Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MY MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Dylan The Best of the Cutting EdgeMusic Review: The Best of The Cutting Edge 1965 – 1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 by Bob Dylan.
****

In 1991 Bob Dylan released the first three volumes of The Bootleg Series, most of which I have in my collection. The Cutting Edge is the twelfth volume in the well-done series. It includes alternate versions, outtakes and some studio banter from an incredible fourteen month creative stretch from January 1965 to March 1966, when Dylan moved from folk to electric and recorded three extraordinary albums Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and the double album Blonde on Blonde with producers Tom Wilson and Bob Johnston.

There are three configurations of The Cutting Edge that have been released. The Best of The Cutting Edge is a two-disc, thirty-six track collection. There are also six and a massive eighteen disc versions available.

The production of these songs from fifty some years ago is amazingly clear. I loved hearing the organ coming through so clearly. We get an inside look into Dylan’s creative process during this period. Longtime Dylan fans will easily discern these versions from original album versions we have been familiar with all these years. Arrangements vary, such as up-tempo versions of “Visions of Johanna” and “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry (Take 8, Alternate Take)” or a very different take of “Just Like a Woman”. At times the lyrics differ from the original album version such as the rocking “Tombstone Blues Take 1”. This doesn’t surprise, as those of us who have seen him in concert several times know he often changes up the lyrics to songs.

Many of the songs will be very familiar to Dylan fans – “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Hey Mr. Tambourine Man” (which ends abruptly with Dylan complaining about the drums), “Highway 61”, “Positively 4th Street” and “I Want You”, while others will be less known – “She’s Your Lover Now” and “Can You Please Crawl Out of Your Window?”.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this release, giving us glimpses into the genius of Dylan during arguably his most creative period. As a result, this is my favorite volume in The Bootleg Series. This version also comes with a 60-page booklet, with photos and liner notes. Highly recommended for all Dylan fans.

musicnews

  • Artists and Poets: Lecrae. Lecrae inspires us all to see the magic inside a personal story put to poetry and a poem put to song.
  • “Hellurrrr!!!” Adele may have a worldwide hit with “Hello”, but Madea knocks it out of the park with her version.
  • Restored “Hey Jude” Video. Hey Jude topped the charts in Britain for two weeks and for 9 weeks in America, where it became The Beatles longest-running No.1 in the US singles chart as well as the single with the longest running time. This video was first broadcast on David Frost’s Frost On Sunday show, four days after it was filmed. To help with the filming an audience of around 300 local people, as well as some of the fans that gathered regularly outside Abbey Road Studios were brought in for the song’s finale. I remember watching it as a 12 year-old Beatles fan when it was first aired in America a month later on 6 October 6, 1968 on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
  • Hymns in the Spotlight. Laura McClellan writes “Season 9 of the popular NBC vocal competition show The Voice (which concluded on December 15) brought several young artists into the spotlight with one thing in common: their faith in Christ. Roberts, pop hopeful Jordan Smith, and youthful crooner Braiden Sunshine each chose to use their moment on national television to exalt Christ in a bold way—singing hymns.”

Favorite Music Quotes of the Week:

Matt Maher QuoteChange begins at the end of your comfort zone. Lecrae

A distorted view of grace is taking the LOVE of Christ seriously without taking the Lordship of Christ seriously. Andy Mineo

If Wile E. Coyote had enough money for all that Acme stuff, why didn’t he just buy dinner? Crowder

song-of-the-year 

Abide with Me by Matt Maher and Matt Redman

This week we complete our countdown to my annual “My Favorites” listing with my #1 song of the year, “Abide in Me”, written and recorded by both Matt Maher and Matt Redman. It was included on Maher’s album Saints and Sinners and Redman’s album Unbroken Praise.

You can listen to their respective versions here:

Matt Maher

Matt Redman

I have a home, eternal home
But for now I walk this broken world
You walked it first, You know our pain
But You show hope can rise again up from the grave

Abide with me, abide with me
Don’t let me fall, and don’t let go
Walk with me and never leave
Ever close, God abide with me

There in the night, Gethsemane
Before the cross, before the nails
Overwhelmed, alone You prayed
You met us in our suffering and bore our shame

Abide with me, abide with meMatt Maher and Matt Redman
Don’t let me fall, and don’t let go
Walk with me and never leave
Ever close, God abide with me

Oh love that will not ever let me go
Love that will not ever let me go
You never let me go
Love that will not ever let me go
Oh You never let us go

And up ahead, eternity
We’ll weep no more, we’ll sing for joy, abide with me

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MY BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Out of the RoughSteve Williams: Out of the Rough by Steve Williams. Penguin. 288 pages. 2015
****

This book is the second by Williams following his 2005 book Golf at the Top with Steve Williams: Tips and Techniques from the Caddy to Raymond Floyd, Greg Norman, and Tiger Woods. That book included a Foreword from Woods. And while the new book includes contributions from Floyd, Norman, Ian Baker-Finch and Adam Scott, there are no contributions from Tiger, as the two have barely spoken since Woods fired him over the phone in 2011.

The book covers Williams’ 36 years as a caddy, which included carrying the bag for the aforementioned golfers, most notably Woods, which is why I decided to read it. I’m glad I did. As a golfer and golf fan, I found it to be a very interesting read.

