Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles and Quotes

  • Do the Biblical Warnings Against Riches Apply to Most Americans? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper responds to the question “I struggle with feeling peace with God when I feel that he will judge me harshly for living as comfortably as I do. I am wondering if God wants me to give up the pleasures and comforts that this country offers?”
  • Should I Attend a Homosexual Wedding? Kevin DeYoung writes “A wedding is not a dinner invitation or a graduation open house or retirement party. Even in a completely secular environment, there is still a sense—and sometimes the wedding invitations say as much—that our presence at the event would honor the couple and their marriage. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to attend a wedding (let alone cater it or provide the culinary centerpiece) without your presence communicating celebration and support for what is taking place. And, as painful as it may be for us and for those we love, celebrating and supporting homosexual unions is not something God or His Word will allow us to do.”
  • What Does It Mean to be Pro-Life? Is pro-life more than pro-birth? Why isn’t the pro-life movement committed to the whole person? These are common questions aimed at the pro-life movement. In fact, one of the most frequent criticisms of the pro-life movement is that those who hold such views only care about ending abortion. In this episode of Signposts, Russell Moore addresses these questions and offer my perspective on the pro-life movement by thinking about what it means to fight for justice and human dignity.
  • I’m Addicted to Pornography. How Can I Defeat This Sin? In this three-minute video, Russell Moore encourages those who are addicted to pornography to seek help by confessing sin to other believers who will preach the gospel to them and encourage them towards holiness.
  • Can a True Christian Have Depression? Watch this ten-minute video as Dr. Jeremy Pierre of Southern Seminary addresses this question in Honest Answers.
  • Are Mega-Churches Biblical? Can a church ever be too big? Dr. Hershael York answers in Honest Answers.
  • What Is Definite Atonement? In this one minute plus clip from the 2012 Ligonier Ministries Theology Night, C.Sproul explains that God’s purpose in the atonement was limited and definite.
  • Brother, Are You Saved?C. Sproul writes “What do you need to be saved from? You need to be saved from God! Not from kidney stones, not from hurricanes, not from military defeats. The thing that every human being needs to be saved from is God.”

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • How Should We Respond When a Leader Implodes? Eric Geiger writes “Regardless of whether or not the reality of leaders falling is more common or the same as it has always been, it’s happening too much. The moral failures are far too frequent. So how should we, those of us who are believers, respond when a leader disqualifies himself or herself from their role?”
  • The Sanctity of Labor. Are you working “for the weekend”? Or counting the years to retirement? From his series Christian Ethics, R.C. Sproul explains that work is sacred and we are called to labor diligently to the glory of God.
  • Work’s Toll and Significance. Bill Peel tells us that work can have a high toll on us but also a lasting significance. Learn how to work smarter for the Kingdom of God.
  • John Coltrane’s Faith and Work Story Behind A Love Supreme. Caroline Cross writes “Like Coltrane, we too are working toward the consummation of a calling.”
  • Strengths or Weaknesses: Which Need More Attention? Hugh Whelchel writes “God intends for us to use our gifts and talents to glorify him, serve the common good, and further his kingdom in all we do in our churches, our families, our communities, and at our jobs.”
  • How to Establish a Workplace Cultures That Actually Sticks. Art Lindsley writes “In today’s culture, we are desperately seeking a renewal of character but are not willing to give it a sufficient foundation.”
  • Practicing Curiosity: How to Connect Better with Congregants. Amy Sherman writes “To shepherd well, a pastor must know his sheep. To know implies curiosity about the people God has entrusted to your care. Curious pastors will study their congregations, they will seek to understand their lives and contexts, and they will give particular attention to the vocations of their people. Curious pastors will want to know what their sheep do Monday through Saturday and how they do it.”
  • Discerning the Season of Your Life. Ron Edmondson writes “Review your life by how the seasons molded you. God never wastes a season. Ask God to place in your heart what He wants you to learn during this specific season of your life. Invite God to speak into your seasons.”

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10 (+ a bonus!) Family-Friendly Films That I Recommend

My wife and I love to go to the movies and usually see at least one a week – thanks to MoviePass!  Unfortunately, most films have some content issues. To assist parents here are 10 family-friendly films (plus one) from the past few years, along with my original reviews, that I can recommend to you.  Just click on the name in the list below to be taken to my review.

Paddington 2

Peter Rabbit

Ferdinand

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Wonder

All Saints

Hidden Figures

Queen of Katwe

The BFG

 The Jungle Book

And here’s a bonus family-friendly film for you to consider:  Zootopia

These are 11 family-friendly films for you to consider. What other family-friendly films would you add to the list?


