Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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What Makes This Blog Different from Others?

I hope you’ve been enjoying the spectacular fall colors we are having in the Midwest this year. We really enjoyed the vibrant red, orange and yellow colors over the weekend. Whether you are a new reader of our blog, or have been with us for a while, we’re so glad that you check us out from time to time. What makes our blog different from the many other fine blogs out there? Our aim for the past 16 years has been to look at culture from a Christian worldview. That means we will look at movies, music, books, news, etc. from a Christian viewpoint. I do a lot of reading and so if I find something that I think you might find of interest, we’ll include it in our “This and That” category. And a relatively new passion of mine is helping myself and others integrate our faith and work, so we’ll try to include plenty of information about that as well. If you have any feedback on how we can improve the blog, please send it to us at Blessings.

 Déjà vu All Over Again

For the third year in a row (the year prior to that they won the World Series), the St. Louis Cardinals advanced to the second round of Major League Baseball’s postseason. And for the third year in a row, they ended the season with three straight losses, this time losing to the San Francisco Giants. The Giants took advantage of every mistake (walks, poor fielding plays and missed opportunities to score) that the Cardinals gave them, and were definitely the better team in the National League Championship Series (NLCS).

My Cardinal season started way back on March 15 when Tammy and I saw the Cardinals play the Atlanta Braves at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in the Orlando area. I saw four regular season games and one in each of the first two rounds of the postseason. I got to enjoy the new Ballpark Village and celebrated my Covenant Seminary graduation with a family lunch and a trip through the Cardinals Museum at Cardinal Nation within Ballpark Village.  All brought me great joy.

Eating at Cardinals Nation

Cardinal Nation has high expectations, and no doubt we are spoiled. It’s just assumed we will go to the postseason each year. At the beginning of this season I told people that anything short of a return to the World Series would be a disappointment. So based on that, the season fell short of expectations. My favorite Cardinals’ beat writer Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch summed up the loss in the NLCS and the season well here:

But overall it was a fun year and I enjoyed watching the Cards, including the many Christians on the team, including Manager Mike Matheny, Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, Trevor Rosenthal, Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong.

Until next season….. Busch Stadium



October 28
Love Ran Red – Chris Tomlin
Rise – Trip Lee

November 4
Eye’M All Mixed Up: Remixes – TobyMac
Hallelujah for the Cross – Newsboys

November 11
After All These Years – Andrew Peterson
The Essential Collection – Passion
Cathedrals – Tenth Avenue North

~ UPDATED PAGES ON THE BLOG ~The Heart of Leadership

Book Review ~ The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow by Mark Miller

Movie Review ~ Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, rated PGAlexander adn the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Concert Review ~ Keith and Kristyn Getty at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoriagettys-in-concert

Music Review ~ Songs of Innocence Deluxe Edition – U2songs of innocence

More U2 stuff:

Quotable:  I thought I heard the captain’s voice But it’s hard to listen while you preach      -From “Every Breaking Wave” by U2

With so much of concern going on in the world these days, I smiled when I saw this cartoon from World Magazine:

World Magazine Cartoon

Visions of VocationVisions of Vocation Book Club

Steven Garber was the speaker at my Covenant Seminary graduation in May. Tammy and I are reading his newest book Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good. Below are passages we discussed this week from our reading of Chapter 5:

