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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IN THE NEWS:

Hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines in the Erwin's newly remodeled kitchen, as seen on HGTV's Fixer Upper.

Courtesy of World Magazine

                   Courtesy of World Magazine

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Worship and BelieveWorship and Believe (Deluxe Edition) – Steven Curtis Chapman  
****

This is Steven Curtis Chapman’s 23rd studio album and the first worship album in his wonderful career that to date has resulted in 10 million albums sold, 46 Christian radio number one songs, 5 Grammy Awards and an incredible 58 Dove Awards. The album is available in three different formats, the standard edition with eleven studio songs, and deluxe editions including either four or six of the songs recorded live.  I think worship music sounds good in a live format, but you’ll have to decide if the live versions are worth the additional cost.

It was when Chapman was on The Story tour with Pastor Randy Frazee that he first heard about BELIEVE, a 30-week church curriculum that Frazee was working on as the follow-up to The Story. Chapman wrote these songs to accompany the BELIEVE curriculum to be used by thousands of churches, but the songs certainly stand on their own as a worthy addition to Chapman’s outstanding body of work.

Chapman collaborates with some of the best artists in the worship music genre – Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman and Matt Maher, as well as Rend Collective and the drummer for One Direction. Long-time fans will enjoy his signature sounds in these songs addressed to God that I’m sure are already starting to appear in congregational worship.

Below are a few brief comment on each of the new songs:

We Believe – starts with acoustic guitar as Chapman sings of creation praising the glory of God. It builds into a bold song that will sound great in congregational worship.

One True God – a highlight, this track features Chris Tomlin in a song that would comfortably fit on a Tomlin release, as the two artists trade verses in a wonderful song about Christ as the one true God.

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My Review of the Movie ~ Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v. Superman PosterBatman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, rated PG-13
**

Some may ask how many times will we need to see a new Batman or Superman film. Well, since 1943, this is the tenth time Batman has been portrayed, and the sixteenth time for Superman since 1939. And based on the large crowds in the theatre last night when we saw the film (the film is projected to make $160 million this weekend in the U.S. alone), pairing the two superheroes (along with Wonder Woman) in the same film is a welcome idea. A good idea perhaps, but poorly executed in this (estimated) $250 million hot mess of a film.

It’s not for lack of effort. The film, loosely based on the graphic novel “The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller, features a strong cast – Ben Affleck is good as the new Bruce Wayne/Batman and Henry Cavill returns from the disappointing Man of Steel as Clark Kent/Superman. Kevin Costner makes a cameo as Superman’s father while Diane Lane has a larger role as his mother Martha. Amy Adams, one of our better actresses, returns as Lois Lane. We have Jesse Eisenberg, excellent as Lex Luthor, Laurence Fishburne rather irritating as Daily Planet editor Perry White, Holly Hunter as Senator Finch and Gal Gadot as Diana Prince and Wonder Women.

**SPOILER WARNING! **

The film is directed by Zack Snyder (who also directed 2013’s Man of Steel), but ultimately the script by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer is disorganized and confusing, beginning with a flashback to when a young Bruce Wayne’s parents are shot to death outside of a movie theatre. We then see another flashback (there are many of them in the film) of the alien invasion of Metropolis eighteen months ago by General Zod (Michael Shannon).  Bruce Wayne has been closely watching the now controversial Superman since the attack. Clark Kent now lives with girlfriend Lois Lane.   Note:  I guess Superman’s morals have slipped a bit, and Batman is no boy scout in this film either.

Superman has become a deeply polarizing figure, leading to a Senate committee led by Senator Finch about Superman not being above the law.  While Wayne seeks to bring Superman under control as Batman, Luthor heads up Lex Corp and wants to get his hands on kryptonite and create his undefeatable monster Doomsday and dominate the world.

Luthor, and the film, portray Superman as a Jesus-figure who has come from above to save the world. Luthor is a devil figure, and is provided with dialogue right out of the Christian liberalism playbook (“If God is all powerful, he cannot be all good. If God is all good, then he cannot be all powerful”).

The film serves to introduce us to the upcoming Justice League franchise. Affleck is planned to portray Batman in several forthcoming films – Suicide Squad (2016), The Justice League Part One (2017), Untitled Batman Reboot, Justice League Part Two (2019), and possibly 2 sequels to the Untitled Batman Reboot. I hope the following films are much better than this one.

