Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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What is Biblical Hospitality?


I should title this article as “Do as I say, not as a I do”, because biblical hospitality is an area that I need to demonstrate some growth in. Every Christian is called to practice hospitality, but not everyone practices it the same way. Hospitality is so important that the Apostle Paul listed it as a requirement of the office of an elder in a local church:
“Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” 1 Timothy 3:2
I’ve recently read two books that have challenged me in the area of hospitality –Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Area of Unbelief by Matt Chandler and The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield. Let me share what I have learned about biblical hospitality from these two books.
Pastor and author Matt Chandler tells us that when we talk about what it means to be courageous and faithful in the age of unbelief, we have to talk about the Great Commission, which is our mission. He believes it’s more true than ever to say that evangelism is going to look like hospitality. He states that hospitality means to give loving welcome to those outside our normal circle of friends. It is opening our life and our house to those who believe differently than we do.
Why would the Bible be so serious about hospitality? Chandler tell us that it’s because God has been hospitable to us, saving us as sinners and inviting us to eat at his table in his eternal home. He tells us that we demonstrate that we truly appreciate the divine hospitality we have received as we extend our own hospitality to those around us.
He offers four helpful suggestions regarding hospitality:
1. Welcome everyone we meet. He means literally to greet everyone you see. That may be easy for Chandler, an extrovert, but it will be harder for introverts like me.
2. Engage people. He tells us to care about and take an interest in those we run across.
3. Make dinner a priority. Here he’s not talking about dinner with friends, but going back to his definition of hospitality, he’s talking about give loving welcome to those outside your normal circle of friends.
4. Love the outsider. In every setting, work, neighborhood, etc., there are people who for whatever reason are kind of outliers. Chandler tells us that we tend to run away from differences and from being around people who think differently and look differently than we do. Chandler tells us that Jesus would have moved toward those people, and because God extends radical hospitality to us, we should as well.
Chandler tells us that missional hospitality is costly. It costs our time, our money and comfort. It requires trust in God instead of ourselves and demands courage. He tells us that the extent of our courage will be shown by who sits around our table.
Rosaria Butterfield is a pastor’s wife and has an incredible story that she tells in her first book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. In her new book she writes about “radical, ordinary hospitality”. She defines this as using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers into neighbors, and neighbors into the family of God. It brings glory to God, serves others, and lives out the gospel in word and deed. Its purpose is to build, focus, deepen, and strengthen the family of God, pointing others to the Bible-believing local church, and being earthly and spiritually good to everyone we know. She tells us that daily hospitality, gathering church and neighbors, is a daily grace.
But, Rosaria states, daily hospitality can be expensive and even inconvenient. It compels us to care more for our church family and neighbors than our personal status in this world.
Radical ordinary hospitality creates an intimacy among people that allows for genuine differences to be discussed. It cares for the things that our neighbors care about. It means esteeming others more highly than ourselves.
And like Chandler, Butterfield addresses the issue of our personality type in her discussion of hospitality. She writes that knowing your personality and sensitivities does not excuse us from ministry. It just means that we will need to prepare for it differently.
I learned a great deal about hospitality and was challenged in this area by these two books.
What would you add to this discussion of biblical hospitality?

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My Review of DOG DAYS

Dog Days, rated PG
** ½

Dog Days is a feel-good romantic comedy featuring several characters and their dogs set during the summer in Los Angeles. The film is directed by three-time Emmy nominee Ken Marino (Children’s Hospital, Burning Love) and written by Elissa Matsueda (The Miracle Season) and Emmy nominee Erica Oyama (Burning Love).  The film had a budget of just $10 million.

****SPOILER ALERT*****
There’s a number of stories going on at the same time – here’s a summary.  Elizabeth, played by Nina Dobrev (The Vampire Diaries) is the host of a morning Los Angeles television show. Life is going well until her live-in boyfriend Peter cheats on her. That leads to her and her dog Sam going into depressions. She and Sam go to see the overpriced dog therapist Danielle, played by Emmy nominee Tig Notaro (Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted). Former National Football League star Jimmy Johnston, played by Tone Bell, has a dog named Brandy and is a guest on Elizabeth’s show shortly after the breakup. Their “chemistry” on screen leads the producer to hire Johnston to co-host the show, much to the disappointment of Elizabeth.
Walter, played by Ron Cephas Jones (This is Us), is a lonely widower, who used to be a professor at UCLA. He enjoys his overweight pug Mabel, and has a few run-ins with a 16-year old pizza delivery boy Tyler, played by Finny Wolfhard (It, Strangers Things). The second run-in results in Mabel running away. Tyler offers to help Walter find Mabel and in turn Walter offers to tutor the fatherless Tyler at no cost.
Mabel ends up being found by Amelia, played by Elizabeth Phoenix Caro, a young girl recently adopted by Grace, played by Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives), and Kurt, played by four-time Emmy winner Rob Corddry (Children’s Hospital).           
Amelia had been having a hard time adjusting to her new family and Mabel, who she names “Mr. Snuggles” is just what she and her new parents need.
Tara, played by Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical) works in a coffee shop but wants to do work that matters. She also has a crush on Dr. Mike, played by Michael Cassidy (Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice), the hunky veterinarian whose office is across the street.  A frequent customer, the socially uncomfortable Garrett, played by Jon Bass has a crush on Tara, but Tara doesn’t notice that. Tara finds a stray chihuahua who she names Gertrude. Her apartment building doesn’t allow dogs. Garrett runs New Tricks, a dog adoption business and says that he will take Gertrude. Tara, looking for more purpose in her life, begins to volunteer at New Tricks.
Dax, played by Adam Pally, lives in the same apartment building as Tara. Dax is in a band named Frunk, and isn’t very responsible, forgetting to even show up for his sister Ruth’s baby shower, which he agreed to DJ. Ruth, played by Jessica St. Clair (Bridesmaids) and husband Greg, played by Thomas Lennon, have twins and ask Dax to take their labradoodle Charlie for a while as they adjust to their new babies.
End of plot summary – Did you catch all of that?
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Content concerns include some adult topics (breakups, living together, romance), and a number of misuses of God’s name (“Oh my God”).  Themes include the family, motherhood, friendship and adoption.
I have missed going to see romantic comedies at the movies because they haven’t made very many lately, but this one is a bit sappy.  At times this film has the feel of a Lifetime or Hallmark television movie. That could be because the director, writers and many of the actors involved are best known for their television performances. The film includes a solid cast and the writing is average at best. The film is also overly long at nearly two hours.
Dog Days is an enjoyable, feel-good film that is somewhat predictable, but has some positive messages. Because of the adult topics included I wouldn’t recommend the film for very young children.


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My Review of BlacKkKlansman

BlacKkKlansman, rated R
** ½

BlacKkKlansman is a well-acted film that is mostly based on an incredible true story. Unfortunately, demonstrating the subtlety of a Michael Moore film, the film tries too hard to connect former Grand Wizard David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) with President Donald Trump. The film is directed by two-time Oscar nominee Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, 4 Little Girls) and is based on the book Black Klansman: A Memoir by Ron Stallworth. The screenplay is written by Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott and Lee.  The film had a budget of only $17 million.
Ron Stallworth, played superbly by John David Washington (The Book of Eli, Ballers), the real-life son of Denzel Washington, is the first African American police officer hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department. It is a police department in which racism is prevalent and tolerated.

SPOILER ALERT ***************
Initially placed in a boring position in the Records Department, Stallworth is then given an undercover opportunity in 1972 to attend a rally in which former Black Panther Kwame Ture (formerly known as Stokely Carmichael), played by Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton), is to speak. Outside the venue Stallworth meets Patrice, the President of the Black Student Union, an activist group, played by an Angela Davis look alike Laura Harrier (Spider-Man: Homecoming). Inside the venue, Stallworth, finds himself agreeing with some of what Ture is saying, as he encourages the crowd with chants of “Black Power”. After the meeting, Patrice and others are harassed by the police. Stallworth takes a liking to Patrice, but working undercover, tells her that he works in construction.
Stallworth is then given the assignment to infiltrate the local chapter of the KKK, which is led by Walter, played by Ryan Eggold (Blacklist). Stallworth arranges to meet with Walter, but since he is African American he needs to identify a white police officer to portray himself and meet with him instead. Flip Zimmerman, a Jewish officer played well by three-time Emmy nominee Adam Driver (Girls) is assigned to portray Stallworth. Zimmerman does the job well, earning the confidence of Walter. The KKK members are generally portrayed as cartoonish stereotypes by Lee. Eventually Stallworth, who can speak both “white” and “jive” is talking on the phone to KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, well played by Emmy winner Topher Grace (The Beauty Inside).
At the local level, Walter decides he needs to step down, and proposes that Stallworth, though new to the chapter, take his place. As Stallworth and Zimmerman continue their work together they become aware of a planned KKK attack.
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The film makes excellent use of music throughout, including a previously unleased live rehearsal recording of Prince singing “Mary, Don’t You Weep” over the closing credits. Despite the serious nature of the film, it also includes a lot of humor.
An interesting scene showed the juxtaposition of different groups shouting “Black Power” (Black Student Union) and “White Power” (KKK), reminded me of Black Lives Matter and White supremacist groups today.  Dialogue coming out of Duke’s mouth included lines very close to Trump’s making America great again and putting America first.
Content concerns include a significant amount of adult language, including several occurrences of the “F” and “N” words.  It would be appropriate for older teens and adults.
For the majority of the film, despite the quotes referenced above, the film, particularly the acting of Washington and Driver, was excellent. The film also includes a strong supporting cast. Oscar nominee Alec Baldwin (The Cooler) and 91-year-old Emmy winner Harry Belafonte (The Revlon Revue) appear in small roles. Lee includes some of his classic people-mover camera work in a scene with Washington and Harrier late in the film.
Unfortunately, the film’s ending insults the intelligence of the audience with its “paint by numbers” effort to try to connect Duke with President Trump, using graphic video footage of the 2017 tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia and quotes from President Trump.
BlacKkKlansman, based mostly on a true story, is a film that you may not agree with, but it is certainly thought-provoking. But it’s also not a film that will tend to bring our country together, unlike the film Won’t You Be My Neighbor? As I wrote in my review of that film, one of this year’s best, that film was just the type of film we need today in our divided country.


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The Eagles and James Taylor Concert in Washington D.C.

The Eagles and James Taylor at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. (June 26)
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This concert was actually my wife and my Christmas gift to each other. It was the most (by far) we had ever spent on a concert ticket, and it wasn’t nearly the highest price ticket for the concert. And it turned out to be one of the best concerts we have ever been to – and we’ve been to a lot of them over the years.  Back in the late 1970’s we saw Fleetwood Mac and were stunned at the ticket prices – at the time they were $20 each.  My oh my how times have changed.
James Taylor is one of our favorite artists. We have seen him in concert several times, and he’s always outstanding. He was the “opening act” on this warm and humid night at the packed home of the baseball Nationals in our nation’s capital. “JT” was backed by his “All-Star Band”, and they all got an opportunity to show off their many talents. Taylor and the band were clearly having a great time during their 90-minute set (as an opening act, somewhat shorter than his usual set). The only disappointment was that surprisingly, Taylor didn’t play any songs from his 2015 comeback album Before This World.  Instead, he focused on his more popular songs from his catalog, beginning with “Something in the Way She Moves”, from his 1968 debut album on the Beatles’ Apple Records.
Taylor started his set precisely on time at 7:00 pm, as the music on this evening would not end until 4 and a half hours later. Check out Taylor’s setlist here.
I had last seen the Eagles more than 38 years ago when they played the Alpine Valley Music Theatre about 45 minutes from Milwaukee, Wisconsin in June 1980, with Christopher Cross as the opening act. I had just started my career the month before, and that concert was on a weeknight. Despite the three-hour drive home (after getting out of the parking lot), I still went to work as scheduled the next morning. Oh, to be young!
After the death of Glenn Frey in 2016, I doubted that the Eagles would tour again. But with country artist Vince Gill and Frey’s son Deacon joining the band, the Eagles have returned, and they are at the top of their game.
After about 35 minutes to change the stage, the Eagles opened with a pitch perfect ‘Seven Bridges Road’. With five different vocalists – Frey, Gill, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmidt and Joe Walsh – taking leads, the band would play for two and a half hours without a break. Unfortunately, some fans had to leave before the end of the show in order to catch the last Metro ride from the Navy Yards station.
The band’s vocals sounded great throughout, and their harmonies in particular were incredible. Gill tended to take care of the high notes that needed to be hit and Frey did a great job singing some of his Dad’s most popular songs, such as “Take it Easy”. Joe Walsh, a fan favorite, took over the last part of the concert, with James Gang favorites “Walk Away” and “Funk #49” and the sing along “Life’s Been Good” and “Rocky Mountain Way”, one of three encores with “Hotel California” and Don Henley’s closing “Desperado”. Check out the Eagles setlist here.  The Eagles and JT gave us the Christmas gift to remember.


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Our Trip to the Museum of the Bible

We recently traveled to Washington D.C. On our “must do” list was a visit to the new Museum of the Bible. Unlike many of the museums (Smithsonian, etc.) in our nation’s capital, this museum is a non-profit organization, and is dependent on donations. The suggested donation for an adult is $19.95. Other experiences at the museum were available for an additional donation. We chose to go with the standard admission, and with that there was certainly plenty to experience.
The museum includes six floors, and we started at the top floor and worked our way down. When we reached the top floor, we were met by three “Secret Service” looking guards, blocking our path. We asked a museum employee what was going on, only to be told that there was a special guest present. Thinking perhaps that a member of Congress was present, we asked who it was. It turned out to be a controversial TV pastor from Texas who was there for an event. We wondered if John the Baptist would have had such security detail and thought for a minute it was something for The Babylon Bee.   
Side note of comment to this pastor titled BE AVAILABLE by Bob Goff:
“Take it from a guy who had the audacity to put his cell number in the back of his book: there’s a huge power in just being present, being available, to those around you. What if you took time for the people in your life? What if you made some audacious plans to rock their lives? Try it and see what happens!” 
The 6th floor had some excellent views of the Washington Monument and the Capitol building. It also had the Manna restaurant, a biblical garden and the Gathering Room.
The 5th floor includes the World Stage Theatre, which offers an immersive and multimedia Bible reading experience. We enjoyed the Israel Antiques Authority presentation, featuring many artifacts from the biblical period.   Picture the 5 smooth stones of David when he fought Goliath – they were actually the size of small fist-size cannonballs!
The 4th floor was probably my favorite. It features more than 600 artifacts and 50 media programs. It immerses you in the Bible’s journey through technology and culture. I enjoyed the many exhibits in this area, and the different bibles, from Martin Luther’s translation, a first edition King James Bible to an English Standard Version (ESV) that I use today.
The 3rd floor includes a 30-minute Hebrew Bible Experience and a walk-thru the World of Jesus of Nazareth experience. It also includes the New Testament Theatre, which was very crowded, so we did not attend.
The 2nd floor was about the impact of the Bible in diverse areas like music, fashion and government, and its significant impact on American culture. I enjoyed seeing a replica of George Whitfield’s field pulpit. Among the many other items featured was Elvis Presley’s bible.
The 1st floor, which is where we had entered, features a 140-foot digital ceiling, a Vatican Museums and Library exhibition and a gift shop.
The Museum of the Bible was beautiful, and very well done in every aspect. It didn’t cheapen Christianity like the Orlando theme park “The Holy Land” does. There was quality in every aspect of the facility, from the many video presentations, displays and exhibits.
We spent two hours at the museum, but you could easily spend much more time than that. We did notice many busloads of children at the museum. I’m not sure how much children will get out of the experience, but for adults, this would be time well spent. To find out more about the Museum of the Bible, go to their website.


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American Airlines Flight 1002

We recently traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the Eagles and James Taylor concert. We had enjoyed visiting the area multiple times years ago, and so decided to turn it into a short vacation and visit some sights that we hadn’t seen since our last trip there ten years ago. But looking at the weather forecast cast a pall over the trip. The D.C. area had experienced heavy rain over the preceding week, and rain and t-storms were forecast for our entire stay, including during our outdoor concert at Nationals Park.
Looking at the forecast I could feel my anxiety starting to rise. You see, I very much enjoy the benefits of flying (getting there quickly), but I sure don’t like the turbulence. My wife Tammy tells me that I would pay good money at a theme park for the bumps and drops you experience during turbulence, but I always say that it’s different when you are 35,000 feet in the air. It sure looked like we would be flying into heavy thunderstorms as we headed out east. But, as I have to be taught over and over, things don’t always happen the way you anticipate that they will.
Our trip had “bumps” from the beginning, including having to wait on the runway of our small regional airport to fly to Chicago. Then, in Chicago, our flight was delayed about a half hour due to the storms in Washington D.C. Once we were in the air, I was ready for the turbulence. But the turbulence that we experienced was not what we expected.
About a half hour into our trip, we noticed that a male passenger five rows in front of us was having some medical problems. A message was flashed up on our monitors asking for any medical personnel on board to assist.
For the next hour or so, a wonderful woman comforted and worked on the man in question. As time went on, the airline flight attendants and another volunteer assisted the woman. Eventually the man was moved to the center aisle of the plane.  There, CPR was performed on him for at least fifteen minutes and his heart was shocked multiple times as we made an emergency landing in Pittsburgh.
Although we never heard for certain, our assumption is that the man lost his life that day. Neither he, nor his family, would have ever thought, boarding that flight, that this was to be his last day on earth.
And to the two volunteers who assisted him, and the flight attendants on American Airlines flight 1002, a big “Thank You”. You were brave and heroic under the most difficult of circumstances.
And our flight from Chicago to Pittsburgh to Washington D.C.? Well, it was smooth with absolutely no turbulence. Our flight home five days later in beautiful weather? Well, that one had significant turbulence, even though the weather seemed perfect for flying. What does that teach me? To depend on the Lord to take care of us. I was worried about a few bumps, but a man lost his life. Later, when I expected a bump-free trip home, we experienced a lot of turbulence.
What similar stories do you have that you could share?


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My Review of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE – FALLOUT

Mission: Impossible – Fallout, rated PG-13
****

Mission Impossible: Fallout, the sixth film based on the television series that ran from 1966 – 1973, is an exciting, non-stop action film, one of the best films of the year. The film is directed by Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects). McQuarrie, who also wrote the screenplay, directed 2015’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.  The film had a budget of $178 million, and made that back with an opening weekend worldwide gross of in excess of $205 million.
This film picks up the storyline from Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. It is set two years after Ethan Hunt, played by three-time Oscar nominee Tom Cruise (Jerry Maguire, Magnolia, Born on the Fourth of July), had captured anarchist Solomon Lane, played by Sean Harris (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation). Remaining members of Lane’s organization called the Syndicate have since formed into a group calling themselves the Apostles. They have a belief that suffering leads to peace. They have been working with a mysterious John Lark inside of Impossible Missions Force (IMF) to obtain three plutonium cores to create three bombs. Hunt has to get the plutonium back, but Lane, who Hunt left alive rather than killing, is working with the Apostles, even though he is in custody.
Ethan is sent to Berlin to find Lark before he buys the plutonium by his boss Alan Hunley, played by Oscar nominee Alec Baldwin (The Cooler). Ethan meets Benji Dunn, played by Simon Pegg, and Luther Stickell, played by Golden Globe winner Ving Rhames (Don King: Only in America) in Berlin, but the mission to buy the plutonium fails when Ethan chooses to save Luther’s life. The plutonium is taken by the Apostles.
CIA Director Erica Sloan, played by Oscar nominee Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do With It) Hunley’s boss, insists on sending one of her agents, August Walker, played by Henry Cavill (Superman films) along with Ethan to Paris to insure the mission is successfully completed. We don’t know who to trust. It appears that Baldwin and Sloan, as well as Ethan and Walker, are working against each other.
Ethan and Walker make a thrilling HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) jump through a thunderstorm into Paris. Cruise trained for an entire year to perform that stunt. In Paris they attend a fundraiser party where Lark is set to buy the plutonium from the Apostles, with an arms dealer known as the White Widow, played by Emmy nominee Vanessa Kirby (The Crown), acting as a broker.
Will Ethan and his team, including Ilsa Faust, played by Golden Globe nominee Rebecca Ferguson (The White Queen) along with Walker be able to get the plutonium and keep the Apostles from using it to create incredible suffering? And are Ethan and Walker really on the same team?
The film has a number of exciting car chases, incredible stunts and double-crosses. It takes place in Berlin, Paris, London and Kashmir and features stunning shots from those locations, courtesy of cinematography by Rob Hardy (Annihilation). The film features a strong cast, with many members returning from previous films in the series, along with a few new additions (Bassett, Cavill).
Content issues include some adult language, including the abuse of Jesus’ name, and a significant amount of violence.
Mission Impossible: Fallout is a thrilling, non-stop action film with great visuals and stunts. It’s overly long at nearly two and a half hours, but that is my only complaint about this excellent film.