Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy by Timothy Keller. Viking. 272 pages. 2018

The Prodigal Prophet is quite simply the best book I’ve read this year. It offers many insights that I never considered about the small (four chapter) book of Jonah, and makes helpful applications to our current culture. Depending on your political persuasion, and stance on the current immigration debate, chances are you may not agree with everything he writes.
Keller tells us “The book of Jonah yields many insights about God’s love for societies and people beyond the community of believers; about his opposition to toxic nationalism and disdain for other races; and about how to be “in mission” in the world despite the subtle and unavoidable power of idolatry in our own lives and hearts. Grasping these insights can make us bridge builders, peacemakers, and agents of reconciliation in the world. Such people are the need of the hour”.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review… and a review of Christ’s Call to Reform the Church: Timeless Demands from The Lord to His People by John MacArthur
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman

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THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles, Cartoons & Quotes

  • Apostacy and How It Happens. Sinclair Ferguson writes “Yes, apostasy happens. Sometimes the catalyst is flagrant sin. The pain of conviction and repentance is refused, and the only alternative to it is wholesale rejection of Christ. But sometimes the catalyst is a thorn growing quietly in the heart, an indifference to the way of the Cross, a drifting that is not reversed by the knowledge of biblical warnings”.
  • What is Union with Christ? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper responds to the question What does it mean to be united to Christ, and what are a few of the most significant implications of it?”

  • Identifying and Forsaking Our Spiritual Mistresses. Scott Sauls writes “Idolatry is the root beneath all sin and beneath every choice we ever make to go our own way instead of following Jesus in faith and obedience. Sin, ultimately, is not a matter of behavior, but a matter of desire. We always obey that which we desire the most.”
  • My Girlfriend is Pregnant – Now What? On this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper responds to the question “But I am scared. Assuming this is true, what do we do? How have you counseled couples who are broken and fearful in our situation?”

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My Review of THE GRINCH

The Grinch, rated PG
** ½

The Grinch is a modernized version of Dr. Seuss’ much-loved tale of the Grinch who tried to steal Christmas. The film is directed by Emmy winner Yarrow Cheney (Dilbert) and Scott Mosier. The screenplay is written by Michael LeSieur (Keeping Up with the Joneses) and Tommy Swerdlow, based on the book by Dr. Seuss How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
This film takes quite a few liberties with the Dr. Seuss’ story that we are familiar with. The Grinch, voiced by Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game, Sherlock, Dr. Strange) is not as mean as the one we met in the classic 1966 television special How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  This Grinch is lonelier and sadder, than he is mean, though he certainly still has a mean streak in him. He lives with his under-appreciated dog Max inside a cave on Mount Crumpet, overlooking Whoville. I enjoyed the scenes of how each morning would start with Max making the Grinch’s coffee and bringing it up to his bedroom using the inventions and contraptions that the Grinch has built for his daily needs.
After running out of food because of his emotional over-eating, the Grinch and Max must go down the mountain to Whoville to pick up groceries. In the village he runs into the friendly Mr. Bricklebaum, voiced by Emmy winner Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live), who has the house with the most Christmas decorations. In fact, this year, the goal in Whoville is to make Christmas three times bigger than its ever been before, which aggravates the Grinch even more.
He also meets Cindy-Lou Who, voiced by Cameron Seely (The Greatest Showman), who is desperately trying to mail a letter that contains a very special request to Santa Claus.  The Grinch assumes this is for a gift for Cindy-Lou, but it is actually something for her hard-working single mom Donna, voiced by Emmy nominee Rashida Jones (Hot Girls Wanted).
While in Whoville, the Grinch passes by carolers singing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” (well-sung by Pentatonix), which includes some very clear lines about Jesus, and the real meaning of Christmas: Continue reading

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • Is It OK to Stay in a Job Just for a Paycheck? In this roundtable discussion, Gospel Coalition Council members Ryan Kelly, Julius Kim, and Darryl Williamson discuss the relationship between work and material provision. They talk about ways that mundane work can become infused with purpose and about what sorts of truth we need to preach to ourselves when working in a job we don’t enjoy.
  • Paycheck or Purpose: Does Your Work Motivation Matter? Andrew Spencer writes “When we shift our focus from glorifying God to merely getting a paycheck, our work quickly begins to feel meaningless. The solution is, therefore, not to quit working for pay, but to refocus our vocational goal on the glory of God.”