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My Review of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR

Avengers: Infinity War, rated PG-13
***

Avengers: Infinity War is a movie that has been ten years in the making. This is a big movie in every way, being released on the franchise’s tenth anniversary of the first film, 2008’s Iron Man. The nineteenth film from the Marvel Universe comes with a budget of approximately $300 million, is about 160 minutes long, includes about 64 main characters, and has multiple plotlines. Although the film is well made and entertaining, with a good deal of humor, there is almost too much going on here. We lose some character development to the almost constant action violence battle scenes.
The film is co-directed by Emmy winners Joe Russo and Anthony Russo (Arrested Development, Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: The Winter Soldier).  The film is co-written by Emmy winners Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: The Winter Soldier).
The villain in the film is the formidable Thanos from the planet Titan, played by Oscar nominee Josh Brolin (Milk). Thanos is the step-father of Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana (Avatar), one of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Thanos towers over his enemies. He believes that the universe is suffering from over-population. His goal is to destroy half of life in the universe. To do this, he needs to obtain six powerful Infinity Stones, and place them in his large glove. With each stone he gets, he will become more powerful.  If Thanos gets all the stones he will be unstoppable. Thanos is assisted by Ebony Maw, played by Tom Vaughan-Lawlor. The film is about the Avengers trying to keep Thanos from obtaining those stones.
The film includes the Marvel superheroes we’ve been introduced to over the past ten years, as well as some new characters; from Iron Man, played by two-time Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr. (Trophic Thunder, Chaplin) to Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman (Marshall, 42).
The film includes some excellent humor – for example from Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth (12 Strong), continuing to call Rocket Raccoon, voiced by four-time Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook), a rabbit, and a great exchange between Thor and Star-Lord, played by Chris Pratt (Jurassic World).
Content issues include a small amount of adult language and like all Marvel films, several intense battles scenes. Themes in the film include the abuse of power, self-sacrifice, perseverance, teamwork, courage, love and friendship.
Avengers: Infinity Wars is a well-made entertaining and intense film that also includes some well-placed humor. The ending may disappoint some viewers, who will have to wait for the next Avengers film, shot at the same time, which will be out in 2019. And with all Marvel films, don’t forget to stay in your seats all the way through the ending credits for a final scene.


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My Favorite Podcasts

For years, I’ve enjoyed listening to podcasts and I subscribe to many of them. A podcast is defined as “a digital audio or video file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device, typically available as a series, new installments of which can be received by subscribers automatically”.  Many churches make their sermons available via a podcast for example. Some of the podcasts I subscribe to are from churches or other ministries. Some of the podcasts are related to leadership or faith and work. I subscribe to all of my podcasts on iTunes. Here are my favorite podcasts that I would recommend to you:

  • The Briefing. This podcast features Albert Mohler’s worldview analysis about the leading news headlines and cultural conversations. It is required listening for me each weekend morning.
  • The Gospel Coalition. The Gospel Coalition podcasts features lectures and workshops from their conferences, as well as timely interviews and round table discussions on applying the gospel to the issues of our day. Included among the podcasts is Nancy Guthrie’s helpful “Help Me Teach the Bible”.
  • Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast. This monthly podcast features Andy Stanley talking about a variety of leadership topics.
  • Tim Keller’s Sermon Podcast. This podcast from Gospel in Life features a classic message from Keller every month or so.
  • Ravi Zacharias Podcasts. Ravi Zacharias has two podcasts that I enjoy:
  1. Just Thinking. Just Thinking is a quarter-hour weekday broadcast. This program mixes biblical teaching and Christian apologetics. The programs seek to explore issues such as life’s meaning, the credibility of the Christian message and the Bible, the weakness of modern intellectual movements, and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.
  2. Let My People Think. Let My People Think is a half-hour program heard weekly. This program mixes biblical teaching and Christian apologetics. The programs seek to explore issues such as life’s meaning, the credibility of the Christian message and the Bible, the weakness of modern intellectual movements, and the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.
  • Renewing Your Mind. Renewing Your Mind is an outreach of Ligonier Ministries, founded in 1971 by Dr. R.C. Sproul. The podcasts include teaching by Dr. Sproul and the other Ligonier Teaching Fellows (Sinclair Ferguson, Derek Thomas, Albert Mohler, etc.).
  • Truth for Life. This podcast features the daily bible teaching ministry of Alistair Begg.
  • Grace to You. Grace to You is the daily podcast of John MacArthur’s bible teaching.
  • Ask Pastor John. This podcast features John Piper answering questions from listeners.
  • Unlimited Grace. This new podcast features sermons from Bryan Chapell, Senior Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, IL (where Tammy and I were married), and President Emeritus of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri (where I attended seminary).
  • Martyn Lloyd-Jones Sermons. This podcast features the sermons of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the great Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century. For almost 30 years, he was the minister of Westminster Chapel in London.

Just missed:

  • Revisionist History. I really enjoy Malcolm Gladwell’s books, having read them all, some more than once. Last year he introduced this podcast with ten episodes. Revisionist History goes back and reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood. I hope that he releases some additional episodes. This is really fascinating listening. If you enjoy his books you’ll enjoy this new podcast.

I also subscribe to podcasts from the following churches Grace Presbyterian (Bryan Chapell), Christ Presbyterian (Scott Sauls) and First Presbyterian (Derek Thomas).

