Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Movie Review ~ The Intern, rated PG-13

The InternThe Intern, rated PG-13
*** ½

Robert De Niro has long been one of my favorite actors, and is one of our greatest actors of all-time. But, he makes a lot of films, and over the past several years, it has been “hit and miss” – some have been good, and some not so good. Anne Hathaway is one of our better actresses today. Having seen the trailer for this film several times, I was really looking forward to seeing the film. And it really delivered – getting high marks from all in our Friday Night Movie Club. De Niro and Hathaway have excellent chemistry and lead a solid cast, which also includes Rene Russo and Linda Lavin.

The film is written and directed by Nancy Meyers (It’s Complicated, Something’s Gotta Give). It was filmed on location, mostly in Brooklyn, which we enjoyed as our group was just there on vacation two weeks ago.

De Niro stars as 70-year-old widower Ben Whittaker. Ben has discovered that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. He was successful in business for forty years, and likes to stay busy, so he decides to apply for a Senior Intern Program at an e-commerce business “About The Fit,” where he is assigned to the founder, Jules Ostin (Hathaway). But Jules is extremely busy (running an hour late to every meeting), and initially has no use for an intern.

Jules’ assistant Cameron (Andrew Rannells) tells her that despite the company’s success, their investors would like to bring an outside CEO to the company. Jules is devastated with this news, but begins interviewing prospects as requested.

Jules is married to Matt (Anders Holm), who had been the more successful of the two, but decided to be a stay at home Dad to their delightful daughter Paige (JoJo Kushner) so that Julies could pursue her work at “About The Fit”. But Jules’ work life is out of control and Matt is getting ignored, and their relationship is suffering.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the film is Ben’s interactions with his 20-something male co-workers, who don’t quite know what to think of him initially. He gives them advice on relationships, responsibility, attire and professionalism.

The film features some adult language, but not much compared to most PG-13 films, though God’s name is used inappropriately several times. There are some suggestive scenes, though nothing is shown.

We really enjoyed the film, but it ended abruptly, and a bit up in the air. We could think of better alternative endings. We don’t see any of the characters in the film demonstrating any faith. Regardless, this is one of my favorite movies of the year and highly recommended.

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Movie Review ~ Everest, rated PG-13

EverestEverest, rated PG-13

This film is based on true events from 1996 and were chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s bestselling book Into Thin Air and other books and films. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur, the film features an excellent cast and is the story of a people from a variety of backgrounds facing unbelievable conditions as they try to climb Mount Everest in Nepal. Why they want to spend $65,000 and face life-threatening conditions, in which the death rate at the time of the film was just over 5%, is another story.

There are a number of different groups making the climb to the summit. We follow the one led by Adventure Consulting’s Rob Hall, played by Jason Clarke. At one time the role was going to be filled by Christian Bale, but he chose to make Exodus: Gods and Kings instead.

Rob’s wife Jan (Keira Knightley) is pregnant with their first child. In his group is the arrogant Texas businessman Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), whose marriage with wife Peach (Robyn Wright) is shaky: Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), who holds down three jobs, including being a mailman, and is making a final try to reach the top of Everest; Yasuko Nama (Naoko Mori), who has climbed six of the Seven Summits and only needs to conquer Everest. Also in Hall’s group is journalist Jon Krakauer (Michael Kelly), who will be writing an article about the experience. Hall’s friend Scott (Jake Gyllenhaal), is now leading a group from a competing company. Helen (Emily Watson) is likeable as she coordinates communications activities from a tent at the base of the mountain.

Hall’s plans are to prep his group for forty days so that they can start their final climb to the summit of Everest, the highest point on the planet, on the morning of May 10. They seek to accomplish this at “the cruising altitude of a 747”, an altitude we are told that the human body isn’t meant to function at.

