Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Favorite Books on Faith and Work, Calling and Productivity

I have a passion for integrating my faith and my work and talking to others about how to do it. Over the past few years, I’ve read a number of helpful books in the faith and work, calling and productivity genres. Below are my favorites:

Five Books on Integrating Faith and Work

  • Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Tim Keller with Katherine Leary. Keller helps to illuminate the transformative and revolutionary connection between the Christian faith and the workplace. He encourages believers to think about their work through the lens of a Christian worldview. He structures the book around three questions: Why do we want to work? Why is it so hard to work? How can we overcome the difficulties and find satisfaction in our work through the gospel? This book introduced me to Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s Center for Faith and Work, something I would like to model in my community.
  • Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson. Nelson looks at Os Guinness’ discussion of our primary and secondary callings in his excellent book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life and focuses on our secondary calling (to do a specific work) in this book. He looks at work through a biblical lens in the first section of the book and focuses on how God shapes our lives in and through our work in the second section.  The author, who is a pastor, includes helpful “Questions for Reflection and Discussion” and a “Prayer for Our Work” at the end of each chapter. He mentions that the Center for Faith and Work at Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church (mentioned above) has been a catalyst for his church to think more intentionally about equipping their congregation in vocational mission.
  • God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith. This book is an exposition of the doctrine of vocation and an attempt to apply that doctrine in a practical way to our life in the twenty-first century. He first looks at the nature of vocation: the purpose of vocation, how to find our vocation, how God calls us to different tasks and how He is present in what we do in our lives. Then he looks at specific vocations (as a worker, in the family, as a citizen, and in the church), and specific problems common to them all.
  • Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy L. Sherman. This is a book about vocational stewardship that is primarily written for pastors and ministry leaders, particularly those already committed to leading missional churches (those that seek to follow King Jesus on the mission of making all things new). It would be an excellent book for these leaders to recommend to those they lead to help them integrate their faith and work.
  • Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good by Steven Garber. The author invites the reader to “come and see” that the vision of vocation he writes about is being lived out by men and women who are committed to a faith that shapes a vocation that in turn shapes culture. He writes that there is not a more difficult task that human beings face than to know the world and still love it. A recurring question that he asks throughout the book is “Knowing what I know, what will I do?” This book is best read slowly as he weaves in stories to illustrate his points.

Two Books on Calling

  • The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose of Your Life by Os Guinness. The author writes that there is no deeper meaning than to discover and live out your calling. He states that there is no calling without a Caller, and if there is no Caller, there are no callings, only work. He states that it is never too late to discover your calling, which is deeper than our jobs, our career, and all of our benchmarks of success. He discusses our primary and secondary callings and the two distortions (Catholic and Protestant) that have crippled the truth of calling. An excellent abridged version of this book is available entitled Rising to the Call.
  • The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do by Jeff Goins. This book is an excellent introduction to the subject of calling. It’s easy to read, interesting and practical. The book is organized into three major sections – Preparation, Action and Completion. In those sections he covers seven overlapping stages of calling – Awareness, Apprenticeship, Practice, Discovery, Profession, Mastery and Legacy. In each stages he uses interesting stories to illustrate the stage. In the Appendix, he includes a summary of the seven stages, seven signs you’ve found your calling and seven exercises to complete. He also includes questions for discussion that will be helpful if you’re reading and discussing the book with others.

Two Books on Productivity

  • Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies. This new book is an extremely efficient, well-organized, easy to read and practical book. The author’s aim is to help the reader do more of what matters most and do it better. He writes that our productivity depends to a good degree on identifying and using the best tools (management, scheduling and information), for the job and then growing in your proficiency with them. He also discusses concepts such as a “Weekly Review” and includes helpful “Action Steps” at the end of each section.
  • What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman. The author states that the book is about getting things done and making ideas happen with less friction and frustration from a biblical perspective. He helps the reader think about productivity as Christians. He aims to help us live the life that God has called us to live and live it with maximum effectiveness and meaning. He introduces us to the concept of Gospel Driven Productivity, which looks at not only what the Bible has to say about getting things done, but also learns from the best secular thinking. He uses the DARE Model – Define, Architect, Reduce, and Execute.

