Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Why Do So Few Believe in Jesus Today?

Recently, as we were waiting in our car to go into a business, we watched as an employee bowed down repeatedly before a statue of Buddha that was surrounded by candy and candles. About a week before that, my wife Tammy had a conversation with a family friend who admitted that she had absolutely no interest in God, and never has. These two situations made me think about why so few believe in Jesus today. Here are some random and somewhat rambling thoughts about that.
We live in an increasingly secular culture today. As I was growing up, few businesses were open on Sunday. Now, it is the rare (Chick fil-A, Hobby Lobby) business that is closed on Sunday; everything else is open. Why is this so?
Research studies confirm the increasingly secular nature of our culture. For example, the Pew Research Center tells us that about three in ten U.S. adults (29%) are religious “nones”, those who describe themselves as not having any religious identity. Membership in houses of worship continued to decline in 2021, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup’s eight-decade trend. In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999. Continue reading


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A Summer of Nostalgia

Adam Wainwright, Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals baseball fans know that we are down to the final few months of watching three legends playing together. Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina, sure Hall of Famers, have announced that this will be their final season. Soon to be 41-year-old pitcher Adam Wainwright has not said that this will be his final season. And why should it be? He’s still competing at a high level. But it certainly could be. Continue reading


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4 Upcoming Albums of Interest

Here are four upcoming albums that you might be interested in:

Life After Death – TobyMac

To be released August 19, this will be TobyMac’s first album since 2018’s The Elements, and the death of his son Truett in October, 2019. Six of the fifteen songs on the album have been released in advance of the album – “21 Years”, “I’m Sorry (a lament)”, “Help is on the Way”, “The Promised Land” (with Sheryl Crow), “The Goodness” (with Blessing Offor), and “Everything About You” (with Marlee). There are several collaborations on the album including “Space” with former DC Talk members Michael Tait and Kevin Max.

Always – Chris Tomlin

To be released September 9, Chris Tomlin returns with thirteen new songs, four of which have been released in advance of the album – “I See You” (featuring Brandon Lake), “Yahweh (No One)” with Elevation Worship, “Always” and “Holy Forever”.

Christ Our Hope in Life and Death – Keith & Kristyn Getty

To be released in September, the album will

include three songs released in advance – “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death” (with Michael W. Smith), “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks” and a song to be released in August.

There is One Gospel – CityAlight

This will be CityAlight’s first collections of songs since their 2018 EP Yet Not I. I haven’t seen a tracklist for the album yet, but it may include some of the singles they have released in the past few years such as “It Was Finished Upon That Cross” and “This is the Day”.

What new music are you looking forward to?


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3 Christian Conferences You Might Want to Attend

My wife Tammy and I enjoy growing spiritually by attending Christian conferences. Here are three conferences we have attended that we would recommend to you:

Ligonier National Conference. R.C. Sproul, who went home to be with the Lord in 2017, was a theological mentor to me. Over the years we have attended a number of Ligonier regional conferences, and since 1997, we have tried to attend the annual Ligonier National Conference in Orlando, Florida each year. For me, the conference is a wonderful break from the late winter weather in central Illinois and a little taste of Heaven. I’ve been introduced to many excellent speakers at the conference such as Sinclair Ferguson, John Piper, Alistair Begg, John MacArthur and many others. The 2023 National Conference, with a theme of “Stand Firm”, will be held March 23-25. Speakers include Sinclair Ferguson. Voddie Baucham, Michael Reeves, Derek Thomas and more.

Sing! Getty Worship Conference. This conference, led by Keith and Kristyn Getty, is a unique experience of teaching and singing songs written specifically for congregational singing. We have attended the last three conferences available in-person and plan to attend the 2022 conference to be held September 4-7 in Nashville, Tennessee. The theme will be “Christ Our Hope in Life and Death: Prayers and Confessions”. Speakers and artists scheduled to appear will be the Gettys, John Piper, John MacArthur, Andrew Peterson, CityAlight, Bryan Chapell and many more.

The Gospel Coalition National Conference. We attended the 2019 National Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana, and really enjoyed it. The 2023 conference will again be held in Indianapolis September 25-27. The theme will be “For All of Life, For All the World: Hope for Pilgrims for the Book of Exodus”. Featured speakers will be John Piper, David Platt, Ligon Duncan, J.D. Greear and more.

These are three conferences we have attended and would recommend to you.
What conferences would you add to the list?


