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X-Men: Apocalypse – a movie review

X-Men: Apocalypse TrailerX-Men: Apocalypse is the third installment of the franchise reboot that began with X-Men: First Class (2011), set ten years after Magneto attempted to kill the President at the end of 2014's foray into time traveling: Days of Future Past. For those who don't remember those films, most of the relevant plot points are rehashed in Apocalypse so there probably isn't much need to re-watch them unless you just want to. While this movie utilizes that timeline, it also acts as something of a transition towards a new batch of films to come over the next few years. Those films are likely to center on younger mutants, such as Cyclops and Jean Grey, who are introduced throughout the course of the movie.

The film opens in Ancient Egypt where the first mutant, the aptly-named Apocalypse, is aging and seeks to transfer his presence into a younger, more suitable mutant host. We eventually learn that he has done this for quite some time, accumulating new powers and growing stronger with each transition. However, things quickly go awry for the self-proclaimed god as the humans he rules trap him inside a sunken pyramid where he lies dormant for thousands of years until he's finally reawakened in 1983.

Apocalypse quickly gathers four mutants, called his four horsemen, to serve as his accomplices in an effort to regain his place atop the world. Magneto, grieving from a particularly tragic episode after trying to live in relative peace and anonymity for the past several years, joins him as one of the four horsemen. Consequently, he finds himself standing in opposition to Charles Xavier and his students once again. From here, the film continues largely as one might expect.

While X-Men: Apocalypse was entertaining throughout, the sheer number of characters made it feel, at times, a bit rushed with none of them really staying on screen for very long before transitioning to the next group. There are some great actors and actresses in this movie, though, and they make the most of what screen time they have.

As Christians, God wants us to do something similar with our lives. While some are called to more public roles in his kingdom, most of us have been given a purpose and a place that often appears relatively minor by comparison to the pastors, ministers, and other "professional Christians" that we see in church each Sunday. That's not how God sees it though. In his eyes, our role in the kingdom, no matter how small it may appear to us, is just as important as that of any other believer (1 Corinthians 12).

The question we have to ask ourselves, however, is whether or not that will be enough for us. Will we be satisfied with knowing that we have done our best in whatever part God has given us? Will it be enough to know that God is pleased when it seems like he's the only one that truly appreciates all that we do?

Those are not always easy questions to answer, or at least easy answers to truly accept, when we look back at the time and effort we've put into serving the Lord in ways that only he really understands. And while few, if any, of us will ever get to the point that we do not desire the approval and recognition of others, we can find true peace and contentment only when God's approval and recognition are enough.

So whatever your divinely-granted part in God's kingdom plans may be, ask him to help you find peace and contentment in the knowledge that he is pleased when we do our best, through his power and guidance, to fulfill that purpose. And if that doesn't seem like enough today, know that he understands that as well but longs to help you get to the place where it is. Will you let him?

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Captain America: Civil War: a movie review

Marvel's Captain America: Civil War TrailerCaptain America: Civil War is probably my favorite Marvel movie to date (though some of that may be due to the fact that I just watched it). The action sequences are incredible with the airport scene from the preview more than meeting expectations. However, it also contained quite a few genuinely funny moments inserted at the perfect times to prevent the rather heavy and, at times, morose plot from becoming overbearing. As a result, the film was able to deal with some weighty issues and ideological conflict without losing sight of the fact that people ultimately go to superhero movies to have fun (a goal that Batman vs Superman unfortunately forgot a bit too frequently).

Most of that conflict revolves around the world's response to the collateral damage caused by the various Avengers in their previous films (this article has a good recap of what you need to know from those films before seeing this movie). The destruction of Sokovia at the end of Avengers: Age of Ultron is perhaps the most important example of such damage. Consequently, a group of world leaders from the United Nations decided that greater oversight of the team was needed and have formed a council to regulate when and where these superheroes are able to intervene.

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An Overview of Andy Crouch’s Strong and Weak

Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing (Credit: Andy Crouch)In his book Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk, and True Flourishing, Andy Crouch offers a nuanced view of flourishing and how to lead others to flourish in today's world. It doesn't come from simply being strong and prosperous, or completely transparent. Rather, according to the executive editor of Christianity Today, flourishing comes from a paradoxical combination of being both strong and weak in equal measure.

Crouch crafts a 2x2 chart formed by two axes—authority and vulnerability. The vertical axis is authority, defined as meaningful action that allows one to exercise a measure of dominion in the world in order to make a difference as image bearers. The horizontal axis is vulnerability. "The vulnerability that leads to flourishing," Crouch says, "requires risk, which is the possibility of loss—the chance that when we act, we will lose something we value."

These two axes divide the chart into four quadrants. A flourishing life leads up and to the right. But the road to flourishing is not straight and the idea of flourishing is not simple. Crouch's understanding of flourishing is less health and wealth, and more of "how it cares for the most vulnerable."

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