Despite the strong cast, which also includes Sam Worthington, and five Oscar nominees (Gyllenhaal, Hawkes, Knightley, Watson and Brolin), the star of this film is definitely the mountain. The film does an excellent job depicting the frightening conditions and difficulty of scaling Everest (walking over ladders spread across ravines, avalanches, extreme weather conditions, climbing at extreme altitudes, etc.). In a rarity, the film includes no adult language or sexuality. Even during life-threatening situations, we don’t see any of the characters displaying any faith (praying, etc.).

As a side note, as the film was being shot in Nepal an avalanche occurred on April 18, 2014 and killed 16 people on Everest, delaying the making of the film.

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Uncomfortable - Andy MineoMusic Review: Uncomfortable by Andy Mineo

27 year-old Andy Mineo follows up his 2014 Never Land EP with a very strong effort, one of my favorite albums of the year. It is an effort that has a variety of music styles with mature, transparent, serious, and at times, painfully honest lyrics. The album debuted at #4 on iTunes overall chart and #2 on the Hip-Hop/Rap chart. Mineo includes some special guests on the album, but surprisingly no Reach Records label mates (such as Lecrae, Trip Lee or KB). Ramon “Illmind” Ibanga serve as executive producer of the effort. Below are a few thoughts and key lyrics for each song:

Uncomfortable – Right off the bat, Andy sings that if you want live a comfortable life you should be sure not to love anyone, be selfish and never sacrifice. Key lyrics are:

My own people owned people, but they don’t own that
They say racism dead, man our president is black
Two terms in the White House, that don’t mean jack
If we still believe our present ain’t affected by our past

I apologize for Christians with pickets sayin’, “God hates fags”
I promise Jesus wouldn’t act like that

Uptown – I first listened to this Latin- flavored song while on vacation last week in New York City. It is a song about Mineo’s Washington Heights neighborhood located in uptown New York City. Key lyrics are:

Ain’t no other city make me feel this way
I been all around the world baby, but I’m here to stay

Now I Know – This song has a great beat, but it’s also about some serious things. Andy sings that the older he gets the more he realizes that almost everything he believed was a lie. This is the first of the less than positive references to his father. Although he feels jaded, he sings that he somehow still believes in God. Key lyrics are:

All that glitters ain’t made of gold
It’s the thing you’ve heard a million times before
It took a little time, now I realize
Now I know better, it’s better late than never
Now I know

Desperados – with guest Mali Music who handles the hook. Key lyrics are:

I’m sick and tired of songs that don’t dignify a lady

I gotta speak on my peace
Man, I can’t keep it a secret
The only way that you get acceptance is when you know you don’t need it, yeah

Hear My Heart – In this song Andy apologies to his sister Grace, who was born deaf, for never learning sign language. Key lyrics are:

My big sister Grace, I’m sorry I never learned to sign
And even though you were born deaf
I pray you forgive me for the years I lived blind

David’s Roof – This is a brief interlude sung in Spanish with soft horns. Translated it reads:

Prepare me for the war
Because comfort is the fall of kings
Is the fall of kings

The lyrics refer to King David on his roof looking at Bathsheba.

Rat Race – This song features Jon Bellion, known for his production on Eminem’s “The Monster”. Key lyrics are:

Tell ’em we don’t wanna play, yeah, yeah
We’re so okay with last place
We already won the game, yeah, yeah
No, we won’t run your rat race

And I ain’t tryna be another one of fame’s victims
Make a name for myself but never make a difference

Know That’s Right – Andy sings of knowing where he is going (Heaven). He also brings some of his humor here. Key lyrics are:

My Savior is Jewish, my lawyer is Jewish
My stomach is Buddhist
I’m trying to lose it, but I need to chill on Fig Newtons, I swear

There’s nothin’ left to say
I know where I’m goin’
We’re startin’ here today
And you know, you know that’s right

Vendetta – This song includes another reference to his father (and mother). It’s hard-hitting and features some of the best lyrics on the album. Andy includes part of the hook from 2 Pac’s song “Hail Mary”. Key lyrics are:

You wanna know the real problem in America?
Always has been and it always will be, me

Cause Pac did a lot more for me than Barack

I wanna snatch my generation out this apathy

Ghost – This song is about a close friendship that dissolved. You can feel Andy’s sadness as he tells us about it. Key lyrics include:

A thug changes and love changes
And them best friends become strangers (from “The Message” by Nas)

Love – Andy sings about what he’s learned about love, with references to his recent marriage. Key lyrics include:

Watch a man real close, what he choose to do with his money
That’ll tell you the truth about what he really (love)

Strange Motions – On this song, Andy states that that he taps into a psychedelic rock vibe trying some new stuff with Willow Stephens. Key lyrics include:

When these strange motions
They tell me don’t get lost in heaven

Make Me a Believer – This song features the incredible vocals of Third Day lead singer Mac Powell and addresses King David’s repentance after being confronted of his sin by the prophet Nathan. Key lyrics include:

Make me a believer
Cause all I’ve ever seen is pain
Make me a believer
Promise me I’m not the same
Make me a believer

I’ve listened to this album several times since its release. Each time I hear something new. Give this album multiple listens, it deserves it and you will hear something new and exciting with each succeeding listen as you experience Mineo’s growth as an artist.

Song of the Week
Pressing On by Bob Dylan

Perhaps the best thing about the disappointing film Captive was the version of Bob Dylan’s song “Pressing On” by Judith Hill. Listen to Dylan’s live version of the song from 1980.
Well I’m pressing on
Yes, I’m pressing on
Well I’m pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord

Many try to stop me, shake me up in my mind
Say, “Prove to me that He is Lord, show me a sign”
What kind of sign they need when it all come from within
When what’s lost has been found, what’s to come has already been?

Well I’m pressing on
Yes, I’m pressing on
Well I’m pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord

Shake the dust off of your feet, don’t look back
Nothing now can hold you down, nothing that you lack
Temptation’s not an easy thing, Adam given the devil reign
Because he sinned I got no choice, it run in my vein

Well I’m pressing on
Yes, I’m pressing on
Well I’m pressing on
To the higher calling of my Lord

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The Wright BrothersBOOK REVIEW:  The Wright Brothers by David McCullough. Simon and Schuster. 336 pages. 2015.

I’ve always enjoyed flying and still think it’s amazing that we can cross the country in a matter of hours at 35,000 feet in the air at speeds of more than 500 miles per hour. I remember many years ago how excited my Dad was the first time he flew on a business trip to New York City.

After seeing this book on the summer reading list of some leaders I respect I decided to check it out myself. I listened to the audiobook version, which was read by the author. McCullough’s voice isn’t the strongest, but I always prefer an audiobook that is read by the author, so I enjoyed McCullough’s reading of it.

The book tells the incredible story of brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio. Life-long bachelors, the brothers lived with their father Bishop Milton Wright and their sister Katharine. Katharine was a graduate of Oberlin College and a high school Latin teacher. Bishop Wright was an itinerant preacher. His wife Susan died of tuberculosis in 1889. There were two older brothers, Reuchlin and Lorin, who married and did not live in the same house with the Bishop, Katharine, Wilbur and Orville.

Wilbur and Orville were inseparable and worked hard six days a week, always taking Sunday off. They had a unity of purpose and were determined. Wilbur was older by five years; he was more dominant, serious and seemed to be a natural leader. Orville could become moody and irritable, but was the better mechanic of the two brothers; he was also shy, gentle and more optimistic.

At age 18, Wilbur was hit with a hockey stick by a man later executed for murder. He had planned to go to Yale, but those plans had to be cancelled. Instead he became a recluse for three years, suffering many physical problems.

The Bishop, Katharine and the boys all loved to read books. Ironically, after reading the writings of an agnostic (Robert G. Ingersoll), the boys stopped regular attendance of church services. The boys also started their own newspaper, the West Side News.

Orville was struck by typhoid fever. During his recovery, he read about gliders, and Otto Lilienthal, a German engineer. Lilienthal built gliders designed to imitate the wings of birds, but died in a crash in 1896. The brothers also loved to read about birds and aeronautics.