Williams, who is now retired, lives in New Zealand with his wife Kirsty and son Jett. He writes that rugby was his first love and admits that he’s not a spiritual or religious person. In addition to golf, he also has a passion for motor racing. He writes of carrying his Dad’s golf bag around the Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club, one of New Zealand’s best links courses, as his first experience of caddying. Although Williams’ had potential as a professional golfer, he loved to caddy, which he states is one of the most under-appreciated roles in sport. He writes that a good caddy can make a huge difference to a player’s performance by offering guidance, decision-making and focus.

Williams writes of being fired by Norman, who he describes as definitely the hardest guy he ever caddied for. He states that if he made a mistake, Norman would have no hesitation in letting him know what an idiot he was. On the other hand, if Norman made a mistake, somehow that would also be Williams’ fault. He writes that off the course Norman was a wonderful guy and that they had probably become too close off the course.

He was then approached by Raymond Floyd, who he describes in stark contrast to Norman that nothing distracted him, nothing derailed his attention and he never got down on himself or blamed anyone or anything that conspired against him.

Later he was approached to caddy for Woods, younger than the 35 year old Williams at only 23. He states that Woods was like Norman in that all that mattered was winning, money wasn’t the primary focus. Woods expected to win, celebrations were non-existent. Woods’ focus intensified significantly when it came to major championships, with his lifetime ambition being to beat Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships.

Williams calls himself a perfectionist, in constant pursuit of the best possible performance. He writes that his commitment to Tiger was total. Woods’ obsession became his. He wholly bought into the chase for 18 majors. He wanted to be the guy who caddied for the man who broke Jack Nicklaus’s record.

He writes that while Woods is seen as completely self-obsessed, he could also be incredibly caring. It was Woods who told Williams that he should marry Kirsty, eventually serving as Best Man in their wedding.

He writes that Tiger taught him to strive to be better. He is grateful to have been around a person whose self-discipline and work ethic rubbed off on him. Williams writes that if you told Woods’ something he needed to work on he would work on it and improve.

He writes that a lot of people give Woods a bad rap for his tightness with money, though he states it’s true he’s the world’s worst tipper, but in his experience Woods was also generous in ways people never saw, and which he never made any fuss about.

He writes of Woods’ going through swing coaches beginning with Butch Harmon, then Hank Haney, Sean Foley and now Chris Como. Williams states that if Woods genuinely wants to break Nicklaus’s record, he needs to start over and go back to Butch, indicating that is the only way he can see him winning 19 majors.

He also tells about Woods’ obsession with becoming a Navy SEAL, and intense physical conditioning.

Everything changed with the revelations of Woods’ marital indiscretions in late 2009. Williams was completely unaware of them, and Woods’ failure to make that clear to the public was disappointing to Williams and caused him and his family pain, as everyone assumed he had to know about them. When Woods returned to golf, theirs was a player–caddy relationship rather than friends. And later, when Woods fired him over the phone for caddying for Adam Scott, the end of their professional relationship would spell the end of their personal relationship as well.

He writes of having absolutely no respect for Vijay Singh stating that he cannot forgive him for his dishonesty (Williams writes that Singh altered his scorecard to make the cut) at the Indonesia Open in 1985. He states that Singh is the least impressive character he ever came across in golf.

Williams writes that slow play is the biggest problem in golf, for professionals and amateurs alike. He states that there are well-known serial offenders out there and at the top of everyone’s list is Kevin Na.

He’s also not a fan of Phil Mickelson. He respects him as a player, but says he is a know it all, and rubs Williams the wrong way.

One thing that has gotten a lot of attention is Williams’ contention that Woods at times made him feel like a slave when Woods would flippantly toss a club in the general direction of the bag, expecting Williams to go over and pick it up. The use of that word, when Williams made a lot of money from his relationship with Woods doesn’t sit well with many.

Throughout the book Williams includes interesting lists:

  • His top 10 courses
  • Best shots he’s seen
  • His top 10 holes
  • His top 10 wins

To Williams’ credit, he discusses mistakes he’s made (comments he’s made, cameras he’s destroyed, etc.), but the only thing he regrets is an interview he gave on television after Adam Scott won the Bridgestone in 2011 when he stated that week was the greatest week of his life and the most satisfying win of his career (which wasn’t true).

He writes about his charitable activities, indicating that it was Greg Norman who first made me aware that it was possible to use fame to improve the lives of other people. He states that the highlight of his career is not something golf-related but the day they opened a new oncology unit – cutting the ribbon to a unit that bears his name.

The book does contain a good amount of adult language, so it wouldn’t be wouldn’t be appropriate for young readers.
book news

  • Gospel Coalition Editors Top Books of 2015. I love reading people’s top book lists. Here are several, from the Gospel Coalition editors.
  • Christianity Today‘s 2016 Book Awards. Christianity Today awards a book of the year in each of the following 13 categories, along with an award of merit for each. This is the first year they have included a new category – “Beautiful Orthodoxy”. Congratulations to Zack Eswine (The Church/Pastoral Leadership) and Russell Moore (Politics and Public Life) on their selections.
  •  10 Favorite Reads of 2015. Trevin Wax does what his list what I do, listing the favorite books he read during the year.
  • 2015 End of Year Review of Books. Favorite books from some of the writers at Reformation 21, including Carl Trueman and Rosaria Butterfield.
  • Doug Wilson Book Pulled Over Plagiarism. Emily Belz writes “Canon Press has pulled from the shelves A Justice Primer, a book by evangelical pastors Douglas Wilson and Randy Booth, after acknowledging significant plagiarism.”
  • Books We Like. Alexander Bouffard, IFWE’s strategic relationships manager and hardworking flowcharter, shares three books that are on his bookshelf.

