Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


The Range Bucket List: The Golf Adventure of a Lifetime by James Dodson. Simon & Schuster, 321 pages. 2017
****

James Dodson is my favorite golf writer. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his previous golf books, and had been meaning to read this one, which he says is his “little love letter to the game of golf”, for some time now. He tells us about recently finding a small old notebook of his that contained a list of eleven “Things to Do in Golf.” From there, he developed his “Range Bucket List”, populated with things he still hoped to do in golf.
The book is filled with the joys and sorrows he experiences on his journey, as he tries to tie up some loose ends, completing a personal circle of sorts. He writes of a friend telling him that the game of golf is always waiting for us to return.
We read about his trip with his father to England and Scotland, working with Arnold Palmer as they wrote Palmer’s autobiography – the two most challenging and enjoyable years of his book writing life, and the start of a friendship he could never have imagined as a kid – and then later sharing his emotional last visit with Palmer before he died. We get introduced to his new wife Wendy, or his “golf wife” as he took to calling her. He writes of living in Pinehurst, his strange encounter with Donald Trump, and the story behind how CBS got the TV contract for the Masters tournament. You’ll read about Opti the Mystic (his father), living One-Derr, Grumpy, Glorious Goat Farms, and so much more.
I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful book. It is one of those books that you hate to see end.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ A Shelter in the Time of Storm: Meditations on God and Trouble by Paul Tripp and The Apostles’ Creed: Discovering Authentic Christianity in an Age of Counterfeits by Albert Mohler
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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My Review of 7500

7500, rated R
***

7500, now showing on Amazon Prime, is an intense thriller, told almost entirely from the cockpit of an Airbus A319 on a flight from Berlin to Paris. The film was directed by Oscar nominee Patrick Vollrath (Alles wird gut) in his feature film debut, who co-wrote the film with Senad Halilbasic. The low budget film, with little or no musical score, gets its title from the emergency code (7500) for a plane hijacking. Though there are few characters in the film, the cockpit door, locked during the flight, and the camera monitor that the pilots use to see outside the door, play key roles in the film.
As the film begins, we see the pilot Michael Lutzmann, played by Carlo Kitzlinger and the co-pilot Tobias Ellis, played by two-time Golden Globe nominee Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50, (500) Days of Summer) in the cockpit going through their routine preparations for the flight. The plane has 85 passengers, in addition to the crew. One of the flight attendants is Gokce, played by Aylin Tezel. She is Ellis’ girlfriend, and the mother of his child. The film is told from the viewpoint of Ellis.
The pilots are told by air traffic control to expect some turbulence from weather as they takeoff. Turbulence foreshadows what is to soon come.

***SPOILER WARNING***
The pilots hear shouting in the passenger cabin, and from the camera monitor in the cockpit they see a group of Islamic terrorists try to storm the cockpit. The constant pounding on the cockpit door will go on for much of the film. Soon, a few of the terrorists are able to get into the cabin and kill the pilot. Ellis, though injured, is able to knock out one hijacker, and regain control of the cockpit and plane. He then has to make difficult decisions to protect the passengers and the plane as the hijackers take hostages and threaten to kill them if he doesn’t let them in the cockpit.
****************************

The film is rated R for language, violence and intensity. Themes include courage, leadership, terror and painful decision-making.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is excellent as the co-pilot Tobias Ellis. Omid Memar turns in a strong performance as the 18-year-old Vedat, one of the hijackers.
7500 is an edge of your seat thriller. It’s not a great movie, but at just 92 minutes, it is a fast-moving intense film that features a strong performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It is exclusively available to stream for free on Amazon Prime Video.


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It was the Worst of Times, but can it also be the Best of Times?

Feeling Down? Count Your Blessings!  How’s that for a trite little “Happy Clappy” phrase? But stay with me please. Have you been feeling down with how things have been going thus far in 2020? It’s really hard not to get down. Let’s see, so far, we’ve been through an impeachment, pandemic, economic crisis, and police brutality, the latter of which has led to both peaceful protests and rioting/looting, some of which has taken place in my relatively small community.
I live in central Illinois, the state with the third highest number of COVID-19 confirmed cases. It is a state that has had some of the longest and most stringent COVID-19 stay at home orders in place from our governor. The order began on March 21, and continues at this time, with the state on track to move to Phase 4, of the 5-phase plan, at the end of June. During this time, wearing a mask has become the norm. We have watched our church worship services online, attended church leadership meetings and small group meetings on Zoom, and used a lot of hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes. We’ve enjoyed socially distanced time with family, but had vacations, conferences, concerts and baseball games cancelled. I’ve talked to people who are doing fine,
but also to those who are sad, isolated and lonely. A friend of mine lost his mother to COVID-19. She was in a nursing home and later a hospital, and he couldn’t visit her in either place. Frankly, at times, I’ve felt like this social media post from pastor Scott Sauls.
It’s easy to focus on all of the bad things that are going on in our lives, country (and world). I admit that I can tend to gravitate to what is wrong, rather than focusing on the blessings in my life that I often take for granted. James tells us that every good gift and every perfect gift is from above (1:17).   Like in Psalm 42, David laments his current circumstances instead of just trying to keep a stiff upper lip.  But then he intentionally speaks to himself and reminds himself of God, His character and His blessings.  This is where his hope comes from.  As I gave it some thought, I came up with a number of blessings that I’ve enjoyed during these days and also a soundtrack for this article: Continue reading


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

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

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

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • 5 Ways to Make the Most of Unemployment. Tom Nelson writes “When we find ourselves unemployed, how do we make the most of it? Trusting God and his promises, we can take positive steps in moving forward.”
  • How to Faithfully Work from Home in a Season of Teleworking. Russell Gehrlein addresses some of the unique challenges he has faced since having been forced to telework on short notice due to social distancing as a result of the pandemic. Then, he focuses his thoughts on how his Christian faith is impacted by this new environment.
  • Leading in Times of Disruption. Uncertainty and disruption are why the world needs leaders. In this month’s episode of the Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, Andy and Lane Jones discuss how to lead in uncertain times.
  • Thank God It’s Monday. John Stonestreet writes “To be Christian is to be called to God’s redeeming work in the world. And anyone who is in Christ can and should seek to glorify God wherever they are—even on a Monday.”
  • Business for the Common Good On-Demand. The Denver Institute recently launched Business for the Common Good On-Demand, a resource they are giving away for The videos and discussion guides address questions like: How do you determine if a business is successful? Is it reflected in a positive balance sheet, gleaming customer reviews, or a charismatic CEO? What if God measured success by a broader standard—by the way businesses help every employee, supplier, consumer, or community they touch to thrive?
  • How to Thrive in Work. Paul Tripp shares six gospel principles that will allow you to thrive spiritually in your place of employment.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More links to interesting articles
  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Review of Hand Me Another Brick: How Effective Leaders Motivate Themselves and Others by Charles Swindoll
  • Snippets from Os Guinness’ book “The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life”

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25 Leadership Lessons from Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson

I read this book when it was first published in 2013, and decided to read it again as I watched ESPN’s excellent documentary The Last Dance. I read the book this time specifically to examine Jackson’s leadership as he won eleven NBA Championships (rings) as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, and see what I could learn.

Jackson doesn’t pretend to be an expert in leadership theory. But what he does know is that “the art of transforming a group of young, ambitious individuals into an integrated championship team is not a mechanistic process. It’s a mysterious juggling act that requires not only a thorough knowledge of the time-honored laws of the game but also an open heart, a clear mind, and a deep curiosity about the ways of the human spirit.” The book is about his journey to try to unravel that mystery.

Here are some of my favorite leadership lessons from the book: Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Go – John Schlitt
****

I first heard the incredible voice of John Schlitt in 1975 when I was a freshman in college and he was the lead singer of Head East. Their album Flat as a Pancake had two singles that were getting a lot of play on the radio – “Never Been Any Reason” and “Love Me Tonight”. I was excited when I heard that Schlitt had joined the Christian band Petra as lead singer in 1986. During his tenure with the band, Petra earned 10 Dove Awards and four Grammys. Schlitt has been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame as the lead singer of Petra. Now, 45 years after Flat as a Pancake, and at age 70, he has released Go, his sixth solo album, and his voice still sounds amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed this new album, mostly made up of rockers.

Here are a few comments about each song:

Go – This up-tempo song was written by Schlitt and Mark Lee Townsend, with Townsend producing. The song features acoustic guitar, bass, electric guitar and drums. Petra’s John Lawry is among those adding backing vocals. The song addresses the question of what our path is. There is no time to stop. Take your shot and keep moving on. An excellent opener.

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  • More of this review and a review of
    • United: Live – Newsboys
  • Music News
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them by Scott Sauls. Thomas Nelson. 224 pages. 2020
****

A Gentle Answer is Scott Sauls’ fifth book. I’ve read them all, and been both blessed and challenged by them. In this timely book, he tells us that whatever the subject may be—politics, sexuality, immigration, income gaps, women’s concerns, race, or any other social matters over which people have differences—angst, suspicion, outrage, and outright hate increasingly shape our response to the world around us. He states that this feels like a culture of suspicion, mistrust, and us-against-them. On the other hand, Jesus is a God of reconciliation and peace, not a God of hate or division or us-against-them. He is the God of the gentle answer. Jesus renounced outrage and advanced the power of a gentle answer throughout his ministry.
The author tells us that in our current cultural moment, outrage has become more expected than surprising, more normative than odd, more encouraged than discouraged, more rewarded than rejected. We form entire communities around our irritations and our hatreds. For our generation, hate has been commodified. It has been turned into an asset. His challenge to us is to decide whether we take offense and strike back, or instead, do we seek to extend kindness and offer a gentle answer? His hope is that because Jesus Christ offered a gentle answer instead of pouring out punishment and rejection for our offensive and sinful ways, we can offer gentle answers to those who behave offensively and sinfully toward us.
The book aims to answer the question, “What must happen in and around us so that we become the kind of people who offer a gentle answer?” The book is as much about what must happen to us and inside us (how to be angry and not sin, how to accept criticism, not to seek retaliation, etc.), as it is about what must be done by us to engage faithfully in a world of us-against-them.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review and reviews of Can Science Explain Everything? by John Lennox and Have No Fear: Being Salt and Light Even When It’s Costly by John C. Lennox
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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Am I A Racist?

Editor’s Note:  I wrote this article back in May of 2019 in response to reading Jemar Tisby’s book “The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism”. We thought now would be a good time to publish it.  
I recently read Jemar Tisby’s thought-provoking book The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism. That was a difficult book to read, and it should be, as it showed the American church’s active and passive involvement in racism. As I was reading the book, a thought came to me – Am I a racist?
Growing up I would occasionally hear racist words at home. I know my parents had experienced difficult situations with black students at school in Chicago. I remember my mother telling me of being pushed down the stairs by black students, and that experience had stuck with her. I can remember as a child being in the car as we drove through black neighborhoods to go to a relative’s house in Chicago and my mother instructing us to make sure the car doors were locked. There was certainly fear involved.
As I went through grade school, junior high school and most of high school, I rarely interacted with black students as there were not many who attended our schools. But during my senior year, Jeff transferred to our school and was a member of our school’s basketball team. Jeff was cool. The guys wanted to be around him.  Although we never voiced it, we wanted to dress like him, talk like him and even walk like him. I remember going to a mall in the area with Jeff and others to pick out clothes similar to his. Rather than being racist towards Jeff, we embraced him. On the basketball court, we didn’t see color.
Our high school coach encouraged us to play basketball year-round, and to play against college students who were better than us. He told us that is how we would improve, and he was right. As we played on the basketball courts of the local university, many of those students we played against were black. To me and my friends, these players were just like us, not black or white.
A significant change regarding race happened in our community when Illinois State University hired Will Robinson as the first black Division I head coach. Robinson then began bringing in many talented high school players to the school, several of them black. I remember hearing comments about the number of black players on the team, but by that time in our nation’s history, the racist comments were more said under their breath. Tisby writes that racism never fully goes away; it just adapts to changing times and contexts.
When I met Tammy, who would become my wife, I remember noticing some prejudice in her.  We talked about how racism and Christianity are not compatible, which was a new realization for her.  She would now quote Maya Angelou, “When you know better, you do better.”
Over the years, I have had a few close black friends. One of my faults is that too often when I’m around a black person I find myself talking about black sports figures like Tiger Woods, or music artists like Lecrae. I don’t know why I do this, it’s probably just trying to make a connection, but I need to stop doing it.
So, am I a racist? I hope not. But Tisby tells us that the refusal to act in the midst of injustice is itself an act of injustice. I know that I haven’t done enough to promote racial justice, nor have I always done everything I could to address inappropriate racist comments.
One last thing. Remember Jeff, the black basketball player that became part of our team my senior year in high school? The last year of my career at a Fortune 50 organization I worked with his wife and have run into him a few times in the community.   Small world.
I highly recommend Tisby’s book. It is sobering and heart-breaking, and would be a good book for Christians to read and discuss, especially church leaders. Here is a link to my review of the book.   You can also watch it for free on Amazon Prime Video.


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

Ravi Zacharias

  • Ravi Zacharias on The Ben Shapiro Show. Ravi Zacharias went home to be with the Lord on May 19. Last July, he joined Ben Shapiro for this conversation.
  • Ravi Zacharias (1946–2020) and His Legacy. Alister McGrath writes “Ravi Zacharias will be remembered for his landmark contributions to Christian apologetics, especially his concern to connect the gospel with the life of the mind.”
  • Ravi Zacharias on The Eric Metaxas Show. Enjoy this June, 2019 episode of The Eric Metaxas Show featuring an interview with Ravi Zacharias.
  • 3 Lessons I Learned from Working with Ravi Zacharias. Sam Allberry, who worked as an itinerant speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, shares three things he learned from working with Ravi.
  • Ravi Zacharias at Passion 2020. Enjoy this message from Ravi Zacharias, delivered at Passion 2020 in January, as he helps us to see how each of us has a special purpose in this life that has been designed by God.
  • Kayleigh McEnany’s Emotional Tribute to Ravi Zacharias. Watch White House Press Secretary speak about what Ravi Zacharias meant to her.
  • Ravi Zacharias (1946–2020). Ligonier Ministries writes “We are grateful for the friendship that R.C. Sproul and Ravi Zacharias shared and for the many times Ravi taught at Ligonier conferences. His compelling and winsome defense of the faith will continue to serve people around the world for years to come.”
  • Memorial Service. You can watch the May 29 memorial service for Ravi Zacharias here. Speakers included Vice President Mike Pence, Lecrae and Tim Tebow.

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

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