Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • Rest ≠ Idleness. Watch this two-minute video from Courtney Reissig. She states “As a stay-at-home mom, it can be really hard to think about balance in the work of the home because we don’t have a boss.”
  • The Biblical Solution to Unproductivity and Laziness: Begin With Your Heart Motives. Lara d’Entremont writes “The truly productive person is motivated by a desire to deny themselves, serve others, and glorify God with their time. Because of what God has done for them (dying on the cross to give them eternal life) their primary concern is showing others that same love and glorifying God in that.”
  • Know Your Comparative Advantage to Make Better Decisions. Anne Bradley writes “Knowing your gifts and focusing on them is important for faithful stewardship. It allows us to specialize, especially with regard to things we produce and sell through our labor (our work). This specialization frees us from having to be good at everything and allows us to trade with others.”
  • Profitable Fails. David Murray writes “The basic difference between successful people and the rest of us is that they’ve learned to fail well. They humbly embrace their mistakes, use them as opportunities to learn, and persevere until each shot got them nearer the bulls-eye.”
  • Monday’s Preparation Brings Friday’s Success. Ron Edmondson writes “I find the more deliberate I am to pre-plan my day and week the more productive I feel at the end of the week.”
  • The Dangers of Success. Tim Keller writes “Success can easily cause us to forget God’s grace, because our hearts are desperate to believe that we can save ourselves.”
  • In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell states that discipline allows us to have a life to do what we need to do, not what we want to do. If we cannot discipline ourselves, life will become hard for us.
  • Redirection Not Retirement. Peter Markgraaff writes “Retirement is an opportunity for a redeployment, a recalibration, a reset, revival, reform, and a new trajectory.”
  • How to Receive Constructive Feedback with the Gospel in View. Kristin Brown writes “Getting constructive feedback is going to happen. In more theological terms, it’s part of the sanctification process—being changed to be more like Christ.”
  • When the Gospel Invades Your Office: Tim Keller on Faith and Work. Matt Smethurst interviews Tim Keller about “working for the weekend”; how the counternarrative of the gospel addresses our propensity to idolize or demonize, to overwork or underwork; how to counsel discouraged employees; and more.”
  • Why Your Church Needs to Talk about Vocation. Amy Sherman asks “Why does it matter to have a strong theology of work? Why should congregational leaders help their flock connect faith and work? Why should we talk about vocation when there are so many other worthwhile things we could talk about, like evangelism or compassion ministry? Why does it matter?”
  • 17 Powerful Workplace Scriptures. WorkMatters writes “Many scriptures are found throughout the Bible that support the importance of our work to God. Each contain God’s wisdom and views about our work, the importance of our work, or how we should conduct ourselves while performing our work.”

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How I Integrate My Faith and Work, Part 2

Recently, I shared what it was like for me to serve the Lord as a leader in a large and diverse IT department at a Fortune 50 company.  How do I try to live for Jesus in the workplace? How do I use the platform He has given me? How do I shine His Light to others? How do I try to integrate my faith and my work?

Here are 8 more ways in which I have personally tried to integrate my faith with my work, and you can as well:

  1. See Jesus as Your Supervisor. John Piper’s article “Lord Focused Living at Work” from his book A Godward Life, was key for me on this. Piper suggests we ask the following questions: Why would the Lord like this done? How would the Lord like this done? When would the Lord like this done? Will the Lord help me do this? What affect will this have for the Lord’s honor? Piper states that “What you are asked to do by a supervisor should generally be viewed as an appeal from the Lord.” I would agree, adding “unless they ask you to do something God prohibits, or prohibit you from doing something God commands”.
  2. Keep work in its proper perspective. Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert write in their book The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs, that we should never be idle in our work, nor should we make work an idol. In other words, we should not be idle at work, but instead do excellent work. On the other hand, we should not make work an idol by being a workaholic, placing work and career above our family and church responsibilities. A good balance is needed.
  3. Point people to Christ. Our lives at work should point others to Christ. In some cases you might be able to develop relationships and actually share the gospel with those you work with (but not on work time, of course). We should always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in us. (1 Peter 3:15).
  4. Have a Teachable Spirit. David Murray has written that the one characteristic that separates the successful from the unsuccessful in every walk of life is teachability. He states that those who are teachable and remain so usually succeed, while the unteachable usually fail. He goes on to say that it doesn’t matter how much talent and gifting we have. If we are unteachable, we will never reach our full potential in the various facets of our lives – Christian growth, callings, relationships, etc. There are many areas of life in which we need a humble and teachable spirit and certainly the workplace is one of them.
  5. Get to Know Your Team Members Well. As a leader I want to serve those that I am privileged to lead. I often say that I am blessed to work with people for only a short period of time and then either they or I move on to another assignment. In order to serve them you need to know them. That’s why my initial “Meet and Greet” with them is all about them personally, and not about work. How can you effectively lead someone if you don’t first know about them and what is important to them?
  6. Consistently Demonstrating a Positive Attitude and Approach. A positive attitude has always been something that is very important to me. I’ve always said that I would rather have someone on my team with less talent and experience with a great attitude than someone with more talent and experience with a poor attitude. This quote by Chuck Swindoll is one of my favorites:

It is more important than facts. It is more important than past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitude.”  

I find that I am weakened and drained when I am around negative people. Dr. Alan Zimmerman, whose “Tuesday Tip”, I’ve been reading for years, says that a negative attitude is just as contagious as the common cold. We can’t afford to catch it.

  1. Pray for Those I Will Interact With That Day. As I drive into work each morning, I pray for those that I know I will encounter that day in meetings. I pray that I will shine Christ’s light, representing Him, and serve others well. I also think about how I don’t know what will happen that day, but Jesus does. Praying about my work and the people I work with is a great way to start the day and be a disciple at work.
  2. Show empathy, care, and yes even love, to those I lead. In our church, elders have “flock groups” to shepherd, pray for, etc. I see my work team as another kind of flock group. I experience life situations with them, showing empathy for them as they go through difficult times and circumstances – and they do the same for me. Many of the people on my prayer list are from my workplace.

How have you tried to integrate your faith and work?


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MY REVIEW OF The War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes, rated PG-13
***

Final Film in the “Caesar Trilogy” Raises Questions about the Message.

**SPOILER WARNING!**

In the final film in the new Planet of the Apes trilogy, “The Colonel”, played by two-time Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson, raids the camp of the apes. During the raid, the wife and eldest son of Caesar (Andy Serkis, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit), the leader of the apes, is killed. This leads Caesar, to seek revenge.  The movie follows Caesar, and a few of those closest to him, as they start on a long journey that will lead them to the human camp and the Colonel’s highly trained soldiers. Along the way they meet Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), the lone survivor from a zoo, and a young mute girl, who they name Nova (Amiah Miller).
As David Sims states in his review of the film in The Atlantic, “In Dawn, the story’s darkness made more sense because there were heroes and villains on both sides of the human-ape divide; in War, we’re just watching the final death throes of our own species.” The Colonel (and the humans in general) are portrayed as the villains in this film, while the apes are insistently shown to be the ones with compassion. We see the Colonel using apes, they call donkeys, as slave labor to build a defensive wall in the camp. The group that the Colonel leads is Alpha and Omega, which according to the writer, is a reference to the bomb the mutants worshiped in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. (Jesus Christ also referred to Himself as The Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end.)  The Colonel wraps himself in a perverse distortion of both nationalist and religious symbolism.  We also see graffiti reading “APE-OCALYPSE NOW”, pointing out the similarities of the Colonel to Marlon Brando’s character Colonel Kurtz in the 1979 film Apocalypse Now.  
The film is directed by Matt Reeves, who also directed 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The film is written by Reeves with Mark Bomback and had a budget of approximately $150 million. Since its release, the film has already made in excess of $133 million in the U.S. alone. The CGI (computer generated imagery) used in the film is amazing. Kudos also go to cinematographer Michael Seresin (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) and composer Michael Giacchino for the film’s soundtrack.
Steve Zahn is a welcome newcomer and provides some comedic relief as the likeable Bad Ape. Terry Notary returns as Rocket, a chimp who is now one of Caesar’s most trusted followers. Karin Konoval also returns as Maurice, an orangutan that is another of Caesar’s most faithful advisors.
The film contains a lot of references to the Bible. What they are intended to mean is another question for discerning viewers. For example, Caesar is the ape “savior”, and there are points in the film when there are clear comparisons of him with Jesus. Caesar frees the apes from being slaves, is flogged and hangs on a cross.  He guides the apes to a new “promised land” but dies before entering it, which certainly brings to mind Moses. The Colonel says that he sacrificed his son to save humankind. He wears a crucifix and there is one displayed in his office. We see him make a Catholic sign of the cross over his men in a ‘blessing’. Are the filmmakers mocking Christianity?
Andy Serkies is amazing as Caesar, who has clearly aged by the time we get to this film.  There is some talk of him receiving an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the conflicted (revenge or mercy?) leader of the apes.
Themes in the film include war, hatred, family, self-sacrifice, bravery, revenge and mercy.  It is worth seeing for amazing CGI, great acting and cinematography; just be mindful of the worldview presented.
The film definitely went too long and moved along very slowly. It could have definitely been shortened 45 minutes from its 140- minute running time.