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB – Won’t you read along with us?

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

This book made a significant impact on my wife Tammy when she read and discussed it with friends thirty years ago. When I picked up my diploma the day after graduation ceremonies from Covenant Seminary last year I was given a copy of this book. After enjoying Lloyd-Jones book Spiritual Depression (and the sermons the book was taken from), I couldn’t wait to read this book, which is the printed form of sermons preached for the most part on successive Sunday mornings at Westminster Chapel in London. An excellent resource to go along with this book is Sinclair Ferguson’s new teaching series Sermon on the Mount. This week we look at what the Doctor tells us in Chapter 17: Christ and the Old Testament:

  • The theme of the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount is in many ways just that, the kind of life of righteousness which the Christian is to live.
  • He says that everything He is going to teach is in absolute harmony with the entire teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures.
  • This teaching of His which is in such harmony with the Old Testament is in complete disharmony with, and an utter contradiction of, the teaching of the Pharisees and scribes.
  • Our Lord was not content with making positive statements only; He made negative ones also. He was not content with just stating His doctrine. He also criticized other doctrines.
  • The real tragedy, they say, is that the simple, glorious gospel of Jesus was turned by this other man into what has become Christianity, which is entirely different from the religion of Jesus.
  • For the second view is that Christ abolished the law completely, and that He introduced grace in place of it.
  • What, then, is meant by `the law’ in particular, at this point? It seems to me we must agree that the word, as used here, means the entire law. This, as given to the children of Israel, consisted of three parts, the moral, the judicial and the ceremonial.
  • Our Lord is here referring to everything that it teaches directly about life, conduct and behavior.
  • What is meant by `the prophets’? The term clearly means all that we have in the prophetic books of the Old Testament. There again we must never forget that there are two main aspects. The prophets actually taught the law, and they applied and interpreted it.
  • That leaves us with one final term, the term `fulfil’. There has been a great deal of confusion with regard to its meaning,
  • The real meaning of the word `fulfil’ is to carry out, to fulfil in the sense of giving full obedience to it, literally carrying out everything that has been said and stated in the law and in the prophets.
  • Having defined our terms, let us now consider what our Lord is really saying to us. What is His actual teaching?
  • Our Lord emphasizes it by the word `for’, which always calls attention to something and denotes seriousness and importance. Then He adds to the importance by saying, `Verily I say unto you.’ He is impressing the statement with all the authority He possesses. The law that God has laid down, and which you can read in the Old Testament, and everything that has been said by the prophets, is going to be fulfilled down to the minutest detail, and it will hold and stand until this absolute fulfilment has been entirely carried out. I do not think I need emphasize the vital importance of that any further.
  • All the law and all the prophets point to Him and will be fulfilled in Him down to the smallest detail. Everything that is in the law and the prophets culminates in Christ, and He is the fulfilment of them. It is the most stupendous claim that He ever made.
  • Our Lord Jesus Christ in these two verses confirms the whole of the Old Testament. He puts His seal of authority, His imprimatur, upon the whole of the Old Testament canon, the whole of the law and the prophets.
  • To the Lord Jesus Christ the Old Testament was the Word of God; it was Scripture.
  • The moment you begin to question the authority of the Old Testament, you are of necessity questioning the authority of the Son of God Himself, and you will find yourself in endless trouble and difficulty.

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My Review of the Movie ‘Concussion’

ConcussionConcussion, rated PG-13
*** ½

This film is directed by Peter Landesman, who wrote the script based in part on a 2009 GQ magazine article “Game Brain” written by Jeanne Marie Laskas. The film stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist with an impressive resume in the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania coroner’s office. Smith delivers a very strong performance. He has been nominated by the Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama, and should receive some Oscar consideration for Best Actor.

Mike Webster (powerfully played by David Morse) is a former Pittsburgh Steelers center, who is well-loved in the city of Pittsburgh; they love their Steelers. In 2002, he died in his pickup truck, homeless, divorced and confused. Dr. Omalu, a Catholic immigrant from Nigeria who doesn’t know anything about football is assigned to do his autopsy. He doesn’t know anything about football. Dr. Omalu talks to each person before beginning his work on their body. Webster died of a cardiac arrest, but Dr. Omalu doesn’t know why he died. His CT scan is normal. He wants to do additional tests, but due to budget restrictions, can only do them at his own expense, which is approved by his supervisor Dr. Cyril Wecht (Albert Brooks). What he finds is that Webster died of a brain disorder, which Dr. Omalu will name Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is a disorder caused by repeated blows to the head. Dr. Omalu estimates that in his years playing football Mike sustained approximately 70,000 such blows to his head.

Dr. Omalu is assisted by former Steelers team doctor Julian Bailes (portrayed by Alec Baldwin), who will try to build a bridge between Dr. Omalu and the National Football League (NFL), and County Coroner Cyril Wecht. Eventually, he will co-author a paper detailing his findings in a medical journal, which is dismissed by the NFL. Over the next few years, Dr. Omalu discovers that three other former NFL players – Terry Long, Justin Strzelczyk and Andre Waters – also had CTE. Still, the powerful NFL does nothing about the problem.

Dr. Omalu initially meets the attractive Prema Mutiso (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who starred in 2013’s Belle), when his priest asks if she could stay with him as she has no other place to stay. Their relationship would continue to grow until they marry.

We see that Dr. Omalu is subjected to criticism and harassment for taking on the NFL on this issue. Only after four-time Pro Bowler Dave Duerson commits suicide and is diagnosed with CTE does the NFL Players’ Association begin to take Dr. Omalu’s findings seriously.

The film is rated PG-13 for some adult language, including several abuses of God’s name, implied pre-marital sex, and football violence. On the plus side, the faith of Dr. Omalu and Prema is shown in a positive manner throughout the film.


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

this.n.that-small

CURRENT TOPICS:

  • Wheaton College Suspends Hijab-Wearing Professor After ‘Same God’ Comment. Bob Smietana writes “A tenured Wheaton College political science professor who pledged to wear a hijab during Advent in support of her Muslim neighbors has been placed on administrative leave. Not for donning the Islamic head covering, but over “significant questions regarding the theological implications” of her explanation of why she was doing so.”  This is a developing story. Pray that Wheaton College does not give in to political correctness.
  • Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God? Albert Mohler writes “Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God. Christians worship the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and no other god.”
  • Muslims and Christians Do Not Worship the Same God. Thabiti Anyabwile writes “Arguing that Christians and Muslims worship the same God is often well-intended. But in a world increasingly filled with clashes between adherents of Islam and the west, this confusion is dangerous. Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God and that matters immensely.”
  • Thinking Theologically about Islam. Kevin DeYoung writes about Islam, by looking at a pair of truths—one positive and one negative—under three different headings.
  • The Death of God Is Greatly Exaggerated. Kate Bachelder Kate Bachelderof The Wall Street Journal interviews Eric Metaxas. She writes “If religion in America is dying, then someone will have to explain Eric Metaxas. The happy warrior for a muscular Christianity displays nothing but confidence about the durability of belief in modern America. In fact, he seems to hope more Christians will ignore the pressure—from the media, the courts and other liberal bastions—to keep clear of the public sphere. The message has made him especially popular with evangelical Christians.” Note: Google the article title to read it.
  • Should Evangelicals Evolve on Homosexuality? Phillip Holmes continues an important discussion with Rosaria Butterfield.
  • Report Details Why Gospel for Asia Lost ECFA Membership. Bob Smietana writes about documents released by a longtime board member on the missions agency’s troubled management.
  • Star Wars Medley. Did you see the stars of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, sing the film’s theme song acapella with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots recently on The Tonight Show?
World Magazine Cartoon

Courtesy of World Magazine

CHRISTIAN LIVING:

  • Born Again. When you were born again, what happened? How do you know you’ve been born again? In this twelve minute video, John Piper explains how God brings about the miracle of the new birth, including one powerful story from pastoral ministry. Only God can do it, but we invite him to work by giving ourselves to his word.
  • Seeking the Lost. R.C. Sproul writes “But Jesus didn’t have a building; He didn’t wait behind closed doors for people to come and see Him. His was a ministry of “walking around.” He went out to where the people were. That’s what missions is all about. The ministry of Christ was a ministry of searching for pain and for those who are lost.”
  • Teach Us to Pray. In this new video, John Piper rehearses some of the most profound and familiar words ever spoken. We hope these four minutes, with stunning aerial footage, will help inspire you to new heights in the life of prayer.
  • Lay Aside the Weight of Slander. Jon Bloom writes “In an age of social media, that lacks the functional information-spreading restraints of past eras, let us be all the more slow to post (“slow to speak” — James 1:19) analysis, speculation, and commentary on information about another person or group, even if it has become public in our slander-saturated culture, that might eventually prove slanderous.”
  • How to Love God by Getting More Sleep. Joe Carter writes “Like most spiritual disciplines, to be most effective sleep requires both a change in attitude and a change in habits. Here are a few things I learned and practical steps I’ve taken to better develop the spiritual activity of rest.”
  • Obey the Government for God’s Sake. Watch this less than twelve-minute video, which is part four of a six-part series through John Piper’s What Jesus Demands from the World. In the book, Piper looks at the demands of Jesus as found in the four Gospels. It’s an accessible introduction for thoughtful inquirers and new believers, as well as a refreshing reminder for more mature believers of God’s plan for his Son’s glory and our good.
Doug Michael Cartoon

Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

GREAT RESOURCES:

  • Sermon on the Mount. I’m excited about this new teaching series (available on audio and video) from one of the most respected Reformed theologians Sinclair Ferguson.
  • 10 LifeHacks to Save You Money on Christian Books. Our friend Kevin Halloran offers some helpful tips on how to obtain quality Christian books inexpensively. Kevin is a very impressive young man – he’s a graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, blogger, author and through Leadership Resources International trains pastors worldwide. Kevin and I disagree on only one thing. He’s a Cubs fan and I’m a Cards fan. There is no middle ground here, especially with the Cubs knocking off my Cards in the NLDS and signing two of the Cards best players this off-season. Despite this major flaw of Kevin’s, please check out his Word + Life blog, and sign up to receive updates. A good way to get to know Kevin is to check out his first book Word + Life: 20 Reflections on Prayer, the Christian Life, and the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • Top 10 Blog Posts of 2015. Colby Adams shares the top 10 blog posts of 2015 from the Southern Seminary Blog.
  • Bob Beckel: Around for a Reason. Marvin Olasky of World Magazine interviews the political operative who should be dead, but instead found new life in Christ.
  • Metaxas and McLean on C.S. Lewis. Eric Metaxas interviews Max McLean about C.S. Lewis on The Eric Metaxas Show.