These are my favorite podcasts. What about you? What are some of your favorites? Please share with us.


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Three Organizations That Exemplify a Close Connection between Faith and Work


There are a few organizations that I respect because they exemplify a close connection between faith and work. Three in particular are:

Chick Fil-A. In her book It’s My Pleasure: The Impact of Extraordinary Talent and a Compelling Culture by Dee Ann Turner writes that Chick Fil-A is not in the chicken business, but the people business. Selling chicken is just a means for glorifying God.  See my review of Dee Ann’s book.
All Chick Fil-A stores are closed on Sunday. Chick Fil-A’s founder Truett Cathy, made the decision to close on Sundays in 1946 when he opened his first restaurant in Hapeville, Georgia. Having worked seven days a week in restaurants open 24 hours, Truett saw the importance of closing on Sundays so that he and his employees could set aside one day to rest and worship if they choose.
Cathy also stated “We should be about more than just selling chicken. We should be a part of our customers’ lives and the communities in which we serve.”
Chick Fil-A is known for their world-class service. I’ve read about their organization in books by Patrick Lencioni, Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller.

Hobby Lobby. Hobby Lobby got its start in 1970 when David and Barbara Green took out a $600 loan to begin making miniature picture frames out of their home. Today, with more than 750 stores, Hobby Lobby is the largest privately owned arts-and-crafts retailer in the world with approximately 32,000 employees and operating in forty-seven states.
One of their principles is “Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles”. Another is “Providing a return on the family’s investment, sharing the Lord’s blessings with our employees, and investing in our community.” All Hobby Lobby stores are closed on Sunday.

Barry-Wehmiller. Barry-Wehmiller is a global supplier of manufacturing technology and services based in St. Louis, Missouri. I first read about Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller in Simon Sinek’s book Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. Barry-Wehmiller measures success by the way they touch the lives of people.
Their website states the following about their organizational culture:
“Step inside any one of our 100 locations around the globe and you’ll feel it: a culture of care, compassion and human connection. Our commitment to our people-first culture runs deep and has inspired a leadership model that places a priority on improving the lives of the people who make our business possible. We call it Truly Human Leadership and it stems from a deep-rooted belief that this is the way we are called to work and live. By sharing the story of our successful cultural and leadership model initiatives we intend to raise the awareness of other leaders about the power of business to have a profound positive impact on the world.”
Check out Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family by Chapman and Raj Sisodia to learn more about this extraordinary organization.  Read my review of the book.

Are there any organizations that you respect because of how they connect faith and work?


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My Review of THE MIRACLE SEASON

The Miracle Season, rated PG
***

The Miracle Season is an emotional and inspirational film based on the true story of the Iowa City West Girls Volleyball team’s 2011. The film has a surprisingly strong cast, is directed by Emmy nominee Sean McNamara (That’s So Raven, Hoovey, Soul Surfer) and written by David Aaron Cohen (Friday Night Lights), and Elissa Matsueda (Spare Parts).
Erin Moriarty (Captain Fantastic) stars as Kelly Fliehler. The film opens with a voiceover from Kelly talking about her relationship with best friend Caroline Found, played by Danika Yarosh (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), who goes by “Line”. We see them in flashbacks as young girls and then teens. They play on the Iowa City West Girls’ Volleyball team.  Caroline is the team’s captain and setter and has a personality that is extremely upbeat. The team won the Iowa state championship in 2010 and with Caroline being a senior, they are aiming at a repeat in 2011.

***SPOILER ALERT ***
Caroline’s mother Ellyn, played by Jillian Fargey (Bates Motel) has been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and is in the hospital. The week before school is to start Caroline decides to take a moped – that her father Dr. Ernie Found, played by Oscar winner William Hurt (Kiss of the Spider Woman) doesn’t know she has been riding – to the hospital to visit her mother. But Caroline is killed in an accident on the way to the hospital. We see her mother attend Caroline’s funeral, but shortly after the funeral she dies as well.
The film is primarily about how the Iowa City West Girls Volleyball team and Caroline’s father Ernie deal with these losses. We see Ernie’s faith shaken from the losses. The film focuses on the team’s 2011 season. The team is coached by Kathy Bresnahan, called “Bres”, played by Oscar winner Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets). After the tragedy, Kelly and her teammates don’t want to continue playing.  But Coach Bresnahan convinces Kelly that she needs to replace Caroline as the leader of the team, and that the team should play the season in honor of Caroline.
********************

The film uses a lot of music (Katy Perry, Britt Nicole, etc.) Themes include teamwork, tragedy, loss, grief, encouragement and faith. The Miracle Season is an inspirational well-made film based on a true story. It is better than many sports films I’ve seen. It features strong acting performances from Helen Hunt, William Hurt and Erin Moriarty.

Live Like Line: The Story of Caroline Found. In this fourteen-minute video Frank Deford tells the story of the 2011 Iowa City West Girls Volleyball team. Only watch after you see the film The Miracle Season.