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

The Crucifixion of Jesus – Fernando Ortega
****

Fernando Ortega, one of our most beloved Christian artists, returns with his first album since 2011’s Come Down O Love Divine. The Crucifixion of Jesus, which features eleven contemplative songs and six readings (which were selected and edited by his pastor), is a wonderful project about Holy Week, that will allow you to meditate on Jesus’ arrest and death and sacrifice. Ortega co-produced the album with Bernard Chadwick, and it was engineered and mixed by Brandon Bell.

Below are a few brief comments on each song:

Blessed Be Our God – This is a beautiful song that features Ortega’s vocal over piano and cello and light backing vocals.

Prepare The Way, O Zion – This song was written by Frans Mikael Franzen. It features light drums, piano and cello. It is about Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem where he will be crucified.

House of Prayer – This short song is about Jesus cleansing the temple (John 11:15-18). His house shall be called a prayer for all nations, but you have made it a den of thieves.

In My Father’s Kingdom – This song is about the institution of the Lord’s Supper (Mark 12-24). It features piano and cello.

Stay with Me Here – The song is about Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 26: 26-42). Jesus’ soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. He pleads for his disciples to stay with him and keep watch with him. Features piano and cello.

Your Will Be Done – This short song is a prayer to the Father that His will be done. It features a light guitar.

O Great Love, O Love Beyond Measure – He sings about a great love beyond measure that Jesus would lay down his life for a faithless sinner. He didn’t turn away from those who struck his face. It features piano and guitar.

Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended? – The was written by Johann Heermann in 1630 about the doctrine of Christ’s atonement. We denied Christ. We crucified him. The song features piano, cello, and backing vocals from Audrey Assad, Jonathan Noel and Amanda Noel. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

Unscripted: The Unpredictable Moments That Make Life Extraordinary by Ernie Johnson Jr. Baker Books. 224 pages. 2017
****

The popular host of “Inside the NBA” shares unscripted moments in his life which he called “Blackberry Moments”. He encourages us to embrace these moments and the blessings in our lives. In this book, he includes some wonderful stories and memories from his personal and professional life and how God has worked in his life. Included in the book are excerpts from his writings (eulogy, poems, journals); his writing (and narration of the audiobook edition), is witty and humorous.
Family is extremely important to the author. He and his wife Cheryl have six children, including four that they have adopted, one that has special needs and two of whom who had endured the sex trafficking industry.
His father, Ernie Johnson Sr., was the best man in his wedding and his best friend. He was a pitcher in the major leagues and later the broadcaster of the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves. The two would work together in the booth for Braves games. Ernie Jr. gave the eulogy for his father in 2011. The text of that moving message is included here. His parents were married for 63 years. His father was the greatest influence on his life.
Ernie wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and play in the major leagues, but after getting cut from the University of Georgia baseball team as a sophomore, he pursued a career in the media. He would start doing the news, but would quickly move to sports.
He would meet his future wife Cheryl while she was working as a bank teller. She would later serve in a number of non-profit organizations in Atlanta.  He includes touching stories about son Michael with Muscular Dystrophy, his fascination with cars and his significant health issues.
He writes about hosting “Inside the NBA” for 25 years with Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley, and more recently with Shaquille O’Neill. Of particular interest was his decision to choose to attend his son’s high school graduation rather than broadcast an important seventh game of an NBA postseason series.
Raised Roman Catholic, Ernie writes of his faith being dormant. He was drawn to Christ in 1997 at Crossroads Church in Georgia (now known as 12Stone Church). Wife Cheryl would be drawn to Christ a few years later.
Ernie noticed a bump on his face one day while shaving. He would wait six months to have it looked at by a doctor, and would be diagnosed with stage 2 Follicular Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He would eventually go through six cycles of chemotherapy. Afterwards, he would have a new appreciation for life.
It was a joy to read this book and hear about how God has worked in Ernie’s life.

