The Misadventures of Fern & Marty is the first Social Club full-album release on Capitol Records after being independent artists, and their fourth studio album overall. The fifteen songs include themes of marriage, family, the grace and love of God and plenty of fun. There are a number of special guests such as Andy Mineo. Unless otherwise noted, the songs were produced by 42 North and Wit.
I really enjoyed this album. Below are a few comments about each of the songs:
Vibes Vibes Vibes – This song is written by 42 North, Wit, and the Social Club Misfits. It features a good beat right out of the box, with Fern and Aha Gazelle trading verses on this autobiographical track. It includes reference to their being signed to Capitol Records:
Now they say that we great
I just say that you late Independent so long when the labels would call we thought it was fake
The song closes with a spoken word piece by about what it mean to be a misfit.
Pop Out Revenge – This song is produced by Amarl, and was the first single released from the album. It was written by Amarl and the Social Club Misfits and features some good beats. Amarl, Marty and Fern all take a turn at the lead vocals. Includes another reference to them being signed by Capitol.
Love 4 Real– This was the second radio single released. It was written by Wit, 42 North, Daramola and the Social Club Misfits. It’s a love song about dating, marriage and family. It has more of an easy-going vibe. Fern, Marty and Daramola share the lead vocals.
Who Else – This is a fun song that features Andy Mineo and includes lines like “Bout to make chubby fellas cool again” and “Come to your door like I’m Newman”. It was originally made for their Friends and Family Tour. It’s has a good beat throughout, and is my favorite track on the album, reminding me of the excellent collaboration Marty had with Mineo on “Paisano’s Wylin” from the latter’s Neverland EP. The track is produced by 42 North and written by Mineo and the Social Club Misfits. Continue reading →
Silence by Shusaku Endo. Picador Modern Classics. 256 pages. Rep Mti edition 2017 ***
The new film Silence, from director Martin Scorsese is based on this 1966 novel of historical fiction written by Japanese author Shusaku Endo. Scorsese, who writes the Foreword, had wanted to make a film of this book for many years. In the Foreword he writes about the problem of Judas, a theme that will come up throughout this book.
The novel is primarily written in the form of a journal and also in the third person by its central character, Father Sabastian Rodrigues, a Portuguese missionary. Father Rodrigues and his companion Father Francisco Garrpe arrive in Japan in 1639; the Christian church is underground to avoid persecution. Rodrigues has travelled to Japan to investigate reports that his former teacher and mentor, Christovao Ferreira, has committed apostasy. The priest had not been heard from since 1633 when he was last seen in Nagasaki.
Their contact in Japan is a drunken man named Kichijiro. He denies when asked if he is a Christian. He is the Judas character in this book. He will show up again and again in the story. Just when you think you can trust him, he will disappoint you, and then he shows up again. Can he be trusted? Or, will he betray the priests and turn them into the Japanese authorities? The Judas theme is key to this book. Father Rodrigues will often refer to Jesus’ words to Judas, “What thou must, do quickly” (John 13:27).
Father Rodrigues will also compare his situation with that of Jesus. The magistrate, Inoue, who is responsible for the interrogation and torture of all captured Christians, is the Pilate character in the book.
The book includes themes of faith, doubt, silence (of God, the sea, land, night and people), solitude, pain, betrayal, strength, weakness and martyrdom. Does God even exist? He has been silent in the midst of the persecution of the Japanese Christians.
The subject of apostasy is another key to this story. The Japanese not only want the peasant Japanese Christians to deny their faith by trampling on an image of Jesus (referred to as a fumi-e), no, they want priests themselves to commit apostasy. If they don’t, the peasant Christians will be tortured to death.
The book is well-written and very descriptive. You can feel the heat, rain, and the insects that Father Rodrigues encounters in “the swamp”, as Japan is referred to in the book. Tension builds as Father Rodrigues encounters his former teacher Father Ferreira.