These are my favorite faith and work, calling and productivity books. Do you have others to add to the list?


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Movie Review ~ Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek BeyondStar Trek Beyond, rated PG-13
*** ½

This is the 13th feature film based on the late-1960’s Gene Roddenberry television series that my brother used to love to watch, on the 50th anniversary of the start of that series. After two reboot films directed by J.J. Abrams, this film is directed by Justin Lin, who has directed four Fast and Furious films.  Abrams is listed as a producer on this film. The film is co-written by Simon Pegg (who also plays Scotty) and Doug Jung. The film had an estimated budget of $185 million and is projected to make about $60 million in the U.S. on its opening weekend.

The film, which film takes place two and a half years after 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, opens and closes like the original television program with a voiceover by Captain Kirk, played well by Chris Pine.  The USS Enterprise is in the third year of a five-year 23rd century mission. Kirk is feeling bored and ready for a change, so he applies for a Vice Admiral position at a large space station known as Starbase Yorktown.

Mr. Spock, played by Zachary Quinto, is also looking to make changes when he hears about the death of Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy, who died in 2015). Although they want to tell each other about their plans, they don’t do so. The film also addresses a relationship Spock has with Uhura, played by Zoe Saldana.

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

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Where the Light Shines Through (Deluxe Edition) – Switchfoot
****

Switchfoot is one of my favorite bands, second only to U2. This is their first full-length album since their chart-topping 2014 album Fading West. An EP of songs from the Fading West sessions The Edge of the Earth, was also released in 2014.  Lead singer/songwriter Jon Foreman also released four solo Wonderlands EPs in 2015.

This is the band’s 10th album in their 20-year career. It is also the first time in ten years that the band has worked with producer John Fields, who worked with them on their 2003 breakthrough album The Beautiful Letdown, as well as 2005’s Nothing is Sound and 2006’s Oh! Gravity. Bassist Tim Foreman has said that the band went through a dark season and the record become a source of light in the middle of that dark season. He stated that the album rose organically out of the ashes of adversity.

This is an excellent new release from the band that always sounds fresh. Jon Foreman’s vocals are excellent and Chad Butler’s drums really stand out. I would have liked a few more rockers, but still love the album.

Below are a few comments on each of the songs on the deluxe edition, which debuted on iTunes Top Albums chart at #2:

Holy Water – a strong opener with grungy drums and guitars that reminded me of the band’s raw Oh! Gravity sound. Jon sings that he has fought the fire with fire and he wants to taste the Lord’s love again.

Float – features an infectious funky beat. I liked this song instantly. Jon sings “Turn it up so I can feel it. Loud enough so I can get near it.” He sings don’t let them tell you what to feel like, and that money’s going to leave you broken-hearted. It can’t finish what we started.  A favorite.

Where the Light Shines Through – opens with guitar, then quickly goes into drums and the full band. Jon sings encouragingly that we can’t run away from ourselves. He sings that our scars shine like dark stars and that our wounds are where the light shines through, it’s where the light finds us.  The band describes it as “a gospel song – an open palms altar call – bring your scars and abuse and bruises with you”.

I Won’t Let You Go – opens with acoustic guitar. Jon offers a vulnerable Bono-like vocal as the song builds. This song works on different levels, including being a song in which the Lord is speaking to us about trusting Him.

If you could only let go your doubts
If you could just believe in me now
I swear, that I won’t let you go

Another line that was powerful was “pain gives birth to the promise ahead”.

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Good Summer Reads

good summer reads

If You Can Keep ItIf You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty by Eric Metaxas. Viking. 272 pages. 2016
***

The author, one of my favorites, writes of the promise of liberty for the new nation as was laid out in the Constitution. He states that although the current situation in America is grave (more about that at the end of my review), much of the promise has already been fulfilled.

The book title comes from a quote from Benjamin Franklin. In response to a woman about what kind of nation the Founders had given the American people, he replied “A republic, if you can keep it”.  Metaxas asks if we can keep it and if so, how?

