Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Music Reviews
The Greatest Showman (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

The Greatest Showman is a very entertaining and well-made musical inspired by the life of P.T. Barnum, featuring excellent new songs by the Oscar winning lyricists from La La Land. The film includes eleven new songs written by Oscar (La La Land) and Tony (Dear Evan Hansen) Award winners Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

Below are a few comments on each song:

The Greatest Show – The film opens with the title song performed in a big song and dance production number. Jackman, with his Broadway experience, is excellent in his portrayal of Barnum. He is joined on this song by Zac Efron, Zendaya and Keala Settle.

A Million Dreams – This song is initially sung by Ziv Zaifman as a young Barnum and then shifts to the adult Barnum with Jackman and Michelle Williams singing.  In the film, the song is sung as we see a flashback in which Barnum, a young and impoverished tailor’s son, played by Ellis Rubin, first meets the privileged but sweet Charity, played by Skylar Dunn. We see them fall in love, but Charity’s father tells P.T. to stay away from his daughter, who is then sent away to a boarding school. But we see them stay in touch through letters. The film moves forward a dozen or so years, with Jackman portraying Barnum and Michelle Williams portraying his now wife Charity.

A Million Dreams (Reprise) – This short song is sung by Barnum’s daughters Caroline (Austyn Johnson) and Helen (Caroline Barnum) and Jackman.

Come Alive – This upbeat song is sung by Jackman, Keala Settle, Zendaya, Daniel Everidge.

The Other Side – In this song Jackman as Barnum convinces the socialite playwright Phillip Carlyle, played by Zac Efron to become his business partner.

Never Enough – This powerful song is performed in the film by Jenny Lind “The Swedish Nightingale”, the best singer in the world.  While Lind is played in the film by Rebecca Ferguson, her singing is actually performed by Loren Allred.

This is Me – This powerful song has received an Oscar nomination. It is performed by Tony nominee Keala Settle, who plays the bearded lady in the film.

Rewrite the Stars – This song is performed by Zac Efron and Zendaya. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll remember their powerful scene in the circus ring about their love that has so many obstacles.

Tightrope – This beautiful song is sung by Michelle Williams as Barnum’s wife as she sings that she risks it all to be with Barnum and the life they’ve chosen.

Never Enough (Reprise) – This is a short reprise of Loren Allred’s powerful rendition of “Never Enough”

From Now On – This song starts slowly with Jackman’s vocal over piano and builds powerfully as the celebratory closing song of the film.

I’m not usually a fan of movie musicals, but I really enjoyed The Greatest Showman. It is a film that the entire family can enjoy. If you’ve seen the film, you’re most likely going to want to check out the movie soundtrack.

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Ruth (Food for the Journey Keswick Devotionals) by Alistair Begg with Elizabeth McQuoid. IVP UK. 72 pages. 2017 

The Food for the Journey series is a new series of 30-day undated devotionals, which takes messages by well-loved Bible teachers from the Keswick Convention and reformats them into accessible daily devotionals and in a size that will fit into your jacket pocket or handbook. This particular edition features devotionals from respected pastor Alistair Begg on the Old Testament book of Ruth.  Each day of the devotional from Begg ends with a newly written section (perhaps by the co-author Elizabeth McQuoid), designed to help the reader apply the passage from Ruth to their own life and situation.
We are told that it was into a whirl of social, religious and moral chaos that the book of Ruth was written, reminding the children of God that there was hope; that a remnant of true faith remained; that God was continuing to work in the lives of ordinary people as they went about their daily chores.  Begg tells us that this is the only book in the Bible entirely devoted to the domestic story of a woman. He states that the book shows the amazing compassion and empathy of God for the back streets and side alleys and the people who feel themselves to be last, lost and left out. He encourages us by stating that God is still preoccupied with people like Naomi, telling us that God sets his love and affection on unlikely people, in unlikely contexts, doing routine things. He states that quite surprisingly, God chooses to work his eternal purposes out in the ordinariness of the lives of ordinary people.
I’m encouraged to see this new series of books. Consider adding this book on Ruth to your devotional reading. Continue reading

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My Review of 12 STRONG

My Review of 12 Strong, rated R

12 Strong is based on the true story of a military operation in Afghanistan shortly after the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. This intense film shows the courage of the “Horse Soldiers”, a Special Forces team against incredible odds in very difficult conditions.
The film is directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, in his feature film debut. The screenplay is written by Oscar winner Ted Tally (The Silence of the Lambs) and Peter Craig (The Town) based on Doug Stanton’s 2009 book Horse Soldiers: The Extraordinary Story of a Band of U.S. Soldiers Who Rode to Victory in Afghanistan. The film had a budget of $35 million.
Captain Mitch Nelson, played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor), had recently accepted a desk job at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. However, after the attack on the World Trade Center, he pleads with his superiors to reassemble his 12-man Special Forces team, which includes chief warrant officer Hal Spencer, played by two-time Oscar nominee Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals, Revolutionary Road), Sam Diller, played by Michael Pena (American Hustle, Crash), and weapons expert Ben Milo, played by William Fichtner (Moonlight). Nelson’s orders are given by Colonel Mulholland, played by William Fichtner (Crash, Black Hawk Down), and Lieutenant Colonel Bowers, played by Emmy nominee Rob Riggle (Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice). Told that the mission could be completed in six weeks, Mitch tells his superiors that due to the upcoming winter weather, it will need to be completed in half that time. Their mission is to partner with the Uzbek warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum, played by David Negahban, to capture the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, a Taliban stronghold, to prevent another attack on U.S. soil. General Dostum has his own reason for taking on the Taliban. They will be taking on an enemy that has many more men and resources than they do.
When Operational Detachment-Alpha 595 (ODA 595 for short), gets to the base of operations, called the Alamo, the war lord gives them just six horses.  Mitch’s team has to get close enough to the enemy to give the U.S. bombers accurate coordinates to drop bombs from 35,000 feet. We see several of these bombs dropped throughout the film and many battles until the final battle which takes place in a large valley, in which Mitch, General Dostum and their men on horseback take on the enemy equipped with tanks and rocket launchers.
The dry mountainous region of Afghanistan is captured well by the cinematography work of Rasmus Videbaek, and the Emmy nominated Lorne Balfe (Genius, Restless) provides a powerful musical score.
Themes in the film include courage, teamwork and patriotism. Content concerns include a significant amount of war violence. In addition to several intense battles, we see a suicide bombing and a woman executed in front of her family. The film also contains a significant amount of adult language, including many abuses of both God’s and Jesus’s names.
12 Strong tells the incredible true story of the Horse Soldiers, one of the first groups sent into action to retaliate after the bombing of the World Trade Center. They go into battle against incredible odds, including having to travel on horseback over the difficult terrain, the number of enemy combatants, a lack of resources, etc. The war violence depicted in the film is to be expected. Unfortunately, the film is marred by many abuses of God’s and Jesus’s names. In addition, the film is too long at 2 hours and 10 minutes.  The film does a good job of personalizing the characters, and we see the Captain with the weight of the lives of 12 men on his shoulders.  He shows leadership courage, strategic decision-making and wisdom under intense pressure.

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My Review of HOSTILES

Hostiles, rated R

Hostiles is a well-acted and beautifully filmed western about two enemies who unexpectedly find themselves on a long, dangerous and uncomfortable journey. Unfortunately, the film is painfully slow, overly long at 134 minutes, and features politically correct messages.
The film is directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Black Mass, Out of the Furnace). Cooper wrote the screenplay based on a manuscript by the late Oscar winner Donald E. Stewart (Missing). The landscapes of the west are beautifully captured in the cinematography of Masanobu Takayanagi. The film features a powerful musical score from Emmy nominee Max Richter (Taboo).
The film is set in 1892. United States Cavalry Captain Joseph J. Blocker, played by Oscar winner Christian Bale (The Fighter) has been fighting Comanche, Apache and Cheyenne natives for more than twenty years, and he has a deep hatred for them. But then he is ordered to escort one of his most despised enemies, Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk, played by Wes Studi (The Last of the Mohicans), and his family from New Mexico back to the Chief’s home territory, Valley of the Bears, in Montana. Chief Yellow Hawk is dying of cancer. The President of the United States has determined that he is to return to Montana to be buried, and then his family will be released to a nearby Indian reservation. Blocker initially refuses, but at the threat of a court martial and the loss of his Army pension, he reluctantly agrees.
Blocker sets off on the long journey with Chief Yellow Hawk and his family, as well as his longtime friends Master Sgt. Thomas Metz, played by Rory Cochrane (Argo), Corporal Henry Woodson, played by Jonathan Majors, and a few others. They soon come upon a farmhouse in New Mexico that has been raided by the Comanche, which we had seen in the film’s opening scene. The only survivor is mother/wife Rosalie Quaid, played by Oscar nominee Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl). Rosalie joins the group on their journey. On the way, they are attacked numerous times by various enemies.
The film shows how Captain Blocker, Chief Yellow Hawk and the others have to work together to fend off the attacks. Along the way, the group receives a new assignment to pick up Sgt. Charles Wills, played by Ben Foster (Hell or High Water), and transport him to another town where he will be tried for murder.
Content concerns include extreme violence and bloodshed, and some adult language, including a few abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names. Themes include hatred, reconciliation, faith and injustice. Three of the characters in the film are shown to be Christians.
Bale, one of today’s best actors, is excellent as Blocker. Studi solidly portrays the ailing Chief Yellow Hawk and Rosamund Pike is superb as the surviving widow.
Hostiles is a well-acted and beautifully filmed movie that moves along at a painfully slow pace (think of the movie Nebraska). It serves as a “message movie” about how the Native Americans were mistreated.

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Goodbye Christopher Robin, rated PG 


Goodbye Christopher Robin tells the heart-breaking story of the relationship between Winnie the Pooh author A.A. Milne and his son Christopher Robin. The film is well directed and written, beautifully filmed and features some solid performances, particularly from the adorable Will Tilston, who plays the young Christopher.  

The film is directed by Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn, Women in Gold), and written by Frank Cottrell Boyce (The Railway Man, Millions) and Simon Vaughan. The film was released forty years after Disney’s 1977 film The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. 

The film is set in three different time periods. A.A. (Alan) Milne is portrayed by Domnhall Gleeson (Brooklyn, Star Wars, Bill Weasley in Harry Potter). Milne, referred to as Blue, is a writer, and returns from World War I with what we would call today post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. He is married to Daphne, played by Oscar nominee Margot Robbie (I, Tonya). Daphne is not portrayed as a very likeable character at all.  

In an attempt to improve their marriage, the couple has a boy in 1920, named Christopher Robin; however, they are not good parents at all. They hire Olive, a nanny played by three-time Golden Globe nominee Kelly Macdonald (Boardwalk Empire, The Girl in the Café), to look after Christopher. Olive is a Christian who teaches Christopher to pray. Christopher grows closer to Olive, who he calls Nou, than he does his own parents, as she seems the only one to truly love him.  

The second section of the film will most likely be viewer’s favorite.  


We see the family move to the country. A.A. is still having trouble writing. Daphne, a socialite, leaves for London, and Olive leaves to care for her mother who is ill. Christopher, who was called by his family Billy Moon and nicknamed C.R., and his father finally bond over long walks through the woods. We see how Christopher’s toys become those familiar characters (Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, etc.), in Milne’s children’s stories. Christopher asks his father to write a book for him, but, when Milne publishes Winnie the Pooh in 1926, and it becomes wildly popular, Christopher’s childhood is turned upside down as he becomes a celebrity and exploited by his parents.  

The third section of the film has Alex Lawther (The Imitation Game) portraying the 18-year-old Christopher Robin. His fame has made him a target for bullying at a boarding school. He desires to serve in World War II. 


The film was beautifully shot on location in Oxfordshire, Surrey, East Sussex, and London by cinematographer Ben Smithard (The Man Who Invented Christmas). I enjoyed the costumes in the film and the musical score provided by two-time Oscar nominee Carter Burwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Carol).  The film is about the author and inspiration for the most popular childrens’ books of all time, but  it is certainly not a film for children. It is emotional, nostalgic, touching and heart-breaking.

