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Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of AMERICAN MADE

American Made, rated R
***

“Doing it for the good guys”, Tom Cruise shines as Barry Seal in a film based on true events that has some significant content issues for discerning viewers.
This film, based perhaps loosely on true events from 1978 to 1986, is a “truth is stranger than fiction” story, containing elements of true crime, comedy and thriller. Three-time Oscar nominee Tom Cruise portrays Barry Seal, a one-time star pilot, in fact the youngest airline pilot in TWA history. But when we meet Seal, he is bored with the routine life of an airline pilot, even with his Cuban cigar smuggling business on the side.
Seal’s incredible story begins when he is approached by CIA agent Schafer, (Domhnall Gleeson, Ex Machina, Brooklyn, Star Wars: The Force Awakens). He uses his knowledge of Seal’s smuggling as leverage to get him to fly covert missions for the government over Latin America countries such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Columbia to take spy photos from a fast, twin-engine plane. Soon, we see him engaged with the dangerous Medellin cartel, making buckets of money smuggling drugs into the U.S. Later we see him carrying Russian AK-47’s to the Contra rebels in Nicaraguan for the U.S. government.
Barry lives with wife Lucy (Sarah Wright Olsen) and their three children on 2,000 acres the CIA provides them in Mena, Arkansas, complete with its own airport. That property will become a military training ground for some of the Contras he brings back with him. Soon, Barry and Lucy have more money than they know what to do with. In fact, they run out of places to hide it. Lucy may not know all of the details of Barry’s drug smuggling work, but we see her fully enjoying the fruits of it.
The film includes a series of videotaped confessions Seal made from motels in the mid-1980’s. In addition, there is news footage of Presidents Carter and Reagan along with Oliver Stone and others included.
Seal is not a very likeable character. He makes a lot of money and his greed comes through. He apparently will do just about anything for money. Let’s just say he doesn’t have a very good moral compass, though he does love his wife and children. Actually, the film does not portray any characters that viewers will care about.
This is a role that is seemingly made for Cruise, as he flashes his signature smile and is almost always seen with his aviator sunglasses. He also does his own stunts and flies a plane.
Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) reunites with Tom Cruise, who he worked with on 2014’s excellent Edge of Tomorrow. Liman’s father Arthur was the Chief Counsel for the Senate investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal and questioned Colonel Oliver North during the public hearings.
The screenplay is by Gary Spinelli. Cesar Charlone handles the cinematography, using a bouncing, shaky camera style. We see some excellent scenes of planes flying over jungles and the ocean. The film’s soundtrack includes a number of top 40 songs from the 1970’s and 1980’s, including songs by George Harrison, Linda Ronstadt and Charlie Rich. We also see items of a bygone era such as pay phones and pagers. The film had an estimated budget of $80 million.
The film is rated “R” for a significant amount of adult language, including several abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names, sexuality (between Seal and wife Lucy), and some nudity, which is played for laughs. It is Cruise’s first “R-rated” film since 2008’s Tropic Thunder. It features some excellent stunts and action from beginning to end.
The film is well-made and entertaining, though most likely a highly fictionalized and perhaps controversial version of actual events. The film implicates both Republicans and Democrats along the way. Unfortunately, the film also contains significant adult language and sexuality, and that may be enough to keep some discerning viewers away from this one.

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Music Reviews
Hard Cuts: Songs from the H A R D L O V E Sessions (EP) – NEEDTOBREATHE
****

