Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

10+Favorite+Quotes

  • He who prays as he ought will endeavor to live as he prays. John Owen
  • Knowing theology without knowing the Bible is a path to false self-confidence. Dan Doriani
  • If you can explain what is happening in a church, apart from the sovereign act of God, it is not revival. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • We should not ask, ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ Rather we should ask, ‘What has happened to the salt and light?’ John Stott
  • It is possible to know Bible stories, yet miss the Bible story Edmund Clowney
  • The moral confusion of our day represents a real opportunity for courageous Christian witness. Albert Mohler
  • Jesus, may our ever-growing theology about you become heart-liberating doxology in us. Grant us informed minds and enflamed hearts. Scotty Smith
    • Pleasure is God’s to give not ours to take. Mark Dever

Life is ironic


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Music News:

  • Live Your Song. Jon Foreman TEDx. In this inspiring performance and talk, Jon Foreman sings “Only Hope,” “Terminal,” and “Dare You to Move.” Between songs he delivers an encouraging message that dares us all to live out the purpose for which we were born.
  • Jesus Muzik. Enjoy this classic video of Lecrae’s song “Jesus Muzik”, featuring Trip Lee. I use the song for my ringtone.
  • New Tedashii Song. Check out Tedashii’s latest single “808”.
  • NBA MVP Steph Curry with Lecrae. Lecrae invited Steph Curry to join him on stage for a performance of “I’m Turnt”.
  • Michael W. Smith Interview. In this two-minute video, Smitty talks about what album he would re-make, given new technology.

Music Quotes:

  • Does everybody’s fire alarm look like this? David Jiffy popCrowder
  • Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees. Thank God He can correct vision. Lecrae
  • There in the ground His body lay, Light of the world by darkness slain: Then bursting forth in glorious day Up from the grave He rose again! And as He stands in victory Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me, For I am His and He is mine – Bought with the precious blood of Christ. “In Christ Alone” Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

Song of the Week

 

Facing a Task Unfinished by Keith and Kristyn Getty

 

Watch this video to hear Keith and Kristyn Getty tell the story behind this song. Listen to the song here.

Facing a task unfinishedFacing a Task Unfinished
That drives us to our knees
A need that, undiminished
Rebukes our slothful ease
We, who rejoice to know Thee
Renew before Thy throne
The solemn pledge we owe Thee
To go and make Thee known

Where other lords beside Thee
Hold their unhindered sway
Where forces that defied Thee
Defy Thee still today
With none to heed their crying
For life, and love, and light
Unnumbered souls are dying
And pass into the night

We go to all the world
With kingdom hope unfurled
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ The Lord

We bear the torch that flaming
Fell from the hands of those
Who gave their lives proclaiming
That Jesus died and rose
Ours is the same commission
The same glad message ours
Fired by the same ambition
To Thee we yield our powers

We go to all the world
With kingdom hope unfurled
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ The Lord

O Father who sustained them
O Spirit who inspired
Saviour, whose love constrained them
To toil with zeal untired
From cowardice defend us
From lethargy awake!
Forth on Thine errands send us
To labor for Thy sake

We go to all the world
With kingdom hope unfurled
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ The Lord

We go to all the world
His kingdom hope unfurled
No other name has power to save
But Jesus Christ The Lord


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

book reviewsJ.I. Packer

J.I. Packer: An Evangelical Life by Leland Ryken. Crossway. 432 pages. 2015
****

This is a well-written and researched portrait of the great evangelical theologian J.I. Packer, written by Leland Ryken, who teaches at Wheaton College. Throughout the book, which is divided into three major sections, Ryken calls out his personal connections to the 89 year-old Packer (teaching, writing, the Puritans), calling them kindred spirits. He writes about Packer, warts and all, with a great deal of affection, calling him a “modern day Puritan”.

Ryken approaches the significant task of writing about Packer’s life and accomplishments by dividing the book into sections looking at his life, Packer the person and life-long themes. Some, especially those who have read Alistair McGrath’s 1998 J.I. Packer: A Biography (which Ryken writes that he is indebted to and often references of which I have also read) will be familiar with the biographical details of Packer’s life. I was most interested in the controversies in Packer’s life (which Ryken details in the final section on lifelong themes), especially those which led to a breaking of fellowship with Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and R.C. Sproul, two of my theological heroes. Both of those controversies were related to Packer’s ecumenism. Packer looks to the great preacher George Whitefield as his role model for ecumenism. Packer’s split with Lloyd-Jones came after his participation in the book Growing into Union. I didn’t know previously that the two had planned to meet in 1981, but Lloyd-Jones died before that meeting could take place. Packer’s split with Sproul, which is ongoing, was over his participation in the Evangelical and Catholics Together (ECT) effort in 1994.

Packer sees his role as the General Editor of the English Standard Version Bible Translation Team as his most significant accomplishment. He has long been a member of the Anglican Church, having faced controversy in that church in England and Canada.

