Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester

Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester. Crossway. 224 pages. 2016
****

The authors write that at the heart the Reformation was a dispute about how we know God and how we can be right with him. Our eternal future was at stake, a choice between heaven and hell. For the Reformers there was no need more pressing than assurance in the face of divine judgment, and there was no act more loving than to proclaim a message of grace that granted eternal life to those who responded with faith. Though many will tell you that the Reformation doesn’t matter or even was a bad idea, the authors tell us otherwise. They state that the Reformation still matters because eternal life still matters. In addition, the Reformation still matters because the debates between Catholics and Protestants have not gone away.

The authors outline some key emphases of the Reformation and explore their contemporary relevance. Subjects covered by the authors include the sacraments, the preaching of the Word, sin, grace, the cross, union with Christ, the Holy Spirit, the church, vocation, Purgatory, indulgences, justification, and the authority of scripture in comparison with the authority of the church and tradition. Continue reading

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Perception – NF
****

Perception is the third studio album by NF. It’s the follow-up to 2016’s Therapy Session, and it doesn’t disappoint. The album debuted at #1 on both iTunes Top Albums and Hip-Hop/Rap charts. The sixteen-song album is written by NF and produced by Tommee Profitt, unless noted otherwise. The album cover shows NF in a cage, holding six keys—an image that was first displayed in the “Outro” music video.

Below are a few brief comments about each song:

Intro III –  This song starts slowly with the vocal over keys and then builds in intensity with percussion and some voices, before ending quietly with keys. He talks about his old fears, stemming back to when his mother’s boyfriend was physically abusing him his sister.  Key lyric:  Hey, I’m NF. Is it me or the fear talking?
Outcast – This song opens and closes with the sound of keys in a cell door. It begins with synth and then builds in intensity with a strong beat and backing voices. He doesn’t want to fit the mold or blend in with other rappers.
10 Feet Down
– This song is written by Kyd the Band, Maggie Eckford (Ruelle) and NF, and features vocals from Ruelle. The intro and outro of the song are played backwards. The song talks about forgetting the important things as he climbs to the top and gets there. It features a good steady beat, less intense than first two songs.  Key lyric: Yeah, seems like we’re all trying to climb a ladder. It’s crazy what we’ll do to climb it faster. It’s like we throw away the things in life that really matter, just so that we can make it to the top and wonder what we’re even climbing after.
Green Lights
– This song was produced by David Garcia, Tommee Profitt and NF. It was the second single released in advance of the album’s release. The song features a good beat throughout. He has a positive outlook. All he sees for his life is green lights. He’s not going to let anyone distract him.  Key lyric: Who’d have known I’d write something that could change lives? 
Dreams – This song features a slower beat. He reflects on sad days, regret, relationships from Michigan and doing himself, following his dreams.
Let You Down –  This song is written by Tommee Profitt and NF and produced by David Garcia and Profitt. It has a slower beat, and is about his relationship with his father. He’s sorry that he’s let him down. He doesn’t want to be a disappointment to him.
Destiny – This song is produced by BLRZ and Tommee Profitt. It is an intense song, as he raps about fulfilling his destiny. Key lyric: Forget the mansion, I’m in the attic.
My Life –  This song is produced by David Garcia. The song is addressed to his sister, who is probably wasted by 10:00am. They don’t have a lot in common, but both miss their mother. He states that we all make mistakes, that’s just life. Key lyric: Life’s about taking chances, making moves, not about what you did, it’s what you do.
You’re Special
–  This song appears to be about a current girlfriend.  It has a slower pace, with a good beat. He needs a woman he knows he can trust and he has one.
If You Want Love – This song has a slower pace. It opens and closes with guitar. If you want love you’re going to have go through pain and learn how to change. Key lyric: I‘ve always tried to control things, in the end that’s what controls me
Remember This
– This song picks back up the intensity with a good beat. He encourages us to surround ourselves with people that challenge how we think, not people that nod their heads and act like they agree. His biggest failures in life are knowing that he hasn’t tried. Key lyric: I’ve always had a problem with relationships, but that’s what happens when you see the world through a broken lens. 
Know – On this song, he brings intensity, wanting us to know that he’s back with a vengeance trying to be the best rapper that’s ever walked the earth. He’s going to outwork all the others. He wants to know what’s it’s like to be happy and have friends that understand him.
Lie
– Anger comes through on this song addressed to a former girlfriend. She lies,   telling friends one thing, and him another. 
3 A.M.
–  This song is produced by David Garcia. He sings about a past relationship that went bad. Key lyric: Everyone’s your friend when the music start buzzing
I’m closer to the people that were there when I was nothing

