Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week


Courtesy of World Magazine


  • Compassion for Refugees, Immigrants and Foreigners. Scotty Smith prays “We, who are Americans, pray for our government officials who have to make difficult decisions in the middle of a fresh and growing refugee crisis. May wisdom trump fear, generous welcome be more obvious than self-protection, and good policies prevail over partisan politics.”
  • The FAQ’s President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigrants and Refugees. Joe Carter provides this helpful overview of President Trump’s controversial and misunderstood executive order.
  • Finding Donald Trump in the Story of Jesus. Scott Sauls writes “Whatever hope some might be placing in Mr. Trump to be the answer to the world’s problems, such hope is misdirected, as only Jesus has the power to change the world with all of its complexities and social problems and thorns and thistles. Conversely, whatever crippling despair others might be feeling over Mr. Trump fails to account for the fact that Jesus is still firmly seated on his throne, holding the hearts of all kings in his hands, including this one.”
  • Wise Women Build: The March to Real Dignity. Rebekah Merkle Rebekah Merkle Rebekah Merkle Rebekah Merkle Rebekah Merkle writes “Our nation is in a giant mess right now, ladies, and we need to roll up our sleeves and build this house.”
  • On Board with Waterboarding? Richard Phillips writes “Most alarming to me has been the support of waterboarding and other forms of torture among evangelical Christians. To my surprise and indignation, instead of applying the obvious implications of the Sixth Commandment, Christian leaders have lined up in support of waterboarding.
  • Abortion Over the Atlantic. Samuel James writes about concerns with Moira Weigel’s article in the Atlantic “How Ultrasound Became Political”.
  • Planned Parenthood’s Most Misleading Statistic. Joe Carter writes “Even if their claim was true and destroying human life in the womb only accounted for three percent of Planned Parenthood’s activities, it would still make them one of the greatest purveyors of injustice and evil in America. We shouldn’t quietly tolerate the abortion giant duping the public by using misleading statistics. But even more importantly, we must never remain silent about the moral horror Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics commit by killing our nation’s children.”


  • The Quiet Message of Silence. Jared C. Wilson writes “Evangelicals like the idea that they can be Christians without the world knowing it. They tend to believe they can pray a prayer or walk an aisle or sign a card and have that equal assurance. Once “saved,” always “saved.” The idea that you can inwardly be a believer while outwardly living however you want, is very much in keeping with the theological spirit of American evangelicalism. In that regard, Scorsese made a great choice. And a terrible one.”
  • Oscar Nominations. The 2017 Oscar nominations were released on January 24. Christians will be interested in Mel Gibson and Andrew Garfield receiving nominations for Hacksaw Ridge, my #2 movie of 2016. In addition, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis received a nominations for Fences, my top movie of 2016.  Screen Actor Guild (SAG) Winners. I was pleased to see Denzel Washington and Viola Davis win for Fences, my top movie of 2016, and John Lithgow for his outstanding portrayal of Winston Churchill in The Crown.
  • This is Us Honors Marriage and Respects Fatherhood. Alysse Elhage writes “I agree that plot twists, uplifting messages, and strong family connections are part of what make This is Us so popular. But I think there’s another reason it’s one of the best shows on television today: it honors marriage and respects fathers in a culture that often fails to do so.”


  • Can Loved Ones in Heaven Look Down on Me? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper addresses the question “Can people who are in heaven look down and see us (their loved ones) on earth?” He states “So, the bottom line is that we should focus on the great, central realities of the New Testament, which are rock solid, absolutely certain, and full of hope for all who trust in Christ. And if you think about the great saints in heaven, take heart. If they see you at all, they are cheering you on to endure every hardship by encouraging you to focus on Christ.” Listen to or read his full response.
  • What Do We Mean When We Speak of the “Sanctity of Human Life”?C. Sproul writes “The Bible is consistently strong in its support for the exceedingly great value of all human life. The poor, the oppressed, the widowed, the orphaned, and the handicapped—all are highly valued in the Bible. Thus, any discussion of the abortion issue ultimately must wrestle with this key theme of Scripture. When the destruction or the disposal of even potential human life is done cheaply and easily, a shadow darkens the whole landscape of the sanctity of life and human dignity.”
  • Is Your Conscience Captive to God?C. Sproul writes “Today, we rarely hear any reference to the conscience. Yet throughout church history, the best Christian thinkers spoke about the conscience regularly.”
  • Do You Exercise for the Wrong Reasons? David Mathis writes “Have you seriously considered how physical exertion can be a means, among others, of your spiritual health and joy?”

