Sunday Devotional: Isaiah 9:6-7

“For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7)

These verses are a prophesy to the birth of Jesus.  The prophet Isaiah wrote these words hundreds of years in advance.  These words brought hope.  These words brought a longing for the coming Messiah.  We see these words as a fulfillment and as a promise.

We have the fulfillment in the birth of Jesus.  We have the promise that when He returns again that His kingdom will forever rule.  During this Christmas season, let us remember the hope we have in the one who is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.  And let us remember that He is in control and we can count on Him from this time forth and forevermore.

Thursday Quote Day: LeBron James

For this week’s “Thursday Quote Day” here is a quote from basketball player LeBron James:

“It’s only one guy in the world, ever, where everything will be all right when he comes back, and that’s Jesus Christ. Other than that, you can’t bank on nobody being OK.”  (LeBron James)

Updated 2015 Book List

Here is the latest updated list of books I’ve read for 2015:

Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change by Matt Chandler and Michael Snetzer
Wrestling for My Life by Shawn Michaels
Scary Close by Donald Miller
Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi by Kevin Hearne
Follow Me David Platt
Pop Goes the Church: Should the Church Engage Pop Culture? by Tim Stevens
Bigger on the Inside:  Christianity and Doctor Who by Gregory Thornbury and Ned Bustard
More Than a Season: Building a Championship Culture by Dayton Moore
The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight
Connecting in Communities:  Understanding the Dynamics of Small Groups  by Eddie Mosley
Jesus Is _______: Find A New Way To Be Human  by Judah Smith

Sunday Devotional: Ephesians 4:31-32

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

As we enter this Christmas season, let us have caring and forgiving hearts towards one another.  Let us love one another and let that be what defines us.  We may not have been so kind or caring or forgiving as we should’ve been earlier in the year, but we have a great opportunity to do that now.

It may seem tough at times to forgive but remember that God has forgiven us through the work of Jesus on the cross.  We are able to have a renewed and restored relationship with God because of that.  Along with that, He has given us a new heart.  A heart that is better able to be kind, to be tenderhearted, to be able to forgive.

This week and in this Christmas season, let us forgive and let us show kindness to one another.

Supergirl and the Anger Behind the Anger

Supergirl

One of the new hit TV shows this year is Supergirl based on the DC comic book character.  It is one of the most popular shows right now and I’ve been enjoying every episode so far.  The latest episode aired this past Monday and had an interesting theme underlying the episode.

Kara (aka Supergirl) has been dealing with a lot of frustration of late.  Frustration at work as Kara Danvers working as the assistant to Cat Grant at CatCo Worldwide Media.  Frustration at work as Supergirl fighting villains and learning to use her superpowers for good.  And frustration in her personal life because she is in love with James Olson (aka Jimmy Olson from the Superman comics) but he has recently gotten back together with Lucy Lane (younger sister of Lois Lane).

All of this pent up frustration sees itself come out at inopportune times for Kara both as Supergirl and as her alter ego.  This includes Kara lashing out at Cat Grant in her office.  Cat doesn’t get angry at Kara but instead takes her out to a restaurant to have a conversation.  Cat is having to deal with frustration as her mother is visiting National City but doesn’t really have much to do with Cat and looks down on her accomplishments.

Cat tells Kara that she knows that Kara isn’t angry at her.  Kara is really angry about something else.  Cat tells Kara that she needs to deal with the anger behind the anger in order to address the anger issue.  Later in the episode, Kara realizes that the anger is really being sent away from Krypton and not feeling like she can have a normal life.

Kara and Cat

I think we can all relate to Kara’s thoughts and feelings from this episode.  There are times when we are angry and lash out on those around us when deep down we are not angry with them.  They are just collaterial damage.  There is an anger behind the anger that we need to address.  Maybe it is something we bury deep down because we don’t want to deal with it.  Maybe it is some hurt we have experienced that hasn’t been addressed.  Whatever it is, in order to be at peace we need to look deeper at the anger behind the anger and address it.

