Movie Review: God Is Not Dead

Gods-Not-Dead-2014-movie-poster

So where do I start with this film?

We seem to have entered a unique time in movie history where there are more and more blatantly Christ-centered/Christ-themed movies being made. We’ve had the sublime in films like Passion of the Christ and Ragamuffin to the head shakers like Left Behind. And we’ve had everything in between – movies that had at its core a great message, some awkward acting, a bit over the top on the cheese factor in varying degrees.

God’s Not Dead seems to have moments of all of these extremes. The movie begins on a college campus where 5 unique story lines begin seemingly independent of one another and they all will eventually collide into one another. At the center of these stories is the conflict between a freshman philosophy student and a seasoned atheist philosophy professor.

The professor challenges his class to sign a document that says “God Is Dead” so they can get to the heart of good philosophy and the lone freshman Christian decides to not sign it. What’s at stake? He will have 3 sessions to present evidence that God is NOT dead and the class will decide the fate of the freshman student – whether he passes of fails.

What the movie is attempting to do is admirable and needs repeating over and over again. It’s not intellectual suicide to follow Christ. One doesn’t have to check his brain at the door of Christianity. Did the film actually accomplish this?

A “straw man” in philosophy is setting up your opponents argument in a way he can’t possibly win. You state the opposite’s position in such a way that no one in their right mind would ever agree with. The straw man is easily defeated but hardly contains the full perspective of the opposite side.

The movie was careful not to set up ‘straw men’ in the classroom scenes (save the last session). The first two sessions from the freshman philosophy student were quite compelling. How creation was handle was spectacular – and it will stretch our “literal 7-days” brothers in Christ. I found the quotes and focus on Creation fascinating but it’s the third session that I believe ultimately failed the film.

The last “session” focused on personal testimony and story instead of philosophy. I’m all for personal testimony but there is a time and place to deal with deep, philosophical truth and that time was then – in the film. We’ve had plenty of other films give us personal testimony. What I wanted was the opportunity to have the great Theistic philosophers speak, allow them a chance to shine. Men like Plato, Socrates, Immanuel Kant, Kurt Godel, Blaise Pascal, CS Lewis, Peter Kreeft, and contemporary philosopher William Lane Craig to name a few. If the “lynchpin” for the philosopher was how many brilliant men believed in no god, let’s trot out the brilliant thinkers who did.

This was a HUGE miss for the film.

The other HUGE miss was the shallowness of the characters who didn’t believe in Christ in the film. A boyfriend who abandons his girlfriend because she has cancer? A dad that beats his daughter because she’s listening to Franklin Graham? A professor who insults his girlfriend in front of his colleagues at dinner?

Lost people are lost. They aren’t stupid. They aren’t slugs of humanity with no morals or feelings. They aren’t sub-human. I felt like it was a huge disservice to “straw men” these characters.

Having said that, there are a few powerful scenes. Dean Cain’s character (the heartless boyfriend) has a confession time with his mother who is going through dementia. That was an incredible bit of filming and dialogue.

I had the expectation that the scenes with the Duck Dynasty crew and the Newsboys were going to be CHEESEVILLE, USA. Sappy, trite, bumper sticker religious speak that ultimately did nothing for the film save a celebrity appearance. They actually came off pretty well.

So what is my ultimate opinion of the movie?

I didn’t enjoy it.

I love the premise. I love the idea of weaving 5 stories together. My kids liked it. Most people I know like the film. That’s fine. Don’t want to ruin their world but if the goal was to make a film to help prepare students for life on a college campus – there isn’t enough in this film to be that.

Personal stories are great and necessary but TRUTH is TRUTH. There is enough TRUTH to defend belief in God and Christ in particular. For college students struggling with their faith on campuses across our country, spend time reading Kant, Kreeft, Craig, Lewis, and Godel. Allow their minds to challenge and expand yours while inspiring you at the same time. Yes, we need our personal story but that personal story sits on the foundation of TRUTH. That truth is what gives your personal story power.

Unfortunately, this film touched little of that foundation and no amount of cool music can hide that fact.

