Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Movie Review ~ Kung Fu Panda 3

Kung Fu Panda 3Kung Fu Panda 3
**

In this third film in the Kung Fu Panda series, Jack Black returns as Po, the Dragon Warrior leader of the Furious Five (Tigress, Monkey, Mantis, Crane and Viper), who get little screen time in this film. As the film begins, Po’s master tells him that he has taught him everything he can, now Po is to teach others. But we quickly see that is a disaster, shattering Po’s confidence.

We are then taken to a spirit world, where we see Po’s former master Oogway relaxing in bliss when he is confronted by a supernatural entity Kai, who he defeated five hundred years ago. Kai wants to rule the world and needs Oogway’s chi (an Eastern spirituality concept defined as the force that sets the world and everything in it into motion. It is also the force that sustains all things once they are created). When Kai gets Oogway’s chi, he then returns to the mortal world with a goal of taking Po’s chi so he can rule the world. Got all that straight? And this is a fun animated children’s film about a dumpling loving fat panda?

Meanwhile, Po is suffering through an identity crisis. All of this is complicated when his biological father Li shows up and takes him back to a Secret Panda Village, much to the chagrin of Po’s adopted father Mr. Ping, who has raised him for twenty years. Li tells Po he was sent by the Universe (another Eastern religion/philosophy concept). Po will need to save the world against the evil Kai.
The film includes a lot of Eastern religion/philosophy content (chi, universe, ying and yang, etc.). It was not nearly as fun or entertaining as the previous two films. Although there were a lot of children in the theatre, we didn’t hear a lot of laughter during the film, and one wonders what they make of concepts such as chi, universe and ying and yang.

Several scenes seem included just to show off 3D. Overall, we were very disappointed in the film, despite excellent animation and the stellar cast that provides the voices for the characters – returnees Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogen, Lucy Lui, Jackie Chan, David Cross and newcomers J.K, Simmons, Bryan Cranston and Kate Hudson. The film is directed by Alessandro Carloni and Jennifer Yuh and written by Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger.

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Movie Review ~ Brooklyn

BrooklynBrooklyn, rated PG-13
****

This excellent film, which has been nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture, is based on Colm Toibin’s 2009 novel “Brooklyn”. It is directed by John Crowley and the screenplay is by Nick Hornby, who has been nominated for an Oscar for his work here. Hornby wrote a different ending for the film than included in the book.

The film stars Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) as Eilis Lacey. Ronan delivers an excellent performance, and has been nominated for Best Actress for her portrayal of a young Irish Catholic woman who lives with her mother (Jane Brennan) and sister Rose (Fiona Glascott) in Enniscorthy, Ireland in the early 1950’s. (Note: in real life Ronan was born in The Bronx, but raised in Ireland by her Irish parents). She works for a mean shopkeeper Miss Kelly, played by Brid Brennan.

There is not much of a future for Eilis in Enniscorthy, so Rose contacts Father Hood (a very likeable Jim Broadbent, Oscar winner for Iris), an Irish priest in Brooklyn, who finds her a place to stay in a boarding house for young women in Brooklyn run by Mrs. Kehoe (two-time Oscar nominee Julie Walters), and a job at an upscale department store.

After Eilis arrives in Brooklyn, after getting violently ill on the ship between Ireland and New York, she is terribly homesick, missing her mom and sister. Each letter from home drives her to tears. As time goes on however, she slowly begins to settle in, and with Father Hood’s financial support, starts to attend college classes in the evening, with a goal of being an accountant. Over humorous dinner scenes at the boarding house we get to know Mrs. Kehoe and the other boarding house residents.

At a church dance she meets a handsome Italian plumber Tony (Emory Cohen from The Place Beyond the Pines), who immediately falls for Eilis. All of this happens a little too quickly for Eilis, but she eventually tells Tony that she loves him too. A favorite scene is when Tony takes Eilis to meet his family. Eilis’ boarding house friends teach her how to properly eat spaghetti (she’s never eaten any Italian food). Tony’s eight-year old brother Frankie (James DiGiacomo) steals the scene.

But then something happens back home and Eilis decides she needs to go back to Ireland for a month. Tony is terribly afraid that she won’t ever return. It is a much more mature and confident Eilis that returns to Enniscorthy. It is there she meets Jim (Domhnall Gleeson, Bill Weasley from the Harry Potter films, where ironically Julie Walters played his mother), from an upscale family.

