Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of Dunkirk

Dunkirk, rated PG-13
****

Christopher Nolan’s tense and inspirational World War II film Dunkirk is my top movie of 2017 thus far.
This film, with an estimated budget of $150 million and clocking in at just 106 minutes, is written and directed by acclaimed three-time Oscar nominee Christopher Nolan (Inception, Interstellar, Memento (which I re-watched this past week), The Dark Knight Batman trilogy, The Prestige). This is the tenth feature film he has directed, and his second shortest.
This time Nolan takes us to the beaches of Dunkirk, a small coastal town in France in May and June, 1940, for a decisive moment in World War II. The coast of England was nearly visible from Dunkirk, just 26 miles across the English Channel. More than 300,000 Allied troops (British, French and Belgium) were trapped on the beach by the Germans. The harbor was so shallow, that a water rescue with large British ships wasn’t possible. Nolan puts the viewer in the center of the battle from a British point of view.

This is a very “visual” film, as Nolan uses a minimum of dialogue. That’s probably not a bad thing, as the dialogue and accents are difficult to understand. Credit goes here to cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, who worked with Nolan on Interstellar. It appears that very little of the film was computer enhanced. We didn’t see the film in IMAX, but this is a film that you would probably want to see in IMAX, if possible.
The action takes center stage over character development. Nolan tells the story of what Winston Churchill called Operation Dynamo – an all-hands call to civilian sailors, asking that they steer any vessel they can across the English Channel to rescue as many of the stranded soldiers as possible – through three interlocking stories, timelines and perspectives – land, sea and air, complete with flashbacks and revisits. He introduces each story with title cards. “The Mole” (land) takes place over a week. The “mole” is actually an 8-foot-wide, half-mile-long breakwater wall, extended off the beaches of Dunkirk, France, that served as a makeshift dock for British leaders trying to evacuate the troops. Five-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh, portrays Commander Bolton, the highest ranking British naval officer on the beach. He is worried about getting his men home. We see Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) grab the stretcher of a wounded man, pretending to be medics in the hope of getting on a ship and saving themselves. They encounter Alex (Harry Styles from the band One Direction in his acting debut).  “The Sea” takes place in a single day and features Oscar winner (Bridge of Spies) Mark Rylance as Mr. Dawson, a civilian entering into the rescue effort with his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and his best friend George (Barry Keoghan). The third story, “The Air”, takes place in a single hour. Oscar nominee (The Revenant) Tom Hardy portrays Farrier and Jack Lowden portrays Collins. They are Royal Air Force Spitfire pilots engaged in a tense battle with German planes.
Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack (in his sixth collaboration with Nolan), plays an important role in the tense film, mixing music and sound effects (ticking clock sound using Nolan’s pocket watch). The film is intense from beginning to end. It is rated PG-13 for intense war scenes and some adult language, including the abuse of Jesus’ name.
Themes in this inspirational film include sacrifice, heroism, courage and fear.
A final note. Despite this being an excellent film, it’s a disappointment that the crucial National Day of Prayer for Dunkirk was completely left out of the film. Read about it here.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • Every Job a Parable: What Walmart Greeters, Nurses & Astronauts Tell Us About God. Bill Peel reviews this new book by John Van Sloten. He writes “Chances are you’ll find someone he interviewed doing work like you do, and sees God at work in their work. Van Sloten calls the jobs he writes about “parables” because each one is a real-life, lived-out story depicting some aspect of God’s work and tell us something about God.”
  • Made to Flourish National Conference. Common Good is the annual national conference for the Made to Flourish organization. Common Good 2017 (cg2017) will be Friday, October 13, 2017. The central Kansas City location will be at the Sheraton Crown Center, and they we will also have several local sites throughout the country. National speakers include Amy Sherman, Andy Crouch and Tom Nelson.
  • wellbeing@work: Chris Schroeder of PCMC.Bob Chapman writes “Most leaders understand their influence on team members’ lives during work hours, but often enough, they don’t think about how their leadership affects team members outside of the workplace as well. The way you lead impacts the way people live.”
  • Why You Should Not Copy Spurgeon’s Schedule. David Murray writes “While there is much to commend in the schedule—his weekly Wednesday Sabbath with his family, for example—I want to offer a caution lest any pastor try to implement a modern version of this.”
  • 5 Goals of Vacation for the Leader. Ron Edmondson writes “What is the purpose of vacation? Another way I might ask this question: What are the goals you have for vacation?”
  • Stop Overspiritualizing ‘Calling’. Bethany Jenkins writes “Our primary calling is to know Jesus Christ. That’s his resounding voice in his Word. Yes, in addition to his Word, he has given us gifts and talents—as well as prayer and community—and called us to different stations. But there’s no perfect job and, even if we love our work, we often only experience that in retrospect after years of deep labor, working heartily as unto the Lord.”
  • Is It Just Tiredness You Are Dealing With, Or Is It Actually Exhaustion Leading to Burnout? Dave Kraft writes “In my work with leaders and the churches in which they serve, I am encountering (more so than ever before) those who are very tired.”
  • Is Your Job a Living Sacrifice? In looking at Romans 12:1-2, John Piper states “The goal of these two verses is that you find the way of life at work and your home that makes Christ look at valuable as He really is. That’s what worship is.”
  • #KingofDreams. Steve Graves writes “Do strategy and Scripture have anything to do with each other? I’m convinced they do. Sometimes it is clearly stated in a single passage and other times it is embedded deep in the narrative or overall context.”
  • The 10 Commandments of Leadership. Brian Dodd shares these helpful 10 Commandments of Leadership, some the concepts were taught to him by John Maxwell.
  • Great Leaders Develop Leadership Vocabulary. Ron Edmondson writes “Great leaders understand the power of their words. The things they say develop the culture of the organization, team member’s perceptions of their individual roles, and the overall health and direction of the organization. Great leaders, therefore, choose their words carefully.”
  • The Greatest Leader in America. Patrick Lencioni writes “The truth is, our greatest leaders usually don’t aspire to positions of great fame or public awareness. They choose instead to lead in places where they can make a tangible, meaningful difference in the lives of the people they are called to serve.”
  • The Difference Between Your Job and Your Work. In this short post, Dan Cumberland writes “Few jobs bring a perfect alignment between your real work and your job. The more you can do your work in and through your job, the more connected you’ll feel to what you do.”
  • Five Reasons a Team Lacks Joy. Eric Geiger writes “A joyless team harms the people on the team and those the team serves.”
  • Work as Calling. Watch this forty-minute messages from Os Guinness (author of The Call, the best book I’ve read on the subject of calling), at the 2013 Gospel at Work Conference.
  • Your Job Doesn’t Define You. Megan Sauers writes “Are we compelled by the fact that He loves us? That is the most important thing. Not what we do, but that He loves us!”

