we were backed all the way up to the pulpit, and so this father and daughter did what they could. They used our communion tables to sort and fold clothes for people in need. It reminded me of a passage in Luke where two people encountered Jesus at a table.

“So they drew near to the village to which they were going. Jesus acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.” (Luke 24:28-31)

Jesus used tables throughout his ministry. He used them to minister to people. A table is more than just a place to eat. It is a place to connect and serve. Our communion tables did not sit idle last week. They were used to serve this community. These tables where the fruit of the vine and unleavened bread now sit were used for the ministry of Jesus. The clothes that were folded on these tables are now being worn by someone who lost everything.

When we come to the table, we are reminded of the sacrifice of Jesus. We are reminded of what he did for us and who we are called to be. How does someone follow in the footsteps of Jesus? How do we live a sacrificial life? We do so by living a life of service, by giving ourselves to others. We do it by giving our time and energy to people who need us. Because of the events of last week, the people who need us has grown exponentially. We now have hundreds of people without homes in La Grange. We have people in our community who have lost everything. They are depending on us to be the body of Christ.

Today is a day of rest, but tomorrow we will begin the work again. We will go out into the community and we will meet the needs of the people we meet. As we enjoy the break from our labors, remember there is someone who needs us. As we partake of this meal, let us focus on Jesus. Let us remember his ministry and how he continuously helped others. Let us remember how he gave himself fully and completely. He did not hold anything back. He laid down his life in order to bless us. The table prepares us for our mission because it is at the table that we encounter the risen Lord.

Jul
06

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“For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of the fools, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten.” (Ecclesiastes 2:16)

A Ghost Story is a riveting look at humanity’s place in time. This intriguing meditation on the moments that make up a life will cause viewers to pause and appreciate what is right in front of them. This film is unlike any you have probably seen before. In an age of CGI, A Ghost Story shuns special effects and follows a ghost played by Casey Affleck who is dressed in a white sheet. For most of the film, there is little or no talking. The film relies heavily on visuals, and director David Lowery gives the viewer plenty of time to take in each scene. Not only is time at the center of A Ghost Story, but Lowery also allows the audience to feel time with the slow pacing of several scenes. This comes as a shock to viewers who are so used to the dizzying effect of multiple cuts in a brief scene, but it is evident that Lowery is up to something greater than trying to keep the attention of an audience with a very short attention span.

The film opens by focusing on a couple (Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck) who are madly in love with one another. Nothing is unusual until the character played by Affleck suddenly dies and comes back as a ghost. He takes up residence in the house they lived in, and he witnesses firsthand the grief of his widowed wife. Now that he is a ghost, all he can do is watch. He cannot speak or comfort his wife in any way. Rooney Mara is mesmerizing in these scenes.

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It seems for a moment that perhaps this film is going to be an exploration of grief. Although the viewer is given a glimpse into the grieving process, the film moves forward with Affleck’s character continuing to reside in the house as various tenants take up occupancy within it.

The longest piece of dialogue comes during a party as one individual laments the fact that time will conquer all things. Eventually, all will be forgotten. This pessimistic view is proven true by the fact that Affleck’s character has had to get used to sharing the house he once enjoyed his wife. Now the people who occupy this space have no idea of who has lived here before or what has taken place. If this were the final word in the film, then it would truly be a lament, but the film has a few surprises left.

I will not give away the ending, but I will say that I loved how A Ghost Story caused me to rethink how I view time. Some may not appreciate its slow pace and may become frustrated with its lack of dialogue, but I believe the film is working on multiple levels, and it is striving to get us, the viewer, to slow down and enjoy the moment we are living in. Most modern films move at lightning pace, but this also mirrors what many people experience in their own lives. Life is busy. Life is full. We attempt to cram too much into the space we are given, and we end up missing what is important. A Ghost Story is a beautiful wake-up call in more ways than one.

A Ghost Story is a film that you will want to discuss with others after seeing it. Here’s a helpful discussion guide to assist your conversation with friends or a group.

Discussion Guide

Jun
19

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A preacher spends many hours with a text before it becomes a sermon. They sit with the text, wrestle with the text, pray over the text, and carefully examine all the details within the text. The 25-minute sermon on Sunday morning is a result of much study.

A preacher is an instrument used by God. This means the preaching is never about the preacher. It’s not about his hair, his suit, or even his presentation. It’s about the message. The goal of most preachers is to get out of the way so that the message will be front and center.

The message that is often presented is one the preacher needs to hear himself. Sermons are composed with the congregation in mind, but the congregant that the preacher knows best is himself. A sermon is not the result of a preacher having mastered what he is preaching on. In fact, it is often the opposite. The preacher personally knows from his experience that this is a message that needs to be heard.

The message of God is presented each Sunday in jars of clay (2 Cor. 4:7). What preachers hope people see on Sunday is the power of God in a clay vessel, but sometimes all people see is a clay jar. Preachers are human. Preachers are imperfect. Preachers make mistakes, and because of this, they need grace as much as anyone else in the congregation.

The question that most preachers would like people to ask themselves as they listen to a sermon is “What does God want me to hear today?” The sermon was not designed specifically for your neighbor or the person sitting in the pew in front of you. The sermon is intended for the people of God, so that they may be transformed into the image of Christ. The only way this transformation will occur is if each member will focus on what the message has to say to him or her.

Jan
06

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Martin Scorsese has a higher purpose in making films. He is not merely trying to entertain or provide a couple of hours of escapism. He wants the viewer to wrestle with difficult questions. Silence is a mixture of beautiful filmmaking and a complex and challenging story that will linger with you long after the final credits. It tackles such subjects as faith, doubt, and persecution. It is a religious film of tremendous depth that deserves the careful attention of the viewer.

Silence is the story of two Jesuit priests who travel to Japan to search for their mentor. In seventeenth-century Japan, Christianity has been outlawed, and persecution is rampant. Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garppe (Adam Driver) receive word that Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) has denied the faith. They decide to risk their lives to find out the truth. Once in Japan, they discover a vibrant community of Christians who are willing to risk persecution for their faith. The journey of Rodrigues and Garppe is arduous. It is filled with moments of great joy and sheer terror, and one is constantly wondering just how much the human spirit can endure.

There are many aspects of Silence that are worthy of discussion. One of the most striking elements is the contrast between Christianity in seventeenth-century Japan and Christianity in twenty-first-century America. Silence is often painful to watch, not because of the violent scenes of persecution, but because of how it pierces the hearts of modern believers who have sacrificed very little. There is a feeling of uneasiness as one watches Japanese peasants tortured for their faith while sitting in cushioned chairs at the local cineplex. Silence can quickly and easily get under your skin, and this is exactly what Scorsese wants. At one point in the film, a man says, “Why wasn’t I born when there wasn’t any persecution? I would have been a great Christian.” It is one thing to be a Christian when it is what everyone around you is doing, and it costs you little or nothing at all. It is quite another thing when it may cost you your life.

Silence recognizes that humanity and faith are complex. Not everyone in the film is a super Christian who readily volunteers to face persecution. One man in particular continually asks the priest to hear his confession. His sin is the same each time. He confesses that he is a weak man. This man commits cowardly acts over and over again. His behavior is despicable, and yet the priest receives his confession and forgives him each time. Watching these events unfold on screen, the viewer easily feels anger towards this man. You began to root for the priest to deny him confession, but then you remember the words of Jesus.

“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.'” (Matt. 18:21-22)

Watching Silence one recognizes that faith is a complicated thing. Some are good at it, and others are not, but isn’t mercy and forgiveness at the heart of the gospel? Shouldn’t we seek to be like the priest and forgive the despicable in others because God has forgiven the despicable in us? It is questions like these that make Silence a demanding film, but also a rewarding film because if we wrestle with the questions, then it is possible we might be transformed by what we have encountered.