This is a beautiful film, thanks to Yves Belanger’s cinematography. The film captures the look of Brooklyn and Enniscorthy and the costumes of 1952. It is a romance that features some very strong acting performances, led by Ronan. This is a film that you will want to see in the theatre if possible.

The film is rated PG-13 for a brief scene of sexuality and some brief adult language early in the film.


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

steve taylorWow to the Deadness – Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil
****

Steve Taylor has been one of my favorite artists since his 1983 EP I Want to Be a Clone. I was a new believer, and his witty, honest and creative way of expressing his beliefs and the hypocrisy he saw in the church really resonated with me, and still does. Since that time, I’ve purchased all of his music (solo, Chagall Guevara, Perfect Foil), and seen him in concert several times. Hey, I was even a member of his Clone Club!

In addition to being a singer and songwriter, he is also a film director (The Second Chance, Blue Like Jazz), songwriter (Newsboys), producer “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None the Richer, and record company owner (Squint). Taylor’s excellent 2014 album Goliath, with the Perfect Foil (consisting of Peter Furler, Jimmy Abegg and John Mark Painter), was his first since 1993’s Squint. So it is a joy that Wow to the Deadness comes just two years later.

To support Goliath, Taylor and the Perfect Foil toured with Danielson. I was not familiar with Danielson. Danielson’s Wikipedia article describes them as an American rock band that plays indie pop gospel music led by Daniel Smith.

The friendship resulted in this collaborative effort as they entered the Electrical Audio studio in June 2015 with engineer Steve Albini (Nirvana, Foo Fighters) using strictly analog gear. This EP, with cover art by Smith, is the result, which Albini described as being “really raucous and really great”. Smith states the recording rocks, but also moves around a bunch. He has stated “It can be delicate, but it’s rare. It mostly demands much, but it’s very inclusive and would really appreciate some singing and clapping along.”

The resulting product is something different from what Taylor’s fans may be accustomed to. But, we know that he has always been creative and pushed boundaries (who can forget the stir over the cover art on I Predict 1990 or the concern over his song “I Blew Up the Clinic Real Good”?

According to Taylor, their only rule was that if it sounded like something they’d already done, they would throw it out. He felt that they ended up with a recording that is not easily classifiable and hopefully doesn’t sound disposable.

Below are a few of my thoughts about each of the six songs after listening to each several times. Taylor handles most of the lead vocals with Smith handling some of them, plus backing vocals.

Wow to the Deadness – Begins with acoustic guitar before it takes off. Smith wrote most of the lyrics. Smith sings a response “We have a winner”, to Taylor’s lines. For example:

It was a battle to bring me around
We have a winner
Suddenly lilies appeared in the ground

Favorite lyric: Water seeps through these red flags right or wrong  

Wait up Downstep – This one also begins with an acoustic guitar. Smith sings a recurring Wait and Step and Wait.

Favorite lyric:

Give me joyful liberty
Transcending up in awe of
How you go, oh can I know
Let us be known by our love

The Dust Patrol – Opens with a blistering guitar. The drums lead into Taylor’s lead vocal. The song slows down in the middle, with Smith taking over, before some great guitar work turns it back over to Taylor’s machine gun like delivery.

Favorite lyric: We’re gonna roll your thunder. (Could this be a nod to Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue?)

Nonchalant – Again opens with acoustic guitar. This is a mid-tempo rocker, slowing things down a bit after the previous song.

Favorite lyric: Turn the cheek that bruised, til’ the purple drains

A Muse – This is a scorching rocker with great drums, guitar and Taylor’s defiant vocals.

Favorite lyric:

It’s my party you’re lucky to be here
You’re no Dylan so don’t make me laugh

Drats – The song features more of Smith’s vocals than any on the EP as he and Taylor share lead vocals.

Favorite lyric:

Be still and speak
Day by day
My delight
My delight    

And just like that, this unexpected collaboration is over. Here’s hoping it’s not the last we hear of Steve Taylor and the Danielson Foil. I’d love to hear these songs in concert.

You can pre-order the EP, to be released February 5, at Amazon here.

