Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My 2018 Mid-Year Favorites

It’s hard to believe that we are at mid-year already. As I have in the past, I wanted to share with you my favorites from the first half of 2018 in a variety of categories. Except for books, these are all items that were released or took place in 2018. For books, I include my favorite books that I’ve read thus far during 2018. Enjoy!  Please let me know what you think of my list, and also share some of your favorites.

Movies

Best: Tie ~ Black Panther and Paddington 2

Other movies I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order, were:

  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
  • Incredibles 2
  • Peter Rabbit
  • Calvinist
  • The Post
  • I Can Only Imagine
  • Avengers: Infinity War
  • Isle of Dogs
  • Ready Player One
  • Ant-Man and The Wasp

Worst:  Below are the worst, or at least the most disappointing, films I’ve seen, in no particular order:

  • Hostiles
  • Phantom Thread
  • The 15:17 to Paris
  • God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness
  • First Reformed

Music

Best: Resurrection Letters: Prologue/Resurrection Letters Vol. 1 – Andrew Peterson
  
Other music I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order, were:

  • You’re Driving Me Crazy – Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco
  • Let the Trap Say Amen – Lecrae and Zaytoven
  • Surrounded – Michael W. Smith
  • Into the Night – Social Club Misfits
  • One More Song – Ashley Cleveland

Top Songs

Best: Is He Worthy? – Andrew Peterson

Other songs I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order, have been:

  • Take Me to the Water/Cool Down by the Banks of Jordan – Ashley Cleveland
  • I Can’t Lose – Lecrae and Zaytoven
  • Everyday I Have the Blues – Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco
  • The Holy Grail – John Fogerty
  • Bridges Burn by NEEDTOBREATHE
  • Better Than I Used to Be by Mat Kearney
  • Don’t Know by Paul McCartney

Books

Best: The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row – Anthony Ray Hinton

Other books I’ve enjoyed, in no particular order, were:

  • Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 – John Maxwell
  • Servant Leadership in Action – Edited by Ken Blanchard
  • The Gospel According to God – John MacArthur
  • The Gospel Comes with a House Key – Rosaria Butterfield
  • How to be a Perfect Christian – Babylon Bee
  • How to Get Unstuck – Matt Perman
  • Take Heart: Christian Courage in the Age of Unbelief – Matt Chandler
  • Immanuel Labor: God’s Presence in Our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work – Russell E. Gehrlein
  • The Gospel at Work: How the Gospel Gives New Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs(Updated and Expanded Edition) – Greg Gilbert and Sebastian Traeger
  • Paul Simon: The Life – Robert Hilburn
  • Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock – Gregory Alan Thornbury
  • Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization – John Wooden and Steve Jamison

Blogs

Best: Tim Challies’ Ala Carte. This is required reading for me each Monday through Saturday. Challies includes helpful Kindle deals, links to a good variety of helpful articles and a quote.  Check out Tim’s website here.

Podcasts

Best: The Briefing – Albert Mohler. Each weekend morning, Albert Mohler hosts a podcast providing worldview analysis about the leading news headlines and cultural conversations. This is required listening for me. Check out Dr. Mohler’s website here.

Honorable mention goes to the third season of Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent podcast Revisionist History. On each episode, Gladwell goes back and reinterprets something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.

Television

Best: Victoria

  • The Resident
  • This is Us
  • The Profit
  • The Blacklist
  • The Crown

Concerts

Best: U2 – Experience and Innocence Tour in St. Louis

Honorable Mention: John Hiatt and the Goners, featuring Sonny Landreth. Slow Turning 30th Anniversary Reunion Tour in Bloomington, Illinois

New Resources

Best: Messages from the 2018 Ligonier National Conference which had the theme “Awakening”.

These are my mid-year favorites in a variety of categories. How about you? What were some of your favorites?

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MY 2017 FAVORITES…so far


It’s hard to believe that we are at mid-year already. I wanted to share with you some of my favorites from the first half of 2017 in a variety of categories. Except for books, these are all items that were released or took place in 2017. For books, I include my favorite books that I’ve actually read thus far during 2017.  Enjoy, and please let me know what you think of my list and share some of your favorites.

Music ~ I enjoy music in a variety of genres. My favorites thus far are:

Albums ~Top Pick: Crooked – Propaganda

Here are the rest of my favorite albums (in no particular order) thus far:

  • The Joshua Tree (Super Deluxe) – U2
  • Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Deluxe Edition) – Beatles
  • Triplicate – Bob Dylan
  • The Misadventures of Fern & Marty – Social Club Misfits
  • Cinco – Jim Gaffigan
  • Flowers in the Dirt (Special Edition) – Paul McCartney

Songs ~ Top pick: Blessings – Lecrae (featuring TY Dollar $ign)                

Here are the rest of my favorite songs (in no particular order), thus far:

  • Revival – Third Day
  • I’ll Find You – Lecrae featuring Tori Kelly
  • My Song is Love Unknown – Fernando Ortega
  • Your Cross Changes Everything – Matt Redman
  • Your Love Defends Me – Matt Maher

Concerts  ~ Top Pick: U2’s The Joshua Tree Tour at Soldier Field in Chicago with the Lumineers opening.

Musicals  ~ Top Pick: Hamilton in Chicago

Books ~ In this category, while many of the books were published in 2017, I list the best of the books I actually read in 2017. My favorites thus far are:

Top pick: The Legacy of Luther, edited by R.C. Sproul and Stephen Nichols

Here are the rest of my favorite books (in no particular order), thus far:

  • The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teachings – John MacArthur
  • Glory in the Ordinary: Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God – Courtney Reisigg
  • Learning to Love the Psalms – Robert Godfrey
  • Calling to Christ: Where’s My Place? – Robert Smart
  • Discipleship with Monday in Mind: How Churches Across the Country Are Helping Their People Connect Faith and Work – Skye Jethani and Luke Bobo
  • Between Heaven and the Real World: My Story – Steven Curtis Chapman
  • Leaders Made Here: Building a Leadership Culture – Mark Miller
  • Workplace Grace – Bill Peel and Walt Larimore
  • Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear – Scott Sauls
  • Reset – David Murray
  • Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen

See what I’m reading now.

Movies ~ I usually see at least one movie a week. Here is the best – and the worst – of what I’ve seen thus far:

Top Pick:  Hidden Figures

Here are the rest of my favorite movies (in no particular order), thus far:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
  • Gifted
  • The Case for Christ
  • A United Kingdom
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Get Out
  • Lion
  • Baby Driver
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

Unfortunately, there have also been a few poor movies I’ve seen as well. Here are the two worst movies I’ve seen thus far:

  • The Resurrection of Gavin Stone
  • The Zookeeper’s Wife

Television Program

Top Pick:  The Profit. Season 4 is finally here. If you are not familiar with this show, read more about it here.

Podcasts

Top Pick: Albert Mohler’s The Briefing. Each weekday morning, Albert Mohler hosts a podcast providing worldview analysis about the leading news headlines and cultural conversations.  This is required listening for me. Check out Dr. Mohler’s website.

Also, I was happy to hear recently that Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent podcast Revisionist History returning for season two. Listen to the first episode “A Good Walk Spoiled” here.

Blogs

Top Pick: Tim Challies’ Ala Carte. This is required reading for me each Monday through Saturday. Challies includes helpful Kindle deals, links to a good variety of helpful articles and a quote.  Check out Tim’s website.

Another blog that is required reading for me each day is HeadHeartHand from David Murray, author of the excellent new book Reset.

Recommended New Teaching Series

The Lord’s Prayer by Albert Mohler. In this twelve-part series, Dr. Albert Mohler shows that the pattern of prayer Jesus provides is few in words, yet massive in meaning. His prayer reflects true theology and proper doxology—a perfect guide for our own lives. I listened to this series as our book club was studying Tim Keller’s book Prayer.

Recommended Resources

Luther: The Life and Legacy of the German Reformer.  See my review of this excellent new documentary.

Dispatches from the Front: The Fourth Man. If you are not familiar with this set of videos from Frontline Missions and Tim Keesee you should be. For more information go here.

Conference

Top Pick: Ligonier Ministries National Conference: The Next 500 Years. Watch or listen to all of the messages here.

These are my favorites in a variety of categories.  What about you? Please share your favorites.


