Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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

SOCIAL JUSTICE:

  • The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. John MacArthur and Doug Wilson are among the signers of this new statement on social justice and the Gospel.
  • The Injustice of Social Justice. John MacArthur writes “The message of social justice diverts attention from Christ and the cross. It turns our hearts and minds from things above to things on this earth. It obscures the promise of forgiveness for hopeless sinners by telling people they are hapless victims of other people’s misdeeds.”
  • The Gospel and Social Justice, Part 1. Russell Moore writes “I have had many people ask me recently about the issue of social justice. As Christians, we are called to live as a gospel people, and in light of recent cultural conversations on this topic some have wondered about the connection between the gospel and justice. In this episode of Signposts, I discuss this issue and consider the Bible’s instruction for Christians seeking to live faithfully in the world and in obedience to the gospel.” Here is Part 2.
  • Albert Mohler Answers Questions about Social Justice. Denny Burk writes “Albert Mohler had an open Q&A session with students as Southern Seminary and Boyce College today in which he answered a question about social justice. Later in the day, Dr. Mohler answered more questions along these lines on his podcast “Ask Anything Live.”
  • Is Social Justice a Gospel Issue? Kevin DeYoung writes “Is social justice a gospel issue? That depends on what we mean by “social justice” and what we mean by “gospel issue.”

EVANGELISM:

  • Core Christianity. Here is the first episode of the “Core Christianity” podcast from Michael Horton. The topic is “How Should I Share My Faith With My Atheist Friends?”
  • How to Evangelize Your LGBT Neighbors. Rosaria Butterfield writes “The way to evangelize your LGBT neighbors is the same way the Smiths evangelized me: by reminding them that only the love of Christ is seamless. Not so for our spouses or partners. Only Christ loves us best. He took on all our sin, died in our place bearing God’s wrath, and rose victorious from the dead.”

COURTESY OF WORLD MAGAZINE

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My Review of UNBROKEN: PATH TO REDEMPTION

Unbroken: Path to Redemption, rated PG-13
***

Unbroken: Path to Redemption picks up the incredible true story of Louis Zamperini where Angelini Jolie’s disappointing 2014 film Unbroken left off. The new film is directed by Harold Cronk (God’s Not Dead), and written by Oscar nominee Richard Friedenberg (A River Runs Through It) and Ken Hixon, based on Laura Hillenbrand’s excellent 2010 book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. If you have not read the book, I highly commend it to you. It’s one of the most amazing stories I’ve ever read – and it’s all true.
After a brief recap to acquaint us with Zamperini’s story (Olympic champion, World War II hero lost at sea for 47 days, rescued by the Japanese who then tortured him), the film picks up with Zamperini returning home to his family in his California hometown of Torrance. But we quickly see that Zamperini, who is portrayed well by Samuel Hunt, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and frequently has nightmares of being tortured by Japanese officer Mutsuhiro Watanabe, who was known simply as “The Bird”.

***SPOILER ALERT***
After drinking heavily on a tour to encourage the sale of war bonds, he is given a three-week vacation in Florida by his major, played by Bob Gunton (The Shawshank Redemption, Argo).  It is in Florida where he meets Cynthia, played by Merritt Patterson, and they quickly marry. Cynthia is a believer, and believes that Louis is an answer to her prayers, but she quickly finds out that Louis is tormented by his nightmares of “The Bird’ and begins to drink more heavily as he struggles to find a job. Because of his struggles, Cynthia delays telling Louis that she is pregnant. It is difficult watching Louis being tormented by his nightmares and their marriage failing, even after baby Cynthia ‘Cissy’ is born. Most of the film is about his dealing with PSTD, and refusing any help for it from Dr. Bailey, played by Emmy nominee Gary Cole (Veep) or his brother Pete, played by Bobby Campo.
Eventually Cynthia has had enough and tells Louis that she wants a divorce. Then, Lila, a friend played by Vanessa Bell Calloway, invites her to Billy Graham’s Los Angeles Crusade, and this changes her mind toward her husband and their marriage. Because of his suffering, Louis has been hardened against God, and initially refuses to go to the crusade with Cynthia, and when he does, he leaves when the invitation is given by Graham, played by Will Graham, Billy Graham’s real-life grandson. When he goes back on another night, the Lord saves him.
Zamperini’s life is immediately changed, and we see him pour out the secret bottles of alcohol he has hidden in their apartment and we are told that he never again suffered from nightmares about “The Bird”. The film ends with some archival footage of the real Louis Zamperini, who died in 2014, just months before Jolie’s movie of his life was released.
The movie includes adequate acting and production, although my wife thought it was the quality of a Hallmark/Lifetime movie. I would have liked to see more of Zamperini’s life after he became a believer. Most of the film takes us through his suffering from PSTD, and it ends too quickly after his conversion. “You Found Me”, a new song by Switchfoot written for the film, plays over the ending credits.
**********************

Content issues include a lot of drinking of alcohol and some scenes of anger. Themes include marriage, suffering, forgiveness and salvation.
Unbroken: Path to Redemption is an at times hard to watch film about the struggles Louis Zamperini faced as he returned from being tortured at a Japanese prison camp. It is ultimately a film about how he was forgiven by his heavenly Father and how he extended that forgiveness to those who tortured him.


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS


Forever On Your Side (Niles City Sound Sessions) – NEEDTOBREATHE
*** ½

This EP contains four songs that the band recorded over a few weeks while they were in Fort Worth, Texas with the producer trio Niles City Sound. The EP gives us a good idea where the constantly evolving band is now. Below are a few comments about each of the new songs:
Bridges Burn – This was the first song released from the EP. It opens with piano and hand-clap. Bear Rinehart sings that it’s time for moving on as there are some things you can’t forget. He wants to watch all his bridges burn and dance in the light of a lesson learned. He wants to leave everything that hurts and never go back to the way they were. The mid-tempo song builds gradually over a passionate vocal.
Key lyric:  I need to find somewhere I can believe. I need to know there’s a chance we can be.

Darling – This beautiful song has Bear singing over acoustic guitar. He is singing to his wife, wanting to talk to her on the phone while he’s on the road and she’s at home. He just wants to be home with her, the only thing that carries him through. He acknowledges that it’s hard for her to be at home, taking care of the house on her own. As the song builds, light instrumentation, including some horns and backing vocals supplement Bear’s vocals. Key lyric: I don’t wanna do this alone.

Bullets – This song opens with guitar, and then moves into a rock beat, with drum, organ, horns, keys and backing vocals. The song is about how you can’t put the bullets back into a gun, can’t undo what we have done or said, which is a tough lesson we have to learn.  Musically, it’s the most interesting song on the collection.
Key lyric: Don’t let your heart be stone, don’t be the bitter one.

Forever On Your Side – The closing song was the only song that hadn’t been released prior to the full EP being released, and it’s my favorite song on the EP. It features husband and wife duo Johnnyswim (Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez) on backing vocals. The band has indicated that this song was written for their fans who have been with them since the very beginning. The song begins with guitar and then builds with drums and banjo. The lyrics are uplifting and encouraging. We don’t know what’s around the bend but love knows no end and he’ll be forever on her side. Like Jesus, he will carry her every time because he’s forever on her side. With Johnnyswim joining the band on tour, this song will sound amazing live.
Key lyric:  Take my hand when you can’t see the light, ‘cause I’m forever on your side.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
 Reviews of Nobody Loves Me Like You by Chris Tomlin and My New Moon by Amos Lee
 Music News
 Music Quotes from Keith Getty
 Song of the Week Lyrics
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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry. B&H Books. 208 pages. 2018
****

Jackie Hill Perry is a 29-year-old writer, speaker and artist, who was born in St. Louis. She writes that she has written this book out of love for what a good God has done for her – loving her and giving her new life and a new heart. She tells us that what God has done to her soul is worth telling. It is to invite us into her worship.
The book is broken into three parts.
Part 1: Who I Was
The author tells us that she was attracted to girls before she knew how to spell her name. After discussing what took place in her second-grade classroom, she writes that in 2006 she was asked by a girl at a high school dance if she wanted to be her girlfriend. She said “no” at the time, but really wanted to. But when she thought of the girl she would think of spending eternity in hell. Her heart was saying “yes” but her conscience was saying “no”. Eventually she gave in, however. Satan told her to do what felt good. She trusted herself more than she trusted God. Sin was better than submission.
The author’s mother and her father, an employee at her mother’s restaurant met at an East St. Louis club in 1988. This would eventually lead to a pregnancy. The author’s mother considered aborting the child. The relationship between Jackie’s mother and father didn’t work out, and Jackie grew up without a father at home. He rarely visited and she was convinced that he didn’t love her. Jackie writes of him dying unexpectedly at a relatively young age.
Jackie was sexually abused by a teen-age family member in a dark basement. As she grew up, her experiences with men in her life were an absentee father and a sexually abusive relative.
As a lesbian, Jackie was manly, and her girlfriend wanted her to play the role of the stud in their relationship. She would have at least one other girlfriend.
At that time, Jackie was an enemy of God. But God was using her conscience. He was, as she called it, ‘hunting her’. In addition, a family member prayed for her. She realized that she would have to choose between God and her girlfriend. She writes about being saved in her room.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for more of this book review and:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ How Should I Think about Money? by R.C. Sproul
Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional by Charles H. Spurgeon
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles and Free Audiobook!
BOOK CLUB ~ How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman
I’M CURRENTLY READING….
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THIS & THAT: A Weekly Roundup of Favorite Articles, Cartoons & Quotes

  • Wrestling the Giant: Why I Deleted Instagram. Andrew Peterson writes “I deleted Instagram from my phone earlier this summer. A few months before that I did the same with the Facebook app.”
  • God Wants You to Be Happy. In this short video, Francis Chan speaks on the necessity of joy in the Christian life.
  • Joy Through Sacrifice. “This week at VOUS Church we had the special honor of hearing from the Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist, Lecrae. He dove deep into the idea that joy and pain go hand-in-hand by giving a glimpse into his own story of hardship.”  
  • I Have Chronic Fatigue – How Do I Not Waste My Life? In this episode of the “Ask Pastor John” podcast, John Piper responds to the question “How can I be a faithful servant of the Lord on the days when I can do nothing?”
  • How Should Christians View Sunday? Sinclair Ferguson writes “Hebrews teaches us that eternal glory is a Sabbath rest. Every day, all day, will be “Father’s Day!” Thus if here and now we learn the pleasures of a God-given weekly rhythm, it will no longer seem strange to us that the eternal glory can be described as a prolonged Sabbath!” Continue reading


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My Review of SEARCHING

Searching, rated PG-13
****

Searching is a suspenseful, innovative, well-written and acted thriller about the mysterious disappearance of a teenage daughter and her father’s efforts to find her. It is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year.
Much of the film takes place on sites accessed on an electronic device. We watch along as the lead character accesses the sites desperately looking for information that will allow him to find his daughter. The film is directed by Aneesh Chaganty and written by Chaganty and Sev Ohanian.
The film begins by showing us that the tight-knit Kim family, consisting of father David, played by John Cho (Star Trek, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle), wife Pamela, played by  (Furious 7, Twin Peaks), and daughter Margot, played by Michelle La in her first major role.

***SPOILER ALERT***
Soon however, Pamela is diagnosed with cancer, and after an initial remission, the cancer returns and Pamela dies. Father and daughter must carry on, and though it looks like they have a good trusting relationship, David will soon find out that he doesn’t know his daughter very well at all.
Sixteen-year-old Margot tells her father that she will be at an all-night study group to prepare for an upcoming exam. Although he thinks that’s odd, he trusts her. When he gets up in the morning, he notices that he has missed phone and FaceTime calls from Margot. When he tries to get ahold of her he gets no response.
As time goes on he begins to get increasingly worried until he finally reports Margot as a missing person to the police. He is contacted by Detective Rosemary Vick, played by eight-time Golden Globe nominee Debra Messing (Will & Grace, The Starter Wife).  Vick is compassionate and is also a parent, and is determined to help David find Margot. She encourages him to reach out to Margot’s friends to get clues as to where Margot might be.
David realizes that he really doesn’t know any of Margot’s friends. He then begins accessing her text messages and social media sites – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.  As he does, David (and the audience) are pulled into aspects of Margot’s life that her father was completely unaware of. At one point, he reads questionable text messages between his brother Peter, played by Joseph Lee and Margot. As each day goes by, the probability of finding Margot alive decreases as we see the local San Jose, California media cover the developing story.
**********************

Searching has a number of good twists and turns in the plot. John Cho is excellent as the increasingly desperate father searching for his missing daughter. Debra Messing delivers a strong performance as the compassionate detective firmly committed to finding Margot.
Content concerns include some adult language, including the abuse of God’s name, some violence, and sexual references.
Themes include family, fear, deception, father-daughter relationships and perseverance.
Searching is an excellent movie that is creatively filmed like no other film you’ve ever seen. It is original, never predictable, tense throughout, well-written and acted.


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My Review of OPERATION FINALE

Operation Finale, rated PG-13
****

Operation Finale is a tense, well-acted film based on the true story of the 1960 top secret mission to capture leading Nazi figure Adolf Eichmann in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The film is directed by Oscar nominee Chris Weitz (About a Boy), and written by first-time screenwriter Matthew Orton.  Orton thoroughly researched the story, and the film stays mostly to the story exactly as it happened. Weitz filmed the movie in Argentina in the same actual locations where the events took place.
As the Allies marched toward Berlin in the spring of 1945 it became apparent that the Third Reich would fall. Some of the Nazi leaders, including Hitler, committed suicide rather than being captured. Adolf Eichmann, played in this film by Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (Gandhi) was among those who did not. Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution, the wiping out of the Jewish population which would result in the murder of six million Jews, was originally captured by Allied forces, but he escaped the prison camp, eventually landing in Argentina with his family in 1950.
Peter Malkin, played by Golden Globe winner Oscar Isaac (Show Me a Hero), is a member of Israel’s intelligence agency known as the Mossad. His job is to take out former Nazi leaders, but he has been known to make mistakes on missions, sometimes with deadly results. Malkin’s older sister and her young children were murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust.
Fifteen years after the war, we meet Sylvia Hermann, played by Haley Lu Richardson, a young woman living in Argentina. She was sent there from Germany as a child during the war to live with her uncle. What she doesn’t know, since she was raised as a Catholic, is that she is really a Jew. She begins dating Klaus Eichmann, played by Joe Alwyn, who takes her to a Nazi gathering. Over dinner, her blind father Lothar Hermann, played by five-time Golden Globe nominee Peter Strauss (Men Don’t Tell, Kane & Abel), becomes suspicious when Klaus tells him his last name. This eventually leads to the discovery that Adolf Eichmann is living as Ricardo Klement in Argentina with his wife and two children, working as a foreman at a Mercedes Benz factory.
Israel soon sends a Mossad intelligence team to Argentina to capture Eichmann and bring him back to Israel to stand trial. Peter Malkin is a part of that team. His former girlfriend Hanna, played by Mélanie Laurent (Inglorious Bastards), who has also made mistakes on similar missions like this, is recruited to be the doctor on the trip. (Note: this part of the film was fiction. There was a doctor on the team, but the doctor was Yonah Elian, a male).
When the Mossad arrive in Argentina, they find that there are police and government officials who are sympathetic to Eichmann. Argentina’s fascist-leaning government had created a safe haven for Nazi war criminals. According to the Argentinean government, Eichmann will have to agree in writing to his deportation. Can the team get Eichmann to sign the document before the mission is discovered?
The film centers on the relationship between the captor and prisoner, with Malkin trying to understand Eichmann as more than a monster. Both actors give excellent and perhaps Oscar worthy performances.
The musical score by Alexandre Desplat, was particularly effective, especially during an opening credits scene.  The entire cast is solid, including Lior Raz, who plays Isser Harel, the director of the Argentinian operation.
Themes include sacrifice, justice, family, and the horrors of the Holocaust.
Content concerns include adult language, and Holocaust war violence, often depicted in flashback dreams of Malkin.
Overall, Operation Finale is a tense, well-acted true story of the 1960 secret mission to capture leading Nazi figure Adolf Eichmann that I would highly recommend.