Chapter 5: Come and See

  • This business of seeing ourselves as implicated is central to the covenantal epistemology. That we see ourselves as responsible, for love’s sake, is what the responsibility of knowledge is always about.
  • For people committed to lives of doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God, it is never easy to craft a public policy that makes everything right for everyone. We know that at our best we still fall short—and someone somewhere will be hurt, falling through the cracks.
  • For Tolstoy’s men on pilgrimage to Jerusalem, it was in seeing that the one understood the meaning of his journey, just as it was in not seeing that the other missed the meaning of his journey. Central to the Telos Group’s mission is the conviction that it is in seeing what is going on that people will begin to understand the realities of the situation and begin to see themselves as responsible, willing to care about justice for all, not justice for “just us.”
  • And it is no surprise that when people see and hear, meeting real people with real lives, that a transformation often takes place. Relationship, revelation, responsibility. When we learn like that, we begin to see ourselves as implicated.
  • In the best of learning, in the truest learning, words have to become flesh, and more often than not it is in storied service that the eyes of the heart are awakened.
  • The covenantal epistemology is a way of knowing that sees the world through the lens of relationship. I know you, and I love you.
  • From the patriarchs on, God calls a people into being, naming them as his own and calling them to live in the world, remembering to remember the most important things.
  • Relationship, revelation, responsibility—the heart and soul of the covenant lived in and through the vocations of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David—and of course the same is true for the generations of people who saw themselves as belonging to God, known by him and loved by him. The Hebrew vision of life, grounded in the God who has “fashioned a cosmos out of love,” is covenantal. There is no other word that so captures the meaning of life lived before the face of God, responsible for love’s sake to God for history, for the way the world is and ought to be. The biblical vision is that the covenant becomes incarnate in Jesus. Wisdom and justice, sovereignty and mercy, compassion and kindness, anger and patience, all characteristics of the Holy One of Israel, become flesh in Jesus.
  • We can only learn the things that matter most when we come and see.
  • They “do the truth,” they put the truth into practice. Yes, they give flesh to the word.
  • And over many years, after many conversations, my conviction is this: moral commitment precedes epistemological insight. We see out of our hearts. We commit ourselves to living certain ways—because we want to—and then we explain the universe in a way that makes sense of that choice. It is why Augustine’s long-ago question still rings true: you cannot really know someone by asking, “What do you believe?” It is only when you ask, “What do you love?” that we begin to know another. We see out of our hearts? Yes, because we live out of our loves.
  • But what I have seen is, in the end, it is always a matter of one’s heart leading the way, one’s loves shaping one’s vision of the world and the way that a person will live in it. It was for Nicodemus, and it is for us. Words have to become flesh.
  • The story of the Samaritan woman in John 4 is its own wonder, offering another take on the meaning of incarnation.
  • But here the Word becomes flesh to the woman, and she sees something that she has never ever seen: a man can know her and still love her.
  • And the text says that Jesus came and lived for a while among them, incarnating words like holiness and mercy, wisdom and compassion. The people of the Samaritan village could see what the words meant as they were incarnated in their midst. Words have to become flesh.
  • Sometime later, Jesus returns to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish feasts and walks by the pool called Bethesda (John 5).
  • Sometimes, very strangely, we choose to love our wounds. Not so much that we openly embrace them, but so much that we cannot imagine living life without them. They have come to mean so much to us. We see ourselves in their light, or darkness, as the case actually is. And of course in the heartache of human life, it is out of our wounds that we wound others.
  • It is amazing grace that finds him in his desolation, and he hears, “Get up, take your bed and walk.” It is an invitation to respond from the one who knew that the man was responsible, able to respond. When all is said and done, what happens is a profound mystery that is finally beyond our explanation—and we can only be amazed at the grace given. Words have to become flesh.
  • For Mary, Martha and Lazarus, Jesus has been a friend, even as he has been a teacher.
  • Even if we do not fully understand the whys and hows of this story, it matters supremely that God is not a passive responder to life and death—and that he does not expect us to be.
  • Lazarus had not lost his humanity in his death—he had not become an automaton. The secret of his humanity was still his responsibility, as mysterious as it finally is.
  • The words fall flat if there is no ability to respond, to be responsible. Relationship, revelation, responsibility—always and everywhere the heart of the covenant, especially the covenant incarnate. Words have to become flesh.
  • Jesus spends the night before the crucifixion, Passover night, with his disciples, and several chapters of John are given to that (John 13–17).
  • Stories do matter, and believing the true story of human life under the sun will give meaning to our vocations, as denying it will prove the implosion of our vocations.
  • In every generation the most honest people have always understood that if there is not a story to make sense of my story, then why not “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die”? The teaching of Jesus is never disconnected from the tensions of life, from the questions and concerns of real people in the world that is really there.
  • The central themes of the covenantal epistemology are written into the story. Jesus initiates a deepening of the relationship, revealing more of himself in the process, and then sets forth their responsibility—which is summed up by the crucial connection of knowing with doing. This is the covenant made flesh. Words have to become flesh.
  • The final story here is in the last chapter of John’s Gospel, the story of the disappointed and perplexed disciples returning to their fishing (John 21).
  • Two of the most common and most ordinary human activities, working and eating, are sanctified in the story, made holy by Jesus, showing all with eyes to see that in the new heaven and new earth these will be an integral part.
  • He could have shown them anything, he could have done anything. The resurrected Lord that he was, he could have done something noticeably “religious” for them, like baptism or the Eucharist. He could even have preached to them or prayed for them. What he chose to do was honor their work and then eat with them.
  • Working, eating—these are central to human vocation, in every culture and every century.
  • And then he invites them to respond with their labor and their lives, seeing even the most ordinary things of life as sacramental, made new as they are by the reality of the resurrection. They are signposts in a strange land of the world that someday will be. Words have to become flesh.
  • A couple of years ago, I invited a group of folks to our home for dinner. We call these Vocare evenings “conversations about calling”, together pondering the meaning of Berry’s essay “Two Economies.” In earlier conversations, we had discussed the essay and decided it would be worth a more prolonged conversation because his vision of an economics of mutuality was remarkably rich. The essay sets forth “two economies,” a lesser economy and a greater economy.
  • Berry believes that wherever we look in the world there are lesser economies: farms, villages, cities, regions, states, even nations.
  • He says that for him the greater economy is “the kingdom of God,” but that people are free to call it what they want.
  • What he does not give freedom for is whether there is a greater economy, or whether the greater economy is in fact the final arbiter of all economic visions.
  • It is important to understand this about Berry: he writes for everyone, translating his own deepest convictions in language that the whole world can understand. He is not writing for a parochial audience, for people who necessarily think like he does, who believe like he does. And in everything he writes—poetry, novels, essays—he sees the world in terms of the covenantal cosmos, of relationship, revelation and responsibility. But he is a translator, using images and words to connect to the wider world.
  • Berry is writing about the truth of the human condition, situating human beings in relation to God and to history.
  • For some, the Berryian vision is for a time out of mind, a world that has long passed away. That is not fair to him or to the world. But there is a tension here, and I have said to him on a few occasions, “If what you were arguing were simply nice ideas for nice people who live in nice places, then I would not be interested. But what you are saying is true, and so it is our responsibility to figure out what it means for where we are.”
  • These are the truest truths of the universe: We do not flourish as human beings when we know no one and no one knows us; we do not flourish as human beings when we belong to no place and no place cares about us. When we have no sense of relationship to people or place, we have no sense of responsibility to people or place.
  • Perhaps the saddest face of the modern world is its anonymity, to live as if I am known by none and belong nowhere.
  • From road rage on freeways to the casually cruel crime of the city to the existential angst of being lost in the cosmos, when we are not in relationships that matter, it is almost impossible to see ourselves as responsible to and for others.
  • Berry is writing about a covenantal cosmos, about life in the world where knowing and being known is critical if we are to flourish. This one theme runs through the body of his work: We must learn to live incarnationally, committed to particular people and particular places. If we are to have honest lives, we will have to incarnate who we are and what we believe with those people and in those places.
  • In every century and every culture there is an integral connection between knowing and doing, and it is most fully expressed in love. For glory or shame, we choose to live in love—or not. But there is also a greater economy, the kingdom of God, and in it we live and move and have our being—or not. Our flourishing depends upon our seeing these truths as true to the way the world really is. If we are to understand our place in the world, we have to find a way into that vision, somehow somewhere. Come and see.