Perhaps, the most difficult challenge raised by the film stems from the title itself. Persecution may not be the worst thing a Christian could face. For some, the pain of torture pales in comparison to the silence of God. Job suffered as much as anyone, and he wanted just one thing, for God to speak. It is in these moments where believers face their greatest test. Thankfully, many of us will never have to endure such tribulation, but we should be mindful of those who have gone before us who have. It may cause us to pause before we boast about the strength of our own faith.

Although difficult in many ways, Silence is a welcome film. It does not follow the same trajectory as many popular religious films. It does not provide easy answers and a nice warm conclusion. In fact, you may have more questions after you walk away from this movie than you did going into it. What makes Silence worthwhile is that it takes faith seriously. It is not shallow in any way. In Silence, professing Christ will not help you to win the football game. Instead, it may cost you your life. However arduous it may be to take in the images on the screen and wrestle with the story presented, it is a rewarding exercise because Silence deals with life and faith as it is rather than offering the false hope of a shallow faith and a happy ending.

Jan
05

Hell or High Water

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Hell or High Water is a perfect film. The acting, story, music, direction all come together to make a film you will want to return to over and over again. I recently viewed it for a second time and it was just as satisfying as the first. It is a modern western that is smart and filled with humor. What gives the film value is that underlying the excitement is a deep ethical vein that runs throughout the film. It contains the most moving scene I’ve witnessed all year. It is a simple scene, like many others in the film, but it moved me tears. An estranged father visits his son to warn him about some news he will be hearing concerning some bad things he did. The son says he won’t believe it, but the father advises the son to believe everything he hears. He tells him not to be like him. The film is about a couple of brothers who do some bad things, but as the film goes along, you discover that they have a noble cause and they are actually making a great sacrifice for others. The film is not focused on the shootouts and car chases like many others are. Instead it is about the motives and humanity behind these events.

Silence

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Silence is a religious film with depth. It is one of the most challenging films to come along in years. If you have been longing for a movie that takes faith seriously, then look no further. There is nothing shallow about this picture. Some people will not like it because it is a hard film to take in and it raises questions that some might want to ignore. That’s ok. Although a film like Silence may make some uncomfortable, this is the kind of film that Christians should be embracing rather than films that offer a shallow faith and a false hope. Silence is why we need art in our life. It makes us uneasy and hopefully it will cause us to look at our own lives and we will be a better person for viewing it.

La La Land

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La La Land is entertaining and fun. I would much rather watch an inventive director and two actors at the tope of their game than two hours of CGI that moves so quickly it leaves your head spinning. It is a shame a film like this is a rarity. Damien Chazelle is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. His pictures are original and he draws out performances from his actors that you will not want to miss.

Arrival

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Arrival is a brilliant sci-fi thriller with an ending that will leave you stunned. I was not a fan of Denis Villeneuve’s earlier work, but his last two films have been phenomenal. I will not give away the ending, but I will say this was one of the most powerful pro-life films I have ever seen. I don’t know if that was the author or directors intention, but that message is certainly prominent within the film.

The Innocents

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The Innocents has a lot in common with Silence. It is a religious film about suffering and faith. It is based on true events. It tells the story of a group of Polish nuns who were raped by the Russians in WWII. They fear someone discovering their secret. They fear breaking their vows of chastity, and yet they are in need of medical help. They find help in a French doctor who was raised by communist parents. Each nun deals with the situation differently. The audience witnesses a mixture of faith, doubt, sacrifice, misguided loyalty, and dedication. Like Silence, it is not an easy film to watch, but for those who choose to do so, it is quite rewarding.

Sing Street

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The musical numbers in La La Land are a wonderful throwback to the musicals in the 40’s and 50’s. John Carney is interested in making modern musicals and Sing Street is the perfect example of one. It is set in the 1980’s in Ireland. It is a coming of age story about a boy who starts a band because he met a girl. This seems pretty straight forward, but if you pay careful attention you will discover it is just as much a movie about brothers. There are lots of laughs, great 80’s music, and some really nice original music. If you want to be entertained by a movie that is well-made, then Sing Street is for you.

Nov
21

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After a long break from acting and making films, Warren Beatty returns to the big screen this week with Rules Don’t Apply. The film is a nostalgic love story set in 1950’s Hollywood. Although it is centered around the larger-than-life figure of Howard Hughes, Beatty insists it is not a biopic. This well-made passion project is more about reminiscing upon a time when Warren Beatty first arrived in Hollywood than making a historical picture about the life of Howard Hughes. Rules Don’t Apply is a fun trip back to a time when Hollywood was much different than it is today.

Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) is a driver with big ideas who gets a job working for Howard Hughes with the hopes of being able to make a pitch. Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins) is a Southern beauty queen who has recently moved to Hollywood thinking she will become a movie star. Their paths cross when Frank is assigned to drive Marla and her mother (Annette Bening). Mr. Hughes has a strict rule that drivers are not to date the actresses. This along with Forbes and Mabrey’s devout Christian upbringing keeps them apart for awhile, but eventually, they begin a complicated relationship.

The highlight of Rules Don’t Apply is Warren Beatty’s portrayal of Howard Hughes. It is not a perfect impression, but again this film does not pretend to be a biopic. Beatty is brilliant because you can tell he enjoys acting and he deeply cares about this project. The problem with the film is that it jumps around too much and it’s not sure what it wants to be. It suffers from an identity crisis. Is it a love story? Is it a movie about Howard Hughes? Is it a comedy? It is all these things and more. The good news is that even though the movie has a minor case of ADD, it is done well and it is a delight to watch.

There is a religious element to the film, but like many portrayals of religion in Hollywood, it does not offer any depth. The two young lovers wrestle with the morals of their faith. The film raises the issue but then does not provide any details. It seems like Frank and Marla choose a life void of religion because after the conflict arises, religion is absent throughout the rest of the story. There is one exception to this near the end of the film when Hughes asks Frank if he believes in an afterlife. Neither one of them is comfortable saying yes or no. This agnostic answer sums up how the film thinks of religion.

If you like the look and feel of movies from the 1950’s and 60’s, then Rules Don’t Apply is perfect for you. It is charming and delightful. You will laugh and enjoy your time at the movies. I had fun watching it, and I’m glad Warren Beatty is back at it again. I don’t think this movie holds up to some of his earlier works, but now he has knocked some of the rust off, maybe he won’t wait so long to do it all again.

Nov
10

We have just endured an election that was nasty on all sides. It divided family, friends, and our country. Now the election has ended, people are feeling an array of emotions. Feelings such as joy, happiness, apathy, fear, sadness, confusion, and others are present in many Americans. The question being asked on all sides is “What now?” For Christians, the answer is the same. It doesn’t matter who you voted for in the election. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. We serve a King who is in charge of the Universe. Our allegiance to Jesus is more important than anything else that might divide us. We are brothers and sisters in Christ! So, what now?

We pray. Scripture does not call us only to pray for good leaders, or only to pray for the leaders we like. We are to pray for “all who are in high positions” (1 Tim. 2:2). We pray that “we may lead a peaceful and quiet life” (1 Tim. 2:2). A peaceful life allows us to do good to those around us and share the gospel with people we meet.

We love. It is easy to love the people who are dear to us or people who share our values and beliefs, but Jesus calls us to love even our enemies (Matt. 5:44). Hate produces hate. Love has the power to transform the world. It is important that people continually see the love of God in us.

We gather. The most important thing we do each week is to come together around a table in anticipation of the return of Jesus. We break bread and share the fruit of the vine to remember what he has done for us and to acknowledge he will return one day. Until he returns, we work towards God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

No matter who is President, our mission remains the same.