Forgiveness is such a powerful thing.  There is a great freedom that comes from forgiveness.  Forgiveness is not easy though but the benefits that come from it easily outweigh anything else.  It takes getting to the heart of the issue and forgiving those who have wronged us, who have hurt us and that may include forgiving ourselves.  When we deal with the anger behind the anger, our relationships are healthier and we are better able to live and work and serve.  And the cool thing is God is there to help us in dealing with it if we turn it over to Him.  After all, He is well versed in forgiveness and forgiving us and gives us the ability for forgive others.

“One Step, One Punch, One Round” Thoughts on Creed

Creed

Yesterday I went and saw the movie Creed, the sequel/spiritual successor to the Rocky franchise.  This was one of the most anticipated movies for 2015 for me.  Anyone that knows me knows that I am a huge fan of the Rocky films (I will also readily admit that Rocky V doesn’t exist in my personal canon).  I grew up watching the films.  I remember watching Rocky IV in the movie theater when I was a kid.  I grew up listening to the soundtrack to Rocky III & IV all the time.  I even did a parody home movie in college based on Rocky.  So needless to say I was excited about the film from that standpoint.

I was also excited about it because it was a story on it’s own.  It wasn’t another sequel.  It wasn’t a remake.  It was set in that “universe” but it was telling it’s own story.  Also I’m a huge fan of actor Michael B. Jordan from his work in Friday Night Lights.

The story is about Adonis Johnson, the son of Apollo Creed by a woman who wasn’t Apollo’s wife.  Apollo died in the ring at the hands of Ivan Drago in Rocky IV before Adonis was born.  Adonis didn’t grow up with his father and it bounced around foster homes and juvenile detention before Apollo’s wife took him in as her own son.  Of course being Apollo’s son, he takes up boxing and wants to make his way in the sport on his own.  He can’t get the trainer at his father’s old gym to train him (who ironically was the son of Apollo & Rocky’s trainer Duke and the actor that played him was the same guy who played Julius Campbell in Remember the Titans).  So Adonis travels across the country to Philadelphia to get Rocky Balboa to train him.  Rocky doesn’t want to be involved but after awhile he reluctantly trains Adonis.

I won’t give away what happens or spoil anything but I do have several thoughts to share on the film.  One, it has the feel of a Rocky film without it being a Rocky film.  You have the training montages.  You have the big fight between Adonis (who eventually takes the name Creed) against the lightweight champion of the world “Pretty” Ricky Conlon (played by Tony Bellew, who is an accomplished boxer in the cruiserweight & light heavyweight divisions).  You have the budding romance between Adonis & singer/songwriter Bianca.  It feels like it fits in the “Rockyverse”.

At the same time, it tells it’s own story.  Aside from clips and pictures of Carl Weathers as Apollo, only Sylvester Stallone was in the film.  You have mentions of Adrian and Paulie and also Rocky’s son Robert but no one from the previous films returns.  The actress who played Apollo’s wife is a different one than played her in the Rocky films (Phylicia Rashad plays her in this film).  And the main theme of the story is one different from the Rocky films (except from maybe the last one Rocky Balboa pertaining to Rocky and his son).

That theme is about about legacy and name.  Adonis tries to make his way without using the name Creed.  The only reason he gets a fight with Conlon is because of his lineage as Creed (and Conlan’s camp was desperate to get a fighter to fight Conlon after he broke the jaw of the #1 contender at their weigh-in).  So Adonis has to live up to the name Creed as well as make his own name.  I think one of the most poignant scenes in the film was the scene when Rocky is training Adonis and they’re standing in front of a mirror.  Rocky points at the reflection in the mirror of Adonis and tells him that he is the toughest fighter that he will ever face.  Rocky wanted Adonis to shadowbox in front of the mirror and focus on punching and avoiding the punches of the reflection as a means of training.

Rocky and Adonis

The line of the film that was a theme was “One step, one punch, one round.”  The biggest fights in our lives have to be handled one step at a time, one punch at a time, one round at a time.  I think that’s a very important message that is handled throughout the film.

A lot of times we see movie franchises get sequels or reboots that don’t need them.  Or they’re done in such a way that detracts from the heart of the movies that came before them.  Creed is not like that at all.  It does a great job of touching on the past while telling a story on it’s own that is compelling.  It is its own movie while also being connected to a great movie franchise.  I would recommend seeing Creed if you’re a Rocky fan or if you’re just a fan of good movies.