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Flawed Faith: It’s a Wonderful Life, Expectations, and God’s Will

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” —Romans 8:28

Not to start out this Christmas article on a bleak note, but I’ve spent the last few years in an emotional rut. I don’t mean to say I’m suffering from depression or a lack of emotional wellness. I just mean to say the state of the life I’ve always wanted to live isn’t the life I’m living. I had been under the impression as a teenager that life blossoms and opens up to you as you grow older and things just naturally fall into place. Upon reaching adulthood, there’s nothing further from the truth. Your career only happens through a combination of backbreaking mental and physical labor. Relationships don’t just happen naturally to you. Even God himself demands a level of personal sacrifice and submission most people don’t care to give him. If you aren’t an active participant in your life at a young age, then your adult life will respond likewise.

As a young millennial high schooler, I wasn’t terribly ambitious. I didn’t have a career dream, so I let life drag me along to a school I was passively interested in and then to a career I was passively interested in until I realized it was a dead end. Now I’m here. I work a decent job and I live a fairly comfortable life, but it’s not the life I want or need. I’ve prayed for years for God to completely throw my life on its head and wondered if I should purposely try to do something to break the mechanism. I’ve considered many ways to try and radically change my circumstances from going to grad school to becoming a history professor or a journalist to joining the U.S. Navy. Ultimately, I decided against most of the ideas I’ve had. I already have student debt I’ve yet to pay off, and the people I’ve consulted about making these sorts of life changes have suggested against them.

The only major decision I’ve made in life as of late has been finally getting baptized after nearly a decade flirtation with the church. Sadly, that’s opened my heart up to a spiritual vulnerability I wasn’t expecting. It shouldn’t be surprising that spiritual attacks from the enemy come hard at the moment you publicly declare yourself a Christian.

All this hassle and frustration with life has led me to spend some time in and out of prayer over the past few months. It’s easy to get frustrated and go weeks without praying, and when you do, things return to banality quickly. Praying helps, but it’s difficult. It’s hard to wake up early enough to do a devotional first thing every morning. It’s also hard to know if you’re giving enough of your time each day to the Lord to truly honor him. If I spent three minutes reading in prayer, does that mean I’m worshipping the podcasts and music I listen to which I give hours of my day too? More prayer is clearly necessary.

Having talked through my circumstances with others, praying to God, and waiting, I’ve fully realized a lesson I’ve suspected for years. It’s not a realization I have come to lightly or happily, but it’s one I feel God continues to repeat to me over and over again asking me to understand.

God wants me to stay where I am right now.

That’s not a fun answer in the grand scheme of things. It’s actually an infuriating answer that’s led me to weeks and weeks of discontent with my creator as I pray earnestly about why I’m being expected to wait for my dreams while the life I desire seems to come naturally amongst many of my peers. Dreams of marriage, a good career, and having children seem vital to the human experience, yet they feel as far away to me right now as my eventual retirement party. I have married Christian friends my age with two year old children, and I’m only 24 years old. The frustration is enough to make a sensible person lonely, impudent, and bitter. I will be the first to say I haven’t handled it with the most amount of grace. I’m not right to rage against the heavens as loudly as I have. That emotion is something I think a lot of people my age will probably understand.

God doesn’t necessarily call all Christians to marry themselves to the church. Some people are called to lives of immense suffering, sacrifice, and dedication, but the average Christian isn’t called to do something so harrowing. Most of us merely have the difficult job of navigating a normal life in a fallen world. Our duty is to individually take up our own crosses and find ways to bear the burden of a banal life. In the grand scheme of things, God places us where we are because he wants us to affect those who we most immediately contact.

“And then he told them, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” -Mark 16:15 NLT

We as Christians ought to be lights in an otherwise dark world. It can be a horrible burden to bear, but God has asked his people to endure much worse. He doesn’t call us to lives of comfort, although most Western Christians are born with a level of comfort and ease because of our immense wealth. Most of us are lucky in that respect. Still, trials exist for all Christians. The enemy knows our hearts and how to twist them in subtle and petty ways. As normal Christians, we need to be exemplars of the Christian life in normal conversation. We don’t need to be pushy, but others should understand who we are and what we believe. It’s easy to live in this culture and lose perspective on faith. At this very moment, Christianity is declining in wealthy nations like mine and thriving in oppressive nations like China where following Christ can get you killed or arrested. Decadence is a problem only a wealthy nation and church can suffer from, but it’s deadly and threatens the very body of Christianity.

In a society where you can have everything instantly, the simplest instruction from God, like “be patient,” becomes a burden so great that a human heart would flee from it. God may put us where he wants us, but often that place isn’t where we want to be. I’m immensely blessed in my life that I’ve never had to deal with some of the trials some of my other friends have had to. I try my best to be thankful for that reality, but seeing what others have in their lives makes it easy to be angry.

So here I am. I’m momentarily resentful of a Creator who has given me life because the life he’s given me isn’t the one I wanted. I would never pretend I’m owed anything or that this has left me emotionally broken, but stronger faiths have been broken by pettier grievances. Such frustrations must be addressed before they metastasize.

The question I’m left with is how do I proceed with finding contentment in a temporary position in life that I hope will eventually pass? 

With this series, Flawed Faith, I’ve long sought to parse out the nuances of Christian life in the midst of our modern world. I believe we can find the seeds of faith in all things, even in the hearts of people who resent the Lord. If all things work for the good of those who love God, then even the most strident atheist works to forward the kingdom in some respect. Maybe an answer to my question, though, can be found in a piece of art that isn’t so much a flawed masterpiece as much as it is a masterpiece about being flawed. 

Towards the end of the 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life, we find the story’s main character George Bailey in a state of utter despair. His life has been nothing but a series of compromises. He lost his hearing in one ear as a child because he selflessly saved his brother from freezing to death in a frozen lake. He gave up his dreams to become a career banker in a town he hates. His house is in disrepair. The one blessing in his life, his family, is still a burden that reminds him of the life he’s now permanently separated from despite his love for them. Now, on Christmas Eve, he’s being threatened with prison time because his business rival stole money from and framed him. Fed up to the point of collapse, he decides to take his own life by jumping from the town bridge into a freezing river. 

In a moment which J.R.R. Tolkien would call a eucatastrophe, an angel appears before him on the side of the bridge and answers his prayer. As a result, George is briefly thrust into a world where he experiences what would’ve happened if he never existed. That world is a cold, cruel place. The once pristine small town American streets of Bedford Falls have been replaced with a red light district lined with drunken patrons. The people are more cruel. The city has been totally co-opted by his business rival and renamed after him: Pottersville. Lamenting the hellish nightmare that is the world without him, he begs to return home and he finds himself back in Bedford Falls with a renewed sense of his life. Because of his selflessness over the decades, the entire town comes together and raises the funds to replace what was stolen to save him. Because he did the right thing so much and so selflessly, he’s earned the eternal love and loyalty of the town and they repay it. 

It’s A Wonderful Life is an expression of the virtues of Christian lovingkindness. It doesn’t just show us that love is important, but that love is necessary for a civil society. Without the love and sacrifice of normal people doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, the world degenerates into a hellish, greedy, and nasty place. Fundamentally, it’s a story about the cost of a world with and without good people in it. It makes that case unflinchingly and with a moral seriousness that doesn’t fail to address the fundamental problem at the core of it’s story.

It’s extremely hard to be a good person. 

It’s a Wonderful Life was actually the second thing I reviewed for Geeks Under Grace when I started here two years ago. It wasn’t a movie I grew up with, so my feelings for it that I’ve discovered over the past decade have been developing as I’ve grown into an adult. I remember an afternoon where my late grandmother bought me a copy while we were shopping at Target that I still rewatch every year. In all honesty, I can’t think of many other films that more clearly speak to my moral vision of the world. It’s a deeply saccharine film that famously flopped at the time of its release despite Capra feeling it was his strongest film. It only gained its now legendary reputation because it was inexpensive to rent the film for television reruns. As I and many others have come to discover, it’s one of the most profound pieces of Christian art produced in the last century. 

