Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

Courtesy of World Magazine

CURRENT EVENTS/IN THE NEWS:

  • 9 Things You Should Know About Sexual Misconduct. Joe Carter writes “For the past several weeks, reports and allegations of sexual assault and harassment by celebrities and politicians have been in the news every day. Here are nine things you should know about these forms of sexual misconduct.”
  • Tyler Perry Visits with Eric Metaxas. Tyler Perry recently visited the Eric Metaxas Show to talk about his new book Higher is Waiting. The interview begins at the 21:30 mark.
  • Law and Grace in Roman J. Israel, Esq. Kenneth Moreland writes “Christian viewers may disagree in their interpretations of Roman J. Israel, Esq., but it is nevertheless exciting to see a serious Hollywood production that openly invites such discussion and revolves around such questions.”
  • Religious Liberty and Racial Justice—It All Matters to God. Watch this two- minute video from Jackie Hill Perry. She states “Religious liberty, abortion, marriage, and racial injustice—all of it matters to God, so all of it must matter to us.”
  • The Hidden Hands of Caitlyn Jenner. Andrew T. Walker writes “The hiding of Caitlyn Jenner’s masculine hands show that the way through gender dysphoria cannot be to transition our gender. The holding out of Jesus’s scarred hands shows there’s a different way through all our struggles and brokenness. It’s to come to him, and to find forgiveness and transformation.”
  • It’s Official: Evangelicals Appreciate Chick-fil-A the Most. Kate Shellnutt writes “62 percent of evangelicals considered Chick-fil-A to have a positive impact on their community, compared to 48 percent of Americans on average.”

  • The Christian’s Job Description. Irv Busenitz writes “Our job is to glorify God. This must be our purpose in life, whatever we do, do all to the glory of God. How are we to accomplish this? By placing the benefit of others ahead of ourselves, by foregoing our liberties so that the lost might be saved, and by pursuing the likeness of Christ.”
  • Matt Forte on Sharing the Gospel. Watch this less than two minute video of NFL running back Matt Forte talking about how God has empowered him to share Christ even when it’s uncomfortable.

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5 Ways to be a Servant Leader During Times of Significant Change


Organizations are continually pursuing improvement, and that’s a good thing. We all want our organizations to remain relevant, and you can’t do that without changing. However, the result of this is that our workplaces are always going through transformation. Sometimes that change is significant and it impacts jobs, perhaps those of the leader and their team. Those times are when leaders really need to step up and not check out. Here are 5 ways servant leaders can add value during times of significant change:

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. I can’t over stress the importance of communicating what you know about the change to your team during a time of significant flux. Email communication is fine, but more important is face to face. Be visible, walk around and visit with your team.  Sit down and visit if you sense that a team member would like to talk. Even though you may be busy, make this your priority.
  2. Listen. Very much related to you communicating what you know about the change is you listening to what is on your team members’ hearts and minds. My leader regularly holds “What’s on Your Mind” sessions. The sole purpose for these sessions is to give members of her teams the opportunity to ask questions and share what is on their minds. During periods of significant change, make time each day to listen to your team members to hear their questions and concerns, their feedback and about the impact the changes are having on them.
  3. Show empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – putting yourself in their shoes. Some leaders are good at this and frankly some aren’t. During times of significant change, it is imperative that servant leaders show empathy. The leader may or may not be personally impacted, but they must enter in with their team members during these times.
  4. Be intentional. The servant leader must be proactive, and do whatever they can to aid their team members during times of significant change. You may not be able to influence the change that is impacting your team, but you can do other things. For example, if jobs are being reduced or eliminated, a leader can:
  • Review internal and external job postings and share ones with team members that they may be qualified for.
  • Reach out to other managers who have openings on behalf of your team members.
  • Help prepare team members by reviewing their draft job postings, providing “mock interviews”, etc.
  1. Pray.  Most significantly, pray for your team members going through the change. Most likely each team member will see the change in a different way. For example, some may see the change as positive, and some may see it as absolutely devastating. And where they are in processing the change may differ from day to day. Lift your team members up to our Heavenly Father for protection and comfort during stressful times of significant change.

These are a few ways that servant leaders can add value to their teams during times of significant change. What others would you add to this list?