      Favorite Quotes of the WeekR.C. Quote

  • If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans. Bob Smart
  • There is nothing in the law of God that will rob you of happiness; it only denies you that which would cost you sorrow. Charles Spurgeon
  • We don’t see the end from the beginning. But we can trust the One who does. Kevin DeYoung
  • No matter how big our hurt, how raw our grief, how deep our pain, or how many our disappointments, God promises grace for all of it. Scotty Smith
  • The Holy Spirit is a missionary Spirit. So the Spirit-filled church is a missionary church. John Stott
  • To be a Christian is not a religious experience…it is being radically transformed by God. Alistair Begg
  • We never move on from the Gospel to something more. We never can and we never need to. Tim Keller
  • My caution to you is this: Do not assume you are good soil. Francis Chan
  • Jesus does not call for a mere makeover of our lives, but a takeover. Steven Lawson
  • Pride is self contending with God for supremacy. William Gurnall
Fernando Ortega

As posted by Fernando Ortega ~ The time Tim Keller had the privilege of parking next to him.


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FAITH AND WORK: The LEADERSHIP Issue

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles about LEADERSHIP John Wooden Quote

  • Are You a Hurried Leader? Selma Wilson writes “Are you a hurried leader? Out of breath most of the time trying to keep up? Are you drowning in emails, things to read, people to call, and not enough time on your calendar? Do you find yourself in your office more than out with your team? Do you look at all there is to do and sometimes it paralyzes you so you do nothing at all? If this sounds like you, then you are a hurried leader.”
  • 7 Common Ways Leaders Waste Time and Energy. Ron Edmonson writes “I firmly believe when we get rid of some common drains on our time and energy we dramatically improve our performance as leaders. With this in mind, I’ve observed in my own personal development some ways to eliminate time and energy wasters.”
  • Sleep: The Secret Leadership Weapon No One Wants to Talk About. Carey Nieuwhof writes “So here’s a leadership weapon almost no leader will talk about. In fact, in some circles, it’s embarrassing to talk about. Sleep.
  • Can You Lead? Mark Miller writes “Every leader needs to develop a certain set of competencies. To be even more precise, every leader should pursue mastery in five specific facets of the role. Ken Blanchard and I wrote about these five practices in our book, The Secret. The title was derived from the truth: All great leaders SERVE.
  • 4 Words Leaders Must Say on a Regular Basis. Eric Geiger writes “Leaders are always communicating, even when they are not talking. But what words must a leader say on a regular basis?”
  • Christian Leaders Desperately Need Four Kinds of Grace to Lead Well. Dave Kraft writes “I believe there is a big difference between me being at work and Jesus being at work.  I long to see his fingerprints all over what he is leading and empowering me to do…otherwise, what’s the point!”
  • Five Ways Leaders Can Get Fresh Eyes. Eric Geiger writes that a downside to tenured leaders is that they can lose their fresh eyes. He offers five ways to get fresh eyes on the organization/ministry you are leading.
  • 7 Powers of Weakness. Dan Rockwell writes “Arrogant leaders parade strengths. Successful leaders understand the power of weaknesses.”
  • How Leaders Can Avoid Burnout. In this edition of the 5 Leadership Questions podcast, Todd Adkins, Barnabas Piper and Eric Geiger address the issue of leadership burnout.
  • 11 Things I Believe About Leadership. Mark Miller writes “I heard a talk years ago from a well-known leader in which he stated several statements he called his “I believes.” These beliefs shaped his life and leadership. The idea of articulating personal beliefs made sense to me then and it still does today.”
  • 7 Effective Ways to Battle Discouragement In Leadership. Carey Nieuwhof writes “If you talk to most leaders long enough to get a real answer to ‘So how’s it going?” you will quickly discover that a surprising number of leaders are disheartened. Even discouraged.”
  • 10 Habits of Ultra-Likeable Leaders. Travis Bradberry writes “If you want to be a leader whom people follow with absolute conviction, you have to be a likable leader. Tyrants and curmudgeons with brilliant vision can command a reluctant following for a time, but it never lasts. They burn people out before they ever get to see what anyone is truly capable of.”
  • Three Kinds of Leadership Decisions. Dave Kraft writes “Leaders make decisions. That’s what leaders do; the greater the responsibility, the more that can be riding on each decision made.” He states that “Almost all of the decisions that are being made will fall into one of three categories.”
  • 7 Questions to Help You Develop Your Leadership Point of View. Paul Sohn shares these seven questions from Ken Blanchard’s book Leading at a Higher Level.
  • 7 Surprising Questions to Measure Your Leadership. Dan Rockwell writes “You can’t know how you’re doing until you’re measured.”
  • Beyond You Leadership. Andy Stanley discusses common objections and misconceptions about a “Beyond You” leadership style, and discusses the positive impact of leaders who fearlessly and selflessly empower those around them, as well as those coming along behind them.
  • Top 30 Must Read Posts on Leadership. Paul Sohn shares his always helpful must-read posts on leadership.Ken Blanchard Quote
  • 3 Reasons Your Team Needs Shepherd Leadership. Selma Wilson writes “Shepherd is most often used in reference to someone who herds, tends, and guards sheep. Your team could use your shepherd leadership, and here are three reasons why.”
  • How to Make the Difficult Look Easy. Mark Miller shares the fourth post in a series outlining a leadership eco-system that explains how leaders grow themselves and their influence. It also explains why so many leaders struggle. The four stages are Lead Self, Lead Others, Lead Teams and today, the final installment, Lead Organizations.
  • 4 Leadership Advantages of Introverts. Kevin Spratt writes “We tend to think that the best leaders are charismatic motivators who are able to be sociable and cast a compelling vision, which are important and valuable leadership tools. An introvert often has a different set of tools, and, with the right motivation, an introvert can be extremely effective.”
  • Extraordinary Leadership. Dan Rockwell lists qualities of extraordinary leadership. Which ones most resonate with you? Are there any you feel he left off of the list?
  • Vision. In this “Minute from Maxwell”, John Maxwell discusses taking the vision from “me” to “we”.
  • 50 Leaders for a Better Tomorrow. Bob Chapman writes “Our friend Shawn Murphy of Switch and Shift – who recently released a new book, The Optimistic Workplace – compiled a list of 50 leadership innovators changing how we lead for Inc. Magazine. It contains many friends of Barry-Wehmiller who’ve been featured on this blog: Amy Cuddy, Jacob Morgan, Tony Schwartz, Simon Sinek and Rich Sheridan; but other friends like Daniel Pink and Jeffrey Pfeffer, with whom we’ve also connected.” The list also includes a few of my favorites – Patrick Lencioni and Marcus Buckingham.
  • 3 Qualities of Every Great Leader. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “There are certain traits that great leaders exhibit. To the extent you can master and exhibit the same traits, you’ll be more effective in getting others to excel.”
  • 3 Powerful Ways to Solve Lousy Leadership. Dan Rockwell writes “The most dangerous quality of lousy leadership is the belief that they’re good leaders.”
  • “Be Strong and Courageous”: Two Key Ingredients for Effective, Biblical Leadership. Using the example of Joshua, Glenn Brooke writes “You stand in the company of leaders throughout history who needed encouragement and reminders. Be strong and courageous because God is with you.”

