Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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8 Upcoming Books That I’m Excited About

Here are 8 upcoming books, and a brief description of them, that I’m looking forward to:

The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes by Mark Dever
To be published March 1.
From Amazon’s description:
“In a time of political turmoil and religious upheaval, Richard Sibbes sought to consistently apply the riches of Reformation theology to his hearers’ lives. He emphasized the security of God’s covenant, the call for assurance of salvation, and the place of the heart in the Christian life. In The Affectionate Theology of Richard Sibbes, Dr. Mark Dever gives readers a penetrating look into the life and theology of this fascinating figure.”
This book is a part of the Long Line of Godly Men series, edited by Steven Lawson.

Servant Leadership in Action: How You Can Achieve Great Relationships and Results. Edited by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell.
To be published March 6.
From Amazon’s description:
“We’ve all seen the negative impact of self-serving leaders in every sector of our society. Not infrequently, they end up bringing down their entire organization. But there is another way: servant leadership. Servant leaders lead by serving their people, not by exalting themselves. This collection features forty-four renowned servant leadership experts and practitioners–prominent business executives, bestselling authors, and respected spiritual leaders–who offer advice and tools for implementing this proven, but for some still radical, leadership model. Edited by legendary business author and lifelong servant leader Ken Blanchard and his longtime editor Renee Broadwell, this is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging guide ever published for what is, in every sense, a better way to lead.” I’m reading an advance copy of this book now. It includes contributions from some of my favorite leadership authors such as Ken Blanchard, Patrick Lencioni, Dave Ramsey, Mark Miller, Henry Cloud, Stephen M.R. Covey, Simon Sinek. It’s a wonderful book for those who want to lead like Jesus did.

Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief by Matt Chandler
To be published March 20.
From Amazon’s description:
“The Christian culture that has underpinned Western society for centuries has been eroded. We’re now at the point where to disagree with people on issues such as marriage and sexuality, is seen as hateful. Christians are no longer seen as honorable, but as bigots. But history testifies that the more people try to destroy Christianity, the more it grows. So, we are entering an exciting period of time because we’re back in the place where Christ’s church can thrive – at the margins of society. In this stirring, passionate book, Matt Chandler shows us we need Christian courage like never before, and how to live with compassion and conviction, able to look around positively and reach out confidently. It encourages us not to be thwarted by fear, but to depend on God and have confidence that Christ will build his church, despite continual marginalization. A must-read for any Christian who wants to understand how to stand firm and walk forwards in an increasingly secular culture.” Continue reading