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My Review of THE MAN WHO INVENTED CHRISTMAS

The Man Who Invented Christmas, rated PG
****

The Man Who Invented Christmas is a heart-warming, family-friendly film about how Charles Dickens wrote his classic book A Christmas Carol, which helped change the way we celebrate Christmas. It could well become a new holiday classic, and is a contender for my favorite movie of the year. The film is directed by Bharat Nalluri, and the screenplay is written by Susan Coyne, based on the book by Les Standiford.
As the film opens in 1843, Dickens, well-played by Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, Beauty and the Beast), is 31 years old, and a well-known and wealthy author. His books Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist have brought him wealth, allowing him to live in a large home, with household staff and a nanny for his children.  But his last three books have flopped, and he is very concerned about finances, and that he will end in debtor’s prison like his father, played by Jonathan Pryce, when Charles was a young boy. Dickens has four children and a fifth on the way. The pressure is on to write another bestseller, but now he has a bad case of writer’s block and a house full of distractions, which include his mother and father, who still struggle financially even with assistance from their famous son.
The film focuses on six weeks in Dickens’ life as he struggles to overcome his writing block, and writes what will become the beloved novel A Christmas Carol, one of the best-selling books of all time. We see that he slowly begins to get inspiration from the people he runs into in his daily life in London. For example, there is an elderly waiter at a club named Marley. He hears the family nanny read the children a ghost story. And lastly, he observes a burial in which only one grumpy old man is there to pay his respects. That character will become motivation for Ebenezer Scrooge, who is marvelously played by Oscar winner Christopher Plummer (Beginners). And there may be more than a little bit of Dickens himself in Scrooge as well.
Despite help from his longtime friend and manager John Forster (Justin Edwards), Dickens’ publishers weren’t interested in a Christmas novel, as it was at that time considered to be just a minor holiday in England. As a result, Dickens decides to finance the book himself, despite being heavily in debt. That adds more pressure to him, and we see him frantically trying to complete the book in time for Christmas.
As he begins formulating the story, the characters come to life, and he begins interacting with them. I particularly enjoyed Scrooge feeling like he wasn’t being portrayed fairly and thus he wanted to tell his side of the story. Dickens also begins having nightmares, which include flashbacks to his childhood.
The film is well-acted and directed, and is a creative telling of how Dickens developed A Christmas Carol. Stevens is excellent as Dickens, as is Plummer as Scrooge. Anna Murphy portrays the house maid Tara, who gives Dickens some advice on the story, and Morfydd Clark plays Dickens’ loyal wife Catherine. I really enjoyed the costumes and set design from 19th century London.
There are not any content issues in this wonderful, family-friendly film. Highly recommended!


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Trouble No More: The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981 – Bob Dylan (Box Set, Deluxe Edition)
****

I had only been a Dylan fan for only a few years, and not yet a Christian, when Slow Training Coming was released in 1979. He would follow that album with Saved in 1979 and Shot of Love in 1981, in what has become known as his controversial “Gospel Period”. I saw two shows on his 1981 tour. By that time, he had started including some of his older songs in the setlist.
This new collection had been rumored to be the next Bootleg Series release for some time, and I was eagerly anticipating it. It was definitely worth the wait and is one of my favorite albums of the year.
The box set edition features 102 songs, includes 14 previously unreleased songs (including the outstanding “Making a Liar Out of Me”), unreleased live performances and rare studio outtakes. In fact, with the exception of “Ye Shall Be Changed,” which was included on the first in this series, 1991’s The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1-3), none of the tracks here have been previously released. The live versions include Dylan with a strong and animated voice, supported by an excellent backing band with female backing singers, bringing an energy to the new songs that the studio versions didn’t. In addition, I felt that the outtakes were often better than the officially released versions. Fans of Dylan know that he is always changing the arrangements of his songs in concert. This is demonstrated in the six versions of “Slow Train” included here, all of which have their own strengths.

The collection is organized as follows: Continue reading


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My Review of ROMAN J. ISRAEL, ESQ.