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

TELEVISION AND MOVIES:

  • If You Are Watching Game of Thrones, You are Watching Porn. Noah Filipiak writes “And if you think you can somehow filter out the porn and only take in the art, you are deceived and double-minded as well.  Porn does what porn does: as soon as it enters the scene, it removes all dignity and humanity.  All that is left is body parts and the consuming of other humans.  You can’t keep someone’s dignity once you have already devoured it.”
  • Funnyman Jim Carrey Finds His Way Home Through Suffering. David Rupert writes of Jim Carey speaking about troubles that have helped him find a way back home. In this video, he talks candidly to a room full of men who have been in and out of prison.  His theology is not orthodox, but I still found this encouraging.
  • The Masterful ‘Dunkirk’ Explores a ‘Miracle’ of History. Brett McCracken writes “Dunkirk is to Nolan as “David” is to Michelangelo. It’s his masterpiece.”
  • The War We Need. Marshall Segal writes “Dunkirk uncovers a war many of us need to see, because we all need to be reminded that life is war.”

IN THE NEWS:

  • Caste Aside: India’s New President Has ‘No Room for Christians’. Kate Shellnutt writes “Though India is the biggest democracy in the world, its Hindu norms have increasingly restricted Christian freedoms. Open Doors rates the persecution level in the country as “very high.”
  • Six Stages of a Dying Church. Thom Rainer writes “Somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 churches in America will close their doors in the next year. And many of them die because they refuse to recognize problems before they became irreversible.”

Courtesy of World Magazine

GODLY MEN AND WOMEN:

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My Review of Going in Style

Going in Style
**

New on video, Going in Style is a disappointing waste of talent that also has some content issues.
This film is a remake of a 1979 film that was directed by Martin Brest and starred George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg. That film was about three elderly friends who decided to rob a bank because they were bored. The new film is directed by three-time Golden Globe nominee (Scrubs) Zach Braff and the screenplay is written by Theodore Melfi (Hidden Figures), based on the original story written by Edward Cannon.
The film stars two-time Oscar winner (Hannah and Her Sisters, The Cider House Rules), Michael Caine, (who most recently starred as an uncredited air radio communicator in Dunkirk) as Joe, Oscar winner (Little Miss Sunshine) Alan Arkin as Al, and Oscar winner (Million Dollar Baby) Morgan Freeman as Willie. Joe has taken his daughter and granddaughter into his home. Al and Willie live across the street. Willie will soon need a kidney transplant and Al supplements his income by giving music lessons.
The three friends worked at Wechsler Steel Company, and are barely making ends meet with their social security and pension checks. They enjoy spending time together, watching television and spending time with friends at the Hudson Lodge. The friends also spend a lot of time in a diner (the same diner featured in the film Goodfellas), and have a good relationship with a favorite waitress Mitzi (Siobhan Fallon Hogan).
The film opens with Joe pleading for mercy with an unrelenting bank employee who tricked him into a bad mortgage and is threatening to foreclose on his home. While they are talking, masked gunmen rob the bank. When Joe gets home, he gets his foreclosure notice. He will be evicted from his home in 30 days.
On top of that, the three friends are told in a meeting that Wechsler Steel Company is closing down their U.S. operations, and will no longer honor their employee’s pensions. The same bank that is threatening to foreclose on Joe is involved with the pensions.
Joe, desperate to keep his home, floats the idea of the three friends robbing the bank. Initially, they are resistant, but they warm up to the idea. They agree that they will only steal an amount equal to the pensions that are being taken from them. They reach out to Jesus (John Ortiz) to teach them how to rob a bank.  A particularly funny scene takes place in a grocery store, and features a store manager played by Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson in a small but effective role.
Two-time Oscar nominee Ann Margret stars as Annie, a grocery store employee. She openly flirts with Al, who though finding Annie attractive, says he has no interest in a relationship.  Oscar nominee Matt Dillon portrays FBI Agent Hamer.
Unfortunately, the film contains some content issues with adult language, including the abuse of God’s and Jesus’ names. It also features some sexual content, though nothing explicit is shown.  On the plus side, positive themes in the film include the importance of friends and family.
Overall, however, a talented cast is wasted in this film which, while having some positive aspects, isn’t all that funny, is extremely predictable and has some content concerns.  Don’t even waste your money renting it.