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My Review of Lion

lionLion, rated PG-13

Lion is an emotional, visually stunning depiction of a true story. Don’t miss it on the big screen!

This low-budget film ($12 million) is directed by Garth Davis in his debut as director of a feature film.  It is written by Saroo Brierley, adapted from his memoir A Long Way Home, the true story of his own search for his childhood home. The film was originally going to have the same title as the book on which it is based.

The screenplay is by Luke Davies. The film has received six Oscar nominations – for best picture, supporting actor (Dev Patel), supporting actress (Nicole Kidman), writing, adapted screenplay (Luke Davies), original score and cinematography.

The story is told in two parts and in India and Australia, beginning in 1986. Five year-old Saroo is portrayed in an incredible performance by Sunny Pawar. He and his brother Guddo (Abhishek Bharate) are two poor boys growing up in rural India who support their family by stealing coal which they use to buy milk, and scavenging trains in their West Bengal village. One night they become separated, with Saroo finding himself alone on a train heading to Calcutta, a thousand miles from home. We feel the desperation, fear and loneliness of this five year-old boy who is lost in a country of over a billion people.

For the remainder of the film Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) portrays Saroo. Eventually Saroo is placed in a very crowded orphanage, and then adopted by two Australians, Sue Brierley played by Oscar winner (The Hours) Nicole Kidman, and husband John, played by David Wenham. Kidman was handpicked by the real-life Sue Bierley for her part. It is Kidman’s first on-screen role as a mother of an adopted child. In real life she’s the mother of two adopted children. The couple would later adopt another son, Mantosh (Divian Ladwa), who had emotional and later substance abuse problems. The film doesn’t say that the Bierleys were Christians, however they did demonstrate Christian love to the boys and Sue mentions that she has been blessed by the boys.

When Saroo is in his 20’s, he begins to have flashbacks of his native land and he becomes obsessed with finding his family (mom, brother and younger sister).

This film explores some great themes such as identity, family, adoption, and origin. It is beautifully filmed, with a powerful music score, and is an emotional experience. It contains superb acting from just about every major character in the film (Pawar, Patel, Kidman, Wenham and two-time Oscar nominee Rooney Mara, who portrays Lucy, not a single real-life character but a compilation of several of Saroo’s real-life girlfriends).

In India, over 80,000 children go missing each year and there are over 11 million children living on the streets. For how to help, go here.


FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles


  • God Sees Value in Your Work and Callings e-book. I would appreciate your prayers as I work on a short e-book about my journey in seeing that God values our work and callings, not just those that are in “full-time Christian work”. I’m looking to see if with my unique perspective (nearly 37 years in leadership at a Fortune 50 company, nearly 21 years as an elder in my church and a recent seminary graduate), I might have something fresh to add to the faith and work conversation. We’ll see. Over the past few years I’ve written a lot about this. Now I am pulling all of that together in one place and then hopefully get the opportunity to speak to more groups about what I’ve learned on this journey. Thanks!
  • Three Ways Calling Impacts Our Lives. Art Lindsley writes “We live before an audience of One and are called by him to give our lives for others.”
  • Discover Your Destiny. Bill Peel writes “Do you ever have questions about your purpose? What you have to offer the world? Why you even exist in the first place?”
  • More Misunderstanding of Vocation Gene Veith writes “Anyone, of any tradition, who writes about vocation needs to start with the great theologian of vocation:  Martin Luther.  According to him, vocation is God’s calling to love and serve our neighbors in the tasks and relationships that He gives us.  Also, our “jobs” are only one facet of our vocations and probably not the most important:  we also have callings in the family, the church, and the society.  And our vocations are not just where we find our fulfillment but also where we bear our crosses.”
  • Know Your Why. Ken Costa writes “True identity cannot be self-motivated; it is given by God. Our tasks are to live out our true callings as uniquely shaped by God.”
  • In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell states that purpose keeps us focused.  It is the engine that drives your leadership. Each day you want to make sure that your life is filled with purpose.
  • Reviving the Biblical Doctrine of Work in America. Hugh Whelchel writes “The biblical doctrine of work has to play a larger part in our worldview if we are to be effective. This is a vision that sees our work as important to God and as a gift from God, bestowed on us to influence the world for his glory and the furtherance of his kingdom.”
  • What Does the Bible Say about Finding Personal Job Satisfaction? Russell Gehrlein writes “Do you have a sense that God has designed and prepared you to do what you get paid to do? Are you filled with contentment and the peace that passes all understanding, resting in God’s grace that has led you safely thus far and will ultimately lead you home?”
  • Where God is Calling You. Ken Costa writes “The fact that we are passionate about something is often a sign that this is where God is calling us to be.”