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THIS & THAT: A Roundup of Favorite Articles and Quotes

  • Speeding in Opposite Directions: Lightyear and Maverick. Brett McCracken writes “Yet for all these similarities, the two summer blockbusters that bear their names could not be more different. And the differences between Maverick and Lightyear reveal subtle but important cultural divisions in how we view the past, the future, and the nature of progress.”
  • 2 Films Explore a Volatile Question: ‘What Is a Woman?’ Brett McCracken writes “Two recent documentaries have spoken up, offering rarely heard pushback on the sexual revolution’s party line. While you won’t find these films in theaters or on major streaming sites—no corporate entity could survive association with them—they are worth seeking out and discussing.”
  • Roe v. Wade Has Ended – Our Pro-Life Work Has Not. On this special episode of the Ask Pastor John podcast, John Piper responds to the question “As the work continues, what has been your answer to the question “What should I do?” How have you answered that question in your own life and ministry?”
  • Roe v. Wade Has Been Overturned…What Now? Scott Sauls writes “The answer to what it means to be consistently pro-life includes laying down our own lives for others, just as Christ has done for us.”
  • The FAQs: SCOTUS Upholds Religious Freedom in Praying Coach Case. Joe Carter writes “The Supreme Court issued its ruling in Kennedy v. Bremerton, a religious liberty case involving a Washington State high school football coach who lost his job because he prayed silently on the 50-yard line after a football game. The decision states, “The Free Exercise and Free Speech Clauses of the First Amendment protect an individual engaging in a personal religious observance from government reprisal; the Constitution neither mandates nor permits the government to suppress such religious expression.””
  • Praying Football Coach Wins at Supreme Court. Daniel Silliman writes “Joseph Kennedy’s prayers are protected by the First Amendment’s right to free speech and free exercise of religion, the court decided. The coach didn’t coerce any Bremerton, Washington, high school players into praying, so the school district was wrong to try to stop him from practicing his Christian faith.”

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  • More interesting article links
  • Favorite Quotes of the Week

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • A Conversation with Tim Keller. This interview with Tim Keller by Mike Cosper is an excellent bonus episode on The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill
  • Abram Van Engen, Professor: Origin Stories. On this episode of the Working with Dan Doriani podcast, Dan talks to Abram Van Engen, professor of English at Washington University in St. Louis, Executive Director of the Carver Project, and the author of two books. The second and most well-known is titled City on a Hill, a History of American Exceptionalism.
  • Managing Tension. On this episode of the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, Stanley discusses why a certain amount of tension is necessary for a healthy organization. Leaders must learn to recognize the difference between “conflicts that need to be resolved” versus “tensions that need to be managed.
  • “You Are An Agent of Flourishing” Featuring Amy Sherman. On this episode of the Denver Institute for Faith & Work Faith & Work Podcast, join Joanna Meyer and Amy Sherman, author of Kingdom Calling and the new book Agents of Flourishing, as they discuss community, shalom, and the Church.
  • Called to Lead. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace is available in both a paperback and Kindle edition. Read a free sample (Introduction through Chapter 2).
  • On this episode of the Minute with Maxwell podcast, John Maxwell tells us that a career is what you get paid for, while a calling is what you’re made for. You can quit a career at any time, but a calling stays with you throughout your life.
  • Examining Our Aspirations & Worship in the Great Resignation. Judy Allen writes “The impact of the Great Resignation will not be fully understood for years, but Christians can take immediate advantage of it by asking ourselves two important questions: To what do we aspire? Who, or what, do we worship?”

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More links to interesting articles
  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Review of The Road to J.O.Y. Leading with Faith, Playing with Purpose, Leaving a Legacy by Scott Drew
  • Quotes from the book You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News by Kelly Kapic

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My Review of Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads Sing, rated PG-13
***

Where the Crawdads Sing, based on the bestselling novel by Delia Owens, is a well-made and acted film that has some content concerns. For those who have not read the book (as myself), the film includes a few surprising twists.
The film is directed by Olivia Newman and the screenplay is written by Oscar nominee Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild).
The film, primarily set in the 1950’s and 1960’a, is about Kya Clark, played well by Daisy Edgar-Jones. Daisy and her family live in the marshes of Barkley Cove, North Carolina. When she is young (the young Kya is played by Jojo Regina), she meets a boy on the marshes named Tate Walker. Kya’s father (played by Garrett Dillahunt), is an alcoholic with a bad temper. He eventually drives Kya’s siblings and then her mother to leave the home, leaving Kya with her father, who eventually abandons her as well.
Kya has to survive on her own, and becomes known as the “Marsh Girl”. She is helped by the friendly Christian couple – Michael Hyatt as Mabel and Sterling Macer Jr. as Jumpin’ – that run the country grocery store.
When Kya is older, she meets Tate again, played by Taylor John Smith, and he teaches her to read and write. Kya has a real talent for drawing the animals, insects and trees she encounters in the marsh. Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


New Creation – Mac Powell
****

I’ve long enjoyed Mac Powell’s music, mostly from his time as lead singer of four-time Grammy winners Third Day. I also enjoyed his 2019 album Back Again with Mac Powell and the Family Reunion. In fact, my wife Tammy and I saw Powell with his band the Family Reunion in November 2019, which was the last concert we saw before concerts were shut down due to the pandemic.