This dark and violent film is overly long at two and a half hours. Although the action scenes were generally done well, a shorter better-edited version of the film with more focus on the storyline would be more satisfying.  An “R” rated version of the film is planned for DVD. The film includes a small amount of unnecessary adult language, including a few abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names, and a bathtub scene with Adams and Cavill.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

Darrin Patrick, St. Louis Cardinals Chaplain, holds a Sunday morning chapel service in Spring Training February 21

Darrin Patrick, St. Louis Cardinals Chaplain, holds a Sunday morning chapel service in Spring Training on February 21

VOCATIONS:  

  • Chaplain Works Behind the Scenes with the St. Louis Cardinals. Darrin Patrick is lead pastor of The Journey, a church in St. Louis, and Vice President of Acts 29, a global church planting network. He also serves as Chaplain to the St. Louis Cardinals.
  • Designing the Homes of the Houston Astros and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bethany Jenkins interviews David Greusel, founding principal of Convergence Design, a Kansas City architectural firm, about his work. With another firm, he was the lead designer for Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros, and PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
  • Vocation of a Fast Food Worker. Gene Veith writes “Like a lot of people in this economy, my former student Stephen Williams is “underemployed” right now.  But he understands the doctrine of vocation.  Read his account of how working in a fast food joint is charged with spiritual significance and gives him occasion to love and serve his neighbors.”
  • Why Christian T-Shirts, Movies, & Music Aren’t Very Good. R. J. Grunewald writes “Christian t-shirts, mediocre films about the rapture, and Christian music that is a copycat of the Top 40 are proof that Christians largely misunderstand the doctrine of vocation.”
  • When Every Detail Matters. Bethany Jenkins interviews Erin Pommer, who works in the hospitality industry as the director of events at Frasca Food and Wine about she integrates her faith and work.

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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6 Keys to Successful Leadership Development

Maxwell QuoteI have the privilege to work and mentor with several talented people who are pursuing formal leadership positions. As I work with them to prepare to compete for those positions I have found there are six keys to successful leadership development:

  1. Consistently strong performance. Bottom-line, before you can even think about moving into a leadership position, you need to be doing excellent work and delivering strong results in your current assignment. You need to be a top performer. If you aren’t a strong performer at this time, stop here, don’t read on. You need to become a strong performer and role model, striving for continuous improvement, before pursuing a formal leadership position.
  1. Diversity of experiences. A leader I know often talks about “depth and breadth” when reviewing an emerging leader’s experiences. I think that’s a good way to describe what I want to communicate here. You should have a diversity of experiences to prepare you for a leadership position. Look for those assignments and experiences in which you will be able to demonstrate your leadership and get results through others. If you can’t get results through others, you are what Marcus Buckingham refers to as an “individual contributor”, not a leader.
  1. Work with multiple leadership mentors to help you grow in different facets of leadership. You might want to read and discuss leadership books with them. The mentee should drive the relationship, so have a plan when you approach someone to mentor you. You should also demonstrate your leadership by mentoring others. So be a mentee and a mentor.
  1. Self-awareness. Learn about yourself through asking for feedback and taking assessments such as Strengthsfinders, StandOut and Myers-Briggs. I have found these assessments to be extremely helpful to learn about myself and about those I work with and mentor. Some of these same folks have provided input for this article.
  1. Continuing Education. Be a lifelong learner and model continuous learning, and then apply what you are learning. Read good leadership and personal development books, and consider advanced degrees and designations in your particular field. Get involved in the professional organization aligned to your field. Continue to grow yourself and in turn you will increase your competitiveness for a leadership position.
  1. Leadership presence. With this one, I always say it’s hard to describe, but you know it when you see it – or you don’t. How are you perceived when you walk into the room, when you are attending or presenting in a meeting. Do others see you as a leader?

These are six keys that I have found for successful leadership development. Do you agree? Do you have others to add?


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MY BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

book reviews

There have been several wonderful articles about Jerry Bridges since his death on March 6. Here are a few of them from Tim Challies, Bob Bevington, Justin Taylor, Robert Brady, Randy Alcorn and Tony Reinke. Justin Taylor also shared the entire memorial service for Bridges.

God Took Me by the Hand: A Story of God’s Unusual Providence by Jerry Bridgesjerry bridges. NavPress. 192 pages. 2014.
****

Jerry Bridges, who passed away on March 6, was one of my favorite authors. A few years back, my pastor asked if we could bring him to our church to speak. Unfortunately, by that time, he had made the decision only to accept speaking engagements with those he had already had a relationship with. I was blessed to see him speak at a Ligonier National Conference some years back however.

In this, his last book released while he was alive, written at age 84, he tells his life story in light of the doctrine of the providence of God. Bridges originally intended to have this become a published book explaining and exalting the providence of God. But the more he worked on it, the more he sensed it was too personal to become a book, so he changed his mental audience to family and close friends. However, some people at NavPress read the story and thought it could be useful to a larger audience. Bridges’ prayer is that this book will be helpful to his readers to see how the providence of God can work in the life of a very ordinary individual.

Bridges states that the purpose of the story is to explain, illustrate, and exalt God’s providence. Bridges intends his life story is meant to be only a backdrop and a series of illustrations of specific acts of the invisible hand of God so that many believers will come to recognize and appreciate more of God’s work in their own lives.

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Newsboys Love RiotMusic Review:  Love Riot – Newsboys
****

The Newsboys follow Hallelujah For The Cross, their 2014 somewhat disappointing and relatively (for them) poorly selling take on classic hymns, with a return to form with Love Riot. Ten songs in the style that we have come to expect – simple, bold Christ-centered lyrics, excellent musicianship, and strong vocals from Michael Tait – in this 5th full-length studio album (plus a Christmas EP), in the Michael Tait-led Newsboys era. The album features a variety of styles – from full-out rockers such as “Crazy”, worship songs such as “You Hold it All (Every Mountain)”, and CCM radio friendly songs such as “Guilty”, “Family of God” and “Committed”. Although we could have asked for more than ten songs (2013’s Restart Deluxe Edition had 16 songs, for example), and from a pacing standpoint things get a little slow in the middle (“No Longer Slaves”, “Family of God” and “Committed”), these bold and encouraging songs will sound great in concert and Love Riot is a good addition to the band’s overall canon.

The Newsboys were formed 31 years ago. Currently comprised of lead vocalist Tait, guitarist Jody Davis, keyboardist Jeff Frankenstein and drummer Duncan Phillips, the band, riding the popularity of the two God’s Not Dead films, may be more popular than ever. In their career they have sold more than 8 million albums, had an amazing 33 number #1 radio hits, four Grammy nominations and won multiple Dove Awards. Love Riot was produced by Mark Needham as well as Seth Mosey and Mike O’Connor and has an excellent sound.

Below are a few brief thoughts about each song on the new album:

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Prepare Your Hearts for Easter

Easter-Sunrise2As we remember our Lord’s crucifixion and approach the celebration of the resurrection of our Lord, I wanted to share these helpful resources to prepare our hearts.

1. Easter is Coming Soon. Tony Reinke shares this short book you can download here Easter Changes Everything: A Theological Devotional.

2. Download the new FREE book of Holy Week devotions from John Piper and ten contributors: Your Sorrow Will Turn to Joy ~ Morning & Evening Meditations for Holy Week.

3. Why a Statement on Christ Matters Now: The Ligonier Statement on Christology. Stephen Nichols writes “In times of confusion, we need clarity and conviction. To that end, Ligonier has released The Word Made Flesh: The Ligonier Statement on Christology.”   

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15 Quotes on Faith from “The Gospel According to Daniel: A Christ-Centered Approach” by Bryan Chapell

The Gospel According to DanielI read Bryan Chapell’s excellent book The Gospel According to Daniel and listened to his corresponding sermons on the book of Daniel at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria. You can listen to the sermons here or on the church’s podcast available in iTunes. Dr. Chapell also wrote the notes for Daniel in the Gospel Transformation Bible.

Here are 15 wonderful quotes about faith from chapter 3 of the book:

  • Faith is not confidence in our belief but confidence in our God. Any other perspective will ultimately harm our faith.
  • Faith is not trusting in how much confidence we have about things we would like to happen.
  • Because we know his loving nature, we can have faith that there is a plan and a purpose for whatever we face.
  • Real faith is not faith in the quantity of our confidence; it is faith in our God.
  • Good things do not always happen according to our plans, wisdom, or desires—and that does not mean our faith is at fault.
  • Real faith trusts God’s plan and purpose.
  • One such error is the idea that God will do as we desire if our desire is righteous enough. We trust that God will fulfill our desires because of the quality of our belief.
  • Confidence based on assurances that have no scriptural support damage faith more than they accomplish good.
  • God does not intend for us to predict outcomes as much as he intends for us to trust him in all circumstances.
  • We do not have faith because all is going well; we do not lose faith because something goes poorly. Our faith is not in what circumstances might indicate but in God’s greater purposes.
  • Circumstances can never be trusted to indicate with certainty what our actions should be or what God’s purposes are.
  • By their example, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego lay out a simple plan of action to help us faithfully confront the trials we face: (1) we acknowledge our needs without stipulating how God should or will respond; (2) we humbly acknowledge the ability of God either to meet our needs in the way we desire or in a way that he knows is better; and (3) we commit ourselves to uncompromising obedience whatever comes. We simply obey God and trust him to take care of the circumstances.
  • Biblical faith is not merely the confidence that our God is able; it also requires the confidence that our God is good.
  • We trust him because, through his Son, God has shown how much he loves us. Faith rests in this love.
  • True biblical faith trusts that God knows and is doing what is right, because he gave us Jesus.

This is one of my favorite books of the year. I highly recommend it to you.