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More interesting article links
  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Review of ‘The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do’ by Jeff Goins
  • Snippets from the book ‘The Economics of Neighborly Love’ by Tom Nelson

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Baby Journey

This is the journey of our niece Jana and her husband Tony, in her own words.  We’re sharing it in hopes of encouraging other couples longing to be parents.  May God bless you with full quivers!

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lordthe fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!  Psalm 127:3-5

Four things:
1. Infertility sucks
2. We’re pregnant
3. With triplets
4. All boys

Yep, you read that right.

These last four years, Tony and I have been on a journey. It’s been a journey of hope, disappointment, renewed hope, more disappointment, a little less hope, more disappointment, even less hope…you get the idea. It’s been painful. But it’s taught us many things and grown us in unbelievable ways. Everyone waits at one time or another—we aren’t unique in that—but we’d like to think our story can help give others some hope, so we decided to share here.

We began trying for a baby 4 years ago. Since then, we’ve gone through 4 rounds of IUI (intrauterine insemination), 4 rounds of IVF (in vitro fertilization), 1 early miscarriage, and taken over a thousand medications. Here’s what we got from those four years of struggle:
· We learned our hope can’t lie in things here on this earth or in this life; our hope can only lie in our Savior.
· We learned patience… man, have we learned patience.
· We learned that money isn’t nearly as important as we thought.
· We learned to focus our time and resources on things that truly matter. Wasting either of those on insignificant things just isn’t worth it.
· We learned just a little bit about suffering. We hope it’s made us better equipped to deal with it in the future, and we also hope to be able to help others in their suffering as well.
· We learned the importance of surrounding yourself with good people. They’ll be the ones helping you over the hurdles of life. Lucky for us, we have THE BEST friends and family, and have had the best support system anyone could ever ask for.
· We’ve learned so much more about one another. But more importantly, we have deepened our relationships with Christ, who ultimately taught us to rely on him and trust that He has a plan for us.
If all that learning was all we’d gotten from those four years of struggle, it would have been worth it. And truly, at the end of those four years, we’d reached a place of contentment and acceptance.

But we decided we would take one last shot at having a baby before moving on to adoption. We put all of our energy (and money) into one last round of IVF at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine in Denver CCRM, a clinic we’d been told was one of the absolute best (thanks Deana Jackson!). We didn’t want to have any regrets when we moved on. So we went to Colorado, and in September, we finally got the news that we were pregnant. We knew this time felt different than the ones before, but not wanting to get our hopes up, we anxiously waited the three weeks for the sonogram that would confirm there really was a baby in there. That’s when the sonographer shared the news that we had three (!!!) healthy babies. And in case that wasn’t wild enough, they’re all boys, one fraternal twin and two identical twins. As overwhelmed and TERRIFIED as we are, we are over the moon excited. During these last four years we have been abundantly provided for and incredibly blessed by the Lord and our support system (physically, emotionally and financially). We know that we couldn’t have gotten through it all without the prayers of our friends and family; we just wish maybe you all hadn’t prayed quite so hard. 😉 Kidding! But if there’s anything we’ve learned through this process, it’s that we can get through anything if we lean in to the lessons God has taught us and rely on the people he’s given us.#Thebigthree #thisreallyisus

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THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles, Cartoons & Quotes

