Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of LEAVE NO TRACE

Leave No Trace, rated PG
*** ½

Leave No Trace is a well-acted, written and directed PG rated film about an Iraq War veteran and his daughter. The film is directed by Oscar nominee Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone). The screenplay is written by Granik and two-time Oscar nominee Anne Rosellini (Winter’s Bone) based on the novel My Abandonment by Peter Rock. The film has the rare distinction of having a 100% rating from critics on the movie review site RottenTomatoes.com.
Will, played by Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) and his teenage (13 or 14-year-old) daughter Tom, played by Thomasin McKenzie, are homeless and live in a heavily wooded government owned park outside of Portland, Oregon. They live primitively, sharing a tent, collecting rain water to drink and growing their own vegetables. Will’s wife has apparently died, though we are not told anything about her, just that Tom misses her. In fact, we are not told any of Will and Tom’s backstory (how did they become homeless and for how long?) Will is a veteran who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He gets meds for the PTSD from the Veteran’s hospital, but sells the meds to others who live in the park, using the money to purchase groceries.  Will has raised Tom to be a kind, polite and thoughtful girl who is self-sufficient. Continue reading

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My 2018 Favorites


As I’ve done for a number of years, I wanted to share with you my favorites from 2018 in a variety of categories:  movies, music, books, etc. Except for books, these are all items that were released or took place in 2018. For books, I include my favorite books that I read during 2018, regardless of when the book was published. Enjoy!  Please let me know what you think of my list, and also share some of your favorites.
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DOES GOD TEMPT US?

Could it be possible that we have gotten this wrong all these years? The prayer known as “The Lord’s Prayer”, the most popular of all Christian prayers, appears in both Matthew 6:13 and Luke 11:4. Many of today’s most popular versions of Scripture (King James Version, English Standard Version, New International Version, New King James Version), translate the text in Matthew 6:13 as “Lead us not into temptation”. But now comes news that “experts” that have been studying the text for 16 years have concluded “from a theological, pastoral and stylistic viewpoint” that our historic English translation of the text is incorrect. According to these “experts”, the text should be changed from “lead us not into temptation” to “abandon us not when in temptation”. But Deuteronomy 31:6 and Hebrews 13:5 tell us that “He will not leave you or forsake you.”  Christ secured that promise for us when He was forsaken on the cross so that we would never be abandoned or forsaken.
The group’s proposal to change the text has been submitted to Pope Francis and he is expected to approve it.  Last year, Pope Francis made news by indicating that “A father does not lead into temptation, a father helps you to get up immediately”. He also added that “lead us not into temptation” is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.  What are we to make of this? Does God tempt us?  No, he certainly does not, but He may put us through times of testing.
Dr. R.C. Sproul in his book The Prayer of the Lord, wrote that nothing could be farther from the realm of possibility that God would entice anyone to sin. Albert Mohler in his book The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution, writes that The Lord’s Prayer might seem to imply that there are times when God does in fact lead us into temptation. Yet when we let Scripture interpret Scripture, we find that God does not tempt his people.” He tells us that while God will never tempt us, he may sometimes test us in order to strengthen our faith, and that we must never allow God’s tests to lead to temptations. James settles the issue for us when he writes in James 1:13 “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one.”
Sproul writes that enticement and temptation to sin arise from within us. External temptations also come from others and from Satan. But God Himself does not engage in temptation to sin. He tells us that God will put His people through a trial, test or ordeal ultimately for their own benefit, and sometimes for other reasons not always understandable to us.
God does not tempt people to sin. However, in permitting our temptation, He does test us. The Lord established a test for Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden when He forbade them from eating of the forbidden tree, but He did not tempt our first parents. Satan did (Gen. 3). Similarly, the Lord tested Job by allowing Satan to interfere in his life and tempt him to curse God, but our Maker did not introduce temptation into Job’s life.  What was meant for evil by Satan, God uses for our good.
Jesus himself was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tested as in “to test one’s mettle.”  Although the Spirit put Jesus there to be tested, Satan’s activity was intended to tempt him. To tempt someone is to entice them to commit an evil act. Dr. Sproul tells us that it would be completely out of the character of God to entice someone to sin.
So how should we take this petition of “The Lord’s Prayer”?  Sproul tells us that in this petition Jesus is saying that we should pray that the Father will never cause us to undergo a severe test of our faith or of our obedience. Jesus is not only teaching us to pray for deliverance from testing but is teaching us to seek divine protection from the wiles of Satan.
Have you been confused or troubled about all of the recent confusion about the petition “Lead us not into temptation”? Fear not, though God may test us, He will never tempt us.


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A Prayer for Christmas Day


Father in Heaven, on this Christmas morning, we thank you for Jesus, your only, and beloved, son. The busy period leading up to Christmas is now over. The decorating of our homes, the gift buying and wrapping, the sending of cards, the parties with friends, special programs at church, etc. The sound of Christmas music has been filling the air, sharing the gospel in music with some who would not normally hear it.
We’ve been looking forward with joyful anticipation during Advent to celebrating Jesus’ birth, His first coming. This is indeed good news of great joy.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11
We hear many in our culture talk about the “true meaning of Christmas”. Some say the true meaning of Christmas is peace, and indeed we are told that the angels praised God saying that there will be peace on earth among those with whom He is pleased (Luke 2:14). Tim Keller tells us that Christmas means the increase of peace, both with God and between people. Isaiah prophesied about Jesus that He would be the Prince of Peace:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6
Others say that Christmas is about light and hope.  Father, we know that there would be no Christmas at all without Jesus, who came to earth as a sacrifice for us.   He is our only hope and The Light of the World.
For our sake he made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
We know that the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is You, O God, substituting yourself for man.  We are so glad to read in 2 Corinthians 5: 19 where Paul says “that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them”.  Mark 10:45 tells us that Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.
He took the punishment we deserve and gave us His perfect life in its place so we can be reconciled with You.  Love came down at Christmas. That’s the meaning of Christmas.
Father, be with us today. Help those who will be with family and friends to enjoy the wonderful time together. For those who will be alone today, and perhaps missing loved ones, please help them to feel the presence of your Holy Spirit.   May we share this good news of great joy with everyone.  May we live this day and every day for your glory.
In Jesus precious name,
Amen


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CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS

I love the holiday season, and especially Christmas, when we get to celebrate the birth of our Savior and spend time with family and friends. When I was young, it was all about the presents I would receive at Christmas. But as I’ve gotten older the emphasis has shifted. I now get much more joy from the gifts we give than the ones I receive. Even more so, it’s about spending time with family members, some of whom have now moved away and we don’t get to see very often. Several years ago, a friend of mine from work talked about the importance of “making memories” over the giving of gifts. There is a lot of wisdom in that.
Our family has many Christmas traditions. When my Mom was alive, we always celebrated on Christmas Eve at my parent’s house, the house I grew up in. Although this will be our 23rd Christmas without Mom since she passed away in 1996, I remember like it was yesterday walking up to their front door on a cold evening, the front windows steamed up due to the cold temperatures outside and the fragrance of the prime rib meal being cooked inside. Continue reading


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My Review of MARY POPPINS RETURNS

Mary Poppins Returns, rated PG
****

Mary Poppins Returns is a delightful live-action/animated film free of any content issues that the entire family can enjoy. It’s one of my favorite films of the year (and my wife’s favorite!) The film is released 54 years after 1964’s Mary Poppins, which won five Oscars. The new film is directed by Oscar nominated Rob Marshall (Chicago). The film is written by Marshall, two-time Oscar nominee David Magee (Life of Pi, Finding Neverland), and two-time Emmy winner John DeLuca (Tony Bennett: An American Classic), based upon Mary Poppins stories by P.L. Travers. The film’s cast includes two Oscar winners – Colin Firth and Meryl Streep – and three Oscar nominees – Angela Lansbury, Julie Walters and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The all-new music is by five-time Oscar nominee Marc Shaiman (Sleepless in Seattle, Patch Adams, The First Wives Club, The American President, Hairspray) and three-time Emmy nominee Scott Wittman (Smash, The 82nd Annual Academy Awards, Hairspray). Cinematography is by Oscar winner Dion Beebe (Memoirs of a Geisha). Marshall chose to use hand drawn animation in the film to go along with the live action sequences.  The film has received four Golden Globe nominations – best performance by an actress, best performance by an actor, best picture and best original score.  The film had an estimated budget of $130 million. Continue reading


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My Review of Springsteen on Broadway

Springsteen on Broadway, not rated (would be rated R for language)
****

The film Springsteen on Broadway, showing on Netflix, is a powerful and emotional mostly one man show, featuring the storytelling and music of Bruce Springsteen. The audio version album of the same name debuted at #1 on the iTunes top albums chart. The two-and-a-half-hour show was a part of his Tony Award winning sold-out run at the Walter Kerr Theatre, that began in October 2017 and wrapped up December 15, with its 236th and final performance. Springsteen on Broadway is Springsteen telling us about key moments and people in his life through extended song introductions and sixteen of his songs. If you have read his excellent autobiography Born to Run (see my review here), you’ll be familiar with some of the stories he tells. Continue reading