Themes in the film include parenting, father-son relationships, childhood, family, and fame.  

Goodbye Christopher Robin is a well-made film, but it is one that is often painful to watch.  

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

  • Body Aches, Heart Longings, and Growth in Compassion. Scotty Smith prays “An eternity of perfect health is looking better and better, Father. Our healing will be complete, and never again will we experience sickness and pain in any form. No more cancer or flu, joint replacements or even runny noses; no more addictions or heart disease; no more memory loss or even hiccups. Hallelujah, and hasten the Day!”
  • A Calvinist Evangelist? Keith Mathison writes “If I have heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: “A Calvinist evangelist? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Calvinism undermines evangelism.”
  • What Value is the Old Testament to the Christian Life? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper answers the question “What are the best uses of the Old Testament for giving shape to our Christian lives today?”
  • When Our Heroes Don’t Live Up to Their Theology. Thomas Kidd writes “Even the Bible tells of no perfect heroes, at least among those who were merely human. David, Peter, and Paul are examples of godly people who committed terrible sins. So hopefully we can be honest about our historical heroes’ failings, and yet maintain appreciation for the good that God did through them, by his grace.”
  • R.C.Sproul’s Final Sermon: A Great Salvation. R.C. Sproul preached his final sermon on November 26, 2017. The title of the sermon was “A Great Salvation” from Hebrews 2: 1-4. He concluded that sermon with these words: “I pray with all my heart that God will awaken each one of us today to the sweetness, the loveliness, the glory of the gospel declared by Christ.” Listen to the sermon here.
  • A Catechism on the Heart. Sinclair Ferguson writes “Sometimes people ask authors, “Which of your books is your favorite?” The first time the question is asked, the response is likely to be “I am not sure; I have never really thought about it.” But forced to think about it, my own standard response has become, “I am not sure what my favorite book is; but my favorite title is A Heart for God.” I am rarely asked, “Why?” but (in case you ask) the title simply expresses what I want to be: a Christian with a heart for God.”
  • What Is It Like to Enjoy God?Watch this message that John Piper delivered at the recent Passion Conference in Atlanta.

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles


  • The Power of Deep Rest. Tim Keller writes “To understand this deep rest we need to look at the biblical meaning of the Sabbath—to understand what it is a sign of, and what it points to.”
  • Burnout Is Not a Calling. Scotty Smith prays “Being poured out is a gospel thing; being burned out is a foolish thing.”
  • 7 Secrets to Being a High Achiever. Ron Edmondson writes “I get asked frequently how I am able to get so much done and still take care of myself and my family.”


  • Impacting Your Workplace Starts with Your Character. Art Lindsley writes “If we want to cultivate character in ourselves that is a blessing to our workplaces, families, and communities, we have to start with our thoughts and resolve to act in a different manner.”
  • Why Curiosity Matters So Much in the Workplace. Barnabas Piper writes “When you think of curiosity –if you think of curiosity – you might picture exploring the mountaintops or reading books or exploring new places. But how does curiosity fit and, more importantly, why does it matter in the workplace? In productivity? In business and commerce and trade? Since most of us spend the bulk of our waking hours in these contexts it is worth considering.”
  • Turning the Tide on the Rudeness in the Workplace. John Kyle writes “Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 is a guide to how we are to love at work—love is patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not arrogant, not rude, etc.”
  • The Biggest Hindrance in a Leader’s Growth. Eric Geiger writes that a lack of self-awareness is the biggest hindrance to a leader’s development.
  • How Do You Show Patience at Work and Still Be Productive? John Kyle writes “Even with the harsh realities of the workplace, we are called to love with a genuine love. Ultimately, Jesus showed us how to love. We can’t love perfectly as he did, but we can follow him and learn his moves.”
  • The Humble Leader. Eric Geiger writes “Leadership is often very humbling, and leadership is most dangerous when it ceases to be.”

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