Here is the promo video for the EP. You can watch the video of Wow to the Deadness here. (Apologies for the bad word in the article).
music news

MUSIC QUOTES:

  • They say “Crae, you sold your soul, man” For real? Who bought it? “Let the Spirit take control, man” I don’t go nowhere without Him.  Lecrae
  • Moments of weakness are opportunities for God to show Himself strong. Lecrae
  • Neither Death nor Hope know any boundaries in this life. Breath is a fragile thing: a gift not an obligation. Jon Foreman

Song of the Week Freedom by Lecrae, featuring N’Dambi

This week’s song of the week comes from Lecrae’s new mixtape Church Clothes 3. Watch the video here.

They out here prostitutin’ kiddos
Fill they pockets with dinero
Pedophiles, pitiful
Sell a child to centerfold
Take they innocence, put in on the internet
Purities tainted, dignities shaken
Enslavin’ the soul of all of these babies
And freedom got a price nobody payin’
Makin’ money, American dream ain’t it, nah!
It’s a nightmare, don’t fight fair for white here
Benjamin Franklins, killin’ we hate for him
Write a song justifyin’ the lies we take for him, hold up
They ain’t with me, I’m willin’ to wait for ’em
Lil’ me sat up on the porch, thinkin’ dolla bills
Stomach filled from another meal that my momma killed still
I can’t keep still
I’d probably steal to keep a couple of Nike checks on the back of my heels
Grab my back on and pills
I need a stack of them bills
They say we slaves to the money
I guess we back in the field
I’ma go pursue my happiness, they told me it was free
But I’m still payin’ for it, I’m indebted to this thing
Heard a prophet say the profit, don’t focus on makin’ change
Just focus on tryna be it and maybe you’ll make a gain
Maybe you’ll free the slaves, maybe you’ll bring a change
The destinations are different but everyone’s on the train

Freedom isn’t free
But I still, I still believe in my freedom
So my mind can see
Please let me be free, please let me
Freedom

I’m out here chasin’ this freedom
They out here choppin’ my feet off
And if they catch me I’m Toby, but I ain’t ’bout to believe it
King Kunta, king of coonin’, or Kenan & Kel
Rather rot in a jail cell than be up in hell, well
Well done, is you cookin’ or is you hearin’ your Father say, “Well done”?
Is He lookin’ at all your honors?
Modestly I’ll be honest, I’m hangin’ onto that promise
Cause honestly I ain’t really been everything that I oughta
Oughta be on my Harriet, bury me next to Honest Abe
Here’s lies another man murdered for tryna free the slaves
I gave Chief Keef my number in New York this summer
I told him, “I could get you free”, I’m on my Nat Turner
Back burner, cookin’ up a fat burger
While we shuck and jive to a song about a crack murder
Know we need a change but we threw it on the stage
Got some money and a soul and neither one of us saved
Slaves, get free

Freedom, it isn’t free
But I still believe, I still believe in our freedom
So my mind can see
Please let me be free, please let me be free
Freedom

Freedom, freedom, freedom


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews
The Gospel According to DanielThe Gospel According to Daniel by Bryan Chapell. Baker Books 226 pages. 2014
****

Dr. Bryan Chapell was the President of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis during most of my time there. He wrote the notes for the book of Daniel in the Gospel Transformation Bible, and recently completed a preaching series on Daniel at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois, where he is senior pastor. You can download the sermons from their website. Usually, a book based on a sermon series is published after the sermons are preached. In this instance, over a period of months, I enjoyed listening to the sermon of each chapter in Daniel, and then reading the corresponding chapter of this theologically rich book, which includes helpful, practical illustrations.

The author writes that he desires to help others see the presence of the gospel throughout all of Scripture. Some may not feel that Christ is present in the Old Testament. Dr. Chapell aims to show where every text stands in relation to the ultimate revelation of the person and/or work of Christ.

He tells us that in the first half of the book of Daniel (largely biographical), we are tempted to make Daniel the object of our worship (“be like Daniel”). But by doing so, we neglect Daniel’s own message that God is the hero. The second half of the book which contains prophetic content can also lead to error if we make Daniel primarily the subject of our debates of end-times issues. Again, the author tells us, that if we do that we neglect Daniel’s message that God will rescue his people from the miseries of their sin by the work of the Messiah.

The author skillfully leads the reader through both the well-known biographical first half of the book and also the sometimes hard to understand prophetic second half. I thoroughly enjoyed studying the wonderful book of Daniel with Dr. Chapell and highly recommend his book to you.