One Hundred
–   This song is produced by David Garcia. He’s confident in what he’s achieved as he tells other rappers that he’s here to coach them.
Outro
– The closing song is produced by David Garcia and Tommee Profitt. It is written by Garcia, Profitt and NF. It was the first single released from the album.  Over a synth back, he sings with confidence about his new music he’s about to release. Continue reading


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My Review of SAME KIND OF DIFFERENT AS ME

Same Kind of Different as Me, rated PG-13
***

Same Kind of Different as Me is an inspirational film based on a true story. The film is directed by Michael Carney. The screenplay is written by Carney, Alexander Foard and Ron Hall, based on the bestselling book Same Kind of Different as Me by Hall, Denver Moore and Lynn Vincent. The film features a very good cast, with four Oscar nominees, two of whom are Oscar winners.

**SPOILER ALERT**
As the film begins, we meet wealthy Texas art dealer Ron Hall, played by Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear (As Good as It Gets). Ron’s marriage to Debby, played by a nearly unrecognizable Oscar winner Renée Zellweger (Cold Mountain), hasn’t been good for a while, and he is now having an affair. When told by an acquaintance that if he doesn’t tell Debby about the affair that she will, Ron does confess to Debby, who is a Christian. The assumption is that Greg is not a believer.
Debby forces Ron to choose between her and the woman he is having an affair with. Ron chooses Debby and she agrees to forgive him, even calling the woman Ron has been having an affair with. She also wants him to serve with her at Union Gospel Mission in Fort Worth, a local homeless shelter where we meet the likeable Chef Jim (Thomas Francis Murphy).
Debby is also having dreams, about a wise old Black man who will change the city.
It is at the homeless shelter that Ron and Debby meet Denver, whose street name is ‘Suicide’, played by two-time Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou (Blood Diamond, In America).  Debby tells Ron that Denver is the man she has seen in her dreams. As they get to know Denver and build a relationship with him, Ron and Debby hear of his horrific past, which we see in flashbacks.
Oscar winner Jon Voight (Coming Home) plays Ron’s obnoxious alcoholic father Earl. Father and son have a contentious relationship. Ron’s mother is played by Geraldine Singer. The Hall’s children are Regan (Olivia Holt) and Carson (Austin Filson).
As far as content issues, the film does include several instances of the “n-word” and some of the flashbacks from Denver’s life show horrific things that happened to him.
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The film is built around relationships and is a bit slow. In addition, clocking in at a full two hours, it could have been edited down significantly.
Overall, this is an inspirational film based on a true story that is well-acted, particularly by Djimon Hounsou. Themes include self-sacrifice, pain, faith in action, love, kindness, forgiveness, friendship and hope.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation by Michael Reeves.  B&H Publishing Group. 211 pages. 2013 
**** 

