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

  • How Cancer Gave Me a New Perspective on Work. Chip Roper writes “Medical work, which we have now been the regular recipients of for eight months, can teach us something about work in general.”
  • How to Pray When You Hate Your Job. Tom Nelson writes “We may deeply struggle with our work, our workplaces, and the fellow image bearers we encounter in our vocational responsibilities. Yet it is in and through our jobs that we are called to provide for our material needs, to worship God, to be spiritually formed, to incarnate and proclaim the gospel and indwell common grace for the common good.”
  • Experiencing God’s Presence in my Military Service (Part 2). Our friend Russell Gehrlein writes “This is the second article of a two-part series on this topic. In part 1, I reflected on five aspects of how I experienced God’s presence as I served in and with the U.S. Army over the past 34 years.  Here, I would like to continue to expand my thoughts by covering my next five observations.”
  • The Intrinsic Value of Business to God. Bill Peel writes “The Bible provides rich resources Christian business leaders can use to guide their vision for enterprises that glorify God.”
  • Teaching Kids to Live as Christians Through Work. Andrew Spencer writes about his desire that his children learn to value work.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More links to interesting articles
  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Reviews of The Leader’s Greatest Return: Attracting, Developing, and Multiplying Leaders by John Maxwell and An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life by Jeff Haanen
  • Snippets from Os Guinness’ book “The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life”

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My Review of A HIDDEN LIFE

A Hidden Life, rated PG-13
****

A Hidden Life, now available on home video, is a powerful film based on true events about a humble and devout Austrian farmer who refused to swear an oath of loyalty to Hitler when called to serve for Germany in World War II. The film, which runs just under three hours and moves along slowly, is beautifully filmed, is thought-provoking, demonstrates the strong faith of the two lead characters, and is one of the best films I’ve seen in some time, though it was largely passed over during awards season. The film was written and directed by three-time Oscar nominee Terrence Mallick (The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line). The title of the film comes from a line in George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch.
“..for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

The film is about Franz Jägerstätter, played by August Diehl (Inglorious Basterds), a Catholic Austrian farmer. Franz is married to Fani Jägerstätter played by Valerie Pachner. As the film begins, we see Franz serving in the German army, but he doesn’t see combat. During this time, he begins to believe that participation in the war would be a sin. He is allowed to return home, where he and Fani start a family that will grow to three young girls. We see them working hard on their farm, using scythes to cut wheat and bale hay, and raising livestock in the small Austrian village of St. Radegund, near the German border. Franz has a quiet but strong faith. He serves as a sexton at the local Catholic church, without pay. Franz’s mother Rosalia Jägerstätter, played by Karin Neuhäuser, and and Fani’s sister, Resie Schwaninger, played by Maria Simon, come to live with them.
When the war continues, there is fear that Franz will be called back to fight for the German army. His feelings about Hitler begin to spread when he refuses to return the Nazi salute of “Heil Hitler!” to those he passes by. As a result, he and his family begin to be ostracized by the members of the village. We feel the tension each time the bike bell rings with the rider carrying the summons to serve. Eventually, in 1943, Franz receives his notice. Continue reading


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THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles, Cartoon, & Quotes

  • Trip Lee on Faith and Healing. On this episode of the Gospel Coalition podcast, Trip Lee encourages Christians to be faithful in their efforts at evangelism and gospel proclamation, in a message that was delivered at the 2019 Gospel Coalition National Conference.
  • Kick the Bucket List. J.D. Greear writes “What legacy are you leaving? For what kingdom are you leveraging your resources? Do you live as if you believe eternity is real and imminent? Are you teaching your kids to do the same?”
  • Are We Living Out Romans 1: Blessing and Curse in a Post-Obergefell World. Rosaria Butterfield writes “In a post-Obergefell world, any debate over homosexuality is never a debate simply over homosexuality. The issue is the infallibility, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture.”
  • Clinging to God in Grief. In this episode of the Gospel Coalition podcast, Danielle Anderson, Nancy Guthrie, and Vaneetha Risner share their experiences with grief, and the grace they’ve discovered along the way.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More interesting article links
  • Cartoon of the Week
  • Favorite Quotes of the Week

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The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite business authors and this is one of the most helpful books that I continually go back to time and again. I would say it is my favorite “business book”, but it is actually helpful in any setting in which you work with a team – business, church, non-profit, sports, etc.
In this book Lencioni follows his usual practice of using a fictional account (fable) to make his points in an interesting manner, and then summarizing those points in the final portion (last 33 pages) of the book.
In the fable, Kathryn Peterson is a newly appointed CEO of Decision Tech, a technology company which has much potential. In fact, Kathryn will tell her staff multiple times:
“We have a more experienced and talented executive team than any of our competitors. We have more cash than they do. Thanks to Martin and his team, we have better core technology. And we have a more powerful board of directors. Yet in spite of all that, we are behind two of our competitors in terms of both revenue and customer growth.”
The problem with Decision Tech is that their executive staff is not displaying teamwork. In a series of off-site meetings, Kathryn leads the staff through the five dysfunctions of a team. She, as well as Lencioni in the final portion of the book, recommend ways for overcoming the dysfunctions.
This is an excellent book on team dynamics and teamwork. Being written as a fable allows the reader to get a vivid picture of how a team interacts and what it feels like to be part of a successful team. This is a quick read; the author’s model is simple and the book is full of practical advice which leaders can use in building good teams. I’ve included some helpful concepts Lencioni teaches in the book below: Continue reading


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3 Practical Tips on Working Effectively from Home During the Coronavirus Pandemic

What we are seeing happen around the world in response to the coronavirus – mass cancellations in the sports and entertainment arenas, schools moving exclusively to online classes, businesses asking their employees who can work from home to do so – is unprecedented in my lifetime. This is all being done to try to slow down the spread of the virus.
Technology allows for schools and workplaces to continue to function during times like this. I completed most of my seminary education online. For me, and others, this option allowed me to get a degree in a way that worked with my particular situation, which included working full-time and living a few hours from the seminary.
The organization that I worked at my entire career has just asked those that can work from home to do so, effective immediately. For most, I would expect that this will not be a concern at all. In fact, near the end of my career, many of my team members chose to work from home one day a week. Online meeting technologies have improved significantly over the past several years, and many people would even occasionally choose to use that format as a convenience to attend meetings even if they were onsite in our large campus.
As I started my day the last several years of my career, I would begin each morning by working a few hours at home before going into work. This was primarily to prepare for the day and to get caught up on email. I worked from home an entire workday just a few times, and frankly didn’t really enjoy it. Even though I found that I could probably be more productive working at home – due to a lack of interruptions, etc. – I found myself missing the in-person interaction with team members and others, which some may find surprising, as I am an introvert.
If you are in a situation where you find yourself working from home (for weeks, or even months, potentially), how can you make the most of it? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Settle into a routine. Determine your usual location to work, and then make sure you are logged on at the time you would normally be in the office. This doesn’t mean that you can’t work out on the deck/patio on a beautiful day, but find your default location and primarily stick with that. Some might choose to work at a coffee shop, but you would be opening yourself up to distractions and perhaps security/confidentiality issues as well if you chose to work there.
  2. Be physically comfortable. Enjoy staying in your pajamas/sweats/yoga pants! If possible, use an ergonomically (adjustable) chair, have proper lighting, etc., so that your body is comfortable sitting for long periods of time. You won’t have meetings to walk to, so make it a point to get up to stretch at least every hour. A suggestion I have heard in regards to the virus is to take a drink of water every 15 minutes. One person suggested setting a reminder on your smart phone to remind you to do so. And remember, refrain from touching your face; this will be hard to do as you sit at your computer all day.
  3. Be a worker with character. A definition of character that I’ve used for years is “doing the right thing with nobody watching”. Discipline yourself to not check social media, not have the television on, or not do household chores such as laundry, except on breaks. Be a worker – and person – that your leader can trust explicitly.

These are 3 suggestions I had on how to effectively work from home during this period. What would you add to this list?


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Music Reviews

Sing! The Life of Christ Quintology: Passion (EP)
****

Sing! The Life of Christ: Quintology is the fourth album to be released from Keith and Kristyn Getty’s Sing! worship music conferences, following 2018’s Sing! Live at The Getty Music Worship Conference and 2019’s Sing! Psalms: Ancient + Modern (Live At The Getty Music Worship Conference) and Sing! An Irish Christmas – Live At The Grand Ole Opry House.

The new album will be released in five separate EPs over the next several months. The project will follow the five main themes of the 2019 Sing! conference – Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, Commission, and Ascension of Jesus Christ, and include 30 songs. To find out more about my takeaways from the 2019 conference, held in Nashville, read my article “Reflections From the 2019 Sing! Getty Worship Conference here.
The album was recorded at the Gaylord Hotel Convention Center, the Grand Ole Opry House and the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. Everything that the Gettys and their musical friends do is with excellence. Throughout, the songwriting, singing and musical performances are of a very high quality, especially noteworthy for a live recording.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
 More of this review and a review of Let There Be Wonder by Matt Redman
 Music News
 Song of the Week Lyrics Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Book ReviewsPraying the Bible by Donald Whitney. Crossway. 114 pages. 2015
****

In this short book, the author, a respected seminary professor, writes that Christians often don’t pray simply because they do not feel like it. And he states that the reason they don’t feel like praying is that when they do pray, they tend to say the same old things about the same old things. He tells us that the problem is not us, but our method of prayer. The method of most Christians in prayer is to say the same old things about the same old things. Prayers without variety eventually become words without meaning. He writes that it’s normal to pray about the same old things because our lives tend to consist of the same old things. His solution to this problem is that when we pray, we should pray through a passage of Scripture, particularly a Psalm. He states that God gave the Psalms to us so that we would give the Psalms back to God, and that no other book of the Bible was inspired for that expressed purpose.
He suggests that we pick a Psalm (he provides us a method for determining which psalm to choose each day when he discusses “Psalms of the Day”), and simply go through the passage line by line, talking to God about whatever comes to mind as we read the text. By following this method, we will never run out of anything to say, and, best of all, we will never again say the same old things about the same old things. What we will be doing is taking words that originated in the heart and mind of God and circulating them through our heart and mind back to God. The author tells us that by this means God’s words become the wings of our prayers. When we pray through a passage of Scripture, we won’t be praying empty, repetitive phrases. If we pray in this way, in the long run our prayers will be far more biblical than if we just make up our own prayers. Without the Scripture to shape our prayers, we are far more likely to pray in unbiblical ways than if we pray the thoughts that occur to us as we read the Scripture.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of:

  • For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America by Sean Michael Lucas
  • The Hand of God: Finding His Care in All Circumstances by Alistair Begg

BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading