Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • The Best Workers Are the Best Neighbors. Tom Nelson writes “Martin Luther said it well: “God does not need your good works, but your neighbor does.” A primary way God designed us to love our neighbors is for us to do our work well, and from our work to have the capacity to be generous to neighbors in need. When it comes to being a helpful neighbor, a slothful worker faces an uphill climb. On the other hand, the best workers make the best neighbors.”
  • Leaders and Loneliness. Scott Sauls writes “In the past two years, five of my friends who are pastors lost their ministries because of moral failure.”
  • Humility 101: Continuing Ed for Leaders. Bill Peel writes “To discover whether pride is edging out humility, give yourself a “fruit inspection.” The absence of fruit of the Spirit means something besides the Holy Spirit is guiding you, and could be setting you up for an unwanted spot on the evening news.”
  • If God’s a Worker, What Kind of Work Does He Do? Russell Gehrlein writes “how does God carry out this work today? Sometimes he works supernaturally. For example, he does redemptive and revelatory work through his Holy Spirit, in revealing our sin and leading us to Christ. However, it is also true that God has chosen to use human beings, both believers and nonbelievers, to do this work.
  • Why You Get Distracted at Work. Michael Hyatt writes “Interruptions are outside things that throw us off. Distractions are things we do to ourselves to derail us.”
  • Center for Faith and Work Podcast. Check out the new Center for Faith and work podcast that will run every Wednesday. Here is the initial episode “Taking Faith to Work”.
  • The Greatest Burden of Leadership. Tim Challies writes “I believe the greatest difficulty of all is the knowledge that I am leading poorly. It’s the knowledge that I am not leading as well as I could or as well as I wish I would. The burden of responsibility is light compared to the burden of insufficiency, inability, or just plain failure.If all those other weights are heavy, this is the one that threatens to be crushing.”

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My Review of MULLY

Mully (not rated)
****

Mully is a well-made documentary style film telling the incredible true story of Charles Mully, a Kenyan orphan, who was used by God to save more than 12,000 orphans.
Scott Haze writes and directs this film, which also includes some dramatic reenactments from Mully’s life, some of which would be too intense for small children. The film is narrated by Charles along with his wife, seven children and his parents.
Charles’ father was an alcoholic who would brutally beat his mother. When Charles was just 6 years old, he woke up one morning to find that his parents and siblings had abandoned him. This led to a life of begging. He was bitter and depressed and wanted to take his own life. He resisted that temptation and soon after he was invited to church where his life was changed spiritually and he became hopeful for the future.
But he was still poor, so he decided to make the 50 mile walk to Nairobi to look for a job. Finally on his third day in the city a wealthy Indian woman took him in and offered him a position as a dishwasher and gardener. He did a good job and is later promoted to be manager over 800 farm workers, one of which was Esther, a beautiful young woman who would become his wife.
Charles then decides to start his own taxi/bus business. That business is successful, and then he launches business after business, all very successful. He is a millionaire, and he and his family live in a large home, host parties and live the good life.
Then one day in 1989, Charles is confronted by three homeless teens, who ask for payment in return for watching his car. He refuses and when he comes back his car is gone – he has to take his own bus home. Charles is moved by the homeless teens and later we see him drive many miles away from Nairobi, deep in thought and prayer.  He is wrestling with God over God’s call on his life to help orphans and ultimately, he bows his knee in obedience. He stuns his well-to-do family that night at dinner, telling them he is going to sell his businesses and instead provide care to the orphans on the streets. They think he is crazy.
He not only wants to provide food, shelter and an education, Charles wants these children to be part of a family and to be loved.  Within a week, the first three children show up at the Mully home. We then see Mully walk the streets of Nairobi and bring orphans home to live in the Mully mansion, which would become known as the Mully Children’s Family (MCF). Mully’s children are interviewed and they are honest in saying that they were not initially on board with their father’s plan and were resentful.
Mully would face many challenges along the way, but God provided for the growing ministry to orphans. God brought them very low, to the point of not having food for the children, only to see their need provided by the hand of God.  Quite the lesson in relying upon God’s provision.  We see MCF becoming self-sustaining, moving into farming and other sources of income. Since 1989, MCF has become the largest children’s rescue, rehabilitation and development organization Africa. This is an incredibly inspiring true story; all of this started with Mully asking God to use him.  More than that, after watching it, each of us can ask, “What is God calling me to do?” “How can God use us to serve him and his people?”
This film would probably be rated PG for some scenes of violence.  Prior to the film, Jon Foreman of Switchfoot and Lauren Daigle perform a moving acoustic version of Switchfoot’s song “I Won’t Let You Go”, a song about unconditional love.
After a three-night run in theatres, the film will be available on DVD. You can order it here.
You might also be interested in Mully’s book My Journey Of Faith: An Encounter with Christ: And How He Used Me to Spread His Love to the Poor. You can order it here.


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

CHRISTIAN LIVING….AND DYING: 

BIBLE STUDY AND GREAT RESOURCES:

  • P.T.A.T. A Strategy for Daily Bible Reading. Watch this new six-minute video from John Piper in which he introduces a strategy for better Bible reading: 1. Admit you can do nothing without God. 2. Pray for help. 3. Trust a specific promise. 4. Act. 5. Thank God for His provision and goodness.
  • Here We Stand. To mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, Desiring God invites you on their 31-day journey of short biographies of the many heroes of the Reformation, just 5–7 minutes each day for the month of October.
  • After Darkness, Light.  I continue to re-listen to the messages (some of them multiple times) from the 2017 Ligonier National Conference, which had a theme of “The Next 500 Years”. Here is the excellent conference opening message from Michael Reeves, who has written extensively on the Protestant Reformation.
  • Gospel Coalition’s 2018 Women’s Conference. Registration is now open for the Gospel Coalition’s 2018 Women’s Conference to be held in Indianapolis, Indiana June 14-16. The theme will be “Listen and Live”. Speakers include Rosaria Butterfield, Jackie Hill Perry, Nancy Guthrie, Jen Wilkin, John Piper, D.A. Carson and many others.

TO MAKE YOU SMILE:

  • Facebook Introduces New ‘Heresy!’ Reaction Button. The Babylon Bee reports According to a press release by the company, while users still have at their disposal all the previous reactions—“Like,” “Love,” “Haha,” “Wow,” “Sad,” and “Angry”—they’ll now be able to react to any Facebook post with a “Heresy!” button, complete with aghast emoji man wearing a 16th-century-style scholar’s cap.”
  • New Martin Luther-Shaped Amazon Echo Will Rudely Answer All Your Theology QuestionsThe Babylon Bee reports “Dubbed the “Amazon Luther,” the new device is programmed to answer all your theology questions in the Reformer’s trademark aggressive tone and style.”
  • ESPN Launches Fantasy Preaching Software. The Babylon Bee reports “ESPN’s proprietary software will track stats like conversions, Greek words utilized per minute, arm movement, and Scripture references in real time. Participants will draft their dream team of fantasy preachers and decide which ones to place in their lineup’s various positions, like the all-important Head Pastor slot, several associate pastors, and even a closer for sealing the deal at altar calls.”

Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

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13 Reformation Resources to Help You Prepare for the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation  

On Sunday, October 29, churches around the world will celebrate the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenberg Church door, signaling the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. To prepare you for Reformation Sunday, below are 13 Reformation-related resources:

What Reformation resources do you have to add to this list?


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My Review of AMERICAN MADE

American Made, rated R
***

“Doing it for the good guys”, Tom Cruise shines as Barry Seal in a film based on true events that has some significant content issues for discerning viewers.
This film, based perhaps loosely on true events from 1978 to 1986, is a “truth is stranger than fiction” story, containing elements of true crime, comedy and thriller. Three-time Oscar nominee Tom Cruise portrays Barry Seal, a one-time star pilot, in fact the youngest airline pilot in TWA history. But when we meet Seal, he is bored with the routine life of an airline pilot, even with his Cuban cigar smuggling business on the side.
Seal’s incredible story begins when he is approached by CIA agent Schafer, (Domhnall Gleeson, Ex Machina, Brooklyn, Star Wars: The Force Awakens). He uses his knowledge of Seal’s smuggling as leverage to get him to fly covert missions for the government over Latin America countries such as Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Columbia to take spy photos from a fast, twin-engine plane. Soon, we see him engaged with the dangerous Medellin cartel, making buckets of money smuggling drugs into the U.S. Later we see him carrying Russian AK-47’s to the Contra rebels in Nicaraguan for the U.S. government.
Barry lives with wife Lucy (Sarah Wright Olsen) and their three children on 2,000 acres the CIA provides them in Mena, Arkansas, complete with its own airport. That property will become a military training ground for some of the Contras he brings back with him. Soon, Barry and Lucy have more money than they know what to do with. In fact, they run out of places to hide it. Lucy may not know all of the details of Barry’s drug smuggling work, but we see her fully enjoying the fruits of it.
The film includes a series of videotaped confessions Seal made from motels in the mid-1980’s. In addition, there is news footage of Presidents Carter and Reagan along with Oliver Stone and others included.
Seal is not a very likeable character. He makes a lot of money and his greed comes through. He apparently will do just about anything for money. Let’s just say he doesn’t have a very good moral compass, though he does love his wife and children. Actually, the film does not portray any characters that viewers will care about.
This is a role that is seemingly made for Cruise, as he flashes his signature smile and is almost always seen with his aviator sunglasses. He also does his own stunts and flies a plane.
Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) reunites with Tom Cruise, who he worked with on 2014’s excellent Edge of Tomorrow. Liman’s father Arthur was the Chief Counsel for the Senate investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal and questioned Colonel Oliver North during the public hearings.
The screenplay is by Gary Spinelli. Cesar Charlone handles the cinematography, using a bouncing, shaky camera style. We see some excellent scenes of planes flying over jungles and the ocean. The film’s soundtrack includes a number of top 40 songs from the 1970’s and 1980’s, including songs by George Harrison, Linda Ronstadt and Charlie Rich. We also see items of a bygone era such as pay phones and pagers. The film had an estimated budget of $80 million.
The film is rated “R” for a significant amount of adult language, including several abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names, sexuality (between Seal and wife Lucy), and some nudity, which is played for laughs. It is Cruise’s first “R-rated” film since 2008’s Tropic Thunder. It features some excellent stunts and action from beginning to end.
The film is well-made and entertaining, though most likely a highly fictionalized and perhaps controversial version of actual events. The film implicates both Republicans and Democrats along the way. Unfortunately, the film also contains significant adult language and sexuality, and that may be enough to keep some discerning viewers away from this one.


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Music Reviews
Hard Cuts: Songs from the H A R D L O V E Sessions (EP) – NEEDTOBREATHE
****

NEEDTOBREATHE has stated that one of the hardest parts about finishing their chart-topping 2016 album H A R D L O V E was determining which songs had to be cut to get down to the twelve songs for the album. This new EP contains six songs, two of them alternate versions of “Hard Love”, along with four songs that were cut from the original album.
The EP contains two new versions of “Hard Love”, one featuring Serena Ryder and one featuring Andra Day. Along with the version featuring Lauren Daigle from The Shack: Music From and Inspired By, this makes three versions of the song released since the album was released last year, which seems to be a bit of an overkill.
Below are brief comments on the other four songs:
Waiting – This song was produced by Dave Tozer and NEEDTOBREATHE, and written by Bear and Bo Rinehart. It is a keyboard driven song with a strong drum beat, backing vocals and a good guitar solo. He is haunted by a woman, who keeps him waiting, shaking, trembling, and chasing mistakes that he made. It’s my least favorite of the new songs.
Count on Me – This song was produced by Dave Tozer and NEEDTOBREATHE, and written by Tozer, Bear and Bo Rinehart. This song features a strong drum beat, keys and some backing vocals. Thematically it is similar to “Brother” from their excellent Rivers in the Wasteland album. It features encouraging lyrics.
Everybody needs a pick me up
You can count on me
 
Walking on Water – The last two songs of the four new ones were my favorites, starting with “Walking on Water”. This song will appeal to the band’s Christian fan base as it will remind them of Peter walking on the water to Jesus in Matthew 14. It starts slowly and then builds powerfully and joyfully on the chorus with a with a strong drum beat and backing vocals. There’s no turning back.
Can’t see nothing at all
But Your outstretched arms
Help me believe it
Though I falter
You got me walking on water

Cages – This song was produced by Ed Cash and NEEDTOBREATHE and written by Bear and Bo Rinehart. It’s another song that the band’s Christian fan base will resonate with. It starts as a piano-driven song, with light drums. He was looking for attention, was needing redemption but all he got was cages. It then builds powerfully with drums and guitar. They reference their 2009 album The Outsiders, stating that they’re a band of outsiders.
I’m in a prison for a man gone wrong
But I’ve found a future, this is not my home     
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Miracle of Dunkirk: The True Story of Operation Dynamo by Walter Lord.  Open Road Media (Reprint edition). 370 pages. 2017
***

I read this book after watching Christopher Nolan’s excellent film Dunkirk. This is a very detailed and well-researched (written source materials, more than 500 interviews) book. I appreciated the book, but some may get lost in all of the details.
The book tells the amazing story of approximately 400,000 Allied troops that were trapped against the coast near the French port of Dunkirk. Hitler’s advancing tanks were only ten miles away. On May 26, “Operation Dynamo” began. By June 4, more than 338,000 men had been evacuated safely to England in one of the great rescues of all time. It was a crucial turning point in World War II.
The book tells the reader the backstory of Dunkirk, and fills in the gaps that the movie viewers may have had. How did the troops get to the beach and into an evacuation situation in the first place? I read about the surrender of the Belgian Army, and the at times contentious relationship between the British and French.
There were many challenges in evacuating the troops across the English Channel to Dover. There was the difficulty of loading at water’s edge. Once loaded, the departing boats faced bombings from the air by the Germans, running into underwater mines or encountering German torpedo boats.
It was Captain Tennant who came up with the idea of using the eastern mole or breakwater of Dunkirk harbor as an improvised pier. A steady stream of destroyers, minesweepers, ferries, and other steamers would ease alongside the mole, load troops, and then head for England.  Dinghies, rowboats, and launches would load at water’s edge and ferry the troops to small ships waiting offshore. These would then ferry the men to the growing fleet of destroyers, minesweepers, and packets lying still farther out. When filled, these would head for Dover. It was a practical, workable scheme, but it was also very slow.
The author writes about a mass of dots coming over the horizon that filled the sea on May 30. The dots were all heading toward Dunkirk. The “dots” were every kind of boat manned by regular British citizens, many without any navigational equipment or experienced captains. They were joining in the rescue effort for Operation Dynamo.
The author states that there were several miracles of Dunkirk.

  1. The weather. The English Channel is usually rough, and rarely behaves for very long. Yet a calm sea was essential to the evacuation, and during the nine days of Dunkirk the Channel was a millpond. He writes that “old-timers” still say they have never seen it so smooth.
  2. Hitler’s order of May 24, halting his tanks just as they were closing in for the kill.
  3. Another miracle was provided by the German bombers. The German planes rarely strafed the crowded beaches. They never used fragmentation bombs. They never attacked tempting targets like Dover or Ramsgate.

He writes that whatever the reasons, these lapses allowed additional thousands of men to come home.
Britain lost 2,472 guns and 63,879 vehicles were abandoned, but 224,686 men returned home safely.  The rescue electrified the people of Britain, welded them together, gave them a sense of purpose that the war had previously lacked.  The author writes about the sense of national participation that Dunkirk aroused.
When the evacuation began, Churchill thought 30,000 might be saved. In the end, over 338,000 were landed in England, with another 4,000 lifted to Cherbourg and other French ports still in Allied hands. Continue reading