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



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.



“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.



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: (sermon related Bible study); (God and sports discussions); and (promoting multiethnic churches).



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.



“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)



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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


‘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.



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.



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.



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 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.


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.



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

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.


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 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.



For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Why is forgiveness so difficult? It might be because we often think of forgiveness as a word. We say “I forgive you” and we think that is it, but it isn’t. Forgiveness is more than a word. When we have been deeply hurt by someone, simply saying the word will not take care of the problem. Forgiveness is a process. It is something that takes time. It is something that does not end with the utterance of a single word. It is something we must continue to work at. I believe many people struggle with forgiveness because they think saying the word is going to magically make things better. When it doesn’t they then think they have done something wrong or that they are terrible at forgiveness. In reality deep wounds are not quickly healed.

We must begin changing the way we think about forgiveness. Forgiveness is not just a word we say. It involves our feelings. It has to do with our attitude towards other human beings who sometimes do awful things. Forgiveness is about following the ways of Jesus. It is about loving others who do not always love us in return. It is also about not allowing bitterness and hatred to take over our lives. When we refuse to forgive the person we hurt the most is ourselves.

What does it look like to be a forgiving person? What sort of practices must we commit to if we want to truly forgive?

We must forgive more than once. Forgiveness involves saying “I forgive you” but what some people don’t realize is that these words may have to be said over and over again. We may say “I forgive you” and even feel good about it afterwards, but then a few days or weeks later those same feelings of bitterness come back. When this happens we must forgive all over again. Sometimes forgiveness does not come easy at all. Sometimes it is difficult to even get the words out of our mouth. Just saying “I forgive you” may be an accomplishment in and of itself. When this occurs we might want to treat forgiveness as a discipline. We might want to keep saying “I forgive you” until it becomes easier. Words have power and meaning, and when it comes to forgiveness we often have to return to these words multiple times.

We must pray. Forgiveness and prayer go hand in hand. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is difficult to be like Jesus when people hurt us. We often struggle with feelings of revenge and bitterness. These feelings do not go away overnight and they don’t go away on their own. We need God’s help. We need to talk to God about how we feel. We also need to pray for those who have hurt us. Praying for our enemies will help with our own feelings.

We must change the way we think about others. Forgiving someone who has hurt us does not mean we must be friends with them, but it does mean we must change the way we think about them. We must wish the best for them. We must not hate them or wish something bad happen to them. Forgiving someone often involves changing our attitude towards that person. This happens through prayer and speaking words of forgiveness, but it also happens through our actions (Rom. 12:20). When we are struggling with how we feel about another person we can commit to doing something good for them. Our actions influence how we feel and think about others. An act of kindness may make all the difference in the world.

As Christians forgiveness is a necessity. We cannot be a Christian and refuse to forgive. We must also recognize that forgiveness is a lifestyle. It is something we commit to and it often takes time. Forgiveness is about the words we speak, but it also involves our feelings toward others, prayer, and acts of kindness. Let us follow in the footsteps of Jesus and be willing to live a life of forgiveness.



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 Cor. 3:17-18)

What kind of person do you want to become? This is an important Christian question. This is a question all Christians need to contemplate. Becoming a Christian is the beginning of a life changing journey. It is a transformation into the image of Jesus. If the kind of person we want to become does not look like Jesus, then we have the wrong model.

To become like Jesus is not some flowery language we use while never expecting anything to happen. To become like Jesus is not something that happens after we die. To become like Jesus is something that is real, practical, and concrete. We have been given four accounts of the life of Jesus. We know what kind of person he was. We know the things he said and did. The writers of the New Testament believed the life of Jesus could be lived out in our own lives.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

If we are going to get serious about becoming like Jesus, then we need to ask ourselves some practical questions. We need to be open and honest. We need to examine our lives so we know what we need to work on. This self-examination needs to be combined with prayer and Scripture meditation.


Here are some questions we need to ask ourselves. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good place to start.

How are we like Jesus in the conversations we have? Is the focus of our conversations more on ourselves or others? Do we listen to the people we are conversing with or are we simply waiting for our turn to speak? Are we an encouragement to others or do we just like to complain? Do we only have conversations with people we like or do we seek to engage people on the margins?

How are we like Jesus in how we treat others? Do we put the needs of others before our own? Do we value some human beings over others? Do we notice people who often get overlooked? Do we show compassion to people who are suffering?

How are we like Jesus as a parent and a spouse? Is the love we have for our spouse like the love Jesus had for the church (Eph. 5:25)? Do we make time to spend with our spouse and our children? Do we exemplify the life of Jesus to our family? Do we act one way around our family and another way in public?


We cannot be transformed into the image of Jesus on our own. We need help. We need people in our lives whom we trust, people we can share things with and who will pray for us. We need to be connected to mature Christians who are able to mentor us, but this is not all. Most importantly we need to be connected to God. In 2 Cor. 3:17-18 Paul informs us that our transformation into the image of Jesus is only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. If we are struggling with something in our life, the first place we should turn is to God. God uses our weaknesses to his glory. God is able to do what we cannot do on our own. We cannot expect to change if we do not have a healthy prayer life.

We must set aside time for daily prayer. We must get in a prayer rhythm so it becomes natural and a part of our lives. This can be difficult and many people struggle with prayer. If you are having a hard time praying you are not alone. If you cannot find the words to pray, then use a prayer book. Pray the prayers of others until you are able to pray on your own. Some people find it helpful to record their prayers in a prayer journal. Whatever struggles you may have be encouraged to press on. We need prayer. Prayer is able to change lives.


How we approach Scripture is important to whether or not we are going to be transformed by it. It is possible to know lots of Scripture and even be able to quote it but not be transformed by it. In order to be transformed by God’s holy word, we need to spend time regularly meditating on the word. Meditating is different from reading or study. When we meditate we open ourselves up to transformation. Meditation involves choosing a smaller portion of Scripture and reading it several times, praying over it, and seeking ways to apply it to our life. We can be changed by any passage within the Bible, but there are several passages which speak directly to the transformation we seek. Here are a few.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippian 2:3-8)

This is a good meditation to return to often. We naturally think of ourselves more than others and we need to be reminded that the Christian life involves sacrifice. The life of Jesus was a life concerned with the other. Jesus lived for others and he died for others. To have the mind of Jesus is to humble ourselves and look to the interests of others.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)

Conflict is a part of life and when we experience conflict we often want to seek revenge. This is not the way of Jesus. Meditating on this passage from Romans will help us deal with difficult situations. Through prayer we will learn to be a calming presence, instead of a person who only adds fuel to the fire. Our mission as Christians is not to seek revenge, but to do good deeds to all and share the love of Jesus with others.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)

There is much in these four verses to dwell on. To be like Jesus means we are to have “compassionate hearts” and act in “kindness.” It means we must be patient while we are “bearing with one another.” It means we must forgive. Jesus gives us the ultimate example of what forgiveness looks like. From the cross he says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus forgives! He does not wait for the murderers to come to them. He does not wait until they feel sorry for their actions or admit any wrong. He forgives and this is what we are to do as well. When we are wronged we must forgive as quickly as we can. This is not an easy thing to do, but if we are going to be like Jesus we must practice it.

What kind of person do you want to become? To wear the name Christ means that we seek to be like him. This is not something that happens overnight. It doesn’t even happen in a month or a year. It is a journey that will take us a lifetime. To become like Jesus will take discipline, patience, and endurance. In a culture that wants everything right now, we are not always accustomed to things that take time. The life of a Christian is abundant and rewarding, but we must not get in a hurry or we might become frustrated. To become the kind of person we want to become involves us committing to a life of examination, prayer, and meditation. If we trust ourselves to God, then God will make something beautiful out of our flawed and imperfect life.


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