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My Review of BLACK PANTHER

Black Panther, rated PG-13
****

Black Panther, the latest film from Marvel, is a triumph and an exciting, well-acted and directed introduction to a new super hero. The film is directed by 31-year-old Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed) and written by Coogler and Emmy nominee Joe Robert Cole (American Crime Story). Coogler uses cinematographer Oscar nominee Rachel Morrison (Mudbound), production designer Emmy nominee Hannah Beachler (Beyonce: Lemonade), and composer Ludwig Goransson, all who worked with him on 2013’s excellent Fruitvale Station. Two-time Oscar nominee Ruth E. Carter (Amistad, Malcolm X) handled the costume design.
The film has an all-star cast, and an estimated budget of $200 million. This is the eighteenth film released by Marvel Studios for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This one is different from other Marvel films however, in that it is a pretty much self-contained world, though we did hear about the death of the King of Wakanda in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
T’Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman (Marshall, 42) is the son of the king. After the death of his father, he returns to the mysterious land of Wakanda to take his place as king. Wakanda is a beautiful African nation that has never been colonized by White settlers that hides its riches and technology, powered by the rare and extremely valuable blue metal vibranium, from the rest of the world. Vibranium has many valuable uses.
T’Challa assumes the title Black Panther, with an impenetrable black battle suit, developed by his sister Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, who also provides the vibranium-based weapons. Okoye, played by Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) leads Wakanda’s elite female warriors. Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) plays Nakia, T’Challa’s former girlfriend that he still has feelings for.
For centuries Wakanda has kept its great wealth to itself and T’Challa wants to keep Wakanda isolated from the rest of the world. But Nakia sees how Wakanda can help other nations with their vast resources.
A challenger to T’Challa and the throne of Wakanda is Erik Killmonger, a soldier played by Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station, Creed).  Because of an event that occurred in his childhood, Killmonger has motivation to destroy T’Challa. Killmonger also wants to steal the technology of Wakanda and use it for evil purposes. Ulysses Klaue is a South African arms dealer, played by Andy Serkis (Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings) and is a partner in crime with Killmonger.
The all-star cast also includes Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland), Oscar nominee Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got To Do With It), Golden Globe nominee Martin Freeman (Fargo, The Hobbit, Sherlock), Golden Globe and Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown (This is Us, Marshall) and Oscar nominee Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out).
Coogler used experts in African history and politics as consultants on the film to work on defining Wakanda, a nation where three out of every five people go barefoot. The fighting in the film is based on African martial arts. The powerful musical score is by Ludwig Goransson and features new original songs from Kendrick Lamar.
Themes in the film include loyalty and tradition, and transitioning from barriers to bridges.  The film is visually stunning, particularly the costumes and how the African nation of Wakanda is portrayed. Parts of the closing battle scene will also remind you of Star Wars.
Content concerns include a significant amount of intense superhero violence, as is expected with any Marvel film. There is also some adult language. The king’s power is said to come from the panther god, Bast by way of a glowing flower. We hear people pray to ancestors and to Bast.
Black Panther is an achievement not only as a very entertaining film with a good story, but also culturally. It features strong women in key roles. The Black Panther is Marvel’s first African American super hero and the cast, director and supporting crew is largely African American.
Reminder: as with all Marvel films, don’t forget to wait through all of the ending credits.


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Resurrection Letters: Prologue
****

Ten years ago, Andrew Peterson, one of our most respected singer/songwriters, was working on an album that he says was more or less on the resurrection of Jesus. As he started working on the songs, he realized that they actually were more about the way Jesus’s resurrection plays out in our lives rather than the resurrection itself. So, the album was creatively titled Resurrection Letters, Vol. 2.
This year, Peterson finally began work on Vol. 1 with producer Ben Shive, who also produced Vol. 2, ten years ago. But Peterson felt it would be odd to write about Jesus’s victory over death without writing about his death itself. That led to this recording, which he humorously has called the prequel to the prequel. Got all that?
Volume 1 will be out soon. For this release, Peterson has written ““The five songs on Prologue are meant to be a sort of fast, opening with the last words of Jesus on the cross and ending with his interment in the tomb. May they’ll be a good reminder of the hard road Jesus walked in order to make the world new.”

Let’s look at the excellent EP, Resurrection Letters: Prologue, which is superbly written and performed:
Last Words (Tenebrae) – This beautiful song driven by piano, light percussion and backing vocals, focuses on Jesus’s last words on the cross, beginning with, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do”. The vocals are layered and build powerfully throughout the song. Ending with “Father into your hands I commit my spirit”.
Well Done, Good and Faithful – This song features piano and light percussion. It takes the listener through the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross, through his cries and groans when his Father turned away from him. The chorus is based on Hebrews 12:2 which reads in part “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus finished his work, well, good and faithful, reminding us of the servant in Matthew 25:23.
The Ninth Hour – This is a beautiful instrumental featuring strings and piano. Mark 15:33 states “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.”
Always Good – This intimate song to Jesus is driven by acoustic guitar and backing vocals. Jesus, who laid down his life and suffered for us, knows what we are feeling. Somehow His sorrow is shaping our hearts like it should, as we try to believe what is not meant to be understood. It’s hard to know what He is doing. Help us to trust that His intentions for us are still good. Maybe the answer surrounds us, but we don’t have the eyes to see that He’s always good.
God Rested – The EP ends with this song about Jesus’s body being taken down from the cross and being buried in the tomb of a rich man. Pilate had no peace during this time. Peterson creatively connects God’s work in creation with Jesus’s work. “Six days shall you labor, the seventh is the Lord’s. In six He made the earth and all the heavens, but He rested on the seventh.” He worked till it was finished (Matthew 19:30). God blessed the seventh day. The song is driven by piano, drums, synth and backing vocals.