Me and Mac

Powell has also released two country music solo albums, but this is his first solo album of Christian music, and it’s a good one. He brings his distinctive baritone voice – one of the best in music – to these songs with a bit of a country/southern flavor. The album is produced by Jonathan Smith, Hank Bentley, Jeff Pardo, Seth Mosely, Colby Wedgeworth, and Ed Cash. Powell co-wrote each song, collaborating with Jonathan Smith, Ethan Hulse, Seth Mosley, Jeff Pardo, Brenton Brown, Hank Bentley, Matt Maher, Benji Cowart, Casey Beathard and Tommy Iceland.
Below are a few comments about each song:

 

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  • More of this review
  • Music News
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Unguarded by Scottie Pippen with Michael Arkush. Atria Books. 303 pages. 2021  
***

Scottie Pippen is one of the greatest players in the history of the National Basketball Association. He is a six-time world champion with the Chicago Bulls and a member of the Hall of Fame. He also won two Gold Medals as a member of the U.S. Olympic Basketball team. I, along with my family, was blessed to see the Bulls play in person many times during their incredible run, even though tickets were incredibly hard to get. It was a very special time in sports, one that I doubt I will ever see again.
Until now, Pippen has not written his autobiography, though his career was certainly worthy of one. After watching the acclaimed 2020 ESPN documentary The Last Dance, (for which teammate Michael Jordan was paid $10 million and no other Bull was paid anything), Pippen decided it was time to tell his story. He writes that there is a great deal in the ESPN documentary that has no business being in there, and also that a great deal that should have been included has been left out. Pippen writes that the documentary failed to give his Hall of Fame career the treatment it deserves. He states that The Last Dance was Jordan’s chance to tell his story, and Unguarded is Pippen’s.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review…
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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My Review of Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris, rated PG
****

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris is a delightful film that we thoroughly enjoyed, starring Oscar nominee Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread). The film was directed by Anthony Fabian, and the screenplay was written by Fabian, Carroll Cartwright, Keith Thompson and Olivia Hatreed, based on a 1958 novel by Paul Gallico.
The film is set in London in the 1950’s. Ada Harris, played by Manville, is a hard-working and good-hearted cleaning lady who has not heard from her Air Force husband who has been missing in action for twelve years. Vi Butterfield, played by Ellen Thomas, is a fellow cleaning lady and Ada’s good friend. Ada still holds out hope that her husband will one day walk back into her life. But then that hope is shattered when she receives a package containing his ring in the mail.
Ada sees a Dior dress that has been purchased by one of clients, and immediately falls in love with it. She decides to save up for a Dior dress of her own. She takes on sewing work to help raise the money for the trip to Dior in Paris and the dress.


SPOILER ALERT: After foolishly losing a good amount at the dog races, despite being encouraged against the bet by the kind-hearted Archie, played by Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter films), and not being paid by one of her customers, she loses hope that she will ever get her dream dress.
But then Ada receives a surprise visit indicating that she should have been receiving a widow’s pension all of these years. That unexpected money will help her get to Paris where she can buy her dream dress.
In Paris she is looked down upon and invisible by Dior’s manager, Claudine Colbert, played by Oscar nominee Isabelle Huppert (Elle), but befriended by Marquis de Chassagne, played by Lambert Wilson, who lets her attend the exclusive by invitation only fashion show as his guest. Ada is overjoyed by the dresses she sees. She falls in love with a red dress named “Temptation”.
It will take a few days for her dress to be fitted and made, so the young accountant Andre Fauvel, played by Lucas Bravo, lets her stay at his home as his sister is away. The “Face of Dior”, model, Natasha, played by Alba Baptista, gives her a ride to the man’s home. Marquis de Chassagne also begins taking a liking to Ada. Ada will build a friendship with the two during her short time in Paris.


The film features beautiful costumes, a bit of romance, scenes of Paris and a very good cast, all led by a wonderful performance by Manville.
In a time in which woke film studios are adding as many “messages” into their films as possible, it was a joy to watch this film, which was heart-warming and had no content concerns.