Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview



Heaven by Randy AlcornMy Review of the Book “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn. Tyndale House Publishers. 560 pages. 2011 edition.  

When losing a loved one my thoughts turn to Heaven. This happened when I lost my Mom twenty years ago and again recently when I lost my father-in-law. I’ve long wanted to read this book, but was probably intimidated by its massive size; I decided now was the time. As an added bonus, my mother-in law read the book at the same time I did, and we would occasionally talk about what we were reading.

Alcorn has done his research on this topic, having read 150 books on Heaven. He quotes liberally from many of those books.  He writes that in our seminaries, churches, and families, we have given “little attention to the place where we will live forever with Christ and his people—the New Earth, in the new universe”. The eternal Heaven is the central subject of this book.

Alcorn believes the book will stand up to biblical scrutiny. But right up front, he invites the reader to contact him if they have biblical grounds for disagreeing with anything in this book. He is open to correction and mentions that the revised edition of the book contains a number of changes he made based on input from readers of the first edition.

The book is organized as follows:

Part 1: In “A Theology of Heaven,” he explains the difference between the present Heaven (where Christians go when they die) and the ultimate, eternal Heaven (where God will dwell with his people on the New Earth).

Part 2: In “Questions and Answers about Heaven,” he addresses specific questions about life on the New Earth that arise out of the foundational teachings in Part 1. Part 3: In “Living in Light of Heaven,” he encourages the reader to let the doctrine of Heaven transform us and fill us with joyful anticipation.

He also includes the following:

  1. Appendix A: Christoplatonism’s False Assumptions
  2. Appendix B: Literal and Figurative Interpretation
  3. Selected Bibliography

Alcorn writes that most people do not find their joy in Christ and Heaven. Instead, he states, many people find no joy at all when they think about Heaven. They assume that they will be bored, playing a harp on the clouds all day long. He writes that many Christians who’ve gone to church all their adult lives (especially those under fifty) can’t recall having heard a single sermon on Heaven.

Alcorn states that nearly every notion of Heaven he presents in this book was stimulated and reinforced by biblical texts.  As you talk to others about Heaven as you read this book, they will probably ask “Where did he get that?” Alcorn helpfully lists scripture references throughout the book as he teaches about Heaven. He also states that we should ask God’s help to remove the blinders of our preconceived ideas about Heaven so we can understand what Scripture actually teaches about it.

Alcorn writes that when a believer dies, he or she enters into what is referred to in theology as the intermediate state. This is a transitional period between our past lives on Earth and our future resurrection to life on the New Earth. The intermediate or present Heaven is not our final destination.  Rather, we will live with Christ and each other forever, not in the intermediate, or present, Heaven, but on the New Earth, where God will be at home with his people.  In the book, when referring to the place believers go after death, Alcorn uses terms such as the present Heaven or the intermediate Heaven. He refers to the eternal state as the eternal Heaven or the New Earth.

Alcorn states that the problem is not that the Bible doesn’t tell us much about Heaven. It’s that we don’t pay attention to what it does tell us.  He states that we were all made for a person and a place. Jesus is the person. Heaven is the place.

I found this to be a fascinating book, covering many aspects of Heaven that I had not previously thought of.

25 Quotes from Heaven by Randy Alcorn  

I recently read Randy Alcorn’s outstanding book Heaven. There was much of value in the 560 page book, and I commend it to you. Here are 25 helpful quotes from the book:

  1. Satan need not convince us that Heaven doesn’t exist. He need only convince us that Heaven is a place of boring, unearthly existence. If we believe that lie, we’ll be robbed of our joy and anticipation, we’ll set our minds on this life and not the next, and we won’t be motivated to share our faith.
  2. The best of life on Earth is a glimpse of Heaven; the worst of life is a glimpse of Hell. For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to Hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to Heaven.
  3. When we die, believers in Christ will not go to the Heaven where we’ll live forever. Instead, we’ll go to an intermediate Heaven. In that Heaven—where those who died covered by Christ’s blood are now—we’ll await the time of Christ’s return to the earth, our bodily resurrection, the final judgment, and the creation of the new heavens and New Earth. If we fail to grasp this truth, we will fail to understand the biblical doctrine of Heaven.
  4. The present Heaven is a temporary lodging, a waiting place until the return of Christ and our bodily resurrection. The eternal Heaven, the New Earth, is our true home, the place where we will live forever with our Lord and each other.
  5. Simply put, though the present Heaven is “up there,” the future, eternal Heaven will be “down here.” If we fail to see that distinction, we fail to understand God’s plan and are unable to envision what our eternal lives will look like.
  6. We should stop thinking of Heaven and Earth as opposites and instead view them as overlapping circles that share certain commonalities.
  7. Our incorrect thinking about bodily resurrection stems from our failure to understand the environment in which resurrected people will live—the New Earth.
  8. Despite the radical changes that occur through salvation, death, and resurrection, we remain who we are. We have the same history, appearance, memory, interests, and skills. This is the principle of redemptive continuity. If we don’t grasp redemptive continuity, we cannot understand the nature of our resurrection.
  9. We will experience continuity between our current lives and our resurrected lives, with the same memories and relational histories.
  10. The doctrine of the new creation, extending not only to mankind, but to the world, the natural realm, and even nations and cultures, is a major biblical theme, though you would never know it judging by how little attention it receives among Christians.
  11. Our primary joy in Heaven will be knowing and seeing God. Every other joy will be derivative, flowing from the fountain of our relationship with God.
  12. Heaven’s greatest miracle will be our access to God. In the New Jerusalem, we will be able to come physically, through wide open gates, to God’s throne.
  13. Nothing demonstrates how far we’ve distanced ourselves from our biblical calling like our lack of knowledge about our destiny to rule the earth.
  14. It’s a common but serious mistake to spiritualize the eternal Kingdom of God.
  15. Our resurrection bodies will be free of the curse of sin, redeemed, and restored to their original beauty and purpose that goes back to Eden.
  16. If, as I believe, animal death was the result of the Fall and the Curse, once the Curse has been lifted on the New Earth, animals will no longer die. Just as they fell under mankind, so they will rise under mankind (Romans 8:21). This suggests people may become vegetarians on the New Earth, as they apparently were in Eden and during the time before the Flood.
  17. Many people wonder whether we’ll know each other in Heaven. What lies behind that question is Christoplatonism and the false assumption that in Heaven we’ll be disembodied spirits who lose our identities and memories.
  18. Jesus said the institution of human marriage would end, having fulfilled its purpose. But he never hinted that deep relationships between married people would end.
  19. The notion that relationships with family and friends will be lost in Heaven, though common, is unbiblical. It denies the clear doctrine of continuity between this life and the next and suggests our earthly lives and relationships have no eternal consequence.
  20. We’ll never question God’s justice, wondering how he could send good people to Hell. Rather, we’ll be overwhelmed with his grace, marveling at what he did to send bad people to Heaven.
  21. I believe we have more than just biblical permission to imagine resurrected races, tribes, and nations living together on the New Earth; we have a biblical mandate to do so.
  22. Work in Heaven won’t be frustrating or fruitless; instead, it will involve lasting accomplishment, unhindered by decay and fatigue, enhanced by unlimited resources. We’ll approach our work with the enthusiasm we bring to our favorite sport or hobby. Because there will be continuity from the old Earth to the new, it’s possible we’ll continue some of the work we started on the old Earth.
  23. I don’t look back nostalgically at wonderful moments in my life, wistfully thinking the best days are behind me. I look at them as foretastes of an eternity of better things.
  24. When we think of Heaven as unearthly, our present lives seem unspiritual, like they don’t matter. When we grasp the reality of the New Earth, our present, earthly lives suddenly matter.
  25. The fact that Heaven will be wonderful shouldn’t tempt us to take shortcuts to get there. If you’re depressed, you may imagine your life has no purpose—but you couldn’t be more wrong. Don’t make a terrible ending to your life’s story—finish your God-given course on Earth. When he’s done—not before—he’ll take you home in his own time and way. Meanwhile, God has a purpose for you here on Earth. Don’t desert your post.

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the-magnificent-sevenThe Magnificent Seven, rated PG-13
** ½

This film is a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s 1960 film starring Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, which was actually a remake of Kurosawa’s 1954 film Seven Samurai. This version is directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, The Equalizer), and written by Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk. It features a new rendition of the familiar Elmer Bernstein theme music as the closing credits roll. This was two-time Oscar winner James Horner’s (Titanic) final score before his death in June, 2015.

The film is set in the western town of Rose Creek in 1879. This was a time when the local church was still a prominent place in town. The film contains a surprising amount of Christian content (church, preacher, dialogue).

Corrupt industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, (well-played by Peter Sarsgaard) is wanting to take over Rose Creek because of the valuable mines located in the town, and is only offering the townspeople pennies on the dollar for their land. As the film opens, we see him burn down the church and murder several people, including the husband of Emma Cullen (played by Haley Bennett). Cullen is looking to avenge her husband’s death and save Rose Creek, so with her life’s savings she seeks out Sam Chisolm (played by two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington in his first western film).  Chisolm is a man of justice, a bounty hunter, who dresses all in black and rides a black horse.

Chisolm then recruits six others to help defend Rose Creek from Bogue and his men. He first recruits Josh Faraday, (played by Chris Pratt of Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World). His repeated line in the film “So far, so good”, was also used by Steve McQueen’s character in the 1960 film.

We then meet sharpshooter Goodnight Robicheauz (played by four-time Oscar nominee Ethan Hawke), who suffers from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, and his right-hand man Billy Rocks (played by Byung-hun Lee), who is deadly with blades. Chisolm lets Mexican outlaw Vasquez (played by Manuel Garcia-Fulfo) live, and he becomes one of the seven. Next, Chisolm adds Comanche warrior Red Harvest (played by Martin Sensmeier) who is deadly accurate with a bow and arrow. The final member of the Magnificent Seven is the bear-like trapper Jack Horne (played by Vincent D’Onofrio), who has a bible verse for each new victim he kills.