Ryken writes about the providential circumstances of Packer meeting his future wife, a nurse. Surprisingly, Packer’s wife is mentioned relatively little in this 432 page book.

Although Packer has had many roles, he sees his primary calling as theological education. He is best known for his 1973 book Knowing God. He moved to Canada and Regent College in 1979. He began a role with the magazine Christianity Today in 1958. He was evicted as a minister in the Canadian Anglican Church for his stance against homosexuality.

In part two on Packer the person, Ryken talks about Packer’s generosity, being a champion for the ordinary person, a traditionalist and a latter day Puritan. I enjoyed the insights about the lesser known Packer, including his love for jazz music and murder mysteries.

In part three on lifelong themes, Ryken looks at themes such as the Bible, the Puritans, writing, Anglicanism, theology, preaching and controversies.

The book ends with an Afterword from Packer himself.

This significant book is a detailed and respectful look at the life, work and person of one of the most significant evangelical figures of our lifetime. Ryken offers helpful summaries at the end of each major section.

Can I Lose My Salvation by R.C.Can I Lose My Salvation? (Crucial Questions) by R.C. Sproul. Reformation Trust. 46 pages. 2015
****

This is the 22nd and newest entry into the excellent Crucial Questions series from R.C. Sproul, Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Trust Publishing. These small books/booklets are available free in the Kindle version, and most are available for a small cost in paperback editions. Sproul writes that the key question in this small book is “Can I lose my salvation?” This is the doctrine of eternal security, also known as the perseverance of the saints, or the “P” in the famous Calvinist acronym TULIP. I was glad to see this book as Christians are divided on the issue of whether a true believer can lose their salvation.

Sproul writes that to fall into apostasy means to reach a position, but then to abandon it. To say that someone has become apostate, we are saying that they have fallen from the faith, or at least have fallen from their first profession of faith. Is it possible to become apostate? Sproul states that there are many texts in the New Testament that warn about this possibility.

He writes that Scripture has many examples of true believers who truly fall away, who fall into gross sin and, on some occasions into protracted periods of impenitence. Sproul calls this a serious fall. All Christians are subject to serious falls. But is someone who commits a serious fall eternally lost? Sproul states that church discipline attempts to keep a serious fall from turning into a total fall. Sproul writes that the challenge is to distinguish between a true believer in the midst of a serious fall and a person who has made a false profession of faith.

He addresses the concept of the “unforgiveable sin”, a sin that will in fact not be forgiven by God, not because God can’t do it but because He won’t. He states that the fact that people are wrestling with the fear that they have committed this sin actually gives significant evidence to the reality that they are not in such a state.

He then takes a detailed look at the difficult passage of Hebrews 6:1–6, which many point to as textual proof that a Christian can lose their salvation. After that, he looks at the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, preferring to use the description preservation of the saints, as God preserves His own. At the same time, we are called to work hard to persevere.

Another concept he looks at is that of the carnal Christian. This is a person who is a Christian, but whose life is still dominated by carnality. He writes that there is actually no totally carnal Christians, just as there are no totally spiritual Christians.

He concludes the book by writing about the intercession of Christ, our Great High Priest. This is the foundation for our confidence when it comes to our perseverance.

He writes “We persevere because we are preserved, and we are preserved because of the intercession of our Great High Priest. This is our greatest consolation and our greatest source of confidence that we will persevere in the Christian life.” Amen!

This is an excellent treatment of this important topic, one that many struggle with. The Crucial Questions books/booklets are excellent tools to give to and discuss with unbelievers or new believers. You get the excellent Bible teaching of R.C. Sproul presented in a very easy to understand manner, one of the things I have most enjoyed about Dr. Sproul’s ministry over the years.

book news

BOOK CLUBS – Won’t you read along with us?

Tim Keller's New Book on PrayerPrayer BOOK CLUB

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller

Christians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful. In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act. Won’t you read along with Tammy and me? This week we look at Chapter 11: As Encounter: Seeking His Face