He writes that America was founded on the idea of liberty, and that America exists for others. Its mission is to the rest of the world.  Our exceptionalism is for others. He writes that the concept of self-government was a new idea.

Metaxas writes of the “Golden Triangle of Freedom”, a concept that Os Guinness (to whom the book is dedicated), developed in his book A Free People’s Suicide. This is the concept that Freedom requires Virtue; Virtue requires Faith; and Faith requires Freedom.

Metaxas writes that America’s Founders knew that communities that took their faith seriously tended to be virtuous in the way that self-government required.  Faith in turn requires freedom, because unless people are free to practice whatever faith they choose, that faith is coerced by the state, and therefore not real faith at all. He writes that unfortunately, as a nation, we have largely forgotten the ideas on which our country was founded upon.

He writes about what it means to be an American, and that most people wrongly understand the concept known as the separation of church and state, and also believe that it is in the Constitution, which it is not.

He writes about the role of British preacher/evangelist George Whitefield in forming America,  a fact that was new to me. He indicates that Whitefield showed that different denominations could co-exist in the new country. Whitefield taught that each person was equal in the sight of God, and that each person could have a direct relationship with God through the new birth. Metaxas writes that some call Whitefield the “Spiritual Father of the United States”.

Throughout the book Metaxas writes of heroes such as Paul Revere, George Washington, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln.  He states that in the past fifty years, we have moved to the veneration of heroes in America to the suspicion of them.

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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CURRENT EVENTS:Dallas Police Chief David Brown

  • How Police Chief David Brown’s Whole Life Prepared Him for the Dallas Shootings. Naomi Martin writes of Dallas Police Chief David Brown that “Faith, family and his love for his hometown are what drive Brown, say those close to him.”
  • Humility is the Key to Understanding Race Relations. Lecrae writes “I want people to know that [racism] is bigger than just caring for your community. This is a moral issue across the board for humanity. If you subscribe to any moral code that says you should care for humanity, obviously black people will fit into that category. So why would you not advocate for justice and truth unless you have something to lose?”
  • Race and the Christian: Piper, Keller and Bradley. With the unfortunate events that have taken place in our country the past few weeks, now is a good time to revisit these messages from John Piper, Tim Keller and Anthony Bradley.
  • Racism, Prejudice, and Christ. John Piper writes “When we feel or think or act with disdain or disrespect or avoidance or exclusion or malice toward a person simply because he or she is of another race or another ethnic group, we are, in effect, saying that Jesus acted in a foolish way toward us. You don’t want to say that.”
  • How Should I Process the Current Tensions and Violence in Our Country? Kevin DeYoung offers 15 helpful suggestions on how to think and respond wisely and Christianly to the events that took place in Dallas and other locations recently.

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My Review of the Movie “The Secret Life of Pets”

The Secret Life of PetsThe Secret Life of Pets, rated PG
** ½

Have you ever wondered what our pets do when we are away from them during the day – at work, school, etc.? This animated film set in New York City looks at a day in the life of the pets living in a large apartment building. The film is co-directed by Yarrow Cheney and Chris Renaud (who directed Despicable Me 1 and 2) and written by Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio (who wrote Despicable Me 1 and 2), and Brian Lynch who wrote Minions.  The film had an estimated budget of $75 million and has already made over $200 million in its first two weeks of release.

Max (voiced by Louis C.K.) is a terrier who loves his owner Katie (Ellie Kemper). He can’t wait for her to return back to the apartment each evening. But one evening she brings a new dog, the large rescue Duke (Eric Stonestreet).  Now Max does not have all of Katie’s affections to himself and must share them with this large new “brother”, who is not very nice to Max, eating his food and sleeping in his dog bed.  Max must find a way to convince Katie to get rid of the big dog that is making his life miserable.

The next thing we know, they are out of the apartment building on the streets of the city. We see them attacked by a gang of cats, including Ozone (Steve Coogan), and the alleycats remove Max and Duke’s collars. Soon, they are caught by Animal Control and are being hauled off.  That’s when Max and Duke encounter Snowball, a former magician’s rabbit (Kevin Hart), the leader of the Flushed Pets, who live in the sewers. Snowball is preparing to lead his group of discarded pets in a revolution against humans. All Max and Duke want to do is to get back to the safety of their apartment building.

Gidget (Jenny Slate) who has a crush on Max, convinces the other pets in the apartment building to go looking for Max. We meet Chloe the cat (Lake Bell), the bulldog Mel (Bobby Moynihan), Tiberius the hawk (Albert Brooks) and others who set out to find Max to bring him home. They get assistance from a paralyzed elderly basset hound named Pops (Dana Carvey).  We see Max and Duke begin to put their differences behind them and join together as allies in their quest to return home.

There were several instances of mild “toilet humor” throughout the film, which always got a giggle from the children in the audience. Some parts of the film, particularly those in the sewers (with an alligator and large snake) could be scary for very young children.

There was much to like about this film that shows the positive relationship between pets and humans, although I have to admit that many of the funniest parts of the film were featured in the trailer that has been playing for months. Although we enjoyed the film, it started feeling a bit long at 87 minutes, and the writing was not on par with better animated films of 2016 Zootopia or Finding Dory.

Note: get to the theater early as a new Minions short film Mower Minions, plays before the feature film.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articlesteachable

  • True Leaders Are Teachable. Dave Kraft writes “I’ve come to the measured conclusion that, when it comes to the indispensable qualities for being a leader in the body of Christ and in life in general, there’s one characteristic that perhaps should be placed at the top: teachability.”
  • Sharing Our Message. Bob Chapman writes about Barry-Wehmiller and other companies being featured in a Wall Street Journal article titled “Culture Quantified”, about how a positive company culture impacts every aspect of an organization.
  • Millennials and Vocation. Gene Veith writes “Barna has done a study of the millennial generation’s attitude towards work.  Most do not see their careers as central to their identities (unlike Baby Boomers).  Rather, their jobs are there to fund their personal interests.  And yet, Millennial Christians are more likely than Baby Boomers to see their work in terms of “calling” (a.k.a. “vocation”).”
  • Enough about Millennials. Patrick Lencioni writes “Am I the only person in the world who is tired of hearing people talk about Millennials? Whether it’s a complaint about their entitlement mentality or a declaration of their brilliance, it all strikes me as shallow and simplistic.
  • Four Reasons Religious Freedom Matters for Society. Hugh Whelchel writes “If you believe in the Christian view of work, religious freedom is essential to living out that belief in a way that brings all of life, including your work, under the Lordship of Christ.”
  • The Best Workers Make the Best Neighbors. Tom Nelson writes “The Christian faith compels us to live in such a God-honoring way that we do honest work, make an honest profit and cultivate economic capacity so we can serve others and help meet their economic needs. Our diligent work creates economic value, and it is economic value that makes possible the economic capacity for living generously. What the world needs now is jobs, sweet jobs. Good jobs make for good neighbors.”
  • Trust is Hard to Gain and Easy to Lose. Dave Kraft writes “Trust is critically foundational to a team or a family. You don’t demand trust, you earn it, and you earn it more by your character than your competence. More leaders lose trust over character issues than competency issues.”
  • Taking Your Leadership Out of the Office. John Maxwell writes “As a 360° leader, in addition to leading up, across and down, you need to lead out. Leading out means to be on the forefront of an action.”
  • Life on Life: The Key to Sustainable Influence. Steve Graves writes “Jesus’ method was life on life. He poured courage, hope, and direction into His followers, and then He challenged them to do the same with those coming along behind them.”
  • characterCharacter in Leadership: Does it Really Matter Anymore? Albert Mohler writes “Three principles may offer us guidance in considering the issue of character in leadership, whether that leadership is exercised in the political sphere, in the church, or in any other consequential endeavor. These principles, rooted in the Christian worldview, may help us to think as we ponder the issue of character.”
  • Work Hurts Sometimes – And That’s a Good Thing. Tom Nelson writes “If work is difficult today, bask in this wonderful truth. Hardship and frustration in the workplace doesn’t need to be meaningless. Even today, you can embrace it as one of the ways God is renewing and reshaping us into his image.”

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