  • aaron-rodgers-green-bay-packersHow Aaron Rodgers Saved the Packers’ Season. Speaking about Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (my favorite leadership book, and one that can be used for business, church, non-profit, etc.), Green Bay Packers’ quarterback states “”One part of the book that especially talked to me about this team was communication and conflict and being comfortable having issues with teammates and resolving them and moving forward in a positive way and not having that fear of conflict, which I think alienates and isolates individuals. Being comfortable talking to people and letting them talk to you about issues they have and being constructive and positive in your reaction to that.”

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My Review of The Founder

the-founderThe Founder, rated PG-13

The Founder tells the true story of the founding of McDonald’s, but it is a less than positive portrayal of Ray Kroc as a man.
The low budget film (just $7 million) is directed by John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), and written by Robert D. Siegel (The Wrestler). Oscar winner (Birdman) Michael Keaton stars as Ray Kroc. The film begins in 1954. Kroc is a traveling milkshake-mixer salesman in the Midwest for Prince Castle. It’s a hard job and we see him repeatedly getting turned down for sales while he eats at drive-in restaurants.
He then receives a call from his secretary that will change his life. A restaurant in San Bernardino, California wants to buy an unheard of eight of his large mixers. He drives across the country to the restaurant owned by the likeable brothers Maurice “Mac” (John Carroll Lynch) and Dick (Nick Offerman) McDonald. There he sees something he’s never seen before – a fast-food restaurant, selling just hamburgers, fries and drinks.

The brothers are honest businessmen, and though not rich, are satisfied with the success they are having. Kroc however, sees much more potential. His vision is to take the restaurant that the brothers developed to the rest of the country. Although they are initially hesitant, they eventually agree to partner with him, a decision that they will soon come to regret.
Laura Dern stars as Kroc’s wife Ethel. She tries to be supportive of Ray, as she lives a lonely life by herself at their home in Arlington Heights, Illinois, as he is on the road most of the time. Ray will divorce her for Joan (Linda Cardellini), a younger woman, the wife of a restaurant owner who would become one of his franchise owners.

Themes in the film are betrayal, trust, regret, greed, deception and theft. The film is rated PG-13 for a small amount of adult language and the abuse of God’s name.
Keaton is outstanding in his portrayal of Kroc. I’ve read about the story of McDonald’s in John Maxwell’s book 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership as he discusses “The Law of the Lid”. The Law of the Lid is that “Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness”. Maxwell writes “Leadership ability – or more specifically the lack of leadership ability – was the lid on the McDonald’s brother’s effectiveness”.  The film clearly shows that Kroc had vision and leadership, which resulted in McDonald’s being what it is today. The McDonald brothers may not have had the leadership ability that Kroc had, but they had much more character, and I would prefer to have that.

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week



  • The Origin and Function of Government Under God. R.C. Sproul writes “If you don’t like the president of the United States, remember that the One who cast the deciding ballot in his election was almighty God.”
  • How to Live Under an Unqualified President. John Piper writes “Today we will inaugurate a man to the presidency of the United States who is morally unqualified to be there. This is important to say just now because not to see it and feel it will add to the collapsing vision of leadership that enabled him to be nominated and elected.”
  • Mike Pence Did Not Sign a Law Allowing Businesses to Refuse Service to Gay People. Denny Burk writes “I can hardly believe that these religious freedom stories are so inaccurately portrayed in the press. It’s no wonder activists are showing up in Pence’s neighborhood protesting his “anti-gay” views. But I wonder if these protestors really understand what his views are. If they are reading inaccurate reports like the one in The Washington Post, they may not know very much.”
  • Did President Trump Just Eliminate the Contraceptive Mandate on the First Day? Denny Burk writes “President Trump signed an executive order that effectively overturns the contraceptive mandate. The order authorizes the HHS Secretary to eliminate administrative rules related to Obamacare.”
  • 10 Reasons Taxpayers Should Defund Planned Parenthood. Joe Carter writes “On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced that as part of the process to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republican congressional leaders would include a provision that would prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding. Here are ten reasons why every taxpayer should support congressional efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.” Sadly, not all people of faith agree. Here’s a story in which “faith leaders” got together to “bless” a new Planned Parenthood facility in Washington D.C. Shameful.
  • 9 Myths About Abortion Rights and Roe v. Wade. Kevin DeYoung shares these myths from Clark Forsythe’s book Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade that led to the ruling in Roe—myths that, unfortunately, continue to be believed today.
  • Why I Pray for an End to Sanctity of Life Day. Russell Moore writes “We’ll always need Christmas. We’ll always need Easter. But pray that someday soon, we won’t need Sanctity of Life Sunday.”
  • Not So Golden Globes. Of the recent Golden Globe awards program, Cal Thomas writes “The arrogance, superiority and hypocrisy of these overrated people is astounding.”
  • Convict’s Release Raises Questions of Pro-LGBT Bias. David Roach writes “The commutation of a former U.S. soldier’s espionage sentence has caused some to ask whether the reduced prison term is related to the inmate’s transgender identity.”
Courtesy of World Magazine

