Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week



  • Some Things You Should Know About Christians Who Struggle With Anxiety. Adam Ford, who makes us laugh at The Babylon Bee, writes “For 7 years I have lived with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety. It has completely changed my life.”
  • Recovering the Lost Art of Encouragement. Scott Sauls writes “Sometimes love calls us to be courageous, because it takes courage to offer a redemptive critique.”
  • What Would What God Say to Your Anxiety? Dave Radford writes “Look back to your life now. See your current set of troubles through past and future lenses, and add these other promises to the mix. This is what Scripture says is true of you now. “
  • Lay Aside the Weight of Moodiness. Jon Bloom writes “The quickest way to lay aside the weight of manipulative moodiness is to wield our mood in the way God designed it: as a gauge of our belief. We must query our mood. What is fueling it?”
  • He Came to Save Sinners. Richard Phillips writes “Do you realize that this is what the world truly needs—to have its sins taken away and to be reconciled to God? Do you realize that this is your great need?”
  • The Exhausting Task of Finding Yourself and Your Best Life Now. Trevin Wax writes “Christianity has a fresh message for an exhausted generation pursuing happiness: salvation doesn’t come from mustering up your willpower and making your mark on the world, but in recognizing your dependence on God and receiving the mark He made on the world in the person of Jesus Christ.”
  • Five Natural Ways to Get to the Gospel. Jimmy Needham writes “Consider these common categories or starting places for the next time you’re in conversation with a not-yet-believing friend or stranger.”
  • Secret Wisdom in the Wake of Suffering. Marshall Segal writes “In the face of devastating news, our gut reaction and temptation might be to doubt God or run from him. But heart-wrenching wisdom and understanding are not found anywhere deep inside ourselves or somewhere far from God, but woven into his wise and sovereign love for us.”
  • Plan Now to Die Well. John Piper writes “As a minister of the word of God, I have always thought that part of my calling is to help people die well.”
  • Your First Breath After Death.  Marshall Segal writes “The best thing about that first breath will be that we are finally breathing face to face with our God.”
  • Vanity Fair and Worldliness. In this less than five-minute video exercept from his excellent series The Pilgrim’s Progress: A Guided Tour, Derek Thomas explains worldliness and the temptations of Vanity Fair.
  • Time to Refuel. St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainright writes “When we find ourselves in a dry spell in our relationship with Jesus Christ, we need to persevere and train ourselves to get back into the swing of things.”
  • Knowing When It’s Time for a Personal Retreat with Jesus. Scotty Smith prays “Lord Jesus, fortunately I’m not totally “toast,” yet; but it’s definitely time for me to spend some unrushed, uncluttered time away with you.”
  • John MacArthur’s Tips on Self-Discipline. Jordan Standridge writes “Even though we may not be as busy as John Macarthur we should all strive to live disciplined lives. I believe these 8 tips will help us in our mission to please Christ with our time.”
  • 10 Practical Ways to Boost Your Energy Level. Michael Hyatt writes “Your energy level doesn’t have to remain low. You have more control than you think. But you have to be deliberate in managing it.”
  • If You Don’t Fight Lust. John Piper writes “Jesus said, if you don’t fight lust, you won’t go to heaven. Not that saints always succeed. The issue is that we resolve to fight, not that we succeed flawlessly.”
  • Blessed are the Peacemakers. R.C. Sproul writes “The making of peace is one of the most important motifs of all of Scripture.”

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Biblical Hospitality

If you do a Google search for a definition of hospitality you will find that it means “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers”. I often think of hospitality as having people over to one’s home for a meal; there really is something about sharing a meal with someone. I remember a family that attended our church years ago. He was one of our elders. They had a number of children and not a lot of money. Yet they always opened their home to others for meals.  It was definitely not considered entertaining – you had to clear off a spot to sit down on their couch, and then they’d fire up the rice cooker.  You felt warm and welcome ~ they had the gift of hospitality.  This is certainly an area that I can grow in. Oh, I have my excuses – “our home is too small to host”, or “I’m an introvert”, or even “I don’t like potlucks”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the subject of hospitality recently. Below are a few helpful resources that I’ve benefited from:

  • Openness Unhindered by Rosaria Butterfield. I’ve learned a lot about biblical hospitality from Rosaria Butterfield’s two books and hearing her speak. In her book Openness Unhindered she had a helpful discussion on hospitality and neighboring. I particularly took interest in her discussion about the art of neighboring, where she and her husband placed picnic tables and chairs in their front yard to encourage hospitality. Thursday nights at their home is a prayer open house and a neighborhood prayer walk. Another helpful resource from Rosaria is this interview with Tony Reinke in which they explore the role hospitality played in her conversion, and why she’s now challenging Christians to rethink the missional potential of our living rooms and dining rooms.  She says fellowship is having your church friends in, but hospitality is meeting the stranger at the gate and inviting the stranger in.  We have to be intentional about inviting our neighbors into our lives to become friends.
  • Tim Keller’s Message on Hospitality. In this excellent message from Tim Keller, he states that hospitality is what we do with our bodies and gifts. Keller goes on to say that hospitality is an attitude of the heart and practice.
  • Tim Challies’ Series on the Character of the Christian. In this article, Tim Challies writes that “Hospitality is a tangible, outward display of godly character.” He offers some helpful questions to evaluate ourselves on hospitality.

What does the Bible say about hospitality? It’s not a suggestion, it’s a command!  Here are five wonderful verses:

Romans 12:13: Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.Hospitality Graphic

1 Peter 4:9: Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.

Hebrews 13:2: do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Isaiah 58:7: Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Luke 14:13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind…

And two verses for Pastors/Elders:

1 Timothy 3:2: Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach

Titus 1:8: hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined

What do you think hospitality is and how can it be demonstrated in your life?

  • Don’t be content with just having your friends over!
  • Don’t be afraid to expose your kids to difficult people, discussions and experiences.
  • Be creative! Use your car for hospitality – to give rides, loan it out, etc.
  • Send us more ideas by hitting the comment button.

Let’s encourage each other to open our hearts and our homes by practicing servanthood and making others feel special and welcome.  May our homes become sanctuaries for others by us stewarding the blessings God has given us.

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My Review of the Movie “Hell or High Water”

Hell or High WaterHell or High Water, rated R
** ½

This film begins with brothers Toby (Chris “Captain Kirk” Pine) and older brother Tanner (Ben Foster) arriving early morning at a small Texas Midland Bank branch to rob it.  That same bank is going to foreclose soon on their recently deceased mother’s family ranch. She had taken out a reverse mortgage on the home to help with expenses in the poverty stricken area of West Texas. Now, the brothers owe the bank about $40,000 if they are going to keep the ranch in the family. The goal is to pay off the bank with the bank’s own money.

Tanner is recently out of prison and short-tempered. He had shot and killed the boys’ father in a “hunting accident”. Toby is divorced and well behind in child-support payments to his ex-wife. He would like to keep the ranch and put it in a trust for his two sons. Toby comes up with the plan for the bank robberies in which they only take small bills from the register to avoid dye packs and the interest of the FBI.  Toby also comes up with an ingenious plan to launder the money they steal.

Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges portrays Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton. He is a few weeks from retirement. His partner is Mexican/Comanche Alberto Parker, played by Gil Birmingham. Hamilton continuously throws racist comments at Alberto, which come off humorously, as he obviously cares for his partner. There is good chemistry in the film between the two. As the FBI is not interested in the small-time robberies, Hamilton and Parker, begin to pursue the brothers.

The film is directed by David Mackenzie and written by Taylor Sheridan, who wrote 2015’s Sicario. It features good acting performances from Bridges and Pine, as well as a few extras in small roles, particularly two sassy waitresses played by Margaret Bowman (T-Bone) and Katy Mixon (diner).  There is quite a bit of music in the film, which is well handled by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

Even though the film clocks in at less than two hours, it seems much longer as the film moves along sloooowly. It earns it’s “R” rating for language, including several abuses of God’s name, violence, and one brief scene of sexual content.  The film effectively portrays the poverty of West Texas and the hopelessness of the people living there (though the film was actually shot in New Mexico due to lower costs in New Mexico). The main characters were almost always drinking, usually beer, and everyone seemed dirty; badly in need of a shower.

The film also tries to portray the bank as the “bad guy” to try and make you cheer for successful bank robberies. It raises the moral question “Does the ends justify the means”?

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Finishing Well in Four Key Areas of Life

2 Timothy 47The idea of finishing well has been on my mind a lot recently. I now find myself closer to the end of my race than the beginning, though I pray I have many more years left to serve Him. I want to finish well in all aspects of my life, specifically in faith, ministry, relationships and vocation.  After all, don’t we all want to hear our Lord tell us at the end of our race, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Matthew 25:21

Growing up, my parents would tell me that it’s the last thing someone does that people remember. There’s a lot of wisdom in that. For example, think of a certain comedian who was much loved for his portrayal of Cliff Huxtable and consider what people think of him now.

The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith”. I want to finish well just as Paul did. I also want you to finish well. I can think of four main areas of life to finish well in:

Finishing well in our vocations. Many of the colleagues that I have worked with over the years have either retired or are now planning for their retirement. It’s easy to at least mentally coast into retirement. Early in my career in a meeting with our supervisor, my peer, who was going to be retiring soon, fell asleep. Our supervisor looked at him and said “Don’t retire on me yet”.

We all know those who have started well, but not finished well. I think back to one of my early classes at Covenant Seminary where we studied the kings. As just one example, King Asa was a king of Judah who is referred to in II Chronicles 14:2 as someone who “did what was good and right in the eyes of the LORD, his God”. But he did not finish well. Or think of any number of modern-day politicians, celebrities or sports figures (you can fill in the blank) who haven’t finished well.

Colossians 323 Graphic2One of my favorite verses is Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men”. I want to finish well, doing my work heartily for the Lord not only until my retirement from my primary vocation, but long afterward as I hope to use my leadership experience and seminary education to serve the Lord as long as I am mentally and physically capable. Let’s finish well in our vocations.

Finishing well in our relationships. In his prayer for March 17 entitled “A Prayer about Friends Finishing Well” Scotty Smith in his wonderful book Everyday Prayers writes “I’ve already gripped the handle of a couple of friend’s caskets, and other friends will do the same for me one day. More than ever, I want us to finish well together for the gospel.” I too want to finish well in all of my relationships, family, friends, co-workers, etc.

Are there relationships that need mending so that you can finish well in them? With Scotty pray, “Help us to know how to preach the gospel to our own hearts daily, and to each other, until today gives way to the day of your longed-for return”.

Finishing well in our ministry. The Apostle Paul writes in Acts 20:24 “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” I long to finish well the ministry that the Lord has provided me with to date, and hopefully additional opportunities in the future.  I hope you are encouraged to do the same. Ministry is hard, tiring and can be frustrating. I am encouraged today because of two peers in the organization I work at whose hearts are for the mission field. I believe we can make a great impact in our organizations as Christ’s representatives, but the examples of these two to serve the Kingdom humble me. Let’s use them as examples to finish strong in our various ministries.  Hebrews 12:1-2a states, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.  Note:  the great cloud of witnesses is called ‘the roll call of faith’ in Hebrews 11, starting with Abel through Samuel and many more.  They all were great examples of living by faith when they died and witnessed/testified of God’s faithfulness.

Finishing well in our faith. Lastly, and most importantly, I want us to finish well in our faith journeys. We all know those who are examples of the parable of the sower or soils, in Matthew 13:18-23, who have fallen away after professing faith. However, although they may struggle for a period, no true believer will have a full and final fall. The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 1:6 “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”.

In his new book Intentional Living, John Maxwell writes that “Nobody finishes well by accident”.   Let’s finish well!

Be encouraged with this passage from the Apostle Paul from Philippians 3:12-16:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.  

There is much more that could be said about finishing well. What would you add?

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Save your Pennies!  Looking Forward to Good New Books

booksI love to read, and I know that many of you do as well. There are several books scheduled to be published by the end of this year and into 2017 that I am looking forward to. Here are several of them:

The Better Pastor – Patrick Lencioni     The Better Pastor Patrick Lencioni

This book was just published August 16. From Amazon “As he approached the door to the sacristy, Fr. Daniel Connor had no idea that his parish and his priesthood was about to be changed forever.

THE BETTER PASTOR is a fictional yet realistic story, lovingly written for all those priests in the world who are not only spiritual shepherds but also leaders of the organizations we call parishes. Being the pastor of a Catholic parish is one of the most challenging jobs in the world. Whether they are responsible for a small rural parish, medium-sized urban one, or large suburban mega- parish, all pastors have one thing in common: they can’t do it alone. Unfortunately, many wonderful priests find that becoming a pastor can be overwhelming and lonely, and can even diminish the joy of their vocation. This is a tragedy, and an unnecessary one.  In his first book intended specifically for clergy, Patrick Lencioni tells the story of a priest who is challenged to think differently about his job. As he does in his other leadership fables written for the secular world, Lencioni quickly cuts to the heart of the challenge faced by leaders, and he provokes them to embrace simple but powerful concepts that can change the way they work and serve the people God has put in their lives.”

Andrew Fuller by John PiperAndrew Fuller: Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Mission – John Piper

This short book will be published August 31. From Amazon “Missionary biographies often inspire enthusiasm, zeal, and urgency for missions among God’s people. But how do Christians give their lives to missions if they feel called to remain in their homeland? In 1792, British pastor Andrew Fuller formed the Baptist Missionary Society, an organization dedicated to the promotion of mission work both at home and overseas. In this concise biography, best-selling author John Piper introduces readers to this incredible Christian who—although he never served abroad himself—inspired the modern missionary movement that gave rise to such figures as William Carey and Hudson Taylor. Working tirelessly to raise funds for missionaries in the field and championing the importance of sound doctrine for fruitfulness in missions, Fuller stands as an example to all Christians eager to devote themselves to knowing, guarding, and spreading the true gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.”

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My Review of the Movie ‘Pete’s Dragon’

Pete's DragonPete’s Dragon, rated PG
*** ½

The 1977 version of Pete’s Dragon was an animated musical and received two Oscar nominations for the music. This new film is directed by David Lowery who also co-wrote the film with Toby Halbrooks and is based on a short story by Seton I. Miller and S.S. Field.  Lowery and Halbrooks worked together on 2013’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints. The music is by Daniel Hart, who also did the music for Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, and was a good addition to the film. Included were a few folk-type songs, some with an early Bob Dylan feel to them.
The new film has a budget of approximately $65 million and is set in the town of Millhaven in the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s.

Disney is known for sad scenes. The film opens with another one of them; we then see Pete head into the forest. Just before he is about to be killed by wolves he is rescued by a dragon. The dragon is a big green winged furry beast who can make himself invisible whenever he wants.  But he is also kind-hearted, and he and Pete show each other sacrificial love throughout the film.

For six years the two are inseparable, best friends. Pete, now 11, played by Oakes Fegley, names the magical dragon Elliot, after the lost puppy in a book that is important to him. We get to see the two of them playing together in the forest which is a joyful part of the film. Elliot isn’t perfect – he has a chipped tooth and doesn’t always have the most graceful of landings after he has been soaring through the air. And, he is known to sneeze and leave his snot all over whatever (or whoever) is nearby. This section of the film was my favorite. It brought to mind some of the best parts of Disney’s The Jungle Book from earlier this year. I enjoyed the way the film also really brings out the personality of Elliot, much like The BFG (my favorite film of the year) did with the Big Friendly Giant.

Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard, Claire from Jurassic World) is a Forest Service Ranger. Her father Mr. Meacham (Oscar winner Robert Redford), taught her about the woods and tells stories about a dragon he once saw that lives in the forest. Grace doesn’t believe his silly stories, but her stepdaughter Natalie (Oona Laurence) does.

Pete sees Grace walking in the forest. Soon, he is spotted by Natalie. Pete and Elliot’s peaceful existence in the forest is disrupted by loggers, Gavin (Karl Urban, who recently played Bones in Star Trek Beyond), and his brother Jack (Wes Bentley). The loggers are portrayed as bad guys in the film as we see them taking down trees in the forest.

The film was sadder than expected, and it will pull on your heartstrings. The importance of family is a key theme in the film. Because of some of the mature themes in the film as well as some scary scenes with the dragon, this film may not be appropriate for the youngest viewers.  Otherwise, it would be appropriate for the entire family. Overall, this was one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen this year.   (Note:  my wife thought it was too sad and only gave it two stars for that reason.)

I didn’t see the 1977 film or read the book as a child, so I don’t know how close to the original story this film is. If you have seen the first film or read the book and also see this film, please leave a comment and let us know what you think.

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Christians Get Depressed Too ~ Helpful Resources

Christians Get Depressed TooMost reading this will have either gone through seasons of depression themselves (including anxiety and panic attacks), or walked through those seasons with friends or family members.  In fact, David Murray in his fine book Christians Get Depressed Too, states that one in five people experience depression, and one in ten experiences a panic attack at some stage in their lives.

Though I have not personally experienced depression myself, I know many who have. And when on a medication intended to prevent migraine headaches several years ago I experienced significant anxiety symptoms. That better helped me to understand what those who suffer from depression, anxiety and panic attacks are going through.

I have been greatly helped by David Murray’s work on depression through his HeadHeartHand blog and his book Christians Get Depressed Too, which I recently read for the second time.

Below are helpful resources from Dr. Murray and others, to help those who suffer from depression and those who are walking alongside them.

  • Book Review of Christians Get Depressed Too
  • 25 Helpful Quotes from David Murray’s book
  • Resource list to give you help and hope

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