Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of Dispatches from the Front

Dispatches from the Front. Episode 10: The Fourth Man
****

In this tenth episode of Frontline Missions’ and Tim Keesee’s excellent Dispatches from the Front series, Keesee travels to the Middle East. He talks about the deep darkness in the territory, but also that the Gospel is powerfully at work here. He speaks of the contrast of darkness and light, death and life,
Throughout his travels, we see Tim with these brothers and sisters who courageously preach and teach the Word in difficult areas. He states that Christ, the Fourth Man (the one in the flames with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego), still walks with his people in the fire (Daniel 3:25). So don’t lose heart, the Fourth Man has already gone before us through the fire and crushed death.
The DVD also includes some special features which I enjoyed.
I highly recommend this new episode, and all ten episodes, in the Dispatches from the Front series.


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My Review of The Zookeeper’s Wife

The Zookeeper’s Wife, rated PG-13
** ½

The Zookeeper’s Wife tells the amazing true story of a Polish couples’ courage and self-sacrifice during World War II.
This film was written by Angela Workman and based on Diane Ackerman’s 2007 bestselling book, The Zookeeper’s Wife: A War Story, which itself was inspired by the unpublished diary of Antonina Zabinska. The film is directed by Niki Caro (McFarland, USA, Whale Rider).
The film takes place in Warsaw, Poland (though the film was actually shot in Prague), beginning in 1939. It covers seven years in the lives of Antonina Zabinski, portrayed by two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (trying her best to use a Polish accent), her husband Jan, played by Johan Heldenbergh (The Broken Circle Breakdown), and their young son Ryszard. We see that they care deeply for the animals in the zoo that they own and run. In addition, Jan is involved in the Polish Underground and the Home Army.
German bombs are falling on Warsaw and the Warsaw Zoo while German troops occupy the city. We see the violence of war with people and animals dying. When the zoo is bombed, the surviving animals are seen wandering about the city. Jewish people are taken and held in an area that is known as the Warsaw Ghetto. The Zabinski’s see what is going on and decide to provide shelter to Antonina’s best friend Magda Gross, played by Efrat Dor.
Lutz Heck, played by Golden Globe nominee Daniel Brühl (Rush), is a former colleague and the head of the Berlin Zoo, but who is now an SS officer and Hitler’s leading zoologist. After the bombings, he offers to transport the most prized animals to Berlin for safekeeping. The Zabinskis approach Heck with a plan to turn the zoo grounds into a pig farm that would serve to provide food for the German army.  In reality, however, they have a plan to save as many Jews as possible and by doing so put their own lives constantly in danger.
The film’s focus is on Antonina, though it can be argued that Jan took the greater risks in this story of resistance against the Nazis. The film includes powerful themes of self-sacrifice, courage, fear and love. It also will challenge the viewer with moral dilemmas.
The film is rated PG-13 for war violence, scenes of sexual assault and sexuality, and surprisingly contains some brief gratuitous nudity. The film’s costumes, sets, and musical score all add to the film’s realism and tension. The acting performances, particularly by Chastain, Brühl and Heldenbergh are solid.
Although I can’t put my finger on it, this film is missing something. It moves along slowly, and despite the danger all around her, we don’t see Antonina feeling the fear that she had to be feeling.  Overall this is a great story that the film doesn’t quite measure up to.


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My Book Review ~ The 1997 Masters: My Story by Tiger Woods

The 1997 Masters: My Story by Tiger Woods with Lorne Rubenstein. Grand Central Publishing. 256 pages. 2017
****