The author, who has written extensively on the Protestant Reformation, states that the Reformation was a revolution, and revolutions not only fight for something, they also fight against something, in the case of the Reformation, this was the old world of medieval Roman Catholicism.  He states that most Christians at the time were looking for the improvement, but not the overthrow, of their religion. They were not looking for radical change, only a clearing-up of acknowledged abuses.  He tells us that the Reformation was not principally a negative movement about moving away from Rome, but a positive movement about moving towards the gospel.
In this fast-moving history, the author, using his knowledge and wit to introduce us to John Wycliffe (who organized a translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible into English), indulgences, Luther nailing his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church on All Saints’ Eve, Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli, the Anabaptists, Mennonites, John Calvin and his ministry in Geneva, and William Tyndale, whose life’s work was translating the Bible from its original Greek and Hebrew into English.
He writes about John Knox, the history of the English Reformation, including the Puritans, who thought that the Reformation was a good thing that was not yet complete. We are introduced to the preacher Richard Sibbes, the Westminster Assembly and John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress. And much, much more.
The author asks if the Reformation is over. He writes that Roman Catholicism continues its belief in purgatory and indulgences, sure signs that the traditional Catholic doctrine of justification is at work. He states that without doubt, there has been something of a change in Rome, but concerning those theological issues that caused the Reformation, no doctrine has been rescinded. As a result, while attempts to foster greater Christian unity must be applauded, it must also be recognized that, as things stand, the Reformation is anything but over. Continue reading


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My Review of ONLY THE BRAVE

Only the Brave, rated PG-13
***

Only the Brave is a well-acted and directed film based on true events.
This film is based on Sean Flynn’s 2013 GQ Magazine story “No Exit: The Granite Mountain Yarnell Fire Investigation”. It is directed by Joseph Kosinski, who is rumored to be directing Tom Cruise’s upcoming Top Gun: Maverick. The screenplay is written by Ken Nolan (Black Hawk Down), and the Oscar nominated writer Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle), and it features a strong cast. The movie was filmed in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
The film is about an Arizona firefighting crew from Prescott, Arizona. They are led by superintendent Eric Marsh, played by Oscar nominated Josh Brolin (Milk). Marsh is married to Amanda, played by Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind). We see marital tension in their relationship from the very beginning, primarily due to Eric’s demanding job, but we also see they deeply care for each other.
As the film opens, we see Eric interviewing new members for his crew. Among them are Brendan McDonough, played by Miles Teller (Whiplash). Brendan has made a mess of his life thus far (we see him taking drugs, getting in trouble with the law and getting kicked out of his Mom’s house). When he finds out that he is responsible for an ex-girlfriend getting pregnant, he decides to become responsible and interviews to be a member of Marsh’s crew. On the surface, there is no way that Marsh would take him, but he does. We later find out that the two have more in common than we would have believed, as much of the story focuses on the personal lives of Eric and Brendan.
Eric is trying to get his firefighters certified, which would make them the country’s first municipal Hotshot squad. Note: Hotshots are an elite group of forest firefighters who are specially trained and certified to go into areas already on fire. Without the certification, Eric’s crew is part of a second wave of firefighters behind the Hotshots.
Jeff Bridges, seven-time Oscar nominee and winner for Crazy Heart, delivers an excellent performance as Wildland Division Chief for the city of Prescott Duane Steinbrink. Bridges may get another Oscar nomination for his performance here. Golden Globe nominee Andie MacDowell portrays Steinbrink’s wife Marvel in a small role.

**SPOILER WARNING**

Duane is a father-figure to Marsh and is able to get Marsh an evaluation that could lead to his crew being certified. Although Marsh believes he has blown the evaluation when he treats the evaluator with a lack of respect, the crew is certified. They take as their name the Granite Mountain Hotshots.  After the brave crew saves an important local tree, they are welcomed back as heroes. The film culminates in the Yarnell Hill fire on June 30, 2013.
************************
Eric Marsh’s Buddhist faith is depicted briefly in the film and one of the Hotshots is shown reading the Bible a few times. The film is rated PG-13 for a significant amount of adult language, including the misuse of God’s and Jesus’ names. It also depicts intense scenes of dangerous forest fires, including scenes of the Hotshots in action, which are captured by cinematographer Claudio Miranda, Oscar winner for Life of Pi.  There were some children in the audience – my wife and I both thought that due to the language and serious subject matter that it would not be appropriate for kids under 10-12.
The film was released with wildfires currently in the news as more than 40 have died as a result of fires in Northern California. As a result, though this film is receiving excellent reviews from both critics and viewers, it performed poorly at the box office.
Although this film was slow-going early on, it included great scenes of hard work, sacrificial service, camaraderie and loyal friendship.  It is overall well-made and acted, and a fitting tribute to the heroism of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