Roman J. Israel, Esq., rated PG-13
**

Denzel Washington’s latest film is a flawed film that focuses on the main character’s values and moral failure.
The film, featuring a strong cast, is written and directed by Oscar nominee Dan Gilroy (Nightcrawler). Cinematography is by Oscar winner Robert Elswit (There Will Be Blood). After the film’s premiere at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival, 13 minutes were cut from the film and a key scene was moved up earlier in the film.
The film is set in downtown Los Angeles, which is where Roman J. Israel lives and works; he is played by Washington, seven-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner (Training Day, Glory). His appearance is stunning; he wears outdated clothes, outdated glasses and an outdated hairstyle. He has a gap between his two front teeth, carries a heavy briefcase and always has a pair of headphones on to listen to his iPod. The ringtone on his flip-phone is Eddie Hendricks’ 1973 hit “Keep on Truckin’”. The man is definitely stuck in the 70’s.
Roman is a lawyer in a two-man criminal defense law firm that handles cases for the downtrodden and underprivileged. The firm has never made much money and is in debt. Roman lives in a modest apartment and often eats peanut butter. The owner of the firm, William Jackson, is the public face of the firm. He argues the cases in court and meets with clients, while Roman does the behind the scenes work (research, etc.). Roman may be a savant or has Asperger’s Syndrome. He has remarkable legal knowledge, but is very uncomfortable socially.

***SPOILER ALERT ***
When Jackson has a heart attack, the Jackson family decides to let Roman go. They hire George Pierce, a rich corporate defense attorney played by Golden Globe winner Colin Farrell (In Bruges) to close the firm down. Eventually Pierce in turn hires Roman at his firm. Roman, who believes in fighting for the underprivileged and has a strong sense of justice, tells George that he is all about the money and not justice.
A key point in the film is a bad decision that Roman makes. The decision was out of character for the principled Roman, and it is not really explained as to why he did what he did, though we know that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Carmen Ejogo (Selma), plays Maya Alston, a young legal activist, who develops a romantic relationship with Roman. Again, why she is so enamored with the not very likeable Roman is never explained.
********************

Washington delivers his usual strong performance as Roman.  Farrell does a good job portraying the arrogant owner of a high-priced law firm. We see him changing, adopting Roman’s values as the film progresses. This is not really explained either, as Roman is seen moving away from those very values.
The film is rated PG-13 for some adult language, including the abuse of God’s and Jesus’ names. Themes in the film include justice, sin, judgement.
Although there are things to like in this film, particularly Washington’s acting performance, there were just too many holes in the script by Gilroy for me to give this film a good recommendation.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book Reviews

Trouble In Mind: Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years – What Really Happened by Clinton Heylin. Lesser Gods. 320 pages. 2017
****

The author writes that this book is very much about Dylan’s own response to both his newfound religious beliefs and the reaction it engendered by a cynical media. It serves as an excellent companion to Dylan’s recently released eight-disc edition of Trouble No More: The Gospel Years (The Bootleg Series Vol. 13). I enjoyed listening to the 102 songs on the box set as I read this book.
I had only been a Dylan fan for only a few years, and not yet a Christian, when Slow Training Coming was released in 1979. Dylan would follow that album with the poorly recorded Saved in 1979 and Shot of Love in 1981, in what has become known as his controversial “Gospel Period”. I saw two of the Midwest shows on his 1981 tour.
The author provides a detailed look at this fascinating period, detailing these three recordings, and the various other songs that Dylan wrote and recorded, many of which have just now been released. He also provides a very interesting look at Dylan in concert, from the early shows in which he only performed his new Christian songs and none of his older songs.
So, what really happened? The author states that Dylan, through the ministry of the Vineyard, accepted Christ as his Savior and was baptized. He then attended an intense three-and-a-half-month course studying about the life of Jesus and principles of the faith. Hal Lindsey’s best-selling book Satan is Alive and Well on Planet Earth seems to have been a significant influential part of Dylan’s discipleship. This was a particularly prolific time of songwriting for Dylan.
The author tells us that the reaction from the fans and critics on the first night in San Francisco when he played only his Christian songs, would set the tone for six months of shows and define the likely critical reception when Slow Train Coming’s follow-up album, Saved, was released the following June. For that album, for the first time in his career, Dylan planned to go straight from the road to the studio. Although the album had some very good songs on it, the official release was poorly recorded, with little of the passion the songs had in concert. It was also a critical and commercial failure, and included cover art that Dylan’s label wasn’t happy with. The cover art was later replaced. Continue reading


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

  • What Does Washington Have to Do with Jerusalem? In this thirty-six minute video from the Gospel Coalition’s 2017 National Conference, Senator Ben Sasse speaks about humble politics.
  • Halladay Was Everybody’s Hero. Joe Posnanski offers a tribute to future Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Ray Halladay, who died recently in a plane accident.
  • 4 Reasons You Should Visit the Museum of the Bible. Joe Carter writes “The Museum of the Bible (MOTB) is a new 430,000-square-foot museum located near the National Mall and the nations’ Capitol in Washington, D.C. that officially opened to the public yesterday (November 17).”
  • Two Things That Should Be Obvious. Kevin DeYoung writes “First, men should honor women, not harass them; treat them as fellow image bearers, not sexual fantasies; and protect them, not perpetrate disgusting advances against them. Second, character cannot be compartmentalized.”