The Seven know that the odds are against them, as Bogue will bring many more fighting men than they have. They try their best to train the townspeople how to shoot rifles and use warfare tactics which leads to some humorous results. One of my favorite parts of the film was seeing the strategic steps the Seven take to protect their undermanned town.

But there is little character development in this film, as the emphasis is on gun-fighting. Washington, one of our finest actors and long one of my favorites, is under-utilized in this role. The emphasis on action and lack of character development reminded me of this summer’s Jason Bourne starring Matt Damon. I would have liked Fuqua to give us the back-story of each of the characters and more character interaction and a little less of the gun-fighting scenes.

The film is rated PG-13 for extreme gun-fighting violence with dozens killed, and some adult language including several abuses of God’s name. It had a budget of about $95 million and took the top spot domestically with $35 million in its opening weekend. Overall, I felt that the film was entertaining, but nothing special considering the cast assembled, and also a bit long at 132 minutes.

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Do You Have a Teachable Spirit? Here are 3 Areas of Your Work Life Where You Need One

proverbs-on-criticismDavid Murray has written that the one characteristic that separates the successful from the unsuccessful in every walk of life is teachability. He states that those who are teachable and remain so usually succeed, while the unteachable usually fail. He goes on to say that it doesn’t matter how much talent and gifting we have. If we are unteachable, we will never reach our full potential in the various facets of our lives – Christian growth, callings, relationships, etc.

My friend Kevin Halloran has written on the characteristics of a teachable spirit. You can read his article here. He states that another word for teachability is humility.

There are many areas of life in which we need a teachable spirit. Here are three of them in the workplace:

  1. In your performance. Do you get defensive when you receive performance feedback? Do you blame others, instead of taking the feedback in the spirit it was intended and growing from it? Or, as one of my former leaders often said, do you look at feedback as your friend and use it to improve?
  2. In your development. Do you listen to your mentors on what is needed to help you get to the next level and then take the appropriate action? I recently worked with a very teachable emerging leader. When they didn’t get an interview for a position they had put in for, they demonstrated their teachability. They looked at what experiences and education those who had gotten an interview had and took immediate action to make themselves more competitive. The next time the job was posted, they got an interview. They worked hard on their interviewing skills with their mentors and got a job offer, all due to a teachable spirit.
  3. As a leader. Have you created an environment with your teams in which they can challenge you, and provide you feedback? As a servant leader, are you willing to learn from those you lead? Or have you created an environment in which your team members do not feel comfortable approaching you? Leaders need to be teachable, and can learn a lot from those they lead. Check out this article from Dave Kraft “Leaders are Teachable”.

Those are just a few areas in our work lives in which we need a teachable spirit. Can you think of others?

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snowdenSnowden, rated R

This film is directed by three-time Oscar winner Oliver Stone and is his twentieth feature film. It depicts events that took place between 2004 and 2013 in the life of whistleblower Edward Snowden, played by one of our better young actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The film is written by Stone and Kieran Fitzgerald and is based on the books The Snowden Files by Luke Harding and Time of the Octopus  by Anatoly Kucherena.

Earlier this summer in the same theater before a packed house that came to see Captain America: Civil War, jovial cries of “Team Captain” and “Team Iron Man” broke out. Before this film, I asked the only other person in the theater at the time what he thought – was Snowden a patriot or a traitor? He identified himself as a Libertarian and immediately and enthusiastically responded that Snowden was definitely a patriot. And that’s exactly the way Stone portrays Snowden in this film. If that is not your view of Snowden you might want to pass on this film.

It mixes dramatization with some historical footage and opens in a Hong Kong hotel with Snowden meeting Laura Poitras, (played by Oscar winner Melissa Leo), director of what would become the Oscar winning documentary Citizenfour, and Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, (played by Zachary Quinto – Spock in the latest Star Trek films). Snowden proceeds to share classified information about how the United States government is conducting illegal surveillance activities on their own citizens based on his knowledge of this from his time working in top-secret jobs in the United States government. This information is then published by the Guardian.

Among other things we find out that the government has the capability to turn on your laptop computer camera without you knowing it. Where I work, a number of people have for some time now placed a piece of tape over the camera because of just this fear.

In addition to Leo and Quinto, the film also features a number of other well-known actors such as Oscar winner Nicholas Cage, in his best performance role I’ve seen him in for some time, and the always good Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson. The real Edward Snowden, still living in Moscow, also appears near the end of the film.

Though the film is clear about its intentions of seeing Snowden as a patriot, it should lead to some good conversations after seeing the film. For example, we ran into some friends afterwards who felt that the truth was probably somewhere in the middle between patriot and traitor.

Gordon-Levitt, who was solid but not spectacular in his role as Snowden, makes us feel that something is wrong with what he is seeing, especially as the real President Obama is shown campaigning against exactly what Snowden now knows is going on under his leadership. But the question about Snowden comes down to the decision he made to share the confidential National Security Agency documents publicly. Should he have first attempted to go through legitimate channels to enact change?  The film portrays his good intentions in being concerned about what he sees going on, and ultimately in exposing it, but it doesn’t address the harm (real or potential) he did to national security or government personnel working undercover. I see that as a weakness in the film.

The film was also slow, and even boring at times, too long at 134 minutes. Snowden’s relationship with live-in girlfriend Lindsay Mills, played by Shailene Woodley (from the Divergent films), which comprised big chunks of the film, added nothing to the overall Snowden story that people care about, and is another weakness of the film. The film does show one sex scene between the two. Mills, was a photographer and she was also the subject of many photographs shown in the film, including one of her nude. The film also included some adult language, a scene of Woodley teaching a pole-dancing class and a scene (no nudity) in a strip club. So Christian men, be prepared to divert your eyes into your popcorn box for a few scenes. The film is appropriately rated “R”.

Note:  let me know if Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s fake voice drove you crazy too.

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BOOK REVIEW of Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness by David Powlison

good-angryGood and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness by David Powlison. New Growth Press. 256 pages. 2016

David Powlison serves as the Executive Director of the Counseling & Education Foundation (CCEF), and has decades of counseling experience.  He writes that this book is not about “solving” anger problems, but to teach the reader how to more fruitfully and honestly deal with our anger. He tells us that if we are willing to enter the conversation the book will prove to be about our anger. He wants us to think about reading the book as an honest conversation about something that really matters.  One goal of this book is that the reader will think more carefully about how they think when angry, so that our “inner courtroom” will grow more just.

He divides the book into four sections. The first section helps the reader ask questions and explore our particular experience of anger. The second section answers the question what is anger? The third section tackles how destructive anger is changed into something constructive. The final section looks at particular difficult cases.

He suggests that we read the book with a pen and yellow highlighter in hand. He wants us to pay close attention whenever we find ourselves thinking “But what about…?” (Or as he refers to them as BWAs). He states that the book is the product of hundreds of BWAs that he has asked about anger over many years. He tells us that if we take the book to heart, we’ll get anger right more often.

The author states that at its core anger is very simple. He states that anger expresses ‘I’m against that.’ It is an active stance we take to oppose something that we assess as both important and wrong. He states that anger expresses the energy of our reaction to something we find offensive and wish to eliminate, and ultimately anger is about displeasure. Anger is the way we react when something we think important is not the way it’s supposed to be.

He defines good anger as the constructive displeasure of mercy. There are four key aspects to the constructive displeasure of mercy. Each of these four implies active disapproval of what’s happening. But, the author writes, unlike the vast bulk of anger, each breathes helpfulness in how it goes about addressing what it sees as wrong. The four key aspects are patience, forgiveness, charity and constructive conflict.  He states that we can’t “do” anger right without the constructive displeasure of mercy.

He tells us that anger is something we do with all of our heart, soul, mind, and body. We learn how to be angry in two different ways. We pick it up from others, and we develop our own style through long practice.

He refers to God as the most famous angry person in history. He writes that we can learn a great deal about ourselves and others by slowing down and taking an actual look at what is described as the “wrath of God.” He states that it is the clearest example he knows of how to get good and angry, as well as to be patient, merciful, and generous at the same time. He tells us that we can’t understand God’s love if we don’t understand His anger.

The author then tackles how we change, moving from darkness to light. He addresses how distorted humans become what they are meant to be. Here he looks at scripture passages such as James 3-4.

I found the book to be very helpful, and both practical and interactive, with several examples or case studies to illustrate the points he makes.  The book is organized effectively, addressing topics such as six common reactions to the statement that we all have an anger problem, six common wavelengths within the spectrum of bad anger and four expressions of anger in which God expresses his love for his people. He provides us eight questions to help us make sense of any incident of anger, which will help you turn an anger incident into something positive. He looks at four reasons that people feel angry at themselves. The author’s final word is that anger is going somewhere. It will someday be perfected, swallowed up in joy.

Favorite Quotes50 Great Quotes from Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining, and Bitterness by David Powlison 

There is much of value in David Powlison’s new book Good and Angry: Redeeming Anger, Irritation, Complaining and Bitterness. I encourage you to read the entire book. Here are 50 great quotes from the book:

  1. It’s no surprise that when the apostle Paul lists typical sins, half his list belongs to the anger family (Galatians 5:19–21).
  2. The most immediate anger problem for many people is not what they do, but what someone else does to them.
  3. Irritability is anger on a hair trigger.
  4. Arguing is the disagreeable “he said, she said” of interpersonal friction.
  5. Bitterness expresses how anger can last a long, long time.
  6. Passive anger hides behind surface appearances and even beneath conscious awareness.
  7. Self-righteous anger enjoys the empowering sense of grievance, of getting in touch with honest emotion and expressing it freely. It feels good to let it out, and it often gets results.
  8. Anger always makes a value judgment. Anger is always a moral matter.
  9. What is anger? It’s the way we react when something we think important is not the way it’s supposed to be.
  10. Anger is a feeling of distress, trouble, and hatred.
  11. Anger is the attitude of judgment, legal condemnation, and moral displeasure. But judgment can show good judgment—and even mercy.
  12. Anger does things. It appears in accusatory words, sarcasm, threats, and curses. It adopts that tone of voice. Gestures and body language speak loudly: hitting the dashboard, giving a disgusted sigh, walking out of the room, raising the decibel level, rolling the eyes, scowling. You do anger with all that you are, and you do it as an inter-action.
  13. Anger has an object, a target.
  14. Anger is a central feature wherever conflict occurs: marriages, families, churches, workplaces, neighborhoods, and nations. People use anger to get what they want and to defeat other people.
  15. Anger is a weapon to coerce, intimidate, and manipulate others—and it is a shield to defend yourself.
  16. Anger happens for reasons that arise from who we are and what we want.
  17. Anger occurs not only in your body, emotions, thoughts, and actions. It comes from your deepest motives.
  18. When anger goes bad, it’s because motives operate in the godlike mode. “I want my way. I demand that you love me on my terms. I will prove that I am right at all costs.
  19. When anger goes right, there’s always something higher, some higher purpose or person who puts a cap on anger, who sets a limit on bitterness, who gives reasons not to whine and complain. The most high God, his higher law, his loving mercies, and his higher purposes transform anger.
  20. When God’s larger purposes are in control, the poisonous evil of anger is neutralized. Anger becomes a servant of goodness. The anger becomes just, and the purposes become merciful to all who will turn and trust and become conformed to his image. He changes our motives.
  21. Anger is the fighting emotion. Anger is the justice emotion. Anger is the deliver-the-oppressed-from-evil emotion. It stems from love for the needy. All of us come wired with a sense of justice. We can override it or pervert it. We can direct it to wholly selfish purposes.
  22. Our anger is natural. It is a capacity given by creation in the image of the God who is just.
  23. Your anger is Godlike to the degree you treasure justice and fairness and are alert to betrayal and falsehood. Your anger is devil-like to the degree you play god and are petty, merciless, whiny, argumentative, willful, and unfair.
  24. You learn exactly how to be angry in two different ways. You pick it up from others, and you develop your own style through long practice.
  25. Good anger operates as one aspect of mercy. It brings good into bad situations. It stands up for the helpless and victimized. It calls out wrongdoers, but holds out promises of forgiveness, inviting wrongdoers to new life.
  26. The actions and attitudes that express constructive displeasure of mercy are exactly how the Bible portrays the man Jesus in action. They also describe how a wise person acts. They describe someone who is becoming like Jesus.
  27. You can’t “do” anger right without the constructive displeasure of mercy.
  28. Constructive conflict is part of the redemption of a bad situation. It is the only merciful alternative to giving up in exhaustion, disgust, or fear.
  29. The constructive displeasure of mercy means the redemption of the world. It is the glory of God and the love of God. It is God reforming you into his image.
  30. To become slow to anger is to become like God. It is a quality that frequently describes God and frequently describes what we are meant to be.
  31. The things that naturally most outrage you, those things that most universally upset human beings everywhere, are the very things that the Bible labels “sin.”
  32. You can never really understand yourself (or God, or other people) unless you understand both sin and the wrath of God.
  33. The constructive displeasure of mercy makes God’s anger your friend.
  34. Naturally those who repent of an angry critical spirit become full of mercy.
  35. Anger is provoked. Anger has an occasion. Anger is about something. Anger flares up for some reason, in some specific time and place.
  36. Your anger reaction is not caused by the situation alone. It is caused by what you most deeply believe and most passionately cherish—right now, when you find yourself in this situation.
  37. Anger has consequences. It creates feedback loops, vicious circles. The Bible uses a vivid metaphor: you reap what you sow.
  38. Studies seem to show that angry people have a higher incidence of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
  39. When something is so wrong that you will never get over it, your reaction will either make you live or it will kill you. Great suffering puts a fork in the road, and you will choose. The choice is between the way of bitterness and the way of grace and mercy.
  40. Learning to live fruitfully in the face of great wrong will take a lifetime of going to God for mercy and help in your time of need.
  41. One of the effects of being marked by suffering is learning to value the future. Not all the crying or pain goes away now, but he will make all things new.
  42. Everyday angers are very difficult to overcome. They become habits we’re not even aware of. But habits that have become second nature can change—rarely in an instant, usually in a slow growth process in the right direction. The Lord who creates a new nature in you will stick by you.
  43. Jesus tells it to us straight: grumbling is a most serious sin, a capital crime, a primal offense against the God whose universe this.
  44. From Jesus’s point of view, all everyday disgust and negativity shares DNA with murder, after all.
  45. Even when self-condemnation is merciless, the Father of all mercies has mercy for people who need mercy. He is mercy. And he comes in person looking for you.
  46. There is something instinctive, irrational, compulsive, and virulent about anger at God.
  47. Anger at God is not first an emotion. It is the stance a person takes, a core commitment of the heart.
  48. Anger at God is wrong. It overflows with mistrust toward God. The presence of anger depends on the presence of evil.
  49. Wherever there is evil, you find anger. Where there is no evil, you find no anger. No possibility of anger.
  50. Are you being remade into the image of God? Is your anger something that you grieve, because you see how your irritations and resentments are so often reckless and self-serving? If you are being remade into his image, then you will join his battle to rid the world of wrong. You will participate in the wrath of God. If you are not being remade into his image, then you are his enemy. You will experience the wrath of God against you.