  • We must not settle for an informed mind without an engaged heart.
  • What kind of experience should be expected and how should it be sought?
  • At one level, Christians have these things. At another level, they haven’t experienced them. It is one thing to know of the love of Christ and to say, “I know he did all that.” It is another thing to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.
  • What is common to all these moments is that you sense the power of what you have been given in Christ so that your attitudes, feelings, and behavior are altered.
  • You may have many specific problems and issues that need to be faced and dealt with through various specific means. Yet the root problem of them all is that you are rich in Christ but nevertheless living poor.
  • We may mentally assent to the idea of Jesus’ love for us, yet our hearts are committed to finding love through popular acclaim. In such a case the inner being has not been affected by what the mind believes. The Spirit must prepare it to be reshaped and formed by the truth.
  • He asks that the Holy Spirit will sensitize our hearts so that we taste these truths, spiritually speaking, or—as he says in Ephesians 1:18, when he prays that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened”—that we see them, spiritually speaking.
  • Another aspect of communion with God is a deeper understanding and the appropriation of our family relationship with the Father.
  • Part of the mission of the Spirit is to tell you about God’s love for you, his delight in you, and the fact that you are his child. These things you may know in your head, but the Holy Spirit makes them a fiery reality in your life.
  • When the Holy Spirit comes down on you in fullness, you can sense your Father’s arms beneath you. It is an assurance of who you are. At a minimum this means joy, and a lack of fear and self-consciousness.
  • If Jesus Christ died on the cross so that you are saved by grace alone, then my love is infinitely wide. It is wide enough for you.”
  • Paul says to the Christians, everybody he is writing to at Philippi, “I am convinced…..that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Not “may.” Will. His love is infinitely long.
  • God put his love on you in the depths of time, and he will never remove it from you. Why? Because salvation is by grace. It is not by works. It is not given to you because of what you do. It has begun in the depths of time and will last into eternity. It is infinitely long.
  • The reason that the love of God in Christ is infinitely wide and infinitely long is because it is infinitely deep.
  • Because of the gospel, you can know that God’s love is infinitely wide and infinitely long because it was infinitely deep.
  • God’s love is also infinitely high.
  • Spiritual experience consists of luminous truth and profound assurance of God’s fatherly love.
  • To seek God’s face is not to find some place in space where God is located. Rather, it is to have our hearts enabled by the Holy Spirit to sense his reality and presence.
  • Because of his shed blood and forgiveness, we can have a nearness to God that was not possible before. Jesus’ person and work is the breakthrough for any who want to draw near and seek God’s face.
  • Throughout Owen’s writing, he returns continually to the subject of what has been called the beatific vision. The term describes the direct sight of the glory of God. This is what the redeemed will have in heaven fully, by sight, and what believers have now on earth partially, by faith and not yet with our literal eyes.
  • Meditating upon the beatific vision is a vital practice for all Christians to cultivate,” because “our Christian life and thinking should be oriented toward the hope of the beatific vision, and shaped by the foretaste we receive of it here and now.”
  • Owen held that, unless you learn how to behold the glory of Christ, you are not actually living a truly Christian life in this world.
  • When Paul spoke of beholding Christ’s glory, he could not be talking of mere belief that Jesus was glorious. Rather, “the affecting power of it upon our hearts is that which we should aim at. . . . Doth it not fill and satiate. . . with joy, rest, delight…. and ineffable satisfaction?
  • To behold the glory of Jesus means that we begin to find Christ beautiful for who he is in himself.
  • He reasoned that if the beauty and glory of Christ do not capture our imaginations, dominate our waking thought, and fill our hearts with longing and desire—then something else will. We will be “continually ruminating” on something or some things as our hope and joy.
  • Prayer became not just a time of going through his list of requests but also a time of adoration, confession, and simply enjoying God.
  • If we want to be sure to experience this vision by sight hereafter, we must know it by faith now. If we want freedom from being driven by fear, ambition, greed, lust, addictions, and inner emptiness, we must learn how to meditate on Christ until his glory breaks in upon our souls.
  • Owen promotes what could be called a radically biblical mysticism. It comes through meditation on Scripture, on theological truth, on the gospel—but it must break through to real experience of God.
  • If doctrinal soundness is not accompanied by heart experience, it will lead eventually to nominal Christianity—that is, in name only—and eventually to nonbelief.
  • The irony is that many conservative Christians, most concerned about conserving true and sound doctrine, neglect the importance of prayer and make no effort to experience God, and this can lead to the eventual loss of sound doctrine.
  • Owen believes that Christianity without real experience of God will eventually be no Christianity at all.
  • It is possible to use techniques of meditation and imagination to create changes in consciousness that are not tied at all to the reality of who God is.
  • Owen argues that wordless prayer, while sometimes occurring, is never prescribed or seen as an ideal. In Luke 11, Jesus told his disciples to use words. In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul urged Christians to “pray with the mind” in words. That’s a remarkable thing for a Puritan to say. If we are going to be imbalanced, better that we be doctrinally weak and have a vital prayer life and a real sense of God on the heart than that we get all our doctrine straight and be cold and spiritually hard.
  • With this in mind, I think Protestants who find the biblical mysticism of a John Owen or a Jonathan Edwards appealing should read the medieval mystics with appreciation but also plenty of caution.
  • Nevertheless, (Carl) Trueman says of the medieval mystics, “There is a sense of God’s holiness and transcendence in these works that is significantly absent from much modern writing and thinking about God.