COURTESY OF WORLD MAGAZINE

CHURCH NEWS:

  • Pastor Monday Morning Press Conference. Pastor Trent talks about his performance and statistics from Sunday morning’s service and talks about how he can Improve.
  • The Nashville “Megachurch” That Embraced Gay Marriage Two Years Ago Has Cratered. Denny Burk writes “This is a sad but predictable result of a pastor who leads a church to apostatize from the Christian faith.”
  • Who Are the “Broken Wolves” in the Evangelical Community Today? Randy Alcorn writes “While I don’t feel comfortable naming names, there are quite a few people out there who talk about the personal difficulties they’ve experienced in life, including abuse, often abuse at the hands of church people. They tend to look at certain doctrines of the faith with great suspicion or even abhorrence. Among those is the substitutionary atonement of Christ. They say that if God’s wrath was poured out on Jesus for our sin, then that means that God’s redemptive plan is centered on an act of ‘divine child abuse.’”

  • No Epidural Strong Enough for Pain in Parenting. Nancy Guthrie writes “In one of the Bible’s most significant understatements, God said to the first mom: “In pain you shall bring forth children.” Surely no one who has ever been a parent would argue with it. Of course, it’s not referring merely to the physical pain of labor and delivery. At that point, the pain is just getting started.”
  • Becoming a Titus 2 Woman. Susan Hunt writes “Now, at age seventy-seven, I still wonder—have I become a Titus 2 woman yet? My inclination is to answer by evaluating my performance. Invariably, this leads to despair or arrogance depending on the numbers. Then the Spirit renews my mind as I read God’s Word. He shows me markers to help me think biblically.”
  • Don’t Be That Guy. Tony Reinke writes “In these dozens of ways, Paul paints the contours of the Christian life with darkened shadows of opposites — teaching us what to beby warning us what not to be. Again, the point of the list is not to find our Christian identity in what we’re not. Rather, our identity is rooted in what we are: united to our glorious Savior. Out of his work and power can we be told, “Don’t be that guy.” “Don’t be that gal.””
  • 8 Lies Christians Believe About Success. Emily T. Wierenga writes “I have spent my whole life trying to be successful. I thought it was what we were supposed to do. Worse than that, I thought success was the mark of a blessed Christian.”
  • When You Want to Change Your Husband. In this ten-minute video, Jackie Hill Perry, Jen Wilkin, and Nancy Guthrie discuss what a married woman should do when she wants to change her husband’s behavior.
  • Why Does Gossip Feel So Good? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper answers “I’m wondering how God defines gossip. What’s the difference between gossip and simply sharing information about another person? And how do I avoid becoming a gossiper?”