  • Preservation of the Saints. Does “once saved” mean “always saved”? For some, doubts about salvation can lead to a shaky faith, while others use the doctrine of eternal security as a license for spiritual carelessness. Against such extremes, in this message from a Ligonier National Conference, Alistair Begg examines the Bible’s teaching on the “preservation of the saints”—the belief that once someone has been saved, God enables him or her to persevere in faith. Scripture’s warnings, he reminds us, should be taken seriously, even as its assurances lead us to lives of greater devotion and trust in Christ alone.
  • Matrimony No More. John Piper writes “In sum, marriage ends because its procreating purpose is not needed in the resurrection (Luke 20:35–36). Marriage ends because all its pleasures are preludes and pointers to something so much better that the human heart cannot imagine (1 Corinthians 2:9). When the perfect comes, the partial passes away. And marriage ends in order to put the married and the non-married on the same footing for enjoying the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).”
  • Is Genre Important in Bible Reading?We must not let “genre” dictate our understanding of texts. Rather, at every place in the Bible, our question must be, “What is the author trying to communicate here?”  Watch this new four-minute video from John Piper.

Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

  • Self-Control and the Power of Christ. David Mathis writes “Because self-control is a gift, produced in and through us by God’s Spirit, Christians can and should be the people on the planet most hopeful about growing in self-control. We are, after all, brothers of the most self-controlled man in the history of the world.”
  • God Wounds Us Because He Loves Us. Marshall Segal writes “Don’t be afraid to feel the pain in suffering, and to grieve the pain, but let it lead you to God, not away from him. He is wounding you with love, and pleading with you to run to him.”
  • Welcome Everyone, Affirm No One.Trevin Wax writes “Self-affirmation is the gospel of the American culture; we are idolaters when we make it the gospel of the Christian church. The church exists not to affirm ourselves, but to adore the King who loved us and gave himself for us when there was nothing good in us to affirm. The more we affirm ourselves, the less we adore the King for his grace.”
  • Jesus is the Only Way to Heaven. Watch this message from Albert Mohler. We believe that there is only way to Heaven. The good news is that there is a way at all.
  • Acknowledging the Vulnerability of Not Having Control. Scotty Smith prays “Heavenly Father, we’re sothankful that you, quite literally, have the whole world in your hand. That frees us to acknowledge the obvious–we don’t. We don’t have control over a lot of things. But as we come to you this morning with empty hands, we do so, not to grab what isn’t ours to control, but to raise our hands in praise and surrender to you.”
  • Prosperity Theology Tells Us to Live Now as Kings, Not Servants. Randy Alcorn writes that the “prosperity gospel” is a “philosophy teaches that the more money you give away, the wealthier you will become. Following God through giving and other forms of obedience becomes a formula for abundant provision and the celebration of prosperous living. This is, in essence, a Christianized materialism.”

  • Theologian for the Ages: John Calvin. Steven Lawson writes “John Calvin (1509–1564) is easily the most important Protestant theologian of all time and remains one of the truly great men who have lived. A world-class theologian, a renowned teacher, an ecclesiastical statesman, and a valiant Reformer, Calvin is seen by many as the greatest influence on the church since the first century. Apart from the biblical authors themselves, Calvin stands as the most influential minister of the Word the world has ever seen.”
  • John Calvin in 200 Words. This is a helpful series on key Reformers from the folks at the Cripplegate
  • Looking at Wittenberg in the Time of Martin Luther. Justin Taylor writes “On Saturday, October 31, 1517, Dr. Martin Luther–a 33-year-old Roman Catholic priest and theology professor at the University of Wittenberg–stood in front of the doors to the Castle Church and nailed a paper with his now famous 95 Theses, handwritten in Latin.”
  • The Death of Ulrich Zwingli. William Boekestein shares this story adapted from his Young Adult biography of Ulrich Zwingli, Shepherd Warrior.
  • Max McLean’s New Production about Luther. Noted thespian and producer Max McLean has an imaginative new production touring the country and discusses “Martin Luther on Trial” with Eric Metaxas.