Studies in the Sermon on the MountStudies in the Sermon on the Mount BOOK CLUB

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 24: Christ’s Teaching on Divorce

  • Our Lord’s purpose was to correct the perversion, the false interpretation of the law which was being taught to the people by the Pharisees and scribes.
  • The first principle He emphasizes is that of the sanctity of marriage. Marriage is not a civil contract, or a sacrament; marriage is something in which these two persons become one flesh. There is an indissolubility about it, and our Lord goes right back to that great principle.
  • Because of the hardness of their hearts, God made a concession, as it were. He did not abrogate His original law with regard to marriage.
  • The first principle leads us to the second, which is that God has never anywhere commanded anybody to divorce.
  • The next principle is one which is of the utmost importance. There is only one legitimate cause and reason for divorce-that which is here called `fornication’.
  • There is only one cause for divorce. There is one; but there is only one. And that is unfaithfulness by one party.
  • Nothing is a cause for divorce save fornication. It does not matter how difficult it may be, it does not matter what the stress or the strain, or whatever can be said about the incompatibility of temperament.
  • It is this question of the `one flesh’ again; and the person who is guilty of adultery has broken the bond and has become united to another. The link has gone, the one flesh no longer obtains, and therefore divorce is legitimate.
  • Our Lord says that if you divorce your wife for any other reason you cause her to commit adultery.
  • We can say not only that a person who thus has divorced his wife because of her adultery is entitled to do so. We can go further and say that the divorce has ended the marriage, and that this man is now free and as a free man he is entitled to re-marriage. Divorce puts an end to this connection, our Lord Himself says so.
  • Even adultery is not the unforgivable sin. It is a terrible sin, but God forbid that there should be anyone who feels that he or she has sinned himself or herself outside the love of God or outside His kingdom because of adultery. No; if you truly repent and realize the enormity of your sin and cast yourself upon the boundless love and mercy and grace of God, you can be forgiven and I assure you of pardon.

I'm currently reading...

…through the Bible, currently in Proverbs (using the Reformation Study Bible, ESV)


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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PROBING QUESTIONS:

  • Will You Wrestle with God? Jon Bloom writes “What do you really need from God right now? What blessing do you want from him? How badly do you want it? There are times when God only releases his blessings on us after a season of prolonged and even painful wrestling with him.”
  • Is Jesus Arrogant? Musings on Exclusivity. Zack Eswine writes “Jesus sounds narrow minded and arrogant. He suggests that we locate God through no other way but His. This kind of exclusive claim disgusts many of us.”
  • May I Split My Giving Between My Church and Another Ministry? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper states “I think it is a good rule of thumb to start your giving by tithing to the local church and then giving over and above elsewhere. But that is not a rule or a mandate.”

 

CHRISTIAN LIVING:

Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

                       Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

10+Favorite+Quotes

  • You are required to believe, to preach, and to teach what the Bible says is true, not what you want the Bible to say is true. R.C. Sproul
  • The first object of the Christian is to glorify God, and the next object is to make other people happy. Charles Spurgeon
  • The purpose of prayer is not to get God aligned with us but to get us aligned with God. Scott Sauls
  • Always be killing sin or it will be killing you. John Owen
  • Let the Lord Jesus but enter your souls, and you shall find peace which the world can neither give nor take away. George Whitefield
  • God is Father to the Christian. He is not Father to anybody else. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • Genuine and earnest prayer proceeds first from a sense of our need, and next, from faith in the promises of God. John Calvin
  • Sin is not just doing bad things. It is taking good things and making them ultimate in your life. Tim Keller
  • The gospel never was, isn’t, and never will be about the “victorious Christian life.” It’s about the victorious Christ. Scotty Smith

Sinclair Quote 3


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Movie Review ~ The Lady in the Van

The Lady in the VanThe Lady in the Van, rated PG-13
** ½

This British film, directed by Nicholas Hytner, is based on actual events that happened more than 40 years ago to Oscar nominated screenwriter Alan Bennett, who wrote the script adapted from his stage play, and is here portrayed by Alex Jennings (who portrayed Prince Charles in The Queen). Bennett and Hytner worked together on 2006’s The History Boys. In an interesting approach, Bennett portrays himself as two characters at odds with each other, both played by Jennings – one as a writer with pen in hand, and the other focused on the world outside of his window.

Two-time Oscar winner Dame Maggie Smith (much loved for her role as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham on Downton Abbey), stars as Miss Shepherd. The 81 year-old actress received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical for this role. Smith has previously portrayed Miss Shepherd in a stage production in 1999 and in a BBC radio play in 2009.

As the film opens we see an event that takes place while Miss Shepherd is driving her van on a country road that will change the course of her life. She now lives in her van, moving from neighborhood to neighborhood, eventually arriving in Bennett’s North London neighborhood. We see how the residents of the neighborhood react to Miss Shepherd as she parks her van in front of their homes.

Bennett is a gay man who lives alone but often has late-night male visitors (humorously assumed to be Communists by Miss Shepherd). He is kind to Miss Shepherd, and eventually they develop a relationship, but you can’t describe Miss Shepherd as a nice person. As we find out more about her (her actual name may be Mary or Margaret), we see some of the pain in her life. We see that she was once an accomplished pianist and also a nun (twice).

As Miss Shepherd lives in her van (maybe as a form of penance?), her bathroom habits (and the results thereof), and her body odor are recurring themes, played for laughs. Eventually, Bennett allows Miss Shepherd to pull her van into his driveway, where she will remain for an incredible fifteen years in the 1970’s and 1980’s until her death.

Oscar winner Jim Broadbent, appears in a small role as Underwood, a gentleman with nefarious motives who periodically visits Miss Shepherd’s van.

Maggie Smith is her usual amazing self in this film, though not likeable nor grateful for the many acts of kindness that are extended to her. Then again, she has led a difficult life and has been wounded by others along the way. She also tells some tall tales that add humor to the story.

Jennings is good in his role as the two Bennetts, but I have to admit while a unique approach, it started to irritate me as the film went on.

The film is rated PG-13 for some adult language. Miss Shepherd’s Roman Catholic faith is portrayed throughout the film.


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Movie Review ~ Risen

RisenRisen, rated PG-13
***

This film, directed and co-written (with Paul Aiello) by Kevin Reynolds (The Count of Monte Cristo, Waterworld), gives us a different perspective on the greatest story ever told. The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (here referred to as Yeshua, well-portrayed by Cliff Curtis) is told through the eyes of a skeptic. And while I tend to be wary of faith-based films due to their often emotional manipulation and lack of quality, the trailer for this film had reflected that it might be a step above the norm in this genre. After seeing the film, I found it, with a budget of $20 million, to be well-acted, with good use of scenery and sets, and an effective musical score. And unlike 2014’s Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings, Christians will find that it respects the biblical account of the death and resurrection of Christ.

The film, set in Judaea in 33 A.D., takes the point of view of a fictional character Clavius, a powerful Roman Military Tribune, who we see praying to his gods, played by Joseph Fiennes (who has played Martin Luther in 2003’s Luther, and will portray runner/missionary Eric Liddell in the upcoming The Last Race). Clavius serves under and is often summoned to the presence of Pontius Pilate, played by Oscar nominated actor Peter Firth. He is driven by ambition, and seeks power and wealth, telling Pilate that he desires “an end to travail, a day without death, peace.”

The film begins with Clavius’ troops brutally defeating Jewish rebels. Pilate then summons Clavius about a Nazarene leader (Yeshua) who has claimed to be God. He is being crucified and Pilate tells him to quickly finish the work because the Emperor is coming for a visit. We see a sword pierce Yeshua’s side, and Clavius watch him die before turning the body over to Joseph of Arimathea for burial in a private tomb.

Since there are rumors Yeshua will rise from the dead, and the Jewish leaders fear his followers will steal his body and claim he rose, Clavius seals the tomb and assigns two soldiers to guard it. When the body is missing from the tomb on the third day, Pilate orders Clavius and his assistant Lucius (Tom Felton, best known for his role as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films), to quickly find the body and end the rumors of Yeshua’s resurrection.

The film, which moves at a slow pace, follows Clavius’ search for Yeshua’s body as he interrogates Mary Magdalene (Maria Botto) and Bartholomew (Stephen Hagan) and encounters Peter (Stewart Scudamore). As his investigation proceeds, we begin to see Clavius changing.

I thoroughly enjoyed this well-made telling of the story of the days before and after the death of Christ. The violence at the beginning of the film and some disturbing images of dead bodies earn the film its PG-13 rating. This would be a good film to invite a friend or family member to see with you and then discuss afterwards.


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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CURRENT EVENTS

Courtesy of World Magazine

                                           Courtesy of World Magazine

GREAT RESOURCESHESED Conference

  • Michael Card’s Biblical Imagination Conference on Hesed. I’m looking forward to attending one of Michael Card’s Biblical Imagination Conference weekends this year. After having conferences on each of the Gospels over the past few years, his new conference is on Hesed (think of God’s lovingkindness). You can go to Michael’s website to see where conferences are scheduled to see if there is one in your area. We were able to catch three of the Gospel Biblical Imagination conferences, including having the joy of hosting two at our church. Here again are my reflections from the conference weekend on Matthew. To give you some idea of what to expect at these wonderful conferences, check out these two short promo videos which were filmed at our church during the conference on Mark – video 1 and video 2 (you may see some familiar faces here).