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My Review of THE STAR

The Star, rated PG
***

The Star is a funny, family friendly animated film that provides a unique perspective on the Christmas story, but still stays true to the main points of the biblical account. The film is directed by Oscar nominee Timothy Reckart (Head Over Heels), and includes voicing by a number of stars. The film is written by Carlos Kotkin and Simon Moore.
Abby is a small mouse voiced by Emmy winner Kristen Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies). She is present when the angel comes to Mary to tell her that she will have the Son of God. Once Mary is told this news, a bright star appears in the sky.
Bo is a donkey, voiced by Steven Yeun (The Walking Dead), who has dreams of joining the royal parade. He is encouraged by his best friend Dave, a dove, voiced by Keegan-Michael Key (Key and Peele). Unfortunately, Bo is confined to the life of a working donkey, every day going around and around, over and over, crushing grain in the village mill. But then his older co-worker, voiced by Kris Kristofferson, helps him escape to pursue his dreams. Bo injures his leg in the escape and hides at the home of Mary, voiced by Golden Globe winner Gina Rodriquez (Jane the Virgin), and Joseph Zachary Levi (Tangled), who have just celebrated their wedding. Mary takes a liking to Bo, but Joseph not so much. Mary takes Bo in and nurses him back to health.
Meanwhile, the three magi go to see Herod, riding on three camels – Felix, voiced by Tracy Morgan, Cyrus, voiced by Tyler Perry, and Deborah, voiced by Oprah Winfrey. They ask Herod about the king to be born. When Herod, voiced by Oscar winner Christopher Plummer (The Beginners), hears this, he orders a census with the purpose of finding the prophesied Messiah. Mary and Joseph leave Bo behind and make the trip to Bethlehem. Herod sends a large, mean soldier with two vicious dogs Thaddeus, voiced by Golden Globe winner Ving Rhames (Don King: Only in America) and Rufus, voiced by Gabriel Iglesias, out to find Mary and the unborn child. The ferocious dogs could be too scary for very small children. When the soldier and dogs go to Mary and Joseph’s home, Bo knows that he and Dave must go and warn Mary and Joseph. Along the way they meet a helpful sheep named Ruth, voiced by Aidy Bryant.
The film tells the story of Jesus’ birth from the perspective of a donkey named Bo. This has similarities to theologian R.C. Sproul’s children’s book The Donkey Who Carried a King, which offers a unique perspective on the events of Jesus’ Passion week.
The film features some excellent Christmas music, by artists such as Mariah Carey, Take 6 and Kirk Franklin.  The Star is family friendly, with minimal content issues and humor. Those humorous moments are from Dave the dove – shaking his bottom, getting a laugh from the many children in the theatre, and making reference to dropping a “well-placed ‘number 2’”.
This would be an excellent film to enjoy with your family this Christmas season.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

  • Pastor, Visit Their Workplace. Justin Buzzard writes “Because God designed people to work, my congregants spend most of the week at their workplace. I realized years ago that a powerful way to know and love my church members is to visit them there. I want to know this massive part of their lives. There’s a connection that can happen in the workplace that’s more holistic than a conversation in the pews or at a coffee shop.”
  • Community and the Cubicle. The High Calling blog writes “What would it look like to extend the community-cultivating power of the gospel into our cities, into our workplaces, into our churches? How would the workplace change?”

REAL-LIFE EXAMPLES:

  • Astros Chaplain: Play for God and Pray to Win Kate Shellnutt interviews the Houston Astros Chaplain Juan Jesus Alaniz. Alaniz states “We try to get them to that higher-level perspective, instead of just “I’m playing for my country. I’m playing for my family. I’m playing for my Astros fans.” No, you’re playing for the Lord. The Word of the Lord never comes back empty, so we keep sharing those things with them. It’s nice to see them respond.”
  • World Series Winning Baseball Player Shares His Faith in God. Kristen Undset writes about World Series Champion Jose Altuve, who states ““We need to not just ask God but thank Him for everything like our health, our family. And ask Him to bless our homes and to always be present in our daily lives. And to keep us safe is most important.”
  • Faith at Work. Russell Shorto writes “Chuck Ripka is a money lender – that is to say a mortgage banker – and his institution, the Riverview Community Bank in Otsego, Minnesota, is a way station for Christ.”
  • Building Houses for God’s Glory | Merle and Dave Stoltzfus. Bill Peel writes “David and Merle Stoltzfus take Psalm 127 very personally as residential developers in eastern Pennsylvania. But they don’t just build structures, they build communities. Because they believe that God is in their work, the Stoltzfus brothers take Jesus’ command to love our neighbor seriously.”
  • The Kind of Leader Worth Following. Scott Sauls writes this tribute to Tim Keller.

YOUR WORK MATTERS TO GOD:

  • The Value of Our Work. Listen to this interview with Bryan Chapell about how God values our work.
  • How the Reformation Revolutionized Diaper Changing. Greg Forster writes “Luther wasn’t the first to see this calling to serve God in all of life, which theologians call the doctrine of vocation. And those who came after him have contributed significantly to our understanding of it. But Luther was one of the most important champions of this doctrine in history.”
  • Why Dishwashing Matters in God’s Kingdom. Hugh Whelchel writes “Even though our work has eternal meaning, it doesn’t mean it will be easy. But it does mean that we can live a fully integrated life, where there is no division between the sacred and the secular, where our Christian faith infiltrates all of who we are and what we do, not just on Sundays, but on Mondays, too.”

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