Frank Capra might be the greatest Christian filmmaker in history. I don’t say that lightly. There have been many directors in the history of the art form who were properly Christian. Many, like John Ford, were technically better filmmakers than Capra. I’ll admit I haven’t even seen every major Capra film. I’ve owned copies of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, You Can’t Take It With You, and Lost Horizon for years now and neglected to watch them. Still, every one of his films I’ve seen is a revelation. Meet John Doe might be the greatest contemporary retelling of the Christ-story in the medium. Arsenic and Old Lace may be one of the greatest comedies ever written, taking us through a story about the madness induced by a sudden and radical change of your worldview. It Happened One Night is undoubtably one of the funniest screwball comedies of all time. Then, of course, there’s his perennial masterpiece Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. What hasn’t been said about that masterpiece of satire and moral clarity?

Regardless, Capra was a man who knew himself and his values and he embodied it deeply in his work. As an Italian immigrant who rose to become one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, he understood the difficulties and blessings of American life as profoundly as anyone. His life experience from rags to riches followed by his experience in World War II gave him a deep sense of what the world was. His unique talent as a comedic storyteller often allowed him to capture the moments of joy and meaning in the midst of darkness, corruption, and compromise. His work is unabashedly Christian in its moral dimensions and presuppositions. It reflects the nature of a fallen world where we still have to be good people.

It’s a Wonderful Life possibly captures this tension more beautifully than any other film he ever produced. George Bailey does the right thing at every point and only suffers. He doesn’t see the dense web of relationships, good deeds, and love he’s crafted in Bedford Falls until the moment it comes to save him. When the chips are down, the town saves him because he’s done nothing but serve the town. Most of us should be so lucky to have produced such goodwill in the lives of others.

The best Christians I know aren’t the ones who have the most resolved inner life. The strongest Christians are the ones who live out their faith in spite of their immense inner turmoil. Sadly, our rewards in life often aren’t ones that reflect our choices. My late grandmother who recently passed away was one of the most dedicated and thoughtful Christians I’ve ever met. For reasons I’ll never understand, the lord made her live the final decade of her life with a debilitating disease that destroyed her life and made all of her immediate family suffer as they watched it dissolve her. Even so, her faith never broke under the immense pain she was in. Even in her worst moments, she called out to God for relief. Who are we to judge what purpose this serves? At her funeral she was celebrated by hundreds of people whose lives she touched. Not a soul there didn’t believe she wasn’t finally at peace with her creator. She is certainly with God now.

George Bailey suffers constantly because that’s what life is. Life is a long series of compromises and choices that define us. The things we do under pressure reveal our truest selves and George’s life showed the town of Bedford Falls that he loved them in spite of his dreams. It’s painful to want and dream only for God to directly close the door on those desires. Yet those moments are there for a reason. God uses us where we are in small, invisible ways. If you obey and serve Him even in a place of deep dread and pain, God will use you to do his kingdom’s work. That’s the tension that It’s a Wonderful Life captures so beautifully. 
 
I wish I could find the actual quote, but I once read that Frank Capra famously said he directed the film as a repudiation of then encroaching modern secularism. At its face, that appears to be quite a shallow execution. Having an angel show up in your film in the flesh comes off as zany and corny in the face of such a bleak world. Such miracles are what our faith is built on. For most of us, these moments won’t come in such a direct fashion, but in a moment of second guessing and quiet contemplation. God is not the sound and fury of life, but the quiet voice behind it.

“Then the Lord sent a mighty wind which broke the rocks in pieces; then He sent an earthquake and a fire, but His voice was in none of them. After all that, the Lord spoke to Elijah in the still small voice”. 1 Kings 19:12

That quiet unwavering voice in our conscience is the one we must learn to follow. To be born again in Christ is to be transformed into a new person. The transformational stage is long and painful, though. We must become agents of peace in a buzzing, chaotic world that bribes against it. Such a rebirth also doesn’t rob us of worldly consequence and suffering. It puts us at odds with the world more. It is, however, more than necessary to maintain the world.

We are but the accumulation of a lifetime of decisions. My life has accumulated much passiveness. I’m too easily placated and too easily frustrated because of the limited challenges of such a life. The first step in changing that direction was my baptism. From there, the challenge becomes how to live a Christian life. We have to play the long game and that means cutting off the appendages that cause us to sin. Such times are when we must take stock of life, make difficult choices, and affirm the Godly path. Life is hard, but the only life worth living is one that works for good. A person can live for this world and die with nothing accumulated for the next life. Such journeys require affirmative decisions, but they must be lived out in the most mundane parts of life.

The invisible connections you make by living for Christ will do more than you ever see to encourage those around you to support you. They are that which makes this life worth living. That we should be blessed with the privilege of God’s words, “well done my good and faithful servant,” is enough. Whether in this life or the next, we will be rewarded.

I’d like to end this piece with a quick thank you to a friend of mine working in ministry. Emily Urban helped me with some aspects of this piece and her ministry has helped shape the direction of the last several months of my spiritual life through her prayers, support, podcast, discussions, and writing. She runs an amazing ministry providing support to young women. I would recommend giving a meager amount of support to her this holiday season. She also asked me to mention she’s a freelance editor

Merry Christmas to all, and to all of you a bright new year to renew yourselves and your faith! 

Categories
Articles Music

Worship 101: Why is Worship Important?

Horatio Spafford endured much tragedy during the early 1870s. His firstborn 4-year-old son died of scarlet fever, then he lost every bit of real estate he had invested in during the Great Chicago Fire. He was working to recover from these losses when he sent his wife and daughters to England ahead of him for vacation near the end of the year 1873. A couple of days later, Horatio received word the ship carrying his wife and four daughters had collided with another ship and capsized. Of his family, only his wife survived. She sent him a telegraph with two words: “Saved. Alone.” 

He immediately set sail to be with his wife. On his way to England, with his broken heart filled with worry of the future and for his grieving wife, Horatio penned one of the most prolific hymns, “It Is Well,” as his boat passed the area where his daughters lost their lives.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul

It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul

How could a man who had just lost everything set his pain aside to praise God and thank Him for that pain? How can he say “it is well” when everything around him says otherwise? I believe it’s because Horatio chose to worship his Lord despite the chaos surrounding him. He chose to focus on God instead of his circumstances because he knew God would use them for good. Nearly 150 years after he wrote this beautiful hymn, God is still using that pain for good every time “It Is Well” is sung from a heart of worship.

In my last article, I laid the foundation for biblical worship and different ways we can worship in our everyday lives. Worship can be music, dancing, working with your hands, reading your bible, spending quiet time with God, and anything else you do while focusing on Him. So, why is worship important? What does it even accomplish?

Worship is a time of rest and renewal

23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.
24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
Ephesians 4:23-24 (NLT)

Everyone has bad days, months, or even years. Our souls grow weary and tired from all life throws at us. Demands at work or school, the stress of paying for everything on time, vehicles breaking down and having to pay for repairs, kids getting sick…the list goes on. Worship works as a tool to refresh our weary souls and provide restorative rest. It refocuses our mind on the one thing that is always pure, lovely, and just: Christ. When we focus our worship on God, our trust in Him is strengthened and we are able to look at our circumstances with fresh eyes and trust He will work it all for our good.

Worship is an act of obedience and surrender

10 “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’ ”
Matthew 4:10 (NLT)

The first of the 10 Commandments says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” This means our worship should be an act of obedience to God and no other thing or person will come first. This commandment is not made by an insecure God who lives only on worship, though. This commandment was made because God knows how sinful our hearts are and how easily manipulated our minds are. He knows when we surrender our lives, sins, attention, circumstances, and worldly desires, that we will begin to experience the freedom that comes with being obedient to God. 

Surrender is such a beautiful thing, too. In many translations, it means to yield, give up or over, submit, abandon, relinquish, cede, waive, or capitulate. Simply put, it means we do not have to worry or stress about being in control all the time. We do not have to fight to prove ourselves strong enough to withstand everything life throws at us. All God asks us to do is surrender ourselves to Him and to His will and trust He is in complete control. Worship God and His mighty power, and watch how your heart and soul begin to change. Your circumstances may not change, but your perception will.

Worship is freedom from bondage and a weapon for battle

16 But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.
17 O my Strength, to you I sing praises, for you, O God, are my refuge, the God who shows me unfailing love
Psalms 59:16‭-‬17 NLT

When we surrender ourselves to God in worship,  freedom begins to take root. Our heavy burden is lifted and we are free to run the race set before us. We leave our worries and cares at His feet, put on His full armor, and take up our sword to battle the enemy. Worship is incredibly powerful when we are battling for our lives spiritually. Satan will do his best to discourage you in your walk (“you’re not good enough!”), sow seeds of doubt in your mind (“did God really say that?”), and isolate you from your Christian community (“you don’t have to be part of a local church. Just watch it online!*”).

Worship provides us not only with spiritual weapons, but with a distraction! If we are busy worshiping, focusing on God and His mercies, and praising His name, we will have no time for the enemy and his tactics. We won’t be able to hear anything he says over the sound of our favorite worship music. We will drown out our doubt and replace it with gratitude for everything God has done and thanksgiving for everything He has yet to do.

Worship is such an integral part of being a Christian, it makes it hard to deny its importance. It encompasses each commandment given to us for living a righteous life. Worship beckons us to surrender to God, turns our focus back to Him, sets captives free from bondage, and is powerful in battling our supernatural enemy. Worship lifts our spirits and breathes life into our soul. It should be a state of being instead of something we do on Sundays.

Now that you understand how incredibly important worshiping God is, can you begin to integrate it into everything you do? Yes, of course. Give God your all in worship and see what miracles He will work in your life. You may be surprised at how different your perception becomes when all you can see is the glory of Christ!

23 Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.
24 Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.
Colossians 3:23‭-‬24 NLT


*Clarification: There is nothing wrong with watching church online. You do not have to go to church to be a “good” Christian. However, we were not made to walk through life alone, and God desires for us to be in communion with Him
and with the local church body. We need fellow believers to encourage us, hold us accountable, and challenge is in our walk.

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Articles Christian Music

Worship 101: What is worship?

I had a conversation recently with a friend who used to be on a worship team. They had stepped down from the team and told me they “didn’t feel God’s presence in the music anymore.” I asked them to elaborate and they said, “I just don’t feel it anymore. What’s the point in being on a worship team if I don’t feel like worshiping?” It made me wonder, what does worshiping even feel like?

Most Sunday’s when I lead worship, I don’t feel it either. I’m a perfectionist and my mind is constantly worrying about forgetting a chord or a lyric, or not smiling enough, or not praying correctly between songs. I can’t even focus on how I’m feeling about worship because I’m so focused on the performance of it all!

That’s exactly why I wanted to write about worship. I wanted to explore it for myself, but when I started studying it, I realized that there must be others dealing with this. I feel a little embarrassed that I had some wrong ideas about worship, even though I am a worship leader at my church. Thank goodness that God is a gentle Father who doesn’t condemn us for misunderstanding one of His beautiful gifts. He reminds us that we’re making things more difficult than they should be and helps us to find the answers in His word.

Worship can be a hot-button issue in the church world, right? There’s always a tension between traditional and contemporary. What type of music do we play? Do we use stage lights? Do we sing from a hymnal? Do we raise our hands or clap? Do we sit, stand, lie down, or dance? I’ve known churches to split because of this. Half the church wants to stay in the traditional world and the other half wants to become more contemporary. It can be a source of frustration, but neither side is wrong, technically.

That’s the problem I started seeing in myself. Many of us hear “worship” and immediately think of Sunday morning music or only listening to the “Christian” station on the radio. I’ve discovered music is not all there is to worship and Sunday service shouldn’t be the only time we worship. Would you believe me if I told you that worship doesn’t have to include music at all? What if I said that many people do not connect to God through music and worship in other ways instead? To explain that, I’ll break down how worship is defined, both biblically and literally.

What is worship?

The definition of “worship” is “to show reverence and adoration for something, typically a deity (god).” The root meaning of “worship” has been etymologized as “worthiness or worth-ship”—to give worth to something. In its very nature, worship is how we respond to the thing we value the absolute most! The thing we spend most of our time thinking about, doing, giving the most attention to, putting all our energy into; That tells us what we truly worship and too often, we are unintentionally worshiping something other than God.

Have you ever seen people at a college or professional sports event? People painted head-to-toe in their team colors, shouting and cheering their team on, crying tears of joy when they win or grief when they lose, and even getting into fights over the outcome of a game. Or how about going to a concert or music festival? People screaming their adoration towards the stage, hands raised in hopes that those on stage will notice them, clothing with the performer’s likeness, and every lyric to every song is memorized. Would you believe those are forms of worship?

These are mostly harmless, of course. There’s nothing wrong with cheering your team on or being excited to see your favorite band live. I do these things! It becomes an issue only when the “worship” of these other things overshadows your worship of God. When people around you recognize your love for your team more than your love for God, that’s a problem. If you can get all your friends to start listening to your favorite artist, but none of them have ever heard about Jesus or know Him as a savior, what have you accomplished? 

Let’s get a little more personal. Have you ever found yourself worrying about what your friends think about you, going so far as to change your appearance or your personality to what you believe will make them accept you? Maybe you think about money more than anything else? You find yourself driven by how much you can make because your parents were barely able to make ends meet when you were young. Perhaps you’ve been in a relationship where all you could focus on was your partner, then, the relationship falls apart and so do you. You completely forget how to survive without that other person in your life. Harmful as they can be, these are forms of worship, too.

God designed us to worship, but to only worship Him. Our worship should be a reaction to everything He’s done for us and a time to focus on Him. Often, our attention is pulled in so many directions and we get distracted. When life throws you a curveball or when you come face-to-face with the consequences of our actions, how do you react? Do you run to your friends, money, jobs, significant other, alcohol, or something worse? Or do you run to your Creator and let Him catch you? When life gets hard, whatever you immediately turn to is likely what you worship.

The good news is that the Bible tells us how to redirect our focus and worship back onto God. It’s an outward expression of inward surrender and there’s no wrong way to do it. It’s wonderful and necessary for refocusing our minds on God. He doesn’t require some complicated, perfect, spotless form of worship. He just wants your heart, exactly as it is, and your full attention. 1 Chronicles 16:23-31 covers many ways we can worship God and why we should worship Him. I’d also like to point out: not every verse says to “sing” or “play music” either.

Verse 23: Let the whole earth sing to the LORD! Each day proclaim the good news that he saves.
Verse 24: Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
Verse 25: Great is the LORD! He is most worthy of praise! He is to be feared above all gods.
Verse 26: The gods of other nations are mere idols, but the LORD made the heavens!
Verse 27: Honor and majesty surround him; strength and joy fill his dwelling.
Verse 28: O nations of the world, recognize the LORD, recognize that the LORD is glorious and strong.
Verse 29: Give to the LORD the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence. Worship the LORD in all his holy splendor.
Verse 30: Let all the earth tremble before him. The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.
Verse 31: Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Tell all the nations, “The LORD reigns!”

The three ways here that the author of Chronicles (believed to be Ezra) gives us as forms of worship is singing, telling others, and writing. The main forms of communication are covered here: music, publication, and interpersonal conversation. That’s not the whole list, though! You can worship with interpretive dancing, acting out a play, working on your neighbor’s car, building a house, sitting quietly by yourself and reading your bible, journaling what you’ve learned at church, working hard at your job with a grateful heart, or praying. Prayer is a powerful form of worship.

Then, the author gives us several reasons why we should worship God. All other gods are only puny idols and our God is mighty and to be feared. Our God made the heavens and earth. Our God is glorious, strong, joyful, merciful, and worthy of praise. The earth trembles before Him and rejoices because of Him. He reigns! The bible says He loves us, knew us in our mother’s womb, has great and mighty things planned for us, will never leave us nor forsake(abandon) us, and because of Jesus’ sacrifice, He forgives us of all sins and opens the doors of heaven to us. Doesn’t that make you want to jump up and shout and clap and raise your hands and scream “THANK YOU!” at the top of your lungs?

That’s worship. Worship isn’t about us, it’s all about Him. It’s is a powerful weapon against our spiritual enemy. It’s comforting when we need God to move in our lives. Worship draws us closer to the mighty God who made everything who longs to wrap us in His arms. Worship is unique to everyone. All that matters is that you worship God and enter into His presence with whatever gifts you have, no matter how big or small. Giving God everything you have is true worship.

(1) And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
(2) Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2 (New Living Translation)

If you play an instrument or just the radio, worship Him that way. If you work with your hands to fix or build things, worship Him that way. If you’re good with finances and you can teach others to budget wisely, worship Him that way. If you’re gifted in praying for others, worship Him that way. If you’re good at writing or teaching, worship Him that way. If you’re into bodybuilding or fitness, worship Him that way. If you’re a homemaker, a stay-at-home mom or dad, stuck in bed or the house, or you work from home, worship Him that way.

Wherever you are, whatever you do, whoever you’re near, no matter what time of day or year, and no matter your circumstances, worship God with all you have and all you are and be amazed at the many great things He can do in your life. Worship is the song you write with the way you live your life.

Categories
Comedy Movies Reviews

Review: Going In Style

Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
Director: Zach Braff
Writers: Ted Melfi
Starring: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, Ann-Margret, Joey King, John Ortiz, Matt Dilon
Genre: Comedy
Rating: PG-13
For those unaware, Going In Style is a remake of the 1979 film that is held as a classic with outstanding reviews. As seen in the original, the remake sticks close to the overall plot about three good friends attempting to rob a bank for the money that was taken from them. One of the largest pros and cons of remaking a film is recreating key plot points while adding new ones. New ideas and routes are certainly options that can make a movie better, but that is not always the case for remakes. For this film in particular, it is nearly split down the middle if whether or not this modern take on a classic is enjoyable.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: No blood violence during the robberies.
Language/Crude Humor: One F-word is used during their first heist and the p**** is used from time to time along with other common swears.
Spiritual Content: As the Bible calls us to respect our elders let alone people in general, the film portrays a significant amount people respecting Willie, Joe, and Albert.
Sexual Content: Though nothing is explicit is shown, Albert and Annie are shown in bed indicating that they just had sexual intercourse.
Drug/Alcohol References: Albert jokingly talks about cocaine for a brief moment and one scene shows all three of men smoking weed and being high on the drive home.
Other Negative Content: None.
Positive Content: Despite their crime, the cast of three greatly showed how important their brotherly relationship was as they continue to grow in new areas during their old age.

Review

Aside from the fact that these actors are legendary among film, their chemistry mixes well together both in laughable and heartbreaking moments. The center of the group is actually Joe (Michael Caine), who comes up with the bank heist idea after being held up at a bank just weeks before. What personally made his character better than most who control a robbery or bank heist is the fact that he stuck by his words. He was not after power; he was not after wealth; he was after just what they each needed to pay for their homes, debts, and more.
Along with this, he was anything but controlling of the group as it was a group effort to make the heist work the way it did. Not only was the heist a team effort, but each man contributed to the struggle and success of their heist. Morgan Freeman’s character is very similar to Michael’s in financial struggles and wanting to be more with family. The way the two think is very like minded as if they are in-sync both in ideas and personality. Being the comedic relief of the group is Alan Arkin as Albert. Though he may come off as rude and obnoxious, he does so in a way that actually carries the plot along in the first half through laughs.
The interesting fact about the film is that the character development did not come until the second half, something audiences were not expecting. When it comes to comedy, either the character development is just very low or very rushed during the first half of the film. During the second half of Going in Style, the character development came into play, thereby allowing the second half to become more enjoyable and even relatable at certain points.
With most comedies, there is a good amount of drama to be found in order for the story to flow beyond laughs and giggles. At certain points, audiences begin to not just have sympathy but a large understanding as to why the group robbed a bank. With how difficult the economy has been in the last decade, it comes to no surprise that a specific number of audiences could relate to their financial and housing difficulties.
The unfortunate difficulty about the character development not appearing until the second half is first half suffers. While some jokes were shown in the trailer, it left very little room for audiences to really have a good laugh at them due to the writing and repetition. For a good 30-40 minutes, the first half received only a limited amount of laughs from audiences. While the second half definitely picked up in comedy and storytelling, the first half is anything but difficult to ignore. Along with this lack of character development, the main cast were as one dimensional as the supporting cast, from Joey’s daughter to Albert’s relationship with Annie. It hardly comes off as entertaining let alone interesting until the montage of the heist preparations.
Despite the strong main cast of legendary actors, Director Zach Braff’s film lacks depth and character development as he replaces it with one-dimensionalism. Though a significant amount is made up for in the second half, the build up significantly matters as it is a key element of capturing the audiences attention to be entertained. Overall, the film is enjoyable to certain extents. It just takes about 30 minutes for the entertainment to begin. Until then, audiences may be give small chuckles to comedic moments while checking their phones.

 

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Articles Christian Living

Is Mormonism True? *Updated*

I have wanted to tackle this subject for a while now. Normally other religions do not interest me, but Mormonism peaked my interest. I found out that they refer to themselves as Christians.
Wait, what? So is Mormonism another denomination then? Heck, they even accept the Holy Bible as truth.
According to them, only the King James version is the most correct version. I ended up researching Mormonism for a few solid months before taking a break, which included speaking to a couple of Mormon missionaries and reading Mormon message boards. I had planned a five-part series for this religion, but I came across a few verses that seem to single-handedly make Mormonism unnecessary.
Now before I get into this, let me give you a quick run down of Mormonism. They believe after Jesus died, He returned to earth and visited America. Afterwards, the church spoken about in the gospels and in Acts is destroyed by–I do not know by who actually. I asked the Mormon missionaries many times and they would just not answer the question.
So, a little under 1,800 years later, a man named Joseph Smith prayed in a forest, located in New York, to God about which church is the correct one. Here is what he recorded about God and Jesus’ visit to him eighteen years later (Pearl of Great Price: Joseph Smith History 1:1-26):
“Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.”
 
Mind you, we are going to ignore a few things here or this would drag on forever. We are ignoring how Jesus has now made a second visit to earth, but it is in no way how the Bible describes it will happen, nor has anything that was said to precede Jesus’ coming again has actually happened either.
Also, we are ignoring my personal theories about Joseph actually being visited by Satan and being lied to by him. After all, 2 Corinthians 11:14 talks about how Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Furthermore, we all know how he lies as talked about in John 8:44.
What we are going to look at is Matthew 16:16-18:
“Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Your immediate thoughts may have matched mine when I read this. “Well, doesn’t that make their whole premise of there being no correct church for almost 1,800 years wrong?”. To that I say, “Yes.” However, we need to look at how the Church of Latter Day Saints interprets these verses.
From my interactions with them, they have said that Jesus is speaking about God giving Peter a revelation. That only a church with ongoing revelations can be the correct one. When in fact, the church is built on Jesus Christ as the cornerstone and not ongoing revelations.
As we all know, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8) and we know He is sinless (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5). This means of course He couldn’t have lied since that is a sin (Ephesians 20:16, Proverbs 12:22). So was Jesus just mistaken then? If the church did indeed fall then why wasn’t Jesus told this would happen by God?
Actually, Jesus is God. There is relationship in the trinity: the Son (Jesus) is obedient to the Father (Luke 22:42); the Holy Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son (John 16:15). So the three persons of the trinity are the same God, but they are each distinct.
Why do I mention all of this? The Mormon church changes its stance on things, such as marriage (polygamy was okay via revelation in 1843, but was changed to not okay in 1890), throughout the years due to revelations they are receiving. But if God never changes, why is He telling the Mormon church that something is correct and then later taking it back and changing it? Especially since He established marriage is between one man and one woman and not one man and many women (Matthew 19:4, Mark 10:6-8).
To conclude all of this, no, they are not another denomination of Christianity. Mormonism is a separate religion that despite including the Bible into their doctrine, end up contradicting the very Bible they accept as truth. I do recognize that this article is not very in depth on the religion as a whole. It is meant to only show you that Mormonism is made unnecessary by just a handful of verses in the Bible that both Christians and Mormons accept as fact.
Update: To learn all that there is know about Mormonism then I do recommend CARM. They are a dedicated apologetics site and they do a splendid job. Check them out HERE.
Here are also some other contradictions Mormonism has with with the Bible that I noticed.
Jesus says how He loves the church as much as a husband loves his wife. He promised that He would be with His people to the very end. (Matthew 28:20). Are we saying Jesus breaks His promises then?
Also if God is a man, which Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and the D&C section 130 verse 22 say God the Father has a body of flesh and bone as tangible as man’s, then why does the Bible say that is false? John 4:22-24, Luke 24:37-40, Matthew 16:16-17, Numbers 23:19, and Hosea 11:9. Heck, it is not like God ever changes either. Malachi 3:6 and Psalm 90:2. Romans 1:22-23, 25 also talks about making God into a mortal man.
Also God is the ONLY God. There are no others. Isaiah 44:6 and Isaiah 44:8 says how there is no other God but God. Then that continues with Isaiah 45:5, 45:14, 45:21, 45:22, 46:9.
Isaiah 43:10 “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” KJV
Galatians 1:8 says “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” KJV
All bible verses and anything from Pearl of Great Price, Doctrines & Covenants can be found on lds.org

Do you have any questions about Mormonism? Maybe you want to know more about it. Let me know in the comments.