Nehemiah by Dave KraftBOOK REVIEW:  Learning Leadership from Nehemiah by Dave Kraft. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 84 pages. 2015
****

I’ve previously enjoyed Dave Kraft’s books Leaders Who Last and Mistakes Leaders Make, and was looking forward to reading his latest book based on the Old Testament character Nehemiah.

Kraft writes that in Nehemiah’s story we see every facet of leadership lived out. He writes that Nehemiah receives a vision from God and then he casts the vision, recruits the vision and works tirelessly to insure the vision happens. In this short book, Kraft focuses on twelve leadership principles he sees in Nehemiah’s life. He includes helpful “Questions to Ponder” at the end of each chapter to stimulate your thinking as you consider your leadership role in light of these principles.

Kraft writes that leadership always begins with God. True spiritual leadership is getting on our heart what God has on His. The first task of leadership is to hear from God and let him form a vision. Kraft writes that if you don’t set the vision, you’re not the leader. Whoever is establishing the vision and goals in your church or team is the real leader. For the Christian leader, God must be the beginning, middle, and end of the vision.

Kraft writes that when a vision is clear, you have a way of measuring progress. When a company, group, team, or church is casting vision, it needs to be as specific as possible.

Kraft states that a leader is a person who is dissatisfied with the ways things are. He has a burden, a vision, and a call to see something different. He wants to see something change, to build a new future. He then begins to communicate what he thinks, and where he wants to go.

He lays out three aspects to leading:

  • Who the leader is: Identity
  • Where the leader is headed: Inspiration
  • How the leader brings others along: Investment

He tells us that anyone who has had a leadership role for any length of time knows that being judged, condemned, or having one’s motives questioned goes with the territory. Unfortunately, in many cases it comes from some of your key people and that’s especially hard to take. But, Kraft states, if everybody likes everything you’re doing, you are probably not doing anything of significant value. Leaders don’t lead and make decisions in order to be popular or appreciated.

Kraft writes that the wise leader confronts people and issues head-on by considering various solutions and then acting prayerfully and decisively. However, many leaders are cowards when it comes to confronting people, especially other leaders. He writes that he has known and worked with leaders who would rather quit and move on rather than confront people.

Kraft writes that it is powerful for leadership to often review what has been happening, both the victories and accomplishments as well as the difficulties. One of the things good leaders do is make a big deal out of victories regardless of the size. People are starving for encouragement and affirmation. Followers are hungry for leaders to express appreciation and affirmation, but seldom hear it.

He also states that leaders are at their best when they are calling followers to their best, not letting them get away with sloppy standards and sloppy living.

A leader should not be afraid to remind people what the organization or group values are and then hold followers accountable for those values.

Kraft states that Nehemiah exemplifies all the best in leadership. He is bold, courageous, confrontational (when it’s called for), and persistent in sticking with what he feels led to do. In his estimation, the book of Nehemiah is the best book of the Bible to study and learn exemplary leadership.

He concludes the book with some suggestions on how to apply what we have learned from these leadership principles seen in the life of Nehemiah. I appreciated this short, but helpful look at leadership principles in the life of Nehemiah.

