Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Holy Roar by Chris Tomlin
****

This is Chris Tomlin’s first album since 2016’s excellent Never Lose Sight, which was my top album of that year. Holy Roar is another gift to the church from Tomlin, containing songs that will be sung in churches around the world.
Below are a few comments about each of the songs:

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  • More of this review; The Elements by Toby Mac and Happy Xmas by Eric Clapton
  • Music News
  • Music Quotes
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

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My Review of INSTANT FAMILY

Instant Family, rated PG-13
***

Instant Family is a pro-family movie inspired by a true story that has some content issues. The film is directed and co-written by Sean Anders (Daddy’s Home, Daddy’s Home 2), and is based on his families’ story of adopting three children out of the foster care system. John Morris (Daddy’s Home, Daddy’s Home 2) co-wrote the film with Anders. The film features a strong cast.
Pete, played by two-time Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter, The Departed), and his wife Ellie, played by two-time Golden Globe nominee Rose Byrne (Damages), earn a good living by buying and flipping houses.  They don’t have any children, but enjoy their life, which includes playing golf and enjoying Meatball, their Bernese Mountain dog. After a comment by Ellie’s brother in law, Ellie and Pete both look at foster children on a website, and their hearts melt. They decide to look into fostering an older child in hopes of adopting them.
Pete and Ellie work with a pair of social workers, the straight-laced Sharon, played by Emmy nominee Tig Notaro (Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted) and the free spirit Karen, played by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer (The Help). Sharon and Karen teach an eight-week foster care certification course that Pete and Ellie attend. Others in the class are an infertile Christian couple, a homosexual couple, and a single woman who wants to adopt an African American boy who might play in the NFL.
Pete and Ellie end up interested in the feisty 15-year-old Latino, Lizzy, played by Isabela Moner, only to find out that Lizzy has two younger siblings: a sensitive boy named Juan, played by Gustavo Quiroz, and a young temperamental girl named Lita, played by Julianna Gamiz. Lizzy has practically raised her younger siblings since they have a drug-addicted mother, who is now in jail. Eventually, Pete and Ellie decide that they need to foster all three.
At first, during the “honeymoon period”, things go well with the new family, but that doesn’t last long. Pete and Ellie decide that this is going to be much harder than they ever imagined, as they share and hear from others in their foster parent support group.
Three-time Emmy winner Margo Martindale (The Americans, Justified) plays the likeable Grandma Sandy, Pete’s mother.  Julie Hagerty (Airplane films), plays Jan, Ellie’s mother. Two-time Oscar nominee Joan Cusack (In & Out, Working Girl), plays Mrs. Howard, a kind neighbor of Pete and Ellie’s in a small role.
Themes include family, love, adoption, and faith (there are a few prayer scenes in the film), and a Christian couple wanting to foster a child.
Content concerns unfortunately include a significant amount of adult language, including several abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names. The language was not necessary, and the film could have been much more family friendly if it had not been included. There are also some sexual references in the film.
Instant Family is an entertaining film, at times funny and at others touching and very serious.  It is inspired by a true story, is somewhat predictable, and has some content concerns, most notably a significant amount of adult language. The film may encourage some to consider serving as foster parents and possibly adopting, though as the film points out, the objective of the foster care system is the preservation of the family, not adoption.


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My Review of FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, rated PG-13
*** ½

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second installment of a planned five film Fantastic Beasts series. The new film is exciting, intense and darker than the first. It picks up in New York, shortly after the first film ended where the evil wizard Grindelwald, played by three-time Oscar nominee Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street; Finding Neverland; Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) has been captured and is being transferred back to the British Ministry of Magic. The film is directed by Emmy nominee David Yates (The Girl in the Café, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and four Harry Potter films).  The film is written by J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books. The film had a production budget of $200 million. The story takes place with beautiful views of New York City, London, Paris and Austria.
The film begins with an exciting and explosive scene in which Grindelwald escapes from detention while being transferred from a New York prison. In London, Newt Scamander, the “magizoologist”, played by Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), is forbidden from leaving the country. His brother Theseus, played by Callum Turner tries to work things out for Newt, but Newt is not willing to do what is needed. Theseus is engaged to Leta Lestrange, played by Zoë Kravitz.
Newt is contacted by a young Dumbledore, played by two-time Oscar nominee Jude Law (Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr. Ripley), to help track down Credence Barebone, played by Ezra Miller (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Credence is an Obscurial, a wizard who has repressed his magical abilities. Grindelwald is consolidating his power and has plans for wizards to take over the world. It is suspected that Credence will be recruited by Grindelwald to join his side. Newt is aided in the mission to find Credence by sidekicks returning from the first film, baker Jacob Kowalski, played by Dan Fogler, and magical Goldstein sisters Queenie, played by Alison Sudo, and Porpentina, known as Tina, played by Katherine Waterston. The battle for Credence takes place in Paris, and forms the main plot of the film, with several other subplots, included. Another major plot is to find out the true identity of Credence.
The film is visually stunning; the CGI, beasts, costumes, set design. The soundtrack by eight-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard (Defiance, Michael Clayton, The Village) was outstanding.
The film introduces many new characters and revealed some of the backstory about some already known characters of the Harry Potter series. The film sets things up for the forthcoming films in the series. The movie also has a surprise ending.
The film has a strong cast, and there were several excellent acting performances, in particular Law, Depp, Kravitz and Redmayne, though the latter is not the main character as he was in the first film.
Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an entertaining film that lovers of the Harry Potter films will enjoy, particularly scenes that take place at Hogwarts. It is intense and darker than the first film, and will be too scary for children under 10 years of age.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

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
I’M CURRENTLY READING….

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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.”

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  • 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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