Courtesy of World Magazine

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My Review of Bryan Chapell’s book UNLIMITED GRACE

unlimited grace by bryan chapellUnlimited Grace: The Heart Chemistry That Frees from Sin and Fuels the Christian Life by Bryan Chapell. Crossway. 192 pages. 2016

Bryan Chapell, was the President of Covenant Theological Seminary for most of the time I attended the school. He served there for three decades in teaching and administration. He is now the Senior Pastor at Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois, where Tammy and I were married years ago. Unlimited Grace is his latest book and it’s a gem, perhaps my top book of the year, right up there with The Whole Christ by Sinclair Ferguson.

Chapell writes of how he has been on a journey together with the people of Grace Presbyterian Church to discern how the grace of the gospel can transform a church by freeing people from sin and fueling their lives with new hope and joy. He states that this book is an effort both to reflect what they have learned together and to teach the values that he hopes will guide those who join on this gospel endeavor.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part takes the reader on a journey to discover how grace not only frees us from the guilt and shame of sinful lives but also provides daily fuel for the joy that is the strength of Christian living. The second part explains how preachers, teachers, counselors, mentors, parents, and all others who share God’s Word can find grace in every portion of Scripture. And the final part attempts to answer the common questions people ask about how to find grace, and how to keep from abusing its blessings. The author states that the aim of the book is to identify not only how these truths of grace affect our understanding of God’s acceptance at the end of our lives, but also how they empower our efforts to honor God every day of our lives.

Dr. Chapell states that the essence of grace is that God provides for us what we could not provide for ourselves. In this book he addresses many helpful concepts such as legalism, our identity, performance, behavior, holiness and motivation towards obedience, God’s acceptance of us, sin and repentance, the distinction between justification and sanctification, biblical fear of God and His judgement.

It took me longer than usual to read this book because of the number of passages I highlighted. I highly recommend this book. Read it and share the wonderful message of God’s grace with others.

bryan-chapell65 Wonderful Quotes from
Unlimited Grace by Bryan Chapell

  1. New obedience and daily living in harmony with Christ’s standards may enable us to experience God’s forgiveness, but we never earn it.
  2. God’s great grace toward us fosters such love for him that we want to please and honor him. His mercy toward us stirs such overwhelming thanksgiving in us that we desire to live for him. Love compels us.
  3. A Christian for whom love of God is the highest priority is also the person most motivated and enabled to serve the purposes of God.
  4. We will inevitably focus our resources of heart, soul, mind, and strength on what or whom we love the most.
  5. Grace draws the one to whom it is extended closer to the One expressing it.
  6. We are ultimately controlled by whatever we love the most.
  7. Real change—real power over seemingly intractable patterns of sin and selfishness—comes when Christ becomes our preeminent love. When that happens, all that pleases and honors him becomes the source of our deepest pleasure, highest aim, and greatest effort.
  8. When his delight is our greatest joy, we give our lives in fullest measure to his purposes.
  9. Since God is entirely holy, we cannot earn his approval based upon our efforts.
  10. Those who try to make themselves acceptable to God by their own efforts are comparable to someone trying to clean a white shirt with muddy hands.
  11. Because he is just, there’s no double jeopardy or double punishment with God. Once the penalty has been paid, it doesn’t have to be paid again. And because he is gracious, God determined that all who confess that they need and want Jesus’s punishment to serve as a substitute for their own will have no more penalty to pay—now or ever (Heb. 9:22–26).
  12. What happens if we ignore Christ’s provision? Then we will face a judgment day on which people will have to explain why they didn’t believe they needed Jesus. They will have to prove that they are as holy as God requires for an eternity with him.
  13. Grace not only promotes grateful devotion but also derails self-serving pride.
  14. While everyone should be concerned about whether his or her behavior pleases God, the Bible makes it clear that our behavior does not determine his acceptance. His mercy does (Titus 3:4–5).
  15. The reason our good works or intentions are inadequate is not that there is no good in them, but that they are not sufficiently good.
  16. Good behavior doesn’t get you into heaven or out of hell. That’s game changing for people banking on their goodness to get God’s acceptance. But does that mean what we do doesn’t matter to God? No. It means that good behavior has to be motivated by something other than a presumed payment or feared penalty for our performance.
  17. But what else is there to motivate us to good deeds if our relationship with God cannot be purchased by them? The answer is the relationship itself.
  18. Who we are in loving relationship with God is not determined by what we do; rather, what we do is determined by who we are.
  19. God’s grace motivates our behavior; our behavior does not manufacture his grace.
  20. God’s gracious claim on us is our greatest cause for serving him.
  21. What we do must not determine who we are, but who we are by God’s grace should determine what we do.
  22. Grace justifies guilty sinners so that they have Jesus’s guiltless status before God.
  23. Though our sin pollutes us, we are sanctified by God’s grace so that he can use us for his holy purposes.
  24. Because we know that God expects us to make progress in our sanctification—to grow in personal holiness—we can begin to think that our status is determined by our progress. We begin to base our justification (being okay with God) on our progress in sanctification (how we are doing with regard to personal holiness). This line of thought basically leaves us evaluating whether God loves us based on whether we are being good enough to satisfy him.
  25. We must remember that our justification (being okay with God) and applied sanctification (being a pure child of God) are never determined by what we do but, rather, by faith in what Christ has done.
  26. God expects personal works of holiness as a loving response to his grace, but not as a way of gaining it. If we had to earn grace at any time in our Christian lives, it would not be grace.
  27. The heart stirred by God’s justifying and sanctifying grace will long to serve him. In contrast, one who believes that God will love us only when we are good enough may serve him with vigor but will struggle, and almost inevitably fail to love him.
  28. Holy identity comes before holy imperatives. This order never varies in Scripture: imperatives are based on our identity.
  29. Obedience is always a response to God’s grace, and not a way of gaining it.
  30. Our identity determines what we do; what we do does not determine our identity. The imperatives we honor are based on the identity we have, and the order is not reversible. The practical implications of this simple truth will change every relationship of those who determine to live in patterns consistent with the gospel.
  31. Jesus does not love any child (young or old) because the child is good. Jesus loves his children because he is good.
  32. The message that Jesus loves us because we are good denies that the cross was either necessary or sufficient.
  33. Our obedience does not determine who we are. His grace does.
  34. The greatest blessing of the indwelling Christ is our new identity. We are as good as dead in terms of being able to satisfy God by our human efforts. But Jesus is alive in us by his Holy Spirit. So we have his identity.
  35. God will not love me more because I do better. He will not love me less because I stumble. His love is based not on my behavior but on my union with his Son—a union built on trust in his grace, not my goodness. Through that union, I have the identity of Christ and cannot be loved more, because I am already loved as infinitely as he. And because of that union, I will not be loved less, since Christ’s life, not mine, is the basis of God’s love.
  36. The power to obey our Lord requires that we know what honors him. We cannot do our Savior’s will if we do not know what he wants.
  37. The kind of teaching that puts God’s law and his grace in opposition to one another doesn’t actually understand how the Bible’s heart chemistry works. While it is true that our obedience to God’s law is not the basis of his love for us, that does not mean that God’s standards are bad, irrelevant, or to be ignored.
  38. Even if there are no tangible benefits in this life, we obey God because his standards reflect his own righteous and holy character. By living for God in situations where there is no apparent gain for us, we demonstrate our devotion to him.
  39. Our eternal relationship with God is a consequence of trusting in Christ’s death and resurrection—plus nothing.
  40. Duty and doctrine dispensed without grace can create only two possible human responses: pride and despair.
  41. We sin not because we don’t love Christ at all but because we don’t love him above all.
  42. Since the life source of sin is our love for it, we defeat sin when we deprive it of our affection—or displace it with a greater affection.
  43. When our love for Christ is preeminent (first above all things), it drives out love for sin and spurs our devotion to him (Col. 1:18).
  44. If our reason for reading the Bible is so God won’t get mad at us, or will be nice to us, then we are implicitly trying to buy his goodness with ours.
  45. The ultimate purpose of the Christian disciplines is to fill our hearts with love for Christ so that all other loves are displaced and diminished in power.
  46. If we truly love Jesus, we love what and whom he loves.
  47. His grace gets us into his kingdom, maintains us in the kingdom, and secures us for the kingdom.
  48. Every text relates some aspect of God’s redeeming grace that finds its fullest expression in Christ.
  49. The Bible actually seems intent on tarnishing the reputations of almost all its heroes. That’s because we are supposed to recognize there is only one true hero. His name is Jesus.
  50. Teaching people to be like a noble person in the Bible without dependence upon the grace that person needed to be noble only creates pride (in those who think they can) and despair (in those who know they can’t).
  51. Jesus loves us not because we are good but because he is.
  52. To teach that our goodness will get us to God apart from his grace is not simply sub-Christian (saying less than needs to be said); it is actually anti-Christian (teaching what is contrary to the Christian faith).
  53. Striving for godliness in response to God’s grace pleases our Savior. Trying to be good enough for his acceptance apart from his grace insults him.
  54. In its essence, legalism teaches that we are made right with God by what we do. The essential message is that good behavior gets us to God.
  55. The gospel is not a balance between law and grace. It is the good news of grace that results in grateful lives of godliness.
  56. While teaching (or implying) that obedience can merit grace is certainly unbiblical and damaging, not teaching what God commands is equally unbiblical and uncaring.
  57. True obedience is always a loving response to God’s grace, rather than a vain attempt to earn it.
  58. When we love God above all, fulfillment of his purposes is our greatest reward.
  59. Punishment intends to inflict harm on the guilty in order to impose a deserved penalty for wrongdoing. Discipline intends to turn a person from harm, to restore, and to mature.
  60. Biblical fear is not simply cowering before God’s power and majesty or bowing before his love and mercy. It is a proper regard for all that we know about God’s character and care.
  61. To motivate genuine holiness, hell must first be perceived as the just destiny of those who have broken the righteous standards of God. Those standards must also be seen as rooted in the holiness of God, and their transgression as deserving an eternal penalty. When all this is understood, then the mercy of God that saves us from the just penalty of hell, more than hell itself, is what generates love for him.
  62. The more we repent, the more we remove barriers from our fellowship with Christ, and the more we experience the joy of the forgiveness he has already secured for us.
  63. Forgiveness is not the same thing as pardon. Forgiveness is the provision of grace that obliterates relational barriers between us and God. Pardon is the removal of the consequences of sin.
  64. All believers will experience eternal pardon for their sin, but grace now requires that consequences sometimes be allowed in this life to turn us from greater sin and harm
  65. Our repentance does not earn his favor; it expresses our sickness over our own sin and our desire to turn from it into a closer walk with him.

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rolling-stones-blue-lonesomeBlue and Lonesome – Rolling Stones


In their first studio album in eleven years, the Rolling Stones return with an album of twelve mostly Chicago blues covers, the type of music that they cut their teeth on when they started out. Having been largely introduced to the blues by my brother-in-law, I really enjoyed this album; it was one of my favorites for 2016. To read more about the blues music from a Christian perspective check out Stephen Nichols book Getting the Blues: What Blues Music Teaches Us about Suffering and Salvation.    

This wasn’t the album that the band intended to record. While in the studio to record new material, they would play a few old blues songs to warm up. They had so much fun playing them they recorded this album with co-producer Don Was last December over just three days. As an added bonus, Eric Clapton, who was recording in the studio next door, came over and played guitar on two of the songs. Overall, the album feels like a labor of love for the Stones, who are joined by bassist Darryl Jones, who has been playing with the band since 1993, and pianist Chuck Leavell.

Below are a few comments on each of the songs on the album:

Just Your Fool – This song was written by and recorded by Buddy Johnson in 1953 and a Chicago blues version recorded in 1960 by Little Walter. This is the first of four songs on the album credited to Walter, a large influence on Jagger’s harmonica playing style. It’s Jagger’s harmonica that is the first sound you hear on the album. Richards’ and Woods’ guitars and Watts’ drums propel the song along. A great start to the album.
Commit a Crime – This song was recorded in 1966 by Howlin’ Wolf. It later showed up (titled “What a Woman!”), on 1971’s London Howlin’ Wolf Sessions, which included Stones Charlie Watt and Bill Wyman. The song features some great guitar work as Jagger spits out that a woman poured poison in his coffee. He’s gonna leave her before he commits a crime. Jagger adds some excellent harmonica work here.
Blue and Lonesome – This slower sad song was recorded in 1959 by Little Walter. It again features Jagger on harmonica, who Richards once referred to as probably the best blues-harp player that he had ever heard, up there with Little Walter.  The song also features some excellent guitar work.
All of Your Love – This song was Magic Sam’s debut single in 1957 as “All Your Love”. He updated and retitled the song “All of Your Love” in 1957, just before his death from a heart attack at age 32. The slow blues song opens with some excellent guitar work and beat provided by Watts and Jones, which sets the pace for the song. Leavell adds some tasty piano work in the middle of the song and Jagger adds a brief harmonica solo before the song ends with a guitar solo.
I Gotta Go – This song was recorded in 1955 by Little Walter with the Jukes. The song opens with Jagger on harmonica and gets going right away, propelled by Watts’ drumming. It’s a real toe-tapper, and it’s impossible to stay still listening to it. He’s got the blues and he can’t stay here no more. A great take on the song. One of my favorites on the album.
Everybody Knows About My Good Thing – The newest cover on the album, this slow blues song was recorded in 1971 by former Mighty Clouds of Joy member Little Johnny Taylor. The song opens with great slide guitar work from Eric Clapton, which makes this song another highlight for me. While the focus in on the guitar work, I also enjoyed Leavell’s piano.
Ride ‘Em on Down – This song was a 30’s era original by Delta blues legend Bukka White, then titled “Shake ‘Em On Down”. It was recorded with this title in 1955 by Eddie Taylor. It starts with some great guitar work, and a driving beat from Watts, which sets the pace for the song. The song features a blistering guitar solo mid-song and a harmonica solo from Jagger near the end.
Hate to See You Go – This song was recorded in 1955 by Little Walter. He got his start in Muddy Waters band before going solo in 1952. He would die at age 37 and is the only artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame specifically as a harmonica player. The song immediately grabs your attention with a driving beat propelled by harmonica, guitar and drum.
Hoo Doo Blues – This song was recorded in 1958 by Lightnin’ Slim, a good example of his stripped down, swampy style. The song opens and features Jagger on harmonica, and the slower beat is driven by Watts’ drumming and Jones’ bass.
Little Rain – This song was recorded in 1957 by Jimmy Reed. The Stones have long admired Reed, having covered his “Honest I Do” on their first album. This is a slow blues song featuring some excellent guitar work before the bass and drum kick in behind Jagger, who adds a lengthy and restrained harmonica solo.
Just Like I Treat You – This song was recorded in 1961 by Howlin’ Wolf as the B-side to his single “I Ain’t Superstitious”.  It starts out with a great beat right from the start, and amazingly sounds like it could fit nicely on a mid-1960’s Stones album (reminding me of 1964’s “It’s All Over Now”). It features some nice guitar work, tasty piano from Leavell along with some harmonica work from Jagger. One of my favorites on the album.
I Can’t Quit You Baby – This song was written by Willie Dixon for Otis Rush, who recorded it with him in Rush’s first sessions in 1956. You may recognize it as a heavy blues cover from Led Zeppelin’s debut album, which they built off Rush’s 1966 version. This slow blues song begins with a guitar and the bass drives the slow beat. He can’t quit her but he’s gonna have to put her down for a while. The song features some excellent guitar work from Clapton, and Jagger offers some of his most expressive singing on the album. Continue reading

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My Review of The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

the-resurrection-of-gavin-stoneThe Resurrection of Gavin Stone, rated PG

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is pretty standard Christian movie fare. It contains some good attempts at humor but is overall rather slow and predictable.
This faith-based film is directed by Dallas Jenkins and written by Andrea Gyertson Nasfell (Mom’s Night Out).  The low-budget film had an estimated budget of just $2 million (compare that to the $20 mil Jennifer Lawrence was paid for the film Passengers, for example). But let’s face it, most faith-based films are just not very good, inspiring this recent story from The Babylon Bee “Holy Spirit Empowers Man To Make It Through Christian Movie”.
Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) stars as the arrogant and self-centered Gavin Stone, a former child star of the sitcom Family Life, whose life has been in a downward spiral since his mother died. His latest drunken episode has resulted in him being sentenced to do 200 hours of state mandated community service hours to be served at Masonville Bible Church, a megachurch in his hometown of Masonville, Illinois. Note:  the church used in the film is actually Harvest Bible Chapel in nearby Elgin, Illinois. Harvest Pastor James McDonald was an executive producer for the film.
Instead of mopping restroom floors, party-boy Gavin portrays himself as a Christian so that he can play the part of Jesus in the church’s stage production, being directed by Kelly Richardson (Anjelah Johnson-Reyes), the pastor’s daughter. D.B. Sweeney stars as Pastor Allen Richardson. Gavin sees the play as a way not only to get out of hard work, but also a way of getting closer to Kelly, who doesn’t comes across as a very likeable character.
We meet three local church guys (stereotypical Christian characters written and played for laughs), who help Gavin. He in turn then helps them to be better actors in the play. One of the guys is Doug, a tough biker, played by WWE (formerly the World Wrestling Foundation) Hall of Famer Shawn Michaels.
Gavin has a difficult relationship with his father Waylon, played by Neil Flynn, who he moves back in with while he does his community service work.
The acting performances from Dalton, Johnson-Reyes, Flynn and Michaels are solid, as is the directing by Jenkins. The story is predictable and the film will appeal to Christians, but will not get much interest from non-Christians. The film was somewhat entertaining, but pretty slow. Themes include grace, forgiveness and redemption. You might want to rent the film when it comes out on video or streaming, but best to save your money on seeing it in the theatre.