OnwardOnward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel by Russell Moore. B&H Books. 240 pages. 2015.
****

Russell Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is one of the leading young voices in evangelicalism today. In this important book, one of my favorites for 2015, he writes that the shaking of American culture isn’t a sign that God has given up on American Christianity. Rather, it may be a sign that God is rescuing American Christianity from itself. Moore is optimistic, indicating that pessimism is for losers. He admits that the American church faces difficulties, but also unprecedented opportunities. He writes that the message of the Kingdom is to “Make way for the coming of the Lord”. He states that now is the time for the church to reclaim its mission.

He writes that our culture was at one time more closely aligned with Christian values, if not necessarily the Christian Gospel. We are no longer the “Moral Majority”, if we ever really were. Our beliefs (sexual ethics, for example), are now very strange to our culture. He admits that in the short term we have lost the culture war on sexual and family issues. He states that we were never given a mission by Christ to promote values (as in “family values”), but to speak instead of sin, righteousness and the judgment of Christ and His Kingdom.

He writes that we must put our priorities where Jesus put them. He states that increasingly, the American culture doesn’t see Christianity as the real America. But the church needs to be salt and light to the culture. A worldly church, or an “almost gospel” is no good for this world. He states that the Kingdom of God should shape our vision of what and who matters, indicating that both left and right wing Christians can equally distort the Gospel. He writes of balancing evangelism and discipleship with justice, indicating that human dignity is about the Kingdom of God.

He writes about Jesus being a “gentle steamroller” as he called people to repentance. He discusses a manner of culture engagement that involves convictional kindness. He states that kindness should not be confused with niceness. Kindness doesn’t avoid conflict. Rather, it engages conflict with a goal of reconciliation.

The book lays out a plan for engaging a culture that is not only indifferent to Christianity, but at times openly hostile to it. It is written with convictional kindness and with a pastor’s heart. Highly recommended.

book news

  • Why We Should Read Books. Aimee Byrd writes “For anyone who doesn’t read many books anymore or who thinks we have all we need on the Internet, I wanted to share a few reasons why we should still read books.”
  • Unashamed. Pre-order Lecrae’s first book, Unashamed, which will be released May 3.
  • Alistair Begg’s Endorsement of Child in the Manger. Watch this short video of Alistair Begg’s endorsement of this excellent book by Sinclair Ferguson.

Ian Hamilton Quote

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. This week we look at Chapter 21: Thou Shalt Not Kill

  • Verses 2I-26 we have the first of this series of six examples which our Lord gives of His interpretation of the law of God over and against that of the scribes and Pharisees.
  • The contrast, therefore, is not between the law given through Moses and the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ; it is a contrast, rather, between the false interpretation of the law of Moses, and the true presentation of the law given by our Lord Himself.
  • He presents us with six contrasts, each of which is introduced by the formula: `Ye have heard it was said by them of old time… but I say unto you.’
  • The Pharisees, by putting these two things together in juxtaposition, had reduced the import of this commandment `Thou shalt not kill’ to just a question of committing actual murder. By immediately adding the second to the first they had weakened the whole injunction.
  • The second thing they did was to reduce and confine the sanctions with which this prohibition was associated, to mere punishment at the hands of the civil magistrates.
  • That was their full and complete interpretation of the great commandment which says: Thou shalt not kill. In other words they had evacuated it of its truly great content and had reduced it merely to a question of murder. Furthermore, they did not mention the judgment of God at all. It is only the judgment of the local court that seems to matter.
  • It is possible for us to face the law of God as we find it in the Bible, but so to interpret and define it, as to make it something which we can keep very easily because we only keep it negatively. So we may persuade ourselves that all is well.
  • The first principle is that what matters is not merely the letter of the law but the spirit.
  • The true way of understanding `Thou shalt not kill’ is this: `Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.’
  • Anger in the heart towards any human being, and especially to those who belong to the household of faith, is, according to our Lord, something that is as reprehensible in the sight of God as murder.
  • Not only must we not feel this causeless anger; we must never even be guilty of expressions of contempt.
  • Contempt, a feeling of scorn and derision, is the very spirit that ultimately leads to murder.
  • Killing does not only mean destroying life physically, it means still more trying to destroy the spirit and the soul, destroying the person in any shape or form.
  • Our anger must only be against sin; we must never feel angry with the sinner, but only full of sorrow and compassion for him.
  • Our Lord’s anger was always a righteous indignation, it was a holy anger, an expression of the wrath of God Himself.
  • God hates evil. God’s anger is displayed against it, and His wrath will be poured out upon it.
  • The holier we become, the more anger we shall feel against sin.
  • We must never feel angry with a person as such; we must draw a distinction between the person himself and what he does.
  • Let us now go on to the second statement. Our attitude is meant to be not negative, but positive. Not only are we not to harbor murder and evil thoughts in our heart against another; but the commandment not to kill really means we should take positive steps to put ourselves right with our brother.
  • We have to reach the stage in which there shall be nothing wrong even in spirit between our brother and ourselves.
  • In the sight of God there is no value whatsoever in an act of worship if we harbor a known sin.
  • We must not only think in terms of our brother whom we are offending, or with whom there is something wrong, we must always think of ourselves before God.
  • His terms are very easy. They are just this, that I face and acknowledge this sin and confess it utterly and absolutely, that I stop any self-defense or self-justification, though there was provocation from this other person. I must just confess and admit it without any reservation to God. If there is something in actual practice that I can do about it I must do it at once. Then He will tell me that all is right.

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

this.n.that-small
Ben Carson Quote
ABORTION:

  • Can I Be Forgiven If I’ve Had an Abortion? R.C. Sproul writes “Forgiveness is one of the marvels of God’s grace. Its healing power is magnificent. If a woman has been involved in abortion, God does not require that she spend the rest of her life walking around with a red “A” on her chest. He does require that she repent of her sin and come to Him for the cleansing of forgiveness. When God forgives us, we are forgiven. When God cleanses us, we are made clean. That is a cause for great celebration.”
  • What Shall We Call the Unborn? Kevin DeYoung writes “What shall we call the child in the womb? A fetus? A mystery? A mistake?”
  • How Pro-Life Christians Honor a Pro-Choice President. John Piper writes “How can we as pro-life Christians honor President Barack Obama when he supports the right to kill unborn children for any reason up through the age of viability?
  • 18 Reasons Why the Abortion Industry is Losing Its Support. George Grant writes “One scandal after another has hit the abortion industry, its medical personnel, its educators, its researchers, its lobbyists, and its administrators. As a result, its “Teflon” reputation is starting to wear a little thin and its “grand illusion” has begun to lose its luster.”
  • Free Abortion-Related Resources from Ligonier Ministries. Ligonier Ministries is offering a free course via Ligonier Connect and also (through January 31), R.C. Sproul’s ebook Abortion: A Rational Look at An Emotional Issue. 

CHRISTIAN LIVING:

CURRENT EVENTS:

  • Wheaton College and the Courage of Being Confessional. Trevin Wax writes “Whatever happens next, it’s clear that Hawkins has shown courage in sticking to her beliefs, even if it results in her firing. But Wheaton College has also shown courage in seeking to more clearly articulate its foundational principles, even if it results in cultural shame and mockery.”
  • Three Proposals for Racial Reconciliation in the PCA. As an elder in the PCA, I found this article by Rick Phillips of interest. He writes “Perhaps the biggest issue going into this year’s Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) General Assembly will be the racial reconciliation overtures that are starting to come in from the presbyteries.”
  • Steve Taylor Talks Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy. Steve Taylor writes “But the Academy Award for Most Difficult Achievement in a Motion Picture would go to director Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy, a complex and deeply felt tribute to the genius of Brian Wilson made even more remarkable by the fact that nothing about this venture looked promising on paper.
  • Box of Lies with Adele. Did you see Adele play Box of Lies with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show?

World Magazine Cartoon

THEOLOGY AND GREAT RESOURCES:

Doug Michael Cartoon

             Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

 Favorite Quotes of the Week

  • Jesus, as our King, you rule over presidential races and weather fronts. As our Savior, your name is Redeemer and your grace is enough. Scotty Smith
  • There is nothing more important in the Christian life than to realize that our union with Christ is a vital one. It is a living thing. It is not something mechanical or conceptual; it is not a thought or an idea; it is really a vital, spiritual union. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • The most dangerous place in the United States for a human being is inside the womb of a woman. R.C. Sproul
  • Longing indeed for that day when all are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. Albert Mohler
  • What makes sin sin, what makes it so vile, what gives it its horrific transcendental vileness, is that it’s sin against God. D.A. Carson
  • Character is manifest in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones. Darrin Patrick
  • God relentlessly offers his grace to people who do not deserve it, seek it, or appreciate it after they have been saved by it. Tim Keller
  • Real contentment, as the Apostle Paul discovered, isn’t contingent on finances, status, or possessions. Francis Chan
  • The gospel does not exhort us to do certain things, but announces what God has done in his Son. Michael Horton
  • All who go to hell, go because of their own free will. All who go to heaven, go because of God’s sovereign will. Steven Lawson
  • Kids who grow up with legalistic pharisaism and then rebel aren’t rebelling against Christianity but against a false religion. Burk Parsons
  • If you could lose your salvation, you would. John MacArthur
  • Tolerance helps us agree to disagree but it doesn’t require us to love. Jesus commands what tolerance doesn’t, provides what tolerance can’t. Zack Eswine
  • If any man is not sure that he is in Christ, he ought not to be easy one moment until he is sure. Charles Spurgeon


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

ON LEADERSHIP: Serving Leader Quote

 

  • 11 Ways to Think Better Thoughts. Check out this infographic of 11 ways of thinking outlined by John Maxwell from his latest book JumpStart Your Thinking that will give you a starting point to thinking better thoughts, making better decisions and, ultimately, succeeding more often in your life and work. Your thoughts are the starting place for success.
  • The Biblical Call and Plan for Productivity. Listen to this interview with Tim Challies on his excellent new book Do More Better.
  • Does God Care about Efficiency? Matt Perman writes “As with God, so also with us. Care about efficiency. But care about beauty and service most of all.”
  • jazzHow Jazz Music Teaches Us to Trust God. Bethany Jenkins interviews John Raymond, a jazz trumpeter, composer and educator about his faith and work.
  • Trust: Better to Give Than Receive. Bob Chapman writes “To get trust, you have to freely give it. This is a tough concept for many people. It’s the opposite of what we normally think. We think of trust as something to be earned. We’ll trust someone when they give us proof that they can be trusted.”
  • Calling and Work. Mark McConnell writes “You might not be a pastor, you might not be a missionary, you might not be in so-called full-time Christian service, but God has called each of us: to glorify Him in all that we do, to serve Him in all that we do, and to witness to His love and grace in Christ Jesus.”
  • 3 Ways to Make Difficult People Less Difficult. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “what can you do with the difficult people in your life, starting right now? After all, you may not be able to avoid all the difficult people. And you may not be able to turn every difficult person around. But there’s quite a bit you can do to make these encounters less upsetting.”
  • Four Questions to Spot the Difference Between Healthy Tension and Unhealthy Conflict Eric Geiger shares some information about tension and conflict that are in line with what Patrick Lencioni writes in The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, one of my favorite business books.
  • Development. In this “Minute from Maxwell”, John Maxwell discusses development, a word that signifies improvement, making progress, growth, etc.
  • 7 Signs You’ve Become Too Busy for Your Own Good. Alli Worthington writes “But there are signs our body gives us if we’re paying attention, signs that may look different for each of us. For some the warning signs may be emotional. For others they might be physical, relational, or spiritual. But rest assured, if you are over capacity, you will soon find out— the hard way.”
  • The Secrets of Success, Week One: Health. John Maxwell begins a new series looking at “three critical decisions that impact everything else in your world. If you can win these three each day, you are on your way to living life successfully.” He begins by looking at the area of our health.
  • How to Avoid Life’s Flat Tires. In this short video, Dave Ramsey shares the seven areas of life in which you need to set goals this year . . . and every year in your future. Use the Wheel of Life as a guide for keeping your life balanced and flat-tire free.
  • Strategies for When Life Seems Aimless. In this episode of “Ask Pastor John”, John Piper addresses a question about waiting when life seems to be aimless and going nowhere, specifically when it comes to a career.

favorite quotes

  • Rise to every occasion, give our best effort, and make those around us better as we do it. John Wooden
  • The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. Pablo Picasso
  • If your purpose hasn’t been fulfilled, that means the most important part of your life is still to come. Persist without exception! Andy Andrews
  • Celebrate and recognize your colleagues as they do things right. You can make a difference in their lives! Ken Blanchard
  • You want to do large things famous and fast. But most things that truly matter need small acts of overlooked love over a long period of time. Zack Eswine
  • Your greatest leadership moments will probably be ones that nobody else sees. Private faithfulness leads to public impact. Brad Lomenick
  • Serve God with integrity, and if you achieve no success, at least no sin will lie upon your conscience. Charles Spurgeon
  • The Bible says that our real problem is that every one of us is building our identity on something besides Jesus. Tim Keller
  • The leaders who get the most from their people are the leaders who care most about their people. Simon Sinek

Patrick Lencioni Quote

The Gospel Goes to WorkThe Gospel Goes to Work: God’s Big Canvas of Calling and Renewal by Stephen R. Graves. KJK Publishing. 168 pages. 2015
***

I have read a number of books about integrating our faith with our work. I enjoyed some of the unique perspectives to this issue that the author brought forward in this new book.

