Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

David Washington / Kingdom Covenant Church

BEING SALT AND LIGHT:

  • How One Ex-Gang Leader Is Reaching Chicago’s Most Dangerous Neighborhoods. Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra writes “But in the middle of the chaos, black pastors are making a difference. Reaching out to neighborhoods, feeding the hungry, and running programs for kids, the black church is salting the city. One of those pastors is David Washington, who prays with people and hands out school supplies on streets he knows well. He grew up in the violent South Side neighborhood of Roseland; in fact, he used to run a gang and sell drugs there.”
  • A Two-Minute Clip on Homosexuality Every Christian Should Watch. Watch this short video from Sam Allberry—editor for The Gospel Coalition, speaker for RZIM, founding editor of Living Out, and author of Is God Anti-Gay?—addressing the Church of England General Synod in London recently.
  • Love is Not a Secondary Matter. Steven Lawson writes “It is virtually impossible to exaggerate the importance of love. Nothing is more basic to true spirituality than this singular virtue. Nothing is more central to Christian living. At the very heart of authentic discipleship is love. Without love, we are nothing.”

A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO CURRENT CULTURE:

  • Scandalized by the Substitute: A Response to Young and Gungor. Owen Strachan responds to musician Michael Gungor who called the atonement “evil” and “horrific” on Twitter and Paul Young, author of The Shack, who calls God a “cosmic abuser”.
  • A Teenage Girl’s Response to Teen Vogue’s “Post-Abortion Gift Guide”. Randy Alcorn writes “I encourage you to watch this powerful video response from 16-year-old Autumn Lindsey. She is part of the target demographic for Teen Vogue.”
  • As a Christian, I Favor National Security AND Refugee Care. Scott Sauls writes “Mr. President, we commend and support you for prioritizing our safety and protection in such volatile times. We can only imagine the burden that this must be, and you carry it in ways that nobody else does. And yet we similarly plead with you, sir—on behalf of the millions of souls who are most at risk—that we not turn away the vetted and vulnerable refugee. While charity may start at home, it must never end there, especially in this country of ours that we call the land of the free and the home of the brave. Let’s champion freedom, sir. And, for the love of God, let’s be brave.”
  • Flipping Sides on Roe v Wade: Norma McCorvey’s Repentance. Clint Archer writes “The dramatic 180 degree turn of attitudes and behavior provides an apt illustration of the nature of repentance. Biblical repentance is a change of mind and the necessary difference in behavior that accompanies it.”
  • Same-Sex Attraction. The White Horse Inn writes “What should we think about the issue of same-sex attraction? Is it essentially the same as being gay? How does the issue of sexual preference relate to our identity as Christians, and how are we to talk about our differences with others in a world that is increasingly accepting of homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Michael Horton discusses these issues and more with Sam Allberry, author of Is God Anti-Gay? on this episode of the White Horse Inn.”
  • What the Transgender Debate Means for the Church. Russell Moore writes “We Christians believe that all of us are sinners, and that none of us are freaks. We conclude that all of us are called to repentance, and part of what repentance means is to receive the gender with which God created us, even when that’s difficult. We must affirm that God loves all persons, and that the gospel is good news for repentant prodigal sons and daughters, including for those who have trouble figuring out which is which.”
  • Why the Transgender Debate Is About Redefining Reality. Joe Carter writes “If you want to change a society, you merely need to get the public to shift an idea from the category of “unthinkable” to “policy.” You’ll know you’ve been successful when the formerly unthinkable has become public school policy.”
  • The Two Things We Must Say About the Transgender Debate. Kevin DeYoung writes “The Christian response to the transgender debate depends on whether we are talking about the debate or about a transgender person. I understand the two cannot be completely divorced, but they are not the same thing either.”
  • David Platt’s Guide to Navigating Unprecedented Social Change. Collin Hansen writes “With the re-release of Counter Culture, and in our context of tremendous racial and political turmoil, Davd Platt joins him on The Gospel Coalition Podcast to discuss our era’s rapid pace of social change, churches that care as much about slavery as marriage, and the implications of our behavior for international missions.