God Is Not Dead

G's Absolutely Correct Movie Opinion

Only inspiring to Christian audience, doubt it will speak to those outside.

Guests Rating: 0.0 (0 votes)
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Movie Review: Edge of Tomorrow

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Also known as “Live. Die. Repeat.” This Tom Cruise sci-fi romp tells the story of a soldier who finds himself in a never-ending cycle on the same day of a battle. Every time he dies, he starts over. He has to figure out why this is happening and how to break it and how to win the war. The film didn’t fare to well at the box office. This isn’t all that surprising considering Tom Cruise’s history with sci-fi at the box office isn’t all that pretty.

Legend, 1985 – It was the ’80s and he was young. Free pass.
Minority Report, 2002 – best of the bunch.
War of the Worlds, 2005 – awful
Oblivion – had potential but didn’t do well at box office.

It’s not that they were BAD movies (save War of the Worlds) it’s just they weren’t GREAT movies.

What makes Edge of Tomorrow’s ‘failure’ a bit surprising is how many of us have always wondered – what would happen if you put Groundhog Day in the context of an invasion of Earth by aliens keen on destroying the human race? Okay…so bad example.

If you’re looking for a deep mystical journey into the existential question of time travel and what it means to not be alone in the universe…this isn’t your film. This is about action, killing aliens, and getting in as many ‘gallows humor’ one-liners as possible.

And I realize it tanked in the theaters (relatively speaking) but…I can’t believe I’m going to say this…

But it’s a fun movie. It’s entertaining, the directing is sharp and quick. (Same director of The Bourne Franchise). In Groundhog Day, about the 4th time you “I Got You Babe” you are screaming at the film – “WE GET IT!!! MOVE THE STORY ALONG!!” That never happens in Edge of Tomorrow. Each cycle through, the story advances and another layer is revealed. The director seems to get – the audience is smart. I don’t have to start back at the beginning every single time. When the movie ends – you don’t feel like you’ve watched it 65 times in one sitting.

Tom Cruise is well, he’s Tom Cruise and his character at the start of the film – it’s funny to see him in that kind of role. Emily Blunt is fantastic in the film. The Mimics (aliens) are pretty freaky. The movie is based on a Japanese graphic novel and there are a couple of references to it. The first and funniest being the suit that Tom Cruise is first put in has Japanese as its default language.

The ending was a bit of a head-scratcher. Won’t spoil it here but the rest of the movie works and thought it was very entertaining. It’s a fun action movie – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Edge of Tomorrow

G's Absolutely Correct Movie Opinion

Groundhog Day meets Alien and it actually works. Good action flick.

Guests Rating: 3.0 (1 votes)
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2014 Global Leadership Summit Notes

A couple of disclaimers.

These are NOT exact quotes. I think I got most of the wording exactly right but these notes were taken while the speakers were going about 190 mph. I’m sure I missed a word or two. You get the gist.

I didn’t take notes on every session. The beauty of the Leadership Summit is that we get to hear leaders and speakers from different perspectives than we normally listen to. From CEOs to comedians, from every corner of the globe, business and church leaders – it’s awesome to hear these leaders speak. But not every one of them resonates with everybody. So I took notes from the ones that resonated with me, tried my best to listen and connect with the ones that didn’t. And there were a couple of sessions that no matter the work – it wasn’t clicking with me so I just sat back and relaxed in those sessions.

The notes are from the speaker’s perspective, not mine. I tried to put the notes in their words, from their perspective regardless of whether I agreed with them or not.

You need to go to the Leadership Summit next year. It’s an incredible two days of teaching, inspiration and challenges. We take the team at Western Hills and even had a couple of our elders go this year. If you are in Topeka – hit me up, come with us next year.

Here are the sessions I have notes on…

Day 1
Bill Hybels
Carly Fiorina
Jeffrey Immelt
Susan Cain
Bryan Loritts
Patrick Lencioni

Day 2



2014 Global Leadership Summit, Wilfredo De Jesús

2014 Global Leadership Summit, Wilfredo De Jesús

aka Pastor Choco of New Life Covenant Church, Chicago

Prayer is necessary and a powerful weapon but it must not be an excuse to do nothing.

Can not allow your budget to determine your faith.

Ezekiel 22:30 – “I look for someone to stand in the gap.”

You must engage your community. See your community as your church, your parish. This means conversing and listening the lost.

Our method is NOT sacred, the MESSAGE is.

The most powerful question, life changing question a leader can ask – “How’s Jerusalem?”

Don’t ask question if you are not willing to be a part of the solution.

PRAY – good start, must move from this.

PLAN – play clock on a football field, can’t spend forever in the huddle. Get out of the huddle.

PROCEED – will require sacrifice and make mistakes.

PERSUADE – you will have strong opposition, get strong help. Cast vision for others to join.

Nehemiah was not a priest, a prophet, a king, a pastor. He was a worker.

2014 Global Leadership Summit, Allen Catherine Kagina

Allen Kagina is the Commissioner General of the Uganda Revenue Authority. (Their IRS.)

I was naive enough to believe God could change anything – even the government.

Once you bring God into a place, He doesn’t know division of church and state, government, and business. We make the divisions, but God does not. He works anywhere.

If you are going to change a culture, you must have integrity and competence.

To deal with corruption, SOMETHING must be done. We fired everybody and had everyone re-apply for their jobs.

To make a difference, front load service, back load enforcement and payment.

Grant: Her talk was so good, I spent more time listening than taking notes. Powerful leader in a very humble, genuine spirit.

2014 Global Leadership Summit, Don Flow

Don Flow – CEO of Flow Companies, INC

I’m called to exercise faith and give hope in every aspect of my work.

I start by believing that God is at work in my workplace.

My job needs to be a signpost for God at my workplace.

The best way faith is expressed is in love. I come alongside my employees in their struggles to help them. I must be full of grace and truth, not self-seeking.

Never get ahead in your business at the cost of another.

Flow provides a $3,000/year scholarship for every kid of full-time employee.

We want to operate our business as if the Fall never happened. So we want transactions to benefit everyone – the customer and the business. We limit what we COULD make on a deal.

My calling is to live my life to God’s mission of reclamation leaving the results to Him.

We SERVE people:
Show respect
Earn Trust
Reach for perfection
Value input
Energize Others

Workplace must walk tension of Challenge/Confidence. Challenge without confidence is FEAR. Confidence without challenge is complacency.

Why Are We Doing This?

als challenge

Child #1: Dad, I’ve challenged you to do the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS.

Child #2: Yeah – and you haven’t done it yet. What’s your problem? Why aren’t you doing it?

Me: Why are we doing this?

Child #1 & #2: It’s for ALS.

Me: And that stands for what?

Child #1 & #2: Ummm, well….uhhh…. some kind of disease thing? Maybe?

Me: And there you are…..

The irony of all this? I’m guessing 79% of the people who are doing this challenge have no idea what ALS even is. It’s fun. It’s a ‘good cause.’ It’s something to post on Facebook and twitter and Instagram. And it’s a great reprieve on a hot day. I guess you live with a few million people not knowing why in order to get all the publicity.

(By the way, unless you’ve been living under a rock, the #ALSChallenge is to give money towards ALS research and bring awareness to this disease by pouring a bucket of ice water over your head then challenging a couple of more people to do the same, creating a pyramid scheme of non-profit popularity.)

It’s a bit funny to think about this but I wonder how many people have this same kind of relationship with church?

Think about it. The typical trip to church includes a whole host of things that probably most people have no idea why we are doing it but everybody else and it doesn’t really cause any harm, so what the heck. The offering, communion, baptism, singing, praying, scripture reading, listening to a message, bible study – I mean…have you really stopped and seriously thought about – why are we doing this?

The reasons are there and they are deep. The reasons give deep meaning and importance to the action. I’d argue that understanding the why is what really makes the action meaningful. But how many times do we stop and ask – why?

This coming Sunday, we are asking the question. It’s Serve All Sunday. We are looking at our value of Serve All and asking the question of people who serve – why? Why do it? What’s the benefit? Is it worth it? Come join us on Sunday and experience the why.

(By the way, ALS is Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). It is often called “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” It’s a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord.)