  • How do I Know that I am Elect? How do I Know my Faith is Genuine? In this video from “Ask Ligonier”, Sinclair Ferguson looks at the doctrine of assurance and what it means to be born again.
  • Why Does John Piper Avoid Politics and What’s Trending? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper addresses the question Why do you avoid saying much about current events and politics?”
  • What Should Christians Do About Our Differences on Spiritual Gifts? In this episode of Signposts, Russell Moore offers his perspective on spiritual gifts and discuss ways that Christians might think about these issues, especially as they partner together in ministry.
  • How Can You Show Radical Hospitality as an Introvert? Rosaria Butterfield states “I think that introverts can be extremely good at managing hospitality because we tend to not just talk to hear the sound of our voice. Those quiet times are fine. They can be reflective times.”
  • Is It Really Important That You Emphasize Hell? Watch this short video in which Francis Chan discusses how the reality of hell should impact evangelism in the Christian life.
  • Is Tim Keller a Marxist? Carl Trueman, who I enjoyed a wonderful class on B.B. Warfield with at Covenant Seminary a few years back, writes “It is an unwarranted slur on his character, for we all know that cultural Marxism is not intended as a morally neutral term.  And—I almost forgot—it is to break the Ninth Commandment about a Christian brother.  And that’s a sin—not so much a sin against Tim Keller as against the God he serves.”
  • How Should Christians Respond to the Imprecatory Psalms? How should Christians respond to psalms that invoke calamity or curses upon one’s enemies? In this brief video clip from the 2016 Ligonier National Conference, Robert Godfrey, Albert Mohler, and William VanDoodewaard consider biblical prayers of judgment.

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A Prayer for Election Day

Father in Heaven, I come to you today, the day before the mid-term elections. I’ve been feeling a lot of anxiety about this election. It seems like it’s been talked about for a long time. I’ve been checking polls today and watching my cable news network of choice to get an idea of how things will go. There is so much at stake in tomorrow’s elections. I don’t ever remember such interest in a mid-term election. When I voted early last week, I heard that there was record turnout for early voting. Thank you for a country in which we have the freedom to vote.
Father, I feel strongly about certain issues, but I know that you have many who follow you that take the opposite side on issues that I do. Isn’t it interesting that believers can read the same Bible and be so divided on many key issues in our country? But isn’t that the same with your churches? We have the same Bible but so many different denominations and churches in our country.
Our country is so divided at this time, more so than I can ever remember. Father, help me to love friends, family and church members who will vote differently than I will in this election. Help me to guard my words, and grant me humility to understand that I don’t always have it right. Give me a teachable spirit. Continue to teach me to be obedient to you and not to any particular political party or agenda.

I know that I shouldn’t worry about tomorrow’s election results, or anything for that matter. Paul told us:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

We have no reason to fear what will happen to our country, or to us, if our political party is not in power. Isaiah wrote:
Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

Father, you are sovereign, all-knowing and all powerful. You are in control, not only of the election, but of everything.
Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (Psalm 135:6)

Father, I know that I have no need to be anxious. Jesus told us:
Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:34)

In Jesus name, Amen.



10 Ways Churches Can Regularly Connect with Church Members at Work During the Week

How can we close the gap between Sunday worship and Monday through Friday work? In Monday Morning Atheist Doug Spada writes that many Christians become “Monday Morning Atheists”, working as if there is no God at all. He writes that on Sunday, believers see the world through a spiritual lens, but when they get ready to work on Monday, their behavior all too often can’t be distinguished from anyone else’s. How can church leaders help with this situation? How can we help people see the value of what they do between Sundays?
Hugh Whelchel writes in How Then Should We Work that “Even for many Christians, work is often only a means to an end. Many Christians today have bought into the pagan notion that leisure is good and work is bad. They have also been misled by the sacred/secular distinction, which teaches that working in the church is the only “real” full-time Christian service.”  Amy Sherman writes in Kingdom Calling that “We must do a better job of inspiring our members about the role they can play in the mission of God and equipping them to live missionally through their vocation.”
Tim Chester writes in Gospel-Centered Work that work is commended in the Bible as a good thing. It is both a privilege and a blessing. But many still count down the days until they can retire. In Every Good Endeavor, Tim Keller writes that our daily work – whatever it may be – is ultimately an act of worship to the God who called and equipped us to do it. Keller writes that in the beginning God worked. Work was not a necessary evil that came into the picture later.  God worked for the sheer joy of it.
Here are several suggestions on what church leaders can do to help church members connect Sunday worship to Monday work:
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The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, rated PG