NEEDTOBREATHE has stated that one of the hardest parts about finishing their chart-topping 2016 album H A R D L O V E was determining which songs had to be cut to get down to the twelve songs for the album. This new EP contains six songs, two of them alternate versions of “Hard Love”, along with four songs that were cut from the original album.
The EP contains two new versions of “Hard Love”, one featuring Serena Ryder and one featuring Andra Day. Along with the version featuring Lauren Daigle from The Shack: Music From and Inspired By, this makes three versions of the song released since the album was released last year, which seems to be a bit of an overkill.
Below are brief comments on the other four songs:
Waiting – This song was produced by Dave Tozer and NEEDTOBREATHE, and written by Bear and Bo Rinehart. It is a keyboard driven song with a strong drum beat, backing vocals and a good guitar solo. He is haunted by a woman, who keeps him waiting, shaking, trembling, and chasing mistakes that he made. It’s my least favorite of the new songs.
Count on Me – This song was produced by Dave Tozer and NEEDTOBREATHE, and written by Tozer, Bear and Bo Rinehart. This song features a strong drum beat, keys and some backing vocals. Thematically it is similar to “Brother” from their excellent Rivers in the Wasteland album. It features encouraging lyrics.
Everybody needs a pick me up
You can count on me
 
Walking on Water – The last two songs of the four new ones were my favorites, starting with “Walking on Water”. This song will appeal to the band’s Christian fan base as it will remind them of Peter walking on the water to Jesus in Matthew 14. It starts slowly and then builds powerfully and joyfully on the chorus with a with a strong drum beat and backing vocals. There’s no turning back.
Can’t see nothing at all
But Your outstretched arms
Help me believe it
Though I falter
You got me walking on water

Cages – This song was produced by Ed Cash and NEEDTOBREATHE and written by Bear and Bo Rinehart. It’s another song that the band’s Christian fan base will resonate with. It starts as a piano-driven song, with light drums. He was looking for attention, was needing redemption but all he got was cages. It then builds powerfully with drums and guitar. They reference their 2009 album The Outsiders, stating that they’re a band of outsiders.
I’m in a prison for a man gone wrong
But I’ve found a future, this is not my home     
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Miracle of Dunkirk: The True Story of Operation Dynamo by Walter Lord.  Open Road Media (Reprint edition). 370 pages. 2017
***

I read this book after watching Christopher Nolan’s excellent film Dunkirk. This is a very detailed and well-researched (written source materials, more than 500 interviews) book. I appreciated the book, but some may get lost in all of the details.
The book tells the amazing story of approximately 400,000 Allied troops that were trapped against the coast near the French port of Dunkirk. Hitler’s advancing tanks were only ten miles away. On May 26, “Operation Dynamo” began. By June 4, more than 338,000 men had been evacuated safely to England in one of the great rescues of all time. It was a crucial turning point in World War II.
The book tells the reader the backstory of Dunkirk, and fills in the gaps that the movie viewers may have had. How did the troops get to the beach and into an evacuation situation in the first place? I read about the surrender of the Belgian Army, and the at times contentious relationship between the British and French.
There were many challenges in evacuating the troops across the English Channel to Dover. There was the difficulty of loading at water’s edge. Once loaded, the departing boats faced bombings from the air by the Germans, running into underwater mines or encountering German torpedo boats.
It was Captain Tennant who came up with the idea of using the eastern mole or breakwater of Dunkirk harbor as an improvised pier. A steady stream of destroyers, minesweepers, ferries, and other steamers would ease alongside the mole, load troops, and then head for England.  Dinghies, rowboats, and launches would load at water’s edge and ferry the troops to small ships waiting offshore. These would then ferry the men to the growing fleet of destroyers, minesweepers, and packets lying still farther out. When filled, these would head for Dover. It was a practical, workable scheme, but it was also very slow.
The author writes about a mass of dots coming over the horizon that filled the sea on May 30. The dots were all heading toward Dunkirk. The “dots” were every kind of boat manned by regular British citizens, many without any navigational equipment or experienced captains. They were joining in the rescue effort for Operation Dynamo.
The author states that there were several miracles of Dunkirk.

  1. The weather. The English Channel is usually rough, and rarely behaves for very long. Yet a calm sea was essential to the evacuation, and during the nine days of Dunkirk the Channel was a millpond. He writes that “old-timers” still say they have never seen it so smooth.
  2. Hitler’s order of May 24, halting his tanks just as they were closing in for the kill.
  3. Another miracle was provided by the German bombers. The German planes rarely strafed the crowded beaches. They never used fragmentation bombs. They never attacked tempting targets like Dover or Ramsgate.

