Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Will There Be Work in Heaven?

How about you? Do you now or have you at one time thought that the only work that had value in God’s eyes was “full-time Christian work”, such as serving in the ministry as a pastor or missionary? Do you feel that there is “sacred” or “religious” work, and everything else is “secular work”, and that secular work is a necessary evil, just to pay the bills and support your family, and contribute to God’s mission, but having no real value in God’s eyes?  That is what many Christians think.

If we were to admit it, many of those we work with, and perhaps some of us, view work as a necessary evil. Most don’t look at their work as a vocation, a calling, or even a career. No, it’s just a job. They embrace Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” philosophy, celebrate reaching “Hump Day”, ask “Is it Friday yet?”, get the “Sunday Night Blues” as they think about going to work on Monday morning, and count down the days until they can retire.

I wonder if many have a low value of work because they think it is temporal. Many believe that work is something that we will only do on earth.  But is that true? Some reading I’ve been doing recently would seem to contradict that thinking.

Randy Alcorn, author of Heaven, writes of our work continuing in Heaven. He states “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.”

Paul Stevens in his book Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture writes that our final destiny is not a workless utopia, but a renewed world in which we will work with infinite creativity and fulfillment.

In his chapter “What Does the Culture Say?” in the new book The Gospel & Work, Daniel Darling writes that many, if not most, Christians see their workplaces as simple vehicles by which they can provide for their families, tithe their incomes to the church, and perhaps engage in occasional evangelistic conversations. The actual work seems unimportant in light of eternity. But he tells us, our job on Monday is not a means to an end—it is part of your divine calling to fulfill the mandate given to us as God’s image bearers. The cubicle, the garage, the classroom—these are sanctuaries where you are called to worship your Creator with your best work. Our work on earth, when done for the glory of Christ, passes the test of fire (1 Cor. 3:12–13) and is mere preparation for our perfected vocations in eternity.

Here are a few Bible passages to ponder on the subject:

  • We will serve Him day and night in His temple – Revelation 7:15
  • His servants reign forever and ever – Revelation 22:5
  • We will rule over many things – Matthew 25:23

How about you? Do you believe that work is only temporal and that we won’t have work in Heaven?  Why or why not?


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My Review of The Big Sick

The Big Sick, rated R
***

The Big Sick is a well-written and acted true life love story that has both serious and funny moments, but also has some significant content issues.
This film is written by Kumail Nanjiani (HBO’s Silicon Valley), who plays himself, and Emily V. Gordon (his real-life wife), and is the true story of their meeting and early relationship. It is directed by Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris).
The film is set in Chicago. Kamail is Pakistan-born stand-up comedian. He is also working as an Uber driver to make ends meet. He lives with ***SPOILER ALERT***
Azmat and Sharmeen insist on arranging a marriage to a Pakistani girl for Kamail. Because of this, Kamail can’t tell his parents about the white woman that he is falling for. Eventually, the pressure gets to be too much for Kamail and he breaks up with Emily, breaking her heart. Then, Emily develops a rare lung infection and is hospitalized.
In the hospital Kamail meets Emily’s parents, Terry (Ray Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond) and Beth (Holly Hunter, four-time Oscar nominee and winner for The Piano) for the first time. I enjoyed watching their interactions as they dealt with Emily’s illness.
*******************
The film features some strong acting performances by all of the main characters. Of special note was Ray Romano’s performance in a serious role.
The film is rated R for a significant amount of adult language, including repeated f-bombs and abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names. Some of the language is sexual in nature. That alone will keep many from considering this film. In addition, there is sex depicted outside of marriage (nothing graphic shown).
On the other hand, there are many positive aspects to this film. There is a good deal of humor, as well as sadness, in the film. The film also includes positive messages about marriage, family, forgiveness and reconciliation.


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Best of Fernando Ortega: Live in St. Paul
****

I was introduced to Fernando Ortega years ago when he opened for Michael Card. He has since become one of my favorite artists. This concert recording was originally available only as a DVD, but is now fortunately also available as an audio recording.  Including 19 songs, this concert was recorded in 2004 at Northwestern College’s Maranatha Hall as Fernando was on tour supporting his 2004 album Fernando Ortega.  He plays 7 of that album’s 12 songs here, including the touching and humorous “Mildred Madalyn Johnson”. The recording features Ortega and band, including an accordion, but the focus is on Ortega’s gentle vocals over his piano.
If you’ve seen Ortega in concert you know that one of the best things is often times humorous introductions to his songs, which are not included here, the focus being solely on the music. In addition to the songs from Fernando Ortega, he includes many of his most-loved songs, such as “Creation Song”, “Lord of Eternity”, “Children of the Living God”, “This Good Day”, “Sing to Jesus” and “Our Great God”. This is Ortega’s only live album and it’s a gem.

Flowers in the Dirt (Special Edition) – Paul McCartney
****
This 2-CD “Special Edition” (the release comes in a number of different configurations), of McCartney’s excellent 1989 album Flowers in the Dirt features a remastered version of the original 13-song album (plus Où Est Le Soleil?, which wasn’t on the original album), on one disc, and nine previously unreleased demos McCartney recorded with Elvis Costello on the second disc. The demos are what really got my attention on this release, the 10th installment of McCartney’s Archive Collection, all of which have been personally supervised by McCartney. This album has special significance for me as well. It was the album McCartney toured on for his 1989-90 World Tour, on which I saw three of the shows, the first of now twelve concerts I’ve seen of the former Beatle.
Listeners will be pleased with the remastered version of the original album. It features such strong songs as “My Brave Face” (his last Billboard solo Top 40 hit), “This One”, “Put it There” and the 89-90 World Tour opener “Figure of Eight”. The original demos with Costello are: Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Learning to Love the Psalms by Robert Godfrey. Reformation Trust Publishing. 263 pages. 2017
****

The author, a respected seminary president and professor, mentions that over the past several years the Psalms have been his favorite book of the Bible. He begins the book by looking at the attractiveness of the Psalms and asks why the book of Psalms is not more important to Christians today. He states that the aim of the book is to help the reader understand and appreciate the Psalms at a new level.
He tells us that John Calvin believed that singing in worship should include only the words found in the Bible. Calvin was responsible for versifying the Psalms, and stated that the Psalms were an anatomy of all the parts of the soul.
The author states that the main theme of the Psalms is God’s goodness and unfailing love for the righteous. There are also multiple subordinate themes of the Psalms that he identifies. They are:

-The sinfulness of the righteous
-The mysteries of providence in the success of the wicked
-The mysteries of providence in the suffering of the righteous
-Confidence in God and the future despite difficulties

The author tells us that keeping these themes in mind will help the reader see the basic message of the Psalms more clearly.
We are told that many (73) of the Psalms are specifically credited to David. The Psalms are from the perspective of the King. The New Testament quotes the Psalms 376 times from 115 different Psalms. The author writes that Jesus “fills and fulfills” the Psalms, and that he loved the Psalms.
The author tells us that we need to understand the forms of Hebrew poetry. He mentions the groups, or groupings, of Psalms. There are five sections to the book of Psalms. For each he devotes seven chapters in this book. Each chapter includes an introduction, and then he looks at six or more psalms from that section in detail. He also gives us ten good questions to ask of each psalm.
The book includes helpful questions for reflection and discussion at the end of each chapter. I really enjoyed this excellent book, and I think anyone who would like to learn more about the book of Psalms will as well. Continue reading