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

NOW THAT’S A GOOD QUESTION!

  • Should Christians Attend Gay Weddings? Does It Matter Whether They’re Religious or Secular? Randy Alcorn writes “Regardless of people’s individual opinions, one thing is certain: this is an issue that will NOT go away. While there is a strong trend toward evangelicals attending gay weddings in the name of Christ’s love, I have to say I believe it is more loving to God and to the participants to not encourage them to think their union is good and healthy, when God’s Word shows otherwise.”
  • How Much Sleep is Too Much Sleep? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper answers this question –  Is it more glorifying to God to utilize his gift of rest through sleep or to capitalize on the time we have to go sleep-deprived in order to more fully serve him?”.
  • What is the Purpose of Fasting? In this six-minute video, Don Whitney states “The most important thing about fasting when you actually try it is to realize that fasting is to be done for a purpose, a God-centered, biblical purpose. Otherwise it becomes a miserable, self-centered experience.”
  • #AskRC Live Twitter Event: July 2017. My favorite sessions at Ligonier conferences are the “Question and Answer” sessions. Enjoy this “Ask R.C.” Twitter Event with R.C. Sproul in which he answers a wide variety of questions.
  • Is Christianity Rational?  R.C. Sproul writes “The God of Christianity addresses people’s minds. He speaks to us. We have a Book that is written for our understanding.”
  • Why Did God Create?  Steven Lawson writes “Why did God create? Certainly not because he needed someone to love.” This seems to contradict the sentiments of the new popular song being sung in churches by Hillsong “What a Beautiful Name”, which includes the lyrics “You didn’t want heaven without us, So Jesus, You brought heaven down.”
  • Does Our Marriage to Christ in Heaven Mean Our Earthly Marriage Partners Won’t Be Important to Us?  Randy Alcorn writes “I do envision that people who’ve had important roles in each other’s lives will continue to be friends—and that would include a lot of people who’ve been married. So although married couples’ relationships will look different in Heaven, that certainly doesn’t mean that earthly marriage is unimportant and that God doesn’t use it in our lives in profound ways.”
  • Is Christ the Only Way? When R.C. Sproul was in college he was asked by one of his professors, “Is Christ the only way?” Watch this four-minute video to see how he responded.

