Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

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Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Grand Central Publishing. 321 pages. 2017

This heartfelt book is about a friendship between two people who were in some ways very different from each other. The author, one of the greatest basketball players in the history of the game, writes of his nearly fifty-year friendship with John Wooden, arguably the greatest basketball coach ever, who died in 2010 at the age of 99. Wooden was white, a Midwesterner and a devout Christian, while Abdul-Jabbar is Black, from New York City and a devout Muslim.
The author states that Wooden was much more than a basketball guru. He was also his teacher, his friend, and, though he never told him, his role model. Their relationship had been born over basketball, but eventually that became the least important aspect of it. The author writes that among those things that he and Wooden had in common was the belief that playing basketball wasn’t the end, but rather the means to make our lives more fulfilling.  He states that their legacy as friends would be one of the most important and rewarding accomplishments of his life.

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BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and a review of Shaped by God: Thinking and Feeling in Tune with the Psalms by John Piper
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…. Continue reading


Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Earlier today I was listening to part one of Alistair Begg’s message “Sent, Sold, Sad, Safe” from his The Hand of God series about Joseph. Joseph is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. In Genesis 37:14, Jacob asks his 17-year-old son Joseph to check on the well-being of his brothers and the flocks and then report back to him. Little did Jacob know that he wouldn’t see his dear son again for 20 long years. Twenty years before he got another hug, heard Joseph’s voice, enjoyed his fellowship and the warmth of his company. Begg speculates that Jacob watched Joseph for a long while as his son walked away, and that Joseph turned back to look at his father often.
Begg says that there is a last time for every journey. You’ll never know the last time you will kiss your wife. You’ll never know the last time you’ll kiss your Mom goodbye. He tells us that it is good to make much of our partings.
That got me to thinking how we handle good-byes. We’ve had a number of people move away from church, and specifically our small group, over the past few years. I have to admit that I hate good-byes. Although happy for those that are moving, because they are happy, it is still a loss for us. A loss of relationship. Facebook just doesn’t cut it. My wife won’t even say “Good Bye” in such instances. It’s just too sad. Instead, she says “See you later”.
Another example of this for me was saying good-bye to so many work friends when I retired last year. I knew that there was a good chance that I’d never see many of them again, especially those located in other cities, and it made me emotional.
Most of us probably take our good-byes pretty casually. And yet, one day, in each relationship, there will be a final time, a final good-bye. That thought has come to me more as I’ve gotten older, and family members and friends have gotten older or moved away. Maybe you’ve thought about that too.
I can still remember leaving my childhood home after visits. My Mom would come outside, stand on the front step, watch us leave and wave. My dear mother-in-law does that today as well.
A few years ago, my father-in-law died. My wife and one of her sisters had just had a very good visit with him. He was sharp, alert and in a great mood. When they left their parents’ home that morning, they didn’t know it would be the last time they would see him. We need to make much of our partings.
This is a good reminder – don’t forget to tell those close to you that you love them. Do it often. When you kiss your spouse good-bye in the morning, tell them that you love them. When you send your kids off to school in the morning tell them that you love them. Tell your friends how much you care about them and how much they mean to you.
How will you plan to make much of your partings?

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Fighting with My Family, rated PG-13

Fighting with My Family is based on the true story of professional wrestler Saraya “Paige” Bevis and her family from England. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Jumanji) was in England filming a movie when he saw a documentary about Paige and her family on television a few years ago. He was attracted to the “underdog” aspect of the story, and contracted Emmy winner Stephen Merchant (Lip Sync Battle, The Office, The Ricky Gervais Show) about making a full-length feature film about the family.  Merchant wrote and directed the film, as well as playing a small role.  Johnson served as executive producer and also appears in a few scenes as himself. Continue reading

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

  • What Do Christians Have Against Homosexuality? Tim Keller responds to a question from David Eisenbach at the 2011 Veritas Forum. Keller offers suggestions on how Christians should treat homosexuals.
  • How Much Entertainment is Too Much? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper addresses this question “In the world we live in today, is it a sin to claim time for things other than reading the Bible or praying? Things such as watching a movie or playing a game are very enjoyable to me, but I wonder if God is disappointed in me for using some of my free time to do these things instead of claiming time for him.”
  • Are There Distinctions of Sin in Hell? Is everyone punished equally in hell? Or are there distinctions of punishment? Watch this four-minute video clip from the 2016 Ligonier National Conference in which C.Sproul, Steven Lawson, and Albert Mohler explain that more heinous sins receive greater condemnation.
  • How Do You Define a False Teacher? How do you define a false teacher? How much error is needed before they are considered false? R.C. Sproul, Albert Mohler, and John MacArthur respond to this question during the 2017 Ligonier National Conference.
  • How Do You Define Heresy? Heresy is not simply an error. It’s an error so serious that it would deprive one of salvation. From one of the Ask Ligonier events, Robert Godfrey defines heresy.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More interesting article links
  • Great cartoons
  • The Favorite Quotes of the Week

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Can You Ever Forgive Me? Rated R
** ½

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is now available on home video, and is based on the true story of New York writer Lee Israel; it’s driven by strong acting performances by the two lead characters. The film has received three Oscar nominations, but does have some content concerns.
The film is directed by Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl). It is written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty who both received Oscar nominations for the film, which is based on the 2008 book Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger by Lee Israel, who died in 2014.
As the film begins in 1991, Lee, played by Melissa McCarthy (St. Vincent, Bridesmaids), is drinking at her desk at work and after two younger women walk by and make a derisive comment to her, she becomes verbally abusive to co-workers and her boss. She is promptly fired. Her life is a mess. She is now without a job, three months behind on her rent, and can’t get her cat the treatment it needs because she has an overdue balance at the veterinarian’s office which she can’t pay. She is an author of biographies that don’t sell, notably of Fanny Brice. Marjorie, her literary agent, played by Golden Globe nominee Jane Curtin (Kate and Allie, Saturday Night Live), won’t even return her calls. When Lee attends a party that Marjorie is hosting just so that she could talk to her, Lee ends up stealing another party goer’s coat on the way out.   Yep, she’s a real charmer. Continue reading

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • Should Religious Belief Inform Public Policy? Russell Moore writes “My calling as citizen is different from my calling as church member (I don’t care if my pastor understands how to deal with regime change in Syria). But, as a Christian, though I don’t confuse any of these spheres, I am accountable for whether I acted justly or wickedly in any of them. And so are you.”
  • What If Work Isn’t My Passion? Missy Wallace writes “Of all the books I’ve read about career discernment, I find a section of Os Guinness’s The Call, to be incredibly clarifying and encouraging.
  • Where Does God Want Me to Work? David Mathis writes “How should you go about discerning God’s direction after graduation? Or how do you find God’s will for your work-life?”


  • Biblical Womanhood Deconstructed. Anna Arnold writes “Proverbs 31 shows us all that we cando and be as women—all the work God has for us to do.”
  • Motherhood as a Vocation. Kate Harris writes “As I think about what it means to faithfully pursue my work as a mom, I hope myself and others can commit to this larger vision of our role as “culture shapers” who can hold our own beside PhDs and playwrights, lest we be tempted to think our daily occupation as nose-wipers and shuttle drivers is anything less than a grand enterprise.”
  • The Common Calling of All Women. Abigail Dodds writes “The pertinent question for women entering the workforce or motherhood or setting up their home or any sphere of work is this: Am I faithfully obeying God as his child by meeting the genuine needs of others, or am I pursuing self-actualization, self-fulfillment, or selfish ambition apart from him?”

  • Defining Vocation. In this talk, Kate Harris helps us understand calling and identity through the old and rich concept of “vocation.”
  • Six Practices of the Church: Vocation. In this talk, Greg Thompson tells us that we are all involved in some sort of vocation. No matter where or what it is, we know that God calls us to be faithful in those places. We have the opportunity to practice vocation in a way that makes the world a better place.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More links to interesting article
  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Review of Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others by Cheryl Bachelder
  • Snippets from Os Guinness’ book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life.

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When Your Calling Changes

For nearly 38 years I was a leader in a Fortune 50 organization. I’ve previously shared “4 Reasons I See Leadership as a Calling”. But 10+ months ago, my time at that organization ended. Although I still lead in some ways, particularly at church, I no longer have a team that I provide day to day leadership to. What now? What about my calling?
Os Guinness, in his excellent book The Call, introduces us to two types of callings, primary and secondary. As Christians, our primary calling is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live and act entirely for God. So, our primary calling is to God. Our secondary callings can be our jobs or vocations.
Guinness tells us that our calling is deeper than our jobs, our career, and all of our benchmarks of success.  We should not let our jobs define us and give us our identities. Frankly, we spend so much of our waking time doing our work, this can certainly happen.
I believe we have multiple secondary callings (son, father, husband, employee, etc.). Both writer Jeff Goins in his book The Art of Work and pastor Bob Smart in his book Calling to Christ, refer to our “portfolio of callings”. Goins writes that our calling is more than our career. He suggests that we consider the variety of things that we do (work, home, play/hobbies, etc.) as our calling portfolio. Dr. Smart writes that calling formation is for a season, and usually takes from age 18 to 35, but is always renewing with changes in our particular, or secondary, callings. Continue reading

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Versatile – Van Morrison

The 72-year old Morrison follows his excellent September, 2017 blues album Roll with the Punches with the self-produced Versatile, his 38th studio album. The appropriately titled Versatile focuses on his interpretation of nine of the 20th century’s greatest vocal jazz standards, as well as 3 new jazz-influenced originals, three new versions of songs he’s previously recorded, “I Forgot That Love Existed,” “Only A Dream” and “Start All Over Again”, and an arrangement of the Scottish traditional “Skye Boat Song.” I thoroughly enjoyed this album, especially the more upbeat arrangements. It’s hard to go wrong with Morrison’s singing, excellent musicians and some great songs.
Below are a few brief comments about each of the songs:

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  • More of this review and a review of You’re Driving Me Crazy by Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco
  • Music News
  • Music Quotes
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

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New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional by Paul David Tripp. Crossway. 384 pages. 2004

Each morning, Paul Tripp tweets three gospel thoughts about the Christian faith on Twitter. His goal with the tweets is to confront and comfort people with the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He wants people to see that the grace of the gospel is not so much about changing the religious aspect of their lives, but about everything in life that defines, identifies, and motivates them. Through his daily tweets, he is calling people to see the gospel as a window through which they are to look at everything in life.
Those daily tweets inspired this book of 365 daily devotional readings, a book I am using as a part of my daily readings this year. Each day’s reading opens with one of his gospel tweets, lightly edited, and then a meditation that expands on the tweet. The reading ends with a passage of scripture included under “For Further Study and Encouragement”.
The author writes that the devotional is a call for us to remember…

  • The horrible disaster of sin
  • Jesus, who stood in our place.
  • The transforming power of the grace we couldn’t have earned.
  • The destiny that is guaranteed to all of God’s blood-purchased children.
  • His sovereignty and his glory.
  • The remembering is spiritual war, and for this we need grace.

The title of the book is not only a reference to the way the Bible talks about grace, but also an allusion to the hymn “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, lyrics written by Thomas Chisholm and music by William M. Runyan:
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
I look forward to reading through the daily readings in this book this coming year.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World by Rosaria Butterfield and Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief by Matt Chandler
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…. Continue reading

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Why Did Jesus Weep?

Recently I’ve been studying John 10-12 to prepare for a teaching opportunity. Studying a passage of scripture is very different from just casually reading it. As we engage with the text we are studying, it will at times raise good questions for us. In John 11, we read about the well-known story of Jesus raising his friend Lazarus from the dead, the miracle that will eventually lead to the cross.
If you remember the story, we are told that Lazarus was ill. His sisters, Mary and Martha, send a message to Jesus that ‘he whom you love is ill’. You might think that Jesus will immediately head to Bethany when he got that news (although He didn’t need to go to Bethany to heal him). However, when Jesus received the message, He stated “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4). He then stayed where he was two days longer. Jesus was not in Bethany before Lazarus died so that his disciples might believe. He knew that he would raise Lazarus, resulting in his disciples seeing his power made manifest, and they be strengthened in their faith. God would bring good out of the agony of Lazarus’ death. Continue reading