Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Why I Would Recommend You Don’t Go See the Movie “The Shack”

the-shackKnowing that I enjoy going to the movies, I’ve already had many friends ask me if I was planning to see the upcoming film adaptation of William P. Young’s best-selling 2007 novel The Shack. When I tell them that I’m not going due to serious theological issues in the book, they usually respond that they don’t know or care too much about theological issues, they just loved the book.

Several years ago, when it seemed like everyone I talked to was reading the book (the book has sold an incredible 22 million copies to date), I decided to read it myself. I wanted to see why it was resonating with so many people, even some of my friends who didn’t regularly attend church. And while the book can speak to those who have experienced a tragedy or lost a loved one, I had serious concerns about the way the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) were portrayed.

To help you be discerning as you consider whether or not to watch the film or read the book (as interest in the book has been rekindled with the release of the film), I offer the below perspectives from three respected Christians teachers.

  1. Tim Keller. In this article Tim Keller writes “But here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible.”
  2. Tim Challies. In this article (which also links to his lengthy review of the book), Tim Challies writes “The Shack presents God in human flesh. It makes the infinite finite, the invisible visible, the omnipotent impotent, the all-present local, the spiritual material. In its visual portrayal of God it diminishes, it obfuscates, it blasphemes, it lies. Even though I would watch the film to help others interpret it and to bring correction to error, I would still be subjecting myself to a false, blasphemous portrayal of God. I cannot allow myself to watch it even for that purpose. I cannot and will not watch or review it.”
  3. Randy Alcorn. Randy Alcorn writes “Unfortunately, increasingly few people these days are well grounded in the Word and have both the knowledge and the discernment to filter out the bad while embracing the good. That means that some people, perhaps many, will fail to recognize the book’s theological weaknesses, and therefore be vulnerable to embracing them, even if unconsciously. Sadly, I personally know some who have been led down a path of universalism through their understanding of the book and what they have heard the author say, either publicly or privately.”

I know these comments won’t be popular with many. Please seriously consider them when making your decision about whether you will see this film. And if you disagree with what is written here, please let me know and why.  Also, if you need good materials that address the topics in the movie such as “Where was God when I lost my loved one?” I would be glad to give you some recommendations.

Blessings!


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My Review of Get Out

get-outGet Out, rated R
***

Get Out is a creative, well-made film about race combined with satire, horror and comedy that will make you want to scream at the main character during the film, “Get Out”!
This film is written and directed by Jordan Peele (Comedy Central series Key & Peele), who has cited the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead film as an inspiration for making his feature film writing-directing debut because that film had an African American protagonist and dealt with serious racial issues inside the framework of a horror movie. He has also stated that he first got the idea for the film during 2008 Democratic primary discussions about whether an African American or a woman was more deserving of the presidency. He then went on to explain that he further conceived the movie as a twist on the 1975 movie The Stepford Wives, in which suburban husbands replace their rebellious wives with compliant robots.  This satire on interracial relationships cost just $4.5 million to make and is receiving an incredible 100% rating on RottenTomatoes.com by film critics. The film is produced by Jason Blum who also produced Split, which recently was the number one film for three consecutive weeks.
Daniel Kaluuya (Sicario), stars as 26 year-old Chris, an African-American photographer who has been dating Rose, (Allison Williams, Girls television series) who is white, for five months. The couple is visiting Rose’s parents – neurosurgeon Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford, The West Wing) and psychiatrist Missy Armitage (two-time Oscar nominee Catherine Keener) – at their beautiful but remote lake house estate, for the first time. Chris is nervous about their reaction to him being an African-American, but Rose assures him that it won’t be a problem as her parents are not racists. And initially it appears that she is right, as he initially begins to feel welcome.
But then Chris begins to get increasingly uncomfortable, beginning with Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones). He notices that the other African-Americans in the home – groundskeeper Walter (Martin Henderson) and maid Georgina (Betty Gabriel) – are acting strange.  Then Missy is intent on wanting to hypnotize Chris. Later, we see Chris attending an awkward party with the family’s friends, all white, along with one black man Andrew (Lakeith Stanfield) who is also acting strangely. Chris then calls his best friend TSA Agent Rod (LilRel Howery) – who adds a good deal of humor to the film – to express his concerns. Does he have reason to be concerned or is he just paranoid?
Race plays a central role in this film at a time when race relations in our nation are unfortunately as poor as they have been for a long time. Rose’s parents would not consider themselves to be racists, but they use racial stereotypes, as they try to connect with Chris. All of their white friends at the party are also interested in Chris because of his race. Why?
This creative genre blending film (horror, comedy, satire) was very well done. As a white man, I felt uncomfortable watching it, which is probably what Peele would want me to feel. Michael Abel’s music score is very effective in building the suspense.
The film is rated “R” for violence, bloody images, and a significant amount of adult language, including several abuses of God’s name and sexual references.


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5 Resources to Help Christians to Be Discerning About the Movies or TV Shows They Watch

moviesMy wife Tammy and I love to go to the movies. Since we began dating 40 years ago, we’ve usually watched at least one movie a week. We also like to find television shows that we can “binge watch”. But to be honest, most films – that aren’t animated films targeted to children or faith-based – and even television shows (think of a popular show such as House of Cards or Mr. Robot), have some objectionable content or troubling worldview issues. So how can Christians be discerning about the movies or television shows that they watch?

Here are five resources you can use to help you be discerning in this area:

  1. When checking out the movies that are opening each week or a television show that we’ve heard about, I always start with the Rotten Tomatoes website. This is a very helpful site that will quickly tell you what the critics and viewers like you (referred to as “audience”), think of the quality of the film or television show. They do so by giving the film or show a numeric rating, which indicates what percentage of the critics or viewers gave the film or show a positive review. A rating of 60 or more on their “Tomatometer” is a “Fresh” review, while a rating of less than 60 is a “Rotten” review. Among other things, the site will tell you what the film or show is rated and why. You can also read reviews that are posted by critics and viewers. For example, a good film like Sully received a critic’s rating of 82, while viewers gave the film a score of 89. On the other hand, The Disappointments Room received a critic’s score of 0 and a viewer’s score of 22. That’s enough right there to tell me I probably need to save my money and take a pass on that film.
  2. The next site I’m going to check is Focus on the Family’s site Plugged In. This site provides a brief overview of the film and then includes helpful analysis about such things as the positive elements, spiritual content, sexual content and violent content of the film, as well as an overall conclusion. This can help you be discerning about a film you may have an interest in seeing. The site also includes analysis of television shows, music, games and books.
  3. I will often check Ted Baehr’s Movieguide site for content and especially worldview issues of a film. Dr. Baehr’s life’s purpose is to be used of God to redeem the values of the media while educating audiences on how to use discernment in selecting their entertainment.
  4. If a film is rated PG-13 or R and I have questions about whether or not I want to see it, I’ll often check the Kids in Mind site. This site will give you very specific information in categories such as sex/nudity, violence, profanity and helpful discussion topics from the film.
  5. To get another perspective on a film I’ll often check out Christianity Today’s Movies and TV site. I have found their reviewers to be less discerning about some films than I would prefer, but they do offer a brief but helpful “Caveat Spectator” section after their analysis of the film.

These are resources that I use to help me be discerning in the movies and television shows I watch. What do you use to guard your eyes and heart?


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My Review of the Movie ‘Paterson’

patersonPaterson, rated R
*** ½

Paterson is low-key, well-acted film that follows bus driver and poet Paterson and his creative wife Laura through a week of their lives.
The film is written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, who wrote a version of the film twenty years ago. The film follows Paterson (Adam Driver, who was excellent as Father Francisco Garrpe in the recent Silence), a bus driver and poet, his creative wife Laura (Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani) and their English Bulldog Marvin, through one week of their life in the rather depressed city of Paterson, New Jersey.  Driver actually went to bus driving school to prepare for this role, and got his license one week before filming began.
Paterson, who was named after the town he lives in, follows pretty much the same routine each day. He wakes up without an alarm at about 6:15am, picks up his folded clothes from a chair near the bed, eats Cheerios for breakfast and walks to the bus station. He doesn’t have a smartphone, thinking it would be like a leash. He drives his bus through the heart of Paterson where he overhears the conversations of his passengers, enjoys lunch surprises made by Laura as he writes poetry in the park near a beautiful waterfall, its beauty contrasting with the rest of the town we see. He walks home and grabs the mail out of the tilted mailbox post in front of his and Laura’s small home. After dinner, he walks Marvin, and stops at a neighborhood bar (where we get to know the regulars), to have one beer before heading back home to bed. His life is not unlike ours, in which we go through our routines each day.
Although Paterson’s job is as a bus driver, and he is dutiful in that job, his passion is writing poetry. We often see him inspired to write down lines of poetry in his secret notebook, and the lines of his poetry creatively appear on the screen. His favorite poet was William Carlos Williams, also from Paterson. Laura is constantly asking him to make copies of his poems, which he promises to do.
In many ways, Paterson and Laura, who are very much in love, are also very different. While Paterson’s life is relatively routine and predictable, Laura is just the opposite. She is obsessed with black and white patterns – in her painting (clothes, home decorating), in the cupcakes she bakes, etc. Paterson supports her in everything she does and wants to do, which includes wanting to order an expensive guitar so that she could be a country music singer like Tammy Wynette or Patsy Cline.
The acting from Driver and Farahani is excellent. They have wonderful chemistry on film.  Paterson is an introvert and doesn’t really share his emotions with others, while Laura is just the opposite, full of life, energy and dreams.  They support each other in their passions – Paterson’s poetry and Laura’s painting, guitar playing and baking.
There is not a lot going on in this film. It’s definitely slow moving, and may feel overly long at nearly two hours. While it will not appeal to everyone, I really enjoyed it. None of the characters we meet (Paterson, Laura, those on the bus, or in the bar), give us any indication of God being in their lives, so there is a feeling that they do not really live with purpose.
There is a good use of humor sprinkled throughout the film and after Laura tells him of a dream about twins early in the film, Paterson sees twins around town the rest of the film. Still, I came away enjoying the week I spent with Paterson, Laura, Marvin and Paterson’s friends in the bar.    The juxtaposition of the mundane and ordinary with the beautiful and passionate was an ongoing theme in this movie.  My wife thought Marvin should win best actor in this film.  : )
The film is rated “R” for a relatively small amount of adult language. It also includes a few abuses of God’s name. However, this does not seem like an “R- rated” film. Without the sparse language mentioned above this film could easily be rated “PG”, like the recent film Hidden Figures.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

CHRISTIANS SHAPING CULTURE:culture

your-work-matters

  • Why Work Matters. Watch this message from Trip Lee as he discusses why every job and task is important in God’s Kingdom.
  • To Be a Diaper Changer. Nick Batzig writes “To be a diaper changer to the glory of God is a glorious thing. Jesus said, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10).”
  • Women, We’re Co-Workers, Not Competitors. Bethany Jenkins writes “When we see that Jesus is our identity, we have new eyes to appreciate others’ contributions rather than fearfully guarding our own choices. When our goal is to advance his kingdom, not our own, we can rejoice in all sorts of work being done since we’re on a shared mission. Women making different choices are co-laborers, not competitors. It’s a team effort, so it’s a team sense of joy.”
  • Career. Calling. What’s the Difference? Hugh Whelchel writes “Rather than equate vocational calling with a specific occupation or career, we are called to be Christians in whatever situation we find ourselves. Vocational calling stays the same as we move in and out of different jobs and careers. It is directly related to the discovery of our God-given talents. We develop and hone these talents into useful competencies for the glory of God and the benefit of others, often in various jobs or occupations.
  • On Christian Retirement. Hugh Whelchel writes “A Christian never retires from serving God through his or her vocational call. While we may have moved into a new season in our lives, God still calls us to grow and invest our gifts and talents in the work that he is doing in the world.”
  • Essential Keys to Finishing Your Race Well. Dave Kraft shares these essential keys for the Christian leader to finish well. He writes that he regularly teaches these, and by His grace, seeks to practice them in his own life and work.
  • In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell encourages us to be an everyday learner. We should keep learning and keep earning so that we can be returning.
  • It’s Not Only Athletes: What Platform Has God Given You? Randy Alcorn writes “But regardless of what vocation or position or role in a family God gives us, when God gives His people a platform to stand on, and a voice that can be heard, He expects them to represent Him faithfully. When they achieve something, whether as a farmer, factory worker, teacher, nurse, clerk, or salesperson, He calls upon them to give Him glory.”
  • Ken Costa on How to Discover Your Calling, Hope in the Workplace, and Connecting with Millennials. Carey Nieuwhof talks to Ken about integrating faith at work, finding your calling, Alpha and what millennials are looking for.

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

this.n.that-small

Courtesy of World Magazine

Courtesy of World Magazine

CURRENT EVENTS:

  • Last week I had a great time in Atlanta with team members located there. We enjoyed the Escape Room as a team building exercise. Tammy and I worshipped at Passion City Church where Crowder led worship. We enjoyed the city and the people we met there, but definitely not the traffic.
  • Why Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban. Jeremy Weber writes “More than 500 conservative evangelical pastors and leaders representing all 50 states are urging President Donald Trump to reverse his temporary ban on refugee resettlement.”
  • Most Refugees Who Enter the U.S. as Religious Minorities are Christians. Katayoun Kishi writes “A little over a third of the refugees who were admitted into the United States in fiscal 2016 (37%) were religious minorities in their home countries. Of those, 61% were Christians, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.”
  • The Boy Scouts Succumb to Radical Gender Ideology. Denny Burk writes “I can’t help but grieve that the Boy Scouts are going along with this radical redefinition of what it means to be a boy. They are making a big mistake in this, and it will be one that hurts not only their organization but also the very boys they wish to serve.”
  • 7 Ways to Do Political Punditry Wrong in a Polarized World. Kevin DeYoung writes “Perhaps a look at the negative will point us in a positive direction. Let’s briefly consider seven ways to do political punditry wrong in a polarized world.”

CHRISTIAN AUTHORS & FILM:

  • Henri Nouwen’s Weakness Was His Strength. Wesley Hill writes “Before Brené Brown appeared on the TED stage, before spiritual counseling and small group ministry in evangelical parachurch ministries had encouraged believers to disclose more of their doubts and insecurities, before movements like the charismatic Cursillo and the contemplative Taizé and Renovaré had gone mainstream, Nouwen was already advocating a spirituality that took its cue from Christ’s nail-scarred risen body.”
  • C.S. Lewis’s View of Women, and How He’s Impacted My Thinking. Randy Alcorn writes “The following questions and answers are from my contribution to Women and C. S. Lewis: What His Life and Literature Reveal for Today’s Culture, edited by Carolyn Curtis and Mary Pomroy Key. I highly recommend this unique and well-reviewed book, which has excellent contributions by 26 others, including Alister McGrath and Kathy Keller.”
  • Trapped: A Short Film on Teen Unplanned Pregnancy. Randy Alcorn writes “Most prolife films are short clips or movie length, and unfortunately, the short ones don’t allow viewers much time to experience the emotions or to ponder. This one, on the other hand, has a large amount of silence, allowing for contemplation. The fact that the air doesn’t get filled with words helps listeners draw their own conclusions based on the obvious facts.” Watch the 20-minute film.
  • silenceOn Silence and More. Steven Garber writes “The best stories always tell the truth of the human condition, the truth about who we are, so the heart of a good story is that we can see ourselves, both the glory and the ruin of the human heart. And that is the main reason Silence is a story for all of us, if we have ears to hear.”

DOCTRINE AND CHURCH LIFE:

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4 Reasons to Consider Starting a Faith and Work Book Club in Your Workplace

book-club
For the past few years, I’ve enjoyed participating in a Faith and Work Book Club in my workplace. We meet early on a Friday morning and are currently working on our fifth book since the group began. It’s a highlight for me each week as I get together with a small group of peers to discuss the book and how to integrate our faith and work and be a positive influence and representative of Christ in our workplace.

I can think of 4 reasons that you should consider starting a Faith and Work Book Club in your workplace:

  1. To help others with the concepts of calling and vocation. While some people think of their work as a career, many think of it as just a “job”, and a way to pay the bills. They look forward to each weekend and can’t wait for retirement. In your Faith and Work Book Club, you help participants see their work as a clear calling from the Lord. They can see that the work they do Monday through Friday in the workplace is a way to serve the Lord.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord. (Colossians 3:23-24)   

  1. To show the value of “secular” work in comparison to “full-time Christian ministry”. Many believers (and I used to feel this way) don’t think that their secular work has value in God’s eyes. Yes, their jobs provide for their families and allow them to support their churches and missionaries, but does God really care about what a computer programmer does in an insurance company, for example? In other words, can they code for the glory of God? I’ve seen the light come on when people realize that the answer to this question is a resounding “Yes”!

One of the books we have read and discussed is Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. In the chapter entitled “Making Much of Christ from 8 to 5”, Piper writes:  “Seek to do your work in such a way that Christ looks more important than your work. Seek to make and use money in such a way that Christ looks more important than money. Seek to have relationships with people in the workplace such that Christ is more important than those relationships”.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

  1. I know far too many people who are unhappy in their jobs. When you are unhappy in your job, it can easily carry over into your home life, negatively impacting relationships with your spouse and children. I’m also aware of some who have actually retired earlier than originally planned because they were unhappy in their work. You don’t want your group to become a “gripe session”, but you do want it to be a place of encouragement.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (2 Thessalonians 5:11)

  1. Prayer and Fellowship. A Faith and Work Book Club can be a place in which rich relationships can be made and strengthened. We share what is going on in our lives and pray for each other (and others) in our group.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)

These are just 4 reasons that I can think of why you should consider starting a Faith and Work Book Club where you work. Do you have others? Have you started a Faith and Work Book Club in your workplace? If so, please let us know what your experience has been. And feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about how to start a Book Club in your organization.

There are many excellent books being published to help us integrate our faith and work. Here are 5 that I would recommend that you consider for your Book Club:

Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson

Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Tim Keller

Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work by Tim Keller

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith

God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life by Gene Edward Veith

The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert

The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs by Sebastian Traeger and Greg Gilbert

How Then Should We Work

How Then Should We Work? by Hugh Whelchel