They started their own successful bicycle shop in Dayton. At the time, Dayton was a leader in inventions and patents. In 1899 in a room above their Bike Shop, the boys began developing their first flying machine. They soon began working on a manned glider.

As they looked for a place to experiment with their machine, the wind was an essential element. Kitty Hawk, part of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, was chosen for its steady moderate winds, soft sand beaches and isolation. Wilbur was the first to go there in September 1900 and the boys would have their first Kitty Hawk flight in 1903. They observed the local birds at Kitty Hawk, and learned from them; they loved their time there.

The boys were not daredevils. They approached their work with low risk. They did not have college degrees, friends in high places or much money. They pretty much did everything on their own, even when they were mocked by some in the media for attempting to do something that was thought to be impossible.

They would enter into a relationship with Octave Chanute, exchanging several letters over the years. They would hire Charles Taylor to run their Bike Shop for them. Taylor would be instrumental later in developing a lightweight engine for their flying machine. They would return to Kitty Hawk several times over the next few years constantly improving their machine. They applied for a patent for their flying machine in March, 1902. They later moved their testing to Huffman Prairie, near Dayton.

We hear about the Wright brother’s competitors, including Samuel Langley and his failed flights. Langley used $70,000 of public money on his flights, while the Wright brothers spent less than $1,000 of their own funds.

An interesting aspect of the Wright brothers’ story is that Washington was not interested in their flying machine for the longest time. Instead, there was interest from England and especially France. Later, they would sign a deal with a French company, and hold public demonstrations there and in Washington.

Orville was badly hurt in a crash in Washington, and spent five weeks in a hospital there, accompanied by Kathryn, before returning to Dayton. Meanwhile, Wilbur was in France for months where he became a celebrity. Kathryn and Orville would join Wilbur in France in 1909 and all three would become extremely popular in Europe.

Wilbur and Orville would finally receive the recognition they deserved in America with President Taft presenting them medals and a grand celebration being held in Dayton. They would eventually sign a contract with the War Department.

Much of their time afterwards would be spent with patent infringement lawsuits. Unfortunately, Wilbur’s typhoid fever would return, and he would die at age 45 in 1912.

As I read the book I enjoyed hearing about each new record achieved – length of time in the air, height, speed, etc. McCullough’s book is very detailed and he used hundreds of sources. It is so detailed it gives the reader the feeling that you were actually there observing what he is writing.

Book News

  • On My Shelf: Life and Books with Randy Alcorn. Ivan Mesa interviews Randy Alcorn about what books Alcorn regularly re-reads, what books have profoundly shaped him, his favorite works of fiction, and more.
  • 5 Dangers of Reading Christian Biographies. Our friend Kevin Halloran writes “As our souls and minds are encouraged and stirred afresh for the Kingdom through great Christian biographies, may we avoid these dangers and become people of grace as we seek to serve God with our gifts in our day and age.”

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. This week we look at CHAPTER SIX BLESSED ARE THE MEEK.