He tells us that the book is about work and the gospel. Not ministry work only, but every kind of work. He aims to focus on the question: What more can you and I do to engage the gospel through our work? He introduces the reader to what he calls the four-act gospel, which provides a comprehensive grid of meaning for our lives, including our work. He states that work itself is a service to God. He argues that the message about the gospel’s integration with work is needed as much now as it ever has been, if not more so.

He provides a different way of looking at the integration of faith and work. He first talks about a lowest-common-denominator application of the gospel that is relevant to all workers and all workplaces. This is what he calls the Baseline. Then, there are individualized applications of the gospel for each of us in our particular wiring and for our particular organizations. He calls this the Blue Sky.

He tells us that The Baseline is the starting point or universal minimum for all people in all environments, regardless of their personality, title, age, background, and other particulars. The Blue Sky represents the boundless horizons of what could be when someone personalizes any idea or insight.

He tells us that the gospel going to work will look different depending on where we work and what we do. He tells us that when we merge the baseline/blue sky pair with the individual/organizational pair, you get The Gospel Goes to Work Grid. It covers the whole range of workplace expressions of the gospel. He then looks at each quadrant in detail as well as four foundation stones. The four foundation stones are:

      • Foundation Stone 1: You give evidence of your calling
      • Foundation Stone 2: You display character on the job
      • Foundation Stone 3: You deliver skill consistently
      • Foundation Stone 4: You model service to others

I found his list of a “Gospel 500” (think of the Fortune 500) to be of interest. He lists organizations that would make his list in each of four regions of the Blue Sky. Among those listed that you may be familiar with are Chick Fil-A and Hobby Lobby.

He writes that we all must ask and answer, “How does the gospel go to work in my industry and especially in my particular organization?” He feels that this is the most penetrating question anyone can ask in his or her faith and work. It requires vulnerable personalization. And it demonstrates a mature faith that depends on God doing His work His way. He writes that the gospel is intended to penetrate, permeate, and alter the way we consider our work and do our work.

I enjoyed this book and its unique approach to the important issue of how we integrate our faith and work and recommend it to you.

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 7: Living to Prove He Is More Precious Than Life

  • If we walk away from risk to keep ourselves safe and solvent, we will waste our lives.
  • If we look like our lives are devoted to getting and maintaining things, we will look like the world, and that will not make Christ look great. He will look like a religious side-interest that may be useful for escaping hell in the end, but doesn’t make much difference in what we live and love here.
  • Why don’t people ask us about our hope? The answer is probably that we look as if we hope in the same things they do.
  • Jesus loves faith-filled risk for the glory of God.
  • If we want to make people glad in God, our lives must look as if God, not possessions, is our joy.
  • Sometimes I use the phrase “wartime lifestyle” or “wartime mind-set.” It tells me that there is a war going on in the world between Christ and Satan, truth and falsehood, belief and unbelief. It tells me that there are weapons to be funded and used, but that these weapons are not swords or guns or bombs but the Gospel and prayer and self-sacrificing love (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). And it tells me that the stakes of this conflict are higher than any other war in history; they are eternal and infinite: heaven or hell, eternal joy or eternal torment (Matthew 25:46).
  • One of the marks of this peacetime mind-set is what I call an avoidance ethic. In wartime we ask different questions about what to do with our lives than we do in peacetime.
  • If we are going to pay the price and take the risks it will cost to make people glad in God, we move beyond the avoidance ethic. This way of life is utterly inadequate to waken people to the beauty of Christ. Avoiding fearful trouble and forbidden behaviors impresses almost no one. The avoidance ethic by itself is not Christ-commending or God-glorifying. There are many disciplined unbelievers who avoid the same behaviors Christians do. Jesus calls us to something far more radical than that.
  • The better questions to ask about possible behaviors is: How will this help me treasure Christ more? How will it help me show that I do treasure Christ? How will it help me know Christ or display Christ? The Bible says, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). So the question is mainly positive, not negative. How can I portray God as glorious in this action? How can I enjoy making much of him in this behavior?
  • Oh, how many lives are wasted by people who believe that the Christian life means simply avoiding badness and providing for the family.
  • Television is one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age. And, of course, the Internet is running to catch up, and may have caught up.
  • The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God.
  • Oh, that young and old would turn off the television, take a long walk, and dream about feats of courage for a cause ten thousand times more important than American democracy—as precious as that is. If we would dream and if we would pray, would not God answer? Would he withhold from us a life of joyful love and mercy and sacrifice that magnifies Christ and makes people glad in God? I plead with you, as I pray for myself, set your face like flint to join Jesus on the Calvary road.


