Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Let There Be Wonder (Acoustic) EP – Matt Redman
****

Matt Redman released Let There Be Wonder, one of my favorite albums of 2020, in January, before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world. He recently released this six-song EP Let There Be Wonder (Acoustic), featuring five songs from that album, plus his classic “Blessed Be Your Name”. What holds all of these stripped-down songs together is that they are all about Jesus, and praising his wonderful name.
Even if you are familiar with these songs, I think you’ll enjoy these new versions. What really stood out for me was the use of strings on these songs. The EP was produced by Steve Marcia, who had the idea to use a string quartet as a signature sound for this project. Recorded during the lockdown, we hear four different string players who recorded themselves in four different locations, with beautiful results. I also enjoyed the backing vocals.
Below are a few comments about each song:

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Journey to the Cross: A 40-Day Lenten Devotional by Paul Tripp. Crossway. 184 pages. 2021 
****

 

I’ve enjoyed several of Paul Tripp’s devotionals over the past few years, my favorite being his New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotional. His latest devotional gives us 40 readings, some in poetry form, leading up to Easter. Each reading begins a short statement, which may have originally been one of the author’s tweets. He suggests using this devotional as your stimulus and guide as you stop, consider, mourn, confess, pray, and give your heart to thanksgiving.
Through these readings, and the “Reflection Questions” included at the end of each selection, we follow Jesus on his journey to the cross. The author writes that the horrible, public sacrifice of Jesus should ignite not only our celebration, but also our mourning.

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BOOK CLUB ~ Providence by John Piper
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My Review of NEWS OF THE WORLD

News of the World, rated PG-13
** ½

News of the World is a slow moving, though beautifully filmed western, which features solid acting performances by Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel. Though the film received four Oscar nominations (sound, production design, original score and cinematography), I found it to be too slow and predictable to recommend.
The film was directed by Oscar nominee Paul Greengrass (United 93), who worked with lead actor Hanks in Captain Phillips. The screenplay is by Oscar nominee Luke Davies (Lion), and is based on the 2016 novel by Paulette Jiles.
The film is set in 1870, a few years after the Civil War. Captain Jefferson Kyle Tidd, played by two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump, Philadelphia), is a veteran of three wars, including the Civil War. He is a decent, but lonely man. He speaks of a wife in San Antonio. He rides in a wagon from town to town in Texas dramatically reading from newspapers the latest news of the day to gatherings of people who are willing to pay a dime to hear it.
As he is in transit between towns, he comes across a wagon on its side. He sees a man who has been hung, and he notices a blonde-haired girl running away. Continue reading


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THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles and Quotes

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • Jesus and “The Catastrophe of Success”. Scott Sauls writes “We are successful only when we have character that is greater than our gifts and abilities, and humility that is greater than our platforms and influence.”
  • You’re in Control of Your Job. God is, too. John Terrill writes “As Christian leaders, we need Solomon-like discernment, especially in moments of challenge and testing. Such insight depends on Spirit-infused vision to toggle between our agency and God’s agency.”
  • How Nehemiah Modeled “Seeking God First”. Russ Gehrlein was a guest on the radio program, Community Bridge, a Family Radio Network program and podcast on January 4, 2021. Below is a partial transcript of that conversation, which you can listen to in its entirety here.
  • Making Ethical Choices in a Gray World. Steve Graves writes “What is needed, then, is a filter to help make ethical choices regarding issues that are not directly addressed by a specific Scripture.  We can’t simply look to the law either because sometimes the law says what is allowed but not what you should always do.”

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  • My Review of Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work by Tom Nelson
  • Snippets from the book Work and Worship: Reconnecting Our Labor and Liturgy by Matthew Kaemingk and Cory B. Willson

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My Review of American Gospel: Christ Crucified

American Gospel: Christ Crucified (unrated)
****

American Gospel: Christ Crucified follows writer and director Brandon Kimber’s 2018 American Gospel: Christ Alone film. Here is my review of that film. Whereas the first film compared and contrasted biblical Christianity with what is referred to as the “prosperity gospel”, the second film looks at biblical Christianity and progressive Christianity.
Like the first film, the second film features interviews (most recorded specifically for the film), as well as video clips of proponents of both biblical Christianity and progressive Christianity. The film effectively uses graphics of scripture passages in particular, to illustrate the issues being discussed. The film touches on a number of topics, with a key one being the penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus. Those who support this doctrine point to scripture texts to show that this is a biblical doctrine. Those that oppose the substitutionary atonement of Jesus refer to the doctrine as a form of “cosmic child abuse”. Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

The Characters of Easter: The Villains, Heroes, Cowards, and Crooks Who Witnessed History’s Biggest Miracle by Daniel Darling. Moody Publishers. 208 pages. 2021
****

Daniel Darling follows up his popular The Characters of Christmas book (see my review of that book here), with a similar book about the characters of Easter. The book is easy to read and engaging, but don’t mistake that for this being a simple book that you will not learn from. Darling offers much information about the history of the period and the background of the characters that you might not have previously been aware of. Like the previous book, I read and discussed this one with a group of men I’ve been meeting with to read and discuss books for many years now. Also like the previous book, this book includes study questions at the end of each chapter, along with suggested hymns and songs related to the chapter that are helpful whether you are reading the book individually or with a group.
The author tells us that Jesus took upon Himself your sins so you could enjoy intimacy with your Father, and that Easter means those who are in Christ will be made alive, spiritually and physically. By looking at unlikely disciples, unprepared civil authorities, and unscrupulous religious leaders in this book, we can learn more about the setting in which Jesus lived and died, and we will gain a great love for God’s long and sure plan of salvation and rescue.
I highly recommend this book to you. Below, I’ve provided two takeaways from each of the chapters of the book:

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THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles and Quotes

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

LEARNING FROM OTHERS:

  • George Washington Carver’s Amazing View of Work. These insights about G.W. Carver are adapted from John Pletcher’s book about faith at work Henry’s Glory: A Story for Discovering Lasting Significance in Your Daily Work.
  • Changing Lives Through Washing Cars. Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra shares the story of Everclean car wash and its founder, Thomas Kim, who focuses on honoring God by loving customers and team members.
  • Joe Buck: Announcing Sports with Humanity. On this episode of the Working with Dan Doriani podcast, Dr. Doriani visits with six-time Emmy award winning sportscaster Joe Buck and talks family, legacy, charity, the perils of social media, and of course — sports.

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  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Review of Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown
  • Snippets from the book Work and Worship: Reconnecting Our Labor and Liturgy by Matthew Kaemingk and Cory B. Willson

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Letter to You – Bruce Springsteen
*** ½

I’ve been a long-time fan of Springsteen’s music, though not his politics. The first of his albums that I bought new was 1978’s excellent Darkness on the Edge of Town. I fondly remember humming songs from that album – “Prove it All Night”, “Badlands”, etc. – as I was walking through an office building doing an end of night inspection as the manager of a cleaning crew while going to college.
Letter to You is the 71-year-old Springsteen’s twentieth studio album, and first with the E Street Band (Roy Bittan, Nils Lofgren, Patti Scialfa, Garry Tallent, Stevie Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, Charlie Giordano and Jake Clemons), since 2014’s High Hopes. The album was produced by Ron Aniello and assisted by Springsteen.
Springsteen wrote all of the songs, most of which were written in April 2019. Three of the songs “Janey Needs a Shooter”, “If I Was a Priest” and “Song for Orphans” date back to the early 1970’s. The album was recorded live in just five days at Springsteen’s home studio with very minimal overdubs.
This is a very personal album. Themes include loss of friends, relationships, looking back, the power of music, and spirituality.

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