Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Movie Review ~ American Sniper

American SniperAmerican Sniper, rated PG-13
****

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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Living Life Before the Face of God 1.14.2015

Beyond the Ark by Doug Michael

Beyond the Ark by Doug Michael

~ THIS AND THAT ~

BOOKS:

MOVIES AND TELEVISION:

  • David Oyelowo: ‘Selma Was a Spiritual Endeavor For Me’. Oyelowo portrays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma.
  • Golden Globe Awards. Here is the full list of winners.
  • New Peanuts Film Trailer. The film will be released November 6.
  • Do You Believe? A new faith based film by the makers of God’s Not Dead opens March 20.
  • Watching Naked People. Lore Ferguson writes “Recently I heard John Piper speak on watching nudity of any kind in any media. He gives twelve reasons why we should be “radically bold, sacrificially loving, God-besotted freaks, aliens—saying no to the world for the sake of the world.” The world doesn’t need more copies of itself. I’m sharing his twelve points here and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to him and commit to not watch nudity of any kind.”
  • Seinfeld on The Tonight Show. Did you see Jerry Seinfeld’s stand-up routine on The Tonight Show recently? I’ve been a long-time fan, including seeing him in concert a few times. This routine was particularly funny.Lecrae on The Tonight Show

MUSIC:

  • Lecrae performs “Welcome to America” on The Tonight Show. On the night that the film Selma debuted nationally, Lecrae performed this song from his Anomaly album and included some sound bites from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. mixed in.
  • New Toby Mac Single. “Beyond Me”,Beyond Me - Toby Mac the new single we heard Toby Mac play in concert recently is now available on iTunes.
  • Apple/U2 Collaboration. The two are working on a secret new digital music format.

THEOLOGY AND DOCTRINE:

CHRISTIAN LIVING:

IN THE NEWS:

  • Remembering Andraé Crouch. Robert Darden offers these remembrances on the life and influence of Andréa Crouch who died last week.
  • Theological Extremism in a Secular Age. Albert Mohler writes after the terrorist attack in Paris last week “We are living in a world growing more dangerous by the day. That world — the real world — is a world of clashing ideologies and conflicting worldviews. The real world is also a world in which theology always matters, and a world in which an empty secular worldview is no match for an Islamic theology set on conquest and driven by revenge.”
  • Pastor Preaches the Entire Bible in 53 Hours. Trevin Wax interviews Mount Dora, Florida pastor Zach Zehnder.
  • Roe v. Wade Turns 42An Unhappy Birthday. Alan Dowd writes “The numbers are staggering; indeed, they are almost impossible to grasp. Since 1973, some 54 million abortions have been performed in the United States. Lots of myths have emerged in the intervening years to obscure and defend and rationalize what Roe spawned — myths that honest and responsible people need to address.”
  • Atlanta’s Fire Chief Loses Job Over Beliefs on Homosexuality. Kelvin Cochran was suspended for 30 days then fired, following complaints that he promoted anti-gay views in a 2013 self-published Christian book.
  • Alice Cooper, Christian. An interesting story about the rock and roller.

~ UPDATED PAGES ON THE BLOG ~Start with Why

I’m Currently Reading

Book Review: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

 Favorite Quotes of the Week ~ 1.12.2015

  • Evil aims to destroy hope. Bob Smart
  • Without immersion in God’s words, our prayers may not be merely limited and shallow but also untethered from reality. Tim Keller
  • We are broken people living in a broken world with other broken people. We all need grace. Tullian Tchividjian
  • There’s nothing that makes you more miserable, or less interesting, than self-absorption. Tim Keller
  • When you experience God it is deeply personal, but it’s not at all private. Tim Keller
  • Christianity is not about good people who want to get better. It is good news for bad people coping with their failure to be good. Tullian Tchividjian
  • God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may be aware of three of them. John Piper
  • You’ll always feel the need to pretend to be more holy and happy than you are when you try to get people looking at you and not at Jesus. Burk Parsons
  • The aim is never to become a master of the Word, but to be mastered by it. D. A. Carson
  • Grace does not lead us to overlook obedience. Grace compels and empowers us for obedience. Kevin DeYoung
  • Forgiveness always comes at a cost to the one granting the forgiveness. To not retaliate is to absorb the cost. Tim Keller
  • Unless you’re ready to live sinlessly, suffer miserably, and be murdered brutally, point people to Christ, not yourself. Burk Parsons
  • With arms outstretched on the cross. Jesus took holy God in one hand and sinful man with the other and brought the two together. Steven Lawson
  • Sometimes our weakness and tears encourages others more than our stories of strength and victory. Scotty Smith
  • Aimless, unproductive Christians contradict the creative, purposeful, powerful, merciful God we love. John Piper
  • Even one who has been to God a million times with the same problem need not fear exhausting the grace of God. Tullian Tchividjian
  • When we try and use fear or pride to stop from sinning, we are forgetting that we sin because of either fear or pride. Tim Keller
  • Saying you’re a new kind of Christian with a new kind of Christianity is basically saying you’re an old kind of heretic. Burk Parsons
  • Do all the good you can, try all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you ca, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can. John Wesley 
  • Sin is what you do when you are not satisfied in God. John Piper
  • We are all servants. The only question is whom we will serve. R.C. Sproul
  • While our self-righteousness reaches far, God’s grace reaches farther. Tullian Tchividjian
  • The opposite of love is not anger, its indifference. Tim Keller
  • When God measures a church, He begins with its depth not its breadth, with its substance not its style. Steven Lawson
  • Annihilation is what the unrepentant want, not what they dread. It would be a reward, not a punishment. Non-consciousness knows no loss. John Piper
  • If we truly long for revival, we will rejoice even when it starts at the church down the road. Kevin DeYoung
  • TGIF – Thankful Grace Is Free! Scotty Smith
  • If you don’t need your Bible at church, then the Bible says you don’t need that church. Thabiti Anyabwile
  • When Jesus promises everlasting life, he isn’t just promising everlasting existence. He is promising eternal joy. True life. That’s amazing. Matt Perman
  • God wants every local church to be the first place people think to go when they’ve really messed up…not the last. Tullian Tchividjian
  • Ask yourself this question everyday: What is it about me that other people would change if they could? Andy Andrews
  • As I am humbled by my difficulties, so I am strengthened by God’s grace. Alistair Begg
  • Astounded again at God’s faithfulness. Another clean MRI today. Hard to believe it’s been over 5 years (since he was diagnosed with brain cancer) Matt Chandler
I got a chuckle out of this sign that appeared on ChristianityToday.com. But seriously?

I got a chuckle out of this sign that appeared on ChristianityToday.com. But seriously?

integrating faith and work

Closing the Sunday to Monday Gap

Over the weekend I finished Tom Nelson’s excellent book Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work. We’ll look at that book in detail in a few weeks.

The book continued a journey to integrate my faith with my work that I started by reading Tim Keller’s 2012 book Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work. My journey got a boost by completing a “Calling, Vocation and Work” class on campus at Covenant Seminary during the summer of 2013. More recently, we’ve featured a regular Integrating Faith and Work section on this blog. I’ve also read a number of books on the subject and we just began our second Faith and Work Book Club in the organization where I work.

Nelson has served as senior pastor of Christ Community Church in Leawood, Kansas, for more than twenty years. He writes that closing the Sunday-to-Monday gap will require more than hopeful thinking. He writes that “honest vocational appraisal is needed to begin doing the important work of equipping others for vocational diligence and faithfulness”.

He writes that for churches to move forward they will need to:

  1. Become more intentional about teaching a robust theology of vocation
  2. Begin celebrating the diversity of vocations
  3. Equip for vocational faithfulness
  4. Collaborate with our like-minded local churches that also recognize the church at work as a primary conduit for gospel faithfulness

It’s my experience that we don’t do much to help those in our churches connect Sunday worship with Monday work. I have seen the lightbulb come on with those in our Faith and Work Book Clubs who never thought of connecting their faith and work. Nelson writes that in his interactions with other pastors, he is often shocked how few regularly spend time in the workplaces of their congregation, where we spend most of our waking hours.

I would encourage you to open up the Faith and Work issue in your local churches. Volunteer to lead an Adult Sunday School class on the topic. Feel free to use the articles and book reviews here on our site to help you put together your class. Invite those from various professions – IT, farming, nursing, etc. – to come in and talk about what it means to them to be a Christian in their vocations.

I like what Tom Nelson has done in their worship services. He writes: “In our Sunday morning services, congregational members periodically give short and timely vocational testimonies, either live or via video, regarding their faith at work. At times, the video testimonies will be shot on location at their particular workplaces.”

I hope to continue Faith and Work Book Clubs in my organization and would like to someday attend the Center for Faith and Work National Conference in New York City. Here is information on this year’s conference: http://www.faithandwork.com/cfwconference/

Faith-and-Work

  • To Quit or Not to Quit When Kingdom and Corporate Goals Conflict. I had the privilege of taking two courses with Dan Doriani at Covenant Seminary, one of them being on Christian Ethics. Dr. Doriani writes “Work that pleases God must be honest and lawful. Believers cannot take jobs that require sin. We cannot be hit-men, drug-runners, or prostitutes. But is it wrong to work in a wholesome branch of a large corporation that also has dubious divisions?
  • Recommended: Business for the Common Good. Mikel Del Rosario shares three things learned from the book Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace by Kenman L. Wong and Scott B. Rae.
  • 4 Ways to Win the Battle Against Busyness. J.D. Greear offers four precepts from Scripture and other wisdom that can help us diffuse busyness and sit at Jesus’s feet.
  • What’s the Best Way to Set Goals That Glorify God? Hugh Whelchel shares three questions to ask from Michael Hyatt.
  • How to Change People Who Don’t Want to Change. When you’re trying to influence people who need motivation, but not information, don’t offer more information. Instead, use questions to create a safe environment where they can explore motivations they already have.
  • Productivity: Simple Tricks. R.C. Sproul writes “I realize that all my time is God’s time and all my time is my time by His delegation. God owns me and my time. Yet, He has given me a measure of time over which I am a steward. I can commit that time to work for other people, visit other people, etc., but it is time for which I must give an account.”
  • Your Messy Desk Is Ruining Your Career. Martha C. White writes “A disorganized, sloppy workspace detracts from your ability to focus and get tasks completed efficiently. Physical clutter has a funny way of creeping into your head and creating mental distractions, say pro organizers. Here are their best tips for corralling your stuff.” 2015
  • John Maxwell on Change. In this “Minute with Maxwell” John Maxwell discusses the word “Change”.
  • 5 Tips to Unlock Your Potential. John Maxwell offer five tips on how to unlock your potential and reach your goals.
  • How Google Works. Matt Perman shares an excellent summary of the best principles for making organizations effective today by Eric Schmidt, executive chairman at Google.
  • 5 Insights I Have Learned About Failure. Ron Edmondson writes “One reason people seem to identify with my teaching is that I’m not perfect. I’ve made lots of mistakes. I didn’t enter the ministry until I was 38 years old and that was plenty of time to learn valuable life experiences by failure. (And, I haven’t quit making mistakes in ministry.)”
  • Set the Tone for the New Year. Dr. Alan Zimmerman asks what can you do to set the RIGHT TONE at work or at home, and gives a few tips for starters.

LEADERSHIP:

  • What Makes Leaders Safe or Unsafe? Dave Kraft writes offers a helpful list of what makes leaders safe and unsafe.
  • Is a Transparent Leader Really the Best Leader? On this podcast, Andy Andrews discusses whether transparency helps or hurts your leadership potential.
  • How Do You Define Leadership? Watch this video of Tod Bolsinger, VP of vocation and formation at Fuller Seminary (and at the time this video was made pastor of San Clemente Presbyterian Church), talk about what makes a good leader…and why it’s different from just being a good manager.
  • Fatal Flaws of a Leader. Dave Kraft asks “Are there certain kinds of flaws that Christian leaders may develop which could spell the end of their leadership effectiveness, their leadership altogether or, worse yet, the downward spiral of their walk with Jesus? I believe there are. Here are three to consider.
  • 20 Characteristics of an ALL IN Leader. Brad Lomenick lists these helpful characteristics of an ALL IN leader.

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

Generous Justice Book Club  Generous Justice

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

Throughout the Old Testament we see God’s love for the entire nation of Israel, but we also see Him reaching out to individuals–the widows, orphans, and sojourners. His instructions to His people included a charge to show mercy and bring justice to the needy. In the New Testament we see this played out in Jesus’ life as well. Like a great revolving door of grace, God has been in the business of loving, saving, and equipping His people so they can love and save others throughout the whole of Scripture. In Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church Tim Keller, explores the connection between when believers in Christ receive grace, and how that impacts the world around them. He argues that the Bible is a trustworthy guide for living a life of justice. Sharing examples from the lives of believers around him, and giving support from the Bible, Keller outlines a hopeful manifesto for all who seek to show God’s mercy to the world.

Tammy and I are reading and discussing this 2010 book by Tim Keller. This week we look at Chapter 1: What is Doing Justice?

God at Work Book ClubGod at Work

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’m excited to read it. We’ll look at a chapter each week – won’t you read along with us? This week we cover Chapter 10: Bearing the Cross in Vocation.

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