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My Devotional Books for 2017

voices-from-the-pastVoices from the Past: Puritan Devotional Readings. Edited by Richard Rushing. Banner of Truth. 428 pages. 2009

The author writes that over the past fifty years there has been a great resurgence of interest in the writings of the Puritans.  I was personally introduced to the Puritans about twenty years ago by my pastor through the wonderful Puritan reprints of Dr. Don Kistler and also via The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions. Richard Rushing has developed this book of daily readings extracted from some of his favorite Puritan authors (a second volume was recently published). His prayer is that these readings will stimulate the reader to explore further the writings of these spiritual giants.

Each of the short readings (approximately 350 words), begins with a Scripture verse. The author selected the verse according to the theme of the reading. While some of the devotions appear almost as written, others have been condensed by the author so that several pages form a single devotional reading. At the end of each reading is the Puritan author and a citation from where Richard Rushing pulled the reading.  I plan to use this wonderful resource as a part of my devotional reading for 2017.

60-days-of-happiness60 Days of Happiness: Discover God’s Promise of Relentless Joy by Randy Alcorn. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 304 pages. 2017

Respected author Randy Alcorn states that our problem isn’t that we want to be happy. Rather, our problem is that we keep looking for happiness in all of the wrong places. He writes that this new book, drawn from selected portions of his acclaimed 2016 book Happiness, will take you to God, the primary source of happiness in the universe. The book then connects the secondary sources of happiness back to the God who created them and graciously gives them to us.

The author has reworked the material from Happiness to present it here in a fresh and different way. I have not yet read Happiness, which is nearly 500 pages in length, though have read his small God’s Promise of Happiness, which encouraged me to read this medium sized book. For this book, the author and editor have selected subjects that most lend themselves to personal growth and worshipful meditation on God and his Word, which will be an excellent way to start 2017. Each of the 60 daily readings begin with a scripture verse and an inspirational quote (Tim Keller, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, etc.), and end with a prayer. I am using the book for daily devotional reading, though it can certainly be read straight through as you would a regular book. Whether you have read the larger Happiness and would like to return to the subject in a devotional format, or whether you haven’t read Happiness but want to learn what God and his people have said about the subject of happiness throughout the centuries, I think you will enjoy and be blessed by this new book. Continue reading

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

"True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.”                                                                                 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

this.n.that-smallIN THE NEWS:

  • Christians are the Most Persecuted Group in the World for Second Year. Perry Chiaramonte writes “The upcoming report from Italian-based Center for Studies on New Religions, determined that 90,000 Christians were killed for their beliefs worldwide last year and nearly a third were at the hands of Islamic extremists like ISIS. Others were killed by state and non-state persecution, including in places like North Korea.
  • Faith on the Hill. Aleksandra Sandstrom writes “The share of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christians has been declining for decades, but the U.S. Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center.”
  • Here’s Who Will Pray at Trump Inauguration. Kate Shellnutt writes “Donald Trump has enlisted a larger, more diverse lineup of clergy than usual to pray him into office at his upcoming inauguration ceremony.”
  • Supporters Rally to Russell Moore after Trump Criticism. J.C. Derrick writes “A reported backlash against Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore has turned into an outpouring of support for one of President-elect Donald Trump’s leading evangelical critics.”
  • Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ Asks What It Really Costs to Follow Jesus. Brett McCracken writes about Martin Scorsese’s new film Silence, starring Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield from Hacksaw Ridge, stating “In stark contrast to the response of the Catholic church to Last Temptation, Scorsese was recently invited to the Vatican to screen Silence and meet Pope Francis.” Check out this related article Meeting Marty Scorsese from Mako Fujimura.
  • Good TV Viewing. After hearing about The Crown from several people, we decided to check it out, enjoying some binge-watching over the New Year’s weekend along with the long-awaited new season of Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
  • Luther on Trial. Max McLean joins The Eric Metaxas Show to talk about his new off- Broadway play Luther on Trial.
  • Golfstat Founder Mark Laesch Stays Positive as Time Runs Out. Mark Laesch was two years ahead of me in high school. I remember watching the lefty point guard direct the varsity basketball team. I was recently saddened to read that he has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). Despite that, he maintains a strong faith.

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