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles


  • 3 Ingredients to Greater Satisfaction and Impact at Work. Dan Anderson writes “In this post, let’s consider a second key ingredient to achieving greater satisfaction and impact at work: contentment.”
  • When It Comes to a Job Well Done, God Is in the Details. Andrew Spencer writes “No matter how small the task appears, it is worthy of being done well. Regardless of where your job falls on the org chart, you have the opportunity to contribute to the company and the glory of God through a job well-done.”
  • How We Participate in God’s Own Work. Joe Carter writes “A key step in being “happy in our toil” is to recognize which vocation model our work most reflects—and recognizing that such work has value.”
  • 5 Bad Starting Points for the Faith and Work Conversation. Jeff Haanen writes “The death and resurrection of Jesus, and the far reaching effects of salvation “as far as the curse is found,” is the best place to start the conversation about faith and work.”
  • Doing Good Work that Matters Doesn’t Happen Accidentally. Matt Perman writes “We have to be intentional in making plans for the welfare of others. And then we have to be proactive in carrying those plans out.”
  • Retirement Reexamined. James Clark writes “We should be always ready for the work God has placed in front of us, before retirement and beyond it, for God’s call does not fade over time, but beckons us ever onward for as long as we live.”
  • Katherine Leary Alsdorf: We’re Made to Work. Katherine Leary Alsdorf worked with Tim Keller on the excellent book Every Good Endeavor. Read this interview with her from Faith & Leadership about the book and the challenges of integrating work and faith.
  • Working Well. In part one of his two articles on work, Tim Challies writes “Whether you are an employee or an employer, a manager or a line-worker, a tradesman or a Wall Street executive (that’s Bay Street here in Canada), you will benefit by hearing three instructions from God as given by Paul.”
  • Wait for Payday. In part two, Tim Challies writes “Paul says that you are to complete your work (“render your service”) with a good will. That is quite the command because it indicates that not only does God expect you to do good work, but he expects you to have to have a good attitude while you do it.”
  • No Job’s Too Small for Jesus. Courtney Reissig writes “In the Lord Jesus, every single act of work you do is never wasted, because in him you are showing the world what it means to be loved, cared for, and welcomed into a family.”
  • 14 Rules for a Godly Employee. Jordan Standridge writes “As believers we know that our calling is higher. We do work for men, but ultimately it is God whom we serve. As we work hard we are ultimately declaring our belief in the Gospel, and our hope in eternity.”


  • Wisdom for the Workplace. Listen to this teaching series from John MacArthur, based on 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-15. The series description is “In Wisdom for the Workplace, John MacArthur brings practical, biblical perspective to your career—whatever it is. Discover the keys to genuine job satisfaction, and see how your career can have a vital, eternal impact for the kingdom of God.”
  • How to See Productivity from a Biblical Perspective. Hugh Welchel writes “So how can Christians see productivity from a biblical perspective? First, by recognizing that productivity isn’t morally neutral – in fact, it’s just the opposite. Second, by seeing the bigger picture of productivity within God’s plan for creation.”

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week



I’ve been listening to this excellent 12-part Ligonier Ministries teaching series from Derek Thomas.  Ligonier describes the series as follows:

“Why does God permit suffering? It’s a question all of us have asked, and the book of Job points us toward the answer. Job’s questions are our questions, and we can identify with his frustration, disappointment, and confusion in the midst of trials. In this series, Dr. Derek W.H. Thomas walks us through the book of Job and considers what the Bible says about our darkest moments. He addresses the difficult question of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and the existence of evil, sin, and suffering. In the end, as Dr. Thomas shows, it’s in our trials that we learn to trust God and say with Job, “Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Watch the first message in the series “Job, Satan & God” and find out how to order the audio or video versions of the series.

CHRISTIAN LIVING:christian-living

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Top 10 Attributes of a Great Leader

john-maxwell-quoteWhat makes a great leader? There are many blogs and articles that address this question. Ask ten people this question and you’re likely to get ten different responses. For example, John Maxwell is famous for saying that leadership is influence, nothing more and nothing less. One organization summarized the obligations for their leaders to be developing people, achieving results and creating a high performing work environment.

In this presidential election year, what attributes will voters find most important when they vote for the leader that will represent this country? Some people may focus more on results, while others may focus more on character.

I asked a number of leaders in the organization where I work what they thought were the attributes of a great leader and got a number of responses. Below are some of the attributes that were shared with me, some of which overlap:

  • Asking great questions
  • Motivator, energizer
  • Inspirational
  • Embracing diversity
  • Appreciative
  • Open to feedback
  • Seeks counsel from others
  • Leads by example
  • Reader
  • Belief in their people
  • Honesty/sincerity
  • Self-awareness
  • Patience
  • Ego-less
  • Fun
  • Engages others
  • Connector
  • Storyteller
  • Compassionate
  • Mentor – develops other leaders
  • Inclusive
  • Values diverse opinions (open-minded)
  • Respectful
  • Risk-taker
  • Problem solver
  • Confident
  • Non-judgmental
  • Optimistic
  • Positive
  • Hopeful
  • Creates a culture of trust
  • Addresses life issues
  • Selfless – thinks of others first
  • Thinks long-term
  • Organized
  • Supportive

With so many excellent attributes, it was hard to come up with just a few.  Here are my top ten, some of which overlap:

  1. Vision.  Andy Stanley has written that vision is a clear mental picture of what could be, fueled by the conviction that it should be. We need our leaders to present to us the vision of where our organizations are headed. Stanley goes on to state that it is the leader’s responsibility to ensure that those within their organization understand and embrace the vision of the organization.
  2. Influence.  I mentioned the famous quote on influence from Maxwell above. In his Law of Influence, he states that if you can’t influence people, then they will not follow you. And if people won’t follow, you are not a leader.
  3. Humility. As we look at our presidential candidates, I don’t know if humility is an attribute that would come to mind in describing either one of them. But Jim Collins, in his classic book Good to Great, writes about leaders who have what he refers to as personal humility and professional will. His term “level 5 leader” refers to individuals who are very humble on a personal level, but who possess a great deal of drive and desire to succeed, where “success” is not personal, but defined by creating something great that will outlast their time as the organization’s leader.
  4. Servanthood.  I am a big proponent of servant leadership, having written about it here. In that article I state that Ken Blanchard has written that effective leaders should serve their people, not be served by them, which is different than the norm. Similarly, John Maxwell states that the leader should be there for their people, not the people there for the leader. This is what is referred to as servant leadership. Maxwell tells us that the measure of a leader is not the number of people who serve him but the number of people he serves.
  5. Character.  Years ago I heard someone describe character as doing the right thing when nobody is watching. Character is closely related to trust and integrity. Stephen M.R. Covey, author of The Speed of Trust, has compared leaders that have competency vs. character. Of course we would like our leaders to have both attributes.
  6. Competency – experience, results, proven track record. We want to know that our leaders have what it takes to lead us. This helps build trust in the leader.
  7. Caring and empathy. John Maxwell has said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. This attribute is related to being a servant leader. What a difference it makes when we know that our leaders care for us.
  8. Learner.  Whenever we go to a new doctor, my wife checks to see if they are board certified. If they are, that communicates to her that they have stayed current in their education, and continued to learn in their field. It’s the same thing with leaders. Leaders need to continue to learn through a variety of means (books, seminars, conferences or webinars, mentors, etc.). If you don’t continue to learn, you will not be an effective leader.
  9. Communicator.  A leader needs to have excellent verbal and written communications skills. On top of that, they need to be a connector. John Maxwell, who had a book titled Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, has said that all good leaders are connectors. They relate well and make people feel confident about themselves and their leader. I work with a connector. He seems to be able to instantly connect with everyone he meets. It’s really amazing.
  10. Listener. Great leaders are great listeners. But most leaders need to talk less and listen more. We can gain knowledge, wisdom and empathy not from talking but from listening. I know that this is an area I can really improve in.

Those are my top ten attributes of a great leader. Which would make your top ten? 

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Spirit - Amos LeeMusic Review:

Spirit – Amos Lee

On his sixth studio album, and first since 2013’s excellent Mountains Of Sorrow, Rivers Of Song, Amos Lee serves as producer for the first time and transforms his sound from the previous album’s folk/country sound to a full-band gospel-soul-R&B sound. Lee builds on his concert experiences to make his new sound more dynamic, including an effective use of horns, organ, and background vocals. In addition to members of his road band, he brought in drummer Mark Colenburg and bassist Adam Blackstone to punch up his rhythm section. Lee’s voice has also never sounded better on this album recorded at a converted Nashville church.  I liked this album and the energy in the music a lot, though lyrically many of the songs are about relationships that have gone bad.

This is one the top releases of 2016 thus far. Here are a few comments about each of the songs on the album:

New Love – Opens with piano and then shows off the new full-band sound, particularly the horns with Jeff Coffin on saxophone and Rashawn Ross on trumpet. The song is about the joy of new love, while at the same time showing off the band’s exciting new sound.
Running Out of Time – Since hearing of his “new found faith” on “Windows Rolled Down” on Mission Bell, I’ve been looking for signs of faith and spirituality from Lee.  You find it here on this gospel song, featuring hand claps and a repeated refrain of “Lord have mercy” as he is running out of time. This song is about the brevity of life. Lee called it “A reminder and a recognizing of the impermanence we share here on earth”. The upbeat song includes a reference to a train, a common theme in Lee’s music. It also features some excellent horns and organ. 
– Lee has stated that he wrote this song after being moved by a New Orleans street singer he encountered who had a deep connection with his music. He refers to the “pain that she gave to me”, one of several references to a painful breakup that Lee writes about on the album. The song features piano, organ and background vocals. Lee sings that he just wants to feel the spirit wash over him.   
Lost Child
– One reviewer compares this song to Stevie Wonder from his Innervisions period. I don’t disagree. Through the pain he can see the clouds drifting away for a celebration day. The music is upbeat and catchy, featuring a great vocal, horns, drums and background vocals. 
Highways and Clouds
– Lee has stated that for this song he didn’t want to just do the standard waltz feel that’s led by the acoustic guitar, but wanted to add dimensions to the arrangements and try to transform them, rhythmically and instrumentally, so that the album was cohesive.  This song opens with acapella vocals, followed quickly by Lee’s and Luther Dickinson’s guitars, and then drums, keyboards and horns. This is another story song. The singer is from the Badlands. Highways and clouds meet in the middle. Features some effective backing vocals.
Lightly – This is another of Lee’s “story songs”. He is from “all over”, was born in the wind, and has learned to travel lightly, living alone, and if he moves fast enough the darkness can’t catch up to him. Features some good background vocals and guitar.    That comes through beautifully on a striking ballad called Lightly, which Lee builds around a surprisingly elegant banjo riffThat comes through beautifully on a striking ballad called Lightly, which Lee builds around a surprisingly elegant banjo riffThat comes through beautifully on a striking ballad called Lightly, which Lee builds around a surprisingly elegant banjo riff
One Lonely Light – This beautiful song starts as an acoustic number and gently builds. The singer states that there are times when he doesn’t feel like he is “a damn bit of good”. He sings of pain on this gospel flavored song, which features good backing vocals. He sings of storms in the night with waves raging and crashing and winds howling. What is the lonely light he sings of? Is it a woman? Is it God? Who is he singing to as he sings “Oh I’ll sing for you, what more can I do, Oh I’ll sing for you”.   
Wait Up For Me
– This songs features an acoustic guitar, piano, accordion, mandolin and gentle backing vocals. The singer encourages a woman to wait up for him so she doesn’t have to be alone. He is on the road, lost in the world, ragged and blue. But he’s coming home. Musically, this song would fit on Mountains Of Sorrow, Rivers Of Song.  
Til You Come Back Through
– Lee sings in falsetto here as he delivers an outstanding vocal performance.  He sings to a woman he has been waiting his whole life for, but she is leaving forever. He has no choice but to say good-bye until she comes back through. Features acoustic guitar and keyboards, but the focus is on Lee’s emotional vocal.     
Hurt Me
– This song features punchy strings. It’s another song about a relationship that has gone bad. He’s feeling blown away and is at the breaking point. He doesn’t know how he will make it through the day. He doesn’t want mercy tonight and asks if she is strong enough to watch him die. He sings that he’s begging her to free the pain that locks me up inside.  
– The first single from the album, this is another song about a painful relationship that has gone bad. Programmed beats and piano open this song. In an emotional vocal, he sings that he’s going to vaporize everything that’s inside and get “high, high, high….”    
– Lee sings this song about a failed relationship in falsetto. It has a soft beat punctuated by keys. He sings that she’s writing on his walls that she’s not in love with him anymore and has found someone new. Features some good backing vocals.   
With You
– This song opens with acoustic guitar and features some amazing strings and vocal from Lee. He is singing to a woman that he doesn’t want to lose. He wants to see another summer and sunsets with her.  He’s going to keep her with him wherever she goes.
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My Review of the Movie “Sully”

sullySully, rated PG-13

This film is directed by 86 year-old two-time Academy Award winning Director (for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby), Clint Eastwood. The screenplay is written by Todd Komarnicki based on the book Highest Duty by Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger.

We are familiar with Sully’s story. On Thursday, January 15th, 2009, he safely landed his damaged plane, U.S. Airways Flight 1549 bound for Charlotte onto the frigid waters of the Hudson River, saving the lives of all 155 souls aboard. This was referred to as the “Miracle on the Hudson”.  Sully’s plane lost engine power about three minutes after takeoff when it hit a flock of Canadian Geese at an altitude of approximately 2800 feet and speed of 200 MPH.  Sully and co-pilot Jeff Skiles had a very short period of time to decide what to do.

But there is more to the story. While he was overwhelmingly looked at as a hero who saved the lives of all aboard, afterwards (the film portrays it as immediately afterwards, when in reality it took place much later), there was an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that threatened to destroy Sully’s reputation and career.

Two-time Oscar winner (for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump), Tom Hanks portrays Sully. First Officer Jeff Skiles is portrayed by Aaron Eckhart. Both do an excellent job in their roles. Sully is portrayed as a family man. Laura Linney does a good job of portraying Sully’s wife Lorraine, and we hear several phone calls between the two.

The NTSB investigation team comes across as having an agenda to blame Sully for the emergency landing. They are portrayed as wanting to show that he made a mistake and could have in fact turned the plane around and landed it safely on one of the many runways available to him in/near New York City. The film portrays the whole story of the investigation and its significant impact on Sully. It also portrays Sully dealing with his newfound fame and the post-trauma stress that the crash had on him and his crew. On this anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, there are scenes that will remind viewers of the horrific attacks in New York City.

The film makes effective use of flashbacks, as we see the crash landing, which is realistically portrayed from multiple perspectives. We also see a few other scenes of Sully flying planes early in his flying career.

We saw the film on an IMAX screen, which made the plane’s crash and rescue scene truly amazing. Eastwood does an excellent job putting the viewer in the cockpit with Sully and Skiles.

The film is rated PG-13 for some brief adult language and the tense crash landing.  Overall, it’s hard to go wrong with this film about an American hero directed by one of our top directors and starring one of our top actors.