Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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25 Great Quotes from What’s Best Next by Matt Perman

What's Best NextI recently completed a wonderful study of Matt Perman’s excellent book What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms The Way You Get Things Done, with some friends in a faith and work book club at work. It was the second time I had read the book since its release in 2014.

There is so much of value in the book that it is extremely difficult to pick out just a few favorite quotes, but here are 25 that I found particularly helpful. I would highly recommend that you read this book on “Gospel-Driven Productivity”.

  1. True productivity is not first about efficiency — doing things right and doing them quickly — but effectiveness — doing the right things.
  2. Productivity is about making a contribution and giving more than we get so that God gets the glory (not us).
  3. A radical concern for others is to be at the heart of our productivity and at the heart of everything we do every day.
  4. Being productive is not just about getting things done. It’s about being a useful person, making a contribution, and leaving things better than you found them.
  5. Generosity is to be the guiding principle for our lives. This is both the right thing to do and the way to be most productive. It is the surprising, counterintuitive key to productivity.
  6. The overarching principle of the Christian life is that we are here to serve, to the glory of God. According to the Bible, a truly productive life is lived in service to others.
  7. If our works are to be truly productive — that is, affirmed by God at the final judgment and last forever — they need to be done with a love for God at the center. Anything else is ultimately idolatry
  8. One of the best forms of generosity in our work is excellence. Excellence matters not only because it is right and exciting in itself, but even more significantly because it is a way of serving people.
  9. The fundamental way to know what’s best next — to make good decisions in an age of unlimited options — is to be a person of character
  10. Discernment based on love is the way to know what’s best.
  11. The core principle of effectiveness is to know what’s most important and put it first.
  12. The ultimate foundation of your mission is not your character or even correct principles. It’s what God has done for you in Christ and the fact that, if you believe in Christ, God is now your Father.
  13. The purpose of life is to know God, enjoy God, reflect his glory back to him in the pursuit of justice and mercy in all things, and do this in community with others through Jesus Christ.
  14. Your mission is the ultimate reason for your existence — forever. It is your chief why. Your life goal is the concrete what. It is the chief way that you seek to fulfill your mission.
  15. You need to have an overarching, passionate, God-centered aim to your life — an overarching goal and message that flows from your mission and directs the priorities of your life.
  16. Your roles are all callings from God and thus avenues of worship. You can serve him just as fully in the “secular” areas of your life as you can in the spiritual areas.
  17. God designed the world so that there will always be more things for us to do than we are able to do. This isn’t just so we learn to prioritize; it’s so that we learn to depend on one another. And that’s what delegation enables us to do.
  18. Put first things first, and stop doing second things. The fundamental ways to reduce are through delegating, eliminating, automating, and deferring (DEAD).
  19. Multitasking seems like a way to save time but actually costs more time and is, in fact, impossible. It is inefficient because it makes both tasks take longer. But it is also impossible because you cannot literally multitask. The human brain simply cannot focus on two things at once. God is the only multitasker.
  20. Ask in everything: How can I build others up? This brings us back to the fundamental principle behind everything: You are here to do good for others, to the glory of God. All productivity practices, all of our work, everything is given to us by God for the purpose of serving others.
  21. Since Gospel-Driven Productivity is about putting our productivity practices — and all that we have — in the service of God’s purposes, that means we will put our productivity practices in the service of fighting large global problems and bringing the gospel to all nations.
  22. See everything you do, in all areas of your life, as means of serving God and others.
  23. It is in our vocations that we take our faith into the world and the gospel spreads most fully. Whatever your job is, wherever you are, it is both meaningful in itself and a means of advancing the gospel. It is through your work that God changes the world.
  24. We can go even farther and say that non-ministry vocations are the key to the spread of the gospel globally, because our vocations are the chief way we bring our faith into the world. The gospel spreads through our vocations.
  25. We must have a robust doctrine of work if we are going to reach the nations with the gospel.

To find out more about Matt’s ministry and check out some helpful resources, go to his website.

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Movie Review ~ A Hologram for the King

A Hologram for the KingA Hologram for the King

In this screen version of Dave Eggers’ book directed and written by Tom Tykwer, Tom Hanks stars as Alan Clay. Alan was once a successful salesman, but things aren’t going so well these days. As a member of Schwinn’s Board of Directors, Alan made the decision to outsource American jobs to China, a decision that didn’t turn out well. He has recently gone through an ugly divorce, and is on his way to Saudi Arabia to try to sell holographic IT systems to the king for a massive new development in the middle of the desert that will include 1.5 million people by 2025. We see the project in various stages of construction with no working going on, but this is never explained to the viewer.

Alan is under heavy pressure from his boss to close the deal, who checks in with him several times a day. We get the idea that the deal is a must for Alan to keep his job. He also needs to make the deal to pay for his daughter’s college education.  Despite being divorce, Alan has a very good relationship with his daughter Kit, played by Tracey Fairaway. She encourages him in the job he is in Saudi Arabia to do, unlike his father who is a discourager.

Unfortunately for Alan, nothing goes right once he gets to Saudi Arabia. He is badly jet lagged, oversleeps every morning, (never setting an alarm – duh!), and repeatedly gets drunk (in a country where alcohol is illegal). Things don’t go much better for Alan and his team as they try to get an audience with the king to make their sales presentation.

Since he oversleeps each morning, Alan needs a driver to get him to the king’s development an hour away. Alexander Black, as Yousef, is a likable driver, who eventually bonds with Alan.  We enjoyed Yousef’s music he played in the car and the beautiful scenes of Saudi Arabia. Yousef, and Muslims in general, are portrayed sympathetically; not as terrorists or as folks that treat women as second-class citizens, but mostly just as ordinary people in this film – though there is a passing reference to public executions that take place in the city Alan is staying in. Muslims are often portrayed praying in this film.

Eventually we realize that Alan is depressed. He develops a medical condition that is meant as a metaphor for his depression. When he seeks medical attention, he runs into Dr. Zahra Hakem (Sarita Choudhury), a rare female physician, and even rarer still is that she is in the presence of a man alone in a Muslim country as she treats Alan.

As the film goes on, we see Alan beginning to gain more confidence.  However, it largely takes place in a slow moving film that doesn’t have much of a plot. There is some humor sprinkled in, but watching the film, I felt I was living through the same depressing nightmare that defined Alan’s life. As a result, I cannot recommend this film to you; instead I’m recommending that you wait for Hanks’ upcoming film entitled Sulley, directed by Clint Eastwood.

Hanks’ performance is fine, but certainly nothing special. The best part of the film is the opening scene in which Hanks talk-sings “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads.

This is the second collaboration between Hanks and Tykwer, the first being 2012’s Cloud Atlas, a film we did not see. It seems a strange vehicle for Hanks, as it is based on a book that has gotten very mixed reader reviews on Amazon.

The film is rated R for some adult language and unnecessary female nudity.

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Book Review: Living in the Light: Money, Sex and Power by John Piper

Living in the LightLiving in the Light: Money, Sex and Power by John Piper. The Good Book Company. 144 pages. 2016    

This book was birthed from conference messages that the author delivered in 2015. Piper states that the main thesis of this book is that money, sex, and power, which began as God’s good gifts to humanity, have become dangerous because all human beings have exchanged the glory of God for images. In addition, money, sex, and power will be restored to their God-glorifying place by the redemption that God brought into the world through Jesus Christ. He approaches his subject with a strategy to define, defeat and deploy. He gives us definitions and foundations, dangers and how to defeat them, potentials and how to deploy them.

In defining money, he tells us that money is the symbolic representation of quantities of value. It becomes a moral issue because of the rightness or wrongness of what we pursue with this gift God has given us. We can pursue good, and we can pursue evil. We can use it to show that we value money more than Christ; or we can use it to show that we value Christ more than money.  He tells us that there is no link between having much money and knowing much happiness in this life—or the next.

In defining “sex” he means experiencing erotic stimulation; seeking to get the experience, or seeking to give the experience. He tells us that sex is a good gift from God in all those ways. He writes that our sexual sinning is rooted in the fact that we don’t treasure the glory of God as supremely desirable over all things. Jesus, Peter, Paul, John and the writer to the Hebrews all sound the note of danger that lies ahead for those who do not repent of sexual sin. He tells us that when it comes to our sex lives, the issue is this: Do we see the glory of God? Do we treasure the glory? Are we deeply content?

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Book Reviews

The Mingling of SoulsThe Mingling of Souls: God’s Design for Love, Marriage, Sex and Redemption by Matt Chandler. David C. Cook. 224 pages. 2015
*** ½ 

We attended a live video broadcast of Matt Chandler, senior pastor at the Village Church in Dallas, presenting this material from the Song of Solomon. Along with our ticket to attend the event we received a copy of this book.

Chandler states:  “The sheer amount of confusion, heartbreak, and fear that I have witnessed at The Village Church in regard to romantic relationships and sex provides my primary motivation for writing this book.”

He writes that:  “What we learn in the Song of Songs is that a marriage shaped according to this gospel of grace, forged over years of hard-earned trust and forgiveness, can be an unsafe place for sin but a very safe place for sinners.”

I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to you. I highlighted a number of passages and would like to share some of them with you below:

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My Review of the Book “Pentecostal Outpourings” and Interview with one of the Authors

Pentecostal OurpouringsBook Review:

Pentecostal Outpourings: Revival and the Reformed Tradition by Michael A. G. Haykin, Robert Davis Smart and Ian Hugh Clary. 280 pages.  Reformation Heritage Books.  2016.

This book details exciting historical accounts of revivals. All you have to do is to look at today’s headlines to see that our nation desperately needs revival. But what is biblical revival? Is it a planned, man-centered event, such as “Revival – Saturday Night”?  No, as one of the editors and contributors of this volume, Robert Smart writes, the intent of the book is to “Promote the knowledge of God, the gospel of Christ, and the great outpourings of the Spirit through a variety of Reformed authors reflecting and applying historical and biblical lessons for today’s Christian leader.”

The authors, who include Steven Lawson (Foreword), Joel Beeke, Michael Haykin, Iain Campbell, Tom Nettles and others, put forth the view that revival is “a sovereign gift from God in which, for a special season, His normal and true work of advancing His kingdom is sped up or quickened so that more is accomplished through His servants in a shorter period of time.” The authors take special care to demonstrate that revivals are mixed with counterfeit Christianity and require wise leadership.

Each chapter in this well-written book features a different Reformed tradition, historical context, and regional culture where revival occurred, yet each fits within an overall Reformed and biblical interpretation of revival. Part one of the book looks at revival in the British Isles, while part two looks at revival in America. I enjoyed reading about the men associated with these revivals. Jonathan Edwards, who even in his own time was known as the “theologian of revival” for both the First and Second Great Awakenings; George Whitfield and Asahel Nettleton, are also well-known, but most such as Theodorus Jacobus Frelinghuysen are not so familiar. Frelinghuysen has been described both as a forerunner and a catalyst of the Great Awakening. Fortunately, this book tells the stories of some of these more obscure leaders for modern readers.

Smart concludes the book by stating that the authors of the book call for Reformed leaders to “grab the baton of leadership and finish the race with continuity and zeal, and a greater understanding of previous revivals will encourage them to do this.” He asks all to join in asking God for both reformation and revival.

I was surprised to read that by the end of the eighteenth century, only 10 percent of the population of the growing American nation was in fellowship with a local congregation.  Might that be where our nation is heading?  As one of the authors of this book states, our only spiritual hope for true revival is to turn to the God of revival.

Interview with Dr. Robert Davis Smart on the new book Pentecostal Outpourings

Dr. Bob SmartPastor Bob Smart has been my pastor for more than twenty-one years. Throughout that time he has had a heart for, and prayed fervently for biblical revival. That’s one of the reasons I was pleased to see this new book on revival which details exciting historical accounts.  I recently had an opportunity to talk to Dr. Smart about this new book.

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My Interview with P.K. (Pam) Hodel About Her New Book ~ Simply My Window

PK HodelRecently I read P.K. Hodel’s amazing book Simply My Window (and my wife is reading the book now). You can read my review of Simply My Window here.

I have known P.K. (Pam) for years. She and her husband Mark (Harrison in the book) attend the same church as my wife and I do and we are in the same small group on Sunday evenings. However, reading the book I realized that I really didn’t know them very well.

I recently had a chance to reach out to Pam and ask her some questions about the book. If you have not yet read the book, I hope reading Pam’s responses will prompt you to read it.

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Movie Review ~ Captain America: Civil War

Captain America  Civil WarCaptain America:  Civil War, rated PG-13

The film is directed by Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: The First Avenger).  We saw this film in IMAX 3-D in a packed theater with an enthusiastic audience who reacted to each amazing scene they saw (watch for the scene with Captain America and the helicopter, or a great stunt with a motorcycle, for example). In fact, even before the film started, some shouted out “Team Cap!” to be responded with “Iron Man!” And the audience was not disappointed.

The latest Marvel film is a long one at 2 hours and 26 minutes. It is rated PG-13 for the standard super hero violence, some adult language (and unfortunately the abuse of God’s name). We really enjoyed the humor in the film. Some films get distracted with the fighting and violence (think of the recent Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice), but this one never lost track of the story.

As the film opens, we see some of the Avengers – Captain America (Chris Evans), the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) – in Lagos, Nigeria trying to stop the theft of biological weapons. Unfortunately, a casualty of their heroic actions is the death of several innocent people. This isn’t the first time this has happened, and now the Avengers are told by Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt), that 117 nations will soon be approving the Sokovia Accords, and all the Avengers will need to sign it. The agreement will provide oversight for the superheroes; they will no longer be able to enter into situations worldwide without approval. Many of the Avengers, including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) sign the Accords, but a few, notably Captain America, do not.

As King T’Chaka (John Kani) addresses the representatives before the Accords vote, a bomb goes off. Many are injured and some are killed, including King T’Chaka. We see his son T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) kneeling over his father’s dead body. Soon news reports flash a photo that show the bomber as being Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who was at one time Captain America’s best friend. As the manhunt begins for the Winter Soldier, Captain America seeks to protect him, putting him on the opposite side of his Avenger friends that signed the Accord, notably Iron Man.  That sets up the Avengers “Civil War” – betrayal is a key theme in this film along with standing your ground to do the right thing. Team Iron Man consists of Iron Man, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Vision (Paul Bettany), Black Widow, War Machine (Don Cheadle), and Spiderman (Tom Holland), while Team Captain America consists of Captain America, Bucky Barnes, Falcon, Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), Scarlett Witch, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Ant Man (Paul Rudd).

Not all of the Avengers are in the film (notably absent were Thor and the Hulk), but many are, in addition to some new characters (Black Panther and Spiderman, for example.) The strong cast also includes Martin Freeman, Marisa Tomei, and Alfre Woodard.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable film with excellent stunts, computer animations, and screenplay.  As with all Marvel superhero films, don’t get up when the film ends, but stay through all the credits to see two brief previews for future Avenger films.