Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Contentment  

Contentment. It’s something that I’ve needed to work on for some time.

Contentment

How about you? Are you like me, always looking forward to the next (you fill in the blank) – vacation, concert, movie, book, album, dinner at your favorite restaurant, etc.? Are you not content with your current vocation, relationship(s) you are in, or the church you are attending? How about the discontent with your house, car or version of iPhone that you have, or even  the number of blog followers or Facebook friends that you have? Does the grass always look greener somewhere else? Is it someone else receiving the promotion that you deserve? Do you look forward to the quitting time, the weekend and ultimately retirement?

As a Christian, I know I should be fully content in what God has provided for me, mainly Him! Short of that, a life of discontentment is a sin, a lack of thankfulness for what we have already been provided.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading and study on the subject of contentment of late. And sometimes, God just puts something on a subject you are studying before you without you specifically looking for it. For example, I came across this section of a prayer entitled “Fullness” in the wonderful book of Puritan prayers The Valley of Vision:

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Dylan -Fallen AngelsFallen Angels – Bob Dylan
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Bob Dylan’s 37th studio album is his second volume of songs that he has recorded that have been mostly sung by Frank Sinatra. In fact, of the twelve songs here that were personally picked by Dylan, only “Skylark” was not recorded by Sinatra.

The album was primarily recorded at the same time and with the same core band as 2015’s acclaimed Shadows in the Night, which reached the top ten in seventeen countries and debuted at number one in the U.K. So Shadows could have been a double album. Should we consider Fallen Angels an album of songs not good enough to be included on Shadows and only released because of the success of the initial release? Are these the leftovers? No, this album is a triumph, a masterpiece, from an artist that never fails to surprise.  Dylan, who will turn 75 four days after this album is released, has done something like this before with two albums of folk covers, 1992’s Good As I Been to You and 1993’s World Gone Wrong.

The low-key arrangements of the songs, with Dylan being backed by his excellent touring band, with great work by Donny Herron on pedal steel guitar, acoustic guitar and light drum, puts Dylan’s weathered but effective voice up front and center. It was self-produced by Dylan using his Jack Frost pseudonym. As with Shadows, his voice sounds the best it has in years.  If you enjoyed Shadows you’ll enjoy this excellent new album.

Here are a few thoughts about each of the twelve songs:

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

book reviews

The Faith of Christopher HitchensThe Faith of Christopher Hitchens by Larry Alex Taunton. Thomas Nelson. 224 pages. 2016
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The attraction of this fascinating book is not so much that it is a biography of one of the “New Atheists”, Christopher Hitchens – though the author, an Evangelical Christian and Founder of the Fixed Point Foundation, does provide us with a biographical sketch of Hitchens – but rather it is the author’s personal recollections of their unlikely friendship. Taunton paints Hitchens, who died of esophageal cancer in 2011, as a man of contradictions, who kept “two sets of books” – one being his private life and the other his public life. In his private book, which Taunton was privileged to know, Hitchens was open to discussing spiritual issues with him, including studying the Gospel of John on two road trips they took late in Hitchens’ life. They were unlikely friends who respected each other.

The author tells us that Hitchens had little respect for his father, and a contentious relationship with his brother, Peter, who left atheism for Christianity. His mother had abortions both before and after Christopher was born, and eventually committed suicide with a boyfriend.

He writes of Hitchens being a man of contradictions.  On the one hand, being a socialist, having homosexual encounters and protesting against the Vietnam War, but undergoing significant changes after the 9/11 attacks in which he recognized real evil. He would then be supportive of President Bush’s “War on Terror” and invasion of Iran and Afghanistan, and also become pro-life.  He became a U.S. citizen in 2007.

The publication of his 2007 book God is Not Great: How Religion Spoils Everything, would ironically start Hitchens on a type of spiritual journey, as he offered to debate anyone taking an opposing view as a way to promote the book. He would debate Christians such as Doug Wilson and John Lennox. This is how the author came to know Hitchens, as he would coordinate the debates and eventually the two would debate each other.

The author writes of their friendship, and by far the best part of the book is his recounting of their two road trips – one through the Shenandoah Valley and the other through Montana and Yellowstone Park. Both of the trips took place after Hitchens was diagnosed with cancer and he knew he was dying. It was on these trips that the two would read and study the Gospel of John together. Hitchens was attracted to Marcionism (accepting some parts of the New Testament but denying Christ’s corporality and humanity and condemning the Creator God of the Old Testament).

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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CURRENT EVENTS a.k.a. “Let’s Talk Toilets”:

Courtesy of World Magazine

                      Courtesy of World Magazine

CHRISTIAN LIVING:

  • Your Sin Is Not What You Think. John Piper writes “My definition of sin is this: any feeling or thought or action that comes from a heart that does not treasure God over all other things. The bottom of sin, the root of all sins, is such a heart—a heart that prefers anything above God; a heart that doesn’t treasure God over everything else, and everyone else.”
  • Covenant eyesA Covenant with My Eyes. Chuck Lawless writes “It happened again this week – I talked with another man who is losing the war with pornography. If you’re losing this battle, too, maybe this covenant (“I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman”—Job 31:1) will help you.”
  • What is the Prayer of Faith? Sinclair Ferguson writes “This, then, is the prayer of faith: to ask God to accomplish what He has promised in His Word.”
  • May I Help You Discern Your Calling? John Piper writes “Is God calling you to cross-cultural missions for the sake of the global glory of Jesus Christ?”
  • When We’re Feeling a Bit Anxious. Here’s our prayer of the week from Scotty Smith.
  • Arguments for Why You Should Be Anxious Today and How the Bible Responds. Justin Taylor offers some helpful thoughts regarding the temptation to fret and worry and be anxious and unsettled, rather than acting in joyful, confident, restful faith.

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My Review of the Movie ~ The Meddler

The MeddlerThe Meddler, rated PG-13
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Oscar winner (for Dead Man Walking), and four-time Oscar nominee Susan Sarandon portrays Marnie and Rose Byrne is her daughter Lori. The film is based on writer/director Lorene Scararia’s real-life experiences with her mother after Lorene’s father died.   Scararia has stated in interviews that the goal was to capture Marnie’s side of the story, and that empathy was a key theme in the film which is set in Los Angeles two years after Marnie’s husband Joe’s death. Joe left her enough money that she doesn’t have to work. Lori is a screenwriter that has relationship issues and is devastated by her break-up with an actor Jacob, played by Jason Ritter.

Marnie just can’t resist meddling in her daughter’s life.   As the film begins we see Marnie constantly calling, texting and dropping by unexpectedly to see Lori. At a time when Marnie really needs Lori, Lori is not very nice to her. But we must remember that each of us go through loss differently.  She needs to set boundaries with Marnie.  Lori loves her Mom, but needs her space as she works through the loss of her father. Both mom and daughter see the same therapist, Diane, played by Amy Landecker.

When Marnie is turned away by her daughter, she seeks to build relationships with others (Freddy, a young man played by Jerrod Carmichael, who works at the Apple Store who helps her and she in turn encourages to go to college; Lori’s best friend, Jillian, played by Cecily Strong, who is a young lesbian mom who desires for the wedding she didn’t have and who needs a babysitter; and a lonely old woman in the hospital). At times she shows her love by spending extraordinary amounts of money, out of place given that she hardly knows the people. Is she trying to buy their friendship?  She also strangely seems to care for these strangers more than her husband’s wonderful Italian family back east, who only want a headstone for Joe, or half of his ashes, neither of which Marnie responds to them about.

Marnie is pursued by two divorced men, Oscar nominee Michael McKean as Mark and Oscar winner (for his outstanding performance in Whiplash) J.K. Simmons as the likeable Zipper, a retired policeman, who also has relationship issues with a daughter. Ironically, even though Marnie craves her daughter’s attention, she is uncomfortable with male attention due to her difficulty dealing with her husband’s loss.

Sarandon is excellent in this role as the meddling mother and the grieving wife, as was J.K. Simmons as the low-key and comfortable-in-his-own-skin Zipper. Moral content issues in the film include the support of the lesbian wedding, sex outside of marriage and a strange comment from Lori about abortion. According to Scararia, in real-life, her mom (the Marnie character) was a person of faith, and that faith helped her through her loss. Unfortunately, the film shows none of Marnie’s faith.  And despite a cast that includes Sarandon and Simmons, the film was pretty slow, and in many ways depicted what John Piper would refer to as a wasted life.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles:

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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GENDER:gender

  • God Made Us Male and Female, and That’s a Good Thin Scott Sauls writes “Whether through marriage or friendship, the coming together of the genders is so significant that it becomes the top metaphor in the Bible to illustrate God’s relationship with his people.”
  • Federal Government Issues Letter on Transgender Policy to America’s Public Schools. Joe Carter writesOn Friday, May 13, the Obama administration sent a letter to all public schools in America notifying teachers and administrators of the regulations they must comply with in regards to their students’ “gender identity. The letter states that, to comply with Federal law, policies concerning students must be based on their gender identity and not on their biological sex.”
  • What the Transgender Bathroom Debate Means to You. Russell Moore writes “The truth is that the male/female sex difference is objectively real. Biological science is built off of this reality. More importantly, the mystery of Christ tells us that the male/female binary points us beyond nature to the gospel itself (Eph. 5). We must tell the truth about this. John the Baptist lost his head for saying that Herod could not have his brother’s wife. Some now will be targeted as culturally unacceptable because they tell Herod he can’t be his brother’s wife. That will take courage and compassion and, above all, it will take Christ.”
  • 7 Troubling Questions About Transgender Theories. Trevin Wax writes “We believe God’s design of male and female to be structurally good, but we also understand gender dysphoria to be another symptom that reminds us we live in a fallen world. For this reason, we must extend love and compassion to anyone who experiences this kind of distress, even as we reject society’s efforts to establish a fluid understanding of personhood.”

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