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week


  • When You Want to Put on a Mask. Scott Sauls writes “This theme of deflecting, blaming, and hiding has remained with us since Eden. Painfully aware of our own nakedness and shame, we, too, have become masters at hiding.”
  • Is it Biblical to Say That God Loves Everyone? In this three-minute video clip from the 2017 Ligonier National Conference, R.C. Sproul answers the question, “Is it biblical to say that God loves everyone?”
  • How to Identify Your Pet Sin. Tim Challies writes “Every Christian can think of a sin he has identified and attacked with all the brutality he can muster. One of the great joys of the Christian life is seeing God be true to his Word as he motivates and empowers us to wage war against indwelling sin. Yet every one of us probably also has a sin we rather enjoy, a sin we refuse to put to death. In fact, we may even protect and promote it. We might refer to it as a pet sin.”
  • How Far is Too Far? Marshall Segal writes “Every act of obedience, in life and in dating, is a free act of defiance in the face of Satan’s schemes and lies. We’re not just guardingourselves from him by setting and keeping boundaries; we’re seizing territory back from him in dating.”
  • Why Am I So Emotional Over Basketball? Dan Doriani, who I enjoyed two courses with at Covenant Seminary, writes “Foolish emotions, such as caring too much about televised sports, dissipate our energy. Healthy emotions drive us to devote ourselves to good causes, like removing injustices or loving family more faithfully. The Triune God has an emotional life, clearly visible in our Savior’s joys and sorrows. Jesus experienced every sinless emotion, and so we, remade in his image, can have noble emotions too.”
  • What Should You Say at an Unbeliever’s Funeral? In this episode of the Signposts podcast, Russell Moore states “So preach the gospel. You don’t have to narrate and adjudicate every aspect of this unbeliever’s life in order to say to people, “There is hope for you no matter what it is that you’ve done. You can find salvation and today is the day of salvation.”
  • Grace for Times When Things are Going Well. Scotty Smith prays “So, by your Holy Spirit, keep me humble, stunned with gratitude, and increasing in generosity. May the gospel continue to challenge, change, and re-set the price tags in my life, Father. Grant me quick repentances from every expression of entitlement and presumption, spoiled-ness or dependence on creature comforts.”
  • What Does Repentance Look Like? R.C. Sproul writes “I would recommend that all Christians memorize Psalm 51. It is a perfect model of godly repentance.”
  • The Seductive Sin of Self-Preservation. Michael Kelly writes “Let’s not make the prideful error today of believing in ourselves and committing ourselves to self-preservation. Let’s instead take the road of humility, for this is the road of good news. We actually don’t have to toil and worry about preserving ourselves, for God is the One who sustains. And we can trust Him to do just that.”

CHURCH CHAT:

  • Twenty Relics of Church Past. Thom Rainer writes “The question I asked was basic: “What did you have or do in your church ten years ago that you don’t have or do today?” The top twenty responses were, for me at least, a fascinating mix of the expected and the surprises. They are ranked in order of frequency.”
  • Tragic Worship. Carl Trueman, who I enjoyed a wonderful class on B.B. Warfield with at Covenant Seminary, writes “Christian worship should immerse people in the reality of the tragedy of the human fall and of all subsequent human life.”

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My Review of Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming, rated PG-13
*** ½  

Spider-Man Homecoming is an action-packed, humor-filled Marvel film with a new Spider-Man that is enjoyable.
After two films in which Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge, Silence) played Spider-Man, we were introduced to the high-school age Spider-Man/Peter Parker (Tom Holland) in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Tony Stark/Iron Man, played by two-time Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder, Chaplin), had recruited him to help stop Captain America. This film picks up eight months after the action in that film.
Peter Parker is a 15-year old high school student from Queens. In addition to fighting minor crime in his neighborhood, he’s dealing with the usual high school issues. His best friend is the likeable Ned (Jacob Batalon), and he has a crush on Liz (Laura Harrier), a senior who is the captain of the High School Academic Decathlon. Peter lives with his Aunt May, played by Oscar winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny), from whom he hides his after-school Spider-Man activities. He tells her, and others, that he has an internship for Stark Industries.
The young Parker is a somewhat awkward superhero in training, and wears a suit that his mentor and father-figure Tony Stark has designed for him. He is in the process of figuring out his powers. He waits for a call from Happy Hogan, (Jon Lavreau, Chef), who plays Stark’s assistant, to take on the type of criminals that the Avengers do battle with.
The villain in the film is Adrian Toomes, played by Oscar nominated Michael Keaton (Birdman). Toomes is a disgruntled city contractor, who decides to sell stolen alien weapons on the black market. As a villain, he goes by the name of Vulture, and wears a costume with large wings. Peter encounters him and tells Tony Stark about him and is told not to get involved with the Vulture, but to concentrate on smaller crimes in his neighborhood. In other words, he is to be your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. But Peter doesn’t follow that direction.
The film is directed by Jon Watts, who also writes the film with five others (Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers). The film has an estimated budget of $175 million budget.
I enjoyed the humor in the film and thought Holland was excellent as Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Downey Jr. was good in a small role and Keaton was good as the film’s villain.
The film has less violence than the usual Marvel film as it focuses just as much on Parker’s high school life as it does on him as a super hero. There is also a twist in the film that I didn’t see coming. In addition, the film includes some good music, both original score and other songs.
Unfortunately, the film includes some adult language that is completely unnecessary, in addition to some abuses of God’s name. Scenes that took place at the Washington Monument and on the Staten Island Ferry were excellent. I also enjoyed Spider-Man getting to know all of the features of the suit that Stark had made for him.
And of course, being a Marvel film, don’t forget to sit all the way through the ending credits.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

REAL-LIFE EXAMPLES:

  • How Art Can Inspire Us to Fear God. Bethany Jenkins interviews Erika Huddleston, an artist and designer in Texas, about how she integrates her faith and work.
  • I Wasn’t Born to be a Golfer. Sean Martin interviews professional golfer Webb Simpson. Simpson states “I don’t think about my gifting as that unique compared to other Christians. It just happens to be that my gift is golf, whereas another guy’s might be preaching, and another’s might be business. I think the Lord has spread us out for his purposes and for our enjoyment of him. My gifting just happens to be in golf.”
  • How Student Success Can Call Forth the Imago Dei. Bethany Jenkins interviews Jennifer Tharp, director of student success at The King’s College, about how she integrates her faith and work.
  • Life and Leadership Today with Donnie Smith. In this episode of Life and Leadership Today, Ronnie Floyd talks with Donnie Smith, about how he integrates his faith and work. Donnie recently retired as President and CEO of the largest beef and poultry producer in the world, Tyson Foods.
  • Unscripted. Gabe Lyons sat down with Ernie Johnson Jr. to talk about what it means to live out your faith in public places. It’s hard to connect vocation to religion at times, but Ernie’s encouragement is to implement beliefs in all areas of life.
  • On Mission to Save 70% of Your Shower Water. Bethany Jenkins interviews Philip Winter, co-founder and CEO of Nebia, currently reinventing the way people interact with water in their daily lives, about how he integrates his faith and work.

YOUR CALLING:

  • Motherhood is a Calling. “Motherhood is not a hobby; it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.”
  • One Calling, Multiple Expressions. Annie F. Downs reminds us that God has a specific call on each of our lives and no matter what our vocation is, our role matters.
  • Your Calling is Clear: Look to Genesis 1 for Direction. Hugh Whelchel writes “The significance of all of our work, in our jobs, our homes, our communities, and our churches, is directly related to its connection with God’s work.”
  • A Glimpse of Gory: How Knowing God Empowers Your Work. Andrew Spencer writes “If our perspective on our daily work is limited to earning a paycheck or solely navigating the success and failures of a single week, we can easily grow cynical and listless. Our perspective on work can be renewed and inspired if we have in view the glory of the God whom we serve.”
  • Root Your Identity in Christ, Not in Your Current Role. In this two-minute video is taken from David Platt’s message titled “Defining Calling”, he states “We must always be careful to root our identity in our call to salvation.”

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