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5 Resources to Help Christians to Be Discerning About the Movies or TV Shows They Watch

moviesMy wife Tammy and I love to go to the movies. Since we began dating 40 years ago, we’ve usually watched at least one movie a week. We also like to find television shows that we can “binge watch”. But to be honest, most films – that aren’t animated films targeted to children or faith-based – and even television shows (think of a popular show such as House of Cards or Mr. Robot), have some objectionable content or troubling worldview issues. So how can Christians be discerning about the movies or television shows that they watch?

Here are five resources you can use to help you be discerning in this area:

  1. When checking out the movies that are opening each week or a television show that we’ve heard about, I always start with the Rotten Tomatoes website. This is a very helpful site that will quickly tell you what the critics and viewers like you (referred to as “audience”), think of the quality of the film or television show. They do so by giving the film or show a numeric rating, which indicates what percentage of the critics or viewers gave the film or show a positive review. A rating of 60 or more on their “Tomatometer” is a “Fresh” review, while a rating of less than 60 is a “Rotten” review. Among other things, the site will tell you what the film or show is rated and why. You can also read reviews that are posted by critics and viewers. For example, a good film like Sully received a critic’s rating of 82, while viewers gave the film a score of 89. On the other hand, The Disappointments Room received a critic’s score of 0 and a viewer’s score of 22. That’s enough right there to tell me I probably need to save my money and take a pass on that film.
  2. The next site I’m going to check is Focus on the Family’s site Plugged In. This site provides a brief overview of the film and then includes helpful analysis about such things as the positive elements, spiritual content, sexual content and violent content of the film, as well as an overall conclusion. This can help you be discerning about a film you may have an interest in seeing. The site also includes analysis of television shows, music, games and books.
  3. I will often check Ted Baehr’s Movieguide site for content and especially worldview issues of a film. Dr. Baehr’s life’s purpose is to be used of God to redeem the values of the media while educating audiences on how to use discernment in selecting their entertainment.
  4. If a film is rated PG-13 or R and I have questions about whether or not I want to see it, I’ll often check the Kids in Mind site. This site will give you very specific information in categories such as sex/nudity, violence, profanity and helpful discussion topics from the film.
  5. To get another perspective on a film I’ll often check out Christianity Today’s Movies and TV site. I have found their reviewers to be less discerning about some films than I would prefer, but they do offer a brief but helpful “Caveat Spectator” section after their analysis of the film.

These are resources that I use to help me be discerning in the movies and television shows I watch. What do you use to guard your eyes and heart?


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My 2016 Favorites at Mid-Year

A Few of My Favorite ThingsAs we have the mid-year point, I want to share with you some of my favorites from 2016 in a variety of categories. Except for books, these are all items that were released or took place in 2016. For books, I include my favorite books that I’ve actually read during 2016.  Enjoy, and please let me know what you think by clicking on the ‘Comment’ link above.

MUSIC:  I enjoy music in a variety of genres. My favorites were:

Albums

Top Pick:  Church Clothes 3 – LecraeChurch Clothes 3

Other albums that I’ve enjoyed have been:

Wow to the Deadness (EP) – Steve Taylor and the Danielson Foil

Fallen Angels – Bob Dylan

Stranger to Stranger – Paul Simon

Hymns II – Michael W. Smith

Salvation’s Tide is Rising – Passion

Love Riot – Newsboys

Worship and Believe – Steven Curtis Chapman

This Time Around (EP) – Tedashjii

Facing a Task Unfinished – Keith and Kristyn Getty

I’m really looking forward to two July releases – Where the Light Shines Through by Switchfoot and Hard Love by NEEDTOBREATHE .

Songs

Top pick:  Jumped Out the Whip – Tedashii

Other songs I’ve enjoyed have been:

Float – Switchfoot

My Worth Is Not In Not In What I Own – Keith and Kristyn Getty with Fernando Ortega

Vaporized – Amos LeeJumped Out the Whip – Tedashii

That Old Black Magic – Bob Dylan

It Is What It Is – Lecrae

God and God Alone – Chris Tomlin

I Trust in Christ – Matt Redman

Wow to the Deadness – Steve Taylor and the Perfect Foil

Cool Papa Bell – Paul Simon

Down to the River to Pray – Michael W. Smith

I Don’t Know Why (Jesus Loves Me) – Michael W. Smith

White Bikini – Charlie Peacock

Happiness – NEEDTOBREATHE

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