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My Review of Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer

DVD Review – Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer
****

Luther is a well-made documentary that serves to introduce the great reformer to a new generation.
This excellent film arrives as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the door of All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg. The film is directed by Stephen McCaskell, who also worked on the outstanding 2015 documentary Logic on Fire: The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
McCaskell uses a variety of ways to interestingly tell the story of the great reformer. Barry Cooper serves as the film’s narrator, and we see him on location at several sites. The film includes a number of beautiful aerial shots of Germany. It also includes artistic animation and interviews from respected theologians, pastors and historians R.C. Sproul, Stephen Nichols, Steven Lawson, Robert Godfrey, Carl Trueman, and Robert Kolb. The film also includes some excellent music.
The film quickly takes us through the life of Luther, including the importance he placed on music, as a family man, the impact – for good and bad – of his tongue, and his writings against the Jews.
The church must, in every age, always be reforming to the Word of God. The film tells us that there are about 2.2 billion Christians in the world today. Although things seem dark for the church in many ways today, we do have hope.
With my DVD, I received a code to download the new book, The Legacy of Luther edited by Stephen Nichols and R.C. Sproul, which I am reading now. If you order the DVD online, you also get a free download of the film’s soundtrack. The film will be released April 21. To pre-order, go here.


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My Review of A United Kingdom

A United Kingdom, rated PG-13
*** ½

A United Kingdom is an inspiriting story of love and courage.  This film, based on a true story, is directed by Amma Asante (Belle), and is written by Guy Hibbert, based on the book Colour Bar: A United Kingdom by Susan Williams. Prince Seretse Khama, played by David Oyelowo (Selma) and quickly becoming one of our top actors, is the heir to the throne of Bechuanaland, the African nation and British protectorate that would later become Botswana. Because his father, Sekgoma Khama, died when Seretse was only 4 years old, he was raised by his uncle, Tshekedi Khama, played by Vusi Kunene. Acting as regent, Tshekedi sent him to Oxford to be educated to prepare him for being his country’s leader.
In 1947 Seretse meets Ruth Williams, a white London secretary, played by Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) at a dance. They bond over their common love of jazz music and quickly fall in love. Seretse then receives a letter from his uncle indicating that it is time to return to his home country to assume responsibility as king. Seretse proposes to Ruth and she accepts, much to the displeasure of Ruth’s father George, played by Nicholas Lyndhurst, who says he will never speak to Ruth again if she marries Seretse, as well as Seretse’s uncle Tshekedi.  Soon, Ruth is estranged from her family and Seretse is estranged from his uncle, who now doesn’t feel that Seretse is fit to be the king.
Added to this is the interference of the British government, who were willing to sabotage the marriage to appease neighboring South Africa, who was introducing their policy of apartheid. Britain’s government, including Winston Churchill do not come across well in this film.
Themes in the film are love, courage, faithfulness, racism, betrayal, and estrangement from family. Oyelowo and Pike are excellent in their roles, and have good onscreen chemistry. Oyelowo delivers a few powerful speeches and Pike works hard to be acceptable to the people of Bechuanaland. The supporting cast is solid as well. Jack Davenport portrays British representative Alistair Canning so well you will really dislike him.  David cast his real-life wife, actress Jessica Oyelowo, as Lady Lilly Canning.  Harry Potter’s Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) portrays Canning’s second in command Rufus Lancaster. The film takes place in both Britain and Africa and is rated PG-13 for some language, including racial slurs.


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How I Spent Spring Break: 9 Reflections on the 2017 Ligonier National Conference

Almost every year since 1997, my wife Tammy and I have left the cold of the Illinois winter to head down to the sun and warmth of Central Florida to attend the annual Ligonier Ministries National Conference. This year’s conference, held March 9-11, was their 30th National Conference. It had a theme of “The Next 500 Years” and was being held on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Thus, many of the speakers referred to Martin Luther and his influence in their addresses. The conference was held in the wonderful facilities of the First Baptist Church in Orlando where it has been held most years, sold out months in advance, and featured an excellent lineup of speakers, including John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Albert Mohler, Sinclair Ferguson, R.C. Sproul, Michael Horton and more.