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Will There Be Work in Heaven?

How about you? Do you now or have you at one time thought that the only work that had value in God’s eyes was “full-time Christian work”, such as serving in the ministry as a pastor or missionary? Do you feel that there is “sacred” or “religious” work, and everything else is “secular work”, and that secular work is a necessary evil, just to pay the bills and support your family, and contribute to God’s mission, but having no real value in God’s eyes?  That is what many Christians think.

If we were to admit it, many of those we work with, and perhaps some of us, view work as a necessary evil. Most don’t look at their work as a vocation, a calling, or even a career. No, it’s just a job. They embrace Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend” philosophy, celebrate reaching “Hump Day”, ask “Is it Friday yet?”, get the “Sunday Night Blues” as they think about going to work on Monday morning, and count down the days until they can retire.

I wonder if many have a low value of work because they think it is temporal. Many believe that work is something that we will only do on earth.  But is that true? Some reading I’ve been doing recently would seem to contradict that thinking.

Randy Alcorn, author of Heaven, writes of our work continuing in Heaven. He states “Work in Heaven won’t be frustrating or fruitless; instead it will involve lasting accomplishment, unhindered by decay and fatigue, enhanced by unlimited resources. We’ll approach our work with the enthusiasm we bring to our favorite sport or hobby. Because there will be continuity from the old Earth to the new, it’s possible we’ll continue some of the work we started on the old Earth.”

Paul Stevens in his book Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture writes that our final destiny is not a workless utopia, but a renewed world in which we will work with infinite creativity and fulfillment.

In his chapter “What Does the Culture Say?” in the new book The Gospel & Work, Daniel Darling writes that many, if not most, Christians see their workplaces as simple vehicles by which they can provide for their families, tithe their incomes to the church, and perhaps engage in occasional evangelistic conversations. The actual work seems unimportant in light of eternity. But he tells us, our job on Monday is not a means to an end—it is part of your divine calling to fulfill the mandate given to us as God’s image bearers. The cubicle, the garage, the classroom—these are sanctuaries where you are called to worship your Creator with your best work. Our work on earth, when done for the glory of Christ, passes the test of fire (1 Cor. 3:12–13) and is mere preparation for our perfected vocations in eternity.

Here are a few Bible passages to ponder on the subject:

  • We will serve Him day and night in His temple – Revelation 7:15
  • His servants reign forever and ever – Revelation 22:5
  • We will rule over many things – Matthew 25:23

How about you? Do you believe that work is only temporal and that we won’t have work in Heaven?  Why or why not?


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My Review of The Big Sick

The Big Sick, rated R
***

The Big Sick is a well-written and acted true life love story that has both serious and funny moments, but also has some significant content issues.
This film is written by Kumail Nanjiani (HBO’s Silicon Valley), who plays himself, and Emily V. Gordon (his real-life wife), and is the true story of their meeting and early relationship. It is directed by Michael Showalter (Hello, My Name is Doris).
The film is set in Chicago. Kamail is Pakistan-born stand-up comedian. He is also working as an Uber driver to make ends meet. He lives with ***SPOILER ALERT***
Azmat and Sharmeen insist on arranging a marriage to a Pakistani girl for Kamail. Because of this, Kamail can’t tell his parents about the white woman that he is falling for. Eventually, the pressure gets to be too much for Kamail and he breaks up with Emily, breaking her heart. Then, Emily develops a rare lung infection and is hospitalized.
In the hospital Kamail meets Emily’s parents, Terry (Ray Romano, Everybody Loves Raymond) and Beth (Holly Hunter, four-time Oscar nominee and winner for The Piano) for the first time. I enjoyed watching their interactions as they dealt with Emily’s illness.
*******************
The film features some strong acting performances by all of the main characters. Of special note was Ray Romano’s performance in a serious role.
The film is rated R for a significant amount of adult language, including repeated f-bombs and abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names. Some of the language is sexual in nature. That alone will keep many from considering this film. In addition, there is sex depicted outside of marriage (nothing graphic shown).
On the other hand, there are many positive aspects to this film. There is a good deal of humor, as well as sadness, in the film. The film also includes positive messages about marriage, family, forgiveness and reconciliation.


