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Coram Deo ~ Living Life Under the Gaze of God

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~ UPDATED PAGES ON THE BLOG ~

I’m Currently ReadingChuck Pagano

 Book Review: Sidelined: Overcoming Odds Through Unity, Passion and Perseverance by Chuck Pagano with Bruce A. Tollner

 ~ THIS AND THAT ~

CHRISTIAN LIVING:

  • A New Convert’s Guide to Understanding Christian Code Words. This article from Stephen Altrogge may give you a chuckle or two
  • 10 Ways to Hate God. David Murray looks at a passage from R.C. Sproul’s classic book The Holiness of God and then shares ten ways in which we hate God.
  • Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart. J.D. Greear writes “On this issue—the most important issue on earth—we have to be absolutely clear. I believe it is time to put the shorthand aside. We need to preach salvation by repentance before God and faith in the finished work of Christ.”
  • The Measure You Use. Kevin DeYoung writes that the past several months have been difficult in regards to race relations in America. He writes “I know we ought to use the measure with each other that we want used for us (Matt. 7:2): “Don’t assume the worst about me because I don’t look like you. Don’t size me up based on how I dress, where I live, who my parents were, or if I ever knew my parents. Don’t speak before you listen. Don’t rush to judgment before you’ve heard from all sides.” Isn’t that what we all want?”
  • Francis Chan on Fighting for Joy, Singles Marrying Later, Spousal Arguments, and Monitoring Video Game Time. Our friend Kevin Halloran writes “Francis Chan, pastor and author of the new marriage book You, Me and Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternitywas recently a guest on the Ask Pastor John Podcast, where he shared about fighting for joy, leading his family, why singles marry later, spousal arguments, and other topics, including monitoring video game time of kids in the “Dads and Family Leadership” episode.”
  • The Most Difficult Time to Lead. Tim Challies writes “The most difficult time to lead is when you have forfeited the respect of those who are meant to follow you, when your confidence, and theirs, is shattered. But this is also the most important time to lead. This is where a real man will, and must, lead.”
  • Are You a Peter Pan Christian? Kevin Halloran writes “Many Christians function as spiritual Peter Pans who, consciously or unconsciously, avoid growing up in Christ. They put Christ on the side in their lives instead of at the forefront. They don’t realize that there is something so much greater, something so much more satisfying, more secure, and more significant than coasting in their immaturity, staying in spiritual diapers and drinking from bottles.”
  • I’ve Sinned; Now What? Eleven Reminders For Dealing with Sin. Rey Reynoso writes “On this side of eternity we will sin. I’m not saying we must sin. Sin is not necessary to human life but it is part of human life. On this side of eternity we will struggle with it. We will sin.” He shares eleven things (to limit it to a readable number) to keep in mind in regards to sin.
  • What To Do When We’re Prayerless. Jon Bloom of Desiring God writes “When we’re prayerless, the first thing we must address is the cause of our faith deficit.” He offers five suggestions for doing that.

THEOLOGY:

  • Why Do I Exist? Tony Reinke of Desiring God writes “Am I failing at life? Am I succeeding? And why do I exist in the first place? These questions are huge, we all ask them, and thankfully the Bible helps us with answers in the form of a litmus test.”
  • Election: Unconditional, Eternal, and Loving. Anthony Carter writes “Election is unconditional. God did not choose His people based on who we are or what we can do, on any potential we have or that He saw in us. Rather, He chose us when we had met no prior condition or obligation.”
  • God’s Super-Apostles. Tim Challies writes “There is a new religious movement alive today that is gaining momentum and claiming followers. Like so many movements before it, it began in the United States and has since spread around the world. I have seen many manifestations of it right here in Canada. It is called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and it is the subject of God’s Super-Apostles, where it receives some well-deserved scrutiny.”
  • Peter Jones interviewed on Only Two Religions Teaching Series.  R.C. Sproul and Lee Webb of Ligonier Ministries interview Peter Jones to discuss the theme of his teaching series Only Two Religions. Together they discuss the fundamental religious convictions that drive modern culture, demonstrating that in the final analysis there can be only two religions—worship of the Creator or worship of creation.

TO LIGHT A FIRE UNDER YOU IN YOUR CHRISTIAN JOURNEY:

  • Does your city measure up to Indianapolis? Motivated by faith, many ministries in this Midwestern city bear fruit in their good works.
  • The Eighth Decade of Life and the Ultimate Purpose of God. John Piper recently turned 69 years old. He writes “As the year and the decade turn, I have been thinking about Jesus’ final words, “Teach [all the nations] to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Not just to know what I commanded, but to observe it — obey it, do it. The last command of the Lord was, “Teach the nations in such a way that they obey me.” So I invite you to follow me as I meditate on not wasting my life in view of this final command.
  • Religious liberty and persecution: a global perspective. David Platt writes “Surrounded by the global reality of religious persecution, and driven by our love for God, we must act. We must pray and work for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers (see 1 Corinthians 12). In a land of religious liberty, we have a biblical responsibility to stand up and speak out on their behalf.”

ENCOURAGEMENT:

  • Comfort, Hope and Encouragement from God. Randy Alcorn writes” Some days no one but God has the right words. I suggest you read each of these verses aloud. Or, stop on one that really speaks to you and read and reread it aloud. Meditate on it, memorize it, and let God speak to your heart as only He can. These are the very words of God. Shut out all the rest of the voices in the world—TV, radio, magazines, books, internet, email, social media—and listen to His voice alone.”
  • A Prayer for Days When You’re Feeling Weary. Here’s another wonderful prayer from Scotty Smith.

TELEVISION

BOOKS AND VIDEOS:

MUSIC:

  • Rapper Trip Lee, Self-Described ‘Boring’ Guy, Talks Finding Inspiration in Malcolm Gladwell, CS Lewis, and Jay-Z. This is part one of a two-part interview with rapper, pastor, and author Trip Lee about his latest projects, his thoughts on U.S. Christianity, his new church plant, and his perspectives on race as black man in America
  • Third Day Pre-Order. You can pre-order the Deluxe edition of Third Day’s new album Lead Us Back: Songs of Worship on iTunes. The album will be released on March 3. However, when you pre-order the album, you instantly get downloads of the new single “Soul on Fire” (featuring All Songs & Daughters) and eight live recordings.
  • Passion 2015 Album. The live recording from the Passion 2015 conference will be released March 17. Artists that were scheduled to perform at the events held in Atlanta and Houston earlier this year were Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Crowder, Christy Nockels, Kristian Stanfill and Brett Younker.
  • Song Premiere: Bob Dylan, “Stay With Me”. The first single from Dylan’s upcoming Shadows in the Night album of songs recorded by Frank Sinatra.
  • Bob Dylan’s interview with AARP The Magazine. In his first interview in almost three years, Bob Dylan spoke with AARP The Magazine in advance of his upcoming album, Shadows in the Night.
  • First review of Bob Dylan’s Shadows in the Night album. Neil McCormick of The Telegraph in the UK says that “Shadows In The Night is quite gorgeous, the sound of an old man picking over memories, lost loves, regrets, triumphs and fading hopes amid an ambient tumble of haunting electric instrumentation. It is spooky, bittersweet, mesmerizingly moving and showcases the best singing from Dylan in 25 years.” The album will be released February 3.
Christian Cartoon

Beyond the Ark by Doug Michael

IN THE NEWS:

  • Aaron Rodgers: God Probably Doesn’t Care Who Wins Football Games. Green Bay Packer quarterback Aaron Rodgers states ““I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome,” Rodgers said. “He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”
  • Ben Zobrist Takes out Newspaper Ad to Say Goodbye to Fans and Teammates. Zobrist is a Christian and played his high school baseball in nearby Eureka, Illinois
  • The Techniques of a Sexual Predator. Unfortunately this article hits a little too close to home as a man in my department was arrested for this last week. Tim Challies writes “In his book On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Children Abuse at Church, Deepak Reju provides a look at the techniques of a sexual predator, and focuses on the way a predator will prepare or groom an entire church so that he can take advantage of its children. His words are worth reading and worth considering.”
  • Joshua Harris resigns to attend seminary. Watch or read his sermon from Sunday.
  • Barna Group Surveys and Statistics Challenged. James C. Pakala Library Director at Covenant Theological Seminary shares concerns with Barna writes “The Barna Group’s statistic was not particularly well-constructed to begin with, but it got substantially less accurate and more dire with each retelling”.
  • Most Godless Cities in America. Time Magazine cites a report from the American Bible Society that ranks cities based on the amount of Bible reading.
  • Abortion and the Gospel. Russell Moore wrote “As today marks the forty-second anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, most Christians recognize, and rightly so, the loss of millions of unborn human lives. What we often forget is the second casualty of an abortion culture: the consciences of countless men and women.
  • Abortion Bill Dropped Amid Concerns of Female GOP Lawmakers. House Republican leaders abruptly dropped plans late Wednesday to vote on an anti-abortion bill amid a revolt by female GOP lawmakers concerned that the legislation’s restrictive language would once again spoil the party’s chances of broadening its appeal to women and younger voters.
  • It, a new pro-life poem from John Piper:

It
I waited in my nausea,
Surrounded by stone-faced bourgeois
With rolls of twenty-dollar bills
In jacket pockets with their pills,
Funds from the ATM outside
The clinic door, because the guide,
Imbedded in the website said
“Cash only in advance.” The dread
Concealed — as if I really read
The Mademoiselle — my eyes instead
Were staring at the vinyl floor,
So clean and cold, a wise decor
In case a mother’s vomit soiled
The luster underfoot, and spoiled
This sterile place.

And then, all through
The brief and mindless interview
And prep, they called my baby “it.”
I tried to think that what God knit
In me was only “it.” I gripped
For dear life every word — a script
To somehow make this life an “it.”
But then, with legs still split
In clamps, I lifted up my head,
And saw there on the table, dead,
A tiny torso, not an “it,” but “she,”
Destroyed, and with her, me.
~ John Piper