He writes that whatever the reasons, these lapses allowed additional thousands of men to come home.
Britain lost 2,472 guns and 63,879 vehicles were abandoned, but 224,686 men returned home safely.  The rescue electrified the people of Britain, welded them together, gave them a sense of purpose that the war had previously lacked.  The author writes about the sense of national participation that Dunkirk aroused.
When the evacuation began, Churchill thought 30,000 might be saved. In the end, over 338,000 were landed in England, with another 4,000 lifted to Cherbourg and other French ports still in Allied hands. Continue reading


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

Coram Deo begins its 19th year. Thanks so much for visiting our blog. We sure appreciate it! Coram Deo began as a church newsletter in September, 1998, transitioning to a blog format in late 2013. Please use the “Contact Us” feature to ask any questions, make a comment on any content or let us know how we can better serve you.

  • Hope and Perspective When We’re Dealing with Doubt. Randy Alcorn writes “In times of doubt, difficulty, and trials, our fundamental beliefs about God and our faith are revealed. So how canChristians find faith in the midst of doubt? How can they trust God’s plan when their lives seem out of His control, and prayers seem to go unanswered or, sometimes it feels, even unheard?”
  • Resources for Depression. David Murray shares this extensive and helpful list of resources on depression.
  • Life is Short. Kevin DeYoung writes “Life is short. Enjoy the gift. Pay it forward and make known the Giver.”
  • 5 Marks of a Contented Heart. Erik Raymond writes “In his book The Art of Divine Contentment, Thomas Watson described five characteristics of a contented heart. With our course marked out for learning contentment, let’s think about how we might evaluate where we are in our own personal progress.”
  • Nancy Guthrie on What We Can Know About the Afterlife. In this new eight-minute video, Nancy Guthrie offers advice for those whose grief drives them to seek out books by people who claim to have died and been to heaven before coming back to life. “Solid comfort comes from a solid source,” Guthrie shares. “The Scriptures are the most reliable, solid source of understanding what is beyond this life.”
  • Forgiving the Wounds of a Friend. Kristie Anyabwile writes “It’s worth it to overlook an offense if you can, and to trust God is working in you and your friend’s heart, to pray for wisdom, love, and reconciliation, to rebuke gently, and to be ready to forgive.”
  • Serious Sins. Kevin DeYoung writes “If we as Christian laypeople, Christian pastors, and Christian churches never talk about sexual sin, only talk about sexual sin, ignore what the Ten Commandments say about sin, or refuse to warn people of the dire consequences of sin, we are doing something wrong.”
  • Trusting God When the Pain Seems Pointless. Randy Alcorn writes “How many times does God have a purpose in events that seem senseless when they happen?”
  • Will a Happy Marriage Prevent an Affair? Russell Moore writes “The best, most secure and stable marriages I know are not typically those that seem “happy” in the sense of self-actualization. They are instead those marriages in which, often through deep suffering, the husband and wife model self-sacrifice and care for the other.”
  • The 10 Duties of Every Christian. As he starts a new series, Tim Challies writes “The danger in a list of 10 duties is that in the hands of sinful people it risks becoming little more than a trite checklist that fosters deception and insincerity. It can be used by hypocrites to further their self-deception and by deceivers to advance their deception of others.”

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“We Sure Could Use a Little Good News”


Last week I talked to a long-time friend at work.  She mentioned the anxiety and worry many were feeling about significant organizational changes in our workplace, two major hurricanes (Harvey and Irma), the recent death of the daughter of a teammate, but most of all the terrible murder/suicide that involved two people who I knew and worked with.  This tragic news stunned and saddened our workplace and community.  Feeling weighed down, she said, “we sure could use a little good news”.

Life is hard and there are times when it seems like there are more bad things happening than at other times. I felt that way earlier this year as I thought about a number of recent losses in my life. Read my article “Encouragement in the Midst of Loss”.  We worry about many things, such as our vocations (jobs), health (ours and others we care for), relationships, finances, the spiritual lives of those we care about, etc. In addition, many families, including ours, have been shattered by the suicide of a loved one.

Last year, as I looked back in the rearview mirror at certain key events in my life and my wife Tammy’s life, I saw how the Holy Spirit has used terrible, difficult and painful experiences for good toward our journey in being conformed to His image. Read my article “Looking Back at Life Through the Lens of Romans 8:28”.   I believe that we may not know all of the reasons why some things happen to us in this lifetime, but we can rest in knowing God is using them for our good and His glory.

I’m writing on a Sunday afternoon after hearing a wonderful sermon from my pastor entitled “God is Glorified in Afflictions”.  It was the beginning of a new series on 2 Corinthians. Chapter one of the book addresses how affliction among Christians is redemptive when we don’t waste it. That’s an interesting concept that you may not have thought of. The entire sermon is worth listening to. You can check it out here:   http://christchurchpca.org/sermons

So in the midst of your worries and suffering, listen to the words of Jesus from John 16:33 ~ “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and frustration and suffering, but take courage [be confident and certain, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.]

The ultimate good news we all need is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  About the Gospel, R.C. Sproul writes:

“The gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness–or lack of it–or the righteousness of another. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well-being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.”

I’ll let R.C. Sproul have the final words of good news:
“The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him–and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.”

When you put your full trust in Jesus Christ, will you experience less suffering?  No.  But He has promised that your suffering will not be in vain, and He will give you eternal Hope!  He is faithful to give you His courage, strength, comfort and peace as He walks difficult roads alongside you.  I would appreciate any thoughts you have. Blessings to you, and thanks for reading.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

  • Do Blue Collar Workers Fit Our Theology of Vocation? Daniel Darling writes “If we are not careful we can create a kind of second class system by elevating those whose vocations seem more praiseworthy—white collars or creative such as artists, engineers, lawyers, and CEOs—over and above the blue collar, “dirty jobs” professions that so employ so many of our people.”
  • How Should I Apply My Gifts in the Workplace? Art Lindsley writes “Remember, you are uniquely gifted with talents that help you find fulfillment and that bless others. These gifts can be applied in a number of different jobs or careers. Focus less on finding a specific career or job than on finding an environment in which you can regularly (not perfectly) use your gifts in the way God designed you. Perhaps it’s your current circumstances! Even unexpected gifts can transfer into unexpected jobs and roles in life. Be open!”
  • 5 Traits That Set Great Leaders Apart from the Pack. Ellie Walburg writes “What sets apart good leaders from great leaders? Is it political savvy and the ability to maneuver their way to the top? Is it the number of connections they have? Is it their ability to speak well and motivate people? While all these things may be helpful to varying degrees, leadership goes much deeper than that, to the very core of a who a person is.”
  • 7 Things to Do If You Don’t Like Your Job. Chuck Lawless states that many people are in work roles that they don’t enjoy. If that is where you are, perhaps these suggestions will help you look at your job differently.
  • Peter: The Servant Leader. John MacArthur writes “Restraint, humility, and servanthood aren’t obvious leadership qualities in the corporate world. Nor are they character traits that readily spring to mind for modern churches focused on growth and vision. But Christ prioritized those three qualities as he cultivated future leaders of the Christian church, most notably Peter.”
  • Chick-fil-A VP: The Advice I Give My Own Children — How to Start a Career. Dee Ann Turner writes “My three sons began receiving career advice from me before they even started high school. It was both the curse and the blessing of having a Mother who spent time as the Vice President of Talent and the Vice President of Human Resources at Chick-fil-A. As they matured, I tried to impress upon them the importance of character, competency and chemistry in their professional lives. These are the top tips I shared with them in advising them on starting and growing their careers.”
  • 4 Practical Reasons Character Must Trump Competence. Eric Geiger writes “When inviting others to join your team, both character and competence matter. They are both important. A person of integrity who is not skilled for the role will only grow frustrated while frustrating everyone else. So competence is important, but character is more so.”
  • The Value of Our Work. On this episode of Unlimited Grace, Doug Chamberlain interviews Bryan Chapell about the value of our work.
  • What are You Gifted to Do? Art Lindsley writes “Our gifts are things we do well because God has gifted us to do them. We enjoy doing them because God has created us to experience life and joy through our own unique gifts, and in this way, we experience flourishing.”
  • Christians in the Profession of Arms. Russell Gehrlein writes “Serving in the military was, and is, godly work. And God is definitely present in it.”
  • Global Leadership Summit Podcast. In this episode, Patrick Lencioni compares “smart” vs. “healthy” organizations, making the case that organizational health is the greatest competitive advantage in business. He then unpacks the four disciplines necessary to building organizational health.
  • Catch and Release: A Necessary Strategy for the Modern Leader. Steve Graves writes “As for me, my faith helps me live with catch and release because I trust that God is in control. I will do the best I can to keep my best people, but if something outside of my control happens and an employee leaves, that’s okay.”

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

TOPICS IN THE NEWS:

  • Racism and Corporate Evil: A White Guy’s Perspective. Watch this 26-minute address from Tim Keller, which was part of an event that marked the release of John Piper’s book Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian, for which Keller wrote the Foreword.
  • Charlottesville, Confederate Memorials, and Southern Culture. John Piper writes “So here I am, a Christian exile in America pondering the implications of Charlottesville. You will see below why my mind has gone in the direction of Confederate memorials. How should I think and act about that point of conflict? What are we to do as a nation? The questions multiplied. Here is my best effort so far to find some answers.” Consider his four recommendations.
  • John MacArthur on Charlottesville, Racism, and God’s Word. What’s a biblical response to racism and the tragic events in Charlottesville? John MacArthur answered that question in this interview with Frank Sontag on 99.5 KKLA in Los Angeles.
  • Special Report on Sexuality and Gender. David Murray shares interesting findings from The New Atlantis Journal’s“A Special Report on Sexuality and Gender: Findings from the Biological, Psychological, and Social Sciences”.
  • Precious Clarity on Human Sexuality. John Piper introduces the “Nashville Statement”, writing “The Nashville Statement is a Christian manifesto concerning issues of human sexuality. It speaks with forthright clarity, biblical conviction, gospel compassion, cultural relevance, and practical helpfulness. There is no effort to equivocate for the sake of wider, but muddled, acceptance.” Aimee Byrd offers this response to the “Nashville Statement”.
  • Why is Sexuality Such a Big Deal for the Church? Emily McFarlan Miller writes “Mohler describes a collision between “two massive and very powerful cultural realities.” One is the “long, consistent testimony of Christianity concerning God’s plan for human sexuality, marriage and gender” that reserves sex for one man and one woman within marriage, he said. The other is a “moral revolution being driven largely by what is considered to be sexual liberation.”
  • Why the Nashville Statement Now, and What about Article 10?Denny Burk writes “We also began to see a great deal of criticism and more than a few questions. All of this was to be expected. This will be an ongoing conversation going forward, and we will be engaging the substantive issues at stake in the days ahead in this space. But I wanted to take an opportunity to address three items that have come up today—two mundane points and one substantive.”
  • When Calling Yourself a “Christian” Isn’t Enough. Adam Parker writes “Is it possible that the term “Christian,” like “Evangelical,” isn’t enough? Since the “Nashville Statement” was released, we have seen a number of negative responses from people also wanting to claim the name of Christian.”
  • Should You Call a Transgender Person “Him” or “Her”?It’s very common to hear debates about pronoun usage. For example, should you call a transgender male “he” (as they identify themselves) or “she” (since they are biologically female)? Christians disagree—hopefully charitably—about pronoun usage, this short video offers some helpful advice from Andrew Walker, author of God and The Transgender Debate. 

Courtesy of World Magazine

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