On this Masters weekend, I thought it would be good to share my review of Tiger Woods new book which commemorates the 20th anniversary of his record-breaking win at the 1997 Masters. Like I have the past few years, I spent some priceless time watching a part of yesterday’s second round with my Dad. But Tiger was not among the participants in this year’s Masters; injuries have once again kept him from participating in a tournament. At only 41 years of age the injuries have taken their toll: his first knee surgery occurred back in 1994 while at Stanford. Between 1994 and 2016, he went through four knee surgeries and three back surgeries, along with other procedures. He admits that he probably came back too early from some of the surgeries, due to his desire to compete and his need for competition.  Perhaps prophetically, towards the end of this book he writes “Still, I don’t know how much longer I’ll play.”
Over the years I have had three favorite golfers – Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tiger. If they were playing in a tournament, that would be enough for me to tune in to the telecast. Yes, Tiger has had major moral failings – and he writes about the pain that caused his family in this reflective book – but his presence in a tournament will still cause me to take notice. Unfortunately, those instances are becoming fewer and fewer.
In this book he takes the reader through his record-breaking win at Augusta National in the 1997 Masters tournament in which he actually shot a 4 over par 40 on the front nine of his first round. At that time, Tiger’s caddy was Mike “Fluff” Cowan and his coach was Butch Harmon. But this book contains much more than a detailed look at the 1997 Masters.
He talks about his relationship with Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Palmer died in 2016. Tiger has won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill eight times. He writes that he will never forget their friendship and Palmer’s counsel to him over the years.
He writes of his father Earl, “Pop”, who died in 2006. Earl had a triple bypass only a month and a half before the 1997 Masters. Despite that, he flew to Augusta to stay at the same house as Tiger during Masters week. Tiger writes that he had so many good times with his father on the course, just the two of them, when he was a kid.
Tiger writes of watching Jack Nicklaus win the 1986 Masters on television. After that, he made sure he watched the tournament every year. He first played the Masters in 1995 qualifying because he’d won the U.S. Amateur the year before. He writes about his first time playing in the tournament and his feelings about the tournament’s and the club’s history with blacks.
Tiger writes about stopping at an Arby’s on the way home from the course, a ritual he and his friends would superstitiously do each day of the tournament. He writes about greeting Lee Elder after he had signed his winning scorecard. He thanked him for his sacrifices, what he meant to the game, and how hard he fought to make it to the Masters as their first black player in 1975. Tiger told him that his win was all about the black golfers who had come before him, what they had done for him, and that he wasn’t a pioneer. They were the pioneers.
He writes that he had hoped his win would open some doors for minorities. His biggest hope was that we could one day see one another as people and people alone. He wanted us to be color-blind. Twenty years later, he sadly reflects that this has yet to happen.
He briefly writes about his career after the 1997 Masters, including changing his swing. He writes about the changes that have been made to Augusta National and what he thinks about them. Tiger had averaged 323.1 yards off the tee at the 1997 Masters, an amazing twenty-five yards longer than the next guy. He states that after major changes came along for the 2002 Masters it wasn’t as much fun to play the course anymore.
He writes about today’s golf equipment and how far today’s ball flies. He writes “It probably makes me sound like an old-timer saying things were better back in the day, but I don’t see how anybody could say it’s a good thing that the ball is going so far, and that it doesn’t curve as much because it doesn’t spin.”
He writes about his children and their mother Elin, stating that he betrayed her and that his dishonesty and selfishness caused her intense pain. He states that his regret will last a lifetime. He writes that he and Elin have become best friends now as they care for their children. He writes that not a day goes by that he doesn’t think about his father, who he admits would have been disappointed in his son’s poor personal decisions.
What are Christians to think of Tiger? He’s had serious moral failings, but writes of his regrets. He has been known to use adult language on the course. He doesn’t talk much about his beliefs in this book, but does write of going to the Buddhist temple where he learned how to meditate. Woods is also one of the greatest golfers of all time. It’s this that attracts me to him, and it’s why I hope that he’s able to get healthy enough to play competitively again. He states that “compete” remains his favorite word, and probably always will.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

REAL-LIFE EXAMPLES:

  • What’s the Difference Between American Apparel and Chick-fil-A? Bethany Jenkins writes “Both companies want to provide fair wages to their employees and be transparent in their dealings. But Chick-fil-A’s leadership wants “to glorify God” in everything they do—from how they treat their customers to how they cook their food.”
  • Ministering from Behind the Barber’s Chair. Jason Cook interviews Thomas “Tick” Campbell a barber in Oxford, Mississippi about how he integrates his faith and work.
  • Living for More than Sunday’s Game. Jason Cook interviews Cedric Peerman, who played in the National Football League (NFL) for nine years and is currently with the Cincinnati Bengals, about how he integrates his faith and work.
  • Coding for the Kingdom. Timoteo Sazointerviews Adam Murray, a senior web developer for World Vision and associate pastor of Priest Lake Christian Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee, about how he integrates his faith and work.
  • When a Gospel Conversation Finds You. Bethany Jenkins interviews Regina Robinson, dean of student affairs at Cambridge College and co-founder of Heart Change Fellowship, about how she integrates her faith and work.
  • Evangelism Lessons from Dr. Walt Larimore. Bill Peel writes “Here are some of the most important things I’ve learned from my friend, Dr. Larimore, about bringing faith conversations into a medical practice that are applicable to any workplace.”

  • Tim Keller’s 4 Ways the Gospel Transforms Work. Tim Keller started thinking deeply about a Christian view of work when a member of his congregation met with him to ask what it meant to be a Christian actor. Over years of thinking and teaching on work, Keller has observed four ways the gospel can transform work. Listen to Keller unpack these principles (and share a fifth as a bonus) to an audience at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, on November 8, 2016. A time of questions and answers follows the talk.
  • An Evening with Christian Wiman. “What is it we want when we can’t stop wanting? I say God.” Such core revelations are what comprise the latest work of world-renowned poet Christian Wiman. The intermingling of calling and desire, the inhering of the self in our work, the catalyzing hunger of longing — these tensions form the high-wire of meditation that Wiman treads. Hear this critically acclaimed poet investigate the ineffable essence of God’s calling in our daily lives in his brand new work, presented for the very first time, commissioned under the Center for Faith and Work’s inaugural Artist Fellowship. Watch the 47-minute video.
  • Neither Snobbish Nor Super-Spiritual About Work. William Taylor writes “Realizing all jobs are dignified should profoundly influence how we view ourselves and the position in which God has placed us. Indeed, it will influence what kind of work we’re prepared to do for the gospel’s sake.”
  • The Uniqueness of Christian Service. David Wells writes “Christian service is unique for three reasons. First, it is unique in its source. That source is our redemption in Christ. Second, it is unique in its objective, which is to model, as far as is possible, Christ’s kind of servanthood. Third, it is unique in its character, for it is motivated by God’s holy-love.”
  • The Christ-Centered Employee. Paul Tautges writes “Knowing that we ultimately work for the Lord is what will keep us working for the glory of God, both in spirit and performance. As we honor and submit to our earthly masters, God will be glorified in the workplace.”

Continue reading for more links on Leadership – inside & outside the church and Practical Ideas; Top 10 Faith & Work Quotes of the Week; A review of Ken Costa’s book, “Know Your Why”; and to follow along with our Faith & Work Book Clubs!

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

CURRENT EVENTS:

  • My Amazon Reviews. Check out more than 240 of my reviews (books, music and movies) on Amazon here.
  • Princeton Seminary Rescinds Honoring Tim Keller. Kate Shellnutt writes “The most popular Reformed preacher and author in America today is not eligible to receive Princeton Theological Seminary’s annual award in Reformed theology and public witness. The mainline seminary reversed its decision to honor Tim Keller with a prize named for neo-Calvinist theologian Abraham Kuyper following outcry over the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) pastor’s conservative positions.”
  • My Tribute to Tim Keller. Scott Sauls, who served with Tim Keller at Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, shares his appreciation for Keller, who recently announced his retirement from pastoral ministry effective July 1.
  • Four Thoughts on Persecution in America. Kevin DeYoung writes “From stiff fines, to family shame, to being kicked off college campuses, to laws against sharing our faith, to unjust trials, to public mockery and scorn, to arrest and brutality, if we faithfully follow Jesus in this world we all will face persecution at some point in our Christian discipleship. Even American Christians—if they are really Christians—will have crosses to carry.”
  • The Gathering Storm: Religious Liberty in the Wake of the Sexual Revolution. Albert Mohler writes “These are days that will require courage, conviction, and clarity of vision. We are in a fight for the most basic liberties God has given humanity, every single one of us, made in his image.”

Courtesy of World Magazine

CHRISTIAN LIVING:

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My Review of The Boss Baby

The Boss Baby, rated PG
** ½

The Boss Baby offers some humor and ultimately a good message about the importance of family that will appeal to both children and adults.
This animated comedy from DreamWorks is directed by Tom McGrath (Madagascar films), written by Michael McCullers (Austin Powers sequels, Mr. Peabody and Sherman) and is based on Marla Frazee’s 2010 children’s book. As the film opens, we see babies proceeding along a conveyer belt. Ultimately, a “tickle test” will determine whether they will go be delivered to a family or to positions in “management” with Baby Corp. Baby Corp is a competitor of Puppy Co. for the affections of families.
The Boss Baby (voiced by Alec Baldwin) wears a suit, carries a briefcase and is delivered to the happy home of seven year old Tim (voiced by Miles Christopher Bakshi), his Dad (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel) and Mom (voiced by Lisa Kudrow). Tobey Maguire narrates the film as the older Tim.  Dad and Mom both work for Puppy Co.  Prior to the arrival of the Boss Baby, Tim was a happy seven year old with an active imagination, who loved to play with his parents. He was awakened every morning at 7:00 am by his Lord of the Rings wizard-inspired alarm clock. He had all of his parent’s attention and affection. Each night as he went to bed, he got hugs, stories read and was sung to sleep by his parents singing the Beatles classic 1968 song “Blackbird”. All that changes when his new baby brother shows up via a taxi cab. The Boss Baby immediately commands all of Dad and Mom’s attention and energy, much to the chagrin of Tim. Tim goes from receiving all of his parent’s attention to almost none of it.
But Tim is suspicious of the Boss Baby. Soon he finds out that the Boss Baby is not an ordinary baby. No, he can actually talk, and is on an undercover mission for Baby Corp, leading other babies in the effort. Tim seeks to expose him to his parents, so his life can go back to the way it was before the Boss Baby showed up. He eventually agrees to work with the Baby Boss to work against the Puppy Co. CEO (voiced by Steve Buscemi) and their anti-baby plot (they are developing a lovable new kind of puppy that will cut into the amount of family love available to babies). The Boss Baby agrees to leave the home after his mission is accomplished.
The film is mostly family friendly, with a bit of language, a good deal of “toilet humor” and several shots of baby bottoms, all played for humor. Adults may get some of the jokes that children will miss, such as the Boss Baby’s line, “Cookies are for closers”, which is a parody of Alec Baldwin’s famous line from Glengarry Glen Ross, “Coffee is for closers!”
Overall the film was better than I expected. It delivers a strong pro-family message and delivers some funny moments. In addition, the computer animation lives up to the high standards that we expect from DreamWorks.


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


The Misadventures of Fern and Marty
****

The Misadventures of Fern & Marty is the first Social Club full-album release on Capitol Records after being independent artists, and their fourth studio album overall. The fifteen songs include themes of marriage, family, the grace and love of God and plenty of fun. There are a number of special guests such as Andy Mineo. Unless otherwise noted, the songs were produced by 42 North and Wit.

I really enjoyed this album. Below are a few comments about each of the songs:

Vibes Vibes Vibes – This song is written by 42 North, Wit, and the Social Club Misfits. It features a good beat right out of the box, with Fern and Aha Gazelle trading verses on this autobiographical track.  It includes reference to their being signed to Capitol Records:

Now they say that we great
I just say that you late

Independent so long when the labels would call we thought it was fake

The song closes with a spoken word piece by about what it mean to be a misfit.

Pop Out Revenge – This song is produced by Amarl, and was the first single released from the album. It was written by Amarl and the Social Club Misfits and features some good beats. Amarl, Marty and Fern all take a turn at the lead vocals. Includes another reference to them being signed by Capitol.

Love 4 Real– This was the second radio single released. It was written by Wit, 42 North, Daramola and the Social Club Misfits. It’s a love song about dating, marriage and family. It has more of an easy-going vibe. Fern, Marty and Daramola share the lead vocals.

Who Else
– This is a fun song that features Andy Mineo and includes lines like “Bout to make chubby fellas cool again” and “Come to your door like I’m Newman”. It was originally made for their Friends and Family Tour.  It’s has a good beat throughout, and is my favorite track on the album, reminding me of the excellent collaboration Marty had with Mineo on “Paisano’s Wylin” from the latter’s Neverland EP. The track is produced by 42 North and written by Mineo and the Social Club Misfits. Continue reading