As Ligonier President and CEO Chris Larson told the attendees at the beginning of the conference, “Pace Yourself”. The three-day conference can be exhausting. In total, there were 26 sessions you could attend, in addition to a prayer session, two mini-concerts, and a bookstore tour. I always purchase copies of the messages and listen to them multiple times in the months after the conference. Here are the daily highlight posts that Ligonier posted about the conference:

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Here are 9 reflections I have from this year’s conference: Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEW: Leaders Made Here by Mark Miller

Leaders Made Here by Mark Miller. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 130 pages. 2017
****

In his latest book, Mark Miller writes that you ensure you’ll have the needed leaders to fuel your future success when you build a leadership culture. A leadership culture exists when leaders are routinely and systematically developed and the organization has a surplus of leaders ready for the next opportunity or challenge. The author states that he wrote the book primarily for those who can see the value in a strong bench of capable leaders but lack the strategic framework to make it so.
As is his custom, the author teaches through an entertaining fable, much like those of Patrick Lencioni and Ken Blanchard. We meet Blake, the new CEO in a mid-sized firm in a slow-growth industry. Not only is the firm not growing, but it sustained a recent tragedy (explosion) on Blake’s first day on the job, in which six employees were killed. Although the accident was attributed to human error, Blake said that it was actually due to leadership error. Leadership failed and people died.
Blake tells his senior leadership team (minus one, as the head of Human Resources decided to retire about being injured in the explosion), that they need to build a leadership bench, which is not a term they are familiar about.
Blake decides to seek out his mentor Jack, who we met in the author’s previous book Chess Not Checkers. Jack suggests that Blake appoint an interim or hire a consultant to help with the leadership bench issue. Blake decided to reach out to Charles, a rock star in the human resources world to help him out and also to help identify a new head of Human Resources. Although Charles is going through his own personal issues, he agrees to take on the short-term assignment.
As Charles and his team begin their task, they develop a charter, conduct interviews with members of the senior leadership team, and do some benchmarking with leading firms that have built a leadership culture. They want to build a culture where they can say with integrity that leaders are made here. They eventually come up with five commitments of a leadership culture.
I’m fortunate to work in an organization that has a leadership culture. Much of what I read in this book reminded me of my organization. For those who work in organizations that do not currently have a leadership culture, this book would be an excellent first step to take toward building one.


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My Review of Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast, rated PG
***