Quotes about Faith and Work10 Favorite Faith and Work Quotes of the Week

Leadership functions on the basis of trust. When trust is gone, the leader soon will be. John Maxwell

Allow your failures to be innovation benchmarks on your way to excellence and greatness. Brad Lomenick

Giving people real responsibility communicates that you trust them. Mark Miller

  • You discipline those under your supervision to correct, to help, to improve – not to punish. John Wooden
  • Work is a godly activity. Duane Otto
  • Essentially, your vocation is to be found in the place you occupy in the present. Gene Edward Veith 
  • One’s purpose anticipates design. What’s your purpose? Tim Keller
  • It is not freedom for a fish to sun itself on the beach. It is death. The question of freedom is: What were you made for? John Piper
  • Be the varsity version of yourself, not the junior varsity of someone else. Brad Lomenick

Faith and Work Book Clubs – Won’t you read along with us?

Don't Waste Your LifeDon’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Crossway. 192 pages. 2003  

Other than the Bible, this small book by John Piper has had the most influence on my life. It played a key role in my returning to seminary after ten years in 2005. I have read it almost each year since it was published in 2003. Listen to John Piper describe the book in this less than two-minute video.

This week we look at Chapter 3: Boasting Only in the Cross – The Blazing Center of the Glory of God

  • I plead with you: Desire that your life count for something great! Long for your life to have eternal significance. Want this! Don’t coast through life without a passion.
  • One thing matters: Know Christ, and gain Christ. Everything is rubbish in comparison to this.
  • What is the one passion of your life that makes everything else look like rubbish in comparison?
  • Paul means something that will change every part of your life. He means that, for the Christian, all other boasting should also be a boasting in the cross. All exultation in anything else should be exultation in the cross.
  • Therefore every good thing in life, and every bad thing that God turns for good, is a blood-bought gift. And all boasting—all exultation—should be boasting in the cross.
  • We learn to boast in the cross and exult in the cross when we are on the cross. And until our selves are crucified there, our boast will be in ourselves.
  • You become so cross-centered that you say with Paul, “I will not boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The world is no longer our treasure. It’s not the source of our life or our satisfaction or our joy. Christ is.
  • Therefore every enjoyment in this life and the next that is not idolatry is a tribute to the infinite value of the cross of Christ—the burning center of the glory of God. And thus a cross-centered, cross-exalting, cross-saturated life is a God-glorifying life—the only God-glorifying life. All others are wasted.

The Advantage by Patrick LencioniThe Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business by Patrick Lencioni. Jossey-Bass. 240 pages. 2012

Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite business authors. His books The Advantage and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team are among my favorites. I recently started reading and discussing The Advantage with two colleagues at work. I’m sharing key learnings from the book and this week we look at what Lencioni has to say about Question 1: Why Do We Exist ~

  • Answering this question requires a leadership team to identify its underlying reason for being, also known as its core purpose.
  • An organization’s core purpose—why it exists—has to be completely idealistic.
  • In order to successfully identify their organization’s purpose, leaders must accept the notion that all organizations exist to make people’s lives better.
  • There is a darn good chance that your company—in fact, any given company—has not yet identified its purpose.
  • This leads to two problems. First, those teams don’t achieve a real sense of collective commitment from their members.
  • Second, and this is certainly related, those executives don’t see the company’s reason for existing as having any practical implications for the way they make decisions and run the organization.
  • Some executives, especially those who are a little cynical about all this purpose stuff, will say that their company exists simply to make money for owners or shareholders. That is almost never a purpose, but rather an important indicator of success.
  • When leaders set about identifying the purpose of their organization, there are a few critical factors they must keep in mind to give them a good chance at success. First, they must be clear that answering this question is not the end of the clarity process.
  • Second, an organization’s reason for existence, its purpose, has to be true. It must be based on the real motivations of the people who founded or are running the organization, not something that simply sounds good on paper.
  • Third, the process of determining an organization’s purpose cannot be confused with marketing, external or internal. It must be all about clarity and alignment.
  • So how does an organization go about figuring out why it exists? It starts by asking this question: “How do we contribute to a better world?”
  • The next question that needs to be asked, and asked again and again until it leads to the highest purpose or reason for existence, is Why? Why do we do that?
  • There are a number of very different categories of purpose, any of which can be valid. Identifying which category fits your organization’s purpose can be very helpful in focusing your discussion of why your organization exists because it better clarifies who the organization ultimately serves.
  • Customer: This purpose is directly related to serving the needs of an organization’s customer or primary constituent.
  • Industry: This purpose is all about being immersed in a given industry.
  • Greater Cause: This kind of purpose is not necessarily about what the organization does, but about something connected to it.
  • Community: This purpose is about doing something that makes a specific geographical place better.
  • Employees: This purpose is not about serving the customer, the industry, or the region, but rather about the employees.
  • Wealth: This purpose is about wealth for the owners.
  • An organization’s reason for existing is not meant to be a differentiator and that the purpose for identifying it is only to clarify what is true in order to guide the business.


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My Movie Reviews ~ ‘The Big Short’ and ‘Joy’

The Big ShortThe Big Short, rated R
****

This superb film is based on Michael Lewis’ (Moneyball) 2010 book and it is directed by Adam McKay, who usually directs comedies starring Will Ferrell (Anchorman, Anchorman 2, Talladega Nights, The Other Guys, etc.). The story is adapted for the screen by McKay and his co-screenwriter Charles Randolph. They could get an Oscar nomination for the script, which includes a good amount of humor in this otherwise serious, stressful and angry film.

The strong cast includes four Oscar winners: Christian Bale, Melissa Leo, Marisa Tomei and Brad Pitt, and two Oscar nominees Steve Carell and Ryan Gosling.