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Influences that are at the Core of Integrating Faith and Work for Me

You may be familiar with the adage “Anything worth doing is worth doing well”. That quote is attributed to Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, and a British statesman who lived from 1694-1773. I have always taken that sentiment to heart, whether it be in very routine things (making the bed, ironing my clothes, styling my hair, etc.) or more significant things like doing my job, loving my wife, or writing a paper at seminary. But my wife Tammy sometimes gets frustrated with me for this exact thing. For example, I always need to practice by hitting a bucket of balls before I play golf. She asks “Why can’t you just go out and have fun?” Well, unless I feel like I’m able to do my best, and feel that I am prepared to do just that, I can’t.

Right or wrong, that’s just the way I’ve always been wired. I’m certainly not trying to sanctify the way I make the bed, etc. I’ve just always tried to do my best at whatever the task is. It wasn’t until I started growing in my faith that two verses became particularly important and foundational for me as I strive to integrate my faith and work:

I have also been greatly helped by John Piper’s article “Lord-Focused Living at Work” that I first read in his 1997 book A Godward Life.  It really reflects exactly how I want to approach my work. I used to keep that article in my notebook at work (back when we carried them), and have shared it with many people that I have worked with over the years.

Piper uses another verse to illustrate his points:  Rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man,  knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free. Ephesians 6:7-8

What have my two core verses and Piper’s article taught me in integrating my faith and work?

  1. I should do my work heartily. Paul says that we are to do our work “heartily”. What does that mean? Matthew Henry, a pastor and author who lived from 1662-1714, wrote about this passage that we (servants), should “Do their duty, and obey their masters’ commands, in all things consistent with duty to God their heavenly Master. They must be both just and diligent; without selfish designs, or hypocrisy and disguise.” When doing our work, we should “do all with diligence, not idly and slothfully; cheerfully, not discontented at the providence of God which put them in that relation.” I want to be diligent and content in my work, not slothful, or lazy, realizing that God has put me in the job I’m in. That’s the first reason.
  2. I should do my work to the best of my ability. Christians should be the best workers in whatever situation we are in. Why? Because we are doing our work for the Lord and what we do reflects on Him. That should be motivation enough. Piper writes that Christians should ask “How would the Lord like this done?” We should then do it in that manner to the best of our ability.
  3. I should do my work for the Lord and not for men. Let’s face it, we all have had unfair or bad supervisors from time to time. We all don’t receive the recognition and raises that we think we deserve.   Paul says that whatever we do should be done as for the Lord, and not for us. Similarly, Piper writes that all our work should be done as work for Christ, and not for any human supervisor. He states that what we are asked to do by a supervisor should generally be viewed as an appeal from the Lord. I’ve found that to be a good perspective to have.  Matthew Henry’s advice “Not discontented at the providence of God which put them in that relation” – now that’s a hard one when you have a lousy boss. Our contentment is in God as our provider, not in our circumstances.
  4. I should do my work for the glory of God. Each morning on the way to work, I pray that I would be able to effectively represent Christ and use the platform He’s given me at work. Piper writes that we should look at our work and ask “What effect will this have for the Lord’s honor?” We should do our work so that He gets the glory, not us. Piper writes that “Jesus said that when we let our light shine men will see our ‘good deeds’ and give glory to our Father in heaven. Lord-centered living does good deeds for the glory of the Lord.” May we all approach our work from a Lord-focused or Lord-centered perspective!

What about you? What verses or other resources are key for you as you do your work heartily, with quality and for the glory of God?