Despite some well-publicized content concerns, Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast is a treat overall.
Following the success of their recent animation to live action remakes of some of their classic films – Alice in Wonderland (2010), Cinderella (2015) and The Jungle Book (2016), Disney returns with a new version of Beauty and the Beast. The 1991 animated version received five Oscar nominations, winning two. The new film is directed by Oscar winner Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters), and written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos. It had an estimated budget of $160 million, but is expected to earn that back and more, with a projected worldwide opening this weekend of $215-245 million. The film features an outstanding cast and is visually stunning.
The film is set in the town of Villeneuve in France. Belle, played by Emma Watson (Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films) is a happy, independent, book-loving inventor who loves her father Maurice, played by Oscar winner Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda). Throughout the film Belle is pursued constantly by Gaston (Luke Evans, The Girl on the Train), who wants to marry her, but Belle has no interest in him. The one who does have interest in Gaston is the homosexual character LeFou, played by Josh Gad, who voiced Olaf in Disney’s Frozen.  The song “Gaston” has new lyrics that were written by the late Howard Ashman, but did not make it into the 1991 film as they were not considered appropriate for a children’s film.
As Maurice leaves on a trip, he promises to bring Belle back a rose. The rose he tries to bring her is growing on the land of the Beast, played by Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey). Maurice is then captured and put in a jail cell in the castle of the Beast. If you are familiar with the story, the Beast must find someone to love him before the final petal of a red rose kept under glass falls off. If he doesn’t, he is doomed to remain a beast forever, and the members of his household will remain clocks, cups, etc. forever.
As I mentioned, the film features a strong cast. In addition to Watson and Kline, Ewan McGregor portrays the candlestick Lumiere, two-time Oscar nominee Ian McKellen plays the mantle clock Cogsworth, two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility and Howard’s End) plays the teapot Mrs. Potts, and Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci plays Maestro Cadenza.
Alan Menken, who wrote the music for the 1991 film, returns to do the music for this film, which includes new recordings of his original songs such as “Be Our Guest”, along with new songs written by Menken and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (The Lion King, Aladdin, and Evita).  I loved the music and the costumes in the film. The computer generated imagery (CGI) – the castle, wolves, the face of the Beast, etc. were all well done.    My wife thought that the “Be Our Guest” scene was almost over done – maybe they were trying to have it be like a scene from Fantasia?
We attended the film on opening night; the theatre was filled with very small children. However, unlike the animated version, this is not a children’s film. It is dark and the scenes with wolves may well be too frightening for small children.
Leading up to the film there was controversy when the director made news in speaking about the film’s “exclusively gay moment”, which takes place near the end of the film. However, we saw LaFou’s homosexuality played out throughout the film, along with other things thrown in to make this film, as Condon has stated, as diverse as possible. He stated that “By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural…” Chances are, small children will not even notice what Condon and Disney have put in this film, but discerning Christians will and they will find it in conflict with the Scripture (Romans 1:26-27). It’s not enough, in my opinion, to keep you from seeing the film, but it did impact our enjoyment and our overall rating of the film.  On the flip side, sacrificial love is portrayed well.


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“One King at a Time”: An Approach to Completing Those Seemingly Overwhelming Tasks

staircase-take-the-first-stepWhen I returned to seminary ten years ago, my first class was in Old Testament History. I can still remember that we were at a church gathering at a friend’s home when my pastor asked me who my professor was; when I told him, he grimaced. He said “He’s pretty tough. In fact, his nickname is “The Smiling Assassin”.  Seriously? A seminary professor nicknamed “The Smiling Assassin”?
Taking seminary classes while working 50-plus hours a week was always a challenge for me. My wife can tell you that each time I opened up the syllabus, I immediately went into “I can’t do this. There is a class project, two papers, a mid-term and a final along with lots of books to read. How can they expect all of this?” She would always have to “talk me off the ledge”. But it was during this first class back at Covenant Seminary though that she instilled in me a concept that I still use today.
“The Smiling Assassin” told us from the beginning of the class that we would have to memorize the 39 kings of Judah and Israel in order for the final exam and whether they were good or bad. And these guys didn’t have names like Bill or Mike either. No, they had names like Jeroboam and Jehoshaphat. There was just no way I was going to be able to memorize all of these strange names and in order, too. I was overwhelmed.  My first class back and I had no confidence that I could handle the work.
It was then Tammy said, “You’re right. You can’t memorize 39 kings, in order, all at once. But you can start with one king, and then do another the next day, and then one more the next day. Eventually, you will get to 39”. In other words, while memorizing 39 strange names in order was completely overwhelming, her advice was to memorize “one king at a time”.  It’s a great concept that you can apply for yourself.
Do you have a major project that you’ve been assigned? You have a due date and its weighing on you, causing anxiety; you’re always thinking about it; it’s overwhelming you?! Maybe it’s even impacting your health and sleep. Don’t procrastinate – Get started today. I’ve found that I take away much of the anxiety of a task on my “To Do” list if I just get started – whether it’s writing a paper, studying for an exam or completing an assignment at work.  While some people tell me that they perform better under pressure by waiting until the last minute, that’s not for me. No, get started today. Take Tammy’s advice and do “one king at a time”.

What about you? How do you address those seemingly overwhelming tasks on your “To Do” list?