SPOILER ALERT! *** Ferreira has indeed apostatized, taken on a Japanese name, taken on another’s wife and children, and is writing a book to refute the teachings of Christ. He tells Rodrigues that he was to get him to apostatize. He goes on to tell Rodrigues why he had apostatized. ***
We go on to read about what happens to Rodrigues. Will he apostatize? Will he ever hear the voice of God, or will he remain silent?
As I read this book I wondered if I would be able to keep from denying Christ if my wife was being tortured. I pray that I would.
Gospel Hope for Anxious Hearts: Trading Fear and Worry for the Peace of God by Charles Spurgeon. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 170 pages. 2016. ****
This is the second book I’ve read from the new Rich Theology Made Accessible series, the first one being on prayer by John Calvin. The book includes ten wonderful sermons by the great Reformed Baptist Charles Spurgeon, preached from the Metropolitan Tabernacle pulpit in London where he served for 38 years. Among the topics covered in these sermons that will encourage believers are care, anxiety, peace, fear and rest. My only suggestion for improvement would be an Introduction to the book, giving the reader some context to these wonderful sermons – when they were preached, why these particular sermons were chosen, etc. I highly recommend this wonderful collection of sermons by Spurgeon, which are great for devotional reading. Continue reading →
How One Ex-Gang Leader Is Reaching Chicago’s Most Dangerous Neighborhoods. Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra writes “But in the middle of the chaos, black pastors are making a difference. Reaching out to neighborhoods, feeding the hungry, and running programs for kids, the black church is salting the city. One of those pastors is David Washington, who prays with people and hands out school supplies on streets he knows well. He grew up in the violent South Side neighborhood of Roseland; in fact, he used to run a gang and sell drugs there.”
Love is Not a Secondary Matter. Steven Lawson writes “It is virtually impossible to exaggerate the importance of love. Nothing is more basic to true spirituality than this singular virtue. Nothing is more central to Christian living. At the very heart of authentic discipleship is love. Without love, we are nothing.”
As a Christian, I Favor National Security AND Refugee Care. Scott Sauls writes “Mr. President, we commend and support you for prioritizing our safety and protection in such volatile times. We can only imagine the burden that this must be, and you carry it in ways that nobody else does. And yet we similarly plead with you, sir—on behalf of the millions of souls who are most at risk—that we not turn away the vetted and vulnerable refugee. While charity may start at home, it must never end there, especially in this country of ours that we call the land of the free and the home of the brave. Let’s champion freedom, sir. And, for the love of God, let’s be brave.”
Flipping Sides on Roe v Wade: Norma McCorvey’s Repentance. Clint Archer writes “The dramatic 180 degree turn of attitudes and behavior provides an apt illustration of the nature of repentance. Biblical repentance is a change of mind and the necessary difference in behavior that accompanies it.”
Same-Sex Attraction. The White Horse Inn writes “What should we think about the issue of same-sex attraction? Is it essentially the same as being gay? How does the issue of sexual preference relate to our identity as Christians, and how are we to talk about our differences with others in a world that is increasingly accepting of homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Michael Horton discusses these issues and more with Sam Allberry, author of Is God Anti-Gay? on this episode of the White Horse Inn.”
What the Transgender Debate Means for the Church. Russell Moore writes “We Christians believe that all of us are sinners, and that none of us are freaks. We conclude that all of us are called to repentance, and part of what repentance means is to receive the gender with which God created us, even when that’s difficult. We must affirm that God loves all persons, and that the gospel is good news for repentant prodigal sons and daughters, including for those who have trouble figuring out which is which.”
Why the Transgender Debate Is About Redefining Reality. Joe Carter writes “If you want to change a society, you merely need to get the public to shift an idea from the category of “unthinkable” to “policy.” You’ll know you’ve been successful when the formerly unthinkable has become public school policy.”
The Two Things We Must Say About the Transgender Debate. Kevin DeYoung writes “The Christian response to the transgender debate depends on whether we are talking about the debate or about a transgender person. I understand the two cannot be completely divorced, but they are not the same thing either.”
David Platt’s Guide to Navigating Unprecedented Social Change. Collin Hansen writes “With the re-release of Counter Culture, and in our context of tremendous racial and political turmoil, Davd Platt joins him on The Gospel Coalition Podcast to discuss our era’s rapid pace of social change, churches that care as much about slavery as marriage, and the implications of our behavior for international missions.
DVD Review – Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer ****
Luther is a well-made documentary that serves to introduce the great reformer to a new generation.
This excellent film arrives as we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the door of All Saint’s Church in Wittenberg. The film is directed by Stephen McCaskell, who also worked on the outstanding 2015 documentary Logic on Fire: The Life and Legacy of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
McCaskell uses a variety of ways to interestingly tell the story of the great reformer. Barry Cooper serves as the film’s narrator, and we see him on location at several sites. The film includes a number of beautiful aerial shots of Germany. It also includes artistic animation and interviews from respected theologians, pastors and historians R.C. Sproul, Stephen Nichols, Steven Lawson, Robert Godfrey, Carl Trueman, and Robert Kolb. The film also includes some excellent music.
The film quickly takes us through the life of Luther, including the importance he placed on music, as a family man, the impact – for good and bad – of his tongue, and his writings against the Jews.
The church must, in every age, always be reforming to the Word of God. The film tells us that there are about 2.2 billion Christians in the world today. Although things seem dark for the church in many ways today, we do have hope.
With my DVD, I received a code to download the new book, The Legacy of Luther edited by Stephen Nichols and R.C. Sproul, which I am reading now. If you order the DVD online, you also get a free download of the film’s soundtrack. The film will be released April 21. To pre-order, go here.
A United Kingdom is an inspiriting story of love and courage. This film, based on a true story, is directed by Amma Asante (Belle), and is written by Guy Hibbert, based on the book Colour Bar: A United Kingdom by Susan Williams. Prince Seretse Khama, played by David Oyelowo (Selma) and quickly becoming one of our top actors, is the heir to the throne of Bechuanaland, the African nation and British protectorate that would later become Botswana. Because his father, Sekgoma Khama, died when Seretse was only 4 years old, he was raised by his uncle, Tshekedi Khama, played by Vusi Kunene. Acting as regent, Tshekedi sent him to Oxford to be educated to prepare him for being his country’s leader.
In 1947 Seretse meets Ruth Williams, a white London secretary, played by Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) at a dance. They bond over their common love of jazz music and quickly fall in love. Seretse then receives a letter from his uncle indicating that it is time to return to his home country to assume responsibility as king. Seretse proposes to Ruth and she accepts, much to the displeasure of Ruth’s father George, played by Nicholas Lyndhurst, who says he will never speak to Ruth again if she marries Seretse, as well as Seretse’s uncle Tshekedi. Soon, Ruth is estranged from her family and Seretse is estranged from his uncle, who now doesn’t feel that Seretse is fit to be the king.
Added to this is the interference of the British government, who were willing to sabotage the marriage to appease neighboring South Africa, who was introducing their policy of apartheid. Britain’s government, including Winston Churchill do not come across well in this film.
Themes in the film are love, courage, faithfulness, racism, betrayal, and estrangement from family. Oyelowo and Pike are excellent in their roles, and have good onscreen chemistry. Oyelowo delivers a few powerful speeches and Pike works hard to be acceptable to the people of Bechuanaland. The supporting cast is solid as well. Jack Davenport portrays British representative Alistair Canning so well you will really dislike him. David cast his real-life wife, actress Jessica Oyelowo, as Lady Lilly Canning. Harry Potter’s Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) portrays Canning’s second in command Rufus Lancaster. The film takes place in both Britain and Africa and is rated PG-13 for some language, including racial slurs.
Almost every year since 1997, my wife Tammy and I have left the cold of the Illinois winter to head down to the sun and warmth of Central Florida to attend the annual Ligonier Ministries National Conference. This year’s conference, held March 9-11, was their 30th National Conference. It had a theme of “The Next 500 Years” and was being held on the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Thus, many of the speakers referred to Martin Luther and his influence in their addresses. The conference was held in the wonderful facilities of the First Baptist Church in Orlando where it has been held most years, sold out months in advance, and featured an excellent lineup of speakers, including John MacArthur, Alistair Begg, Albert Mohler, Sinclair Ferguson, R.C. Sproul, Michael Horton and more.
As Ligonier President and CEO Chris Larson told the attendees at the beginning of the conference, “Pace Yourself”. The three-day conference can be exhausting. In total, there were 26 sessions you could attend, in addition to a prayer session, two mini-concerts, and a bookstore tour. I always purchase copies of the messages and listen to them multiple times in the months after the conference. Here are the daily highlight posts that Ligonier posted about the conference:
Leaders Made Here by Mark Miller. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 130 pages. 2017 ****
In his latest book, Mark Miller writes that you ensure you’ll have the needed leaders to fuel your future success when you build a leadership culture. A leadership culture exists when leaders are routinely and systematically developed and the organization has a surplus of leaders ready for the next opportunity or challenge. The author states that he wrote the book primarily for those who can see the value in a strong bench of capable leaders but lack the strategic framework to make it so.
As is his custom, the author teaches through an entertaining fable, much like those of Patrick Lencioni and Ken Blanchard. We meet Blake, the new CEO in a mid-sized firm in a slow-growth industry. Not only is the firm not growing, but it sustained a recent tragedy (explosion) on Blake’s first day on the job, in which six employees were killed. Although the accident was attributed to human error, Blake said that it was actually due to leadership error. Leadership failed and people died.
Blake tells his senior leadership team (minus one, as the head of Human Resources decided to retire about being injured in the explosion), that they need to build a leadership bench, which is not a term they are familiar about.
Blake decides to seek out his mentor Jack, who we met in the author’s previous book Chess Not Checkers. Jack suggests that Blake appoint an interim or hire a consultant to help with the leadership bench issue. Blake decided to reach out to Charles, a rock star in the human resources world to help him out and also to help identify a new head of Human Resources. Although Charles is going through his own personal issues, he agrees to take on the short-term assignment.
As Charles and his team begin their task, they develop a charter, conduct interviews with members of the senior leadership team, and do some benchmarking with leading firms that have built a leadership culture. They want to build a culture where they can say with integrity that leaders are made here. They eventually come up with five commitments of a leadership culture.
I’m fortunate to work in an organization that has a leadership culture. Much of what I read in this book reminded me of my organization. For those who work in organizations that do not currently have a leadership culture, this book would be an excellent first step to take toward building one.
Despite some well-publicized content concerns, Disney’s new Beauty and the Beast is a treat overall.
Following the success of their recent animation to live action remakes of some of their classic films – Alice in Wonderland (2010), Cinderella (2015) and The Jungle Book (2016), Disney returns with a new version of Beauty and the Beast. The 1991 animated version received five Oscar nominations, winning two. The new film is directed by Oscar winner Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters), and written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos. It had an estimated budget of $160 million, but is expected to earn that back and more, with a projected worldwide opening this weekend of $215-245 million. The film features an outstanding cast and is visually stunning.
The film is set in the town of Villeneuve in France. Belle, played by Emma Watson (Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films) is a happy, independent, book-loving inventor who loves her father Maurice, played by Oscar winner Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda). Throughout the film Belle is pursued constantly by Gaston (Luke Evans, The Girl on the Train), who wants to marry her, but Belle has no interest in him. The one who does have interest in Gaston is the homosexual character LeFou, played by Josh Gad, who voiced Olaf in Disney’s Frozen. The song “Gaston” has new lyrics that were written by the late Howard Ashman, but did not make it into the 1991 film as they were not considered appropriate for a children’s film.
As Maurice leaves on a trip, he promises to bring Belle back a rose. The rose he tries to bring her is growing on the land of the Beast, played by Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey). Maurice is then captured and put in a jail cell in the castle of the Beast. If you are familiar with the story, the Beast must find someone to love him before the final petal of a red rose kept under glass falls off. If he doesn’t, he is doomed to remain a beast forever, and the members of his household will remain clocks, cups, etc. forever.
As I mentioned, the film features a strong cast. In addition to Watson and Kline, Ewan McGregor portrays the candlestick Lumiere, two-time Oscar nominee Ian McKellen plays the mantle clock Cogsworth, two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility and Howard’s End) plays the teapot Mrs. Potts, and Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci plays Maestro Cadenza.
Alan Menken, who wrote the music for the 1991 film, returns to do the music for this film, which includes new recordings of his original songs such as “Be Our Guest”, along with new songs written by Menken and three-time Oscar winner Tim Rice (The Lion King, Aladdin, and Evita). I loved the music and the costumes in the film. The computer generated imagery (CGI) – the castle, wolves, the face of the Beast, etc. were all well done. My wife thought that the “Be Our Guest” scene was almost over done – maybe they were trying to have it be like a scene from Fantasia?
We attended the film on opening night; the theatre was filled with very small children. However, unlike the animated version, this is not a children’s film. It is dark and the scenes with wolves may well be too frightening for small children.
Leading up to the film there was controversy when the director made news in speaking about the film’s “exclusively gay moment”, which takes place near the end of the film. However, we saw LaFou’s homosexuality played out throughout the film, along with other things thrown in to make this film, as Condon has stated, as diverse as possible. He stated that “By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural…” Chances are, small children will not even notice what Condon and Disney have put in this film, but discerning Christians will and they will find it in conflict with the Scripture (Romans 1:26-27). It’s not enough, in my opinion, to keep you from seeing the film, but it did impact our enjoyment and our overall rating of the film. On the flip side, sacrificial love is portrayed well.
When I returned to seminary ten years ago, my first class was in Old Testament History. I can still remember that we were at a church gathering at a friend’s home when my pastor asked me who my professor was; when I told him, he grimaced. He said “He’s pretty tough. In fact, his nickname is “The Smiling Assassin”. Seriously? A seminary professor nicknamed “The Smiling Assassin”?
Taking seminary classes while working 50-plus hours a week was always a challenge for me. My wife can tell you that each time I opened up the syllabus, I immediately went into “I can’t do this. There is a class project, two papers, a mid-term and a final along with lots of books to read. How can they expect all of this?” She would always have to “talk me off the ledge”. But it was during this first class back at Covenant Seminary though that she instilled in me a concept that I still use today.
“The Smiling Assassin” told us from the beginning of the class that we would have to memorize the 39 kings of Judah and Israel in order for the final exam and whether they were good or bad. And these guys didn’t have names like Bill or Mike either. No, they had names like Jeroboam and Jehoshaphat. There was just no way I was going to be able to memorize all of these strange names and in order, too. I was overwhelmed. My first class back and I had no confidence that I could handle the work.
It was then Tammy said, “You’re right. You can’t memorize 39 kings, in order, all at once. But you can start with one king, and then do another the next day, and then one more the next day. Eventually, you will get to 39”. In other words, while memorizing 39 strange names in order was completely overwhelming, her advice was to memorize “one king at a time”. It’s a great concept that you can apply for yourself.
Do you have a major project that you’ve been assigned? You have a due date and its weighing on you, causing anxiety; you’re always thinking about it; it’s overwhelming you?! Maybe it’s even impacting your health and sleep. Don’t procrastinate – Get started today. I’ve found that I take away much of the anxiety of a task on my “To Do” list if I just get started – whether it’s writing a paper, studying for an exam or completing an assignment at work. While some people tell me that they perform better under pressure by waiting until the last minute, that’s not for me. No, get started today. Take Tammy’s advice and do “one king at a time”.
What about you? How do you address those seemingly overwhelming tasks on your “To Do” list?
Over the years I’ve read a number of good books on the subject of prayer. Each come from a slightly different approach. I’m always glad I’ve read the book, but also come away thinking my prayer life is not nearly what it should be. Is that the way you tend to feel after reading a book on prayer?
Here are 10 books on prayer that I’ve read and would commend to you:
Prayer: A Biblical Perspective by Eric Alexander
Eric Alexander was a wonderful preacher who I was blessed to see at a few theology conferences several years ago. His chief concern in this short book is to remind Christians that prayer is fundamental and not supplemental, both in the individual and in the corporate lives of God’s people. This book has the feel of individual sermons that were delivered on prayer put into book form.
A Praying Life by Paul Miller
I’ve read this book twice (thus far). I first read the book a few years ago after our church hosted one of the author’s A Praying Life seminars, and again last year after we had a providential encounter with the author and his wife Jill in a cable car high above Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. Reading this book gives you the feel of sitting down with the author to talk about prayer as he shares many interesting and helpful stories – biblical and about his family, particularly about his special needs daughter Kim – to illustrate his teaching on prayer.
Does Prayer Change Things by R.C. Sproul
This booklet is part of R.C. Sproul’s excellent Crucial Questions series (which are free in the Kindle edition). I recommend all of the booklets in this series. In this booklet on prayer, Sproul asks: Does prayer make any difference? Does it really change anything? He looks at the place, purpose, pattern, practice, prohibitions and power of prayer.
The Chief Exercise of Faith: John Calvin on Prayer
This small book is an excerpt of Henry Beveridge’s 1845 translation of John Calvin’s classic work Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3, Chapter 20. The book is broken down into 52 individual sections. As an example, Section 2 is on prayer defined, its necessity and use. There is much wisdom from Calvin about the subject of prayer in these pages.
A Simple Way to Pray: The Wisdom of Martin Luther on Prayer by Dr. Archie Parrish
R.C. Sproul has written “No book has done more to revolutionize my personal prayer life than this little book by Martin Luther. I would recommend it for every Christian’s library.” The description of the book from Ligonier states: “Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther’s barber asked him for advice on how to pray. Luther responded with a 34 page booklet showing a simple but effective way to structure a life of devotion. In it, he illustrates prayers through the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostles’ Creed.
This book, edited by Dr. Archie Parrish, contains Luther’s booklet and offers other helps for structuring your personal prayer life. Dr. R.C. Sproul, who wrote the foreword, considers this to be among the top fifteen Christian works that have most shaped his life and ministry.”
The Barber Who Wanted to Pray by R.C. Sproul
This is a children’s book by R.C. Sproul which is related to Archie Parrish’s book above. Ligonier’s description of the book is:
“This imaginative tale from R.C. Sproul, based on a true story, begins one evening with Mr. McFarland leading family devotions. When his daughter asks him how she should pray, Mr. McFarland shares a 500-year-old story about a barber and his famous customer. Master Peter is a barber well-known to all in his village. One day, when Martin Luther the Reformer walks into his shop, the barber musters up the courage to ask the outlawed monk how to pray. Luther responds by writing a letter to the barber. The barber’s life and many others’ are changed as they encounter a model for prayer by using the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed.
Sproul’s beautifully illustrated story will delight children and help them learn to pray according to the Bible. The full text of the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed will make this a treasured book to be returned to time after time.”
This resource is also available as a short audiobook read by the author.
Augustine on Prayer – Thomas A. Hand
Several years ago, a friend and I read and discussed this book, which is a compilation of the thoughts, words and prayers of Saint Augustine. The author collected more than 500 of Augustine’s texts about prayer for this book, which addresses questions such as: What is prayer? Why should we prayer? For what and from whom should we pray? How should we pray? I don’t recall where I heard about the book originally, but I do recall that reading and discussing it with my friend was a wonderful experience.
The Prayer of the Lord by R.C. Sproul
In this short book by R.C. Sproul, he notes that Jesus’ own disciples deemed their prayer lives inadequate, so they turned to their Teacher for help. It was on that occasion that Jesus gave them what we know as “the Lord’s Prayer.” Sproul writes “Jesus’ intent was to give His disciples a model prayer, an example to follow, one that would teach them transferrable principles for conversation with God.”
Lord, Teach Me to Pray – John MacArthur
In this short book, John MacArthur provides us with a short primer on prayer, hoping that the book will awaken a renewed passion in us for prayer. He looks at the basics of prayer and when and how often we should pray. He then examines what the content of prayer should be. Finally he looks at some of the sins that will hinder our prayers and how to overcome those sins.
These are 10 books on prayer that I’ve read and can recommend to you. Have you read any of these? What books on prayer have you read and can recommend?