Favorite Quotes of the Week ~ 1.26.2015

  • The Fall means, we should expect to be regularly frustrated in our work even though we may be in exactly the right vocation. Tim Keller
  • Encouragement and hope flow through our weakness more easily than through our competency. Scotty Smith
  • Where God has put a period, the devil puts a question mark, casting doubt. Steven Lawson
  • You can’t have an informed mind without an engaged heart. Tim Keller
  • The next time someone tells you, “The Church is full of a bunch of hypocrites.” You can respond, “You don’t even know the half of it.” Kevin DeYoung
  • We are not primarily called to do something or go somewhere; we are called to Someone.  Os Guinness
  • Doing your job well is an act of worship. Scotty Smith
  • When a man truly sees himself, he knows nobody can say anything about him that is too bad. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • I guarantee you there is someone in your life that deserves more appreciation. Who is it? Find that person and let them know! Andy Andrews
  • When you share the gospel, you’re not calling people to a better way of life, you’re proclaiming to them eternal life. Kevin DeYoung
  • Get low; grace will meet you there. Jack Miller
  • Sometimes sadness is sanity. Tears are the reasonable response. Quickness to shush, shame or fix them, can reveal a resistance to wisdom. Zack Eswine
  • Spiritual growth is marked by a growing realization of just how much grace you need. Tullian Tchividjian
  • Sometimes providences, like Hebrew letters, must be read backwards. John Flavel
  • When your sin is deep, the suffering is strong, and your resolve is weak, remember: he gives more grace (James 4:6). Kevin DeYoung
  • Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. Lou Holtz
  • I want you to see everything you do in a new light so that you can become an agent for good, right where you are, to the glory of God. Don’t just try to get things done, seek to serve others to the glory of God in everything you do.  More than that, be proactive and enthusiastic in doing good for others.  Matt Perman
  • To remember Dr. Martin Luther King, here’s a quote I love, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” Ken Blanchard
  • How Religion Works: If I obey, then God will love and accept me. The Gospel: I’m loved and accepted, therefore I wish to obey. Tim Keller
  • There’s no sense in improving your marriage until you are secure with God. Francis Chan
  • In grey areas here’s a tip: Embrace things that lead you closer to Jesus, and reject things that lead you away from Jesus. Trip Lee
  • GREAT Leaders always do what is right, instead of settling for doing what is easy. Right takes work. Brad Lomenick
  • Humility is not an ‘added extra,’ one of the lesser Christian virtues. If you don’t have humility, you may be lost. Mark Dever
  • If you are justified, you can no more be unjustified than Christ can be pulled down from heaven. Sinclair Ferguson
  • The heart of the new birth is the new birth of the heart. Steven Lawson
  • Legalism has its origin in self-worship. Tom Schreiner
  • A self-consumed desire to be famous and cool doesn’t come from a Spirit-consumed heart that desires wisdom and humility. Burk Parsons
  • Many in Jesus’ day saw him, but they didn’t have communion with him. You can have more of Christ by faith than they had by sight. Kevin DeYoung
  • The time is always right to do what is right. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • The grace of God sets us free from a life of perfection, performing, and pretending. Tullian Tchividjian
  • WHAT a person thinks is determined by HOW a person thinks. Andy Andrews
  • But regardless of our circumstances, they do not define us — not unless we give in and let them. Circumstances never determine who we are; they reveal who we are. Chuck Pagano
  • Contentment is an undervalued grace. Sinclair Ferguson
  • Moral cowardice at the expense of the vulnerable unborn is both wrong and pathetic. Russell Moore
  • God never made a promise that was too good to be true. D. L. Moody
  • By praying with friends and others, you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived. Tim Keller
  • I am dismayed at my capacity for self-reliance (which is to say, my capacity for prayerlessness). Tim Challies
  • Grace doesn’t lead us into destructive behavior. Sin does. And grace is the only remedy for sin. The kindness of God leads to repentance. Tullian Tchividjian
  • Do I learn through dark providences, or simply seem relieved when they are over? Sinclair Ferguson

integrating faith and work

  • The jerk Factor. Patrick Lencioni writes “I had the opportunity to work with a college baseball team recently, and came to a realization that helps explain why accountability is one of the biggest challenges for team members and leaders alike.  I call it “The jerk Factor,” and yes, the “j” is not capitalized for a reason.”
  • 4 Ways to Beat the Resistance and Reach Your Goals This Year. Michael Hyatt offers four ways that are perfectly timed for the transitional period when so many of us contemplate giving up on our goals.
  • Overcoming Career Challenges. Jasen Lawrence shares three defining moments that exemplify the important role God has played in shaping his career.
  • Are You Celebrating Where You Are? This short article from Randy Gravitt makes a good point about being content in the situation we are in now.
  • The Role of ‘Spiritual Wisdom and Understanding’ in Our Vocations. In this excerpt from his book Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview Al Wolters argues that “spiritual wisdom and understanding” in our various vocational spheres can often be discerned from the created order—even as he maintains the unique place for proclamation of the gospel.
  •  Life-Changing Insights from Louis Zamperini. Dr. Alan Zimmerman shares three life-changing insights he got from Louis Zamperini (the subject of the book and movie Unbroken in this Tuesday Tip.
  • The Lesson I Discovered about Calling in Unbroken. Hugh Welchel writes “There is a great lesson for all of us in Zamperini’s story. God has called each of us to do good works, at our jobs, in our families, our churches, and in our communities. Everything in our lives, good and bad, has prepared us for what he has called us to do today.”
  • Overcoming obstacles – Steven Claunch. I saw this video in a meeting at work recently and wanted to share it, it’s that good.
  • Serving Patients in a Broken World. Enjoy this interview with Kaileigh Mobbs who works as a nurse in a surgical/trauma intensive care unit.
  • The Importance of Prayer in the Workplace. Caroline Cross writes “Rituals and routines matter and yet Christians often disregard what should be the most important workplace habit: prayer.”
  • Inspiring a Listening Revolution. Marty Moore writes of Bill Ury: “Bill’s new TEDx Talk “The Power of Listening” was significantly influenced by his discussions with us. In it, he challenges viewers to consider the fights—even wars– that could be averted and the personal relationships that could be mended if every one of us simply committed to listening a little more and talking a little less. He invites all of us to join a listening revolution because better listening has the power to transform every single human relationship. Barry-Wehmiller is helping to lead the way. We hope you will join us.
  •  The Healthy Leader. Dave Kraft writes “Okay, here are a few things I have been learning about being a healthy leader who will last and not disintegrate physically due to my own stupidity and poor choices. Doctor Swenson as written two excellent books on this subject.  Margin and The Overload Syndrome. They have both been a rich source of instruction, warning and wisdom. Here are my six favorite gems from “Overload Syndrome”
  • Testing Leadership Ambition. Eric Geiger writes “Christian leaders, in any environment, often struggle with how to think through and process the ambition that fills them. There is a battle in our hearts that leads us to either self-righteously cast out all attempts to grow in our calling and gifts (labeling them “selfish”), or to selfishly pursue all attempts to increase our “platform,” that dangerous term, by outdoing all others in showing honor to ourselves.” He suggests three ways that we can test our ambition and two ways that we can be presently faithful while ambitiously pursuing future possibilities.
  • Leadership Requires More than Self-Awareness. Eric Geiger writes “A wise and effective leader possesses more than self-awareness; he also has a keen awareness of the team. More than a sense of his/her unique gifting, he/she has a sense of the people on the team, their gifts and potential. Team-awareness enables the leader to leverage the gifts of the team, to hand over responsibility to others, and to utilize ‘roving leadership’.”
  • 3 Leadership Lessons from Winston Churchill. On the eve of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death, Gavin Ortlund shares these three lessons.
  •  John Maxwell on Leadership. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell talks discusses the word leadership.
  • John Maxwell on Adding Value. John Maxwell is known for saying that he wants to add value to us. What does he mean by that? Check out this “Minute with Maxwell”.
  • John Maxwell discussing Leading. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell, he looks at the word “Leading”.
  • 3 Hard but Powerful Truths about Likeability and Leadership. Carey Nieuwhof writes “The tension between likeability and leadership is much older than social media. Every leader in every generation has had to struggle with it at some level. While you may never resolve the tension, understanding it and keeping it in front of you will help you navigate it better.”

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

Generous JusticeGenerous Justice Book Club  

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Tim Keller

Tammy and I are reading and discussing this book by Tim Keller. This week we look at Chapter 2: Justice and the Old Testament.

The Conviction to Lead by Albert MohlerThe Conviction to Lead Book Club

The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler

We’re reading this excellent book from Albert Mohler, one of the best that I’ve read on leadership. It is broken down into 25 relatively short chapters. Won’t you read along with us? This week we look at Chapter 2 Leading Is Believing.

 


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Movie Review ~ American Sniper

American SniperAmerican Sniper, rated R
****

This film, directed by Clint Eastwood (coming just six months after his Jersey Boys), is the true story of Chris Kyle, largely based on his autobiography. The film, which received an Oscar nomination for Best Film, took the country by storm on opening weekend, far exceeding projections, and doing in excess of $100M, selling out many shows across the county. And judging by the size of the audience when we saw it last night, and the weak new openings, it may very well be the top film again this weekend.

Bradley Cooper received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal of Kyle, his third nomination in three years – Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and American Hustle (2013). The nomination was well deserved, though I’m still perplexed that David Oyelowo did not receive a nomination for his powerful portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma.

We see Kyle as a young boy at the dinner table with his father, mother and younger brother. His father tells them that there are three kinds of people – sheep, wolves and sheep dogs. He wants his sons to be sheep dogs who protect the sheep. Chris would take that advice to heart.

Chris’ Dad taught him to shoot a gun early, and after killing a deer tells him that he has a gift. Chris is initially wasting his life as rodeo rider, but later joins the Navy Seals after seeing the television coverage of the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

While going through training he meets Taya (Sienna Miller, who also starred in Foxcatcher, another film receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Film). Taya would become his wife.

Chris will use the gift his father told him that he had to serve his country as an expert marksman, a sniper (the sheepdog) to protect his fellow soldiers (the sheep) as the enemy (the wolves) tries to take them out over four tours in Iraq. The film follows the American soldiers as they try to take out “the Butcher”, who has his own expert sniper as his protector.

Chris is so effective as a sniper that he earned the nickname “The Legend” (and also a bounty on his head). In fact, Kyle would become the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, accumulating 160 confirmed kills. The scenes in Iraq are brutal as we see many of these kills clearly and graphically portrayed.

Back home, Taya is now the mother of two. But even when Kyle returns home between tours, he is not really there. The war has changed him. Taya begs him to stay home and not return to the war. They need him too, but Chris remembers what his father told him and he returns again and again as the sheep dog.

Cooper and Miller both deliver excellent performances. After seeing the film I’m surprised that Eastwood did not receive a Best Director nomination – he deserves it.

Kyle was brought up in the church and carries a Bible with him at all times, though we never see him reading it. The film shows that he and Taya had pre-marital sex, though no nudity is included. The film is appropriately rated “R” for extreme war violence and a significant amount of adult language. It will not be for everyone due to the violence and language. However, the film is worth seeing for the excellent acting performances, directing by Eastwood and the powerful and tragic real life story of Chris Kyle. The end of the film includes some real footage from Chris’ life.


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God Works All Things for Good

I’ve recently been listening to Alistair Begg’s excellent series on Esther and the doctrine of the providence of God (The Unseen God, Volume 1), and would highly recommend it to you. You can listen to it on the Truth for Life website here http://www.truthforlife.org/resources/series/unseen-god-volume-1-esther/, or on the Truth for Life podcast, which you can subscribe to on iTunes. It got me to thinking about how God has orchestrated events in my life, my wife Tammy’s life and my sister-in-law Teri’s life that were difficult and painful at the time, but upon reflection have turned out for good. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines God’s works of providence as “His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of all his creatures and all their actions”.  The providence of God is simply God’s involvement in the world. Jerry Bridges defines providence as God’s “constant care for and His absolute rule over all His creation for His own glory and the good of His people.”

Below are five events that I would like to share with you that clearly show the hand of God in our lives:

  • Three years into our marriage Tammy was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After having it removed it would later return and she had surgery again a little more than four years later. Prior to the surgery, Tammy had achieved her CPA (Certified Professional Accountant) designation and had a career goal of as she calls it, “the 3 C’s – cash, car and clothes.” But her illness significantly changed her perspective on life and she turned to a life of volunteerism: A Catholic Worker house, a soup kitchen, hospice, our church and now as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), among others.
  • I experienced some difficult and challenging circumstances at work about ten years ago. Those circumstances, and John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life (along with the Bible which is the book that has the greatest impact on my life) were used to lead me to re-apply at Covenant Theological Seminary, eventually graduating last May.
  • Tammy and I started a church newsletter in September, 1998. We produced it monthly until the end of 2013. By 2013, the newsletter was averaging in excess of 30 pages! God then worked in events that led us to stop producing it as a church newsletter and change instead to a blog format with a greater reach. Now the blog has a much larger readership than the church newsletter ever had.
  • Those same events led my wife to leave a position she held for more than nineteen years. After seeking the Lord’s direction for her life for about a year, she felt called to apply to be a CASA, an assignment she has recently started.
  • My sister-in-law Teri, one of our guest bloggers, ran into difficult circumstances in a position that she had loved for years. Her energy and voice gave out after many years of teaching and she knew the Lord was saying she was done teaching the program. Her heart was still in it, but she could no longer do well what was required to maintain the program. This eventually led to her leaving that position, with much sadness. About a year later, after seeking the Lord’s direction, she was called to be the Director of the Spoon River Pregnancy Center – http://www.spoonriverpregnancycenter.com/.

These situations, and many more over the years, have resulted in pain, tears and strained relationships. But the Lord has used these difficult circumstances for good. I love the story of Joseph (and Alistair Begg’s excellent book on Joseph and God’s Providence – The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances). One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Genesis 50:20, which says in part:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.

So don’t lose heart dear people if you are going through dark days and circumstances that you never thought you would. God is in charge and He uses all things for good for His people:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

 

 


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Coram Deo 1.21.2015

~UPDATED PAGES ON THE BLOG ~

The Basement Tapes Raw - Bob Dylan and the BandNot by SightMusic Review: The Basement Tapes Raw: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11 – Bob Dylan and the Band
Book Review: Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith by Jon Bloom
I’m Currently Reading

~ THIS AND THAT ~

CHRISTIAN LIVING:

  • How Involved Is God in the Details of Your Life? Jon Bloom of Desiring God states that God has many reasons to drive us through Joseph’s life, some more obvious than others. He looks at one perhaps lesser obvious reason.
  • What God Can Do in Five Seconds. John Piper writes “God can do more in five seconds than we can do in five hours or months or years. This is one reason the habit of prayer is wise. Sometimes we do not get the five-second breakthrough because we do not ask.”
  • One Indispensable Rule. Tim Challies writes “Before you attempt to apply the Bible to your life and circumstances, anchor it in the lives and circumstances of its original recipients. Application must be related to meaning.”
  • Learning from a Hard Knox Life. Jonathan Parnell of Desiring God looks at the life of John Knox, on the 500th anniversary of his birth
  • What Made David Great? Kevin DeYoung writes “So with all these flaws, what made David great? One could easily mention David’s courage, his loyalty, his faith, and his success as a leader, musician, and warrior. But he was great in other, lesser-known ways as well. In particular, David was a great man because he was willing to overlook others’ sins but unwilling to overlook his own.”
  • Prayer: A 14-Day Devotional by Tim Keller. Start the plan or view a sample.
  • A Prayer for Preaching the Gospel to Ourselves. Another wonderful prayer from Scotty Smith.
  • Lecrae Confesses Abortion, Invites Others into the Light. Read this story and watch the video of the conversation with Lecrae, John Piper and John Ensor.

MUSIC:

BOOKS:

  • Setting the Record Straight. Phil Johnson writes about the recent decision of Tyndale Publishing to pull The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven by Kevin Malarkey from bookshelves.
  • On Guard. Tim Challies writes “if I could mandate that at least one leader from every church had to read a single book, I don’t think there are too many I would choose ahead of On Guard: Preventing and Responding to Child Abuse at Church.”
  • Don’t Envy the Bench. See this excerpt from Trip Lee’s book Rise, which will be released January 27
  • The Things of Earth Will Grow Strangely Bright. John Piper writes about Joe Rigney’s new book The Things of Earth: Treasuring God by Enjoying His Gifts
  • Ten Books that Have Shaped Me as a Christian. I enjoyed reading this list from Kevin DeYoung.

MOVIES AND TELEVISION:

IN THE NEWS:

  • Duke University cancels plans to broadcast Muslim call-to-prayer. World Magazine reports “Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant, and welcoming campus for all of its students,” said Michael Schoenfeld, vice president for public affairs and government relations. “However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect.”
  • The Supreme Court and Same-Sex Marriage: Why This Matters for the Church. Russell Moore writes “The Supreme Court announced today that they are taking cases on whether same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Effectively, this means that the highest court in the land will decide, this year, whether marriage, as defined for thousands of years, will exist in our country any longer.” He shares a few things we should keep in mind.
  • Time Magazine Pulls the Oldest Trick in the Book. David Murray writes “It’s one of the oldest political tricks in the book. Create such an impression of momentum behind a certain candidate or policy that everyone else jumps on board to avoid being left out or left behind. It’s a deception that plays on common human weaknesses; the desire to be on the winning side, the fear of being on the “outside,” the instinct to avoid unpopularity, and the yearning for approval.” Murray writes that Time Magazine is attempting to pull off this sneaky ruse on Evangelical Christians with an article headlined, How Evangelicals Are Changing Their Minds on Gay Marriage.
  • In Light of Recent Events. Recent and potential terrorist attacks in France currently dominate the news cycle. Analysts, experts, and commentators discuss and debate the facts, often with skewed and confused perspectives on Islam, and offer a variety of political and emotional responses. Over the years John MacArthur and the Grace to You staff have put together messages and articles that relate well to these current events and can help you bring biblical truth to bear on your conversations with family and friends. We trust that these resources will help and encourage you.
  • Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God. Eric Metaxas’ article in the Wall Street Journal appears to be the most popular article in the history of the WSJ! According to an inside source at the newspaper, the previous record was held by the “Tiger Mom” article from a few years back, but at 375,000 Facebook “Likes” and counting, Metaxas’ essay now “unofficially” has the top spot. There are also over 6,000 comments.
  • Year-in-Review: Barna’s Top 10 Findings from 2014. Every December, Barna Group compiles its top findings and trends from research conducted in the past year. From legalizing marijuana to increasing secularization trends to America’s complicated relationship with sports—2014 was an interesting year.

THEOLOGY:

 Favorite Quotes of the Week ~ 1.19.2015

  • Our going to Heaven does not depend on our commitment, but on Christ’s commitment to us. Bob Smart
  • Worship is not something we “work up,” it is something that “comes down” to us, from the character of God. Sinclair Ferguson
  • The ultimate question isn’t why doesn’t God save everyone but why does God save anyone? Burk Parsons
  • Our deepest fear is judgment. Our deepest longing is love. The gospel of grace removes the one and provides the other. Tullian Tchividjian
  • Because of the Cross, God can be both just towards sin and yet mercifully justifying to sinners. Tim Keller
  • The pursuit of holiness is always on the path of obedience to the Word, never apart from it. Steven Lawson
  • The weakest faith gets the same strong Christ as does the strongest faith. Sinclair Ferguson
  • Does the sovereignty of God make you feel paralyzed in uselessness, or thrilled that you are an agent of miracles? John Piper
  • Repentance is like antiseptic. You pour antiseptic onto a wound and, at first, it stings. Then it heals. Tim Keller
  • Jesus is not a good way to heaven, nor even the best way. He is the only way to heaven. Steven Lawson
  • A materialistic world will not be won to Christ by a materialistic church. David Platt
  • If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then growing in our knowledge of God is always practical. Kevin DeYoung
  • Love says: I’ve seen the ugly parts of you, and I’m staying. Matt Chandler
  • Who are we? We’re not perfect but we’re not worthless. Scripture tells us that we’re beautifully made, but broken. Trip Lee
  • Fully known, yet truly loved. Period. Tim Keller
  • Am I desiring and seeking the temporal and eternal good of my neighbor with the same zeal, ingenuity and perseverance that I seek my own? John Piper
  • It is no more narrow to claim that one religion is right than to claim that your way to think about all religions is right. Tim Keller
  • Tell me what the world is saying today, and I’ll tell you what the church will be saying in seven years. Francis Schaeffer
  • Sometimes we behave and perform with our lives, not for God, but for an audience. R.C. Sproul
  • Truth without love is self-righteous. Love without truth is overindulgent. Tim Keller
  • Grace frees you to be honest about what you’ve always known to be true about yourself: that you’re weaker and more afraid than you want to be. Tullian Tchividjian
  • The existence of hypocrites does not prove the non-existence of true believers. Charles Spurgeon
  • What does it say about us that we are rarely perplexed by the good things that come our way, only the bad? Andy Stanley
  • People are messy; therefore, relationships will be messy. Expect messiness. Tim Keller
  • If you’re indifferent about doctrine, you’re indifferent about that which will save or damn your soul. Burk Parsons
  • Hell is a real place, more real than the city in which you live, much hotter and more populated. Steven Lawson
  • No matter how long it takes or how desperately a person battles or denies, the truth always—always—makes itself known. Andy Andrews
  • God doesn’t want us to just feel gratitude, but for us to show it by giving thanks to God with our lives. R.C. Sproul 

    If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well’. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    integrating faith and work 

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

Generous JusticeGenerous Justice Book Club  

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Tim Keller

Tammy and I are reading and discussing this book by Tim Keller. This week we look at a video of Tim Keller discussing the book which gives a good summary of the content in 30 minutes.

He points out how “many who are concerned about justice are not concerned about justification by faith alone; many who are concerned about justification by faith alone are not concerned about justice.” One of Luther’s own burdens was to establish that “Christian ethics…is grounded in justification by faith alone.”  Keller shows what that means.

Tim Keller speaks about his book Generous Justice.

God at WorkGod at Work Book Club

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith Jr.

When we recently visited St. Andrews Chapel where R.C. Sproul is one of the pastors, this book was the church’s “Book of the Month”. I’ve been excited to read it. This week we complete our review of the book by looking at Chapter 11: Conclusion: Resting in Vocation.

The Conviction to Lead by Albert MohlerThe Conviction to Lead Book Club

The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler

We’re reading this excellent book from Albert Mohler, one of the best that I’ve read on leadership. It is broken down into 25 relatively short chapters. Won’t you read along with us? This week we look at Chapter 1: The Conviction to Lead True Leadership Starts With a Purpose, Not a Plan.

 

 

 


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Movie Review – Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher, rated R
** ½

*SPOILER ALERT*

I had been looking forward for a long time to seeing this film starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. The film, which finally opened nationally on Friday, received three major Oscar nominations last week, with Carell (Best Actor), Ruffalo (Best Supporting Actor) and Bennett Miller (Director). Miller had previously directed Capote and Moneyball, films for which he was also nominated for the Oscar for Best Director.

The film, which is set in 1987, is based on true events, though like most films of this nature, some liberties are taken with the truth. We’ll only focus on what we see in the film. We meet Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and his older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo). Both have won Olympic gold medals in wrestling and they care for each other very much. We find out later in the film that Dave helped raise Mark, serving as a father figure to him.

Dave’s life is going well. He’s happy being a wrestling coach and married to Nancy (Sienna Miller). The couple has two small children. Mark on the other hand lives alone, doesn’t seem to have much money, nor any friends other than Dave. He is training for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul and that seems to be the sole focus of his life.

Out of nowhere he gets a call from a representative of multimillionaire John Eleuthere DuPont (a creepy and almost unrecognizable Steve Carell) to come visit him at his 800 acre Foxcatcher farm in Pennsylvania, which he does. DuPont, who knows nothing about wrestling, explains that he wants to have Mark and the other U.S. wrestlers train at his new state of the art training facility at the farm, and that he will pay him a good salary to do so. DuPont paints himself as a patriot. He also wants Dave to come to the farm, but much to Mark’s disappointment, Dave doesn’t want to uproot his family. Mark soon drives to Pennsylvania and into very nice accommodations on the farm.

DuPont has a difficult relationship with his mother Jean (Vanessa Redgrave), who cares more about her prized horses than her son. Is this interest in Olympic wrestling a way to impress his mother and gain her favor? He longs to have a gold medal to put next to the other family trophies and awards

Does DuPont have other more personal motivations? He wants to be seen as a friend, father figure, coach and mentor to Mark. He seems to have some homosexual tendencies toward Mark, but the film never fully goes there. While Mark is supposed to be training, Du Pont introduces him to cocaine. We see Mark drinking heavily and taking a break from training. When Mark’s relationship with DuPont sours, DuPont finally convinces Dave to come to the farm with his family to coach Mark and get him ready for the upcoming competition.

The film is overly long at 134 minutes and could have been edited down by Miller. At times the dialogue almost grinds to a halt. I grew to despise DuPont (a credit to Carell’s excellent acting performance), and as a result cannot say that I actually liked this film, though I did appreciate the performances of Carell, Ruffalo and Tatum.

The film is rated “R” due to a brief view of Channing’s buns, some violence and only minimal adult language. This film should have followed the actual story, which would have made a much more compelling plotline (for example, the police turned off the boilers that heated the 44-room Foxcatcher Estate where duPont had been hiding for two days. He had barricaded himself in the mansion’s steel-lined library. They captured him when he came out to fix the boilers.) For more fact vs. fiction go to http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/foxcatcher/.

 


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Movie Review ~ Paddington

Paddington MoviePaddington, Rated PG
*** ½
*SPOILER ALERT*

This delightful film is based on the much loved Paddington books written by British author Michael Bond, now 88 years old. Bond wrote A Bear Called Paddington in 1958. His 15 Paddington books have sold over 35 million copies and been published in nearly 20 countries in over 40 languages.Michael Bond and Paddington  The film is written and directed by Paul King and blends live action with animated technology. It begins with a flash-back forty years ago where we meet Montgomery Clyde, an explorer from the Geographers Guild in London who has travelled to the Peruvian jungle to bring back animals to be stuffed for the Museum of Natural History. He comes across two bears, who we learn later are Uncle Pastuzo and Aunt Lucy. But rather than shooting these bears that he discovers can talk to him, he instead befriends them, introduces them to marmalade and gives them a phonograph and a snow globe of London. He tells them that if they should ever come to London that they would find a home there.

Fast forward forty years, we see Uncle Pastuzo and Aunt Lucy raising a young bear whose parents have died. The young bear (voiced by Ben Whishaw), is very likeable, but he’s also very clumsy, which is played for laughs throughout the film. After Uncle Pastuzo dies in an earthquake and their home is destroyed, Aunt Lucy sends her adopted nephew to London to find a home, while she goes to the Home for Retired Bears.

At Paddington Station the young bear comes across the Brown family returning from a trip. Mr. Brown (Hugh Bonneville from Downton Abbey) tries to pass by the young bear, but Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) takes pity on him and they bring him to their home for “just one night”. Mrs. Brown is also the one to gives him the name Paddington, since his bear name is too hard to pronounce. We see Paddington’s clumsiness on full display in a hilarious scene during that first night in the Brown home.

Eventually the family learns to love Paddington and they help him find the explorer that visited “deepest, darkest Peru” forty years ago. But there is someone who wants to do to Paddington what the explorer set out to do forty years before in the Peruvian jungle. The explorer’s daughter Millicent (played by Nicole Kidman), is now an evil taxidermist at the Museum of Natural History. She partners with one of the Brown’s neighbors, Mr. Curry, played by Peter Capaldi, to try to capture and then stuff Paddington for the museum.

The Brown’s children are portrayed by Samuel Joslin (Jonathan) and Madeleine Harris (Judy). Julie Bird plays their housekeeper Mrs. Bird.

This was a funny and well made film, with a good cast, that we thoroughly enjoyed. It includes strong messages about the importance of family and also messages about diversity, as Mrs. Brown states to Paddington “In London, everyone is different, so anyone can fit in.” It is a film that the entire family can go to and enjoy, and not worry about any objectionable content.


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Movie Review ~ Selma

SelmaSelma, rated PG-13
****

This film is set in 1965. Dr. Martin Luther King, portrayed in a strong Oscar-worthy performance by David Oyelowo, has just received the Nobel Peace Prize. He brings his Southern Christian Leadership Conference organization (SCLC) to Selma, Alabama to address the fact that only 1% of the African Americans in the county are registered to vote. Early in the film we see Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey) attempt to register to vote, only to again be unfairly denied by the clerk. We hear that Dr. King chose Selma because of the racist Sheriff Jim Clark (Stan Houston). King’s plan is to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, but Clark has plans to stop the march, using violence if necessary.

The film portrays Dr. King not only as a powerful leader and speaker, but also someone who had fears, doubts and flaws. His marital infidelity is addressed in a powerful scene with wife Coretta Scott King (Carmen Ejogo) and we see and feel the tension between the two after that. Ejogo’s performance is excellent as she deals with the infidelity, the constant threats and harassment that come via phone calls and having to raise their four children as Dr. King is often away from home to deal with the situation in Selma.

The film revolves around the march from Selma to Montgomery, and specifically what is known as “Bloody Sunday” on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, which is effectively narrated by a journalist as he is calling in the story to his newspaper. Particularly in this scene, but also in others, we see and almost feel the brutal violence as Clark’s men beat the marchers resulting in the death of two. The violence is reported in the nation’s newspapers and broadcast to 70 million people on television, much to the chagrin of President Lyndon Johnson.

I particularly enjoyed the scenes featuring conversations between Dr. King and President Johnson, portrayed by Tom Wilkinson, an excellent actor. Johnson tells Dr. King that he is not going to address the voting issue in the South, even though African Americans had the legal right to vote, because he has other priorities. But King can’t wait on Johnson.

Throughout the film, Dr. King’s strong faith is portrayed – in church, a moving jail cell scene in which he is encouraged by a member of his team, in a late night phone call to singer Mahalia Jackson, played by Ledisi Young, who King asks to sing a gospel song to him, etc.

The film is directed by Ava DuVernay, and features a number of excellent performances. In addition to those already mentioned, worth mentioning are:

  • Andre Holland as Andrew Young
  • Colman Domingo as Rev. Ralph Abernathy
  • Common as James Bevel
  • Tessa Thompson as Diane Nash
  • Cuba Gooding Jr. as attorney Fred Gray
  • Niecy Nash as the host who invites King and his team into her home for breakfast in a joyous scene
  • Dylan Baker as J. Edgar Hoover
  • Tim Roth as Alabama’s racist Governor George Wallace
  • Nigel Thatch as Malcolm X

King’s march resulted in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement.

At times the film does drag a bit, and at 128 minutes could have been edited down a bit. There is also some adult language, racial slurs and several abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names. Overall however, this is an important film, and one that I recommend all adults and mature teens see, not only from a historical perspective, but also in light of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and New York City.

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