Next week we’ll read chapter 6. Won’t you join us?


Faith and Work Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?What's Best Next

What’s Best Next Book Club

We continue with our overview of this new book on productivity from a Christian perspective. I’ve highlighted a number of passages and would like to share some of them from Chapter 18 – Harnessing Time Killers

How then SHOULD We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work Book Club

How Then Should We WorkThis week we conclude our overview of Hugh Whelchel’s fine book How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work with Chapter 6. Whelchel is the Executive Director the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics and has a passion and expertise in helping individuals integrate their faith and vocational calling.

God at WorkNext week, we’ll begin a new faith and work book club on Gene Veith’s book God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life. This looks to be an excellent book to read with peers with work.

Beyond the Ark header
Doug Michael Cartoon

Author: Bill Pence

I’m Bill Pence – married to my best friend Tammy, a graduate of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis Cardinals fan, formerly a manager at a Fortune 50 organization, and in leadership at my local church. I am a life-long learner and have a passion to help people develop, and to use their strengths to their fullest potential. I am an INTJ on Myers-Briggs, 3 on the Enneagram, my top five Strengthsfinder themes are: Belief, Responsibility, Learner, Harmony, and Achiever, and my two StandOut strength roles are Creator and Equalizer. My favorite book is the Bible, with Romans my favorite book of the Bible, and Colossians 3:23 and 2 Corinthians 5:21 being my favorite verses. Some of my other favorite books are The Holiness of God and Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul, and Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. I enjoy music in a variety of genres, including modern hymns, Christian hip-hop and classic rock. My book Called to Lead: Living and Leading for Jesus in the Workplace and Tammy’s book Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold are available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

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