POLITICS Seinfeld

  • My Choice for President/Vice President. After watching nine GOP debates, and realizing that Ben Carson is not going to get the nomination, I’m ready to put my support behind the below ticket:
  • Ted Cruz: Evangelical Darling or Pagan Brutalist? Why He Exposes a Christian Divide. Thomas S. Kidd writes “New York Times columnist David Brooks (author of The Road to Character), penned a blistering attack on Cruz as a hypocritical Christian who really preaches “pagan brutalism.” To Brooks, Cruz is a harsh, Pharisaical opportunist – Donald Trump with a more pious veneer.”
  • Trump Meets the Honeymooners. I love the old Honeymooners shows with Jackie Gleason playing bus driver Ralph Kramden. Here’s Ralph having just about enough of presidential candidate Donald Trump.
  • 12 Voting Options in a Trump Election. Tony Reinke writes that’s not too early to start thinking about what an Evangelical Christian would do when faced with an unfortunate Trump v. Sanders or a Trump v. Clinton vote for president.

Doug Michael Cartoon

10+Favorite+Quotes

  • Life is to be lived Coram Deo, before the face of God, under the authority of God, and unto the glory of God alone. R.C. Sproul
  • Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones. Phillips Brooks
  • When a man goes up into the pulpit, it is in order that God may speak to us through the mouth of a human being. John Calvin
  • I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all. But whatever I have placed in God’s hands that I still possess. Martin Luther
  • Don’t waste your disgust. Anybody can be cynical and withdrawn. Try redemptive anger and working for justice instead. Scotty Smith
  • The blood of the Lamb silences the Accuser. D.A. Carson  
  • The shortest route is not always the best route, because it can bypass some of the greatest lessons in life. Ravi Zacharias
  • Dads, our kids don’t belong to us, they belong to God. We are just their stewards for a short time to point them to their ultimate father. Burk Parsons
  • My life has been a series of wonders, mercies, supports, and deliverances. John Newton   

Sinclair Ferguson Quote 2


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

integrating faith and work
Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • 3 Ways to Make Your Week More Productive. Kevin Lloyd discusses some tips around time management.
  • 4 Character Traits of Thriving Employees. Stephen Graves writes about the traits: work ethic, problem solving ability, relational skills and spiritual vitality.
  • 4 Leadership Principles to Inspire Star Performance. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “Effective leaders get average people to do extraordinary work.”
  • 4 TED Talks to Inspire You in Your Work. Here are four videos to inspire you in your work, the first of which I watched with my team and had a good discussion about recently.
  • 4 Types of Tone-Deaf Leadership. Eric Geiger writes “There are a plethora of tone-deaf leaders who are out of sync and rhythm with people and their context. They seem deaf to the people and context around them.”
  • 4 Ways to Attack a Sense of Entitlement. Eric Geiger writes “A sense of entitlement can greatly harm the culture and the mission of a ministry or organization. A sense of entitlement is corrosive and crushes the collective soul of the team. Those the team is designed to serve become less and less important as self-centeredness reigns. When entitlement spreads, the ministry or organization acts as if it exists for itself instead of for others.”
  • 4 Things Leaders Owe Their Followers. Eric Geiger writes “Leaders, we are servants and debtors. We are in debt to the people who follow us.”
  • 4 Temptations That Leaders Face. Dan Reiland writes “How you handle your temptation will determine, to a great degree, the effectiveness and longevity of your ministry.”
  • 5 Steps to Recovery from a Failure. Ron Edmondson writes that what you do after you fail will determine if – and how well – you recover.
  • 5 Things That Are a Total Waste of Time in Leadership. Carey Nieuwhof shares these five items that all leaders will most likely agree are time wasters.
  • 5 Leadership Questions with Dan Rockwell. In this episode of the 5 Leadership Questions podcast, Todd Adkins and Barnabas Piper visit with one of my favorite leadership bloggers Dan Rockwell.
  • 6 Signs That Silos Exist in Your Organization. Art Rainer writes “When they (silos) do exist, leaders will find themselves struggling to move their organization forward and experience a deteriorating staff morale.”
  • 7 of My Biggest Frustrations as a Leader. Ron Edmondson writes “In many ways, I am still learning the secret of being content, but I like continual improvement and think there is usually room to get better in all areas of our life. I think it is true in leadership too.”
  • 7 Core Disciplines Needed for a Spiritual Leader. Ron Edmondson writes “All leaders should lead well, but when one claims to be a follower of Christ their leadership reflects on his or her walk with Christ. I have learned personally that leading well requires discipline. It doesn’t happen naturally.”
  • 10 Points of Managing Tension in Leadership.  Brad Lomenick shares a few thoughts on tension and the perspective as leaders we should have in managing it.
  • 10 Things You Can Do Today to Improve as a Leader. Ron Edmondson writes “Most leaders want to improve. I hear from leaders weekly who want to get better in their role. They want to improve so the organization they lead can improve. As much as leaders desire improvement, many leaders wonder where they should go to grow.”
  • 18 Reasons Good Leaders Get Fired. Brian Dodd provides these reasons good leaders get fired in light of the recent firing of Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt.

Quotes about Faith and Work

  • Success is knowing your purpose in life, growing to reach your full potential, and sowing seeds that benefit others. John Maxwel
  • Intention without action is an insult to those who expect the best from you. Andy Andrews
  • The book of Genesis leaves us with a striking truth – work was part of paradise. Tim Keller
  • Dear workaholics: There’s no extra credit for impressing others while losing your family. Burk Parsons
  • Servant leadership is love in action. Make a positive difference in someone’s life. Ken Blanchard
  • As a leader, the health of your marriage directly affects the impact of your leadership. Michael Hyatt
  • Wherever you are, be all there. Live life to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God. Jim Elliot

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 9: The Majesty of Christ in Missions and Mercy— A Plea to This Generation

  • God does not call us to ease, but to faithful joy. He is closing in on some of you, smiling and with tears in his eyes, knowing how much of himself he is going to show you—and how much it will cost. As I write, I pray that you will not turn away.
  • If you have pity for perishing people and a passion for the reputation of Christ, you must care about world missions.
  • One of the burdens of this book is to show what life looks like when you believe that you dare not choose between the motives to love people and glorify Christ. They are not separate motives.
  • This single passion—to see that Christ be glorified as perishing people become eternally satisfied in him—drives the great global enterprise we call world missions.
  • Missions exists because worship doesn’t.
  • There can be no weary resignation, no cowardly retreat, and no merciless contentment among Christ’s people while he is disowned among thousands of unreached peoples.
  • Those of you who stay—the senders—should keep this remarkable fact in mind: Foreign missions is a validation of all ministries of mercy at home because it exports them abroad.
  • Ministries of mercy close at hand validate the authenticity of our distant concerns.
  • Just as there is a partnership between the Gospel itself and mercy to the nearby poor, so there is a wonderful partnership between Christians being the merciful church at home and Christians planting the merciful church abroad. Neither is a wasted life.
  • The partnership that emerged between students, who were going, and businessmen, who were sending, was profound, because there were God-centered visionary leaders in both groups. Both were moved by the same passion not to waste their lives.
  • Laypeople, pastors, churches—all of us who stay behind—will find the “sweetest and most priceless rewards” as we enlarge our hearts to embrace not only the needs close to home, but also the hard and unreached places of the world.
  • These businessmen from a hundred years ago saw their secular calling and their missionary vision as an integrated whole.
  • Missions is not only crucial for the life of the world. It is crucial for the life of the church. We will perish with our wealth if we do not pour ourselves out in ministries of mercy at home and missions among the unreached peoples.
  • One way to describe the situation is to say that about 1.2–1.4 billion people have never had a chance to hear the Gospel; that is, they live in cultures where the preaching of the Gospel in understandable ways is not accessible. Other analysts estimate the number of un-evangelized somewhat higher. About 95 percent of these live in what has been called the 10/40 window (between latitudes 10 and 40 degrees north of the equator and between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans). This is the great challenge of our day.
  • There is a call on this generation to obey the risen Christ and make disciples of all the unreached peoples of the world. I am praying that God will raise up hundreds of thousands of young people and “finishers” (people finishing one career and ready to pursue a second in Christian ministry).
  • Frontier missions does what Paul aimed to do: Plant the church where there is now no possibility of ministry. This is the great need of the hour, not only for missionaries who go to serve the established church in other countries (which is a great need, especially in leadership development), but also for missionaries who go to peoples and places where there is no church to serve.
  • Don’t think the days of foreign missionaries are over, as if nationals can finish the work. There are hundreds of peoples and millions of people where there are no Christian nationals to do same-culture evangelism. A culture must be crossed.
  • Missions, not same-culture evangelism by nationals, will finish the Great Commission.
  • So “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38), and ask him if you should be one. Expect this prayer to change you.
  • Get a copy of the amazing world prayer guide called Operation World, and pray and read and ponder your way through the nations day by day.
  • if you want to be most fully satisfied with God as he triumphs in the history of redemption, you can’t go on with business as usual—doing your work, making your money, giving your tithe, eating, sleeping, playing, and going to church. Instead you need to stop and go away for a few days with a Bible and notepad; and pray and think about how your particular time and place in life fits into the great purpose of God to make the nations glad in him. How will you join the great global purpose of God expressed in Psalm 67:4, “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy”?
  • Many of you should stay where you are in your present job, and simply ponder how you can fit your particular skills and relationships and resources more strategically into the global purpose of your heavenly Father. But for others reading this book, it is going to be different. Many of you are simply not satisfied with what you are doing.
  • If the discontent with your present situation is deep, recurrent, and lasting, and if that discontent grows in Bible-saturated soil, God may be calling you to a new work. If, in your discontent, you long to be holy, to walk pleasing to the Lord, and to magnify Christ with your one, brief life, then God may indeed be loosening your roots in order to transplant you to a place and a ministry where the deep spiritual ambitions of your soul can be satisfied.
  • It is true that God can be known and enjoyed in every legitimate vocation; but when he deploys you from one place to the next, he offers fresh and deeper drinking at the fountain of his fellowship. God seldom calls us to an easier life, but always calls us to know more of him and drink more deeply of his sustaining grace.
  • May God give you a fresh, Christ-exalting vision for your life—whether you go to an unreached people or stay firmly and fruitfully at your present post. May your vision get its meaning from God’s great purpose to make the nations glad in him. May the cross of Christ be your only boast, and may you say, with sweet confidence, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.


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What is Your Brand?

What is you brand graphicWhat do you think of when you see the Apple logo? Perhaps some think of innovative, cutting edge products. When I see the Chick Fil-A logo, I think of a respected, well-run faith-based organization. The brand of an organization or their products is very important in what it represents to others.

Where I work, we often talk about someone’s “brand”. I first heard of that concept years ago when my friend Kevin was doing a leadership talk on the subject. But what does that mean, our personal brand? It may be a new concept to you. Here are a few things to consider when thinking about your personal brand:

1. Distinguishing factors. What distinguishes you from others, or what makes you different from others? What words describe you? A few things to think about here are your unique…

  • Passions
  • Callings
  • Goals
  • Mission
  • Vision
  • Beliefs
  • Core Values
  • Experiences
  • Gifts, talents and strengths

What would you add to this list?

2. Reputation. What do people, who don’t even know you, think of you? We can call that your reputation. How do you develop a reputation? And how do you correct one that is not what you want it to be? Reputations are often accurate, but not always. I remember a few years back when I found out that I would be reporting to a leader that I had formed an opinion about based on what I had heard about them over the years. In one of our first meetings they stated “You may have heard some things about me.” Well, in the bubble above my head I’m thinking, “Yes, I certainly have”. They went on to say “I would challenge you to talk to people who have worked closely with me. They may have some different things to say about me than those who have only worked with me on the periphery”. And guess what? Despite my concerns, I very much enjoying working with that leader. They were one of my favorite leaders in my 35+ year career. They were very supportive and caring, not at all like the reputation of them I heard from others.

What do you think your reputation is? What do people who don’t know you think about you?

3. Reflecting Christ. Most important to me, as a believer, I want to reflect Christ and represent Him well. When others see me, I want them to see Christ in me. I want to reflect Christ’s light just as the moon reflects the sun’s light. I want to be the best worker with the highest degree of integrity and character. I want to be the same in public as I am in private. I want to be the same person to my friends and family that I am to people I am meeting for the first time.

What are some ways we can reflect Christ in our vocations?

So what is your personal brand? If someone were to ask you, how would you describe your brand? I’d love to hear your thoughts – just click on “Leave a comment” on the upper left hand side of the home page.


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Movie Review ~ 45 Years

45 Years45 Years, rated R
*** ½

This film is directed by Andrew Haigh, who also wrote the screenplay adapted from the short story “In Another Country” by David Constantine. It stars the still beautiful 70 year-old Charlotte Rampling (who we were introduced to recently in the excellent television series Broadchurch, and has been nominated for the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role) as Kate Mercer. Tom Courtenay stars as Katie’s husband Geoff.

Kate and Geoff are retired. They live in the English countryside and have been married 45 years. They never had children, and never took many photos, something that Kate now regrets. There is no evidence that either are people of faith, something that is needed as their marital bliss is challenged.

As the film begins, they are happy. But their lives are suddenly rocked when Geoff receives an unexpected letter a week before their 45th wedding anniversary party (they had planned a party for their 40th anniversary, but Geoff’s heart attack and bypass surgery changed that).

The letter tells of the finding of Geoff’s girlfriend Katya’s frozen body, who died more than 50 years ago when she fell to her death as they were hiking in the Swiss Alps. Geoff and Katya had been pretending to be married, so Geoff is listed as her next of kin. He is asked if he can come and positively identify the body.

The film takes us through the week before the party and shows that Geoff cared deeply about “my Katya”. This comes as a shock to Kate, who remembers her as someone Geoff dated before they met, but didn’t have any idea what Katya meant to Geoff, who admits that they would have been married.

We see Geoff becoming increasingly distracted, and even reverting back to smoking, despite having heart surgery five years ago. As each day goes by the week before their anniversary party they become more and more distant from each other and uncomfortable in each other’s presence.

Both Rampling and Courtenay are excellent in their roles, but Rampling truly gives an Oscar worthy performance. Haigh effectively uses music in the film, including a lot of music dating back to the couple’s wedding (Turtles, Moody Blues, etc.).

The film is rated R for language and a brief scene of sexuality. It moves slowly, and is focused on how their once-happy relationship is challenged by the letter received.