Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of SKYSCRAPER

Skyscraper, rated PG-13
** ½

Skyscraper is an action packed, intense and entertaining summer film that will remind some of The Towering Inferno and Die Hard. It features a father who will do anything to save his family. The film is written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball) and had a budget of approximately $125 million.
The film begins with a flashback from ten years ago. Will Sawyer, played by Dwayne Johnson (Jumanji), is a Marine and a member of the FBI Hostage Rescue Team. We see a hostage negotiation that goes badly, resulting in Will losing his left leg below the knee. Ten years later Will, who wears a prosthetic leg, is happily married to Sarah, played by Neve Campbell (Scream films). Sarah is a combat trained surgeon who has done a few tours in Afghanistan. She can also speak multiple languages. The couple has twins: Georgia, played by McKenna Grace and Henry, played by Noah Cottrell. Will started a small security firm run out of his garage.
A former FBI teammate has given him an opportunity that may turn things around for his small firm. He connects him with Chinese billionaire Zhao Long Ji, played by Chin Han, who has built the world’s largest building in Hong Kong. The high-tech building, named the Pearl, is three times the size of New York’s Empire State Building.  Only the first 90 stories are occupied, but after getting Will’s security review and the necessary insurance, the remaining floors will open. Will knows more about the security features of the Pearl than anyone. So, Will and his family head to Hong Kong, and he makes a pitch to Long Ji for the security consultant business.
What Will doesn’t know is that Long Ji has something that three crime syndicates want. And they, led by Kores Botha, played by Roland Moller, are willing to burn the $6.5 billion-dollar structure down to get it from Long Ji. Unfortunately, they set the 96th story on fire not knowing that Sarah and the children are in the building. The rest of the film is a battle for the villains to get what they want from Long Ji while Will fights against time to save his family trapped in the burning structure and avoid the police who are pursuing him thinking he set the fire.
The film is intense. The stunts performed by Johnson are incredible and the CGI (computer-generated imagery) of the building on fire are well done. I especially appreciated Neve Campbell’s portrayal of Sarah as a strong woman.
Content concerns include a significant amount of violence and some completely unnecessary adult language, including an abuse of Jesus’ name.
Themes include courage and doing anything, including sacrificing your own life for your family.
Skyscraper is an intense, thrilling and action-packed film. Sure, the stunts aren’t very realistic, and it’s not a great movie by any means (don’t look too closely at the plot details), but it makes for a fun time at the theatre.

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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • Finding Dignity on the Assembly Line. Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra writes “Vermeer makes large-scale farming and industrial equipment—things like balers, directional drills, and compost turners. The place is run by a family that’s serious about faith and work and has been puzzling over how to fill those job openings.”
  • My Daily Fight at the Hospital. Kelly Mott writes “My job involves serving, showing value, and loving well, especially in times of loss. I don’t believe I could endure this job without my Christian faith. I would be crushed by the weight of lament. I am better at my job when I feel a deep sense of purpose and connection in my relationships with my patients. Braving pain, showing value, and choosing connection are ways I express my faith at work. I show families through my time, actions, compassion, and therapy that their loved one is important, special, valuable, and cared for.”
  • How a Mortgage Company Is Loving its Neighbors. Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra writes “Movement is trying to take Sunday to Monday, for both believers and unbelievers.”

  • How Do I Find God’s Will for My Life? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper answers the question “It would be helpful to know what God has for me, but I don’t even know where to begin this process, other than to pray. How can I discover God’s calling over my life? Where do I even begin?”
  • What is Your Calling? Charles Spurgeon writes “Therefore do not be discontented with your calling. Whatever God has made your position or your work, remain in that, unless you are quite sure that He calls you to something else. Let your first concern be to glorify God to the best of your ability where you are.”
  • Stuck in the Wrong Job? Five Practical Tips from a Biblical Perspective. Hugh Whelchel writes “The reality is that some people, whether recent graduates or not, do indeed get stuck in the wrong job and need guidance. Most people would tell them to quit and go find something else. But depending on the job market, that may not be easy, or even possible. There are many reasons people may not be able to leave their current job: a tough economy, family commitments, or limited opportunities in their field. So, what do you tell someone who is stuck in the wrong job?”
  • If Work Matters to God, What About Vacation? David Leonard writes “Instead of working in order to play, the order gets reversed: we seek out rest and leisure to prepare ourselves for work.”

RETIREMENT:

  • How to “Refire” After Retirement. Luke Bobo and Lawrence Ward write “Retirees reflect God by working, even after weekly compensated work ends. Many retirees are not following the often advertised narrative of enjoying bountiful leisure and rest. Many retirees desire to do meaningful work. Yet, retirees are often not part of the faith, work, and economic wisdom conversation, but they have much to offer us.”
  • Reframing Retirement: Living with Purpose After Your Career. Paul Akin writes “Today, unprecedented opportunities abound for retirees (all of ages) to engage meaningfully in God’s mission. I would argue that retirees, not millennials, are positioned and poised to make the greatest impact for the Great Commission in the next two decades.”

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More interesting article links
  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Review of Spiritual Leadership: Principles of Excellence for Every Believer by J. Oswald Sanders
  • Snippets from the book ‘The Economics of Neighborly Love’

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My Review of ANT-MAN AND THE WASP

Ant-Man and the Wasp, rated PG-13
*** ½

Ant-Man and the Wasp, the twentieth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is an exciting, action-packed summer film with plenty of humor. It is the sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man. The film is directed by Payton Reed (Ant-Man). It is written by Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Chris McKenna, (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle; Spider-Man: Homecoming) Erik Sommers (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle; Spider-Man: Homecoming), Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari. Christophe Beck, who composed the music for Ant-Man, again handles the music. The cost of the film was approximately $150 million.
Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) returns as ex-con Scott Lang. He is starting his own security business in San Francisco and is under monitored house arrest by FBI agent Jimmy Woo, played by Randall Park, for secretly helping Captain America in Captain America: Civil War. The creator of the Ant-Man suit Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas (Oscar winning producer for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and best actor in Wall Street), and his daughter Hope, played by Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man, The Hobbit, Lost) have gone into hiding from the FBI, and are using an office building as their secret lab.
For thirty years, Pym’s wife Janet, played by three-time Oscar nominee Michelle Pfeiffer (The Fabulous Baker Boys, Dangerous Liaisons, Love Field) has been lost in the Quantum Realm. Hank raised his daughter Hope with the assumption that Janet was dead. But when Scott receives a message from Janet in a dream, there is hope that she is actually alive.
Meanwhile, Scott is trying hard to balance his responsibilities as father to Cassie, played by the adorable Abby Ryder Fortson (Ant-Man), with that of being a super hero. His ex is Maggie, played by Judy Greer (Ant-Man), who is married to Paxton, played by two-time Emmy winner Bobby Cannavale (Will & Grace, Boardwalk Empire).
Hope needs a part to complete the tunnel needed to reach Janet. She agrees to buy it from Black Market technology dealer Sonny Burch, played by Emmy nominee Walton Goggins (Justified). But Burch double-crosses her and wants to sell Hank’s lab.  Ava/Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen (Black Mirror), also wants to steal the lab as a cure to relieve her constant pain resulting from a childhood accident.
Oscar nominee Laurence Fishburne (What’s Love Got to Do With It?)  plays Dr. Bill Foster, Hanks’s estranged former S.H.I.E.L.D. colleague. Lang’s “X-Con” security crew team Kurt, played by David Dastmalchian (Ant-Man), Dave, played by T.I. (Ant-Man), and Luis, played by the hilarious Michael Pena (Ant-Man), provide comic relief.
The film is visually appealing, especially with the size changes of the Ant-Man, Wasp and secret lab. This leads to some good laughs as well. There are some exciting car chases, which feature excellent scenes of San Francisco.
A key theme in this film is the importance of family. We see that with Scott and Cassie, and also with Hank, Hope and Janet.
Content concerns include some completely unnecessary adult language, including the abuse of God’s and Jesus’ names, as well as some super-hero violence.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is a pretty-much self-contained Marvel film. After the depressing ending of Avengers: Infinity War, I found this film to be a fun and exciting experience.
As with all Marvel films, don’t forget to sit through the ending credits.


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

VIDEOS and PODCASTS:

  • Should I ‘Let Go and Let God’? Watch this brief clip from an “Ask R.C.” event in 2014, R.C. Sproul debunks the idea that Christians are sanctified by ‘letting go and letting God.’
  • The Great Commission Ought to be Ordinary. In this short video clip from his teaching series The Great Commission, Burk Parsons explains that what Christ calls Christians to do in the Great Commission ought to be ordinary.
  • Open Book Podcast. Open Bookis a new podcast about the power of books and the people they’ve shaped. Listen to season one, in which host Stephen Nichols discusses with R.C. Sproul books that influenced him.
  • What 40-Year-Old David Platt Would Say to 20-Year-Old Self. This episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast features a conversation with David Platt, who will turn 40 years old soon.
  • William Cowper. In this episode of the podcast “Five Minutes in Church History”, Stephen Nichols looks at the hymn writer William Cowper, who you may be familiar with from the lives of John Newton and William Wilberforce.

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My Review of WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? rated PG-13
****

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a heart-warming and well-made documentary about the ministry of Fred McFeely Rogers. Ministry? Indeed. Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister in Pittsburgh, but chose to minister not within the church, but through his long-running PBS program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Our vocations are serving God and also serving other people. The purpose of vocation is to love and serve our neighbor. Wearing his trademark cardigan sweater and tennis shoes, Rogers was an excellent example of integrating his faith with his work through his vocation.
The film is directed by Oscar winner Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet From Stardom) and was released a few months after the 50th anniversary of the debut of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Although I never saw an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, I found this to be one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, and one that families with children ten and above could watch together and appreciate.
Rogers, who died in 2003, talked and sang to children, teaching them important lessons. What surprised me was that he addressed important and timely issues of the day on his program such as the Vietnam war, the assassination of RFK, divorce and discrimination. Francois Clemmons (Officer Clemmons on the program) talks about how Rogers addressed his race and homosexuality. The film also shows Rogers coming out of retirement (the show ended in 2001) to film a Public Service message after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The film includes helpful and interesting interviews with Rogers’ widow Joanne, his two sons, co-stars including Betty Aberlin, Joe Negri, Betty Seamans, Francois Clemmons, producer Margaret Whitmer and guest Yo Yo Ma. Footage from the program shows Lady Aberlin and Daniel Tiger. We are told that Daniel most modeled the personality of Rogers.
The film is rated PG-13 for some adult language, plus a funny photo of a crew member’s back end.
Themes included children, love, respect, kindness, diversity, and that you are loved just as you are.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is just the type of film we need today in our deeply divided country. Rogers is portrayed as a man who lived out his faith, showing respect for all, even those he disagreed with. We are often disappointed when our heroes are tainted when stories about their private lives become public. In this instance, it appears that Fred Rogers was the real deal. From the interviews with his sons it appears that the Rogers we saw on the program was just how he was in real life.
In his work with children, he demonstrated well what Jesus taught about loving our neighbor in The Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 25-37. We can all learn a lot from his example. Highly recommended!


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

Let the Trap Say Amen – Lecrae and Zaytoven
****

Lecrae returns to Reach Records after his excellent 2017 major label debut All Things Work Together, which featured the gold record “I’ll Find You” with Tori Kelly. On this album he teams up with producer and DJ Zaytoven for an album that was born out of a mutual respect for each other’s work. In an interview, Lecrae said “When I hear the term ‘trap music,’ I don’t think of glorifying the negativity. I think of a soundscape that speaks a certain language. I think of music that tells real stories.”
Here are a few brief comments about each of the 13 songs on the album, all of which were produced by Zaytoven, who brings great beats to these songs.
Get Back Right – This song was written by Bobby Pressley, CASS, Zaytoven and Lecrae. It was the first single released from the album. It features a great beat with Lecrae telling his story about recent success (made hits with some big names, went to the Grammys), when he was just starting out (everything was rented and he was pinching his pennies), and when he became a believer (new beginnings and he knew who did it).
Key lyric: When you got real power, you can’t lose.
Preach – This song is written by Verse Simmonds, Zaytoven and Lecrae. This song is about Lecrae being unashamed (Romans 1:16) about God, preaching and his blackness. It opens briefly with keys and then goes into a great beat, driven by drums. Lecrae is going to preach and Zaytoven is going to bring the beat.
Key lyric: Don’t have a church, but I reach.

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    • More of this review
    • Music News
    • Music Quotes
    • Song of the Week

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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


I’ve long enjoyed playing and watching golf. This week, enjoy reviews of three recent golf books I’ve read.

Arnold Palmer: Homespun Stories of The King by Chris Rodell. Triumph Books. 240 pages. 2018
****

This is a book that golf fans, and in particular Arnold Palmer fans, will enjoy. The author, a Latrobe, Pennsylvania resident since 1992, interviewed more than 200 area neighbors and began each interview with a simple request: “Please tell me your best Arnold Palmer story.” Much of the book contains their answers to that question.
The author got to know Palmer when he was asked by ArnoldPalmer.com in 2005 to go through the boxes and assemble a day-by-day timeline of Palmer’s life. The book includes a part of that timeline, which Palmer fans will find of interest.
The author gives us a good understanding of what Latrobe is like. Correct that, though we have always heard that Palmer lived in Latrobe, he actually lived and died in neighboring Youngstown, a town of just 326 people.
Even though I’ve read several books by and about Palmer, the author gives us a unique look at him. He shows that he was really a great guy, just like we hope our sports heroes would be. He didn’t live in a gated community and incredibly would often answer the door of his home himself to sign an autograph or sign a photo for a fan. The book includes remembrances from CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz, who spoke at Palmer’s memorial service in 2016, former Pennsylvania Governor and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and many others. We hear about the letters that Palmer would send people, spending an unbelievable $100,000 in postage annually to mail them. It is estimated that he signed well over a million autographs in his lifetime. The author, who writes with a good amount of wit, states that plastic surgeons are less careful suturing scars on supermodels than Palmer was when signing an autograph.
I enjoyed reading about three rainbows that appeared after Palmer’s death, just as one did the night my father-in-law died two years ago. The first was when the plane that carried Palmer’s ashes began its ascent, the second appeared during the Palmer’s memorial service and the third materialized at the June 25 Westmoreland County Airshow held in tribute to Palmer.
I read this book quickly, not wanting to put it down. It’s a funny and at times quite touching tribute to the King.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

BOOK REVIEWS ~ The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup by John Feinstein and Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer as a Manifesto for Revolution by Albert Mohler
I’M CURRENTLY READING….
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