Peterson has stated that his hope is that the listener would use these five songs during Lent and Holy Week to dwell on the terrible road Jesus had to walk in order to conquer not just sin, but the grave.
Meditate on these songs as you prepare your heart to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection.
Andrew will be one of the speakers at the Sing! 2018 Conference September 10-12 in Nashville. Continue reading


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My Review of THE 15:17 TO PARIS

The 15:17 to Paris, rated PG-13
** ½

The 15:17 to Paris is based on the true story of the August 21, 2015 attempted terrorist attack aboard a train to Paris, and surprisingly includes a significant amount of Christian content. The film is directed by four-time Oscar winner, 87-year-old Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby, Unforgiven). The screen play is written by Dorothy Blyskal, based on the book The 15:17 to Paris: The True Story of a Terrorist, a Train, and Three American Soldiers by Jeffrey E. Stern, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos and Spenser Stone.
The film follows the friendship of Alek Skarlatos, Spenser Stone and Anthony Sadler, who are played as adults by the real-life heroes, not professional actors, a key casting decision by Eastwood. Inserted in their story are parts of the terrorist attack onboard the train.
The teenage Alek, played by Bryce Gheisar, and Spenser, played by Cole Eichenberger are best friends at a Christian middle school in Sacramento, California. Both have single mothers, Heidi, played by Emmy nominee Jenna Fischer (The Office) and Joyce, played by Judy Greer (The Descendants). The boys often get into trouble, ending up in the principal’s office. It is there that they meet Anthony, played by Paul-Mikel Williams, who also often finds himself there.
Later, we see Spenser and Alek join the military, while Anthony attends college at Sacramento State University. Spenser has to work extremely hard to get in shape, and even his close friends don’t think he can make it, but he eventually does. Throughout the film, we are told that Spenser has always wanted to help people.
Despite being separated, the guys stay in touch, and decide to vacation in Europe. That part of the film really slows, as we see Sadler taking numerous selfies. After a night of partying, resulting in hangovers, they leave Amsterdam and board the high-speed 15:17 Thalys train to Paris.
Ayoub El Khazzani, played by Ray Corasani, a Moroccan-born terrorist is on board, armed with a knife, rifle, pistol, box cutter, and about 300 rounds of ammunition, all with the purpose of doing damage to the 500 passengers. We see him beginning his attack and then Stone, and later Sadler and Skarlatos confronting him.
Similar to his last film Sully, Eastwood uses a very economical directing style, with the film clocking in at just 94 minutes, his shortest film as a director. But the film moves rather slowly without a lot of action, until the last fifteen minutes, which was outstanding.
The film contains a significant amount of Christian content as we hear the characters pray and talk about having a purpose.  But the majority of Christians in the film are portrayed as very uptight.  The film does have some content concerns which include bloody violence, adult language, including the abuse of God’s and Jesus’s names and women pole-dancing in an adult club.
Themes in the film include bravery, patriotism, and friendship.  The 15:17 to Paris shows that these three young men were just ordinary guys who were providentially put into a situation and responded with bravery and self-sacrifice. It’s certainly not a great movie, but having the real heroes portray themselves added to the film.  (My wife thinks the film would have been better if their roles were played by actors and then the real footage used at the end of the film, because there was some very stilted dialogue).


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story by Ed Henry. Thomas Nelson. 240 pages. 2017
**** 

This book was released on the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first African American in Major League baseball. Many are already familiar with the key points of Robinson’s story through previous books and the 2013 film 42. What Henry’s book focuses on is the role of faith – of Robinson, his wife Rachel, Branch Rickey and Robinson’s and Rickey’s mothers – in Robinson’s story.
Henry looks at the unique relationship between Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson and how their respective Methodist faiths impacted them.  The book is well-researched, as the author met with Robinson’s widow Rachel, teammate Carl Erskine, visited the site of the former Ebbets Field, pulled a lot of information from Robinson’s unpublished memoir, as well as his sermons and speeches, to show how Robinson was open about how his faith helped him to deal with all that came his way (verbal and physical abuse, death threats, etc.).
Juan Williams offers a lengthy introduction about race and faith in America. Henry includes biographical sketches of Rickey and Robinson’s lives up until they met each other on a warm August day in Rickey’s office in Brooklyn.  Robinson wasn’t sure why he was there. He had been told that the Dodgers were starting a negro team, but that was just what he was told to get him to Rickey’s office.
Henry looks at the effect of Rickey’s faith (he was a Methodist, named after John Wesley) on his decision to move forward to bring Robinson to the major leagues. Henry writes that Rickey was impacted by discrimination against Charles Thomas, an African American on one of his Ohio Wesleyan teams, who was denied housing at a hotel when Ohio Wesleyan went to Indiana to play Notre Dame.  That may have influenced him towards the action he took in making Robinson the first African American player in the major leagues. Continue reading


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THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles and Quotes

  • 9 Things You Should Know About the Winter Olympics. Joe Carter writes “The 2018 Winter Olympic officially starts February 9 in Pyeongchang County, South Korea. Here are nine things you should know about the world’s leading international winter sports event”
  • 5 Christian Athletes to Watch in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Brett McCracken writes “Among the athletes competing are five Olympians who have spoken openly about their Christian faith. Learn a bit about them below and root them on during the Olympics as they seek to glorify God by excelling in their sport.”
  • BreakPoint: The 15:17 to Paris. On this episode of the BreakPoint podcast, John Stonestreet writes “A major studio has just released a film about three heroic Americans who stopped a terrorist attack—and it ties that heroism to their Christian faith.”
  • What You Should Know about Wakanda. With Marvel’s eagerly anticipated new film Black Panther set to open this week, Joe Carter tells us what we should know about the mysterious African nation.
  • Hatmaker Explains Why She Rejected the “Bad Fruit” of the Bible’s Teaching about Sexuality. Denny Burk writes “Jesus says that his commands are not burdensome (Matt. 11:28-30), but Hatmaker says that they are not only burdensome but also harmful to people. Who is right? Hatmaker or Jesus? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is unclear to many. But it won’t prove unclear to genuine followers of Christ. I hope and pray that it will one day be clear again to Hatmaker as well.”
  • Jen Hatmaker and the Power of De-Conversion Stories. Michael Kruger writes “The purpose of this article is to lay out the steps in this de-conversion playbook and offer a quick response to each. I hope to help others who hear these de-conversion stories and struggle with how to respond.”
  • Moody: What Am I Supposed to Say? Trent Hunter writes “What am I supposed to say when a member at my church asks me if Moody still holds to the inerrancy of Scripture? Should they give? Should they send their student? What am I supposed to say when they ask about these related stories of subversive teaching on Adam, a professor whom they heard supports planned parenthood, and the denial of a correspondence theory of truth among some faculty? What about the alleged hiring of an egalitarian who was herself an ordained pastor, and layoffs that may be part of a plan to silence those who registered their concerns? Given my responsibility as an undershepherd before Christ, as one charged to “follow the pattern of sound words” handed down, what am I supposed to say (2 Tim. 1:13)?”
  • Meet the First Gerber Baby with Down Syndrome; His Name is Lucas! Terri Peters writes “The 2018 Gerber baby is Lucas Warren, a 1-year-old from Dalton, Georgia who is the first child with Down Syndrome to be named a Gerber baby since the contest’s start in 2010.”
  • Walgreens Adopts Policy Allowing Males Who Identify as Females to Use Women’s Restrooms. Heather Clark writes “The nationwide drugstore chain Walgreens has adopted a policy allowing males who identify as females to use the women’s restroom, and vice versa.”
  • Jordan Peterson is Helping Disillusioned Boys Become Men. Here’s Why Liberals Hate That. Jonathon Van Maren writes “But a good question to ask Peterson’s detractors would be whyWhydo they hate him so much? Why are so many liberals so determined to mock and malign him at every turn? Why do they see him as such a dangerous figure, when the impact of his work in the real world is so overwhelmingly positive?”
  • Jumping In – Luke Weaver. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Luke Weaver writes of being baptized by fellow teammate Adam Wainright.

Courtesy of World Magazine

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