The film looks at the 2008 financial crisis which had a $5 trillion impact in the U.S. alone, through the lens of four unorthodox moneymen or Wall Street outsiders – or weirdos as they are referred to – who predicted the consequences of the fraudulent mortgage-lending practices of large banks on Wall Street and made millions as a result. It uses three storylines, starting with Christian Bale, who stars as the socially uncomfortable Michael Burry M.D. (who listens to rock and roll music and goes barefoot in his office) who was one of the first to forecast the collapse of the credit bubble due to excessive subprime lending.

Steve Carell plays Mark Baum (based on Steve Eisman), a money manager who rose to fame after successfully betting against subprime mortgages. He wants to teach the banks and government a lesson. Marisa Tomei plays his wife Cynthia. Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) and Charlie Geller (John Magaro) are two young investors who are mentored by Ben Rickert, played by Brad Pitt.

The soundtrack includes rocks songs by (Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Guns N’ Roses). The score is by Nicholas Britell. The characters have hairstyles and clothes that attempt to match the period.

The film aims to show viewers that major banks (aided by the media and government), engaged in fraudulent activity and were bailed out by the U.S. government at the expense of the average citizen – and that it could happen again. You won’t find likeable characters in the film or anyone to cheer for as you will in most films. I can’t attest to the accuracy of the film, or how close it was to Lewis’ book, but the acting was superb and this is an overall excellent film, one of my favorites of the year.

The film earns it’s “R” rating for a significant amount of adult language, including several unfortunate abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names along with lots of f bombs, as well as nudity in a scene in a strip club.

The movie uses a lot of financial terminology that I wasn’t familiar with. To help us understand them, the film uses a few cameos (Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez and Anthony Bourdain), to address the audience with explanations of the terms. The article “5 Things You Should Know Before You See The Big Short by Ethan Wolff-Mann may also be helpful in explaining the terms.

JoyJoy, rated PG-13
***

This film, loosely based on the life of Long Island mother Joy Mangano (who is listed as an Executive Producer), stars 25 year-old actress, three time Oscar nominee and winner of Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook, Jennifer Lawrence as Joy. It is directed by five-time Academy Award nominee David O. Russell (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle), who co-wrote the story with Annie Mumolo. Lawrence joins two-time Oscar winner Robert DeNiro and four-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper, who worked with Russell in Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle. The film begins with a dedication, a claim that it has been inspired “by stories of daring women everywhere”.

When Joy was a child she was very creative, and loved to make things. Her beloved grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd) told her that she was going to have a great future. Indeed, as a teenager she created a fluorescent flea collar to keep pets safe. Joy would go on to become the valedictorian at her high school and was headed to college. That’s when life took a turn for the worse for Joy.

Her parents – Rudy (Robert DeNiro) and Terry (Virginia Madsen) – divorce, and Joy doesn’t go to college, instead staying home to care for her mother and do bookkeeping for her dad’s business. Joy gets married to Tony, who wants to be “the next Tom Jones”, played by Edgar Ramirez. They have two children but then divorce. They are better as friends than they were married, and Tom lives in Joy’s basement, while Terry pretty much stays in her room watching soap operas all day.

Joy works for an airline as a counter agent, and can’t quite make ends meet, as we see their phone service being turned off due to lack of payment. On top of that, Rudy is kicked out by his second wife and takes up residence in the basement, sharing the confined space with Tony, who he has despised since before he and Joy married. Joy also has a troubled relationships with half-sister Peggy (Elisabeth Röhm, who also appeared in American Hustle). Talk about a depressing dysfunction junction!

After Rudy meets Trudy (Isabella Rosselini) on a dating site for widows and widowers (he is neither), she takes him and the rest of the family on her husband’s sailboat. When red wine is spilled on the wood deck due to the high waves, Joy tries to clean up the spill amid the broken glass, cutting her hands. This gives her an idea, and leads her back to being the creative little girl, eventually creating a self-wringing mop (Miracle Mop).

Tony uses a past relationship to put her in connection with Neil (Bradley Cooper), an executive producer at QVC, a home shopping TV channel, which is Joy’s big break. But financial trouble and family and business relationships get even more difficult from here on. We see Joy’s perseverance, despite Rudy and Trudy telling her to just pack it in and give up on her dreams.  So did going from rags to riches give her joy? No, we won’t spoil it for you!

The film is rated PG-13 for one word uttered by Rudy. It also includes several unfortunate misuses of God’s name.

My wife Tammy really disliked this film, calling it long, plodding and boring. She said it had about enough material for a 30-minute Lifetime movie. She thought good acting and a good real-life story couldn’t ‘clean up’ how poorly this story was portrayed on film. I disagree. The film (as well as Lawrence), has been nominated for Best Film by the Golden Globes in the “Musical or Comedy” category (it is neither). The film isn’t great (as attested to the current Rotten Tomatoes ratings – 58% critics, 61% viewers), but I thought Lawrence’s performance and the incredible true story of Joy Mangano was worth the price of admission. If you see the film, please let us know what you think.


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Christmas is HERE!

Let’s Celebrate like Simeon and Anna ~ Luke 2:25 – 38

Joseph's song

Click on photo to listen to JOSEPH’S SONG BY MICHAEL CARD

for unto us

Click on the graphic to listen to the MESSIAH ~ FOR UNTO US A CHILD IS BORN BY HANDEL sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir