There are a number of new and upcoming books that I’m excited about. I call it my ‘on deck circle’. Here are 13 of them:
The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits by Albert Mohler
From the Amazon description:
“In The Apostles’ Creed, renowned theologian and pastor R. Albert Mohler Jr. works line-by-line and phrase-by-phrase through each section of the Creed, explaining in clear terms what it means and how it equips Christians to live faithfully in a post-Christian culture. From understanding the nature of the Trinity and the miracle of the Incarnation to the world-shaking truth of the resurrection and the hope of Christ’s return, the theological heritage contained in this ancient statement has the power to shape us for vibrant and steadfast living today. The Apostles’ Creed shows us how.” Continue reading →
Avengers: Endgame, a highly anticipated film, brings to an end the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) storyline that began with 2008’s Iron Man, and has continued now through 22 films and all of those mid and post-credits scenes that we have sat and waited for. The three-hour film will satisfy MCU fans, as it looks back on the previous films and characters, but it does contain some content concerns that you will want to be aware of.
The film is directed by brothers and Emmy winners Anthony Russo and Joe Russo (Arrested Development) and written by Emmy winners Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers). While the film had an estimated budget of approximately $400 million, it made a record-setting $350 million in the U.S. opening weekend, and an incredible $1.2 billion worldwide.
2018’s Avengers: Infinity War ended somberly with the formidable villain Thanos, voiced by Oscar nominee Josh Brolin (Milk), finally possessing all of the six Infinity Stones that he had been seeking. Thanos, who says he is Inevitable, then used the power he gained from the stones to snap his fingers and wipe out half of all existence, including superheroes such as Black Panther, Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and many more. Avengers: Endgame opens with a family picnic scene in which the family of Clint Barton/Hawkeye, played by two-time Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner (The Town, The Hurt Locker), suddenly disappears due to the snap. The film then moves forward about three weeks after “the snap”. Continue reading →
When Being a Christian Isn’t “Decent” Anymore. Denny Burk writes “This is the new reality for Christians who hold the line on biblical sexual ethics, and I don’t see any signs of things letting up. On the contrary, this kind of open animus only seems to be spreading.”
3 Things to Tell Your Children About Gender. Dan Doriani, who I enjoyed two classes with at Covenant Seminary, writes that he seeks “To equip parents to talk to their children about gender. It is vital to offer compassion and care to all who experience body dysphoria – the sense that they inhabit the wrong body.”
Mental Illness, Jesus and Me. Scott Sauls writes “I am one of those ministers who has endured a handful of seasons of anxiety and depression. Most of the time, thankfully, the affliction has been more low-grade than intense. On one occasion, though, it pretty much flattened me physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. I call this particular season my ‘living nightmare.’”
The Mustang is a well-made film about an angry and violent prisoner and his relationship with what was believed to be an unbreakable wild mustang. The film is directed by French actress Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre in her feature film directorial debut, and is based on her 2014 short film Rabbit. She co-wrote the film with Mona Eastvold and Brock Norman Brock. Robert Redford was an executive producer for the film.
We are told that more than 100,000 wild horses roam across ten states in the U.S. A small percentage of the horses are taken to prisons in six states each year for training by inmates in an effort to get them ready for auction, in a program sponsored by the Bureau of Land Management.
Belgian actor Matthias Schoenaerts plays Roman Coleman. Roman is an angry, violent prisoner with a short fuse. He has a shaved head, is a physically powerful man, and one of few words. Roman tells the prison psychologist, played by two-time Golden Globe nominee Connie Britton (Nashville, Dirty John), that he’s not good with people. After 12 years in a maximum-security prison in Nevada, Roman is transferred to the general population and assigned to outdoor maintenance, shoveling horse manure. As he is doing his work, he hears a mustang violently kicking the walls of a small stall and considered untrainable. He foolishly opens the stall door, only to be told by Myles, played by two-time Oscar nominee, 82-year-old Bruce Dern (Nebraska, Coming Home), who runs the program, that he could have been injured badly by the horse. Shortly, Myles brings Roman into the program and assigns him to the horse that Roman names Marquis ( but pronounces it as Marcus). Henry, played by Jason Mitchell (Detroit, Mudbound, Straight Outta Compton), is an inmate that has been in the program for a while, and considered to be the best horse trainer. He mentors Roman on how to work with the horses, but Roman’s anger gets the best of him again and he is soon back in solitary confinement. When Roman helps to get the horses brought into safety before a thunderstorm, he earns another chance in the program. Will Roman be able to break Marquis? The comparison between the two is obvious, a wild horse and a violent prisoner. Roman has just four weeks to get Marquis ready before the auction. Continue reading →
God Still Loves Hard Work: Labor for Christ in a Cursed World. David Mathis writes “Work is good. And work is cursed. Such is our lot in this age, until the creation is set free from its bondage to corruption and enters with us, the redeemed, into the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:21). Even then we will not sit around doing nothing, but we will be freed to work and move and expend ourselves in joy, finally unencumbered by the curse. In the meantime, we learn to work, despite the curse, at our work.
“Dirty Job” or Not, There’s Dignity in Productivity. Logan Smith writes “All work, manual or mental, is worthy of dignity and respect. Without work, gardens go wild, skyscrapers cease to rise, books fail to be written, robots stop being coded, and diapers fail to be changed. Without work, change does not occur. Without work, God’s purposes do not progress, and we do not fully reflect God’s nature.”
Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
More links to interesting articles
The Top Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
My Review of Leadershift: The 11 Essential Changes Every Leader Must Embrace by John C. Maxwell
Snippets from Os Guinness’ book The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life
You’ve probably heard the saying “If something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”. Or how about “Anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time”. That’s pretty much how I’ve approached whatever I do, trying to do my very best, for as long as I can remember. Not everyone approaches everything they do like that however. For example, my wife Tammy has never really seen the value in spending a lot of time making the bed each day, saying that we will just be messing it up again later tonight. And how about a task as mundane as folding the laundry? Doesn’t it seem like just as soon as you finish, and get everything put away, it gets unfolded, used and thrown in the hamper? Or how about taking out the trash? You take it out, put in a clean bag, and someone immediately puts something in there. Should you mop the kitchen floor until it’s spotless and shining, or just do an OK job, knowing it will have spills on it the next day?
I’ve always tried to give my very best effort in whatever I do, but my motivation for doing so wasn’t always clear. For example, I always have to go to the driving range to practice before I play a round of golf. Golf is not any fun for me if I play flat-out awful. That’s something my wife has never understood, saying “Can’t you just enjoy playing?” And I will not leave the house without trying to look my best (clothes, hair, etc.). But why? It may have been due to a lack of confidence, fear of looking bad or failing, perfectionism, or perhaps just my personality type. Continue reading →
The “Apostle’s Creed” tells us that Jesus, after suffering under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried, but on the third day He rose again. You raised Him from the dead (Acts 3:15) and He is at your right hand, interceding for us at this very moment.
This morning, my pastor will say to us, “He is risen”, and we will respond, “He is risen indeed!”. What a joyful truth that is!
On that glorious morning, the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James and Salome, took spices to the tomb where Jesus had been buried. There was a great earthquake and an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone. But Jesus was not there, for He had risen. The angel up on the tombstone
Said He has risen, just as He said
Quickly now, go tell his disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead (“The Easter Song” by Annie Herring)
The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:17 that if Christ has not been raised, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. But on this Resurrection Sunday, we rejoice that He has been raised. There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ. (“In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend)
If we confess Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart that You raised Him from the dead, we will be saved. (Romans 10:9). And just as you raised Christ from the dead, you will also raise us in your power. (1 Corinthians 6:14).
(Russ Taff – “Ain’t No Grave – Live”)
So, on this resurrection morning, we say rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice! (Philippians 4:4)
In Jesus precious name we pray, Amen
We come to you on this morning that is known to Christians as “Good Friday”. Some may wonder how this day, of all days, can possibly be considered as “good”. After all, it is on this day that we remember the suffering of Jesus, your only son, your sinless son, when he was mocked, tortured with a crown of thorns, spat on, flogged and crucified on the cross between two criminals. He took on all of our sins and gave us his righteousness. This was not just a good, but truly a great exchange.
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
Isaiah tells us that Jesus was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities. We like sheep have gone astray, and yet in your perfect plan, you have laid the iniquity of us all on Jesus. As hard as it is for us to believe, it was your will to crush him (Isaiah 53:10). He was betrayed, denied and abandoned by those closest to him. He prayed in Gethsemane that you would remove the cup of wrath from him, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” He was forsaken by you on the cross as he who knew no sin became sin, taking on himself all the sins that all of his followers would ever commit, so that they might become the righteousness of God.
So yes, today is a “Good” Friday indeed. Without the sacrificial, substitutionary death of Jesus, we would have no hope. Without him taking all our sins upon himself and giving us his righteousness, his perfectly lived obedient life in exchange, we would have no hope. And just like the one criminal hanging next to Jesus who repented, all who repent and are saved can hear “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Father, we are so thankful for you designing this brilliant plan of salvation, Jesus accomplishing it and the Holy Spirit applying it to our lives.
Breakthrough is a well-made inspirational film based on a true story. The film was directed by Roxann Dawson in her film directorial debut, and written by Grant Nieporte (Seven Pounds), based on the 2017 book Breakthrough: The Miraculous True Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection by Joyce Smith and Ginger Kolbaba. The film is set in the St. Louis area, but was actually shot in Winnipeg, Manitoba. DeVon Franklin is a producer of the film and Golden State Warriors’ superstar Stephen Curry is an executive producer.
Fourteen-year-old John Smith, played by Marcel Ruiz (One Day at a Time) is the adopted son of Brian, played by Josh Lucas (A Beautiful Mind, Sweet Home Alabama), and Joyce, played by Chrissy Metz (This is Us). John doesn’t get along with his mother, doesn’t do his homework, and really only comes alive when he is playing basketball. He is also hurt because his birth mother abandoned him, leading the Smiths to adopt him at nine months of age from a Guatemalan orphanage.
Topher Grace (BlacKkKlansman) plays Pastor Jason Noble, the Smith’s new pastor from California. Pastor Nobel does a number of things that irritate Joyce: kicking them out of a meeting room, bringing rap music into the church worship service (Lecrae appears in a cameo rapping along with Phil Wickham singing Wickham’s “This is Amazing Grace”) and using the television show “The Bachelor” as a sermon illustration. Joyce doesn’t even like the pastor’s haircut.
On a sunny Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, 2015, John and two of his friends are playing on the frozen surface of Lake Sainte Louise in St. Charles, Missouri. Suddenly, the boys fall through the thin ice, with John sinking all the way to the bottom of the lake in freezing water. The police are able to rescue John’s two friends, but as time goes on, the firefighters look to recover John’s body, rather than rescue him. Then Tommy, one of the firemen, played by Mike Colter (Luke Cage, The Defenders), thinks he hears his boss’s voice telling him to go back and look in a particular place under the ice. It’s there that he finds John, and they pull him to the surface. But it’s been fifteen minutes since John fell through the ice into the freezing water. When they bring John to the surface, they find that he does not have a pulse. For all intents and purposes, John is clinically dead. Still, he is rushed to a local hospital, where after John is worked on by medical personnel, they call in Joyce to say goodbye to her son.
In an emotional scene, Joyce cries out to Jesus and the Holy Spirit to breathe life into her son. Incredibly, John’s heart weakly begins to beat. John is then air-lifted to Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. There, the world-renowned Dr. Garrett, played by Golden Globe nominee Dennis Haysbert (24) the physician heading up John’s case, tells Brian and Joyce that John is not expected to live through the night. But Joyce will not accept that.
Will John ever wake up? And if he does, will he suffer irreparable brain damage from his brain being deprived of oxygen for so long? Continue reading →
As Christians, we know that prayer is the most powerful way for us to experience God. But most Christians would agree that their prayer life is not what it should be. I’ve read many books about prayer in an effort to improve my prayer life. Here are 10 of those books that I would recommend.
Many Christians want to know the way in which to pray, but they are just not sure how to get started. There are a number of models that people follow, such as what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6: 9-13). A new book I would recommend that discusses this model is Albert Mohler’s The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution. David’s prayer in Psalm 51 is a good model for contrition. Paul Miller in his excellent book A Praying Life, talks about the use of prayer cards (one for each person you are praying for), while a friend of mine uses a prayer jar. I have tended to use a prayer list to capture my prayer requests. In addition, in his book Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, the best book on prayer that I have read, Tim Keller writes “From earliest times, the Christian church adopted the Psalms of the Old Testament to be its prayer book”.
Some people use a daily “Quiet Time” for their prayer time, while others, including my wife, pray throughout the day. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
I’ve found that the acrostic A.C.T.S. is the best model for me to use for my prayers. Each of the letters in this acrostic stand for one of the key elements of prayer: Continue reading →