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Best of Fernando Ortega: Live in St. Paul
****

I was introduced to Fernando Ortega years ago when he opened for Michael Card. He has since become one of my favorite artists. This concert recording was originally available only as a DVD, but is now fortunately also available as an audio recording.  Including 19 songs, this concert was recorded in 2004 at Northwestern College’s Maranatha Hall as Fernando was on tour supporting his 2004 album Fernando Ortega.  He plays 7 of that album’s 12 songs here, including the touching and humorous “Mildred Madalyn Johnson”. The recording features Ortega and band, including an accordion, but the focus is on Ortega’s gentle vocals over his piano.
If you’ve seen Ortega in concert you know that one of the best things is often times humorous introductions to his songs, which are not included here, the focus being solely on the music. In addition to the songs from Fernando Ortega, he includes many of his most-loved songs, such as “Creation Song”, “Lord of Eternity”, “Children of the Living God”, “This Good Day”, “Sing to Jesus” and “Our Great God”. This is Ortega’s only live album and it’s a gem.

Flowers in the Dirt (Special Edition) – Paul McCartney
****
This 2-CD “Special Edition” (the release comes in a number of different configurations), of McCartney’s excellent 1989 album Flowers in the Dirt features a remastered version of the original 13-song album (plus Où Est Le Soleil?, which wasn’t on the original album), on one disc, and nine previously unreleased demos McCartney recorded with Elvis Costello on the second disc. The demos are what really got my attention on this release, the 10th installment of McCartney’s Archive Collection, all of which have been personally supervised by McCartney. This album has special significance for me as well. It was the album McCartney toured on for his 1989-90 World Tour, on which I saw three of the shows, the first of now twelve concerts I’ve seen of the former Beatle.
Listeners will be pleased with the remastered version of the original album. It features such strong songs as “My Brave Face” (his last Billboard solo Top 40 hit), “This One”, “Put it There” and the 89-90 World Tour opener “Figure of Eight”. The original demos with Costello are: Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Learning to Love the Psalms by Robert Godfrey. Reformation Trust Publishing. 263 pages. 2017
****

The author, a respected seminary president and professor, mentions that over the past several years the Psalms have been his favorite book of the Bible. He begins the book by looking at the attractiveness of the Psalms and asks why the book of Psalms is not more important to Christians today. He states that the aim of the book is to help the reader understand and appreciate the Psalms at a new level.
He tells us that John Calvin believed that singing in worship should include only the words found in the Bible. Calvin was responsible for versifying the Psalms, and stated that the Psalms were an anatomy of all the parts of the soul.
The author states that the main theme of the Psalms is God’s goodness and unfailing love for the righteous. There are also multiple subordinate themes of the Psalms that he identifies. They are:

-The sinfulness of the righteous
-The mysteries of providence in the success of the wicked
-The mysteries of providence in the suffering of the righteous
-Confidence in God and the future despite difficulties

The author tells us that keeping these themes in mind will help the reader see the basic message of the Psalms more clearly.
We are told that many (73) of the Psalms are specifically credited to David. The Psalms are from the perspective of the King. The New Testament quotes the Psalms 376 times from 115 different Psalms. The author writes that Jesus “fills and fulfills” the Psalms, and that he loved the Psalms.
The author tells us that we need to understand the forms of Hebrew poetry. He mentions the groups, or groupings, of Psalms. There are five sections to the book of Psalms. For each he devotes seven chapters in this book. Each chapter includes an introduction, and then he looks at six or more psalms from that section in detail. He also gives us ten good questions to ask of each psalm.
The book includes helpful questions for reflection and discussion at the end of each chapter. I really enjoyed this excellent book, and I think anyone who would like to learn more about the book of Psalms will as well. Continue reading