Courtesy of World Magazine

  • If you trust Christ, you’re united to Christ, and if you are united to Christ, you will bear fruit in Christ. No fruit, no union, no trust. Burk Parsons
  • Show the world that your God is worth ten thousand worlds to you. Charles Spurgeon
  • Every week I preach justification by faith to my people, because every week they forget it. Martin Luther
  • Remember He is the artist and you are only the picture. You can’t see it. So quietly submit to be painted. S. Lewis
  • If your joy rests on your parenting successes, you will be undone by your parenting failures. John Piper
  • We should ask the question John the Baptist faced: Would I gladly fade into obscurity if it meant more attention for Jesus? Kevin DeYoung
  • Jesus never changed the gospel to make it suit people; he changed people to make them fit into his gospel. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • When people are right with God, they are apt to be hard on themselves and easy on other people. John Newton
  • Christian confidence does not come from looking at the state of the world; it comes from Jesus. Michael Reeves


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

GRIPING VS. CONTENTMENT:

  • 4 Major Gripes Heard Around the Office. Dr. Alan Zimmerman writes “As a speaker in hundreds of companies, I’ve kept a record of the gripes I hear people utter. After all, it’s my job as a speaker/trainer/coach to turn those things around. These are the four most commonly heard gripes these days.”
  • What is Biblical Contentment? Dave Kraft writes “Contentment has less to do with the amount of, or intensity, of the activity you are involved in and more to do with your mind-set. Who are you truly trusting to see things happen in your life, relationships, work and ministry–yourself or God?”

VOCATION AND CALLING:

  • “Job Crafting”: Cultivating Our Vocation at Work. Stevan Becker writes “Cultivating our vocation is a matter of listening to God in the particulars of our work situation and discovering the unique things we’ve been created to do. Cultivating our job may mean taking what we have to work with and recreating
  • How to Glorify God at Work. John Piper writes “The point is: Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or work, do all to make God look as great as he really is.”
  • Your Calling Actually Isn’t About You. Sharon Hodde Miller writes “At some point, a self-centered calling conflicts with God-centered callings, because God-centered callings always lead to a cross. God-centered callings involve suffering, sacrifice, and looking like a fool, because this is the path of the Savior we follow. If your calling is about your image or your reputation or your comfort and convenience, it will eventually diverge from the path of Christ. At some point, God will ask you to do something that isn’t about you or doesn’t feel good or requires you to suffer, and you will have to make a choice.”
  • Help Me Teach the Bible on Work. The latest episode in Nancy Guthrie’s “Help Me Teach the Bible” is with Peter Orr on work.
  • Top Reasons Why a Long Commute May Be Worth It. Hugh Whelchel writes “Work is necessary for a meaningful life, but we must not make our work themeaning for our existence. As Christians, we must find our identity in Christ, not in our work. Yet, work is the major way we respond to God’s call on our lives. So, no matter the length of your commute, be encouraged that what you do today at work matters!”

REAL LIFE EXAMPLES:

  • God Works in Advertising, Too. Stevan Becker writes “God is intimately involved in our work. He cares about the details. He’s doing his work through the work of our hands—even in the “secular” sales and advertising space. No matter what you do for work, stop and pray through your projects, both the big ones and the small ones. Pray that he will be glorified as you serve him in all you do.”
  • Everybody Matters Podcast: Mark Sawyier of Bonfyre. This episode of the Everybody Matters Podcast features a discussion with Mark Sawyier of Bonfyre, a company who has created a workplace culture platform that is helping organizations engage, include and inspire their people.

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