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a delightful live action film from Disney that the entire family will enjoy. It is directed by three-time Oscar nominee Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules) and Oscar winner Joe Johnson (Raiders of the Lost Ark). Johnson directed 32 days of reshoots written by Tom McCarthy when Hallström was unavailable, while Hallström oversaw the post-production. The screenplay is written by Ashleigh Powell, based on E.T.A Hoffmann’s 1816 short story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and the Nutcracker Ballet by Marius Petipa. The film, which has a strong cast, had a budget of approximately $133 million.
Clara, played by Mackenzie Foy (Twilight films, Interstellar) is a teenage girl who has excellent mechanical skills; her mother has recently died. The film is set on Christmas Eve in Victorian London. Her grieving father, played by Matthew Macfadyen, gives her and her brother and sister gifts from their mother. Clara’s gift, a mechanical silver egg, can only be opened by a key, which she does not have.
Later that evening, the family goes to a Christmas Ball at Clara’s godfather Drosselmeyer’s estate.  Drosselmeyer is played by Morgan Freeman, five-time Oscar nominee and winner for Million Dollar Baby. Drosselmeyer gives each of the children a gift. As Clara goes after hers, she is transported to a magical world. She sees the key to her egg, but a mouse steals it from her. As she chases the mouse, she meets a Nutcracker Guard named Captain Phillip, played by Jayden Fowora-Knight (Ready Player One). Phillips tells Clara that in that world, her mother was Queen Maria, making her a Princess.
After the mouse who has taken her key gets away, Phillip takes Clara to the palace, where she meets the leaders of three realms – the Land of Snowflakes, led by Shiver played by Richard E. Grant (Gosford Park), the Land of Flowers, led by Hawthorne, played by Eugenio Derbez (Overboard), and the Land of Sweets, led by Sugar Plum, played by Kiera Knightley, two-time Oscar nominee (Pride & Prejudice and The Imitation Game). She has also been looking for the same key that Clara has. Sugar Plum tells Clara about a fourth, dark and evil realm, governed by Mother Ginger, played by Helen Mirren, four-time Oscar nominee and winner for The Queen. Mother Ginger had stolen the key that Clara has been looking for. Clara must get the key from the evil Mother Ginger to save the land from disaster.
The film, which contains very little ballet – just one scene, and the closing credits, with American Ballet Theatre star Misty Copeland – is visually stunning and has a good plot twist. The makeup is outstanding. The production design is done by two-time Oscar nominee Guy Hendrix Dyas (Passengers, Inception), and the costume design is by eight-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner Jenny Beavan (Mad Max: Fury Road, A Room With a View). The outstanding musical score is by eight-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard (Defiance, Michael Clayton), and incorporates much of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. The film features strong acting performances particularly from Knightley, Foy and Fowora-Knight.
Themes include being self-reliant, working as a team, courage, sacrifice, forgiveness and family. Very young children may be frightened at times.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is an entertaining film that the entire family will enjoy.

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Indivisible, rated PG-13

Indivisible is based on the true story of U.S. Army Chaplain Darren Turner and his family. The film is directed and co-written by David G. Evans (The Grace Card).  Cheryl McKay (The Ultimate Gift) and Peter White wrote the screenplay with Evans.
Justin Bruening (Grey’s Anatomy) stars as Darren Turner. He had recently completed seminary and basic training as an Army chaplain and just arrived at Georgia’s Fort Stewart with wife Heather, played by Sara Drew (Grey’s Anatomy) and their three young children, when he found out that he was being deployed to Iraq for the Operation Iraqi Freedom’s 2007 troop surge.  Although in a state of shock at how quickly things were happening, Darren and Heather both agree that they had been called to this ministry. That didn’t make things any easier, however.
In Iraq for fifteen months, Darren is eager to provide spiritual support for the hurting troops he is assigned to, though he admits he doesn’t know exactly how to do that. He carries and hands out “Armor of God” coins. He receives encouragement from his commanding officer Jacobsen, played by Eric Close (Nashville) and the helpful Sergeant Peterson, played by Skye P. Marshall (Grey’s Anatomy). But he is challenged by his neighbor Michael Lewis, a veteran of multiple tours, played by Jason George (Grey’s Anatomy) and rifleman Lance Bradley, played by Tanner Stine (The Thundermans), who ask difficult questions about God. Eventually, he grows closer to both men. But the horrors of war and a painful loss put Darren’s faith to the test.
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