  • We must point out that this Beatitude, this particular description of the Christian, causes real surprise because it is so completely and entirely opposed to everything which the natural man thinks.
  • We are reminded at the very beginning that the Christian is altogether different from the world.
  • Matthew was writing primarily for the Jews. He places the Beatitudes in the forefront of the Gospel for that reason. They had ideas of the kingdom which, you remember, were not only materialistic but military also, and to them the Messiah was one who was going to lead them to victory. So they were thinking in terms of conquest and fighting in a material sense, and immediately our Lord dismisses all that. It is a great contrast to the Jews’ way of thinking.
  • But further, this Beatitude comes, alas, in the form of a very striking contrast to much thinking within the Christian Church at the present time. Am I wrong when I suggest that the controlling and prevailing thought of the Christian Church throughout the world seems to be the very opposite of what is indicated in this text?
  • `Blessed are the meek’, not those who trust to their own organizing, not those who trust to their own powers and abilities and their own institutions. Rather it is the very reverse of that.
  • There is an obvious logical connection between these different Beatitudes. Each one suggests the next and leads to the next.
  • I would point out, also, that these Beatitudes as they proceed become increasingly difficult.
  • Perhaps the best way of approaching this is to look at it in terms of certain examples.
    • I think, the greatest gentleman in the Old Testament-Abraham, and as you look at him you see a great and wonderful portrait of meekness. It is the great characteristic of his life.
    • You see it again in Moses, who is actually described as the most meek man on the face of the earth.
    • The same is true of David, especially in his relations with Saul. Read the story of David again and you will see meekness exemplified in a most extraordinary manner.
    • Look at the portrait of Stephen and you will see this text illustrated. Look at it in the case of Paul, that mighty man of God.
  • But of course we must come to the supreme example, and stand and look at our Lord Himself. You see it in the whole of His life. His attitude towards His enemies, but perhaps still more His utter submission to His Father, show His meekness.
  • He humbled Himself, became as a servant and even went to the death on the cross. That is meekness; that is lowliness; that is true humility; that is the quality which He Himself is teaching at this point.
  • First, let us notice again that it is not a natural quality. It is not a matter of a natural disposition, because all Christians are meant to be like this. It is not only some Christians. Every Christian, whatever his natural temperament or psychology may be, is meant to be like this.
  • No, it is not a matter of natural disposition; it is something that is produced by the Spirit of God.
  • Meekness is compatible with great strength. Meekness is compatible with great authority and power. That meekness is not merely a matter of outward manner, but also, and still more, of inward spirit.
  • Meekness is essentially a true view of oneself, expressing itself in attitude and conduct with respect to others. It is therefore two things. It is my attitude towards myself, and it is an expression of that in my relationship to others.
  • You see how inevitably it follows being `poor in spirit’ and `mourning’. A man can never be meek unless he is poor in spirit. A man can never be meek unless he has seen himself as a vile sinner. These other things must come first.
  • The meek man is not proud of himself, he does not in any sense glory in himself.
  • The meek man likewise does not demand anything for himself.
  • The man who is meek is not even sensitive about himself. He is not always watching himself and his own interests. He is not always on the defensive.
  • To be truly meek means we no longer protect ourselves, because we see there is nothing worth defending.
  • The man who is truly meek never pities himself, he is never sorry for himself.
  • The man who is truly meek is the one who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do. That, it seems to me, is its essential quality.
  • A person who is of the type that I have been describing must of necessity be mild.
  • it also means that there will be a complete absence of the spirit of retaliation, having our own back or seeing that the other person pays for it. It also means, therefore, that we shall be patient and long-suffering, especially when we suffer unjustly.
  • Above all we must be ready to be taught by the Spirit, and led by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Meekness always implies a teachable spirit.
  • We are to leave everything-ourselves, our rights, our cause, our whole future-in the hands of God, and especially so if we feel we are suffering unjustly.
  • The meek already inherit the earth in this life, in this way. A man who is truly meek is a man who is always satisfied, he is a man who is already content.
  • All things are yours if you are meek and truly Christian; you have already inherited the earth.
  • But obviously it has a future reference also.
  • You are going to judge the world, you are going to judge angels. You will then have inherited the earth.
  • But I think it is all to be found in those words of our Lord in Luke xiv. ii: `Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.’ There, then, is what is meant by being meek.
  • If we truly claim that we have received the Holy Spirit, and this is the claim of every Christian, we have no excuse if we are not meek. It is not something that you do and I do. It is a character that is produced in us by the Spirit. It is the direct fruit of the Spirit.

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

this.n.that-small                    CHRISTIAN LIVING:

  • Dear Moms, You Do More Than You Know. Kevin DeYoung writes “Here’s what I know from the first chapter and a half of Exodus: Up to this point in Exodus, the entire story has been moved forward by women, and specifically by women looking after children. This great story of divine deliverance–this world famous salvation story that will set the table for the salvation story of Calvary that is yet to come–would never have gotten off the ground if it weren’t for women.”
  • How to Handle Your Spouses’ Sexual Past. Jasmine Holmes shares these three sins to fight.
  • Five Suggestions for Christians in the Midst of the Sexual Revolution. Kevin DeYoung writes “Hardly a week goes by without another social media parade marching by in celebration of the sexual revolution.” He offers five suggestions on how evangelical Christians and evangelical churches should respond.
  • I Am An Old-Fashioned Christian. Tim Challies writes “I get the books. I read the articles. I see the news. Christianity seems ready to move on. And I realize anew: I am an old-fashioned kind of Christian.” Your Neighbor Knows About the Wrath of God. John Piper writes “My plea is that all of us who love the gospel of Jesus and who love people will not shrink back from speaking boldly and clearly and wisely about the whole counsel of God, including the wonderful truth that Jesus delivers from the wrath of God.”
  • Adoption Improved the Perfect Little Family. In this five-minute video, Voddie and Bridget Baucham discuss their adoption journey and what God has been teaching them through it.
  • What Is a Christian’s Responsibility to Government? R.C. Sproul writes “The New Testament gives us some broad principles on how we are supposed to respond to government.”


  • A Big God Will Eclipse Every Pain. Marshall Segal writes “Often the moments of life we feel most helpful are when sitting with friends or family who are suffering.”


  • If the Gospel Isn’t Shaping Your Church, What Is? Mark Dever (pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.), J. D. Greear (pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina) and John Onwuchekwa (pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, Georgia) reflect on the “gospel-centeredness” of their own ministries, share advice for church leaders, and more.
  • Tough Love for the Black Church. Christianity Today interviews Thabiti Anyabwile, a Reformed pastor in Washington, D.C., who offers celebration, critique, and hope for revival.


  • An Appeal to Men to Stand up for Women and Care for and Defend Their Children. Randy Alcorn shares the tenth “Planned Parenthood” video and writes “The history of abortion in America should bring more shame to men than to anyone. No pregnancy happens without a man. Men should take the responsibility for their own purity and to protect that of women.” He also offers a free copy of his Randy Alcorn’s book Why ProLife?
  • Yogi Berra Dies. The Yankee great passed away recently at the age of 90. Here are some of his famous sayings accumulated by Gene Veith.
Courtesy of World Magazine

Courtesy of World Magazine


Ligonier National Conference

Beyond the Ark by Doug Michael

                   Beyond the Ark by Doug Michael

 Favorite QuotesEvery hour of every day, God is richly blessing us; both when we sleep and when we wake His mercy waits upon us. Charles Spurgeon

One of these days you may be unable to get rid of those habits which you are now forming. Charles Spurgeon

When God has given you your heart’s desire, what have you done with your heart’s desire? Jeremiah Burroughs

God answers the prayer we ought to have made rather than the prayer we did make.  J.I. Packer

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles5 Gears

    • 5 Gears – A New Productivity Book to Check Out. Brad Lomenick writes that this new book by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram, founders of GiANT Worldwide will “Help you develop a rhythm and routine for your life that allows you to be productive at the right time of the day, as well as shift gears to be truly present with your family and fully recharge.”
    • The New Necessity for Leadership Success. Dan Rockwell shares 25 qualities and behaviors that will make success more likely for leaders
    • Foundation. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell discusses building a strong foundation.
    • The Four Phases of Your Life’s Work (Which Describes You?) Dan Cumberland writes “There are four major phases that people find themselves in when it comes to doing their life’s work. These phases describe a person’s journey toward a deeper expression of who she is in what she does.
    • Five Dangers of Only Looking at the Past. Eric Geiger writes “There are many leaders who are stuck in the past. While there are dangers in leading with only a view of the present or with only a view of the future, leading with your mind only rooted in the past is destructive. Here are five dangers with only looking at the past as you lead.”
    • 5 Habits of Innovative Leaders. Samuel Deuth shares five habits and key questions that will help us develop as innovative leaders.
    • Four Ways Leaders Should Rebuke and Challenge. Eric Geiger writes “In a leadership role, leaders are required to confront and challenge team members and peers. While the issues are often performance and communication issues, and not sin issues, we can still glean insight from biblical exhortations on confrontation. Leaders should rebuke and challenge others in the following four ways.”
    • 7 Signs Your Culture is Sick. Dan Rockwell writes “I don’t want to be a pessimist, but I think there’s more sickness in organizational cultures than health. Healthy organizational culture results from focused attention. Sick cultures indicate distraction and neglect.”
    • Treating Our Tasks as from God. Robert Fraser writes “Once we change bosses [from men to Christ], we are to obey our earthly bosses “just as we would obey Christ” (Eph 6:5). Even though our tasks are dictated by others, we are to treat them as if they come directly from the throne of God. Then we become “like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from our heart” (Eph. 6:6). By viewing our tasks this way, several things happen.”
    • How to Re(Gain) Your Leader’s Trust. Eric Geiger writes “Credibility with your leader is essential. If your leader does not trust you, your influence and impact will be greatly hampered. So how do you regain your leader’s trust in the midst of difficult challenges and disappointment? Here are six steps to regain your leader’s trust.”
    • What Does Hope Have to Do with Leadership? Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “Human beings cannot live without some form of human recognition or some sense of hope that things will get better. The same is true in the business world.”

“Vocation is integral, not incidental, to the mission of God in the world.” Steven Garber

 Faith and Work Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?

Kingdom CallingKingdom Calling: Vocational Calling for the Common Good by Amy L. Sherman

I first read this book in a “Calling, Vocation and Work” class with Dr. Michael Williams and Dr. Bradley Matthews at Covenant Seminary two summers ago. King Jesus is on a mission to bring restoration in every sphere of society and has invited His followers to join Him in this Kingdom-advancing work. Learn to deeply, creatively and intentionally steward your vocational power in ways that advance foretastes of the coming Kingdom of shalom for our neighbors near and far.

It’s an excellent book, so let’s read it together. This week we’ll look at Chapter 7 ~ Discovery.

  • Beyond casting an inspirational vision to congregants to steward their vocation for God’s glory and the good of their neighbors, church leaders need to provide a system that helps their people to examine their gifts, passions and “holy discontents,” and the dimensions of their vocational power.
  • Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in the Kansas City metro area is a national leader in walking members through this process of discovery and equipping for service.
  • Any church serious about vocational stewardship needs to designate a specific individual or team, paid or unpaid, that devotes time and energy to the work of equipping the laity.
  • Pleasant Valley’s equipping system is composed of staff training, a thoughtful adult education curriculum, one-on-one coaching and a database tool called Church Community Builder (CCB).
  • Congregational leaders need to establish deliberate pathways for helping members to discover and apply their talents.
  • At Pleasant Valley, the first steps on that pathway unfold through its four-week “Discover Your Design” course. This course relies heavily on Saddleback Church’s SHAPE assessment as well as assessment and spiritual formation tools that Pleasant Valley has crafted. Congregants learn through the class to identify their spiritual gifts, passions, skills, abilities and personality traits, and the key life experiences that have shaped them.
  • This high view of laity is emphasized in Vernon’s preaching from the pulpit. That preaching is then reinforced by the strong emphasis leaders put on having all congregants take the “Discover Your Design” course.
  • The task of discovery includes, but must go beyond, the traditional emphasis on spiritual gifts assessments. The vast majority of these assessments don’t help congregants to see how they can apply their spiritual gifts in the context of their daily work or in volunteer service outside the four walls of the church.
  • The seven dimensions of vocational power my fellow church members and I have identified are knowledge/expertise, platform, networks, influence, position, skills and reputation/fame.
  • Knowledge/expertise. Workers accumulate specific knowledge for the industries or fields they are in. This results from educational and vocational preparation as well as on-the-job experience.
  • Platform. Some professions provide workers a voice, an opportunity to get a message out or to shine the spotlight on an issue, cause, person, place or organization.
  • Networks. To take stock of vocational networks, congregants can begin by listing current and former coworkers. Then they can identify friends and colleagues from their time of vocational preparation (college, graduate school, training programs); colleagues they have met at professional conferences; and customers, vendors, partners, mentors and public officials they have interacted with on the job. Most people are surprised to see just how wide their network is.
  • Influence. In 2003, a book called The Influentials by Ed Keller and Jon Berry made the case that the kind of power known as influence-the capacity to cause an effect in indirect or intangible ways-is not synonymous with position. That is, people can have substantial influence without holding high positions. All Christians, regardless of their position within an organization, should consider what degree of influence they possess in their work setting-and how that influence can be used creatively for good.
  • Position is a dimension of vocational power that involves the degree of authority one has within an organization based on seniority or title or reputation. It also denotes the standing or credibility a person has that comes from the positional power of her or his organizational affiliation.
  • Sometimes people are so used to simply performing their jobs that they don’t often stop to take stock of the many different skills they are using in the process. Individuals in various vocations possess an almost endless array of skills.
  • Some professionals achieve a high level of name recognition within-and sometimes beyond-their vocational field. This can afford them entry to powerbrokers, capacities for mobilizing a large following or strategic opportunities to direct wide-scale attention to a particular issue or cause.
  • Beyond identifying spiritual gifts and dimensions of vocational power, the task of discovery involves encouraging congregants to discern their holy discontent.
  • A holy discontent is that passion that “wrecks” a person-that issue that “keeps you up at night; something in the world you want to fix.”

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3 Thoughts on Retirement for the Christian

Life is too shortAre you still working? When are you going to retire? I hear that often these days when I see people I worked with in the past but haven’t seen for a while, or from friends or members of my extended family. And the truth be told, many people that I have worked with have retired over the past few years. It’s hard to believe. One day you are the youngest on the staff and then seemingly in no time, you are the oldest.

But I’m not one who has ever counted down the years to retirement. I still enjoy my job and the people I work with, and that makes a big difference. But I know that some people hate their jobs and can’t wait to retire, the ultimate “Is it Friday yet?”

How should Christians think about retirement? Is it all about taking it easy, traveling and playing golf? Or maybe taking a part-time job and doing some volunteer work? John Piper has been helpful in shaping my thoughts on retirement. Here are three ideas for you to consider based on his writings:

  1. The Bible doesn’t explicitly talk about retirement. We don’t, for example, read about Moses or the Apostle Paul retiring at age 65. Piper writes: “Finishing life to the glory of Christ means resolutely resisting the typical American dream of retirement.” I know this will be unpopular with some readers and some will object to this concept, feeling that they deserve a life of leisure after working for around fifty years. But I believe that thinking is culturally based and ultimately unbiblical. Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?
  2. Finish strong. I want to finish strong, and be like Paul when he wrote in II Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. I long to hear my Savior say “Well done, good and faithful servant”. My model for finishing strong is a man named Art. Now well into his 80’s, Art has written many articles for Coram Deo over the years, mentors young men, reads a lot, and continues to run the race well. May I say that he “doesn’t act his age”, and I mean that in the most positive and respectful way. May I be like Art as I finish my race. Piper writes that finishing life to the glory of Christ means finishing life in a way that makes Christ look glorious. How about you? How do you plan to spend your final years to make a difference for Christ?
  3. Don’t Waste Your Retirement. John Piper’s excellent book Don’t Waste Your Life is one of my favorites, and one that I have read often. In that book Piper writes:  “I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Punta Gorda, Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.”  At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells.  Picture them before Christ at the great Day of Judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.”

If we retire in our late 50’s or early to mid-60’s, hopefully we will have many years before our physical and mental powers fail. Piper challenges us to live those final years for the glory of Christ. If you are retired, or within a few years of retiring, how do you plan to live them in such a way as to show that Christ is your highest Treasure?

Lord willing, I hope to not waste my retirement. Completing my seminary education has served to equip me theologically. In God’s providence, I hope to serve my local church through teaching, mentoring and discipling during my retirement for as long as I am able.

Piper charges us to: “Live dangerously for the one who loved you and died for you in his thirties. Don’t throw your life away on the American dream of retirement.”  How do you plan to live dangerously in your last season of life for Christ?

Only One Life


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